I could get used to this.
Evie was asleep against my side, her head on my chest and my arm around her back. Somehow the blanket had rolled completely around us like a cocoon, and we were trapped. As if I wanted to move. Feeling the shallow, even rise and fall of her breathing I looked around the room in the weak morning light.
Four ornate-looking posters were lined up across from the bed – each one an etching of a woman beneath a flowery awning in different poses and shades. The titles said, in French, that they represented the four times of day: morning, afternoon, evening and night. They were beautiful and evocative, with a hint of something whimsical. I thought they were a good match for Evie herself. Along the far wall, a few classic movie posters hung in frames: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Singing in the Rain. The room was full of color, from scarves draped haphazardly over the corner of her dresser to the bright stripes on a bag sticking out the closet door. On her nightstand, just within arm’s reach, was a paperback copy of a book called One Day and I read a few pages until she stirred beneath the covers.
Her leg slipped over mine, turning her body until she was nearly on top of me. “You’re so warm,” she purred. I ditched the book and wrapped around her, keeping the blanket up. She fit so nicely, my arms perfectly comfortable crossed behind her lower back. It had been a long time since I woke up next to the same girl two mornings in a row, and possibly the first time I’d ever wanted to make it a serious habit.
She lifted her head, one eye squinting against the light. “What time is practice?”
“Morning skate today, game tonight. Will you come?”
Her soft lips twisted like she was thinking. “Hmmm, Tuesday night in Pittsburgh, so many things to do….” I kissed that look right off her face until she held me as tightly as I held her.
“I don’t want you to be late two days in a row,” I lied, because I definitely didn’t want to let go.
“I’m pretty sure ‘I was in bed with Sidney Crosby’ is an acceptable excuse around here. I might need a note though, or no one will believe me.”
“If you want a doctor’s note, you have to submit to a full body examination.”
She giggled and rubbed against me, making me groan. If we didn’t get up now we never would, but it also meant no fun before the game. Having sex on game days was a constant point of contention among coaches and players; they wanted us to save our energy. Try convincing Max or Jordan to keep it in their pants for anything less than the Stanley Cup final.
“Come on, Cros. I’m not getting blamed for you dragging your ass around the ice tonight.”
I rolled on top of her, just long enough to show her that I really, really disagreed. But I got up all the same. “You sure you want me thinking about it all day long? I have like eight hours to think up things to do to you later.”
She walked naked to the dresser, opened the top drawer and fished out a pair of panties then stepped into them, pulling the simple cotton fabric up her long legs and settling it over her perfect ass. It was another pair of those bikinis I loved, this time white ones with a tiny pink bow just below each of her hip bones. I groaned and tossed around in the bed. Evie climbed right back onto me, pinning the blankets so I could move or touch her. Her tongue slipped past my lips and she pressed her crotch to mine, rolling her hips down.
“So… mean…,” I breathed. “I will make you pay for this later.”
The smile on her face didn’t reach her eyes – there I saw only lust. “Wouldn’t want you to waste the whole day thinking up something boring.”
I left the bathroom door open and stood before the mirror in just my panties, brushing my teeth. Sidney sat up in bed, watching me from behind and occasionally meeting my eyes in the mirror. I combed my hair, put on a little makeup, then balanced the ball of my foot on the edge of the counter and started rubbing scented lotion into my skin.
“Dear God!” he moaned, flopping back to the mattress.
Getting dressed was difficult, and I debated whether or not I already needed to change my panties. I zipped into a pair of trousers then let Sidney pick my sweater. He finally got out of bed as I was putting on my earrings. Those pouty lips touched the place where my fingers had fastened the clasp against my lobe. He pulled on last night’s clothes and was ready to go when I was.
He reached for the door knob to let us out of the apartment, then changed his mind and pushed me against it instead. We’d shared a toothbrush, so he tasted familiar and clean. He was heavy and solid, like sleep itself and my entire body cried out to be taken. I may have whimpered. Sidney wasn’t doing much better, but he was grinding against my hip.
“Wear my jersey again for the game?” he asked. Inviting him over last night had ulterior motives – yes I wanted him to myself, but I also wanted him to be comfortable. Whatever his fresh new feelings for me, Sidney was gorgeous, famous, a hero. I figured the only reason the world never saw him with a girl was because he didn’t let them.
His hot chocolate-colored eyes were concerned. My heart squeezed, knowing this wasn’t easy for him – wanting to move forward, worried what could happen. But it didn’t really have to mean something; there would be thousands of people in Crosby jerseys at the game. In the arena I was just another girl with an impossible crush.
“Can I keep it on after?” I smiled.
He made a face. “Stop stealing my ideas!!”
I hummed to myself throughout the day, doing a terrible job of keeping the smile off my face. If anyone wondered what I was up to, they didn’t ask. And they certainly never could have guessed. Beth agreed to be my date and met me for dinner before the game.
“I see you left most the apartment intact,” she said, taking a seat across from me at a nearby café. “And there were only a few handprints on the foggy mirror.”
I covered my face – any damage had been done the first night, but we certainly hadn’t taken last night to put the place back together. Beth laughed at my expression.
“I take it everything is good in fantasy hockey player dream date land?”
“Seems that way. It’s been what, 5 days? Barely? It’s like Freaky Friday and I’ve traded lives with someone really, really lucky.”
She shrugged, her classic laid-back demeanor accepting even this in stride. “Hey, it beats the hell out of trying to get picked up in the supermarket.”
I was dressed, halfway through my pre-game peanut butter and jelly when Jordan caught me staring at my phone. I tried to shove it in my pocket, but I was wearing under armor and only succeeded in dropping it to the floor in a clatter.
“Easy, dude. If you act all weird she’ll know it’s you’re a virgin.” He gave me a goofy smile, two inches of blond hair sticking out crazily from all around his ball cap. I opened my mouth to chirp back but my mind was blank.
“Should I call her?”
Jordan rolled his eyes theatrically. “If you don’t, you’ll be thinking about trying not to think about it and then you’ll just ask me again in an hour. So yes, because you are very annoying.”
I threw a piece of bread at him as he left. Then I hit my speed dial. She answered late in the ring, like she’d been searching for her phone. “It’s 5:06. Are you eating a PB&J?”
It caught me off guard and I laughed sharply, like a girl. Oh God, I suck. But Evie laughed too. “It’s not fair all this stuff you know about me!”
“Well I paid ten dollars a month for HBO, just wanted to get my money’s worth.”
“I… I just wanted to say hi.” I cringed at my own lameness. Should have asked Max for help.
“Making good on your promise to think about me all day?” she asked. I could hear the smile in her voice, and the single low note in her tone that told me she had been thinking about the same thing. I had to clear my throat.
“Good. And good luck tonight. We’ll come down and flash you during the warm-up.”
“Careful,” I told her. “Max will moon you right back.” We said goodbye and I held the phone in my hand for an extra moment. Now I could think about the game, at least with most of my brain.
By the time we hit the ice I was as focused as ever. I had to remind myself to check the stands for her, but I was glad for the break. One of my goals for the season was to get a little better work-life balance, so that when work ended early like it did last year, it wouldn’t take me all summer to get over the surprise.
At first I didn’t see her, but it wasn’t long before Cookie pointed her out. She wore a Pens Winter Classic hat pulled down over her dark hair and a navy blue sweatshirt zipped up to her chin. She gave a tiny wave of mitten, our eyes locked together as if there weren’t five thousand people in the arena. We just stared at each other like some kind of stupid movie until Jordan ripped a shot at the boards. It hit the glass right in front of her, making her scream. Everyone around her jumped too. Evie took off her glove, pointed at Jordan and jerked her thumb over her shoulder like she wanted to take it outside. Then she put up her fists. The tiny scowl on her face was so serious and ridiculous that Jordan doubled over laughing.
I smacked him with my stick, both as a captain and to defend Evie’s honor, and gave her a last smile. She pointed at Jordan like she wouldn’t forget.
“Sure you can keep up with one?” Duper said, skidding to a stop next to me.
“Not at all.”
Live hockey had always made me nervous, but I was a basket case watching the Pens. Every time Kris went down to block a shot I saw him cooking in Sid’s kitchen. Jordan plastered someone to the boards but all I could think of was him plowing a space for us on the dance floor at Tre. When Flower took one off the helmet I yelped.
Beth handed me a fresh beer. “I spiked it with Xanax.”
“I’m not that bad!” I said, covering my half-unraveled glove with my free hand. Beth leaned across in front of me and spoke to the guy in the next seat.
“She’s nuts right?” she asked. He nodded with a smile. “You’d think she knew them right?”
I slapped her hard on the leg and she smacked me back, but she shut up.
The Pens eventually scored two goals, one by Tyler Kennedy and one by Kris, who managed to lose his helmet in the process. His goal-scoring celebration appeared to happen in slow motion, all that dark hair rippling in the breeze like a shampoo commercial. Beth breathed out.
“Cor, I want that one.”
I toasted against her beer. “Wait till you hear his accent.”
We waited until most of the stands had cleared out, then someone come to escort us downstairs. I felt much better with Beth there, since the lounge was full of wives and girlfriends again. This time I kept Sidney’s jersey on – everyone already knew, or they would soon. Those women I’d met two nights before remembered me and I was happy to see friendly faces. Then there were the same few with skeptical sneers like I didn’t belong there, least of all wearing 87 on my back.
“Woah, tough crowd,” Beth whispered. Matt Cooke’s wife chatted happily about the game as she kept intercepting her young son at the snack table. Another tyke in a Pens’ sweatshirt decided I was a tree and he was a monkey. He was halfway up my leg when his father came in.
“Hey Kody, no climbing the new girl!” Pascal Dupuis said, pulling him off me. “Sorry Evie, he is very friendly.”
“He’s making me feel very welcome.” Pascal’s wife came over, carrying their newborn. They were the perfectly cute couple. We were discussing kids’ names when Max arrived. I instantly felt relieved – I may as well have known Max forever for the way he put me at ease. Something about his swagger and good-natured humor made everything he said the truth. If Max liked me, I figured everyone else would too.
“You’re barely married a week and already talking babies?” he laughed, but he petted the infant’s dark hair with real affection. “I suppose they’d be cute though, as long as they don’t have Sid’s lips. Come on, I’ll take you inside.”
“Beth,” I called. She excused herself from Cooke’s wife but didn’t make it even halfway to me.
“Hello, ma chere. Je suis Max.” He had her hand to his lips and one eyebrow wagging. I laughed out loud. Beth simply smiled at him.
“So you’re the one,” she said.
He pretended to look shocked. “I am only the one for you, chaton.”
“We’ll see about that.”
Max led the way and hollered into the locker room, “Ladies coming in!” He paused then there was a momentary crash that sounded like a building tipping over. “That’ll be Jordan getting undressed again. Pretend to be surprised.”
But no one was naked. They were all dressed and ready to go – and I realized they’d been waiting for me to arrive. Two nights, two games… they were trying to figure out who I was going to be. Only Sidney, smack in the middle of the room, was completely unaware. He stood, black suit hugging and draping in all the right places and I hissed in a sharp breath at the sight of him.
“Hey.” He moved toward me, but it was a little awkward. Should we kiss? Most of the team had seen us kiss in the club, but that’s hardly the same as in the locker room under full lights. Some kind of statement would be made here and that’s why they’d stayed
But Sidney really didn’t know. Or he didn’t care. I saw the moment, three steps away, when he decided. His eyes set, his shoulders relaxed an inch and he put his hands on my cheeks. “Hey,” he repeated. Then he kissed me squarely on the lips.
His mouth was so soft and his hands so warm, it made my heart flutter. I knew everyone in the room was staring, so I slowly lifted one foot off the floor like I was Audrey Hepburn kissing Gregory Peck. It was all the permission the guys needed – they whooped and cat-called at full volume.
Sidney blushed, breaking away. “Morons,” he said under his breath. Beth poked me in the side.
“Oh, Beth. This is Sidney. You’ve uh… met already.”
He looked away, embarrassed, but Beth didn’t do embarrassed. “So this is what you look like standing up,” she said nice and loud. Now he really blushed. She patted his shoulder in apology.
“Hi,” Jordan appeared over us like the Eiffel Tower. “I’m Jordan. Sid’s friend. Evie’s friend. I’m friends with Evie.” Max was right behind him. Beth played nice but kept glancing past them toward where Kris was punching something into his phone. Max finally got the hint.
“Tanger, don’t be rude you French bastard. Say hello to the pretty lady.”
Kris looked up then did a double-take. Beth was very pretty – dark blond hair cut to her chin, a broad smile and an enviable body. He quickly slid his phone into his pocket. Then he ran a hand through his hair and again, time got a little slow, a little sticky. We both sighed out loud.
“For the love of God!” Jordan threw his hands up and wheeled away. Kris smiled like he’d just won a hand of poker. Two seconds later he was talking to Beth in a very low voice. She leaned in so close you’d think she was hearing through the zipper of her jeans.
I had my arm around Evie’s waist as we watched her friend fall for Kris’ charms. It took about ten seconds – a considerable hold out on Beth’s part, compared to how long it usually took Tanger to work his magic.
“Flower invited us over, if you want. Vero is sick but she wants to see you.”
Evie smiled. “She’s so sweet! Can we bring her something?”
“I brought games to play, they’re in the car.”
A handful of the guys decided to join us, including Kris who offered Beth a ride. Soon Flower’s driveway was a parking lot of black sports cars and SUVs. Vero greeted us at the door in very stylish matching sweats.
“Yay! I have been so lonely today and now you are here!” She threw her arms around Evie, which made my heart squeeze. I relied on my friends a lot to help me see people’s real intentions. I’d been burned a few times by fake friends – not all of them girls – who were looking to latch on to what they thought was a glamorous life. If they liked Evie this much, especially Vero, then I knew she was a really good catch.
And it was a good thing. Because I’d only known Evie for five days and one round into Scattegories I was sure she was the girl of my dreams.
The instant the timer had been flipped she went to work, firing off answers and looking for mine, quickly and efficiently deciding which option was best and moving on. The letter had been W and we already had twice as many points as any other team.
“Uh oh,” Jordan said, clearly unhappy with TK as his teammate. “Evie’s just like Sid. This ought to be really fun.” His tone made it clear that meant not fun at all.
I wasn’t listening. “I might ask you to marry me for real,” I told her so everyone could hear.
“Two more rounds and we’ll trade, Jordan. You can be on my team. Then we’ll be the smartest and the best looking,” she said. He grinned like a kid with candy.
Flower interrupted. "I know you're new, Evie, but please stop calling me Jordan."
She did in fact leave my team and won a few rounds with Jordan. TK suggested we switch to a game where everyone played for themselves, so we chose one called ‘One Liners’ that Max had brought. It gave you a category and you had to fill in the blank, trying not to put the same answer as anyone else. It started stupidly enough.
“Things you shouldn’t have to pay for… happy endings,” was one submission.
And got dirtier.
“Things you shouldn’t do with glue… lesbians.”
Evie laughed at every one, even admitting to writing a few zingers. But the more raucous it got, the closer I knew we were coming to the personal jokes. The locker room humor left nothing out.
Kris read the next ballot. “Things that should come first… Evie.”
The room was silent for a beat. The she said, “Well that’s not Sidney’s.”
Flower choked on his beer. He actually had to get up and run for the sink. Jordan lay back onto the floor, his massive frame just shaking with laughter. I put my head in my hand and silently sentenced them all the wind sprints in the morning.
Her arms went around my neck and she pressed against my side. “Only kidding!” she told everyone. But the damage had been done. She was one of the boys now.
I fished myself a beer from the fridge and turned as Max came into the kitchen wearing an ear-to-ear grin. He stopped expectantly.
“Thanks for that one, Max.” I knew he’d written it. Of course he had. He probably meant it too – something about the scruffy beard and the open buttons at the neck of his shirt said that the lucky lady always got treated right. But that wasn’t the point.
“It’s gonna be a joke in the locker room regardless,” he shrugged. “Better if you’re in on it, eh?”
I had a good idea that the guys held nothing back from each other. Sidney seemed a little shy about that stuff, but maybe not. Every guy at that table could already know what I looked like naked and what I sounded like when I came. Max was right; I might as well be in on the game. He took my contemplation as hesitation.
“Sid didn’t say anything, though….”
I cut him off. I wasn’t worried. “Then I’d better give him something to talk about.”