Monday, October 31, 2011


Hmmmm.... what do you wear to play mini-golf with someone you’re not supposed to want to fuck?

I laughed at myself, standing in front of all these clothes with the intention of wearing, eventually, nothing at all.  Then I thought of the cute underwear and lingerie that spent Saturday nights in my top drawer when it should be out on the floor, if not out on the town.

Poor kid, stop it.

I chose a pair of jeans and a long-sleeved blue and white striped top with a hood.  Casual, cool, but it fit me well and I’d caught him looking a hundred times since we ate at Bella’s.  

Doesn’t hurt to know he wants to.

If only Jeff were a normal hockey player.  I couldn’t count the number of times I’d been propositioned - by players from the home or visiting teams.  Sometimes it was an simple as a remark passing in the hallway.  Other times it was like a search and rescue mission.  Had I considered it?  Yes.  Of course.  I could only be hit on by so many huge, strapping men before I started to think I’d get away with it or worse, didn’t care if I got caught.  I was pretty sure that fucking the players - especially the opposition - was not a general intern duty.  Pity, really, especially when some of pretty the teams came around.

But a Hurricane?  Hmmmmm.

Jeff wasn’t just anyone.  We’d been through a Royal Wedding, tour of the Commonwealth, all that.  I gathered Jeff Skinner’s first girlfriend would be put through that wringer hockey-style - complete with fights allowed.

If only he were into the whole friends-with-benefits thing, I thought, entirely sure he wasn’t.  Because I could definitely benefits.  But he’s a good guy, probably into love and all that.  Be a shame to corrupt him.

A very evil, persuasive voice somewhere in the back of my mind cleared it’s throat. Well, not really.

Oh shut up.

Jeff pulled up in front of my building, all fresh-pressed in jeans and a long-sleeved shirt one size too small, dimples flashing like he’s never told a lie in his life.  

God damn, he must know what he’s doing.

We drove his SUV to a miniature golf place I had never visited.  Jeff paid for two rounds like we were on a date, then proceeded to flex quite a bit while he let me win.  It was the only explanation for the outcome of our game.

“I thought hockey players had good hand-eye coordination,” I lined up to tee off.

“I played golf all summer with my friends at home, never got any better,” he said from outside the tiny curb around the fairway, beyond which he’d put his first shot.  He looked ridiculous in that shirt.  It was fighting for it’s life around shoulders that definitely didn’t exist last year.  If he’d won the Calder Trophy without them, what did that mean for this year?  Jeff was serious about hockey, always had been.  Even in our limited time together last year I knew he had something to prove.  Youngest player in the League.  Youngest All-Star.  Rookie of the Year.  But he grinned at me over his three-putt like a kid in a candy store.  When we reached the 18th hole, I was winning by four strokes.  No way he could catch me.

“Loser buys dinner,” he said, laying his club across the check-in desk.

“You threw the game, cheater!”

He made some kind of hand symbol that I assumed was Canadian Boy Scouts.  “Honestly, I’m just that bad.”

Just a few blocks away was a main street filled with restaurants and bars.  We walked along, stopping at places to read the menus out front or peek in the window at what people were eating.  A few times, I thought Jeff got a little closer than necessary to me.  Or maybe I got too close to him.  Either way, there were a lot of shoulders touching and arms pressing as we took our sweet time choosing a place.  He instinctively kept his face turned away from groups of people or anyone walking right past us.  It was awkward and dangerously cute.  This was feeling more and more like a date.

What if it is?

I shook the thought from my head, because the answer was no.  Jeff was great and I could see us being great friends.  The whole dating and getting involved and thinking and worrying and blah blah blah, it turned my stomach so hard I nearly lost my appetite.  Jeff wouldn’t hurt me, but I could end up hurting him if I wasn’t ready.  And I wasn’t.

I snuck a glance at his face and knew I couldn’t risk doing that.

Just ignore everything below his chin that makes me wanna rip my clothes off.

Then he smiled.

Aw fuck, ignore everything.

It was going to be a long night.

“They’re on the house,” the waiter said with a sly look.  We’d chosen a burger place, confident the crowd inside would keep us invisible.  Then the hostess recognized Jeff immediately.  She put us at a booth near the back, where the waiter nearly fell over himself to tell Jeff he was a big fan.  Then he brought us two beers.

Jeff glanced around the room to see if anyone with a camera phone had noticed him, but we seemed safe tucked away at the back.  So he lifted his bottle to mine.

“To being better at hockey than I am at golf.”

“Amen,” I answered.

We talked and laughed our way through dinner, mostly about Jeff ordering a turkey burger with no bun and me putting away a cheeseburger deluxe.  He did steal a few fries though, which I promised to report to Gary Roberts.  

“You have a...,” he said.  Instead of touching his own face so I would copy, Jeff leaned over the table and put his big thumb to the corner of my lip.  Fingers brushed my jaw as he pulled gently on my mouth.  I froze, holding my breath, while Jeff’s dark brown eyes watched his slow-moving hand.

“Ketchup,” he held up his thumb.  I didn’t see anything, and I didn’t care.  I was glad to have escaped the moment without kissing his thumb, or sucking it into my mouth like a porn star.  There had been a second there when....

“Thanks.”  My own hands were shaking.

The waiter arrived with two more beers, breaking the tension.  Relief flashed across Jeff’s face and I’m sure mine too.  The conversation went back to normal even while my heart was pounding.  We declined desert, and Jeff paid because he lost at golf.  As we were leaving, Jeff was telling me about his summer.

“I wish some of those guys played here,” Jeff said as we walked past more bars he couldn’t go in.  “Stammer or Nealer... I love my teammates but it would be nice to have a little bit of home too, you know?  Wait, Tori I don’t know where you’re from.”


“You’re not!”  His face absolutely lit up.

“We are neighbors.  So you can be my part of home and I can be yours.”

It was two and half hours distant, but that was close enough.  Jeff threw his arm around my shoulders and squeezed me into his side.  I felt so little next to him, just an illusion.  Just a warm, strong illusion that I wanted to...


“Deal,” he said.  We finished one side of the street and crossed to walk back up the other.  It was clear we weren’t actually trying to go anywhere, until we found the Starbucks.

“Can you have hot chocolate?” I asked, squeezing my hand against his side to tease him.  Except that he was wider than I expected, his body all solid and I didn’t do much more than stroke a sensitive area.  He flinched, like I’d tickled him, and caught my hand with a lightning fast reflex.

“There are a lot of things...,” he said, looking down at my hand in his.  That same big thumb that had drawn across my mouth traced a slow circle in the palm of my hand.  His gaze came back up to meet my eyes, “...I’m not supposed to have.”

Zing.  A current went right through me - his slightly rough fingertip, the feathery touch on my delicate skin, softer even than his breath on my neck when we’d danced that night in the club.

“Don’t let me get you in trouble,” I joked, trying to lighten the mood.  He let my hand slip, and the tension.

Jeff shrugged.  “You’re a bad influence on me.”

“Extra whipped cream.”  I didn’t look at Jeff, just ordered for both of us.  He clicked his tongue but did not object.

I couldn’t help flirting with him.  My line between friendly and flirting had always been blurry and when I was attracted to someone, it was all but erased.  Still I felt bad, like I was taking advantage of the situation with Jeff when I had no intention of getting into the game.  It wasn’t like anything had happened though.  Yet.

We carried our cups to the far end of the store.  Most people were still drinking in bars so the place was pretty empty.  Jeff settled into one side of a love seat that looked out a side window, as private as the coffeehouse could offer.

“This is really good,” he said as I took the space next to him.  The cushion gave and I slipped a little closer than I meant to, my thigh touching his.  He was heavy enough to sink deep into the seat.  “Sorry we can’t go somewhere more exciting.”

I knew Jeff felt awkward about being underage.  Not that I was much older, but a 21st birthday was like a Get Out of Jail free card.  When my friends had turned legal age first, I had barely seen them until I did too.

“I don’t really go out that much.”

Jeff looked at me over the lid of his cup.  For once those baby brown eyes were unreadable.  
“Still, I’m sure your friends are somewhere have fun.”

“I’m having fun right here.”

He twisted his lips.  “If we lived in Boston we could do whatever we want.  They let Seguin in everywhere and no one cares if he drinks.  Guess that’s what happens in if you win the Cup.”

“It’s not because he won.  It’s because he’s a party boy.  It seems to fit his personality.  And Boston’s such a sports town.”

“He wouldn’t shut up about it all summer,” Jeff finally said, lowering his drink to rest in his lap.  “I mean, I like him but every day at training it was this party and that party... it didn’t matter at home.  I went out too.  But he....”

“He won the Cup, he’s bragging.  It’s not sexy.”

I don’t know why I used that word - sexy.  Seguin was pretty sexy, actually.  But he was a frat boy headed down the Jeff Carter road, Cup or no Cup.  It wasn’t my style.  Jeff looked up from the cup in his hands, that boyish face so out of place on his body.  Even his voice was deeper than last season.  I realized that I might not really know Jeff Skinner at all.  

“Liar.” The corner of his mouth curled up: a smile and a challenge.  “Girls love him.”

“Not all girls.”

He blew a little raspberry with his very pink tongue.  “I have seen him at a bar, Tori.  He gets so much action... I think he put Biznasty to shame.”

I smirked at the mental image of Seguin and Biznasty comparing conquests, trading stories.  Seguin was certainly hot, I could see masses of girls in little dresses and tons of makeup throwing themselves at both guys, hoping to stick.  Or at least slide slowly down a hockey body, preferably all night.

And I knew how it would make a guy like Jeff feel.  I’d felt that way myself in the presence of those girls.  This was a dangerous patch of slippery territory - I’d stumbled into something that really bothered Jeff, a hole in his confidence.

This guy, not confident.  I would have laughed if it didn’t make me so sad.  But this was the kind of thing friends talked about, especially guys talking to their female friends.  And I wanted to be friends with Jeff.

Then why are we talking about sex?

“You could get that much action, Jeff.”

His shoulders slumped a little.  “I don’t.”

“That’s because you’re a nice guy.”

“It’s because I’m a spaz, Tor.  Seguin’s like James Bond or something.  I’m like Charlie Brown.”

The words of protest caught in my throat and I giggled instead.  Jeff was a little bit Charlie Brown, when you thought about it.  I wouldn’t give Seguin any martini, shaken or stirred, but I saw the point.

“You’re not that square, blockhead.”

If I was hoping for a smile, I got disappointed.  It was really starting to crack my composure.

“I am,” he insisted.

“Well I think you’re hot,” I blurted out.  The phrase made a noise like a bomb dropping from a plane, that whistling sound, and I started talking again before it could explode somewhere.  “Plus you’re fun and you’re nice.  Even if you only got one girl this summer, it’s better than Seguin’s hundred.”

Jeff looked at me.  His eyes were soft, like liquid or velvet, and I could tell all of this really bothered him.  He wasn’t playing it up for effect and he wasn’t hiding anything from me.  No wonder he wished someone from home was around - they’d have seen it all happen.  This wasn’t the kind of conversation you had with just any teammate.

“No girls,” he said.

What? Impossible.

“Well they missed out.”

“I mean no girls, ever, Tori.  Not yet.”

My brain blinked off like a computer with the power cut.  Just system failure.  I blinked my eyes, trying to turn it back on.  

Jeff dropped his chin and spoke quietly.  “Seguin can keep his puckbunnies, you’re right, I don’t want them.  But I’m nineteen, Tor.  I just... it just gets more weird, the longer it takes.  So I don’t do anything because I don’t know what I’m doing.  Does that... oh, sorry.  I’m sorry!  You’re so easy to talk to!  Bad enough we can’t go out, you don’t want to hear all this!”

He moved to get up.  I put my arm out, all the way to the other arm of the love seat, and blocked him in.  For once in my life I think I could have held him there, even against his will because the adrenaline in my body was racing.  He watched my hand and smiled like I was just being nice to him again.  

“Jeff,” I said.  He was embarrassed and blushing, but not the cute kind.  Jeff had said more than he meant to say, and on what had felt a lot like a date.  Talk about not knowing what you’re doing... except it was exactly what would work.

I was going to tell him everything - we could be great together, but I couldn’t get involved;  friends with benefits and I’d show him whatever he wanted to know if he let me climb all over him.  I was going to lay it all out and make a clear agreement, like a prenup.  But the moment his face was turned to mine, I just kissed him.

We were back on that dance floor at the club, the moment the music went from 80s to 00s and we went from dancing to grinding.  Except this time we kept our bodies apart and let our mouths do the work.  Jeff slid a hand into my hair and pulled me close, tongues grazing in a trail of sparks that lit up my spine.  I didn’t want to stop, I definitely wanted to keep going but I felt like a kettle boiling over; I had to get off the heat.

“Jeff,” I gasped, pulling barely free.  His eyes darted around, but no one was watching us.  Just a couple of kids making out in Starbucks.

“Oh God, I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to do that.  You were being so....”

“Jeff, I kissed you,” I said.

He froze, mid-apology.  “No, I kissed you.”

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Tori swung her legs under the kitchen counter, claiming a bar stool at the large granite island.  I wish I used this room more, because it was beautiful.  My condo, which I’d finally bought after the All-Star Game after renting for eight months, was all beautiful.

“Oooh, get excited,” I said with my head in the fridge.  “I have chocolate milk.”

Behind me, Tori clapped her hands.  

In any other circumstance I would have been embarrassed.  I didn’t even have chips or anything, just wheat crackers and carrots and Gatorade.  But Tori hadn’t had a beer since dinner.  She took the glass I offered and lifted it to the light.

“These are cool,” she examined the Wolverine pint glass, from the Marvel Comics set my sister had given me as a housewarming gift.  I hadn’t even thought to use a plain glass.  Of course I’d have comic book kitchenware.  

She probably thinks I have a race car bed and Superman Underoos.  I am the Twenty Year-Old Virgin.

“Rogue was my favorite of the X-Men.  Her power was so sad, but she was bad ass.”  Tori looked at me, then laughed.  My mouth literally hung open and everything else twitched, taking notice.  Everything.

“What, I’m not allowed to know that?”

“No, I just... I mean....”  

“I didn’t really read the comics, but my brother did.  I just saw the movies.”

I took the stool next to her and tried not to geek out.  Lots of the guys on the team loved superhero movies - it wasn’t too nerdy.  And I hadn’t really read comics either since I was about ten.  But I imagined Tori liked Gossip Girl and Reese Witherspoon movies.

“What would your superpower be?” I asked.

She took a long drink of milk, tipping her head back so her hair dangled and the curve of her neck elongated beautifully.  Then she licked her lip - she might as well have pushed me off the stool.

I hadn’t meant to dance with her the way I did.  It was a big, flashing roadside billboard that warned of danger and slowdowns and other things that would ruin your day.  DANGER: VIRGIN AHEAD.  I practically told all my secrets as I drove her hips around in my lap like I’d never been so close to a girl before.

But she’d let me - caught up in the moment, I supposed.  Her arms around my neck like she wanted me all to herself.  The smell of her shampoo filling my face, her lower back no wider than the span of my hands.  I let myself get way too far along, but she was shaped so perfectly.  Her good parts rubbed against mine and she let me be in control.  All I could think of was that our dancing could easily translate into something more.  A few less layers of clothing and we’d be right where I was so desperate to be.

Then she’d bailed me out from that girl in the red top.  Tori had clung to me so convincingly I almost believed it myself.

Stop it, junior league.

“I’d be able to move things with my mind,” she answered.  “Telekenesis.  But I’d be so lazy - I’d just bring myself pizza all day long and be a huge slob.”

“You’d still be beautiful.”

The words were out before I could stop them and she giggles.  Hot, angry color rushed up my neck to fill my face.  I clenched my fists in frustration and turned away.

“What about yours?”

“Uh, stamina.  I’d be able to skate all day and not get tired.”

“You would use your superpower for hockey?” she arched an eyebrow.

I shrugged.  “Well, yeah.  I wouldn’t want to be different from everyone else.”

Tori tilted her head to the side like she was considering me for the first time.  Earlier in the night, she joked that her guy friends thought I was a superhero.  She said they were right.  But I wanted to be just like those guys - normal, fun, cool.  Hanging out with girls.

“Too late,” Tori finally decided.  “But you’d look really good in one of those spandex suits.”

We moved to the couch.  I put on the latest episode of Saturday Night Live from my Tivo and settled down one couch cushion away from Tori.  She helped herself to the blanket thrown across the arm.

“Want some?”

No, but yes of course I did.  She scooted a little closer, not quite touching, pulled her legs up underneath her body and draped the throw across both of our laps. I pretend to pay attention to the monologue, laughing whenever she did.  Instead I was thinking.

She has a whole life outside of hockey.  She doesn’t need me, not in her real life.  But maybe she would help me.  She cares about everyone.

Now if only I knew how to ask a girl to have sex with me.  To teach me.  

Probably not a right way to do that.  But lots of wrong ways.

A few times over the course of the night, I could have just kissed her.  I felt like the opportunity was there, the moment.  But as quickly as I realized, it was gone.  I talked myself out of it - she’d freak and stop being friends with me.  I had literally no one else I was even this far along with, no one I trusted.  If I lost Tori, I was back at square one all alone.

Now, she was inches away on my couch, under a blanket with me, cracking up at pretend Lady Gaga on Weekend Update.

I could just ask her out.

Good thing something funny happened on TV, because that thought made me laugh out loud.

If I didn’t do something soon, I was going to mess this up.  Either I had to ask or decide that I never would and proceed as usual.  Because I couldn’t keep thinking what I was thinking - her perfect mouth on mine, her soft skin tangled in my sheets.  All the things I’d pictured on a long night in a hotel room... those girls hadn’t all been Tori, but my imagination was easy to steer.

I was still imaging how to ask her when the show ended.  She stood and stretched, revealing an inch of bare skin along the top of her jeans.  I gripped the blanket.

“I should go before I fall asleep,” she said.

You should stay before you fall asleep.

“I’m glad you came out tonight, Jeff.”

I did a mental checklist to make sure I wasn’t popping a tent, then stood up and dropped the blanket behind me.  I had a big night ahead of me with Tori after she left.

“Thanks for inviting me.  Can we do something else?”

Tori stepped into my outstretched arms and poured a hug all over me.  My eyes rolled back with the effort not to groan.

“Anything you want.”

I want everything.

Two days later, Tori and I went to lunch on her break at work, when my practice was over. The owner of the cafe fawned all over us like I was such a big deal.  I hoped maybe it would rub off on Tori.  That weekend, she took me on a tour of her college campus.  It seemed like every single person we passed, especially the guys over six feet tall, knew Tori by name.

“Hey Tor, did you do the homework for 204?” asked a guy who looked like Cam Ward.

“Tori!  We missed you at trivia night,” said one who looked like Eric Staal, complete with a hug.

“Babe.  I still owe you ten bucks from that pizza night.”  College, my ass.  That guy was at least twenty-five.  It was proof of how pretty she was that no one even looked at me.  A simple baseball cap and I was invisible.

I called her from our road trip to St. Louis and Dallas, just to say hi.  Her voicemail picked up.  Three hours later, just before our eleven o’clock curfew, she texted me back.

Sorry, out and can’t hear.  Good luck tomorrow!!  Bring home some wins!

I climbed out of bed and into the shower.  My roommate Zac didn’t bother asking why.

We got back to Raleigh late, but I was up early the next day so I went to the rink before optional skate.  It was Tuesday, a day Tori usually worked.  If I trolled around long enough maybe I would run into her.  And I did, almost first thing, thanks to a sneaker that dropped out of my gym bag.

“Oof!” she turned a corner at high speed and crashed into me, bent at the waist, picking up the errant shoe.  She bounced off, stumbled a few steps then steadied herself.  “I’m so sorry!”

I was up by then too.  “That’s a illegal hit, I was turned toward the boards.”

Tori smilled.  “Mmmmm, Shanahan.”

I burst out laughing.  She was just so damned pretty.  What had been a dead run turned into a casual walk as she fell into step beside me.  “Weren’t you in a hurry?”

“If I’m with you, I’m working.  Not late.”

She wore gray tweed trousers and a white sweater with black patches on the elbows and buttons along one side of her neck.  I wanted to open those to her collarbone and kiss the indent.  Then everywhere else.

Get a grip!

But it was just getting worse.  Tori went in front of me through some narrow spots around carts and equipment, and I just followed her ass in those pants like a man with tunnel vision.  Several days away from her had not made me any better at holding it together.

“What... what are you doing later? Wanna do something?”  Pretty soon she’d think I actually had a stutter.

She waited for me where the hallway widened.  “Yeah, sounds good.”

I spent all of practice trying to think of something.  There were activities like bowling or places like the movies, though sitting next to her in the dark for two hours not touching sounded like torture.  I’d squirm a hole into my seat.  We could go out for dinner, or cook in my kitchen, though that just dissolved into thoughts of chocolate frosting and christening the new counter.  For the third time, Eric smacked the back of my legs with his stick.

“What?” he finally said, coming to a dead stop and towering over me.


Eye roll.  “You are the worst liar who ever lived.”  Then he turned to the team and hollered.  “Skinner’s got a secret!”  

“Ooooh,” chorused twenty guys.  I cursed at Eric and made everyone laugh.

“Get caught jerking off to the Disney Channel again?” LaRose called.

“What’d ya pop a woody on the school bus?” Sutter suggested.

I gave them the finger with my glove and prayed for the drills to end.  It wasn’t till we were tossing equipment into the locker room hamper that Eric leaned over.  “What’s the matter?”

My scowl must not have been very convincing, because he just bumped me out of the way and took up all the space in front of both of our lockers so I couldn’t even get to my stuff.

“I’m doing something with Tori later,” I said quietly.  Eric nodded once, computing that to mean something he shouldn’t tell the entire room.  He was good like that -that’s why he was captain.  And kind of like my big brother.  

“Something like getting a blow job?”

I started to snap at him but he smacked me with a huge hand.  That trademark Staal grin really got on my nerves sometimes.  Just because he and his wild pack of supermodel brothers had probably been getting blowjobs from cowgirls on their sod farm since they were fifteen....

“Okay, okay.  Jeez.  What are you doing?”

“I don’t know.”  And there it was: helpless Jeff Skinner couldn’t even plan an evening with a friends, an un-date.  That pretty much ruled out blow jobs.

“Go mini-golfing,” he said.  “Worked for me.”

“Worked how?”

Another fucking Thunder Bay grin was his only answer.

Saturday, October 29, 2011


I hadn’t counted on Jeff being such a good dancer.  He always seemed a little nervous around me, but he was an 18-year old guy in a man’s world.  I felt plenty out of place on my own around the Hurricanes, but I must have been doing something right if they asked me back.

I also hadn’t really counted on Jeff looking so good in a t-shirt and jeans.  Or out of it, the way I’d seen him in the locker room. I mean he always looked cute.  Okay, kinda hot.  He was attractive.  Jeez1  But over the summer he’d put on some pretty serious muscle and seemed twice the size of his rookie self.  It was confusing.  He barely needed to tug and I was pressed to his chest, dancing to another song.

“Where’d you learn how to follow?  Girls never know how to follow,” he said, mouth close to my ear as “Goody Two Shoes” blared.

“My dad loves to dance, we danced around the house when I was little.”

Jeff’s smile was impossible to resist.  I grinned from ear-to-ear to match him.  His brown hair was just a shade too short to curl.  It was hot and crowded and loud, we weren’t even drinking and I was having so much fun.  The song ended and we whooped and hollered our appreciation of the band.

“We’re gonna take a break guys, be back in a few!” the lead singer said.  But the music never stopped, it just changed.  Enrique Iglesias poured from the speakers.

“Back to the future for intermission,” I joked.

The whole atmosphere changed just as quickly, from the bouncy hyper-active 80s anthem to this sexy modern sound.  Any space left on the dance floor disappeared as everyone moved into each other.  My friends were swallowed up by the crowd.  Couples formed on every side, but I was already part of one.

Jeff slipped right into the new song without missing a beat; I was back in his arms before I could even breathe.  His wide, hard thigh pushed between mine, his hands held the small of my back.  Our hips rolled in time to each other and the bass pounding through the floor.  I slid my palms up his thick arms, over the soft fabric stretched over his shoulders, and crossed my wrists behind his neck.  His face came alongside mine, cheek to cheek, and suddenly we were grinding against each other like every other couple getting to second base on the dance floor.  


But I couldn’t stop.  The words and finally the music itself was drowned out by the blood rushing in my ears.  Jeff’s chest bumped mine, the button on his jeans pressed against my stomach.  He’d gotten about five years older in five seconds and every bad thought in my mind came to the surface at once, as if pulled by a magnet.

This guy is fucking sexy.  And a really good dancer.

I bet he’s amazing in bed.

Oh God.

I just held on to him and prayed there were no cameras in the crowd.  So far no one had recognized him, or at least approached, but it wouldn’t do for Jeff to get caught dry-humping a girl on the dance floor, no matter how good his moves were.  Especially if that girl were me.  When the song began winding down, I knew we wouldn’t make it through another.

“Let’s go outside,” I whispered against his neck.  I could have just put my lips down and kissed him.

“‘Kay.”  He stepped back, peeling off me like a sticker, and I nearly stumbled.  I felt weak, unsupported.  Jeff slid his fingers into mine and started to weave through the crowd.  Smart guy kept his head down and we reached the stairs without incident.  Three steps later were were level with the bar again.

“Bathroom,” I said quickly, not looking into his eyes.  It took an extra moment for his fingers to let go.

I zipped into the farthest open stall and locked the door quickly.  Fuck, my heart was pounding.  He must have felt that when we danced.  He must have felt everything.


I took a few deeps breaths, trying to calm myself down.  It wasn’t working. My hands shook like I’d just met a celebrity.

Or the guy of my dreams.

None of that, not for me.  I’d had a rough time of it during the summer thanks to a really hot, really fuck-faced guy named Allan.  We had dated for four months and it ended badly when I realized we hadn’t been dating at all.  Just having sex.  Like he was just having sex with at least two other girls the entire time.  But as much as I felt like a fool, I had to admit the sex had been fantastic.  And it had been a while since I’d gotten any.

No, I told myself as the memory of Jeff’s hips against mine made my knees wobble.

Jeff was too nice and I was in no shape for a relationship.  The next time I got involved with someone I would do it on my terms - no feelings, just fun.  No getting hurt again, no trusting anyone.  All the good stuff - the sex, basically - and none of the bad.

I rolled my shoulders back, ran a hand through my hair and stood up straight.  Another deep breath.  I went back toward the bar where I’d left Jeff by the same table as before.

He was talking to a girl.  Instantly my hackles rose - down girl, I scolded my hormones.  She wore a red tank top with her boobs pushed up to her neck and tight jeans.  Whatever she was saying required leaning in close.  As she shook her black hair back and laughed, her hand settled on Jeff’s arm.  He didn’t flinch, but he didn’t reciprocate.  In fact, he looked a little nervous, eyes scanning the room until they found me.

With an almost unnoticeable shake, he freed himself from her grasp.  Two steps later he was against my side, arm around my waist, pulling me into the better part of a hug.

“Marie, this is Tori,” he said so politely I was almost fooled.  “Tori, Marie is a big Canes fan.”

Marie looked like a big pile of wanting to kick my ass.  Her brow scrunched until her black eyebrows were almost touching as she rolled her eyes up and down my size.  The twitch her of neck said she thought she could take me.

So I put my hand flat on Jeff’s stomach and pressed it very slowly across his abs, to the curve of his newly defined chest.  Even as I stared her down, I felt every rise and fall in his physique like I was reading Braille.  He wasn’t sculpted, he was solid.  I didn’t stop till my hand was on his neck.

“Nice to meet you.”  Venom dripped from my smile.

Marie didn’t bother saying goodbye.  She stormed off, melting into the throng, leaving me wrapped around Jeff like a bow on a Christmas gift.

“Thanks,” he said, voice low.  I turned my head, face up to his.  His soft brown eyes blinked back at me.  The way my fingers hung on the curve of his neck made it looked like we’d just stopped kissing.  A long second passed.

“Thanks... ahem,” he said, snapping to attention just as I pulled my arms back into my dance space.  Now two feet separated us and we both looked away.  Luckily Shana chose that moment to trip and fall into the table we’d been using.  She landed on her knees, taking out a bar stool that crashed to the ground like a fallen tree.  

“Whoops!” I scooped her up.  Jeff scrambled to right the chair, putting his back to the people who had turned around at the commotion.

“You’re okay,” I told her.

“I’m okay!” she sang back.  Jeff met my eyes: Drunk.

We propped her up and Jeff stayed with her while I searched for my other friends.  They were giving love a bad name in the middle of the dance floor and getting there was like an expedition into the wilderness.  By the time I stumbled back to Jeff, I felt battered and bruised.

“Do you mind if we take her home?”

He shook his head no and fit himself under her arm, helping her walk.  I hurried ahead for the car and by the time they reached the sidewalk, both were giggling as I pulled up.  Jeff carefully lowered her into the backseat and belted her in, then got into the front next to me.

“Sorry,” I said.  In the rear view mirror, I saw Shana’s head roll to one side.

“No problem.  Let’s get her home before she barfs in your car.”

We did, with luck.  Jeff helped Shana while I called the elevator and let us into her apartment.  He took her right to her room, laid her on the bed and slipped off her shoes.  I watched from the doorway as he folded the comforter in half over her already sleeping body.

“You’re really nice,” I said quietly, when he was done.  Jeff came to the door but I didn’t move.  So he came closer.

“You’d do the same for me.”

I smiled.  “Maybe last season.  I don’t think I could lift you now.”

We locked Shana in and I drove to Jeff’s building.  The perfect awning covered a clean-swept sidewalk, the foyer dazzled with golden light.  It was only a little after midnight - we hadn’t lasted that long.

“Uh, do you, uh... do you want to come up?” he asked.  Then he cleared his throat.  “I have milk and apple juice.  We could watch TV or something.”

Even as I told myself not to, my hand put the car in park.  “The party continues.”