Wednesday, November 23, 2011

twelve


Shit shit shit.  I was pacing the square in front of my stall, half-dressed and wondering what to do about the two mistakes I’d made:

1. Telling Seguin something that’s supposed to be secret.

2. Telling Seguin something secret that is also a lie.

Practice had just ended, it was nearly noon.  Tori was somewhere in the building now and Seguin would be suiting up by five.  I had to nap, eat... I needed to find her now.  This required a face-to-face talk and I couldn’t bring her down to the locker room, it was still full of my very nosy teammates.  I stripped off the last of my gear, hustled through a shower and threw on jeans and a dark blue pullover Tori had once told me she liked.  The fron offices were upstairs.

“Uh, hi,” I said to the receptionist, a woman in her early fifties.  Thank God she had a nameplate next to the photos of her grandkids, because I’d met her at least twice before.  “Hi Alice.”  

“Hello Jeff.  Can I help you?”

“Tori, the PR intern.  Is she around today?”

Recognition spread across her face like a flower blooming and too late I realized that she was thinking.

Oh hell, let her.

“I think she’s out scouting the pet calendar shoot locations.  Won’t be back for a few hours.”  Alice smiled like she thought she was breaking my heart.

“Oh, okay.  Thanks.”
I sent Tori a text, but she didn’t reply before time for my pre-game nap.  I couldn’t be off my game that night, not just because she’d be watching but because Seguin would never let me hear the end of it.  And if Coach found out I was out with him then played poorly... well, I’d rather not have that conversation.  There was still nothing from Tori when I woke up.

The visiting locker room was pretty far from our room, but the way the building was designed you had to walk past it to get to the Canes locker room and the offices.  So I knew the Bruins were already in the house because I could hear them loud and clear on my way past. I turned the corner toward the offices and stopped.  Halfway down the hall, Seguin was leaning against the wall with one arm popping him up.  Even from the back I could tell he was flexing his abs under that spandex shirt.  And standing in front of him was Tori.

She wasn’t close.  But she wasn’t leaving either.  They were just talking.  Her shoulder length blond hair was tousled like she’d just been touching it.  My brain cut to an image of that hair fanned across the pillow on my bed.  Fucking Seguin wouldn’t know that, no matter how far away you could see his six-pack.  Tori shifted her eyes and caught me watching.

“Hey,” I said, picking up my feet and trying to act natural.

“Hey Skinns!” Seguin announced loudly.  “I was just talking about you with Tori here.”

Tori’s beautiful face was a pleasant mask, but her eyes told a different story.  They were slightly wide and too still: she was uncomfortable.  I might not have noticed if I hadn’t seen her so comfortable so often lately.  If I could just get her alone, I could explain.

Hell, I wouldn’t get a word out before kissing her.

As if to drive home the point, Tori was chewing on the pink curve of her lower lip.  Tyler looked from me to her and back, that shit-eating grin on full blast.

“She was telling me how much fun you guys are having getting to know each other.  And that keeping it secret is tough around here.”

If he ruins this I’ll kill him.  I’ll take his body to Boston and dump it near a college.  It wouldn’t be tough to make it seem like a jealous boyfriend caught him in the act and threw him in the river.  I watched him workout all summer: more looking in the mirror than lifting weights.

“It’s great she’s graduating soon, then you can tell everyone.  Just in time for the playoffs.  If you make it.”  He said the last part like he was offering the last piece of cake, just before he snatched it back and ate it himself.

“Well,” he turned back to Tori, “I’ll let you guys have a minute alone.  I know they’re rare.”  He squeezed Tori’s arm with one big hand, slapped me on the back and sauntered away, whistling.

She bit the corner of her soft lip and my heart skipped a beat.  I hadn’t forgotten how pretty she was, but it was the first night I’d gone without her since we made this crazy deal.  And I had missed her.  I stood there flatfooted, wiping my hands on my suit.  This wasn’t the kind of alone I knew how to maneuver: this was accidentally alone in public that could end any second.  But she was right there, all curvy and gorgeous in a red cardigan with white polka dots buttoned over what looked like a delicate, clingy top that probably had lace and thin straps and would come off so easily... STOP.  I wiped my hands again.

“What the hell was that about?” she whispered sharply as soon as he rounded the corner.  “Walked right in, asking for me by name.  Half the office now thinks I hooked up with him!”

I moved into the space Seguin had left - it was almost too close to be without touching her.  I reached for her but she stepped back at the same moment I caught myself.  What am I doing?  My hands fisted themselves instead.

“I’m sorry, Tori.  He... fuck.  I was telling him about you, I should have known he would want to meet you.  He’s….”

“Telling him what about me?”  Her face was a mask, the fake smile she’d given Seguin was gone.  There was a chance she was really asking – and a chance Tyler had already told her exactly what I said.

“I, uh….”

I was getting to know Tori more by the second.  For example, right now she thought I was full of shit.  The corners of her eyes crinkled as she narrowed them, her eyebrows came together in the center.  I exhaled a long, slow breath, carefully selecting my words.  Then I quietly told a half-truth.

“He wanted me to hook up with some girl at the bar and I just wanted to shut him up so I told him about you.”

Tori’s eyes got wider and her jaw set in a tentative line.  “You told him about us?  Jesus, Jeff!  No wonder he thought I’d want to meet him after the game.”

“WHAT?!”

She slapped my chest.  “Shhhh!  Are you fucking trying to get me fired?!”

A red haze fell over my field of vision.  My teeth ground together.  I hissed a curse, grabbed her arm and pulled her through the nearest door into the skate-sharpening room.  Then I threw the door closed.

“Tell me every word he said to you.”

Tori went white.  In a flash she realized that I was furious – and I wasn’t kidding around.  I would march into the visiting locker room and… no.  I’d have LaRose do it.  Or Eric.  Depending on if I wanted Seguin dead or only mostly dead.

“Tori,” I growled.  My hand was still on her arm.

“He asked what I was doing later, if I wasn’t… busy with you I should stop by his hotel room.  Promised to make it worth my while.”  As she spoke, Tori regained her angry edge.  Repeating Tyler’s insulting insinuation was getting her back up again.  “He said he could teach me a few things.”

The words fell to the ground between us like a bomb and we both waited for them to explode.  Why had he chosen those words?  I hadn’t said anything about our arrangement.  Clearly Tori thought otherwise.

“Fucking asshole,” I turned my face away, growling.

“I thought I could trust you.”  Now Tori’s set jaw was quivering a little, her voice faltered.  She wrenched her wrist free and crossed her arms over her chest.  In that second she hated me for giving us up.  In the next she’d be ending this un-relationship.  No time to waste.

“I told him you were my girlfriend,” I said in a rush.  “I didn’t say anything else, just your name.  I didn’t tell him about us, I would never.  No one.  Especially not him.  I don’t think of you… I just told him you were my girlfriend.”

I was so busy concentrating on what I was saying that I didn’t watch Tori.  The crinkles at the corners of her eyes and mouth softened, her shoulders relaxed and dropped a few inches.  The tension eased from her forehead.  By the time she spoke, all the anger had faded from her beautiful face.

“Oh.”
____

What a stupid thing to say.  It just came out, as surprised as I was at Jeff’s confession.  I had been so irate from the first word out of Tyler’s mouth that nothing else came to mind.

Girlfriend.

I wasn’t supposed to want that.  I wasn’t supposed to want anything beyond sex and secrets.  But Jeff said the word and it didn’t just make me feel better.  It made me feel great.

Girlfriend.

His adorable face was red, but not with blush.  Jeff was as mad as I was, maybe more.  I thought he was caught out by someone spilling his secret - it was just a different secret entirely, one Tyler had actually kept.  Not out of friendship but out of opportunity.

Jeff started apologizing again.  A vein in his neck trembled as he detailed the precise way he’d kill Tyler and all the reasons he deserved to die.  I only heard the words “skate,” “murder” and “bury.”

“He thinks everything is his for the….”

I grabbed Jeff by the back of the head and kissed him.  Every ounce of feeling in the week since we made our deal went into it – the heart-racing jolt of our first kiss, the sweet awkwardness of our first time, the drowsy relaxation of waking up together.  It took him a minute to catch on that I was kissing him, really kissing him, in an almost public place.  If Ward or Staal blew an edge this morning he could be walking in the door any second.

And I don’t give a shit.

Jeff’s body rounded toward mine, the coiled anger disappearing like water down a drain.  His arms wrapped tight around my back.  He wasn’t letting go anytime soon.  My hands were in his hair, holding his mouth to mine.  We kissed in that closet for what seemed like an hour.  Finally, Jeff pulled his lips away.

“Tori, I….”

I waited for him.

“I don’t want to be friends.”

His eyes were so dark, so worried.  No dimples here.  Just Jeff’s milky skin, that perfect little mouth and the most honest face I’d ever seen.

“We can still keep it secret, I want you to – I mean I need you to work here.  I won’t tell anyone.  And I won’t hurt you, I promise.  You don’t have to… please don’t worry, Tori.”

Even when I thought all guys were assholes I never thought that Jeff could be a bad person.  After my run-in with Tyler, who was probably just an opportunist, I was reminded that few people in the world could ever be as good as Jeff.

“Okay,” I agreed.  Just like that.

He froze.  Those lips I’d come to know were sightly parted as he straight stared at me waiting for the punch line.  It was a long pause before the news reached his brain.

Jeff jumped on me.  His hands were everywhere and it was a damned good thing that Jeff was wearing half his hockey gear.  I wondered if rooms like this had cameras.  Jeff apparently had the same thought as he tried to pick me up and wrap my legs around his waist.

“Stop,” I giggled.

“No.”

I wiggled free of him and pointed toward the door.  “Go to work.”

“I’m going to kill him.”

“Just beat his team and take me home.  Seguin can suck it.”

That got dimples.
____

I left that equipment room with a girlfriend.  And a handful of her ass.  Tori went one way and I went toward the locker room.  My mind was on Seguin and how to humiliate him on the ice, so I didn’t see Eric till too late.

“What’s up, Skinns?” he grinned down – I’d crashed into his chest.

“Uh, nothing.”

“You were gone a long time.”

I shrugged.  What was he, the official timekeeper?

“Sharpened the shit out of some skates, eh?”

“Uhhh....” My hands were empty and my feet were bare.

“Don’t worry.  I’ve gotten my blade rubbed in there a few times.”

“Eric!”  How did he know I’d even been in that room?  How did he always know everything?  Fucking Staals were fucking psychic.  Add it to the list of reasons to hate them.  I punched him in the bicep.  Eric didn’t even feel it.  He just threw an arm around my neck and dragged me toward my locker.

“Rookie of the Year,” he laughed.
____

7 comments:

  1. Fucking Staals were fucking psychic. Add it to the list of reasons to hate them.

    Best line ever :)

    Oh blogger is being stupid and I can't post a comment with my account... Whatever I'm Marianna jussaying.

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  2. Wonderful as always!
    I love how you write Eric Staal!!
    I know you just updated but update soon please :)

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  3. Another great chapter! Not sure if you saw my earlier comment:
    hey, I love all your stories. You make the characters come alive and everything seem so plausible. That, combined with your near-perfect grammar and writing style make your stories the best fanfictions on the internet.
    So, I've had this fantasy in my mind for a while and it's of a college age, timid girl who moves to Pittsburgh to start a new life away from her physically/emotionally abusive ex-boyfriend. Instead of the calm and solitude she'd hoped for, she meets Sidney Crosby (falls in love with him) and the team. Do you think you can write a fairly long story that goes along those lines? I would really appreciate it.
    Even if you can't, I really love your stories and wanted to finally tell you :)

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  4. This is one of my favorite stories ever. I never want it to end :)

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  5. Can you post another chapter like right now lol I love it <3

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  6. "“Just beat his team and take me home. Seguin can suck it.”

    That got dimples."

    Favorite part :) Also loved "Fucking Staals were fucking psychic."

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