Thursday, September 29, 2011


I followed Jordan to the bar, let him get in front of me and then pressed myself against his back just so I could hide my face in his shirt.  A hundred emotions needed their moment and I couldn’t let anyone else see them.

No one know about me and James.  Not even my friends.  And certainly not his teammates or his girlfriend.

Girlfriend.  I nearly growled.

Apparently I had misjudged James.  Sure I showed up here and surprised the shit out of him but yesterday – just yesterday! – he had kissed me.  He’d erased six months in a moment.  Why would he do that if he had already had someone here?  He was fitting in just fine, thank you very much, and I knew fuck all about anyone.  His intentions were clear though: have your cake and eat it too.

I was angry at him and angry at myself for assuming this was some fairy tale, one-that-got-away story.  Of course James had a girlfriend – he’s gorgeous and he plays for a team that is worshipped by this city.  And me, I was just a fool.  It stung like I’d been smacked and I wasn’t keep to take another hit.  So when Jordan handed me a drink, I wrapped my hand into the front of his shirt and pulled his face down to mine.

“I’m not so easy, Staal.”

Instead of looking surprised or offended, Jordan laughed.  He really had an amazing smile.  I was such a sucker.

“No, but you are sooooooooooooo mad right now.”

My jaw fell open.  Those blue eyes twinkled with victory and I cursed under my breath.  Jordan reached around my waist and pulled me into a legitimate hug.  I tried my hardest not to, but I ended up laughing in his arms.  It probably looked like we were having a hell of a time.

“I thought it was just Nealer hiding a boner every time he saw you.  I didn’t realize that it was you too.”

“It’s nothing.”  I squared up a little, trying to steady the lie. I had let James’ eyes, his smile and his kiss lie to me.  Surely I could tell one of my own.  Right?

Jordan gave me a deadpan look.  “Then I’m going to kiss you.”

The hug that had been friendly and almost comforting suddenly got heated.  The solid mass of his body, so full of bulges and indentations sculpted into the muscle, was practically a rock climbing wall.  He was holding me really tight.

“Don’t!” I whispered sharply.

“I’m good at it,” he promised, squeezing my side. “Really good at it.”

That massive hand slid up between my shoulder blades and trapped me so I could see only his face.  He put his mouth to my ear and whispered down my neck.

“Everyone is looking at us,” he said quietly.

My fingers didn’t make it halfway around his bicep but I tried to gain some control.  “Jordan. Stop.”

He held me there, powerless.  He could do whatever he wanted.  Well, not that I didn’t want it.  My body was like a blender with no top, flinging hormones at high speed.  I had put a lot of imagining into me and James and now there was just a smear, as if someone had tried to erase it from a chalk board.  Jordan slowly released his arm.  He sipped from his drink but those blue eyes never left mine.

Finally he said, “You’re a bad liar.”

“I am not lying!”

Small smile.  “Should have let me kiss you.  Would have sold your story.”

“Jordan, if I made out with every hockey player who ever hit on me I’d be in the Hall of Fame by now.”

The corner of his mouth curled – he knew that I knew what I was talking about.

“So what now?” He glanced over my head to where James was probably still standing with his girlfriend, terrified I was telling Radio Jordan all the nothing that ever happened between us.  Jordan’s brow drew together in the middle, like he was actually a little bit worried for me.

“Now we’re going to dance,” I replied.  “Get Kris.  I’ll show you how to sell a story.”

I didn’t even pretend I wasn’t watching Jordan clutch Natalie by the bar.  His fingers stopped at the waist of her dark jeans, she lifted onto the toes of her light brown boots to talk.  He whispered and smiled and I couldn’t see her face because he was a fucking giant with arms like a bear.  More than once he caught my eye, but never reacted – just went right back to holding her.

Fuck.  Fuck fuck fuck.

Kelsey came for Allison – I stepped away and let them head for the dance floor.  Flower watched me watching Natalie and gave a quizzical look.  I just shook my head: it was nothing.  Or at least it was now.

Natalie came toward us, hand-in-hand with Staal.  Without so much as a glance at me, she rounded up her friends, grabbed Kris and headed down the steps.  They didn’t stop till they’d joined Allison and the rest of the girls.

Now I turned away.  I couldn’t watch Jordan get to second base with her and call it dancing.  The song blared a heavy, rolling beat and I pictured her shaking that ass right into Staal’s lap.

“Thought the new girl wasn’t into hockey players?” Flower said, turning up next to me.

“Guess things change,” I shrugged.

He clapped me on the shoulder, like old friends.  “Mon ami, you should borrow my mask before you start lying.”

People came and went from our table.  I declined all the dancing but Allison was too drunk to care.  Only Natalie never came back – she stayed on the floor so long there was nothing to do but watch her dance.  Occasionally someone brought her a beer but, like me, she seemed to be sipping instead of chugging.  Kris moved in close behind her for a song then Flower got a two-stepping lesson.  Everyone danced with everyone, and all together – nothing scandalous was going on.  Except Jordan took every turn he could get, and spent his off-duty moments staring down any non-Penguin who looked like they might approach.

To watch them you’d think they’d all been friends forever, while I stood far away and sulked.  Midnight came and went.  In two hours, Natalie had done what I failed to do for six months: she’d made friends.

It wasn’t long before Allison was back, her drunkenness fading to fatigue.  But I could not leave before Natalie, not without seeing when she left and with whom.  I propped Allison up and pretended Flower didn’t know exactly what I was doing.

We didn’t have to wait long.  TK and Kelsey came back, Amanda and Brooks headed for a taxi.  Natalie’s friends were laughing and pawing at Letang, who did absolutely nothing to dissuade them.  Jordan started leading everyone off the dance floor.

“I am spent,” Emily said as she dropped into a chair.  Kris fell in next and pulled Emily’s legs over his lap.  Kate put her head down on the table.

Natalie leaned against the railing, her white tank top blazing in the low light.  She sighed tiredly but her eyes were clear and bright.  Jordan finished off a beer and spun the bottle away.  Everyone was waiting for someone else to do something.

“Eh, time to go home.  Ladies, it was very nice to meet you,” Marc gave a gallant wave.  “You fuckfaces were sober when I left, that’s the story I will tell.  See you tomorrow.”  Vero went with him, Eggo and his wife followed along.

“Let’s go girls.  Time for bed.”  Natalie stood up straight.  She didn’t look at Jordan even though he was looking at her.  Instead she pried Emily away from Kris and helped her up.

Allison took the hint.  “Bathroom, then we go.”

The moment she was gone, Natalie and Jordan shared a look that I probably wasn’t meant to see.  He roused Kate from her nap.

“Come on, I’ll get cabs.”  And he took her friends, leaving Natalie and me alone.

She didn’t move. The music was still loud and the lights down – it would be last call any minute.  Her outfit was a contrast to the darkness, outlining her shape to perfection.  I ached from spending all night watching other guys hold her.

“Natalie, I’m sorry.”

Hurt: those fantastic green eyes were full of it.  I expected anger or disgust or death rays but instead there was only pain.

“Allison is not my girlfriend.  It’s not serious.”

She tilted her head slightly.  “Has anyone told her that?”

Obviously not.  “I didn’t know how to break it off without ruining Kelsey’s party – there was no time!  I didn’t even know you were coming here.  Why didn’t you tell me?”

“And say what, James?”

Even now, in the middle of an argument, the sound of her saying my name made my knees weak.

“Call out of nowhere and say ‘Remember when I kissed you out of nowhere a hundred years ago when the world was a different place then never talked to you again?  Remember when I hardly even knew you?’”  Her voice was forced, trying not to rise in pitch or volume.  She wasn’t drunk, but she’d had enough that emotions were getting the better of her.

“I didn’t know if it was anything!” she said.

“It was something.  It is something.”  It felt so good to say that out loud.  I took a step forward.

But Natalie’s eyes shifted and she shook her head.  The words came out softly, like she didn’t want anyone to hear them.  Maybe I’m the one who didn’t want to hear them.

“It was just a kiss.”

At that moment, Allison’s hand found my shoulder and she leaned all her weight on me.  I nearly stumbled.  Natalie gave Allison a tight little smile, almost sad, and headed for the door.  I dragged along behind.

Outside, Jordan had two cabs waiting.  Kris was leaning into one door, talking to Natalie’s friends.  Natalie went toward Jordan and the second car.

If they tried to leave together I would have to do something.  Staal wasn’t drunk either and the fight would go down just as I envisioned: him hitting me, me hitting the ground.  Then he’d take her home anyway, over my dead body.

“Bonne nuit!” Kris said, smacking the roof of the cab without getting in.  Natalie opened her arms and Jordan stepped into a hug.  His mouth moved but I couldn’t hear, she just rocked in his arms.  The she hugged Kris, glanced over her shoulder at me and left without a word.

Another cab pulled up immediately.  I lowered Allison into the backseat and stood behind the open door.

Jordan pinched his mouth together and shrugged, like I’d made my own bed.  Now I had to sleep in it with my very drunk un-girlfriend.  But he wasn’t sorry.  He was winning.

I had to walk away from James.  Even if Allison hadn’t been approaching from behind, weaving stumbled footsteps toward the table, I would have left.  Because I’d already proven once tonight I wasn’t much of a liar.

“It was just a kiss.”

Technically true, but then why did my stomach hurt?  Why did he have so much effect on me?  I’d crack under another second of those big, sad eyes.  My boots shuffled right out the door, right toward Jordan.

Jordan was my partner in crime, my safe zone.  Of course he’d have me screaming down the heavens in the back of a taxi without so much as a ‘yes please,’ but tonight I trusted him.  He was the only person who knew.

“Okay?” he asked softly.  I nodded even though he could see it all over my face.  Then he looked toward the door and I knew James was following.  Jordan kept answering all my questions before I had to ask.  

“Call me if you need anything,” he said, arms around my waist.  “Like a back massage.”

I laughed weakly.

“Foot massage?”

I shook my head.  Why was I egging him on?  He took the bait and curled down low.  His breath lifted the hair from my temple, tickling my ear.

“Holding out for that kiss, eh?”

I banged my forehead once against his shoulder.


  1. James you dummy, what is wrong with you? Smarten up please......
    And when did Jordan become Mr. Reliable... At least Natalie won't feel so alone.

  2. Love all the different relationships; keeps the story dynamic. Can't wait for the next update! :-)