“Sorry, Grace,” Laura said, looking genuinely apologetic. I felt bad – she should be having the time of her life with this, not worrying about me.
“Please, don’t be. You’re going to have a blast. Now what are you wearing?”
It was Sunday evening. Jordan had dropped us at Shiri’s and we’d gone our separate ways. By dinner, Max had invited Laura to some official team charity event Monday night. Sidney had not asked me, nor did I expect him to. That caught Laura by surprise. It felt a little shitty, but I was really happy for Laura.
“This is like your dream date!” I said, gushing a bit to ease her concerns. “What shoes did you pick?”
I lolled around my house, both thinking about Sidney and trying not to think about him. Maybe our connection was too strong. It was certainly overwhelming my common sense. I had already kind of decided not to fight it, mostly because I knew I would lose every time. Plus, when we were physical things were off-the-charts. It was times when he was nice that were the hardest, when he forgot to be distant – he was fun and silly and those were the parts of him I could feel myself falling for. Those were the parts I could not have.
He was just scared, no matter what he said. I wanted to understand, and I think I did in some theoretical way. But in reality, standing next to him – or lying underneath him – I didn’t see how he could want something so badly yet be prepared to simply walk away. And I didn’t know if I could walk the razor’s edge, waiting for the day he’d actually go. Maybe a few days away from him would help.
I was in bed when the phone rang again. My heart jumped – did I want it to be Sidney? Yes and no in equal measure. No matter, it was Shiri.
“Grace, Kris just asked me to the party tomorrow night. I told him I couldn’t go unless it was okay with you.”
“WHAT? You told him that? If Kris wants to take you out, you say yes and ask to smell his hair! Don’t worry about me!”
“Are you sure? I feel bad that you’re not…”
“Shiri. Stop it right now. Unless you want to do a Freaky Friday and switch bodies with me, because I think I’d rather go with Kris anyway.” She laughed as I hammed it up. Inside I was shrinking a little more. Now it was a big night out and I was the only one not invited.
I paced a groove in my bedroom floor, phone in hand. I couldn’t ask her. I could not bring a date to an official team function. There was simply no way to make that work, no matter how much she thought I just wasn’t trying. Still, she’d know that Max and Kris had invited her friends. I wanted to say something but I knew I’d end up apologizing again. Grace was right, I did a lot of that. And it wasn’t fair – this was not up to me. I had to stop feeling sorry or that’s all I would ever be.
I didn’t call her. I went to bed, pulled the covers over my head and lay there for hours, forcing myself not to think about her which only made me think about her the entire time. It wasn’t even all sexual. The way she’d looked at me that morning while we talked in bed – she wasn’t mad, she was disappointed. Instead of being angry, Grace had looked at me almost compassionately, like she thought I was full of shit but she didn’t blame me for it. She was almost where I needed her to be. Eventually I couldn’t keep my mind from wandering to the night before. There was not use fighting – I let myself relive every single moment from the time she started to dancing to the time I woke up with her in my arms. My imagination was good, but nothing compared to the real girl. I held out on finishing myself off as long as I could, and when I did the empty room heard me say her name.
In the morning, I skated hard at practice to clear my head. Max and Kris didn’t say a word. Someone must have warned Jordan off too, because he didn’t make any jokes about his cousin. I skipped lunch, went home and waited for evening. It would be a long few hours of shaking hands and making nice and feeling like an asshole.
After work I went to Laura’s house to help her and Shiri get dressed. I took my feelings of being left out and my frustration with Sidney, locked them in a box and threw them overboard. My girls were going to have a great night and I was going to help. Plus, if anyone asked I was not moping around my house. I was pouring champagne and making rude suggestions about the underwear selection.
Shiri wore a classic little black dress with a cinched waist and beaded detailing. It made her look like Audrey Hepburn and I somehow knew Kris would love it. Her shoes were black stilettos and she wore a few chunky pieces of jewelry to spice it up. Laura kept asking if Max would like her outfit, but there was no question. She wore a sky blue bandage tiered dress that hugged her body like a catsuit. It was just shy of being too much and she pulled it off by pairing it with simple, stunning silver heels. I snapped a few photos and bid them goodbye looking gorgeous, I didn’t want to be around when their dates arrived.
On the way home, I stopped for gas. As I was pumping, someone called out, “Grace? Hey Grace!”
I turned to see a dark-haired guy walking toward me, wearing a dark gray double-breasted suit. It was TK, Sid’s teammate, who I’d met at Max’s party. We’d had a drink and a few laughs, and he judged the Staal brothers dance competition. What was his first name?
He looked good in his tailored duds, and he clearly felt good because he strutted across the gas station parking lot in a way that made me choke back a laugh. TK was not an attractive guy, really but he definitely seemed like fun.
“You’re not wearing that to the cocktail party,” he said, taking in my jeans and sweater.
“I’m not going. But you look like James Bond.” I reached out and adjusted the lapel of his suit. “Sharp dressed man!”
He took off his sunglasses. “What do you mean you’re not going?”
He exhaled heavily. “Captain Retarded didn’t invite you? What a jackass.”
I just shrugged. I didn’t want to talk badly about Sid to someone I hardly knew, and I didn’t want Tyler to give him a hard time at the party. I’d spent the last few hours making sure if anyone mentioned me, they’d say I was happy as a clam. “It’s okay. I know he’s got… obligations.”
“What he’s got is a giant hole where his brain should be. He’s got you and he doesn’t ask you. While I, I don’t have a date. So how about it. Come with me and we’ll show Crosby what he’s missing.”
“I can’t, I…,” I started making excuses. Tyler topped off my gas tank, hang up the nozzle and finished my credit card transaction. Then he opened my drivers’ side door.
“I’ll follow you home, you have ten minutes to change.”
What am I doing? Sid was going to be shocked and probably really, really mad. Well fine. Maybe that’s what I want. I considered the possibilities of waging war on his turf, of taking our little fight to the streets. I wasn’t sure this was a good idea, but with TK in the car behind me, singing along to the radio, there was really no choice to make.
I let Tyler into my living room and ran upstairs. I had one dress I knew was clean and ready to go – I’d bought it for a work holiday party in December and hadn’t worn it since, or the shoes. Good thing I’d shaved my legs. I unzipped the garment bag – it was just tight and short enough to be flirty without being trashy. The shoes were a bit much, but weren’t all women’s dress shoes slutty-looking? I shimmied them on and looked in the mirror. Shit.
The hickey on my neck had been hidden under my sweater. I rifled through my makeup case, applied three coats of foundation and concealer while I gave myself some eye makeup. Only a hint of discoloration remained at the base of my neck, but I was going to have to ask for a second opinion.
“Wow,” Tyler said as I hurried down the stairs. “If you can do that in ten minutes, I don’t think I’d live through waiting an hour.” I gave him a little spin and he smiled. “Sidney is going to kill me, you realize that. He won’t be able to talk for looking at you, then he’ll have me benched for a week.”
“Only one thing could make it worse,” I offered. “Can you see the hickey on my neck?”
I tried to get near the bar first, but people started appearing the moment I walked in the door. Max and Kris were already there, drinks and dates in hand. Grace’s friends looked fantastic and I could see why neither guy wanted to give up his date for mine. I groaned inwardly. Jordan ambled over and barged into the conversation two older ladies were having with me. I slapped his shoulder and got myself a drink.
These events were always rough. Some of the guys had fun – there we usually a few single hot girls that figured charity events for a great place to pick up hockey players. They were right. For me, it was just a lot of work and a lot of saying diplomatically boring things about hockey to people whose names I couldn’t remember. I know the press joked that I was a dull interview but these people couldn’t get enough of hearing me drone on. I was listening to two guys talk about their junior hockey days when Brooks laid an arm across my shoulders.
“I think somebody’s here to see you,” he said, raising his glass toward the entrance. I lifted my eyes and they locked onto Grace.
She wore a bright red, strapless silk dress that fell just above her knees, filled to perfection by the hourglass shape of her body. At the end of mile-long legs were the most dangerous red cage heels I had ever seen. It looked like she’d driven here with the windows open, her hair artfully tossed. Dark makeup made her eyes stand out dramatically, and she wore no lipstick. She didn’t need to. It was the perfect combination of someone who’d just been fucked and someone you couldn’t wait to fuck.
And right behind her, taking her coat: TK.
I left the conversation in mid-sentence and strode over, gripping my drink tightly. She must have felt me coming because she turned before I reached her. Her face was even, almost blank. TK stepped in front of her.
“My idea, Sidney. I kidnapped Grace and made her come.”
“How?” Of all people, how had she hooked up with TK?
“I ran into her at the gas station on my way here.”
“Dressed like that?”
Grace laughed and it made me shiver. “Yes, I always pump gas dressed like a Bond girl.” She stepped around TK, put her hand high on my bicep and leaned in to kiss my cheek. Her lips lingered, touching my skin for what seemed like forever after she’d been so quick to get away that morning. I felt heat rise in my face as I breathed in her scent – vanilla and raspberries.
“You look devastating,” she said into my ear. Then she pulled away. “Tyler, do you want a drink?”
She sauntered off to the bar, taking every pair of eyes in the room with her. I turned to TK, who looked a little scared. “Thank you for bringing her,” I said.
“When I saw her in jeans at the gas station, I knew you’d screwed up. Figured I could help. I followed her home, made her change and leave her car. Have you…,” he hesitated a second, “have you been to her house?”
I shook my head.
“There’s something about her that you don’t know.”
All night, Grace stuck to TK. When we stood in a group she stayed across from me or one body away. The band played for a while and she danced with everyone else. Max gave me a few stern looks but I was afraid of giving myself away. The soft, quick fabric of her dress was no match for the thoughts running through my mind. Geno danced with her three times until I saw Jordan whisper something to him. He looked at me then nodded firmly. Vero cut in on Kris’ dance and sent Marc in Grace’s direction.
“Why your girl here with TK?” Geno mumbled in what he thought was a quiet voice at the bar.
“I couldn’t bring her.”
Geno looked at me like I was stupid. “If you bring anyone, you bring her.”
He was right, in a way. Grace was mingling and laughing, talking with everyone. Jordan made the rounds whispering to each teammate who she was, just so no one got the wrong idea. TK looked like her bodyguard and chaperone, but never once looked like he was making a move. Considering how good she looked, that was a serious effort. Each of the guys took their turn to give me shit about it.
“That’s fake phone number girl? No wonder you made Max hunt her down,” Gogo said.
“Should’ve told me you didn’t invite her, I’d have done it,” Brooks added.
Finally, after carefully staying away for over two hours, Grace drifted in next to me at the bar. I leaned on my elbows, back turned to the crowd, taking a moment’s rest. I smelled her before I felt her. “How you holding up?” she asked quietly. She looked so lovely it almost hurt. It was more makeup that I’d ever seen her wear and she sparkled like a supermodel. We stood shoulder to shoulder creating our own private little space.
“Promise not to make fun of me?” I asked. She nodded. “Sorry I couldn’t invite you.”
That made her smile, a tiny, tight little curl of her lip. “Your loss. It seems I’m quite charming. A bunch of older ladies suggested I marry ‘that Malkin fellow’,” she made air quotes, “and contribute hockey babies to your farm system.”
“You did dance with him a lot.”
She looked at me from the corner of her eye. “And then you staked your claim, so don’t worry, he knows.”
I wanted to stake my claim right there and kiss her for everyone to see. But already I felt a hundred pairs of eyes watching us. She’d talked to everyone in the place, danced with every guy on the team, laughed and flirted and dazzled and no one cared. Now that she was whispering with me, I felt the whole place stare.
“Is everyone looking at us?” she asked, noticing my eyes darting around, searching the mirror across for the reflection of the crowd.
She laughed lightly and shifted, pressing against me. “Don’t want to blow my cover.” And she was gone.
When the event finally ended and I’d shaken hands with every single guest, the guys milled around the bar making a plan. We had a game the next night, so there was no big party in the works. But we were all dressed up.
“Let’s go to Martin’s,” Max insisted. “We look this good, we gotta go out.”
I caught up to Grace and TK. “Grace, you can ride with me.”
She looked at TK. “I don’t come to a party with one date and leave with another. Plus, people will see us arriving at Martin’s.”
“I think I’m going to head home,” TK said, yawning. “I have extra physio in the morning.”
“Drive around the corner and switch Grace into my car,” I suggested. Stupidly.
“I am not a drug deal,” she said evenly, like she was getting annoyed. “I’ll get a ride.” She gave TK a hug big enough to make the whole team jealous. She kissed his cheek, thanked him more than once and chased off after Max and Laura.
TK smiled at me. “Don’t be a douchebag, Sid.”
At a red light, Max turned all the way around in the drivers’ seat of his car and gave me a huge, shit-eating grin. “When you walked in that door I thought Sid was going to pass out. Well done, Grace, you are a girl after my own heart.”
“Revenge is hot,” Laura agreed.
At Martin’s, the team seemed to be regulars and we claimed a back section. The place was pretty quiet on a Monday night and two waitresses descended on the group. I called out my order and snuck off to the bathroom to adjust my uncomfortable strapless bra. Why could they never make these things fit right? I found the hallway leading there and passed little space that used to hold a payphone back when people actually used them.
With a thump, I was in that space. I hadn’t heard Sidney come up behind me, the clack of my heels drowning out everything, but the weight and size of the body pressed to mine could only be one person. It wasn’t private but suddenly he didn’t seem to care. One of his huge hands cupped the side of my face and he kissed me, almost gently, before I even really knew what was happening. His shoulders sagged as his tongue slipped between my lips, his other hand riding high at my waist. He was deliriously warm and smelled like heaven. A minute or an hour later, he breathed in slowly and released my mouth.
“Wanted to do that all night,” he said.
He tilted his head slightly. “Do you enjoy torturing me?”
I kept my gaze even. “Seems like the only thing I can do.” And I kissed him again, hungrier this time and I wondered if it had been a waste to order a drink when we clearly weren’t going to make it long in the bar. Sid’s hands ran through my hair, probably perfecting the look I’d tried to style, and he tipped my head back.
“I could almost see your hickey, since I knew where to look,” he breathed right onto it.
“There’s at least one other you know where to find.”
Why was I teasing him? I was making it easier for him to just want to fuck me, to just take me home every night without ever taking me out. It was stupid and clumsy, not powerful at all, but I couldn’t help it. Pressed to a wall in a dark corner beneath Sidney Crosby’s body, his hands on my skin and his thigh between my legs, I was completely undone. I struggled to regain myself.
“Let’s go back out there,” I tried to move, no luck.
“Let’s go back to your house.”
“It’s rude to leave our friends.”
“It’s illegal to have sex in that bathroom, but those are your options.” His eyes said he was completely serious. The tension in his lower body agreed.
“Okay, let’s go.”
His eyes lit up and he let me go, following me back into the bar room. I got a few steps ahead of him, as if I were trying to look like we came out separately but, but really it was a head start. At one of the tables, I slid into the booth and pulled Jordan in after me. Sidney stopped in mid-stride and glared at me. I stirred my drink and sipped, batting my eyes at him over the rim of the glass. A black cloud crossed his features, then he relaxed. And smiled. More dangerous. He took a seat across from us, outside Kris and Shiri, and watched me while we talked and laughed.
They team couldn’t stay out too late. Each guy gave me a big hug goodbye and complimented me loudly. I loved the way they wound him up. Geno lifted me right off my feet and swung me around, saying something in Russian. Jordan said, “Hands off my cousin” and Geno dropped me right into Sidney.
“I’m taking you home,” he said, fingers locking around my wrist. “Your house this time.”
I relented and we filed out with the group so no one would notice us leaving together. We went around the back of Brooks’ car and I ducked into Sidney’s SUV. He put his hand on my thigh and followed my directions.
“TK said there’s something I don’t know about you,” he said. “Something about seeing your house.”
I nodded. “Guess you’re about to find out.”
A few minutes later, he raised his eyebrows as we pulled into the driveway. He saw a large, two-story white house with stonework covering the front façade. Vaulted ceilings in the foyer were visible through the windows. A chandelier hung there, which I’d left on in my rush to leave. The crushed gravel driveway led to a flagstone path up to the arched front door. To the left a three-car garage faced out. To the right, a large yard disappeared around the side of the house.
“You live with your parents?”
I laughed, unbuckling my seat belt. “Nope. But that’s what I thought about you the night we met.”
The foyer was off-white marble and plaster, the most ostentatious part of the house and my least favorite. I led him past a dining room, through the kitchen into the back living room. It was my part of the house, the only part I really lived in besides my room. I’d cluttered it with a few things from my life, making it my own. The huge, wide couch was dead soft and the wall the to backyard was all windows. Outside, fairy lights shone in the trees. I hit a switch and illuminated the swimming pool.
“You’re house sitting?” he tried.
“For my parents. This is their place, but my dad’s main work base moved to Chicago six months ago so they’re living there now. Didn’t want to sell this place, so I got a transfer from my job in LA to here so I could live in it. Silly to let all this go to waste, right?”
He was still looking around, surprised.
“Why do you look so shocked? That place you live is way bigger than this.”
I squared my shoulders. “But what? I’m normal and you’re not, so I can’t have something like this? My dad owns two companies and makes a lot of money. No big deal except I get to live here for free. I still work like everybody else.”
“I know, I…,” he shook his head as if to clear it. “I never asked what you do.”
“Nope, just told me what you do and all the shit that comes with it.”
He stood there for a moment, feeling like a dick. I let him because he was. His eyes tried to search mine for a way out but I wasn’t giving it. He could figure this out on his own like a big boy or he could admit he felt nothing but the overwhelming desire to rip my clothes off. I made my point loud and clear – when he opened his mouth to speak, I cut him off.
“If you don’t want to be an asshole, then don’t be. But apologize and I’m kicking you out. And if all you want to do is fuck me, then get to it.”
Third Time's the Charm
4 years ago