It's Winter Classic time and I (a self-professed Pens fan) have to admit that I have a wicked crush on Mike Green. I am a bad girl, I know it! Alas, new story just in time for the ultimate holiday event:
A/N: Thanks everyone for your feedback on this story. The end is here, but I have at least one new story in the near future.
Note: The big chunk in italics is from Chapter One of this story, since now the story has caught up with present day. Enjoy!
I had to get away from Grace’s office. I couldn’t hear myself think over the volume of her arguments, the way they rattled around my brain like birds trying to escape their cages. All I knew is I went there to apologize and ended up getting myself thrown out of her house. OUR house. I had lost my composure again and let another situation get away from me.
I went back to the house and sat, brooding and angry at myself and the world. One of the reasons I loved Grace was because she didn’t care who I was. But right then I wished she had. There weren’t a lot of women in Pittsburgh who would leave Sidney Crosby on the curb; I had picked with the only one. Her words stung.
You love this game so much more than you love yourself. You only care about yourself in terms of hockey. You don’t know who you are.
That wasn’t true. I spent a lot of time with myself, in my own head and I knew myself. Granted since Grace came along I hadn’t been alone so much. I hadn’t wanted to be. But the past month I’d been trying to do exactly that. Now was my chance to actually get some time and I couldn’t bring myself to leave her house. I tossed the argument around in my head for hours, never sitting still, until it was time for Grace to come home from work. Only she didn’t come home. I called, no answer. I called again. I called twenty times between 5 PM and 8 PM until finally she turned her phone off.
No amount of TV could slow my thoughts. I finally went to bed at 10 PM just so time would pass more quickly till she came back. In the morning, I woke to an empty bed. Shit. Grace had kicked me out, but she must’ve known I wouldn’t go. So instead she took herself away from me. To make matters worse, I was rock hard and twisted awkwardly against her side of the bed, pillow half underneath my body as if I were cuddling up to her in the night. I took the pain and a cold shower as penance.
I called her office but she was screening calls. Her cell phone was still off. I went to practice with my head hanging low.
“Crosby!” Coach called as I entered the hallway. “You alright after yesterday?”
“Sorry Coach, I shouldn’t have let them get the best of me.”
His eyes were kind and concerned. “It’s not you I’m worried about. Sid, don’t listen to them. You are right - the way we’re playing has nothing to do with Grace. You’re giving 110% every time, don’t let them tell you any different. It’s not all on you.”
I sighed. Over the last month I’d probably been a grumpy, moody asshole to everyone. But they had to stay with me. Grace had a choice. “I’ve been awful. She kicked me out.”
He gave me a small smile and a pat to the shoulder. “I would too, but I need you.”
I got through the skate and managed to avoid most of the locker room media. There weren’t many on the off-days and I gave what few there were my robot boy answers. When I was done, Kris was waiting for me in the hall.
“I think she dumped me.”
Kris put his head back against the wall. It seemed to be in resignation, not frustration. “I should have said something sooner, but I didn’t think you would hear me. I can tell you’re treating her like crap. She comes around here looking scared half the time, like she’s not sure which you is going to come out of the locker room.”
I knew it. I’d come to the same conclusion myself the day before, thinking and waiting for her. I hadn’t been myself so I hadn’t realized that she was different too, not until I stopped to really think about it. But what the fuck was I supposed to do? She wouldn’t talk to me, she wouldn’t see me.
“I can’t do this right now,” I told him. “Maybe I can’t have a life outside of hockey. Maybe I should just forget about it.”
Kris wasn’t surprised by my rash statement, but I could tell he was disappointed. Great, just what I needed. Another person whose expectations I couldn’t live up to. He left me standing there the way Grace had done the day before.
I called her out of instinct, knowing she wouldn’t answer, then tried the main line at her work and they said she’d taken a sick day. I raced home. “Grace?” I called, letting myself in. The house was quiet, everything was where I’d left it. “Grace?”
She was not home sick.
“It’s me. It’s six o’clock. I leave for Dallas in the morning and I’d really like to see you. I am at the house... I know you told me not to but I want to see you. Please call me.”
I must have left a message like that every hour. When 10 PM came around again and there was no reply, I lay down in our bed. It smelled like her - like flowers and warmth and smooth bare skin. Instead of soothing my distress it made things worse - I got another pillowcase and stole a comforter from the guest room, wrapped myself in nothingness and tossed and turned all night. In the morning we flew to Dallas and when we landed, it marked two full days without seeing or speaking to her.
I was frustrated and angry, now I was starting to get scared. What if she really had dumped me? What if that was it, it was over? If she was done with me while I was sleeping in her bed, waiting for her to come home?
Overnight in Dallas I forced myself not to call her. It was hard, especially because everyone knew something was wrong and I couldn’t exactly go to them for distraction. We went to dinner and a movie, were in bed by curfew and I stared at the ceiling for two hours before my brain finally wore itself out.
I told myself I needed to focus. The morning skate in Dallas was a light one, but I did some extra sprints and stick work to clear my mind. The first step to getting this back together would be to behave like a normal person. Winning a game would surely help. When it finally came game time, I couldn’t wait to get on the ice.
From the start, it was shit. The Stars got two goals in the first ten minutes and we were all angry. Every play we made was jammed up at center ice, every hit they threw found its mark. Just before the buzzer, TK lost his temper with that fucking mouth Jamie Benn and they dropped the gloves. It was a pretty even scrap - TK never let us down. A few minutes into the second he backed it up with a goal, putting us within one. But just as it looked like we might claw back in, the Stars scored again. Then Gogo took desperate hooking call and Eriksson scored on the ensuing penalty shot. We were a mess.
Thirty second later, everything boiled over. Morrow went after Kris, who’d been out a few games with a bad hand. Pushing, shoving and finally Morrow dropped the gloves. Kris couldn’t do anything but defend himself. Morrow knocked him down and a vision of losing Letang for the months flashed through everyone’s mind. When Kris got hauled up by the ref, the whole arena could hear the string of curses he launched. It was like a red flag to a bull - that was dirty, and if they wanted to play dirty they were going to get it.
I was livid. The frustration and anger of the last few days and the whole season surged through my veins. It made me feel invincible. But for once, I knew it wasn’t the kind of zone that put the puck in the net. This was something different and new. There was only one way to regain anything in this game and it wouldn’t be on the scoreboard. Everyone watching live or on TV was gunning for a fight. Engelland, Asham, TK - they were begging for a shift so they could throw down. Rupper and Brooks were on the ice already. But they never got the chance.
I lined up at the right side of the circle next to Matt Niskanen. He was about my size, no fights that I could remember. “Bunch of fucking pussies,” I said to him. “Fucking fight somebody who has two good hands to beat your face in.” If he was surprised, it didn’t show.
Rupp moved in for the faceoff. The puck barely touched the ice before my gloves were off. Niskanen was a step slow and that was all I needed. He threw two, swinging down and I got over top of him with a right. I did my best to dishrag him around but I didn’t want him to fall - I wanted to beat on someone. He got a few in, but mostly it was my fist connecting with him. Every time I hit face or jersey or shield I reared back and threw another. Finally he ended up on the ice and I rammed my forearm across his throat and knocked his head back a few times for good measure. It was over in less than 20 seconds.
I skated right to the box with the haze of fury still over me. It took almost the entire 5 minutes for my heart to stop pounding. We would lose the game, I knew it. But maybe I’d been able to send a message. I am in control of this team. Playing like shit ends here.
We flew home right afterward. Some of the guys tried to congratulate me on the fight and I did my best to joke with them. I never fought and I think they were more impressed that I’d won a good bout than I stood up for the team. But I was not in the mood to kid around. I was on a roll of fixing things with my own two hands and there was still one problem left to solve.
Everything in my life is about control. Always has been – I’ve never known anything different. Except for Grace.
I went straight to her house, feeling sure she was there. Tomorrow I’d wonder what the fuck I’d been thinking, what right I had to go there and why on Earth I’d chose one potential problem after another. But I couldn’t make the car go any other way.
I let myself in, pulled her out of bed and flattened her against the wall. One thigh went between her legs and my hips pressed hard just below her waist. My hands were on her skin, at her neck and under her tank top, gripped tight to her side.
“If I hurt you, tell me. Because otherwise I won’t stop,” I said, hoping she wouldn’t say anything. She never had before.
“I hate you,” she told me instead, hands in my hair.
I bit her neck hard and sucked the soft flesh into my mouth knowing full well it would leave a mark. “I hate you too.”
It may have been the first night I actually lost it with her. Despite how crazy she and I had always been, that night was different. I didn’t want it if she didn’t fight back. I would win this fight too, and not because she simply gave in. She would have to tell me to stop before I’d even consider the possibility.
Fuck she is so infuriating! Why can’t she just play the game? She’ll let me stand here all fucking night, biting her bottom lip because she knows I’m about to come at the thought of her mouth.
She tried to grind herself out as I hammered into her. “No you don’t. You will come when I say you can. That’s right, let me hear you,” I told her. Then closer, whispering, “I know what it sounds like when you scream my name. Well you’re gonna have to beg.”
The corner of her mouth twitched. “Then where would you go every night you need me? When the only thing keeping your whole precious fucking snow globe of a life together is me? You need me. You need someone who doesn’t give a shit who you are or what you do.”
I flipped her onto her stomach. I liked it when she was defenseless, except for that mouth that only shut up when she was deep-throating me. I trapped her legs together, settled my stomach onto her ass and prodded the tip of my cock into the soaked space between her thighs.
“Tell me you want it, Grace. Tell me I’m the only one who can make you scream.”
I slid a hand right to her snatch and stretched her wider, jamming myself into every single breath of space. She squirmed beneath me. “That’s my girl. Loves it when I fuck her hard.”
A strangled cry tore from her body as her pussy clenched around my cock. That’s the best part, as tight as she gets, and I put 200 lbs behind the thrusts I gave that juicy little hole.
Fucking say it, I almost ordered. Tonight of all nights I need to hear it.
“Sidney!” she shouted as the dam broke. I yanked her hair, pulling her face out of the duvet and letting my name rip from her mouth like she was cheering a goal. With a roar I exploded, buried a mile deep in that tight, tiny hole, beating my victory like a drum against her exhausted body.
I passed out, actually unconscious for I don’t know how long. All I know is I had Grace locked in my arms and she didn’t try to get free. When I finally woke, she was asleep. Her hair was swept up and already an angry looking bruise marred the pale run of her neck. Beneath my hand, a matching dark bite ruined her breast. I looked over her - her delicate thighs bore the sign of my fingers, spread wide and pinched deeply.
I cried. My anger and adrenaline had disappeared, replaced by the nagging fear that Grace was right - I could never love anything but the game. As I looked down at the way I’d physically hurt the only woman who’d ever come close, I couldn’t stop it. Grace had seen me cry before and she already hated me, what did I have to lose?
She came around, rolling in my arms to face me. Without a word she pressed herself against me and her lips to my forehead. Her hands met around my back. We lay there, sprawled on the bed, while I closed my eyes to block out the sight of her bruised body.
“Shhhhh,” she said. “It’s okay.”
“Nothing is okay, Grace. I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know how I could have done this,” I swept my hand down toward the marks I’d left on her smooth skin.
She looked herself over, examining my work. I felt sick to my stomach as she stretched her fingers wide, trying to reach the span of bruises mine had made. But when her eyes met mine again, they had not changed. “Sidney, I could have stopped you.”
“I don’t think so,” I admitted.
“Well I didn’t want to. Last night was the closest you’ve come to telling me anything honest in the last month.”
“I’m sorry, Grace. I can see that I’m getting it wrong but I don’t know how to fix it.”
She propped her head up on one hand. “I just need you to talk to me. Maybe not like this every time,” she pointed to her bruised neck, “but if you’re this angry you can tell me about it. You think you’re the only person who ever has a tough time, who ever feels pressure. You’ve gotta do it all yourself and them you implode. Stop being such a martyr and let someone help you.”
I lay back, knowing she was right. But it was easier said than done. Still, I could try. I would try, for her. “Will you stay with me? Don’t leave?” I asked.
She smiled. “I’m not leaving you. I love you. And you obviously need me.”
I still had tears on my face as I pressed it to her cheek. “I do need you. I’m sorry for what I said, you’re not just some girl.”
“Of course not - I’m the girl everyone wants to be. And I need you too, Sidney, not just to score goals and win championships. But you know, that fight last night really turned me on.” She giggled, like we hadn’t been fighting for days.
I collected her into my chest and kissed her hard, pressing my gratitude and relief against her lips. “I love you. I will try to be better.”
“I love you too. I’ll try only to dump you when you really deserve it. But you’ve gotta talk to me, okay? I have to be a whole part of this or no part at all. No more of this half-in, half-out crap. Unless I’m too much woman for you to handle,” she smiled.
“You are, I’m afraid, but I’ll do my best.”
Her lips came to mine this time. “See, superstar? That’s all anybody is asking.”
“Do you hate it?” I said, meeting Grace’s eyes in the mirror. It was hard to keep my gaze up when she was naked and toweling off.
“Yes, I hate it. But I love that you need it.” She came over and pressed her bare body to my suit, making me wish desperately I had an extra fifteen minutes before I needed to leave the house. Her fingers brushed my mustache as she smiled. “You only need points in 40 straight games to get something respectable going here.”
“21 to go,” I winked at her and swatted her butt.
She rubbed her face into the hair on my upper lip. I didn’t think it was too bad now – it had looked pretty embarrassing in the beginning. But once I started…
“Next time, how about a full beard? It’s less… pervy.”
I ran a hand up the curve of her back. “Pervy, eh? Think people can tell what I’m imaging when they show you on the Jumbotron?”
“No mustache is as perverted as your mind, Captain.” Grace kissed me, causing a whole new crop of dirty ideas to come to mind. “But if they knew about you and me in here… let’s just say they’d stop calling you dull.”
“They’d stop calling me The Kid.”
She pushed her chest against mine. “We could always make a sex tape. Get it to HBO in time to follow 24/7 tonight.”
She shrieked as I pushed her away and I pulled the knot in my tie open with one movement. “Go find the camera.”
I looked in the mirror 200 times before the regular season opener at CONSOL. By now, everyone knew who I was. Luckily tonight was such a big deal that all eyes would be on Sid and the Pens, hopefully not too many on me. Still I was nervous as shit and fiddling with my hair.
“You realize that I have to listen to every player on every other team talk about how much they want to fuck you?” Sidney said, coming in from the kitchen tossing an apple in one hand. It gave me a mental image of the Garden of Eden and Sid in a fig leaf… train of thought right off track.
“You… what? Shutup.” I gave up on my hair, raked my fingers through it and turned. I wore a Crosby t-shirt over a long sleeve white shirt, jeans and boots. None of the other WAGs really wore their guys’ numbers, but I liked it. I felt like his fan club president.
He took a crunchy bite, tiny spray of juice dripping down from the corner of his lip. “Oh yeah. They’re all hot for you. Got some really creative ideas too, I mean….”
I wiped the juice and pressed that finger over his mouth. “Shhhh. Just write them down and we’ll try them out. Next time you play them, you can report back.”
When he was ready to go, I stood in the doorway and made him kiss me 87 times for good luck. He had endless interviews and photo ops scheduled before the game even started. “Good thing you’re so hot,” I called after him.
At 5:30, Vero picked me up and we went for dinner. She was more nervous than I was, saying Marc always started the season slow. We picked at our food and hurried to the arena to sit in the cavernous, freezing cold space and just wait. It was a tremendous experience, deafening and heart-stopping but in the end, the Penguins lost.
“First loss in the new building, that’s out of the way,” Kris said, coming into the lounge afterward. We talked quietly until Sidney arrived. Surprisingly, he was in better spirits than I expected.
“Let’s go see how you looked on Sportscenter,” he told me.
In truth Grace looked great on TV. The anchors mentioned her briefly and showed her and Vero cheering after our first goal. In passing they made a comment that Prince William was sure to marry soon and then people could finally get back to caring about my love life.
The humor lasted about a week. We were playing .500 hockey, unable to ignite the magic we’d had right up until facing Montreal last year. Passes weren’t connecting, shots weren’t dropping. Some of the guys were off pace, like Geno, and Jordan would be out weeks with his foot injury. But mostly everyone blamed me, including myself.
I didn’t know how to handle it. When we traveled I missed Grace like crazy. When we were home, I resented living with her and the way she was always around, as if she was trespassing in her own house. I tried to get past it by spending time alone, working out more, practicing more.
“You’re working hard,” she said one day when I finally came home after 7 PM. She’d eaten, empty dishes in the sink, and not made anything for me. We watched TV, touching but not talking.
In the middle of the month, we won four in a row. Finally, things were clicking. I felt a hundred pounds lighter. I started sleeping in just to be next to her, bringing her lunch at work and flowers at home. This is the way it will be, I said. Everything will go right.
Then we lost four in a row. The last one was to Philadelphia, almost an exact replica of the season opener and all that momentum, all that progress spun circles as it flushed down the toilet. We had gotten nowhere. It seemed the media volume was set to stun as it bombarded us with disappointment and frustration like a torture device in a spy movie. As if we weren’t disappointing ourselves. It was a month into the season and people were really starting to call me out for failing to lead this team to the record we should obviously have. And it wasn’t long before they started mentioning Grace.
“Crosby’s a different man this season – has a life off the ice for the first time and it seems to be taking some getting used to,” one moronic commentator said to another.
“Mom always said girls would mess me up,” his counterpart answered.
“Fuck!” I said. I was on the couch, doing nothing, just letting my mind wander while the TV played. Grace came running in from the other room.
“Are you okay?”
“No. I am not okay. We are playing like shit and I don’t fucking know what to do about it.”
She seemed to get smaller standing there. For the first time I realized that I’d created a world where she couldn’t say the right thing. If she pointed out we were winning as many as we lost, I got angry that she didn’t expect better from me. If she tried to commiserate I resented her pretending to know how it felt.
“I’m sorry,” I finally said, holding my arms out to her. She came over and tucked herself in next to me.
“You’re making yourself crazy, Sid. I’m really worried about you.”
I couldn’t get into it, not again and mostly because I consistently failed even at explaining myself. “I’ll feel better when we play better.”
We got one against Carolina the night before Halloween. Max hosted the team Halloween party, which was usually the most fun event of the year. I hoped it would be again.
“Dear God you are fucking hot,” Grace said as I tied on my black mask. I was in all black, head to toe with gloves and carrying a sword at my belt.
“As you wish,” I told her. She had on a long red dress with sleeves and carried her blond wig.
“Oh Farm Boy, fetch me my shoes.”
When I came back, she had the wig fitted completely over her short dark hair. It was the weirdest thing – the face I knew so well looking nothing at all like herself. The effect was very sexy and I made her sit while I slowly lifted each foot into her red shoes. As I fastened the buckle, I pressed my lips to her instep.
We made it to the party without dismantling our outfits for sex – at least not yet. Everyone was in costume, in high spirits and well into their cups. Max was dressed as Jack Sparrow and his French-pretending-to-be-English accent would be the source of many scandalously misunderstood remarks throughout the night. We ran into Marc and Vero in the kitchen.
“Mon dieu, I love the Princess Bride!” Vero screamed. They were dressed as bacon and eggs.
Marc rolled his eyes. “She really does. I have seen that movie 200 times.”
It seemed everyone had. As the night wore on, more people had shouted “inconceivable!” than I could count. Max kept everyone’s glasses full and the music running. Kris found me on the couch and adjusted his white lab coat and stethoscope so he could sit next to me.
“How are you holding up?” he asked.
Kris and Flower were my closest friends on the team and Kris could always read me from a mile away. I was having fun, but the problems in my head were always there, waiting. But I didn’t want to give in that night. So I simply asked him, “Care to be the next Dread Pirate Roberts? I could retire.”
He got it right again, not pushing an issue I was clearly trying to brush off. We watched as Grace swept into the room.
“Do I get your girlfriend in the deal? Then oui.” He scooted away before I could get him in a headlock.
I knew Sidney was tired. He wanted to be fine, but that was as bad as wanting to win. If you grip the stick too hard you keep shooting wide. Just after midnight I feigned fatigue and asked him if we could leave. At home, we fell into bed and lay there for a long time, awake but not talking. I didn’t know what to say, didn’t know how to make anything better. When he didn’t speak, it felt like he was blaming me.
I tried not to take it personally. Sidney had suffered bad stretches before me, always coming out fine on the other end. He could do this on his own. When I tried to help, it only seemed to make things worse. So I stayed quiet and just tried to be supportive. Really I felt like a ghost in my own house.
The Halloween party had been fun. There were a few legitimate hours where Sidney was laughing and forgetting about hockey. The lines erased from his young skin and his smile flashed so wide that it curled above his gums in that way he hated. I loved it. We fell asleep lying together, faces only inches apart.
The next day, it all fell apart.
Grace was still asleep as I kissed her head in farewell. She looked so beautiful that I kicked myself for not making love to her the night before – she deserved more attention than I had been giving her. And better attention. I promised myself I’d make it up to her.
Practice was the same as it always was – everything worked. We busted our asses perfecting already perfect plays and drills. If we’d played that way in games we’d have been undefeated. Media milled around afterward and pounced as soon as I sat down. Sweat was still dripping off my face when the questions started.
“Sid, heard you moved out of Mario’s and you’re living with your girlfriend.”
I hadn’t mentioned that to anyone, but the guys knew and soon enough someone was bound to figure it out. “Yeah, been at Grace’s since the season started.”
“Anything to do with the rough start this year?”
“Seems that with so many changes in your life, maybe a slow start is to be expected.” This guy isn’t letting up.
“No. We’ve been working hard and we’ll keep working hard till the wins come.” What the fuck are you insinuating?
Some of the other reporters smelled blood in the water. “How long do you wait before you change your routine back to what it was?”
“I’m not changing it.”
“But something’s not working.”
“Well that’s not it.” Isn’t there anyone working here who’s supposed to break this up?
“Do you need to live alone to focus on your game?”
“No. Most of the guys are married with kids and they focus just fine.” Obviously, you retard. Look around!
Still the questions. “Are you going to marry Grace?” “Do you want kids?”
“No! I am not marrying her. She is not important here. This has absolutely nothing to do with some girl! I’ve answered your questions.” It was the first and only time I’d ever had an outburst to the press. Captain Cautious, that’s me. I’d been groomed and trained and bred like a fucking show horse with flowers braided into my tail. And as the press shuffled away, surprised and castigated, I heard my own words come back to me.
I am not marrying her. She is not important here. This has absolutely nothing to do with some girl!
Fuck. I threw my gear off, pulled clothes on without showering and ran out the door.
“What?” I heard what Laura said but I didn’t understand.
“I’m not supposed to be checking hockey blogs in the middle of the day, but I saw it. I have to go. Just… just talk to him.”
An email dings in my inbox and I click on the link. It’s a Post-Gazette sportsblogger posting from today’s post-practice interviews. And it’s about me.
Notoriously superstitious in the way only athletes can be, Crosby refuses to acknowledge that the changes in his personal life since the start of this season may be a contributing factor to his rough start. Crosby famously lived with Mario Lemieux since coming into the League, the Penguins owner and great acting as a father figure and mentor. Since September, Crosby has been living with his girlfriend Grace xxxx. Crosby maintains that no other changes are on the horizon.
“I am not marrying her. She is not important here. This has absolutely nothing to do with some girl!”
To those of us who have watched Crosby blossom in Pittsburgh and lead his team to greatness, we have to wonder if the changes made have already been too much. In this era of superstar athletes in gossip magazines and reality television shows, Crosby needs to focus on his game if he’s going to live up to the seasons past.
I hadn’t even processed the words when my phone started ringing. “Can you come outside and talk?” It was Sidney, he didn’t even say hello.
“What? What are you doing here?”
“I need to talk to you,” he said. I read the paragraph one more time before closing the browser and dashing outside. He was leaning against his car, baseball cap low and looking at the ground. “Grace, I…,” he started by trying to reach around me into a hug.
“Stop. What did I just read?”
His face fell and his arms followed. “Shit. I wanted to see you before you saw it. I lost my cool with the press at the rink and I… I don’t even know what I said. But it was something stupid.”
“I know what it was. Something about never wanting to marry some girl who is not important.” He reached for me again but I stepped back. The words I’d seen on the screen were finally starting to sink in. Not important. Some girl. What the fuck was that about?
“Grace, it wasn’t….”
“Were you misquoted or did you misspeak?”
“I misspoke. I didn’t mean it, I didn’t… fuck! I didn’t think Grace, it just came out. I was angry and trying to hold it together.”
“So the first thing you do is sell me down the river. In print. Probably on radio. Is there video? Can I find this gem on Youtube?” I was getting really angry, realizing how embarrassing this was. I didn’t stop to consider whether or not he meant a word of it. Once it was said and everyone could see, did that really matter?
“I was defending you! I was saying you’re not the reason for the way we’re playing. This is not your fault, Grace.”
He looked so exasperated. I wanted to hug him, even though I could smell from my perch on the curb that he hadn’t showered. I wanted to kiss that look off his face and tell him everything would be fine. But I had been ignoring this issue for far too long.
“What if this goes on all season, Sidney? What if, God forbid, the sky falls and you guys don’t play well? What the fuck happens to us then when this is the only thing that is important in your life? This isn’t just about whatever dickhead thing you said today. This has been a month of you on the rag and me tiptoeing around trying not to wake the bear.”
His shoulders slumped and he leaned back against the car. “We will play better.”
“And then you’ll love me again?”
“Goddamn it Grace. You know I love you. I shouldn’t have to keep saying it every five minutes because you need to feel better. I’m obviously having a tough time with all of this and I could use your support.”
“What the fuck have I been doing for a month? Eating dinner by myself because you’re afraid to come home and realize that you love this game so much more than you love yourself. Not me, forget me. You only care about yourself in terms of hockey. Now that’s coming apart and you don’t know who you are. How the hell can I know you if you don’t?”
He was mad now, because I wasn’t backing down. Because, just like everything else in the last month, this was not going according to his perfect little plan. “Grace,” he said in a low, menacing voice. “Shut up.”
“No, Sidney. I have been shutting up since the season opener. I’ve been on eggshells every time you lose and every day in between. I’m done shutting up.”
“Well I’m done listening. I’m done worrying about you when I should be worrying about my career!”
I backed up a step. “While you’re at it, why don’t you be done living in my house? Go right back to Mario’s, just like the press suggested, back to your daddy and see if that helps your game. See if you get your magic back as soon as you get rid of me.”
I stormed back into the building, deaf to his protests. The door silenced his voice as it shut behind me.
The one. I thought about it all summer and laughed to myself. I was the only one would put up with his shit. But since Las Vegas there were no more tantrums or breakdowns, not anymore than a regular couple have little arguments. It had taken three months but we were settling into a less combative lifestyle.
After Vegas we went to LA for the draft, with time built in to see my friends. They were very impressed with Sidney – my old roommate declared him “the hottest guy I have ever seen” and I was inclined to agree. On our first lunch out we saw Ben Affleck at the restaurant and Cameron Diaz at the hotel. Just like that, nobody cared about Sidney Crosby. He loved it.
Back in Cole Harbour, things were mostly domestic bliss. I’d never bothered to learn much cooking, but I turned Sidney’s kitchen into a factory of delightful and mostly-healthy food. He trained and worked and always cleaned his plate. We had people over all the time.
“My wife loves to cook,” he’d joke, knowing no one was more surprised than I was with my new hobby.
Sidney’s mother was very warm and his father tolerated my presence with little resistance. We spent a ton of time with Taylor – Sidney trained with her, she and I went to the movies, lunch, swimming. They were a lot alike even though Sidney was so much older. She was excited to have someone around who didn’t like her because they were trying to get to her brother.
“You’ve already got him,” she told me once. “Nothing more you can get from me.”
Time slipped by like summer vacations in high school and college. Before we knew it, half of August had expired. I was tan and fit like never before, I’d read so many books I could open my own library but only if it connected to my restaurant. One night we lay on the dock in the dark, looking at the sky.
“I want to be on summer vacation forever,” I said.
“You could be.”
I didn’t say anything – I knew where he was going. But I wanted to work, wanted to reclaim my job that they’d agreed to hold for me until September. Sure the life of luxury was nice but Sidney worked hard and I intended to do the same. Endless summers just made that hard to remember.
“I’ve been thinking about buying a house in Pittsburgh. Moving out of Mario’s,” he said. It was a surprise, he hadn’t mentioned the idea. “If I did, would you move in with me?”
I rolled to face him and propped my head on a hand. The wooden planks of the dock were weathered smooth beneath my skin – I loved that place like I’d lived there all my life. “You could live with me. I already have a house.”
He kissed me in a quick, sudden motion. “Jeez, I thought you’d never ask!” His arms stayed around me and too late I realized what he was doing. With a splash we both hit the water.
“Pffffffft! Sidney!” I shouted I tried to wrestle out of his grip, slow motion in the lake. He dunked me again.
“I’m serious, Grace. If you don’t want to go back to work, you don’t have to.”
I tried to muscle him under the water but he just held me, unmoving like I was a cub and he was a bear.
“I want to work. I love my job! But I don’t want to go from living together all summer back to the way we were.”
He kissed me, water dripping down our faces. “Me neither.”
We got right into the shower with our clothes on and stripped each other as we worked. His hands peeled my shirt off, lifting my breasts to his mouth before he discarded my bra as well. His shirt landed on the floor outside with a wet plop. I turned him toward the spray and watched it use his perfectly sculpted chest like a water park, coursing down the skin in rivulets. Our shorts were kicked aside so as not to block the drain.
The shower was a big glass square, made for standing in but with plenty of room for dancing. The bathtub outside could have hosted a water polo match. We’d made excellent use of both during our months in Cole Harbour. Overhead a huge round showerhead poured water over us like we were making love in a rainstorm.
Sidney pressed my back to the window – we’d long since tested they were sturdy enough to lean on. His hands left prints in the fog where they fought for purchase as I opened my legs for him. We both watched as I stroked him fully hard and fitted his tip to the brink of my entrance. My body needed no persuasion to be ready for him. I hitched a leg over his hip and he stroked in up to the hilt.
I moaned softly, the pressure and fullness of his swollen cock melting its way deep into my body. His mouth was on my collarbone as he rose onto his toes and nearly lifted me from the floor. “Sidney,” I whispered.
“I love you, Grace.” He’d been saying that a lot lately, especially during sex, as if he were thanking me.
My fingers dented the firm flesh of his perfect ass as I begged him to bottom out again. “I love you too.”
He used his whole body to move mine, sliding my back up and down the glass like he was dead-lifting a weight. I held on tight as he squat-thrusted into me, my toes slipping on the tile. Another moan poured from my lungs. He grunted with the effort, the same noise he made in the gym when I knew he was feeling the burn. I was held fast against the wall but all the movement was his. One massive bicep flexed beneath my arm. I balanced my elbow on his shoulder and twisted my fingers into his hair, long enough to start curling. My breasts bounced as he shortened his movements like a sprinter increasing his speed.
“God, oh God,” I whispered. “Fuck me.”
Every surface of his body was solid muscle, tensing and coiling in concert to bring us both pleasure. He was a machine. One hand slipped beneath my ass, large enough to cover a whole cheek with ease, and lifted me higher. I lost the floor completely. That’s what he wanted – all my weight working like a counter to gravity. He blasted up into me and the next thrust nearly tore me in half.
“Yes,” I sobbed. His other hand was on my ass too, lifting me easily between the dizzying hulk of his matching arms. My wet skin squeaked where it dragged along the glass. “Yes.”
“Come for me, baby. I want you so much.” He brushed hair from my face and pulled me lips to his. I attacked him, diving my tongue into his mouth. Two days of stubble rasped against my chin. Sidney hammered hard and swallowed my scream. His fingers found my nipple, rolling and tweaking the sensitive skin till it was hard as a rock. That was just a test.
He leaned back slightly, opening a sliver of room between our bodies. The same fingers pressed into my clit, long and hard. It only took one time.
“Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck,” I groaned as Sidney drove home another stroke and my body collapsed. The orgasm took everything – every support disappeared at the same time and I fell into him like a house of cards. He was so deep that my body gripped him tightly and rode out the orgasm on his rock hard staff. I was still rolling hard when he pounded a final thrust of his hips into my hot mess. He roared and threw me back to the wall, absolutely detonating inside me. I felt the hot pulse of his load fill me three times, four times. His mouth was on mine as he emptied himself out.
We sank to the floor, tangled up as water still rained down. I put my head on his shoulder and we sat silently for who knows how long. His finger traced along my skin like an absentminded twitch – he was signing his name without even noticing.
“Will we be okay when things go back to the way they were?”
We were looking at our feet and I wondered how long he’d been waiting to ask. Our early days had been frantic and overwhelming; we’d nearly lost this before it began. Summer had been a nice little alternate reality whose end was fast approaching.
“Yes. I promise. If we can get through the playoffs we can get through anything, right?”
He kissed my ear. “Less fighting would be nice.”
I turned and caught the glint in his eye. “Then don’t be an asshole and we won’t have anything to fight about.”
His heavy arm stretched across my shoulder and tipped me into his lap. “I know baby, I know.”
From the airport we went right to Grace’s parents’ house. I’d told Mario my plan to slowly move out of his house, transferring some stuff in the coming weeks. But I knew the media would be interested in the story and I didn’t want them staking out Grace’s house. So if they thought I was still at Mario’s, we could have some privacy. That’s why we drove an hour away to the middle of nowhere to grocery shop.
“Why don’t you just let me go alone?” she asked.
“If I’m going to live there, I want to help.”
She rolled her eyes. “You mean you want to pay.”
She wouldn’t hear of me paying rent because she didn’t pay any. I was paying for food no matter what she said. “We can set up one of those online order things where they deliver. Fair?”
We took two weeks to get adjusted to the ‘Burgh again before Grace went back to work. It was weird at first to be in her house without her and I scheduled my stuff so I could pick her up for lunch every day. The season was fast approaching and as excited and anxious as I was, I knew it would be harder than Grace anticipated. Everyone struggled with the road trips and the mood swings – even the guys married ten years still had arguments and guilt about the rigors of the regular season. I wanted our foundation to be as solid as possible before the surprises started coming.
Two days before the start of camp, everyone was back in town and Max threw a party. We’d talked a thousand times but seeing everyone back together was always the first real sign that it was time to dream big again.
“You survived!” Jordan swept Grace into a huge hug.
“You survived,” Max said to me. “Well done, mon ami.”
Flower, Kris, Vero – everyone was there. We lounged around, relived our summers and Grace fit right back in like we’d never known a world without her. “TYLER!” She ran from the kitchen at the sound of the door and threw herself on TK. He looked like he’d won the lottery. I sometimes forgot that he’d saved my ass way back at the team cocktail party that I’d been too scared to invite her to. Grace clearly remembered.
“Dude, I think your girlfriend likes me,” he smiled, shaking my hand. He hadn’t forgotten either.
“Then I’m screwed, because you can both take me in a fight.”
By the end of the night, summer was over and hockey was back.
Grace stood in the doorway of the bedroom, waiting for me to lay down she could turn off the light. It was 2 PM on a Wednesday – she’d taken the day off from work to be home before my first pre-season game. “You must have been the cutest kid. You and your naps.” She came back in and kissed my cheek. “I know a new game day routine is scary. But this will be okay, I promise. Got everything you need?”
Yes, I told myself. I do.
The CONSOL Energy Center was ready for its first real test. We’d been skating there for weeks – the locker room already smelled, the paint was scratched and the floor scuffed. But the first game in a new building was a big deal for such a superstitious bunch, such creatures of habit. That afternoon was as good a time as any to change where I napped, because that night I would change where I played.
I slept well – always a good sign. Grace’s newfound cooking skills were almost as sexy as the silky skin of her thighs or the curl of her smile. She made grilled chicken and pasta with spices and no butter, better than I’d had in a hundred hotel restaurants. Without asking, she left me alone to eat because she wouldn’t always be here in the afternoons.
“While we’re changing things…,” I said when I’d finished, “do you want to sit with the wives and girlfriends?”
She studied me, then nodded. “I think it’s time.”
“You know what that means, right? The game is televised. New arena, against the Red Wings… this is the big time, Grace.”
“Do you want me to?”
I sighed. She was right, it was time. “More than anything.”
It was the right answer. Grace kissed me with tears in her eyes. The media coverage of the NHL Awards was nothing, it was manufactured by the League to generate publicity. Grace had been mentioned only in passing by everyone except the few gossip boards where puckbunnies and pretend puckbunnies plotted each other’s gruesome deaths. We hadn’t looked but I could imagine what they’d written. Tonight would be the first step on a ladder leading to the CONSOL home opener. Better to get our feet wet now.
The team all arrived early and nervous. I had my game face on well before it was time because I really wanted to open the new place with a win. If we got it, I would swear it set the tone for the whole season. If we didn’t… I didn’t want to think about that. Grace passed another of my silent tests by not calling or messaging me before the game. She understood.
When we hit the ice, half the guys were grinning like little kids. The roar of the crowd was unreal, the acoustics doubling the noise and funneling it down to us. I closed my mind and zeroed in on the goal. Comrie scored the first of the new building just 1:21 into the first. I sighed with relief that the opening goal was behind us, but Kris gave me a shoulder bump. He knew I’d wanted to get the first. Instead I settled for the second, netting a goal six minutes later. One milestone down.
I glanced at the Jumbotron for the replay and instead saw a shot of Grace and Vero cheering wildly. That didn’t take long. I felt a little swell of pride for how happy she looked, and how undeniably beautiful she was. She’d blush when she saw herself later on the DVR.
In the locker room, Coach kept reminding us that it was still pre-season. We were amped up like a speeding train. At the end of the 2nd we were winning 4-1. I’d been nursing a sore hip flexor during camp and he came to my stall.
“I think you should sit this period out.”
“Sidney.” That was it. He was like my father when he wanted to be.
“Yeah, you’re right.”
He smiled more quickly than my dad ever did. “Gonna scare the shit out of this place, though.” He stood there for a minute like he was waiting for me to do something. Finally he pointed to the shelf in my stall. “Tell your girlfriend, eh? Don’t want her freaking out.”
“Shit! Oops!” I would never have thought of that.
Me: Don’t panic. Sitting out 3rd, hip stiff. Not injured. Love you.
Grace: Okay. Should I pass my phone around to the other 18,000 here who love you back?
If anything, sitting out the third had a pleasantly surprising consequence. As reporters stormed in at the end of the game, they all headed straight for me. “Why did you sit?” “Are you injured?” “How bad is it?” I answered the questions with vague honesty. They pestered, looking for a story until their time was almost up. Then someone remembered.
“Your girlfriend was on the Jumbrotron. Is she ready for this?”
I shouldn’t have smiled, it only encouraged them. But I couldn’t help it. “Grace, yes. She’s probably more ready than I am.”
“Did you warm her about sitting out the third period?”
Again, I laughed. So much for my poker face. “Yes. We’ll make a phone tree and next time I’ll have her call you after.”
The lounge was crowded when I arrived. Everyone was hanging out, soaking up the vibe of the first day and the first win. Tyler and Grace were talking to Matt Cooke and his wife then Jordan introduced her to someone else. I noticed more than a few people openly staring at her: mostly women, mostly younger, mostly tarted up within an inch of their lives and sharpening their claws. It could have been funny – I would never want those girls – if it weren’t so tiring. TK saw me and tapped Grace.
Max would call me gay, but Grace and I had a moment in that packed room. That was the only way to describe it. Half the people were wondering who she was, the other half wondering who she thought she was waltzing in and taking their boy king away. It was day one and we had a very long season ahead of us. Grace smiled and it didn’t matter.
She’d hugged me plenty of times last year in the locker room at the Mellon, but she’d hugged everyone. She’ never treated me any differently, never let on that we were more than friends. Until the last moment on the last day, when she showed up as I cleaned out my locker. A single camera had caught us kissing before we ran away. Everyone in this room had probably watched the NHL Awards and seen her by my side, but all we did was walk and talk. Tonight they got the show they’d been waiting for.
I went for her, she went for me and somewhere in the middle of the room we were kissing for everyone to see.
“Oooowwwwwwwwwww,” Jordan’s howl split the silence that followed. The rest of the guys cheered, along with Vero and a few other voices. Grace’s hands were on my shoulders.
“Nice game, Captain.”
I cinched her into my side. “Let’s go, baby.”
Everyone was still buzzing when we piled into a nearby bar that was practically empty on a Wednesday night. We weren’t looking for a party, just the afterglow of our first success. I pulled Grace into my lap and balanced her perfect ass on my knee as she sipped a beer and recounted the game from the fans’ point of view. The shape of her back and curve of her hip made for a perfect view as I listened to her story.
“When they put Grace on the big screen, I thought people would fall out of the upper deck trying to see her,” Vero said, leaning over to demonstrate. “Luckily the place is full of brunettes. Next game might not be so easy.”
Grace shrugged. “I’ll wear a wig.”
An hour later, we pulled into the driveway at Grace’s house. I let us into the garage, then into the house with my own keys. Because it was my house now too. She came to bed in a black silk slip and lay behind me, wrapped around like the big spoon. Her knees bent under mine and her lips kissed my spine.
“Night love,” she whispered. I was already asleep.
“Eric!” Grace squealed and ran across the airport first class lounge. I prided myself on being okay with the way she threw her arms around his neck and kicked her feet when he lifted her off the floor. I liked Eric, I was fine with Grace’s exuberance. Totally fine. We hadn’t had a fight since that girl kissed me in Montreal and I intended to keep it that way.
“Hey Sid,” Jordan took one hand off his crutches to shake. He was nursing that laceration from the playoffs but it didn’t take the smile off his face.
“Vegas will be deprived of your white boy Canadian dancing,” Grace said. “That is tragic.”
Jordan shook back and forth on the crutches with some especially awkward hip movements. “I still got it Grace.”
“You got something,” she laughed.
We were in the Toronto airport, waiting for our flight to the NHL Awards in Las Vegas. I caught a few people looking at us and whispering – we were pretty hard to miss. Luckily it was almost time to board. We planned to get on last and Grace had been a little skittish since we’d gotten there, scanning for people staring in our direction. Finally they announced the last boarding group and we headed downstairs.
We each had a small carry on but our hands were free. When we reached the bottom of the steps, I laced my fingers into hers. “Everyone is watching,” I whispered, trying not to laugh.
She pinched her lips, relieved that I was holding her hand in public but annoying that I had called her out. “Everyone’s gonna see me punch you.”
We got to Vegas in time for a late lunch at one of the poolside restaurants. Grace wore a hot pink sundress and I could see the ties of her bathing suit top dangling at her neck. She’d changed while I was in the bathroom and I was fairly dying to see what was underneath. Eric and Jordan were waiting for us at a table, shirts already off and beers in hand. Grace kept her dress on while we ate, forcing me to settle for running my hand up her thigh under the table. When we were finally done, we found some pool chairs and Grace, in one motion, pulled her dress up and over her head.
“Holy shit,” I said out loud. Jordan choked on his beer laughing. She was wearing a simple, stunning black triangle-top bikini with a tiny Penguins logo on the cup.
“They have bottoms with Crosby 87 on the ass in rhinestones,” she turned around and showed me her back. “I thought it might be too much.”
“Oh it’s too much,” Eric said.
I didn’t look around for spectators or cameras before grabbed her arms and kissed her.
She laughed. “I’ll let you make a big 87 on my back with sunblock, tan it in like a tattoo.”
It still wasn’t dark when we went upstairs at 6 PM. There was a League dinner at the Palms Steakhouse and it would be Grace’s first official function with me. I was nervous, but I think she was more.
“Okay baby?” I rubbed her shoulders as she dried her hair in the bathroom mirror. She nodded convincingly.
“I’m nervous,” she said.
“Hey, you wanted to be all public. I’m proud to tell everyone I’m with the hottest, smartest girl in the room. But if you want to skip it….” She threw a makeup brush at me.
Half an hour later, she stood in front of the closet in a black strapless bra and matching lace thong. I was running my hands up her back and kissing her neck while she debated between three dresses. She chose a blue one and I zipped it up, trying to keep my mouth from her skin. It wasn’t easy when she smelled like a midnight snack. She pulled out some very high, very shiny silver heels and slipped them on.
“Wow.” It was all I could say. She was two inches taller than me, her dress shimmering like watercolor quicksilver to barely mid-thigh. It was strapless with a small dip to hint at her breasts. Her short hair was tousled and her dark eyeliner a little on the dramatic side.
“People are going to think I had to pay to get a girl this hot,” I said. She put her arms around my neck and let me enjoy the height of her heels bringing her breasts closer to my face.
“Come on before I lose my nerve.”
“Wait.” I went to my bag and pulled out a box, opening it toward her. Her look went from suspicious to shocked.
“Sidney. Oh my God.” Inside the case was a sapphire and diamond bracelet I’d bought before leaving Pittsburgh. I’d been waiting for the right time. When I saw the blue dress at home, I promised myself I’d give it to her the moment she put on that dress. “It’s gorgeous.”
I laid it across her wrist and managed to fix the clasp. “No one will even notice it on you.”
Eric and Jordan made a big deal about my dress, which made me feel a lot better. I had been the one complaining about Sidney not being public with me but suddenly I was nervous. Without the distraction of hockey going on around us, the bright lights of Las Vegas seemed blinding. I was also afraid the dress would be too much, but I was wrong. We passed three women hanging around the slot machines in less clothing than I wore. I kept turning my wrist, rolling the bracelet across my skin. It was far and away the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.
The steakhouse at the Palms was completely closed for the dinner. Lots of people mingled around the outside, waiting for dates or friends. We rolled through the casino like the damned Mod Squad – two of the biggest guys you’ve ever seen, Sidney’s famous face and me looking like a slightly classier Pussycat Doll. Everyone turned as we approached the check-in area.
“Hi,” Sidney said to one person, then a thousand more. We barely stopped on our way through the entrance – he was a pro at greeting and going. We made our way to the bar like scuba divers coming up in an air bubble. Eric and Jordan blocked us from prying eyes.
“You ready?” he asked. I nodded – I was as ready as I’d ever be and his hand was strong in mine.
“Are you?” I countered. He kissed me quickly on the lips. I guess that answered that question. Sidney said hello to the couple next to us, someone named Jeremy Roenick.
“And who’s this?” he asked, turning to me.
“My girlfriend, Grace. Grace, JR and his wife Tracy.”
I watched as surprise passed over each of their faces. We chatted for a moment before Sidney’s attention was required elsewhere, and on until we made a circuit of the room. If Sidney didn’t know everyone personally then I was fooled and so were they. He was almost presidential in his mingling. Jordan and Eric were well known and stayed with us, keeping anyone from monopolizing Sid’s time. They had definitely done this before. By the time we sat down to eat, I’d meet a zillion people and had the eerie feeling they’d all remember my name though I wouldn’t remember theirs.
After dinner, there seemed to be more players than businesspeople around and the vibe was more relaxed. Or it could have been my three glasses of wine. Since this was the cream of the NHL crop, I’d heard most of the guys’ names and even recognized a few faces. It wasn’t long before Jordan hobbled back from his tour of the restaurant. “We are over this party. Let’s go upstairs.”
For a bunch of guys who needed to be on TV the next afternoon, the party at the Ghost Bar was epic. Jordan did indeed dance on his crutches, along with everyone else in the place. One by one I met just about the entire NHL. In this crowd, Sidney was almost an average guy. He had a few drinks, put his arms around my neck and kissed me on the dance floor in front of a thousand people. To our collective relief, no one seemed to care. It was after 3 AM before we were among the first people to leave.
“That was fun!” I said, a little drunk and twirling around in the elevator.
“Oh Jonathan Toews, you’re so dreamy,” Sidney had his collar open and hiccupped through his laughter.
“Hey, you introduced me!”
“As my girlfriend!” He giggled. That smile took up his whole face when he was tipsy.
“Well I’m here with you, aren’t I? Jon’s not even staying on our floor.”
“Oh okay, Grace… hey! How do you know that?!” He tackled me into the wall, sloppy kisses covering my face. We half-stumbled to our room and I lay facedown in my dress. Sidney gallantly unzipped it before falling next to me. I crawled up and out of it, Sidney stripped without getting up and we pulled the blanket over us.
“Love you,” he said sleepily into my hair.
I pressed my face into his broad chest and sighed. “Love you too, Sidney.”
My laughter woke Grace up. She blinked an eye and lifted her head.
“You look like a hedgehog in a rainstorm,” I giggled. Her hair stuck up and her makeup was smeared. In fact she looked incredibly sexy, like a model in a music video. She’d kicked off the blanket and lay twisted in a sheet, her long bare leg stretching endlessly across the white linen. She started to retort, then looked down. I made no secret of touching myself.
“A hedgehog? A hedgehog?!” She climbed on top of me, beating me with a pillow. I ripped it away and held her hips down, fitting my hard-on into the soft groove of her body. She kissed me and started to move. I cupped her breasts still in their bra and rocked against her. Then I hooked that black lace thong aside and she guided my cock right in. She wasn’t completely wet yet and the friction was mind-blowing; I felt every millimeter of her body and mine where they fit together.
She moaned softly, her body beginning to slick as I rolled my hips and lifted her right off the mattress. Grace held onto my thighs to ride my strokes. I pulled her lips to mine and drank from them. She writhed against me, working me quickly to the edge of the abyss. She said my name without realizing she’d spoken. “Sidney.”
She came a moment later, mouth against my ear so I could hear the breathless noises. I tightened my grip around her waist and pulsed deep inside her. Her name beat out of my lungs as my orgasm beat out into her body.
I went to the media day, Grace went to the pool. For the Awards Show she chose her second dress, a classy bright green cocktail number and insisted on wearing the bracelet I’d given her. I walked the red carpet alone while she snuck in the back. By the time I got inside she was surrounded by a group of guys she’d met the night before, laughing and talking like she’d known them forever. I cleared my throat behind them and a few turned.
“Oh boring, your boyfriend is here,” Patrick Kane said. I knew Toews would be close – he was right next to Grace. She gave me a sassy little smile as she shooed them away.
“See you guys at the party!”
“Do you have to flirt with everyone?” I asked. The last thing I needed was another Eric Staal in her life.
Grace held my hand through the show. I didn’t expect to win anything, but had to go backstage anyway before they announced the Hart Trophy. She kissed me quickly when I got the signal to leave.
“Are you going to tell me I’m your MVP no matter what?” I whispered.
“That’s the worst pickup line I’ve ever heard. I was going to say Stamkos looks like no match for you in the kind of scoring I care about,” she replied. I snorted a laugh, covering my face. Grace pursed her lips. “And you wonder why these boys like me.”
I didn’t win. It stung a little – my competitive nature thought I should win everything, every year. Starting with the Cup. Grace’s hand went right back in mine like she didn’t give a crap whether I won or lost.
The after party was poolside and Grace charmed the pants off everyone she met. I thought about how lucky I was to have met her, and how ideal it was that she didn’t know who most of the people at the event were. She treated everyone the same, which was the whole idea. That’s what she was doing for me. Grace gave me what I deserved – love, friendship, a hard time when it was needed. She wasn’t afraid of me and she wasn’t afraid of this. All along I had been afraid of myself.
“Hey, wanna meet Gretzky?”
Even she got excited about that. I introduced her to Wayne and Janet, who immediately invited Grace to get a drink at the bar. We watched the ladies walk away.
“How’s she doing?” Wayne asked. It wasn’t like we were best friends, he wasn’t the force in my life Mario had always been. But a few things were undeniably shared between us.
“She is amazing,” I told him simply. There was nothing else to say.
Janet passed me a delicious looking mojito and lifted her glass to toast. “I have heard your name a thousand times since dinner last night.”
The cold mint taste zipped down my throat. “What’s the verdict?”
“Unanimously positive Grace, I am impressed. Everyone here wants Sidney to do well – they have a lot riding on his success, no matter which team they work for. If you make this easy for them they will love you for it.”
She shared a few tips with me – names to particularly remember in case I met them: Gordie Howe, Gary Bettman. Janet also gave me her phone number in case I needed anything or just wanted to talk. She was still beautiful and I could see that she had been a showstopper in her younger years. Janet Gretzky was a force to be reckoned with. If I wanted to be with Sidney, I would have to be the same. We returned to the guys and I knew Sidney had been getting the same advice. The Gretzkys bid us goodbye.
“Good advice?” Sid asked.
I shrugged. “People love a winner. You win games, I win you. Keep it up, we do fine.”
Three drinks in I was getting a little tipsy – I called it time for dinner before I fell into the pool. Some people around us overheard and invited themselves along so we had quite the cadre as we headed for the taxi line. I had Sidney’s iPhone out of my bag.
“Hi, my name is Grace and I’m with the NHL Awards Show at the Palms. We’ve got some VIPs who’d like to come for dinner. Now, if you can. Party of 10. Leaving now. Yes, yes. Oh yeah? Which one?” I spun around to search our group for the player she had named, giggling. “Yeah, he’s here. Okay. See you soon, Maggie.” I beeped off. “Everyone thank Kane – the hostess is from Chicago.”
Patrick said, “Bowchickabowwow.”
“What about me?” Toews said.
“You’re all mine,” I called back. We all laughed as Jonathan blushed and went to the back of the group.
No one had anything to do tomorrow and I shudder to think what our bar tab at the restaurant amounted to. People ordered champagne and bottles and God knows what else. I polished off some surf and turf before Sidney was even done with his.
“Hungry, babe?” he feigned shock.
“Saved room for dessert.” I kissed him. He tasted like butter.
We went to some club and danced all night. That’s right, Sidney Crosby danced all night. The liquor loosened him and he did as well as any other guy in the place. The girls, meanwhile, the girls in that place looked like a Victoria’s Secret catalogue come to life. Every single guy who’d been at dinner had a girl on his arm or in his lap, and in Jordan’s case she was pretending to use his crutches. Sidney got accosted every single time he left my side – they descended like angels and tried to fold their wings around him. The more he drank, the longer he disappeared for. But I wasn’t worried – we’d been down that road once and he knew where it led. In the meantime, I talked with the guys and a few of the girls who had joined our little group. One girl was particularly intent upon Toews, who clearly wanted nothing to do with her fried bleach job or her too-long fingernails. He kept moving closer to me at the table and she kept following.
“A little help?” he whispered.
“Oh now you want to hang out with me?” I teased. I draped my arm around him ostentatiously and put my lips right to his ear. The blond narrowed her eyes at me. “Pretend I’m saying something hilarious.”
Jon laughed loudly, a sudden giggle that actually sounded genuine. Maybe he was really that nervous. As he leaned back, I could see the girl had her hand on his thigh.
“Jon, I…” she was saying, “we could go to this other place….”
I leaned over the table in front of him like I was ready to physically block her body away. “Honey, Jon’s not leaving here without me. So unless this is a group invitation, I think there are a few other guys here who’d love to take you up on it.”
“I thought you were with Crosby,” she hissed.
“I do double shifts.”
Jon really laughed at that and the girl sat up straight in a snit. “Hmph!” she squeaked and she went the long, embarrassingly slow way around the circular booth and out the other side. When she disappeared into the crowd, I untangled myself from Jon.
“Does Kane usually run interference for you?”
“Oh he loves the skanky ones.”
I looked up to see if Patrick had indeed caught the grumpy blonde only to see Sidney, two people back from the table staring at me with that black-eyed focused gaze of his. Every trace of a smile was gone from his face.
“Fuck,” I said by way of a goodbye and left Jon to fend for himself. Sidney turned and moved deeper into the club. We had a slow-motion chase through the packed house until we were at the back by the VIP room. The bouncer saw Sid coming and raised the velvet rope. The look in my eye must have said I was not kidding around because he let me right through as well. I followed him onto the crowded private balcony.
“What the fuck was that?” he growled when he realized he’d run himself into a corner.
“I was helping Jon get away from some nasty girl. What the hell did you think it was?”
He came close and I realized how drunk he was – a few of those disappearances must have ended in shots at the bar. “I thought it was some slut in a bar.”
“Well you were wrong.” I gripped the railing till my fingers were white. “In case you haven’t noticed, I am here with you.”
His hand was over mine. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m fucking Sidney Crosby. You’re not going to do any better than that tonight, Grace.”
I shook my hand free. “No, I’m fucking Sidney Crosby. Stupid me thought it was more than that.” Four inches of heel spun beneath me as I wheeled around and marched right back the way I came.
He’s drunk. He’s more upset about not winning the Hart that he wants me to know. Still I was furious that he would basically call me a whore based on ten seconds of something he saw. That he thought I was that girl.
I made it out of the club and into the casino.
Fuck. I pounded my fist on the railing as Grace disappeared into the crowd. I hadn’t meant to be so angry, to be so jealous but when I saw her hanging all over Toews… fuck. Anyone but him.
My brain was slow to respond but I knew I had to follow her. Passing our table, I found Ryan Getzlaf and gave him whatever bills were in my wallet to cover part of the tab. I was walking away from his question when I crashed into Patrick Kane.
“Dude. Grace saved Tazer’s ass, did you see that? Some chick was about to eat him like a hyena on fresh kill. Your girl went all alpha female and rescued him. Where’d she go?”
I kept pushing right past him and out the front entrance. She would be slow in her heels, so I scanned the casino. The bright light and clanging noises of the casino made it clear how truly drunk I was. I thought I saw a green dress disappear around a corner toward one of the restaurants, so I chased.
She was leaning against a wall near one of the quieter parking lot exits. Her back was to me and I prayed that she wasn’t crying.
“You should stay away from me right now,” she said without turning around.
“I’m sorry, Grace. I didn’t mean to get so mad.”
She turned. Her eyes were red but no tears had come. “Mad? Or jealous? There is a big difference here. Are you mad at me for something I did, or jealous because you saw what you wanted to see?”
The prospect of a fight made me sober up a little – she was too smart to take on while incapacitated. If I couldn’t mount a clear defense, I should be staying away. “Jealous, I was jealous.”
“Why?” Now the hurt, and soon the tears. “I was just pretending, Sid. Chasing off some girl. I’ve done the same for Max or Kris a hundred times. Suddenly there’s a new set of rules?”
“It’s…,” I didn’t want to say this out loud. Fuck. “It’s Toews. Fucking Toews here in all his glory and you’re fawning over him. Watching him lift the Cup on stage today and then seeing you all over him…”
“So the Cup and then me? Is that what I am, Sidney – a trophy?” She was square to me now, and she was livid. “You lost one, you can lose another? Or might I actually be a person who makes rational decisions and does what she wants, with whom she wants?”
I shoved my hands in my pockets. “You’re not a trophy. I know that.”
“Then please don’t freak out on me. I’m sorry I didn’t think about Jon and the Cup. That was insensitive. I am still a little new to all this, remember?”
“Me too,” I said, reaching for her hand. “To thinking about someone else all the time. I just… I want everything, Grace. I’m that competitive and I hate to lose.”
She took my hand and slid her other one up inside my arm. “The best way to lose something is to hold it too tight. So relax. I’m in love with you, you moron. Jonathan Toews can take his lake in Manitoba and go sit in a corner.”
“He has a lake?” I asked.
Grace laughed. “Oh no. Do not get jealous of his lake. I will get Pittsburgh to name a bridge after you, or maybe the bus station. Crosby Station? Way more useful than a lake.”
I let it go with a sigh. “Sorry babe.”
“Me too. I think we should go back to the party so tomorrow everyone’s not talking about the big fight we had.”
I put my arm around her waist, she fit right into my side like she was made to go there. “Okay. But water for me for the rest of the night. I get all crazy when I drink.”
We made a big show of coming back into the club, all holding hands and kissing. I felt genuinely bad – I should have known that seeing the Cup today would affect Sidney more than he’d let on. I fell for the same professional demeanor as everyone else: he’d given me his game face and I bought it. Sidney bought a round of drinks for Toews and Kane and raised a toast to me. We clinked our water glasses together. The party was still raging.
“Do you have any idea how rare you are?” Sid asked, happy again with his arm around my back and thigh between mine as a Black Eyed Peas mashup blasted through the house.
“It’s not like I’m the Chosen One or anything,” I smiled. “The Next One? Is that it?”
Two hours into the flight, my parents were asleep. My father was snoring, my mother curled onto her side. Taylor had balled herself into a contorted position that could only be maintained by someone completely passed out. I’d had been staring out the window for ages, thinking about the season and the summer. I was completely lost in thought when my pocket vibrated; the in-flight wi-fi had allowed me to receive a message on GChat.
Grace: This plane is sexy.
I looked over but her seat was empty – she was behind me and across the plane, seated at a table. She didn’t look up.
Me: You’re sexy.
Grace: Thinking the same about you. Thinking about your hands on me… your mouth… thinking about what I’d like to do to you all summer.
Me: Share your ideas?
Grace: Still working out specifics. It’s making me very… sensitive. This big soft seat gives me ideas. Let’s drop them off and fly somewhere else.
Me: Anywhere you want.
Grace: Until then, I’ll be in the bathroom. Test out that soundproofing – listen for me moaning.
Without a glace in my direction, Grace rose slowly from her chair and sauntered to the back of the plane. I looked at my parents: completely out. The bathroom door closed behind her. I groaned – it was either join her in there or take care of myself when she finished. My mom rolled and pulled the blanket over her face. That was a sign.
Grace: Tight fit in here. You’d have to really squeeze inside.
The door wasn’t locked. It was not much larger than a regular airplane bathroom, only much cleaner. Grace was sitting against the sink, phone in hand and biting her lip. Before I could reach for her, my phone vibrated again. I pushed the lock closed and set my chest right against hers, then checked my screen.
Grace: So wet I’m almost done already.
She gave me a wicked little smile and we both had pants down to our knees in seconds. She kicked hers off and wrapped her legs around me as I boosted her onto the edge of the counter. I could smell that she was as wet as she’d promised; she grabbed my cock and slid it right inside her with a breathy sob.
“Oh yes,” she panted, almost silently.
It barely took a stroke before I was fully hard. She was so turned on, so slick and hot that it was impossible for my body not to respond in kind. Grace must have been imagining some pretty racy things to be so ready for me.
“Tell me what you were thinking,” I growled into her ear as I lifted her ass off the counter and held her against me. Her ankles crossed beneath my ass and she bounced all her weight down onto my cock. We hit the wall behind me with a thud loud enough to make her giggle.
“This,” she purred, twisting her hips and rippling her muscles down the thickest part of me. Her juices ran down my thighs as I tossed her easily in my arms. “Up to you if you want to make me scream.”
I buried my face in her neck. She was nearly there, the familiar tremble in her pussy and the almost painful bite of her fingernails on my skin. With ragged breaths, she urged me on.
“Fuck me, Sidney. Make me come. Take it from me.”
I turned, pressing her back to the wall and using it as leverage. Her feet found the edge of the counter, catching her weight so she could rock against me though she was nowhere near the floor. I moved up and down, she moved in and out and her head rolled sideways with the pleasure of the motion.
“That’s my girl. Loves it when I fuck her,” I said, pinching her nipple through her clothes. She opened her eyes, they swam with the fog she was lost in. She bit down hard on her lip to keep from crying out as she came. She arched her back from the wall till only her shoulders touched. Her feet drove hard into the counter, giving her center of gravity over to the deep, pounding strokes of my dick. She held back so hard a tear leaked from her eye.
“God, Sidney, oh God,” she whispered. Before she could collapse, I let myself go inside her. I held her ass down into my lap and jammed home the hot load she’d been begging for. Her body licked and sucked at me the way her mouth always did, hungry for me. When I was spent, I held her close.
“You feel so good,” I told her honestly. We cleaned each other up, smiling secretly and listening for any noise from the cabin outside. When I stuck my head into the hallway, it was all clear. We weren’t in our seats two minutes when the flight attendant brought us bottles of water. She smiled like she’d seen it a million times. Three minutes later I was fast asleep.
I woke up in a strange room with a familiar warmth thrown across my body – Sidney’s huge leg, pinning me to dark blue sheets on a mile-wide king size bed. Light peeked in around the curtains, telling me morning had arrived. I hoped to wake up that way every day for the next five months.
Cole Harbour was as beautiful as he’d promised. We walked all over, though we could barely finish a roundtrip hike into the nearby woods or a circuit of the lake without finding someplace to sneak off and ravage each other.
“You are part wild animal,” I told him as he held me against the post supporting the end of the dock. It was dusk and the water was cooling, but not around us. His hands grasped the plank overhead, I wrapped around him and tried to admire the bulge of his flexing biceps. My eyes kept closing against the thrusts of his hips and it was already our second time that day.
“You’re the one who never had sex outside,” he said, licking a trickle of water from my cheek. “Gotta make up for 23 lost years.”
He trained from day one. I tried – it was fun at first, but he was too competitive to have me around, distracting him and slowing him down. His trainer was really great and gave me plenty of stuff I could do on my own for the hours that Sidney spent working out almost every day. One day a week he’d pair us up for something and Sidney would let me win. The trainer said it helped him relieve the pressure.
At first, when we weren’t draining each others’ fluids and energy, Sid seemed fine. Sometimes he was sullen or distant and I knew the end of the season still weighed heavily on him. He’d also never lived with someone this way and I’d been living on my own for a few months as well. I tried to give him space but in truth, I was bored.
One morning about three weeks in, I was brushing my teeth in just my panties when he came into the bathroom. Sidney stood behind me – his shadow could have blocked mine completely – and met my eyes in the mirror as he traced two fingers over every sore spot and newly developed muscle in my back and sides. He must’ve known how sore I’d been despite barely doing a quarter of his exercise regimen. His thumbs kneaded into the tender points before tracking down to grip my love handles.
“Don’t get too skinny.”
“I’ll have to start eating like a hockey player.”
“Sexy,” he laughed. “Let’s go to this party tonight.”
I’d met a few of his friends, but mostly he’d been readjusting to the off-season and hadn’t wanted to hang out with anyone but me. I sighed with relief – we were both going a bit stir crazy. I loved the place but there was no way I could be with only one other person for five months. With any luck, I’d make some friends too and then it would be easier for us to both have whatever time apart we needed.
Brody’s house was set back from town on the biggest lawn I’d ever seen. He was home from law school in Montreal for the summer and his parents were away. Sidney parked at the end of a driveway full of cars. Every light was on and music blasted.
“Looks like a frat party,” I said.
Before we were halfway across the grass, he stopped under a tree. “I love you.”
“I love you too. Just don’t leave me alone in there.”
I swear the party stopped for a second when we walked in. Well, when Sid walked in. He was in front of me and I don’t think anyone looked at anything else. He said hi to a few people, weaving through the crowd. Only as we passed could people see he was holding my hand.
“Darryl!” Brody bounded out from behind the island in the kitchen and clapped Sid on the back. I’d met him twice, once for a barbeque and once for movie night. He hugged me, making a big scene of welcoming me as much as he’d done for Sidney. “Grace! Still hanging out with this guy?”
Everyone in the kitchen was watching us and people were leaning in from the living room. Some at least pretended to be doing something else but most just stared.
“This is my girlfriend, Allison,” Brody pulled a pretty blond girl into his side. Allison looked a little nervous is Sidney’s presence, but she’d been coached well. Brody led us out to the back porch with promises of some other friends to see. He took the longest, windiest route through the house and I swear he was making sure every eye in the house saw Sidney.
Twenty minutes later we were laughing with some of Sid’s other friends. I pulled myself up to sit on the railing of the porch and Sidney fitted himself between my knees and wrapped an arm around my waist. It was casual but proud and I loved him for it. A constant flow of people passed nearby and I knew they were looking at me now too.
“Allison, could you show me where the bathroom is?” I asked.
Once apart from Sidney’s, I drew more obvious stares. Tiny whispers proceeded us, “There she is” and “That’s her.” Allison linked her arm through my elbow and leaned in.
I nodded at her. “No one’s said anything bad yet.”
“They’ll all try to be your friend first,” she said. “I’ve been here two weeks and they were all trying to be my friend because they know Sidney is Brody’s friend. I kept telling them I’d never met the guy!”
We joined the line in the hallway and after a moment, the girl in front introduced herself. Then the girl in front of her, and another. I had five new friends in ten seconds and Allison whispered, “Told you so.”
But when we got back to the porch, the scene was not as we’d left it. Sidney was still mostly talking to Brody and James, but they were surrounded by girls. Right in front of Sidney it was three deep. They were trying to be coy, like they were talking to each other and didn’t see him, tossing their hair and laughing too loud. I almost smiled – they looked like all the waitresses and reporters I’d seen flirt with him. Except for the girl closest.
“Shit,” Allison said. She stepped aside and pulled me with her. “Did Sidney tell you about Rochelle?”
“Ugh, boys are so stupid. Brody told me that last summer, this girl Rochelle was pretty much stuck to Crosby like a starfish. I think he might have hooked up with her in the beginning – right after the Cup. Sorry, I know you don’t want to hear that. But apparently she was kinda nuts and Sid was doing his best to get away from her without being a dick. I met her in a bar and she barely said hello before she started asking when Sid would be back. That’s her, in the purple.”
The girl closest to Sidney wore a purple tank top. She was talking close, leaning close and probably touching him though I couldn’t tell over all the people. The look on his face was feigned politeness – the kind he used when he was tired of interviews or attention. Brody was trying to hone in on the conversation.
“You ready for the first real test of the night?”
“Allison, you are my new best friend,” I said with a laugh. I suggested a plan.
“Let’s do it.”
We wound through the bodies on the porch and got as close to the guys as we could without being seen. I wanted to handle this well – it would be the first of many. Allison followed my lead keeping our heads down. When we were right behind Rochelle, we both popped up into view making stupid faces. Sid almost choked on a mouth full of beer. Brody barked a laugh, then slapped the railing and howled. Rochelle turned quickly and found us smiling right at her.
“Hi, I’m Grace,” I shook the hand she didn’t offer and moved right past. Sidney flexed impressively as he draped an arm around my shoulder and pulled me right into a kiss.
This is the woman of my dreams. I was sure of it that night. I should have said.
Grace and Allison started hanging out, giving us a little time apart. I loved waking up next to her and falling asleep every night after the release of being with her. Sometimes I fell asleep two or three times a day like that, and I called it my favorite workout. Summer settled into a comfortable rhythm. At the one month mark, we went to Max’s house in Montreal for the weekend. No one said why, but we all knew it was to watch whoever would win the Stanley Cup that year.
I had intended it to be a happy trip. I wanted to see the guys, change the scene a little and show Grace a good time that didn’t involve being naked. I had promised her the best summer ever.
But when we got to Max’s and started watching hockey, a pall fell over all of us. It was collective and unshakable – someone else was going to get our prize. Worse than having it taken from us, I felt like we had given it away. Mostly I couldn’t believe the dream world I’d allowed myself to live in: I’d been happy with Grace despite the loss of the season. As the game went on I could feel my insides curdling like spoiled milk. I hunched my shoulders and drew away from Grace, sitting next to her without touching and never blinking my eyes from the screen. After watching Toews lift the Cup over his head, I had to go for a walk. Half a block away, Kris caught up with me.
“Sid, ca va?”
“What the fuck am I doing, Tanger?” I kicked a stone on the sidewalk. “I’m watching this like I had no idea they were going to win. Like suddenly hockey’s not so important anymore. That’s why we’re not there, Kris. That’s why it’s not us winning tonight.”
“Stop. None of us have been watching. Weren’t you listening? No one else could do it either.”
I was angry now, at myself and at Kris for not understanding. “I should have. I have to. This is my responsibility. This team is my responsibility. I can’t be taking the summer off because I’m a fucking baby who doesn’t like losing – I should have my head in the game all year long. What the fuck have I been doing this last month?”
Kris took a step back like he was a little scared. “You’ve been living your life. Your balanced life.”
“It isn’t balance if she’s all I ever think about.” I didn’t wait for him, I just went back. When I got there everyone was outside, piling into cars.
“We need a drink,” Max called.
I didn’t want to go. I shouldn’t have gone. But Tanger pushed me from behind and I could see Grace was in the back next to Flower and Vero. So I climbed into the other SUV. Max chose some club and I hardly remember them letting us right in past the line. All I knew was that I needed a drink. I got two on the first round and downed them both quickly.
“You okay?” Grace said. That damned dark hair set off her glowing skin and her eyes were bright in the club lights. She put a hand on my arm and I shook it off.
“Fine,” I grumbled. She took the hint and stepped back, watching the club. Max tried to keep the mood light by ordering more drinks, but it was not working on me. Luckily the music was so loud it prevented most conversation.
How could I be so stupid? I was wallowing and I knew it, but I felt cheated of my time to be sad after the playoffs. I’d been so happy about Grace and so desperate to get out of Pittsburgh that I’d kept it away. A whole month had gone by and I had allowed myself only tiny bouts of brooding. Kris’s words echoed in my head: “Your balanced life.” I knew he was right. I knew this was better, healthier. But all I could see was red and the vision of someone else raising my trophy into the air. I ordered another drink.
I’m not sure how much time passed before Max was speaking in my ear. “You are ignoring Grace.”
“I’m ignoring everyone.”
I figured I had to be a little drunk, but when I stood to use the bathroom my legs were surprisingly wobbly. I bumped through a few people in the direction of the back, simply following the darkest part of the room figuring that must be away from the dance floor. The floor seemed to pitch and roll beneath my feet. I should have made someone go with me but I wasn’t in the mood to talk to my team.
“Hi.” She was suddenly in front of me – tall with blond hair, she looked blurry around the edges. I couldn’t move quickly enough, I felt her hands press to my chest and she tried to slide her leg between mine. Nothing in my body or brain would respond. It was like being awake while you’re still asleep, like you’re underwater and slowly coming up for air. Before I could break the surface, she was kissing me.
She was warm. Her lip gloss tasted like brown sugar. And the next thing I knew, I felt the sharp sting of a slap full across my face.
“What the fuck are you doing!?” Vero yelled in such a high pitch that I couldn’t tell if it was English or French. It didn’t matter. She’d shoved the blond into the wall and smacked Sidney hard on the cheek. He blinked like he was coming around.
“Listen bitch, you can get your own…” the blond started to argue, pushing off from the wall. Vero rounded on her and if she’d raised a fist she’d have knocked the girl onto the porch.
“Get out of here now, golddigging whore, before I forget that I can’t kick the shit out of him and start looking for you,” she snarled. The blond took off at a run while Sidney held the side of his face and seemed to finally realize what had happened. His eyes went wide on Vero then they both turned toward me.
I stormed right through them, past the guys at the bar and out the front door.
I walked toward noise. There were twenty bars nearby and I was looking for a place to hide before I lost my shit. I ducked into an Irish bar with a forced smile and shut myself inside the first open bathroom stall.
Fucking asshole. I knew he was drunk. I was too. I knew he probably didn’t kiss her, but he didn’t stop her either. He might not even remember tomorrow. None of those things changed what had happened.
Sidney fucking Crosby. He would always be a moving target, lined up in the sights of any woman who thought $9+ million a year sounded worth her time to pursue. I was pissed that he’d been ignoring me, pissed that he’d been drowning his sorrows in liquor when he’d been doing so well handling his disappointment. I thought I had been helping. We were having a good summer, maybe a great summer. Maybe it would turn into fall and winter back in Pittsburgh and then turn into forever.
I leaned against the inside of the stall and just cried. Fat, frustrated tears coursed down my cheeks.
Sometime later, I heard a scuffle at the door and a girl yelling something about ‘not allowed in here.’ The door to my stall opened so hard it ripped the lock right out of the cheap wood. Kris stood there, looking at me like I was on his last nerve.
“Do you know how many bathrooms are on this street?” He grabbed my arm and frog-marched me out the front door. At the end of the block, Flower was in the driver’s seat of one car.
“I’m not going to him,” I said, trying to stop. Kris dragged me right along.
“You’re going to Flower’s. Sidney is already at Max’s.”
“Just take me to the airport,” I hissed.
Kris stopped suddenly and spun me around the face him. “Grace, go to sleep. If he’s left anything of himself in the morning, you can kick his ass then.” He put me in the backseat next to Vero and twenty minutes later she was tucking me into their guest room.
“I should have punched him,” she smiled down at me. I’d stopped crying but tears still seemed to fall. She kissed my forehead and I was quickly asleep.
I probably slept five hours. It hadn’t been that late when we started or finished. My buzz had worn off in the night and the sound of footsteps in the hallway broke through my light slumber. Two treads came and went – one obviously Flower, the other Vero. I could hear them talking. It was barely light out and the bedside clock said 6:24 AM. I poked my head into the hall.
“I’m not leaving.” Sidney. “I’ll just wait.”
Vero was trying to convince him. “Let her come to you. She was really upset. Let her get past it first, then talk to her.”
“Are you going to hit me again?” It was teasing but sounded like a threat.
“I’ll do it.”
They all spun at the sound of my voice. I was wearing one of Vero’s tank tops and a pair of shorts, my hair everywhere and last night’s makeup probably cried off. Marc caught Vero before she could intervene and went back to their room. Sidney stood, wiping his palms on his pants like a kid in trouble. He wore jeans and a t-shirt that looked fit to rip at the seams – it must have been Max’s. Of course he’d show up here, now, looking like the fucking Hulk.
“Sorry Grace,” he whispered.
“For which part?” I was a cliché with my hands on my hips and a smart-ass look on my face.
“She kissed me. I didn’t even know her.” He did a good impression of acting like that was the real problem.
“Yet she still had her tongue down your throat.” So did I.
“I was drunk and too slow to push her off. Another faceless girl trying to get in my wallet. She was just some slut in a bar, Grace. She could never be important.”
“And what was I the night we met?”
He closed his eyes and his mouth. I didn’t even mean it – I knew the difference between when we met and what happened last night. I had been on both sides of that equation too. But I was angry and thought he was missing the point on purpose.
“Go away, Sidney.”
I went back to bed. He didn’t leave or follow me, not by the sound of his steps. I put a pillow over my head and lay perfectly still until I finally fell asleep. Later Vero went to Max’s for my stuff but Sidney refused to let her have it. So I borrowed some clothes and spent the day walking around Montreal by myself, pretending to look at the sights and enjoy the summer weather.
“Cherie,” Max said on the phone. “Please come back. He is miserable. I’ll leave and you two can have the place all night.”
“Last night all he wanted was to be alone. He’s got it now.”
Max sighed. “Okay Grace, you win.”
The next day, we were set to fly back to Nova Scotia. I assume Marc and Max were talking because Marc dropped me at the airport on time. I had my purse but no luggage. If Sidney didn’t bring it, I’d have to go without it. I had tried to change my seat, but the small plane was sold out. We were in first class, which was only six seats, and the airline wouldn’t let me switch with someone in coach. I stayed away from the gate as long as possible and boarded the plane with only 20 minutes to spare.
Sidney wore a baseball cap pulled low and a hoodie open over a blue t-shirt. His body was massive, so hard and perfect that the sight of him sent a spear of longing right into my crotch. It was more than physical – I suddenly wanted to cry again. He looked up at my shadow and I could tell he’d had a rough time of it too. My seat was so big I could have been alone on a couch the whole flight home.
He carried our stuff to the car without a word. We let ourselves into the house and before our bags even hit the floor, we were at it.
“You can’t run away every time we have a fight, Grace.”
“Did you think I was going home with you after you let some other girl kiss you?”
“I apologized for that!” he shouted. “How many times do you need to hear it to make yourself feel better?!”
“How am I supposed to feel better?” I screamed back. “Every time you get in a funk you fucking disappear! Shit happens to everyone, Sidney. Only you handle it by rolling up into a goddamned shell.”
He shook his head. “You don’t understand.”
“Understand what? You didn’t say one word.”
He crossed the space between us and pushed me up against the wall. His eyes were black with focus, something I hadn’t seen in a long time. This was his game face. He hissed, “I hate losing, Grace. I don’t lose.” And he kissed me, eyes open and boring into mine. I squirmed but couldn’t move, his thick forearm had me pinned down. His other hand groped at me.
“Put me down.”
“No,” he said, instead holding me up with his chest and tearing open my pants with both hands. “You think I treat you like some slut in a bar? You want what she gets?” He slid a palm right down my stomach and over my panties. Despite myself I gasped. I knew I was wet.
“She’d be wet like this, Grace. They’re always so wet for me.” He brought his finger to his lip and licked it, slowly. “Good thing, too.” He picked me up and moved toward the bedroom. I flailed against him, punching him in the leg but he just flexed me off. The closer we got the harder I tried and the less I achieved. He chucked me onto the bed like luggage and straddled my side. I felt rather than saw his shirt come off.
“You’re not playing along,” he whispered, brushing his bare chest along my bare arm. I turned my face away. “The girls in bars always say they want me.”
“Fuck you,” I said.
He smiled. “That’s the spirit.” Sidney opened his pants and pushed them down. He trapped me between his arms as he lifted his legs and shook them free. It had been a long time since we’d fought but it was like a drug to him – his rock hard cock stood trembling at attention.
“Get that hard for all the girls in the bars? Girls in the stands, screaming your name? Wonder you can get a cup on over that. Oh Sidney, fuck me, Sidney…” I taunted.
He flipped me onto my back, bouncing me between the mattress and his body. “They do beg me, baby. Just like you will.”
I surprised him by grabbing his cock tight. I rolled my fingers up like I was drumming on a table top, wreaking havoc on his blood flow. “The only person I hear begging is you.”
“Smart mouth getting you in trouble.” He was faster than me and before I could react, he pushed his dick into my mouth. His hands pinned my arms down so there was little I could do as he pressed his length past my lips. I breathed deeply, trying not to gag when he went farther than I could handle. I tried to block him with my tongue, keeping him shallow, but it didn’t work.
“I don’t hear you, baby,” he said, rocking his hips and fucking my face however he wanted. “My cock too much for you?”
I bared my teeth and ran them lightly down his shaft on the next stroke. It wasn’t enough to hurt him, just surprise him. He flinched and hissed, pulling out of my throat with a wet pop.
“I thought you liked it rough?” I asked him, looking upside down over my head. He hauled me up by the shoulders and threw me higher onto the bed, flipping me onto my stomach and coming down hard on my back. He spread my thighs wide and drove his face into my pussy. I drowned a moan into the blanket.
“I heard that,” he said. “Tell me you want it and I’ll give it to you, Grace.”
His tongue was amazing. It rolled and tapped where I was already quivering. I concentrated as hard as I could, willing my body to stop because I refused to come for him. He nipped at my clit and when my hips bucked off the bed he drove two huge fingers into my aching slit.
“Fuck,” I screamed.
He actually laughed. “You have to say please.”
I was face down with my ass in the air. He knelt behind me, working his mouth and hands, so I lifted my foot and caressed the instep along his erection. He flinched again, going still for a moment before continuing. He was too close for contact. I lifted the other and caught his cock between my feet, gently tugging them down his thick beating length. Two strokes were all he could take. He pulled up until the head of his cock was teasing my entrance. His fingers twisted into my hair, turning my head to look at him.
“The sluts from the bars always want to watch,” he taunted me, eyes flashing. Then his other hand came down once with a sharp slap as he thrust his entire length into me at once. He kept that pace, jamming himself deep on every stroke. His hand slipped from my hair to my shoulder. I bit the soft flesh between his thumb and forefinger.
“Ow, fuck,” he yelped. Then he spanked me again, hard. I was distracted by the sting and surprised when he suddenly found my clit.
“I hate you,” I meant to yell but it came out a moan as he rolled my hot button between his thick fingers. He strummed again, working my pussy at the same time. I was really close to coming and my concentration wouldn’t be around to hold it off. I tried to push back and force him off me, but he simply leaned his 200 lbs forward and flattened me onto the mattress. His lips were at my ear and his breath rasped. Not long now, if I could just hold on till he came first.
“You love me,” he purred. His hand was still under me and his weight on top – my body had nowhere to go and the pressure was building. He swung his hips, bottoming out inside me with a soft sob. I craned my head to see that determined look still on his face.
“I’m the best you’ve ever had,” I said. I knew it was true. And with that I pushed myself down hard onto his quivering dick and he lost it.
“Fuuuuuck,” he swore as he came, rolling down against me and spurting deep into my body. It was involuntary, uncontrolled and shook everything from his shoulders to his thighs. It tumbled through me like a thunderclap and I came too, his hand still pressed to my clit.
“Sidney,” I called softly, no breath left in my lungs to make sound as the rest of my body went supernova. He pumped and dumped until spent and fell limp on top of me. We were a panting heap of twisted limbs.
“I’m sorry, Grace. I love you.” he whispered.
“I know,” I told him. He planted a kiss where his face lay against my neck. “And don’t you ever forget it.”