“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?”
Sid made a face. “You’re the one alright.”
Third Time's the Charm
3 years ago