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.
Third Time's the Charm
4 years ago