Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chapter XV: Indemnity

A/N: Thanks for the feedback! I totally agree that Olivia is getting away with just about murder. But even with the most patient of people, who have their own agendas, that kind of behavior can only last so long.

[Indemnity - a promise by a third party to pay a debt owed, or repay a loss caused, by another party.]

Olivia boards the bus to Anaheim in a sleeveless top. What else could she do, it’s 75 degrees out. Her wrist, as promised, has angry, deep purple marks in the shape of my hand. I snap my head away, eyes burning. Seeing it is much worse than I imagined. She climbs over Geno, naturally using her left hand to balance along the top of the seat, and takes the window in front of me.

“What this?” Geno asks instantly, carefully taking her arm from her lap. His tone is so aggressive that everyone’s ears prick up.

Crosby stands and looks over. “Olivia, what the hell is that from?”

Even the people who’d been in the bar that night wouldn’t know. Just Kris and Jordan, and only Jordan has seen the bruise.

“Max kissed me,” she says evenly, quoting those Twilight books I know she loves. “And I broke my hand punching his face. Total misunderstanding.”

A hot, angry pulse flashes through every male body on the bus. Twenty-plus faces turn in my direction. None of them are smiling as Olivia tries to downplay the situation.

“Max did that?!” Billy G hisses. I sink down into my chair.

“It’s just a bruise. Max stopped me before I could punch him.”

“Max kiss you?” Geno doesn’t have to get up to look at me over the back of his seat.

“It’s okay, Geno. He apologized. Right Max?”

Geno does not look convinced. Neither do most of the other guys. She puts her other arm over the seat toward me. It’s my olive branch. I take her hand and squeeze it, deliriously grateful that she’s bailing me out of this. I don’t deserve it – the mark of my mistake is in plain sight. But she does it anyway.

“I’m still sorry,” I say loudly.

“I know,” she squeezes back and smiles thinly. Across the aisle, Jordan rolls his eyes and turns forward.

She wisely does not come into the locker room. It is the single most uncomfortable half hour of my life. At first, no one speaks to me. They all just stare. Marc looks devastated – more disappointed than angry. Kris raises his eyebrows at me like I’m just getting what I deserve. He’s right. Jordan’s pacing the cage while Sid chews the inside of his lip like he’s selecting just the right words to throw at me. Eventually he finds them, but instead of announcing to the room he leans right over my ear.

“Max, I know she’s jerking you around. But if you ever hurt her again, or lay a hand on any woman that I ever even hear about, it will be the last game you ever play for this team.”

He’s right too. Sidney has that power, could have me on the next flight to the Panthers or the Islanders if he felt strongly enough. It makes me nauseous to know that my very closest friends know I could do that to anyone, let alone Olivia.

Sidney’s not done. “She’s making a fool of you and you’re letting her do it. But don’t bring it in this locker room and don’t bring it on the ice.”

“I didn’t mean to do it. We were having an argument and…”

Jordan throws a towel into his stall. He can’t hear us but he knows exactly what’s going on as he heads for the door, like he cannot stand to be in my presence a moment longer.

“Liv,” Jordan calls, coming into the office behind her. She’s on the phone, but quickly disconnects and moves her bruised wrist behind her back. It’s not exactly private in the visiting team offices but Jordan really doesn’t care right now.

“I wish I hadn’t listened to you about wearing this,” she says. “I feel like everyone is staring at me.”

“Don’t be ashamed of what he did to you. That is his fault, Olivia, not yours. And people should know! He can’t just get away with hurting you.”

“You think I’m letting him get away with it.”

“You don’t seem very upset. So why don’t you tell me what’s really going on here. You’re acting like you did something to make him mad enough to hurt you. If you’ve got a guilty conscience, I think I have a right to know about it.” Jordan’s struggling to keep his voice down. He’s mad, and Olivia is not surprised.

“Jordan,” her voice thickens, tears are coming. “I wanted to hurt him too – I would have. Just because I can’t knock a guy out doesn’t mean that what I wanted to do was okay.”

“It’s different when he’s a man and you’re a woman. He has a responsibility. But I don’t think that’s everything.” He pulls her inside the nearest door and shuts it. Don’t be threatening, he reminds himself. His size makes that virtually impossible, so he backs away a few steps. “I know what you’re doing, Olivia. You’re falling in love with him. I may be young but I’m not stupid. That’s why you’re always trying to back away from me – it makes me sick. Are you thinking of him when we’re together? Is that what I’m about?”

Olivia’s head snaps up and she stares him right in the eye. There’s the fire he was talking about.

“Jordan, this was never supposed to happen!” She spins around but there’s nowhere to go. “I thought you and I could have some silly fun and it would also serve to make the other guys leave me alone. But you’re not so silly. You are surprising and mature and smart and fucking sexy as hell. You are a million things I never expected you to be.”

“Just like that kiss at the photo shoot wasn’t supposed to happen? And whatever made him so mad in Anaheim? Things keep happening to you, Liv,” he emphasizes his disbelief. “Maybe you should do something about them instead.”

She sits down on the desk. “I have feelings for Max. I always have since day one, that’s precisely why I did not get involved with him.”

“So you got involved with me instead because you have no feelings for me?”

“Jordan, I do…” she tries.

“Forgive me for pointing it out Olivia,” he hisses her name. “But I’ve bailed you out about a million times here. I thought we were both getting something out of this. And I’m pretty sure if you stopped stringing everybody along that you might figure out you like me. But you can’t stop looking over your shoulder long enough to even see me.”

Olivia’s head is bowed and Jordan speaks right down over her.

“I said I would protect you Olivia but I can’t protect you from yourself. Figure this out. Because I’m done being a fucking bookmark until you decide you’re all healed up enough to run off with someone else.”

The door swings shut behind him, sounding just shy of a slam.

Deep breath. Please be the right decision, Olivia thinks as she watches him go.

Follow me, Olivia, Jordan thinks. Chase me and I’ll let you take all that back. I’ll give you till I get this far. One, two…

She doesn’t follow. He isn’t surprised. Fucking Max.

Halfway through practice, during scrimmage, I let it happen. Jordan lines me up from a mile away and I don’t even bother stepping out of his way. He crushes me into the boards, knocking the wind out of me and toppling me to the ice. I stay down a moment to make sure everyone sees. Then someone skates over and offers me a hand.

“I bet Olivia hits harder than that,” Tanger says as he pulls me to my feet.

I stay out of everyone’s way, even at the game. We quietly win 2-1 and board the plane to San Jose. One more city, one more game. We’ll be home on the third day. Everyone’s still giving me the cold shoulder, which is just as well because I have nothing to say for myself. I head for the last row and take the window. Let them think I’m hiding. It’s a full house, so someone will have to ride next to me. I hope it’s not Jordan right up until the moment Tanger takes the seat.

Jordan gets on and walks back to where the only empty seats are the aisle next to Olivia and the window next to Rupp. He goes back to the front and sits next to Flower. I think: that’s weird.

When we land, Olivia and Jordan sit on opposite sides of the bus home and take separate elevators upstairs. I know, because I’m in hers. So is Crosby, like he’s not quite sure I’m allowed to be alone with her. As we separate down the hall he gives me the same look he used in the locker room: sort it out.

“Are you and Olivia gonna…” TK starts to ask.

“No,” Jordan says firmly, putting in the earphones connected to his laptop.

I feel caged. I’m angry at myself for what I did, but I’m also still angry at Olivia for everything that made me do it. She made up for some of it today by defending me, but that doesn’t change the circumstance. We are still right where we were before. I take myself on a walk through the hotel, down into the bar. I spot Crosby from the back, sitting at the edge of a lattice wall that divides the bar from the restaurant. I walk over, intending to apologize and explain myself. But he’s talking.

“… sure you’re okay?” he asks.

“Yes, I’m fine.” It’s Olivia’s voice, but I can’t see her.

“Good. But Liv, this is a problem. Nothing like this can ever happen again. If you’re involved with someone on this team, it needs to be open and easy. No more hiding, no more secrets and, honestly, no more dragging Max around like a wet blanket, okay? Either be with him or cut him loose because this is going bad really fast.”

Oh my God. I’m practically standing inside a fake potted palm, eavesdropping.

“If anyone else saw your wrist, Dan or Mario or anyone, if anyone knew why Jordan laid him out on the ice today… I think you’d find that rule of yours coming back into effect really quickly. And I don’t want that to happen, to them or to you.”

She says something that I can’t hear clearly.

“I don’t think that’s the answer. They still have to be together, even if you’re not around. So unless you’re going to Brazil, you’re going to have to man up and make a decision. Er, woman up. Whatever. It’s not just for you – I had to threaten to get Max traded to Edmonton or Columbus today. And I meant it, Liv.”

“Please, don’t do anything crazy,” she says, loudly enough that her voice carries to me.

Sidney shakes his head. “You’re the crazy. You do something.”

As he leaves the table, he passes within inches of where I’m tucked in amongst the plastic fronds. I climb out and turn the corner, but the table is empty.

Olivia skips practice and the next day. Jordan calls her twice – once on her cell and then once in her room to avoid the caller ID. She doesn’t pickup either call. He hits the bike after practice until Coach has to tell him to save it for the game. Back to the hotel, she’s nowhere to be found. He doesn’t know why he’s looking for her, because he has no idea what he’ll say. Are you taking it back? Asking for another chance? He’s not going to ask those things, even if he’s dying to. Jordan takes an extra long nap just for something to do.

Olivia goes to the arena early for some Reebok thing with Crosby. I don’t see her after warm-up skate, but she’s roped Duper into talking to ESPN. It’s a shame, because I wanted to tell her about this girl we saw from the ice. Total puckbunny hopeful and really, really working it hard. Olivia would have gotten a kick out of her.

“…she’s got on this tank top, like two sizes too small, and it’s fucking freezing out there,” TK is telling Flower, who didn’t see her from the net, “so her nipples are hard and, right Max? How big?”

“She had a huge rack, like a 42DD or something. So fake I’m surprised her nipples can still get hard. But they were so….”

For a split second I saw the look on Flower’s face change, then a blur passes the corner of my eye before Jordan’s right hand connects with my jaw and knocks me off my feet. I land between Kris’ skates. No one moves.

“If you ever…,” Jordan spits. A vein is pulsing in his forehead and he’s towering over my prone body with his skates on. He turns and storms away as much as he can all dressed for the game. I scramble to my feet as Coach swings through the door. He looks from one face to the next – everyone is staring.

“What’s going on?” he asks.

“Nothing,” Crosby says, like it’s final. And so it is.

My jaw is sore and Jordan doesn’t look at me once. He takes a stupid roughing penalty, like he’s ready to kill the next person who skates past no matter what jersey he’s wearing. At the first intermission, Olivia catches Kris in the hallway to talk to Comcast Sports Net. By the time I pass her she’s looking the other way. Luckily the room is busy with Coach setting some plays and adjusting the penalty kill. In the second period, I end up on the ice with Jordan when TK scores a goal. In the celebration huddle, Jordan moves right past me.

Olivia taps Sid and leads him out of the locker room. Before they get to the ESPN crew, Sidney stops and turns her into the wall. “Jordan punched Max after the warm up skate. I assume that’s to do with you?”

Olivia gasps and covers her mouth. “What?!”

“I told you to sort that shit out, Liv. Before anyone outside the players hears about it.” Sidney finishes with a stern glare, in full team captain mode.

I don’t know what happened. The only information I have is a swollen throb on the left side of my face. And so I’m not eager to have another confrontation with Jordan. I shower, change and hustle through the foggy night to get on the bus as quickly as could be considered normal. Let him cool off and let me find out what’s going on before he gets another shot at me. Jordan gets on the bus last. He’s stomping around so we all know he’s still upset. Good thing he’s sitting when Coach climbs on board. Olivia follows Dan, sits in the very front row and does not look at anyone. I guess she knows now.

Our plane takes off the minute we’re on. Red eye flights are usually the worst part of travel but at least it means I won’t have to talk to anyone. Crosby gives me a warning look just in case. Olivia sits in the front row next to Billy G, and pulls a sleep mask over her eyes. I wake up as we land in Pittsburgh. Olivia’s in her car before I’m off the plane, and she doesn’t pickup when I call.

“Jordan!” Olivia shouts as she gets out of her car. It is pouring rain and Jordan’s not even up his driveway yet. “Jordan!”

He’s so mad – mad at Olivia, Max and mad at himself. He totally overreacted in the locker room, but he’d been waiting for any excuse to get in Max’s face. Any outlet he could find for his anger and frustration. He hadn’t thought until later that punching him in front of everyone would probably be most damaging to Olivia. Crosby hasn’t even had a chance to tell him off yet. He wipes a handful of rain from his face.

Olivia marches right up like she’s going to punch him herself. “You’re mad at me. Not Max. Please don’t take this to the game.”

“We were together, Olivia,” he points from himself to her, as if she might be unsure. “Together. You don’t move in on someone else’s girl, even if she’s fucking begging you to do it! Max didn’t give a shit about me either. The only difference is he never tried to hide it.”

“Remember when you asked what I could have done to make someone mad enough to hurt me?”

The wind blows the rain sideways into her face. Jordan’s back is turned into the spray, shielding him. Mad enough to hurt you, he thinks. He wants to strangle her. He wants to run her over, push her into a ditch, let it fill with water. He wants to drag her into the house and erase the world around them.

“So who are you really mad at? Max or me?”

You. Mostly you. Jordan doesn’t say anything.

“Want to take a swing at me? Come on, have a go. God knows I deserve it.” Olivia holds her arms wide open. Her hair is plastered to her face, her coat soaked and sagging as the rain beats against her. Jordan doesn’t move.

“Remember that tomorrow,” she says as she puts her arms down. And he stands, battered by the storm, bathed in her headlights as she backs down the drive.

I wake to the sound of my doorbell ringing. My clock says 9:15 AM but it’s dark as night outside. I can hear the rain pounding off the windows and roof as the doorbell rings again. Without bothering to put a shirt or shoes on, I pad across the living room cursing the mailman or whoever it is. I can’t have been asleep more than an hour. I swing open the door, an expletive on my lips for whoever is waking me.

“Shit,” I’m already saying, but in surprise instead of anger. “Are you okay?”

Olivia is drenched, like she’s been swimming with her clothes on. Her ballet flats must be full of water, and the hem of her pants drags on the ground. She has her arms wrapped around her middle and she’s shaking, sky still dumping buckets onto her head. I pull her inside. She stands still as I peel off her pea coat and toss it over the back of a chair. She doesn’t say anything but her teeth chatter. With one hand, I lead her toward the bathroom.

My hands unbutton her cardigan and shuck it off – it’s soaked through. I look in her eyes for permission, but she’s looking away so I start to open her water-logged blouse. I slip it from her shoulders, her skin clammy and damp beneath my fingers. She’s trembling, mostly from the cold, as I unbutton and unzip her pants. Still no eye contact, so I drop them from her hips into a heap on the floor.

Forgive me. I’m getting hard as I slowly undress Olivia on the bathroom rug. She lets me, I think it’s why she came here, but she doesn’t react. She just shivers until she’s down to a dark gray bra with pinstripes and white lace trim and a matching thong. Her body is even more beautiful up close. Mine are the only eyes that take in the sight as I lean into the shower and turn on the hot water. I help Olivia step over the side of the tub, and she faces forward into the spray. I step out of my sweatpants and climb in right behind her.

As the steaming water courses over her from head to toe, I wrap my arms around Olivia from behind. She fits against me, like I knew she would. Her skin warms slowly, color coming back into her cheeks. With her face turned away from me I hold her, almost completely naked, as she cries it all out in my shower. When she’s finished, she leans her head forward to rinse her hair. I step out and secure a towel around myself, then hold one open for her. We’re still silent as I reach both the towel and myself around her. Olivia’s forehead rests in the crook of my neck, her face into my chest. A few deep breaths and I sense she’s ready to move so I lead her into my bedroom. I find the over-sized, super-soft robe in my closet and hold it open, blocking my face away. She strips off her underwear and settles into plush fabric. I lift the blankets for her, then climb in and take her in my arms again. Not a word before she falls asleep.

When I wake, it’s light out and she’s gone. I feel around the empty space then open my eyes to see her pillowcase hanging from the dresser. A dark pattern marks the wet spot where her hair had been.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chapter XIV: Renewal

Max called Ovie a "total douche" today live on the radio. As if I could love him more. Now have some faith, Team Talbot...

In the second period, I take a shot to the boards that knocks me for a loop. The trainers help me into the locker room and pull off my gear. My sore shoulder is tweaked, but mostly I just can’t catch my breath. My shirt is off and the doctor is pressing along my ribs. I gasp when he hits a sore spot.

“Are you okay?” She’s hurried the whole way from the ice.

“Yeah, just bruised.” I lift my arm a little, showing off my bare chest and medical tape.

She exhales loudly. “Scares the shit out of me when you guys get hurt!”

Our silence is awkward. The locker room encounter is the only thing between us now – the closest call, the barest escape. I want to bring it up but don’t know what to say: Why didn’t you come to me before? How can you leave me like that? I need to feel you again. Olivia walks over, brushes my wet hair back and presses her lips to my forehead. I am sweat-soaked and probably reek, but she stands close for an extra second, inviting me. I wrap an arm around her waist and sigh.

“Please be careful, Max,” she says, still playing with my hair.

I want her, here and now. The game is gone from my mind and I forget that I’m wearing shorts and pads and skates. I want to stretch her out on this table and convince her body that my heart is serious too. If I could stop time, I’d turn this place into our first time and make it last all night.

“Liv…,” I start.

She smiles tightly and walks away.

On the plane to LA, Jordan manages to score the seat next to Olivia. I sit as far away as I can so I don’t have to see them interact. Luckily it’s a quick flight. When we land, the weather is beautiful and everyone starts talking about the pool. It’s our favorite part about coming to LA – our hotel has an infinity pool that goes indoor/outdoor with a swim-up bar. It’s like Vegas, only less of a whore house vibe.

“See you down there!” Crosby yells down the hall as everyone heads for their rooms.

I’m in the pool, floating near the edge that meets the wall and looks endlessly out over Venice Beach. My reverie is cut short by a wolf whistle. Olivia has arrived. She’s wearing a hot pink cover-up, barefoot and carrying a book. My book.

It was Geno who whistled. Ten hours away from Oksana and he’s getting warmed up. He gives Olivia a big flex, the way Jordan used to do before he got in her pants. Not going to work, I tell him telepathically. She’s already got a full plate.

A few of the guys have the decorum to at least pretend they’re not watching. Gonch, Billy, Dupes… they turn away. Tanger heads for the bar, probably looking through his hair. She pauses like she’s nervous to remove her dress. When she finally pulls it over her head, I see why. Her bikini is dark blue and white stripes, with a red anchor on one of the triangle cups. A red belt rings just below her stomach. It’s fun and nautical and I am getting hard beneath the surface of the pool. Her breasts fill the cups nicely without being pornographic. Her stomach is toned, with the slightest feminine roundness to it, but it’s nothing compared to the perfectly round rise of her ass. Her thighs are strong and taut, the skin smooth and pale, since no one gets tan in Pittsburgh. She hurries jumps into the pool.

“Damn!” Crosby says out loud when she’s under the water.

We all stifle our laughter as she breaks the surface. Kris buys her a beer and they sit on stools in the water. It only comes to her waist, and I take the opportunity to fully enjoy the weight and shape of her breasts. I claim a deck chair and consider staring directly into the sun to keep my eyes from wandering in her direction. I also watch Jordan, who is chomping at the bit. He wants her bad – it’s all over his face. He wants to touch her, kiss her and most of all he wants to tell everyone that she is his. But she isn’t. Not after yesterday.

I can’t take this! Olivia thinks as she hurries to the locker room during the first period. Tonight it’s Jordan who had to be helped off the ice. He took a high stick to the face and dripped blood on his way out. She pokes her head into the trainers’ room – Jordan’s lying back on the table, wincing as the trainer stitches along his eyebrow. There’s blood on his cheek and on the towel next to him. She goes right in and takes his hand.

“Okay?” She’s definitely worried.

“Yeah,” he grunts as the trainer pulls the thread through again. “Fucking stings.”

The trainer finishes and rubs a clear gel over the stitches. Then he holds the tube out to Olivia. “Coagulant. He needs another coat in five minutes, then if it’s not bleeding anymore he can go back out.”

“Do not bleed, please. It gives me a heart attack.” Her heart rate is a little high. She uses a baby wipe to take the smear of dried blood from his cheek then holds it. “Tough guy.”

“Is it ugly? Ruin my face so you’ll never want to see me again?” He hopes he’s kidding.

“You are as gorgeous as ever. Don’t you worry about that.” She gives him another dab of the gel and then walks him back to the ice. He’s a good 8” taller than her barefoot, on skates he towers a foot above. Just before they reach the turn to the bench he faces her.

“I really want to kiss you right now,” he says quietly. “I feel like King Kong.”

She slaps him on the ass, though he can barely feel it through his gear. “Go get ‘em.”

We’re walking back into the hotel when Olivia runs past us with a shout. Across the lobby, a group of girls stand around a flower arrangement in going-out clothes. She jumps into them with a big hug and, of course, we all stop. One of her friends sees us looking and gestures to Olivia to turn around.

“You guys wanna come out with us? Just going around the corner.” Everyone nods. “I have to change. We’ll be back in five,” she calls to her friends.

“How do you know people everywhere?” TK asks.

“I lived here for three years before I moved to New York. These are my girls. They don’t know a thing about hockey, so be nice and let Crosby finally have one.”

I wait for her by the elevator. Most of the guys are downstairs already, anxious to get first dibs on Olivia’s girlfriends. When she turns the corner she smiles at me. She’s wearing a killer pair or jeans, rolled up at the ankles above a pair of red high heels. A v-neck black tank top shows off her body, the beads on the straps catching the light. The red flower tucked into her hair makes me think of the lily I gave her on her birthday.

“Beautiful,” I say.

“Not so bad yourself, Superstar.” I’m wearing jeans and a beachy white button down with green stripes open a few notches at the neck. God bless warm weather. I wait till we’re in the elevator to be sure we’re really alone. Then I jump at the chance.

“Liv, I want you so badly,” I say, moving toward her. “How can you say you don’t feel what happened in the locker room?”

She puts a hand to my chest, keeping her space. “I never said that. I definitely felt it.”

She doesn’t meet my eyes until I touch her chin, tilt it up. I walk through her hand and kiss her; we go to the wall. I push my tongue into her mouth, my thigh between her legs. My hands grip her ass for the maximum effect of grinding her body into my lap. Seconds later, the elevator slows and I step away.

“God damn you, Max,” she hisses, wiping her lips. “You always get everything you want, when you want it. What happens after that? The game is over and you’re moving on?” She marches out ahead of me where Jordan is waiting. Olivia takes his arm through and heads right to her friends.

The night quickly devolves. Olivia lightly rebuffs my attempts to be friendly. Her cute friends are quickly claimed by my teammates. As advertised, they don’t know hockey but two of them look ready to fight over Sidney. He watches them vie for his attention like it’s a tennis match. Tanger hands me a drink – it’s a double. He can tell something is off but knows better than to ask about it. I drain it and buy us another round while we stand at the bar and watch.

Olivia is really mad. I can tell by the way she’s dancing with Jordan like I’m not even here. Or maybe because I am. If she wants to teach me a lesson, it’s working. I can’t have everything I want. Olivia wants other things, someone else wants her.

I’m really mad too. Olivia thinks I’d love her and leave her. I have told her that I really like her – she says she doesn’t want serious but she’s so worried that I’d drop her after I had my fun. I wonder if she knows that she’s making no sense. And I wonder what she’s doing with Jordan.

“What does that look like to you?” I ask Kris, raising my glass toward the dance floor. Two of Olivia’s friends are dancing with Crosby and Geno the same way that she’s dancing with Jordan. They just met, probably won’t come home with us and will never see each other again. It’s meaningless, harmless. Yet when I see Olivia and Jordan, I see trouble.

“Like they’re sleeping together,” Kris says honestly.

I wheel around on him. “Do you know that? Or are you just guessing?”

Kris puts his drink down. “I know you want her. When are you going to do something about it?”

“I fucking kissed her at the photoshoot and they’re putting it in the magazine. Then again in her office. And the other day in the locker room, we almost had sex. I was coming out of the shower late and she was there and… a trainer walked in or we would have done it on the table. Fuck!”

Kris’s eyes were wide and he’s stopped drinking.

“On the way down tonight I kissed her in the elevator. Now she’s pissed at me. And doing that.”

We both look back to where Olivia and Jordan are grinding, her arms around his neck and his riding dangerously low on her back. If they were strangers I wouldn’t even notice. But that’s my girl he’s dancing with.

“But she wants me, I know she does.”

Sidney squeezes himself between Olivia and Jordan at the bar.

“Can I pleeeeeeeeeeeease take your friend back to the hotel?” He’s a little slurry – the kind of drunk where you’re sure you sound fine, but you definitely don’t. Olivia can’t resist. She presses right up against him and runs her fingers inside the open front of his shirt.

“I might be kinda jealous, Cros,” she purrs.

A sloppy smile and his hands are on her ass. “You can come too.”

She barks a laugh. “You are ready. Go, have a good time. And please don’t embarrass me, I told her you were fucking hot so you’d better live up to it.”

Her friend comes from the bathroom, gives Olivia a kiss on the cheek and lets Sidney lead her from the bar. Fucking captain has his own room. It changes the mood - Geno moves a little closer to the friend he’s been talking with, like he might actually get some. TK and Flower are entertaining the other two, and Tanger sits down with them. I look over the landscape like it’s CSI – I’m going to cleaning up the mess tonight. A hand touches my shoulder and I’m surprised to see Olivia, alone.

I can’t help but admire her shape as I follow her outside. My mind is trying to distract itself because whatever is coming cannot be good. She didn’t come here with me and she won’t be leaving that way.

“What are we going to do?” she asks.

Olivia’s not apologizing for what happened in the elevator, though I think she should. She can’t just let me in and then push me out, slam the door and run off. I won’t let her. But she’s also not demanding that I apologize because she knows I am not sorry. But I am a little drunk.

“You are going to leave here with me right now.”

She closes her eyes a moment, like she was expecting that. Good, I think, she should be. If any of this comes as a surprise then she’s really got herself fooled.

“Max, I…”

“You’re going to stop playing around with Jordan just because you’re scared of being with me. You’re not helping yourself and you’re sure as hell not helping him. I know you talked him down once – he wanted to be exclusive and you said no. Next time, he won’t be asking. I am not asking now.”

I close my hand around her wrist. It’s not a gentle gesture and I don’t mean it to be. It’s possessive and a little bit threatening because that’s how I feel: like someone needs to tell her to stop this bullshit and do what is obviously right.

“Olivia,” I’m speaking so low it’s practically a growl. “You were thinking of me when you came here with Jordan. You think of me when you dance with him. I know you’re sleeping with him and I bet you think of me then too.”

Her wrist nearly flies from my hand but I lock in my grip, hard. The tension in her body is palpable. I am past being the nice guy; convincing her that I like her, wouldn’t leave her, want to be there for her. I’ve said it all and have to hope she’s heard. Tonight I’m angry and frustrated and it shows. I put my mouth right to her ear.

“You want me. More than you want control or security. I can feel you trembling – you want me as much as I want you. Tell me I’m wrong, Olivia. Say you don’t want me.”

She’s either going to kiss me or kill me. I’ve played that card. My fingers are white from squeezing her wrist so tightly. Olivia’s face is turned toward the door, a pained look in her eyes as she struggles with the truth of what I’ve said. They are almost there, the words I want to hear, they’re almost on her lips, on her tongue. I taste them in the memory of our last kiss.

And then I’m off the ground.

Jordan practically throws me across the deck. I stumble to a stop against one of the railings. He’s right over me, right in my face.

“If you weren’t my teammate I would kill you right here,” he hisses. “And if you ever touch her again I will do it anyway.”

He storms off. Olivia disappears through the door, an arm around her back that I assume belongs to Kris. I stay, slumped against the railing, as the fight and adrenaline drain from my system and leave only shock behind.

Kris goes back to the bar, letting Jordan take Olivia out front. There’s another outdoor area, much more crowded, where people are seeing and being seen. He leads her by the arm because she’s still got her hand around her wrist. When they reach the side of the building, he sits her down on a concrete parking lot divider and peels her fingers away.

“Did he hurt you?”

Olivia shakes her head no, but her wrist is sore. She starts to cry anyway. Jordan straddles the divider and faces her, putting his arms around her waist and his chin on her shoulder.

“Shhhhh, it’s okay,” he says quietly. “I didn’t mean to scare you. You looked so upset, and when I saw how tightly he was holding your arm I freaked out.”

Still more tears well in her eyes. Here’s Jordan protecting me from myself, not from Max. Jordan always doing the right thing, always saving me. “Jordan, thank you.”

Olivia has seen Jordan’s protective instincts in action, both during Scott’s surprise visit and on the ice. She also knows that most hockey players have a temper – she’s watched almost every guy on this team, whether on video or in-game, drop the gloves. But it still comes as a surprise when that bleeds over into real life.

“I said I would protect you, Olivia. No one is going to hurt you while I’m around.”

I go right back to the hotel. Kris gets up to join me but I shake my head. I need to be alone, and I don’t want to put Kris in a position where he’s choosing sides between me and Jordan. The pool deck is empty and a concierge doesn’t stop me as I go outside and choose a chair right near the infinity edge of the pool. It’s a clear, hot night and the breeze from the ocean cuts the air like a knife.

I stay till the moon is high in the sky then take myself upstairs to bed.

Olivia’s brushing her teeth when Jordan puts a pair of sweatpants on the counter.

“They’re Tanger’s, they should almost fit you,” he pauses. “Want me to stay? I talked to TK, he won’t rat on me for sleeping out. He’s still hoping to pull one of your friends anyway.”

She just looks at Jordan and nods. They climb into bed and Jordan wraps his huge frame around her from behind, like a suit of armor. She hasn’t said much because she doesn’t know what to say. There are too many things to give in to – the passion of Max, the protection of Jordan. She can’t bear to think of hurting the beautiful, exuberant, ferocious guy holding her safely in his arms. Man, she says to herself. Jordan is a man. He may be 20 but he is not a child. He’s done so much for me.

Emotionally exhausted, they both drop off quickly.

The next day, we practice in LA. We’ll stay another night in the same hotel then drive the hour to Anaheim before tomorrow’s morning skate. I steer clear of Jordan at the rink and he does the same for me. Olivia is nowhere to be seen. Kris’s look is all questions but all I can do is shrug.

“Crosby, you alright after last night? Liv’s friend give you a good roll?” TK asks indelicately.

Sidney throws a glove at him. “You’re a pig, TK, if you think a gentlemen such as myself would talk about something like that. But for your information, I have a second date tonight.” That earns the captain some howls and rude suggestions. He pretends to be embarrassed but he’s really trying to remember all the tips.

After practice, it’s barely 2 PM and I am back at the hotel. It’s going to be a long day. Kris suggests a walk down the beach boardwalk.

“Have you talked to her?” he asks after a minute. I’m surprised he lasted this long.

“I have not seen her and I cannot go to her.” And it’s killing me. I have no idea how mad she is, if she’s even mad. She never got a chance to answer me.

“Jordan said she’s going to have a bruise on her wrist where you were holding her.”

Oh God. I stop walking. I hurt her.

Kris keeps going. I can tell he’s upset with me, thinks I’m being the same impulsive, irrational asshole that I always am. He’s right. Tanger’s a great guy but he expects a lot from his friends, especially when it comes to respect. I have disrespected Olivia and this is his way of letting me know he’s not pleased.

Guess I deserve this too. Tanger’s mad at me, everyone’s mad at me. I’ve made a right fucking mess of this because I couldn’t just leave it alone.

Olivia comes to dinner. My stomach drops when I see she’s wearing a long sleeve shirt, covering her wrist. If I’ve left a mark on her body I don’t know what I’ll do. She sits between Jordan and Flower. I’m surprised Flower hasn’t confronted me, threatening my life as well. Maybe there is someone left who doesn’t know. As we eat, Olivia actually seems fine – she laughs and talks with everyone, giving Crosby a hard time about her friend and some pointers for his after-dinner date. If anything, it’s Jordan who’s quieter than usual, more brooding. And he’s the one looking at me.

When we finish, someone suggests a nearby bar. Thankfully it’s not the same one as last night. A lot of the team is there – most hoping Crosby will bring his date over later so they can get a look at her. They take over the pool table and darts, hockey players are good at both with their hand-eye coordination. Especially Flower. He’s quickly stuffing $20s in his pocket as he cleans house at the dart board.

Jordan hovers around Olivia like a lion protecting its cub. I don’t blame him. As an hour passes, then two, I realize he’s not going to give me an inch of space tonight. Too soon, I think. He doesn’t want to have to make good on his promise to kill me, so he won’t let me in. Olivia does not look at me once.

A big cheer goes up when Crosby ushers his date through the door. Olivia laughs so hard she almost spits her drink. Crosby puts on his game face and runs the gauntlet of teammates to the bar. The girl, whose name I never did get, is very cute and very embarrassed. That should go well later. Again. I manage a smile for Sid. Before the midnight curfew can hit, I take a cab alone back to the hotel.

My chair at the edge of the pool deck waits for me. I watch the stars, few and dim in the strength of the city lights. I wonder if I’d be sore tomorrow if I slept right here. Twenty minutes later Jordan comes out. He stops two chairs away and lays back.

“She’s in bed,” he says without looking at me. “Got the start of a nasty fucking bruise where you grabbed her.”

“Jordan, I didn’t mean to….”

“But you did. You did the worst thing you could possibly do.” He swings his legs down till he’s sitting. “I should be thrilled, because I think you just threw it all away. You opened the door for me. But I can’t be happy Max because she’s fucking miserable.”

He exhales loudly and looks around, like he’s making a decision. One hand goes in his pocket and he holds out a keycard.

“She wants to talk to you. Might as well go wake her up.”

I can’t believe it. Jordan is giving me the most menacing look I’ve ever seen and he could literally tear me limb from limb, but he’s holding out that key.

“You’re lucky I am the best fucking friend you’ve ever had. I’m only doing this because she wants it. I hope she tells you she never wants to see you again. And tomorrow when her wrist is black and blue I’m going to make her wear short sleeves so everyone can see what you did to her.”

I take the key.

“I meant what I said, Max. I won’t let you hurt her.”

I knock softly as I open the door. The lights are off in her room and the air conditioning unit hums.

“Hi Max,” she says quietly.

I sit down on the end of her king size bed. It’s enormous – I would never have thought being in the same bed as her could feel so far away. The curtains are open a little and a bar of light shines across the comforter. I can almost see her face.

“Are you okay? I didn’t mean to hurt you,” I start and then I cannot stop. “Olivia, I am so sorry, I was so caught up in being angry that I didn’t realize I was holding you so tightly and I can’t believe I actually hurt you.”

I’m about to cry. I am Max fucking Talbot and I don’t even know myself anymore.

“Liv, please…”

“I’m okay, Max. It’s ugly, but it’s just a bruise. I know you didn’t mean to hurt me.”

“That makes it worse! That I could do it without thinking, without knowing… fuck. No wonder you’re so scared of me.”

She laughs softly. “That’s not why I’m scared of you, Max.”

I move up the bed, sitting closer to the pillows. She rolls to face me, but there is still an ocean of space between us.

“I could fall in love with you. That’s what scares me.”

Her words weigh a hundred tons and move at the speed of light. When they collide with my brain, the impact stuns. Love. Me. I should be shouting for joy but that’s not what this feels like.

“You don’t want to be in love with me,” I say, knowing it’s true so I don’t make it a question. If she wanted to be in love with me, she would be. She already has me anyway.

“Max, I don’t know if I even believe in love. The falling feels great, but it’s totally out of control. And when you land it’s a minefield. One wrong step and everything blows up in your face. I went one round against that and lost, I am not eager to go another.”

I roll onto my back and stare at the darkened ceiling. “Liv, I’m scared too. I’ve never been in love and frankly, you make it sound horrible. But I want to be with you. If I thought I could do that without falling in love, I would. Maybe I should have just pretended I was cool and then you could be with me instead of Jordan. You would never have known.”

She chuckles again and even with everything I’m feeling it goes right to my heart. As long as she doesn’t hate me.

“I would have known, Max. When you kiss me I can read your mind.”

“Then you should know that I will be good to you,” I say. “I will never forgive myself for what happened last night and I will never lay another finger on you unless you ask me to. But I would be good to you Olivia.”

“I know.” She rolls onto her back too. “And if you hadn’t held my wrist, I would have slapped you. Or punched you. I was so mad that you were being presumptuous and just taking whatever you wanted. You don’t listen when I talk Max, you just hear what you want. But still, it’s no better me hurting you than the other way around.”

“Except that I can hurt you a lot worse, without even trying.”

“Only where people can see. I hurt you other ways.”

“Try explaining that when everyone sees your bruise.”

“I will,” she says, matter-of-factly.

The silence draws out time. We’ve said so much but accomplished nothing other than to put ourselves right back where we started. I still love her. She still fights me. I’ve been lucky to get a free pass for taking it too far tonight, and I suspect she gave Jordan a similar pass for reacting the way he did. He’s just protecting her.

“If our places had been reversed, I’d have punched Jordan,” I say honestly. I think it’s important that she know just how far I would go to for her, even if she doesn’t like it.

“And Jordan would have killed you. Then I would have ended up with him anyway. Not good math, Max. You need to be more careful.”

She’s right, of course, but hockey players always bite off more than they can chew. It’s in our nature.

“What are we going to do?” I ask her the question that started this whole night.

“If I asked you to stop, to back off, would you?”

My heart and lungs collapse in on themselves. It’s my worst fear – even after all this, spilling my guts in the most unmanly way, almost fucking crying because I’m so worked up and scared – she still won’t want me. But I feel so strongly that she does.

“No, Liv. I may not have handled it right, but I meant what I said. If you don’t want me you’re going to have to say it. Tell me you don’t want me and I’ll go.”

She sighs. “That equation doesn’t count Jordan. Jordan is… Jordan is incredible. While you and I have been messing everything up, Jordan gets it right. He deserves more than what I have been giving him.”

“That’s not how this works and you know it,” I say flatly.

“Max, I don’t want you to love me,” she says quietly.

A punch in the stomach has felt softer. A puck to the face lighter. I might as well be trying to stop an oncoming train for all the control I have over the way I feel for her.

“Too bad, Olivia. I love you.”

There it is, like a lead balloon. Might as well tie my shoelaces to it, because we are going to the bottom together.

“Kiss me.”

My heart beats so hard I can’t be sure I’ve heard her correctly. But before I have a chance to find out I’m wrong, I’m across the bed, covering her mouth with my own. She tastes like salt and it spears my heart – she was crying, I made her cry. I redouble my efforts, attack her lips and slip my tongue into her mouth. Blood is rushing through my body like Class V whitewater and my mind is completely blank but for the sensation of being connected to her.

A minute later, gasping, she breaks away. I let my head fall into her pillow, my own breathing ragged.

“Shit,” she says. “I love you too.”

Neither of us move. She says it like she’s disappointed to find out it’s true, like she had a bad feeling about it all along. My heart stops, waiting for whatever comes next.

“Liv…,” I start speaking in French, I’m so overwhelmed. “Je t’aime. Je t’adore. Je suis desole pour mes erreurs…”

“Shhhh,” she says. “Please go.”

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chapter XIII: Make Good

“Can you come upstairs for a minute?” Mario asks over the phone. His assistant sends her right in. She opens the door and sees me sitting in front of Mario’s desk.


“Hi Olivia,” Mario stands, because he’s a gentleman and he always stands when she comes into the room. It never made her nervous before. She takes the seat next to me, like kids in the principal’s office. Mario waves his hands over his desk.

“I don’t think you’ve seen these yet.” He holds out two stacks of photos, one for each of us.

Each pile is about twenty pictures. Olivia slowly sorts through, her heart rate rising with every turn. They are all in this office, on this desk. Me standing before her. Me leaning into her. Me moving in for the kiss. And then fifteen photos of the kiss, with slight variations. My hand moves from the desk to her waist, her hand presses flat to my chest.

My pile starts with the kiss – the first image of it looks so sensual and captivating that I feel it all over again. Breath catches and my lips feel hers, silky smooth. Then we break apart, looking surprised, sexually charged, a little guilty. She looks away. I just stare.

Olivia lifts her batch of photos and covers her face with them.

“I was under the impression, Olivia, that you were spending your free time with Jordan,” Mario says.

Holy Mother of God, she thinks. “You knew about that?”

Mario laughs. “I knew the instant the rule was broken. I am happy to report you lasted no longer than anyone else ever has. We choose our players well, I think. They are very irresistible.”

“I hate you,” she says. To both of us. “I was really scared that I could lose my job over that rule. Please don’t laugh at me too!”

Mario put his hands up in surrender. “That rule is impossible to enforce. But I can tell you that if breaking it becomes a problem, then there may be consequences. It’s never happened, so I don’t know what to think. But I look at these photos and, well, that is not Jordan.” He brandishes a particularly sensual, evocative kissing photo. Then he hands us them another stack.

“And this dress is not business attire.” It’s the photos with Jordan. Olivia would not know it was her if she’d not been present for the photos. The woman in them looks like a model, looks like an otherworldly creature of the night.

I pull them from her hand, but lean in so she can see. She and Jordan under the faux streetlight, standing close. Touching. Kissing – a particularly good one of her on tiptoes and his big hands pressed barely above her ass. Then the poses: sadness, angst, goodbye. In one photo, shot close up, Olivia’s head is toward the camera and down. Her profile looks gut-wrenched. Jordan is looking at the top of her head, his eyes downcast with longing.

This looks like how they really feel, I think. In truth it’s a beautiful photo.

“Does Jordan know about this?” Mario asks. Olivia shakes her head. “You’d better tell him. Because that’s what they’re running. Honestly they are great photos. You look spectacular, and GQ loves them. But I cannot have in-fighting here because of this.”

Olivia’s face is solemn and she looks afraid. “Can I take these? I will make sure there’s no problem.”

Mario nods, and we leave. When the elevator door closes, she leans heavily into the wall.

“Liv,” I try to apologize.

“Don’t, Max. I have to handle it.”

Jordan comes gladly into Olivia’s office and shuts the door. Maybe time for a quickie, he thinks hopefully. She’s on the couch and doesn’t look happy. He takes the photo she’s holding out.

She and Max, on Mario’s desk, kissing. Not just kissing. They’re having sex in their minds, both of them. The kiss is just the point of contact. What’s really going on in this photo is lust, about to explode, regardless of consequence. Like an electric shock that comes in at a single point yet burns through the entire body. This photo is the moment of inception.

“Max kissed me. It was kinda like our photo – the photographer wanted it. But I was surprised and it got a little away from me.” She hands him another photo – slightly different, same effect. Then another.

“I’m sorry,” she said. She hasn’t looked at him.

“This is more than a kiss.” He’s furious, a thousand voices are screaming in his mind. Most of them are yelling at Max.

She covers her face with her hands. “Jordan, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean for that the happen.”

“Is it happening? Is it ongoing?” She shakes her head no. Jordan wants to believe her.

At first, Jordan wanted the same casual setup Olivia was after. Friends with benefits, really. But she has grown on him. He’s been biding his time, working the casual angle until the time is right. He doesn’t want to do it so soon, but apparently he’s not the only player at the table. And he does not intend to share her with his teammate.

“Olivia, I like you. I see that you and Max have something, but you and I are great together. Maybe we’re even better. There’s only one way to know for sure. Be my girlfriend.”

It’s like a punch to her gut.

“Jordan, I didn’t want anything serious,” she’s on the verge of tears.

“Neither did I,” he says. “But things change.” His arm goes around her back, drawing her in.

“I don’t know if this is right for us.”

“Because it’s right for you and Max? If your only option is to be serious with someone, you choose Max? I have been there for you, Olivia. I didn’t want this either but it happened. I won’t ignore that or lie about it because you’re not ready.” He sits up, pulling away from her a bit. “I know I’m really young. I’ve already shown I can be there when you need me. Show me the rest – show me how to be better than the person who hurt you.”

“You’re already better, Jordan,” she says softly.

“But I’m not Max.”

“This isn’t a contest. It’s not you against Max. It’s me against myself. I don’t want to get hurt again and I certainly don’t want to hurt anyone else. You know I like you. You have been… you’ve been perfect, Jordan. You’ve been an excellent un-boyfriend.” She smiles a little then he smiles a little. “Give me some time. I won’t do anything with Max, I promise. I just need to think, okay?”

He nods, still smiling. He’s pushed as far as he can and now he’ll ease up. “You have a while before those pictures come out anyway.” With a kiss to the tip of her nose, he gets up to leave.

“Oh Liv, I…. Shit.” he averts his gaze like he’s embarrassed, the leans his forehead against the door frame. He’s looking at her from the corner of his eye.

“I asked Dan if you could come on the west coast trip instead of him. After Scott called your house the other night I didn’t want to leave you here alone. Dan said something about going to a wedding with his wife instead… I might not be able to get you out of it. I’m sorry. I should have….”

Olivia can’t help but smile. “You are something else, Staal.”

“Something good?”

She nods. “Something good. I’ll go on the trip. I don’t like that he called me either, so soon after showing up here. He’s not dangerous, but he is persistent. And if I’m alone when he dies, I won’t have anyone else to blame it on.”

“I’d rather have you with us, even if you’re not with me,” he’s very serious, in protective mode. “I really don’t like that guy.”

She shoos him out the door. “I really don’t like him either.”

Better get this thinking started quickly, she leans against the closed door when he’s gone.

Olivia takes a personal day but doesn’t get much thinking done. Well, she thinks about it all day. Progress is the hard part. Her mental list of pros and cons is all pros, for both Jordan and Max. The only con is her. She’s like a gaping hole in the plan.

Jordan has never given her a reason to doubt him. Okay, he went from casual to not casual, but he’s not freaking out. And he really wants to protect her, which she thinks is adorable and comforting. She doesn’t want to need it, but her last encounter with Scott left her really shaken.

As for Max, he’s learned his lesson about the rule. Olivia has exacted her pound of flesh and she’s past that. But he scares her. The kiss scares her. Knowing Max could reduce her body and brain to fire in mere seconds is overwhelming, intoxicating, devastating. And she can’t shake his reputation. Max Talbot: Ladies Man. No wonder, with that kiss lurking around, waiting to be unleashed on unsuspecting prey. Olivia wants to believe Max, that he wants only her. But that has bitten her before. Vanity and pride, she scolds herself. Scott didn’t want you that way last time.

Still she cautions herself not to blame Max for someone else’s mistake. It’s not his fault she got dumped and humiliated. If anything, Max has made that better. Everyone wants to be rescued, every broken heart wants to be mended. So why am I fighting so hard? She wished it were just one of them. She’d let herself go then. But to choose between Max and Jordan, to make a decision that could be the wrong one – anxiety spun in her head. Your choice, Olivia. If you play, you might lose again.

The biggest thing she did wrong with Scott, besides trust a snake, was be dishonest with herself. She looked away from the truth. Now she forces herself to examine it. It’s not pretty. Why am I doing this again?

I’m more comfortable with Jordan. Jordan’s kiss doesn’t have the same effect as Max’s. I am scared of Max, of me and Max together. Jordan doesn’t scare me. He just makes me happy. But Max makes me crazy – crazy like I’ve never felt before, crazy like falling for someone is supposed to feel. Crazy like legendary, love-of-your-life crazy.

What!?! Stop it. Now you’re really crazy.

We fly to Phoenix. It’s at least a hundred degrees outside but the hotel air conditioning is set to stun. Olivia puts her suit jacket on in the lobby. I swear to God if her nipples are hard through that blouse I’d go right to jail for what I’d do to her. It’s going to be a long trip.

We don’t have much time – dinner, then curfew. I come back from the corner store to find TK, Olivia and Kris having a 30 Rock marathon in my room. While they watch the show, I watch her and wonder where Jordan is. She’s in yoga pants – not shapeless sweatpants, but the good, clingy kind. Her toenails are bright pink, just like her t-shirt. When she laughs, which is more often than either of the guys, it’s a short, sharp bark at a sarcastic one-liner. Just like something she would say. They finish two more before she shuts down the computer.

“Don’t want to get anyone in trouble! More tomorrow.” She says goodnight and leaves. I sit on my hands until she’s gone and then lock us in. TK rolls his eyes and goes to sleep.

There is certain unspoken etiquette among roommates. So I wait until TK is snoring loudly before my mind makes quick work of Olivia’s stretchy pants. I actually picture her coming right back into my room. While TK saws logs, Olivia quietly strips and climbs into bed. We whisper and laugh, trying to be quiet. Desire finally takes over as I lay on top, my face close to hers’, whispering dirty things in French. She tastes the translation on my skin. I fill her with each stroke and she breathes audibly, nearly panting. My hands hold her hips steady, I rock them up when I push my way down. As air catches in her throat, I feel her pussy tighten. She’s so close – and it’s all up to me. I give her a little less, a little more, a little less… then finally, when she’s whispering very vulgar curses into my neck, I push my cock into her tight little hole as hard as I can, forcing a tiny, choked sob out of her body. The squeak is almost loud enough – TK rolls over. For a single, endless second, I am in her up to the hilt, her orgasm quaking around my hard cock as she bites down on my shoulder to keep from crying out. He snores again. I release with relief, coming inside her in the same instant her tension breaks and she goes slack with pleasure underneath me.

I stay late after the morning skate, since it’s walking distance to the hotel, to work with a trainer on a twinge that’s bothering my shoulder. The locker room is empty when I shower, so I barely have the towel around my waist as I walk out.

And Olivia walks in.

“Hi!” She stops short and spins around. “Sorry! I didn’t think anyone was here.”

I should laugh, make a joke, then parade around nearly naked until she has to run for it. I should be casual. But we all know I suck at that. I’m thinking about the kiss, about the photos and again in her office. I’m thinking about the sheer black stockings she’s wearing under her almost-too-short skirt. I walk right up to her back then spin her around.

“No one is here.” My voice is gravely before I put my mouth to hers. The towel drops to the floor as I hold onto her arms. She’s stock still, but not pulling away. I kiss harder, more insistently. Give in, Oliva, give in to me.

With a shudder of her body, she does. She opens her mouth under mine, and the second my tongue tastes hers she loses it. One hand goes to the back of my hair and draws me in. I push a hand up her thigh, raising her skirt a little so I can get closer to her body. My fingertips brush lace – her stockings are thigh-highs, holding themselves up. I force her skirt higher and feel the other one, my hands running up her outer things and down along the middle where I really want to be.

I’m naked and I’m hard. I angle my body right into hers and more lace brushes the underside of my cock. The thin strip of panties is all that stands between me and the hot, sweet treat I’ve been dreaming of for months. She moans into my mouth as I push hard against her, giving her the full outline of what I’d like to put inside her.

“Max,” she gasps as I move my lips to her neck, still grinding my erection against her now-wet opening.

A door slams. We fly apart – Olivia actually runs into the nearest office. I quickly retrieve my towel and wrap myself. Just as I’m covered, the trained I’d been with wanders past. He holds up a first aid kit.

“Almost left my stuff,” he says on his way out.

Olivia comes out at the same time. She’s straightened her skirt but her hair has a tell-tale hint of mess to it. “Bye Max,” she doesn’t look at me.

I go back into the shower to finish what those thigh-high stockings started.

Olivia hides in her room, sitting perfectly still at the end of the bed. Her mouth tastes of Max. Her skin feels his hands. She’s hasn’t changed her panties and not a single thought is in her mind but the thick outline of his hard-on between them. Oh my God. What am I doing? I cannot give in to Max or I will lose my mind. He always gets what he wants then he doesn’t want it anymore. Christ I want him. But it’s more than that. She feels faint – her body temperature is still too high and she’s still really, really turned on. Deep breaths do little to help. Until she thinks of Jordan and the promise she made, that she wouldn’t do anything with Max. Then she starts to cry.

Max knows he’s in dangerous territory. If they’d been busted in the locker room, he might have talked their way out of it with that trainer. But if anyone ever sees what he’s writing now, he won’t have any excuses. He presses SEND.

Max: I want to finish what we started. 

Olivia: Please stop.

Max: I know you’re still wet for me.

Her heart almost stops when she reads it. This is going too far, too fast. And the sick feeling in her stomach is mostly because he’s right.

Max: Let me make you feel the way I do.

Olivia: I can’t.

She sends the text, but before it can connect there is a loud knock on her door. Another burst of adrenaline goes through her body. All this spiking and her heart is going to give out. The knock comes again, harder. And again. She opens the door because she knows otherwise Max will break it down.

Jordan walks in.

“Knew you were here.” He kicks the door shut behind him and wraps his arms around her. Before she can protest, he’s kissing her. Then he smiles guilelessly. “I know I said I wouldn’t do that. But having you in his hotel is making me really horny.” He seems to know that she’s making a decision. But he could never guess what it really is. To be helpful, he strips naked in under three seconds.

“Want me to leave?” he asks.

Olivia takes the easy way out – she makes up for a promise he doesn’t even know was broken. No decisions about Max. No more text messages, no more thoughts about his body or his kiss. She transfers all that energy to a target she already knows, one she has already marked. Without a word, she drops to her knees and takes Jordan’s growing erection into her mouth.

“Woah, Liv,” he says, eyes wide in surprise and sensation.

She pulls back a little, dragging her tongue along the underside of his cock until it’s just outside her lips. Then she looks up at him.

“Shut up or I’ll stop.”

“Yes ma’am!”

She lets her mind go blank. Just feel. Don’t think. Don’t think of Max, or of all the things she said she didn’t want. Today made her a liar, so she loses herself in Jordan. As she slides her lips along his length, touching his tip to the back of her throat with a deep breath, she lets it all go in a frustrated, uncontrolled burst of emotion.

Jordan isn’t 6’ 4” with huge hands and feet without the rest of his body also being larger that life. Olivia actually smiles as she does her best with his size. From the first time she saw him naked, she wondered if she’d be able to make him happy this way. He certainly seems happy, his hands wrapped in her hair and his voice rasping.

“God, that feels God. Fuck you are amazing, Olivia.”

She responds by moving faster, harder. It’s absolutely impossible not to deep throat him almost every time – he’s too long for anything else. She nearly gags and it really turns him on.

“Oh Liv, get it all baby.”

A laugh wells up in her body. She presses his dick up flat against his belly and gives his balls a good, strong lick. Then she tugs them gently downward, away from his body.

“Liv…,” he gasps.

She knows what that means. Her mouth swallows him and she moves quickly. She sucks hard, twisting her tongue around him like a popsicle. Jordan pulls her head in, fucking her mouth in return. His hips twist and she tries to keep it together with the tip of his cock jamming down her throat. It only lasts another minute. Jordan moans loudly and holds her face into his lap as he comes. She swallows twice, then he thrusts again and she swallows once more. When he finally lets go, she slowly draws her lips over every inch of his skin before pressing a kiss to the dripping head of his penis. He falls backward onto the bed like a cut tree. She rips off her clothes, except for her stockings then climbs on top of his prone body.

“Jordan, I need you to make me come.”

His eyes pop open with a smile. “Good think I’m at my peak or I might need a nap first.”

He slides his arms between her legs and hauls her up until she’s straddling his face. Olivia puts her hands to the wall over his head. As he licks and sucks it’s easy to forget everything. Jordan is very, very good with his tongue. He keeps his eyes open to watch her full breasts bounce against her body.

She’s soaking wet and already humming like a live wire. It’s not long before she’s grinding her pussy into his face and he’s tracing a finger around her back door. The feeling is building in her body, but she doesn’t want to end like this. It’s not enough. She needs to be punished, wants to be punished. Moving one of her hands down his long torso confirms that he is hard and ready to go again.

“Fuck me Jordan, I want you to fuck me.”

Instantly he flips her onto her back, all 220 pounds landing on top of her.

“Say that to my face.” His eyes are flashing.

“Fuck me, Jordan. I want you now.” She doesn’t even listen to herself. Inside, she’s lost control of her thoughts and her mind is screaming.

He roughly forces her legs apart, wraps them around his back slams his cock home into her trembling, glistening core. An anguished cry forces itself from her lips then Jordan quiets her with his own mouth. Olivia feels she might be torn in two by the force of his thrusts. But her body is reacting, and quickly. Her stomach is tight. Every time Jordan pounds his dick into the deepest part of her, the walls of her pussy involuntarily grip him like a vice. Olivia is not driving this ride. Instead he’s tearing the sensation forcibly from her body. It builds.

“Harder, Jordan,” she whispers.

“I don’t want to hurt you,” he says, maintaining his pace.

“Harder!” she says at full volume. He shakes his head then bounces them both off the mattress until the force of landing drives him farther into her body. His hands grip her ass and pull her onto his throbbing cock like a marshmallow onto a stick. His rhythm is perfect, striking her hot spot again and again like a prize fighter going for a TKO. She presses her hands to the wall, holding herself down and writhes her hips as his dick disappears inside her.

He groans, “I’m gonna come.”

“Me too,” she’s so close the words almost don’t make it out.

“Say my name, Olivia. I want to hear you when you come.”

He redoubles his effort, lifting her body off the mattress with each monumental thrust. Her legs tremble and lock, her back arches. His arms squeeze her tight, pulling the last drop of anticipation from her body before it snaps like a string.

“Jordan!” The first wave rips through her. It’s like a hurricane, spinning and lifting and twisting. Then it crashes down onto her and the impact sends another blast into her body. Ripples race in every direction – her toes, fingers, eyelids tingle as she shudders against Jordan’s massive member still stuffed deep inside her. His whole body locks around her. She’s so far down onto his cock she thinks he might come into her heart.

“Jordan,” she says again, quietly, as he growls a string of expletives and pumps another round into her body. He throbs inside her, tension exploding from the end of his dick like wake behind a boat. When he finally goes still, he puts his head to her chest.

“Someday you’ll have to tell me where you learned to fuck like a porn star,” he laughs softly.

“When you’re older, I’ll introduce you to my director. We could all get rich off the size of your dick.”

Jordan goes quiet as he traces his fingers across her stomach. They are both spent and Olivia is starting to drift to sleep when he speaks again. “Is this okay, Liv? I thought you didn’t want to do this. Not that I’m complaining. I might not be able to skate tonight, but I’m not complaining.”

My next two texts get no reply. It takes all my power not to bust her door down right now and give her what she says she doesn’t want. But she wants it. Her tongue was in my mouth, my hands between her thighs. She was wet for me and I felt her gasp when I pressed my bare cock against her slit. Her flesh was hot to the touch, and I got to touch it. The memory makes me dizzy. I have to jerk off twice at pre-game nap, which makes a total of three times today. Any more of this and I’m going to be sore later.

Max: I can still taste you.

Max: I can still feel your heat against my skin.

She hadn’t said anything.

When she boards the bus to the arena, my pants get awfully tight. I have to shift in my seat at the sight of her perfect ass in dark pants with a yellow top tucked into the waist. She smiles at something Geno says and I feel those lips pressed hard to mine.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chapter XII: Covenant

A/N: Covenant - a promise within a contract for the performance or non-performance of a specified act.

I drive to the Mellon just before 8 AM. Only two cars are in the lot – Olivia’s and Kris’s. I assume Jordan stayed at hers and they rode in together, but when I reach the locker room he is nowhere to be found. Olivia straightens Kris’ tie, then steps back. I have to admit he looks good. She looks like she wants to take a bite out of him.

“It’s a good thing Staalsy’s not here to see you looking at Kris that way,” I say.

She rubs her hand over my cheek and jaw. “Hmmm, scruffy. Now I’m thinking it about both of you.”

Olivia looks a little high-fashion herself – she’s wearing ankle boots with a stiletto heel, another devastating pencil skirt and a high-necked sleeveless white blouse. I’m guessing there’s a short blazer around that goes over. Her hair is a pouf with a high ponytail – very polished, a little equestrian… it makes me wish she had a riding crop in hand. Before 8 AM she is wearing eyeliner.

“You look nice today too. Don’t want to be shown up by the boys?” I’ve got my t-shirt off and I see her look at my chest before answering.

“Just in case they need an extra for this photo shoot,” she spins on one delicate heel and sashays away.

Kris goes first, since he’s ready first. They shoot him in the brick hallway, using the long, empty corridor as a backdrop. I dress and watch as they pose him, give him cues on where to walk and turn, light the scene. Between shots, Olivia comes out a door father down and walks toward us in silhouette. Her jacket is on - I recognize her body, her outfit.

“Stop,” say the photographer. Olivia freezes, worried she’s walking into a shot. The photographer takes a few snaps of her from far away then looks at his screen. “Come closer.” She walks another five steps and he stops her, shoots again.

“Right there,” he says.

He has Kris reenact what he was doing – turning into the hallway, walking right past the camera – with Olivia in the background. Only her outline is visible: feminine shape, skirt, hair. She’s in complete darkness. The photographer fires off a ton of shots.

“Now lean your back against the wall,” he points to her. She does, and angles her head back. The line of her throat and chin makes the shape of her look delicate. On instinct, she raises a knee and presses the bottom of one shoe against the wall. Like she’s waiting for him, or maybe he’s walking away from her. Kris repeats his actions a third time.

“That’s it, got it,” the photographer says. “Perfect. New plan.” His assistant approaches Olivia as he leads me away.

My photos are in color. We use Mario’s office, with its important-looking desk and nice bookshelves. I sit, stand, lean and walk. I keep waiting for Olivia to come in – I’m angry that she’s missing this. They stop to change the lighting and she finally arrives. She’s in her sleeveless top and her hair has been loosened into that messy, bed-head knot that I love. Why does her eyeliner look darker? Why is the makeup lady chasing her?


I get it as she comes right up and stops before the photographer. He looks her up and down, like she’s a car he’s about to buy.

“Great,” he says. Then he pats the edge of the desk. “Lean right here.”

Olivia perches her butt on the corner of the desk, arranges her skirt and then looks up at me. I definitely know what the photographer is going for here: anyone looking at these photos will want to do exactly what I want to do right now. I move in close – too close, closer than I should be – and put a palm down on the desk next to her. Our bodies align. We are definitely not touching and it’s gorgeous. She’s gorgeous. The camera is snapping away, but I don’t hear anyone talking.

The apprehensive look in her eyes makes my blood boil. Olivia is tremendously sexy, confident and strong, but for the first time I see doubt behind that persona. She has been cajoled into this and does not think she belongs here. Her lips part slightly as she gathers a breath for bravery. Her dark blue eyes crease at the corners like she’s fighting back nerves. I am lost; lost in the moment and lost in the vulnerability she’s suddenly showing.

Without direction, thought or pretense, I lean in and kiss her.

The lights go out instantly, like someone put a candle snuffer over my head. All I do is feel – feel her lips, feel her warmth, feel a heady rush of adrenaline and a spear of longing. Desire rushes up in me. Certainly a physical desire, but also again the desire to protect her, help her, show her that I think she is everything this photographer thinks she is and more.

“Max. Max!” the photographer’s voice cuts through my darkness.

I pull back, the blood draining from my body. Olivia still sits before me, face tilted upwards toward mine, mouth flush from the pressure of kissing. A soft, tremulous sigh escapes as she opens her eyes.

“Woah,” he says. “We definitely got what we wanted here.”

They all start packing up to leave the office. Olivia blinks at me, drags her tongue across her lips and leaves without a word.

“How do I look?” Jordan asks, turning from the mirror as Olivia comes into the room.

She’s frazzled. She’s weak and dizzy with the taste of Max on her tongue. Her heart and body cannot process what just happened, so her brain lags behind. Eventually the problem of being photographed kissing him will surface. For a national magazine. If Olivia could think clearly about it, she’d know that the photos show what they felt. They show all the forbidden lust the photographer hoping to capture.

“Jordan,” she says shakily. “You look great.”

He does: all 6’ 4” inches of him, wrapped in expensive fabric like a fantasy Christmas present. The white tie on white shirt still works – it makes the blue of his eyes pop. He looks beachy, where the other guys looked brooding. And he’s twice their size. Jordan wants to kiss her. He feels extremely confident, dressed to the nines, shooting for a fashion magazine, all with his beautiful un-girlfriend to see it. A woman, he reminds himself. Not a girl. She’s unlike anyone he’s ever known, certainly anyone he’s ever been with. But he can’t tell her that. Because they are casual.

The photographer comes in just as Jordan is going to put his arms around her. He sees that Jordan is ready.

“Olivia, if you could, makeup has something for you to change into.”

Change into? Jordan thinks.

“Looks like I’m part of this whole shoot,” she says, shrugging. And she runs off.

What if the photographer says something?! Olivia went in there to tell Jordan, but failed. I kissed Max. Max kissed me. Max and I were photographed kissing. A million copies will be printed and for sale in every store in every town in every state.

Then the part she can’t even manage to say to herself: And I liked it.

Since she’s not saying anything, the last bit doesn’t matter. Right? Right?! I knew I liked Max. That kiss on my birthday was a warning shot. Imminent danger. But it’s not supposed to be serious. That kiss was serious.

Olivia had willed Max to kiss her. In the instant before it happened, she wished for it. Her nerves were frayed, her heart pounding. I don’t belong in this photo shoot, she was thinking. This is ridiculous. The tune changed when she got to the office, saw Max in that suit the same stormy color as his eyes. He was looking at her like she deserved to be there, like he saw her that way all the time. I don’t want Max. I don’t want to be here. I can’t do this. The voice in her head became frantic and the closer Max got, the louder it protested. Then he kissed her. And everything went silent.

Blindly, Olivia zips up the dress they’ve given her. It’s short, asymmetrical – definitely couture, not something she would have even been able to afford. The hazel color compliments her skin tone and the hair stylist spills her updo, laying sections of hair over her shoulders and spraying the lifted roots. The makeup artist dabs around her eyes and slicks gloss on her lips. Olivia wiggles away and looks in the mirror.

Oh boy.

This is not the contextual, business-atmosphere look of the other two photos. This is a party look. A sultry, take-me-home outfit with hair and makeup to match. Olivia hardly recognizes herself.

“Umm, woah. What is the gist of this?”

The photographer stops reloading his memory cards. “I’m thinking a work theme. Before, in the hall. During, in the office. And after. We found a spot.”

Olivia is in too deep to back out now. “I thought this shoot was about the guys. I’m in all these photos and this is not what I do at work!”

His look says it all. He appreciates the fight she feels she has to put up, the point she has to make. But his face asks, ‘What woman wouldn’t love this?’

“The shoot is about the clothes. The guys make them look good. And you make the guys look good.” He puts a hand on her arm, like he’s comforting her. Olivia knows when she’s being ‘handled’ – she’s done the same thing countless times. She is ‘talent’ at this point, he can’t have her freaking out.

“The stuff looks really, really good. Especially from the office.” 

Dear God in Heaven, I want to die, she thinks.

The photographer steers her through the door. “One more and it’s all over.”

My heart actually stops. Olivia walks toward us, leading the army of staff that seems to have grown throughout the shoot. She looks eight feet tall, with hair like a lion’s mane and dark, shocking eye makeup. The bronze dress she wears leaves just enough to the imagination to ensure I’ll never think about anything else again.

“Wow, Liv,” Kris says from next to me.

She smiles tightly, still uncomfortable. I am uncomfortable too, but my problems are moving down below my belt. It’s getting very hot in here. Before she has a chance to say anything they are ushering her to the set.

I want to hurry, to beat her there and see Jordan’s reaction. I can’t. Luckily, he’s still standing with his mouth open when I arrive. We’re in a hangar-like loading area that’s been cleared and swept. Overhead hangs a single bright bulb, like a streetlight at night.

“Liv, you look…,” he doesn’t know what to say because there are no words. She looks like a goddess, something from Maxim, if Maxim were slightly classy. She walked straight out of Vogue. Not that I read Vogue. I know in that instant that Jordan feels very strongly for Olivia. The pretense of casual is gone from his eyes, his body language. She would never look like this every day – none of us would want her too. It’s too much. But the idea of it, knowing that she could, sparks a possession instinct that I have never experienced before. This is mine, I want to say. No one would hear me over Jordan.

Olivia puts on a brave face. What I saw in the office – the fear, the doubt, the apprehension – it’s still there, but she’s masking it. She’s playing along. Her laugh is a little wrong, her feet unsteady. But only I got to see the real vulnerability. 

That’s what I really want, I know. That’s real. This is just an incredible bonus.

The photographer positions her under the light and checks the meter. Then Jordan joins her. It’s a scene from a movie – two lovers, clandestine meeting. He puts an arm around her, they’re directed to stand far enough apart so light reaches between their bodies. An assistant positions them closer, then farther, now facing each other, then looking down. The scene is beautiful – her dress catches just enough light to throw a hint of color into the photo. Jordan’s debonair suit reeks of class. The photographer shoots them close up and from a distance. For the last shot, he asks them to say ‘goodbye.’ Olivia lifts up onto her toes, stiletto heels off the ground, and puts her arms around Jordan’s neck. She presses a soft, almost chaste kiss to his lips, then to his cheek.

The photographer takes a minute to page through his photos on the camera screen. He smiles a few times, then says, “That’s a wrap.”

Olivia lets go of Jordan immediately, uncomfortable again. Everyone mills around, cleaning up. I wait for them to catch up before we head to the locker room. The whole team is inside – we can hear them talking and laughing. Olivia stops in the hallway.

“My clothes are in the back. Could you get them for me?” I assume she’s asking Jordan, so I go right in.

“If they miss seeing you like this, they’ll kill me,” Jordan says, tugging Olivia toward the room.

“Please Jordan, I really don’t want to. I’m not comfortable like this,” she pleads.

“Olivia, you look amazing. Like perfect 10, supermodel, drop-dead gorgeous amazing. I have never, ever seen a more beautiful woman in my life.” He wraps an arm around her. This is dangerous – they’re in the hallway, anyone could see them. “Not since you woke up this morning, at least.” 

I’m fine, I’m fine, she repeats to herself. Jordan hit the nail on the head – Olivia feels like an overdone slut in this outfit. It’s too much for normal life. But if he thinks she’s beautiful when she wakes up…

“I looked better this morning than I do now?” she tests.

He laughs, his arms still around her. “Not better. But you looked like you. This is like fantasy, comic-book you. I like them both.” He goes for it, nuzzling into her hair. “I like them both a lot.” He opens the door with his back and pulls her into the room.

A single, quiet beat passes through the room, like waiting to see if someone’s heart will beat after using a defibrillator. The moment it does, the crowd goes wild.

“Holy shit!” TK yells.

Jordan lets go and twirls Olivia around for everyone to see. She’s smiling a little now, flattered by his words and the attention.

“Wow. Olivia, you are wow,” Geno says, coming close like he can’t believe it’s really her. He even touches her hair.

“Olivia was part of our photo shoot this morning. Wait until you see it – everyone will be talking about our photo,” Jordan brags.

I don’t think so. Max and Olivia catch each other’s eye and know they’re thinking the same thing. Just the sight of him makes her stomach flip. She feels tipsy and maybe oxygen deprived. He’s looking at her like he’s the snake and she’s the apple. This garden isn’t big enough for everyone.

Olivia closes herself in her office during the morning skate. While she brushes the hairspray loose, tears come to her eyes, then track makeup down her face. She’s embarrassed, scared, overwhelmed. How did I let that happen? I’m supposed to be in charge of NOT letting that happen.

It had been fun at first – you couldn’t really see her in Kris’ photos anyway. When the photographer asked her to be in Max’s, she agreed. Then he explained the concept. She tried to back out but he wouldn’t hear it. The real reason might have saved her, but she couldn’t bring herself to say ‘I am afraid of Max.’ And fear it was. Fear of what she felt around him, what she could feel if she let herself. Fear of what happened last time she’d done exactly that. Also there was fear of Jordan, knowing that she liked being with him and liked where they were. Don’t rock the boat, baby.

She drank a bottle of water before using a whole pack of makeup remover wipes to clean her eyes. They were puffy, but scrubbed. A knock sounded at her door.

I have to see her. I have to know.

I knock on Olivia’s door. The second I see her face, I know. She’s been crying. Her makeup is gone and her eyes are swollen.

“More beautiful now,” I say. I can’t help it. Tears well back up in her eyes and I go right around the desk. She lets me lift her up, wrap my arms around her and settle against the edge, her body leaning into mine. I put a hand to the back of her head and press it into my shoulder, shushing her softly in French. Without permission, I kiss her again. I taste salt on her lips, tears in her throat. I taste what I saw in her eyes earlier – fear, uncertainty, self-consciousness. She melts into me and for the first time, in real privacy, lets me kiss her.

“Max, I can’t do this,” she breathes when I pull away. Her blue eyes look hyper-colored with the sparkle of tears. “I’m too scared, I’m not ready. This wasn’t supposed to happen so soon.”

“Nothing’s ever supposed to happen. Please don’t fight me, Olivia.” She sighs, pressed her forehead to my neck. I’m still holding her.

“When you kiss me, I… I lose it. Okay? I lose what little composure I have anymore. It’s different with you.” She gathers her nerve and looks me right in the eye. “This is serious, Max. You feel serious.”

“I am serious. I have never pretended. I didn’t mean to kiss you before but I know you felt it too. I want to make you happy, protect you. I’m just asking you to let me.” I can’t even listen to myself, begging for an inch of rope. I’ll probably hang myself with it. But my heart is not my own and I would do it gladly for her.

“I still need time. I want those things too. But I have to be ready, and I have to know you are ready too.” She breaks my embrace. “When is the last time you couldn’t have everything what you wanted?”

In life, probably yesterday. From a woman… I cannot answer. I don’t often get turned down. But I don’t often choose women who may be out of my league. When I take too long, she speaks.

“See? You get everything easy then you don’t want it anymore. I can’t risk that. Let me get myself together. And you can worry about starting something that maybe you can’t finish.”

“And what about Jordan? What is it you plan to finish with him?” It’s ugly when I say it. I am fully jealous now and letting it run away with me. She’s saying she wants me, cares about me, but she’s with someone else. Someone I know. He likes her more than she thinks, but I cannot bring myself to say that. Jordan is my friend after all, and I will not spill his secrets. Maybe when she finds out her plan for casual has backfired, she’ll come to me.

She presses her lips together until they’re white. “Jordan is different. I need to re-learn myself. You don’t go right to the top of the mountain.”

“So Jordan is the bunny slope?” I almost laugh. “Jordan is training wheels?”

Her expression is hard, she does not appreciate my joke. “Jordan is important to me. I like him. He makes me happy and he doesn’t pressure me. Jordan is in my life.” I’m being warned now too.

I want to say that I don’t know how long I can wait. That I don’t like her stringing me along, keeping me on the line until she tires of Jordan. I want to say that I won’t share her, it’s my way or the highway, love it or leave it. But I don’t, because it’s not true. I will wait, I will watch and I will pray for the day Olivia finds whatever she’s looking for. But I won’t like it.

To show my displeasure with her decision, I kiss her again. Sparks shoot through my stomach, into my crotch, down my legs and out of my feet. My brain rings like a bell and I know she feels it too. This is my weapon. Fire all guns.

“Come home with me now,” I say. I mean it, but it’s mostly a test.

“Max…,” she growls.

“Just so you’re clear on what I want,” I answer. In an act of self-control not seen ever in my history, I peel myself from her body and leave.

Olivia leaves the locker room as soon as the post-game media does. Her phone rings on the way home.

“You left without saying goodbye,” Jordan says.

“Sorry, I don’t feel that well.” It’s true, but not how it sounds.

“Want me to come over and make you soup?” He’s so sincere, she can’t help but smile.

“I just need to sleep. Someone’s been wearing me out lately.”

He laughs. “I thought this was your peak! Twelve years to go, baby!”

I lay awake and think of her. Not like I usually do, though I have ammunition now to last me a long time. Instead I think of what we’d be like together. Things I would do for her: where I’d take her on vacation, what part of the closet I’d clean out for her. Things she’d do for me, like make my house a home to come back to after days on the road. What we’d do in the off-season.

I promise myself that I won’t give up. My gut tells me that I won’t have to wait very long. I resolve not to make any mistakes or push too hard, just stay in the picture and bide my time.  Who am I kidding?


Monday, July 19, 2010

Chapter XI: Optioned

Last night feels worse this morning. I pound a Gatorade and think: Thank God Staal doesn’t have a contract with them. I wouldn’t be able to drink this anymore. I know he’s with her. It’s like a disturbance in the Force. While I was paying someone to pretend to be Olivia, Jordan was probably enjoying the real thing. I want to wish him well at the same time I want to bury him in the backyard.

By the time I get to the morning skate, my head is a clear but my heart feels heavier. Erica seemed like a good idea at the time. Now it seems like something I should apologize for, even if only to myself. Olivia’s office door is mercifully closed as I walk by.

“Hey Max,” Jordan says as I step onto the ice. To his credit, he’s not smiling or gloating. Instead he looks almost concerned.

“Good time last night?” I only half-succeed in keeping the sneer from my voice.

“It was, yeah.” His face brightens to half-full, then stops. “But you should know that she said your name in her sleep.”

My mouth falls open. My heart misses a beat as I’m ecstatic… but also mortified for Gronk. To be with a woman, then have her dream about another guy. I’d want to die. And I sure as hell wouldn’t tell anyone, let alone the guy in question. My confusion must be obvious.

He shrugs. “I don’t know if it was good or bad. She could have dreamed she was fighting with you. But if it were me, I’d want to know.”

As if someday Olivia might be sleeping next to me and say his name. As if I’d care. Olivia could narrate a wet dream about the entire Red Wings organization and I’d just be thrilled to watch her sleep. Jordan skates away.

Olivia hadn’t meant to dream about Max. She’d shaken his image from her mind and curled against Jordan, satisfied and spent. Yet when she drifted off, it was right into Max’s house. He wore a sweater of greenish gray, the exact, impossible color of his eyes. Scruff lined his cheeks as he stood in his kitchen, explaining something to her that she could not hear. All she knew was she wanted him and she wanted out in equal measure. Her voice kept repeating, “Max, we’re not allowed to do this.” She didn’t know she’d spoken aloud.

She woke – tangled, naked, sticky – wrapped in Jordan’s arms. Relief washed over her before the memory of the night before made her blush. Olivia reveled in the comfort of his body until he woke, just in time for the skate.

“You weren’t kidding about hitting your sexual peak,” she said drowsily as he pulled the covers over her.

“Plenty more where that came from, kitten.”

She looks right at me. She remembers the dream, I can read it in her eyes. If only I knew what the dream entailed. Gronk doesn’t look too concerned as his eyes follow her across the room. My close observation catches the sly smile on Olivia’s face and the proud look on Jordan’s. Whatever happened last night must have been good. Goddamn it.

This is not casual! I want to scream. But you can’t have your cake and eat it too. I’d taken my casual sex road show nationwide. In my prime, there was a girl in every city who got called only if I couldn’t do better in the club that night. And yes, I let the gossip train run itself at full steam, making my reputation larger than my actual conquests. It was fun. It was casual. Too casual, apparently. Because what I see happening with Jordan and Olivia looked a lot better than anything I’d managed to create.

The warm weather has held and Olivia wears tailored Capri pants with heels and a little vest over a short-sleeved dress shirt. She looks like a ridiculously cute newsgirl. I watch Jordan as he watches her ass as she walks from the room.

What the hell was she dreaming about?


I spun at the sound of her voice. She waved me out of the locker room doorway and into her office. When I sat down, she had a big smile on her face.

“Want to do a photo shoot for GQ?”


“I’ve got a friend in their NY office and it’s taken me two years to convince them they should do something with hockey players. They use other athletes all the time. But they’re all guys and they have no idea how hot you all are. Now that I’m here, I finally have leverage!” She’s so proud of herself, I want to hug her. I would do anything she asked.

“They’re doing a photo shoot with John Varvatos. The League is working with him to sponsor some stuff, and they need guys for the shoot. Who better than the Stanley Cup champs? The catch is – no Crosby. He can’t because of his other deals. But I told them we have plenty more man candy to choose from.”

She has called me ‘hot’ and ‘man-candy’ inside of two minutes. I may sweep all those papers off her desk and go to town on those short pants. Instead I say, “Sure, I’ll do it.” She squeals and claps like she just won something.

“This is going to be AWESOME. Who else should we ask? We need three guys. Obviously Jordan.” She rolls her eyes, but she’d have asked him anyway. His bigness and blondness is a great contrast to most of the guys. “I’m thinking Tanger,” she continues. “Think he’s too shy? Would he be comfortable? I mean, he’s so hot that I have to go to church just to confess what I think about doing to him. But he doesn’t seem to know that.”

I laugh. “No wonder you make Kris nervous!”

“PPffffttttt,” she mocks. “That boy is sex on skates and the minute he figures it out, he’s going to give your reputation a run for its money.”

“Why don’t you date Kris? You do go on about how much you like him,” I suggest. I don’t know why – Kris is more serious than Jordan, would pose ore of a threat to me. But I’m fishing for information here. Why Jordan? Why still not me?

“Kris is too serious. Plus, he’s terrified of me!” she laughs. “I mean, what if I really scare him? And, you know, Kris didn’t tell me about the rule either. You’re all still on the hook for that.” Her gaze is level, half-teasing but her words ring true.

“You should definitely ask him. He’ll be okay.” At least I think so.

Her smile is a mile wide. “I’m going to get them to make him take his shirt off. Eeeeeeee!” She falls into a fit of giggles.

“Aren’t you supposed to be dating Jordan? Here you are plotting to get his teammate half-naked and that teammate is not even me. Olivia, I think I’m really jealous.”

She ignores me. “This is the best job EVER!” she shouts.

Calm down, you’re getting all hysterical like the Backstreet Boys are coming to town.

Olivia takes a deep breath, smooths her vest and asks to borrow Kris. He’s wearing an Under Armor top – a very tight, long-sleeved jersey designed to do athletic things. He sits across from her desk and she closes her eyes.

“I cannot think while you’re wearing a shirt that tight,” she laughs. Kris blushes and looks down at himself. Olivia’s giggle melts into a sigh. “GQ Magazine and a menswear designer want to do a photo shoot with three of our players. I made a big poster, took it out on the street and 85% of women said you’re the hottest guy on the team. So will you be in our photo shoot?”

For a second, Kris’ eyes are wide. Then he laughs. “Olivia, you are crazy. You would actually do that.” He’s flattered.

“Ha! Like I need to do a survey to know women love you. Kris! Please be in this photo shoot. I really need you to make Max and Jordan look good.”

“Okay, I’ll do it if they’re doing it.”

Olivia waves her hands around. “Yay! I love this! I was going to make the photographer get you shirtless, but after that thing you’re wearing I think it’s a bad idea. Jordan and Max will never speak to me again if I let you outshine them.”

Two days later, I’m standing on the pedestal of a tailor shop downtown. It’s Sunday, and Olivia is wearing jeans and a Harry Potter t-shirt. She vetoed three suits in favor of the one they’re pinning now. It’s gray, almost greenish. Something about the look on her face when I put it on said she really, really likes it. I think it goes with my eyes. She sends a camera phone photo to someone in NY for approval and we laugh and talk as the tailor works around me.

“I think we’re shooting inside the Mellon, on the ice,” she’s paging through her Blackberry. “There was a hockey card shoot a long time ago – rookies, I think. Or maybe draft picks. The year Lindros came in. They wore tuxes with skates and sticks for the photos. It was cute.”

I laugh. “You really are old if you remember when Lindros came into the League.”

“Hey, I was a kid. He was dreamy. Niedermayer and Forsberg that year too.”

“Pronger too,” I add.

“Ew. NOT dreamy,” she makes a face.

When they’re done tacking the suit, Olivia walks around me in a slow circle. She makes it to the front and gives me a shake of her head. “Max, you are beautiful.”

Her tone is completely honest and I am completely undone. I couldn’t be honest about one stupid thing. I had to play the game. Since then I’ve come to realize that Olivia doesn’t play games. She may be toying with Jordan a little, but their parameters are very clear. Her candid comments are refreshing and make me fall a little more for her. They also remind me what an asshole I can be. She thinks I am beautiful. I wasted that.

Lost in thought, I lose eye contact and my head falls a little. She reaches out and squeezes my hand like she can read my mind.

“And a chocolate shake,” Olivia finishes her order. We are in a sandwich shop nearby while the shop cuts and hems the suit. I think of the photo Crosby took of her drinking a chocolate shake, how it seems like a million years ago. I tuck into my steak sandwich. She’s eating a grilled cheese and tomato soup.

“Between that meal, the milkshake and your shirt, you look about 12 years old,” I tell her. Pigtails would complete the outfit, but then I start thinking dirty things about cheerleaders and my mind goes….

“All these younger men, I feel like a cougar,” she winks.

It’s my chance and I have to take it. “How are things with Jordan?”

She gives me a very even look, like she’s deciding if I’m allowed to ask such a thing. I guess the finding is in my favor because she says, “We have fun together and he makes me laugh. He really is a big kid.”

“I hear you had a dream about me the other night,” I say without thinking. The moment it’s out of my mouth I regret it.

Her eyes flash. She squeezes them closed as her lips part in a small, guilty expression. One finger presses to the space between her eyebrows, like she’s pushing thoughts back into her brain.

“Shit. I always did talk in my sleep.”

It’s incredibly intimate to know that about her. And to my relief, she’s not mad. She just seems embarrassed. I realize Jordan hasn’t said anything, and now it seems we’ve been talking about her, talking about what she’s like in bed.

“He didn’t tell me anything,” I backpedal. “Just that.”

Her lips are pressed between her teeth in a ‘what can you do?’ expression. “I had a dream that we were in your kitchen. We were talking, but we couldn’t hear each other. The only other thing I really remember is you were wearing a sweater the exact same color as your eyes. I’d never seen that color fabric before. It’s the same shade as that suit we found today.”

My heart is jackrabbiting inside my rib cage. She dreamed of me. Dreamed about the color of my eyes. About being in my house. She said my name in her sleep. Now that I know why she liked that suit so much, I will pay whatever they ask to keep it. This is the part where I say that I dream about her too. Surely one of them could be cleaned up enough to tell her about. We’re on a boat and she’s in a bikini and… no. We’re in her office and she closes the door and... no. Well, I could make something up. But I don’t. It’s not my place to dream about her, she is not mine to make stories around. I’m trying to get away from this, not let it keep me under.

“Max,” she says quietly. “I’m sorry about all this. Maybe I should be handling it differently. But I’m doing the best I can.”

I take her hand from the table and in a bold move, press it to my lips. Then I hold her fingers in my fist for a moment. I’m under, big time, and there’s no reaching the surface from here.

“At least it’s out there. I suck at being subtle anyway.”

Her smile is small and kind of sad. “I’m glad too, Max. Things have been really rough for me. It’s selfish but I feel very proud that someone like you could like me.”

I’m still holding her hand. “And what am I like?”

“You’re pretty great,” she answers with a squeeze.

Jordan spins around on the podium. “How do I look?”

“Fucking hot,” Olivia admits.

It’s lunchtime on Monday and Jordan’s hair is wet from his post-skate shower. He’s admiring himself in the tailor’s mirror, a navy blue pin stripe suit poured perfectly over his muscular frame. He wears a white shirt and white tie – Olivia wasn’t sold on the white tie until she saw it on. Something about all that white makes her want to get a little messy. Jordan steps down from the dais, grabs her waist and pulls her into a one armed hug. With the other arm, he lifts the curtain of the dressing room then pushes her inside.

The space is tiny with two people but that’s obviously the point as Jordan’s hands rake through her hair and his lips find hers. The drape swings shut, muting most of the light from the booth. Olivia protests half-heartedly, but her words are useless with Jordan’s tongue in her mouth. She fights for a second before giving in and grabbing and handful of his ass.

“I’m going to get fired if they catch us,” she says into his neck as he unzips her pants.

“I gave him a hundred dollars to disappear for twenty minutes.” Olivia gasps and slaps Jordan’s chest. He peels her trousers down over her hips, gliding his palms across her ass.

“We haven’t had sex in four hours, Olivia. I couldn’t wait another minute,” he’s laughing but his voice is low and heavy with intention. She kicks her feet free then slides one bare leg between his knees, pressing her hip into his lap.

“Careful with this,” she says, helping him remove the suit.

Jordan stayed over again last night. That’s three times in a week. Olivia can’t complain – the company is great, the sex even better and Jordan makes a perfect bowl of cereal. Which he typically eats next-to-naked at her kitchen table. His feet stick off the end of her bed and the shower only reaches his shoulders, but he doesn’t seem to care. Jordan is like a giant puppy who thinks he’s a lap dog.

Seventeen minutes left on the clock when Jordan gently hangs his pants over the top of the dressing area. Now, wearing only socks, he presses Olivia against the wall and uses his whole body to hold her in place. Her hands marvel at the expanse of his skin – he is everywhere. Surrounding her. She hitches a leg up over his hip and he growls in gratitude.

Before taking her, Jordan reaches to the wall and angles the mirror toward them. Olivia giggles at the look he gives and knows this is going to be a good one. Let him put on a little show if he wants – she is happy to have a front row seat. A few twists of her hips, one long, low moan and Jordan takes her breath away in a semi-public place. She holds onto his arms as he pumps, lifting her onto the balls of her feel every time he brings it all the way home. His tree trunk legs flex as he strokes deep into her and picks up her weight. She slides against him, up and down, feeling like nothing Jordan has ever experienced before. The give of her body, the constant surprise of going a little deeper, a little higher, drives him crazy. He wants all of her and soon she is grabbing his shoulders and barely holding herself up.

Their kiss deepens. The pace is frantic. Olivia crushes her mouth to his soft, delicious lips in a desperate effort to stifle the very descriptive sounds rising to her throat. He returns the favor, moaning into her mouth. The wall hanging behind Olivia feels soft against her bare back. The carpet fibers are stiff where her feet barely touch them. Light filters, weak and red, through the hangings to give their skin a warm tone.

Their eyes meet in the mirror. Slowly, they take in the sight of themselves, wrapped inside and outside of each other. Jordan presses down her thigh, just to see what it looks like. Olivia slowly traces along his bare side. She hits a ticklish spot and Jordan flinches, his cock driving straight into the very core of her body. Olivia presses her head back and draws in a breath as far as she can. Like in yoga, she tries to focus the breath on everywhere Jordan is touching her – her neck, breasts, hair, legs. And of course inside, where he stirs her body into a soft, warm dessert. The sensation ratchets up a notch and Olivia nearly loses control.

Her body tweaks once, a contraction shuddering through the stomach. Jordan feels it where their skin touches. Olivia’s kiss becomes more urgent, more demanding. She intentionally squeezes down on his cock, tightening around his girth as much as she can. He is so much stronger, she thought he’d never feel it. He surprises her.

“Ohh, do that again,” he whispers.

Olivia happily obeys. Every time she clenches against him, her own kernel gets closer to popping. Quickly she does it twice in a row, catching him once on the way in and one on the way out. Neither of them know he’s been waiting for exactly that. Jordan flattens her into the wall with short, hard jabs. It’s like pushing the elevator button five times, but it doesn’t come any faster. It’s already on it’s way.

When it arrives, Olivia swallows a cry as best she can while also locking her whole body into rigor. She trembles once, then on the next pump from Jordan she splits into pieces. Parts fly into orbit. All the breath in her body rushes out as she writhes onto Jordan’s dick, begging for every last pulse of orgasm she can pull from him. Her pussy pumps him, hard, muscles contracting on their own.

The hard, fast squeezing of her orgasm nearly makes Jordan drop her. He saves the day by nailing her to the wall like a painting. Olivia does the rag doll bounce while Jordan hammers home his last stroke and bursts like a balloon. His warmth fills her and mixes with her own. His forehead presses to the wall next to her head and he gives an exaggerated sigh.

“We are getting pretty good at this,” he says. Their eyes meet and they smile simultaneously.

Going to be a problem soon, Jordan thinks.

I got this, Olivia tells herself. No problem. Right? Not a problem.

“Afraid to be alone with me, Tanger?” Olivia asks when she sees me get out of the car.

We’re at a cafĂ©, meeting her and Jordan for lunch. Kris is the last victim for the tailor. I invited myself along to see how she and Jordan act together, outside of work. He touches her back as she slides into the booth and then sits close. He reads from her menu and steals off her plate. She barely reciprocates – a look here, a touch there. Jordan is inches away from marking his territory and Olivia is trying to keep things neutral. We each work on a burger – Olivia’s is veggie, we all eat meat.

“The photo shoot is Wednesday morning, at the Mellon. 8 AM call for hair and makeup, studs. So try not to get roughed up tonight.”

I hang around the tailor while Kris gets fitted. He picks a sleek black suit with a little sheen to it. Olivia loves it, of course.

“Need some help with that?” she asks, eyebrows arched, as the assistant has Kris lift his shirt and slides a measuring tape around his bare waist. Kris catches her eye in the mirror and smiles.

“Now you see why I brought Max with me,” he says. He’s gotten much more comfortable since Olivia busted his rude French comeback on the plane. I guess he feels like I do – the truth is out there, so might as well call it what it is. Olivia certainly does.

“I could take Max in a fight,” she claims. “But, I think I’d rather measure your inseam.”

She sits in a high-backed chair and watches. Her hair is swept back with a thin braid mixed in along one side. An oversize light gray sweater nearly covers her perfect ass, which is wrapped nicely in a pair of black suit pants. I want to touch her sweater – it looks soft, warm, welcoming. I’m too idle. Sitting close to her is making me antsy.

“Anyone want Starbucks?” I wonder if they’ll talk about me when I’m gone.

“Max is going a little nuts,” Kris says when they’re alone in the dressing area. “When he heard you and Jordan were meeting me for lunch, he asked to come. I think he’s checking on the competition.”

Olivia settles back into the chair with a sigh of resignation. “Jordan was like a peacock at lunch, all his feathers out.”

Kris runs a hand through his hair. “Max is pretty serious about this.” He’s trying to help, trying to make a case for his friend. But Jordan is his friend too. And he’d like to think the same of Olivia.

“That’s what I’m worried about,” Olivia says honestly.

The tailor tucks the back panel of Kris’ suit and pins it down. Kris pulls the cuffs till the jacket sits perfectly on his shoulders. His dark hair falls in his face as he looks down at himself. Olivia lets out a low whistle. Kris is already smiling as he pushes his hand back through his thick locks. His crisp white shirt is closed under a blood red tie in a classic, gorgeous look. He gives her a slow, full turn.

“Wow. You look like James Bond,” Olivia says. “I am going to get promoted after this.”

We are fully dressed for the warm-up skate when Olivia comes into the locker room. She stands in the middle of the room and looks around like she’s deciding something. Slowly everyone comes to attention.

“Crosby, your girlfriend’s here tonight,” she says.

He breaks his pre-game zone. “Olivia, just tell everyone we’re sleeping together. This code confuses me.”

Everyone laughs, Jordan loudest of all. Most of the guys know there is something going on, though neither of them have spilled any details. I'm almost positive from the way they move around each other that they’re having sex. But I’m watching more closely than anyone else.

“I mean Carissa from Versus. The way you stand around when she’s finished interviewing, it’s like you’re waiting to give her your phone number,” Olivia teases.

“What? I’m… I’m just trying to be nice. Not leave her there on camera alone,” he sounds genuinely embarrassed. “Does it look like I’m hitting on her?”

Olivia blows a very unprofessional raspberry at him. “If you’re not, you should be. She’s hot. And she wants to talk to you before the puck drops.” She gives her a look. “If you want, I’ll give her someone else…”

“Errrr, no. That’s okay,” Sid says quickly.

In the hallway, we all file past Olivia and Carissa talking quietly against one of the walls. Carissa smiles hello at us, Olivia bites her lip like it’s a come on and just watches. If either of them could read my thoughts I would burn in hell forever. The whole team would. Olivia definitely knows what we’re thinking.

“Want to come over?” Jordan asks Olivia quietly outside the locker room after the game. He’s just close enough so no one else can hear.

“Your gear smells gross. Go shower and ask me that again.”

The post-game media is in full swing when Jordan walks through the room in a towel. Kind of a small towel, compared to what they usually have in the showers. I watch him go out of his way to walk right past Olivia. He doesn’t look at her, but she smiles. She rode to the Mellon with us from the tailor, but I’m guessing she won’t need a ride home.

I hate this. I hate watching them. In her defense, Olivia is being very discreet. If I didn’t care I probably wouldn’t notice. Instead I see all the little things, the secrets that pass between them in broad daylight. A tiny touch, an inside joke. They share things outside of work and then bring them here. I should be happy for Jordan, but I cannot get past my own jealousy.

He doesn’t go to her office. He doesn’t come in early. Maybe he’s better at this than I am.

Olivia’s phone rings. Jordan picks it up and before he hands it over, he looks at the screen. His face goes hard.

“It’s Scott,” he says flatly. “Why is he calling you?”

“Fuck if I know,” she says darkly. “Answer it.”

He gladly flips the phone open. “Hello? No, she’s not. Yes, it is. Perhaps not clear enough. Mmmhmmm. Take a hint Scott, and lose this number. Don’t call here again.” He closes it on the call.

“Dan,” Jordan says, coming into the media offices on the day off. “Are you coming on the west coast trip?”

Dan nods. “I was going to. Why?”

“Can I ask you a favor?”