The morning of our regular season opener, I stick my head into her office. Her chair is empty but there’s a big arrangement of flowers on her desk. Whoever did this, I will kill them till they’re dead. I’m looking at the envelope, still sealed with the card inside, when she comes in.
“Hi Max… woah. Did you bring these?” She seems alarmed, like me giving her flowers at work would be way too much, too risky. I quickly shake my head.
“No, I was just admiring them. I came to see what you’re wearing to the game tonight.”
I don’t know if she hears me as she’s opening the card. It can’t be more than two lines long. Her expression goes from surprised to annoyed, then angry and almost hateful. Instantly I know they’re not from another guy on the team and that worries me more. She purses her lips and looks down into the corner of the room. I am definitely seeing something I shouldn’t. She tosses the card into the trash emphatically. Her gaze returns to the flowers – she’s thinking about dumping them too. I put my hand on the vase.
“Whoever you don’t like will be very sorry if they ever bother you here.”
I don’t say ‘he’ because I don’t have to. And because it doesn’t matter. This is what she left New York to escape. I want to help her forget. She looks at me, her eyes hard and then gives me a tight smile.
“Thanks Max. I hope I won’t have to call in that promise.”
I want to hold her. In my mind, my arms are going around her body and locking her away from all the bad things in the world. From anyone ever hurting her, from worrying or running away. I want to kiss away the tears forming in her eyes and then kick the ever-living shit out of anyone who thinks about messing with her. But I don’t.
“Anytime, Liv.” And I leave.
Halfway down the hall, she calls out behind me. “Can I still borrow a jersey?”
Fucking son of a goat-loving piece of shit, Olivia lets herself scream on the inside. Then deep breaths. I am over this, I am okay. I am over this. Look around, Liv. Plenty more fish in the sea.
This is going to go over big - she’s coming in here to get my jersey. It's peak time in the room, but I said I wasn’t subtle. She swings through the door and I know her black pinstripe trousers are going to look great with this jersey. Tonight’s shoes are heels with little buckles over the toe. Her hair is down, held off her face by a thin headband with a little flower on the side. Her smile says she’s calling me out, but she plays along.
“Hi guys,” she calls. Marc stops to talk with her then she finds Kunitz and asks him something. Gonchar gets an envelope and puts it in his bag. I fantasize she’s making sure everyone knows she’s here before she talks to me.
“Max,” she nods.
I don’t say anything, I just hold out a white road jersey. It’s a little smaller than the others – a mistake by the equipment department, I think. It’ll still be a tent on her, but I’m trying. Kris is watching. So is Geno. Probably Crosby too, but he’s behind her. I took some shit for the photo, but they don’t seem to have told anyone else that she was at my house.
Olivia shakes out the folded jersey and pulls it over her head. The glorious flip of her hair draws every eye in the room. I get a whiff of something sweet and tart – she smells like pomegranate today. She holds out her arms and looks down at herself.
“Wow Max, I thought you’d be bigger.”
Jordan bursts his spleen laughing. Someone whistles and Crosby covers his face. Cookie yells, “DAMN!” from the back of the room. Olivia just smiles.
I deserve that. She’s not going to let me get away with anything. When she’s gone, I round on everyone.
“Hey douchebags! She’s still wearing my jersey.”
We beat the Rangers by one. Geno, Sid and TK all get goals. Olivia stands in the back as the media work their way around. She’s taking her cues from Dan tonight – as Media Director, they’ll work closely together to make sure this all goes well. Geno’s talking to the CBC when I come out of the shower. I put on a t-shirt and pants inside, I didn’t want to walk around in a towel while she’s trying to work.
“Hey,” I say.
“Nice game,” she smiles. She’s still watching Geno. “This is tough for me. I used to be a publicist, do what Dan does. It was my job to get as much for the media as I could. Now I’m on the other side – if he doesn’t want to talk, I make sure he doesn’t have to. I can’t tell if he’s struggling.”
Geno stumbles over his words a bit, but he laughs at the next question.
“I think he’s okay. He just gets self-conscious. Not everyone can be a smooth talker.”
She laughs, not moving her eyes. “Speaking of which, sorry about before. I have a smart mouth and I sometimes can’t help myself. I should be more careful if we’re going to be friends outside of work.”
“Don’t. If you censor yourself, you’ll never make it with these guys. Best if you dish it out like we do. They’ll love you for it. And hey, half the stuff we say is bullshit. Why should you be any different?”
When the media leave, Olivia checks with Geno. Apparently he’s fine, as he asks her to get a drink. Jordan overhears and accepts the invitation for everyone.
We head for a nearby dive bar someone found last season – they don’t have TVs and have probably never seen a hockey stick. It’s got character, if you count the stuffed wolf’s head on the wall. Olivia takes a seat next to Kris. I’m talking to TK and Crosby, who relive their goals and dissect a few missed chances. When she goes to the bar, so I do.
“Whatever she’s having,” I order. Two Yuengling pints turn up as expected.
“Sorry about in my office before, with the flowers,” she says.
I was wondering if she’d talk about it. My gossipy mind was dying to know exactly who I should kill and for what offense. But more than that I wanted to make her feel better. Being a guy, I had some vague idea that talking is supposed to help but no idea how to actually use that function of my brain.
“Bad breakup?” I try.
“Less breakup, more implosion. He seems to think we are friends now. I want to tell him to eat shit and die, but there’s really no point.” She’s scratching her nail at the emblem on her pint glass.
“Like I said, if he ever comes here we’ll give him what for. All of us.”
A big, genuine smile comes to her face. “You have no idea how much I hope that happens. I would wear your jersey while you kick his ass.”
At the end of the night, she pulls my jersey from her car and holds it out.
“Keep it,” I tell her.
Hmm, hmm, hmm, Olivia sings to herself. Look at all my hot muscely new friends.
I picture myself rescuing her – knocking out some brute who won’t stop hitting on her in a bar. She asks me to take her home, but when we reach the car she gets in the back seat. Before we’re out of the lot she’s naked. I pull into an empty lot somewhere, don’t care, and move back there with her. She climbs onto my lap, facing away, and leans forward slightly to spread her ass cheeks toward me. Then she touches herself, rubs her wetness over my dick and sits on me. I pound her like a jackhammer whole she braces her hands on the ceiling and grinds down onto my cock. The whole car rocks. She guides my hand her clit, showing me how to work her up. When I get her there I make sure to take her right over the top. She screams my name and I scream hers, probably for real in my empty house, as I explode into her body. Then I clean up a sticky mess before I go to sleep, alone.
The next day, my phone rings at 1 PM with a photo message from Crosby. It’s Olivia, drinking a milkshake from an old-fashioned fountain glass in a diner. Taken from the side, I doubt she knew it was happening. She’s wearing a green top and her hair is all the way down, very casual, falling in her face.
What the hell?
The message reads: The Force is strong in this one.
When I see him at the arena, he’s smiling with his chest puffed out. I roll my eyes, knowing he’s going to tell me anyway. No need to look like I spent twenty minutes trying to identify the diner by what you could see out the window behind her.
“Had a photo shoot this morning for the Tribune,” he says. “Gave Dan fifty bucks to call in sick.”
Clever, asshole. If he wanted to pull that shit every time he had a media appointment, he could be alone with her everyday. I wonder if they’d been alone at the diner.
“She likes chocolate shakes,” he taunted me.
“Then they didn’t have her favorite flavor.”
“Heard you let the Kid buy you a milkshake,” I say as I catch up to her in the hall. I have to mention it. I’m a jealous moron who cannot leave well enough alone.
“Not as good as the $50 he gave Dan,” she smiles, “but still something.”
My heart grows a size. It’s not just my bullshit that she sees through. I want to press her to this painted cinderblock wall and kiss her face off. I’d also really like to remove the dark purple boatneck dress she’s wearing. She can keep the boots on.
“I was almost jealous,” I admit as jokingly as I can.
“Max, you know I cannot date any of you. So don’t worry about milkshakes.” She slows and turns toward me. “And don’t get ahead of yourself.”
I’ve officially been warned. I tell her I was a little envious of another guy’s attentions and she’s clearly telling me to dial it down. Unlikely. If I do, someone else will just turn it up. And she doesn’t know the truth.
The rule she’s following was make to be broken. It has been broken a hundred times, by this and every other team in the League. It’s more of what the Pirates of the Caribbean would call a “guideline.” I can hardly believe no one’s told her yet, but I do understand. No one is going to announce it – whoever he is will get close enough and break it, like he just couldn’t control himself, like that bad-boy-rebel that girls are supposed to love. Then get himself forgiven afterward. It will be the shot heard round the world.
Nothing wrong with a little friendly competition, boys. I had better be on my game here or this could get out of control, Olivia reminds herself.
I take a seat on the plane and dig out my PSP. We’ve all got the new Bad Company war simulation game and I am ready to do some serious damage. Crosby loves this stuff, but it’s Duper who is the secret wiz at video games. I’ve already signed in and the door isn’t even closed.
A wave of something light and flowery hits my nose. My head snaps up and it’s true: she’s here. Dressed in a brown suit with light yellow piping, everyone looks up with surprise. I want to throw Gonch out of the seat next to me. The rows in front of us are full and she’s making her way toward the back. She smiles and Sidney audibly sucks in a breath in the row behind me. Just past him, Geno stands and lets her into the window seat next to him.
“Not your doing, Crosby?” she asks quietly, her face between the seats.
He puts his hands up. “Not even a little.”
“Hmm, then I guess Dan really is sick. Lucky me.”
We play the game and I even get a little into it. Every so often I hear her voice, helping Geno with some English. When I pass to the bathroom in the back, they’re leaned over a page on his tray. An hour of shooting and killing later, I get tapped on the arm. Flower’s hand is between the seats, a piece of paper between his fingers.
What does ‘malgre’ mean?
I look over the seatback and she holds up The Three Musketeers. Geno is asleep next to her.
“Despite,” I answer. She smiles and goes back to the book.
We’re going to be on the road for a week. She’ll be on our hotel and on our bus. If I can manage to keep it together and everyone behaves themselves, this is going to be fun.
At dinner, Olivia diplomatically sits between Billy G and Flower. Then orders a whole bottle of wine. Even Sidney is out tonight, breaking his self-imposed rule of hiding in the hotel. We eat and laugh and Olivia holds her own with the team, as we all knew she would. Before coffee, she checks her phone and sends a text. When the meal ends she doesn’t make to leave with us.
“What’s up?” I ask, helping her into her coat.
“I have a friend from college here, we’re going to meet for a drink. Do you want to come with? Is that allowed?”
“Do you want everyone there? Because they’ll never let me go alone.”
She smiles. “I don’t think my friend would mind.”
We climb into a cab, her in the middle between me and Geno. Sidney sits in the front seat – his rule is really broken now. Jordan, Kris, TK and God knows who else are in the cab behind us.
Her friend has chosen an Irish bar downtown, pretty popular by the looks of it. Olivia is barely in the door when she squeals and launches herself at a short girl with a shag haircut. Her friend is cute – tank top, jeans and heels. She will be popular with this crowd.
Good, more Olivia for me. I hope.
Olivia turns toward us with a sweeping gesture. Her friend’s mouth actually falls open in surprise. “Ally, this is… Max, Evgeni, Sidney, Kris, Jordan, Marc and Tyler. Or if you prefer, Talbs, Geno, Darryl, Tanger, Gronk, Flower and TK.
“Damn, Olivia. They pay you for this?” Ally smiles and shakes everyone’s hands. TK just pulls her into a hug and hauls her in the direction of the bar.
Our curfew is Midnight. There are way too many of us to sneak in. Plus, we’re adults. Sneaking in after curfew would be juvenile and beneath us. Right. It will be an early night. TK and Ally line up pitchers and pint glasses. We take up residence at the corner of the bar in the large main room, with booths lining the walls. We’ve been here five minutes when a slender blonde girl in tight jeans and high heels saunters up, ignores us all as she squeezes through and stops half an inch in front of Sidney. Olivia’s eyes go wide, like she has always wanted to see this happen. We’re grouped in a small circle, and the girl has blithely gone right into the middle. Geno leans over my back to hear.
“Hi,” the girl bats her eyelashes. She’s very pretty, if you like the lots-of-makeup type. Sometimes I do.
“Uhhh, hi,” Sidney tries to step back an inch, but just hits the bar. She is almost touching him.
“My boyfriend sent me over here to see if you’re really Sidney Crosby.” She’s honest but does not look innocent.
“What if I am?” he says. Fuck, if this is some crazy Flyers bar this could get awkward really fast.
“If you are, then I’m not going back there so he will never know.” Her chest presses against him now.
He has an arm slightly around her, and he’s making a frantic gesture for someone to come closer. Sidney should know better – we love to watch him sweat. This is precisely why he doesn’t come out. He is sinking and we always make him bail his own boat. We’re so caught up watching him that I don’t notice Olivia has taken off her long-sleeved wrap. I don’t see anything until a long, bare arm snakes its way across Sidney’s stomach between him and the blonde. It makes the girl step back.
“Excuse me, I left my drink here,” Olivia drawls. She’s in a surprisingly rock-n-roll black tank top with sequined ropes of fabric hanging down the front. Lifting Sidney’s glass from the bar, she takes a slow sip but never moves her eyes off the blonde.
Awesome! Catfight! Every single one of us is thinking the same thing, taking in the fitted, sleeveless top she’s been secretly sporting all night.
The blonde is not done. “We were just getting acquainted.”
Olivia smiles over her glass. “Sorry honey, this pleasure is already all mine.”
“Why don’t we let him decide that?”
She still doesn’t know she’s surrounded by his friends, all watching as if it’s sudden death overtime. Sidney grabs onto Olivia like a life preserver – his hand goes to her stomach, pulling her in close, her back to his chest.
“Nice to meet you, but I’ve already decided,” he says. The blonde purses her lips, hating to be driven from her prey. She stays a second too long.
“He decided twice last night and again this morning,” Olivia’s voice drips venom. She turns to Sidney. “And once at lunch, right? Or was that yesterday?”
Then she presses her body against his and whispers something very close to his ear. Sid’s face shows shock, like he can’t believe he’s gotten this lucky. Olivia nails it – the blonde spins on a heel and storms away. I am impressed and turned on and insanely jealous. That top she’s wearing is short-circuiting my brain. It’s stretched tightly across her chest, the sequined decoration highlighting the drop onto her flat stomach. And now I know, instead of just imagine, what she’d look like pressed against someone’s body. I just didn’t want it to be Sidney’s.
Olivia turns in triumph as our little group breaks out in applause. TK hands her a full beer. Sidney smiles appreciatively.
“Shit Liv, I thought you were going to stick your tongue down his throat,” Jordan guffaws. “I would have paid good money to see that. Or paid someone to hit on me.”
Olivia shakes her head, embarrassed now and laughing. “I whispered that he’d better sell this or I was going to have to knock her out. I can’t kiss him! In a bar! Fucking front page of the paper tomorrow and I’m fired!”
Sid makes wide eyes and laughs. “I’d pay your salary.”
That was not in my job description. No more touching anyone’s abs or we’re going to have a scene in this place. Crosby is now a 45. Really need a new scale. Olivia loses her concentration and laughs out loud.
No question what image gets me off tonight. Instant replay of the bar, only it’s me, not Sidney who is being rescued. She presses her body to me and I ignore the blonde. I kiss Olivia, hard, and her mouth opens beneath mine. Instantly we’re at my house, trailing clothes as we run up the stairs to this very bed. She comes to me and I lay her down, memorizing the shape of her naked body. Then I climb on top, lift her legs in the air and hold her ankles together near my chin. I slide my cock into her, using the back of her thighs for leverage to keep her body in place as I move it to my will. She touches herself and looks in my eyes. When I drop her ankles, she wraps her long legs around me and hooks her ankles, locking me into her. I kiss her deeply and thrust. I make it at least four times before I come.