The next morning, I’m hitting ten miles on the bike in the visiting workout room when my cell phone buzzes. I open a photo from Jordan to Sid, Kris, Geno and myself. It’s Olivia – she’s folding something in the office and he can almost see down her top. The message reads: These are not the droids you’re looking for.
I see her in the hallway outside the locker room later, chatting with a tall blond guy in a Flyers jersey. As much as I enjoy the curve of her ass in the tight sheath of her skirt, I really wish she wouldn’t look so damned good around other guys. Other teams. Of course she’s getting hit on by every guy in this place. Her hand goes to the guy’s arm and I squeeze the strap of my bag till my fingers are white.
“Max,” she sees me and waves me over. “This is my cousin, Rob.”
Okay asshole, get a grip, I reprimand myself as I shake his hand. He’s cool and a little nervous. It makes me preen, hoping she is impressed by me. The she catches Crosby and introduces him as well. Just like that I’m not so great anymore. Oh well.
She comes into the room a few minutes later. “Ha! I am the coolest member of my family now, for life.” She winks at me and sways those hips into the office like she bought and paid for them.
Shit. I’m late and she’ll already be on the plane. And not sitting alone.
Sure enough, Jordan’s got his giant frame draped all over her, showing her how to play Bad Company. She laughing and squealing and Kris yells back and them – she just killed him and he’s swearing at her in French. I flinch when he makes a comment he thinks she can’t understand: Come up here and let me feel you up while I pretend to care about this game.
“Jordan is not feeling me up, Tanger, but your offer is still tempting.”
The plane goes silent like someone just opened a door to outer space. A few guys don’t speak French, don’t know what Kris said, but even they know she just busted him big time. Geno smacks my shoulder, looking for a translation, but I can’t talk. I’m laughing too hard. Kris forgets to be embarrassed and jumps up. He, and everyone else, is staring at her.
“Oui, je parle un peu de français," she says, that accent spins off her tongue and I bet she tastes like caramel. “Max is teaching me.”
By the time we land, I am naming our children in my head.
Oooh, sorry Kris! Olivia gives herself a mental face-palm. Watch your mouth, Liv. Not everyone here wants you embarrassing them with your sass.
I don’t see her until she boards the bus to practice that afternoon. Her hair is back and she’s wearing a sharp navy blue dress with sailor-style white pockets. If it were half as long and had a hat, it would be a sexy Halloween costume. She drops into the seat next to Kris. From two rows away I feel him tense.
“Sorry,” she says softly. I’m straining to hear. Jordan is across the aisle and I can tell he’s listening too. Kris just shakes his head. Then he smiles at her.
“Sorry,” he agrees. But he’s not. He’s embarrassed and probably wants to die, but he’s visibly relieved that she knows what he thinks. “Tu es jolie. Qu'est-ce que je peux dire?”
Coach catches my eye on the ice and a jerks his head, motioning me to the bench. He hands me a folder.
“Notice anything?” he asks. It’s Olivia’s personnel folder, at least the first page with all her information on it. I scan it – there’s a lot here I didn’t know. Olivia Kennibeck Hall, age 27. Her mom’s name is Noreen. I’m reading her school history when Coach coughs.
“Notice anything?” Now he’s pointing. At her birthday.
“Shit!” I say under my breath. It’s the day after tomorrow. Coach takes the folder and closes it.
“I think the rule should stand. Just so you know,” he says. But he’s shown me the treasure room. “Be in by 2 AM, okay?”
How do I plan something without tipping the guys off?
I’ve got my laptop out and I’m looking up bars in Toronto. We’re staying over tomorrow night, so we’ll be here when midnight clicks by and it’s officially her birthday. On the day, we’ll travel to Ottawa but get there early. We can do something both nights and if I plan it right I can be the one who throws the entire party. I have an idea.
In my mind, in the shower before bed, I give Olivia a birthday party she’ll never forget. She jumps out of her own cake. Only I’m there. She’s wearing frosting and nothing else. I have seconds and thirds of that desert. Knowing she’s a few doors down in the hotel makes me come harder, faster then usual. As if she could feel how badly I want her.
It kills me all day not to say anything. We skate in the morning, Olivia watches from the bench, wearing jeans and a sweater. Coach lets her call a drill. Don’t ever give that woman a whistle.
“Suicides!” she yells, sitting on the boards with her legs dangling toward the ice. Everyone groans.
“A kiss for the winner!” Jordan challenges her.
“Your slow ass is never going to win anything!” she blows the whistle. She hasn’t agreed to the bet, but we are moving a hell of a lot faster than usual. Geno elbows TK into the net. Kris cuts Jordan off and gets spilled for his efforts. Sidney hauls his huge butt past me at warp speed and hits the far red line in a spray of snow.
“I win!” he skates over to the bench. She’s holding a stick. He moves too quickly – tosses the stick away, grabs her and rubs his sweaty face all over hers. She screams and slaps, good thing he’s holding her up. Then he makes a kissing noise and skates away. “You owe me one!”
At lunch, she orders herself a piece of cake. It’s tougher than ever to stay quiet as I watch her eat it with a smile on her face.
Olivia sings that 50 Cent birthday song all day in her head.
“Let’s go out,” I suggest loudly in the locker room after we beat the Leafs by 3. Everyone’s a little beat and takes some convincing, but they say yes. Now the last piece of the puzzle.
“Liv,” I catch her in the office, finishing a phone call. “Come out with us.”
I think her smile is a little wider than usual, her eyes a little brighter. Not one of those women scared of her age, thank God. I’ve been with older women. Some quite a bit older. I know that 27 – soon 28 – is prime time for a beautiful girl. I plan to make sure she knows it too. She’s wearing a suit jacket over a blue top with a keyhole opening at the neck and black pants, she’s ready to roll.
I called ahead to a club, pretending to be Dan. They are expecting us. We pull up in two minivan taxis and roll through the VIP entrance. I forget the name of the place as soon as we’re inside. They offered us a private booth space, but I thought that would look too planned and blow my cover. So we’re on our own – even Crosby – amid the throng of people.
Jordan and Geno push us to the bar like a rugby scrum. A VIP host gives me a nod and points us out to a bartender. She’s hot – raven haired, very low cut top and a generous display of cleavage. And she’s got a bottle of tequila in her hand. Jordan passes shots back, a few disappearing as they pass his mouth. It’s almost 11 PM – not quite time yet. We raise our glasses and I think: Happy last hour of 27, Olivia. If you know what to look for, her eyes say she’s thinking the same thing.
Girls are moving in. Guys give Olivia the eye, but when they see any of us they give it up as a lost cause. She’s talking with Flower, laughing and losing the battle to refuse another shot of tequila. Her hand disappears inside Jordan’s and he pulls her toward the dance floor.
I drain my own drink and enjoy the company. A blonde in a black dress giggles at an uncomfortable Kris while her friend makes a play for Cookie’s attention. Billy G raises his class to me – almost like he knows something is up. He’s been around a long time, I bet there’s nothing he hasn’t seen.
A very beautiful girl with a pixie haircut catches my eye. I smile back at her and she takes it as an invitation.
“I’m Jacqueline,” she purrs into me ear. I usually enjoy this. She’s got sex written all over her face, and her hand is already pressed to my stomach. Her perfume is exotic, spicy. I’d bet ten-to-one she’s not wearing any underwear. But this time I peel myself back from her.
“Nice to meet you,” I say before I walk away.
Olivia is dancing with Geno, or rather she’s holding on as he dances around her. They are both laughing. Jordan appears next to me with an extra beer.
“He’ll be the one,” Staalsy says over the music. “He’ll break the rule first.”
Jordan might be right. If Geno is making a move on Olivia, it’s crafty – he really does need to improve his English. It really is her job to help him. But that makes it tougher, because if they can’t work together then she’ll have a real problem. He knows what it’s like to be an outsider and I don’t think he’d do that to her.
“Nope,” I shake my head. “Crosby.”
Sidney will do it first. He knows he can get away with just about anything. And there have been almost no girls since he joined this team. He’s too scared, it’s too dangerous – everything rides on his reputation. But he’s also 22 and suffocating under the pressure. Never has Crosby met an opportunity he didn’t take.
“Whoever does, then it’s game on for everybody. You can turn on that Superstar charm and challenge us all to a duel.”
I wonder if Jordan might give it a go. He’s thinking about it now. But he’s not serious enough, not really. The rule may not be hard and fast, but breaking it still implies some measure of intention. It says ‘I want to date you’ not ‘Open season, now you shag with the whole team.’
Olivia is older than most of us, especially after tonight, but no one cares. Not even Jordan, who’s nearly 8 years younger than her. There's a small bubble of people who know the game, the life, what it takes to make this work. If you're in that bubble, everything else is forgotten. If anything, Olivia's age enhances her appeal. She’s smart, accomplished and ambitious all on her own. She’s come a long way and clearly doesn’t need someone to take care of her. Beats the pants off most of the girls we meet. It also gives each guy a little pause, knowing that she isn’t going to fall into his arms like a puckbunny waiting to be chosen.
She leads Geno off the dance floor and doesn’t see us. It’s 11:45 PM. We wade to the bar and I see she’s squeezed in next to Kris, talking into his hair. Girls love that damned hair. They think Kris is so shy. Somehow I don’t think Olivia buys that after his comment on the plane. He makes her laugh and I turn away.
I have planned my move. The waiting is the hardest part. It’s almost time.
At 11:55 PM, I order two glasses of champagne. As the bartender pours, I deftly peel Olivia away from Kris and steer her toward the bar. Both glasses sparkle in the lights. She gives me an unsure little smile. From my pocket I take out the bloom from a single white lily. I’d been careful not to crush it and I’m happy to see it’s still round and full. Holding the few inches of stem, I hand it to her followed by the champagne. Then I look at my watch.
“Happy birthday,” I smile, pinging my glass against hers.
All at once her face breaks into a huge smile. She takes a sip of the champagne, puts it down and tucks the lily behind her ear. Then she gives me a big, slow, solid hug. We stand still, her hands around my shoulders and mine around her waist, like a slow dance that stopped moving. I feel her body all against mine, from her breasts and hips through her thighs and I think even our shins are touching. That long brown hair is soft against my cheek. Her scent climbs inside of me. Today she smells like the sea. When she steps back her fingers stay laced behind my neck.
“How did you know?”
She looks so happy and she’s so, so close to me. I lean in and kiss her on the cheek. It’s the most and the absolute least that I can do. My five o’clock shadow grazes her soft skin – masculine and feminine, rough and smooth. I’m starting to lose my head.
“I have my sources,” I say into her ear.
She gives me another quick, tight hug. I want to throw her on the bar and make every day her birthday. When she lets go, I feel a little hollow. Then I see the look on Crosby’s face and it’s worth it. I drain my glass of bubbly and push Olivia toward the middle of the group.
“Now that it’s midnight, it’s officially Olivia’s birthday!” I shout.
Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee says Olivia’s brain. Also uhhhohhh and keep yourself under control. Step away from the drink and nobody gets kissed.
Mouths drop open all around, hands go to hips and everyone looks at me, not the birthday girl. Except for Jordan, who immediately picks her up and swings her around. Then he sets her down, grabs the sides of her face and plants a kiss right on her lips.
It’s quick, almost friendly, but it sucks the breath from my lungs. She blinks for an extra second, then tosses it off with a shout. Jordan is already five feet away, headed for the bar. I must have a surprised look on my face because she catches my eye and raises her eyebrows as if to say ‘that was close’.
You have no idea.
Everyone closes in around her and if she wasn’t the center of attention before, she is now. I stand back, watching her talk animatedly, wearing my flower in her hair. Now I have to share this with everyone, but I make a mental note to buy Coach dinner or something for giving me a head start.
“How long have you known?” Crosby’s next to me, Jack and Coke in hand, watching Billy give Olivia a hug.
“Nice one. That was some hug you got.” He gives me a questioning look. “And then Jordan kissed her.”
“The rule doesn’t say she can’t kiss anyone,” I lie. I’m not okay with it.
“When is someone going to tell her that rule is a joke?”
I shake my head. I’ll tell her on the day I ask her to marry me and then she won’t be ‘consorting’ with anyone ever again. My guess is Crosby is thinking the same thing.
“She’s a little old for you, Kid,” I give him a sock to the arm.
He snorts, a dismissive sound that just sounds sad to me. “I’m a little too old for myself.”
The rest of the guys congratulate me on being sneaky and everyone turns it up a notch to celebrate. I remind them we have tomorrow night as well, and we all start discussing plans to give Olivia a proper birthday celebration.
I’ll give her a proper celebration. If my dick could talk, it would guest host the Howard Stern Show.
An hour and countless drinks later, Olivia puts her head against my shoulder and squishes her face into a silly little smile. She’s pretty drunk.
“Max,” she says quietly. “Thanks.”
I put an arm around her side. Her body sways a little, either with the beat of the music or the alcohol. She’s warm and smells like heaven. My lips press themselves to her forehead.
“My pleasure, Olivia,” I say.
She straightens up a little and looks at me, making a face like a worried little kid. “Jordan kissed me.”
I nod. I don’t know what to say.
“He’s not supposed to kiss me.” She’s almost pouting. I can hardly breathe, thinking about kissing those ripe lips myself. They’re inches from my own, and I’m leaning in without meaning to. And the very last moment, I veer right and press my cheek against hers again. She sighs a little.
“Can’t blame the guy.” And she giggles.
But everyone will blame me… it says so in the rules, Olivia repeats silently.
We barely get in by 2 AM. Geno makes Olivia laugh and she starts hiccupping. By the time we reach the hotel, we’re all crying laughing and she can’t stop making that adorable little squeaking noise. Her door is closest to the elevator. She teeters in, bids us goodnight and hiccups behind the closed door.
Ten minutes later, my phone buzzes.
Her: Effing hiccups! I beat them!
Me: You can do anything on your birthday.
Her: Not anything. Stupid rule.
I don’t reply, promising to be good. My body is screaming to bust down her door and give her that proper celebration. Instead I stare at the dark ceiling, wondering what she would choose to do if she knew the rule was crap. If she made a move before any of us did.
I fantasize that her message was an invitation. That I get up, right now, in these sweat pants and t-shirt and go to her room. She’s wearing a lacy red slip that fits like a second skin. She makes me sit down before slipping a dark gray blindfold over my eyes.
“We’re not allowed to do this,” she says.
Then she lays me back and lowers my pants. I’m harder than steel and I nearly come the second her tongue touches my dick. Deep breaths and thoughts of practice drills hold me off till I can at least get my wet dream in order. She licks my length on all sides and swirls my head under her soft, strong tongue. Then she takes me in her mouth, sliding down a few times to get all of my huge cock. On the fourth stroke, she deep throats me. The thought of the sensation of the back of her throat constricting around me makes me explode in my hand, ending my party a little sooner than I planned. But definitely with a bang.