Chapter 1

"You know your problem; you need to get out more."

"Out more, as in dating?"

"As in with guys, dinner, movies, that kind of thing. It's what normal people do."

"Normal, well there you go then, that's where your argument goes astray."

"It's not an argument Margo, it's fact, otherwise you'd be too busy to even call me."

"So now my calling you is some kind of sign of what? Depression? Antisocial behaviour? Some kind of behavioural disorder I guess?"

"You know the fact that you're willing to engage me in an argument is…well it's just another sign that you're lonely."

"Mmmm, I think you're reading too much into one friend calling another. But if you really, truly feel that way, I can let you go. I mean, if you have so much to do that you can't even talk to me."

"I didn't say that M, I'm just letting you know that I'm worried about you."

"Well don't. I have two jobs and a nice apartment, a car, what else do I need?"

"Sex, preferably on a regular basis."

"Trust you to come out with that Taffey, thanks for reminding me."

"Hey, if your best friend can't tell you that you sound hard up, who can?"

"I sound hard up? Christ, you can tell by my voice?"

"Yep, you don't even have that slightly relaxed I've just used my vibrator voice."

"Fuck Taf," I laugh and roll over onto my stomach and stare at the TV, "when can you come see me? I miss you making me laugh."

"God, I don't know, why would I want to go to fucking Pittsburgh, it sounds depressing."

"It's not, it's a nice city. Oh come on Taf, I know classes are almost over."

"What do you think I am? Rockafeller?"

"Okay I'll pay. Shit you're annoying."

"Yeah, that's why you love me. Okay, okay, my last class is next Tuesday, but you better have found me some sexy guy by the time I get there."

"I can't find one for me, how am I supposed to find one for you?"

"Oh my god," she sighs outlandishly and then laughs, "if you can't find one for a long legged Asian glamour girl, I might just have to give up on you."

"Well I'd hate for you to do that. Can't wait to see you Taffey, really. It will be good to have a piece of home around here. I never thought I'd be this homesick."

"I didn't think you'd have time to be homesick, running a bar."

"Me neither. Who knew? Anyway, I'm exhausted, I'll talk to you in a couple days, I'll phone with your ticket info."

"You'd better lady. Night." I put the phone down and take a deep breath and smile. It will be good to have my best friend around for a while. I knew the change in scenery would be hard to adjust to, I just never expected it to be this hard. I was sure that the renovations and the reopening of the bar would take up more of my time than it has. It would have been more fun if I'd had someone to share it with, but I've been careful to keep my distance from the staff, after all, I'm not sure who to keep and who to get rid of yet. Even with the notes my Aunt left me and everything we talked about in the days before she passed…well it hasn't been easy going from a waitress at Gotham in Vancouver to being the landlady at a bar in Pittsburgh.

Still, there's a certain satisfaction in knowing that I've been running it, single handed for a week now, and nothing has gone horribly wrong yet, and I've got it set up just the way I want it, a little glam, a little rock and roll, and just enough Goth to make me happy. Now if I just had someone…but I give my head a shake; I'm an entrepreneur, I don't need someone to complete me. My Aunt never did, and she left her baby to me to look after. Now is not the time for distractions.

Looking along the bar, I'm glad to see the place is filling up nicely and there are fewer of my Aunt's old biker regulars every night. I see less Harley Davidson tattoos and more Celtic armbands on the guys and more than a few butterflies and fairies on the girls. This was more what I'd hoped for when I decided to redesign and renovate; a younger, hipper, cooler crowd. Being this close to Mellon Arena I'd hoped for more of the after game crowd, but, well considering most of that crowd are now sixteen year old girls I should count myself lucky they aren't in here. At least it looks like the new bouncer I hired is keeping to his word and checking all the i.d.'s and not just the cup sizes of the girls.

Grabbing another glass to polish, I glance at the group getting their 'groove on' out on the dance floor, and wish I could join them. The dj I hired is kicking out some good mixes tonight, a good mixture of eighties and new stuff that makes me want to kick off my shoes and get down or at least get all Cowboy Ugly and get up on the bar and dance. Instead I decide to serve some customers, get my mind off wanting to be part of the party.

I let my gaze wander down the bar and see a face that look familiar, at least I think he's been in before. I slide around Darryl, the beefcake and general eye candy for the girls, who thank god is gay so I don't have to worry about him going home with most of the clientele, and sidle up to the guy, ignoring his thinning and receding hair line, or the slightly more casual than most dark wind breaker type track suit.

"You've been in before. How do you like the place?" I ask, hoping for a compliment. He tears his gaze away from the bottom of his beer and looks up at me through chrome rimmed glasses, and I feel a little flutter when I look into his green eyes.

"Better than it used to be, although I only came in once before the uh…renos." I'm momentarily mesmerized by his soft looking lips, but I manage to blink myself out of my reverie and smile back at him.

"Thanks, it's good to get feedback."

"You uh…take a lot of pride in being a…bar maid?" he asks, and I catch him glancing at my cleavage, but he's subtle, unlike most of the drooling college boys in here.

"I'm the landlady, actually," I grin, putting the glass down and offering him my hand over the bar, "Margo Sheppard." He takes my hand in his and narrows his eyes at me and purses those lush lips.

"I've seen you before…wait, don't tell me," I glance down at his two large hands covering mine and feel a shiver run down my spine. You know what they say about big hands. "Were you ever a waitress?"

"I can't believe you remembered," I laugh, feeling the heat rising into my cheeks. He gives my hand a pat and sits back down on the stool and shakes his head.

"I guess I'm not the only transplant from Vancouver," he laughs, his smile broadening until it's that famous Ruutu grin. "So, if you don't have Trev and the guys to torture, I guess this is your new torture chamber?" Torture? Huh, he has no idea, but I bite back my first thoughts and just smile back at him.

"So playoffs huh? All the little boys must be pissing themselves?"

"They should be," he sighs, that grin of his disappearing for a moment before he shrugs off whatever dark thoughts are sitting behind those emerald eyes. He takes a long swig of his beer, almost emptying the glass, and the smile reappears. "Maybe we'd be doing better this season if they would stop partying so much and concentrate a little more."

"I'd heard," I grin, taking his glass and reaching for the tap to refill it. "I was kinda hoping to get some of that crowd in here."

"What crowd is that?" a shorter, stockier version sat on the stool next to Jarkko and gazes longingly at his beer.

"On the house Rex," I pull him a pint and stick my hand out at him too, "Margo, mistress of all you survey." He looks up at me from under his thick brows and then turns to Jarkko and shrugs his shoulders.

"Margo's an old…friend from Vancouver," he explains, glancing up at me with mischief in his eyes and I feel a clenching below the belt that reminds me exactly why I'd always flirted with him when the guys from the Canucks ate at Gotham's, and it hadn't all been about getting big tips, although that was a bonus for sure.

"I'll leave you boys to your shop talk," I smirk, feeling a little regret about moving back down the bar to where some of those drooling college boys are signaling to be served.

I keep an eye on him through the night, and truth be told, he did on me as well, and I made sure every time his glass got near empty I was there to fill it, until he put his meaty hand over the rim and just shook his head at me.

"I've had enough, any more and you'll be rolling me down the street."

"You name the direction," I laugh, "I'll make sure someone gets you home safe."

"I'd rather walk you home," he smiles, leaning over the bar, as if he'd somehow be overheard by anyone with all the music and talking. "What time do you get off?" A smart aleck comment leaps to my lips and I somehow manage to bite it down and remain smiling innocently.

"At close, which is two, but uh…it would be a short walk, I live upstairs," I add, pointing over our heads. His gaze follows my finger and then he looks back at me with a grimace.

"That kinda sucks doesn't it?"

"I don't know, so far it's pretty convenient, crawl up the stairs and crash. I like it."

"Well…if I can't walk you home, maybe I can stay for a…what do you call it, after hours drink?"

"A nightcap?" I ask, feeling a shiver of anticipation run up my spine. "I guess, if you don't mind helping me pick up some glasses and waiting 'til the staff leaves." He smiles, the sort of smile that with him, usually means someone's going over the boards. "Okay, well, you're funeral. If you think you're getting off working, then you have another thing coming."

"If there's one thing I'm not afraid of, it's hard work," he says, that grin of his spreading across his face, and I can't help but grin back.

"Well, like I said, your funeral," I shrug and Darryl laughs behind me. "Ask him, he's only known me two weeks and he knows what a task master I am."

"Is that right?" Jarkko glances up at the big guy beside me, and I can see him sizing him up, like he's and opposition player about to get bounced around on the ice like a beach ball. I think, for just a second, about telling him that Darryl's no competition to him, but then I decide that wouldn't be quite as much fun as seeing those already slanted northern Scandinavian features set in a jealous, but determined scowl.

"She gets out her whip and if you don't do what she says, shasam!" Darryl makes the sound of a cracking whip, but the flourish he does with his well manicured hands sets of the gaydar of just about everyone at the bar, and Jarkko's scowl disappears, replaced by a more thoughtful grin.

"Whip huh? This just gets more interesting all the time." He runs his fingers down the side of his glass and I know that he knows exactly what he's doing as my mouth gets dry and I have to turn and find something to do at the cash drawer to stop the drool from actually sliding out of my mouth. Damn, he'd always been fun to flirt with back home at Gotham's, but there'd always been a group of guys there and I'd always got the feeling that he was being egged on by the rest of the team. This was truly unexpected, but…well, nice. In fact, I could feel his eyes on my back now, and just the blazing heat of his gaze was making me wet.

I glanced at my watch. One. Another hour before I could kick all these party animals out. Damn. I'd have to find somewhere else to be for the time being or I wouldn't make it til two, I'd be jumping over that bar and tossing him down on the ground and doing it in the middle of the dance floor.

The dance floor, that suddenly seemed like safe haven, and after all, it is my bar. I slid through the bodies to the dj booth and whispered a few selections into his ear and when Shiny Toy Guns''Le Disko' booms through the speakers, I hit the floor, bouncing in time with the music just like everyone else, until I feel a pair of hands on my shoulders and knew that he'd found me.

The width of his chest presses against my shoulders and I feel his hands sweeping my hair away from neck as his soft lips press against my nape, sending a shiver down my spine. I feel his hands caress my bare shoulders, run down my arms until his fingers lace in mine. I close my eyes and lean back against him, letting the movements of his body guide mine.

The next thing I know, I can hear Darryl calling last call and the dance floor begins to thin out. He guides me back to the bar, his hand covering mine, the length of his body pressed against my side. I hear Recchi ask him if he's coming, hear him say no. Then I hear Darryl ask me if I want to give him the keys, tell me he can lock up, and that snaps me out of my sleep walking state.

"No, nope, all hands on deck," I shake my head and unravel Jarkko's arm from around mine and begin to collect glasses. He smiles indulgently down at me and follows my lead. I manage to keep one step ahead of him, but somehow even watching him collect glasses is sensual, the way the muscles in his arms flex when he has an armful of glasses. And I thought I'd only liked the brute force of the way he put other players into the boards.

By the time my staff is making their way to the exits, I can feel my body quivering in anticipation. When I lock the door behind them, and silence fills the air, I feel him press his chest against my back, feel his lips at the crux of my neck, his teeth grazing the thin skin and a shudder runs over my skin.

"I can't believe I never realized how hot you were before," he whispers, his hands caressing my shoulders, pulling me back against him.

"Must have been the uniform," I mumble, pressing my ass back against the bulge I feel growing in his pants. I hear him laugh, a low rumble that vibrates against my skin, making me shudder.

"Yeah, I like this…leather," he chuckles, running his hands down over the front of my vest, over the mounds of my breasts, and stopping at the snap just over my navel, giving it a hard tug, the metallic click of it opening echoing in the dark emptiness of the bar. He hasn't even touched me yet, not really, and already I can feel a gush of warmth between my legs.

He makes slow steady progress on the snaps, stopping to caress the bared flesh each time, kneading my skin with his thick strong fingers. With the last two snaps, my breasts spring free, and he holds them, caressing them softly, running his forefinger and thumb over the nipples until I'm moaning and grinding my ass against him.

"You know what I wonder?" he asks, his voice a rumble in my ear. "You know what I wondered every time you brought my steak at Gothams?" I shake my head, unable to trust myself to speak more than a groan. "If your pussy tastes as good, or better than the steak." My knees get weak and he chuckles as he holds me up, as he guides me towards the bar and lifts me up onto it, as if I don't weigh more than a feather. He pushes the vest off my shoulders and drops his lips around one nipple, his tongue bathing it softly while his hands massage my thighs, working their way up from knees. He pushes the denim up, further and further until his fingers brush the elastic on my panties and then he gives each side a tug, and I lift my ass off the cool steel to help him remove them. He drops them onto the bar stool beside him, then sits down on the stool and pulls my hips to the edge of the bar, pulling my knees over his shoulders and grinning up at me.

My breath catches in my throat as I look down at him, and then I let out a long high pitched wail as he blows on my clit, his warm breath sending bolts of electricity up my spine. I feel my thighs quiver as his tongue sweeps up to my clit, and then I have to grip the edge of the bar when his teeth give a gentle tug to my most sensitive of body parts.

I'd always said to Taffy, every time he'd stuck that tongue out at an opposing team player that I was willing to bet that he could do amazing things with it. I was right, and it's all I can do to not to fall over the edge immediately, to let him take me to the edge and then pull me back, once, twice, three times before sliding his fingers inside and pumping them in and out of me while he rolls my clit in his mouth until I fall, shaking and quivering over the edge, the climax leaving me limp and breathless.

"Oh my god," I manage to breathe as he grins at me, his lips moist with my juices.

"That was just an appetizer," he grins, "did you say you had a bed upstairs?" Weakly, I manage to nod, and let him help me off the bar, again lifting me to my feet as if I weigh less than a child. "Lead the way," he says, his voice husky, his tongue sweeping over my earlobe, making me shiver.

I have the presence of mind at least to grab my panties before I lead him through the back rooms, the office, and up the dark narrow stairs. I unlock the door and carefully lock it behind us, before I lead him through the boxes and sofa that make up my living room, down the hall to the box-spring and mattress on the floor with my favourite purple sheets and velvet coverlet in disarray.

I turn to him and he smiles, his hand reaching up to bring my lips up to his, covering my mouth with his and sliding his tongue over mine. I can taste myself on him, and somehow this only raises the level of my desire as he gently lowers me onto the mattress, his body pressing mine down, his other hand sliding between my legs, bringing me quickly back to the brink. Then I feel his body peel away from mine, and I open my eyes to watch him slide his t-shirt off, baring his thick muscular torso, and then my eyes follow his hands down to where his fingers are working on his belt. I realize I'm holding my breath, waiting, wondering if what we'd always thought will be true.

"Oh shit…condoms," I mutter, digging my hands into the sheets to get purchase, trying to drag myself upright.

"I grabbed some from the dispenser earlier," he laughs, pulling about half a dozen out of his back pocket and tossing them onto the floor beside the bed. I know my eyes get a little wide when I look at them, six. Damn, I'm going to be one sore girl in the morning, and when I look back up, he's peeled his pants and boxers away, to reveal the long thick dick we'd always thought he'd have.

I can feel that I've sucked my bottom lip into my mouth as I watch him peel a condom out of the wrapper, and I think I even whimper a bit as he rolls it over his uncut cock. It's only when he pauses above me that I realize I've still got my denim skirt around my waist and my cowboy boots on. Luckily this makes me laugh, and breaks the moment of tension as I struggle out of the skirt and kick the boots off. As I'm kicking the second off, my toes working on the heel of the boot, he grabs my foot, and begins by kissing my ankle and then works his way up to the back of my knee, sending shivers down my spine as he licks the back of my knees, and then bites down gently on the inside of my thigh. I grab a handful of sheets as he presses his tongue to my clit again, hearing myself moan his name as his lips move up to my waist, his teeth marking my ribs just under my breast, before his lips fully surround one nipple and then I can feel him, pressing against my entrance and I'm glad I'm this wet, I'm glad I'm this close to the edge.

He moves slowly, screwing himself in, gently, until I feel him bump my cervix and I'm whimpering, wanting more, not sure if I can take more. Only then does he begin to move, slowly pumping in and out, waiting for me to catch up to him, to wrap my legs around him and pull him deeper. It's only then that he slides his glasses off and gently puts them down on the floor beside us and maneuvers me further up on the bed, pulling my hips off the mattress so he can fuck me deeper, pulling me up against him, his biceps rippling, his abs glistening with sweat.

I watch his eyes close and his lush lips fall open as I clamp my muscles around him, tugging him deeper. I can feel his balls slapping my ass as he begins to speed up his rhythm and then I feel the spasm at the base of my spine and know I'm about to cum again.

"Faster, Jarkko, oh my god, do it hard," I beg, and he lets me down onto the mattress so I can wrap my legs around him and pull him deeper that way and together we growl and bite and fight for the lead until my body begins to quake uncontrollably, and I can feel my muscles clamp down on him, and he throws his head back and roars as his body empties into mine.

For a long few minutes, we lay like that, wrapped around each other, panting and sweating and then I start to laugh, and once I've started, I can't stop. He looks down at me quizzically, and when I'm finally able to regain control of myself he shakes his head at me runs his hand up to my cheek.

"Laughing…I wasn't expecting that reaction."

"No…you don't understand…I've dreamed of this, I just never expected to actually get to fuck you."

"Yeah?" he asks, looking mildly proud of himself. "Well why not? You're…well very hot. A lot of the guys used to talk about you."

"I'm flattered," I giggle, burying my head in his muscled chest as a blush rises to my cheeks. "Taffy is never going to believe this."


"My best friend. Never mind, long story." I look up at him as he runs his fingers down over my hip, his gaze falling to my breasts. "Again?" I ask, disbelief in my voice. "So soon?"

"Athlete," he smiles down at me. "Complaining?"

"Hell no," I giggle, pushing down onto his back and sliding down his torso and tugging the used condom off and replacing it with my mouth. With a groan he slides his fingers into my hair and pushes his hips off the mattress and gently fucks my mouth.

"What time is it?" her voice asks and I look over at the clock and laugh.

"Don't know, five here, so what eight? Nine?"

"Fucking early," Taffy sighs, "this better be good."

"It is," I sigh, leaning back against the wall and tugging the sheets up over my chest. "Guess who's in my shower?"

"In your shower? There's someone in your shower?" she yawns and then I can hear the gears begin to turn. "Is there a GUY in your shower?"

"There is, but not just any guy."

"Fuck…I don't know, just tell me, I can't think this early."

"Jarkko Ruutu," I hiss, hearing the water stop and the sound of the shower curtain being pulled.

"Shut the fuck up. You're lying. No fucking way."

"Way. And damn girl, everything we ever thought…true."

"Fuck! You bitch, you're fucking kidding me."

"Nope, he's fucking amazing. I haven't even been to sleep. He's got to go to practice and he hasn't even slept a wink. But I gotta go Taff, he's coming back, I'll call you later."

"You fucking better you bitch. Oh my god, you should have fucking taped it."

"Don't be sick. Later."

"Later," she sighs and hangs up. I press my phone shut and drop it back on the floor and huddle down under the sheets and pretend to be asleep. He dresses quickly, and then I feel the mattress dip as he sits on the edge of the bed, his hand sliding under the sheet and running over my hip.

"I've got to go, but…I'll see you again?" he asks and I open my eyes and grin at him.

"You'd better Ruuts, you'd better." He grins and bends to place a soft kiss on my lips before getting up and holding his hand out to me. I think about it for a minute and then I reach over and pull my purse closer, digging a key out of my change purse and handing it to him. "Let yourself in…later." He raises his eyebrows, then nods and gets up and walks out the room, stopping at the door to blow me a kiss. I catch it in my hand and hold it to my chest. He laughs and I listen to him leave, listen to the door click shut before I lie back and let out a quiet scream of triumph.

Chapter 2

"I can't believe you're here," I hug Taffey again and feel an overwhelming urge to jump up and down like a little kid. She grins at me in her patient sort of way before moving right past me and sticking her hand out to Jarkko who's standing at my stove, cooking something involving fish and soup. She flips her long ebony hair over her shoulder and turns her most dazzling smile up at him, sliding out of her jacket, making sure he gets a good view of her best 'assets', the twins.

"And I can't believe that you have this big hunky man in your house," she purrs, running her hand up and down his arm and peering into the pot in just such a way that the twins get a good look at Jarkko, and he at them. I watch her slide her hands around the width of his bicep and then have to bite the inside of my cheek to stop from laughing as she actually makes a purring sound deep in her throat. "Oh Margo, you're right, he's so strong." Jarkko raises his eyebrows and looks over at me with the unmistakable 'is she for real?' and I decide to take pity on him.

"Put him down Taffy, you're making him blush," I laugh and she just grins over his arm at me, batting her long eyelashes as if she's far too innocent to know what she's doing. I roll my eyes at her and she laughs and lets go of him, flouncing over to the table and turning one of the chairs around and straddling it like a horse, making her skirt ride up her snow white thighs and setting her chin down on her hands and leveling her gaze at his ass, her favourite view.

"So where'd all this rad new furniture come from? Cuz I know Margo didn't pick it out, otherwise it would be all old people's stuff from yard sales."

"Nice," I groan, sticking my head in the fridge to find some coolers, and to stop Jarkko from seeing me laugh. "Jarkko helped."

"Helped?" Now it's his turn to laugh, and I feel a hard swat on my ass which brings my head up hard into the freezer door.

"Ouch, fuck, are you trying to kill me?" I growl, rubbing my head and pushing him back behind me, which I realize immediately is a mistake as he slides his hand up under my skirt and into my underwear, exploring momentarily until I stomp my boot down on his stocking foot, and then it's his turn to swear under his breath.

"Um…if you two need some time alone?" Taffy asks, clearing her throat loudly. I close the fridge door and give both of them the evil eye before handing Jarkko a beer and moving over to the table and handing Taffy a cider and sitting down and rubbing my head before opening my cooler.

"Maybe later," Jarkko grins at Taffy and even though I'm sitting behind her, I don't need to see her face to know what will come out of her mouth next.

"Mmmm well maybe later you'll be ready to invite me to join you," she giggles, and I know that she's giving him her best, most seductive grin, and by the way his cheeks begin to colour I know that it's having the exact effect she wants it to have.

"Taf," I hiss, kicking the back of her ankle, but I know she'll just ignore me, she's already having way too much fun.

"Maybe you'll be too busy later," Jarkko manages, finally getting past the first shock of having my best friend offer a threesome up and having me not say no.

"I can't imagine what would possibly distract me from spending time with…Margo," Taff grins back at me and winks.

"I invited the entire team to the club tonight, should be good," he smiles over at me, and I know he thinks I should be happy about the draw this pre holiday shut down party is going to have for the club but I'm not actually all that thrilled. I'm more worried about all the underage puck bunnies I'm going to have to toss out and that I'm going to have to babysit a bunch of underage drinkers in the V.I.P. room, my only concession to having the Kid, Gino and Staal in the house.

"Oooh…all kinds of hot men to play with," Taffy grins back at me, tapping her blood red nails on the back of the chair. "When do they get here?"

"The club doesn't open until nine," I sigh, and she scrapes the chair forward and swings her leg over it like some kind of prima ballerina, and I'm sure she's giving Jarkko some kind of a show because Jarkko quickly looks back down at the soup as if it's the most fascinating thing in the room.

"Good, then I have plenty of time to get ready," she grins back at me before she sashays towards the guest room. I watch her go until I hear the door click behind her and then I turn my attention back on Jarkko who I can tell is trying to stifle a laugh.

"She's a firecracker," he observes, and I can tell he's sucking in his cheeks and trying not to laugh.

"Mmmm, you have no idea," I sigh, unraveling myself from the chair and taking the two steps it takes to lean against the width of his back and wrap my arms around his chest. "Just promise me, you'll warn the boys before you let them inside."

"No way," he laughs, "this I gotta see."

"More food," Taffy laughs, sliding behind me at the bar and leaning her head through the kitchen window. "Those boys are like…garberators, fuck me, I wonder if their appetites for other things are as good hey?" she laughs, and gives me a smack on the ass as I fill yet another pitcher of beer to take up to the V.I.P. room.

"I don't care, as long as they pay for everything they use, including the condom machines, I hear Max took one right off the wall of the boys' bathroom. Have you seen it?"

"Actually I did, and I saw Gino tossing quarters down it like it was a slot machine," Taffy grins and then rolls her eyes. "I got the distinct impression he was hoping to toss some bills in my g-string," she says, snapping the t-bar sticking up at the back of her skin tight jeans, "but I told him I don't go that cheap."

"Please, a room full of millionaires, like you're not in your element."

"Mmmm, there's really only two of them…well maybe three that I would actually like to play with," she sighs, leaning back against the bar and gazing up at the floor to ceiling glass that makes up the V.I.P. room.

"Really, only three?" I have to laugh, and give up on trying to carry all three pitchers at once, handing her one and moving out from behind the bar, Taffy in tow.

"Well, I mean, there's doable, and then there's…rrrowr, he'd make me scream," she giggles, and again I can feel my eyes rolling in their sockets.

"So who are the lucky boys then?" I ask, taking the stairs carefully, not wanting to lose any of the profits to the floor.

"Well you've got one of them," she sighs, gazing back towards the spot at the bar where the three 'old guys' are sitting, preferring their own company to the louder, more raucous party going on upstairs.

"Yeah, I guessed that, so who are the other two?"

"Well Sidney, of course," she giggles, giving me a little nudge, sending a splosh of beer over my arm. "And then there's Fluer."

"So many accents, and he's the only one?"

"Well…I mean c'mon, the rest are kind of…well hockey goons right?"

"So not Max? Not Army?"

"Well they're fun, like I said, doable, just not…screamworthy." I shake my head at her as I push the door open with my ass and glance around to see if I'm about to be hit with a flying coaster or elbow.

"Can I help?" A low voice asks, and I turn to find the very darkly handsome Sidney Crosby offering his open hands. I push the pitchers into his hands gratefully and then slide my arm along the hem of my t-shirt to wipe off the suds still clinging to my skin. "These are kinda heavy for you to carry aren't they?" he asks, sliding them onto one of the tables and immediately pouring a glass and offering it to me, but I shake my head.

"Never while I'm on duty."

"I will though," Taffy slides around me, taking the glass in one hand while pouring into another glass with the other. "I'm not working, I'm just helping. Anything I can help you with?" she asks hopefully, giving him her biggest most innocent grin.

"Uh…I don't know," he blushes, and I feel almost sorry for him as she slides the pitcher onto the table without so much as bending her knees which gives the entire room a very good view of just how tight those jeans are fitting across her ass.

"I'll be back with some more appies," I sigh, turning to leave, but then I remind myself to be nice, this little party is going to put thousands into my till, tonight, "and thanks for staying up here," I add.

"Can I help?" he asks again. I narrow my eyes at him, trying to figure out his angle and then shake my head.

"By staying up here," I reply, crooking my finger at Taffy, but I realize she's already disappeared into the room somewhere and then I hear a high pitched giggle from the back of the room and we both turn to see Max lifting her onto on the tables where she begins to shake her groove thing in a slow, stripper like way. "Okay, but just with food," I sigh, and turn to go back down the stairs.

I've been watching her since she greeted us at the door, Jarkko with his hand possesively on her shoulder, letting all of us know that this gorgeous creature is his girlfriend, which is something of an overstatement is you ask anyone on the team, he's known her all of two weeks, and according to Rex, all he does is sleep with her.

Not that I wouldn't mind taking his place, now that I've seen her. For once Ruuts wasn't overestimating how mind-blowing she is. Unlike his porno fiancée, whose scrawny body and peroxide blonde hair left most of the guys on the team skipping the movie, Margo is curvy, and tanned, and dark and by all accounts smart too. After all, she's running a business, and by the look of the way this place is jumping, doing pretty well for herself.

Everything's in balance, the right amount of new music and old music, a good mixture of people on the floor, guys and girls behind the bar, and you could paint a perfect figure eight from her bust to her perfectly round ass, which is distracting the hell out of me as I limp down the stairs after her.

When she boots the kitchen doors open, I almost end up on my own ass because I don't see the doors swinging back at me I'm concentrating so hard on the way her ass looks in that leather skirt. I hear the kitchen staff calling out to her, friendly, happy sounding. Either she's a good boss or they all want to get into her pants as badly as I do right now.

"Sidney?" she turns, sweeping a tray up easily on one hand that I need two just to balance, and then she takes two more, one in each hand like they're nothing at all. "After you kiddo," she smiles, an easy, relaxed genuine smile but it makes me grimace. If there's one thing I hate being called, it's anything about being a kid, kiddo, even being called the Kid just doesn't sit right with me, except my dad keeps telling me it's a compliment in a way and it would have been a down right cool moniker in the old west. I say he's just watched way too many Clint Eastwood movies.

"Uh…maybe you should lead, I don't want to fall back on to you," I mutter, trying hard to maintain the tray's balance in both hands while she sashays ahead of me, swinging that nice round ass in front of me like a beacon in the near dark. When she gets to the second to last stair at the top, she stops, and turns and I can't believe she can do that with both trays perfectly balanced.

"I just wanted to say, I know it must be a pain in the ass to be able to drink at home and for me to stick you guys up here but, well thanks for going along with it." She beams this smile down on me and I know exactly what Ruuts sees in her, not just sexy, but genuinely nice.

"It's cool. Thanks for letting us do this here. I don't know how we never saw this place before." I glance over my shoulder at the crowd on the dance floor and realize a few sets of eyes have turned our way and I can almost see some of them begin to realize who they're looking at and decide to move ahead, sooner, rather than later.

"Pre-renovations I would bet you guys were warned to stay away from here," she sighs but has that big friendly grin on her face as she backs the door open and the sound of the party going on inside actually drowns out the music from below for a moment until we're both inside and the door swings shut.

"This was that biker bar, the one that always had all the hogs outside?" I ask, remembering how Mario had told me this place was strictly off limits.

"Not anymore, not that I have anything against bikes mind you," she laughs, sliding one platter onto a nearby table and just managing to avoid Gino as he careens drunkenly around the room singing in very loud out of tune Russian, and she sweeps the platter out of my arms just in time to stop it from going flying as Jordy sweeps me up in his arms, lifting me off my feet.

"Hey lady, what's with all the Nuck gear on the wall?" Max asks, slapping her so hard on her ass he nearly lifts her off her feet.

"I'm from...," she stops and glances around until she sees her friend doing the twist on a table with Army, "Taffy and I are from Vancouver." I feel my heart drop when I turn and look at the Vancouver Canucks memorabilia on the wall behind the bar. Ruutu and Linden everything, signed jerseys, sticks, posters, flags. The only thing not Canucks is a new looking signed Ruuts jersey right above the cash register.

"We can't have that can we Croz?" Max yells over the music that suddenly seems to have got a whole lot louder and I turn to see Gino cranking on the volume controls and dropping his drink in favor of an air guitar solo.

"I guess we'll have to get some of our gear over here," I nod, and she grins again, and I can feel it, like an arrow to my chest.

"I guess I can put up some of your stuff, but I'm a Vancouver girl, I don't know if you can turn me into a full time Pens fan," she laughs and heads for the door. I go to follow her, but as she opens the door, Ruuts is standing just a stair down and he lifts her off her feet and wraps his arms around her, gripping her ass and covering her mouth with his. I feel my hands balling into fists, and realize I'm jealous, jealous of my team mate.

"Can't do that man," Fleur pats my shoulder. "He's your team mate. She's his girl."

"He's engaged," I stutter, trying to justify my reaction, but Fleur just makes that disapproving sound deep in his throat that only a francophone can.

"That's their issue man. C'mon there's lots of girls here," he turns my attention towards the dance floor, "point one out and I'll go get her for you."

"No thanks," I growl, pushing his hand off my shoulder and heading back into the party to find a drink to help drown the tightness in my chest.

"Look at him," Taffy lounges on the bar like some kind of renaissance painting, her dark hair falling over her shoulders, her long ivory legs crossed demurely at the ankle, a half empty bottle of expensive red wine at her elbow. The only thing that really throws off the vision is the straw sticking out of the top of the bottle. "You've so got him trained," she grins admiringly at the way Ruuts is cleaning up glasses and laughing with the other staff members who've grown attached to him in the last couple of weeks.

"I should be mad at you," I sigh, counting the twenties again before putting them in the cash bag.

"I was a good girl, I helped," she pouts, her bottom lip sticking out briefly before she giggles again. "I helped myself to one or two of the young guns' phone numbers,"

"I bet you did," I shake my head at her and then shut the till. "No, I mean I should be mad at you for the way you're looking at him like he's a prime piece of beef."

"Well he is," she smiles, turning her attention back to watching Ruuts lug an armful of empty glasses towards us. "C'mon girlfriend is it too much to ask?" She turns her gaze back on me and bats her long eyelashes and sticks that bottom lip out again.

"I don't know," I shrug, glancing over at Jarkko and meeting his gaze with a smile that feels suddenly shy.

"Oh c'mon, it's not like he's going to say no," she sighs, waving her fingers at him, which makes his cheeks colour, "and besides, it's not like he hasn't been thinking of it since this afternoon."

"I know," I take a deep breath and glance back at her and then shrug. "It's me that's going to be embarrassed."

"Hey, we've done this before, remember?" she grins in that way that just means trouble but makes me laugh when the memory of Taylor Pyatt's big muscular body pinned between us flashes behind my eyes. "That worked out okay didn't it?"

"Yeah," I reply quietly, "but I didn't have…feelings for him."

"Puhleeze, like you could even think of having a relationship with that overgrown ape. Damn, the boy can hardly read," she laughs, swinging her long legs around the bar and catching me in her arms and leaning her chin heavily on my shoulder. "Besides, I thought you said all you and Ruuts do is fuck like bunnies."

"Not just," I mumble, watching him as he watches her draw her tongue up my neck to my ear, sending a shiver down my spine. "We talk too. He's so smart, and funny."

"Okay, if you don't want to, I won't force you," she sighs, unraveling her arms from around me stepping back.

"No, no, he's going to the World's next week, and I can't take his word for it that he's going to break up with this fiancée of his. Sure, what the fuck," I sigh, reaching back for her and training my eyes on him as she laces her pale fingers in mine and I bring them up to my lips briefly. I watch him swallow hard, and then watch him glance around at the rest of the staff before he looks back at me with that 'is this for real?' look on his face. I feel Taf's lips on my neck and watch her reach around me, crooking her finger at him as she backs me towards the door to the apartment upstairs. He blinks hard, twice, then reaches in his pocket and hands the keys to Darryl who purses his lips and shakes his head at us laughing. I bite my bottom lip and turn and pull Taff up the stairs, laughing and hearing Ruuts heavy footfalls behind us as he chases us up the stairs.

We all fall onto the bed in a heap, laughing, but then there's this awkward moment where we're all looking at each other to see if this is okay, and that's when Taffy slides her hands under my t-shirt, lifting it over my shoulders, over my head, and then holds her hands out to Jarkko around me. He takes her hands and they surround me, Jarkko's lips covering mine while she massages my shoulders gently until it's her turn, and then I watch, mostly out of the corner of my eye as she offers her lips to him over my shoulder.

When we'd played this 'game' before with other men, well with one or two including Taylor Pyatt, we'd always had the guy in the middle, so having me in the middle makes me feel tense, and vulnerable. Taffy, seemingly sensing this, encourages me with her hands kneading my shoulders as I lift his shirt over his head, and then I hear her sigh.

"Told you, pretty nice," I manage to chuckle and she makes an appreciative sound, reaching around me to run her blood red nails down his muscled chest.

"Damn," she moans, her fingers stopping at the waist of his jeans. "And you said it just gets better?"

"I did," I laugh as her fingers tug hard on the top button of his jeans. I can see him blinking hard, swallowing hard, as his breathing quickens. So I cover her hand with mine, pushing it back up his chest as I move my other hand down over his bulge which is pulsing beneath the denim. "Ooops, look what we've done Taffy," I giggle and she slides around me, pushing him down into the pillows as I work the fly on his jeans. I can hear her lips working on his chest and I can hear his sighs and moans as I slide my hand inside his boxers, but I concentrate on what I'm doing and try not to watch her. Instead I take him in my mouth, as much as I can, licking and nibbling my way down to the dark thatch at the base of his cock. I feel him push up against my lips and I take that as encouragement, sliding my mouth over him while I slide out of my skirt and wriggle out of my panties. I glance up and see her, kneeling over his hand, her jeans hanging over the edge of the bed, her fingers making short work of her bra as his fingers slide beneath the fabric of her g-string. Her eyes close and her head falls back, her red lips falling open as her dark hair touches the base of her spine.

I don't swing that way, but I know what she's feeling and I can't help but think how beautiful she is as his fingers work up inside of her. When I look down at Jarkko, he's watching me, his plush bottom lip sucked in between his teeth as I roll his balls in my hand and slide my lips back down to the base of his cock, pushing his foreskin down with my teeth. It doesn't take long for him to either get too excited or lose his patience but when I see his free hand reaching for the bedside table, I slide him out of my mouth and scramble over the bed for the condom pack and back to him, ripping the pack open and sliding the condom over this thick erection before inclining my head towards Taffy. She raises her eyebrows at me, and I shrug, nodding my agreement. With an evil wiggle of her eyebrows, she slides out of her g-string and I turn back to him, watching him watch her slide her body over his until I see his eyes close and his lips fall open in a long low moan. I wait for his eyes to blink open again before positioning myself over his lips and amazing tongue, and then it's my turn to toss my head back and let out a howl of relief as his teeth tug gently on my clit.

I grab the top rung of the headboard and hold on for dear life as he plunges his tongue up inside me, his big hands sliding over my ass, holding me still, pulling me down onto him. I can hear Taffy moaning and sighing behind me, and the sounds of her taking her pleasure pull me more quickly to the edge of my own. When I feel him bucking beneath me, knowing he's trying to bring us both, I feel that familiar tension building at the base of my spine and I reach back, my hand reaching for hers' and I feel her fingers lace with mine and it's like the circle of an electrical current is closed and sets all of us off at once and all I can hear is shrieks and moans as we all fall over the edge together.

As my orgasm subsides I slide down the bed, sliding my arm over his abdomen and Taffy does the same. We exchange an amused look then turn our gazes up to meet his and he looks very satisfied, if a little sheepish, and that makes both of us laugh.

"You two…you're too much," he laughs. I glance over at Taffy who's now toying with one of his nipples with her fingertip.

"Does that mean you're not going to want a round two?" she asks, batting her eyelashes at me and biting her lip to stop from giggling.

"Round two?" he asks, disbelief clear in his voice.

"Oh, I think he can handle it," I whisper, sliding my hand down over his abdomen and sliding the used condom off and tossing it into the garbage before I begin to slowly, and gingerly pump his cock back to life. "He's always ready for round two, aren't you baby?"

"Oh god," he moans as Taffy's white teeth tug on his pink nipple "You're going to kill me aren't you? I'm not going to make it to worlds am I?"

"Well, you'll have a story to tell Tuomo anyway," Taffy giggles and smiles down at me and we both laugh.

"Oh fuck, he's never going to believe this," he moans, reaching to run his fingers through her hair as his other hand slides over my back. "But I don't care."

Chapter 3

I sit with a baseball cap pulled down low over my eyes, wondering what the hell I'm doing sitting outside her bar in the middle of the morning, wondering if she even wakes up this early, wondering if Ruuts is going to come out of those doors and catch me here. This was exactly the kind of behaviour Mario and everyone else warned me about from fans, the exact reason he, we, live in a gated community. Still, it has been a few days and even knowing she was sleeping with one of my teammates hadn't made it any easier to try and stop thinking about her.

She's invaded my thoughts, and not having hockey to think about for the next four months hasn't actually helped at all. Most of the guys have already gone their separate ways; even Army has gone to play for Team Canada and I should have left for home by now, but I was using my foot as an excuse, just another week, for more x-rays, just to be sure it was on the mend. It was a lie, I can just as easily get x-rays at home, much more inexpensively, but I just had to see her.

I'd had the same dream, over and over again, her, asking me to stay after closing, wrapping her body around mine, and…

I blink myself awake and flip the brim of my cap up to see her leaning against the suv, staring in at me with this weird look on her face. Well what did I expect? This was stalker behavior, what else would she possibly think?

"Please tell me you didn't sleep out here all night," she smiles, but there's actual concern in her eyes as I roll down the window. "Come to think of it, I don't remember you being here last night."

"No I…uh… well I just brought over some of that stuff we talked about the other night?" I offer; rolling down one of the back windows and letting her see the jerseys and sticks in the back seat. She peers into the back and I realize that she must be on tip toes and I give myself an inward shake, remind myself that I was brought up to be a gentleman and lean back to grab one of the jerseys. Her eyes widen and her lush lips open in a soundless wow.

"I can't take this…I'd need to hire round the clock security to have this in the bar," she whispers, running her fingers over the jersey like she's afraid it's going to burn her. "This should be in the Hockey Hall of Fame, not a…not a bar," she looks up at me with her dark eyes full of wonder and I can feel my chest swell.

"It'll be behind the bar right? It should be fine," I shrug, glancing down at the jersey that Mario wore in the first game we played together, both of our signatures on it. I'd meant to keep it but…

"This is incredible Sidney, really. This is too much. I'll have to go out and get this framed anyway. God, I hope the rest isn't this valuable."

"Nah, just uh…well I've got one of Fleur's sticks, signed of course and one of Rex's sticks from when he won the Stanley Cup last season and…"

"Sidney…these are your mementos…I can't take these," she sighs, trying to put the jersey back in my hands.

"Oh let the kid give them to you if he wants to, I mean what are they doing for him at Mario's anyway? At least he can visit them when he comes into the bar," Taffy laughs, reaching past Margo and taking the jersey and holding it up to the light. "Cool. So are we going for dim sum now or what? I'm starving."

"Geez, you and your stomach," Margo laughs, carefully taking the jersey back and folding it gingerly over her arm. "I'm going to put this inside first, in the safe," she adds. "Then we can go."

"First you had to get dressed, now it's this…I'm ready to faint here," Taffy sighs dramatically, lifting her wrist to her forehead and leaning against the side of the SUV. "Explain to her kid will you? A girl needs her sustenance after being up half the night." She turns her dark eyes on me, and runs her blood red fingernails through her long ebony hair. "Well? Am I right or what?"

"I…uh…I wouldn't know," I shrug, "I guess."

"Put him down Taf," Margo sighs, shaking her head and turning her back, heading for the bar. I watch her walk, watch that shapely ass of hers swinging like a pendulum, mesmerizing me.

"You look hungry, why don't you come with us?" Taffy asks, reaching over to brush her hand against the back of my arm. I can feel heat rising in my face, realizing that she can see what I'm thinking or at least that she's made a pretty good guess at it.

"No that's…I mean…," I start to turn down the offer but Margo turns around and grins.

"Absolutely you should, it's the least I can do, and you can help bring all that inside too." I glance between the two women, at Taffy who's looking very pleased with herself and at Margo who's just smiling back at me with an open friendly grin.

"Well if you don't mind my coming along, yeah I guess I don't really have anything else to do right now," I bounce out of the truck, happy to not just be sent packing as soon as she had the jerseys in her hands.

"Well I couldn't leave you behind looking all puppy eyed at her like that," Taffy sighs, leaning against the door of the SUV while I pull out a couple of the sticks from the backseat. I can feel my muscles tense as she runs her fingernails down my back and it doesn't help when she laughs at my response. "You don't actually think she'd be the least bit interested do you kiddo?" My fingers curl around Fleur's stick so hard my knuckles turn white, but I don't respond, I keep my jaw clenched, just like I have to do with Forsberg and so many other goons. "Aw, you do don't you puppy? That's so adorable. Well this should be fun" I wait to feel her hand withdraw from my back before I turn to watch her walk towards the club, one jersey in her hand, a spring in her step that I would be willing to bet is more about having made me feel uncomfortable than those impossibly high heels of hers. I take a deep breath and remind myself that nothing that I've seen so far from Margo indicates that she's anything like her friend, and then I follow them inside.

I hardly hear anything they talk about, I've learned to tune out people talking around me, something that helps me concentrate in the dressing room. I hear enough to know when to nod, when to smile or when I'm actually being spoken to, but so far I've rarely needed that. Mostly it's Taffy doing the talking, and Margo listens intently to everything she says, smiling, nodding, laughing and even egging her on when she flirts with the waiter who keeps blushing and running away.

With Margo so intent on listening to Taffy, it gives me plenty of time to watch her, watch the way she leans her chin on her hands, her elbows set precariously at the edge of the table, blocking my view of her abundant cleavage which, the more people come into the restaurant the warmer it gets, the lower she pulls the zipper on her black hoodie and the more cleavage I get to see. I can see the top of a red bra, looks like satin, not lace, with a black bow right in the dip between the pale moons of her breasts. I watch the way the mounds of her breasts rise and fall as she breathes.

Mostly I watch the way the fine lines at the corners of her eyes fold and crease as she laughs, the way her voluminous lips curl up at the corners just before she laughs, and the way she narrows her dark brown eyes when she's really listening. I watch the way her eyes close and her lips purse when she really enjoys something, and I end up shifting uncomfortably when she actually moans out loud over the honey garlic pork.

The only time I really take an interest in what they're saying is when she talks about the bar, about the renovations, and about her plans for the future. Her eyes light up when she talks about the way business has picked up, and then I catch her glancing at me apologetically, as if the Pens being out of the hunt for the puck should somehow have killed her business rather than made it improve.

"I mean, obviously I want to have the Pens fans there and definitely next season I'll have a few more sets around the pool tables with the games on to encourage the fans who can't get in to come, but I'm not really going for a sports bar type theme, even though I guess the Nuck gear and now your stuff is going to make it look a bit like that…"

"Honey, the bar is eclectic, just like you," Taffy taps her hand with her long red fingernails and Margo steers her attention back to her friend, and I can see almost a look of warning on Taffy's face as she steers the conversation away from hockey and the bar onto the furniture in her apartment, and I lose interest in the conversation again.

Finally we head back out into the cool afternoon air and Margo stops and closes her eyes and takes a deep lungful of polluted Pittsburgh air and grins.

"That was great, so great. I won't have to eat for two days now."

"You look great, you don't have to do any of that fasting and diet stuff," I blurt out and catch Taffy rolling her eyes and shaking her head at me and wish I could take it back.

"You're sweet Sidney, thank you," Margo wraps her arm around my shoulder and steers me towards my Land Rover. I can feel my heart beat begin to double and then when I open the door for her and she turns and plants her lips on my cheek before she climbs in I think I'm going to have a stroke. I'm glad that Taffy immediately starts talking about her classes again, it fills the dead air and makes it a little easier to concentrate on the road and not on those long bare legs sitting beside me, not on the way those cut offs look over those tight fitting bike shorts, not on the way her legs pour into a pair of unlady like but extremely sexy scuffed and worn combat boots.

By the time we get back to the bar, I'm trying to think of ways of getting my jacket off and holding it in front of me so she won't see what she's done to me. I'm also trying to think of something I can offer to do so I can stay with her for the day, but every one of these thoughts escapes when Taffy hops out of the SUV and leaves us two alone.

"This was really good of you Sidney, and thank you for paying, but I feel terrible. This was supposed to be me thanking you for the donation. You'll have to let me know what I can do to make this up to you, what fundraiser I can have or party, you name it and…," I don't let her finish because when I look at her all I can see are those voluptuous lips and the only thing I can think of kissing them, so I do.

I have a moment where I realize he's going to kiss me. He gets that unfocussed look in his eyes and begins to lean towards me. I know he's going to kiss me but I don't have the thought to open the door or turn my head, instead I just let him kiss me, and for a moment I kiss him back, the feel of those plump soft pink lips of his against mine and those big puppy dog eyes of his with the long eyelashes making it hard to not want to kiss him back. But then I realize what I'm doing and I pull back, shaking my head and lifting my hand to wipe away the kiss, but I don't, not quite.

"I'm sorry Sidney…I'm sorry if I gave you the wrong impression I…," I begin but he turns away quickly, but not quickly enough that I can't see the burn in his cheeks, or the clenching in his jaw. "You're very nice and I'm flattered but I…"

"I'm nice, I know, I'm too young, I know. I'm sorry, okay?" I watch his hands curl around the steering wheel hard enough that his knuckles turn white, and I can't help but feel sorry for him, but he's right. He's nice and he's cute, very cute, but he's nothing but a kid.

"Look Sidney, I like you, I think you're a very nice young man, and I hope that you don't think I led you on or…," again he shakes his head, once and then continues to stare out the windshield, his jaw clenched, his plump pink lips set in an angry sneer.

"Forget it okay? I have," he snaps, but I can tell by the red in his cheeks that he hasn't. I reach out to touch my finger tips to his knee and he flinches, glancing quickly down at my hand and then out the window again. "Don't. Don't be nice. Just get out." I keep my hand there for one more minute, trying to think of something to say, something that will make this moment less awkward, but nothing springs to mind that isn't patronizing, so I slip out the door and walk to the bar, stopping once to look back to see him still sitting there, the engine still running, with that ugly sneer on his face.

"Well that was awkward," Taff sighs, leaning on the door and watching me walk towards her. I shrug and nod, not knowing what to say. "Oh c'mon Margo, the kid has the biggest crush on you. Don't tell me you didn't see the way he was looking at you over his sticky rice?" I glance up at her from fumbling for my keys and see that she's serious and I can only shrug and hand her the keys, not sure if I can make my hands stop shaking long enough to get my key in the lock.

"I've only met him once. He helped carry the appies up to the VIP room. That's it Taf. How could he?"

"He's a man, a very young barely out of diapers man, but a man all the same and like every other man in the entire world, they get one look at your ass and they're done for. It's just hormones, and not being able to think with the head on his shoulders."

"Taf…you don't make it sound very romantic."

"Puppy love isn't romantic. It's messy and sad, especially when you have a crush on someone out of your league hmmm? You should know." She turns and puts my keys back in my hands as she pushes the door open. I hear the squeal of tires and think I should turn to look but I don't. "What? You're not going to argue with me?"

"I didn't think he was married," I reply, sighing as I trudge up the stairs to my empty apartment.

"Good thing Nazzy took pity on you and let you in on Trev's real living situation then hmmm?" Taffy drapes herself over my sofa looking very decorative and grins up at me.

"Well I didn't lead the kid on, unlike…that situation," I grumble, tossing my purse down on the floor beside one of the chairs and flopping down into it and grabbing one of the throw pillows and giving it a couple good punches.

"Well men are all bastards, even little baby men like him anyway."

"I don't think he's a bastard," I sigh, grinding my teeth and reaching up again to wipe away the feel of his lips pressing against mine, but for the second time I drop my hand before I do. "I think he's a nice kid."

"But a kid, at least you recognize that."

"Yes," I sigh and toss the pillow at her.

"Good. But back to that other situation….does Jarkko know about that?"

"Yeah I told him. He hadn't realized that things had gone…a little beyond flirting with Trev. He offered to pummel him for me," I giggle at the thought and then shrug. "But he says the first chance he gets, he's going to drop Bert, pow," I punch my fist into my other hand with a smack for emphasis.

"Serve the fucker right," Taffy sighs, her dark eyes glazing over for a moment before she plasters a grin back on. "Do we have any wine up here or do I need to go downstairs?"

"In the fridge, half open bottle of white I think," I reply and watch her walk into kitchen and listen to her root around in the fridge. Knowing she's out of sight, or I am, I touch my lips with my fingertips and close my eyes, thinking of how soft his lips felt, of how he tasted like green tea, of how it made my heart leap against my ribs to have him look at me like I was the most amazing thing in the world. Then I shake my head and run the back of my hand over my lips and banish the sense memory forever. He's a kid, just a kid, and you can't think of a kid that way.

Chapter 4

"Flowers." Taff holds up the ribbon wrapped vase full of tulips and daffodils, an evil grin on her face.

"From who?" I call down to her from the spot on the ladder where I'm currently measuring the space between the framed jerseys to make sure they're centered.

"Contrary to popular belief, I am not about to read your private notes," she sighs, setting the vase down on the bar and running her hand over the petals of one of the flowers and arching her eyebrow at me.

"You're actually going to make me climb down to read that?"

"Well, don't you want to know?"

"Yeah but can't you just read it?"

"I don't know, it might be dirty," she giggles, pulling the little envelope out of the arrangement and holding it up between two fingers.

"You know the flower shop…person wrote it down, I doubt it's dirty."

"If it's from Jarkko it might be. He wouldn't care."

"True," I laugh and then with a dramatic sigh, climb down the ladder to take the envelope out of her hand. I carefully slide my fingernail under the lip of the envelope and rip it open, pulling the card out and letting my gaze fly over the few words and down to the name and I can't help but smile, just a little.

"Don't keep me in suspense, who is it?"

"Happy Belated," I sigh, handing her the card and wrapping my hands around the vase so I can move it behind the bar, beside the cash drawer. I wait for the response from behind me and am not surprised when I hear a snort of derision followed by barely concealed laughter.

"Fuck me, jealous much?"

"Now how do you get jealousy from happy belated birthday?"

"Because it's from Trev, and the only reason he'd send flowers now, is if Jarkko told him about you two."

"It couldn't be that he misses me and that when the chips are down and the playoffs are looking harder and harder that he might actually be missing me?"

"Nope," she flicks the card against her hand, making that thwack thwack sound that hockey cards make in the spokes of your bike.

"You're right. Men…why is it always a fucking competition with them?" I pull out one of the dark purple tulips, the ones that look almost black, and put it in the middle of the arrangement and then pick up the vase again to move it and find myself looking through the arrangement at Darryl, with Sid in tow, an armful of daisies and baby's breath and a shy smile.

"I found this stray loitering outside; do you want me to give him the boot?" Darryl asks playfully, and I can tell he's been giving the kid a hard time but is really trying not to laugh. I shake my head, putting the vase down and leaning against the counter behind the bar, crossing my arms protectively over my chest to stop myself from offering my open arms. Despite knowing it's so wrong on so many levels, I haven't been able to stop thinking about him or that kiss, and those flowers tell me he's been suffering from the same sort of problem.

"Well who's the lucky girl today?" Taffy sighs dramatically, waving that card in my face which I quickly grab and stuff in the back pocket of my jeans.

"Is it your…birthday or something?" he asks, and Taffy snorts, rolling her eyes.

"It was, a couple days ago," I mumble, careful not to try and make him feel bad but I know Taffy can't help herself.

"Yeah, Trev scored a goal for her and sent her flowers and Jarkko fedexed some expensive Belgian chocolates."

"Uh…I just came to apologize," he looks at me, wide eyed, sucking that voluptuous bottom lip of his into his mouth, giving me a look of complete terror mixed with nervous energy that goes a long way to making me feel like a real bitch.

"You don't need to apologize for anything Sidney," I reply, and I can feel my own apology in my eyes.

"Well…anyways, I see you've been doing some redecorating…need some help?"

God, how eager and desperate am I? At least she doesn't seem to mind, unlike her friend who just seems too determined to let me know how much she disapproves of my being here. If she rolls her eyes at me one more time….

"Knock yourself out, but if you fall off the ladder, I'm going to pretend I don't know you," she grins, and I feel my heart begin to hammer against my chest as she runs her fingers along the length of one of the sticks. She can't know what she's doing to me but I almost want to groan as she wraps her fingers around the grip as I begin to climb the ladder.

"Watch where you're putting your feet kid, I'd hate to have to explain to Mario how you broke your neck," Taffy smiles, narrowing her eyes at me and hopping up on the bar, giving me a flash of white thigh. When I reach the right level on the ladder I reach down for the stick and when I look down I can see right down Margo's tank top, and I can tell she's not wearing a bra, and suddenly I'm glad I'm facing the wall, and I hope that they can't see the way her body is affecting me right this minute.

"Taffy…didn't you say that you were going to give Darryl a hand cutting lemons in the kitchen?" I glance down to see a look pass between the two women, and then I watch as Taffy slowly slides off the bar and with a toss of her long black hair, heads for the kitchen. Margo watches her go and then turns her gaze up to me apologetically.

"She can't help it, she just loves to tease," she says, shrugging.

"What about you? What do you like to do?" I ask, and then realize how bold I'm being and feel the heat begin to rise into my cheeks. But she only shrugs and seems to miss the double entendre and just hands me up another framed jersey.

"I should pick your brain, you know with you having lived here for a couple seasons now, what places are good to eat at, where people go for fun and that. I haven't really been out of this bar for almost two months and…"

"I'd love to take you out for dinner," I blurt out, and watch as her hand pauses on the frame of the ladder. Just as I prepare myself for her to turn me down she smiles.

"Sure…okay, why not?" Okay so she's had to talk herself into it, but she's said yes and I can feel myself grinning back at her, and I feel like raising my hands in triumph and maybe running a victory lap, except I don't want to fall off the ladder.

"Great, I know some places you might like…uh you can call it…research for this place." Her grin widens and I can feel my heart hammering against my chest as she tips her head to one side and watches me for a long moment while I make myself return her gaze when I really want to look away.

"That's sweet of you Sidney, really nice. I don't know why Max said all that stuff about you. I don't think you're a player at all."

"Me?" I shake my head as I climb down the ladder to move it over. "Talbie said that about me?"

"Army and Max…they were telling…wait…oh my god, I can't believe I didn't figure this out before. They were telling these other girls how you were this player and you…they were warning these girls off of you. Of course they were just trying to get some of your action, I can't believe I'm just picking up on that now." Me neither, but that explains why so many girls avoid me like the plague. But instead of saying that to her I just shrug. "You're not are you? You're not anything like that." There's something soft in her eyes when she looks at me now, like she's considering something, considering me.

"I guess you can find out, when you come out with me." I want so much to touch her, to kiss those soft warm lips, to slide my hands over her shoulders, but instead I just stand near her, near enough that her scent makes me feel drunk, that I can feel her gravitational pull and I have to hold onto the ladder to stop myself from grabbing her and pulling her into my arms.

"I guess I will," she replies quietly and her lips to call to me, soft and moist and I want so badly to kiss them but she turns aside and grabs another stick and tilts her head up the ladder. "Work first, play later."

"I know all about that," I laugh, wondering exactly what she means by play.

"What am I doing?" I moan, holding up a low cut black top up under my chin and then replacing it with a burgundy mock neck and then dropping them both onto my bed and reaching for another one.

"You mean besides being a pedophile?" Taffy sighs, blowing on her still wet nails and regarding me with a bored stare.

"I'm not…that's not nice you know, calling me names like that."

"Well I'm pretty sure what you two are going to do tonight is probably illegal in at least three states," she replies, fanning her fingers out and smiling at the dark red colour that makes it look like she's been ripping into raw meat with her bare hands.

"What do you mean by that? Do what? It's dinner Taf…dinner…nothing else."

"Yeah, and I have some oceanfront property down the street to sell you."

"I don't like him like that Taffs. C'mon he's a kid, we're just…."

"Oh c'mon Margo, I've seen the way that kid looks at you, like some kind of moon eyed calf. You practically put him into heat every single time he looks at you, and you're no better, you're not exactly keeping him at arms' length are you?" All I can do is shrug when she gives me that eyebrow raised pursed lips accusing stare. "I know he's hot Margo but he is just a kid."

"I'm not going to do anything…honestly. It's just dinner." I give her my most innocent gaze in the mirror and she just rolls over on her back and sighs, reaching for one of the magazines on the floor beside my bed and starts to flip noisily through the pages, which is her way of telling me she's not going to argue with me if I'm not going to be honest. "Okay he's really cute and he seems…nice, but that's it. I'm not going to sleep with him."

"Famous last words," she mumbles. I look at myself in the mirror and then drop the green top on the floor and pick the black one up again.

"It's just dinner," I repeat, and now it's more for myself than Taffy.

"Keep telling yourself that, right up until you drag him up here by his belt loops and have your wicked way with him,"

"I won't," I insist, giving myself a long hard look in the mirror, telling myself this time.

"Yeah, I'll remind you of that when your making him breakfast tomorrow."

"I won't need reminding," I grumble, sitting heavily on the bed beside her and reaching for my boots, "because I will come home alone, because I am not going to do anything with that…that kid." I look down at her and she just rolls back over on her stomach and away from me, crossing her ankles up behind her and sighing loudly, clearly ignoring me again. "It's just dinner," I say again, getting up and looking at my reflection in the mirror again. "That's all, just dinner."

"Mmmhm, sure it is."

Chapter 5

He looks like as nervous as a kid picking up his prom date, and nearly as well dressed. He's wearing an expensive suit, good material, and the dark charcoal colour brings out the blue black highlights in his hair, somehow make his eyes look darker. The burgundy in his tie highlights the plush pink of his lips. I find myself wondering if he'd actually made it to his prom, and then flashes of that mastercard commercial come back to mind, and I wonder if all that stuff about having missed out on his childhood are real, or just made up to make him seem more sympathetic. Then I find myself glancing down at his hands to be sure he's not actually going to offer me a corsage when I get down to the bottom of the stairs, and I'm actually grateful when I see his hands are empty, apart from the fact that he's holding them very still at his sides, balled into fists, probably to stop himself from fidgeting, and that reminds me what a kid he actually is, and that makes me want to turn around and go back up the stairs again.

I remind myself that this is a business dinner, and that helps me keep putting one foot in front of the other until I'm standing face to face with him, and he meets me with a shy grin.

"Hungry?" he asks, and the immediate thought is 'yes, for you', but somehow I manage to keep my lips together and just smile and nod. "Good, because I've made reservations at Abruzzi."

"Well, you know this town, so lead on." I glance over my shoulder at Taffy who's sitting at the top of the stairs with her elbows on her knees looking down at me with a disapproving glare and all I do is wave before I turn and follow him out the side door, past Darryl who is in charge of the bar, at least until I get back, who gives me a wink and a thumbs up. At least someone is being positive, even if it's because he thinks the kid is as 'cute as a button'.

I blink into the evening sun as the door opens and almost bump straight into Marc Andre Fleury as he reaches for the door handle. All three of us stand there in the parking lot, staring at one another, not quite knowing what to say until finally Fleury blushes and says something low and in French to Sidney who laughs and pats his friend on the back.

"What?" I ask, looking from one to the other and back.

"It seems your friend Taffy has an admirer," Sidney smiles, nodding to Fleur who just blushes even more.

"She invited me for dinner," he mumbles, not quite wanting to meet my gaze, finding something interesting to look at near his shoes, his straight dark hair falling into his eyes.

"Looks like you're just a bit early, but I'm sure she's waiting up stairs for you," I grin, stepping aside and suddenly not feeling quite as badly about my date as I did a moment ago. Fleury smiles at me, his big white teeth almost blinding me for a moment before he steps by me and heads into the bar. I listen to the door close behind me before I turn to Sidney and find that he's laughing too.

"I have a feeling we weren't meant to know about that," he grins at me and I nod.

"I bet she wouldn't even have told me about it when I got back either."

"Well…let's go then, let's leave them to it," he says, holding his hand out to me. I look down at his hand, at the well manicured fingernails, at the length of his fingers, and I can feel a little shiver crawl across my skin, but I put my hand in his and he leads me towards a limo idling in the parking lot. When he turns to see my eyes go round, he just smiles and opens the door. "I don't drink and drive, and I don't eat Italian without drinking wine."

"So you must be a regular?" I start to say that they don't check your i.d., but I manage to swallow the rest of the sentence before I open up that can of worms.

"Well you asked for places I knew, and this is a great place."

"Okay then," I shrug, sliding onto the velvet seat inside and making room for him to sit with me, which he does, pulling the door shut and reaching for the mini bar in one fluid motion. I watch him pull out a bottle of champagne, and two chilled glasses, holding the glasses out to me, and the neck of the bottle away from me while he twists of the wire holding the cork in. When he finally works the cork out and the champagne overflows onto the floor before I can get the glasses under it, he laughs at my expression.

"For missing your birthday," he smiles, a warm, genuine smile that makes my heart miss a beat.

"So this isn't the way you start every business meeting?"

"Uh…no," he giggles, a sound that's higher pitched than you would expect, and reminds me once again that I'm sitting with a kid, no matter what my libido is telling me.

"You have good taste," she muses, taking a sip of the wine I've ordered, a satisfied smile creeping across her face, and letting out a little happy sound. I'm not sure which is more distracting, her fingers wrapped around the bell of the wine glass, or her revealingly low cut black top, but both have my temperature raised. "This is really good."

"I just pay attention to what Mario orders, and the stuff he has in his cellar at home," I explain, sitting back and watching her lick her full moist lips, watch her close her eyes in rapture when she takes the first bite of her appetizer.

"Nice wine, good food, great atmosphere…," she sighs and I feel the heat rise in my cheeks as her cleavage rises and falls with the deep breath.

"And beautiful company," I add, unable to swallow the words before they leak out. She opens her dark eyes and gazes over at me, amused.

"I bet you're a natural flirt aren't you? I bet you've been flirting with all the girls since you were in diapers," she laughs, and it's like the sound of a bell, and for a moment I forget that she's brought up my being in diapers for about the fourth time, as if she has to keep reminding me about our age difference.

"I don't think telling the truth is flirting," I reply, picking up the bottle to refill her glass.

"Mmmm, so where did you learn to be so swift with the compliments and sound so smooth all the time?" She levels her gaze at me and I feel like I'm being interviewed for something, and unlike most interviews which just tire me out and piss me off, this one I want to leave a good impression with.

"I don't think I'm very smooth at all, but I guess you pick up things, I've had a few good teachers."

"I bet you have," she laughs, her eyes dancing in the candle light, and it takes me a minute to realize how she's taken it, and as soon as my brain wraps around it, I feel the heat rise in my cheeks again.

"I didn't mean…I meant guys like Recchi and Mario but..a-hem," I feel the need to adjust my tie, maybe loosen it, but she just laughs again, and I never get the feeling she's laughing at me, but it doesn't ease the heat in my cheeks any.

"I'm sorry, but that was too easy to ignore," she sighs, sitting back and gazing into the rest of the restaurant, and then back at me. "Is this how it has to be for you all the time now? You have to get them to close off areas for you?"

"When I want some privacy," I nod. "If I was with some of the guys, it might be okay but…when I want some alone time, when I don't want to be interrupted, yeah, it has to be like this."

"Is it worse at home?" she asks, leaning in to steal a piece of cheese from my plate, giving me an even better view of her cleavage for a moment, making it slightly hard to breathe.

"It can be…in some places I can't go anywhere at all, like Montreal." She chews thoughtfully for a moment and then licks her fingers, making my pants suddenly tighter than they were before.

"But what about home, like…Coal Harbour or is it Dartmouth now?"

"Dartmouth…well that's where my parents live now anyway…no, everyone sort of knows me but…just treats me normally you know?"

"No, I can't imagine what it would be like…well that's not true, I know what it is like for…," her voice falls away and for a moment she looks far away, and I can see something like sadness creep into her eyes before she blinks it away and her generous smile reappears. "Anyway, it must be a lot to deal with so young." Okay, that's it, she keeps harping on that, and it's beginning to irritate the hell out of me.

"I've done a lot already in my life, I've had a lot experiences...," she nods and leans in I suddenly feel bad for lecturing her when she looks at me like that.

"It must be overwhelming sometimes, I guess you're lucky to live with Mario, it must be like a…like a shelter?"

"I've actually been thinking lately of getting my own place…but…I feel weird going to look at places alone. I was going to ask my mom but…," oh god, the mom thing, and I can see she's trying not to react to that, lifting her napkin to cover her mouth.

"God I wished I'd had that kind of choice, my parents wanted me out the day I turned eighteen," she sighs, dropping the napkin to the table and leaning forward again. "It must be exciting, your whole life in front of you."

"You keep trying to make yourself sound old," I sigh, shaking my head at her and she glances away, a slight blush colouring her cheeks.

"I am old, compared to you," she smiles, fidgeting with her forks and spoons and not looking up at me. Taking a deep breath, I work up the courage to reach across the table and cover her hand with mine, turning it over and gently rubbing her palm with my thumb.

"You're beautiful Margo, I don't need to be older than I am to know that, and I don't need to be older to want to kiss you again." I can feel my heart hammering hard against my ribs, knowing I'm pushing her, knowing that she's been doing her best to build a wall between us, knowing that she might say no, hoping that she won't.

"But I am older than you Sidney," she says quietly, glancing sideways at me, her eyes a little wider than they should be, her lower lip held between her teeth.

"Yeah well…I don't care, it's just a number, I'm used to being told I can't do things I want to do because I'm too young, I haven't paid any attention yet." This gets a smile from her and she turns those dark brown eyes on me and raises her eyebrows.

"I kind of get that feeling that you don't ever take no for an answer." I shake my head and she rolls her eyes and lets out a long sigh. "So…this isn't just a business dinner?"

"I never said it was," I reply, lifting her hand to my lips, and watching the blush intensify in her cheeks.

I can feel my hands shake as I dig in my purse for my keys, not sure that I really need them, but needing something, anything else to do aside from holding his hand or looking at him. The dinner, having been amazing, his stories funny and entertaining, and the way he's been looking at me having all combined to turn me into a blithering idiot. I can still hear the music inside, and I know that technically the night's still young, but I just can't let myself give into the way his thumb rubbing gently over the back of my hand is making me want to take him upstairs.

Every time I've tried reminding myself that he's 'just a kid' he's given me one of those smoky gazes of his, and I end up having to wipe the drool from the corners of my mouth. Now, here in the cool dark of a Spring night, I can feel the warmth of him right next to me, and if I turn to look I know those milk chocolate eyes will be trained on me, and I know if I let him inside, it might just be…well up there for one of the best nights of my life, but…something is holding me back.

"I've had a really good time tonight," I whisper, turning to find him gazing right into my eyes.

"Me too, I'm glad you liked the restaurant."

"And I've got enough left-overs for dinner tomorrow night too," I add, holding up the bag like an idiot, putting something, anything between us.

"We should do this again," he adds, his voice low, sliding over my skin like melting caramel, "soon." I glance away from his gaze but my eyes naturally roam to his shoulders and with his jacket off and his tie loosened, I can see his muscles under the fabric of his shirt, I can see the expanse of his chest and that doesn't make it any easier to turn him away.

"I…should check on things inside…I uh…I guess this is goodnight," I mutter, turning to go, but he holds my free hand firmly, pulling me back towards him.

"You sure are making this hard on me," he sighs, and when I glance back he's smiling, but I can see confusion in his eyes too. "I'm not used to do the chasing, but I'm not the kind of guy that gives up either," he adds.

"I'm just…not sure this is such a good idea. I like you Sidney, I think you're…funny and smart and…," I manage to bite back hot and sexy and keep those thoughts to myself, "and I know you think age is just a number but I don't and I think a lot of people would see it that way too." He sighs, hanging his head and I it makes me want to run my fingers through his hair, pull him close, tell him it's okay, but I just squeeze his hand instead. "I'm flattered Sidney, and…if it was just…," I glance back at the door and think of what Taffy is probably up to and smile, "but I don't get the feeling that you're a wham bam kind of guy, you're too nice Sidney, and I don't want to be that…girl with you."

"But if I was a wham bam guy…could I come inside?" he asks hopefully, glancing up at me through his ebony curls and part of me wants so much to say yes, to taste those pink lips of his, to feel his hard chest pressed against mine, but I just shrug.

"You're not, and I wouldn't want you to be, I like you the way you are, an absolute gentleman," I smile and even though I tell myself not to, I find myself leaning in and pressing my lips to his in a long soft kiss that leaves my heart leaping into my throat, and making it even harder to turn my back and leave him there. But somehow I manage, closing the door and leaning against it, closing my eyes and letting out a long string of curse words.

"Hey boss, you ready to lend a hand?" Darryl asks, coming up from the cellar with a crate of coolers, looking surprised to see me but giving me that knowing smile.

"Yeah, sure, let me just change," I glance down at the knee length skirt and my high heel boots and nod. "Yeah, I think I should get into something more comfortable. I'll be right out." He nods and heads into the noise of the bar. I watch the door close, stifling the noise, before I head up the stairs.

I'm not even half way up the stairs when I hear the sounds that make me wonder if I should be heading back down again. I can clearly hear Taffy laughing, but it's her wicked laugh, her really, really happy laugh. I pause with my hand on the doorknob and cringe as I push the door open. I'm ready to cover my eyes and run to my bedroom, but what I find makes me laugh more than cringe.

Taffy's got company and it's not just Fleur. I shake my head, laughing, dropping my purse and heading for the table.

"You boys should know, Taffy never, ever loses at strip poker," I grin, leaning in to give her a hug, because she's still got most of her clothes on, though the same can't be said for Fleur, or Vinnie LeCavallier, or Danny Cloutier. "Hey Danny," I smile, wrapping my arms around his naked shoulders and giving his cheek a quick kiss. "I didn't know you were in town."

"Well I was visiting my parents and Taffy said I should come down," he grins up at me and I wrinkle my nose at him give his dark hair a quick rub.

"I just bet she did." I turn to Vinnie who I know by sight but have never seen in anything but his uniform and he's down to his socks and…boxers and blushing as I turn my gaze his way. "Can I get you boys anything…besides Taffy that is?"

"We're good," Taffy grins, "Darryl's been bringing us drinks. Are you staying?"

"Yeah stay, I'll deal you in!" Danny grins but I shake my head and laugh.

"I'm going downstairs to help, but if uh…anyone chickens out at any time, feel free to join me in the bar." I turn and head for my bedroom, smiling to myself, even more glad I managed to hold onto my moral compass tonight, that I didn't bring Sidney into that.

I'm just peeling off my skirt when there's a knock at the door.

"Can I come in?" I hear Danny's voice and I roll my eyes, grabbing my cut offs quickly and pulling them up over tights before sitting on the edge of the bed and peeling off my boots.

"What's up Danny?" I ask as he pushes open the door.

"I just thought I'd say…well…I don't know if you know that Trev and Chris…well things aren't that straightforward with them you know? He misses you I guess is what I'm trying to say."

"Well good for him," I mumble, my good mood squashed.

"I know he wasn't exactly truthful with you Margo, but he didn't really know what he wanted at the time, but I think he's starting to realize what he's lost."

"As soon as he knows that I've moved on," I mutter. "Thanks for the info Danny but…well my life is complicated enough without married guys." I get up from the bed and grab my combats, pulling them on and leaning over to lace them up. "How's the knee? Or is it the hip?"

"A bit of both and better thanks. Look, I'm just saying…."

"I know Danny, and thanks but…no thanks you know?" I smile and lean in and hug him again, before pushing him out of my bedroom and back towards the game with a pat on his ass. "Go have fun. I might see you for breakfast." I laugh as he gives his skater but a shake as he heads back to the game.

Talk about complicated, I can barely deal with one man at a time, how Taffy does it…I don't know.

Chapter 6

"Hey sleeping beauty, I can't believe you slept down here, you're lucky you didn't break your noggin open," Taffy leans on the bar and bats her eyelashes innocently at me while I yawn and struggle to swing my legs over the side of the bar.

"Well I went upstairs to go to bed, and my eyes started to bleed, and then there was all this cursing en Francais, and then my ears started to bleed…."

"Oh come on, like we've never had sex in the same room with me before," she grumbles but can't seem to keep that satisfied grin off her face.

"It's one thing sharing Pyatt or Jarkko with you, but it's another thing to find two men…spooning in my bed," I reply with a shiver of revulsion. "I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't care what other people do in their own homes but…my bed Taffy?"

"Well, Vinnie was kinda shy and he didn't want to share so I had to do something with them."

"But my bed?"

"Well they couldn't both sleep on the couch," she smiles, in that way that says 'you can't really be mad at me', which makes me just shake my head at her as I gather my blanket around me to follow her up the stairs.

"Danny's making pancakes," she grins, looking very pleased with herself as she skips up the stairs.

"Good, I'm starving."

"Mmmm, me too, but then I always am after a…well a night like that."

"I don't know how you can even walk straight," I grumble and she just turns and flashes me a big grin.

"You're just jealous."

"No," I sigh, rolling my eyes at her, "although you did look like you were having a particularly good time with Vinnie on the dryer." Her grin gets wider and she turns and claps her hands like a happy little kid.

"I know. He was so…white bread you know? I had to do something to spice it up! I mean after having the two goalies…oh my god Em, they are so…flexible!"

"Please," I shake my head at her and close my eyes, trying to dismiss the vision of two Stretch-Armstrong dolls wrapped around her. "Tell me after I've eaten."

"Have it your way," she sighs dramatically, continuing up the stairs and pushing open the door, letting the heavenly smells of bacon and coffee escape, making my stomach grumble loudly. Fleur and Danny are busy at work in the kitchen, Vinnie's reading the paper in the living room, and Taffy goes to each one, collecting a kiss before she helps me go to strip the beds and start a load of laundry. I catch her smirking at the dryer and finally let myself laugh.

"Okay, I admit, I'm a little jealous," I sigh as she hops up on the dryer and starts doing her best Meg Ryan When Harry Met Sally impersonation, which has all the guys running.

"Yeah right," I shake my head at Danny, who slides around the corner with this eager little kid look on his face, "you wish."

"Well, Trev said you two were crazy and Taffy is insatiable."

"She is but I'm not, now feed me," I grumble pushing past the guys and heading for the table.

"Okay, they're gone, so are you gonna tell me all the dirt on you and the kid now?" Taffy asks, leaning on the door behind the guys and actually looking relieved that they've gone, well most of them anyway, Danny crawled back into bed after breakfast, and tried to take me with him but I managed to escape, just.

"Honestly Taff, there's nothing to tell. We had a nice dinner, at a nice restaurant, and it was…"

"Oooh let me see, it was nice?"

"Well," I shrug, "that's it, it was okay, it was fine."

"Oh c'mon Margo, I know you better than that. Either, you turned him down or he turned you down, which is it?" I can feel myself gnawing on the inside of my cheek, half afraid if I talk about it, that feeling in the pit of my stomach that I've made the wrong decision will only get worse. "Look at you! Oh my god…you like him…you actually like him, don't you?"

"Maybe…yes…fuck me, I don't know," I grumble, leaning my head against the cool of the stainless steel bar, hoping it will ease the ache in my head at the very thought of him.

"Are you…are you actually contemplating…having a relationship with that kid?"

"No," I reply, lifting my head and looking her dead in the eyes, and I can see clearly that she doesn't believe me. "You said it yourself, he's just a kid, people would talk, it would be bad for him, and everyone would call me a dirty cougar. No, no way," I wave my hands in the air for emphasis. "I'd be better off back trying to date Mr. Married."

"Speaking of which," I turn to see Danny yawning behind me, topless, barefoot, in just his jeans, "I can't sleep without someone. Who's coming upstairs with me?" I hear a snort behind me right before Taffy pushes me towards him. He grins, that big silly grin of his and curls his arm around my shoulders. "You look like you need some rest anyway, I can't believe you slept on that hard bar all night."

"All night, like four hours," I sigh, glancing back at Taffy and narrowing my eyes at her.

"Still, mon petite, you should rest, and I will keep you warm non?"

"Danny, what would Trev say?" I ask, suddenly feeling lighter, less anxious.

"He'd be very jealous," he replies, leaning in to press his lips against my neck. "But we don't need to tell him, hmmm?"

"No, no we don't," I sigh, closing my eyes to enjoy the feel of his arm around me, of his warm breath on my neck, but the vision the feeling immediately brings to mind has brown eyes, not blue.

I was having the worst case of déjà vu, feeling Danny's arms around me, feeling his lips pressed against the nape of my neck, reminded me so much of the night I met Trev that I couldn't relax enough to actually go through with it. So instead I lay with my head on his bare chest, feeling his fingers trailing through my hair, trying very hard not to think at all.

"You could just call you know, or I could have him call you," he suggests quietly after a lengthy silence, his hand coming to rest gently on my shoulder. I turn my head to look up into his blue eyes, and actually feel touched by the genuine concern I see in his eyes.

"Thanks but…I don't think I could be happy with him, not really."

"You two looked pretty happy to me." He raises his eyebrows at me, but I can only shrug in response.

"I was happy with you once," I reply and he laughs, his blue eyes narrowing the way they do when he's really amused.

"Don't remind me, I can't believe my best friend stole you from me and I'm still talking to him."

"I didn't' think it counted when it's your mistress," I sigh, crawling up to lay my head on his shoulder, drinking in his scent, reminding myself of happier times, times when I thought I could be happy just having stolen moments like this. "Besides, I thought with you guys it was all share and share alike."

"I thought so too, until you two got so serious," he sighs melodramatically, making me wonder what Taffy's doing downstairs, and if I should be worried. "So what really happened? Because you were fine with me and Nikki."

"Well I don't know how fine I was…but with Trev it was…different."

"Because you love him?"

"Loved, past tense" I correct him, suddenly feeling a whole lot less like cuddling and a whole lot more like drinking, rolling over and pulling the sheets with me.

"Hey," he pulls the sheets back and makes a grab for me as I sit up on the edge of the mattress. "Okay, so we won't talk about Trev. But if you don't want to stay in bed and you don't want to talk about Trev, what do you want to do?" I feel his arms slide around me, the whiskers on his chin brushing my shoulder and it makes me want to smile.

"Why don't we all go out? I think I need some fresh air, need to clear my head."

"Does this have anything to do with your date last night? I was going to tease you about being a cougar, but you didn't seem to be in the mood."

"You're right about that," I sigh, leaning back against him. "Maybe I should have just stuck with you Danman, you were so much less complicated than every other man in my life."

"Look at them," I sigh, leaning against Taffy and watching Vinnie and Danny nattering away at each other in French, "why can't I just be happy with a guy like that?"

"Because we don't actually like nice boys, we aren't happy unless we've got a bad boy that's making us miserable," she mumbles, adding more dressing to her salad and then reaching across me to get at the croutons under the sneeze guard.

"Do you remember when it was me and you and Danny and Jovo…god we had some really good times Taff."

"But you weren't in love, and that's the difference," she sighs, tossing some croutons on my salad and giving me a push back towards the table. "Face it Margo, you want to be in love, you want a knight in shining armor. Me, I'm just not ready to settle down yet, so I don't mind being the naughty mistress, you do."

"I know," I grumble, watching the boys laugh and grin at one another, and wishing I could feel as carefree as they do. Maybe if I had millions of dollars and was talented and had women chasing me…

"Margo." I feel the blood run cold in my veins at the sound of the voice, and I put my plate down on the table carefully before I turn to face those cinnamon brown eyes.

"Sidney," I feel my voice catch in my throat and my pulse begins to race as he grins at me, obviously happy to see me despite the way I've treated him. "Don't eat at home very often?" I ask and wonder why I've said it as soon as it comes out of my mouth.

"No…," his voice trails off as he looks at the guys at the table, and then he looks back up at me, his gaze searching mine, and I can see the hurt begin to leak into his eyes. "Well…uh, enjoy." His gaze holds mine for one long moment, waiting for me to explain, to say something, to ask him to join us, but I stand, mute, not knowing what I want to say, if anything, and then he turns, and walks away.

I watch him go, watch the way his t-shirt clings to the muscles in his back, watch the way his ass fits in those jeans and my mouth goes dry. I want to call him back, but when I open my mouth, no sound comes out.

Chapter 7

"Hail the conquering heroes," I call as Eric, Jordy and Army come through customs weighed down with their medals and hockey bags. I feel a pang of jealousy as the sun glints off the gold, but as I walk towards them, the residual pain in my foot reminds me there was no way I could have joined them.

"Look at you, all tanned and rested," Army grins, patting my shoulder. "So whatcha been up to buddy? No, wait, let me guess. Chasing skirt and practicing your bartending for when you move in with Max next season?"

"Max? Are you kidding?" Jordy laughs, shaking his head while his older brother looks at us all like we're insane.

"Well you got part of it right," I reply, ignoring the part about Max, "but just the chasing skirt part."

"That's my boy," Army laughs, "so what's the count now? Twenty? Thirty?"

"Yeah right, you have so not caught up with me," Jordy laughs, punching me hard enough that I'm sure it's going to leave a bruise.

"C'mon guys, you know I'm not about the quantity, just the quality. I'm still chasing the one girl…well woman I guess," I reply quietly, stuffing my fists into my jacket and quickly glancing around.

"You're not still…you are, look at you, you're blushing. You're still chasing Jarkko's fuck buddy!" Army shakes his head at me and gives me a shove, nearly sending me off balance. "So are you getting anywhere with her?"

"We've made out," I lie. Well not so much a lie, as an extension of the truth.

"Made out, oooh, you're such a stud," Eric laughs, giving both me and his younger brother a shove towards my Land Rover. "Get me somewhere I can have a beer."

"So do you think he'll come back?" Taffy asks, tapping her fingers against Jarkko's framed jersey above the cash register. I glance up at it, feeling a bit wistful but only because my bed has been empty for a more than a week.

"Nope," I reply, turning my attention back to the dance floor, watching for likely prey.

"So you think he'll go through with it, marry that…trannie?"

"I don't know if she is, I mean, I doubt it, I was just being mean. But yeah, I do, I think he's that kind of guy."

"I thought you two were cute."

"It was just sex Taff, I wasn't in love with him."

"Ugh, you and your morals…it's so boring."

"Sorry," I sigh, grabbing another glass to polish. "There's guys like Jarkko, Py and Danny that are just…bed warmers, they're not looking for anything else, they don't get emotionally involved and then there's guys like Trev or…Sidney," I try not to choke on his name, try not to think how I fucked that up, how I gave up that chance, "that are just…they're guys you marry, that's all."

"Huh. I must just meet fuck buddies," Taffy sighs, leaning against the bar and dropping her chin into her hands. "I can't even see me getting married. I like sharing too much."

"You and your sharing," I laugh, giving her a shove. She laughs and then straightens up and peers towards the door. "Huh, don't look now but the party has just arrived." She slides out from behind the bar and heads into the darkness, sliding like an alley cat through the crowd, and they part around her as if by magic. It's only when I see her toss her alabaster arms around two of the men coming in the entrance that I see what she'd already seen. The Pens have arrived.

"Darryl, go open the VIP room, we have guests," I smile, tossing him the key and grabbing a tray of colourful shots off one of the waitresses as I follow Taffy through the crowd. "Congrats," I call as Jordan and Army flash their medals at me, "but you still have to go upstairs. Take this with you." I hand them the platter and watch as Gino and some of the others follow them before I turn to meet those dark eyes. "Hey there stranger."

"Is this okay?" he asks, inclining his head towards his friends as they head up the stairs.

"Of course it is, I want us to be friends Sidney," I reply, offering my hand to him. He shrugs and nods, and then glances away, but not before I've seen hurt flash in his dark eyes. I let my hand fall back down to my side and watch him move through the crowd, his head down, his dark shirt and jeans blending into the crowd.

"He's a passionate kid, cares a lot," a voice behind me startles me, and when I turn I'm looking up into the blue eyes of Jordan's older brother Eric. "But he'll get over it."

"It?" I ask, raising my eyebrows and playing stupid, but he doesn't buy it.

"He's got a crush on you, but he'll get over it…maybe faster if uh…you were with someone else," he smiles, and that smile holds the promise of a sweaty night, but suddenly I'm not in the mood.

"Maybe later," I smile, but I know it doesn't go all the way up to my eyes. I turn, and head back to safety, behind the bar.

"God no, not Russian girls, they're all gold diggers," Jordan laughs, spilling half his shot down his shirt. "American girls are the best, they're easy."

"European girls are way easier," Eric grins, holding his shot up in salute, "and way more imaginative in bed."

"You're both wrong," Army slurs, his eyes lidded with the drowsiness of too many shots of Tequila. "Canadian girls are nice and warm," he grins, pulling Taffy onto his lap and spilling most of her drink onto my shirt.

"Fuck! You fucking sloppy drunk!" I growl, standing up and brushing off the ice cubes and wringing most of the Jagermeister out onto the floor.

"You're all wrong," Taffy giggles, climbing off Army's lap and staggering across the room, where she falls into Malone's lap and wraps her arms around his neck. "Asian girls are easy, Canadian girls are the marrying kind. Right Siddy Widdy?" Malone laughs as she presses her red lips against his cheek, leaving behind a giant lipstick tattoo.

"I wouldn't know," I mumble, stepping over Malone's outstretched legs and heading towards the stairs.

"One thing you can say about Canadian girls," her voice floats up the stairs and I find myself looking down at her cleavage and her big friendly smile, "is they at least understand hockey and appreciate a nice round hockey butt." I find myself unable to stay upset at her, especially when she gives my ass a squeeze. "Well? Am I right?" she asks, her voice lowered so that she's only talking to me.

"I guess," I mumble, turning sideways so she can slide the jug of beer onto the table.

"What happened to you? You look like someone's been using your shirt as a bar rag," she reaches out and touches her hand to the wet spot over my stomach and just the press of her finger tips to my abs make me suck in my breath, and sends a shiver down my spine.

"Taffy spilled," I shrug. "I was going to the bathroom to rinse it out."

"And what? Stand around in a cold wet shirt all night? Come up with me, I think Jarkko might have left something behind, it should fit." She measures me with her eyes and then her gaze slides up to meet mine and I swear I can see a little colour in her cheeks, even in the semi dark.

I lead him up the stairs to my apartment, pushing the door open and letting him squeeze past before I close the door behind us, shutting out the noise and making sure none of the girls that were giving him the eye follow us inside.

"Give me that, I'll toss it in the wash," I hold my hand out for his shirt and watch, holding my breath while he pulls the long sleeved cotton shirt over his head, revealing his chiseled abs, his smooth skin, his round shoulders. When I feel the wet shirt in my hand, I realize that I'm staring, and feel the heat rise into my cheeks. "There should be something in my closet, I'll be right back," I mumble, heading for the washer and dryer in the kitchen and trying not to think about him standing half naked near my bed.

"Funky place," he calls, and I glance around at the furniture that Jarkko helped pick out and the art that Taffy and I have added to the walls and smile.

"I don't know, I think it looks like students live here or something. I don't think I've actually had the place to myself for a while." As soon as I say it I wish I hadn't, I don't mean to rub it in that Danny, Marc, Jarkko…well a trail of men has been here and he hasn't.

"Well, anyway, I like it," he calls out and I give myself a mental slap before tossing his shirt in with a couple pairs of my jeans and a few of my smalls before turning the machine on.

"You finding anything?" I call out, crossing the living room and finding him sitting on the edge of my bed, giving it the bounce test. He looks up to see me leaning in the door way and laughs.

"Ugh…firm," he blushes, getting up and pulling the closet doors open. I manage to keep my mouth shut, despite all the highly sexual answers that I could give but because I don't want to encourage him, I bite them back. But as I watch the muscles in his shoulders and arms work as he pushes aside some of the clothes I begin to wonder if it wouldn't just be a whole lot more fun to give him just a little encouragement. My eyes wander down to his ass, to the way those jeans pull across his muscled thighs and my mouth goes dry. "You should wear this," he says suddenly, pulling out a burgundy satin cheongsam and holding it up in front of him. I have to blink to get my attention back from the momentary fantasy that was beginning to play behind my eyes.

"That…god that was a bridesmaid dress...," I start to laugh and then just shake my head. "I don't know, I never go anywhere really nice anymore."

"You could wear this to the awards," he blurts out and then it's his turn to glance away and go back to looking through the rest of my clothes as if he hasn't said anything.

"Awards?" I ask, cocking my head to one side, and trying not to grin.

"Or whatever, somewhere…dinner or something," he mumbles, pulling a t-shirt off the shelf and holding it up, obviously a man's shirt and considering it's a Metallica shirt, obviously not mine.

"Huh…for a minute there I thought you were going to ask me to the NHL awards." He pulls the shirt over his head, making that delectable body disappear, and making it suddenly easier to breathe. He hangs his head for a minute, and then his gaze slowly rises to meet mine.

"What if I did? Would you come?" I search his gaze for a moment, see the hope mixed with the fear and it makes me want to say yes, in fact it makes me want to do more than that, and I find my feet moving me forward, and the next thing I know, my arms are sliding around his thickly muscled neck, and my lips are a breath away from his lusciously plump ones.

"If I said yes, would you take me?" He nods, swallowing loudly, his body stiffening as I search his gaze. "What if I asked you to take me now?" I whisper against his lips, and then cover his lips with mine. I feel his hands slide around my waist and then his body presses against mine and his lips open and our tongues meet and fireworks go off in my head.

"And here I thought you'd be all lonely without Jarkko," a deep voice crawls up my spine and all the breath goes out of my lungs as my blood turns cold in my veins.


Chapter 8

She turns slowly, standing between me and him, as if she can hide me behind her, but we're facing each other over the top of her head, and all I can think is, fuck he's tall but I could probably take him, if I have to.

"What are you doing here?" she asks, her chin up, trying to look defiant I guess but the waver in her voice gives her away.

"My bad," Taffy slurs, peeking around the corner looking mortified. "I thought you were just doing laundry."

"Not your fault," Margo glances over at her friend and Taffy mouths 'sorry' before disappearing back around the corner. "What are you doing here Trev?"

"Well I hoped to spend some time with you, but then I had no idea you and Taffy were running some kind of home for wayward boys," he glances back at me, a threat clear in his eyes that I meet with one of my own, clenching my teeth together, trying to decide what I should do and what the hell is going on here.

"Where's the lovely Christina?" Margo asks, cocking her head to one side, her voice dripping with sarcasm. She reaches back for my hand, and whether it's to comfort me, or her, I'm not sure, but I give her hand a squeeze and I'm sure I can see her shoulders relax.

"Chris and I are trying a separation," he explains, his eyes for her alone now, the look on his face softening as he moves towards her, but she backs up, and I let her back I into me, and when her back presses against my chest, I feel her other hand reach for mine, and she pulls my arm defensively around her, holding my hand in hers' against her stomach.

"Well I'm glad for you, because she's a bitch," she snaps, "but I don't see what that has to do with me." I'm not sure if this is an act for him, but her for sake I'm willing to play along. Keeping my gaze locked on his, I slide my hand out of hers' and brush her hair away from her neck and press my lips to the curve of her neck, and I'm sure I can feel a shiver run down her spine.

"I never took you for one of those girls that like to play with boys Margo," he sighs, going for unimpressed, but I can see the tension along his jaw line.

"Well I'm just a whore, isn't that what you called me?" she asks, leaning her head further to the side, showing me more of her neck and reaching around to run her fingers through my hair.

"I was angry, I admit it," he replies, trying to keep his gaze locked with hers so he can ignore what I'm doing. "It hurt to watch you with Py and Juice, but I know what we had Margo, and so do you. So I can forgive you for them, and for Ruuts and…and this kid," he growls, finally glancing up at me and I grin back at him as I lick my way up her neck and along her earlobe. "You love me Margo, and I'm finally ready to admit I love you, so why don't you tell this…child to get lost so we can talk."

I can't think straight, I can barely breathe, and if Sidney wasn't at my back, I probably would have fallen down long ago. Between the things the kid is doing that are making my body clench uncomfortably, and the look in those golden eyes, my head is spinning and my brain can't make heads or tails of the situation.

"You said you would never leave her," I reply breathlessly after a very long moment of silence, "you said marriage was for life and you weren't going to ruin your marriage over me."

"I was scared Margo, I was scared of what you made me feel, but I've been without you now and I'm scared of not having you in my life too," he replies quietly, through almost clenched teeth and I can tell how hard it is for him to say these things in front of the kid, especially with Sid's teeth nipping at my ear. I search his gaze, partly to see if what he's saying is more for the audience than for me, but he holds my gaze and I can see the emotion there and I can see how much he wants me to believe him.

"Sidney…I need to talk to Trev…alone," I say quietly, turning and reaching up to cradle his face in my hand, asking him with my eyes to wait, to not panic, to see that I still want him. His mocha coloured gaze searches mine and after a long moment during which I'm nor sure if he's going to either cry or scream, he nods and presses his lips briefly over mine, sending a shiver across my skin.

"I'll wait downstairs." I nod, trying to smile for him, trying for reassuring, but I can see the concern and hurt that I've put back in his eyes. He lets his fingers trail over mine until just the tips of our fingers slide over one another's, and I watch him go, watch him snap his gaze up to meet Trev's, defiance in his eyes, a sneer on his face that makes me smile. Then he turns and our gazes lock and I smile at him, and he smiles hopefully before he turns and walks out of my sight. I wait until I hear the door click shut, hear his and Taffy's voices mingling in the hall, then I turn my attention back to the tall, tanned figure in front of me.

"What do you want from me Trev?" I ask, feeling suddenly tired, but not wanting to stay with him in my bedroom, I lead him out to the living room and make sure I choose one of the chairs to sit in rather than on the sofa.

"I told you," he replies quietly, folding his long limbs onto the sofa, leaning towards me, his hazel eyes searching mine. "I'm here for you."

"Just like that?" I ask, tipping my head to one side and searching his haggard features, noticing the new bruise on his nose, the dark rings under his eyes "You let months go by, not a word, not an email, and then you just show up and expect me to just…what? Drop everything and do what?" He nods, which makes one of his unruly curls drop onto his forehead, and those deep dimples of his begin to appear, the lines around his eyes deepening with amusement.

"Come home with me. Help me make a life after hockey. Have a whole mess of kids. Get married." I feel my jaw drop, feel the panic rise in my chest at those last words. "I know," he grins, melting my heart with those dimples as he leaps off the couch and kneels in front of me, reaching for my hands and holding them in his larger ones, dropping his lips to my knuckles, his goatee scratching over my skin and sending goose-bumps marching up my arms. "I know this seems sudden and you're going to say it's impossible and maybe it is, for a while, but I can only see me with you for the rest of my life Margo, I wake up in the middle of the night in a hotel room thinking I can smell your perfume," he whispers, turning my arms over and inhaling over my wrists and then grinning. "I close my eyes and I can feel your body next to mine," he continues, pulling me down to the floor with him until we're facing each other on our knees. "I hear your laughter in crowds. I see your face everywhere. I even hear your voice telling me what a big loser I am when I turn the puck over. I love you Margo. I was an asshole to think I could go back to her and forget what we had."

I feel his lips covering mine, and before my brain can comprehend what's happening, he's wrapped his arms around me and my tongue is reaching for his, and I hear myself moaning into his mouth. His kisses are hot, wet and urgent, as if he'll die if his lips aren't touching mine, as his hands move roughly under my t-shirt, pushing the material up over my bra and it's like I'm powerless to stop him. Powerless, or I don't want to stop him. After all, my hands are pulling on his belt, pawing at the zipper of his jeans, as if having his cock in my hands immediately is the most important thing in the world right that minute.

When his teeth tug at one of my nipples and his hand slides between my thighs and into my underwear, finding my clit and rolling it between his fingers and I hear myself cry out, and he stops, and I freeze. Slowly he lifts his head, confusion and anger in his eyes. I cover my mouth with my hand and back away, crawling back up onto the chair and pulling my knees up to my chest.

"I'm sorry," I whisper quietly behind my hand as he stares at me in disbelief.

"Sorry?" he spits, hurt and anger filling his voice. "I just told you I love you and want to marry you and you say…that…child's name?" I can't reply because I don't know what to say. My head hurts, my eyes sting with tears, and I can't tear my gaze away from his, and I feel like I can't breathe.

"I'm sorry," I repeat in a voice that's more like a squeak. Finally he tears his gaze away from mine and gets to his feet, pulling his zipper up and rearranging his belt before the turns back to look down at me, and all I can think of is that I wish a cosmic hole would open up and suck me away right now.

"Do you…love him?" All I can do is shrug by way of reply. "How can you love…that kid Margo? What is he…like ten years younger than you? What the hell would you have in common with that brat?"

"I don't know," I reply honestly, trying to hug my knees even closer to my chest.

"But it's not just sex…like with…with all the other guys?" he asks, his jaw clenched, his eyes glowing with rage. I shake my head slowly, wanting to, but unable to tear my gaze away from his. "Fuck Margo…I fucking love you, I want to fucking marry you and that…fucking child…that little twerp is going to…," he pauses, his hands clenched into fists, every sinew standing out in his muscled arms. "No…no I won't let this happen. You're fucking mine."

His hand flies out to grab me, pulling me roughly to my feet, slamming his body into mine, his lips and teeth colliding painfully with mine. I push and claw, but his arms hold me to him as he bites my lips, as he shoves his tongue over mine. I twist and turn and try and pull away, but he picks me up off my feet and walks me into my bedroom, slamming the door shut with his foot behind us and tossing me onto the bed.

I scramble backwards, but only get to the edge of the bed before he grabs me by my shoulders and shoves me down hard, his mouth pressing down over mine, his tongue forcing its' way between my teeth. I scratch at his shoulders, but he only growls and presses my arms down to my sides hard enough that it hurts and I know it's going to bruise. I kick and squirm, but his body presses mine down into the mattress, his pelvis grinding into mine.

"Don't," I sniff, trying for angry but there are tears sliding down my cheeks.

"I take what's mine," he snarls, picking me up by my upper arms and shoving me across the bed, his body crashing over mine, his knee shoving my legs apart, shoving my denim skirt up to my hips.

"I don't want this," I whimper, but his fingers slide into my panties and I see his feral grin as they dip into the slick wetness there.

"You fucking want me and you fucking know it," he growls, his lips just touching mine. "You said I always make you wet, just watching me play makes you wet." I moan as he rolls my clit between his fingers but I push my hands against his chest and push him off me and roll away from him, but he grabs me mid roll and shoves me face down in the pillows, pulling one arm up and pinning it painfully behind my back. "Squirm all you want," he snaps, pushing my skirt up over my ass, and then pulling my panties down to my knees, "I'm going to fuck you and you're going to scream my name." I feel him shove his fingers inside me and I hear myself moan out loud, and I feel my body react to his touches the way it always has, my skin coming alive with heat, an orgasm beginning to build as my thighs quake with anticipation.

"Fuck me," I moan as he teases me with the head of his cock. "Fuck me hard."

"Say please," he snarls as his chest presses over my back, his breath warm in my ear.

"Fuck you," I snarl back, pushing my body back against his, trying to force him inside me but he only slides over and past my entrance, a shiver run down my spine when the head of his cock bumps my clit. "Asshole."

"Yeah that's right babe. I'm an asshole, but I'm the only asshole who knows you like it like this," he laughs, pushing my head down into the pillows until I can barely breathe. "Say please, bitch."

"Fuck you," I manage to mumble, biting down on the corner of one the pillows when his hand digs painfully into my shoulder, pushing me down farther. I hear him chuckle as he slides his fingers around to pinch at my nipples to make me moan again.

"Say it," he hisses, rolling my nipple between his thumb and forefinger and rubbing the head of his cock over my clit. "You're so wet Margo, I could make you cum like this."

"No," I whimper, pressing up against him, hating that I want him like this, hating that he can do this to me, humiliate me like this.

"Then say please, bitch," he barks, biting down on my shoulder, triggering the first wave of the orgasm, leaving me quaking and breathless.

"Please Trevor," I moan, hating him and hating myself at the same time, but the feel of him stretching me wide, of him filling me, of his chest against my back, of his breath warm in my ear, and I let go, let the orgasm roll me, let the spasms pull him over the edge, let his roar of triumph leave me a shivering wreck.

"Mine," he whispers, pulling me gently against him, wrapping his arms around me and kissing my cheek gently. Jekyll and Hyde, that's always been the way, that's always been the thing that make me crazy about him. "I love you Margo. I love you so much."

"I know," I sniff, wiping at my tears, shutting my eyes against my humiliation.

"I'm sorry for being such an ass, for taking so long to come back to you." I don't answer him, I just lay there in silence, holding his arms around me. "It's going to be great between us now Margo, I promise."

"Shhh," I whisper, unable to think clearly, especially with him talking.

"Mmm, yes, I've missed this, falling asleep with you in my arms," he whispers, his lips touching my ear, my neck. "It's so good to be with you again."

"Yeah, I know," I mumble, feeling his muscles relax, listening to his breathing slow. "Go to sleep. I'm right here."

"Mmm, sexy Margo. I've missed you."

"Yeah, I know," I repeat, trying to suppress a sigh. "Just…sleep now. It must have been a long flight." He mumbles something, but already he's falling asleep, I can tell by how heavy his arm gets across my waist, by how still he gets, the only movement the rise and fall of his chest against my back.

When she comes down the stairs I can tell she's been crying, but when I try and wrap her in my arms she shakes her head and moves away from me, leaning against the wall opposite from me.

"Jesus, what happened?" I ask but she won't meet my gaze, not even when I cup her chin and try to lift her eyes to meet mine. She just keeps her eyes closed.

"You should go," she whispers, turning her head away from me.

"What did he do to you?" I ask, taking stock of the way her lips are swollen, of the mascara running down her cheeks, of the rumpled look of her clothes.

"Just go Sidney, please. I have…things to sort out."

"I don't want to leave you with him if he's going to hurt you," I explain but she shakes her head and tries to struggle to get around me.

"He doesn't…it's not like that. It's just complicated. Go home Sidney…I'll call you tomorrow or something."

"Or something?" I ask, grabbing for her arm and she winces, and when I look down, I think I can just make out red welts above her elbow that would roughly be the size of a guys hand that's just a bit bigger than mine. "Margo…something happened up there and if you need me to…if you want me to do something about it…," she shakes her head and then turns to me with a weak smile.

"You're so sweet Sidney," she touches my cheek with her fingertips and looks wistful, her eyes filling with tears. "I wish….," she shakes her head and turns away.

"Wish what?" I ask quietly, brushing my hand gently along her cheek. She leans into my hand and makes a little sound deep in her throat that sounds like whimper.

"I wish I was a nice girl. You deserve a nice girl Sidney, and I'm not a nice girl," she turns her dark eyes up at me, full of tears and emotion that I can't quite read.

"You are nice," I sigh, leaning in to kiss her but she shakes her head and presses her fingers to my lips, pushing me back.

"I'm not Sidney…I'm exactly the opposite. I really like you, I do, but you deserve better than me. So please go Sidney, please." She looks up at me with this sad smile and I just don't understand, and I can't leave her like this.

"Do you love him?" I ask, and she shakes her head, looking even more miserable.

"I wish…I wish it were that easy."

"Then…why?" I ask, wrapping my hands around hers' and pulling her towards me, but she pulls back, turning her head away.

"You're light, I'm dark. That's all. Now please go."

"I don't want to go Margo…I think…," I can't believe I'm going to say this, I've never said it before, but just seeing her like this, and feeling what it's doing to me, how much I want to protect her now, how she makes me want to wrap her up and take care of her, and I don't know how else to make her understand, "I think I'm falling in love with you Margo, so no, I can't just leave you like this." I hear her sob, feel her shiver as I pull her to me, and this time she lets me wrap her in my arms. "Let me take care of you. Tell me what's going on." She nuzzles my neck for a moment, and I close my eyes, enjoying the feel of her there, of her scent filling my nostrils, of her body relaxing against mine, but then she steps back and I turn to hear the door opening at the top of the stairs, and see him step out, the light from her apartment putting us in a spot light. She turns as if the light hurts her, shielding her face with her hand.

"The lady asked you to go." I feel the air rush out of my lungs as he marches down the stairs and wraps his arms around her, pressing his lips to her forehead and cradling her against his chest.


"Go Sidney, please." She turns, her eyes full of tears, with a look that is almost fear turning my blood cold. "Please."

"Okay…for now," I lift my gaze to his and narrow my eyes at him. "But this isn't done, and I will come back, in the morning, okay Margo?" She shakes her head but I reach through his arms and run the back of my fingers down her cheek and feel her shiver. "I'll come back…okay?" She nods, sniffing, and all I want to do is beat the living shit out of him right this minute, but if she loves him, even a little bit…. "Tomorrow," I repeat and glare at him once more, then I turn and walk out of the hall, out through the bar, and out to my SUV.

Chapter 9

I sit in the darkness, listening to the last sounds of the staff moving around downstairs, of the last purr of an engine in the parking lot, of the quiet sounds of his soft snoring in my bed, and then, at last, to the utter silence of the early morning. I lean my chin on my knees and stare at him, at his long lean form stretched out in my bed, of his arm thrown across the empty mattress where I'd been, of the beatific look on his face, the almost smile, the relaxed look as he sleeps. Dr. Jekyll, smart, talented, ruggedly handsome, romantic and sweet; nothing like Mr. Hyde from earlier, aggressively jealous, painfully possessive, flying into a rage at the smallest provocation.

He hasn't always been like this; there was a time that he was just Dr. Jekyll, but things changed, the strike for instance, and me, yes I know that I've done this to him. I could have just let him be, let him stay in a marginally happy marriage, but I wanted him, wanted what I couldn't have, and I poked and I prodded and I cajoled and I begged until he gave in. I did this, I poisoned this relationship like I've always managed to poison every other relationship I've ever been in. I make them mean, I make them jealous, I make them do things they've never thought of doing…

He mumbles in his sleep, the fine lines creasing his brow, and I think he's about to wake but then he just rolls over and settles back into the pillows, and his breathing returns to the long deep resonant breaths of deep dream filled sleep.

Carefully, quietly, I crawl out of the chair, pulling the blanket from around my shoulders and lay it carefully over his feet before I slip out the door and down the hall, pausing at the door to the guest room, or as I guess it has become Taffy's palace of sin. I raise my hand to knock, but think better of it when I see a light creeping under the door. I push the door open to see Taffy sitting up on a throne of pillows, a book propped open on her knees, the reading light over her head spotlighting the book and her ebony hair but also falling in a gentle glow over the two men sharing her bed.

I recognize Ryan Malone's grizzled features on the pillow to her right, his arms under the pillow, his muscled back bare to the waist. It's only when she glances over the book at me, her cats eyes glasses perched on her nose and drops the book lower that I see Jordy's older brother Eric snuggled up to her left hip, his blonde hair mingling with her black hair. I have to smile, and I can't help but think if I was more willing to share how much easier my life would be right now.

"Tea?" I whisper, and she nods, folding her book closed and carefully reaching over Ryan to put it on the bedside table. He mumbles something and she slides down to press her lips to his forehead, whispering something that makes him snuggle down into the quilt and close his eyes again. She turns and does the same thing with Eric and he turns over and pulls the quilt up around his chin. She turns off the reading light, crawls down the middle of the bed, pulling her kimono off the end of the bed and sliding into it in one long graceful movement. She pauses at the door, turning to look at the two men with a satisfied smile on her face and then closes the door behind us.

"So, what's going on with you and the big man?" she asks, keeping her voice low, and settling in at the dining room table while I put the kettle on.

"I honestly don't know," I reply, leaning against the counter, crossing my arms over my chest and staring down the hall. "I wasn't expecting him, that's for sure."

"Oh c'mon, after the flowers?" she raises her eyebrows at me and I just shrug.

"I believed him when he said he wouldn't leave her."

"But not leaving her has nothing to do with still wanting you does it? I mean, hello, married man in my bed," she grins, inclining her head towards her room.

"Yeah but…," I sigh, closing my eyes and pressing my fingers to the throbbing at my temple, "we didn't just break up over him going back to Chris. I mean…yeah him being married was bad but…that's never stopped me before you know?" I open my eyes and she's nodding, looking thoughtful.

"That's true, but then you never said you were in love with anyone until Trev…I mean that I know of, and we've known each other a while now." She gets up and moves to the cupboard and retrieves a box of Peppermint tea and two mugs while I pull the plug on the kettle and wait for her to put the tea bags in the cups. "So what is it with Trev? Cuz you liked Danny, a lot if I remember, you liked messing around with Bert, they were both married…so what is it about the big guy that messes with your head so much?"

"He didn't want to cheat," I sigh, taking my mug and sliding into one of the chairs. "He wanted to be faithful, he wanted to be a good husband but…I just wouldn't give in." I glance up at her and the sympathetic look in her eyes makes me feel even guiltier. "God, I am such a bad person."

"Well…okay, I guess chasing him after he said no…well I guess that could be construed as making you a bad person but…well it's not like you raped him." I glance up from tea and I guess my eyes are as round as they feel like they are because she narrows her eyes at me and then tips her head to one side. "What did you do Margo?" I turn my attention back to dipping the tea bag in the steaming water, but I can't stop squirming in my chair, and finally I have to get up and pace the kitchen. She watches me, patient, not prodding, just waiting for me to be ready to talk, because obviously that's why I've got her out here. Finally I turn my back to her and put my hands on the counter, gripping its' edge hard enough that it hurts my hands.

"I lied to him, told him Bert had raped me when I said no, told him I liked it rough but…that Bert had hurt me, had hit me, I played on his sympathy, made him feel like he needed to take care of me…," I shut my eyes against the memory of the look on his face as I told him, of the way he'd fought his urge to go into that room and kill Todd in order to wrap me in his arms and hold me while I cried big fat fake tears. The tears I cry now though are real, for doing that to him, for forcing him to feel things he didn't want to feel.

Giving my head a shake and reaching over to turn on the water, I rinse my hands in cold water and splash it on my face, trying to rinse away the shame that I can never quite get rid of. Finally with a deep breath I turn around and almost fall to the floor.

"You…lied about that?" he asks, his face ashen, looking crestfallen as he sinks into the sofa, letting his head drop into his hands. Taffy looks from me to him, not sure if she should make herself scarce or stay just in case. I stay where I am, my feet having turned into lead weights, my heart having stopped beating, my breath caught in my throat. Finally he looks up at me, after what seems like an hour of weighted silence, his eyes glimmering with tears, and I know what he's going to ask before he opens his mouth.

"No…before you ask, no, nothing else was a lie. I did love you, I did want you, just…I wanted you and you kept turning me down and I…I just wanted you and I couldn't think of anything else…," he holds up his hand, putting his forehead in his other hand and looking away from me, shaking his head slowly, as if he can't process what he's hearing. "I'm sorry Trev, I know how much you hate when you're lied to…"

"Do you know what you did?" he asks, still not looking up at me, even as I move over to sit near him, not even acknowledging my hand on his shoulder as I try to knead away the tension there. "Do you have any idea what you did to my…to my friends?" The look on his face when he looks up now is cold, hate filled, bitter and full of resentment, and it makes my blood run cold.

"I have some idea," I whisper quietly, but he shakes his head, slapping my hand away.

"Do you think that team stood any chance at all of working together after you accused him of that? After I accused him of that?" He stands now, glaring down at me menacingly and for the first time I'm actually afraid of him. "Everyone believed it, Danny, Ed…we believed you! It was all of us, even Crow, we all believed you Margo. Christ, we all thought he'd…we believed you. The only person who didn't…Mark…he's the only one who believed Bert, the whole fucking season and damn't Margo, we used to be friends, Nazzy and I were friends, maybe not good friends but I've hardly spoken to the man in two years!" I watch his hands ball into fists but I don't wince, I don't even move, I know I deserve it if he wants to hit me and I don't blame him. But he uncoils his hands and paces away, muttering, cursing, but keeping his distance.

"I'm sorry Trev," I offer, knowing it's not nearly good enough, knowing he can't and won't accept my apology, nor should he, but I don't know what else to say. He doesn't even react to my voice, doesn't turn his head, doesn't stop pacing. I glance over at Taffy and she can only shrug, her long fingers wrapped around her mug, watching from a safe distance.

"I did things," he says finally, turning to look at me, his handsome features curled into feral snarl, "things I've never done…things you said you liked. I felt…disgusting but I did them…did them because you said…you said…." He stops, and turns away, rubbing at his face with his big strong hands, as if he would rub away my touch. I know how that feels. I've wished that would work hundreds of times.

"I did like it, I liked every time you touched me," I offer quietly, holding my hand out to him but he moves away from me, staring at my hand like it's a hot poker, like touching me would burn him.

"I wanted to…," he glances at Taffy, turning red, but she just glances down at her mug as if she isn't listening. "I wanted to make love to you Margo, but I thought…I thought you only liked it…," he turns even redder and then turns away.

"I'm sorry Trev…I do like it rough, occasionally but…I didn't know how to tell you we could do it…normally without telling you I'd lied and I knew if I told you I lied…well you'd hate me, and I didn't want that either. So I thought it was just best when you decided to go back to Chris to just…leave things."

"Leave things? Leave things? Did it never occur to you that I still had to play with these guys?" He snaps his head around and snarls at me, his hazel eyes blazing. I drop my eyes and shrug. It had, of course it had, but that was better than this.

"I'm sorry Trev. I'm…you're right, I'm a bad person. I know that, and I'm sorry, for you, for Bert, for Markus…," I shrug and make myself look back up at him. "I'll call Bert, I'll apologize, and Markus, if you want me to." He shakes his head, scratching at the growth of beard on his cheeks and then realizing that he's standing in just his jeans or just not wanting to be there, he runs his hands down his lean sides, and turns and heads into my room and I can hear him gathering his things, hear the bed springs sigh when he sits on the edge of the bed to put his shoes on, hear the scrape of his bag when he picks it up. I watch him walk to the door, not knowing what else to say and knowing I have no right to ask him to stay, and not really wanting to.

"You're poison," he sighs, his hand on the door.

"I know," I reply quietly, watching him roll his shoulders, watching him as he stands there, trying to make himself go.

"Don't…don't tell anyone about this," he says finally, turning to glance at me, his eyes full of so many emotions that I decide to just nod, not really knowing what else to say. He nods once and then pushes the door open and walks away.

Chapter 10

"She just doesn't want to see anyone kiddo, sorry," Taffy shrugs and gives me her best 'that's the way it goes' smile.

"I just want to see her, just for a minute, to make sure she's okay." I search Taffy's eyes, hoping that she's going to give in but she just slides her hand up the door jam to block my going past her and shakes her head.

"She's asleep, she was up all night, you know with Trev leaving and all, she's exhausted, you should just let her sleep, I'll take good care of her, I promise." There's an edge to Taffy's voice that makes it sound like she's threatening rather than promising, but I can see she's not letting me by either way.

"Well…I mean, can you just tell her that I'll be heading to Dartmouth tomorrow and…and that I'd like to see her before I go?" I try not to sound as eager or as concerned as I feel, but I know she can hear the tension in my voice when it's obvious she's trying not to laugh at me.

"I'll tell her, but honestly, the way things are…maybe that's a good thing. We'll see you when you all get back for camp right?" I can tell by the tone and the cool look in her eyes that she's done talking, and she's probably not going to pass on the message. So I nod, and turn to go, giving one last hopeful glance toward the windows upstairs, but there's no sign of life, no lights, no twitch of the blackout curtains. I can't believe that kiss really meant nothing, that telling her now I felt…

Well maybe that had been a mistake.

"Come out, come out wherever you are, he's gone," Taffy calls and I trudge down the stairs, pulling my robe tighter around me and slumping to the bottom stair with a sigh. "Hey, you're the one who told me to send him away, so don't go looking at me like that."

"I'm not, and if I am, I'm sorry. I have no idea when I'm going to stop lying…I open my mouth and I lie."

"And I open my mouth, and I lie for you," she laughs, but when I glance up at her with my 'not funny' snarl, she quickly stops and sits beside me, putting her arm around me and leaning her head on my shoulder.

"Hey, it's not like you were going to get serious about the kid, I mean…hello? He's like twelve or something."

"He's not twelve," I sigh, leaning my head down on my hands and rubbing that spot on my temples that just will not stop hurting, "he's legal, and hey, in another month he won't even be a teenager."

"Still, it's not like you were actually going to have a meaningful long-term relationship with him, so don't be bummed out about sending him away. You had to, I mean-look at you, I don't even know why I'm with you right now."

"Because someone has to stop me from crawling up on the roof and jumping off," I sigh, closing my eyes against even the sliver of light coming from upstairs.

"Well then, because I'm your friend, I'm going to say this to Margo, and you do whatever you want to do with it, but I really think you should stop joking around about going to a shrink and actually do it."

"I wasn't actually going to crawl up on the roof," I mumble, but she punches me in the arm and then gets up and holds her hands out to pull me up.

"Maybe not this time, but I have seen you crash and burn one too many times lately, and I mean hey, it's not like any of us are normal, am I right? I mean, who's got two guys sleeping in her bed upstairs?"

"Right now, I think I'd feel better if that was me," I sigh, letting her lead me back up to the flat.

"I'm always willing to share, you know that," she giggles, pushing the door open and turning to arch her eyebrow at me.

"No thanks, I think you're right, I don't think I should keep doing this…crap over and over again. I think I'll just go back to bed…alone."

"You're funeral, but if you get lonely, just climb on in." I shake my head at her as she pushes open her bedroom door and calls out a lusty 'I'm baaaack'. God knows it would probably feel better, for a while, to climb in the middle of that particular puppy pile, but only for a while, and I think I'm done with that temporary kind of fix.

"So you're just going to sit there all summer and feel sorry for yourself?" I look up from the book I've been trying to read, the one Shawna bought for me while she tailed me my first season, the one about Gretzky and the Oilers, to see Taylor standing with her hands on her hips looking even more pissed than she did the last time she came over to ask me to take her and her friends out to a movie.

"It's called relaxing Piglet, I'm trying it for a change, okay?"

"Well it's boring, and mom said you're supposed to be looking out for me."

"Yeah well," I stretch and yawn and slide over to the other side of the couch and smile back at her, "I don't know why that has to be at a mall or at the movies. I have movies here, why don't you just watch one?"

"Sidney, you said you would go!" she whines, sticking her bottom lip out in a way that I know would normally work on dad, but I've seen enough of that from Lauren, Stephanie and Alexa around Mario's that now I'm just immune.

"I told you Piglet, I'm relaxing. If you want to go to a movie, I'll give you some money…"

"I don't want your stupid money," she snaps, stomping on the floor and flying back up to her room. With a shrug I go back to reading, but then I feel a pillow hitting my legs and I look up and she's got another one in her hand aimed at my head, maybe. "You're supposed to take me."

"Okay, okay, can we just go later? Why do we have to go to a matinee?"

"Because my friends will be there."

"I thought you wanted to go with me, because if you just want to go with them I said I'd give you money…"

"I want to go now!" she howls, tossing the pillow with all her might, and I lift my arm to deflect it.

"Shit Taylor, what the hell has gotten into you?" I put my book down, careful not to lose my place and pick up the pillows and stare at her as she tries hard not to cry.

"You used to be fun, you're not fun anymore."

"I'm sorry Piglet," I move over to her, sitting on the stairs and pulling her down to sit beside me, "but I'm tired and sore and…I have things on my mind."

"Like a girl, I suppose?" she sighs, wiping at her eyes and sniffing, but not looking at me.

"Yeah, that too," I sigh, wincing as a vision of Margo standing in the doorway of her bedroom swims behind my eyes. "I guess things are just…more complicated for me now. I'm sorry, I don't mean to take it out on you though."

"Do I get to meet her at least before you marry her?" she asks quietly and suddenly, and I'm caught completely off guard, but it makes me laugh.

"Sure Piglet, you can meet whatever girl I decide to marry, but believe me, this one is definitely not going to be it, okay?"

"Promise?" she asks, glancing up at me, looking almost relieved.

"Of course I promise. Taylor, where is this coming from?"

"You talk in your sleep," she mumbles, turning her head away again.

"And you heard this from your room…how?"

"I wanted a drink…you were talking so…I just listened for a minute," she explains, going a deep shade of red. I shrug, wondering if I should ask and then deciding it's better not to know what I said.

"Well, like I said, don't worry about it. So…are we going to this movie or what?"


"Well I'm not reading now, so if I were you I'd say yes."

"I'll be five minutes," she grins, racing up towards her room. I watch her go for a moment and then hang my head and try to banish the thoughts of Margo that have been chasing me for weeks now. It's almost time to go back and I'd hoped that I'd have got over this crazy infatuation by now, but if I'm talking about her in my sleep that means she's invading my dreams as much as she is my waking hours…damn!

"Well I've got to say Ms. Sheppard, I think we've made some amazing progress today," the shrink looks down at me from her desk and I just shake my head at her.

"What are you? Some kind of dominatrix? I can't think of any other profession that gets paid to make people feel this shitty."

"I always tell my clients that coming to me is like going to the chiropractor, it feels awful at the time, but later, you feel really good," she smiles indulgently at me and offers another box of tissues.

"Yeah well, let me know when that is."

"Have these sessions not…helped to alleviate some of your negatives self talk and illusions?" she asks, looking very serious and making yet another note on that yellow legal pad.

"Yeah, yeah, some," I reply, swinging my legs around and sitting up, facing her, "but…I mean, I don't know what's going to happen the next time."

"The next time?"

"Well I'm bound to find a guy attractive at some point and want to…you know, sleep with him?"

"Ah I see," she smiles, tapping the pad with her pencil and puts it down, as if it's a distraction. "Is there…a someone specific, or are you just worried in general?"

"In general, yeah but…well say there was this…you know, one guy that…well might be…well I might be interested in I guess."

"You don't sound very sure about this one, it's not this Trevor person is it?"

"Oh no, hell no," I sigh, wrinkling my nose at the thought. "There's just this other person that I can't get out of my head, and…I just…well I'd been trying to avoid the same sort of…you call them negative behaviors, happening with him."

"Well I think you're certainly aware of why you've been making the choices you've been making. Do you not feel comfortable going forward knowing what you know now?"

"Well," I shrug and then just shake my head, "not really. I mean I knew, you know, somewhere in my head, I knew that just…sleeping around was my way of having some sort of power over how and when and with who, I knew that, but I guess I hadn't realized it was damaging to my…self image and all that. But…then there's these guys, not many, but like Trev and…this other guy, that I don't want to be like that with, that I want to see me as something more than a sex toy you know?"

"And what do these men have in common for you?"

"That's just it…I mean, well there was John, in highschool and he reminds me a lot of…of this other guy, but Trev…I don't think he's the same at all, I think he was like…a daddy figure almost, I mean not that I saw him as old but you know, like he could save me or something."

"The protector you're always looking for but never find," she nods, circling something on that pad and gazing at it for a moment before looking back up at me "And these other guys?" I had to think about it for a moment, not that I'd never given it any thought, it was just that I'd never really come up with anything, and then I felt the heat rise in my face.

"They're younger." She nods, arching her eyebrows but not really seeming surprised.

"So they'd be like…your brother Michael?" I felt my mouth hanging open, seeing the correlation just as she had, except it felt more like a bolt of lightening had hit my chest than a 'ta-da' moment usually did.

"I want to protect them…from me?"

"It doesn't have to be that, although from what you've said that is also certainly a possibility. I think, rather, that you see something in them you want to protect, an innocence, a virtue, a goodness that you don't see in yourself?" I could only shrug, not sure if that was totally true, but it rang true at the very least. "So unlike these other men," she ran her pencil down what I could only guess was a long line of men's names in her book, "you don't feel the need to gain power using sex, they already have given you power and you don't quite now what to do with that, but you like them, but you don't trust yourself with them?" I feel my shoulders sag as I hear her pin the tail on the donkey, explaining my actions exactly. "There are certainly a number of pitfalls with younger men and having that sort of abuse of power is definitely one of them."

"So that's out then," I nod, but she smiles, and let's out a little laugh, probably for the first time in all these weeks of sessions.

"No, not necessarily. Don't discount the attraction of that type of person, in fact, given the right situation, this exact type of relationship could be very fulfilling for both of you. I would guess there's something in it for him; he might see a protector, a champion for himself, but the thing you would need to have from that person is a balance, a give and take. The question you would need to ask is, can you turn it off, and can he turn it on, because you do need that protection too, you just need to have the balance." I nodded, gnawing on my bottom lip and wondering if I could find that kind of balance, if I'd got to a place in my life where I was ready to try for that.

Chapter 11

"You still talk to Ryan and Army and them don't you?" I ask, careful not to glance up from the drink I'm mixing, going for nonchalance, but when I hand the punter his drink, Taffy's leaning against the bar fixing me with her patented 'what are you up to' stare.

"Why? Is your bed feeling a little empty?"

"No," I lie, "I'm thinking about taking couple days, heading up to visit V," I explain and immediately wish I hadn't when she rolls her dark eyes at me and flips her hair over her shoulder.

"Oh and it just so happens that Nessa lives about what? An hour from where Sid is right now?"

"I just thought I'd call him, meet him for coffee or something," I reply, grabbing another empty beer glass and filling it, keeping my eyes on the glass and off Taffy as she sighs.

"Why don't you just call him and tell him to come back here and jump your bones?"

"I didn't say anything about anyone jumping anyone's bones Taff, I just…you know, would like to make up for being such a psychotic bitch before. I mean, he was trying to be nice, trying to check on me and…."

"And you wanted to jump his bones but you were sidetracked and now you're back on track and you want to jump his bones. I mean, fucking admit it, the guy is wicked hot and if I didn't know you were interested and that he's like so incredibly in love with you it's sickening, I would jump him myself. In fact, I think a Sid Fleur sandwich sounds like a very good idea, but I'm being a good friend and leaving him to you."

"That's very kind of you Taf," I shake my head at her, "I'll have to figure out some way of repaying you."

"Weeeelllll," she grins, leaning her head on my shoulder and looking up at me, blinking her eyelashes rapidly in an attempt to look innocent, which for Taffy is pretty much impossible, "you could put in a good word for me when Jarkko gets back."

"Taffy, he'll be…no, what am I saying, since when did a guy being married ever stop you. Sure, I can do that, but maybe, hopefully he'll have sworn off cheating."

"Let me tell you a little something, they don't, once they start, especially with me, they always come back for more."

When the cab pulls into his driveway, it surprises me to see him leaning against one of the pillars on his porch, shirtless, bare foot, book in one hand open against his thigh, staring out at the setting sun. He looks so peaceful and relaxed that I'm tempted to tell the cab driver to turn around and go back to V's, but just as I lean forward to say something, his brown eyes swivel towards the sound of the idling engine, and I see him leaning forward, trying to peer into the car, probably trying to decide if one of the locals has given his address to some deranged stalker, if he should be dialing 911, and I'm not sure that he shouldn't.

"Miss?" the cabby glances at me in the mirror and I know that I have to either pay or tell him to turn around, but I can't sit out here all night, much as he's almost as beautiful standing there as the sunset he's watching, and I know I could easily watch him for hours.

"Yeah, sorry, how much did you say?"

"One thirty," he mumbles, looking up at Sid sheepishly, as if he'd like to apologize to him for bringing me here, and I guess being a local, he doesn't know if he's dropping off a stalker either. I hand him a wad of bills, taking a deep breath, and push the door open and step out onto the warm summer pavement. I listen to the cab reverse, listen to it hesitate out on the road, and I can imagine the driver waiting to see if Sid's going to freak out, and so am I.

Fortunately for me, I watch a grin spread slowly across his face, and he waves the cab away.

"What are you doing here?" he asks, his grin broadening as he makes his way towards me, but even though I open my mouth, I can't make anything come out, in fact, all I can do is cry silently as I look at him and think I don't deserve for him to be that happy to see me after what I've done to him. "What? Margo…what's wrong?" He reaches up and runs his knuckles softly down my cheek, the happiness leaking out of his eyes to be replaced by concern.

"Nothing…just don't deserve…don't deserve…," a hiccup mixed with a sob makes him laugh, even though he tries to hide it right away. He pulls me into his arms and cradles my head against his shoulder. I manage to get it together after a few deep breaths, and his not saying anything, not trying to tell me otherwise, helps.

"Better?" he asks; his breath warm on my cheek as he lifts my chin. I nod, and he smiles again, pressing his lips briefly to my forehead. "I can't believe you're here. You should have called. I would have come to get you."

"I wasn't sure I had the courage…I wanted to be able to turn around but I was too nervous to drive."

"I didn't know I made you nervous," he whispers, his grin turns cocky, but the look in his eyes softening to something warmer, more intimate.

"I'm shaking," I admit, wanting to glance away but he keeps his hand on my chin, forcing me to face him, and I give in, giving him that control, no matter how hard it is, no matter how tempting it would be to just grab him and bite his luscious bottom lip instead.

"So Linden is…?" his voice trails off as his gaze searches mine, and I can see the hope there, like a distant spark waiting to be ignited.

"History," I reply, and watch the fire begin to build in his eyes, but I can also see the hesitation, as his gaze falls to my mouth and then back up to my eyes. "I'm not very good at relationships, actually I suck at them, but…I think I want to try if…if you do?" I ask, because it needs to be said, and he's made all the overtures so far and been slapped back every time, it's only fair. I let the hope and the fear leak into my gaze and the sudden flash of his grin makes my knees weak.

"When I saw you I hoped but I…," I smile and reach for his lips with mine, feel him press his over mine, his arms pulling my body hard against his, and I don't mind not being able to catch my breath. In fact, right then, I don't care if I never breathe again.

I let my hands slide up his bare back, enjoying the ripple of his muscles beneath my fingertips, the involuntary shiver when I curl my fingers around the back of his neck. I open my lips beneath his, tracing his generous lips with my tongue and feel a shudder of my own when his tongue curls around mine and his hand slides down to cover my breast. I moan, but it's not exactly a moan of pleasure as my therapist's voice comes back to me, 'sex is not a way to get to know someone, it's a way to know someone better'.

"I…uh…," I pull back and try and think of something to say, but the heat in his eyes and the feeling of his abs clenching as he tries to catch his breath under my hand as I hold him at arms' length makes it difficult to think of anything except sex. "I guess I have some…explaining to do," I offer, biting my bottom lip and waiting for the dismissive reaction that always happens when I start something and don't finish it.

"We can go inside and talk, it's starting to get dark anyway," he replies, reaching out to brush my hair back behind my ear, and I realize there's not the slightest hint of reproach in his voice, no hint of anger in his body language. "I was actually just thinking about dinner, maybe we can fix something together?" He cocks his head to one side and searches my face, like he's trying to figure things out, but he never loses that gentle smile, and it's hard to stay nervous and frightened with him looking at me like that.

"I could eat," I nod and he chuckles, slipping his arm around my shoulders and leading me up towards the house.

I pull the afghan my grandmother made, the one I never use, up to her chin, and she snuggles down into the couch and goes back to what I hope are better dreams, happier dreams. I back up into my favourite chair, and go back to watching her, and trying to process everything she's told me, everything we've talked about.

At first I was afraid that she wasn't the person I'd thought she was, or at least the one I'd made up in my head. But now, the more I think about it, the more I realize she's even more that person, even stronger than I thought she was, even more determined. To go to a therapist, that's one thing, every team has one, but I've never talked to him about anything other than what happens during a game, and how I need to control my anger, channel my energy, but I've never told him about missing my parents when I was away from home or how I don't know how to really form relationships, even with other guys on the team, how I always feel different, alone, apart. She knows what that feels like, knows how it feels to be different, to be set apart, to feel completely alone in the world.

I knew by the look in her eyes earlier that she was worried that I would think less of her for everything she's been through, but I could see she was determined to tell me anyway, and if anything, now I can feel my heart hammering hard in my chest just watching her sleep, just watching the way her eyelashes fan out on the apple of her cheeks, how her long chestnut hair fans out over that cushion, how her lips curl into a smile as she sinks into dreamland.

I didn't know what to think when I saw her get out of that taxi, for a moment I'd thought I'd been dreaming, that I'd fallen asleep on the porch, because I'd just been wondering what she was doing right now, and wishing I could stop thinking about her. Watching her now, all I want to do is wrap her in my arms, and I can't imagine never wanting to think about her, I can't imagine ever doing anything else.

Everything hurts when I wake up, one leg thrown over the arm of the chair, my head half hanging off the side, my other foot on the floor, one arm thrown over the back of the chair, the other sort of tucked up under my rib cage. No wonder everything hurts. I blink into the light pouring through the windows and curse that I never closed the shutters, or at least the blinds.

Then I look over at the couch, but it's empty, the cushions sitting neatly back against the arms and the afghan folded carefully and sitting along the back of the couch. Empty! I struggle to my feet, looking for her bag that had never moved from the doorway, and it's gone too. But then I stop to think where she could have gotten a taxi this time in the morning and I hear the shower running and let out a long low whistle. She's still here.

I turn to the kitchen, but then find myself turning around again and climbing the stairs and pushing open the bathroom door, blinking into the steam until my breath catches in my throat when I see her silhouette in the tempered glass. I stand, uncertain, listening to her humming, to the water beating down on the tiles, but my imagination is doing things to those sounds, and the next thing I know I'm peeling off the t-shirt I'd pulled on when it had gotten a little chilly last night, stepping out of my jeans and stepping into the steam.

I watch the water trickle down her back and over the small of her back, and my hand reaches out to trace the butterfly there, and I hear her gasp.

"Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," I whisper, sliding my hand around her waist and pulling her gently towards me until her back meets my chest and her hand reaches up to curl around my neck, bringing my lips down onto hers'. She tastes of warm water, her skin fragrant with soap, her tongue slippery and hot against mine.

"I had visions of the shower scene in Psycho," she sighs when our lips part, that inviting smile gazing up at me. Then, when she sees my blank stare, she laughs and shakes her head. "I don't know if it's a good idea to make me feel that old with your hand there." I glance down at my hand cupping her breast, and we both laugh, nervous laughter echoing against the tiles.

"You're not old," I whisper, dropping my lips to her shoulder, feeling my cock rise against the curve of her ass as she leans back against me and lets out a long contented sigh. "Wasn't that before your time too?" I ask, lifting her wet hair away from her neck and pressing my lips against her pulse just behind her ear.

"Thank you," she sighs, sliding her hand down the small of my back and cupping my ass, pulling me against her as she grinds her ass against my growing erection. "You're always so sweet to me."

"I don't want to be sweet to you now," I growl, massaging her breasts in my hands and biting down on her shoulder until she gasps, the sharp sound of her cry making me harder, my cock nudging its' way between her cheeks.

"Mmmm, I like bad boys remember?" she whispers, her voice deep and throaty as she slides her hand around me, and the feel of her fingers tightening around my cock and the warm water running through her fingers makes me gasp. She lifts her lips to mine, her eyes blazing with desire and I feel a shudder run down my spine.

"I only want you to do this if…if you…," I want her so badly, I don't want to stop, not with her hand gently tugging on me, not with her lips a breath away, not with her nipples warm and hard against the palms of my hands, but after last night…, "I want you to want me for more than this Margo." The desire doesn't leak out of her eyes, but it's joined with trust, with happiness, and I think with something like what I feel for her.

"That's why I'm here Sidney, because I know you don't just see me as a pair of tits and a nice ass, because from the first time we met you looked at me, into me, you've wanted something more from me than this, it just took me a while to get up the courage to want you for more than this." I see tears glimmering in her eyes and I can almost see all of the walls inside her crumbling down as she offers her lips up to me, but it's more than her lips being offered now, it's her heart, it's her soul.

I push my lips over hers', curling my tongue around hers' and sliding my hands down over her ribs, down over her hips, and into the hot slick valley between her thighs. She slides her legs apart to give me better access and I slide my fingers through the curling hair there, over her soft velvet lips to find that hard little hood that makes her cry out as I roll it between my fingers. She lets go of me, reaching her hands out for the support of the safety rails I'd had installed, that I'd thought were just me being over cautious, but now, as she wraps her fingers over them, I realize they have other uses.

"Hold on," I whisper into her ear, bending her forward and holding her hips as my cock slides over her opening. She moans and pushes back against me impatiently, and that's all the encouragement I need. I slide into her hot wet tunnel, feel her muscles tugging at me, pulling me deeper. I close my eyes and savor the heat, the tightness of her from this angle, the feel of her muscles clamping down on me. Then I open my eyes and let my thumbs trace the wings of that butterfly as I begin to slide out, and back in, and the wings seems to flutter slowly as we move together.

But no matter how cute that is, and how good this feels, I don't want the first time I make love to her be like this, not being able to see those beautiful dark eyes, to have her not be able to see the love for her in my eyes. Reluctantly I slide out of her, the tepid temperature of the water almost a shock after the almost feverish heat of her pussy, and reach around to turn the water off. She watches me with interest, the haze of desire leaving her looking almost drunk, but happy. I reach for her hand and she puts her smaller one in mine, and I help her out of the shower and onto the fuzzy bathmat, where I kneel in front of her and she gazes down at me with this silly little grin on her face.

I watch the water drip from her long hair over her generous breasts, the water running in the valley between them, down over abdomen, pooling in her belly button before running down over the triangle of hair leading down to the valley between her thighs. Reaching out, I part those velvet lips and slide my fingers into her, watch her eyes flutter closed, her lips part, hear the soft happy cry she makes as my thumb finds her clit and rolls it in a slow circle. She leans forward, just enough to put her hands on my shoulders for support and parts her thighs more, letting more of my fingers into the heat of her, moaning as I push them up into her until she shudders, her nails digging into my skin as she lets out a howl and sinks to her knees.

We face each other then, her hands still on my shoulders, my hands reaching for waist, and her eyes flicker open to reveal two pools of melted chocolate that tell me everything I want to know but she leans forward and whispers it against my lips anyway.

"I love you Sidney."

"And I love you Margo," I reply, kissing her thoroughly, until I feel her wrap her arms around me and tug me down over her, her body opening under mine, her legs wrapping around the small of my back as I nudge my cock back into that wet heat. She tilts her head back as I pull her hips up, tilting her to push myself deeper, find that spot I've heard about but never cared that much to find, wanting to hear her gasp and being rewarded when her lips part and she lets out a long low moan. I push again and feel her muscles clamp down around my cock and it's my turn to groan as I shove myself in to her, again and again until her cries become sharp and ragged and I feel her thighs lock hard around me, her fingernails scratching at my shoulders and I feel like I can't catch my breath, like there's nothing left to feel but the tight heat of her, the amazing clutch of her pussy around me and then everything goes star filter and I shove myself into her hard, one last time, and everything explodes.

Chapter 12

I'd seen the path out to the rocks when I'd arrived in the taxi, but I hadn't given the view much thought, having been so focused on Sid standing on that porch looking so…handsome. Now, with one of his sweaters on to ward off the early evening chill, I pressed my lips to his forehead and allowed myself a brief moment to marvel at how innocent and sweet he looked sleeping, then I crept quietly out of the bedroom, down the stairs and out of the house. The sun was a hazy ball dipping into the water as I made my way carefully out onto the rocks, keeping to what looked like a well worn path and careful to avoid the wettest rocks. There was a spot on one of the rocks that was dry and looked flat, so I slid onto it and pulled my knees up to my chin and gazed out at the dimming light and the rolling waves and thought about just how much my life had changed.

I couldn't believe how calm I felt, how totally unruffled by the fact that I had, for only the second time in my life, told a man I loved him. The only other man I'd uttered those words to had been Trev, and there had always been, at the back of my mind, a certain amount of security, knowing he was married, knowing he wasn't really mine. With Sid it was…different. Just the way he looked at me, like he couldn't believe his luck, like I'd done something amazing and wonderful, like just being with him was a gift, made me feel like a better person, made me want to be the person I saw reflected in his eyes. The way he looked…not at me, but the way he saw me, when we made love…and yes, now I knew the difference. With Trev, he had tried to be what he thought I'd wanted, but without the trust, the honesty, the connection had never been what I felt now with Sid. I could look into his eyes when we made love, and I knew that he was trusting in me with his heart as much as I was placing my trust in him.

I don't know how much time had passed, but the sun was only a glimmer of light on the horizon when I felt his arms slide around me, pulling me back against the width of his chest.

"For a moment there I thought you might have been a figment of my imagination, that I'd been dreaming and you weren't really here," he whispers in my ear, his lips brushing my temple as his fingers lace with mine.

"If I'm going to be a figment of your imagination, just do me a favor and make sure I'm about ten pounds lighter without any gray hairs." He makes a growling sound deep in his throat that sends a shiver down my spine and has me clenching in anticipation, which only serves to remind me how sore I already am from spending the entire day in bed with a twenty year old.

"You're perfect the way you are," he sighs, digging his chin into my shoulder and pulling his arms tighter around me, warding off the chill coming from the breeze over the Atlantic. I close my eyes and enjoy his warmth, the feel of his heart beating against my back, of his arms cradling me, the feeling of safety, of being wanted filling me with new and strange emotions.

"Will anyone be worrying about where you are?" he asks quietly and I shake my head.

"I text'd my friend, the one I'm supposed to be visiting, and uh…I let Taffy know too, I hope that's okay?" I ask and he nods, and makes a noise that sounds like agreement or dismissal or a combination of both. "What about…back in Pittsburgh?" I ask quietly, because it's one of the things that I've been out here worrying over. I feel him shrug, but he doesn't say anything, one way or the other so I decide he's probably not sure what I mean so I continue my thought. "Do you…date during the season or…is this just a summer thing or…." He laughs, that young, almost childish laugh and then he scrambles to his feet and pulls me to mine, turning me to face him, his fingers sliding across my cheeks to cup the back of my head, holding my gaze with his.

"I've only ever told one other…well a girl…that I loved her and I don't think I ever knew what that meant then because it didn't feel half as strong as what I feel for you Margo Sheppard. I love you, period. I don't intend to live my life without you, here or there." What I see then in his eyes makes my mouth go dry, makes my knees weak, and I'm glad I can hold onto him for support, or I'd probably be falling into the ice cold waves. "Do you understand what I'm telling you?" he whispers, his lips almost touching mine, and I can only nod, not trusting my voice not to break under the weight of the emotion in this moment. "When we get back, we're going to get a place, together, and not over that club. That's how serious I am."

"And the media?" I ask, my voice barely a whisper, as his lips move even closer to mine.

"Don't care," he mumbles, his lips pressing over mine, pushing my mouth open, curling his tongue around mine and crushing his body into mine. "I want to come home to you," he whispers, kissing his way down my neck. "I want to make love to you every morning, every time I come home from a road trip, after every game…," I close my eyes and tilt my head back, losing myself in the warmth of his lips on my skin, of his hand now moving up under the sweater, of the press of his growing erection against my hip. "But right now, I want to make love to you inside where it's warm, and then…we should order some delivery because I haven't eaten anything all day…well, almost anything," he whispers, sliding his hand down between us and pulling open the snap above the fly of my jeans.

"Mmmm, you might have to get used to that, I'm not much of a cook," I giggle, grabbing his hand and tugging him up the path and towards the house.

"Maybe we'll have to get a cook…a blind cook," he laughs, grabbing me and pulling me to him again, "because I just have this feeling that we're going to be naked…a lot."

"Well hell, I thought I was going to find you back here on a stretcher," Ruuts laughs, cocking his head to one side and giving me a long considering look. "I'm usually the one coming out of the shower when you're just coming off the ice, what gives?"

"I have an appointment I have to get to," I grin up at him and then go back to lacing my shoe, but when I glance forward, it's still his skates in front of me. "What?"

"An appointment…in a suit? What is it? A job interview?"

"The suit…oh that…nah, I have a date, after, but uh…I'll see you later right? At Margo's? You're coming right?" I grab my jacket and give him a pat on the shoulder pads. He nods, still eyeing me suspiciously. "Good, okay, see you later." I head out the door and a few more of the guys give me the same look, wondering what's up with me as they come off the ice but I just call out the same thing: "See you guys later at Margo's." Then I race out the SUV, right past the fans and security, which I wouldn't normally do, after an afternoon practice, but it's still pre-season, I'll make it up to them later. I don't want to miss this, not for anything in the world.

Normally I'd even drive slowly down the driveway, lean out, take a few pictures, sign an autograph or two, but not today. Today I'm just too nervous and too focused on where I have to be. Even the regular traffic makes me impatient and I'm not normally the kind of guy to swerve in and out of traffic, but every light, every stop sign makes me crazy today.

Finally I pull the SUV up in front of the office tower and hand my money out the window to the attendant and pull up into the parking lot, squealing the tires on the smooth parking stall pavement as I pull into the first available parking space, grabbing my jacket and running for the elevator, glancing down at my watch and cursing loudly, my voice echoing in the parking lot, making people stare.

When the doors open I jump in, forgetting to let people off first and apologizing as I shove past them, and thinking to myself that I'm going to hear about how I'm such a rude little asshole the next time I make the mistake of listening to a sports call in show, but I just don't care right now.

Even the ride up three flights leaves my stomach churning with anxiety, and when the doors open again, I jump out, skidding on the smooth linoleum floor as I head down to the glass door marked Dr. Hannah Meadows, OBGYN. I push the door open, glancing around at the full waiting room, at all the women in various states of pregnancy, at the little kids running around, at the piles of old National Geographic and People magazines, and finally at Margo, who just shakes her head and picks her leather jacket up off the chair beside her.

"Oh good, I thought I was late," he puffs as he slides into the seat beside me. I reach over and curl my fingers around his and lean in to get a quick peck. I can see some of the other women poking each other and whispering, but all the glances I get are the 'lucky girl' approving smiles, which I return with a happy grin. Of course I don't think I've stopped grinning for about three months now, since my trip to Dartmouth, but still.

"Yeah I guess you're not used to having to wait in doctor's offices like the rest of us huh hot stuff?" I ask, giving his hand a gentle squeeze.

"Yeah, not for a while now. Speaking of which, don't we have one of those…you know, imaging things at the arena? We could have done this there."

"I don't think they're the same," I laugh, taking another swig out of my water bottle and wincing as my overfull bladder begins to retaliate. "Besides, we agreed to keep this part of the uh…situation to ourselves right?" He has time to nod before one of the women in scrubs with the clipboard comes around the corner and crooks her finger at me. Gratefully I get up, feeling the heaviness in my bladder and hoping I can make it the examination room without wetting myself.

The technician pats the table and I climb up while Sidney shuts the door behind us and lays his jacket on the chair before he takes his place beside me, looking nervously from the technician to me and back while I pull up my t-shirt, knotting it to keep it out of the way, and undo the zipper on my jeans, shimmying them down over my hips so she can spread the cold gel over my abdomen. I reach for his hand and when my fingers close around his, I can feel how clammy his hands are, and the slight tremble that begins to fade as the image comes up on the screen.

It takes a minute to make out anything, actually it takes the technician pointing out the hands and feet, but suddenly it's there, our baby, in black and white. Then the technician stops and moves the wand over and back and then stops again, clicking away at the keyboard on the machine and then doing the back and forth thing all over again.

"What's wrong?" I ask nervously, gripping Sidney's hand tighter, but she just shakes her head and smiles.

"Nothing wrong, just, unexpected. You said you wanted to know the sex right?" I glance up at Sidney, and he nods earnestly, because despite my argument to the contrary, he's decided he doesn't want a surprise, he wants to know, wants to be able to plan. "Well it looks like…," she moves the wand again and suddenly I think I can see what she's looking at and then she turns up the fetal heart monitor, and I hear it too. "One of each I think, I mean, the twin here," she points on the monitor to the one that's almost turned away, "I can't really say for sure but, this one, the one facing us, like he's showing off, that is definitely a boy."

I glance up at Sid and he just grins, because he wants a whole hockey team, unlike most phenoms, he hopes his boy will be just as good as he is. He wants to play street hockey with his kids, wants to coach their tim-bit teams. I'd argued that he can just as easily teach hockey to a girl but he had just looked at me like I'd gone insane and gone back to talking about an all Pens bedroom and I'd lost interest and gone back to reading. But now, seeing him just staring at the screen, I know he's almost as excited as me, and then it strikes me.

"Oh my god…twins."

"I know, it's so great," he whispers, bringing my knuckles up to his lips and then bending over to kiss me. "Maybe it's both boys."

"Oh god, I hope not," I laugh, shaking my head at him. Then she hands us the print outs and I can feel tears in my eyes when I look down at the tiny little hands, the tiny little feet, and when I look back up, I can see the same tears in his eyes. "Don't you dare, you can't cry, you've go to go pick up our parents at the airport," I sniff, rubbing at my eyes and leaning into his chest. He cups my chin and lifts my lips to his, kissing me warmly, thoroughly and then turning his gaze back to the pictures.

"Can I take these, to show them?" he asks, grinning. I nod, there will be time to show Taffy later. Just telling her it's going to be twins and I'm going to get even bigger than a dump truck is going to amuse her enough. "So I'll see you in...," he glances down at his watch and then back up at me, "two hours right?"

"I'll be there, you'd better be there," I smirk, tossing aside the gel covered napkins, pulling my shirt down and doing up my jeans.

"I will, I promise," he laughs, kissing me gently again before he leads me out to the hallway, back to the elevators which open as if by magic just for us, and he pulls me inside and presses me up against the wall inside as the doors close. I feel his hand slide up inside my bra as he presses his lips over mine, and I can't help but giggle.

"What are you trying to do?" I whisper, letting my own hand slide down between us to cup his balls through the thin wool of his suit pants.

"Just so…proud of you," he mumbles, his lips moving to my neck where his teeth pull at the thin skin, making me gasp, "want to thank you."

"Mmm, well I wouldn't want to stop you from doing that," I sigh, reaching over and hitting the stop button.

"Yeah?" he asks, raising his eyebrows at me.

"Have I ever said no?" I reply, grinning at him and reaching for his belt.

"Not since Dartmouth," he growls, lifting me off my feet and setting my ass down on the grip rail. There isn't really much of a perch, there, but with his hands on my ass, dragging my jeans down over my hips and then with the fullness of his throbbing cock pushing into me, I don't really need anything but him holding me there.

The elevator car shakes as he slams into me, and I hold onto him for dear life, my legs clutched around his back, my arms around his neck. His hands grip my hips, and I can feel his fingers pressing into my skin and wonder, just for a moment, if that's going to leave a bruise, but then I catch sight of myself in the mirror over his shoulder and I forget everything else but watching his pale ass clenching as he thrusts, his pants pooled around his ankles, the thick muscles in his legs working as he screws himself into me, my legs clutching around the small of his back, my jeans in a pile on the floor, and I realize there's probably a security camera somewhere in here with us, and I think to myself, smile for the camera, because this is Sidney Crosby fucking in a public elevator, and I just know I'm going to see this on the internet somewhere by tomorrow.

Chapter 13

"I'm just saying," Taffy sighs, pulling the curling iron free of hair again before grabbing another lock of hair and repeating. "Considering I had offered to strip at his bachelor party, which, thanks to you getting preggers, he didn't have, if you just give me a few minutes before you two do this…."

"I'm not sharing him," I laugh, giving her a look in the mirror that's meant to be a warning but we're both laughing and it just ends up being a smirk.

"Okay, but at least when you're as big as a house, I mean you won't want to then, and it would be like a service? I mean, he's young, he's going to need servicing and…."

"And I hear that very pregnant women get very horny," I grin at her and she makes a 'Mr.Yuck' face and then shakes her head. "Besides, wasn't that Jarkko I saw leaving the club the other day when I came over early?" She grins, a happy satisfied Taffy grin and this time I have to shake my head.

"So it's Malone, Ruuts and Sid tells me you've got Fleur coming over here too?"

"Well you know me, I share, that's what friends do. So if you'll just say the word…"

"No Taffy," I laugh, reaching back to give her leg a slap. "I'm not sharing him."

"Well you can't blame a girl for asking," she sighs, standing back to survey her handiwork. "Damn girl, I wouldn't share you looking like this either." I gaze at myself in the mirror, and while I guess I'll never see what Sid sees or even Taffy sees, I have to admit, I like what I see right now. My hair looks shiny and soft, falling in ringlets around my face, and the light make-up that Taffy's done looks fresh and even leaning forward into the stronger light I can't make out any puffiness or any of the lines I know are there. I know I don't look as young as the girls I'm sure his parents would have preferred for him, but I today, I think I look damn good.

"It's the hormones, they're so helping me right now," I sigh, pinching my cheeks and grinning at myself.

"You weren't saying that the other morning when you puked scrambled eggs all over the floor of the kitchen," she giggles, tipping her head to one side and reaching forward to adjust one of the flowers in my hair. "So you're sure about this?" she asks, her gaze serious, and I nod, meeting her gaze in the mirror with a smile.

"Don't I look ready?"

"Well you look gorgeous anyway, I mean, I would have no idea what ready looks like would I?" I shake my head at her laughing and then we just smile at each other in the way that friends do when nothing needs to be said, but there's all kinds of things said with the silence.

"I think the FFG is helping too," I add, breaking the emotionally charged silence and rolling my shoulders and reaching for a water bottle, catching my reflection in the mirror as I turn and realizing that the shine of the cream satin actually enhances my little bump from the side.

"FFG?" Taffy laughs. "When did you two have time to…never mind, don't tell me, I'd only be jealous. I thought the glow was just because of the kiddo. Damn man, do you two ever stop doing it?" I shake my head and grin but she rolls her eyes and steps in front of me, admiring the way her matching red satin dress looks on her long lean frame. "Well if I don't get lucky in this damn outfit, there is definitely something wrong."

"You get lucky any time you want to Taf," I laugh, reaching out and giving her a pinch on the arm which makes her howl.

"Hey, spaghetti straps, hello, no making me bruise in this thing."

"Sorry," I slide my arm around her waist and stare at our reflection. "Damn we are so hot."

"Hello, I know," she laughs. The door opens a crack behind us, and we both turn to see Taylor peeking in. "Well, not if we have to compete with that."

"Get in here girlie girl," I wink at her and wave her in, admiring the way her shorter version of my dress looks on her willowy frame. She looks up at me shyly as I pull her in front of us and admire our little grouping. "Wow, do we look good or what Taylor?" She grins, and then quickly closes her mouth, hiding her braces, and nods instead. "Look our hair is even the same," I say, running my hands through her bountiful dark curls where they fall over her shoulders. She reaches a tentative hand up to the ring of fresh flowers on her head and then turns to look at mine, her smile shy.

"My dad's pissed at Sidney you know."

"I know kitten," I sigh, intentionally not using Sidney's pet name for her. "What about you? You still mad?" I ask, knowing that I've been winning her over slowly, especially with us having invited her out to see our new place a few days in advance of the bash, having her fly in on her own, letting her stay up late and eat as much junk as she wants.

"I'm not mad…anymore," she shrugs, and runs her fingers over the soft satin of the dress and glances down at her wedge heels that Trina had objected to and I'd bought anyway.

"Well then, that's two out of four, and that's not bad in my books," I slide my arms around my two bridesmaids and grin into the mirror. "I can't make everyone happy, I've known that for a long time. But today, I'm happy, and no matter how miserable anyone else is, I don't care."

"Thattagirl!" I turn to see my Aunt Midge sail through the door, blonde hair flying around her shoulders, her doeskin dress and knee high boots not exactly what you'd usually consider wedding attire, but considering I'm lucky it's not a brightly coloured muumuu, I don't bitch.

"Midgie!" I let her pull me into an embrace, the hell with it wrinkling my dress. I don't get to see them nearly as much as I'd like, and the fact that they were willing to drop everything and fly down at such sort notice means the world to me.

"You look fucking amazing!" she grins, holding me at arms' length and beaming at me, taking me all in as if it's been years and not months. "And look at that little bump!" she cries, cradling my tummy as if it's something that might break. "How cute is that!"

"Not so cute when I'm throwing up everything from the night before every morning," I sigh, "but yeah, kind of cute."

"Your young man is pacing out there. He's a cutie. I like him," she whispers, raising her eyebrow at me. "You always did have an eye for the lookers."

"Ew, that's my brother you're talking about," Taylor moans, scuffing her feet and glancing down uncomfortably.

"Sorry precious, I should have known, good looks must run in your family. Are you a model?" Midge asks, putting her hands on Taylor's shoulders and beaming down at her. "So are you looking forward to being an Aunt?"

"I guess," she shrugs, trying to look like a pissed off teenager but the praise is making her smile all the same.

"Well I hope she does," I glance at all three of them, unable to keep the news to myself any longer, "because I'm going to need some help. Turns out, we're having twins." I watch the reactions, the snigger from Taffy, the surprise from Taylor, and the mile wide grin from Midge. Then the shrieking and laughing starts and I find myself in the middle of a giant bear hug.

My mother glances around and I watch her lips thin out into a disapproving line. I know what she's thinking but no one is going to make me feel bad today.

"I know mom, I know, it's less than ideal, but I'm the one who didn't want to wait until after the season, and it's my contracts that say we have to keep this all private and under wraps, so this is the best we could manage in such a short time. So please, just remember that you liked Margo when you met her and just please let me enjoy this."

"We liked her when we thought it wasn't serious," my dad grumbles and digs his hands deeper into his pockets.

"Well then you didn't listen very well, because I told you it was serious then."

"You don't have to do this son. You can just, make payments, put things off…."

"Dad, I don't want to put it off, and just so you know, I asked her before I knew she was pregnant and she's tried to talk me out of this, so blame me, but don't blame her. Now sit, and try and not look like you're at a funeral, for Taylor if no one else okay?" I smile and shake my head at them and head over to where Fleur is standing with the justice of the peace. "Parents, merde, are they ever happy?"

"They don't like being made grandparents?"

"I thought they'd be happy about that at least," I mumble, shrugging and letting him straighten my tie.

"What about her parents?"

"Ah…yeah, well, they're not exactly her parents," I glance over at the hippy looking guy with the long hair is sitting, watching everything with glazed over eyes. "Margo doesn't, you know, get along with her parents."

"Well whoever they are," Fleur smiles, "they look happy for her. I saw, well I thought it was her mom, thanking all of the bar staff for decorating the place and she looked thrilled."

"Yeah, they seemed pretty happy to meet me. At least they didn't argue all the way here from the airport," I sigh, glancing back at my parents who aren't even making any effort to hide their displeasure.

"They'll get over it," Fleur shrugs, giving me another pat on the shoulder. "I mean you can't blame them, everything has moved pretty fast, but if you two are happy, if you stay happy, what can they say? Besides, when l'enfant is born, they'll fall in love and at least be happy about that."

"Ah…yeah, about that. Les enfants," I correct him, "les jumeaux."

"Jumeaux? Felicitations mon ami! C'est magnifique!"

"The start of my own team, a defensive pair" I laugh, and suddenly I feel better, the tension that built on the ride here starting to ease out of my shoulders as Fleur pulls me into a bear hug.

"Hey, does Margo know about you two yet?" I turn to see Max making a smoochy face at me, with Army leaning over his shoulder and Malone standing by looking amused.

"Ha, ha. I'm glad you guys made it," I hold my hand out for them to shake but Army just pulls me into a bear hug.

"Well considering you fucked us out of a bachelor party, we figured we'd have to show up here to get drunk," Army laughs and Max bounces on his toes.

"Yeah, so when is this over so we can drink?" Malone asks, patting me on the back and trying not to be obvious that he's looking around for Taffy.

"I guess whenever Taffy finishes getting Margo and my sister ready," I shrug, and Malone tries to hide a smile and sticks his hands in the pockets of his jacket. "So where's Ruuts?"

"Not coming," Army answers quickly. "Jealous I think."

"Didn't he just get married? And isn't he…?" I raise my eyebrow at Army, suddenly becoming all too aware that Taffy's sleeping with more than one guy on the team and I don't know who knows and who doesn't.

"Yeah but…he said he had…you know, feelings for Margo or whatever," Army quickly dismisses it, trying not to inflame the situation, although with Taffy that never seems to happen I've noticed. "You know what, let's do some shots, ease your nerves, I know it will mine." I laugh, ready to agree, when the first notes of Mendelssohn's 'Wedding March' fill the air and suddenly my stomach lurches into my throat. I glance around, and find the two seats at the front reserved for Margo's Aunt and Uncle empty, and when I glance up the aisle of hastily rented chairs, I see Taffy leading the way, looking amazing, and I hear Fleur clear his throat nervously, but I only have eyes for Margo.

Her Aunt and Uncle on either side of her, beaming proudly, my little sister trailing behind, looking cute as a button, but they pale in comparison to Margo. Even the purple orange and red poppies in her hair, the daisies and tulips in her hands, can't compete with her smile, or with the way her gaze is making me weak in the knees.

"Es tu prêt?" Fleur asks, giving me a little shove to step in front of the justice of the peace.

"Can't wait," I smile as her Aunt and Uncle both give her a kiss on the cheek. I watch her hand her flowers to Taffy, and then she puts her hands in mine, and her smile brings me to tears.

"Wanna sneak upstairs?" he whispers, his breath warm on my cheek, his fingers sliding around the back of my neck, sending a shiver down my spine.

"Mmmm, I think we'd be missed if we go now," I laugh, tugging his shirt out of the back of his pants and sliding my hand up his sweat slicked back.

"I don't think so," he replies, looking around us at all our guests dancing and gyrating and generally having a good time all out on the dance floor, well all except his parents who've left for our place already, taking Taylor with them, and Mario and Nathalie who are sitting in one of the booths sipping my most expensive wine and doing their best not to be too disapproving.

"Maybe you're right," I whisper back, sliding my hands down to roam over his ass. "Wait, where's Taffy? I don't want to walk in on her and…well, whoever."

"Up there," he laughs, glancing toward the VIP room where I can just make out Taffy's bare back pressed up against the smoked glass, but I know it's her, because of the devil tail tattoo on the small of her back. I narrow my eyes, trying to see who has her pressed there, but decide I don't want to know, and she'll probably tell me later anyway.

"Alright, if you can get us through the crowd, I'm yours."

"You're mine already," he whispers, his voice dipping an octave, his thumb rolling gently over the gold circle on my left ring finger.

"That I am," I sigh, wrapping my hand around his and leaning in to press my lips over his. I feel his hand at the small of my back, pulling me close, his lips moving gently over mine and then he's pulling me through the crowd, bobbing and weaving like the pro he is, ignoring clutching hands and shouted comments. Just as we reach the door, I stop, turning back, looking for Andy and Midge, but Sid tugs me behind him, through the door and into the darkened hallway. "I just wanted…," my voice trails away as he begins to unbutton his shirt, "yeah they'll be here tomorrow for breakfast." He grins mischievously and runs up the stairs, with me picking up the hem of my dress and following close behind.

"Finally," he moans, pushing me against the door and locking it in one swift motion.

"Finally?" I ask, raising my eyebrows and sliding my hand up his now bare chest, pushing his jacket over his shoulders.

"I have you to myself again," he growls, his lips falling to my neck, his teeth biting down on the thin flesh, making me squirm.

"I thought you liked having Taylor visit?" I giggle, digging my nails gently into his shoulders and dragging them down his back until he picks me up pushes me against the door, pulling my legs around his waist.

"I missed you," he moans, his hands sliding over my bare thighs and then I hear the hiss of surprise when his fingers travel over my bare ass. "You're not wearing any…?"

"Under this dress? Please, the panty lines under satin are atrocious," I sigh as he wads up the fabric and pushes and pulls it up over my waist.

"You're killing me Em," he whispers, his fingers tracing slowly around my clit until my eyes flutter closed and a shudder runs through my thighs.

"I'm the one having twins," I sigh, pushing down against his hand, wanting him to stop teasing, wanting to feel his fingers slide inside of me, but he stops instead.

"That's true, maybe we should be a little more careful," he replies, adjusting my weight in his arms and carrying me across the living room and down the hall, booting my bedroom door open and dropping me carefully onto my bed. "That better?" I nod, grinning up at him as he stands at the end of the bed, kicking off his shoes and tugging at his belt. I pull the dress the rest of the way off and then roll onto my side and rest on my elbow, enjoying the show. I watch the pants hit the floor, and then he stands, his boxers tented, watching me. "You look amazing," he sighs, his eyes devouring me.

"I thought I looked pretty damn good in the dress too," I reply, crooking my finger at him.

"Oh you did, I especially liked the way your nipples showed through the fabric," he laughs as I reach forward to grab the waist of his boxers and tug them down. "Hey, hey, patience please. There's not going to be any more of that fucking up against the wall and doing it on the dryer."

"No?" I ask, sticking out my bottom lip, "why? I like doing it like that."

"But that's how I fucked my girlfriend," he smiles, reaching forward to lift a curl away from my face and pick the wreath off my head, "not how I wanted to make love to my wife." I bite down on my bottom lip, not sure if he's kidding, in which case I should be saying something nasty, or if he, as usual, is being sweet. He slides onto the bed beside me, pressing the length of his body against mine, running his fingers gently over my hip and down my thigh, before his gaze moves up to meet mine, and what I see there makes my heart skip a beat. "I feel really lucky, like this…for now anyway, completes everything. I have the best job in the world and now…you."

"Us?" I ask quietly, covering his hand with mine and sliding it down over my bump. He nods, his dark eyes going misty.

"A family, like I've always wanted." Leaning forward he runs his knuckles down my cheek and then cups my chin, bringing my lips to his in a long, toe curling kiss. When our lips part at last, leaving me relaxed and languid in his arms, I look over to find him studying me, a frown thinning out his succulent lips.

"What is it babe?" I ask, running my hand down his chest.

"Did I rush you? Into this, into us being together, into having a family I mean?" His dark gaze searches mine, real concern there, and not something I'd seen from him, not since that dark night with Trev, and I know where the doubt has come from, and it isn't me, I've been careful to keep my worries to myself.

"I would have said no if I didn't want this too," I reply, closing the gap between us, pressing him back into the pillows and straddling him. Slowly, deliberately, I begin letting my hair down and shaking it loose over my shoulders, and by the time my gaze meets his again, the concern, the doubt has left his eyes, replaced by desire, by admiration, and by that adorable 'I can't believe how lucky I am' look that makes me want to be tender, makes me want to forget my past and think only of now. "You make me feel safe Sidney, make me feel like I can be a good person, like I'm worthy of…," he stops my speech by reaching up to press his fingers over my lips.

"You said all that in your vows, and I know…I just…wanted to hear you say it again without anyone else around." His smile reappears, and I feel him coming to attention beneath me, and I adjust to slide over him, take him into me, and the feel of him inside me steals my breath. "Love you," I hear him moan as he pushes up into me, pulling down on my hips with his hands.

"Love you," I sigh, closing my eyes and enjoying the fullness of him, clamping my muscles around him, and together we begin to move.