First off, Hi! thanks for taking a look. Secondly, this is a continuation of my one-shot "The One that got Away," if you haven't read that you should definitely start there because this story begins right where that one ends. There is exposition in that story that will be fairly important here. Go on... I'll wait... Thirdly, now that we've all read the backstory I must admit that I am a diehard hockey fan and this story is, of course, about a professional hockey player. You don't necessarily have to be a hockey fan to follow this fic, but who doesn't love a big, strong, sweaty man? I mean, really. But being that I am a fan, along the way I may make references to sports terminology or players but I will always add references in the a/n to clarify so that everyone is on the same page. All that said, I hope you enjoy!
I do not own Twilight, but hot hocky players are all mine. ALL OF THEM =)
Playlist: Do You Believe by The Cardigans
"Yes, I'll be there. Thanks Mike."
Isabella Swan hung up the phone in her office as the floor secretary, Jessica, breezed through her door.
"Was that Mr. Newton?" she asked, setting a steaming cup of English tea onto Isabella's desk.
"It was. He's still sick, I'm afraid."
"Wow that must be one hell of a case of food poisoning. Where was it that he ate again?"
"Someplace over in Koreatown he said."
"I'll put in an order for some 'Get Well' flowers from the floor. Should I call and forfeit his spot in the poker tournament tonight?" Jessica asked innocently.
"No!" Isabella practically shouted. "No," continuing on more calmly, "That's actually what we were just discussing. I'll be taking his place. So I will need you to call the sedan service and change the reservation. Have them at my house at 6. My address should be in your rolodex."
"No problem, anything else?"
"No, that should do it. Thanks for the tea, Jessica. You're a lifesaver."
"It's what I do," she said with a sweet smile and a flip of her shoulder length blonde curls.
Isabella chewed on her lip thinking about that evening. The Campbell for Kids* poker tournament was going to be a Who's Who of the sports community in Chicago; from sports casters to team owners and athletes from various Chicago teams and notable people who called Chicago home, perhaps including but not limited to, a certain 6'4" power forward hockey player by the name of Cullen.
Their last interaction had been… explosive to say the least. All she had wanted was an interview. What she'd ended up with was a buttonless blouse, torn panties, and the most incredible sex story of her life, not to mention a standing dinner date. But things were complicated between them. As amazing as their encounter had been, in hindsight she saw how foolish she had behaved. Of course she chastised herself for those thoughts, reminding herself that she was no longer young and naïve and she was fully capable of having sex with any man of her choosing as she saw fit.
Regardless, Edward seemed different somehow, like she needed to tread lightly with him and bring back some of the caution of her younger years. She had been around athletes for years, both in college and at the professional level, and had made it a rule for herself to never date any of them. A sort of "Don't shit where you eat" kind of philosophy. Despite their history and subsequent intimate encounter, she wasn't ready to throw that rule aside just yet, not even for him.
It's not that she didn't want him, she did. She couldn't stop thinking about him and there inlay the problem. She had lived her entire adult life depending on no one but herself to survive and it scared her to feel like she couldn't breathe at the mere thought of him. It's not that she was opposed to tying herself to someone, she felt the effects of loneliness at times just like everyone else. The problem was that she was afraid to let herself fall for someone, to depend on them as much as she depended on herself. Though she had reached her goal and was comfortable in her dream job with every potential for future success, she couldn't shake her old insecurities. She simply could not outrun the ever present need for delayed gratification because surely something bigger and better was coming along and when it did she wanted to be free to move on.
That's not to say that she hadn't dated since the first time she and Edward were together. She needed something, or someone to keep her thoughts from wandering back to him. There had been Tyler, her chemistry partner from sophomore year with whom she had had incredible chemistry but had fizzled out quickly. Then there had been Eric, whom she had met at a bar near campus and had dated for several months until he transferred from Northwestern to Stanford. Then there had been a bit of a self imposed dry spell to get her head straight before graduation. And then there had been James.
Isabella met James Wesson while at a journalism conference in New York the fall after she graduated from Northwestern. He was a 26 year old satirist working for the New Yorker who had made a name for himself by writing a series of pieces on the mysterious British graffiti artist, Banksy*. He was at the conference to lead a panel discussion of the influence of social media on modern journalism when she first laid eyes on him. The first thing she noticed when she entered the forum was the fact that he was gorgeous; truly and undeniably gorgeous. His hair was pulled back into a long, sandy ponytail and, despite the professional attire of the conference, was clad in a pair of well worn jeans and a snug fitting t-shirt. Many of the women at the conference had taken quite an interest in his panels for reasons that had nothing to do with the topic of discussion.
Isabella was interested solely in what he had to say and less about what he looked like, though his good looks were undeniable. She knew she wanted to make a career out of sports reporting, and though she was overjoyed to land a job as a staff sports writer for the Chicago Sun Times right out of college, she wasn't one to rest on her laurels. She knew that she needed insight into the ever changing world of digital media if she ever wanted to achieve her eventual goal.
James, on the other hand, seemed to be very interested in Isabella's looks. He locked his stare on her the moment she walked in the room. She felt it, of course, but tried not to let the intensity of it get the best of her. As she offered feedback in the discussion, she hoped that his piercing looks meant that he saw some sort of potential in her. What she hadn't expected was for him to pull her aside after the panel and ask her out for drinks later that evening. She thought at first that it could be seen as unprofessional if she accepted, but then decided that since she lived in Chicago and he lived in New York, there was no harm in joining him for a drink. At the very least she'd have an opportunity to pick his brain a bit more.
That evening, Isabella entered the upscale hotel bar wearing a candy apple red halter dress and matching heels to meet with the handsome man wearing an all black suit with no tie. Over wine, they talked more about James' opinions on how the printed word was falling out of favor with consumers and how it was necessary to adapt to the changing times or they would live to see their profession die out. Eventually their conversation became less about James and what he thought about a multitude of topics and shifted to Isabella and what she did for a living. She tried to ignore the obvious look of sarcastic amusement when she told him she wrote a sports column.
"Isabella sweetheart," he said pompously, "you could be doing so much more with your talents. Sports? The only thing lower on the journalistic totem pole is celebrity gossip."
"Don't you see, though? Sports are becoming more accessible to all income levels. People from across the socioeconomic spectrum have a team that they root for, so why should we dumb things down for those who may not have as high of an education level as others? Don't you think we would then be alienating another faction of our consumer base? Why not use something as accessible and as inherently American to reach Middle America and elevate them, inspire them to think outside of what's in front of them. Isn't that our job, to inspire?" she argued passionately.
He reached across the table to grip her hand where it lay on the dark finished wood.
"Why don't you let me help you? I know plenty of people who could use someone with your level of conviction and we can apply it where it will truly make a difference." He flashed her a smile that she was sure was meant to be encouraging, but really came off smug.
"Actually , I very much enjoy what I do and I find that my passions are exactly where they're supposed to be. Though I appreciate your offer for help, I think I'll continue my own way, thank you." Deeply wounded by his words and his patronizing offer, she felt inadequate in her field for the first time. She stood from her chair and extended her hand to him across the table to bid him goodnight when something on the television over the bar behind him caught her eye.
A hockey game had come to a close and a petite woman wearing a smart looking suit was standing next to a hulking man with jade green eyes. He had to bend down considerably to speak into the microphone she was holding but he was smiling and didn't seem to mind. His hair was dark with sweat and sticking out at odd angles. The TV was muted so she couldn't hear what was being said, but when a headline appeared at the bottom of screen it all became clear.
Rookie Edward Cullen scores game winning goal in professional debut.
And there he was, the one she'd been running from displayed in all his handsome glory for the entire world to see. Her heart swelled with pride and happiness for him, the man she once knew – sort of. But as it swelled a deep crack long ago repaired and patched with the company of other men threatened to break wide open again.
"I know a fantastic place for your passions," James said softly as he took her extended hand in his own and gently pulled it to his lips.
She pulled her gaze away from the television screen and looked down at the long haired writer brushing his lips across her knuckles. His wide, round eyes were blue but she wished they were green. She wished so hard that it made her chest ache.
"Isabella, you don't really want to go now do you? Why don't we continue this conversation in my suite?" he asked smoothly.
Unable to trust her own voice, she nodded and prepared herself to strengthen the repair on her heart with yet another man who meant nothing to her but kept her mind from wandering to greener pastures.
"Miss Swan?" Jessica's voice through the intercom jolted Isabella out of her thoughts.
"The car has been booked and the organizers of the tournament have been notified to expect you instead of Mr. Newton."
"Thank you, Jessica."
… glove side
"Glove side," he muttered under his breath as he let the puck fly toward the net in a hard forehand shot. The thick rubber disk sailed forward, bisecting the space between the leg and glove of the goaltender standing prone in front of the net and landing with a heavy thud on the ice inside it.
"Holy fuck, Eddie boy! I'm glad you're with us. You're the only one who can get past me," the hulking goaltender laughed as he pulled himself to his feet and righted himself on his skates.
"Indeed Cullen, good work out there. Looks like you're out of the running to be this month's mustache boy," Coach Banner patted him on the shoulder as he glided back to the bench.
"Mustache boy?" the recent trade from Dallas, Garrett Lafleur asked Edward as he came to rest on the bench.
"We have a team shoot out once a month, whoever is the last to get past Mac has to grow a mustache for the month," he answered pleasantly.
Edward and Garrett watched as the goaltender, Emmett McCarty did jumping jacks in front of the cage to distract the next player's shot.
"You will never get this!" Mac shouted dropping the puck from where it landed in his glove and puffing his chest out at team member, Jasper Whitlock. "Not a chance in hell, Jazz!"
Jasper made a lewd hand gesture at his friend and goalie before skating back to the end of the line.
"Take some notes, Lafleur. Coach is being nice by letting you sit this one out, but you definitely don't want to be mustache boy on your first time out," Edward laughed, clapping his new teammate on the shoulder.
After several more rounds, McCarty began to get lazy and let a few more shots through eventually leaving Whitlock as the one left to leave his upper lip unshaven for the next month.
"It's alright Jazz, they'll have to get the camera up real close for anybody to notice your peach fuzz lip pubes anyway," McCarty joked followed by a chorus of "ooh"s and laughter as the team filed into the dressing room after that morning's skate.
"I like what I'm seeing guys, that's for damn sure. We're on an 8 game streak and I honestly and truthfully could not be happier with the kind of hockey we've been playing," Coach Banner stood in the center of the dressing room to address his players. "I just need you guys to not get complacent. You're hungry, I can see it and so can every other team in the league. They're comin' for you, you know that. You just have to keep one thing in mind: 9 is better than 8. Enjoy the next 24 hours off, gentlemen. I'm going to need you at your best if we're going to take one on the road in Vancouver."
The team cheered as they stripped off their sweaty pads and equipment before hitting the showers.
"So Cullsy, any big plans for your day off?" Mac asked as he turned the warm spray of the shower onto himself.
"Going back to Chicago," he replied, dropping his towel and stepping under the water.
"What? Why? Weren't we just there?"
"Yeah, 2 days ago."
"Fuck, I can hardly keep my days straight anymore. Why are you going back?"
"I've got a charity thing. Being from Chicago and all, I'm going back to play in this poker tournament thing one of the guys on the Blackhawks put together."
"Planning on seeing your folks?"
"Uhh… no, I don't think so."
Normally, Edward always stopped in to see his parents whenever he was in Chicago, but this trip was too short for such a visit. In addition to his charity appearance, there was a certain someone he was hoping to see instead.
The last time he saw Bella, he had paid a security guard $100 to pull her BMW around to the locker room exit of the United Center*, so that he could usher her out into the night unnoticed. He knew having sex in the dressing room was inappropriate and possible grounds for game suspensions and disciplinary action from the league but at the time he didn't care. He'd been looking for her for years, hoping that she'd come back to him and now that she had he'd be damned if he let her get away.
He had asked her to have dinner with him and she didn't exactly refuse, but she didn't exactly accept either. She told him that it was late and made the valid point that she was in no state of dress to go anywhere but back home.
"Let's just…talk," she said. "Maybe get to know each other a little bit. And we'll see what happens."
She made a good point. Their sexual chemistry was explosive and undeniable, and though he felt it in his bones that there was more to them than just physical attraction, there had been nothing as of yet to really show that. Of course, there hadn't exactly been an opportunity. As she drove him to the airport in silence he realized how much potential trouble he was going to be in. He tried not to think about it as he turned to look at her one last time as she pulled up to the terminal.
"Bella," he said, cradling her cheek in his hand and forcing her to look at him. "I don't want to lose you again. You're right, let's just talk. As slow as you want, ok?"
She gave him a small smile and nodded. He smiled back and leaned across the center console to kiss her full lips.
Upon leaving her, he sprinted through the airport slowing down only briefly to get waved through a security check point. The flight attendant at the gate smiled warmly at him before allowing him through the gate, down the stairs and onto the tarmac. Coach Banner and head trainer Dean Boudreaux were standing at the bottom of the airplane steps arguing frantically in the howling wind and snow. When they saw him, both looked completely dumbfounded like they'd seen a ghost.
"Fellas," Edward said casually over the inclement weather.
"Nice of you to join us," Dean growled, crossing his arms over his chest and making it very clear that he was not at all pleased with Edward's tardiness. "Where the hell have you been?"
"Do we really want to stand out here arguing, or should we get this show on the road? I hear the weather's only going to get worse and if we don't leave soon we might not make it back to Pittsburgh tonight." The star forward rubbed his bare hands together vigorously to illustrate his point. "I'm cool with whatever, but you get to explain to the WAGs* why we're so late."
"Get on the fucking plane, Cullen," Dean said flatly, casting him the most withering look known to man.
"After you, coach," Edward gestured for Coach Banner to embark ahead of him, to which he just chuckled in disbelief and shook his head.
"Well, well, well, look who finally decided to grace us with his presence!" Defenseman Warren Boucher hollered from the wing seat of the plane.
"Better late than never, eh boys?" he said with a smirk before taking his usual seat next to Mac.
"Hey Cullsy, you gonna tell me what took you so long?" Emmett asked under his breath.
"Nope, not a chance," he said with a wide grin before quickly falling asleep.
So... what do you think so far? I'd love to know your thoughts. Several chapters of this story are already done and ready to go, so I should get onto a fairly regular updating schedule, barring anything unforeseen of course.
* Campbell for Kids was founded by Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Brian Campbell as is an organization focused on raising funds for charities throughout Chicago and Illinois that service children with special needs and learning disabilities. On February 10th 2010, Campbell in conjunction with the Horseshoe Casino, hosted the first annual Campbell for Kids Texas Hold'Em event which raised over $100,000. Net proceeds benefitted the Chicagoland Chapter of Autism Speaks, Chicago's Beard School and Campbell for Kids.
* Banksy is an anonymous British graffiti artist, political activist, film director and painter. His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine irreverent dark humor with graffiti done in a distinctive stencilling technique. Such artistic works of political and social commentary have been featured on streets, walls and bridges in cities throughout the world.
* The United Center is an indoor sports arena located in the Near West Side community area of Chicago. It is named after its corporate sponsor, United Airlines. The United Center is home to both the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League and the Chicago Bulls of the National Basketball Association.
* WAGs is an acroynm for Wives and Girlfriends