Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Time ticked down on the third period with the Barons losing 2-0.  The whole team was dragging, showing the effects of three games in as many days.  Erin felt sluggish herself, but that could be the dark atmosphere in the building bringing her down.   “This sucks,” Darcy said, finishing a bottle of water.  “Ryan says they never play three nights in a row in the NHL.”

Erin and Amanda looked at each other instantly and both sang, “Ryan says!”  Darcy rolled her eyes and give them the finger, but it was the first laugh they’d shared in two hours.

Losing did suck.  Losing shutouts was worse.  Jordan banged his stick hard into the rack.  He, Ryan and Taylor were supposed to be the firepower, instead they were dragging ass around the ice like the rest of the Barons.  Nights like this he didn’t even feel worthy of the AHL, forget the NHL.  In the locker room, Taylor was grumbling to himself and Ryan was tossing off gear like it smelled even worse than usual.

“What...,” Ryan paused awkwardly, his mouth still not functioning as well as his brain, “what are you guys doing tonight?”

Jordan didn’t feel like smiling after a shitty game, but Ryan was just so obvious.  “Why, got a date?”

Ryan mumbled something that sounded like four letter words strung together.

“Sorry, I didn’t catch that.”

“I said NO, I DON’T HAVE A DATE,” Ryan announced nice and loud even though it made him wince.  More than one exhausted face turned in his direction.  Cameron Abney threw his jersey into a hamper on wheels.

“Your girl’s here though.  Can’t miss her in those sweaters,” Abney laughed.

“Yeah, does she wanna be our mascot?  I think we could sell more tickets if she...,” Shultz suggested.

Ryan cut him off, “Okay, okay.”  A hot blush had risen to his cheeks, replacing the fading redness of the game’s exertion.  The swelling in his mouth was down some, only to be replaced by a dark blue bruise.  He still looked a mess, but was not about to disabuse his new friends of the idea that he and Darcy were getting together.  If they thought wrong at least it kept them from making a move on her.  As much as Ryan would love to see Darcy wear a Nugent-Hopkins jersey like a ‘Property Of’ sign, he equally enjoyed the figure-hugging, soft-looking v-necks that she favored.

With the conversation effectively lightened, Jordan waited until the topic turned before resuming a quieter one with Ryan.  They were moving in the morning and the hotel room looked like a tornado had hit a Gap store.  Jordan hadn’t spent enough time there in recent weeks to even guess how long the chore would take.  “Really dude, what’s up?  I gotta pack.”

“Me... me too,” Ryan stuttered, as if convincing himself.

“Is Darcy helping you?” Jordan asked.

“I... I don’t know,” Ryan said, giving up trying to hide.  “She just kind of does what she wants.  She doesn’t really tell me.”

Jordan’s grin was a mile wide.  “And you didn’t ask?”

“Not when she keeps sleeping over!” Ryan hissed, trying to keep the volume down.  “I mean, she doesn’t, we don’t.... I don’t know if she’ll want to stay over when I’m at Schultzy’s.  This might be my last chance.”  He did not look entirely convinced he could take that chance, even if it arrived.  

Jordan put his hands up in front of his chest, as if warding off an attacker.  “I get it, Ry.  I’ll pack fast, get out and go to Erin’s.  But you should see if Darcy’s still here first, the girls might not have stuck around.”  Ryan nodded.  They had not been studs tonight.

Sure enough, when they were dressed to head out, the lounge was empty.  Even Amanda was going to stay home tonight so Taylor could be ready to start moving in the morning.  Jordan texted Erin and got the same response.  They headed back to the hotel.

“Call her, Nuge,” Taylor suggested

“Last time I called her, she said she just wanted to be friends,” Ryan leaned forward from the backseat.  “Then she started sleeping over.  So calling doesn’t exactly clear things up.”

At the hotel, their room actually wasn’t that messy.  Ryan would never have let Darcy see how things looked on road trips.  Instead they had filled drawers and closets like people living in the same place for a month.  Jordan didn’t bring it up again, but he figured Darcy would be staying home tonight.  Even if that meant Ryan would be staying alone every night in the near future.  He put on sweats and started folding and piling haphazardly.  After all, they weren’t going far.  Shoes were stuffed into outside pockets, toiletries into the same bag they’d ridden through airport security.  By eleven thirty, he was nearly finished.

Ryan kept glancing at his phone, charging on the bedside table.  He even looked hopefully toward the door a few times.  As it became more obvious that Darcy wasn’t coming, a frown turned his misshapen mouth down harder.  Jordan didn’t mention it as they finished packing the last of their stuff and fell into their respective beds, completely wiped out.

The next day, Erin stood in the middle of Jordan’s new bedroom.  The furniture rental company had delivered some boring-but-matched dressers and a side table, which were pushed against the far wall.  Jordan and Taylor maneuvered their way in, carrying a queen-size mattress on it’s side.  Behind them, Amanda caught things as they were knocked over.  They flopped the mattress down with a thump.  Jordan grabbed a bag with a flourish and poured newly purchased, newly washed sheets on the bed.

“Later guys,” Erin said as she pretended to push Taylor into Amanda and both of them out of the room.  Jordan reached to close the door - he was anxious to break in the new bed too.  Something about having a place, about putting down some kind of roots in this place with Erin made Jordan feel confident and excited.

Anchor, he’d once thought of her as being.  Now he had a second anchor.

“Fine,” Taylor called back.  “We’ll just do it on the couch and ruin Jordan’s deposit!”

They spent the day unpacking the apartment.  The boys had few belongings outside of clothes, so they cleaned out a Target buy bath mats and towels and basic kitchen ware.  Erin chose a set of cheap plates with a little motif of ants marching around the edges.

“Who wants bugs on their plates?” Amanda said, putting them back.  She went for white with blue stripes.  Erin gave in on the condition she could buy the Simpsons pint glasses.  Food and housewares filled an entire checkout line.  They left the cart at the door, each of the boys carrying five or six loaded shopping bags.  Erin and Amanda let them walk ahead.  

“Not bad, huh?” Erin said.  Jordan and Taylor were each in jeans and sweatshirts, but there was a still a lot of flexing visible to the female eye.

“Kinda makes me hope we blow a tire on the way home,” Amanda agreed.

“In a rainstorm,” Erin added.

The girls agreed to cook dinner in the new apartment as a housewarming party.  They went to Erin’s for more supplies, filling a plastic laundry basket that it took both of them to carry, while the boys went to the grocery store.  It was getting late, nearly seven o’clock by the time Erin and Amanda dragged their basket up and knocked on the door.


Jordan opened the door like a maitre’d, which matched the black suit he was wearing.  Inside, the lights were dimmed.  Erin narrowed her eyes but followed him, Amanda pushing the basket forward with her feet.  She left it in the hall and followed toward the dining area.

“Wow,” Erin said.

Where they had gotten a table she had no idea, but a square four-seat table was set in the middle of the living room, complete with tablecloth and little tealights in glass holders flickering.  Four places were set with as much precision as boys could muster, and a big salad bowl was already filled in the middle of the table.

“Surprise,” Taylor said, emerging from his room in a suit of his own.

“What is all this?”  Amanda looked around at dishes covered on the stove.  The oven was on too.

“Erin threw us a housewarming party before we had a house.  Just paying back the favor,” he answered.  The guys had picked up from a local Italian place, and the new apartment smelled divine.  A bottle of wine was even open on the counter, next to glasses Erin had not seen them purchase.  Trying to be formal, Jordan and Taylor pulled the girls chairs out, poured wine and brought as much of the food as possible to the table.  There was eggplant parmesan, pasta with vegetables and garlic bread.  They made quick work of the salad to get to the real food.

“Did you invite Darcy and Ryan?” Amanda asked.

“He can’t really eat,” Jordan said.  “Not neatly at least.  He’s with Schultzy at their new place.  I think Ryan’s, uh....”

“I think he’s a noob,” Taylor interrupted.  “He’s the only person who can sleep with someone that he can’t actually manage to sleep with.”

“Aw, come on!  Darcy doesn’t just want to...,” Erin started.

“Give him everything he’s been dreaming about?  Literally dreaming for his entire life?”  Taylor turned to Jordan, inviting him to chime in.  Jordan shook his head as if he’d rather stay out of it.  

“He’s just a kid,” Erin added.

“He’s nineteen.  I’m twenty,” Taylor countered.  “And I don’t see Amanda keeping her pants....”

“STOP.”  She held up a hand.  Taylor closed his mouth, grateful to be saved from himself.  “If Ryan wants to make it happen, let him try.  You guys tried.  Some of you harder than others.”  Taylor leaned over and pulled Amanda into a kiss.  With tongue.  Amanda tried to draw back but she was no match for those arms.  Erin and Jordan both winced, looking away.

“Well now I’m not hungry anymore,” Erin said.

When the plates were gone and the wine was empty, Erin and Jordan sat on his couch watching TV.  He was behind her, Erin’s head back against his chest, and thinking about actually living in OKC like a real person who could have a life here.  It certainly seemed more real than hockey or Edmonton at the moment.  The idea was like a cliff and Jordan holding onto the edge.  Or maybe he was already dropping into the void.  Either way it made him want to stake a claim, stick a flag in this place and in Erin like he would have them forever.  Like he meant everything he said and did, instead of just making promises he couldn’t keep.  

Erin rubbed his toes through his socks.  “Is Ryan really a virgin?”

“Yup,” Jordan says.  “Scares the shit out of Darcy doesn’t it?”

“Yup,” she echoed.

Jordan was the kind of hopelessly romantic guy that knew the first time should mean something, instead of being a means to an end.  Sure it was destined to be less fantastic than imagined - for the girl anyway, the guy always ended up with the most intense experience of his life.  But thinking too much about it just made things worse.  “Is it more awkward to have sex for the first time, or know that all your friends are talking about it over dinner?” he asked.

Erin laughed.  “Is it more awkward to sleep in bed with someone you want to have sex with or someone you don’t want to have sex with?”

“Is it more awkward to make a move before or after your face gets busted?”

“He already did it before,” Erin pointed out.

“And Darcy didn’t really want him then,” Jordan said.  “Imagine what he thinks now.”

“She did!  I mean, she does or she wouldn’t be hanging around him.  But I’ve never seen her like this.  She’s so....”


“Careful!”  Erin smacked his leg, turning to face him.  It was a compromising position at best, all her weight twisting in his lap as they sprawled out in the dark.  “She’s being careful.  It’s more than I can say for some people around here.”

Jordan didn’t want to be careful.  He wanted to be hers, here and now, as if the illusion lasting long enough could turn it into something real.  “Careful is overrated.  And overdressed,” he said.

He slipped a hand right down the front of Erin’s shirt, over her breast, and used a grip on her waist to drag her up the rest of his body.  Their chests and laps pressed together at the same moment as their lips.  Jordan groaned in pleasure as the slow, velvet twirl of her tongue made every muscle in his body squeeze.  Using his feet behind her knees, he drew her up to almost kneeling and moved his hands under her shirt.  The soft skin of her stomach led right to the smooth cap of her bra, dotted like an exclamation point with her stiffening nipple.

“Jordan!” she whispered, pushing his hands away.  “You have roommates now.  I don’t know what kind of girl you think I am.”

He pinched her nipples in each hand.  “Time to find out.”

Erin hurried toward the bedroom, while Jordan’s growing hard-on slowed him down.  Already unbuttoning his pants, he passed Taylor’s door and heard the sound of his TV.  Jordan closed his bedroom and Erin was setting his iPod into the dock.

“Hmmm, what should we hear?”

Jordan stepped in behind her, peeling the shirt right up over her head.  His mouth connected with the closest place - along the top of her shoulder - while his big hand pushed right into the front of her pants.  Erin squealed softly as he forced one low enough to touch her through smooth panties.  As she spun the dial on his iPod, he stroked that hot spot till it grew damp beneath his touch.  

‘It Will Rain’ by Bruno Mars came on as he hooked her panties aside and touched bare skin.

“Mmmm,” Erin moaned.  Her head rolled back onto his shoulder.  Jordan used one finger to part her slit.  

“Something louder,” he said, kissing just below her hear.  Two clicks and the first notes of ‘Take Care’ by Drake and Rihanna played.  Jordan gripped Erin’s waist with his free hand then pushed his two fingers into her body.  She rolled with the pressure, her ass grinding into his lap.  Instantly his heart rate spiked and the staccato rhythm and choppy vocals of the song were too much.

“Something slower.”  Jordan’s voice was thick, just like something else about him.  In a minute he wouldn’t care if the neighbors two floors down heard Erin screaming over the music.  She clicked again; Florence + The Machine’s “Breath of Life” started.

“Good.”  He took her hand from the stereo and placed it on the edge of the desk, bracing her.  Then he plumbed again with his hand.  His touch lite a fuse and Erin could feel it burning, racing, through her body.  As Jordan’s fingers penetrated her, giving her just a tease of what his body could do, she pushed against the table to keep her feet.  Jordan only pumped harder.  His warm breath rasped against her shoulder as she worked her ass into his lap with the beat.  

Jordan’s thumb brushed her clit.  “Oh God,” she gasped.  Her knees were shaking and her fingers gripped white.  This wasn’t the usual Jordan, she hadn’t seen him like this before.  Or felt him.  Jordan had always been so straightforward, so sweet and gentle.  She knew he was very strong, maybe he just needed to be more comfortable with her.   She was getting very comfy now, as his thumb hit the target again and her knees buckled.  It only drove his fingers deeper.  Jordan caught her around the waist, holding her up while he worked harder and faster.  His thumb pressed her clit and started making little circles.

“Fuck, Jordan,” she panted.  He was so hard against her backside she thought he might rip right through his pants.  Grinding her against it couldn’t be helping either, but he was clearly determined that she would get there first.  Erin let her head fall forward, stars popping behind her eyes.  He must have felt her breathing get short.  Jordan sank his mouth into the curve of her neck and kissed hard.  She snapped like a rope.

“Godohgohhhd,” she said, bowing forward so had she nearly fell to her knees.  Jordan moved with her, holding her up, milking her body for every last drop of pleasure.  When she was still, he guided her to the floor and kneeled right down over her, straddling the scene of the crime.  His pants were strained by the erection she’d felt battering her soft side.  Erin lay there, chest heaving, more like a chalk outline of a dead body than herself, looking up at Jordan’s thick, muscled body and that gap-toothed smile.  

Jordan peeled the jeans from her hips then leaned down over her sprawled form.  “Erin?”


“Pick another song.”

Jordan was so hard he felt lightheaded.  Erin creaming in his hand was like turning the knob on the door to heaven.  He jacked himself against her backside as hard as he dared, fighting the urge to spill his own hot load.  But there was a better place for that.  Erin’s pants came off in a tangle and she tossed the iPod aside as ‘I’m on Fire’ by Bruce Springsteen started.  Then she reached for him, right there on the floor of his brand new bedroom.

He buried his face in her hair, hoping the muffle the sound of slowly screwing himself into her soaked, searing body.  No such luck.  He groaned in almost-pain at the tight, hot squeeze and heard her whisper something.

“What, baby?”

“I said ‘Mother of God what do they teach you guys in Canada?!’” she panted.  Jordan laughed so hard he almost came; it turned into a growl.  His thrust made Erin squeak and that was the end of talking.  It was nearly the end of Jordan.  He wrapped his arms around her shoulders and held on tight.  She reached overhead and pushed against the wall, steadying them, while Jordan plowed a groove right through her body.  Minutes passed, but not many.  He ramped up to the brink of release, that same cliff he’d been clinging to before, and dove right off the fucking edge.

He blinked back to life with Erin tracing the shape of his ear.  They were twisted up on the floor, no blankets, no clothes, no music.  It could have been the middle of the night for all he knew - he’d come hard enough to pass out.  Her hair was a beautiful mess of tangles and tendrils, but nothing compared to the night-stained color of her skin, the curve of her breast, the indent along the side of her abs.  Jordan rolled so that he could admire her properly.

“Are all the boys in Canada like you?”

“Why?”  Jordan asked.

“Well for one, I don’t hear any noise coming from next door,” she smiled.  “And I thought maybe I could put in a good word for Ryan.”

Jordan smiled at the idea.  “I promise, everything is better in Canada.”

Ryan hated moving only marginally more than he hated living out of a suitcase.  At least the latter he was used to.  But after three games in three days and a face he still didn’t want to look at, he was completely spent.  Schultz’s apartment was nice enough, clean enough now that he’d helped, and he had his own bathroom.  That’s where Ryan was standing in the shower, head down and water running over his sore shoulders, when his phone rang.

His first thought was: Ignore it.

His second thought was: Darcy!

Ryan hop-stepped out of the tub and ran stark naked into his new bedroom.  He left a wet handprint on the duvet where the phone had been.  “Hey,” he said, trying to sound calm, or at least dry and dressed.

“Hey,” Darcy said.  “How’s the new place?”

Do it, Ryan told himself.  Fucking man up and do it.

“Uhh, would you like to see it yourself?” he asked.  

It wasn’t quite as smooth as it could have been.  Taylor would have said, ‘Why don’t you come over and find out?’ and Jordan would have said, ‘It would be better if you were here.’ but Ryan had to admit that for a guy forming a puddle on the rug, he’d done pretty well.

There was a moment’s pause.  Then Darcy said, “Sure.”

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Jordan knew right where to find Taylor in the morning, and he had to say something.  There were times when a best friend should butt in - like getting a hot girl to call you - and times when he should mind his own fucking business.  Taylor was half-dressed, taping up a sock for the morning skate.

“Did you tell Erin that I would fall in love with her?” Jordan asked.

Taylor stopped what he was doing and put down the tape.  He took a deep breath like he’d been expecting this question.  “Yeah.”


“Because I knew you would,” he said simply.

Jordan frowned.  It was hard for him to articulate why he was upset, and anything he managed would just give away that Taylor was right.  A self-fulfilling prophecy.  Jordan didn’t mind it being true, but he did mind being told.  “I should be the one who gets to say it.”

“And you did now, eh?  There’s no other way she would have told you that story.”  As predicted, Taylor didn’t miss a beat.

Jordan squared his shoulders  “She said it too,” he hated sounding like he was defending himself.

Taylor shook his head in disbelief, or maybe inevitability.  “Wow.  I’m happy for you, man.  I really am.”

“Yeah, right.”

“Hey,” Taylor said sharply.  His head snapped up but he kept his voice even, not inviting eavesdroppers.  “It didn’t scare her away, did it?  Keep her from calling you that night?”

“Is that what you wanted?  To scare her away?”

“Dude,” Taylor grabbed Jordan’s arm and pulled him down onto the bench, then leaned in close.  It was the equivalent of yelling quietly in a crowded room.  “Just because I think it’s dumb doesn’t mean I’m not behind you.  Erin’s perfect, Ebs.  But you’re gonna get crushed.  I’m sorry to be the only person who isn’t playing Little House on the fucking Prairie down here.”

Unlike last night, when he couldn’t keep from speaking, today words just died on Jordan’s tongue. The floor buckled underneath him and everything he’d been ignoring shifted.  It rolled heavily into the middle of his heart , threatening to crash through the first weak spot. Jordan slumped forward onto his elbows.  “I know,” he said quietly.  “I know.  And you had to go through this all last time...”

“This is different, Jordan.” Taylor assumed the same position, shoulder-to-shoulder with his best friend.  It was his job to say the things Jordan might not want to hear.  Or say them again, since no one was really listening the last time.  “This time, you’re the one doing it.  You can’t hide behind Julia and being so angry.  You’re going to break your own heart, break Erin’s heart and leave her behind while you go on to your big, rich life.”

“What about Amanda?  You really don’t feel anything for her?”  Jordan’s voice was quiet and pleading, as if Taylor’s impending misery could keep his company.

“Amanda’s great,” Taylor said.  “I like her a lot but it doesn’t change anything.  I even like this city and we might be here all year.  I’m not going to fall in love with someone I can’t keep, Jordan.   There are somethings you can control, and the rest you can’t.”

That was it, exactly what Jordan had been trying to express.  Taylor had never been in love, so he couldn’t really grasp what it felt like.  But he knew something comparable now; being stripped of what he truly wanted when the lockout put him at the mercy of a hundred other forces.  

“I don’t control anything,” Jordan said.  “Especially this.”

Taylor  shrugged, bumping Jordan’s shoulder in the process.  "Yeah, well maybe you can buy Erin Center Ice so she can see you on TV.”

“I don’t see it anywhere.”  Dylan was behind the bar at Wild Wings, flipping through the endless channels on their satellite menu.

“Ugh.”  Erin went into the back where the cable boxes controlling the various TV feeds were hidden.  They had every imaginable sports cable package available... except the AHL.  It was Saturday night and she was stuck at work while Darcy and Amanda were in the stands at the hockey game.  Taylor was sitting out, though had had not been suspended for his hit to the head the night before.  Even Ryan, with his messed up face, was there.  Only Erin was far from the action.  She browsed through the pay-per-view menu, found the AHL internet stream and paid $5.99 for tonight’s Barons game.  If her boss ever noticed, she’d gladly give him six bucks.

Back in the dining room, there he was: Jordan on TV.  He skated and passed, then stopped next to Ryan.  The sound was off but it didn’t matter.  What could a commentator going tell Erin that she didn’t already know?  His eyes were blue and he was right-handed?  She must have been daydreaming and definitely slacking, because Dylan had to jump and and down, waving, the get her attention.  He pointed to a tray of beers then to a table full of guys.

“You should go to a Barons game,” she told the customers as she delivered the drinks.  “They have some NHL players and it’s really fun.”  The men nodded politely, reaching for their pints.

Erin watched the game out of one eye while she waited on her tables.  It was a trick she had practiced - whenever the home or favored team scored, people would order another round of drinks, and she’d learned to time her approaches.  Tonight, she suspected she was the only person watching the Barons.  Less than a minute into the second period, she knew for sure.  Ryan scored and Erin whooped, turning the heads of half the people in the place.

The second period started as Erin was standing at the bar, awaiting a drink order.  Dylan lined the glasses up but she stayed there, watching Ryan take the opening face-off.  He put the puck forward, right on Jordan’s stick and at the ten second mark Jordan nailed a shot into the back of the net.

“Yes!” she shouted, fist-pumping.  Dylan laughed.  Five and a half minutes later, Erin’s distraction paid off again.  Jordan scored his second goal of the game.  She cheered again, and one table joined in the noise.  Erin comped their beers.

Despite Ryan and Jordan’s best efforts, some guy from the Aeros had a hat trick and the game went into overtime.  Most of the college games had ended and the crowd thinned, allowing Erin to stand at the bar and watch the overtime period expire with no goals scored.  She circled back to her tables, keeping her eyes on the screen.

“Big Barons fan?” an older man at one of the booths asked kindly.

“Yeah,” Erin said.  “They come in here a lot.”

The camera showed Jordan’s face as he skated toward center ice.  Erin’s heart skipped a beat.  He’d be the first Oklahoma City shooter.   More important was the odd and unbelievable fact that she was watching him on TV; the same guy who just said he was falling in love with her.  Holding those words in her mind made her shiver - the delicious, nervous kind.

A younger guy at the same table asked about shootouts and Erin told him it was best of three or sudden death after three.  “That’s Jordan Eberle, he plays for their NHL team normally.”  Trying to sound authoritative and not swoony, she added, “He’s really good.”

Jordan skated up the lane, deked high right and the goalie stopped him.  Erin closed her eyes - she’d never get used to the idea of disappointing thousands of people at the same time with the swipe of a stick.  On the next round Houston scored.  The Barons couldn’t match.  Ryan shot third and missed the net.  The Aeros got a second goal, putting it out of reach and the game was over.  The people at her table told her they were sorry and left a big tip.

When she finished her shift it was nearly midnight.  She knew Jordan would be exhausted after back-to-back games, and probably disappointed over missing in the shootout.  They’d also had quite the night... that lasted well into that morning.  She was expecting a text, but instead her phone rang.

“Hurry up, will ya?” Jordan said.  “It’s cold out here.”

Jordan hated arguing with Taylor.  He especially hated losing those arguments.  It didn’t happen often over girls - Taylor was a bit of a player, his girls a little too easy for Jordan’s taste.  But Hall was smart about it, he only got as involved as he chose to be.  Until now at least.  Taylor had yet to experience the kind of connection that took that power away.

All day Jordan thought about Erin.  He didn’t regret telling her how he felt, because it was honest.  It would sit like a stone in his throat, choking him, until he said the words.  And to hear her say them back was vindication, that he wasn’t alone in being crazy.

“A month,” he said to himself.  Really it had been one night - if Jordan believed in love at first sight.  Maybe he’d have to change his mind on that.  Because every time Taylor’s words rang in his ears, Jordan knew it was futile to resist.  He was in way too deep, the only choice was to ride the current and conserve his energy.

“What?”  Erin slipped into her jacket, grabbed her purse and hurried outside.  Jordan was leaning against the driver’s side of her car, rubbing his bare hands together.  The moment he saw her, Taylor’s words evaporated in the heat of the moment.

“Why didn’t you come in?” she asked, all dazzling smile.

“Because I can’t do this in there,” and he kissed her.  A big, deep, toe-curling kiss that made Erin forget the chill in the air and the loss on the board and even her middle name.  When she finally came back to Earth, Jordan was smiling.

“Also, Darcy threw me out.  She takes her nursing duties very seriously.”

They drove to her house.   Jordan’s fatigue was taking over; he just managed to make it upstairs.  Erin helped him undress but put yoga pants and a t-shirt on herself before they fell into bed.  Jordan wrapped around her from behind, his knees pressed up against hers.  Only then did he close his eyes, knowing full well he’d sleep the night through with Erin in his arms.  Two goals hadn’t been enough to get his team a win, but telling Erin how he felt had earned him the right to be here when he needed to.

Ryan’s face throbbed.  He was well enough to play, and the cage wasn’t so uncomfortable for him.  He was used to the sight lines by the second or third shift and had even scored a goal.  It didn’t mean he was healed though - by the end of the game, his lip and mouth were as swollen as ever and each heartbeat echoed in his whole face.  The moment he was back in the locker room, he popped two pain pills and drained an entire bottle of water.  The trainer surprised him with a tap on the arm.

“Your girlfriend is in the lounge.”

Amanda would have already left with Taylor and Erin was working.  Jordan gave him no more clue that a raised eyebrow on the way out.  Sure enough, Darcy was sitting in the near-empty lounge.  

“Hey,” she said, looking over his suit, half-assembled like he’d gotten dressed while the fire alarm was going off.  “Ready?”

He got into her car with no idea where they were headed.  Ryan wondered where Darcy lived and what stage their relationship would have to be before she took him there.  Surely not every guy she made out with got to see her bedroom.  Ryan thought of himself as something more now - and it wasn’t the pain meds talking anymore.  She had waited for him, after all, though she turned the car toward the hotel.

In the elevator, Ryan slipped his fingers between hers.  Darcy didn’t curl her hand around, but she didn’t push it away.  The door dinged open and they walked hand-in-hand to his room.

Ryan undressed in the bathroom, putting on sweatpants and a t-shirt.  He couldn’t really brush his mangled teeth, so he rinsed with something special the dentist had given him.  The alcohol stung his swollen gums, bringing tears to his eyes.  Just what he needed when the girl of his stateside dreams waited outside.  Checking the mirror was worse - he still looked like Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, without the mask on.  Why is she even here? he wondered.

But he stuck his head out to find Darcy already under the covers in bed - his bed.  Jordan’s was perfectly untouched.  

Here goes nothing, he thought, and pulled his t-shirt off again.

Darcy’s shirt was on, for what it was worth.  It was bright blue and advertised a 5K race.  Ryan tried not to read the print that stretched across her breasts.  She wasn’t wearing a bra for sure.  He cursed himself: if he’d hurried, he might have caught her changing.  Not that he could do anything about.  Keeping his eyes off her chest, he went around the bed.

Darcy fought to keep a straight face, her eyes following Ryan’s shirtless torso across the room.  Not bad, kid, she said to herself.

By the time he reached his side, Ryan felt creepy for being shirtless.  He pulled it back on, quickly climbed under the blankets and slid to the middle.  Darcy had one hand on the remote, starting a new episode of CSI.  Ryan didn’t know what to do, but he was pretty sure only virgins asked out loud.  So he folded his hands on his stomach, watched the show’s opening sequence and promptly fell asleep.

He woke up when Darcy gasped at something on TV.  The pain meds made his brain a little foggy and he definitely wasn’t used to having a girl in his room, let alone in his bed.  Now a very real one was moving beneath the covers, almost certainly wearing nothing but a single layer of thin cotton clothing.

“Okay?” he mumbled.

She started to say something, then stopped when she saw his face.  Very gently, Darcy touched her fingertip to Ryan’s mouth.  She started in the corner and traced the broken curve of his upper lip.  It was so swollen that her touch seemed miles away.  Ryan had almost forgotten how horrible he must look to this beautiful girl.

Groggy and unthinking, Ryan reached for Darcy.  She silently consented to roll onto her side.  His arm went low across her stomach, making her the little spoon and anchoring her firmly against his body.  Darcy’s head rested on the pillow, still watching TV.  Ryan settled in behind, his mangled face successfully hidden, and closed his eyes.

Amanda sat on a suitcase, on a bed.

“Bounce,” Taylor said.  Amanda did, and he was able to zip his bag another inch or two  By the fourth bounce, the suitcase was halfway closed.  He looked up at her breasts, clearly bouncing beneath the v-neck of her shirt.  Her hair bounced against her shoulders, ever her lips parted slightly every time she hit bottom. He gave up zipping.

“That’s hot,” he smiled.  “Maybe I should have gotten my own place.”

Amanda laughed.  “You miss Ebs way more than you want to sleep with me.”

Taylor tackled her, knowing in that moment that Amanda understood what Jordan could not.  They were having fun as friends and lovers; nothing beyond that existed.  Taylor wasn’t about to waste the chance and he certainly wasn’t going to waste any time.  He kicked the closed suitcase off the edge of the mattress and buried it under their clothes.

Erin made her way down through the nearly-empty stands at the arena.  The Barons had a noon game, and she was due at work at four o’clock.  Sunday football went well past midnight and she had the late shift, but at least she would get to see the game.  She took the seat next to the only Hall #22 jersey in the place, front row behind the glass.

“So, what’s the big deal?” Amanda asked immediately.  Erin had hinted on the phone that they needed to talk about something and to arrive early.  As it was they had the convention center pretty much to themselves.  Erin wasn’t sure at all how this would go over.

“Jordan...,” Erin stopped, took a deep breath.  “Jordan told me that  he’s falling in love with me.”

Amanda’s jaw dropped like a rock.  Surprise filled her eyes, along with a slight darkness that Erin would have called fear.  It made her feel immeasurably better, to be honest.  “Oh my God.”

“Yeah,” Erin said.

“I knew he was - I mean everybody knows it, Er.  But he said it already?”

Please please please, Erin prayed silently.  Don’t freak out.

Every girl wants to fall in love.  They want to be swept off their feet in a romantic whirlwind that is extra sexy if it rains money and privilege.  Jordan, or Taylor or Ryan, could very well be that storm under different circumstances.  In this strange reality, even stripped of those things, Erin was still afraid that Amanda might be a little jealous.  She and Taylor had a tiny head start for anyone keeping score.

“That is...,” Amanda searched for the word.  Finally, she just said, “awesome.  That is awesome.  Oh honey, I’m so happy for you.”  There was no shrieking, no fanfare, just a big solid hug from one of her best friends.  Erin sighed out the breath she’d been holding.

“I said it back,” Erin added.

Composure regained, Amanda actually rolled her eyes.  “Really?  Shocker.”


“You have it tattooed on your forehead, babe.  People in space can tell that you’re head over heels for that dork.”  Amanda smiled and Erin knew they were back where they started, on solid and familiar ground.  “Don’t get me wrong, he’s your kind of dork.  You two are made for each other.”

“Thanks, I think,” Erin said sarcastically.  There was a brief silence while she knew Amanda was working up to the obvious question.  But instead of asking it, Amanda just stretched her arm across the back of Erin’s seat and pulled her in to lean together.  When Jordan was gone and Erin was left, Amanda would be there.  Of course she would.

“You and Taylor aren’t....” Erin started.

“No,” Amanda’s smile was genuinely happy, maybe also relieved.  “Not even a little.  I still don’t know what I was doing that first night, I... I’m just happy he turned out not to be a one night stand.”

“Me too,” Erin said.

“No, really happy.  Like twice a night and once in the morning happy.  Like handprints on the mirror happy.”

“Oh God,” Erin covered her face.  Amanda squeezed her so she couldn’t escape.

“Like wake up the neighbors happy!”

“Gross,” Erin moaned.  “We are your neighbors now!”

“Could be worse,” Amanda craned her head around.  “Could be Darcy and Ryan.  Where is she anyway?  She’s been late for everything since she met him, and they’re not even doing it.  Ah, perfect.”

Darcy was jogging down the steps, still not wearing any kind of Barons or Oilers gear and certainly nothing with NUGENT-HOPKINS on it.  “What did I miss?”

Amanda waved her hand like it was nothing.  “Erin and Jordan are in love.  In other news, water is wet.  Now you tell us, Nurse Darcy.  What is the status of Ryan’s teenage dream?”  For the first time in her life, Darcy blushed at the mere mention of a guy’s name.  Amanda laughed out loud.  “Oh my God, you didn’t?!”

“No, I did not.  Poor guy, his face is a mess and it really hurts!  The pain meds knock him right out,” Darcy said.  Erin and Amanda just stared at her until she continued.  “Just sleeping, that’s it.  He... likes to cuddle.”

That resulted in shrieks and howls and slumping over in chairs.  Amanda was gasping for breath, “Of course he does!”

“I also don’t think he wants me to see his face,” Darcy said.  “He’s kinda sensitive about the way he looks right now.”

“Oh God.”  Erin’s voice cracked at a high-pitch.  “He’s so cute I could die.  Please tell me you at least said he’s gorgeous, Darce.  You’ve gotta give the kid something, he’s taking you home every night and probably confused as shit.”

“Did he wake up humping you?” Amanda asked way too loudly.  More screams and flailing.  Even Darcy laughed until there were tears in her eyes.

“No, God. I don’t know what to do.  Can this game fucking start already?,” she fanned herself.  “It’s hot in here.”

Friday, November 16, 2012


The Barons  took a three goal lead into the second intermission.  Erin’s second text to Darcy went unanswered.  “Either she’s stitching Ryan up or they’re already doing it,” Amanda said.

Only Ryan wasn’t back when the team returned for the third period, and still no sign of Darcy either.  It was weird for Erin to see Jordan out there without his linemate; the whole thing looked a bit lopsided.  It felt lopsided too - the Aeros scored twice in the first five minutes to close the lead to one goal.  The Barons seemed out of step on most of the rushes, unable to connect on passes and trying to be too fancy.  Amanda groaned when Taylor stepped around someone and got stripped of the puck.  Halfway through the period, Houston tied the game.  Erin’s phone buzzed.

Darcy: Emergency dentist field trip.  See you guys later.

“Well, no making out tonight,” she said, showing the phone.  Amanda didn’t even smile.  They weren’t long time hockey fans used to tough games.  The Barons had lost a few, but giving up a three goal lead look the air right out of the building.  It was not the triumphant return they’d hoped for Taylor, or the tell-your-friends Friday night the Barons needed.  

“Let’s move,” Erin suggested.


“Let’s,” Erin got to her feet as she spoke, “move.  Down by the ice.”  Amanda followed without question.  Empty seats were scattered behind the Barons bench, but Erin picked an empty row and used it to pass out of that section.  A few more steps down brought them to the front row at the glass, right on the line with the Aeros goalie.  Amanda craned her neck forward, but the curve of the glass made it hard to see the other end of the ice.

“Now if they give up any more goals, we won’t have to watch.”  

“But if they score, we’ll be right here,” Erin said optimistically.

Jordan hated losing.  He was used to it, any hockey player was, though hard-fought losses were the only acceptable circumstance.  Giving up three unanswered goals was bad enough, but they looked so sloppy doing it.  Not that there were many people around to see them - and this assured there would be fewer next time.  Taylor was understandably rusty after so many months out of the game, playing with brand new linemates.  Jordan told himself to stay positive and shifted focus to his own linemates.

“Let’s try what we did before, eh?  Get it to Schultzy up high and let him feed me coming in on the right.”

It didn’t work the first time.  The Aeros defender stepped up, forcing the puck around the boards.  Schultz tried the other side, using Mark Arcobello on the wing.  It drew the Houston players out since Schultz had a few goals already on the year.  Arcobello played catch for two passes, then Schultz turned suddenly.  It was more of a deflection than a pass, but it ended up right on Jordan’s stick.  And right in the back of the net.

“Attaboy!” Mark caught him in mid-stride, the Abney, shoving them all into the wall in a giant hug.  Behind them, there was pounding on the glass:  Amanda and Erin.  They were the only people for three rows, but they were jumping up and down, Barons jerseys flapping.  He flashed her the big gap-toothed grin - he’d have kissed the glass if he thought fast enough.

With the lead, all the Barons skaters picked up their feet.  Taylor maybe too much.  He delivered a brutal hit on his next shift that was called a check to the head.  The ref assessed a five minute major penalty, putting the Barons on an endless penalty kill and Taylor in a foul mood.  The hit would be reviewed and could possibly get him suspended.

“He’s not playing tomorrow anyway, it doesn’t matter,” Amanda pointed out.  She was proud of herself for knowing the rule.  “If it’s only one game.”

Despite a few close calls, the Barons were able to kill the penalty and win the game.  It wasn’t pretty, though Erin hoped dramatic hockey might sell tickets too.  The announcer repeated Saturday’s game info for the hundredth time as people filed out of the arena.  Erin and Amanda decided that tonight was not the night for waiting in the lounge; they went across the street to a bar, hung their jerseys up with their jackets and ordered beers.  

“I wonder how much trouble he’s in,” Amanda said, looking into the bottom of her empty glass.  

Erin signalled for another round. “At least two beers’ worth.”  

When Jordan turned up, he was by himself.  He work a light gray suit with a white shirt and blue tie the color of his eyes.  The knot was a little crooked - Erin hooked her finger behind it and pulled him in for a kiss.

“Somebody scored two goals,” she said.

He shrugged.  “Someday’s in trouble, and somebody else is in the hospital.”

Erin wrapped her arms around his waist.  Jordan was not a huge guy, but he was completely solid.  He could be outside in a hurricane and come through standing.  Maybe that’s what this all was - one big storm - and Jordan weathering it as best he could.  He squeezed Erin in return and asked, “Can we go home?”

Amanda stayed behind to wait for Taylor.  Erin tried Darcy, but no answer.  Hand in hand she and Jordan walked to the car.  As they were belting in, her phone buzzed.

Darcy: Ryan’s okay.  At hotel now. He’s on meds + sleeping. I’m staying here.  

“Looks like you’re with me tonight,” Erin said.

“That’s what I meant by home,” he answered.  The phone buzzed again.

Darcy: He’s still really cute though.

Erin: Told you so.

Jordan didn’t feel like talking, so he just put his hand on Erin’s thigh and looked out the window.  Once he’d assumed they would leave OKC before he learned to recognize it.  Now every building on the route to her place was familiar: one street, one block, one mile closer to Erin.  When they’d met, he expected every day would take him farther away.  Now here she was, same as she’d been a month ago.  Jordan was still changing.  That’s why he didn’t know what to say.

That night’s game had everything: the good, like two goals, and the bad.  His friend had been hurt, another probably disciplined.  They’d played well and then poorly, gotten lucky and unlucky.  All in front of a what could hardly be called a crowd.  But those fans seemed to get it - they stuck it out and were rewarded, they seemed to appreciate the night’s battle.  Jordan was absurdly grateful for their presence.

Erin led him into her apartment and right to the bedroom.  She stripped him out of his suit and tie, shirt and trousers, while he stood there with half a smile on his face.  When he was down to his shorts, she undressed herself in much the same way, but to Jordan it was like the best part of a movie.  Her sweater went up like a curtain opening to the sight of her.  It stretched over her breasts, revealing a black satin bra with white trim.  Long, dark waves of hair crashed against fair skin.  The shake of her hips as she wiggled out of her jeans made the ground roll beneath his feet.  She stopped at bra and panties, folded back the covers and invited him into her bed.

Jordan lay down like he was diving into a pool.  It was everything - refreshing, weightless, the kind of quiet where you have no choice but to hear every single thought in your head.  Thoughts Jordan had been trying not to hear all night - maybe all month.

He wanted to be here.  After a win, he wanted to see her triumphant smile.  After a loss, he craved her comfort.  Now that friends were hurt and in trouble, Jordan wanted Erin to share his worry.  It had all happened tonight, and ended in her arms.  Everything that had gone wrong made this even more right.

For better or worse, that’s what they say,  he thought.

Jordan rolled on top and kissed her to stop himself from speaking.  The only words in his head were crazy; promises no better than lies, and equally unkeepable.  Instead he slipped his tongue against hers, felt her body respond to his touch.  Jordan didn’t have the energy left to do anything but nothing could have stopped them.  As they had their first few nights together, Jordan and Erin made love without saying a word.  

He slipped her panties off, their satin as smooth as her legs.  His hands came back up that way, dragging and catching across skin like a stutter.  She tilted her head back, baring her throat, and he kissed hard as he pushed into her tight, hot body.  The sound of her moan vibrated down his spine.  

It was easy to take her like this.  She was soft and warm, he was hard and insistent.  Her moves were matched his - push together, pull apart - but had the opposite effect: she doubled his result, doubled his pleasure.  Sinking into her made his head swim.  Hitting the top of her slot threatened to drown him.  Erin dug her fingertips white into the hard planes of Jordan’s back and never asked him to stop.  Exhausted from the game, this energy from this came from a different place.  He stroked and rocked, lifting her ass into his lap and holding it there with two hands: a perfect target, a wide-open net.  Erin arched her back away from him, angling her hips down against his thrusts.  He slid a hand up her stomach, over the perfect curve of her breast and rolled the hard nipple beneath his thumb.  Then Jordan caught her behind the neck and pulled her up into his lap.

They were sitting in the middle of the bed with nothing to lean on, no leverage except the weight of her body and the strength of his thighs.  Erin wrapped her arms around his neck, her legs around his waist and held on as Jordan drove upward.  She slid back down him like a stripper on a pole and sobbed out a breath as she hit bottom.  With their eyes open, they went until they were both trembling.  It had the same bare intimacy as fooling around in his car at the drive in - nothing covered them, no one hid beneath the other.  His body rioted to drop them to the mattress and drive himself right through her, but he flexed his muscles against gravity and refused.  Only would be the only one to hold her for this, he wouldn’t even share with the bed.

Erin put her lips to his ear and whispered, “Come with me.”

Her body clenched, tearing a groan from him.  He’d brought her off enough times to know she was so close.  All he had to do was let go - of the hold he’d been keeping on everything.  His defenses were so weak.  If he gave in now, to her, everything would go with it.  He wanted this, he wanted her, and for the first time Jordan was determined to make it possible.

Erin’s body shuddered.  She was trying not to black out before she came - he already felt so good, it was almost enough just to be with him.  But Jordan said yes and now and Erin gasped as he pounded out three more strokes.  On two and a half, she broke.  A soundless, shuddering breath was forced from her lungs as the orgasm ripped through her body from fingers to toes.  It expanded then snapped back on itself like an explosion - a split-second of peace before destruction.  In that heartbeat, Jordan came too.  She felt his cock pulse, impossibly harder, and he moaned.  It probably happened again but she falling apart in his arms.

Jordan grabbed her shoulders and held her down, grinding out his orgasm and hiding his face.  If he didn’t talk, he couldn’t say anything crazy.  If she couldn’t see him, she wouldn’t know.  He buried his nose in her hair and clutched her till they were both spent.

“Wow,” she said, voice shaking.  

He couldn’t resist her praise or the sound of her whispering voice, worn out from him.  Jordan looked into her eyes.  It was too dark to tell but he knew exactly what color they would be in the light.  She smiled like he was the best thing she’d ever had, and he just said the only thought in his head:

“I’m falling in love with you.”

Across town, Darcy was sitting against the headboard of a hotel bed, watching Modern Family on the lowest audible volume.  The TV was the only light in the room.  She’d rooted through Jordan’s drawers for a pair of sweatpants that might fit her, then rolled them a bunch of times.  It wasn’t comfy to wear jeans to bed, and she certainly wasn’t going to take her pants off.  She laughed softly at a joke on the show, and sleeping Ryan next to her stirred.  

“Rrrrmmmm,” he mumbled, rolling slightly.  Darcy let her open hand rest against the top of Ryan’s head; he stopped moving and slowly opened his eyes.

“Ow,” he said.  She gently brushed her fingertips through the front of his hair, where it fell longer and swept across his forehead.  She’d been admiring the part in his hair while he slept.

“I bet,” she said.

Ryan’s two front teeth had been knocked back by a stick to the face.  Luckily he didn’t lose either one - they were only slightly loose, and the dentist said it was because of all the swelling.  His upper lip was ballooned out, swollen itself and split just to the right of center.  Ryan’s normally pointed, elfin features were rounded painfully and even his dimples were gone.


“No,” she let his fine dark strands fall in their natural wave, then lifted them again.  “He’s at Erin’s.  I’ll stay here.”  Ryan tried to smile, but flinched in pain and sucked in a sharp breath.  “Careful,” she cautioned playfully.

He tried again, with less lip movement.  “Yrrrgood nurse.”

“I did okay.”  There had been more blood than she expected, but Darcy held some gauze and mostly just held Ryan’s hand while the trainer patched him up enough to take him to the local hospital, where an on-call oral surgeon had met them.  X-rays and exams were done, Ryan was judged unbroken but unfit to sleep alone tonight.

“Have csttmmm?”

“What was that?” she asked.

“Do you,” Ryan’s enunciation was painfully slow and sticky, “have a nurse costume?”

Darcy wrestled her smile into a smirk instead.  “Cowboys cheerleader not enough for you?”

Ryan, brown eyes sparkling now, “Issgoodtoo.  Youbrrnngg?”

She laughed, making the mattress shake again.  Instantly she decided that was not the message she wanted to send right now, judging by Ryan’s good spirits despite his busted face.  She could sleep in Jordan’s bed.  Darcy shifted her weight to get up - and Ryan put a hand on her shin.  She watched as he drew the leg of her borrowed sweats up, then pushed his big hand under her bare calf till he was holding it.  His skin was so warm.

“Stay,” he said quietly.  “Prrmissse not to kisssyou tnnnnight.”

At her own apartment, Amanda sat on the couch watching TV.  She’d waited for Taylor, but the first sight of his face proved he’d want to be alone tonight.  He gave her a heavy hug and kiss, drove her home and dropped her off.  She was good at giving space.  Amanda also felt completely inadequate to provide whatever comfort he would need.  She had no real sense of what had happened - there were no replays, the other player wasn’t injured on Taylor’s hit.  He explained about the NHL cracking down on checks to the head, and how it had become a huge deal in the game as a whole.  Then he said goodnight.

She was surprised when her phone rang an hour later.  Erin would be with Jordan and if Darcy wasn’t with Ryan, Amanda intended to kick her ass first thing in the morning.  She reached over and saw Taylor’s dorky Instagram self-portrait photo on the screen.  “Hey.”

“Hi,” he said.

“You okay?”

“Depends.  What are you doing?”

“Watching TV.”

“What channel?”

“Modern Family, it’s on eight,” Amanda answered.  She heard Taylor moving around and sudden background noise from his TV, then a weird echo of the noise in her own apartment.  A moment later, something funny happened and Taylor laughed.  She pulled her feet in and laid against a pillow, getting comfortable with the phone trapped against her ear.  Taylor laughed at another line and she could hear him settling in too.

“Better now,” he said.

Erin looked at Jordan for a long moment, soaking up what she’d just heard.  They lay twisted in sheets not even warm yet from their bodies.  Another guy might have taken it back, or at least mumbled some qualifier, if she didn’t reply instantly.  But not him.  His eyes never left hers. and that  solidified her answer.

“I am too,” she said.  Jordan smiled.  Any part of Erin not head-over-heels quickly went tumbling.  “Taylor told me you would,” she continued.  “The night I called you, when he came to the restaurant.  How did he know that?”

“He was just jealous,” Jordan said.  Erin narrowed her eyes, not buying it.  “He... he thinks I fall in love too easily.”

“It has only been a month.”

Jordan pushed himself up onto one elbow.  If he was going to tell Erin this - and he should, he knew that - she would hear the whole story.  Get it over with and never have to say it again.  “It’s not that.  I fell in... it happened like the first night, Erin.  I could have told you at the drive in.”

“So you’re saying you’re easy?” she teased.

“I’m saying - Taylor is saying, really, that I should be more careful because last time it didn’t end well,” he said.  Erin started to speak but Jordan just had to keep going.  “I had a girlfriend named Julia.  We were together for almost a year before I caught her trying to cheat on me.  With Taylor.”
The look of shock on Erin’s face would have gotten an ‘I love you’ out of Jordan if he hadn’t already said it.  “Obviously I was a bad judge.  Terrible judge.  It really upset Taylor that someone thought he would do that to me.  She knew him really well, too.  Not only did I pick someone who didn’t care about me, she didn’t care about her friends.  Didn’t care about anyone but herself.”  He sighed, trying to slow his racing heart.  Just telling the story brought so much bad stuff back.  “She really got us.”

“Jordan, I’m so....”

“Don’t be sorry,” he interrupted her.  “I’m not sorry.  It had to happen so I could get her out of my life.  Otherwise...,” the thought trailed off.  “I’m not stupid, Er.  I’m not gonna let her keep ruining things, no matter how careful Taylor thinks I should be.  I’m not afraid to fall in love with you.”

It was such a perfect moment, like a Disney movie with two young lovers looking deep into each others eyes - though usually with some clothes on.  It lasted until Jordan said, “Well....”

Erin laughed.  Jordan was a second behind her, snickering.  They put their foreheads together and held there, rocking to the giggles.  

“Except for the lockout,” he said.

“And that you could leave tomorrow.”

“And the fact you’ve never heard of Saskatchewan.  That is a really big deal for me, babe.”

“I’ve heard of it now!  Jeez, if I’d known they made guys like you I would have found out about it sooner.  I looked it up...,” she reached for her phone and swiped the screen, calling up a text message.  “Who are the Schenns?”

“Luke and Braden?  They’re from Saskatoon.”

Erin smiled slyly.  “Do you know these people?”

“What?!  Why!”  He grabbed for the phone but she tossed it into the pile of clothes on the floor.

“Hey!  My hot friends are doing pretty well, right?  I might have some more for those two.”

Jordan did the only thing he could - he tickled her.  She screamed, twitched, flailed and ultimately lost the fight in a wheezing, struggling heap of blankets and body parts.  He wrapped his arms around her as best he could and closed his eyes.  “Did you love her?” Erin asked after a minute.

“Yeah.”  Jordan wasn’t going to lie.  When he loved something, he meant it.  Then and now.

“I hate her,” Erin said.  

He kissed the nearest piece of bare skin - her shoulder.  “Me too.”