Tuesday, February 5, 2013


“It’s so...,” Erin searched for the word.

“Terrifying?” Amanda suggested.

They stood at front row of a luxury box inside Rexall Place.  Above and below and on all sides there were people; almost seventeen thousand of them, all wearing some kind of Oilers gear.  Erin had on an Eberle shirt she’d insisted on buying herself from the gift shop yesterday, Amanda was wearing a huge Oilers sweatshirt from Taylor’s closet.  They blended into the crowd until they were nearly invisible.

“I was going to say loud,” Erin finished.  Another shriek went up from the knot of young girls stationed even with the blue line.  Any time Taylor, Ryan, Jordan or Justin skated past it was like Justin Bieber coming to their end of the stage.

It was pretty scary though.  One the ice, the Oilers did laps around their zone to warm up for the game.  People were crowded eight and ten rows deep at the glass, cheering and holding signs to welcome back their team.  There were more fans for pregame skate than the Barons got for a game.  

Every single one of them knows more about hockey than I do, Erin thought.  She was going to have a lot of work to do.  Behind her suite, the Eberle family was snacking and talking.  They’d been so welcoming and wonderful, she could feel their collective hope that this new girl from Down South could hack it in the Great White North.

She turned away to find a bottle of water and nearly crashed into Darcy coming down the stairs.

“What is that?!” Erin yelled.

“What?” Darcy held her arms out, displaying the Barons jersey she’d pulled on over her clothes.  “You guys are too good for OKC now?”  She spun around to reveal the obvious NUGENT-HOPKINS on the back, with number 18 instead of 93.

“You never wore that at home!”

“Well we are not in Kansas anymore, and I am the only person in this whole place wearing one.”  She looked herself over and smiled.  “It’s what I think of when I think of Ryan.”

Erin shook her head.  “Poor Schultzy’s gonna hear Ryan thinking of you every night until Valentine’s Day.”

Jordan tapped his stick on the floor, the wall, his skate.  It was dark in the hallway, music pounding overhead through the arena.  Fans were stomping and clapping, just as anxious for this season to begin.

“Ready, Ebs?” Taylor leaned over and shouted around their captain Shawn Horcoff.  Jordan stuck his tongue out at his best friend.  He was more than ready.

“You noobs better be,” Horcoff said.  “I’m getting too old for this rebuilding era shit.”

Taylor’s name and number 4 were called and he stepped onto the ice.  The cheer was deafening.  Horcoff was a few down the list, then Jordan skipped over the curb and skated between the Octane Girls waving their silver pom-poms.  Lights were wheeling, flashing, strobing.  Good thing he’d been here before.

Somewhere in the stands, Erin was watching.  Jordan had done his best to prepare her, but it was only the beginning.  This was the fun part.  The long road trips and losing streaks and griping press would all come later - they always did.  Tonight might overwhelm the senses but it was up to him to keep the season from overwhelming either one of them.

When the intros and ceremonial puck drop were all over, Jordan lined up next to Taylor and Ryan for the national anthem.  Schultz skated right over and bumped into his side.  He was grinning like a guy about the start his first NHL game.

“Pass me the puck, eh?  There are a lot of girls here.”

Erin tucked herself into a seat and watched the opening faceoff.  She saw the first line change, the first whistle, the first opposing team goal of the season.  The OIlers had a lot of scoring chances and their goalie made some huge saves, but Erin stayed still, trying to catch everything.  When the period ended, it was one-to-nothing Vancouver and she had barely moved at all.

“What do you think?” Darren took the seat Amanda had vacated at the sound of the horn.

“It’s big,” Erin said. “And crowded and crazy and exactly like Jordan said it would be.”

“He’s worried about you, that you won’t like it here.”

She enjoyed the irony of finding herself on the flip side of the equation.  “I was worried he’d hate Oklahoma, but that turned out okay.”

“He had you,” Darren said.

Erin smiled.  “Exactly.”

The second period was easier.  Darren left and Whitney joined them in the first row so she could pepper Darcy with questions about Ryan.  Determined to make Ryan the biggest stud in Edmonton, Darcy answered with enough blush-inducing detail to make it clear she was leaving a lot out.  

“Remember that time you gave him a hickey?” Erin said.

Darcy didn’t even blush.  “The first time!  I was more careful with placement later.  I should do that again before I leave, right on his neck.”

“I can’t hear this! He’s like my brother!” Whitney covered her ears.

“Oh your brother is worse.  Try sleeping in the room next to these two,” Amanda bumped Erin.

Amidst a chorus of “God, gross!” and “Stop, please stop!”, by the halfway mark, the girls were cracking up and Erin had unbolted herself from the chair.  It carried them until Vancouver scored against with six minutes left.

“Shit.  I hate the Canucks,” Whitney said.  She turned to Erin.  “Number one thing to learn: Everyone hates the Canucks.  Hey dad!” she hollered back over her shoulder.  “Tell Erin who hates the Canucks.”

“Everybody!” Darren and a few other voices answered.

The Oilers didn’t stop charging though, and  jokes about Ryan’s extracurriculars died away as time ran down on the clock.  With under ten seconds left, Taylor got the puck at center ice.  People heading early for the snack bar stopped and turned.  He crossed Jordan’s path, left the puck and Jordan brought it up the left side.... right around the shoulder of the Vancouver defender.   Jordan lifted the puck on his backhand and put it into the top corner of the goal with 3.6 seconds left.  It was the perfect line of sight - Erin saw it go right in the net.

The place went nuts.  For all her stillness thus far, Erin was on her feet before the puck dropped back to the ground.  Someone was hugging her and then everyone was hugging her.  They looked just like the knot of Oilers down on the ice.  Jordan broke free and skated the length of the bench, fist-bumping all his teammates.  His mother Lisa squeezed through everyone in the suite to get to Erin, then crushed her with a hug.

“Now we’re ready,” Lisa said.  “Now we’re good.”

Jordan pulled out of the Rexall players parking area and went left.  Erin wouldn’t know that was the wrong way for a while yet, but tonight she realized when he turned into the circular valet driveway of a hotel.  Still she didn’t say anything, just reached for his hand.  The attendants recognized Jordan immediately and called him by name.  He stopped at the desk, checked in and led them to an elevator.

“I thought it would be nice if we gave Taylor and Amanda their last night alone together,” he pulled Erin in close.  “Since I get to keep you, and all.”

The game had gone into overtime, then a shootout.  The Oilers won without Jordan, Ryan or Taylor notching another point.  None of them tried in the shootout.  It didn’t matter - despite the conditioning of regular play, Jordan was exhausted from the adrenaline of his first game back in the NHL.  He beeped open the door to a one bedroom suite on the tenth floor.

Erin was drained too.  The speed and sound of the game were different, the energy level intoxicating.  But mostly she felt the weight of it - every game mattered toward the ultimate goal.  Now more than ever,  because they were all played in the home conference.  Whitney had explained that to her again.  Every game was a four-point game.  Erin walked to the high, plush looking bed.  She wanted nothing more than to faceplant into it and sleep for a week.  Her life had been quite the perfect whirlwind lately.  Instead she ditched her borrowed parka and started to undress: Eberle t-shirt, long sleeve tee from underneath.  Boots were unzipped, jeans were wiggled off.  Neatly and methodically she stripped down until her panties hit the floor.

Then she looked up.

“Don’t let me stop you,” Jordan said, leaning against the wall.  His suit was still intact, his hair wet and dark.  Erin smirked as she walked right around him into the bathroom and turned on the tub.

“You better hurry,” she called.

The bubbles were high and the tub filled in less than two minutes.  God bless luxury hotels.  Erin slipped gingerly beneath the hot surface just as Jordan came in.  She leaned back against the built-in headrest and admired him.

“Room for me?” he asked.  That devastating grin should not have been allowed while he was naked.  He sat behind her, between her and the tub, letting his legs stretch out alongside hers and Erin’s back lean against his chest.  The heat instantly soaked into his aching muscles, still tight with exertion.  Jordan sighed and folded his arms around her.  Private moments with Erin always relaxed him.  The idea of having them whenever he wanted during a long, hard season was absurdly luxurious, much like this bath.  “What did you think?”

“I felt like I was going to faint, and I wish that everyone in OKC could have seen you tonight.  And I think,” she turned a little to see his face, “I think I’m going to like it here.”

Jordan kissed her softly.  They stayed in the bath a long time, talking about nothing, enjoying the quiet after the deafening arena.  The OIlers’ next game was two days away, then another two and pretty much every two days until April, if not more often.  Jordan couldn’t wait for those games - he’d already been waiting so long.  When the water was tepid and they’d dried each other off, Erin climbed right between the soft sheets of the king sized bed.  Jordan, towel tied around his waist, stopped by the closet.

“I have practice at ten thirty.”

“Okay,” she patted the spot next to her.

He patted the closet door.  “And you,” he turned the knob, “have a job interview.”

“What?!” She sat straight up in bed, duping the blankets and nearly making her messy hairknot fall out.  Inside the closet hung a black women’s business suit.

“Surprise!  You have an interview at Stollery Children’s Hospital.  Turns out they are looking to model a new program after an American system out of Texas and who better to coordinate the two than an administrative consultant who knows the US system?”

Erin’s mouth hung open.  “You’re kidding.”

“It was actually my grandfather’s idea.  Well, him and that nurse you met who helped do the video call, remember?  He asked her about jobs, she called some people and heard about this.  The Oilers do visits to Stollery’s all the time, so we knew people there.  They can’t wait to meet you.”

“Jordan,” she said.

“Whitney picked this out,” he pulled out the suit, a simple and sophisticated pants combo.  “She checked your size from your suitcase.”

“Jordan,” Erin repeated.

“It’s not a lock, I mean, they won’t just give you the job ‘cause of me so don’t worry about that.  But I know you’ll be great.”


He stopped rambling.

Erin patted the spot next to her again.  “Get over here, right now!”

He jumped into the bed like he was sliding across the hood of a car, until he was on top of her and kissing her with his hands in her hair.  Erin was laughing and breathless, then quiet, then building up again as she fought to keep from being loud.  She and Jordan moved together easily, happily and when they were finished, fell asleep the same way.

Ryan let the apartment door swing shut behind him.  He was too busy guiding Darcy up against the wall and nailing her with a kiss.  She squeaked in surprise, then pushed her hands into his back pockets.

The adrenaline of the game had been more than he expected, more than he remembered.  The feeling didn’t end with the shootout.  He’d grabbed Darcy and run from the building.  Schultz was out celebrating his first NHL game, and two points, with some of the other guys and Ryan wanted to take advantage of his last night.

Darcy used to think that Ryan was cute when he was all hot and bothered.  Now she was hot and bothered herself.  It had been her first NHL game too, just like Schultzy, but she wanted to celebrate something different.  Knowing Ryan was a big deal was one thing but seeing it live was another story. She had his shirt halfway open when he peeled hers up and overhead.

She was wearing a bright blue bra with white and orange trim.  

“Where’d you get that?” he asked, staring for once not actually at her boobs.

“Some store here.  The lady said all the girls who like the Oilers have them.”  Darcy unzipped her fly, folded her jeans down over one hip.  “Matching thong.  You guys must be pretty popular.”

Ryan blushed.  Then immediately felt stupid for blushing.  And so blushed harder.  Standing in front of him, in his place in his city, mostly naked and halfway to the living room, was the girl of his goddamned dreams.

“Ryan!” Darcy squealed.  She was about to make a joke about him being too cute when he grabbed the back of her neck and pulled her in for the hardest, deepest kiss they’d ever shared. The temperature in the room went up ten degrees.  Darcy almost stumbled in her unzipped jeans, but Ryan held her upright and kissed her until they were both panting.  Their lips barely parted, breathing hard, and he pressed his forehead to hers.

“I want to give you something,” he said.

Darcy smiled wickedly.  “I want to give you something.”  Before he could react, she was on her knees and opening his belt.  Ryan’s turn to nearly fall.  He glanced around feverishly, knowing for sure the place was empty but needing to check again, out of courtesy, before he got a blow job in the middle of the room.

“Darce, wait, ahhhh,” Ryan lost the words on his tongue and the thoughts in his brain as Darcy put her mouth to work.  She didn’t care what he had for her.  It would be something sweet and nice and she would love it and her resolve about leaving would shake a little more.  It had been doing that daily since arriving in Edmonton.  She needed to get on the plane tomorrow, get some space between them and think about it.  Because when she was close to Ryan all she could think about was the way he looked at her like he’d never seen a girl before.

Probably no girl who ever did this, she thought as he groaned from above.  Well she wasn’t just going to give up.

When they were finished, Ryan all but collapsed onto the hallway floor and pulled Darcy down to lie next to him. If Schultz came home early, he’d never unsee the sight.  Ryan landed half on top of the suit coat he’d ditched.  Digging into the breast pocket without letting go of Darcy, he found an envelope.

“What I have to for you isn’t that good,” he said.

She snickered.  “Liar.”

“No,” his breathing was still ragged, “really.  You’re....”

Amazing. Incredible. Ruining me for everyone else.  Ryan knew what he wanted to say.  Darcy knew what he wanted to say.  So she held out her hand before he could say it and he placed the envelope in her open palm.

“What is it?” she asked without moving.

“Plane ticket.  For Valentine’s Day.”

“You’re going to miss your flight!” Taylor yelled.  

Amanda pushed her suitcase into the kitchen.  “I have over two hours.”

“I drive really slowly, and I tend to get lost.  Might need some breakfast.  Maybe something for that wall...,” he pointed to a bare spot to the left of the TV.  “There’s a home store on the way.”

He didn’t want Amanda to leave, and she didn’t really want to leave either.  Mostly because the idea of sitting down for six hours on a plane after the night they’d just spent together sounded like agony.  She could only guess Ryan and Darcy had been as bad.  It was a long flight home to nothing, but it was time to go.  Taylor handed her an orange juice for the road, picked up her suitcase with ridiculous ease and locked the apartment door behind them.

Ryan and Darcy were already in the airport departures area, occupying the small row of chairs opposite the Air Canada ticket counter.  Darcy had her legs across Ryan’s lap, feet resting on her suitcase and arms around his neck.  They did not bother to untangle when Taylor and Amanda sat down next to them.  A minute later, Erin and Jordan strolled up hand-in-hand.

“Time to go,” Taylor said. He pulled Amanda to her feet, wrapped her in a hug and lifted her right off the floor.  She laughed.  Taylor would be playful and silly right to the end.  Then he dipped her almost to the floor and kissed her.  “Call me when you land.”


“Call me from the plane if you want.”

“Okay,” she said.

“You’ll be at the gate for what, two hours?  You can call me from there.  I could probably buy a ticket and just come hang out with you.  We could get lunch and....”

“Okay!” Amanda smacked his chest.  “I’ll miss you too.”  She kissed him again, just to shut him up.

Darcy walked slowly, keeping Ryan a little behind the group.  There wasn’t far to go to the security checkpoint and the space Darcy knew she needed was right on the other side.  Yet she found, since waking up in Ryan’s arms that morning, she was reluctant to get there at all.  The Valentine’s Day plane ticket she’d swore she wouldn’t need felt awfully solid in her pocket.

Ryan stopped moving.  “See you soon,” he said, squeezing his lips together nervously so his dimples showed.  He had learned a few tricks that worked on Darcy after all.

Darcy tried to laugh though her eyes were stinging with tears.  “Don’t go out with any girls until Erin approves.”

“She already approves of my girl.”

“Ryan,” Darcy’s voice caught.  She had two fistfuls of his sweater and had to force herself to look him in the eyes.  He was smirking, just a little, like he knew he had her.  Damn it.  “See you soon,” she said, and kissed him.

Erin, Jordan, Taylor and Ryan waved as Amanda and Darcy had their passports cleared and joined the security line.

“How was your interview?” Taylor asked while they stood watching their friends move out of sight.

“It was good,” Erin said.  In fact it had been great, and she was sure the job was hers.  But until the call came, she didn’t want to jinx it.  Amanda and Darcy didn’t even know.  Let it be a happy surprise for her friends when they came back to visit in a few weeks.  Jordan squeezed her hand to show his confidence.

Ryan sighed heavily and turned away from the departure area.  “Think they want to hire any more Americans?”


Officially the longest story I've ever written. Thanks for reading! Something new is coming soon. - J

Sunday, January 27, 2013


Jordan didn’t have a jealous bone in his body, or he might have envied how excited his parents were to see Erin.  Lisa and Darren practically threw airport security out of the way to hug her in the arrivals terminal.  Then his mom tackled Taylor and Ryan in turn, alternately embracing and holding them at arms’ length to examine how they’d survived the lockout.  Erin introduced Lisa to Amanda and Darcy, while Taylor and Ryan tried not to blush too hard.  Darren gestured toward a luggage cart - that was already full.

“I brought everyone jackets.”

He must’ve cleaned out both of Jordan’s sisters closets and flown the lot to Edmonton, because it was at least two suitcases worth of parkas, mittens, hats and scarves.  When Jordan laughed, his dad just shrugged.  “You don’t make girls wear the same thing every day.”

Lisa helped hand out warmer clothes, even to the boys who hadn’t packed winter gear for Oklahoma City.  “Your parents coming in, Taylor?  Only a few hours drive from Calgary, eh?” Darren asked.

Taylor pulled a hunting cap over Amanda’s head, all the way down to cover her eyes.  “Gotta find a place to hide this girl first.”

Darren took the bags, plus Ryan and Darcy, to drop them off at Ryan’s place on the way.  Lisa drove everyone else to Taylor and Jordan’s apartment.  She had come in a day early, filled the fridge with food and even freshly made both boys’ beds.  When Jordan and Taylor walked into their respective rooms, they both called out, “Thank you!”

“Bet you left this place a mess,” Amanda said, examining the space Taylor had occupied before she knew him.  Some clothes were tossed onto a chair.  There was a bottle of cologne, a dish full of change, socks sticking out of the top drawer.  Taylor mentally inventoried when he’d been there last, what he’d done - and possibly who he’d been with.  Yeah, he’d need to put a few things away before Amanda really got a look around.

Erin leaned her suitcase against the wall in Jordan’s room.  It would be her home too, for now.  She promised herself a quick start to this new life - apartment, make some friends - before she could become too reliant on Jordan.  She wanted to be part of this, not take it over.

Jordan opened the closet and slid all the hangers to one side with a big push, making plenty of space.
“Here you go, babe.”

“Wow, Ry.  This is really nice!” Darcy headed straight for the high-ceilinged living room of the brand new apartment the Oilers had found for Ryan.  Just like in OKC, he’d be sharing with Justin.  Darcy ran her hand approvingly over the couch.  “A lot nicer than Schultz’s place at home!”

He dumped his suitcase next to hers in the hallway.  The place even smelled new - new carpet, new paint.  The appliances probably still had price tags on them.  Everything in the apartment had come with it, including the furniture.  A quick look around told Ryan it bright and airy with plenty of space and a lot of decorating he and Schultz would never have bothered to do.  

Darcy was down the hallway poking her nose into every door.  There were two bedrooms, each with it’s own en suite bathroom.  “Which one’s yours?” she called back.

Ryan was plugging in his phone charger.  “Whichever one you’re in when I get over there.”

He looked up at the sound of her footsteps coming back.  Darcy stopped in the hallway and leaned against the wall, shoulder-length blond hair caught in the borrowed scarf she’s hastily put on.  Her jeans were tucked into high brown riding boots, making her the shortest she could possibly be.  When she smiled, Ryan felt it from across the room.

“Got a few hours,” she said, batting her lashes.  “We could try them both, then decide.”

Ryan was halfway out of his jacket.  “You got it, goldielocks.”

He ran after her, into the middle of the first bedroom, only to find it empty.  A hand grabbed his t-shirt from behind, spinning and pulling him right into her body and pinning herself between the it and the wall.  Darcy wrapped her arms around Ryan’s neck and kissed him deeply, all the saved-up kisses she’d wanted to give him during the trip.  All the ones she wouldn’t get to give him when ten days expired.

Ryan was more than happy to oblige.  He slipped his hands inside her coat, his knee between hers and held her there.  This was his place, and this was the kind of guy he was going to be now.  The kind of guy who had a hot girlfriend and knew what to do with her.  He just wished he wouldn’t have to start all over.

“Glad you came?” he broke away, a little breathless.

Darcy arched one eyebrow.  “You’re about to be.”

A few hours later they were back at the airport, having worn out every flat surface in that first bedroom - bed, floor, desk, wall.  They never made it to the second room, just ended up in a heap of blankets looking out the window at freshly falling snow.

Now Darcy sat on a bench, watching Ryan read the overhead arrivals sign.  She’d never seen him so bundled, except for hockey gear, and was picturing how his lanky frame would fill out over the next few years.  There were some things only maturity could bring.  By the time he was twenty-two, Jordan’s age, Darcy thought Ryan would be without question the best-looking hockey player in history.  Her two months watching only the AHL clearly qualified her to make that statement.  Right now he had his hands in his pockets and a baseball cap pulled down over his head, but Darcy would have recognized him from a mile away.  She was waiting for someone else to do the same.

“You’re staring at me,” he said, not turning around.

“I’m about to ask for your autograph.”

That got a glance over his shoulder, a little smile.  “Where do you want me to sign?”

One slot on the board changed to read ARRIVED.  They stayed back from the small crowd clustered around the international arrivals gate, watching the people.  Ryan hoped no one would approach him, mostly because he had no idea what Darcy would do.  Run and hide?  Should he introduce her, and as what?  This is my old sort-of girlfriend but we’re still totally doing it?  He tugged his hat lower and looked at the floor.  Darcy, pretty good at reading his body language, let her fingers play along the hairline at the back of his neck.

Finally a guy wheeling a luggage cart piled high with hockey bags and taped sticks balanced on top,  emerged from the sliding doors.  Darcy left Ryan sitting, went over and waved.

“What, no Cowboys cheerleader outfit?  What kind of welcome is this?” Justin gave her a one-armed hug.  Ryan joined them walking toward the exit, trying to minimize the number of people who saw hockey equipment and him and the two together.  A few heads turned anyway.

Schultz glanced at the curious people.  “Tell ‘em Darcy’s my girlfriend,” he suggested.  “She’s too cute for you anyway.”

Ryan pulled his collar up and didn’t miss a beat.  “Well she already had sex in your new bed....”

“Uh... night!” Erin called out.  Amanda and Taylor were on the couch, watching TV, cuddling like they were back in OKC.  Erin was glad they could have a few more days - leaving sucked either way, what could it hurt?  She padded back to Jordan’s room in socked feet.  He flipped back the covers for her and let his arm fall over her as she turned into his chest.  He was the same warm, comforting shape Erin felt like she’d known forever.  With the lights out it didn’t matter what country they were in, it was just them.  Jordan pressed a kiss to her forehead.

“Welcome to Canada,” he said quietly.

“You mean welcome back,” Erin returned his soft kiss and felt him grin against her lips.  “I just left.”

“Yeah, but now you live here.”

She pushed him onto his back, till she was perched against his side, looking down at him.  “Then you’re supposed to say, welcome home.”

The look on his face was the same as the night they met, when he followed her across the restaurant to give her a tip.  The moment that he almost asked her out but didn’t, the moment that everything almost got away.  This time Jordan knew an opportunity when he saw it.

“I love you,” he said.

“Love you too, Moose.”

Days passed too quickly.  The boys went right into practice, meetings, and what seemed liked all-day conditioning sessions.  Being in the AHL gave them a big leg up on most players who’d simply been training, but the shortened NHL season promised to be even more grueling than normal.  They woke up aching and sore no matter how much ‘stretching’ they talked the girls into helping with at night.

Erin got lost every time she left the house.  Jordan and Taylor lived within walking distance of some restaurants, bars and shopping, so she, Amanda and Darcy explored that area then branched out.  Getting in the car without a tour guide was even worse.

“At least it’s flat,” Darcy pointed out about the landscape, attempting to navigate them to yet another apartment open house.

“Flat everywhere!  If there were one hill, we’d know which way we were going,” Amanda insisted.  “I think it’s that street.”

They were almost back to Jordan and Taylor’s place, having made a big circle around the city.  This place was maybe half a mile away.  Erin parked, and the three girls walked into another available furnished one-bedroom apartment.  There had been a few Erin liked, a few she hated, and at least one where the previous owner had ten cats.  Her purse was stuffed with applications and every realtor or renter told them to hurry, this one wouldn’t last.

The doorway opened directly into the living room.  Cream colored paint complimented the pale carpet and the light tones made the room seem larger.  One wall held a rectangular mirror which served the same purpose.  It was decorated nicely, a step or two below the photos in a catalog.  To the right, a counter with seating separated the kitchen.  It was pale blue with slate gray countertops, all shined and ready.  The cabinets had glass and wood fronts, like little windows into each one.

“Ooh, this is cute!” Darcy said under her breath.  

Across the living room, a sliding glass door opened and three people stepped in.

“Hello ladies,” the realtor said.  “Be right with you.” A young couple followed her, talking quietly and nodding.  Erin could tell by their body language they liked the place too.

A short hallway led to the only bedroom.  It was smaller than the living room, but more than big enough for her.  One dresser sat waiting, a nightstand with a lap was next to the bed.  Amanda opened the closet and whooped.

“Walk-in!” she stage-whispered loudly.

Erin stuck her head into the bathroom - fake marble countertop in black veined with white, gold and brown, frosted light bulbs like a Hollywood dressing room around the mirror, a bathtub big enough to actually take a bath in.  She caught Darcy’s eyes in the mirror.

“I love it,” they said in unison.

“Ladies, welcome.  How are you?  I see you’ve found the walk-in closet,” the realtor laughed at Amanda’s thumbs-up.  “The apartment also has a garbage disposal, central heat and air, free laundry facilities on the ground floor and comes with an assignment covered parking space in the garage.  Have you seen the balcony?”

Beyond the sliding glass door was a six by ten foot tiled balcony, almost square, that occupied the very corner of the fourth floor.  It didn’t look out at much - other buildings, streets - but it was big enough for a table and a few summer chairs, maybe a small grill.  A few plants and it would be a little slice of park right outside the door.

“Can I fill out an application?” Erin asked.

The woman’s smile faltered.  “You’re American.”

Erin nodded.  “Yes....”

“I must ask, are you working here?  Sponsored?  The credit check requires employment verification and references from previous landlords.   With the demand quite high, you may need a Canadian citizen to co-sign the application to meet the criteria.  Do you have anyone Canadian who might qualify?”

Darcy leaned back against the railing, elbows bent like she was just hanging out.  She asked the woman, “How do you feel about the Oilers?”

Erin filled out the application, listing Jordan just as a reference.  It might be enough to get her to the top of the stack, at least.  She used her own phone number for him though, for privacy’s sake.  The realtor took it and Erin shuffled everyone out before she could read to the bottom.  Let her check Erin’s financials and call, she didn’t want to answer twenty questions unless it was going to help her get the place.

“Are we done?” Darcy asked, climbing into the car.

“Why, you miss Ryan already?” Amanda teased.  “Anything left you haven’t taught him?”

With a flick of her hair, Darcy smiled.  “He’s learned.  Just helping him study for the final exam.”

“So?” Ryan asked eagerly from his seat at Jordan & Taylor’s kitchen island.  He was plowing through a bowl of cereal when Ein, Amanda and Darcy came in the front door.

“How’d it go?”  Jordan leaned in and gave Erin a kiss.

“Good!  I saw a bunch of one-bedrooms, some really nice buildings,” Erin said.  The girls were peeling off their many layers of borrowed winter clothes.

Taylor closed the fridge and looked over at Ryan, then very casually asked, “Did they have two bedrooms?”

“Then you could have people visit,” Ryan added, looking nonchalantly at his food.

She started to remind them that she didn’t have a job yet - in fact, couldn’t get one because she wasn’t even Canadian.  Like the credit application, that was going to be the next issue.  “They did, but they’re around $300 more and I don’t even....”

“I’ll pay it!” Ryan and Taylor both blurted out.  Everyone laughed.  Ryan reached out and pulled Darcy into his lap.

“My apartment is not a brothel!”  Erin smacked Taylor, on the arm.

He scoffed.  “Hell, I’m not paying for the whole thing.”

Ryan chimed in, beaming now.  “You do need a job, Er.”

As predicted, her phone rang an hour later from a Canadian number.  Jordan answered very formally and winked at Erin as he stepped into the bedroom to talk.  When he came out, he was frowning.

“Sorry babe, you didn’t get it.  The one you saw already had an application in and they got it.”

Darcy and Amanda instantly started saying it wasn’t that nice anyway, they’d seen a few others and could keep looking tomorrow.  Erin just stood there, head slightly tilted, giving Jordan a completely even look.  He lasted ten seconds, then busted into a smile.

“You got a two-bedroom.  Bigger balcony too,” he said.  The girls shrieked and Jordan ducked as a throw pillow whizzed past his head. “How did you know?!”

Erin put her hands on her hips.  “You’re Jordan Eberle!  If you can’t even get me an apartment then I have seriously overestimated how important you are!  What did you tell them?”

He gave an exaggerated shrug.  “That maybe I’d know some other guys looking for apartments, you know, with the lockout ending and trades and stuff, and maybe I’d recommend this building, or others from the company.  Maybe I’d stop by their office with tickets someday.  Like tomorrow, when you sign your lease.”

The Oilers first game rolled in like a tide.  Tension built as their days ticked away, and they started spending less time together as a group.  On the ninth evening, the last free night before the season really started, Taylor stood in his room straightening his tie in the mirror.  He’d always been good at ties but tonight he couldn’t get it right.  The sound of Amanda getting ready in the bathroom distracted him.

“Zip me up?” she appeared at his side.  The dress was new, he’d insisted she buy it that day so he could take her out to the nicest place in town.  Being an Oiler in Edmonton had it’s advantages - he could always get a reservation.  Black with white piping and cap sleeves, the dress fit her in a way that would make every other man in the place jealous.  He hoped she never wore it when he wasn’t around.  

The restaurant had white linen tablecloths and low lighting.  He’d asked for as private a table as possible - he was used to people glancing at him all night, but didn’t want Amanda to be uncomfortable on their last night alone together.  Plus he had something important to ask - he’d rather the whole place not watch if she said no.

They ordered food and wine.  Amanda admired Taylor, sitting across from her like a grown-up instead of the casual young guy she’d come to know well.  The dinner was a lovely gesture, but part of her wished they were spending this last night home cuddled up on the couch.  She wondered if this version of Taylor was what he prefered the Edmonton public to see - mature, responsible, adult.  He didn’t seem very comfortable doing it.

“Hey,” she put her fork down alongside lobster risotto and reached for his hand, “you okay?”

“Yeah, sorry.”  Taylor shook his head as if to clear it.

“It’s okay.  Nervous for tomorrow?”

Something sooner, Taylor thought.  He turned his hand and, laced his fingers into hers.  There was not going to be a better time than now.  Or a worse time.  If nothing else, the next thirty-six hours depended entirely on this.

Taylor looked up.  Amanda gave him an encouraging little smile, willing him to say whatever he needed to say.  She’d guessed there was something behind this dinner, some ‘thanks for everything’ speech so he wouldn’t have to do it tomorrow, in case they lost their first game.  Losses with the Barons had bummed him out, this must be times a thousand.

“I want to be your boyfriend,” Taylor said.

Amanda’s face went completely blank.  Taylor did not let go of her hand.   He’d been thinking that sentence for nearly a week, maybe longer, but in his head it was a question.  Would she be his girlfriend?  Did she want to be?  How would that work and did he even care?

“You don’t have to move here,” he added.  “But we could do the long-distance thing, for a while.  If you want.”

Almost coming home to Edmonton alone had scared Taylor.  He’d been so relieved to ask Amanda on the trip, if only to ease the transition back into this life.  Now that he was here, worrying about things like getting recognized in restaurants, he remembered how exhausting that life was.  He saw how much she was worth.

Amanda’s heart was racing - she had been expecting the wrong speech.  “Wow, I....”

Taylor leaned forward, eliminating some of the table-wide distance between them.  “It sucks, I know, but I’m away so much anyway.  I will miss you like crazy, only now I could call you and it wouldn’t be weird,” he took a deep breath, stopping himself.  It wasn’t only about him.  “Do you like me?”

“Yes,” she admitted.  Of course she did.  She’d just never let herself like him too much because he was leaving.  

“Then please, be my girlfriend.  I don’t want to find someone here, Amanda.  I just want you.”

Ryan leaned back against the arm of the couch.  Darcy’s feet were in his lap, he was rubbing her toes through socks.  She was sprawled out, arms overhead, watching a movie on TV.  He was just watching her.  A t-shirt was stretched across her chest, no bra, and each breath defined the shape of her breasts against the thin cotton.  He gulped.  It was impossible that after weeks together these simple, intimate moments still made his blood boil.  His hand slid up her calf.

Darcy smiled without turning her head.  “That move worked for you once before.”

Ryan squeezed her leg.  “What move?” he asked innocently.

The night Ryan took a puck to the face in Oklahoma City was the first night Darcy had ever stayed over.  She’d rushed to his side in the trainer’s room while he was still bleeding, then taken him home and sat next to him in bed.  He couldn’t kiss her, though he wanted to desperately, so he settled for pushing the leg of her pajama pants up and holding her calf.  It was the first time he touched her bare skin while they were both sober.  She shared his bed that night, and had nearly every night since.

Darcy drew her hands down under her head and gave up on the show.  She’d get enough TV at home when it was the only way to see Ryan.  Since he was here now, all sharp-featured and fox-faced, it was a shame to waste time looking at anything else.

“I’m going to miss you,” she said honestly.

“I’ll miss you too,” he said.  “You’re not going to get a new boyfriend, are you?  Not right away?”

Darcy smiled tightly.  “No.”

“Good,” he pressed his thumb along the edge of her shin.  “Then I won’t feel so bad if I don’t find someone.”

She levered herself to sitting, scooting down until her knees were bent across Ryan’s lap.  The corners of his mouth turned down hard enough to make his dimples show.  He looked at her leg in his hand, even when she leaned in close.

“Remember when you said I wouldn’t like you here?”

He nodded.

“Well it’s been nine days and I still like you.”

“Not enough to stay,” he said sullenly.  Ryan wanted to bite his lip to keep from speaking.  He’d worked so hard for Darcy to see him as more than a kid and now he was ruining it, getting petulant and bratty right before she left.  At this rate she’d be running to the airport.

He hadn’t actually asked her to stay.  Darcy would have said no anyway.  But as much as it was the right decision, it still hurt her.  Ryan had become a confident and capable boyfriend.  It was easy to forget the nervous new guy she’d met months ago, since  he’d turned into a man.  She cupped his cheek and turned his face.  Ryan reluctantly looked her in the eye.

“Make me a promise,” she said.


“That you’ll try.  That you’ll meet some girls and show them you’re more than famous.  You’re sexy and smart and funny.  Promise me that you’ll be my Ryan, even when I’m not here.”

He shrugged unconvincingly.  “Okay.”

“And if it doesn’t work,” she made him meet her gaze again, “I’ll come back for Valentine’s Day.”

Ryan’s face lit up.  He might as well have stabbed Darcy in the heart for all the excitement in his eyes.  Those dimples flashed for real this time and she groaned in defeat, falling back against the couch seat.  A split second later, Ryan was on top of her.

“That’s in six weeks,” he said, lips an inch from her mouth.  Then all of a sudden, he sat up.  Surprise plastered across his face.


“I’m not supposed to have sex the night before a game.”  His voice was full of awe.  “And tomorrow is a game.  I’m not supposed to do this.”

Darcy narrowed her eyes, confused.  “Why is that good?”

“That rule has never applied to me before!”  He flopped back down on top of her, mouth even closer this time.  “And I already can’t wait to break it.”

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Taylor stood in the living room, staring at a movie he’d rented from Red Box the night before: The Vow.  It was Amanda’s turn to pick.  Two hours of suffering in chick flick silence then he could convince her she owed him one in bed.  Now it would never be watched.  They would never spend that time curled up on the couch, wondering how many sit-ups it would take Taylor to look like Channing Tatum.  At the moment, Taylor was glued to the floor in surprise over how much he wanted to watch that stupid movie.

“Hey,” he said without turning around.

“Hey,” Jordan replied.  Only one set of footsteps, that got Taylor’s attention.  He looked over his shoulder to see Jordan alone.


Jordan nodded.  “She’s coming.”

Taylor exhaled heavily.   “Good man, I’m so glad.”

They both fell into the couch.  Jordan didn’t care that he smelled like someone who hadn’t showered after three hours of hockey.  The sofa was a rental.  A few minutes of silence passed as they both pictured returning to their regularly scheduled lives in Edmonton.

“What did she say?” Taylor asked after a while.

Jordan shrugged.  “Just, okay.”


“You’re not gonna…,” Jordan didn’t want to finish his line, it felt mean because he knew the answer.

“Nah.  We’re not like you guys, we’re not…,” Taylor didn’t say ‘in love.’  He’d never been in love.  It had been ages since he’d even thought about the lockout ending.  Taylor was a go with the flow kind of guy, and now the flow was changing direction; he was  caught in the current.  It would spin him around, shake him up, but he would simply swim.

“Yeah.”  Jordan wasn’t so fluid.  He took things with him.  From playing junior hockey so close to home and not going away to school, he’d been lucky.  His family came to Edmonton often.  Oklahoma City was the first time he’d been so far away for so long, as the rest of his life seemed to be on pause.  Now someone had hit fast-forward.  Jordan felt like he had grabbed onto Erin while running out the door.

Erin knew what was coming.  She and Jordan had piled up the broken pieces of glass, wiped what she could reach of the beer.   From the corner of one eye, she saw her boss come out of the kitchen.  

“You should....”

“I should go,” Jordan said at the same time.  He smiled quickly, gap flashing.  

Ah fuck it, Erin thought.  With an armload of ruined restaurant property, in the middle of the dining room, she leaned in and kissed him again.  Not just a peck, this was no time for a kiss goodbye.  It was a close-mouthed, full-court press, the kind that needed no words.  Still she said, “See you soon.”

When Jordan’s back was out of sight, Erin tilted her chin up and moved toward her fate.  Every staffer in the place had seen them.  Dylan gave Erin a thumbs-up as she ditched the tray into an empty case of beer at the corner.  She winked at him, turning toward the kitchen.

“What was that about?”  Her boss Robert was a nice guy.  Easy enough to work for.  His main task was wrangling a big crew of young people with cash in their pockets and no reason to be out of bed before noon.  What he did not tolerate were obvious breaches of the main rules, for fear that one lapse would spark anarchy.

Erin didn’t let herself stop to think.  “I quit.”

Robert’s mouth dropped open in shock.  “Erin, come on.  It’s a rule, but I’m not going to fire anyone over a kiss.  You don’t have to beat me to it.

“I’m not quitting over that,” she said, then smiled to herself.  The kiss, and all it entailed, was in fact why she was quitting.  “I’m leaving.  Moving.”


“Canada,” she said with as much resolve as she could muster.

Robert blinked back at her.  “Canada?  You’re....” It dawned on him.  “You’re moving with him?  That kid who’s always in here?”

He’s not a... but Erin had to push the words back down her throat.  She nodded.

“He’s what, a hockey player?  Like double-A?  Erin, come on.  You’re....”

“He plays for the NHL, Robert.  He was here because of their lockout, which is over as of about twenty minutes ago.  So he’s going back and I’m going with him.”

Robert  pushed a hand up his face, pinching his temples toward the middle and wrinkling his brow.  The gesture made him look twenty years older.  A heavy sigh came with it.  “When are you leaving?”

“Tomorrow,” Erin wasn’t sure, but she didn’t want to come back here.

“You’re walking out, no notice?  Fucking great.  If I...,” he took a deep breath.  “Erin, you’re a good server.  Top tips the last three months running.  This is a good gig for you.”

“I know I’m leaving you in a lurch, and I’m sorry.  But we didn’t know when it would end and he has to go now.”  Erin did feel bad.  Wild Wings had treated her well, gotten her through a tough time and without it, she never would have met Jordan.  She didn’t want to end all that with a messy exit.

“You have to go right now?  You couldn’t give me a week even?”

Erin looked at the floor.  She could do whatever she wanted - Jordan would understand.  But Jordan was what she wanted: the version she knew here, in the intermission his life had taken just long enough to bring them together, and the one she would come to know in Edmonton.  It was important that his real life reset include from day one.  It would be a triumphant return and Erin wanted to be part of that.  “I can’t,” she shook her head. “I can’t miss anything.”

Robert growled in frustration, seeing he would not win this battle.  “If I could tell you how many girls have left for some guy, just to come running back when....”

“I won’t be back,” Erin said with conviction.

“Don’t, because your job won’t be here,” Robert was angry now, his mind churning with all the problems her exit created.  “Go ahead and go, I hope it works out with, what’s his name?  Jason?”

“It’s Jordan Eberle.  Look him up.”

Erin’s hand was shaking when she raised it to knock on the door.  She hasn’t called, just come over, still in her Wild Wings uniform.  It didn’t take two seconds for him to open the door.

“Hey,” Jordan puller her right into a hug.  He was so familiar and solid, like something she could depend on.  

Robert had been right to ask those questions when she quit.  He’d been right to doubt.  Erin didn’t share his concern but there were so many things to figure out.  A trickle of fear had crawled up her spine all the way here, settling between her shoulder blades and making her head hurt.  Now, as Jordan held her close, that tension begin to ease.

From behind Jordan, another set of arms reached around and hugged them both.  

“I love you guys!” Taylor said in dumb-sounding voice.  “We’re gonna have so much fun as roommates, Erin can cook for us and I’ll leave my underwear all over so she feels extra welcome.”

Erin’s laugh was muffled against Jordan’s shoulder.  “I’m not living with you, Hallsy.”

“Well I’m not moving out!”  He let go.  “You can take Jordan and leave me the whole place.”

Erin rolled her eyes.  “I’ll get my own place.  It’s just Canada, not the moon.  Plus, I never want to see your underwear ever.  I’ve heard stories.”

Jordan, still with an arm across Erin’s shoulders, breathed a silent sigh of relief.  He hadn’t thought about anything - a place for Erin to live, a job, anything for her to do.  He had only thought of himself, and that he couldn’t go without her.  He couldn’t leave something so precious behind and spend the rest of the season missing her like a hole in his heart.  Not when he should be celebrating.

Apparently, she had a little more of a plan.

“Fine, whatever.  You can live with Nuge, he needs a place.”

They went inside, taking seats at the kitchen counter while Taylor opened a beer for each of them.  He looked like he was waiting for the obvious question.  Erin felt responsible for her friends, since she’d brought Amanda and Darcy into all this.

“Have you talked to Amanda?”  

Taylor pursed his lips, proud to have the right answer ready.  “Yeah.  But I’m, uh... I’m not asking her to move.  I don’t think she would anyway, but we’re not, you know.  It’s not serious.”  Erin had expected that, as had Jordan.  She gave Taylor’s hand a little squeeze.  His big eyes looked a little sad, as if he might have wished for someone he’d want to bring home.

“What about Ryan?”

Taylor shrugged.  “He and Darcy are probably having a last go right now, the way he ran out of the game.  He was right behind Ebs, running like hell to get to you.”

Jordan was busy peeling the paper label from his bottle.  “Do you think he’ll ask her?”

“No,” Taylor and Erin both said.

“But I bet he asked for the advanced class tonight, learn everything he can.  He’ll have to find a girl to start all over with,” Taylor sneered.  “Great.  Back on the struggle bus.”

Ryan was, in fact, busy.  He stood at the end of his bed, trying to peel Darcy’s skinny jeans off over her feet.  She kicked as if to help but really made it worse.  Or maybe it was the sight of her, on her back in a white lace bra and panties, that was giving Ryan coordination problems.  He finally grabbed the whole wad of fabric and yanked, turning the pants inside out and nearly dragging Darcy off the bed.  He helped her back up as he climbed on top.

“You sure?” he asked for the second time.

“Yes,” she smiled.  That damned grin had the same effect on him as seeing her naked.

“But no one’s gonna believe it.”  He settled onto his elbows, tugging playfully at the lace edge of her bra.

“Jordan and Taylor will back you up.”

“Right,” Ryan flicked her nipple with his tongue.  “They’ll say I had a concussion and imagined the whole thing.”

Darcy ran her fingers through Ryan’s stick straight hair.  He glanced up from beneath those impossible eyebrows.  It was a damned shame to let the most perfect looking and grateful guy in Oklahoma City go off to the Great White North.  His weight settling between her legs weakened her resolve.

“Erin will be there,” she assumed.  As much as she knew Ryan was a great catch, she knew that Jordan and Erin were something else entirely.

“Yeah,” Ryan sounded as wistful as a guy could with a mouthful of boob.  “She’d better.  Ebs’ll die if she says no.  He loves her.”

Darcy rubbed his earlobe between two fingertips.  His features were all so pointy, his expressions animated.  Ryan was like a drawing come to life.  “She loves him too.”

He titled his face up to see her squarely.  A not-so-innocent gleam came to his brown eyes.  “I love this,” he said.  Darcy laughed, loud and clear.  Next to hearing her breath catch in bed, that laugh was Ryan’s proudest moment.  He loved to make her make that noise.

“I love this too, Ryan.  I’ll be jealous of whoever you find in Edmonton.”

His fingers traced the outside curves of her breast, then pushed them together to make cleavage.  Sometimes Darcy caught him just playing like she was a shiny new toy.   “I won’t.  It’s too hard.  They all know me there.”

“I know you,” she said, “and I like you.”

He smiled shyly, dimples dimpling.  “You don’t know me there.  It’s so... different.  Bigger.”

“I’d still like you,” Darcy promised.

That same mischievous glint flashed in his eyes, like she’d walked right into his trap.  “Prove it,” he said.

Erin sat on the floor of her room, surrounded by clothes.  She wouldn’t need everything in just ten days.  That was virtually all the time they had before the season really started, all the time Jordan could spare to help her get settled.  She didn’t want to be a burden.  By the time he was lacing up his skates in front of a terrifyingly large crowd, she intended to be getting comfy into her new life.  Ten days to find a place.  Jordan’s first game was at home, then he went on the road.  Erin would leave too:  come back to OKC, get the rest of her stuff, and get on with it.

Her front door burst open so hard she jumped.  Darcy had a key, or she might have just run it down.

“Damn, look at all this!” Darcy said, surveying the half sorted living room.  Erin had been up most of the night.  Their flight wasn’t for another six hours.  It never occurred to her how much stuff she had until she tried to pack it all in one go.  Darcy chucked a rolling suitcase and a duffel bag onto the couch.

“What is that?  WHATISTHAT?” Erin scrambled to her feet.

“Oh I’m coming, baby.  I’ve got ten days to make sure Ryan doesn’t shack up with some skank who figures out I taught him everything a boy needs to know.  Ten days and one National Hockey League game featuring the Edmonton Oilers.”

Erin collapsed gratefully into Darcy’s arms.  Darcy laid her friend out next to the roller bag, then set about packing the rest of Erin’s outfits for the trip.  While Erin was a heap on the couch, her phone rang.  

“Hey Jordan.”

“Darcy said yes!  She’s coming tonight, staying through the first game.”

“I know,”Erin said.  “She’s here, packing my stuff.”

There was some scuffling and Taylor came on the line.  “I gotta bring Amanda.  Right?  I gotta do it.”

Erin laughed weakly.  Amanda had not been upset or surprised that she was not asked, or that Erin had said yes.  She would however be a little miffed that Darcy had let Ryan coerce her, and now she was left out of a group trip.  If she knew about it.  “Okay,” Erin said, “here’s what we do....”

“God this is weird.”  Jordan leaned across the console and kissed Erin hello.  Darcy was in front of them in Ryan’s car.  Behind, Taylor laid on his horn.

“Let’s go,” Erin said.

They rolled to a stop in front of Amanda’s house.  She and Taylor had already said their all-night, something-to-remember-me-by farewell the night before.  Ryan and Jordan had seen her today, so had Erin and Darcy after packing.  All part of the charade.  Amanda was not expecting her phone to ring at five o’clock.

“At the airport already?” she answered.  Erin thought she was forcing that chipper note into her voice.

“Look out your window.”


“Look out your window!”  They all hollered from outside.  A light came on, then a shadow.  Amanda’s face appeared in the window.

“What the...,” she put the phone down and squeaked open the glass.  “What are you doing?”

“Ten days!” Taylor was parked in the middle of the street, standing inside his car with his body out the sunroof like a kid fooling around on his way to the prom. “Come visit for ten days, and see our first game.  See what you had all this time and didn’t even know it!”  He gestured to Ryan and Jordan.  

“Come with us.  With me.  Please come with me, Amanda.”

The shock on her face fell into pressed lips, then a tiny curl, then a grin.  Like the Grinch’s heart growing to three times it’s size, the smile spread until Amanda was beaming down like Juliet on her balcony.  “You’re crazy!”

“Is that a yes?!” Taylor called back.

“Yes!  Of course!”

“Good!  Because you have five minutes to pack and get in this car or we’re not going anywhere tonight!”

Amanda yelped and disappeared inside.  Darcy and Ryan applauded Taylor, who took a bow in case any neighbors were listening.  Erin and Darcy buzzed their way into the building and went to help pack.

“You’re all crazy!” Amanda whipped open the door without stopping to say hello.  She was shoving an entire pile of clean laundry into a suitcase.  “This is what I’ve worn for the last ten days, it’ll have to do.”  Darcy and Erin joined the stuffing and squishing and sitting on the bag until it zipped shut.  Amanda dug out her passport, some extra lip gloss and looked around like she was forgetting something.

“The lockout is over,” Darcy reminded her.  “Taylor makes a zillion dollars.  Just bring your purse and  make him buy you new clothes.”

“You won’t need them,” Erin said.  She reached into the messenger bag hanging at her side and unfurled Tayor’s #22 Barons jersey.  “You can just wear this.”

They made it to the airport with plenty of time.  Ryan couldn’t have a beer so he settled for a Sprite and putting his hand high on Darcy’s leg while they sat at the bar, killing time.  Taylor called it, “soaking in America.”  It was certainly that - middle America, where hockey wasn’t the focus of attention.  The last they’d get of that for a long time.

“I kind of liked the lockout,” Ryan admitted.

Jordan looked at Erin.  She wore skinny jeans with flats, a long red cardigan and striped scarf that was more about decoration than warmth.  Not that she needed anything extra to look perfect.  Her dark hair grazed his hand where it rested on the back of the bar stool.  She seemed so happy, so relaxed, as if he hadn’t just asked the world of her, out of the blue, and been told yes.  His dad would bring her a parka to the airport.

Jordan leaned in, kissed Erin’s cheek and said,“Me too.”

(Not quite the end.)

Jordan got the A today in Edmonton, and my Eberle shirt came in the mail. Fate? - Juliet