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You Started It


Fiona stood in the bookstore looking blankly at a shelf full of spines she could not read. She’d turned on her heel and stormed out of the park, half expecting Jon to follow her. Three door down she’d ducked into a bookshop. Two minutes later, Jon walked past.
Her hands were shaking. The novel she held was merely to keep from looking crazy as she slowly moved the aisles, trying to settle her mind. Behind a display of cookbooks, she leaned against a wall.
Jon liked her. Not enough to keep from spreading every pair of legs that offered, so it probably wasn’t enough. But he did like her. She wasn’t surprised - instead it was like looking at a bunch of lines and suddenly seeing a picture come to form.
Jon also hated her. He held her equally responsible for their wild night - which he should. She had given no more than he had: they’d shared the physical act as if it carried no emotional weight. They had both lied and christened it anyway.
And Jon kissed her again. It was the exclamation point at the end of his argument and still ringing in Fiona’s head, loud and clear.
Fuck. She threw the book onto a nearby table. ____
Jon practically ran to his building, using the most direct route, hoping to catch Fiona on the way. Hoping he wouldn’t. Hoping she’d be waiting halfway home, stunned by what he’d said and willing to give him a second chance.
More like a two hundredth chance, he knew.
He walked past home, continued onto Michigan Avenue and headed for Macy’s. He’d always been a person of action, even if lately those actions had been unstable. Hockey had taught him to channel his anger and aggression into forward motion and it was time he let his training take over.
From a single rack in the store he bought new sheets, duvet, mattress pad and pillowcases - two sets, in dark blue stripes and dark blue diamonds, so Fiona would know she had never seen them before. If she ever saw them at all. He paid the laundry on the corner a hundred dollars to put his wash first. Then he went upstairs, stripped his mattress and threw out every piece of bedding that had ever touched a body.
Looking at the bare bed, Jon felt a little lighter. He could do this. He could be normal. From the desk in the living room he opened his laptop to the Contacts section. Girls he had been with - those whose numbers he’d kept - were sorted into categories. It was the only way to keep them straight. He started with The Naughty List, as Kaner had named it back in the day. These were the go-to girls if he needed a fix and couldn’t be bothered to walk down the street to get it. Most of these girls were 10-pluses and he knew they still had tricks left to show him. With a tiny frown, he pressed delete.
The Nice List was next. These girls were smart, normal and pretty without looking like strippers. The kind you could take as a date to a party, or somewhere you might be photographed. But Jon hadn’t called any of them since he met Fiona. So he deleted them.
The last batch was labeled Do Not Answer: numbers he had kept only to block so he didn’t accidentally pick up for a girl who’d gone psycho on him. There were a handful of names. Jon made a face and decided not to delete them. He plugged his iPhone into the system and let it sync, wiping out those girls forever.
It felt like a purge, but with a trap door. Jon could fill both of those lists with new names in a week if the situation came to be. For now he was hoping to never need them again. When the laundry called he went right away, daydreaming of catching Fiona in the elevator. Once the new linens were on his bed, he set about a different daydream. ___
Viktor: Working tonight?
Ugh, Fiona thought. Not about Viktor, but about adding to this house of cards, higher every day with the wind blowing all around them. She had no idea which direction she hoped to fall.
Viktor was about as perfect as they came these days. He liked her openly and honestly, no hiding behind other girls and half-truths. And he was sexy as all hell, no question about that. Fiona knew she needed to tread carefully not just around his heart, but his body as well. She sought comfort fiercely and his big heavy arms offered the ideal place.
Fiona: Yes. Come and see me.
She knew when he walked in the door that night. It was pretty early, just the happy hour crowd and a few tables eating pub food for dinner. Jenny was with her behind the bar and she just growled low in the back of her throat.
“Please tell me you’re getting that,” she whispered.
Fiona had to admit she was crazy not to. Victor wore a dark blue and red plaid shirt rolled up over his forearms and open a few buttons at the neck with dark jeans and brown boots. He was so Scandinavian he’d surely come to chop firewood before teaching you new, inventive ways to keep warm in bed.
“Hey.” He smiled and the whole world tipped sideways, slid off its axis and crashed to the floor.
“Hi Viktor,” Fiona managed to keep her feet.
Instead of taking a stool, he made for the notch in the bar that let the servers through. Fiona couldn’t help moving toward it too. When they reached it, he kissed her lightly on the cheek.
“Hi,” he said again.
Hail Mary, full of grace... ran through Fiona’s mind.
Viktor ordered a beer and waited until Fiona went for a glass to allow himself a smile. Her pale cheeks flushed hot where he’d kissed her smooth skin. He was well aware of the effect Jon had on women - his teammates all had it, to some degree. Jon just used it more. He’d been using it on Fiona, holding some kind of power over her. Viktor figured it couldn’t hurt to do a little of the same. After all, he was probably at least as good in bed as Jon. No point in hiding it.
Fiona clanked the glass so hard against the tap the rim cracked. Jenny snarfed a laugh and passed her a new one.
The Blackhawks were hitting the road in the morning for a three day trip. He was glad to give Fiona some time and space - as much as he’d been around, he knew Jon had too. Maybe more. How the poor girl stayed nice to Jon was a mystery but made Viktor like her even more: she defended her friends, even against herself. When they got back it would be Christmas and maybe that would prompt her toward making a decision.
“How was your day?”
“I didn’t get punched.”
“Well that’s an improvement.”
Haven’t kissed anyone either, he almost said. Yet.
More people started arriving as offices emptied. Fiona worked the bar, always glancing back at him. Everyone in the room was glancing at him, especially anything with boobs. Two girls approached, and the blond one slid her ass slowly onto the next seat as if she were giving it a lap dance.
“Hi. I’m Kaylee,” she shook her hair back. “And this is Amber.”
“Hi,” the other one giggled.
Viktor was nice and introduced himself, aware that Fiona must be watching from somewhere. More people were crowding the bar in search of daily drink specials. Kaylee and Amber worked in a nearby dentists office, and let slip they were avid Blackhawks fans. Viktor mentioned the big win they’d had the night before and both girls agreed immediately that he’d had an incredible game and they’d watched the whole thing. Of course there had been no game and two nights ago they’d lost. It didn’t matter.
Fiona circled down to his end of the bar. The second she came into view Viktor knew he might well be completely in love with her. Some girls would get jealous in this situation. Fiona was grinning from ear to ear over the two pieces of arm candy he had picked up.
“Another beer?”
“Yes, please,” he said graciously. “And honey, drinks for my new friends.”
Kaylee flinched slightly when he said honey. It sounded like he meant, “honey I’m home” not “hey honey, what’s your number?” But she couldn’t be sure. The dark haired bartender wasn’t that good-looking. When she came back, it was with refills of their cocktails.
“Ladies.” Then she doubled back for his beer. “There you go, baby.”
Viktor caught her hand, turned it over and kissed the inside of her wrist. It took about half a second. Amber made a “hhmmmpphhh” noise, Fiona grabbed the sink underneath for balance.
“Thanks,” he said. ____
Okay, no more of that, Viktor promised himself.
The two girls took their free drinks elsewhere. He knew they’d be back, or others, when his friend Niklas Hjalmarsson arrived. Hammer was a good looking kid, recently single and a little dorky. Watching him pick up girls was as good as any TV show on the air.
Fiona gave Hammer a big hug right over the bar and a round of fresh beers. It was easy to watch her work, flirt with the guys at that bar and just relax. He liked knowing where she was and that she wasn’t with Jon, knowing she was okay and that she was happy. He and Hammer had a couple of drinks before it was time to turn in.
“Night, Fi!” Nik called loudly to catch her attention. She dropped what she was doing to come to their end of the bar. Viktor was putting on his coat as well. If not before, then definitely now, a hundred people were watching them. Well, they were watching the Hawks. And hoping the bartender would hurry back.
“Thanks for coming in.” Fiona had the weird sensation of feeling shy.
“What time are you done?”
She made a face. “One.”
Viktor had figured as much. He leaned in lightning fast and kissed her cheek again, sneaking a deep breath of the way her skin smelled. She shivered against him.
“I’ll pick you up.” ____
It was a Boyfriend of the Year move and Viktor knew it. He rolled to a stop outside the bar just before one in the morning, easily finding a parking space. Weeknights died early in the winter. The city was lit up for Christmas though, and worth a drive in the crystal clear air.
Inside chairs had been flipped onto tables and floors cleaned. Jenny, the other bartender, was unloading a rack of glasses. She started to say they were closed, then stopped.
“Oh, hey Vik.”
“Hey Jenny.”
“She’ll be right out.”
In truth Fiona was in the bathroom brushing her teeth. She had no idea what would happen next and wanted to be prepared for anything. Mostly she wanted to tell Viktor that she didn’t want him getting hurt. He’d gone from making a move to waving a flag and Fiona would have to get on board soon or get off the train.
It would help if she didn’t have to keep looking at him. Between his smile and his shoulders, his hands and his thighs, the very Swedish way his clothes were never too pressed but never wrinkled... it wasn’t fair.
She sent Jenny home and locked up the back. Viktor had never been in the place completely alone before; he was suddenly glad she wasn’t alone at night to walk home in the dark.
“Don’t get you nervous leaving here?”
“I’ve got pepper spray. But some nights I take a cab. We give them a lot of business so they don’t mind picking me up for just a few blocks.”
When they were safely tucked into his car, she said, “Your taxi is much nicer.”
It was such a quick ride to her apartment and Viktor had no idea what he wanted to say. Fiona had a little more. “I’d invite you upstairs but....”
“But then I’m going to kiss you again.”
Somewhere was a prison where women were tortured like this. The Pit of Despair, or Azkaban maybe. Viktor was their top interrogator and no one ever lasted past the second button on his shirt.
She sighed and they both laughed. “Yeah, about that. Viktor, I need a couple days to figure this out. Jon is my friend and things are too....”
“I know,” he said. Where Jon would have kissed her quiet, Viktor agreed with her instead. “I’m sorry if I am pushing too much, Fiona. I’m not in a hurry.”
Stupid, perfect, fucking.... Fiona was so close to just giving up and kissing him that her fingers curled. Viktor raised an eyebrow and smirked at her. Then he leaned in and brushed his lips across her cheek the way he’d done in the bar, the way that sent sparks racing down her spine.
“I don’t want to hurt anyone,” she said quietly. From where Viktor’s fingers were twisted in her hair, he could probably feel her heart pounding.
He pointed to the spot on his jaw where Jon’s punch had already faded away. “I’m tougher than I look.”
Fiona just shook her head.
“We’ll be back in three days. Maybe by then you’ll want another ride home.”
He let her go, not because he wanted to but because he sensed she wouldn’t. And he didn’t want to be the straw she grasped at. Give her time, what’s a few more days, it’s not like Jon will be here either.
“Maybe,” she smiled.
“I hope so, because I really want to come upstairs.” That smile.
Fiona tried to walk steadily across the sidewalk and through the lobby. All the while she was thinking only one thing.
Back in that shower. And this time I’m dead-bolting the door. ____
Twenty minutes later she lay awake, staring at the same ceiling she’d memorized as a wasted heap of Jonathan fell asleep with his arms around her. More than a few images from that night had crossed her mind in the shower. But they kept being interrupted by the idea of Viktor.
So far Viktor was nothing more than a promise. The hint of how hard he might kiss her, the way his fingers pretended to pull at her hair. Even the scent of his skin, so warm and classic, merely a tease as he leaned in to brush her cheek. Her body ached to know what it would be like with him - would it be better? Different? What did he look like with bed head and did he snore? Would she care? Fiona would have bet money that Viktor talked in his sleep, sweet nothings that would keep her up all night. ____
Fiona woke to the knowledge that the guys were leaving soon for their two-game road trip. She lay in bed for a while thinking about the same thing she’d been thinking about every day - why did this all happen at once? Any girl would be lucky to have Viktor, any day of the week. Jon was more of a fixer-upper, but no less incredible in his own difficult way. She hoped they would get along on the road because the first best way to make herself a problem was for it to bleed over into the team.
She went for breakfast, took herself for a walk around town and counted the number of times in an hour she saw a Blackhawks logo - 84. She saw Jon’s name or number 14 times. She didn’t see Viktor’s, but the way he was playing would change that quickly enough. Back at her apartment, she decided the only way to stop thinking about her problem was to go back to sleep.
But there was a single flower laying on her pillow. She nearly jumped - it was something a serial killer or a stalker would do. What if she had been home sleeping?
Of course only one person had a key to her place, and he handwriting on the front was unmistakably Jonathan’s - like a boy in grade five trying to impress his teacher.
I left something upstairs for you. Try not to bite it. Jonathan
Annoyed that he felt he had the right to march into her apartment, she took the elevator to the penthouse. Obviously the cleaning lady had been in because the pillows were perfectly arranged on the couch and not a single dish stood in the drying rack. No sign of anything on the counter or table, but she wasn’t expecting it to be out front. Knowing the way Jon thought, Fiona walked straight to his bedroom.
She’d spend more than a few nights and even more mornings in the king size bed and it had never been blue. Now it was made up like a catalogue ad - dark blue duvet, no wrinkles, turned down over blue and white striped sheets and pillowcases. He’d even bought pillow shams for Christ’s sake. Fiona rolled her eyes.
Smooth move, Jon.
At the foot of the bed was a red gift bag with white tissue paper sitting atop a big white square box. It was nicely wrapped, obviously by the store. Right on the sparkly paper, Jon had written in marker: OPEN ME FIRST. She put the bag aside and started on the box. Once the paper was off the lid lifted free and she peeled back a layer of tissue.
It was a beautiful cranberry colored cocktail dress, strapless but not too short. Pleats at the top dove into cinching around the waist to hold it up. It flared at the hips then curved back in to accentuate shape. Beneath it was a small black velvet box - inside were teardrop earrings she assumed to be diamonds.
Both pieces were exactly like Jon: beautiful, expensive, presumptuous. She had half a mind to growl in frustration that he still assumed she could be had at whatever price he was offering. Then she remembered the gift bag. Annoyed, Fiona reached in and yanked the contents out in a rush.
“Oh my....”
It was one of those NHL Player Pals stuffed dolls wearing a Hawks #19 and meant to look like Jon. There was a note pinned to its chest like Paddington Bear.
I know I haven’t been a very good boy this year. I’m not expecting any presents. Will you have Christmas dinner with me anyway? Jonathan
“Island of Misfit Toys,” she said in a whiny voice, making a face at the doll. But Fiona closed her eyes as her heart threatened to swoon. She gritted her teeth in resignation - of course she’d say yes. He didn’t need to buy his way in.
Well maybe after that fight in the park, she allowed. But still. Jon should know better than to think she’d agree just because he paid a ransom. A really gorgeous ransom. She ran the silk taffeta dressthrough her fingers, knowing it would look good with her hair and skin and figure. If Jon knew anything, it was how to show up with a trophy on his arm. ____
The plane had barely touched down before Jon had his phone out. He’d chosen a seat near the front of the plane at the window inside Kaner. Things had been a little stiff around the team since he’d punched Viktor and everyone knew he was in very real danger of losing Fiona. Worse was that no one seemed to feel bad for him.
Fiona: Okay, I’ll have dinner with you.
Jon: Do you like it?
Fiona: Beautiful.
Jon’s playful side wanted to ask for a photo of her in just the earrings. That kind of flirting always worked with the girls he knew. But it would not work with Fiona. Jon needed to start considering the differences between the girl he wanted and all the girls he had deleted from his phone.
Jon: Even the doll?
Fiona: God no. Were they sold out of Kaner?
This was definitely the girl he wanted.
Jon: Yes, so I bought new sheets instead.
Fiona: It looks good in here.
Jon: So do you.
A little bold, but if he was ever going to tell her how he really felt he needed to get a run up to it. The phone stayed silent for a few minutes, until the Hawks were on the bus toward the hotel.
Fiona considered how Jon couldn’t quite get anything right. It was as if his gloves were too big and he couldn’t quite aim his shots. Unusual for him - they guy had nothing but game. And now he was off it, all because of her. She couldn’t decide if that was good or bad, or if it was working.
Fiona: Good luck.
Jon: Miss you.
He watched Ottawa roll by outside the window and considered how much energy that had taken. Jon questioned every word he used, examined every meaning. It would be a lot of work to win Fiona over and he expected nothing less. Somewhere in the back of the bus, Viktor was likely sending his own flirtatious texts. Jon’s jaw flexed with the knowledge that his teammate was probably doing a much better job. ___
Fiona looked up from the crowded bar at one of the zillion TVs overhead. The sound was on loud and the place was packed. The first time they’d said “Stalberg,” she had spilled a beer right down the front of her shirt.
“Guess you’re not getting that,” Jenny said, shaking her head. “If Vik’s lonely, you give him my number okay? I’ve put together a lot of IKEA furniture, I’m really good with one tool and no instructions.”
Fiona swatted her friend with a bar towel and went back to serving customers. Now the first intermission interview was beginning - with Jon.
“Boring boring sports related question?” the host asked.
“Rutubega watermelon sports cliche,” Jon answered. He didn’t hesitate to look into the camera, as if he were well aware the effect his heavy stare had on women worldwide. Somewhere in space a TV satellite slipped out of orbit.
Or maybe that was just Fiona. A bead of sweat ran an arc around the apple of his cheek and toward his chin, threatening to drop onto a spandex shirt only the Jaws of Life could remove. He swiped a towel over his skin and Fiona felt every fiber, rough from industrial detergent, scrape her own skin. Her mouth hung open an inch. Bar orders fell on deaf ears.
“Oh my God,” Jenny grabbed her arm and practically threw her into the back counter. “Are you getting THAT?”
Her whisper was low and harsh, like the was suggesting something illegal. Or just plain impossible. Jenny knew Fiona and Jon were good friends and neighbors, but only the guys knew about the other stuff. Fiona found it too confusing to another woman how she cleared out his one-night stands and slept in his bed.
“I, uh, no. No!” she lied quickly. “Why do you say it that way? Like Jon would be better than Viktor?”
Jenny put her hands up defensively. “No reason. I mean, certainly not better. Stalberg is... well, I shouldn’t say.”
“Why?” Fiona hissed. People at the bar were getting anxious.
“Because he likes you!” Jenny whispered. “I mean lately he’s here all the time and kissing you hello and I don’t know. He seems really nice, Fi.”
Jenny escaped to the tap and started pouring beers, taking more orders than she could remember to put the conversation on hold. Fiona did the same, grumbling. They helped the front line and Fiona angled Jenny into a corner again.
“Are you sleeping with Toews? I mean, I thought you were at first but then he’s always with other girls so you can’t be. Right? I didn’t think you’d let him do that to you.”
Fiona exhaled sharply. “No, I’m not.” Not currently, at least. Not in the last few days.
“Good,” Jenny reached for a new stack of pint glasses. “I mean, he’s hot as all get out and I’d let his major into my penalty box, but you should go out with Viktor. He’s dreamy.” ____
At two minutes after one in the morning, Fiona’s phone rang.
“Are you walking home alone?” Viktor asked.
“No,” she couldn’t keep the smile from her voice. “I’m still at the bar.”
“Call a cab, please.”
Where Jon struggled to hit the right note with his advances, Viktor played Fiona like a tuning fork. Every move had her vibrating at perfect pitch.
“Okay. How’s Canada?”
“Cold and lonely.” Viktor’s voice was low and warm. Either he was in bed or they’d taken a wrong turn toward the Caribbean. Fiona was reasonably sure that Viktor in bed meant no shirt on that wide slab of a chest and probably just shorts under the covers. Black, fitted, very soft shorts, useless really because his ass and thighs were all muscle and...
Stop stop stop!
“Nice game,” she tried to steady her breathing.
“Thanks. One more to go, then we’re home. Then it’s Christmas.”
The Hawks had flown to Toronto right after the game in Ottawa. They would play tomorrow then fly home late on the 23rd and wake up in Chicago on Christmas Eve.
“Do you have plans?”
“Not for Christmas Eve.” She couldn’t tell him about the date with Jon, which she wasn’t even sure was a date. A date, and certainly that dress, meant leaving the apartment. She didn’t know if any place would be open for them to go.
Yes, Viktor thought. “Would you like to help me make a traditional Swedish holiday meal?”
“Hmmm, what does it involve?”
Viktor wished for a little bit of luck. “Opening the packaging on whatever I order from the store.”
“Ah,” she laughed. “My favorite kind of cooking. And who is coming to this holiday feast?”
“You. And me. If that’s okay.”
Fiona leaned against the bar, blushing to herself. Somewhere Viktor was half-asleep in the darkness making sure she didn’t spend her holidays alone. If Jon was alone in the dark thinking of her, he was probably doing it with a sock in one hand.
“It sounds perfect.”
“Call you when I’m back. Now take a taxi home.” ___


Just found this,read it all at once and enjoyed it. Starting the sequel. Thanks.
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