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You Started It


Abby: Patrick says Jonathan punched Viktor. He just stood there and took it. Jon stormed out, silent all practice.
Fiona read the text leaning against the bar, someone’s hot sandwich in her hand waiting to be delivered. It made her stomach clench - Jon would never put himself before the team; Viktor’s perfect lips split and bloody. She quickly handed the plate off and ran back to the walk-in cooler.
Fiona: Are you okay?
Viktor: Can a guy with a black eye take you to dinner?
Fiona was typing furiously. He didn’t.
Viktor: I’m fine, thanks to your warning.
She breathed a sigh of relief. It wasn’t much for a hockey player to take a punch; Viktor probably got popped a few times every game. But from a friend, off the ice, over a girl... Fiona hated feeling like she wasn’t worth it. That’s how allowing Jon to dominate her had felt - not the sex, even in her rage she had to admit that was legendary. But the overall effect had left her empty and sad.
Viktor: If you don’t want to, I understand.
Fiona: Pick me up at 8.
She spent the rest of her shift with one eye on the door, half expecting Jon to rip it off it’s hinges and throw it through the plate glass window to the street. He didn’t show, which didn’t really help matters. Fiona walked home knowing every step only brought her closer to his door.
“Hey Vince,” she said absentmindedly as the doorman held the entrance for her. He followed her inside.
“Miss Larkin, there’s a package for you.” Vince opened a drawer beneath the security desk and withdrew a silver-wrapped box the size of a hardcover book. Fiona thanked him and hurried to the elevator, fighting the urge to rip the paper off until she was all the way to her kitchen.
The sight of the counter brought back the feel of Jon’s big hands on her arms, the strong push of his hips and chest to her smaller body. It had almost really been something for a moment.
She put the silver package down and pulled free the tiny white envelope taped to the corner. It was the kind of card that came with flowers - white with a blue frame and a tiny star embossed at the top.
Sorry. Jonathan
Fiona squeezed her fingers into fists to stop them shaking. How stupid - it was too small for a bomb and too big for an engagement ring, so what was she nervous about? She pried the lid free.
Inside, laid out flat, was a standard-issue ice pack. The kind you snapped and shook to make a compress. The kind someone might need if you punched him in the face.
“Asshole.” ____
Jon knew he should go downstairs and apologize, tell Fiona exactly what he’d done wrong and how he hoped she could still see in him whatever she’d seen before, when they were friends, when he’d clung to the idea of them together, someday.
But the truth was that “someday” was more like “when it’s convenient.” For him, of course. He had never considered their friendship, less than six months old, to be a ticking clock. It was more of a long-term restricted free agent contract with the possibility of renegotiation. Of all the things he felt stupid for, that was the worst. Well that and punching Viktor.
He’d left the ice pack for Fiona before going to practice - he had a stash of them in his apartment. The flower shop across the street had boxes and cards. Jon had briefly considered flowers instead, but that was too generic. If he wanted to give her flowers he should have done it before all this happened.
And he knew more than anything that she would see Viktor again, soon. His own actions in the locker room had made sure of that. They had also surprised everyone - only in that he actually followed through. The entire team knew how Jon had carelessly treated Fiona, at the same time they knew their arrogant but well-meaning Captain was absolutely crazy about the dark-haired girl. No doubt in anyone’s mind that Fiona was worth taking a punch over.
So Jon was the bad guy twice over, and Viktor the hero.
Again, not exactly my plan, Jon thought sarcastically. He needed to start thinking and stop acting so rashly.
He was back to pacing his living room, wondering what to do next. Just twelve hours ago he’d been in her bed, all morning he’d wondered how it went wrong so quickly. Now he was beginning to think he never should have been there at all. This part - frustrated, confused - was not a mistake. Last night had been the mistake.
Again, not the sex. Jon knew beyond anything that his connection with Fiona was stronger than he’d felt, maybe ever. He covered his feelings with aggression but the physical aspect of their night had taken both of their breath away. Together they were something special.
It was the way he’d gone about it. Yes the the scratching, biting, furniture-breaking romp had been crazy hot. But he should have gotten to that point differently.
Should have just asked her to the motherfucking party!
Jon kicked the couch. Much like Viktor, it didn’t retaliate. ____
Viktor was outside Fiona’s building at five minutes to eight. Funny how he thought of it as her building, not Jon’s. But he kept a weather eye out for the captain just in case. Toews had said nothing to anyone the entire practice, thrown off his gear and left without showering. Viktor just shrugged at the questioning looks from his teammates.
The clock ticked eight and Fiona came through the door, headed for his car before he saw her. Again that winter white dress coat covered her outfit - it was like the wrapping on a present. Viktor moved to get out but the doorman beat him to it.
“Evening, Mister Stalberg,” Vince said. “Have a nice time, Miss Larkin.”
Fiona dropped into the passenger seat, twisting to face him immediately. Her hand came right to where his jaw just beginning to darken into a bruise beneath the scruff. She cupped his chin and ran her thumb over the slightly swollen mark.
“I’m so sorry, Viktor.”
“It’s nothing. I get hit worse than that in practice.” It wasn’t macho bullshit, it was true.
“Still...,” she was aware of the electric current flowing where their skin met. He was ridiculously handsome, especially in close quarters. Fiona had heard women debate Jon’s attractiveness - it was obvious which side she was on. But with Viktor there was no question. His gray-blue eyes were the same color as the shirt he wore, open at the collar under a dark blue sweater that stretched happily across his wide shoulders. Fiona couldn’t stop her fingers from brushing his neck. She wanted so much to touch him.
“Take a lot more than one punch to mess up your face.”
I’m in trouble, she thought.
Here goes nothing, Viktor told himself.
At the door of Girl & the Goat, a trendy restaurant in Near West Side, Viktor helped Fiona out of her coat. He moved slowly so as to not be too eager. It revealed a yellow dress with cap sleeves, cut into a deep V at the front and fitted at the waist with a navy blue belt. The skirt fell just above her knees - very classy, very pretty. His hand brushed her bare arm.
“You are stunning,” he hold her honestly.
She smiled, then tugged the hem of his sweater, right at his waist, toward the belt on her dress. “Once again, we match.”
Inside the dining area, the hostess looked at Viktor like she’d pay top dollar to eat wherever he was on the menu. Fiona snarfed back a tiny giggle that only he heard, and followed his very impressive figure to a cozy little table in the back.
“Enjoy your dinner,” the hostess cooed.
“Enjoy her phone number on the back of your menu,” Fiona whispered as she took her seat. Viktor made a face. Fiona flipped his menu over and pointed.
“Oh my God,” he covered the digits as if they would go away. “I’m sorry!”
Fiona just laughed. “I’m used to it.”
They ordered meats, breads, veggies, everything. Viktor knew Fiona was no dainty girlie-girl. As she tore a piece of bread baked with mushroom soup from the loaf, he couldn’t help but smile at how familiar she already was. Conversation flowed, thank God. They were friends, after all. Except now he was free to admire the way her lips glided over the smooth curve of her spoon.
Fiona was relieved to find Viktor as easy going as ever. They shared dishes and ate off each other’s plates, swapping stories about off seasons and what they had done with their lives before meeting five months ago. It was plenty to get them through dinner and they never came close to talking about Jon. If anything, they were so used to being around each other that they nearly forgot they were on a date. Both were surprised at how quickly the time passed.
“Dessert?” he asked, offering the tiny menu.
“Let’s walk,” Fiona suggested.
Viktor waved off the valet, heading in whichever direction they felt like. He was unsure of what to do with his hands - hold hers, put them in the pockets of his leather coat, put an arm around her? He really wanted to put an arm around her. Fiona solved the problem by tucking her hand inside his arm and holding on: it was old-fashioned and appropriate, still physical contact.
As they walked by shops touting Christmas gifts and decorations, Fiona felt the ease of the night slipping away. Sitting across a table from Viktor was one thing but walking next to him, touching his thick bicep and matching her pace to his heavy stride made everything visceral. He’d gently held her against the car last night, his mouth on hers, never taking advantage with his clearly capable body. Something in that restraint seemed absurdly romantic. It tugged at her heart, especially now.
They were passing a Mac store when a Blackhawks commercial came on all the screens in the front window at once. Just like that, Jon’s trying-to-be-serious face was everywhere.
“Ugh,” she said. They both instinctively stopped to watch the 30-second spot. Viktor looked at their reflection in the glass, thinking they made a gorgeous pair. When it was over, Fiona spoke. Time to feed the elephant in the room.
“This thing with Jon is... a thing.” She turned away from the window, lest the video play again. “I don’t know why it’s a problem all of a sudden, but... well okay, I do. But I don’t know how I feel about it.”
Viktor didn’t say anything. He knew better than to point out that Jon really liked her and disrespected her at the same time. If they were just friends then it didn’t matter who else Jon slept with. It only mattered if Fiona cared in return. And if she did, insulting Jon was not the way to win her over.
Fiona slowed, pulling Viktor’s arm so he turned toward her. “I think you might be the only one here who doesn’t think of me as Jon’s girl.”
She wanted to know how long Viktor had been thinking about her as something more than a friend, but didn’t know how to ask. He was busy flexing his jaw to stop from kissing her, at least until she finished speaking. The spot where he’d been punched flared with pain.
“Thank you, Viktor. For that. Are you okay with this if I’m not sure what I’m doing?”
“Are you okay with this if I don’t just let him have you?” Viktor said, aware that everyone they knew, probably including Fiona herself, had expected exactly that. He’d barely put his lips to hers, barely felt the cool press of her soft mouth or the shape of her sliding into his arms when something vibrated.
“Shoot, sorry,” Fiona stepped back, dropping the small purse from her shoulder. “I only have this on because....”
Viktor’s phone buzzed in his pocket. Fiona already had hers out.
“Abby’s in labor!” ____
Jon had never been in the happy wing of a hospital before. The institutional lighting and furniture couldn’t dampen the elated atmosphere of the place where babies were born. Kaner had his feet up on a table, playing with an over-sized plastic puzzle toy that looked like it was genuinely perplexing him. Brent and Duncan and a couple of the other guys and their wives were on their way up with snacks and coffee.
“Hey, did you call.....” he asked. Pat read his mind and nodded.
Sharp had called Jonathan on his way to the hospital. He was overjoyed at the thought of becoming a father and expected nothing less from his teammates. Not surprisingly, they were all grins and one-armed man hugs in the waiting room when Sharp came to get them.
“It’s a girl!”
They filled the hallway outside the maternity ward observation room. Sharp slipped in and moved quickly behind the small plastic crib holding a tiny baby wrapped in a pink blanket. Kane started clapping and everyone followed. Wives were crying, Seabrook tapped on the glass like he was calling to fish at an aquarium.
A door banged somewhere and a shuffle of footsteps rushed around the corner - one of them in high heels.
God, please no, Jon thought.
And then it was there, in his face for everyone to see. Viktor and Fiona, dressed for a date, bumping into each other as they skidded to a stop in front of the group. Jon’s chest flexed, stifling a huge roar that welled up at the sight of her looking so beautiful and for someone else. Kane put a hand on Jon’s arm, out of sight.
Fiona’s heart did a high dive into an empty pool. Jon’s eyes were black with displeasure and he was somehow infinitely hotter when angry. His trapezius muscles flexed just below his neck, making him seem even stronger.
Stronger... she forced the word away.
“Which one?!” Fiona pushed Duncan aside - no easy task - and pressed her face to the window. Sharp was holding the little pink bundle now, and waved the baby’s tiny arm in Fiona’s direction.
She squealed with such pure delight that Jon thought he would die of shame. Such a good person, such a good friend. He’d ruined it. Kane was busy hoping Fiona never got pregnant because it might ruin her figure. Brent thought of a few ways to make sure it was his kid she carried. Viktor found a very interesting spot on the floor and tried not to smile.
“How’s Abby?” she said through the glass. Sharp reluctantly returned his daughter to a nurse and came back into the hallway.
“She’s probably ready, come on.”
Fiona was grateful for any distraction. Everything was obvious - she and Viktor out together, Jonathan’s locked jaw at the sight of them. The boys could only resist an inappropriate question for so long. Sharp stuck his head into another room, then waved them inside. Abby was sitting up in bed, covered by a blanket; she looked exhausted and thrilled and radiant.
“Eeeeeeeeee!” Fiona threw her arms around her friend, the two of them talking all at once in warp speed. The guys stood in an awkward half-circle, huge bodies with shoulders rounded and hands stuffed into pockets. It took a second for the girls to realize.
“Oh, sorry!” Fiona stepped away.
One by one they congratulated Abby. She took note of Jonathan’s jeans and long sleeve t-shirt, then Viktor’s much nicer outfit. Fiona in a dress could only mean one thing. Abby gave her a not-at-all secret look and Fiona did a terrible job of ignoring it.
Viktor had offered to skip the visit and drop Fiona off. She had insisted that Patrick and Abby were his friends too and nothing was going to interrupt the celebration. Viktor had to see Jon every day, so what difference could it make?
After ten minutes, it was clear Abby was spent and it was time to go. Even more awkward than the arrival. As the group filed toward the exit, Seabrook fell into step next to Fiona and gave her a very suggestive look. She slapped his arm. He grabbed her and swung her around, shrieking, making everyone jump. Then he dumped her into Kane like a sack of potatoes.
“As you were,” Brent saluted and left.
Kane gave Fiona’s arm a squeeze of support. That meant a lot to her - Jon listened to Pat. He could help control the situation.
“Vik, wanna help me pick out a present?” Kane hooked a thumb toward the gift shop. Keith led the way without being asked. Stalberg glanced at Fiona to be sure she was okay, then left her alone.
Fiona dropped her eyes like she was gathering the strength to look at Jon. She bit the corner of her lip. His hands were fists in his pockets, furious with himself that she felt afraid to be around him.
“You look great,” he said quietly.
“Thanks.” Just as quiet.
“Fi, I...,” he took a deep breath, praying that words wouldn’t fail him now. “I’m sorry. I don’t want to ruin your night. Can I see you tomorrow?”
She looked up hesitantly.
“Just to talk,” he added.
“Are you just saying that because he’s right here, Jon? You already hit him. I’m not sure which version of you I might find tomorrow.”
Jon had been all over the place. He was just as confused as Fiona. The rage in his chest upon seeing them together had quickly been drowned by the desire to be the one seen with Fiona. To show anyone and everyone, to have them feel jealous or happy or impressed with him for getting a girl like that.
“I promise.”
She could never say no to Jon. Everything he’d ever asked, she’d given. That morning she had drawn the line when he started dictating instead. But now, with the corners of his supple mouth turned down and pain obvious in those bottomless eyes, her answer was no question.
“Okay. Call me.”
He stood there as she went to the gift shop. Viktor came quickly and neither looked back as they walked away together. ____
Fiona and Viktor didn’t say a word until they were closed in the car.
“Want to go home?”
She knew she should. Something in her sense of destiny told her this would all end with her and Jon together, the way everyone assumed. She blamed Disney movies. It would be so easy to buy into, to just accept whatever he told her tomorrow as good enough. But Fiona wasn’t in the mood for anyone, even fate, to boss her around.
“No, I don’t.”
Even if it ended tomorrow, even if it ended with Jon, Fiona wanted to know that she had considered her options and made her own decision.
He drove back toward the restaurant, wondering if Jon had helped or hurt his cause. Fiona didn’t seem upset, and he didn’t ask. Whatever had passed between them barely lasted three minutes and she was still on this date. He found a parking spot on the street near Artopolis Bakery, helped Fiona out of the car and this time he didn’t let go of her hand.
“Oh my God I love this place,” she sighed as they walked in. There were ceiling high shelves packed with treats, bakery cases bursting with sweets. It smelled like sugar and coffee and warmth - the way a kiss tasted. Viktor licked his lips in anticipation.
Fiona inhaled the purely indulgent scent of the dessert shop. Between that and Viktor’s huge hand twined into hers, she felt now would be the poetic time to faint.
They got a table and ordered the Christmas special - s’mores. The platter came out piled with marshmallows, chocolate squares and graham crackers, plus a little campfire burner and two fondue forks. Sensing the night was coming to a cozy end, Fiona ordered a glass of milk.
“I’ll have one too,” Viktor added.
It was the perfect diversion - assembling the s’mores without making a huge mess required some effort and even more failure. Fiona softened a chocolate piece and carefully laid it into the graham cracker and marshmallow sandwich Viktor had made. He squeezed the pieces together to pull it off the fork, then offered it to her. She bit it in half and passed it back. It was hot and melty and delicious. Fiona smiled like a five year old at a camp out.
“So good! They must make a fortune off these things!”
This should be illegal, she thought as Viktor took a huge swig of milk. As if he wasn’t already the strongest, healthiest-looking guy in the world; the man wreaked havoc on the female reproductive system. Plus Fiona had just seen a newborn baby. Her hormones were going haywire.
With a lot of teamwork, they finished every last scrap of sweet. Viktor asked Fiona if she wanted to lick the plate. She licked her fingers instead.
Ohhhh God. He’d been doing well, keeping himself focused on having fun. But as Fiona’s fingers dragged slowly across her mouth, tugging gently through the smile on her lips, his body got as weak as a marshmallow. Without thinking, he reached out and pulled her hand gently from her face. That current flowed steadily between them, like a car running smoothly waiting to be told where to go.
“Come on.” He didn’t call for the check, just threw some cash on the table. Butterflies began to flutter in Fiona’s stomach. She hadn’t meant to be suggestive with her hands - but if she’d realized, she might have done it anyway. Probably. Maybe.
If not for Jon...
If she hadn’t been with Jon the night before, she’d have no qualms about Viktor right now. Not sex - she wasn’t really a first date type. But she wouldn’t hesitate to kiss him right through that look like he really wanted to kiss her too.
Jon had left her feeling like a whore. Viktor could take that away, she was sure, but the only way to do it was farther down that same path. Like buying something broken, only to spend more fixing it. Good money after the bad.
Still, surely I could just...
Viktor went to the passenger side and opened her car door. Then he blocked the way with his body, pulled her in and kissed her. No pushing this time, no trapping her up against something. He just stood there with his hands at her waist and invited her to join his lips as they moved softly over hers. Fiona went right into his party.
It was all she could do to stay on her feet again. Viktor’s solid arm slipped behind her back as if he could tell she was weak in the knees. Thirty seconds later she felt the pressure ease, his mouth break away gently. His light eyes focused on hers, then crinkled with a smile.
“I don’t think he saw this time.” ____
The steering wheel was a welcome anchor for his unsure hands. It had been excruciating to keep that kiss in check and even harder to stop it entirely. Which is precisely why he’d done it at the restaurant and not in front of her apartment. Viktor didn’t care if Jon saw. He cared that Fiona knew he was willing to wait for her.
Not that it was easy.
Her building was close. Victor stopped a little short of the entrance, put the car in park and unbuckled his seat belt. Then he turned toward Fiona.
“If I get your door, I’m going to kiss you again.”
She gulped. Viktor was like an ad for sex with a guy who could deliver your new mattress, break it in and make you eggs in the morning. His elbow rested on the center console and his chest couldn’t fit cross-wise in the space between the seat and steering wheel.
“I don’t want to get you punched again.” She also wasn’t sure she’d be able to stop.
He waved it off. “I don’t care about that. Next time I might defend your honor and hit him back.”
Fiona smiled, hoping she looked honest and flattered. In truth she didn’t have any honor and there was nothing more than her own weakness for Viktor to defend. For Jonathan to exploit. She hated being the damsel in distress.
“In that case, I’ll give you this for next time.” She pulled the ice pack from her coat pocket, showed Viktor and put it in the glove compartment. “Jon left it because he knew I’d see you again.”
“Then I hope he has more.” ____


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