Pieces of the Night
Something like six hours later, Cary wandered into Jordan’s kitchen. Like the bedroom it was pretty clean - shiny appliances neatly lined up along the wall, a few dirty plates in the sink. A browse through the cabinets yielded everything she needed to set the living room coffee table for dinner. Ten minutes later, Jordan stomped his feet inside the front door.
“Honey, I’m home!” he called, then added that it was snowing out.
He came around the corner with his wool hat still on, all six feet and four inches of him dressed in dark jeans and a heather gray thermal shirt. The cozy material wrapped and clung... one flex and Cary was sure he could tear those clothes off like the Hulk.
I will never get used to seeing him walk into a room.
A paper takeaway bag swing from one finger, but Jordan had stopped moving.
“You’re killing me, Care.”
She batted her eyelashes innocently.
“You know I can’t,” he said.
Cary slid one side of the black #11 Penguins jersey she’d put on higher along her thigh.
“And even if I could, I don’t know if I could. You know what I mean?”
If he thinks I believe that...
She was sitting on the couch, and easily dropped onto her stomach, bent her knees and lay there, kicking her feet in the air behind her. “You said I could borrow something.”
Jordan groaned. “Are you wearing anything under that?”
Just a little shake of her head: no.
He put the bag on the table and towered over her, like he was deciding which bad decision sounded better at the moment. They’d napped all afternoon - and actually slept. The big night and bigger day had finally caught up with them. Jordan warned Cary that he wasn’t supposed to have sex on game nights. Cary replied that she wasn’t supposed to have this much sex ever at all.
Eventually he sighed and gripped her ankles, lifting her and hips right off the cushion. He sat down, draped her lower body over his thighs and reached for his plate. Then he balanced it on her ass and opened the food.
“Nice furniture in this place.”
Cary righted herself on the couch and they shared pasta for dinner. The carbs helped settle the last of Jordan’s nervous stomach. Whether from the hangover or the day he’d had since waking up, there had been a knot in his gut all day. It eased now as he relaxed in a familiar place with this strangely familiar girl by his side. Even if he did have to tear his eyes away from the 90% of her shapely leg on display.
The minute I can, she’s putting that jersey on again.
Later, Cary took their empty dishes into the kitchen. Jordan swore she just wanted to make him watch her walk away, his number and name huge on her back. The jersey ended just south of her ass, leaving everything to his active imagination. When she came back, he opened his arms and she crawled right in. They lay spooning on the wide sofa - Jordan behind her with one arm around her waist. It was barely eight o’clock.
“Sorry I can’t take you out tonight,” he said softly, close to her ear. Jordan’s life was not his own and he was sometimes surprisingly aware of how selfish it made him.
“I don’t think I could handle going out with you again,” Cary laughed.
“Still, this probably isn’t what you had planned for your last night of vacation.”
She rolled onto her back and turned her head toward him. Their lips were almost touching.
“I definitely didn’t plan on you, Jordan.”
He kissed her then, softly. If he could go back in time to their first kiss, this is the kiss he’d give her. Since neither of them remembered he assigned this one in his memory. It was sweet and excited and grateful. It was a kiss unsure that it would ever be lucky enough to happen again.
I’m not planning on anything.
Except tomorrow. She would still be there tomorrow, until she had to leave, and he was grateful for the game if only because it forced them to spent tonight in and quiet. He brushed the hair back from her face, let her pick a TV show, and promptly fell asleep.
He came to at the sound of her whispering voice. She was turned to him again, one hand cupping his neck and every part of her body nestled in close.
Fantastic way to wake up.
“It’s almost eleven. Let’s go to bed.”
Cary helped him to his feet, turned off the lights like it was her own house, and followed him upstairs. She hummed to herself as she brushed her teeth, then dug through his drawer and came up with a t-shirt. After checking that he was watching, she pulled his jersey very slowly over her head, draped it carefully on a chair, and replaced it with a gray RBK tee. It ended mid-thigh and made him go cross-eyed.
“Not fair,” he whined as she slid in right next to him, leaving two thirds of the king size bed unclaimed. His giant hand closed on the smooth plane of her thigh.
“How are you going to be extra awesome and impress me tomorrow if you can’t skate?” she giggled.
He was going to be hard soon. “I can impress you in other ways.”
“Yes, but only one where I get to show you off in front of twenty thousand people. Don’t spoil my fun!”
As much as he wanted round twenty-nine or however many times they’d been together that day, his foggy brain craved sleep to heal the damage of the night before. Funny how the consequence of those actions was burrowed into his side with her head in the crook of his arm.
One day. That was only one day.
A pair of huge, strong arms wrapped around Cary and she woke held fast to a furnace. Jordan was still asleep, turned on his side and tangled up in her body. He radiated heat in time with his shallow, even breaths.
Moving just her head, Cary considered Jordan’s face in the light that peeked around his curtains. He looked so young. Dark brown eyelashes feathered against his cheek, longer than she’d realized before. A vertical scar divided his chin from the right side of his jaw. His wide mouth was set in an almost-smile, soft lips barely curled at the corners. The dimple in his chin was as iconic as ever. His hair was too long, his eyes were too blue.
Perfect. Impossible. What am I doing here?
It was t-minus hours before the return trip to reality. It was quite a drive back to Baltimore, then laundry to wash and work to go to. Things that didn’t belong in the world of the bed she lay in, the guy she lay next to.
Jordan shifted in his sleep and mumbled, “What time is it?”
“How’d you know I was awake?” Cary hadn’t seen him open his eyes.
“I always ask that in the morning. No one ever answers.”
It was half past nine. They’d been asleep for over ten hours and felt like lead weights. Jordan rolled like a tree falling and pinned Cary to the bed. “You can stay here, sleep if you want. I have to go.”
“Time for hockey,” she said.
Time for real life.
He curled around her like a koala bear hugging a tree and lay perfectly still for so long she thought he might be asleep again. She didn’t want him to leave but couldn’t ask him to stay. So she stayed that way too and soaked up every last second of Jordan Staal she was ever going to get.
Nearly twenty minutes later, Jordan roused her from half-sleep with a gentle kiss to her forehead. Then he slipped out of bed. Cary lifted up onto her elbows and watched him move around - shower, dry, pack up a day’s worth of stuff. He held up two suits - she picked the light gray one that reminded her of the shirt he’d worn the night before. Watching him get dressed was a sight worth paying for.
When he was ready, she was still in bed. His bed. Jordan kneeled and kissed her upturned face, sliding a hand behind her neck.
“See you at the game.”
“Good luck, Jordan.”
He plucked the black jersey up and tossed it onto the bed next to her. “I might have used all my good luck already.”
Thirty seconds later, the front door closed behind him.
Jordan went right to the communications office. “Do we have any good seats for today? Can I get three?”
The assistant held up two ticket request slips, already filled out. “Same ones Crosby and Letang already asked for?”
He just laughed and walked away.
“Jordan!” Geno bellowed as he came into the room. “You late.”
He was a few minutes tardy, thanks to staying in bed as long as possible and feeling Cary breathe in his arms.
“What up, Gronk?” Tyler asked. “That poor girl gonna be able to sit down at the game today?”
Jordan waved his fist in TK’s direction, but James spoke first. “Nah, Gronk’ll get her a couple goals. He’s on a scoring streak now.”
And on and on it went. No one teased Kris, for fear he’d take their girlfriends or sisters just to prove that he could. Everyone teased Crosby so much that it seemed almost pointless. But Jordan was fair game and a very large target until the coach came in.
“Alright, shut it,” Bylsma said. “I know a few of you studs allegedly got laid on your off day. Let’s pretend you’re telling the truth. Give ‘em something to cheer about, you might get lucky again.”
I need more than luck.
Jordan had no plan at all for how he was going to see Cary again. Or better yet, keep her here. The schedule on the wall said they didn’t play Washington for weeks or Philadelphia until after that. Any plan that began to form melted into the way Cary had walked around his house naked but for his jersey, like she was so confident she could still have fun. While Jordan was so nervous he wanted to throw up. In the equipment room, he ran into Sidney.
“Hey, how’d it go?”
Crosby tried not to, but he smiled. Then he blushed dark red. Turning his face away didn’t help - that high-pitched laugh game him away.
“Ha! Nice one, Sid. I thought you might have picked the one girl who wanted nothing to do with you.”
Sidney shook his head. “It was close there for a while. But it helped that Tanger sexiled her from the hotel - she kind of had nowhere else to go.”
“So now what?” Jordan asked. It was the million-dollar question.
Sidney’s shrug wasn’t the answer he wanted. “Eh, nothing probably. She’s great but I don’t think she wants this.” He nodded toward the rack of sticks, the shelves full of skates and pads and gear. “You know?”
Yeah, I know. And I know that’s not the problem I have.
“What about you?” Sid asked.
“I really have no idea.” Jordan turned to go but Sid put down the tape and grabbed his arm.
“Wait. What does that mean?”
Jordan and Sidney had never been the best of friends. Jordan thought Sidney needed to lighten up, Sidney gave Jordan hell sometimes for acting like an overgrown kid. But they were kids mostly, not even close to mid-twenties. Only Sidney had never been a child even when he was a child, so he didn’t know how to let go. And Jordan was pushing off the growing up with every ounce of his strength. Except maybe now. Jordan reached behind and shut the door.
“I really like her.”
God it feels good to say that.
Under any other circumstances, Jordan would have punched the look off Sidney’s face. He was shocked, no amazed, that Jordan would keep a girl for more than a few days. Someone inconvenient, who was going to be a chore to keep up with and hard to pin down. But everything he saw in Sidney’s expression was true. Jordan was just as surprised at himself.
“Wow, Jordy. You think she’s up for it?”
If there was one thing Jordan was sure of, it was that Cary could handle just about anything.
“Yeah, but I don’t know if she wants to.”
Cary knocked tentatively on the hotel room door. She really didn’t want to walk in on Kris and Sarah together.
Kris naked would be okay though. Maybe in the shower.
She laughed at herself as she saw the shambles of the room. The mess she and Jordan had left - tipped lamp, spilled drinks - was gone only to be replaced with a new mess - blankets on the floor, clothes tossed around. An empty pillow case was twisted into a long thin line, and looked very much like it may have been used to tie someone up. The door opened behind her and Sarah came in.
“You’re alive!” she yelled.
“You’re standing,” Cary said, turning her gaze around the room again. Sarah groaned and threw herself down on the bed.
“Not by much.”
Sarah’s night had been like Cary’s morning. Apparently Kris didn’t believe in no sex before game days, or on game days, or in the elevator on the way to game days. Well, not quite in the elevator. Maybe if Sarah had been wearing a robe. Either way, her chin was raw from his beard and she could barely keep her eyes open.
“Cary, can I just tell you....”
“No. Please don’t. I’m just after having my own amazing time and if you tell me what Kris did....”
“It’s not about Kris. It’s about you.”
Cary swiveled around slowly.
“Kris said Jordan really likes you.”
It was like being hit by a rogue wave. Water was wet. Cary knew that Jordan liked her. Danger signs were posted. Cary knew that she liked Jordan. But Kris was like the tsunami warning system and if his alarm sounded, it might be kind of a big deal.
First rule when you feel yourself getting swept away: do not panic.
“What did he say?” she tried to sound casual.
Sarah rolled onto her back. “Jordan asked Kris to stay here, with me, so you would have to go to his house.”
Second rule: figure out which way is up.
“Why?” Cary asked.
“Because he wants you to come back.”
Third rule: Kick toward the surface.
“Did Jordan actually say that?”
Sarah tipped her head back and looked at Cary upside-down. “Yup.”
After equipment check and workout, Jordan found a computer with a printer in the video room. It took three minutes for him to get what he needed, then hide it in his locker. It was almost time to at least try to clear his mind and focus on the game. He went into the kitchen off the gym.
“Hey,” he said when Cary answered.
“Shouldn’t you be taping something or stretching something?”
“Done and done. Lunch time in a few.”
“Us too, then we’re coming over. I won’t get any ketchup on your jersey.”
Jordan smiled, putting his forehead against the wall. He felt like a teenager: all nervous and awkward. “There are tickets for you at will-call.”
“You didn’t have to do that! We have tickets.”
“Where I can see you?”
“Not a chance. Are you sure it’s okay?”
Jordan considered what the other guys might be telling the other girls - he didn’t want to give away their secrets. But you didn’t request tickets and then not invite someone.
“Actually Kris and Sid beat me to it. But I was totally going to ask. Someone made me leave the house late and I got here last.”
Cary had the sense to know she was about to make him late again. “I’m such a bad influence,” she said. “Go work and good luck, Jordan.”
I miss you.
Cary smiled stupidly at the phone in her hand, as if it were responsible for Jordan’s call, for the slight shyness in his voice. Kris’ words rang second-hand through her head.
I definitely did not expect him.
Liz turned up as Cary was distributing the pile of clothes on the floor between their three bags. She wore a black Pens hoodie ten sizes too big and started blushing before she even sat down. Sarah, from the bathroom peanut gallery, started singing.
“Like a virgin....”
Liz flopped face down into the bed for a second, froze and the jumped off.
“Unclean!” she shouted.
Cary collapsed into the heap of sweaters and pants. Sarah proudly claimed the destroyed bed as her own and stretched out. Liz sank to the floor.
“SO?!” Cary and Sarah both prompted, nearly vibrating with anticipation.
Liz pulled the hood of the sweatshirt down over her eyes. “Well I obviously stayed there.”
“And you obviously let Sidney Crosby shag the life out of you and had to crawl down the hallway to get here,” Sarah added. “He’ll be skating rings around the other team today, of course, because he’s SIDNEY-FUCKING-CROSBY!”
“Why are you more excited about Sidney than Kris?” Only Liz’s mouth showed from beneath her disguise.
“Oh I’m not,” Sarah assured her. “Things went on in here that you’d pay good money to see on late night TV. It was very... European. But you, my deflowered friend, snuck in a stole that gold medal right out from under everyone! Or over them - I bet he likes to be on top. Anyway, you’re like the fucking Ocean’s Eleven: open the vault and some crafty bastard has taken the money and run.”
Liz had tightened the drawstring until just her nose peeked out. Her voice was annoyed. “I wasn’t a virgin.”
“Tell me honestly that it was like any other guy. Go ahead and shatter my dreams,” Sarah moaned.
That got a laugh from Cary. Liz pulled the hood above her eyes. “No, no one was like him.”
“See, I’m right. Fucking Sidney Crosby is like being baptized. You see the face of God, get to start all over again brand new.”