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Pieces of the Night


“Ready, Gronk?” Sid asked with a smile. They were dressed, headed for the hallway. The crowd was deafening and the walls vibrated with their excitement. Jordan smiled back - he was ready, and excited, and nervous. Butterflies fluttered gently in his stomach that had nothing to do with winning.

How silly.

He was also surprised to find Crosby so into it. Usually girls were like nachos and cheesecake: beautiful, delicious, strictly off-limits. But while Sid hadn’t said anything about Liz, he had listened to Jordan with a significant amount of interest.

It might just be the Kid is fishing for tips. Or maybe he’s already made his move.

Jordan hopped the curb and hit the ice. The lights were so bright you could have done surgery in the goal crease, and he scanned the faces near the glass. At speed it was hard to tell one from the next. They wheeled around and around, until finally breaking off one by one to line up for drills. He was almost in position when he saw her.

She was smiling. That devastating smile was the first real thing he remembered about her. It had cut through the hangover fog and morning after fear, and now it cut through the chaos of the game and stabbed him right in the heart.

“Hi,” he said out loud so she could read his lips. She waved one hand, completely covered by the arm of his jersey.

I’m in trouble.

Kris skated by and whacked Jordan with his stick. It was all he could do to keep his eyes on the puck while the passed and skate until the series was over.

“You might want to wear a condom, Jordy, the zamboni gets around,” TK said at the way he was stretching his groin, nearly humping the ice surface. Cary didn’t bother to pretend she wasn’t watching. Jordan blushed at the comment and TK just gave Cary an awkwardly gloved thumbs-up.

Jordan missed his cue for the next drill. He was out of sync from the first stride, almost blew the set pass and ended up finishing in the boards. It happened sometimes, people took a spill. Geno hauled him up by the neck like a clumsy lion cub.

“Sexy,” Malkin said. Jordan shook it off , taking his place at the end of the line near the bench. Right in front of Coach.

“You done?” Bylsma asked sarcastically. Jordan nodded, head hung so no one could see him blushing. Disco Dan slapped him on the shoulder. “She’s cute, don’t fuck it up.”


As penance, he went to the locker room with the first group to leave. But he made sure to get a smile before he went.

Once the game started, Jordan found it easy to get in the zone. It was too loud, to fast and dangerous for anything it distract him. He and his teammates had been trained from an early age to drown out everything the ice. Dallas played well and the game was pretty even through one period. In the second, Crosby dangled two defensemen and scored on a wicked top-shelf backhand. His goober smile was twice as big as ever. They went to the locker room up by one.

Jordan chugged a Gatorade and wondered what Cary was thinking. She must be loving the game. But was she snuggling into his jersey and missing his arms around her? He missed it. Was she thinking that twenty minutes of game time were all that separated them for who knew what? Or did she know? Jordan openly confessed he had no idea.

“So?” Sid asked.

Jordan shrugged. “Dunno, man.”

Sid bit his lip in a way that could fell an army of women. Jordan saw the irony in him doing it worried over just one girl.

“Don’t worry,” he told the captain. “It’ll all work out.”

I hope.

Sarah leaned toward the end of the row and handed beers back to the girls. Their seats were in the ridiculous section just to the right of the Penguins bench close enough to cost a car payment. Most of their neighbors had gotten up to stretch their legs during the second intermission, but with beer delivery the girls saw little reason to move.

“Okay, let’s hear it.” Sarah took her seat and a sip of her beer. Liz looked at the floor. Cary looked at the upper deck.

“Oooohhhhkay,” she answered herself.

Four thousand. Maybe five.

Cary estimated that of the twenty thousand people in Consol Energy Center, forty percent were women. And of those eight thousand people, at least half would trade places with her. Pay for the privilege, give an arm and a leg to be the girl who woke up next to Jordan Staal. Two days in a row. Yet all she could feel was the knot in her stomach that said her time was up.

The two most exhilarating experiences of her life - being with Jordan and watching him play - were tied together like laces on a corset, threatening to cut off her breath. He moved on the ice the way he’d moved with her, moved in her, and Cary felt like her secrets were on display for everyone to see. The most basic function of evolution sought suitable mates - strong, smart, capable, enduring. Every woman within a mile must feel that pull toward Jordan. But unless she was very mistaken, he felt it toward her too.

God knows why.

But Cary didn’t care if he was crazy, as long as he didn’t change his mind.

So the twenty minutes on the clock would count down to a big win or a huge loss, regardless of what the scoreboard said.

“I don’t know,” she finally admitted.

Liz did. “Sid asked to visit when they come to DC.”

Cary jerked so hard the chair tried to fold up with her still inside. A quick balancing flick of her arm kept the beer from becoming liquid confetti.

“WHAT?!” Sarah practically screamed from her other side.

Liz’s face wasn’t the happy grin it should have been. Lines gathered at the corners of her eyes, getting deeper until she finally she tossed the hair from her face and sighed. “But of course that means me visiting him, because he’s not going to rent a car and drive to Baltimore at nap time. So even if I go there, and even if I stay over then what? They’re not back in DC for months.”

“Or Philly,” Cary pointed out. “I checked.”

“I could see him again. I want to. Obviously.” She looked from Sarah to Cary, cracked a smile and they all started laughing. It was ridiculous to say but even crazier to consider actually happening. They were giddy and stressed out and freezing.

“I mean, hello!” Liz said.

Sarah gasped between giggles. “I thought there was something wrong with you. Or maybe he was just so... so... oh my God. Maybe you’d seen something that you could never recover from.”

Liz put both hands over her face while Cary wrapped an arm around her shoulders. Sarah leaned in too.

“Sorry Lizzy,” she said.

Liz was smiling, albeit thinly. “I just don’t want to be waiting around, hoping for a few seconds of his precious time and feeling like a clinger, you know? I want something too, and I don’t see how he has anything to give.”

Cary squeezed her friend. It was sad but probably true and at least Liz saw it early in the game. Her slower, more thoughtful approach gave her the time to be honest with herself.

“Because you know I’d fall in love with him,” she admitted, turning her empty palms up in her lap. “Immediately.”

Sarah and Cary nodded like they knew all about it.

I have to do something. Liz is right, but I can’t just walk away.

She excused herself, ignoring the concerned looks on her friends faces as she climbed the stairs.

“Yes!” Jordan shouted as he was pummeled into the end boards by Geno and Sidney. So what if it was a garbage power play goal? Somewhere in here, Cary was screaming for him.

“Fuckin’ right!” Sid cheered.

Jordan got out from under them and skated the length of the bench, fist-bumping his teammates. The Pens were up 3-2 with four minutes left. Then plopped down, intensely proud of himself.

Four minutes until anything.

He had no plan. Well, he had ten plans but none he could be sure that Cary would agree too. She had come on a mini-break to let loose with her friends and that had been accomplished in spades. Maybe she wasn’t interested in taking Girls Gone Wild home with her, like leftovers from last night’s dinner.

A flurry of close calls ran the clock out and the buzzer rattled Jordan’s fillings. He joined the Pens on the ice and gave Flower a massive hug. A staffer stopped him in the hallway - he was the night’s second star.

By the time they cleared the ice and made the announcement, Consol was half empty. Sidney was named third star and got cheered like he’d cured a disease. Jordan liked to think his reception was just as loud. He made the trip across the ice and tipped his stick over the glass to a little kid in a Winter Classic sweater. He was almost back to the bench when he saw her.

Cary had come down a few rows from the ice, off to one side. The area around the bench and tunnel were packed, but over there Jordan could see her perfectly. Dark blond hair to her shoulders, dimples flashing. And a huge, proud smile in her face. The overly long sleeve of his jersey was balled in each of her fists and she waved at him.

He wanted to kiss the glass. He wanted to climb over the railing in his skates and jump on her. Instead he grabbed the same staffer who’d stopped him before.

“See the girl in the black behind my left shoulder?”

The guy leaned slightly, not giving anything away. His eyes flicked around and then went still - Jordan knew he’d found Cary. She was the hottest girl over there and it was not the first time one of the guys had picked one out of the crowd. A little red haze splattered in Jordan’s vision to have anyone think of her that way.

“She’s my girlfriend. Can you bring her downstairs?”

If the guy’s face registered the comment, Jordan didn’t see it. He was already halfway to the locker room.

I’m going to do it now.

If only he knew what it was.

Cary thought she saw Jordan wave a glove in her direction, and now an employee in a Pens pullover was looking at her intently. He raised one hand, palm out, as if asking her to wait. Sarah and Liz helped themselves to seats, but left an empty one between them. No one talked. It was nearly four in the afternoon. A five hour drive home loomed ahead, plus things to do and worse, work tomorrow.

Real life, falling like a house from the sky.

Cary twisted her hands. She had some ideas, but nothing you could call a plan. Just then a second staffer appeared, introduced himself and led the way through a maze of halls and doors. The hustle and bustle grew until they passed the locker room. Media and employees were coming and going, carts of stinking equipment going one way and crates of gear going another. They were deposited in a lounge area with a few other women and families. Their curious glances seemed to say access to this club was granted only by approval of the women who ran the place. And Cary in her giant Staal jersey. Liz looked at her feet. Sarah helped herself to a cookie from the buffet. Cary wondered if anyone else could hear the pounding of her heart.

Pascal Dupuis came in, gave them a polite smile and soon had a kid under each arm. Brent Johnson kissed his wife while Brooks Orpik talked to a man who looked similar enough to be his father. Cary knew their names and faces, and had never felt so invisible herself.

What am I thinking?

“‘Allo girls.”

To the rescue.

Even the men turned at the sound of Kris’ voice. How anyone could be around him daily was a mystery to Cary. He sauntered across the room like it was a catwalk, all powerful and perfect grace, and didn’t stop till he was in Sarah’s face.

“Cherie,” he purred. For the first time ever, Cary saw Sarah was speechless.

Then Kris leaned in and with one hand gently cupping her face, kissed her so softly he may have missed. But the entire room felt it. Moms blushed and Dupuis covered his daughter’s eyes.

“Did you have fun?”

Sarah nodded mutely.


Jordan was behind Cary before she knew it. His long arms went right around her waist, wrapped across each other and hugged her tight. Those soft lips grazed her ear.

“My good luck charm,” he said softly.

A lot of things happened at once. Relief flooded Cary’s system like a hose turned on a fire. She hadn’t realized just how keyed up she was, and for how many reasons. Jordan had spent a normal game day, but it was something extraordinary to the girls. This place felt like a private party, and Jordan’s warm welcome had just validated Cary’s invitation. It also calmed her nerves - for the moment at least. She turned and buried her head in his chest, almost surprised to believe he was a real person after all.

Jordan tipped her chin up until she was looking into his bright blue eyes.

“You okay?”

“Just nervous,” she tried to cover. “Watching you play is suddenly very intense.”

“You never worried about me before?” he pretended to be hurt.

She pretended to be confident enough to smile. “I always worry about everyone. Now you get extra.”

Kiss me.

I should kiss her.

Jordan certainly wanted to. Her beaming face at rink side had been one thing, but the way she clung to him on contact in the lounge was entirely different. There was need and intensity there, maybe even fear. Cary said she was worried about him out there. Jordan thought he felt something more.

I’m reading into this. I’m making shit up.

But she looked so good wearing his number. James and TK arrived and they all talked about the game while most of the guys picked up their families and headed home. They couldn’t leave because there was no where to go.

Jordan checked his watch. The girls had a long way to go home, if indeed they were leaving. It was closing in on evening. Cary looked at her watch and made an annoyed face.

She wants to get going.

His heart sank. He had intended to do something - ask her to stay, or invite her back next weekend at his expense. Or go with her, if she invited. He could skip tomorrow’s practice. The words had been on the tip of his tongue when he first came in, as he’d whispered in her ear.

But now they were gone. She shifted her weight anxiously, bumping against his side on every right foot and sending a throb of longing through his body. This morning they’d been asleep in each other’s arms. Yesterday they’d been screaming each others’ names. And now, when something really needed to be said, Jordan couldn’t make it come.

Sidney was the last one in, always the most-interviewed. Liz stepped back and almost behind Cary. Crosby’s shitty poker face fell, a billboard for disappointment. And just like that, it was all gone. Sid recoiled like he’d been slapped.

“We, uh, can’t really stay here. They close up,” he informed everyone like a boy scout leader. But his eyes were locked on Liz who could not return the favor. TK and James wandered out in ignorance. Kris and Sarah followed, still eyeing each other like cuts of meat.

Cary was close enough to touch but Jordan didn’t do it. He remembered how the span of her waist fit into his hands as he followed her into the hallway. A second ago he would have followed her anywhere.

James and TK were out of sight. Kris and Sarah kept moving toward the more deserted areas of the building, and Jordan wished him joy of her one last time, since it suddenly looked like he would not be getting the same.

As he stepped out of the lounge, the door swung shut behind the. Cary and Jordan both jumped. Sid and Liz were still inside, and they were now very much alone.

Jordan had been so happy to see Cary, but it disappeared like smoke. It was as if he remembered they were in public, and sober, not somewhere he could laugh her off like a bad joke. Around his teammates and friends, he got stiff and pulled his touch away. Then he checked his watch like he had big important plans somewhere far away from there.

Good thing I didn’t...

Cary wasn’t expecting the door to close behind them. She hoped Liz could remember the smart things she’d said - and secretly hoped she’d ignore them anyway. But the longer they stayed in there... Cary looked at her watch again.

“In a hurry to go?” The accusatory tone of Jordan’s voice surprised her. As did the venom in her own.

“Am I keeping you from something? I’m pretty sure I can read an exit sign if you have to leave.”

He was so improbably beautiful. Everything from the curve of his jaw to the span of his shoulders was designed for maximum devastation. Cary felt it standing so close. He parted those pillowy lips to speak, then stopped. Then again. Every time his tongue flicked out, her sense memory activated a place where he’d used that on her body. She held her breath.

“So you’re just going to leave?” he finally said in a flat, even voice.

“Is there an alternative?” Of course there was, but she wasn’t sure what it could be.

“Life is full of choices, Cary.”

What a cliche! She tried to keep her voice calm. “What would you have me do, Jordan?”

Cary couldn’t believe they were fighting. It was classic girl-boy stuff: his words and actions made promises he never intended to keep. And she had eaten them up like fucking flowers on a birthday cake.

Well if he brought me here for some farewell fuck in the equipment closet, he’s going to be disappointed.

But really the disappointment was hers. Despite knowing what Liz had said about Sid was true for them all, she had stupidly let herself believe.

Jordan Staal. Wants me. Jordan Staal wants me.

Cary had to laugh.

“What about this is funny to you?”

She laughed at him. At his inability to read a situation, at his assumption that of course she’d want to stay with him.

I’m Jordan fucking Staal. I must think I’m the hottest shit, no girl would turn this down.

He was furious and ashamed that Cary would think he saw himself that way. No wonder she laughed.

“Just this. They’re all off....,” she waved toward where Sid had claimed privacy for himself and Liz, and in the direction Kris had taken Sarah for their last goodbye, “doing whatever after it felt like we started all this.”

She leveled her gaze at him, her voice caustic. “Good thing it was only a weekend.”

He growled. It was a low, dangerous noise that sometimes preceded him getting a penalty for knocking someone on their ass. But time time, it was for her.

He pushed Cary’s back to the far wall of the narrow hallway and glared down at her. She was so defiant with her fists balled and her posture tall and rigid. The perfect comeback, the precise words to make her feel as crushed as he did over this wild and random encounter, was right in the front of his mind.

But before he could say them, he made her look at him.

She will know that I mean what I say when she looks in my... oh.

Jordan blinked. His brain sounded an alarm of surprise. He expected to see anger in Cary’s eyes, but instead he saw fear.

Wrong, so wrong.

And he kissed her. Without thinking that she might be scared of him, of how angry he’d gotten and the way he’d pushed her against the wall. Without thinking that a kiss would lay him bare, leave him no defenses once it was over. He wanted this and he wanted her to know.

She squeaked in surprise and grabbed onto his shoulders - he couldn’t tell if she was trying to get closer or get away. But he finished the kiss, hard and serious, before letting go.

Her golden brown eyes were wide with shock. Those perfect lips were open slightly. Before she could gather her thoughts to tell him off, Jordan jumped at his chance.

“Cary, I can’t let you leave and just....”

She mashed her lips back to his. There was no mistaking her grip this time.

It was there, then it wasn’t, then it was back... Cary was getting dizzy. Jordan went hot and cold, sweet then angry, and suddenly in the middle of saying so long and thanks for all the sex, he was kissing the words right out of her mouth.

His lips were tight as if to press a message to her mouth, one he couldn’t get out any other way. She’d been too surprised and confused to respond. But then she got a moment to catch her breath and heard the magic words:

“I can’t let you leave and just....”

You can’t. You can’t let me leave at all.

She passed the message back the same way, hoping the lines were still open. This time he froze, but only for a second. With a ten-story drop of her stomach, Jordan returned Cary’s kiss so hard she nearly put her through the wall. They were there, groping and grinding like teenagers, when the lounge door opened.

“Well there’s your answer,” Sid said.

Jordan jumped back, remembering where they were. Then he laughed when he saw it was only Sid and Liz. Cary peeled herself off the wall. She noticed they were holding hands.

“Liz is going to visit next weekend,” Sid smiled, squeezing her hand. Liz blushed, but she didn’t look away from him.

Cary felt Jordan’s eyes hot on her skin. Whatever was coming was coming now and...

“Stay with me.”

He cleared his throat. “I mean, will you stay with me? This week? Then when Liz comes you guys can go home together.”

Jordan loomed right over her, cutting out their audience and eliminating anything from Cary’s mind but the look and feel of being with him.

“You know a lot more about my life than I do about yours. But if there’s anyway you can, I hope you will.”

Cary would have said yes anyway. She would have agreed to just about anything so long as he kissed her like that again, soon and often. But the concern in his brilliant blue eyes completely disarmed her. She did have a life back home - as much as she’d forgotten about it - and it wasn’t so easy as just staying. There were things to consider.

Luckily for Jordan, Cary had already considered them all.

“I called in sick. During the second intermission,” Cary announced.

Liz gasped. Sidney laughed. Jordan’s mouth dropped open.

“If you didn’t ask me, I was going to ask you. Or something,” she stammered. “I don’t know.”

I guess I really didn’t know.

Their heads all snapped around at the sound of clapping. Kris was coming up the hallway with Sarah tucked into his elbow, her hair more than a little disheveled. When they reached the group, Kris turned and caught Sarah’s arms in his hands.

“Next weekend, will you visit?” he asked as if it were no big deal. Sarah nodded like she was hypnotized. With a smile that made even Cary’s panties a little wet, he said, “I think you’re not done with me yet.”

With one massive hand, Jordan covered Cary’s eyes.

“Bye girls!” Jordan leaned forward in the driver’s seat of his truck and waved out the window. Liz and Sarah waved back as they got into a red VW Jetta.

Cary called out the window. “Don’t wreck my car!” The girls honked and pulled out of the hotel parking lot.

“She’s a terribly driver,” Cary told Jordan.

He shrugged. “If she wrecks it I’ll buy you a new one.”

She slapped his arm. “Please stop saying things like that.”

“Like what?”

I’ll buy her a new car so she can drive here every time we have a home stand.

“Ridiculously hot things like I’ll fix all your problems and eat more ice cream and by the way have you seen me naked?”

“Did I say that?” Jordan laughed. Cary put a hand to her forehead.

“You didn’t have to.”

He drove away from the hotel. Last time. She’s never staying there again. But only a few minutes away, he turned into a grocery store parking lot. Cary eyed him suspiciously.

“You should eat more ice cream,” he grinned. She laughed, a short bark of surprise that set him off giggling too Right over the center console he pulled Cary into his arms and kissed her cheek.

“By the way, have you seen me naked?”

-- end --


Loved it but what did he print off and stash in his locker??? Sequel please!!!!!!!!!!!!
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