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Rebecca Cale rushed down Centre Avenue and past the Consol Energy Center in a daze. She realized her mistake and retraced her steps, looking for the entrance to the formidable monstrosity. She was starting to get flustered, seeing as she was late as it is, and now she couldn’t even find the damn door. She had just let out an annoyed groan when she heard a deep chuckle from behind her. Rebecca whipped her head around, extremely embarrassed to be noticed in her moment of frustration.

“Can I help you?” asked a tall, dark haired man. Rebecca nearly squealed. James Neal was asking her if she needed help. The James Neal, forward for the Pittsburgh Penguins, was actually speaking to her. The James Neal, with the perfect, bedhead styled hair, was laughing at her.

“Uh, yeah,” Rebecca could feel the blush begin to creep across her face. “I’m supposed to be taking pictures for the new posters and whatever,” she finished lamely. The Penguins had asked Rebecca to take pictures to be used for the ad campaign for the new season.

“Well, if you want to come inside, the door’s over here,” James said, pointing around the corner. Rebecca fell into step beside the hockey player, hoping she wouldn’t have to talk. Lord knows she would only embarrass herself. But fate seemed to be against her, or maybe James Neal was just a talkative man.

“Aren’t you a little late for this thing?” he asked, holding the glass door open for Rebecca.

“Pressed the snooze button a few too many times, I guess,” she mumbled in response, fiddling with the button on her blazer. Rebecca had always been shy, considered a geek in school, and more concerned with her camera than boys. She had never been experienced in flirting with guys, and was finding even casual conversation with the hockey superstar far from easy.

“Ah, a girl after my own heart,” joked James. “I love some beauty sleep myself, although it doesn’t look like you need any.” Rebecca’s face felt like an inferno, and she was sure the vicious blush spreading like wildfire across her checks wouldn’t go unnoticed by James. Thankfully, she was sparred the horror of thinking of a response by the arrival of an important looking, middle aged man with salt and pepper hair.

“Finally,” he said, wheezing slightly as he approached Rebecca and James. “Miss Cale, I presume? We were starting to worry when you would get here.”

“S-sorry,” stammered Rebecca. “I didn’t-“

“It was my fault,” James interrupted. “You know I can’t help talking to beautiful ladies,” he continued, smirking down from his great height at Rebecca, who was much more diminutive in stature, especially in her flats. At that moment, Rebecca almost wished the floor would open up and swallow her whole. She couldn’t wait to get behind a camera. Maybe then James Neal wouldn’t be able to make her blush like a thirteen year old school girl. Or at least he wouldn’t be able to see her.

“Very well, let’s get going then,” said the suited man, leading the couple towards the ice. “Better go get changed, Neal,” he said as they passed the locker room.

“I bid thee a fair adieu, my lady,” said James with a dramatic bow. He smiled when he saw Rebecca’s confusion. “I’ll see you later, Becca!” were James’ parting words as the locker room door swung shut. Rebecca knew she should be focusing on what lenses and filters she should use for the shoot, or even what the older man was rambling about, but her thoughts were centered on one thing: since when did anyone give her nicknames? Much less a hockey stud like James Neal?


James Neal had never experienced a more enjoyable photo shoot in his life. Usually, it consisted of some gay guy yelling at him to pose this way or look that way, and they always messed with his hair. James had resigned himself to another boring as hell, painful shoot, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. This photographer, this Rebecca girl, was different. The shoot started off in the locker room. James was waiting at his locker talking to Sidney Crosby, Kris Letang, and Geno Malkin, the other players involved in the shoot.

“Hey, Nealer,” began Kris, “are you actually gonna go on a date if this photographer hits on you?” James had gotten a fair amount of ribbing since the last photo shoot, when the flamboyantly gay photographer slipped his number into James' bag, much to his teammate’s amusement.

“Definitely,” grinned James. To say the guys were surprised would be an understatement.

“You trying to tell us something?” asked Sid. “Because if you’re, you know, batting for the other team, we’re fine with it.”
James let out a loud, bark like, laugh. “What I’m trying to tell you geniuses is that the photographer is hot.”

“So the photographer is a girl?” asked Geno.

“Obviously,” Kris piped up. “Either that or Nealer is doing a great job covering up. How many gay guys do you know who have a different girl over every night?” Rebecca has walked into the locker room just as Kris had finished his assessment of James’ love life, much to his chagrin. There was no way around it, James Neal was a player, and usually not afraid to admit it, although not to the extent that Kris suggested. But it made James uneasy that Rebecca knew this, and he wasn’t exactly sure why.

“Alright guys, let’s get started,” said Rebecca. She had set up her camera and equipment, and her demeanor seemed to change. Gone was the nervous, stammering Rebecca from outside the Consol. In front of James was a confident, excited Rebecca. He didn’t know for sure, but James suspected it had something to do with the camera.

“Well, what do you want us to do?” Kris asked. The smirk he sent in Rebecca’s direction made James’ blood boil. Kris better not be planning on stealing his Becca away from him. Wait, since when had she become his Becca?

“Just talk, goof off, act normal, you know,” Rebecca responded with a shrug, adjusting the lens on her very expensive looking camera. “No one wants to see posed pictures. Be yourself.”


Rebecca had never enjoyed a photo shoot as much as she enjoyed the Penguins one. The guys were hilarious, and in the case of James Neal, extremely attractive. More than once Rebecca caught herself staring. Usually, she blushed furiously and hoped James hadn’t noticed. Although, once or twice, she would have sworn she saw James actually staring at her, except for the fact that James was a notorious ladies’ man and wouldn’t waste the time of day on her. As a matter of fact, he had probably told the other guys all about her less than stellar start to the shoot. Rebecca wouldn’t be surprised if they had all had a good laugh about it before she walked into the room. Nevertheless, the photo shoot went smoothly, and Rebecca found she had the shots she needed in no time. The guys talked among themselves as she packed up her equipment. Rebecca gave a little wave as she walked out of the locker room.

“Becca! Wait up!” called James. Rebecca nearly had a panic attack. Why was he talking to her again? Did she do something wrong? What the hell was going on? While Rebecca had been consumed by her questions, James had caught up. “Um, I was just wondering, you know, if maybe you wanted to go get a drink or something?” At first, Rebecca was elated. James Neal, hockey hottie, wanted to take her, geeky Rebecca who liked to play with cameras, out to get a drink. But a second later, her heart sank. Rebecca knew James didn’t mean any harm, but he would take her out for drinks, maybe some food, then back to his apartment for the night. That would be it. He would never text her, call her, or even see her again. Rebecca could try to tell herself that she wouldn’t care, that she could go have a fling and not get attached, but she knew it wouldn’t work. She would be crushed and alone, just a nerd and her camera. James was obviously a one night stand kind of guy, and Rebecca obviously wasn’t a one night stand kind of girl.

“I’m sorry, I don’t think that’s a good idea,” said Rebecca meekly, concentrating on the bow on her right shoe. “Sorry!” she squeaked again before turning on her heal, leaving a shocked James Neal in her wake. Rebecca walked towards the glass door she had walked through with James that morning and couldn’t help but wish that they could have left the building the same way they had entered: together.


No one had ever turned down James Neal. No one, except for Rebecca. That was all James thought about during the month of training camp, and right into the start of the season. Why would Rebecca say no? He had been nothing but charming. He was flirty, but not too forward. Not too serious, but not a clown. Actually, he had been himself, just as Rebecca had said, though James doubted she meant it the way he interpreted it. When James was trying to pick up a girl, he never acted like himself. Girls loved the sexy, strong hockey player, not the goofy, normal guy from Whitby, Ontario. But around Rebecca he had cracked jokes and goofed off as if she had been one of the guys. Maybe that was the problem? James hoped that wasn’t the reason Rebecca had turned him down. It had been liberating to find someone besides the guys on the team who liked him for who he was. Well, at least he thought Rebecca had liked him. James found his thoughts just went in circles, but he couldn’t stop. James also found that he didn’t have the normal desire to party and pick up girls. He spent more and more time at bars rather than clubs, nursing his wounds rather than moving on. It almost angered him that this girl who he barely knew had such a profound effect on him.

Little did James know, he had a similar effect on Rebecca. She was plagued by questions concerning that day. What if she had said yes? Would one drink really have been that bad? James seemed like a nice guy, he wouldn’t hurt her. Would he? He must have liked her. I mean, he gave her a nick name. He had called her Becca. Attractive hockey players don’t give just anyone a nickname. Or do they? Rebecca wasn’t really sure what to think. She tried to tell herself that it didn’t matter and to move on, but the conviction never lasted very long.
About two months after the photo shoot, James found himself in a club for the first time since he had met Rebecca. The Penguins had just destroyed the lowly Islanders in the home opener, 7-0. James was proud to say that his thoughts centered on Rebecca hadn’t distracted him. Actually, the idea that Rebecca could be watching motivated James, who badly wanted to impress her. As a result, he opened the 2012-13 season with a hat trick. The team had insisted on dragging him to the club, despite his protestations. Currently, James was sitting in the V.I.P. section bored to tears. His boredom ended abruptly when he saw a familiar figure hovering near the edge of the dance floor. James’ suspicions were confirmed when he saw that the petite girl in question was holding a camera. He nearly ran over half the team on his way to her side.

“Becca!” he called. James had to catch his breath when she turned around. They say that distance makes the heart grow fonder, and now James could fully attest to that sentiment.

“James?” He could see the blush spreading across her beautiful face even in the less than ideal lighting of the club. James loved when Rebecca blushed. “How are you?”

“I, I’m good,” James finally managed. Since when did girls turn James Neal, bona fide lady killer, into a stuttering fool? But then again, what other girl was like Rebecca? “Hey, do you want to go for a walk or something?” James could relate to the surprise evident on Rebecca’s face. Where had that come from?

“Uh, sure,” said Rebecca, surprising James even more. Drinks weren’t a good idea, but a walk in the middle of the night was? Whatever, thought James, beggars can’t be choosers.

“So what were you doing in there?” asked James. “I mean, it doesn’t really seem like your scene.”

Rebecca smiled. “I guess it’s not. I was just looking for some good shots, and nothing else is really going on right now.” She paused for a second, straightening her belt. “I saw the game.”

“You did?”

“Yeah, you were great.” James almost lost it at the sight of the small smile slowly spreading across Rebecca’s face. He nearly lost it again at the thought that he was the one who caused that smile. The conversation flowed easily from there. James acted as he would around one of the guys once he saw that it wasn’t scaring Rebecca away. Much to his delight, Rebecca began to open up more, laughing and cracking jokes. Even though he wouldn’t have thought it possible, James liked this Rebecca better than the timid one he had met at the Consol Center. Time seemed to fly by until they saw the sun rising on the horizon.

“Guess that’s my cue to head home,” said Rebecca, suddenly shy again.

“Wait, Becca.” James could feel a chance slipping away. “Do you want to go out sometime? Like, for dinner or something?”

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea, James-“ started Rebecca.

“And why not?” James couldn’t take it anymore. “What did I do? I mean, I had a great time tonight. And I thought you did too,” he finished softly.

“I did. Really, James, I did. But I don’t think I’m the right girl for you.”

“I think you are, Becca,” James grabbed both of her hands in his. “I know you’ve probably heard that I’m some kind of payer or whatever, and maybe I was, but this, when we’re together, I just feel different. In a good way, you know? We can take it slow, as slow as you want. It doesn’t matter to me, we can do whatever you want. I just want to be with you.”

It was the sincere look on James’ face that did Rebecca in. That, and the way her hands fit perfectly in James’. “Okay,” she said softly. But for once, she wasn’t blushing or looking down at her shoes. She was smiling, tilting her head upwards so she could look right into James’ eyes. She would never forget the smile that James rewarded her with. The moment ended when Rebecca couldn’t fight off a yawn anymore.

“C’mon, Becca,” said James, still smiling. “You might not need any beauty sleep, but I do.” They began walking, hand in hand, down the deserted street. Just as the sun emerged from below the horizon James stopped, gently pulling on Rebecca’s hand so she stood just in front of him.

“I like this,” he said. “You and me. Together.”

“Together,” agreed Rebecca, standing on her tip toes to press her lips to James. Although Rebecca and James shared many more kisses, they would always remember their first.


So this was a prize for a contest I did. I've never written about James Neal before, and I am DEFINITELY not a Penguins fan, so I really don't know if this is true to character or whatever, but I tried my best. Thanks for reading and comments are wonderful :)


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