Saturday, July 31, 2010

Chapter 19

She woke up all at once with her heart hammering in her chest and a gasp emitting from her lips. Her back was arched and sweat trickled down her skin between her breasts. Her hands were curled into fists in the sheets and her entire body was trembling. Slowly, she opened her eyes and the true reality of the situation began to sink in. Patrick wasn’t there with her. She was alone, in her bed in her tiny apartment and the orgasm that had awoken her had been produced entirely by her imagination.

“Fuckity fuck shit,” she moaned as her body began to relax into that boneless state that afterglow usually left her in and she closed her eyes and tried to will herself back to that place, to the feel of the tiles in the shower against her back, the water from the shower beginning to cool as his body pressed hers’…no slammed hers’ against the wall of the shower as his long, thick cock filled her completely and utterly and….

And it was gone. She could picture it, picture him, but the feeling, the belief that it had been reality, that she could feel him between her thighs, his hands holding her legs up and apart…it was all gone.

With a groan, Tabby rolled onto her side and brought the blanket with her. Would she, could she ever get over him? Her hand slid down and she placed it over her stomach. She couldn’t feel anything yet, not from the outside, but there was a certain kind of heaviness that she’d been labeling water retention for weeks now. Now that she knew what it really was, she curled herself around and squeezed her eyes shut. She pictured the little tadpole like creature inside of her and felt a smile grow on her lips.

“I’m sorry little guy.” Despite Trina’s protests, she’d felt sure, almost from the moment that the test had confirmed her worst fears, that it was a boy. “I’m sorry you won’t have a father,” she whispered, stroking her stomach with the flat of her hand as she apologized. “And I’m sorry I’m so fucking horny,” she added biting down on her bottom lip as she did. “Oops, gonna have to learn not to swear so fucking much too,” she giggled.

It was a strange feeling, she’d decided as she’d tried to explain it to Mel over lunch that day. She felt like she’d been carbonated, like her stomach was full of tiny bubbles. That was the best she could do, other than to say she felt a bit like she’d swallowed an entire baked potato whole. She had her first scan in the morning and maybe, she hoped, it would all feel a little more real then.


“Okay that was one tasty little chickita banana,” Jordan stared after the third girl that Sid had turned away, his mouth literally agape as he watched her booty sway in a pair of painted on jeans. “I know you got a little unlucky once Creature, but you can’t let that turn you off all women,” the tall forward continued, his gaze still glued on the formidable junk in the girl’s trunk. For himself, Sid’s gaze was back on the ice in the bottom of his drink.

“Give it up Jordo,” Max sighed, draping his arms around his teammates’ shoulders, or at least over Sidney’s and somewhat near Jordan’s. “He’s still mooning over his summer romance.” Sidney narrowed his eyes at his friend but there was little point in arguing the point. Besides the fact that it was true, arguing with Max rarely had any benefits.

“Really?” Jordan turned and stared at Sid, his sky blue eyes filled with the sort of wonder of a five year old who had just figured out that Santa doesn’t really exist. He looked sort of confused and sad all at the same time. It almost made Sidney smile; almost. “Really?” the big forward repeated again, and this time there was just the hint of a challenge in his voice. Sid could merely shrug. Again, there was little point in arguing. For Jordan it was always a case of out of sight out of mind. That was a way of thinking that Sidney wished that he could cultivate, but in this case, he’d tried and he’d failed, miserably. “What is it about this chick?” Out of the corner of his eye, Sid thought he saw his roommate, Dupes, giving the sign not to go there, but it was too late and having told Duper hadn’t seemed to get it off of his chest.

“She’s like no one I’ve ever been with,” he began to which Max muttered something about her ‘not only seeing him as a walking wallet stuffed with hundreds’. He glared at his fuzzy faced friend and then continued. “I felt…simple, free with her. I felt more like myself, not ‘Sid the Kid’,” he made bunny ears around the nickname he most hated in the entire world and then shrugged. “When I was with her I felt the most real I’ve felt in…well, let’s just say I haven’t felt like that in a long time.”

“The thing I’ve been trying to explain to nos ami,” Pascal interjected, “is that it was pretty easy to feel like someone else when he was being someone else and he was pretty fortunate to be in his own community where people know him well enough to give him some space and let him play make believe.” Sidney had heard the argument and he understood its merits but on the other hand….

“When have I ever had the opportunity for a girl to just get to know me? Not,” he raised his hands to make the bunny ears again when Max snorted and shook his head.

“But she didn’t, did she mon ami? She knows Patrick, not Sidney. She doesn’t know about you and hockey et sans savoir de tu et d’hockey, elle ne tu connaît pas du tout, d’accord?” Max tilted his head and gave him one of those looks that said he knew so much more about the world of women than Sid was ever likely to and it made him squirm. “Even if you found her, and I am assuming from your mood that she has still not called, oui?” Sid sighed but nodded. There was little point in lying about it if it was that obvious. “Well, even if you do, and then, say you bring her to the ‘Burgh…then what? As tu pensé à ce sujet?”

The fact was that he had, over and over again. He’d gone over the idea in his head so many times that it nearly felt real to him. As soon as he explained who he was, she would understand the rest and she’d forgive him. Or at least that’s the way it went in his imagination.

“It doesn’t matter. She’s not going to call,” he said aloud, though in his heart he refused to believe it. They’d had something. They’d shared something real. He had to find her.

“Then why give up on that grade A piece of ass?” Jordan asked, his face contorted in a way that said it hurt him to watch the girl disappear into the crowd. Sidney could merely shrug in response. They didn’t understand. None of them did and he didn’t know how else to explain it. He was going to find her and it was going to be fine. Happily ever after in fact, but if someone asked him to tell them how he knew all he’d be able to say is that he did and for these guys…that would never be enough.

“If you’d just like to jump up on the table and scoot down to the end,” the technician smiled and turned on the machine next to the examination table. Tabby eyed it suspiciously as she lay down and opened her jeans, pushing them down over her hips. “This might be a bit cold,” the young woman added as she squeezed some kind of cold gel over her abdomen and Tabby winced. “I did warn you,” she added with another warm smile. Did this kind of woman go into Obstetrics because they were nice or did nice girls just end up here, Tabby wondered as she tried her best to relax, even though every muscle, every fiber in her body seemed to be strained to the breaking point and when her phone began to vibrate in her pocket, she almost fell off of the table.

“Sorry,” she apologized, digging her phone out of her pants pocket and staring down at the display. “Damn,” she hissed.

“If it’s important,” the technician eyed her with that jaded look as if to say ‘damn girls and their phones’.

“No, it’s just my agent,” Tabby explained, shutting her phone off. Between her art editor and the useless real estate agent who still hadn’t been able to sell the house, she was beginning to wonder why she’d let Mel talk her into buying another phone. “So, you’ll be able to tell how far gone I am?” Tabby asked, her gaze already glued to the static laced screen.

“Mmmhm,” the technician replied noncommittally as she placed the magic wand in the cold gel and began to move it in small, slow circles. Tabby wanted to ask ‘is that it? Is that it?’ every time she thought she could see something solid on the screen. She was now wishing very much that she had taken up Mel on her offer to accompany her but instead she took a deep breath and tried, again, to relax. She watched the tech readjust the knobs and dials and did her best to stay calm and not interrupt or act like one of those super excited moms to be. “See this,” the technician said at long last, hitting some button that made the image on the screen freeze before she pointed to what, at first, looked a hell of a lot like a peanut. Tabby peered at the black and white image and then at the technician helplessly. “Wait,” the tech made the image bigger, or clearer, but suddenly there it was, a perfectly formed little alien with tiny feet and hands and a giant head.

“Oh my god,” Tabby breathed, seeing the little being staring back at her. It took her a moment to realize that there was not only an image but a sound as well. “Is that…is that my heartbeat?” she asked.

“No, that’s the fetus,” the woman replied without looking away from what she was doing. Tabby continued to stare at the image on the screen, her mouth agape. She wanted to fold her hands over her stomach. She wanted to cry.

“I didn’t expect it to be…anything…I mean not yet.”

“Looks about ten to eleven weeks,” the woman replied, moving the little wand once again to change the picture. Tabby stared at the image, watched him tumble and stretch and felt her breath catch in her throat. “The magic number,” the technician added, tilting her head to one side and regarding Tabby with a raised eyebrow.

“What’s that?” Tabby asked, her gaze still riveted to the image on the screen.

“Well,” the woman stopped moving the wand and reached for a cloth to clean the gel from Tabby’s stomach. “It’s the point that most surgeons will put on the decision timetable for termination.” Tabby blinked and then turned to stare at the woman in her clinically white lab coat.

“Because I’m here alone?” Tabby asked quietly, reaching down to do up her jeans.
“That’s why you’re saying that, right?” The woman continued to clean her instruments and put them away but she shrugged and nodded.

“I’m not suggesting anything,” the woman replied, setting the printer humming and, after a moment, she turned to hand a small black and white print out to Tabby, who held it in both of her hands and stared down at it. “You’re young. It’s not as easy and fun as you might think,” she added. Tabby slid off of the examination table and headed for the door.

“I’m under no illusions,” Tabby replied quietly as she pushed the door open, “at least I don’t think I am.” Her hands shook as she said it and she wasn’t sure she believed it, but what she did know beyond anything else was that she was madly, deeply and irrevocably in love with the little being in the grainy photo in her hands.


Sid sat alone in the dark of his room, staring out at the leaves on the ground and wondered where in the world Tabby was right now and what she was doing. It was hard for him to believe that months had passed since they’d fought and parted because the pain of that separation still felt raw to him. His heart felt bruised and he still felt confused and lost when he thought of her and yet he couldn’t stop doing it.

Right now he was supposed to be napping. He had a game in a few hours and this was the time he should be conserving energy, emptying his mind, not punishing himself and filling his head with thoughts over which he had no control. His hand balled into a fist and he slammed it against the wall, wincing as the meat of his hand split against the solid wood wall. He shook his hand and grimaced as he turned to lie on his back, to stare up at the blank ceiling.

She hadn’t called. She probably wasn’t going to call and he probably wasn’t ever going to see her again, which meant he really should do what it seemed like all of his teammates were suggesting…forget her and move on with his life. With his hands behind his head, Sid let his gaze go unfocussed and tried to will her out of his mind except as soon as he did that, she was there, with that long mane of ebony hair, the colour of a raven’s wing, fanning across his pillow, with her cute little nose all wrinkled up as she giggled.

He closed his eyes and the specter of her took on a more solid form. He could smell paint thinner and lavender soap. He could feel her hair shrouding him like a waterfall. He could feel her ivory skin under his fingertips as she straddled him, her strong thighs alongside his, her full breasts teasingly close to his mouth.

Sidney moaned as he felt her body press down over his. She liked to tease him, stroking her warm, wet pussy over his aching cock until he couldn’t stand it anymore. She would giggle as her lithe fingertips traced the lines of his chest, making patterns that only her vivid imagination could see. He would reach for her, wanting to tease her back, but she would shake her head and sit up, holding her breasts just out of his reach and then….

Sidney wriggled out of his shorts and took his now throbbing cock in his hand as he watched her bite down and drag her bottom lip into her mouth as she teased her own nipples, rolling the hard, pink buds between her fingers as she looked down at him, knowing the sweet torture it was only to be able to watch. But there was one thing he could do and her head tilted back until all that black hair fell down her back and tickled his thighs. He stroked her clit, his hand between his pelvis and hers’ as she pushed down and rocked against him. With a little ‘come hither’ motion of his fingers he could make her cry out, her eyes squeezing shut, her body giving into a shudder that would end the teasing.

She would look down at him then, her dark eyes alight with a fire, her full lips parted in a smile and they would come together, her body raising just enough to slide down over him, and she was so hot and wet and tight….

Sidney’s cock jerked in his hand as his balls pulled in tight to his body and a stream of jism arced into the air and up his stomach. He heard himself call out her name as his entire body went taught and bowed as the orgasm held him in its grip.

How could he forget her? He asked himself as he reached for a tissue beside his bed and did his best to clean up the mess her memory left him with. He’d just have to find some other way of finding her, even if it took hiring a private detective he’d do it, he vowed silently as he wiped the last of the sticky white substance from his stomach, because there was no forgetting her.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Chapter 18

“But…do you know who I am?”

It was a last resort and one Sidney hated to use. Unless it was for charity, he hardly ever tossed his name and reputation into the ring but this was the third person he’d been passed on to and he could clearly hear in this woman’s voice that he had hit the end of the road.

“All I can tell you, sir, is that while I do know of a Tabitha King, she is not an employee of Harlequin as such and even if she was, we have a strict policy against giving out personal information of any kind to anyone, no matter who he might be,” she added in that sort of tone that a librarian might use to shush rowdy kids during study hall. Sidney paced the hallway, trying to come up with yet another argument that might get this woman to give him just enough information to go on but he was coming up empty.

“Look, I just need to know where I can get a hold of her about…about a painting,” he stammered, thinking of the one that had arrived on his mother’s doorstep that she had thought he had bought for her. “I just wanted to get a payment to her,” he added, hoping that his agent was right when he said everyone had a price.

“If you would like to send a payment, I’d be happy to accept that on her behalf,” the woman said, her tone saying that she was just about out of patience for this game and Sidney knew the clock was ticking. It was like sitting in the sin bin, watching the seconds tick away, waiting for the official to open the door so he could hit the ice. Only this time he knew he’d be hitting a brick wall.

“Give me that.”

Sidney felt his blackberry being pulled out of his hand and found himself staring at Max as he grinned into the phone with his best ‘guest coming to dinner’ fake smile.

“Hello Madame? I am Pat Brisson, Sidney Crosby’s agent and what my client has been pussy-footing around is the small matter of likeness being used on a number of covers of your product,” Max held a single finger up towards Sid when he opened his mouth to protest. The last thing he wanted was Tabitha getting into trouble over that or getting Pat or the league involved. That would just turn into a colossal cluster fuck. “Yes Madame, I’m sure that you didn’t realize or you would have been in touch with me before now….No, I can assure you we will not be looking for compensation, at this time,” Max added with a wink as Sidney shook his head and gave him his best ‘I am so going to fucking kill you’ glare. “My client merely wishes to get in contact with the artist again about a painting that was unfinished when last they were in touch. It was for a…,” Max tilted his head to one side and got that look on his face that made Sidney shake his head. “It was for a…charity auction and my client is most anxious that he be in receipt of the work on time….Yes, it was a sort of friendly exchange. You could say that.” Max could hardly contain himself, he had to cover his mouth to stop from laughing and Sidney raised a clench hand in warning. “Yes well, if you can have her call my client back at this number, it is most urgent that he hear from her…oui Madame, no thank you,” he added with a flourish handing Sidney’s phone back to him with a gleeful sort of grin. “Well if that doesn’t do it, mon ami, then I don’t know what to say,” Max added triumphantly.

“If she gets into trouble,” Sidney warned, his teeth grinding together as he stared his friend down.

“Mon capitaine, tu inquiétes beaucoup trop,” Max grinned, reaching out to pat Sidney on the shoulder. “Do you want to see your beautiful artiste again?” he added, reaching up to cup Sidney’s cheek before giving it a firm pat. “Then trust ton Oncle Max.”

“I wouldn’t trust ton Oncle Max as far as I could throw him, which, if he keeps chowing down on poutine before the games is not fucking far at all,” Jordy tossed his two cents in as he walked by in nothing but a towel, reaching out to pat Max’s stomach as he went by. Max let out a howl of protest and set out after the tall blonde forward, grabbing his towel and yanking it off but missing the forward himself.

Sidney watched them go and stared down at his phone and wondered if Max’s ploy would work. He certainly hoped so. He had finally given in last night, sitting alone on his bed at Mario’s, and he’d called her number, only to find that it was no longer in service.

Had she done it because of him? Or was she that in need of money?

He’d checked with Taylor and she’d confirmed with a drive by that the big house was still for sale. He knew Tabby had put a lot of her own money into the work they’d done on the house and he felt even guiltier about how everything had turned out.

Mostly he missed her, even more lately now that he was spending his nights alone, staring at the ceiling. She was on his mind all of the time, it seemed.

He stared at the phone and silently willed it to vibrate in his hand.

“Coming?” Coach Dan emerged from his office in his wind suit, whistle around his neck, stick in hand. Sidney nodded his head and turned to follow his coach out to the ice. Working out helped, and maybe if he worked hard enough he could forget the empty spot that he could feel deep in his chest; at least for a little while.


Tabby stared at the blue and white stick in her hand and felt tears welling up in her eyes.

“Shit,” she said again as she reached for the box with her free hand and pulled out the instructions again. Not that she needed to read them again. Mel had forced her to buy the digital one that would read pregnant or not pregnant. She knew exactly what she was looking at and the only thing that would come out of her mouth was, “shit.”

“How you doin’ in there babes?” Trina, one of her friends from school had also stuck around, ‘for moral support’ and Tabby knew she should be glad to know that her friends were there for her, but with her panties around her ankles, her ass still hanging over the cold bowl and a damned stick in her hand telling her that her future was shot, it was a little difficult to conjure any kind of warm fuzzy feeling.

“You should have a read out by now,” Mel knocked on the door and Tabby put the stick down gently on top of the box before struggling to pull up her panties, flush the toilet and pull down her skirt before she turned on the tap and ran the water until it got good and cold. She wasn’t sure if it was an old wives tale, but she stuck her wrists under the cold water and then pressed them to her forehead and the sensation of vertigo seemed to subside, for now anyway.

“Babes?” Trina was at the door now too and she could see their concerned faces in her mind. They were the ones that had put two and two together before she did, the nausea, the sudden sensitivity to certain smells and the overwhelming need to eat doughnuts of every size, shape and colour. How she’d managed to overlook that she’d missed her period all this time and then there was the fact that her tits just plain hurt….

Tabby counted back on her fingertips. Not that she should really need to. She knew when the last time she’d had sex was. No one needed to remind her of that. What she couldn’t remember was exactly when she started missing periods, what with the stress of moving and then setting up the show and deadlines for Illustrations and….

“Tabs! Seriously! Get your fucking ass out here and tell us what it says!” That was Trina, about as patient as a three year old outside a candy store.

“You know what it says,” she mumbled, half to herself as she opened the door and pressed the stick into Mel’s waiting hands. She didn’t wait for her reaction. In fact, she purposefully walked away from her to give her friend time to school her features. She knew Mel would be grinning like the fucking Cheshire Cat behind her until she realized that Tabby wasn’t skipping and clapping like a demented cheerleader.

Trina, on the other hand, had slumped into a chair, her long legs over the arm, fanning herself like she was the one finding out that she had a bun in the oven. Tabby stopped at the fridge and admired her friend’s self possession. She couldn’t afford that kind of emotional self indulgence. Well, not anymore anyway.

“What are you going to do?” Tabby turned to see Mel doing her damndest to keep her expression neutral, but she could see the glint in her dark eyes.

“Oh c’mon you both know damn well what I’m going to do,” she sighed as she yanked the fridge door open and reached for the Nanaimo bars her mother had sent home with her the other night. The sugary, chocolaty pieces of heaven that she’d been avoiding as she’d told herself that she had to get back into her skinny jeans. Well there was no fucking chance of that now, she mused as she pulled the whole tray out and cut herself a piece about as big as five dollar bill and slid it onto a plate, licking her fingers as she turned back to face her friends who were both staring at her, waiting. “What? Oh c’mon. You know if it was either of you, or anyone we know, I’d be supportive either way; your body, your choice. But this is me and I’m just not flushing anything down the drain just because I was stupid,” she sighed and then smiled down at the chocolate topped treat on her plate. She lifted the bar to her mouth and bit off a large piece, grinning around it as she chewed happily, rolling the ultra sweet, smooth filling around her tongue.

“So I’m gonna be an Aunty?” Mel gazed down at the stick and then up at Tabby like a kid expecting her favorite toy to be snatched away by the mean older sister. Tabby laughed and nodded, her mouth too full to answer out loud. Mel let out a little squeal and started bouncing up and down while Trina rolled her dark eyes and let out a dramatic sigh.

“Oh don’t be like that Trins. You can be the Aunty that buys the kid its’ first dimebag, helps it sneak out of the house, covers for it when it doesn’t make it by curfew, teaches it how to make shit mix…,” Tabby paused as the sugary sweetness in her mouth suddenly seemed to sour. “Oh Christ…I’m gonna be a momma.”

“You’ll be a great mom,” Mel gushed, putting the stick aside and coming around the island to put her arms around Tabby and after a minute Tabby felt Trina join in the hug.

“Yeah, and if you suck, we’ll be here to help, I guess,” Trina added, her enthusiasm, or lack thereof, making Tabby smile. “But before you ask, I don’t do diapers.”

“I would never presume,” Tabby sighed, reaching around to give Trina a squeeze, which left Mel as the cuddly filling in the sandwich.

“We’ll buy a diaper Jeanie and a monitor and….”

“Whoa there sunshine,” Tabby unwound both of her friends from her and went back to the fridge to look for some milk, to cut the sweetness of the bar. “I’m a single mom, and a fucking art student at that. I have a bad feeling we’ll be washing out cloth diapers. Have you ever seen the price of pampers?”

“Oh well then you can definitely forget about me helping,” Trina made a face like she was actually facing a dirty diaper, waving her hand in front of her face and gagging. “God, can’t the guy you knocked you up help out a little? I mean, I assume there were two of you in on this decision not to use protection, genius.”

“I’m pretty sure he doesn’t exist,” Tabby sighed as she poured the cold milk into a tall glass, “or at least the version of him he told me about,” she added as she took the glass and the plate out into what worked as the living room in her tiny apartment, which was a bean bag chair, a worn black suede love seat that dipped in the middle, and a very old wingback chair, which she loved and settled into now. “Did I tell you that I called just about every marketing company that advertises that it does work with sports and not one of them had a Patrick Lemieux working for them? I mean…so if he lied about that, what else did he lie to me about?”

“You could call him,” Mel pointed out, glancing quickly at Tabby’s phone that was sitting out on the coffee table beside her purse. “You did say you had his number.”

“Yeah, I could, if I hadn’t shut it off last month,” Tabby moaned, closing her eyes. “And before you say it, yes I know I could just turn it on and get his number and call from your phone but honestly…he lives, well I don’t fucking know where the asshole lives but I don’t need him. We don’t need him,” she added, her hand going protectively to her stomach and then all three of them looked at one another and there was not a single dry eye in the room.

“Mario…,” Sid growled as his land lord and mentor gave him a little shove in the direction of the cute blonde that had sung the national anthem at the game. “It was Max that said she was cute,” he argued but Mario’s width and height stopped him from turning around and going back, and besides, now she was watching him expectantly. She was wearing too much make up and he could tell from this far away that she had extensions. Another fake Hollywood wannabe.

“Just be nice,” Mario insisted, his big fingers digging into his shoulder as he ‘guided’ him in the direction he wanted him to go. “Nathalie and I are worried about the way you’ve been moping around lately,” his mentor added, sounding just like most of the guys on the team. They didn’t like him whoring around, they didn’t like him staying home…what the hell did these people want?

“Sidney, this is Delta Goodrem,” Shero gave Sidney that look that there was no other way to interpret. It was the kind of look he’d gotten used to when people wanted him to take their daughter or their niece out. It said, be nice, show here a good time, but be a gentleman. As if there was any other way he was going to be. He put his hand out and watched her place her small hand in his. She seemed fragile, tiny.

“Hi,” he said and watched as she blushed and batted her eyelashes. Jesus, did girls really think that worked? It made him think of the first time he’d met Tabby and she’d turned him into the stammering, bumbling idiot.

“It’s nice to meet you,” she whispered it, like she could barely speak in his presence, but she reached out with her other hand and pawed at his arm while she looked up at him through her fake eyelashes. Did women come out of the womb knowing how to flirt like this? Fortunately he seemed immune to this kind of thing. Jordy, or Max on the other hand….

“So have you been to Pittsburgh before?” he asked, steering her away from the prying eyes of the owner and general manager. He’d talk to her for a while, be nice but there was no way in hell he could be interested in this…cookie cutter blonde.
He’d had Burgundy from the Loire Valley in France, he had a hard time imagining himself going back to the kind of wine that came in a box.


“More, really?” Katie scooped up Tabby’s plate and, blushing like she’d just won Miss America, got up to get her seconds. Normally, and especially in front of Kevin’s friends, Tabby would never even finish her food, not that Katie wasn’t a good cook, it was just between laughing and talking, usually her food would get cold and they’d move into the living room and it would be forgotten. But then, that was before Tabby suddenly found just about everything not only edible, but fucking delicious.

“What about some wine?” Shane lifted the bottle again but Tabby shook her head and covered the glass with her hand.

“Nice try OB, stop trying to get my guest drunk,” Kevin laughed, handing his own plate over his shoulder to his wife. Tabby’s eyes followed the plates, hoping there was enough turkey tetrazzini for all of them.

“Well she wouldn’t let me walk her home last time,” Shane complained, grinning that boyish grin of his across the table at her and Tabby managed, just, to tear her attention away from Katie and the pot of food long enough to blow the big freckle faced defenseman a raspberry.

“You’d have to try Tequila and lots of it before I let you take me home O’Brien,” she teased, narrowing her eyes at him and pursing her lips. He laughed, but then he seemed to laugh at almost everything. “I know where you’ve been and I don’t want to catch where you’ve been,” she added, making the entire table groan. Tabby winked at him, to let him know that she didn’t really mean it, although she sort of did. Shane liked to party and when he partied he partied until the beer goggles were well and truly fused to his head and there were pictures on the internet to prove it.

“If you need a ride home,” a voice whispered in her ear as the clunk of ice cubes falling into her glass made her turn her head. “I would be happy to oblige.” Tabby glanced sideways at the very tall, very blonde young defenseman that everyone called Eddie and she let herself really smile for once. The Bieksa’s had invited her to a few of these dinner parties now and she was fairly certain that this was one of the main reasons. They were trying to set her up with the young Swedish defenseman and she had to admit that the idea was growing on her. She opened her mouth to say so when Katie’s arm slid between them and put the plate of carb loaded goodness in front of her and the need to speak sort of…dissipated with the steam and the scent of cream and cheese and turkey.

“Well this is you,” Sidney said quietly as he pulled up in front of the Marriott. He thought he detected a pout on the thin lips of his ‘date’ but considering it hadn’t even been his idea to take her out for desert, he thought it was very gentlemanly of him not to have just called her a cab.

“Do you want to come up for a…a nightcap? Or we could get something from the bar?” she asked, her eyes a little too wide, practically pleading with him to come inside and screw her brains out and Sidney found that it wasn’t even remotely tempting.

“We leave for a road trip in the morning,” he explained, wishing for her sake that Mario had pawned her off on Max, TK, Jordan, any of his single friends who would have gladly taken her up on her obvious offer and provided her with the kind of night she was obviously looking for. Once again, he knew, she’d be telling all of her friends that he was aloof, at best, rude and obnoxious at worst. Still, he found that he just didn’t care. “I have to be up at five and I’m a real bear when I don’t sleep.” He thought it was a good reason and it wasn’t far off, except that Flower would be picking him up in the Lambo nearer to ten than five.

“This is closer to the airport,” she pointed out, which again was true but now she was really begging and that was just sad. Sidney thought about letting her suck on his dick for a while but then shook his head at his own selfishness. There was only one girl he wanted with her lips around his cock and he was still hoping that she would call, soon.

“It was very nice to meet you. Good luck with your singing,” he added, trying his best to be diplomatic and nice at the same time. She stared daggers at him and then turned with a sort of huffing noise and pushed open the door to the SUV and stomped up the steps of the hotel. Sidney watched her go. It was the least he could do to make sure she made it inside safely. That, or he could call Jordan and let him know that the cute blonde was all alone….

Sidney laughed and reached over to pull the door of the SUV shut and headed for home, leaving his phone safely in his pocket, ready to receive a call at any time.


“Thanks for taking me home.” Tabby sat in the passenger seat holding her purse on her lap like it was a security blanket, but she knew, if he made the move, she was about ready to toss it into the street, Guess or not. She glanced across the car and watched his long, elegant hands as he put the car into park. Her entire body tingled. ‘It’s just because you haven’t been touched in months,’ she told herself firmly. It wasn’t that she was really all that attracted to him. Not that he wasn’t good looking. He definitely had a sort of boyish charm that had something to do with his shy demeanor and his big blue eyes that were looking at her as his arm sort of casually stretched out along the back of her seat.

“I could pick you up, for breakfast,” he began, his Swedish accent lending him a cute sort of lisp that made her want to lean towards him to make sure she was listening to him. Or at least that’s what she told herself as she swayed in his direction. “Or I could just…come up, and we can go for breakfast…together.” She wondered how he did it as his blue gaze searched hers’ as he waited for her answer. He was basically saying let’s fuck while remaining entirely innocent looking. His suggestion had nothing of the smoldering darkness that Patrick had had whenever he looked at her in that certain way that said ‘I’m stripping your clothes off in my mind, right now’.

She wanted it, or at least part of her did. The other part, the sane part, smiled and shook her head.

“Maybe another time,” she promised, leaning forward to press her lips, very briefly against his before opening the door and heading into her apartment, alone.

I can hear it now... but just so you know, this is the direction I was aiming in all along so those of you who think you called it, yes you did but this is where I've been going from the start and for those of you who didn't want this to happen I just ask that you give me & Tabby some time with this

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Chapter 17

“The Bieksa’s are back,” Mel announced as she rounded the corner to the back of the gallery where Tabby was currently emailing another order to Harlequin for more prints. She got a piece of each, more a taste really, but Harlequin was happily getting the larger chunk of change for each sale.

“The who?” Tabby didn’t even look up from her task. It didn’t matter if she was only getting five dollars from the sale of every print. Every five dollars kept her from having to move in with her mother and the way her mother had been since she’d gotten back from the Island…

“You know, that über cute couple who bought the Bambi painting,” Mel began and that did make Tabby look up and shoot her a dark look.

“It’s not the Bambi painting. It’s called Mother and Child,” Tabby corrected her before shaking her head and going back to her task.

“Yeah, whatever. Did you know he’s a hockey player?” Tabby’s nose wrinkled as she hit send on the email and then turned back to her friend.

“Was I supposed to?” she asked, tilting her head to one side. She hadn’t considered her friend to be any more knowledgeable in the area of sports than she herself was.

“So I was thinking about that commission you’ve been struggling with,” Mel continued, stretching her words out as if she was talking to someone with diminished mental capacity while raising her eyebrows and staring at Tabby, waiting for her to catch on.

“Oh…oh!”Tabby practically jumped out of her chair. “Do you think he would? I mean…do you think he wouldn’t mind?” she asked, practically shoving her friend out of her way in her eagerness to get out to the front of the gallery where the cute young couple was waiting.

“And here she is,” Kevin smiled warmly and Tabby could hear Mel growling behind her. That girl definitely had a thing for married men.

“I just wanted to thank you again,” Tabby began, holding her hand out to Katie first and then to Kevin who held it maybe a count too long, his sea blue gaze capturing hers’. “Mel found some great reclaimed wood from a house being taken down. It’s a real natural dark wood,” she added as Mel pulled the large canvas out from behind another set of cheaply framed prints. “I hope you like it,” she added standing back while the young couple ooh’d and aah’d over the frame and Mel stood by beaming over her handiwork. Not that she could blame her, Tabby thought, as she too looked over the whole picture. The painting looked even more complete now. It almost made her feel badly for leaving the unframed print for Patrick’s mother…almost.

She waited until Kevin was signing the credit card slip for the framing to ask.

“Mel was telling me that your husband plays hockey?” She directed the question to the wife to avoid any unseemly connotations to the request. Katie grinned and almost laughed.

“You could say that,” she covered her mouth for a moment and then just let go in a fit of giggles that left Tabby standing there looking back and forth between Mel, who was shaking her head at her, and Kevin who was smiling in that way that said he knew something but wasn’t about to share it. “I’m sorry,” Katie hiccupped at last, reaching out to put her hands on Tabby’s forearms. “I don’t mean to be rude but…it’s actually kind of nice not to have him recognized, but it is a bit unusual.”

“Oh,” Tabby stared back at the couple awkwardly as Kevin put his arm around his wife’s shoulders and planted an affectionate kiss on the top of her head. “I’m sorry, I just don’t watch sports,” she tried to explain.

“Clearly,” Kevin grinned with a not very veiled glance towards the prints. Tabby followed his eyes, waiting for him to say more, but when he didn’t she looked back at him and continued her question.

“I just wondered…I mean, I hoped…I have this commission to do a cover of a novel with a hockey player and like I said, I really wouldn’t know one end of a hockey stick from another and I would just appreciate if I could just do some sketches to work from…and I mean if you’re busy I’d understand but….”

“He’d be happy to, wouldn’t you babe?” Katie volunteered her husband before he had a chance to answer for himself. “In fact he has a practice tomorrow morning. Why don’t I meet you down at the rink tomorrow, we’ll get you inside and you can’t sketch hot sweaty men to your heart’s content.”


“You’re lucky it’s just a case of pubic lice, crabs I think you boys call them.” Dr. Burke looked over his glasses at Sidney who was doing his best not to scratch while the doctor poked around in his family jewels. “From what you’ve been telling me, you’re lucky you haven’t caught something far worse,” he added in that disappointed paternal tone, which, if he hadn’t already felt like squirming, would have had that effect on him. “I know you boys get plenty of opportunities to sew your wild oats,” the doctor continued as he fished around with a pair of long, sharp looking tweezers that made Sid wince just to look at them, “but I wish you would be a little more careful.”

“I’ve been using protection,” Sidney grumbled as the doctor peered at something between the tips of the tweezers before dunking it into a test tube filled with alcohol.

“Well, as you can see,” Dr. Burke held up another one of those nasty little bugs that had had Sidney scratching himself in public, “that clearly isn’t a hundred per cent effective in keeping all forms of sexually transmitted infections at bay. And, in case you didn’t know, condoms are also not entirely effective in stopping pregnancies either,” he added, freezing Sidney with another one of those patented looks over his glasses. “And I know that it wouldn’t just be your father who would be very unhappy with you if you were leaving little Sidney Crosby’s everywhere.” Sidney shut his eyes and gripped the edge of the examination table to stop from scratching.

“Other guys…guys on the team have had this right?” he asked through his teeth.

“Mmmhmmm,” the doctor replied noncommittally, and as Sidney looked down the length of his body he felt his stomach roll at the sight of the doctor staring intently at his junk. “I think we’ve got all the eggs and the cream should take care of the lice,” he sighed, snapping his rubber gloves off and reaching for the cream, handing it to Sidney who immediately opened it and began to squeeze it all over his nether regions until the soothing cream made him let out a little sigh of relief. “I hope I don’t have to tell you that you can’t have any sexual relations, of any kind, with anyone, for at least two weeks,” Dr. Burke added, leaning back against the sink wearing that disappointed look on his face again. “And I’d throw out anything you’ve worn in the last two weeks as well, and don’t make me tell the equipment manager,” he added which made Sidney shudder. He hated throwing out anything from his equipment. He’d had the same jock strap since he was twelve and the equipment manager had been begging to replace it for years. He’d definitely have his wish come true now. “And who is your roommate on the road?” the doctor asked, as Sidney reached for his boxer briefs, only to have the doctor pick them up with same tweezers he’d just been using on him and, as Sidney watched, the doctor carefully deposited them in the medical waste box.

“Dupers, Pascal Dupuis,” he added as the doctor’s brow wrinkled.

“Yes, well, you should let Mr. Dupuis know as I’m sure your towel has touched his and so on,” Dr. Burke sighed, before turning to open the door to yell down the hall for someone to retrieve ‘Mr. Crosby’s shorts from the equipment room’ before holding his hands out for his jeans.

“Really?” Sidney sighed, but handed them over and watched as the doctor got out a yellow medical waste disposal bag and tossed them inside, closing the bag tight and knotting the ties.

“All this…bed jumping…while understandable at your age, can lead to more serious consequences than this Mr. Crosby,” Dr. Burke admonished him and Sid sat there feeling about a foot high and properly embarrassed. “I would suggest being a little more…prudent, with your choice of bed partners from now on.” The shorts were passed through the door and Sidney slid into them and, with his head hung low, headed out into the hallway.

Tabby’s stomach lurched towards her throat as Katie lead her through the equipment room where a pile of sweat soaked jerseys were being sorted through and then she covered her mouth and nose with her free hand as they went through the dressing room. The mixed aromas of body odor, sweat, mildew and the rankest of them all, foot fungus, filled her head and made her eyes well up as her body tried to defend itself from the general funk of hockey players. Katie didn't even seem to notice. Must be an acquired taste Tabby told herself as she followed behind.

Some of the guys were already in the room, in various states of undress and the flexing biceps and rippling six packs reminded her of the last text message she’d received from Mel; ‘I hate you’. It was simple and to the point and now that she was getting an eyeful of the prime man meat in the room, she had the urge to pull out her phone and take a photo to send back to Mel.

Or maybe even Patrick, she thought. Look at what I’m looking at or maybe his ass is nicer than yours, although, if she was honest with herself, though there were certainly some nice ones on display, none of them had that solid, meaty weight to them that his had had.

I wonder what he does do to look as good as he does? Tabby thought to herself as she followed Katie down a corridor that lead out to the ice where there was still a number of players passing a puck around. See, she said to herself, you remembered some of what you read. She’d been online the night before, or at least on the Canucks website, and now she was fairly sure she could tell one end of a hockey stick from another.

“Hey, you’re here,” Kevin called out, sending a spray of ice towards them as he came to a stop in front of the bench. Katie leaned out for a kiss while Tabby got her sketch book and pencils out of her purse. “So, how do you need me?” he asked, striking a strong man pose with his arms bent in, which, Tabby could imagine, having seen him in street clothes, would have been fairly impressive if it hadn’t been for the pads and the oversize jersey.

“I was thinking of something more relaxed?” she offered, tipping her head to one side and trying to decide what would look both cocky and sexy at the same time. “How about with the stick across your shoulders and your hands kind of dangling…that’s it!” she grinned as he assumed the position she had just described, his head tilted a bit to one side with that smoldering ‘I’m going to fuck you up’ grin that she thought was probably his go to face against an opponent.

“Will I get a copy of this?” Katie asked, leaning on the boards and admiring her husband openly.

“You have it to look at all the time babes,” Kevin grinned back at her and Tabby cemented her gaze to the white sheet now balanced on her knee. The two of them were so obviously in love it felt a little too private, a little too intimate to be around them.

“Yeah what about some real beefcake?” One of Kevin’s teammates sent a shower of ice over the boards, which melted immediately onto the paper and erased the few lines that Tabby had put down. She growled and looked up, intending to let the guy have it, but found herself looking up into another pair of sky blue eyes and a freckled face with a big, goofy grin attached.

“You? Beefcake? Don’t take your shirt of OB,” Kevin laughed without losing his pose, “or she might see where you keep all those beers around your middle.”

“Hey girls like a little something to hold on to, am I right?” the tall, young looking player looked to Tabby for affirmation but she just shook her head.

“I guess that sort of depends on the girl,” she mused, turning the page over to start again.

“Yeah, you don’t stand a chance with this one,” Kevin snorted, “she’s had a taste of filet mignon, she’s no going back to flank steak Shane.” Tabby opened her mouth to ask what he meant by that but by the time she opened her mouth, Kevin had dropped his gloves and the two men were play fighting and other players were skating over to jump in.

“They’re just boys,” Katie explained, grinning and laughing as she watched her man giving as good as he got and laughing all the while. “You gotta love them though, right?” Tabby nodded and thought about Patrick’s friends Jordy and Max and Kris and couldn’t help but smile and agree.

A few weeks later….

“You know there’s been snow since the beginning of time. You’d think they would have figured out a faster way to de-ice a plane in the last fifty,” Sidney grumbled as he and a group of his teammates stared out the window at the crew working under and on top of the plane, heating ice from the wings. Until they were done, they were stuck in the airport in Toronto with nothing to do.

“Somebody needs to get laid,” Jordy noted aloud, making the rest of the team snort, or at least those who didn’t try and hide their amusement behind their hands, knowing full well the sort of mood their captain had been in of late. The nasty infection he’d got from that woman in Philly had put enough of a scare into him that he hadn’t been near a woman since, and they all knew it. Sidney didn’t give in to the urge to turn around and stick his fist into the fall forward’s face. There was no point.

He did need to get laid but bedding just any woman hadn’t healed the wound inside of him, hadn’t made him forget her. He still dreamed of her when he shut his eyes and when he took his own need in hand, it was still her name he called out.

“Let’s go get a Playboy or something,” TK muttered, pushing off from the glass and turning to head into the strip of shops nearby.

“You could have at least said Sport Illustrated or the Hockey News,” Max muttered as he too turned to follow the speedy young winger.

“Why? Do you think I’m gonna wack off in the bathroom to a picture of him?” TK pointed at Sid who scowled back at him. The entire group broke up laughing but nearly everyone got to their feet and followed him across the waiting area.

Sid headed for the magazine rack. He did intend to buy a copy of SI, or something similar to read. Not that he was much for reading but it would help to pass the time; especially if they were going to be stuck in the airport much longer. He knew his temper had grown short and that he needed a distraction from the thoughts that kept playing through his head. Even now, as he stood in front of the magazine rack beside Dupes and Flower, perusing the sport section, his hand kept going to his phone. He’d palm it, think about calling her and then chicken out and take his hand out of his pocket.

At first, it had only been pride holding him back from calling her. Now it sheer cowardice. After all this time, she probably had some other lover, some man taking her out for candlelit dinners, making her laugh, kissing her ripe lips….

“Holy shit!” Everyone’s head swiveled to where TK and Jordy were standing further down the aisle, holding up a paperback in each hand and laughing. Sidney shook his head, deciding that whatever it was considering the culprits, whatever they were up to, was bound to be juvenile and would do nothing to cure his irritated state. “Seriously Cap, I had no idea you were moonlighting as a male model,” TK shouted down the aisle. With a sigh, Sidney replaced the copy of ESPN magazine to its place amongst the others on the rack and turned to join his teammates who were hooting and hollering like they were at the rippers, not in a small bookstore.

“Jesus Christ will you look at this?” Jordy was holding up a small paperback and laughing. Sidney eyed the cover and felt the tips of his ears eat up. He knew that picture. He hadn’t seen it completed but he remembered posing for it, standing on the stairs in a hard hat, tool belt and jeans. That’s when things had gone to shit. “Stephanie has a boring nine to five job. The only time she gets to stretch her imagination is when she dreams about what the old house she’s just bought is going t look like if she ever gets it finished and then Robert James comes into her life when she hires a handy-man and suddenly her imagination is out of control and so is her libido,” Jordan reads aloud to a chorus of wolf whistles and cat calls. Sidney reaches to snatch the paperback out of his friend’s hand but Jordan dances out of range and shakes his head. “No way, I’m taking this on the plane,” he laughs.

“What about this one?” Sidney turns to find Max holding up another paperback, this one with the first cover, him in the full knight in shining armor get up with the fainting girl in his arms, her black hair pooling on the ground, her breasts heaving free of her dress. Bodice rippers she’d called these books and it certainly looked like he’d been working on her dress…. “Rougishly handsome Duke Olivier de Lacey has always lived life lustily, women, wine and song. Lady DeCouverley, stuck in a loveless, arranged marriage to an elderly, mostly bed ridden Lord finds excitement when she joins a dissident group of Protestants who work against the Queen and thwart her order of executions at every turn. When the debauched Duke is due to hang, only the lovely Lady DeCouverley can save him but can she save herself from his brooding charm? Oooh brooding charm,” Max laughed and began to open the book to read aloud Sid thought as he grabbed for the book only to have it passed over his head to Flower who then tossed it to Tanger.

Sid shook his head and turned to head back to the magazines. He’d known how she made a living and by saying nothing and certainly by posing for her, he’d given his tacit agreement to her using his likeness. He knew Pat, his agent, would be furious if he found out…hell, Bettman would stroke out, but he wasn’t about to make a deal about it now and she hadn’t chosen the stories her…what did she call them? Illustrations went on.

Still…Sidney turned and went to the shelf to look for one of the books. Maybe Harlequin would be able to provide her address. They had a game in Vancouver at the end of next month and maybe, just maybe, he could get a hold of her, take her to dinner, if she would just let him explain things….

“Bien, je suppose que nous n’avons pas d’imaginer qui elle est maintenant à coucher….” Sid didn’t even let Kris finish before he had ripped the slim volume from his teammates grasp. He stared at the cover and there was no doubt whatsoever in his mind that it was her work. The style, the colours, it was all the same. So was the girl with the pencil skirt, glasses and clipboard who was staring, cow eyed at the casual looking, roguishly handsome defenseman for the Vancouver Canucks. She’d hardly even made any attempt at changing the jersey or logo. That was definitely Tabby and there was no mistaking the cocky sneer on Kevin Bieksa’s face.

A red haze fell over Sidney’s gaze and his hands clenched around the paperback and before he knew what he’d done, he’d ripped the book in two and only the cover and a couple of pages remained in his hand, the rest was on the floor and the entire store was silent. Sid looked around and saw every pair of eyes on him.

“Pay for this will you?” he growled at Max, pulling his credit card from his wallet and pressing it into his friend’s hand, and then, with the cover still in his hand, he stormed out of the store.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chapter 16

I've had a couple of you let me know that you weren't sure how you felt about the fight in the last chapter and as I always say, when you're looking into something from the outside, sometimes you have to have a little patience and emotions and facts will reveal themselves in time. I hope you have the patience to let Tabby and Sid reveal themselves.

“It was like providence or something, your calling when you did,” Tabby explained, linking her arm in her friend’s arm as they walked down the street. “I was already having my doubts about what I was doing there,” she added, trying to ignore the voice in the back of her head that kept saying she’d been too rough on him, that she hadn’t given him an opportunity to explain. “You gave me just the push I needed to get my head out of the clouds. You know what they say about too good to be true.”

“Believe me honey, if anyone does it’s me. How many times have you been there for me when I’ve picked yet another married jerk who swears he’s about to leave his wife?” Tabby tried to hide a smirk behind her cup. Poor Mel, she did seem to be a magnet for married men. It was probably her carefree nature. “I’m just glad you wised up to his bullshit before you ended up following him who knows where, into some shitty little apartment….” Tabby held up her hands and shook her head.

“I know, I know. I can’t believe I was this close to begging him to take me with him and I didn’t even know where he lived,” she added, giving a little shudder at the thought.

“Well I’m just sorry it’s taken a month to get this show going,” Mel apologized for what seemed to Tabby like the hundredth time since she’d arrived back in Vancouver.

“I had no idea just how much fixing up the gallery needed. It looked fine to me when I saw it with the agent,” she added as they rounded the corner together and headed down the street towards the new art gallery slash store that her friend and class mate Mel had just sunk her inheritance into.

“Well, let’s just hope we sell some paintings then,” Tabby laughed as they stopped at the coffee house on the corner. Mel ordered and Tabby didn’t argue. She really needed to sell some paintings. What with the flight home, tuition and rent, she didn’t have a lot of money left over, and she hadn’t managed to complete any of the commissions Harlequin had sent her. Not without her muse.

“I just wish we had more of the stuff you did of that lake,” Mel said, turning to hand Tabby a Venti caramel macchiato. “I think those are gonna go like hotcakes.”

“You don’t have to do the whole art dealer sell on me Mel,” Tabby snorted as she wrapped her fingers around the cup. It hadn’t exactly got cold in the mornings, but it felt good to have her hands wrapped around the warm cup anyways. She inhaled the strong scent of espresso mixed with sweet caramel and her stomach growled in response.

“And you don’t have to do the whole starving artist thing on me,” Mel grinned, handing her a doughnut.

“I had oatmeal this morning,” Tabby replied, partly to herself as she bit into the oversize, sugar glazed goodness of the gooey ring of deep fried fat.

“You’re probably just replacing sex with food,” Mel said as if she knew what she was talking about and both women laughed as they headed back onto the street. “Tell me again about your muse,” Mel added, sighing wistfully. Mel had taken one look at the jpgs on Tabby’s pc and demanded the entire lurid story.

“I’d never realized you were a romantic at heart,” Tabby replied, evading the question as she sipped on her coffee.

“Oh yeah, I love a good mushy romance, and what you had,” she grinned as they stopped in front of the gallery and Mel began to fish in her pockets for the keys, “was perfect right up until he called you cheap. I would have shoved my fist in his nose,” she added as she stuck her key in the lock. “You were way more mature than I would have been.”

“Oh I don’t know about that,” Tabby mumbled, the part of her that was still clinging to the belief that he really had been that perfect causing that little voice in the back of her head to get louder. “I’m not sure that running away was the most mature option I could have taken.” That was the other thing that wasn’t sitting so well with her. It had never really been like her to cut and run but the more she’d had time to think the more she’d convinced herself that he had someone else and that idea, more than anything else had made her run.

“Believe me, if he’s already lying to you and he hasn’t even made any kind of commitment, it’s just going fucking downhill from there,” Mel replied sagely as she turned the lights on and, for the first time, Tabby found herself standing in a room full of her work.

“Sheeit.” Tabby turned in a slow circle in the middle of the room, taking in the white washed walls, the subdued lighting and her work, hanging at eye level with spotlights and little cards next to them with her name on them.

“Impressed?” Mel asked, now having ditched her jacket, was wearing a black and silver gypsy top and matching broomstick skirt, looking every inch the art dealer.
“Overwhelmed,” Tabby grinned, grabbing her friend in a bear hug.

“Good, it’s good to see you smile again,” her friend whispered and as she stepped back and held her at arm’s length. “I’m telling you, if I met your muse boy, I’d kick him in the nuts.”

“Thanks but I don’t think I’m going to run into him again,” Tabitha sighed as she rubbed at her nose. “What perfume are you wearing?”

“Calypso Bellini, why, you want to borrow some for later?” Tabby shook her head and breathed in through her mouth.

“I dunno, must be coming down with something,” she laughed, dismissing the tickle in her nose as she headed for the centerpiece of the collection. It was a larger canvas, a bigger, more sweeping version of the painting she’d left behind to for Patrick’s mom of the doe and fawn. “Three thousand Mel? That’s a bit steep, don’t you think?” she asked, staring at the price written on the name tag. “I know I said I wasn’t sure if I wanted to part with it, but….”

“Oh you’ll part with it,” her friend replied, leaning her head on Tabby’s shoulder. “Everyone that’s seen this one wants it, including me, but I’ll be damned if either one of us is going to part with it for nothing. Now…I have all these fliers to fold and the champagne is being delivered in a couple hours, are you going to stay and help or what?”

“If you’re going to get us money like that, then yeah, I’m your indentured servant, at least until tomorrow morning. Maybe then I’ll be too rich and famous for you.”


Sidney sat on the edge of the bed, his feet on the floor, and rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. Yawning, he stretched his back and winced. That was just another problem with not sleeping in your own bed, he thought to himself critically, not everyone could afford a posturepedic mattress.

“Where are you going? Come back to bed.” He didn’t even turn around. It was the same every time and he had his customary answer ready.

“I have practice.” It wasn’t a lie. It was an optional, but he went to every practice. As far as he was concerned, there was nothing optional about being in peak condition. Sid reached for his jeans, discarded on the floor next to the bed, and dragged them on.

“But you’ll call right?” There it was, the hopeful all too eager follow up question. Sid smirked as he reached for his dress shirt, taking the time to button it properly. It might only be practice, and half of the guys would know he was wearing the same clothes he’d been wearing last night but there was still no point in going in with the buttons in the wrong holes.

“I’m not gonna call,” he admitted as he turned, doing the last button up, grabbing his tie from where it had landed, draped over the lamp shade next to the bed. “And no, I probably won’t see you again.” He knew what it sounded like and he didn’t look back. He didn’t want to see the expression on her face go from hopeful, maybe even playful, to scorn, even hate. But it isn’t a lie, he thought, rolling his tie up and putting it in the pocket of his suit jacket.

She’d probably face-book her friends later that he was a lousy lay, and maybe she’d be right about that, he thought as he walked out of the room, already pulling his blackberry out to call a taxi to take him to the arena. He didn’t much care. This hadn’t been about her, so her feelings didn’t exactly come into it. She was just another girl with long dark hair that had, when he was onto his fifth glass of bourbon, reminded him of Tabby.

He knew it was bordering on pathetic and the guys definitely gave him the gears about it, but every time he convinced himself that he was over her, he’d see some girl with legs as long as a summer day and a thick mane of ebony hair and he couldn’t help himself. If he couldn’t have her, and he’d tried to find a Tabitha King on face book, twitter….he’d even had his agent put out feelers, everything short of hiring a private detective, with no luck.

If only he hadn’t run, but it was way too late for what if’s. He blamed the anger management work he’d been doing with the team psychologist. He’d been working so hard over the past two years to ‘cage the rage’ as the sports therapist called it, that it had just come naturally to him to turn and walk away when he’d felt the red mist settle around him.

And going to Vegas? Well, that wasn’t the most mature move he’d ever made. Of course he hadn’t really thought that she’d actually be gone when he got back, with his tail between his legs, ready to tell her everything and beg her forgiveness but instead of her he’d found an empty house and some snot nosed acne riddled teenager behind the counter of the bait shop.

And now? Well now he was sleeping his way through the regular season schedule with anything that looked remotely like her and feeling emptier inside every morning he crawled out of some stranger’s bed. But for an hour, or maybe, if they played along, a few hours, these girls whose names he didn’t want to know, were Tabby and he could be with her again.

“Feel better?” Jordy asked, rhetorically, as he fell into step beside him in the hallway. He didn’t need to be told that his behavior was far from his usual habits.

“You up to wind sprints this morning?” Sidney asked, changing the subject and getting in a dig of his own. His tall, blonde friend rolled his eyes in response and both chuckled as Sidney pushed the door open and walked out to the waiting taxi.

“I told you it would sell,” Mel whispered into Tabby’s ear, handing her another flute of champagne and grinning broadly. “And full price too,” she added as the two stood side by side, watching the young couple who were standing in front of the centerpiece of the show. “Go on,” Mel gave her a little shove in their direction. “Maybe you’ll get lucky and they’ll offer to be your patron.”

This was why Tabby preferred the whole commercial side of the art world; having to thank people for putting money in her pocket made her feel awkward, at best, and a lot like a panhandler at the worst. Gulping down the champagne and letting the bubbles fill her head, she walked over to the couple who were still admiring their purchase.

“I was a little reluctant to let this one go,” she said hesitantly from just behind them. Both turned to look at where the voice was coming from. They were adorable, young and stylish, and it reminded Tabby of just how painfully alone she was in her black cocktail dress on a night that was important to her, but with no one to share it with.

“It reminds her of Bambi,” the ruggedly handsome young husband teased his wife, brushing his lips against her cheek as she made a face at him. It was an intimate moment and Tabby almost felt like she was intruding except that neither of them seemed to mind.

“Well, I don’t think any of us ever gets over Bambi’s mom…you know,” she added putting her finger to her temple and miming pulling the trigger of a gun. Thankfully they both laughed. “Hi, I’m Tabitha, the artist.” Tabbi rolled her eyes as she held her hand out to them both. “I’m sorry but it sounds so pretentious when I say that out loud.”

“I’m Kevin, this is my wife Katie and that,” he said hooking his thumb towards the painting, “is going in our daughter’s room,”

“I wanted to put it in a plain wood frame, you know, reclaimed wood. Like something from an old house or barn or something. But Mel, she owns the gallery,” Tabbi added, hooking her thumb towards where Mel seemed to be deep in discussion with another client near one of her paintings of the lake. “She said something about not making decisions for the client and how it confuses them when they’re trying to decide about where it fits in their house.”

“But those ones are framed,” Kevin replied, raising his eyebrow as he turned to look at some of the Harlequin prints.

“Well those ones are just prints. The originals are…well, they belong to a commercial company so they don’t really count,” Tabbi explained.

“Oh yeah?” he walked towards the wall where two of the prints were hung. Tabby felt herself flush as he turned back to her. “Like this guy needs more cash am I right Katie?” She watched as the two of them looked over the prints and felt her heart flutter in her chest like a caged bird.

“You know Patrick?” she asked, her voice almost catching in her throat as she said his name.

“Patrick?” Kevin turned to her and then back to the picture. “Huh…guess not. Must just look like someone.” He shrugged, reaching for his wife’s hand and Tabby felt her heart sink.

“Well…enjoy the picture,” she said quietly, heading for the privacy of the bathroom and some cold water to splash on her face.

They’d taken Philly down easily, almost too easily, he thought as he leaned against the bar, a glass of JD in one hand as he surveyed the bar. Max and Tanger had a couple of girls cornered near the dance floor. Jordan had a leggy blonde bent over the pool table, his arms along hers’ ‘correcting’ her shot. Dupes and Flower had a row of shots lined up and it looked like TK was planning on going head to head with one of the veterans, the goalie everyone called Johnny. Sid thought about going over to place a bet against TK on that when two girls walked by, one with playfully short brown hair and glasses, the other a little taller with a lean athletic build and long, long black hair brushing the small of her back.

“Give me a bottle of your best champagne,” he snapped his fingers at the bartender as he kept his eyes glued on the two girls. The bartender reached into the bar fridge below the cash register and handed it to Sidney along with two champagne flutes.

“Again?” Gogo asked as Sid pushed off from the bar and began to follow the girls. Sid didn’t answer, merely shrugged. “Why don’t you go after the real thing instead of this…bullshit?” he asked. Sid paused, staring after the girls before turning back to Gogo.

“If I knew where the real thing was, I would,” he replied with a shrug. It was the truth and it was all he could say and the only answer he could give.

He took the bottle and the glasses and began to push his way through the crowd looking for the girls. It wasn’t the answer, he knew it, but this is what he had. Tabby was like a ghost and she’d disappeared and he didn’t think he was ever going to feel what he’d felt in her arms.

“Looking for me?” a husky voice matched with sharp fingernails dragging down his arm got his attention and he turned to find the red lips of the dark haired girl close to his. He nodded and she smiled like the cat that got the cream.

“I want to blow this joint,” he said hoarsely as she slid her other hand around to grab his ass. “Coming?” He held the bottle up and she smiled, her smoky eyes creasing as she devoured him with her gaze.

“And coming and coming,” she purred, leaning in until her tongue was sweeping up his cheek and around his ear.

“We’ll see,” he replied, reaching for her hand and leading her out of the bar.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Chapter 15

Except he didn’t.

Not the next day, or even the next week. He told himself that he was waiting for the right time, but before he knew it his birthday was only a few days away and he was hip deep in lies and getting ready to tell the woman he’d fallen deeply and devotedly in love with, yet another lie.

“I have to go away this weekend,” he explained, that now very heavy lead weight that sat in his gut most days seemed to grow as he spoke.

“Yeah?” Tabby leaned around the canvas, paint brush in hand and smiled. “Where to this time? The Bunny Ranch?” she added in a teasing tone before disappearing again behind the canvas. Sidney leaned a little harder on the hand rail of the stairs. He’d been standing like this, in nothing but his jeans and a tool belt for over an hour and the house was like an oven.

“You should put in central air,” he mentioned to which Tabby’s sarcastic reply, muttered mostly under her breath, was something akin to ‘must have hit the nail on the head.’ “I’m just going to see my parents,” he explained, which only added further to his feelings of guilt and dread. He’d hardly seen anything for his family for the entire summer and the last two conversations he’d had with his mother had been frosty, to say the least.

“Any special occasion?” she asked and it didn’t take a rocket scientist to detect the other question that she wasn’t asking in the tone of her voice. They’d been dating for over two months now, she was bound to be curious about his family and, after all, she’d met some of his friends. Speaking of which….

“Yeah…uh…,” Sidney thought about lying, about saying it was Taylor’s birthday, but then she’d met Taylor, sort of, and aside from that, he couldn’t stomach another lie. “It’s my birthday on Saturday.” He heard the brush stop moving against the canvas and steeled himself for when she put it, and her palette, down.

“And you’re going to go see your parents for the entire weekend?” She didn’t look around the canvas at him and he could hear the hurt in her voice. It was his birthday and he wasn’t including her, despite the fact that he’d told her he loved her now, he couldn’t count how many times, and they’d been living together the entire summer, and now he wasn’t going to share his day with her.

“It’s going to be this lame family dinner thing, grandparents and everything, really boring. But then some of the guys are going to come up and I thought we could have a barbeque out on the deck.” And I better have manned up and told you by then, he told himself sternly, because Gronk was planning on bringing Heather and Flower was bringing Vero and it was one thing to ask the guys to lie but their girlfriends too?

“Oh,” was all that came from the other side of the canvas and Sid’s shoulders sagged. There was no way of taking her to meet his parents. Not only he was prepared to put a ring on it and there was no way that Troy was going to understand wanting to do that with a girl he’d only met a couple of months ago.

Now if he talked her into moving to Pittsburgh with him, something he hoped to do by the end of the summer, then, by Christmas, he hoped his parents would accept his decision. But before he could do that, he had to grow a pair and tell her the truth.

“Tabs,” he put the hammer he was holding into his belt and walked down the two stairs and across to where she was, for all intents and purposes, hiding behind the canvas. “Sweetheart, I’d take you, honestly I would but ask any of the boys, my dad is the asshole of assholes and…,” he reached out to brush her hair back from a lick of paint on her cheek that was holding it there, “I don’t want to go, much less without you, but I’d rather do that than have you…hurt by him.” Tabby nodded, but refused to meet his gaze until he lifted her chin in his hand. Her dark, chocolate brown eyes glittered with unshed tears. “Tabs…,” he began, but she shook off his hand and turned away from him.

“Don’t…don’t patronize me Patrick.” Sidney admired the way she got her emotions into check, how strong her backbone was as she turned back to face him, the silvery glimmer of tears gone, her chin high. “Just say you’re not ready for me to meet your family,” she added, wiping her hands down the sides of yet another one of his dress shirts. He made a mental note to do some shopping while he was in town. He reached or her again but again she brushed off his advances and turned to head up the stairs.

Sidney knew better than to follow. One of the things that he liked best about Tabby was how even keeled she was. She didn’t get clingy or over emotional like so many girls seemed to, but when she got in a mood, he’d learned it was best to stay well clear of her. She’d come around, in her own time, and with any luck he’d be forgiven or at the very least she wouldn’t bring it up again.

Not that it made it better and not that it was bringing him any closer to telling her what he needed to tell her. He had no reason to keep it from her now, other than the fact that he would have to admit that he’d been less than truthful with her and that was harder to overcome than he had thought it would be. As he looked at the painting she was currently working on, besides the embarrassing way she always made him out to be some kind of super sexy GQ hunk, she also seemed to make him out to be a sort of knight in shining armor, far closer to perfect than he could hope to actually be.

It was a lot to live up to, and he tried to. He tried to be the doting, romantic boyfriend and with Tabby, it was hardly like he had to work at it. He wanted to be with her, all of the time. He couldn’t get enough of her, but therein lay the problem. The real him, Sidney Crosby, NHL star, didn’t have time for a relationship like this. Once he told her, once he revealed his true identity, he’d have to explain how he hardly had time to see anyone, that he rarely dated, that he more often than not he would fall asleep watching movies, that instead of cuddling he’d be snoring his head off. He’d have to tell her that the best he could offer was a couple of hours a day, if he didn’t have a list of meetings with endorsement representatives, photo shoots and autograph sessions. Not to mention being away for entire weeks at a time….

That was what he wasn’t looking forward to. That and bursting the idyllic little bubble over the paradise they’d built together over the summer. This had been the happiest he’d been…well since he’d won the Cup and even then, for the most part, he’d been too tired half of the time to truly enjoy all of those activities.

He’d tell her when he came back; for sure this time.

“So you are alive, we were beginning to think you were dead in a ditch somewhere and nobody had bothered to report it,” Taylor muttered as she came through the door, dropping her backpack on the floor and heading down the hall towards her bedroom. Sidney watched her go and kept his mouth shut. His mother was upset enough without him picking a fight with his sister on top of everything else.

“She has a point,” his grandmother pointed, narrowing her eyes over the lip of her coffee mug at him.

“I know Nana Cathy,” he sighed. “But I have things to do, obligations,” he lied. He seemed to do nothing but lie these days.

“During the summer?” she asked, in that tone that said she didn’t believe that anymore than his mother had, though his mother, in the way that she always did, managed to look disappointed and hurt but say nothing. It was worse than yelling at him and he was pretty sure she knew it too.

“I’m an adult, I don’t live at home,” he added grudgingly. “I don’t have to tell everyone my business.”

“So you’ve got a girl eh?” The old woman looked at him with her shrewd eyes and Sidney winced.

“Fucking Taylor,” he muttered, he thought, under his breath.

“Don’t blame your sister. It’s written all over your face. You can hardly wait to get out of here. You’ve been looking at your watch ever since you got here. Now the Sidney I know, that used to mean you couldn’t wait to get out and play street hockey. I’m guessing this Sidney…well, I can only think of one thing that young men around here think about more than hockey.” She didn’t need to say more. That knowing little grin of hers’ said that she could see right through him and Sidney felt the heat burning beneath his skin as he met her gaze. “I thought so,” she added with a slight nod as she sat back in her chair. Together they listened to the sounds of his parents bickering in the kitchen while Sidney fidgeted.

“Nan,” he began, cracking his knuckles as if that would alleviate the tension he was feeling about asking the question that had been lurking in his brain ever since he’d gotten into the car to come here. The older woman raised her eyes to him and raised a single eyebrow. “Do you remember telling me…if the time came…I mean, when the time came, that you had a ring…that I could use your ring….” His hands were sweating like he was on his knees, asking Tabby the big question instead of just asking for the ring to do it with.

“So this girl…it’s serious?” his grandmother asked, a smile on her face that said she was pleased that her eldest grandson might be providing the prospect of great grandchildren. Sidney nodded, sending a furtive glance towards the kitchen that had just grown silent. “Come here.” His grandmother beckoned him forward and keeping an ear out for the sound of his father’s footsteps, Sidney crossed the room and watched as his grandmother struggled to pull the white gold band with the small solitaire diamond off of her gnarled, wizened finger. Sidney had always admired the elegant style of the band with its filigree sides and crown setting. His grandfather had saved for years for it and given it to his grandmother after they’d been married for years. It looked tiny in his hand and yet it seemed to weigh a hundred pounds. “I know I don’t have to ask if you’re sure,” his grandmother said to him, closing his hands around the ring and holding both of his in her own as she smiled up at him. “I know you wouldn’t ask unless you were but…I hope you’ll let us meet her soon. I’d like to know who this is going to.”

“You will Nana,” he promised quietly, bending to place a tender kiss on his grandmother’s cheek. “I just have to make sure she’s sure about me first.”

“And what girl wouldn’t be sure about my favorite grandson?” she asked, grinning up at him adoringly, making Sidney wish he was worthy of that sort of sentiment.

“What’s this about a girl?” Troy’s voice boomed behind him making Sidney stiffen.

“We were just talking about Max,” Taylor slid into the chair that Sidney had just left empty and sent him a look that clearly said ‘you owe me’. He nodded, letting her know he knew it. “How he keeps trying to get Sid in trouble and I can’t believe it hasn’t happened yet,” Taylor continued and Sidney couldn’t help but wonder at how well and how smoothly she lied. Maybe it ran in the family.

“You should watch it with that one, and some of your other teammates,” his father agreed. “Some of those boys are just…trouble,” the big man added, digging his meaty fingers into Sidney’s shoulder.

“They’re okay dad,” Sid muttered and tried not to breathe too big a sigh of relief.

“Still…keep your head up son,” Troy added, patting his son on the back hard enough that Sid had to cough to cover up the fact that it made him sputter. “Now, who’s for birthday cake?”

“I’ll be in touch.” Tabby looked down at the card that had just been put in her hand and nodded. She had no doubt that the tiny woman in the high heels and the ‘all business’ suit with the high frilled collar meant it. In fact, she promised she already had an interested party. “Don’t worry, it won’t take long.” Tabby watched the woman’s small, spider like fingers curl around her wrist, covered in rings and long, fake fingernails painted in a sort of flesh tone that made them look even longer and skinnier, like a dead hand reaching out of a grave. Tabby nodded and forced herself to look up into the woman’s face, but just as she had all afternoon, she kept staring at the mole on her chin.

“She’s sorry she left it so late, aren’t you Tabby Cat?” Tabby winced, her shoulders hunching, her entire body going very still as she turned to stare up at her Uncle’s face.

“You heard Margie, it won’t take long,” Tabitha painted a happy smile on her face that she didn’t feel as her Uncle pressed his hand down on her shoulder. All of these people had a hold on her and none of them had her permission.

“I’ll walk you to your call Margie.” The woman, with her too pink lipstick and her giant chin mole batted her too fake eyelashes up at her Uncle and Tabby tried not to breathe the sigh of relief she felt too loud when they turned to walk down the steps. She watched them go and made a nasty little face at their backs and then turned to hide a childish smile.

That’s when the gravel flew in the driveway. Tabby was hardly turned around when she heard his feet hit the path. She watched him read the sign that her Uncle had helped to dig into the front lawn and then she watched as he turned his face up to find her. His usually handsome features were twisted in an ugly way, his nostrils flaring wide, his gold flecked eyes going dark, his soft pink lips turned up in a grimace.

“You couldn’t wait until my back was turned,” he snarled, pointing at the sign. Tabby felt her forehead wrinkle as she watched him turn to glare at her Uncle and the estate agent before he marched up the path, his fists clenched. If this had been a cartoon, there would have been smoke coming out of his ears, flames coming out of his nose and maybe he would have pawed the path with his sneakers like a bull about to charge. Picturing it like that made it a little easier to have him turn that glare at her as he reached out to clamp his hand around her upper arm and drag her into the house, stumbling after him.

She heard the screen door slam over and over behind them, creaking on its’ hinges and wondered if her Uncle would be coming up hard on Patrick’s heels, demanding an explanation, but for a few moments, there was only silence interrupted by the sound of Patrick pacing the kitchen floor.

“Why?” he finally asked, coming to rest in front of the old fashioned white Irish sink, gripping its edges so hard his knuckles turned white. “Why now?”

“You knew,” she ventured quietly, confused by the vehemence of his reaction. “From the very first day I met you, you knew I was selling this house.”

“But you don’t have to!”He curled one hand into a fist and pounded it against the counter before turning his still twisted, angry face at her. “You don’t have to!” he said again, and this time his voice cracked and his face fell, and now he looked like a little boy who’d just dropped his ice cream on the ground. Part of her wanted to go to him, put her arms around him and kiss it better, but the other part was just a little bit hurt and angry at him already and kind of liked seeing him this way.

“I know you helped and all and I know…I mean I haven’t said anything, but I know you must have paid for some of the materials even though I didn’t ask you to, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to discuss with you when I put my house up for sale.” Tabby was amazed at how calm she felt. Earlier, when she’d had to sign the document with the estate agent, agreeing to the price that she was to try and earn for the house, Tabby had cried. Now, she felt cold inside, like there was a solid steel rod running straight through her and she wasn’t about to bend.

That’s what you think this is about?” Patrick’s eyes where wide as he shook his head and then laughed bitterly at her. “You think I care about the price of a couple of cans of fucking paint? How about what’s happened in this house? How about the business and that your grandfather gave you this house to look after and that he trusted you to run his business?”

It wasn’t the argument she’d been preparing herself for and it took her a little off guard. She’d been ready for emotional blackmail, but this….

“I’m sorry…you don’t get to talk about my grandfather and what he wanted. You didn’t know him and I guess you don’t know me.” It hurt to say, more than she’d bargained that it would but she stared him down and felt that cool core start to freeze over.
“I don’t know about you but I have bills to pay and a home to get back to and he knew that and I thought you did too,” she added, crossing her arms and staring at him where he was still standing staring at her from the sink.

Home?” he spat, that bitter laughter opening up again. “You don’t have a home to go to anymore than I do,” he added. “Some fucking place to sleep and store your clothes. This…this is a fucking home,” he continued holding his hands wide.

“For someone, yes,” she agreed quietly and that seemed to hit home or at least it made him stumble and his expression returned to that of a kicked puppy. Tabby had vowed that she wouldn’t allow him to play the sympathy card successfully, that if he made those big puppy dog eyes at her she wouldn’t give in. There was something he was hiding and though she’d decided she didn’t really want to know what it was, or at least if there really was a wife somewhere else on this godforsaken island. She just didn’t want to made a fool of. “Why don’t you go back to…wherever you came from where they obviously love you more than I do, only this time, don’t come back.”

He stared at her like she’d grown another head, or worse, like she’d been horribly disfigured and any feelings he may have had before seemed to dissolve. His mouth twisted into an ugly grimace and then he swore under his breath.

“You don’t mean it,” he growled at her and Tabby thought, just for a moment, that there was just a hint of an actual plea in his voice. Taking a deep breath to help steel her resolve, she smiled at him, and shrugged a shoulder.

“This,” she made a circle with her finger in front of her chest, “was never anything. I get that now so…go. You have my blessing. Go back to her or whatever…just go,” she felt her knees began to buckle as she issued the order but she visualized that steel rod going straight down her spine and into the floor and resolved not to crumble in front of him. He’d made her love him, and maybe she did still, but he’d shown his true colours now. Coming in here, shouting the odds, telling her what she could and couldn’t do and adding that to his disappearing act during which time, though he’d known how disappointed she was, he hadn’t so much as called her.

Maybe she’d regret it, for a while, but it had been bound to end, she told herself as he stood there, staring at her with his teeth bared like some kind of feral hound. The summer was almost over and this was better, it would make it easier, if they didn’t make a bunch of promises that both of them knew they couldn’t keep. Especially if what she told herself was true. He could never belong to her. He was too perfect, too good to be true and if something seems too good to be true….

“You’re right,” he finally said at last, shaking his head and running his hands through his hair. “I should thank you, really. This was a fucking lucky escape. You’re some kind of…,” he paused and looked her up and down as if he was looking at some cheap whore, “you’re obviously a couple pages short of a book.”With that he looked at her, silently, one last time and Tabby thought he was going to say something else, something sweet and tender like he usually did and both of them would dissolve into tears and she would feel foolish and forgive him and… “I don’t usually fall for cheap. I don’t know what I was thinking.”Tabby bit back a gasp and stood staring at him with her hands clenched at her sides as he turned and walked away. She heard the engine of the SUV roar and the spray of gravel as he spun the tires and then there was nothing but silence.

Sidney stared at the lake, watching the fish jump at the blackflies and thought about how much he had loved it here. He’d loved the silence and that people respected his privacy, for the most part, and that he had his own space to do whatever he wanted in.

Now he hated it.

Now when he looked at the lake he thought of her. He thought of her laugh and her smile and her pale skin in the moonlight. He thought of her ripe lips and the way her skin tasted and the way she would smile at him when he walked in the door.

Of course it was his fault for not telling her the truth. He knew that. But he hadn’t expected this. He hadn’t expected the for sale sign on the front lawn or the defensive way she met him. He would no sooner harm a single hair on her head but she couldn’t have known that the way he dragged her inside the house. It had all just knocked him sideways and he hadn’t been prepared.

Sidney hated not being prepared. He hated not knowing what to expect or what to do when things happened. It’s why he watched hours of tapes and why he was always the first one on the ice and the last one off of it. He hated the unexpected. If anyone ever so much as threw him a surprise party…well it would have been sort of like this, he thought as he reached into his pocket and withdrew his grandmother’s ring. He turned it over in his hand, letting the last rays of sunlight bounce off of it.
This should have been so different. He’d had it all planned out. He had been going to tell her, everything. He was going to lay it all out for her, and show her how she fit in his plans for the rest of his life. She was going to say yes and then the guys were going to arrive and….

“Mon ami, ce que l’enfer qui s’est passé? Nous sommes allés à sa maison et l’endroit est sombre.”

It was Tanger and close on his heels, Flower and Max. He imagined the girls were waiting on in the driveway, in case they were walking into a minefield. He hadn’t told them his plans, or they would probably have called ahead. He’d wanted them to be surprised.

Well, he thought bemusedly, ‘surprise!’

“Does anyone feel like Vegas?” he asked, turning that ring over and over between his fingers, part of him seriously considering throwing it in the lake.

“Did someone say Vegas?” Jordan bounced to the end of the deck and cannon balled into the water, sending a spray up and around where Sidney was sitting. It annoyed him but then, just about everything was bound to in the mood he was in. “I could go for Vegas,” Jordan added as he surfaced, shaking water out of his hair and bobbing in the dark water like a seal, with only his blue eyes and the tips of his blonde hair catching the light.

“Vegas it is,” Sidney sighed, pocketing the ring and turning to head back into his cold, empty house.


Tabitha held the cheque she’d received from Harlequin in her hand a moment longer before putting it in the envelope and letting it disappear into the auto feeder at the bank machine. It was enough to get her home and pay a month and half rent somewhere.

She’d packaged up her paintings earlier and had them shipped by UPS. The hockey one was nothing more than a rough sketch at the moment, far from finished, so that canvas was rolled up and in a shipping tube with the rest of her bags. It had seemed like a lot, when she’d landed here a couple of months ago. Now it seemed like very little, she thought, as she watched the driver load them into the back of the taxi.
“Let me know when it sells,” she sighed as she turned to put the ring of keys into her Uncle’s hand. He had sounded confused when she’d called him. He looked confused to be receiving the keys now but she noticed he wasn’t exactly begging her to stay either.

Not that there was any point in staying.

Not now.

“Your mother will be happy to have you home,” her Uncle offered, pocketing the keys. She watched them disappear into his pocket and felt her heart miss a beat. Making the decision to leave was one thing. Watching those keys disappear…well it made it all real.

It was over and she thought it would go down as the best and the worst summer of her entire life. She nodded her answer. Her mother would be happy that she’d finally put the place up for sale and then she’d go back to nagging her about making a real decision about the rest of her life but that was something she could deal with when she got home.

“Well, I guess this is it,” she sighed as she began to step down off of the porch. She felt the tears fill her eyes then. There was still a part of her that was hoping his car would come up the driveway now and that he’d beg her forgiveness and tell her what it was that he was hiding and tell her again how he loved her. She even looked down the road as far as she could, hoping to see some tell tale cloud of dust…but there was nothing.

He wasn’t coming and she was leaving and that, it seemed, was that.

“Well…I guess this is it.” Her Uncle pulled her in for an awkward hug, obligatory because they were family, but it wasn’t like they knew one another. “Tell your mom hi for me. Tell her she should come out and visit some time.” Tabby nodded, knowing her mother wouldn’t be leaving her suburban oasis any time soon for a stretch of rock by a lake, even if she told her that it was a piece of heaven. Her mother would just look at her like she’d lost her mind, which reminded her.

“Do you know a blonde girl…Taylor, down at the hardware store?” she asked, as her Uncle finally allowed her to unwind from his arms. Her Uncle looked thoughtful for a moment and then nodded. Tabby bounced back up the steps and retrieved a brown paper wrapped painting, wound with plain white string. “Give this to her…tell her it’s for her mom.” Her Uncle took the small package and was staring at it when Tabby took his moment of distraction to escape down to the waiting taxi. “Airport,” she said quietly as she slipped into the back seat.

She told herself not to turn around, not to look back. What was done was done. That didn’t stop the tears from falling down her cheeks and it didn’t stop her heart from breaking inside of her chest.