Friday, December 24, 2010

New Story!

Merry Christmas everyone!  I've started a new story, also featuring Jonathan Toews.  I hope you'll check it out:

In Another Life

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New Story

Time for a new story. This started as a one shot after Sidney Crosby had a fight on 11/3 and turned into the start of a new story. No telling how long it will go. For now, it's definitely NC-17. Hope you'll like it!

Love the Way You Lie


Thursday, October 21, 2010

New Story - Heart of Gold

I've started a new story! You'll have to wait a while to find out who the mystery player is, but there are a few clues (even more when I post chapter 2). I'd love to hear your guesses...

Heart of Gold

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Chapter 12 - Love Actually [The End]

I hadn't intended to end this story yet, but it feels over. Maybe I'll write a sequel someday. What can I say, I'm a sucker for a happy ending! I leave you with this... Jon speaking French. *le swoon*


“Katherine?” Jon calls from my closet. I come in front the bathroom, toweling off my hair and find him ticking through the hangers. “What are you wearing to the Fall Ball?”

“Why, are you going to dress to match me?” He would, but that’s not where he’s going with this. I let him play it out. He pulls out the black, backless dress I wore to the Christmas party last year, the one he really liked, and holds it up as a suggestion.

“Can’t – there was a picture of me in the paper wearing that,” I remind him, but he looks confused. “Girls don’t wear the same dress twice to be photographed. It’s just how we roll. I will have to find something new that you’ll like just as much.”

“Let me buy you a dress,” he says.

Thought so, I smile. “Not necessary. I could borrow one from Steph, or I’ll find something I like.”

“I want to.”

“Thank you, but I’m not letting you see it before the ball and I’m not letting you pay for it. That’s never how it worked for the Disney princesses.”

He relents, hanging the black dress back in my closet with a wistful look. “Okay, Cinderella.”

“I think I look more like Meg from Hercules,” I say. He wraps his arms around me from behind and meets my eyes in the mirror with a deliberately comedy-blank stare. Boys. He’s wearing a dark green sweater with a white collared shirt underneath – you’d think he worked in finance if you didn’t know him. Oh normal life, I laugh to myself, as if I’d change a single thing about Jon for the world. He smiles, full effect, and everyone woman in Chicago feels a disturbance in The Force.

I stand in Nordstrom with Stephanie, staring at rack after rack of dresses. Eighty percent of them are horrible, the other twenty percent so beautiful I want to cry. I tried on two of the best without looking at the price tags – then instantly wished I had taken Jon up on his offer. Those went back to their hangers and we started over.

“This is the best one, and it’s kind of in your budget,” Steph strokes the watered silk of a beautiful crimson knee-length strapless dress.

“If by ‘kind of’ you mean ‘well over.’ I love it, but is it crazy to buy an expensive dress if to wear just once? I guess I could wear it to weddings and stuff.” I take it into the dressing room and slide it on. It’s gorgeous, she’s right, and it fits me like a glove. “Okay, ready?”

Steph whistles when I come out. She hangs up the other two options she was holding and steers me right back into the room. “What kind of party is on a Monday night?”

“Stupid hockey schedules,” I tell her.

Jon sticks his head into the conference room. His hair is wet from the shower and a stretchy black Hawks t-shirt clings to all the right places on his body. Like he has any wrong places, I think, admiring the way his jeans hug his ass like my hands are itching to do.

“I got your text, what are you doing here on Sunday?” he asks.

I’ve set up an assembly line for myself: the Fall Ball programs are eight pages of sponsors and donors and awards and who knows what else. They need to be folded, stuffed, ribboned and bound. It’s going to take a while. Jon frowns at the pile and leaves without another word. Five minutes later Pat, Duncan, Brent and Sharpie all file in, Jon bringing up the rear.

“Blackhawks Stationary Service,” Kaner says, taking up the sorting position. “Tell us what to do.”

“Seabs, you fold over there. You haven’t showered yet,” Duncan points to the far corner. They get to it – big hands doing dainty work. I tell them it’s a stick-handling drill. Jon smiles proudly and puts an arm over my shoulder.

“Just like being captain,” he says, “tell everyone what to do, then watch.” But we join in, threading ribbon into the spine of each booklet. With all the help, we do in one hour what would have taken me five. That’s mostly it, the last of the prep that can be done the day before the Ball.

“Beers on me,” I offer, knowing that would never actually be allowed to happen. We head for the parking lot while Brent heads for the shower. As soon as we’re in the car, Jon starts peppering me with questions about tomorrow.

“What the name of the lady we’re having a threesome with?” He keeps a straight face for all of five seconds, then barks a laugh like he can’t believe he just said that. Saving that joke all day, I'm willing to bet.

“Vanessa Radcliffe. And she’s technically old enough to be your mother. It’s cougar central at this thing – Kaner’s date is the best. She’s like sixty and she’s got a beehive. Who’s Pat taking as his real date?”

“I think he’s flying solo. A little turned off from dating these days.”

Uhh, not a good idea. When we get to the bar, I corner Kane. “You really need to bring a date to this thing tomorrow. Not least of all because I made all the seating charts and if you’re next to an empty chair I’ll look like an idiot. But mostly you need a wingman. Wingwoman.”

You want me to have a date? After what happened with my last date?”

“Yes. Once more into the breach, Kaner. Please find a date or I will put you on in the morning.” I try to buy a round but the waitress laughs at me and takes Sharp’s card instead. The guys at least pretend to be excited about the Fall Ball for my sake. Second beers come with food and it’s 8 PM before we head home.

“Wanna stay over?” Jon asks.

“I can’t tonight, I…”

He clicks the locks shut. “Too bad!”

We lay on Jon’s bed watching CSI. I wear his Stanley Cup locker room t-shirt because it’s my favorite thing ever and he says it makes me look shiny. My leg is draped over his. “You could be a foot model,” he says, turning my heel with his toes. “Your feet are gorgeous.”

“Your face is gorgeous,” I say in an eight year old’s voice.

“Your legs are gorgeous,” he taunts back.

“Your ass is gorgeous,” I poke him in the ribs. He tickles me back and I crumple underneath him, spazzing out and writing around. He’s so much stronger than he looks, I had almost forgotten. One forearm across my stomach, his lower body pressed to mine and I am trapped and screaming.

“Say it,” he orders, pinching the same delicate spot on my side. “Say it! Jonathan Toews is my boyfriend.”

“Jonathan Bryan Toews is my boyfriend!” I squeal. He pinches again.

“He’s soooooo hot,” Jon continues.

“He’s so hot, he’s gonna make me pee my pants!”

“Oh yeah? Guess I’d better take them off then.” He completely overpowers me and in seconds my jeans are on the floor. I lay, panting and laughing, while he strips off his own clothes. “I can’t resist you in that shirt,” he says, moving over me.

I pull Jon down, lifting my mouth to his. He slides his arms behind my shoulders, holding me off the mattress as he stretches his body along mine. The skin of his legs is smooth beneath my feet. We kiss for what seems like a lifetime, Jon’s lips soft and sweet, his tongue gently sweeping against mine as we breathe together. His hands roam under the t-shirt leaving strokes of heat like the trail of a shooting star. I can’t wait any longer and I reach down to stroke his cock twice before guiding it into my aching slit. My back arches against the pressure as he disappears up to the hilt.

“Jon,” my voice is husky. “You feel incredible.”

He draws his length slowly out and then back in, making me purr. I’m soaking wet and he fills me up completely, my body making room for him and begging for more. His fingers tangle in my hair while mine trace the bones of his lower back and hips. A tiny moan escapes his lips. I spread my knees farther and roll into him, twisting as best I can against the weight of his body. He moans louder. My hands slide down to cup his perfect, sculpted ass and hold him close as I grind myself down over him again.

Jon puts his hands on my thighs and presses them apart, holding me fast to the bed. The flex of his biceps makes me dizzy. He levers himself up inside my hot core and it’s my turn to moan. His mouth finds my breast, slightly rough tongue raising my nipple to hard in just two strokes. Jon’s fingers turn toward center and two catch my clit in a light graze. I gasp. Now it’s his thumb, switching back and forth over my hot button. He must feel the twitch pass through my whole body.

“Jon,” I whisper. “Faster.”

He obliges and within a minute, I’m rolling. Jon is completely in control of me, his cock and fingers moving so deftly he could be solving a Rubiks’ cube. He changes pace, pulling out almost all the way and teasing me with the just the head of his penis. When I sob out a breath Jon swings down, hard.

I come immediately, digging my hands into his hips and riding the deep, strong thrusts of his hips. I bite my lip and stifle a cry as my back arches and my stomach drops. He pumps right through it, making it last as he works himself close to the edge. I feel his orgasm strike just as mine subsides, pulsing deep as his body spends itself inside me. The name on his lips is mine.

“Don’t wear any underwear to the Ball,” he pants.

"Car sex? What kind of girl do you think I am?”

Dave and I stand in the middle of the dance floor, surveying the almost completed scene. Real trees ring the room, closing the space in so it feels intimate. Fake leaves in the richest fall colors are scattered everywhere, including beneath table settings and across the front of the stage. The centerpieces that I picked out in a rush to kiss Jon look as fantastic as they did that day in the shop. Even the place cards, which Jon was no help in selecting, are the perfect complimentary shade. The DJ plugs things in while the party rental company ties chair covers and places candles.

“Nice work, Kat,” Dave says.

“Not too bad, if I do say so myself.”

At 4 PM I push open the door to my apartment – it’s unlocked and music is pumping from inside. There’s a coat on the arm of the couch.

“Steph?!” I call out.

“Oh hey Kat,” Kane sticks his head into the hallway from Steph’s room. I stop in confusion. He walks toward me, until he’s right up in my face wearing a shit-eating grin. “You said I needed a date.”

“Hi Kat!” Steph yells from inside. “I’m coming to the Ball! Is that okay?”

“Uh, yeah. Of course!”

Pat pulls his coat on, still giving me a sly grin. Steph never really liked Pat but she’s not one to turn down an invitation to a party. From the look on Pat’s face, that’s not all he has planned tonight. I shudder a little then run into her room.

“I thought you didn’t like him.”

“I might be coming around,” she says. “You like him, don’t you? You always said I wasn’t nice enough to him.” She gets up and I see what she was hiding – a huge box from Bloomingdales.

“Did he bring you a dress?!”

Steph’s face lights up. “Not just a dress. The dress.” She closes the closet door and it’s hanging on the back, a sweetheart-necked golden sheath dress, the fabric almost metallic, with spaghetti straps and an alluring slit at the thigh. It’s stunning.

“Wow. Did he pick that out?”

Steph shrugs. “Don’t know, don’t care.”

Steph and I approve each other’s fully dressed looks in the hallway full-length mirror. The golden dress glows on her and next to my crimson dress, we look like an advertisement for autumn. I’m wearing sexy, strappy high heels and my hair is curled and pinned in a messy updo with pieces falling around my face. She puts the finishing touches on my makeup and we’re the second people to arrive.

“Ladies, you look spectacular,” Dave says. He’s got a glass of wine in one hand – everything must be ready to go. I show Steph around and she coos appreciatively at all my hard work. Guests begin to arrive and I hear them echo her compliments. Pretty soon, the party is rolling. Ashley and Patrick are among the first players to arrive, cementing their role as Chicago’s hottest couple. Joanna looks like a million bucks and Bolland looks very, very lucky. Kane arrives with a single white rose for Steph and I make a gagging noise.

“Hey, at least my date won’t try to steal yours tonight,” he produces a second flower for me. Goober, I think as I kiss his cheek.

The moment I see Jon, it’s like the slow-motion sequence in a movie. He comes through the crowd, soft lighting behind him, straightening his tie. Which is exactly the color of my dress. His charcoal gray suit is perfectly tailored – I recognize it from the auction.

It strikes me how chancey things are – I’ve known Jon for two years and never felt like this. He was my friend, like all my other friends, and now one look from him makes me come unglued. We could have missed this, I know, were it not for coincidence and circumstance. It could be fate, though it seems an awful lot like a happy accident. Maybe that’s what fate is. No matter what happens with Rachel’s story, or any other story ever, I don’t intend to leave this to chance again.

He adjusts his cuffs like a GQ model showing off his wares and struts right up to me with a butterfly-inducing smile. “Incredible,” he says. “You look incredible.” His lips meet my cheek, sending a surge of electricity through my body.

“You too – wow, Jon. How did you know to wear red?”

He tilts his head down toward mine. “Who do you think gave Steph’s number to Kaner? She told me as a trade. I have something for you… follow me.” He laces his fingers into mine and heads toward the front door.

Too early for car sex, or we’ll never come back inside! But he turns into an alcove in the entryway instead.

“Since you wouldn’t let me buy you a dress, I brought you something else.” He holds up a small, black velvet box and opens it slowly. Inside is a silver necklace with a single, teardrop-shaped ruby glittering like a tiny star. The stone shines perfectly in the exact hue of my dress.

“Jon,” I gasp.

“Before you say you couldn’t possibly, let me remind you that I’m in charge around here.” He pulls the chain from the padding and opens the clasp then drapes it around my neck. When it’s fastened, his hands rest of my shoulders and he leans into my ear. “Now you look perfect.”

“It’s amazing. Thank you Jon.” I face him and think I’ve never seen him look happier. My heart pounds as he kisses me swiftly, deliciously.

“Anything for you, Kat.”

We head into the bar, where Steph is standing close enough to touch Pat, talking to Joanna and Dave. In fact they are touching.

“What is that about?” I ask Jon, who’s ordering drinks from the black-tied bartender.

“Do you like her dress?” he asks without looking.

“Yeah, it’s fantastic.”

He hands me a glass that smells like mint and rum. “That’s the dress I was going to buy you. But what you’re wearing is better – you couldn’t look any more beautiful.”

“So you gave Kaner her number and told him exactly what to bring? You are some piece of work, Toews.”

“That’s Captain Toews, young lady.”

I lead Jon to the table and introduce him to Vanessa, the donor who paid $8500 for the pleasure of his company. She’s lovely, in fact, and she brought her husband to the event. He’s so excited that I suspect she may have bid on Jon for exactly this reason. They start talking hockey and she slips in next to me.

“Forgive me for being familiar, but you two seem to be doing quite well,” she says.

I touch the ruby at my throat. “We are.”

Dinner is being served while Paul finally arrives. He catches my eye and tilts his head toward the now-empty bar area. I excuse myself with a squeeze to Jon’s leg, but his worried eyes still follow me across the room. Dave arrives at the same time.

“I have good news,” Paul says. “Rachel turned down the money. Hello wanted to offer more but the Sun-Times said no. So they have killed the story.” I have to put a hand to the back of the nearest stool. Tears spring to my eyes, welling relief and gratitude. Dave pats my shoulder and Paul passes me a glass of wine.

“I thought you might want to tell Jon,” he says. I smile hugely, dabbing at my eyes before I run off with my drink. Our food is just arriving, so I have to wait. I eat quickly, brimming with news, while Jon charms Vanessa, her husband and the rest of our table. As soon as our plates are cleared and the music starts, I ask Jon to dance.

“You okay?” he asks as his arms circle around me, resting together at the small of my back. I reach up, one hand in the hair at the back of his neck and the other draped over his shoulders.

“Paul talked to the paper – Rachel said no to the money. They’ve killed the story.” I hope to never again see the look that flashes across Jon’s face. To feel such relief, he must have felt such fear. I make a silent promise to try my best to protect him from that.

“We finally catch a break,” he pulls me in tight, pressing his forehead to mine. I feel his body relax, shedding hidden tension and anxiety that our little roller coaster had yet another loop coming fast. I put my face into his neck, reveling in being close to him and not caring if a thousand people watch.

“No more lying,” I say. “Whatever happens, let’s just tell the truth from now on.” He lifts my head and meets my gaze: I can feel the exact spot where those deep, dark eyes see straight into my heart.

“I’ll tell you something true, Kat. I’m falling in love with you. And I’ll tell you every day from now on.”

His lips find mine and the whole world disappears. A hundred and fifty people move around us – dancing, dining, watching. Music plays and cake is cut and I don’t notice a thing. Just Jon’s arms around me and the steadying weight of his kiss, holding us together.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Chapter 11 - Timeline

I wake up before the alarm. Jon is wrapped around me from behind, one arm under my neck, the other over my shoulder coming together in front of me. His knees are bent behind mine, our bodies describing exactly the same shape with no space between. Low, even breathing whispers in my ear. Laying in the dark, I feel yesterday lingering in my bloodstream – fear, nerves, relief. I’d turn Jon over and wind myself around him if it could protect him from something like that ever happening again. Lost in my thoughts I don’t realize he’s awake until he speaks.

“Okay?” he mumbles, tightening his embrace. I nod my head into his arms.

“More sleeping,” he whispers. “No leaving.”

I drift back off and when the alarm rings, I feel rested. Jon swings three times before he hits the snooze button. “You never snooze, do you?” I ask.

He gives me a raspberry on the neck. “I would if you were here.”

Eventually I get up and dress in last night’s clothes. Ashley and I are flying commercial back to Chicago about an hour after the team leaves. It’s a little too early, but I kiss Jon and sneak back to my room so no one knows he’s become a rule-breaker. Ashley’s asleep when I get in the shower and already packed when I finish.

“Dirty stayout,” she smiles.

We have a quick breakfast in the hotel restaurant with the team, who are headed for Ottawa. Jon eats an egg white omelet and then half of my pancakes. I don’t let him have any butter. Brent comes in with a newspaper: there’s a photo of me and Ashley cheering madly, the #19 on the back of my shirt partly visible, and a little circular picture of Jon celebrating his goal.

Katherine Banning, girlfriend of Chicago Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews, did not appear a jilted love last night at the Air Canada Centre as she cheered her boyfriend’s team to a 4-2 win. Rumors surfaced this week alleging Toews ‘aggressively pursued’ another woman, who was at the time dating teammate Patrick Kane.

“I’m putting this on my fridge,” Jon says, taking the paper. Before they head for the bus, he pulls me into a corner.

“Call me later, tell me how boring Ottawa is without me,” I say.

“I’ll call you from the bus in ten minutes.” His kiss is soft and sweet, making my knees a little wobbly.

Eight days…

Ashley flips down her tray table and reaches across me to take a cup from the flight attendant. She’s busily arranging peanuts and a napkin, looking down. “That girl in the bathroom yesterday said she heard you stole Jon from someone else. What was she talking about?”

“Did she say that?” I pause, mid-sip, trying to remember the exact words. In real time, I’d been more worried about keeping my cool and not adding any fuel to the fire. “Yeah, I guess she did. Must have been made up, one lie leading to another, because there’s no way she knew anything about Rachel. She and Jon were never public.”

Ashley crunches an ice cube. “Yeah, I guess you’re right. Have you looked at any of the puckbunny web boards? I can only imagine what they’re saying about you.”

My half-day at work is a blur of catching up. Dave and Paul congratulate me on a job well done in Toronto, even though I didn’t have to do anything. I work late and talk to Jon when they’re done with team dinner. The next day is the same, only Jon calls me before the game against the Senators.

“I saw a Mountie today in full dress uniform,” he says, “thought of you.”

“I saw a stripper today and thought of you. Naked.”

Four days later, I’m sitting on the floor in the conference room, surrounded by a seating chart for the Fall Ball. Each player, his real date and his “donation date” sit at a different table, joined by various others paid tickets. I’m trying to spread them out evenly, so people who aren’t sitting with a starting lineup guy are at least near one. Every time I move my own name I feel idiotic.

The intercom clicks on, the voice coming automatically from every phone in the department like a PA announcement. “Katherine, could you come to Paul’s office?”

“Sorry for the page, I looked at your desk…” he says, motioning for me to sit. “Do you have a minute?”

I’m suddenly nervous. I look at Dave, but he avoids my gaze and confirms that this is not another pep talk. Something is wrong.

“I’ve just been on the phone with the Sun-Times. It was almost a courtesy call, because they have stepped in on something rather late and they’re not too happy about being scooped. Do you know a Rachel Farnsworth?”

I freeze. What the what? “Yeah. She used to date Jon.”

“Define ‘used to’,” he asks.

“They dated for about two years, but they had problems for a long time. He hardly saw her this summer, and they broke up right before the auction. Rachel was supposed to be Jon’s date – she didn’t show, so I filled in.”

“The girl who stood Jon up at the auction was a long-term girlfriend?” Paul’s eyes are wide, half in surprise and half in annoyance. “How did I not know that Toews had a girlfriend for two years?”

I shrug. “They were never public. I knew her from outside work, and some of the guys knew her, but they were always fighting and she was hardly ever around. I mean… she didn’t come to any official team stuff, even though she lives here. She came to a few playoff games, but never as a WAG. And she missed the parade.”

“Which of the guys know her?”

“Pat and Brent for sure, and Duncan. And Sharp, I think. Kris Versteeg definitely, and… shit,” I look at Dave. “Shit!”


“Marie knows her.” I close my eyes. How did I not think of that?! Marie was around at the end of the last season, and during some of the summer’s Cup festivities. She knows Rachel. And she was really surprised to see at me backstage at the auction… ‘When did that happen?’ she’d asked. ‘Guess I missed a lot this summer.’ “Oh my God.”

“So Marie knew that Jon had a girlfriend. And then you turned up at the auction and we told everyone that you were Jon’s girlfriend,” Paul spells it out.

“I told her the truth at the auction, but she definitely didn’t believe me.” I remember her giggling backstage like she’d just discovered a secret. “No wonder she thought it was open season on getting with Jon – she thought he was already cheating with me.”

“Was he?” Paul asks. He’s all business now.

“No, they were done. Jon said they were ‘finished. Finally’ and that’s why Rachel didn’t come to the auction.” I remember the look on his face –hurt, defeat, fatigue, relief. He was definitely done.

“Well the Sun-Times heard about Rachel from Hello! Canada. Apparently, Marie offered to sell the Sun-Times more of the story, but they didn’t believe her. So she went to Hello – won won’t pay a dime unless Rachel will talk. Hello called the Sun-Times to talk about pooling money and approaching Rachel with an offer, splitting the exclusive story for the US and Canada.”

This is not happening! my brain screams.

“Does anyone really care about this?” Dave interjects, having stewed this whole time. “I mean, we’re not talking about Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie here – no offense, Kat – I don’t understand why this is a story!”

Paul folds his hands on his desk like a school principal. “Canada cares. And Chicago cares. Everybody made a fortune off the Tiger Woods scandal, and now they’re sniffing around for a new story – especially one that would sell without costing them a lot. Do you think Rachel will talk?”

“I don’t know her. I mean, I met her a bunch of times but I don’t know how it was with Jon, or what she’s doing now. Jon hasn’t said.”

“We need to talk to Jon. Five or ten grand isn’t a lot to these magazines, but it might a lot to Rachel.”

My stomach sinks. It would be a lot to me, I know. It’s a fortune. But what would make we want to sell Jon out? Please, please, please don’t let Rachel be mad. “Let me do it. Please let me call Jon.”

Paul shakes his head. “Sorry Kat, this one is out of your league.” He puts the phone on speaker and dials. Part of his job is always knowing where the team is, and by my guess they landed in Edmonton about an hour ago. Jon picks up on the third ring.

“Hey Paul.” The sound of his voice, happy and normal, makes my throat tighten.

“Jon, you’re on speaker phone. Something has come up that need to talk about.” I close my eyes and listen to him lay out the situation. Jon doesn’t interrupt. When Paul is done, he asks, “I hate to do this Jon, I know this stuff is personal, but we really need to have a straight story. Can you give us a timeline with Rachel since Marie came into the picture? Help us figure out what Marie thinks she knows.”

Jon sighs. “Ugh. Marie would have met Rachel… last March? She came to a party at Kaner’s house.” I remember that party, Pat had picked Marie up at a coffee shop a few days earlier and wanted to show off and impress her. “That was the first time any of us met Marie. A few days or a week later Sharpie had people over for a barbeque, Rachel came to that too. I actually thought things were getting better with us, she was accepting a lot of invitations. Then we had a fight that night and she left early. After that… ugh. Rachel and Marie sat together at two playoff games – Pat didn’t want Marie with the
WAGs yet, so he asked if she could sit with Rachel. Funny, they were the only two games Rachel agreed to come to. They saw each other maybe twice over the summer. That was it.”

I open my mouth to speak but Paul holds up a palm. “Why did you and Rachel never go public? How come I never knew about her?” he asks.

“I don’t know,” Jon groans. “At first, neither of us wanted her to be in the papers. Then the offseason came and it wasn’t an issue until suddenly I was named captain. I think that freaked her out. She started complaining I wasn’t around enough, paying enough attention, all that. But I couldn’t be with her and keep our relationship private, not with how well we were playing. She wanted both. Then we started falling apart and I stopped asking her to things. I let it drag on way too long, getting more and more famous all the time and she was getting more and more resentful. We practically stopped seeing each other. I thought she was going to dump me any day, so she’d rather if no one knew. But she kept hanging on, and I kept hanging on… finally, this summer was it – I worked practically the whole time. She complained. I said that for someone who didn’t make time for me, she certainly needed a lot of my time. We fought two or three times in about ten days and I just gave up. I decided not to fight with her anymore.”

“And then the auction happened,” Paul prompts.

“Well… we had a huge fight, didn’t talk for a few days and then I called her the morning of the auction. She said no way in hell was she coming out as my girlfriend when I couldn’t find any time to spend with her on my summer vacation. Like I was laying on the fucking beach somewhere!” Jon takes a deep breath. “So that was it – I went to the auction, Kat saved my ass and then… do you guys really need to know all this?”

I’m hiding my face in my hands, asking the same question.

“Better now that later,” Paul says. “And not because we like it, you sound like a chick flick and I feel like Dr. Phil.”

Jon almost laughs. “I felt crazy at the auction. I kissed Kat for the photos, then I kissed her again in the back room. I forgot that kissing someone could feel like that. I knew then it was absolutely, completely over with Rachel, even if Kat didn’t want me. So I called Rachel the next day, made her meet me the day after and told her we were done for good.”

Awww, that’s so nice… WHAT!?

“Did you just say that you and Rachel broke up AFTER the auction?” I ask without permission.

“Kat?” Jon asks. “Have you been there this whole time?”

I realize that Paul told Jon he was on speaker, but never who was present. I don’t care. “Yeah, hi. Dave’s here too. Can you repeat that last part? You told me at the auction that you and Rachel were ‘finished. Finally.’ I thought that meant you broke up.”

“We were finished. We both knew it. But I didn’t officially end it until after I kissed you. I didn’t think… I wasn’t expecting you, Kat. I didn’t know I would want to….”

I cut him right off, I can’t hear anymore love notes because I’m seeing red. “We went in front of the cameras and told them we were dating… and you were still technically seeing someone else? Did Rachel see those photos before you broke up with her?”

I hear Jon put his face in his hands. “She did, but I told her that we were faking it. I told her that you did what she couldn’t, you stepped up when I needed someone and that you were willing to do everything she wasn’t when you were just my friend. She believed it – she liked you, Kat. She knew you.”

“Oh my God,” I can’t get any other words to come. My brain is melting down – Jon is the last person on Earth I would have ever expected to do something like this.

“She also knew Marie,” Paul points out. “And we all know Marie is full of shit. Do you think that Rachel will sell her story?”

“No. She never wanted to be in the papers. That was our biggest problem – I guess you can’t be with me and not be photographed. Not anymore, at least.”

“Okay. Jon, don’t talk to anyone. Kat, don’t talk to anyone. I will see if they’ve gotten a hold of Rachel. Jon, you may need to call her but let me find out what Marie has been saying before we stick our foot in anything.”

“Kat, I’ll…” Jon says but I’m already out of the room.

I ignore my cell phone as it rings three times in a row. Without asking, I take my purse and walk out the door, wandering around the blocks that circle the arena with my collar up all the way and Jon’s words running through my head: He broke up with Rachel after he kissed me. She saw the photos of us first. How would I feel? What would I think? We weren’t cheating, but technically we were. He cheated on her. He cheated with me.

Ten minutes and one lap later, I listen to the first of three voicemails.

“Kat, I’m so sorry. I didn’t even think it was important. We were over long before that, I swear to you. When I kissed you – Kat, please. Pick up the phone.”

Delete. Message two.

“Please talk to me. I understand what you’re thinking. She was angry about the photos, but she understood why you did it. You were just being there for me. Rachel couldn’t do it herself, so… ugh, this sounds stupid. Please call me.”

The last voicemail is nothing but a click.

Dave calls my name as I pass his office. I shut myself in and slump into a chair.

“I know you’re mad,” he says. “I’m sorry that happened in front of us.”

I shrug, wondering if I would have ever found out otherwise. Would it have mattered? If it might not be plastered across a tabloid headline, would I care? I think I would – I hate the idea of Rachel seeing a photo of me kissing someone she still thinks of as her boyfriend. Work doesn’t help clear my head, so I leave as soon as the clock hits 6 PM.

The Hawks game plays on mute as I sit on my couch, thinking while my eyes follow the puck. The camera loves Jon, shows him a hundred thousand times. My body feels tired and slow for want of being near him. I’m crazy, I think, knowing it’s been less than six weeks since he came out of nowhere and knocked me off my feet.

There’s no way I can imagine what it’s like to be with someone for two years. Even two years broken up by seasons and off-seasons, road trips and obligations seems like forever. There must have been a time when Rachel felt the way I do – overwhelmed, surprised. Not by the fame, just by Jon. My mind races as I try to get a grasp on mixed up feelings. There’s something here, something about this that hurts.

I see him on screen, my stomach flips. When he’s not on for a while my mind sizzles back to anger – I feel confused and betrayed. I go to bed when the game is over and wait for the phone to ring, but when it does, I can’t answer.

The next morning my phone rings one minute after my alarm.

“Kat,” Jon sounds surprised when I pick up. “I’m so sorry. It was already over with Rachel, I swear to God.”

I’m still half-asleep, if anything more confused than the night before. “You had a hundred fights and stayed together after every single one. Why was this one any different?”

He’s in bed, I hear the blankets move as he rolls over. “You, Kat. You were the difference. When I kissed you… I don’t know if I ever felt that with her. If I did, it was years ago.”

“So if you’d never kissed me, you and Rachel would still be together. Still fighting, still beating a dead horse but you’d still be with her if you hadn’t kissed me. That is cheating, Jon!”

“I was going to end it, really I was. I’d already given up, I was just being chicken shit.”

The pain is his voice twists my stomach. Is this really just a question of doing things out of order? Procrastination? Or did my presence in this equation really chance the outcome?

“Jon, I told the whole world we were together because you asked me to. Harmless, right? No one gets hurt. So I lied for you. I wish I’d known there was someone I was actually lying to.” I quickly say goodbye without giving him another chance to speak. I need to think, need to process. The covers go over my head and I don’t care about being on time for work.

Jon doesn’t call or text. I am able to lose myself in work for most of the day, which I need because the Fall Ball is only 6 days away. Nearly everything is finished – final food numbers are in, flowers are confirmed, music is chosen. I collect everyone’s speeches and proofread programs. The team plays tomorrow night then heads home – I’ll see Jon in three days.

“Am I overreacting?” I ask as we tie ribbons on party favors. Ashley and Joanna look at each other. They’ve clearly been talking about this without me.

“If it were anyone but Jon, I’d say no. Cheating is cheating even if you don’t mean to do it,” Ashley says. “But Jon… he’s Jon. He wouldn’t hurt a fly, right?”

I put down the tiny silver Stanely Cup-shaped charm I’m threading. “Does that make it worse? If you’re Rachel, there’s no way Jon would do this. Not in a million years. So you had another fight, maybe it’s over, but you’ll know when that end comes, right? After all, you’ve spent two years doing exactly this. Then you open the paper and BOOM. Surprise surprise.” Joanna tilts her head to the side like she’s seeing my point of view. Ashley shrugs and ties a charm to centerpiece vase. I know we’re both right – Jon didn’t mean it. But he still did it.

“Hun… I’m sorry, I have to ask. Why do you care so much about what happened with Rachel? You know the truth – you weren’t cheating on her. Not really. And you know that it was ending or over between them. Jon is head over heels for you and I’m not sure I see what you’re so upset about.” Joanna looks at me through pinched eyes, like she’s a little afraid she’s gone too far. She’d be the one to ask the hardest question.

“I thought that myself. It’s not her – I mean, it is, I feel terrible that she saw me kissing Jon when she thought they were still together. I would never do that to someone knowingly. But it’s also him – I just can’t believe Jon did something so careless. And if he was careless with her, could he do that to me?”

“Never,” she shakes her head like I suggested he would murder someone. “Jon would never.”

I finish tying. “Once upon a time Rachel would have said the same thing.”

I call at curfew and he answers on the first ring.

“I would not have been able to sleep tonight without talking to you,” he says.

“I don’t want to have a big discussion, just hear your voice. I’m messed up about this and I miss you… I wish you were home already.” In truth I want to cry. Part of me so wants to be mad about this because it’s the right thing to do – there are important principles being broken. The rest of me just wants a hug.

“Don’t supposed you could fly to Calgary in the morning? Too busy at work?” he laughs lightly.

“Two more days, babe. Two more days.”

The team flies home after their game, arriving in the middle of the night. I wake up to the doorbell ringing and run through the living room in my underwear. Jon’s standing in the hall, looking tired and hungry in a rumpled suit and overcoat, huge duffel bag on his shoulder. He falls into my arms.

“At least close the door, you’re not wearing any pants,” Steph says from behind us, then shuffles back to bed.

“I called twice,” he says but I am kissing him too hard to understand. His bag and coat go in the middle of the living room floor, his suit on my bedroom floor. Thirty seconds later we are braided together beneath my sheets. “Kat…,” he whispers.

“Shhhh.” I snuggle my face into his neck, blocking out the whole world with his warm body.

The talk is coming. My body fights the morning, preferring ignorance and the deep comfort of sleep. Jon is really beat, snoring lightly with his mouth open in a way that could never be cute on anyone else. I nudge him gently and he comes around, rubbing his face into the pillow. One eyelid cracks and he looks at me skeptically.

“We probably need to talk before you’ll let me ravage you, eh?” Then he turns serious. “I am so sorry Kat. I hate that this happened while I was away – that’s the hardest part of playing hockey. Life goes on while I’m away and I miss so much. I hope that doesn’t make you want to break up with me.”

“No, of course not.” I should know better than to ask some questions, but I feel guilty for my part in this. I want to feel better and I want it to be over. “Did you talk to Rachel between kissing me and the pictures coming out?”


“So she saw them with no warning. You and another girl, kissing in full color. A newspaper article calling me your girlfriend, out of nowhere.”

“I should have. I was so confused – I went to the auction upset at Rachel and at myself. Then you… you were there. Doing everything, saving the day. I kissed you and it felt like an earthquake, but you freaked out. Remember that, Kat, you said you didn’t want to kiss me. You chased me away. I stayed up all night wondering how a kiss could feel like so much to me and be nothing to you.”

My eyes burn with tears. “It wasn’t nothing.”

He tightens his arms around me. “I know that now. But that night… I thought I’d lost Rachel for good and then immediately ruined my friendship with you too. I couldn’t talk to her about what happened when I wasn’t even sure what it was. Remember the next morning, with the kids visiting practice?”


“Well you were still my friend. I was so relieved that I called Rachel to settle the rest, but she couldn’t see me till the next day. That night, you slept at my house. That was torture; I was suddenly crazy about you and convinced that I was making you miserable, that you wanted nothing to do with me.”

“I cried myself to sleep that night because you gave up so easily. I didn’t know how to tell you that kiss changed everything.” It feels good to admit that.

“The the next day I went over there. I left you stranded at the rink – remember? I was so distracted I forgot you didn’t have a car. Pat gave me shit for that. It took a while, but in the end Rachel knew that we were finished and I had moved on, or hoped so, and it was in that order. Not the other way around.”

“I know. But what scares me Jon is that you were careless with Rachel’s feelings. You tried so hard to stay with her, killing yourself over it for months. If you wanted it that badly, how could you do that to her?”

He groans. “You’re right and I’m so, so sorry. I apologized to her a million times too.”

“If you did that to her, could you do it to me?”

“Never. God Kat, I would never. Especially not now – you’re right, I fucked up. I won’t do it again.”

His eyes are so dark they look black, like bottomless pools. That crease between them is back –he’s concentrating hard, trying to Jedi mind trick me into believing him. But I don’t need a trick, because he said the right thing. The tension in my body breaks, and ease flows through my veins like I’m a light stick cracked and about to start glowing.

“I think that’s what I really needed to hear.”

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Chapter 10 - Almost Famous

Ashley and I do our best to steer clear of the game day routine – God forbid I’m the reason this game gets messed up. We sleep in, partially because I’m hoping to ignore the news of the day. When we finally surface around 11 AM I have three text messages and four voicemails. Not a good sign.

“It’s Paul. I spoke to Jon and he knows the drill for tonight. Look happy, don’t talk to anyone with a camera or a microphone. Call me if you have any questions.”

“Hey Kat, it’s Dave. I’m pretty sure Paul doesn’t think you need to know this, so don’t tell him, please. They’ve spoken to Versus and the camera will know where you are in the arena. They’re not too interested in the story – yet – but they were going to mention it. Now Paul has them set to show you looking all lovey-dovey and hopefully they’ll say Marie’s story is crap.”

The other two are work-related and have nothing to do with Jon, so I ignore them. I’m definitely working today, but it doesn’t mean I will get anything done. I delete everything and explain the situation to Ashley. She nods resolutely and I’m stuck by the urge to hug her.

“You know what this means?” she says. “We’re getting our hair done.”

Ashley buys a paper on the corner and folds it quickly. We choose a nearby diner for breakfast, she slides into the booth next to me and ceremoniously unrolls the Toronto Sun. My heart does a little flip, but settles down when I see we’re not on the front cover. Ashley starts turning pages – and stops at page six. A photo of Jon and me is cracked open like a broken heart, with a small one of Marie stapled into the rift.

Captain Scandalous?

The Chicago Blackhawks bring their Stanley Cup rings to Toronto tonight, but the real story may be off the ice. Captain Jonathan Toews has recently been accused of spoiling the blossoming relationship between Marie Diamonte and Hawks teammate Patrick Kane. The crime? Aggressively pursuing Diamonte despite her repeated refusals. The victim? Aside from Diamonte and Kane, Toews is presently flaunting his first-ever public relationship with Katherine Banning, employee of the Chicago team’s charity division. She may well be the real charity case here – if Toews is looking to step out on her, he’ll find plenty of women perfectly willing. The question? Diamonte was definitely involved with Kane, but the Hawks are keeping quiet about their internal relations. Toews’ reputation as a genuinely nice guy is rivaled only by Sidney Crosby’s, but as he wades into the world of celebrity dating for the first time he may find there are sharks in the water.

Calls to Diamonte for comment were not immediately returned.

Ashley shuts the paper as food arrives. I take a bite of my scramble and just shrug at her. She shrugs back and asks me to pass the syrup.

I let her lead us to a salon for wash & dry. They do a really nice job on my waves – the kind of thing I always think I can do, but fail miserably. I’ve got a #19 shirtzee for tonight, so I may actually look okay for the first (hopefully only) installment of this shit show. At five, we meet the guys in the lobby.

“Charity case?” Duncan says, trying to make light. “Guess they haven’t seen those jeans on you.”

Everyone is really supportive, and I get the feeling they’ve already talked to Jon and Pat. When Pat sees me his face falls, and I promise myself that someday, somehow, I will spill a drink on Marie’s favorite dress or put gum in her hair. Something. I give him my biggest smile. Nothing keeps Pat down for long and he’s already doing his best to rally.

“You look great,” he says.

“I was going to sew two jerseys together – yours’ and Jon’s – but I thought that would look slutty.”

Jon strolls into the lobby, looking like a million damned dollars. My mouth gets a little dry. He’s wearing a tan suit with a maroon tie and what might actually be a pink shirt. Ridiculous, I tell myself. The guy wears pink and I want to rip it off him. He walks right up and kisses me, hands at the back of my neck. Duncan wolf whistles. It’s all I can do to keep my tongue out of his mouth and my hands out of his pants.

“Hi gorgeous,” he smiles. Okay, we’re going for confident. I can do this, I think. I can do this for Jon and Pat. He laces his fingers into mine and pulls me away from the crowd, over near some couches and chairs. I could swim in the deep brown of his eyes, which are full of concern and pinched at the corners in concentration. “Will you be okay? You don’t have to do this if you don’t want to.”

I touch his face. I couldn’t stop myself if I wanted to. My fingers brush the flawless skin and push through the short hair just above his ear. He presses his face into my palm, seeking comfort. Thank God he is so honest, I think, because there’s something I need to say.

“I want to do this. No one is going to get away with something like this on my watch,” I tilt his chin slightly so he’s looking right into my eyes. “I’m crazy about you, Jon. I meant it when I said I would do anything for you.” There is it, openly declared.  I hope he already knows this, and that we're at the point where we can say it to each other out loud.

He moves so fast I don’t get a breath in before his lips are pressed to mine, strong and sure. Now I feel the confidence I saw in him before, now I feel like I could take on the world.

“I’m crazy about you too, Kat. I have asked for so much already, but I really need you on this one.” The small crease between his eyebrows adds five years to his gorgeous face. He’s trying to see through me, see how far he can go before he hits a dead end.

It’s my turn to kiss him, hand under his suit jacket and pressed to his back. “You got me. I promise.”

The Air Canada Centre is a scary place. We stand in the zamboni gateway looking up at the arena – there must be a million people crammed into this place, every one of them wearing a Leafs jersey or shirt. I’ve cheered for the away team before, but never in a place like this. And never when anyone cared.

“Damn,” Ashley says next to me, her face close enough to fog up the glass. “That is a big crowd.” She gives me an I can’t believe we’re doing this look and adjusts the #10 jersey on her shoulders. Ashley’s been to almost every building in the League, but the Wags usually don’t wear team paraphernalia. It’s like we’ve put targets on our backs. The guys are on the ice for the pre-game skate, and game time is in half an hour. More people are coming, I know as I look around the see where they could possibly fit. A maintenance man scoots past us with a sideways look. A puck smacks into the boards, making Ashley jump back. Patrick skates by with a big smile on his face.

“Moron,” she shakes her fist like a cartoon character.

“There you guys are!” a voice calls from behind us. It belongs to a small blonde and judging by her clothes, she’s definitely a WAG. She’s got a big smile on her face and I think of the straight-A student assigned to show the new kid around on his first day of school.

“I’m Molly, Kris Versteeg’s girlfriend. I guess Toews asked him to make sure you two were alright.” She shakes our hands and gratitude floods through me – toward Molly for being nice, toward Jon for even thinking of it. This place is more than intimidating and I’m already a little flipped out about our situation. “You must be Kat. Saw your picture in the paper today. There are crazies up here all the time saying things about the guys. It’ll blow over, you’ll be okay. I’ve never met Jon but he seems like a nice guy.”

Molly chats with us until the skate finishes. A couple of the Hawks tap the boards on their way past to say hello. Or good luck. Or nice knowing you, my brain says. Jon skates right over like he’s going to stop and talk to us, which I know will get him in trouble. The look on his face is equal parts good luck, sorry and I will make this up to you. He approaches the boards very slowly, then bends down and comes up with a puck that must have been sitting right in front of us. With a silly grin, he tosses it up over the glass and I catch it.

Show him you’re okay. I put the back of my hand to my head and pretend to faint.

“Let’s see if I can get you upstairs without passing any media.” Molly leads us around some corners and through a service corridor to an elevator. We ride up with a huge cart of soft pretzels. The vendor lets us off first and we snake through some kegs of beer until we reach a carpeted hallway. The club level lets us circle the entire building until we’re just above our section.

“You guys are in that one,” Molly points to the section behind the Hawks bench. “And I’ll be two more over.” The WAGs sit where the Leafs shoot twice, closer to the goal on the same side as us. “If you need anything, call me. Or just yell for help.” She gives us each a hug before she leaves and I promise that when the Leafs come to Chicago I will take her out for dinner. When she’s gone, Ashley and I stand around looking at each other in our Hawks jerseys.

“Here goes nothing,” I say.

Our seats are in the middle of the last row of the section, backs against the wall like we’re afraid the mafia will try to sneak in and bump us off. A few people boo as we walk by, giving us a hard time for climbing over them. The last few seats before ours are a couple of very big guys.

“Ladies! You’re making a terrible mistake in those jerseys!” one guys says very loudly, causing everyone around us to turn. “We’ll have to spend the game making Leafs fans out of you.” He’s smiling though, and gives a little bow as he lets us through. “What do you think, eh? Can we turn them into Leafs fans?” he asks the people in next row.

“Not that one,” a girl my age says, pointing at me from down the line. “You’re Toews’ girlfriend, right? Saw you in the paper today.” Now really everyone looks, even the people who were pretending not to listen. I smile and nod nervously – I don’t want to spend the game getting heckled. Instead, the girl smiles. “Good for you, he’s fucking hot!” Everyone laughs and I blush madly.

“Team Canada! ” The guy next to us shouts to the section attendant, “Beers for the ladies. They’re gonna need ‘em when the Leafs win! ”

We trade jokes back and forth with our section-mates and I’m grateful for the wall behind us – we can stand and cheer a little less noticeably. The place goes predictably crazy when the Leafs take the ice so that no one hears us cheering as the Hawks come out. By the time the puck drops, I’m feeling better and I’ve finished a beer.

The first period is hard and fast, with a lot of hitting and end to end action that makes me completely forget about Marie, cameras and gossip. The Leafs score first, earning us a few told you so’s from our new friends. With five minutes left, Schenn takes a tripping penalty and the Hawks go on the power play. Jon and Pat fly down the ice 2-on-1 and Jon roofs the puck into the net behind Giguere.

I jump out of my seat like we’re in Chicago. It’s a reflex, a gut reaction, and at the same time it’s total relief. We shout and wave and hug each other. Instantly, we are on the Jumbotron. Half the place starts booing lightly, like they always do to opposing team fans. The camera zooms in on me and I swear I hear the crowd say “Oooooh,” like they do when an opposing player gets creamed with a clean hit. It means “ouch.” All around the arena, heads start turning to see where we are. It only lasts a few seconds and as the puck drops again, I drop into my seat.

I didn’t realize until Jon scored that I was really, really worried I wouldn’t have anything to cheer about and had been holding my breath since yesterday morning. Instantly I feel fifty pounds lighter. Our neighbors reach over the pat me on the shoulder and someone passes me a fresh beer.

“Thank God,” Ashley says, looking as surprised as I feel. She squeezes my hand and I make a mental note to name our first child after her.

There’s a play stoppage and the announcer comes on with the goal details: “Blackhawks goal scored by number 19, Jonathan Toews…” and instead of showing Jon on the ice, the Jumbotron feed shows me and Ashley again. We cheer like idiots for the entire readout.

“Okay, okay, you’ve got what you came for. Now back to the Leafs!” our neighbor yells and the section agrees.

When the buzzer sounds to end the period, I have text a text from Steph. That was it – they all but called M a liar. PS: you’re smoking hot.

“I have one from Joanna.” Ashley reads, “Tell Kat nice ass and that Versus loves JT.”

The teams trade another pair of goals in the second period, this one by Brent. By the second intermission, I really have to pee. We debate the merits of taking off our jerseys, but decide not to – we’d have to do it on the concourse because the cameras might be on our seats. By then, what’s the point?

Last time someone recognized me in a bathroom, it was teenage girls in Toews t-shirts. Ashley said they’re so nice when they’re young. As we get inside this bathroom, I feel a different vibe. Chicago loves their Cup champs, but this is city lives and breathes hockey. There must be twenty girls my age, all fixing their hair and looking like they actually know the game. And they definitely read the papers. One catches my eye in the mirror and recognition crosses her dark eyes. She turns, blonde hair trailing behind to crash over her far shoulder.

“Nice jersey,” she says. “I hear you boyfriend’s giving those out all over town.”

She says ‘boyfriend’ like she means ‘unicorn’ or ‘leprechaun’ – something I’d be an idiot to believe in. Every face in the room is turned toward me. The girls lined up at the mirror now look like the Pussycat Dolls, tarted up and standing in a v-formation behind their leader in her baby pink Leafs jersey.

“You heard wrong,” I shake my head.

“I also heard you stole him from someone else. So fair’s fair, right? He cheats on her, he cheats on you – hell, for a piece of that I’d let him cheat.”

“For a piece of that you’d have to disappear and come back as me,” I say with a straight face.

She cocks her head to the side like she’s been practicing conversations like this since junior high. “Or just be around when you disappear.” The friend to her left, a short girl with bangs and a Leafs tank top, hands her a pen and a scrap of paper. Pink jersey scribbles on it, walks up to me and holds it out.

“In case your boyfriend’s still not satisfied,” she hands me her number. I snatch it from her hand and drop it straight into the trash can behind me. “Hmmph,” she snorts and struts away, each of her minions giving me a dirty look on their way out.

I make a face at Ashley and duck into an open stall. Once inside, I close my eyes and take a deep breath. That’s nothing, I know. I’ve heard worse in bar bathrooms from two girls fighting over a frat boy. Hell I’d be jealous of Jon’s girlfriend if it weren’t me.  But it still hurts.

Halfway through the third period, Kaner gets an ugly goal in a pileup in front of the net. There’s a scrum and guys start grabbing sweaters and smooshing faces. We’re all on our feet – Jon’s got someone in a headlock while another guy tries to pull his jersey off. Kaner comes in and throws an elbow, separating them and getting tripped to the ice. Jon half-drags his guy away from the action while the refs sort it out. Duncan’s at the bottom of the pile with Phanuef. When they are untangled, each team takes a 2 minute minor. Sharp and Hossa take the first shift 4-on-4 with a lot of open ice and Patrick slides one under the goalie to give the Hawks a 4-2 lead. We cheer like mad, knowing no one will be buying us beers now. At the buzzer, the Hawks win. Ashley and I take the regular route downstairs, moving quickly, and she leaves me in our spot by the zamboni corridor while she sticks her head into the locker room.

“Ugh, cameras everywhere,” she reports. “Stanley Cup champs come to hockeytown – they’ll be in there all night.” We watch them clean the ice as the arena empties, sitting under the bleachers like high school delinquents.

Patrick comes to get us, wearing a gray suit with a blue tie. The man was not voted Chicago’s Sexiest Athlete for nothing, I think. Ashley throws herself on him in congratulations.

“Nice one, Shooter,” I say.

“Can’t let my girl down when she came all the way up here!” he laughs.

The room’s pretty empty and almost everyone is changed. Jon’s suit is black with a white shirt and a red tie – he looks like a classic Hollywood matinee idol. I move so fast across the room that Brent yells, “Coming through!” Jon’s catches me around the waist and swings me into a bear hug.

“You okay?” he puts his face close to mine and I kiss my answer.

“Could you hear us when you scored? We were crazy people.”

He smiles. “I could see you, the only two Hawks jerseys in the whole place bouncing around like maniacs.”

Pat comes in and I give him another big hug, almost taller than him in my boots. “Every single guy on the Leafs asked Jon for your phone number. If it doesn’t work out, you could totally move here.”

“Some girl gave me her number for Jon. We can give that one to the Leafs. Except Luke Schenn, he’s a cutie.” Jon throws something at me, Pat catches it and throws it back.

We’re on the bus back to the hotel when my phone rings. Jon grabs it first. “Hey Paul.”

“Hi Jon. Nice one tonight, thanks for getting us a goal. You can tell Kat that everything went fine – they only mentioned it once when you scored, but they showed her and Ashley a handful of times. It even looked like they made friends with some Leafs fans. Tell her thanks.”

Jon disconnects and gives me a wary look. “Did you make friends with some Leafs fans? How do you make everyone like you?”

Ashley shouts from the back. “They loved us! Some girl told Kat: ‘Good for you, Toews is fucking hot!’”

“International relations,” I say. “Ashley and I are like NATO.”

“Let’s do something,” Jon says, back at the hotel.

“Are you going to wear that suit?” I ask.

“Uhh, yeah. I was.”

“There is only one thing I want to do while you’re wearing that suit,” I press my body in close, sliding my thigh between his and pushing my breasts to his chest. He leans in, lips almost touching mine. “I guess that could wait till later,” I turn away.

We go to a nearby bar, where the guys hang their suit jackets and loosen their ties. It makes Jon look like someone just took him out back and kissed him senseless. I think it’s a sign. We have a few drinks, the mood light because of the win and what we’re all hoping is the end of the biggest non-scandal Jon or I have ever been involved in. For the first time in a few days I feel something other than the knot in the pit of my stomach, and that something is Jon’s hand on my back.

“You were amazing today,” Jon says quietly. “Even more amazing than you usually are.”

The crease between his eyebrows is gone. Those broad shoulders create an almost private space for me to stand in, close enough for his lips to graze my ear as he speaks. No one else gets to do this, I think. Say whatever you want, this is where I stand.

“I wish you could come on the rest of the trip.”

“Me too,” I admit, but I’m going back tomorrow morning and straight to work. “When you’re back, the Fall Ball will be complete. We’ll give that lady the $8,500 date she paid for.”

“I don’t want to go eight days before seeing you again,” he says into my hair.

“Bring back that mountie costume and I’ll make it worth the wait.”

He laughs and kisses me, the kind of kiss that starts off easy and could have us rolling on the floor seconds later. We’re both thinking hotel but Jon’s nature is to be discreet. Then he takes my hand.

“Night guys!” he calls as he pulls me out the front door.

I fall onto his bed, feeling a hundred times better than the night before. I’m glad that’s over, I think. Then Jon says it out loud. He flops down next to me and I rub my fingers over his forearm to his rolled up sleeve.

“I really want to say goodbye to you…” he says, one hand in my hair. “But I am afraid I won’t be able to skate in the morning. Think you could take it easy on me, just this once?”

We kiss for a long time, lying side by side on the cool bedspread. He twists a strand of my hair around his finger as his lips gently trace mine. I slide in, seeking comfort. Today was a close call, a really bizarre experience for me and I’m pretty proud of the way I handled it. In reality, I probably got off easy – people are quick to dismiss gossip about someone like Jon, as scandalous as white bread. He was always more interesting to me, as my funny, energetic friend, but my mind flashes through scenes from the last month – the back of his car, last night in the bathroom – and I know he has more surprises in store.

We undress each other and roll under the covers. His body is like a fort – lying beneath it I feel like nothing can hurt me. We move together, so gently that we barely un-tuck the bedding. His skin is baby soft under my fingers and I trace the curves and dents of his shoulder blades and hips. He rolls me on top but holds me close, keeping our warmth trapped under the blankets. His breath sprinkles goosebumps across my neck. I feel like a treasure – he’s handling me carefully, like I’m irreplaceable.

“Kat,” he whispers. “I was so scared that I would lose you today.” His breathing is a little forced, we’re both getting close to the end.

“Not a chance. I’m staying right where I want to be.” I kiss him quiet as I come, my body filling slowly the way hot fudge pours over ice cream. A tear slips from my eye – I was scared too, without even knowing exactly what I was scared of. Now I feel strong.

Jon presses his forehead to my shoulder as his body shudders, a groan covered by a sigh that comes at the same time. My hands hold his rigid biceps, willing him to take his time. A few deep breaths later his mouth finds mine. I curl onto my side and he wraps around me like a shell, protective and warm. I will my body to absorb enough of his presence to last for the next eight days.

“Will you get in trouble for this?”

“No one would believe I actually did it,” he chuckles. “Night baby.”

“Night love.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

Chapter 9 - Step Up

Jon’s looking at me, his face the kind of expressionless mask he wears after a big loss or a stupid penalty, when asked a question he doesn’t want to answer. I bite my bottom lip till it threatens to split.

“I’ll kill her.” I feel like I just mainlined a case of soda – my heart is pounding arhythmically and my veins tremble.

“Kat,” he says in the voice of the Captain, which he was saving in case I was somehow miraculously okay. Now he needs to talk like it’s game time and he’s keeping everyone’s shit together. “We all know it’s a lie. Just let her talk herself out then this will all go away.” He leans his head back like it hurts to think about this.

“Until the next puckslut stalker comes along who can smell a paycheck!”

Jon raises his eyebrows. “They didn’t pay her for this.”

“No – Marie wasn’t smart enough to shop her story around. And she probably doesn’t have anything but these photos to go on. But someone could do better than this. Someone could put together a lie about you that would sell for a fortune – especially in Canada. Jesus, Jon. You’re playing in Toronto tomorrow. They’re gonna be all over this! You are in every Canadian city this trip.”

His hand runs up my bare back. I just swore I didn’t care what the papers said and now I’m ready to Hulk out. “So what if they talk about it in Canada? There’s nothing else for them to say. I’m careful, Kat. We’re all careful – except Kaner, who will have no choice now. ”

The mention of Pat puts me over the edge. He doesn’t deserve this either. My eyes burn hot and fast and before I can stop myself, I’m crying. Jon wraps his arms around me and pulls me down against him, laying back into the pillows.

“Shhhhh,” he whispers. I know I’m being ridiculous – but I’m furious that she would use these guys, and for no reason! There’s nothing she can gain from this except a little backhanded infamy and a few lines of type.

“It’s okay, babe. We are fine, Pat will be fine, this will all be over soon. I always knew something like this would happen eventually – to me, at least, but I’m sorry that it’s happening to you.”

I lever myself into a sitting position. “Don’t, Jon. Don’t apologize for what she did. Don’t you feel sorry for a second that she’s a gold-digging famewhore piece of shit who didn’t know a good thing when she had it.”

Jon puts his hands up in surrender, a little smile breaking through. “Okay, okay! I’m not sorry she’s crazy.”

I’m up now, pulling trousers out of the closet and stomping around. I assemble a work outfit as Jon watches, saying nothing. When I’m dressed, I throw my duffle bag and start shoving clothes into it.

“What are you doing?” he sits up.

“I’m coming to Toronto.”

I walk right into Paul’s office and drop my bag on a chair next to where Dan is sitting. They both look at me with hard faces. Everyone’s mad with no one to take it out on.

“I’m going to Toronto,” I announce, like I have any say in the matter and any way to get there except the team plane that leaves in three hours.

“Fucking A right you are,” Paul says. “Ashley Sharp is going with you. Wear a jersey and cheer your ass off. Climb onto the ice if you feel like it. I don’t care if you flash the damn TV camera, Kat, but they had better see you smiling like you’re walking down the goddamned aisle as soon as that game is over.”

I forward my work phone to my cell, sign out a laptop for the trip and finish some paperwork. On my way out, I stick my head into Dan’s office. “You gonna be okay?” he asks. His look has softened into genuine concern – not for the team or someone’s reputation, but for me personally. He looks like a dad now and I give him a steely nod. “Atta girl.”

I catch up to Ashley and Patrick in the hallway. Patrick puts his arm around my shoulders and gives me a hug – it’s nice to know that everyone is behind us on this.

“Mess with the boy wonder and you get the big guns,” he smiles.

Ashley chimes in. “She’ll get my foot up her ass is what she’ll get.”

Everyone looks up as we board the bus. Jon stands up but my eyes find Pat in the row behind, looking like he’s taken a beating this morning. I give Jon a grim smile and take the seat next to Pat. Before he can say anything, Duncan leans over the aisle to give me a fist bump. From the back, Brent starts loudly singing “Stand by Your Man.” Everyone laughs shortly, then real laughter slowly takes its place until the tension has eased, if not quite broken.

“Is it true Paul said you could flash the camera?” Duncan asks.

“So everyone can see my #19 tattoo,” I reply to a chorus of howls. Pat smiles and squeezes my hand.

“We got this,” I say.

Ashley and I share a room like we’re teammates. The guys have an afternoon skate, so we walk around Toronto to occupy our time. I check the papers – no stories yet of course, but I feel the need to look anyway. I’m ignoring the internet like it was never invented. For her part, Ashley doesn’t ask. When the guys are done, we get officially invited to the team dinner.

“I wish Joanna could have come,” Dave says over pasta. “But she cannot keep her mouth shut. As it is she’ll be watching on TV, probably calling up Versus and hollering down the phone.” I can see it – Joanna wearing stilettos around her house, all glammed up and flexed to bitch slap someone. If this story takes off in Chicago I’ll be very glad to have her in my corner.

The rest of dinner is routine bawdy jokes and hockey talk then we head back to the hotel to watch some TV before curfew. Jon gets his own room, but we pile in with Pat and Brent for a few episodes of Entourage. Pat’s sneakers smell and there are clothes all over the place, just like the locker room at home. Jon sits behind me, a leg on either side, and I lean back against him. By the time the third show is over, his fingers are cheating below the waist at the back of my pants.

“Tuck me in?” he asks.

His room is the same as Pat’s, only the second bed is covered with his stuff. I lay on his empty bed like a starfish, sapped and spent. It’s been a long day. Jon takes a knee and leans over me.

“Is this way it always in on the road?” I ask. They certainly seem to be having fun.

“Early in the season, yeah. It gets old after a while, when you’re sick of everyone’s jokes and you’ve watched all the TV shows. It’s better when you’re here,” he presses his lips to my collarbone.

“Captain Toews, we are not allowed to fool around. Coach’s orders, and Paul’s and Dave’s. And mine. I need my beauty sleep if I’m going to be gossip girl tomorrow.”

He lays down next to me – I knew that would be easy, Jon has never broken a rule in his life. He sighs.

“Thank you for doing this,” he says.

I put my hand in a non-team approved spot on his body – bam! He was waiting for it. He flips over and pins me to the mattress. I squeal but I’m stuck, having fallen for the oldest trick in the book. Now his fingers work the bottom of my shirt, inching it up between our pressed-together chests.

“So, about that tattoo…” he says, ducking his head inside my top and running his tongue along the curve of my breast. “I don’t see it.” His voice is muffled by my skin. One finger peels away the cup of my bra, like he’s searching a crime scene. “Nope, still don’t see it.” He tries the other side.

“Jonathan… whatever your middle name is… Toews! Stop it!” I sputter and push his head down until he pops out from beneath my shirt.

“My middle name is Bryan,” he informs me like I should obviously know that already from Google stalking. “Some Fan Club President you are.”

“Bryan with a Y?” I get really excited, too excited to rise to the bait.

He looks confused. “Uh, yeah.”

“Like Bryan Adams? I love it! You are SO Canadian!” I start rocking underneath him. “I got my first real six string, bought it at the…”

He stops with a kiss, though he’s laughing at the same time. His hands take the place of his mouth beneath my clothes, making short work of the clasp at the back of my bra. I guess we’re giving in now, though I am surprised. Jon is full of surprises.

“We’re in Canada, you know,” he says. “And since I’m Canadian you have to do what I say here. It’s the law.”

“Ah, the return of Officer Toews. If only you’d been a Mountie for Halloween, we would have really had a situation.” The bedspread is starchy beneath my bare back, my hair tangling against the quilting.

“That’s what all the strippers wear in Canada. Mountie uniforms. With hats.” His fingers trail across my stomach briefly before he unbuttons my pants. “I’m not allowed to ride a horse though, it’s in my contract.”

I lift my hips and he pushes my trousers down between my knees then kneels on them, trapping me. As if I’d want to move. Still kneeling, he pulls off his t-shirt in a giant swoop of bare, taut skin. I make a pitiful, breathy little sound. He catches my eye and flexes: he’s not a huge guy, but 210 pounds of muscle has to go somewhere. His biceps pop and his forearms show a small groove along the tendon that I swear normal people don’t have. My pulse races visibly at the side of my neck. The definition in his chest is strong, but not as much as his hard, tight abs. Mostly it’s his shoulders that do me in – broad and strong, like he could hold up the world. Or all this pressure. To show my appreciation, I slowly run my tongue over my bottom lip and then nip it as I take in his form.

“Kat!” he drops on top of me, laughing. Moment gone! He’s giggling like a junior high kid in sex ed class. “You looked like you were going to bite me.”

“I still might!” Now I’m laughing too. “For God’s sake, Jon. You are…” I don’t know how to express what I was just thinking. Mind-meltingly, time-stoppingly beautiful, like a supernova or the shape of a snowflake. But it’s more than that, it’s visceral too and I think of that guy from the Phoenix team with his crazy Twitter updates: ‘Panty soup. Boom.’ Yeah, that too, I know.

“No,” he says, his lips to my ear. “You are.”

I reach for him and the moment comes flooding back, leaving me breathless as our hands collide at the fly of his jeans. Mine settle for the soft, downy skin around his belly button while he works waistbands and zippers. He stands and they drop from his hips, making me growl. Instead of climbing back on Jon holds out his hand.

“Really thin walls in these hotels.” He flicks his head toward the bathroom. “No one can hear us in the shower.” I grab his ass with both hands and follow, not letting go when he leans in for the faucet. We stand for a moment, letting the water heat up, looking in the mirror. Jon’s six inches taller and 80 pounds heavier than I am. His solid, sculpted presence makes me feel very feminine, like I’m small and dainty. It’s something primal; I feel like he could protect me, physically, from the world. I’ve never wanted that before and even thinking it sounds sexist, but I feel it in the pit of my stomach like an anchor holding me steady. That and I want to climb him like a jungle gym. His arm finds my hip and his eyes snake up my bare skin the way I’m looking at him, like I’ve never seen anything so incredible before.

“Use this bathroom trick on all your girlfriends?” I ask, our eyes meeting in the mirror.

“No, I use the mountie uniform on them. You were easier.”

We start kissing. It’s slow at first, but then someone hits the fast forward button and we’re panting, grappling with each other as our tongues dance and we cannot get close enough. He boosts me up onto the counter as steam from the running shower fills the small tiled space. I use my heels to pull him into me, hard, jostling his erection against my naked body. He has to rip his fingers free of my hair to push off his shorts. I dig my nails into his shoulders – there’s nothing for me to hold onto but Jon’s body. He slides his hard-on against my opening, mixing the steam with my excitement.

“Kat,” he breathes, struggling to last another moment without slipping inside, “you make me….” He can’t do it, can’t wait, and he pushes his cock inside me like he’s putting on a glove. I sob out a breath against his neck, the skin slick with sweat. Hot water pours from the shower, fogging the mirror and clouding the room.

“No, you make me,” I tell him as he starts to move. His enormous legs push upward, driving his thick, long shaft deep into me as I cling to him for leverage. Jon tugs a wet strand of hair that was stuck to my face. His hand stays on my cheek as he opens his mouth against mine. When our tongues touch, he thrusts his hips. I can’t get enough of him – I need more skin or muscle or height for everything I want to touch. The angle of the counter, like being on top only better because his weight is so powerful, runs the head of his penis against the front of my pussy with each stroke. I breathe in hot air and breathe out hotter as my body flinches against his penetration. “Jon,” I say without meaning to. He understands and moves harder. Within minutes, my stomach starts to flutter and my core to tremble – he plays me like a guitar searching for the highest note, plucking the cords deftly with each stroke.

He grabs my hips and tilts them upwards, leaning me back slightly on the counter. His cock drives right into my hot button and I gasp sharply, like I’ve been slapped. He holds me down and does it again. My fingernails dig themselves into his ass so hard he’ll have to wear a towel around the locker room for a week.

“Jon,” my brain repeats the only word it can manage to form. A few more homerun swings and my body locks up, clenched to Jon, then rolls like surf crashing onto the beach. My back arches and my breasts heave as waves of brilliant energy flash through me. My core grabs at him, pleading for more until it’s worn itself out and goes slack, trembling lightly with aftershocks.

Jon hauls another soaking handful of hair from my face. He’s still extremely hard and nestled deep inside my spent body. One long arm grabs a towel from the rack behind us. “Can you stand up?”

He pulls out and I drop shakily to my feet. Before I have a moment to appreciate the glistening staff he’s holding in one hand, Jon turns me around and slides the towel between me and the counter. Then he takes my hip and slides his pulsing cock right back inside. I groan in pleasure. His hand runs down up the curve of my ass, slowly grazing over the bumps in my spine until he presses forward on my shoulder. I lean forward, laying my chest against the counter, as he begins to pump.

I have died and gone to Heaven, I think. My body is shooting exclamation points like a ticker tape parade and in the mirror, if I can manage to keep my eyes open, I can see Jon from the waist up as he thoroughly enjoys a service I’m more than happy to provide. His arms are flexed, his hands locked onto my skin where I’ll probably bruise. My palm wipes a clear spot in the fog to better appreciate the view. A drop of sweat courses down his soaked face from under hair so wet it looks black. He catches me admiring and gives me an almost shy, almost embarrassed little half smile that could melt the silver off the Cup.

“Kat,” he says, like he’s thinking about pausing for a moment, but then he can’t. He’s rocking me into the granite slab. My toes fight for purchase on the tile floor, desperate for leverage to get even more out of this. Jon’s hand slides around and his fingers tweak my clit – footholds fail, it’s all I can do to hold on. My body beats like a drum and he feels it inside, quickly working my clit harder, lighter, faster, slower as my body responds. His other hand digs deeper into my soft flesh, but it’s impossible to hurt me when I’m feeling so much pleasure.

I moan loudly as another orgasm surprises me. This one hits like a house falling on me, all at once and leaves nothing but my feet untouched. I press against the mirror, grinding myself back into him, and don’t realize until too late that I’m sobbing out small cries of ecstasy. More exquisite pain as Jon grabs a handful of my hair and pulls. My body bounces itself empty just he loses it. He grunts as the dam breaks then groans in pleasure, driving home a few thrusts and shoving that hot load as deep into me as it can go. I feel his dick pulse, my body eagerly sopping up his pleasure. When he’s dry, he simply pulls that hank of hair back and draws me up to standing.

“Kat,” he whispers into my ear as he pulls his exhausted shaft from my sticky core.

I turn, in his arms, and kiss his lips lightly. “Is there anything you can’t do?” I ask.

His eyes are sleepy and his lips heavy on my cheek. “Control myself around you.”

I turn him toward the shower and adjust the spray. There won’t be a drop of hot water left for tomorrow morning. We step in and soap up, taking the time to run our sudsy hands over every inch of each others’ bodies, even those parts that are sore and spent. By the time we’re toweling off, it’s just past curfew. Jon climbs into bed naked and I sigh theatrically as I button my pants. What a waste, I think. It’s for good reason and all, but the idea of Jon naked and alone down the hall makes my mouth water.

“Night Jon,” I sit on the mattress next to him and kiss his lips.

“Everything’s going to be okay tomorrow,” he promises. “Everyone will see that we are fine and Marie is a liar, and it will all be over. Just like that.”

I really want to believe him. “Just like that,” I say.