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 Match.com 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.