So sorry for the delay in this story (and my Giroux story). Real life getting in the way!
Nicole lay in bed for a while, thinking how ridiculous it was to have Viktor across the hall and be in her own room. In his pajamas. But the bed was very, very comfortable - similar to the feeling she had being around Viktor himself.
Damned Tempur-pedic mattress, she thought as she drifted off to sleep.
When she opened her eyes, the bedside clock said two-thirty in the morning. Everything was dark and still, she’d been asleep less than two hours. She almost sat up, then didn’t, then almost did again. Finally, she peeled the down comforter to her waist and levered herself up, listening.
Oh come on already, she encouraged herself. Her borrowed socks were silent on the hardwood floor as she tiptoed closer to the door. A lot of good it did - the doorknob turning sounded like opening Bellatrix’s vault at Gringott’s. Holding her breath for a second, she ventured out into the hallway. Viktor’s door was open a crack, probably in case she needed something. Nicole wondered how broad his definition of “need” would be.
Bathroom, I’m going to the bathroom. But she stopped a few feet from his door, just in case.
If he hears me and says my name, I’ll go in. That’s like being invited. Vampires use that trick all the time.
She jumped at the noise. Of Viktor snoring.
Nicole dashed back into her room, closed the door and buried her giggles in the pillow. In a half-hearted attempt to make up for not climbing into bed with him, she wrapped Viktor’s loaned sweatshirt around herself and went back to sleep.
Viktor had expected to lay there all night and listen for the sound of her door creaking open. The game got to him though, as they usually did, and he passed out after only a few minutes of laying awake wondering if she was laying awake wondering about him. The next thing he remembered it was morning.
Maybe it’s for the best, he told himself as he moved toward his phone. The empty portion of the sheets was cold against his arm and he flinched.
I wonder if she’s cold, he thought. She could be cold. It would be impolite to let my guest be cold.
He laughed out loud as he climbed from the bed and hurried across the hall.
Nicole was asleep on her side, super-straight hair dragged across the pillow and one hand tucked under her chin. He felt vindicated by the fact she was wearing that sweatshirt.
See, cold. I knew it.
He slipped under the far side and right over to her. Nicole shifted slightly as he draped an arm across her waist and pulled her close, cuddling into the warm spot she’d slept into the bed. He rest his head on his bottom arm to avoid disturbing her pillow. Once he was still, it was warm in minutes. Nicole never woke up, and soon enough Viktor was asleep again too.
Sometime later, he woke to her rolling over. She turned her back to him and pushed in close. He knew he was warm, girls had complimented him before. Nicole seemed to like it, even if she didn’t technically know. This time he stayed awake just thinking and hugging.
He had never had a girl over just to sleep. He’d spent nights only sleeping next to a girl, but always someone he was otherwise having sex with. This first-time, sleep-only part was new to him.
Then again, the last girl to be in his apartment had been Fiona - their first time had been their last. So patience was definitely a virtue, even with a beautiful girl breathing evenly in his arms.
“Hey,” she said quietly. Viktor had been lost in thought. At the sound of her voice he squeezed tightly and pressed his face into her neck.
“I was worried you’d be cold.”
She laughed softly. “I was thinking it got extra comfortable in here, I could sleep all day.”
“You got it.”
Nicole smiled against the pillow. Viktor seemed huge behind her, like nestling up to a bear for hibernation. His arm was heavy across her midriff and the increase in warmth was at least ten-fold. Almost too much. She really needed to take off the sweatshirt, but the idea of taking something off made her wonder why stop at one? Or one each? Her skin prickled, a prelude to sweating. Well if she was going to sweat...
“Let me take this off.” She wriggles free, pulled out of the sleeves and over her head. Viktor kept his arm up, holding the blankets at ready. Nicole was back in place a moment later, Viktor’s arm that much closer to bare skin at her waist. The perfect amount of warmth was low on the list of perfect things in her bed at that moment.
Viktor closed his eyes. Her arm lay along his, skin to skin. Without the sweatshirt her true shape was revealed and it fit to his form even better than before. Yet there was still an element of stillness between them that kept his engine from revving. It was gassed up and ready to go, but still idling in the garage. Instead he felt almost drugged, pulled toward drowsiness, and his eyelids drooped.
Nicole was sure she was dreaming. She came to strewn across a wall of muscle that lay beneath her, breathing lightly. Her head was luckily turned down, because she was in no way sure she could withstand his closed eyelashes and bed head. They were bad enough seen vertically. It took a minute for her to register that Viktor’s arm was around her back and his fingers had cheated up under the hem of her shirt, resting on her back. She exhaled heavily.
“Sorry.” His chest shook as he laughed, but he slowly moved his fingers along her bare skin. “I can go.”
“Don’t you dare.”
They both fell silent, enjoying being close and trying not to think too much. Viktor was especially worried that he’d made things awkward - he’d never climbed into a girls bed without intentions before. And he hadn’t really done it here, even if nothing was moving that way.
“I was... involved with someone not that long ago. It wasn’t serious, but it didn’t turn out well. For me,” he felt compelled to explain.
Nicole allowed herself a rueful smile. She had wondered if there was a reason behind Viktor’s self-restraint beyond his morals and ideas about how a relationship should go. Maybe he was just old-fashioned. She’d hoped it wasn’t because he’d gotten hurt.
“Sorry,” she said quietly.
“I just wanted you to know it’s not you.”
She moved quickly - her hand from his chest to his stomach, ducking up under his shirt. Now her palm was flat against his abs, even warmer than outside his clothes. “You let me sleepover and then climbed into my bed. I was pretty sure it wasn’t me.”
Viktor rolled to face her. Nicole’s hand grazed around his waist and came to rest at his side, where he was actually quite ticklish. He half-wished she’d discover that just now, rather than talk about anything.
“Hey,” he tipped her chin up.
“I can’t.” Nicole lifted her face but kept her eyes closed.
“I can’t look at your hair, not like this. It’s bad enough you always look like you just woke up but I won’t be able to keep my pants on. Sorry.”
Viktor groaned, making Nicole laugh. Still she didn’t open her eyes. So he leaned down and kissed her, even with morning breath, even while discussing optional pants. It seemed like the right thing to do.
Nicole was relieved to feel his lips again on hers. There was plenty of progress to be made that didn’t involve moving too quickly. And if he wasn’t ready then neither was she. In fact, she definitely needed someone to keep her from doing anything rash.
“I don’t mind waiting,” she said as his mouth passed to her neck.
“You’re going to have to look at me sometime though.” His voice was muffled by her skin.
“Nah, I memorized you.”
Viktor dropped Nicole at her house with a long, lingering kiss that nearly sent them racing upstairs to her bed. She didn’t - couldn’t - look back. At the rink, Viktor ran into Seabrook in the hall.
Brent cracked a smile. “You guys left kinda early last night.”
Viktor just rolled his eyes.
“I like her. She seems...,” Seabrook paused. He wanted to say that Nicole seemed different from Fiona, but didn’t know how to say that without sounding offensive about someone they were still very close to.
“Still,” Viktor offered.
Seabrook nodded. “I was going to say calm.”
“What happened with Keith?”
Brent shrugged. “He’s not here yet.”
Nor did Duncan show up for practice at all. It was a borderline optional practice, but with a captain like Toews, optional never really was. Jon never took a day off and he led by example. Keith’s absence was noted, if not scandalous. Viktor ditched his soaked gloves at the end of quickly texted Nicole.
Viktor: I think Miranda kidnapped Keith. He’s missing.
Nicole: I told her to go easy on the roofies.
Nicole: They’re not here, her bed’s not slept in.
Viktor: I hope they’re having fun. ;)
He was laughing as he put the phone away, and smiling right though his shower. He rolled into the team meeting in track pants and a Hawks t-shirt, running a hand through his wet hair. Coach Q was standing at the white board making a list of teams.
That’s a lot of... SHIT. Viktor’s hand fell to his side. Of course it was a lot of teams. They were leaving the next day on 6-game road trip. While the players normally focused on one game at a time, Viktor had known this trip was coming for ages. One this long required planning, washing, packing - none of which he had done.
Head in the clouds over a girl, he admonished himself. Anxiety crept in as he considered all the ways this changed things.
One more night home. Then sixteen nights on the road - different cities, different hotels, Hjalmarsson snoring away in the next bed. His mind wandered while Coach talked about streaks and who was doing what right or wrong. Viktor was sure he’d been doing the right thing, but suddenly taking it slowly with Nicole was looking like a really bad idea. Sixteen nights alone.
One more night with her.
That didn’t seem right either.
Viktor rolled the idea back and forth in his mind as he drove away from the United Center - be with Nicole once and leave for that long, or wait? Wait forever, nearly. It might be too long. But one night definitely would not be enough - and the last time Viktor had done something for the first time, that turned out to be the last.
“This is different,” he made himself say out lout.
He took the the long way home, past the Sharp’s place. Past Nicole’s store. He didn’t want to be too much, too soon but the urge to see her was overwhelming now that he was running out of time.
Falling too fast, like always, he warned himself. Even as he pulled into a spot at the curb.
Nicole was attempting to reach a hook in the ceiling. She was at the top of a tiny step-stool with a delicate wire birdcage hanging from one hand. At the sound of the door, she lnearly dropped it. Viktor walked into the shop in profile, headed for the counter - lantern jaw, slightly upturned nose, corners of his mouth already curling into a smile at the expectation of seeing her. He wore dark jeans, sneakers and a navy blue pea coat. If Nicole were the type of girl to swoon, this would have been her cue.
“Hey,” she called from the corner. Behind the register, her coworker Jennifer’s mouth was hanging half-open. He maneuvered between the bookcases and tables to where Nicole’s platform made her the perfect height. Viktor stepped right up and kissed her; she tasted warm and sweet, like tea.
“Hi.” He took the ornament from her hand and lifted up onto his toes. Between the width of his chest and the size of his outstretched arms, Nicole almost slipped again. Viktor hung the chain easily over the hook. “Hear from Miranda?”
She shook her head no, just staring at Viktor in close quarters. It was a very good thing she hadn’t opened her eyes while laying in bed that morning; her pants had the strong urge to come off here in public.
“I, uh... I realized today that we have a road trip. Sixteen days. We leave tomorrow.”
Nicole’s face fell. Instantly she felt stupid - of course he had road trips, she should have known, it wasn’t his choice. But did it have to be now?
“Oh.” That was all she said.
Viktor didn’t like the frown twisting her perfect, kissable mouth. It seemed a sin compared to the smile that had greeted him.
“Sorry. I forgot all about it. I was... distracted. By someone.” He kissed her again, slipping a hand over her shoulder and beneath her straight brown hair. It wouldn’t do have her forgetting while he was away. “Can I see you tonight?”
Full tuck, back flip, dismount: Nicole’s heart on the uneven bars.
“I’ll pick you up at eight. Wear something fancy.” He stole another kiss before leaving - there were plans to make.
Hours later, Nicole was tapping one high heel in rapid fire. Seven fifty-five. She wore a dark purple satin sheath dress that had seen a few weddings. Her hair was pinned into a little poof at the front and she wore her favorite shoes - delicate four-inch heels printed with peacock feather pattern that matched her dress perfectly. Based on the way Viktor dressed every day, she expected to feel instantly out-classed anyway.
Her phone rang. It was stuffed into a matching clutch purse that was far too small for a woman who didn’t know if she was coming home. Nicole didn’t want to, at all, but she had no illusions about getting through a second night with both Viktor and her pants. A travel toothbrush had been stuffed inside, but that was it. Perhaps it was best - the peacock heels seemed designed for the Walk of Shame.
Downstairs, Viktor was already out of the car. He wore his favorite suit - classic black, thin lapels, monochrome shirt and tie in light blue. He kissed her hello, pressing his nose to her warm cheek.
“Sorry, is that cold?” He did it again. She squeaked in protest but didn’t really try to get away as he kissed her a second time, with much more warmth.
A short drive later he was pulling up at the Alinea restaurant valet.
“Nice!” she squealed. “I have this cookbook!”
Viktor held the door for her. Sometimes he got recognized and if it happened tonight, he wanted them to see Nicole too. When she shrugged the coat from her shoulders, he knew there was no way anyone could miss her. From the straight-backed and proud way she carried herself to the way the silky material shifted over her hips and backside as she moved, he was sure waiters would be dropping their trays.
“You’re so beautiful,” he said right out loud. Her dress was sexy but classy, alluding to more than it showed. The dark dye contrasted against her creamy white skin.
“Yeah?” she lifted a foot to show off her shoes. “How about those?”
He slipped an arm around her and followed the host to a cozy table near a window. The restaurant was all almond-colored walls and black leather chairs with round backs, lights soft so the guests looked as good as the food. As they were seated he moved his seat close to hers. Nicole poured over the menu in a rapture.
“The cookbook for this place is like a science textbook. I couldn’t make a single thing, but the dishes are so beautiful. I can’t wait to see them in real life.”
“I had no idea you were so into food,” Viktor smiled over the wine list.
“I am not much of a cook, but I am a champion eater.”
“I can cook,” he offered.
Nicole knew that; she had seen a video of him doing a community relations cooking appearance at Meijer supermarket. “I will lend you the book anytime.”
“Now I’m embarrassed I fed you sandwiches on our first date!”
She put the menu down flat and gave him a very serious stare. “That was the best first date in the history of first dates, you know that right?”
He blushed. “I was just trying to impress you.”
Nicole hooked a finger under his tie, and ran her knuckle down between his pecs to the middle of his chest. “It worked.”
There were no decisions to be made - the menu was twenty course chef’s tasting spread that included everything from woolly pig to lingonberries. They ordered the suggested wine pairing and marveled at the two or three bites of intense pumpkin flavor that arrived with the first dish. Viktor tried to lead the conversation toward the Hawks road trip, but he was never suave enough to make it happen naturally. By the fifth course, an Asian-inspired razor clam, he couldn’t wait any longer. The bare skin of her upper arm was soft as he rubbed it with his fingers.
“I’m sorry I didn’t mention this road trip before. I really didn’t thinking about it.”
She shrugged. “I’m sorry for the way I reacted, it was bratty. Of course you have road trips, I know that.”
“This is the longest of the year, by far.” He wanted to say that they wouldn’t have to go through something like this again, until next season. But it was a silly thing to tell someone you’d been seeing for a week.
Nicole put her fork down so she could return his touch. “I hope you win them all.”
Neither of them mentioned what might, or might not, happen between now and when Viktor had to leave. After a moment’s pause, the conversation moved on and they both pretended not to be thinking about it.
Luckily dinner was a complete distraction. By the tenth dish they could barely remember what they’d had, and by thirteen the plates were arriving much more slowly. Viktor left his wine glass half-full, knowing another vintage would be poured shortly. He didn’t want to be thinking about sleep if the opportunity presented itself to do something else tonight.
Nicole pretty much just stared at him all night.
When the final plates of dark chocolate with berries arrived, she offered to stash them in her coat pockets. They forced each other to have one bite, just to know how it was. Three silent minutes later, both dishes were empty.
“Wow,” he said. She just nodded.
The took their time sipping the last of the wine, recounting the best parts of the meal. Nicole wondered if Viktor was wondering what they were going to do next. He was. Finally when they had paid and dawdled and the pause was stretching out to almost awkwardness, she got up. Viktor quickly followed suit.
Outside, she snuggled into her coat and scarf against the sharp winter night. Viktor laid an arm around her shoulders. It wasn’t really warmer, but she pressed against him just the same.
“This is the second time you’ve taken me somewhere I was dying to go.”
He smiled, not looking at her. “Anywhere else you want to go?”
“In general,” she teased, “or....”
Twenty minutes later, Nicole was contemplating the intelligence of having another glass of wine. In Viktor’s apartment. Where Viktor was currently reaching high into a cabinet, blue shirt stretched over his wide upper body and pants practically begging her to look at his ass.
Are you kidding me?! she almost said out loud.
She was biting her lip when he turned around.
I can’t, he thought as he started laughing. Viktor put the two long-stemmed glasses down, picked Nicole up by the waist and set her next to them on the counter. She kicked her feet, shoes clunking to the floor, and ran one foot behind his knee. He pressed his palms to the granite on either side of her thighs.
Nicole gave in to something she’d wanted to do all night - she ran her fingers through his hair, raking it back from his face until her hands were at the back of his neck, knitted together. Then she kissed him.
Viktor’s grip nearly skidded off the counter. Nicole moved against him without any hesitation, catching his lip gently between her teeth and tugging his mouth open. Her tongue against his was like sparks popping between two live wires. For all the hesitation between them at dinner, Nicole seemed to know exactly what she wanted now.
She wiggled in her seat but it wasn’t enough - Nicole regretfully let go of Viktor and pulled her skirt another inch up her thighs, so she could make room for him to stand between her knees. His hands followed, coming to rest on the bare skin above her knees. Nicole tipped her head back and Viktor worked his way down to her neck.
“I don’t,” he said against her throat, “want to go.”
“Think of how much I’m going to miss you.”
“Think of how loud Hammer snores.”
Nicole lifted his face from her collarbone and looked into those gray-green eyes. “Do you snore?”
Sass, I’m asking for trouble, she knew.
Viktor grinned ear-to-ear like he had nothing to hide. “I think you’re about to find out.”
He hauled her down from the counter, so much shorter without her shoes, and pulled her down the hallway. The wine stayed unopened. They passed the room she’d slept in the night before.
Viktor’s master suite was tastefully decorated and he had more stuff than Nicole would have guessed - pictures tacked on a corkboard, full bookshelf, huge TV and a messy pile of DVDs on the dresser. It all went by in a blur as she was moved toward the bed like a house picked up in a hurricane. She was on her back, Viktor over her, in a heartbeat. Halfway down to resume kissing, he stopped.
“I don’t want to do this and then leave.”
The words surprised Viktor himself. Here was the potential girl of his dreams, tossed out on his king sized bed, early enough in the night for them both to stay up very, very late. And he was stopping.
Well, not really stopping...
He kissed her. Hard. She returned with the same force.
“I just don’t want to... this morning, I think what we said was right,” he finished his thought.
Part of Nicole wanted to scream. Part wanted to rip her dress off and see if he had the same willpower when she was eighty percent more naked. Both were drowned out by the voice in her mind that knew this wasn’t easy for him either.
“Okay.” She said it, without being sure she meant it.
“I like you a lot.” Again, Viktor’s mouth was speaking out of turn. He flinched at the sound of his voice - it was true, just wasn’t very smooth.
Nicole didn’t notice. Despite the compromising position and roar of hormones, she was blushing.
“I like you too, Viktor. I... thank you, I guess. For not doing something just because I want to.”
He dropped partially on top of her. “You do?”
She couldn’t see past the huge bulk of his shoulders, but knew that beyond were more perfect parts after perfect parts. “Yeah,” she said weakly.
“Well I do too. Of course I do. Forget what I said before.” He moved his hand from her hip to thigh, pushing toward the hemline it he could push it back up.
“Oh no no, you said no.” She batted his hand away. “No take-backs!”
Viktor laughed, still very much pressed to equal parts the mattress and her body. “You heard me wrong. Stupid Swedish accent. I said, ‘Take off your dress.’”
“Nope.” Nicole wrapped her arms around her middle.
“Fine.” Viktor executed a perfet push-up and got to his knees, towering over her. He tugged his loose down and started unbuttoning his shirt.
“Yes.” The tie came off, still knotted, quickly followed by his shirt right over his head. Nicole’s laugh turned into a squeak, which turned into a moan, which she choked on like she’d been punched.
Viktor wanted to punctuate his joke with a smirk, but lost it halfway. She looked so perfect laying there, hands on his thighs, the tiny charm on her necklace caught in the hollow of her throat. Nicole’s eyes were slowly rolling down the expanse of his torso. Don’t flex, don’t flex, he told himself. Judging from the way the pink tip of her tongue dragged across her bottom lip, it wasn’t necessary. Under any other circumstance, he would have been very uncomfortable being ogled.
“My God,” she said.
“Okay,” he laughed, her words breaking his little bout of confidence. But Nicole put a hand to his hard, flat abs to keep him from moving.
“Don’t come down here unless you mean it,” she said, wondering if her hand could melt on contact with that body. She had been transported into a girl-porn, from the way his hair flopped over his forehead down to the dark blond trail disappearing behind the buckle of his belt.
Oh for fuck’s sake, he thought.
Viktor wrapped himself around Nicole, lowering as his hands slipped behind her back. She gave herself to the kiss so fully that her zipper was open two inches before she realized what he was doing. By then she couldn’t have protested if she wanted to; all that bare muscle demanded her full attention. There was no safe place to put her hands or mouth.
The zipper perfectly described the shape of her body: dipping in at the small of her back, curving out at the top of her ass. When he reached the bottom, Viktor wasted no time pulling the fabric open and around her shoulders. Nicole pushed at the confining material. He shifted and tugged, revealing one inch of her flawless skin at a time. Beneath it, she wore a black bra with lace edges. He paused to press his lips to the tiny beauty mark just inside the round of her left breast.
Nicole took a deep breath as her dress passed her navel, followed by the soft brush of Viktor’s mouth. He didn’t even slow down - it cleared her hips in the same moment it dropped to the floor. Viktor was back over top of her before that single breath was drawn and figured itself to be her last.
Not a bad way to go, she thought as his thigh slid between hers and pinned her down.
Her bra leaped off at the mere idea what Viktor might try to remove it. His big thumb rubbed across her nipple and she gasped, stealing the breath right from his kiss. She almost lost her grip on his belt.
“Hmmm,” his laugh moved warmly across her bare skin. The leather snapped against the metal buckle as she slid it free, then quickly opened the button. Viktor pushed his face into her hair and moaned as she ran her palm over the front of his shorts.
Holy shit, they both thought at the same time.
Viktor levered himself up to standing. Nicole propped herself on her elbows to watch as his pants dropped like they were in a hurry to be somewhere else. Standing at the foot of the bed with his hair a mess and half a smile, he was like an underwear ad come to life. Only better. He was perfect. So perfect he was willing to skip all this just to do things right.
God damn it, she almost growled.
Nicole was looking at him that way again - the way that made him nervous when anyone else did it. Now he found himself hooking fingers into the waistband of his shorts. As he was watching her watching him, the gleam in her eye softened a little.
“Come here,” she said.
He left his shorts on, for now, and crawled up next to her. She turned to face him.
“We can stop,” Nicole said. Viktor stared at her. “You should go with your first impression.”
“Nicole, I just didn’t want you to think that’s the only reason I asked to see you today, or that....”
She kissed him in mid-sentence. As much as he wanted to keep talking, his mouth had other ideas. Along with the rest of his body. He pulled her in hard, squeezing her against his chest, knotting their legs together. Then his fingers twisted into the lace band of her panties where it crossed her hip.
“I don’t want to be,” she said when she could, “something you feel like you did wrong.”
They were face to face, there was nowhere to look but at each other. Viktor could see the strain creasing the corners of her eyes - she wanted to keep going. But the same way his head told him one thing while his hormones said another earlier, now Nicole’s heart was disagreeing with her body. And she was comfortable enough with him to be the one to say stop.
“Okay,” he gave up. It felt instantly right. “But not because it would be wrong. I like you, Nicole, and I want this. A lot.”
The both laughed.
“But I don’t want to do this and leave. I want to start and never stop. Like practice - every day.” He gently stroked the skin beneath her panties. “Maybe twice a day.”
“Except game days,” she said with a straight face.
He grinned. “After the game.”
Nicole felt like she’d done something for him, knowing he’d do just about anything for her. Even something he didn’t want to do, like taking this next step a little too soon.
It’s only sex! What is the big deal?! her body complained. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeease???
If it’s only sex, it wouldn’t be a big deal, her brain said.
Viktor reached for the corner of the comforter and drew it down, letting Nicole climb underneath before joining her. He harbored some doubts that they’d be able to keep saying no every time one of them moved or breathed during the night. But for now, he was relieved. And impressed.