Monday, March 26, 2012


Nicole slipped away from her table, down the hallway toward the bathroom.  She and Viktor were seated with Seabrook and Kane, Abby and Patrick Sharp and Dave and Julia Bolland.  Duncan Keith had brought a date - he gave Nicole a little shrug as if to apologize for not inviting Monica.  Nicole waved it away.  Duncan and his date were at the table behind them, with Jonathan and Fiona and the Hossas.  From her seat, when Abby leaned toward her husband, Nicole had a full view of Jonathan.  Or was it the other way around?

Their brief encounter left her feeling anxious.  She chalked it up to him being with Fiona, and them being here, and the unease she felt in Viktor.  Stalberg did an admirable job of hiding it but still Nicole knew.  Under the table she slipped her hand into his and held.

The luncheon was really nice, the company even better.  Kane and Seabrook were a comedy duo, better suited to each other than any date they might have brought.  They told a few embarrassing stories about Viktor, but didn’t have as much ammunition against eh Swede as they had on each other.  Before the second course was cleared, Nicole was wiping tears from her eyes.  The waiters kept topping off their champagne, to Abby’s delight.

“I have nine months of this to make up for!” she leaned across to toast.  Her husband rolled his eyes handsomely.

It had been one too many glasses for Nicole, and she made her way along the bar and down the hallway.  The bathroom was empty, so she took a moment to check her hair and makeup.  Each of the women was more perfectly put together than the last - even Abby, who didn’t appear to try at all.  Nicole felt a little pressure to perform.

She stepped out to find a rather large, nearly Viktor-sized body leaning against the wall, effectively blocking the hallway.  But it wasn’t Viktor.

“Having fun, Nicole?” Jonathan asked.  He wore a dark grey button down shirt, open at the throat and rolled back over his forearms.  That legendary ass was giving pinstripe slacks a run for their money.

Nicole had been a Blackhawks fan approximately forever.  From the day he joined the team until the day she met Viktor, Jonathan Toews had been her favorite player.  It was startling to be near him, in private, to hear him say her name.  But the look in his eyes made her bristle.

“Uh, yeah.  Everyone’s so nice.”

He just leaned there.  “You and Viktor must be pretty serious.”

Serious, she almost laughed.  But the moment didn’t feel light.  Even from five feet away, there was something very intense about Jon.

“Well, we’re....” Nicole’s instinct was to defend herself.  If she cemented her relationship with Viktor, Jon would back off.  But maybe she was reading him wrong, and overreacting would make her look clingy or desperate.  She wanted to be cool.  It wasn’t every day an NHL superstar hit on her.  There was absolutely no way it was happening twice.  

Not with Jonathan Toews.

“We’re good,” she smiled confidently.

Jon righted himself, like he was going to walk back to the table.  Nicole moved to follow.  But Jon didn’t turn - he came toward her.  Before she could stop herself, he was there, chest to chest in the narrow width of the hallway, looking down at her with those bottomless brown eyes.  Up close, his intensity crackled and snapped like a cloud of static electricity.  Nicole blinked, stunned.

“I could tell he was lonely on the road trip,” Jon dropped his voice a notch, his breath warm on her cheek.  That predatory look played in his eyes - she was stung, frozen, helpless.  He could have kissed her without moving.  Instead his mouth curled with a hint of smile.

“Now I see what he was missing.”

Jon slipped past her and into the men’s room.  Whether he’d been waiting for her or a mere coincidence, she’d never know.  The door closed behind him with a slam that made her jump.

Go. Go go go.

No way could she be in that hallway when he came back.  Once was lucky, twice and she’d be dessert.

“Hey,” Viktor stood as she returned, pulling out her chair, then draping his arm around behind her shoulders.  It was like a cool compress on a burn and Nicole sighed.  “Okay?”

“Yeah.”  She leaned over and pressed a quick, sweet kiss to his mouth.  No one seemed to notice save Viktor, as a huge smile spread across his face.

Nicole kept her eyes on her tablemates for the rest of the meal.  Her steak entree was fantastic and the spread of desserts seemed to have doubled since she helped unpack them.  Viktor begged off after half a cupcake, so Nicole at hers and the rest of his.

When it was finally time to go, she gave and received a lot of enthusiastic hugs.  It was still unfathomably weird to be hanging out with the Blackhawks, but take them out of the game and they were just cool, friendly people.  Nicole grinned until her face hurt.

“Did you have fun?” Viktor asked once they were in the car.  “I know it’s a lot, everyone knows each other already.”

She pushed a hand into the thick hair at the back of his head.  “I loved it.  Thank you.”

He didn’t need to be guided to her lips, and they shared a frosting-flavored kiss perfect for the holidays.  Nicole directed him to drive to the shop.

“I have a present for you.”

She made him stop half a block early, got out of the car and offered her hand.  He obliged, even closing his eyes for the last twenty yards.  Finally they stopped out front.  

“Happy Valentine’s Day!”

Viktor saw the logo, then moved closer and saw the hundreds of hand-cut pieces of paper that were layered into the design.  And noticed that each was cut in a heart-shape, with scalloped edges  Scattered amongst the front layer were numbered pieces - one for each jersey worn my a member of the team.  Right at the bottom point of the red feather  was a number 25.

“This is awesome!” he yanked her hard into his side and squeezed.  “It must have taken forever!”

She shrugged.  “You were gone forever.”

He studied it for another moment, admiring all her detailed hard work.  And all while they were losing, game after game, and he could barely muster the energy to talk when he called her on the phone.

“Thank you,” he turned and looked right down into her eyes. Her dimples flashed with an embarrassed smile.  “It makes what I got you look much less interesting.”

“You didn’t have to get me something!”

He shook his whole body side-to-side, shaking her too  “I wanted to.”

Viktor produced a small, flat square box from the pocked of his coat.  The black velvet cover screamed jewelry, and Nicole’s eyes flashed a little wide before narrowing.  He was silently glad to have reconsidered his first purchase - it had been beautiful, but too much.  If he got a lot of somedays to buy her gifts, he’d get it later.

Nicole held it between them and slowly opened the lid.  It was a thin silver chain with a small diamond solitaire pendant.

“Oh my gosh!”

It was simple and classic, nothing fancy, but Viktor swore it had sparkled more than anything else in the shop.  He passed it over twice, but kept going back.  Something about it seemed right.

“It made me think of you,” he said.  She looked like she wanted to protest, so he kissed her lips before she could speak.  Five seconds later, the fight went out of her and she relaxed against him.

“It’s beautiful, thank you.”

Nicole was overwhelmed.  The necklace was stunning and definitely pricey, but not outrageous.  It was more the sentiment - that he’d thought of her, chosen it carefully, wanted to give her a gift.

“Thank you,” she said again, with another kiss.

Viktor blushed to see the happiness on her face, that beauty mark disappearing only with her biggest smile.  He grabbed her by the hand and turned toward the car.  “Now it’s my turn to lead.”

A best-of-three series became a best-of-five when Viktor could not beat Nicole at Skeeball.  She crowed as her roll landed in the center ring, notching another hundred points.  The numbers on her screen seemed to climb at will.

“Give it up, Stalberg,” she teased.  “I’ve got you beat.”

“Stop doing that. All that flicking your wrist,” he demonstrated her movement, which did look a little dirty, “is turning me on.”

Mid-swing, Nicole dropped the ball.  THUNK.  It rolled behind them, toward the arcade.  Viktor laughed madly as she made a shocked face.

They were at Dave & Busters.  It wasn’t the most romantic destination but Viktor knew they wouldn’t want to eat again after lunch.  Plus it was barely five in the afternoon and most nice restaurants weren’t even open yet.  If they got hungry later, they’d have to play it by ear.  Instead, Viktor had reserved two spots at D&B’s Date Night and challenged Nicole to a round of old-fashioned games.  Which she was winning.

The ringing bell signalled another loss for Viktor.  Nicole did a little touchdown dance, then threw her arms up for a hug.  That he could manage.  As she was wrapped in his embrace, he picked her up and moved toward the air hockey table.

“If you can’t win at this....” she teased.

It was closer, at least, and all luck really.  The plastic puck made a rattled around, accompanying her trash talk.

“Come on, just pretend I’m the Blue Jackets!”

“What is this, mites on ice?”

He had to grab the puck out of play because he was laughing so hard.

“Closing your hand on the puck in the crease!  Penalty shot!  That’s a penalty shot!”

Viktor carefully set it down at center ice and backed away.  Nicole circled away, singing ‘Rock You Like a Hurricane.’  She lined up and rather gracefully shot the puck right into the slot.  Then she jumped on Viktor in a goal-scoring celebration.

An hour later, Nicole had dropped some of her lead.  Basketball free throws were her downfall, and they opted not to wait for a bowling alley.  It was still early when they left, hand in hand, breathing a little hard from the exuberance of their games and more so, their celebrations.

“That was really fun,” she announced.  Nicole hadn’t expected to win anything, simply to enjoy the sight of Viktor doing simple physical tasks in a rather tight sweater.  Winning was a bonus.

“What do you want to do now?”  He gave her an innocent look - if a full, pouty mouth and long eyelashes could be innocent on a grown man.  Instead it fluttered against Nicole’s skin like a piece of silk.

“Home, I think.”

Viktor had planned ahead.  He rarely used the building’s concierge service, but today it had delivered two bottles of red wine and a few other key things.  Nicole settled herself gratefully onto the couch while Viktor collected long-stemmed glasses, a bottle, a corkscrew and a single red rose.

“Oh stop!” she said when she saw it.  But she was beaming.  “You’re too much.”

Viktor handed her the rose, but she took the wine and corkscrew again.  With a quick ring of the bottle she had the foil off and a few twists had the cork free.  It would have taken Viktor twice as long.

“Where’d you learn that?”

“I was a waitress in college,” she filled half of his glass.  “We had to open bottles table-side and I was always afraid of dropping one.  So I learned to do it fast.”

He lifted his glass and clinked it gently against hers, leaning in for a kiss.  Nicole had to slide closer, till their knees were touching, then gave in and settled against his side with her own glass in hand.

“What other jobs have you had?”

“Ski instructor, day camp counselor, grocery store check out... worked at a store in the mall for a while.  That kinda stuff.”

Viktor thought about all the different things she’d done while he played hockey.  That’s all he’d ever done.  Summers were spent at camps and trainings, weekends and holidays at games and tournaments.  He’d loved every minute of it, but it was definitely unique.

“How’d you come to work at the shop?”

“It’s a chain, there are stores in ten cities. I have a friend who manages one, she told me they were opening a Chicago location.  So I interviewed early and got the manager position, then helped open the store.  It’s only been there six months, but I’ve been working with them a year.  I own a tiny piece of the store, in equity.”

“Oh, wow.”  Viktor had assumed she worked there, as a regular employee.

“And I make the schedules, so I can take time off when gorgeous, mysterious foreign men ask me out.”

“Hmm, does that happen a lot?”

Nicole shrugged.  “It’s only been six months.”

Valentine’s Day meant a plethora of sappy movies on TV, but Viktor scrolled past “Easy A” and Nicole squeaked for him to stop.  Soon they were both laughing and refilling their wine glasses.  Nicole set her down half full and curled up against Viktor’s side.  Between the warmth of the wine and the heat from his body, she was getting very sleeping.

Viktor shifted to gather Nicole into his arms, turning so she could hitch her knees over his legs.  When they were sufficiently tangled up, he kissed her forehead.  

“I had a really good time today.”

She smiled without looking up, instead cheating one of her hands underneath the hem of his shirt and onto his bare stomach.  “Me too.”

“I thought you might get a little excited at lunch.”

“Oh I was!”  She giggled at being caught out as a fangirl.  She thought she’d handled it pretty well, considering.  Well, not the Toews part.  “I just want them to like me.”

Viktor was thinking about Jon too, the way he’d loked back at Nicole that first time they were introduced.  Like he was sizing up an opponent.  Nicole was Viktor’s weakness, no doubt.  But he was also prepared to go another round with his captain, if need be - just because it hadn’t worked the first time didn’t mean it wasn’t worth it.

“They like you.  Almost as much as I do.”

It was still exploration as they moved together in the soft sheets of Viktor’s bed.  They’d finished the movie but not the wine and Viktor let Nicole lead him toward the bedroom as if it were her idea.  Deep, drowsy kisses passed as they removed each others’ clothes once piece at a time.  By the time she was in her bra and panties, Viktor was laying her back into the blankets.  

She lay on her back and scooted beneath him, giving him to top position he craved.  There was nothing ordinary about the sound she made when he brushed her slit, or when he pushed between her folds and felt her desire coat him.  They fit together snugly, a perfect match, and the heady rush of it only pushed them closer toward sleep.  With slow and languid movements, the nerves of their first time, their first night erased, Viktor and Nicole made love in the way of people who have all the time in the world.

Viktor kept his mouth closed except for when it was on hers, or her body.  Otherwise he might say something crazy.

Nicole lost the air in her lungs on every steady, blissful stroke of his cock.  There were no words for it anyway.

When she came with a gasp, Viktor spent the last of his energy to push himself home.  Nicole was out before her body stopped trembling, Viktor like the next light switched off.

Nicole woke first, freed herself from the web of limbs and blankets, and slid aside.  Stray beams of sunlight filtered into the room, casting a warm glow over the bed.  That’s how she felt, anyway. Viktor lay on his back, chest bare where the blanket had been pushed down to his elbow.  His face was turned away from the light, dark blond hair flopping over his forehead and those perfect, curvy lips parted slightly as his breathing rose and fell in a gently rhythm.  It was impossible to her that someone could look so perfect.  There was nothing to compare him to but a prince in a storybook, which made her feel both foolish and in love at the same time.  He shifted, murmuring, and turned his head.

Just as good from this side, she decided.  Then she snuggled back into his embrace and figured laying awake here was better than being anywhere else.

When Viktor woke, he stretched like a bear and flattened Nicole to the mattress, intending to keep her there all day.  Her weak protests about needing to work were ignored.  Then his stomach growled loudly.

“We haven’t eaten since lunch.”

“You can buy me breakfast on the way to my place.”

He lifted a shoulder to see her face. “I can do better than that!”

Viktor climbed out of the bed and walked to the dresser stark naked.  Nicole whimpered like a puppy until he flexed his back and shoulders for her.  She whistled and loud cat call.  So he turned around and flexed his chest and arms.  The smile died on her face.

“My God,” was the best she could do.

When she finally collected her clothing, Viktor was already sliding eggs onto a plate.  Two glasses of orange juice were poured, silverware on the counter and the red rose from the night before in a water glass next to her plate.

Viktor watched her approach, thinking that she looked as beautiful after ten hours of sleep as when she had walked into that restaurant yesterday.  Maybe more so  because she was coming from his bed. He scooped half an avocado for her and promised himself to see that sight upon waking as often as possible.

He was going to try something new.

They ate, gathered their things and Viktor drove her home on his way to practice.  She leaned across the console for a big kiss.  

Viktor simply said, “See you tonight?”

That was it.  No specific plans, no times or instructions.  Just the obvious fact that he would see her later, with a question mark for good measure.  It might have earned him the biggest smile yet.

“See you tonight.”

Just after lunch time, Nicole was packing up an order of wedding invitations when the bell chimed and Abby Sharp arrived, pushing Maddy’s stroller.

“Hey Nicole!”

“Hi Abby, how are you?”

“Good.  Did you have fun at the lunch yesterday?”

Nicole assured her that she had fun, that everyone was nice and she even remembered most of their names.  Abby seemed keen to look out for Nicole and she was grateful, even if she hadn’t quite figured out what she needed to look out for.

Of course she noted Fiona was not accompanying her friend today.  Maybe something there....

Abby explained that she wanted to make new St. Patrick’s Day cards with a family photo on them - apparently it was a running joke because of her husband’s first name.  Nicole showed her the design binders and helped her choose a layout, fonts and sizes.  Abby plugged her memory card into the shop computer and they cropped the photo to fit the template.  Nicole made an online proof, and Abby loved it.

“You’re really good at this,” Abby said.  “I’ll make sure all the wives with the team know - some of these women do a baby photo card every month.”

While Abby was finalizing the wording, Nicole’s phone rang.  Normally she wouldn’t answer with a customer in the shop, but it was Viktor.

“Hey,” she said.

“Hi babe.  Listen, I forgot that tonight’s Frolik’s birthday party.  His birthday’s not till Wednesday, but we have a game.”

“Oh, okay.”  Nicole had been so happy at the simple farewell that morning, like no plans needed to be made.  But apparently they already had.  The idea of not seeing Viktor that night after all made her more sad that it should.

“So you’ll come?  Pick you up at nine?”

Nicole gave herself a slap.  Of course he wasn’t ditching her.

“Yeah, sure.”  Then for good measure she added, “See you tonight.”

When she hung up, Abby wasn’t even pretending not to eavesdrop.  She just pinched her lips together and pretended not to smile, color rising in her face.

“Oh shut up!” Nicole said, letting go a girly giggle of her own.  The two woman dissolved into laughter that made Nicole feel a little bit closer to where she wanted to be.

Viktor had told Nicole not to worry about what she wore, then spent half an hour worrying himself.  For a guy, that’s a long time.  He’d gone with a short-sleeved gray v-neck, it was expensive so he convinced himself it was more than a t-shirt.  It was going to be very warm inside a packed club and he wanted to dance with Nicole if the chance presented itself.  A handful of gel pushed his hair back and he was ready.

But he wasn’t ready for her.  Nicole had looked the club up online just to be sure, and found a little more dressy than Viktor pitched.  So she left herself an hour to pour on the only appropriate dress she had, a sky blue number with runching around the waist and hips that made a poor excuse for the very short hemline.  She’d bought it a year ago for a bachelorette party in Vegas.  It hadn’t seen the light of day or a pair of male hands since.

Time to change that, I think.  She pulled it over her head, wiggled it down her hips and stepped into some sky high heels.  Viktor would still tower over her.  After the display at lunch, she knew most of the WAGs wore this kind of getup to the grocery store.  It was time for her to play with the big kids.  Her long straight hair took a few pins at the top of her head, then she flipped it over and prayed for volume.  Some extra eyeliner, mascara and a brush of silvery shadow across her lids - Nicole was ready five minutes before Viktor called her phone.  In those five minutes, she almost changed twice.

“Wow,” Viktor said as she dropped into the low seat of his sports car, jacket open to reveal a hint of the dress underneath.

Nicole stared openly at his completely effortless sex appeal.  Was that a t-shirt?  Were they going for a jog?  And God damn if it wasn’t the hottest thing she’d ever seen stretched over two hundred-plus pounds of muscle that knew how to work it.

“You’re killing me,” she told him honestly, then grabbed the front of his cotton tee and pulled him in for a searing kiss.  He nearly climbed across the console, seat belt be damned.  Nicole pulled away wondering if she had time to run upstairs and change her underwear.

The club was jumping.  Monday nights would be slow if every place in town was open, so they self-selected a few spots and let the partygoers pack them to the rafters.  This place was not the biggest, but well-heeled people spilled across the bar, filled the dance floor and even a few waited outside in the wintry cold.

“VIP’s at the back,” the bouncer told them as they approached.  He didn’t even ask for a name.  Inside the door, they offered their wrists for stamps.

“He just thought you were hot,” Viktor said down the back of Nicole’s neck.

“He just thought you were hot,” she shot back with a smirk.  Ten-to-one she was right.  

Viktor helped Nicole from her coat, all but pawing like a cat to see what lay underneath.  He’d been treated to a glimpse of light blue shine as she stepped into his car.  But as he took the coat from her shoulders and found them bare, then revealed a strapless sky blue dress that clung to her frame by the sheer desire to rub all over her, he nearly stumbled.

“Oh my.... wow. You look amazing.” he finally managed.

Nicole felt like a million bucks, be it the dress, the fact Viktor was ogling her or the way the girls behind were staring at him and whispering to each other.

All mine, she thought.

“All mine,” he said out loud.

They moved into the VIP area, greeting mostly people she’d met that afternoon or earlier.  Abby and Patrick were home with the baby, reminding Nicole that her closest ally would be absent sometimes.  But Julia Bolland was there, looking all hot and blonde and Dave too, reminded to thank God daily for his good fortune of a wife.  Julia scooped Nicole away from Viktor and steered her toward a few new faces.

“Only wives and girlfriends at the lunch today.  So if it’s not serious, they weren’t there.  Okay?  Keep it quiet,” she said as they walked.  Nicole filed away one more secret, then shook hands and made nice with a few new girls.  One was Andrew Shaw’s girlfriend, who looked as wide-eyed as her rookie boyfriend.  Nicole wondered if the girl was even old enough to be in a club.  Julie directed them toward a few others - Marcus Kruger’s date, the future Mrs. Nick Leddy.  Nicole was more interested in the fact that Julia was wearing a skin tight mini dress in white with bold navy panels at the waist, cutting in at an angle and giving the illusion of a seventeen-inch waist.  She filed it away for future reference.

When the rounds were made, Julia deposited her back at Viktor’s side.  He draped an arm around her shoulders and drew her into a conversation with Seabrook.

“Nicole will back me up,” Viktor was saying.  Then to her, “Brent likes this girl, thinks he came on too strong at the beginning to be serious.  I think if he tells her that, he can go back to the beginning and start again.”

Nicole considered Brent.  He was gorgeous - six-foot-three, two hundred and some pounds, big smile and hair like a shampoo ad.  There was no way anyone would say no to that.  

“Tell her she made your forget your manners, and you’d like to try again.  It’ll work, trust me,” she smiled.  “Now, let’s dance.”

The club was packed.  Viktor hadn’t seen the birthday boy and he didn’t really care.  He’d watched Nicole make a lap with Julia, who was blond beyond measure and easy to spot in a crowd.  After a few tense moments with a few of the other new-ish girlfriends, all of whom likely wondered why Nicole didn’t seem as awkward as they did, she was back at his side.  Songs from the Top Ten blared overhead and the crowd was singing and rocking along to every one.  Nicole knew the words, the beats and all Viktor had to do was hold on as she moved against him, people pressing in around them.

“You’re gorgeous,” he said out of nowhere.

She flashed that million dollar smile.  “Not half as hot as you are.”

Five songs or ten, Nicole couldn’t tell.  At some point, Patrick Kane appeared and placed a fresh cocktail into her hand.  He had a red head under the other arm.  Nicole toasted him and tossed the drink down her throat.  The combination of being close to Viktor, all the girls sneaking glances at his perfect physique, and the feeling of rocking a killer dress were already making her head spin.  He held her close, dancing in a way that promised a private show later, and Nicole felt the drink flash ice cold all the way into her stomach.

“Let’s take a break,” Viktor suggested.

Nicole should have learned already not to go to the bathroom alone.  She was just tipsy, buzzing and sparkling around the edges, but she really had to pee.  Viktor went one way and she promised to meet him, heading another.  Weaving through the mass of dancing bodies wasn’t easy, and when  she was finally free Nicole rested against the closest wall.

“You’re a  good dancer.”

She didn’t need to turn.  The voice was on her skin, flowing like ink, threading a tendril through her zipper and tugging it slowly down to reveal bare, pale skin.  Even in the heat of the club she felt his breath on her neck - overt, suggestive.  Something about that night made her challenge.

“I’m quite good at a lot of things,“ Nicole said as she turned.  Though she knew what she’d find, Jonathan Toews staring back at her was still like a zap to the heart.  His brown eyes searched hers as if reading all her secrets.  He’d know how to touch her, how to please her, without even trying.  It was as if Jonathan could see right though her.  Nicole’s system failed for a moment - blinked off, then restarted.

“I bet that’s true,” he moved a little closer, “and that it’s wasted on your boyfriend.”

“You wouldn’t know,” Nicole shot back.

Jon’s eyes narrowed at the corners and she knew she’d picked the wrong argument.  “Hasn’t he told you?  I would know.”

Nicole shivered to remember - Fiona had been with Viktor, and gone for Jon.

“I do know,” he continued, leaning closer.  “And I want to know you.”

Her head swam.  She felt a little drugged, but not from her drink.  This was estrogen and hormones flooding her system, threatening to swamp her as fully as a tidal wave.  In the dark anonymity of the club, Jonathan reached out and stroked one finger down her upper arm, raising goosebumps in its wake.

“I  want you,” he said so quietly she might have imagined it.  Then he melted into the crowd.  Nicole found herself grasping the wall for support, wondering if Jonathan had ever been there at all.

Jon didn’t have to go far to disappear, but he continued past the bar, circling away from the VIP area, and headed outside onto the patio.  A few smokers were standing around; mostly it was empty and cold.  The change in temperature felt nice.

He wasn’t entirely sure what he was doing, but it was done.  Something about Nicole caught his attention and held it.  That hadn’t happened since Fiona.  He also hadn’t been with another girl since Fiona either.  Before that, well Jon had never lacked for variety.  And he’d never turned away from a challenge.  Tell him he couldn’t have something and he’d damn well prove you wrong.

He should feel bad for Viktor.  But if their struggle over Fiona had proven anything, it was that Stalberg went down swinging.

Jon had no intention of giving up Fiona - ever.  He’d gone through hell to get her in the first place.  Still it’s never easy for a leopard to change his spots.  With an idea forming, Jon went back inside.

Nicole made her way to the restroom, took a few few deep breaths and her sweet time using the facilities.  Girls jockeyed for position in front of the mirrors and Nicole figured they were all primping in hopes of catching Viktor’s eye, or Jonathan’s.  She may have done both already and the night was still young.  After a few minutes of thinking with the music reduced to a background thump, Nicole felt ready to face the crowd again.

Outside the door, Jon was waiting.  Two girls bustled past her, fluttering like pigeons in her face, cawing nervously and looking back at where the Blackhawks captain stood against the wall, ignoring them.

Nicole’s knees buckled.  No woman was built to withstand this, even one who felt all rainbows and cupcakes about Viktor Stalberg.

Viktor fucking Stalberg! she tried to remind herself even as she stepped closer to Toews.  If there was only one way out, she was going to have to go through him.  Nicole had no illusions that Jon would make this easy.

“My car’s out back,” he said.  But he didn’t move, he wasn’t that presumptuous.

“And your girlfriend’s up front.”

He cast his eyes down, as if to cover the devious curl of his lip.  “I think you have me wrong, Nicole.  I don’t intend to leave Fiona behind.”

Nicole’s jaw dropped at the same moment a little bomb went off in her stomach.  She rocked unsteadily  on her heels.  That wasn’t her thing - she wasn’t into girls.  But she’d be a liar if she said the thought of something like that with someone like him... it kicked her right in the hotspot.  Jon sensed her hesitation and stepped closer.

“She and I, we both know what you like,” he purred, thick fingers brushing the blue silk at her hip.  “And we both know what you’re missing.”

Nicole felt suddenly drunk and the heat was suffocating her.  His touch had her rooted to the floor, hand trailing toward her hemline.  Those deep brown eyes were liquid.  

“The only question is, how would you ever go back to him?”

Nicole stepped back sharply, pushing Jon’s hand from her dress.  She sucked in a quick breath and straightened herself.

“I’m going back right now.  And you can go to hell.”

She caught Jon by surprise as she shouldered past, actually shoving him out of the way.  Her reflexes were on red alert, moving deftly through the crowd with a confidence she didn’t feel.  Straight to the VIP section and straight to Viktor.  He turned, still listening to Keith talk, and Nicole planted a hard kiss right on his mouth.  His face flashed surprise then a smile.

“Can we get out of here?”

Viktor's hand tight in hers, all Nicole heard were catcalls behind them.

Monday, March 19, 2012


There’s a moment between sleeping and dreaming when you’re unsure which is which.  Part of a dream always tries to follow you back to the real world.  Nicole’s brain fired but her eyes didn’t open, clinging to the last foggy tendril of whatever she’d been thinking.

It took a moment to remember where she was, and why.  And what was wrapped around her, seeping warmth into the full length of her back and legs.  It was like a heat wrap at a spa that tried to pull Nicole right back into slumber.  The heavy, drowsy weight in the soft, cozy confines of bed - it certainly felt like a dream to her.

Viktor shifted.  

Oh God.

Just like that, Nicole was awake.  The tiny movement of his body and Nicole realized that Viktor was very aroused.  His breathing caught slightly as the curve of her ass moved against his erection and he pulled her in closer.  A quiet half-moan slipped from his lips as his hard on pressed tighter.  She tried to be still, but like a bear waking from hibernation, Viktor was stirring.  His hormones were awake first; his hips found they liked the idea of grinding against her very much.  Twice, three times - she was wearing only thin cotton panties, dark pink with white lace trim.  They wouldn’t last long at this rate.

His huge hand freed itself from underneath her side and glided down.  As he reached a handful of her outer thigh, Viktor finally came to.

“Morning,” he mumbled in a gravelly voice.  The immense strength of his lower body was already engaged; he couldn’t have stopped himself.  Instead his fingers dented her leg, holding on, while he pushed the length of his hardening shaft against her again.  Nicole’s body gave in all the right ways.

“Mmmmmm,” he managed.  Viktor woke up horny a lot.  There wasn’t often a sexy body to complete the picture.  From the moment he’d asked her to be here, and the instant he’d seen her asleep between his sheets, Viktor knew he wouldn’t let another opportunity pass.  Nicole’s stomach did a flip as his grip gathered under her panties, the back of his fingers grazing the bare skin of her ass.

“I missed you,” he said in that same rough sound.  Viktor gently moved his hand between them, cupping her backside, tracing the arc of her form.  The second stroke was lower still, and the third slipped his two longest fingers between her legs.

“Missed you too.”  The words came out a whisper.  Two thick fingertips pushed forward along her slit, over the thin cotton, then dragged slowly back.  She was wet instantly, heart racing beneath the flimsy t-shirt that was her only other clothing.  As she parted her thighs and his hand disappeared between, his throbbing erection nestled again into her soft body.

“Baby,” he said.  The wisp of material was quickly soaked, moisture warm against his skin.  Feeling her desire made his head swim.  If she’d been thinking about him the way he’d been thinking about her, there was no stopping them.

Nicole nearly blacked out as Viktor worked her panties down.  She wiggled free of the t-shirt and dropped it over the edge of the bed.  The friction of his bare chest against her back only heightened all the other sensations.  Viktor kissed her neck and rubbed his fingers over her bare slit.

“God,” she gasped.  He pushed up, one long, thick finger penetrating her.  On the next dip there were two.

Viktor groaned in anticipation - her hot, tight body was squeezing him.  The idea of mining that shaft for real made his cock throb painfully.  He twisted in the bed, never taking his hand from her body, and reached into the bedside drawer.  Nicole lay still, letting him explore her.

“I want to....”

“Yes,” she said quickly.

He needed both hands but worked quickly to open the condom and unroll it, hissing at the pressure along his shaft.  She stayed on her side, allowing Viktor to fit himself in behind her again.  Only this time, she spread her legs and let his cock push along the groove.  On the third stroke, Nicole tilted her hips so his tip caught her entrance, almost crossing the line before popping free at the last moment.  It was a delicious tease.

Viktor turned her face back over her shoulder.  He looked into her eyes for the first time in over two weeks as he pushed himself between her folds.

Nicole moaned and her head fell forward.  Viktor lost focus too, every nerve ending firing with the delicious, debaucherous squeeze of her pussy.  He gritted his teeth and screwed himself in up to the hilt.

“Nicole,” he said quietly.

“Mmmmmm,” was the best she could do.  As wet as she’d been it was still like twisting a cork into a bottle.  Her body needed a moment to adjust to being so thoroughly taken.  She shifted along his length, barely, and let her body feel it out.  

“Okay?” he kissed against her ear.


On his side, with one arm under her head, Viktor began rocking gently.  It was more up and in than in and out from this angle, but it felt just as good.  Her hot, swollen core took him again and again until he fastened a hand onto her hip and held her right where he wanted.

“You feel so good,” he told her bare shoulder.

Nicole was already seeing stars.  It was greedy and selfish but he just felt so fucking incredible - she dragged his hand from her side toward her clit.  Viktor saw the pass coming all the way.  The same fingers that first entered her now circled gently over her little pearl.

“Fuck,” she didn’t even hear herself say.

Viktor felt her tighten like a screw with each hard swipe against her hot button.  He timed the strokes to match his thrusts, pushing her up and down like a flag on a pole.  It was quickly working for him as well.  The flutter inside her stomach pulsed all the way down his shaft; he rubbed harder.

Viktor against her back was enough to make Nicole come.  Sleeping his arms, his breath hot against her neck, the rise and fall of his massive chest - any of these things would have done it.  Put them together, add his sweet, reassuring presence and let him have his way with her in bed - that seemed like a lovely, inescapable way to die.  Which is what Nicole was doing.

She moaned.  Viktor was making short strokes across her clit, responding to every flinch and gasp, while still forcing her body open on every swing of his hips.  She turned her head.  When his mouth drew down hot and needy against the pulse in her neck, Nicole came.

Like water through a drain, the bottom fell away.  It broke between her hips and zipped through every vein, mapping her body.  Her stomach fluttered and rolled, pushing more and more sparks into her system until finally the whole thing flared at once.  She cried out and clamped down, then went weak.

Viktor almost made it to the end.  The final clench of her pussy against his pounding cock ripped the orgasm right out of him.  He pumped hard, what seemed to be a hot burst for every night he’d been gone, since he’d missed the chance to have this perfect body wipe him out before hockey could do it instead.  Throbbing and grunting, Viktor finally emptied so hard that the last thrust hurt.

“I’m sorry I waited,” he panted.  Nicole was beneath him, slumped over as he leaned across her back.  Viktor moved one hand to cup her breast, feet her heart jump behind her ribs.

She giggled.  Her whole body jostled slightly, still joined to his, and if Viktor had anything left he’d have been hard again already.  Instead he just lay still.

Thank God, Viktor thought as he closed his eyes.

There was always a little fear.  Anytime someone new came into his life, into his bed, Viktor wondered right up until the deed was done if he would feel it - that spark - with this girl.  Then he’d been with Fiona, convinced that was the strongest connection of all, and it had failed spectacularly.  A part of him worried that she hadn’t really shared the pleasure of their single night together.  She seemed to, at the time.  And she and Jon were right for each other.  But nothing like getting turned down to rattle a guy’s confidence.  Viktor pressed his lips to Nicole’s bare skin and sighed with relief.  Nicole felt it too, he was sure.

They stayed in bed for a long time, at first just resting and then talking, laughing.  Viktor told her about some of the pranks his teammates had pulled, Nicole told him a few embarrassing college stories.  She was careful not to mention other guys - there was no way she was thinking about anyone other than him.

Laying beside Viktor was like standing in front of an open bank vault.  There was just so much of... everything.  Everywhere.  Nowhere was safe to look.  His eyes were sage green, almost gray, as they looked up from where he lay on his back, casually exhibiting the biggest bicep Nicole had ever seen in real life.  She brushed a few long-ish pieces of hair back from his forehead.  The Cupid’s Bow curve of his upper lip never disappeared, even when he smiled.  Which he did when she traced her hand along his square jaw.  Nicole couldn’t even think about the rest of him where it disappeared beneath the sheets.

In the middle of a story about trying to sneak a keg into the dorm, Viktor tipped his face up and kissed Nicole’s lips.  One of her hands was pushed up into her stick-straight hair, making it poof at the top of her head.  It was probably as bed head as she ever got, and he didn’t want to ruin it, but he couldn’t keep his hands from moving toward her neck and pulling her down to his mouth.

There was a lot of kissing that morning.  Eventually what had woken them in the night wore away and they fell back to sleep, wrapped up together.

Sometime later, Viktor was surely still dreaming when he woke to the sensation of Nicole moving next to him... no, on top of him.  Blinking his eyes open quickly proved him wrong.  She was straddled across his lap, his cock pushed flat along his stomach and her groove dragging lightly against his skin as she slowly rolled her hips.  

His instinct was to laugh at how unbelievable it was.  Except he believed it.

Nicole reached for the drawer, almost falling off Viktor’s body in the process.  He righted her and easily grabbed a condom, which Nicole snatched from his hand.  She arched an eyebrow and  gave him a sexy grin.  Three seconds later, the smile was replaced by a ragged breath through parted lips.  Nicole rolled her head back, hair spilling behind.

Viktor helped himself to her breasts, which bounced as she worked her way down his cock.  When she was settled in his lap, Nicole looked at him.

“Were you going to wake me up?” he chuckled in disbelief.  This was Maxim territory, waking a guy up by starting without out.  Nicole shrugged and flicked her hips, giving him a swift tug.  He gasped.  

“Not necessarily,” she said coyly.

“I could still be dreaming,” he admitted.

Nicole moved her hips again, then in another way.  It only took her a moment to find the angle she wanted.  Before she could manage a comeback, she was riding him at a steady pace.  Viktor squeezed his glutes and quads and lifted her, making her cry out.  He waited a moment then did it again, tweaking her nipple at the same time.

“OhmyGod,” she purred.

Just like that, they were moving together.  He gave as good as he got, Nicole made no secret of loving the sight of such a perfect physique between her legs.  Viktor’s size was more manageable from on top and gave her more room to maneuver.  His hands beneath her ass helped.

Viktor waited for the moment that Nicole leaned down for a kiss.  His arms slipped around her back and he rolled quickly, pinning her to the mattress in a single movement.

“Oofoooooooh!”  It started as a squeak and became a moan as Viktor bottomed out inside her deepest place.

He liked sex the good, old-fashioned way.  Not that Viktor was boring, but he liked to look into a girl’s eyes and see her enjoying it as much as he was.  He saw all her secrets that way.

“You’re staring,” she said quietly, knowing she was staring right back.

“I’m trying to learn you,” he admitted.  Then he did that deep stroke he knew she liked.

“God in heaven,” she said jokingly and kissed him again.

When she came, shuddering in his arms, Viktor tried to memorize how it felt for her, so he’d know how to make it better.  Then he showed her just how good it was for him.  Finally they were tangled and spent.

“A-plus,” she mumbled, face smooshed against his shoulder.

Nicole couldn’t quite walk straight.  She’d spent the better part of two days in Viktor’s bed and it wasn’t the laying down that had her feeling unsteady.  It was a good thing she’d taken an extra day off from work.  She held onto the dresser in her room as she pushed a foot into her sneaker.  Then she checked her reflection - dark jeans, a red and white striped sweater for the occasion.  A little makeup and a comb through her hair - ta da.  

“As good as it gets,” she said.

“Gorgeous,” Viktor said from somewhere out of sight.

In fact he was in the living room, feet up on her coffee table and looking through a printed album of digital photos, the kind someone makes as a gift.  It was Nicole in college.  He saw scenes that would play out of the stories he’d heard during their little camp out.

“Ready,” she appeared at the arm of the couch.  Viktor looked up and reconsidered ever leaving the house again.  Nicole made a face.  “Come on, I need a break!”

When they reached the restaurant, Viktor laced his hand into hers before pushing open the door.

They were among the last to arrive.  People were mingling at the bar beneath red and white balloons, sipping daytime cocktails.  Red paper hearts and accordion signs splayed “Happy Valentine’s Day” all over the dining area.

“Hey guys!” Abby detached herself from the more famous Sharp and greeted them with hugs.  They were quickly swallowed into the crowd, Viktor introducing Nicole to the male half of every couple.  The women she mostly knew already.

Nicole plastered a grin to her face and said hello to an endless stream of recognizable faces.  It was a bit overwhelming - she sometimes forgot that Viktor was a member of her lifelong favorite hockey team.  He just seemed so... normal.  This though, this was a shooting gallery of names she’d cheered out loud.  Turning left to say another canned pleasantry, Brent Seabrook grabbed her right out of Viktor’s reach and swung her around.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Nicole!”

“Oof!” she bumped off his large, very sturdy chest as he tried to halt their movement.  “What did you eat all the cupcakes already?”

He pushed a hand through that forest of hair and laughed.  “You’re the sugar here, darlin’.”

Finally they reached the bar, having met everyone in the place, and Nicole ordered a Shirley Temple.

“That’s it?” Viktor asked.

She let her eyes roll slowly down his body.  He wore a black v-neck sweater with jeans, and if he moved suddenly the seems would race to split.  The  color complemented his almost-olive skin tone and dark blond hair, making his eyelashes stand out even more impossibly than usual.  To top it off, he was wearing some cologne that smelled like sex rolled in money.  Nicole leaned a little closer.

“I don’t trust myself,” she whispered.


Viktor blushed.  He dipped his chin, got all dimple-y and his hair flopped forward.

Great big teddy bear.  She wrapped her arms around his waist and kissed his cheek.

“This place has a back room,” he breathed against her ear.

Nicole pretended to be scandalized.  “How do you know?”

Viktor glanced around.  “Kaner’s missing.”

Abby and a few of the women begged a moment of Nicole’s time to put the finishing touches of the desserts.  She followed them into the kitchen and stopped dead in her tracks.


Food was everywhere.  The restaurant staff were hard at work plating forty-plus first courses, which smelled like butter and seafood.  It was like walking into a delicious wall.  Abby took Nicole’s elbow.

“Wait till you see these guys eat.  You’ll barely get a bite if you’re not quick.”

“You guys do this every year?”

Abby nodded.  “If they’re home, we do it on Valentine’s Day.  If they’re on the road, when they get back.  These guys don’t do desks and calendars and stuff.  If it’s not the All-Star Break, they have no idea what day it is.  This way no one has to make Valentine’s Day plans, or can say they forgot.”

“Always in the afternoon?”  Nicole glanced back at what was sure to be a full dinner served at 1 PM.

“Some guys don’t forget.  Later is for alone time, another precious commodity.”

The prep kitchen was filled with desserts.  Knock out the back wall and it could have been a profitable bakery.  Nicole helped unpack cupcakes and arrange brownies on a platter - apparently the wives and girlfriends preferred to bring in their favorite deserts from elsewhere.  

“If you’re going to binge, make it count,” Julia Bolland said.

Finished with their only duty for the day, the ladies returned to the dining room just in time for the last of the players to arrive.  Not late, he was never late.  Just exactly on time.

“Hey guys.”

Nicole heard the voice and knew there was only one Blackhawk she hadn’t met yet.  Then a softly accented voice followed.

“Happy Valentine’s!”

Viktor’s arm slipped into Nicole’s side - he was behind her, chest to her shoulder.  Strangely it felt as if he meant to protect her, which she found absurd.  If anything she should be protecting him from the woman who hurt him, and the man she did it for.  

“Nicole, so glad you’re here!”  Fiona bustled up and gave Nicole a short, tight hug.  Her hand brushed Viktor’s chest as she reached around and all three of them flinched slightly.  Then Jon appeared.

“Hi Vik,” he said, but he was looking right at Nicole.

And she was glued to the floor.  If her shoes had melted she could no more have moved than when Jonathan Toews leveled that hundred-ton, brown-as-black gaze at her.  His face was all boy but his eyes were intense.  Viktor squeeze gently above her hip like he felt it too.

“You must be Nicole.”

“Hi.” It scraped like glass in her throat.  His hand was out and she had to take it - it burned her palm as his long fingers slipped all the way up inside her wrist.

“Fiona told me all about you.”  Jonathan smiled genuinely - it didn’t help.  She managed a weak one in return.  It wasn’t till his grip dropped away that she could draw a whole breath.  Her heart was pounding.

Then Viktor was there, back in her consciousness, strong as an anchor at her side. Instantly the air cleared.  Nicole leaned slightly, settling her weight against him.

“Nice to meet you too,” she said with more conviction.

Someone called to Jon.  He stepped away, apologizing, then turned and looked back at Nicole.  Just for a second.  But that was all it took to jolt her system again.

For all of the calm Viktor brought, even when he should have made her head spin, Nicole had the exact opposite reaction to Jonathan.  He looked at her like a predator would, staring down from the top of the food chain.  And if Nicole wasn’t mistaken, Jon thought she looked particularly tasty.