Abby tapped Fiona on the arm, quieting their conversation. Fiona glanced over her shoulder to see Viktor kissing his girlfriend goodbye in the hallway outside the locker room. They looked so happy it made her stomach turn.
Nicole had come to the game because the Blackhawks were her team and Viktor was her boyfriend. She didn’t plan to tell any secrets or start any fights. Yet she could feel Fiona’s eyes on her as Viktor gave her a quick squeeze.
“Sure you’re okay?” he asked quietly.
“I haven’t done anything wrong.”
He smiled at that and kissed her lips.
Abby busied herself finishing a plate of salad from the catering table in the lounge, but greeted Nicole as warmly as she could without a hug. Fiona gave a reasonable smile. Nicole went for a cookie and caught a meaningful look from Abby before before the lovely Mrs. Sharp ditched her plate and gracefully dashed from the room.
Oh fuck, went through Nicole’s mind.
“Is it true?” The softness in Fiona’s voice caught Nicole off guard.
“Depends on what you’ve been told.”
“Nothing.” The dark haired Irish beauty dropped onto the arm of a couch and looked at the girl she had begrudgingly come to like. “No one told me anything. I saw Viktor leaving Jon’s apartment. There are only two reasons he would go there... well, one reason now. I no longer count. But you and Viktor look happy, so I’m guessing it’s only bad news for me.”
“Did you ask Jon?”
Fiona shook her head with a rueful smile. “Jon sees things... differently than other people. I think the truth would better come from you.”
Nicole perched on the arm of the sofa across the room, leaving a space between them like a chasm. She imagined Abby was standing outside, keeping other people away. “Nothing happened, Fiona. Jon hit on me and I turned him down.”
“Just once?” Fiona clearly knew Jon better than that.
“He, uh, may not have heard me the first time. First few times.”
The smile ghosted away and Fiona was left with a small, resigned frown. “Is that how he got the black eye?”
Nicole nodded. “The price of a kiss. But I swear that’s the furthest it ever went.”
“I’m almost grateful,” Fiona shrugged. “Anyone other than you would have....”
Nicole had thought a lot about what happened with Jon, and considered countless reasons why. But she had a feeling, from the way he kept coming, that it wasn’t just a random thing. She wasn’t so hot he couldn’t resist her, and he wasn’t the type to bark up an empty tree. More factors had led to that punch. Nicole just wasn’t sure if they made things better or worse.
“If... if I can, Fiona... look. I like you. I can see why Viktor liked you so much. I don’t want to mess up whatever peace you guys have but I don’t think Jon wanted me. And I don’t think he wanted any other girl. I think he just wanted to hurt Viktor.”
Nicole shifted position, gathering an idea that had been bothering her for a few days.
“The first couple of times Jon was, “she searched for the word, “forward with me, I didn’t say anything to Viktor. At first I didn’t think he was serious, then I thought he’d just go away. But the last time, when I hit him, Jon said something weird. He said, ‘You never told him.’ It was like he just wanted Viktor to know what was happening, assuming I would let something happen. He seemed more confused by me not telling Viktor than me saying no.”
Fiona shrugged like she didn’t get the point.
“I don’t think he wants other girls, Fiona. I think Jon wants to be sure that he really has won.”
“So he wins by losing me? And what, getting you? Do we swap boyfriends?” Fiona waved her hands in frustration.
“How is Jon after he loses a game?” Nicole asked, seemingly out of nowhere.
“Uh, an asshole?”
“Right. And how is he after they win?”
“Fired up, usually. Something didn’t go right or they could have done something better. There’s always one thing he’s bothered about even in a good game.”
“Like he’d go right out and pay it again, only this time get it right?” Nicole suggested.
Fiona stopped and tilted her head to the side. She stayed quiet almost a full minute. Nicole hoped it worked because she was out of ideas. Eventually Fiona exhaled a heavy breath and pushed one hand back through her hair.
“Why are you defending Jon?”
“I don’t know. Maybe I just want to believe he’s better than that. But I refuse to let him make me into the thing that hurts this team.” Nicole felt strong saying it. No one was going to push her around, not even Jonathan Toews.
“I wish I’d known all that before,” Fiona admitted. “I really had no idea how this all worked.”
“Would you have done it differently?” Nicole almost didn’t asked, afraid of the answer.
Fiona smiled sadly. “I would have left Viktor out of it, even if it hurt. You probably think I’m crazy but I really do love Jon. And I’m just like him. I went after something that was too good for me and when I had it, I screwed it up.”
Tears pricked at Nicole’s eyes. Fiona must really love Jon to work through this,and it must hurt her every day to see Viktor with someone else. It probably wouldn’t help if that someone else hugged her, but Nicole couldn’t resist.
“Thank you.” Fiona’s voice was muffled against Nicole’s shoulder. “I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
Nicole squeezed Fiona tight. “Well, he’s got one eye that isn’t black.”
The next night, Viktor pushed his front door open and heard Nicole singing from the kitchen. The sound of pots and pans banging nearly drowned her out. He’d always wanted to come home to someone, to have a girl who made Chicago feel like home for him. As Nicole reached the high part of Celine Dion’s “I Drove All Night,” he could only laugh.
“Get in here!” she shouted.
Viktor turned the corner and nearly dropped the bag from his hand. Nicole was wearing heels, a vintage-looking apron and nothing more than a tiny pair of lacy boy shorts.
“Woah,” he said.
She giggled and lifted a spoon for him to taste. Whatever it was he nodded. Nicole rolled her eyes.
“Focus! This is really good!”
“Yeah, I know,” Viktor laughed, taking the next bite. He blinked in surprise. “Oh wow, that is good.”
Nicole steered him toward a chair and passed him the corkscrew and two glasses. He opened the wine he’d bought without ever taking his eyes of the curve of her backside peeking from beneath her panties. The heels clacked on his tile floor as she scooped two pieces of sauteed chicken from a dutch oven and slipped them on to plates next to homemade rice pilaf and wilted spinach. It smelled almost as good as she looked. Nicole delivered a heaping plate right to his elbow and he reached around her waist.
“What is all this for?”
She stole a kiss from his lips, possibly her favorite part of his body. But it was a close race with his eyes, and that jaw, and really anything under his clothes. Or maybe the happiness on his face.
“Girls don’t cook their boyfriends dinner in Sweden?” she cooed. Viktor slipped a hand inside her apron, reaching for her breast. Nicole smacked it with a spoon.
“I got a huge piece of new business today. On commission. The first order alone was four thousand dollars, and there are a bunch more. It seems...,” she draped an arm over his broad shoulders, “that hockey teams print a lot of stuff.”
Viktor’s mouth dropped open.
Nicole smirked at his surprise. “I take it this wasn’t your doing.”
“I don’t have that kind of pull, babe.” Viktor stole a peek down the front of her apron. “Jon did tell you that he owes you one. I didn’t ask why.”
“Did he have two black eyes?”
“No,” Viktor shook his head.
VIktor scooted his stood back a few inches and lifted Nicole into his lap so she was sitting side-saddle, her face turned toward his. It would be easy to forget about dinner in favor of the clothes she had forgotten to put on. Especially if, as he hoped, the Jon and Fiona issue was really over.
“So Fiona and Jon get each other, you get a bunch of money, and I get you.”
Nicole nodded, her hands laced behind his neck. She’s give him any damned think he wanted.
“And dinner,” she said.
Viktor smiled at the woman in his arms. “Then I win.”
Thank you all for your comments on this story. It took me forever to finish and maybe next year I won’t write during the playoffs at all. I was gutted to see the Hawks eliminated last night, especially after Stalberg had such a terrible game five. I thought he needed a happy ending here. This is the first spin-off story I’ve ever done, and I hope you enjoyed it! - Juliet