Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New Story

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

Love the Way You Lie
____

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Chapter 10 [The End]

Mike made grilled cheese and tomato soup for lunch, like they were 10 years old.  They sat next to each other at the island in the kitchen, legs touching under the counter.  Andy insisted he cut the sandwiches diagonally because it made them taste better.  He looked at her from the corner of his eye, pulling the crust off her bread.  She was beautiful, wonderful and now she was his, really his.  He felt like shouting. 

“So, Crosby couldn’t seal the deal?”

Andy’s face went white as a sheet.  “Actually it was me.  Sidney was ready to go and I had a panic attack…”

“Ready to go?”  Mike pushed back from the island a little, ready to do something, anything.  “What does that mean?  What did he do?”

“Nothing!  No clothes came off or anything.  But if I had been willing, we would have completed the business transaction.”

“You kissed him.”

“Yes, there was kissing.”

“Ew!  Andy!  Those giant lips?  And he touched you.  Whatever you were wearing, burn it and I’ll get you a new one.  Crosby…,” he grumbled.  “I called you at like 1 AM.  Where were you?”

“After I bailed on the sleepover, we went to a club and met his friends.”

“Teammates.  You went partying with the Penguins.  We may have to break up already.”

Andy slapped a hand on the counter top.  “Mike!  Sidney was amazing.  He could have pushed the subject and then I would have slept with him.  He paid for it, right?  Didn’t exactly get his money’s worth when I went cold turkey.  If he’d been insistent, I would have had to do it.  Then we’d really have a problem.”

“Yeah, I bet I would be too grossed out to touch you.”

“And I bet he’s incredible in bed,” Andy said, then ducked before Mike could grab her in a headlock.  She ran around the island, Mike going the other way.  Andy grabbed half of Mike’s sandwich as she passed and ate it, across the counter, faking left to right like she was going to bolt.

“You are disgusting.  I’m going to kick his ass tomorrow.”

Andy got serious.  “Mike.  He doesn’t know it’s you.  He knows there’s someone – he could tell by the way I was acting.  And he knows it’s someone from your team.  But you and me, we’re a secret until you tell everyone.”

“Or until Crosby tells them something.”

Andy finished the sandwich.  “Well, yeah.  Or I could call him now.”

Mike caught her around the left side and smothered her face with kisses.  “I will tell the whole world… if you delete his number.”
____

They parked where instructed and Andy gave her name at will call.  The attendant sent them to another door where another attendant checked her name and asked them to wait.  A third person fetched them and wound down a series of hallways into the bowels of the Verizon Center to a brightly painted waiting room with couches.  Food was laid out on the tables and TVs were on, like it was waiting for a party.

As Mike came in a minute later, his breath caught in his throat.  Andy was wearing his number again.  She’d even pulled her hair forward over her shoulders so GREEN was clearly visible.  Her smile was wider, more real and her eyes lit up when she saw him.

She is mine, he thought.  It had been in his head endlessly as they spent the entire day before moving Andy’s stuff into his condo.  They hadn’t wasted a moment.  They loaded the Escalade three times and cleared out almost all the stuff she’d need to take with her.  Everything else would go to Goodwill the next day.  She is mine and I am hers.  The idea of it was concrete, but seeing her here, in the most public of places, with his friends and teammates a room away, made it real in a brand new way.

“Hey!” he managed to get out.

Woah, Andy thought as he hugged her in close.  He wore black warm up pants and a long-sleeved gray Under Armor shirt that hugged his upper body like plastic wrap.  His hair was undone, perfectly naturally messed up.  She tried not to wonder what he was wearing under the pants.  She failed.

“I missed you.” he kissed her quickly on the lips.

Jello!  Andy had known this would happen – seeing him here, behind the scenes – this was Mike’s real life and Andy had to figure out where she would fit in.  Vivian gave Mike a hug as well.

“Nice shirt,” he rolled the bottom hem of Andy's shirt in his fingers, near her stomach. 

“This old thing?!” she laughed.  “I’ve had it forever.”

Vivian busied herself fixing a snack so they could have a little pseudo-privacy.  Mike only had a few minutes before he was due back in the locker room to get ready for the pre-game skate.  He made sure he knew where they were sitting.

“Good luck,” Andy said quietly, their faces close.

“Feels that way,” he playfully hugged tighter around her waist.  His lips were soft, his light kiss hopeful.

“Hey there!” a voice boomed from behind them.  “What is going on in here?”  They broke apart to find Brooks Laich smiling hugely, like he’d just caught two people making out.  Which he had.  He raised his eyebrows at Mike.

“Brooks, this is Andy.  Andy, Brooks Laich,” he said.  Mike’s arm was still around her, a little possessively but she liked it.  It made her feel like something worthy of being shown off.

“Andy, it’s nice to meet you.  I was looking for Mikey.  If I’d realized he was kissing someone so beautiful, I never would have interrupted.”  He introduced himself to Vivian then reminded Mike they were due in the room pretty much now.

“I’ve gotta go,” he pulled her back in as he heard Brooks leave.  He was definitely on edge, but it felt good, like adrenaline in his veins, firing him up for the game.  He was going to play hard: she’d be watching.  “I can’t wait for you to meet everyone later.  They’re going to be so jealous.”

“Good luck, Mike.  And be nice to Sidney,” she whispered into his ear.
____

Mike hurried, hoping to catch Brooks in the hall.  No luck, and Laich was nowhere to be seen in the locker room.  He started suiting up.

“Who the fuck was that?” Brooks called loudly as he came through the door, carrying freshly-sharpened skates.

Half the heads in the room turned.  “Who was who?” Eric Fehr asked.

“Greenie was making out with some hot piece in the wives’ room.  Tall brunette in boots wearing a beat up #52 t-shirt that looked like she’d been sleeping in it since high school.  Not bad, Mikey.”  Brooks slapped Mike on the shoulder as he went to his stall.  “You’ve been holding out on us!”

“She’s…” Mike started.

“She was here the other night right, standing by the glass?  Did you pick up a puckbunny, Mikey?” Brooks kept going.

“What are you talking about?” Alex came into the room after a pre-game TV interview.  He was looking at Mike like he already knew the answer.

“Mike’s got a girl here,” Eric teased.

“Her name is Andy and… she is my girlfriend.  Sorry you haven’t met her before.”

A chorus of whistles, shouts and lewd comments rained down on his along with a few pieces of tossed equipment.  Mike smiled – the guys would love her.  Just not the way they might have before, he’d made sure of that.  She was his, now.  Thank God.

“Girlfriend?  She was in the paper, picture with Crosby.”  Overchkin said with a skeptical look on his face.  “You only go out with her?”  You mean she only goes out with me, Mike knew exactly what he was asking.

“Yeah.  She’s just friends with him.  And she’s moving in with me.”

Alex shrugged.  There were a million beautiful girls in Overchkin’s orbit, and he’d only wanted Andy because Mike did.  Because he could have her, because it was his choice.  Alex needed to be in charge.

“Better play good, Mikey, sign big contract. Sid make a lot of money and girls are expensive,” Alex gave him a smart-assed, gap-toothed smile as he let it go.

“Fuck you, Ovi,” Mike said.
____

Andy’s cell phone buzzed as they were on their way to the seats.

Sidney: White knight reporting for duty.

Andy: All fixed.  I owe you one.

Sidney: Come say hello.

She squeezed up to the glass near the bench, climbing over a few Penguins fans.  The team took the ice in their white uniforms to a chorus of appreciation for the visiting team.  Sidney was first out and Andy watched them loop around the ice at speed.  Jordan saw her and nudged Max at the blue line.  Max waved openly like a dork, making half the fans on her side of the ice squeal out loud.  Sidney saw the commotion and found Andy’s face. 

As the drill went on, Sidney’s place in the lineup brought him closer and closer.  Finally he was right in front of her, smiling.  She wanted to hug him for everything he’d done.  He stepped over the curb and through the open door onto the bench.  The entire crowd moved with him, following their hero toward the walkway to the locker room.  At the edge of the glass, he looked up at her.

Beautiful.  And she was, but in a way he hadn’t seen before.  It could only mean one thing.  She’s out of reach. 

“Hey,” he said, aware that hundreds of people were watching.

“Hi.  I’d say have a good game, but…”

Man, they are everywhere! she almost laughed.  Couldn’t find one good guy before this, now they’re coming out of the woodwork.  Sidney looked at her like he was trying to decide if she was really okay, or just covering.

“But you don’t want me making your boyfriend look bad.”

“I don’t know who you’re talking about,” she said primly, a tiny grin on her lips.

Sidney looked at her shirt slowly, then back to her face.  He’d made her come to the railing so he could be sure to see the back as she went up the steps. 

“Nice shirt,” he said.  Her mouth fell open slightly as she realized what she’d done.  Sidney made a teasing face and went back to the ice. 

Andy laughed her way to the Capitals side of the rink.  She stood a few rows off the glass watching them drill and stretch.  Mike didn’t look for her, and she didn’t need him to.  He’d be looking at her all the time now.
____

The whistle blew the play dead as Nuevirth absorbed a shot.  Mike rounded behind the net, slowing as Crosby circled past.  According to Andy, he didn’t know which of the Capitals she was seeing but it didn’t feel that way – Sidney had been glaring at him the first few shifts.  The puck dropped, was taken out wide by the Pens and Crosby positioned his sizeable backside right in the goalie’s face.  He chopped and angled, bordering on goaltender interference the way he kept backing into the crease.  Neuvy slapped at Sid’s legs, Crosby just elbowed back in.  Letang shot from the point, the puck rattled around and the net was knocked off.  Shoving ensued, the teams coming together.

“Fuck off,” Mike growled, cross-checking the number on Sid’s back, pushing him away from the goal.  All around them, players grappled with each other.  Crosby got right in his face. 

“Of course it’s you,” Sidney said with plenty of disgust, his meaning obvious. 

Mike wanted to pick a fight.  This guy had touched Andy, had kissed her.  His Andy.  He shouldered into Crosby, pressing him into the knot of players behind.  “When you’re jerking off alone, remember she’s with me.”  Someone closed in behind, pushing them together.   

“Guess I should have fucked her then, shown her how much better it could be.”

Mike got a glove up, giving Sidney a rough face wash while the refs tried to separate the guys around them.  “I will break your face, you piece of shit.”

Crosby roared right back.  “No fucking way you’re good enough for her.”

Mike bit back the vitriol he wanted to unleash, resisted the urge to shove the end of his stick into that mouth that had been on Andy’s skin.  “I will be,” he said.

“You’d better be, because she owes me one,” Sidney sneered.

Mike felt a hand pulling his shoulder, tugging him away from the fight.  “I’ll remember that when we’re spending your money decorating our house.”
____

Andy waited in the stands until someone came for her and Vivian.  She didn’t want to sit around with the wives and girlfriends before she’d even met anyone, before Mike had a chance to tell people about her.  Whatever he would tell them.  Finally a security guard led them down near the locker room, where Mike was waiting in the hall.

He was smiling sheepishly, hair styled and gelled like he was on his way to prom.  Andy guessed he’d done some TV interviews.  The Capitals had won a hard fought game, he had everything to be happy about, but that wasn’t it and she knew.  I can’t blame the guy, she thought.

“I didn’t fight him,” Mike said, shoulders rolling up.  Andy just rolled her eyes.  “Ready?”

“Okay,” Andy said.  She was nervous, very nervous and grateful when Mike wrapped her hand in his big one before he opened the locker room door.  The media was gone and nearly everyone was showered and fully dressed.  Brooks saw her first and came stomping over.

“Andy!” He gave her a big hug, like they’d been friends forever.  She would never know if Mike had asked him to do that, because soon she was being introduced to a line of people. 

“Good thing I already know all your names!” she laughed.  Little Michael Nuevirth blushed when she congratulated him on scoring points for her fantasy team.  The last person to come over was Alex.  He was smirking like he knew their secret, but he seemed less predatory than before.  His eyes never left her face.

“Andy, you make Mike a lucky guy,” he said.  “Probably you can do better than him.”

Mike watched carefully, knowing Ovechkin would get his digs in before leaving them alone.  Not too far, buddy, he was thinking.

“Nah, I think I did pretty well.”  Andy squeezed Mike’s hand.  Other women started trickling in, their men introducing Andy and Andy introducing Vivian.  Someone called for drinks, someone else shouted a suggestion and everyone headed for the door. 

Mike leaned into Andy’s side.  “Take you out before I take you home?” he asked. 

“This time, I’m taking you home,” she said.
____

EPILOGUE: THE WINTER CLASSIC

“Got enough layers on there?”

“Fuckyoumike!” Vivian yelled, voice muffled by her scarf.  They were in the lobby of the hotel, team about to board the bus for the football stadium.  It was about three degrees outside and Vivian was dressed for it.

Andy came up behind her, lifting her arms out to the side.  “I can’t put my arms down!”

“Put your arms down when you get to school!” Mike said on cue, quoting A Christmas Story.  Vivian tugged the wrap away from her face.

“How many black guys play in the NHL, Mike?  Five?  That’s because it’s freezing and we are not stupid.  If I would die outside, then I don’t go outside.  Basketball, now there is a civilized sport.”

Mike reached over and pulled the scarf back across her face.  Her mitten-encased hands couldn’t grip to stop him so she trundled outside, sweating inside under her gear.  Andy laughed.

“You on the other hand, look beautiful,” he said, wrapping her arms around her.  She wore a red and white ski jacket he’d bought her for Christmas, a white hat with a Capitals logo and white gloves.  “Like a Capitals cheerleader.”  Andy jumped up and down, miming a cheer but really just rubbing herself against him scandalously.

“I love you,” he said.  Like crazy.  It had not even been two months, but their life together had fallen into place with only a few hiccups expected of a new couple.  He had never thought that coming home to someone, whether at the end of a day or the end of a road trip, could feel so good.  Every time he pulled up to the condo and saw the light on his heart did a little flip.

“I love you too,” Andy said.  And I owe you, she still knew.  Maybe she really owed it to luck, but she preferred to think that Mike had saved her before anything really bad could happen.  She knew that she’d saved him too, at least a little, and that made her proud.  Her new job as a consultant for a micro-lending finance company gave her just enough flexibility to pay down her loans and never miss a Capitals home game.

“Kick ass out there,” she whispered, lips grazing the soft skin just beneath his earlobe.

He looked at her from the corner of his eye.  “Anyone’s ass in particular?” he smiled.  Andy scowled and he crushed her into a hug, tipping her side to side while she shrieked for help.
____

All it took was one shift, the first shift on pristine ice unlike anything Mike had ever seen.  They skated on a mirror, right through clouds of their own breath.  Even beneath the hat inside his helmet, Mike’s ears pricked against the cold.

“How’s Andy?” Sidney asked, skating by.

“Completely in love with me,” Mike said honestly.  Thank God.

“Should I beat you for a goal then?  Remind her what she’s missing?”

Mike smiled at the difference he felt from the last time he and Sidney had this conversation.  He’d been scared, angry and moving a hundred miles an hour toward he didn’t know what.  Anything that hopefully involved Andy.  Now they were solid, they were happy.  He was happy because of her.

“Bring it on, Sid.  The only thing Andy's missing right now is being warm in my bed.”
____

A/N: You guys are awesome!  I had no idea there were so many other Mike Green fans.  And thanks to those of you stuck it out even if you hate Mike - I hope you still enjoyed the story!  Thanks for all your comments, they really make writing so much more fun.  New story coming soon!
____

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Chapter 9

Mike had turned his phone off because he didn’t trust himself. Then he lay awake for two hours looking at it. If it was on and didn’t ring, he’d never sleep knowing she hadn’t called. If it was off, it wouldn’t register the missed call if she did. Mostly he was afraid of answering it in the middle of the night, half-asleep, and telling her everything. Right after she got home from someone else’s bed. Or she wouldn’t call at all, having stayed the night with whoever had full pockets. The equations for misery were endless.

He imagined that his sheets smelled like her, the one she’d wrapped around her body and dropped in the kitchen. He should have had sex with her then, team rules be damned, if it was going to be his last chance to be with her. Eventually he tossed and turned himself into a fitful nap.
____

Andy called two more times, not caring that it was the middle of the night. She thought about driving there, but couldn’t – not in this dress, someone else’s hands still on her skin. Not just someone else, she reminded herself. She knew Mike would hate Sidney, she wondered if it would be more because of the logo on his jersey or her kiss on his lips.

She left her phone on, listening for the ring in her sleep.
____

Mike woke up starving, fetched the newspaper off the step and sat down to a bowl of cereal. He’d turn his phone on and face the day when his stomach was full. He got two bites of Cheerios in before he saw the photo.

The Capital and The Kid – Pittsburgh Penguins superstar Sidney Crosby enjoys an evening out in DC, dining last night with a date at Maestro.

Andy was smiling, laughing even. Mike could see her dimples.
____

“Pick up, pick up, pick up,” Vivian chanted into the ringing phone. Finally, a click followed by a moment of silence.

“Hello?” Andy mumbled, still asleep.

“Get up, Andy. Your picture is in the paper.”

Andy dropped the phone and scrambled out of bed. She wore pajama pants and a tank top, swiped a hoodie off the couch and ran full tilt, barefoot, down to the street. She had the box open, free Examiner newspaper in hand and was back inside the front door before it could close.

“Oh my God,” she said to no one on the staircase.
____

Ten minutes later his phone rang. He didn’t want to answer it, didn’t want to even see if it was her calling. It could be Ovechkin, that smug son of a bitch, calling to laugh that someone had beaten him to the punch. Crosby. Of all fucking people.

Andy’s cell was trapped between her ear and shoulder as she pulled on jeans. She dialed again for a t-shirt, then again before quickly pulling on a sweater and replacing the phone. No answer.
____

Bang bang bang. Mike was sitting on the couch, his living room on the second floor above the entry way. Bang bang bang. His phone beeped.

Andy: Not leaving. Let me in.

Mike felt empty. It was all so obvious, so crystal-fucking-clear and he had willfully ignored it. If he was hurt or angry it could only be at his own stupidity. If he was betrayed, it was by himself. He’d felt like such a loser that first night in the hotel, as if calling an escort service were rock bottom. Now he knew it could in fact get worse. His socks made no noise on the stairs.

He opened the door, holding it in his outstretched arm. The logo on his shirt was faded from the careless way boys do their laundry. His hair was a mess, black eye nearly gone and he looked more defeated than ever before. Andy’s heart broke open and spilled inside her chest.

“Nothing happened,” she said.

Mike’s expression didn’t change. She could have recited the formula for cold fusion and he would not have cared. Nuclear launch codes, PIN numbers, his high school locker combination – nothing would have surprised him because nothing was true.

Andy’s jeans were too long, frayed where the heels caught beneath her shoes. She had on flip flops despite the cold and a blue hooded sweatshirt with a bird on the lapel. Her hair was a mess and she wore no makeup – clearly just out of bed. That used to look good to me, he thought acidly. She was most beautiful when she woke up.

“Nothing happened.” And then she burst into tears.

His shoulders and arms ached to hold her. Between the road trip and a bad night’s sleep, he was desperate for comfort. She had foremost in his mind every moment away from the ice – and a few on the ice, he knew. The end of the trip was the best part because he was coming home.

Andy stood there freezing and just cried. She had gambled and lost, something bad costing her something good. No, something incredible. She had never deserved it and now it had rightfully slipped from her grasp. Even so, I don’t want him to think I did it. I want him to know that much.

“I couldn’t do it.”

Pretty little liar, he thought.

“Call him.” Andy fished her phone out of her pocket. “Call him and ask.”

“You have his number?” The first words Mike had spoken.

Andy made a hard face. “He said that any guy who let me do this wasn’t good enough for me. And if that guy wouldn’t stop it, he would.”

“So he’s your boyfriend now.” Not a question. “Bought and paid for the whole show, eh? You’re off the market to the highest bidder.” It didn’t feel true, even as he said it. Words he didn’t believe just spilled out of him like oil, contaminating everything in their path.

“Mike,” the tears were back. “He was just being nice because I was a mess. I was like you, that first night. I wanted so much to help you that I would have done anything. It didn’t have to be sex and you knew that. It was in your eyes, you almost sent me home, you would have let me go if I asked. But I wanted to be the one.”

He had neighbors. He wondered if they could see or hear him, fighting with a call girl at ten in the morning. The urge to scream ‘Sidney Crosby fucked my girlfriend’ passed through his mind – no payoff though, not here. Tomorrow’s game was another story.

“You’ve got a new one now. The Chosen One. Big step up from me, Andy.”

“That is not true and you know it. Mister high-and-mighty, you called an escort service too. Same as him. Why you’re so much better than everybody else…”

Mike put his hands up in surrender. “You’re right. I am an asshole for believing you. I fell for every lie you told me, everything you did, and I am paying the price for it. Your real price tag.” He wanted to punch something, clenching and releasing his fist at one side. “Hooker with a heart of gold, right? Who hasn’t fallen for that one? I bet all your clients are chomping at the bit waiting for the minute I go out of town. A line of guys around the block for you.”

Andy wanted to punch something too. She wanted to punch Mike. Screaming, throwing things, lying facedown on the lawn until winter came and buried her under snow – they all seemed like viable options. “You think I'm faking this?”

“Nothing I think about you is right! You are a professional liar and I've been buying it because I want you. I need you. Or at least I need the person I let myself believe you were. I'm the asshole, eh?” he lifted his hands in question. “Because everybody wants you. You are good, Andy. You are so good.”

“I'm not that good.”

“Well then more stupid me, because I fell for it.” He looked away from her.

“It's not a lie, Mike. Everything with you... You know what Sid said last night?”

He pressed his back to the door. “I'm very sure I don't want to know.”

“Sid said, ‘Who is he?’ Because he knew I wasn't all there, knew that my mind was somewhere else. He figured out there was someone.”

“You mean there are a lot of someones.”

Andy stomped her feet. “Goddamn it Mike, there is no one but you! The night we met was my first night. Until yesterday you were my entire client list.”

That got his attention. “What?”

“You’re it. Well, you and Sidney but I didn’t sleep with him so I don’t think he counts. It’s just you.”

He didn’t even have to think about it. “For such a good liar, that one sucks.”

Andy met his gaze with a steady stare. He’d never seen her angry, but this was it. This look would scare someone on the ice. “Nothing was fake Mike, and nothing is. Whatever you think you saw, you saw it. Because I don't know how to lie, I don't know how to do this and not let my feelings get involved. You saw the truth and then Sid saw it too. Last night when my phone rang, I ran because I thought it was you.”

Mike’s rage was collapsing. Lies, lies, lies he wanted to keep saying but there were so many things that this could make true. The way she’d looked at him, made him feel special, told him true stories about herself. She had let him in, he hadn’t imagined that. He had assumed it was a weapon in her arsenal for ensnaring high-paying customers. Could it have been nothing more than one person caring for another?

“How can I possibly believe you?”

“Remember Vivian? She works. Got me the interview when I lost my finance job and couldn’t find a new one for six months. Moved, sold my car, everything I could think of. But no work is no work, and unemployment wasn’t cutting it.”

Somewhere in the universe a little light bulb popped on.

“Your kitchen table is too big,” he said.

“What?”

“Your table is way too big for your kitchen. You said you’d moved – your last place was bigger. That’s why your table doesn’t fit.”

Andy nodded. Her bottom lip quivered, more tears on their way. This was it, the sad truth about how she’d come to be here, fighting for the heart of someone who had paid for her company. On paper they were both despicable, both users and opportunists. But she didn’t hate him. She loved him.

“Mike, I…”

All in one movement he scooped her up and pulled her inside, hauling her up to the second floor. Before they reached the top he was laying them down, feet sticking over the edge of the staircase. He couldn’t kiss her quickly enough, hard enough or deep enough. Andy had no breath left in her lungs. Mike’s mouth was merciless, pleading with hers for more than she could give. Finally, she pulled away.

“I’m so…”

“Why didn't you tell me?” he gasped.

“Tell you I was terrified?” She was really on the verge of crying now. “Tell you that all your money was getting you was some new girl who had no idea what she was doing? People don't pay for inexperience. For all I know, you've hired a hundred girls and I couldn't have you thinking we were ripping you off!”

“You knew I was a new client.” He held her so tightly she had trouble catching her breath.

“To us, but we are not the only game in town. And when you travel - Jesus, Mike. I don't know what you guys do on the road,” her head lolled to the side.

“I don't do anything, not anymore. And I had never called a service before you.”

“What?” Her hair fell in her face as she straightened.

He shrugged slightly. “First time for me too, Andy.”

“Oh my God. You didn't tell me either.”

He kissed her, hard, feeling the tears on her cheeks against his. He wanted to wrap her up and make all this go away. But we need to do this, he knew. “You couldn't figure out by how messed up I was? I already felt like a loser who you could only pity, I thought you must hate me. I couldn't tell you.”

“And I couldn't tell you. It would have been like asking you to save me... it's too Miss Saigon. I was in over my head, trying to swim.” She looked like she could use one now, tears rolling. “I was so scared but when we started talking I felt better - like I could do something for you, be someone that you needed. I wanted to rescue you.”

“I wanted to rescue you – I thought of a hundred ways. When you touched my face and kissed me before you even said hello, when you bagged on Carcillo instead of telling me I was an ass for picking a fight, I think I lost my mind. That was the best and worst night of my life.” His big hand brushed the hair from her face. Do it, do it, this is the moment.

“Any chance you’re still looking for a rescue?” he asked.

“Yes,” Andy admitted, pinching her eyes closed to keep from sobbing. Mike kissed her, tears and all, his heart pounding in relief.

“Then stop doing this. Crosby’s right, that fucking douche. I should have said IT that first night and I don’t care if I have to pay them to…”

She put two fingers over his lips. “No, I can stop. I’m done.”

Those words were exactly what he needed to hear. Mike drew a deep breath, feeling the fear drain out of him.

“I love you, Andy. I am in love with you. I would like the chance to earn you and fight for you. Especially if I get to fight Crosby.”

“I love you too, Mike. Turns out I needed you as much as you needed me. I wanted to call Madison Square Garden and have them make a PA announcement: Mike Green, please call your escort service and save your girlfriend.”

“Hmmm, girlfriend. I like that.” He nuzzled into her cheek. “Can I ask why you did it? Andy, I have money….” And lots of it. He’d already earmarked a ton to spend time with her, now it was free again. Whatever she needed, she could have it.

“No. I will take care of that myself. Your days of paying for my company are over,” she snuggled against him.

Might as well, you’ve come this far. “Move in with me.”

“Mike, I….” There was hesitation in her voice.

“Please. It’ll free up your rent money and I’ve already paid for the condo. Plus… I plan to keep you here anyway. Every night I’m home.” He held the back of her neck, keeping their faces close together. “Andy, I want to be with you as much as I can.”

She just looked at him for a solid minute. She wanted to, she really, really wanted to. Not paying rent would help, but it was more than that. It made them legitimate, it meant they forgave each other for the circumstances that had brought them together. It was like a fresh start.

“Bring your books and I’ll read them all,” Mike said.

“Okay, I will.”

They lay together, twisted up on the carpet supporting each other's weight and hopes.  An easy minute passed as they both took in the reality they had just created.

Finally Mike whispered, “Andy, what's Miss Saigon?”

“A play I am never taking you to see.”

He kissed her, perhaps the sweetest kiss they’d shared because it was the first really honest one. There was relief in it, and playfulness, and something about the kiss just beamed gratitude. That lasted a little while, until Andy curled her body in tightly to Mike’s, pressing her chest into his and pulling his leg up over her hip.

This is where I belong, she thought as he unzipped her sweatshirt, peeling up the t-shirt underneath and leaving a trail of kisses across her bare stomach.

This is how it should be, Mike knew with the confidence she had helped him find, the assurance of someone who had gotten what he wanted.

The soft cup of her bra gave way beneath his fingers as he gently circled her nipple, feeling it stiffen and rise. He primed the other while he body responded in kind. Her mouth continued to ride against his even as she shifted her hips, rolling them into his lap. He finally lifted the cotton layer over her head, lifted the fabric from her breasts and let his mouth tug and pull, kissing deeply over the soft mounds of flesh. Andy arched her back, offering herself to him, relishing in the slow attention of his lips. He slid a hand down her stomach, not bothering to open her pants, and didn’t stop until his fingertip was sliding over her slick entrance. He probed with finger and tongue, matching strokes, winding her up. His thumb found her clit, twitching lightly against the swollen nub as she began pant tiny noises of pleasure.

Andy’s body felt like a swing, twisted until its chains were tight and high. And she still had her pants on. “Mike, please,” she whispered.

Anything, he thought. He quickly opened her fly and shucked off her jeans. Her hands were under his waistband, then gloriously firm and warm as they wrapped around his swollen cock. He fought to keep control while she moved slowly, teasing him out to his full length while raking her other fingers lightly through the tangle of hair above. The she guided him toward the heat of her cleft, slowly running the head of his penis over the velvety soft folds of her slick flesh.

Andy ran her hands over the taut skin of his naked body, reveling in how she’d come to possess something so fine, and how stupid she’d been to almost lose it. Never again, she promised, helping herself to another handful of his perfect form.

His teeth caught her nipple again, a little less gentle, the tiny cry lost as he buried his erection inside her. Her body gave way like quicksand, sudden and dark, pulling him deeper for as hard as he pushed. He stroked again, another small noise sobbing from between her lips. They quickly found the soft part of his neck and locked on. His hips began to move themselves, questing after the sweet, hot space inside her body and the tight rolling grip it had on his dick. Before long, he was thrusting deeply, driving her into the living room rug with every stroke.

“Yes,” she let slip. Yes fuck me. Yes love me. Yes I want to stay with you. Her insides felt like melted chocolate, bubbling hotly when he filled every part of her. His smooth, long shaft plumbed her soaking pussy, harder and softer, faster and slower, drawing her pleasure out.

Andy twisted her hips and writhed down against him. The friction twisted his stomach, a low buzz building in his lower back and thighs. She felt like a lock he could open, his key made to fit. His breathing became more shallow the wetter she got.

“Mike,” came from her lips. And again. He slid his tongue into her mouth, caught her bottom lip and tugged it away from her teeth. She lifted her head, pulling him into her for another kiss. In his arms, he felt her body shudder.

She moaned, loudly and without inhibition for the first time. No worries that he’d think she was exaggerating, that working girls are supposed to sell it. It rolled uncontrollably from her body as she neared the edge.

Mike felt it, her body quaking around him. He was close, so close and he wanted to lose himself in her forever. Her first. When it came, she threw her head back, ultra-sensitive nipples grazing his chest as he rammed himself home, almost splitting her in two, and held her down hard against the base of his cock. She sobbed that noiseless breath that he’d come to love, mouth open and eyes closed as he twisted a hand into her long hair and kissed her exposed neck. Her body rolled and quivered, flashing and pulsing onto his hard-on like electricity.

“You feel so good,” he growled as she went limp in his arms. His erection was painful, stiff and filled to bursting. Her soft body welcomed him again, spent with pleasure he had provided, and he took the bait. Hips rolling, weight falling, he abandoned all thought as he stroked into her. The heat in his body reached a boil and spilled over.

“Andy,” he groaned as he came, hot and hard, spurting into her three, four times with a whole body shudder. He could have stayed hard, could have claimed her again immediately if he wasn’t so tired. Collapsing never felt so good as when his head came to rest on her tender breasts.

She ran her fingers through her hair. Her heart pounded not just from the sex but from an overwhelming sense of relief and luck. So much luck.

“Thank God for you, Mike. If it had been anyone else that night…” she whispered to the top of his head.

“I thought I’d lost you. First when you didn’t pick up last night, then when I saw the picture. I thought I’d missed my chance because I was afraid of sounding crazy. Of telling you how I felt when I’d only known you for a couple of days.”

“I felt it too,” she said quietly, wrapping her arms around him.

“I will take care of you, I promise.”

“And I will take care of you. Always,” she whispered.
____

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chapter 8

Is this how a surgeon feels? Andy wondered. She sat in a chair near the window, a selection of local magazines arranged on the low table next to her. A room service menu was open on the desk. Detach yourself emotionally and ignore the beating heart you hold in your hands?
____

Sidney was in the bathroom. That alone made him feel like a fool. I pay for her to come here and fuck me, and I can’t change in front of her? He fixed the collar on his suit, adjusted the cuffs of his jacket. Everyone said he was too nice. Maybe she appreciates it.

He was no sap. Sid fully intended to make good use of his night with the beautiful brunette in the blue party dress. He just didn’t see a reason to be an asshole about it, treat women the way some of his teammates did. Especially the ones you pay for, he thought with a touch of self-righteousness. They probably get treated like crap all the time. A final fix of his hair and he felt ready.

If she’s smart, she’s looking at the breakfast menu right now.
____

Andy stared out the window. Sidney Crosby. Holy hell. This was not just a booking, not just a client. This was a national security issue, a fucking international relations disaster waiting to happen. Sidney Crosby hires call girl in DC, Canada declares war on US.

He seemed nice. She was so keyed up that anyone less than the Jigsaw killer would probably have been a relief. Sidney had decided he was hungry, but asked her if she wanted to go out to eat. And he meant it. When she agreed, he took his suit – already picked out – into the bathroom to change. That is cute, she thought despite herself.

“Ready?” he asked. He helped Andy into her coat and led her down the hall.

He’s shorter than Mike, she thought. Wider too, and deeper. Sidney had a more solid stature, weighty and thick with nothing but muscle. Where Mike seemed skinner from having lost weight over the off season, Sidney seemed compact and coiled. His shoulders were wide and his waist narrow, he walked with easy confidence. He was definitely not the mess Mike had been on their first night.

Mike, she kept thinking. Mike, Mike, Mike. Sidney stood close to her in the elevator.

The hotel got them a cab and sent them to whatever restaurant they’d chosen when Sidney called the concierge desk. Andy wondered if they’d had to drop his name to get a table somewhere at 8:30 PM on a Friday night during election season. They pulled up and Andy knew they had: Maestro was considered one of DC’s premiere restaurant experiences.

“I have never been here,” Andy said, breaking the silence.

“Me neither. The hotel says it’s good.”

“Everyone says it’s good.”

Andy kept her eyes glued to the maitre-d’s back as he let them to their table. She did not want to see if anyone in the dining room recognized Sidney Crosby.

Yeah, this is perfect, he thought. He was a little uncomfortable hiring a girl, though he’d done it a few times before. It was just too dangerous for him to pick someone up in a bar and trying to actually date someone in Pittsburgh or Nova Scotia was a fucking circus. Sidney had tremendous willpower and drive, he could go without for a long time. When he felt the urge, he could certainly afford to pay for capability and discretion. On those occasions, he liked to at least take the girl out for a nice dinner. And this one was certainly his type – fit and healthy-looking, thick dark hair and not too much makeup. Almost like a real girl, the mean voice in his head said.

“So I hear you’re a big hockey fan,” he tried. The hockey hooker. That had been his first thought when the answering service had suggested someone named Andrea who was an avid follower of the game. Either it was a convenient lie or this girl was working a real niche market. At the rate his teammates and the other guys hired girls, she probably made more money than half the third-line players.

“I’m a big Capitals fan,” Andy said. She couldn’t help but tease a little. Sidney Crosby! Oh shut up, slut. She was trying to put her mask on, the let her mouth speak without her brain thinking. “I may have said a few choice things about you in the past.”

Sidney made a face. “Ouch. You hardly know me.” And now what you know is even worse, he thought. Maybe this hockey thing was a bad idea.

“I will reserve my judgment for now, I promise.” Andy drained her first glass of wine in one gulp. Sidney pretended not to notice.

As they talked, she relaxed a little. Several glasses of wine helped, but not as much as simply looking at him. Sidney Crosby. So familiar. He was gorgeous, almost intimidatingly so, with full, pink lips and a quick smile. That laugh – almost girlish, definitely a giggle, always surprising – made a few appearances. She was so used to looking at him that she felt like she knew him a little bit. His eyes were more brown than anything she’d ever seen, sometimes gold, sometimes hazel, sometimes almost black in their depth.

Focus, she told herself during lulls in the conversation. As long as they spoke she could keep her mind in check.

I’m laughing too much, Sidney thought. He sensed her reticence and tried to overcompensate for it, laughing at his own remarks. She seemed happy to let him carry the conversation. I’m talking too much about myself.

“Andrea, tell me about you.”

It was easier when he called her that. Easier to stay where she needed to be, behind a wall. She told Sidney about living in DC, visiting her friends in the Carolinas over Labor Day weekend, what food she liked. Without intention, she didn’t tell Sidney anything that she had told Mike. Still they had some things in common and when Andy got more comfortable she found it was nice to make him laugh.

“… so I’m running through the terminal with my suitcase, knocking pilots and old ladies out of the way, and I get to the flight of stairs. Under and around the back is my gate. The screen is flashing ‘final boarding’ and the gate agent is on the PA saying ‘Last call – passenger Brattle please report to gate 29.’ So I throw my hand up and yell, ‘That’s me!’ The entire waiting area looks up, a hundred people, just as the guy on the mic says, ‘Here comes the bride!’ I ran right past him at full tilt and made my flight!” Andy put her arms down, having told the story with her whole body.

Sidney laughed so hard he didn’t make any noise. He covered his face with a napkin, beet read and tears in his eyes. A few gasps and he managed to ask, “Whose wedding was it really?”

“My friend in St. Louis. I totally stole her identity - used her fianc├ęs name, her church, everything. I didn’t start out to lie, but it just snowballed and then it was too late.”

“That is an amazing story. But don’t tell me anymore or I’ll never get to eat.” Sidney giggled a few more time, chewing his steak. This was getting easier. Her smile was spectacular when she really meant it.

They passed on dessert. Sidney didn’t eat it and Andy’s nerves were creeping back as the clock ticked on. Sex, it’s just sex, she repeated in her head. Every time he’d firmly gripped his knife she’d gotten a flash of panic. While they waited for the bill, Sidney checked his phone. He made a little face.

“What?” Andy asked.

“The Caps just won.”

Just like that, she fell apart. She bit her lip and forced herself to keep her eyes open, knowing once they closed she would come up crying. Beneath the table her fingers twisted into the end of the white linen tablecloth. “What was the score?”

Sidney wasn’t sure what he’d seen. A flicker of something, a hint of a feeling. She’d covered it quickly and well. She would, she’s a professional. But still, that’s really worked up about some early-season hockey game.

“4-2, looks like Ovechkin got two. Backstrom scored, and Green.”

Kill me, please kill me now, she thought.

“Andy, you okay?” he asked.

“Yeah. Thank you, dinner was great.”
____

Mike hit the speed dial button again. Andy’s phone rang once then went to voicemail. Turned off, he knew. It’s only 10 PM. Still, he picked up a glove from the locker room floor and squeezed it as hard as he could to keep from throwing it.
____

Sidney slid close to her in the backseat of the cab. She asked the cab driver to take them past the mall and the monuments, sharing little known facts about the city’s famous landmarks. He admired her as much as the scenery – her perfume was something floral and feminine, her hair almost auburn in the dim light. When she put her hand down, he twined his fingers into hers. Andy’s hand lay open beneath his for a few seconds before she curled her fingers around too.

I’m going to throw up. I’m going to throw up a $200 dinner onto Sidney Crosby in the back of a taxi. He probably has another road game and needs to wear that suit.

He squeezed her hand in a way he hoped was reassuring. She was slipping away a little, the warmth he’d seen while laughing at dinner being replaced by a professional distance that frankly made him feel a little judged. Her skin was soft beneath the pad of his thumb, circling over the back of her hand. Come on back, he urged.

At the hotel, Andy again avoided any mirrors. She didn’t want to see herself with him, see how they looked together. She imagined they were a beautiful couple – he was stunning enough for both of them. His width and her slender frame, they’d be quite the complimentary pair.

She draped her jacket over a chair in the room. Sidney found it was impossible not to admire her – long legs in delicate high heels the same bright blue as her mid-thigh strapless dress. Her skin looked silky smooth as she ran the front of one foot down the back of her other calf.
____

Mike didn’t leave a message. It was nearly midnight. She is… busy. He looked out the window of the plane into the darkness below.
____

Just get this over with, she thought. It’s the anticipation that’s killing me. Remember before? Once we got started it all came around. She glanced toward Sidney, putting his suit coat on a hanger. He’s fucking hot. He’s nice. Probably a lamb in bed. It’s just sex.

Sidney closed the closet door. Andy heard the sound like a starter’s pistol firing. She didn’t think, just turned and in two steps, her mouth was on his.

He practically had to catch her she was moving so fast. All at once, every nerve ending in his body fired as her warm, soft lips insisted that he return her kiss. He grabbed, thumbs hooking into her sides and fingers meeting behind the small of her back, his hands easily spanning the width of her body. He slid them down over her ass and pulled in tight.

A little breath puffed out of her as their bodies fit together. His pillowy lips tasted like wine, dark with a hint of berries and chocolate. His tongue eagerly slipped into her mouth, though it was a moment too long before she reciprocated. It raised a tiny flag in his mind but he kept on kissing, deciding to believe her body instead. His hefty thigh was between hers, riding provocatively higher against the hem of her dress.

Andy’s body responded without permission. His shoulders were so wide, his chest hard against hers. Strong arms moved her wherever he wanted. Sidney’s legs were like tree trunks and it was impossible not to want to feel his sturdy form holding her up. She shifted her weight against his quad, sliding her own thigh dangerously close to his zipper.

He kissed her again, hard, and bought his hands to her legs. They slid up bare skin, sneaking beneath her dress and inching it up – each inch then quickly taken by his lower body until his massive, muscular thigh was ready to lift her off the ground.

If that doesn’t do it…. He kissed her again, his tongue sweeping hungrily between her lips. Again, it was an awkward moment before she gave into the kiss.

Shit, Sidney thought. He spent probably a whole minute standing there, grinding a leg against her panties with his hands feeling the lace stretched across her hips. His mouth was joined to hers, attempting to convince her that she wanted this. She wanted him. He was Sidney fucking Crosby and she was the hockey hooker – what more could there possibly be? Shit.

He tried again, moving his hands from beneath her dress and reaching into her hair. Soft and thick, it smelled like clean laundry on a sunny day. Palms slid down to hold her face. The tension in her neck was palpable beneath the heels of his hands. He almost flinched at the frozen muscles. Her lower body was stuck to his, but the rest of her was wound tight as a spring. She continued to kiss him without tongue, her hands on the flat of his back and not moving.

Shit. He wanted this. He’d made a purchase and was expecting delivery. More than that, he wanted release and he wanted it from this beautiful, delicious woman in his arms, in his room, whose mind was clearly elsewhere tonight. Shit.

“Andrea,” he whispered, pulling back from her soft mouth.

Her eyes were screwed shut, lines etched into her brow. She blinked them open slowly as if afraid of what she’d see. Those melted chocolate bottomless pools, a hundred colors swirling together, they looked worried.

“Who is he?” Sidney said.

An ice cold flash of adrenaline blasted through Andy’s body, like she’d been caught sneaking away from the scene of a crime carrying a bloody knife. She flinched hard.

“What? Shhh...” and she leaned back in for a kiss.

It took an incredible amount of willpower for Sidney to hold her still, keep her from reaching his swollen, kiss-stung lips that were so thirsty for more of her. He might even be impressed with himself someday. For now he just felt resolution – This is who I am. I can make a willing exchange with someone, but I cannot take from another person. Not this girl. Under different circumstances, I could be the one she’s thinking about.

“Who is he?” Sidney repeated. “Who are you so worried about?”

Andy’s mask cracked. She pinched her lips together between her teeth and tried to step away, but Sidney held her fast. They were still intimately connected from the waist down and he wasn’t letting go until he was sure he had to.

“Someone,” was the best she could do. Her shoulders dropped, rounding into his body. Instead of pushing her away, Sidney wrapped his arms around her back and stood them both up straight. His big hand, moments ago toying with her panties, stroked over her long wavy hair. They stood there for a few minutes, Sidney just holding her while she hardly breathed.

“You almost had me fooled,” he said, whispering into her ear. One thumb stroked the base of her neck, where it met her shoulder blade in painful, twisted knots.

“Sidney…”

It felt really good when she said his name. Too good. He lifted his head and looked into her eyes. They were gray, remarkable really and he remembered thinking earlier they were beautiful. Now they were troubled.

“… I’m sorry. I can still… if you want we can…”

Sidney smiled for absolutely no reason other than the debate was over. “Could you? Without hurting yourself, could you really?”

“No,” came a small voice.

“Andrea, stop. You don’t have to worry about me. I’m not going to take advantage of you.  If you don't want to, we won't.”

She looked so relieved that he was disgusted with himself for ever having thought he could have her for a price. Dinner and compliments? What the fuck is that compared to making up your own mind about who you take to bed? Part of him hoped to forget that realization or it would be a long dry spell for Sidney Crosby.

White knight, hero, she thought. He certainly looked the part, staring at her intently like he was trying to read her mind. A shameful, deceitful part of her still wanted him, just physically, but it was shouted down by her heart.

“I like hanging out with you,” she admitted. “You’re funnier than I expected. I thought you’d be a little boring, really.” She laughed softly.

“Tonight was certainly not boring,” he said. “Is he your boyfriend?” Andy bit her lip. It made Sid want to kiss her again, the plump pink flesh giving way beneath the gentle pressure of… Stop. Stop it. Down boy. At least I got some new material to jerk off to.

“Kind of.” The image of Mike that came to her mind was not sexual, not even in the heavily charged atmosphere of the room. It was Mike standing at her door, flowers in hand, suit all pressed and eye black from a fight. Smiling like he was shy.

Sidney led her to the bed and sat her on the edge, reaching for the bottle of water on the nightstand. She sipped as he spoke. “No offense Andrea, but any guy who lets you do this is not good enough for you. If you were mine, it would be over my dead fucking body that you ever wanted for anything. Forget something like this.”

“This is new. He’s new too. Everything happened all at once and he’s on the…”

It clicked in Sidney’s head like a safecracker hears the last pin drop into place, revealing a fortune when the door swings open. “Holy shit. He’s a Capital.” Andy put her hand across his mouth. Those voluptuous, sensual lips disappeared beneath her palm. She shook her head silently, he just raised his eyebrows.

“Now I know all your secrets.” He smiled against her skin.

“Please, Sidney…”

“I’m only kidding. You know my secret too. In fact, I’ll tell you another secret, so we’re square.” He reached back into her hair. “This is the first real exchange I’ve had with a beautiful woman in a long time, especially alone in a hotel room. You just became very special to me, Andrea.”

“Please, I hate that name. Call me Andy.”

“Andy,” he said, trying it out. “I like that better.”

Sidney fetched his phone from the desk and made a call. Andy stared at her hands: she had almost done something awful – a self-fulfilling prophecy when you’re an awful person. Maybe she’d looked the way Mike had that first night: desperate for someone to reach into the sea and pull out the drowning man. The phone snapped shut.

“New plan. Grab your coat.”

He wouldn’t tell her anything, just retraced their route though the hotel and into a taxi, gave an address and they were off. This time, she held his hand. The cab stopped in front of a nightclub, one smile at the doorman and they were in past the line waiting at the velvet rope. Hand in hand they threaded through the bodies and into a second cavernous room full of dancers. On the left, Sidney nodded his way past another bouncer.

“Sid!” ten voices all yelled at the same time. Buried beneath drinks and girls and a few more girls for good measure were guys that Andy recognized as members of the Pittsburgh Penguins. She stood behind Crosby’s shoulder, still holding his hand, suddenly feeling very overwhelmed.

“Who’s your date?” Jordan Staal untangled his lanky body from a chair and stood.

“This is Andy. She’s got a boyfriend, so be nice to her.”

“Booooooo!” Max Talbot shouted from beneath at least two blondes and maybe a third pair of legs. “You’re just my type!” She could see that smile got him out of a lot of trouble.

The other guys introduced themselves, Sidney got a round of drinks and Andy talked with Marc-Andre Fleury. He seemed excited to speak to someone else that wasn’t looking to hook up. If only she could understand his accent over the music. Sidney helped and they stood in a close circle, shouting conversation to each other and laughing. He made her tell the airport story again, which had Flower choking on his drink halfway through. Jordan asked her to dance, then she danced with Sidney to a few songs in a row, just standing close and holding onto each other. After a while, he looked at his watch, then Andy. She nodded slightly and slipped out through the crowd, onto the smoking patio, freezing in a little dress.

Mike’s phone was off.
____

An hour later, at last call, sober Sidney rounded his troops into cabs. Max howled when Andy climbed in too, having to sit on Sidney’s lap so the door would close. “After the party it’s the hotel lobby…,” Talbot sang. When they reached the hotel, Jordan and Max both openly propositioned Andy in front of Sidney who just laughed the whole time. Politely declining, Andy sent the boys to bed.

“It’s hard for me to keep up with them,” Sidney admitted when they were gone. “Being…”

“Being you,” Andy finished for him. She slid her hand into his and pressed a kiss to his cheek. “I’m really sorry, Sidney. You don’t seem like the type who does this for fun. You needed something tonight and I couldn’t help you.”

“Sabotaged by the Capitals,” he rolled his eyes. “I had a great time tonight, Andy. I actually had fun with a girl! And I totally felt you up before, so that was nice too.” She slapped him on the arm. “No, really. I had my hands up your dress.”

“Sidney!”

He laughed that high-pitched giggle, making her follow suit. “What color are your underwear? Just tell me that.”

“They’re leopard print.”

“Oh man! If I”d known that…” he pulled her into a hug, arms a safe distance above her underwear, and squeezed her in tight. Then he held her face and looked right into her eyes. “Seriously, Andy. Sort this out tomorrow. If whoever this guy is doesn’t step up, call me and I will. I mean it – whatever you need, I will make sure you get it. Promise.”

She nodded into his hands. “I promise.”

“I will call that number next time and you better not be available.”

“Or what?” she sassed.

“I will let you work it off. Like layaway. You can move to Pittsburgh and wear leopard print every day.” He pressed a long, solid kiss to her lips. “Bye Andy.” He was halfway to the door before the thought crossed his mind. “Uh, Andy?” he called. “See you Sunday?”

She gave him a sheepish look. “We’re not, uh… public. The team doesn’t know me.”

“Change that too, or I will.” He pushed open the door feeling better about the night.
_____

Friday, October 29, 2010

Chapter 7

Mike dropped Andy at her door with a kiss and a promise to play well so he’d get a lot of TV time. Andy went right upstairs and opened her laptop. She researched, made phone call, sent emails. By the afternoon, she’d found and applied for 17 completely normal, sex-free jobs.
____

At ten o’clock that night, Andy’s phone rang. She’d been wondering when he’d call.

“Mike Green Fan Club, how may I help you?”

He laughed right through the pounding of his heart, the worry that she would pick up in a noisy bar or restaurant, out on the town, out with a client. Or worse, that she wouldn’t answer at all.

“Yes, my membership has expired. I’d like to renew.”

“That will be $52, and you’ll have to get the re-initiation Mohawk. There’s a special if…”

He cut her off. “I miss you.” What an absolutely ludicrous thing to say to a call girl you have paid for sex three nights in a row.

“I miss you too, Mike. How’s Buffalo?”

They talked about nothing for a while, cementing Mike’s confidence that Andy was in fact home doing nothing but waiting for him to come back. She wanted to know all about life on the road, so he told her cleaned-up versions of some stories. Brooks came in while he was talking and made a “who is it?” motion. Mike waved him off.

“It’s curfew and my roommate needs his beauty sleep.”

“Well don’t cuddle with him or I’ll get really jealous,” Andy said. “Kick ass tomorrow, I’ll be watching.”

“Yes boss.”
____

Andy watched the game alone at home, concentrating on every move and every play. Mike was on the ice almost all the time. The Capitals played well again, and got a softball this time as the Buffalo defense had a terrible night. Only Ryan Miller kept it from being a blowout and the Caps won 4-1.

“We’re leaving for New York now, won’t get in till really late,” Mike said on the phone.

And you wanted to check up on me, Andy knew. But she was glad – if she couldn’t come right out and tell him that she didn’t work while the team was away, maybe he could figure it out.

“Nice game tonight. I might make a trade for you in my fantasy league.”

He put on a cheesy 70’s voice. “I’ll make all your dreams come true, baby.”

Andy snorted. “Wrong fantasy.”
____

Two more days passed the same way – Mike called at night, Andy answered at home. Their last game was against the Rangers and they would fly home right after the game. Andy wondered if Mike would call her when he got home or want to come over. He’d be so tired, and they had another game in two days. She considered the logistics of giving him a freebie if only so she could sleep next to him.

“Hey,” he said, still drowsy from his post-game nap.

“If you get the chance, and it won’t cost you two minutes, please punch Sean Avery in the face.”

Mike laughed. “Anything for you. We’re going right to the airport from the arena, but it’s always slow in New York. Probably won’t be home till 1 AM.”

“Yeah, I figured. And a big game Sunday.”

“Ugh,” Mike was tired thinking about it. It was a nationally televised game, the NHL making a big deal out of a rivalry and pushing for new fans. “I fucking hate those guys.”

“Well they hate you too, so you’d better get a lot of sleep. Call me tomorrow after you wake up?”

Mike lay in his hotel room, lonely in an empty bed, having thought of Andy very vigorously before falling asleep. Brooks was skipping his nap, getting some physio. “I really want to see you.” Ask me to come over, he willed. Ask me and I’ll come, who cares how tired I am? Tell me you can’t wait to see me.

“Me too, but you’ll have to wait. I would like another Capitals victory. And maybe a first star,” she said. It wasn’t easy, she really wanted him to come straight home to her. But they could only break so many rules without risking the game they were trying so hard to improve. “Go home, Mike. See me tomorrow.”

“Okay, I’ll try to make my car drive itself home.”
____

Andy was set up to watch the game against the Rangers – pajamas on, popcorn made, lemonade on ice. She was getting a blanket from the closet when her phone rang. Thinking it was awfully close to game time for Mike to be calling, she shoved the armload of linens back onto the shelf and ran for her purse.

“Hello?” she said without looking at the caller ID.

“Hello Andy, this is Susanna.”

Damn, was Andy’s first thought, disappointed not to hear Mike’s voice. “Hi Susanna, how are you?”

“I’m well dear. We have a booking for you for tonight.”

“What? Uhh, I’m sorry. I mean, the Caps are on the road. They’re in New York right now, they’re on TV.”

A ticking sounded in the background, like Susanna was paging through a computer or PDA. “This would be a player from the visiting team. Seems they must be in town early for the game on Sunday. I am very impressed with you so far, Andy, your immediate success here is very promising. This is another new client, I expect you can work your magic again. I trust this won’t be a problem?”

Andy barely heard herself say yes. She couldn’t hear anything over the blood rushing in her ears. Some words must have formed because Susanna kept talking.

“Excellent. I’ll text you the hotel information. I don’t have a name for him – that’s what I get for letting Henry speak to the answering service. But I expect as a fan you’ll know him better than I would anyway.”

“Okay,” Andy whispered, the shock wearing off and fear setting in.

“One more thing, dear. The rate for this one is higher. Again, no info whatsoever from my husband but this was booked out at an extra $500. That’s $300 more for you. Make it worth your while.”

Andy stuttered a goodbye and dropped the phone like it had been dipped in acid. She looked toward the TV just in time to see Mike was skate past the camera. Fuck.
____

It seemed cold in the hotel. Andy valet parked her car and zipped her long coat up to her throat. Bare legs were a bad idea in a cold snap, but there wasn’t really an option. It had been the most she could do to fix her hair and put on matching shoes. She’d had to redo her eyeliner three times, never able to stop her hand shaking long enough to make a straight line. The TV had gone off immediately and stayed that way – if she saw Mike’s face or heard his name, there was no telling what she would do. Crossing the lobby, she thought the chills might be her body going into shock.

The traitorous phone was clutched in her hand. She’d read the room number twenty times but couldn’t remember anything. At the elevator, she refused to look at herself in the mirror, afraid of what she’d see looking back. Mike, she thought over and over.

She knew this would kill him. They had never said as much but she was past thinking this was just a business arrangement. That had been a comforting delusion in getting her into his room, into his bed. Since then, everything had changed – except this. This deal with the devil. Andy had made her bed, literally, and now there was someone else in it.
____

Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Fuck fuck fuck. I knew this would happen. Was I really fooling myself? Hooker rescued by the first guy who calls her? Am I that stupid? Andy berated herself as she tossed underwear from her drawer, littering the floor like a Victoria’s Secret fire sale. How could I let this get away from me? But she didn’t know what “this” was. She’d let control get away, she’d let her imagination get away. And now, she was going to let Mike get away. Fuck.

She should have said no to Susanna. She should have invented an excuse – a cold, a broken leg, the immediate need to have a plate put in her head. She shouldn’t have answered the phone. Andy had changed the scenario a hundred times before her dress was zipped, undoing what she had just done.

I can’t do this. I have to do this. I am that girl, I’m a whore, a monster. I’m the most worthless thing that someone ever paid for.

In a moment of lucidity, Andy had called Vivian. “Is there any way out of a booking?”

Vivian sounded concerned, but Andy wasn’t sure how much was friendly and how much was worry about her job. “Not really, babe. Unless the guy has some history – violent, scary, deadbeat. Otherwise, once the agency takes the booking, they have to send a girl. Especially in your case – word gets around those locker rooms that Susanna can’t deliver, she won’t get calls. And you definitely will not get called again.”

Andy had figured as much.

“Andy, listen to me. You can do this. You did it a week ago when you didn’t know this other guy. And look how good you were! Everyone panics the first few times, it is perfectly normal. Just get there, put on your little show and I promise that you’ll feel better after a drink. You knew this would happen. Just take a deep breath and remember why you’re doing this. Remember it was okay last time, better than okay! You are going to be fine. Okay? Babe, you gonna be okay?”

“Yeah,” Andy lied.
____

She walked slowly down the hallway, the carpet pattern repeating endlessly like she was pacing a tunnel, darkened and narrow, going on forever. The room numbers climbed as she passed, finally reaching a suite at the far corner of the 25th floor.

Mike I am so sorry, she whispered to no one. Blinking cleared the start of tears from her eyes.

She hadn’t thought about who it might be. It didn’t really matter. She knew who all the guys were, their rivalry huge not only in terms of fan feeling but marketing efforts as well. The NHL went in for this matchup as often and as big as possible. In a few months, these teams would face off in one of the premiere events of the entire season. Andy knew that it didn’t matter who opened the door.

She reached up to knock, but the hand came back unbidden and ran fretfully through her hair. On the second time, she got it. Eyes closed.

Knock, knock, knock.

The noise of the lock being thrown thumped heavily through her stomach: the sound of her prison door closing.

“Hi,” he said, standing in the doorway. The same position, the same situation she’d been in just a few days before. It felt like the whole world had changed, but that wasn’t his fault. She felt a tiny, infinitesimal bit better when she saw him; a real person. Not the idea of a monster. She was her own worst enemy, not this man in the gray t-shirt and jeans, barefoot on the hotel carpet.

“Hi Sidney.”
____