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.
“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.
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.
“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.