A/N: Thank yous to Team Spiderward for all you do. xx
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. The NHL owns anything that sounds familiar. I’m here having fun.
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It’s Sunday night, and from where we sit in Deedee’s suite, I watch the players during warmups for their game against Chicago, but my gaze rarely strays from Edward. He moves around the ice, contorting his body into various positions.
Damn, he’s flexible.
I don’t think we’re making the most of his abilities.
As Edward skates toward the goal to take his position, I notice James, Tyler, and Marcus without helmets, making them easier to identify. There’s another player without one, but I don’t recognize him. He’s blond with flowing collar length hair and seems more interested in who is sitting in the stands than what’s happening on the ice.
Before I can ask Deedee, Victoria asks nonchalantly, “Where’s Vladdy?”
With a lift of my eyebrows in question, she only shrugs when her gaze meets mine.
“I’m learning the players,” Victoria explains, then adds, “And he’s a really sweet guy.”
When I mentioned I was going to the game tonight, I wondered why she was interested in tagging along. Roy isn’t here, but there could be something going on with Vladdy, especially after finding them alone in her office Tuesday. Vladdy was in full-on blush mode, while Victoria was giggling like a girl with a crush until I broke up their little party of two with the news it was time for his appointment. When I asked after he left if she had any plans later that night, Victoria said she was having dinner with a friend at a diner. Her interest now adds to my curiosity if Vladdy could have been that “friend.”
“Vladdy?” Deedee’s brow furrows, while her eyes scan the ice.
As I fail to find his number forty-seven jersey, I admit, “I don’t know. Maybe I’m overlooking him somewhere.”
“No. I don’t see him either.” Deedee slides her phone from her back pocket, tapping the screen.
“Maybe he’s hurt?” I suggest.
“Oh, shit.” Deedee looks up from the screen. “He’s being traded.”
Victoria’s expression falls. “What?”
“The trade tracker updated minutes ago. It says he’s going to Tampa Bay for a first round pick in this year’s draft.”
“Oh,” Victoria says softly.
When the other player I don’t recognize without a helmet shifts his focus to where we’re sitting, I nudge Deedee. “Who’s that and why is he waving at us?”
“Ugh. It’s Trouble.” Deedee rolls her eyes and waves back, which widens his smile.
“Trouble?” Victoria questions from beside me.
“Caius Volante. He was added to the roster Friday night.”
“That’s him?” I ask.
Caius blows a kiss as a player skates toward him. After a not-so-friendly bump, I realize it’s Marcus diverting his attention away from Deedee and back on the ice. Caius laughs undeterred, holding out his arms to her in question.
“Yeah,” Deedee confirms with a shake of her head. “That’s him.”
“You two have history?”
“No. Not at all. But Caius knows how to get under Marcus’s skin after years of playing in the league. Old habits die hard, and it looks as if he’s still doing it, despite being on the same team now.” Deedee smirks, then her gaze finds mine. “Caius has—”
“Has what?” I prompt when she stops.
“A huge . . .” She lowers her voice. “. . . dick.”
Victoria’s eyes fill with surprise. “Come again?”
Deedee snorts. “You heard me.”
I chuckle. “Are you sure that isn’t a rumor he started himself? From what Edward said about him, it sounds like something—”
“Trust me. It’s not a rumor. He’s a puck bunny favorite,” Deedee explains. “I’ve seen the photos. He will happily share them with anyone and everyone.”
“You have his photos on your phone?”
She laughs. “Are you kidding? No. Would Edward want you to have photos of some other man’s dick?”
“Good point. Forget I even asked.”
“I’m on it.” Victoria nods, removing her phone from the pocket of her jacket. “If they’re out there. I’ll find them.”
“Vic,” I caution.
“What? I’m curious. You can’t give me that juicy little tidbit, which sounds as though it’s far from little, and not expect me to want to see the photos. I have zero shame in my game. So, don’t Vic me. I’m a single woman.”
“But are you?”
Victoria shrugs. “Roy won’t even kiss me. Hand-holding and great conversation isn’t going to cut it forever. I stripped in front of him in Montréal.”
“Holy smokes.” I had no idea she did that.
“And what did he do? I’ll tell you—nothing. I had to do all the heavy lifting after he left my room. That isn’t what I’m looking for in a relationship.”
“He was probably too stunned to speak,” I guess.
“Nice thought, but that wasn’t the case.” Victoria taps on her phone screen, shaking her head. “I’m not going to wait around forever with whatever game he’s playing. If he’s hung up on the age difference, then that’s on him. I have needs, and if Roy can’t meet me somewhere—anywhere in the middle, I’ll find someone who will.”
Deedee’s phone vibrates. “Oh, Jess is here. Are you two okay with her joining us?”
“Sure,” I agree, but think twice, wondering if that means Angela too.
“Yeah. Whatever,” Victoria says, distracted by her internet searching. If she was paying attention, I doubt she would be so agreeable.
“Is she alone?”
“Are you thinking Angela could be with her?” Deedee asks.
Deedee’s eyes return to her phone, rereading the message. “She didn’t say. I guess we’ll find out soon.”
Victoria lets out a gasp. “Ohhhhh. Wow.”
“Did you find them?” I wonder.
“I’ll say.” Victoria moves to stand between us and swipes through the images. “Damn. Now, I’m even more curious.”
“Maybe they’re photoshopped,” I suggest.
We share a collective gasp at the next photo.
Deedee smiles knowingly. “Definitely not photoshopped.”
“He could be my Mount Everest. A one and done,” Victoria ponders. “I hate to admit it, but it’s been a while. I’m overdue for a win.”
“Then you would need to ease into that situation with plenty of lube if there’s any hope for scaling Mount Caius,” I recommend.
Deedee chuckles. “Remember there’s an asshole attached to that dick. He’s earned his nickname for a reason.”
“How much trouble could he be?” Victoria pauses, considering the possibility. “I’m not someone who backs down from a challenge.”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” Deedee reminds her.
Victoria grins. “I’ll let you know if the summit is worth the climb.”
“Hey, girlies!” Jess says, as she breezes into the suite alone. She pauses at the bar area, requesting a bottle of wine and an empty glass from the attendant before returning her focus to us. “Anyone drinking, but me?”
“I’ll take a glass,” Victoria says, holding up a finger.
I wave her off with the sparkling water I’m sipping. “I’m set.”
“Me too,” Deedee shares, drinking the same.
While it isn’t necessary, I appreciate Deedee’s solidarity without giving away my pregnancy to Jess.
“Suit yourselves. More for me.” She smiles at Victoria, then corrects, “Us.”
Taking their glasses from Jess, Victoria sets them on the table, watching as Jess fills them. With a clink and a, “Cheers,” Jess downs her glass in one gulp, then refills hers immediately.
“Damn, I needed that.”
“Where’s Angela or Lauren?” I ask, eyeing her carefully.
“Lauren had a rehearsal or a meeting or something. I don’t know. I haven’t seen Angela since Montréal. After we returned from Mexico, she was assigned to work with a new flight crew. I didn’t think much about it.” Jess removes a phone from her pocket, setting it in the center of the table. “But Demir has seen her.”
Confusion fills our expressions, then Deedee prompts, “What are you talking about? What’s going on?”
“That’s his phone.” Jess nods, taps the screen, and inputs a passcode. Once the home screen appears, she opens the Instagram app. “I’ll give you one guess who slid into my fiancé’s DMs.”
After an aggressive jab to the screen, it fills with a provocative photo of Angela.
“Oh!” We gasp in unison.
“My former best friend,” Jess snarls. “You’re not going to believe what I found.” She scrolls to the beginning, reading the first message. “Miss u, baby.“
“Holy shit,” Deedee says, as we attempt to process this unexpected news.
Jess continues, while the photos become more revealing and Angela’s messages more brazen.
“My lips would look great wrapped around your dick.” Jess shakes her head with disbelief. “What a fucking bitch! Sending this shit to Demir.”
I cringe at the topless photos of Angela with her long hair doing a poor job of concealing her chest, but that’s probably her intention.
“Wanna fuck my tits? They look great, don’t they?” Jess huffs. “They’re fake, just like her and our friendship.”
The next photos are of Angela on a bed completely nude with her eyes closed and a smile on her face while she’s touching herself.
“Thinking of you.“
“I think I need brain bleach.” Victoria blinks rapidly, downing a large gulp of wine. “Or more wine. How do I unsee this?”
“Maybe it was an accident and those photos were meant for Ben . . .” Deedee suggests.
“I wish.” Jess moves to the next photo and reads, “We won’t tell Jess, unless you want her to join us. I’m game for ANYTHING.”
Deedee reaches for her glass. “Wow.”
Not exactly the actions of a pregnant woman, who was lobbying for everyone’s sympathy on our Montréal trip, but I’ve never understood anything about Angela.
“This confirms every hunch I had about her.” Victoria shrugs. “I don’t think there’s anything she wouldn’t do—your fiancé now included.”
“Can you believe that shit? I could kill her for this,” Jess threatens.
Victoria’s eyes dance with excitement. “I know a few ways to hide a body, if you ever, you know, need help. I’m just saying.”
“I don’t remember reading that on your resumé,” I tease.
Victoria grins. “It isn’t something I lead with, but you’ll find it on the second page, under the special skills section.”
“Interesting—my copy was only one page . . .” I muse playfully while sharing a smile with Victoria, then ask Jess, “Did Demir respond to any of the messages?”
“No. Not a single one. And she’s been sending photos for the past month. He’s nice to her because of me. Me! I can’t believe I ever defended her for anything! That fucking bitch. I could pull out her shitty extensions. She’s trying to ruin my relationship with Demir.” Jess’s anger wavers for a moment as her eyes fill with tears.
“Hey, she hasn’t been successful,” I reassure.
Jess sniffs away the tears, scrambling to hold onto her steadfast resolve. “He didn’t tell me it was happening either.”
“Maybe he thought by ignoring her, it would stop. Or without enough evidence of what she’s doing, you wouldn’t believe him.” I wonder, “How does he win in that situation? He can’t. She’s your best friend.”
“Was,” Jess corrects. “What kind of a best friend does that? Did she really believe he would betray me? Never mind. I know the answer to that is yes. What do I do now?”
“How is it you have his phone?” I ask.
“He left it at home. I found it on the kitchen table. I hadn’t checked it since we got engaged in Mexico, but my curiosity got the better of me when I saw it sitting there,” Jess admits.
“Maybe he left it for you to find, so you would learn the truth and see Angela for who she truly is?” I propose. “Obviously, he isn’t hiding anything from you or he would have changed the passcode.”
“I can’t pretend as if I don’t know she sent those photos. I’ve invaded Demir’s privacy—again and been betrayed by my best friend. What if I had never checked his phone? How long would this have gone on? Would she eventually have been successful?” Jess scans our faces, filled with concern. “What would you do?”
Victoria is the first to make a suggestion. “Unfriend, unfollow, and block her ass. Everywhere.”
I nod. “Talk to Demir. And if it goes how I suspect it will, have him do the same. He loves you. Jess—that ring you found in your room in Mexico?”
“It wasn’t for Jonsu to give to Chelsea. It was for you,” I reveal, thinking it’s time for her to know the truth. “Demir bought it during one of their road trips prior to our trip to Mexico. You found the engagement ring and spoiled his surprise. He showed up at our villa crushed and didn’t know what to do. You’ve got to stop questioning his loyalty. Demir is all-in and wants only you.”
“He is a good guy. His passcode is the day we met.” Her head bobs in agreement slowly, taking another sip from her wine glass.
“He is.” Deedee chuckles. “Marcus and Edward helped him pick out that ring. So, blame them if you don’t like it.”
“Angela is the problem,” Victoria reminds her, and raises an eyebrow in challenge, but no one here will deny it to be the case, which now includes Jess.
“I know, but that doesn’t make it easier to accept.” Jess releases a troubled sigh.
“We’ve got your back, but regardless of whatever we said, I don’t think you would have ever believed us if this hadn’t happened,” I conclude, when she’s been Angela’s biggest advocate.
It will undoubtedly put Angela’s situation with James and Ben in a new light, but that discussion is for another time. As the lights dim in the arena, getting our attention, the public address announcer welcomes the team back to the ice for the start of the game. With Jess’s arrival and the latest Angela drama, we’ve missed the remainder of the pregame, and it looks as if Edward is leading the team onto the ice.
“You’re probably right. It just sucks, you know. I thought she was a friend—my best friend.”
“Let’s make it all suck-less,” Victoria offers with a grin, refilling their wine glasses.
“Don’t you have to work tomorrow?” I question lightheartedly.
“Psshh. I’ll be fine and I have the best partner in the world.” Victoria winks and jerks her head to the seats overlooking the ice “Let’s go sit on the balcony. I need to share with Jess my latest challenge. Girl, wait until you see this dick. It’s like the holy grail of dicks.”
“Oh!” Jess releases a squeal of excitement. “Show me.”
Deedee and I share a knowing look over their bonding, which doesn’t surprise me with Victoria’s dislike of Angela. After grabbing containers of popcorn from our snacks area, we return to the seats in time to hear Jess’s reaction to the photos of Caius.
Victoria giggles. “Right? I saved a few of my favorites. Here, look.”
While most fans are still finding their seats, I listen to the starting lineups and clap for each player. When the spotlight illuminates Edward and the public address announcer says his name, I scream loudly to a fresh round of laughter from those nearby. They probably have figured out who we are.
I wanted to sit behind the goal to watch Edward up close, as I have in the past. But Deedee recommended that we sit with a little more security since my relationship status with Edward has changed. Edward agreed and said he would feel better knowing Pumpkin and I were protected from the crowd, which includes how he wants to handle seating for me at future games too. It’s an easy decision since there’s no denying my joy at sitting with Deedee. With her beside me, I feel as if I learn something new every time.
The arena lighting changes from overwhelming victory green to red, white, and blue, while we wait for the singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Once it begins, I’m no longer surprised when fans scream out to emphasize the word “stars” twice in the lyrics and do my part by joining in.
After the puck drop, most of the first period is spent with our team on the other end of the ice away from Edward. Deedee shares her surprise when she notices Caius and Marcus are on the ice at the same time. She reasons they must be new linemates or something. On the next faceoff, Tyler wins the puck, and within seconds, Caius passes it to Marcus, who is alone with Chicago’s goaltender in front of the net. Marcus shoots the puck past their goalie, sending us to our feet at the first goal of the game.
By the end of the first period, the score remains unchanged with us in the lead. I read through the stats on the scoreboard, which Deedee points out that Edward saved ten shots. According to her, it’s an excellent start. After visiting the nearby restroom, we all take the opportunity to grab food in our suite from the standard stadium fare selections. My choices mirror Deedee’s with a hot dog and nachos on my plate. Victoria and Jess request a second bottle of wine from our attendant and nibble on oversized soft pretzels. Pumpkin and I may have one of those next.
Once the second period is underway, I watch proudly as Edward makes saves repeatedly before one of his teammates is called for a penalty. With Chicago on the power play, they take several shots without success. They continue passing the puck from one player to another in what feels like a game of keep away until a shot goes sailing over Edward’s glove, tying the game at one-one. An uncharacteristically upset Edward bangs his stick angrily on the ice, then sends the puck out of the goal to center ice. Despite additional penalties from our team, Edward blocks or saves Chicago’s rapid firing of shots, keeping the game tied.
During the next television timeout, I take a moment to grab a pretzel, then return to my spot next to Deedee. Once play resumes, we both gasp at a hard hit near center ice by Caius. It’s a helpless feeling as my eyes follow the Chicago player struggling to get off the ice. Caius is unfazed, hopping over the boards and off the ice, as Tyler jumps on the ice.
Eventually, the player makes it to the bench, and my eyes search for the puck. James keeps it away from the other attacking players, then he passes to a wide-open Tyler, who shoots and scores, which puts our team back in the lead, two-one. The crowd goes crazy with excitement and the music booms, while everyone around us celebrates.
When the horn sounds for the end of the period, I glance at the stats again, showing that Edward made twelve saves on thirteen shots. But most importantly, the second intermission brings desserts to our suite. While my sweet tooth sings with delight at the sight of candy, freshly baked cookies, and brownies, the rest of me recalls how nauseous my system was with the chocolate chip cookies I made. With that in mind, I refill my sparkling water and reluctantly pass on my favorites for more popcorn. Pumpkin seems agreeable with the savory selections, and I don’t want to tempt fate since I have a final period to sit through.
In the third period, our team looks to take advantage of several opportunities, but the Chicago goaltender makes great saves on those shots, never losing sight of the puck. With about two minutes left, a shot on goal bounces off Edward’s mask. With a quick intake of breath, I watch as he scrambles to get back to his net before diving on the loose puck.
Deedee reaches out to hold my hand and reminds me to breathe while we watch the last minutes tick away to a fast and furious attack from Chicago. At the final blare of the horn, Edward hunches over, probably needing to catch his breath, as I know I do too. The fans erupt with screams at the two-one win, and his teammates gather in a line to congratulate him.
He did it.
I don’t know why that fact makes me want to cry, but it does. I’m so proud of him, and watch until he exits the ice.
Victoria’s and Jess’s inebriated laughter can’t be contained, and we decide to pair off, escorting them downstairs. Deedee links her arm with Jess, while I do the same with Victoria, ready to guide them to the waiting area where we will meet the guys. As Deedee slips from the suite with Jess in tow first, I’m shocked when I notice none other than Roy leaning against the countertop next to the doorway with his arms folded across his chest.
“Good evening, Dr. Swan.” He smirks while his eyes sparkle with delight at the woman linked with my arm.
At his nod toward Victoria, he says, “I’ll take it from here.”
My eyes shift to my partner’s face, who is grinning at Roy.
“Well, well, well. Look who it is, Bella—my king, riding in on his white horse to save me—save me from a Texas-sized cock. Probably as big as the one on his horse. What do you think about that, Mr. King?”
“She’s enjoyed quite the celebration this evening,” I admit with a chuckle.
“I know.” Roy nods, pulls her from my hold, then wraps an arm around Victoria, tucking her against his side.
My eyes narrow at how that’s possible when I didn’t anticipate seeing him tonight, then notice the suite attendant dutifully ignoring us, while cleaning the area. It’s a reminder that Roy has eyes and ears everywhere. I should have known. Or maybe they’re only trained on Victoria. Edward warned me to use caution, and Roy’s appearance could indicate that Victoria isn’t as single as she thinks she is, which is what I suspected.
“Ohhhh . . .” Victoria cups his stubbled cheek, while her eyes dance around his face. “You’re still a handsome devil. Look at you—all-business.”
He’s wearing a custom-tailored suit with a tie, which seems to be the standard for Roy. I’m a little surprised by their display of affection in my presence. Or maybe I should say his, when he’s kept physical contact between them minimal to nonexistent in the past.
Roy grins at her loving perusal. “Time to say goodnight.”
“Really? It seems early. We’re watching a hockey game. You should join us,” Victoria suggests.
“The game is over,” he says softly.
“Aww, that can’t be right. We were just getting started having fun. My girl, Jess, needs me. I can’t leave her. Jess?” Victoria glances around at our empty suite. “Fuck, what happened to her? Maybe she’s in the restroom. I’ll go find her.”
He tightens his hold, preventing her departure, especially when it’s in the wrong direction toward the balcony overlooking the ice.
“She’s with Deedee,” I explain. “They’re on their way to the locker room to find Demir.”
“Oooo, Demir.” Her eyes widen. “He’s in trouble. No wait, that’s who I’m looking for—Trouble.” Victoria giggles.
“Sweetheart, it’s time for us to go. My car is waiting,” Roy prompts.
“You’re going to drive me?” Victoria asks, tapping on his chest. “Do you even have a driver’s license? I do. I can drive us. Where’s your car?”
“You’re not driving anyone, anywhere.” Roy nods at me. “Goodnight, Dr. Swan. She will see you in the morning at work, bright and early.”
“That doesn’t sound like fun, but I know what we could do for fun.” Victoria’s hand slips inside his open suit jacket. “We don’t need a driver, just a backseat. You have one of those—I know you do.” She buries her nose in his neck. “Damn, you smell good too.”
Shaking my head, I’m ready to catch up with Deedee and Jess since Roy is taking over Victoria’s arrival home, but it’s probably not to her home. I’m not even going to question if it’s a good idea or not because she’s a grown woman. Clearly, she’s not opposed to spending time with him, and I believe he will take good care of her.
“Well, I’ve got a victory to celebrate. I wish you both a good night and good luck.”
Roy grins. “It seems as if I’ll need it.”
“Time to ride our horses, Bella, and save all the cowboys,” Victoria snickers.
I chuckle, knowing the song she’s referencing. “I think it’s the other way around, Vic.”
“Only if Roy’s a cowboy.” She brushes her fingers through his hair. “You don’t look like a cowboy. Where’s your hat?”
“At home.” He taps her nose lightly, prompting her smile.
“Will you wear it for me? I’ll leave with you if you promise to wear it for me.” Victoria giggles, then adds. “Only. The. Hat.”
“Promise me,” Victoria demands.
“I promise you that we need to leave. Everyone wants to turn out the lights and go home.”
“Unh-uh. That’s not the promise.” Victoria leans close. “I bet you taste like cigars and whiskey. You want to prove me wrong?”
“We’ll discuss it in the car.” Roy guides her out into the hallway, as I follow them.
“That’s not all we’re going to discuss.” While her eyes fill with playfulness, she slides her hand to his ass, giving it a squeeze.
“Hey! Watch it!” Roy chuckles, and they start walking. “Keep that up and I’ll—”
Victoria’s laughter drowns out whatever he says as it carries through the empty concourse, and they disappear around the corner.
I turn in the opposite direction for the locker room. I suspect tonight’s winning goaltender will be buzzing with excess energy to burn. We need to make the most of our time together, knowing he’s leaving tomorrow on their next road trip and I won’t see him for a week.
As I make my way past the security guards to the waiting area outside their locker room, I wonder if Edward still has his cowboy hat from the Winter Classic. I have a few ideas of my own, and I’m positive we can make good use of it. Victoria isn’t the only one—I’m all for saving a horse too.
While I’m eager to see Edward, I wait patiently, watching his teammates emerge from their locker room. Everyone shares a quick greeting of recognition before leaving for the night. When the player I recognize as Caius spots me, his eyes light up, and he holds out his hand in offering.
“You must be Spider’s fiancée I’ve heard about. Doc, is it?”
He’s a quick learner with the knowledge of my connection to the team, our dating status, who I am, and my nickname all in one swoop.
“That’s me.” I shake his hand. “Bella Swan.”
“I’m Trouble.” He raises an eyebrow and smirks.
“That’s what I’ve heard.” It’s nearly impossible to maintain any type of expression of indifference with what parts I’ve seen of him tonight.
“My eyes are up here, Doc.” Caius chuckles, as if he can read my mind. “Spider and I go way back. Some of those memories are a little fuzzy, and he’s still holding a grudge, but we’ll work that out eventually. You’re definitely new or I would remember you.”
I confirm with a nod. “I’m relatively new.”
“Ah. I was right.” He grins, tapping his temple lightly. “Not too many hits, yet. I understand you’re a sadist—I mean, dentist. Sorry, slip of the tongue. Obviously, evil villains like us need to stick together. How do I get the opportunity to enjoy some time with you?”
“You want an appointment?” I ask skeptically.
“If we call it a date, Spider will lay me out cold on this floor. So, whatever you want to call it—appointment, therapy session—I’m available.”
“Therapy session? From what I hear, that’s quite the ask.”
“You’re probably cheaper than my therapist, and you’ll clean my teeth too.” He winks. “How can I pass on an opportunity like that?”
“You can call our office and schedule an appointment,” I suggest, deadpan.
“I’ll do that.” When Caius notices Edward exit the locker room, he grins. “That’s my cue to depart. I can’t keep my new fans waiting. Spider, I’ll see you tomorrow. Doc—I’ll call you.”
“Trouble.” Edward nods, then slides an arm around my waist, pulling me closer.
I wrap him in a hug before kissing his lips. “Hey, congratulations.”
“Thanks.” He looks around. “Where’s Victoria? I thought we were taking her home.”
I shake my head. “She left with Roy.”
Edward’s smile fades instantly. “Okay. Let’s get out of here then.”
Our ride home is . . . different from what I expected. Even though he holds my hand the entire trip, Edward is quiet, preoccupied with his thoughts. My every attempt at small talk is met with shoulder shrugs or one-word replies. If I didn’t know better, I would have thought he lost the game I just watched.
After spending the past week with us, Esme left this morning to visit her sister in Houston for a week, which means we have the house to ourselves until she returns. Or I will with Edward’s road trip looming.
Once we arrive at home, Scout greets us enthusiastically, happily accepting loving pets from both of us. But Edward is just . . . off. I’m not sure what to do or say. He accepts my offer to start his dinner, then disappears down the hallway to our bedroom to change out of his suit.
With about thirty minutes until his food is ready, I’m about to search for him when he passes through the kitchen, making a beeline for the couch in the great room, where he turns on the television to the hockey network. As Scout and Shadow settle next to him, Edward’s eyes remain fixed on the screen. Turning up the volume, he listens intently to the announcers discussing the upcoming trade deadline.
Grabbing two coconut waters from the refrigerator, I take the spot on his other side, holding out the drink.
“Thanks.” He accepts the container, then mindlessly twists off the cap, guzzling its contents in only a few gulps before recapping the empty bottle.
His uncertain eyes shift to mine, and I offer him the second water.
“What’s going on?” I whisper.
“I want to hear what they’re saying—what they know. Some other reason . . . there has to be another reason.” Edward releases a sigh and shakes his head while his eyes fill with resignation. “I think . . . it’s my fault.”
“What are you talking about? What’s your fault?”
“Vladdy’s on his way to Florida. He’s been traded.”
“That’s what Deedee said.” I reach out to rub his back. “Why do you think it’s your fault?”
As Edward visibly relaxes at my touch, he explains. “Vladdy wanted to ask Victoria out. That should tell you everything you need to know right there. I told him it was a bad idea—to stay away from her, but now . . . I don’t think he did. I never followed up with him because I thought that was the end of our discussion. I was mic’d up at James’s event when we had that conversation. But I’m realizing now that others could have heard us. Who am I kidding? Others did hear us, then someone told . . .”
“Roy,” I mutter, hoping I’m not right.
“Yeah,” Edward confirms, and my heart sinks. “He may have seen or heard the raw footage of us.”
“Would Roy really have someone traded just because they showed an interest in Victoria? I thought his son is the one to make decisions about the team.”
Edward chuckles sadly. “As if Junior ever has a choice when Senior wants something.”
We’re quiet for a moment while Edward’s focus returns to the television, and I continue to rub his back. As I watch his side profile, I consider how messy this could get if Roy isn’t prepared to follow through with whatever his intentions are with Victoria. She said he’s toying with her—playing some sort of game. Despite Edward’s warnings, here we are, with decisions off the ice affecting his team on the ice.
Something I never wanted to happen.
Not only did I introduce Roy to Victoria, but I also did the same with Vladdy at Casino Night.
Edward isn’t the only one involved. I’m at the beginning of this too. While those were simple introductions out of common courtesy, I never thought any sort of serious relationship would happen from either one. Roy seems to be proving me wrong at every turn.
I don’t want to overstep in her life. I’m not Victoria’s mother, but I am her business partner and friend. Their decisions could affect all of us. They looked extremely cozy when they left tonight, but I wonder how long that will last if Roy continues to keep her at arm’s length. Or maybe Victoria is knowingly forcing the issue and she wasn’t as tipsy as I thought.
At the commercial break, Edward turns down the volume slightly. “I know it isn’t all on me. Vladdy is responsible for his choices, but I had a part in it, which doesn’t make me feel any better. An experienced player like him will be missed in our lineup. It’s a setback for us when this isn’t the time in the season for those.”
I grin. “As you probably figured out, Caius introduced himself to me on his way out after the game.”
“I’m sure he did. Trust me; Caius isn’t Vladdy. He brings a whole host of new problems—team unity being the biggest issue. The kid replacing Vladdy will join us in the morning for practice before flying to Carolina with us.” Edward pauses for a minute, then his glassy eyes shift to me. “As a friend . . . and a brother . . . it won’t be the same. I wanted to do this with him—win the Cup. I thought we were in this together. I’ll miss him.”
I reach for his hand and offer my reassurance. “I’m sure he’ll miss you too. When did you find out?”
“Before the game.”
“And your team still won. Don’t lose sight of that fact.”
“It wasn’t easy. Chicago isn’t expected to make the playoffs this year―that game should have been easier than it was. They’re rebuilding. I struggled to maintain my focus the entire game. I made so many mistakes tonight. That goal shouldn’t have gotten past me.”
I recall the important stats Deedee pointed out on the scoreboard that applied to Edward.
“You stopped thirty out of thirty-one shots. Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s a spectacular night.”
His smile grows at this detail or maybe it’s the fact that I know it.
“It is pretty good,” he admits. “How are you feeling?”
I don’t miss the opening to put my earlier plan in action. Moving to straddle his waist, Edward helps settle me across his lap, then rests his hand on my belly where Pumpkin is growing. It’s a gentle reminder that prompts my own smile.
“I’m good, but I think I could be better. We’ve got something to celebrate,” I state, while gathering his T-shirt, tugging it from his body, then dropping it onto the floor. “Tonight’s win is at the top of that list.”
“I’m starting to think you like winning sex—expect it,” Edward teases. “You know, I’m not just a pretty face.”
“Oh, I know, but you can’t blame me when you’ve set such a high standard previously. Are you sore?”
“Not any more than normal,” he replies.
“Muscles still feeling loose?” I ask, tracing my fingers lightly along the tattoos of his lean, muscled chest.
“I’m still warm.” Edward nods after a gentle squeeze of my thighs. “How long until we’re ready to eat?”
With a glance toward the kitchen, I can’t read the time remaining from here. “I would guess somewhere around fifteen minutes.”
“I bet we can beat the timer.” He grins. “What did you have in mind?”