A/N: A little reminder that this is the second part of chapter 36 and Bella’s POV. Thank yous to Team Spiderward for all you do. xx
Song inspiration for this chapter: “Queens Don’t,” RaeLynn
(Playlist for this story can be found on my YouTube channel, if you search for “ghostreader24”)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. The NHL owns anything that sounds familiar. I’m here having fun.
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Once I grab my phone, my smile matches their beaming ones as they wait.
“Hang on. I should check and make sure I haven’t missed a text from Edward. It’s getting close to when he should be home.” A quick check of my message app shows nothing new, and I return to our video call. “Okay, have you two pulled it together so we can continue?”
“Oh, Bella. I knew this was going to be fun watching with you.” Al grins.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah. Three, two, one, and play.” I watch helplessly as Goldilocks unwraps then eats my chocolate.
“Mmmm, these are delicious.”
“No shit,” I mumble.
“I should grab another.”
“Girl. Don’t.” After she reaches for another peanut butter cup, I take a sip of my wine, then chuckle while pointing at the television. “She’s going on my shit list for that.”
“I’m only kidding,” I concede easily.
“Pause. I bet that’s a short list. Who else could possibly be on there? Everyone loves you.”
I think for a moment. “Definitely Paul. Sam. And all of Sam’s sexist bullshit deserves its own spot. He’s great at saying one thing, then doing another. Carlisle is also there. I don’t like the way he treats Edward.”
“Not a fan of Daddy Cullen?” Al asks.
“Trust me. It’s mutual. He’s not a fan of me either, but I’ll attempt to play nice for Edward’s sake. Add Jacob too.”
“Who’s Jacob?” Garrett wonders.
“Edward’s agent. It’s a long story, but I knew of him growing up. He’s a bonafide asshole and all about him. Leah fucks with him whenever she gets a chance. And by that, I mean they’re actually fucking too. It’s a clusterfuck of mind games between them.”
“Whoa,” they say in unison.
“I know, right?” I shrug. “Okay, we need to keep this going, because Edward will probably want to know what I think when he gets home. I promised I would watch his show tonight, and I’m running out of time.”
Al nods. “Got it. Three, two, one, and play.”
Returning my peanut butter cups to the freezer, Edward points toward the French doors in the great room and offers, “Let’s check out the pool area.”
“Great.” The camera doesn’t miss the chocolate thief’s swaying hips as they walk outside, then it pans the resort-worthy area before returning to Goldilocks who settles on a lounger by the pool. “I could live out here.”
“Don’t get too comfortable,” I quip.
“Oh, my dear, you look good in green, and I’m not talking about Edward’s team colors,” Al teases with a chuckle. “I bet Edward would love to see this side of you.”
“I’m not jealous,” I defend, knowing my jealousy stems not necessarily from her, but wishing I were back in Dallas with him.
Al holds up his finger and thumb with a tiny gap of space between them. “Maybe a little bit.”
“I’m not.” I refuse to admit being jealous of the Chelseas out there, focusing on Edward’s smile as he looks around the area. “We enjoy it.”
“Did you hear that?” Al grins. “He said, we.“
“I heard it, but that doesn’t necessarily mean me. Rose brings the kids over to swim frequently. He could also mean his friends or teammates. If you’ve ever heard his interviews, he says we constantly. It’s his team mentality.”
“Mmm-hmm. I’m not buying it. He means you. You’re a huge part of his team now.”
But I have zero doubt she would want to be.
In my opinion, he’s irresistible.
Lord knows, I can’t resist him.
“How about we check out the other areas?” Edward suggests, glancing at his watch briefly.
“That man keeps to a strict schedule. I’m not surprised he’s hurrying them along.”
“Okay, what’s next?” Chelsea asks.
Edward thumbs over his shoulder. “Let’s return inside, and I’ll show you my office.”
The camera follows as Edward leads them through the great room and entry to the other side of the house. They pause before entering the hallway, but the camera moves down the hall, then turns to focus on them.
“Your jersey collection is amazing,” Chelsea says, admiring each one.
“Thanks. My mother had those framed for me from all the teams I’ve played on professionally, and I love having them on display. My office is full of memorabilia from earlier years too.”
The camera moves into the room, scanning the walls of magazine covers and shelves full of goalie masks.
“I love the air hockey table! I’ll bet no one can beat you.”
“Currently, I’m undefeated,” he says with the crooked grin I love, while looking into the camera. Maybe he’s gloating a little.
Hearing Al and Garrett chuckling, I confirm, “Yeah, I’ve lost every time we’ve played.”
“Oh, Bella. I think you’ve most definitely won. Just ask Chelsea.” Al winks. “Were either of you clothed during those games?”
“No comment,” I mumble, which widens Al’s grin.
“And there’s my answer. I knew it!”
They move to the entertainment room across from his office with the bubble hockey, billiard, and poker tables.
“This room looks like a great place for parties or hanging out with the guys. Do the doors open out to the pool?”
“Yes, they do. Let’s check out the garage next.”
“We’re right behind you,” she says, looking into the camera with a wiggle of her eyebrows.
The camera follows them outside, and we watch as the garage door opens, revealing the immaculate space. Edward talks about his motorcycle and convertible briefly.
“I drove his convertible,” I share. “It was amazing. We had a blast.”
“When was that?” Al asks.
“After our wine night.”
“Mmm-hmm,” he hums, as if he knows something I don’t.
I shift my gaze back to my phone screen. “What does that mean?”
“If he trusts you with his car, especially that one, it means he is serious about you. I would guess since around then. Do you have keys to his home?”
“No. But he gave me a programmed opener for the main gate and garage that night. I also have the security codes for his home.”
Al nods with a grin. “Same thing. Don’t be surprised when he suggests you should leave a few things there.”
Taking another sip of wine, I don’t offer that I have a toothbrush that lives next to Edward’s in his bathroom or a bikini for nights in the hot tub. It’s only two items since I typically borrow from his closet whenever I need something to wear.
Movement on the television screen gets my attention as Edward climbs into his truck. The camera is at a new angle with Edward driving while glancing toward the camera periodically. His truck doesn’t have much room in the cab. So, I’m not surprised when Chelsea is no longer there asking questions, but someone else, who prompts him to explain his game day routine while operating the camera.
“I wake up early every day and take Scout and Shadow on a walk. After feeding them, I grab a juice and drive to morning skate. I listen to music and think about the day ahead. Before our morning meetings, I eat a pre-workout meal. It’s usually the same thing—oatmeal and eggs.” He stares out the windshield, then explains while we’re shown clips of him doing the activities he’s describing. “We do off-ice workouts once our meetings are complete. I like to find a quiet place away from my teammates and start with stretching. Once I’m loose, I work on hand-eye coordination exercises. Those help with tracking the puck.”
I marvel at him rapidly tossing two balls repeatedly at a wall, tracking their movements. “This is so cool. He’s in the zone.”
“Then I suit up in skates and pads, spending a little more time stretching and doing some mental prep by visualizing myself making saves.” The next shot is him talking to Ben before stepping onto the ice. “When I’m ready to take the ice, we work through a variety of skating and save exercises with our goaltending coach before joining the team for drills.”
After he blocks a breakaway shot from James who thought he had him beat, the camera zooms in on Edward obviously smiling behind his mask. There’s some playful shouting and banter, but I can’t understand what they’re saying, before Edward returns to narrating.
“At the end of our ice time, we meet with our coach for a final meeting to go over reminders before tonight’s game. I always refuel and rehydrate during it, then I complete my final stretching routine. After returning home, I have lunch, then chill out for a while. Scout and Shadow join me for a nap or maybe I join them since they sleep all the time.” He chuckles.
The next clip begins bringing us back to his home, where he’s sitting with Chelsea on the stools in his office in front of the shelves containing his goalie masks and other memorabilia.
“As much as I would love to sit out by the pool, this looks like a great spot for a little Q & A. Are you ready to answer some fan questions?”
“Sure,” Edward agrees.
“What’s your first hockey memory?”
“Learning to skate with my sister. But as for becoming a goaltender, we were on the same team and the coach asked if anyone wanted to play goalie. She raised my hand for me, because she knew I wanted to play in goal badly. At first, it’s just fun, then as you get older, you realize the mental aspect and the pressure.”
Chelsea nods. “After you signed your first contract to play professionally, how did you celebrate?”
“I bought a truck . . . and wrecked it driving home from the dealership. The roads were icy, but fortunately, there wasn’t anything that couldn’t be fixed. I drove it for years.”
“Fans are undeniably curious about your ink. What was your first tattoo?”
Edward glances at his arms and twists to point out one while the camera zooms closer. “I’m a fan of Charles Schultz of the Peanuts comic strip fame. He’s from Minnesota—born in Minneapolis, but grew up in St. Paul. Throughout his career, he gave back to his community through hockey and is in the USA Hockey Hall of Fame. I always loved Snoopy’s hockey adventures, which mostly revolved around Woodstock’s frozen birdbath. Many of the comic strips included Snoopy or Woodstock being a Zamboni driver, which was my first job. So, it was an easy decision to get my Joe Cool tattoo, which is Snoopy with a hockey stick.”
“How old were you?” Chelsea asks.
Edward doesn’t answer and laughs hesitantly.
“Not eighteen?” she guesses.
“Let’s not say. But the great thing was that when I was drafted a few years later, it was by Minnesota. I loved that connection and I added my team tattoo near it.”
“Were your parents upset?”
“Uh . . . no. Probably.” He laughs, then concedes. “Yeah. My dad definitely. My mom just shook her head.”
“That sounds about right for what I know about Carlisle. He doesn’t like Edward making decisions without him now. So, I’m not surprised in the least that he didn’t approve of this one back then.”
Al nods. “Unfortunately, we know firsthand about controlling or overbearing parents.”
“I guess I’m lucky that wasn’t my experience.”
“What made you decide to move to Dallas?”
Edward grins. “My family is here. So, it’s been a goal for years. I met with Royce Jr., and we were able to work out a deal finally.”
“Will you finish your career in Dallas?”
“Only time will tell. I hope so.”
“Let’s talk a little about last year’s playoff run,” Chelsea suggests.
He shrugs, then shakes his head. “Not much to say. We had a great team and I thought we would go all the way. This year, we’re an even better team. I would always rather be the underdog than the favorite.”
Chelsea shuffles her note cards. “Time to dish the dirt. Tell us about your teammates. Who is the funniest?”
“Crow.” As Edward explains, a clip of Tyler scoring a goal is shown with other guys piling on him, laughing in celebration. “He’s always amusing and full of energy in the locker room. Everyone naturally gravitates to him. He’s also the best singer. We always have music going, and he makes most of the selections.”
“Who always has your back?”
“Cap.” The next video is James clearly winning a fight, then yelling animatedly at someone before sitting in the penalty box. “He’s become one of my best friends.”
“Who do you most admire?”
“Volts.” Marcus is shown bumping his helmet with Edward’s in front of their goal, saying something to him, then patting his shoulder as they celebrate a win together. “We’re neighbors, and his son plays hockey with my nephew. Even with our schedule, he juggles it all with the help of his wife. He’s a talented player and an amazing dad.”
“Who is the best dressed?”
Edward laughs. “Me.”
“Sorry, Fin. He doesn’t care.” I don’t know the guy they show next, but he must be a defender. They show him around the net with Edward in multiple clips, then there’s one of him scoring from far away. I can see he’s big like James and is taller than Edward when they are side-by-side. He looks young too—maybe early twenties. “I love him, but he’s got work to do in that department. GQ won’t be calling anytime soon.” Edward chuckles.
Chelsea grins. “What’s your favorite city to play in on the road?”
“Ummm.” Edward pauses for a moment, considering his answer. “Most people would probably say Vegas, because there’s so much to do outside of the rink, but for me, it’s more of a distraction. I love Canadian cities, because of their passionate fans, especially in Montréal where I played. But going back to Michigan will always be special, even if I’m unable to play at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit, like I did when I was younger in tournaments there. The new building is incredible, and I like the murals of championship banners outside of the visiting team’s locker room. That’s a nice, not-so-subtle intimidating touch.” He smiles. “It’s difficult to beat the rich history of an original six team. I’ve been fortunate to play for two: Montréal and Boston. Nothing but respect for them.”
“Time for some random questions. If you were a tree, what would you be?”
“This is a real fan question?”
Chelsea laughs. “Yes.”
“It sounds like something Cap would ask. Maybe he submitted it.”
“I have no idea, but it’s no secret that he is a big fan of yours.”
“Uh . . . I don’t know.” Edward releases a sigh and thinks for a moment. “A palm tree. I love hanging out on the beach with a nice breeze. A bottle of tequila would be a welcome touch, but I guess as a tree, I would miss out on that.”
“If your phone was hacked, what would we find?”
Edward chuckles. “Photos of my dog and cat. Family . . . Doc.”
I can’t keep the smile from my face at his inclusion of me.
“Do you date a certain age group?”
“Oh, boy. We’re going there?”
She grins, then winks for the camera. “Your fans want to know.”
Al snorts. “Brace yourself, darling.”
“Long, dark hair. Beautiful blue eyes. Intelligent. Driven. Unrivaled work ethic. Empathetic. Patient. Passionate.” Edward pauses, then looks into the camera. “Dentist.”
“Holy—” I’m stunned for a moment.
“That sounds oddly specific,” she concludes.
“You have no idea, Chelsea,” Al adds.
“Have I said too much?” Edward wonders with a grin.
“It sounds like you’ve found the right woman. Do I hear wedding bells?” she asks.
I gasp and whisper, “I can’t believe she asked that. That’s not a fan question.”
“Do you?” His smile widens. “Let’s not freak her out. It’s new, and I need to convince her that I’m the right one for her.”
“Did you hear that?” Al asks.
My stomach flutters at Edward’s words. “Yeah. I heard him.”
“On that note, we want to thank you for taking the time to answer fan questions before you continue with your game day routine.”
“Sure, Chelsea. It’s been great.”
The next shot is of Edward, sitting on the couch and petting Scout and Shadow. He looks like he just woke up from his nap. Chelsea must have left, because he’s on his own again narrating. “Locker rooms open three hours before game time. After my nap, I get ready and put on my suit.” We see him dressed in front of his bathroom mirror, running his hands through his hair, then after knotting his tie, he’s ready to depart.
Next, Edward is in his truck driving to American Airlines Center and explaining his pre-game routine while footage of him or his teammates doing each step is shown.
“Once I’m at the arena, I tape my sticks and eat a light snack. Depending on how I’m feeling, sometimes I’ll get a massage and hop on a stationary bike for a short ride. Some guys like the cold tube, but I’ll repeat my stretching routine from this morning and get my eyes ready for tracking again. I do a lot of quiet time, which is an important part of my mental prep as a goaltender, including visualization. Some of the guys play soccer before our pre-game meeting. I like to stay loose, so I’m always ready, if needed.”
Highlights of the game are next with Ben making numerous saves against Vegas. Dallas scores first, but Vegas evens it up when Ben can’t get back to the net in time. Since Edward is mic’d up, he can be heard talking throughout the game, but also with Ben during television timeouts. Ben is drenched with sweat, squeezing an orange stream of liquid into his mouth. “They keep coming for you on your stick side,” Edward warns, then nods. “Let’s go, bud. You’ve got this.”
Some of the video shows Edward on the bench shouting during the game, “Backdoor! Backdoor!” sending Al and Garrett into a fit of giggles. Vegas breaks the tie, taking the lead until Tyler shoots and James tips the puck into the net, scoring late in the game and sending it into overtime. Unfortunately, Vegas wins the game when Ben moves out to challenge a Vegas player rushing toward him and he gets beat easily.
We hear Edward’s voice again while the camera follows him through his post-game routine. “After the game, we change out of our gear. Depending on the game results, two or three players are asked to speak with the media, and we complete post-game workouts. Those are usually followed by recovery drinks, a massage, medical treatments, if necessary, and a shower. Ben and I meet with our goaltending coach for a final meeting to debrief the game.”
Once Edward is dressed in his suit again, the camera follows him to his truck. “Typically, I would go home at this point, but tonight we’re flying to Nashville. So, I’m driving to the airport. We’ll eat dinner on the plane, shake off this game, and get the next one. Time to chill and sleep.”
A muffled question is asked, and unfortunately, I can’t hear it, but Edward does, his smile brightens as he responds, “Yeah. I’m starting tomorrow night.”
“Oh! I know that game. He wins.” And we celebrated quite merrily after he returned home.
The video ends with Edward’s truck exiting the parking garage and disappearing into the night.
“Well? What did you think?” Al asks.
I shrug and release a deep sigh. “What’s not to love? It’s Edward.”
“Mmm-hmm.” Al nods. “And Chelsea?”
“Despite eating my chocolate, she did a great job. I always love seeing this side of him. I’m not only his girlfriend, but one of his biggest fans. So, from a fan’s perspective, it’s a win.”
“Would you still have that opinion if you learned that Edward dated Chelsea?”
“What?” Instantly, my eyes shift to the television as I listen to Al explain.
“When I asked Rose if she knew her, she said yes, that he dated Chelsea before you, and he was the one who ended it.”
Edward dated Chelsea?
“Has he mentioned dating her?”
“No.” I shake my head. “He didn’t, but it doesn’t change my opinion. Obviously, we have had relationships in our past, and we’ve talked about some of those. Edward is an open book, whereas I’m not interested in putting mine out there.”
“Didn’t we talk about you being more vulnerable?”
“I know, but you know I’m more private, and I’m not sure what can be gained by giving him my dating pedigree. He knows I dated Jason and that he’s still in my life as my lawyer. If I got the impression that our relationship bothered him in any way, I would find another lawyer. It’s that simple. He trusts me, and I have to trust him, if this is going to work.”
“Well, I’m disappointed we’re not going to be petty and dish a little on Chelsea, because she’s too young for it, but I think she’s had some work done. Any guesses? I’m thinking at the very least: Botox, brow lift, maybe a chin implant, lip fillers, a little tweak of her nose, and boobs. It’s all so subtle. Her Instagram is much more . . . revealing, if you get my drift, but Gare won’t indulge me. He says it’s good lighting and makeup.”
“He’s probably right.”
“Thank you, Bella,” Garrett shouts.
“Al, you need to stop watching those botched plastic surgery shows.” I chuckle. “And you know I’m not going there, especially if she’s someone Edward dated. Women can’t do anything without being criticized for their decisions, and I’m not going to add to it. If that’s what she wanted, kudos to her. As for them dating? If it’s true that he ended it, then that’s all I need to know. I didn’t see anything in that video between them that would give me any concern, especially on his part. She’s flirty, but maybe that’s necessary for her job.”
“You’re definitely no Chelsea. Kudos to Edward for getting it right this time.”
“I think I may have it right too. Finally,” I admit with a grin. “I still can’t believe he showed up here for me.”
“Love sure looks good on you, darling.” Al nods. “Enjoy it. You deserve nothing but the best.”
A text from Edward interrupts our conversation when it appears on the screen, followed by another.
Are you still awake?
I would love to hear your voice.
“Oh! Edward is texting. He’s home. I gotta go. Thanks for watching with me. I love you both. I’ll be back in Dallas soon.”
“We’re looking forward to it. Love you! Be safe as you travel over the next few days. Let us know when you want to get together once you return. I can’t wait to meet Leah.”
“Okay, I will. Good night!”
“Good night, Bella,” Garrett and Al say simultaneously, before I end our call and another text arrives.
Returning my wine glass to the nightstand, I tap the screen and a photo of Edward shirtless in bed fills the screen. He looks tired, but as sexy as ever. I wish I were there. Another photo arrives of Scout and Shadow curled up next to him.
I waste no time responding to his texts, because even though it hasn’t been that long since he left, I can’t wait to hear his voice too.