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.
/ /\ (oo) /\ \
On a day all about family, there is no stopping my thoughts when they drift easily to my own. Mom’s lab results are an undeniable setback, but Dad and I are determined to make the next steps count. Edward’s positive attitude motivates me more than ever to find a better solution for her. The fact that he was there when Dad called was a comfort I didn’t realize I needed, but maybe something I have always wanted and finally found with him.
While he was gone yesterday afternoon on a shopping trip with his team, Rose stopped by his home with Katie to pick up Duke and Sassy. I’m thankful Edward had already given her a heads up, as I didn’t want to go into details in front of Katie when I was still processing the news myself. I diverted the conversation by thanking Katie for the adorable book she created for me, but she was more focused on reuniting with all the pets.
Thanks to Rose, I reached out to Alice last night who let me know she would be in Dallas to make a brief appearance at the Winter Classic before returning to Aspen. I had no idea she would be here, but Alice promised to make a few phone calls on my mother’s behalf. So, I hope to see her today with good news. I know it’s a holiday, but with Mom’s diagnosis, I feel like we don’t have any time to waste.
Edward was as excited as a little kid on Christmas to leave the house this morning for their only practice before the game tomorrow. Before he left, he warned me repeatedly there would be photographers taking pictures and videos of the players today, which also includes during the family skate. Even though I have attended a game and we’ve been on a variety of dates, this will be the first time when we’re really out there in front of everyone as a couple and not just in the images he shares on social media. While I’m a little nervous about the exposure, I reassured him I have no problem being in attendance and supporting him today.
As I drive us toward the stadium, Leah hums contentedly along to the country music booming from the radio station she selected. While I’m surprised she’s a fan, Leah claims her musical tastes are as diversified as the men who hold her interest. After another turn, the stadium comes into view.
I point toward it. “There it is—the Cotton Bowl.”
“Damn, now this is more like it.” Leah grins, marveling at the impressive size of the football stadium. “Maybe everything in Texas is bigger. James and his scrawny ass doughnuts yesterday should take note.”
“Awww, his gesture was sort of sweet.” I smile and snort. “And creamy.”
We can’t contain our laughter.
“Okay, those doughnuts were fresh and delicious. Damn, we ate them all, didn’t we?”
“We did,” I agree.
“Kudos to the bakery, but he’s too easy to toy with. What? Did he think I was gonna drop to my knees and beg him to whip it out? ‘Please pleasure me with your highly recommended dick during my stay, O Captain! My Captain!‘” she declares dramatically and snickers, looking over at me. “I checked out that bulge; let’s hope he’s a grower for his sake. Best dick ever—my ass. All I’m going to say is, if that’s him shooting his shot, he needs to do better. I’m not that easy. This is Texas. Impress the fuck out of me. Go big or go home.”
“Well, James doesn’t seem like the type to give up easily,” I say, pulling into the parking lot closest to the entrance where Edward told us to meet him and select an open spot next to the other vehicles.
“So, he likes a challenge.” She shrugs. “Get in line. He’s not the only one. That fucker in Port Angeles I told you about at Thanksgiving has created a whole fucking album since our first night together.”
“The Shawn Mendes guy with the tattoos? I thought you said it was a one and done.”
“Yeah, that one, and it should have been, but the sex is so fucking good. God, what he can do with his tongue let alone his dick should be illegal. It probably is.” Leah smiles wistfully.
“Is his music any good?”
“Amazing.” She releases her seatbelt and prepares to exit the car. “Maybe James will be distracted by someone else here.”
“Doubtful. According to Edward, it seems you’re the one who has caught his eye.”
“Whatever. I said what I said. Now, let’s go introduce me to your future in-laws,” she teases with a grin, and pauses before opening the car door. “We can stir up some shit.”
“Leah!” I laugh, reaching for my bag in the backseat that contains my ice skates.
“Girl, I’m not wrong. Edward is into you.” She chuckles, gets out, then leans back inside, lowering her voice. “My sweet, little coconut, bringing the poor man to his knees. Tell me that shit didn’t work.”
There’s no keeping the smirk from my lips as I exit the car, move around to her side, and we walk toward the entrance gate.
“That’s right. Look at your face. It did. He probably thinks you can do no wrong. I’m so fucking proud. I have your back, if you need any more tips. And mark my words; they’ll be your in-laws, if he has anything to say about it.” Leah nods toward the security guard ahead as we approach. We keep a little distance between us and the people waiting in the short line. She lowers her voice, “Do you think he’ll find my flask?”
I whisper, “I doubt he’ll check. This is a family skate. I mean who brings alcohol to something like this? Where is it?”
“My boot, and girl, I’m on vacation. I have expectations that all include alcohol. I found an open bottle of tequila when I was checking out Edward’s bar last night. So, I may have made a heavy pour . . . into my flask.” She winks and taps her temple. “It’s called planning ahead, and he said to make myself at home. I’m just trying to be a model houseguest. This will be a good trial run to see if I can bring it tomorrow. I would hate to lose this one, as it’s one of my favorites, and contains all of Jacob’s whiny ass tears.”
“Oh dear. You’ve brought him to tears?”
“It’s always the same shit with him.”
“That sounds like the two of you are off again.”
“Definitely. I’m done with Jacob. For good this time. He can go fuck himself. I don’t care what he says.”
I nod and hope so for her sake. He isn’t good for her, and I doubt he’s good for anyone, including Edward. If I could find a way to cut Jacob out of Edward’s life, I would.
She elbows my side gently. “You look like you could use a swig.”
“Ugh. Probably, but the last thing I need is to greet Carlisle with tequila on my breath. He already has such an attitude. I shouldn’t give him any ammunition to use against me, because he would.”
Without delay, we easily move past the security guard at the gate when he only checks us from the waist up, and I notice Rose, Em, and the kids waiting with Carlisle and Esme. When Leah and I join them, I make introductions, then we enter through the tunnel and stop, standing at the edge of the field. Leah gasps at the enormity of the sight before us, and we’re all a bit awestruck for a moment. Standing at the back of our group, it’s as if I can sense him when my eyes are drawn to Edward walking along one of the paths toward us smiling from ear to ear. Katie spots him too and can’t wait, dropping her bag, then running in a full sprint.
“Uncle Edward!” Katie screams with her arms stretched out.
When she leaps into his arms, Edward catches her and spins Katie around. We follow the path until we meet closer to the rink where he sets her down.
“Hey, everyone,” Edward says, still in his full hockey gear, but his sweaty hair is hiding underneath a green stocking cap with the Texas flag on it.
His eyes find mine, twinkling with excitement, and his crooked grin tugs at a corner of his mouth. With flushed cheeks from practice, I can see the happiness emanating from him due to the entire experience, including our attendance this afternoon. Without a single hesitation to what anyone around us may think, he makes a beeline for me, and my heart accelerates at his approach.
“Hello, beautiful.” Edward leans close and kisses me.
My cheeks hurt with how much I smile when I’m around him. “Hey, handsome.”
“I like your jersey.” He winks. “We match.”
Of course he does. I’m wearing my new Winter Classic jersey with “Cullen” on the back that he gave me before Christmas. Leah said she would save hers for the game tomorrow, but the rest of his family are all in similar Dallas jerseys. Edward steals a second kiss, lingering a little more before he reluctantly pulls away. He reaches for my bag, and laces our fingers together.
I glance at Leah beside me who hasn’t missed a bit of our greeting with a wiggle of her eyebrows, which reminds me that his family probably hasn’t either. I catch Rose’s and Esme’s beaming smiles, while Emmett winks when our eyes meet. I don’t miss Carlisle’s indifferent expression before he folds his arms across his chest.
“Is everyone skating?” Edward asks. “We only have about thirty minutes before Nashville will take the ice for their practice.”
“I am!” Katie yells. She jumps up and down with her arms fully extended into the air. “Oh no! Where are my skates?” She looks frantically at the ground, then along the path to where we were after entering the stadium for her bag. “Mama . . .”
“Here, Katie.” Rose holds out her skate bag. “Hang onto them this time.”
“I’m skating too,” Eric says, with his bag draped over his shoulder. “Is Alec here yet?”
Edward nods. “He’s on the ice with his dad, but you two need to be careful. There are plenty of little ones already out there for their first skate and a lot of new skaters who don’t have your experience.”
“We will. It’s so bright. How can you see anything?” Eric spins around, looking at the tens of thousands of empty seats under the blinding sunshine and clear blue Texas sky.
Edward ruffles his hair. “It’s challenging, not only the lighting, but without fans right behind the glass, everything seems farther away than it really is.”
“Can we put on our skates?” Eric asks.
“Yeah, go ahead, but make sure you stay on the paths.”
“Okay!” Katie and Eric shout their agreement, then disappear into the small crowd near the team bench.
“Since Katie and Eric are skating, I’m skating to keep an eye on them, but Em and Austin aren’t.” Rose smiles, pointing toward her kids. “I better go catch up with those two.”
“Wow. This is amazing.” Austin looks around. “Dad, we should have brought a football. Do we have one in the car?”
“I don’t think so.” Emmett chuckles. “Maybe another day.”
“I’m going to play here someday,” Austin promises, then follows Emmett as they wander toward the rink.
“Hello, darling.” Esme reaches up to cup Edward’s jaw and leaves a kiss on his cheek.
“Hey, Mom.” Edward glances at Carlisle, standing behind her. “Dad. I’m glad you’re both here.”
Carlisle merely nods his acknowledgement.
Esme’s eyes flash to me briefly before returning to her son. “You look great. I love seeing you like this—happy. You’ve had a career full of so many wonderful accomplishments. I’m proud that you’re getting to experience this one too.”
“Thanks, Mom. Are either of you skating?”
“No, your father and I are sitting this one out.”
Edward returns his attention to Leah and me. “Leah, are you sure you don’t want to skate? Our equipment manager said he has extra pairs of women’s skates available, if you’re interested.”
“Thanks, but I’ll watch from the safety of this side of the glass. You two have fun.”
“Okay.” Those sexy eyes of his shift to mine. “Are you ready for your second lesson, Doc?” Edward asks hopefully.
I shrug. “Maybe, but I have a surprise for you.”
“Okay, let’s go put on your skates.”
After finding an open spot on the bench, I take a seat. Edward releases my hand only for the small amount of time necessary for him to lace my skates. Once the equipment manager hands him his phone, he reaches for my hand again.
“Ready?” He grins.
My smile matches his with what I’m about to reveal. “Absolutely.”
We step through the open rink door and onto the ice. I’m bolstered with the confidence I’ve gained at my twice a week ice skating lessons since our first date. It doesn’t take long for it to become obvious to Edward that I’m not the shaky novice I was during the first lesson he gave me at the Galleria. After I don’t wipe out on a few forward crossovers in the corners, his smile is radiant.
“Doc? You’ve been holding out on me.”
“I’ve been taking lessons,” I share, hoping to impress him. “Surprised?”
“Knowing you the way I do now, not really.” He leans close to plant another kiss on my lips. “You’re incredible. I love you.”
“I’m not great going backward, and please don’t ask to see my backward crossovers, because they leave me on my ass most of the time, but I’m getting there. My instructor, who isn’t much older than your nephews, has been incredibly patient with me.”
“They usually are.” He shakes his head, grinning. “You never cease to amaze me, Doc.”
“You can let go of my hand. I’ll be fine,” I reassure, gliding along easily next to him as we skate around the rink.
“But I won’t.” He chuckles, bringing the back of my hand to his lips where he leaves a gentle kiss.
/ /\ (oo) /\ \
We stop and take photos the entire time we’re on the ice. Family selfies with Rose, Katie, and Eric are full of funny and serious game faces, which is some sort of tradition between Edward and Katie. I notice a blush on Eric’s cheeks when I wrap an arm around him to pull him closer into the shot at Edward’s urging.
We also pose with many of Edward’s teammates and their wives or girlfriends. I’m introduced to Lauren, a professional cheerleader for Dallas’s football team, who is dating Tyler. They’re cute together, but it’s obvious it’s her first time on ice when she holds onto him for dear life and threatens him continuously not to let go of her. I remember that feeling, and Edward does too, when he gives my hand another brief squeeze.
I’m confused by the congratulations everyone is sharing with Tyler until Edward explains that it was announced late yesterday Tyler would be the only one representing the team at the All-Star Game, while everyone else is in Mexico. I understand being selected is an incredible honor and share my own congratulations, but if I were Lauren, I would have preferred spending the break in Mexico instead of St. Louis. I’m still hopeful I’ll be on that plane to Mexico with Edward too, and I know I’ll need to address my invite with Sam next week.
I recognize Angela and Jess from Rose’s pumpkin carving party. They are dating two of Edward’s teammates: Ben, the starting goaltender, and Demir, the defenseman who was in Edward’s video. Ben is quiet and seems a little aloof toward Angela and the rest of us, but I attribute that to the gravity of the game resting on his shoulders, which probably is starting to set in. Demir couldn’t look more proud to have Jess at his side. He’s obviously smitten with her, and he takes great joy in prompting her squeals of laughter when he lifts her off the ice to spin her around.
Deedee also says hello briefly between photos with Marcus and their son, Alec, before departing the ice for more with other family members. I do a double-take when I realize another woman I recognize is attached at the lips to one of Edward’s teammates.
“Is that the chocolate thief?” I ask, lowering my voice as my gaze narrows on Goldilocks.
“Chelsea?” Edward laughs. “Yeah, that’s her.”
“Who is she with?” I wonder, because she clearly isn’t harboring any feelings toward Edward with that liplock. Unless she’s attempting to make him jealous.
“That’s Johnny, sorry, I mean, his name is Jonsu. We call him Johnny. He’s one of Demir’s buddies—they’re both from Finland and close to the same age. Jonsu plays center and left wing.”
Edward distracts me from Chelsea and points toward James who is hovering near a corner of the rink where Leah is standing just beyond the glass with Esme. “Do you think he has a chance?”
James’s pantomime pleas for her to join him on the ice only cause her to grin wider with every shake of her head.
“Leah is tough.” I chuckle, recalling her less than impressed first impression of James. “Remember, I warned you. He needs to think bigger than a box of doughnuts, is all I’ll say.”
“So, you’re telling me he still has a chance.” Edward winks.
“I didn’t say that at all.” I wink back.
A wave from someone standing behind Leah catches my eye, and I realize it’s Alice. I’ve only ever seen her wearing casual mom-on-the-go attire, and I’m surprised to see her in a woman’s tailored suit while standing with an older, handsome gentleman. There’s no sign of Jasper or the kids either.
“Oh, Alice is here,” I say, looking toward the exit door. “I need to speak with her. Maybe she has good news for Mom.”
Edward nods. “Okay, but I think we’re doing a team family picture at the end of our ice time and I want you in it with me.”
With time expiring on the family skate, I watch as Rose, Eric, and Katie step off the ice to change out of their skates. Edward pulls me toward center ice with the rest of his teammates, their significant others, and children. After numerous photos by one of the team photographers, we all slowly leave the ice, but on the way, Jess and Angela promise to look for me tomorrow so we can sit together.
Once I’ve changed out of my skates, Edward and I walk hand in hand back to where his family is waiting. We pose for more pictures with his family until he is forced to depart at the urging of one of his coaches for a final team meeting. With promises to meet Leah and me back at his home, he kisses my lips briefly before his departure.
Leah and I listen as Rose and Esme share stories about their Christmas in Aspen while Carlisle drifts away from our group, speaking to the older gentleman I saw Alice with earlier. From this distance, you would think they were old friends. I’m shocked by the exchange between them, as I have never seen this side of Carlisle. He’s animated and laughing while the other man smiles at whatever Carlisle is saying as he puffs away on his cigar.
The dwindling crowd of Dallas fans is soon replaced by those from Nashville as their players take the ice for practice. I notice Alice engaged in a conversation with a man I recognize, Royce King Jr., the general manager of the team. Edward mentions him often, and Rose introduced me when I attended Edward’s game before Thanksgiving.
“Excuse us for a minute.” I grasp Leah’s elbow lightly, pull her a few steps away from the group, and lower my voice. “I need to speak with Alice before we go. I’ll just be a minute.”
“Take all the time you need.” She leans close and whispers next to my ear. “Your mother-in-law is amazing.” I’m about to correct her reference to Esme when she continues keeping the conversation between us. “We walked around a bit while you were skating and that mama can drink. My flask is empty. Rose didn’t refuse my offer either.”
I chuckle. “I’m glad you’re enjoying time with them. They’re great people.”
“Also . . . James asked me to be his date for the after party.” She smirks.
I’m not surprised and have a suspicion about her response. “What did you say?”
“I told him I already have plans to be there with you.”
“Well, I won’t abandon you, but if you change your mind and find another way back to Edward’s tomorrow night, I’ll understand.”
“I don’t know.” She shrugs. “We’ll see.”
I’m surprised at her tone and that she could be softening toward him, but maybe that’s due to her empty flask.
“No pressure.” I nod toward where Alice is standing. “I’ll be right back.”