A/N: A special shoutout to fanfictionalcolic and Zveka for their help with tweaking my French this week. Thank yous as always to Team Spiderward for all you do. xx
Song inspiration for this chapter: “Drunk (And I Don’t Wanna Go Home),” Elle King and Miranda Lambert
(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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My eyes barely open when I realize someone is saying my name repeatedly while knocking on the bedroom door.
It’s too loud.
“Shhhhhh,” I warn and squint, looking around the room for Edward.
“Are you awake?” the man’s voice asks.
“Go away,” I mumble, attempting to pull the sheet over my head, but it won’t reach. It’s somehow wrapped around my leg, and I place a pillow over my head instead. “Bella is closed.”
Unless it’s Edward.
But why would he knock?
“Cover yourself. I’m coming in,” he warns from the other side.
I hear the door open then close, followed by soft steps on the carpet moving toward the bed. When the pillow is lifted slightly, I open one eye with the sound of his gasp.
“Oh, sweetheart.” Al grins, looking down at me. He’s dressed in full Dallas hockey fan gear, including white and green face paint creating a star across his whole face.
“Why are you shouting?” I whisper, willing the drumming in my head to cease. “I thought you loved me.”
“I’m not, and I do. It’s why we’re here. We need to get you ready for the game. What have you done to yourself?”
“It’s Leah and her ‘let’s just have a shot or two of tequila.’ Edward went to bed early, and she said we needed to celebrate the New Year with a little countdown. I can’t remember how many shots we downed, before I ended up here. What are you doing here?”
“You texted me last night and said you and Leah would need a ride today.”
I snort at the thought because I know who is my preferred ride. “Edward has—”
“Okay, now that I say it out loud, I should clarify to the hotel. Darling, you were right to text me. You look worse than Leah does and you’re in no condition to drive. I think you’re still hungover or maybe that’s also a combination of afterglow? Gare is making coffee. We need to get you in the shower. I’ll fix you something to eat. How about some toast?”
“How did you get in here?” I shake my head and realize quickly I won’t be doing that again without taking some pain relievers. “Did you climb the gate?”
“Fortunately, we didn’t have to.” He chuckles. “Edward left not long ago and he graciously let us in.”
“Oh—it’s still early then. Did he kiss me goodbye?” I sit upright, clutch the sheet to my chest and blink slowly while looking around the room. Putting my fingers to my lips and trying to recall his departure, my eyes adjust to the light. “He always wakes me with kisses before he leaves, but I don’t know . . . maybe he did? Or did I dream that?”
I’m disappointed I missed seeing him dressed in his final cowboy attire. Monday night he modeled his new brown cowboy boots and white hat, sharing that he was torn between wearing all-denim or selecting a plaid shirt from his other options instead. I’m sure there will be photos and I’ll see him after the game, but I wonder what he chose for their team entrance as they are arriving at the Cotton Bowl on a shuttle bus from the hotel. He said that Nashville is wearing all black to honor country music legend, Johnny Cash, which is kind of cool.
“From the look of the bed, you two have been doing a lot more than kissing. Some crazy sex positions? I’ve never seen such a mess. I’m not sure I’m buying your ‘Edward went to bed early’ story.” He grins, tossing a handful of little white feathers into the air.
Oh . . . that’s right.
There may have been a pillow fight at some point.
I remember our laughter over busting one of the pillows and feathers flying everywhere.
Falling backward onto the bed, more feathers lift and drift over the edge. “That’s because Edward is great at . . .”—positions I didn’t even know are possible, but I keep that tidbit to myself—”. . . everything. Fuck. I love him, Al. I love him so fucking much. It’s scary.”
He waves his hand toward the sheet twisted around my legs. “Dare I state the obvious . . .? You appear to be stuck in a sexy spider’s web. And what’s that smell? It’s incredible.”
“Right? It’s Edward.” I hold out a pillow for him to sniff. “Here. He wears this cologne that drives me fucking nuts.”
“I can see that. I’ll need the name of it for Gare. You have what looks like a fresh hickey on your neck . . . and another on your chest? That necklace is gorgeous, by the way. Is it new?”
I lift the sheet, easily find the lower hickey he’s talking about on my chest, and grin. “Edward says he can’t resist me. I’m irresistible. Me. And yes. He got the necklace for me. It was a surprise waiting when I arrived on Sunday. I forgot to tell you about it on Monday evening when we talked.”
Al shakes his head. “You have a lot on your mind with your mother, and I have zero doubt about your irresistibility. Maybe leave your hair down to cover the mark on your neck. Or not, if you’re making a statement. Or maybe Edward is?”
“He loves when I wear my hair down. He’s so . . .” I release a deep contented sigh and reach for another feather on my arm, flicking it to the side. “Just between us . . .?”
“Yeah?” Al sits on the edge of the bed.
“When Leah leaves on Saturday, and my week staying with him is over, I . . . I’m afraid I won’t want to go back to my home. But I know, I have to go. It’s just that everything is so good, the thought breaks my heart a little.”
“I vowed never to be that girl—chasing after a guy. I’m not going to start now. I know my worth and what I bring to this relationship. I also know leaving—going back to my place . . . it will be tough, but it’s the right thing to do. We can’t rush this.”
“What was in that tequila? Truth serum?” Al teases with a chuckle. “Most importantly—you’re not that girl. You’re a woman who is clearly in a loving relationship, built on trust. Enjoy it. You’re right. There is no rush, but at the same time, have fun and don’t talk yourself out of something more that maybe you truly want. There is no set rulebook you must follow with this or any relationship. Do what feels right and screw what everyone else thinks . . . if you’re worried about that. He respects you, your independence, and your career. My money is on Edward showing up on your doorstep before the end of next week with his dog and cat. I think he’ll break first.”
I huff at the thought. “Impossible. He’s leaving for a four-game road trip next week. On Tuesday, they depart for Los Angeles, and they’ll be gone for a solid week. Just when I’m back, he has to leave. This sucks.”
“Hey, I think wherever you are, is where he wants to be. This week you’re both here and you need to focus on that—making the most of your time together is important. If you were planning on going back to your place when Leah departs, maybe spend a few extra nights together here, and leave Tuesday morning instead.”
I consider Al’s suggestion and my recent conversation with Edward about him wanting me to move into his home. “Well, he won’t mind me staying here longer, but I will be returning to work on Monday morning, and I don’t have any clothes here for that.”
“Then it sounds like you’re due for a quick trip to pick up the clothes you will need. Now, how about I start the water for your shower, then search for a vacuum to contain the feathers? We need to get you moving and a reset on this bed wouldn’t hurt either. And I don’t mind a little behind the scenes exploring of Edward’s home.” He winks.
“Sure,” I agree with a smile, but make no attempt to move. “Maybe Edward has something for my head too. I need to squash this pounding in my head.”
“Did you just give me the green light to look through his medicine cabinet? You know my curiosity can barely be contained while I’m here.” Al smiles, walks into the bathroom, and gasps. “Holy shit. This is . . . wow. The video didn’t spend enough time here. I’ve never seen so many nozzles, dials, or levers. Is that a rain shower built into the ceiling? I need a degree in hydrotherapy or at least a how-to video to know where to begin. Well, here goes nothing.”
Hearing the water start eventually, I glance lower when something on my chest between my breasts catches my eye. I rub it with my thumb, then try unsuccessfully to figure out what it is—a black symbol, letters, or something. “What is that?”
“What is what?” Al asks when he returns.
“Look. Do you see it?” I point, but can’t force my eyes to focus, blinking several times to clear them. “I think I need eye drops too. My eyes feel like sandpaper.”
Al tilts his head. “It looks like a capitalized me.”
“What does that mean?” I wonder. “Me what?”
He shrugs. “I have no idea. Maybe it isn’t me, but M-E? Like it stands for something?”
“Edward abbreviates things all the time. What could it be?”
Al reaches for something on the floor, then holds up a black marker. “Seems like you and Edward were experimenting with some new ink ideas?”
His words spark a memory of Edward awake and settled between my legs during the early morning hours. I recall some teasing about leaving marks on each other, and now, I’m wondering what I left on him. I’m sure there was something or maybe more than one thing.
While holding the lid of the marker between his teeth, the image of him beaming with undeniable happiness comes to mind. I remember he wrote something and it tickled . . . along the curve of my hip. I twist onto my side and toward the light. There are words there, but I’m unable to read Edward’s handwriting.
“Damn, here is something else, but it’s in French.”
“I got this.” Al removes his phone from his pocket and touches the screen. “We can translate it. Let’s see . . . Tu es . . . tout ce dont . . . uh . . . hold still . . .”
“No, you’re not. You’re moving. Where was I? . . . j’ai jamais . . . eu besoin.” His eyes brighten and his smile widens at the translation of whatever Edward wrote. “If you don’t marry this man, I will.”
“It doesn’t say that!”
“No, that’s all me.”
“Al! Tell me. What does it say?”
He lifts his phone a little higher and reads, “All that you are is all I’ll ever need.“
“Holy smokes is right.”
“Take a picture. I don’t want to risk losing it since it will probably fade with my shower.”
Al shakes his head. “I don’t think I should have a photo of you nude on my phone.”
“It’s just my hip and I’m not nude,” I defend. The sheet is covering most of me.
“Yeah, I don’t think the necklace counts as clothing, or the sheet, and I may or may not be leading the charge to defend you on social media when people question your relationship with him. Catty bitches. I would use the photo, and I’m positive you wouldn’t want that. I know myself, and I have zero willpower. Zilch. Where is your phone?”
I worry for a moment what people are saying about me, but I know the truth about my relationship with Edward, which is all that matters. “Uh . . . I have no idea. Maybe in the great room on the coffee table. Call it.”
“Okay, I’ll be right back.” Al departs, returning a few minutes later with my phone in his hand. “Found it, and I promise I didn’t read them, but it looks like you have texts from Edward.”
Al takes several pictures of my hip, then hands my phone over before leaving happily to find the vacuum. I rub the sleep from my eyes, then open my message app, noticing multiple texts and a photo sent from Edward.
Good morning, beautiful.
I left with your car earlier.
I figured it would be easier when the three of us return tonight after the party.
Keep an eye out for this guy today.
Don’t let the white hat fool you!
He looks like trouble. 😉
It’s a selfie in front of the mirror in the entry, looking every bit of a handsome cowboy. I suggested scruff, but it looks as if he shaved and went with all-denim. My eyes are drawn to the custom Winter Classic belt buckle he’s wearing that each player received to commemorate today’s game. I release a deep sigh at the captivating sight. He’s the whole package, and I can’t wait to see him after the game. His scruff will be back by then, but mostly, I can’t wait to be wrapped in the comfort of his arms once again. There’s no keeping the smile from my face as he continues, sharing a slew of my own Edward reminders.
Things to remember today:
In case you’re struggling a little this morning. 😉
He’s obviously aware of my overindulgence of tequila last night. I also have a growing list of questions I’m sure he will be able to answer later tonight.
Give the attendant my name at the hotel garage for parking.
Your tickets for the game are waiting at a table in the hotel lobby.
They also have your wristbands for the team dinner and after party.
Shuttles depart from the hotel every half hour.
Same with returning from the stadium when the game is over.
Make sure you get on the one for the Hyatt at the VIP gate.
I reserved a room for you and Leah to change after the game.
Key for the room is at the front desk waiting for you.
I will see you when we arrive back at the hotel for the team dinner.
Have fun and take a lot of pictures for me since I won’t have my phone.
I love you. X
“I love you too,” I whisper, and smile at his thoughtfulness displayed on my phone screen.
He’s so thorough. I’m exhausted just rereading his reminders list. I think it’s something he does when he’s nervous. I know he’s worried about our safety around such a large crowd, especially when he isn’t able to be at my side. But I’m sure we’ll be fine. His mention of needing to change after the game reminds me I need to pack my dress, boots, and a few toiletries to take with us for the dinner and after party.
With Al still searching for the vacuum, I know I should get started and leave my phone on the nightstand. After walking into the bathroom, I stand in front of the mirror. My eyes pass over my exhausted appearance, before moving lower where I notice something smaller on my other hip. It’s a star with the number thirty-five inside of it. I touch it lightly and return to the bedroom, snapping a quick picture before walking back to the bathroom.
For a moment, a bottle of Advil sitting next to an empty glass on the counter gets my attention. I don’t think Al had time to find them, but maybe Edward left them, anticipating I would need them this morning. I smile because he’s always thinking about me and putting me or my well-being first. I take two pain relievers, then stand under the hot shower spray until I feel more like myself. I avoid scrubbing certain areas too harshly, wanting to preserve his sweet words and little star for as long as possible.