A/N: This is the first chapter of new material after the one shot. Thank yous to NKubie, LizziePaige, and Honeymoon Edward, for pre-reading and Midnight Cougar for betaing. They’re all amazing, and I’m so grateful for their help. xx
Song inspiration for this chapter: “She’s Mine,” Kip Moore
“Love, I’ve been looking for a while
Been close a couple times
Man, she’s hard to find
And towns everywhere along the map
Well, I’ve traveled there and back
And I wonder where she’s at
Yeah maybe she’s in Dallas
Cheering for the cowboys
Maybe laying low down in Mexico
I know she loves the sunshine”
(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.
/ /\ (oo) /\ \
“How did your meeting go?” I ask, after forcing myself to stop kissing her soft lips, and lean against her desk.
“I don’t know.” She shrugs, shaking her head as if she needs a moment to clear it and collect her thoughts. “I have mixed feelings, but like Rose said, this is what’s best for me no matter what Sam decides. I can’t continue with business as usual. Maybe that means I’m on the road to partnership or my days are numbered here. I suppose I’ll find out soon, but let’s go check out your teeth, so we can get out of here.”
“Ready for another date with yours truly?” I question, mustering more confidence than I feel at the moment.
While I never doubt myself when I step on the ice, it’s times like these when my confidence wavers slightly. I asked Rose recently about Bella’s likes and dislikes, but she refused to help. She claims she is already too involved and has left me to figure those out on my own.
It isn’t only not knowing Bella’s preferences that leaves me uneasy. Bella dated a lawyer before me. I know this because he’s been helping her negotiate the next steps of her career. I’ve tried to play it cool and be supportive, but I’m a little jealous he’s still in the picture. I can’t seem to forget he’s here in Dallas—when I’m not.
Due to my schedule, it’s been two weeks since our first date. Bella said she had a great time, but I’m having trouble finding my footing on how to impress her. I called in a few favors for that date, snagging a highly sought after reservation at Five Sixty atop Reunion Tower. We enjoyed what I thought was a romantic dinner with nighttime views of the Dallas skyline.
The best view for me was of Bella wearing a red dress that looked like it was made for her body, clinging in all the right places. Afterward, we went to a concert at The Majestic where we sat hand in hand, listening to a blues-rock group I love. It was a great evening, but I’m hoping my plans for tonight won’t be too far out of her comfort zone.
I’m not loaded in comparison with the wealthy men in Dallas Bella could date or probably has in the past. But I’m doing okay for a guy without the benefit of a college education that she and someone like the lawyer share. I don’t attract women like Bella normally, and it isn’t lost on me that she’s out of my league. Rose has warned me multiple times not to screw this up, which she knows I’m perfectly capable of doing.
I’m good at dating women, but it’s sustaining relationships where it falls apart. I’m hoping it will be different this time, because Bella’s different. My family already knows and loves her. She’s an independent woman who is busy with her own career. She isn’t looking for a handout, like the women I’ve dated in the past. For the first time in a long time, I have to work for it and hope I can keep her interest.
“Let’s take care of your appointment first.” Bella stands, grabbing my attention, and exits her office.
I trail closely behind to one of the patient rooms. She’s wearing a white lab coat over a blouse with a pair of dress pants. I’ve never had fantasies about any doctor, let alone a dentist. But I’m flooded instantly by memories from the other night when I had a dream where she was wearing only a lab coat. I haven’t forgotten the things we did in my dream around her office or more precisely one of the patient rooms. I wonder how receptive she would be to fooling around here as Dream Bella was.
“Take a seat.” She waves toward the chair. As she puts on a pair of gloves, she glances briefly at the computer where I can see my name on the screen. “We’ll do X-rays first to see how the roots are progressing, and hopefully, we’ll find they are reattaching to the bone.”
After slipping off my leather jacket, I leave it on a chair nearby and settle into the patient seat. My eyes follow her movements as she adjusts her mask and sits on a stool, rolling closer.
I nod. “You know, recently, I read an interesting tidbit of dental office trivia.”
“Oh? Do share,” Bella says, tilting me backward and flipping on the light.
“Did you know that dental chairs can hold around 500 pounds?” I wiggle my eyebrows suggestively. “I’m guessing combined we wouldn’t come close to that.”
Her head tilts and eyes narrow at my words. “Edward.”
“What? It could be fun.” I grin, noticing the blush of her face and neck.
I suspect she’s hiding a smile behind her mask. It never hurts to plant the seed if she’s willing. Maybe she needs time to warm up to the idea. Bella points the light directly at my mouth.
After a quick visual exam and new X-rays, she’s not derailed. Bella shows me the digital images, pointing out the significant differences. She’s happy with the progress my teeth are making and starts carefully removing the splint. I close my eyes while she works, and have no idea how long it takes, but being in this position reignites my dental chair fantasies. I’m startled with the sound of the light flipping off and the motor of the chair tilting me, jarring me from those tantalizing thoughts as my eyes find Bella.
“Edward?” She raises her eyebrows expectantly, then rolls toward the computer while discarding her gloves.
I wonder what I’ve missed.
“Yeah? Sorry, I zoned out for a bit.”
“I asked how does it feel?”
I run my tongue over my teeth and around my mouth. “Good.” I’m relieved everything feels normal or as normal as possible since my nephew, Eric, knocked out two of my teeth.
“You’ll notice a bit of discoloration in the replanted teeth. That’s normal and part of the healing process. Your other teeth on each side are no longer loose, and everything looks great.” She pauses, typing notes into my file. “I’d like to see you in another four weeks. I’m not sure how that looks with your schedule, but you can have Rose set something up for another after hours check.”
I can’t keep the smile from my face and welcome any chance to spend time together. “Sounds like another date to me.”
“Appointment.” She discards her mask then rolls closer. “Not the same.”
“What if I came in during regular hours? Afternoons are a little easier for me since those are after practice when I’m home. Would that be okay with you?”
She hesitates, looking away and contemplating the idea. Our first date was very low-key, but by comparison, tonight’s date will turn a few heads. Despite reserving for an hour before closing, I’m certain we won’t be able to escape the camera phones of those still in the building and possibly aimed in our direction. I suspect Bella will find that sort of attention uncomfortable at this point. Offering a few reassurances, I reach out enclosing her hand in mine and give it a little squeeze.
“Bella, people are going to find out we’re dating. Yes, there will be curiosity at first, but it will fade eventually. You said you were willing to give us a chance. I don’t want to keep us a secret. We have nothing to hide. I’m ready to shout from the rooftops that I’m dating you, if you would allow it.”
“What?” Her alarmed eyes find mine at that idea. “I—”
“If people get used to seeing us together, then it won’t be such a big deal when we’re spotted. But my job is about as public as you can get and so is the rest of my life. Fans know and recognize me. They also know my family, my friends, and you’ll be a part of that too, especially after coming to the game tomorrow night.”
“It’s a big step—being so public. I guess I thought I would have more time to get used to the idea.”
“Let’s focus on having fun and not worry about the rest.”
“This is really happening.”
“Oh, it is.” I smile, tugging on her hand. “Come here.”
“Edward, we shouldn’t,” she warns half-heartedly.
If I’ve learned anything about Bella over the past month, it’s that she’s a rule follower. I think it’s going to be one of my goals to push her to break a few, even if they are only her personal ones.
“Yes, we should. Come on. I was an exceptional patient today and didn’t shed one tear. According to Dr. Katie, that’s some sort of criteria around here. I deserve a reward and not a sticker this time.”
I remind her of Katie giving me the “I (heart shape) My Dentist” sticker currently stuck to my refrigerator after my last visit. I missed out on a first kiss with Bella then, but ever since she gave me the green light, I’m determined not to miss any others regardless of the progress of my teeth. This time I’m interested in kissing more than her lips.
“The main door isn’t locked,” she cautions.
“I know. We’re being so reckless,” I tease and my grin widens. “Now get over here and kiss me.”
Bella chuckles, throws her leg over my lap, and loses her balance. My hands go to her waist, holding her in place as she attempts to straddle me.
“Whoa. This isn’t working.”
She needs to remove her lab coat or hike it up to her waist at the very least, but I have a better plan.
“Trust me. I’ve got this.”
“Oh, do you?” A slight smile dances across her lips.
Her hands brace against my shoulders, as she watches my eager fingers fumble the first few bottom buttons open.
After freeing her legs, she settles comfortably on my thighs. But I’m not going to miss this opportunity, and do my best to focus on opening the rest of the buttons. I smirk at finally completing the task until I meet her half-lidded gaze.
Clutching her thighs and pulling her closer, my voice is barely above a whisper. “There, much better.”
A needy whimper of relief escapes my lips once they’re pressed against hers. My hands pass over her cloth-covered curves and roam under the back of her lab coat. She wraps one arm around my shoulders, then runs her fingers through the hair at the back of my head, tugging on the strands and causing a low rumble from deep in my chest.
“You feel so good,” I mumble between kisses while my hands roam her body greedily.
Despite her small size in comparison to mine, we fit together naturally. I could spend hours in this position kissing her and earning every soft moan that passes from her lips. She’s the first to break away, needing to catch her breath, but I move lower, trailing kisses past her jaw and along her neck.
I have no doubt she can feel my hardening response as her hips tilt and she rubs against me.
“Is that your phone vibrating?”
I groan and reluctantly pull my lips from where they’ve made it to the V of her blouse, twisting in the chair to remove my phone from my pants pocket. I’m surprised I missed the chimes or vibrations, but with Bella on my lap, I know she’s the best kind of distraction.
After tapping the screen to silence my phone, I’m relieved it isn’t a call interrupting us. “Yes. It’s a reminder so we don’t miss our dinner reservation.”
“Oh. Does that happen a lot?”
“No. Well, when I was new to the league, it was a lot all at once. The schedule can be overwhelming for a new player, and I was advised not to take anything for granted by one of my early goaltending coaches. If I wasn’t willing to keep up, then someone else would. The reminders are a habit he encouraged that I’ve continued, keeping my days on track. I use them for everything. There’s so much to juggle that it’s important at this level of performance I don’t miss meals, meetings, workouts, or other commitments.”
Bella nods her understanding, but I think she’s a little disappointed we need to pause our current make out session. Her response thrills me because I hope she’s feeling this magnetic draw between us like I do.
“We need to go?”
“Unfortunately, yes. Can I get a rain check on us in this chair?”
“You’re a lot.” She cups my face, leaving one more kiss on my lips.
I grin. “Is that a yes?”
I steady her as she climbs from my lap, but something on the computer screen catches her attention.
“Oh! I forgot to remind you about foods with your teeth now. You should avoid hard or inflexible foods while their stability continues to improve. Be careful with anything you would need to bite into like corn on the cob or apples—things like burgers or sandwiches, too.”
I nod wondering how oddly specific she’s being, but as I consider her advice, I realize another thing about Bella. “You don’t like not knowing where we’re going tonight. Do you? I bet surprises aren’t your thing. Am I right?”
She gives me a look that tells me I’ve read her correctly. “Maybe. Do I need to change? I have a jacket to wear, but I can change into a more casual outfit when we drop my car off at my place, if my work clothes are too dressy.”
“No. You’re perfect.”
/ /\ (oo) /\ \
Dinner with Bella at my favorite steakhouse is effortless. My cheeks hurt from smiling and laughing throughout the meal as she regales me with childhood stories about her life before moving to Dallas. She’s more intoxicating than the wine we’re drinking. While I’ve decided to have only one glass on a night before a game, Bella’s halfway through her second.
I’m enjoying a new side of my normally reserved dentist. She’s funny, engaging, and undeniably beautiful in the soft glow of the candlelight. I can’t resist touching her constantly, linking our fingers together or stealing a quick kiss every now and then. Our legs remain intertwined underneath the table, hidden from everyone’s view but I know, consuming me with an overwhelming happiness.
Since I’ve been to this restaurant several times, I’ve already posed for pictures with the staff, and I’m normally left alone. But while we’re eating, a handful of fans from another table recognizes me and approaches us. I happily sign a few random items at their request. When they ask for pictures, Bella volunteers to take them using their phones.
She snickers after they return to their table and leans close, letting me in on some secret and lowering her voice. “Joke’s on them. I’m horrible at taking photos. They’ll look at them later and decide there aren’t enough editing tools to fix what I’ve done to their brush with a superstar.”
I let her superstar comment slide and turn it back to her. “Doubtful. I have yet to find anything you aren’t good at.”
“Oh? What do you think I’m good at? And if you say anything about teeth, you’re going to lose points.”
“Easy—kissing, and I’m hoping to do more of that once we get out of here,” I suggest.
Bella uncharacteristically downs the rest of her wine in one gulp and does a little wave, speaking loudly to no one. “Check, please.”
We both dissolve into a fit of giggles while our server is nowhere to be found, but eventually he does reappear, and I pay for our meal.
Once we leave the restaurant, I keep Bella’s hand in mine while I drive toward our next destination. She’s a chatterbox the entire trip, trying to guess my plans for the rest of our evening as we pass various businesses along the way.
“You’re getting another tattoo, and you want me to hold your hand?”
“No, but I like holding your hand. Do you have any tattoos?”
“Not a one.”
“Maybe we can do something about that one day, if you’re willing.”
“I don’t know if there’s enough wine for that. Oh, I know. We’re going to . . . a movie theater? Are you into Sarah Connor from The Terminator? She’s so badass, even all these years later. I kind of want to see Dark Fate or maybe you’re up for Charlie’s Angels? Oh, wait. I know. It’s that car movie—Ford vs Ferrari. Guys like cars. Are you a car guy?”
“Not really.” I shrug, but chuckle at her babbling. “And no, we’re not going to see any movies.”
“No movies? Hmmm.”
Her face is filled with confusion as we pull up to the valet stand outside of the Westin Hotel at the Galleria.
“Okay, are we doing something at the hotel? Do they have a club or bar? I’m really not a club type of person or dressed appropriately for something like that, but . . .”
“We’re only leaving my truck here.”
I hand my keys to the valet, grab my bag from behind my seat, and walk around to the other side, helping Bella from my truck. I lace our fingers together as we enter the shopping mall and she continues questioning my plans.
“We’re . . . shopping? Because if that’s it, then you’ve found another thing I’m not good at—shopping. And aren’t they closing soon? I don’t even know what time it is.”
“We’re not shopping.”
“Oh, thank goodness.”
“I’ve already shopped for you.”
“You’re making me regret not having a third glass of wine with whatever it is you’re planning to spring on me. This can’t be good.”
“It will be great.”
“Awwww, look at the Christmas tree. It’s beautiful. They showed the lighting on the news the other night. Edward—” Her eyes widen when she figures it out. “We’re . . .”
“Ice skating,” I say, guiding her into the skate shop and toward the counter.
“Uh, I’ve never been ice skating.”
“Then it’s time for your first lesson.”
“I don’t have any skates.”
The older woman on the other side of the counter catches the end of our conversation and her knowing smile soon matches my own.
“Do you have a few packages for me?”
“We do. Is this Bella?”
“Yes, this is my girlfriend. Bella, this is Jackie, and her husband, Cliff, is somewhere around here.”
“He’s almost finished getting the ice ready for you. If you need a different size or style let me know, then we’ll get your new skates sharpened.”
“Okay.” I guide Bella to the seating area by the skates and open the first bag, holding it out for her.
“Oh, God, Edward. What are we doing? I’m going to make a fool of myself. I shouldn’t have had any wine with dinner. Maybe we can slip out a back door.”
“I won’t let you, and I got you something special to wear. Look.”
She reaches in the bag, pulling out the green jersey. “You got me a hockey jersey?”
“Yeah, try it on. It’s actually for tomorrow night, but I wanted to see you in it tonight.”
Bella slides it on over her head and moves toward a full-sized mirror nearby while I remove her new skates from the other bag. The jersey is a perfect fit. I couldn’t be prouder to see my name and number on the back when she turns around. There was no way I was leaving it up to chance that she already had one with someone else’s name or number.
“What do you think?” she asks.
“You look beautiful.” And sexy. I can’t wait to be alone with her again. “Can I take a pic?”
“Sure.” She shrugs.
I abandon lacing her skates, taking a variety of pictures as Bella poses. Once she returns to the seat in front of me, I help her into her skates between kisses, checking the fit.
“This is crazy,” she whispers. “Are there going to be other skaters out there bumping into me or me into them?”
“No. I arranged for the last hour of ice time to be only us. How do they feel?”
“You should stand and walk around a little.”
“Did you plan for a visit to urgent care after this?” Bella jokes, but she’s getting more confident as she circles around the small store. “I think they’re good.”
“Okay.” I remove her skates and hand them back to Jackie to have the blades sharpened.
Jackie smiles hopefully. “Edward, I hate to ask, but could we get a few pictures before you two get on the ice?”
“Sure. You did me a huge favor tonight. It’s the least I can do.”
Bella offers, again, to take photos of me with the rink staff, Jackie, and Cliff when he finishes grooming the ice. I also sign more items while we wait. I answer a few random questions and confirm that I’ll be the starter for tomorrow night’s game. When Bella’s skates are ready, I help with lacing them, then put on my own pair I brought with us.
“How are the skates, Bella?” Jackie asks.
“I think they’re good. It’s me that’s the problem. I’m as steady as a newborn foal.”
“Well, you’ve got the most handsome and skilled teacher. I’m positive he’ll take great care of you.”
“Let’s hope I come back in one piece.”
“Come on, Doc.”
I shrug at my nickname for her. “It’s how I refer to you when I’m around the guys.”
“They know about us?” she asks, surprised. “You talk about me?”
“Well, yeah. I’m close with James, Tyler, and Ben. They were all at Rose’s when we met.”
“Oh, that’s right.”
“All right. Enough stalling. Let’s go, Doc.” I wrap my right arm around her waist, then hold her left hand in mine. “The fresh ice is waiting, and there’s nothing like it.”
“Now that sounds like a hockey player,” Cliff says with a deep raspy voice.
When I made tonight’s arrangements with them earlier this week, Jackie gushed over the idea, reminding Cliff of the days when they were young and living in Minnesota. When I found out they are hockey fans, I couldn’t resist offering them tickets to tomorrow’s game, which sealed the deal, making everything tonight happen seamlessly.
“Have fun,” Jackie calls from behind us.
We leave the skate shop and walk together toward the rink. I step out onto the ice first, then hold Bella’s hands. She takes those first steps with me skating backward, and a huge smile never leaves her face as I pull her around the ice. The time goes too quickly between our bouts of laughter over near slips and spills, but I think Bella has fun despite her earlier concerns. She even lets me take a couple pics and a little video of her skating without any assistance, but my favorites are the selfies of us on ice with Bella wrapped around me tightly.
It’s late for me when I finally pull into her driveway and let my truck idle, keeping us warm. Our fingers are linked on top of the center console. The click of her seatbelt unfastening is thunderous over the radio playing softly, marking the end of another wonderful evening together. She turns, and in the soft glow of the dashboard, I’m on the receiving end of one of her captivating smiles.
“I had a great time tonight,” she says, leaning closer.
“I’m glad,” I reply barely above a whisper.
Unable to resist her waiting lips, I close the distance between us, kissing her passionately until she pulls away.
“Do you want to come in for a while?”
The thought brings a smile to my face that she wants more time together, but the realities of my life are never far away, especially during the season. I realize it’s a little weird to call it a night this early, as it’s barely ten o’clock. Most guys wouldn’t hesitate to follow Bella inside. I hope she understands this is part of my job, and I need to stick to my schedule.
“I absolutely do, but it’s a night before a game and I—”
Her brows furrow in confusion. “Do you have a curfew or something?”
“Only when we’re on the road, but . . .”
She nods, putting it together quickly. “But you keep one regardless.”
“I get it. That makes sense.”
“Since tomorrow’s your first game, I also want to explain that it will be a little while before I can see you afterwards. I’ll understand if you don’t want to wait.”
“I’ll wait for however long it takes,” she reassures with a confident smile.
I nod, trying to contain my excitement, because of course I’m focused on winning, but despite the outcome, I’ll be eager to see her after the game.
“I’ll have to do media, my post-game workout, then a debrief of the game with my goaltending coach. All of that could take an hour or more.”
“How will I find you?”
“I’ll make sure you’re shown the way to the locker room entrance, and we can meet there when I’m finished. Are you still riding with Garrett and Al?”
“Yeah, they’re picking me up. So I can ride with you afterward.”
Our ridiculous smiles are back, because she’s coming over to my place. I’ll need to eat and plan to make us a late dinner. I hope it leads to her spending the night. She hasn’t mentioned anything about staying over, but I want it to be an option.
“Thanks for the skates and jersey.”
“I’ve never seen one look better.”
“I doubt that. I should probably go inside and let you go home to get your beauty sleep,” she says with a smirk.
“Wait there and I’ll get your door.”
With Bella’s hand in mine, she pulls me along toward her front door. She pauses on the top step and turns toward me, putting us at eye level with one another.
“Your new skates.” I lift the bag, offering it for her to take.
“Thanks. I can’t wait to see you in the office tomorrow. You’ve been to mine twice now.” Her eyes dance with a playful happiness in the glow of her porch light.
“I hope you have a great time with everyone.”
“I’m sure I will.”
Cupping her jaw with one hand, I’m unable to resist and leave a last kiss on her lips. I’m addicted to everything about Bella, and I know if I don’t force my feet to move, I’ll never leave.
“Good night, Doc.”
“Good night, Edward.” She smiles before disappearing behind her front door.
As I walk back to my truck, I couldn’t agree more, because just being around her makes this not only a good night but also a great one. Maybe one of the best. Better than any winning streak, and I hope I’m able to keep this one going.