Along Came a Spider/C7

A/N: Thank yous to NKubieLizziePaige, 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: “The Feels,” Maren Morris

You don’t gotta light a candle
You don’t have to set the mood
What you gotta understand though
I’m already into you
It’s chemistry
Meant to be
Incomprehensibly
Tangled up in it
Yeah boy you’re giving me the feels”

(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) /\ \

Chapter 7

“There she is. You know that jersey looks familiar,” Al teases, holding the back door of their car open. He’s wearing a similar hockey jersey, but that isn’t what leaves me speechless. 

“Al, what—?” I’m stunned, sliding into the backseat, but snap out of it at the closing of my door.

“Hey, Garrett.”

“Hi, Bella.” Garrett smiles into the rearview mirror from the driver’s seat. 

“Thanks for giving me a ride.”

“Thanks for inviting us along. Al promised not to embarrass us, but well, you know him.”

“It’s called supporting your team, Gare.” Al turns in his seat. His hair is green and so are his lips. His face is painted half-black, half-white with “DAL” on one cheek and “LAS” on the other.

“Is that silver glitter in your hair?” I marvel at his version of support.

“Yes!” Garrett says while driving us toward American Airlines Center for tonight’s game. “And it’s getting everywhere. Can you imagine the looks I’ll get when I drop off the car to have it detailed after this? They’ll think I’ve been frequenting Baby Dolls rather than Pekers—what a mixed message. It’s as confusing as high school was for me.”

“Jealousy isn’t a good look for either of you. So, Bella, how are you doing? Anything new to share?”

I shake my head; I don’t want to talk about yesterday’s meeting with Sam yet, since I haven’t heard from him. “Not much.”

“Are you sure?” There’s something in his questioning tone that puts me on alert. “Have you been on Instagram today?”

“No. I haven’t.”

“Well, your hunky spider has.” 

My stomach drops at Al’s words wondering what’s happened. I retrieve my phone from the pocket of my jeans, open the app, and go straight for Edward’s account, to find he’s posted a single picture from our date last night. It doesn’t show my face, but the back of my new hockey jersey with the caption “My Doc.” It’s followed by three hearts in green, white, and black—his team’s colors, plus a heart eyes emoji. My heart speeds up when I notice the post has almost three hundred comments and over ten thousand likes since he posted last night.

Oh God.

There’s not a chance I’m peeking at those comments.

Al continues unaware of the panic building inside of me. “The comment section is filled with curiosity about who Doc is. And I don’t blame them. If Edward is sharing posts about you, then hearts are breaking everywhere today.”

I didn’t think Edward would share any of those pictures, and I’m concerned he didn’t ask if it was okay with me first. What would I have said? No? Yes? My eyes return to the picture. I don’t look bad and my name isn’t mentioned, but there’s a definite message sent. I guess this is his version of shouting it from the rooftops, as he mentioned yesterday. I didn’t tell him not to post, but . . .

Garrett glances in the mirror, finding my panicked eyes. “Uh-oh. By the look on your face, this isn’t good. Stop scaring her, Al.”

“Bella, I’ve got your back,” Al reassures. “I mean, who are you going to talk with about this kind of stuff? Rose? Not likely. She’s his sister. I’ve looked through his entire post history, and there isn’t a single one that includes a girlfriend.”

I close the app and pocket my phone. “Al, he’s thirty-four, incredibly charming, and a famous hockey player. Of course, there are going to be pictures of him and past girlfriends from all over the country. He’s lived in a lot of places.”

Al shakes his head. “Not on his Instagram.”

“Edward probably deletes or archives those pictures. Maybe he unfollows them when it’s over,” I muse, considering other possible explanations.

A small worry nags at my thoughts that I’m getting some kind of standard girlfriend treatment from him, which fades a bit of the shine of what I was feeling throughout our date last night. 

“He could, and remember, nothing ever goes away on social media once it’s posted. I did a search for Edward Cullen and girlfriend, and you’re right. There were plenty of images that popped up on his ex-girlfriends’ accounts. Mostly models. A Miss Texas pageant contestant. One Playboy playmate who said he was the best she ever—”

“Al!” Garrett saves me from hearing him finish that sentence, but there’s little doubt to where he was going.

“I’m just saying watch out for that one, because the article indicated she’s still interested. And she posted pics of him asleep while they were dating.” He scrunches his face and shakes his head. “Such poor taste.”

“Yet, you looked at them,” Garrett admonishes his husband’s digging.

“Someone needs to take this seriously. I don’t want Bella being surprised or getting hurt by any of these vapid women. They are all in his past, but it doesn’t mean she shouldn’t be aware.” Al turns in his seat again. “Is it getting serious?”

“It was only one post.” I shrug, attempting to downplay my mix of emotions. “I don’t want to read any more into it than what it is. We’ve been talking for the past month and went out on two dates. They were great. He’s busy. I’m busy, but we’re both having fun.”

Garrett smiles. “I saw he liked a bunch of your posts.”

“He did.” I can’t keep the smile from my face as I recall how my heart fluttered when I saw those notifications recently from “ecullen35.”

Garrett nods. “Bella, you aren’t like those women. You’re more beautiful than any of them—a natural beauty, but that isn’t all you have going for you. Maybe Edward likes that you’re private with a successful career. The opposite of the women in his dating history who were trying to use his status for their own gain. That’s not a good foundation for any relationship and probably why they didn’t last.”

“True. Thanks for the reminder.”

“So, what did you do last night?” Al pries.

I can’t keep the smile from my face thinking about our evening together. “We went out to eat, then ice skating at the Galleria.”

“Sounds romantic—was it?”

“Yes.”

“I thought so. He has moves. Did he stay over?”

“No.”

“Tonight could be a different story. Did you bring your toothbrush for staying at Casa Cullen?” Al wiggles his eyebrows. 

“No.” I chuckle, but wonder if Edward will extend the invitation once we’re at his place later.

/ /\ (oo) /\ \

After we leave Garrett’s glitter infested car in the VIP parking garage, the three of us enter the arena through a private entrance and are given special passes. Our host takes a moment to show me the way to the players’ locker room. There’s a security guard at the entrance to the hallway, and while my name is on the list to pass, she offers to escort me from the suite after the game, if I prefer. I may take her up on her offer, but there’s a simmering giddiness knowing he took the time to make sure there wouldn’t be any delay longer than necessary in seeing one another later tonight. Even though I can’t see him, my heart soars with a feeling that Edward is nearby. 

Garrett and Al follow us wide-eyed as we walk to the suite Edward reserved for tonight. I’m excited to find Rose already here with Katie, Eric, a buddy of his, and Carlisle. Carlisle’s talking with Cliff and Jackie who I recognize immediately from last night and give them a quick wave.

“Dr. Bella!” Katie shouts from where she’s sitting in a lounge chair with a chicken tender paused near her mouth. “Come sit by me!”

The luxurious suite is gorgeous and decorated in an array of muted grays, browns, and creams. Television screens are mounted in several locations, so guests don’t miss a minute of the action. There are three types of seating with modern leather chairs arranged around glass coffee tables like where Katie is sitting. Eric and his buddy are sitting in taller chairs at a bar top style table where they are looking out over the arena. There are also rows of regular stadium seats past those and down a few steps. 

“Hey, Bella.” With a glass of wine in hand, Rose hugs me, then Al and Garrett. “I’m so glad you guys could make it. Al, you are stunning.”

“You think?” He beams with her admiration.

Garrett adds, “Thanks for inviting us, Rose.”

“No problem. I didn’t know you two liked hockey until Bella mentioned it.”

“Oh, we’re big fans.” Al’s head bobs with excitement, but the four of us know it isn’t the hockey part, but the up-close view of the players they didn’t want to miss.

Rose waves toward the buffet area. “There should be plenty to eat, so help yourselves.”

The suite is complete with a kitchen that has a refrigerator, ice machine, and sink. We look over the selections arranged on the countertops. With Rose involved, I’m not surprised to find such a variety of food and drink options, because she probably had a hand in making tonight’s arrangements. There are plenty of fan friendly foods like hotdogs, chicken tenders, nachos, and popcorn. But there are also other dishes, all with Mexican touches, like quinoa salad, fajitas, and street corn. Everything looks delicious, but I’m a little nervous. Being here for the first time as Edward’s girlfriend, I know moderation is key and select a bit of salad with a small glass of wine, then sit next to Katie at her urging.

“When we’re finished eating, we can go watch Uncle Edward warm up,” Katie says, moving to sit on her knees.

Rose nods. “Everyone is welcome to watch the game from up here since there’s plenty of space, but Edward also got us six tickets on the glass to share. We normally trade out when we have a big group like tonight. Plus, it gives everyone a chance to eat. I thought the first group could be you, Al, Garrett, Mom, Katie, and me. Em and Mom are still at Austin’s basketball game. She texted a little while ago that it was running late. So they may not get here before the game starts.”

In my new role as Edward’s girlfriend, I hope to deepen my relationships with his family and plan on making every effort tonight. While I normally speak with Rose about the kids, I notice Eric and his friend walking to refill their plates and seize the opportunity. 

“Hey, Eric. How did your hockey game go this afternoon?” 

“Uh, good.” His ears pink slightly at my question.

“They won, and he scored two goals,” Rose says proudly.

“Congratulations. That’s fantastic.”

His shrugs and looks down, and I hope I haven’t embarrassed him, but he softly mumbles, “Thanks.”

Rose lowers her voice. “Dad got thrown out for yelling at the officials again—not physically, but he was asked to leave the rink or Eric’s team would receive an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.”

“Grandpa said they didn’t know sh—”

“Ah-ah-ah. Don’t repeat that word Katie.” Rose shakes her head. “Dad went upstairs to the restaurant where he could watch the game from the viewing area and wouldn’t be heard. There were some cheap shots and missed calls, but you can’t forget they’re kids, even though Eric’s playing up.”

“Playing up?” Garrett asks between bites.

“Two years older than his age. Even though Eric’s in fourth grade, because of his size and skills, he’s on a team of mostly sixth graders.”

“Wow. Eric, what position do you play?” Al asks.

“I’m a forward.”

“Center,” Rose clarifies then adds. “He’s fast, but a bit of an agitator with too many penalty minutes this season.”

“Grandpa says you can’t score from the box,” Katie says mockingly, then sticks out her tongue when Rose isn’t looking.

Eric’s eyes narrow on her. “Shut it, Katie.”

“Eric,” Rose warns, “don’t talk to your sister like that.”

“She’s provoking me,” he complains.

Rose’s focus shifts to her daughter. “Katherine Grace.” 

“But none of those were bad words,” Katie protests.

“Stop parroting your grandfather. Now.” Rose lowers her voice, giving her a warning look that ends the argument. 

“Well, I would love to see one of your games, Eric,” I suggest.

“You would?”

“Absolutely.”

“Dr. Bella, you can come to my ice skating lessons and watch me too. My backward crossovers are the best in my class. Right, Mama?”

Rose only nods, but her slight smile puts one firmly back on Katie’s lips. Any underlying tension between mother and daughter evaporates instantly.

“It sounds like a wonderful idea. Let me know your next games or lessons, and I would love to tag along.”

Once the five of us finish eating, Al and Garrett grab fresh beers, and we make our way down to the seats at ice level.

“This must be what heaven looks like,” Al marvels at the players.

“Honey, don’t drool. You’ll mess up your face paint,” Garrett teases.

“Dr. Bella, look! It’s Uncle Edward.” Katie stands on her seat and waves her arms until he notices us.

My heart always flutters at the sight of him, but there’s something special about seeing him in uniform and ready to play. Edward finishes stretching, then glides over to where we’re sitting in one of the corners with a perfect view of the goal. Since he’s wearing his helmet, I can only see his eyes, but they find mine, and he winks. He taps the glass with his stick and points for Katie to go to the bench.

She nods. “Mama?”

“I saw. You can go, but be careful around the other fans over there. They won’t see you.”

“Okay.”

Rose doesn’t take her eyes off Katie as she walks along the seats and past the fans hoping to get the players’ attention with their homemade signs and pleas for a puck. Edward skates alongside her on the other side of the glass. When she gets close to the bench, Edward speaks with one of the equipment guys, and he tosses a puck over the barrier. Another fan catches it, and Edward points with his stick for the fan to hand it to Katie. With the puck in her hand, Edward follows along the glass until she returns to our seats. 

Grinning from ear-to-ear, she offers me the puck. “This is for you, Dr. Bella.”

There’s a piece of white hockey tape around the outside of the puck with handwriting indicating today’s date and the words “DOC’S 1ST GAME.”

I look up to find Edward’s eyes on me and grin, shouting, “Thank you.” 

He nods and gives me a look that nearly turns me into mush. I’m dazed, watching as he skates toward the net and starts drills with the team.

“Holy smokes.” Garrett’s voice is the first to pull me from my Edward fog.

Al chuckles. “They’re going to melt the ice at this rate.”

“We should notify the building manager,” Garrett jokes.

“You know, Bella. It’s my first game,” Al says between snickers. 

“Mine too,” Garrett adds, pointing toward the players’ bench. “I guess our pucks got lost somewhere behind the bench.”

“Very funny, you two.”

“I think a visit to the fan shop could be necessary. Gare, can you watch my beer? I should check and see if they have any toothbrushes in the team’s colors for a friend.” Al pins me with a look that says there’s no way I’m not staying over at Edward’s tonight, reminding me of our earlier conversation.

Katie’s eyes light up. “Mama! Do they have those?”

“I don’t know.”

“Can I go check too?” she pleads with a puppy-eyed look that no one could refuse.

“Sure, but stay with Al.”

Katie’s smile widens as she focuses on him. “I like your hair. Did you do it yourself?”

“Yes.”

She reaches out barely touching the green spikes. “The glitter makes it special. Do you think you could do mine sometime?”

Al’s expression softens and he smiles. “I would love to.”

“Maybe in purple. Can I call you Uncle Al?”

He’s caught off guard by her request, but recovers quickly. “I’d be honored. Let’s go shop, Lil’ Miss.” 

Al offers his hand to Katie, and they disappear hand-in-hand up the steps, leaving us to watch the players continue with warm ups, but my eyes are always drawn to Edward. 

Rose clears her throat, getting my attention. “I would ask how it’s going, but after your earlier exchange, there’s little doubt.”

I watch with amazement as Edward stops pucks with the occasional clink off the goal posts. Rose and Garrett discuss various players until she gets a text that Em is here. He lets her know that her mother will be on her way to sit with us after she eats. 

The players finish their warm ups, returning to the locker room, but with their departure, our dedicated shoppers return. Al hands me a small bag that a quick look reveals a team toothbrush, but Katie is overflowing with excitement about the purchases in her bag, giving us a brief show and tell. 

“I got a toothbrush too, Dr. Bella. We bought tattoos.”

“They’re temporary, skin safe decals,” Al reassures when Rose’s gaze narrows.

“I need to put one on now. Uncle Al, will you help me?” she asks, handing him the package.

“Sure.”

With “D” tattoos on both cheeks, Katie asks hopefully, “Do you want one, Dr. Bella?” 

“Uh . . .” Before I can object, Al sticks one to my cheek. “Thanks.”

“Oh! Guess what else we bought? Nail polish with stickers. Look, Mama, there’s green and silver, then you add these little Ds and pucks.”

“Katie, you’re not to open that here.”

“Uncle Al said we have to wait until we go back up to the suite to do my nails.” Katie’s vibrating in her seat. “Isn’t this the best day, Dr. Bella?”

I glance at the puck in my hand, then slide it into the bag with my new toothbrush that I hope I’ll need later, and agree easily. “Yes. One of the best.”

“Uncle Garrett, I got us bracelets.” She pulls one from her bag and hands it to him. “I already have mine on, see?” She pushes back the long sleeve of her green team shirt to reveal a green, white, and black bead bracelet. “Put yours on and we’ll be twins.”

I think he’s more stunned by her use of Uncle Garrett than the bracelet, because when I glance over at Al, he’s beaming from ear-to-ear.

“I got you a hat too, Uncle Garrett.” Al places a green baseball cap on Garrett’s head. “Katie said if there’s a hat trick, then everyone throws their hat on the ice. I’m sure we would all enjoy watching you throw your hat.”

Garrett is the farthest thing from an athlete, and Al’s playful jabs at his less than stellar throwing skills leave all of us chuckling with laughter.

“You’re lucky I love you,” he warns. 

“I am, but don’t worry, I’ll paint your nails too,” Al promises with a wink.

Garrett smiles. “I can’t wait.”

The arena is packed by the time Edward’s team takes the ice again. After they announce the starting line ups and the singing of our National Anthem, the puck drops at center ice and we’re underway. Someone catches Katie’s eye after the first whistle, and she’s standing on her seat, waving both arms. 

“Grandma! Over here!”

Everyone looks up to find an usher guiding Esme toward our seats. Her face lights up when she sees Katie. We all stand and shuffle our places so Esme can sit between Rose and me.

“Mom! You made it.”

“We did—finally. Hi, Bella. How are you?”

“I’m good.”

“That’s not what I hear. According to my son, you’re great.” She grins, nudging my elbow.

There’s no keeping the smile from my face over the fact that she’s heard about me from Edward rather than Rose.

“Sorry, I would have been down sooner, but I wanted to hear about Eric’s game and couldn’t resist a glass of wine. Or two. I can’t believe your father.”

“You know him. Em said Austin’s team lost,” Rose confirms.

Esme nods. “It was a close one. How are we doing here?”

Rose looks on as play continues. “Edward’s busy, but we’re taking a lot of shots on the other end. I’m hoping we’ll land one soon.”

Conversations continue around me, and I only partially listen to both. Katie is chatting nonstop about anything and everything while sitting between her newly deemed uncles. Rose and Esme catch up on the boys’ games today. But my focus is on my favorite goaltender who stands at the ready until a loud horn blasts, and the fans around me erupt in a thunderous celebration. I stand with everyone else and watch the overhead monitor, replaying the goal. A heavy metal song booms throughout the arena with everyone screaming. The excitement is contagious and soon I’m shouting with them.

Unfortunately, the excited buzzing fades when Chicago shoots and scores on Edward as the puck trickles between his legs. While most watch the replay overhead, I watch him as he pushes up his helmet and squirts water in the air for a moment then his mouth. My heart surges with excitement at the sight of him. He’s sweaty, intense, and undeniably sexy. All too soon, he pulls his mask back over his face and takes his position, ready to play. When the horn sounds at the end of the first period, he smacks his stick back and forth against both goal posts. He glances in our direction before skating toward the bench where he steps off the ice and disappears from view.

In an excited rush, we return to the suite. Once we arrive, I select another glass of wine while Katie makes a beeline for the cookies, but insists her “uncles” find a good spot to do their nails. Rose tugs me along to greet the packed room, which includes the general manager of the team, Royce King Jr.—I’m sure my eyes bug out when Rose explains who he is and that his father owns the team. Even though he’s friendly, he seems more interested in speaking with Rose than me. After a bit of small talk, he waves to the rest of the group and departs our suite.

Rose and I continue moving through the room. I’m introduced to an interesting mix of people who know the Cullens in a variety of ways. Some are fellow hockey families from other suites and others know Edward from working with him at some point in his career. I’ll never keep all their names straight, but I’m welcomed into their hockey family. His former coaches and fellow players from his days in youth hockey all promise me stories about Edward as a young goaltender. I’m impressed by the members of the group from various charitable programs working in partnership with Edward and the team. They sing his praises for his work off the ice, and that’s something I could see myself being more involved with in the future.

I hit it off with a hockey wife, Deedee, but she apologizes when she’s pulled away to speak with someone else. I have no idea who she’s married to on the team, but look forward to the chance of getting to know her. Rose tells me she’s one of the good ones, and I tuck that information away for later to ask Edward about her.

When I notice Carlisle sitting by himself in the stadium seats overlooking the ice, I leave Rose to say hello since I missed speaking with him earlier.

“Hi, Carlisle.”

“Hey, Bella.”

“Is this seat taken?” I point toward the one next to him.

“Help yourself. Are you enjoying the game?”

“It’s amazing. I’ve watched a few on television, but this is such a different and incredible experience. How did you think Edward played?”

“It was definitely not one of his best periods.” He pauses to sip from his glass of beer, then his eyes find mine. “I hope he settles down for the second.”

I’m surprised by his take, since I thought we were watching the same game, and I wouldn’t say he’s made any major errors that I can tell. 

Carlisle clears his throat, and I can tell there’s something he wants to say, but he takes his time choosing his next words.

“Es says that you and Edward are dating.”

I shrug. “We’ve been out on a couple of dates. I’m enjoying getting to know him.”

Carlisle is quiet for a moment, looking below as the two Zamboni drivers prepare the ice for the next period, then he shifts his gaze toward me. “Are you sure that’s a good idea?”

I’m taken aback by his question. “What do you mean?”

He removes his team hat, scratching his head, then pulls it lower, securing it in place. “Bella, you’re Rose’s boss. Katie is enamored with everything about you. If this doesn’t work out, Edward wouldn’t be the only one hurt. He hasn’t dated anyone who is already so invested in his family. I would hate to see that have a negative impact on his career or our family.”

I’m stunned by his reservations, and it stings a little that he wastes no time reminding me that “our family” doesn’t include me. 

“Well, despite what you may think, I’m Rose’s friend first, and the feeling is mutual with Katie. I adore her. I would never do anything to hurt any of them.”

Carlisle nods. “Edward told his agent recently that when his contract is up at the end of the season, he wants to stay in Dallas, not necessarily to play hockey. As someone who has supported him throughout the ups and downs of his career, I worry his current decision may have something to do with you.”

I chuckle slightly at the absurdity of me having any type of influence on Edward after spending only a month together. I’m also disappointed Carlisle doesn’t give his son credit for wanting to be near his family when the opportunity is within his reach. Before I can voice my concerns, Carlisle continues.

“Edward is playing at a level that is unmatched by any other backup goalie in the league. It puts him in a great position, and as his father, it would be heartbreaking to see him give up his dreams at this point in his career—especially for a . . . relationship.”

I take a deep breath to compose my spinning thoughts at his implications. “You don’t think Dallas will win the Cup this year?”

He shrugs. “They have as good of a chance as anyone right now as they’re playing great hockey. But I know this sport, and we’re only at the beginning of the season. There is a lot of hockey left to play. It can all change when you least expect it—injuries, slumps . . . girlfriends. Edward is a man of routine. It’s brought him to a level of success that few experience. But you’re different, Bella, and he knows it.”

I don’t know Edward’s history, but I take the opportunity to defend his choices, which now includes my place in his life. “Maybe that’s been the problem with his past on and off the ice. No one can repeat the same things over and over and expect different results. Life doesn’t work like that. Maybe different is a good thing.”

My thoughts drift to my own career situation—how I’m pushing for something different for myself, knowing the time for doing the same thing is over. It’s risky and nerve-racking. But when I think about Edward and our relationship, I wonder if maybe . . . maybe there’s a chance I’m exactly what he needs.

“I suppose we’ll see,” he says with skepticism and finishes his beer.

It’s not the vote of support I was hoping for from Carlisle, but I can appreciate his concerns. No one can predict the longevity of any career or relationship, but I’m determined to give this one my best shot. I would hate to lose Rose’s friendship or my special bond with Katie.

At Rose’s insistence, I return to watch the game from the seats at ice level with Emmett, Austin, Eric, and their buddies for the second period. I sit between Emmett and Eric, but there’s little small talk and mostly game talk, as they all follow the game closely. I can’t see Edward easily, since he’s on the other end of the ice. The crowd roars when he makes a save on one of Chicago’s top players that Emmett describes as phenomenal. I watch it on the overhead screen and beam with pride over his success. I don’t return to the suite at the end of the second period, but navigate my way through the crowds to locate a bathroom nearby. 

Rose, Esme, Katie, Al, and Garrett are waiting when I return for the third period. I can’t stop smiling at Katie’s new manicure, and I notice Garrett’s matches with alternating green and silver fingernails. I’m happy to find Edward back on this end of the ice, and spend most of my time just watching him.

Edward makes another fantastic save, but this one goes under review by Chicago’s request, and could put them in the lead. We’re all on the edge of our seats and thrilled when the official announces the call on the ice stands of “no goal.” When the horn sounds at the end of the game, the teams are still tied and we all catch our breaths as everyone prepares for overtime. Despite several attempts from both teams and an exciting breakaway by one of Chicago’s best players, which Edward blocks easily, overtime also ends without any resolution. 

According to Rose, a shootout is next. I don’t know the player who shoots for Dallas first, but he scores, while Edward blocks the other team’s first attempt. I recognize Tyler who shoots next and scores, bringing the fans to their feet once again. We all remain standing to watch the next attempt by the visiting team. Esme says if Edward blocks this one, we win. We’re all holding our breath as the Chicago player skates toward Edward, but the shot goes off the goal post, and the home team wins to everyone’s delight. Rose says with that win, they are on a six-game winning streak.

We return to the suite, sharing a final round of hugs and goodbyes. The mood is victorious with promises to do it all again soon. Edward’s family and friends depart for the VIP parking garage. I make a quick stop in the bathroom, checking how I look in the mirror. After leaving my cheek tattoo from Katie behind, I walk toward the direction of the locker room. Upon my arrival, the security guard verifies my name on the list, then I join the waiting area full of family and friends. With few uncrowded areas, I lean against one of the walls while I wait.

With little else to think about, my thoughts return to my earlier conversation about Carlisle’s concerns. I knew this wouldn’t be easy, but as Rose says no relationship ever is. I think we’re both in this for the right reasons, and there’s no denying the spark I always feel whenever I’m around Edward. 

After about twenty minutes, the first players depart. Some of them look incredibly young with their baby faces and full sets of teeth. I don’t know most of the players as they pass, but quite a few seem to have an idea of who I am, as several call me Doc or Bella. One even stops and introduces himself as Marcus Volturiski, and mentions his wife, Deedee. I recognize her name as the hockey wife I met earlier in the suite. He explains they are new to the team after moving over the summer from California and live in Edward’s neighborhood. Marcus is friendly and shares that he hopes I’ll be at future games. I return brief hellos with Ben, Tyler, and James as they pass. James pauses to reassure me that Edward shouldn’t be much longer, as I’m almost the only one left waiting other than the bustling building crew. When Edward finally appears moments later, he spies me easily and walks straight to where I’m waiting. 

“Congratulations.” My hands glide over the silky dress shirt tucked neatly at his waist.

“Thanks.” Edward wraps me in a hug, smelling freshly showered and every bit of delicious. He pulls back slightly, planting a kiss on my waiting lips. “Sorry, media took longer than I anticipated tonight. Let’s get out of here before they ask me to turn off the lights.”

“Okay.” I chuckle, but keep my arm around his waist as we depart through a side door and walk toward his truck.

“Did you have fun?” he asks, grinning when our eyes meet.

“Yes, I did. It was great. Thank you.”

“Good.”

Once I’m settled into the passenger side, he stands at my open door and can’t keep his lips off mine. 

“I’m glad you’re here,” Edward says between kisses, sending my heart racing as he always does.

“Me, too.”