Friday, August 20, 2010

New Story!

I've got a new story just starting to post! A little something breezy for the end of summer. It started out as a one shot, but what can I say? My imagination wants to run away with Kris Letang.

New Story: It Had Better Be Tonight

If you need some inspiration, join the Yahoo! Group Hockey Fantasy Fiction and check out the photos of Kris modeling at a fashion show, posted by the amazingly generous Rebelheart87. Warning: Wear a helmet, you may fall over.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Up Next, New Projects!

Now that the this story is done (whew!) I've got a few new things working:

Back to You
I used to have a wicked crush on Alex Tanguay, so now that he's back in Calgary I got inspired to write something about him. I know next to nothing about the Flames, but I think it's turning out pretty well (so far).

(One) Shot Through the Heart
Usually for contest entries, a little spot to collect single edition stories. So far, main characters include Joe Thornton and Kris Letang.

And it's been rolling for a while, but there's lots more to come on The Rule, starring Max Talbot, Jordan Staal and my very overactive imagination.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Epilogue: Near Misses and Happy Endings

“My name is Max and I’m the Best Man. I’m also the Maid of Honor. So if I have a few more drinks, I might need to make another toast later.”

I held Kris’ hand under the table. This was the last question mark of the night – the only thing left that could possibly go wrong. Not that I didn’t trust Max. I just maybe didn’t trust Max’s sense of humor.

Everything else was done, and done beautifully. Kris and I were married in Montreal. Everyone came. It was June, just six months since he’d proposed. Or wait till next off-season, he’d pointed out. We picked the last Saturday, just in case the Pens went to the Cup final again. Sadly that was not to be this year. The team was out of the race in early May and everyone left feeling disappointed and sad. But they’d gotten over it big time and had chosen our wedding as a substitute celebration. Geno even came from Russia with a +2 for his parents.

Sidney and Marc were Kris’ groomsmen; Cara and Vero were my bridesmaids in emerald green. Jordan acted as ring bearer, with all the delight of the usual 5 year old who has the job. TK settled for being an usher, so we gave Taylor his spot as flower girl. I wore a strapless gown with an impressive row of buttons down the back - Kris insisted there were exactly 58 of them. He dazzled in a black tux with a red rose in the lapel.

It was my idea to share Max. Kris wanted him as Best Man. I wanted him on my side as well. So we gave him the joint task of standing up for both of us at our wedding. There were tears in his eyes when he said yes.

“For almost two years, I lived with Kris and Kahlan. I think it’s fair to say that no one knows them better than I do. And I can tell you, they are really something special. Never have two people in love had such a tough time getting together. Kris, mon ami, waited a year and half before telling Kahlan that he loved her. So shy!”

Kris squeezed my hand now, embarrassed by the attention. Everyone laughed softly.

“But Kris always knew that Kahlan was the one for him. Now Kahlan….”

Oh God, I steeled myself.

“Kahlan, she could have had anyone. In fact if you read the paper, or watch TV or have the internet, you may have seen one of the ones I’m talking about….”

Much bigger laughter. At the main table, Sidney theatrically put his head down onto his arms. Somewhere across the room I surely heard Troy groan.

“But in the end, Kahlan knew what was in her heart and she made the right choice. The only choice. Kahlan and Kris agreed to love each other, fearlessly and forever.”

A hundred people tapped their forks to their glasses at once. Max paused so Kris and I could kiss.

“Now, a best friend might worry. A lesser man might think he’d be left out when they got together. But they saw fit to honor me with the role of speaking for them both at their wedding. For that, I thank you.”

Is it over? Did we make it? I’d never been so nervous.

“For Kris and Kahlan, today means the beginning of their lives together. For everyone else, it means watch out: Max Talbot is back on the market!”

Max, looking sultry and dangerous in a black tux, was in his glory as his captive audience howled. He gave me a wink just to make sure I was still female enough to register his sexiness. I was. And I was not alone. Every woman in the place got a little faint at the idea.

“Let me conclude by saying that I wish the two of you happiness and comfort. You are my best friends. In my heart you will always be the most beautiful couple in the world…”

He didn’t stop, but I felt him slow ever so slightly…

“… I should know. I have seen you both naked.”

Jordan stood. He may have known it was coming, maybe not, but he leapt up. Sidney was right behind, followed by every single Penguins player in attendance. Geno stood next to his bewildered, seated parents. TK, Coach, Billy G – they all gave Max a standing ovation. And us, I thought. They’re applauding for us. Everyone laughed so loud that Max had to wait before he could continue. Then he raised his glass and the rest of the guests came to their feet.

“To near misses and happy endings,” Max said. “To Kahlan and Kris.”

“Five minutes,” Kris laughed.

“I can’t wait any longer!” I pleaded, putting my bag down on the scale. The airline agent wrapped a tag around the handle and hauled it away.

“When we get to the gate, you’ll know.” He wouldn’t even give up my boarding pass. I followed him through security, through the terminal. We finally reached our wing and he stopped in the middle of the aisle.

“I love you, Mrs. Letang,” he smiled uncontrollably.

“I love you, husband,” I returned the grin. It made me giddy to say it out loud.

“This is the last trip you’ll ever take with your old last name on your passport. I just wanted to make sure you remembered the new one.”

He went two gates up and made a sweeping motion with one arm: Montego Bay, Jamaica. I jumped on top of him, almost taking him to the ground. I figured everyone around us was thinking the same thing as I kissed his face off in the middle of the airport: Honeymooners.

Five days later, the doorbell rang. The doorbell to the house Kris rented for our month-long honeymoon. Ridiculous, I still thought all the time. I’m living in a dream. Then something woke me up.

“We are here!” Max bowled through the door. Sidney, Marc, Vero, Cara, Jordan and TK were hot on his heels. They must have dropped their stuff at their house – right next door – because they were all ready for the beach. Cara and Vero ran right into me, arms open.

“Mrs. Letang!” they both shouted.

“Are you still sure this is okay? I mean, we are on your honeymoon. We’re all on it,” Cara said, like she’d hide next door for a week if we wanted privacy.

“We’ve been here a week then two more after you leave. I think we can manage! Plus, I can barely walk. I need a break.” We giggled like teenagers and hugged some more. I hugged everyone. The last six months I’d been happier than I ever thought possible.

“Remember, it was all my idea,” Vero said proudly. She’d immediately thought of the plane tickets Sidney gave everyone for Christmas and suggested to Kris we use them, greatly extended, for our honeymoon. Then they could all visit.

“Someone should get married every summer!” TK said loudly, looking at Marc.

Everyone sat on the huge veranda, sipping beers and watching the sunset. First day slightly-pink sunburns showed on noses and shoulders. I went inside to get more drinks. Sidney leaned against the fridge door as I dug around.

“When I imagined your honeymoon, Kay, I wasn’t sharing you with anyone,” he said, smiling.

“Oh partycrasher. Just wait till you get married.”

The night was beautifully warm, waves rolling like background music. I sat between Kris’ legs in a lounge chair and leaned back against his chest. We stayed outside till we were nearly asleep, soaking up the heat and reveling in relaxation. Sidney dropped off first, then woke quickly and said he was going to bed. Jordan and Cara were ready too, and Marc and Vero were barely awake. Even TK was rubbing his eyes. Kris went to get them extra pillows from our spare room. I leaned on the railing, looking out over the moonlit beach.

“Happy, Tanger?” Max asked, standing just far enough away.

“Happy, Max,” I answered. And I was. I’d somehow escaped catastrophe and ended up with everything I wanted in life. Most of what I cared for in the world was in these two houses.

“And I’m happy for you,” he agreed. “Gonna get pretty lonely around here soon. Marc’s going to ask Vero to marry him before we leave here.”

I gasped then tried unsuccessfully to stifle a squeal. She’d been waiting, they’d been waiting, we’d all been waiting.

“We’ll have another epic love story to celebrate by week’s end.” Max’s smile was a little sad. I gave up pretending we cared about being appropriate and wrapped him into a big hug.

“Max, you will find her. Or now that you’re back on the market, maybe she’ll find you,” I said quietly. When he raised his head from my shoulder, the melancholy had mostly passed.

“I hope she is like you, Kay. Only a little easier to win over.” I socked him in the arm and we laughed.

Kris came back through the house, out onto the deck. He took my hand in his.

“Everybody happy?” he asked.

“Very,” Max said. “Goodnight guys.”

“Good night, Max,” we both said. Max walked inside, leaving Kris and I holding hands in the dark.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Chapter 25 - Finally

Thank God, Kris thought. Thank God.

He quietly moved from his knees to the bed and gathered her in. Kahlan put her legs over his, wrapping into his body, and snuggled against him as closely as she could. For ten minutes, nothing would come but tears. He held on as sobs wracked her body, ripping away what little strength she had left. Kris knew when all the tears were gone, when all her pent up emotions had drained away, there’d be a clean, sturdy place where they could build their life together.

I tried to stop crying but I was so, so tired. Hysterical sobbing is not the typical response to a marriage proposal from the man you love. After everything that had happened, I was relieved, exhilarated, comforted. But I was also completely spent. Kris just held me, like he was trying to absorb my pain, trying to heal me. In those first few minutes, I knew I would never want for anything the rest of my life.

When I finally stopped crying, Kris laid me down, covered me and climbed into bed. We were fully dressed. I couldn’t even remember if I’d showered during my two day shut-in at Cara’s. He didn’t seem to care as he pulled me close.

“Je t’aime, Kahlan.”

“Je t’aime, Kristopher.”

“You know the word fiancée is French.” I could hear him smiling.

“But only one ‘e’ for you, fiancé,” I said.

He cuddled closer, his breath on my neck. “My fiancée is so smart.”

A little giggle got away from me. Then another. Fiancée?! Half an hour ago I was sure he wanted me dead. Now Kris Letang is my fiancée. More laughing.

“You may also be crazy, belle,” he said into my hair.

“You’re stuck with me now,” I stifled my laughter. Fatigue quickly overwhelmed me and for only the second time ever, I fell asleep in Kris’ arms.

The morning came late – we slept till after 10 AM. When I finally woke, feeling pummeled but hopeful, Kris was still attached to me. I lay as still as possible. The word fiancée still bounced around my mind.

In the quiet, I thought of Max. He’d be so sad. He had given me so much. But I knew that Max was also hoping to find forever, he just wasn’t quite there yet. I wasn’t sure I had been there, just the night before. I hoped something wonderful would happen so quickly for Max, to give him what he deserved. Maybe I’d wanted it to be me. Now I just wanted it for him, for his sake. Leaving the house would be hard. But not seeing Max every day would be harder. I said a little prayer that he would still want to see me, would still accept the role of my best friend. We’d promised it to each other countless times. I hoped he would keep his word.

I rolled to face Kris. He slept like an angel – or a puppy or a little kid. Absolute peace. His hair was everywhere, I brushed it from his face and helped myself to all the beauty I could handle. Mine, all mine. Always. Kris woke to find me looking at him. A smile immediately came to his face and his lips to mine.

“Good morning, fiancée,” he said into my mouth. I laughed again.

Instantly it was very clear that Kris and I still had never had sex. How I’d not thought of that once over the past 10 hours seemed insane. The amount of clothing between us was equivalent to a snow suit, but the heat from Kris’ body and the soft spoon of the mattress were almost intoxicating. This was as private as we were going to get.

“Let’s stay here tonight,” I said. “I promise not to cry, and I promise to take a shower. You have waited so long, please let me make it something worth waiting for.”

He gave me a lopsided grin. “So long, belle. You’d better make it really good.”

Max’s car was in the driveway. Kris had agreed to wait half an hour before coming home. I was on my own for this. I let myself in, looked around and knocked on his bedroom door.

“Come in,” he said. It was almost Noon but he was still in bed. He must have known by the fact I hadn’t come back last night. He must have felt it in his heart. But his voice wasn’t really sad. It was just Max. I pulled the curtain a sliver, letting light stream against the far wall. Then I sat on the empty half of the bed. My half, I thought.

“So what happened?” His look was as even as his voice – not hopeful, but not defeated.

“I said yes.”

He exhaled then sat very, very still for a long time. I didn’t move either. My brain played the Max Talbot highlight reel – laughing, cuddling, cheering at games, dancing. None of the sex or crying made the list.

“I am very happy for you, cherie,” he said at last. “You have made the right choice.”

My voice broke a little. “I’m so sorry, Max. I love you so much. I always will. But Kris is the one for me. I should have seen it long ago and I could have saved us all from this.”

He slowly ran his thumb along the underside of my forearm. “Kahlan, I would not have really believed you without all this. You fought so hard, against yourself and us – I know you really love me. It’s better, knowing that. And I got to fight for you too.

“I may have lost, but at least I didn’t give up.” His eyes met mine and he gave me an honest smile. I saw sadness in him, but also something else. Pride maybe, or resolution. And friendship.

“Can you still be my best friend?” I asked. Not ‘will you’, but ‘can you?’ Can you forgive me, can you look at me, can you still love me just a little?

“Always,” he said. I slid up into his arms and gave him a big hug. For the first time my body didn’t melt at his touch. Well maybe a little – he was half-naked and half-asleep. But my dialed-down response told me that we would get past this, we would be strong again.

“So you’re marrying Kris. Guess you’ll be moving out of here?” I nodded.

“Time for a place of my own,” he looked around the darkened room. “Time to grow up, I think.”

There was a team meeting at 3 PM to watch some videotape. Max insisted that I get Kris, come to the Mellon and tell everyone the good news. I was nervous – it still felt so fragile, like saying it out loud might make it disappear. What if something went wrong before tomorrow, or next week? Before we could actually get married? What if I truly did suck at life, despite Kris’ belief otherwise and I ruined this again? Kris wasn’t hearing it.

“I am marrying you. That’s final.” He couldn’t keep a straight face as he pretended to threaten me. “But first I am going to tell everyone all about it.”

We showed up one minute early. I felt conspicuous, so I lagged in the hallway as long as I could. Everyone knew that something was wrong from the way Kris and Max both acted the day before. Didn’t take a genius to figure out that I was the problem. But Kris strode right in, saying hello, like nothing out of the ordinary had happened. He talked to a few people until finally they started coming to attention. I turned at the sound of footsteps. It was Max, with a big smile on his face. He pulled me in and kissed my temple.

“I’m going to start calling you Tanger now.”

Kris came out. He and Max didn’t slow, they just gave each other a big hug. Hockey players, they love to hug, I thought. I was so relieved to see them happy together that I almost started to cry. Then Kris came for me.

“Ready, belle?” I bit my lip and nodded. He grabbed my hand and led me right in. Even Coach was there.

“Uh oh,” Bylsma said.

Without any introduction, Kris simply announced, “I want to tell you all that Kahlan and I are getting married.”

One second passed. Then the place went bananas. Jordan knocked over his chair getting to me and swung me around. I was wobbly when he put me down, just to be grabbed by Geno and twirled again. He dumped me, really dizzy, right into Flower’s arms.

“Kahlan, I am so happy for you,” he said, all French and smiling. I kissed him on the cheek. “Now I am really in trouble, I’d better ask Vero to marry me quickly!”

I hugged the whole team. TK felt my stomach for a baby. Sidney laughed and pulled me into the biggest hug I’ve ever had in my whole life.

“You made the right choice. Well, other than me, obviously,” he held my face close to his. “You deserve it. Let him love you.” I almost started to cry, my forehead pressed to Sid’s. He just smiled, then he took my left hand and raised it into the air.

“Kris, what is this? Where I come from, a girl’s not engaged until she’s wearing a ring. Does this mean I still have a chance?”

I might have panicked, but Kris had a huge smile on his face.

“I brought the ring,” Max said from the front of the room. He held up Kris’ Stanley Cup ring.

Kris wrapped his arms around me from behind and pushed me toward the front. I was laughing and crying, everyone was cheering.

“It’s the only ring I have,” he said, taking it from Max. I held out my hand and he slid it onto my ring finger. Then off and back onto my ring and pinky fingers pushed together.

“Fits perfectly, for now,” he said. Then he kissed me, big time, in front of everyone.

They all lost it. Someone threw a stack of papers into the air. Jordan whistled loud enough to rattle the windows. Or at least that’s what people would tell me later. I couldn’t hear a thing.

I went back to the house while they worked. I got cleaned up, packed a bag then went to the mall and bought every single thing in Victoria’s Secret. Everything. I took it to the hotel, dumped it out on the bed and laughed for half and hour.

“Cara!” I shouted when she answered the phone. “Kris and I are getting married!”

She screamed. “For fuck’s sake, Kahlan. Thank God that’s over!”

It took her and Vero each fifteen minutes to get there. Vero was winded when she pounded on my door. “I couldn’t wait for the elevator, I ran up the stairs,” she shouted, throwing herself on me. “I am so happy for you! And for Kris. Ohhh Kris!” She wrung me like a rag doll then took in the pile of lingerie on the bed. “What is all this?”

Cara came in then, repeated the hugging and shouting, then we all stood in front of the small mountain of lace and straps.

“Jesus Kay, don’t kill him before you’re married,” Cara said.

“I couldn’t decide! I couldn’t even think. I got measured and then bought everything they had in my size.”

Vero and Cara sorted through. Every few minutes a bra or slip flew through the air in my direction. When they were done, I had 12 things in my hands. It would have been a stretch to call them outfits.

“Let Kris pick from those,” Vero smiled wickedly. “The rest are for the honeymoon… honeymoon. Oh my God you know what you should…,” she clamped a hand over her mouth. “No! I will talk to Kris.”

“Want to go out to dinner?” Kris asked me on his way back from the arena. I was walking slowly to the hotel, trying not to ruin my still-damp pedicure.

“Want to order food and never leave the room?” I suggested. He laughed and hung up.

I wasn’t there when he arrived. Instead I left him a note on the door: Pick something. Twenty minutes later, I came back. He was blushing adorably and holding both hands behind his back.

“Black or white?” he asked.

“White.” Not exactly pure, I thought, but they even let brides wear white these days.

I handed Kris our takeout slip and sent him across the street to where I’d just ordered dinner. While he was gone, I put on the lingerie he’d chosen. It was a short, white slip with a black lace overlay. The silk stretched across my body like a second skin. I had to smile – it was beautiful and felt expensive. I tied the ribbon at the back then pulled a little black dress on over it. Good thing I went home to pack. I fixed my hair, put on a little makeup and waited.

Kris came back with two bags of food. I set the table as well as I could. From his bag, Kris pulled a bottle of wine. I filled the tumblers from the bathroom. We had steak and greens and potatoes. Kris pulled his chair next mine, both of us on one side of a round table. Then he raised his glass.

“To getting married,” he said.

“To forever,” I answered.

Dinner was exquisite – not just the food, but the tension between us. I took my time eating, drinking, even running my foot up the side of his calf like people do in the movies when they’re about to get it on. He growled at me. When the last of the wine was finally gone, Kris and I looked at each other for a long time. Then he laughed helplessly.

“Now I’m nervous!” he said.

“We’re supposed to be nervous our first time. Just like an old-fashioned married couple.” I broke the tension by draping an arm around his neck and kissing him.

That cured Kris’ nerves. He kissed me deeply and ran his hands, inch by inch, down my body. Kris had touched me before, but now I was his. I happily let him handle the merchandise. My hands were in his hair, pulling his face to mine, over his mind-numbing shoulders and the hard flat of his lower back. As my breathing started to slacken, Kris spun me around. Very slowly, he unzipped the back of my dress. Then he sifted it down, down until it was off my body. I turned to him as I stepped free of the tangle at my feet.

His eyes took in the lingerie he’d chosen. I could tell he did not regret his decision. As his eyes moved over my body I felt powerful, delirious. This was not just desire or lust, coupled with the strains of fear or despair I’d known before. This was all-consuming, victorious and joyful. He touched the lace and I melted into him.

We both moved very slowly. I left his shirt on a painfully long time, knowing I’d lose my mind once he was bare-chested. Kris had proven himself a saint before, but even he seemed to struggle against the pull. His hands slid up my thighs, raising the fabric, until they were at the hips of my panties. He pulled them down, slowly grazing my skin with the silky fabric. Then he straightened my slip back down and resumed kissing me.

“I like to know you’re not wearing any underwear,” he whispered heavily. “Drives me crazy.”

“Never wearing any ever again,” I agreed, thinking of the twenty or so pairs I’d just bought. Oh well!

He laughed into my hair and that was the last straw for me. I rolled, catching him by surprise, and straightened myself on top. Then I slid down his body, resting my chin on his belt buckle. I smiled at him but he looked ready to pounce. My palms slid beneath his shirt and pushed the hem up, kissing and licking and nipping across his abs as I went. When I reached his chest, he gave up and pulled the shirt over his head. My vision swam a little. All that creamy skin, hot to the touch, lying before me. Broad shoulders, defined muscles, taut waist. I had to pause a second and a little sigh puffed out of me.

“You are so beautiful,” I said. “You’re devastating.”

I kissed him a hundred times, maybe a thousand. His belt opened in my hand so I wasted no time unzipping his pants. When they were on the floor, he rolled back on top and stretched his entire body weight out across me. I felt like a sticker really in love with whatever it was stuck to.

He stood and I was instantly bereft. Then he wiggled me out of my lingerie, very careful not to tear it, and poured his eyes over my naked body. His gaze, so full of longing, made my a little dizzy. When he finally touched me, I gasped sharply.

Kris had touched me before, intimately. He’d made me orgasm. But this was different. All the bad stuff was gone and we were both in on it. His lips moved down my neck, across my chest and onto my breasts. His hands joined them. I fought the battle between hurry up and go slow as his tongue flicked my nipple taut. Then his mouth was on my stomach, the ticklish spot along my side. He passed onto my inner thigh, then further down my leg. After kissing the arch of my foot, he stood again.

It’s time. He was tremendously hard. I sat up before him and gently, slowly pulled the waistband of his shorts out and down. I had never seen Kris naked before, had never been this close to his body. Every light in the room was on and it still wasn’t enough to really appreciate him. My brain wanted to swoon. My body wanted to melt. I looked up at him and I smiled. Really genuinely smiled. I was like a cat in heat but I remembered to be happy too.

That lasted a second. Then I was stroking him, drawing my hands along the length of his cock as he mumbled something exquisite in French. My lips grazed his tip but I knew there’d be no time for that now. Next time. With a hand to my shoulder, Kris climbed on top of me. He ground his erection into the soft flesh of my thigh as he took his time kissing me. His hand moved in between us and when his fingers dipped between my legs, I felt him smile against my lips.

“Belle, you want this as much as I do,” he purred.

“More,” I panted. “Can’t wait… any longer….”

He smiled against my lips. “Since you finally asked so nicely….”

Kris pressed the head of his penis to my dripping, trembling skin for an impossibly long moment. I was like a balloon, taking infinitesimally more and more pressure just before popping. A ripple of anticipation passed visibly through my body.

He gave me just a little. A just the tip, barely parting my lips, just enough to know what was about to happen. Then, ever so slightly, more.

He’s some kind of ninja, I thought. This is some self-deprivation Zen mind-control fuckery. I must have been making a face, because he moved a bit more. Another half inch slipped inside. I spooled up a new litany of mental curses when he laughed quietly.

“Belle,” he whispered as he pushed all the way inside me.

You know the noise they play in movies when someone has an ‘a-ha!’ moment? It’s like a burst of light and a choir of angels singing? Fireworks, fog horns, laughter, the launch of the space shuttle?

That is what Kris felt like. Times a thousand.

I gasped as he poured into me like molten liquid. He filled every space, every breath of my body then stopped, perfectly fitted, for a moment. A tear slipped out. Kris brushed it away with his lips and looked into my eyes as he moved again. And again.

Kris’s body and mine were old friends, from some other life. They unlocked each others’ secrets. He moved and I moved and every time something new was created, something passed between us.

I twisted my hips, rolling myself down onto him. He slid into me, pressing all the pain and fear out of my body and filling it with heat, passion, love. As his arms wrapped around, I arched my back to feel him along every part of me. For years I’d been nursing the desire to touch and kiss his shoulders. I did not hold back.

My body trembled from the moment he was inside me. I writhed and gripped, greedily taking in more, again and again. When the sensation caught up with my brain, it sent chaos spiking through my veins. My core tensed. My arms locked. I fought it was hard as I could, pleading and praying to get one more deep stroke from his body. Finally, I lost.

I cried out. It wasn’t a word or a name, it was the sound of months of anguish leaving and light rushing in to fill its space. I saw stars. I held my breath. My body shot like a rocket – a huge release of tension and then a continued rumble. When finally the engines quit, I collapsed.

Kris was still, soaking up the sensation from my body as I squirmed and screamed. When he’d had all he could take, he angled himself down and pressed into me with everything he had. I held his head against my neck as he moaned, loud and low, and spilled all his anger and worry and love and happiness inside me. His orgasm met like waves of gratitude after so much pain.

We lay still for a very long while, drifting in and out of sleep. When Kris finally spoke, it was a whisper.

“Je t’aime, Kahlan.”

“Je t’aime, Kristopher.”

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Chapter 24 - Desperate

“Don’t look at me like you’re sympathetic! Just tell me I am an absolute whore with zero self-control who lies to everyone and deserves to die alone in a ditch dug by Sidney’s father and shoveled over by Max and Kris.”

Cara just stared at me, that vaguely understanding look still on her face.

“Hell Kahlan,” she said. “Is that the whole story?”

I had run from the house without a word, barely back in my pajamas, and pounded on her door in the middle of the night. I had a long scarf around my neck that I continually used to hide my face every time I revealed something.

“No,” I buried my face again. “It’s worse.”

“If you want me to hate you, I’m going to need to know why,” she prompted. “Full disclosure.”

I took a deep breath. “Way back in November, Sidney tried to kiss me. Then Max kissed me, then Kris kissed me. Then Sidney and I had sex in his room. Max and I had sex in the kitchen. Kris and I had a fight. Then Kris had his way with me – no sex, but it was spontaneous-combustion-amazing anyway. Kris kissed me in front of everyone, then another huge fight. Sidney kissed me in the airport and we were famous. Nothing happened in Nova Scotia though. Kris took me to his parents’ house in Montreal, then I think he was ready to go all the way at the hotel. I sent him away. Max did the same, only he sent me away. So I literally ran to Sidney and begged him to have sex with me. Max asked me to stop seeing Sidney. Sidney kissed me at midnight and we were famous again. Then we broke up. Kris got upset and said he wants to marry me. Then I had a fight with Max and when we got home, I fucked him in our laundry room, with the machine on and Kris three rooms away.”

Cara’s mouth was hanging open.

“I have bruises in the shape of his hands, Cara.” I disappeared into my scarf again. Out loud it sounded even worse than it felt.

“I hate myself. I have ruined everything.”

Cara put a hand on my arm. “You know that’s not true. Guys are different – especially Max. Kay, they’ve all done things they shouldn’t have. Without exception every one of these guys has done something they are secretly ashamed of. Even if they’ve bragged about it. Even Kris, I’m willing to bet. So when you do something crazy or horrible, they see it differently than you see yourself.”

“Cara, that doesn’t matter! It’s all the more reason I should not have done any of these things. Whatever it is they see in me, whatever it is they’re in love with – it is not this. This is not me.”

Cara sat back into her chair. Her gaze was leveled at me, like she was considering options. She started to speak, stopped, then started again.

“Shit, Kahlan.”

I slept. Cara went to class, came home, ate, worked, went out. I slept. It was like post-traumatic stress disorder – I had experienced something horrible and my mind shut down. My phone was off. There was not a single person I wanted to speak to. I assumed that if anyone left on Earth gave the slightest crap about where I was, Cara would eventually get a call.

When I was awake, I mostly cried. I lay in Cara’s guest room, thanking God that Pittsburgh’s rent allowed her to have a second bedroom. I couldn’t do this in front of someone. I stayed in that room for 2 days. I’d come to and find that Cara had left me a sandwich or an apple.

Around 10:30 the second night, I heard Cara open the front door. Another set of footsteps came in – heavier, masculine. Then hers went off down the hall. The door to my room cracked open, spilling a sliver of light into the darkness. I was on my back and didn’t turn my head. My eyes were open.

“Hey.” Sidney sat down on the edge of the bed. He smelled clean, like he’d come right from the arena. He lay down next to me in his suit, not touching. He stared at the ceiling too.

“Why…” I cleared my throat. “Why is it always you chasing me when I run away?”

I felt him smile. “I am your knight in shining armor.”

I stifled a breath and tears started to flow. Apparently 40 hours of crying was not enough. Sidney reached under the covers, down my side, and took my hand.

“Kris ran too – I think he went to a hotel. Max freaked out, called me and we called everyone looking for him. No one saw him till this morning and he did not say a single word
all day.” I breathed through my mouth, around the tears filling my throat.

“Max was furious. He barely got through practice and he had a fight tonight. No misconduct, but it was close.”

“What do I do?”

He shrugged. “I don’t think Kris went home, so you won’t be able to find him. Unless he called you?”

I shook my head. “Phone’s off.”

“You probably have 80 voicemails. Maybe he’s one of them. But I think you should talk to Max first. I am the only one who knows what Kris saw. You need to sort out what is going on with Max so you have something to tell Kris.”

“Do I have to do it now?” It was late and I was destroyed.

Sidney rolled onto his side, facing me. “The longer you wait, the worse it gets.”

Kris’ car was not in the driveway when I turned the key in the front door.

Max must have been listening for me. I wondered if Sidney had called ahead. He came from the hallway before I was inside. Pain was all over his face – literally and figuratively. He had a black eye forming, and swollen cheekbone. I sagged back against the door and sank to the floor.

“I’m glad you are okay,” he said quietly.

“This is not okay, Max.”

He dropped onto the couch. “Fuck.” After a minute, “Kris?”

“Don’t know,” I said.

“Me neither. He hasn’t looked at me, hasn’t spoken to anyone. Practiced, played and ran from the Mellon.”

“Same reaction I had, then.”

Max looked at me over the arm of the sofa. He hadn’t shaved, and with the bruising on his face he looked like he’d lost a fight. Or maybe he’d won. He rubbed a hand hard across his head.

“I was so scared that night, Kay. You ran and Kris ran and I didn’t know if something really bad might happen. Kris might have killed himself for all I knew. And you… I thought that was it. I’d never see you again.” He came over to the floor and sank down in front of me. “I have done it again. Spectacular disaster, courtesy of Max Talbot. Whatever happens here this is the end of the line.

“Kahlan, Kris knows right now that he wants you forever. Even after this. He’ll ask and he’ll do it, I know he will.” He paused. “I love you. More than I’ve ever loved anyone. We could work, I know it. But I have made so many mistakes that I have scared myself. I can’t give you forever right now. Someday, maybe soon. But right now, all I can promise you is that we would try.”

He sat up straight. I scooted across the hardwood, into his arms. I sighed against him as my tears soaked into his shirt.

“If you want forever now, you should go to Kris.”

“I’m asking for everything, Max, when I don’t even know what I can promise in return,” I whispered.

He laughed softly. “That’s part of why I love you. You are as messy as I am.” He drew me in tighter, squeezing me hard. There were tears in his eyes.

“Find him,” he said.

I paged through my phone. 42 missed calls, 27 text messages, 16 voicemails. Zero from Kris. But there was one missed call from a number I didn’t recognize. I said a little prayer and hit send.

“Doubletree Suites, how may I connect your call?”

I pulled up to the hotel wearing the same clothes from my run to Cara’s house, carrying an overnight bag. It was nearly midnight. My only option was to beg.

“Can I help you?” the concierge asked.

I hoped I looked as bad as I felt. “Hi. I just landed. My boyfriend has checked in, but he’s not picking up his cell or the room phone. Sleeps like the dead! Any chance you’d tell me what room he’s in?”

The man contemplated me for a second. His eyes checked the time on his monitor. I leaned on the counter, not having to feign exhaustion. Please let this guy know nothing about hockey.

“The name is Letang. Kris Letang, with a K.”

He gave a small nod and tapped his keyboard. “814, miss.”

I knocked and closed my eyes. The door opened but I didn’t lift my eyelids. I didn’t want to see the look on his face if he was just going to slam it in mine.

I heard him sigh. “You can open your eyes.”

I did, slowly. He was in sweats, hair a mess with dark circles under his eyes. They were red, either from lack of sleep or crying. He turned back into the room and I shut the door behind me. There were 2 beds. I sat on the one still made – neutral territory – and folded my feet underneath me.

“I have nothing to say for myself, Kris, except that I had to make sure you were okay,” I started. “I am sorry that you ever met me and that you ever had to suffer because of me. I am sorry that I am selfish and stupid. I betrayed your trust. I was never worthy of your love. I was never good enough for you.”

I finally looked up at him. He was across the room in an armchair, staring at me from under the fringe of his hair. His body was slack, his posture defeated.

“Have you been sleeping with Max this whole time?” His voice was gravely.

A tear slipped onto my cheek. “No. Just the time I told you about, and last night.”

“Did Max start it?”

“Does it matter? I still did it.”

He leaned forward in his seat. “It matters to me.”

“Well it shouldn’t, Kris. You forgive me for everything too easily. I deserve to be hated.”

“I’m not forgiving you, Kahlan.”

“Oh,” I said, involuntarily. He put both hands to his face and wrenched the hair from his eyes. He looked as tired, beaten and frustrated as I felt.

“I can’t trust you, Kay. I can’t be a gentleman, I can’t be myself. I try to make a move and we have a fight. I try to give you space and you have sex with Max. Anything I do is the wrong thing.”

I just sat there. My face was hot and my eyes filling.

“You’ve made a fool of yourself by whoring around with Max and Sidney. You’ve made a fool of me in the process. The guys don’t care – they all love you, and sex means nothing to them. Overexposure, I guess. It’s just another locker room story. Even I have a much higher threshold for this shit than I should. So you get away with things you could never do in the real world. In the real world, I would have walked away long ago.”

I deserve this. I need to hear this.

“You can’t apologize for what happened last night. If you keep making the same mistake, on purpose, then you are not sorry for it. You are only sorry that you got caught.

“I feel sick, Kay. Somehow the sight of you still makes me happy. I still want to touch you, to be in love with you. I want to forgive you and forget all of this ever happened. But I can’t be sure you won’t do this again. We go back to that house and every second you’re out of my sight, I will be worried that you’re with him.”

I pressed the heels of my hands to my eyes.

“I can only think of one way out of this,” he said.

This is it, it’s over. I love him desperately and I have destroyed him.

I heard him move from the chair. I took my hands down. Kris was kneeling in front of me.

“Marry me, Kahlan.”

My blood pressure bottomed out. I put a hand to the bed to keep from collapsing.

“I don’t have a ring but I am serious. If you can make me this promise, I know you will keep it. You are not a bad person, just scared. We will move out of the house. I will do this over, when all this horrible stuff has passed, and I will do it right.

“I want to be with you, Kay. I hate you right now, I am disgusted with you and I still want this. That means something. I want to trust you and love you for the rest of my life. But I need you to give me something I can believe in. I deserve that.”

He was looking into my eyes, absolute dead-end, nowhere-to-run desperation on his face. I’d asked myself before, during one of my many colossal screw-ups, how Kris could break my heart by telling me he still loved me. Now I knew.

Kris believed. He trusted. He had lost someone before, someone so important, and that made every moment of every day important to him in a way I could barely fathom. His tattoo was a testament to that. For all the times I’d messed up, all the bad days I would love to forget or do over, Kris would never, ever give back a single second. Because in the end, there is never enough time. Even when it’s slipping away, you fight for what is important. It was a revelation – suddenly things seemed so obvious. I saw it in his eyes: He was ready.

“Will you marry me, Kahlan?”

“Yes,” I said. Because now I was ready too.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Chapter 23 - Collision

Everyone was in, still beat from the night before. Tomorrow morning was skate, game then home. It seemed like forever had passed since we’d left Pittsburgh. Back then I’d never been in the paper or on TV. Then I could still say that my one experience in Sidney’s bed had been his idea. I was on Crosby overload, even since coming back from Christmas. At least now I felt sure that had worked itself out of both our systems.

Me: Can I come see you?

Kris: Meet me at the pool.

I put my suit on and took the elevator down a few floors. I could see Kris’ head bobbing in the water. No one else was around. I pulled off my sweats, wondering if Kris remembered this was the suit I’d worn to shower with Max. Taking the stairs, I stepped into the perfectly heated water.

“Hi belle,” he said, coming over. Kris was at his cutest when swimming, his hair plastered everywhere and stuck up where he touched it. “How was your date with Sid?”

“We snuck out like little kids and had dinner. I’m back by 8:30 PM.”

Kris took a seat next to me on the steps. Our shoulders just broke the surface of the water. The large space smelled of chlorine and our voices echoed above us.

“I might have said something to him before,” he started.

“I know, he told me. Sid and I agreed to stop clowning around. It’s not fair to you guys and it keeps blowing up in our faces. Sidney remains among my best friends, but he is officially out of the picture.”

Kris looked skeptical. “He’s said that before.”

“This time, I am saying it.” I swam to the middle of the shallow end. “Kris, what do you want from life? For your future?”

Kris backstroked around. “A family, eventually. I get lonely. I’d like to always come home to someone. And I always wanted brothers growing up, and the team is like that now. So I’d like a family. Also, more Stanley Cups.” He stood up across the pool from me.

“I’d like to have all that with you,” he said.

I was frozen. A smile came to my face as tears stung my eyes. He walked over to me through the waist-high water. He was quiet, waiting for me to reply.

“That’s the sweetest thing anyone has ever said to me,” I managed.

He stopped an arm’s length away and placed his hand on my shoulder. “I can’t wait forever, Kahlan. But I could love you forever.”

I moved into him and put my hands on his cheeks. He was shirtless and I had trouble breathing. My lips found his and gently, hesitantly he sealed his promise with a kiss.

“Kris, I am trying to figure myself out. I’m sorry for taking so long. I know that what you say is true – you are ridiculously perfect.”

He and I both took a step back at the same time, then laughed.

“Too close,” he said.

“Too naked,” I confirmed.

Cara and I joined the guys for pre-game meal in the hotel restaurant. The TV crews had given up and the photographers had left. Kris, Max and I all ordered chicken parm. Flower came in, carrying a jersey.

“Here Kay, Vero says you should wear this again tonight,” he handed it to me.

“Boooooooooo,” went around the table. After we paid, I put my coat on as everyone else headed for the elevator.

“Can I go with you?” Max asked.

“How do you know where I’m going? And don’t you need a pre-game nap?”

He shook his head. “Slept all day yesterday. Couldn’t sleep now anyway.”

Max came back with his coat and a baseball cap for me. I led him out through the kitchen and the loading dock, just in case. Being photographed again would suck, but being photographed with Max would ensure the topic would never die. He stayed a few paces away. We didn’t say much as we walked fifteen minutes until I steered us into the bookstore. In the fiction section, Max and I stood next to each other flipping through books.

“I feel like we haven’t talked,” Max said without looking up. His tone was not friendly.

“I haven’t figured out what you’re up to,” I replied.

Max kept his eyes on his book, but his voice got tighter. “I had to do something. You were slipping back to Sid. He was slipping back to you. I thought you’d be more freaked out by the media attention. I was almost relieved about the airport photos – I thought that would be it for you two.

“So I tried to keep you from being alone with him, where real damage could be done. And in public, I pushed you toward him knowing you’d be photographed. But I underestimated. You handled the pressure. And you certainly liked the danger,” he spat.

I put my book on the shelf. “Max, stop manipulating me.”

“You are manipulating me, Kahlan,” he hissed. “You think you’re being fair, giving everyone an equal slice of you. Everyone gets a date, everyone gets a New Year’s kiss, knowing I will take whatever you give me. But you’re playing us against each other, making us share. And Sid was different.”

He finally closed his book as well. “You’re taking your sweet time here, Kahlan. Doling it out to us in little bits. I’m trying not to push, and instead I am getting pushed out. I can’t do nothing.”

“Neither can I, but that’s what you’re asking for!” I was yelling in a whisper now. “To give nothing to Kris means nothing for you. It means nothing for me. I was so happy as friends with everyone, and now I cannot do anything without doing something wrong. And I know when I’m doing something wrong. It must seem like I don’t, but I really do.”

Max reached across the aisle and pulled out a book. “Does this help you choose?” he slapped a book down on my hand: Jennifer Weiner’s Good in Bed.

“More like this,” I said, shoving Jennifer Weiner’s Goodnight Nobody into his chest and storming away.

Cara and I sat in the box again then headed directly to the airport after the guys lost by 2 goals. Everyone was tired, frustrated and I was happy not to talk to anyone on the flight. We piled into Kris’ car and drove home.

I changed, then unpacked right into the laundry. Max dragged his suitcase in behind me and did the same. I’d been thinking on the way home.

“Thanks for calling me out on my shit, Max,” I said softly, not wanting Kris to overhear. “I feel terrible for everything that’s happening. You are the only one who gives me a hard time for it, and that's what I need.”

Max stuck out his foot and kicked the door shut. He grabbed my hair, twisted my body and slammed me against the washing machine. Instantly his tongue was in my mouth. His hands were under my shirt, lifting it from my body. He pressed me backward and moved his lips to my breast. Snaking hands down my waist, he pushed my pants off. Then he gripped my ass hard and lifted me onto the washer.

Looking right into my eye, he reached behind me and twisted the dial on the empty machine. The noise seemed deafening as it started to vibrate and fill.

My body was begging for Max. My brain signaled a total meltdown. Of their own accord, my hands pulled Max’s shirt over his head and raked fingernails down his arms. He reclined me and worked his mouth down my body. His thumbs rubbed my thighs and he moved his fingers into my lap. The machine was shaking and so was I.

Stop stop stop! I shouted inside. Shut up shut up shut up! Fuckingshitbloodyhell.

I reached between my knees and opened Max’s pants. I slid a palm flat down his front, then wrapped two fingers around the width of his hard cock on the way back up. He shook his hips and sent his pants to the floor. Curling around his waistband, I pulled out and then down, leaving him as naked as I was.

I’d seen Max in various states of undress, but I hadn’t looked at his naked body in the kitchen. Now the sight of his penis, standing at attention, trembling for me, almost made me finish before he could start. His body was beautiful beyond imagining. Svelte, hard, powerful, perfect. I almost blacked out.

Max grabbed my ass and slid me forward on the lid of the machine. The wash cycle was rocking loudly. Pressing his thighs to the metal, he paused. His throbbing cock was in my hand, poised just outside my slick entrance.

“Kahlan, dites-moi de s'arrêter.” He growled. I didn’t understand. “Tell me to stop.”

I bit my lip, pleading, then shook my head no.

Max rocked into me, all at once, and I squealed a sob. He pressed to my chest, holding me close as the washer did most of the work. He pumped upwards, my weight shifted and pushed him as deep as I had ever felt anything. His movements were rough. I wanted him to punish me. I hooked my feet together behind his back.

The spin cycle started, twisting my hips with it. Max moaned into my mouth. I clenched onto his dick, working my body to exaggerate the swiveling motion. He matched me and pinched my nipple. I gasped. I was quaking, so close.

Max cursed something delicious in French and drove harder. His second swing reached all the way into me, hitting a spot I hadn’t even known existed. I bit his shoulder to muffle my scream. I squeezed my eyes shut as a jolt of pleasure slammed through me. He was throbbing inside me. My body locked up, rippling down the length of him. As the wave passed to him, he nailed into me one last time and dug his fingers into my hips. Pain and pleasure collided. He choked out a breath, moved twice then dropped his head to my shoulder. The spin cycle wound to a stop.

Still inside me, Max whispered into my neck. “You said you wanted a hard time, cherie.” I laughed, tears coming to my eyes.

And then Kris opened the door.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Chapter 22 - Midnight

At ten to midnight, the DJ announced a champagne toast would be poured. We filed back to our tables. A projector came to life, showing Times Square on the back wall. The giant disco ball hung still in the wintry air.

I was in trouble and I knew it. Enough people here had seen me with Sidney. Someone was bound to try to photograph us kissing at midnight. Even if we didn’t kiss, I couldn’t very well give Max or Kris a real kiss that could be snapped instead. That would make news too – under a week and I’m already cheating on The Kid.

Short, quick kisses, I told myself. Like everyone will be giving everyone else.

Warning, said my brain. Drunk meter approaching “cannot stop kiss” levels. I smiled at my own inner monologue and took a sip of champagne.

Jordan appeared beside me with Cara under his arm. “Six o’clock. We’ve got a couple of bogeys approaching your target.” He was looking over my head. I turned to see about ten very attractive girls had slowly approached till they were standing just beyond our little area. They were advancing in Sidney’s direction. I almost laughed.

“It looks like the Discovery Channel – the lionesses all waiting to pounce on their prey,” Cara said. “Jordo, can’t you help him?”

“I’m not kissing him at midnight! And I’m not kissing those girls either,” he leaned down and got an advance edition from Cara’s lips.

The DJ announced two minutes till midnight. We rearranged ourselves, standing closest to certain people. I moved in next to Sid, who was already standing with Max. Only two of the lionesses shied away when they saw me.

“If you turn around at midnight, you’re going to get jumped,” I said without looking at him.

He smiled, “Not turning around.”

Max came around Sid’s back and stood next to me. Kris came from the other side of the table, running his hand through his hair. With a smile, he sidled right up to us.

Kahlan, control yourself. We are all drunk, I thought. You have to be in charge. Oh this should be interesting.

The DJ began his one minute countdown. At thirty seconds, the crowd started shouting along. Sidney took my champagne and put it down on the table. He leaned behind me and said something to Max that I couldn’t hear.






Boom! Confetti and balloons dropped from the ceiling. Everyone cheered. Before I could see anyone else, Sidney’s arms were around me.

In full view of a thousand people, Sidney tipped me back slightly and kissed me. I tried to release after a moment. He was not having it. Locked in his embrace, he gave me a real kiss. His lips were soft and persistent. I fought the urge to open my mouth, to grab his hair, to wrap my legs around him. He bent one elbow and put that hand to my head, holding me tightly as he moved his mouth over mine. I had an arm around his shoulders.

“Happy New Year,” he said when he finally broke apart. He tipped me flat onto my feet.

At least there was no tongue. I almost stumbled.

I turned, and Max was standing next to me, waiting. My hands went to Max’s pockets and I curled my fingers inside. I planted a solid smack to his mouth and quickly pulled away. “Later,” I whispered.

“Happy New Year, cherie.”

I ducked around him. Another girl had turned Kris away and given him a kiss. He was spinning back in my direction when I stepped into him. I put my hands on the side of his face and gave him our ‘good game’ kiss. Maybe a little harder than usual. “Later,” I said to him too.

“Bonne année!” he smiled and leaned in. “And again later.”

By 1 AM, we were toast. At least some of us. My head lolled to my chest on the ride home – drunk, sleepy, worried. Sidney had laughed off the kiss, as if it were just like every other kiss in the room. But a thousand flash bulbs had gone off at midnight. Even he agreed that some of them had to have been pointed at us.

I went to my room, looked at my makeup and thought of the effort required to remove it. Before I could do that, I kicked off my shoes and went down the hall.

Max opened his door on the second knock, his shirt was unbuttoned over a t-shirt. TK had elected to stay at the party. Max let me in first and before I could even turn he was already kissing me. No time wasted. His mouth was open and he was going for it, and I kissed him back. His hands moved down from my shoulders, palms lightly grazing my breasts, ribs, stomach, hips and finally moving over my ass before coming to rest of the outside of my thighs.

He sighed and I pulled away. “Wanted to do that all night,” he said.

“Happy New Year, Max.” I practically ran from the room.

Eight doors down, I knocked again. Kris had already changed into a clean t-shirt. He opened his arms and folded them around me, backing up into the room. Without my heels, I fit into his body in a totally different way. I felt less powerful. He looked into my eyes and I could tell he was drunk. He licked his slightly parted lips then touched his mouth to mine.

He smelled like he had on the dance floor – expensive scent with a real smell, muskier and sleepier, underneath. I ran a hand up through his hair as he rolled his tongue into mine. He kissed me hard, then soft, then hard again. When he was done, he kept his face so close our lips were nearly touching.

“Happy New Year,” I said, and fled.

The next morning, I woke up to Jordan sitting on my bed. He put a Gatorade on the nightstand and a paper on my chest.

“Morning, princess. You’d think with a photo like this, you could get free Gatorade.”

“Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuck,” I said, hauling myself into a sitting position. I put my head back, refusing to pick up the paper.

“If I didn’t know you, Kay,” Cara said, “I would be super insanely jealous of you right now. Go on, look.”

Jordan moved the paper to my face. I lifted it and tried to focus. The cover said “Happy 2010” at the top. Below that, in color of course, was another fantastic photo of Sidney Crosby kissing his not-girlfriend. It was the midnight kiss. It was obviously Sidney, and anyone who’d seen the first round of photos would recognize me as the same girl. Confetti was dropping all around us, Sid was bending me slightly backward and kissing me. It looked passionate. It looked like an ad for a movie.

‘Sidney and Cinderella’ was the headline.

Sidney Crosby played Prince Charming at midnight on New Year’s Eve, kissing Kahlan Bennett at the annual event at Berkeley Church. Crosby and Bennett, first photographed in the Pittsburgh airport on Christmas Eve, made their official debut as a couple last night, ringing in 2010 with Crosby’s Penguin teammates.

A knock pushed the door open. Max came in and sat opposite Jordan. He was smiling. “I told him to do that. And now I hate having to look at him kissing you!” He was laughing, and I could see in his eyes that he genuinely found this funny. “His dad is going to fucking kill you.”

“Har har,” I said. “Troy is probably driving here now, sharpening his axe at every red light.”

Kris didn’t even knock, he just walked into the room and flopped down on Cara’s bed.
“So Kay, now you are famous,” his smile was less sure than Max’s. “They have your name and everything.”

Jordan took a sip from my drink. “Then they’ll know what to put on her tombstone.”

Sidney shuffled in next, looking sheepish. “Is it okay to laugh at this?” he asked, climbing onto the bed next to me and reaching for the paper. “Am I deranged for thinking this is hilarious?”

Max chimed in. “I hear people often laugh at their own executions.”

The hotel room phone rang, and everyone stared at it. Cara sucked in a breath. “Your name is on the room, Kay.”

Jordan went to the window and peeked through the blinds. “Uh oh, bad news.” At least three news vans and five photographers were outside the hotel. Kris went to the door and stuck his head into the hall, then backed up as Coach strode into the room. Dan pulled out the desk chair and sat down.

“Last night, I watched this happen and thought it was cute. I mean, midnight on New Year’s, everybody gets a kiss. Someone even kissed TK for Christ’s sake.” He stopped smiling. “Now Kahlan and I will be sharing an unmarked grave somewhere in Nova Scotia.”

Max laughed, which set Jordan and Sidney off. I was still in bed, in my pajamas, with a room full of people.

“Did you look inside?” Bylsma nodded at the paper in Sid’s hand.

He turned to page 3. There was a full-length color photo of me and Sid, standing at the table. How the photographer had gotten a clear shot with all those people and chairs was a miracle. I was facing Sid, turned partially away from the camera, and the picture managed to get my face and upper body, plus part of my butt and the back of my legs. Sidney was in front of me, smiling as he spoke. We were not touching.

Sid whistled. “That’s a great picture,” he said, holding it up.

Bylsma stood. “At least you are registered to your own room, Kahlan. That helps a little. But there are quite a few media outside. I’m asking both of you to stay in the hotel today. All day.”

“Ooooh, grounded,” Jordan taunted.

Dan nodded. “And now, I’m going to call Mario.”

I put my head back theatrically, but then I had to smile. Without looking over I punched Sidney as hard as I could in the arm. He laughed and hit me on the head with the paper.

Sidney jogged a few steps to catch up with Kris in the hall. “Sorry, Tanger,” he said, stopping.

Kris stopped a few steps on. “I don’t like it. I don’t like this joke.” Then he turned. “You said you were taking yourself out of this one.”

“I did. Sort of. I mean, I am. I just… once the photos from Christmas were out, I didn’t want to stop. I don’t want it to be a fucking front page story every time I kiss someone. Now I’m already past the worst of it, I think, and I feel relieved. It’s just so easy to be with her.” He took a deep breath. “I am sorry. We were drunk and it seemed funny. Hell, it was Max’s idea!”

Narrowing his eyes, Kris said something. Something Sidney had not once thought of in this entire chain of events.

“Max would rather compete with you than me. He thinks he can beat you.”

Kris doesn’t know about me and Kahlan in Toronto. Only Max does. And Max asked me to stop being with her. He’s using me to edge Kris out of the competition, Sid realized.

“It’s worse than you know,” he said.

Sidney: Kris is mad. Are you mad?

Me: No. But you’re messing me up here.

Sidney: Are you revoking my date for tonight?

Me: What time?


Sidney knocked on my door at 6 PM. He wore a wool hat and an overly large jacket that I recognized as Jordan’s. I was in comfy clothes, not having planned on leaving the hotel for our date.

“Why are you wearing that?”

He smiled. “You said if I wanted to be incognito I needed to cover my ass! Let’s sneak out. I got the concierge to agree to let us out the back way.” He leaned in and whispered, “And I’m afraid of what I’ll do if we’re alone near a bed.”

I had to smile. “You get away with some crazy shit, Crosby. Let me get dressed.”

I closed myself into the bathroom so Sid wouldn’t see me putting on makeup, then I threw on jeans and a sweater. We swore Cara to secrecy and took the stairs to the lobby. The concierge led us into a service door, through the kitchen and out the loading dock. We jogged to the end of the driveway and turned right.

We walked for a while, talking about nothing. After ten minutes, we came to a coffee shop. I ordered for us as Sidney took a table in the way back, away from the windows. He sat with his back to the room.

“You’re like the opposite of a mobster,” I said, setting down his coffee and my hot chocolate. “Instead of seeing the room, you don’t want anyone to see you.”

“I thought you should face the room, in case my dad comes in with a shotgun.” He sipped, then looked at me. “How do you know how I take my coffee?”

I shrugged. “It’s what you always order.”

“You make this tough, Kay. You really do.” I wagged my head a little, encouraging him to continue. I knew we needed to talk, and I could tell Sidney had a few things he was dying to say. “You make it hard not to like you. You put up with my shit, you don’t crack under pressure, you remember how I like my coffee.” He shook his head. “You come to me for help. That’s the killer. I love it when you need me.”

“Sid,” I said quietly.

“Wait, let me finish,” he held out his hand. “I think we should stop fooling around. Max is right – it’s too much. It’s too much for them, and it’s definitely too much for me. I’m still in a place where I can hold it together about us. But if we keep doing this, I will fall in love with you. We are past the worst of the media stuff and that makes me really want to fall in love with you. But I know that won’t help anything. So please, let’s stop before that happens.”

I was speechless. Thank God, I thought. I liked Sid, liked him a lot, but after last night I could see this was going in a dangerous direction. Max was up to something – telling us to stop seeing each other, but then pushing me toward Sidney in public. And Kris – I didn’t think Kris could take much more of us having fun while he watched.

“You don’t make this easy either. You understand me, especially when I don’t understand myself. And every time I make a mistake, you just say ‘okay’ and help me get past it. I could fall in love with you too, Sid, if me falling in love means anything to anyone anymore. You are always there for me. Please say that won’t go away.”

He shook his head. “Never, Kay. I’ve told you a million times that I’m not going anywhere.”

We both sipped and thought. The spark between us was getting a little out of control. Add a few drinks and you have front page news! I needed to get back to myself, to the decision I was still hoping to make before everyone realized they hated me and ran for the hills.

Sid finally tried a joke. “This means no more secret meetings. I don’t want to hear you’re kicking someone else’s roommate out.” He laughed. “Unless it’s for Max or Tanger, of course. Something’s gotta break there. And soon.”

I laughed and put my forehead down on the table. I pretended to cry. “That’s a tough one. If people knew how good you are in bed….”

“I think that was you, sweetheart. But I’m willing to take the credit if it makes you feel better.”

We left the coffee shop and walked next door to a Thai restaurant. At a table near the back, Sid and I slipped back into our usual routine – laughing and teasing each other. When we finished, the waitress recommended a gelato place around the corner. It was pretty empty, since it was freezing outside. Again we took the most hidden seating available.

Sid spooned out some raspberry sorbet and savored it. “So, I finally get a date with you and we break up.”

“You already had all the fun, without even buying me dinner. What else was left?”

“I was kind of hoping you’d beg me not to go and offer to marry me. Then I could at least pickup the phone when my dad calls. He’s probably planned out fifty ways to kill us both.”

“Tell him we had sex. He’ll have to wait at least a month to be sure I’m not carrying your child.”

He laughed at that. “What are you going to do now?”

I shrugged. “Max has a plan. I realized when you said he asked you to stop seeing me…”

“Uhhh, he didn’t say ‘seeing’,” Sid interrupted.

“... well, he asked me the same thing. But then he was pushing me toward you all night. I think he’s trying to distract me from Kris.”

Sidney nodded around another spoonful of gelato. “It won’t work. Kris saw right through it. That’s why he was mad today.”

I ate the last bite of dessert. “Guess that’s my next order of business then.”

We took the loading dock entrance and climbed the stairs all the way to our floor. Sid reached for the door knob then stopped. Instead he turned, put a hand to my cheek and gave a single, brief kiss to my lips. Then he smiled.

“I don’t want to be the worst date you’ve ever had!” he laughed, opening the door.