Friday, October 28, 2011

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Eleven [end]

Thank you guys so much for all the comments and love on this story.  New one soon, as always.  In honor of the end of this story, I'm leaving you with this photo of a roll in the hay with Stamkos.  



Dear God, please.  Don’t let all this be for nothing.

My heart stopped when the doorbell rang.  I wondered if he could hear me running full tilt through my apartment.  I slowed two steps from the door and make myself walk, otherwise I’d have plowed right through it.  I’d played the moment in my head a million times, learned all the lines of my script and when I opened the door, it all fell apart.

“Hey,” was the best I could do.

Steven stood on my doorstep wearing a dark suit, no tie and a look so hopeful I nearly burst into tears.  It was all over his face - he wanted this, wanted me.  My heart banged around inside my chest like a bird in a cage.  Words started falling out of my mouth and we were saying the exact same thing at the same time.

“I want this, Steven.  I want you.  If… if you still want me.”

The smile... that smile did me in from the moment I met him.  But it had never looked quite like this.  I thought he would kiss me or hug me, but a second later I was ass in the air over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry.

“Hmmmm, I’m gonna have to think about that,” he said.  Even as I laughed and hugged his waist from upside down, I could feel his hand burning through the leg of my jeans.  Steven dashed into the bedroom like it might actually save someone’s life.  He threw me on the bed and before I even stopped bouncing he was on top.

“Kara,” he was suddenly serious, those piercing blue eyes holding mine with no hesitation.  We both knew what was coming and yet I held my breath.  “I love you.”

“I love you too, Steven.  I do and I’m so sorry that it took....”

He must have figured we’d have plenty of time to talk during, oh... the rest of our lives.  Because he stopped my words with a kiss, then pressed his hole body down into mine all at once, so I forgot what I was saying, thinking, even how to speak English.  That long, strong figure pushed me deep into the mattress as he tongue swept across mine just as firmly.  One hand slipped beneath the small of my back, under my shirt, and right down bare skin until it was inside my jeans.  

I must have whimpered, because he whipped my shirt over my head.  I shoved his jacket from his broad shoulders and flicked the shirt buttons as quickly as I could.  Three down he helped me just pull it up and off.  Then he was kissing me again, so much skin on skin that I would have screamed if I could breathe.  But even as his lips left mine, grazing over my jaw and down the curve of my throat as his hands pulled my bra free, it took all my concentration not to black out.

I don’t want to miss this.

The velvety burr of his tongue raked across my hard nipple, making me gasp.  He rolled it between his lips, before tugging it between his teeth.  His hand followed, huge and warm, as he took his mouth to the other side.  I ran my fingers through his soft hair encouragingly and he slipped down my stomach, kisses tracing the arch of my lowest rib.

Steven caught my eye just as his fingers reached the button on my jeans.  But he wasn’t asking permission.  The smirk on his face as he popped it open reduced me to an absolute puddle.  He went slowly, dragging his fingers along my zipper down every centimeter of newly exposed skin.  When he could go no further, I lifted my ass and he pulled my pants right off.

Steven kneeled over me; eyes rolling up my legs, catching at my hips as he memorized the light blue lacy panties that were already ruined.  His hands followed.  This time there was no smirk, just a sure, even look as his eyes met mine and his fingers tugged the last piece of my clothing to the floor.

I sat up and opened his pants, my hands actually shaking.  His chest and abs were flawless, almost blinding, and anything more meant certain death by perfection.  It didn’t stop me from pushing trousers down over soft black cotton boxer briefs that were losing a serious battle against desire.  I maneuvered his pants past that large obstacle; Steven bit his lip.  Then he closed his eyes as I freed him completely.  I pulled Steven onto me at the same moment he threw himself down and we both kicked at his pants.

“Wait,” he whispered, reaching for them before they hit the floor.  The sight of him hovering over me, twisted to one side like a Greek god ready to throw a discus, made my heart rate skyrocket.  It could have been the last thing I’d ever see and I knew I’d die happy.

He held up a little foil packet, smiling.  “Downie.”

In a blink he was poured over me again.  He slipped a hand into my hair and lifted my mouth to another searing kiss.  Our hips shifted on their own until his cock was probing the soft space between my legs.  As his delicate, feverish tip caught my wetness and gently dragged along my sticky skin, we both exhaled sharply.  I pushed down instinctively, my entrance parting as the very end slipped between my folds.

“Kara,” he panted.  I kissed him, short and hard, then grabbed that tiny package and ripped it open.

Thanks, Downie, I almost laughed.

Dear God, please.  Don’t let all this be for nothing.

I squeezed my eyes shut at the touch of her hand on me, running the hard length of my shaft, testing me against her expectations.  My heart galloped like a thoroughbred on the last lap and there was a real chance I wasn’t going to make it across the finish line.  She snickered softly, probably at the contorted look on my face.  I cracked an eyelid.

“Okay, baby,” she said.  The thin film of the condom felt like nothing at as she rolled it down with an x-rated flick of her wrist.  Kara squeezed the base of my cock and I saw stars for a heartbeat before I flattened her to the bed.

My dick knew right where to go, like a missile whose target had been locked for months.  I had to throw the brakes to keep from slamming into her all at once.  Instead I pressed to her tiny slit and used those off-season pain management techniques to hold still and look down into her satiny blue eyes.

Kara sobbed out a breath that made her chest heave deliciously.  Her eyelids fluttered half-closed at the pressure of my tip edging into her tight, hot pussy.  It threatened to pull me in, sink me under and drown me.  She forced her eyes open; I rewarded the effort with another half an inch.

I slipped my forearms under her and the soft skin at Kara’s shoulders dented beneath my fingertips.  Her palms were flat on my ass, ready to pull me in if I didn’t go deep enough.  Somehow I knew that wouldn’t be a problem.

“Steven,” she whispered, her voice tight with anticipation.  It was the sexiest thing I’d ever heard.  “Don’t stop.”

I pushed inside her.  A half-strangled groan forced itself from my lungs as I squeezed my cock deep between legs that came up to wrap around my waist.  I kept pushing until she was whimpering and I was definitely across the goal line.

I wanted to savor the moment.  At least open my eyes and share this with her.  But Kara’s body went haywire just as mine did.  Her mouth crashed into mine, hungry and urgent, my bottom lip caught between a firm tug from her teeth.  Nothing could stop my hips from sliding back and ramming forward like a train trying to push another car off the track.  She caught a scream in her throat but it rattled through my chest.

Everything happened at once.  I’d thought I would come just from kissing her, undressing her, when she touched me for the first time.  But it was nothing compared to being clenched by her dark, soft heat, the slick of her desire begging me to move harder, faster, more.  My body shuddered, trying to round itself down and produce more force through my legs.  Kara arched her back and twisted her hips.

“Fuck,” I grunted indelicately, sinking my teeth into the pale flesh of her throat.  “Kara, baby.”  It sounded like I was praying.

“Oh my God,” she whispered to herself.

Her feet were twined behind my back.  I pulled her hands from my backside and pressed them over her head, holding both wrists in one hand.  She was here, and she was all mine.  I flexed my arms and chest, balanced over her and pumped her full of every time I’d ever dreamed about doing exactly this.  Sure I was close to passing out but my ambition, my aggression were forces of nature.

“Baby,” I blew across the skin of her throat, punctuating it with a kiss.  “I want to feel you come for me.”

“You first,” she smiled evilly.

“I have done, a million times, thinking of you.” I pressed one knee into the mattress, scooting it under her ass until she was twisted to one side, back bent and completely helpless, her arms still pinned above her head.  With my new leverage I stroked hard and deep.

“Holyfuck,” she gasped.  If I felt half as big as she felt tight, I could have killed her from that angle.  

“I’ve been waiting.”  I don’t know where I’d get the strength from, but I’d have plugged into the Matrix and gone all night if that’s what I needed to take her this first time.  Really take the thing I wanted the most.  “Your turn.”  

She twisted one hand free and brushed it down my thigh, over her hip, then right to the place where I was plowing into her at full gallop.  Two of Kara’s long, thin fingertips rubbed hard at the secret spot I’d barely had a chance to find yet.  She gasped at her own touch and her whole body jerked.  

Please be quick.

I was fit to burst but seeing her touch herself while I drove the breath from her lungs on every thrust gave me a whole new world of ideas: things I wanted to do to her, things I would do.  If I lived through this first time.

“Steven,” she purred, rolling her head back.  I pushed at her wrist, stretching her out and changing the angle with short, hard strokes.  Everything was a hot, slippery mess.  One jerk too hard and my cock slipped right out of her, and pounded back into the hilt without missing a beat.

“Ohhhhhhhhmygod,” she moaned.  I focused on the damp curl plastered to the dip in her collarbone and did it again.

Kara came.  Hard.  She bucked against me all at once, screaming, stronger than I’d ever though she could be.  I growled as it ripped through me too.  Then I threw myself into a last, desperate, brutal swing and exploded inside her.

Everything went white, like I’d gone over the edge of a waterfall and was caught, churning at the bottom.  I was dizzy, breathless, powerless.  When it finally rolled out, like bobbing to the surface, I was panting.  Steven collapsed on top of me, two hundred pounds of dead weight with his chest heaving.  It was a solid minute before my brain could reboot.  

I started giggling.  Then Steven started.

“I’ll never walk again,” I laughed.

“I’m retiring.  Marty has a key to my place, he can cut a hole in the wall and bring us food.”

“Supermarkets deliver, you know.”

Steven looked down at me with disbelief.  “Only in America.”

His face was next to mine, smooshed against the blanket with blond hair falling across it.  I reached over and brushed the hair back, tucking it over his ear, and just let my fingers memorize the exact, perfect shape of his cheek and jaw.  We stopped joking and just stared at each other.  I had been good and bad and right and wrong; I had been shaken and stirred and, now, thoroughly fucked.  But I wasn’t scared.  I was happy.

“I love you,” I said, my fingertips tracing the thin curve of his mouth.  He pressed a kiss to them.

“I loved you first.”

Another kiss, our first without the tumult of desire and relief.  It was soft, perfect.  Then Steven broke away and heaved himself up onto hands and knees.  He crawled across the bed; I slapped his pale white butt.  From the floor he picked up his pants and dug into the pockets.

“And I’m going to do it again.  Right now.”

The smile on his face was wicked.  He held up his slacks and turned the pocked inside out, making a handful of little foil packets rain down onto me.  There were at least ten.  A hot, deep stab of lust rocked through me at the sight.  I grabbed one as it skittered across my bare stomach.

“God bless Steve Downie.”


“I don’t know...,” Kara said, looking at herself in the bathroom mirror.

“Yes.”  I put my hands on her shoulders and held her still, meeting her eyes in the reflection.  “In fact, this might be my favorite thing you’ve ever worn.”

It was the morning after... after so much.  The fact that we were awake was surprising, standing was nothing short of a miracle.  Now Kara was wearing the 91 jersey I’d given her way back when, only this time with nothing but a white g-string.

She smiled and rolled her eyes.

My body ached with the urge to bend her over the counter and take her again, for the hundredth time, and watch her face as she gave in to everything that had happened between us.  Again.  But instead I piled her hair top her head and kissed her neck.

“Please,” I said quietly.

Kara tilted her head to give me more access.  “Of course I will.”

An hour later, I watched her walk a few steps in front of me through the lobby at the local Dave & Busters.  I had to be here.  It was no surprise Kara would show up at a team event, she could have come with any one of us.  People called out hellos and gave hugs as we made our way into the charity event.  

“Hey, we missed you,” Marty said, kissing Kara’s cheek.  Downie, Shannon, Malone all said the same thing, then turned to me for an explanation.  They were like old ladies in a beauty shop, dying for gossip.  I’d left them at a dead run to get to Kara.  She’d shown up with me the next day, wearing my number.  Obviously something had gone right, so they wanted to know exactly how right and how many times and at what volume.  Vinny wrapped Kara in his huge arms - she looked over her shoulder at me while he humped her leg.

Kids and their families filled up the bar area, waiting for the games and bowling to begin.  At the far side of the room, the wives and girlfriends had set up a table where the kids could decorate Lightning logos that would hang in the practice rink locker room, where they were coming on a tour next week.  The charity organizer and Julie, the head of our Community Relations department called everyone to attention.

“We’d like to introduce everyone to our Lightning players, who are really excited for you guys to beat them at some games today,” Julie said.  She introduced each of us to a round of applause.

Kara squeezed my side unnoticed, then I heard her walk away behind us.  

“And don’t forget to make a logo so we can display them at the rink.  We’ve got lots of help today from the wives and girlfriends of our players.”

She waved her arm toward the table and everyone turned.  Standing at the end, but very much behind the table with the WAGs, was Kara.  In my jersey.  Next to an absolutely beaming Heather St. Louis.

Downie punched me in the side hard enough to make me stumble a step.  I bumped into Malone, who grabbed me into a headlock and gave me a noogie in front of a hundred people, like I was eight years old.  They all laughed with no idea why we looked so happy.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


She was still asleep when I woke.  The sun barely reached the foot of her bed.  I hauled her farther up and tried to memorize the way her cheek felt pressed flat against my chest.  it was like the night of her birthday party, only better.

Eventually she came around, I felt her move.  I waited for her to squeeze against me, nuzzle her body into mine.   and a second later she gasped.  Kara sat bolt upright, eyes wide like she was surprised to find me in her bed.  Glancing down at herself, she snatched the sheet up to her chest.  It just revealed more of me.

“Oh God, I thought I dreamed that.”

I laughed.  “Have those dreams about me a lot?”

Her eyes wandered down my stomach before snapping back up.  “It wouldn’t be the first time.”

“Well I’ve had some pretty good…,” but I didn’t get to finish.  Kara took a tiny, ragged breath and immediately started to cry.  Instinctively I tried to calm her, reaching out.  “Shhh, Kara it’s okay.”

The venom in her voice surprised me.  “It’s not okay!  This is… this is exactly what I promised I wasn’t.  The only fights Brendan and I ever have are about you.  About you and me and how this was the only place it could end up.”

The mention of his name – here, with us like this – was a kick to the gut.

“I didn’t think this would ever happen,” I admitted in defense.  “I’ve always liked you but….”

“I got furious when he was jealous of you because it was just him calling me a liar.  Like we couldn’t be friends.  And now I am the liar.  I am the starfucker he was always afraid of.”

She spat the word; it must have tasted as bad as it sounded.  Kara rolled away, pressed her face to the mattress.  I ran one hand across her bare back soothingly, but she flinched at my touch.

“Kara, we didn’t….”

“I know,” she said into the pillow.  “I remember.”

That made me feel better.  For her to have woken only to shame, without the memory of anything else would have been devastating.  She must have felt some of what I felt.

“Please, Kara.  I’m sorry.  I shouldn’t have come over here when we were drunk or kissed you at the club.”

She breathed in, a wobbly sound full of tears.  “I wanted that.  I let you in here and….”

“You were drunk.”  I was trying so hard to make her feel better I’d even give it all away.

“No.”  Her voice was more solid.  “I mean yes, but I knew what I was doing.”

I touched her back again, she stayed still beneath my fingers.  “So now you know.  I want this, Kara.  I have wanted you for so long and….”

“Is that why you were my friend?”

It was like a concussion grenade – everything went silent and still for a moment that seemed endless.  If there were anything further from the truth, I didn’t know it.  If she believed me capable of such a thing then she really didn’t know me at all.  How could I love someone who didn’t even know me?  It scared me, and in fear I felt angry.

“No!   You really think this whole time I’ve just wanted to get in your pants?!”

“I,” her voice broke and the tears came again.  Instantly I regretted raising my voice.  “No, Steven.  No.  But he thought that.”

“Of course he did.  It would be easier for him that way.”

She finally lifted her face to look at me.  Behind the tears here eyes were greener than ever, so glassy they refracted light.  I put my palm flat on her back, touching as much of her as possible with a single hand.  She let my hand lay warm across her hip – a place I’d never touched her before.

“It would be easier for him if I wasn’t crazy about you.  He doesn’t want to lose you.  I understand that.”

“But he trusted me,” she whispered and I could hear how disgusted she was.  “He gave me a hard time but he trusted me.  And I didn’t deserve it.”

“You deserve to be happy.”  It was time for the big pitch, I slid a little closer.  Only a sheet and the remnants of last night’s clothing separated us.  “Let me make you happy, Kara.  You know I could.”

She closed her eyes and I knew I was right.  Even if she couldn’t admit it, she knew I could be the guy.

“I need to think, Steven.  I’m so… ugh, I hate myself right now.  I don’t trust myself.”

My stomach dropped.  Did she hate me?  Had I really ruined everything?

“I trust you,” I told her.

“You know you can’t.”

I shook my head.  “I trust you will choose what you really want.  I hope you just did.”

It was a big risk and a huge liberty.  But I leaned toward her tear-stained face and gently put my lips to hers.  It felt like taking off in a hang glider – one minute you’re on your feet, the next they’re pulled out from under you as you sail across the sky.  She whimpered slightly as I slid my tongue past hers, my body moving and winding close.  I couldn’t forget, so I’d make sure she didn’t either.

And then I left.  How I found the strength I will never know, but I unwrapped myself from around her mostly bare body, hauled myself out of her warm bed and went back to my empty apartment.  She looked so small and vulnerable curled in the sheets, her hair a perfect mess and her eyes closed though she was wide awake.

In my place, I put my head against the wall we shared and prayed that I hadn’t just destroyed my chance.  But I had gone far enough and would have to learn to wait.

I threw up twice after Steven left, whether from the drinking or the other stuff I don’t know.  But I lay on the cool tile floor of the bathroom for a while, furious at myself for letting it get this far.  I shouldn’t have danced with Steven, I shouldn’t have kissed him or let him into my apartment.

Or I should have dumped Brendan first.

Because the second Steven kissed me I knew that’s where this was going.  Regardless of what happened with Steven, I could not stay with Brendan.  Not after this.  I’d already let it go way too long.  

Yes, a lot of work that had gone into making me and Brendan a couple.  But it had taken one guy carrying one box about one minute to undo it.  If it were meant to stand, it wouldn’t have been so easy to knock down.

I crawled into the bedroom, staying at floor level like the place was on fire.  My phone was plugged into the wall - I hadn’t even bothered to take it out with me last night.  There were three missed called from Brendan.  

I wonder if he called while Steven and I were making out right here?

All we had done was kiss.  And touch.  A lot of touching, and even through the haze of liquor I remembered every single inch of his body that passed beneath my hand.  The places that brushed my leg, pressed against my stomach, the strong fingers that held my shoulders still while he kissed me like it was the last thing he would ever do.

Good thing I was already on the floor.

There had been a moment the morning, when I first moved in bed and felt his arms around me, that I was relieved.  He was here, this was real.  Because all the running around was wearing me out.  Fighting with Brendan, ignoring Steven’s glances, it was taking a lot out of me.

Then I realized what it meant.  I’d done exactly what I’d been fighting so hard for months.  A few drinks and I forgot the kind of person I wanted to be.

“Hey,” Brendan said when he picked up.

I burst into tears.  Very helpful.

“Hey, hey, are you okay?”

I drew a deep breath and just said, “I want to break up.”

The only sound was my uneven breathing.  It seemed to go on forever until I thought he was just going to hang up and I’d never hear from him again.  But the least I could do, after what I’d done, is wait.

“Did you sleep with him?”

“No.”  Thank God.

“Do you love him?”

I closed my eyes and thought about the look on Steven’s face, less than an hour ago, saying he could make me happy.  Asking me to choose what I really want.

“I think so,” I whispered.  It was like a courtroom, waiting for the jury foreman to read the verdict.  Just a normal person, no authority except what other people have given her, passing sentence on other people’s lives.

“I...,” Brendan’s voice caught.  If he cried too I would lose any shred of composure left.  he may have put the phone down because this silence was even longer than the last.  When he finally came back on the line, his voice was shaky.

“He’ll hurt you, Kara.  This honeymoon you’re on will end and you’ll be left behind.  I don’t want to see you in a gossip column.  He’s what, twenty one?  I thought you were serious.  I thought you wanted something serious.  And you’re walking away from everything we’ve done for a kid?”

There was no use in telling him Steven was as mature as he’d ever be.  That he was a stronger, better person than I was, age be damned.  I just let Brendan say what he needed to say.  Eventually and without yelling, he talked himself out.

“I’m sorry, Brendan.  I really am.  But even if I end up alone, this is what’s right for me.  I’m sorry.”

He exhaled deeply.  “Let me see you.  I’ll be home tomorrow, let’s talk about this.”

“My answer will be the same.”

Brendan didn’t like that.  “You mean you’ll already be with him.  That’s what you wanted, right?  To move in with me?  You didn’t get it so you’re getting it somewhere else.”

“I’m not moving.”

He scoffed.  “You don’t have to, do you?  He’s right there, all the time.  I can’t compete with that, Kara!  I should have asked you to move in with me, I get it now.  I didn’t think it was the right time.  And I certainly didn’t think you were gonna run off with another guy!”

“I’M NOT RUNNING!” The volume of my own voice scared me.  But I had been patient and now I was done.  “We’re done, Brendan.  I should have ended it sooner but I wanted this to work.  I tried, I tried so hard.”

“Save it, babe.  The only thing you did was keep me on the line till you knew he was hooked.  Steven Fucking Stamkos.  Well enjoy your life, Kara.  I hope he takes good care of you.  That is, until someone better comes along.”

I hung up before he could.  That was my last word.  Then I lay there on the floor and cried for a long time.  Part of me wanted to curl up and die because some of his words were true.  He could throw insults all day but a few of them were things only he would know, things that I’d proven myself to be.  The rest of me wanted to call Steven to come over and kiss me one more time before smothering me with a pillow for the way I’d treated him too.

It wasn’t easy.  Kara was silent for two days.  I never even knew if she was home or not.  My one text went unanswered so I slid a note under her door: Miss you, back in a week.  Then we left on a road trip.

She didn’t Facebook or Twitter while I was gone, so I had no sense of what she was thinking.  The waiting was the hardest part.

“Dude, what is wrong?” Downie growled.  It was late at night and late in the trip – and I was staring at the ceiling, trying to get comfortable enough to fall asleep.  I hadn’t said anything to anyone because Kara belonged as much to the team as she did to me.  But I was going crazy.

“Let me guess, you asked Kara to marry you and she said no.”

“Shutup, Steve,” I said.

“She got a restraining order against you.”

“Fuck off.”

“You found out she slept with Vinny.”

“WHAT?!” I practically leaptedout of the bed.

He laughed cruelly.  “Calm your tits, Stammer.  Of course she didn’t.  But I knew you were all buttsore about her.”

I gave up and said, “I kissed her.”

Now it was his turn.  “WHAT?!”

“I kissed her, followed her home, climbed onto her balcony, kissed her again, passed out and woke up in her bed mostly naked.”

Even in the near-darkness I could see his mouth hanging open.

“You climbed in?  That is some stage-five stalker shit.  Did you guys….”


“Why not?”  Classic Downie.

“Drunk.  We would have regretted it.”

“Did she want to?”  For a douchebag, Downie could sometimes ask the perfect question.

“Yeah, I think so,” I said honestly.  She’d been riled up.  But whether it was for or just a brew of hormones and beer, who knew.

“And now?”

“Obviously not.”

He dropped back to the mattress.  “Wow, that’s major.  I know how much you love her.”

I love her.  Of course I did.

“What should I do?”

“Call her right now.  Wake her up.  Tell her you love her and you’re coming straight to her place from the plane.  If she doesn’t want you she’d better move out because you’re not going away until she admits that she loves you too.”

I laughed sarcastically – more of a bark really.  “You’re insane.”

“Call her.”


He sat up fully in bed, crossing his legs underneath his body.  It was a serious pose to match his serious tone – one we rarely ever heard.

“Steven.  I know I fuck around a lot.  But I know you and I know you’re not going to be able to get out of your head until this is sorted out.  Even if she tells you to die and throws the phone off the balcony, it’s better for you than waiting and guessing and flopping around like a fucking fish over there because you’re too guilty to even jerk off to the idea of her wanting you that night.”

I started to argue but it caught in my throat.  This guy was a mind reader.

“Bro, seriously.  Call her.  Apologize.  Beg.  Say you’ll go away forever.  But do something because we have two days left and you’re not gonna make it.”

He was too nice to point out I hadn’t played well on the trip.  Not badly, just not the spectacular streak I’d been on lately.  Something had been slightly off in my game and now he knew, as I did, exactly what it was.  I grabbed my phone off the bedside table and went into the bathroom.

It was after two in the morning.  I speed-dialed her number before I could come to my senses.  It wasn’t until the second ring I realized that she might be with him.

I’ll die.

The line clicked on, followed by a brief muffled sound and a moment of silence.

“Kara?” I said quietly.

“Are you okay?”  Her voice was thick with sleep and confusion; she’d probably dropped the phone or pulled it right into bed with her.  My body quivered at the thought of her soft sheets and cozy blankets, the warmth cocooned around her body.  I ached to hold her in the darkness with nothing in the world to disturb us.

“Yeah, I’m okay.  Sorry to wake you.”

“Oh, ‘s okay.”  She wasn’t trying to wake up.  Bedding shifted as she crawled in deeper to a place she felt perfectly safe.  And then she said, “I miss you.”

My heart stopped, I could have burst into tears.  He wasn’t there.  She was alone.  And she missed me.

“I miss you too.”

“Don’t wanna fight, Steven.”  I pictured her rubbing her eyes like a sleepy cartoon character.  She’d be a little turtle or a bunny.  My name was mumbled but it sounded perfect.

“We’re not fighting.”

“You’re mad at me.”

“No no, sweetie, I’m not mad.  I’m sorry for what I did, I should have done it right.”

“But you left.”

I had left.  I had come in uninvited and left without permission.  As if I could just do whatever I wanted, when all I wanted was to be with her.  This was no time to argue.

“I’m sorry.  I wanted to stay, but I wasn’t sure you wanted me.”

Silence filled the line, the bathroom where I sat against the cool tile floor.  It filled the space between whatever city we were in and Florida, every molecule of air was replaced by the sound of her saying nothing in return.  If she waited long enough, the world would suffocate.

“Just come back.”

“Two days, I’ll be there in two days.”  

“Night Steven.”

I hung up the call, looked at the phone in my hand and said, “Love you.”

“So?” Downie asked first thing in the morning as he threw open the curtains and let the aggressive sunlight fill the room.

After talking to Kara, I’d fallen asleep immediately.  Just like that.  “She misses me.”
He smiled – probably because it was all fair game again.  “She misses you naked in her bed.”


“What?!  I’m just saying.  You left her wanting more and now she wants it.  Taking lessons from Uncle Downie here, you’ve been watching me work.  It’s impressive, I know.  Let’s see if it’s enough to get your sorry ass laid.”

I threw a pillow, dodged a sock and headed for breakfast.

That night I couldn’t find my phone anywhere in the room.  I turned my side over once and was about to do it again when Downie, Marty and Malone came waltzing in.

“Looking for this?” Downie held up my phone.

“Yes, asshole.”

“Nope,” Malone took it from his hand, palmed it behind his back.  “We’ll tell you if she calls.  But no calling her.  You’re just going to mess it all up.”

“I’m not going to call her!” I said.  But I totally was.  Or at least a text.  I’d been thinking about it all day – something nice to remind her that she missed me, but not too aggressive.  So far I hadn’t come up with anything.

“Leave it,” Marty said, taking the phone from Malone.  But he slipped it into his pocket.  “Stammer, give her tonight.  She’s not going to forget you.”
I could take one of them – definitely Marty – but not all three.  And all my agonizing hadn’t gotten me anywhere anyway, I’d just stare at the phone all night and not do anything.  So I let them win.

“If this backfires, I’m getting myself traded,” I warned them.


We were descending into Tampa Bay.  I had been tapping my foot so loudly that Vinny put a book on my thigh.  I just tapped the other one instead.  Then I used the same pace to jog to my car.

“Easy killer,” Downie shouted.  “Remember to hold her hair back or she can’t breathe.”
Only Malone would laugh at that.  “Don’t hurt her, Stammer.  She’s probably never seen someone so pale.”

They probably never saw the middle finger I waved back.

I parked and went right to her door.  It was like riding in the backseat of your own car – a whole new perspective.  I’d chosen a suit I knew Kara liked and I wore it with the tie off and shirt open at my throat.  In the visor mirror I looked the same as always – I hoped it would be enough for tonight.  One of her lights was on.  So I rang the bell.


She wore broken-in jeans and an old U2 concert t-shirt, no shoes and no makeup.  Her smile was tentative as she stepped back to let me in. The first good sign.  With the door closed we stood there, nearly touching, in the narrow entryway and stared at each other.  It all came tumbling out.

“Kara, please….”

“Steven, I….”

“You’re so important and I can’t….”

“I was so afraid of being that girl who…”

She laughed at us talking over each other, and so I waited to be sure it was my turn.  I looked into those sparkling green eyes knowing full well this was the last chance I was ever going to get to make this work.

“I have wanted you for so long, Kara, that I didn’t give you a minute to think.  I’m sorry if I made you do something you didn’t want to.”

After a moment she replied.  “I felt so trapped by what Brendan thought – it was either do what he wanted or prove him right.  I couldn’t make myself move.”

“So I did it for you.  I had no right, and I’m so sorry.”

Kara put her hand on my bare forearm.  The hallway was barely wide enough for us to face each other and I was looking down into her beautiful face.

“I’m glad you did it.  I was so scared I might never have done anything.”

I heard her words but I couldn’t let myself believe them.  She’d said everything but what I really wanted to hear, and nothing else would suffice tonight.  So I waited for her this time, waited for her to get all the way there under her own power.

“I want this, Steven.  I want you.  If… if you still want me.”