Sid sat on the couch in his living room. Tomorrow he would pack the place into a bags and boxes – or he could leave everything in it’s place. Either way, it would almost look as if no one had ever lived there.
That’s not fair, he told himself. Just the night before, Leah had fallen asleep on that couch. They’d eaten dinner at that table. Upstairs, they’d done more than have sex – he and Leah had made love, something Sid had never done with anyone else. He pushed a hand roughly through his hair, exhaling to force away the tightness in his chest. He was relieved to have made up with Leah and parted friends, but he would have preferred not to part at all, and instead test their friendship one – or maybe five – more times. Now relief had turned to frustration: why couldn’t she want him the way he wanted her? Or at least want him in the superficial, fleeting way every other girl did?
He patted his pocket, keys jingling. He should drive to her house. He should climb in a fucking window if that’s what it took. They’d been together and the world hadn’t ended. Sid wouldn’t want to be anywhere else if it did.
Except for Pittsburgh.
He let his hand fall. For ten days, the Cole Harbour house had been more than just a place to live. Now it was time to go home. Sidney looked around the room again – a reminder that when he left, there were things he couldn’t take with him.
It had been eighteen hours since Leah snuck out of Sidney’s house. In that time, he’d called and texted nearly fifty times. She had ignored them all.
After the dinner party she lay in bed, hoping the phone would ring just one more time.
I’m stupid, she thought. I should have gone over there. I should have fucked him senseless and limped into work. I should have let him have what he wants – because he wants me. Sidney Crosby wants me.
Leah closed her eyes, guilty and sad, and let her hands go where Sid’s should have been.
Sidney did not dream that night, or his body couldn’t handle remembering. In the morning, he rolled out of bed at the first beep of his alarm like a solider to a battle cry. He pulled on sweatpants and sneakers, a heavy fleece and cap. Outisde he could see his breath before he even started running. He gave himself one mile to think of Leah – one mile to get it under control. She had changed a lot of things for Sid, but failed to alter the one inevitable consequence of their friendship: he was still leaving, and leaving her behind. No memory – no matter how strong or soft or how good it smelled - could fill that hole. He’d gotten through the night without her, now Sid just had to get through one more day.
At the mile mark, he told himself it was time for a fresh start. Leah was back at school and he should get back to his life too. Worst part first.
“Hey,” he called, walking through his parents front door.
“About time you came over,” Troy said. “Left you five messages.”
“I saw,” Sidney replied. He loved his family but the burden of his father’s expectations never got lighter. Surely they knew about Leah, though they hadn’t said a word. Or Sid hadn’t allowed it – he’d been completely absent.
“No.” Sid helped himself to a glass of juice.
“What did you do all of yesterday?”
Slept with Leah, called her a thousand times, went to dinner, got shot down, tried to take her home, got shot down again… Sidney listed the highlights in his head. “Worked out.” It was always the safe answer. “Talked to some of the guys. Had a dinner last night with friends.”
His father’s brow gathered in the middle, the way it always did before he launched free advice. Surprisingly, Troy’s words were short. “Hope you told them goodbye.”
Sid rolled his eyes. Troy would never consider his son’s dalliances with the opposite sex anything more than inconvenient. Troy started talking about conditioning and coaches and getting on the ice with the team right away, as if Sid had been stuffing his face with PopTarts all winter only to be surprised by the end of the lockout. Sidney tuned out the monologue, gave his mother a kiss and sat down in front of an omelette – egg whites, which meant his mom was in on it too.
“What time’s your flight?” she asked politely.
“Two o’clock tomorrow.”
“Is Leah driving you?”
Sid almost choked. The words – her name – fell to the table like a bomb dropping to Earth. He could only imagine what his parents had heard. With his eyes glued to his plate, Sid refused to look up at either of them. It took an extra moment but he collected his words and swallowed his food.
“No, she has school.”
Troy shrugged, as if he’d already told everyone this new girl was nothing. Sid was sure he had actually told everyone, except of course his son. Only if Sid brought it up would Troy come down on the topic, like smiting a man for swearing in church. It was a tired dance and Sid let it go without comment. He felt like he was letting the whole thing go without a word.
Troy started talking about something else, but Sid didn’t hear it.
One thing he’d learned during his concussion was that no one could tell him how he felt. Diagnoses were just educated guesses. In the end it was up to what Sid felt in himself. No piece of paper, no frustrated coach or scared parent could help. It was a burden Sidney railed against in the worst of his injury – he wanted to be told when he would be better and that it would never, ever happen again.
Except no one could promise that. Just like no one could promise that he’d meet a girl like Leah in Pittsburgh. Maybe they didn’t want him to. No one could guarantee that Sid’s life from this point on would be any different than it had been before. Only he was responsible for change and the first thing he had to change were his priorities.
One more day. But Sid could not avoid her, now did he want to. He had to be as good to her as she was to him.
“Maybe Leah can take me,” he interrupted his father. “I’ll ask.”
“That’s not necessary,” Troy interjected.
Sid shrugged. “I want to.”
“You want to put that poor girl through the wringer for another day?”
Sid laughed, nearly choking again. His father’s face darkened as he did appreciate insubordination. Sid put down his knife and fork. “Now you’re worried about her?”
“I’m worried about her getting the wrong idea and waiting around like you’re coming back for her.”
Pushing away the last few bites of his omelette, Sid stayed calm. His father was as predictable as he was a bully. Rising to the argument only suited Troy’s purpose. Sid had learned long before his injury that he could not win fights by being the loudest or the meanest. He had to be the smartest.
“She wouldn’t wait.”
“Bullshit.” His father, ever stubborn.
Sid tilted his head like it was of no consequence that he might come home next summer to find Leah shacked up with Ricky Calvert or another of Cole Harbor’s perfectly ordinary, permanent young men. As if that idea didn’t churn the food in his stomach like so much concrete. He forced a smile to his face and used his favorite words to say to his father:
The first day back from vacation always seemed endless. The bell was shrill, the kids one-upping each other with new possessions. Teachers were grumpy, seniors had senioritis and the juniors – her primary concern – were at maximum stress levels from answering two weeks of family questions about where they were going to college. Leah had been prepared for the onslaught.
But not for this. She walked down the hall and every single person stared. Some stopped what they were doing – kids, on sugar, most with some technology-induced form of ADD – and watched her. She got halfway down the crowded upperclass hallway, when one of the most popular senior boys called out, “Hey Miss Hanlon. Good vacation?”
She laughed. He and his friends laughed. Two cheerleaders told her she looked “really cool” in her new red dress. One of the hockey players asked if she was singing at their next game. Leah made it to her office, closed the door and put her head against it.
Sidney Crosby was their hero, their heartthrob. And they all thought she was his girl.
Sid drove straight home. Arguing with his father always got him fired up, but not arguing was worse. He felt pathetic for not exploding at his father, even though such a display never worked. Sid stormed through the living room - site of the previous night’s weakness - and set to packing. Clothes either stayed or went, books and papers and junk followed. Everything was jammed into bags - what he didn’t take he could buy new.
Find new, he told himself. Find someone new. This place would wait for him, even if Leah would not. He shoved things into drawers and ripped zippers closed.
Sid made good progress until the guest room.
Now it was Leah’s room, still rumpled from their encounter – pillows askew, blankets twisted. Someone had a good time there. The memories flooded back: detailed, desperate. Even the parts he’d rushed and been clumsy with her, embarrassingly eager. An ache stabbed into his crotch so hard he wobbled and sat on the edge of the mattress.
Leah said the sex had been good - Sid desperately wanted to believe her. It had been more than good for him.
If only she’d stayed, he thought. He’d have shown her how much better it could be.
Sid didn’t often allow himself to wallow. Two years of serious, untreatable injury had worn that right out of him. But after failing to defend Leah to his father, after seeing where she way and knowing she would not return, Sid couldn’t make himself stand back up.
Leah had proven to be different from anyone he’d ever known. Maybe normal guys got to know girls like her all the time – he’d envy them, then. Mostly he would just miss Leah. Their crazy outburst of lust had been one thing, but her apology and forgiveness and ability to laugh about it was more special. After giving her the one thing every girl seemed to want – Leah didn’t want more. She just wanted him in her life, without the draw of the fame, money or sex. Even Sid wasn’t quite sure who he was without all that. Leah seemed to know him though, she saw what he needed and what he could handle. People fell all over themselves to give Sid what he wanted. Leah had refused, and for his own good.
He rolled onto his side, head on her pillow. One breath confirmed his hope and fear: it still smelled like her.
For all his practical, efficient nature, for his years of hard work and focus, Sid lay there a while thinking about what he did really want now. That list had changed a lot in two years. Winning was still at the top. Things like more close friends, life outside hockey and more free time were knew. He wanted a relationship too, with someone he could trust and who would trust him in return. Hockey was not the ideal life to fall in love with – some teammates forgot about home when they were on the road. Sid would not be like that, he was too scared. And that scared him. He wanted something worth being terrified to lose.
I want her, he let himself think for just a moment. For an idea so visceral, it felt cold and hard in his mind. Sid had told his father the truth. Leah was not the kind of girl who would wait.
“One more day.” Sid stripped the bed and carried the sheets to the wash. He doubled up on the soap, pushed the wad of fabric low into the machine and set it for the hottest water. The lid clanged shut like a kick to the stomach.
Sid left the rest of the house looking as if he could walk back in at any moment. It was the set of a play where he acted like a regular guy.
He checked his watch: five-thirty in the afternoon. Leah would be home from school by now but she had not called or texted. Sid had not said when he was leaving – it was too sad to expose exactly how much longer he’d do nothing about it. Now his house was silent. He moved into the kitchen, it’s wide granite countertops and stainless steel sinks looking as new as they day they were installed. Sid emptied every cabinet and examined the half-empty ones. It would do. He systematically cut every last vegetable, dumped pasta from the bottom of a box, and stretched the end of some sauce with olive oil. It all went on the stove, into a bowl and down his throat. He barely tasted it.
In the shower, Sid put his head under the spray and let the water block his ears. Sound was drowned out until he could hear only his heart thumping at that trusty, rhythmic speed. With nothing to distract him, details about the night with Leah resurfaced: the way she reached for him, the way she’d given herself up without pretending she didn’t want it. It had been honest and scary and sexy as hell. Sliding into her was heaven. Making her breath hitch was even better. Losing himself, spilling inside her when she wanted it so badly had been beyond compare. Sid’s right hand wrapped his erection. The other pushed hard against the tile wall.
One more day. He gave in and pleasured himself to her memory: her thighs spread beneath him, the way he slammed home the first time and nearly knocked them both out. Her skin and feet and her blue, blue eyes that stayed open, right through the kiss, as he screwed his cock into her body. He jerked his length roughly in frustration and anger, then came hard, a low growl ripping from his throat and his load splashing the wall. The coursing water quickly washed his weakness down the drain.
One more day, he repeated.
Sid hung the towel carefully over the top of the glass stall and wiped a big hand through the fog on the mirror. Six twenty-five. He shaved and brushed his teeth, rubbed a little gel through his hair. In his room, Sid put on dark jeans and a soft, dark green pullover.
He grabbed his keys.
After school, Leah went to the gym. She stopped for dinner. She ran an errand. She made up something else to do but eventually it was six-thirty and she was home, scattered and skittish.
He’ll call, right? He’s the one leaving. Or should I call? Should I have called him last night?
The phone was safe. Sidney’s voice softened her resolve, but was nothing compared to his face or size or the sight of that mouth. Leah had used up all her strength saying goodbye at dinner. Her body ached from every side – the memory of him plus the way she’d gone at herself, fantasizing.
Still, he hadn’t called. Is this what happened to every girl he slept with, and every girl who turned him down?
Sid wiped his palms on his jeans and rang Leah’s doorbell with an unsteady hand. Twice he’d nearly turned the car around, doubting his ability to behave in her presence. He could have called. But there were things she deserved to hear from him – she deserved his respect. To leave Cole Harbour without thanking her would make him a bad friend and he couldn’t mess up his first time out.
Inside, Leah heard the chime. She froze. Then she ran.
Sid heard the patter of feet, beating as quickly as his heart. The door whipped open.
His mouth went dry. It was just a dress – albeit a red one that wrapped around Leah’s body like a hug and cinched at her waist right where he’d like to put his hands. It was conservative enough for school and suggestive enough to make sure all the boys learned nothing in her presence. Her hair was down, dented from an updo, and she’d ditched her shoes. The ground rolled under his feet. Leah held the door wide, but like a vampire Sid couldn’t enter without being invited. Because his intentions had just changed.
Fuck this, he thought. I have one more day.
His arm fit so well around Leah’s waist. He pulled her in and kissed her, pushed right again her front door for the whole damned world to see.
Leah could have burst into tears. All day she tried to work, all day she thought of Sid. She thought of the coming days that would hold nothing memories while he was long gone back to his glamorous life. And now back to your regularly scheduled programming, where Sidney Crosby is a superstar and Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia was the middle of fucking nowhere.
Except that he was still there, for now, like a flare left burning long after a crash. Like a guy with as much desire and confusion as Leah had herself. She grabbed the back of Sid’s neck and kissed him for all she was worth.
They staggered inside, the front door slammed. Sid backed Leah up to the wall, pulling and untying as he went. She pawed at his shirt, breaking their kiss only to whip it over his head. It raked his dark curly hair into a mess. Sid looked down at her, a big smile breaking across his face.
“Shut up,” she smiled back and kissed him again.
Sid gave up on her dress and shoved his hands up her thighs, lifting her off her feet. A thin, delicate piece of lace snapped easily around two of his thick fingers. Then those same fingers pushed right up into her pussy.
“Ohhhhgod,” Leah knocked her head against the wall. She twisted against the penetration, accidentally rubbing her thigh along his crotch.
Sidney saw stars. Leah was as hot and wet as if she’d been thinking of him all day, dreaming of him busting in here and having his way with her. Well he would not disappoint.
“You always run to your door like that?” he asked in a low voice.
“You alwaysssaahhh,” she moaned as pumped his hand again, “come over uninvited?”
Sid went palm-deep inside her soaked core and said, “I plan to come a lot of ways tonight.”
His fingers pulled free with a wet pop and Leah slid down the wall. Only Sid’s grip kept her from crumpling to the floor. His eyes were black, his lips flushed, his chest bare; Sid looked like a werewolf fresh from a full moon party.
He held Leah’s gaze. Her chest heaved, breasts swelling where he’d pulled at the top of her dress. Those auburn curls were barely out of place – he’d have to work harder. She put her hand against his chest, right over his heart.
Leah was going to say something, Sid didn’t know what. It could have been ‘get out’ or ‘don’t go’ or ‘fuck me.’ All he knew is what he would say in return: I love you.
He kissed her instead. Her torn panties under his heel, her juices slick on his skin, Sidney leaned down and kissed Leah the way he wished he’d kissed her on New Year’s Eve. Slow and strong, his tongue trying a new way to communicate everything he couldn’t say. And this time - just like in his daydreams, just like in that bed - Leah kissed him back.
She followed as he pulled her to the couch, but refused to sit down. Instead she stood in front of Sidney and ran her hands over his heavy arms, wide chest and hard abs, feeling the muscle coiled beneath every inch of his skin. Dark jeans hung on his hips, as if they’d like to slip off, but couldn’t get over his ass. Neither could Leah. She pushed both hands into his back pockets, the dragged them back along his stomach. One thumb slipped inside his waistband, stroking across his directional muscle. The other reached for the table lamp behind him and clicked it on.
“Don’t be shy,” she smirked, moving to his fly. Sid let his head fall back. The zipper fired off like a round of bullets as it opened, each one close enough to make him jump. Then Leah had a handful of his cock.
“Fuck,” he groaned. She pulled him out to full length, wrapped around his shaft and pushed back down until her fingers raked his balls. Sid rolled his head forward just as she was pushing his pants away and following them to the floor.
Leah didn’t stop to appreciate the scenery – on her knees in front of Sidney Crosby’s lower body was no time to be a good Canadian. She peeled the soft cotton of his boxer briefs away like unwrapping a present. He was more than she remembered – hot and smooth and throbbing in her hand. As she had in bed, Leah looked Sidney right in the eye. She slipped his cock between her lips.
Sid never had a dizzy spell like this, not even in the worst days of his concussion. The room wobbled as Leah pushed her mouth down his length. Then she pursed her lips, sucked hard and drew slowly back, right off the end until he popped free, bouncing like a diving board. He gathered up her hair, held it at the back of her head and Leah took him deeper still, his tip brushing the back of her throat.
Fuck me, she wanted him to say. Not ‘make love,’ as it seemed they were dangerously close to doing again. It was just sex, friends with benefits, screaming each others’ names, whatever. He was leaving, she was staying. It was goodbye.
Sid flinched on impact. Leah would have smiled had her mouth not been so full. Instead she dug her fingernails into his thigh and deep throated him again. He grunted loudly. She worked him over, two hands and her mouth, until he was making that noise on every stroke. Then she went faster.
“Godyes,” Sid breathed. He’d been trying not to talk, not to beg or command her to swallow his load. But Leah was giving as good as he’d ever gotten and Sid was forgetting his manners. With a fistful of her auburn curls, he pushed her face into his lap. Leah squirmed, but when he eased up she just went back for more. Sid ran his dick down her throat again and again until he saw stars, then again until she gagged. The sudden gasp slapped at his cock and Sid came with a roar, bursting hot and pouring his frustration and fear across her tongue.
Leah licked her way free of his salty mess and he fell back onto the couch. She got to her feet, stripped off her dress and climbed right into his lap.
Sid wanted to sleep. He wanted to cry. Mostly he wanted make sure that Leah never looked at another guy again, never got wet for one or sucked one off or let one do the things that he wanted to do tonight. Just as she managed to straddle his thighs, Sid parted his knees: her legs spread even wider. She gasped. He slipped a hand into the open space and lightly traced the outline of her pussy.
Soaked. As Sidney’s slightly coarse fingertip tugged at the sensitive skin, trembling. Leah forced herself to look at him. From so close up, Sidney was even more perfect. His eyes had a softness to them now – the post-pleasure glow. That look was trouble. It wasn’t the hungry desire of someone desperate to break the rules. It was the surrender of a man already condemned who figures he might as well go all the way.
“Sid,” she said, voice as feather-light as his touch. He half-smiled at the sound of his name. That such a small display of affection, even now, could earn that grin made her heart splinter like glass.
Sid might have been embarrassed by how little it took to light him up. Maybe if he were still standing at her front door - but this was the party at the end of the world. He used the he said at Madigan’s, the night they’d danced so close. It was obvious then they wanted this enough to fight it so hard.
“I won’t,” he said, not elaborating on what exactly he was resisting. “I promise.”