Wednesday, March 16, 2011

One: Red Shorts

He was sneaking out when he saw her.

He’d gone out with the guys, had a few drinks and woken up next to a blond head of hair. A blond girl’s face was pressed against his shoulder, turned toward the mattress so he couldn’t see her face.  Janet? Jessica?  It wouldn’t matter.  He extracted himself from the twisted bedsheets, found his pants and shoes and pulled the door almost shut behind him.  

Then he heard a noise.  It sounded like a clothes dryer door shutting.  He pressed himself into the doorway as a girl came around the corner carrying a laundry basket.  He saw brown hair and a white hamper, and maybe – hopefully – the wire of headphones in between.  She went into a room down the hall but didn’t close the door.

He really didn’t want a run-in with the roommate.  It was impossible and unnecessary to explain why he was creeping from a stranger’s apartment at 10 AM on a Saturday.  If the girls were best friends, she’d kill him.  If they hated each other, she’d never let her roommate live it down.  He softly stepped closer to her room until he froze.  She was singing.
Yes, iPod!  He peeked around the corner.  Her back was turned as she folded an item from the pile she’d poured onto the bed.  Instantly he wished he had just kept his head down and made a run for it.

She wore red shorts with white trim, the 80’s-style cotton kind that were very short.  A gray t-shirt clung to her shoulders and hung a bit loose over her trim waist.  Brown hair bounced at her shoulders as she shook her body to the music in her headphones.  In fact, she was dancing pretty good.  And singing along.  It would have been cute if her legs hadn’t been so shapely, calf muscles flexing as she shifted her weight.  Her ass in those shorts was almost criminal – high, firm and rocking back and worth to an unheard beat.  She lifted her arms to fold a towel and he got a glimpse of the shape of her breasts.

He was mesmerized – full on watching a stranger in her own house.  He had to know her.  And there was only one way that would ever happen.

He crept back to the blonde's room, shed his clothing and climbed back into the ruined bed to wait for her to wake up.

“Morning,” he said.  The blond came around with a soft breath of defeat that morning had bested her sleep again.  She looked surprised to see him, making him groan internally.  
Should have left!  Damned red shorts and dancing around.  She recovered quickly and coiled around him.

“Morning handsome.”  Her fingers worked the flesh of his side, suddenly anxious for round two.  Probably looking to earn another date – they often tried, hence his inclination to leave before they got the chance.  He caught his arms around her to stop her hands.

“Any chance of breakfast?” he rocked like he was hugging her.

“We could go to the…,” she tried.

“Let’s stay here.  I’ll cook.”

He stirred the bowl with a fork, beating eggs.  His date sat at the table, leaning back against the wall and watching him off the rim of her coffee cup.  He still didn’t know her name.  The eggs sizzled in the frying pan and he pressed the toast down.  
Where is this other girl?  He hoped the smell of food would at least make her curious.

There was orange juice so he helped himself.  As he turned from the fridge, the brunette finally appeared in the doorway.

“Hey, I… oops.  Sorry!” She stopped quickly, then recovered with a smile like she’d come across something very interested.  “Good morning everyone.”

Her smile was dazzling, slightly crooked with dimples flashing.  Her smile knew something you didn’t, she was up to something and you wouldn’t find out till it was too late.  He took advantage of her moment of surprise to confirm that her t-shirt was filled out rather tightly across her chest and her shorts were in fact as short as he remembered.

WHATTHEWHAT?! MIKE GREEN? Her brain was screaming.

“Hi, I’m Mike.”  He reached out to shake.

“Zoe,” she put her soft hand into his big one.  
No fucking kidding!!!!!

“Hungry?” he asked.

The blond tutted like this was not an open invitation but Mike ignored her.  He wasn’t that hungry anyway.  He added another plate, scooped out eggs for all of them and added toast.  Zoe moved past him to get herself some orange juice, willing herself to be calm:
Deeeeeeeep breath.
How can I possibly play this? Mike thought.  Waking up with one roommate was no way to get with the other.  He glanced over and caught her smiling at him from the corner of her eye.  As she swung the door closed, Mike could swear she bumped his hip on purpose.

“So Jenna, what’s the deal for tonight?” Zoe asked.

“Oh, uh…,” the blond looked at Mike like she was reluctant.

“Come on, Jen.  I’m sure Mike here has a pretty good idea what goes on at a bachelorette party.”
Oh my God, Zoe is getting married.  No, this other girl I just slept with.  I was just someone’s last fling.

“Our downstairs neighbor Marie is getting married next month,” Zoe explained for Mike’s benefit.  His heart stopped pounding like someone had pulled the plug.  “Jenna is in charge of tonight’s festivities.”

“Marie used to be my roommate.  She and her fiancé moved downstairs when they moved in together.”

Mike ate slowly, unsatisfied with the amount of information he’d gathered and trying to drag out his time.  “Sounds fun.  Where are you guys going?”

Jenna told them about her booking at a local club, where they’d gotten the VIP room and bottle service for twelve girls.  They had a few SUVs booked and a big table for dinner at a local four-star restaurant beforehand.  After the club…

“Whatever happens, happens,” she said.  Under the table, she ran her foot up Mike’s calf.  He nearly choked on his toast.

After they finished, Mike excused himself.  He gave Jenna his phone number just in case his plan didn’t work out.  But he knew where Zoe would be later, and there wasn’t a VIP room in DC he couldn’t waltz into.  It would take some stealth maneuvering to avoid the blond, but Mike would be seeing the brunette again.

“I had a great time last night,” Jenna cooed, snuggling up and pressing her breasts to his chest.  Mike dodged her kiss and planted one on her cheek instead.

“Thanks for breakfast.”
What the what? Zoe paced inside her closed room.  Mike Green.  Of all people!  Fucking Jenna, she could be a grade A slut when the mood struck.  She heard the front door close.

“Omigod!” Jenna shrieked throwing open Zoe’s door without asking.  “Holy shit, Zo.  Do you know who he is?  He is a professional hockey player.  You know him right?  He’s like famous and stuff?”

Zoe resisted the urge to hit her roommate with the Washington Capitals hat that hung on the back of her closet door.  “Yes, Jenna.  Well done, Mike Green is a star.”

“Green.  Mike Green.  Got it.  Eeeeeeeeeee!”  She threw herself facedown on the bed and kicked her feet.  “We were all out and Natalie got us into the VIP section somehow and then there was bottle service and all these guys – guys everywhere!  One of them had like ten girls on him, but I got to Mike first.  Had to fend off some bitches too.  He was pretty drunk but, I mean, he was here this morning.  That says something, right?”

“Yes, it definitely does,” Zoe agreed.
 But what?

The more Zoe tried not to think about it, the more she did.  Like something you’re not supposed to look at but you just can’t help yourself.  Mike Green.  Good God.

Of course it had been Jenna, with her blond hair and big boobs, her little dresses and charming giggle.  She was a big-money catcher and most of the guys she went out with were lobbyists or string-pullers in the inner sanctums of Washington’s power politics.  They weren’t looking for smart – they got smart people all day long.  They were looking for gorgeous and uncomplicated.  Jenna was certainly both.
Would I?  That was the real question Zoe asked herself all day.  She’d gone out before with Jenna and her fashionista friends, to a place they couldn’t afford but they didn’t plan on paying for anything anyway.  And they never did.  So smooth it was almost professional, Zoe had held on for the ride while these girls worked some kind of invisible gravity system that Zoe must have missed learning about in school.  They hadn’t been in the door twenty minutes before they were in VIP, and another twenty minutes later other women were leaving because all the attention had been captured.  Zoe stood to the side, marveled then went home alone and early.  She could hold her own with these guys no problem – or actually, that was the problem.  She was no political harpy, but she read newspapers and had opinions.  Two strikes already. 

Would I have made a play for Mike?  If it had worked, would I have seen it through?  Zoe laughed at herself for even asking.  Of course she would have.  If she had a weakness, it was hockey players.  Or so she thought – she’d never actually met one before.  But she’d thought about it.  It was impossible not to, especially at a game with all the sweating and hitting and wrestling that went on.  Hockey was like some kind of ancient test of strength – and not just one strength: hitting a ball, running fastest, catching something.  It required all the attributes of other sports and then some.  If a guy was skilled at all of those, Zoe had often wondered if there was anything he couldn’t do.

To walk into the kitchen that morning and see him in last night’s clothes, hair a mess with a little grin on his face, Zoe could have fainted.  He looked and probably smelled like sex and she was disgusted with herself for finding him beautiful.  He’d just been with Jenna, for Christ’s sake.  Jenna wasn’t exactly choosy with her favors.

But Mike had been friendly.  That was different.  Most of Jenna’s dates took her to their places and were discreet if they ever saw her again.  Not the type to parade around the stove in a rumpled t-shirt making everyone scrambled eggs.  Zoe was confused, but pleasantly surprised.
Mike Green.  Fucking A.

“Bro.  Need your help tonight,” Mike talked out loud to an empty SUV as he drove through suburban Virginia.

“No can do, bud.  Got a poker night,” his friend and partner-in-crime Brooks Laich’s voice came through the speakers on Bluetooth.

“Well I’ve got a bachelorette party.”

It didn’t take a second.  “Poker cancelled.”

Normally, Brooks would have been out with Mike on a night like the one he met Jenna.  But Brooks had taken a heavy hit during the Capitals game and been ordered home to sleep it of lest it become a stiff muscle issue.  So Mike had gone with some of the other guys – Ovechkin, Backstrom, Fehr – to a swanky downtown hotspot.  And the night played out the way it always did.

They went to the VIP section, recognized by bouncers and bar staff trained to spot professional athletes in their street clothes.  Mike always thought they just recognized money.  And maybe Ovi.  Bottles, music, girls – the usual suspects piled up.  Mike didn’t remember at what point he’d paired off with the blond, but he knew a few of her friends had also not gone home alone.  That type worked in a pack and usually caught their prey.

She’d been nice enough, if a little dim, and she was definitely hot.  But it was club-hot, dark room-hot, late night groping in the back of a taxi-hot.  In the morning, Mike thought she’d looked more than tired.  Ragged was the word he was looking for.  No number of manicures, highlights or facials could hide the fatigue in her eyes.

Her roommate on the other hand – she was his type.  His real type.  Sporty and sassy probably much smarter than he was.  Mike liked a challenge, both on and off the ice, but it had been a while since he’d gone for anything but the easy goal.

“Who’s the lucky bride?” Brooks asked.

“Don’t know.  I…,” Mike almost hesitated then laughed.  He and Brooks had done way worse than this.  “I went home with this girl last night.  She was alright.  Went to sneak out this morning and I see her roommate – Brooks, this girl is amazing.  But I can’t think of a way to meet her other than to sneak back into her roommate’s bed, wake her up and make everyone breakfast.  It’s their friends’ party tonight.”

The Bluetooth channel only carried sound one way, so it wasn’t till Mike stopped talking that he heard Brooks laughing hysterically.  A full minute later, Mike was almost home and Brooks was still cracking up.

“So we’re going to a party to avoid a girl you already banged so you can try to bang her roommate?”

“I don’t want to bang this girl – I want to know her.  She’s… different.”

Again with the laughter.  “You are so gay.”

“Just come to the party.  The other girls are hot too.”

“I said I would.  Let’s do dinner first.  Should we bring anyone else?”

Mike had thought about that, but he didn’t want to roll too big.  “No, let’s keep it on the quiet.”

Brooks caught him immediately.  “Dude, were we invited to this party?”  When Mike didn’t answer, Brooks howled.  “You’re stalking this girl.  You boned her roommate, made happy family breakfast and now you’re going to show up at a party she told you about.  That is bold, my friend.”

There was nothing Mike could say for it.  “That’s the plan.”

Zoe had been looking forward to Marie’s bachelorette party all week.  Between the two of them and Jenna, they had a very diverse group of friends who all knew each other.  It would be a great mix of people and undoubtedly a night to remember.  She straightened her hair until it was a pile of silky dark strands that swished when she shook her head to an imaginary beat.  Dance hair, she thought.  Music video hair.  She shook her new dress from its bag – a dark blue band top with a muted teal skirt that stopped mid-thigh and looked like something from the lost city of Atlantis.  High heels in the same teal color with tiny jewels finished off the outfit, leaving Zoe a good 4 inches taller than usual and feeling like a rock star.

The SUVs picked them up first.  Jenna wore a black wrap dress that left nothing but her social security number to the imagination.  Marie was slightly more modest in a red halter dress with a pageant sash advertising “Bachelorette.”  She’d declined a veil of condoms or any of the other typical accoutrements – they were going classy, not trashy.  At least until they were drunk enough and that line blurred away.  They rounded up nine other girls between the two cars, descended on a restaurant and the night began exactly the way Zoe had anticipated.  Every table of men in the place sent them a round of cocktails or a bottle of champagne.

“Good start,” Zoe’s best friend Christine whispered.  She wore a purple bandage dress and had a rack you could appreciate from space.  They covered Marie’s meal, split the bill and poured themselves back into the cars.  They were already half in the bag and it was barely 10:30 PM.  

“To the club!” Marie shouted, opening another bottle of bubbly in the back of the car.  It ran dry just as they rolled to a stop in front of a line of people waiting behind a velvet rope.  The bouncer grandly let the ladies pass right through.

The VIP section was off to the left, taking them straight across the middle of the space to be seen before disappearing.  A big booth – almost three quarters of a circle – had been reserved for them.  Bottles of vodka, rum and gin were displayed in racks with mixers, ice and glasses.  In the middle was a huge magnum of champagne with a note to Marie from her fiance.  

“Sigh,” Jenna said.  “If only we could all find a guy so sweet.”

Another girl, Jane from Marie’s office, chimed in.  “If only we could all find a guy so rich!”

The club filled in and the party rolled on.  By 11 PM, the dance floor was packed and the girls right in the middle.  Any number of guys surrounded them, waiting for a chance to break in on 12 drunk girls pressing themselves together and shaking it for all to see.  Zoe smiled to see them all laughing and cutting loose – it was exactly what she’d been hoping for.

“Mr. Green,” the valet said as he opened the door of Mike’s white Lamborghini.  There were not a lot of these cars in town, even if Mike hadn’t been to this club before.  Another valet let Brooks out and they nodded their way past the growing line of hopeful partygoers outside.

“A table in the VIP room, gentlemen?” a club host asked.  Mike had never noticed a club host before he started spending money in places like this.  They made things happen as a built-in service for high rolling clientele.  Usually it was a reserved table magically appearing though you’d made no reservation or a bottle of something exotic.  A few of their Capitals teammates could tell you that other, more interesting items were also available.

“Sure, thanks.”  They followed to the VIP section, past a huge empty booth with half-full bottles of everything, including a giant bottle of champagne.  “Looks like a party,” Mike said to the host, motioning in that direction.

“Bachelorette.  Beautiful girls,” the host smiled, showing them to a small banquette table.  They ordered a round of scotch, neat.

“That’s them, eh?” Brooks braised his glass toward the booth.  It looked like they’d disappeared in the middle of a great time.  “They must be on the dance floor.”  

The VIP room was elevated slightly, looking out over the seething mass of people moving to the bass that bumped through the floor.  It was like standing on a giant speaker.  Mike scanned the crowd, but finding only two faces would be impossible.  If he even remembered what the blond looked like.   So they waited for the girls to come back to home base.  It didn’t take long.

“Woooooooooooot!” a female voice shouted, announcing her arrival.  The group behind her piled into the round booth and tipped every bottle within arm’s reach.  The last girl in dropped onto the edge of the seat and leaned her head back, exposing a pale, graceful neck as she laughed.

“That’s her,” Mike elbowed Brooks.  Her legs were a mile long in those sexy high heels, and the dress showed a lot of thigh.  Dark hair was tousled from dancing shone in the flashing lights.  “Zoe.”  

Brooks clinked his nearly-empty glass against Mike’s.  “Bro, you have not led me astray.  One for you, ten for me.  The girl you got with last night will have to shop elsewhere.  Which one is she?”

Jenna was three people in from Zoe.  She was dressed to the nines – hair and makeup all done up like a photoshoot.  She looked good, Mike could see why he’d have chatted her up.  But her beauty seemed forced next to some of the more natural-looking girls at the table.  Not that there was anything natural about the short dresses and fuck-me shoes they all wore, but some of them actually let their real faces be seen.  Like Zoe.

“Your new girl’s a fox, Greenie.”  Brooks was right.  Zoe’s smile flashed as she turned her head toward the bar.  Mike instinctively ducked away to avoid her swept up in her gaze.  Laich gave him a cuff on the shoulder.  “You gotta talk to her.  What’s the play?”

“Wait till the roommate is gone.  I gotta go with fancy-meeting-you-here.”  Mike had no other options.

With drinks refilled, the girls got up en masse to return to the dance floor.  Zoe stepped aside as they all filed out, giving the bachelorette in her red dress a big hug before waiting to go last.  She took two steps to follow her friends, then turned on a heel and walked right over to Mike and Brooks.

“Fancy meeting you here,” she said, striking a little pose in front of their table.  From their seated position, she looked about twelve feet tall and ten of those were all endless, sculpted legs.  Hands on her hips accentuated the curve of her waist and the corner of her mouth curled in anticipation.  Mike’s mouth went dry despite the liquor.

“Hey, I thought that was you,” he managed to say.

She smiled skeptically like she didn’t buy that crap.  Mike wore a dark button down shirt open at the collar and rolled up over his forearms.  It stretched over his broad frame and looked expensive with his dark jeans.  His hair was styled perfectly and that tiny smirk played across his puppy dog face.  If she hadn’t seen him post-coital this morning Zoe might have jumped right into his lap he looked so good.

Brooks waited to be sure they were done sizing each other up before jumping in.  “Hey, I’m Brooks,” he extended his hand without standing.  “I was just going to the bar.  Can I get you something?”  Zoe nodded at his obvious exit.  

“Rum and coke, thanks.”

Mike patted the vacated spot.  “Join me.”

Zoe could have laughed.  She lowered herself onto the seat, turned toward Mike.  Past a thousand smells of dancers and booze she thought she detected a hint of dark and manly cologne.   With as much drama as she could manage, she crossed her outside leg over the inside knee.

“Did Jenna invite you?”

Mike shook his head.  “I thought maybe you were inviting me by talking about it this morning.”

Zoe arched an eyebrow at him.  “I think maybe I used her full name because you didn’t remember it this morning.”

He opened his mouth to speak but there was no point in denying it.  “Thanks.”

“Her happiness is in my best interest.  And she was excited about you,” Zoe said.  But she was thinking:
Why am I doing this?  I should be straddling him and kissing those pouty lips right off his face.  No doubt that’s what Jenna would do if she saw something she wanted, no matter who he’d woken up with just hours ago.  But it gave Zoe a case of the cringes.

“I’m surprised she remembers anything about me.”  Mike wasn’t sure where to go with this.  Zoe had seen right through him this morning – he didn’t know the name of the girl he’d spent the night with.  It’s hard to recover from a douchebag move like that.  Could there be a way to turn this around?

“Here you go,” Brooks returned, pulling up a chair across from them.  “So Zoe, have you ever been to a hockey game?”

Mike didn’t know whether to punch Brooks or hug him.  He knew he’d told Jenna he was a pro athlete, probably talked a lot about hockey because he always did when he got drunk.  With any luck Jenna hadn’t remembered that part.  It made Mike an even bigger target for her attention and he wanted only to escape.

“I have one of those twenty game ticket packs,” Zoe said innocently, taking a sip from her drink.  Brooks laughed suddenly, nearly choking on his drink.  Mike suppressed the urge to put his head back and groan.  “So imagine my surprise when I found Game Over here in his socks making eggs this morning.”

Mike would kill Brooks the moment they were out of sight for the way he put his head into his hands and just cracked up.  He was defenseless.  “Is Jenna a fan?” he asked.  
Please say no, please please say no.

Zoe tipped her head to the side, trying not to grin.  “She is now.”

Behind Brooks, the girls came back to the VIP area like a herd approaching a watering hole.  They were all drunk – giggling and squealing and pouring doubles.  A few guys followed them this time, each attached to a girl.  The bachelorette signaled the server for another bottle of something.  Zoe put her hand on Mike’s knee as she was about to excuse herself.

“Omigod!” Jenna shouted.  She shuffled over to them in what she hoped looked like a graceful strut.  “I mean, wow, hi!  What a coincidence!”  Ignoring Brooks and even Zoe, she squeezed herself in on Mike’s other side and wrapped her arms around him like tentacles.  “Hi Mike!  I can’t believe you’re here!  This is the best party ever.”  She turned his head and kissed his lips.  Zoe saw the corner of his eyes crinkle as he winced.  She scooted back a few inches.

“Zoe!  Where did you find him?” Jenna gasped.

“Right here, must have just missed us before.  I was just telling Mike that you’ve recently become interested in hockey.”

Jenna nodded, tongue-kissing the straw in her vodka tonic.  “Zoe goes like ALL the time and always has it on TV and one day I just thought, Hey, this is really fun and interesting and I was going to ask Zoe if I could go with her to a game.  Soon.”

The look on Jenna’s face was so earnest – the kind of drunk where you think to yourself “I sound totally fine, totally normal, totally” and so you know you don’t, not at all.  Part of Zoe wanted to laugh but the other felt a little bad for her friend.  They weren’t that close, but she should be humiliated.  Jenna had no idea that Mike hadn’t remembered her name.  That he had stayed for breakfast to… why HAD he stayed for breakfast?  He didn’t seem particularly interested in getting reacquainted with Jenna right now, his eyes glued to Zoe like her next words could sink or save him.  Yet he was here, where he’d know they would be.

“Jenna, this is Brooks.  He plays hockey too.  Very famous,” Zoe said.  Jenna cooed appreciatively, reaching out to squeeze Brooke’s bare forearm.  “And I was just about to ask him to dance.”

Zoe watched Brooks and Mike exchange a look but she couldn’t read it.  Brooks stood, hand to her back and followed her toward the dance floor.  The tumultuous crowd bobbed to the new Lady Gaga song.  Zoe headed away from the nearest speakers and stopped at the edge of the floor.

In truth, Brooks was really good looking himself.  His face was angular where Mike’s was round, his hair lighter and his smile goofier.  He was a little taller and a little leaner.  He put a hand on Zoe’s hip as they started to move to the music, grinning at her like they were both in on a joke.  She wasted no time.

“What is going on?”

He simply raised his eyebrows.  “How drunk are you?”

“Will this make more sense if I have another cocktail?”

Brooks nodded and they abandoned the dance floor.  He pulled her to the bar and ordered rum and coke, a scotch and two shots of vodka.  He handed Zoe the icy glass and a slice of lemon.  “Trust me,” he said, clinking their shots together.  It was so cold it tasted like nothing but burning.  The lemon helped.  Zoe took a swig of her cocktail and shook it off.  

“Wooo.  Okay, I’m ready.”

There was apology written all over his face before he even started talking.  “Mike wants to ask you out.”

Zoe laughed.  It was a gut reaction to surprise and probably nerves.  
Mike Green wants to ask me out.  She was unsure if that should be finished with exclamation points or question marks.  Excitement, disgust and surprise all arrived at the same time.

“And that’s why he hasn’t yet,” Brooks indicated her laughter.  She covered her mouth.

“The same Mike who is currently being humped by my roommate on a couch in the back?”

Brooks shrugged.  “That was not the plan tonight.”

Curiosity would kill them all.  “There was a plan?” she asked.

“Not a good one, I admit.  But he knew you would be here and thought he might catch you alone.  Then he did.  It was going okay there for a while.”

“You left out the part where twenty hours ago he was in my apartment having sex with someone who was not me.  Why didn’t he sneak out?”

Brooks looked into his drink like it would reveal answers.  “Were you, at some point this morning, dancing around your room folding laundry?”

Zoe nearly fainted.  Her hand came up to cover her entire face.  “Oh my God.”

He put his hand on her arm in case she was going to lose it.  “He didn’t want to run into you and have to explain why he was sneaking out.  Plus, sneaking out is shitty.  So he stayed.  But he isn’t interested in Jenna, they were just a… thing.”  What could he say?  They were just a one night stand, but he kind of likes you?  Unless you’re into going home with him tonight, in which case let me call the car?

“And they’re back there right now.”

“Yup.”  Brooks felt bad for leaving Mike with the other girl, but this was going nowhere if it wasn’t cleared up quickly.

“I have to get Jenna.”  Zoe whirled around and rushed in that direction, Brooks hot on her heels.

Mike and Jenna were still at the small table – at least she hadn’t pulled him into the group at the booth.  Zoe gave Mike a look that said
I’m not doing this for you.  She peeled Jenna back a little.  “Jenna, I have to pee.  Will you come with me?”

Jenna looked like she didn’t want to leave the part of Mike’s thigh she’d wrapped herself around, but no girl could refuse the potty party call of a friend.  She patted his leg and promised to be right back.  Zoe rolled her eyes as they left.

“Dude, what?”

Brooks dropped into his seat.  “I told her.”

Mike had and hadn’t wanted that to be the answer.  “And?”

“Dunno.  She might be telling her friend right now.”

She wasn’t.  Instead Zoe was steering Jenna toward a little bench in the bathroom where she was sure countless of girls had gossiped and possibly puked.  “I can’t believe he’s here,” Jenna was saying.

“Jenna, don’t forget Marie and her party, okay?  We can’t abandon them.”

“I won’t.  I’m just surprised to see him again so soon – do you think he came because he knew we’d be here?  Do you think he wanted to see me?  I mean, he gave me his number last night.  I was thinking about calling, but a day is too soon, right?  Too soon to call him?  But he’s here, so it’s not too soon to take him home again!”  She was swanning.  It was gross.

“I don’t know, Jenna.  He might have just been out.  I wouldn’t read too much into it, okay?”

“Okay.  o, you’re so smart.  You’re right.  But if he wants to tonight…,” she rolled her wrist like things could go on and on.

“Then go for it,” Zoe said.

Back at the table, the girls had gone to the dance floor.  Jenna brought Mike over to the big booth and Brooks followed.  They were both looking at Zoe for help.  Jenna fixed herself a fresh drink just as the music changed.  “Omigod!” she shrieked.  It was her favorite song, one by Usher.  Judging from the reaction of the crowd, it was their favorite too.  “Mike, let’s dance!”

“I can’t.  Sorry Jenna.  Hockey injury,” he said with such a straight face that Zoe almost laughed.  

“I feel the sudden urge to dance,” Brooks announced.  Jenna shrugged and took his hand.  They weren’t even out of VIP before Mike slid over to Zoe.

“This is weird,” he admitted.

“Jenna thinks you like her.  She thinks you stayed for breakfast because you like her, and you’re here because you like her.  And probably letting her climb all over you is making her think you like her.”  Zoe said evenly, like she was reporting the news.  She didn’t want to be mad.

“Jenna is sweet.  But she… she doesn’t like me.  She likes my money.”  He bit his lip and met her eyes.
Fuckingshitbastardfuck.  Mike Green is sitting too close in a loud, dark club and I’ve had like twelve drinks.  This is not fair.  He’s worrying those pillowy lips and I know the taste of him would be better than the taste of soda going flat on my tongue.

“And what is it you think
I might like?”

Mike shrugged.  “I think you already know me better than she does.”

“She doesn’t know you at all, and you don’t know her.”

“Would I like her if I did?” He asked unfairly.

Zoe huffed.  “Maybe.  She’s nice and she’s fun but she’s a goldigging airhead who wants to be seen in the right places wearing the right thing and then go back to spending someone else’s money.  Is that the kind of girl you like?”

“No.  But it is the type of girl I seem to meet.”

“You mean the type of girl you wake up next to and don’t remember her name?”  It was out, and Zoe meant it.  

Mike hung his head.  “Nothing I can say.  I had a one night stand with someone.”

Zoe’s voice was softer when she spoke again. “You stayed for breakfast.”

“Not for breakfast with her,” Mike said honestly.  Zoe sighed.  This whole thing was such a clusterfuck but it didn’t change the fact that she was dazzled by him.  He was gorgeous.  Her mom would have called him “one of your idols,” back when that word referred to someone that you fantasized about rather than someone you wanted to be.  There was no denying Zoe had fantasized about Mike.

“Any chance you want to get out of here?” he asked.  Zoe snapped her head quickly.  “Not to… I don’t mean go home, I just… shit.  Do you want to go somewhere else?”

“No, Mike.  I’m not stealing you from my roommate and running out the back.  I’m not sure I want to go anywhere with you – if you’re after two girls in two nights or some kind of threesome, I’m not your girl.”

He put a hand on her arm to see if she’d shake him off.  She didn’t.  “Last night was not meant to be serious.  One night, no harm.  If I’d snuck out, she’d never think of me again.  Suddenly I’m important to her?  That’s bullshit and you know it.”

“You stayed for breakfast, Mike.  You changed the rules.  And I’m not like Jenna in that way – she has a lot of fun.  I’m more… complicated.  Something I’m sure you don’t need.”
I’m more complicated because I’m half-fucking-in-love with you already.

“I can do complicated,” Mike countered.

“Off to a poor start,” she replied.  It stung.  “Just because I’m wearing this dress and these shoes doesn’t mean I’m easy, Mike.  This does not mean open for business, no matter what you’re used to seeing.”

“Zoe, I don’t think you’re....”

“You do, Mike.  Or at least you want to.”

Some of the girls came back up the stairs.  Zoe scooted out and Mike followed, giving them back the space.  He could see Brooks and Jenna, not far away.

“Dance with me,” he said quickly, desperately before Zoe could get too far away.

“Mike...,” she started.  He grabbed her hand anyway and pulled her away from where Brooks and Jenna were dancing.

Nonononononokay.  Damn drinks.  His hand was big and warm and when he drew her close, hemmed in by the crowd, she knew his body was too.  One arm went around her waist and his chin hovered above her shoulder.  Mike moved well, swaying his hips to the beat.  Sultry was the word that came to mind.  Zoe told her mind to shut up.

“Don’t,” she said.

“I won’t,” his lips were at her ear.  “Promise.”

He didn’t.  One song ended and another began, they kept dancing.  If Zoe had just met Mike, she’d be thinking the night was shaping up quite well.  He didn’t move his hand, didn’t move his face.  He didn’t even look at her.  It took a lot of willpower on his part.  When the third song ended and she was still there in his arms, Mike knew it was time.

“Tell me honestly that you have never had a one night stand,” his voice was barely above a whisper, barely audible over the music.  “Tell me you don’t know the difference between that and this.”

“What is this?” Zoe looked in his eyes, which put their mouths in dangerous proximity.

“I think it’s more than one night,” he answered.  “I know you’re different Zoe, and I’ll prove it to you.  I’m going home.”

She wanted to ask if he was going alone, wanted to needle him some more and keep fighting this.  Instead she just closed her eyes.  Mike’s fingers laced into hers and lead the way toward the booth.  A few of her friends looked nearly asleep.  The bachelorette and Jenna were taking turns feeling Brooks’ bicep.

“Greenie,” Laich said.  “We should, um, go.”

Mike turned to Zoe.  “Come to the game tomorrow.”

“I’m coming anyway.”

Mike smiled.  “Because you want to see me.”

“So help me I will cheer for the Flyers,” she said, her expression stormy.
“You wouldn’t.”

She tried not to laugh.  “God no.  I don’t have anyone that much.”

Mike pulled her in - no hug, just full body contact.  He whispered into her ear, “You don’t hate me.”

She flicked her eyes up without moving away.  “Maybe I should.”


  1. wow, cool start to the story!!! YAY, I love how he is trying to sneak out and then creeping back to bed just to meet the roommate of the girl he just laid!!! ROFL! GREAT move Mikey!
    and then making himself at home as if he owns their kitchen, checking out her features... passing Jenna on to Brooks...
    "well, I've got a bachelorette party" "poker cancelled" -> are you trying to kill me? this is to funny!!
    oh, and St. Brooks clearing it all up... Greenie getting grilled by Zoe... and she knows that it's so wrong but she is still falling for him... *sigh

    Juliet, you are amazing! how do come up with this?

  2. DEAR HOLY MOTHER EFFF THIS IS GOING TO BE GOOD!!! I love the picture by the way, its soooooooooooooooooo hot! and mysterious! Update soon!

  3. LOVE this ! Had me laughing the entire time. Very entertaining. Update soon !!

  4. I love it already! I'm so glad it's a mike green story I love him and your doing a great job!

  5. EEEEEEEEPP!! I love him. So much. And this, this is amazing. MORE SOON? PLEASE!!??!?

  6. update soon. i can already tell this is going to be a good story. LOVE IT.

  7. I've been checking back very twenty minutes, all day. This is so good. PLEASE UPDATE SOON! As in NOW. PLEASE!?!? :D

  8. This is actually amazing! my favourite hockey player and my favourite author!
    im so excited1 please update!!!