Six ounces of vulcanized rubber glided effortlessly across the ice, travelling from stick to stick while twelve thousand screaming fans stood from their seats, unable to take their eyes off of the action. For months, most of those seats had been empty, but yesterday's announcement changed that. Overnight, the arena had sold out due to fair-weather fans rushing the box office to get their hands on tickets to see if the man with the number twenty-five sewn on the back of his jersey could possibly save the team.
I stood in front of the seat I'd claimed as my own for the past two seasons. Nearly every home game found me in this exact spot, though I couldn't deny that it had been a while since I'd felt this much excitement and hope. We had seen more losses than wins this so far this year, and had come to accept this as a rebuilding season for our guys; a time to regroup and reconfigure the lines until those perfect combinations were found that would once again create magic on the ice.
I'd been a fan of hockey for a number of years now. When I went to live with my dad, Charlie, in high school, his TV was permanently glued to sports. If someone kept score, Charlie watched it. Football, baseball, golf… it didn't matter, and I paid little attention while sitting in the room reading a book. It was simply background noise to me. During hockey season, though, I found myself peeking up from the pages and getting lost in the action on the screen more and more often. At first, I was simply mesmerized by the challenge of following that small dot of black on an expanse of white. Without realizing it, I began to pick up on the objective of the game: the rules, the lingo, and the hits. In no time at all, I didn't bother with the pretense of reading a book. I'd settle onto the couch while Charlie staked out his spot in the La-Z-Boy for the full three hour broadcast. By the end of the season, I could name every player on the team, their numbers, and even a few stats.
In college, I met Alice and Rosalie in the dorms and somehow we became the best of friends while navigating an entirely new social structure. Rosalie had the body of a supermodel but was all tomboy, and we instantly bonded over the sport. Alice was up for anything, and occasionally tagged along with us when we took advantage of the special ticket prices for students. She enjoyed the games, but not nearly on the same level that Rosalie and I did.
Being the responsible adults that we were—cue heavy sarcasm—our first major purchase after we graduated and started real jobs was a pair of season tickets. Rosalie and I went to most games together, and Alice claimed the extra ticket when one of us couldn't make it for one reason or another. When the decision had initially been made, it was Alice who'd insisted she didn't want to go to every game and was more than happy to attend here and there. It didn't last long. She probably would've been fine with that arrangement had she not met our 'neighbors' the first time I couldn't make it and she went to the game with Rosalie.
It was about a month and a half into the season, and in that time, we'd already gotten to know the regulars sitting nearby, including the two guys in the seats directly in front of us. Emmett and Jasper were two extremely good looking guys, roughly our age, but gave off the whole 'big brother' vibe… at least, to me. The vibe Rosalie picked up from Emmett was decidedly not 'big brothery', and once Alice joined Rosalie for her first game that season I was one step away from wearing one of those sticker name tags that said, "Hello, my name is… Fifth Wheel."
Most of that fifth wheel stuff was in my head, though. Nobody ever made me feel like I was just tagging along, especially after Alice insisted she now had to have her own seat when it came time to renew our season tickets. It required a move from our section, but they were able to accommodate the change to allow all five of us to be seated together. Since then, a cluster of seats near the goal line, just three rows up from the ice were 'home' to our little makeshift family.
Our seats also provided the perfect view of the action that brought the entire arena to their feet. We were in the final minutes of the game, and while it was nowhere near a blowout, it was the first time we'd managed to maintain a lead from the start for quite some time. We were one goal up, and if the shot made its way past the goaltender, it'd give us a nice cushion to finish out the game with minimal stress.
All eyes were glued to the action as the team's newest addition weaved his way toward the goal, slaloming the opposition's defenders until, with a flick of his wrist, he sent the puck flying up and over the goaltender's right shoulder.
The crowd roared in celebration while the players congratulated each other on the ice. I turned to my friends, hugging whoever I could reach while we all whooped and hollered in excitement. We'd become so accustomed to simply accepting defeat that we took full advantage of the opportunity to finally enjoy a solid win.
"Looks like the trade for that Cullen guy paid off."
I had just stepped into the office after a long night of reveling in the win and really wasn't in the mood to deal with Mike. He'd been trying everything he could for the past couple years to convince me to go out with him, and when he learned about my fondness for hockey, he'd taken it upon himself to learn as much as he could as quickly as possible so that he'd have something to talk to me about—something he thought we could bond over. He knew little more than the basics, but it didn't stop him from trying to keep up with current news so he could attempt to pull me into conversation at every opportunity.
"Looks like," I parroted as I balanced my cup of coffee with one hand and struggled to find the key to my office with the other.
"Whoa, someone must've had a good time last night," Jessica said as she walked through the door. "You sound like Cookie Monster."
I laughed at her strangely accurate observation. All of the screaming and cheering had taken its toll. Apparently, my voice box wasn't used to the workout. "Good thing you make the sales calls and not me," I responded with a wink.
I'd managed to slip my key in the door when I heard Jessica across the room. "Ooh, he's cute."
I turned around to see her looking at the paper over Mike's shoulder as he read the article on last night's game and rolled my eyes. While Mike wanted to talk about the game, pretending like he understood what was going on, Jessica just wanted to talk about which players were the most attractive.
"I need to finish the presentation for next week's training session so if anyone calls, take a message. I can't afford any interruptions today," I instructed.
I worked for a small business that customized financial training for various companies. It was a surprisingly laid-back job. Mike and Jessica had the most tedious tasks when it came to day to day work, handling all of the administration and sales. As the only trainer aside from the business owner, I tended to spend my days tweaking an existing skeleton of a program to fit the specific needs of the companies I'd be presenting to. The job required a good bit of travel, but I loved it, and so far a few days on the road every couple weeks wasn't too overwhelming.
I sat at my desk, and as I waited for my computer to boot up, I pulled the newspaper from my briefcase and read the words that Mike had wanted desperately to discuss when I had arrived.
Yep, that trade had certainly paid off.
The month that followed graced us with significantly more wins than losses, and the mood of the entire region—not just the city—improved greatly. All hopes at a playoff spot had been lost until recently. It wasn't guaranteed, and would require our boys to play at the top of their game until the end of the regular season, but it was a possibility and that was more than any of us could have hoped for.
The games consistently sold out, and for the most part this was a good thing. Nothing compared to the exhilaration of a full arena during an exciting play. On the down side, the team acquired more than a high goal scorer when they traded for Edward Cullen. They acquired a whole herd of puck bunnies as well.
"Five bucks says the blonde is the first to press her tits against the glass."
My hand flew to cover my mouth in an attempt to stop myself from spitting beer down the front of my shirt.
"The real blonde or the bleached blonde?" Jasper asked, demanding clarification from Emmett.
Emmett chewed the inside of his lip as he thought. "The real… no, wait…. the bleached blonde. She went to all that effort to get her hair that particular shade of yellow-white, she won't waste any time."
Rosalie lifted her hips from her seat as she dug around in her pocket. Slapping a five into Emmett's hand, she placed her bet. "The brunette. The blondes are so over the top, she has to divert attention in her direction any way she can so that she doesn't disappear standing next to them… and her cleavage is what gives her the advantage."
Seconds later, the brunette shifted her weight onto one leg so that her hip popped out and ever so subtly pressed her chest against the Plexiglas in an attempt to gain the attention of any of the men warming up on this end of the ice.
We burst into laughter at her 'come hither' contortions, earning confused looks from the girls down by the boards. Emmett and Jasper both pulled cash out of their wallets and amiably paid their losses to the victor. The influx of girls that had started hanging around had been annoying until we started playing this game. We actually looked forward to it these days. So far, Rosalie was undefeated.
Squeaks and giggles signified that at least one of the girls had been successful. I brought both of my hands to my mouth, dramatically feigning surprise, and mimicked them as best I could. "Oh my God, he blinked at me!"
"He, like, so wants me," Emmett joined in with a frighteningly accurate sorority girl voice.
A sharp elbow to my ribs ended my fun. "Ow, Alice. What the hell?"
I rubbed at the spot and shot her a dirty look but she wasn't looking at me. Her eyes were focused on the ice and she jutted her chin out to direct my attention forward.
"Oh my God, he's coming over here," one of the girls squealed, but I was too confused by Alice's reaction to enjoy how accurate my puck bunny impersonation was.
I quickly scanned the ice to figure out what the hell Alice was trying to tell me. Dozens of pucks lay on the ice and players were scattered, skating back and forth and taking shots from various angles. Nothing looked out of the ordinary; it was the same thing we saw before every other game. We would settle in to watch pre-game warm-ups with provisions and conversation, but the players were always too preoccupied to acknowledge that anything existed beyond the glass.
Except this time someone seemed to find something of interest out here in the seats. My eyes focused on Edward Cullen's slow advance. For a moment I found myself convinced he was watching me before I laughed it off and looked back to Alice. She didn't say anything; she just turned to me, quirked a brow, and once again nodded toward the ice. I rolled my eyes and looked back, my stomach dropping and heart pounding when my eyes locked on his. It was only for the second or two before he reached the boards and turned to once again face the ice, but it was undeniable. The intent, however, was still up for debate. As was the small grin I saw spread on his face before his back was to me. In seconds he was gone again, catching a pass and racing toward the goal to take the shot.
"Give it up, Alice. It was nothing. Nothing." I stressed the word in hopes of ending the topic of conversation, but she wouldn't let it go. I sighed and continued searching hotel options for a training session I had scheduled in a few weeks, and gave Alice only half of my attention as she once again ran through her argument.
She stopped for a moment—to breathe, or perhaps to verify a bullet point check list she'd created before calling me, I didn't know—and I latched onto the opportunity to put it to rest.
"Come on, Alice. I'm not that girl. I don't assign deeper meaning to a few seconds of eye contact. And I don't start planning weddings just because someone looks at me. There weren't many people around us and we were all laughing so hard at each other… we probably just stood out. For all we know, he was curious as to why we were all so hysterical."
She was silent for a few seconds, her voice playful when she finally spoke. "We are a pretty fun crew to be around… who wouldn't be curious?"
I laughed into the phone and shook my head. "Exactly."
Alice sighed and her tone turned serious. "Fine, I'll let this go… for now."
"Thank you," I said, glad to have won this round.
"But." She emphasized the word then repeated it with even more force behind it, "But I'm going to be watching, you know that."
I rolled my eyes. "I'd expect nothing less from you."
After another ten minutes, I managed to get her off of the phone. Turning my attention back to my computer, I booked my hotel and started looking up flights.
Weeks passed, and I found myself running out of excuses for Alice. The more she talked, the more I denied. The more I denied, the more she argued. The more she argued, the more I entertained the idea that maybe there was some truth to what she was saying. The more I started to believe it, the angrier I got at myself for acting just like the delusional girls I'd tried so hard to distance myself from for years. It was an endless cycle exacerbated by the fact that at each game, Edward Cullen kept looking over at me.
When he was taken out of commission for a few games due to a concussion after a pretty bad hit, I found a minor reprieve. Being able to sit there without the self-awareness that had distracted me for so long, I was able to gather my resolve and think clearly again. Sure, it made me a pretty bad fan to find that kind of silver lining in losing our star player, but I had to take what I could get.
I was running late to meet up with the gang and a call from Alice distracted me even further. Instead of heading overseas, I had conducted a webinar for one of our clients that ran much later than anticipated. I had just pulled into a parking spot outside the arena and was hurrying past the other latecomers while simultaneously balancing my phone between my ear and shoulder and digging through my purse to find my ticket.
"Okay, I'm here," I announced breathlessly into the phone. I was still rushing around the concourse in an attempt to make it to my seat before the puck dropped.
"Well, hurry up," Alice complained. "National anthem's over and they're on the ice, almost ready to go."
I turned the corner to speed through the opening into the arena that let out just above our seats. "I know, I know. You'll see me in about two seconds."
Everything happened so fast. As I turned to my right so that I could head straight for the stairs leading down to my friends, I heard Alice yelling at me to 'stop' and 'watch out' but I didn't have time to react. Instead, I slammed into something… or someone.
Strong hands gripped at my upper arms in an effort to keep me upright. After the initial shock of the impact passed, I managed to straighten myself up and began to process everything around me… like the faint smell of cologne, the feel of a crisp black suit under my hands, and—as my eyes worked their way up—light stubble over a familiar chiseled jaw until finally stopping at green eyes.
Green eyes that were featured in nearly every team promo released. Green eyes that inspired dozens of women to brave the cold arena in little more than beach wear. Green eyes that caught mine from the other side of the glass a couple nights a week.
I was frozen in place and pretty sure I had stopped breathing. His mouth turned up on one side in a knee-weakening crooked smile and his grip loosened, though he didn't let me go. Instead, his hands made a slow path down to lightly rest just above my elbows.
I'd heard him speak before, of course. He was interviewed after nearly every game; the clips were shown on each broadcast of the local news as well as many national outlets, but his voice had never sounded as good as it did when he uttered a simple one syllable, two letter word. "Hi."
My attention snapped back to reality and I immediately began to retreat, repeating various forms of "Oh my God, I'm so sorry."
He was still speaking, but my humiliation compounded with about a dozen other emotions didn't allow me to process a single word. Before I knew it, people were crowding in having realized exactly who was walking around out in the open. A few kids pressed forward and asked for autographs, and I took the opportunity to back away even more.
As fans multiplied and gathered, their excited voices created a steady buzz that drowned out all other sounds. I looked back at him and he seemed torn. He was trying to accommodate the children who had shown up and when security showed up to help him escape—to a private box, no doubt—and he called out "wait" as he hurried to finish signing the paraphernalia thrust toward him. I couldn't tell if the request was for me or security, but I had to get out of there before this turned into an even bigger mess.
Realizing that he was about to be led away, the fans jockeyed for position and I allowed myself to be pushed out of the circle. As soon as a path was clear, I slid around the chaos and descended the steps on unsteady feet. I refused to look at anybody as I worked my way through our row, and unceremoniously dropped myself into my seat then slouched down in a failed attempt to hide.
I could feel the blush on my cheeks deepen as Emmett loudly guffawed from a couple seats down. "You sure know how to make an entrance, Swan."
"Shut up," I mumbled as I propped my elbows on the arm rests and folded my hand in front of my face—yet another fruitless attempt to disappear.
Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Alice turned completely around and watching the chaos that was no doubt still going on at the top of our section.
"Alice," I whispered sharply, but she didn't respond. "Turn around!"
She turned her attention to me just long enough to smirk and tell me to look. I shook my head emphatically and she rolled her eyes. "Just look."
I took a deep breath and slowly turned in my seat to look over my shoulder. Security had managed to shoo the fans back to their seats but Edward Cullen still stood there. He looked agitated, running a hand through his hair and shaking his head as he stared ahead at seemingly nothing.
Just as I began to face the ice once again, he turned his head as security began to lead him out and his eyes caught mine. I quickly looked away before he could direct that irritation at me, and for the first time that night I realized there was a game in full swing.
I noticed something strange as the days passed. I was a nervous wreck walking into that arena, afraid of what awaited me inside. Fortunately, I'd had no more run-ins—literal or figurative—with Edward Cullen. The brief moments of eye contact didn't cease, though. But that wasn't the strange part. No, the strange part was this growing sense of territoriality that I felt. Instead of laughing and making bets with my friends on the girls hovering down by the boards, I was just plain pissed off at them for being there.
When I had to leave for another training session, I both welcomed and dreaded it. Part of me was relieved to distance myself, and hoped for a little clarity in the process. The other part worried about what might happen in my absence. It wasn't by accident that I kept putting Jessica off when she asked to buy my ticket. I deliberately waited until I had confirmation that one of Jasper's buddies from work would take it before I acknowledged her request.
It was the last home game of the regular season, after all. There was a demand for tickets, so it was easy to come up with excuses to give her knowing I didn't really need to rely on her to be reimbursed for the cost of my seat.
The sad part was that I probably would have taken the loss if she had been my only hope. I knew she'd take advantage of her position so close to the ice to compete with the puck bunnies who could only stand there during warm-ups, and I couldn't stomach the thought.
The night of the game, I found myself at the hotel bar after I convinced the bartender to switch a couple of the TV's away from baseball The noise inside drowned out the sound, so I tried to ignore the chatter and watched the pre-game broadcast minus commentary. The screen flipped from the announcers to highlights, the teams warming up on the ice, and player stats allowing me to still feel like a part of the excitement, regardless of distance.
My phone chirped and I looked down at the screen to find a message from Alice.
Your boy is looking for you
I flipped the phone over, as if not seeing the screen would make me forget what I had read. That was another strange thing I'd noticed—the rush of butterflies anytime he was mentioned, especially in any kind of relation to me.
I both loved and hated that rush.
Here I was, a thousand miles away, and he still managed to make me shaky, nervous, and completely distracted. I picked my phone back up, prepared for what had become protocol: deny.
Very funny. Now shut up.
Yeah, I had the maturity of a twelve year old when it came to dealing with this. It didn't help when I looked back up in time for them to flash his stats on the screen, layered over a shot of him warming up on the ice… and looking in the general direction of my friends with a furrowed brow.
I picked up my drink and emptied the glass. The blush that I could feel covering my face had nothing to do with the sudden influx of alcohol in my system.
I hadn't noticed that the seats beside me had become occupied—like I said, shaky, nervous, and completely distracted—until my neighbor leaned closer.
"You watching the game?" he asked. I rolled my eyes. Unfortunately, I was used to that tone of voice… that disbelief that I, a silly girl who couldn't possibly understand what I was seeing, would voluntarily watch a hockey game.
I smiled at the bartender when he slid another drink across the counter to me and answered my neighbor without looking at him. "Yep."
"Hockey fan? Or hockey player fan?" He chuckled at his joke as he motioned to the screen, the image now mercifully focused on somebody else. With my natural reaction to seeing Edward Cullen, I might've contradicted myself otherwise.
"Don't you think if I was going to pick a sport to follow for the guys, I'd choose one where they didn't dress like Ralphie's little brother in A Christmas Story?" I turned to look at him with a quirked brow, daring him to challenge me.
His friends snorted with laughter. The one next to him quoted, "I can't put my arms down!"
His other friend finished in falsetto, imitating a woman's voice. "You can put your arms down when you get to school!"
My jab apparently won some respect, and the guys ended up being decent substitutes for my friends as we watched the game. Three hours later, I hauled myself to my room and began packing my luggage so that I had one less thing to do before leaving for the airport in the morning.
I busied myself for quite some time when my phone rang and I immediately pulled it away from my ear after I answered. Wherever Alice was, it was loud.
"Hello? Hello?" she yelled into the phone, unable to hear me.
I felt like an idiot yelling back in my completely silent room. "Where are you?"
"We decided to go out after the game to celebrate the win," her voice rang out. The accompanying giggle told me she'd been celebrating quite a bit and was well past tipsy.
"It sounds like the whole city decided to go out, too," I said with a laugh. The cheers and chants behind her certainly indicated as much.
"Oh my God, it's totally insane in here," she said, still laughing. "And you'll never guess who standing right on the other side of the bar."
"Alice," I said slowly, a warning. I was suddenly uneasy at the thought of who she was most likely referring to.
She giggled some more before responding, "Bellaaaaa."
Yep, definitely way past tipsy.
"Alice, please don't do anything," I begged. Alice had no shame even when she was sober, and I knew she would have no qualms about going right up to him and saying… God knows what.
"Oh, shit," she whispered loudly, completely ignoring me. "He sees me. He's looking around now. I bet he's looking for you."
I buried my face in my hand, the mortification at an all-time high. Alice's voice was replaced by a distinctly masculine one, and I panicked for a split second before I realized who it was.
"Oh God, Jasper, I've never been so happy to talk to you." He laughed at my greeting and I took the opportunity to try and get someone on my side to rein Alice in. "Please, keep an eye on her and make sure she doesn't take it upon herself to get involved."
He knew exactly what I was referring to and laughed harder. "I'll see what I can do but I make no promises."
It was the best I could hope for when it came to Alice.
Alice insisted that nothing of interest happened that night. I still wasn't sure whether or not to believe her. She seemed to be trying extra hard to keep that halo polished. The first few games back I was an absolute mess, wondering if I was walking into some elaborately planned set-up, but so far Alice proved to be truthful.
Although, I did have my doubts. I couldn't confirm it, but the addition of subtle—and sometimes not so subtle—smiles from Edward Cullen beyond the standard eye contact gave me enough reason to be suspicious.
We were now in the final round of the playoffs—game seven, to be exact. A year ago—hell, six months ago—nobody would've guessed we'd even manage to secure a spot in the first round and here we were just sixty minutes of ice time away from seeing our team possibly going home with Lord Stanley's Cup, with home ice advantage, even.
The first period was stressful, but we quickly managed to acquire a two goal lead. It was enough of a buffer to ease some of the stress and panic that went along with the final game of the final round of playoff hockey. As the teams headed to the locker rooms, fans crowded the concourse in hopeful celebration and seeking refilled cups of beer.
The second period brought with it a little more anxiety. Maintaining a two goal lead was hard and the hits were harder. As the period wound down, the opposition grew desperate and the cheap shots escalated. A few fights were instigated in the final minutes and the horn signaling the end of the period was a welcome reprieve.
The third period brought with it all the nausea one would expect from more than a decade's worth of hope and seemingly impossible dreams. We held onto the lead, but both teams were playing so intensely that it could change at any second. The closer the clock worked its way to zero, the longer each minute stretched. With less than half the period left, our lead was cut to one. There was no way to deny that overtime was a definite possibility.
At five minutes the goaltender dove onto the puck causing a stop in play that led to a five minute break while officials determined whether or not the puck had crossed the goal line. Though our seats gave us a perfect vantage point for that end of the ice, the number of bodies crowded in had blocked our view and we had lost visibility of the puck. Nobody said much, but when they finally announced 'no goal' the arena erupted into deafening cheers.
At three minutes the puck dinged off of the crossbar. At two minutes it made it all the way to the goal line before the goalie reached backwards and scooped it out before it crossed. With one minute left the other team pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker and we didn't leave our end the rest of the game. Shot after shot was lobbed at our well defended net, and when the buzzer sounded, emotions flipped from extremely restless to ecstatic.
The crowd roared in celebration as we watched each member of the team, one by one, hoist the Stanley Cup over his head and lap the ice. I was still shaking from all of the adrenaline coursing through my system which served to hide my reaction when the Cup was handed over to Edward. He was facing the opposite direction, but as he steadied his grip to lift it, he turned around with a massive grin, his eyes quickly finding mine. I couldn't say how long it lasted, but it felt like an eternity.
And fortunately my friends were kind enough to not mention it.
Before long, the team gathered into a massive dog pile for the picture that would be featured on every newspaper and sports related magazine, then trickled past the reporters that had taken up residence on the ice to head back to the locker rooms. The crowd thinned as well and we slowly followed the stragglers up the steps and out into the warm June night.
We weren't ready to go home quite yet, so we opted to head to a nearby bar to continue indulging ourselves in the high that accompanied the ultimate win. The place was packed, as expected, but we split up, and while two worked their way to the bar, the rest of us managed to scrounge up a table.
Conversation was nearly impossible; it consisted of short phrases yelled out in an attempt to speak over the revelry taking place all around us. An hour later we were ready for yet another round, and this time it was my turn to make the bar run with Emmett. We had learned early on how to work in teams to negotiate the crowd when going out on nights like this: a guy to push through the crowd and create an opening, and one of us ladies to draw attention from the bartenders.
We had maneuvered our way to the bar and I found just enough of an opening to squeeze through. After an innocent smile at the guys camped out, I suddenly had enough space to stand on the little foot rail to raise myself above the masses to signal the bartender.
I placed our order and stayed right where I was while I waited and heard a marked increase in volume near the doors. I stretched my neck in an attempt to see what was going on, but the concentration of the crowd made it impossible to determine what had caused such a response. I looked down at Emmett to see him craning his neck toward the commotion. He turned around and gave me a questioning look and I simply shrugged and shook my head to let him know that I had no clue either.
When I looked back toward the doors I noticed a few people cutting through the masses, all attention following them. I was finally able to discern one, two, then three familiar faces—all ones I was used to seeing through Plexiglas. My heart started pounding in my chest, and before I could move, I found a fourth. Or maybe a fourth found me would be more accurate.
People were vying for his attention, patting him on the back, calling out congratulations, or—in the case of more than a few women—suggestively reaching out and gracing him with flirtatious smiles. Me? I was frozen in place, unable to look away, and he seemed unwilling to direct his attention to anything or anyone but me. Everything blurred except for him; he was the only thing in that whole bar in focus.
A slap on my thigh brought me back and I glanced down to see Emmett give me a funny look as he pointed to the bartender. I realized that from his spot on the floor, he still had no idea what the commotion was. I quickly handed cash to the bartender but was unable to get myself to function enough to grab the drinks.
A hand on my shoulder pulled me back and spun me around. I had a split second to process that Edward Cullen was standing in front of me before his hands were in my hair and his lips were on mine. I was completely immobile at first, too stunned to react, but it passed quickly and I unthinkingly moved my hands to his neck in an attempt to get closer.
I could feel the vibration of his moan—the crowd too raucous to actually hear it—and it only added to my lack of concern over what was happening in front of hundreds of people. His hands unthreaded from my hair and his arms moved to wrap around my waist. He was holding me so tightly I could barely breathe, but the lack of oxygen seemed unimportant the moment he tilted his head and I felt his tongue on my lip. This time it was my turn to moan just before meeting him halfway.
His tongue slid against mine and the people around us cheered, shattering the moment. He chuckled and I blushed, but he didn't let me go. And just as before, the sound of that one word, just two letters, was all it took to send my head spinning.
My attention had drifted down to focus on a random button on his shirt, too embarrassed over my impulsive reaction.
"Hi," I responded meekly, slowly looking back up at him.
A boyish smile greeted me and I couldn't help but smile back. He leaned closer so that I could hear him over the noise. "Don't be in such a hurry to run away this time, okay?"
I laughed and he caught me in another kiss. This time it was my hands working through his hair. I knew at some point I'd be completely mortified over such a public display but at the moment I couldn't find it in myself to care. I also knew my friends would never let me live it down after the months of denial I'd put them all through.
What the hell, I'd deal with the teasing later. It was worth it.