“Now what do we do?” Sara asked. She stood in Danny’s kitchen as he moved around, collecting cups and spoons to get the boys ice cream for dessert. He’d forbidden her to help, but moved by closely every time, passing needlessly just to touch her. Feet could be heard drumming on the stairs as the boys dragged down blankets and whatever else to watch a movie.
The kiss in the parking lot had left Sara woozy - his soft lips and warm mouth were salve against a burn. Danny held onto her like he felt the same way. The boys cheered when she climbed in the car and made a big fuss the whole way home. Sara felt equal parts nervous to be going to Danny’s house and unable to do anything else. She needed to be near him, and kiss him for at least another two weeks before she regained any sense of normalcy. The only problem was all the people running around this house.
Danny carried three mugs of vanilla into the living room and distributed them. When he came back into the kitchen, he stopped dead in his tracks. Sara was leaning against the counter, mid-bite. She looked right at him and pulled the spoon slowly, seductively from between her lips.
“Come here!” He grabbed her wrist and hauled her right out the side door into the garage. Before the door was closed, they were up against it. Danny wanted to go slowly but her hair was so silky in his fingers, her body the perfect shape beneath his. She held the back of his neck and slipped the taste of vanilla past his lips.
Dying, I’m dying, she thought.
Danny was really strong. For all the size he didn’t have, he was nothing but muscle and right now that muscle was trying to put her through the door. They were making out like kids in a closet at a house party. His hands never wandered though, never strayed below her neck.
Slow down!! Sara told herself, while trying to climb all over him.
Danny laughed, holding his forehead to hers and opening his dark brown eyes. “The worst thing about kids getting older?”
“They know exactly where we are, don’t they?” Sara asked.
“Mmmhmmm.” Danny moved his mouth to her throat, the warmth and pressure lighting up her spine.
“Danny.” It was supposed to be a warning but it sounded like a plea for more.
“I have to buy a second house,” he murmured against her skin. “Go knock next door and see if they’ll take a check.”
Sara turned the door knob until it clicked, the only defense she could even attempt. Danny peeled himself off and let her back into the house first. They headed for the living room, where the boys had arranged themselves as heaps of blankets with socks sticking out, one complete with a little bulldog face.
“What are we watching?” Danny drew her right toward the biggest couch. Carson hit the remote to start Captain America on DVD.
Danny settled into the corner, arm around Sara’s shoulders. She pulled her feet up and leaned against his side, cuddling in comfortably as he pulled a throw blanket over her legs. At the other end of the sofa, Caelan smiled. Zora came trotting in, nails ticking on the floor, and jumped right into the fray. Two circles and the little black and white dog curled up behind Sara’s knees.
Sara closed her eyes. The adrenaline and emotions of the last few hours still surged inside her mind, but she fought them down to take a quiet moment in the comfort of Danny’s warm arms. He pressed a kiss to the top of her head and Sara knew if she fainted right there, he might never know.
Danny looked at his kids, his dog and now, his... girlfriend? They hadn’t even had a real date. Only two kisses and the bruise he felt forming along his ribs where his laser tag receiver had come down on top of hers. He made a mental note to check Sara for a matching bruise - she’d need a very close inspection. Though how to do anything of the sort in a house full of spies was another issue.
Even in his more reckless days, Danny had been very careful bringing women around the house. If it was a one-nighter he prefered they didn’t know where he lived. Their place or, if that seemed to sad, a hotel was fine. A few times he’d introduced the boys to someone he was seeing - anyone serious enough to make it a few weeks or months. Otherwise it felt like he was keeping the kids out of his life, when he wanted to draw them in. It also told him a lot about the woman: even a brief encounter with his kids had revealed one of two bad apples that were quickly discarded.
Nestling in closer to Sara, Danny let those worries fade away for the time being. Relationships were hard work. He had no illusions that every day with her would be like the last few weeks. But he hoped most would be, and for every day worse there would be two better.
Sara stirred at soft words being spoken in her ear. She shifted against a very solid body, wrapped perfectly in heavy arms, before any complete thoughts trickled into her brain. Blinking her eyes open, and saw Danny’s brown eyes looking back.
“Hi,” he said quietly. She kissed him. She didn’t care who saw or if she’d been asleep all night, the only thing Sara wanted to do was kiss this man. He smiled against her mouth. “Movie’s over.”
In sleep, she had shifted down farther into the couch. Danny had turned and laid himself out, so she was on her side, between his body and the couch cushions at her back, with one arm across his chest. Her head rested below his shoulder. Sara jolted - suddenly very aware that she was twisted up with Danny in the middle of a living room that had been full of small, smart people. Lifting her head, she saw that Carson was asleep in the recliner. Cameron and Caelan must have already gone to bed. By her feet, Zora snuffled and buried her nose in the blanket.
“Sorry, wow, I...,” she started to sit up, but Danny held her tight.
“You didn’t make it five minutes. You’re a good sleeper, it was a loud movie.”
It hit her like a wave. An intense flash of desire from one side, throwing her against a solid wall on the other, made of all the things she’d never had to think about. Danny didn’t have roommates, he had kids. Hockey wasn’t a job, it was a life. If she’d ended up cuddled on the couch with any other new boyfriend... well, Sara knew what she wanted. Her body was screaming for it. But Danny wasn’t just another other guy.
Danny watched each thought flicker across her face; he had seen them before. Everything was fine until someone got into trouble - one person wanted too much, too fast, or realized they’d bitten off more than they could chew. It could happen so fast.
“Do you want to stay?” he asked quietly. He wanted it. Dads are human too, he’d thought more than once. A beautiful girl wrapped in his arms... Danny’s blood was simmering expectantly. The guys would have laughed: they didn’t up like this, they ended up in an all-night romps to brag about in the locker room tomorrow. Danny really wanted one of those - really. Without the bragging, of course, but with Sara. Right now. Every moment that passed made it tougher to remember his responsibilities were all living upstairs. If he pulled away, Sara might think he was boring, too cautious or nervous. One way he felt old, the other like a fumbling kid. So he lay there, holding her, with a tiny, sick feeling growing in his heart.
This won’t work. She doesn’t want all of this. He was so lost in thought, her voice surprised him.
“I shouldn’t,” Sara said, but what she did was roll herself nearly on top. Her body poured over his and she pressed her thigh between Danny’s at the same time she gently kissed his lips. Sara allowed herself a sigh at the promise of how good he would really feel. “Don’t want to set a bad example.”
Danny decided he didn’t care. Beneath the blanket his hands went right down over her ass and pulled her up, her leg between his, slotting them together like a lock and key. He groaned into the kiss. if she’d let him, he’d have taken her upstairs and then taken her again on every inch of surface behind that closed door.
She wiggled playfully and tugged his bottom lip between her teeth until she couldn’t take it anymore. Just as quickly, Sara untangled herself and got to her feet. Danny was left flat on his back and cold where her body had been. He made a pouty face.
Sara pulled him to standing. They were both barefoot - he had a few inches of height on her. She brushed her fingers through his messy hair.
“Can I see you tomorrow?” Danny looped arms around her waist so she couldn’t leave without giving the right answer.
“Yes, please.” She smiled, he smiled and they stood there staring at each other for a long few seconds. Sara kissed him again, her hands slipping beneath the back of his t-shirt. All that warm, soft skin made Sara reconsider her responsible decision. The touch made Danny see red; he was ready to drag her upstairs, or back to the couch, or even just to the floor. In the recliner, Carson turned in his sleep and made a noise like a chaperone clearing his throat at a high school dance.
“Tomorrow,” Sara said.
“You don’t think next door will take a check?”
Sara made it home with trembling hands.
WOW, she thought. The heady rush of everything changing in one day hadn’t faded with sleep. The only thing better than liking Danny was finally admitting, to herself and everyone else, that she did really like him. And he liked her. That kind of swooping, soaring feeling would have been enough, but there was a measure of excitement sprinkled with fear mixed into everything: his kids, her job, his fame. The way the WAGs had looked at her in the lounge - imagine their faces now. Would everyone assume she and Danny were headed for marriage, because of the kids? And what’s to say they weren’t, except that Sara was in no hurry to get anywhere in white. She felt like a teenage girl in a movie - Danny wasn’t quite the star quarterback, but he was pretty damned close. A girl couldn’t be blamed if her mind ran a little rampant after a night like that.
Tomorrow. Tuesday. She wouldn’t be able to look at Cameron once in school.
The next morning, Danny dropped the kids at school before practice. As he pulled into the players’ parking lot at the rink, Claude was just getting out of his car. Danny took the spot next to him and barely opened the driver’s side door before he said, “I kissed Sara!”
Claude didn’t even look surprised, he just tackled Danny. Only professional athletes could got away with such enthusiastic bro-hugging. “Woohoo!” he shouted. “Was it laser tag? The laser tag did it, right?”
“How did you... Sean.” Danny reasoned.
Claude shook his head no, big shit-eating grin on his face.
“You!” Danny punched him in the arm. “You texted her on Sunday!”
“Caelan did it, I just told him what to say. You think a thirteen year old boy can get a date when you can’t? You’re not that sad, Dan. You just needed my moves.” Claude did a pelvic thrust that not really okay, even among athletes.
“You’re a child.”
Giroux slapped him on the back. “It worked, didn’t it? Now, did you get some or what? Because you’re getting kinda old, bro. You sure things still work down there?”
Danny elbowed him in the side. “She didn’t stay over. The boys aren’t stupid, she knows that. But I’m seeing her tonight.”
Danny’s turn for the mischevious grin. “I’m not stupid either.”
“So what’s the plan?”
That’s where Danny had some trouble. He would have done something big, like take her to Atlantic CIty for the night, but she had to work tomorrow morning. No chance he was getting in the way of her job when she was already walking thin ice for him. Plus it seemed... seedy, maybe. Like he had to separate her from Philly just to get some time alone. There was room for Sara in his life here and Danny planned to make that clear off the bat. Maybe just not tonight.
“Well, I was thinking...,” he started.
“Don’t think,” Claude interrupted. “Here’s what you do....” When his younger friend was done laying out his scheme, Danny had to laugh. Maybe he did need a few of Giroux’s moves after all.
“Alright, but I’m not wearing a plaid suit,” Danny laughed.
Sara felt crazy as she pulled into the salon parking area. Danny had seen her a hundred times and obviously he liked the view. But she wanted tonight to be special, like starting fresh since they agreed to stop being so awkward and finally move forward. It had been nearly a month since he walked into her classroom. Hard to imagine so much time had passed.
It was almost six when she swung out the door, checking her reflection. Just a blow-out with some curls mixed back into her hair - nothing crazy. Sara hurried home, put on a little extra makeup and pulled a hanger from her closet.
Definitely the dress.
She’d worn this dress only once before, to a wedding where an ex-boyfriend was a groomsman. She walked in solo and every single guy proceeded to try to pick her up. No luck for them, but the ex-boyfriend’s expression had been worth the price tag and then some.
At seven on the dot, her phone rang. “Can I come up and get you?” Danny asked. Sara looked around her apartment. If she let him in here, the dress would never see the light of day.
“I might let you walk me to my door later. Be right out.”
Danny leaned against the car door. He’d told her to dress up, and let the boys pick out his suit. They insisted on black with a white shirt. He tried every tie in the house and hated them all.
“Sean,” Danny had knocked on the guest room door, “Can I see your ties?”
Borrowing a tie from an eighteen-year old for a date.
Sean had popped his head out. “No tie. You’re not a lawyer.”
The minute Sara stepped through the door, he knew it didn’t matter if he were slightly underdressed or wearing a clown costume. Her long hair brown was tousled in waves. A knee-length black coat was belted at her waist, revealing just bare legs down to a pair of very delicate stiletto heels. She smiled as she got closer and Danny’s hands curled into fists.
“Hi,” she knew she sounded excited. Her heels gave her an inch over his 5’ 10” frame. Danny didn’t seem to mind.
“You look beautiful,” he managed.
Sara leaned in and kissed him firmly on the lips, setting the tone for the night. She’d been nervous around him for so long, it was time to make up for that. “You’re very handsome yourself. I like this,” she tugged the open collar of his shirt.
Danny silently promised to rip up Coutourier’s rent check.
The ride through town was quiet - comfortable, but full of anticipation. Sara didn’t want to ask where they were going in case Danny had a surprise up his sleeve. Danny was hoping his surprise was as good as Claude thought. He pulled up at the valet in front of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. A doorman helped Sara from the car and did a double-take as Danny came around the front, without seeming to recognize him from the Flyers.
Just can’t believe that I’m with her, Danny thought. Well me neither.
She took his hand as they entered.. The lobby was three stories high, with split-levels wrapped in iron railings and thick columns extending to the ceiling. Instead of turning toward the restaurant, Danny headed for the elevators. Sara raised an eyebrow, but didn’t slow down.
“It’s not what you think,” he said anyway, feeling lecherous to be taking her straight to a hotel room.
She gave him a sly smile. “I’m in trouble if you already know what I’m thinking.”
When the doors opened, Danny had a key already in hand. He slipped it into the lock above the panel of buttons and said, “Go ahead.”
Sara didn’t ask - she just pushed the penthouse button. It lit up.
There were four rooms on the top floor. Danny led her to the end of a hall and chose the door on the right; it too opened for his key. They stepped into a low-lit room.
“Wow,” Sara admitted.
Only a few table lamps were illuminated. The living room had two couches and a coffee table arranged in front of a flat screen TV. Just beyond it was a deep mahogany dining table with room for eight, but only two places were set. At the head of the table and immediately to its right, flatware and wine glasses were laid with flowers and candles already flickering. Both seats faced a large window, shades wide to reveal a view of Philadelphia’s City Hall.
While Sara took it in, Danny glanced around. It was as he’d left it earlier - including the French doors to the bedroom area tastefully closed. He’d set it up - each of the lights set halfway dim so an inviting glow could be seen through the frosted glass - but wouldn’t allow himself to count on going back with company.
“Danny, this is....”
He tugged her hand so she faced him. “I wanted to take you somewhere nice, but you already saw how sometimes people react and....”
Sara kissed him in mid-sentence. He got another two words out before he realized that nothing he could say would be that important. Her arms looped around his neck. “This is perfect. I love it.”
Danny smiled, relieved. A knock at the door stopped her from kissing him again. “That’s dinner.”
Sara frowned. “Bummer.”
Danny answered the door and a waiter rolled in a tray. He’d pre-ordered some appetizers and a bottle of wine, and there were menus on the cart for them to choose entrees. As he turned, Danny nearly tripped.
Sara had taken off her coat and draped it over the arm of a couch. She crossed the room in a bright red dress made of some flowing material that Danny’s fingers tingled to touch. The wide neckline slipped accidentally-on-purpose from one shoulder, bare skin hinting at the miles more hidden beneath the silky fabric. It showed off her figure without revealing it, curving at her waist and falling to mid-thigh. It was the hottest dress Danny had ever seen and he wondered where he’d get another after he ripped this one off her.
The waiter and Sara both blinked at him. He was staring, still at the door.
“Sorry,” Danny shook his head clear.
The waiter poured wine and left them for a moment with their menus. He set the security bar on his way out he could get back in. The moment he was gone, Danny stopped pretending to read.
“That dress is incredible on you,” he almost stuttered. “Promise me you will never wear it around the guys. I don’t want to have to put someone on injured reserve.”
Sara couldn’t help blushing at his attention, but she did smirk. “I’ll make no such promise.”
They decided quickly on food, put their menus aside and Danny raised his glass. Before he could think of something suitably romantic to say, Sara chimed in. “This is the first time I’ve really been alone with you since the day we met.”
Danny thought back to that day in her classroom, when they’d both been expecting someone different to walk through the door. “I’ve been trying to get here since then,” he admitted. She lowered her wine and kissed him before taking a sip.
Over dinner, they got to know each other a little more. Danny told her about the best hockey moments of his life, she asked about the worst. Sara told him all the places she’d traveled, he asked where she still wanted to go. It was so easy because she knew the kids, where other dates had been full of eggshells. He felt like he could tell her anything, and he did. Except when his mind wandered to the curve of her throat or the soft-looking waves in her hair. Once she caught him.
He startled back to attention. “Sorry.”
Sara shook her head, flattered and flustered. It wasn’t until she met his eyes that she had trouble keeping her train of thought. He was very sweet - his stories never said anything bad about anyone. Or maybe he just really liked everyone in his life. That was it, to a degree. Danny seemed really content with everything.
And why wouldn’t he be? Great family, talented, plenty of money... she couldn’t help but still wonder if she really fit in among all that. Then she saw that look in his dark eyes again, the one that said he’d never seen anything like her. She leaned over and gave him another swift kiss. That elfin grin came right back.
“Can I ask you something? How old are you?”
“Twenty-four,” she said. Shock immediately plastered across Danny’s face. Sara lightly smacked his arm. “I’m twenty-eight. You’re almost exactly six years older than me. Does that worry you?”
Danny opened his mouth to say no, like he’d said to how every many other girls he’d picked up since his divorce. Except in this case, it did matter. “A little.”
“It shouldn’t. You don’t seem older to me,” she smiled. “Just like you don’t seem as small as the sports guys make you out to be.”
He blushed like a fool. She knew every one of his weaknesses already. There were a million more things he wanted to learn, but the conversation flowed easily until the wine was gone and they were both still laughing. The waiter came back and Sara declined the dessert selection. Danny accepted a cup of coffee and this time when the door closed, it locked with a clunk. They looked at each other.
Sara leaned back in her seat. “Still think you know what I’m thinking?”
Danny quickly swallowed a sip to keep from sputtering. He knew what he’d been thinking all night - since she got into his car, pushed the elevator button, since he saw that dress. None of it was polite-single-dad stuff. He wanted a playful, flirty response but nothing came to his mind.
“I hope so,” he simply said.
“I think...,” she took the coffee cup from his hand, “that if I went,” and placed it on the table, “in there,” her head tipped toward the bedroom doors, “I would find,” she got to her feet, “that you,” she pulled her up until they were almost nose-to-nose, “brought me a toothbrush.”
He decided, finally, that her eyes were dark blue. And they were telling him he was almost there.
“And toothpaste,” he said. Sara was laughing as she pulled him toward the bedroom.
Inside, everything moved too fast and not fast enough. Sara pushed the suit jacket from his shoulders and ran her hands over his chest. Ever since the night before at Danny’s house - him pressing her against the door with a kiss, her laying on top of him on the couch - she’d been thinking about getting him alone and being able to really touch him. Now she couldn’t get enough. His body was so solid, unlike anything she’d ever known.
Danny ran his fingers through her hair and his mouth down the exposed skin of her neck and shoulder. She smelled intoxicating, he felt more drunk than those two glasses of wine. The curve of her stomach slipped beneath his thumbs as he wrapped his hands around her waist. She started to unbutton his shirt and he knew he was losing it. At the middle of his chest, Danny held her wrists and stopped her.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” he asked. “If it’s too soon, I....”
Sara laughed. “Danny, this like our ninth date or something.”
“I know. But if you don’t want....”
She put her fingers to his lips, silencing him. Then Sara reached under one arm, pulled the zipper of her dress and stepped back, letting it finally fall all the way off that tempting shoulder. A tiny tug and the other shoulder slipped free, the dress dropping to the ground. Danny gulped hard at the sight of her in a black strapless bra, lace panties and stilettos.
“Don’t worry,” she said. “I’m only going to do what I want.”