Sara wanted to cover her face, but she could not look away. Also Nora was clutching her arm hard enough to draw bruise. Moments before, Danny had scored his second goal of the game to put the Flyers up 3-1, and it was barely halfway through the first. Being inside a washing machine would have felt more calm. Sara had screamed herself hoarse and now she had no voice for the wildest show on Earth.
Tension was not the word for this game. From the opening faceoff, it was more like throwing a few bottles and waiting for the full riot to break out. At the twelve minute mark, everything exploded. It started with a tag-team hit on Crosby, then a scrum, then Crosby and Claude standing face to face saying nothing worse that what Nora was yelling from the seat next to her.
“You fucking pussy!” Nora shouted. “I’ll fucking kill you myself!”
One the other side of Sara, all three of the boys were standing on their chairs. Caelan cracked a smile at Nora’s tirade but didn’t turn. For a moment it looked like things would break up as Claude skated away. Then Crosby bumped Timmonen, or Timmonen grabbed him - it didn’t matter which. Every player stalking the area dove in. And Claude came up with Crosby.
“Oh shit!” Sara and Nora said at the same time.
“Pound him!” Cameron hollered.
“Get it, baby!” Nora roared.
Claude’s helmet was off, red hair flying as they tussled for an angle. The ref got between them but neither guy cared - Crosby threw a punch, Claude threw another. Nora fingernails broke the skin at Sara’s wrist. Claude and Sidney each got one or two more short, jerky swings in before two refs tackled them to the ground. Can’t have the superstars duking it out, getting hurt. At the same moment, Letang started swinging at Timmonen and a real fight ensued - one the Penguins defenseman won easily. Sara was breathless, heart pounding. Players were dragged toward the boxes or sent off the ice. Sticks, helmets and gloves were everywhere like equipment confetti.
From their seats behind the bench, Sara, Nora and the boys watched Crosby and Claude jaw at each other all the way to the penalty box. Then they were on the Jumbrotron, obviously shouting at each other from their cells. The crowd roared again. Claude flipped his hair back and actually kind of smiled, like the coolest guy in school. Every woman in the arena ovulated on cue.
“Fuck, he’s so hot,” Nora said and slumped against Sara’s side.
As the referees and the official scorer calculated the damage, Danny skated over represent the Flyers as alternate captain and the only player left without a penalty. Sara felt wired from all the adrenaline and just said a silent thank you that Danny had not been out there during the fight. It was contagious tonight.
The fighting subsided but the game did not - the wild second period ended with the Flyers on top 6-4. It was impossible to keep up. Then less than thirty seconds into the third, Claude scored. Nora, who never took her eyes of Claude for a moment, was on her feet before the puck hit the twine. Sara thought the roof would come off the building. The three goal lead felt precarious though and the Penguins never stopped coming. Even the boys didn’t go for snacks, so Sara flagged down every vendor that passed to keep them from missing anything. She had an almost sick feeling in her gut that the game wasn’t over yet.
With five and a half minutes left, it happened. Or it started. James Neal caught Sean turning at speed and laid him out. Sara screamed. Sean went down and stayed there, face to the ice. It was a playground moment, when one of her students fell in slow-motion and everything went from normal to horrible in a split second. She didn’t even know Sean that well, except that he’d made her feel welcome in what was his home too. The boys were silent, all wearing the same look of dread. It took a minute, but the trainer and another player helped Sean up and off the ice. Sara put a hand over her fluttering heart.
“He’s okay. He’s like sixteen years old,” Nora seemed to shake it off as well as Sean had.
“Sean doesn’t have any teeth anyway,” Carson pointed out. They all settled back into their seats - they’d seen a million players down, dust off and get up. Sara would ever get used to bouncing back so easily. But when the scoreboard showed the hit again, and no penalty on Neal, Nora tore right back into it.
“Are you fucking kidding me?! What’re you, from Pittsburgh, ref? Hot for Crosby? Fucking moron!”
Sara was watching Danny, again on the ice negotiating with the referee. He was the only person out of twenty thousand-plus keeping his cool. His expression was stern, like he was talking to the stupidest person in the world. Quite possible. But he didn’t yell or gesture or do anything other demand an explanation. Without question he was the most responsible Flyer, this rationality was part of his job. Sara knew he was a good at hockey. Since the Flyers and Penguins had started Fight Club, she was realizing he meant a lot more to his team.
“Why isn’t your dad the captain?” she asked Caelan. The thought had never crossed her mind.
“Chris Pronger is the captain. He’s been out since before Christmas, got post-concussion syndrome. It’s bad, Dad says. He might not come back.”
That made Sara shudder. A career-ending injury, especially a head injury - it was becoming one of her many nightmares since meeting Danny. She wondered if he’d intentionally not introduced her to this captain guy, so as not to scare her. “What happens if he doesn’t?”
Caelan shrugged. “New captain, I guess. I think they’d pick Dad. He’s so....”
“Dad-like,” she finished.
“Yeah. Exactly.” he nodded.
The game resumed with a few good chances for the Pens, riveting everyone’s attention back to the matter at hand. As James Neal skated the length of the ice, Sara, Nora and apparently everyone else watched him. Everyone except Claude. He was at the hash mark all alone when Neal caught him from behind. It was awkward, almost a brush-past. Claude spun away and fell clumsily to the ice. Claude was never clumsy. Nora gasped so hard Sara felt it kick her in the chest. Play continued for a moment, players coming together in front of the bench. New scrums were erupting. Claude ignored the fights and went right onto the bench.
“Oh God,” Nora said. It wasn’t for Claude - he was on the bench, rolling his shoulders and shaking it off. On the ice, chaos continued - extra men, people tackling each other, players screaming from the benches. When they were separated, Danny and one of the Penguins once again spoke to the referee. They started announcing penalties. Sara didn’t know why but they were obviously doing it wrong.
“Why is he...,” she said as James Neal stopped halfway to the penalty box. Wayne Simmonds skated up, started shoving. They parted as Crosby and Hartnell got into it along the glass. Sara stood on tiptoe. They fell to the ice, revealing Danny being shoved by Pittsburgh’s gigantic #4. Danny wasn’t backing down but he wasn’t pushing either. Another shove. Danny came up to the guy’s chin.
“Fight someone your own size, you piece of shit!” Sara screamed without thinking. Cameron stopped and turned, mouth hanging open. Hartnell and some other guy were wrestling and the other pairs gave up. Danny skated away, just like that. Sara biffed Cam on the back of the head. “See?! He knows what to do,” she said.
Eventually the game started again, hundreds of penalty minutes were announced, Max scored and it was finally over. Sara loaded the kids into the car and they gave Nora a ride home. This would not be a game for waiting in the lounge. Back at the house, she paced the kitchen listening for tires on the driveway.
Danny worked a long time. He was practically the only player without a penalty, along with being alternate captain. No one with a potential suspension in the offing would be made available. Danny was really the only one left. He answered questions as diplomatically as he could, considering he’d just played in one of the ugliest games of his career. And they had to do it again in three days. All he wanted was to go home.
Sara came into the garage as he was pulling in. Her hair was tossed back over the #48 jersey he’d bought her - she looked beautiful, and upset. The moment he was out she threw her arms around him.
“Are you okay?”
“Yes, ma belle. I’m fine.”
“Good,” she glared at him. “Now don’t ever do that to me again.”
“Do what?” he laughed.
“Make me curse in front of your kids!”
A short time later, Danny lay sprawled on the bed. The boys were still up but he was exhausted. Every part of him, including his mind, ached. Sara came in and lay next to him, head propped up and one arm across his body. She was so beautiful his heart hurt too.
“Please tell me that’s the worst of it,” she said.
“That was pretty bad,” he admitted. “The only thing worse is losing. Getting eliminated.”
Sara was quiet. With only a few months of hockey under her belt it would be hard to understand the crushing blow of being knocked out of the playoffs. Still, anything that hurt him, hurt her. He’d seen it a million times - she worried about him when it came to the media, to Sylvie, to anything. More than she worried about herself. She put his kids first too.
“I love you,” he said. It still felt new in his mouth, like a language he was re-learning.
“I love you too. Win or lose.”
And lose they did. The next game was a rout - Sara’s first in person. The arena was quiet, then booing, and it made her heart sick for the guys to have to hear it. The ravenous dream of sweeping their rivals in the first round crashed to pieces. That game couldn’t end quickly enough.
Game Five on TV was better, but also just as bad. For the second half of the game, no one scored. The Flyers had thirty minutes to get one and they couldn’t do it. They came home in foul tempers. Danny arrived very late on the Friday night, crawled into his empty bed and lay fuming. He wanted Sara there. But he was glad she didn’t have to deal with him in this mood. Still, it defeated the purpose to only show her the good things in his life. This losing and frustration and fury were all part of it. If she was going to sign up, she should get to read the fine print. But it was far too late to do anything at the moment. Danny flopped around for a while before finally passing out.
In the morning, he remembered why he hadn’t invited her over before leaving.
“Morning,” Sylvie said when he opened the front door. It always surprised him how much older she looked - they were perpetually twenty three in his memory. Her new man wasn’t wealthy so she no longer dressed like a WAG. In fact, Sylvie had gotten more normal since the divorce. Didn’t stop her from hating him, but Danny could see that in hindsight it had been a good thing for them both. Of course it still stung that she had been the one to leave him. Every time someone said women only wanted Danny for his money, an extra hidden knife twisted in his gut. Even with the money he couldn’t keep Sylvie. Not that he’d really wanted too, but it still hurt.
That doesn’t forgive her. Sylvie was unaware that Danny and everyone else knew she’d sold Sara out to the press.
“Morning,” he snapped.
“Surprised you don’t know, since you had all kinds of information to share about her.”
Surprise flashed briefly across her face, then her brow creased a little at the memory of getting burned by the very people she tipped off. They had said some nasty things about her. “They asked me,” she shrugged. “Could have found out themselves. And everything they wrote was true.”
“RIght down to what they said about you,” Danny gave her the flattest, hardest stare he could manage. “Hate me all you want, Sylvie, but leave Sara alone. She’s better than you or me.”
Sylvie turned her scowl into a sneer. “Not smarter though, or she’d be living here. She hasn’t learned to keep a close eye on you. Yet.” She pushed past him into the kitchen. The boys were excited to see their mom. Danny knew that Sylvie’s new boyfriend was waiting outside in the car to take his family out for the day. He would never begrudge them time with their mother, no matter how bad things had been. And it did mean he had the entire day and night to himself.
“Drop them at the rink by eleven thirty, eh?” Danny said. Game Five was at noon the next day.
“Try to win. I’d like a whole weekend with my kids once in awhile.”
Sylvie had barely pulled out of the driveway before Danny was on the phone. Something had occurred to him on the way back from Pittsburgh and been waiting at him ever since. Twenty five minutes later, he opened his front door to an entirely better sightthat the last time. Sara walked right into his embrace and Danny briefly forgot he’d lost back-to-back games and had a fight with his ex-wife.
“Sorry about the game,” she said into his shoulder.
“I wanted to to be over already, so we could rest up and hope the other teams go seven games.”
Sara pulled back and made a face. “Jeez. One week off and you turn into an old man!”
Danny laughed too, though he never felt older than late in the season. His thirty-four year old body did not recover the way his twenty-four year old self once had. It was the harshest reminder that time was ticking against his hockey career. Hence the reason he wanted to talk to Sara now. But she had other ideas.
“You know what you need?” Sara asked. “Follow me.” She led him through the house into the living room, then opened the sliding glass door at the back of the house. The early April day was sunny but crisp, hints of the longer winter clinging to the air. They stepped onto the porch. Danny examined the bare lawn and curtain of trees that would start budding soon. It was the quietest moment he’d had in days. He took a deep breath and rolled his shoulders to stretch.
“You know I....” He didn’t get to finish. Sara ducked under his arm, ran three steps and closed herself inside the glass door. Danny heard it lock.
“What are you doing?”
She pointed to the right. “Get in the hot tub.”
“What?” Danny’s hot tub was always on - the kids loved to use it while it was snowing outside. “I don’t have my swimsuit.”
Sara rolled her eyes, then hooked her fingers into the hem of her sweater and started pulling it up. That creamy pale skin of her stomach was revealed until she was standing in a dark green bra. Danny looked over his shoulder, though he knew the yard was completely screened by the woods. Time seemed to slow as she shimmied out of her jeans, leaving just a pair of green and white striped panties. Sara flicked her bra open and drew the straps down until she was holding just the cups against her breasts. She threw it toward him; it hit the window barrier and slid to the floor. With one thumb under each side, her panties quickly joined the pile. Stark naked and absolutely gorgeous, Sara stood inside Danny’s house.
“Now will you get in the hot tub?” she asked.
Danny flipped off the lid - though it had been a while since anyone had taken a dip, he knew that beneath the padded cover it was steaming. The jets made the tub whirr to life. He was out of his sweater and jeans in under a minute. It was tough to feel old when a beautiful young woman was giving you a striptease and demanding you dress to match.
Sara shamelessly watched Danny ditch his clothes at speed to be with her. She enjoyed the quick flex of every muscle in order - hands, arms, shoulders, back as he removed his shirt. Waist, thigh, calf, foot as his jeans were dropped to the deck. Then of course there was him climbing into the tub and lowering himself slowly beneath the bubbling water. She waited until he was sitting, up to his collarbone, before sliding the door open.
The hot water was bliss. Aches began to ease as the heat soaked through his skin, like peeling back the years. It seemed the tension in his body was flowing away, only to be redirected between his legs when Sara stepped out into the daylight. Her fair skin caught the light as if she’d been dipped in gold.
Danny enjoyed watching her climb in, knowing she had watched him. He’d been flexing.
She pushed through the water without a word and straddled his lap. Her backside rested against his knees - far enough away to tease him. Danny ran his hands up her sides and over her breasts, spreading hot water across her skin. It beaded where he’d touched her and round, happy drops rolled down over her nipples. With his hands at the back of her neck, Danny pulled Sara down for a kiss. The rest was automatic. He moved to the edge of the seat, she pushed her feet into the empty space behind his back. Her ass slid along his thighs until she bumped against his erection. The second time was right on target.
“Mmmmm,” she murmured, tilting her head back and pushing deeper into his lap. Danny held her at the waist and worked against her weight. The heat and wet of her body were so different from the pool, it was so obvious that she wanted him. Again, there was no condom but he simply took it as a good sign. He’d meant what he’d said about wanting her to have his kids someday. Danny kissed her deeply, her tongue sparking against his. Electricity so close to water was supposed to be dangerous.
Sara gripped the edges of the tub behind Danny’s back and used them for leverage. She had missed him, she’d been scared for him. Disappointed and frustrated too. But mostly she’d been proud of him, even when they lost. She rolled her hips forward and listened to him moan softly. Then she smiled and did it again. His fingers dug into the flesh along her hips, urging her to keep going. Crossing her ankles, she pulled herself in as far as she could go. The extra inch planted Danny so deep that she grunted on impact. Her ankles dropped, giving her room to move, but always back to the same spot flat against his chest.
Danny breathed out hard. Making love to Sara was as emotional as physical and he could feel her need, her desire to protect him and comfort him, pulsing through her body. Gratitude didn’t describe his feeling, only because he knew he could never really repay the debt. So he used whatever energy he could find, whatever he’d recovered since the game, and gave it to her. Danny pulled and she pushed so he bottomed out on every stroke.
“Fuck,” she said softly. When Danny chuckled at the teacher cursing, Sara just threaded her fingers through his hair and covered his mouth with her own.
He stood, lifting her with the help of the water, and pulled himself free of her body. She raised one eyebrow. Danny turned her around, pushing one had over her ass, until her back was against his chest. Then he pulled her down, pushing his cock deep at the same time.
Sara gasped. Being on top was one thing, being reverse another. Even more so because Danny was sitting up, capable of engaging those strong thighs. She was helpless. Gloriously helpless. He thrust upward and she groaned.
“You feel so good,” he breathed. One of this hands was at her chin, turning her head sideways and holding her ear to his lips. The other pushed almost roughly between her legs.
“Danny,” she whimpered. He found her clit: just one long, hard stroke. “Oh God.” Again: up and then down before flicking his wrist side to side. She squirmed, trying to buck against him. “Harder, baby.”
He bucked his hips, driving his dick in hard. A slow circle with his fingers this time. Sara twitched in his arms, unable to keep her feet planted on the ground. She was too busy trying to fuck his hand as thoroughly as he was fucking her body. Danny was methodical and paced, not the kind of guy to have furniture-breaking sex. But he was giving it to her now in broad daylight.
Danny didn’t usually talk during sex. He and Sylvie had run out of things to say long before it ended. With girls since then, it all seemed too cheesy - bad enough they were one-night stands, he didn’t have to narrate it like a porn. A few women he’d dated liked it, so he muttered dirty things and tried not to let it distract him from the pleasure at hand. But with Sara, he had things to say.
“Harder, hmmm?” he teased, face still close to her ear. “I like harder.” He did as she asked, both from the bottom and the top. Each shove of his hips drove her slit into his hand and Sara was moaning. It wouldn’t be long before she broke and Danny began racing for the finish line. Her peach was bare and smooth beneath his fingers as he chased her orgasm. Finally, when she was shaking and all but silent, he said, “I want to feel you come.”
Ohgodyessss, she thought. And it was. Like a bubble rising, a whole long journey just to burst open, Sara let the combination of Danny’s work push her to the surface. He was playing it perfectly and when he hit the crescendo, she cried out. His jerking fingers nailed her to the heft of his cock and held her still as the release roared through her body.
Danny grunted. He tried to ride it out but the clench of Sara’s pussy was too much. He let his face fall into her neck and came hard, pulsing three huge loads into that dark, perfect space. When he regained his sense, Sara’s head was tossed back and he’d left a mark along her neck in the shape of his teeth. His chest heaved.
“Wow,” she said weakly.
Danny lifted her gently, and hissed as his dick pulled free. Then he placed her on his thigh and turned her to face him more completely. Her long brown hair was a mess - tousled and curling with the ends dipping into the water of the tub.
Sara put her hand to Danny’s face. He looked tired and worn, but rugged and capable, like he’d known hard work and this wasn’t even close. Every year and scar on his face just told her she hadn’t seen anything yet.
“I love you,” she said. It encompassed everything else.
“When the summer comes and the boys are done with school, will you go with us to Canada?” He said it all at once like blocks of ice tumbling off an igloo. That morning’s encounter with Sylvie had spurred him - not that he needed to be watched, but that Sara might feel less at home than he intended. That people might take this for something casual, when really it was moving alarmingly fast.
“Will you live with us?” he repeated, loud and clear.
Tears sprang to Sara’s eyes, hotter than the water still bubbling around them. “Of course, Danny. Of course.”
Danny kissed the tear that slipped down her keep. “Good thing you’re a teacher, because this family is all about summer vacation.”
I'm off on vacation till the 20th! Didn't want to you to think I'd abandoned this story because it's not quite over yet. - Juliet