“We’re going out, boys!” Staal hollered, slapping their goalie on the back as he walked out of the showers. Guys whooped in reply as they were taking off their gear and slipping back into their suits.
James was sliding on his dress shoes, thinking about the 3-1 win. He had two power play goals against his former team, the Dallas Stars. He had to admit it felt good to score on them, almost like a “fuck you for trading me.” But really, he loved Pittsburgh—the team, the town, Charlie.
He was lost in thought about the blonde, blue-eyed girl when Kris sat down next to him nudging him in the shoulder. “So? Will we be seeing Charlotte tonight?” he asked excitedly.
“I will be, you guys won't,” he replied.
“You’re going to have to bring her around at some point, mon ami,” Kris followed him out to the players parking lot. “She seems like a great girl, she could handle the guys,” he encouraged.
James stopped, so abruptly that Kris practically ran into him. “She doesn’t know,” he mumbled when he turned around.
“Look,” James started, “Charlie’s not really a hockey fan. She has no idea what I do, about you guys,”
The Frenchman looked at him quizzically, “But when I met her I mentioned tonight’s game,”
“I told her that I play in like a local league,” James hung his head, embarrassed. “Look, I’m going to tell her—when the time is right,”
“You do realize that this isn’t going to end well?” Kris sighed and shook his head in pity, “When there are lies involved, it never ends well.”
They walked straight up to the local hot spot, and with just a nod from the bouncer they snaked their way into the club.
The air was thick and warm from the masses of bodies. It was dark except for the colored lights above that jumpy, always spotlighting one person for no more than a few seconds before moving on to the next.
James held Charlie by the hand firmly and led her to the staircase in the far corner. The second floor overlooked the dance floor below, it had it's own bar and was less crowded.
Charlie glanced down at her outfit and was glad she had looked up the dress code. It wasn’t your typical club all-out attire, but had she listened to James, she would have been in jeans and a tee. Luckily she had chosen a pair of red skinny jeans and a thin black spaghetti strap tank top, sassy but casual.
She propped herself up onto a bar stool and turned towards James, who stepped in between her legs. “It’s crowded, trying to save space,” he winked, running a hand up and down her thigh. “Drink?”
Within a matter of seconds James had a beer in his hand and was passing her a rum and coke. It was the fastest service Charlie had ever seen. But it the idea was immediately gone from her mind as James leaned in to whisper in her ear, “Have I told you how beautiful you look?”
“Only about five times,” Charlie giggled, “But I won’t ask you to stop,”
He pulled away, stealing a quick kiss before taking a sip of beer. “Aren’t your friends supposed to be here?” she asked.
James looked around and scratched the back of his neck, “They’re probably here somewhere,” he shrugged.
One beer and two rum and cokes later, Charlie and James were having a great time. The second floor quickly filled up with people looking for a good time. James ended up taking the bar stool and Charlie stood snug in his lap. They were lost in conversation when a tall, lanky blonde came up to James, clapping him on the shoulder.
“First fucking star of the game!” Jordan shouted, wrapping an arm around James’ shoulder. “I bet the Stars are missing you and crying like pussies, fuck them! Right Nealer?”
James froze. The hair of the back of his neck stood up and his mind raced. He had been avoiding the guys all night, ignoring their numerous texts and phone calls. James had wanted to tell Charlie the truth—especially after a game like tonight. He wanted to celebrate, and he wanted her to join.
But of course, he chickened out. And now he wanted nothing more than to go back in time and tell the truth. And to punch Jordan.
He finally looked down at Charlie, who tilted her head and was looking between the two men, puzzled.
“You know, my boy here has great stamina on and off the ice,” Jordan slurred, leaning too close to Charlie for James’ liking. Before he could do anything about it, Jordan was pulled away by none other than the Frenchman.
“That piece of tail you’ve been chasing is waiting for you downstairs at the bar, Staalsy,” Kris turned him towards the stairs before he took off. “Sorry about him, no manners. And he doesn’t know how to hold his liquor,” he joked.
“Charlotte, it’s so nice to see you again!” Kris pulled Charlie in for a hug. She gave him a genuine smile before turning back to James. “Um, what was he talking about?” she asked quietly.
“Who? Oh, Jordan?” James scoffed. “Don’t pay attention to a thing he says, no one ever does,”
Charlie wasn’t buying it. Her brows were furrowed and her lips were pressed tightly together.
“Ma belle,” Kris piped up, “We had a game tonight, and our friend James here scored us two goal to help us win!” James glared at Kris and was about to yell at him before he noticed Kris subtly motioned with his hands saying that he had it under control.
“Oh I didn’t know you had a game tonight," Charlie hummed. "Do you play with James, Kris?” she asked.
“Ah, yes I do. Jordan too," he motioned after the blonde. "It was a late game, and James never does well with guests in the stands," Kris fibbed, "Especially if there was a pretty little thing like you in the crowd rooting for him—he’d be useless,”
Charlie stepped towards Kris and placed a hand on his arm, “I like him!” she exclaimed.
James rolled his eyes, removing her hand from his teammates muscular arm, “So you’ve said,”
She laughed before drinking the last of her drink and excusing herself to the ladies room. The second she was out of earshot James turned to Kris and practically bowed down to him. “Thank you Tanger, I don’t know—I panicked!” he cried.
“I’m not always going to be there James,” Kris said like a disappointed father.
James ran a hand through his messy hair, “I know, I know. I’m going to tell her. I am.”
Charlie came back refreshed to find Kris and James in an intense conversation. She cleared her throat so she wouldn’t hear anything they didn’t want her to. Kris whipped around and James plastered on a fake smile. He rubbed the back of his neck—which Charlie was beginning to think was a nervous habit.
“Ma belle!” Kris grinned. “I do believe you owe me a dance,”
She squealed, placing her hand in his and letting him lead to the dance floor below. It was hot and sweaty bodies were bumping into them from all sides. Charlie usually didn’t dance in public so willingly—but then again, liquor can make people do anything.
Kris twirled her around before stepping in, bringing her hands around his neck. His hands rested her on her hips respectively, and they quickly found a rhythm to the music blaring through the speakers. They hips swayed close together as they danced for the first song not saying a word.
Charlie was brought out of her daze when Kris leaned in to talk. “So, you and James,” he shouted. She eyed him, but couldn’t keep a grin from her lips. “So, me and James,” she mocked. Kris raised an eyebrow, wanting her to continue.
She sighed and laughed, “He’s a great guy. I like him a lot.” A slight blush rose to her cheeks.
“And I know he likes you. Just…” Kris struggled to find the words. “Like you said, he’s a great guy—one of the best that I know. Just keep that in mind, ok? He always means well,”
She hadn’t realized but they had stopped dancing. Her stomach turned, but she couldn't tell if it was the alcohol or his words, “Kris, what are you saying?”
“Nothing! Nothing,” he reassured her. “But I will tell you that jealousy does not look good on your man,” Kris laughed quietly before he dropped his hands from Charlie’s waste. “James,” Kris nodded before winking at Charlie and disappearing into the throng of people.
Charlie turned around to find James, jealousy dripping down his face.
“Oh hush,” Charlie swatted his chest. “It’s not like he’s got sex hair that you just want to pull.”
James pulled her against his chest tightly, muffling her laugh. He snuck a thick thigh between hers and the two moved slowly against each other on the dance floor.
Charlie wound her arms around his neck and her hands ran through James' full hair. “Hmmm, I’d say it’s a winner,”