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This gives me the room I need to fly up off the bed, but if he thinks I’m running again, he has another thing coming. Instead, towel forgotten and laying on the mattress, I crawl back onto the bed, right up to him, and raise up on my knees. I poke him hard in the chest and annunciate clearly, “I was not acting childishly. How about giving me a little empathy for what I just walked in on. You and I had just mended fences not half an hour before. You and I had just shared the greatest of intimacies not five minutes before. And I walk in to find her hand in the waistband of your towel? Did you honestly expect me—or any sane woman for that matter—to act with anything less than outrage?”

Hawke is now the one who is taken aback. He blinks at me in surprise while red creeps into his face as he realizes the truth of my words. We stare at each other, my gaze now harsh and condemning, his on the defensive with embarrassment.

I wait for him to mutter an apology, but instead he shakes his head. His lips curve upward slightly and his eyes twinkle. “Goddamn, but we make quite a couple, don’t you think?”

Now I blink at him for just one second of disbelief, and before I can help myself, I start laughing. Hawke joins me, our mirth coming from deep in our bellies as our arms go around each other. He pulls me in tight, still chuckling, and kisses me on my shoulder. When he pulls back, we look at each other with sparkling eyes and wonder over what we’ve found here with each other again. It’s old, for sure, but most of it’s new and like walking on a craggy precipice waiting for the land to just slide out from under you. So much still to learn about each other.

Hawke picks me up, rolls from the bed, and stands me on my feet. “Come on…get dressed and let me go down and officially introduce you to Michelle. You’ll like her.”

I snort and he laughs again.

“Seriously, you’ll like her. She’s cool and she’s got absolutely no designs on me in a committed way. We need to figure a way to get her to a hotel for the night and back to the airport tomorrow.”

This mollifies me greatly, and I think to ask, “How did she know about me?”

“The tattoo of your name…on my hip. She knew you were important to my history.”

“You told her about us?” I ask incredulously.

Hawke shakes his head. “When she asked about who Vale was, I told her it wasn’t any of her business. That’s how she knew you were important to me.”

Chapter 21


There never was a time in my life that I considered a reconciliation with Vale was possible. She so thoroughly crushed my young, naive heart when she told me she didn’t love me anymore I had no choice but to believe her.

Without love, there was no hope.

Without love, came anger.

Without love—Vale’s in particular—I decided to concentrate on my career first and foremost. Some would call me callous, and that may be true, but I put her out of my mind. Not once did I consider trying to reason with her. It never crossed my mind to try to change her mind. I accepted what she told me, and I’m thinking that all has to do with stubborn pride, and I left her behind.

It wasn’t intentional on my part, at least I don’t think, to stay away from committed relationships. It was sort of a natural progression. At first, I was caught up in the excitement and fame of playing with the Titans. Women threw themselves at me and I was swimming in so much diverse pussy it almost seemed sacrilege for me to commit to just one. With the obligations of playing professional hockey, it’s not easy to form relationships, so I didn’t try. I’ll go one further. It’s not easy to keep relationships either. Case in point—Oliver. I let that friendship go because I didn’t have the time to make it work. It actually makes me wonder if I would have done the same to Vale.

Regardless of the way things worked out over time, it wasn’t until last week when she told me the truth about why she did what she did that I considered that Vale could be a mainstay in my life again. I have no clue where this is going, and I’m too hesitant and skittish to believe that it could ever go back to what we used to have. I wasn’t lying to Vale when I told her that I get why she did what she did. If I was in her shoes, feeling abandoned by me, having experienced a tremendous physical and emotional loss, and then was told my lifestyle is what caused it, I could see making a drastic decision to cut me out.

I totally get it. I totally forgive it.

But it’s definitely not something to forget. Vale has always been ruled by emotion; it’s one of the reasons I think her star shines so provocatively bright. It’s what attracted me to her, because she was full of no-holds-barred passion. But that is also dangerous. It causes impulsive decisions at times, and those decisions can cause unforgettable pain.

But now is not the time to brood on such inequities of life. I’ve got more important things to worry about at this very moment.

“I’ll see your fifteen cents, and raise you a quarter,” I say with a challenging stare leveled at Vale over the top of my cards. She raises her lovely eyebrows at me, purses her lips as if she’s shocked by my confident stance, and hums low in her throat as if in grave consideration. She’s so goddamn sexy right now I want swipe the small piles of nickels, dimes, and quarters off the table along with the cards, two cans of beer, and a bottled water, lay her up there with legs spread wide, and devour her.

Nice thought and all, except I think it would be awkward with Max and Garrett in the room.

We’re on a road trip, having won the first regular season away game against the Toronto Blazers. Bruce Duvall has had Goose and Vale alternate away games with him, and I have to say I’m looking forward to when this poker game is over and I can have some alone time with her. While we get to see each other almost every day between either her duties with the Cold Fury, or the fact I’ve been fucking her almost every night for the past week since our “reconciliation,” she’s usually jetting out of my bed and heading home, not wanting to spend too much time away from Dave. It’s not that he can’t stay alone, but she just doesn’t want him to be alone. I suggested letting me stay at her apartment, in her bed, but that wigged her out. I didn’t quite get that either, because Dave’s no idiot. He knows I’m back in his daughter’s life, and he’s wise enough to know we’re having sex. It makes me wonder what hesitations Vale has about our new relationship.

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