I tune Pretore out.
Fuck…talk about a blast from my past. I hadn’t thought of Vale in years. Well, that’s not true. I’ve actually had some dirty dreams about her from time to time, but I haven’t really thought about her or what we had together in years. That was something put firmly out of my mind when I walked out of her house seven years ago. True to my word, I called Vale that night when I landed in Pittsburgh.
Just as I suspected, she didn’t answer the phone. Didn’t return my call. Didn’t answer my texts.
It took me a grand total of three days, and a gut full of fury and rage, before I cut her out of my thoughts. The anger was eating me up, the pain almost too much to bear. So for me, it was just easier to wipe her from my existence or I’d wallow in misery.
I kept in touch with Oliver sporadically after I got to Pittsburgh, and he’d throw me an unsolicited bone about her every once in a while, but last I heard, she was still living in Sydney. But then Oliver and I drifted apart, sad to say probably all my fault because I’m a lousy fucking friend, and I just lost touch with everything from my past on Cape Breton.
I put my head into the game literally and figuratively and I lived, ate, and breathed professional hockey. I made new friends…my teammates. When I went home on holidays, it wasn’t back to Cape Breton to see Oliver and his family, it was back to Toronto to see my own. I partied hard in my downtime and I fucked around…a lot. Keeping track of old friends and moping over lost loves just wasn’t my thing. I got over Vale Campbell and I moved on.
Never in a million years thought we would ever cross paths again. And as evidenced by the hot flame of bubbling anger sitting low in my gut right now, I’m guessing that I’m still a bit pissed at her.
I can’t deny it, though, she’s still a goddamn knockout. And so different than the last time I saw her. Not a single piercing on her face. Her black hair still long, but in a stylishly sleek fall down to her shoulders. She’s conservatively dressed in a pair of khaki pants and a black Cold Fury polo shirt.
Body is still slammin’.
Noticed that when she stood up.
And those eyes…I could see their crystal clarity from up here. Sexy as hell, but when they looked at me, not an ounce of warm recognition in them.
Christ…I can’t imagine what could turn red-hot passion and love into a fucking iceberg within her. Still the greatest mystery I’ll ever be faced with.
“There’s a story there,” Garrett mutters quietly as he leans his head toward me. Coach Pretore has finished with Vale’s accolades and is now going over our practice schedule, which has already been emailed to all of us.
I jerk and glance at him. “What’s that?”
“You and the new AT,” he says with a knowing look.
“Nah, man,” I say in quick denial. “Just a girl I used to know.”
“Fucking liar,” Garrett says emphatically. “When she looked at you, the air was so thick you could have cut it with a knife. I want the deets.”
I’m saved when Pretore says, “That’s it, men. Your equipment is in your lockers. You have twenty minutes to get dressed, pretty yourselves up, and get on the ice for the team photo.”
I stand abruptly, but I can hear Garrett snicker before whispering to Alex. “There’s definitely a story there.”
Ignoring him, I move into the aisle steps that lead down to the exit door. My eyes can’t help themselves. They go immediately to Vale, who scrambles up out of her chair and follows the rest of the training staff out the door. Not a backward glance my way, and fuck…that pisses me off. She’s the one that bailed on our relationship and she can’t give me the courtesy of just saying hello?
I’m definitely tying one on tonight. Something…anything to make me banish her from my thoughts once again.
“Get down from there, Vale,” Hawke says to me gruffly, reaching his hand out.
“Why? Afraid I’ll fall?” I ask with a drunken grin. I level my arms out for balance, take another precarious step on the rough stone wall that runs along the Sydney River. A slight wobble and I right myself, but I don’t miss the sound of the frustrated grunt that Hawke lets out.
“If you fall in, I don’t want to have to come in after you,” he says as he walks alongside me, his feet firmly on the path beside the wall.
“You’re a good swimmer,” I tell him confidently, although my words are slurred a little. We’d decided to share a pint of bourbon, but I ended up taking a few longer pulls on it than Hawke did. Plus he outweighed me by almost eighty pounds. I was definitely drunk, while he was probably just sporting a nice buzz.
Huh…all the better for him to come in after me should I fall.
“I don’t want to get wet,” he grumbles, but I can hear it in the tone of his voice.
“Okay, let me do just one pirouette, show off my ballet skills—”
“Christ, Vale,” Hawke barks at me, and grabs my wrist. With a hard pull, I am indeed tumbling off the wall but not toward the river. Instead, I fall right down into Hawke’s strong arms. “You’re a nut job.”
“Am not,” I breathe out as my breasts mash into his chest and his breath feathers across my face.
“Are too,” he murmurs as he looks down at me.
It’s dark, but I can see the half-moon reflected in his eyes. Even though he has the lightest of blue irises, they are dark with liquor and frustration and even a little bit of lust. I wrap my arms around his neck and tilt my head to look at the blackened sky. I smile at the stars and they smile back at me just before I turn my face to his again.