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I told him what I knew.

He asked to talk to my dad, so I shoved the phone into the curtain of the tiny room where dad was getting dressed and listened to the one-sided conversation he had with Hawke. It made my heart about burst.

When I got back on the phone with him, his message was simple. “Be waiting for me in the players’ parking lot tonight after the game. And dress warm.”

So I did. After my dad and I went out for a celebratory early meal, we went back to our apartment and watched the game on TV. I even let my dad have a beer—he deserved it—and we cheered and yelled for the Cold Fury. I cheered especially hard for Hawke, especially when he got into a fight with a Mustang defenseman who thought he could try to trip the great and powerful Hawke Therrien. The minute the gloves dropped, I was screaming at Hawke through the TV to kick his ass. He did and it was well worth the five-minute major he got.

Watching that man is glorious. I have such pride in what he does, how far he’s come. He looked amazing on the ice, and looked even better when he walked across the lot toward me as I waited outside my car. He merely crooked a finger when he was halfway and I went to meet him. His hand went behind my head, his mouth to mine, and he kissed me hello.

“Great game,” I whispered as he pulled back.

“Fuck that,” he said with a smile. “Today we celebrate the shrinkage.”

So we got in his car after he threw his gear bag in the trunk. I saw a small cooler in there and raised an eyebrow in question, but he merely said, “It’s a surprise.”

So I waited.

Hawke intrigues me by taking the Aviation Parkway exit toward the airport. It’s late and there’s little traffic. His right hand comes off the steering wheel and he places it over mine resting in my lap. Giving it a squeeze, he asks, “Dying of curiosity?”

“A little,” I say primly, but I’m truly puzzled.

“You hate surprises,” he says.

“No I don’t,” I tell him quickly. “I used to hate surprises, but now I find they appeal to me.”

“Liar,” he says in a low rumbling voice that makes my blood hum.

As the airport looms up ahead in the distance, the terminals glowing and the traffic control tower blinking its steady red lights, Hawke turns on his turn signal. To the left and right of the parkway sit large man-made ponds surrounded by green hills and tall, willowy pine trees. He slows and turns onto a dirt road that I had never noticed before, not that I’ve been this way much. Just the handful of times I’ve traveled with the team by plane.

He never says a word and neither do I as we bounce along for about two hundred yards, around a bend that shields us from the road, and come out into a small clearing by the water. Low-growing azaleas, holly, and camellia bushes surround a small grassy area by the water’s edge, the glow from the airport reflected therein.

“This is beautiful,” I whisper as Hawke brings his car to a halt, puts it in park, and kills the engine. With the headlights extinguished, the darkness engulfs us and I feel truly secluded.

Hawke gets out of the car and I follow. I watch as he pulls the cooler from the trunk along with two blankets. It’s crisp outside, maybe hovering in the midfifties, but not something that would require a coat. A Nova Scotian wouldn’t dare think of wearing a coat in this mild weather, so I’m good with my jeans and sweater.

“A picnic?” I ask curiously as Hawke spreads one blanket on the grass and kneels on it. He tosses the other down and opens the cooler.

“Sort of,” he says with a grin as he pulls out a bottle of champagne. “Well, just the alcohol, but I figured toasting Dave’s success was in order tonight. Don’t you think?”

“Totally agree,” I say as I drop to my knees on the blanket beside him.

He removes the foil and wire and pops the cork flawlessly. Very suave and something he wouldn’t have done seven years ago. Back then it was popping the top of a beer can.

I giggle as I think of the difference in this man and I appreciate it even more.

We toast my dad with plastic cups, sip at the champagne, and sit back on the blanket as we watch planes fly low overhead and then land with a roar. When I finish my bubbly, I set the empty cup on the blanket and lay back, tucking my hands behind my head. As I gaze up at the clear moon, I say, “Remember what we used to say about the moon?”

Hawke drains his cup and tosses it aside. He lays down on his side, propping up on his elbow and resting his head in the palm of his hand. He smiles down at me and says, “Our lunar connection.”

I nod with a grin. “When you were traveling with the Oilers and I was missing you, you’d call me at night and tell me, ‘Vale…look at the moon right now. It’s the same one I’m looking at. We are together.’ ”

I’m surprised the words actually come out a little choked up over the sweet memory, and perhaps it’s just the emotion of this spectacular day, but I’m a little embarrassed when I slide my eyes from the moon to him. The shadows obscure most of his face, but I can see some of that emotion sparkling back at me.

He leans down and kisses me gently. When he pulls back, he says, “I was quite the romantic back then, huh?”

“Oh, yeah,” I say with a giggle. “You totally got all my girly parts tingly with your words.”

Hawke gives a husky laugh and bends over to kiss me again. It’s deep and possessive, full of passion and desire. He moves straight past romantic and right into erotic territory with just a few skillful swipes of his tongue against mine. I can’t help the moan that pops out, but then again, I never could.

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