SHE THINKS I LIVE WITH MY PARENTS
The Uber driver sighs loudly. As if that’s going to hurry me along. I’ve got Scarlett pinned against the back passenger door of his car, kissing her like that isn’t what we’ve been doing for the past three hours. I don’t remember when I’ve had such a good time with a girl. Or with anyone, for that matter. I barely know this chick, but last night was like none other.
The driver lays on the horn, making Scarlett jump in my arms. I take a step back and glare at him through the window.
“I should go before he leaves me,” she says, staring up at me with those big brown eyes. Her hair is wavy and still a little damp on the ends. She’s wearing one of my old Boston University sweatshirts over her tank, and it comes down past her shorts. I hook my finger in the neck of it and pull her back to me.
“Oh right.” She makes a move like she’s going to take it off.
“Nah, keep it. Looks better on you.”
She opens the car door, and I hold it as she slides into the back seat.
“Thanks for last night, hot Leo,” she says as I shut her inside. The car pulls out of my driveway, and I look up to see Ash standing in his driveway across the street with a smile so big I might be tempted to regret getting caught walking a girl out, if it hadn’t meant I got a few more minutes with Scarlett.
He crosses the street, pulling a long-sleeved T-shirt over his head. “Looks like you had a much better night than I did. Are we running this morning before we hit the road?” He does a scan of my bare chest and jeans.
“Give me five minutes.”
For the first three miles, Ash interrogates me while simultaneously giving me shit. I offer few details, which just makes it worse. Ash is my best friend, he knows me better than anyone, so it isn’t that I don’t want to tell him. I’m just not sure I can put it into words. I had my share of one-night stands back in the day, but they’ve never been like that. And I’m not just referring to the sex that was off the charts amazing. It was like I’d known her forever.
“I knew I should have gone out with you last night,” he says. “God, I passed out on the couch with my hand down my pants. When are you going to see her again?”
“It hasn’t even been an hour. I think I’ll wait until, I don’t know, at least lunchtime to hit her up.”
He cocks a skeptical brow. “I know you. You wouldn’t have brought her home unless you really like her.”
I don’t bother denying it. I’m not big on random hookups anymore. Been there. Done that. Have the cringe-worthy photos splashed on social media and tabloids to prove it. I made plenty of bad decisions my first year in the league. Since then, I’ve dated infrequently and no one more than a few months at a time. Dating is always hard, but it’s almost impossible at the beginning of a season.
The point is, I could have just as easily gotten Scarlett’s number and waited to take her out another night when I didn’t have to be up so damn early. I’m going to be tired as shit later, but I can’t find it in me to regret it. Last night, this morning, whenever it was, was awesome. And the thing is, I didn’t want to wait. I haven’t been that excited about spending time with a girl ever.
“The timing is awful,” I say. “We’ll be gone all weekend, and when we get back, we start camp, then right into practice, media events, then pre-season games…” I trail off as I realize just how true it is. Even if her schedule was wide open, I have no idea when I’ll have a free night to see her again.
“It’ll always be tricky. Invite her to a game. Oooh, invite her to one of the events Daria’s been trying to get you to attend.” He snaps his fingers like he’s given me a genius idea.
Daria is my agent, and she would love that idea. She’s always pushing for me to attend more A-list events, where I’m seen schmoozing with other local celebrities. I use that term loosely since it’s mostly athletes and influencers. “I can’t do that.”
“Why not? That’s a pretty baller date setup if you ask me. Formal attire guarantees she’ll be in a dress and all done up. The dinner and drinks are free, and I’ll even come along to make sure you don’t screw it up.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen you in action. I know exactly what type of wingman you are. You end up in deep conversation with chicks, talking about great loves and the one that got away.”
He grins and doesn’t even try to refute it. He’s totally that guy. Ash is likable and easy to talk to, and unexpectedly deep. He has this way about him that people want to open up and tell him their life story. It also means he attracts the emotionally damaged chicks sometimes because they latch on and feel seen or some shit. If I were a psych major instead of a business one, I’m sure I could have a field day dissecting him.
“She thought I was just some college student,” I say as we get back to our neighborhood.
“You know what I mean.”
“Are you sure she didn’t recognize you?”
“Positive.” She guessed just about every occupation except professional athlete. And truth be told, I enjoyed connecting with a chick and my job not being at the forefront.
“And she still hung out with you?”
I shove him, sending him jogging off on the shoulder of the road.
“That’s not the worst part.”
“Don’t hold out on me,” he says with a grin. He’s enjoying this way too much.
“She thinks I live with my parents.”
“What?” He busts up laughing and comes to a halt in my driveway.
“She assumed, and then I felt weird about correcting her.”
“Wow, this just gets better and better. Okay, well, what’s the move then? Invite her to lunch at McDonald’s? Splurge on a large nugget meal with a couple of apple pies? Damn, actually, that sounds real good about now.”
I don’t answer. I’m not sure what the move is. I know it’s not that. And after the amazing night we had, where she had no idea that I was a professional hockey player, I don’t want to invite her to some team thing like I’m trying to show off.
“Okay, not lunch. That’s a weak follow-up to an all-night fuck fest. Besides, you might need the glow of the moon and stars to re-engage her bad decision-making. This girl sounds too good to be true. Hence the need for nightfall. She’s probably already regretting hooking up with you and blocking your number.”
I flip him off. Even with him busting my balls, my good mood can’t be beat. She liked me. I felt it. And I liked her too. Last night was a damn dream.
“I’ll figure it out when we get back. I don’t want to bring her to some team event where I can’t give her my full attention.”
“Yeah, I get it. This is why Talia is perfect. She’s only interested in the hockey stuff, and she’s cool with a last-minute invite. One bird, two stones.”
“Talia is sleeping with half the league.”
He shrugs. “When she’s in town, we’re exclusive. It works.”
“When she’s in town?” I counter. “You say that like she’s an international businesswoman instead of a part-time model who goes from city to city to hit up her many boy toys.”
Ash laughs lightly like he doesn’t care. Maybe he doesn’t. His relationship with Talia, if we’re even calling it that, makes no sense to me.
“Scarlett was different.”
“I can see that, Romeo. You haven’t stopped grinning. Well, if you’re serious about this chick, then yeah, your timing is awful.”
“Gee, thanks. In the future, I’ll try to randomly bump into the hottest girl I’ve ever laid eyes on at a more convenient time.”
“Hottest girl you’ve ever laid eyes on, huh?” He makes a face to show his surprise.
“Definitely. She was a dream. Too good to be true.”
“Damn. I knew I should have met up with you last night.”
By the time we get on the road for our guys trip, staying up all night is starting to catch up with me, but I’ve got big afternoon plans that include napping the entire ride up to Ash’s lake house and then chilling on the boat with a beer in my hand.
Jack, Declan, Ash, and I go every year just before camp, and this year, we invited two rookies: Tyler and Maverick. It’s a chill weekend away from the arena where we have a chance to hang out and let loose before the season starts.
We take two vehicles and, unfortunately, I picked the wrong one to ride up in. Ash is at the wheel, and I’m riding shotgun. Johnny Maverick, a rookie straight out of college, is yapping a mile a minute from the middle seat in the back of Ash’s truck. Maverick is a cool dude—funny, high-energy, and as a teammate, he’s going to be a blast to play with, but right now, when all I want is the lull of the tires rolling down the road, I’m wishing he’d gone with the other guys.
Two hours later, we pull into the driveway of Ash’s place behind Jack, Dec, and Ty. The house sits just off the lake, has a great back yard for playing washers, grilling, and drinking, and the inside is big enough for all of us guys to have our own room. Not that we’ll spend a lot of time in them this weekend.
I’ve barely dropped my things in one of the rooms when Jack appears in the doorway with a basket. He holds it out toward me, and I can see the other phones he has already collected.
He smirks but doesn’t say a word. He doesn’t need to. Jack is huge on disconnecting. I think it’s the only way he stays sane.
“Can I just send a text first?”I ask, thinking of Scarlett. I bring up her contact on my phone. Fuck, what do I even say? It isn’t like I can see her this weekend or next week. We get back Sunday night, and camp starts early Monday and goes all day, all week long.
The beginning of the season is brutal, but I enjoy the onslaught of hockey each year. Unfortunately, it also means that I’m looking at an entire week before I can see Scarlett again.
Last night was fun. Work is crazy right now. Call you soon.
It isn’t the greatest text ever composed, but it’ll do for now. I toss my phone in the basket. I’ll follow up next week after camp is over when I have more than two hours I can devote solely to her.