There were some difficulties with this chapter... I planned on soemthing completely different. And as I started writing, this is what came out. No lie, it just sort of wrote itself. Then I had some problems making everything fit! So I enlisted the help of my wonderful 'editor' and she made it run together so much better! I hope you guys like it!! If not, you can totally blame qfd* :) Love ya Mer!
The media circus actually wasn’t that bad to deal with. Mel found that she was actually getting used to waiting around while Sid dealt with the scrum of armchair quarterbacks with all their lights and cameras and microphones. In fact, a few of them actually acknowledged her on their way in and out of the dressing room now and that gave her a little thrill.
The crazed fan girls…that was a whole other topic, and they were more than a little scary. Mel wasn’t sure how Sid dealt with it every time he arrived or left the arena. They were always screaming his name, telling him what they’d give for a kiss, and tonight one woman with her daughter said she’d pay him to sleep with either of them. It was a little disturbing. But Sid didn’t even look up as he pulled her behind him towards the spot where his Rover was parked.
They were on their way right now to have dinner with the Staal family. She had met Henry and Linda at Game 1, and had also been introduced to Marc and Jared at other games. The only one she hadn’t met that night was the elusive Eric and now he too was in town.
She’d been told that after the drinking game incident at Geno’s, that Eric was interested in meeting her. Sid had offered to introduce her to him after the game, but she’d been too nervous. The Canes had lost and she knew how competitive boys could be after a loss… so when a casual dinner at Jordan’s the next night had been suggested, she’d jumped at the chance to be included, even though it made her stomach do horrible flip floppy things to think about it.
Although she’d never admit it to Heather and Jordy, Mel was a little star struck by the Staal’s eldest. Not wanting to make any major faux pas she’d even gone so far as to pull Heather aside in the locker room the night before and asked how to go about not making a complete idiot in front of the entire Staal clan. Heather had just laughed and told her just to be herself and as far as Eric went, just to treat him like she did Sid. While she knew that what Heather had meant was to treat him like anyone else, to be as normal as possible with him, all Mel could think was’ Yeah, if I act like he’s Sid I’ll push him against the wall and rain kisses all over his face. And I’m guessing his wife wouldn’t appreciate that.
Shaking her head, Melany bit her lip to keep from laughing at the images her brain was coming up with while she was sitting with the guy that really made her insides go to jelly.
Besides getting an up close and personal look at her secret crush, Mel was hoping that this dinner would help give her some insight into what it might be like to live with a professional hockey player. She’d had the opportunity but hadn’t wanted to talk to Nathalie about what it was like to be married to Mario. The woman had been nothing but a saint and part of her knew that if she actually got the courage to ask, Nathalie would probably answer anything, but how do you bring up the question of ‘do you think I’m good enough for him’ without seeming like a whiny insecure brat but these questions kept coming into her head and they were beginning to crowd out the good thoughts.
Mel thought about the time they’d spent together since they met. They had a lot of fun together and Mel liked to think that when they were together, it gave Sid a chance to just be normal, whatever that was for him, and he certainly seemed like he wanted to be with her, which made her feel like the luckiest girl on earth but….
She sighed, thinking back on her last talk with his dad. That had definitely not ended well, not when she’d told him that she didn’t know what it was that she truly wanted to do with her life but it had been honest and Sid seemed to value that and yet….
Sid grabbed her hand, his other tapping on the steering wheel while they paused at a stop light, a few blocks from the house.
“You’re awfully quiet tonight babe. Are you gonna be okay? Because I’ll defend you against all four of them if I have to,” he added, being cute and adorable and she knew, trying to raise her spirits.
“I just…,” she glanced down at their entwined hands and then up at his easy smile. “You’ll think it’s stupid.”
“Try me babes,” he grinned back at her, and there it was again, the why me thought when he looked at her that way.
“Just remember, you asked,” she warned him. Now wasn’t the time to bring up the talk with his dad, which would just get him all worked up when they were supposed to be looking forward to a night of fun and relaxation. So she opted for the Staal talk. Turning slightly in her seat she chewed on her lip for another second. “I’m nervous,” she admitted and then thought how funny it was that that small statement covered so many bases.
“About what? You’ve met them all before. Everyone likes you, right?”
“But… I haven’t met Eric,” she pointed out to which he could only shrug.
“He’s pretty much the same at the others. He’s kind of a mix of Marc and Jordy but just a couple years older.”
“But he’s… he’s hot, with a capital H!” Mel waited for him to laugh or get mad, do something, show some kind of reaction negative or positive but Sid just did his usual Sid thing and remained even keeled about it.
“So that makes the other three chopped liver?”
“Well… Jared’s just a baby, he doesn’t count yet and I know Jordan and you know how I think he’s mentally unbalanced,” she said with a smile. Sid laughed at her and shook his head though she knew that he liked that she was comfortable enough to tease his friends. “And Marc… well, you know my stance on him. Ginger,” she said in a stage whisper. Sid looked like he was going to hurt himself trying to keep his laughter reined in.
“Have you told anyone else about your stance on these… gingers?” he asked, giggling like a girl.
“God no! I can’t have it get out that I’m racist against gingers, they’ll band together and get me.”
“Have you listened to yourself?”
“Don’t you judge me Crosby,” she warned, feeling better and more relaxed now that they were teasing one another.
“Never,” he said seriously. She saw the twinkle in his eye as he winked at her while pulling into the driveway of Jordan’s. “Now, listen. Just remember Eric’s a great guy, just like the rest of the family. I won’t tell him about your little crush, and I’ll try not to get too jealous if you drool over him.”
“Why, you curly-headed--”
“Ah ah ah… be nice Melany, or I’m going to get them to help me lock you in a room with Marc all night.” Mel stuck her tongue out at him and he leaned forward, his hand in her hair and his forehead against hers. “Don’t stick that tongue out unless you’re going to use it,” he growled, smiling.
“You remember what Disco said, you guys are supposed to be cutting back on the… extra-curricular activities.” While she was sure it was hard on him Mel personally felt like she was dying a little from lack of… action. She wanted him all the time but there was no way she wanted to be blamed for Sid the Kid not being up to snuff as Coach had put it.
Not that Sid seemed overly concerned with actually going along with the no nookie rule. His excuse last night had been rather imaginative she thought. He was hard no matter what, and he was going to have to take care of it one way or another… why not help him, so he didn’t strain himself? What a load of bullshit, but sex with him after a game was so intense it was hard to say no to.
Not that she really ever did, even though she’d told herself that the no nookie in the playoffs rule might be a good thing for them, that they might be able to develop the rest of their relationship instead of having it all just be sex, sex, sex all the time.
Maybe that’s what she was here for, she thought dimly, just a bit of a fling before he found that right woman.
“I have curbed my… appetite. I can’t help it if you attack my body in the middle of the night,” he replied as he kissed her forehead and hopped out of his vehicle. Melany shook her head, smirking. Then she hopped out of her side, grabbed the pie she’d baked, and together they walked up to Jordan’s door.
She could hear yelling and stomping and she had to jump back when the door flew open and two blonde giants came rushing out, laughing and yelling at one another, landing in a heap in the front yard like a couple of puppies. Doing her best not to get landed on, she leaned back and lost her balance and started to fall, the pie flying into the air as she fell backwards. Throwing her arms out, Mel braced herself for a fall that never came.
Opening up one eye she stared into a beautiful set of blue eyes and then noticed lips that were as full and sensuous as Sid’s.
“Pillow Lips,” she said breathlessly. A strawberry blonde eyebrow quirked up and she clearly heard Sid snorting in the background. Shaking her head Mel came to her senses and stood up slowly, leaning around the oldest Staal to where Sid and Jordan were standing together clearly amused by the show. She glared at them both but it didn’t improve things. Sid was almost doubled over with laughter and Jordan winked dramatically at her, the pie ‘safe’ and in his grubby little hands.
“Eric actually. You must be the Kid’s girl. Nice to meet you,” Eric helped Mel right herself and then offered his hand. “So, what is this game I keep hearing about?”
“Uhhh… Melany. Nice to meet you too. And, the Staal Brothers Drinking Game is a great way to get totally blotto during a game.” He asked her to explain it more as they wandered into the house and she had just started into a full-blown explanation when Linda and Heather came around the corner with a third woman in tow.
“Mel! You made it,” Heather smiled as she pushed the new addition forward. “This is Tanya, Eric’s wife.” They shook hands and Mel couldn’t help but think that they were a great looking couple, sort of the perfect Barbie and Ken. “I thought you and Sid were coming together.”
“He’s… He’s with Jordan. And my pie! Crud… Jordan will have half of it gone if we don’t find them soon! Excuse me everyone, I have a pie to rescue,” she said as she took off searching through the house, eventually finding Sid and Jordan in the kitchen, forks in hand. Jordan was just about to dig in when Mel yelled at him. “JORDAN! Fork down! Now!”
“But, it’s homemade… Sid said so. And it’s apple, I love apple pie. You know you made it just for me, can’t I try just a little bite?” Jordy tried to blink his big baby blue eyes at her and look innocent but Mel knew better.
“You’re idea of a little bit is bigger than the damn fork. Put. It. Down.” She smiled with satisfaction as he put the fork down and grudgingly pushed the pie toward her end of the kitchen island. “Thank you.”
“Nice mom voice,” came a deep voice from her left. Turning, she found Eric, Tanya, Heather, Linda and Henry smiling at her.
“It’s not a mom voice. It’s a teacher voice. I’m a substitute. But I know it works!”
Jesus, it was a zoo with all four Staals at once under the same roof and as much as he would usually enjoy their company and their rough and tumble exuberance and humor all Sid could think was… I’m going to die. I just want to drag her out of this room and find some place quiet to make sweet love to her over and over again.
Sid glanced to his left, taking Melany’s hand in his as she continued talking to Tanya about the baby she and Eric were expecting this fall. The two had hit it off right away. Not that he’d expected anything else. She seemed to be able to make friends with everyone she met. Even his dad spent time with her now and that was a miracle in itself. But he refused to put too much stock in what it could mean. He was only twenty-one. That was too early to settle down right? How can I even think about that right now? He turned when he felt her squeeze his fingers.
“You looked… lost. No hockey thoughts right now Sid. Just… enjoy a night off.”
“It wasn’t hockey, for once,” he replied honestly.
“Well, whatever it was made you look unhappy you need to just push it out of that head of yours. Don’t worry about things you have no control over for now. You can start fretting over god knows what tomorrow.” He smiled at her, knowing that she was right. They had plenty of time to figure out what they wanted from one another… after the playoffs. Until then, all they had to do was just enjoy one another’s company. He could do that.
“I promise not to think about it again until the season ends.”
“Good! Now c’mon, that food smells great,” Mel said, smiling brightly at him and he couldn’t help but return the same happy grin. Actually that was another thing about her that he loved.
“Mmmm, food. Good, I’m famished! Someone kept me up late last night!” Sid added, leaning in close to her, his lips pressed against her temple.
“I don’t remember hearing any complaints from that pretty mouth of yours.”
“That because it was full of--”
“Mon dieu! Get a room or something! I don’ need to ‘ear that kind of talk before I eat!” Sid whirled around to find Max and Kris standing behind the couch they were currently sitting on.
“MAXIMUS,” Melany cried beside him, launching herself over the sofa and into his buddy’s arms. Someone else might have been jealous at the display of affection she so readily shared with his teammates, but Sid had come to realize that this was just how she was so instead of letting it eat at him he just pulled himself off the couch and walked around to where she stood, an arm around each of his friends.
“Are you trading me in woman?” he asked as she smiled brilliantly back at him.
“No… well, maybe…. See these two seem to be able to pull off the whole facial hair during playoffs thing that you all have going on but they make it look…roguishly handsome. And then we’ve got the Staal twins in there that look like they’re going Amish. Your look sweetie is… well, let’s just say it’s different.”
“You’re going to give me grief about this like they do? Really?? Does everyone have to give me a hard time about this?”
“Don’ worry mon ami,” Max said. “I don’t think she’s a big fan of facial hair anyway. So you should be happy about you’re pathetic growth because there’s not enough of it to bother her that much!”
“I don’t know whether I feel better or insulted. Now get your grubby hand off my woman before I tell Eric you’re hitting on his pregnant wife.” They all laughed as Max dropped his hand from Mel’s as if he’d been burned and wandered away, muttering something about being innocent until proven guilty under his breath. Kris just shook his head and told them to be on the lookout for Flower and Vero before he headed off toward the porch where the food was being set out. “Ready to eat?”
Melany smiled at him and nodded. They had started toward the door when she stopped him, a hand on his chest.
“Okay… what’s up?”
“I’m sorry,” she said as she rubbed two fingers along his jaw line. “I don’t think it’s bad. I just miss you clean-shaven. Alright?”
“Why are you apologizing?”
“Well, you’re right. You do get enough ribbing from them. I guess I didn’t need to add to it.”
“Hey,” he said, tilting her face up to look at him, “you can tease me anytime you want, you know that,” he grinned, before tilting his head to one side and looking at her consideringly. “Are you ok?”
“I…” she paused, “I think it’s just hitting me that it’s almost my birthday and you guys will be in Carolina.” That’s not what she wanted to say. He knew it. Sure she’d been happy and gregarious so far tonight, almost her usual fun self, but there was definitely something on her mind tonight. But if that’s the way you want to play it….
“Oh shoot… I hadn’t thought of that! Come with us! I’ll call Geno and Brooks and see if they can talk those two into coming. And we can talk to Heather and V… would you like that?” He watched as her eyes lit up. Ok, that’s a good sign.
“That’s the greatest idea ever! When you guys win Game 3 we can celebrate that along with my birthday at a club!”
“Pretty cocky girlfriend ya got there Kid.” Sid turned to see Eric leaning in the doorway, a teasing smile on his face. “Food’s done. Ya’ll comin’?”
“Actually I’m not cocky,” Mel grinned back at the eldest Staal brother. ” I just have faith in my boys.” I like seeing her all feisty like this. Sid laughed to himself as he grabbed her hand and they walked out back.
If something was on her mind, he knew this would at least be a momentary distraction. She was always saying how she was amazed at the amount of food they could all consume.
Vero and Marc finally showed up about fifteen minutes after they started eating, and then Tyler, Kelsey and Gogo appeared. It ended up being a great little gathering of people, and for a while, they all put hockey aside, and just enjoyed each other’s company.
Mel had seen Eric studying her while they ate. That’s why she wasn’t surprised at all when he came up to the porch and sat down beside her. He was big, just like all of his brothers, that was for sure, but he had an easy smile that put her at ease at once.
“Why, hello Mr. Staal. What can I do for you?”
“First off, Mr. Staal is my father… so if you don’t mind, it’s just Eric. And second, just so you know, I don’t hold that whole I’m going to lose thing against you,” he added with a grin. Mel felt a bit relieved. It had occurred to her that he might, even though he hadn’t seemed to.
“Look at them,” she threw her head to where the guys had set up a circle to kick around a soccer ball. All of the guys were taking part in the game, just like before a game. “You’ve had a turn. Now it’s theirs. Yes, they’re a young team. Yes, they’re under the direction of a new, younger coach. And I know I haven’t followed the sport all my life like you, and most of them… but that group of guys, minus your other brothers of course, they have given everything to get here. Not that you haven’t,” she added hurriedly when he started to object. “But we have this video, and it says that ‘Now Is Our Time,’ and I fully believe that. They came so close last year, they want it so bad. And as much as I may like you, I just felt like it was my duty to let you know, you’re going down Pillow Lips.”
“I see Sid’s found himself a very spirited woman… but I thought he said you liked me so this whole smack talk thing… and what is with this Pillow Lips thing?!” Eric made little quotations in the air as he said the name.
“Thank you. You guys are my guilty pleasure of the Eastern Conference. And as for the name… I read it on this blog that I follow. And it sort of stuck. I mean, you have to admit, they are very pouty,” Mel teased, nudging him with her shoulder. “And my friends and I have now given all four of you names. Pillow Lips,” she pointed at him, then at each of his brothers. “Baby Staal, the Ginger, and Staalsy Butt.”
Eric let out an enormous belly laugh and she blushed as everyone turned to see what had caused his outburst. Tanya, who’d been talking with V and Kels, came up beside him.
“What’s so funny my dear?”
“Apparently I have been given a nickname, as have all of my brothers.”
“You mean, other than what I call you?” Mel giggled as she watched the blush rise up his neck and high-fived his wife. “Don’t let him fool you girl,” Tanya whispered. “He’s a pushover.” Then she shrieked with laughter as Eric grabbed her and started blowing raspberries all over her cheek. “Ahhh, stop it you dork! God forbid your son turn out anything like you!”
“Son??” Mel watched as he held Tanya out at arm’s length. “You’re having a boy? I’m going to have a son?”
“Oh crud… I wanted to surprise you,” Mel heard her say. She watched as Eric crushed his wife against him, murmuring words of love and that he was glad that she had accidently spilled the beans.
Leaving them in their tender moment, Mel walked over to where Kelsey and Vero were relaxing in lounge chairs. Dropping down to the ground she turned toward Kelsey.
“So, speaking of babies, how did Tyler take the news?”
“Oh lord… he yelled like he’d just scored a game winner in OT, picked me up, and proceeded to spin me around while telling me how much he loved me. Then he held my hair back and apologized over and over while I puked from all the spinning!” The three of them got a good chuckle out of that. Mel was so happy for her. Kelsey said they were planning on a quiet little wedding after the playoffs, back in the Sault. Of course, the guys and their significant others were invited, but other than that… just close family. Mel wondered if Sid would ask her to come along. That would be a big step in her eyes. A trip, a vacation, just the two of them. It was something that serious couples did, right? That’d be, hopefully, mid June… a little over two months from when they met. Was that enough time to form a bond like that?
“Mel, are you okay?”
“You were like…a million miles away just then,” Kelsey said. Mel looked up and found her and V staring.
“Sorry. I’m just wondering if Sid will want to bring me along.”
“Why wouldn’t he? You guys are practically inseparable lately.”
“Yeah, but it hasn’t been that long. And sure we have great sex… sorry… and we talk. But… blah, just ignore me. I’m bringing down the little pow-wow with my insecurities… Are you guys going to find out the sex of the baby?” Mel asked, quickly changing the subject. Much to her relief, Kelsey smiled and launched into a brand new conversation. She saw Vero eyeing her, but just shook her head. Maybe she’d talk to V later, in a more private setting. That woman had been with Marc for so long that Mel wasn’t sure she’d be much help in the whole relationship advice thing. That and she didn’t even know what her problem was. It just seemed like things were starting to go really well, but of course that’s when Mel always expected the other shoe to drop.
Feeling someone looking at her, she turned her head toward the group and, instead of Sid, saw Max staring at her. He looked over at Sid and then back. So, he can tell too. Ugh, what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I just enjoy hanging out with our friends?
She excused herself and went to grab a drink. She was shutting the door to the refrigerator when Max popped into view. He had his hands on his hips and he was staring at her.
“What is wrong with you? Why do you not look like a woman falling in love?”
“Love?? Jesus Max… don’t use that word within a hundred feet of me!”
“Why? Anyone can see the way you two look at each other. You’ve both got it bad. We’re all thrilled. At least, I am. Mon cap-i-tan needs the right woman by his side right now.”
“But how do you know I’m that woman? How do you know that this isn’t just some fluke and he’s not going to wake up tomorrow and realize that what his father said when he met me is correct? That… that I’m not good enough for him??”
“Where is this coming from mon chère? You’ve been nothing but the dutiful girlfriend for the last month. You’ve never said the wrong thing in front of the media. All of us love you and I can tell you that Sid’s falling head over heels…”
“That’s just it. I don’t always say the right thing!” She looked at Max, hoping he’d get it. She could tell by the look on his face that he didn’t so she took a deep breath and started talking.
Of course he didn’t totally trust Max, so when he’d seen his wing mate follow Mel inside, Sid strolled into the house too, but paused in the doorway when what he’d expected to hear turned out to be a serious conversation. He felt bad, listening in, not letting her know that he was standing there but he couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“I’m not perfect. This past month… I’ve had to watch everything I say or do. I don’t want to make waves around anyone. I’ve kept my mouth shut at games, not cheering the way I usually do… just the happy clapping when we score. I want to yell so badly though. But I know that would make Sid look bad. And I don’t want to do anything that would cause him more stress. And now, now I can’t relieve my stress in the one way that was making me happy, because you guys need to stay in top performance for the rest of the playoffs. I mean, you’re doing so well this year. God, I can’t imagine what it’d be like if Sid wasn’t 100% because I couldn’t keep my hands off of him and then it would be my fault and then his dad would so totally be right and plus it would make me like some kind of selfish whore and I couldn’t live with myself either.” She plopped down on a bar stool there at the island and dropped her head into her hands.
“What does Sid think of your concerns?” Max asked, closing the distance and putting his hand on Mel’s shoulder.
“Oh, I’d never burden him with my insane ramblings… first off, I wouldn’t add to the pressure and stress he’s got right now. And second, that’s not something you throw at a guy you’ve been seeing for like 6 weeks.” He couldn’t’ see her expression to know what Mel was thinking but he could see that Max was just as surprised as he was.
“When is the right time to start having serious conversations with him then?” Max asked, slipping onto the stool beside her and draping his arm around her shoulders.
“I don’t… I don’t know. After playoffs I suppose. He’ll have a couple months to not worry, as much anyway, and maybe I’ll find the courage to talk to him then. Besides, he’ll have the summer to decide where we go from here.”
“You’ve lost me again.”
“Well, he’ll be up at his lake house this summer, so he’ll be able to think about what he may or may not want from me.”
“You aren’t going to go up to the house?”
“Oh, I’d love to. If he invited me of course I’d stay all summer with him! Wow, that sounds crazy, doesn’t it?” Max laughed and shook his head before pulling Mel into a hug.
“Let me tell you something. I’ve played with that guy for his entire NHL career. I’ve never seen him go half-assed at anything he wanted. He wants you. You’re the first woman he’s ever brought around the guys more than once. And his family likes you. I’m surprised he hasn’t stuck a ring on your finger already!”
“Oh god Max… that’s just insane. You don’t do that after a month. Besides, he’s Sidney Crosby. He’ll marry a girl from Canada or at least some…celebrity or at least someone with an important job or something. I’m just the local girl who happened to snag his affections until the right girl comes along. His dad’s right. I’m not what he needs. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’d love to be more than anything in the world. But I’m not going to… well, I am going to fall in love with him, I know that. I mean, let’s face facts. I’m pretty much there already. But I know that sooner or later he’ll wake up, and I’ll be out the door.” She looked up at Max and he had the funniest expression on his face. It was a cross between sympathy and consternation. “Max, it’s ok. I know that’s how the world works. It’s like…if I end up with someone like you or Gogo one day, that’s okay because you’re like, famous, but not, you know, the face of hockey. But him, he’s got the whole world watching him. So, when the right woman comes along, I’ll step aside. And I’m trying to be ok with that which is the right thing to do… isn’t it?”