I was going to update my other story but got all sorts of ideas after watching Geno play in Russia's amazing game today.
Mood music: "Brandy Alexander" by Feist
If you actually listen to this song, I bet you'll be able to name the person who's your "Brandy Alexander." I know I can and even though I can't stand this person anymore, I still love this song and it applies well to this chapter.
I was exhausted. And when I say that I was exhausted, I wasn't exaggerating in the way that people sometimes do when they're cranky or bored. My head ached and my feet and lower back were killing me from the heels that I had oh so wisely decided to wear that morning.
Now looking back, my entire outfit choice for the day's events was wrong. On the rare moments that I was allowed to sit down and have a moment to shuffle through the emails on my Blackberry, I couldn't even curl up and get comfortable because of the restrictive skirt of the dress I was wearing. Flashing my privates to the world wasn't business appropriate- especially in a business completely dominated by males.
After an especially long dinner out with the rest of the PR guys, we were back at the hotel for the evening. David had yet to mention that I needed to be anywhere else for the rest of the evening so I decided to pass some time in the hotel bar and get caught up with my missed messages.
8:30 wasn't too late to start drinking- especially not on a business trip that I didn't want to be on in the first place. At least not to Washington D.C. Why didn't the team play anyone in Hawaii or somewhere else that was nice and warm?
After sipping down my first Jim Beam and Coke, I was feeling a little bit better. Besides, the bartender was kind of cute in a charming grandfather sort of way and was keeping me relaxed and entertained by telling me stories about all of the funny clientele that the hotel receives.
By Jim Beam number two, I was feeling even better and hardly noticed when an arm slid around my waist in a flirtatious and platonic manner.
"Better watch out, pretty soon we're going to have to get you a back for your bar stool" Max Talbot commented taking the seat next to mine. Since it was the quirky, frenchman I had come to know and like, I shrugged his arm off and teased him about his wife who was waiting at home for him.
Smiling he joked, "Believe me, even if I thought about trying anything, she'd hire a hitman in a second."
"Good, wouldn't want any more cheating bastards out on the loose than there already are." The liquor had made my lips a little bit loose and I let what had started as a joking reply turn bitter.
Max raised his thick eyebrow at me in response and ordered a water from the bartender. "That sounds interesting. Just how many cheating bastards are out there already?" I knew by the way that he said it that he was curious for my answer and that the conversation wasn't going to be as light-hearted as it began.
"I was just joking" I said trying to lighten the mood. "There's always cheating bastards in the world."
"Anyone important? You know, just for reference sake." His tone was patient as his eyes watched me, waiting for my response, verbal or non-verbal.
For someone who was always the first to crack a joke or act like a dumbass, Max was proving to be more intuitive than I had originally pinned him to be. While I still didn't know Eliza super well, I could see why she was drawn to him and what made them a couple.
"No, no one in particular" I lied smiling slightly to save face and called the bartender over again for another drink.
"Actually, can you make that an iced-tea?" Max asked ignoring my request for another Jim Beam and Coke.
"A long-island iced tea" I corrected still making sure that there was going to be alcohol of some sort in that drink. I didn't normally drink like this, and I would never usually do this on business but it had been a long day, scratch that- long weekend, and I wanted to numb the edge off a little bit more.
"So who's the guy?" Max asked fixing his stare on me while I scrolled through my messages on my phone.
"What guy?" I asked smiling at the bartender who placed another glass in front of me.
"Don't worry" he commented to Max. "I made her a light one."
I took a sip of the drink frowning when I realized that it was just regular iced tea in the glass.
"The cheating bastard" Max stated, clearly not letting the subject go. "The one you don't want to talk about" Max clarified and grinned when I was still reluctant to speak.
"Anyone else would take the hint and just leave me be, but not you, huh Max?" Remarkably, I wasn't really annoyed with him for asking or being so curious about it. It was hard to be offended by Max for some reason.
"Nope" he smiled back. "Now come on, maybe you'll feel better if you talk about the jackass" he said nudging my shoulder playfully and reaching for some of the peanuts on the bar in front of me. "Is he why you're in Pittsburgh?"
"Yeah, I didn't really have a choice but leave New York after him."
"Why? Does he own the city or something?" he snorted.
"Sort of, his family's pretty important. Besides that, it just hurt too much to stay so I looked for jobs in other cities on the east coast and the Penguins were the ones who contacted me first and now I'm here." I said gesturing to the bar around us.
"So what kind of cheating bastard was he?"
I laughed a little bit at that. Was there a characterization or level for the type of cheating bastard that Peter is? "I don't think that there's a level high enough for him" I said actually smiling about it for once. It helped that Max was making this conversation a sort of joke.
"Ouch" he said wincing and laughing too. "That bad, huh?"
"We were engaged. He cheated on me with one of my friends from the PR office we all worked in and then tried to explain to me that it was all a misunderstanding." Admitting that the other woman had been a friend of mine outloud to someone else loosened the womb of shame again allowing a little bit of the pain to bleed through.
Max winced, obviously upset that he had pushed it out of me. "Shit, Ava, I'm so sorry. He really is a cheating bastard, isn't he?"
I nodded, trying to keep the sniffles that were threatening to erupt at bay. Max wrapped a comforting arm around my shoulders again and squeezed me briefly. "Why don't we get you a real drink this time?"
I nodded again letting him order me a drink that I had never heard of.
"What is it?" I asked staring at the chocolately drink in front of me.
"A Brandy Alexander" the bartender answered for me popping a small straw into the short glass.
"You'll like it, promise" Max said waiting as I took a sip. "It's good" I said feeling the brandy slide down my throat and bring warmth to my body. It was delicious and tasted like a grown-up bed time drink.
"So" Max began after a few moments of silence. "Do you still talk to the cheating bastard?"
"He still tries but no, I don't want to talk to him and let him convince me to go back to New York." I could tell by the look on Max's face that he was relieved by my reply. "I just screen his calls and I think he's starting to take the hint now that I was serious when I left in the first place."
"Good" Max stated looking reassured. I was starting to realize that as much as this wasn't my most ideal job ever, the people were proving to be amazing and it didn't hurt to be around people that cared.
"I know for one that Geno would be pretty pissed if you left" Max said effortlessly sliding back into jokester mode. How Eliza put up with him I would never know.
"And that means what exactly?" I said narrowing my eyes at his playful grin.
He rolled his eyes and his grin widened even more. "I didn't think you were the stupid type."
My eyes widened and I felt my cheeks get hot with embarrassment. Was he suggesting what I thought he was suggesting?
"It's pretty obvious that he's after you and that you haven't put him out of his misery yet."
"What? We are not talking about this" I told him gulping back the rest of my Brandy Alexander.
"Don't be such a tight-ass, Ava" Max said laughing. "Geno's a great guy! It wouldn't hurt either of you if you allowed something to happen."
"I'm pretending that this isn't happening to me right now." I was this close to putting my hands over my ears and trying to block out Max's insinuations.
"Seriously, I don't know if anyone else has even noticed but it's pretty obvious the way he's always staring at you. Never seen the big guy look so love-sick."
"Did you seriously just say 'love-sick?' Are we in a Harlequin Romance novel now?" I laughed.
"No, because if we were in a romance book, I'd be shirtless and sitting somewhere with my harem of women right now."
Both of us burst out laughing due to the combination of alcohol and the stupid conversation we were having.
"Max, I had no idea that you were such a good bar buddy. I'll have to thank your wife for loaning you to me for the night." I reached over giving him a quick hug and kiss on the cheek as a thanks for distracting me and making sure that I didn't get completely shit-faced by myself at the bar.
"No problem, mon amie" he said returning my squeeze. Maybe something good had come out of this whole stupid trip- I had a new friend in Max.
"Don't look now, but lover boy is glaring at me right now for having my hands on you."
"What?" I said ignoring him and turning around to see who he was referring to. I saw Geno standing at the entrance of the bar scrutinizing both of us and walking over slowly to where we were both sitting.
"I told you not to look" Max muttered. He greeted Geno loudly from where he had come to stand behind me and instead of saying hello too, I stayed in my seat focused on my phone.
After the conversation I had just had with Max, I wasn't in the mood to address Geno full on and I still felt embarrassed from Max's implications. Especially since I had somewhat returned Geno's advances when no one else was around.
When it seemed like Geno was about to order a drink, I stood up putting cash down on the bar and picking up my purse. "I'm actually gonna go upstairs and get to bed. Thanks for the talk, Max. I'll see you guys tomorrow."
"I go too. I need to talk to you" Geno said getting up from his stool and looming over me. I gulped taking more of a step back and looked to Max for help. He grinned holding his glass up to me in mock salute.
"You two have a good night! I'm gonna go call my wife anyway."
"Let's go" Geno said taking hold of my elbow and steering me away from Max. I looked back one last time to glare at Max who was laughing hysterically behind us.
Geno moved quickly across the lobby, his long strides forcing me to walk even faster in my heels to keep up with him.
"Can you not drag me all over the place? You're a good foot or so taller than me and it's hard to walk in these heels anyway" I snapped out trying to get his attention.
His dark eyes flickered down to mine and he acquiesed, slowing his stride to match mine. I still didn't know why he was so dead-set on talking to me but at least now we could walk at a reasonable pace.
"So what did you need to tell me?" I asked while we waited for the elevator. Somehow we had both just ended up in front of the elevator, as if it were the only other place we could go in the hotel.
He didn't answer me and instead just looked pissed off as he ignored me and stared straight ahead of him, watching the numbers light up as the elevators moved from one floor to another.
Fine. If that was how he wanted to act then that was a-okay with me. I was tired of talking anyway and it was close to 10pm.
The elevator dinged, signalling it's arrival and the two of us walked in with another couple looking like the lovey-dovey, hold hands types. The ride up to our floor was uncomfortable, especially given the contrast of moods in the elevator.
The two of us left the love birds behind and walked off on our floor and I couldn't shake the feeling that a conversation I really didn't want to have was about to take place.
We stopped in front of my hotel room and I kept my back to him while I dug around in my purse trying to find my room key among the jumble of other life essential items.
"Why you let Max touch you?" Geno finally spoke interrupting the uncomfortable silence between us. My first reaction was to turn around and gape at him, in complete disbelief at what he had just implied.
"What do you mean 'touch me?' I hugged Max!" I said fighting to keep my voice down.
"His hands were on you" he commented looking down sternly at me. As scary and imposing as he was trying to appear, I didn't miss the hint of jealousy in his eyes.
Jealously, among a few other select emotions, was one thing that I could not stand in men or women. I had never been a jealous person until I met Peter and since I didn't want to be that woman anymore, I wasn't about to allow that now. Especially since Geno had no right to feel jealous or label me as his property or someone else's property that he was coveting.
Feeling empowered after a lengthy discussion about bastards with Max all evening, I pushed Geno back, surprising both of us. "I don't have to respond to that."
"Did you like it?" he asked causing me to whirl around and face him.
"He's married! Do you know what you're implying?" I said harshly whispering to him. I didn't want to yell at him here but I wasn't about to let him into my room either.
"So?" Geno shrugged still scrutinizing my every move.
I stepped back feeling the insult of what he hadn't said but made perfectly clear in one, single word. It hurt knowing that he could think that about me. We didn't know each other that well but did he really think that of me? It was worse knowing that someone could think that of me, especially since I had been the one who had been cheated on in the past. I knew what it was like more than anyone and knew how much it hurt so that I would never dream of doing that to anyone else.
"Well I wouldn't do that with someone who was already taken. A relationship means something to some people and it was just an innocent hug and kiss on the cheek. He cheered me up after a shitty day, okay?"
I didn't know why I was explaining myself to him or worse, why I felt the need to explain myself to him. With anyone else, they surely would have gotten bitch slapped by now.
"What happened in your day?" he asked looking more at ease now before me.
"Just a lot of stuff, okay?" I didn't want to re-hash everything and I was feeling drained. "Can I go inside now?" I asked him somewhat sarcastically. The other part of me was genuinely curious over whether or not he actually had something to say to me besides accusations of being a complete skank with his friend and teammate.
"In a minute" he said taking a step closer to me and reaching out to pull me gently towards him. Before I could stop him, he leaned down tracing the ridge of my brow with his lips making the frown lines there relax and smooth away. My body swayed farther into his and I felt tingles follow up my back in a trail following his hands.
"Geno" I said half warning, half-sigh as his lips continued to trace the folds and dips of my face. His lips had yet to meet mine and as much as he frustrated me and crowded me most of the time, I was going to be even more frustrated if he didn't just kiss me already.
His lips finally met mine in a burst of heat and energy that I hadn't prepared myself for. The lines of his body pressed into mine until we were only held up by the door pressing into my back as our lips attacked each other's mouths. The feeling of his hand applying more pressure on my already sensitive lower back made me gasp and open my mouth farther for his tongue already grazing my lips.
He tasted like an after dinner mint and something else delectable that I couldn't identify. This was the first time that we had kissed and I had allowed myself to consciously take in all of the sensations. The cold wood of the hotel room door against the contrast of his warm hands on my skin all wrapped up together to make goosebumps break out along the surface of my skin.
We broke the kiss when we could no longer breathe through our noses without it hurting. His head was still dipped towards mine and I could see the expansive spread of his lashes as he looked down at me through dark eyes. I knew that we couldn't stay in this position for long since we were still in the hallway and it was already a miracle that no one had seen us.
"I have to go" I whispered leaning up to brush my nose against his one last time and place a small kiss on the corner of his mouth. He let me go and I felt the reluctance of his actions in the way he slowly let go of me but didn't step back.
"Come out with me? When we go home" He asked putting his hands into his pockets, dark eyes never leaving mine while he waited for my answer.
I thought back to what Max had told me earlier and I thought about the kiss that we had just shared. Though part of me wanted to agree and say yes, was I really ready to start seeing someone again? Even casually and for fun?
"Can I think about it first?" I asked leaning away from him against the door even more, just to put some more distance in between us. The door pressed against my back as a strong reminder that I had nowhere to run.
He nodded still staring at me and backed up like he was ready to walk away too. "Just don't let other man touch you."
Just when I was starting to relax around him and even like him a little bit more, he went off on that territorial bullshit again. I rolled my eyes at him and quickly slipped my room key in and out of the lock, pushing open the door and shutting it again behind me. For good measure, I made sure that I loudly slid the two locks in place just in case he was still out there listening.