Wednesday, February 8, 2012


A small, cold burst of adrenaline hit Claude’s system when he saw her.  She was looking away deliberately, and her shorter friend was disappearing from her side.  People were three deep at the bar now - the work part over, the fun beginning.  A hundred heavy gazes followed as he approached the most eligible looking young woman in the room, feeling as if a spotlight were on her and he was about to step into an interrogation.

Nora turned back and caught his eye, the hint of a smile playing at the corner of her lip.  He groaned silently.  

“Giroux!”  A guy appeared at his side, Flyers orange tie complimenting his suit.  He thrust out a hand to shake and started talking.  His wife stepped in, blocking Claude’s view of Nora.  All it took was one person to break the ice, and other people began to approach as if waiting their turn to meet the team’s superstar.  Claude tried to listen at the same time he searched the crowd for those dark doe eyes.

The wife was talking now, then the person behind her.  Claude caught the end of a joke and laughed when everyone else did.  Someone offered him a drink.  He was about to take it as a reflex when Danny’s hand materialized alongside his own.

“G, you’re needed in the lobby.  So sorry,” he said to the wife.  “Were you saying you’ve got season tickets?”

Claude didn’t stop to thank his friend.  He just bolted.  Snaking between the tables was easier with his head down, trying not to be spotted.  When he’d cleared most of the crowd, he looked toward the door.  Nora was leaning against the wall, watching with her head tilted and that half-smile still teasing him.

He kept going until he was right back where he left off.  Electricity rippled through his hand on her upper arm.  It was like flipping a circuit in his brain that made him say exactly what he was thinking with no hesitation.  So unlike him.

“I think we should get out of here,” he said.

Nora didn’t think.  Claude’s escape had drawn plenty of attention and it seemed half the room had followed him right to her side, watching and waiting for something to gossip about.  It made her even more nervous than the heat passing from his touch to her skin.  She let him guide her toward the coat check where the attendant gave Nora a snotty once-over as if to say Claude was leaving with the wrong woman.  Nora actually rolled her eyes, Giroux snarfed back a laugh.

“Wow, you don’t even like our fans.”

“I like Emily,” Nora said, as if it were concession enough.  Claude steered her past the table, toward the lobby.  No coats.

“Wait, wait.”  She put her hand against his shoulder and stopped.  The only thing in the lobby was the elevator and the only place that went was up.  Toward hotel rooms.  Nora was feeling something, but it wasn’t that.

He furrowed his brown in a moment of confusion, then flinched. “Oh, no.  I’m sorry.  The restaurant is upstairs.  It won’t be crowded and....”

Claude dipped his head the way Nora had earlier, to hide the rising blush, but his hand stayed firm on her arm.  Nora wanted to give herself a facepalm.  Her momentary lapse had taken an ugly turn and assumed the worst - rich superstar athlete making an easy conquest.  Judging by the shy softness in his eyes, she had been way off the mark.

“Okay,” she said quickly, trying to cover.  Her hand was still on his shoulder, a second point of contact between them.  She rubbed the smooth material of his lapel gently between two fingers.  He looked up at her through light-colored lashes.  “Yeah.”

Nora wondered how many people who’d seen them leave assumed the same thing.  But she didn’t get an aggressive vibe from Claude - if anything, he seemed surprised by his own actions.  She was flattered, of course.  There had been a lot of women at that party for the astronomical possibility of exactly what had just happened to her.  Nora couldn’t help but smile at the hair curling gently over his ears.  No, he wasn’t a bad idea.

Except that he’s a Flyer!  Her brain rang like an angry telephone with a shrill, old-fashioned bell.

Oh shut up.

The elevator door opened at the top floor.  Nora and Claude both reached out to hold it open at the same moment and their hands brushed.  


It was so hard she nearly gasped.  Their eyes locked and for a split second she thought he might haul off and kiss her right then.  But it was just another wild assumption.  She cracked a nervous smile, they both blushed and laughed.  

Just static.

A perky blond hostess showed them in without giving Claude a second glance - clearly the Flyers event had not traveled upstairs.  The restaurant was half empty.  Their table had only two place settings, next to each other on the corner.  Claude slid into his chair and beneath the table their knees touched.  

Nora buried her face in the menu, trying to ignore the warm press against her bare leg.  But she didn’t move.  A tiny glance revealed Claude also reading the entree list like he was searching it for hidden clues.  When the waitress came, he remembered what Nora had been drinking downstairs and got himself another small whisky, then suggested a salad appetizer and a fancy pizza to share.  A second later they were alone.

Claude was watching Nora when she looked up.  They were very close together and he still felt the tingle of static that had sparked between them.  Her hair was a dark, spunky mess of thick waves, not unlike a very glamorous version of his own.  But it was her eyes that held his attention - the color of dark chocolate, bright and clear.  That and the small beauty mark just above the left corner of her lip.  He was staring at her up so close and it made her she blush.  One delicate hand rubbed nervously over the exposed spot at the base of her throat where he’d been thinking about biting her.

“Stop,” she said.  A giggle rose in her throat.  He was looking at her just the way Emily had seen downstairs - like food to a starving man.  It was unnerving, mostly in how she could feel it like a physical touch.  And how much she was enjoying it.

“I can’t.”  He didn’t even know why words were coming, as Claude hadn’t given his mouth permission to speak.  Certainly not to be even more forward than he already had been.  Nor had he told his hand to pull hers away and take its place, gently touching her collarbone and losing fingertips in her hair.  But it did.  His skin glided over hers, warm and surprisingly soft.  The charge flowed at the point of contact, but light and steady this time.  Deliberate.  Controlled.  Or maybe not so much - Nora’s lips parted and a tiny breath escaped, full of anticipation.  

She had never really looked at him before tonight.  There was no reason to.  So Nora was surprised to find that he was all soft curves, from his lips that looked built to smile to shaggy, loose red curls.  The more she studied his face the more he looked....

Happy, she decided.  He looked like a nice guy.

“Stop,” he teased, flashing that smile she could see came so easily.

There’s a special place in hell for Bruins fans who break this commandment, Nora knew.  But before she could actually sin, the waitress brought their drinks.  Claude reluctantly gave up his hold and Nora clutched her glass like it was holding her together.

Claude took a slow sip and considered how many cards he’d already played.  He was alarmingly, surprisingly into Nora.  This didn’t happen to him: not so easily, so fast.  But he hadn’t been subtle and there was little point in trying to be cool now.

“Please tell me you don’t live in Boston.”

Her beauty mark disappeared into her smile.  “I live here.”

“I’m going to need some time to convert you.”

“To a Flyers fan?  Never.”  She shook her head.  Even if he... well, she was safer if she didn’t think about that.  But he touched her again, on the arm this time, and the thought went through her head anyway.

“You could learn,” he promised, knowing he’d at least have fun failing.  
“You could ask for a trade,” she smirked.

“To Boston?  Not my first choice.  Maybe home though... have you ever been to Ottawa?”

“No.  Just Montreal, in college.  Partying and practicing our French.”

The opening was too big to miss, he’d never forgive himself.  So Claude moved quickly.  One arm went around her and before she could react, he did two things.  He lightly brushed his fingertips across the bare skin of her back, between her shoulder blades.  And at the moment of contact he said, with his mouth close to her ear, he whispered in French.

“Is there anything French you'd still like to practice?”

He was smiling when he said it.
Mother of..., she thought.

It tickled.  His featherlight touch on her back, the warmth of his breath on her skin.  She flinched, which sent the feeling coursing through her entire body.  

“Stop!” she whispered again, in a tone that said please keep going.

Claude chuckled softly.  He never had this kind of game - he certainly wasn’t going to stop now that he was on a roll.  But he sat up and reached for his drink knowing she couldn’t get more than a few inches away from him.  Knowing she didn’t want to.

Nora asked about his hometown.  She needed something to keep her mind off the gentle burr of his accent, the way the French rolled off his tongue.  He’d kiss the way he spoke - soft, slow, drowsy - she was sure of it.  Kiss her dress goodbye, her resistance, her dignity.  

Claude was describing his off-season hometown when he stopped mid-sentence.  “You’re not listening.”

Nora blinked.  She’d been mentally loosening  his tie....

I’m going to hell anyway.

Without asking, she hooked two fingers into the windsor knot and tugged it left, then right, until it was down two inches and looked much more comfortable.  He swallowed hard, Adam’s apple bobbing.  So she flicked the top shirt button open to expose a sliver of pale skin.  Skin that she was now touching. Her hand slid behind his neck and pulled him right into a kiss.

If the building had tipped over and sent the entire restaurant crashing out through the windows, Claude wouldn’t have noticed.  His eyes still wide in surprise, he watched her long lashes flutter against her cheeks.  He closed fingers are her slender wrist, keeping her hand at his neck.  Nora was bolt upright in her chair.  She hadn’t realized she was going to kiss him until her mouth was already melting against his - his very soft, warm mouth.  

Five seconds later they pulled apart, gasping.  

“I...,” she started to say nothing coherent.  

But Claude was already moving.  “I think we should get out of here too.”


  1. LOVE IT <3 Cannot wait for the next chapter :)

  2. Yes! not a fan of the flyers but love your writing!

  3. Sweet Jesus. "Is there anything French you'd still like to practice?" Don't do this to me...

    - World's. Biggest. Penguins. Fan.