Nora heard the door to Genevieve’s room slam. Up in Claude’s room, where she’d run without thinking, the only door to slam was the bathroom. Nora got there, and caught herself in the mirror. She was shaking with anger and the adrenaline fueled by confrontation. Much of it was still bottled up because she’d managed to keep her composure when what she wanted to do was break dishes and throw glasses. Claude’s steps on the stairs snapped her out of it.
“Babe, are you....”
Nora stuffed her feet into her shoes and left her clothes in a heap on the end of Claude’s bed. She wanted to hear his side and desperately hoped his story would be good enough, but right now the rushing in her ears was far too loud. She ducked past him and hurried back downstairs.
Bang, bang, bang! Her fist almost dented Genevieve’s door, then Nora opened it herself.
“Give me the shirtzee.”
Genevieve whipped around at the noise, standing on the other side of the bed as if for safety. Her stuff was strewn about but it was easy to see that damned bright orange lump lying on top of a pile, the Giroux name and number she’d worn to the game like she earned it.
“What? No!” she shouted.
Claude skidded to a stop, reaching for Nora and missing as she stepped into Genevieve’s doorway. Her voice was icy calm.
“Give me the shirt, or I will use it to mop up your blood.”
The rage in Genevieve’s expression wavered, and there was fear beneath it. With a growl she picked up the shirt and flung it at Nora, pushing it away from her like she never wanted to see anything that color again. Nora grabbed it out of midair, already turning to leave.
Two steps from the front door, she realized she didn’t have a car. She’d walk. Or run. At that moment, Claude crashed into her back.
“Where are you going?!”
He looked at her with that perfect face and those honey-colored eyes, no hint of hesitation. He even had a shirt and jeans in one hand, keys in the other.
“With you,” he said.
Tears in her eyes, Nora stormed out of the house.
Claude beeped open the car and jumped into the driver’s seat, fumbling with the keys in his hurry. He wanted to get as much distance between them and Genevieve before he started explaining himself
Apologizing, not explaining, he decided.
They made it about three minutes. Nora stared fixedly out the window, not moving; he could see tears on her cheeks in the streetlight. When she finally gasped like she was in actual pain, he pulled over and ran around to her side.
“Stop,” she protested, but he hauled her to his feet and hugged her tight. Their breath was visible in the cold night air and he covered as much of her as possible with his body. Nora was so tense it was like holding a telephone pole.
“I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
Nora lost her fight and just started to cry - furious at Genevieve, at herself for giving the girl an inch and furious at Claude for not doing something himself. The last two reasons would fade eventually. For now she just let them kick her in the stomach while Claude kept her on her feet. He murmured soothingly, mostly in French, stroking the hair back from her face. When she could finally draw a deep breath, she looked at Claude through bleary eyes.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”
He shook his head. “I should have. She was drunk, or pretending to be, and this morning said she didn’t remember. What an asshole, I believed everything.”
“No. She’s lied to you,” Nora insisted. “Who does that to their best friend?”
Claude pursed his lips, knowing for the first time that title had been removed from Genevieve permanently. He was sorry that Gen wanted something he couldn’t give. But he would never forgive her for trying to sabotage something that made him happy.
“I kicked her out, right after. I wouldn’t even talk to her. Please believe me, Nora, nothing happened.”
She nodded weakly. “I know, you moron. You looked so surprised when she did it again!”
“Wait, you... you saw all that?”
All the hateful words Genevieve had chosen, the accusations she’d flung around came back to them, still stinging.
“There’s nothing with me a Danny, you know that right?”
“Yes, of course. I don’t know what I was thinking. Danny is... he deserves someone like you. But he would never do that. He’s been through enough.” Claude grew more adamant. “Don’t you stop being his friend because of this.”
Nora rolled her eyes. “That bitch isn’t taking either of you from me.”
Claude smiled, which he kissed onto her lips until Nora smiled back.
Nora went straight to her room, stripped off her borrow clothes and climbed into bed. Nora lay back and watched Claude deconstruct his suit, hang it from the closet door, and slip in next to her. His arms went directly around, their cold bodies drawing warmth from each other.
“I’m so sorry,” Claude repeated. Now in the private, cozy bubble of her bed, he wanted to cry himself. Three weeks into a relationship, no one should have to deal with this.
“Promise me something.”
Nora chuckled. “Promise me you’ll be more careful. You’re a star, people are going to want everything from you. I can’t be there all the time to bail your ass out of trouble.”
He slipped his still-cold hands around to her backside and pulled her in tighter. “Only one person gets whatever they want from me.”
“I mean me too, Claude. You let me in so easily. Someone’s going to take advantage of your good heart someday.”
Rolling Nora onto her back, Claude poured himself over top and looked down into her eyes. “Then I’d better learn to take advantage of situations too.”
Nora’s argument was smothered by a kiss. She gave up with a sigh and raked her hands through Claude’s soft curls, wondering if she’d really come all that close to losing this. He didn’t want Genevieve, it hadn’t been a decision between her and another girl. Claude just took a little while to figure out the obvious. There wasn’t any reason for Nora to doubt him. Especially not as he settled between her legs and slowly pressed his point inside her body. She whimpered as he held her down and cleared her mind of anything but his obvious desire.
Nora forced herself to keep her eyes open. She watched the tendon in his neck strain with each push. His shoulders flexed, his jaw tightened. The pleasure was incredible but the show was something else, something only he could give and she could see. The soft, male scent of his skin made up for the oxygen that was not reaching her brain. Nora tilted her hips up to change his angle of penetration, Claude groaned in pleasure. He reached over her head, grabbed a hold of the headboard and used it to pull himself deeper.
“Ohgod,” she gasped. He could tear her in half, rip right through her and she’d die happy. Claude’s arms flexed hard, biceps taut and forearms rigid, as he pulled again. She moved with him, grinding against the upswing and pulling back on the down, begging him not to go.
“Baby,” Claude kissed her again and felt the tip of his cock press hard against the top of her slot. Nora’s mouth broke loose as she cried out at the sensation. He had everything from her but still wanted more. He pressed one knee down, levering himself partially underneath her and lifting her ass onto his thighs. The headboard creaked its own exclamation.
“God, Claude,” she moaned. Nora was tipped to one side, helpless but to hold on as he stroked again and again, insisting that he have his way. His torso hovered over her on full display; all that hard, useful muscle rippling in a concerted effort to bring her to orgasm. With a smile that said he knew just what he was doing, Claude dropped down against her chest.
They were a tangle of arms and legs and mouths for no more than thirty seconds before Nora lost a last, tiny gasp and came. Claude kept his eyes fixed on her, watching what he felt pass through her body. At the very top, the last moment of tension before release, Claude caught Nora’s mouth in a hard, demanding kiss and swallowed her scream. She flooded warm and wet against him, and the change made Claude’s eyes roll back. His drove deep one last time and throbbed himself empty inside her body.
A long time they lay there, panting. When finally he could feel his legs and feet, Claude rolled off and took Nora in his arms. That line where her dark hair met pale skin, so obvious in the restaurant, looked now like uncharted territory. He generously explored with his lips and tongue.
Nora closed her eyes and slept.
EPILOGUE - one month later
“What’s the plan?” Danny asked, clearing dishes off the dining room table. The room had been virtually unused before the met Nora, now she and the boys ate there fairly often, even when dad was on the road.
“Ugh, do I have to go?” she whined.
“You know you want to.”
“But we don’t know why!” Carson teased. “Don’t you like the Flyers yet? I mean, what else do we have to do?!”
It was true. She and Claude had come out swinging from the Genevieve situation. The girl had packed her bags and flown home the next day, speaking to Claude only long enough to apologize and say she wouldn’t be around if he ever needed her again. It hurt to lose his best friend, but Claude was finding other people to confide in. One of them was Emily, who barreled in through the Briere’s front door.
“We’re all set!” she announced.
Nora raised her eyebrows, no idea what was going on, as Emily and Caelan high-fived and snickered. She figured she wouldn’t like it.
“Okay, we’ve gotta go.” Claude came into the living room smoothing the front of his plaid suit jacket.
“You didn’t,” Nora said weakly, but of course he had. He’d chosen the suit he knew she hated because she couldn’t hate it on him. It was just another test for tonight.
“I would never.” He walked right up and kissed her lips.
“Baaarrrffffff,” said the boys all at once.
Danny slung a backpack over the shoulder of his own suit and headed for the door. “Go Flyers!” he yelled.
“Go Bruins!” Nora answered.
A chorus of boos erupted.
Several hours and video games and a round of fetch with the dogs later, Emily loaded the last of the Briere boys into her car. Nora got in the front, checked seat belts and proclaimed them ready to go. They drove to Nora’s house.
“We only have ten minutes!” Cameron informed them.
“Thank you, Toronto, for reviewing our game clock,” Nora said. She hurried upstairs to change for the game before they were due at the rink. Claude and Danny had promised to introduce Nora to as many of the Bruins players as they could find, provided she bring the troops early enough. Jeans and boots were already on, she just needed her....
Now she knew what Emily meant. Hanging from the ceiling fan in the middle of the living room, tied to the pull string, was a bright orange number 28 Giroux girls jersey. The kind he’d told her back on their first night he thought was sexy. She tore through the apartment, already knowing she wouldn’t find a single Bruins item left in the place.
“Damn it, Emily!”
Nora grabbed a long-sleeved black sweater and pulled it over her t-shirt. A quick brush through her hair was all she needed, except for the rest of her stuff back. She pulled the Giroux jersey down so hard the ceiling nearly caved in.
“I hate you guys,” she waved the offending orange piece at the car as they laughed through open windows.
“Claude’s idea!” Carson tattled.
The security guard at the players entrance was used to them by now. He smiled so nicely Nora thought he might be in on the prank. With the Flyers jersey under one arm she marched right into the locker room.
“Not funny, Ginger!”
“Hey, hey, I’m changing here...,” Max wore nothing but his boxer briefs in the middle of the room. Then he saw Emily. “Hi baby.”
Everyone looked to the sky and thought of bleach as mostly-naked Max hugged his current flame. Nora covered Carson’s eyes with her hands and looked right past the lovers to where Claude was sitting in his stall.
He wore basketball shorts, a Flyers t-shirt and sneakers with a hat crammed backwards over his curls. That easy smile was a mile wide. “I don’t know what you mean.”
She held up the jersey. “You don’t want to do this.”
“Yeah, I really do.”
“He really does,” Hartnell agreed. “We all do.”
“AGH!” she stomped like a little kid.
“It’s time, Nora,” Danny said. “Give in.”
Half the Flyers team was watching her, standing in the middle of the Flyers locker room, saying she didn’t want to put on a Flyers jersey with her boyfriend’s name on the back. Nora was tempted to growl again.
“Not tonight,” she tried. Not tonight, any night but tonight.
“First night of the rest of your life,” Claude said.
She sighed. Wayne Simmonds started chanting, “Do it. Do it.” Other guys joined in. Nora took a moment to glare at each of them individually before pulling off her sweater and yanking the Flyers jersey over her head. Everyone cheered. She worked it down to her waist, shook her hair and was instantly crushed by Claude’s arms. He spun her around, dipped her to the ground and finished with a kiss. Whoops and hollers could be heard on Broad Street.
“Best you’ve ever looked,” he said, setting her on her feet.
“Good, because you’ll never see me naked again!”
Nora stormed out of the locker room to a chorus of catcalls, right to the lounge and stuffed her sorrows with a cookie. It only took a minute.
“Ready?” Claude was all grins.
“I do not like you very much right now.”
He came in for another hug and she let him have it, without lifting her own arms. Claude rubbed his nose against hers in an eskimo kiss. “You’re beautiful, Nora. And now you really are perfect.”
“Har har har,” she made a face.
Claude laced his fingers into hers and pulled her toward the door. “Plus, I don’t trust the Bruins. Not around you, not unless you’re wearing that. And I’m there. Carrying a stick. Aw, fuck,” he laughed at himself. “They’ll be chirping me out there all night about how my girlfriend wants them.”
She gave in and followed him. They barely had to leave the room.
Tyler Seguin was walking down the hallway, doing something with his phone, and dropped it into his pocket as Claude hailed him. They guys all liked each other, for the most part, until the game started. He kept coming. Nora stepped behind Claude to hide, but he dragged her out front.
“This is my girlfriend Nora. She’s a big Bruins fan.”
Nora wanted to close her eyes and disappear, but she couldn’t take her eyes off Tyler’s face. He was perfectly gorgeous - sharp features, dark hair, a smile that was quick and dirty.
“Hi Tyler,” she managed.
“A Bruins fan, eh? I could get you something more comfortable to wear.” His voice was like a hand sliding up her thigh. Maybe that was Claude’s actual touch. Either way, Seguin looked so amused Nora though Claude might reconsider. He gestured toward the Bruins locker room. If Nora followed him inside, clothing would not be part of the conversation. But he’d make her very comfortable. Time to make Claude pay.
“Hmm, maybe something you sweated in?” she batted her lashes and took a step toward him.
“Okay, okay,” Claude grabbed Nora around the waist.
“Nice to meet you,” Nora purred, like she’d spend a lot of alone time thinking about what she’d missed.
Tyler shook his head. “I’ll play extra hard, in case you change your mind.”
“I can’t wait to watch!” she yelled over her shoulder as Claude dragged her away. When they rounded a corner, he pushed her against the wall with his chest.
“Don’t tease me,” he said in a voice that begged her to keep going. His lips, then his teeth, nipped at her earlobe. “Don’t flirt. You know I can’t have sex before games.”
She held his waist and pressed her thumbs in the directional muscles just inside his hips. They were the perfect handholds for.... “Let me at them, then. I can wear out least half the team. Lucic won’t be able to stand up, let alone skate.”
Claude growled and nuzzled against her neck, she squeaked because it tickled and tried to flail away. Footsteps behind Claude caught them making out like teenagers in the hallway.
“Excuse us,” Shawn Thorton said with a rowdy smile, his eyes going right down Nora’s body. Andrew Ference and Gregory Campbell were behind him, snickering. “Sorry to break up the party.”
“Oh my God,” Claude groaned. “This is Nora. She’s a Bruins fan. Fuck you all.”
“Alright!” the guys cheered and crowded in to give Nora unnecessarily long, tight hugs. She laughed and enjoyed every second of attention from her favorite team. Claude rolled his eyes, but he was smiling.
“What’s up here?” another voice joined the group.
“G’s got himself a Bruins fan for a girlfriend,” Campbell said, presenting Nora to a smirking Milan Lucic.
Her knees wobbled. Other parts of her body did too. Lucic was an absolute giant - tall and hulking, in a suit that could barely contain him. He was the size of two of three Flyers put together. Dramatic dark brows framed his square face, and soft, pillowy lips widened into a smile.
“Well that’s just sad,” Lucic extended his hand to Nora, but instead of shaking he pulled her into his massive chest for a hug. “You must be so lonely all those nights he’s on the road. Boston’s not far, you know.”
“Break it up, break it up,” Claude droned.
Lucic let her go reluctantly. Nora might have moaned. Claude took her hand and they stayed there talking with the Bruins for a while, Nora trying not to drool. He got mocked about not being able to find anyone in Philly who wanted him and trying to convert an infidel.
“Your girl’s probably wearing you out, G. Boston girls are a handful,” Ference winked toward Nora.
“Enough legs left to skate around you,” Claude promised. They separated, still laughing, and the Bruins headed off toward their locker room.
“We’ll save you a seat on the bus, Nora!” Lucic waved.
Soon they had the hallway to themselves, and Nora swung Claude’s hand between them. She was beaming like an idiot from having brushed elbows - and more - with some of her favorite team. But the truth was that most of her favorite hockey players were in the Flyers locker room.
“Damn it!” she finally said. “You got me.”
Claude bumped against her shoulder. “I already knew. Or I’d have never let you down here today.”
At the door, it was time for Claude to report for duty and Nora to find something to do for two hours until game time. The building would fill with twenty thousand other people wearing the same thing, most of them with the same name and number of their backs. None of them with a reason as good as Nora’s.
“Keep it, eh? You don’t have to give up the Bruins entirely.” Claude said, rubbing the hem of Nora’s sweater between his fingers. He looked into her eyes and she was biting her lip indecisively.
“Well, it is warm. And I hear this Giroux guy’s pretty good.”
“I’ll wear it,” Nora conceded. “And I promise to take it off if I have to beat up a fellow Flyers fan.”
Claude allowed himself a quick kiss before letting her go. “Don’t. You’re sexy when you’re mad.”
** end **
Thank you for all your comments! Considering that I hate the Flyers (just keep reminding myself), it was really fun to write. Someone said this epilogue is my real life, as I fall in love with the enemy right under the nose of my own team. If I'm going down, might as well make it count, right? New story: All at Once, featuring Danny Briere. After this story, I had to. But it's irrefutable proof that I have lost my damned mind.