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Chapter no 15 – Cal

Bagging the Blueliner

HANNAH SPENDING THE NIGHT turned into two days of us holed up in my penthouse. Thank God for a mini-Christmas break for the league. We had nowhere to go and got lost in each other.

Most of our time was spent in bed. I attempted to work out, but then I would catch sight of Hannah wearing nothing but one of my T-shirts, which completely derailed me every time.

She looked incredible. My shirt hung loosely over her body, falling to her knees, the neck hole so large her bare shoulder fell through it. The knowledge that she wore nothing underneath drove me wild. Her hair was tied up on top of her head with a rubber band she’d found in my junk drawer, and the makeup had been washed off her face days ago.

This was a version of Hannah no one else saw.

It wasn’t lost on me that she loosened up after our unconventional therapy session. My gut twisted thinking about how deflated Hannah had looked walking off the elevator that night. It blew my perception of her right out of the water.

My Hannah was strong.

My Hannah took no prisoners.

My Hannah didn’t give a shit what others thought about her.

Wait. When did she become my Hannah?

Maybe it was the fact that she was the only woman to sleep over at my place

—unknowingly and willingly—that had me claiming ownership of her. That,

and Hannah making herself at home. It felt like she belonged here. Was that crazy?

Yes, it’s crazy. You know you have no future with her.

I was about to tell my brain where to shove it when Hannah waltzed into the living room. She’d spent days in my clothes, but damn if it didn’t turn me on every time I saw her.

Plopping ungracefully onto the couch, she turned on the TV. Glancing over her shoulder, to where I stood in the kitchen gripping the marble countertop so tightly I worried it might crack, she smiled. “Movie night?”

This was so fucking domestic. And surprisingly, I didn’t hate it. “Sure. Want me to order some dinner?” I offered.

“That sounds great. What were you thinking?”

Pulling out my phone, I tapped a food delivery app and scrolled the available choices. Honing in on one restaurant, I asked Hannah, “How about Mexican?”

She moaned. “Yes! I’ll take a chicken quesadilla. Don’t forget to get some chips, and don’t skimp on the guac.”

Ordering myself steak fajitas, I paid with the tap of a button and moved to join Hannah on the couch. “All right. What are we watching?”

Curling into my side, she looked up at me. “You’re gonna let me pick?”

I didn’t watch much TV and rarely had time to make it to the movie theater, so whatever she chose would likely be new to me. “Sure. Why not?”

Hannah continued to stare at me. “It’s just . . .” She shook her head. “Never mind.”

Gripping her thigh, I growled in her ear, “Do we need to have another therapy session?”

Her laugh warmed my insides. “No, but thanks for the offer. I was only thinking how strange it was to be given total control over the movie choice. When I have movie nights with the girls, there’s always a debate.”

“Are you saying you view me as one of the girls?”

Placing her hand onto my lap, she squeezed my dick. “Definitely not one of the girls.”

“Careful,” I warned. “If you want to watch this movie or eat tonight, you’ll keep your hands to yourself for a while.”

“You’re no fun.” She pretended to pout by sticking her lower lip out. “Pick a movie, Hannah.”

Sighing, she pulled her hand away, clicking the remote through my various streaming services. Finally, she settled on a movie where the preview showcased what I would call a pretty boy and an attractive girl. There was no denying what kind of movie it was.

“A chick flick?” I asked, slightly surprised. “Already regretting letting me choose?”

“No.”

“Good.” She pressed play.

Watching Hannah was more entertaining than the movie. Her facial expressions were adorable, and it was easy to see she knew this movie by heart as she mouthed words along with the actors on screen.

There was a moment when it seemed like the two main love interests were catching feelings for each other, and Hannah screamed at the TV, “Make out already!”

Chuckling, I stated the obvious, “They can’t hear you. You do know that, right?” She flopped around on the couch, and I mused, “I never took you for a romantic.”

“I’m not. I can’t stand the sexual tension. They’re clearly attracted to each other. Why do we need the buildup? I want them to stop tiptoeing around and act on it. Forget the flowers and sweet gestures. Sometimes, a girl just needs to be railed.”

Never let it be said that this woman didn’t have a way with words.

The intercom buzzed before I could respond, and Hannah paused the movie so I could buzz up the delivery driver with our food. Within minutes, the food was in hand, and I unbagged our order on the kitchen island.

Hannah grabbed the plastic clamshell containing her quesadilla and opened it.

If I hadn’t been watching, I wouldn’t have noticed the way her nose wrinkled. “Something wrong?” I asked.

Carefully, she lifted the edge of the tortilla to peek at the cheesy mess inside. “It’s got onions and peppers on it.”

“Is that a problem?”

“It’s fine.” Closing the container, she reached for the bag of chips and the side of guacamole. Her words and actions told two different stories.

“Are you going to eat that?” I motioned to the quesadilla. “No,” she said around a mouthful of chips.

Reaching for the abandoned entrée, I peeled it open. Grabbing a knife, I went to work prying the onions and peppers from the gooey cheese. Confident I’d gotten it all, I slid it back over to her. “Fixed it.”

Hannah shook her head. “The taste gets in there when they cook it. The cheese will be all peppery.”

“You’re really not going to eat it?” “Nope.”

Frustrated, I sighed. I didn’t have personal experience with relationships, but I’d seen enough of the dynamic with my parents, and my sister and her husband, to know it wouldn’t fly if I ate my meal when she wasn’t eating hers.

Grabbing my phone off the counter, I dialed the restaurant directly. Hannah looked at me, confused. “What are you doing?”

I held up a finger, silencing her as someone on the other end picked up. “Hello, First Street Fiesta Palace. How can I help you?”

“Yeah. Hi. I need to order a chicken quesadilla.” “Sure thing. Pickup or delivery?”

“Pickup.” I could be there and back in less than ten minutes. “But I need it to be made without peppers and onions.”

“No peppers or onions? Just chicken and cheese?”

I winked at Hannah before replying, “Yes, just chicken and cheese. I need a basic bitch quesadilla.”

The girl on the other end of the line snorted. “Got it. Should be ready in fifteen minutes. Can I get a name for the order?”

“Berg.”

“Got it. Thanks.”

They hung up, and Hannah smiled at me, shaking her head. “Basic bitch, huh?”

I shrugged. “Calling it as I see it.” “You really didn’t need to do that.” “Yes, I did. I’ll be back.”

Grabbing my keys from the entryway table, I left my apartment, taking the elevator to the underground basement. Slipping behind the wheel of my silver SUV, I drove onto the streets of downtown Hartford. Flurries flew in the night sky, making the city look like a snow globe.

Executing my mission with efficiency, I grabbed the order and was back at the penthouse in no time. Opening the door, I found Hannah seated back on the couch, a crumbled bag on the coffee table.

It took a moment to process what I was looking at. “Did you eat all the chips?”

Hannah wasn’t even sorry. “What? I was hungry, and you messed up my order.”

Stunned, I dropped the bag containing her fresh quesadilla on the island. “messed up your order? You didn’t think to mention you wanted it a certain way, and it’s my fault?”

Standing, she put her hands on her hips. “Where I come from, it’s common courtesy to ask people if they want their food a specific way. You skipped that

step, so yeah, it falls on you.”

There was a devilish twinkle in her blue eyes. She was baiting me. Hannah wanted me angry. She craved the heated, hate-filled sex we had.

Who was I to ruin her fun?

Slamming my hands on the countertop, I leaned into it. “Hate to break it to you, sweetheart, but the world doesn’t revolve around you.”

“Right. Because I’m just another basic bitch. Isn’t that what you said?”

“Well, what else would I expect from a spoiled daddy’s girl?” I shot back. “Spoiled?” she sputtered.

“You don’t know how to survive in the real world. Your daddy had to get you a job.”

“Fuck you,” Hannah spat, her nostrils flaring.

I was so hard. Who knew fighting with Hannah was what I needed to get my blood pumping?

Gritting my teeth, I forced out, “I’m going to give you to the count of three before I paint your back porch red.”

Not even the least bit alarmed, she fucking laughed in my face. “Who talks like that? How old are you? Sixty? Bring it on, Grandpa.”

Without further warning, I lunged for her, and Hannah squealed, running away. She made it as far as the stairs when I tackled her to the ground.

Lifting her shirt over her bare ass, I made good on my promise, and she enjoyed every minute of it. Neither of us ended up eating our dinners, and we didn’t care.

That was the night I realized I was hooked on Hannah.

 

 

My mind wasn’t in the game. Not since the moment a substitute anthem singer walked onto the red carpet. I couldn’t stop wondering where Hannah was.

Swallowing my pride, I nudged Jaxon in the locker room during the first intermission. “Hey, do you know what the deal with the new singer was?”

Jaxon played it off. “I thought she was good, didn’t you?”

I wasn’t in the mood for mind games. “That’s not what I was asking.” “I’m sorry. Why don’t you use your words like a big boy.”

I could feel my blood pressure rising. “I am this fucking close to knocking your pretty-boy teeth out. Don’t treat me like one of your kids. Tell me what you know about Hannah not being here tonight.”

Jaxon gave me a smug smile. “Now, was that so hard?” Clenching my fists, I held one up. “Don’t test me.”

Rolling his eyes, he replied, “From what I heard, she’s sick. Happy now?” No, I wasn’t happy. “What kind of sick?”

“You seem awfully concerned for a guy who can’t stand the girl by all appearances.”

“And you’re not concerned enough that I’m on the edge and about to snap.”

Jaxon held his hands up in surrender. “Fine. She texted Nat earlier that she had a bad cold, maybe the flu.”

It had to be bad for her not to come to the game. Losing her voice and passing off her singing gig for a night or two wasn’t entirely out of the norm, but to not come at all? When she didn’t come out for the anthem, I glanced up to the family box, but there was no sign of her.

Hannah lived alone. If it was that bad, she might be too weak to care for herself. The idea of her needing help and being unable to call for it pierced my heart with terror.

I had to get to her. There was no other option.

The rest of the game passed in a blur. The press left me alone post-game once they realized I was in a mood, giving them one-word answers.

As soon as I was showered, I hustled out of the arena. Making one quick pit stop on the way home, I was at our building and punching the elevator button for the seventh floor.

Reaching the door to her apartment, I knocked gently. When there was no answer, I pounded harder with the side of my fist.

Fuck. The longer I stood there with no answer, the more panicked I became. “Hannah!” I called out, my voice strained.

Still no answer.

Grabbing my phone, I texted her, praying her non-responsiveness was due to having no voice.

I’m outside your door. Let me

 

My heart hammered inside my chest while I waited to see if she would respond. When the phone buzzed in my hand, I sagged against the wall in relief.

Bad Decision: Go away. I’m sick.

 

I know. I came to make sure you’re oka

 

Bad Decision: I’ll be fine. Just need rest.

 

Give me your code. I’ll let myself in

 

Bad Decision: No. You can’t afford to catch what I have.

 

Lucky for you, I have a great immune system. Let me in. I brought basi

bitch chicken noodle soup

 

Bad Decision: Not nice. It hurts my chest to laugh.

 

Then give me the code. Stay in bed and let me take care of you

 

Bad Decision: I don’t need you to take care of me.

 

I’m very aware. I want to. Please

 

Bad Decision: You’re a giant pain in my ass. You know that?

 

Do you know how hard it is to pass on the anal joke you just set up? Bu because you’re sick, I’ll let it slide. Oh damn, I set myself up there

 

Bad Decision: Ugh. Boys.

 

The code, Hannah

 

Bad Decision: Fine. It’s 0523.

 

Typing in the four-digit passcode to open her front door, I decided to spare her the lecture on how using her birthday was a serious security risk. When she was better, we could talk about it. Right now, my main focus was ensuring she was okay and doing what I could to make her more comfortable.

Entering her apartment, I was shocked by how small it was. Hannah had grown up spoiled, everything handed to her, but here she was, living in a tiny apartment downtown instead of staying in the mansion her parents owned in the suburbs. I could respect that she wanted to be independent enough to sacrifice the life of luxury she’d always known.

“Hannah?” I called out gently.

“In the bedroom,” she croaked out in reply.

As if her raspy voice wasn’t enough, a chest-rattling cough bounced off the walls of the small space.

This place was barely bigger than an efficiency. The only thing keeping it from being labeled as such was the wall between the living space and the single bedroom. Dropping the takeout bag on her kitchen counter, I riffled through her cabinets until I found a bowl. Checking drawers until I located a spoon, I carried my offering to her bedroom door, knocking softly.

Hannah gave a stuffy sigh. “I don’t think you should come any further. I’m really sick, Cal. You don’t want this.”

Fuck getting sick. Her admission of how bad she felt, combined with how she sounded, and I knew I couldn’t leave her alone.

“I told you. I’m willing to take the risk. I’m coming in.” I gave her sufficient warning before turning the doorknob to her bedroom.

The first thing I noticed was that the room was too warm. Then, I saw Hannah, and my heart dropped. She was propped up slightly on pillows buried under a mountain of covers. Dark hair was plastered to her sweaty face featuring pink cheeks, her eyes glassy.

“Oh, baby,” I breathed out.

Managing a weak smile, she said, “Told you.”

“Would it make you feel better if I admitted you were right?” “I require it in writing. That shit needs to be framed.”

“See, you can’t be that bad off. You still have some spunk,” I teased, even with the tightness in my chest.

“I’d have to be dead to lose that.”

“How about you try to eat some of this soup, and then I move you upstairs.” Hannah shook her head slowly. “My body hurts. I don’t want to move.”

Frowning, I silently debated taking charge and taking her to my place anyway, but she didn’t need to waste her limited energy fighting with me.

“Okay. But the soup is non-negotiable.”

Rounding the bottom of her bed, I sat on the edge, noting she was wearing one of my T-shirts. Placing the bowl of soup on her nightstand, I touched her clammy skin. I couldn’t stop my sharp intake of breath. “Shit. You’re burning up. Did you take anything?”

“Nuh-uh. Tried to get up once but got lightheaded.”

Stubborn girl couldn’t take care of herself but resisted help. She was her own worst enemy.

“You have any acetaminophen? Maybe a sports drink? You need fluids.” My mind raced, trying to piece together a way to keep from dragging her to the emergency room tonight.

“Drugs are in the bathroom. The mirror pops open to reveal a cabinet. No sports drinks, but I have some electrolyte drink mix I use for hangovers.”

“Even better. I’ll be right back.”

Standing, I became a man on a mission. First, I returned to the kitchen to find where she kept the powdered electrolytes. Mixing the powder into a tall glass of water, I brought it to her, imploring her to take a few sips while I grabbed the medicine to help reduce her fever. Bringing the bottle back to her bedside, I handed her two tablets.

Placing them on her tongue, she took a sip of water but winced as the pills slid down her throat. “Ow.”

“Sore throat, too?” I asked.

“Yeah. You name it. I’ve got it.”

“I want you to try eating some of this soup. Should go down a little easier than the pills.”

A corner of her lips quirked up. “I am curious. What is basic bitch chicken noodle soup?”

I chucked. “Broth, chicken, and noodles. Since apparently, you hate vegetables.”

“What are you talking about? I love certain vegetables. Cucumbers, eggplants, a girthy carrot . . .”

“Sorry to disappoint. They were fresh out of girthy carrots at the corner store.”

“Pity.”

Taking the bowl from the bedside table, I dipped the spoon inside the clear broth before bringing it to her lips. She obliged me for a few minutes but eventually held her hand up when she’d had enough. I wasn’t going to fight her to take more, so long as she kept drinking the electrolyte mixture.

Turning my body to sit beside her against her headboard, I glanced at the TV on the opposite wall. One of the West Coast hockey games was playing. The volume was so low that I hadn’t noticed it when I first walked in.

Leave it to Hannah. Even sick, she couldn’t stay away from the game. Gesturing to the screen, I asked, “You catch any of our game?”

Clearing the mucous from her chest, she responded, “Yeah. You played like shit.”

“I was too worried about you.”

“No. You don’t get to blame it on me. A great player knows how to separate his personal life from the game.”

“Well, maybe I could have if someone had warned me they wouldn’t be there tonight,” I accused.

“I refuse to be your excuse. Take accountability for your own actions.” Another bone-jarring cough racked her weak body.

“You’re infuriating.” With how softly I said it, you could mistake it as a term of endearment. Maybe when it came to Hannah, it was.

“And you’re not getting any younger. Now’s not a good time to be distracted.”

“Are you saying you’re a distraction?” “Seems like that’s what you’re saying.” “I’m fine.” I insisted.

“I’m glad at least one of us believes that.”

She was wasting her breath arguing with me when she needed rest, so I dropped it. “Want me to turn it off? You need to rest.”

“Turn it up a little. The sounds are comforting. Plus, we need to keep an eye on San Francisco. They could win the Western Conference.”

Tapping the button on the remote, I increased the volume, and we stopped talking, watching the last few minutes of the second period.

When the intermission report came on, I asked Hannah, “Why do you wear flip-flops to the rink?”

“Do you want the canned answer or the real one?” “How about both?”

She sighed. “What I tell most people is that I run hot, but the truth is that I have foot claustrophobia.”

I looked at her in disbelief. “What? That’s not a real thing.”

“The hell it’s not,” she shot back. “When I wear closed-toe shoes, it’s like they are closing in on me, and I feel like they’re going to cut off my circulation.”

“You’re serious?”

“This is why I don’t tell many people. They don’t believe me,” she huffed. “You know shoes don’t shrink like that,” I explained.

“Claustrophobia is mental. I know it’s all in my head, but I can’t make myself believe otherwise.”

I guess everyone had their issues.

We fell into silence again, watching as the game resumed at the beginning of the third period.

Hannah sipped her drink before asking, “Can I ask you a question?” Smoothing the sweaty hair away from her forehead, I replied, “Sure.”

Her blue eyes met mine for a second, but she looked away before she spoke again. “That voicemail.” I groaned but didn’t say anything. “I get that you were drunk. But you were so angry. How long have you been attracted to me?”

Oh boy, here we go.

I didn’t want to lie to her, so the truth it was. “Since the day you marched up to me, all fired up to tell me that you hated my style of play.”

“What? No way, that was like ten years ago.” She stared at me wide-eyed in disbelief.

“Ten years and four months, to be exact.”

Hannah gasped. “Cal! You’re telling me you’ve been attracted to me the entire time we’ve known each other?”

“Pretty much.” I nodded.

“This doesn’t make any sense. We’re always fighting. You go out of your way to piss me off. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t do the same.”

“It was easier to make you hate me.” I shrugged. “Why?”

“Come on, Hannah. We both know I’m breaking every rule there is by being here with you. If you hadn’t shown up half naked at the front door of my penthouse, we’d still be driving each other crazy. And not in bed.”

Hannah thought over my confession. “I don’t know what to say.”

“I don’t need you to say anything. I’m here with you now. That’s all that matters.” I could see the wheels turning in her brain, trying to process what I’d just told her. “You should rest.”

“Are you staying?” she asked timidly. “Do you want me to?”

“Yes, please.”

Smoothing the hair away from her face, I replied, “Then I will. Close your eyes. I’ll be right here.”

Leaning her head on my arm, she drifted off to the sounds of the hockey game playing in the background. Hannah’s chest and nasal congestion caused her to snore softly, but I didn’t mind.

Tonight was the first time we were alone together where we didn’t have sex. Until now, sexual attraction had been the focal point of whatever relationship we had going.

Like I told her, I had always been attracted to her. I was man enough to admit she was hot and had a rocking body, but her personality drove me up a wall. Spending more time with her, I was finding that maybe my actions brought out that side of her. She was letting her walls down, and I liked who she was under that snarky, sassy outer shell.

I wanted to care for her on nights like tonight when she was sick, or others when she might be hurting—either physically or emotionally.

I wanted to be with her every night, not only the ones that promised sex.

Until now, I’d never wanted to spend time with any woman outside the bedroom.

I am in big trouble.

Fucking her in secret was one thing, but what happened if I fell for her? How in the world were we going to make this work?

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