Chapter no 33 – Cal

Bagging the Blueliner

THANK GOD I NO longer planned to get married because I was never coordinating an event this large again.

I’d paid people to come in and handle everything, but apparently, that meant they wanted my opinion on every minute detail, and I was over it. I begged Zoe to stand in and boss people around—it was what she did best, after all—but she laughed in my face. Between peals of laughter, she forced out something along the lines of, “Oh, now you want my opinion?”

Yeah, I guess I deserved that.

It was too damn hot outside, and I could feel the sweat soaking the shirt across my back. It was just my luck that a heat wave would roll through this week. Miserable was my new middle name.

“Cal, honey. Your first guest has arrived!” Mom’s voice called from the screen door leading to the kitchen from the back porch. “I told them to wait out front for you to greet them!”

Turning my wrist, I checked the time. The party didn’t start for an hour. If it was one of my teammates, they’d be sorry because I was putting them to work. I had too much to do to be entertaining one of their dumb asses.

Rounding the side of the house, I was still grumbling when I saw a shiny red convertible parked out front. Rolling my eyes, that ostentatious car confirmed my suspicions that it was a teammate. Only one of them would

rent something like that. It sure as hell didn’t belong to one of the locals my mom had invited.

Coming to the side of the wraparound porch, I called out, “Get ready to be my bitch for showing up this early. Hope it was worth it!”

The steps of the porch came into view, and that’s when I noticed a pair of lean feminine legs in cowgirl boots crossed at the ankle as their owner leaned against the post. I couldn’t tell who they belonged to from this angle, but it certainly wasn’t a hockey player.

Shit. Now, I would have to apologize for what I’d said in my annoyed state.

A strange tingle went down my spine, and my awareness peaked as the woman became fully visible, and I froze.

Standing there in a denim shirtdress tied at the waist, with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, and her caramel hair weaved into some kind of elaborate braid over one shoulder, was Hannah.

Reaching my hands up, I rubbed my eyes to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Her laughter filled the air, and my heart twisted at the sound.

“Were you hoping it was someone else you could make your bitch?” she asked with humor in her voice.

Lowering my hands, I stared at her. Why was she here? And why was she smiling? The last time I’d seen her, she looked so sad, all because of me.

Her sparkling blue eyes scanned me from head to toe, and she licked her lips. Damn, if my dick didn’t twitch watching her size me up, looking like she wanted to devour me whole.

At a loss for words, I finally managed, “I don’t understand.”

Crossing her arms over her chest, it pushed her breasts up enough that a tiny bit of cleavage was visible where the top two buttons of her dress were undone, and I had to stifle a groan. “We had a deal. You bring home the hardware, and I show you everything I know on the ice. I’m not one to skip out on my end of the bargain.”

That was it? Any hope rising within me at her reappearance in my life was instantly dashed.

A heavy exhale left my chest. “In case you haven’t heard, Hannah”— fuck, it hurt to even say her name out loud—“I retired. You’re off the hook. Sorry, you came all this way for nothing.”

Narrowing her eyes, the smile slipped from Hannah’s face. “I’m mad at you.”

Shrugging, I replied, “You should be.” What did she want me to say?

“I am so furious at my father I could scream. For him to think he could make decisions about my life without my consent? But you’re not in the clear because you should have never gone along with it.”

“Excuse me?” My brain was misfiring. Surely, she didn’t know what had really happened.

“Last week, I went into his office to resign all my positions with the Comets and to tell him I was moving. That’s when he confessed everything.”

“You’re moving? Where?” I asked, still in shock.

“Oh, no. You’re not going to pick out the least important part of what I said and gloss over the fact that you let him bully you into breaking up with me. Why didn’t you fight for us? Didn’t what we have mean something to you?” She started with fire but ended with a tone of hurt in her voice. I’d put that there.

I took a step toward her but stopped. “Hannah, you mean everything to me.”

Her baby blues became glossy, and her voice grew thick with emotion. “Then why?”

“I couldn’t be the man who made you hate your father.”

Looking skyward, Hannah let out a shaky breath. “Why does every man in my life think they know what’s best for me? Did anyone ever think of consulting me about what want?”

That was my opening, and I sure as hell wasn’t going to let it pass me by. “What do you want, Hannah?”

She scoffed, training her brilliant blue eyes on me. “You think I came all this way for my health? I came to knock some sense into your thick skull.” Hannah walked down the porch steps, knocking her body into mine on the way past. “But if you’re too stupid—”

Before she could finish that sentence, I wrapped my fingers around her wrist and pulled her into my chest. A gasp left her lips as a rumble worked its way up my chest.

“You better think really carefully before you finish that sentence,” I growled.

A wicked gleam—the one I loved so much—entered Hannah’s eyes. “Are you trying to tell me what to do? Clearly, you haven’t learned anything.” She huffed. “What a waste of my time.”

Cupping her face, I let my thumb graze over her cheekbone. God, I’d missed having her in my arms. She fit so perfectly.

Dropping my forehead to hers, I whispered, “I’m not letting you get away again. You’re staying.”

Then, the perfect girl said the perfect two words, “Make me.”

My mouth captured hers, and I pulled her body flush with mine. Her lips opened, and my tongue swept inside, tasting her for the first time in months. How I’d survived a single day without her didn’t seem possible—she was the missing piece of my life. I poured the promise of a future together into this kiss, reminding her she was mine just as much as I was hers. We belonged to each other.

Blood rushed south as Hannah clutched at my back, trying to get closer, and I ground my hips into hers. I didn’t give a fuck that we were steps away from my parents sitting inside or that people would be showing up any minute. I needed to be inside her. Now.

Sliding my hands down past her ass, I gripped the back of her thighs and lifted her into my arms. The heels of her boots dug into my lower back, and I swallowed her moan when her core lined up perfectly over my hardened dick.

Walking up the steps of the porch, I pressed her body against the exterior wall of the house. Tearing my mouth from hers, I trailed kisses along her jaw, down the curve of her neck, loving the way she threw her head back, letting me take what I wanted.

“Fuck, I’ve missed you,” I groaned against her heated skin. “Not more than I’ve missed you,” Hannah breathed out.

I forced a hand between our bodies where her skirt rode up. Her breathing hitched when I reached her drenched panties and pushed them aside. I might not be able to free my dick out here, but I could fuck her with my hand. It would have to be enough until I could get her somewhere private.

Just as I slipped two fingers inside her—my cock throbbing, desperate to take their place—a voice called out, “Are you two done yet? It was one thing on the yacht, but you’re scarring my children. They don’t need a visual demonstration on how babies are made.”

“Jaxon!” Natalie shrieked.

Panting, I dropped my head to the crook of Hannah’s neck, trying to catch my breath. Praying my body covered most of Hannah’s, I removed my

hand, easing her down my body and smoothing the skirt over her thighs before turning around and facing our best friends and their family.

“Hey, guys.” I cleared my throat, trying to mask how gravelly it sounded. Jaxon had a shit-eating grin on his face, but Natalie was flushed a deep crimson, her hands held over Charlie’s eyes where she rested on her hip. Amelia and Jameson were trying their best not to laugh—they were in middle school; surely, they’d seen people making out before, though maybe

not quite to this extent. Beau’s gigantic smile matched that of his dad’s.

Running up onto the porch, Beau exclaimed, “Uncle Cal! Were you making a baby with Aunt Hannah? You two were kissing. Dad made a baby with Mom, and they only do little kisses. Yours was a big kiss.”

I was at a loss for words, but Hannah got down on one knee before him. “Not today, buddy. We were just practicing. Sometimes, that’s even more fun.” Rising to her feet, she threw me a wink and linked our hands.

The screen door banged open, and my mom hollered, “Jaxon, could you pop into the kitchen and help me with a few things?”

Jumping into action, Jaxon replied, “Yes, ma’am.” I groaned. “Mom, I paid caterers.”

She merely waved a hand at me. “Oh, I know. But we couldn’t host a party on the ranch without my famous potato salad.”

“Of course not,” I muttered.

Surveying the children before her, she lit up. “Do ya’ll like animals? Calvin and Julian can take you down to the stables and show you around while the adults get everything ready for the party.”

Four very excited children rushed into the house, Amelia taking her little sister from Natalie. Mom disappeared with them, the sounds of her yelling for the boys echoing behind her.

Jaxon stepped up onto the porch. “Glad to see everything is right with the world again.”

He let himself into the house without another word, leaving only Natalie behind. She looked down at our intertwined hands, and a sly smile graced her lips.

“Looks like one of you knows how to fight for what they want,” she remarked.

Gawking at her, the pieces fell into place. “You knew she was here, didn’t you?”

Reaching up, she gave me a couple of pats on the cheek. “Oh, Cal. Who do you think she bummed a ride with to Calgary?”

“You could have said something earlier, you know. Put me out of my misery.”

Natalie tilted her head to the side. “You’ve been miserable this long. What was another three hours? And you could have just as easily picked up the phone and called her yourself. Just think, you could have had some real alone time with her if you had.” Smirking, she added, “Pity,” before following her family inside the house.

“Damn, that was cold,” I muttered, but Hannah only laughed.

Pulling me with her to the old porch swing, she sat, patting the spot beside her in invitation. Before joining her, I simply took a moment to drink her in.

Was it possible she looked even more beautiful than the last time I had seen her? Hands down, she was the most stunning woman I’d ever seen, and I would spend every day for the rest of our lives making up for the two months we’d lost.

Hannah rolled her eyes. “You gonna eye-fuck me all day or sit down?”

Chuckling, I shook my head. “I have every intention of punishing that smart mouth of yours later.”

As I took a seat next to her on the porch swing, she clicked her tongue. “Promises, promises.”

Turning my body to face hers, I cupped her face with my hands. Leaning in until our foreheads touched, I took a deep breath. My heart hadn’t stopped racing since I first saw her standing on the porch of my childhood home.

I still had difficulty believing she had come here and knew the truth.

Could it really be so simple to wash away the hurt I’d caused her?

I was about to kiss her lips softly, when she spoke. “I have a bone to pick with you.”

Well, that was my answer. I should have known. Nothing was ever simple with this woman.

Reluctantly, I released my hold on her face and pulled back to look her in the eyes. Toying with the end of her braid, I sighed. “I’d be surprised if you didn’t. The way I treated you . . . There’s no excuse. I’m an asshole.”

Teeth descended upon her plush lower lip to hide a smile. Releasing it, she shrugged. “That’s not new information. You always were.”

The tightness in my chest eased somewhat. If she was teasing, maybe it wouldn’t be as bad as I thought.

“Why is it that I had to hear that you’re in love with me from my dad?” Hannah asked.

Taking her hand in mine, I brushed my thumb over her knuckles, transfixed by how perfectly we fit together. “That night went completely off the rails.” Hannah scoffed, but I pressed forward, explaining, “I decided before puck drop that, win or lose, afterward I would tell you how I felt. The feelings weren’t new; I’d had them for a while. Then everything went sideways.”

A soft sniffle made my head snap up, and the tears streaming down Hannah’s face broke my heart all over again. I couldn’t bear to see her upset a minute longer.

“Baby, please don’t cry. I’m so sorry. I never wanted to hurt you, and it tore me up inside watching you suffer, then hearing from our friends how I needed to pull my head out of my ass and fix it. I wanted to. So badly. I couldn’t see a way to bring us back together without tearing apart your family. I didn’t think I could be enough for you if you lost them.”

Squeezing her eyes shut, twin tears leaked out, rolling down her cheeks. Barely above a whisper, she said, “You were all I ever needed. When you went down, I lost my shit because I couldn’t picture a world without you in it. You are the only person I could picture myself with for the rest of my life.”

My heart soared at her admission. My sun rose and set with her, but to hear her say she wanted forever with me stole my breath away.

Reaching out, I wiped the wetness from her face. “I promise never to hold back how I feel ever again. I will tell you every minute of every day to make up for what I put you through. You’ll be sick of me by the end of the week.”

Her laugh was shaky, but it was a start—a fresh beginning for us.

Hannah’s eyes searched mine, and as the silence stretched between us, I began to sweat as doubts raced through my mind.

Why wasn’t she saying anything?

What if I’d read this situation all wrong? What if she didn’t want me back?

What if the damage was too deep?

Those brilliant blue eyes widened. “Okay. I’m waiting . . .”

Lord, this woman.

A chuckle rumbled through my chest. “Now?”

Hannah’s signature sarcasm was back in full force. “No. Not now. Wouldn’t want to force you into anything. Maybe I can call up my dad, and you can tell him again while I listen in.”

She might drive me insane, but boy, did I love her. “That mouth of yours gets you into all kinds of trouble.”

Tossing me a wink, she retorted, “Only the best kind.”

We could go around and around all day, but there would be time for that later. Right now, I needed to tell this incredible woman what she meant to me so she would never have cause to doubt it again.

Pulling her onto my lap so that she straddled me, I stared down at her. How I’d kept myself in check all those years was beyond me. She was my equal, my partner, and I had wasted too damn long telling myself she wasn’t for me.

The perfect woman had been there, right in front of me, all along. “Hannah, I love you. I love you so much that it killed me to push you

away. Instead of comforting you, I shattered your heart. I will never forgive myself for putting you through that. But I hope I can show you every day just how sorry I am. There never has been and never will be another woman I love. You’re it for me.”

After an audible swallow, Hannah took a shaky breath before speaking. “I didn’t know what love was. I thought it was the mushy romantic stuff you saw in movies. It took some very wise women beating some sense into me to realize that real love is more subtle. It’s not always grand gestures; it’s in the little things. They weren’t hard to find once I knew what I was looking for.

“And then I got scared. What if I was reading the signs wrong? What if I told you that I loved you and you bolted? Relationships were so new for both of us that I convinced myself you were as clueless about love as I was. I talked myself out of telling you more times than I can count. I didn’t want to lose you. Silly me, I didn’t know I would lose you anyway.

“That’s when I knew for sure I was in love with you. It hurt to breathe when you were gone. There was this giant hole in my heart, and nothing could fix it. You make me whole.”

Her lips dropped to mine, and she said softly, “I love you, Cal.”

Squeezing my eyes shut, I let her kiss me, allowing her to lead. I’d caused her so much pain, but she hadn’t stopped loving me. I didn’t deserve her, but I was a selfish bastard and didn’t care. If she wanted me, who was I to say no?

She pulled back, and I murmured against her lips, “I love you so much, Hannah.”

“Wouldn’t kill you to say it every once in a while,” she teased.

Giving her ass a pinch, she squealed, and I laughed, feeling freer than I had in months.

“Now that that’s settled, where are we moving?” I asked.

Raising an eyebrow, her sass made an appearance. “We? Isn’t that a little presumptuous?”

Moving my hands soothingly up and down her back, I replied, “I meant what I said. I’m never letting you go again. So, the way I see it, you’ve followed me around like a lovesick puppy this past year, and it’s time I repaid the favor.”

Mock indignation filled her face, and she threw a hand to her chest. “I’ve been a lovesick puppy? I think you have that mixed up. You were the one who’d had his eye on me for years and never said a word.”

“You have such an active imagination.” I bopped her on the nose.

“You really are a piece of work, you know that?” Hannah accused, shaking her head.

“Yeah, but you love me.”

Looking skyward, she breathed out, “Only God knows why.” “I’ll ask again. Where are we moving?”

Peering down at me, color filled her cheeks as she shyly replied, “Nashville?”

My brows rose high on my forehead. “Nashville? And why don’t you sound more certain?”

Hannah blew out a breath. “Because I was running away. Memories of you were everywhere in Hartford. I couldn’t escape you, even when you weren’t around. I couldn’t keep my apartment. The idea of running into you in the elevator had me taking the stairs.”

Running a hand up her leg, I mused, “Is that why these bad boys are so toned? At least some good came out of it. You look hot as fuck.”

Shoving me in the shoulder, she rolled her pretty blue eyes. “I guess what I’m trying to say is that if I don’t have a reason to run anymore, maybe I


“Why Nashville?” I prodded.

Hannah avoided my gaze before answering, “I thought maybe I could try my hand at a singing career. The person I cared about most in this world rejected me, and I survived—barely—so I figured anyone else telling me I wasn’t good enough couldn’t hurt nearly that bad.”

Burying my head in her chest, I groaned. “I don’t know how to feel about that. On the one hand, I’m glad you’re finally ready to share your talent with the world, but on the other, I’m devastated that I had to break your heart for you to chase your dreams.”

“I don’t care about any of that so long as I have you.” Hannah ran her hands through my hair, gripping until she pulled my head back enough to look me in the eye. “Although I do have to tell you, I’m homeless and jobless, so I’m not quite the catch I was a few months ago.”

There was a twinkle in her eyes, and I silently vowed to work day and night to keep it there.

“Jobless, you say?” I teased. “I’ve got a job you can do.” I gripped her hips and ground her ass down on my growing erection.

“Think of how disappointed my father will be when he learns I’ve resorted to prostitution. Just to keep a roof over my head.”

“Who said we have to tell him? It can be our little secret.” My voice grew husky with the thought of our bodies reconnecting after the time spent apart.

Twisting her lips, she hummed. “I am highly qualified.” “Hell yeah, you are.” I leaned in to nip her neck.

She moaned, shifting on my lap. “Tempting, Mr. Berg. But what else have you got?”

Licking a path up the column of her neck to tug an earlobe between my teeth, I offered, “How about we trade Nashville for LA?”

Shocked, she pulled back, eyes wide. “LA?” “Holden sent me your demo.”

Hannah’s sharp inhale betrayed her nerves. “And?” she asked cautiously. “I might be biased, but he said you had star quality. If you’re serious

about pursuing music, he could help.”

“And if I don’t?” Her eyes searched mine.

“Then I will support you in any way that you need. Wherever you go, I go. My career might be over, but you’re just finding your path. I can’t wait

to see where it takes you.”

Eyeing me, she tentatively asked, “If I want to go home, would that be okay?”

I smiled. “Of course. You know . . . if there’s any way you can cancel your resignations, I may have been offered a job on the local Comets broadcast. I was going to turn it down, but I can think of nothing better than going back on the road with you. Even if I’m not the one on the ice.”

“Really?” Hannah’s face lit up. “Really,” I confirmed.

“Yes!” She squealed, hugging me around the neck.

Laughing, I countered, “You do know that involves moving in with me since you’re homeless and all. Might want to take a second to make sure that’s what you really want.”

“Sometimes, it’s better when you shut up and look pretty,” Hannah taunted in my ear.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Our mouths met, our joy overflowing. As long as we had each other, we had everything we needed.

Zoe was right. Hannah was worth fighting for, and I would spend the rest of my life fighting for us. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. There would almost certainly be days when we would want to tear each other’s heads off, but we’d make it through to the other side.

I would never give up on her—on us—again.

You'll Also Like