“I didn’t know you were going to psychoanalyze me.”
She shrugs easily. “It’s what friends do. And friends also remind friends to have some fun. After all, how many times is a hot, bighearted American hockey player going to show up here? One who, by all accounts, is insanely into you. The choice is easy as pie. No strings, no attachments.”
She tosses a towel over her shoulder and leaves me to my thoughts. I push the mop around some more, running the possibility over in my mind. Sure, losing the bet nicks my pride, but more than anything, I need to stay focused because this bar—my business, the thing I’ve most wanted to do since uni—is my dream. Something of my own. Something I’m in charge of.
And dating can be distracting.
But if he’s only here for a few days? He can’t be distracting, because he can’t be anything more than a fling.
I finish mopping, put the bucket away, and return to the counter, where Maeve is nearly done polishing the glasses. I pull out my phone and open my playlist. “Fancy a martini and some excellent music?”
“Always. But you make them—both the playlist and the drinks. Yours are legendary on both counts.”
“That is true. I am the martini master and the greatest deejay this bar has ever known.”
I put on some Miles Davis, since that’s what I like in the bar, and mix some drinks. Then, I click open my texting app, deciding to add a little spice to tomorrow’s tea.
Later that night, I’m alone in my hotel room after I’ve worked out, showered, and had dinner with Emma. I slide into bed wearing nothing and grab my phone, tempted to text him.
But I don’t. Instead, I turn to a podcast I’ve been hooked on, Someone Knows Something, catching up with some of my friends in New York as I listen.
First, I see a text from my friend Summer, who just opened a gym catering to the over-fifty-five crowd. I click on it, smiling at the picture she sent of some of her clients kickboxing, then read a message telling me she might just enlist me to teach them hockey next. I reply.
Fitz: I’ll teach them to fight on the ice too.
I toggle over to a text from her twin brother, Logan, one of my good buds.
Logan: Some people are counting down till training camp. I am counting down till paintball league.
Fitz: That is because you know you have a secret weapon with me on your team.
Logan: Shh. Don’t tell anyone. Also, Amelia says hi, and she wants a picture of you on London Bridge to make sure it’s not falling down. Guess she likes you. Don’t have any idea why.
Fitz: Because your seven-year-old has awesome taste. And I promise to get her a pic. Love that kid.
I close the thread, messaging next with Ransom, one of my close friends from the team.
Ransom: T-minus six days. NOT THAT I’M COUNTING THE DAYS till training camp starts.
Fitz: But is it counting that you’re doing, man?
Ransom: Counting the babes.
Fitz: I’d expect nothing less from you.
Ransom: I’m heading to a club tonight in Soho. Wish me luck. Wait, I don’t need luck.
Fitz: Good luck, you ugly bastard.
Ransom: The ladies love this mug.
Fitz: Some people have no taste. Anyway, be ready to kick unholy ass on the ice in T-minus six days.
Ransom: Nothing less, bro. Nothing motherfucking less.
I send him an emoji of a middle finger, and he sends five back to me, when lo and behold, a text arrives from Dean. I close the Ransom thread, since this one is way better than chatting with my friends.
Dean: English breakfast is a strong, robust flavor. Earl Grey is subtler.
There might be a hidden message in there. I reply, going fishing.
Fitz: Got a favorite between the two?
Dean: Generally, I prefer a strong tea.
Yeah, I had a feeling he might say that. Or maybe a hope, because I know I can come on strong. But that’s who I am.
Fitz: Good to know. That’s very good to know.
Dean: I thought you might find that intel useful. As a primer, if you know what I mean.
Fitz: I do know what you mean, and I do find that tip very, very useful.
Dean: Good. I’m glad to hear that it’s handy.
Fitz: So handy. Also, in case you’re wondering, I’m still thinking about the way you mauled my face this afternoon.
Dean: Of course you’re thinking about that.
Fitz: No doubt you are too.
Dean: It’s possible.
Fitz: You like to toy with me.
Dean: You like when I do it.
Fitz: Evidently I do. It was hot as hell how you went after what you wanted today.
Dean: I had a feeling you might have enjoyed it. But rest assured you weren’t the only one.
Fitz: Ah, so you’re saying the feeling was mutual?
Dean: The feeling was very much mutual. And I also very much liked what I felt.