Obscene Gestures

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Chapter 9

A: Meet me at the arena. 9am sharp. 😉

A: No joke. I’m dead serious.

A: Get your gorgeous ass out of bed.

A: And don’t forget your gear.

“Don’t forget my gear?” Tess scratched her head, thoroughly confused. “Dude, it’s Sunday. Why I gotta be anywhere at nine in the morning?” she grumbled all the way to the shower. “Stupid man make me get up early on a Sunday.” Why was she up so early on a Sunday? She’d slept pretty good considering the events of last night. She wasn’t hung over. As she lathered up her hair, she wondered why she was getting ready to meet Apollo in the first place. Sighing, she knew the answer to that. He’d said arena and gear. That’s why.

Slamming a cup of strong coffee and shoving a banana in her face, she headed out the door. She stowed her gear in the trunk and took off toward DeVole Arena. Whatever his motivation was for having her come to the arena, she didn’t care. She was looking forward to strapping on her skates and spending time doing something she loved…and sorely missed. Playing hockey. Her dad had her in skates by the time she was four years old with a stick in her hand, teaching her to love the game he loved. It worked, much to her mother’s chagrin. But, Tess was girly enough to satisfy her mom and badass enough on the ice to make her dad proud.

A sticky note on the arena door told her to head to the locker room and get suited up. She followed the short instructions and obeyed to the letter. She couldn’t help the big ass grin on her face as she laced up her skates. She sat back on the bench and inhaled the scent of sweat and dirty uniforms and testosterone. God, she’d missed this! Grabbing her mask and her stick she headed out to the ice. Tucking the mask on her head, she closed her eyes as the blades of her skates glided across the fresh ice. She took a couple laps around to get the feel of it under her feet after so long.

Apollo watched her from the wings for a bit before he made his presence known. Tess could feel him before he ever spoke. Opening her eyes, she smiled and twirled her stick in her hands. Returning her smile, he warmed up with her, joining her on the skate around. “Been too long for you, Tess,” he said. “You were born with hockey in your blood.”

“God, this feels so good!” she giggled. “I can’t believe I let myself go so long without feeling the rush of the ice under my skates. Makes me wonder why I quit.” Then she remembered. “Right. My dad died on me. He left and took the love of the game with him. I haven’t been on the ice since college.” Apollo twisted in front of her, skating backwards.

“You gave up going to the Olympics when he passed.” She nodded slowly, her shoulders slumping slightly.

“I did. It was too close to his death and I couldn’t bring myself to suit up without him.” Apollo reached up and wiped a tear she didn’t know she had shed from her cheek.

“He would be so proud of you, you know that right? You are a bonafide badass no matter what you do, baby girl. You are strong, capable, tenacious and drop dead gorgeous.” He smiled at her, making her knees weak. Damn it. “Do you know why I dragged you here today?” Tess shook her head, unable to break eye contact. “Because hockey still flows deep in your veins, ángelos. It’s time to get the love flowing again.” With a wink and a quick kiss on her cheek, he motioned her over to the net. Tess complied, taking her place. Snapping her mask in place, she dropped into a defensive stance.

“Bring it on, bad boy,” she growled. Apollo laughed and took a few shots toward her to test where she was at skills wise. She caught them easily, albeit a bit slower than he remembered.

“Damn woman it has been a long time. You are slower than Yia Yia when she’s shopping.”

“Shut the hell up, Pollo and let’s play some fucking hockey!”

“That’s my girl!” With that, he dropped the puck and shot it toward her. She dropped into a butterfly and caught it easily. He hit them hard at her for about an hour, watching her speed and agility pick up. Now it was almost as if she’d never left the game. Stopping for a break, she shoved up her mask and roared. Apollo threw his head back and laughed loudly. “I knew you still loved the hell out of this game, girl!” She was smiling so wide her cheeks would be sore. He skated over to the box and pulled out a bag of pucks. Tess’s eyes lit up like a kid at Christmas.

“Aw hell yeah! Let’s do it! 20/20 baby!” Tess was so focused on Apollo she didn’t notice anyone else had entered the arena. Standing at the players’ entrance was half the Sounders team, including Marcus and Damon. She only had eyes for the man laying out the pucks in front of her. As the last puck hit the ice, Apollo fired one right after the other. Tess slipped into her zone and blocked out everything but the small black piece of plastic headed her direction. She managed to get thirteen. She lobbed them all back to Apollo, yelling “Again! Again!” He obliged and set up again. No one made a sound as they watched. The second round she got eighteen.

“You want to take a break, Tess?”

“Fuck no! Line ’em up!” He lined them up again and started the drill for the third time. This time, she was a blur of red braids and gloves as she caught or deflected every single one of them. When the twentieth puck landed in her glove, she threw her stick down, her mask off and roared. “HELL YEAH!!!” Apollo laughed and scooped her up in his arms.

“HELL YEAH!” he roared with her. “Still a fucking badass, babe!” Before he realized what he was doing, he’d captured her mouth with his in a crushing passionate kiss. The crowd that had gathered joined them in cheers and wolf whistles. “Oh fuck, Tess! I’m so sorry! I got carried away.” He set her down and pulled away from her. “I promise that wasn’t part of my plan.” Tess was dizzy from the kiss and breathless from the force of it. Shaking her head, she pulled herself together.

“It’s ok, I get it. It’s easy to get carried away when your full of adrenaline. No harm, no foul right?” She finally registered the noise around her. Her mouth popped open as she looked at the crowd. “Holy shit!! When did you guys get here?” Meda skated out and crushed her in a bear hug.

“Fuck me sideways, girl you still got it! Like a motherfucking BLUR!” She picked Tess up and swung her around, making Tess laugh. She hugged Meda back, blinking back tears that were trying to form in her eyes. Looking over her friend’s shoulder, she smiled softly at Apollo. She mouthed a ‘thank you’. He gave her a sweet smile and a wink with a nod of his head. Damon was next on the congratulations train as he hugged his favorite redhead.

“Tess, honey Yadkin is smiling from ear to ear right now. He would be so proud of you.” Tess sniffed and hugged the big man again. “Fancy a game with an old man?” She laughed and wiped her eyes.

“Old? You? You could still wipe the ice with the lot of us, Mr. D!” she giggled. “In other words, let’s play!” The other players took to the ice and before long a friendly game was being played. There was a lot of high sticking, unnecessary roughness and flat out fun going on. It was the most fun Tess had had in a long time. She would forever be grateful to Apollo for dragging her out today.

Apollo was right. She was born with hockey in her blood and the love had never really left her. She could almost hear her dad shouting from the stands again and for once, her chest didn’t swell with crushing sadness. This game was more cathartic than she’d expected. She worked out a lot of her grief that afternoon and opened herself up to feel the thrill of the game once again.

“So Tess,” Damon smiled as he draped an arm over her sweat soaked shoulders. “How do you feel about playing professionally?” What. The. Fuck???

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