The Fury finished their first season, taking second behind the Chicago Storm. Tess wasn’t surprised. Khadezia Jones was a one woman scoring machine. A new championship Cup series was being planned for next season along with a women’s All Star game. The networks were already fighting with each other on who would have exclusive rights to the tournaments. The women’s Cup had yet to be named but it was looking like the favorite was the Legacy Cup. The top three names were presented to the directors and a decision would be handed down in a few weeks.
Apollo was sprawled out on the couch with the Clifton boys, one on each side watching hockey videos. The Fury were done for the season but the Sounders were on their way to another Stanley Cup championship. The next team to face was the New Jersey Natives and Apollo’s eldest brother Darius.
“Dang ya boy still weak on that left side, bro,” Jake said. Jake was right. Darius still left a small opening on his left side but one had to be quick to take advantage of it.
“Oh yeah?” Apollo chuckled. He was enjoying hanging out with the youngsters. With his busy schedule, it had been hard to catch time to spend with them. He always made a daily call just to check in and he knew Jake texted Tess. A lot. Little player was still trying to zone in on his territory. Since their relationship with the Clifton boys started, Jordan’s grades were near perfect and Jake was a lot less combative at school. His grades were much better too and they seemed to be a lot happier.
Their happiness could have something to do with the fact that Apollo had finally convinced Jasper to go into business with him. Apollo fronted the money while Jasper provided the labor. Clifton Carvings was now off to a stellar start. Lolita designed an amazing website while Celia kept up with the paper trail. Everything was legal and binding. All Apollo had asked for was a small share in the profits after the first five years. What Jasper didn’t know was that small share would be set aside for Jordan and Jake’s future.
Now that Jasper was no longer working all hours of the day and night and doing what he loved, his whole demeanor changed. The stress lines around his eyes and mouth were gone as were the heavy bags under his eyes. He seemed to stand taller and carried himself with a bit more pride. The business was doing well, just as Apollo had predicted. When the photos of the incredible crib Jasper built for one of the player’s who was expecting his first baby surfaced on the website, they went viral. It shocked Jasper the amount of traffic those few pictures garnered, not to mention the flood of requests for custom built furniture.
Tess couldn’t be prouder of Apollo. His generous nature poured out of him like a waterfall, spilling over to the Clifton family. Watching him interact with the boys tweaked at her heart in hidden places. It also tweaked at her ovaries. She could easily imagine their home filled with laughing dark haired blue eyed little boys with their father’s winning smile. It was one of her favorite fantasies, the ones of her future with Apollo. Strolling into the living room, she passed out the popcorn and sodas, settling herself next to Jake.
“Darius still struggling in the defensive zone?” Apollo nodded.
“Yeah he’s gotten a lot better over the years but it’s still his weak spot. That and the tiny opening he still leaves on the left side. You have to be super fast to take advantage of that opening though but it can be done. He’s more a playmaker than a shooter anyway. He loves to show off.” Giggling, Tess agreed.
“I haven’t met a Dakiedes yet who doesn’t like to show off, babe.” Apollo pinched her ear with a grin.
“True. We all learned from the best though. Pop still is a huge show off.”
“Hey I heard that!” Damon’s voice boomed from the hallway. He strode into the living room with bags of snacks and made himself at home. “How’s it going, fellas?” he asked the boys.
“Amazeballs, Mr. Dakiedes!” Jordan exclaimed.
“You getting straight A’s this semester?” Damon leveled his gaze at Jake.
“Yes sir!” they both responded in unison.
“Good! Remember what I said I’d do for report cards with straight A’s.” The boys nodded solemnly.
“Oh we won’t let you forget, Mr. D,” Jake said seriously. Damon laughed as he stretched out his long legs in the armchair, making himself comfortable.
“I’m a man of my word, boys,” he said, winking. “We still watching Darius?”
“Yeah but I’d rather watch you. My dad says there was no player like the Destroyer!” Damon laughed and ruffled Jake’s hair. They all sat back, watching more videos of the Natives players. The boys picked out weaknesses and talked about how to take advantage of them. They didn’t realize this was all part of playing hockey too. Learning your opponents’ strengths and weakness could prove to be the difference between a win or a loss.
“You gonna come watch our next game, Mr. D?” Jordan asked as he stuffed popcorn in his mouth like a shovel.
“Wouldn’t miss it, my man,” Damon said. “I think most of the Sounders plan to be there to cheer you on. It’s right before their game against the Natives.”
“Pop were you able to get the tickets I asked for? I want the whole section just for the Predators.” Jordan and Jake looked at each other with wide eyes and slack jaws. “Gotta take care of the next generation of Sounders, you know.”
“Yep got everything all taken care of, son. I’m anxious to see you Clifton boys in action. Your dad tells me you both got talent. I’ll be watching to see for myself.”
“Y-you really think we could be pro??” Jake was flabbergasted. Damon shrugged before popping a Junior Mint into his mouth.
“We will see in two days, won’t we?” He leaned forward, propping his elbows on his knees. “Now I don’t want you two trying to be hot shots out there, thinking you need to impress me. I want your focus on the game and on your team. There’s more to making a great hockey player than the ability to score a goal. Coaches want to see how well you work in a team setting as well as your skill. They don’t want some smug punk rolling up, thinking they own the place because they can whack a puck into a net. Being a great hockey player means putting yourself aside and doing what it takes for the team. You understand?”
“Yes sir,” they answered.
“Good! Now give me the rundown on your competition. Ready? Go!” The next half hour was spent with Jordan and Jake animatedly relaying the stats on their opponents. They would be going up against the Brownstown Brawlers, the current top team in the youth league. If they beat the Brawlers, the Predators would take the championship. Damon gave them his full attention. Apollo had moved next to Tess, gathering her in his lap.
“Just think when it’s our boys, babe,” he whispered in her ear.
“What if it’s our girls?” she giggled, chewing her bottom lip. The whole scene flashed behind her eyes of Apollo sitting where Damon was, doing the same thing with their sons or daughters as Damon was doing with Jordan and Jake.
“Well then they’ll be the fiercest players on the ice, just like their mother.” He nuzzled her neck, wrapping her in a warm embrace. “I think about that a lot, Tess. You and me, our kids. Our life together.” A breath caught in her throat. She looked at him shyly.
“I do too, Pollo. I think about it all the time. Probably more than I should.” She was getting nervous. They had never really talked about their future together, having just fell into a routine being a couple. Sighing, he rested his forehead against hers.
“I love you, baby girl. I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to do all the sappy couple-y stuff with you, raise kids with you, grow old with you.” He lovingly tucked a stray lock of hair behind her ear. “I can’t imagine not being with you. I want to wake up to you and go to sleep next to you every day for the rest of my life.” Tess could feel the burn of tears in the back of her eyes. She wanted those things too.
“I want that too,” she murmured. “All of it. I’ve never wanted that with anyone else but you.” They continued to stare into each other’s eyes, volumes being spoken in the silence between them. They had forgotten about everyone else and everything else. The world was narrowed down to just the two of them.
“Ahem!” Jake cleared his throat noisily. Laughing, the couple broke out of their trance. “There will be no lovey dovey in my presence with my woman.” Apollo let loose a loud bark of laughter.
“Sorry buddy but she’s all mine.”