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Slap Shot(2)

By:Lily Harlem

I would have to make a point of avoiding Rick Lewis later. Despite his cheesy pick-up lines, he was dangerous. A man who could make my flesh sizzle with just a few words and a cheeky gaze was definitely not good for continuing my two years of sexual abstinence.

The reception ran like clockwork. Country-and-western star Mae was stunning in a voluminous ball-gown-style wedding dress, which suited the fairytale hotel she’d invited her two hundred guests to. She was aglow with happiness and the smile never once left her face. Not even when the best man made a comment about Wolf’s past conquests and the top tier of the chocolate cake wobbled dangerously when a child dressed as one of the seven dwarves charged into it. Dopey, I think.

I stared out the floor-to-ceiling window. Dusk was rapidly turning to night. I was relieved to see that the herd of unicorns grazing on the lawn had all managed to keep their horns attached. It had taken a considerable number of calls to get eight white Andalusians transported in and even more anxious calls from my assistant, Maddie, trying to get long, silver polystyrene horns made for their white head collars. The men on stilts juggling fire at the drawbridge entrance had been easier to organize but the glass pumpkin-shaped carriage had been considerably trickier.

Still, I couldn’t complain. Best Laid Plans was being paid handsomely for the event, and in turn so was I. Soon I would own my house outright, something I never thought would happen in my life. Just went to show that, along with a ton of hard work, planning parties for the rich and famous could be very lucrative.

I still surprised myself sometimes when I sat back and looked at what I’d achieved. I’d grown up with a drunken father and a mother who liked a few hits of dope by three in the afternoon, every afternoon. As soon as I could, I’d left home, got an honest job for all of three weeks, then, just when my only option was sleeping rough, I was offered more money per hour dancing than I could earn in a week at the mall. I knew it wasn’t what I would do forever, but it had paid my way and given me something to focus on.

Trouble was, I’d become more and more entrenched in the seedy nocturnal world. To my horror, each day I was becoming more and more like my parents—until, that is, my wake-up call. A wake-up call that had been swift and final and changed my life.

My thoughts came back to the wedding and right on time the music switched from one of Mae’s rockier hit records to one of her slow ballads. In a deep, bellowing voice, the DJ announced the first dance.

I moved to the end of the long mahogany bar draped with orange and cream flowers and found a spot tucked out of the way of guests.

“Here,” Jay, the head barman said. “You look like you could use a drink.” He slid a tall glass my way, the orange contents fizzing invitingly.

“Thanks,” I said, perching on a stool and sipping the wonderfully peachy concoction.

“It’s a Fizzy Fuzzy Navel.” He grinned, spinning an empty glass into the air and catching it behind his back. “If you like it I’ll make you a hairy one later.”

I laughed and turned to watch Mae and Wolf take to the flickering shadows of the dance floor. Jay had been easy to work with during the planning of the wedding. He was flirty and full of laughs but he was way too young. If I’d been on the lookout for a man in my life that was, which I definitely wasn’t. That plan was several years away, and even then he would have to be Mr. Absolutely Spot-on Perfect.

A movement in the shadows of the curtains caught my eye. Out of the fading light stepped the captain of the Orlando Vipers.

I snatched in my breath and wondered how long he’d been standing there, so very near to where I’d been staring out at the grounds. Close—but silent.

He banged his bottle of beer on the bar next to my Fizzy Fuzzy Navel. “Hi, Dana,” he said, his wide shoulders and considerable height looming at my side.

“What, no cheesy pick-up line this time?” I asked, hooking my left heel on the brass rung at the base of my barstool and crossing my legs.

His eyes swept over me for the briefest of moments. “I’ve exhausted all my best lines on you and they didn’t get me anywhere.” He shrugged and one side of his mouth tugged upward. “I give up.”

“Really, that easily? I don’t believe it.”

His eyes narrowed and small creases shot toward his temples. “Nah, just lulling you into a false sense of security.”

“Oh, I see.” I took another sip of my drink. “And what if I told you I’m just not interested, no matter what line you use.”

“You’re not interested in men?” He shoved his hip against the bar and folded his arms. “You don’t strike me as a girl’s girl.”