I'm so glad so many other people love Mike too! Even while hating the Caps. And his ridiculously cute sad puppy face on HBO's 24/7! I want to hug him to pieces. From today's reaction video:
“Hey,” Mike said.
Halley looked up from her desk. It was cubicle city in the Verizon Center and the entire front office could see him standing there. He wore a black button down shirt, open at the throat and rolled up over his muscular forearm, which was in full flex resting atop her cubicle wall.
Of course he would come here. March right in, in front of everyone, doing me the honor of visiting for all to see. Still, getting dressed that morning had been a chore – just in case. Their dinner the day before had been pure coincidence and she didn’t believe in that happening twice. She wore a very cute black dress with eyelet detail along the v-neck.
“Busy later? I want to see that new Ben Affleck movie.”
Halley couldn’t help it - she blushed. All the work around her had gone silent – it was like a crypt in her section of the office as her colleagues eavesdropped. She’d never hear the end of this. Mike clearly enjoyed making her squirm and in some twisted, masochistic way that impressed her. He knew what he was doing. He’d worked hard to stifle his swagger, but this was an exception. He wanted to flatter her and make her feel special. He wanted to charm her. From the crimson creeping up her cheeks he knew it was working.
“Okay,” she said, doing an inner eye roll.
“Dinner first. I’ll pick you up here at 6.” He gave her a wink, extra-cheesy to make her laugh.
The minute he was out of earshot, five heads popped up around her like groundhogs. “Did Mike Green just ask you out?” Jeremy asked.
“And not for the first time, obviously,” Fran said.
Her boss came out of his office. “Does he let you drive his Lamborghini?”
At 5:45, Halley checked her makeup in the bathroom mirror. Thank God I wore this. She smoothed her dress, switched to some high heels she’d had in her backseat and finger-combed her hair. Half the office wanted to follow her to the parking lot, but she waved them off with a sassy remark. When she opened the door to the players’ parking area, Mike was already there.
“What, no Lamborghini? You hated my singing that much?”
Mike opened the passenger door on his black SUV. “I don’t park that car at the mall.”
They ate at a place next to the shopping center. Mike was impressed by the way Halley polished off her burger – this was definitely not the type of girl he was used to. Those girls would’ve ordered lobster, barely touched it and spent the night trying to talk him out of his credit card. She even ate her fries and drank a beer. When they got to the movie, he offered to get popcorn.
“Call me fat again and I’ll ruin the ice all season,” she threatened.
The movie was solid action. Mike got a kick out of Halley’s reactions – when the hero killed a guy in a particularly tense scene, she said, “Yes!” under her breath. She laughed out loud at the ridiculous action movie clichés. MIke was working up the nerve to put his hand on her leg and just as he did it, the obligatory sex scene came on.
“Perv,” she whispered without turning from the screen. His hand stayed, warm through the fabric of her skirt.
Halley resisted the urge to touch him in the dark. Let him do the work, she reminded herself. She was pretty sure Mike got what he wanted, when he wanted it from just about any woman he encountered. Most of them were probably puckbunnies but that just meant his success rate was extremely high. She wasn’t about to join the ranks of easy marks, even if she did feel a little pull toward his wide, fit body.
Mike suggested a drink after the movie. Halley took him to a place she knew nearby, a dive bar with free peanuts where they took beers to a booth near the pool table. Halley sat on one side and Mike went for it – sliding right in next to her.
“Hi,” she said then quickly looked away. He knew just when to turn it on and just how much to give. It was almost an art. She could tell he was working hard at it, and she appreciated the effort. Even if it had him pressed into her, well inside her comfort zone. She’d successfully made it through the movie, fighting her growing impulse to touch him. Now there was nothing she could do about it.
He’d felt like a 16-year old on a first date through the whole movie. He wanted to put his arm around her, touch her, lift the armrest and pull her into his lap. He’d been half-watching the movie, trying to decide if he should go for it. Then when he finally touched her, it was just as the nudity began. Awkward, he thought. Now he was next to her in close quarters with a drink in hand. There was only one way this would end.
“Hi,” he replied. Just a little longer, hold out.
“You caused quite a stir in the office today.”
“Did I?” He made no effort to hide his shit-eating grin.
“Let’s make a bet,” she suggested. “I want to bet that I have guessed something about you. If I’m right, I win and if I’m wrong, you win.”
“What do I win?”
“What do you want?”
Jackpot. “If I win, you come home with me tonight.” His move was timed, but he still watched her face carefully. Mike didn’t want to let arrogance get the best of him, though it had always been the strongest weapon in his arsenal. He just knew that with Halley, it could easily backfire.
Her expression dimmed a bit. There it is – put out or get out. I knew it. She wanted to slap her hand on the tabletop. Mike saw the little flash in her eyes and knew he’d taken it too far.
“If you win, I’ll let you drive my Lamborghini.” He was as surprised as she was when he said it. People always asked and he always said no. But if Halley thought it was comparable to spending the night together….
“You think driving your car is better than sex?” she asked.
Shut up, Halley! She’d already tacitly agreed that there was at least a prospect of going home with him. He assumed it would end in sex, but she could still turn the tables. Well, not anymore. Smart mouth getting me in trouble again. Now I really have to win this bet.
“No. But I do think I’m going to win,” Mike said. If she crashed his ride, he could probably guilt her into sex afterward. After she stopped making GEICO insurance jokes. “What is it you think you know?”
Halley took a deep breath. Last chance to back out. But she was pretty sure she had this bet locked up, that she was right about her gut feeling. “I bet that somewhere along the line, someone told you they didn’t like your smile. Or it wasn’t manly or something. Someone said you shouldn’t smile.”
His mouth fell open. What the hell? His first year in the League, he’d been a little fat, a little awkward and way too excited. There was money and media and there were women. Women everywhere. Anxious to get into all aspects of the game, Mike had been an easy target. He’d gone home with practically the first woman who hit on him, she was older and it was right after his first pro game. He hardly remembered the sex, but she’d taken to giving him advice about playing in the majors.
“Don’t smile too much. Goofy face like yours, no one will take you seriously.”
That had always stuck with him, and his non-smile had become a habit. He’d learned the next day that woman was a notorious puckbunny who’d been with at least half the guys on the team. No wonder she had so many tips, he thought.
“How could you possibly know that?”
“I was watching some of your interviews online and I could tell. You get this little curl to your mouth, like 10 percent of a smile, then you stop. You bite your lips or move your tongue around to stop yourself. But the smile is there, flickering just a little.” Halley hoped she hadn’t insulted him or offended by pointing out a nervous tick.
“Someone once told me it looked goofy, and no one would take me seriously,” he admitted. Before he could concede the bet, she was talking.
“Whoever said that was stupid. Your smile is gorgeous,” she said honestly.
Mike ducked his head, genuinely embarrassed. His face felt hot. Halley giggled. Their bodies touched all along their sides – it was warm in the bar, warmer still between them. When his blush passed, Mike lifted his head. The smiles faded and the moment changed as he touched his lips to hers.
The nerve! her brain yelled, but Halley was busy with the zing of exclamation points lighting up her spine. Mike’s mouth was soft and cool against hers. She held her ground, not pushing him away but not really giving into the kiss either, not taking it any further. It was brief, maybe ten seconds, but when he pulled away she knew she was in trouble.
“You won the bet,” he said. “Damn.”
“Better luck next time.”
Mike couldn’t have said later what they’d talked about. He knew they laughed a lot, but his was nervous laughter. He’d gotten in a kiss. Probably went too far, he thought. He wanted another but the right moment never seemed to present itself – she was boxing him out. Before he knew it, they’d finished a second round and Halley was ready to go home.
“Your home or mine?” he tried hopefully.
“I won the bet! But I will take a rain check on driving your car. I want to do it in the daylight.”
“If I’d won, would you really come home with me?”
Halley tilted her head. “You will never know.”
Whew. Bullet dodged, she told herself. Her body wanted to let Mike take her home and the butterflies in her stomach agreed. Her lips burned where he’d kissed. But that was too easy, and if Mike had already come back a second time then easy wasn’t what he was after. She directed Mike to her apartment, a nice building on the outskirts of downtown. He stopped in the loading zone out front and put the car into park. He didn’t say anything, just reached into her hair and pulled her into a kiss. This time he wanted a real one, one that involved at least Halley’s mouth admitting she was interested, even if her voice wouldn’t. She tried not to, tried to stop herself, but she got all fuzzy, brain saying one thing and stomach saying another, and she panicked. She parted her lips and that was it – a real kiss. A minute later, she broke away with her heart racing.
“No cheating,” she said.
“When’s the next game?” he gave her the full wattage of the smile she was coming to know.
4 years ago