May 2, 2010

Chapter 1

“Slow down, girlie.”

Maddie flinched slightly as she heard the voice over her headphones. She flicked her eyes to the side, and a dark-haired guy was smiling back at her. She put one hand on the handlebar of the elliptical runner, and used her other hand to tug out her earphones. She didn’t slow down.

“I’m not going that fast,” Maddie said. “It’s an illusion.”

His looked at the digital display screen. “You’ve been running for half an hour.”

Maddie punched one of the buttons, bringing up her total distance. “And I’ve only gone 3.5 miles. I wouldn’t call an 8-and-a-half minute mile that fast.” She slowed down. “But it looks speedy on the machine.”

The guy was wearing a t-shirt and shorts with fancy-looking cross trainers. He was carrying a towel, and had clearly been working out.

“I was doing weights, and I challenged myself to lift for as long as you ran. Had to get you to stop or I’d die.”

“Lucky for you, being finished is my favorite part.” Maddie wiped her face and climbed off the machine. She came level with him, and just as she noticed that his shirt had a small emblem on the sleeve…

“I’m Kris,” he said.

WHOA, said Maddie’s brain, but she managed to bite it back after a second. He had his hand out. “I’m Maddie,” she waved instead, “and I’m very sweaty.”

Kris took her hand anyway and looked her right in the eye. “No worries,” he said, “me too.”

When he let go, Maddie took the moment to prop her shoe on the back of the machine and pretend to fix her laces. Kris Letang, her brain was saying, followed by a high-pitched squealing noise she was pretty sure only she could hear. Hopefully.

“What brings you to Las Vegas?” he asked.

The billion-to-one possibility of something like this happening! she wanted to shout. Instead, she said, “Girls getaway. I’m here with some friends for a few days.” Before she could stop herself from over-explaining, she added, “It’s so cheap midweek, and so hot in June, we thought we’d spend a few days by the pool.”

“And a few nights tearing up the town?” Kris added.

She laughed. “We just got here, so we’ll have to see what tonight brings.”

They started walking across the hotel gym, passing a long wall of mirrors. Maddie snuck a look at herself. Ohlordabove. Of course I am a beet red mess! She casually tried to readjust her curly brown hair in its ponytail, but one touch told her it was a Red Cross-style disaster. Kris stepped through the door ahead of her and held it open.

He asked, “What made you choose the Palms Hotel?”

Come on out with it. Less awkward now than later. “We were hoping that staying here might get us a line on tickets to the NHL Awards Show tomorrow.”

“Oh. Really?” He looked genuinely surprised. “That’s what I’m here for.”

“I know.” She gave up and looked right at him and smiled. “I know who you are.”

Kris stopped in the hall. “What gave me away? The Penguin on my shirt?” he asked, pulling on the sleeve Maddie had noticed before. “My shorts?” He pointed to a small logo on the left leg that she’d missed. “My watch?” He twisted his wrist up, showing her the Penguins’ logo on the face.

“Ha!” She took his wrist. “I would never have seen that one.” She laughed again. “No, Kris, I know who you are because you just won the Stanley Cup. No promotional merchandise necessary.”

He looked down the empty, quiet hallway. “So much for going incognito to avoid hordes of screaming fans.”

“I could pretend to pass out,” Maddie offered. “But this close to the gym, they might not get it.”

Kris laughed. “Save it. We’ll come up with something really public. You can make a scene.”

“Excellent. I always wanted to get tackled by casino security.”

They had reached the elevator bank. Maddie noticed her reflection and that she’d mercifully lost the flushed color in her face, and now looked merely messy in a post-workout way.

“What are you doing now?” Kris asked.

“Going upstairs to get my book of Kris Letang 8x10 glossy photos so I can ambush you at the pool.” Maddie answered.

“In that case, we’re in cabana 93.” He stopped. “We are, actually. Will you come down and hang out? The guys are all here – bring your friends. It’ll be fun. Meet me there in 20 minutes.”

Maddie tilted her head and looked indecisive. “Hmmm… I might have something really important to do. Like long division or braiding my hair. I might be too busy for the life of luxury and fame.” She paused. “I guess I could manage. I obviously need a drink.”

“Amen,” Kris said. “Who works out on vacation? In Vegas?”

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