“Do you want a shirt?” Axel asked from the closet where he had changed into a pair of sleep shorts.
“Do I need one?” I groaned from where my head rested against the pillow.
“Of course, not,” he said, the mattress sinking under his weight as he settled next to me. “But if you wanted, I would slide one over you.”
“Mmm,” I mumbled at the gesture, exhaustion settling heavy over my body. “You’re incredible, you know that?”
“You’ve told me once or twice.” He stroked a hand gently over my bare arm, raising chills in his wake.
I wiggled against him, my body rousing even if my mind was practically mush.
Axel stilled my movements. “I just want to hold you,” he said. “Sleep, Langley. You had a hell of a day.” He slid his arm over me, tucking my back against his chest as he covered us with the blanket.
Happiness tingled over every inch of me as the heat from his body soothed the aching exhaustion in mine. I uncoiled completely, sinking into his warmth. My breaths came sure and deep as he held me, just held me, and yet it felt more intimate than some of our nighttime activities.
Because—I realized as sleep came to claim me—this was what true happiness felt like.
And I’d never experienced it before I married Axel.
“So what do you have to say about the team’s new nickname?” a reporter from the third row asked. I’d already answered two of his questions, and now he was getting on my nerves.
“What nickname is that?” I leaned into the microphone, looking out over a sea of press. The game we’d just won had launched us into first place in our division, but I never took my stock in rankings.
Any given day, the best team in the NHL could fall to the worst. The scoreboard didn’t give a fuck where you were ranked.
“Inevitable,” he called out.
My eyebrows rose. “I’m sorry, people are calling us inevitable? I know English isn’t my first language, but that could go so many ways.”
The press corps laughed softly, and a corner of my mouth lifted as I waited for the reporter to respond.
“You know, the whole there are only two inevitable things...the quote by Benjamin Franklin?” He shrugged.
Langley slid an iPad across my table from where she stood below the dais, and I glanced at the collage of articles depicted. We were, indeed, being called The Inevitable Reapers.
I laughed and sent the iPad back to my wife with a wink.
She rolled her eyes and faced forward again, ready to jump between me and any unruly questions not because she was my wife, but because she was damn good at her job.
“Why don’t we get a wink?” another reporter asked.
“My wife is a damn sight prettier than you are,” I answered. Another round of laughter greeted my answer, but Langley gave me an exasperated glare. We never hid our marriage, but we didn’t exactly advertise it, either.
“I have to laugh,” I said to the first reporter. “It’s also the third week in January, guys. We’re not calling anything about us inevitable yet. There are a lot of games to play between now and the playoffs, and we’re keeping our heads level and our superstitions intact.”
“But still!” he continued even though his turn was up and at least twenty hands were in the air. “It’s got to be an honor to have a nickname from the great Ben Franklin’s quote, right? Not that you’d know that, being Swedish, of course.”
My temper frayed.
“Actually, that quote came from Daniel Defoe first. 1726, I think. ‘Things as certain as death and taxes, can be more firmly believed,’ if my memory serves me right. Ben Franklin’s letter, where he said, ‘In this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes,’ was written in 1789. But, if you’re asking if I think Inevitable sounds cooler than Certain, I can definitely agree with you.” I grinned as his smile faltered.
Another chuckle went through the crowd.
Langley arched an eyebrow in my direction, and I took the hint.
“Not just a pretty face,” I teased, gesturing to my face. “How about you?” I pointed to the opposite side of the room, where another reporter waited with her hand raised.
“How is Price getting along with the team?” she asked.
“Wonderfully,” I answered. “We braid each other’s hair before the games.”
Langley shook her head as another rumble of laughter rolled over the crowd. Then she pointed to the next reporter, a guy in the back corner.
“Axel, what do you say to people who question the timing of your marriage with the signing of your contract?” he called out over the crowd.
Langley stiffened in front of me, and I would have given anything to be able to slide my hand into hers at that moment.
“I’d say that I’m never one to answer personal questions in a public forum, but given that my wife also works for the Reapers, I’ll let it slide. Once. I met my wife a year-and-a-half ago when she was with the Seattle Sharks, and she knocked me on my ass within a heartbeat. Distance robbed us of too many chances, and the minute I decided to become a Reaper I also decided to stop wasting time.”