Chapters 10 & 11: Nonjudgmental Cows
Chapter 10 opens with Jennifer and Axel flirting via cell phone as they both drive to his house from the airport. (They’re driving separately, I mean. They’re not so odd as to be in the same car and chatting via Bluetooth.) Things are going swimmingly and Jennifer’s getting all hot and bothered until she sees his mansion when she starts to freak out a bit about his life-style.
…she felt out of depth with him suddenly. It was one thing to tease and flirt with a Neanderthal hockey player trying to intimidate her with the scent of sweat. It was another to sleep with a wealthy athlete who traveled the world acquiring exotic cars (99).
Well, actually it’s not two different things since she’s talking about Axel in both cases.
The question of Axel’s intimidating mansion gets dropped, however, in favor of debating the finer points of what sexual chemistry means, and whether it’s enough to overcome the challenges that two very different people face when they have pantsfeelings for each other.
Then the perspective shifts to Axel who is feeling guilty for his pantsfeelings because he knows he’s going to have to back off in order to keep Jennifer safe when he deals with the biker gang. Despite his guilt, though, we have the following very common romance novel trope after they have mind-boggling sex:
He wanted to pause the night right there. Make sure the sun didn’t rise for another seventy-two hours or so in order for him to get his fill of this woman. Then again, that would never be enough (105).
Why seventy-two hours? That seems fairly arbitrary.
That’s pretty much all for chapter 10 because it’s mostly sex. (And I’d be happy to comment on sex scenes if they were anything other than sex scenes, but these are just straightforward so I haven’t anything to say.)
Chapter 11 begins at the same time as chapter 10, only it’s Vincent suggesting he’ll drive Chelsea home from the airport. She wants to demure but then remembers that her car is with the other groupies on the way back from New York.
Vincent is super sweet about it. He knows she’s uncertain, so he offers to call her a cab instead, and even has his phone out before Chelsea says she trusts him and they get into his heavy-duty truck “which looked as if it would be at home on a Minnesota farm” (106).
See, ‘cuz Vincent’s just a farm boy at heart. Except that at least half the Arizona Coyotes drive trucks, too. (No, I’m not a stalker. I just saw them drive the night that the fans met the team at the airport to celebrate. Also, I’ve been to enough practices to see which cars/trucks are frequently in the lot.) And while Shane Doan does actually have a farm, the rest of the team not so much.
Chelsea is justifiably proud of her apartment, since it’s nearly impossible for a homeless person to get enough together to be allowed to rent somewhere, so this leads to Vincent asking how she went from homeless “to walking into the Phantoms’ practice rink and making half the team fall in love with you?” (107). Since we’ve only seen one other player ever say anything about Chelsea, and said player is in the process of falling for the novel’s other heroine, I can’t say whether Vincent is exaggerating or not.
I will say I’m pleased that the narrative doesn’t make it sound like hard work is all it takes to go from homeless to secure. The author did her research. If you’re wondering how Chelsea did it, she says she used gyms for showers and a place to keep her stuff and libraries to research where to get free clothes and jobs that paid by the day. The only thing that sticks out for me here is that to make fake membership badges, as she says she did for the gyms, she’d have to have some computer skills and access to equipment that it seems unlikely public libraries could provide. (Also, the only gym I’ve belonged to didn’t have membership badges but instead scanned your fingerprint. But as I said, that’s only my experience.)
Chelsea also tells Vincent of the time when she woke up in an alley being robbed. She got away safely but lost a year’s worth of savings. This upsets Vincent so much that he asks if he can hold her (they’re still in his truck) because it would make him feel better. She lets him. This leads to Vincent telling her how he doesn’t know what he’d have done in his first year without her—that seeing her in the stands kept him going through his early, bad games, so now they’d have to forcibly remove him from Philadelphia to get him to leave her. She asks what if she wants to see Minnesota and he says he’d drive her there himself. There’s some snuggling and then Chelsea declares,
“I think I’d like cows.”
“You do?” He grinned and felt her snag another piece of her heart.
“They sound very nonjudgmental” (111).
But you know what doesn’t sound nonjudgmental to Chelsea? Parents. And Vincent’s are showing up in Philadelphia next week and he wants her to meet them. Immediately Chelsea shuts down and says she should go inside. Vincent insists on walking her to her door, but he’s mindful to not touch her, knowing her issues. Even so, Chelsea gets inside, closes the door most of the way, and finishes with “You deserve a nice, normal girl. And that will never be me” (113).
I know I said that I felt that Chelsea’s turnaround on the plane was awfully quick. So the freak-out is in character. That said, he wasn’t asking her to marry him, just to have dinner with his parents. And having dinner with the SO’s parents kinda sucks, regardless, but I’m surprised that it’s what makes Chelsea hit the brakes and flee, especially since Vincent is so solicitous. He could have immediately been all “Okay, no problem, next time maybe.” But no.