A/N: Welcome to the continuation of Along Came a Spider! I recommend reading the original before jumping into Along Came a Spider 2. As always, my thank yous to Team Spiderward (My dedicated pre-readers—NKubie, AnakinSMom, princeselisa, and EdwardsFirstKiss; My rockstar beta—Midnight Cougar) for sticking with me. You're the best! xx

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. The NHL owns anything that sounds familiar. I'm here having fun.

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Chapter 1

Bella's eyes fill with unshed tears at the gravity of what I'm asking. We're both in deep, with our commitment to each other reaching new levels. Despite everything we've shared, I wonder what she is willing to walk away from for me. Her career? Her life she's built in Dallas? Is she willing to choose us over everything else? She's at the top of my list, but am I at the top of hers?

"It's okay." I cup her face and brush away her tears that escape with my thumbs. "There are no wrong answers. Just tell me. I need your honesty more than anything. Would you be willing to move with me to Canada?"

While I want to hear the word "yes" that she's willing to move for me, deep down I know I need her to take the side against this constant push and pull I face with every impending trade deadline. If we're truly in this together, and I'm no longer making these decisions on my own, then I need to know she's willing to tell me her honest opinion and fight for what's best for us with a "no" in this particular situation.

Her eyes search mine for a moment before she shares her thoughts. "I don't want to lose you, and I want what's best for your career . . . even if I don't believe a move would be the right answer for us, especially right now. The timing is—the worst."

There it is—a diplomatic no sprinkled with a touch of yes. She wants me, and also wants us to stay in Dallas.

"I don't want to lose you either." I kiss her lips, then release her face. Returning my warm hands to the cool skin of her bare thighs, I stroke them soothingly. "But long distance relationships aren't for me. With eighty-two games on our schedule, I'm already gone for half of those. I checked the schedules of both teams, and typically, they play one away game in Dallas during the regular season. If I were to have any chance at success on the ice and continue our relationship, I would need you there with me."

Bella nods. "I understand, and please remember that it's not only us who factors into any decision. Your family lives here. Before we considered bringing my mother to Houston to visit a new doctor, my father confided in me some of his plans now that he's retired. Dad brought up the idea that they could move here to be closer to me, which means us and our family as it grows."

There's so much to smile at in her reasoning. After considering the best for us and our futures, her next thoughts are centered on our families. While I'm surprised at her parents' intentions, I'm thrilled at the possibility any child of ours could have both sets of grandparents nearby.

"We have friends here who are closer than family and offer support in ways we both need. I believe moving at this point is a short-term . . . distraction and staying in Dallas is more in line with a long-term plan. And I'm in this for the long-term, Edward. Even if we move to Canada for . . . a year and a half, won't we turn around and move back at the end of a contract for next season, if you do retire after that?"

"Most likely."

There could be more hockey beyond that window, but neither of us can predict how long I'll continue playing. I'm at a point in my career without any easy answers. Everything feels like it's in limbo, which makes it challenging to do anything other than proceed with one decision at a time.

Bella sniffs away more tears before releasing a deep breath. When she speaks again, her voice trembles. "What if my mother . . . doesn't have a year and a half? What if she never gets to hold her first grandchild? Or attend my wedding?"

"Oh, Doc. We're going to do everything we can to get her the best treatment available," I promise, encompassing her in my arms and swaying us back and forth. When she loosens her hold on me, I leave a kiss on her forehead. "All the more reason to work more diligently on my one-year plan." I wink, hoping to lighten her mood a little.

Bella gives me a small smile at the thought. "There's only one part of that plan you're diligent about."

She's so wrong. I'm working on all parts of my plan. She just doesn't realize that—yet.

"But it's my favorite part," I defend, wiggling my eyebrows suggestively. "Are we ready to move this party upstairs?"

"Not quite yet. I think we need to address the Jacob issue that's really going on here."

I nod. "Okay, what about him?"

"Edward . . ." She sits up straight and blows out a breath. "In my opinion, Jacob's motives should always be questioned. He will do, say, or promise anything for the next deal and the one after that, because he will always be pushing for something else. I get that you need him for the business side of your job, but if you decide against taking either trade, he makes nothing, correct?"

"That's right."

"Despite anything he says, Jacob isn't looking out for your best interest or ours." She shakes her head. "If there weren't any deals to be negotiated, would he still be around as your friend? You don't have to answer that because I already know the answer. He wouldn't be. The reality is that Jacob isn't a part of your future. I am. Our families are. In Dallas. That's where we need to be. I have a new business venture I'm beginning, and I'm not going to apologize for taking an adamant position against abandoning it. My new practice has the potential to be something incredible for me, us, and our future."

She takes my hands and laces our fingers.

"As much as I want you to be a starting goaltender, I worry about the impact that would have on your body. Every game, I feel like I'm holding my breath the entire time I watch, hoping nothing happens to cause you any type of serious injury. Jacob doesn't care about your health or the demands a starting position would put on you. I do. I see every ache and pain etched on your face, even when you think you're doing your best to hide those from me." She releases my hands, then reaches up and combs her fingers through my hair. "You're important to me and that doesn't have a single thing to do with playing hockey. When you decide to step away from the game as a player, I want it to be on your terms."

I peck her lips. "I love you, and I can't begin to tell you how much it means to have your support."

"I love you too." She smiles. "I also have a question about your father. Has he ever suggested you turn down a trade?"

"Well, before I came to Dallas, I didn't have a choice. I had to go wherever I was traded, with the exception of Montréal. I requested the trade out of there, which was a little different. My no-movement clause in my current contract with Dallas gives me the option to turn down any trade. It's the only time I've ever had it."

She nods. "And despite finally living near your family with a focus on your eventual retirement, Carlisle thought Vegas was a great opportunity, and now, he supports you joining one of these Canadian teams?"


"Well, it's challenging not to take that personally when we have been dating while you were presented with each of those opportunities, but I'll take the other side of his argument. What if the grass isn't greener on the other side? What if your father is wrong and Dallas goes on to win the Cup without you? You've been confident about your team's chances this season up until now. Why are you even entertaining these deals? One of the things I've realized in this entire situation with Sam is that I'm the one who is in control of my happiness and success. The grass isn't greener on the other side. It's greener where you water it."

"I like that—maybe it's Victory green," I suggest, referring to one of our team colors, and squeeze her thighs.

"True, but it makes me wonder something else. Have you shared with your father anything about our relationship?"

"We've talked a little. I told him that I love you, and you're important to me—that you're a part of any decision about my future."

"And you still aren't speaking?"

"He's stubborn." I sigh. "I spoke to my mom about it, and she said he's upset, but I am too. In the past, I was always the one to seek him out after one of our blow-ups. I believe the time is long overdue for him to come to me, not the other way around. I'm going to wait him out."

"Well, that could be a true test of your never-ending patience. Is there a chance that your father could be reaching out to Jacob on your behalf?"

I consider the possibility for a moment. "I don't know. I never thought about that. They know each other, and not only because of me."

"Edward, while Jacob may be a good agent, I struggle to believe his intentions are genuine. It kills me that Leah has been involved with him in the past. I have encouraged her to distance herself from him, and I believe you should too. I'm confident there are other sports agents willing to sign you as a client, if you need one."

"I doubt now is the right time to make a change." I shrug. "He hasn't done anything wrong."

"I understand why you think that, but I believe what he's doing is wrong. These deals with Vancouver and Calgary are another example where he is planting doubt in your mind about the capability of your current team. And only he benefits in that scenario. You would have to start over, getting to know your new teammates in the middle of the season. You don't work alone. You're part of a team, which from what I've learned from you, the most successful ones continue to play together year after year. They aren't distracted by influences outside of the rink. They show up daily and work through the difficult spots—together. Like the loss tonight."

"You're right," I agree. "They do, and that's why we're spending this break in Mexico together."

She nods. "Jacob isn't a team player, despite whatever he may claim. If you're focused on successful team building, then I believe you need to reconsider him being a part of yours."

"Okay. I'll think about making a change, but . . . I have one more thing I think we should do before calling it a night." Removing my phone from my pocket, I know he needs an answer. So, I open our last conversation and type a quick response.

No deal on V or C.
We're staying in Dallas.

I flip the screen around for Bella to read the message. When she realizes it's my last text message with Jake and I'm killing the deals, her eyes return to mine.

"Since we're in this together, would you like the honor of pressing send?" I offer.

A smile spreads across her beautiful face. "Absolutely." She taps the screen, then looks up at me. "There. Delivered. Any last minute regrets?"

"Not a single one. I know it's the right decision, and I'm thrilled you believe it is too." After another kiss, I pocket my phone. "When I was talking with my mom, she suggested that we all have dinner together while your parents are here. I told her I would talk with you about it, and let them know."

Bella raises her eyebrows in surprise. "Another dinner party?"

"Yeah. A small one. I can call Maggie, and she can help us with the prep or we can just do something simple. It could be fun."

"Mmm-hmm. Fun. Our fathers together in one place," she says skeptically.

"You don't think they will get along?"

Bella smirks before stating the obvious. "Well, I'm not worried about my father."

I chuckle sadly. "I'm not worried about Charlie either. Hopefully, my father will reach out sooner than later, but I'm not going to focus on him at this point. I've given that situation and these trade deals more thought than each deserves. I'm exhausted, and I think we should get some sleep. We have a date with paradise later today, and I can't wait to focus on you."

Her smile widens. "I can't wait for that either."

/ /\ (oo) /\ \

When Bella and I arrive at the private terminal for our flight, I look around and realize we're possibly the last to arrive, but I couldn't care less since we're both buzzing with newly released endorphins. This trip is all about de-stressing and mood-boosting, and after this morning, we're off to an incredible start. Fuck it. So what if we're late. While that's not typically me, there was no way I wasn't finishing what I started, and I knew James wouldn't leave without us. We also stopped by my home so I could drop off Scout and Shadow for Vera to watch them while we're gone, and I needed to repack my suitcase with fresh clothes.

My grin widens at the sight of James and Vladdy mingling with the gathered crowd. They're wearing flip-flops, shorts, rainbow-striped ponchos, sombreros, and the worst fake mustaches I've ever seen. Holding stacks of small cups, they're pouring shots of tequila for everyone waiting to board the plane. I doubt we're allowed to have alcohol in this area, but no one seems to care, which could be the theme for this trip.

We're breaking all the rules.

"Docarita and Spidario!" James yells when he spots me, walking over to where we're standing. With the modifications of our nicknames, I suspect he's been tapping into the tequila early this morning. "Hola amigos."

"Hey, James," Bella says, taking an offered shot glass.

"Hey, Cap." I accept one too. "You speak Spanish?"

"No. Not really. Maybe enough to be dangerous." James smirks at the thought, and he lifts the bottle he's holding. "Do you know my friend, Jose? You two need to catch up. And trust me, your Spanish will get better with each shot." While pouring tequila into our waiting glasses, he looks between us and asks, "Trouble getting out of bed this morning?"

I glance around, wondering if anyone heard his question, and notice Chelsea standing nearby, undoubtedly eavesdropping.

Bella grins, looking up at me. "With this guy, who would ever want to leave?"

"Damn." He taps his shot glass against ours and nods before the three of us down them together. "Doc is on the Spider sauce!"

"You have no idea how true that is." She giggles, and he waves for her to hold out her glass so he can refill it, her eyes shift to mine and she winks. "But let's get real, I am the sauce."

"Oh, Spider, you're in trouble. I better pour you a double." James winks, topping off my glass.

"It's the best kind of trouble." I wrap my arm around her, squeeze her tighter, and leave a kiss on her temple.

James turns toward our waiting group, holds his refilled shot glass in the air, and shouts, "To team building!"

"Team building!" Everyone echoes, before we down our next shots.

James points to the sliding doors. "Everyone is here. Let's take a photo outside for Crow before we get on the plane. Vámonos!"

After brief hellos, Marcus and Deedee fall in line behind us as we walk out onto the tarmac.

"Why do I get the feeling Cap has been binging Dora the Explorer for this trip?" Marcus grins from beside me. "Heaven help us all."

"I think you nailed it, Volts." I smirk, knowing firsthand what a handful drunken James can be. It's as if he's a magnet for trouble.

Deedee leans closer and confides, "Thank goodness you two got here when you did. That's our second toast to team building. And we've been here maybe fifteen minutes."

"Oh, man." I shake my head.

Marcus laughs. "Right? He's going to need water soon. I'm not carrying him anywhere. He's too fucking big."

"We'll leave the heavy lifting to Fin and his buddies," I promise with a nod.

Deedee gasps dramatically, holding her hand to her chest. "Listen to the mouth on you, my dear husband."

I chuckle because Deedee is right, Marcus never curses, even around us in the locker room or on the ice, and it appears the tequila is loosening his tongue.

"Oh, whatever. Our son knows more curse words than me anyway. He probably got that from you," Marcus teases with a smirk.

Once we gather together, the mood feels light-hearted with shouts of delight among our teammates and guests. James encourages everyone to say "queso," while a member of the ground crew takes photos with his phone. After Bella and I board our plane bound for Cabo San Lucas, I nod toward the seats near the front of the plane behind Marcus and Deedee.

"We're sitting there."

Moving into the row, Bella looks around at the other seats and asks, "Is this where you normally sit? These are first-class. I guess all the seats are."

"Yeah, you're in my seat." I slide her suitcase into the overhead compartment, then add mine next to it. "I'll sit in Cap's seat."

"This is cool. I'm getting the behind the scenes tour. Shouldn't I be eating some gourmet meal of fish and vegetables next?" she taunts. "Where is James sitting?"

"In Coach's seat." I nod toward the other seats in front of Marcus, then take the spot next to her.

After clicking our seat belts in place, Bella asks, "Did James bring anyone? The baker?"

I shake my head. "No. Some of the guys didn't bring a guest, which meant we had openings to add a handful of the guys from our affiliate in Austin. They're the ones who will be called up to play in case of injuries. So, Royce and Coach thought they should tag along."

Ben and Angela shuffle into the seats across the aisle from us where he normally sits with Tyler. Despite at least two shots of tequila, the tension radiating from them indicates they're off to a bumpy start. Once they're settled, Angela turns toward the window away from Ben, ignoring him. His resigned expression leaves little doubt he would prefer to sit anywhere, rather than next to her in Tyler's seat.

When Demir leads Jess past Angela and Ben, she tugs on his hand, stopping him.

"Dem? We aren't sitting near Ang?"

"No. I sit farther back."


"It's okay."

Ben looks over at me before rolling his eyes and offering Jess his seat. "I can sit with Fin and you two can sit together."

"No. It's fine." Angela huffs, but every guy within hearing distance knows that tone means it's anything but fine.

Ben is one of the most easygoing, drama-free people I know, and he tends to keep to himself. While he hasn't verbalized it, I suspect he didn't want to bring Angela on this trip as his guest. Undoubtedly, Jess pushed the issue, not wanting to leave her best friend behind, putting him in a difficult position. If Ben had a choice, he would be in St. Louis with Tyler and Lauren, enjoying the All-Star activities leading up to the game. I make a mental note to say something to Marcus and James later about making sure we include him in whatever we're doing each day.

Once Demir and Jess move past where we're sitting, my eyes land on a couple of familiar faces who are some of the last passengers on the plane with James high-fiving our flight crew before taking his seat nearby.

"Hey, Spider. Doc," Vladdy says, patting my shoulder when he passes our row with Stefan trailing behind him.

"Vladdy." I grin. "Hey, Sly. Glad you could make the trip."

He pauses at our seats. "Me too. I've never been to Mexico."

I nod toward Bella. "Doc, this is Stefan Fuchs. He's the goaltender I told you about who backs up Ben or me if needed. Sly, this is my girlfriend, Dr. Bella Swan."

"It's a pleasure to meet you—Doc is okay?" He smiles, holds out his hand, and shakes hers briefly.

"You too, and Doc or Bella works."

After their brief introduction, Stefan moves past where we're sitting, and Bella's attempt at whispering fails.

"I'm sorry. Maybe it's the tequila already working its magic, but did you say his last name is Fucks? I need to turn up the volume on your broadcasts because I missed that completely."

My laughter joins that from the seats in front of us since Deedee and Marcus have also heard her question.

"Oh, Doc. Yes, but it's spelled differently. Obviously, we're going to need to keep you hydrated too, and the good news is that we know I can carry you." I wink.

"His nickname is Sly?"

"Yeah, like a fox, but he's also a big Rocky and Sylvester Stallone fan."

"Got it." Bella grins, watching as the flight crew closes the door and prepares the plane for our departure. "So, what's our itinerary for this week?"

I shrug. "We can do anything we want. There are plenty of options. We have a few team meals planned, but those are optional in case anyone has other plans. If you wish, we can simply sit on the beach and drink margaritas."

"That sounds fabulous."

"But I need to do some type of physical exercise daily." Taking a moment, I recall what everyone has been discussing in our team chats. "There are plans for whale watching and deep sea fishing trips too. A majority of the guys will be golfing almost every day. I'm more partial to the non-golfing activities, like hiking or tennis."

"I'd be up for a hike, but I suck at tennis," Bella admits.

"It could still be fun. I promised Vladdy we would play doubles together or just hang out. He's not a big fan of golf like me."

"Me either." She smiles, referring to her recent spillover of anti-golf frustrations. "But maybe for me, it's more that I don't hate the game, but a particular player."

I chuckle. "Cap said Vladdy played tennis competitively when he was younger, similar to how Rose and I played soccer growing up when we weren't playing hockey. So, I think he's trying to hustle me."

Her eyes dance with mischief. "Oh! We could have some fun with him. What if I volunteer to be on his team and sabotage our side of the game to give you a shot at winning?"

"I love it." I grin at her suggestion. "So devious."

"You know it—subterfuge at its finest. After all, we're team building too. I'm Team Spider twenty-four-seven."

"Oh, Doc. You're my favorite combo—beautiful and dangerous." I press a kiss against her cheek, then she turns her head to meet my lips for another briefly before I continue. "There is a group of wives and girlfriends planning a spa day, then a shopping trip later in the week."

Bella nods. "Yeah, Jess texted me about possibilities and added me to their chat, but I haven't had time to keep up with all the messages with everything going on at the moment. If you're interested in doing something with only the guys, I'm okay with joining their plans or going alone to the spa—don't feel like I need babysitting."

"Okay. The spa also offers couples experiences with things like beach massages, soak rituals, guided yoga, or meditation we can do. They have specialized healers who draw on Mexican Folk Healing. It could be a cool experience, as I'm curious to learn new ways for boosting positive energy."

"Really? You're always so positive," Bella states.

I shake my head. "Not always. Even the most optimistic people need an opportunity to reflect and reconnect. It could be helpful for both of us, especially with so many changes swirling around us, like your new job. Every time I visit the beach, it amazes me how much warm sand and calm waters will quiet my mind. Everything just falls into place."

"I think it would be wonderful to experience something like that together. I'm open to anything and everything," she agrees.

I lace my fingers with hers, bring the back of her hand to my lips, and leave a kiss on it. "There are tequila and chocolate tastings we can attend."

"Chocolate and tequila?" Bella chuckles. "Why didn't you share that one first? Sign me up. We may never leave at this rate."

"How did I know you would favor those?"

"You just get me." She smiles, squeezing my hand.

Ready for departure, our airplane moves backward away from our boarding area on the tarmac and turns in the direction of the runway. While Bella looks out the window, I lean closer to share more details about our stay.

"Some of the guys are staying in regular rooms or suites, but others are sharing casitas. I upgraded us, and we're staying in a two-bedroom villa."

"Two bedrooms? That seems excessive when there are so many options luring us out into the sunshine."

"What if we break a bed?"

"Oh, Lord." She chuckles.

"It's a valid concern. I got you. It also has a living room, fully stocked kitchen, and sunset views from our own private plunge pool—bikini optional."

"Is that in the brochure?"

"It's in yours." I give her a wicked grin. "I do have a little work I need to do while we're here."

"Work? You made me leave my laptop at home and promise I wouldn't use my phone as a surrogate. That sounds like a double standard."

"I know, but I think you'll like this. The photographer who shot my coconut water calendar?"


"She will be meeting with me one afternoon to take photos on the beach for a new promotional campaign."

Bella's face brightens. "I get to be your personal groupie and watch you in action?"

I shrug. "Or you can sit on a lounger, sipping cocktails while I do the shoot. It shouldn't take long, but she's hoping to capture a few shots around sunset too."

"Oh, I'm in, and I have no intention of missing out on that. I can spritz you with water or whatever she needs. I'll be your humble assistant. I loved your calendar photos. So, I'm looking forward to meeting her. She clearly has an eye for the best way to capture my favorite subject, hopefully without a shirt."

"I'm all for you topless as well," I suggest.

"Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. Despite James's valiant efforts, I haven't had enough tequila for that," she cautions.

"I'll have a bottle delivered to our villa once we arrive." I wink.

"And I'm only topless for you—no one else. Remember that."

"Lucky me." I grin, recalling one of my favorite photos. Wishing for more pictures of us that are Bella approved and shareable, I remove my phone from my pocket. "How about we take a selfie while your clothes are still on? It could be our only opportunity for the next week."

"You're incorrigible." Bella giggles.

"I'm a man on a mission."

Wrapping my arm around her, I take several photos of us huddled together and plan to post them on my social media. I can't wait to unplug for this next week, and I'm going to relish every moment with her.

The roar of our plane's engines increases while Bella watches our departure from Dallas through the window as we lift off, but my focus is on her and having her with me. In just over three hours, we'll land on a small piece of paradise with endless sunshine, sandy beaches, and romantic dinners for two. While I've been to Mexico multiple times, I can't wait to experience all those things and more on this trip with her.

Even though I would have loved to propose to Bella during this trip, I don't want to overshadow Demir's plans with Jess. I have some ideas how I could pop the question, but Vladdy's aunt needed time to create Bella's engagement ring. While there's no rush, I know that once I have it in hand, I may not have the ability to wait. Until then, I'll focus on our first vacation together and making it one we will never forget.