No Place I'd Rather Be

Chapter Two

"We could stay for a few more hours," James suggested. "Ya know, explore the grounds some more."

Tom looked at him, confused for a second before nodding his head in agreement.

"Yeah, we didn't really get to do that last night."

They got dressed and waited for two of their other friends to come out of their rooms. Once they were all together, they headed back out into the grounds. There were a handful of early risers, waiting for the sunrise. The scenery was absolutely beautiful, ignoring the fact that it was already humid outside. They walked around a bit, talking about the bands that played last night. The guys apologized for not being able to return to where James was and explained how they got lost on their way back. It was a huge open space full of people so he couldn't blame them.

When they realized that not much was happening, they all decided to head back to the hotel to grab some breakfast. James saw a group of three girls with their backs turned to him as they walked closer to the hotel. They looked out into the horizon, still waiting for the sun to rise. Then, he noticed the gold elastic headband and the same dark, wavy hair he had smelled all night.

James quickly separated from his group, leaving them confused. As soon as his friends saw that he was about to approach a group of girls, they understood and snickered to themselves before going on their way back.

"Hey," He breathed out as he reached out to touch her shoulder. He prayed that when she turned around, she would be the same girl he had met the night before.

She turned around, eyes going wide, and lips slightly parting in awe.



"I'm sorry, I didn't--"

"It's OK." He laughed. Somehow, he had a feeling that she would be apologizing for leaving him.

Soon, her friends got the message that they should leave the two alone.

"I'm sorry for leaving," She said shyly. "I...I was kind of embarrassed."

"Of what?" He asked.

"I just...ya know...kissed you, like, out of nowhere." She laughed nervously, unable to look him in the eye.

"I kissed you back, in case you forgot." He reminded her.

It was a damn good kiss too, he thought.

"I don't normally do that kind of stuff. I mean, you're practically a stranger to me and we touched, and kissed. That's just..."

"Weird?" He finished. She slowly nodded, unsure if her answer would offend him.

He shrugged, "I liked it."

She smiled a little, "I liked it too. A lot."

Finally, he asked, "What's your name?"

"What's yours?" She asked in return with a playful smile.

"James," He extended a hand out for her to shake. "And you are?"

"Jo as in Johanna. Well people just call me Jo. I mean, my friends call me Jo. But you can call me Jo if you want." She babbled on. Embarrassed by her actions, she just shook his large hand and tried to match his strong grip. She noticed his full sleeve of tattoos and admired them for a second. "Nice tats."

"Thanks." He said as he flinched a little when she touched his arm. It took him by surprise. Everything was different now in daylight. He saw how brown her eyes were and how pink her nails were painted. She nonchalantly ran her fingers across his other arm, tickling him as she traced a finger on the 'Neal' tattoo he had.

"James Neal?" She said.

Panic set in. James was afraid that Johanna would turn out to be a big Pens fan who couldn't wait to brag to her friends and everyone online about their special moment. He gulped and slowly nodded his head to confirm his name.

"It has a nice ring to it." She stated. James let out a sigh of relief.

"What brings you to Coachella, James Neal?" She asked playfully, that same killer smile greeting him.

"Had a couple of friends bring me here for the weekend. It's my first time here." He explained.

Johanna stood on her tip toes to get close to his face. She noticed his blue-green eyes looking directly into her own brown eyes. She felt that spark all the way down to her toes. She bit her lip before whispering, "Welcome to Coachella."


They walked and talked some more. They had been so engaged into their conversation that they completely missed the sunrise. They laughed about it shortly after. Then laughter turned into silence, silence turned into smiles, and the smiles turned into kisses.

Another picture perfect moment, James thought.

"I have to go back home today," He confessed when they pulled apart.

He caught the disappointed look on Johanna's face but was quickly masked.

"Where's home?"

"Anaheim," He replied. "Not really home but only until tonight."

"What do you mean?" She asked curiously.

"I uh...I play hockey."

"Oh." She said, still not understanding why he had to leave the Valley to play hockey.

"It's my job." He clarified.

"Like for the Kings?" She asked innocently.

James would've laughed if wasn't feeling like shit about leaving her and leaving whatever they had together behind. He knew now that Johanna didn't watch a bit of hockey. She probably heard about the Kings on the news and was probably the only team she had ever heard of.

"No, not for the Kings," He replied. "I play for the Penguins."

"And where do the Penguins play?"

"In Pittsburgh."

The mask she tried so hard to maintain fell apart. So that's where home was for James, she thought. Like him, she also didn't want to leave whatever it is that happened between them behind. She felt an instant connection with him.

She turned her body away from him, not wanting him to see how crazy she felt at the moment. She didn't want him to see the hurt in her eyes when she tells him goodbye even after knowing each other for less than 24 hours.

"Well, it was nice meeting you, James." She quickly said.

She started to walk away, just hoping she would forget about everything. He grabbed onto her hand and pulled her back. He said nothing but kissed her like he had done for the third time.

"I don't know you but you're driving me insane." He whispered against her soft lips.

"I hope that's a good thing." She laughed, looking at his closed eyes as he held her face in his hands. He opened his eyes and saw her looking at him. He suddenly had an idea.

"Come with me, back to Anaheim. You could watch my game."

Surprised by the idea, she went nuts, "I don't know, James. That's a little crazy. For all I know you could be a kidnapper! We're in the middle of nowhere, a bunch of guys in a car and just me, yeah that sounds like the perfect recipe for crime!"

Normally, that would've been James' cue to get out of that situation after an outburst like that. But he had a feeling that it was just the nerves that's got her talking like that. "Woah, woah, woah, first of all, we're not kidnapping you. If we were, wouldn't we have done that by now? Second, the only reason why I'm asking you to do such a crazy thing is because I don't want to have to leave you."

Butterflies flew all around in her stomach. She felt the heat all over her body and it wasn't because of the weather outside. Her hands shook a little, not because she was afraid or anything, but because she had never met a guy like him. Usually a one time kiss, or even a hook-up, would've sufficed for all the guys she had been with before. James was different. He wanted more than just a night. She also wanted more than just a night.

This is how it feels like to be in a cheesy romance movie, Jo mentally sighed.

The situation felt too good to be true. It felt like it was straight out of a movie scene--the perfect moment that had all the girls wishing they were the girl they were watching. She secretly pinched herself just to make sure that what was happening was real life.

"What happens when you have to go back to Pittsburgh? Sooner or later, whatever this is," She points between them, "it's gonna be over whether we like it or not."

James hadn't thought about going back to Pittsburgh to finish the rest of the season. He had been so caught up in the moment, which he found himself doing way too many times in just a short amount of time.

"Let me at least have your number. I think we should still keep in touch, yeah?" He hoped. Johanna gladly agreed and they exchanged phone numbers. She even took a picture of herself with his phone and attached it to her contact.

"Just so you don't forget how I look." She said it as a joke, jabbing him lightly on his side with her elbow.

"With or without a picture, I definitely won't forget you." He said seriously.
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Kind of slow paced right now but I promise there's more to come! Thanks to everyone who subscribed to this story. Glad you guys like it.

Another side note I wanted to add is that I did not follow the pens schedule last season for this story which is why they have a bunch of games in California. Also, as far as I know, there aren't hotels near by the actual grounds. Again, for the sake of this fic, let's just roll with it.