No Place I'd Rather Be

Chapter Five

Jo had been running around her studio all morning, getting ready for graduation. Since he was already done getting ready, James just watched as she went in and out of the bathroom, throwing clothes out of her closet and all over the place. He laughed at her franticness, which earned him the evil eye.

She was almost finished and the only thing missing was the pair of earrings she desperately wanted to wear for her special day. When she slumped over the bathroom sink in defeat, James came right behind her with his palm out. She saw the diamond studded earrings she had been searching all around her place for.


"It was on the coffee table underneath the magazines."

She squealed and gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. She put on the earrings and turned to wipe the lipstick that grazed his cheek. "You're a life saver!"

"And you look beautiful, Johanna." It was the first time she had ever heard him say her full name. She took his hand and walked them out of her studio. Once they got to the garage, Jo dug in her purse for her keys. James stopped her shaky hands and dragged her by the wrist.

"James, what are you--"

He let go of her and jogged up to stand next to a white Bentley and a man dressed up in a suit. She couldn't believe her eyes. He actually had a car service pick them up.

She walked closer to him, "What is all this?"

"I just wanted to make your day extra special."

She nearly cried. He did all that for her? She couldn't imagine the trouble he went through and the money he spent just to make her feel much more special. She opened her mouth to say exactly how she felt about him spending so much but he stopped her before she could even get a word out, almost reading her mind.

"I know what you're going to say and I'll say it before you beat me to it. This was 100% my choice and I wanted to do this for you." James cooed sweetly in her ear as she ran up to his arms.

"You're going to make me cry," Jo said half joking. "This is the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me."

"You deserve it, Jo." He stated as he proceeded to open the door for her. She slid in and he followed. James quickly gave the driver the directions to Staples Center where the graduation was being held. Across her lap, Jo stared down at the cap and gown. She couldn't believe that she was finally graduating from her dream school. She also couldn't believe that she would be sharing this important milestone in her life with her dream guy.


James blended right in with the crowd. The arena was packed. He had never seen such a large graduation ceremony. He tried to be as close as possible to where the graduates were so that Jo could spot him easily. Sure enough, she stood up and waved her arms wildly above her head. He waved back. She sat back down, content that she found him.

While waiting for the ceremony to start, he looked around and tried to find her family. There were so many people, everyone practically looked the same to him. Then he noticed a family pass by him and sat in the same row. He did a double look and realized that it was Jo's family. He quickly took his phone out and looked at his hair in the reflection to make sure he looked presentable. He didn't know whether or not he should introduce himself since he knew Jo hadn't said anything about him to them.

Instead, he sat there quietly until the ceremony started.


"Holly Perez...Toni Perez...Ella Perish..."

James' hands were starting to hurt from the constant clapping. He just didn't want to miss cheering for her especially since he didn't even know her last name. He waited and waited and waited until...

"Johanna Perry."

It was a natural reaction for him upon hearing her name. His ears perked up and immediately, he stood up, screaming and cheering for her. He was sure she had heard him as she waved her diploma up at him. When she finally stepped down from the stage, he sat back down, trying to get his heart beat back to normal. He almost forgot that her parents were sitting right next to him and when he finally caught up to his breath, her father turned to him and asked, "You know Johanna?"


"Uh, yes...yes sir. I'm James, Jo-uh, I mean Johanna's um..."

What was I to Jo? Am I her friend? Her...boyfriend? James wasn't so sure of himself and just decided to answer with, "Friend."

"Oh, well, I'm her dad. John." James shook her father's hand as well as her mother's when she introduced herself as Anna.

"How long have you known Johanna?" Her mother leaned in to ask.

"I met her at this music festival back in April."

"But that's only been two months." Anna noted.

James said nothing, unsure of what to really tell her. Was it a bad thing that he had only met her not too long ago?

"Johanna never mentioned a new friend," she shared. "We know all of her friends."

"Oh um--"

"Anna, dear. Johanna is a big girl. She doesn't have to tell us who she hangs out with." John reasoned with his wife.

Jo's mother ended the conversation there while her father started a new one.

"So where are you from uh, James, right?"

He nodded.

"I live in Pittsburgh but originally from Canada."

"Canada? That's interesting. Johanna's grandparents are from Canada. Where in Canada are you from?" John asked.

"Whitby. In Ontario." James replied.

"Oh my parents are from Belleville."

"That's about an hour away from where I live." He said.

"What brings you to LA then?" John questioned.

"To attend this graduation."

"You flew all the way from Canada--"

"Pittsburgh." James corrected.

"Right. You flew all the way from Pittsburgh just for Johanna?"

James nodded.

John laughed and gave him a pat on the back. "I think Johanna needs more friends like you. You know, she has this 'best friend'," he added air quotes. "Erin or something. They've been friends for years. She used to stay at our house during the summers back when they were teenagers. But now, never attends anything. I don't think she even came to this graduation. She wasn't there on any of Johanna's birthdays after they graduated high school. Some friend, huh?"

James stayed silent, not wanting to comment on that.

"We tried to tell her about that Erica girl but she wouldn't have it. Johanna's a bit stubborn sometimes. She always wants to do only what she wants to do."

James' mind started to drift, becoming uninterested at the rant Jo's father was going on about. He knew that her father probably meant well but he didn't really want to hear about her father's issues with her life. He didn't want to base his judgements over what other people said about her. What he thought and felt about her all came from her, not anyone else.

Finally, the ceremony was over and all the graduates threw their caps in the air. Jo, however, didn't. She just smiled and gave hugs to the people she spent the last couple of years in school with. She waved goodbye and hurriedly went out to the runway where she would meet everyone.


"James!" He heard her before he even saw her. She jumped into his arms and squeezed as much of him as she could with all her might. "I'm so happy you're here! I graduated, can you believe it?!"

Again, her contagious happiness caught on to him. "I knew you could do it. I'm so proud of you, Jo."

She squealed again and looked around him to see her family right behind him.

"You guys made it!"

As James stood back to give them time to reunite, her brother Rich stood next to him.

"Are you sure you're not Jo's boyfriend?" He spoke.

James nearly choked on his own saliva.

"No, no. We're just friends." James responded.

"Yeah, Jo always say that about her guy friends. 'Just friends.'" Rich said sarcastically. "But you seem like a cool guy. After all, you play for the Penguins right?"

What the fu-

Rich felt him tense up right next to him. "I knew you looked familiar when you started talking to my dad. I've seen you at the games when you guys play against the Sharks."

"Yeah." Was all James could answer.

"At least my sister is dating a rich guy. God knows that she's gonna need it."

That got James fired up. Who the fuck talks that way about his own sister? On the ice, whenever someone pissed him off, usually his brain shuts off and his fists starts to do all the talking. Off the ice, it wasn't any different. He was a second away from punching her brother square in the face. He was ready to say something and give her brother a piece of his mind when Jo piped up right next to him.

"C'mon, let's all go out for lunch. My treat!"

James gave her brother a look that said, "we're not done here" but Rich only gave him a smirk in return.

Oh, brother. James knew he was in some serious shit.
♠ ♠ ♠
Alright guys, we're in the half way mark of this story! I am honestly surprised that so many of you rec'd (it surpassed my most amount of recs I got for my previous story) and for that, I am very thankful for each and everyone who loves this as much as I do.

Now that we're five chapters away from the end, I won't be posting chapter six until I completely finish writing this story. I am almost done with chapter eight so it shouldn't take that long. Again, thanks for sticking around and thank you to all the subs, recs, and comments. You guys are the best!