Home > Charming as Puck(11)

Charming as Puck(11)
Author: Pippa Grant

If Muffy’s in charge of his dates, undoubtedly too many.

“I can use the restroom at the oyster bar,” I tell him.

His face lights up, wrinkles and all. He looks down at my feet and whistles. “Yeah, you’re dressed up good for the oyster bar. Right this way, darlin’.”

I slide a twenty onto the bar to pay for my kombucha, then take William’s arm and let him lead me out of the restaurant.

And then I have to readjust his hand when it slips to my ass.

“You like to dance?” he asks me.

“I do.”

“Oooh, honey, that’s a good thing, because I sure do like to watch.”

Then again, maybe his problem isn’t that Muffy’s in charge of his dates.

“I used to watch my late wife dance in the kitchen all the time,” he adds.

And there goes my heart squeezing for him again. “I’m sorry for your loss,” I say instead while we navigate around a group of teenagers taking up the whole sidewalk.

“Eh, better her than me.” His hand slips to my ass again, and I sigh as I once again right it.

Muffy is going to die.

Eleven

Kami

I’m beginning to get used to conflict.

Take this morning, for example. Muffy has refused to answer a single one of my calls since last night, so I’m leaving home early, after walking all four of my dogs—yes, Sugarbear is still a dog, and I swear she’s getting more dog-like every hour—to go visit my dear cousin Muffy at her house.

Which also happens to be my Aunt Hilda’s house.

I park around the corner and sneak through the backyards of the other 70’s-style brick homes so Aunt Hilda won’t see me coming. It’s been a long time since I climbed the trash cans out back to shimmy up onto the sun-room roof to get to Muffy’s room, and thirty is apparently already zapping my muscle mass, because it’s a lot harder on my arms and legs to get up on the roof than it used to be.

I scramble over the rough shingles to the window and pull out the screen. The curtains are only partially drawn, and I can see Muffy sleeping in her childhood princess bed.

Sliding the window open takes more effort than I remember too. The house must’ve settled since we were teens. But I manage it, and I’m slipping inside when Muffy rolls over, looks at me, and screams.

I dive for the bed and cover her mouth. “Shush. It’s me. It’s Kami.”

“I know. That’s why I’m screaming,” she says against my hand.

“You set me up with a horny old dude who could’ve been my grandfather!” I whisper-shriek.

“Muffy? Honey, did you have another one of your nightmares?” Aunt Hilda calls.

I glare at her and pull my hand away.

“Yes, Mom,” she calls dutifully.

“What was it this time?”

“The one with the goat claw,” she replies without even having to think about it.

“Oh, at the car dealership with the inflatable cars?”

“Yes, Mom.”

“I’ll go make you an omelet. Omelets cure everything.” The hallway floor squeaks and I sit back on Muffy’s pink, not-so-fluffy-anymore comforter.

“Not only did he keep grabbing my ass, I almost got arrested,” I hiss. “He’s not supposed to leave the nursing home. They thought I kidnapped an old man so I could harvest his sperm!”

“Did you dance with him?” she asks.

I blow out a breath. “Yes. Six times.”

“Aww, you big softie.” She leans over and hugs me. “He doesn’t get to dance very often. I knew you’d dance with him. That probably made his entire month.”

It’s hard to stay mad when she puts it like that. “What’s he in a nursing home for anyway?”

She pats her crazy brown morning hair and grimaces. “It’s a center for elderly criminals.”

“What?”

“Of the harmless variety.” She waves a hand and starts scooting off the bed. She’s in a Thrusters T-shirt and bikini briefs, and she picks her underwear out of her butt while she heads to her closet and pulls out a robe. “He got sucked into a scheme where he was calling women pretending to be their long-lost grandfather in need of gas money to come visit. He thought he was calling on behalf of real grandparents whose grandkids were ignoring them.”

“That’s…”

“Exactly like something my mom will do one day.” She yawns and scratches her stomach. “You want omelets for breakfast? Or do you have to get home and feed your cow?”

“You still owe me a real date,” I grumble, but I follow her downstairs for egg white omelets with Aunt Hilda, who’s in a pair of pink silk pajamas that she wore back before gastric bypass surgery a few years ago. She’s swimming in silk.

Almost literally.

“Kami, honey, can you introduce me to that nice Canadian boy on the Thrusters?” Aunt Hilda asks when I walk into the kitchen. She doesn’t seem surprised to see me, which makes me wonder if she had a role in my date with William last night. “I’ll add some turkey bacon to your omelet if there’s any chance you can get me his number.”

“Which Canadian?” I ask, because there are at least three.

“Duncan Lavoie, of course. The only one who matters.”

“Felicity won’t even give me his number. I don’t think I’ll be able to get it for you.” Never mind that I have it anyway because of a potbellied pig incident, and yes, that was also Nick’s fault.

“The other Canadians?” she asks hopefully.

“One’s married and the other’s gay.”

“I don’t mind just watching if the gay one’s down for it.”

“You know you’re the reason I have nightmares,” Muffy tells her mom.

Aunt Hilda grabs her in a hug, and they’re like one big giant silk monster floating together in the kitchen. “And I’m the reason you can’t find a boyfriend or get a real job. I know, honey. I know. I also pay your therapy bills.”

“I don’t go to therapy.”

“Everyone should go to therapy. It’s good for you. Kami, you go to therapy, don’t you?”

“No, but I probably should.” Hypnosis therapy would be good.

Then I could forget Nick.

Because even while I was explaining the situation to the police at the oyster bar last night, I couldn’t help thinking about Nick.

He’ll be a dirty old man one day. Sneaking out of nursing homes to hit on women a third his age.

Unless the right woman finally snares him. The one who will finally mean more to him than hockey. Than pranks. Than everything.

And that one won’t be me.

“Cheer up, Kami.” Muffy hands me an egg white omelet with spinach and kale and mushrooms and I’m honestly afraid to ask what else. “I know last night wasn’t exactly what you had in mind, but I have the best date lined up for you tonight.”

“Is he under seventy?” I ask.

“Yep.”

“Single?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Average intelligence or better?”

“Yep.”

“Does he tell knock-knock jokes?”

Both Muffy and Aunt Hilda frown at me. “I…don’t think so,” Muffy finally says.

“Impotence problems?”

“Kami. Don’t you think you’re getting a little picky?”

“You set me up with a member of a senior citizen crime ring.”

“Oh, did you go out with William last night?” Aunt Hilda claps her hands. “I’d do him if he were ten years younger.”

“Mom.”

“Sorry, sweetie. It’s the hormones. Menopause is no joke.”

I eat my omelet quickly, because I’m actually at risk of being late to work. Again.

“Come through the front door next time, hon,” Aunt Hilda calls as I dash away.

I make it to the clinic with five minutes to spare before my first patient of the day. I rush in the back door and swing into the break room to toss my coat onto the rack and my bag in my cubby, except I can’t get more than a foot into the door.

Because the break room is piled with at least two dozen giant teddy bears with red ribbons around their necks, all of them holding helium balloons that read I’m sorry.

“Whaaa…?” I start.

“That’s exactly what I was going to ask you,” my mom replies dryly behind me.

“I don’t…” I trail off, because I think I do. “How many bears are there?” I ask weakly.

“Thirty.” Mom sips her coffee and gives me the look of all mothers suspicious of being denied a glimpse into their children’s dating lives.

You know the one.

The does this mean you’re going to give me grandchildren of the human variety soon too? look.

“Was there a card?”

“Was a card necessary?”

Nope.

Not at all.

I rub my chest, right over my fluttering heart.

I’ve never seen Nick Murphy apologize for anything, but I’ve seen him pull a prank or seventeen.

And if there’s one thing I know about Nick, it’s that he never does anything small.

I might be in trouble.

He loves himself first, I remind myself.

It doesn’t help.

Forget might.

I am most definitely in trouble.

Twelve

Nick

Since we don’t have another game until Wednesday, and since my agent is a worthless shit when it comes to solving my living problems—although he’s a god when it comes to endorsement deals and milking the hell out of things like that self-published book I wrote about one of Felicity’s dick ex-boyfriends a few years ago—half the team joins me Monday night to move my shit out of my condo.

Along with my parents.

Who are delighted—Mom’s words—to have me moving back into their basement.

I’d get a hotel room, except the last thing I need is to be blacklisted from all the hotels in town, which might be inevitable given that I fully intend to pay Zeus back for the cow.

   
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