Home > Charming as Puck(12)

Charming as Puck(12)
Author: Pippa Grant

“This is temporary,” I remind my mom. “One week. Tops. I’m meeting with a real estate agent before practice tomorrow.” Because apparently my reputation precedes me, and none of the building supervisors at my buddies’ places have returned my calls. One even hung up on me.

Mom smiles over a box of stuff she pulled out of my cabinets. “Of course you are. By the way, honey, butter goes in the fridge,” she says. “You’ll have to remember that when you use my kitchen.”

Fuck me. I knew I blacked out bad enough after the season opener last week that I put my popcorn in the fridge, but I didn’t know I put my butter in the cabinet.

“Here. You take this.” I shove a full bottle of Jameson at Klein, my backup on the team, because I need to not drink it. “Happy birthday.”

Happy birthday.

That hollow hurt in Kami’s eyes yesterday—she thinks somebody told me.

Of course she does. Why shouldn’t she?

Guilt is one emotion I do my best to avoid at all costs.

One of many, actually.

But I can’t stop thinking about Kami. About the idea that she’s hurt because of me.

About all the ways I’m going to prove to her that we shouldn’t end our friends-with-benefits relationship just because we hit a few hiccups.

She hasn’t acknowledged today’s offering yet, but that’s okay.

I have twenty-nine more ideas to go.

“You could stay at my place,” Jaeger, one of our newer offensive linemen, tells me, “except you couldn’t bring your girlfriend since my building doesn’t allow cows either.”

I flip him off, because charm school apparently worked.

Normally I’d put him through a window.

But today, a finger is all I have.

It’s possible I needed that dunking in the pool last night.

Zeus too.

Ares dunked him when he wasn’t expecting it, then frowned down over both of us, said, “No more shit pranks,” and stalked off to take Felicity home.

Now, both Berger twins are among the guys here helping me pack up my stuff.

The cleaners come tomorrow.

And I’m turning in my key on Wednesday.

And soon, Zeus Berger will find out what fucking with Nick Murphy means.

I wouldn’t be pulling my weight on the team if I didn’t get him back.

And one good prank deserves another.

“I moved back in with my parents once,” Zeus tells me while we load up his truck, since my Jeep’s already full. Ares’s Escalade is already loaded down too. “’Course, I was nineteen, home for that first summer after college, and I only lasted about three hours before Ares got home too and we rented out this cheap-ass apartment in Wishberry Lake. You ever been to Wishberry Lake?”

“You have a point?” I ask him.

He grins. “Yeah, basically that if I can find an apartment in Wishberry Lake, and you can’t find one here, you’re a big loser. Ow. Fucker.”

He punches the air, trying to hit Ares back—nice of the big guy to defend my honor there—but Ares is quicker. Probably because of all that vegan food Felicity has him eating. I swear the dude’s getting lean without losing any muscle mass, which only makes him more dangerous.

“Say sorry,” he says to Zeus, who’s fighting—unsuccessfully—to get out of his twin’s headlock.

“Sorry, Murphy,” Zeus says dutifully.

Ares releases him. “Now hug.”

“Aw, that’s not necessary, man,” I say while Zeus and I eye each other dubiously.

“Hug,” Ares repeats.

He’s getting that look on his face again.

The one that says if we don’t hug, he’s going to enjoy the hell out of shooting practice tomorrow when I’m at the net.

I don’t know what he’s threatening Zeus with, but the two of them are clearly communicating something.

Zeus awkwardly goes for the one-armed shoulder hug. Fucker’s so tall, I’m left to one-arm him under his armpit.

“More,” Ares growls.

“Fuck,” I mutter.

Zeus grabs me with both arms, and I loop mine around his back. I can hear his fucking heart beating, and I swear it’s shouting Let me go! Let me go!

We both jump back in time to see Felicity high-five Ares. “I got six pictures,” she tells him.

He slips an arm around her and bends down to kiss her head. “Good job.”

Fuck pranking Zeus.

I’m getting both the Berger twins.

“Mom’s offering a pizza party for everyone at home,” Felicity tells me. She’s dwarfed next to Ares, but she’s so smiley and happy all the time, it doesn’t look weird anymore. “I told her the guys already had plans to hit Chester Green’s. You’re welcome.”

It’s like being seventeen again. Nick, honey, invite your hockey friends over so I can make sure you’re not out getting any girls pregnant. I’ll get some nice PG-13 movies for you to watch too.

I grew out of being embarrassed by my parents a long time ago. Most of the guys on the team like being mothered—in moderation—because it’s so rare to play in the same town as family.

But visiting my parents across town for a home cooked meal and having the guys swing by because I live there are two different things.

“You are an angel,” I tell Felicity.

“Yeah, don’t get too comfortable thinking it’s all because I’m a good sister.”

“There’s always a catch, man. Always.” Zeus shakes his head while Ares nods in agreement.

“What?” I ask.

“I told my boss I’d get you to do a video with Sugarbear,” Felicity replies. “And that it’ll be adorable.”

“Kami’s new dog? Sure. Done.” Especially since it means I’ll have to see Kami again.

“Good. Because the other half is that I’m interviewing you both. With Thrusty. As soon as Kami finds her a new home.” She smiles at me and adds, “And Sugarbear has this really cute voice!” without moving her lips.

She’s so freaky.

And so cool.

Some of the best and worst moments of my entire life have come courtesy of my sister’s weird talents.

Also, fuck waiting for Kami to find the cow a home. “Why can’t we do it tomorrow?” I ask her.

“Because you’re a dick and I’m not giving you an excuse to bother Kami,” she replies sweetly.

“She’s got you there,” Zeus says.

Felicity smiles, and yeah, fine.

I’d do just about anything for my sister.

Right now, I’d do just about anything to get back in Kami’s good graces too. I wonder if Felicity knows about this morning’s delivery.

“You’re about cleaned out, so we’ll go get a table,” Felicity says. “Not like we have to hurry to unload anything.”

Right.

Because we’ll just have to load it back up when I get a new place in a few days. “Thanks.”

She smiles again. Nice to see her smiling so much. Even I can’t deny Ares has been good for her, even if it pissed me off to find out he was sleeping with her when he was supposed to be guarding her against a crazy ex-boyfriend.

“Better go make sure Mom’s not trying to give away anything. I think she has a crush on Jaeger.”

“That’s…”

“Disgusting?” she asks with a big grin.

“My mom has a crush on Hulk Hogan,” Zeus offers.

“You mean you do,” Ares says.

They’re still laughing when I head for the elevator.

This isn’t so bad, I tell myself. Things will get normal again. I’ll have a new place within a week. We’re playing the Boston Blades at home on Wednesday, and they’ll be tough, but I know we’re tougher. And Kami will forgive me, and I’ll get my game mojo back.

Life is about to be perfect once again.

Thirteen

Kami

The butterflies are back, and not just because I got called home from work early to deal with Sugarbear getting through the fence in my piddly backyard and eating Mrs. Ostermeijer’s mums. Placating my neighbor was fairly simple, but if Sugarbear gets through the other fence, it won’t be so easy.

And it’s not like I can just call up doggy daycare and ask if they take extra-large varieties for while I’m at work.

Maybe tomorrow, I’ll take her to work with me. We do have a parking lot. And she loves my dogs.

So tonight’s butterflies are once again due to a date.

A real date. With Douglas. A man who isn’t a hockey player. And who wears glasses, and who Muffy assures me is no more than thirty-five. And who wants to meet at a wine bar downtown.

Nick knows wine exists, but he’s more of an Irish whisky kind of guy. Or Irish beer. Or sometimes a mix of the two.

Not thinking about Nick tonight, I remind myself.

Tiger howls when I dance into my slingbacks. Like I’m cheating on her for having a date. “It’s a work night,” I tell her. “I won’t be out late. Promise.”

Pancake rolls her eyes and flops to the ground in front of my couch. Dixie tries to trip me and bounces all over the living room. She’s a pinball, leaping off the couch, missing the recliner, bouncing off the wall, skidding to a stop before the TV stand.

“You three are fine.” They got an extra-long walk with Sugarbear after work, and then we played fetch in the front snip of a yard for half an hour while Sugarbear ate her grains in back, during which I only thought about Nick and the thirty apology teddy bears approximately three million times. “Dates are good for me. And so they’re good for you. Don’t you want someone else to play fetch with?”

Tiger flops on her back next to Pancake and makes her goofball howl again. Dixie skitters out of the room and dashes back in two seconds later with her stuffed monkey that she likes to play tug of war with. She drops it at my feet and pants up at me.

“After my date.”

She, too, flops mournfully onto the rug beside Pancake and Tiger. I unplug my phone, snap a picture of the three of them looking pathetically adorable, and send it to my mom. Then I head for the door.

   
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