Home > Charming as Puck(13)

Charming as Puck(13)
Author: Pippa Grant

Half an hour or so later, I’m being seated in a suede-lined booth big enough for two beside the exposed brick wall at Noble V, one of the trendier wine bars in downtown just down the street from Chester Green’s. Muffy made the reservation for us, claiming she owed me for dancing with William. My date hasn’t arrived yet, but I wonder if Muffy’s men are just the late kind. Plus, I’m ten minutes early, which is unusual when I’m heading into downtown at rush hour.

I guess the city’s campaign to get more people on public transportation is working.

I fiddle with the menu, glancing at the fine writing on the thick linen paper tucked into the leather menu cover. The wine is easy—they have my favorite Riesling from a small winery outside the city near the Blue Ridge Mountains—but too many things on the food list sound great for that to be an easy choice.

Nick would go for the hamburger, but I—dammit.

I don’t care what Nick would go for.

The salmon sounds good. Fish is good. Healthy. Sophisticated. Undoubtedly delicious here. I flop the menu down and glance around again.

Everything’s dark wood. High, exposed-beam ceilings. The bartender’s young and hot and wearing a black button-down, and the servers are all in total black too. And oh my god, that’s Doug Dobey, Felicity’s ex-boyfriend, talking to the hostess.

I duck my head over the menu again, because now I’m thinking about Felicity.

And Doug.

And the thousands of cookies printed with dick pics that Nick sent Doug, who then dumped them on Felicity’s lawn, when they broke up.

Nick does not do anything small.

Also, Doug went a little stalker nutso after that. We haven’t had reason to talk since the break-up, but I’d still rather not see him.

Who wants to see their friends’ psycho exes? Especially when he was ultimately the reason the entire Thrusters team got sent to charm school?

Heat surges across my neck, and I lunge for my cell phone, because my date’s name is Douglas.

Muffy wouldn’t.

She wouldn’t.

But did she know?

I’m failing to unlock my phone because my hands are shaking so badly when the hostess’s black shoes stop beside my table. “Ms. Oakley, sir.”

I whip my head up, and fuck.

Doug’s lips part as we make eye contact. He’s in pressed jeans and a blue button-down. His brown hair is neatly trimmed. So’s his beard. His glasses reflect the candlelight on the table. And if I didn’t know better, I’d think he wasn’t a psychotic crazypants.

“Is this some kind of a fucking joke?” he demands as he looks me up and down.

“I think there’s been a misunderstanding,” I stutter.

The hostess glances between us, then shoots a look toward the bar.

“Did Murphy set you up to make me look like a fool?” he snarls.

I pull my phone out and aim it at him. “I’m recording every word you say. You’re going to back away and let me leave, and never, ever talk about this huge mistake again, and I won’t show this to Ares Berger.”


“Ma’am?” The gentle-voiced manager joins us as I’m scurrying out of the booth. “Is everything okay?”

“Blind date gone wrong,” I tell him, because that’s simpler than my idiot cousin set me up with my friend’s psycho ex. “May I please have an escort to my car?”

“I can’t fucking believe this,” Doug seethes. “My first date in a fucking year, and it’s this bitch. Fucking Muff Matchers. I’ll put them the fuck out of business for this.”


Whatever else the manager says, I don’t hear, because there’s a hollow whoosh in my ears and the entire dimly-lit restaurant takes on the hues of hell. “Oh, you better take that back right now,” I growl.

“You’re a bitch,” he repeats. “And this dating service is run by retar—”

Everything after that gets a little hazy.

I know I take a swing at him. Someone screams. Maybe a few someones. I definitely connect with something, because there’s a sharp sting radiating from my middle knuckle to my elbow. Hands grab me. I thrash about. I’m shouting. Something about dicks not calling other people names. Something about Nick chopping off Doug’s nuts if he gets in my face again.

It’s not like I can threaten that my brother’s going to do it.

A wall of mist hits my face, and I realize I’ve just been tossed out of Nobel V and into the night. Streetlamps illuminate the wide sidewalks and couples in dark jackets and groups of single women laughing together walk past.

“I don’t know what he did to you,” the hostess tells me as she hands me my coat and purse, “but damn, girl. I want you on my side next time my boyfriend pulls a dick move.”

“Can I escort you to your car, ma’am?”

The manager is outside the bar too, watching me as though I’m a lit stick of dynamite.

“I’m sorry.” I shake my hand out—did I break it?—and realize my sinuses are clogging and my cheeks are wet. “I don’t usually—”

I swallow hard, because I don’t usually lose my flipping mind at wine bars is just too weird to force out. I don’t even know myself right now. “No, thank you,” I finish.

The manager shifts a look over his shoulder, and I realize he’s asking just as much for my safety as for Doug’s.

Probably more so for mine.


My heart’s still pounding like it’s in a boxing ring.

“I have friends just down the street,” I tell him, gesturing at the glowing neon sign for Chester Green’s. I doubt my friends are there—it’s not a game night—but I know the bartender and several regulars.

Plus, there’s no way Doug would walk in there.

Everyone in Chester Green’s knows who he is, even if Muffy apparently doesn’t.

And after that, I definitely need a drink.

And then I’m going to kill Muffy.




It’s not often that half the team descends on Chester Green’s at once, but we’re doing it in spectacular fashion tonight. We’re taking up the entire back wall of the bar between the team, girlfriends, and wives. Zeus has claimed Frey’s baby and is telling everyone that she gets her good looks from her mother’s side of the family. You wouldn’t think a baby would turn half a hockey team into sappy dorks, but we’re all making funny faces at her and fighting over who makes her smile the biggest.

“I can’t wait until you and Joey have babies,” Gracie, Frey’s wife and Zeus’s sister-in-law, tells Zeus. “It’ll be good for your ego.”

She grins while she says it, and everyone laughs.

Everyone except Ares, who’s shaking his head like nothing will ever cure Zeus of his ego.

We’re on our second round of drinks when the door flings open and a familiar brunette hustles inside, head bent over her phone. She pauses just long enough to talk to the hostess and point to the bar, then ducks her head again and charges for an open seat.

I track her movements, sliding a glance at Felicity, who’s whispering and laughing with Gracie.

Felicity’s back’s to the door.

Kami hasn’t spotted us.

So unless the two of them are texting—which isn’t likely, seeing as Felicity’s not making any move to grab her phone—then I’m the only one who realizes we’re all in the same building.

And I don’t like that Kami’s all dressed up, or that she’s frowning, or that she just threw back a shot.

I stand up so fast my chair tips and clatters, which makes everyone look at me.

“Gotta piss,” I announce.

Felicity rolls her eyes.

Zeus stands. “Yeah, me too,” he says.

My lips part and my eyes bulge, because we don’t go to the fucking bathroom together like a flock of women.

The entire table busts up into laughter, and he lowers himself carefully back into the seat, still holding the baby. “Just shitting you, Murphy. Should see the look on your face.”

Fucker’s going down.

But everyone goes back to talking, and nobody pays any attention to me walking off toward the john. Or any attention to me switching paths and sliding onto the stool next to Kami.

“Don’t tell me some fucker stood you up,” I say.

She jumps, hand to her throat, and her eyes fly to me.

And then they go even wider than they already were.

She moves to hide her phone, but not before I get a quick look at her text messages. Every cell in my body freezes, and my muscles tense like I’m getting ready for a fight.

“Why the fuck are you texting someone about Felicity’s ex-dick?”

“Mind your own business,” she snaps.

She shoves her phone in her coat pocket and grimaces like she’s in pain. When she pulls her hand out again, I realize her knuckles are red and swelling.

“Kami?” Fury is washing through me, because I don’t know what happened, but something did. And whatever the fuck happened, I’m going to make sure it never happens again.

“Just a mistake,” she mutters. “I handled it.”

She flinches when I touch her hand, but she doesn’t pull it back while I lift her knuckles for closer inspection.

“This is how you handled it?” I growl.

She tosses her hair back and straightens her shoulders. “Maybe.”

I feel somebody watching me, so I glance back at the team table. Jaeger’s staring. He pokes Lavoie, who looks at me too.

“Come here,” I grunt, and before she can object, I’m pulling her into the back hall. I stop outside the women’s restroom.

“I handled it, Nick,” she repeats, but she’s cradling her injured hand, and I’m seeing red.

“Where is he?” I demand.

“Probably nursing his ego and getting his nose realigned. It was a blind date, okay? Neither one of us knew, we both agreed it was a mistake, and I handled it.”

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