Home > Charming as Puck(20)

Charming as Puck(20)
Author: Pippa Grant

And everyone there will be interested if they hear this insane theory that me dumping Nick is why he’s having a bad season.

He’s a professional. He’s not thinking about me on the ice. He never did.

Whatever’s going on with him, it has nothing to do with me.

I fake a swoon and sway into Josh. “Oh, wow, I think there was something in that wine,” I say. “I’m suddenly not feeling so good.”

All three of them stare at me.

Crap.

I’m going to have to puke.

I’m going to have to make myself puke, right here, outside the aquarium, before they’ll believe I don’t feel good.

Or maybe I could just fake a faint.

It might hurt, but it’ll get me out of going to Chester Green’s.

“Or it might’ve been that dog I ate earlier,” I improvise.

“You mean hot dog?” Sarah asks.

“No, dog-dog.”

Suddenly all three of them are leaping back.

“You ate a dog?” Josh says.

“It might’ve been monkey.”

They all take one more step back.

“You brought a chick who likes to eat animals to the aquarium?” Sean hisses at Josh. “We’re lucky we got out of there without her diving in that tank and taking a bite out of the stingrays.”

“Stingrays are delicious,” I confirm.

I’m most definitely going to be sick, because I’m disgusting myself now.

But they’re far enough away that I feel comfortable pulling my phone out and ordering a Lyft, which is all the battery power I have left. “I’m going home,” I say. “Nice to meet you all.”

And before they can argue, I dash off.

Could this date have been worse?

Yep.

But it could’ve been better too.

A whole fuck-ton better.

Twenty-One

Nick

It’s been over a week since I started my apology campaign, and I’ve gotten nothing.

My text messages to Kami still show as unread. She hasn’t called. Felicity hasn’t passed any messages.

Neither has Ares, but I know he saw her, because he told me so.

Saw Kami.

That was it. No mention of how she was doing. If she asked about me. Where they were.

If she was alone, or if she had any other dates.

Zeus improvised a story when he realized I was too curious, but I didn’t believe the thing about her getting caught having sex in the zebra enclosure, because she told me once that the only zookeepers she’s friends with are female, and she wouldn’t have sex at the zoo anyway because it would be mean to the animals to introduce unsanitary conditions into their living environment.

Pretty sure she was trying to dissuade me from taking advantage of her behind the gorilla enclosure because she didn’t want to get caught having sex in public, but then, I don’t want to screw around where goats or chickens have been screwing either, so I didn’t question it.

We’re getting dressed for our game in Calgary. Klein’s starting again. I’m just sitting the bench in case he gets winded or hurt.

I don’t play every game—coaches don’t think it’s good, and while it might seem like we’re the laziest motherfuckers on the ice because we don’t go anywhere, we take the most hits and sweat the most under all those pads—but I don’t sit out as many as I have this season so far either.

I stare at my phone before I tuck it into the locker, but on second thought, I pull it back out.

What the fuck could it hurt?

The phone’s ringing before I remember we’re two hours behind Virginia because of time zones. She should be getting ready for bed.

But it’s already ringing.

She’ll just let it go to voicemail if she doesn’t want to answer. She’s stubborn enough to ignore my texts, she’s probably stubborn enough to ignore my calls too.

But to my utter surprise, there’s her voice. “Hello?”

“Kami! Kami. You’re—you answered.”

Lavoie catches my eye, then drops his gaze like he’s not listening.

Ares isn’t as polite. He watches me while he stretches.

“Hi, Nick,” she says warily. There’s noise in the background. People. Bowling balls? Definitely buzzers and bells.

“Are you out on a date?” I blurt before I remember I’m a fucking hockey player who doesn’t get tongue-tied and insecure over my sister’s friend being on a date.

Oh, fuck it.

My heart’s about to pound out of my chest, because if she’s out on a date, she might be meeting the man of her dreams right now.

Fucker probably couldn’t find her clit with a map and a flashlight, but if that’s what she wants, fine.

That’s her business.

“I’m out,” she says slowly. “Did you need something?”

“On a date?” I press.

Swear to god, I hear her roll her eyes. “Not at the moment, no.”

Fuck, this is what relief feels like. I’m jelly-kneed and wobbly-thighed. I sink down on the bench in front of my locker and stare at Calgary’s logo on the carpet. “I just—just wanted to see how you’re doing,” I say.

“Aren’t you supposed to be playing a game right now?” she asks, and the concern in her voice is a life raft.

She still cares.

“Yeah. I mean, no. In a few minutes. Not yet. Klein’s starting. I’m—” I’m stuttering and stammering like I’m a freshman in high school asking the head senior cheerleader if she wants to come watch a cartoon movie with me and my family. “Your cousin Judy still setting you up on dates?”

“You mean Muffy?” she says dryly.

Muffy. I knew it was something funny. I grab my wallet and look for a piece of paper to scribble the name on. “Just making sure you’re paying attention.”

“You are utterly ridiculous.”

There’s a smile in her voice. I can hear it, and knowing I put it there lifts a weight I didn’t realize I was carrying.

Muffy.

I’m googling her as soon as I hang up.

“I like to think the ridiculous is part of my charm,” I tell her.

“You really need to stop with the gifts. It’s not necessary.”

“Bet nobody else you’ve dated would’ve thought of today’s.”

“That’s because normal people don’t buy thirty Heifers for Humanity in another person’s name. Or ask for all thirty of the gift goats that they give with the heifers to go to the honoree. I have enough stuffed animals for a goat orgy.”

I’m grinning now, because that was fucking brilliance.

Maybe not the part where people in third world countries will be eating Sugarbear’s cousins, but the part where I got cows into her apology gifts.

“It’s too much, Nick. Please. I get it—you’re sorry. You don’t have to keep sending presents.”

I’ve never had a real girlfriend, but I’ve dated casually plenty, and there’s one thing I’ve never found in another woman—the desire for me to not spend my cash on her.

How can I not like Kami?

She’s just good people. Selfless and shit.

“Maybe I just want to send my friend birthday presents. Maybe it’s not all about an apology.”

“Nick…”

“I can’t send people farm animals anymore. I have to channel my creative energy somewhere.”

Lavoie snorts. Frey outright laughs. Zeus is smirking.

Only Ares shakes his head like we’re all three bananas short of a fruitcake.

There’s a shriek on her end of the phone, and then a roar of people cheering. “Where are you?” I ask.

“Whoa, dude. If I can’t have phone sex in the dressing room, neither can you,” Zeus says.

“Wrap it up, Murphy.” Coach walks in and scowls at me.

“Gotta go,” I tell Kami. “I’ll call you later.”

“Nick—” she starts, but Lavoie snags my phone and ends the call for me.

Or maybe in spite of me. Because I didn’t want to hang up.

I wanted her to tell me she was having a miserable time and answered because she wished I was with her.

I wanted her to ask me to call again soon instead of me just telling her I would.

I wanted to her want me.

“Oh, fuck,” I gasp.

Lavoie rolls his eyes. Frey grins. So does Zeus.

Ares, though, pins me with a yeah, you idiot, and you’ve got your work cut out for you, don’t you? look.

Because they know. And they’re right.

I’m in love with Kami.

Twenty-Two

Kami

The phone goes dead, and after checking to make sure it was Nick hanging up and not my battery—nope, I have twenty-three percent left, so it was definitely a hang-up—I pocket it while Maren gives me the you are in so much trouble glare.

“It was game time. If he’s calling at game time, something might’ve been really wrong.” I turn back to my Skee-Ball game and toss a ball up the wooden lane.

And totally miss even the biggest ring.

“Was something wrong?” Maren asks.

“Just the fact that he’d call me right before the game.”

There’s a huge shout, and we both glance over at the table of men at Wreck’n’Roll who are still arguing over the greatest football players of all time. Maren and I agreed before we got here that we’d pretend to be football fans tonight, because it seemed safer than getting dragged into another Thrusters conversation like at the wedding Sunday night.

But we sold it a little too well, especially Maren with the trash-talking, and now all the men we were supposed to be speed dating are bonding over beers and yardage statistics.

“Maybe we should become domestic partners and both head to sperm banks,” Maren says.

“Will you buy me a farm in the country and let me have pygmy goats?”

“Can I install solar panels and wind turbines and a satellite wifi receiver?”

   
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