Home > Charming as Puck(22)

Charming as Puck(22)
Author: Pippa Grant

“Buy me a drink?” Jami bats her lashes at me. “I really like sex on the beach.”

Kami’s giggle carries through the room, and I look across the wooden bar to watch her in the mirror. She and Maren are whispering together. Reminds me of last New Year’s Eve, when we all got together at Mom and Dad’s place for Cards Against Humanity.

Some of the words out of her mouth that night—just because I use them doesn’t mean I expect to hear Kami say them.

Kami.

With an I.

And she’s all heart.

Fuck, such a sweet heart.

But other than a fuck-ton of gifts she doesn’t even seem to want, what the hell do I have to offer her? I don’t know the first thing about being a boyfriend, much less a husband and father. And I’m about to bring my home team down in flames.

“If you’re not interested in a drink, do you want some financial advice?”

My fingers have somehow become entangled with Jami’s—or is it Anni’s?—and they’re both leaning so close we could be sharing clothes.

“I just finished my CPA degree this spring,” Jami—definitely Jami, the redhead—tells me. “I come with the body and the brains.”

“And I’m a nurse.” Anni grabs my ass. “I know all about taking care of booboos. And that puck you took to the shoulder looked like it hurt.”

My skin suddenly prickles like it’s raining feathers, and I glance in the mirror again.

Kami’s smile is gone.

Three of the dudes with her are pointing our way. Superfans. Which should be awesome, except tonight, it’s not.

“Not even a little bit of a grin?” Anni asks.

“Oh, honey.” Jami sighs. “It’s one game. We’re gonna help get you all fixed up.”

My gaze flits back to the two women. Jami’s flagging down the bartender. When he doesn’t immediately reply, she stretches, pushing her ample bosom out until it could serve as a shelf for about six whisky bottles.

“Yes, ma’am?” the bartender calls.

“We need a Jameson for Nickie-poo.” She blows him a kiss, and he grabs a bottle from under the shelf, shaking his head with a grin.

“You wanna talk about it, sweetie?” Anni asks.

“I—no.”

The familiar ripple goes through the bar—the one that says everyone knows we’re here—and I take quick stock of my teammates. Klein and Jaeger are entertaining six women with beers and war stories, their backs to the bar. Sokolov and The Bear have their own fan club on my other side, both of them head and shoulders taller than everyone around them.

Lavoie’s leaning by the dartboard, talking to three women, with a clear view of the room.

“We heard rumors you were seeing someone.” Jami strokes a hand down my chest. “Guess you’re single now, hm?”

“Nice to see you out again,” Anni adds. “I learned a new trick with my tongue since the last time we talked. Wanna see?”

“Sex helps the body heal,” Jami agrees.

“Lots of sex helps it heal faster,” Anni adds.

“Unless you pull a nut or something.”

“That’s really not possible.”

“Nickie-poo, did you pull a nut? We can help rub your nuts.”

Maren’s talking to the dudes, and Kami’s gathering her things. Muffy gives me one of those older sister-slash-overbearing-cousin looks that would scare the shit out of me if I wasn’t a hundred times better at being an overprotective big brother than basically anyone on the planet.

“He definitely pulled a nut.”

“You want me to take a look and see if I can lick it all better, baby?”

“I’m a good nut-licker too. Just because I’m not a nurse doesn’t mean I don’t have experience.”

The dickopotamuses and doucheasauruses aren’t letting Kami and Maren out. Muffy either on the other side of the round couch table, and with those guns, she looks like she could take them, but she’s not using them to her advantage.

I can’t hear whatever the twatnuggets are saying back to the women, but I don’t have to.

I know the look.

Seen it enough on Felicity’s ex-boyfriends’ faces.

No, baby, you don’t want to leave yet.

Stay, sweet cheeks. I’m gonna buy you another drink.

You know you want to come back to my place with me.

I’m crossing the floor before my brain remembers I’m supposed to be reformed from charm school.

And before my teammates realize I’ve moved.

Because if they saw me, there’s no fucking way they’d be letting me out of arm’s reach.

“Whoa, whoa, you’re Nick Murphy,” the head dickopotamus says.

“Oh, fuck,” Maren says.

Too late.

I’m pulling the first dude out of the booth. “Did the lady ask you to move?” I growl in his face. He smells like cheese fries and piña colada, and his nose hairs are three months past needing a trim.

“Murphy!” Lavoie barks from across the bar.

I point to the second guy. “Move. Now. Before you learn what happens when you talk to my girlfriend.”

“And here we go,” Maren sighs.

The other guy’s not moving, so I grab him too. “What do we do when ladies ask us to move?”

“We were moving!” the first guy says.

I’m in real danger of actually getting my nuts dislocated, and my body’s sore and tired after a long game, and my biceps are straining, but I don’t put either down.

“Are we ever going to have to have this discussion again?” I growl.

“We didn’t know she was your girlfriend, swear we didn’t.”

“I didn’t touch her, man. I’d never touch your girlfriend.”

“Put them down, Murphy,” Lavoie orders.

“Nick, please,” Kami says quietly.

It doesn’t matter that everyone around us is shouting and barking and pushing. She talks, and I can hear her.

Doesn’t mean I want to listen.

But the truth is, she’s trained me. Felicity can handle herself. How many times have you hit a guy for her, only to have it happen again? This. Doesn’t. Work.

You need a better method.

Next time you get mad, think of Loki hitting the asshole who’s pissing you off. Imagine that fuckshit getting taken down by a twelve-pound monkey. And then just smile.

I’d always smiled. Partly because Kami said fuckshit, and partly because yeah, the image of Ares’s emotional support monkey sticking his fingers up some fucker’s nose and then biting his nuts off was a damn good image.

“Nick,” she repeats.

My arms are shaking, and not just because I don’t usually lift four hundred pounds at a time.

Not after a game anyway.

I give both men a strained shake and put them down, and that’s when I realize Kami’s looking at me.

Not looking at me like she used to, like she’s happy to see me.

No, there’s a ghost between us now.

And there are stress lines in her forehead.

I’m fucking this up.

Dammit. I’m fucking it all up.

“Kami—”

Lavoie, Jaeger, and The Bear shove between me and the four guys who were sitting with the ladies, offering autographs and tickets and apologizing for me.

I’m not fucking apologizing.

Not to the dicknuggets, anyway.

“Sorry,” I mutter to Kami.

I hate saying sorry.

But it’s all I seem to be able to say around her lately.

Ever since I missed her birthday.

She’s not wrong.

I should’ve remembered. I shouldn’t have to make it up to her by sending her thirty presents a day for thirty days.

She saved me from missing my mom’s birthday. She helped me pick out Felicity’s wedding present. And reminded me about Felicity’s birthday.

She remembered my birthday.

Maren pushes between me and Kami. “You are so lucky Felicity’s not here,” she mutters.

Muffy gives me a stink eye too as she and Maren push Kami toward the door. “Your genome sequence is incomplete.”

“Dude.” Jaeger’s head whips around and his jaw parts while he watches Muffy and her overalls and her twin braids walk away. “Who’s that?”

I fumbled for half a second, processing that Kami’s walking away, that she’s serious, that she’s done with me, before I find the right answer. “Felicity’s friend’s friend. She doesn’t speak English.”

“She just called you a Neanderthal,” Jaeger says reverently. “In nerd.”

I ignore him, because all I can see is Kami.

Looking back at me before Maren and Muffy hustle her out the door.

I don’t know what that look means, but I know something else:

She’s the one. And I’ve fucked it all up. Again.

Twenty-Four

Kami

The look on Nick’s face haunts me all night.

I’ve never seen him so lost. Or so intense. Not off the ice anyway. Even when he’s doing something that he knows is a bad idea, he barrels in without hesitation, without question, without doubt.

But last night, his green eyes seemed to be asking me for everything I’ve ever wanted, but I don’t know if I can trust myself, because maybe I’m just seeing what I want to see.

Or maybe, he’s finally seeing me.

But does seeing mean wanting? And if he wants me, does he want me because he cares about me and wants me to be happy, or does he want me because of everything I did for him?

It’s a complicated question without an easy answer.

But it’s an answer I need nonetheless.

I pack my dogs up and leave Dixie and Pancake with my parents’ aging Dalmatian lab mix, Isaac Woofton, and head the few blocks over to the nicer neighborhood where the Murphys live.

The roads are foggy, and I don’t call first—partly because I’m trying to conserve the battery in my phone—but I’ve been dropping by daily to check on Sugarbear anyway. Mr. and Mrs. Murphy won’t mind.

   
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