Home > Charming as Puck(24)

Charming as Puck(24)
Author: Pippa Grant

I start to wipe it off him, realize my face has much of the same, and Tiger’s so coated that she looks like a Christmas jelly dog tree.

Or something.

Tiger howls indignantly.

Sugarbear sneezes again.

And all of us scatter.

Me flying off Nick’s lap and grabbing Tiger. Nick darting around the cow’s other side.

Sugarbear looks at all of us and sneezes again.

Then she licks her snout, moos, and harrumphs as she kicks the yoga ball.

Nick and I lock round eyes over the calf.

He starts to grin.

I crack up so hard Tiger yelps again.

And Mrs. Murphy sticks her head out the back door, which we can barely see through the fog. “Nick! What on earth are you doing to that poor girl?”

We both jump, me because I wonder if she saw us kissing, and Nick because—hell, who knows? His mom pretty much thinks he hung the moon, and he’s always taken advantage of her adoration.

“It’s okay, Mrs. Murphy,” I call. “Sugarbear told him quite clearly that he needs to quit hitting on her.”

His eyes go comically wide and his lips part like he didn’t see that coming.

Like he didn’t know I was capable of throwing him under the bus.

But Mrs. Murphy laughs, and the shock on Nick’s face is making me giggle too. I don’t have to stroke his ego. He has enough of it without my assistance.

But I’m not going to hold back the other parts of my personality around him anymore.

Not if this is going to be real.

A slow grin creeps over his features as though he’s catching on.

And I realize I might be in trouble.

Because he does have a little more experience in one-upmanship than I do.

“Come in here and get a cup of coffee,” she says. “Felicity and the crew will be here any minute.”

“The crew?”

“Oh, yes. Thrusty’s interviewing Nick and Sugarbear. After that video I took of the two of them playing fetch last night went viral on Snap-whatchamacallit, the Thrusters decided to move up the promo. And you can use my bathroom to wash up.”

Nick comes around the cow and steals Tiger from me. “I’ll get her,” he offers. He lowers his voice and adds, “And you could join us both in the shower if you wanted.”

My nipples offer a plea of yes, please, but my brain is dialing back into the conversation.

Do I want to have sex with Nick?


But I want more than an offer of dinner before I strip for him again.

I want to know he’s serious. That he’s willing to give us an actual chance, and that we’re not going to just slip back into the old patterns of hanging out just so we can have sex.

I want to know if he’s in this for real, or if he’s in this because I’m easy.

“We’ll see how Tuesday goes first,” I murmur back.

His eyes narrow, but not in suspicion.

No, I just accidentally challenged him.

“I mean—” I start with a stutter, but he’s full-on grinning now.

“No take-backs,” he replies, heading to the door with my dog. “And you won’t regret it.”

“She won’t regret what, honey?” Mrs. Murphy asks.

He grins at his mom. “Being my girlfriend.”



Probably wasn’t nice of me to leave Kami to my mother after dropping that bombshell, but if we’re going to do this—if we’re going to date—then it’s probably not the worst thing I’ll ever do to her.

Not that I’ll be a dick on purpose.

It just happens.

When I get back upstairs after showering all the cow snot off both me and Tiger, who was a very agreeable shower companion and now smells like my shower gel, Kami’s sipping something out of a mug while Felicity grills her at the table.

“You swore you were over him,” my sister is whispering. She’s worried—you can tell because she’s leaning really close and gripping Kami’s arm so hard, she’s probably leaving a mark—and I have a moment of panic.

Because I don’t want to hurt Kami.

And I haven’t ever done this committed-relationship thing.

Kami doesn’t blink, just shrugs a little. “Something feels different,” she tells Felicity, and my heart starts beating again.

She’s right.

Something is different.

“Tell me he didn’t send you thirty of his bobbleheads for one of his daily presents,” Felicity whispers. “Because if that’s what’s different—”

“Good idea, sis.” I drop into the seat beside her still holding Tiger, so Kami’s across the table from us. “Who wouldn’t want thirty Nick Murphy bobbleheads?”

Kami smiles as she sips whatever’s in her mug. Tea? I don’t think she drinks coffee. Or maybe it’s hot chocolate.

I need to find out.

“I’d take thirty Nick Murphy bobbleheads,” Felicity says sweetly.

“Only because you’d make them say terrible things,” Kami points out.

Ares stifles a laugh behind me. Dude’s always sneaking up. Walks quiet for a big guy.

“Holy shit, where’s your beard?” Felicity suddenly yelps.

I rub my chin, because yeah, it feels weird, and probably will for a few days. “It didn’t survive the cowpocalypse.”

“But—but—but it’s your lucky beard.”

“Not doing me a lot of good this season, is it?” I pass Tiger over to Kami, who I’m hoping will be a much better good luck charm. “Think I got her clean.”

“She looks beautiful and snot-free. Thank you.”

I don’t like the surprise she’s trying to mask in her eyes.

Like I’m not supposed to do little things for people.

“You washed a dog? In your shower? Voluntarily?” Felicity asks. Her hand goes to my forehead. “Are you sick? Do you have a fever?”

“Knock it off, smart ass.”

“Have you ever bathed a dog in your life?” she presses.

“I used to give you baths.”

Ares and Kami both eye me like they’d be willing to team up to make sure someone put powdered mango in my underwear every day for the rest of my life if I’m about to make a joke about Felicity doing anything bad in the bath when she was a kid, and I almost start itching just thinking about the last rash I got before I realized I was allergic.

“And it was such a pleasure to take care of you that I thought I’d try it again with Kami’s dogs,” I add quickly.

Tiger barks. Or something. It’s like a cross between the sound of a fart and a semi horn, except smaller.

I realize Mom’s missing, and I glance around.

“She’s out back with the camera crew,” Felicity tells me. “Which is exactly where we need to be if we’re going to get your interview done before you guys have to leave for practice.” She nudges Kami. “Want to watch?”

Kami slides me another look, my skin goes hot all over just from having her attention on me. “Do you have a voice for Sugarbear?” she asks Felicity.

“Of course.”

“Does Sugarbear secretly think Nick’s a total goober?”

“Hey!” I object.

Both women ignore me. “Only way to find out is to stick around,” Felicity tells her.

“But can I sneak out before your mom realizes it’s a good chance to grill me?”

“Ares has you covered.”

Ares grunts in agreement.

“Then I’m in,” Kami announces.

We all head out back, where the fog is slowly lifting. The Thrusters’ camera crew is setting up in front of the table. I try to slip beside Kami, but Felicity blocks me and lowers her voice so low that it only registers because she’s fucking terrifying.

“I swear to God, Nick, if you hurt her—”

“Good job, Nick,” I interrupt in my own low voice. “Way to grow up and try to be a bigger person. It’s about time.”

“I’m not saying you don’t have it in you,” she hisses back. “I’m saying Kami’s my sister. You’re committing incest.”

“Now you’re being ridiculous.”

“Fine. You’re committing friendcest. And you better marry her and be ready for all the blood and gore of childbirth because if you’re serious about her and this isn’t just some test to see if she’s your hockey good luck charm, then you’re going to give her as many babies as she wants and change all the diapers and clean up the yard of all the dog poop because that’s exactly the sort of thing people in committed relationships do. And if this is just a test to see if she’s your good luck charm, I will end you.”

A sliver of guilt jams itself under one of my fingernails, but it’s on my left hand, and I can still play with the guilt sitting there, so I just stare my sister down.

I do think I’ll play better with Kami not mad at me anymore.

I’m already feeling better about practice this morning, knowing she’s having dinner with me Tuesday night.

But more, I’m really fucking selfishly glad I get to see that smile again. Even if she does keep hiding it behind her mug.

And it has nothing to do with hockey, and everything to do with just wanting to be near her.

Also, I’m pretty fucking certain I don’t deserve this chance, but hell if I’m going to waste it.

I cut around Felicity and slip an arm around Kami’s waist. “Hot chocolate?” I ask with a nod at her mug.

“Cow snot soup,” she replies.

I recoil for half a beat before she cracks up at her own joke. “Oh, your face,” she says on a giggle.

Sugarbear moos in amusement. Tiger tries to run in place, her feet dangling since Kami’s holding her under the chest.

“Nice,” I tell Kami. “You know the difference between me at the net and me here?”

“Careful,” she warns me, her eyes going playful, that smile so bright it’s doing more than the sun to melt off the fog. “You don’t score unless I say you can.”

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