Home > Charming as Puck(4)

Charming as Puck(4)
Author: Pippa Grant

Lavoie follows my gaze, and he shakes his head. “What it’s supposed to look like,” he mutters.

I don’t know if he’s talking about hockey or relationships, but I know the three of them all have something I don’t.

Until two hours ago, I would’ve called them all suckers. Tied down with one woman. Domesticated.

But until two hours ago—we’re done, Nick—can’t say I’d been any different the last six or eight months.

Shit.

When was that night Kami and I hooked up? January? Or was it March? Was it really this year? I don’t remember a lot about that night, but it seems like there was something about a cattle prod and my dick.

What the fuck is up with the cow thing?

Coach blows the whistle, and we all line up for drills.

After practice, showers, and lunch with the team, I head back to my condo for a pre-game nap.

I swear I smell Kami’s shampoo in the elevator. She still hasn’t read my text. Probably has her hands full with the cow. Wonder if she had to rent a truck or something. Probably I should’ve offered to pay for that, but she knows I’m good for it.

The hallway smells like shit, and the smell gets stronger when I open my door. I don’t know how she works with animals all day, getting blood and shit and piss all over her, but it apparently doesn’t bother her.

Or maybe it does.

Because if it did bother her, wouldn’t she have picked up the pile of shit on my living room rug?

And is that—oh, fuck.

That’s cow piss all over my rug too.

My rug that used to be my grandmother’s rug.

I shoot a look at the ceiling and inwardly cringe, because I’m in total agreement with my sister. My grandmother could carry a grudge for eternity, and being in the afterlife won’t stop her. “Sorry, Gammy,” I mutter.

“Mooooo!” she answers from my bedroom.

Except that’s not my grandmother’s ghost.

That’s the fucking cow.

I dart to my bedroom and bolt through the door.

The cow’s standing on my bed.

She looks at me, grins, and switches her tail up.

And while I stand there watching, she drops a load.

Right there.

In the middle of my very nicely-made bed.

With a picture of me pointing at it and snickering hanging on the wall over my headboard where my championship ring goes, and with a note on the floor in Kami’s handwriting.

Kami’s angry handwriting.

Can handwriting be angry? Because that handwriting looks pissed as fuck.

The message sure as hell is.

In that moment, three things become crystal clear.

One, Zeus Berger is dead.

Two, Kami did not take care of the cow.

And three, she was serious when she said we were done.

I had a shit game last night.

I woke up with a cow this morning.

And it’s nothing compared to that hollow feeling sucking in my chest at knowing that I fucked up a good thing.

I thought Kami and I had something simple and easy and good.

Apparently, I was wrong.

So. Fucking. Wrong.

Four

Kami

I should’ve known something was up when Alina arrived at my house to drive me downtown for drinks with my best friends before the Thrusters’ home game tonight. But I took her It’s your birthday, so you get a sober driver to heart, and now, after pretending everything’s fine the whole way into the heart of the city, I’m wishing I hadn’t.

Because now, Felicity’s hustling Alina, Maren, and me—all of us die-hard hockey fans—through the staff entrance at Mink Arena after Alina drove us here to game central instead of to the bar.

“I just forgot something in the office,” Felicity lies, and it’s clearly a lie, because she has that little lip quiver going on. It’s a Murphy thing. “We’ll head out for drinks after I grab it. Come on up.”

She works for the Thrusters in their headquarters. She’s one of those certified geniuses who can do anything and has something like eighteen degrees ranging from bowling management to marketing to physical therapy assistance.

Plus, she’s a ventriloquist.

There’s literally nothing she can’t do. Except paint. She’s a terrible painter.

She also can’t magically make her brother not be an ass.

So there’s two things Felicity can’t do.

Oh, she also can’t read my mind to know that I’m utterly terrified we’re going to run into her brother and so far past suspicious right now that my knees are turning to concrete.

“Are you sure it’s okay for us to be here?” I whisper, because I can’t find a better excuse to get out of whatever is waiting for me inside the arena.

“Um, yes.”

“I stop by here all the time,” Alina assures me equally suspiciously, because I might’ve gotten a little squirrely when we pulled into the parking garage where she magically produced a staff parking pass. “It’s totally legit. They just don’t want us to touch the Cup.”

“I don’t want to touch it. I want to lick it,” Maren announces while we step onto the elevator. She’s decked out in jeans and a maroon Thrusters jersey with Zeus Berger’s number on the back, because she says it’ll be a collector’s item one day with this being his real final season.

Alina’s in a black sweater and full make-up, which means she probably spent all day working on her next YouTube video. She’s a rock cellist with a huge following, and she’s also halfway through a twenty-city tour, which means we only see her a few times a month when she’s home.

And Felicity’s in a custom Thrusters T-shirt with the rocket bratwurst logo—yes, rocket bratwurst, and yes, there’s a story there—and the phrase “I’m carrying Ares Berger’s Baby” printed across her chest and arrows pointing to her small but growing baby bump.

It’s been remarkably effective in discouraging the number of men who hit on her when we’re out in public.

I stifle a sigh. Felicity’s not only smart, she’s also gorgeous with her red hair and green eyes and gets hit on all the time even with the massive rock Ares put on her finger. And she’s having a baby with the man she loves. Maren’s an environmental engineer and one of the biggest Thrusters bloggers online. Alina’s job is so cool, and she’s famous in her own right.

And then there’s me.

The third-generation veterinarian who sometimes cross-stitches profanity-laced wall hangings when my siblings—also quite brilliant—annoy me.

No wonder Nick only wants the benefits. I’m really fucking boring.

“How’s thirty?” Felicity asks while the elevator rises.

“She’s only been thirty for a few hours,” Alina points out.

“But hopefully a few really amazing hours,” Felicity replies.

“Thirty’s happening,” I tell them, and I’m so far off the happy boat that I just belly-flopped into Cynicism Pond.

All three of my friends instantly go on high alert and crowd closer. Maren pulls me into a hug. Alina pats my back. Felicity can’t reach, so she settles for herding us out of the elevator on the sixth floor.

“Did that one difficult client bring in her biting hedgehog again?” Maren asks.

“Did your family forget?” Maren asks.

“Did someone drop a load of dick cookies on your front lawn?” Felicity asks, which would normally make all of us snicker, but not today.

“I took the day off,” I tell them.

“Whoa,” Alina whispers.

Felicity’s brows go high enough to arm-wrestle her hairline. Instead of turning toward the guarded door marked Thrusters Personnel Only, she steers us toward the hallway outside the private viewing suites for the rink. “Is everything okay? Not that you shouldn’t take your birthday off, you just seem…not happy about it.”

“Did Ares put a baby cow in Nick’s condo last night?”

“Oh,” Maren murmurs.

Alina rolls her eyes. “Are you kidding?”

Only Felicity struggles to keep a straight face. “No, we went straight home after the game. But I can guess who else might’ve been responsible. Want me to text Ares? He’ll find out where it came from.”

“Farm animals belong on farms,” I snap. “Not in the city.”

Her brows lift again. Alina’s eyes go wide. Maren squeezes my shoulders tighter, and I realize I feel like I’m being kidnapped. “Let’s get you a drink, and then we’ll come up with a plan.”

“I already have a plan. Well, one half of a plan.” Thank you, anger. “I’m working on the rest. There aren’t as many no-kill cow shelters as you’d expect, and I’ve run out of my normal zoos and sanctuaries to call. Felicity, where are we? I know this isn’t your office. It’s—”

She swings a door open, and my entire family shouts, “Surprise!”

Except that’s way more people than just my mom and dad in person, with my dad holding out a tablet to feature my brother and sister on a video call. That’s also—

Oh, shit.

While they burst into a round of Happy Birthday, I realize Muffy’s here. She’s grinning widely under her Thrusters bandana while she sings, her twin brown braids falling low on her impressive chest. Aunt Hilda’s here too. Some of the vet techs and office assistants from the clinic I run with my mom.

Felicity’s parents.

Some of the Thrusters’ girlfriends and wives.

Including Gracie, Manning Frey’s wife, with their four-month-old baby.

Oh, such a cute baby.

I want a baby. With green eyes and brown hair and that ridiculously charming grin.

But the one person who’s clearly missing is Nick.

He wasn’t playing dumb because he was coming to a surprise party, no matter what that little pitter of hope in my heart wanted to believe when Felicity flung open the door.

He forgot.

Because I don’t matter enough for him to remember.

   
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