“Who was it?” Jade yawned as I rolled my eyes.

“I don’t know. I obviously didn’t answer it,” I said sarcastically.

She moved in close and hooked her arm over my shoulder, annoyingly hugging me from behind. The cuddling had been a nice change last night, but in the daylight she was just another girl who’d been had in my guest bedroom. Before she could get comfortable, I lifted her hand and slid out from under it, grabbing my phone off of the nightstand on the way out to the living room. Three new voice mails. Two from Brody and one from Gam.

Gam! Shit!

I cringed and hit the button to listen to her voice mail.

“Hi, Lawrence, it’s me, your old, delicate grandmother, who’s just suffered the unfortunate humiliation of being blown off by her grandson. Do you find it as ironic as I do that I am the one calling to check on you? Anyway, I’m going to go make myself some lunch now, seeing as how you’re not here and I’m starving. Maybe we can try again next week and you’ll actually show, assuming I’m still alive and kicking. Give me a call and let me know you’re okay, please. Love you.”

Might as well check out the voice mail from Brody too.

“Finkle, it’s me. Where are you? You missed workouts—again. Call me.”

Deciding I didn’t give a shit about his other message, I turned my phone off and tossed it onto the coffee table. I closed my eyes and let my head fall back against the couch.

“Penny for your thoughts…” She sat on the other side of the couch, wrapped in a bedsheet.

First, why the hell didn’t you get dressed? Second, how the fuck am I gonna get you out of my house?

“Nothing,” I sighed, closing my eyes again.

“Well, here’s the deal…” I felt her move in closer. “I have to run because I have some errands and stuff to do today, but how about later I come back and we have a repeat of last night?”

I stood up and walked to my cookie jar, suddenly wanting her as far away from me as possible. “That sounds great, but I have plans.” I walked over and handed her cab money. “Thanks, though. It was fun.”

She stared down at the money and frowned. “What’s this for?”

“Cab fare.”

Narrowing her eyes, she looked at me sideways. “I followed you here. My car is out front, remember?”

“Oh.” I tried to think back to last night but couldn’t. “My bad. Well, you can keep it anyway.”

I could feel her anger from five feet away as she jumped off of the couch, wadded up the money in her hand, and threw it at me. “You dick! I’m not some hooker!” She stomped off to the guest room, reappeared a few seconds later in her clothes, and glared at me on her way to the front door.

“Thanks again!” I called after her.

She slammed the door, and that was the last of Jade.

LIKE AN EMBARRASSED dog that just got caught pissing all over the carpet, I tucked my proverbial tail between my legs and climbed the front steps of Gam’s house, holding a bouquet of flowers.

It took her a minute to get to the front door, and when she did, she crossed her arms over her chest and glared at me. She glanced down at the flowers I was carrying and back up at me. “There better be a flask in that bouquet.” She opened the door and let me in.

“I really am sorry,” I said a few minutes later, propping my feet up on her coffee table.

“Mmhmm.” She glared at me playfully out of the corner of her eye as she carried a blue vase with her new flowers in it over to her dining room table and set it in the middle. Sighing as she sat down in the chair across from me, she crossed her arms again. “You know this is the third time you’ve blown me off recently, right?”

“Third? No way,” I defended.

She nodded sternly. “Oh yes it is, my friend. I wrote each date down on my calendar.”

I frowned. “Why would you do that?”

“Just in case I needed to prove it. Do I?”

Sighing, I threw my hands up in defeat. “Nope. I give up.” She really did have a calendar in her kitchen and she kept meticulous records. I had no doubt scribbled on three different squares was something about her asshole grandson not showing up when he was supposed to.

“What’s going on with you?” Concern filled her voice.

“Nothing. I’m fine. Why?”

“Oh please.” She rolled her eyes. “I know you better than almost anyone. You’re not fine. Is it the accident?”

Just the mention of the accident made my chest tight. I’d tried very hard over the last couple of months not to talk about it with anyone, but Gam wasn’t just anyone. She did know me better than anyone, so I had to give her just enough to keep her happy without really getting into it.

“Of course it still bothers me.” My head fell back against the couch and I stared up at the ceiling. “He was my best friend. I talked to him every single day, and now he’s just… gone.”

“Have you talked to him since the accident?”

I lifted my head off of the couch quickly and looked at her like she was nuts. “How much whiskey have you had this morning?”

“Shut up, you brat. I’m serious. Have you been to his grave? Have you talked to him? It might help.”

“No. I can’t go there.” I shook my head. “I’m not ready.”

I stood to grab my buzzing phone out of my pocket. Brody was calling.

“Who is it?” Gam asked.

“Brody.” I set my phone on the coffee table. “I’ll call him back. He’s probably calling to yell at me anyway. I’m not in the mood.”

“Why would he yell at you?”

My text message alert sounded, and I sighed as I picked my phone up again. “I missed another workout.”

Sure enough, a text from Brody.

B: Coach Collins wants to talk to you. Call me ASAP.

Shit.

“Hang on a minute, Gam. I need to call him back real quick.” I dialed Brody’s number and stepped into Gam’s kitchen for a little privacy.

“Where the hell are you?” Brody answered.

“Wow. Good morning to you too.” I laughed.

“Where. Are. You?” he repeated.

“At my grandma’s. Why?”

“Collins wants you to come in. Today. He’s going to call you, but I figured I’d give you a heads-up first.” Brody sighed into the phone. “He’s pissed, Viper. He had a closed-door meeting with Fletcher and Leipold today.”

Shit again. A meeting with the general manager and the owner does not sound good.

“Okay, I’ll head over there now.”

I thanked Brody for looking out for me and we hung up.

“Uh-oh, that doesn’t sound good,” Gam said as I walked back into her living room.

“No, it doesn’t.” I shoved my phone into my back pocket and crossed my arms as I leaned against the door frame. “Apparently Collins has his panties in a wad that I missed an optional workout, and now he’s looking for me.”

“You better take care of that.” She stood up and walked toward me with her arms out.

I wrapped my arms around her and hugged her tight, holding that hug for as long as I could. Sometimes being comforted by someone who loves you unconditionally was the most basic necessity in the world.

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