“Ha ha, very funny.”

“Okay, okay. Forget boyfriends and girlfriends. You have to love someone. Everyone does. Tell me about the most important person in your life.”

I didn’t hesitate with that answer; there was no need to think about it. “My grandma.”

She squinted at me without saying a word.

I held my hands up defensively. “What?”

“Nothing.” She continued staring at me with narrowed eyes. “I’m just trying to decide if you’re being a smart-ass or if you’re telling me the truth.”

“Here’s the thing. You want respect and I’ll give that to you. I also will never lie to you. I hate liars. Loathe them, actually. I don’t mean stupid little ‘Sure, I’ll call you in the morning’ lies, but like real ones. If you ask me a question and I don’t want to answer it, I’ll tell you. If I want to answer it, I will.”

“Fair enough.” She nodded once. “Now tell me about this grandma of yours.”

I couldn’t help but smile when I thought about my grandma. “Well, I call her Gam, actually. When I was little, I couldn’t say Grandma so I called her Gamma, and over time, the end just fell off, so now she’s Gam. Anyway, she’s my father’s mother and my only real family. I love her more than anything.”

“Wow.” She bit the corner of her lip as she smiled at me, her dark brown eyes sparkling. “I’m pleasantly surprised. If you’d given me ten guesses, I don’t know that I ever would have pegged you as a grandma’s boy.”

Nodding, I smiled back. “I’ll wear that label proudly.”

“Good, you should. Tell me more about her.”

“Well, she’s old… and sarcastic as hell. She drinks more whiskey than anyone I know and yells at squirrels all day long. She’s a trip.”

“Sounds like it.” She laughed. “And you’re closest to her? What did you mean your only ‘real family’? Have the rest all passed on?”

I shook my head. “No, my parents are both still alive, but I’m an only child. Once you have perfection, why try to duplicate it, right?”

“Oh, naturally,” she agreed sarcastically. “So wait… your parents are both alive, yet you said your grandmother was your only ‘real family.’ What does that mean?”

“Next,” I barked.

“Fine. Let’s talk about your relationships with females. Have you ever been married?”

“Fuck no!”

“Do you ever want to be married?”

“Yes. The minute Mila Kunis dumps that arrogant asshole, Ashton Kutcher, I’m going to propose to her. If that never happens, I guess I’m destined to be a bachelor forever.” I stuck my bottom lip out and pouted at her dramatically.

“Okay, let’s try that again, with less sarcasm this time.”

“Okay… then the answer changes to no, I don’t want to be married.”

She tilted her head to the side and crossed her arms. “Why?”

“The thought of waking up with the same woman every day for the rest of my life makes my fucking skin crawl. I can’t stand most women for more than twelve hours, let alone a significant amount of time.”

“So you’ve never had a serious girlfriend?”

“I lived with a girl once, but I was never faithful to her, so I don’t consider that serious. And I have one friend who I fucked regularly for over a year. Does that count as serious?”

“Maybe.” She shrugged. “Did you love her?”

“As a friend. Not like that.”

“Why not?” she pushed.

“It wasn’t like that with me and Darla. She was like one of the guys, just with bigger tits and a hotter ass. She didn’t want commitment and she didn’t push me to give her more than I wanted to.”

“Do you still see her?”

I bounced my head back and forth, left to right, as I thought about that question. “Kinda, when our whole group is together, but not on a one-on-one basis. She started seeing someone, so that’s done.”

“Okay, interesting. Tell me about this group.”

“Why does this feel like an interview?”

“It kind of is.” She grinned. “I’m just asking questions, trying to get a feel for who Lawrence Finkle really is.”

I chuckled. “When you find out, let me know, okay?”

“Come on, we’re getting there. Don’t fizzle out on me now. Tell me about your friends, this group.”

“There’s just a group… of people… I hang out with. There’s not much to tell. We haven’t seen each other much lately.”

“Why not?”

“I don’t know.” I shrugged.

“Hey, Pinocchio, you just lied to me again,” she said sternly. “You promised never to do that.”

Holy fuck.

“Things have just been different lately.”

“I’ve let you blow me off twice now. This time I’m pushing. What’s different and why?”

“One of the members of the group passed away.” A huge lump formed in my throat. I did not want to talk about what had happened with a stranger, and as much as she was talking to me like we were, we weren’t friends.

“I’m so sorry.” Her tone was soothing and her face softened.

“So, anyway, it’s just kinda changed the dynamic now. I don’t know if they all hang out a lot or what, but I haven’t gone if they do.”

“Wait.” She turned her head to the side and looked at me out of the corner of her eye. “Someone dying shouldn’t make you want to leave the group. There’s something you’re not telling me.”

Do it. Tell her. Rip the fucking bandage off.

“I killed him.”

“You killed him?”

I stared down at the coffee table, not wanting to make eye contact with her, and nodded. “Yep.”

She sat up straight in her chair, her eyes glued to me as she processed what I’d just said.

“What do you mean you killed him?”

“He was a teammate and we were playing a game, one on one. He was winning and I am too competitive. The game got more physical than it should have, and as he was about to score the winning goal, I checked him from behind. He slid into the boards really hard and all hell broke loose in his brain. He died a couple days later.”

Her hand shot up and laid flat at the base of her neck as her mouth fell open. “Wow. I am so sorry, Viper.”

“Needless to say,” I continued, “I haven’t hung out with that group much lately, because, you know… it’s awkward.”

“Okay, I get that, but you didn’t kill him. It was an accident.”

“We’ll have to agree to disagree on that.” I leaned forward and snatched the extra water bottle off the table.

As I cracked the bottle open a light bulb near the door turned on, distracting both of us.

“Shit.” She looked down at her watch. “That’s my next client. And we were just getting into something.”

“Oh no we weren’t.” I stood up and took my keys out of my pocket. “That’s something we never have to talk about again.”

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