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“I’m not great,” I denied, annoyed that she was praising someone like me. “Did you miss the part where I told you I had a one-night stand? I went to my favorite bar, for the second time in a week, in an attempt to talk the waitress into coming home with me. She turned me down—again—so I set my sights on another innocent woman. A woman who didn’t know who I was or what I do for a living. She simply thought I was cute. I brought her home, fucked her brains out, gave her cab money, and sent her on her way. She left her number in hopes that I would call her again. Instead, I tossed it into my kitchen drawer on top of the other five hundred or so scraps of paper with phone numbers on them.” I rolled my eyes. “Yeah, real great guy. I’ll be back. I gotta piss.” I got up and stomped out of Dr. Roberts’s office, down the hall to a bathroom near the elevator.

I didn’t have to piss.

I needed out of that room.

One minute I was okay with talking and working some things out, and the next I wanted to leave and never go back in there. I didn’t deserve praise, certainly not from someone like her. I was a heartless bastard. I pulled my phone out of my pocket to check how much longer I had to sit in that room and noticed I had a text… from Michelle.

M: Hey. Thanks so much for asking, but nope… we’re good. :)

That text calmed me more than any mindless fuck ever could. I’d done what I was supposed to do. I’d followed through, for once. Gripping the side of the counter, I stared at my reflection in the mirror. The reflection of a man who was desperately trying to change, trying to find himself but didn’t know how.

This therapist is a gift, you fuckhead. Don’t mess this up. Listen to her.

I slowly walked back to her office. She was waiting for me, sitting in the exact same spot she had been in when I’d had a tantrum and left. The leather crinkled as I sat back down and took a deep breath. “Sorry about that.”

“Don’t apologize,” she said softly. “Don’t ever apologize for how you’re feeling. I’m never going to tell you how you’re feeling is wrong or that you should feel a different way about something. Your feelings are yours and yours alone.”

“You just said the word ‘feelings’ like twelve times in three sentences,” I teased, trying to lighten the mood. “Here’s the thing… I don’t know what’s going on with me. Six months ago, I was happy. I was playing amazing hockey, had the best friends in the world, fucking whoever I wanted… life was great. In one stupid moment, it all changed, and now I can’t get that happiness back. I don’t remember what happy feels like anymore. Everything is dark and dreary, and even when I’m balls-deep inside a woman I just met, I’m not happy. She’s just a thing. Just something I’m using to fill a void and try and find a moment of happiness, but it doesn’t work anymore.”

“Wow.” Dr. Roberts stared at me. “That was intense, Viper. You know yourself better than most people. Most people don’t know that they aren’t happy. Most people don’t admit that they’re using drugs or alcohol or sex to cope.”

“Wait.” My head was spinning so fast I couldn’t catch it. “You lost me.”

“You use sex the same way some people use drugs and alcohol. I’m not saying you’re addicted because you’re not out getting hookers or masturbating excessively, that I know of, but you definitely use it as a distraction from dealing with whatever it is you’re going through.”

“No way. That’s bullshit. I’ve always had one-night stands and sex with strangers.”

Okay, saying that out loud sounds a little strange.

“How many women would you say you’ve slept with in your lifetime?”

I raised one eyebrow at her without saying a word.

“Okay, scratch that. How many one-night stands would you guess you averaged a week before the accident?”

Am I really sitting in a therapist’s office trying to calculate the average number of women I fuck per week?

“One, maybe two typically.”

“Okay, and since the accident?”

“Three to five.”

Her eyes grew slightly bigger when she heard that number.

I shrugged. “I’m just being honest.”

“No, I’m glad you are. Viper, don’t you see? You’re out there trying desperately to find your next fix so that you don’t have to deal with what’s really happening inside of you.”

I stood up and started pacing the small room, rubbing my temples with my fingers. “Well how the fuck do I fix that?”

“Do you trust me?”

I stopped walking and spun to face her. “Fuck.”

“Do. You. Trust. Me?” she repeated, emphasizing each word like it was its own sentence.

“Two weeks ago, I didn’t know you existed.” I strolled over and plopped back down on the couch.

She crossed her arms over her chest and raised an eyebrow at me, clearly waiting for my answer.

“Yes, I trust you.” I sighed, nervous as fuck about what she was going to say next.

“Good. Then I need seven days from you.”

“Huh?”

“Seven days. I need you to completely abstain from sex for seven days.”

“You’re out of your fucking mind.”

“Maybe, and maybe not. Can you just try it? It’s one week.”

“Sure. I’ll just call my friend Brody over to nail boards over my doors and windows so I can’t leave.” I covered my face with my hands and sighed again.

“Calm down, drama queen. I didn’t say you couldn’t eat for a week, I simply said no sex.”

“Wait, can I—”

“And no sex acts. No oral—giving or receiving—no petting, no making out, nothing. And I want you to go to the bar where you said you normally pick up women, at least once.”

Petting?

“Petting?”

She tilted her head back and forth. “You know… caressing, touching, all of that.”

“You’re trying to say I can’t touch any tits?”

“Yes, that’s what I’m saying.”

The light by the door flipped on before I could protest and tell her she was crazy—again.

Her face lit up. “Perfect timing!” She sprang from her chair and went over to open the exit door for me. “Seven days. You can do it.”

I’m glad one of us thinks so.

“Wait,”—I was almost through the door when I remembered to ask something—“can I rough up the suspect by myself?”

She frowned at me. “What suspect?”

“Ya know, can I charm the snake? Unclog the drain? Slap the sausage?”

I wished I had a video camera on her face as she realized what I was talking about. Her eyes bulged and she pressed her lips together tightly as she pushed me through the door. “Good-bye, Lawrence.”

I swear I heard her laugh on the other side of the door as she closed it behind me and I walked away.

THE FIRST FOUR days had been easy. I hadn’t thought about my dick except when I’d held it to piss. On day five, the Viking started talking to me. He was twitchy and ready to play. Ignoring it became harder and harder, literally. I was trying to settle into a new norm.

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