“YOU’RE LATE.” DR. ROBERTS was standing in her office doorway waiting for me when I walked through her small waiting room door.

“I know,” I sighed. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. Come on in. Have a seat.”

She closed the door, walked over to get our water bottles, and then sat down.

“So, you haven’t been here in a couple weeks. What’s new?”

Every fucking thing.

“I don’t know. Nothing really, I guess. Life has just been busy.”

“Tell me about it. Fill me in.” She ran her tongue between her top lip and teeth as she relaxed back in her chair and crossed her legs.

“Well, my season started, so that in itself makes my life more interesting.”

She nodded. “I bet. More time restraints and things requiring more of your time and focus.”

“Yeah.” I stared down at the coffee table, deciding whether or not to take a leap of faith right there in her office.

Fuck it. Why not?

“Focus isn’t something I’ve had a lot of lately,” I continued.

She pulled her brows in tight, frowning at me. “How come? Is the abstaining thing throwing you off?”

“Surprisingly, no. I’m actually not hating that part.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “Really?”

“It’s weird. I feel like I’ve had more clarity since that whole thing started, if that makes any sense.” I grabbed the water bottle from the table and opened it, convinced I sounded like a total douche.

“It absolutely makes sense. This thing, the sex thing, is like a weight you’ve carried around with you for so long, something you feel like you have to have, but the minute you shed it, you find that you didn’t really need it after all.”

I laughed, shaking my head back and forth. “I wouldn’t go that far, but it has definitely had an impact.”

“So you said you feel like you’ve had more clarity because of this, yet you’re having trouble focusing? I’m confused.”

“The trouble focusing isn’t because of that. It’s because… of a person.”

Her lips parted as she stiffened in her chair. “I was not expecting to hear that. Is this someone new in your life?”

“Not really.” Shifting uncomfortably on the couch, I crossed my ankle over my knee. I knew Dr. Roberts wouldn’t judge me, but I was still reluctant to tell her who was stealing all of my brain space. “I’ve known of her for a long time, but just recently I’ve grown to know her much better.”

“Ahhh.” She nodded. “Michelle.”

“Bingo.”

“So, what’s going on there? Lust? Feelings? Both?”

“Lust for sure, but I can’t go there. And definitely feelings, but I really can’t go there.” Just saying those words frustrated me. For the first time in my life, I’d met a woman who I wanted to hang out with constantly, wanted to know every single thing I could about her, wanted to protect her fiercely, yet she was untouchable.

“Why can’t you go there?”

I looked at Dr. Roberts like she was nuts. “She was married to my best friend.”

“But she’s not anymore.”

My blood started to boil. “Yeah, because I killed him.”

“Viper, you didn’t kill anyone. It was an accident. You have to realize that.”

I closed my eyes and rubbed my temples with my fingertips, completely ignoring her. While I did feel a certain new level of positivity in my life since I’d been seeing Dr. Roberts, sometimes she still frustrated the fuck out of me.

I sighed and opened my eyes, dropping my hands into my lap.

“I know you just wished me away, but I’m still here,” she said, staring right at me. “And still saying the same thing I did two minutes ago. You need to stop beating yourself up over that accident. Let me ask you this—if Mike hadn’t died the way he did, say he passed in a car accident instead, would you still feel this guilty about falling in love with Michelle?”

“Whoa, first of all, no one said love. I said feelings. There are many feelings other than love. Second, probably. She was still the wife of my best friend. Any feelings I have for her above and beyond friendship make me a dick.”

“Shit happens, Viper. People die. Life goes on. You are still alive, and you can’t keep living worried that you’re going to hurt someone who’s not here anymore.” Her voice was gentle but stern as she leaned forward in her chair, resting her elbows on her knees. “Feelings are weird little things. We have absolutely no control over them. You can try and tell your feelings which way to go, but they’re defiant bastards who don’t always listen and tend to go wherever they want, paying no attention to time or circumstance.”

Interesting way to look at it.

“Do you think she feels the same way about you?”

I locked my fingers on the top of my head, letting it fall back against the couch in frustration as I stared up at the ceiling. “Who knows? Women are so damn confusing.”

“Don’t give me that. You’ve been with and around enough women to know when they’re into you and when they’re not. Be straight with me.”

“Fine.” I dropped my hands and looked straight at her. “Then yes, I think maybe she is.”

“You can’t completely shut the door on this, Viper. If you need to close it for a little while and think about it some more, that’s fine, but don’t shut it completely. Sometimes once you shut a door, you can’t open it again.”

The lightbulb flipped on and caught my attention.

“Wow.” I looked from it to her. “That went fast.”

She gave me a tight smile. “That’s what happens when you’re half an hour late for an appointment.”

“My bad.” I stood up, grabbed the water bottle off of the table, and headed for the exit door.

“Hey, Viper?” she called after me. “Wanna keep going? Maybe a whole month?”

I got to the exit door and rested my head against it without turning around. “Fine,” I agreed. “I’m getting pretty good with my left hand anyway. It’s kinda like having a new girlfriend.”

Once I got to my car, I checked my messages. To my surprise, I had one from Michelle. She never texted me first.

M: Hey, I know you said you were busy this morning, but I wanted to shoot a quick text anyway and tell you thanks for last night. It was a super shitty day, but you really turned it around when you showed up. I appreciate it.

I stared down at my phone, thinking about what Dr. Roberts had just said about the door. At that moment, I didn’t want to just fling it open, I wanted to pull it off its fucking hinges and throw it away so it could never close again.

Don’t thank me. It was a no-brainer.

M: By the way, I wanted to ask you… I looked at your hockey schedule. You guys are in town on December 12th, and there isn’t a game at all that day. Care to accompany me to my neighbor’s wedding so I don’t have to sit by myself like a loser?

Sure, but Viper still doesn’t dance.

M: I wasn’t even gonna ask. ;)

Sleeping on that couch had done my back no favors, so I decided to head to the stadium and see the trainer. After a little heat and a little ice, I figured I’d get in a quick workout while I was there, even though it was our day off. I needed something to keep my brain occupied anyway.