I stared in disgust as the porous little bastard danced around the screen and poked his big pink friend in the gut. “Not if it means having to watch this shit.”

Matthew gasped, his mouth hanging open as his head twisted quickly toward me and then over to his dad.

Big Mike tried to hold in his laugh. “Try not to swear, okay?”

Jesus, it would be easier not to eat for a week than it would be not to swear.

“Sorry. But no, you and Brody live in a different universe than me.”

He frowned. “What do you mean?”

“He’s like you now. Busy with the family all the time and preoccupied.”

“He’s not preoccupied, he just has different priorities now. Unfortunately, being your wingman at the bar has taken a backseat to his wife and kids.”

“I know, and trust me, the last thing I need is a wingman. It’s just weird. I hardly see him anymore.”

“It hasn’t been so bad, though. You and I have been hanging out a lot more.” He smiled a big, goofy grin at me.

“Easy there, big guy. Reel your vagina back in.” I glanced over at him and shot him a small, playful smile. “It has been nice, though, hanging out I mean. I’ve been over here so often lately your couch is starting to take on the imprint of my a—” I cleared my throat. “—butt.”

We sat in awkward silence for a minute, trying to figure out how to make our conversation manly again.

“It’s not so bad, you know? Wife, kids, the whole thing. It’s actually pretty awesome.” He nodded toward Matthew. “That one looks at me like I’m a superhero for something simple like throwing frozen waffles in the toaster, and that sleepy little girl smiles all the time, even in the middle of the night.”

“Sorry, you lost me at ‘middle of the night.’”

“Oh, bull. Half the time you don’t crawl home until the middle of the night. Stop acting like you couldn’t handle a 2 a.m. feeding.”

“I need my beauty sleep.”

“That I’ll agree with, ugly.”

I picked a bottle cap up off of the coffee table and launched it across the couch at him, fist-pumping when it bounced off the top of his head. “And why the fu—” I caught myself and looked at Matthew, who was staring right at me, listening to every word we were saying. “—heck are you feeding her at two in the morning anyway? Isn’t that the woman’s job?”

Big Mike’s eyes grew wide and a heavy laugh escaped him. “Viper, my boy, you have a lot to learn. First, never say anything is her job or you’ll be parking it on the couch for a long time with a serious ‘dry spell,’ if you know what I mean,” he said, making air quotes with his fingers.

“I wasn’t being a pig. I was being serious,” I defended. “I thought they had the… equipment to take care of that.”

“They do, but sometimes that equipment gets clogged or doesn’t produce enough milk or she’s just plain tired and you have to step it up.”

Clogged?

I held my hand up to stop him from going any further. “Okay, okay. I get it. No more.”

Mike smirked at me without saying a word.

“What? Stop it.” I was uncomfortable with him staring at me like he was.

“I can see it.”

“See what?”

“You.” He grinned. “With a kid.”

“No fu—” I caught myself again—barely. “No way.”

“I’m not kidding. You’re all rough and tough, but I can totally picture you schlepping some mini-Viper around with you to games and practices, showing him off.”

“Absolutely not.” I shook my head firmly. “The last thing this world needs is another Viper.”

“Well, I agree with that too, but I think it would soften that cement heart of yours.”

“I like my cement heart.” I sighed.

Before he continued his quest to talk me into becoming a father, we heard the front door close. Mike sat up and peeked over the edge of the couch toward the kitchen.

“Hi,” Michelle sighed as she tossed her purse onto the island.

“Hey.” Mike sat up further. “What are you doing back so soon?”

“A couple of the girls couldn’t make it because their kids were sick, so we had a small group tonight. We pretty much just had dinner and called it a night.” She walked over and checked on Maura briefly before kissing Matthew on the forehead and sitting down on the couch next to Mike with another heavy sigh.

“I’m sorry. You sound bummed.” Big Mike lifted his arm and tucked it behind her head, pulling her in tight.

“I am a little, but now I get to hang with my favorite people instead.” She lifted her head and smiled at him.

“Mom?” Matthew asked.

“Yes, baby?”

He twisted his little face, thinking hard about whatever it was he was going to say next. “You’re kind of a woman, right?”

Michelle giggled and tilted her head to the side. “Yes, honey, I am. Why?”

“I was just wondering…” He paused and wiped his nose with the back of his hand. “What are tits?”

Michelle sat up straight and gasped as Big Mike cringed, shutting his eyes tight.

“That’s my cue!” I hopped up and slapped Mike on the shoulder on my way out of the room. “See ya tomorrow, buddy. Nice seeing you again, Michelle!”

“WHAT’S UP, LADIES?” I exclaimed as I crashed loudly through the wooden doors of the Minnesota Wild locker room.

Everyone turned in my direction briefly and then went back to whatever they were doing, except for Brody and Big Mike, who rolled their eyes in unison.

I hung my bag on my hook and turned toward them. Brody’s arms were crossed over his chest as he eyed me suspiciously. “Why are you so chipper?”

“Because I’m young and alive and drop-dead gorgeous,” I bragged.

“You’re not that young, and you’re definitely not drop-dead gorgeous, but you are alive, so one out of three ain’t so bad.” Brody laughed.

Big Mike glared at me. “Barely alive.”

“Oh, shit.” I stared back at him, suddenly remembering the tit incident from the night before. “How bad was it after I left?”

Brody scrunched his eyebrows and looked back and forth between the two of us. “What did I miss?”

“This moron”—Big Mike smacked my chest hard with the back of his hand—“doesn’t know how to watch his mouth around kids. Matthew asked Michelle what a tit was last night.”

The edges of Brody’s lips turned white from him pushing them together so hard as he tried not to laugh.

“It’s not funny!” Mike grumbled.

Brody nodded in agreement but didn’t keep his composure for long. His hand slapped over his mouth as he let out a big laugh. “I’m sorry, but it’s fucking hysterical.”

Brody laughing made me laugh, and eventually even Mike cracked a smile.

“Okay, seriously. How bad was it?” I asked, feeling almost guilty, but not really.

“It was”—Mike let out a heavy sigh—“not great. She explained to him what a tit was and why we don’t use that word. Then she marched around the kitchen mumbling something about you being grounded from the house until the kids go to college.”

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