Kacie rolled her eyes. “You get enough whores.”

“Speaking of whores, I was down in your basement last week, Viper…” Brody leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest.

“You have whores in your basement?” Louie’s eyes were wide, and I swear I saw drool drip from the corner of his mouth.

I reached out and smacked him in the back of the head. “No, you idiot.”

“You’re a candy whore. I knew you had a stockpile, but my God. There must be twenty cases of Lemonheads along the wall.” Brody shook his head slowly in amazement.

Turning in my lap slightly, Darla rested her arm around my shoulder. “Candy? In your basement? Why?”

“You don’t know?” Louie looked incredulously at her.

Darla shook her head.

“Before every game,” he continued, “Viper gives Big Mike a box of Lemonheads.”

“You do?” she squeaked at me, clearly surprised.

“Yep. Every single game. Home or away.” I reached my hand across the table and fist-bumped Mike.

“They’ve been doing it for a while now,” Michelle added with a smile as she eye-fucked Mike. “I’m constantly throwing away empty boxes I find tucked in all corners of his car and office.”

“I didn’t know that,” Darla said softly as she rubbed my temple with the back of her fingers.

“Oh, stop.” I rolled my eyes as I grabbed her hand and kissed it. “It’s not because I was worried he wanted a snack; it’s purely superstition. I don’t know why, but I gave him a box one game and we all played really well that night. Won a game we probably shouldn’t have won. Ever since then, it’s just been our thing.” I shrugged.

“Awww,” Kacie, Darla, and Michelle cooed together.

“Aren’t they sweet?” Andy mocked as he clapped his hands together near his face and batted his eyelashes dramatically.

“We are fucking sweet,” I bellowed arrogantly. “Our bromance is amazing. We’re like a modern-day Romeo and Romeo.”

“Whoa, whoa!” Big Mike held his hands up defensively and laughed. “I wouldn’t go that far, Finkle.”

“This is nothing new, though, this superstition thing with Viper,” Brody said as he stood up and walked over to the fridge. “He’s always been over-the-top… about more than just candy.”

“What else?” Kacie asked.

“When he gets dressed before every game, he puts all his left pads on before his right ones.” Louie laughed.

“Not only that,” Mike jumped in at the end of Louie’s sentence. “As long as I’ve played with him, he listens to the same song about a hundred times before every game. In the car on the way to the arena, while he’s getting dressed, on his way out to the bench.”

Darla crinkled her nose. “The same song? Over and over?”

“Fuck yeah.” I nodded. “‘Thunderstruck’ by AC/DC. That song makes me want to run through a brick wall.”

“I’ll give him that. It is a badass song.” Brody sat back at the table and set a bottle of Gatorade in front of him. “He also buys his own tape for his stick and will only use bright yellow.”

“Maybe you should stop paying so much attention to my stick, Murphy,” I teased, gently nudging Darla off my lap. I got up from the table and walked over to the fridge to grab another beer. “Anyone else want one?”

“Dude, you keep drinking beer like that in the off-season and you’re not gonna be much use on the ice when it counts.” Mike stood up and stretched his arms above his head.

“Psh.” I waved him off. “Regardless of what, or how much, I drink, I could still skate circles around you.”

“Oh, really?” He looked straight at me with his eyebrows raised. Suddenly I had his attention. “Wanna make it interesting?” he challenged with a smirk.

“Uh-oh.” Andy sighed and dropped his head into his hands. “I hate when you idiots say things like that. It usually means I’m going to have a long day in the near future.”

Ignoring Andy, I stared straight at Mike. “Yeah, let’s make it interesting. Practice, Friday. You and me. One on one against Brody. Loser has to wear a pink tutu to workouts for an entire week.”

Big Mike’s eyes lit up as he walked across the kitchen holding his hand out for me to shake. “You’re on.”

“WELL AREN’T YOU a fine-looking piece of ass!” I hollered as I got out of my car and walked around it.

“Flattery will get you everywhere.” Gam winked at me as she carefully walked down the front steps of her house.

I hurried over and took her hand, leading her to my car. “How are you feeling today?”

“Better than you look.” She laughed as she climbed into my car.

“You tell me I look like shit every time you see me. It’s starting to give me a complex,” I joked as I closed the door and jogged around to my side.

“Oh, bull,” she scoffed. “You know you’re hot shit, and you don’t need my confirmation for that.”

“I was taught never to argue with my elders, so I’ll agree with you.” I wiggled my eyebrows up and down at her as she reached over and smacked my arm. “So, where we headed?”

She shrugged. “This was your idea. You choose.”

“Well, are you in the mood for breakfast or lunch?”

“I don’t care where we go or what we eat. Just make sure the place serves alcohol already.” She winked again as I pulled out of her driveway.

We’d only been driving a couple of minutes when I pulled into a nice restaurant just outside of downtown called The Raspberry Cafe.

“Here?” she exclaimed.

I parked my car and turned toward her, confused by her response. “Yeah, why?”

She glanced down at her turquoise sweat suit and back up at me with her brows pulled in tight. “I’m a little underdressed for this place. Come to think of it, so are you.”

“Who cares?” I waved her off. “Live a little. Besides, I’ve been here before—in sweats. They don’t care. They know me here.”

She sighed and picked her purse up off the floor of the car. “Fine, but you’re paying.”

I laughed and went around to her side of the car. She hooked her arm through mine as we slowly made our way into the restaurant. The smell of cinnamon smacked me in the face as I opened the big wooden doors and stepped back to let her go in ahead of me. The Raspberry Cafe was a contemporary yet rustic restaurant with real wooden beams on the ceiling and walls and stone accents on either side. What I liked best about the place were the tall wooden booths. They offered privacy, which is something I didn’t always get when I was out in public. It wasn’t like I couldn’t walk through the grocery store without being attacked, but I had enough fans to keep things interesting.

“Hi. Welcome to The Raspberry Cafe,” a busty, young olive-skinned girl greeted us as we walked in. “Two today?”

“That’s right.” I stared at her, trying to figure out if she was legal or not. Jailbait was a big fat no for me. Frankly, if she couldn’t legally take a drink of alcohol, I had no desire to fuck her. Another rule of mine.

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