A few hours later, the sun snuck around the curtains and filled my bedroom. I cracked an eye open and lifted my head off the pillow just enough to peek at the clock. It was a little past six and Viper had to be back at the rink by nine to meet with Dr. Jennings, the Wild’s team doctor, to discuss his injury. We knew they would probably send him to the hospital for an MRI after that, but Dr. Jennings wanted to check him out first.

Viper still had his arm wrapped around me and was lying in the exact same position he’d fallen asleep in just a few hours before. Being up half the night wasn’t fun at all, but I was thankful we’d both been able to grab a few hours of sleep, at least.

“Hey, you awake?” I ran my fingertips softly along the tattoos on his muscular forearm, tracing the dark lines back and forth.

He moaned a few garbled words that didn’t make any sense and started snoring quietly again.

Since he obviously wasn’t in the mood to wake up just yet, I figured I’d text Kacie and make sure the kids did okay overnight.

Hey! I’m sure you’re not up yet, but shoot me a text when you are. I just want to see how the kids slept. Hopefully they weren’t too much trouble for you. Thanks so much for offering to keep them last night. xo

 

I tucked my phone under my pillow, surprised when it vibrated under my head just a minute later.

Kacie: I’m up! How is he?

 

He’s okay. I have to have him at the rink in just a little bit, then I’ll come and get the kids from you.

 

Kacie: No, no! Don’t worry about them. They’re still sound asleep. I threw their outfits in the wash last night so they can wear them again today. As soon as they wake up and have breakfast, Mom and I are going to lather them up in sunscreen and take them back down to the lake to play. You do what you have to do and get them whenever. We’re fine here.

 

Thank you so much, Kacie. You’ve helped me more in the last 24 hours than anyone else my whole life.

 

Kacie: Psh! Don’t mention it. Go to the doc with him and keep me posted, okay? Brody is a nervous wreck. I guess he texted Viper a few times, but he hasn’t answered.

 

He was pretty doped up on pain meds and crashed right when we got home. I’ll tell him to call after his appointment.

 

Kacie: Okay, good luck! Love you guys!

 

Thanks. Love you, too.

 

I set the phone on my nightstand and scooted back into Viper’s warm arms for a few more minutes of snuggling before we had to get up and face whatever the day was going to throw at us.

 

“You okay?” I asked as we pulled into the players’ parking area of the rink. Viper had been in really good spirits all morning, but I suspected it was an act.

“I am,” he answered as he unbuckled his seatbelt.

I turned the car off but didn’t make a move to open the door. “No. I mean are you really okay?”

He turned in his seat to face me, his hard blue eyes softening as they fixed on mine. “I am, I promise. I was freaking out last night when it happened, but then the X-rays came back clean and that was a huge relief. Plus, it hardly hurt at all last night. I know they have to check me out, but I can tell it’s nothing. I’ll probably even be able to fly out later tonight to make the last two games of the road trip.”

His voice was sincere, maybe even a little upbeat.

He reached over and squeezed my hand as he continued, “Let’s go in and get this over with, grab the kids, and go see Gam, okay?”

I nodded. “We need to do that for sure. She was really worried when I called her last night. She told me to let her know when you were better so she can kick your ass.”

He tilted his head to the side. “Kick my ass? For what? It’s not my fault I got hurt.”

“No, something about a nurse coming to the house? I didn’t really catch it all because I was in the middle of a meltdown worrying about you.”

His eyebrows shot up. “A nurse? Already? Wow. Ellie moves fast.”

“Huh?”

“Ellie—Andy’s assistant. I asked her to look into hiring a nurse to help Gam out around the house and stuff.”

“Why would you do that?” I exclaimed. “I told you I could handle—”

“I know what you said,” he interrupted, “but you have a lot going on with the kids and stuff, so I figured even someone just a couple days a week would help out and give you a break.”

“It’s not necessary, Viper. I am more than capable of handling the kids and Gam.”

“I know you are, and me hiring someone to help out doesn’t mean that you aren’t. I’m just trying to make everyone’s life a little easier.” He flashed his cheesy, boyish smile that he knew I couldn’t resist and my lips defiantly curled into a smile.

A million different thoughts started racing through my head. Part of me was disappointed that he didn’t want to let me take care of Gam by myself, but another part of me felt a little . . . relieved. Taking care of Gam wasn’t hard, it was time consuming. And while Viper may not have been worried about his injury, I was—not that I would ever tell him that. He was convinced he’d be flying out again that night, but I wasn’t so sure. And if his injury turned out to be more than he thought it was, taking care of the kids, plus Gam, plus him would be really tough on me.

“Now come on.” He lifted my hand to his lips and kissed the top of it. “Let’s get this over with so Gam can kick my ass sooner. I’m hoping there’ll be enough time after all the shit we need to do for a little quickie before I leave again.” He dragged his tongue slowly along his top lip as he wiggled his eyebrows up and down.

“Ugh,” I groaned playfully as I pulled my hand from his. “Do you ever not think about your penis?”

“Uh . . . no. He’s my buddy and it’s my job to take care of him. If he’s not happy, I’m not happy. ”

“Okay, okay. I get it. Now get your happy penis out of the car and let’s go in before you’re late.”

“He’s not happy right now. Actually,”—he paused and frowned, looking up in the air—“he’s a little stoned from all the meds. I think he might code out! Hurry! Give him mouth-to-mouth resuscitation!”