I turned to the side and tucked my arms under his, listening to his heart beat against my ear. His arms came down around my back, squeezing me hard. This was the moment I’d been craving so desperately the last few days. Between the joke about food and the way he was acting with me, I finally felt like my old Viper was back. Hopefully he was sticking around for a while.

“Michelle Asher?” A nurse asked as she looked around the packed waiting room.

I jumped up. “That’s me.”

She gave me a warm smile and stepped back. “Follow me, please.”

“How is he? Is everything okay? When can I see him?” I started rambling nervously as I walked past her. I hadn’t realized how nervous I really was until that very moment.

“Everything is fine.” She put her hand on my arm. “The surgery went great. He’s in recovery now and should be back to his room in just a couple of minutes. The doctor is going to come in and talk to both of you real quick and then you’re free to go.”

My eyes widened. “That’s it?”

“Yep.” She nodded. “It was a pretty simple procedure, and there’s no need for him to stay overnight, so he’s all yours.”

“Okay.” I smiled nervously. I took a deep breath and gave myself a pep talk as I sat down in the chair in the corner.

You got this. You took care of Gam a couple weeks ago, you can take care of Viper today.

I texted Kacie, Brody, Andy, and Taylor, Mike’s sister, who was babysitting the kids for me.

He’s out of surgery and the nurse said it went well. I haven’t seen him yet, but I’ll let everyone know when I do.

A few seconds later my phone lit up like a Christmas tree.

Brody: Ugh! A group text?! You’re dead to me, Michelle.

Kacie: Glad everything went okay. Give him a hug for me. Brody, stop being an ass.

Andy: Don’t forget to get me video of him all drugged up. One can never have too much blackmail when dealing with Lawrence Finkle.

Brody: I wasn’t being an ass. Group texts SUCK! I’m glad he’s okay though. Tell him I’ll stop by tomorrow and see how he’s doing. Hey, Kacie . . . can you send one of the kids up to our bathroom with a roll of TP?

Kacie: Really?

I pinched my lips to stifle a laugh.

Taylor: Matthew just pooped and when he came out of the bathroom, he told me not to go in there for twenty minutes or so. He’s turning more and more into Viper every single day. Glad surgery went well. Keep me posted.

The curtain sprung open and I quickly tucked my phone away, even though it was still buzzing.

Those should be fun to read later.

The nurse gave me a quick smile before she stepped back behind Viper’s bed and wheeled him into the room. He was lying back and his eyes were closed, but he had a huge, goofy smile on his face.

“Good luck with this one,” the nurse said playfully as she shook her head.

I looked down at Viper and back up at her. “Uh-oh, what does that mean?”

She shrugged as she dropped the metal sides of his bed and checked his IV. “Nothing bad. People normally come out of sedation really groggy and a little grumpy. Not this guy. He came out cracking jokes and asking for a peanut butter and jelly, then a minute later he was asleep again. He’s a hoot.”

A big smile spread across my lips. “That’s Viper for ya.”

Her eyebrows shot up. “You call him Viper?”

“Well, not just me . . . everyone does. His team started it years ago.”

“What team?” she asked as she scribbled something on a clipboard.

“I play hockey. For the Wild,” Viper shouted, scaring the hell out of both of us. His head turned my way and his eyes caught mine, but it took him a second to realize who I was. “Hey! That’s my girlfriend!”

I let out a quick giggle as I walked over to kiss his cheek. “Hi, baby.”

He titled his head toward me, leaning into my kiss. “You smell good,” he said a I stood up, then he grabbed my hand. “Wait. Come back here. Lie down with me. Here, I’ll scoot over.”

“No, no!” I put my hand on his shoulder. “I can’t lie down with you, just don’t move.”

“Why not?” He turned back to the nurse. “She can lie down with me, right? I mean, we’re both consenting adults. And we’ve had sex before . . . a lot of sex.”

“Viper!” I squealed as the nurse laughed. “Shut up.”

“What? I’m just saying,” he exclaimed defensively.

“Okay, honey. But maybe you just don’t say for a while, okay?” I took a deep breath and exhaled through puffy cheeks.

The nurse hung the clipboard up and tilted her head to the side, giving me a sympathetic smile. “Like I said, good luck today. The doctor will be in in a minute.” She shot me a quick wink and left the room.

“How does she do that?” Viper asked.

“Do what?”

“Close just one of her eyes like that?” He stared straight ahead, blinking both of his eyes hard.

Andy was right, I should have videoed this.

A little while later, we were back in the car heading home. His meds had worn off slightly, but not completely, and I learned that a drugged-up Viper was a lovable Viper!

“Do you have any idea how much I love you?” he asked for the thirtieth time when I pulled onto my street.

“I do know, but you can tell me again. I like hearing it.” I chuckled.

“I don’t tell you enough, do I? I’m an asshole.”

“You aren’t an asshole.” I shook my head.

“I really want donuts. But not regular donuts. I want mini donuts, but I also want them to be crunchy.” He sat forward quickly. “Ah! Cheerios. I want Cheerios. Do we have any?”

By this point my chuckle had grown into a full-blown laugh. “Maybe. I’ll check the pantry when we get home.”

“Pantry. Pantry. Pantry,” he said slowly. “Pantry is a weird word. It’s tricky. People think you’re going to talk about pants and then you throw a ‘ry’ in there at the end and it’s like . . . psych! Gotcha!”

“Let me get this straight . . . Cheerios are like mini-donuts?” I was glad that we were almost home because I don’t know how much further I could have driven laughing as hard as I was.

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