Igniting the Wild Sparks, Book 3

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Chapter 26

Rod

“You want something to eat?”

“No.”

“Come on. You gotta eat.”

“No.”

“I made sausage links for breakfast.”

From underneath my blanket, she yells a muted, “Asshole!” What did I do?

What did Wilder do?

I look down at the plate, more than confused at what just happened. “Okay... Um, well. How ’bout I give you a knife so you can hack them up? That’ll be good, right?” I scoot closer to the mound hidden under the blanket and warble, “You know you want to, Hadders.”

“No.”

Reaching down to the blanket, I grab her side, tickling.

“Get your damn hand off my boob!” Shit!

I jump up, almost dumping the sausages onto the floor. “Yeah. Sorry.” I rub the back of my neck and sigh. “You can’t stay in bed forever.”

“You’re not using it.”

“Well, I was until…” Probably shouldn’t bring that up yet. “Let’s go for a walk.”

“Go to work.”

I glance at my alarm clock. “Yeah. It’s 3:23 in the afternoon. I already took care of that earlier. I talked to Amos and Val this morning.”

Muffled, she says, “Oh. What did you tell them?”

“That you have crabs and needed a ride to the aquarium.” Hadley finally throws the blanket from her head and gives me a bizarre look. Yes!

“What the hell does that mean?”

Trying not to laugh at her chaotic hair, I say, “I told them they’re monster crabs, and you’re in a court custody battle against Red Lobster and Long John Silver. Unfortunately, the crabs have a party side, so now the crabs are threatening to sue you for emancipation. They want to go to concerts and shit without interference from you. It’s all getting messy, so you donated them. That way, everyone can enjoy your raging crabs.” I stick my tongue out and cross my eyes.

She stoically stares back, unblinking, before the blanket goes back over her head.

“I’m here all week,” I say mostly to myself. I gawk at the gray bundle occupying my bed. Last night was totally out of the blue. I got a call from the police saying my friend needs me to pick her up because she had a fight with her boyfriend. Hadley. At first, I thought it was over the proposal. I knew he’d say no, but it’s odd they waited two days to argue about it. She hasn’t told me anything, but I know if he had said yes, she would’ve been in his bed and not mine this morning.

Hadley Beckett in my bed would’ve been a dream come true two-and-a-half years ago if she wasn’t with Wilder, but she has been since before I met her. He had her first, but I couldn’t help it. I really liked her. She was everything I was looking for in a woman. She’s funny, caring, an awesome dancer, and she’s so beautiful. Not just looks, but she is on the inside, too. She’s such a great friend, and she’s always there for me. I’ll do anything for her. I mean that. If she wants me to wash her car, I’ll do it. If she wants me to buy her a box of tampons, I’ll do it. I’ll even paint her toenails, putting little smiley faces on her big toes. Fuck, I’ll paint my own toenails. Anything to make her show that pretty smile again.

I don’t know what happened to her and Wilder, but I need to find out so I can help her. The cop chick didn’t tell me anything, and neither did Hadley. I have a feeling it’s about more than the proposal. She said she’d stay with him even if he said no, so why was the police called to Wilder’s, and she’s now with me?

I hear my phone playing Bitch in the living room, so I walk out, careful to not drop the sausages. Setting the plate down on the coffee table, I pick up my phone, and Morgan demands, “Have you heard from Hadley? It’s fucking Tuesday morning!”

“Yeah.” I look over my shoulder, walking out to the kitchen. Lowering my voice, I say, “She’s with me.”

“At work?”

“No. My apartment.” I pace my kitchen, hoping Morticia gives me some advice on how to handle Hadley.

“Why? Oh, my God. That bastard said no, didn’t he?”

“I think so. I got a call from a cop last night. She had to respond to Wilder’s apartment for a domestic dispute.”

“Did Hadley finally kick his ass?”

“I don’t know. She’s not talking and won’t get out of bed. I heard her crying all last night. I mean, really crying, like she lost her best friend.”

“Oh, shit. He told her.”

“Told her what?”

She sighs. “Finn and Cara kissed. I saw them.”

I lean against the refrigerator as I digest that. “Christ. Are you fucking serious?”

“Yeah. I saw her kiss him first, but he kissed her back. He said he didn’t mean to kiss her. I don’t know if I believe that shit. I told him he had a month to either tell her the truth or propose to her before I told her the truth.”

“So, you think he told her? He must’ve told her after he said no.”

“Yeah, so I had nothing over him, and he could go back to yanking her chain.”

“She’s crushed. First, the secret skydiving and then whatever happened Saturday…” Shit. If I were gay, at least my big mouth would be useful.

“Skydiving?”

“Fuck. She didn’t want me to mention it.”

“That fucker is skydiving behind her back?”

“Yeah.”

“He said he’d never do it again!”

“I know.”

“So, he’s lying to her? I wouldn’t put it past him that he and Cara are fucking. I’ll dig around and see why someone called the cops. I wonder if they arrested him. Ricky would know, but I think I should pay Wilder a visit. I’m sure if he was arrested, someone bailed him out by now.” I rub my temple and glance to the doorway. “If he’s screwing Cara, his ass is mine. A kiss is bad enough, but if he fucked that bitch, it’s over for him. I’ll see to it. Find out what you can from Hadley. Let me know, Rod. If he cheated on her, I need to know.”

“I want to kick his ass, too.”

“Let the adults handle this.”

I frown and flip my middle finger at the phone. “Thanks, bitch.”

Hearing the toilet flush, I hang up and walking out to the living room, where I see Hadley coming out of the bathroom. She looks so pretty, even with swollen eyes, bedhead, and wearing a T-shirt and boxers. Wilder doesn’t realize the prize he has. Or had, if that’s the case.

How could he not want to marry her? He even threatened me in a church that if I take Hadley from him, he’ll cut off my junk and feed it to rabid squirrels. It’s good he couldn’t read my mind a couple of years ago. I would’ve had to quit my job to join a circus just so I could pay my way through fucking mime school. I think those assholes are salary.

So, why would he not want to make her his wife? Does he just like boning her? Well, I’m sure he does. When I first met Hadley, I thought about what it would be like to be with her. After I realized that she and Wilder were serious, I forced myself to get over her.

Sitting on the couch, I slap the plaid cushion. “Hadders, come sit.”

She stops, hanging her head. “No.”

“Please?”

“No.”

“Let’s talk. Converse. Discuss. Chat. Debate. Create dialogue. Have a tête-à-tête. Yak.”

She jerks her head up, her cinnamon brown hair flying around her glum face. “Stop!”

“Sorry. How about we get some ice cream and go to the park?”

“I don’t want to go anywhere.”

I smile and shrug. “No, it’s cool. It’s a park where only bums and hippies hang out.”

“Sounds tempting,” she dully replies, going back into my bedroom. Damn it. I suck at this.

I get up and follow her into my room as she climbs back into my bed. When I first took her in here last night, she said my bedroom looks like a twelve-year-old girl’s ultimate fantasy, with the band posters on the walls and the kites hanging from the ceiling. It’s definitely the enormous Bon Jovi poster above my headboard. When she saw her skull kite hanging in the corner, she smiled through her tears. It’s a rad kite. Hadley left it in Morgan’s car and didn’t need it anymore.

I laugh. “Yeah, it is tempting. It’s fun watching all the crazy people there.”

From under the blanket, she muffles, “So, you blend in?”

“I do, assjack.” She’s quiet, so I bound onto the bed, vigorously bouncing the mattress with my knees, making the springs squeak. “I’ll just join you in bed, then.”

She moves away from me. “I have crabs.”

I stop jumping. “So do I. What a pair!” I lightly laugh, and then the silence again fills the room. “I’ll get ice cream and bring it back here.”

“I don’t want any.”

“You know, I haven’t changed my sheets in a while.” That’s gross and a lie. “And I’m a single guy with no hopes of ever getting laid again. So, you can only imagine what I do in it…” Come on, Hadley. Laugh. Squeal. Yell. Anything.

“I don’t care.” Fuck. I thought for sure that would work.

I hop off and go to the end of my bed, yanking the blanket from her in one swift move. Ta-da! Surprised, Hadley looks down at me, curled in a fetal position.

“Greg!”

I kneel up on the bed and crawl to the top. I spoon with her and sitting up on my elbow, I say, “All right, Hadley. Out with it.”

She turns her head into the pillow and says something. I think it’s a no.

“What happened last night? Hell, what happened Saturday night? You’ve got to fill me in. I’m thinking the worst!”

She wraps her arm around herself. “Yeah. A cop called you last night to pick me up from my apartment, hysterical. Draw your own conclusions.”

“Did you break up with him?” She makes a moaning sound and cries. Christ. It’s like I just shot her grandmother over the last piece of pie at a Weight Watchers meeting.

“Oh. I thought you would stay with him if he said no.”

Hadley shakes her head and weepily mumbles, “It’s not that.” Oh? This is a new development.

“Is it because he’s a gay space alien?”

She whispers, “He and Cara.” I guess he told her. He’s such an asshole for kissing that dick cozy, as Morgan would say—funny for once in her life.

“What about them?” I guardedly ask. I don’t want to volunteer information.

Her whisper is quieter. “I… I walked in on Cara giving him a… blow job.”

My heart stops.

What. The. Fuck?

I sit up all the way. “What?” My mind is a clusterfuck as I absorb that bombshell. Take a number, Morgan Yates. I’ll fucking kill him. I steadily ask, “You saw that?”

Crying, she nods against the pillow. “He thought I was breaking up with him because he said no to my proposal.” No surprise there about Wilder.

“So… he thought sticking his cock into the nearest repository would solve his problems?”

“Exactly!” She sniffs, and the bed vibrates more as she cries harder.

Lying back down, I put my arm around her. “I’m sorry, Hadley. I didn’t think he’d… I can’t believe he did that to you. I thought he really loved you.”

“Me, too. Do all men do that?” I wouldn’t have. I would’ve fought for her. I would’ve married her and given her anything she wanted. Damn it.

“Not all men are sleazy like that, Hadley. I promise.” Shit. That douchebag makes the rest of us look bad.

“You’re right. He’s been trying to get me pregnant.”

“Oh. What if you are now?”

“I don’t know. He proposed to me last night. Several times.”

“After he polished Cara’s tongue?”

Hadley sits up, putting her hand over her mouth. “Oh, God, Greg. I’m going to puke.”

“Oh, fuck. I’m sorry.” She settles back down, and I try another version. “He had the nerve to propose to you after turning yours down, and then you catching him with…?”

“Yeah, but it was after I threw my key and ring at him, kneed him in the balls, and punched him in the face.”

I loudly laugh over her and snort. “You did that? That is fucking badass, Hadders!” She lightly scoffs at me. It’s close to a smile, so it’s a start.

“What did you tell him? I mean, I guess the cops didn’t show up to your engagement party.”

“I told him we’re done. We were outside, and he was screaming for me. He was bawling, Greg. I’ve never seen him like that before. I’ve never even seen him cry before. I actually felt bad for him.”

“Maybe he is sorry. When he wasn’t jealous, I thought he was a nice guy most of the time. Cocky, but nice.” Why in the fuck am I defending that assbag?

“Did you have to say that word?”

“Oh. Shit. He’s egotistical.”

“It’s an act. He has even less confidence in our relationship than I do. No matter what I told him, he believed you and I were having an affair.”

“It must be all the times I grabbed your ass or tongued you in front of him.”

“Must be.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I don’t know. I miss him already. I can’t just stop loving him. I can’t turn it off like that. I thought he was my soulmate. My epic love.”

“I don’t get how he could cheat on you.” I’m still flabbergasted.

“He said he was dying without me. Well, I’m dying without him.” She rolls over and looks at me with tear-filled eyes. “What if I am pregnant? I’d tell him. He’d be in my life forever, then. How do I not love him? He’s all I ever wanted. I want to forgive him. What the fuck is wrong with me? I caught him cheating on me, and I’m still in love with him.” She shakes, full-on crying again, yelling behind her hands, “I’m a whore like Cara!”

I pull Hadley to me and hug her. “No, you’re not! I know you can’t just turn off your feelings. It’s okay if you still love him.”

“I want to hate him! I do for what he did to me! But then I still love him so much! I miss him!” She clutches onto my Journey shirt and shakes her head against my chest. “He said he was thinking of me the whole time, even though he tried to forget me. He thought we broke up. He swore he had never cheated on me before then.”

I don’t know if I should tell her about the kiss. Maybe he told her. I guess it pales in comparison.

I need to talk to him before kicking his ass.

Hadley stayed in bed for the rest of the day and night Tuesday. Morgan texted me, saying Wilder’s neighbors saw them fighting in front of his apartment. Sounds like what Hadley described. I told Morgan what they were fighting about. A mistake doesn’t express the regret I feel for telling her. She is obscenely upset. Shit. That wench gets back from her pre-honeymoon thing Thursday. May God be with Wilder because if she gets to him first, she’ll make his death painful.

Wednesday, I got Hadley up and made her go to work with me. I told her I’d take her back to my place if she couldn’t get through the day. Val has been awesome, as usual. I filled her in, to an extent, leaving out the gory details. Mostly I felt awkward talking about the misdeeds of our coach’s penis to Hadley’s boss. I only told Val they broke up after he said no. As Val cried and hugged me, she said I was a good egg. Not sure why me telling her a sad story about our friend makes me any kind of egg, good or otherwise. I offered my vacation days to Val to give to Hadley, but she laughed at me. I didn’t think it was funny.

I check on Hadley often. Or pretend to not check on her. I take the long way to the restroom, the copy room, and the kitchen. I visit her office to check on the scenery more often, and accidentally dial her extension, making up funny happenings going on in the alley below my window.

Before lunch, my phone vibrates. I pick it up and see a text from none other than Finn Wilder.

Can you get Hadley to meet me at Chimborazo? She won’t answer my emails or return my calls. Liberty statue. 12:00. Please, Greg. I need to talk to her. I love her.

I reply that I’ll try. Shit. Why am I helping that fucker?

Knocking on Hadley’s doorframe, I ask, “Yo, what up, hoochie?” She tolerantly looks my way, but then back at her computer. Still not in a joking mood. Can’t say I hold that against her.

Sitting on the edge of her desk, I cross my arms. That’s when I notice the broken pictures of her and Wilder in the trash. Great. How do I approach this? I don’t want to not tell her he wants to see her. She’s been lied to enough.

I lick my lips and clear my throat. “Um, Wilder texted me. He wants to see you.”

Her ponytail flips around before her head does. “No! I can’t see him. He’s been calling me nonstop.” Her hands shake, and she agitatedly bounces in her chair, looking around. Scattering papers on her desk until she finds her phone, she picks it up and looks at the screen. “I don’t want to talk to him!” Suddenly, she wings her phone across the room where it smashes against the wall, breaking into a bunch of pieces. Nice throw, Hadders! I think she could step in for Crick or me with no problem.

I look from the wreckage and then to Hadley. “So, I’m taking that as a no?”

“Oh, my God! My phone!” She jumps up and runs over to it, crying as she picks up the pieces.

I laugh and stand. “You just put that one out of its misery. Now, try throwing Morticia like that.” Her shoulders jump with her cries. She is losing it. I walk over and kneeling next to her, I put my hands on her shoulders. “Hadders, it’s okay. It was old. It was its time to go. It’s a part of the beautiful cycle of life.”

Frantically shaking her head, she argues, “No! How will I talk to him?”

I sigh. “Hadley, you just said you don’t want to.”

She swings her arms and ponytail crazily. “I might change my mind!”

“We’ll get you a new phone. It ain’t no thang, chickadee. That one was a piece of shit. If you want to talk to him in the meantime, you can use my phone.” She wails louder, and I look to Val’s office for assistance, but her door is closed. “Come on. It’s okay.” Hadley puffs air fast, covering her face to hide. I curl her into my arms, and she cries into my shirt. Fuck. She won’t make it through the day.

After calming her down enough to sit at her desk, I text Wilder back, telling him she’ll be there. He won’t like what Hadley looks like now.

Walking up to little Lady Liberty, I see Wilder standing in front of the railing, looking out at Richmond. He’s wearing a gray T-shirt and long, dark blue nylon shorts. Ugh. He looks like he’s going to the gym. Well, maybe he was. I would never leave the house looking that bad. I guess he has that hard body to maintain for Cara. What a canoe.

When he hears my footsteps, he turns around, appearing sort of optimistic, but when he sees it’s me, his shoulders hunch and he mopes.

I keep my distance from him like he’s a wild animal that will do something unexpected, like feeding my nuts to angry rodents. Well, he stuck his peter into the jaws of a cock-eating vampire. That was unexpected.

I walk to the railing, turning to face him as I hold on to it. Upon closer examination, he looks worse than his clothes. The most obvious thing I see is that he’s wearing glasses. Did not know he did. Behind his glasses are bloodshot and swollen eyes. His hair is also all over the place, his beard is filling in, his shoulders droop, and there’s no smile. Finn Wilder usually has a hint of some sort of smile, be it cocky, teasing, friendly, or his ridiculous gross-in-love smile he only gives to Hadley. Yuck. Now, he’s a broken man. He should be. Then I see Hadley’s ring and key hanging on his chain, next to his key. That scores a few points with me.

He looks past my shoulder and then warily back to me. “Where’s Hadley?”

“Not here. I’m her stand-in.” I glance down at my teal dress shirt and then back up to him. “Damn it. I forgot my name tag. It should read Ass Kicker. Sorry for the confusion.”

He inhales and messes with his damn hair. “Shit.”

“Why in the fuck did you hurt her?”

“Greg, I’m not talking about this with you.” He walks away, but I follow his ass.

“Oh, no, you don’t, dickhead! You filleted my best friend!” He stops walking, and I stop two feet behind him. “Do you know what she’s going through? She looks like fucking hell! She’s not sleeping, eating, smiling, or working! She’s on the verge of a fucking meltdown every second! I constantly have to check on her to see if she’s still alive!”

He suddenly jolts to me. “I’m a fucking asshole! I know! Nobody can tell me something about myself that I don’t already know! I hate my fucking self!”

“Awesome because I hate you, too! I don’t get how you could fuck another woman if you were so in love with Hadley!”

“I’m a dick! I thought she left me!” He throws his head back and closes his eyes. “I just wanted not to hurt. That’s not an excuse, but I don’t know what else to say. I was weak.” He walks past me to go back to the railing, hanging his head and hands over it. When I walk closer, I notice bandages on some of his fingers. Did he punch a mirror? I wouldn’t blame him because I want to punch his face, too.

“How could you tell her no in the first place?”

He shakes his head at the view. “Because I’m a motherfucking moron. I thought I’d lose her if we got married, but then I thought I’d lose her if I didn’t marry her. I always knew I would lose her either way. Like I never had a prayer of ever holding onto her.”

“You didn’t exactly help by cheating on her. She wasn’t leaving you, even if you turned down her proposal. She told me she would stay with you anyway, you jackass.”

His face puckers as he looks at me. “She was?”

“Yeah. That’s how much she fucking loves you. Even now.”

He raises one of his dark eyebrows that don’t match the hair on his head. “She still loves me?”

I try glaring at him, but end up rolling my eyes. “Yeah, she does.” He drops his head, and I hear him snivel. This is weird. Is he crying? I don’t know how to handle an awkward situation like this. I’m usually the one crying, which is a whole different jurisdiction of uncouth.

He clears his throat and raises his head. His eyes are a little glassy, but hopeful. “Do you think she’ll take me back?”

“I don’t know. Should she?”

“I love her, Greg. I’ll do anything to get her back.”

“Even marry her?”

He eagerly nods. “Whenever and wherever she wants. I’ll do it in all fifty states if she wants.” That’s a lot of paperwork. He’d hate that. I feel a dare coming on.

Still, I’m skeptical. Putting my hand in my pocket, I shake my head. “So, you just changed your mind? How’s that shit work?”

“I guess, I uh, I didn’t know what I had until…” He sighs and looks away from me.

I laugh. “That’s fucking grand, Wilder. You didn’t know the best thing that will ever happen to you was right in front of your damn face?”

“I did. It scared me, okay? I thought she’d always be there, and that I had time to change my mind.”

“Oh, so you also took her for granted. How fanfuckingtastic of you.”

He nods at the sloping ground in front of us. “Look, I know I’m a prick. I fucked up Hadley’s life, which is my life. I made mistakes.” He turns to me. “I want to make them right with her!”

“You ripped out her goddamn heart! She’s a fucking wreck! I can’t even imagine what she’s going through! Can you?”

He sighs and stares past the railing again. “No.”

“Do you think she’ll just get over that and have sex with you, without seeing your dick in Cara’s mouth?”

Wilder irritation is quick. “I can’t let her go! I love her! She’s the only woman I’ll ever love! I want her back! I’ll do whatever it takes! Fuck, Greg!” Wilder bows his head and runs his hand through his hair. “This is fucking excruciating!”

“You should’ve thought of that and fought for her before you turned to Cara! Shit! You don’t know how fucking lucky you were. You’re an insecure asshole, so self-absorbed that you worried about how you felt after you rejected her!”

“I know! I should’ve… Shit. I should’ve…”

“You should’ve kept your dick in your fucking pants and worked it out with Hadley! Told her you’d marry her for Christ’s sake!”

He gives me a stern look. “I will. I will marry her.”

“Too late, douchebag!”

“It’s never too late!”

“Then fix this, Wilder!”

“I’m trying!”

“You’re doing it wrong!”

“What do I do?”

I laugh. “You’re asking me? You tore into me at the church, accusing me of being in love with her!” Wilder gawks at me but adds nothing. “You are so fucking jealous of my friendship with her!” I nod and look him in the eye. “But you’re right. I love her.” His eyes snap open wide like headlights on a sports car. “Who doesn’t love her? You fell for her in a hospital.” Something hits me, and I again laugh. “Oh, I get it now! That’s why you were so worried about her! You thought she’d fall in love with me since we were in a hospital, like it’s an aphrodisiac. Am I wrong?”

He looks chagrined. Imagine that. His face twitches. “No. It crossed my mind.”

I’m amazed. “I can’t believe I connected those dots,” I say out loud to myself. Well, shit. Go figure. I’m more observant than I thought.

“She wouldn’t cheat on you! I’m not fucking her!” I make a face. “She loves you! Oh, and hey. Thanks for thinking I would carry on an affair with her while she’s with you. Because that would be so fucking classy!”

“I’m sorry, Greg. I am.”

“You say it, but you keep being jealous!”

“Sorry.”

I frown. “How many times can you apologize without needing to hire a damn publicist to do it for you?”

Sulking, he nods. “Okay.”

“You could always use a stamp.”

“Right.”

I laugh. “Or a keychain that records messages.”

Annoyed, he pounds the railing. “I get it!”

Dropping my smile, I snap, “No. What you need to get is over your fucking self! Put Hadley first for once! Man the fuck up and quit boo-hooing about how scared and sad you were and can’t live without her. It’s time to put on your big-boy pants, Martha, and join the rest of the grown-ups at the canasta table!”

He screws up his face. “Huh?”

I close my eyes. “Criminy. Pay attention, Wilder.” I point at his chest. “You need to show her you’ll be a better man for her. Sell yourself. Wow her!”

“How? She won’t even talk to me!”

“Do you blame her? She saw you playing dick pool with Cara’s tonsils.”

He glares at me. “Watch it.”

I smirk. “Maybe that was a bit much.”

He continues to glower. “Maybe.”

I sigh. “I want to hate you and tell you to go fuck yourself for what you did to Hadley.” He looks at the ground and inhales. Fuck. Why am I such a blathering asshat? Now I’m feeling bad for the cheating bastard. “But I can’t.” He flips his head up to me in shock. I roll my eyes. “I know you love her.”

He nods. “I love her so much. I made the biggest mistakes of my life, and I want to fix them.”

“Oh, and why did you kiss the knee-happy whore?”

“She kissed me, and I reacted for a few seconds. It was a reflex. Nothing more. I told her I’m in love with Hadley. Did Morgan tell Hadley?”

“Not yet, but she will.”

“Shit.”

“In the grand scheme of things, how much more damage could it really do? It’s kind of like putting out an inferno by blowing on it. Oh, fuck. I’m sorry…”

“I’m sure you are.”

“I think seeing you competing in the cock luge in the Blow-lympics was too much for her to handle.”

“That’s enough!”

Just in case, I clarify, “So, you don’t want Cara?”

“I never did! Only Becks.” His eyes fall, and he sucks on his bottom lip. “Hadley.”

I glare at him. “You better not blow sunshine up my ass, Wilder.” Shit. I don’t even realize what I say until I do.

His voice hardens. “Believe me. I’m not. I’m dying without her.”

“If I’m going to bat for you, coach, you better not be fucking lying to me.” He shakes his head as the wind blows through his blond hair. I thought his hair was brown? Maybe I’m not that observant after all.

“I’m not. I swear to God I’ll never hurt her again.”

“Because if so, I’ll make sure she moves on without you.”

“I know.”

I warily nod and peer out to the houses in the distance outside the park. He asks, “You’re helping me get her back?”

“I can’t make any promises, but I’ll talk to her. Give her time, though. Ease up on the calls, the emails, the impromptu visits. Leave her alone for a while. Let her think.”

“I don’t want to lose her… again.”

I shrug. “That’s entirely up to her. If she wants to move on, that’s great. If she wants to date our mailman, Fred, then God bless her. I won’t stand in her way, but neither will you. She deserves to be happy. With or without you.” Oh, shit. That song describes this situation perfectly. Damn it, U2.

“She does.” Wilder sighs and twists around to lean his back onto the railing. He looks at me and squints from the sun, and I squint from the glare off his glasses. He sadly says, “I’ll back off, but I don’t want her to think I’m giving up.”

“I’ll tell Hadley you’re giving her time. She’ll know you didn’t give up.”

He looks at me with determination. “I’ll never give up on my Becks.” He wouldn’t if he knew what’s good for him.

I look around us for any bodyguards I didn’t notice, saying, “How are you here? I’m sure Ricky is all over your ass about Monday night.”

He lowers his head. “Uh, yeah. He’s been staying with me. He’s sleeping since he works tonight.”

I raise my eyebrows and grin. “Oh, so when the babysitter’s asleep, wicked Finnigan will play.”

“Funny.”

“You look like shit. Don’t you work today?”

He looks up. “No. They’re not exactly happy with me headlining the police blotter.”

“Oh. Your busted lip. Is that from Hadders?”

“Yeah.” He frowns and ruffles his hair.

I nod at his arm. “Are those scratches from her or Cara?”

His frown deepens. “They’re not from Cara.”

I laugh. “Ooh! Those scratches are dick-centric, right?” I love it. I have the upper hand now.

Crossing his arms, he snaps, “Will you shut the hell up?”

I happily shake my head. “Hey. I’ll whatever the fuck I want, Wilder. So, don’t even start.” He knows I’m right. Gotcha by the balls, coach. “What about your hands?”

He flexes his fingers into fists. “That was me.”

I move on with my questioning. “Are you still coaching our team?”

“Uh, that’s up to Hadley. I think I should probably sit out a couple.”

“So… if Hadley stays but wants nothing to do with you still…”

“I’ll quit. Ricky will stay. Cara’s gone.”

“Won’t you still see that bitch at work?”

“Yeah, but nowhere else.”

“Except maybe in a bathroom stall, right?”

He pleads, “Stop.”

I giddily laugh. “Nope. Anyway, I have no idea what Hadley will do. I’m guessing she won’t play this Saturday.”

Wilder sighs before asking, “Where is she? She’s not at her apartment. Her car is, but…”

“Oh, I see you’ve tried visiting her.”

He stares at me, which is awkward, and then quietly admits, “Yeah.”

I cross my arms and try not to laugh at his useless attempt to see Hadley. I crook an eyebrow. “Make a scene?”

Shrugging, he looks away from me, and over his shoulder at the weeds. I hear him mumble, “A little.”

“She’s safe.”

Like a cat watching one of those red lights on a wall, he looks back to me fast. “Is she with you?”

“Leave her alone, Wilder. I mean it. You’ll drive her even further away.”

“I will. I just want to know if she’s…”

I snort. “Okay? No.” He glances to the ground, gnawing on his lip. “Oh, and here’s a friendly heads-up, coach.” Wilder warily glances at me. “Morgan is on her broom, and she’s not as cuddly.”

“Fuck. I expected as much.”

I push off the railing. “Well, anyhoo. I’m hitting the road. Maybe it’ll all work out, but only if you don’t push too hard. Oh, and don’t go around sticking your dick into open containers for Christ’s sake.”

“Fucking knock it off, Rodwell!”

My entire body shakes with laughter. “Not a chance in hell. This is kind of fun.”

“Thanks.” His dirty look gradually lightens. “Really. Thank you for helping me. I need her back. I’ll do whatever it takes. I want to marry Hadley. That’s the truth.”

“I hope I’m not making a colossal mistake, like the way you did. I guess I won’t since my zipper isn’t a designated express lane.”

He frowns, and I laugh. Shit. Maybe I’m the asshole.

“How is she doing?”

On the phone and looking out my office window, I watch an old man across the street fighting with a newspaper machine. The old bastard finally kicks it and flips it the national bird—another satisfied customer.

“She threw her phone at a wall. Smashed it to bits.”

“Shit.”

“It deserved to go out with a bang.”

“That asshole has been calling her?”

“The phone? It’s deceased. It’s not calling anyone.

“Ass Rod!”

I laugh. “Oh, yeah. That’s kind of why she threw it, but then she cried because she won’t be able to talk to him if she wants. I feel bad for her.”

“She doesn’t need to talk to him!”

“He wants her back. He seems truly sorry for what he did.”

“You fell for it? Of course, he’s sorry now! Do you think he’d really tell Hadley what he did with Cara if I didn’t catch him?”

“I don’t know. I hope so. He’s a fucking mess.”

“So is Hadley!”

“But if they want to get back together, that’s up to them! Let them work it out!”

“Why? So he can fuck around again? I don’t think so! He told me he wasn’t fucking Cara!” I hold the receiver away from my ear as she continues with her tirade. “He’s nothing but a liar and a cheat!”

“I warned him he’d better not screw up again because this is the last time I help him. Then, I told him if Hadley wants to move on without him, he needs to let her and I’ll support her, whatever she does. I think I even married her off to the mail guy or Rory with the limp in the cafeteria. I forget. Doesn’t he have a peg leg?” I spin my chair back around and say, “Just leave them alone. Be there for Hadley!”

“I can’t believe you’re taking that fucker’s side!”

“I’m just trying to give him the benefit of the doubt! He’s sorry for hurting her. I know he loves Hadley. I want to believe him.”

“You believe what you want.”

Yeah. At the risk of my life and my hearing. Fuck.

Wednesday night, Hadley finds my liquor collection. Well, a few warm cans of beer, some wine coolers, and half a bottle of the Captain. At least she’s out of bed, I guess.

She offers me a glass of something questionable that looks like milky gasoline and smells like the shower at the gym. I smile at her and set down the glass. Like I need to be drunk too. No good thing could come from that right now.

I hear her in the kitchen, messing with the ice. I hang my leg over the side of my chair and flip through the channels. She finally takes a seat on the couch, next to my bed pillow and blanket, drinking her concoction. A lot of them. She keeps returning to the kitchen to make more, and each time, she sways and stumbles a little more. I don’t know if I should’ve let her get drunk, but then again, why the hell not?

Engrossed in some stupid cooking show where they’re cooking raccoons, I think, I’m surprised to hear her slurred voice in the kitchen. “Oh, you’re home! I didn’t mean to bother you! Are you and your penis busy?”

Shit! I jump up to see she has my phone.

“Hadders!” I shout, making her jump and bang her arm against the counter. She giggles at me but then frowns at the phone.

“So what if I’m drunk? Are you? That would be funny. You can drunk-dial me next!” She snorts, and I roll my eyes. I swear she gave me that habit.

She sullenly asks, “Do you miss me?” Oh, no.

“You do?” This isn’t good.

“Does your cheating dick miss me, too?” Yep. Just as I thought.

“I noticed when Cara had it in her mouth, it was… lacking. Why? Was she not good at it?” Son of a bitch.

“I mean, it’s not like you have a lot to offer, but you’ve been harder than that.” I burst out laughing. Fuck, that’s funny.

I ineffectually try to take the phone from her, not really wanting to, but she teeteringly dodges me. I easily give up and go back to the chair. Let Wilder deal with it. He has it coming, so to speak. Shit. Sometimes I make myself laugh.

“It reminded me of that one New Year’s Eve when we were staying at Ricky’s, and you tried to fuck me, but you were so drunk you couldn’t really get it up.” Wow. “You kept humping my leg to get harder because I couldn’t get the condom on you. You finally gave up and passed out. I had a bruise, and you had a dick burn from that.” I laugh and grab the remote, turning down the volume. This is better than any show on TV, by far.

“You weren’t drunk with Cara, so what was your problem? Are you getting old?”

“What? Why would I make you harder? I don’t get it.” I laugh at Wilder for having to explain that one.

She’s quiet as she lets him talk. “You say you love me, but you got even a little hard for her! You said I only get you hard! I swear I even got you hard at Mass! I don’t understand!” Oh, fuck. And here we go, speeding downhill.

I go back out to the kitchen as she says, “I don’t believe a damned word you say! You can fuck your whores as much as you want now! They can have your fucking limp dick! You could never get me off with your cocktail wiener anyway! I faked all of my damn orgasms with you! So ha!” Damn. I feel bad for Wilder. She sounds like a sailor on leave, stuck at an abstinence rally.

“I thought I’d let you know that I’m leaving town for a while.” What?

“Well, I need to move on! Maybe I’ll go to Vegas, find a cute circus performer, and give him a blow job! A real one!” I could’ve been that circus performer without a dick to suck. Similar to my life now. Either way, fuck you, karma.

I snatch the phone from her, ending the call. “And that concludes your phone time for tonight, young lady.”

“I’m done.” She turns around and wobbles. “Oh, I don’t feel so great.”

“Shit!” I rush her toward the sink, but she stops and splashingly hurls on the floor and my jeans. Fabulous. I wish it would’ve been all over Wilder. That would’ve been fucking priceless and the cherry on top.

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