A Lie for a Lie Page 2

Before I can segue, his wife appears. “There you are! Can you please take Robbie to the bathroom? Every time we go into a women’s bathroom, he tries to climb up on the sink and pee in there.” Violet gives us a slightly strained smile. “Hey, guys, sorry to interrupt, but getting kicked out of the aquarium for letting my kid use a sink as a toilet isn’t on my to-do list today.”

She points at another child, who I think is one of Miller Butterson’s four kids. I can’t keep their names straight, and I’m pretty sure the one I’m looking at is one of their twins, which makes it even more difficult. “I’m just waiting for that one to pee in one of the fake potted plants. This summer Miller thought the best way to potty train Liam and Lane was to let them wander around with their doodle hanging out so they could pee whenever and wherever. Now Liam keeps trying to take his pants off, and he thinks if it’s a plant, he’s allowed to pee on it.”

“That’s actually awesome,” Randy says with a snort.

Violet grins. “I know, right? Liam has been the best thing to ever happen to me.”

Alex clears his throat, and Violet rolls her eyes. “I mean in terms of offsetting my own humiliating moments. Last weekend we had a barbecue, and Liam got into the greenhouse. Let’s just say there’s a lot of contaminated science experiments in there now.”

“Daddy, can we play yer-nal hockey now?” Robbie tugs on Alex’s sleeve while cupping his junk through his pants with the other hand.

“Sure, kiddo.” He nods to us. “I’ll be back.”

Violet watches them disappear into the men’s bathroom. “Robbie likes to aim for the salt pucks. He thinks it’s like playing hockey with his wiener.”

Randy nods. “Pretty much, actually.”

Five minutes later all the kids go rushing over to the dolphin exhibit. Apparently there’s some kind of guided tour. Since neither of us has kids, Randy and I hang back near the food table. I grab a chicken wrap and another water, wondering how much longer this will go on before we can head over to the pub. I’m guessing—since they haven’t done cake yet—it’s going to be a while.

Screaming comes from the gaggle of kids. “What the hell is going on over there?”

“Your guess is as good as mine. I’m gonna go check it out—maybe you should go have a chat with some of those girls.” He inclines his head in the direction of a group of female aquarium staff who are standing in a gaggle, whispering and gawking. We’re not especially low key today, since we’re all wearing team hats and shirts.

“Uh, I’m good. They’re probably all in high school.” I follow him toward the dolphin exhibit, curious about the shrieks and screams and what sounds a lot like someone crying.

“Everyone stay calm! It’s perfectly natural during mating season for something like this to happen!” The shrill, panicked voice is familiar. Maybe one of the wives?

“Oh shit,” Randy mumbles. He has a little extra height on my six-foot-two frame, so I’m guessing he can see something I can’t.

I make my way around the edge of the group; some of the moms have their kids’ faces buried against their stomachs, and one kid is yelling about someone being stabbed.

But the commotion barely registers, because across the sea of screaming, laughing, and crying kids is a very familiar woman wearing an aquarium-issued beige button-down.


Alaska girl.




Fourteen months earlier

“Oh my God! Oh my Gooooood! ”

My eardrum is probably broken, based on the sheer volume of the scream and the sudden ringing in my ear.

Once upon a time it would have been reasonable to assume I was eliciting this reaction because of my amazing stick-handling skills—not the on-ice kind either. However, I’m currently seated on an airplane heading for Seattle, waiting for the rest of the passengers to load. And while I’ve engaged in public sex, I usually kept it confined to places with doors, like bathrooms. But I don’t do that anymore. I’m a reformed public-bathroom fucker.

I cringe as the screamer drops into the seat beside me, still yelling in my ear. “Rook, I haven’t seen you in forever! How crazy is this? I can’t believe we’re on the same plane!”

“Totally crazy?” I’ve managed to stay under the radar without being recognized . . . until now. “Is this your seat?” Please say no.

“No.” She pouts for a second, before a wide grin breaks across her face. “But I’m right behind you! Last-minute upgrade. Are you flying alone? What are you doing in Seattle?”

“I’m meeting my brother.” That’s not exactly true; my brother and I are meeting in Anchorage, but she doesn’t need to know that. How the hell do I know this chick? I rack my brain for a name, something, anything. She’s familiar—and not in a good way.

“In Seattle?”

I nod.

“So you are flying alone! Me too! I bet we can get the person sitting here to switch spots.”

“Oh, you don’t need to do that.”

“Of course I do, silly!” She hugs my arm. “Then we can catch up!”

I’m still trying to place her, but that’s not always easy. I’m embarrassed to admit that in the time I’ve been playing professional hockey in Chicago, there were a couple of years where I did a lot of fucking around. Literally. I screwed pretty much any bunny who dropped into my lap. Until the shit hit the fan.

I took a break from the bunnies after I mistook a case of jock itch for crabs—which resulted in the nickname Crabby for the better part of that season, thanks to my asshole teammates. But every once in a while, I run into one of the women I slept with during my partying days. It’s always awkward. There were a lot of women in a very short span of time. Sometimes more than one at a time. It was bad. I’m not proud.

And then there was that fake pregnancy blackmail—

Oh hell no. Now I remember exactly who this woman is. She’s the blackmailer. It was literally the weirdest thing I’ve ever experienced. She took plaster casts of her sister’s growing baby belly every couple of weeks and then stuck them under her shirt and posted pictures online, tagging me in every single one. Until my lawyer got involved. The jock itch incident happened right around that time too. Thus ending my puck-bunny days for good.

“How’ve you been? What’re you up to? You look great! What are you doing in Seattle? Wait, I already asked that last question!”

There is no way I’m going to be able to sit next to her for five hours and stay sober.

When the woman who’s supposed to be beside me finally boards the plane, my extra enthusiastic companion takes control of the seat situation. She hugs my arm and presses her cheek against my shoulder, her extra wide smile matching her extra wide eyes. I think she’s going for innocent, but she really just looks bent.

“Hiiiii!” she says to the middle-aged woman. “So I hope you don’t mind, but my boyfriend booked our seats, and he couldn’t get ones beside each other. We’re celebrating our one-year anniversary, and it’s the first time we’ve flown first class.” She crinkles her nose. It makes her look odd. She’s also disturbingly convincing in her lie. “Would you mind trading seats with me so we can be together?” She bats her lashes.

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