The Good Luck Charm Page 9

“I’m going to rinse this out and put your coffee in it later.”

“Fuck you,” he slurs, still smiling.

“You pissed on me. Fuck you back.”

His laughter deepens. It’s the first time I’ve heard that sound since I came back to Minnesota.

“You’re an asshole, you know that?” We’re both still laughing, though. “Next time walkie me.”

“I did. Four times.” He gives me what used to be his stern eye, but the stroke has softened his features, so it’s lost some of its impact.

“Ah, shit. Sorry, Dad. Tyler and I were up late last night talking.”

He waves me off, then tips his chin toward the bed. “Help me.”

He tries his best to hold his own weight as I shift him back into bed, but it’s clear it’s taken most of his energy to manage getting his ass into the wheelchair and peeing into the cup. Once he’s settled I dump the contents of the mug in the toilet next door. I consider tossing the mug, but I’m not that nice. Instead I throw a capful of bleach in there, fill it with hot water and soap, and leave it to soak. Then I fill a bucket of warm, soapy water so I can wash the floor, grateful it’s hardwood and not carpeted.

“Sorry,” my dad says as I drop to my knees and wipe away the evidence.

I glance up. He’s lying in bed, eyes slits, looking at me. “For the mess I have to clean up or peeing on me?”

It takes a while before he responds and the words are hard to get out. “Don’t tell your mother.”

“That you pissed on me?”

He reaches for the closest object, which happens to be the walkie-talkie. I grab it before he can get it. “So you’re gonna throw shit at me now, too?”

“What if I … ” He gets stuck on the words for a while. “I can’t …”

I know where he’s going with this. I know what he’s afraid of. I take his hand and squeeze, forcing him to squeeze back reflexively. “Remember when Mom got pregnant seven years after you had a vasectomy?”

His brow furrows.

“Even your balls refuse to cooperate with science. You think the rest of your body is going to bow to a stroke?”

He squeezes back, so I keep squeezing, forcing him to put as much effort into it as he can. “My hands are covered in your urine,” I say quietly.

He shoves on my chest, hard enough that I stumble back in surprise. “You gettin’ your fight on?” I tease.

He smiles again, then drops back against the pillow. It’s hard to see him so uncertain of himself, but in some ways it’s as enlightening as it is sobering. My dad has always been an I-know-more-than-you kind of man. But now, in this situation, he’s just as scared as the rest of us.

“You want me to shut the light off? You gonna try to sleep some more?”

He nods and I turn to leave the room.


I glance over my shoulder.

“Thank you.”

“I won’t tell Mom.” His gratitude is the last thing I see before I turn the light off.

I take the opportunity for what it is and head down to the lake for an early morning swim. It’s already muggy with the promise of heat later today. A fine mist lingers on the glasslike surface. The sun hovers above the trees, burning off the last of the nighttime cool, the lemon glow reflected on the smooth surface below.

Still dressed in my boxers, I take the dock at a jog and dive in. The cold water is a welcome shock. I push out, kicking hard, staying under as long as I can. Breaking the surface with a sharp inhale, I flip onto my back and float for a while, watching the sun rise higher in the cloudless blue sky. I wish this stroke hadn’t happened to my dad. Not because it’s an inconvenience, even though there have been moments when I’ve thought this and felt guilty for it. But because of the strain it’s going to put on my mom, and how difficult it is for my dad to be unable to do things for himself and her.

chapter five




It’s just after seven in the morning when I pull into the Kases’ driveway. Normally I wouldn’t stop by this early, but last night Jeannie mentioned needing a few things when I called to check on Martin, so I picked them up for her and figured I could drop them off before work.

Besides, in my head, I rationalized that since both Tyler and Dylan have gone back to their respective homes, and Ethan must be busy with preseason practice, my assistance would be helpful. It has nothing to do with seeing Ethan. That’s what I keep telling myself, except I was up before six this morning and the effort I’ve put into my appearance tells a different story.

While it’s nice that Ethan is here for his family, it’s somehow displaced my role. I’m used to being the one Jeannie comes to when she needs help, and his presence makes me feel less necessary.

My sister Carmen thinks I need to get over it and talk to him. I keep assuring her I am talking to him—I just find being in his presence safer with the buffer of his parents. It’s very twelve of me.

I grab the grocery bin from the passenger seat and head for the back porch. Splashing draws my attention toward the lake. Hands appear at the edge of the dock, a head following after, then thick, broad shoulders. In a smooth, seamless surge, Ethan pulls himself out of the water. It’s been a very long time since I’ve seen Ethan Kase without a shirt. But I can say with absolute certainty that he has grown into his height. The lanky build of his youth has given way to a body lined with heavy muscles and incredible definition that can only be achieved with countless hours of disciplined workouts.

For a moment I envy Ethan. Not because he’s a specimen of near physical perfection, from the powerful thighs to the trim waist, six-pack abs, defined chest, and a gorgeous face—that despite his career and the potential for scars and damage, he’s even more handsome. I’m not envious of his beauty—although I can certainly appreciate it. I’m envious of his determination to fight so hard for his dream, for the one thing he loved more than anything. More than me. The last thought pricks my heart.

Until he showed up a week ago, I thought I’d gotten over the loss of him, but clearly that’s not the case. And it’s a big part of the reason I’m avoiding spending any real time with him. I fear my heart remembers loving him more than it remembers how he broke it.

He lifts a hand in a wave and I realize I’ve been spotted, and also that I’ve been staring. I nod in acknowledgment since my arms are full, and move toward the screen door—quickly so I can get inside the house before Ethan corners me. The last thing I need is a close-up of all that gorgeous. He still has the ability to make me lose my head and to send my hormones into a tailspin. Or maybe that time of month is coming and that’s the reason for all the tingles in my sensitive places.

“Hey, DJ, wait up—let me help with that!” He jogs quickly toward me, his wet body glistening in the morning sun. It really is unfair that he looks this good, and here I am dressed in scrubs with a llama pattern all over them. It’s my day of rounds in the pediatric unit, and the kids like the fun prints.

I shift the shopping bin of groceries to my hip and reach for the door handle, but it’s heavy, so I have to readjust when the bin slips. By the time it’s safely tucked against my side, Ethan is in front of me, not even out of breath despite having run all the way from the dock. He grabs the handles of the bin, and my immediate reaction is to hold on tighter.

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