Home > Hard Pass (St. Louis Mavericks #3)

Hard Pass (St. Louis Mavericks #3)
Author: Brenda Rothert


Chapter One





* * *


I was never getting another pet.

No way, no how.

Losing them hurt too damn much.

I let myself into my apartment and sighed, realizing that Mr. Pebbles would never again come running to greet me, rubbing up on my legs and letting me know he missed me.

Today had been hard. Harder than finding my fiancé in bed with another woman, harder than having to tell my family that our wedding was off, and even harder than having to get a second job to pay the rent for our apartment after he moved out. None of that had prepared me for putting my sweet cat to sleep.

My phone rang and I dug it out of my purse, holding it between my ear and shoulder as I answered. “Hey, Dee.”

“How are you?” My best friend’s voice was filled with sympathy.

“Awful,” I said, putting my purse down and padding into the master bedroom. “I may have cried more today than I did when I found out Theo was cheating.”

“Want me to come over? We could get takeout and watch Jaws or something,” she said, knowing that was one of my favorite movies.

“I think I’m going to soak in the tub and go to bed early,” I said. “I’m working a double tomorrow at the restaurant, so I need to rest.”

“Can you take a few days off?” she asked. “Jobs pay for bereavement leave for the death of a spouse, and a cat is way harder to lose than a husband. In my jaded opinion, anyway.”

“I don’t have any paid time off, and I need the money, especially after today. And anyway, sitting home moping will just make me feel worse. When I’m at the restaurant, I’m too busy to think, which is exactly what I need.”

“It would be way more fun if we went out and got stupid drunk, danced on a bar somewhere, and then you fell into bed with some rando.”

I laughed. Dee, whose full name was Desiree, thought all problems could be solved with a night out.

“Last time I let you talk me into that, I wound up hooking up with Theo. Three years later, look where I am.”

“It’s not my fault you turned your nose up at the very hot rocker dude who was into you. Instead, you went for the clean-cut accountant.”

“Tell me about it,” I muttered.

“You sure you don’t want me to come over?”

“Not tonight. I really just want to chill and get to sleep early.”

“Okay. Call me tomorrow on your break and let me know how you’re doing.”

“Thanks, hon. Talk to you later.” I disconnected and went into the bathroom. A bath sounded like a great idea, and since I couldn’t afford this place on my own, I was going to enjoy the massive bathtub as much as possible before I moved.

I poured a glass of wine while the tub was filling and then stripped off my clothes. I poured a few drops of essential oil into the tub and stepped into the hot water, easing down happily. Tension drained out of me and I leaned back.

I’d been looking for a smaller, more affordable apartment since Theo had moved out, but there was no way to break our lease early, and I had two months left on it. I had several good prospects when the time came, but none of them had deep soaker tubs like this one. Or gourmet kitchens and walk-in closets the size of some people’s bedrooms.

Ugh. Moving was going to suck.

I closed my eyes, refusing to dwell on all of that. Theo was gone and I never had to think about, talk to, or see him ever again.

Oh, shit.

I opened my eyes and frowned.

Mr. Pebbles had been our cat, though I’d refused to give him up when Theo moved out. Now that I’d had to put him down, it seemed like I should at least tell Theo what happened. I loathed the idea of reaching out to my ex, but it felt like the right thing to do. The mature, responsible, adult thing to do.


That was funny since Theo had said I was immature and unsophisticated.

As if having threesomes made you sophisticated.

I stared at my phone, trying to remember the number.

Was it bad that I’d dated Theo for two years and couldn’t remember his phone number?

I’d deleted every single reminder of him, from his contact information to all our pictures. But now I needed his phone number if I was going to text him. It had a lot of sevens, that much I knew.

Was it 776-0771?

Or was it 0773?


I racked my brain, trying to remember the last time I’d dialed his number, but it had been saved as a favorite before I deleted it, so I hadn’t had to after the very first time. Squinting a little, as if that would help, I typed in the first phone number that had come to mind. It felt like the right combination and I typed out my message quickly, hoping to get this over with.

SARIAH: I just wanted to let you know Mr. Pebbles passed away today. I had to have him put down.

I wasn’t sure if he would answer. We hadn’t ended on the best of terms, obviously, but Mr. Pebbles had been his cat too. He couldn’t be that coldhearted, could he?

To my surprise, he responded right away.

THEO: Sorry to hear that.

Sorry to hear that?!

That was all he’d been able to come up with? He really was a heartless bastard. I got pissed off all over again. It wasn’t his fault that Mr. Pebbles had died, but couldn’t he at least show a little sympathy?

SARIAH: That’s it? That’s all you have to say?

THEO: Well, I’m not sure what this is about, so…

SARIAH: I just told you! Mr. Pebbles is dead.

THEO: How did I know him?

SARIAH: Are you high right now? He was our cat. Black and white, took a shit in your shoes more than once? Ringing any bells?

THEO: I think you have the wrong number. But I’m really sorry about your cat. I lost one when I was a teenager and it was hard.

Oh, hell.

Did I really have the wrong number or was Theo fucking with me? That was exactly the kind of thing he would do to avoid a confrontation.

SARIAH: Is this really the wrong number? You’re not Theo?

THEO: Nope.

SARIAH: I apologize. I deleted all of my ex’s contact info when we broke up and I was guessing on the number. Shit. I’m sorry I bothered you.

TEXT LABEL TBD: It’s okay. I’m truly sorry about your cat, though. It’s never easy to put down a pet.

SARIAH: I was thinking that today, I don’t think I want to ever go through this again. It’s been horrible. Heartbreaking. Expensive. Zero stars. Do not recommend.

TEXT LABEL TBD: Yeah, I think I gave it one star myself. And the one star was for all the years of fun I had with her before she died.

I set my phone on the ledge of the tub. Was this getting weird? I was having a full conversation with someone I didn’t even know. I pictured Mr. Pebbles curled up on my bed purring and burst into tears for the thirty-eighth time today. Then I took a giant gulp from my wineglass and picked up my phone again. Yes, it was getting weird. But I was sad, dammit, and this person seemed nice. Bonus, it was not Theo.

SARIAH: That’s one of the worst things about this—she was only three. My ex and I found a litter of kittens on the street when we first met. We found homes for all of them except her. We kept her. And named her Pebbles. Until we went to get her fixed and found out she was a he. Hence, Mr. Pebbles.

TEXT LABEL TBD: He was only three?

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