Home > Bitter Sweet Heart (Lies, Hearts & Truths #2)

Bitter Sweet Heart (Lies, Hearts & Truths #2)
Author: H. Hunting

 


One

 

 

Floating on this Cloud

 

 

Maverick

 

 

I flip the lid open on the cooler. “Who needs another beer?”

My cousin BJ holds out his hand. “This guy right here.”

I glance over at my best friend, Kody, who I’ve known my entire life. “What about you?”

“I’ll have water, or a soda as long as it doesn’t have caffeine.” He doesn’t look up from the textbook he’s reading.

“Seriously, dude, take a break. That textbook isn’t going anywhere, and we have limited lazy dock days left.” I pass him a beer instead of his requested water or decaf soda. When he doesn’t reach for it right away, I tack on, “It’s light and only two percent. You’d need to drink an entire case to catch a buzz.”

He’s slow to drag his gaze away from whatever he’s reading. “I want to get a jumpstart on my bio-chem class. It was my lowest grade last year.”

“Which was what, ninety-seven percent?” BJ snorts.

“Ninety-five point four.”

The way he says it makes it sound like he almost failed, but he finally grabs the beer I’m still holding out.

“I don’t understand why you get so bent out of shape about your grades.” This isn’t true. I know exactly why Kody gets his balls tied in a knot—he’s a perfectionist. “It’s not like you’re going to use your rocket science degree anyway. Once you get called up, you’ll be making millions a year.” I twist the cap off my own beer and take a long swig. Kody was a first-round pick. It’s only a matter of time before he’s playing for the NHL.

“Yeah, but my career isn’t going to last forever, and when it’s over, I want a solid degree under my belt so I can transition to my second career without any problems.” Kody closes the textbook. “Or I could go back for a master’s, and that’s not going to happen if I don’t have a good GPA.”

“You got a lot of years before you’re going to have to worry about that.” I push up out of my chair and sweat drips down my back, thanks to the summer sun sitting high in the sky. I step out to the end of the dock, turn around, and do a backflip into the water.

I catch Kody’s “Hey!” just before I go under.

I pull myself back out and drop down into my chair. Kody gripes about me getting his textbook wet as he slides it into a plastic bag and then into his backpack. I’ll take his ire, though, because it means he’s given up on studying. Kody and I have been tight since we were kids. Without me around to force him to relax occasionally, Kody would spend all day, every day either studying or on the ice.

“I’m kinda jealous that you two lucky fuckers are going to be done at the end of this year.” BJ drains half of his beer in three long swallows.

“Why would you be jealous? The two of us have to be responsible once this year is over.” I motion between myself and Kody.

“I’m already responsible,” Kody says.

“You know what I mean. We’re already on the ice seven days a week with training. It’s only going to get more intense from here.”

College is fun. Unlike Kody, I don’t worry all that much about my grades. As long as my scores are over seventy, I’m happy. Most of my energy goes into hockey. For the rest, I do whatever is going to keep me out of trouble with my parents, my professors, and my coach.

BJ’s phone buzzes on his chair, and he checks the screen, one corner of his mouth turning up in a sly grin as he uses face ID to unlock it.

I nod in his direction. “One of your summer hookups looking for a beard ride?”

He snorts. “Nah. It’s Lovey.”

I arch a brow. Lovey’s my cousin. She and her twin are super tight with my younger sister, Lavender, and we’ve grown up spending a lot of time together. We’re basically one big extended family. BJ, however, isn’t related to Lovey. “Oh yeah? What’s going on there?” I ask.

He gives me the side-eye. “We’re supposed to go shopping later. She’s got a date, and she wants my opinion or whatever.”

“Isn’t she with my sister? Why wouldn’t she go shopping with Lav and Lacey?” I glance over at Kody and am unsurprised to find him fidgeting uneasily. Any mention of my sister makes him antsy.

After living at home and going to a local community college last year, mostly to appease my parents who are overprotective as hell when it comes to her, Lavender wanted the real college experience, which included not living at home. So she’s going to be moving in with me and River, her twin brother. Kody lives a few houses down the street with BJ and Quinn Romero, another of our hockey teammates. It should be interesting to see how things go since Kody won’t be able to avoid my sister anymore. And I love the guy, but by interesting I mean really fucking awkward.

They had a bit of a codependency issue when we were kids, and things got messy for a while. The last time those two saw each other was more than two years ago, when Lavender was still in high school. And before that, I don’t think they’d been in the same room since Kody and I were thirteen. Shortly after that, his family moved to Philly, but now we’re all together again. It’s good, but Kody’s been in avoidance mode for a lot of years. He won’t be able to do that anymore.

Kody glances at me and then away, his ears turning red, and the rest of his face following. He tips his beer back and chugs.

BJ glances between me and Kody, arching a knowing eyebrow. “Apparently my input is more valuable.”

I shake my head. “You’d think between the three of them, they’d have enough clothes that a shopping trip isn’t even required. Lav’s been packing up her dresses, and there are boxes lining the hall. It’s nuts.”

BJ strokes his beard. “I almost feel bad for her.”

“Why?” I frown.

“Uh, because River is like an overprotective, rabid guard dog, and you throw parties all the fucking time.”

“Only at the beginning of the semester. Or when the occasion calls for it.” I grin, though. I’ve been known to throw a lot of parties. For a while, I did it to force Kody to be social. He’s pretty damn reclusive, and unless you know him well, he can be standoffish.

“Every day is an occasion for you,” Kody mutters.

“As my Gram-pot would say, every day above ground is a good day.” I move the conversation away from my sister, though, because I can tell it’s putting Kody on edge, and I don’t want to ruin the easy vibe. That he agreed to come spend the weekend in Pearl Lake is a freaking miracle.

My cousin’s place on Pearl Lake is a twenty-minute drive from my parents’ place in Lake Geneva. Originally, the Lake Geneva spot was their lakefront getaway, but when my dad retired from coaching, he moved out this way, and he and a bunch of his hockey buddies started a hockey-training program. Both Kody and I help coach kids in the summer, as well as attending our own training camp. The kids’ camp ended last week, so we have a free weekend to relax, minus our own practices.

“There’s supposed to be a beach party tonight. You guys up for it?” BJ asks.

“Dakota has a soccer game, and I told him I’d go,” Kody says. “But maybe after, if it’s not too late. And Coach added an early skate tomorrow at seven. I said we’d both be there.”

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