Even the Score(10)

By: Beth Ehemann

“Happens to the best of us,” Brody said as he walked over and shook my hand. “Glad you decided to come up, brother.”

“Me too. I needed a break from the office.” I sighed. “And from life in general.”

Brody pointed toward the black bag that was slung over my shoulder. “What’s that then?”

I shrugged. “I brought a little work with me just in case, but I’m hoping for an excuse not to do it.”

“Excuse number one: get your ass out on the deck and help me grill dinner.” Brody laughed as he handed the copper-headed toddler over to Kacie. Grace, who hadn’t taken her green eyes off me since Brody carried her into the room, crinkled up her little nose as she grinned and continued clapping her little hands together.

“She looks just like you, Kacie.” I reached out and gently rubbed her chubby cheek with my finger.

Kacie looked down at Grace. “You think so? Sometimes I think yes, then others I think she looks just like Brody.”

“Oh no, she’s way too cute to look like Brody,” I joked, quickly bracing for the punch that I saw coming from Brody out of the corner of my eye. It landed square on my upper arm with a thud.

Half an hour later Logan and Becca had wasted no time getting in the lake with Lucy and Piper, Brody’s ten-year-old stepdaughters, while Brody worked his magic at the grill and I watched.

“I can’t believe you live here,” I said incredulously, shaking my head as I stared out over the relaxing lake.

Brody peeked up at me as he adjusted the burners on the grill, then stood up and followed my gaze out to the water. “It’s amazing, isn’t it? Kinda like coming home to paradise at the end of a long day.” He clapped his hand against my shoulder and went back to messing with the temperature on the grill.

Turning my attention from the water to the two dozen beef patties that were cooking on the rack, I pulled my eyebrows in tight. “Why are you making so many burgers, anyway? Are Kacie’s parents coming over for dinner, too?”

Just then, as if on cue, the sliding door opened and Viper stepped out onto the deck, throwing his hands up in the air. “I’m here, bitches! The party can officially begin!”

I stared at him with a deadpan expression on my face. “Holy shit. There goes the weekend.”

Brody let out a loud laugh. “Sorry I didn’t tell you. We weren’t even sure until a couple hours ago that they were gonna make it.”

Viper, whose real name was Lawrence Finkle, was not only a client like Brody but also one of my good friends. He was also a little on the crazy side, like Brody but much louder. He also had one of the biggest hearts of anyone I knew.

He rushed over and picked me up in a bear hug, pinning my arms to my sides. “You know you’re excited to see me, Shaw. Don’t try to hide it.” As he set me down, he planted a sloppy kiss on my cheek.

I wiped my face with the back of my hand and laughed. “I’m always happy to see you, Viper, as long as it isn’t on the news or in handcuffs.”

“Are you guys done making out yet?” Michelle, Viper’s wife, quipped as she stepped out onto the deck.

“Seriously.” Viper took a step back, glaring at me playfully. “I can’t keep this guy off me. I told you, Andy, I’m a happily married man now. You and I are over!” He put his arm around Michelle’s shoulders as he leaned down and kissed their sleeping son’s forehead.

I looked over at Brody and rolled my eyes. “Maybe I will hide in my room and work all weekend, after all.”

“Uh-uh!” Viper shook his head vehemently. “There is absolutely no w-word this weekend. If I sense you even thinking about work, I’ll pick your ass up over my shoulder and throw you in the lake.”

My eyes darted from Viper to Brody, who just shrugged.

“He’s probably not kidding.” Brody laughed.

“Wow! There are a lot of kids here,” Kacie exclaimed as she stepped out onto the deck and looked around the yard. “Let’s see . . . our four, Viper and Michelle’s three, and Andy’s two . . . wow! What a fun weekend.”

“Is this the first time we’ve had everyone together?” Michelle asked, swaying back and forth gently.

“I think so. Definitely the first time since that little chubbo was born. Here, Auntie Kacie’s turn . . .” She reached over and took Michael from Michelle’s arms.

“Babe, he was sleeping,” Brody complained.

“And he still is, babe.” She playfully stuck her tongue out at him. “That’s the best thing about newborns, they’re just like little purses. You can take them anywhere and do anything with them, and they always sleep.” Reaching down, she nuzzled her nose into Michael’s pink cheek.