by Beth Ehemann
Lawrence Finkle, known simply to his die-hard Minnesota Wild fans as Viper, isn’t used to hearing the word no. He lives his whole life just a little on the reckless side. After all, life is just one big game, right?
When what was supposed to be an innocent bet goes horribly wrong, he’s left to deal with the aftermath— and the guilt. In an effort to make things right the best way he can, he ends up falling for the one person on the planet he never should have.
The old saying goes that two wrongs don’t make a right . . . or do they?
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I found a bench right outside the door at the very moment my legs decided to give out. Who knew a hard-ass concrete bench could be so comforting? I ran my hands through my hair and rested my elbows on my knees, staring at the concrete slab below me. An ant slowly walked up to my foot and stopped. I wondered what it was like to be an ant. Did they have friends and families? Did they accidentally hurt each other? Did they feel guilt? I’d fought like hell my whole life to keep my feelings in check and never let people see them, but the last two days were testing that more than any other time in my life. I didn’t know how much longer I could keep it together.
Praying was something we never did in my house growing up, but at that moment I felt the overwhelming urge to talk out loud to . . . someone.
Looking around to make sure I was alone, I took a deep breath and puffed my cheeks out, exhaling slowly.
I glanced up at the sky for just a second, quickly deciding I probably looked like a moron and that whoever I was going to talk to would probably hear me no matter where I was looking.
“Hey, whoever’s up there. My name is Lawrence Finkle, but you probably know me as Viper. Anyway—” I cleared my throat, suddenly feeling very stupid that I was talking to myself, but so desperate I was willing to do anything. “—we’ve never had what I would call an active relationship, but right now I’m feeling pretty alone down here. I’ve fucked up a lot in my life, as you probably know, but I’ve always been able to talk myself out of any trouble I got into. Well, I’ve finally done something I can’t fix. It was an accident, but I still can’t fix it, and I could really use it at the moment. I don’t really know how this works, but I’m willing to bargain. I’ll do anything—go to church, donate time and money, stop fucking strangers. I mean it, anything . . . just please . . . save my best friend. He’s a good man with a wife and kids who need him. If you need to take someone, take me. No one gives a shit whether I’m here or not.” My eyes started to feel hot and sting as I took another shaky breath.
Startled at the sound of my name, I stood and turned as a camera flashed in my eyes. Squinting and holding my hand up, I tried to block out another flash. “What the fuck?” I growled.
“Hi, Mr. Finkle. I’m Warren Sanders with the Star Tribune here in Minneapolis.” He held his hand out for me to shake. I glared down at it and then back up at him without saying a word. He quickly pulled his hand back and continued, “We heard about what happened yesterday and we were just wondering if we could ask you a few questions. Like, maybe what exactly happened? What’s his current condition? Anything you’re willing to give us.” He held a microphone in my face as the cameraman lifted a different camera onto his shoulder to film me.
Rage shot through me like a bullet shoots out of a gun.
“You want anything I’m willing to give you?” I asked coldly. “Well, I’m going to give you ten seconds to get that motherfucking camera out of my face before I shove that mic up your ass.”
“Uh . . .” he stammered. “We won’t keep you for long. We just want a quick statement.”
Without hesitation, I took three steps and grabbed the camera from the guy behind him, lifted it above my head, and smashed it on the concrete. They both jumped back, their mouths hanging open as they stared at the ground.
“There!” I pointed to the shattered camera as I walked away. “There’s your fucking statement.”
Beth Ehemann lives in the northern suburbs of Chicago with her husband and four children. When she's not sitting in front of her computer writing, or on Pinterest, she loves reading, photography, martinis and all things Chicago Cubs. She's represented by Jessica Watterson of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency.