Home > Flirting with the Frenemy (Bro Code #1)(13)

Flirting with the Frenemy (Bro Code #1)(13)
Author: Pippa Grant

I smirked at her, letting her know I didn’t believe her, and she flipped me another bird when Tucker’s back was turned.

On the miniature golf course, we’ve made it past the English cannon attack hole, the mermaid hole, the hurricane hole, and more, to finally reach the Kraken hole. It seems wrong that we’ve come this far just to lose our balls to one of the sea monster’s mouths—or possibly his eye sockets—but I guess that’s the life of a pirate.

“Dad! Dad, I got it in his nose! Did you see?”

“You gave him a golf ball booger. Good job.”

Tucker throws his arms around my waist. “I’m so glad you’re my dad.”

My sinuses get heavy and I blink a couple times before I hoist him up for a hug. Most days, I feel like I get more wrong than I get right, and I don’t have a fucking clue what he’ll think of me when he grows up—I’m supposed to be there for him every day, not just calling him at bedtime from Gellings Air Force Base five hundred miles away in Georgia—but he still seems to think I’m good at the dad job for now.

“I love you,” I tell him.

“I know,” he replies, and I set him down with a chuckle. “Your turn, Dad. I’ll bet you can get it right in his forehead. That’s the hardest shot, so they made the hole really big. I’ll bet even Cooper Rock couldn’t get it in his forehead.”

I oblige and sink my ball into the Kraken’s forehead, which, indeed, is the biggest hole. But I don’t tell him that makes it the easiest, because I like being his hero.

“Someday, I’m gonna be a putt-putt master just like you,” Tucker informs me.

I take his hand while we head over to turn in our clubs. “Someday, you’ll be even better than me.”

“Yeah, because I’m gonna be Captain America one day,” he says sagely.

“Captain America? Who wants to be Captain America when you can be Blackbeard?” the wizened old man behind the counter says with a wink while we hand him our clubs. He’s sporting an eye patch, a pirate hat, and a parrot on his shoulder.

“Fucking Blackbeard,” the parrot says.

“Hush, hush, Long Beak Silver.” The old pirate—pretty sure they call him Pop around here, head of the Rock clan—looks sternly at Tucker. “Don’t ever let your grandkids parrot sit. They teach terrible words. But I’ll get ‘em. I’ll get ‘em all. I’m fixin’ to set every one of ‘em up with the love of their lives, and that’ll teach ‘em.”

“Empty threats,” a pretty woman in jeans and a Shipwreck T-shirt says as she strolls in the door. “If you were going to set us up, you would’ve done it by now.”

“Maybe I should practice on this young man.”

Tucker giggles again. “I don’t want to fall in love with a girl. I’m only seven.”

“Hmmm… Then maybe I should practice on your dad.”

“He’s in love with his work.”

Pop and his granddaughter both cough, identical blue eyes twinkling while I scrub my hand over my face to keep Tucker from seeing the irritation blossoming.

His mother shouldn’t say things like that in front of him. I’m not married to my work.

I have split priorities between family and country. Whereas she—

Nope. Won’t help. Not going there.

“Ah, a tough case,” Pop says. “Good. It’ll just prove to my grandkids that it can be done.”

The woman rolls her eyes. “Have no fear,” she tells me. “You’re safe.”

“You hungry?” I ask Tucker.

“I was hungry back before we jumped over the alligators, but they scared the hungry right out of me. I could be again though. Let me check.” He pats his stomach. “Hey, belly, you want some food?” He cocks his head, then nods. “It says yes, Dad. We want more donuts.”

We escape the matchmaking old man and head down the street to check out the wait at Anchovies, the pizza joint in the middle of Blackbeard Avenue. The hairs on my arms rise to attention a split second before I realize who’s in front of us in line.

Ellie’s best friend.

The bride.

She’s in jeans today, but her T-shirt has a skull and crossbones on it, and she’s wearing pirate boots and parrot earrings.

“Oh my gosh, it’s Ellie’s Wyatt,” she says.

Fuck.

Dammit.

Small town. Guess it was bound to happen.

The two men and the woman with her all glance back at Tucker and me, and I instinctively grip his hand tighter while I nod to her. “Morning.”

“We’re not going to have to fight over who gets to sit with her, are we?” she asks.

The Blond Caveman goes stiff, earning a suspicious look from the redhead with him, but doesn’t explain where Ellie is right now.

“I love Miss Ellie,” Tucker declares. “She shares her donuts.”

With some of us.

I didn’t get any.

The bride—Monica, I’m almost positive, who Beck’s mentioned a time or two, said she was Ellie’s best friend since college—squats down to Tucker’s level. “Do you want to sit with us so we don’t have to fight over her?”

“Yeah! And I’ll share my shaker cheese with her to thank her for the donuts.”

“Perfect. Jason, sweetie, make it a table for seven,” she tells the longer-haired blond holding her hand.

“We wouldn’t want—” I start.

“Don’t be silly. They have to push two tables together for a party of five anyway, so we’re being more economical. Plus, who wouldn’t want to eat with a kid this cute?”

Tucker grins up at me with his crooked, oversized front teeth, unruly brown hair, button nose, and dirty glasses, and I can’t help smiling back.

I should object more, but it’s likely me joining them for lunch will piss Ellie off.

And that is my secondary job for the week, right behind having fun with Tucker and right before losing sleep to try to recover Beck’s high score on Frogger.

Oh. And that whole playing her boyfriend thing.

Which I intend to enjoy every minute of.

Just to watch her ex squirm.

If he hadn’t pulled the dick of all dick moves—who dumps someone on Christmas?—she wouldn’t have been at her parents’ place looking for someone to share her misery with.

Easier to blame him the more I decide he’s a turdnugget.

“How was the parade?” Monica asks Tucker.

“Where’s Ellie?” Blond Caveman asks me while Tucker tells Monica he liked the parade.

I know his name, but I prefer to call him Asswipe. Since I can’t do that in front of my kid, Blond Caveman it is.

“She’s getting fitted for a peg leg,” I tell him.

“Seriously, Patrick, I just told you,” Monica says with a sigh. “She’s parking her car and fighting with Grady about accepting a ride in a golf cart.”

“You didn’t drive her?” Blond Caveman says.

“She wanted to not share the rest of her donuts, since Cooper Rock delivered them,” Tucker announces. “He signed my pirate sword. I wonder if he signed one for Miss Captain Ellie too?”

“Cooper’s signed tons of things for Ellie,” Monica tells him. “But she doesn’t usually keep them. She donates them to auctions for pet shelters.”

“Like for dogs and cats?”

“And sometimes goats and snakes and hedgehogs.”

Tucker frowns, like he’s pondering a shelter for goats and snakes and hedgehogs.

“I told you I could walk,” says a familiar voice that sets Dr Pepper buzzing through my veins.

We all turn as Ellie gives an exasperated sigh, then leans over to hug the Rock guy who was supposed to be her date last night. He’s driving the golf cart that she’s climbing out of. “But thank you.”

“It’s worth it just to watch you have to take help,” he tells her with a flirty grin, and I consider how much more attractive he’d be with a broken face.

I scowl at him.

He catches my gaze and winks. “Got a live one there, bro. Lucky man.”

“What is with all the men in my life being ass—uming blockheads?” she finishes as her gaze lands on Tucker.

“Hi, Miss Ellie!” Tucker calls. “Did you bring more donuts?”

“Not unless we’re having pizza donuts for lunch,” she replies. “Did you beat your dad in golf?”

“No.”

“There’s always next time. High five for trying.” Her gait is stiff, but she’s smiling at Tucker like she can feel no pain and she bends over to high-five him.

“Could you beat my dad in golf?” Tucker asks.

“Every time,” she tells him.

“Because I let her,” I add.

With a smile.

Like our relationship thrives on one-upmanship.

“And isn’t that the sweetest?” she says tightly with a smile of her own.

“Miss Captain Ellie, I want a llama someday,” Tucker declares.

Ellie gasps. “No way. Me too! Aren’t they so cute?”

“I’m going to name mine Llama Llama Ding Dong because my teacher plays that song all the time.”

“You—I—do you know you’re freaking adorable?”

“Yeah.”

He grins. She ruffles his hair, then moves in to greet Monica with a hug. When she’s done, just to piss her off—and to watch the Blond Caveman fume too—I wrap an arm around her shoulders and kiss her flowery-scented hair.

I have a role to play.

I’ll explain it to Tucker later. Shouldn’t be too hard. We’re old friends.

Not sure how I’m going to explain to my dick that we’re not doing this for real again, but it’ll live.

“Enjoy your ride?” I ask.

“Quit trying to help me walk. I can do it myself.”

“I can help you walk, Miss Ellie,” Tucker offers.

   
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