Along Came a Spider 2/C25

A/N: Thank yous to Team Spiderward for all you do. xx

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. The NHL owns anything that sounds familiar. I’m here having fun.

/ /\ (oo) /\ \

Chapter 25

Enterprise Center is at full capacity Saturday night with the crowd on their feet and the music pounding. I’m as eager as they are for the puck drop at center ice. St. Louis is coming off a loss to Winnipeg on Thursday night, and our disappointing loss to Minnesota in the final minute of last night’s game is still fresh in our minds.

When we faced St. Louis earlier in the season with Ben in net, we took losses for both of those games. I haven’t faced them yet this season, but my career record against them is four wins and no losses. I’m hoping to make it five since we’re currently in third place in the standings, trailing them by the thinnest of margins. We’re all chasing Colorado, who is currently leading our division and the Western Conference.

Tonight marks James’s eight hundredth NHL game. It’s difficult to celebrate these types of milestones on the road. He said in the locker room that he would be happy for us to commemorate it by bouncing back with a win tonight. I’m hoping to do my part in making that win possible.

When I heard from Vladdy earlier today with a short text, he said he is day-to-day with an upper body injury, and hopes to be back for our game Tuesday night against Carolina at home. I expected a little more detail from him, but I get it. We don’t broadcast our injuries to anyone, even teammates. Keeping that information to a limited audience is vital, because if it finds its way into our opponents’ locker room, they will target him, hoping to worsen whatever is hurting. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of our game.

Once we’re underway, St. Louis is on the power play early. We kill off the first one, then take another when James goes to the penalty box for boarding. During that power play, a shot rockets past my blocker hand, giving them the first goal of the game. At even strength minutes later, the same player shoots another puck over my blocker again, giving them a two-zero lead. I need to shut that shit down.

As I watch the replay of the goal overhead, curious what I’m missing, I realize I should have moved out of the net, taking that angle away from him, and lifted my blocker away from my body a little more. It’s part of a goalie technique called, “Monstering up,” used in training while trying to make ourselves as big as possible.

Shooting a stream of water from my bottle into the air, I track one of the droplets, then lower my mask and reset into ready position. Near the end of the first period, we’re the ones on a power play when James tips a pass that finds its way past their goaltender, putting us on the scoreboard two to one.

With multiple chances to score during the second period, Jonsu is the one to elevate a loose puck in front of their goalie and even the score two-two. I block everything that St. Louis shoots at me in both the second and third periods, including a few close calls that could have been game-winners in the last moments of regulation. Fortunately, we hold off their attack, sending us to overtime.

After blocking a shot on goal about two minutes into overtime, I make a quick pass to Demir, watching as he carries the puck up the ice full of determined speed and unmatched stickhandling. He leaves a drop pass for a trailing Jonsu, who fires a wrist-shot that skids between the legs of their goalie.

Our bench goes wild, and everyone leaps over the boards to congratulate Jonsu and pile on top of him before making their way to me. It’s a three to two win, earning us two points for the night. And I’m credited with an assist, my third of the season.

With tonight’s win against St. Louis, we proved that we have what it takes to win against every team in our division. It’s that extra boost we all need, when every point is so precious in the second half of the season. After back-to-back games, everyone welcomes the news Coach shares on the plane that we will take Sunday off and be back on the ice on Monday morning. I’m eager to spend the day with Bella.

Ben and I sit with our goaltending coach doing a quick debrief of tonight’s game during the ride home. It’s all straightforward since I know where I made the same mistake on those two goals until he shares that I will be starting against Carolina on Tuesday. Ben doesn’t say a word at the news and only nods, but I’m surprised when no other explanation is offered.

Once I return to my seat, I check my messages and click on Bella’s first.

What a win!
I’m so proud of you!
Did you hear me screaming?
Scout thinks I’ve lost my mind.
And Shadow agrees. LOL
I’ll be ready to celebrate! 😉

I grin at the thought and can’t wait to be home.

Hello, beautiful!
Thank you.
We’re on our way home.
I’ll see you soon.
I love you. X

I glance through my other messages and find the texts I’ve been expecting from Al. With Bella’s parents’ wedding behind us, we’ve been discussing moving up my proposal timeline before I leave on Wednesday for my next road trip.

Good news!
We’re ready for Sunday night.
Everything will be in place.
Good luck!

I appreciate your help.

Now, the pressure is on, and I need to figure out what I’m going to say.

/ /\ (oo) /\ \

Sitting on the couch in the great room, I flip through the channels on the television, looking for something else to watch since the Boston and Detroit game is over. There’s still time before the Colorado and Minnesota game begins. But really, I just need something to do while waiting for the text. Maybe I’ll grab something to eat.

I still haven’t called Heidi or told Bella about worsening the situation with my dad on Friday. I’m not about to let anything overshadow today. This one is ours. Since my arrival home early this morning, we’ve celebrated my win twice, and there’s no wiping the smile off my face with that knowledge alone.

Scout is on the floor destroying one of his new chew toys while Bella is next to me with Shadow on her lap. When her phone vibrates on the coffee table, it takes everything I have not to react in any way that could tip her off. She leans forward, looks at the screen, and reads the message to herself.


“What is it?” I ask, as if I don’t know.

“It’s my dad.”

“Something wrong?” Only my impatience at this point.

“No. I told them to let me know when it would be a good time to pick up some of my clothes and things from the townhouse. Leah is shipping boxes from their house in Forks. Mom said they’re not sure where to put everything with my stuff still there. I should run over and pick up another load tonight.”

“I can drive you,” I offer, but she doesn’t realize it’s non-negotiable.

“You don’t have to. It’s your day off. Dad can help me load things.”

“It’s yours too. Come on. We’ll move more and faster, working together.”

“Are you sure?”

“I’m positive. The next hockey game isn’t starting for a little while. So, we’ve got time.” I turn off the television, then toss the remote on the coffee table.

“Maybe we should drive separately so we can bring more home?”


That’s not part of the plan.

I want to see her reaction as we arrive, and I can’t do that if we aren’t in the same vehicle.

“The Spider won’t hold that much more. Let’s just take my truck.”

“Oh.” She pauses, thinking for a moment. “Well, let’s grab my empty suitcases and get going.”

With light traffic this evening, I drive us toward her townhouse. The sun set not long ago, and I’m rehearsing what I plan to say when I hear her voice over the soft music playing. Glancing at her, I find her looking at me expectantly, having missed whatever she said.

“I’m sorry, what?”

She smiles. “I said that I texted Al earlier about going to the game Tuesday night, but he still hasn’t responded.”

I shrug. “Maybe they’re busy today.”

I know exactly where they are, and yes, they’re busy. We’ll see them soon.

“Mmmm.” Her brow furrows. “I haven’t heard from your mother either.”

“I’m sure she will get back to you whenever she has a chance.”

I wonder if my dad told Mom about what happened between us on Friday morning, but since she hasn’t called me, I would guess he hasn’t said a word. I can’t imagine there not being any marks, but regardless, I need to pay her a visit soon.

“I’m excited to see you play in-person again. Are you nervous?” Bella asks.

I am, but not about playing, and I can’t tell her that because she’ll want to know why. I’m not about to blow it when we’re so close.

“Nothing more than normal,” I downplay my building nerves.

Once we turn onto her street, I second-guess if involving Al was a mistake. I didn’t know what he meant by paper bag luminaries lining the street, but I get it now. There are hundreds, maybe more illuminating the road, leading us to her townhouse.

“Well, this is cool. Someone must be having a party.” Bella looks over at me and smiles. “It’s beautiful.”

I nod, agreeing easily. “It is.”

Slowing my approach the closer we get to her townhouse, I hear Bella’s gasp when she notices her front porch.


After pulling into her driveway, I shut off my truck. “I’ll get your door.”

Once I help her from the truck, she looks up at me wide-eyed while I take her hand and lead her toward her front porch. Replicas of our first jack o’lanterns sit glowing as they did months ago. Her classic and toothy smiling pumpkins are on display, as well as my spider web jack o’lantern.”

“Oh my goodness. It’s our jack o’lanterns. In February! Are they real?” She chuckles nervously. “Edward, what is this?”

I smile. “I always wondered what you thought when you found them on your steps that night after I left them here.”

She blinks rapidly, before recalling the details. “What I thought? Well, I was shocked—similar to now, but then I realized I had forgotten to bring mine home from Rose’s pumpkin carving party. There was also a bag of candy—”

I jerk my chin toward the “Trick or Treat” bag that has been modified, as I did the first time, to read, “No Tricks, only Treats,” sitting on the step beside our jack o’lanterns. She reaches for it, and this time, the note says “Doc” instead of “Dr. Bella.”

“A goodie bag,” I correct.

“That’s right. There was a note that said it was your turn to give me a goodie bag. I thought it was a thank you for fixing your teeth.”

“Then what did you do?”

“I went inside to find out what was in the bag.”

“What was in there?” I prompt.

Bella smiles. “All my favorite candies from the party, plus two cupcakes—chocolate and vanilla with orange buttercream and plastic spider rings. I had them for dinner that night, while believing you had a girlfriend.”

“But I didn’t.”

Her head bobs in agreement. “Rose explained later that it was her mistake and that you liked me.”

“Oh, I liked you then, but I love you now.” After kissing her lips, I take the bag from her hands, hold it open by the handles, and grin. “What’s in this bag?”

Bella glances inside, then her eyes sparkle, searching mine once more before reaching for the cupcake container, sitting on top of more of her favorite candies. Setting the bag on the ground, I take the container and open it, revealing a very special chocolate cupcake. Perched on top of the icing is a ring, but this one isn’t plastic. It’s Vladdy’s aunt’s creation—a platinum setting of a spider web with a large round diamond in the center, surrounded by smaller diamonds set within the openings of the web.

“Oh, Edward.”

“A spider web is a symbol of fate and destiny. For me, that’s you. Life brings people together in unexpected ways. If I had to lose a few teeth for us to meet, my only regret is that it didn’t happen sooner. Fate put me on a path to you. Every choice we made to get here—I would make them all again, if it means having you in my life forever. I never imagined how my world would change that night at my sister’s party, but it did. I want to continue weaving our lives together in every way possible, especially this one.” I bend down on one knee, reach inside the box, and remove the cupcake, tossing the empty box in the treat bag. After releasing a deep breath, I hold it out to her. “Doc—Bella, there is no way I could ask this question without at least a little chocolate being involved to sweeten the deal.”

She giggles, then gasps, covering her mouth with her hand as the other carved jack o’lanterns behind me light up with a warm orange glow of various heart designs and my next words. I wait until her glassy eyes find mine before I say them out loud.

“Will you marry me?”

“Oh my goodness. Are you kidding me?” she squeals. “This is—chocolate AND you—YES! It’s a yes!”

Leaping into my arms, she clutches me tightly as I stand embracing her in a hug and spinning her around. Once I set her back on the ground, she looks up at me with a beaming smile. I pluck the ring from the top of the cupcake, then slide it onto her ring finger.

I grin. “It’s a perfect fit.”

“There’s a little icing, but don’t worry, I’ve got this.” She smiles, then her tongue peeks out, licking it off the band. Holding her hand out to admire the ring, she shakes her head. “Oh my goodness. It’s beautiful. And delicious. I can’t believe this. You—I’ll take my cupcake too.”

I chuckle, peel back the cupcake wrapper, and hold it out for her to take a bite.

“Mmmm.” She hums before finishing her mouthful, and I return the rest of it to the cupcake box in her treat bag. “So good. How did you do all this? Where do you find pumpkins in February? How did I not know? Aren’t we moving my stuff? I should have dressed up or had my nails done. I must look like a wreck.” She brushes her hands through her hair nervously. “Oh my goodness. You’re going to want pictures. You should have told me.”

“You always look beautiful, and I had some help. Your mom and dad are in the know. Al and Garrett too. They set up the luminaries. Al carved our jack o’lanterns from memory out of craft pumpkins. And he thought the others would be a nice touch.”

She shakes her head as her eyes travel from the jack o’lanterns back to me. “It’s all so amazing.”

“Like you.” I bend lower, kissing her sweet chocolate-flavored lips.

Our kiss ends all too soon when the front door opens, and Al peeks his head outside.

“Can we come out yet?” he pleads. “We’re dying in here.”

“Al!” Bella throws her arms in the air. “Yes! Get out here! We’re engaged! Look at my ring!”

Al hurries outside and down the steps, followed by Garrett and her parents. They all ooh and ahh over her ring, offering their congratulations, mixed with hugs and handshakes.

“Congratulations, darling. We’re so happy for you both. Did you take any pictures?” Al asks.

“Not yet.”

“Give me one of your phones. I’ll do the honors.”

I offer him mine, and Al takes photos of us in various poses before clicking the button on a small remote toward the jack o’lanterns. The “Will you marry me?” pumpkins darken, then others light up with the message, “She said yes!”


“What? I was pretty sure of your answer.” He laughs. “And you’ll love these photos later. Trust me. We had a little extra time and took some test shots before you got here.”

After another round of photos, we step inside Bella’s townhouse for glasses of a non-alcoholic bubbly and a few toasts to our engagement. Even though I’m impatient and can’t wait to get back home—alone with my fiancée, Bella insists we shouldn’t leave empty-handed. She enlists everyone’s help as we load my truck to capacity, but it’s my heart that’s overflowing with love for the woman who I can’t wait to call my wife.

/ /\ (oo) /\ \

After downing the last of my smoothie, I stand ready to depart for our morning meetings when Coach enters the room and his eyes land on me.

“Spider, can I see you for a moment before we get started? It will be quick.”

“Sure, Coach,” I agree, following him into his office.

“Close the door and take a seat.”


He sits heavily in the chair behind his desk. “Did you enjoy your day off?”

Taking the seat across from him, I smile. “I did. I proposed to my girlfriend.”

Coach nods his approval. “I’m guessing that went well.”

I grin. “She said yes.”

“My congratulations to you both.”

“Thanks, Coach.”

“You had a great game on Saturday night, but that’s not what I want to talk with you about before we get started this morning.” His chair creaks as he leans backward and his eyes find mine. “We’re a family here. We protect each other. Stand up for each other. Clean up each other’s messes from time to time. No questions asked. Whatever is needed. We’re in this together. It’s how the good become great. And the great become unstoppable.” He watches me closely as I listen to his words.

“I understand more than anyone the pressures that can be put upon someone from outside our family, even when it’s someone who should be trustworthy. A reporter who asks questions he knows he shouldn’t, for example, will lose access to this team. Someone trying to fuck with my players will lose it too. I don’t care who it is.” He shakes his head.

“What happened after Friday’s skate between you and your father is a private matter. It won’t be discussed and we won’t be releasing any official statement. I believe it would be drawing attention to something that is nobody’s business—a distraction from what we’re building here.

“I’ll talk about hockey all-day, but I’m not going to comment on players’ personal lives. It’s always left up to you how much you share with anyone beyond the boards. If there’s something bothering you, my door is always open. You know that.”

“I do.”

He leans forward, resting his elbows on his desk. “And for the record . . . I would have hit him too. Cap said it was a hell of a first punch. I’m kind of sorry I missed it. I hope—it’s probably an odd thing to say, but I hope it gave you some . . . satisfaction. You’re too good at letting shit roll off your back, and I understand why you couldn’t let this one go unchecked.” He grins.

“The good news is that not only did I miss this rare bit of fireworks from you, but also so did a lot of other people. If anything pops up on social media, you know where I stand, and that includes our entire organization. You have our unconditional support.”

I nod my acknowledgement, then give him a slight shrug. “I haven’t spoken to my dad or anyone else about it since it happened. I’ve managed to shut it out for a couple of days. I guess that can’t last forever.”

Coach smiles. “And I commend you for not letting it affect your game on the ice.”

“He’s not allowed back here?” I double-check if I’m hearing Coach correctly.

“I’ll leave that up to you. I don’t want to close our practices to the public—our fans. But I will if I find it’s necessary to protect my players.” His eyebrows lift in question. “Understood?”


“Congratulations to you and Bella on your engagement and expecting your first child. Those are both big changes, but with the right person, they’re easier.” He chuckles. “Still a challenge, but easier. I enjoyed speaking with her at casino night.”

Why couldn’t I get that type of response from my dad?

“Thanks, Coach. Bella—she’s definitely the one for me. And I’m looking forward to both.”

“As you should be. Anyone who says otherwise can go fuck themselves. Now, speaking of fucking someone, let’s go discuss our plans for Carolina tomorrow night.”

/ /\ (oo) /\ \

Once I finish with practice on Monday, I drive back home, but I know I should check in with my mother since I only heard from her in a brief text after my win on Saturday night. After pressing the button, I say, “Call Mom,” and wait for the call to connect, tapping my thumbs lightly against the steering wheel.

“Hello? Edward?”

“Hey, Mom.”

“How are you?”

“Good. I’m on my way back from practice. Where are you?”

“I’m on my way home from the grocery store.”

“How about I meet you there?” I ask.

“Well, that’s a wonderful surprise. Have you had lunch?”

“Not yet.”

“I’ll fix us lunch then. I look forward to seeing you soon.”

“All right, Mom. See you in a bit.”

Thirty minutes later, I pull into the driveway, noticing the garage door is open and only Mom’s car is inside. I’m a little relieved if that means Dad isn’t here. She pauses unloading groceries from the trunk of her car as I shut off my truck.

Slamming my door closed, I hurry to where she’s waiting. “Hey, let me help you.”

“Thank you, sweetheart.”

After grabbing the last of her bags, I glance around the neatly organized garage. “Where’s Dad?”

She smiles, leading me toward the back door. “He left on Friday for a fishing trip with a couple of friends.”

As I pass where he keeps his fishing rods in the garage, I notice none of them is missing and his tackle box is still there too. Nothing is out of place. Mom presses the button on the wall, closing the garage door, and I follow her inside, setting the bags on the kitchen island.

“Oh? Where did they go?”

“I think he said Lewisville, then they are going farther north to Lake Texoma or something.” She sets her purse next to the bags, then begins unpacking the groceries.


The “or something” gets my attention, which could mean he’s not fishing at all and in Oklahoma, another cause for concern. Mom shrugs, continuing to put away items in the refrigerator and pantry.

“When will he be back?” I prompt.

“In the next few days.” She smiles, but it doesn’t reach her eyes.

“Did you see him before he left?”

I’m positive I left a few marks, and I’m interested in hearing how he explained them.

“No, he called from the road—said it was a last minute invite and they had room for one more.”

“Mom.” I pause, waiting for her to look at me. “Are you sure he’s fishing?”

Her whole body sags under the heavy weight of my question and she shakes her head. “That’s what he said he was doing. I have to trust him at his word.”

Trust isn’t easy to come by when he’s taken liberties so easily with it in the past.

“And what if he isn’t fishing?”

We both know what that could mean.

“Edward.” She closes her eyes, releasing a resigned sigh. They’re glassy when they re-open, shifting to mine. “Don’t do this to me.”

I know she feels as if I’m putting her in the middle during any disagreements we may have, but it isn’t me who’s doing this now.

It’s all him.

If he’s going down roads he promised never to venture again, well . . . I have to wonder where’s the line? Or will she be willing to forgive and forget once again? It’s disappointing, but I know the most recent line he crossed with me, and there’s no going back.

With a nod, I let it go for the time being and change the subject. “What are we having for lunch?”

She brightens slightly at the thought. “Um . . . I started a new turkey and wild rice soup in my slow-cooker this morning. It’s a recipe Cin shared with me this weekend and should be close to ready. I need to check it. I’ll split and toast a baguette with herb butter. I’m not sure what else you’ll eat. I can make a little salad too.”

“It sounds great.” Moving to the sink, I wash my hands and volunteer, “I’ll help.”

“Okay.” She nods, setting out fresh lettuces and vegetables for our salad. “How’s Bella?”

“She’s engaged,” I share, removing a cutting board from the cabinet.

“In what?” Mom asks absentmindedly.

“To me.”

“Edward!” Her eyes widen. “You proposed?”

“I did. Last night.”

“Congratulations. I’m so happy for you.” She reaches out, embracing me in a tight hug.

“Thanks, Mom.”

With the lift of the lid on her slow-cooker, she stirs the soup gently. “Any idea when you’ll get married?”

“No clue. Probably not until after Pumpkin arrives.” I select a knife from her knife block.


I grin. “The baby is due in October. I nicknamed him or her, Pumpkin. He or she is a growing little pumpkin seed right now.”

“That’s so sweet.” She smiles. “October will also be the start of a new hockey season.”

I shrug and begin washing the vegetables in the sink. “I know, but I’m focused on the current season right now. I’m starting tomorrow night. Will you be there?”

“Of course. You know I wouldn’t miss it.”

“Good. I’ll let Doc know.”

/ /\ (oo) /\ \

After catching up with Mom over lunch, I’m on my way home when I decide to call Heidi. At the next red light, I tap on my phone, locating her last text, then click on the number she provided, waiting for the call to connect over the speaker of my truck.



I can barely hear her over the loud background noise.


“It’s Edward,” I shout a little louder.

“Hey, Edward. Hang on for a minute.” Her voice fades as she speaks with someone. “I need to take this. Give me five.” Once she returns to our call, it sounds as if she closes a door, making it a little easier to hear her. “Okay, now I can talk. How are you?”

“Good.” There’s an awkward pause, but I don’t let it linger on small talk, jumping into the reason for my call. “Uh, your text said you needed to speak with me?”

“Yes, there’s something you need to know. I was at a party a couple of weeks ago and ran into a familiar face—your agent.”

“Jake?” I’m surprised, but it isn’t uncommon for either of them to travel in the same circles around the New York City area.

“Yes. We were talking, but before Jake left, he asked me for . . . a favor,” she confides.

I don’t like the sound of that. “What kind of favor?”

“The kind that would end your current relationship,” Heidi reveals, getting straight to the point.

Jake wants to end my relationship with Bella.

At those words—that thought, I’m beyond pissed and seeing red as she continues.

“I played along with what he was saying, but Edward, I’m your friend first. Even though we aren’t together any longer, my loyalty will always be to you.” Heidi pauses for a moment, then adds, “From what I could see on your Insta, you look very happy. I have no doubt that’s because of your Dr. Swan.”

She’s looked through my Instagram account enough to figure out who Bella is—not that I’m keeping her a secret by any means. If I had to guess, Heidi was probably looking for pictures of herself, which she won’t find any there. People always underestimate Heidi because of her looks, but I know better.

“Yeah. I am.”

“Good. I’m happy for you, Edward.”


I have no idea who she’s dating at the moment, nor do I care. I’m thinking she’s about to conclude our conversation, but she surprises me by sharing more details.

“Anyway, later in the evening, I stepped outside for a smoke.”

I fucking hated that she smoked when we were dating. Despite my best efforts to get her to give up that nasty habit, it sounds as if that hasn’t changed.

“Jake didn’t notice me, but he was out there on his phone with someone, and I heard a portion of his conversation.”

Okay, I’ll bite. “What did you hear?”

“He told whoever he was speaking with that there would be a break-up, then you would be on a plane to Calgary.”

“Are you sure he was talking about me?” I ask.

“Yes. Jake said there was only one thing keeping you in Dallas and that they would be eliminating that soon. Considering his favor, I have no doubt he was speaking about you.”

The hell they will. And who are they?

“Does he rep anyone else on your team?”

“No. I don’t believe so.”

“Wouldn’t Jake benefit from you going to Calgary?” Heidi prompts.

“He would,” I confirm.

“To the tune of five million dollars? He mentioned that during the conversation as well.”

“Well, his percentage of that,” I correct.

I’m waiting for the gate to my neighborhood to open as the realization sinks in heavily that it isn’t some opponent coming for me or us, it’s my agent—wanting me to move for his financial gain.

Did Jake dig up that old photo of me with Heidi? It was probably on her social media or other websites. Is he the source of the blind item? The one that encourages a “trade, if my current girlfriend found out?” Is he also the adamant poster claiming the blind item is about me?

And . . .

My entire body goes cold because there’s only one other person who has been advocating relentlessly for my trade to Calgary.

When Heidi didn’t deliver what they wanted, he showed up at my practice on Friday to take care of it himself. I know him, but I never thought either one would stoop this low.

Heidi is right. I have a problem.

Bella was right. They’re working together.

Against us.

But most of all—against me.

My dad.

Someone who claimed he would always have my best interests at heart.

But that’s only true, if it aligns with his interests.

Lies and manipulations. He’s been dealing in them all along, making me believe—

“Edward? Are you still there?”

Realizing the gate is open and unsure how long it’s been that way, I look around not seeing any other vehicles, then drive through, making the final turns to our home.

“Heidi, um . . . I have to go.”

“I understand. Take care, Edward. I wish you all the best.”

“Thanks. You too.”

Once I end our call, I blow out a steady breath and hope to keep my cool, but I feel it slipping through my trembling fingers quickly. After parking in my spot in the garage, I let my head fall heavily backward against the seat rest. My vision blurs as I stare at the roof of my truck in disbelief.

Slowly, my heart fractures with tiny fissures of acceptance at the betrayal of two people I thought I could trust. With each labored breath, I don’t know how long I sit there as my throat tightens and I fight off tears threatening to fall, knowing without a doubt who I need to reach out to next.

Reaching for my phone, I remove it from the cradle, holding it delicately in one hand. “Call—Steve.”