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Authors: EJ McCay

Charitable Hearts (4 page)

BOOK: Charitable Hearts
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Nine

Levi stood next to the bar
and looked at his drink, half-heartedly listening to the conversation taking place. Mostly, his attention was directed toward the front of the house and the body illuminated by the street lights. The only other woman to ever come to Gary’s defense was Amelia. She’d even as gone so far as to punch one of Levi’s girlfriends before.

He placed his drink on the bar, swallowed his pride, and walked in the direction of the girl sitting on the sidewalk.

Before he got to the door, Sonja stepped in his path. “Where are you going? We have a party to host.”

Levi leveled his eyes at her. “You host. I’m going to go sit outside a minute.”

Sonja followed his gaze to the sidewalk. “Don’t you think it’s rude to hook up with another girl in front of your girlfriend?”

Exasperated, Levi sighed. “Sonja, I’m not hooking up with anyone. Besides, you didn’t seem to have any problem chatting up Bay Unger.”

“Whatever, Levi, go hop in her pants, but if you do, don’t expect me to pretend anymore.”

“Better hope you get a callback before you go getting all demanding.”

Sonja curled her lip. “Just go, Levi. You’re drunk.”

Levi rolled his eyes and stepped around Sonja.

Maggie rested her head on her knees when she heard footsteps behind her. She hoped they wouldn’t see her sitting there or if they did maybe they’d ignore her. That hope died when a body sat next to her on the curb.

“I’m sorry.”

Maggie rolled her head to see Levi mirroring her with his knees drawn up to his chest and his head resting on his knees. She remained silent.

“You were defending my friend and I was out of line when you tried to apologize for something you shouldn’t have had to apologize for in the first place. He’s my best friend and I let Sonja just roll right over him. Thank you for sticking up for Gary.”
You are definitely different.

She continued the silence. The last thing she wanted Levi to know was that she was crying.

“Are you giving me the silent treatment?”

Maggie laced her fingers across her knees and set her chin on top. She cleared her throat, hoping to hide the sadness in her voice. “No, I didn’t know what to say and I figured it was better to remain quiet.”

“That’s good advice.”

“I can smell the alcohol on your breath from here, by the way.”

“It’s a party. People drink at parties.”

Maggie looked at him. The way the street light shined, she could see how red his eyes were. “You’re going to have a hangover tomorrow.”

Levi smiled. “Probably.”

“I really am sorry.”

“I am too. You forgive me?”

“Of course. Do you forgive me?”

“Yeah. Only I deserved what you said, but you didn’t deserve what I said.”

“It’s okay.”

“No, it’s not. I was a complete jerk and I’m really sorry.”

“Are you sure that scotch is working because you don’t really sound all that drunk?”

Levi laughed. His half-closed eyes looked black and shiny. “I’m relatively sure I’m not sober.”

“Do you remember things when you’re this not-sober?”

He shrugged. “Depends,” he said and scooted closer. “I’m glad you came tonight. I know Gary is too. I’ve thrown a few of these parties or I should say Sonja has. It’s her party. She just uses my house.”

“I like Gary.”

Levi grinned. “He’s a likable guy.”

Maggie reached out and brushed her hand through his hair. Her heart ached for him and knowing the pain he must feel from losing his sister. “I’m sorry you hurt so badly, believe me. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.” Her voice cracked and she looked away.

The cab arrived as Levi started to speak, and Maggie jumped up and into the cab. She twisted back to see him stumbling to stand up, watching her leave.

“So, is she my competition?” Sonja walked up behind Levi.

“What? No.”

“You sure, Levi? Seemed pretty close there to me.”

“Maggie is…Maggie is not like that.”

“Like what?”

“She knows you’re my girlfriend and she wouldn’t do anything like that. In fact, she asked me to tell you she was sorry for being rude to you.”

Sonja looked past Levi in the direction of the cab. “I bet she did.” She pulled his arm over her shoulders and helped him walk back in the house.

“You need to sleep this off.”

“I’m fine.” He untangled himself from her.

“I thought maybe I’d stay the night in your room. Ya know, since I’m your girlfriend.”

“Sonja, we’ve talked about this. It’s not happening right now.”

She held up her hands in defeat. “Okay, fine. Fine. I’ll stick with a guestroom.”

Levi shrugged. “Just make sure you stay there this time.” He looked away, hiding the disgust on his face.
You are not Maggie Lawrence.
Not that he thought of Maggie Lawrence like that, but if he was thinking like that, Sonja wouldn’t even be a blip on his radar. The only reason he called her girlfriend was because it kept other girls off his case and paparazzi from asking so many freaking questions.

If, and it was a big if, he was to ever date again, Maggie Lawrence would be the first girl he’d set his sights on. With Sonja, she ran her mouth enough he never needed to say anything which was fine by him because, well, the last relationship he had ended badly enough, the very idea of being in a relationship made him want to throw up.

Sick of the party, he lumbered down the stairs to the basement, walked to the couch, and flopped into the seat next to Gary. He clumsily put his feet up on the table and laced his fingers behind his head.

“I like her.”

“Figures.”

“She plays foosball like a champ, dude.” Gary flinched as a shot barely missed his character on the screen.

“And she’s gorgeous.”

Gary stopped playing a moment. “How much scotch did you drink tonight?”

“I stopped counting. I’m right, though.”

“Yeah, you see her eyes? Man, they were like crazy green.”

“Oh, I didn’t miss ’em.”

“You need to get over she-who-must-not-be-named. It’s time. I’ve kept quiet because I love you and I didn’t want to rush you because I know she really screwed you over, but seriously man…” Gary stopped when he heard a snore and looked at Levi, passed out next to him. “You deserve to be happy, man.” He got up, picked up a blanket, and spread it over his friend. Levi moved around until he was lying down on the couch. Gary took his headset off and turned off the system. “Good night, man.” He sat down in the recliner facing the couch, pushed the arm on the side, and curled up with his sleeping bag.

Ten

It was nearly noon the next day
and Maggie did not want to get out of bed. She groaned and turned over as she snatched the buzzing phone next to the bed.

“Hey,” Laura sounded perky.

Maggie grumbled into the phone.

“Did someone wake up on the wrong side of the bed?”

“That would mean someone is actually awake.”

“Are you going to ask me why I’m calling you on a Saturday?”

“I assumed because you’re my friend.”

Laura laughed. “Ehh….”

“What do you want, Laura?”

“Two things.”

“The first?”

“I’m still pouring over the financial statements from Geeks for Fibrosis. So much waste. Levi really trusted the wrong people. Did you know he was married?”

Maggie sat straight up in bed. “I’m sorry, what?”

“He. Was. Married.”

“No,” Maggie sighed.

“Her name was Rachel Glassney. They dated, married, and divorced all in roughly a year.”

“How long ago?”

“Maybe three? Why?”

Maggie sagged back on the bed and groaned. “His sister died around that time too.”

“Reminds me of someone.”

“Don’t go there, Laura.”

“Well, maybe…”

“You promised.”

“I know, but…”

“Leave it alone,” Maggie growled into the phone.

“Fine.”

“What’s the second reason you called?”

“How was the party last night?”

“Meh. I hate parties.”

“I know.”

“I met Levi’s best friend Gary. I like him. He was funny. Looks kinda like a mountain man.”

Laura giggled. “What?”

“He has this long beard and apparently he is a prolific cusser.”

“Oh?”

“They have a bet going, and when Gary uses a swear word he has to put money in this jar. Levi brought out this half full jar and said it was the fourth one in like two months.”

“Yikes.”

“I also met Levi’s girlfriend Sonja.”

Laura gasped. “Sonja? As in Sex-tape-Sonja, Sonja?”

“That’s the one.”

“Wow. Just wow.”

“She is not a nice person.”

“Oh?”

“She talked to Gary horribly and I kinda got nasty with her.”

“You did not.”

“I couldn’t help it. The poor guy was just standing there and Levi wasn’t doing anything. He was the nicest guy. I kicked his butt at foosball.”

“You didn’t tell him you were a champion in college?”

“Where’s the fun in that?”

“Wow. Hey, you think Ellis might be interested in him?”

“Ellis? My assistant?”

“Well, yeah? He doesn’t have a girlfriend right?”

“I don’t think so. He mostly takes care of Levi, I think. I’m still trying to figure that out.”

“Ellis is nice right?”

“I guess. I mean, I mostly just meet her in LA when I need something done. I don’t even know if she’s seeing someone. I’m not exactly Mary Matchmaker.”

“I’ll do it,” Laura squealed into the phone. “Okay, so what are your plans for the day?”

“I’m gonna hang out at home and hope I have no surprise visitors.”

“You think Levi will come by?”

“I doubt it. When I left last night he was so drunk I doubt he could have found the phone in a phone booth.”

“I think you need to go easy on him. Ya know?”

“I think I will treat him like I treat everyone else and he will just have to deal.”

“Maggie…”

“Laura…”

“Okay, but remember he’s hurting and I doubt anyone besides Gary has given a crap about him.”

Maggie yanked the covers over her face. “But, someone has cared and Levi has made choices. Just like I made choices.”

“Yeah, but Maggie, not everyone can do what you did. No one knows about your past. You were able to bury it. Levi has had his pain and hurt paraded around on news sites. I know because I’ve googled it. Can you imagine having every mistake you’ve ever made thrown back in your face?”

Maggie flung the covers away and swung her legs over the side of the bed. “You’ve made your point.”

“Good.”

“Can I go now, mom?”

“Yes, sweetheart, go outside and play. I think you need some Vitamin D.”

“Fine. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Eleven

When Levi woke up,
his face was smashed in between the couch cushions and his back hurt from the way he’d spent the night sleeping. He pushed up from the couch, scratched his head, and squinted as he looked around the room.

He could barely make out a lump in the chair across from him. “Gary?” When there was no answer Levi pushed himself up and stumbled. “Gary?” No answer again. He walked to the chair and pushed on the sleeping bag. He yawned, stretched, and shuffled to the stairs. “Gary,” he yelled.

“Kitchen!”

Levi winced and realized he had a headache, then he slowly trudged up the stairs. The smell of bacon hit him as he reached the top of the stairs. He continued into the kitchen, slid onto a stool at the bar, and put his head in his hands.

“Bad?”

Levi groaned.

“Here.”

Levi peeked through his hands. Gary pushed a glass in front of him. A tried and true hangover cure for Levi; tomato juice with salt.

“Thanks,” he said through a groan and took a big gulp of tomato juice. “Gah!”

“I’m making bacon, eggs, and toast. Want any?”

“What time is it?”

“About two.”

“Two?”

“Yeah, man, I tried to wake you up earlier, but I couldn’t even get you to move.”

“I think I may have drank too much last night.”

“That’s a fair assessment.”

“Did I do anything I should regret?”

“I don’t think so.”

“Where’s Sonja?”

“Hopefully, gone.”

Levi peeled his face out of his hands to look at Gary.

“I don’t know where she is. I haven’t seen her.”

“She was supposed to be in one of the guest rooms.”

“All I know is when I came upstairs, there were a few people still here and I made them go home.”

“People were still here?”

“It’s a Sonja party. We’re lucky the cops weren’t called.”

Levi nodded.

“Maybe we should have a bet to see if you can stop drinking.”

“I only drink at parties.”

“And at lunch, and at dinner, and at night.”

“I haven’t had a drink all day today.”

Gary tried not to laugh. “Look, Levi, you know I love you. I consider you my brother. So, when I say you need to slow down I’m doing it out of concern for you.”

“I know, bud. I know. Will you accept it if I say I’ll try?”

Gary smiled. “That’s all I’m asking for.”

“Did something happen with Maggie last night? She was here, right?”

“Yeah, she was here. She is awesome. Like, if there was an award for awesome she’d win.”

“I don’t remember anything except she was here.”

“She rocks foosball.”

That got Levi’s attention. Not sure I’ll ever not be surprised by her. “Foosball?”

“She kicked my butt,” Gary said and held up three fingers. “Three times. Like total annihilation.”

“She beat you? No one beats you.”

“Maggie killed it. That girl was…”

“Awesome?”

“Awesome man. And she has a stone pizza oven. Dude, I gotta see her house. Now that I’ve met her, I’ve got to see her house.”

“Well, I’m gonna call her later to see if she wants to see the building we rented for Geeks this year.”

“You gonna show it to her today?”

“I don’t have the keys yet. Maybe later this week.”

“I think you just want an excuse to see her.”

“If I want to see her I know where she lives.”

“Yeah, but you like her.”

“I do not.”

Gary stopped cooking, palmed the kitchen bar, and looked Levi in the eyes. “Yeah, you do and I think it’s great.”

“I have a girlfriend.”

“Sonja is a girl, and adding friend on the end is a stretch.”

“She’s not that bad.”

“You really don’t remember last night do you?”

Puzzled, Levi looked at Gary. “No.”

Gary turned around and started cooking again. He plated some eggs, bacon and toast for Levi and himself. Sliding a plate to Levi, he then set a plate in front of the seat next to him.

“Are you going to tell me what happened?”

“Nope.”

“Come on. Just tell me what happened.”

Gary walked around the bar and sat on the stool next to Levi “Nope.” He stabbed a fork in his scrambled eggs, stuffed them in his mouth, and followed it with a bite of bacon.

“Gary, come on.”

“Nope,” he said with a mouth full of food.

Levi sulked and sat quietly eating his food. He must have been pretty terrible for Gary not to tell him what happened. His drinking was becoming a problem. At first, it was just a way to cope with Amelia’s death and then it became a way to deal with Rachel. Now, it was an excuse to be a jerk to people and most of the time he was the biggest jerk to the people he cared about the most.

Gary finished his food, slid off the stool, and walked toward the basement stairs. He should probably tell Levi what happened, but maybe for once the best thing for Levi to do was wonder what happened. For the last three years, Gary had coddled Levi because his friend was so hurt. Maybe it was time for Gary to try tough love. He stopped at the top of the basement stairs and almost changed his mind when Levi yelled, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry if I was a jerk.” Instead of responding, a thin smiled spread across his face and he continued down to the basement.

BOOK: Charitable Hearts
2.66Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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