Valiant Page 16

Chapter Four

Why can\ I just forget Valiant? Tammy felt totally disgusted with her lack of control over her thoughts as she lined up the pool cue and the white ball. She glanced at the red ball and the pocket. Loud music played in the background. Someone had been in a mood for old-time rock. A sigh sounded near her.

’’Take the shot already, Tam. You know you\ e going to kick my ass anyway.’’

She turned her head to grin at her longtime best friend Tim. The two of them had known each other since grade school and they were really close. He\d wanted more than friendship during high school but Tammy hadn\ returned his romantic feelings. Now years later they\d settled into a comfortable but strictly platonic friendship that both of them were happy with.

’’I can\ help it if I\m better at this than you are.’’

A smile twisted his lips. He appeared to be kind of awkward but he had a sweet smile and soft brown eyes. Tim resembled the average computer geek because he was one. He wore a logo T-shirt and sweatpants and worked from home as a computer programmer who made game software. His glasses glinted from the bar lights.

’’I can kick your ass at video games any day.’’

’’Yes, you can.’’ She took the shot and sank the red ball into the corner pocket. ’’That\s why I\m smarter than you are and the reason we\ e at the bar instead of your house in front of a game system. I wanted to win.’’

He scoffed. ’’You\ e not smarter. I\m just a gentleman.’’

She sank another ball. ’’Too bad you never bet money on our games.’’

’’I make good money but not that good.’’ He laughed. ’’You\d wipe me out of my life savings within an hour with the way you play pool.’’

Tammy winked at him. ’’You know I need a new roof.’’

Tim\s smile faded as he stared at her. ’’You do? Why don\ you let me pay for it?’’

Major goof. She\d made a slip. She should have known better but her mind still remained distracted by the memory of a pair of cat-eyes the color of melted gold attached to a body that still made hers heat up at the very recollection of Valiant. She\d thought about him a hundred times a day since they\d nearly five weeks before. She shook her head.

’’I was kidding.’’

Tim wasn\ buying it. ’’You were not. Is it leaking again? Come on, Tam. Let me help you. We\ e friends. Hell, we\ e practically family. I know what you make and its shit. You couldn\ go to college the way I did. You had your grandma to take care of and I know you\ e still paying off her debts. That house she left you is a death trap. Let me buy you a new roof. Do you need any other repairs? I have the money and it\s just sitting inside a bank account. It\s not as though I have a girlfriend to blow my money on.’’

Tammy sank the black ball. Game over. She frowned at her best friend. ’’We\ve had this argument before and I won\ take your money. Thank you from the bottom of my heart but I\m not a leech.’’

’’That\s bullshit and you know it. I\d never accuse you of that. You always had to do everything for everyone so let me help you this once. It\s what friends and family do for each other.’’

’’I don\ want to fight.’’

She walked away from the pool table and moved to their table. She gripped her beer, peered at the lime stuck inside it, and took a sip. She rarely drank alcohol but sometimes she had the urge. She finished off her first and last beer of the night as she drained the bottle. She\d felt the need to feel a slight buzz more often since she\d met Valiant.

’’We\ e not fighting. I\m trying to reason with you. I live with my parents and I don\ pay a mortgage. The house is paid off. I just pay the taxes, which are chickenfeed. I make really good money and I have all the toys I want. Let me help you out. Do you remember when my dad had his stroke last year and they sent out that shitty home nurse from the hospital for him? You came and took care of him. You found the wonderful woman who takes care of him now. You changed his diapers for weeks and wouldn\ take a penny. Now let me help you.’’

’’Tell you what,’’ Tammy sighed, turning to face him, ’’you can come change my diapers if or when I ever have a stroke. Until then, don\ shove money at me. It\s different.’’

Tim laughed. ’’Finally! You\ e giving me a green light to take your pants off.’’

Tammy laughed and shook her head. ’’You\ e disgusting.’’

He wiggled his eyebrows. ’’Hey, that\s the closest thing to an invite to see you na**d that I\ve ever gotten.’’

’’That\s not true.’’ She disposed of her beer bottle inside a trash can and gripped her purse. A glance at her watch showed it was just after eleven. ’’Don\ forget the time I wanted to go skinny dipping when we were ten. You chickened out. You thought a snapping turtle would latch onto you in a bad place if you took off your underwear and waded into the pond. You could have seen me naked.’’

’’That doesn\ count. I thought all girls were yucky at that age and besides, you hadn\ grown up enough yet to see anything good.’’

She laughed and waved. ’’Neither had you. I have to go. We have to cater a luncheon tomorrow at the church and I have to be at work at seven to help prepare. Ashley Bless met some guy and is getting married. Tomorrow is their engagement luncheon.’’

Tim shuddered. ’’Someone is marrying her? Did she have a personality transplant? She\s the most annoying person I\ve ever met. Poor sucker.’’ He took a deep drink of his beer.

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