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For PotterJAM97. Sorry your cat thinks you're crazy.




When I woke, groggy, I knew right away more damage had been done than just the punch that knocked me out. Everything hurt. My head. My back. My ribs (hadn’t my ribs gone through enough last year?). My legs.

The sun was up and beating down hard on me. I was on my back, staring at the clear blue sky. It hurt to stare.

Before I moved, I surveyed the damage. What hurt. What didn’t. Just from opened my eyes I realized they’d tossed me in the field with the tall weeds. So far, no sign of snakes.

Or Slytherins.

Something smelled revolting, though. Like a sewer was nearby. I made a face. Gross. The sooner I got out of here the better.

The blindfold was draped around my neck from when I slid down the car and my hands were still zip-tied behind my back, which meant I was laying on them and my hands were numb. Fuck.

Everything hurt.

I wiggled, eventually able to kick up my legs (ow) and sit up.

That’s when I realized what the smell was.

Apparently, when you kidnap someone and knock them out, it is also customary to find four pieces of roadkill and drape them over a person while they bake in the morning sun.

Spectacular.

Dead animals on my body. Godric Gryffindor.

I leaned over and threw up, which also didn’t smell spectacular.

As I got to my feet and stumbled to keep my balance because they did something to seriously fuck up my left knee, I looked around. The road was about fifty meters in front of me (they seriously dragged me that far? My hair must look astounding) and on all sides the field stretched and rolled with the hills and trees popping up. I saw no houses.

Great.

Happy fucking birthday.

This was an outrage. It was my eighteenth birthday and I was covered in animal guts (when I stood the actual roadkill fell to my feet) and blood and everything hurt.

The worst part was, Mason and Emerson didn’t actually get anything out of it. I didn’t have practice for another day and a half and had no photoshoots scheduled. I’d be fine by then, if I could find my way out of this damn field.

It didn’t put Mason on the team.

I guess Emerson got a little revenge since we stole his car. Mildly deserved.

He still fancied Avery, though. Come on. He ordered her salad.

Salad.

That was just crazy. Avery was a burgers and chips sort of girl.

Avery.

She was expecting me at whatever birthday celebration Bink and Freddie planned. When they arrived they’d find me not there.

Some guard cat Falcon Cat was.

Victoria – hopefully she was okay.

I glanced up. It had to be somewhere around noon judging by the sun, which meant I was out for a hell of a long time. No cars were driving by.

I started the hike toward the road looking like a bloody homeless man. The weeds parted with each step and some I kicked out of frustration, but that hurt so I stopped.

Kidnapped by Mason and Emerson.

I’d never live this down.

Wasn’t there some sort of punishment for the assistant to the assistant to the Minister for kidnapping someone? Especially a Quidditch player. And a Potter.

I wondered if that was part of the Code. Do not kidnap other players.

I’d be speaking with Lindt about this. Putting it into the Code. Or at the very least throwing Mason off the reserve team because what the fuck.

They weren’t stupid. They’d have alibis in place to cover their tracks.

The night was made to scare me. To give me a good fright, knowing there was more to come. A warning about the future.

As if I didn’t have enough warning flags going off right now.

I fell twice, unable to catch myself with my bound hands, and mud caked itself onto my pants and shirt and chin (humiliating).

David though.

Could he be serious, or just trying to fuck with me?

How would he know, though? That I was blacklisted? Even if he was playing me with that, the two were too similar to be a sick joke. I only knew one David and he was rotting in jail.

That didn’t mean he didn’t have visitors.

But how the hell did he find out?

Why the hell was this happening and oh fuck did I seriously have roadkill in my shoe because someone was going to die today.

The sun was really hot.

Really brought out the blood smell. Seriously.

Did Mason know David Flynn? Was he working with Flynn to get me off the team after my snarky letter at the end of the year?

Perhaps the suggestion to visit Flynn in jail wasn’t a bad idea.

I made it to the road eventually (and without falling onto it) and started back the way the car had come from. Still, no houses. No cars. No wives waiting with a wet towel to wipe the mud and blood off my face.

They were probably worried.

Fuck, I was worried.

*

I walked for two hours. Two fucking hours with my hands bound behind my back and blood smelling fantastic and my limbs aching from what I assumed to be kicks and punches after I was out. One rib was bruised at best, broken at worst given it was hard to breathe.

Finally, I spotted a tiny gas station with one pump and a selection of snacks and drinks.

Seeing as I couldn’t open the door, I eyed the clerk inside and motioned to it.

A little old bloke opened the door, ushering me inside. He looked me up and down. “Had a shit night?” he said.

“Something like that.” I looked around. “Can you help me out with some scissors?”

“Need to use the phone?” he asked as he snipped the zip ties from my wrists and I massaged them. The ties had cut into my skin and blood was caked there as well.

I almost jumped at it, but then I realized I didn’t know anyone’s phone number. None of them were committed to memory – they were in a book on my counter. I didn’t even know our flat number since we rarely used it.

“Don’t know anyone’s number,” I muttered, wiping some of the extra blood on the (rare) clean portions of my shirt. “Thanks anyway.”

“You smell like shit.”

“I smell like roadkill,” I corrected.

“You get into some weird stuff?”

I had no idea how to answer that. “A couple blokes wanted some revenge,” I said. “Clearly they got it.”

“You live far from here?”

“I don’t even know where here is, mate,” I said, looking out the window. Nothing about the parking lot or hills or trees looked familiar. I couldn’t exactly give him the name of my town, seeing as it was a wizarding village and he’d think I was bonkers.

The man eyed me for a moment and went behind the counter. “You own a wand?”

“Say what?”

He held up a trick wand that shot little streamers. “They’re fun for kids.”

I narrowed my eyes. “Is that your way to ask?”

“Hmm?”

“If someone’s a Muggle or not.”

The man smirked and the wrinkles raised on his face. “I’ve got some Floo Powder in the back. C’mon, kid. Get home and have a shower.” He nodded to my ring. “The wife won’t be happy about you stinkin’ up the place.”


*

I hit the floor when I got to the flat, unable to sustain my balance on whatever the fuck they’d done to my knee. It buckled and I damn near ate the flooring.

The lights were on. The curtains were open.

“Oh my GOD.”

Thank Godric.

“James!” Avery hit the ground beside me and rolled me over so my head was in her lap. “What the fuck happened? Where were you? It’s like three in the afternoon.”

I blinked up at her. She was in this pretty, sparkly dress that barely covered her bum (so my head was on her bare thighs) and she had on a little makeup and glittery eyeshadow and her hair was all curled at the bottom. She looked stunning.

I, on the other hand, had seen better days.

“I thought it was Bink and Freddie,” I began.

“You thought what was?” Bink was nearby on the sofa. Freddie was beside him from what I could see. “We came to get you a few hours ago, mate. You weren’t here. Victoria was out.”

“Fuck – is she okay?!”

“She’s fine,” Freddie said. “She’s in her cage eating your socks.”

“Falcon Cat?”

“Falcon Cat is also fine,” Freddie replied. “She’s in the window making eyes at TomCat.”

“Not amused,” I muttered and ran my hand over my ribs. “Healer. I need a Healer. Bones are not exactly positioned properly.”

“James, tell me what happened,” Avery said, cupping my face in her palm. Her eyes were glossy. I hated making her eyes glossy. It made me guilty. Not that I was guilty this time.

“Kidnapped. I was definitely kidnapped.”

“What? By who? Where did they take you?” Her eyes flashed. Oh lord.

“Mason,” I said but my ribs hurt so I took a sharp breath. “And Twitwards.”

“Emerson?” Bink, Freddie, and Avery said in unison.

“His car,” I said. “Still runs like shit.”

“We need to get you to the hospital.” Avery frowned. She was trying to hide it, but I recognized the fury instantly. I thought about what my father said – about getting back at Mason. It appeared the karma was yet to catch up to him.

I was in no state to think up revenge plots. I had to fix myself.

“They kidnapped you on your sodding birthday?” Bink said. “Low.”

“Where is everyone?” I said.

“At your party,” Avery said with a sigh.

“My party?”

“Yes, love. We threw you a party.”

“What kind?” I asked softly.

“Oh, you know, an all-day-crazy-ass-party with drinks and cocktail waitresses and friends.” She sighed. “I’m so sorry it’s ruined.”

“What? It’s not ruined.” I sat up, but then went right back into Avery’s lap. “I want to go. I wanna go to my party.” Yes, at that point I was whining. “I want my birthday shots.”

“You’re injured. And you smell like shit.”

“Like roadkill,” I corrected. “They knocked me out and draped me with fucking roadkill.”

“You can’t go to a party like that.”

“You bloody well watch me.” I sat up and took a breath, and then used the coffee table to hoist myself all the way up.

Bink and Freddie were wearing vests with nice shirts and ties, looking dapper.

“I thought it was you lot coming to take me somewhere,” I said with a brief laugh.

“What’d they say to you?” Bink asked.

I gave them the cliffnotes version about Mason’s warning and Emerson being a twat and admitting he still fancied Avery. Then told them about the wonderful condition I woke up in.

Avery was furious. Not the kind of sexy furious that made me want to kiss her. No, this was on an entirely different level. The kind of fury I imagined her having when she blew up half the block when she found out what really happened with her father.

“Oh,” I added, peeling off my disgusting shirt in front of everyone because I didn’t give a fuck. I threw it on the ground and Falcon Cat wandered over to sniff it. Even she looked horrified and jumped onto Freddie’s lap to get cat hair all over his pants. “Mason also said he was working with a David to make sure I didn’t play my first game.”

“You’re banned from the first game,” said Freddie.

“And I played the tournament – right? That’s what I said.”

“David?” Avery said, not side-tracked by the silliness that was Mason. “Meaning my father?”

“That’s the only thing I can think of.” I kicked off the roadkill shoes (ow) and peeled off the roadkill pants (ow ow). “He played right into the sentence of me being blacklisted. He knew. I’m pretty sure he has at least contacted your father.”

“He’s in prison,” Freddie moaned. “This is insane. Can he just enjoy the prison food and move on with his life?”

Avery sighed. “We’re going to put this right, James.”

“Can we put me in the shower first because I can’t go to my birthday party like this.”

She rolled her eyes. “I’ll help you.”

“Yeah you will,” Bink said with a smirk and Fred high-fived him.

“Get his mother,” Avery snapped at the two of them. “She can heal his ribs and whatever other damage they did.” She looked at me. “You’ll have to take it easy tonight, James.”

Bink snorted and got up. “If you get in the shower with him he’ll never make it to the party.”

“NOW, Bink.”

“Going!” Bink grabbed Freddie’s hand and the two of them ran for the door before Avery pulled out her wand.

“He’s probably right,” I whispered and she cracked a small smile.

“This is serious,” she said, helping me down the hall to my bedroom. “They actually kidnapped you. They hurt you. I am going to ruin their lives.”

“Let it go for today, hmm?”

“Aren’t you furious?”

“Of course I am,” I said. “They’re working with your father, the man who almost ruined both of our careers. But it’s my birthday and I’m spending it with my friends and my gorgeous wife.” She shot me a look. “And after a night of absolute hell and walking along a country road baking in roadkill for a few hours, I’d like to go to my birthday party and forget that for a while.”

Avery kissed my lips – the one place that wasn’t disgusting – and smiled. “Whatever you want. Let’s have a good time and then we’ll make a plan.”

“Plans are my favorite.”

She started the shower and tested the water for me. She frowned, though, and looked at my knee and the way I leaned against the bedpost. Then she put in a stopper and drew a bath.

Avery Flynn, drawing me a bath in a tiny, tiny sequined dress.

Fucking hell.

I tilted my head to the side and watched and even when she caught me she said nothing. Probably because I’d been kidnapped and had the shit kicked out of me so she’d let that slide.

“Get in, killer.”

I hobbled into the bathroom. “You put in bubbles.”

“I’m so domestic.” Avery smirked and left the room so I could get into the bath.

Once I was in and my body relaxed, I called for her to sit in there with me for a bit. Who doesn’t want their sexy significant other in the bathroom when they’re in a bubble bath?

“Are you okay?” she asked softly.

“I’ve been better.”

Avery took a wag and got it wet and bubbly and wiped the caked-on blood from my arm, draped on the edge of the tub. “Emerson really came to my tryout because he still fancies me?”

I nodded.

“You seriously told him he ordered me salad?”

I nodded again and she laughed. “What are we going to do, James?”

“One step at a time,” I told her and covered her hand with my wet hand. “We’re going to take it one step at a time, but this time we’re in it together.”

“No secrets?” Avery said with a tiny smirk.

“No secrets.” I squeezed her hand. “And no blowing up village blocks without me. I’d like to be involved.”

“Agreed.”

*

Mum rightfully freaked out when she came into the bathroom and saw my face all bloodied and bruised. She threatened several people, said several colorful phrases I have never heard, but she did fix my ribs and my knee. She did what she could for the cuts and bruises, but I had some pretty neat battle scars. I asked her to save the one on my face, which I hadn’t known about. Big fucking gash across my cheek.

I didn’t tell her who did it even though she demanded to know. I lied and told her I didn’t know, but they clearly got what they wanted – that I didn’t see who it was and they didn’t talk.

Yes, I shouldn’t have lied. She was my mum and she wanted what was best for me and she also would have taken her wand, marched straight up to Mason and hexed him into next Tuesday.

Too much paperwork if she did that.

This was something I needed to handle with Avery and the rest of my mates. Something I would handle.

And if it got overwhelming or to be too much, I would do as I promised Dad and ask for help.

Right now, though, I was going to go to my birthday party dressed dapper as a motherfucker with a giant gash down my cheek and I was going to get drunk as humanly possible with my mates.

And Avery.

*

The party was at a yacht club. I’d never been to a yacht club, nor did I think about them often, but this particular one was badass. Giant windows from floor to ceiling overlooking some giant body of water (Ocean? River? Lake? Didn’t particularly care) and tables covered in food and drinks. Avery let me know immediately that since I owned none of the yachts, I wasn’t allowed to touch them (bummer), but that she’d get me a drink.

Everyone was there. It was insane.

My Tornados Quidditch team. The reserves I liked (not Mason). My mates from Hogwarts. The mates of my mates from Hogwarts. My brother and sister (I slapped a drink out of Lily’s hand).

Basically, anyone on my list of people I thought were all right were at that party decorating the dance floor or chatting or getting drinks at the bar.

A few people fussed over the cut on my face, but I waved them off. Lily threatened me if I didn’t tell her, so I told her to sod off and that we’d talk later because I wanted to have fun at my birthday party, for which I was five hours late.

No one seemed to mind. Everyone was a zillion drinks in and the music was loud and the dancing was close.

Now that was my kind of party.

Avery put a drink in my hand. Bink put a drink in Avery’s hand.

All was well.

*

Somewhere later in the evening, everyone (even the late people) were drunk. Hammered.

Of course I wasn’t because I am responsible.

Psh.

I cornered Rose at a table, though I guess that means I didn’t corner her as we were not at the corner table, but instead one just outside of the dance floor. “Talk to me,” I said.

“About what?” she said, downing an amber-colored shot.

“Legace.”

“What about him?”

“You guys have a row recently?”

“We always have a row.”

“What for?” I said.

“Because he’s in love with me.”

I made a face. “You think so?”

“Isn’t it obvious?” Rose asked. “I don’t know, James. I’m not cut out for this. I don’t do relationships. Sure, I fancy him, but he’s a mess. He doesn’t know what he wants. One day he wants to have it be just us, the next day he wants to go have a shag with Gaia or whomever else. He flees.”

“Think he’s scared of you?”

“Bloody better be,” Rose replied and poured herself another shot. She had the whole damn bottle over there. “I’m not a big fan of relationships either. Hugo usually gets in the way of that anyway.”

“He hasn’t killed Bink yet.”

“That’s because we snog in your flat.”

“Snog?” I said. “You mean shag?”

Rose laughed and shook her head. “Snog, Potter. Snog.”

I looked from her to where Bink was (quite literally) shaking his ass on the dance floor. “He is in love with you, isn’t he?”

“We’re always fighting,” she said.

“Ever think if you took the next step the two of you might actually be happy?”

“Sounds stupid.”

“Then stop damn snogging,” I snapped. “This is getting ridiculous. The two of you are ridiculous. This isn’t healthy.”

“Legace can’t do anything healthy,” she said.

“Just watch out for him,” I told her. “I don’t want either of you getting hurt, but for once I don’t feel protective over my cousin, I feel protective over my mate. Don’t you go fucking with his heart, Rose.”

She narrowed her eyes and took another shot.

I almost replied, but Avery grabbed my hand and tugged me onto the dance floor. “How’re you feeling?” she called over the music.

“Much better!” I said when I grabbed her hips and pulled her close to me. “I like that we can do this in public.”

“What a pervy husband you are.” Avery pressed her body tighter to mine and I was very aware of how many layers of fabric separated our bodies.

The music was fast and I couldn’t look anywhere but in her eyes. Fred bumped me as he danced by with Amy. Haley Star waved from across the dance floor and I barely registered it.

“You make me crazy,” I told Avery.

“As I should,” she replied and bit her lip and I almost hoisted her over my shoulder and ran out the door right then. But it was my birthday party and having my first shag half-drunk in a closet was probably not the best idea I’ve ever had.

Then again, it was a better idea than getting married by Merlin with dusty fake flowers.

At least I was making the best out of it.

When the song ended, Avery excused herself to get more drinks and I watched her hips sway all the way to the bar. My thoughts were interrupted by a hip-bump. I looked over to find Shelby beside me.

“Hey,” I said with a grin. Nope. Not just fantasizing about my wife. Not at all.

“Hey yourself. You’re looking sexy tonight.”

Fucking what?

“Thank you. You clean up nice.” Is that something you’re supposed to say to a girl? Goddamn, I’m horrible at this. How did the girls at Hogwarts even put up with me?

To my surprise, Shelby giggled. “You make a sexy married man.”

“Really?” I said, raising a brow.

“So sensitive and mature.”

My thoughts about fifteen seconds ago weren’t either of those things.

“Thank you,” I replied because I had no idea what to say to that. I didn’t think I’d ever been called either of those things.

“Want to dance?”

“Um.”

“C’mon! It’ll be fun!” Shelby didn’t give me time to reply before she whisked me onto the dance floor. It wasn’t twenty seconds into her grinding her body against mine before another girl cut in I didn’t recognize and this happened again thirty seconds later. I was being passed around the dance floor at my own birthday party!

I considered whether this was good or bad.

I stopped mid-dance when I saw Wesley.

“ONE METER APART,” I yelled at him, motioning to the very small gap between him and my sister.

“James, that’s crazy,” she said.

“Wand is in my back pocket,” I noted in a sing-song voice and Wesley was quick to back up. “Splendid.”

Before I could be swept off by another girl, I ducked into the mess of dancers and found my way out the other side. Holy shit. What was that about?

“Looks like your loophole worked in more than one way.” AliCat was sitting on top of a table with a glass of wine and a smirk. “You’re quite popular tonight.”

“I can’t tell how drunk you are.”

“Mildly. Had a few.” She swished the wine around in her glass. “You look like you’ve had a few more.”

“It’s my birthday.”

“Then you need even more.” Ali handed me a bottle of beer and I chugged it. “Enjoying yourself?”

“Absolutely.”

“You were a bit late to your own party. Not great tact.” She laughed.

“I had a great reason.”

“Shagging your wife?”

“Actually, no,” I said. “I was kidnapped by Mason and some git from school that was Head Boy, beaten up, and left zip-tied in the middle of a field with roadkill all over me… but I like yours better.”

“Mason?” Ali damn near dropped her glass. “Are you fucking with me?”

“Wish I was. He definitely wants on the team. Apparently his not getting the slot is all my fault and has nothing to do with anyone else.” I rolled my eyes. “Not thinking on it tonight though.”

“Why the fuck not? Let’s get a machete and go after him.”

I contemplated this plan, but it had too many flaws. Look at me being a Ravenclaw.

Besides, the plan didn’t involve disguises and what fun was that?

“It’s my birthday,” I said with a smile. “I’m going to get stupid drunk and deal with them tomorrow.”

“You going to tell Lindt?”

“Truthfully, I don’t know what I’m going to do,” I replied as the room began to quiet and a giant fucking cake was wheeled into the room. “But I will tell you I intend on fighting and showing them why you do not fuck with James Potter or his team.”

AliCat smirked, but said nothing since Bink and Freddie ran over to grab me and whisk me away to blow out five zillion candles. After, Bink shoved my head into the cake and then I threw back half a bottle of wine and began what turned out to be a spectacular cake fight that would certainly show up on the cleaning bill. Before shoving a piece down Avery’s dress I assured her I would pay for that.

Everyone sang an off-key “happy birthday” and drank and ate and danced and snogged and a few people got slapped for copping a feel (Bink?).

Even Artemis was having a good time.

Avery found a gold crown and gave it scarlet stripes with her wand. She pushed it onto my head and kissed me hard. “Happy birthday, sexy.”

“Thanks, love.” I grinned. “Better than snog buddies, eh?”

“Much better.” She squeezed my bum and I jumped, but before I could retaliate Avery disappeared back into the crowd of chanting and dancing people.

The confetti was scarlet and gold. Everything was scarlet and gold.

Fuck Twitwards. Fuck Mason (he needed a nickname).

They could warn and threaten and put roadkill on me, but as I looked around that room I knew they didn’t really get to me.

I was a fucking Quidditch player.

I was acting like one.

*

“James, at least stand up properly.”

“I am.”

“You are literally lying on the floor.”

I rolled over. “Rosey, you’re a buzzkill. Knock it off. Have another shot.”

“The party’s over.” My cousin laughed, staring down at me so her ginger hair stretched toward the ground. “Avery’s trying to find your other shoe, but she’s not much better off than you are. How much did you have?”

“I don’t drink,” I said.

“NO ONE DRINKS.” Bink grabbed Rose around the middle and hugged her.

“Ever,” I agreed, but still didn’t get up.

“What’re you doing Legace?”

“Let’s go back to my flat,” he said.

“And do what?” she asked, narrowing her eyes. “Have a nice chat about Gaia?”
Bink, instead of getting angry, pouted. “Rosey. C’mon. Look at James on the floor. He needs your help getting back to the flat. And taking off your top. I mean, you might need help with that. I’ll help you.”

“Pig,” Rose muttered, but she steadied Bink when he was about to topple over.

“I don’t want to see that,” I said and rolled to my other side. Confetti covered me. “AVERY. MY WIFE. WHERE ART THOU.”

Avery fell down on the floor beside me. “Found your fucking shoe, Potter.” She was snickering and pushed her cheek into my shoulder.

“Thanks, Potter,” I said and then laughed way too hard.

She kissed me. “Let’s just stay here.”

“On the floor?”

“Sure. Forever.”

“Drunk you is funny,” I said.

“That’s because it’s rare,” she countered.

“Remember that time you hexed the fuck out of Nia?”

She smirked. “Remember the time she thought she had a shot?”

“You’re sassy.”

“You’re sexy.”

“I want to take off your dress with my teeth.”

“I want to let you,” she shot back.

“I am going to throw up,” Rose said. “C’mon, you two. Up you get. We have to get you back before you fall asleep on the floor and the clean-up crew accidentally throws you away.”

“Can’t have that!” I said.

“Rose is going to date me,” Bink said. “Is that allowed, Potter?”

“Didn’t you just do it anyway the last time you asked me?” I said.

“It’s a formality.” Bink shrugged and Rose ignored the lot of us. He helped me to my feet and I helped Avery and draped my arm around her. “Seriously, though. Pretty sure Rose and I are going to go get drunk-married right now. That’s how bad she wants me.”

“Legace, you’re full of shit.” Rose looked around. “I don’t see Freddie anywhere.”

“Do you see Amy?” Avery asked. “They have been attached lately.”

Rose shook her head. “They must be back.”

There weren’t many people left now. Some people still slow-dancing to the last song and emptying out the bar.

“Hey, I’m going to lose my V-Card tonight,” I told them.

“I’m going to take it,” Avery said.

“Fucking yeah you are!” Bink cried.

Rose groaned. “No one is losing anything,” she said. “Honestly, you lot are impossible. How did you make it through Hogwarts without getting killed?”

“Almost got killed yesterday, but that’s not Hogwarts, right? Am I still in Hogwarts?” I paused. “DO WE HAVE A POTIONS ESSAY DUE TOMORROW?”

Rose dragged me by the collar to the fireplace. “We have to Floo back. We’ll go one at a time and I’ll take you lot one at a time. Is that understood?”

“Absolutely,” I said clearly. “But seriously, do we have one due tomorrow because I forgot to get a sixth year to do that and they’re really good with messing up grammar like I do.”

Rose rolled her eyes and took Avery first in case I got any ideas.

“You gunna shag tonight?” Bink said.

“I don’t know.”

“Probably shouldn’t,” he said softly.

“Didn’t you just cheer when I said it?”

“Not the right night.” He looked at the fireplace.

“You haven’t been hooking up with Rose,” I said.

“Nah.”

“You love her?”

“Yeah.”

“You gunna date her?”

“Dunno. She’s not into that.”

“Neither were you.” I rolled my eyes. “When you figure it out, let me know. It’s difficult keeping up with you.”

Rose returned and took Bink next.

I looked behind me and was surprised to find a very drunk Henrik Lindt with a half-empty wine glass and a smirk. “Hey, Captain Hufflepuff.”

“You can get away with that,” he said. “It’s your birthday. Happy birthday, Potter.”

“Thanks, mate.”

“Hell of a party. You were a bit late though – everything okay?”

I laughed. “Yeah, I think so. Sorry about that. I’m usually on time to any event with alcohol.”

“I figured as much.” Henrik smirked. “You’re doing well in practice.”

“Less ice baths each week,” I said.

“The line looks really good.”

“It’s not the A line though.”

“Looks better than the A line,” Henrik said seriously. “Just watch yourself, okay. The line looks good, but don’t get too comfortable.”

I met his eyes. He knew something. Of course he knew something. He was the captain. I made it my business to know everything about my players when I was the captain.

“Absolutely,” I said with a nod. “I won’t. I’m looking forward to the second pre-season game.”

“I just have to figure out who the fuck to replace you with for the first one.”

“Not Mason,” I said.

“Oh?”

“He’s a twat.”

Henrik laughed and patted me on the shoulder as Rose reappeared. “Have a good night, Potter. See you in practice tomorrow afternoon. Don’t be too hungover or I’ll make you do some brutal drills.”

“Yessir,” I said with a grin and Rose threw the powder in the fireplace.

*

Avery was passed out in my bed when I got back, her heels on the floor by the door. She hadn’t changed into pajamas, just fell asleep in her sparkly dress on top of my blankets waiting.

“Aves?” I whispered, shedding some of my fancy clothes.

“Hmm?”

“Ready for bed?” I asked, considering what Bink had said. He was right. For once.

“Mmhm.”

I walked over to my dresser and pulled out the bottom drawer. It was where I kept Avery’s things from when she stayed or went or left something. I draped the spare set of pajamas over her stomach.

“Where did you get these?”

“You left them before,” I said. “I washed them and put them in your drawer.”

“I have a drawer?”

“Sure. I put pink paper in the bottom because you’re a girl.”

“I don’t actually like pink…you know that, right?”

“Just so people know it belongs to a girl.” I shrugged.

Avery smiled and sat up. She was a little wobbling putting on the pajamas and I didn’t look away because she was my wife or mostly because I absolutely couldn’t look away because holy shit wow.

She kissed me briefly and crawled under the covers with me. “Happy birthday, James,” she whispered. “I got you a present.”

“You threw me a party,” I said and laughed. “You don’t have to get me anything.”

“Shut up, Potter. You know you like presents.”

Guilty.

“Then what could you have gotten me?”

“Bedside stand. Top drawer.”

I raised a brow and tried not to reposition her as I leaned over and grabbed a wrapped box out of the drawer. With one hand I tore away the paper and opened it.

It was empty.

“Are you breaking up with me?” I said with a laugh.

“Inside is the plan.”

“What plan?”

“The plan for Emerson and Mason, whom I’ve realized you haven’t bestowed with a nickname.”

She knew me well. “There’s no plan,” I said, shaking the box just in case there was a hidden compartment.

“I know.” Avery smirked and kissed my jaw line. “But there will be. And it will be good.”

I briefly considered how sexy it was that she took charge sometimes. Usually she just sort of let me fuck up my own life and coaxed me through the hospital wing when I got too far in over my head. That fury, though. That look on her face.

Avery Flynn was done taking shit from other people and done dealing with the consequences.

That’s my girl.

“You looked happy tonight.” She reached up and closed the box, tossing it onto the ground. “You’ve been so stressed lately I forgot what it was like to see you happy in public and not just with me. I’m glad you decided to do the party.”

“Me too,” I said, kissing her forehead. “I am happy, as misguided as it seems.”

She snuggled into my chest and fell asleep within minutes. I was awake a little longer, sobering up and considering my options from here on out.

For my enemies, it meant war.




A/N: I was rereading some snippets of BTQC (Halloween) and desperately missed the crazy that is intoxicated James. Hope you enjoyed his maturity in this chapter. 

I want to say a quick thanks (as I have) to those of you who popped over to my new story, The Keeper's Daughter, to check out the first chapter. I'm excited about that story especially now that 30 Days is wrapping up. I hope you enjoy it too. 

NEXT UP: James tries to find a plan to get what is in his best interest while showing Mason and Emerson exactly what he's made of. Plus, he has to figure out this whole David situation now this his birthday is over.

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