I laughed. “Richard hasn’t gone down on me in what feels like years.”

Her mouth dropped open in disbelief. “Then you should’ve broken up with him years ago, sister. A boy who doesn’t go down doesn’t have the right to your services once he goes up.”

My sister was filled with irrefutable knowledge.

“You don’t seem that sad about it at all,” Mari mentioned. “I’m a bit surprised.”

“Yeah, well, after drinking my weight in whisky last night and spending the rest of the morning meditating today, I’m feeling okay. Plus, Graham made me a garden this morning.”

“A garden?” she asked, surprised. “Is that his form of an apology?”

“I think so. He bought a ton of organic fertilizer, too.”

“Well, he gets an A for that one. Everyone knows the way to Lucy’s forgiveness is through dirt and organic fertilizer.”

Amen, sister.

“So, are we still on for going to visit Mama’s tree up north for Easter?” I asked as we started biking the trail. Every holiday, Mari and I tried our best to make it up to visit Mama. One of Mama’s old friends had a cabin up north that she didn’t use often, and that was where we’d planted Mama’s tree all those years ago, surrounded by people from all around the country who made up her family.

If I’d learned anything from all my traveling with Mama, it was that family wasn’t built by blood—it was built by love.

“So, you’re going to hate me, but I’m going to be visiting a friend that weekend,” Mari said.

“Oh? Who?”

“I was going to catch the train to Chicago to see Sarah. She’s back in the States visiting her parents, and I thought I’d swing by, seeing as how I haven’t seen her since I got better. It’s been years.”

Sarah was one of Mari’s closest friends and a world traveler. It was almost impossible to pinpoint where Sarah would be one month from the next, so I completely understood Mari’s choice. It just sucked because with Richard gone, it would be the first holiday I’d be spending alone.

Alas, maktub.

Professor Oliver sat across from me at my desk, his eyes roaming over the first draft of chapters seventeen through twenty of my novel. I sat impatiently waiting as he flipped each page slowly, his eyes narrowed, deep in thought.

Every now and then he’d glance my way, make a low hum, and then go back to reading. When he finally finished, he sat the papers back on my desk and remained silent.

I waited, arched an eyebrow, but still, no sound.

“Well?” I asked.

Professor Oliver removed his glasses and crossed his leg over his knee. With a very calm voice, he finally spoke. “It’s kind of like a monkey took a big shit and tried to spell their name in it with their tail. Only, the monkey’s name is John and he wrote Maria.”

“It’s not that bad,” I argued.

“Oh no.” He shook his head. “It’s worse.”

“What’s wrong with it?” I asked.

He shrugged his shoulders. “It’s just fluff. All fat, no meat.”

“It’s the first draft. It’s supposed to be shit.”

“Yes, but it’s supposed to be human shit, not monkey shit. Graham, you’re a New York Times bestseller. You’re a Wall Street Journal bestseller. You have millions of dollars in your bank account from your craftsmanship in creating stories, and there are numerous fans around the world with your words tattooed on their bodies. So, it’s a shame that you had the nerve to hand this complete and utter bullshit to me.” He stood up, smoothed out his velvet suit, and shook his head. “Talon can write better than this.”

“You’re joking. Did you read the part about the lion?” I asked.

He rolled his eyes so hard, I was certain his eyeballs were going to get lost in the back of his head. “Why the hell is there a lion loose in Tampa Bay?! No. Just—no. Find a way to relax, okay? You need to loosen up, break free a bit. Your words read as if you have a stick up your ass, and the stick isn’t even teasing you right.”

I cleared my throat. “That’s a really weird thing to say.”

“Yes, well, at least I don’t write monkey shit.”

“No.” I smiled. “You only speak it.”

“Listen closely, okay? As the godfather to Talon, I am proud of you, Graham.”

“Since when are you her godfather?”

“It’s a self-proclaimed title, and don’t kill my spirit, son. As I was saying, I am proud of how great of a father you are to your daughter. Every minute of your day is spent caring for her, which is amazing, but, as your writing mentor, I am demanding that you take some time for yourself. Go smoke some crack, hump a stranger, eat some weird mushrooms. Just loosen up a bit. It will help your stories.”

“I’ve never had to loosen up before,” I told him.

“Were you getting laid before?” he countered with an eyebrow arched.

Well, fuck.

“Goodbye, Graham, and please, don’t call me until you are high or having sex.”

“I’m probably not going to call you while I’m having sex.”

“That’s fine,” he said, grabbing his fedora off the desk and placing it on his head. “It probably wouldn’t last long enough for you to dial my number anyway,” he mocked.

God, I hated that man.

Too bad he was my best friend.

“Hey, Talon’s down for a nap. I just wanted to see if you wanted me to order a piz—” Lucy’s words faded away as she stepped into my office. “What are you doing?” she asked warily.

I set my phone down on my desk and cleared my throat. “Nothing.”

She smirked and shook her head. “You were taking a selfie.”

“I was not,” I argued. “A pizza is fine. Just cheese on my half.”

“No, no, no, you cannot change the subject. Why are you taking selfies while dressed in a suit and tie?”

I straightened my tie and went back to my desk. “Well, if you have to know, I need a picture of myself to upload on this site.”

“What site? Are you joining Facebook?”


“Then which site?” She giggled to herself. “Anything but Tinder and you’ll be okay.”

My jaw tightened, and she stopped laughing.

“Oh my God, you’re joining Tinder?!” she hollered.

“Say it a bit louder, Lucille. I’m not certain the neighbors heard you.”

“I’m sorry, I just…” She walked into my office and sat on the edge of my desk. “G.M. Russell is joining the world of Tinder…I knew it felt a little cold in the house.”


“I mean, when I first met you, I figured you were the devil, which meant your home was hell, which means with it now being cold that—”

“Hell has finally frozen over. Clever, Lucille.”

She reached for my cell phone and started trying to unlock it. “Can I see your photos?”

“What? No.”

“Why not? You do know Tinder is like…a hookup site, right?”

“I’m fully aware of what Tinder is.”

Her cheeks reddened and she bit her bottom lip. “You’re trying to get laid, eh?”