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“None taken. He was kind of a baby. But babies can be pretty great sometimes—isn’t that why people like them?”

Carlos cleared his throat.

“As a professional baby expert: people like babies because they’re cute, they have big heads, and because they’re pretty helpless without us. They can scream really loudly, though.”

Courtney nodded.

“Yep, that sounds like Fisher. Down to the big—”

“COURTNEY!”

Dana and Courtney giggled and high-fived, and Nik tried and failed to suppress her laughter.

“You two are the worst friends in the history of the world, do you know that?”

They nodded, still laughing.

“We know,” Dana said.

* * *

• • •

Carlos coughed. Maybe they needed a reminder that there was a guy at the table with them?

Nope, that just made all four women, his little sister included, glance his way and laugh harder. Excellent. He looked at Nik, who was looking back at him. She winked at him. He grinned and winked back.

One of the friends’ phone buzzed. Dana, right? She was the black one who looked like a model. Courtney was the Korean one with pink lipstick on.

“Pizza’s here!” she said. A few minutes later, a huge pizza box covered their table, and they all had big pieces of pizza in their hands, the pepperoni oil dripping onto more napkins that the bartender had thrown onto their table.

“I didn’t even ask if anyone was a vegetarian or gluten-free or anything,” Dana said. He and Angela both shook their heads.

“This is a Los Angeles rarity, to have five people at a table all dig into a cheese-covered, two-meat, gluten-filled pizza without hesitating.”

Nik lifted her almost empty glass.

“To new friends and gluten!”

They all toasted and stuffed pizza into their mouths.

“Wait.” Nik looked up at him and started to say something, but stopped to finish chewing her bite of pizza. “Did you say a few minutes ago that you’re a baby expert?”

His sister just shook her head.

“My brother. Always with the delusions of grandeur.”

He had the opportunity to impress three attractive women with his degrees and knowledge—could his sister at least try to be a good wingman here?

“I’m a pediatrician, but to be perfectly honest, I don’t see a lot of babies anymore. I’m the assistant director of the teen clinic at Eastside Medical Center.”

“Oh.” Nik put her pizza down and reached for a napkin. “You’re a doctor.”

Okay, he’d never had a woman with that look on her face when he’d said he was a doctor. Like she’d smelled something bad.

“Oooh, you brought us a doctor?” Courtney poked Nik.

Nik looked at Dana and rolled her eyes.

“A doctor,” Courtney said, presumably to the table at large. “That’s a normal job. I didn’t think people in L.A. had normal jobs anymore. All of the jobs here are, like, writer, magician, fit model, actor, cupcake baker, dog walker, social media manager, juice shop cashier, and nonsense like that.”

“Well, what do you all do?” he asked Nik and her friends.

“Writer,” Nik said.

“Cupcake baker,” Courtney said.

“Actor,” Dana said.

He and Angela both laughed, but they didn’t.

“Oh wait. You’re serious?”

Nik nodded and sipped at the dregs of her drink.

“It’s true. We’re a parody of L.A. sitting right here.” She turned to Angela. “What about you? You are also probably something normal, like a teacher or a social worker or an accountant.”

“Marketing, for one of the studios,” Angie said. “I’m also a parody. Granted, I got my MBA first, so I could have done a normal job, but no, I went straight for the L.A. stereotype.”

“What kind of stuff do you write?” Carlos asked Nik.

“Lots of entertainment and celebrity-related stuff, and some more newsy journalism occasionally.”

“What about Fisher?” Carlos couldn’t keep himself from asking. “Was he also an L.A. stereotype, or was he a lawyer or trader or something?”

Nik shook her head. “Actor! I should have known! Never date an actor; you get proposed to in public with a fucking princess ring.” She took another bite of pizza and swallowed it. “Sorry, Dana. No offense.”

“None taken,” Dana said.

Nik sighed.

“Speaking of Fisher . . . he sent me some texts after he left the game. I only saw a glimpse of one of them, but . . . it wasn’t so great. I guess I probably need to read the rest, right?”

Ahh, that’s probably what she had been looking at when her face shuttered when they were in the car. She probably didn’t want to talk about this with strangers around. Carlos caught Angela’s eye, and she nodded.

“Ladies, my sister and I should take off. We have a family event that we have to get to and we can’t be late.”

“Oh!” Nik looked up. Was it just his imagination that her face fell? “If you have to go, I understand. But you guys, I can’t thank you enough for today; you two saved me on what was maybe one of the weirdest days of my life.”

Angela stood up, and all of the women followed her out of the booth.

“It was our pleasure,” she said. Nik threw her arms around Angie and whispered something in her ear that made her laugh. Then she moved over to Carlos.

“Carlos, thank you so much.” She gave him a tight hug and a kiss on the cheek. He almost kissed her back, but stopped himself just in time. She’d probably had enough out of men today.

“Glad we could help.”

Dana and Courtney both hugged him, too.

“Thanks for taking care of our girl until she could get back to us. You are the prince of the day,” Dana said.

He and Angie left Nik and her friends to dissect the texts, something he knew women loved to do.

* * *

• • •

“That was nice of him, to leave just then,” Dana said, after the three of them sat back down in their booth alone.

“What do you mean?” Nik said as she reached for another piece of pizza. “They said they had a family thing.”

Dana rolled her eyes.

“Sure they did. He wanted to let you show us Fisher’s texts without him around, so he made up some reason to leave.” She took a sip of her drink. “I don’t often say this about men, but I liked him.”

Courtney nodded.

“I liked him, too. You know what I think?”

Oh God. Whenever Courtney asked that question, either something great or something terrible was on its way. Sometimes it was a little bit of both.

Nik rested her chin on her hand and closed her eyes.

“What do you think?”

“I think Carlos should be your rebound.”

This time it was just terrible.

“Dana, talk some sense into her, please.” Nik looked from Dana to Courtney. “Number one, Fisher and I broke up, like two hours ago. Number two, Carlos seems like a very nice guy, but he’s a doctor, come on.”

Dana looked at her blankly.

“And?”

What was wrong with them?

“And Justin was a doctor, remember?”

Dana and Courtney looked at each other, then back at her.

“Yes, Justin was a doctor,” Dana said, in her most patient voice. Nik hated that voice. “That doesn’t mean that all doctors are assholes.”

That’s not what she meant and they knew it.

Well, okay. That was kind of what she meant. But still.

“Justin was a surgeon.” Courtney took a gulp of her drink and slammed the empty glass onto the table. “That’s different than a pediatrician.”

Not that different. She hadn’t seen or talked to Justin in years, but she remembered him and his God complex all too well.

“Plus,” Courtney said, “Carlos is hot. I would go for him myself, but he was staring at you all night.”

Nik rolled her eyes and drained her glass.

“That is not true.”

“Oh, come on,” Dana said. “Even I think he was hot, and I’m a lesbian.”

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