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“Some random chick ain’t gonna fix shit,” I said.

“I know, but my cock in her ass will at least make me forget for a while.” Bear plopped back down on the couch. He scratched at his arm. I guess I wasn’t the only one restless and itching to get this shit over with.

“Mind if I ask you something?” Bear leaned forward, grabbing his smokes from the table. He didn’t wait for my answer. “Why is Doe the one that’s got your fucking guts all torn in pieces, when you used to go through a bitch or two a day? Sometimes at the same fucking time,” Bear lamented.

I raised my eyebrows. “We gonna sit around and talk about our fucking feelings now?”

“I mean, she’s fucking beautiful, man. And I’ve called girls hot, sexy, trashy, but in an I’d-still-fuck-your-trailer-park-ass type of way. She’s different. A girl like her should be far far away from anyone who even resembles Florida white trash like us.”

I unholstered my gun and set it on the table. “You about to say something I’m gonna need this for?” I asked.

But it was what he wasn’t saying, which was written all over his blonde bearded face, which was really pissing me off.

He wanted to protect Pup.

Because he loved her.

I wanted to empty the chamber of my gun into his fucking chest, but I didn’t. Because I understood. ’Cause Pup was everything in one beautiful fucking package, and it wasn’t her fault that more than just me saw that, and it wasn’t Bear’s fault that he’d felt it too. But it would be his fault if he ever acted on it.

If he ever touched her, I could be standing over his dead body, holding the smoking gun, and I still wouldn’t feel the least bit guilty, because it would be that motherfucker’s own fault if I had to put him down.

Bear knew this.

“Fuck you and your gun,” Bear scoffed, “you already know I liked her from the beginning.” He ashed his cigarette into an empty beer bottle. “I regret sending her up the stairs to you that night. Not keeping her for myself.” There was a lingering sadness in his voice. “And then when you fucked it all up by almost getting your cock wet, I’d never been more fucking pissed then when you showed back up at the dock.” Bear took another drag of his cigarette. “Way I see it, you owe me motherfucker.”

Bear sending her up to my room that night being the reason I ever set eyes on Pup, was the only reason why my fist hadn’t yet connected with his nose.

We needed a change in conversation before I did something we’d both regret. Me, because he was my friend. Him, ’cause he’d be full of fucking bullets.

“You still haven’t answered the question, motherfucker.” Bear leaned forward. “Why her?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know,” I answered honestly. “It’s just another fact. Just like the sky is blue. The grass is green.” I shrugged. “She’s mine. Just is. Just know it.”

“You ever think she deserves better than this shit?” Bear waved his hand around the room. “Than you?” I flashed him a questioning look. If I was on edge before this conversation, I was teetering off of it now. “Not me, motherfucker. Just…better. Than this. Than this life.”

“’Course.” I lit a cigarette and inhaled, tossing the lighter onto the table. And then I looked up and Bear and smiled.

“But she doesn’t have better…she has me.”

I’d barely gotten the words out of my mouth when concrete and steel came crashing down around us, flying into the apartment like a tornado was ripping through.

I ducked; crawling on my stomach I sought cover behind the coffee table. I coughed as I inhaled one lungful of dust after the other. I squinted, looking past the settling debris toward where the crash had sounded.

There was a gaping hole where the wall had stood only seconds before.

The remnants of that wall; a huge pile of toppled concrete block, covered the living room.

And the couch that had been against that wall.

And the person that had been lying on the couch.

Bear.

Chapter Eight

Doe

It was too early. Or too late.

Or too, something.

I’d finally had a memory of someone pre-memory loss and it was of someone I knew post memory loss.

Nikki.

My best friend since I was in diapers. Who was also the hooker who’d acted like she was doing me a favor by letting me tag along while we both tried to survive on the streets.

There was no doubt in my mind that it was the connection of my past and present that helped me to remember. It was the only thing that was clear to me. Everything else was like driving a car, with a muddied windshield, trying to look through the smears to see the road.

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