Derek glanced down at the light on his car. Shit, shit, shit. He knew he should have brought the jeep in a few weeks ago, but he didn’t think it was a real problem. Now the car was barely moving, steam was hissing out of his front end, and all Derek wanted was for his car to survive another block.
“Just a bit farther, baby. Come on. Come on.”
His car tanked right when he pulled into Marv’s Auto. Derek tried to start it. Nothing. He glanced up to see Marv and Dad watching him, and Dad shaking his head.
Derek jumped out of the car. “I think my jeep broke.”
“No! What would give you that idea?” Dad asked, the sarcasm oozing out of him. Jerk.
“You know, you’re so your mother’s son, kiddo,” Marv joked, which made Dad laugh. Marv shook his head in amusement at Dad. “Man Eli, even my girls know when to bring in their cars for check ups.”
Dad rolled his eyes. “I hear ya. It must be all the donut grease clogging up his brain that he forgot how to care for his own car.”
“Har. Har. Funny, Dad. So, you two think you can fix it by today?”
Dad snorted. “No. Just from smelling it, I can guarantee you won’t get it back for at least a week, if that. Come on, Marv. Let’s get my son’s jeep into the garage, before he does more damage to the poor girl.”
Derek opened the back and released Pepper before the two started to push the Jeep toward the garage doors. Derek headed to the front of the building and pointed to the wall by the door. “Sit.”
A tiny little thing came barreling around the counter. “PUPPY!”
What the hell? Derek didn’t hesitate. He picked the little toddler up and stopped him. The little one began to cry and point at Pepper. Derek’s ear drums were being blasted by the sheer volume the kid produced. He sat the kid on the counter.
“Miles?” Marv called out and came through the door. “Miles, what’s wrong?”
“H-h-he w-won’ l-le’ m-me pway w-with pu-puppy.”
Marv glanced over to Pepper. Derek had strict rules about who could touch Pepper. He didn’t want the little boy to get hurt. Pepper wasn’t one to attack, but she was a trained attack dog.
“Ah, bud. That dog’s a special dog. She’s not supposed to be petted.”
“Why not?” the boy asked with pouty lips.
“Because she’s a police dog,” Derek answered. “I’m sorry, I hurt your feelings, but I didn’t want her to hurt you. But if you’re very careful I can introduce you to her. Would you like that?”
Derek lifted the boy up and placed him on the ground. He knelt down and stuck his hand out. “Pepper, come.” When she stood there, he gave his next command. “Sit.”
Derek took the boy’s hand and placed it next to Pepper’s nose. After she sniffed it she put her head down, and Derek released the kid’s hand. “Okay, you can pe—or hug her,” Derek laughed when the boy flung himself and hugged Pepper.
Pepper licked the kid’s face.
“I think Pepper made a friend,” Marv said.
Derek nodded and stood. “Guess so.” He watched the two for a bit as the boy petted Pepper and Pepper licked him. “So who’s the—”
“Gwampa, he ticklin’ me!”
“I can see that.”
Grandpa? Since when was Marv a grandpa? Of course Natalie would be a mother by now. She was, what six years older than him? Derek couldn’t remember. It had been years since he’d seen Marv’s oldest daughter. Not since he was…ten, maybe?
Marv answered Derek’s interrupted question. “Miles is my grandson.”
Derek nodded. “I figured that once he called you grandpa.”
Before he could ask about Natalie and her son, Dad had called Marv into the garage. “Watch the kid, will you, Ric?” Marv asked as he rushed to the back.
Derek took a seat and watched as his most trained, ferocious dog play as if she were just a pup with Miles. He shook his head. So much for the ferocious dog part. “You like my dog, Miles?”
“Uh-huh. He fun. Wha’s name?”
Derek grinned. “Her name is Pepper.”
Miles scrunched his face and shook his head. “Nuh-uh. I don’ like it. She be…” he pursed his lips. “Brownie.”
Derek laughed. He wondered if the boy loved all things chocolate. The boy did have a chocolate stain on his shirt. “Do you have a puppy?”
Miles pouted and shook his head. “Mommy mean. Say no.”
Derek chuckled. “I know that feeling. My mommy didn’t let me have a puppy either growing up. Mommies are yucky, huh?”
Miles nodded, but otherwise ignored him.
Finally after a long while Dad appeared and grinned over to Miles and Pepper. “So, Miles can play with Pepper, but Dakota gets yelled at for giving her scraps?”
Derek rolled his eyes. “Big difference between a toddler and a teenager who knows better. And another, I like Miles more.”
Dad laughed. “Yeah, I get that.” He handed a slip. “Okay, it’s going to take about ten days to get the parts needed and for me to doctor your vehicle.”
Derek looked over the slip of paper and balked. “You’re charging me!”
“Hell yes, I am. Those parts don’t come cheep and I am not made out of money. You have a job. If you can afford to buy the jeep, you can afford to maintain it.”
“But you don’t charge Mom.”
Dad smirked. “Oh, son, she pays. She just pays in ways you don’t want to know about.”
Derek shivered and held off his gag reflex. “Dad! Gross. TMI.”
Dad laughed, he headed back to the counter and return with keys in hand. “I’ll give you a call when the jeep is done. In the meantime, I take it you need a ride to your apartment?”
Derek did, which sucked cause he was heading toward Kody’s place. “Yeah, Brandt is with Kody already, and I was on my way there. Hope I don’t miss the pick.”
“Not yet. We have it on in back. So far only Tim Rebott of Willow Creek has been picked for the Brindleton Pirates.” Thank god he hadn’t missed Kody’s pick. Maybe there was still time?
But first he really needed to know about his car. “So, how bad off is my jeep? She going to make it? You can fix her, right?”
“Yes, I’ll fix it.” Dad shook his head. “But, Derek, when there’s smoke literally coming out of the hood of the car, you know it’s telling you that it needs help. Don’t let this happened again.”
Derek gave a nod of understanding. He should had brought in the Jeep a few weeks ago.
Dad looked over to Miles and Pepper, and picked up the small boy. “Come on, Miles. Let’s go see if Grandpa can find some toys for you to play with.”
“But puppy, Unca Eli!”
“Has to go home,” Dad answered. Once Miles was safely away from Pepper—although not happy judging from the screaming Derek heard, Eli returned from the back. “All set, Ric?”
Derek gave a nod, and held open the front door of Marv’s Auto. “After you, Old Man.”
“Old man, my ass.” With a laugh Derek followed Dad out to his truck, calling Pepper to follow. Once Pepper was in the truck he hopped in the passenger side.
As they headed toward Derek’s apartment, Dad put on the radio. It was sports radio and Derek’s ears perked up at Kody’s name. Damn, he missed being with his bro today.
“That’s right, Jim. The lucky sophomore’s name has been picked in the first wave of the draft. Let’s look at Kody Lamb a bit. Have you seen him on the court? He can fly, he can play the ball, and the height on him? He has to be just as tall as Brown Johnson, if not taller. This kid is going to go far if he keeps playing the way he has shown with San Myshuno University. The Falcons are going to go far with him.”
“Did he say the Falcons?” Derek gasped. “Holy shit.”
“THE FUCKING FALCONS!” Dad shouted. “That’s my boy! That’s! My! Boy!”
Derek loved hearing his father talk like that, as if he was a father to his best friends, because it was true. Dad was the only fatherly figure Brandt and Kody ever had, and Derek loved sharing him.
Derek’s phone buzzed.
Derek couldn’t stop grinning. Kody was in the SBA. He had done it.