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“It’s open,” Lock called from inside.

Great. Jinx juggled the coffees, hugging one against his chest to free a hand. He opened the door and stepped inside, only to be smacked in the face with the most putrid odor he’d ever smelled. “What the fuck? Did something die in here?” he called out as he tried not to gag.

“That’d probably smell better.” Lock’s voice came from down the hallway, along with the unhappy wails of an infant.

“Please tell me that stench is not coming from my godson,” Jinx said as he walked into the room only to discover the smell was, in fact, baby in origin. “Goddamn, that’s unnatural.”

Lock snorted as he tossed a wadded-up diaper in a weird-looking trash can. “You have no idea.”

The baby stopped crying and locked his curious eyes on Jinx. “Hey, little dude. How’s it hanging this morning.”

“Godfather?” Lock asked. He secured a fresh diaper on the baby and picked him up.

Jinx nearly stumbled at the sight of his friend. He looked… well, he looked like death—pale skin, dark under-eye circles, beaten-down expression. What the hell?

“Uh, yeah. Godfather.”

“He doesn’t have one. I’m not religious.” Lock shifted the baby to his hip and grabbed a bottle. The little guy practically ripped it out of his father’s hands and shoved it in his mouth.

“Me neither.” He spread his arms wide. “But come on. I’m clearly godfather material.”

The joke didn’t earn even a flicker of a smile. “Then knock yourself out.” His focus was back on Caleb, whom he’d dressed in a Harley Davidson onesie. “Did you need me for something? Curly asked me to swing by and beef up his locks this morning.”

“Nah, man, I don’t need anything. Figured I’d give you a break and take the rug rat while you’re at Curly’s.”

Lock glanced up at him, and the relief on his face would have had Jinx teasing him if he didn’t look so damn haggard. “Really?”

“Really. Even brought you some coffee.” He jiggled the to-go cup filled to the brim with plain black coffee as Lock’s eyes finally lit.

“Oh, shit, thanks. I ran out yesterday and haven’t had time to get more.”

“Well, here, brother. Trade you a coffee for a baby.” He set both cups on the changing table.

Lock lifted the eight-month-old, who still held the bottle for dear life. “He’s all yours.”

“Well, if it isn’t my favorite little man.” Jinx settled the baby in the crook of his arm. “Shit, he’s getting heavy.”

“Yeah, growing fast. Um… I’m gonna get dressed, then I’ll give you all his shit.”

“No rush, I’m not working today, so the little dude and I can hang as long as you need. Isn’t that right, buddy?” The baby gurgled and gave him a milky smile. “He fucking loves me.”

Lock snorted and left the room.

“Let’s snoop around, huh?” It felt like ages since he’d been in Lock’s house. Jinx wandered out into the hallway toward the kitchen. His jaw dropped as soon as he entered the space that opened into the den. It was a fucking disaster—dishes overflowed in the sink, unwashed bottles were on every surface, and a stack of pizza boxes lay on the floor. But what had his stomach sinking was the massive amount of empty beer bottles strewn all around. Even the den had become a recycling can for empties.

“What the fuck? Shit, buddy, I had no idea your daddy was struggling this bad.” The first stop when he left would be a visit to the ol’ ladies. They needed a plan of action, and they needed it fast.

“You say something?” Lock wandered into the kitchen, dressed and coffee in hand. He strolled past Jinx to the table where a big bag full of baby shit sat.

Jinx swore he got hit with a whiff of alcohol as he moved.

Had he doctored his coffee?

Fuck, it wasn’t even seven thirty in the morning.

“Uh… no, brother. Just talking to the little man.”

Lock nodded. “Here’s his stuff… diapers, wipes, formula, bottles. You know what you’re doing?”

Jinx snorted. “Fuck no. But I’m gonna bring this handsome dude to the She Shed so the ladies can fawn all over him. They’ll show me what to do.”


His brother was so flat this morning. Sure, he’d been seeing to the baby’s needs, but there barely seemed to be a connection to his son. Didn’t new dads act all mushy and speak in baby tones while telling the kid how it was the cutest kid of all the kids?

Maybe not. Maybe he’d just seen too many movies. Jinx sure as hell didn’t know babies in real life, but Lock was not Lock today. He was a hollow shell of Jinx’s friend.

Possibly a drunk one.

“You wanna ride with me?”

“What?” Lock gave him a look that said he was crazy. “No. Why the fuck would I do that?”

“You smell like booze, brother.”

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