The sudden blast of the alarm clock had him catapulting out of the deep recesses of sleep. He surged up like an erupting volcano, right leg stiff and tightening in the tangled mess of sheets.
He managed to slam his hand on the clock to silence it before his fingers wrapped around his thigh. He rocked back and forth a bit, cursing under his breath, in an effort to ease the tension in his leg.
"Greg?" Stacy Anderson poked her head out of the bathroom, forcing him to look over his shoulder at her. "You okay?"
He forced a smile despite gritting his teeth. "Charley Horse. It'll be fine in a minute."
"Okay." She disappeared into the bathroom again.
He bent his head, chin to chest, breathing through his nose. He tried not to think about the fact his alarm clock hadn't woken him up since the third grade. He set it for Stacy, because he was usually up long before her and in his office.
He hadn't even known she wasn't in bed with him until she opened the bathroom door.
She'd already taken her shower, he could smell the soft floral fragrance of her soap, and she was probably quite proud of herself for beating him to it for once. She didn't realize how unsettling it was for him.
The clenching of his thigh muscles tapered off, finally, and he reached up to rub a hand over his face. He'd been asleep when the alarm sounded, so why was he still tired?
He'd made a mess of the blankets, and thought it would be easier to fix before he got out of bed. He flipped the sheets out, smoothed them over his legs, then folded them back neatly. He winced, right leg spasming and refusing his full weight as he stood.
He'd had his fair share of Charley Horses, mostly in his calves, after he'd played some kind of contact sport or otherwise stressed his body. In his calves, he expected it. In his thigh? That was just odd.
He limped to the bathroom, not unusual after a muscle spasm. A nice hot shower would help, and he'd be fine for golf with James, Rick, and Ted. Even if he wasn't a hundred percent, he wouldn't back out over a Charley Horse and leave them with three instead of a foursome.
He was just reaching for the knob to open the bathroom door and surprise Stacy, when the alarm started wailing again. He sucked in his breath as his leg tensed in response. He stumbled back against the wall, grateful it was there to hold him up.
The alarm was on the other side of the bed, and at that moment, it seemed a mile away.
Stacy flung the door open, eyes darting around the room. She didn't seem to relax at all when she saw him. She raised an eyebrow, then flung herself down rather gracefully on the bed and shut the alarm off.
"I'm having a rough morning," Greg answered before she could turn around to face him and ask him what was wrong.
"Shouldn't have pushed yourself so hard last night."
He winked, despite the throbbing in his thigh. Determined to ignore it, he pushed off the wall and moved toward her open arms. He dropped to his knees in front of her, bit back a whimper, and nuzzled his face in her thighs. She threaded her fingers through his hair.
He sighed and turned his head to rest his cheek on her legs. "You should have woke me. We could have saved on the water bill."
She laughed and traced the curve of his cheek, the slope of his nose, the angle of his chin and jawline. "You looked so peaceful I didn't want to disturb you."
"Your loss, babe." He rocked back on his heels, and discovered that was not such a good idea in the wake of a Charley Horse. It was uncomfortable, but not unbearable, and if she noticed him wince, she didn't say so.
He took a deep breath, tapped her nose, and lunged to his feet. The muscles in his thigh tensed, he took a deep breath through his nose, and limped to the bathroom.
"You sure you're okay?"
"It'll settle down once I get in the shower. The heat will help it." He pushed the door shut and turned on the water. He sat on the toilet lid for several minutes before mustering the strength to step into the shower.
"I'm not sure golfing is a good idea for you today," Stacy's eyes flickered over his body.
He thrust his arms into the pale pink polo shirt. "Golf is probably the best thing for me today. It's relaxing for one," he explained when she looked down her nose at him. "And it's not terribly physical. Not like Lacrosse would be."
She nodded. "And James will be there to look after you."
"Right." Greg rolled his eyes. "Do you pay him for his babysitting services?"
"Haha." She rolled her eyes at him. Briefcase in hand, she raised up on tip toe to kiss him. "Don't forget I'm meeting a client for dinner tonight. There's leftover Chinese in the fridge if you want that."
He wrinkled his nose. "Is there enough for my sitter too?" He bat his eyes at her.
Stacy shook her head and tapped his nose. "Your sitter is probably expected to have dinner with his wife tonight." She grabbed his spoon and took a bite of his oatmeal.
"Poor schmuck." He frowned and shivered in an overly exaggerated way.
"That's a terrible thing to say. Cindy is a nice person."
"I didn't say she wasn't."
She shook her head, kissed him again, and headed out the door. "See you tonight, hot stuff." She was gone before he had a chance to answer.
Greg finished his oatmeal and orange juice, straightened up the kitchen and went to meet James, Rick, and Ted at the country club.
Third hole, and he was lining up his shot. James' cell phone rang just as he pulled the club back. Concentration shattered, he mishit and misstepped, right leg buckling. He caught himself on his club, braced against it with a precarious balance.
"Dude, that really sucks," Rick muttered. Ted shushed him and gestured at James. Hearing just one side of the conversation, it was still easy to figure out the person on the other end was his wife, and she wanted him home.
"No, baby," James sighed. "It's a foursome. That's why there's –" She apparently cut him off and he raised a hand to rub the back of his neck. "Okay. Yes. Yes, baby. Yes. Okay. At least an hour. Yes. Love you too." Another sigh as he disconnected the call and hooked his phone back on his belt.
"Don't tell me. She burned the meatloaf," Rick quipped.
"I'm sorry, guy. I have to run."
Rick and Ted grumbled, Greg only nodded and leaned on his club while James packed up his bag and headed off.
"Greg?" Ted started.
"Yeah. My shot?" Greg straightened, ignored the pull of aggravation in his thigh, and rubbed a hand over his face.
Fifth hole, and he knew he was in serious trouble. He'd felt his leg tightening with every step, every swing of the club. Felt like a vice grip, unrelenting.
"You wanna hit the ball sometime today?" Rick asked smartly.
Greg blinked. "Yeah, sorry." How long had he been standing there under the pretense of lining up his shot?
He pulled back, motion carrying him forward. The club connected with the ball, he heard the whack of impact, eyes closed, and falling, falling, too weak to catch himself, happening too fast.
Rick and Ted hovering over him, talking though he couldn't understand the words. Hands on his arm, shaking.
He blinked, then surged, wild, like an animal with his leg caught in a trap, desperate. Trapped. Fear.
It took both of them to hold him down.
"Dude, what happened?" Rick asked, when he seemed to have settled. He could feel his heart pounding in his chest, trying to escape. He opened his mouth to speak, but it felt dry, and his tongue refused to cooperate.
"Should we call an ambulance?" Ted asked.
Rick smacked his shoulder as they both backed away from Greg. "We're all doctors here, dumbass."
"We don't even have a stethoscope between us."
"Do you know how to take a pulse, Ted? It's one of the first lessons in med school." Rick grabbed Greg's arm to demonstrate. He was shocked at the rate he calculated. "Greg? You okay? You think you can walk?"
Greg grunted and swatted at the hands that tried to help him up. Ted stepped back, arms up in surrender. Rick insisted on trying again, and took a punch to his face.
"Good lord, Greg," he mumbled. His gaze went to Ted. "He's fucked. Greg. What did you take this morning? Are you on acid? Smack? What is it? Come on, you can tell me."
Greg managed to get to his feet, finally. The first step was wobbly. Unstable. He swayed. Countered his weight and held his balance by putting his arms out.
"He's definitely on something," Rick muttered.
"We can't just let him go," Ted started.
"I give him five steps and he's on his ass."
"On his face would be more accurate," Ted interjected as Greg went down.
"Help me get him to the car, I'll take him to the clinic."
"Oh, he'll love that."
Rick shrugged. "He doesn't exactly have a choice."