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The Will
  • Текст добавлен: 9 октября 2016, 02:02

Текст книги "The Will"

Автор книги: Kristen Ashley

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Текущая страница: 23 (всего у книги 35 страниц)

“Hmm,” I mumbled.

“Hmm is right,” she agreed.

“I’ll think on this,” I told her.

“You think on it hard. You still got feelings for this Henry guy and he has the same for you and he doesn’t like Jake for you for more than just that he wants you for himself. Jake finds him and rips him a new asshole. What’s this Henry guy gonna do?”

I saw her point.

She leaned into me and her voice lowered when she repeated, “Learn to handle him. Do your part to keep it good. Yeah?”

“Uh…yes,” I haltingly agreed because although I saw her point, and it was a good point, I was still uncertain.

However, seeing as she was very certain, I decided agreement was my best option for now.

“Jesus, now I need a drink. And bad,” she announced, pulling the brush back out of the bottle of varnish. “Let’s get you finished up and get our asses to some vodka.”

“Alyssa,” I called as she stroked a perfect brush of a very attractive wine color on my forefinger.

She looked up at me. “Yeah?”

“Thank you for listening.”

Her eyes lit and her lips smiled. “Anytime, honey.”

“If you…well, anytime for you too, I hope you know.”

“Oh,” she started, tipping her attention back to my nail, “I’ll take you up on that. Junior does my head in. My hooligans do my head in. And I got a lot of good friends and a lot of good clients but most of them got big mouths.” She finished with my forefinger and looked back to me. “I’m guessin’ you know how to keep a secret.”

“I do,” I assured her.

“Then I just slotted you right up high on my Gotta Find a Sister to Bitch at List.”

I liked the idea of being high on that list, so I smiled.

She turned her attention to my thumb. “Anyway, finally got someone to sit with at the matches. And that’s awesome.

It was.

It was indeed.

All of it.

Especially Alyssa.

* * * * *

“But do not, under any circumstances, get the Brazilian blowout. They use formaldehyde. You must get the keratin treatment,” I said to Paulette, the blonde dancer at Jake’s club, sitting next to her at a dressing table in the dressing room during her break. “Alyssa at Maude’s House of Beauty has informed me she does keratin treatments. They’re more expensive but they’ll leave your hair shiny, very soft and actually treat the hair to make it stronger.”

“And this will make it sleek?” Paulette asked.

“Perhaps too sleek,” I told her. “It’ll be a risk. If you prefer more body, discuss that with Alyssa. But yes. It will leave it quite straight and very sleek. And you’ll find your preparation time cut by half, at least.”

“It takes me for-freaking-ever to blow out my hair,” she murmured.

“Then perhaps you should try it. And anyway, when you do that move with your head and your hair swings out, imagine how it will catch the light with some shine and settle down your back. I would guess it would be quite magnificent.”

She grinned at me. “Yeah, that would look awesome.”

It would indeed.

I smiled back.

A sharp knock sounded on the door and then Jake’s voice could be heard calling, “Man entering the room!”

“Okay!” Paulette called back then leaned into me, pulling her robe closer around her so it was no longer gaping, exposing her rather abundant and totally nude cleavage. “He’s the only guy here who does that. “

I felt my brows draw together. “But he’s already seen your charms.”

“Yeah, he’s seen my charms, like, a million times,” she agreed on a giggle. “Still, he does it. It’s cool. And sweet. The other guys just walk in like it’s all the same to them, even though Jake’s always up in their shit not to do it. If he isn’t around, forget it.”

I found this didn’t surprise me. Jake was cool.

And sweet.

And further, Jake should know his employees weren’t following orders.

“Yo,” Jake greeted as I had this thought and I turned from Paulette to see him moving through the rather cluttered dressing room, his eyes going between us.

Obviously, I was at the club. And I was in the dressing room because after Jake showed me around, introduced me to the bouncers, waitresses and bartenders, one of the bouncers told him he had a call and he left me at the bar with a martini to go to his office and take it.

I watched the show for a bit but saw Paulette duck to the back and thus I decided that since I would be around and often, I’d take my chance, introduce myself to her and share about the benefits of a keratin treatment.

Therefore, I followed her to the dressing room.

And now here we were.

“Take it you met Paulette,” Jake said to me as he stopped close to us.

“Yes,” I replied.

“Your babe is awesome, Jake,” Paulette put in and that felt nice so I smiled at her again.

“As are you,” I told her.

She gave me a huge grin. Then she stood, shirked off her robe, exposing her fabulous, toned, tanning bed tanned, oiled body and strutted to the door, saying, “Time to shake it. Later.”

“Later, Paulette, lovely to meet you,” I called after her.

“Back at cha, babe,” she replied on a wink before she went out the door.

I looked up at Jake.

“You tell her to straighten her hair?” he asked.

“I did extend that advice,” I answered.

He grinned and shook his head before he bent, grabbed my hand and pulled me out of the chair, murmuring, “Your martini’s warm. Gotta get you another one.”

I said nothing as I followed him for I had nothing to say. Another martini sounded lovely and I definitely did not like warm vodka.

Jake held my hand as we moved through the club and he seated me at the side of the bar. Only then did he let me go before he slid between the stools to stand close and jerked up his chin to the bartender (the same one from the last time I was there, his name was Adam). In very little time, a fresh martini was placed in front of me as was a fresh bottle of beer for Jake.

He picked it up and took a tug.

I did the same but took a sip.

When I put my glass down, Jake got closer and I looked up to him as he leaned into the bar on a forearm and his hand came to the small of my back, slid under the hem of my sweater and up so he could trail his fingers in a lazy pattern on the skin there.

I touched my tongue to my bottom lip in reaction to how nice that felt.

Through the dim light, I saw Jake’s eyes drop to my mouth and he leaned in closer, his fingers ceasing their trailing and pressing into the waistband of my trousers.

His head dipped close and I knew he was going to say something, something that I’d like, something that might make the tingles I was experiencing in a variety of places get stronger.

But for some reason, I spoke before him.

“Dinner was lovely, thank you.”

He grinned. “It was just cheeseburgers, babe.”

It was. With Velveeta slices. I was finding Velveeta was a staple at the Spear house. I was also finding I didn’t mind this. They melted rather well on a thick, hot hamburger and quite enhanced the taste.

“Seems like Conner’s in good spirits,” I noted for it did. He’d arrived after his shift at Wayfarer’s and behaved like the dramas of the day before hadn’t occurred.

“He’s suckin’ it up and beatin’ it down,” Jake replied. “He’s not over it. He’s just not gonna let that show.”

My brows drew together. “Why on earth not?”

“Because he’s a guy, he’s his father’s son and he’s got no choice.”

“He’s safe to feel the way he feels around his family, certainly,” I remarked.

“He is,” Jake agreed. “But no purpose in draggin’ everybody down, especially Ethan. He needs me, he knows I’m there. But only choice he’s got is to keep on keepin’ on. He knows that. He’ll get over it. He knows that too. We just gotta cut him some slack and let him handle it the way he sees fit.”

This seemed a sound strategy so I nodded.

Then I informed him, “The men in your employ walk into the dancers’ dressing room without knocking.”

He stared at me only a second before he shook his head and murmured, “Little shits.”

“I’m uncertain from Paulette’s recounting of this that she really cares. However, she does feel it’s sweet you show that respect.”

“I’ll have a word with the boys”—he paused– “again. But it’ll be a stronger word this time.”

I leaned into him and repeated, “I daresay she doesn’t care, Jake. But—”

Jake interrupted me. “They got a job, they do it. Onstage. That doesn’t make them free-for-alls. Back there is their space. They feel safe in it. They decide who they show themselves to, not my boys. She might not give a shit but I do. If my boys who work with them can’t show respect, how do I communicate the customers should?”

“An excellent point,” I stated.

Jake grinned.

I inquired, “Can I ask you a question?”

“You can ask me anything, Slick.”

I nodded again.

Then I wondered if I should do what I was going to do.

I looked into Jake’s eyes that were looking right into mine and thought of all he’d shared with me in a very short period of time. He didn’t hold back. He didn’t hide. He didn’t prevaricate. He wanted me to know him and he set about doing that from the start.

Thus I felt safe in feeling there was nothing between us except what we hadn’t yet gotten around to sharing.

And I was relatively certain (relatively) that he wanted nothing between us.

That said, in making it so nothing was between us, I would have to “handle” it.

And do it wisely.

“Okay, then, as a hypothetical,” I started carefully, held his eyes but licked my lips for a different reason this time, then went on. “Say something happened that I knew you would not like. If that should occur, is it better not to tell you, since I know you wouldn’t like it? Or should I tell you because you’re quite candid and wish for that to be returned?”

When I finished speaking, his bearing had not changed but it had.


And not in a good way.

Apparently, I wasn’t doing very well in “handling” this.

“What happened?” he asked, his voice terse.

“I’m talking hypothetical,” I reminded him and I was.

I also wasn’t.

“What happened?” he repeated.

“Jake—” I started but got nothing more out.

His fingers disappeared from my waistband and wrapped around my hand. Then I was off the barstool and being dragged though the club.

The door to his office was at the side of the club and he took me directly there. There was a keypad that unlocked the door and when we arrived, without delay, he lifted his finger so he could jab in the numbers.

The keypad screen went green and Jake pushed open the door.

We’d been in there earlier and I’d noted his office was rather roomy and also quite nice. There was a thick rug on the floor with an attractive pattern on it in blues, blacks and beiges but mostly reds. A plush black leather couch against one wall. Midnight blue leather chairs in front of his large but not too large wooden desk.

There weren’t a lot of accoutrements, it was clear he didn’t spend a great deal of time there, and when he did, it was for business only, and thus he didn’t bother with the décor. But he had still made it a nice space.

It was also four steps up so that the large one-way window that faced the club had an elevated view so it would not be obstructed by patrons.

It was further mostly soundproofed. Not entirely, the music could be heard, but once the door closed, it was significantly muted.

This was what happened right then. The door latched behind us, the music was drowned out, and Jake pulled me up the stairs and across the rug to the front of his desk. He positioned me there facing it, and dropped my hand so he could stand in front of me, back to his desk, and cross his arms on his chest.

When he’d done that, he repeated, “What happened?”

“You left our drinks at the bar, Jake,” I told him and I had to admit it was to buy time. He was making me somewhat anxious.

“What…happened?” he again repeated.

I studied him a long moment (buying more time, it must be said) then began, “First, can I just say that Alyssa told me that I shouldn’t—”

Jake interrupted me. “Babe, what works for Alyssa, and I’m guessin’ the way this is goin’, Alyssa and how things are with her and Junior, is not us. We are not Alyssa and Junior. You really fuckin’ aren’t Alyssa. And how I am with you is not what Junior gives Alyssa.”

“But they seem to have a very strong, healthy relationship,” I noted.

“They do. But Alyssa’s got a good family who’s all living, love her like crazy, have her back and always did. Then she got Junior and got a lot more of that. You had Lydie. That’s all you had. Until you got me. But you got me when you lost her. So shit goes down for Alyssa, she’s had a lifetime of having a solid foundation and she can take it. Or she’s got a lot of folks she can go to to give it to if she can’t. You only got me.”

As Alyssa had her points, Jake had his too.

“So, Josie.” He leaned toward me. “What happened?

“Henry came to Lavender House today and fired me,” I blurted.

Jake blinked.

Then he leaned back, far back, resting his behind against the edge of the desk, clipping out, “That fuckin’ dick.”

“I was going to resign anyway, Jake,” I reminded him.

“That doesn’t make him any less of a dick,” Jake returned and continued, “Fuck him. Sue him. You were gonna resign or not, you gave him no reason to terminate you. No way around it, it’s wrongful dismissal. Take his ass to the cleaners.”

“He’s giving me nearly two years of wages as a severance package,” I explained.

“Go for double that,” Jake shot back.

“It needn’t be any more unpleasant than it already is, darling,” I said gently. “We talked further and although it started hostile, it didn’t end that way. Instead, it was distressing. He cares for me a great deal—”

“If he did, he wouldn’t fire you.”

“Please listen,” I whispered.

Jake clamped his mouth shut.

“We…well, we shared quite a bit and with our history, I assume you can understand that we both missed an opportunity and wasted a good deal of time and obviously coming to that understanding is going to be painful for us both. And now, for Henry, with me moving on, being happy, it’s difficult to take. He’s simply losing me. I’m losing him too, which hurts, but I’m also gaining something else, which makes it easier. He doesn’t have that.”

Jake had nothing to say to that and I decided to take that as agreement he understood.

“So, although the conversation started on a difficult note, it ended on a sorrowful one. I do believe that given some time, we can resurrect a bit of what we had. However, we’ve agreed we won’t be doing that with me in his employ. That would be too hard on both of us.”

“Good,” Jake grunted.

I pressed my lips together and rolled them.

Jake’s eyes narrowed on my mouth then cut to my eyes. “Is there more?”

“Well…” I said and trailed off.

“Fuck me,” Jake muttered then asked sharply, “What?”

“Well, I would…I mean, I think…um, truthfully, I don’t know—”

“Josie, babe, what?” Jake bit out.

“I think he just wanted to see, to try, one last shot but…” I pulled in a deep breath and announced, “He kissed me.”

Jake’s anger filled the room and I watched with some concern as his body, from top to toe, even resting against the desk, went completely still in a very disquieting way.

“What?” he whispered.

“It was really a good-bye kiss,” I shared quickly.

“If it was, you wouldn’t feel the need to tell me,” he retorted then asked, “He get inside?”

I pressed my lips together.

Jake’s brows shot together.

“You let him inside?” he pushed on a sinister whisper.

Perhaps Alyssa was right. At least about this part.

“It was a good-bye, Jake.”

He stared at me.

I stood there and let him.

I didn’t like the look on his face. It frightened me and not because it was frightening. Because it was angry and Jake had told me just the day before that when a man gets hurt, that comes out as angry.


“Never do that again,” he said quietly.

I swallowed.

“That mouth’s mine,” he went on just as quietly.

I nodded.

“Never again, Josie. Don’t give a shit who it is, what history you got, how intense the situation, how bad you feel for the guy. That mouth is mine.”

I didn’t think it would be sensible to point out that Henry was the only man who I would allow to do that and only in that time, that situation, and never again.

I also thought it sensible to agree.

“Okay, darling,” I whispered.

“Come here,” he ordered.

I felt it prudent to go there and do it immediately.

So I did.

When I did, he separated his legs and leaned in, yanking me between them so my body collided with his and his arms clamped around me.

I tipped my head back to look at him.

“Never keep anything from me, I don’t give a shit how you think I’m gonna react. I’ll react how I react. I will never harm you doin’ it. But I got enough experience with what doesn’t work between a man and a woman to know that keepin’ shit from each other is a big fuckin’ part of that.”

“Okay,” I agreed.

“So, that guy contacts you again, you tell me.”

“Okay,” I repeated.

“Anyone fucks with you, upsets you, whatever, you tell me that too. I don’t give a shit if you think it’s nothing, like someone givin’ you a dirty look at the grocery store that gives you the willies. You fuckin’ tell me.”

“Okay, Jake.”

His arms tightened and he dipped his face close. “Every inch of you, outside and any way you can get inside, baby, physically or emotionally, is mine. You don’t share that. Ever.”

I’d already agreed to that (essentially, he’d added new things) but it was clear he needed further assurances so I again said, “Okay, darling.”

“Alyssa’s a good woman and I know she had your best interests at heart when she advised you, honey. But we gotta find our own way and no way to do that but together. We start drifting apart to figure that shit out, we’re fucked. You with me?”

“I’m with you, Jake.”

When these words came out of my mouth, his arms convulsed and he whispered, “You’re with me.”

I had a feeling his words were profound in more ways than him knowing I understood what he was saying. A significant kind of profound. A kind of profound that changed lives and mended hearts and rocked worlds. And I liked that profound so I melted into him, sliding my hands up his chest.

“Are you angry with me?” I asked.

“No, because you shared that shit. You didn’t and I found out, I would be pissed.”

I nodded, sliding my hands up to his neck, at the same time sliding my body up his and tipping my head back further.

One of his hands slid down to cup my bottom and his eyes dropped to my mouth.

“You gonna take my mind off this shit by kissing me or are you gonna take my mind off this shit by kissing me then letting me fuck you on my desk?” he asked.

I melted further into him because his words made my legs tremble so deeply they no longer were holding me up as I replied breathily, “I’m going to kiss you then let you fuck me on your desk.”

His mouth touched mine and he muttered, “Good answer, Slick.”

I smiled against his lips.

Then I kissed him.

After that, Jake fucked me on his desk.

And much later, when I was back on the stool at the bar, Jake close, only half-listening as he talked to one of his bouncers, I smiled into the fresh martini Adam had made me thinking in the end, Alyssa was right.

I had to learn to handle Jake.

It was just that the way she handled Junior was different than the way I needed to handle Jake.

And she might argue, though I couldn’t imagine how she could, the way I needed to handle Jake was better.

By far.

Chapter Sixteen


My thumb at Jake’s nipple rubbing, my other hand wrapped around the side of his neck, my forehead to his, our heavy breaths mingling, his hand at my breast, thumb rubbing, other hand at my hip gripping, his back up against his headboard, knees cocked behind me, I was riding him and doing it fast.

“Jake,” I whispered urgently because it was building.

“Hurry, baby,” he whispered back.

“Jake,” I breathed.

“Faster, Josie,” he grunted.

I went faster.


Oh yes.

That was better.

He rolled my nipple with his thumb and forefinger, tugging it gently at the same time.

I gasped as that shot straight from my breast to between my legs and moved faster.


Oh yes.

It was building.

“Darling,” I panted.

“Fuck me,” he groaned. “Give me that pussy.”

I did, grinding down and his hand at my breast squeezed as my head shot back, my hand clenched his neck and my climax powered through me.

Jake wrapped an arm around my waist, holding me down and his hand at my breast slid up my chest, around my neck and into my hair. He forced my face in his neck as he buried his in mine just before I heard his deep groan.

I breathed against his skin, feeling his breaths whisper against mine, the sensation tingling along my skin, down my spine, over my bottom and between my legs. I liked the feel so much I squeezed him with my sex.

Jake emitted another soft groan as his arm around me tightened.

“Love that pussy,” he whispered against my neck.

I was so glad he did.

We stayed close, connected for long moments as our breaths quieted. Then I kissed his neck.

Jake wrapped both arms around me and slid me off, lifting me and turning me so I had my back to the bed, head to the pillows. He stayed leaned in deep, kissing me above the hair between my legs, then my belly, up between my breasts, up and again at my throat, under my chin then he brushed his mouth against mine before he whispered, “Be back.”

“All right.”

I watched his sated eyes smile before he touched his mouth to mine again and rolled away, tossing the covers over me when he did and then I watched him walk to the bathroom.

I was in his bed.

It was the morning after he showed me around the club.

We were at his house because I’d set my alarm criminally early but I did it so I could be waiting outside the back door at the gym when he arrived.

I’d watched his truck pull in and marveled how he parked, doing it with his eyes on me the entire time.

He got out and when he was walking to me, I called haughtily, “See? I can get up early and open the gym.”

He didn’t reply. He didn’t even say hello.

He swept me in his arms and I saw his huge, white smile before he took my mouth in a deep, long, wet kiss.

Then he took us into the gym, opened up, turned on the lights (all of this I watched closely for when it was my turn) and when the first man walked through the doors, he stated, “On your own, John. You need anything, call,” and we were out the door, in his truck and headed to his house.

The kids were still there when we arrived.

Ethan was ecstatic to see us return. It was then I learned the alarming news that the high school started at eight o’clock, Ethan’s school at eight thirty so he had to “hang” with this teacher who was “lame” and some other kids who were “losers” for a half an hour when Conner or Amber had to take him to school. He was delighted he didn’t have to do that.

He didn’t. Jake and I took him to school.

But when I learned this news, I turned to Jake and raised my brows.

He burst out laughing.

Ethan, Amber and Conner looked between us, all their expressions confused.

Jake didn’t explain.

Neither did I.

After dropping Ethan, Jake took me back to his house whereupon he pulled me up two flights of stairs, right to his bed, and started the festivities.

Culminating just now.

I watched him saunter back into the room, lift up the covers and then he was sliding in beside me. Half a second later, he was sliding my body on top of his and gliding one hand down to cup the cheek of my behind while he wrapped the other arm around me.

“Right,” he began, “I dig the demonstration you can meet me at the gym but only so I can drag your ass back here, take my kid to school then drag your ass up here and fuck you in my bed.”

“Hmm,” I mumbled, finding my demonstration important for other reasons he should get.

“So how about we plan on doin’ that every day?” he suggested.

“That would negate you being able to sleep in, Jake,” I pointed out.

“Babe, you give me the choice of sleepin’ or fuckin’ you, I’m gonna pick fuckin’ you.”

Although I liked his choice, I still glared at him.

“You don’t like that plan?” he asked.

“I’m trying to be helpful.”

His arm around me slid up until his hand was in my hair. He used it to bring my face closer to his and said, “You are, baby. We’re gonna take a nap right about now and after comin’ hard with you ridin’ me hard and fast, I’m gonna sleep fuckin’ great.”

I perked up.

“We’re going to take a nap?”


I could use a nap. We’d left the club after one in the morning and I was up at five thirty to shower, dress and get to the gym.

“I could nap,” I told him and he smiled.

Then he rolled me, kissing my throat before he lifted his head. “Right. Nap. Up. Shower. Lunch. Then I gotta get to the gym to make sure no one came in and cleaned me out.”

Again, I was alarmed. “Is that a worry?”

He chuckled and said, “No, babe.”

“Oh,” I replied. Then I told him, “I’ve already taken a shower.”

“You’re gonna take another one.”

“I don’t need another one.”

He pressed into me, his face got close and his voice got low. “You’re gonna take another one.”

“Oh,” I repeated. “Okay.”

“Okay,” he replied, then commanded audaciously, “Now shut up and sleep.”

My eyes narrowed. “Telling someone to shut up is rude.”

“Babe,” he returned.

“And ordering an adult to sleep is preposterous,” I went on.




“Is that your response?” I asked.

“No, my response is, babe, shut up and sleep but I already said that so I condensed it to just babe ‘cause that’s easier to say and might not piss you off.”

“I can’t read all that in babe, Jake.”

“You’ll learn to read my babes.”

Annoyingly, I was looking forward to doing that.

I didn’t share that with Jake.

I kept glaring at him.

His eyes were smiling when he bent in and kissed me, not a mouth brush this time, it was deeper, sweeter and much, much longer.

Jake ended it having turned us to our sides. We were pressed close with legs tangled in a delicious way. And after he ended it, he pulled me down and pressed my face into his throat.

“Now, babe, sleep,” he ordered.

“All right,” I gave in.

He kissed the top of my head.

I cuddled closer, held on tighter and within moments, I slept.

* * * * *

I was sitting on the counter watching Jake warm up a can of soup when my phone in my purse rang.

Jake twisted, grabbed my purse off the counter of the island, twisted back and plopped it in my lap.

I dug out my phone on a murmured, “Thank you, darling,” and saw the call was from Amber.

My eyes went to his.

“Amber,” I told him, taking the call, looking at my purse in my lap and putting the phone to my ear. “Hello, sweetheart,” I greeted.

Instantly, I yanked the phone from my ear when she shrieked, “You’ll never guess what just happened!

When I felt it was safe, I put my phone back to my ear and asked, “What?”

But I heard nothing but strange muffled noises and my eyes shot to Jake.

His brows drew together.

“Amber?” I called.

“Hey, Josie,” boy Taylor said. “Amber’s busy hyperventilating and we don’t have a lot of time since lunch is over and we have to be in class, but she wants you to know that Alexi sat with us at lunch today.”

My heart skipped a beat.

It had been a long time but I remembered how that felt.

And how it felt was wonderful.

“He did?” I whispered.

“The entire time,” boy Taylor told me.

“Really?” I asked.

“Totally,” he answered. “And you should know she was totally cool. Sweet and nice to him, a little shy, but she waited to screech and hyperventilate until after he was long gone.”

I smiled at a Jake who still had brows drawn. “Tell her I’m proud of her.”

“Will do,” he replied. “Gotta go, though. We have to get to class.”

“Okay, sweetheart. Have a good day,” I said.

“You too. Later.”


He disconnected.

Jake asked, “What?” the instant I took the phone from my ear.

My heart skipped another beat for an entirely different reason.


“Well…” I began and trailed off.

“What?” he repeated.


He leaned toward me and said a warning, “Josie.”

“Alexi sat with Amber at lunch today.”

Instantly, he tipped his head back and muttered, “Christ almighty.”

“She’s quite excited,” I told him.

He tipped his head forward and scowled at me.

I lifted a hand and curled it around his neck, leaning close and sharing, “She’s happy.”

“He asks her out and comes on that bike to pick her up, I’m shooting him.”

I dropped my hand and leaned back, my brows lifting. “You own a firearm?”

“No,” he answered, turning his focus back to our soup. “But today, I’m buyin’ one.”

I let out a little giggle that I swallowed before it could bloom when Jake’s eyes cut to me.

“I’m not joking.”

“Okay, darling,” I said soothingly.

He looked back at the soup, muttering, “Fuck me.”

I jumped off the counter and put my purse back on the island, stating, “I’ll get drinks. What do you want?”

“Coke,” he answered.

I didn’t get him a Coke.

I moved to him, fit my front to his back, wrapped my arms around his stomach and put my chin to his shoulder blade, whereupon I whispered, “You’re a good dad.”

I gave him a squeeze, kissed his shoulder blade through his shirt, let him go and got him his Coke.

But when I turned away from the fridge, I saw he didn’t look quite so aggravated anymore.

And thus, I figured I’d appropriately handled my man.

So I smiled.

* * * * *

“And he was all, Combat Raptor is lame. So I was all, and Zombie Mayhem wasn’t? And he was all, Zombie Mayhem was the bomb. And I was all, there’s no such thing as zombies. And he was all, like men can turn into jets? And I was all, duh, Transformers…? And he was all, Transformers are robots.”

This was coming from Ethan who was, for some unknown reason, lying upside down on Gran’s couch, his feet over the back, his head dangling over the seat.

Amber was painting her nails in Gran’s armchair.

We’d just had dinner (and dessert) that I’d prepared, but for some reason, Conner was in the other armchair eating the chips and salsa Ethan told me I had to buy when we took Pearl on the excruciatingly long (I reminded myself she did walk with a walker) trip to the grocery store that afternoon.

And by the by, I was right. Ethan knew Pearl. They liked each other a great deal and our afternoon was quite enjoyable (sans the excruciatingly long trip at the grocery store, of course).

Conner not only had chips and salsa but also a textbook opened on his thigh to which he was paying scant attention.

As for me, I’d been planted in the couch between the upside down Ethan and the right side up Jake.

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