Authors: Christine Ardigo
Cheating to Survive
The Fix It or Get Out Series
Published by the author as a member of the
Alexandria Publishing Group
Cheating to Survive
Copyright 2014 by Christine Ardigo
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system without the written permission of the author, except for the use of brief quotations in a book review. This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events of locales is entirely coincidental.
First Edition, May 2014
Cover Design by Kellie Dennis at Book Cover by Design
Interior Book Design by RikHall.com
Author’s photo by LimPuiu Photography
Editing by Nick Soave and Keith Marder
I have a few special people I would like to thank.
My incredible cover designer, Kellie Dennis. I knew as soon as I saw a few of her covers that she was the only one for me.
Rik Hall, my wonderful formatter, who guided me through the process and answered all my questions with a great sense of humor.
Colleen Jackson, Adrian Iorizzo and Jennifer Ammoscato, for all their insights. Without their intuition, the book would have begun very differently.
My editors Nick Soave and Keith Marder, for all the time they spent making this book even better than I could imagine.
I would like to give a tremendous thank you to my co-worker Colleen Jackson. Not only did she listen to me talk about my writing journey every day for almost two years, but not once did she complain or grumble. Instead, she encouraged me further, supported me every step of the way and seemed as excited as I was for every new milestone I achieved. There aren’t many friends like that in the world.
Dedicated to my silly daughters, Ashley and Autumn.
Never say the word “Can’t.”
He was way too hot to be a dad. His leather jacket caught her eye, the biker boots, the black wavy hair. He pushed a young boy on the park swing. His nephew? A younger brother perhaps? No, no. Did it matter, though? She still wanted to grab him by the collar and toss him onto the slide. Climb on top and smash her lips into his. Ease her hand up his ribbed T-shirt, straddle him and then–
“Mommy, look how high I am!”
Heather Milanesi snapped out of her daydream and turned her attention to Rori, her four-year-old daughter. Rori stood at the top entrance of the crawl tunnel, just after the wobbly bridge. “Wow, so high.” She strolled towards Rori but her peripheral vision remained on sexy-dad, who hopped on the swing next to the small boy.
Laurel and Gia, her pre-teens, chased one other and dumped woodchips down the fronts of each other’s sweatshirts. If they ran a bit further away, Heather could join them and get a better look at him. Nothing like a little ‘wood chip down the shirt’ fun to end the rousing day.
Heather inched toward the wild and hysterical girls, grabbed a handful of chips and then–
“Mommy, where you going? You’re not watching me.”
Heather smiled at Rori and waved her hand. “I am. Just keeping an eye on your sisters, too.” The wood chips left her palm and trickled onto the weedy dirt.
Hot-dad swung high. His boots reached the clouds and the boy giggled, attempting to kick his feet just as high.
The man let go, landed almost eight feet away, and tumbled onto his hands and knees. God he
hot. Visions of her mounting him on the swing, legs wrapped around his rugged jeans, their lips inches apart…no, their clothes needed to be off.
It was something she had dreamed of doing when she was twenty-four. With
. Maybe sexy-dad reminded Heather of
What was she thinking? She had turned forty this year. Much too old for hot-dad. Was she? She could be a cougar. Maybe he’d like that. Maybe he wasn’t even the pocket-sized boy’s dad.
Wait, wait, wait, she was married! What the hell was she plotting, especially with her three daughters only yards away?
“Mommy! Lookit, I can run across the wobbly bridge now, I couldn’t do it last year.” Rori tiptoed across the bridge holding the chain link railing as she tottered along.
Heather should be paying attention to her daughter, not him. She strolled back to the playground and ran up the tall metal slide only grabbing the sides once. “I’m going to get you,” Heather hollered. She crouched under the red roof and hopped down a step. Rori screamed and bolted to the curvy slide. Before Heather could reach her, she slid down, plopped onto the ground and took off. Toward her sisters. Toward sexy-dad.
“I’m coming after you!” Heather rounded the corner, ducked under the bridge and kept her eye on her dream.
Leather jacket guy picked the boy up and tossed him high into the air. Laurel, the older of the two, wrestled Gia to the ground and sat on her. Gia struggled to free herself. Rori scuttled to her big sisters while Heather gained speed. Rori leaped onto the pile and Gia let out a whoosh of breath.
“Ow, get off, get off. Both of you!” Gia kicked her feet and wriggled to her side.
Heather slowed her sprint and tried hard not to look at the hot man before her. He held the boy close to his chest but examined the tight
Josie and the Pussycats
T-shirt she wore.
She should scold them, act like a responsible mother in front of the little boy, but Heather was far from law-abiding herself. She smirked, bent over, and grabbed two handfuls of wood chips.
Gia’s eyes widened. “Get off me. Get off me now!”
Heather took one hand, stuffed it down Gia’s shirt, and then with the other, reached for Laurel’s, missed and then managed to shove a few down the front of her pants. Rori clutched a mere four or five pieces in her tiny hand and chucked it, but the wind grabbed them, whisking the chips over her head.
Heather laughed and kneeled down in front of her three incredible daughters. They were hers. Forever. How lucky could one mom be?
Laurel released Gia and although their different personalities clashed at times, their need for retaliation combined perfectly now. The two of them pounced on Heather before she had a chance to retreat. With their mom pinned beneath, they reached for some chips, but secured the dirty sand as well, and shoved it down their mother’s shirt.
She rolled over and lurched up, the gritty dirt clung to her hands, dust spewed from Heather’s mouth. She wiped it with her hand and pretended to look for Rori, but caught the guys inviting gaze instead.
The small child clasped his hands before him, a huge grin covered the entire lower half of his face. Sexy-dad tilted his head, smiled and winked.
An electrical jolt trickled across her chest. She plucked at her shirt and removed the final pieces of wood chips, hiding her trembling fingers. Rori picked up two chips and attempted to continue to game that was officially over. They flew four inches and hit Laurel’s sneaker.
“Looks like fun,” he said.
“Well, we love to come here on the weekends and– ”
“Our mom’s not normal,” Gia interrupted. She twirled her finger around her ear explaining her mother’s behavior.
“Normal’s no fun,” he said.
“No fun indeed,” she agreed. God, she’d like to show him what she thought fun was. How about ditching the kids and having sex on the wobbly bridge? “Bridge,” she blurted out.
“What?” he squinted, confused.
Heather flinched. “I…I like the…bridge. It’s one of our favorites.” What an idiot. She was having problems talking to someone half her age.
Laurel observed her mom’s lack of verbal skills around the boy. She meant man! Yes, a man. He was of age, right? Yes, definitely over the required age of eighteen.
Laurel shook her head. What was Heather teaching her soon to be thirteen year old about engaging with the opposite sex? Hot-dad had more composure than she.
“The bridge is cool,” he said. “Max loves it too, although he’s a little s-c-a-r-e-d.”
Heather pictured hot-dad and herself on the bridge, in the dark, naked. A branch cracking under a passersby’s footstep. That would be scary.
“Your son will love it by the end of the summer.”
“Oh, he’s not my son, he’s my sister’s kid. Geez Louise, I’m only in my first year of college.”
Uck. Was he even eighteen? Heather’s intestines joined together and began kicking her abdomen. Five years without sex was really playing games with her head.
“Mom, can we go?” Laurel whined.
“Yes, we should be going. Nice meeting you…and you too Max.” Heather snatched Rori, cradled her in her arms and made a beeline for her Jeep.
Laurel hopped in the front, Gia in the back and Heather helped Rori with her car seat’s buckle. Heather’s phone buzzed from the floor mat beneath. Ugh. She hated her phone. She only used it to keep track of the girls and they were all here with her now. Who could it be? Who else? Her mother-in-law and another one of her harassing texts.
No wonder Lance always complains about your cooking.
You’re too busy playing at the park instead of preparing a wholesome dinner for him.
Heather clicked delete and tossed it on the floor by Laurel’s feet. An awesome weekend ruined by her again, and only another horrible day at work to look forward to tomorrow. Maybe she could pitch a tent in the park and live there with her daughters. Hide from all the crap.
Or maybe she should have flirted with college boy. Lied and said she was divorced. They could have met up later tonight at the park and talked about…term papers? Fake ID’s? How wasted he got last night at a dorm party? Pitiful.