Authors: Kristen Proby
Tags: #Romance, #1001 Dark Nights, #Kristen Proby, #Boudreaux, #New Orleans
“We are all on dates!” Hailey exclaims happily.
“So just us, then?”
“Just us,” I confirm. I call ahead to the pizza place, ordering a small cheese and a large combo, looking forward to going home and enjoying these two people.
“Did I tell you that I have a boyfriend?” Hailey asks about an hour later when we’re sitting at the table, eating our pizza.
“No, you didn’t,” I reply and wink at Adam, whose face looks shell-shocked.
“You’re five,” he says.
“And a half,” Hailey replies haughtily.
“Who is this boy?” I ask, enjoying the utter surprise coming from Adam.
“Buster?” I ask. “His name is Buster?”
“Yep,” she smiles and takes a bite of her pizza. “And he’s the tallest boy in my class.”
class,” Adam clarifies, making me laugh into my napkin.
“He’s supposed to be in the first grade, but he had to take ’garten again,” Hailey says as if it’s no big deal.
“And he’s tall.”
“What is he like?” I ask.
“I don’t know.” Hailey shrugs. “He’s tall.”
“Have you ever actually talked to him?”
I nod, smiling at Adam, who has calmed with the news that my five-year-old isn’t necessarily attending the prom with this kid.
“His friend told my friend Lisa that he wants to be my boyfriend, and I told her to tell him okay.”
“But I’ll probably dump him,” she says.
“Why?” Adam asks, thoroughly intrigued now with the soap opera that is my child’s
“Because he wore a green shirt today.”
She stares at him for a minute, blinking. “Green is ugly.”
“And there it is,” Adam says to me. “I’ve just been schooled on dating by a kid.”
“Don’t wear green,” I reply with a laugh. “That would be risky around here.”
“No more green,” he agrees and smiles at Hailey. “What about blue?”
“Blue is okay for boys. But not girls.”
“Good to know.”
“She’s a dating
fashion expert,” I inform him. “She’s basically five going on thirty.”
“I see that,” he says, laughing, and I can’t stop looking at him. He’s a big man, broad and tall, but his face is kind, and he’s gentle with both Hailey and me.
Until I don’t want him to be gentle, and then he seems to know just how to touch then too.
He’s dangerous for my libido and my heart. Especially since he doesn’t do forever.
I’d do well to remember that.
“You okay?” he asks, shaking me out of my thoughts.
“Great.” I clear my throat. “I think it’s time for bath and bed.”
“I don’t need a bath,” Hailey says with a smile. “I took one last night.”
“Why do kids try so hard to avoid bath time?” I ask the room at large. “Trust me. You need a bath.”
Hailey grumbles, but I stand firm. “We will only be a little while. Do you want to stay?”
“I’m staying,” he says, catching my wrist in his hand and pulling me into his lap, kissing me soundly right in front of my daughter, who giggles with delight. “I want to make out with you on the couch after a certain someone is asleep,” he whispers in my ear.
“Good plan,” I whisper back and usher Hailey into the bathroom. Once she’s washed clean and in fresh pajamas, I hug her close and breathe her in. There’s still a touch of her sweet baby smell left, and I want to savor it for every minute I still have it.
She’s growing way too fast.
“Shall we read you a story?” I ask.
“I want Adam to read it,” she replies. “Please?”
“Go ask him,” I reply and watch her run out of the bathroom. I’m cleaning up the mess from bath time when they walk past toward her bedroom.
“I’ll be out soon,” Adam says.
“Three stories!” Hailey exclaims.
“One story,” I reply and turn to Adam. “Stand firm on that. Otherwise, she’ll take advantage of you every chance she gets. Trust me.”
“Got it.” He winks and lets Hailey lead him away, her small hand tucked in his.
With Becca gone, and Adam reading to Hailey, that gives me approximately fifteen minutes to myself. I don’t remember the last time that happened, and frankly, I don’t know what to do with myself.
I sit on the couch and turn on the TV, but am at a loss as to what to watch. So I switch it off again and check my phone for e-mails and then my social media.
I don’t know how I feel about Adam joining in on the everyday routine. I’ve been a single mom for a long time, taking care of everything on my own. And I’ve done a good job of it. I know that. Sharing it with someone new is…unsettling. Sharing my daughter with him is new.
Do I want this? Do I want Adam to walk into my life and merge into our lane of traffic? Because that’s exactly what it feels like. That he’s just effortlessly merged into our lane of traffic.
Finally, I stand and walk to Hailey’s bedroom, and lean on the doorway watching. Hailey is tucked under the covers, but she’s sprawled across Adam’s chest, watching the pages of
Beauty and the Beast
as Adam reads them. His voice rises and falls with the rhythm of the book, and to my surprise, he changes the pitch of his voice with each character, acting out the book perfectly. Hailey laughs, then sighs, watching Adam’s face now as he reads, and I can see it all over her sweet, little face.
She’s falling in love with him.
And if the truth be told, I think I am too.
I want this? As I watch this confirmed bachelor with my little girl, everything inside me says
Yes I want this. I don’t know for sure where it’s going to lead, but it feels damn good right now.
I walk away, letting them read in peace. In another ten minutes, Adam walks out of Hailey’s room, shaking his head and smiling wide.
“She’s knocked out,” he says and sits next to me on the couch, pulling me to him. He nudges my face up so he can kiss me, long and deep.
“For someone who claims to be a confirmed bachelor, you’re sure good with my kid.”
He wants honesty? I’ll give it to him. But rather than floundering, he just kisses my forehead and tucks me next to him.
“I told you before, sugar, you and your kid don’t scare me.
surprises me,” he says, offering honesty of his own. “But I’m not going anywhere.”
For how long?
I don’t have the guts to ask him that question, and instead I make a vow to enjoy him, to enjoy this, for as long as it lasts.
The next afternoon, I’m stocking bottled beer behind the bar, lost in thought. At this time of day, business is slow, so my mind wanders.
And lately, it’s been wandering to a certain beautiful brunette.
“Why are you so chipper?”
My head whirls around at Callie’s voice. “I’m not chipper.”
“You’re whistling,” she says with a laugh and grabs a wet rag to wipe down the already clean bar. “You’re happy about something.”
“Why shouldn’t I be happy?” I counter and toss the empty crate to the side of the bar. “We have a great business and it’s a beautiful day.”
“And you’ve been spending a lot of time with a certain woman,” she says and raises a brow in my direction.
“Truth,” I reply and smile.
“She’s pretty,” Callie says thoughtfully. “And you said she has a child?”
“Yes, Hailey. She’s five.”
“How long has Sarah been divorced?”
I frown. “She’s not. She’s widowed.”
“Oh.” Callie frowns and looks down at the bar and then back at me. “I’m sorry to hear that.”
“Yeah. He was a cop, killed in the line of duty.”
“That’s horrible.” She leans on the bar and crosses her arms over her chest, watching me.
It’s not that I’ve been keeping Sarah and Hailey a secret. Not at all. I’ve been consumed by them. When I’m not here, I’m with them, and Callie has been in Nashville with her husband, Declan, while he produced a new album for a country singer.
I glance up to find her still staring at me.
“What?” I demand.
“You probably don’t want to hear this.”
“That’s never stopped you before,” I reply. “What’s on your mind?”
“You’d better not hurt her,” Callie says sternly. “Seriously, Adam, she’s…
“Bullshit.” I pace away, then turn back and brace my hands on my hips. “She’s not weak, Callie. She’s one of the strongest people I’ve ever met.”
“I’m not saying she’s weak,” she says, shaking her head. “But she has to be in a vulnerable place, Adam. She lost her husband violently and she has a young child to care for. Look at how lost and vulnerable my dad was after my mom died. I lost him completely.”
“This isn’t the same,” I insist. “Callie, she’s bright and full of life. She’s so fucking strong. She’s honest about her husband and what happened. She doesn’t hide it. She’s exactly the opposite of your dad. Besides, why are you sticking up for her? You don’t even know her.”
“I don’t have to know her to know that she’s special to have you all twisted into knots. You’ve been spending a lot of time with her, and you
do that. You haven’t even looked at another woman since you met her.”
“I like her.” I shrug. “She’s great.”
“And she has a kid,” she reminds me again.
“I like Hailey too.”
She pauses and watches me closely. “You’re pretty invested in this.”
“Yes. Sarah’s great, and she has an amazing little girl.”
“So what happens when you lose interest?” she asks, making me frown. “Because I know you, Adam Spencer, and you
lose interest. You always do. In the meantime, this strong, bright woman and her amazing child are falling in love with you. So I’m warning you, right now, do
“Who the fuck says I’m going to lose interest?” I lean on the bar, pissed now. I don’t even want to think about the
comment. Not yet. “I’m not a monster, Callie.”
“Not at all,” she agrees coolly. “But you are
And you play the field, at your own admission. You like variety. So just be careful with them and their feelings. If you decide that you want to commit to them, great. But if that’s not your plan, you need to seriously consider stepping back.”
Except she isn’t wrong.
She’s right. That has been my philosophy my whole adult life. Variety is the spice of life, and I’ve been unapologetic about it.
But I can’t imagine leaving Sarah and Hailey at this point. Jesus, I
time with them.
“Just keep it in your mind,” Callie replies. “But, for the record? I already like what she’s done for you. You’ve always been a happy man, but it’s different now. You seem…lighter. And you rarely whistle.”
I grin and wink at her.
“Also, the fact that the kid doesn’t have you running in the other direction has my interest piqued.” She steps to me and presses her hand against my forehead. “Are you sick? Have you caught a bug?”
“No.” I laugh and duck out of her reach. “I don’t know for sure what it is, but it makes me happy.”
“Then I’m happy too,” Callie says with a grin. “But if you break their hearts, I will cut your dick off and throw it in the blender.”
* * * *
“Hi, handsome,” Sarah says as she sits at the bar and tosses me a sexy-as-fuck smile.
“Well hello there, gorgeous.” I look her up and down and have to resist the urge to pull her into my office, strip her naked, and fuck her hard and fast.
Her curvy body is hugged in the most revealing black top I’ve seen her in, and I’m happy to assume she’s wearing it to make me crazy.
Because it’s working.
She’s always dressed with style, but I notice that lately she’s been buying clothes that hug her curves. It’s sexy as hell that her confidence is growing.
“I thought I’d come in and see you in action,” she says with a wink. “And I could sure use a dirty martini.”
“Coming up,” I reply and see the tired lines around her eyes. “Rough day?”
“Rough day,” she replies with a sigh. “But I won’t bore you with the details.”
“Well, that’s what I’m here for.”
“Because you’re sleeping with me?” she asks bluntly and raises her chin.
“We’re not sleeping right now,” I remind her and then take her hand in mine and raise it over the bar so I can kiss her fingers, needing the contact with her. “Besides, I’m a bartender. People spill their guts to bartenders.”
She smiles softly and tucks her hair behind her ear. “True. Remember the client you met a few weeks ago, the day I met you?”
“Her husband is out of jail and he’s been harassing her, despite the restraining order, and me and everyone else he thinks he can terrorize.”
“Wait.” I hold up a hand, suddenly livid. “He’s been harassing you?”
“It’s typical,” she replies with a shrug and sips her drink. “I’m the enemy because I’m the one helping his wife leave him.”
“Does he know how to get to you?”
“He only knows where I work. We’re safe at home.” She looks down at her hands.
“Look at me,” I demand calmly, and she complies. “You’re sure you’re safe?”
“Perfectly safe, Adam. He doesn’t know where I live, and I’m armed at all times.”
I feel my jaw drop. “Seriously?”
“Absolutely. This can be a dangerous job, especially in the inner city. I have a concealed carry license, remember?”
Just when I thought I couldn’t be more impressed by her any more, she throws me a curve ball.
“Are you carrying now?”
She smirks. “You’ll never know.”
I crook my finger at her and lean over the bar, meeting her halfway, and press my lips to her ear. “Oh, I’ll know, sweetheart. I’ll know when I take you in my office and fuck you senseless on my desk.”
I pull away, and instead of the wide-eyed look that I’m expecting, she’s grinning from ear to ear.
I laugh despite the raging hard-on I already have and shake my head at her. “What am I going to do with you?”