“Looks like Daddy’s giving you a promotion today.”
“You want me; I’m only dealing with you. Take it or leave it.”
She exhaled. “If you think you’re gonna push me around like I’m—”
“You better run to Daddy and give him the good news.” I glanced to the doorway leading into the showers. “Unless this agency would like to become full-service?”
Piper glowered. Insulted, of course, but also shocked. Like no one had ever propositioned her before. I found it hard to believe a woman as beautiful as Piper hadn’t taken her fill from some lucky son of a bitch.
“If I take you as a client, we’re doing this my way,” she said.
I unknotted the towel. “Sure, we will.”
“No inappropriate behavior.”
I dropped it to the floor. “Wouldn’t dream of it.”
Piper’s gaze glued to the ceiling. “No innuendos.”
“Don’t even know the meaning of the word.”
“And you will be signing that waiver because you know a trade is the best choice for you.”
I did like a challenge. “I’ve never done anything in my best interests.”
“Yes, you have, Mr. Hawthorne.”
“And what’s that?”
She stalked before me, kneeling down to pick up the towel so very near my hard cock. She said nothing as she folded the terrycloth and pushed it into my chest.
“You hired me.”
My day started at six in the morning with a dirty diaper and agitated toddler. Still, the shit at work was much worse, all slung by coworkers crankier than my baby.
Rose was an angel compared to the other agents in the sports-bro office. I’d been harassed, hit on, berated, and blamed for the mishandling of one of our biggest clients…all before lunch.
For so long, I’d imagined myself working and studying and living in a world of academia and literature. My accidental pregnancy closed that particular chapter of my life. Still, a new dream took its place.
So many people spent their lives wishing for their own Once Upon A Time. They chased godmothers and princes and searched for that magical moment when all their problems melted away. Well, as far as I was concerned, I already had my happily ever after.
Rose was sixteen months of feisty energy, twenty pounds of squirmy love, eight teeth of a goofy smile, and ten fingers that waved to me when I finally got to pick her up after a long day at work.
My baby was every bit the fairy tale remedy I needed.
Sleeping Beauty slept for a hundred years—with Rose, I only had to worry about four to six hours at a time. Snow White choked on an apple—Rose preferred bananas. Cinderella lost her slipper—who could keep shoes on a toddler without superglue?
Rose showed off a brand new band-aid on her forehead. She pointed to it with a goofy grin and squealed. Both it and her pudgy dark cheeks begged for a kiss.
I settled her at my hip and turned to Mrs. Potter. Rose’s nanny was a wonderful woman, a friend of the family for years. Mrs. Potter was the eternal grandma I remembered as chubby and gray even when I was a kid. She still seemed as vivacious twenty years later.
“Uh-oh!” Rose pointed two unsteady fingers at the band-aid. “Uh-oh!”
“I see that.” I smoothed the twin, puff-ball pigtails on her head. “What’d you do this time, Rosie?”
She answered with a spit-bubble, sneeze, and I was pretty sure she peed. She did her best to welcome her momma home with a flourish.
Mrs. Potter gathered her things and chuckled through her exhaustion. “She likes to run, run, run…but she hasn’t learned how to stop yet.”
“A wall or couch usually helps,” I said, tickling under Rose’s chin. “Or a tush on the floor.”
“Well, today she banged her head off the coffee table. Nothing serious.”
“It’ll match the bruise on her knee.”
Mrs. Potter sighed. “And elbow.”
“Surprise, surprise, I made an uncoordinated baby.”
I held Rose out, searching her over as she sputtered, coo’ed, and regaled me with the tales of her day the only way she could.
Still hadn’t learned where to end the word mama, but I was pretty sure it was a calculated plot. Instead of calling my name, Rose blitzed through the syllables until I paid sufficient attention to her.
“Tell me she’ll get a bit more stable when she’s older.” I glanced to Mrs. Potter. “I know I’m a klutz, but maybe she has a chance?”
“Let’s focus on getting her through one afternoon without a boo-boo.”
If only. Every day was an adventure with a baby—especially when I raised her alone and discovered all her peculiarities by myself. Peas were good. Socks were bad. Running in the grass was fantastic. She loved a bath, but hated being chilly after. Still, the most surprising trait of a toddler? They were quite bouncy. Rose spent her days devising new and unique ways to try to kill herself.