“God, tell me one of these isn’t yours.”
Priority one was to get them away from Kimmi’s spewing venom. “Let’s go.” With a hand on the mother’s back, Matt guided her and her kids away from the patio. Away from the drunken crazy woman. Currently sleeping in his condo.
The little boy’s arms tightened around his neck and the sound of sandals tapped on the walkway. His senses narrowed to the woman beside him: The warmth of her skin seeping through the thin fabric; her delicate scent. The mere presence of her walking next to him.
When they were clear of the crowd, he stopped, turned, and was hit hard again by the beauty of the woman in front of him.
She reached to take her son, and the boy slid out of Matt’s arms and into hers.
“Thank you.” Her words were muffled in the boy’s hair.
He should say something. Apologize. But any words he might have spoken stuck in his throat like the worst MRE field ration, and before he could shake them loose, she was walking away.
Abby had just gotten the last child into bed when her cell phone rang. “Wild West Saloon. Sorry, we don’t deliver.”
“Very funny. What made you think it was me?”
“Because you’ve called me at exactly nine o’clock for the past three nights.” And her friend Angie was the only person who ever called her. Abby walked to the kitchen, poured herself a glass of milk, and grabbed some Oreos. “Did you set a call Abby alarm or something?”
“Honey, I set an alarm to pee.”
Abby laughed. Angelina Mancini was the closest thing Abby had to family. Third-generation Italian with wild, electrocuted hair, her first words to Abby had been whispered in a birthing class: Anyone who tells you they delivered naturally is a lying bitch and probably has a vagina you could drive a truck through.
For reasons Abby still didn’t understand, Angie and her husband, Joe, a firefighter from New Jersey, had latched on to her that night and didn’t let go. Even now, a year after their family had moved, Abby expected her friend’s calls to taper off, but they hadn’t. Not yet.
“Have you met anyone interesting?”
Sinking into the couch cushions, she sighed and put her feet up. “Are you going to ask me that every day?”
“No, I haven’t and I’m not looking.” Not ever going to be looking.
“Maybe it’s time you started.”
“Angie, please, I’m six months—”
“I know. You’re six months pregnant, you have four kids, you don’t need anyone, blah, blah, blah. I’ve heard it all before, and I think it’s a load of crap.”
Abby dunked her cookie. “Wow, someone’s in a mood.”
Angie ignored her. “You and I both know you could move on today, tomorrow, yesterday.”
“I have moved on, and I’m in a really good place.” But she understood what her friend was saying. If Josh hadn’t gone down in a plane crash six months ago, he still wouldn’t be with her. He’d be on another continent crunching numbers for billion-dollar clients. She’d come in a distant second. The kids hadn’t even made his list.
All the promises in the world hadn’t kept him from the next big deal. Hadn’t made him stay. But he was just the last in a long line of people to leave. And he would remain the last.
“Are you listening to me?”
“I hear you.”
“Hearing’s not the same as listening. I should make you look me in the eye when I’m talking to you, like I do Joe and the kids.”
“Pretty hard to do through the phone.”
Angie let out a frustrated sigh. “So, how are things going? I know you’re like mother extraordinaire and all, but I’m really sorry we bailed at the last minute.”
“It’s fine,” Abby said, rubbing her lower back. She wouldn’t say “extraordinaire,” though she tried. And she found the chaos oddly comforting.
“You’re so boring.”
“Okay, here’s something for you.” Abby recounted the fiasco at dinner and sipped her milk.
“Damn. Wish I’d been there.”
They were quiet for a moment, Angie probably daydreaming about a catfight, Abby thinking of Mr. Take Charge. She could have argued with him or protested, but that seemed stupid since she’d been about to leave anyway. Making waves had never been her style.
“Then what happened?”
Abby knew what Angie thought. All of it dirty. “What do you think happened? I left.”
“That’s it?” Angie sounded disappointed.
“No. We came back to my condo and had wild monkey sex while the kids watched a movie in the other room.”