Shooting upright in bed, I smacked the alarm quiet and assured the four walls around me, “I’m up. I’m up. I’m up.”
Rubbing the sleep from my eyes, I felt my slept in ponytail hanging at a somewhat painful angle, but couldn’t be bothered to do anything about it yet. I also couldn’t remember the last time I’d slept until my alarm went off.
Like at all.
Hell, it must’ve been before Jason had been born.
Wide awake now, I shot out of bed and skittered across the hallway to his room, thinking he must’ve cried himself into a coma when I hadn’t woken with him in the middle of the night.
“He’s gone!” I shrieked at the four walls around me.
His crib was empty except for the fitted bedsheet, so I hightailed it downstairs, taking them two at a time and landed at the bottom just as the front door opened.
And then I remembered I was now sharing my house with Captain Cocoa Puffs.
He was certainly making me cuckoo.
And he was…sweating, like one of those hot guys in those stupid Axe commercials.
Only the sweat had nothing to do with his hot.
Not from where I was standing.
We’d had one last awkward encounter after arriving back home the night before, with me putting an already sleeping Jason down in his room before taking my briefs back to my room to work on.
Before I ended up trying to work on his briefs.
Work them off of him.
Not that I’d gotten much work done on either front.
How could I when I was cuckoo for Captain Cocoa Puffs?
Trying to focus on anything but the way his skin shone, like an oiled up Olympic athlete from Tonga, the happy squeal coming from the stroller in front of him helped me do that.
“You bought a jogging stroller?”
Had he walked to the 24-hour Wal-Mart carrying Jason, only so he could run home with him in the stroller?
At least it was better than asking him where he was hiding Tonga’s flag.
“No,” he smiled, with a slight furrow at the top of his stupidly sexy face.
Nobody’s face should be that sexy, especially at ass o’clock in the morning.
“You bought a stroller,” he repeated, but without the questioning tone. “Or someone did. It was in the back of your SUV with the regular one.”
“Nuh uh,” I denied, even though he could be right.
Like my hamper, I’d never gotten around to emptying everything out of the back of my SUV after the surprise baby shower they’d held for me at work.
Everyone had been just as surprised as me at finding out I was expecting.
Not that they knew we’d shared that particular shocker.
“Uh huh,” he grinned.
But seeing his eyes trailing down my body gave me reason to suspect his grin wasn’t just from being impressed at my less than impressive argumentative skills.
Give me a break.
It was ass o’clock.
But it was then that I remembered something.
That I’d forgotten something.
To put on pants.
In my rush to Meryl Streep about the dangers of dingoes in suburban neighborhoods, I hadn’t stopped to put on pants.
Meryl Streep wouldn’t have stopped to put on pants.
She didn’t have a bazillion Oscars for nothing.
So I Meryl’d as best I could, acting like I wasn’t embarrassed to be standing there in nothing but a pair of Captain America underpants and my Nelson & Murdock Attorneys at Law t-shirt.
They were both from the Marvel comics, so they matched.
In Universe, at least, if not in color.
And I hearted me some Matt Murdock big time.
My handsome unseeing Daredevil would defend me.
Both in a court of law and with a kickass baton.
Jason let out another happy squeal, so I focused on him and not the goosebumps rising up on my bare legs or the Captain Under Armour and his Pectorals That Would Be My Doom that had caused them, asking, “Did he wake you?”
Usually I was a pretty light sleeper and heard any little noise coming through the baby monitor. Mostly it was a holdover from when he’d first been born and I’d been terrified of, well…everything. And none of the other nannies had lived with me, so Jason’s care had fallen exclusively to me during the night.
I probably should’ve mentioned that to him the night before. The last thing I needed was for him to be overwhelmed by my underwhelming parenting skills.
Even if that was why I’d hired a nanny in the first place.
“No,” he breathed out. “But he was awake when I went to check on him, so I figured I’d take him along on my run with me.”
He wasn’t panting exactly, but it was enough that I could hear him breathing.
It was enough to give me ideas.
Ones that began with John Lennon and ended with John Legend.
But A Tale of Two Johns sounded more like the name of Heidi Fleiss’s memoirs, so I was grateful when he changed the subject by saying, “I noticed the garage around back. Do you mind if I put my motorcycle in there?”
The image of him on that motorcycle was now burned into my spank bank forever.
I almost wished I’d hallucinated all of it.
Him. The bike.
The entirety of the conversation that had led to us going to get it.
What in the hell was I thinking?
Since my brain was currently in the process of making a withdrawal from my spank bank, he took my silence to mean something else and said, “If not, that’s okay too. I can just leave it in the driveway and put the cover on it.”
“No,” I disagreed.
Whether or not it was from him getting the wrong idea or from him interrupting my wrong ideas of him, I couldn’t say.
At least not under oath.
“Sorry,” I added – for a lot of things, really – so I shook it off and said, “Still sleepy I guess, but it’s fine. I don’t mind if you park your…bike in there.”
Turning around so he wouldn’t see me give myself a small high five for not calling it his sexy, I headed into the kitchen to pop a K-cup into the Keurig – because who has time to brew a whole pot of coffee – and grabbed a bowl to make Jason’s cereal.
I heard him come into the kitchen a moment later, but I kept my eyes on what I was doing and said, “I won’t be leaving for another hour or so, so you can go and do your thing until then.”
Do your thing?
Why, brain? Why?
Staring down at the bowl of rice cereal that was starting to congeal now that I’d stopped stirring it, visions of him doing his thing –would he use his right hand or his left – disappeared and I nearly dropped the spoon hearing his voice coming from right behind me saying, “Do. My. Thing?”
Feeling the heat coming off him warming my bare legs, reminded me I still wasn’t wearing any pants.
How did I keep forgetting that?
I must’ve been channeling Meryl Streep like a boss.
But he must’ve been holding Jason in his right arm because his left hand appeared on that side, grabbing onto the bowl, just as a baby-sized hand smacked the right side of my head.
But any sense that had been knocked back into me disappeared when I turned around and he was right there.
Was there bacon cooking on the stove?
Something was sizzling in the kitchen.
My brain was starting to congeal no matter how much my libido was stirring that pot. So it was a good thing Jason chose that moment to slap me across the face, like even he knew I’d needed it.
Seeing Captain Take My Breath Away inhale deeply reminded me my lungs could do with a little air themselves – though it did nothing to alleviate the lightheadedness I was feeling – and he took a step back, turning to Jason and gently chiding him with, “Not cool, little man.”
I’d been thinking good boy.
But I felt a little of what he’d been talking about when I watched him put the bowl on the table, so he could strap Jason into the highchair.
Holy Deltoids, Batman!
How his muscles flexed or what the sight of them did to me.
“You can go and get cleaned up,” I heard him say.
Could he tell?
That I was leaking?
Remembering yet again that I wasn’t wearing pants, it was a distinct possibility. So I slammed my thighs together and nearly tipped into the countertop from the force of it.
But looking back at him, he wasn’t wearing his sister’s trademarked ‘It’s leaking’ grimace. Instead he was making silly faces at the baby to make him laugh, so he could shove the spoonful of cereal into his open mouth.
The sight of it only made me leak more.
“Okay,” I heard myself breathe out.
Not just to his suggestion, but to spending a little quality time with my pulsing showerhead.
Darting from the room before I left a puddle on the floor, I darted back to grab my cup of coffee and took off again. By the time I came back downstairs I was feeling better.
My pulsing showerhead had played an instrumental role in assisting the return of my sanity.
But that only lasted until I reached the foyer and glanced into the living room, hearing Jason’s laughter.
What I saw?
It was no laughing matter.
Lying on his back on top of a baby blanket, he was punching and kicking up in the air at Captain Combustible, who was doing pushups over the top of him and counting them off in a silly voice.
And he was shirtless.
My brain was malfunctioning, unable to compute ‘bare back > shirt’ because he’d Justin Timberlaked the hell out his tight Under Armour. But now all I could think about was another type of bareback I wanted to experience with him.
And it had nothing to do with his sexy back.
If I wasn’t waxed down there, there would be a brush fire down below because any lubricant to be found was now an accelerant.
Maybe I could call out of work?
Surely having your panties explode warranted a sick day.
“And ah twenty-TWO!”
Catching movement in my peripheral, I hoped she would attribute my reddened face to the pushups I’d been doing and not at being caught doing my impersonation of Sesame Street’s The Count.
If I was going to be a vampire, I would be the kind wanting to sink my teeth into her.
Among other things.
After seeing how uncomfortable she’d been when we’d gotten back to the house the night before, I had a long talk with myself about what was acceptable behavior.
Because I certainly hadn’t been showing any.
She was a young single woman, living on her own and trying to raise a child, virtually on her own. There had been enough clues, both verbal and nonverbal, for me to draw my own conclusions about the previous help.
Other than taking care of the baby, they didn’t seem to help her out much at all.
The last thing she needed was some Neanderthal making inappropriate comments and making her life even more difficult than it already was.
I needed to keep myself in check.
And she needed to wear some goddamn pants around the house to help me do that.
I only had so much restraint.
And I’d used all of it to act unaffected, but really…
Help a guy out.
Lowering down to my knees from the plank position I’d been holding, I swept the baby up into my arms and asked, “Leaving?”
One word questions were my friend right now, seeing her all dolled up to go to work. It was a directive I should’ve employed earlier, when I’d all but boxed her in from behind against the kitchen counter and repeated her words of ‘doing my thing’.
Even if I’d said them in a way that made them single words, it hadn’t taken away from what I’d wanted her to infer from the three of them strung together.
If she kept walking around in nothing but a t-shirt and underwear, it wouldn’t take very long for me to need a little me time to do my thing.
Imagining her doing my thing.
It wouldn’t take very long at all.
The doing or the duration it would take to finish me off.
It was totally unacceptable behavior.
So maybe I could take a Sharpie to every pair of underwear she owned and write ‘NO!” across the ass.
I would need the reminder if she kept walking around without any pants on.
“Right,” she replied. “Leaving. I am.” And then looking a little flustered, she added, “Now.”
Remembering I didn’t have her cell number in case I needed to get ahold of her, I stopped her from leaving just yet by saying, “We should probably trade numbers.”
Temporarily blinded in the next second, I blinked the spots away to see her smirking at the cell phone in her hand and asked, “Did you just take my picture?”
“What?” she asked indignantly, turning her still smirking eyes to meet mine. “I needed a contact photo.”
“You still need a contact name, Miss Leibowitz?” I guessed, already knowing Annie was a no-go from my Annie Warbucks guess the night before.
“Sorry, Alexander?” she squinted questioningly.
Seeing the shake of my head she mumbled what sounded like Graham Bell, as she walked towards me to trade me the baby in my arms for her phone.
Looking down at the new contact she’d just entered into it, I didn’t know what to bring up first.
The fact the picture of me was just the area between my neck and waist or the name she’d typed in to go with my number.
Shaking my head, I began entering my number and heard myself say, “I wasn’t an officer when I was in the service.”
“That doesn’t matter,” she chuckled, before pressing her lips against the baby’s cheek.
Shrugging, I sent myself a text from her phone, so I would have her number too and swapped with her again, asking, “So will you be home around seven tonight?”
She’d gotten home a little earlier than that the night before, but I wanted to know so I could plan on having dinner ready for when she arrived.
“Maybe earlier,” she answered, grabbing her keys from the little table by the door that had been littered with junk mail the day before.
All of it had been addressed to ‘Resident’, so I hadn’t gotten any clues as to what her name was.
Staring at the keys in her hand, she added distractedly, “We’re far enough along that we’ll be resting our case sometime late this morning or early afternoon, so the judge will probably call recess until Monday.”
I’d forgotten it was Friday, since I hadn’t had much of a schedule to keep lately.
I really needed to work on my game face – and faulty filter – if we were going to be spending all weekend together.
Focusing back on her, I watched her take a deep breath before detaching a single key from the ring and handing over the rest to me, as she said, “You can use the SUV if you need to go anywhere. I’ll take the other car.”
“The other car?”
The question had been automatic, but there was something obviously bothering her about it. Before I could ask what it was, she gestured for me to follow her outside and over to the garage, where she entered a code into the pin pad attached to the side, with the door sliding open a second later.
After seeing the state of her house the day before, I expected to find it filled to the brim with who knows what.
What was actually inside was not what I was expecting.
“This is the other car?”
My voice had been equal parts astonished and – quite frankly – turned on. The way she’d said the other car, I honestly thought there’d be an old beat up Malibu or the like.
This…this was no beat up Malibu, even if it came from the same Chevrolet family.
Sitting all alone in the garage was a pristine 1963 Corvette Stingray in Riverside Red.
Yes. I knew the original factory colors.
I had a lot of them and in every color of the rainbow.
“Yeah,” she sighed. “It was my grandfather’s pride and joy. And then my dad’s. And then…”
Trailing off for a few seconds too long, I looked over in time to see her swallow, with her eyes turning glassy, just as she ended with, “Well, it’s mine now.”
Taking a deep breath, she seemed to set aside whatever it was causing her to look that way and smiled, gesturing at the baby in my arms and added, “I can’t drive around with him in it. No backseat. So you can use the SUV and I’ll just…I’ll just drive this.”
The way she’d said it made it sound like it would be a chore.
I both wanted to ask and didn’t because no matter how curious I was to know the answer, something in her expression told me it was a painful story.
So I kept quiet and silently waited as she opened the passenger’s side door. Tossing her luggage inside, she then gestured to the open area behind her adding, “Your bike can go in here.”
She was already in the car and backing out of the garage by the time I had the presence of mind to return her small wave goodbye, but for the rest of the morning her odd demeanor ate at me.
Which only served to remind me she hadn’t eaten anything for breakfast, while I’d been eating mine.
Cookie Brick Shithouse – or so my contact name for her number now read – was pretty shit at taking care of herself.
But not knowing what she normally did for lunch during the day didn’t stop me from dropping by her office unannounced, with the baby in tow.
Pam wasn’t at her desk when I arrived, so I just stood there with the baby in my arms waiting for one of them to show up. Cookie had mentioned her case coming to a close sometime around then, so I hoped to talk her into going out to lunch with us.
If nothing, letting her spend time with the baby during the day would be good for both of them.
It wasn’t long before I heard her voice coming down the hall and turning to face the sound, she came into view seconds later.
With Foghorn Leghorn at her side, if his voice was anything to go by.
Or maybe he was a young Colonel Sanders?
Either way, chickens were involved.
“Hey you,” she greeted us with a smile.
One that was doing totally unacceptable things to me.
But that was okay because I would deal, if only to keep bringing a smile to her face like that one.
Equal parts sexy and sweet.
Because seeing how sad she’d been that morning had done other things to me.
Things I refused to accept.
Coming to stand in front of us, she grabbed onto the baby’s hand and blew a raspberry into his palm, making him squeal in delight.
And then suddenly looking evilly delighted herself, she gave me the briefest chance to see it before turning to face the man looking back and forth between us and saying, “This is…Jason’s new caregiver.”
And then without missing a beat – even if she was missing a name to go with her introduction – she gestured at possibly the only man alive to know why the chicken crossed the road, and said, “My co-counsel.”
We’re playing name that nanny now, are we?
He looked positively aghast – a look, up until that moment, I had been positive wasn’t possible outside of a Jane Austen novel – and wasted no time in thrusting his hand out, as he said, “Bill Compton.”
Obviously waiting for the tit-for-tat to take place, I only smiled and offered, “Pleased to meet you.”
Then giving her a look that said it all, I smiled at her playfully narrowed eyes, before releasing his hand and jutting my chin at the empty desk beside us, while adding, “I’m Pam’s brother.”
Pam’s brother and on to her petty games.
Although I still hadn’t figured out why she had me down as The Captain in her cell phone.