The House Mate Page 2

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I nodded. “Something like that.”

“I’ll grab an Uber. You better get her put to bed,” Blondie said, fishing her phone out of her tiny denim shorts.

I inwardly groaned. Sex had been the only thing on my mind five minutes ago, and now it wasn’t going to happen. Maybe not ever again. I groaned once more.

“There,” she said, punching some buttons on her phone. “I’ll be out of your hair in five minutes.”

Blondie kissed my cheek again and went to wait outside on the porch while I tried not to have a panic attack. What in the fuck was I supposed to do now?

I made a pillow fort on my bed, blocking all the edges, and then attempted to get the baby out of her car seat. That five-point harness was serious. She was sleeping, not skydiving, but whatever. When she was finally free, I lifted her out and laid her down in the center of the bed. I’d take the guest room. The sheets were dusty in there, and I didn’t want her sleeping on them. I didn’t know much of anything about babies, but I knew their skin and lungs were probably more sensitive than my man-hide was.

Once she was settled, I opened the duffel bag that Jenn had dropped off with her. Inside was a fuzzy pink blanket, some tiny clothes, a sippy cup, diapers, wipes, and a folded sheet of paper. I opened the note and looked down at Jenn’s neat handwriting.

Max,

I know this comes as a surprise. I’m sorry to just dump her on you like this, but I know you can handle it. I know you thought you couldn’t, or maybe you just didn’t want the responsibility, but you’re the strongest man I know. You’ll be better at this than I was. I’m sure of it.

Her name is Dylan. She just turned one, her birthday was Sunday. She takes a nap after lunch and she loves baths. Thank you.

With love,

Jenn

I flipped the page over. That was it? There were no instructions? No manual, no nothing. I knew the running joke was that men didn’t read instructions, but believe me, these I would have at least glanced at.

The fact that Jenn had named her Dylan made something clench inside my chest. Bob Dylan was my favorite musician and Jenn knew that—she used to tease me about it. Said my taste in music was from another century. I realized that her choice in name was a way to pay homage to me. If she was willing to do that, then why keep the pregnancy from me? Why hide the fact that she was having my baby?

My gaze drifted back over to the baby . . . my daughter. That would take some getting used to.

I had no idea what I was going to do, but I hoped the morning would bring some clarity.

• • •

I heard the crunch of tires on my gravel driveway and looked out the front window. Thank God Tiffany’s here.

I was wired after three cups of coffee and had been pacing my living room for the past thirty minutes.

Tiffany had been my personal assistant for going on three years. She made sure all the bills got paid on time, the supplies were ordered for jobs, and most importantly, she kept me in line. She was a problem solver, and so even if this was supposed to be her day off, I needed her.

As usual, Tiffany let herself inside. “What’s going on?” she asked, toeing off her shoes at the front door. Working so closely together these last few years meant we were practically family. At least, that was how I viewed our relationship.

Before I could answer, her gaze landed on Dylan, who was sitting on my living room floor watching the Saturday morning cartoons just like I used to do as a kid. Only these weren’t the cartoons I remembered. They were too violent and had crude humor, so we’d have to work on finding something more suitable.

“Max?” Tiffany said, her voice rising like my name was a question.

“Yeah. I know. You better sit down.”

Her brows jumped and she lowered herself onto the couch, her gaze still on the little girl. “Is she . . . yours?”

“Yes.”

Tiffany swallowed. “Jenn?”

She knew all about my failed attempt at a relationship. In fact, Tiffany had even played the role of a rebound at one point. After my breakup with Jenn, Tiffany had kissed me at our company Christmas party and had grabbed the front of my jeans, or rather, what was inside. And for the next ninety seconds, I’d let myself think with my dick—towing her into my office and kissing her back. But then I’d come to my senses. I’d let her down carefully, wanting to preserve our working relationship.

Rubbing a hand over the back of my neck, I sighed. “She dropped her off last night. Said she couldn’t do it anymore.”

Tiffany placed her hand over her chest. “Wow. I’m going to need something stronger than coffee this morning,” she joked.

I sat down on the couch beside her. “You know I’m not good about asking for help.”

“No, you’re not. But you’re going to need it.”

I nodded again.

“Whatever you need, Max. I’m here.”

I swallowed, scrubbing a hand over my face. My gaze wandered down to Dylan, who was still absorbed in the show. I’d changed her diaper when she woke up this morning, given her dry Cheerios and filled her sippy cup with milk. She’d watched me curiously while I drank my coffee, but she didn’t cry and didn’t ask for her mama, which was both a relief and made me sad. I didn’t know what I was doing, but so far, so good.

“You know I don’t like to admit it when I need help, but I’m not going to be able to manage everything, not with work too. I’ve thought about it, and I don’t want to stick her in a day care where she doesn’t know anybody.”

Tiffany nodded.

The truth was I felt bad for the baby after being abandoned by her mom, and I felt all kinds of guilty that I didn’t know about her in her first year of life.

“So you’re going to keep her . . . here.”

“Yeah.”

Tiffany smiled at me and patted the back of my hand. “Maybe it’s time for a fresh start, Max. Maybe this is the universe’s way of intervening. I really think this could be the beginning of something great.”

“You’re right.”

“I am?” She grinned at me.

“Yeah. Everything will work out, right? I’m going to hire a nanny. I’m willing to pay top dollar, but I want the best of the best. It’s the perfect solution. I can work from home sometimes so I’m around more, and Dylan won’t have to be shuffled from place to place.”

Her eyebrows pinched together. “Oh, okay. Yeah. That’s a good idea. The only thing is you’re going to need to pray that she can start ASAP. Most people want to give a two-week notice to their current employer.”

Tiffany was right. All I could do was hope that somewhere out there, the universe was at work putting all the pieces into play so my puzzle would fit together.

Chapter Two

Addison

“You just need a fresh start. A do-over,” my best friend, Lara, said as she flopped onto the couch I’d been crashing on for the past week. She wrestled my blanket away from me before tossing a white paper bag from the drugstore into my lap.

“What’s all this?” I grumbled, rubbing the sleep from my eyes.

“The start of your new and improved life.”

I rifled inside the bag and pulled out a box of purple hair dye, a bottle of bright pink nail polish, and about a dozen fashion magazines—all with headlines screaming things like the number of ways I could “Get Him to Beg for More.”

As if.

I held up the box of hair dye and raised my eyebrows. “Seriously?”

“Sometimes new starts are drastic. I figured it was worth a try,” she said with a wink.

“And that if I didn’t want to dye my hair, this color would look cute mixed in with your newly blond locks?” I smirked.

It was the truth. With her blunt platinum bob and her bright gray eyes, Lara would look seriously fierce with some purple streaks. My regular old brown hair, on the other hand? Not so much.

“You know me too well.” She grabbed one of the magazines from my lap and flipped open the front cover. “I thought we might just look at these to get some fresh ideas. Think outside the box and focus on something other than, you know.” She flipped another page, aggressively avoiding eye contact with me. “The incident.”

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