The House Mate Page 27

I nodded grimly. “Yeah. It was super awkward. She didn’t tell me she was coming, and I think her showing up like that out of the blue upset Addison.”

Tiffany’s eyes narrowed and she stared at me speculatively. “Why would that upset Addison?”

The question caught me off guard. Why, indeed? If Addison didn’t care about me, and the other night had been a mistake, then it should have been a relief if she thought Jenn was coming back around. Unless she was really just that upset about the potential of losing her job. Not that I could blame her. Dylan had only been in my life a short time, but already, the thought of losing her felt like losing a limb.

“It’s complicated,” I said finally. “And I’ve got a meeting to go to that takes precedence over my personal life. Sorry, I shouldn’t have said anything. What’s up? What did you need from me?” I asked, eyeing her expectantly.

Tiffany seemed to hesitate, like she wanted to say more about the subject, but then finally nodded. “I just wanted to remind you about the meeting, and let you know that I ordered lunch from Benito’s for you guys to have in the conference room.”

“Thanks,” I said, genuinely grateful that at least one thing in my life hadn’t turned to shit overnight. Tiffany was a good employee and was always looking out for me.

She waved off my thanks and stood. “If you ever need to talk or blow off some steam, Max, I’m here for you. We can grab a drink . . . and talk. Just remember that.”

She backed out of the office and closed the door behind her, leaving me staring after her.

That was strange. The phrase blow off some steam had been one she’d used once to refer to what had happened between us a couple of years back. I was sure it was unintentional, but the way things were going, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had one more complication on the horizon.

I set down my pencil and picked up the folder, intent on getting through the rest of the day focused on work. If I didn’t get my head together, I wouldn’t have to worry about Addison at all because I wouldn’t be able to afford a nanny or that house.

The next few hours flew by as I dived headlong into work. When I finally came up for air just before quitting time, one thing had become abundantly clear to me.

Not even a full day had passed since Addison and I had talked, and I missed her already. I couldn’t let this stand without at least trying to get to the bottom of how she was really feeling.

• • •

On the ride home, I thought of all the things I could say to Addison, but when I walked in the door a few minutes later, those thoughts flitted away like leaves on the wind.

The place was trashed, toys and sippy cups everywhere. Smears of what looked like chocolate—please, God, let it be chocolate—were on the living room wall, and a puddle of milk was spilled on the tile in the foyer.

“Hello?” I called, the very beginnings of fear starting to pulse through my veins.

What if Addison had fallen and gotten hurt? What if the baby had been by herself all day and I didn’t even know it? Here I was all caught up in my own drama, and I hadn’t even checked in on them. But my fears were laid to rest a few seconds later as Addison rounded the corner with Dylan in her arms.

“Hi,” Addison said dully. Dark smudges were under her eyes, and her hair was caked with tiny ring-shaped noodles. “Someone is having a hard day today,” she whispered.

Almost on cue, Dylan let out a bloodcurdling scream that rent the air.

“Teething, I think.” Addison shouted to be heard as she tried to rock the screaming, stiff-with-rage baby in her arms. “Nothing has been helping.”

I set down my briefcase and reached for Dylan. She quieted and came to me easily, snuggling close. The second I started to relax, she sank her three teeth into my neck. “Son of a—” I bit back a string of curses and tugged her away, holding her aloft in shock.

She stared back at me in full demon-baby mode, completely unapologetic as she stuffed her fist into her drooly mouth.

“Yeah, sorry. I guess I should’ve led with that,” Addison said, pointing ruefully to twin teeth marks marring her collarbone. “It’s not pretty. I was about to put her into the bath with some lavender oil to calm her.”

Dylan’s bottom lip started to quiver, and my gut gave a squeeze of sympathy. Even demon babies needed love. I held her close again, but not quite as close as last time, and kept my guard up. “Why don’t you go relax for a while, and I’ll do the bath, okay?”

Addison looked like she was about to argue, but then her eyes went suspiciously glassy and she nodded. “Yeah. I think I’ll feel better once I have some tea, and maybe do some yoga or something.”

She turned and I watched her go, feeling helpless and heartsick all at once.

How had my perfect little life gone to shit so fast?

I carried the baby upstairs, hoping against hope this was just a bump in the road and not the catastrophic end to something that had started so promisingly. Dylan and I would be okay. I’d make sure of it, but what of dealing with all of this? My lie of omission, Jenn coming by, Dylan pulling the exorcist routine—what if it was all too much, and Addison decided to get out while the getting was good?

The water was still running when I reached the bathroom, and I turned it off. Dylan whimpered softly as I made short work of her clothes and tested the water temperature before I slipped her into the tub.

The second the water hit her, she went quiet and I let out a sigh of relief.

I hated to hear her cry. Before I went to bed tonight, I needed to try to look up some more teething remedies because this shit was for the birds.

I knelt on the floor and rolled my sleeves up before setting a couple of her bath toys into the water. For a blessed few minutes, all was quiet. And then, it was too quiet. The sounds of her splashing and her bare bottom squeaking against the tub went still. The little cooing sounds she made as she moved her rubber ducky through the water ceased. And when I dared to look at her face, it was screwed up in intense concentration that could only mean one thing.

“No, no, nonononono!” I stuffed my hands under her arms and tried to lift her out of the water, but it was too late. Bubbles rose from the depths, followed by two brown logs that were definitely not chocolate.

“Addison?” I hollered as Dylan let out a peal of laughter. “Addison!” I called out again, frantic as Dylan’s oil-slicked body slipped from my grasp. I lunged for her again, watching in horror as she reached out a chubby little hand to grab one of the floating logs.

She was just about to make contact when Addison pushed through the door and let out a gasp. “Shit!”

Her voice distracted Dylan just long enough for me to grab her and pull her from the tub. She plastered her soaking-wet body against me and laughed some more.

“Huh,” Addison said, a smile finally reaching her tired eyes as she looked on. “I wonder if she was just constipated.”

I let out a groan as she grabbed a towel and took the baby from my arms, swaddling her in it.

“How about you take her into your bathroom and give her a quick hose-down, and I’ll take care of the floating logs of doom?” she asked, her lips quirking slightly in a way that made the ice wedged inside my chest start to melt.

She wasn’t dumping us. Well, not Dylan at least.

It was a start.

I thanked her and rushed Dylan into the master bathroom to complete the bath-time ritual. Thirty minutes later, she was already nodding off on her changing table as I dressed her in her jammies.

“She’s going to be out like a light,” Addison said from the doorway.

I turned to see her there, looking like she might do the same.

“She didn’t nap at all, so she’s going to be pooped.”

It was exactly that, some off-the-cuff remark that Addison probably hadn’t even meant to be funny, that had me chuckling and then belly laughing a few seconds later.

“Pooped,” I repeated, trying to keep quiet so as not to wake the baby.

Addison started laughing as well, and she held a finger up to her lips. “I swear to heaven, if you wake her, she’s all yours. I’m shot,” she whispered threateningly.

I nodded and lifted the baby, transferring her to the crib in one smooth motion. Addison and I crept out of the room like we’d just stolen something. We didn’t speak again until we reached the living room.

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