The House Mate Page 28

“Well, that was something,” I muttered, raking a hand through my hair and sending a pitying glance down at my soaked shirt. It was only when Addison let out a strangled groan that I realized the wet white cotton was totally transparent, and my abs and chest were on full display. I locked gazes with her, and her cheeks flushed pink.

Jesus fucking Christ. As bad as it all was, she still wanted me.

Thank you, God.

“Look, about last night—”

“You’re my boss,” she said swiftly. “You don’t own me an explanation.”

“But I want to be more than that. For real, Addison. So I need you to know, I don’t think it was a mistake, what we did. I think it could be the start of something amazing. Don’t walk away from that, please.”

She stared at me and lifted a hand to her chest. “Y-you don’t want to end it? I thought what with Jenn coming and all, that you guys were getting back together.”

I wanted to kick myself for not forcing the issue last night and making Addison listen to me, but damn, she’d said she didn’t want to be with me, so what would the point have been? Now, though, I realized there was no way I was giving up without a fight.

“She came to try to get me back. When I told her I wasn’t interested but that we could discuss visitation with Dylan, she declined.”

I still couldn’t believe that Jenn had been so frank with me. So unashamed about her intentions and lack of love for our daughter, but there it was. The ugly truth.

I shook my head slowly and shrugged. “She just wasn’t meant to be a mother, I guess. She agreed that, all things considered, if we couldn’t be together, it would be best if I take full custody of Dylan. She agreed to give it to me without a fight if I released her from any financial obligation. So I did. Papers will be signed next week.”

It was twisted. I didn’t want to be happy, because Dylan deserved a mother who loved her, but the truth was this was for the best. If the only reason Jenn wanted Dylan in her life was to get to me? That wasn’t a mother’s love at all.

“I’m sorry it happened that way, Max. I wish you’d said something. I was so worried about my own feelings, I didn’t stop to consider how hard her coming here must have been for you.”

I stepped closer, relief flooding me when Addison didn’t pull away. “You had no way of knowing how things had gone down. I should’ve told you she called in the first place. Can we have a do-over?” I asked, tugging her close and closing my hands over her hips. “You get in bed tonight, drink your chamomile tea, and get a good night’s sleep while I set the house straight. And then tomorrow, we start fresh. We tell each other everything. How we’re feeling, what we’re worried about, if we’re feeling threatened, or even if we need some space. Complete honesty and a real-life, grown-up relationship. What do you say?”

She leaned up and kissed me on the mouth, but not before I saw a shadow pass over her face. “Yes,” she murmured, curling her arms around my neck and hugging me close. “I want that so much, Max.”

I squeezed her hard and then released her, stepping back with a groan. “If you’re going to go, go now. My mind knows you’re tired and overwrought, but my dick definitely doesn’t give a shit.”

She cocked her head, the shadow fading as an interested gleam entered her eyes. “I’m tired, but I’m not that tired.”

“Nope,” I said, using her shoulders to turn her around and usher her toward her room. “No way. I’m probably still harboring some sort of doo-doo parasites, and you have Spaghetti-Os in your hair, not to mention the fact that your eyes are crossing with exhaustion. Tomorrow, we’re going to wake up to a new day. Clean clothes, clean house, clean baby—”

“Clean hair,” she added with a laugh as she dutifully headed down the hallway.

“And then, you and I can get dirty at night together,” I added.

Addison turned and eyed me for a long moment, looking so intrigued by the thought that I almost dragged her back and bent her over something.

“Promise?” she asked.

“Oh, fuck yeah. Scout’s honor.”

And I couldn’t wait.

Chapter Nineteen

Max

I stared down at the cookbook and groaned.

“Son of a bitch,” I muttered.

Not only had I forgotten to add the butter, but I’d put in five tablespoons of flour instead of teaspoons. I picked up the bowl and upended it over the trashcan. Thirty minutes of mixing and measuring and whisking, all down the drain.

“Sum a bitch,” Dylan muttered as she struggled to get hold of a rogue Cheerio on her tray.

I let out a groan and bent low until we were eye to eye. “Please, do Daddy a favor and don’t tell Addison where you picked that up from, okay, pumpkin?”

Her eyes lit up and she laughed. “Assin?”

My heart beat double-time and I tickled her chin. “Did you say Addison? Say it again. Addison.”

“Assin,” she chortled back gleefully.

Okay, so maybe my raspberry soufflé was in the shitter, but the baby had just said Addison’s name for the first time. If my own emotional reaction to hearing it was any indication, Addison was going to be stoked.

I opened the oven door and peered in at the browning pot roast. It looked exactly like the picture in the book, and smelled like a home run. I just had to hope that I was enough for dessert.

The doorbell rang and I swiped a hand over the dishtowel I’d tucked into the waist of my jeans.

“Be right back,” I murmured to the baby, heading for the door. I swung it open to find my mom standing there, her face full of anticipation.

“Where’s my baby girl?” she said, pushing past me and swiveling her head around as she searched for Dylan.

“Hello to you, my wonderful mother,” I said with a smirk, bending low to give her a quick kiss on the cheek. “Boy, it didn’t take long for me to go from prodigal son to persona non grata, did it?”

She slapped my chest gently and rolled her eyes. “Don’t be silly. You’ll always hold a place in my heart, dear. She just holds the rest,” she said with a wink. “Now, where’s that little angel?”

I gestured to the kitchen and Mom scurried away. I joked about it, but the truth was, I couldn’t be more thrilled about how quickly my parents had opened their hearts to Dylan. As parents, they’d been loving but reserved, attentive but strict. As grandparents? That tiny baby girl had them wrapped around her finger.

They’d only seen her a few times since she’d moved in with me because my father had gotten a stomach flu they hadn’t wanted to transmit, but they Facetimed with us three times a week, and couldn’t wait to get their hands on her again now that he was better. When I’d called to ask if they wanted to have an overnight visit, they were ecstatic.

It was going to be weird to be without Dylan. I’d become so accustomed to her being here, to hearing her sighs in the middle of the night and kissing her downy head in the morning. But tonight, after the rough couple days we’d had, I wanted to focus completely on Addison and whatever this was growing between us. She deserved my undivided attention because it was finally starting to hit me that this could actually be the real thing between us.

By the time I got back into the kitchen, my mother had already gotten Dylan out of her high chair and was shouldering her diaper bag.

“Don’t forget. She doesn’t like cold water, so give it to her room temp,” I said, bending to ruffle my daughter’s soft curls. “And she hates peas. If you try to give them to her, she’ll spit them out and refuse to eat anything else. Also, no grapes unless you slice them l—”

“Lengthwise,” my mother cut in dryly, shaking her head in mock disgust. “I swear, it’s like you think you hatched from an egg fully grown. I got you through your toddler years just fine, so spare the lessons, kid.” She hoisted the baby higher on her hip and bustled over toward me. “Now, give your mother a kiss good-bye so I can get out of your hair and you can try to seduce this nanny of yours.”

I froze and stared at her in stunned disbelief. “How . . . what do you mean?”

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