“I’m fine,” I say with false brightness and a careless shrug.
When he remains quiet, I can tell he’s not falling for my bullshit.
“I’m okay,” I say, turning to look at him. He’s watching me, his gaze meeting mine, and I try to offer a reassuring smile. “Really.”
“I was sort of mean to you earlier. At the restaurant.” He hesitates. “And I’m sorry.”
“Oh, you were fine. I totally understand. It all happened so fast.” I wave a hand, brushing off his apology, his supposed rudeness. I don’t remember him being mean, but maybe he was? I’m not sure. Everything is still sort of a blur.
The doubtful expression on his face tells me he still doesn’t believe me, but I can’t worry about this right now. I need to get Jacob and Autumn inside and into their beds. And I’m not looking forward to dealing with two cranky kids who will most likely want their mama once they realize she’s not around.
“You need help with Autumn and Jacob? Getting them to bed?” he asks, like he can read my mind.
I nod, nibbling on my lower lip. This means I will be alone with him in the house for hours—possibly the entire night. What if the hospital doesn’t release Fable right away? I’d fully expect Drew to stay by his wife’s side…
You can handle this, Syd. This is your job now. You’re a big girl, so act like one, damn it.
“That would be great, thanks,” I murmur, glancing over my shoulder to check on the children. They both look so content, like little angels. Soon-to-be little angry angels who won’t like being awoken out of a deep sleep, I bet.
Wade reaches up to push the controller to open the garage door. My gaze snags on his muscular arm, the bulging curve of his biceps. Those broad shoulders and his wide chest…the man is built. Thick and strong and I can only imagine what he must look like with his shirt off. How it would feel, to have him hold me close. Touch me. Pick me up and carry me to his...
Yeah. Scratch that. My wicked fantasies need to take a break. I have too much work to do.
Without a word we climb out of the SUV and he grabs Autumn out of her car seat while I unbuckle Jacob. I grab the diaper bag and Wade follows me into the house, a drowsy Autumn in his arms while I hold a still sleeping Jacob.
“Where’s my lollipop?” Autumn asks sleepily.
“You already ate it,” Wade reminds her.
“No I didn’t,” she protests just as I flick on the kitchen light and turn to look at the two of them.
The lollipop stick is stuck in Autumn’s fine dark brown hair, right by her ear. Her cheeks are shiny—most likely with lollipop-flavored slobber—and there are bits of red candy lingering in the corners of her mouth. “Um, I’m pretty sure you did finish the lollipop, though some of it is stuck on your face,” I say.
Autumn smacks her fingers against her sticky cheeks, then glances up at Wade. “Will you give me a bath, Uncle Wade?” She blinks up at him with extra wide eyes, her lower lip trembling, like she’s about to cry.
“I’m guessing Sydney will want to do that,” Wade says, sounding nervous.
“No, no, no. I want you Wade. Please, please, please?” Autumn literally bats her eyelashes at him.
She’s good. And she’s only four.
“Let’s make a deal,” I say to Autumn after Wade shoots me a terrified look. “I’ll put Jacob to bed while you pick out a nightgown. Then I’ll start your bath and Wade can help us. Sounds good?”
Autumn nods, her smile big. She appears awfully pleased with herself. “Sounds great.” She glances up at Wade once more. “Will you help me pick out my nightgown?”
“Sure,” he says easily, though I get the distinct feeling he’s uncomfortable with the entire situation. I’d bet money he doesn’t interact with small children very often.
Autumn squirms in his arms and he sets her on his feet. She shoots off, giggling as she calls over her shoulder, “Come on, Uncle Wade, come on!”
His freaked out gaze meets mine and I shrug, unable to contain my amusement. “You heard her. Go on, Uncle Wade.”
He offers me a sheepish smile and then follows Autumn. I fall into step after them, my gaze snagging on Wade’s perfect butt. I mean seriously, the man has such a perfect body he probably makes angels weep with joy. My fingers literally itch to reach out and touch him.
But I don’t. Instead, I take a still-sleeping Jacob to his room, where I quickly change him and tuck him into bed. He never really wakes up and I’m thankful. He may get fussy when his mom isn’t around, but once he falls asleep, he’s usually out for the night.
Once I finish with Jacob, I go to the kids’ bathroom and start up the water in the tub, adding some bubble bath liquid. Autumn drags Wade into the room within minutes of my arrival, a pleased expression on her face. “I picked my Cinderella nightgown,” she says, waving it at me.
“Good choice.” I nod my approval and take the thin gown from her, placing it on the counter. “We should brush your hair first before you get into the bath, don’t you think?”
She frowns and props her elbows on the marble counter. Our gazes meet in the mirror’s reflection and she pouts. “Do I have to?”
“We need to get the stick out of your hair,” I remind her.
Autumn tugs it out of her baby fine hair with a grimace and then hands it up to me. “Ta da! I did it, Sydney! All by myself!”
The stick has strands of wispy brown hair stuck to it. I take it from her and deposit it in the tiny trashcan. “Good job.” I’m really glad she didn’t pull more hair out of her head.
She giggles. “It wasn’t hard. I just wanted to help.”
“And you’re a great helper, so thank you.” I smile at her, then offer one to Wade. He crosses his arms in front of his wide chest, his eyes sparkling with amusement as he studies me.
I wonder if he likes what he sees.
Wade continues watching us as he leans against the doorjamb while Autumn and I talk. She’s a decent conversationalist, with always something to say and I listen to her as I finish brushing her hair. She sheds her clothes and hops into the bathtub, giggling when the bubbles I poured in earlier puff up around her.
I just finish washing her hair when my phone rings. My hands are completely submersed in the water and my phone is in the back pocket of my jeans, so I can’t really answer it. I look over my shoulder, my gaze meeting Wade’s.