Tied, p.3
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       Tied, p.3
 

         Part #4 of Tangled series by Emma Chase
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  wearing a man-thong? You look like a tool.

  As we sit up, Kate tells me, “Watching a greased-up guy shaking his ass is not really my idea of fun, Drew.” She wiggles her eyebrows my way. “Now, you greased up and dancing, on the other hand, that sounds like a good time.”

  This is why I love her.

  “You’re the perfect woman.”

  I pull her in for a kiss—longer than the last one. But just as our tongues come out to play, a small voice chirps out from the monitor.

  “Mummy? Daaaddy? Up-o. Up-o.”

  I pull back. “The beast has risen. You shower first, I’ll get him.”

  “Okay.”

  I slide on a pair of sweats as Kate pulls some clothes from the drawer.

  “Daaddy! Mummy! Up-o. Up-o. Up-o!”

  My son is not a big fan of patience. Wonder where he gets that from?

  “Oh, and Drew?”

  I turn toward Kate. “Yeah?”

  “My grandmother used to say, ‘Look with your eyes, not with your hands.’ When you’re at that strip bar? Make sure you do that.”

  I nod. “Got it, boss.” I stride forward and grab her chin, freeing her lip from her teeth’s grip. Then I kiss it better—making her just a little dazed and confused. “Stop fucking worrying. We’re gonna have a great time with our friends this weekend. Nothing bad is gonna happen. I promise.”

  Famous last words, right? How’s that for a jinx? Idiot.

  I spin her back around and slap both cheeks with one hand. “Now get that ass in the shower before I decide to tap it again.”

  Kate laughs, ’cause she thinks I’m kidding. Only—

  “Daaadddyyy! Up-o! Up-o!”

  Right. Duty calls. Kate heads for the bathroom, and I go to spring James from his cage.

  So that’s how it started. Everything was awesome. We were talking. Laughing. Communicating.

  Fucking.

  It was like a fairy tale, for Christ’s sake.

  Did you ever notice how fairy tales all start off great? The beautiful princess, the happy kingdom? Then it all turns to shit. One minute Hansel’s feeling no pain, chomping on a window made of sugar, and the next minute some old hag is trying to shove his ass in an oven.

  For any of you out there who still think I’m an unworthy, self-absorbed douche? I have a feeling you’re going to enjoy this.

  A lot.

  Chapter 2

  James’s room is dim. The shades are drawn and the only illumination comes from a Buzz Lightyear night-light in the corner. It’s the mother of all boy’s rooms. Yellow and green? No thanks. The walls are navy and cream, the furniture dark cherrywood. A toddler-size basketball net is against one wall, and a full-size train table against the other. A comfy rocking chair is stationed between two arched windows, with a well-worn copy of Goodnight Moon lying in wait on the seat. Framed pictures of family—and the new Yankee Stadium—hang on the walls. A Metallica poster is taped to the back of the door.

  I wanted it front and center but Kate shot me down.

  James’s big, dark eyes light up when I walk in. He’s the perfect mini-me—his nose, his chin, his black hair that sticks up at all angles.

  “Morning, buddy.”

  He holds on to the rail of his crib and bounces like a cotton-clad chimpanzee.

  His words are carefully pronounced, with stresses on the consonants. Kind of like a robot. “Hel-lo, Dad-dee.”

  So fucking cute.

  I pick him up, hold him high, and nibble on his belly, making him shriek. Then I bring him back down and give him a squeeze. His head turns and rests on my shoulder, and his breath tickles my neck. I kiss his hair again—just because I can.

  I’ll never understand those guys who refuse to hug and kiss their kids—particularly their male kids. Coldhearted pricks, if you ask me. The idea that too much affection can make a boy soft is a big steaming pile of crap.

  If you want your kid to be confident—secure? You have to give them a good foundation—set the right example. Take my old man, for instance. I grew up knowing he was fully capable of kicking my ass whenever I stepped out of line. Which he did. Frequently. But he also showed me every day that he had my back. That he loved me, was proud of everything I did or tried to do. James is gonna grow up the exact same way.

  A rancid aroma invades my nose. “Jesus, James.” I lay him on the table to get him changed.

  You look surprised. You shouldn’t be. Real men change diapers.

  I’m thinking about putting that on a T-shirt.

  In fact, anything Kate can do—bath time, bedtime, midnight feedings—I can do too. I kind of have to.

  Kate was only twenty-eight when James was born. For a professional in our field, that’s young. And as happy as she was to do the mom thing—and despite a boatload of guilt—she just wasn’t ready to trade in the corporate ladder for Mommy and Me’s and goddamn Wiggles songs.

  A nanny or day care was out of the question. When I was young, I didn’t even like to board our dogs. No way was I handing my kid off to some strangers, hoping every day that they didn’t cause harm.

  But I did promise Kate—once upon a time—that I’d make all her dreams come true. So, we compromised. Here’s how that played out. You’ll find the ending of this exchange particularly gratifying . . . or at least I did:

  James—four weeks old.

  It’s ten thirty by the time I walk through the door of our apartment. These may seem like late hours to you, but in the field of investment banking, it’s pretty much par for the course. One seven o’clock meeting runs over, then a conference call with Indonesia, a couple more hours spent reviewing contracts, and here we are.

  When James was first born, I took two weeks dad-ternity leave, but now I’m back at the office full speed ahead. Kate’s doing the stay-at-home-mom thing. We used to alternate the middle-of-the-night feeding shifts, but because it’s difficult to form a coherent sentence—let alone manage millions of dollars—when half your brain is asleep, they now fall on her, so I can get a night of decent shut-eye and not decimate my clients’ fortunes.

  I toss my keys on the table and nudge the door closed with my foot. I step into the living room—Kate’s sitting on the couch with a basket of laundry at her feet, folding tiny pants that will join their onesie brethren stacked on the table. Her long, soft hair—which I relish feeling draped across my thighs—is tied up in a bun. She’s wearing short pajama shorts and a navy T-shirt, and I can’t help but notice her still-larger-than-normal-from-breast-feeding tits are free from the usual bra constraints.

  Bonus.

  In a louder voice than I’d intended, I say, “Hey, beautiful.”

  “Shhh!” She attacks. “If you wake that baby, I’ll pluck out every pubic hair you have the next time you fall asleep.”

  My eyes widen. She’s been spending way too much time with Delores these days.

  I lower my voice. “Sorry.” I sit beside her on the couch and lean over for a kiss.

  My lips coax a smile from her—as usual. “Hi,” she greets me in a much-happier-to-see-me tone. “Do you want me to heat you up a plate?”

  “Nah, I’ll just make myself a bowl of cereal.”

  Kate yawns as she picks up a my mom is hotter than your mom bib and continues to fold.

  “Rough day?” I ask.

  “Not so much. He was just really cranky around six—it took me forever to get him down for the night.”

  I nod. Then tilt my head toward the hallway. “I’m just gonna go check on him.”

  Kate shoots me down. “No—no, you’re not.”

  “I’ll be really quiet.”

  “Drew—”

  “I won’t even touch him.”

  Wryly she points out, “We both know you’re incapable of seeing James and not touching him.”

  Touché.

  “And then he’ll be up and I’ll have to feed him to get him back down. And his whole schedule will be blown for the night.”

  I see the wisdom o
f what she’s saying. Doesn’t mean I have to frigging like it.

  “I haven’t seen him all day!” I had to run out the door earlier than usual this morning, to make a meeting with a client uptown. “It’s not healthy for a baby to go days without laying eyes on the man who fathered him.”

  I don’t know if this is a fact—but it sounds good, so I stick with it.

  Again, Kate’s not having it. “He’s four weeks old. He needs a schedule more than he needs to see his daddy.”

  I frown. I think my feelings are hurt. “That’s a fucked-up thing to say.”

  She shrugs. “Doesn’t make it any less true.”

  I sigh. And decide on a more subversive course of action. “Then I’ll just go make that bowl of cereal.”

  Kate watches me as I get up. Then softly calls to my retreating back, “Stay away from the nursery, Drew—don’t even look at the door.”

  I neither agree nor disagree. Even though Kate and I have been together for years, loopholes still apply. I enter the kitchen, grab the milk out of the fridge, and pour myself a bowl Lucky Charms. I take two bites and—

  Did you hear that? It sounded like a baby’s cry, didn’t it?

  No?

  Then I recommend you get your hearing checked, ’cause I definitely heard it.

  I slip through the kitchen door and stealthily make my way down the hall to the nursery. The door is cracked a few inches—just wide enough to stick my head in. The night-light casts a warm glow on the dark wood furniture, rocking chair, and stuffed animals stacked in the corner. I listen. And all I hear is the sound of James’s deep, rhythmic baby breathing.

  Guess it wasn’t a cry I heard, after all. But . . . since I’m here and all, it won’t hurt to have a peek, right? Right.

  Like a kid sneaking downstairs before sunrise on Christmas morning, I step softly into the room. I stand next to the crib and gaze down at my sleeping boy. An instant smile appears on my face. Because he’s so goddamn adorable.

  He’s on his back, head turned to the right, one fisted little hand bent at the elbow above his dark-haired head. He’s dressed in a cotton, feet-covering, dark-green romper. I can’t resist running my finger across his plump, baby-soft cheek.

  He doesn’t flinch or stir. So I continue to look at him—and it’s kind of crazy how entertaining it is just watching him breathe.

  After I’ve had my fill, I take one step toward the door.

  Then something fucking dreadful happens.

  You had to have seen this coming.

  Yep, James’s head turns to the left, and his feet kick out and his sweet features scrunch up. Then—like a baby bird fresh out of the egg—he lets out a cry.

  “Whaaaaa.”

  My eyes snap to the door, then back to him, as the second squawk leaves his lips.

  “Whaaaaaaa.”

  “Shit. Shhh,” I whisper. “James . . .” I rub his belly. “Shhh, go back to sleep.”

  Of course, that does a whole lot of nothing.

  “Whhaaaaaaaaa.”

  Screw it. I pick him up and bounce him against my shoulder. “You gotta be quiet, buddy. If your mom finds me in here, she’s gonna lock up her pussy like a steel safe. It’ll take me hours to crack that bad boy back open.”

  Technically, the safe is closed for maintenance anyway. We still have two weeks to go before the doctor will give us the green light. Until then, there’s a strict “Thou shalt not pass” policy. I’m not even allowed to make her cum with my mouth, or the ever-so-popular-with-teenagers dry-humping method. Roberta said her uterus needed to recoup, which means no orgasmic spasming permitted.

  That being said, you get my analogy. My son, on the other hand, does not. Or he just doesn’t fucking care.

  “Whaaa, whaaa, whaaaaaaaa.”

  Then Kate’s standing in the doorway, looking righteously pissed off. “Kiss the pubic hairs good-bye, Drew.”

  I chuckle. “What? I heard him crying—I just got here before you.”

  It doesn’t count as a lie if the person you’re lying to knows it’s a lie.

  She lets out an exasperated sigh and reaches for the baby. “Give him to me.”

  I tuck him against me and turn my body, like a football player trying to keep the ball from getting snatched in the pileup. “No, I got him. Go back to whatever you were doing.”

  “He won’t settle down for you.”

  “And he’ll never settle down for me if you’re the only one holding him all the time.” I kiss the top of his screaming head. “I got this, Kate. Go take a bath or something.”

  Isn’t that what all new mothers want?

  “Is that your way of telling me I smell?”

  Guess not.

  “No . . . I’m saying I stirred the shit, I’ll deal with the stench.”

  Still looking unsure, she runs her hand down James’s back. “All right. Just . . . holler if you need me.”

  I give her lips a peck. “We’re good.”

  Finally she smiles, then she leaves.

  Most men are inept when it comes to babies. Either from lack of experience or because they’re afraid they’re going to irreversibly screw something up. Give us an appliance that needs fixing, we’ll take it apart, figure it out, and put it back together again, even if we’re unfamiliar with it.

  Babies? Not so easy to put back together.

  And there’s all these perils we have to be mindful of—soft spots, necks that can’t support heads, nasty-looking belly buttons waiting to fall off . . . don’t get me fucking started on the circumcision. Men aren’t good multitaskers, remember?

  So for most, infant care is an activity best left to the mothers.

  Most—but not me. Because I cut my teeth on Mackenzie. When she was an infant, I wasn’t around for the nighttime routine stuff, but I learned a lot about everything else. If a man can change a baby girl’s diaper, there is nothing he can’t accomplish. So, because I have her infancy under my belt, and because I’m pretty much awesome at anything I do, I’m not intimidated by James’s crying. It’s not a fun part of fatherhood—but I can deal.

  I shift him from my shoulder to cradle him in my arms.

  “Whaaa, whaaa, whaaa . . .”

  “Hey, buddy, what’s with the tears? You don’t have to cry—I’m gonna have you back to sleep in no time.”

  I grab a pacifier off the dresser and tease it into his mouth. Whimpering, he gives it a few sucks before opening his mouth to screech because he realizes it’s not the real thing. I catch it before it falls to the floor.

  Then I sit in the rocking chair. “Yeah, I know it’s not what you really want. And I don’t blame you—your mom’s boobs are spectacular. But . . . you gotta take what you can get. And right now, this little piece of plastic is the next best thing.”

  I slide it between his lips again, and this time he doesn’t reject it. He sucks rapidly and his eyes fall closed for a moment before he drags them back open—a sure sign he’s exhausted but fighting it. I rock slowly in the chair and tap his ass gently in a steady beat.

  In a soothing whisper I tell him, “You want to hear what your old man did today? I set up a fifty-million-dollar acquisition for a man who invented a new app. He’s kind of a tool. When you’re older, you’ll learn the world is full of tools. Anyway, this particular tool didn’t think the deal was good enough, so Daddy had to explain to him why it was. First I showed him . . .”

  You don’t really want to hear the rest, do you? Suffice it to say, twenty minutes later, James was out cold. I kiss his forehead and lay him back in his crib. Then I go out to the living room looking for some quality time with my girlfriend. I find Kate on the couch, with a still-half-full basket of clothes next to her.

  She doesn’t acknowledge me right away—and she’s not folding clothes anymore. She’s holding a pair of baby socks in each hand, unnervingly staring off into space. In deep thought.

  Usually for guys, when our women are contemplating something serious? It’s a bad sign.

 
Cautiously I sit down next to her. “The baby’s asleep.”

  Her blank expression doesn’t change. “That’s good.”

  “Kate? You okay?”

  Snapping out of wherever she was, she turns to me quickly and tries to blow it off. “Oh, yeah. Yeah, I’m fine.”

  Fine—a red flag if there ever was one.

  I don’t waste time with pleasantries. “Fuck fine—what’s wrong?”

  She focuses her attention on the socks. “I just realized . . . this is my life now.”

  I try hard to decipher the hidden female message in that statement—and come up with zilch. “O-kay . . . and . . . ?”

  “And folding clothes, dirty dishes, afternoon walks, naptimes, changing diapers . . . that’s my life. That’s what I have to look forward to.”

  “Well . . . changing diapers won’t last forever. And in two more weeks I’ll be able to make you cum again in numerous, illicit ways—that’s something worth looking forward to.”

  That gets a chuckle out of her, but it’s halfhearted. “I’m a terrible person.”

  I rub her shoulder. “If you’re a terrible person, I’m in some seriously deep shit.”

  This time her smile is a bit more genuine. “I love James, Drew. Love . . . isn’t even a strong enough word . . .”

  I nod, because I and any parent know exactly what she means.

  “. . . and I know how lucky I am. Lots of women would kill to be able to stay home full-time with their kids. I really am grateful for the life I have—but I never thought this would be all I’d have.”

  And the tears start to fall. Big ones.

  In the days after James’s birth, he wasn’t the only one on a bawling binge.

  Kate was a mess.

  I thought I understood the havoc hormones can wreak on the female personality—but I didn’t understand jack. Pregnancy hormones are a whole other animal entirely. She cried because James was beautiful, she cried because she loved me so much, and because of how much I love her. She cried when James cried, and when he slept or if he sneezed. She cried because she hadn’t lost all the baby weight two days after he was born, the way those motherfucking evil, narcissistic celebrities make women feel they should.

  Even though I’m accustomed to my son’s crying jags, seeing Kate cry will never be something I’m okay with.

  My chest tightens, squeezing my heart as she wipes at her cheeks. “I feel so guilty for missing work—for watching you walk out that door in the morning and wishing it was me. How screwed up is that?”

  I rub her back and tell her the truth: “It’s not screwed up at all.”

  Kate looks at me with surprise in her eyes.

 
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