Treat me, p.9
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       Treat Me, p.9
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         Part #8 of One Night with Sole Regret series by Olivia Cunning
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  him enough to explain her own feelings. Maybe it was because she’d been too busy getting dressed and fleeing the house to talk to him about it. Frankly, he didn’t give a shit if Tina knew all about his affair with her sister. He almost wanted to rub it into her conniving face. But the one who’d be most hurt by such actions would be Julie, and his protective instincts kicked into high gear where his little girl was concerned. So he’d try to keep Amanda a secret for Julie’s sake, but not for Tina’s and not even for his own.

  He opened the door to Tina’s scowl. At times he wondered how he’d ever thought she was beautiful. Of course, when they’d been in love, she hadn’t perpetually shot eye daggers at him.

  “Took you long enough,” Tina grumbled. “I’m in a rush here. Didn’t you hear me honking in the driveway?”

  “No.”

  “Probably going deaf from all that loud music,” she said as she shoved an overnight bag into his chest.

  “Daddy!” Julie called as she squeezed between her mother’s leg and the doorframe to peer into the house.

  Jacob’s mood instantly brightened. He dropped her bag with a disconcerting crunch and bent to scoop her into his arms. She was light as a feather, but he pretended she weighed a ton and that he couldn’t lift her from the floor. “You’ve been growing again,” he accused, grunting with exertion. “Didn’t I tell you to stop doing that?”

  “I eat all my vegetables. Did they make me too fat?” Julie rubbed her hands over her belly and scowled down at her petite figure.

  Why would a four-year-old even think to ask such a thing? Jacob turned an accusing glare on her mother. Tina avoided his gaze. “Give me a hug, Jules,” she said. “I’m already late for my appointment.”

  Julie hugged and kissed her mom. “Love you!”

  “Love you too, baby. I’ll see you on Sunday.”

  “Okay, Mommy. Have a nice time at the sprawl.”

  Jacob pursed his lips to stifle a grin as he imagined his ex-wife sprawled on the ground. Good place for her as far as he was concerned. He knew it was wrong of him to think of her in duress and enjoy it, but he couldn’t help being amused at her expense.

  “I’m sure I will.” Tina stood and met Jacob’s eyes for the first time since she’d arrived on his doorstep. His heart produced an uneasy thud as she held his gaze. “Take good care of her,” Tina said.

  “Of course.”

  She leaned a bit closer, her lips pursed as if she was considering kissing him goodbye, and he took an automatic step backward.

  “Uh, Tina?” Surely he was mistaken about her intentions.

  She blinked up at him and covered her lower lip with two fingertips, her bright eyes beguiling in her beautiful face. He remembered when that look used to bring him to his knees. Now it produced a knot of displeasure in his gut. Tina backed away and turned, rushing toward the huge SUV idling in the driveway. She honked and waved goodbye to Julie, who waved back enthusiastically. When the vehicle turned out of the driveway, Jacob crouched down to four-year-old level.

  “What do you want to do first?”

  “Eat. I’m practly starved to death over here.”

  He grinned at the morose expression on Julie’s face and reached out to tickle her ribs. She giggled, twisting away from his digging fingertips.

  “Pancakes?”

  “Do you know how to fix anything else?”

  “Eggs.”

  Julie crinkled up her nose. “I don’t like eggs.”

  “I think I have some fruit.” He hoped Tammy had remembered to restock his kitchen. He and Amanda had cleared out his fruit supply almost a week before.

  “Nanas and pancakes.”

  They might have to go to the store to get bananas, but Jacob didn’t mind. As long as his little princess had what she wanted.

  Jacob picked up her overnight bag and followed her into the house, smiling at her attempts to skip and sing “Old McDonald” at the same time. Perhaps he was a tad partial, but the kid had inherited a talented set of pipes. She came to an abrupt halt in the doorway of the kitchen and held out both hands to encourage him to stop.

  “Wait! I almost forgot. I brought you something,” she said.

  “A present?”

  “Well . . .” She cocked her head at him, a tiny fist on each hip. Sometimes she did remind her of her mother. “You can just borrow it. Okay?”

  She dashed to his side and pulled open the zipper of her overnight bag and yanked out two pairs of sparkly fairy wings made of some gauzy material. They had elastic loops where child-sized arms could go through. He knew she would talk him into wearing them before she’d even slipped the pair of pink ones onto her narrow back.

  “I brung you the blue ones ’cause you’re a boy.”

  He chuckled. “Are you sure these are for boys?”

  Wide-eyed and irresistibly adorable, she nodded up at him. “I’m sure, ’cause they’re blue. And I’m the fairy princess, so you must be the fairy king. Little girls are princesses and their daddies are kings.”

  “Do fairies have kings?” he asked, slipping one arm through the elastic band and stretching it to its limit over his man-sized shoulder.

  “Yes. I saw it on the TV.”

  “It must be true then,” he said, struggling to get his arm through the second loop. “I don’t think these will fit me, sweetheart.”

  “Come down here. I’ll help you.”

  He squatted, deciding kids were hard on the knees, and Julie pulled and wrestled with the wings until she finally managed to get them onto his back.

  “Well?” he asked, glancing over his shoulder at the lopsided and crumpled set of glitter-covered wings between his shoulder blades. He wondered what his bandmates and the fans would think if they could see him like this. Not that he cared, because Julie broke into a fit of giggles. She had the cutest laugh. He couldn’t help but smile at her.

  “You look silly, Daddy!”

  “Are you sure?” He wiggled his shoulders to try to make the wings move. He only managed to set them further askew.

  She nodded and covered her mouth with one tiny hand. “I don’t think you can fly with those puny things.”

  “I can if I’m magic.”

  Her blue eyes widened with wonder. “Are you magic, Daddy?”

  He chuckled and tapped her nose with a fingertip. “I just like to pretend. Maybe I should take them off so I can cook your breakfast.” He’d probably need to cut the strings or dislocate his shoulders to remove them.

  “No! You’re the fairy king. Fairy kings cook the best breakfast in the land.” She spread her arms wide.

  Well, Jacob was sure he looked like a fairy. Wasn’t so sure about the king part.

  “You just need to get some big wings for growed-up people,” she said as she assessed his attire with her head cocked to one side.

  “I’ll keep that in mind the next time I go shopping at the growed-up fairy store.”

  Her belly growled loudly, and she covered it with both hands. “Excuse me.”

  “I think we’d better get you fed first.”

  In the kitchen, she sat on a stool at the breakfast bar and ate bites of bananas he’d cut into circles for her while he prepared pancakes. He attempted to delight her by making her pancakes shaped like butterflies, but getting them to look like anything but blobs was a losing battle.

  “It’s supposed to be a butterfly,” he told her as he set a plate of his best attempt in front of her. The first few were even less impressive than this one.

  “Cool, Daddy! She needs eyes.” She used a few of her remaining banana slices to make eyes for the hopeless creature and drew a smiling mouth with the syrup. “Now she’s perfect.”

  Jacob was glad his child had a vivid imagination and a kind heart.

  “Are we going to the zoo after we eat?” she asked.

  “We have to wait for your surprise to get here first,” he said. Assuming Amanda wasn’t hiding from him after what he’d said earlier. She’d sure been in a hurry t
o leave.

  “Ooh, what is it?”

  Jacob used a butter knife to cut his butterfly masterpiece into bite-sized pieces for her.

  “I’m not telling. If I did, it wouldn’t be a surprise. Eat your pancake.”

  “I think my surprise is a lephalant,” Julie said and then stuffed a bite into her mouth. “Yummy!”

  Jacob touched her hair and smiled, his heart light. There was only one other person on the planet who gave him a similar feeling of joy and she’d soon be there to share the day with them. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so damned happy.

  Chapter Six

  It didn’t take Amanda long to reach her house. The small bungalow was only a couple of miles from Jacob’s place, in an older subdivision populated by working stiffs like herself.

  After her shower, she stared into her small closet wondering what to wear. She wanted to look sexy for Jacob—because, holy shit, the guy actually had feelings for her that she still wasn’t ready to face—but not too sexy since young and impressionable Julie would be with them all weekend. She decided on a pair of black shorts that accentuated her long legs while still managing to cover her ass, and a cute white top made of eyelet material with cup sleeves and tiny buttons down the front. The shirt hugged her figure and gave a hint of cleavage, but didn’t make her look like she was trying too hard. She hoped.

  Amanda examined herself in the mirror while she blow-dried her hair and simultaneously swished mouthwash through her teeth. Was she pretty enough to have someone like Jacob “Shade” Silverton fall in love with her? She’d probably rank herself above average in looks, but she wasn’t a stunner like Tina. Amanda shrugged at herself before spitting into the sink. Whatever. She was comfortable in her skin, and she wouldn’t be changing how she looked to appease a man. Not even Jacob. After applying mascara and lip gloss—the only makeup she ever wore—she found a comfortable pair of canvas shoes suitable for walking around the zoo. She was heading out of her bedroom when her gym bag caught her attention.

  Was she brazen enough to pack an overnight bag? It probably was a bad idea for her to spend the night with Jacob when Julie was there, but she wanted to stay with him. They didn’t even have to have wild and crazy sex all night long. Just knowing he was within reach was enough. At least for a couple of nights. Truth be told, she wouldn’t mind staying with Jacob whenever he was home from Sole Regret’s tour, but she still wasn’t ready to flaunt their relationship. Just thinking about Tina’s response and all the horrid things she could do to make Jacob’s life miserable made Amanda queasy.

  She decided to pack her bag but leave it in the trunk unless she needed it. On her way out, she gave Tinkerbell a scratch behind the ears while the cat devoured a bowl of her favorite tuna dinner.

  Scrunching low in the driver seat of her car, she approached Jacob’s drive cautiously, just in case Tina was still there. Amanda was fully prepared to speed on by without stopping, even though it was unlikely that Tina had hung around for any length of time. Amanda wouldn’t have been surprised if Tina had deposited Julie in the driveway and tossed her bag at her feet before speeding off to her spa appointment.

  Finding Jacob’s drive empty of gigantic German-engineered SUVs, Amanda pulled in and parked under a shade tree. What excuse would she use if Tina just happened to drive by and saw her car parked in Jacob’s driveway? She supposed she could claim that Jacob needed help caring for Julie, but that was a lie and Tina would use such a claim as ammunition against him.

  Leaving her presumptuous overnight bag in the trunk, Amanda scurried toward the front door and rang the doorbell.

  “Is that my surprise?” she heard Julie squeal inside the house.

  “It’s not a great surprise,” Jacob said on the opposite side of the closed door.

  Gee, thanks, Jacob. Amanda chuckled to herself.

  “What is it?” Julie asked.

  “It’s not a what, it’s a who.” Jacob opened the door, and Amanda didn’t know which of the pair made her heart swell with more emotion: the gorgeous dark-haired, blue-eyed, muscled hunk who was currently wearing sparkly blue fairy wings on his back or the adorable blond four-year-old who had no doubt convinced him to wear them.

  “Aunt Mander!”

  “Surprise!” Amanda said. She held out her arms for an exuberant hug, lifting Julie off the ground and into her arms, getting several kisses on the cheek for her effort.

  “This is a great surprise, Daddy,” Julie said. “I love my Aunt Mander.” She bestowed more kisses on Amanda.

  “And I love my Julie Bean,” Amanda said, giving her a squeeze. “Can I come to the zoo with you and your daddy today?”

  “Yes! I was waiting so long for my surprise so we can leave.”

  Amanda supposed an hour felt like an eternity to a young child.

  “Did you have breakfast?” Jacob asked Amanda.

  “Daddy made me pancakes and they look like butterflies.”

  Amanda grinned at Jacob, who appeared rather flushed. “He did?” When Julie nodded, Amanda asked, “Did they taste like butterflies?”

  Julie crinkled up her nose. “No, silly. They taste like pancakes. You can have some. He cooked about a hundred of them.”

  “You said you were hungry,” Jacob said.

  Amanda set Julie on her feet, and the girl skipped into the house toward the kitchen.

  Jacob leaned close and whispered in her ear, “You look beautiful.”

  She turned her head to offer her thanks and found their lips a hair’s breadth apart. She leaned into him, her hand on his waist, wishing his T-shirt would disappear so she could touch his bare skin. A deep longing curled in her belly.

  “Daddy! Where’s the butter?”

  Jacob jerked away and spun on his heel. “Don’t go near the stove,” he warned as he hurried toward the kitchen, his bouncing fairy wings slightly askew.

  Grinning to herself, Amanda trailed after him, feeling lewd for admiring a fairy’s ass. But who could blame her? She found the pair in the kitchen. Julie was kneeling on a stool at the breakfast bar and arranging butterfly-shaped pancakes—well, they were pretty much blob-shaped, but she was certain Julie was too sweet to criticize her father’s creations—on a plate. Jacob stood beside her, a steadying hand at her back.

  “How many do you want?” Julie asked.

  “Just two,” Amanda said. These two specifically, even though she knew she could never have the Silverton pair to herself. Even if a relationship worked out with Jacob, Julie was Tina’s daughter and she always would be, no matter how much Amanda adored her.

  “Could you keep an eye on her for a bit?” Jacob asked. “I want to grab a quick shower.”

  “No problem.”

  When Amanda scooted onto the stool next to Julie’s, Jacob leaned in with puckered lips to kiss Amanda’s temple. Wide-eyed, she jerked away. What was he thinking? Julie was drizzling syrup all over Amanda’s pancakes and not paying much attention, but she’d have heard the sound and probably wondered why her father was kissing her aunt.

  Jacob’s jaw hardened as he glared at her. “Seriously?”

  Amanda shook her head at him. What did he expect her to do? Shove her tongue down his throat and her hand down his pants?

  “Aunt Mander, I made you a smiley face on your butterfly!” Julie said.

  “Looks delicious,” Amanda said. “That’s enough syrup for me.” Her pancakes were liable to float away on the lake of liquid sugar flooding her plate.

  “We need to talk,” Jacob grumbled into her ear before stroking Julie’s soft blond curls with one hand and then turning to leave them alone in the kitchen.

  Apparently so. She’d thought they were in agreement about keeping this fling of theirs a secret, but he didn’t seem to think secrecy was important. Surely he couldn’t want Julie to know they were involved. Julie liked to talk about everything she witnessed. Everything. If she caught her father and her aunt being overly affectionate, Tina wouldn’t be the only person to hear the t
ale.

  “Mommy is mad at you, Aunt Mander,” Julie said as she watched Amanda dig into her pancakes.

  “I know. I’m sorry I didn’t come get you this morning. I stayed up past my bedtime and didn’t wake up early enough.”

 
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