Jon tapped a few keys and snapped his laptop closed in disgust. He dug his fingertips into his eye sockets and pushed his computer away, leaning back in the normally comfortable leather seat. Right now all he wanted was his bed and four hours of uninterrupted sleep. He could live on four hours, hell he’d lived on four hours for most of his forty-four years.
He’d never been the type to need much. He always had another meeting, another venue, another interview to do. He’d programmed himself long ago to do with the bare minimum. But the tossing and turning he’d done the night before couldn’t qualify as sleep.
In fact, he’d slept better on a bus in his early years than he did without her. He couldn’t understand it either. He was used to sleeping alone. For the better part of his life he usually ended up alone. Any romantic entanglements usually ended way before bed and the time he was married he was home so rarely it had been difficult to sleep with his wife.
He liked sleeping alone. And he and Dorthea had a huge California King to prove that statement, so why was he having trouble now, after just a few nights?
The flight from Philly to NYC had been filled with conference calls so that nixed any idea of a nap. Then a quick bump from the city to the airport near his house wasn’t long enough to even warrant a nap, let alone anything close to real sleep. He rolled his eyes when he heard Richie’s fitful grumble as he maneuvered his too long legs on the couch.
Richie didn’t have any trouble sleeping, anywhere. “Fucker,” he muttered and crossed his arms over his chest and stared out the window. The familiar lights of the
He wasn’t sure what the etiquette was for something like Christmas and a new relationship, but the little blue box was usually a pleaser for most women. When the pilot’s voice came through the cabin that they were making their descent, Richie finally roused and yawned his way back to one of the leather chairs.
He dropped in and fastened his lap belt loosely. “Didn’t you sleep, man?”
Jon just gave him a look.
Richie just grinned back at him and slipped his shades on to cover the bags from his partying the night before. “I’ll take that as a no. Hey, don’t get so bent you’ll see your lady friend in a few hours and then you can get that puss off your face with a little pussy.”
He laughed at his own joke and Jon couldn’t stop his own laugh in return. “You are a pig.”
“Yes, but an attractive one that makes the ladies sigh and scream for more.”
Jon just shook his head, but the smile stayed. “Yeah, I’m going to head out to Dot’s and pick up the older kids and Jake to go to the festival.”
“Oh shit, I forgot about that. I’d go with you except I have this thing.”
“How tall is she? And what are her measurements?”
Richie laughed and made the universal sign for hourglass in the air and then held his hand level to his mid-chest. “You know I like ‘em tiny.”
Jon laughed. “Too bad, Ava couldn’t have come out a few days earlier. I know Stef and Jesse would have enjoyed seeing her.”
“Yeah, well, she had a few parties with her friends. Can’t deny my daughter her social life.”
Jon folded his arms again, “No, I know exactly what you mean. I think Stef is only going so she can meet her friends. I know she doesn’t want to hang out with her old man. And Jesse’s the same.”
“Sucks when they don’t need you anymore, doesn’t it?”
His gaze returned to the window. “Yeah, it sure does.”
Richie tapped the box. “In trouble already?” he asked, sensing he needed to change the subject.
“Huh?” He turned back to Richie.
“Oh, no…that’s for Christmas.”
“Well, I guess it is love if she rates Tiffany’s.”
Jon just gave him a baleful look. “Well, until I know exactly what to get her, Tiff’s will work.”
“I don’t think a pair of panites has hit the floor faster than when Tiff’s is involved.”
“Yeah, well panties are optional for Christmas my friend.”
“I personally like the little red ones with fur.”
Jon laughed at the double meaning. “Shit, you just get worse with age.”
“No, I get better.”
Jon just groaned. “Christ, you are certifiable.”
“No, but the woman is pretty close when I get done with her.”
There was no competing with him when he was like this. Richie was in a good mood tonight, which was really nice to see. He’d been a little shaky on his pins lately and it was nice to see him even out a little bit.
When they touched down Jon tucked the box back in his laptop case and followed Richie off the plane. The ride home was filled with a little more gutter talk as Richie kept his mind off his own frustrations. He would be staying with him until he left for his parents in the morning. Well, maybe he’d be staying. Richie at a party could be an all nighter, or he could go home with Miss Hourglass.
They both headed into their respective rooms to wash off the airplane and city grime. Jon tagged Dorthea for the kids and agreed to pick them up at 7:30. Jake had conned his way to the festival by taking a late nap so he could go.
Twenty minutes later he had a chattering car full of kids and a smile on his face. His kids were nothing if not entertaining. Even the sometimes sullen Stephanie was chipper and smiling. He took a chance and pulled into Chapters parking lot and snagged a spot toward the back. After a few grumblings they agreed to meet him at ten o’clock by the brightly lit stage.
He swung Jake out and over his shoulder getting the fit of giggles he was looking for. It was easier to tease him into being held as they crossed the street than to fight him back. Jesse disappeared almost instantly and Jon didn’t even bother to call out to him.
Stef followed suit and Jon was left with Jakey and a hoard of people. He set his son down and took a look around. The entire park was decked out for the holidays with enough lights to take care of a small city. From the twinkling white to the oversized colored, it all lit their little world like a fantasy.
He smiled down at his son as he took it all in. Jakey’s eyes, so much like his own, shined with excitement as he smiled back up. “Can we go on the rides, Dad?”
Jon nodded and they headed to the back of the park where the fair-type rides dotted the edges of the grass. Jake dragged him to the teacups. Well, more like big bowls, Jon thought as he paid for two tickets. When Jake’s eyes took on a maniacal glint he grabbed the turn style wheel before his son could spin them into oblivion.
The whirling started almost immediately and he grunted when Jakey’s thirty-five pound body hurled into him with a laugh.
Unable to deny such a simple request and thanking the fair-gods that they hadn’t hit the junk food stops yet he gave the wheel a good spin. By the time the three minute ride was done, his stomach had pitched a few times and the world spun even after the teacup stopped.
“Can we go again?”
He just laughed. “Why don’t we hit the other booths first?”
“Okay, but can I have a fried dough first? I saw it when we came in.”
Sharing Jake’s weakness for sweets, he caved. “Sounds like a plan.” Jon took his hand and looked around the park for a tell-tale head of copper hair.
“Who are you looking for, Dad?”
“What?” he focused his attention back on Jake. “Who?”
“You keep lookin’ around. You meetin’ someone?”
Jon just laughed. Damn if his kid wasn’t observant. “No…well, not really. I know some people that are going to be here.”
Well shit. All the worry about seeing Tessa and getting his hands on her faded as he digested just what it would mean to his family when they found out about her. Any of the limited relationships he’d had since he and Dorthea had split up had never involved his children. He was careful to keep things out of the press to maintain the solid life he’d built for his family. Keeping them out of the lime-light had been one of the things he and his ex-wife had agreed on continuing.
“No one important,” he said and Jake immediately lost interest rushing to get in the fried dough line. When he paid and they settled at one of the picnic tables set up he helped his son plow through the sticky concoction.
Traces of powdered sugar and its melted greasy form stuck like glue to Jake’s face and he crouched down to scrub at his squirming four year old.
“Dad, cut it out!”
“Well, you got more sugar on your face than in your mouth, Bud.”
“Well, since Mommy spit isn’t available will this do?”
Jon looked up to see Tessa, a bottled water and a now wet napkin in her hands. He smiled up at her and took the damp napkin. “Yes, I think it will.” His gaze went from the sharp mile high heeled boots up to her toned knees and thighs hidden beneath some sort of thick stockings to the cute skirt and bulky sweater that only seemed to hug the generous curves of her breasts.
A red scarf was tossed over her shoulder with the other end teasing the ends of her sweater. She recapped her water and tucked her hands back into her gloves.
“Dad, I’m clean already!”
Jon just grunted and tossed the napkin in the trash and took a firm grip on his hand before he could squirm away. “Say hello to Miss Donovan, Jake.”
Tessa smiled and clasped her hands in front of her. “Nice to see you again, Jake.”
“Are you the Pirate Lady?”
Tessa’s smile spread. “Yup, that was me.”
“Cool. Are you going to have more pirate stories?”
“I don’t know, depends on the books out there.”
“Oh,” Jake frowned but lost interest almost immediately when he caught sight of the Ferris Wheel. “Dad can we go back to the rides now?”
“Just give me five minutes.”
Jon met her eyes, then his gaze dropped to her mouth and then returned. When her tongue flicked out to wet her lower lip he swallowed back a groan. “How are things going?”
She cleared her throat. “Pretty good, no major catastrophes this hour,” she said with a wisp of a smile.
“Are you my dad’s girlfriend?”
“What?” Tessa blinked and looked down at Jake. A half laugh escaping as she smiled down at Jake then back at Jon.
“Are you my dad’s girlfriend? Because you’re looking at him funny.”
Jon tugged him into his leg and ruffled his hair. “Of course not,” Jon said suddenly.
Tessa took a step back and her heels clicked together as the laughter faded from her eyes. Her fingers once loosely clasped now firmed until he was pretty certain he’d have to pry them apart. The sweetness and happiness he’d seen in her eyes was gone in a blink.
Shit! Shit! Shit! He hadn’t been prepared how to handle his relationship with Tessa and his kids. Instinct told him to keep them out of it. A lifetime of protecting his children had kicked in and he’d said the first thing that popped into his head.
A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth, but didn’t reach her eyes. “Well it was nice to see you again, Jake. I hope I see you in the bookstore again.”
“I’ve got to get back to the, um-“ she paused and swallowed. “I need to get back and check on the band. I’ll talk to you later.”
She turned and took two steps before he got his stupid tongue to work. Fuck. “Tessa, wait.” She didn’t turn around, but she did stop. “We’ll talk later, I promise.”
He saw her head bob in agreement before she headed across the park.
“Dad, the Ferris Wheel. C’mon!”
He pinched the bridge of his nose and let his son tug him back toward the rides.