Jon headed back to the game booths and spotted his daughter holding her little brother’s hand in a death grip while trying to talk to her friends. He would have smiled if he wasn’t so ticked off. He knew what a chore it was to get stuck with the little brother. It had happened to him more times than he could count growing up.
Putting a hand on his daughter’s shoulder she looked up at him with faint irritation and relief. “Thank God, he’s being so annoying!” She hauled Jakey forward and pushed him toward Jon. “I need to go.”
Jon just shook his head and took a hold of Jakey’s hand, well aware of his penchant for disappearing in crowds. He just wasn’t in the mood to lose a few years off his life tonight. “Thanks, Stef. I’ll see you around ten okay?”
“Can’t I stay out longer?”
“Nope, ten is late enough.”
“I told your mom I’d have you guys ready for ten so she could swing by and pick you up. You don’t want to get me in trouble do you?”
Her lips firmed. “Mom would let me stay out.”
His jaw clicked and he prayed for strength. Don’t kill your daughter, it’s not worth the jail time, he told himself. “Look, call your Mom and if it’s okay with her, then it’s okay with me.”
Her eyes went from surly to bright. “Excellent!” she said and dug out her ice pink Razor that she’d talked him into last month.
He waited as she spoke to Dot and he couldn’t help but be impressed on how she effectively backed her mother into a yes. “Let me talk to her,” he said and took the phone away from Stef. “Hey, you know you can say no to her.”
“And so can you,” she said with a trace of impatience.
“I’m more than happy to be the bad guy, Dot.” He turned to his daughter and watched her face go stony. Damn if she didn’t get that from him. Trying desperately not to laugh he spoke again, “I can have her ready at ten just like we discussed.”
Dorthea’s sigh was huge. “No, then I’ll have a pouty teenager to live with. Just let her go, I’ll check with
“You’re the boss,” he said and handed Stef back her phone. “Sounds good, just don’t…” he sighed when the smug smile came out. “Give me the smug smile,” he finished. “Just remember I’ve done everything you can think of and then some. I’m still smarter than you.”
Stef reached up and kissed his cheek. “Yes, Daddy.”
Jakey tugged at his hand and Stef already blended back into the crowd. “Alright, have fun but stay at the fair,” he said lamely to his daughter’s back. Following his son’s litany of, “C’mon Dad, C’mon Dad,” he let himself be dragged back to the rides.
Depositing his four year old on the train ride he sat on the bench and watched, giving him a distracted smile each time he made a circuit and waved. With a moment to himself he let the anger stew. He’d truly fucked up where Tessa was concerned and he wasn’t sure how to fix it.
He hadn’t been prepared to deal with his kids and Tessa at the same time. Hadn’t even thought about it when he’d told her he was bringing them. How was he supposed to tell them about her when he wasn’t even sure about what they were yet?
He loved her, he knew it as surely as he knew his own name, but his kids were…well, they’d had enough upheaval in the last year to deal with. He wasn’t sure how to tell them he had a new woman in his life. Hell, he hadn’t even discussed it with Dot yet.
But the way she’d gotten so angry and then walked away from him. He gritted his teeth and took a deep breath. He couldn’t blame her for being hurt, but the pot shot behind the stage hadn’t been called for. He didn’t treat her like his mistress. He didn’t intentionally hide their relationship, but he wasn’t ready to show it off in front of the kids.
Jakey got off the ride and headed for him with a smile. “Dad! Did you see me?”
Jon smiled down at his son, “I sure did. Did you have fun?”
Jake nodded and climbed up on the bench beside him. “I got to ring the bell and everything.” He crawled onto his lap and plopped himself down. “I’m hungry.”
He just laughed, poking him in the stomach. “Where do you put it?”
Laughing he pushed his hand away. “I’m a growing boy.”
“Sounds like the company line.”
“That’s what Mama tells me.”
He set him on the ground and took his hand once more. “Mama knows best. What’ll it be this time?”
Jon groaned. “Okay, ice cream it is.”
An hour later he had a very sticky, very grumpy four year old in his arms who was well past his bedtime, even with a nap. He made his way to the sidewalk just beyond the stage and gave a relieved sigh when he saw his older son waiting for him. “Hey Jesse.”
He just tugged down his hat. “Ten o’clock curfew blows.”
“Don’t I know it, but them’s the rules, bud.”
He winced. “She’s with staying with
“She gets to stay? That’s not fair!”
“When you’re thirteen then we’ll discuss it, but until then it’s a ten o’clock curfew.”
Dorthea’s BMW pulled up and Jesse got in and slammed the door. Walking around to deposit a nearly asleep Jake into the carseat he fastened him in and dropped a kiss on his forehead before shutting the door. Dorthea’s window slid down. “Everything okay?”
He gave her a tired smile. “Jesse just found out that Stef doesn’t have to leave.”
She tucked a lock of hair away from her face and glanced at Jesse. “Got a problem with that Jess?”
“No,” he said sullenly.
“I didn’t think so.”
Jon just knew his son didn’t want his computer privileges taken away. Dot was sneaky that way. “Jake’s dead to the world and should be dunked in the morning. He’s managed to get most of the fair food on one part or another of himself.”
“Will do,” she smiled and pushed her glasses up. “We’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
She started to raise the window and he held up a hand. “I’d like to talk about Christmas and some other things tomorrow.”
“Jon, we’ve discussed-“
“I don’t want to get into it now,” he said and they shared a look. “I’ll call you in the morning, okay?”
She just nodded and sighed. “Okay, tomorrow.”
“Talk to you tomorrow, Jesse.” When he didn’t get an answer, he just stepped back and waved as she drove away.
Pushing his fingers into his hair he went back to the festival. The band had been replaced with a DJ and the equipment had been cleared away for a dance floor. A few people danced to the slow beat of Sam Cook’s, ‘When A Man Loves A Woman.’
He scanned the faces in the crowd and finally spotted her standing with her friend Nichole and what had to be her husband. They were seated around a picnic table. As he moved closer, the girls were sharing what looked like a banana split, while the husband had one for himself.
Taking the opportunity to come up behind her, he placed a hand on each of Tessa’s shoulders. “Think I could steal her away for a minute?”
He felt the tension and smoothed the palm of his hands over the thick, nubby wool of her sweater. He looked at Nichole and kept his eyes even on her unimpressed brown.
She didn’t crack a smile. “That depends on her.”
Tessa swallowed the last of her ice cream with a bit more concentration than it warranted and carefully laid her spoon next to the tray. “It’s okay, we need to talk.” She swung her legs from the bench seat and looked up at him. His eyes were still unreadable, but the coolness was gone.
He held out his hand and she closed her eyes for a moment before clasping it. She grabbed her gloves with the other and followed him across the field. They didn’t say a word as he led them back toward the swings. He sat her down on a swing and paced for a moment without saying a word.
“No, let me start first.”
Without knowing what else to do with herself, she tucked her fingers back into her gloves and wound her fingers around the chain to wait him out.
“I know I didn’t handle things right, but you gotta understand those kids are the single most important part of my life. Making sure they are safe and secure is the only thing I can think of right now. But that being said, it wasn’t right to talk to you like that in front of Jakey.”
Crouching in front of her he put a hand on each of her knees. “There’s been so much going on with the divorce and the media backlash that I just don’t want to give them one more thing to be confused about right now.”
Faced with that kind of sense she felt even more ashamed of her behavior. He’d obviously been thinking about it for most of the evening. “I-“
“I’m not done yet,” he said and rubbed his thumbs over the tights in a soothing circle. “I haven’t figured us out yet, at least not the details but-“
She cut him off by leaning forward and fitting her mouth over his. Widening his footing he took a deep breath and kissed her back. She poured all the frustrations of the day out into the kiss and hoped it would be enough to make him understand. Before pulling back, she bumped noses with him and lingered with gentle brushes of lips and breath. “I’m sorry,” she whispered. “I totally over reacted and if you make any more excuses I’m going to die of guilt.”
“I don’t blame you for being angry.”
“Yeah, but you should blame me for acting like a fourteen year old girl and stomping off instead of talking earlier.”
“Yeah well, I’m used to fourteen year old girls.”
“You reduce IQ points and evidently years off my life and that’s just so wrong.”
“I’m too old to be crouched like this,” he said and started to get up.
“We’ll take it a day at a time,” she said and followed him as he stood, curled his arms around her waist and pulled her in.
Laying his cheek against her hair he dragged in her scent. “I just wish one part of my life could be uncomplicated,” he said on a groan.
She pulled back and looked up at him. “Sure there is,” she kissed his scruffy chin. “How much you love your kids.”
On a half laugh he lowered his mouth to hers again for a quick kiss. “Is it okay if I say I don’t want to think about my kids right now? I just want to enjoy you?”
“Works for me,” and she leaned into him to resume the kiss. The sweetness of it made her sigh, but it was the heat she was looking for. And when his mouth slanted over hers and his tongue slid inside all thoughts of sweet fled.
Struggling out of her gloves she let them fall to the ground, wanting to get her hands into his hair. The coarse strands curled around her fingers and she bent him down closer and dragged her mouth to his ear. “I have to stay until midnight but then I want you naked in my bed. Think you can arrange that for me?”
Jon’s hands slid under her sweater to grip her waist, then the curve of her bottom, dragging her into the hardness at the fly of his jeans. “I can definitely get behind that statement.”
She tugged on his earlobe. “I like it from behind.”
He groaned and tucked his fingers into the waistband of her skirt and into the tights to feel her skin. “I don’t care if you’re in front, under or on top. I just want to be inside you.”
For the first time all night she cursed her tights. It was just near to impossible to get him where she needed him and there were far too many people roaming around. She met his hungry mouth for another kiss and slipped her hand into his jeans.
He jumped as her fingers circled his throbbing head, the flick of her nail drove him deeper into the kiss, forcing his tongue into her mouth in long strokes that he’d prefer to do with his cock. When he couldn’t stand it any longer he pulled a hand from under her sweater to catch her wrist. “I’m going to have a problem if you don’t stop that,” he said against her mouth.
Nipping his chin she firmed her hand along his shaft. The wicked edge of lust stealing her sense, “I could drag you into a dark corner and take care of things.”
Just the thought of her mouth around him had him fighting for control. And because every part of him wanted to take her like a rutting animal, he stopped himself. “You have no idea what it’s doing to me,” he said and eased her hand from his pants, “To say no to you.”
Tracing her knuckle along the silky hair at his belt she cruised her way up his jaw to his ear again. “Then why are you saying no?”
“Because that’s not going to be enough,” he said and caught her lower lip between his teeth and tugged. “The only thing that I want is to be inside that slick,” he hiked her skirt and pushed his fingers along the seam of her stockings. “Wet pussy that I missed way too much last night,” he finished and tugged her skirt back down. “And I don’t want any interruptions.”
Tessa’s fingers gripped the lapels of his coat and fought to stay upright. Her thighs trembled at his words, pair that with the rough and thrilling touch and she was ready to drag him across the street and try out her desk. Vibrating she buried her nose into the rich cashmere of his sweater and breathed deep, gripping his belt to stop the shaking.
Hooking his arms around her shoulders he let her hair sift through his fingers and groaned when his watched beeped. “Shit,” he said and pulled back. “I have to go make sure Stef leaves with her girlfriend.”
“What time is it?”
“Crap!” Tessa crouched down and gathered up her gloves. “Carol is going to shoot me. I was supposed to meet her five minutes ago.”
“I’ll find you,” he said and dropped a quick kiss on her lips.
Just as he pulled away she grabbed the ends of his scarf and dragged him back for more. When she heard the moan mix with her groan she let him go. “You better.”
She watched him walk toward the bright lights of the fair to the blazing street lights just across from her store. A group of young girls were laughing and welcomed him with a familiarity that could only be his daughter and her friends. Smiling to herself, she headed toward the stage. Digging her compact out of her bag, she managed to repair her lipstick just before hitting the stairs leading to the dance floor.
Carol Rothchild lifted the microphone and began her closing speech. Letting everyone know the times for the fair tomorrow and what to expect, she thanked the sponsors and the volunteers. Tessa smiled at her as she turned back to encompass the small committee that had put the Winter Festival together.
She droned on and it was all Tessa could do, not to goose her when she saw the yawns start their rounds in the crowd. Finally the woman shut up and the music started up again. Inundated with well wishers and the small talk of the tired and commiserating, she finally found a second to breathe. Scanning the crowd she caught Jon’s eye and smiled.
“Tessa, I can’t believe you made it work. You are amazing.”
She broke their gaze and concentrated on the fellow shop owner before her. “Thanks, Kelly. Good thing you warned me about Carol or I would have killed her for sure.”
“I want every single tip, so I can deal with her in the spring.”
Laughing, she exchanged a hug as Kelly said her good nights. Trying not to be obvious she turned back to where he’d been a moment ago and frowned. Where the heck had he gone?