Jon tossed his keys in the change bowl near the door and started stripping. He felt like yesterday’s garbage. There’d been a layover for a mechanical issue with the plane in
An ancient video game had eaten most of his money because he’d had nothing better to do between phone calls and text messages. He grinned and shot his sweater and t-shirt into the laundry room as he made a stop at the fridge for a bottled water. Dirty texts to be exact, he thought with a quick shake of his head. His Tessa had a dirty little mind that had left him sitting funny in those stupid plastic chairs at the airfield.
He spit out water and grabbed a paper towel to wipe off his chin and chest. “Jesus, Steph!”
She glanced at his chest then up to his face. “Tessa’s not here is she?”
Mottled embarrassment rose on his cheeks as he looked down at his chest. “No!” he ducked back into the laundry room and tugged on the first t-shirt he saw. “What are you doing here, kiddo!” he called as he came back into the kitchen.
She rolled her eyes and read the tacky slogan that claimed, “Miller Life,” and held up a People magazine. “Needed to talk and warn you,” she said and sat back in her chair. A lock of stick straight hair slid into her eyes.
He sat at the table and gave the magazine a disinterested glance. “What’s up?”
She pushed it across. “Page 58,” she said and folded her arms over her chest.
Sighing he flipped through the thin, glossy pages and saw the celebrity out and about shots and gave an inward groan when he saw he and Tessa at the New Year’s gala. He pushed down until the glare was gone and Tessa’s regal face stared up at him. The photog had caught a shot of them with Elton and fingers twined behind her in an oddly intimate pose despite the foot of space between them. Of course it didn’t help that she had the soft, sweet smile on her face that he looked forward to each night.
He sat down next to Stephanie. “What kind of warning?” he asked carefully.
“Let’s just say Mom’s gotten a few calls and your balls are on the chopping block with most of the housewives.”
“Stephanie!” he glanced at her with beetled brows.
She shrugged, “Sorry, Dad, those were Mrs. Connelly’s words not mine.”
Unconcerned that a neighborhood shrew had less than a stellar outlook on him he took a good look at his little girl. “Is it a problem for you?” he asked quietly.
Again, she gave him a shrug of her slim shoulders. So much like her mother in looks and poker face ability, he sighed. “Seriously, Steph…I like Tessa a lot.”
“Dad, you love her.”
He wiped a hand across tired eyes, suddenly the exhaustion was almost too much to deal with. “Baby…” he started.
“It’s okay, Dad. I know you and Mom have been on the outs for years. Most of my friends have divorced parents. It’s no big thing.” She stood and grabbed a carton of milk from the fridge and helped herself to a large glass.
He looked her over, with her slim teen body that was just starting to show a womanly shape. The wide, assessing blue eyes that spoke of her mother’s wisdom and his creativity, but he didn’t see any distress there. He didn’t know whether to be pleased or horrified that the breakup of the family was being handled so well by a thirteen year old.
He’d tried to keep a normal home life for his kids as long as possible, but school was definitely putting the kibosh on that these days. Between the Paris Hiltons and the Brittany Spears there was very little that was innocent in the eyes of the kids who were old enough to read tabloids, especially when they had their own subscriptions.
“I take it your mother is displeased,” he said softly.
Again with the shrug, “I don’t think it helped that she was at the Spa when she saw the magazine.”
“Hell,” Jon growled and stood. Dot didn’t like surprises on a good day, and while she knew he was taking Tessa out to a party she didn’t exactly need it flaunted in front of her face. More importantly, not with her friends right in the thick of things. Dot had been friends with Elton as long as he had, but Elton had taken to Tessa within minutes, where Dot had taken months before he’d joked with her.
Taking one more look at the copper column of perfection that Tessa had been on that night, he closed the magazine. He wasn’t entirely sure he was up to facing his ex after the day he’d had. In fact, he was fairly certain he was going to go upstairs and hope it was forgotten.
“I appreciate the head’s up, Steph, but is that the only reason you showed up at my door?”
“What? It’s not my house anymore?” she asked innocently.
“I’m sorry, I forgot to put on my stupid hat this morning. Try again.”
She rolled her eyes. “Mind if I hide out here for a few days?”
“Why?” he asked carefully.
“It’s nothing bad, Dad. It’s just quarantine central at the house. Jake brought home a nasty virus that has already moved on to Romeo and I don’t want it to get me next.”
“So you bring it here? Awww how sweet of you,” he said and twisted her into a headlock. “Yeah, just call your mom and let her know you’re here.” He released her and headed upstairs. “Don’t go put on the TV, call her first!” he yelled over his shoulder.
When he heard the deep sigh of teen angst he smiled and took the stairs two at a time. It looked like his homecoming with Tessa would still be a few days. He flipped open his phone and dialed. When “Wanted Dead of Alive,” came screaming back at him from the phone he snorted.
“Hello,” she said a moment later, her voice like smooth dark chocolate.
“Nice ringback tone there, Baby.”
Her laughter was even lower and filled with promise. “Yes, well I couldn’t help myself. Are you home? And are you naked? And even more importantly are you going to do that thing to me in the shower that you promised?”
His cock instantly hardened at her voice and the images it stirred. She’d been teasing him all morning with various scenarios that would culminate with his homecoming. And culminate had certainly been the word of the day as her knees, water and soap had played a staring role in the latest little text explosion. “Goddamn, you are an evil woman,” he said tightly, pressing his hand down on the hard on that was currently knocking on his zipper.
“Damn, my secret’s out. And here I thought I was being so mysterious about it.”
He laughed, tucking the phone into his shoulder as he ran the faucet in the shower, making sure to keep the cool gage revved.
“Now that’s not fair, I hear the shower already and I’ve got at least three hours to go,” she pouted.
“I have a houseguest, babe.”
“What? Richie? Just tell him to go out between the hours of eight and eleven-thirty.”
He coughed, “Well you’re certainly generous with my umm…prowess.”
“There’s about twenty minutes allotted for eating in there too.”
Laughing he stripped off his jeans and shirt. “She’s a bit shorter and a lot more intelligent than my best friend.” The laughter and the teasing slipped from her voice and he wished he could snatch it back. “I’m sorry, Tessa. Steph is hiding out from the germs here for a few days. The boys are sick.”
She swallowed and he could feel the forced levity to her voice. “No, that’s okay. I have tons of paperwork to do anyway. The quarterly reports don’t write themselves.”
“It’s not even the end of January,” he reminded her.
“Well look at that I’ll be ahead! I’m always behind so it will be a novelty.” She said with a half laugh.
“Baby, I’m sorry. I was looking forward to acting out your rather inventive shower scene.”
Her laugh was a little more relaxed. “Maybe another night,” she said softly.
“I’ll call you later tonight to tuck you in,” he said with a low voice.
“I’ll be sure to send a picture so you don’t forget what my bed looks like, stud.” And she was gone.
He whipped back the shower curtain and swore when the needle cold spray hit his erection and left him cursing responsibilities and germs as he quickly soaped up.