Sexy Jerk(7)

By: Kim Karr

Max giggles and nods his head, taking his own hat off and tossing it to the ground. His hair is a mess, much like Nick’s, and I think he knows it because he pulls on his own blond curls to try to make them stand straight on end, more like Nick’s. Nick copies him, making his dark hair look somehow put together despite the fact he is fresh out of the shower. Even if I hate to admit it, it is kind of cute to watch their interaction.

As Nick starts to unzip Max’s coat, I clear my throat.

Nick looks over at me.

I am standing at the top of the stairs from the lower level and he is still standing across the room near the bottom of the stairs leading to the upper level. It’s odd, but neither of us has moved very far.

Are we at a stand off?

“What are you doing here?” I ask again. This time I added the word here to be more direct. And yes, I also did that so I wouldn’t sound like Max on repeat.

Having already removed Max’s coat, Nick shoves Max’s hat and mittens in the sleeves and hangs the coat on the banister, all the while glaring at me with a look of utter confusion. “I’m here to help you with Max.”

Dumbfounded, I drop Max’s things to the floor and take a step forward, pointing my finger at the very large duffle bag. “You’re staying here? In this house?”

Nick nods.

“With me and Max?” I clarify, now taking my own hat and coat off because even though it is only twenty degrees outside, it feels like a hundred in here.

Again, he just nods.

“No, no you’re not. No way,” I insist.

There is a slight rise of his brows. And then he does it again. He nods, like him and I living together is the most normal thing in the world.

Max nods too.

And then Nick sits on the floor and Max copies him, flopping to the ground in a burst of cuteness and landing right in front of Nick. “Let’s take your boots off,” Nick says, pointing to Max’s feet.

Max points to Nick’s bare toes, which I have to admit, are pretty damn sexy. “Socks too,” Max says.

Nick laughs. “Socks too.” And then he gets to work removing Max’s boots.

“Nick,” I say calmly this time.

“Tess.” He glances up.

“You can’t take care of Max. What do you know about kids, other than being a big kid yourself?”

Nick’s eyes narrow and he flips me the bird behind Max’s back. Okay, I deserved that one. I might have gone too far with that because obviously he is a big part of Max’s life. I, on the other hand, haven’t lived in Chicago since way before Max was born. To Max, I’ve just been the visiting auntie. So, what the hell do I know?

“Okay, yes, clearly you can,” I concede. “Still, we cannot live in this house together for the next two weeks.”

Nick merely grins. “Well, we are, so I guess we can.”

It takes all I have to suppress my snarl of rage. “No, we’re not.”

“Tess, we are. Both Fiona and Ethan have entrusted us with Max. Their son. And I don’t plan to disappoint them. And if you take a moment to think about it, I doubt you do either.”

Way to put it. “That just sucks,” I say rather childlike under my breath. Then add, “You can sleep downstairs on the couch.”

Nick laughs again. “It’s cold down there. How about we compromise. I’ll sleep in the guest room upstairs, but shower downstairs.”

I cross my arms in protest. “Fine, but this sucks.”

“I heard you the first time. I’m going to wager a bet that Ethan neglected to mention that I would be here.”

It hits me then—why Ethan had been so accommodating last night. He must have been working on his back up plan all along.

And Nick was it.

“Yes, conveniently he did. And so did Fiona, for that matter,” I sputter.

“To Fiona’s benefit, she didn’t know until this morning when I walked in the door to take Max to preschool.”

“You dropped him off?” For some reason I just thought Ethan and Fiona had dropped him off before heading to the airport.”

“Promptly at eleven. Like I said, I’m here to help.”

With my arms still crossed, I keep them there, knowing for some reason my nipples are protruding under the cashmere of my sweater. “This situation still sucks,” I mutter.

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