Page 49

A few moments passed in silence. Nothing but the sound of that trippy-ass music filling the apartment, before her eyes went a little watery. “Come here, you stubborn, sweet woman,” she said, flapping her arms.

I let Holly hug me until I felt like I was going to pass out again.

A couple hours later, the apartment was dark and, other than LJ’s little man-snoring, quiet. In two hours’ time, we’d managed to get them unpacked, worked out a weekly schedule that detailed when I’d be watching LJ as well as a chore and shopping list, bathed LJ (which was more like what I imagined it would be like to wrestle with a slippery sea lion), and cleaned up not one, but two cups of spilled milk.

Neither LJ nor I cried over it, but Holly was close when spill number two wound up on my coat. I’d sent her to bed, promising I’d send LJ in right after he’d had his third try at a cup of milk.

I added spill-proof cup to the shopping list before tucking him in next to Holly, who was already so deep in sleep she didn’t even shift when LJ crawled in beside her.

Until my bed got here, I was camping out on the couch, which was pretty comfortable when you paired it with a couple of cozy blankets and pillows. Almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, I felt myself drifting off to sleep. The day had been exhausting for me, too.

That was when my phone rang.

I snapped awake. I couldn’t believe I’d almost forgotten Jude’s and my nightly call. Blinking to clear my sleepy eyes, I accepted the Face Time request.

“Hey, handsome,” I said, sounding as tired as I felt.

“Shit. Did I wake you, Luce?” His forehead creased, but his mouth stayed formed in a smile.

“If you’d waited another thirty seconds you would have,” I said, shifting onto my elbows. “It was one hell of a day.”

“Good or bad hell of a day?”

“Pretty great really. Just busy. And exhausting,” I said. “Even better now that I get to end it with you.” I took him in, letting myself soak up as much of Jude as I could through the phone. This was all I got for another twenty-four hours. He was back in his hotel after finally coming to his senses that we didn’t need a ten-thousand-square-foot home for our first one. Jude was sitting up in bed, and he was shirtless.

Had I really been tired less than a minute ago? It didn’t seem possible with the way my blood was pumping through my veins right now.

“So . . .” he began, his smile twisting, “you look pretty tired, but I wanted to see if you felt like having some sweet dreams tonight.”

My inner thighs tightened. “I’m not exactly alone anymore,” I whispered, glancing back at the bedroom. “I can’t have regular phone sex with you when a three-year-old’s under the roof.”

“Just be quiet,” he suggested.

I laughed out loud before catching myself. “When was the last time I was able to be quiet during . . . that?”

An eyebrow arched. “Never. But there’s a first time for everything, Luce.” He was so damn confident, I almost wanted to tell him no just out of principle. But I knew I wouldn’t. My body had already started the spiral to the top from his words alone.

“You do know if I have to attempt this whole quiet thing, I’m not going to be able to talk dirty to you. Right?” I said, skimming my fingers down my stomach. My skin was extrasensitive from anticipation.

Jude shifted in bed before holding his boxers in front of the camera. “That’s a sacrifice I’m happy to make.” And then he threw them to the side, giving me a full-monty view.

I swallowed, and then slid my hand under my leggings.

“Aunt Luce?”

I jolted, dropping the phone in the process. “LJ?! What are you doing up?” My voice was two octaves too high.

“I heard voices and wanted to make sure you were okay,” he said, coming around the side of the couch sporting his Avengers pj’s.

The phone had slipped behind the sofa cushions, but I could hear Jude’s low laugh coming through it.

“I’m okay,” I said as I pulled the phone free. “I was just saying good night to Uncle Jude.” Checking the screen to make sure the view had changed, I flashed it in front of LJ.

“Uncle Jude!” His face lit up like Jude was cooler than bubble gum.

“Hey, little man. How’s it going?”

“Good, but don’t talk too loud, okay?” he asked, lifting his finger to his mouth. “Mom doesn’t know I snuck out of bed.”

“You got up to check on Aunt Luce?”

LJ nodded.

“Good job,” Jude said. “You’re the man of the house now, so I’m trusting you to take care of your mom and Aunt Luce.”

“Jude, he’s three,” I said, turning the screen toward me. He’d shrugged into a shirt faster than he could get mine off.

“I’m almost four,” LJ said proudly.

“Yeah, Luce. He’s almost four.”

“All right, man of the house,” I said, turning the screen back toward LJ. “Say good night. It’s way past your bedtime.”

“One more minute?” LJ begged.

“Yeah, one more minute?” Jude’s voice joined in.

I sighed. “Fine.”

LJ did a little dance.

“Phone five,” Jude said, as LJ high-fived the screen.

“Thanks for the football, Uncle Jude. Will you teach me to throw it one thousand yards?” It was dark, but LJ’s eyes were twinkling.

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