Page 52

“Right this way,” he said in a dignified voice, before grabbing my hand and pulling me into the bathroom.

“What are you up to, crazy man?” I laughed as he towed me along. He was strong for an almost-four-year-old.

“I picked out some jammies and slippers for you,” he said, pointing at them balanced on the sink ledge. “Once you’re comfy, we can have some dinner and I’ll even bring you your plate.” His face was so lit up with excitement, it rubbed off on me.

“Thank you, kind sir,” I said, bowing formally. “But to what do I owe the honor of all this special treatment?”

“Mom says you’ve been working hard all week and you’re our angel and you deserve some DLC,” he recited, backing out of the bathroom.

“You mean TLC?”

He rolled his eyes at me. “Nope. DLC.”

I covered my mouth to keep from laughing. “Well, I’m looking forward to my DLC tonight.”

He beamed before shutting the door. The next sound I heard was his footsteps pounding into the kitchen as he shouted, “She’s getting comfy! She’s getting comfy! I want to pour her cup of apple juice now!”

I couldn’t get out of my skirt and blouse fast enough. I’d worn the same black skirt twice this week, thanks to my lack of business attire, and I had been hoping to remedy that sometime this weekend. Maybe now instead of getting new outfits, I could get LJ a new pair of swimming trunks so we could swim at the public pool.

LJ had clearly handpicked my jammies for the night without any help from Holly. The top he’d gotten right. I always wore some variety of a camisole to bed. However, he’d matched it with a pair of Jude’s boxers that had four-leaf clovers on them that read, GET LUCKY, and then, to top it off, LJ had loaned me his slide-on slippers featuring the most terrifying of the Yo Gabba Gabba! characters: the red, warty dude with one eye.

Once I’d slid into my tank and hiked Jude’s boxers into place, I squeezed on the slippers. Only because I couldn’t resist, I took a good look in the mirror and burst out laughing. This outfit was too rad not to share. Snapping a picture with my phone, I typed a quick message: BET YOU WISH YOU WERE HERE TO ENJOY ALL THIS SEXINESS, before sending it to Jude.

Opening the door, I rolled my shoulders back and turned that hallway into a runway.

India was the first to catch sight of me working it, and the beer she’d been sipping shot straight out of her nose.

Sputtering and laughing at the same time, she nudged Holly, who was chopping up a head of lettuce. “You go, girl!” India said, snapping her fingers. “You get on with your bad self!”

Holly, followed by Thomas, burst into laughter next, tossing in a few whistles and catcalls for good measure.

I came to a stop at the kitchen and struck a pose. More laughter. India even let a snort pop out, which, of course, only made everyone laugh harder.

While I was busy holding my pose, a little hand grabbed mine. “You look beautiful, Aunt Luce,” LJ said, his voice and face full of awe.

“All thanks to you,” I said, clicking my slippers together like Dorothy before heading over to the sink. “What do you guys need help with?”

“Just stay out of the way,” Thomas whispered, nudging me as he upended a bag of chips into a bowl. “India was ready to cut a bitch when I dropped the cilantro on the floor.”

“I heard that, Tinker Bell,” India said, shooting a glare Thomas’s way.

“Sure, go for the easy insult. Yes, yes, I am a male dancer who’s majoring in ballet,” he said, flinging a chip India’s way. “You’re just jeals because my butt looks better in a pair of jeans than yours does.”

“Enough already, you two,” Holly ordered, bringing a bowl of guacamole our way. “I’ve been playing referee all afternoon and I’m done.”

“He insulted my butt,” India said, hiking a hand onto her hip.

“I didn’t insult it,” Thomas responded. “I just stated that mine, in fact, is nicer to look at.”

When I realized I’d been washing my hands the whole time India and Thomas had been snapping back and forth, I shut off the water.

Groaning, Holly slammed the bowl down on the counter. “Fine. India, turn around,” she demanded, twirling her finger in the air. India didn’t argue; she even popped her hip to the side to sway the ass vote her way. “Nice. I give it a nine out of ten.”

Only India would be insulted that her ass had just been ranked a nine out of ten.

“Okay, Thomas. Your turn,” Holly said, waiting, but Thomas wasn’t moving. He was frozen in place.

Familiar with that deer-in-the-headlights look, I helped him out. Grabbing his shoulders, I spun him around. I even tucked in his tee and highlighted his derriere with my hands, Vanna White style.

Inspecting Thomas, Holly tilted her head to one side, then the other, before her eyes went a little dreamy. Coming up behind him, Holly slapped both hands into Thomas’s cheeks and squeezed.

He jolted with surprise, but didn’t put up any argument.

“Thomas wins,” Holly announced, giving his butt a little love pat before retrieving her bowl of guacamole.

“Whatever.” India sulked, carrying a tray of enchiladas to the table. “What I got back here’s a perfect ten, baby.”

“Taste this,” Holly said, sticking a finger topped by a dollop of guac in front of my mouth.

“Eww, no way. I don’t like avocados.” I wrinkled my nose and sidestepped her before she shoved her finger into my mouth.

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