“You came to help us out?” His voice is creaky, raw.
“I told you I know babies. So let me give you a break today.”
I swear Grayson goes weepy. He blinks rapidly before taking a breath. “I love you, man. I’m one step away from kissing you right now.”
“You keep saying that, but I’ve yet to see any follow-through.”
Slowly, he shakes his head. “I love my kid. Like, seriously love him. But I confess, I’m dreaming of some sort of sleep drug for babies right about now.”
I reach for my boots. “He’ll figure the sleep thing out soon. Then you will too. Go on and get his things ready.”
Gray kind of falls-crawls out of the chair before righting. He really is dead on his feet. I feel for the guy.
He’s halfway out the door before he halts. “Dex, man…just…watch yourself with Fi.”
“You said you didn’t mind.”
“Not you.” He winces and pushes a fist against the doorframe. “She’s kind of capricious. And I’ve never seen you go after a girl, so…”
He doesn’t want me getting hurt. Well, I don’t either. But it’s a risk I’ll have to take. Besides… “I think there’s more solidity to Fi than you’re giving her credit for.”
He nods, but it’s clear he doesn’t agree. Thankfully, an irate squawk sounds downstairs. Little Leo is awake. Gray inclines his head. “You sure about this?”
I know he’s asking about more than babysitting. And I should be thinking about my sanity. But I can only think of Fiona and how her lips explored mine. Best feeling ever.
“As I am of anything.”
“I wonder what it is that you’re thinking,” Dex says from his casual slouch on the bench across from me. He’s taken me to the Japanese Tea Garden, a place so utterly beautiful and tranquil I blinked back tears as soon as we’d entered.
Now we’re sitting in the Tea House, me at the railing, idly gazing at the glass-like reflecting pool that surrounds us, and Dex with sketch pad and pencil in hand. His expression is relaxed, a smile in his hazel eyes.
I can’t help but smile back. “I was thinking you’re a brave man, Ethan Dexter.”
His chuckle is low and easy. “Now why would you say that?” He doesn’t look down at the tiny baby nestled in the carrier against his chest.
“I’m sure I don’t know,” I drawl.
I admit, when he met me in the front hall earlier, carrying Leo in his car seat, I was shocked. I love my nephew. Fiercely. But I don’t know anything about babies. I’ve never done a babysitting gig, didn’t have friends who did. So the idea of taking care of Leo is daunting.
But Dex? I know he wouldn’t have offered if he wasn’t confident he could do the job. Not many men would be willing give up an afternoon to look after a one-month-old baby. It gave me the instant warm-fuzzies.
And my ovaries damn near burst into song when Dex pulled out one of those baby swaddlers and tucked my nephew into it to carry him against his massive chest.
I wasn’t the only one. We couldn’t go more than a few steps through the garden without some woman commenting, how sweet, oh, such a lovely baby! Such a dear man—that from an octogenarian who gave Dex a sly pat on his ass, causing him to blush beet red.
Now he’s sketching me as I drink my green tea and Leo snoozes on.
“I swear, you’ve got this whole seduction thing down pat,” I tell him, fighting the urge to fidget. I hadn’t realized he was drawing me until he’d already started. I feel exposed. Naked. And slightly turned on by the way his gorgeous eyes study every inch of me.
Dex’s lips twitch, but his pencil doesn’t stop making those little scratching noises across the pad. “Seduction thing?”
“You know, the baby, beautiful garden, drawing me. Are you going to pull out a guitar next and serenade me?”
He laughs at that. “No guitar. I may or may not have a harmonica in my pocket to use for later. But I prefer to keep you in suspense.”
“So you aren’t just happy to see me. Good to know.”
“It was terrible and cheesy.” I lean forward. “Are you really drawing me? You aren’t, are you? There’s really just a stick figure giving me an obscene gesture on that page, isn’t there?”
His low bass rumble makes something in my lower belly just hum with pleasure. I love that I can make him laugh. I don’t think he does it often, so each time feels like a reward.
He turns the pad to show me his efforts. And my breath catches.
What he’s drawn isn’t sweet or sentimental. He’s done a close up of my face, my head tilted, my smile almost secretive.
He didn’t sugarcoat me. My chin-length blond hair shoots out in all directions. He’s drawn the small bump on the bridge of my nose—a female replica of my dad’s nose, unfortunately—and the tiny crescent-shaped scar on my jawline from when Ivy and I were jumping on my parents bed when we were eight and six, and I crashed into a dresser.
My attention goes back to my expression. It’s seductive and covetous, as if I’m hungry. Heat fills my cheeks. God, have I been looking at Dex like that?
I glance back at him. He’s patiently waiting.
“Okay,” I say, my voice a little husky. “So you actually can draw.”
He runs a hand over his beard as he regards me, then flips the sketch book back onto his bent knee and starts up again. “I told you I could.” His gaze flicks up to mine. “Do you find it hard to trust men?”