“I’m getting it wrong,” Cara complained.

“No, it’s fine. Just dab the color along the wet spot and… Yeah, that’s right!”


Brent leaned in the doorway, watching his girls. Jessica guiding and Cara listening, open and unguarded. Cara had a lot of scheduled activities surrounding resume building. Not much time for trying new things, drawing pictures… Not much time to just be a kid.

Cara was such a gifted child. She studied hard and practiced hard and thought hard. She needed more time like this. Unstructured, low stakes, free time with someone there to encourage and support her.

God, what would he do without Jessica in their lives? It hadn’t even been a week, and she was already doing so much for Cara.

Brent stepped forward to peer over their shoulders. To his surprise, the table was covered with colorful drying paintings… some of them quite good. Brent couldn’t help but notice a large number of the paintings featured oceans and ponds. He smiled.

“Well, look at my little Impressionists,” he said.

Cara looked up. “Hi, Daddy.”

“What do you think?” Jessica leaned over the table and gingerly held up one of the oceans. “I think this one is the best!”

“The stripes on the blue tang aren’t right,” Cara complained.

“It’s watercolor, kiddo, not photorealism.”

Cara shrugged. “I can do it better, though, now that I figured out how to use the paint.”

Picture after picture of the oceans. Blue tangs. Clownfish. Sea anemone. Zebrafish. Angelfish.

“Well, why don’t you finish up, and I’ll check in on Cecile to see how dinner’s coming along.” Brent leaned over the table to look at Jessica’s paintings. They were much more whimsical, with lemurs driving convertibles and butterflies dancing over brightly colored flowers. “You’re welcome to join us, by the way, Jessica. And we could watch a movie after dinner?”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Jessica said hesitantly.

“Oh! Please, Jessica?” Cara bounced in place. “We can watch Finding Dory! I know you haven’t seen it.”

“I guess I could stay. But we don’t want to be up too late. We want to get to the zoo early tomorrow.” Jessica smirked then, her eyes looking mischievous. “Why don’t I check on dinner, and you can show your dad how to use the watercolors?”

Brent raised his brows. Suddenly, Jessica was guiding him down to kneel at the activity table.

“Paint us something good!” She waved as she headed out of the room.

Cara set a piece of paper in front of him. “You can paint anything you want. But it’s easier to get the background set up before doing anything else.”

“That sounds like solid advice all around.” Brent looked over his shoulder, wondering if Jessica had ducked out to give him a few moments with Cara on his own, or if she had done so to put some space between them.

***

“Don’t get too close, Cara,” Brent warned when she scooted up on the floor with a big pillow.

“Octopuses have nine brains, too,” Cara said. “They have three hearts and nine brains. One in each tentacle and their regular brain. So Hank is down a brain!”

“Poor Hank,” Jessica murmured. “No wonder he’s cranky.”

“And octopuses actually do that – get out of their tanks and run around and hide and stuff,” Cara rattled off. “Not this much. Like they couldn’t drive a car.”

Jessica sat beside Brent on the sofa with her legs curled up under her and her head drooping to the side. In spite of himself, Brent’s eyes kept drifting to her. He’d seen this movie before, although not nearly as often as Cara had seen it. So, his gaze kept falling to Jessica next to him. She smelled so good and even sitting there without makeup, there was a flush to her cheeks.

Her lids drooped. Brent watched, eyes widening, as she slumped over. As if in slow motion, her head came closer, and closer, and closer, until she was on him, dozing away. Brent’s heart pounded thunderously in his chest. He wanted to touch her so badly.

But he absolutely should not do that. Under no circumstances should he cup her cheek or run his hand along her thigh. Between his legs, his cock thickened just from the proximity to her.

Jessica lifted her head, then, waking up and looking at him with heavy-lidded eyes. Brent didn’t think. He just leaned down and pressed his lips to hers.

She shot up as though a spark of electricity had touched her, and after a moment of scrambling hurried for the door.

“Where are you going?” Cara paused the movie and sat up.

“I, um, I’m sorry, kiddo. I forgot about something I have to do,” Jessica said.

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