“Daddy!” Lilly calls again, and Nic bites back a grin.
“F-O-R-E-V-E-R,” I call back slowly, eyes still on Nic.
“Thank you!” Lilly says, exasperated.
“And what about this thing between us?” I ask Nic quietly. “Do we just pretend we don’t feel it?”
She turns back to the counter. “That’s what I’m trying to do right now,” she murmurs.
“Is it working?” My heart is racing. As if we’re standing here doing more than talking. As if I touched more than just her jaw and neck.
“Not with you standing that close,” she whispers, her eyes on the ingredients in front of her. “If you could go back to being a cold jerk now, it would be very helpful.”
“I’ll see what I can do.” I walk away, and every step is like pulling against a magnetic force.
Teagan: How’s everything at Casa Jackson?
Me: Great. Except there’s all this sexual tension in the air and I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO WITH IT.
Teagan: Does this mean that Dr. McBroody Pants is getting you all hot and bothered?
Me: Kind of. I don’t know what to think about him. One second, he’s pushing me away as hard and fast as he can, and the next, he’s telling me that he can’t stop thinking inappropriate thoughts about me.
Teagan: I mean, you could fuck him? *shrug emoji*
Me: I can’t even with you.
Teagan: If fucking is off the table, there’s always masturbation.
Me: You have no boundaries.
Teagan: You brought it up.
Me: Fine. True confession time? I can’t get myself off without a vibrator.
Teagan: For real? Have you even tried? It’s not rocket science.
Me: For real.
Teagan: Need me to draw you a picture and label the parts?
Me: Shut up! It’s not like I don’t know where things are. It’s too hard to stop thinking about what I’m doing, so I can’t disconnect and just fantasize. Know what I mean?
Teagan: I guess. But still, I think you could figure it out if you had to.
Me: I’d rather have a battery-powered friend help.
Teagan: Oh. Damn. I know! Why don’t you tell HIM about your little problem? I bet he’d help a girl out. If you recall, he’s quite capable even without fucking.
Me: You’re crazy. He’s my boss.
Teagan: And that’s not hotter, how?
Me: I’ve made terrible decisions regarding men my whole life.
Teagan: You really, really have. What was the name of the guy you dropped out of school for?
Me: The first or second time?
Teagan: Point made. I just remember the one who looked at my tits every time I talked. I started to think they did choreography to my words.
Me: See? Terrible decisions. NO MORE ASSHOLES. Even assholes who are sometimes not assholes at all. Even assholes who keep forgetting to be assholes and who look at me like I’m melted chocolate he wants to lick up.
Teagan: Maybe just a one-time exception for Ethan. JUST FOR SEX. (It’s the other shit that always screwed with your life anyway.)
Me: No. More. Assholes.
Teagan: Okay, okay. I get you. The shop I use is on Pine and Twenty-Fifth. Great selection, discreet staff.
Me: I can’t bring a vibrator into a house where I’m looking after a kid!
Teagan: So lock it up.
Me: I feel like a creep. No. I’m just going to have to suffer.
Teagan: Or . . . you know, figure out how to deal with it the old-fashioned way. Desperate times, desperate measures.
I made myself a promise that I’d use at least one day this week to explore Jackson Harbor.
Last week’s unpleasant encounter at the Walmart made me afraid to venture out any more than necessary. Yesterday morning, when Lilly and Ethan went to brunch with the rest of the Jacksons, I thought about exploring town, but I was too afraid of running into the bitchy doctor again, so I stayed in and finished the book I started on Friday. But my fear of Jackson Harbor ends now.
After I finish my errands, I head downtown.
I park on the street before heading into Jackson Brews. First things first: lunch. I’ve been fantasizing about those little balls of goat cheese since I tried them my first night here. I want to replicate them, but since I was a bit intoxicated when I sampled them, I need to try them again first.
“Look who’s here,” Jake says when I walk in the door. He’s behind the counter in jeans and a fitted white T-shirt that shows off his broad chest and tattooed arms. Maybe Ethan’s father was actually a divine force who came down to give Kathleen perfect children. It doesn’t seem reasonable that two mortals could produce such gorgeous offspring.
Jake is good-looking in a more obvious way than Ethan, but he doesn’t make my insides do that shimmy-shake-and-melt thing that Ethan does. Thank God.
“It’s always good to see you.” He throws his towel over his shoulder. “What can I get you?”
“I had something the last time I was here. I think it was fried goat cheese.”