With school now out, Norah and I spent the morning in my workshop. Working. While I finished up Vivi’s headboard, my little girl sat in the corner working on her play. She’d insisted she would rather work in here with me rather than her favorite spot in the house, on the floor with her legs tucked up under the coffee table. I usually loved having her with me and answering her unusual questions, but today we were both preoccupied with our own thoughts.
My thoughts were on a certain curvy redhead and the scorching kiss we shared at the Solstice Celebration. I’d had plenty of kisses in my life, some of them memorable sure, but none ever like that particular kiss. It was hot without a doubt, but hungry and insistent. I felt intoxicated at the first swipe of her tongue, and after that I’d been powerless to do anything but give in to the intense passion swirling around us. It didn’t matter that she was my friend and my neighbor. And my daughter was completely smitten with her.
“Daddy, is Vivi your girlfriend now?”
I looked up, bewildered at that question, even if I really shouldn’t be at this point. Each time we went out to eat, to the store, hell everywhere we went someone wanted to talk about the kiss. Makes it damn hard to stop thinking about that kiss.
“She’s a girl and she is my friend,” I responded, carefully. It wasn’t all that surprising a question, but still it had taken me off guard.
“But you kii-iissed,” she said in a sing-song voice that said she was feeling playful.
It was one kiss, technically two, but the practice kisses were just that, practice. Since I wasn’t about to get into the birds and the bees with my eight-year-old, I knew I had to think quick.
“That kiss was for the ceremony.”
“But she’s pretty and funny, and nice and weird!”
A knock sounded at the open door and I looked up to see Vivi smiling at us. “Well thanks, Nor. I think you’re all those things too, even weird.”
“Good weird,” she insisted, setting down her notebook and running into Vivi’s arms. “Hi, Vivi.”
She pulled back with a kind smile. “Hey, kiddo. How goes the play?”
Norah answered effusively, and I watched the two females interact, but mostly I watched Vivi. Today she had on jean shorts and a t-shirt. But it was Vivi, so it was never that simple. The shorts were barely visible under the oversized see through white V-neck she wore with a blue and white polka dot bra underneath. Yeah, I could see it all.
“So, what do you say Nash?”
I blinked and looked up at Vivi’s laughing green eyes. “What was that?”
“I asked if Norah wanted to come and hang with me and Max for a few hours?” Her lips pulled into a knowing smile. “Norah’s game but we’re waiting for you to…wake up?”
“Uh, sure. What are you planning?”
She shrugged. “Just spending some time at the pool, getting some sun and splashing some unsuspecting kids.”
“Sounds fun.” The sight of Vivi in what I hoped was a blue and white polka dot bikini was too tempting to pass up. “Mind if I tag along?”
“Sure. We can put those muscles to good use. We’re leaving in fifteen minutes, so get your swim suits on and let’s move out!” With those words she was gone just as quickly as she entered.
“I guess we’re going to the pool.”
“All right! I gotta find my suit!” Norah vanished just as quickly, leaving me alone in my workshop to get myself and my hormones under control.
By the time we arrived at the pool and got settled in a shaded spot, my control was at an all-time low with the way Vivi pranced around with all her curves on display.
“Who’s ready to get in the water?”
Both kids shouted their excitement, jumping up and down and squealing which meant we were both going into the water. Fan-fucking-tastic. “Can I go with you?” Max asked, taking a step back to look up at me.
“Sure, buddy. You know how to swim?”
“Yeah, but my mama doesn’t let me without floaties.” He held up his empty arms and I knelt back down to put the electric green floating helpers on his arms.
“Looks like we’re ready to get wet.” Vivi’s snicker told me she wouldn’t ignore my slip up. “Yeah, yeah. Everyone in the pool!” I tried my damnedest to ignore Vivi, but she was making it hard. Literally and figuratively. Maybe it was just watching her with Norah, who’d never had any kind of female relationship other than with my mother. The way my daughter lit up around Vivi was a treat that made my attraction to her very complicated. The one thing I’d learned from my ordeal with Norah’s mom was to keep things simple.
Vivi was not simple.
“I’m doing it, Mr. Nash, I’m doing it!” I looked down at Max and sure enough, he was doing it. His legs splashed water everywhere but he inched across the pool successfully.
“Good job, Max!” I lifted him in my arms and high-fived him. “You’re a real fish.”
He made a fish face. “Can I go sit now? I’m tired.”
My shoulders sank with relief because as cool as the little guy was, being surrounded by splashing ankle biters who could piss in the pool at any time was exhausting. And the sun was so fucking hot, I thought my skin might blister.
“Great idea, Max. Let’s go.”
“Daddy, you’re red!”
“Oh wow,” Vivi said as her soft, gentle touch glided across my shoulders. “Guess we better lather you up before you’re baked to a crisp.”
Her touch felt good, and it had nothing at all to do with attraction. Cool fingertips grazed along my heated skin, reducing the pain instantly. “Can’t have that, can we?”
“Not if you plan to keep making all that awesome furniture. Hey, did I tell you that I saw a table I’m pretty sure was yours in one of those celebrity magazines?” She shook her head. “I never read those things, but I was at the market and I saw the table with recognizable swirls and those intricate beads perched on the edge like they might fall off, and I just knew. It was yours, wasn’t it? Krissy Smythe?”
My lips twitched because she was so excited, and so sure she was right. I mean, she was totally right, and that just pumped up my ego. “You have a very good eye, Vivi.”
“You have a very unique style, Nash. And holy effin’ crap, Krissy Smythe! You’re a big deal,” she whisper-squealed as we dried off the kids and got them settled on the towels. “That’s awesome.”
“Thanks. It’s nice when my work is recognized, but I can’t say any of my clients are quite as effusive as you are.”
She shrugged, not at all ashamed. “As an artist, I am allowed to gush as much as I want over another fellow artist.”
“Speaking of, you still haven’t told me your pen name.”
She smiled, but her eyes were hidden behind a pair of oversized heart-shaped glasses. “I’m surprised you didn’t take advantage of a free afternoon to hang out with Zeke again.”
A world class subject changer. “Maybe I’m too old for that scene. Last time I just wasn’t into it, I guess.” It had been a disaster, at least as far as finding a warm willing woman to sink myself into. Hanging out with Zeke and knocking back a few beers during an evening of adult conversation was always nice, but I just couldn’t summon the desire to even flirt with a pretty girl, and there were plenty of them around. Even now.
Vivi tilted her head back and laughed. “Old man, huh?” She leaned forward and patted my stomach, making my muscles jump. “You’re getting a real granddad bod, Nash. Sorry to be the one to let you know.” Her hand lingered, fingers lightly, scraping my abs. “Damn, it’s so hard.”
I snickered and she drew her hand back. “That’s what she said.”
“That’s what who said, Daddy?”
Vivi leaned forward, chin resting on her fist. “Yeah, Daddy.”
I glared at her because that was just so wrong, to use that sexy husky voice to call me daddy. “Who wants a sandwich?”
“I do!” Max’s arm shot up in the air and a big smile spread across his face.
“Thanks buddy, here you go.” I drew my hand back. “Allergies?”
He turned his nose up and crossed his eyes in thought. “Strawberries.”
“Okay, then. Ham and cheese?”
“With mustard?” He looked up at me hopefully and I turned to Vivi, who nodded. Norah took her turkey sandwich and ate it, happily sharing her sweet potato chips with Max.
“Take one, old man.” Vivi looked like the perfect woman in that moment, holding out a big ass sandwich with impressive cleavage on display. “It’s roast beef. A little birdie told me it’s your favorite.”
“Temptress,” I said and took the sandwich, sinking my teeth into it and moaning as the burst of horseradish hit my tongue. “Mayo?”
“Horseradish mayo,” she clarified and if a man could swoon, I might have just done it. Then she moaned into her own sandwich and I was feeling a lot hotter and darker than a damned swoon.
“This just made my day, Vivi.”
Her smile was like the sun shining right after a thunderstorm, but I wished I could see her eyes, see what she was thinking.
“Then it was worth the effort.”
Yeah, it was getting hard to remember what the right thing was.