- Katie Ashley
- Atlanta, GA, United States
- I am the New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon Best Selling author of The Proposition, Proposal, Music of the Heart, and Nets and Lies. I am represented by Jane Dystel of Dystel and Goderich for all books except for Proposition and Proposal.
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- ► 2014 (22)
- ▼ December (3)
Sunday, December 22, 2013
I was in the middle of a very X-rated dream involving Mia wearing nothing but a sparkly red Santa’s hat. She was riding me hard and fast when a high-pitched squeal brought me out heaven and back into reality. In a matter of seconds, that squeal became a full on scream, and I knew it was time to get up and at it for my Bella. After I threw back the sheets, I staggered out of the bed, grinding the sleep from my eyes. Glancing over at the clock, I saw it was one in the afternoon. Mia had left Bella with me, so she could go Christmas shopping with Abby.
As I bent over the frilly, pink Pack N Play wedged into the corner of the bus’s bedroom, Bella’s tiny features were crumpled in rage. Her fists waved angrily back and forth, like at any moment she was going to knock the hell out of whoever she could get her hands on. She was truly Mia’s kid. Okay, fine, maybe she had inherited a little bit of both of our temperaments.
“Easy mi princesa.”
At my words, Bella popped open her once pinched shut eyes and stared up at me. “What’s wrong, mi amor?” I asked as I reached over to pick her up.
Her screaming quieted to snubbing as I took her in my arms. Kissing the top of dark head full of hair, I inhaled of her sweet baby smell. “It’s okay. Daddy’s here now.” I felt around on her diaper to see if she was wet. “Hmm, you feel dry to me.” Raising her above my face, I did the usual sniff test of her butt to see if there was another surprise lurking. “Nope, good to go there. So you must be hungry, huh?” At her hiccupped reply, I started for the bedroom door. “Let’s go get some of the milk mommy pumped for you before she left.”
When I got to the kitchen, I found Rhys seated at the table in boxers slurping on a bowl of cereal. “You slept in too, huh?”
“Yeah. Last night’s show was killer.” He motioned to Bella. “Not to mention her three a.m. scream-fest.”
I winced. “Sorry dude.”
He shrugged. “It’s okay. It’s not like we haven’t kept each other awake before with screaming chicks.”
I laughed. “True.”
Balancing Bella in one arm, I opened the fridge. I scanned the shelves twice, but I still didn’t see the container Mia always left. “Hey man, have you see Bella’s milk?”
“You know, the milk that Mia pumps for Bella.”
When I glanced up from the fridge, Rhys had paled. “Uh…is that it on the counter?”
Closing the fridge, I peered over to the counter to see the empty container. “Yeah, that’s it. But why is it empty?”
“Oh fucking hell,” Rhys groaned before bolting from the table. The next thing I knew he was in the bathroom heaving his guts up.
I glanced down at Bella. “Guess we know where your milk went, huh?”
The prospect of not eating didn’t sit well with Bella, and she decided the best way to let it be known was to start screaming again. “Shit!” I exclaimed as I started fumbling around in the cabinets for some formula.
Thankfully, the bus door flew open, and Mia came clattering up the stairs. At the sound of Bella’s cries, Mia dropped her packages and hustled back to us. “What happened?” she asked as she took Bella into her arms.
“Why did you feed her the milk I left?”
“Um…” I rubbed the back of my neck and tried to think of how to explain what had happened. I knew Rhys would be even sicker if Mia knew he’d accidentally drunk her milk, and I was pretty sure she’d be absolutely mortified. “I…accidentally dropped it.”
Mia smiled. “You stugats.”
My eyes widened. “Hey, I know that one from The Soprano’s. But you’re right. I am a stupid dick.”
She reached up with her left hand to cup my cheek—the one that glittered with her engagement ring. “But I love you anyway.”
Bella squealed in rage, signaling it was time to get with the feeding program. Mia glanced over her shoulder.
“Will you bring the packages back to the bedroom while I feed her?”
“Sure, mi amor.”
“I won’t.” I gathered up the bags and started for the bedroom. As I passed the bathroom, I rapped on the door. “You okay, man?”
“I’ll live,” Rhys moaned.
I grimaced as I went on into the bedroom. When I got inside, Mia was on the bed feeding Bella. I put the bags in the corner. “So you bought me something today, huh?”
Mia smiled. “Maybe.”
Eyeing one of the multicolored bags, I asked, “Is it something sexy for you to wear for my eyes only?”
She rolled her eyes. “You wish.”
“You know all I want for Christmas is you,” I teased as I sat down next to her.
“You have me. Always,” she replied.
“Best. Present. Ever,” I murmured, before learning in to kiss her. When I pulled away, I grinned. “You’re the gift that keeps on giving the whole year.”
Mia threw her head back and laughed. “You’re terrible.”
“But you love me anyway.”
“Yes, I do.” At Bella’s cooing, Mia glanced down and smiled. “So you think your naughty daddy’s pretty funny too, huh?” She closed up shop by bringing Bella to her shoulder to burp her.
“She finished already?” I asked, rubbing Bella’s back.
“I think she just wanted a snack.”
“More like she wanted to give her old man some hell by waking him up from a perfectly good sex dream.”
Mia’s dark eyes widened. “AJ!”
I laughed at her outrage. “It was about you, amorcito mio.”
“I don’t care. Don’t say sex in front of Bella.”
“Like she even knows what it is.”
“I don’t care,” Mia huffed.
I shook my head and grinned. “You’re so cute when you get riled.” At Mia’s, ‘You do not want to go there with me’ look, I held up my hands in defeat. “Fine, fine. You know, you haven’t told me what you wanted for Christmas.”
Mia sighed. “All I want is to be off this bus in time to get a live tree for Bella’s first Christmas.”
“Last show is the nineteenth. Then we head home.”
Mia quirked her brows. “You’ll take us to the tree farm the moment we get back to Georgia?”
I lifted my hand and swiped my chest. “Scout’s Honor.”
“And you promise to go with me to take Bella to see Santa Claus?”
Oh shit. That was something I sure as hell hadn’t bargained on. All I could see in my mind was a crowded mall with a line full of screaming kids—you know, a true hell on earth. “Um, well…”
“AJ, it’s her first time sitting on Santa’s lap. I know she would want her Daddy there for that.”
“Please, she can’t even sit up yet. I highly doubt she’s going to be sitting on Santa’s lap.”
“Fine. Be that way.”
At her tone, I knew I was in trouble. “If I don’t go with you to see Santa, I’m probably not going to be doing much decking of your halls this holiday season, am I?”
“Are you making some sexual innuendo with deck the halls?”
With a smirk, I said, “Don’t say sex in front of Bella.”
Mia shook her head. “AJ, you drive me crazy!”
“But you love me anyway, right?”
She huffed out a frustrated breath. “Yes, I do. More than you can ever imagine.”
“Aw, thanks, amorcito mio,” I said. After I gave her a smacking kiss on the lips, I winked. “You wore me down. I’ll go with you to take Bella to see Santa.”
Her dark eyes lit up. “Really?”
“Thank you, thank you!” she cried before kissing me. As she rubbed my cheek, she said, “I can’t wait to spend our first Christmas together as a family.”
“Me too.” I took her face in my hands. “Thank you for coming out on the road with me. I know this isn’t how you saw your life or how you thought you’d be spending your first December with Bella.”
“It’s okay. All that matters is I’m with the two people I love most in the world—my amazing husband and my daughter.”
“I feel the same way. Always.”