Girl Breaker(8)

By: Harper Kincaid

Oh no he didn’t. My thoughts raced. “Don’t talk to me like that, Max. It’s not fair, and more importantly, it’s not accurate. Since you two moved in down the street, Piper has been over here almost as much as she’s home with you. I care about her—a lot. And you are standing in my living room, having this discussion. So I think I have every right to offer help, if it’s mine to give.”

His jaw was clenched so tight, I could see it twitch and pulse from the tension. “You done?”

I thought he would’ve backed down from that little speech, but I should’ve known better. For some reason, his refusal to concede my point made me even angrier. “Actually, no, I’m not done. Here’s an FYI: using a strip club as a babysitting recruiting site was not your best move. If you need help with Piper, just ask.”

He narrowed his gaze at me. “She said she had childcare experience.”

“Was that before or after she gave you a lap dance?”

The anger radiated off him in waves, but he didn’t say anything. I had crossed a line and part of me couldn’t believe I had just said that to him, but the other half was giving me a high-five. That said, it was time to wrap up this less-than-fruitful discussion.

“Piper, honey, I have some wedding planning to do for my sister tonight, but I’ll set up a more formal schedule for you with your dad from now on, okay?”

The child’s face lit up like a Christmas tree with that wide, quirky smile of hers. “Great!” she said while trotting over to the kitchen and hoisting her backpack over her shoulder, heading for the back door. “I’ll leave while you two figure that out. Take all the time you want, by the way. Feel free to plan some dinners with just you guys or the three of us too. That could be fun. I’ll meet you back at home, Dad.” She said the rest so fast, probably worried I would change my mind if she lingered too long.

The door slammed and immediately I realized I had played right into Piper’s plan: she was playing matchmaker. I didn’t know if I should ground her or thank her, because, holy hell, now I was alone with the leading man of my masturbatory fantasies for the last four months.

Ever since he had swooped into my life, I had been on edge, wondering if he was working his way in, wanting me to be his, or just a shameless flirt. My sister always said, when it came to men, I was clueless. When it came to Max Reinquist, I knew she was right. My heartbeat kicked up a couple of notches, thrumming in my chest and throat, and I took some deep breaths in order to will my body back into some semblance of calm and control.

“I gotta say,” he finally said, breaking some of the tension in the room, “I didn’t think you had it in you.”

“Had what in me exactly?”

A ghost of a smile appeared. “A spine.”

I let something between a giggle and a laugh escape me. “Well, it’s there. Trust me.”

“No need. I can see for myself.” He smirked, the flirtatious glimmer reappearing before he, yet again, turned serious. He scored his nails across his scalp, scratching furiously at the back of his neck.

“Fuck, what am I gonna do with her? The garage is no place for a little girl—which, in spite that smart mouth of hers, she still is.”

I waved my hand back and forth. “Um…hello? I already volunteered to help you not five minutes ago.”

The usual luminous green of his eyes darkened as he pressed his lips together in a tight line. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“What do you mean? Don’t you trust me with her?”

“Of course I do. I trust you more than I did her own mother.”

That compliment hit me deep, right in my soft, squishy center, but I schooled my expression, not wanting to feed the “feels” he was giving me. I didn’t know if I could trust them. “Then, what’s the problem?”

He rested his hands on his hips, only accentuating the way his jeans hung low on his body. I bet if I lifted his shirt, I’d see his six-pack, along with a trail of hair leading down past whatever kind of underwear he wore. Unless he didn’t wear any underwear…oh my…

Then I saw him snap his fingers by my ear, sounding like a firecracker. “Hello? Earth to Jessica?”

I shook my head. “I’m sorry. I got lost in thought for a second.”

“No shit,” he replied, taking a step into my space. And just like that, the air around us changed again. “What do you think is going to happen, with us coming over here almost every day?”

“What do you mean?”

Of course I knew what he meant, but there was no way I was going to be the one to give this thing between us life outside my head. I had a spine, but as my sister would say, I had no “cojones”.