Since the moment I laid eyes on her I’ve wanted her.
But I wasn’t ready.
The kids were my world and my wounds were still raw.
For six months, I watched her from afar. Dreamed of her, lusted after her, fantasized…
But all that’s about to change. I’m finally ready to take the plunge and start dating again. And now that I know she’s single, I’m going to do this right and win Harper. I want her mind, I want her body, I want her heart.
And when she gives me all access, no limits, I know she’s the one for me.
He’s the one we all call Hot Dad at playgroup. The one who makes my knees weak and my panties wet every time he walks through the door. We all eye-fuck the bejesus out of him, and dream of his tongue between our legs.
But my kid is my world, and I’m a frumpy mom with a hole in the bum of her yoga pants. What could he ever see in me? So when Sam calls out of the blue, I’m stunned.
Now if only the kids can stop cock-blocking us, and his psycho ex would go away.
He’s turned out to be a master Dom and I’m willing and eager to be taught how to be the perfect little submissive.
I fucking loved Mondays. No, seriously, I loved them. I know most people hate them, bitch, moan, snivel and complain about Mondays. People can have a “case of the Mondays” but not me. I loved them. Why? Because Monday was the day I saw my people. My coven. My mom posse. Well, moms and one hot, unobtainable dad. A dad I’d been secretly lusting over for six months but have had no more than half a dozen conversations with in that time. Monday was the day I took my toddler to playgroup at the rec center a few blocks away.
It was a day that for two glorious hours I engaged in a coffee- and chocolate-infused bitch-fest with my nearest and dearest as we ogled Hot Dad from afar and drooled over his ass when he spun around. My posse was filled with women just like me who were operating on far too little sleep and hadn’t peed alone in years let alone remembered the last time they washed and conditioned their hair. It was the one day of the week when I wasn’t made to feel guilty for plunking my kid down on the floor and letting her battle it out over the toy trains with another child, while I sipped my overpriced latte and had some much-needed adult talk.
But it was an ugly Monday. January was ugly. A West Coast baby to my very marrow, I loved nearly everything about living in Vancouver—except January. January weather was the worst! It held the kind of wet cold that slipped past all the layers of clothes and embedded itself deep in your bones. Rain, sleet, snow, wind. Like a sucker-punch to the kidneys, it made the whole city buckle, whine and wish for spring. Enough of this winter bullshit; bring on the flowers. This January was particularly nasty. We’d been hit with the snowfall of the decade on Christmas day, but by the new year it had warmed up just enough to melt the majority of it, leaving nothing but slush in the streets, brown patches, and clumps at the corner of people’s driveways and where kids had braved the chill to build snowmen or forts. But they were calling for another blast of cool weather from the north, so more snow was inevitable.
I finished the email I’d been writing on my laptop in the kitchen, hit send, then glanced through the wall cut-out at my happily playing child. Her bucket of dinosaurs sat between her legs as she methodically shoved each plastic reptile down the front of her loose-fitting tucked-in shirt. She insisted upon these kinds of sure for this very reason.
“Two minutes, Carly,” I said as a warning. “Two minutes, then we’re going to get ready for playgroup.”
Not even a glance my way.
Ignoring her rudeness, I went about getting myself ready. Wool socks, waffle-knit long-sleeved gray T-shirt, black hoodie, yoga pants. Check. Check. Check. Check. I placed my dark purple Hunter rain boots by the front door, then pulled on my raincoat and grabbed Carly’s boots and jacket before wandering into the living room to go wrestle my toddler.
I crouched down to her level so we were face to face. “Come on, baby, we don’t want to be late for playgroup.”
Still not even a jerk of the head or a flick of her eyes. Fighting back the rush of frustration inside me, I gritted my teeth and took a couple of deep breaths. My sweet, agreeable little girl had embraced “two” like it was a new fashion trend, the toddler’s version of a man-bun or an electric bike.
I pulled her into my lap and sat down on the couch to slip on her boots. “It’s time to go. We don’t want to be late.”
“No booooooots!” she wailed, squirming in my lap before arching her back until she was as straight as a two-by-four. “No booooots!”
“Carly Elyse! We are going to playgroup,” I said with an exasperated sigh. The child had been up before the birds (not that there were many birds out in January), climbing out of her toddler bed and throwing my bedroom door open at five-forty screaming “bottle” at the top of her tiny lungs, only to then toss all of her plastic dinosaurs on my face.
But I needed to go to playgroup. Probably more than she needed to go. It was my sanctuary. My place of peace. My safe space where I could wear my ratty ponytail, my torn and pilling yoga pants, feed my caffeine addiction all without judgment while gossiping and commiserating with all the other sleep- and sex-deprived mums. Only their sex deprivation was due to lack of sleep and not because they didn’t have a man to share their bed. My sex deprivation was because I hadn’t gotten laid since the night Carly was conceived.
It was a masked, drunken tryst in the dark break room at the New Year’s Eve party of an art gallery downtown. I never even saw his face, never saw much besides an orgasm and a good time. But apparently, he’d been handsome, because my kid was gorgeous—thank God. My fiancé of three years had just dumped me on Christmas Day, less than two months before our Valentine’s Day wedding, and I was looking for hot and dirty rebound sex with a stranger.
I’d found it.
I’d gone off the pill in early December as Vance and I had planned to start trying for a family right after the wedding, but my masked lover had used a condom, and yet I still managed to get pregnant. And at thirty-two, I was getting a little desperate. I wanted children. The circumstances just weren’t ideal. But now here I was three years later, with a perfect, healthy two-year-old, living in my sister’s basement suite in the heart of Vancouver and making a modest wage with my home-based business. Not ideal, but things could certainly be worse.
I pulled her other boot on, then reached over to the arm of the couch for her coat and toque. Zipping up her coat, I paused at the sound from the child on my lap. Her little chest lurched. Panic flooded me.
We all knew that sound. The deep throat convulsing sound. It was probably most recognizable when being made by a dog. I kept saying they should make alarm clocks with that sound. People would never hit snooze if they woke up to that noise. But even coming from a toddler, it was distinct, and before I knew it, I found myself pitching forward and running for the kitchen sink. It was closer than the bathroom, and even if we didn’t make the sink, the laminate was better than the carpet.
Cheerios, apple, and scrambled egg all mixed with milk splattered to the kitchen floor as Carly started to heave in my arms.
“Oh no!” she cried. “Uh-oh!”
“It’s okay, sweetie,” I cooed. “It’s okay.”
Ah, shit! I knew she was going to catch something from her cousins. Preschool and kindergarten were even bigger cesspools than playgroup.
Lillian and Emmet were both sick upstairs, having come home from school on Thursday because they’d lost their biscuits. They’d stopped puking by Saturday, but apparently Carly spending time with them Wednesday was enough. I looked at the calendar on the fridge. Yep, five-day incubation time. That’s exactly what my sister had said. Crap!
“Arly barted,” she whined, unable to pronounce the C in her name and deeply immersed in the third-person phase of her speech development. She referred to herself as Arly. And, of course, “barted” was her toddler butchering of “barfed.”
“It’s okay,” I said again. “Are you all done?”
I set her little feet down on the floor, then turned her to face me. An up-chucked Cheerio clung to her chin. I fought the urge to vomit and instead picked it off and tossed it into the sink. Her coat was covered in chunks, and the light-brown strands of hair that she refused to let me fix into a ponytail or clip were dripping with stomach carnage.
Surveying the damage, I tried to keep my face as neutral as possible. A sensitive soul and easily spooked, she would get upset if she noticed I was anything but calm. Her big brown eyes stared back at me, watery and confused.
“Arly okay, mama?” she asked.
I nodded. “You’re okay, baby. But we’re going to stay home today. No playgroup. We’re going to go have a quick shower, then cuddle up in our pajamas, watch movies and play dinosaurs. Sound good?”
Her eyes went wide and her smile even wider. “Dinosaurs!”
But then fear stole her glee, and before I knew it, I was holding her over the sink again as she tossed up more breakfast.
I guess I have to wait until next week to check out Hot Dad’s butt.
A short while later, after what felt like hours of playing dinosaurs, watching a dinosaur documentary on the Discovery Channel and coloring in dinosaur coloring books, my toddler was asleep. Though of course not in her bed. We’d tried, but she’d barfed. Now her sheets were in the wash and she was in my bed with me, her head on my lap as I stroked her hair and worked on my tablet.
I’m a virtual assistant, and damn good at it too. If you’re an author, an artist, an actor, a politician, a business person of any sort and need help organizing your life, your schedule, your social media or whatever, you come to me. Some kids used to play house or trains when they were growing up; I used to play secretary and wedding planner. I’d been organizing things and making schedules since I learned how to pick up a pencil, a ruler and make my own calendar. And I’d gotten very good at my job. Currently sitting with eighteen clients who all paid me handsomely to run their lives, I managed to make my own schedule and stay home with my kid, all while making a decent wage doing what I love.
But despite all that, it still wasn’t enough to afford a house in Vancouver. I’d have to sell Carly and my kidney just to manage the mortgage on a loft apartment downtown.
So instead, we lived in my sister Quinn’s basement suite, while she, her husband, Rick, and their two kids lived upstairs. It was a nice place, with lots of windows, a backyard and small garden. And what was best about it was my daughter got to grow up with her cousins, and I had my sister there to babysit when I needed a break.
Carly stirred in my lap, her body bunched into the fetal position and her face contorted into one of pain. I halted my finger on the touch screen and waited for her eyes to open. They didn’t. Her face relaxed, and her thumb found her mouth. She rarely sucked her thumb anymore, usually only when she was sick. This was not a good sign.
I continued on with work, typing out an email to Mr. C.J. Forrester, the grumpy but brilliant wildlife photographer and nonfiction writer. He had me managing his newsletter and calendar, but true to form, as a man not used to someone telling him what to do, he’d gone and double-booked himself for two exhibits in two different cities without coming to me first. I managed to move one to a later date, because I’m a freaking miracle worker, but now I had to touch base with him to make sure he knew where he had to be and when.
My phone vibrated next to me. I glanced down at it and then at my kid. She was still asleep, sucking away on that thumb. Her long, dark lashes feathered out against her rosy cheeks. She was deep in dreamland. If I answered, I might wake her. It continued to vibrate. I didn’t recognize the number.
It might be work. No matter how many times I told my clients that text and email were preferred as it put everything down in writing, left a paper trail and was less likely to wake up my kid, some still just had to talk to me in person.
Grumbling several “for fuck’s sakes” under my breath, I hit the green button then cupped the receiver.
“Hello?” I whispered.
“Hello?” a manly voice replied, mimicking my tone and volume. “Is it nap time?”
“Is she on you?”
Okay, who the hell was this person? That was a weird question. Accurate, but still weird. I considered hanging up but then thought better of it. Most of my clients had their own kids, and they knew how devoted I was to Carly, even if none of them had ever met her.
I decided to play along. “Yes. On my lap. Who is this?”
“Is this Harper?”
“Yes. Who is this?”
Sam? Sam who? I don’t know any ... WAIT!
“Hot—” I stopped myself before I said the whole thing.
“From playgroup. You probably know my kids better. Gemma and Landon?”
Fuck! Why the hell was Hot Dad calling me?
He paused for a second before he asked, “This is Harper from the Monday playgroup, right? Your daughter is Carly, the one who loves dinosaurs?” Hesitation colored his voice.
“Y-yeah. That’s me. That’s her.”
“Oh, good. Thought I might’ve had the wrong number.”
His chuckle warmed my skin. It was as if he, his breath, was right there and not miles away. “How are you?”
“We missed you at playgroup today.”
What the fuck is going on right now? Am I dreaming?
I’d missed loads of playgroups before, but never had Sam called me afterward to say he missed me. But then again, he didn’t say he missed me. He said we missed me. Who was we? Who was he speaking for?
“Gemma had the dinosaurs all to herself. She was happy but confused all at the same time.”
Oh, right! His kids. Jesus Christ, Harper, get ahold of yourself.
“Sorry. We meant to get there. Boots were on, toques and coats, the whole nine yards. And then barf happened.”
“Yours or Carly’s?”
“Oh God, mine! No wait, sorry. Carly’s, not mine. Fuck!” Carly wriggled on the bed, and I held my breath. She was a bloody mynah bird these days, so with my luck, she would pick up on my blasphemy in her sleep and be chanting it when she woke up. Her dinosaurs would no longer say “rawr” but “fuuuuuck!”
Dear sweet lord, this man flustered me. Why was the man I’d been hard core crushing on for the past six months calling me out of the blue? And how on earth did he get my number? Waiting with bated breath, I watched as my sick and dozy toddler spun like a log on the bed and repositioned herself with her head no longer on my lap but instead down by my knee. Her feet kicked up toward the pillows. She always was a squirmy worm. Couldn’t keep covers on her to save her life. But her eyelids remained fully shut; I finally exhaled.
He was laughing now. “I didn’t say anything. You just cursed like a sailor, and then I thought you’d hung up. Everything okay?”
Prying myself off the bed with ninja stealth, I wandered into the kitchen so I could speak above a hush. “Yeah, sorry. I thought I’d woken Carly up. My sister’s kids came home from school last week with the flu, and it looks like Carly caught it.”
“Oh, no. How do you feel?”
My insides began to buzz and hum from his concern.
“Okay so far. Though I wash my hands and tend not to lick the walls or furniture, so fingers crossed I manage to avoid it.”
“Aw man, I love licking the coffee table. Next to the ottoman, it’s my favorite thing to have my tongue on.”
Whoa! Now all I could think about was Hot Dad’s tongue and the various places I’d like to have it. Had that been his intention? Was he talking dirty? Why was he talking to me at all? Thoughts and images, questions and giddiness much too extreme for my age cannoned around inside my head as I paced my kitchen. I needed to do something. I needed to occupy my hands. As if answering my cry for help, my stomach gurgled, and I snatched a banana from the bowl and peeled it.
“You still there?” he asked.
Oh crap, how long had I been silent?
“Yup,” I said with a mouthful.
“What are you doing? You sound funny.”
“Eating a banana.”
Now it was his turn for silence.
“Seriously?” he finally asked.
“Whole, or did you cut it up into pieces first?”
Holy freaking frack, he’s flirting with me!
His chuckle swept over my skin as if he’d just licked each and every inch of it. Divine heat pooled between my legs, and I felt my nipples tighten against my bra. I resisted the urge to reach up and cup them to relieve the sudden strain of their weight.
“What are your plans this weekend, Harper?”
“Banana in your mouth?”
I swallowed and blinked.
“It’s okay. Swallow.”
Holy Mother of God, him telling me to swallow … my heart nearly leaped clean out of my chest.
“I guess I should probably double-check first that you are in fact single. That you’re not seeing someone but just haven’t bothered to let your friend Amy know.”
Amy! I could kiss that meddling little woman.
“Yes. Yes, I’m single.”
“Good. Me too.” I could practically see that sexy smile of his it came through so clearly in his voice.
“Well, Harper, would you like to go out with me this weekend?”
I nodded and then did a little hop. My pulse was racing and my brain was struggling to keep up. I was planning a date with Hot Dad! “When? What time?”
“How does Friday around seven sound?”
Yes, woman. Say YES!
“You can think it over if you need some—”
But I cut him off. “I’d love to!”
“Great! So, Friday at seven?”
“Perfect. Text me your address, and I’ll swing by to pick you up. How does dinner and a movie sound?”
“Sounds great!” Oh shit, my voice was getting higher. Had he noticed?
“Awesome. I’ll see you Friday. Don’t get sick.”
I swallowed again. “Okay.”
He hung up.
I stared at the phone and his number. Hot Dad just asked me out on a date!
On a date!
I brought up the number for Amy, my sister from another mister and my favorite mom in my mom posse, and texted her.
Harper: Umm, why did Hot Dad just call me and ask me out on date? What were you two talking about today at Playgroup? About how sad, lonely and sex deprived I am?
She texted back almost immediately, as I knew she would. She had Mondays off and usually spent the afternoons with Henry at home or out and about. I checked the time. It was nearly four. She was probably prepping supper.
Amy: Bahahaha. Yes. He knows you’re horny as a rabbit in the spring. Get on that, little bunny. He and I were the only two parents who brought their kids today to playgroup. We started talking, I found out he’s a single Hot Dad. I thought the two of you might hit it off. He’s hot, you’re hot. Be hot AND sweaty together. Are you going out with him?
Smiling, I texted her back. Amy was a gem. Feisty, petite and a true friend. We’d met on the first day Carly and I joined playgroup. She’d offered me a piece of chocolate from her pocket. She normally kept her stash hidden and slipped a square into her mouth when no one was looking. But based on the way I’d entered the joint, with a tear in the bum of my brand-new yoga pants, a screaming toddler, and hair caked in oatmeal and banana, she figured I needed the sugar. And we’ve been friends ever since. She brought me into the fold and made me one of them. There was no bashing, no judgment, just support. And even though I loved all the women at the playgroup, Amy was my person. I could always count on her and she on me. If I didn’t have Quinn as a sister, I would have wanted Amy. I texted her back, my pulse thundering in my veins as I replayed my phone conversation with Sam over and over in my head.
H: Duh!? I’d be stupid not to try to hit that. I’ve been trying to figure out a way to hit that for months.
A: Ha-ha! Yes, I’m well aware of your six-month love from afar. You deserve this. Good luck and let me know how it goes :)
H: THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!
I sent her a photo of me blowing a kiss, then tossed my phone onto the counter and started the most epic dance party of my life, all to the tune of the music in my head.