| LOGAN |
I pull into the school drop-off loop and roll down my window while Hannah unbuckles in the backseat and climbs out of the car.
As is the case every morning, she doesn’t just rush off; she comes up to my window to slap my outstretched hand in a lo-five—my cool dad out I give her in case her classmates are watching.
Ever since she started the fourth grade, I’ve wondered if this is the year it’d no longer be cool for her to give her old man a hug in public. None of her friends do anymore when their folks drop ‘em off places, far as I’ve seen.
It’s fucking tragic, if you ask me.
Aside from climbing, being a parent is the only other thing I felt born to do. Parenting solo all these years hasn’t always been easy, but what great things in life are? I’ve loved every minute of raising my little girl—from the three a.m. feedings to the stuffed animal tea parties and everything in between.
So yeah, it’s tragic to think that one day, the cool-dad lo-five will be all I get. And trust me, I’ve already got the whiskey bottle I’ll be comforting myself with when it happens.
Today, thankfully, is not that day.
Hannah dives halfway into my driver’s side window after the lo-five to give me a proper goodbye hug. “Love you, Dad. Have a great day at work.”
“Love you too, Squirt. Go learn something important today.”
I wait until Hannah’s safely inside the fenced courtyard before starting the engine up again. It’s then and only then that I finally acknowledge the supreme annoyance responsible for the incessant tapping on my window.
There’s a reason I immediately roll my window back up after I get my daughter’s hug. Learned my lesson after one of the other kid’s moms mistook the front of the school for a single dad pick-up site and practically suffocated me with her triple-d’s leaning in to make inane small talk while ignoring my polite requests for her to leave me the hell alone.
Kid you not, I was all but ready to pop one of her implants by rolling up my window on the inappropriate woman’s overinflated chest. But, I took the high road and simply turned on my windshield wipers so she got doused with blue window washing fluid instead.
Normally, I’m not a dick to anyone, let alone a woman, but I’ve got a short fuse for crap, and in situations like that, I reserve the right to earn the title of king dick.
Unfortunately, that moment of infamy seems to have turned me into some sort of damn unattainable unicorn or something for the other single (and some not single) moms, aunts, and even some cougar grandmas in the market to hook up with me despite my king dick crown…for reasons I can only attribute to my sizable net worth.
At least for the most part. Some of ‘em have told me they’re more interested in the size of my other reputed assets. Either way, now, every other week or so, another scantily-dressed woman with a face full of make-up will make her way over to my car.
It’s fucked up.
I rev my engine, but the woman with the sprayed-on dress next to my car won’t budge.
“What?!” I demand finally, opening my window a crack and no more.
She immediately pulls a piece of paper from her overexposed cleavage and slips it through the window gap.
Okay, first things first. I don’t know about other guys, but me, I’ve never found the whole I-store-random-shit-between-my-tits thing at all sexy. You don’t see men winning women over by reaching into the crotch of their pants to pull out things they’ve been keeping between their balls.
And secondly, a woman who hands me a graphically pornographic proposition along with her number in an elementary school parking lot definitely deserves a response from me. So, I grab a pen and scribble a reply. Then I flick the paper onto the gravel behind her, forcing her to back off enough that I finally have room to get out of there.
I take off before she can get all butt-hurt over me writing down what I did.
To be fair, she was the one who brought up the TMI status of her wet panties. I—helpful guy that I am—simply informed her there were discreet new incontinence pads and remarkable new medications to help her with her bladder control problems.
I swear, I’m normally a perfectly nice person. In fact, that’s kind of my reputation. “One of the nicest billionaires you’ll ever meet,” a reporter once called me. And when it comes to the women I go out with on occasion, I’m usually charm personified.
So yeah, it takes kind of a lot to aggravate me to the point of—
What timing. My thoughts about women who get under my skin are cut-off by the sight of a very noticeable teal SUV parked next to my reserved spot outside my climbing gym.
Nicole’s getting an early start this morning.
“We’re still closed,” I say as she falls into step beside me. “You know this.”
“Would you consider letting me in a teeny bit early today? Just this once?” she asks, her playfully coaxing smile transforming her face to something almost mythologically tempting.
Yeah…this is why I don’t let the woman smile this close to me.
Seriously, why is she here so early this morning? This is the first day in months that I don’t have a packed AM schedule filled with back-to-back meetings and phone conferences. I was going to use the unprecedented down time to do some climbing.
I haven’t even had a chance to climb in the new twenty-story wing I just added here in the expansion remodel—a thing of beauty, really. Measuring in as some of the tallest indoor climbs in North America, half of it consists of architecturally complex walls for sport climbers looking for extreme structural challenges. The other half is for outdoor climbers, fully constructed out of organic materials to simulate natural, craggy terrain and designed as topographical replicas of my favorite mountain faces and caverns, complete with panoramic glass windows for the former and encased cave-like features for the latter.
I fucking need to get on one of those walls today.
“Come back after we open,” I say tersely, picking up my pace a bit to beat her to the door. Not really a big feat seeing as the woman is a good foot shorter than me, with cute, shapely legs that require two strides for every one of mine.
She keeps up with me. Persistent little thing.
And now I can’t stop looking at said legs. Between those gorgeous stems and the rhythmic bounce of her full breasts thanks to the near jog she’s in now, this is officially the most I’ve given thought to the woman’s highly distracting body parts in all the time I’ve known her.
“If the positions were reversed,” she says plaintively. “I’d be more than happy to open up for you and let you in.”
Dammit, she’d be easier to deal with if she were saying that as a dirty come-on. She’s not. She just says these weirdly seductive things by accident all the time…something I’m trying to explain to my dumb cock as I punch in my security code and pull out my key to unlock the door.
But Nicole beats me to the unlocking part.
What in the world?
“Why do you have Derick’s keys?” My gym manager’s novelty ‘BREAK IN CASE OF EMERGENCY’ plastic condom keyring is hard to miss.
There’s an odd haze tunneling my vision on those set of keys in her hand. If I start letting my imagination conjure up reasons why she has another man’s keys at this time of day, there’s a good chance I’ll do something supremely stupid.
Like haul her back to my car so I can make her come so hard she’ll never even think about having something that belongs to another man in my presence again…
“I called Derick up and asked if he could let me in early,” she says. “He’s inside eating breakfast. I just came back out to grab my MP3 player from the car.”
If she already had a way to get in, why on earth did she insist on me letting her in?
There’s probably a psychological reason for it—there always is with her. I should just drop it before she starts with the shrinky stuff. But first, I have to fucking know… “Why’d you call Derick instead of me?” I growl.
“Because I knew you’d be dropping Hannah off at school.”
She’s always so maddeningly logical. “How did you even get his number?”
“He gave it to me,” she says slowly, like she’s talking to a person why may have possibly sustained a blow to the head.
Maybe I have. Derick giving out his number to women who come in here isn’t exactly an uncommon occurrence. As long as he works hard, which he does, I could care less who the horndog hits on.
Unless it’s Nicole.
She bumps the door open with her hip. “You okay? You look like you’re in a bad mood.” She tilts her head sympathetically. “Let me guess, you got hit on at Hannah’s school again?”
I scowl. “Yes.”
“Oh, you poor, poor hot man with all the rabid women throwing themselves at you.”
I know that’s more of a dig than a compliment, but hell, I like her saying that I’m hot.
She steps past me through the door and her sweet floral scent sucker punches me in the face, about a split second before her soft, expressively attentive gaze delivers a blow to my solar plexus.
Okay, I lied before. I’ve allowed myself to think about one body part on Nicole Shaw quite a lot over the last couple years. Those smart, watchful eyes of hers. A shade of green you only see in nature. Always clear and candid. Never jaded or uncaring.
For crying out loud, does she have to be so goddamn pretty?
And not just a normal pretty, either, but a cute, refreshing kind of pretty that I always steer clear of when I make my one night stand selections. Too easy to like, too dangerous to get involved with. It’s not really a rule, but I should probably make it into one.
You’d think her being such an odd duck would offset even her specific brand of pretty. It doesn’t. It somehow adds to it, makes her sexier. To me, anyway.
“So,” she says quietly, breaking into my thoughts. “How’s Hannah doing?”
Really, I should be used to her catching me off guard by now. Half the time, I never know what she’s going to say—whether she’s going to go brainy data queen or kooky hippie zen on me.
This time though, it’s not what she’s saying, but how she’s saying it that’s throwing me for a loop.
She’s using her therapist voice on me.