Home > Only You (One and Only #1)(16)

Only You (One and Only #1)(16)
Author: Melanie Harlow

“Why don’t we try it together?” I suggested. “A warm bath can be nice and relaxing, and then we can try to feed her, and then maybe we can get her to sleep. This seems to be her worst time of night.”

“I’ll try anything.” He stood up and cracked his knuckles. “What should I do to help?”

“Is your sink clean?” I asked.

“I think there are a couple half-finished bottles and it.” He started for the kitchen. “I’ll clean it out.”

“Hey, before you do that, would you mind grabbing that shirt I slept in last night? I don’t want to get my blouse wet.” I glanced down at the lavender silk. “Either that, or I could run home and change.”

Nate did an about-face. “No. Do not leave. I’ll go get the shirt.” He disappeared up the stairs while I walked and bounced Paisley a little, looking around the apartment, marveling at even more differences.

There was a changing table against one wall. The swing and Pack ’n Play. The sling lay discarded on the floor. A half-empty bottle and two burp cloths on the coffee table, next to a cup of coffee that had gone undrunk, and a little white rectangular box. Fudge? Curious, I lifted the lid, surprised to find something covered in chocolate. Nate wasn’t really the type to eat sweets. “What’s this, Paisley? Was your daddy cheating on his diet?” I reached into the box, took one of the chocolate covered things, and nibbled on it. Potato chips? Oh my God, was that a thing? Chocolate-covered potato chips?

Nate came down the stairs, the shirt in his hands. “Here you go. Want me to hold her while you change?”

I finished the potato chip and looked longingly at the box. “I want you to take those things away from me and keep them away. I can’t even believe you were eating those.”

“Me either. They were a gift from a client and I stuck them in the pantry and forgot about them. But this afternoon I was dying for sugar for some reason.”

“Welcome to being human.” I handed him the baby, who was still howling. “Why don’t you put her in the swing or something while you clean out the sink? I’ll be right back.”

I took the shirt into the first floor bathroom and changed into it, wishing I had some jeans—or even better, some sweatpants—to put on, but my work skirt would have to do. After tossing my blouse on the chair next to my jacket, I retrieved Paisley from the swing and went into the kitchen with her. When Nate was finished cleaning out the sink, I instructed him to grab a couple towels, a washcloth, a cup, and the baby wash while I filled the sink with some warm water. Together, we undressed her, got her in the water, and managed to soap, shampoo, and rinse her with a minimum of water in her eyes and on our clothing. Actually, she seemed to like the bath and splashed around a bit, making gurgling noises. I showed Nate how to carefully wash her, and how to rinse her hair. He paid close attention, took over for me when I asked if he wanted to, and when she was clean, he wrapped her up in a towel and took her into the other room to dry her off.

It was kind of crazy. Was this really the same guy who’d fainted at the thought of having a baby daughter?

I drained the sink, wiped up what water we’d spilled, and made a bottle. I happened to glance at the clock when it was 1:11 AM, so I quickly made a wish that Paisley would fall asleep fast instead of keeping us up until three in the morning again. When I came out into the living room, she was dry and dressed, and he was holding her against his chest, resting his lips on her head. My stomach flipped. Seeing him with her was definitely messing with me.

“She smells good,” he said. “And she seems calmer.”

“Good. Here’s the bottle.” I handed it to him, careful not to let our fingers touch.

He fed her as he walked slowly around the room, humming something that sounded like “White Christmas.” I settled on the couch, my legs tucked beneath me, my cheek propped on my hand along the back of the couch. Watching him, I was disturbed by the way I couldn’t seem to take my eyes off his butt in those jeans.

Stop it. This baby doesn’t change things. This is still a man who doesn’t believe in happy ever after.

“Oh my God,” Nate whispered. “I think it worked. She’s asleep.”

“Great job, Bing Crosby. Where is she going to sleep tonight?”

“I put that bedside sleeper thing upstairs in my room. Should I try to put her in there?”

“Sure, why not?”

He nodded. “Come with me. She’s better when you’re there. I’m better when you’re there.”

“It’s not me,” I told him, getting off the couch, although secretly I was pleased he’d said it. “I made a wish at 1:11 that she would fall asleep fast tonight.”

He glanced at me over his shoulder as we went up the stairs. “You mean it wasn’t my awesome Christmas song?”

I stifled a giggle. “Maybe it was both.”

At the top of the stairs, I scooted ahead of him to turn off the lamp in his bedroom. With the same slow, careful movement he had used carrying the car seat upstairs last night, he leaned over the sleeper and gently laid the sleeping baby inside it. For ten seconds, neither of us moved.

She stayed asleep.

Ten more seconds went by.

She stayed asleep.

Nate grabbed my hand in the dark, setting off a pounding inside my chest I thought might wake the baby. We exchanged a look of triumph in the silent dark, and Nate kept my hand in his as he led me down the stairs. He let it go at the bottom.

“Oh my God, the silence is like a fucking miracle,” he said quietly, going over to the monitor on the coffee table and switching it on. “No wonder I never wanted kids. It’s exhausting, my apartment is a mess, and I’m not any good at it.”

“Stop it,” I told him, starting to gather up all the bottles strewn around the living room. “You are good at it, and you’re getting better. She’s very lucky to have you as her dad.”

“Well, we make a good team.”

“We do.” I bent down to pick up a burp cloth from the floor. “Although we had our first fight last night.”

He rubbed the back of his neck. “Did we? Yeah, I guess we did.”

“It’s bound to happen when two people feel like they can be really honest with each other. I think that’s the sign of a solid friendship.”

He didn’t say anything else as he grabbed his coffee mug and the box of chips and followed me into the kitchen. It was dark in there, so I switched on the light above the sink and started scrubbing bottles. “You don’t have to do that,” he told me. “You worked all day, you were up half the night. You must be tired. Go home and sleep.”

I was tired. And given my growing attraction to him, and the late hour, and the low light in the kitchen, I thought maybe it would be better if I left. “You sure?”

“I’m sure. You’ve done more than enough.” He came over to put his mug in the sink, turned around and leaned back against it. “You think I’m crazy, don’t you?”

“Why would I think that?” I turned off the water and dried my hands.

He shrugged. “Saying I’d keep her for a month was kind of a dumbass move.”

“Are you having second thoughts?”

“Fuck yes, I am.”

I looked up at him.

“But I’m not a guy who doesn’t keep promises. When I say something, I mean it.”

I spoke before I could think. “So did you mean what you said last night? About me?”

He grimaced, his eyes closing briefly. “I’m sorry about that. I shouldn’t have said it.”

“But you think it, right? That I’m a little girl living in a fantasy world?”

“No.” He put a hand on my shoulder. “I think you’re an optimist. I think you see good in people they don’t even see themselves. You build people up—especially me.”

“You?” I laughed a little. “You don’t need me to build you up.”

“Hell yes, I do. You think I’d have been able to handle this whole fatherhood bombshell if you hadn’t been here? If you’d said, ‘That’s what you get for fucking around, asshole. Good luck.’”

   
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