Home > Only You (One and Only #1)(8)

Only You (One and Only #1)(8)
Author: Melanie Harlow

“That’s because you’re a little girl living in a fantasy world,” he shot back. “You think every guy you have sex with is going to be your future husband. You think an orgasm is the equivalent of an engagement ring. Some of us exercise a little more restraint, because we are mature adults and understand that sometimes a fuck is just a fuck.”

My nostrils flared. I no longer felt sorry for him. In fact, I kind of felt like punching him. “Wow,” I said, blinking. “I’m immature?”

“Yes,” he snapped, although he looked a little less sure of himself.

“I’m immature, and yet it’s you refusing to face the consequences of your mature adult actions.” I mocked his deep voice. “Well, guess what? Sometimes a fuck isn’t just a fuck, Nate. And if you were really the alpha male you pretend to be, you’d take responsibility for this like a grown-ass man and not fall apart like the ridiculous boy I see in front of me. But then again, maybe you’re just like the rest of them—all talk. Shame on me for thinking differently about you.” With that, I shoved the baby into his arms, made sure he was holding onto her, and headed for the door. “Good luck, pal,” I called over my shoulder. “You’re gonna need it.”

I let myself into my apartment and allowed the door to slam noisily behind me. Then I stood there, arms crossed over my chest, wondering if leaving that baby alone with Nate was akin to child abuse, or at the very least, neglect. Was she all right with him? Would he know how to feed her tonight? Change her? Get her to sleep? Would he even try, or would he just take her to the fire station and hand her over because he saw that in a movie once? I bet he wouldn’t even show them the letter. He’d say he found her somewhere. What an asshole.

Closing my eyes, I inhaled and exhaled slowly. I couldn’t help being disappointed in Nate. It would almost be laughable, if there weren’t a child involved. Nate was always scolding me for trusting too easily or believing a guy to be something more than he really was, leading me to believe he held himself to a higher standard, but here it was Nate letting me down. I didn’t even really understand why. He had never made a secret of the fact that he wasn’t husband/father material, but somehow he had seemed like he was made of better stuff. The kind of guy who would step the fuck up. The kind of guy you called in a crisis, because he would be there for you. A gentleman. A hero. A real man.

Maybe I should be glad he’s just like the rest of them. It’s not like he was anything more than a friend to me, anyway.

So why did this feel so shitty?

A knock on my door. I walked toward it slowly. “Yes?” I called out warily. I could hear the baby fussing on the other side.

“I’m sorry. Please open the door, Emme.”

That was fast. “Sorry for what?”

“For what I said.”

“You just want my help with the baby.”

“No! I mean, yes, I do want your help, but I’m really, really sorry. I was angry with myself and I took it out on you.”

Huh. That was actually acceptable, if he meant it. I opened the door a crack.

His expression was contrite. “I’m sorry. I was…in shock.” He stood up taller, thrust his chest out. “But I’m man enough to handle this, dammit. I’m all fucking man.”

“Oh really?”

“Yes.” His posture drooped slightly. “I just…need a little help getting started. Will you come back over?”

I considered it. Part of me was still upset about what he’d said, and I’ve never been particularly quick to forgive (it’s something Maren says I need to work on), but I liked his apology, and considering how often he helped me out, I definitely owed him. “Okay,” I agreed.

He exhaled with relief, his eyes closing. “Thank God.”

Back in his apartment, I picked up the diaper bag from the floor and brought it over to the coffee table. “Look in there for a bottle and her formula.”

“Her formula for what?”

“Infant formula. It’s what you put in her bottle. What she eats. It will be a powder you mix with water.”

He shook his head. “How do you know all this?”

“I used to be a nanny during summers home from college. It was great money, and it was under the table. But it was a lot of work, and you’ve got a lot to learn, so let’s get started. Find the bottle.” I took the baby from his arms. “And she probably needs to be changed.”

All the color—what was left of it, anyway—drained from Nate’s face. “You mean…her diaper needs to be changed?”

“Yes. See if there’s a changing pad or blanket in the bag.”

He gave me a deer-in-the-headlights look but sat on the couch and did as I asked, removing some diapers, a box of wipes, a pacifier new in the case (which he looked at as if he’d never seen such a thing before) and a large can of formula, before rooting around in the bottom of the bag. He pulled out a couple burp cloths, a few pairs of pajamas, and a stuffed bear before finally locating a pink and white striped flannel blanket. “This?”

“Spread it out on the couch,” I said.

“The couch?” His expression was shocked. “This is a really nice couch, Emme.”

“Jesus, Nate. The couch is the last thing you should be concerned about.”

He swallowed hard, all the muscles in his neck flexing. “Right.” He unfolded the blanket and laid it across the leather cushion, then stood up and moved out of the way, as if he expected me to sit down and do it.

“Uh uh. You’re going to change her,” I told him. I maneuvered Paisley from the crook of my arm into my hands and held her out, facing him.

“Me!” From his expression you’d have thought I asked him to breastfeed her. “I can’t do that.”

“Yes, you can, all-fucking-man. Take her. Put her on the blanket.”

Nate pressed his lips together, inhaled through his nose, and reached for her. His hands covered mine beneath her arms. They were warm and solid and when I knew he had her, I took my hands away. For a moment he held her away from his body and studied her, and she looked back at him without making a sound or moving a muscle. Then she started to kick her feet, and he quickly sat down and gently laid her on her back. “I did it.” He exhaled with relief.

“Good job,” I told him, dropping down to my knees to make sure she didn’t roll right off the couch. “But you have to keep a hand on her unless she’s on the floor because she could squirm around and fall off.”

He looked alarmed, and placed a palm over her belly, his fingers stretched wide. His hand looked gigantic on her little body. “Like this?”

“Yes. Now get her legs out of her pajamas.”

“How am I supposed to do that with one hand on her stomach?”

“You can use two hands, Nate. You just sort of have to keep contact with her at all times.” He looked nervous, so I touched him on the wrist. “Hey. You can do this.”

We didn’t usually touch each other in reassuring ways—mostly it was just to prod at each other when we were joking around or arguing. Maybe that’s why Nate stared at my fingertips against his skin for a few heartbeats. “Okay.”

With my coaching, he managed to get her legs out of her pajamas, unsnap her onesie, and remove the wet diaper. I took pity on him and rolled it up, showing him how to tape it shut in a little ball. Next, I instructed him to hold her ankles in one hand, lift up gently, and slide the new diaper beneath her. He bit his lip and concentrated hard. “Jesus, her legs are so small. Her ankles are about as big around as my fingers. Are you sure I’m not hurting her?”

“I’m sure.”

“Because she doesn’t look like she likes this too much.”

“No baby likes getting her diaper changed, but they like being wet even less, so keep going. You’re doing fine, except you have to open up the diaper before you get it beneath her. Also, you placed it upside down. You have to make sure the opening is at the top and the tabs are on the bottom.”

His eyes met mine. “I have no fucking idea what you’re talking about.”

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