Leila was unstoppable in her force to hug me, not that I minded one bit. I held onto her for far too long and only let up once Spencer insisted we get moving.
“Daddy, your beard is funny,” she stated, sliding into the back seat of Clive’s SUV.
“Funny, how?” asked Spencer, feeling for his chin.
I couldn’t help but laugh, amused by her need to be so abrupt.
“Well, I’ve not been to the barbers in a while,” he explained, landing a gentle kiss to her hairline. “Daddy can’t shave himself anymore.”
“Because of your eyes?” she asked, deep in thought.
He nodded. “Exactly, bambina. I thought I might grow it out. Would you like that?”
Together, Leila and I both offered him a “NO!” outraged by such a thought.
“That’s me told, isn’t it?” he replied, laughing in Clive’s direction.
“It certainly is, boss.” A small chuckle followed. “What would the princess like to listen to on our journey?” he asked, gaining Leila’s attention.
She launched forward in her seat, gifting Spencer and I a moment to ourselves.
“You okay, baby?”
His concern was unavoidable.
“Getting there,” I offered, lightly squeezing his fingers. “I had a moment of weakness back there”
“I know.” He sighed, shaking his head. “No more secrets, okay?”
“We’ll talk later,” I suggested, not keen on the idea of opening up in the back of Clive’s car with Leila present.
Spencer nodded. “Baby?”
“Ti amo,” he whispered, kissing my hand before letting it go.
I smiled. “I love you too.”
By the time we got home, I had rehearsed what I wanted to say to Spencer in my head and had just about managed to include all of my points. I held no desires to keep anything from him and just hoped he understood why I felt the need to do so to begin with. It wasn’t easy keeping things bottled up. The amount of pressure I put on myself was suffocating at times and I knew that was something I needed to work through. I was drowning in my own concerns for no reason other than not wanting to burden others. Tonight, that changed. I would let Spencer in and allow him to soothe away the pain, the confusion and everything else that came in between,
“What’s for dinner, Jessica?” asked Leila, wheeling her suitcase though the kitchen.
She stopped when Gatto approached her and bent down to stroke his fluffy fur.
“I thought we could have pasta tonight?” I shared, placing my handbag on the counter. “Does that work for you, princess?”
Off she bounced with Gatto hot on her heels, no doubt making her way towards her bedroom. On the journey over here, she’d expressed her desires to change into her princess dress and was likely getting straight to it. Spencer had ensured her there were a variety to choose from in her wardrobe and reminded her to fold her everyday clothing before getting changed.
“Everything okay?” I asked, turning my attention towards the contents of our fridge. Behind me, I heard Spencer lock up and recognised the tell-tale sign of him throwing his keys into the designated bowl we had situated by the front door. Before I could ask again, he was hugging me from behind.
“Everything is fine. Today has been intense,” he whispered, kissing the back of my neck.
The action caused goosebumps to make an appearance on my skin.
“I still don’t fully understand why you resigned,” I admitted, shutting the door and turning in my stance.
I caressed his bearded jaw and pulled a little on the hairs, prompting him to explain.
“When we discovered the lengths Alister had gone through to ensure I lose custody, I panicked.” He stopped, filled the kettle and set it to boil. “We’re a great team, you and I but I fear it’s not enough. I trust my dad with everything. He can help.”
“And he suggested you resign?”
A nod was his answer, followed by verbal elaboration. “He suggested I tell the media about us before he got the chance. That way we could plan the press conference ourselves and I could announce my resignation. If Alister sees me losing what I value most, he’ll get cocky.”
“And that’s when we sweep in?” I asked, feeling a little more clued in.
“Exactly. Roger called earlier. He’s making steady progress on cracking those emails between Malcolm and Alister. Once we gather enough proof, we’ll bring him down and get Isy as far away from him as possible.”
“I told my dad too,” I informed, caressing both him arms.
He smiled and kissed my nose, indifferent to my revelation. “How did he take it?”
“He was worried about Leila. I assured him she was fine.”
At this, he smiled and I knew instantly he was thinking what I had been. My dad cared and that meant a lot to both of us.
“We don’t have long left, Spencer,” I stressed, resting my forehead to his. “He’s due back from Scotland soon. That doesn’t give us much time at all.”
“Everything will work out fine,” he ensured, fixing me with a confident smile. “Very soon, things will go back to normal.”
I smirked. “I think life with you is far from normal.”
Upon finishing my statement, I received a small slap to my bottom. “Fine, maybe not totally normal.”
I laughed and for the first time all afternoon, it felt sincere.
“No thanks,” I replied, not quite in the mood for the bitter-tasting substance. “A tea would be nice though.”
“Tea it is,” he replied, gathering two mugs and a glass for Leila’s strawberry milkshake. “How’s your hand, by the way?”
I looked down to my reddening knuckles and attempted to flex, relieved when the pain from earlier didn’t return.
“It’s fine. A bit sore but it’s my own stupid fault.”
“You’re not stupid. You were angry and had every right to be.”
Silence settled over us, the only noise currently keeping us company coming from the rumbling kettle.
“I’m scared, Spencer.”
The words were out before I could rephase them and long gone was my rehearsed speech.
“Baby, come to me,” he begged, opening up his arms.
I flew to him in an instant, wrapping my arms so tightly around his neck, I was concerned for his breathing.
“I’m terrified too but that doesn’t mean I don’t have faith in us. We’ll win this, I know we will.”
“I believe in us too,” I agreed, pressing my lips to his neck. “I’m just nervous, that’s all.”
“I understand,” he soothed, stroking my hair.
Spencer smiled and pulled away slightly. “Yes, bambina?”
“I can’t find my tiara!” cried Leila, with utmost urgency.
“Alright, we’re coming,” he ensured, landing a kiss to my smiling lips.
“Did you hear that, Spencer?” I asked, struck by a thought.
I grinned. “She asked for you. No one else. Even though she knows you can’t see, she wants your help finding it.”
His face lit up at the thought. “She did, didn’t she?”
I slapped his bottom, essentially sending him on his way. “I’ll come up in a minute. I’ll just get dinner started first.”
I watched him feel his way up the stairs and quickly set about preparing tonight’s meal. I heard Leila stress about her accessory being misplaced and silently laughed along with her need to make a fuss over her things never being where she left them. She was turning into quite the madam and I had no doubt Spencer, Isy and I had our work cut out for us in the years to come. I refused to let my doubts settle in about Alister getting his own way, because in doing so, I was letting him win. Instead, I decided to focus on the positives. This weekend was about Leila getting to spend time with her friends and creating memories with us. Long, lasting memories. Memories I refused to let be tainted by Alister.
The sound of my ringing phone made me almost lose a finger. The cheese grater grazed past my skin in an attempt to draw blood, though luckily, my injuries were minor. I wanted cheese for tonight’s carbonara and refused to serve it with a side of skin.
“Hello?” I answered, cursing whoever was on the other end.
“You kinky fucker!” chided Sam, fully amused.
“Piss off!” I laughed, resuming my duties. I balanced the phone between my cheek and shoulder, cautious with the grater this time. “Has Dad seen it?”
“Yeah, I’m at his now. You did great at the press conference. We’re proud.”
“Really? Proud. I thought you’d be more embarrassed?”
He offered up a delightful scoff. “Dad, Jessie wants to know if your embarrassed?” he shouted.
I heard him offer Sam a loud, “Christ no!” which in turn made me smile.
“Bethany’s out buying handcuffs as we speak. You’ve inspired her,” he insisted, humour in his tone.
“TMI!” I replied, finishing up with the cheese.
“Who’s that?” asked Spencer, returning to the kitchen with Leila and tiara in tow.
Thank god they found it!
“Sam, he’s at Dad’s,” I whispered, sneaking Leila a bit of cheese.
She accepted it with a huge grin.
“If they’re at your dad’s, tell them to come around for dinner,” he suggested, continuing to make our beverages from earlier.
“Spencer says come around for your dinner,” I said to Sam, cuddling Leila as she nestled herself between my legs.
“What you cooking?” he asked, as if that would essentially make or break the deal.
“Carbonara. We’re all about the Italian culture in this house.”
“Sì, we are!” shouted Leila, excitement in full swing.
Sam laughed at her enthusiasm. “Alright, when do you want us?”
“In about an hour?” I offered, gaining a nod from Spencer.
“See you then. Ciao.”
I hung up and, in an instant, had Leila clawing at me in an attempt to reach my level.
“Are they coming for dinner?” she asked, wrapping her arms around my neck as I lifted her up.
“They are. Do you want to be my sous chef?”
“What’s a sous chef?” she asked, inquisitive as ever.
“You’d be Jessica’s assistant, bambina,” stated Spencer, passing her a small glass of strawberry milkshake.
Her eyes widened to the size of saucers. “Would I really?”
“Of course,” I replied, excited.
I smiled as she drank from her glass and left behind a strawberry-inspired moustache on her upper lip.
“You’ve got a milk moustache,” I gigged, pointing to her face.
“Is it as long as Daddy’s?” she mocked, killing me with her shade.
Spencer clicked on in an instant.
“Are you two laughing at me?” he asked, abandoning out teas once again to tackle Leila.
He snatched her up and tickled her ribs, making her shriek from laughing so hard. “Jessica, you’re next!”
“I am not!” I protested, grabbing the eggs. “Now let my assistant down, please. We have a carbonara to prepare.”
Spencer set her free in a second, kissing her sneakily on the cheek before completely letting go. Then, like the perfect little helper she was, she propped herself up on the stool and set about helping me in preparing tonight’s meal. First, she simply just handed me stuff but eventually, I let her take more of an active role. It felt good to be teaching her these things. Things that she could take with her into the future. I wasn’t the best at cooking but one of my fondest memories as a child was baking with Mum. I wanted to experience some of that with Leila. I wanted her to know that she was loved by both her mum and dad, as well as me. I wanted more weekends like this. Ones were we could be a proper family and enjoy things without having to think too much into it. And perhaps we could? Maybe Spencer was right? In a matter of weeks, this would all be over with and we could go back to being normal.
Well…normal with a side of kink.