Finding a Hart

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Chapter 29

Jared

“Come on, buddy,” I groaned as I cleaned spit up off of my son’s chin. “You have to keep some of it in, you know.”

He just stared at me like I was crazy, which I probably was. I had full conversations with the infant on a daily basis, probably cementing my spot in the insane asylum.

I got his chin and mouth clean but frowned when I looked at his eye. One of them was rimmed with red and slightly swollen near the corner where yellow goop was clinging to his skin. No matter how many times I had cleaned it off that day, the goop came back and the swelling was gradually increasing. I had put in a call to the pediatrician’s after hours and weekend line earlier and was still waiting for the doctor to call me back.

I placed him in the big crib that I had set up in the nursey and turned on the small animal mobile. I left him there so I could go change my shirt, which had managed to catch the majority of the spit up. Together, Chris and I were going through about six outfits a day. My washing machine was definitely getting a workout.

I’d had him home for a full week and it had been the longest week of my entire life. I was running off of about five hours of sleep at night and those five hours weren’t even consecutive. My personal hygiene had taken a nosedive and I’d been living on food that could be delivered.

Despite all of that, I was happy. It was hard and exhausting, but being a father was the most rewarding experience of my life. That little guy continued to amaze me. He was staying awake for longer periods of time and made some of the cutest noises when he wasn’t crying. I loved the moments where he would be awake and just studying something, like his mobile. He was going to be a wise person.

Travis and his wife had been by the day before without their kids. Liz had made me a dish of lasagna to keep in the freezer, along with a few other snacks, and they’d both given me some sort of carrier so I could strap Chris to my chest. I had no idea how to work it or if I’d use it but I thanked them both and appreciated the adult conversation.

Besides people at the office, the only person I’d really spoken to that was of the adult variety was Stephanie. I hadn’t actually seen her since Thursday but we sent texts throughout the day. They were usually just small little snippets but we were having full conversations at night once she was home.

Our conversations were that of two people who were very much just friends. Although I was positive I didn’t imagine that look in her eyes when we were on the couch the day of the home visit. I hadn’t been alone in my desire to kiss her. The way she had pulled back so abruptly said a lot. The only problem was that I wasn’t sure exactly what it was saying.

I couldn’t stop smiling after she left and I decided right then that having Stephanie as a friend was better than not having her at all. So, I was enjoying our developing friendship to the fullest.

I went back into the nursery to get Chris once I’d changed my shirt and was surprised to find that him fast asleep. I stood next to the crib for a moment and just stared at him. His little fists were clenched and up by his head, which was turned to the side as he slept.

I left the door open and headed down the hall to the kitchen. I couldn’t remember if I’d eaten breakfast and if I had, I had no idea what it was. Hell, I had to check my watch to make sure it was even lunchtime.

“I need groceries,” I mumbled to myself as I searched the fridge, trying to decide if the leftover pizza was still good. I had just sat on the couch with a piece and started up Netflix when my phone vibrated on the coffee table in front of me. I picked it up and instantly smiled when I saw Stephanie’s name.

“Hey, Vanilla Latte.”

When she spoke, I could tell she was smiling, too. “Hey. What are you doing?”

“Scrolling through Netflix to try to find something I can start watching. What are you up to?”

“I spent my entire Sunday morning doing chores around the house so I was going to get myself a late lunch,” she replied, the sound of her blinker clicking in the background. “Have you eaten?”

I looked at the piece of pizza I was holding. “I’m starving. Are you offering to feed me?”

“I am. I know this place with the best pot stickers. Do you like Chinese?”

I chuckled softly. “The spicier the better.”

“Done. I’ll be there in an hour, okay?”

“See you soon, Steph.” I ended the call and stood from the couch so I could toss the pizza I was holding. That prompted me to grab the box from the fridge, along with a few other choice things, and I walked them out to the trash chute in the hallway.

After that, I erred on the side of caution and walked back to my room to brush my teeth since I couldn’t remember if I had that morning or not. That led into me applying deodorant and changing my pants.

I had just finished making sure the bathrooms were clean when the intercom beeped. One of the building’s doormen, Kenneth, spoke when I answered it.

“Mr. Hart, I have Stephanie Gibson here for you.”

I pressed the button to reply. “Send her on up please, Kenneth.”

The elevator chimed a minute later and I was standing in the doorway when she stepped off, carrying two take-out bags. I moved forward and took them from her hands before gesturing her inside. Stephanie stopped to take off her jacket and I continued to the kitchen, placing the bags on the counter and turning around to look at her.

She had her blonde hair up in a ponytail and her face had just a small amount of make-up on it. The jeans covering her legs appeared to be painted on and the bottoms of them disappeared into a pair of grey boots that went up to her knees. The shirt she was wearing was a deep purple color and scooped low enough on her chest to tease me.

“Good. You’re wearing another short-sleeved shirt today.”

She glanced down at her outfit before her blue eyes met mine. “I am. I’m not going home in just my jacket, though, Jared. Can you imagine if I got pulled over or called into work like that?”

Lucky cop, I thought to myself as I laughed softly. “I can imagine a lot of stuff but that’s not what I meant. Your other shirt isn’t doing it anymore. I was thinking we could trade. I even washed it for you yesterday.”

“That I can do.” She accepted a plate from me and we began spooning food out of the containers before going into the living room. She shook her head when I offered her chopsticks and instead opted for a fork. “What kind of shows do you watch?”

“I like anything I can laugh at. What do you watch?”

She smiled and shook her head. “Probably stuff you wouldn’t like.”

“Don’t be so quick to judge, Gibson,” I replied with a smirk. “Try me.”

“I like dramas. Like Grey’s Anatomy, Gilmore Girls, Scandal, This is Us.”

I picked up the remote, scrolled through the shows, and pressed ‘Play’ on Grey’s Anatomy. “Okay. Let’s try it.”

I could see her watching me out of the corner of my eye but I ignored her and settled on the couch with my food. The show started off kind of stupid but I found myself sucked into the drama anyway. I paused it a few times to ask Stephanie questions, which she gladly answered, and the episode was almost over when Chris began crying from down the hall.

“I’ll get him, you watch,” Steph said, taking my plate from me so she could set them both in the kitchen. I thanked her and mentioned that he was in the crib before focusing on the show. The baby’s crying increased for a moment before it tapered off and I knew that he was completely under her spell.

Stephanie was gone for about ten minutes, long enough for me to finish the episode and start the second. When she reappeared with my son in her arms, she took the cushion immediately next to me rather than the one at the end that she had been occupying minutes before.

“You totally started the second episode.”

I rolled my eyes and tried to hide my smile. “I’m a firm believer in finishing what I start.”


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