The following few weeks were busy at work. Robin gave me more and more duties and I started to feel like something was up. I understood her wanting me to be versatile in my abilities but something about it all just felt… wrong. She brushed me off whenever I asked about it and stated she just needed me to be able to back her up when necessary. I let the subject drop but it was never far from my mind.
Although it wasn’t even close to the biggest thing occupying my headspace. Jared Hart and I had developed a friendship and I was going to his house two or three times a week for lunch or dinner. We spent our time chatting about nothing and watching more Grey’s Anatomy. Jared also let me cuddle the baby as much as I wanted and I ended up saving him during an impromptu conference call when Chris had started crying unexpectedly. Watching him balance working from home while having an infant was really impressive.
He called me immediately after he’d left the pediatrician the Monday after my home visit to let me know that the doctor agreed with my take on the tear duct and that she’d said that Chris was developing perfectly. He also expressed how heartbreaking it had been when the doctor gave the little guy his first round of immunizations.
I also had called him as I left court when Christopher was almost four weeks old. The petition I’d filed on maternal rights for Christopher Hart was approved. That meant that Angela Roberts, whenever she resurfaced, would have absolutely no rights to that beautiful baby boy. The relief that came from that knowledge was almost staggering, something that surprised me. I knew that Jared felt the same way, too.
Our friendship was completely platonic, at least on the surface, and I had originally told myself that I spent so much time over there to see Chris. That was a lie, though. Of course I wanted to see the baby but I also wanted to see Jared, too. It had been so long since I had experienced anything but surface attraction to other men that I felt like I was completely out of my depth.
The more I continued to learn about Jared Hart, the more I liked him. I loved that he would hold real conversations with me and let me share my crappy or good days without judgment. He also shared the same of his and gave me his full attention.
The two of us celebrated Christopher’s six-week-birthday by ordering pizza and watching a really bad Will Ferrell movie. I was sitting on his couch with a full belly after Chris had gone to bed when Jared held something out to me.
“Look what I picked up yesterday,” he said as I took the envelope and pulled out a certificate. At the top, the name ‘Christopher Stephan Hart’ was spelled out along with his date of birth. There was no mother listed but Jared was named as the father. I smiled when I looked up at the man next to me.
“Named after our hero.” His green eyes stared at me seriously. Emotion clogged my throat and tears filled my eyes. I swallowed and tore my gaze from his to look back at the paper.
“Looks like you’re both official.”
He accepted it back once I’d tucked it into the envelope. “It feels that way, right? That piece of paper made my day.”
I loved what a proud father Jared was. He’d come a long way from the nervous, hesitant guy he had been when I first met him. I was also beyond honored that he included the nod to me when he’d given his son an official name.
“Under mother, it just says ‘No name given.’”
“Right.” I nodded my head. “She’ll likely never be added to it, even after we prove paternity because her rights have been completely terminated.”
“Poor guy,” he murmured quietly. “He’ll ask for this one day to get an ID or something and he’ll see that he doesn’t have a mom. Fuck, it makes my chest hurt and we’re still years away.”
“Well, maybe not.” I smiled but it felt almost sad. “Maybe one day you and Chris will find the perfect woman who will love him like her own son. If he’s officially adopted, the birth certificate will be amended to include her.”
We stared at each other for a moment. Something passed between us, not for the first time, but Jared was the first to look away that time.
“So, tell me about these loveys you bought for him.”
I had purchased a pack of small, square, muslin blankets that were a giraffe print and had a tiny plush giraffe head attached at one corner. The second I had walked into his condo earlier, I had made him put them in the washer so they were clean and ready for use. I held one up and grinned at Jared.
“These are much better for him to get attached to and sleep with than my shirt. Plus, there are three of them so if one gets lost or one’s in the wash, you have backups.”
Jared smiled and took one when I handed it to him, shifting so he was sitting on the couch cushion next to me. “And you’re going to carry these around for a while so they smell like you?”
“You’re crazy,” I replied with a roll of my eyes. “I also bought him some cute onesies and pairs of pajamas that I couldn’t resist. Oh, and a few books because we should probably start reading to him.”
“We should,” Jared repeated seriously, and I suddenly realized what I’d said.
“Well, you should.” I cleared my throat and looked away, struggling to find something else to say to cover up my Freudian slip. Suddenly, Jared’s had was wrapped around my wrist and I twisted my head back to look at him.
He smiled as he shoved one of the loveys up my sleeve, causing goosebumps to flare across my skin when his fingertips grazed it slightly. “They need to smell like you or they won’t work.”
When he leaned in to tuck the third under the collar of my shit, he was close enough that all I had to do was turn my head and our lips could meet. I wanted to do it more than anything but I couldn’t get a read on him. Sometimes I thought the attraction was mutual and other times I felt like he’d completely settled into the friend-zone. I didn’t want to misread his signals and make it awkward between us.
So, I chickened out and held still until he was pulling back. It could have been my imagination but for a brief moment I thought his green eyes were a bit darker and his breathing heavier.
The thought that he wanted it just as much as I did had me saying the hell with it. Screw the potential awkwardness. Screw the bullshit reasons about him being my client. I started to lean in when a phone suddenly vibrated loudly against the table and caused both of us to jump.
Jared cursed under his breath and grabbed for the moment-killing electronic device. I took the second to shake myself out of my stupor and then accepted the phone when he handed it to me.
I smiled when I read the text, feeling my irritation disappear. “My sister’s in labor. Looks like my mom is there with her.”
“That’s awesome. Maybe the new guy and Chris can be friends.” Jared nudged me with his shoulder and I laughed softly.
“Definitely.” I turned and grabbed the remote, turning on Netflix so we could get to the next episode of Grey’s Anatomy. We were about halfway through the second season and Jared was hooked, even though he wouldn’t admit it.
“I kind of like Alex better than Denny,” he commented about twenty minutes into the episode and I sat up from where my head had been resting on his shoulder.
“Just wait. Late series Alex is pretty awesome and nothing like first season Alex.”
Silence stretched between us again and sometime before the episode was over, I fell asleep. When I woke again, it was dark in the living room because the TV had been turned off. It took me a minute to realize that I was laying down with my head on one of Jared’s thighs and he had one of his hands on my shoulder.
I rolled slightly so I could see his face. He was also asleep, sitting up with his legs propped on the coffee table in front of us. His elbow was on the armrest and he had his cheek in the palm of his hand. He looked so peaceful that I contemplated staying where I was just so he wouldn’t wake up.
A noise from the back of the condo made me realize that couldn’t happen. When Chris whined again, not full on crying yet, I pushed myself up so I was sitting. Jared’s eyes immediately snapped open and settled on me.
I nodded and tried to suppress a yawn. “We fell asleep. Chris is awake.”
“Midnight. He’s right on schedule.” He slowly stood and held his hand out. “Let me get him to sleep and you can have my bed.”
For a brief moment, I considered it. I was tired and the thought of driving home sucked. But I shook my head. “Thank you but I’d have to go home to get ready for work anyway.”
Christopher’s whines turned into full on cries and I stepped forward, stretching my neck so I could press a kiss to Jared’s cheek. His skin was warm under my lips and I let them linger a second longer than I needed to.
“Thanks for another good night.”
He wrapped me in a tight, quick hug before taking a step back. “Text me when you get home, okay?”
“I will,” I promised, slipping my feet into my shoes and grabbing my bag. “Night, Jare.”
It was pitch black outside and Kenneth insisted on walking me to where I was parked in the dark parking lot. The early February air was chilly and I thanked him before getting in and willing the heater to warm up.
The drive to my house was short, only ten minutes thanks to empty streets, and the kitchen light was on when I walked in. Alyssa was at the counter, her hair up in a bun and pajamas. She turned those bright blue eyes on me and smiled.
“Are you just getting off work?”
I shook my head and dropped my stuff onto the table. “I fell asleep at Jared’s. On his couch,” I added when her eyes widened. “I just woke up. You’re up late.”
“I’m up early,” she corrected me with a laugh. “I went to bed at three this afternoon and slept until eleven.”
“As much as I love you and would love to stay up to hang, I need to sleep.” I slapped her ass and turned to head down the hallway. “Night, Lyss.”
She returned the sentiment and I immediately started undressing. The second I pulled off my sweater, three giraffe loveys fell to the ground. I bent down to pick them up, smiling when I remembered the feeling of Jared tucking them into my sleeve. If my body reacted to such an innocent touch, I could only imagine what more would feel like.
At twenty-six-years-old, it was kind of embarrassing to admit that all of my sexual experiences came from just one man. Since Troy and I had split the year before, I hadn’t had sex with anyone but him. Realistically, I knew it wasn’t anything to be ashamed of but it was still hard to admit.
I laid down in my bed and shifted several times, trying to get comfortable. No matter what I did, I couldn’t settle in. The clock had just turned past one in the morning when I gave into my sexual frustration and reached into the drawer of my nightstand. With my vibrator in hand and a vision of the man who was slowly getting under my skin in mind, I quickly brought myself to the edge of bliss. It wasn’t total satisfaction but it was enough to help lull me off to sleep.