“Hey,” Ben greets me with a smile as he steps inside the house, placing Nolan on his feet. I am once again stunned into silence from the sight of him in his uniform, unable to give him anything besides a goofy grin at the moment. But my God, he makes that uniform look downright sinful. I’m tempted to go commit a major felony in hopes that he’ll pat me down or better yet, strip search me. Nolan runs right at me, wrapping his arms around my legs and snapping me out of my lustful thoughts. “He’s a little excited. The maniac wouldn’t even take a nap today because he was too wound up to come over here.”
I laugh and rub Nolan’s head, seeing him lift his face to me. “I couldn’t take a nap either.” I bend down and put us face to face, dropping my smile and trying to stay serious. “I tried to take a nap, but there were all these dragons in my bedroom.” His eyes immediately twinkle with interest, doubling in size. “They might still be back there. Can you go check it out for me?”
“Yeah!” he yells with pure excitement, his little legs quickly taking him down the hallway.
Tessa nudges Ben’s shoulder, barely moving him an inch. He smirks at her and she smirks right back before looking over at me. “I’ll see you tomorrow sometime.” She gives me a knowing look and motions with her head toward Ben without him noticing. Get naked, she mouths, earning herself a stern look from me before she walks out the door. I will definitely not be getting naked unless Ben undresses me, and at the rate we’re going, I don’t see that happening any time soon.
“Here’s all his stuff.” Ben drops the duffle bag that is on his shoulder onto the couch, opening the zipper. “Pajamas, toothbrush, a few books that he likes me to read to him before he falls asleep, and this.” He pulls out a stuffed dragon that looks well loved. It’s worn and frayed at the edges. “He can’t go to bed without this, but don’t give it to him before bedtime because he’ll take it everywhere and I’m afraid he’ll spill something on it and I won’t be able to wash it. If something happens to this thing, I’m completely screwed.”
I laugh and watch him stuff it back into the bag. “What time is bedtime?”
“Between 8:00 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. He might pass out before then though since he’s running on no nap.” Ben turns his head and glances over at the kitchen counter. “Wow. You are definitely prepared.” He smiles at me with a teasing look. “Expecting more children?”
I shove his massive shoulder and move past him. “Oh ha-ha. This isn’t all just for Nolan. I’ve been known to put away a massive amount of snacks when I’m entertaining.”
“Take that! Leave Pwincess Mia alone!”
Ben and I both turn our heads. “What is he doing in there?” he asks. I shrug with a sly smile and he narrows his eyes at me. “Well now I’m curious.” I follow him down the hallway, knowing exactly what I am going to see when I look into my bedroom. I didn’t just go grocery shopping today.
“Daddy. Look at all these dwagons!” Nolan is swinging his sword at the inflatable dragons that surround my bed. They range in size, some are as small as his stuffed animal and others are bigger than him. “I’m gonna kiwl dem all!”
I cover my mouth with my hand and chuckle next to Ben, feeling his eyes on me. “Where did you get all these?”
“The party store in town. They have everything there.” I watch Nolan bop one of the larger dragons in the head. He seems to be enjoying himself immensely. “Totally worth the twenty bucks.”
“God, you’re incredible.” Our eyes lock and I see how much he means what he’s just said. That is definitely one quality he has that I absolutely love. Ben is honest, completely authentic when he speaks to me. I never doubt anything he’s ever said and I know I never will. Of course, I’m sure he means I’m incredible in a friendly sort of way since he’s not pinning me up against a wall.
We stare at each other while Nolan continues slaying the dragons in front of us. His gray eyes are bright and filled with adoration. It is the look I want Ben to reserve just for me. The look he’s given me several times before. At the dam, standing in his parents’ living room after we discovered each other by the pool, and in his truck. It’s the look that teeters us on the edge of the friend zone, because I’ve never been looked at by a friend this way before. I want Ben to say something else to me. I want to hear more of his honesty, and for a split second, it looks like he is going to give me what I want. But instead, he breaks our connection and glances down at his watch. “I gotta go.” He looks at me again with the same tender gaze. “I probably won’t be back until close to 12:30 a.m., but if you need anything, just call me.”
I place my hand on his arm and squeeze it gently. “We’ll be fine. Go arrest some bad guys, Officer Kelly.” My voice doesn’t waver at his title, but I can’t deny the rush of adrenaline that spikes through me when I say it. I wink at him and move into the bedroom, scooping up a few smaller dragons. Nolan looks at me and beams as I sit on the edge of the bed, watching him slay the biggest dragon in the room. I laugh at him and turn my head, hoping to see Ben standing there, but he is gone. And I know that I shouldn’t feel disappointed because I will see him later on tonight but I can’t help it. At least I have one Kelly boy to keep me company while I think about another one.
Nolan was like this tiny ball of energy that seemed to recharge the more he moved around. I’d never seen a kid go from one activity to another with such gusto. After he slayed dragons for a good hour, he had a snack and wanted to watch his Mike the Knight DVD. But he didn’t sit still during that. He jumped around in front of the couch and swung his tiny sword in the air, mimicking the movements on the screen. We colored a few pictures, made a fort out of the extra bed sheets I found in the closet, and blew bubbles on the back patio. I saw his first yawn, the only indication he’d given me all night that he was slowing down, at 8:20 p.m. After changing him into his pajamas, I brushed his teeth and grabbed the books out of the duffle bag.
He settles under the covers in one of the spare bedrooms, holding his stuffed dragon in a death grip. “Wead that one fiwst,” he says in a sleepy voice, pointing toward a book about trucks. I prop against the headboard and hold the book out in my lap, reading in a soft voice. He closes his eyes when I am halfway through it, but I finish it anyway. After giving him a kiss on his forehead, I quietly exit the bedroom and plop down on the couch with my phone.
Me: Little knight is down for the count. Slaying thirty seven dragons takes a lot out of a three-year-old.
I turn off the Mike the Knight DVD that is still playing and change the channel to something I am interested in. My phone beeps as I lie back on the sofa, but it isn’t a text from the person I am dying to talk to, and see for that matter. This is the first time I grunt at the sight of this particular name on my screen.
Tessa: I haven’t told him yet and I don’t know if I’m going to. What if he freaks out and ends it? What if he wants me to abort the baby? I’d never do that, but isn’t it his decision as much as mine? We’ve had sex three times since I got over here and I don’t even know if that’s good for my current situation.