He tried to hoist himself up on the bed. Soon as she set him on the mattress, he started jumping in his best Tigger imitation.
“You little monkey. Where’d you learn—” Jessie’s head whipped to Brandt when he snickered. “You let him jump on the bed?”
“All kids jump on the bed. Besides, I was there the whole time.”
“What happens if you’re not there? What happens if he sneaks into a bedroom and starts jumping while you’re doing something else? What if he flies off the bed and breaks his neck?”
Brandt snagged Landon around the waist and propped him on his hip, much to Landon’s displeasure.
“Okay, okay, I get it. Bad uncle. No more jumpin’ on the bed. And I’ll make sure since I’ve introduced this bad behavior that all bedrooms doors will be shut from here on out.”
“Good.” After they trooped back into the living room and Jessie said, “I didn’t plan anything for supper because I didn’t know if you’d be here.”
“I don’t expect you to cook for me every night.”
“I like to cook. So do you have any requests?”
“I’m feelin’ like pizza.”
Jessie frowned. “That’s the one thing I don’t have the stuff for.”
“Don’t you have frozen pizza in the freezer?”
“We could go to the Pizza Barn in Moorcroft?” Brandt suggested.
After the last public appearance at Dewey’s, fielding a dozen questions about Landon and why she was torturing herself caring for a child that wasn’t hers… Nah. Not an experience she was anxious to repeat, especially not in front of Brandt with Landon tow.
“You not wantin’ to be seen in public with me?”
Her gaze caught his. “It’s not about you, paranoid man. Just remembering the scream therapy I needed last time I ventured out to a restaurant. So I’d rather stay in.”
Tension left Brandt’s posture and he smiled. “How about if I call in an order, pick it up and we eat it here?”
“Sounds like a plan.”
While Brandt was gone, Jessie fed Landon and bathed him. She dumped out the jumbo Legos on the coffee table and they sorted the pieces by color. Landon was fascinated by how the different sized parts fit and he was pleased as punch when he figured out how to snap them together by himself. Every day at the daycare and at home, she watched Landon learn something new. And rather than getting a sense of pride, it humbled her to see how hungry he was to learn.
Jessie ate the pizza one handed because Landon demanded she hold him while he drank his bottle.
Brandt returned from settling Landon in his crib with that get-nekkid look in his eye.
Good thing she’d taken the time to brush her teeth.
Tell and Dalton showed up at Jessie’s around noon on Sunday. Luckily they’d called first and hadn’t walked in on him and Jess going at it in the shower.
Or on the couch.
Or on the kitchen counter.
Man. They could not get enough of each other. Within a few days they’d become intimate on a level he’d never experienced. As freakin’ awesome as the sex was, Brandt knew it wasn’t the only reason they’d become so close. They’d let their guards down and hadn’t put those walls back up.
He hadn’t announced that he and Jessie had become more to each other than Landon’s guardians.
Would Jessie shy away the first time he showed affection in front of his brothers?
Nope. She’d gone him one better and kissed him. With tongue.
She was a natural fit to their Sunday afternoon tradition—flipping back and forth between football games and waiting for Chase to compete in a televised PBR event, knocking back a few beers. Even Landon refused to nap so he could hang out with his uncles.
But at suppertime Landon staged a crying, screaming tantrum. The thought of wrestling the crabby kid into the bathtub made him shudder, but he wouldn’t pass the duty off to Jessie either. Somehow Tell and Dalton ended up bathing the ornery boy. The bath time screams Brandt expected were largely absent, replaced by giggles.
What the hell?
He poked his head in the bathroom door and saw Tell, on his knees in front of the tub, and Landon—
with Dalton’s help—was spraying Tell in the face with the hand-held shower sprayer. Tell, being even keeled Tell, just let them do it and laughed right along with them.
His brothers managed to get Landon diapered and in his pajamas without incident.
Dalton held Landon while the kid sucked down his bottle. Once he’d tucked the tyke in bed, Dalton and Tell asked if they could have Landon the following Saturday night. For the last of the McKay wild men to give up their weekend plans proved his brothers intended to be part of Landon’s life.
Maybe it was a little selfish, but his first thought was that he’d have Jessie all to himself for a night.
Jessie was washing dishes two days later when Keely barged into her house, demanding, “What the hell? Luke had a kid? I hate when nobody tells me this kind of shit.”
“Yes. Keely. Please. Why don’t you come in?”
“Shoulda locked the door if you wanted to keep me out. As soon as I heard I had to come over here and see—”
“About adding Luke’s illegitimate love child to your roster of nieces and nephews?”
“No. And wow, snippy much, Jess? I came to see if you’re okay.”
Keely snorted. “Yeah, and you’re acting like it, lashing out at me for checking on your mental well being.”
Jessie blew out a breath. “Sorry. The shock hasn’t been easy, but I’m coming to terms with it.”
Which it, Jess? Luke’s infidelity? Or Landon’s presence?
Aren’t they one in the same?
“Have you?” Keely demanded. “Have you really?”
“Some days, yes. Other days I wonder what the hell I’m doing and who in the universe I pissed off to have to deal with this.”
“I cannot freakin’ believe Brandt expected you to help him. I cannot freakin’ believe you said yes.”
Keely paced to the kitchen and back. “Actually, I can believe you said yes.”
Did Keely think she was a doormat? Only one way to find out. “Why can you believe it?”
“Because you’re sweet, thoughtful, kind and generous.” Keely pinned her with a look. “Damn near annoyingly perfect in that nauseating girl-next-door way, to be honest, but I like you anyway, cuz.”
“But mostly, you said yes because Landon is as innocent in this whole situation as you are.”
Keely’s insight always surprised her. “You want a beer while I’m spilling the gory details of lost innocence?”
“No.” Keely flopped on the couch. “I’ve got a late patient tonight so I have to head back to the clinic.”
“How was the honeymoon?”
Keely smirked. “Amazing.”
Jessie launched into recent events. Before she finished, Landon cried from his crib. “I’ll be right back.”
Landon had woken in a somber mood—not all cute smiles and sweet snuggles. Not knowing how he’d behave continued to be a struggle, so she hoped for the best and returned to the living room with Landon in her arms.
He shrank back as he spied Keely.
Keely’s eyes sparked tears. “Omigod. It’s like he’s a clone of Luke.”
“Those McKay genes are powerful stuff.” Jessie grabbed Landon’s cup from the fridge and a handful of animal crackers. He stayed on her lap with a wary eye on Keely.
“So you really do seem fine with all of this.”
“I have my days where I’d like to leave town with no forwarding address, believe me. But I agreed to do it so it seems pointless to complain. Plus, I know it’s temporary.”
“Is it a possibility?” Keely kicked her boots up on the coffee table. “That it might become permanent?”
“Not for me. Maybe for Brandt.”
“Were does Brandt fall in all of this?”
“He hasn’t just passed the responsibility of taking care of Landon off on me.”
“Jess. That’s not what I meant. I meant personally. Brandt is living with you. You’re together all the time, taking care of a child. I hope you’re working out some of your past issues?”
“If you mean working them out between the sheets, then yes,” she said in a rush.
“And…it’s intense. But, again, that’s because this is a temporary situation.”
Keely gave her a calculated look. Like she was ready to call bullshit.
“Why can’t this be the start of something that will be intense for years to come?”
Jessie couldn’t answer that to anyone’s satisfaction, so she sidestepped the question. She brushed crumbs off Landon’s shirt. “You dated Jack’s brother for awhile, right?”
“So you and Jack haven’t had any fights or discussions about the time you were with Justin?”
She sighed. “We’ve had huge fights, which means no rational discussion. We don’t talk about the sexual aspect of it. Jack knows more about what happened between Justin and me only because Justin told him, I never would have. But my relationship with Justin happened a few years before Jack and I stopped hating each other long enough to really look at each other.”
“But you weren’t the source of fights between them?”
“No.” Realization dawned in Keely’s eyes. “Damn. You were, weren’t you? The source of fights between Luke and Brandt.”
“I’ve never told anyone this, Keely, but I overheard them. I wanted to die of embarrassment. My husband didn’t love me enough to stay faithful and he made sure my brother-in-law knew it.”