She pointed on the page to a cow hiding in the bushes. “Remember what a cow says? Mmmoooo.” She drew out the word until it was about ten seconds long.
“Now Landon—” she poked his chest when she said his name, “—say mmmoooo.”
Jessie clapped again. “Good job! You are gonna know all your barnyard noises in no time flat.”
Usually Landon lost interest before they reached the end of a book, but tonight he stuck it out, although he was pretty squirmy at the end. When she closed the cover, Landon launched himself off the couch and ran straight to Brandt.
How long had he been lurking in the shadows? And why was she thinking it was a damn crying shame that he’d gotten dressed?
“Up!” Landon demanded.
But Brandt wasn’t looking at Landon. He was looking at her with the softest expression. He broke eye contact when Landon bumped into his leg with another demanding, “Up!” and lifted the boy. “So I missed story time? Bummer.”
Landon said, “Mmmoooo.”
Brandt grinned. “That’ll come in handy when you’re ridin’ the range with us in a few years, trust me.”
Jessie ignored Brandt’s confident in a few years remark and asked, “Is your headache better?”
“Completely gone. Did you eat?”
“Not yet. I was waiting for you.” Damn. Did that sound…needy?
Why are you so worried about Brandt’s reaction? He’s proven time and time again he’s not like Luke.
“Thank you for waitin’, Jess. I’ve eaten enough meals alone to last a lifetime.”
There was proof of Brandt’s openness. His willingness to just say what he felt. Jessie met his gaze again. “Me too. I’ll dish up the plates.”
Brandt strapped Landon in his high chair and poured him a sippy cup of milk. Then he set six animal crackers on the tray.
They waited to see how he’d react. Sometimes Landon calmly gummed his cookies and sipped milk.
Other times he’d use the heavy bottom weight of the cup to smash the cookies into dust. If he was feeling ornery, or if he was tired, he’d slide his hand on the tray until he knocked every cookie to the floor. Then he’d usually whip the sippy cup too, and scream “No!” at the top of his lungs, arching his back, trying to throw himself out of the high chair.
Tonight Landon used both hands to drink and ignored the cookies.
Brandt tucked into his food. About five or six bites in, Jessie noticed he’d picked out all the green peppers and piled them off to the side. Feeling her curious gaze, he looked up. “What? Am I eatin’ like a pig or something?”
“No, but you should’ve told me you didn’t like green peppers.” She realized she’d put green peppers in a lot of dishes. “I could’ve left them out of everything.”
His neck flushed. “It’s no big deal to eat around them. Especially when everything you fix is so good.”
“Charmer. Anything else you don’t like, foodwise, as long as we’re on the subject?”
“Turnips, parsnips, radishes, beets, prunes, collard greens, Dijon mustard, strawberry ice cream. I could take or leave coconut. Same for cauliflower.”
Jessie stared at him. “So a fall soup with root vegetables isn’t a good idea?”
He smiled. “Nope. But if you made it I’d probably eat it anyway.”
“Because you don’t want to hurt my feelings?”
“No. Because any kind of food just seems to taste better when I’m eatin’ it with you.”
Sometimes the man was just so damn sweet.
Before she could formulate a decent response, Landon shrieked, “Goggie!”
Jessie attributed Lexie warming to Landon because the kid was a messy eater. The dog would park herself beside the high chair and clean up the floor as soon as Landon was done.
So why was she hearing crunch crunch crunch now?
Landon peered over the side of the tray at the dog and giggled. Then he grabbed another animal cracker and tossed it at Lexie.
Crunch crunch crunch and another giggle.
Brandt lifted his brows. “That’s new.”
“Uh-huh. Looks like Lexie will be elsewhere during meals because Landon will give goggie all his food in hopes she’ll be his BFF.”
“At least he hasn’t figured out how to get the lid off his cup yet.”
She jabbed her fork at him. “And you, Brandt McKay, have just jinxed us.”
Landon’s shrieks escalated when he ran out of cookies. Brandt ate the last bite on his plate and stood.
“Okay, partner. You and me got a date with bubbles.”
“Yes.” He unclipped the tray and set it on the counter.
“Yef,” Landon repeated.
Brandt looked at her. “That’s new too.”
“I hope what I’ve been doing helps him. He’s a little old for grunting and pointing to get what he wants.”
He swung Landon onto his hip and smirked.
A smirk she recognized. “What?”
“That’s what you reduced me to earlier. A grunting fool and you gave me exactly what I wanted.”
“Grown men really do have the same mentality as seventeen month old toddlers.”
Brandt grinned and headed to the bathroom.
Jessie cleaned up the kitchen and made four bottles. Landon was already down two bottles for the day, compared to the six he’d started with. Bath time had gotten better, but the kid really didn’t like getting wet.
She heard Brandt’s muffled voice and splashing as she passed by the bathroom. In her bedroom she noticed Brandt had draped his clothes over the top of the dresser, instead of leaving them piled on the floor.
Another sign of his thoughtful nature—he didn’t expect her to clean up after him.
She slipped on a camisole and her favorite pair of yoga pants. Granted, she hadn’t attempted yoga, but she figured the pants were the best part anyway. She glanced longingly at the bed Brandt had recently occupied, rumpled sheets and the pillow held the indent of his head.
God. She’d missed having a warm male body beside her. Luke hadn’t been snuggly, so it thrilled her that Brandt slept entangled with her all night. Every night. Without exception. She’d stopped wearing pajama bottoms to bed because Brandt kept her plenty warm. Plus, it was handy when he woke her up to have his wicked way with her.
Powerful stuff, how much he always wanted her. Even now, the thought of his ragged breath teasing her nape, or his mouth tasting the line of her shoulder, or his rough hands stroking her arms, her belly, and her breasts made her wet and achy. There was an odd sort of comfort in the way he touched her in the wee small hours. Almost like a compulsion. An addiction. Sometimes he’d just caress her with a feather light touch until she was ready to crawl out of her skin.
Other times he’d start kissing her neck and keep moving south until his mouth was between her thighs. Definitely erotic, feeling him sucking and licking her sex when she couldn’t see his head beneath the covers and she was still floaty in that morning sleep haze.
Her cheeks flamed when she looked at him, standing in the doorway with Landon on his hip. “Ah.
What? I was just changing.”
He smirked. He knew exactly what she’d been thinking about. And to add fuel to the fire, his gaze idly drifted over her, head to toe, with a blast of heat strong enough that she had to hold on to the dresser to keep from jumping him.
Landon grunted, breaking their connection. “Anyway, what did you need?”
“Nail clippers. Landon’s fingernails and toenails are like claws.”
“I’ll get them.” She couldn’t resist kissing Landon’s damp, rosy cheek as she passed by him. She couldn’t resist pressing her mouth to Brandt’s full lips.
Brandt’s eyes held pure pleasure. “What was that for?”
She didn’t say, For turning me on in more ways than I ever dreamed possible. Instead, she just gave him the same kind of smirk he’d given her.
Despite his late nap, Landon was tired and Brandt put him down at his usual time. She was in the kitchen, flipping through a cookbook, when Brandt moved in behind her.
“What’s cookin’? Need any help heatin’ things up?”
“You’re funny. I’m looking for a recipe for a pear tart. I’ve got all these ripe pears I need to use up.
And you seem to like sweet stuff.”
“Mmm. I can think of one sweet thing in particular I like to eat. A lot.”
“I love it when you blush.”
“I know, it gives me some color and I don’t look so pasty white.”
Brandt slapped her butt. “Don’t say shit like that or I will spank you and turn your other cheeks red.
It’s sexy as hell how you’ll let me do anything to your body that I want, but if I talk about it, you blush. But since you’re usually dressed when I’m teasin’ you, I wanna know if that blush covers your whole body.”
He kissed the section of skin below her ear. “So let’s find out. Take your pants off.”
“What? You can’t possibly be—”
“Oh, I’m completely serious. And if you don’t take them off, I will.” He nipped her ear. “Now.”
“Huh-uh. You’ve got about three seconds.”
Heart pounding, Jessie peeled down the yoga pants and kicked them aside.
He murmured, “Good to see you’re goin’ commando now.”
“You’re a bad influence on me, Brandt McKay.”
“I beg to differ.” His fingers traced the bottom edge of her lacy camisole, from the left side of her waist to the right side, causing her belly muscles to ripple inside and out. He gripped the edges and said,
“Lift your arms,” removing her camisole.
It was weird standing buck-ass nekkid in her kitchen, especially since Brandt was fully clothed. She started to turn around, but he boxed her in.