“Yep, orange,” I replied then pointed at my yoga pants. “What color is this?”
“Brown!” he yelled and clapped his hands.
I smiled down at him. “Excellent. Now what color is this?” I lifted my hand and tugged at my ponytail.
“Pretty!” he hollered and I couldn’t help it, I laughed and then crouched down so I was almost eye to eye with him.
“I’m Gwen, who are you?”
“Javier!” he yelled and clapped again.
“Santo,” I heard from my side and I looked to see the older boy standing there, removed, watchful, eyes on me.
“Santo?” I asked and he nodded. “Hey, Santo.”
He didn’t reply, his body started swaying but his eyes didn’t leave me.
“You’re handsome,” I informed him.
He kept swaying and studying me.
“Do you like your Uncle’s big lair?” I asked.
His head tipped to the side. “Lair?” he repeated.
I swept an arm out to indicate the space. “His house.”
“We can’t run at home,” was his response.
I smiled at him. “You like it.”
He took a step toward me and stopped.
“Sunny,” he replied.
I looked at the windows then back at Santo. “Yeah, baby, it’s very sunny.”
“We can run and climb,” he continued.
“But you do it careful, right? So your Grandma won’t get worried?” I asked.
“Careful,” he nodded.
I kept smiling. “How old are you?” I asked.
“Five,” Santo answered, taking another step toward me and holding five fingers up in front of my face.
“Three!” Javier yelled, I looked at him to see he was having difficulty controlling his little hand to show me three so I reached out and gently tucked two fingers into his palm.
“Three,” I said softly.
“Three!” Javier agreed, joyfully looking at his hand.
“Can you hold it?” I asked and his gaze turned intent on his hand, his mouth twisted and he nodded.
Slowly, I removed my hand and he held up his three fingers.
Then I touched my fingertips to his soft, still chubby cheek before dropping my hand. “Perfect,” I told him.
His eyes came to me and he clapped again, then he hurtled himself at me. I braced at the last minute so I didn’t go down on my ass, the kid was freaking strong. His arms went around me and he gave me a slobbery, three year old kiss on my neck then yanked my ponytail.
Then as fast as he did it, he let me go and raced away.
Santo raced after him.
I stood and found eyes on me again, all around, no grins this time; Delgado intensity was coming at me from all sides.
Hawk’s arm came back to my shoulders and he curled me into his side again. I looked up and only had a second to prepare before his mouth hit mine for a very brief, very hard, very sweet kiss.
When his head lifted, I found my arms had wound themselves around his middle.
I stared into his eyes and couldn’t read them and lost the ability to try when his hand came up, knuckles skimming my cheek and down, it curled around my neck.
I forgot we had an audience when I re-focused and the look he was giving me set something wrong inside me.
“Are you okay?” I whispered.
“No,” he replied.
“Hawk –” I started but I didn’t know what I was going to say.
His hand squeezed my neck. “Totally missed out.”
Something was happening here, something important. I just didn’t get what.
“Hawk,” I breathed.
“Fuck me, totally missed out.”
“Baby,” I replied softly.
“Coffee, querida,” I heard, my neck twisted and I was surprised to see Maria standing there, offering me coffee.
I took it with a, “Thanks.”
“No problem,” she muttered, her eyes shifting quickly to Hawk then she turned back to the bacon on the stove.
“So Gwen, what do you do?” Gus asked and I looked at him, relieved at a normal question and how it shifted an atmosphere that had bizarrely grown heavy.
“I’m a book editor,” I answered then took a sip of coffee.
“Like it?” Gus asked.
“Yes,” I answered.
“What’s your Dad do?” Gus went on.
“Construction, ex-Army and part-time handyman because his daughter bought a money pit,” I told him.
Gus smiled. “Keeps us young, lookin’ out for our kids, no matter how old they are.”
“Well, I endeavor to give my father every opportunity to stay young.”
Gus’s smile widened. “Bet he loves every minute of it,” Gus guessed wrongly.
“He lectured me for five hours not to buy that house and I bought it anyway so when the bathtub crashed through the floor into the living room, he had to take an hour long timeout so he wouldn’t strangle me and be known on on-line encyclopedias as a daughter-killer so I’m not sure he loves every minute of it.”
“Trust me,” Gus stated, still smiling, “he loves every minute of it.”
“Okay,” I decided to agree.
“And your Mom?” Gus kept interrogating me.
“Meredith is a secretary for a divorce lawyer,” I answered.
“Meredith?” he asked.
“What’s your Mom do?” Gus kept at me.
“Pop,” Hawk said low and Gus’s eyes went to his son.
“She disappeared when I was little,” I answered readily and the Delgado intensity hit me again coming from all sides.
“Sorry, Gwen, I didn’t know,” Gus said.
“It’s okay, Gus, it was a long time ago,” I replied just as Hawk’s neck twisted so he could look toward the door.
I looked up at him to see his brows knit and heard him mutter, “Who now?”
He let me go and moved to the door as I took another sip of coffee, smelled bacon and my stomach informed me I was hungry.
Javier came running into the kitchen. He smacked his Grandma on the leg and shouted, “Bacon!” and I grinned.
There was a commotion at the door, I twisted to look and saw Meredith leading, moving swiftly, her face panicked. Dad was coming behind her, his strides long, his face set in granite. And a woman was following them wearing jeans, boots, a blousy top shot with silver and a cool, beat up leather jacket. She looked half-hippie, half-biker babe, a look she pulled off and one I liked so much I felt a new phase coming on. She also looked familiar but I didn’t know how.