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I’ve heard that the best way to get over one man is to get under another. With that said, I doubt this is what the speaker had in mind. A hand squeezes mine tightly. It was pretty stupid of me to allow them to be in the room with me for this part because I’m feeling terribly exposed, despite the fact that my lower half is draped with a sheet. There’s just something about having my legs up in stirrups and the top of a woman’s head visible between my thighs that makes this all awkward.
It should be beautiful, and really, it is. It’s just…odd.
I have Cody on my left and Garrett on my right. They lean toward one another to kiss over my head, and Garrett uses his free hand to wipe a tear from Cody’s cheek.
The doctor looks up from her perch down below. “You doing okay up there?” she asks.
I squeeze my eyes shut. “Fine,” I say.
Garrett leans down and kisses my temple, his lips lingering there. “Thank you for doing this,” he whispers vehemently, and emotion swells within me.
“Thanks for letting me do this,” I say back. I tip my face up, and he presses a soft kiss to my lips. There’s no passion in this kiss whatsoever. There’s only emotion and gratitude and a type of affection like I’ve never known.
Cody squeezes my shoulder. These guys make the cutest couple. They have been together for about twelve years, and after three failed adoptions, they wanted more than anything to have a kid. They didn’t even ask me. I volunteered to be their surrogate. I’m healthy, I’m young, I’m in love with the type of love they have for one another, and I wanted to give them their own baby.
We used a donor egg and a mishmash of their sperm. The donor egg is so I could stay as far removed from the situation as possible. The mishmash is so they won’t know who the father is. They’ll both be fathers. All I know is that I don’t want to be a mom. But I’m willing to let the little guy cook in my uterus for nine months or so. Then I will gladly hand him over to these wonderful men, and they will be able to raise their own child.
I wince as the doctor cranks the speculum down and pulls it from my vagina. She lifts my feet from the stirrups and rolls her chair back. “Friday,” she says. That’s my name. Friday. Like the day of the week. It’s not the name on my birth certificate, but it fits me better than that old relic of my former life ever did. “In about ten days, I want you to come in for a blood test.”
Cody rubs his hands together. He’s so excited that I get all teary again. That could be the hormones they used to get me on a cycle similar to that of the egg donor, but either way, I’m much more emotional than on a normal day. “Ten days until we find out if we’re going have a baby!” Cody squeals.
A grin tugs at my lips as Garrett helps me sit up. I feel a lot better with the gown covering all my girly bits, instead of having my hoo-ha up in the air for everyone to see.
“I can go to work today, right?” I ask.
She nods her head. “The only thing you can’t do is have an orgasm.”
Heat creeps up my cheeks, so I slap my palms against them. “Oh no!” I cry. “What am I going to do without my daily orgasms?”
Garrett holds up two fingers. “Twice on Sundays.”
“Don’t do any heavy lifting or any strenuous exercise. And no warm baths,” the doctor says. She looks at the tattoo on my knee with keen interest. It’s a spider web with a baby rattle in the middle. “Interesting,” she says, more to herself than to me. Hell, she already saw the one on my inner thigh.
I cover my knee with my hand, and she jerks her gaze away. I have tattoos all over my body. I love them, and each one tells a story. I drew most of them, and they all mean something to me. I know people with tattoos have a lot of stigmas attached to them, but I just like art, and I like to wear art on my body. Judge me if you want to, because I don’t care.
“I have to get back to work,” Cody says, and he leans over to kiss Garrett on the lips. Then he kisses my temple and leaves, his smile big and bright.
Garrett hangs out with me while I change clothes behind the curtain. I can hear his feet hitting the side of the exam table he’s sitting on. He’s like a giddy little kid with his feet swinging back and forth. “Where do you have to go when you leave here?” he asks.
“Work,” I say as I pull my dress down over my head. I like vintage clothes, and today is no different than any other day. I wonder how I’m going to be able to pull off the vintage look when my belly is big and round. I am not sure vintage-inspired maternity clothes will be easy to find.
“Don’t you want to take the rest of the day off?” he asks. “We could go shopping. Buy some baby stuff.”
“Tempting,” I say. Honestly, it sounds like hell. “I’ll leave that to you and Cody, if you don’t mind.”
“Fine,” he tosses back harshly, like he’s annoyed, but I know he’s not. “Let me buy you lunch, then. And I’ll walk you back to Reed’s.”
Reed’s is the tattoo parlor where I work. The idea of him walking me there makes me surprisingly joyful. “Will you be sure to kiss me before you leave?” I ask. I grin as I put on my delicate shoes with the tall heels that I love so very much. They match the dress.
“Why?” he asks, instantly suspicious. He jerks the curtain back as I pull my hair from the neck of my dress. He grins. “Which of the Reeds are you hoping to make jealous?” He narrows his eyes at me.
I start to tick them off on my fingers. “Logan is married and has a baby on the way. Pete is with Reagan. Matt is married and knocked up his wife. With twins!”
“So that leaves Sam and Paul.” He appraises me shrewdly.
Kissing Sam would be like kissing my brother. Paul, on the other hand…
“Mmm hmm,” Garrett hums. “It’s the big one, right?”
“He’s not that big,” I mutter to myself.
“Are you kidding?” he shrieks. “He’s fucking huge.” He grins. “I bet the rest of him is just as big.”
Sometimes having a gay man as a really good friend has its advantages. Because a straight man would never wonder how big Paul Reed’s dick is. “I wouldn’t know,” I murmur. His baby mama would, though, because he still sleeps with Kelly. That part makes my gut ache.
“Does he still walk you home at night when the shop closes?” Garrett asks.
I shrug. “One of them does.”
“Does he still try to kiss you?” Garrett sings. He’s like a damn woodland creature with his giddiness. I expect him to break out into song any second.
“That only happened once,” I say. It was the kiss that rocked my world, though. I pick up my purse and step out into the room.
“And?” He makes a rolling motion with his finger as he opens the door for me and we walk through the hallway. He checks us out, pays the bill, and we step into the sunshine.
“And what?” I huff as I put on my sunglasses and pretend like I don’t know what he just asked.
“The man laid one on you and you still have to see him every day, Friday. How’s that going?” He takes my hand in his and threads his fingers through mine as we wait for the subway. The baby doctor’s office is on the good side of town. And Reed’s is not. It’s in the area that I love more than anything.
He gapes at me, his mouth hanging open. “That’s all I get? Fine?” He points to my belly. “You might have my baby in your uterus, and that’s all you’re going to tell me?”
I cover his mouth with my hand. “You don’t get any say over any part of my body except for that baby that may or may not be growing in there.”
“Oh, that was cold,” he says. But I have quite effectively changed the subject.
He talks about nurseries and bottles and clothes and all the things I don’t even want to know about until we get to Reed’s. When we get there, he stops in front of the shop, cups his hands around his eyes, and looks through the glass into the room.
“Yep,” he says with a grin. “It’s showtime!” He takes my hand and opens the door. The grin falls off his face, and he replaces it with a look of aloofness. It’s uncanny how he can do that. He minored in theater many years ago, though, so I guess it makes sense. He’s a teacher now.
I drop my bag behind the desk at the front, which is where I usually work. I design the tattoos, and sometimes I do the actual tattoo part. I’m still learning how to do that, but drawing is my thing. That is where my skills lie—I’m an art major at NYU, after all. Or at least I was until I graduated two weeks ago. Now I’m just a possibly-knocked-up soon-to-be-homeless person. Oh crap. I haven’t told Garrett and Cody about my living situation yet.
Paul looks up from where he’s doing a tattoo on a guy’s shoulder, and he frowns. “Morning,” he says, looking from me to Garrett and back. Garrett swells up in size. Honey, no matter what you do, you will never look as big or as tough as Paul Reed.
“Morning,” I chirp back.
Logan is here, too, and he smiles at me and waves. Logan is deaf but can speak, and we all learned how to sign many years ago. I wave back.
Who’s that? he signs at me and points to Garrett.
I put my hand on Garrett’s shoulder. “Garrett, this is Paul, and the quiet one there is Logan.”
Logan stands up and shakes Garrett’s hand. Paul just grunts.
“Nice to meet you,” Garrett says. He turns to me and tips my face up. He leans down close to my ear and says, “I bet he’s fucking huge.” I laugh and try to turn my face away, but he just holds me there with his thumbs beneath my chin and his fingers splayed toward my ear. Then his lips touch mine.
He’s actually a really good kisser, and I kind of envy Cody a little bit, because if he goes after sex the same way he’s going after this fake kiss, Cody’s getting it pretty good.
The only thing about it…there’s no spark. Not a single one. It’s just warm, wet lips sliding across mine, and a really quick touch of a tongue. I pinch his side, and he laughs against my lips and pulls back. He drags his nose up and down the side of mine.
“Cody is going to love it when I tell him about this.” I stab him in the side with my index finger, and he bends over, trying not to laugh.
“Remember what the doctor said,” he tells me, facing me and speaking quietly. “No orgasms. Not even ones offered by great big studly tattoo artists that make you sweat.” He waves a hand in front of his face like a fan. “He makes me sweat a little bit, too.”
I hear a clatter behind us as Paul throws down his tattoo gun and stalks toward the back of the shop. He pulls the privacy curtain closed behind him.
Logan looks up at me, grins, and just shakes his head.
Garrett kisses my forehead, lingering there for a second. “In ten days, you might be my baby mama,” he says, his body rocking against mine as he chuckles.
I punch his shoulder and point toward the door.
Next time he fake kisses me, I have to remember to tell him not to use tongue. I wipe the back of my hand across my mouth and watch him leave. He waves and blows me a kiss.
Logan throws up a hand to get my attention. You’re playing with fire,he warns. He jerks his thumb toward the curtain. He’s pissed. He must not want Paul to hear him or he would be talking instead of signing.
I wave a breezy hand at him. He’ll have to get over it.
He looks toward the curtain. You should go talk to him.
Because he still has a client out here, and he had to leave because you were sucking face with the other guy.
Crap. Paul walked away with a client in his chair. With a half-finished tat. He has no right to be angry.
Logan’s brow arches, and he shakes his head.
Well, he doesn’t.
Quit being a baby, he signs. He jerks his thumb toward the curtain again. Go talk to him.
I heave a sigh and go to get Paul out of his snit.
I can’t fucking believe she brought that man here. To my shop. Where I work. Hell, it’s where I live.
I lean against the counter and balance myself on my palms. My forehead rests against the upper cabinet, and I force myself to take a deep breath and count to ten. It was all I could do not to jerk him off her and show him the door. With my foot up his ass.
One of my brothers left shit on the counter that should have been put away, so I clean up and slam the cabinet door. That feels a little better, but not much. I can just imagine that douche in the front of the shop. He’s probably got his hand all the way up her shirt by now.
I slam another door.
The curtain rattles behind me, and a breeze tickles the back of my neck as someone walks into the space. “Not now,” I grind out.
“Then when?” she tosses back.
Great. It would be her that came to get me. I knew it was her. No one else makes the hair on my arms stand up or gives me fucking chills. Not to mention that the perfume she wears gets to me before her voice does. It reaches across the room, creeps up my nose, and wraps itself around my heart. I lower my head and grit my teeth. “Go away, Friday,” I say.
“You have a client waiting,” she says, as though I don’t know.
“Then what the fuck are you doing?” she asks.
Friday is the only one who talks to me like that in my shop. She calls me on my shit, and she has since the day she first walked in here. She was eighteen years old, and she had just started at NYU. She walked in looking like she was lost, and I hired her on the spot when she told me what was wrong with the tattoo on the side of my neck. She told me how she would change it and that any good artist would have known that it was placed wrong. She pulled out a sheet of paper and drew a quick sketch of a new design.
“Want a job?” I’d said.
“Yeah,” she’d replied. “But only if you’ll fix that fucking tattoo so I don’t have to look at that monstrosity every fucking day.”
I’d grinned. Hell, the thought of it still makes me grin. Logan had fixed the tattoo that day, and she’d started working for me. That was four years ago. Four fucking years of looking at her beautiful legs and red lips. Every. Single. Day. Four years of watching her and wanting her. Four years of lusting over Friday. Four years with her busting my chops.
“I’ll finish in a minute,” I say. I heave a sigh and drop heavily into a chair. Friday wears me the fuck out.
She puts her hands on her hips and glares at me. “Why?”
“Why what?” I force myself to look at her face instead of her rack. She has the most beautiful rack I have ever seen, and I’ve been looking at it long enough to know.
“Why are you back here instead of out there working?”
Because I couldn’t watch you sucking face with that douche. “I told you, I’m taking a break.” I give her a what-the-fuck look. If I let her think she’s gone mental, I can blame it all on her, right?
“But why?” she asks. She stomps that little foot of hers, and it immediately draws my attention to her feet, and then up her legs, and then… God. I swipe a hand down my face. “Why, Paul?”
“Who’s the douche?” I ask, instead of telling her how I’m feeling.
“What douche?” She still has her hands on her hips.
“The one who had his tongue down your throat.” I glare at her. But she doesn’t back down. She never does.
“His name is Garrett,” she mumbles. She is suddenly really interested in looking at the magnets on the fridge.
“Garrett is a fuckwad. Tell him to keep his dick in his pants the next time he comes in my shop.”
She blows out a breath and raises her finger to point at me, and I can tell she’s about to ream me a new one.
“Weren’t you fucking somebody else last week, Friday?” I blurt out. I want to take it back immediately because it hangs there in the air between us like a bomb about to explode.
“What?” she asks, and her voice goes soft.
“Last week it was a different guy who took you to lunch.” I grumble to myself and get up, pretending to clean the counter.
She thinks it over. “You mean Cody?”
“How many are there?”
She blinks hard. What the fuck? Friday never cries. Ever. I take a step toward her, and she steps back, putting her hand up like she’s going to push the air around me back. “How dare you?” she breathes. A tear falls over her lashes, and she swipes it away and then looks down at the back of her wet hand like she doesn’t know what the fuck a tear is.
“Friday,” I say. I step toward her again. I soften my voice because I have no idea what to do. I have never seen this Friday before. I have only seen the one who can eat my balls for lunch. Hell, she’ll feed my balls to me if I piss her off enough. And make me like it. Four years and I have never seen her shed a tear.
She turns around and runs into the bathroom, slamming the door behind her. I lean my ear against the door and listen, but I can’t hear anything over the sound of the fan. I knock. She doesn’t answer.
“Dammit,” I swear. I lean my forehead against the door.
“Leave her alone,” I hear from behind me.
I turn around because Logan is talking. “I can’t,” I say to him. I knock again, but she doesn’t answer.
“Just leave her the fuck alone,” he says again. He’s pissed, I can tell. “You have a client.” He waves toward my customer like he’s Vanna Fucking White. “Work to do. So, you might want to get to it.”
I heave a sigh and look at my client. “Just a moment,” I say.
“Take your time,” he says with a grin. He’s loving the show, apparently.
I pull my keys from my pocket and fit the key in the lock. I hesitate long enough for Logan to notice.
“You shouldn’t,” he warns.
I know I shouldn’t, but I am.
I turn the key and let myself into the room. I find Friday washing her face.
“What the fuck, Paul!” she cries. She turns back to the mirror and dabs beneath her eyes. She looks at me in the mirror. “Get out.”
I close the door behind me and lean against it. “Why are you crying?”
“I don’t know,” she bites out. But another tear slides down her cheek. “Fucking hormones,” she says as she swipes it away.
All this because she has her period? I know better than to say that out loud. “Oh,” I say instead.
She turns to face me, hitching her hip against the sink. She crosses her arms beneath her breasts, which pushes them up and makes little pillows over the top of that low-cut dress she’s wearing. My God. I look up at her face. She smirks at me. I like a smirking Friday a lot better than one who’s crying because I don’t know what do with tears. Not from her.
“I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings,” I blurt out when she just glares at me.
“Yes, you did.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“Yes, you did.”
“Fuck me, Friday,” I breathe. I swipe a hand down my face again and growl to myself.
She faces the mirror and starts to put on her lipstick. “I tried to do that and you didn’t want to,” she says. She purses her lips and kisses toward the mirror. The move shoots straight to my dick. “So, you, Mister I Am Jealous, don’t get to tell me who I can and can’t sleep with.” She looks directly into my eyes in the mirror. “So, I can sleep with Garrett. I can sleep with Cody.” She throws up her hands. “Hell, I can sleep with both of them at the same time, if I want.” She glares at me. “And you don’t get to have any say-so about it.” She walks toward me. “You can’t say a word because you didn’t want it.” She gestures toward the front of her body. “You said no to all this, so you don’t get to have an opinion.”
“I didn’t say no,” I mumble.
“You kissed me and then you tried to take it back!” she yells.
Okay, I like Friday yelling. I like it so much more than Friday crying. “I didn’t try to take it back!” I slap my palm against the wall, but she just looks at my hand, smirks, and rolls her eyes. “I just… Never mind.”
“Just what?” she asks.
“It doesn’t matter. It’s over and done with.”
“Yep,” she says, letting her lips pop on the P. “Over. Done.” She dusts her hands together. “So you don’t get to go all Neanderthal when someone else kisses me.”
“I just…” I shake my head. “I had something I needed to take care of.”
“Don’t you mean somebody?” She smirks and shakes her head. “Was it Kelly you had to take care of? Heaven knows Kelly needs to come more than I do.”
Did she just say come? I shake the thoughts away. They’re not going to get me anywhere.
Friday tolerates my daughter’s mother, but I don’t think she’s ever really liked her. “It actually was Kelly I needed to take care of,” I say. I may as well lay all my shit bare. Friday cried, for God’s sake.
She lets out a heavy breath. “You kissed me, and then you went and got some from Kelly?”
Her voice is soft. She’s… What is she? Is she hurt?
“No, I didn’t go and get some from Kelly. I went and broke things off with Kelly.” I take a step forward until I’m towering over her and she has to tip her head back to look at my face. “I had to go and tell her that I kissed you and that you rocked my fucking world.”
She freezes, so I take a chance and put my arm around her, pulling her against me.
“What?” she breathes. She turns her face up to mine.
“I haven’t slept with Kelly since before I kissed you. I don’t want to sleep with Kelly. I have you on my fucking mind, and I can’t get you out. So, I went and broke things off with Kelly. Completely.”
She blinks her brown eyes at me. Blink. Blink.
“Then I came back to see you, but you were pissed. You wouldn’t let me in. You said ‘no fucking way, you stupid son of a bitch.’ And you told me to go home. So, I went. Alone.”
“Kelly and I weren’t dating. We were just friends with benefits. Or parents with benefits. Whatever. Now we’re just Hayley’s parents.”
“I went and told her that we couldn’t do that anymore, and she understood.”
“You told her?” she whispers. “That you…what? What did you tell her?”
“I told her that I can’t stop thinking about you.” I brush her hair back from her forehead. I kissed Friday that one time when I walked her home and she invited me inside, and we both knew what she was offering, but I don’t think I’ve ever just held her in my arms. I like it. She lays her palms flat on my chest, like she needs to steady herself.
“I have a thing for you,” I admit. I wince inwardly because it sounds so lame.
“A big thing.”
Her gaze drops.
“Not that thing.” Although now that she’s looking down at it, it’s ready to rise to attention. Fucking attention whore. I tip her chin up. “But,” I say.
“Then you showed up with that first douche. And then that second douche. And I had just changed my whole life for the possibility of you. But you had moved on. Quickly.” I drag my fingertips up and down her bare arms, and chill bumps rise. She shivers. “So, yeah, I’m mad. Sorry.”
“You don’t sound sorry.”
She laughs, and the sound of it shoots straight to my heart.
“Am I too late?” I ask. I wait, with my heart in my throat.
She steps back from me. “Paul,” she says. Her voice cracks. “I’m so sorry.”
I don’t need to hear any more. I go out and start my machine up and get back to work. I hear her move around in the shop, and I glance up at her every once in a while, but she gets busy with clients, drawing tattoos, and she ignores me. She doesn’t look in my direction. Not even once. Not for the whole rest of the night. And when it’s closing time, Logan volunteers to walk her home. I let him.