Because of Low (Chapter Seven)
Will ow didn't say much on the ride to her sister's house. I wasn't sure if she was mad at me about the confrontation I'd had with Krit or what but she was quiet. I hadn't meant to step out of bounds with her. Just the thought of Krit taking advantage of her or treating her like I knew he treated women made my skin crawl. Low was too sweet for someone like him. She needed someone to handle her gently.
"Look, I'm sorry about what I said to Krit. It isn't my business who you date. I was out of line."
Not that I wouldn't do it again if I had to but I wanted to see her smile at me. She would be getting out of my truck in just a few minutes and I needed the sound of her laughter to keep me warm tonight.
"You were out of line. But you were right. Krit isn't my type.
I've been dodging him for awhile now."
Good. She knew he was an asshole.
"So do you forgive me?" I asked glancing over at her.
A small smile lifted the corner of her lips.
"Yes, I suppose I do."
I let out a dramatic sigh of relief.
"Dang girl you had me sweating over here." The laughter I'd wanted to hear filled the truck. My chest expanded and I suddenly wanted to beat on it with my fist.
The girl was making me go all caveman.
"I'm sorry I worried you. I'm just tired tonight. It's been a long day."
"Will you be able to go straight to bed when you get there?" I didn't like the idea of leaving her at her sister's. I was growing accustomed to knowing she was safe and sound in the apartment at night.
"I'll get a shower first but then, yes, I'll go right to bed," she shifted in her seat and turned her head toward me. "Is everything okay with your sister?"
The memory of our almost kiss made me desperate to pull over and finish what was interrupted this morning.
"She's fine. Thanks."
I waited hoping she'd bring up the kiss but she didn't.
Instead, we drove the rest of the way in silence. When she pointed to the small cinder block house I pulled into the driveway. Wishing there was some way to keep her with me.
"This is it," she said with a sleepy tone to her voice.
Unbuckling her seatbelt she reached for the handle on the door then glanced back at me, "Thank you for the ride tonight. I don't know how you knew I needed a ride but I'm very thankful you showed up. I'm exhausted and walking would have sucked."
I'd overheard Cage talking to her earlier on the phone. I knew from his end of the conversation that she needed a ride tonight but that she was going to get one from a coworker. I figured she was either telling Cage a lie to appease him and needed a ride or she had a ride but would cave in and let me take her home if I just showed up.
I'd been pretty dang determined when I walked into the restaurant tonight that I would be walking out with Low beside me.
"Yeah well I got my ways. But you know it would be easier on my superhuman powers if you'd call me next time. That way I won't have to use my mind reading skills." She giggled, "Okay I'll do that. I wouldn't want to be the cause of you overusing your super powers."
"My thoughts exactly. It would be incredibly helpful." Her laughter faded and she smiled at me then turned and stepped out of the truck.
I thought about walking her to the door but then I'd kiss her and suddenly that first kiss had become incredibly important. I didn't want it to be outside her sister's house.
Somewhere she hated. I wanted it to be somewhere she'd remember fondly. So instead I watched her until she was safely inside before I backed out of the drive and headed home.
When I got my hands on Tawny I was going to strangle her.
No strangling would be too good for her. I was going to pull out her hair one strand at a time. No, I was going to pull it out in large handfuls at at time. How were we even related?
If it wasn't for the fact we shared the same exact hair color as our mother then I'd swear I was switched at birth. What crazy mother doesn't call or even come home in time to get her baby? I mean really! Who does that? I shifted Larissa up higher on my hip and carried her diaper bag on my other arm. Her car seat sat on the gravel road beside my feet.
The child required more stuff to just go somewhere than I actually owned. Kissing her sweet head I snuggled her close to me. I refused to leave her with the crazy cat lady when I knew good and well my sister didn't have to work today.
Cage pulled up beside me before jumping out of the car and running around to help me with Larissa and her bag.
"Here, I'll buckle her car seat in."
Cage had become a pro at car seat instal ation since Larissa was born. More times than not he'd had to come to our rescue.
He turned around and took Larissa out of my arms, "Hey baby girl," he cooed at her while cradling her in his arms.
She loved Cage. The girl was a sucker for men. Especially attractive men. Bless her heart she took after her Mama.
Her pudgy hand reached up and patted his cheek, "Cay" she announced loudly. She'd recently started calling him
"Cay". She hadn't mastered the "g" sound yet.
"Yep Cage has got his girl. Now come on let's get you buckled up."
Once he had her secured he stood up and pulled me into his arms.
"Bad morning," he said rubbing my back. I simply nodded and let him comfort me. He was so good at it.
" It's okay now. I got ya. Let's get squirt to the apartment and then we'll worry about finding her Mama. Tawny is bound to show up sometime today."
"Yes, but I'm missing classes because she didn't show up on time," I grumbled.
"She's a selfish bitch. This isn't anything new. You know that."
With a defeated sigh I sank down into the passenger seat of Cage's black mustang and laid my head back on the seat. I was still tired. Larissa had woke up at four with a belly ache and then again at six. I needed more sleep than that. It would have probably been pointless to go to class today anyway. I wasn't sure I could have kept my eyes open while listening to a lecture.
"She keep you up a lot last night?"
I nodded while yawning.
"I'd say I'd watch her for you at the apartment so you could sleep but I can't miss class or I'll have to sit out a game."
"I know. I'll crash after Tawny gets her. Good news is, I don't work tonight."
Cage turned on the radio and we drove back to the apartment in comfortable silence.
I'd been awake since I'd heard Cage leave. It was too early for him to be up especially since he got in so late last night.
Which could only mean one thing. Will ow had called him.
After last night, I'd hoped she'd call me next time.
I just finished making another pot of coffee when the door opened. Cage came walking in, a little girl with short blond ringlets bouncing around her head was in his arms. Big green eyes bright and excited scanned the apartment before they landed on me. Will ow stepped in behind them carrying a large pink polka dot bag and dropped it on the chair beside the door. She wore tiny shorts I remembered the cheerleaders wearing back in high school when they practiced. Those shorts were meant to drive guys crazy.
The blue hoodie she was wearing had Hurricanes baseball on the front and it was entirely too big for her. I'd seen Cage in it more than once.
"I'll go get the car seat out of the car and bring it up then I gotta change and go," Cage told Will ow.
She covered her mouth to stifle a yawn. Last night must not have gone well.
"'Kay, thanks," she replied then reached for the little blonde who clung to Cage's shirt.
"Come on Larissa let's get you some breakfast. Cage has to go to school."
"Cay," the little blonde said loudly patting Cage's chest.
"Yes that's Cage. Now kiss him goodbye and come with me."
She turned and gave Cage a very loud wet kiss on his face that looked like it may have had a little licking involved.
Cage laughed, "Now that's the way to start a guy's day Larissa."
Holding out her pudgy little arms she went to Will ow.
"Good morning Marcus," Will ow said as she walked into the kitchen with Larissa.
She shrugged and a little frown puckered her brow. "You could say that."
"Larissa, this is my friend Marcus. He lives with Cage now," she looked from the little girl to me, "Marcus this is my niece Larissa."
I sat my coffee cup down and reached out to take her little hand in mine and shake it.
"It's very nice to meet you Larissa."
She burst into a fit of high pitched giggles and clapped when I let her hand go.
"She's a flirt, so beware," Will ow warned and walked over to the table. I watched as she sat Larissa in a chair then squatted down so she was eye level with the little girl.
"I can make you pancakes or eggs or if you want I bet Cage would let you have some of his Coco Puffs." Larissa nodded happily.
"Okay, I'm not making you all three. You've got to pick one.
Pancakes, eggs, or cereal."
Larissa's expressive eyes met mine and she grinned. The kid was adorable.
I nodded and stood up, "Cage's cereal it is." Her shoulders were slumped under the oversized hoodie and there were circles under her eyes. I didn't like her being so tired.
"I've got it. You sit down with Larissa and if you're really good I'll make you an omelet."
She stopped and tilted her head to the side and studied me. I held her gaze.
I closed the distance between us and reached up to gently rub my thumb over the tired circles under her eyes.
"Because you're exhausted. Because I want to. Because I'm trying really hard to get you to trust me." Her breathing hitched and at that moment I wanted to forget Cage was in the other room and there was a little blonde doll sitting over in the chair watching us. All I wanted was to kiss her. Instead, I dropped my hand and stepped back.
"Okay," she said in a small breathy voice.
"Good. Now go sit down and let me fix you some coffee." She nodded and obediently went and sat down next to Larissa.
"Martus," Larissa announced and then proceeded to clap loudly.
I glanced up at the table while I poured Will ow's coffee.
Will ow was grinning at me, "I do believe you've been awarded the honor of Larissa adding your name to her limited vocabulary."
So Larissa liked me. I winked at her and she giggled again clapping her small pudgy hands. I wish her aunt was that easy to win over.
Reaching into the fridge I grabbed the gallon of chocolate milk my mom had sent home with me along with a few bags of groceries yesterday. Grabbing a sports top bottle out of the cabinet I poured some chocolate milk into the bottle and walked it over to the table with Will ow's cup of coffee.
"Here ya go ladies. Coffee for the gorgeous red head and chocolate milk for the beautiful blonde."
"Choctate! Lowlow! Choctate!" Larissa squealed excitedly.
Will ow chuckled then looked up at me and gifted me with a full on smile.
I was making progress. Nodding I headed back to the fridge to whip up a bowl of cereal and an omelet.
"Low, can I have my hoodie or do you need it? I can't find my leather jacket." Cage came walking out of his bedroom interrupting my time with the girls. I'd almost forgotten he was still here.
Will ow stood up and pulled the hoodie off. I almost dropped the eggs. She was wearing a tight black tank top that didn't reach her belly button.
"No you can take it. All my clean clothes are here." Cage walked up to her and grabbed it bending down to kiss her on the cheek then giving Larissa the same attention.
"Alright girls be good. Larissa don't give Low a hard time okay?"
Larissa stared up at Cage smiling but she didn't agree to anything.
"Be careful," Low called out as Cage headed for the door.
"Always," he responded then left.
I didn't let myself look back toward Will ow. She really needed to put on a shirt. One that didn't show me her smooth flat stomach and perfect little belly button.
Her phone started to ring and she grumbled, "finally," then stood up and walked toward the living room before answering.
"Where are you?"
"I had class this morning Tawny. You didn't even call me."
"No, I'm at Cage's."
"Because there wasn't even milk at your house. Larissa was starving."
"She's about to eat now."
"Well when will you be here?"
"I'm exhausted Tawny."
"Okay fine. Just please go get some food first." Will ow growled before walking back into the kitchen.
"Yes that was your Mama. Remember you call her Mama not Tawny."
I choked on my coffee and spewed it all over the counter top.
"Larissa I told you NOT to say that word. It is a bad, bad word. Ugly."
Will ow let out a loud frustrated sigh and covered her face with both her hands. I carried the bowl of cereal over to the table.
"Yes Mama said that word but it isn't nice. Pretty little girls don't say that word," Will ow began explaining.
Sitting the bowl down in front of Larissa, I bent down so I could look her in the eyes. She smiled brightly up at me obviously enjoying the attention.
"I like princesses Larissa. Do you?"
She nodded and clapped, "Pinsesses"
"You know Princesses don't say that bad word.They like to use the word skittles instead."
Larissa studied my mouth a moment as if trying to take that in then her big green eyes lifted back up to mine.
"Yep, skittles. It's a princess word."
Larissa beamed and looked at Will ow, "Skiutles!" She announced loudly.
Will ow laughed and nodded.
"Yep skittles," she replied looking less tired. Her eyes shifted to meet mine and she mouthed, "Thank you." I nodded my head and grinned at her before turning and heading back to the kitchen to make the best damn omelet imaginable.