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Never been loved, p.17
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       Never Been Loved, p.17

           C.M. Kars
 

  “Daddy, will we see Sera when I come home from school? I want her to read to me again.”

  I don’t know how to answer, or what the right answer is. Well, kid, you see, I pushed her too far and she’s never coming back to see us. She doesn’t need us complicating her life. She sure as shit doesn’t want us now, especially after last night and all those voicemails I left her.

  “I don’t think that’s going happen, buddy,” I tell him when I set him down and crouch low so we can be eye to eye.

  “Do you think Sera doesn’t like reading to me?”

  Damn it, I have no idea how to explain this. The kid’s going to be destroyed if he even gets a glimpse of what life with Sera’s going to be like. She’d read to him every night, tuck him in, then tuck me in and let me do not-so-innocent things to that hot-as-fuck body.

  I shake my head and ruffle his hair. “We’re getting pizza tonight. Be good today.”

  And like that, Sera’s a memory. Matty jumps on his toes, and his hair goes all over the place. “Pizza! We’re having pizza tonight!” The kid then grabs my hand and gives me a high-five.

  I grin at him, then wave goodbye.

  On the drive over to the site, I look at my phone no less than thirty times, making sure the stupid thing is not on silent and all my notifications are on and armed. They are, Sera just hasn’t called me back, or texted, or left me some kind of message. I’m pretty sure I even left her a message wondering if she’d been kidnapped from walking from my place to hers. Well, it could happen.

  This girl’s got me so twisted up inside, it’s impossible to filter what’s coming out of my mouth – I’m just a circus show of want and need, and a desperate hope that she can see beyond the insulin and needles, and me being a single dad.

  Yeah, like that’s ever going to happen.

  My sugar only drops once today on site, and after a quick fix with an apple juice box, and a homemade sandwich piled high with cold cuts, I’m good to go and pick up Matty without walking in half-dead like I’m used to doing.

  The kid even waves some of his friends over and they all seem to admire how tall I am, and one little girl gives me a heart attack when she pats my bare tattooed arms. Maybe I should speak to her dad. And say the hell what? Then Matty turns my hand over and shows them my scarred fingertips, pockmarked with little holes that are very much like his own and I want to throw up.

  “I told you they were just like mine, Candace,” he tells the little girl who has taken way too much interest in my tats. But I think Matty has a crush on her, if he’s even old enough to have a crush. “See? My daddy’s just like me,” Matty tells her, and I really want to get out of here.

  I want to tell the kid that she’s not going to understand, that she’s not old enough to get it.

  “Okay, Matty. I’ll see you tomorrow! Bye!” And then she plasters herself to him and they hug each other tight. He waves at her when he grabs my hand and we make our way to my car.

  I strap him into his car seat and he smiles at me, laughing because I might have tickled him while strapping him down.

  “Are you tired today, Daddy?” he asks when I get myself in the driver’s seat and crank the car over. At least he’s not asking about Sera.

  “Not so much today.”

  “That’s good. I didn’t get tired today, either. I really want pizza, you didn’t forget, right?”

  I shake my head then realize he can’t see me. Idiot. “No, I didn’t. I’m going to order it when we get home. Do you want cheese, or do you want all-dressed?” All-dressed to him means vegetables and he gives the expected answer. No way.

  It’s not until fifteen minutes after I ordered the pizza and we get in the door that my phone gives a beep and my heart goes into overdrive. Is it her?

  I swipe my phone to look at the text Sera’s sent me. Alive and well. Have not been kidnapped.

  You tool, you actually left that as a message? Christ on the crucifix.

  I press my advantage, shooting off texts inviting her over for pizza. I stare down hard at my phone like the thing is going to somehow make her appear before my eyes but then I get a knock at the door, and can’t help grinning like a demented idiot.

  I swear, if I didn’t have so much wrong with me health-wise, this broad would put me in the hospital. I’m a fucking mess.

  I move to open the door and don’t bother with the peephole. I’m hoping it’s Sera. Jesus Christ, let it be her.

  I unlock and open the door to be confronted with her. She’s fucking beautiful in a pencil skirt that has images of me fucking her from behind with the skirt rolled up to her waist, a bright orange shirt, and her hair loose around her shoulders, glasses in place. Now’s not the time to be a horn-dog. Cool it.

  “Hi,” I say, forcing my face into a smile even though I’ve gotten the sweats. Shit, and I’m still wearing my work clothes. I must stink worse than a pig rolling around in shit. I’ve got grease on my shirt, and my hands are filthy.

  She steps into my place and looks around like she’s seeing it for the first time. I watch a shiver do amazing things to her tits, until Matty interrupts my mental porno reel and collides with her legs.

  “Sera!” he yells, staring up at her from her legs. Kid, can we trade places? “We’re eating pizza with pineapple on it! Isn’t that cool?”

  “You bet, kiddo.” I watch Sera grin at Matty, and have to look away. The kid’s going to be destroyed when Sera takes off, absolutely destroyed. In this though, I’m too selfish. I need a piece of what she can give me, and I won’t give that up. “Here, let me get my shoes off.”

  “Whooooaaah. Is that... is that Superman? And Batman? They’re friends!?” Matty hunkers down right next to her, looking at her sneakers and pointing out things he recognizes. I sort of want to get on my hands and knees too and investigate.

  “Hey, hey. Even though Batman is best friends with Superman, we both know who the cooler one is, don’t we?”

  “But Superman can fly!” Matty yells, arms practically flailing.

  “What does that have to do with anything?” Sera asks, done unlacing one shoe, only to move on to the other foot.

  “Sera, he can fly.” He airplanes around in a circle, but Sera’s looking at him like she has something important to say. Tell him. Tell him, please.

  “Matty, flying around doesn’t mean you’re better than anybody else.” Holy shit, this girl. What the fuck am I supposed to do with that?

  “He’s the best because he can fly! Duh.”

  Sera does nothing more than shake her head, toe-off her other sneaker and joins Matty at the kitchen table while I go for plates, because we need those to eat, and napkins are not good enough for a girl like her.

  “Batman’s parents died when he was a kid.” I stop moving, watching her grab the kid’s hand and giving him a small smile. My heart’s loud in my ears, but I’m too concentrated on what she has to say without wanting to pass out.

  “But he grew up to be a good man, a strong man, one dedicated to stop crime, to save lives, maybe to forgive himself that he couldn’t do it when he was younger, that he couldn’t save his mom and dad. Clark was born super strong – there’s nothing special about that.”

  Matty stares down at their joined hands. “So... Being strong means you’re not a hero?”

  “It means that anybody can do the right thing. Anybody. Understand?”

  “No.”

  I’ve braced myself on the kitchen counter, looking over at the pair of them. No one, other than me, has tried to teach Matty a lesson about life, about how it’s going to be. Sera’s doing it so artfully, I’m struck dumb. This is the kind of girl you marry, MacLaine, and don’t you forget it.

  “You and I both helped your dad when he was tired, right? We helped him out, right?”

  It takes a second, but Matty makes the leap and smacks a kiss on Sera’s cheek. Lucky little bugger. “I’m Batman! Daddy, I’m Batman!”

  I can’t move. Sera’s staring straight at me, and I can’t
move to ruffle Matty’s hair, or tickle him or do any of that stuff. She just gave him something I couldn’t – she told him he mattered, and made him believe it.

  Holy Christ, I’m in over my head.

  Chapter 16

  “The pizza’s not here yet, but give it fifteen minutes. Can I get you a drink?” I ask her.

  Really? She just gave the kid a serious confidence-booster, one you haven’t been doing lately, and shit, you’re talking about food?

  Out of the side of my eye I watch Matty jump up on the couch and fiddle with the controller to get Netflix up. I forget sometimes how very smart he is; either that, or I haven’t noticed at all.

  I move around the counter not letting her answer because I’m a caveman and what’s on her body has me thinking some very bad thoughts. Except I need to not be a dick for tonight, I need to be on my best behaviour.

  How in hell am I supposed to do that when she looks the way she does? She probably did it on purpose. Goddamn it, that ass in that skirt? I’m lucky I’m still breathing.

  “You look beautiful,” I blurt, then lean in to hide my idiocy with a kiss on her cheek. Once I’m there, her smell gets in my nose and it’s only a few inches to the right and down and I can finally kiss her… I pull my head back before I get into trouble.

  “All right...” she says, smiling at me. Aly would’ve preened, Mom would have adjusted her clothes or brought attention to her hair or whatever. Sera doesn’t do any of that, but she looks at me like she’s expecting me to say something.

  I’m never going to understand women. Never.

  “Drink?”

  “Sure. Water, please.”

  Water? Maybe she doesn’t drink… at all. Which is no big deal, but I file it away for later, maybe I can ask her about it if I remember.

  “I’ve got a real die-hard party girl, over here.” I end up grinning, needing her to understand that I’m joking. Matty’s been my only audience these past three years and he thinks I’m pretty fucking hilarious. Sera… not so much. I’m also out of practice, I have no idea how to get a girl of Sera’s caliber to like me.

  Don’t try to be funny. Just… just don’t.

  “Yeah, I know. I’m badass like that,” she says, deadpan. My smile gets deeper, until I get a look at how perfect her tits look in that blouse and I’m a hundred percent sure she just caught me. Fuck.

  “Bad word! Sera said a bad word!” Matty swoops in to save me, bouncing on the balls of his feet, while grabbing hold of Sera’s fingers and giving them a tug. I’m going to have to tell him that he can’t go pulling on people, but right here and now, Sera doesn’t seem to mind.

  “You owe me a whole quarter!” he tells her, and Sera does nothing but smile. I lean back and just watching the two of them together.

  “I’ll pay for her today, bud. We invited her for supper; we can’t just make her give us money,” I tell him, trying to remember where I keep my stash of quarters.

  Matty’s face crinkles in confusion. “But she said a bad word!”

  I let Sera soothe him while I move behind her and move to the kitchen to get the table ready. I wouldn’t mind eating on the couch, but I don’t want Sera getting pizza on her and then bolting to change anytime soon. “I know, buddy. Sorry,” she tells him. “Can I help with anything? How ‘bout me and Matty get the table in order?” she asks.

  I look over my shoulder to see her looking at me, expecting me to give her the go ahead.

  “What does that mean – get the table in order? It’s a table, Sera.” Matty tells her.

  She laughs then starts tickling him until the kid’s a mess of giggles. “It means that we need to set up all the plates, glasses, forks, knives and napkins. Do you have placemats, Hunter?”

  Shit. I shake my head.

  Matty does the gentlemanly thing, and pulls out her chair. Sera goes along with it. “Why thank you, kind sir!”

  “I’m going to set the table for you, Sera, you watch, then tell me how I do.” He’s such a con-artist, a showman, walking over to me, arms out ready for the plate I’m going to set there.

  Doesn’t matter if it falls, I just don’t want his feet to get cut up, but he crosses his arms over it and holds it tight against his chest, making sure it stays put. He glides over to Sera at the table and places it next to her, all careful-like.

  Sera’s smiling the whole time and gets up, leaning over the kitchen counter following Matty’s orders to get the napkins and cutlery. She’s so damn adorable right now, listening to him like he isn’t four years old and doesn’t have a say in what she does, but just follows suit like it’s no big deal.

  I swipe her hand and land a kiss in the middle of her palm. Her fingers curl over it like she’s trying to keep it safe. Don’t beat your chest, don’t do it.

  She actually looks surprised, her eyes are wide and her voice soft when she says, “Uh...what did you do that for?”

  Because you’re hot enough that if we were alone right now, I’d have you over this counter, uh, if you’d let me. Because you’re sweet to the kid, because you’re sweet in general, and I never wanted to OD on sugar so bad.

  I can’t stop touching her, my thumb tracing the bumps of her knuckles, hoping she feels a sliver of what she gave me last night. I wouldn’t mind seeing Sera out of control; hell, I wouldn’t mind it one fucking bit.

  “I invited you for dinner, not to set my table. Matty can do it. Have a seat.”

  Sera gets to the table without saying another word to me, and I give Matty the rest of the plates when he comes back for them, pretending the floor’s ice in his sock-feet. I pay for the pizza, and bring the box over to the table after having re-cut all the slices.

  The kid starts with his daily adventures, and he looks happy enough that Sera seems to be the only one listening. I can’t help but watch her face for reactions, her expressions, the way she doesn’t mind having a legit conversation with a little kid.

  “We made Play-Doh, but it didn’t come from the yellow jar!”

  Shit, she actually looks completely interested. I can’t even fake it that well.

  “Then, where did it come from, little man?”

  “I made it!” Matty points at himself. Sera’s eyebrows pop high like she can’t believe it. “Yeah! I made it. Out of flour and some other stuff, and I painted it blue with red swirls. Then it turned purple!”

  “Sounds like fun,” she says, nibbling on her slice of pizza. Oh, man, does she not like it? Hawaiian pizza isn’t for everyone, you asshole, why didn’t you get an all-dressed one, too? Then I get distracted by her teeth tearing the pizza and I’m having a hard time concentrating on keeping the blood above my waist.

  “It was. It was.” Matty chews on his piece then looks at me like he’s waiting for story-time. Kid, don’t do it, I don’t want to talk about it…

  “And you, Daddy? What did you do?”

  Shit! He conned me, my own nephew conned me! Stall, here, wipe your mouth, and think of a good answer.

  I’m not coming up with a good answer.

  “Nothing special, buddy.” My pizza’s really interesting. Check out how much cheese they piled on top this time around. Which means I gotta adjust my insulin later - don’t forget, MacLaine.

  “What did you do today, Hunt?” Sera asks, and I have to look up, making sure my mouth’s not open and she can’t see what I’m chewing. I’m grabbing my napkin like it’s personally called my mother a whore, and the plate was in on the name-calling, too.

  Stop it. Just say the truth. Worst she can do is laugh. And laugh some more.

  “Construction. I work in construction.” That’s what happens when you barely finish post-secondary education ‘cause your body’s fucking with you.

  I look at Sera’s face, the way the colour blooms on her cheeks, the way she’s stopped chewing and isn’t really looking at me, but stuck somewhere in her head – hopefully with me front and center.

  “Cool,” she murmurs, taking a chug of her water… like she’s trying to
cool down. Jesus Christ, is she thinking about me?

  “Sera? Can you read to me again tonight?” Matty asks, completely stealing all her attention, when all I want to do is press the advantage, and press, and press…

  “Sure, kid. Peter Pan again, or something else?” She looks at me and I give the nod, because hell yeah, I want her here as long as possible. After she reads to Matty means there’s time for adult conversations, or hell, zero conversations at all. My skin’s tight and I can’t look away from her mouth.

  I hardly hear Matty having a hard time.

  “I...” Matty blows out air, carefully placing his pizza down on the plate. The kid doesn’t stop eating unless it’s important. Rewind – what did she ask him? C’mon, man, you can’t have blanked out this bad.

  “I don’t want the story to end just yet. Can you read me something else?”

  Sera’s eyes get wide and big, and she has this little smile in the corner of her mouth that somehow goes straight to my dick.

  “Ever heard of a boy named Harry Potter?” she asks, looking like she’s hoping for a no.

  Matty shakes his head, and Sera’s smile gets even wider, showing off her teeth. She looks so adorable, and the clothes she’s wearing are driving me wild. But it’s like I’m not even here, with the two of them, all her focus is on the kid.

  “Right. We’re going to read that tonight.” She finally looks at me. “How could you not read him Harry Potter? What’s wrong with you?” She actually looks at me like I’ve done a horrible thing.

  If only she knew.

  “Sorry. I got carried away,” she says, looking at me with understanding. “Harry Potter has a very special place in my heart and to not read it to a kid is like blasphemy.” Colour blooms on her cheeks, and I wish I had the balls to reach out and stroke her skin there. “I don’t just wear the nerdy shirts and shoes. I have nerdy blood, and a nerdy heart.”

  I jump when she reaches for my hand, and I’m reminded at how bad I’m strangling my napkin like it’s gone and revenge-killed my family.

 
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