From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Helena Hunting comes the untold story of Skye and Sidney, and the origin story where Vi and Miller are teens when their parents start dating and fall in love…
I accidentally grabbed the wrong drink at the coffee shop. On the upside, the hot guy it belonged to chased me down to kindly swap with me. On the down side, the reason I grabbed the wrong drink in the first place is because the hot guy had just caught me checking out his ass…sets.
In my defense, his rear view is rather magnificent.
In true, humiliating form, I word-vomited a bunch of horrible nonsense. Including an unnecessary explanation of the trauma I’d evaded thanks to his chasing me down. Nothing could ruin my lactose-intolerant day faster than my one true nemesis: dairy.
I did not expect him to ask me out on a date after that.
I also didn’t expect the date to go well since my tendency to truth-vomit is high, and not everyone finds that quality endearing.
But apparently he does. Because he asks me out again.
Sidney Butterson (yes, it’s a weird last name) ticks all my boxes.
He’s smart, he’s funny, he’s employed and he’s ridiculously hot.
There’s one catch.
We’re both single parents. With teens.
And if our kids don’t like each other?
Well, we’re doomed.
“Vi, if we don’t leave in five minutes you’ll have to walk to school!” I call down the narrow hallway.
Violet, my teen daughter, steps out of the bathroom with red eyes, shoulders slumped with defeat.
“Baby? What’s wrong? Did something happen?”
“I can’t get my right contact lens in to save my life.” She looks down at the finger crooked in a come-hither motion and squints. “Shitballs, I think I might have dropped it.” She flails her free hand in the air. “Great! Just great! Like I’m ever going to find it now.”
As a single mom of a teenage girl, I know that one tiny mishap has the potential to ruin an entire day. “Why don’t you just wear your glasses? They make your eyes pop.”
Violet sigh-groans. “Because I have a Mathletes competition this afternoon, and my plan is to not wear my glasses and also to open the top two buttons on my shirt.” She motions to her chest. “So I can throw the other team off with a boob distraction. The combination temporarily fools them into believing I’m unable to math. Also, John Kirkwood always calls me four eyes when I wear my glasses and he’s in two of my classes, so I would prefer to avoid the irritation today.”
“If he’s teasing you, it means he likes you,” I point out.
“If we were in middle school, that might ring true, but John is a jerk and a jock. He’s a jork. And the only thing he likes about me are these.” She pats her right boob.
Violet looks very much like me and not her dad. Which is good because her dad was a one-night stand that turned into the most beautiful surprise I didn’t know I needed in my life. Raising Violet on my own hasn’t always been easy, but my parents are supportive and I’m lucky to have a stable, well-paying job.
“He’s just jealous that you’re a smart, independent young woman who’s going places.”
“It’s more likely he’s just a jork who makes fun of people because he has a finger penis.”
“A finger penis?”
“Yeah.” She holds up her index finger. “A penis that’s more like a finger. That’s the rumor, anyway.”
“Men are fragile creatures with easily bruised egos,” I muse as I inspect Violet’s crooked finger. “Your contact lens is still on your finger. Want me to help you put it in?”
She sighs, but nods. “Can you? I wish I could be successful at putting them in over fifty percent of the time. If I didn’t have this Mathlete competition and it wasn’t our first time against this team, I would wear the glasses. But the last time we played a new team, I wore contacts and hinted at some cleavage, and two of their team members broke out in hives and another had to breathe into a paper bag.”
“Is it fair to use your boobs as a distraction tactic?” I motion her back into the bathroom.
Violet sits on the closed toilet and tips her head back. “Is it fair that girls represent less than ten percent of the Mathletes in our county? Also, I shouldn’t have to wear shapeless, burlap-sack style clothes because I’m gifted in the chest department.”
I clean her contact lens, tell her to look at the ceiling and pop it in. She blinks a few times and gives me the thumbs up. I’d like to be the mom who says don’t use your lady assets for evil, but honestly, she has a point.
Violet has the same math brain I do, and as an accountant working in a firm dominated by men, I can honestly say having boobs is as much of an asset as it is an ass ache.
Violet hugs and thanks me, then rushes to her room to grab her backpack while I return to the kitchen and pour coffee into my travel mug. I pluck my purse from the counter and meet Violet at the front door.
“I’m sorry I can’t be there this afternoon,” I say as I climb into the SUV.
Violet buckles herself in and tucks her wavy hair behind her ear. “It’s not a big deal and listening to people solve math equations isn’t exactly riveting for most people.”
“Maybe not for everyone, but you know I’d be there if I could.”
“I know, mom. It’s okay.” She pats my arm and smiles. “Mrs. Swanson’s recording the whole thing, so we can rewatch and make notes for the next competition.”
“Mathletes is far more competitive now than when I was your age.”
“Eh, having estrogen on the team is making Mrs. Swanson a little ruthless. There’s extra funding available with a set of boobs.”
“I’m proud of you for joining,” I say and squeeze her arm.
“I needed an extra-curricular, and she was super persistent about it. Also, the potential for a college scholarship is high. I’d like to avoid spending Grandma Hall’s inheritance on school if possible.”
“We have that education fund set up for you, too,” I remind her.
“Yeah, I know, but if I can offset the costs of tuition with a scholarship, I can allocate that money elsewhere.”
I smile at my daughter. “You’re amazingly responsible, you know that?”
She smiles back at me. “I learned from the best.”
I drop Violet at school. “Oh! And don’t forget, the team is coming over for pizza and chicken wings after the meet. We want to plan a strategy for our next competition while we’re fresh!”
“Right. Yes! Good luck this afternoon!”
“Thanks, mom!” She closes the door and Michael, one of her Mathlete teammates, lopes down the steps to greet her.
With Violet at school, I head downtown, to the office of Freeman Financials. I spend the first two hours of my day in meetings where the higher ups waste my time with nonsense. It’s about as exciting as watching paint dry.
I require additional caffeine to make it through the rest of the day, so I stop at the café across the street.
“Skye! How’s everything going in the world of numbers on this fine Monday morning?” Larissa, who works behind the counter most days of the week asks.
“Predictable, as numbers usually are. How are you? How are your night classes going?” Larissa is taking evening courses at a local college so she can work full time and earn a degree.
“So far, so good. I’m really enjoying my sociology class. Can I get you the usual?”
“I’ll take a twenty-ounce today, and a triple shot of espresso.”
Her eyes flare. “Did someone stay up late binge watching their favorite show?”
I chuckle. “I just sat through a meeting that was drier than Saltines in the Sahara and one of my clients handed me all their tax documents yesterday afternoon and they’re due tonight, so I have a long day of number crunching ahead.”
“Yikes. Sounds like not a lot of fun.”
“I’m used to it, and I don’t mind working under pressure.” I scan the display case and add a pumpkin spice muffin to my order.
“Excellent choice and a perfect pairing for your latte.” Larissa hands me the brown bag and I tuck it into my purse.
“Thanks Larissa, have a great rest of your day.”
“You too!” She smiles and her attention shifts to the person behind me.
I move aside and wait for my order.
News plays on the TV in the corner with closed captioning scrolling across the screen. It’s the usual depressing stuff, so I people watch instead. Several tables hold people reading the paper, other patrons have laptops propped in front of them. Only one pair looks like a potential couple. The local college isn’t too far from here and they seem to fit the student profile. The girl ducks her head and blushes, while he picks at the cardboard sleeve around his cup.
I haven’t been on a date in ages. Francine in PR wants to set me up with her cousin, but he works in car sales, and I don’t really know how much we’d have in common. Besides, Violet is halfway through high school. She needs me now more than ever.
The guy who was behind me takes his place a few feet to the right of me. We make brief eye contact and exchange polite smiles.
He’s tall and broad, with dark blond hair, gray flirting at the temples. The crinkles in the corner of his eyes tell me he’s probably around forty. He’s wearing a crisp navy suit, complemented with a cream button down and a blue and gold striped tie, and brown dress shoes.
Before either of us can make awkward small talk, his phone rings. Fishing it out of his pocket, he checks the screen before he brings the device to his ear. He turns to face the window, giving me his back. He’s got a great butt.
I check him out from bottom to top, and when I reach the back of his head, I note he has all his hair. No ice rink for ants forming at his crown yet. Visually, he’s what Violet would call a snack.
I smile at the thought and realize he’s looking over his shoulder. At me. And I’m appreciating his full head of hair. Yeesh.
I internally wish for my latte to be ready so I can escape my embarrassment.
Hubert, the barista, calls out, “Skye and Sidney! Your lattes are ready!”
I rush forward and grab mine, muttering a hasty, “Thanks!” Then beeline for the exit. Of course, that’s the moment a hoard of teens barrel through the door, forcing me to hold it open until the entire gaggle has stormed the café.
Once outside, I hustle to the crosswalk. I punch the button and glare as the sign counts down from thirty.
And then I hear my name being called.
I glance toward the café and, much to my horror, the attractive man whose butt I was admiring is rushing toward me, coffee in hand.
“Hey! You’re Skye, right?” he asks.
“Yes. That’s me.” Maybe he didn’t mind my checking out his butt.
“You took the wrong coffee.” He taps the side of the cup with the name SKYE written in Larissa’s lovely cursive.
“Oh.” I turn mine around and see Sidney scrawled on the side. And it’s a pumpkin spice latte. Half sweet, skim milk. “Wow. I would have spent the rest of the afternoon working from a bathroom stall if you hadn’t caught me.” At his questioning expression, I continue with the embarrassing word vomit. “I’m lactose intolerant and this much dairy would mean stomach cramps for days.” I bite my lips together and close my eyes. “Sorry. You didn’t need to know that. I haven’t taken a sip. See. No lipstick prints.” I thrust the cup toward him and reluctantly crack a lid.
He’s smiling. Widely. “I’m very glad I caught you when I did then. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for an afternoon of prolonged discomfort.”
We exchange takeout cups. “It would’ve been my fault for not checking more than the S, but I was trying to escape my embarrassment. Seems like it’s following me around and making things worse.” I step away from this exceptionally hot man who inspires an unprecedented amount of word vomit. “Thank you for stopping me. You, uh…you didn’t drink out of mine, did you?”
“I didn’t.” His eyes are blue. So vibrant and pretty and his teeth are straight. I glance at his hand. His ring finger is bare. Then I realize he’s giving my hand the same inspection. “Do you work around here?”
“Just across the street.” I thumb over my shoulder. “You?”
“No, but I’m in the area often.” He tucks a hand in his pocket. “Maybe you’d like to grab a coffee later this week?”
I blink at him. Then open my mouth and ask a stupid question. “Are you asking me out?”
“Unless you’re already seeing someone. I didn’t see a ring, so I was hopeful.” His bottom lip slides through his teeth and for a moment, he looks boyishly handsome.
“But…you don’t know anything about me.” I don’t know why I haven’t said yes yet. He’s attractive and thoughtful enough to stop me from drinking the wrong coffee. His kindness saved me from ending up curled in the fetal position on a bathroom floor.
He rubs the back of his neck. “I’ve seen you here before. I’ve been working up the nerve to introduce myself. Looks like the universe gave me a push in the right direction.” He holds up a hand and gives his head a little shake. “I’m probably making this awkward. I’ll be here Wednesday at eleven-thirty. Hopefully, I’ll see you then.” And with that, he turns and disappears into the crowd.