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Home > Take Me (One Night with Sole Regret #3)(3)

Take Me (One Night with Sole Regret #3)(3)
Author: Olivia Cunning

He smiled. She hadn’t enjoyed the Sole Regret concert she’d attended because the volume of the music bothered her. But she did like his music when it wasn’t too loud. His baby rocked. He assumed it was genetic.

"Not tonight, princess. But I brought you a birthday present." He lifted the pink bag in her direction.

Sucking an excited breath into her narrow chest, Julie beamed and released Tina’s hand to reach for the bag.

Tina grabbed her wrist. "No. Go find your grandma, and she'll get you more ice cream."

"I want my pwesent," she said.

"Julie, I said no. Go find your grandma."

"You can't tell her she can't have her birthday present," Shade said. That old anger he felt toward his ex-wife rushed to the surface. Like Adam, Tina knew exactly how to push his buttons.

"You can't barge in here whenever you feel like it, Shade. The custody order—"

"I just came to give her a present,” he interrupted. “Why do you always have to be such a b—?" He caught himself just in time.

Julie burst into tears. He knew better than to yell in front of her. Damn it. He had such a difficult time controlling his temper where Tina was concerned.

"If you don't leave, I'm calling the cops," Tina said and lifted Julie into her arms, cradling the back of her head to hold her face against her shoulder.

"For what?"

"I'll think of something."

"I just want to see my little girl on her birthday—"

Tina covered Julie's ears with her hands. "What about the other three hundred and sixty-four days of the year when you're too busy f**king whores to even call her?"

"I try to call her, but you won't let me talk to her."

"She's in bed. Three-year-olds don't party until two a.m."

"One time I called that late. I didn't realize how late it was because we were in California."

"She doesn’t party until midnight either."

"Don't yell," Julie cried, pushing her mother’s hands away from her ears. “Don’t yell. Don’t yell!”

“I’m sorry, baby,” Shade said.

"Do you see how upset you make her?" Tina wiped at Julie's runny nose with a pink napkin she pulled from her pocket, and then scrubbed the frosting off Julie’s cheek with an unused corner.

"Me? I just came to see her for a few minutes, and you act like I'm some sort of criminal."

"Not a criminal," Tina said coldly, "just an idiot. Leave. Now! I mean it, Shade."

"I want my daddy," Julie wailed. Sobbing uncontrollably, she stretched her arms in his direction.

Tina released a heavy sigh of exasperation. "Are you happy, Shade? You've ruined her birthday. She was having so much fun until you arrived."

Shade was too flustered to defend himself. He hadn't done anything wrong. He knew Tina liked to make his life miserable, and sometimes he felt he deserved it, but she was a good mother to Julie. Tina was the one who'd gotten Julie so upset this time. She was the one who refused to let her have her present. She was the one who hadn’t even invited Shade to his own daughter’s party. He was not at fault here. Or was he missing something?

"Can I sit out on the step with her for a minute?” Shade asked. “I won't even come inside."

"Daddy!" Julie screamed.

He wasn't sure if he was capable of calming Julie at this point, but he couldn't stand to see her so distraught. Maybe it would be better if he stayed away. Maybe they were all better off without him. But just the thought of missing these few stolen moments with his princess made his eyes sting and his chest ache.

"Fine. Ten minutes, Shade. And then you're leaving."

He nodded, willing to agree to any concession.

A sobbing little girl was thrust in his direction.

Shade held Julie perched in the crook of one arm. Her arms tightened around his neck and she buried her wet, little face against his shoulder.

Julie gasped and sniffled for several minutes, but she’d stopped wailing immediately. Shade just held her, rocking her slightly and stroking her silky blond hair. He heard the door close, and was surprised that Tina didn't think she needed to supervise the two of them.

"Mommy said you forgot about my birthday," Julie said.

"Of course I didn't forget about your birthday, princess. I tried to get here as soon as I could."

"She said you had to sing at the loud pwace today, so you wasn’t coming."

"No, I don’t have a concert tonight, but I do have to sing. I have to sing to the birthday girl."

Julie drew back and looked him in the eyes. Scowling, she grabbed his sunglasses by the nosepiece and pulled them off. "Take these off. I can't see you."

Eyes exposed, he stared down at her, his heart filled with love and loss, joy and sorrow all at once.

"Can you see me now?" he whispered.

She nodded and squashed his face between two sticky hands. He made fish lips at her until she giggled.

"What do you want me to sing?"

"The Cinderella song!"

He chuckled. "I don't think I know that one."

"I'll teach you."

"Okay."

"A dweam is a wish when you fast asweep," she sang, using her arms and hands expressively to punctuate her heartfelt words. He’d have paid for front row seats to watch her perform.

Shade opened his mouth to sing after her, and she covered his mouth with her hand. "Wait. I messed up."

“I know,” he said when she moved her hand. “How about some Aerosmith?”

She sucked in a deep excited breath, her eyes alight with eagerness. “Yes, Daddy. Sing the angel song. See my wings.” She reached over her shoulder and tugged at one of her flimsy, sparkly wings. “I’m an angel.”

“You sure are,” he said. “An angel princess.”

He cleared his throat and sang to her, backing the lyrics, as always, with his entire heart and soul. “I’m alone, yeah…” By the time he was belting out the end of the second line, she was squirming in anticipation. He knew what she wanted. She just liked the chorus, so he skipped the majority of the first stanza and went straight to her favorite part.

Julie beamed as he sang to her. She looked at him with such utter adoration that his throat closed off and he choked over the next few words. She bounced excitedly, and he lifted his free hand to support her back so she didn’t jostle her way out of his arms and onto the brick steps at his feet. She hugged him when he’d finished and fisted her little hand around the cross hanging from the chain at his neck.

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