It Isn’t Easier

Dear Brady,

It hasn’t gotten easier. Despite the cards, the well-wishes, the hugs and phone calls from caring friends, today wasn’t easier than last year. I’m pretty certain your birthday is worse than the anniversary of your death. Probably because there’s more history, more memories associated with this day. Or maybe it’s because the memories connected to your death were chopped up into a bunch of days. So while the day you died sucked worse than anything ever, there’s also the day of the viewing and the day of the funeral and a few months later, the day we lay your ashes to rest.

So happy birthday, I guess. I mean, do birthdays even matter when you’re in heaven? They still matter to the living, even if the person we’re acknowledging isn’t here anymore. I doubt this day will ever be just any other day, no matter how many years pass. Unfortunately, it won’t ever be an entirely happy day, either. Not anymore.

We didn’t plan to do anything to outwardly acknowledge you today. I took the day off work because I knew I wouldn’t be worth a damn at the office, and then found out your sister had the day off school as well. Maybe it was divine intervention? We ended up having a girls’ day instead of me sitting at home alone feeling sorry for myself. And for a few hours, we were distracted, and it was fun, which is how it should be for the living. Although I ended up splurging and buying her practically everything she asked for, which I don’t normally do. I’ve decided to chalk it up to a subconscious need to give gifts to someone on this day, like I did for thirteen years of my life.

She’s mad at you, you know. Your sister. You left her to figure out this growing up business on her own, when she’s always had you to carve the path for her. All she ever had to do was follow in your footsteps, something she was content to do. Until you were gone. She isn’t a trailblazer. It’s difficult for her to try new things. She wants to keep hiding in your shadow but she can’t, and I think, nineteen months later, she’s starting to realize that.

Last year she practically threw a party on your birthday; this year she doesn’t even want to acknowledge it’s happening. She told me recently she didn’t want to talk about you anymore. Although the other night over dinner she regaled your father and I with gruesome, scary stories she said she learned from you. And when I dropped her off after shopping and told her I was going to head over to visit you for a few minutes, she told me to tell you hi. So I guess she’s not too mad.

(By the way, Hi. I actually forgot to say it while I was visiting you because this group of people showed up who appeared to be scoping out gravesites and I felt really awkward sitting there bawling like a, well, grieving mother, so I took off. Which I know is silly—it’s a cemetery, right? I mean, outside of the shower and my car, it’s really the perfect place to cry.)

And now we’re entering a new stage of grieving—and I’m scared all over again. My own grief I can handle. Your dad’s, your grandparents, your aunts and uncles; our friends. But watching my baby girl suffer and not having a clue how to make her feel better is the second worse kind of pain a parent can experience.

The first, of course, is losing you in the first place.

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Not So Much Love For Fall

I used to love fall. But the riot of color in the trees no longer brings me the same pleasure it did just two years ago.

I have no desire to pull my sweaters out of hibernation; no excitement over wearing my multitude of boots (and I own some super cute boots). The cooler days only mean longer nights and less sunshine, and the darkness gives me far too much excuse to feel sorry for myself. It’s the perfect shroud for the tears I prefer to hide from the world.

You see, fall is a season full of memories, memories I haven’t yet figured out how to live with. My son didn’t die in the fall; he died in the spring, but everything about this time of year reminds me of him, of what I lost, of moments I’ll never get to experience again.

He should have started his freshman year this month. I should have a high schooler. Instead, I have one kid starting school, seventh grade, which happens to be the year my son let the demons win. It’s like living that year all over again, except accompanied by the nightmare of what happened and the constant fear that my daughter might do the same thing.

(For the record, she tells us all the time she won’t, which is both a relief and not remotely fair to the poor kid. She’ll never be able to have a ‘normal’ teen angst period, but I have no idea how not to stress over every little nuance in her personality, which occasionally resembles her brother’s.)

Sometimes I wonder what he would have been like. If he had not made such a permanent decision eighteen months ago, would he have gotten over his depression, his misery, conquered the demons who convinced him to take his own life? My husband doesn’t think so. He believes had our son lived, he would have been fighting those demons for the rest of his life.

But at least he’d have a life. And I’d have a son. And humans are fighters, usually. Maybe he would have found some semblance of peace, would have started high school with a fresh, positive outlook.

I’ll never know.

His birthday is next month. He should be turning fifteen. Ready to sign up for driver’s ed. It’s so odd; I spend an inordinate amount of time reflecting on what will never be, yet I can’t bring myself to relive memories of his life while he was still here. It hurts too much. Still.

I often wonder if it always will.

Part of me wants to get to that point where I can talk about him, reminisce, smile and laugh over moments that occurred during the precious little time we had with him. That’s thirteen years of my life that I currently can’t even think about, let alone talk about.

And the other part of me hates the pain, hates crying, hates feeling sorry for myself, hates admitting that I will never have another memory with my son.

After his birthday comes Thanksgiving. A family holiday. The start of the family holiday season. A time of reflection, of appreciation for what we have, of feeling grateful for our family. Which is hard to do when there’s one missing, there will always be one missing. Forever.

Let’s not forget Christmas. ‘Tis the season of opening boxes filled with decorations and ornaments that all have some significance, some emotional purpose. So many that were handmade by my children or personalized with their names or purchased with some aspect of their personalities in mind. Then there’s the stocking with his name on it. The pictures with Santa.

Christmas used to be my favorite holiday. Now I can barely muster excitement; I almost want it to hurry up and go away, move on. Which I hate because that isn’t fair to the one child I have left, or the rest of my family for that matter.

So, like I did my first year trying to figure out the way down this fork in the road created by my son’s decision to leave us forever, I will try to find bits of happiness and joy, hopefully new experiences, new traditions that won’t hurt quite so much.

That’s all any of us can do: Try.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund sometimes writes reflective, depressing blogs, but the books she writes are anything but. You should sign up for her newsletter, so you get first dibs on the cool new stuff she puts out: http://www.subscribepage.com/Tami_Lund

Back to School Blues…Not This Time

My daughter has started seventh grade. For those who haven’t been reading my blog posts for the past year and a half, that’s the grade my son was in when he ended his life.

He was also thirteen; an October baby, so we didn’t start him in kindergarten until he was five turning six. My daughter, on the other end of the spectrum, is a summer baby, so she’s twelve, won’t be thirteen until a couple weeks after she’s finished seventh grade.

Which means I get to stress out and worry she’ll do the same thing for two years, not one.

I mean, I know I shouldn’t be worried. I’ve said it before and it bears repeating: She is not him. Whereas his glass was perpetually half empty and steadily leaking, hers is overflowing. Whereas he was almost constantly miserable with life, she embraces life, loves to be happy.

She’s not him.

Of course, as I’m the mother of a deceased child; forced to figure out how to raise the other one despite the dredges of grief that permeate our lives, I can tell myself that all day long (and I do), but it doesn’t really matter. I will still worry. I mean, it’s a mother’s nature to worry even without such a tragedy smacking me upside the head.

So far I’m good today, though. I dropped her off a short while ago, and I’m sitting on my back porch, drinking my coffee, feeling that eternal guilt because I didn’t stop by to visit my son’s grave after leaving the school. But the thing is, I wasn’t crying. I didn’t feel sad. In fact, I was excited for my daughter to go back to school. Yesterday she was chatting on the phone with one of her school chums and I could hear the excitement in her voice. She couldn’t wait to hang out with her buds again.

And I didn’t want to ruin my own tentative happiness by deliberately seeking out the reminder of my devastating loss.

So I came home. And now I’m hanging out with the dog, going to add some words to my latest work-in-progress. And later this afternoon, I’ll go pick up the kid, listen to her stories about school, about her friends, about the plans and goals for this upcoming year. I’m going to focus on the living, on the child who’s still here.

And breathe a very large sigh of relief that her glass is still far more than half full.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund is an author, an award winner, a wine drinker, and a grieving mother. Blogging helps with the grieving process, so thanks for reading.

Just When I Think I’ve Got It Together…

There are days when I actually think I have it all together. When I believe I’m managing this new life that was carved for us last year. Sometimes that feeling can go on for a week, even longer.

I made it through our entire family vacation last month, a week during which we hang out with my father and my brother and his wife and kids. We rent a cottage on a lake, the more remote the better, and we just forget about real life for a while. It’s a tradition we started shortly after my son was born, and have reenacted every year since.

Not a single tear leaked from my eye that week. I admit, I was surprised. Pleasantly surprised, because I gotta admit, this grieving business sucks. It’s really frustrating how the dead manage to control the lives of the living. I never gave that thought much consideration until last year, when I was slapped in the face with my son’s death.

The entire next week after vacation was fine, too. Well, it sucked, but that had nothing really to do with my son and more to do with the fact that vacation was over, and as always happens when you escape reality for seven glorious days, you get to play catch up for the next one to two weeks. Not that I won’t do it again next year. Or the one after that, and that, and that…

And everything was going along swimmingly, and I actually thought the words, Maybe I’m finally there. That place where I have my life back, where each day is not marred by the nightmare of losing a child. No one has ever told me that place exists; conversely, those who have been through this agony, who have many more years’ experience than me, say it doesn’t. The pain never goes away, the memories never stop haunting you, the cloud of grief never stops hovering over every single little aspect of your day-to-day life.

I don’t know why I forgot that. Because when you forget and then it slaps you back to your newly forged reality, it’s almost worse than when you’re working through it moment by moment, day by day.

Yesterday was that day. I was punched in the face with my own personal reality, or as I affectionately call it, hell. I was scrolling through Facebook like any normal, redblooded human being, when I clicked a link. I should have known better, but that’s what those articles are for, right? To lure you in, to sell you whatever the author’s cooking.

In this case, it was about a woman who was getting married. A woman who lost her own son, and she’d donated his organs upon his death (we did the same thing – now there’s a call you don’t anticipate dealing with literally hours after your kid dies, while you’re still reeling from the fact it actually happened). And as people tend to do at weddings, she wanted to acknowledge him, to pay homage to his memory. So she left an empty seat at the front of the ceremony, and there was a sign propped there, something about her love for her deceased child, I think.

And then a man she didn’t recognize walked down the aisle. A stranger, but not really, because her son’s heart beat in his chest. The man’s presence was a surprise, contrived by her fiancé.

And much like I am doing now, I sat on my back porch and cried.

Here’s the article, if you want to cry too: SCARY MOMMY BLOG POST

I cried for that mother’s loss as well as my own. Cried because life is so very unfair, and while that man was able to live, that woman lost a son, and why can’t we have both scenarios? Why do we have to choose? Or possibly worse, why is the choice taken from us? I didn’t get to decide whether my son lived. He made that choice, and now I have to figure out how to live with it.

I don’t have answers (obviously) and I don’t expect you to either. They’re rhetorical questions, of course. The thoughts that run through a grieving mother’s mind. The wishes, the envy over those who still have their babies.

Later that same day, I came across a neighbor’s son while walking my dog. He and my son were friends, went to school together, were only two months apart in age. Now he looks like a man. I had the ridiculous (or maybe not?) urge to rush up the driveway and pull him into a hug. He probably would have let me, even though he would have thought, Holy crap, she’s going off the deep end. And maybe I am. There are still days I walk around in a fog a lot of the time.

I didn’t rush the poor kid. I smiled and waved and kept walking. Back to my house, my life. This not-so-new-anymore reality.

Hopefully tomorrow it will go back to one of those days when it feels all right, when I feel like I have a grasp on this life I’m trying so damn hard to enjoy.

Hopefully.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

Tami Lund is an author, wine drinker, award winner, and grieving mother. It makes her feel a teeny bit better to blog about her crazy, fucked up life.

Suicide is Not the Coolest Way to Die

I get it; you’re depressed.

Okay, no I don’t. I admit, I’ve never felt that way. I’ve never been in that deep, dark pit, so far down you can’t even see the light, let alone convince yourself it still exists … somewhere. I’ve never felt like everyone in the entire world was against me, that it will never, ever get better, and the absolute best choice of the myriad around me is to end it all. To leave this world. Because I’ll be better off; everyone will be better off.

I don’t know how that feels. But I know how it feels to be the one you left behind.

I know what it feels like to receive a phone call that cannot possibly, by any remote stretch of the imagination be true. I know what it feels like to stare at your dead child’s body, dressed in his nicest shirt and tie, lying in a ridiculously overpriced casket we bought two days prior and that’s about to head to the fiery oven at the local cremation company.

I know what it’s like to get a call only a few hours after your child killed himself, asking if you’d be willing to donate his organs to someone who is still alive, who gets to keep on living, whose parents still get to hug their son or daughter. Joke with them. Talk with them. Love them.

And I know what it’s like to tell that person that I cannot possibly make this decision right now because I haven’t even accepted that he’s actually dead. And then they tell you how sorry they are but the organs are only viable for a certain length of time and as difficult as it is, this gets to be the very first in a long list of extremely hard and far too real decisions you have to make over the course of an incredibly short timeframe.

I know what it’s like to be a control freak planner who hands over every possible decision to the funeral director and the priest because there are some choices that are impossible to make when you’re the mother of a dead child and it’s bad enough you actually have to be there, to participate in the ritual of burying your own son. No, I do not care what song you play at the funeral. I’m not even supposed to be here.

I know what it’s like to walk through a room full of rows upon rows of coffins, and have to select the one your son will be laid out in, will be cremated in. I know what’s it’s like to choose one of them, to have that surreal conversation with your husband, in which you actually say the words, “It’s a beautiful casket. It suits him.”

I know what it’s like to greet people for eight straight hours—except for those few minutes you sneak out to the parking lot to drink wine straight from the bottle—greeting people you don’t know, people you haven’t seen in forever, people you love to see and wish you could actually hang out with without this shroud of sadness hovering right behind you.

I know what it’s like to have someone you don’t know sidle up to you and say, “So, tell me how it happened.”

I know what it’s like to watch helplessly while your husband, your father, your brother, your best friend break down in tears because goddamn it, it’s real and how the hell did something like this happen to us, our family?

I know what it’s like to ask why a thousand times a day, every day. I know what it’s like to ask what if just as frequently. Possibly more. What it’s like to relive that day, that week, over and over and over until you almost crave that moment when you get to die so you can see him again.

I know what it’s like to wish and wish and wish and then lose faith because wishes don’t come true. I know what it’s like to live your life without a piece of your heart. It used to walk around on the outside; now it walks around in heaven. At least I hope that’s where it is.

I know what it’s like to experience happiness, only to have the tainted memory of the son I lost slap that happiness out of the way. I know now that I will never again experience pure, unadulterated joy. Every significant event, moment, situation, every single aspect of my life will be clouded with the memory of what I had, what I lost, what I can never ever get back.

My son.

So yes, you’re depressed, and it sucks. And I don’t know how to help you, other than to tell you there are a ton of professionals who have spent a fair portion of their lives studying how to make you better, who might possibly be able to shed some light—literally. Give you some light, some hope, a reason to keep plugging along, to try to find that sweet spot, that place where it isn’t quite as bad as the demons make it out to be.

And if nothing else, think about the people you will leave behind. The ones you think will be better off. And read this post again, and tell me how much better off they will be.

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund. Author. Wine drinker. Award winner. Depressing blogger. But that’s how she gets through life. How she brings you the fabulous happily ever afters she provides as often as life allows.

 

 

A Prisoner and a Virgin Walk into a Bar…

It’s a new release. It’s the end of a series. It’s the story of a woman who’s job is to save the world, and a man who’s job is to destroy her. Good thing he’s a prisoner. Except she’s become friendly with him, which cannot possibly bode well, for, well, anybody…

Here’s a taste of PRISONER OF FATE, Book 3 in the Twisted Fate Series:

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The First’s pet Rakshasa lounged in the wicker chair, one cotton-covered leg crooked over the armrest, the other perched on the floor. He hummed a tune Lily didn’t recognize, while he twirled what looked like a grilled jumbo shrimp on a stick.

He abruptly stopped humming and lifted his face and sniffed the air. Lily scuttled behind a nearby pillar. She waited until her heart wasn’t beating quite so erratically, then she peeked out from behind the column.

The shifter stared directly at her with unblinking black eyes.

“Oh,” she squeaked, unnerved by the solid, steady stare.

“Chala.” His voice was deep, like that actor from the insurance commercials she saw on television.

Lily felt that intense sense of awareness sweep through her again, licking at her insides, making her feel both hot and cold at the same time. She dropped her head back and leaned against the cool pillar and gave in to the racking shiver.

“No need to hide, Chala. I cannot harm you so long as you remain outside the reach of my lovely necklace.” He chuckled at his own joke.

Lily risked another look. He still lounged on the wicker chair, although the shrimp on the end of the stick was gone. And he still watched her with that breathtaking intensity.

“I–I didn’t think you would be awake,” she stuttered.

“I wouldn’t think you would be awake,” he countered. “It is terribly late. Is it not past your bedtime, Chala?”

Lily slowly stepped out from behind the pillar and stood next to it, feeling oddly exposed. Not returning to her room to change suddenly seemed like a poor decision.

“It’s Lily,” she said. “Lily Gallow. I hate it when people call me Chala,” she said, hoping he would appreciate the show of solidarity. She had to believe he hated to be referred to as “Pet.”

“Why? Are you not a Chala? Have my senses finally gone askew, after all this time?”

“Yes, I am. But I have a name, and I prefer people use it. Just as I imagine you do.”

“Are you asking for my name, Chala?”

“Yes,” she said boldly. “You must have one. Everyone has a name.”

“The First does not,” he pointed out.

“She does,” Lily countered. “She just chooses not to use it. You, I assume, didn’t have a choice in the matter.”

He paused, watching her for several heartbeats worth of time. “No,” he said finally. “I was not given a choice.”

Lily rolled her eyes. “I take it you aren’t going to tell me.”

The shifter chuckled. “Maybe I do not remember. I have been called Pet for a thousand years, you know.”

Lily shook her head. “You remember. I’m sure of it.” She paused, and when he still did not offer his name, she asked, “What do you miss most about your freedom?”

The shifter stared at her, blinking far less frequently than most other people she’d encountered. Finally, he sighed and kicked his foot into the air.

“I haven’t had a good kill, a good steak, or a good fuck in a thousand years. I miss everything, Lily Gallow. Everything.”

Fall in love with the entire Twisted Fate series…

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Of Love and Darkness – Meet Gavin, a cursed Rakshasa, and Sydney, the last remaining Chala on earth. It’s up to her to save her species. A species, by the way, that Gavin’s kind wants to destroy. Except he’s cursed and believes he’s like her. Oh, and he happens to think they’re mates. This is definitely not a match made in heaven.

Amazon US        Amazon UK        Amazon AU       Amazon CA     Free in KU

Prim and Proper Fate – After double-crossing Gavin and nearly getting him killed, Brandon now finds himself in the precarious position of actually trying to save the cursed Rakshasa, because, well, some dumbass Fate un-cursed him. Brandon reaches out to the one person he knows can help—a prissy, too-good-for-her-own britches Fate named Prim, whose body makes him think anything but proper thoughts. Prim also happens to have a secret. One that could save their kind.

Amazon US               Amazon UK       Amazon AU      Amazon CA      Free in KU

Prisoner of Fate – Lily is a 170-year-old virgin shifter who has been hiding out on a desert island for her entire life. Now that she’s joined the real world she resents her responsibilities to her species: To choose the right mate and get to work repopulating the world with Light Ones who will protect the humans. Which is the very last thing she wants to do.

And then she meets Matteo, a Rakshasa—those shifters who like to eat humans as snacks. He’s been a prisoner of the Fates for a thousand years, and she has no business befriending him.

Lily never knew she had a thing for bad boys…

Amazon US           Amazon CA         Amazon AU        Amazon UK           Free in KU

Tami Lund Headshot 2014

 

Tami Lund is a wine drinker, award-winner, and writer of sexy and funny book series. Check out the rest of her books while you’re here.

Grief Gone Public

I recently read a blog post about a family who wrote an obituary calling out bullies. The obituary was for a teenager who had committed suicide.

Here’s the post (which includes the obit) from a blog called For Every Mom: http://foreverymom.com/family-parenting/sadie-riggs-obituary-is-going-viral-and-we-all-need-to-read-it-to-our-kids/

I spotted it in my Facebook feed and I hovered, considered whether I wanted to delve into this world I try on a daily—minutely—basis to avoid/forget/ignore.

I scrolled past. I came back. I hovered some more. And finally, I took a deep breath and clicked the link. And afterward, I closed it, shut down my phone, and went about my day, pretending I wasn’t thinking about what I just read.

About making sure your kids are aware of, understand the consequences of bullying, of suicide. The article cried out for all parents to talk to their kids about such important, life-altering matters.

Let’s be honest: My daughter has been slapped in the face with suicide. She understands better than the vast majority of kids her age what it feels like when someone close to you chooses that path in life—rather, to end their far-too-short life in such a way. She watches her parents, her grandparents, our friends, aunts, uncles, everyone around us struggle with managing the fall out created by suicide. It’s been fifteen months, and we still deal with it, some of us still haven’t fully accepted it, and all of us wish on a daily basis our lives—his life—had not taken that sharp curve that occurred when my son decided ending his life was the most optimal answer at that moment in time.

I feel reasonably certain this will not be my daughter’s first choice—or even on the list of options—in the eventual likelihood of her life becoming seemingly too tough to handle at some point down the line.

But that’s just her. What about other kids, the ones who were my son’s friends, or any child who has ever experienced something so difficult they are seriously contemplating a choice that has consequences that can never, ever be undone?

For the record, we have no idea why my son made such a monumental, earth-shattering, and incredibly wrong decision that day a little over a year ago. We have no proof bullying was involved. During the week after it happened, other parents from his school went online, screamed bullying, called the local media, and attempted to pull together a rally or picket line at the school to protest … what, I’m not sure.

Can schools do more to be on the look out for bullying? Yes. Can parents? Yes. Can everyone? Yes.

We can also conserve more water, eat better, spend more time at home and less at work … the list goes on. No one is perfect, and everyone can do something better.

Do I believe my son was bullied to death? No.

Am I being naïve or living in denial? Possibly.

What we do believe, in retrospect, which really sucks, because damn, if only we’d acknowledged these things a year, a month, an hour earlier…what we do believe is that he suffered from mental illness. Depression, maybe. Probably. Likely. There definitely were demons in his head. Loud, obnoxious, insistent monsters who convinced him they were right over all the people around him, people who loved him, who only wanted the best for him. Who wanted him to hang out on this earth for far more than thirteen pitifully short years.

Once upon a time, he was an easy-going baby. Took to breast-feeding with ease. Slept through the night before I went back to work. Smiled a lot. Was incredibly smart, super happy. I remember someone—no idea who—warned me that if he was an easy baby, he’d be a difficult teen.

Oh, were they ever right.

I’m pretty sure it started in fourth grade, but was definitely in full swing by fifth. And controlled his life by seventh, which is when the demons finally won.

Those bastards.

The anger. The misery. The refusal to be talked down once he’d worked himself up over something incredibly small or petty or insignificant. In November, 2015, four months before he’d make true on his words, during a heated argument with his dad and me, he screamed, “I wish I could kill myself.” Furious at such a horrible proclamation, we sent him to his room, told him he couldn’t come out again until he was reasonable. We didn’t know that to the demons whispering in his head, that was reasonable.

We thought he was being an angsty teenager, and we event said we couldn’t wait for him to outgrow this phase, so he’d be fun to be around again.

But he never outgrew it, and those asshole demons won. Somehow, some way, they convinced him he’d be better off—we’d be better off—without him.

They were wrong. And now it’s too late to convince my son, to somehow figure out how to prove it to him.

But it’s not too late for you, if you’re reading this. I have no idea how to shut up those demons—whether external or internal—but I do know what this world will be like if you let them talk you into leaving it.

It will suck. So much more than it does right now.

So talk to someone. Anyone. While I don’t know how to fix it, I know there are experts who can. Talk. To. Someone. And most importantly: Keep living. You’ll be glad you did.

I promise.

If you need them, here are a few options. I do not condone any over the other. I’m just giving you choices, because the demons aren’t right.

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org

https://afsp.org

https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/suicide-prevention/index.shtml

http://www.sprc.org

https://www.helpguide.org/articles/suicide-prevention/suicide-prevention.htm

 

 

 

Sexy Bad OMG

Final SBR Logo

Once upon a time Garrett Frost, bad boy of professional golf, found out he had a two-year-old daughter.

Okay, okay, it wasn’t that long ago. His escapades are still in the media, and his sponsors are all in a tail spin, but his daughter sure is cute.

That’s where I come in. I’m his nanny. The kid’s nanny. Of course, I’m not his. He’s older, my employer, totally off limits. And I can’t forget that, even if he makes me want to fall for him with every lingering gaze, each secret touch.

He’s trying so hard to reform his professional image and be the father his daughter deserves. If anyone knew he was screwing his nanny it’d be all over the media, ruining his sponsorships, and affecting his relationship with his daughter. Or worse, convincing everyone we could be a family.

But Garrett Frost’s family is the game and his daughter. There’s no room for me. So why does it feel like I’ve finally found my forever?

Sexy Bad Daddy Cover_Amazon.jpg

Chapter One

ERIN

“I gotta pee,” I tell my best friend Danny, who nods without taking his gaze off the flat-screen TV behind the bar, where a hockey game is in the last few minutes of the third period. And it looks like St. Louis is winning by a goal. Danny’s not going to be fun to be around if his precious Chicago Black Hawks don’t pull through.

I make my way through a throng of people, most of whom are as focused on the TVs as Danny—did I mention we’re in the playoffs?—until I reach the restrooms located in a far back corner of the bar. After taking care of business, I head back to my drink and my buddy, but I’m waylaid by an arm snaking around my waist.

“Hey, beautiful. Can you do us a favor?”

This Romeo with his paw on my person is good-looking, I guess. He has short, dark hair and a few days’ growth on his cheeks, and a dimple flashes when he grins at me like he doesn’t care that his hand is resting on my hip more intimately than a perfect stranger has a right. I feel the bulge of muscle under his designer golf shirt and note the watch on his slim wrist is Rolex.

I sure as hell can’t afford the labels he’s wearing, but it’s hard not to notice when you’re surrounded by it every day. And when you’re a nanny to the upper-echelon-with-kids, well, let’s just say that some of my charges will, on their sixteenth birthdays, drive far nicer vehicles than I ever will in my lifetime.

The guy seated across from him in the booth has dark hair, too, and wears glasses; Armani, I think. I’m not usually into eyewear, but they work for him.

“Probably not,” I say as I step out of his grip and he flexes his fingers, snagging my belt loop and pulling me back to him.

“Come on, it’s easy,” he says. His partner shakes his head and takes a swig of beer.

“What?” I ask, watching him through narrowed eyes and twisting out of his grasp again. The bar’s packed, so I could easily fade into the crowd at this point, but I’m the adventurous sort, so I stick around.

“I’m Garrett, and this is my brother, Painter.” He waves at Mr. Eyeglasses, who lifts his hand in greeting.

“Painter, like your parents pre-determined your profession?” I ask.

“That never gets old,” the brother says, looking at Garrett instead of me.

“It’s spelled with a Y,” Garrett explains to me.

I clear my throat. “Um, right. Sorry. Nice to meet you guys.”

“No sweat,” Paynter-with-a-Y says.

“So anyway, Paynt here thinks I’m not nearly as good at picking up the ladies as I am,” Garrett says.

“Actually, what I said was, you shouldn’t be,” his brother corrects him. “He sleeps around too damn much,” he explains for my benefit.

I bite my lip to keep from laughing. I’m guessing they’re drunk, or at least Garrett is.

“So tell me,” Garrett says, glancing up at me with puppy dog eyes that no doubt are at least partially to blame for the whole sleeping-around-too-damn-much issue. That muscle tone under his shirt certainly wouldn’t be a deterrent, either.

“I have a boyfriend,” I blurt. Danny’s not remotely my boyfriend—he’s more like my sibling, or maybe the perfect just friend to tag along when you want to hang out at a sports bar—but I need an out here. I know my own shortcomings when it comes to good-looking, older guys who smell like money. Best to put up that wall before this conversation goes any further.

“Too bad,” Garrett says. “But for the sake of argument, pretend you don’t. If I hit on you, would you go home with me?”

Before I decided to try to grow the hell up and get my life on track, the answer might have been yes, but for all the wrong reasons. Not anymore, though. I’m a new woman. A better woman.

“She’s hesitating.” Garrett stabs his finger at Paynter. “Told you. They can’t resist me.”

“You’re such an ass,” Paynter says.

“Nah, I’m living the dream. Just because you’re tied down to a goat and a hot executive doesn’t mean you gotta beat up on my perfectly satisfying lifestyle.”

A goat and a hot executive? I can’t decide if I want to stay and learn more or run away.

“I’m not sure I like you referring to Chloe as a ‘hot executive,’” his brother says.

Garrett lifts his bottle like he’s saluting me. “For the record, it isn’t what you’re thinking.”

“So it’s not something to do with a threesome between him, a woman in a pencil skirt, and an animal?” I ask.

Garrett roars with laughter while his brother shakes his head and mutters something about rumors and a game of telephone.

“I mean, hey, whatever floats your boat,” I add. “I’m not one to judge.” Like I have any right to.

Once he catches his breath, Garrett turns his focus to me again, and I’m momentarily drowning in gorgeous, glassy, blue eyes. Holy crap, they’re beautiful. I take back my “I guess” about this guy being good-looking. Those eyes are straight off a romance novel cover. Does he wear colored contacts?

“So, back to you, beautiful. What’s your name?”

“Erin,” I say before I remember that I’m a changed woman.

“She has a boyfriend, dumbass,” Paynter says.

“Score!” Garrett and Paynter both shout at the same time, and they—along with pretty much everyone else in the bar—leap out of their seats, high-fiving and clunking their beers together. I’m guessing the Black Hawks tied the game.

“Yes,” Garrett yells, and he sweeps me into a hug, one of those full-body embraces, where every inch of me is touching every inch of him. And it makes me tingle in places that are not supposed to feel that way about guys like him. He’s loaded, he screws around too much, and he’s way too confident. Not. My. Type.

Not anymore.

“Boyfriend, remember?” I manage to choke out, my pitiful attempt to convince him to let me go despite my hands clinging to his beefy biceps.

My phone vibrates in my back pocket, and Garrett finally releases me. I tug it out and glance at the screen. “Oh crap, this is my one night out all week, and now it’s getting cut short.”

“Why’s that?” Garrett asks, blatantly looking at my phone.

“The wife of the family I nanny for wants me to call her. Usually, that means they’ve had as much as they can take of their kids and they want me to rescue them.”

“You’re a nanny?” The intensity of his blue-eyed stare makes my insides squirm and wiggle like Jell-O. No, no, no. I don’t hook up with guys like him.

“Yeah. Real glamorous, I know. But it pays the bills and gives me a place to live.”

“I need a nanny.”

Oh shit. Not only is he hot—and screws around too much—but he’s married with kids. Not in a million years.

I wave the phone, which starts ringing. It’s Mrs. Danish. Guess she couldn’t wait for me to call her. “Already employed. Sorry.”

I turn away to answer the call. Maybe if she hears all the noise in the background, she’ll cut me a break and let me stay a little longer.

“Erin?”

“Hi, Mrs. Danish. Sorry, I’m watching the Black Hawks. They just tied up the game, so it’s a little loud right now. I can call you back when I leave.”

“No, that’s quite all right. This won’t take long. You’re fired.”

“Huh?” I twist around so I’m facing Garrett and his brother, like that’ll somehow help me hear her better. Because surely she didn’t say what I think she said. Garrett’s watching me, his brow furrowed, but I’m too stunned to walk away from his obvious curiosity.

“I said, you’re fired. I’ll leave a check for this week’s pay and a substantial severance on the dresser in your room. I’d like you to be out by morning. Actually, tonight would be better.” Her husband is talking in the background, and she snaps at him to shut up.

“Why?” I finally manage to ask. This has been my best nanny gig to date. Mrs. Danish is normally a sweet woman with curly, dark hair and generous curves, while her husband has graying, thin hair and an even-keel disposition. Other than their overfull social calendars, working for them has been a breeze. And let’s be honest: The only person I hang with on the reg is Danny, so even the fact I tend to watch their kids every evening as well as day doesn’t bother me.

Mr. Danish says something again, and his wife’s voice is this low, stage whisper as she says, “It has come to our attention … that you have a history of, er, dallying with the husbands of your employers.”

Well, shit.

“Who was that?” Garrett asks when I tap the screen of my phone to disconnect the call. I don’t answer right away, and he pushes an icy cold bottle of beer into my hand. “Here. You look like you need this.”

I lift it to my lips and chug, letting the carbonated, hoppy drink numb my senses. When I finally stop to catch my breath, I’ve drained more than half the bottle.

“Wow,” Paynter says.

“So, bad news?” Garrett asks.

I stare at my phone. “I just got fired.” I don’t know why I tell him. I don’t know him, and when I leave this bar, I’ll never see him again. I should make my way back to Danny, so I can cry on his shoulder. He’ll tell me I’m an idiot for continuing to try to stay gainfully employed in a profession that clearly doesn’t want me, and I’ll tell him I’ve vested too much of my life into this nanny gig and if I switch careers now, I’ll have to start at the bottom, and who the hell wants to do that after eight years of doing something they love?

“Why?” Garrett says.

“Er…” I can’t tell him why. There’s too much backstory, and besides, it isn’t true. Well, not entirely. I may be into older guys, but even I have my limits. Mr. Danish is nice, but he reminds me of my grandpa. A paunch and a propensity to blather on about insoles are definitely not turn-ons for me.

“So why’d they fire you?” Garrett asks again. I don’t have to answer. I could just walk away. And start updating my resume.

Again.

Instead, I say, “They, um, don’t need me anymore, I guess.”

“And they chose to call you on Friday night to tell you this? Are you getting two weeks’ notice? Did they find a replacement? This seems awfully abrupt, doesn’t it?”

“Why are you so concerned?” I knew I should have walked away. “Look, I need to get back to—”

“Because I need a nanny. I’ve been interviewing them for—how long?” Garrett looks at his brother, apparently waiting for an answer.

“At least a couple months. You’re damn lucky your brother works from home and thinks your daughter is cute as hell,” Paynter says.

“Right. So anyway, I’m curious. What should I be looking for in a nanny? Every one I’ve interviewed hasn’t felt right, y’know?”

“Actually, I do know. You definitely need to click with the person. And so does your child. You have just one?”

“Yeah, a daughter. She’s three. And Paynt’s right. She’s cute as hell.”

I smile. Of course she is.

“So you need someone who’s good with toddlers. Who will get down on the floor and play with them at their level, as well as teach them. Someone who will take her to the zoo and to see Sue, the most complete fossil of a T. rex ever found. At this age, they should get a healthy balance of fun and education to help prepare them for school in a couple years.”

He’s giving me this look, a combination of respect and maybe admiration, and I hope that’s not attraction, too, because this is definitely not going anywhere.

“Anyway, I need to get back to my, er, boyfriend—” I practically choke on the word because trying to picture Danny as my significant other makes me puke in my mouth a little. “So, um, good luck in your nanny search.”

I take another swig of beer and place the bottle on the table before walking away. Garrett calls out, “Wait,” but I ignore him. Given the reason I just got fired from yet another nanny gig, the last thing I need to do is consider offering up my services to a man with bedroom eyes and guns made for holding up a woman while he fucks her against the wall.

Read the rest June 6:

SEXY BAD DADDY

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