The babysitter arrived promptly at 6 in the morning. A sleepy Tallulah was in the midst of fixing herself a mug of bitter joe when there was a knock at the door. When she opened the door, the beautiful babysitter stood before her with a brown paper grocery bag and a warm smile.
“Good morning, Ms. Edmond.”
Tallulah nodded and greeted, “Morning.”
“I’m Ester Stein, Milo’s babysitter for the day,” the woman introduced.
“Please, come in,” Tallulah said, widening the door for the arrival’s entry.
Ester paused in the foyer and smiled. “Do you mind if I put these things in the kitchen?”
“Be my guest,” she consented.
The babysitter strutted into the kitchen and placed the grocery onto the counter before she shrugged off her leather backpack and unzipped it, retrieving a glossy folder. She presented it to Tallulah, who accepted it hesitantly.
Ester explained, “This is our itinerary, curated profiles of each location with listed kid-friendly activities.”
Tallulah’s eyebrows shot upward as she parted the folder and read the schedule, noting that Milo wasn’t to return home until 8 o’clock at night. “Um, I will only be gone for two hours. Three tops.”
“Oh,” Ester said, smiling nervously. “It was Mr. Bryant that booked this specific timeframe. I, also, sent him the proposed itinerary last night and he approved it.”
Of course, he did, Tallulah thought with a slow roll of her eyes. “In the event Mr. Bryant and I finish our meeting early, is the contact number I can reach you by?”
“Yes, of course,” Ester replied with a nod. “My business card is on the folder pocket.”
Tallulah didn’t even notice the business card, but she hummed her approval at Ester’s headshot taking up half the card. It was a damn good headshot. Much better than hers.
Ester then asked, “The one thing Mr. Bryant he couldn’t confirm was if Milo have any food allergies or dietary restrictions?”
“No, he doesn’t,” she returned.
“Wonderful! I’ll be making silly wheat pancakes with berries, scrambled cheesy egg whites, and turkey sausage links for breakfast,” Ester informed. “Will Milo like that?”
Eating a gourmet breakfast fit for a little king? “I think he’ll manage.”
After exchanging a few more words with Milo’s five-star babysitter, Tallulah went into her bedroom to figure out what she needed to wear for the bloodbath Nick promised. She contemplated on whether she put any effort into her appearance? Even though he was her ex-husband who had seen her at her worst, he was now a hot commodity owned by Hollywood. If the paparazzi were lurking around his home, did she want to look like roadkill waltzing into an A-lister’s mansion?
She cocked up her chin, exhaling sharply as determination coursed through her veins.
Desiree Tallulah Edmond would look flawless.
Trousdale was one of the most exclusive communities in Hollywood. A neighborhood located in the sprawling foothills of the Santa Monica mountains. After the town car was granted entry through the security gates, Tallulah peered through the tinted window in awe as she passed by gated and walled mansions of the famous. Arriving at Nick’s gated driveway, the driver rolled down his window and pressed an intercom button, speaking with the security guard on duty before the electronic doors parted with a cranky hum.
The town car crept down the driveway’s path, easing to a stop in front of a crisp white modern sleek mansion of glass. The driver helped her out and her five-inch ankle-strap wedges clicked against the stone driveway as she sauntered up to her ex-husband’s door, surrounded by lush foliage.
Her phone vibrated in her black leather clutch and she pulled out, smiling at the picture Ester sent to her of a giddy Milo decorating his silly pancakes with chocolate syrup and whipped cream. Her gaze shot up to the door as it inched open, unveiling Nick’s fit physique in a red loose robe and black boxer-briefs. Immediately, she felt very overdressed in her knee-length black frill wrap dress.
She arched a delicate eyebrow. “Did you forget about our meeting?”
“And why do you think I’d forget?”
Tallulah slipped past him, entering his home. “Because you look like a porn star waiting for his fluffer.”
He shut the door and approached her from behind, brushing aside her perfumed tresses. “And you look like you’re dressed for a funeral.”
She tried to pretend as if his closeness didn’t affect there. “You said it would be a bloodbath and if I’m going to kill you, I might as well look good when the police cart me away.”
He chuckled throatily. “If that’s the case, then you’re killing what you’ve got on.”
Her skin tingled at his compliment before she cleared her throat. “So, where will we be having breakfast?”
“On the patio,” he answered, pointing past the foyer and living space to the colossal glass panel door that led onto the sheltered patio.
She glanced around at his dwelling, furnishings, and priceless artwork as he guided her to their meeting table tucked away in the roof’s shade, pulling out a chair for her to sit. With a purse of her lips, she accepted the gentlemanly offer and sat down. An iron skillet rested on an oven pad at the table’s heart.
A laugh escaped her lips before she could stop herself as she looked at the medley of sunny-up eggs, diced red potatoes, green peppers, bacon, and an assload of cheese. “You remembered.”
It was her favorite breakfast thing to eat, but she hadn’t eaten since they were married. On the mornings after he came to her from LA, he cooked it and brought it to her in bed. She always begged him to tell her the recipe, but he teasingly refused. His southern seasoning game was always on-point. When she was pregnant, it was one of the things she constantly craved, but she could never capture the same flavors.
She helped herself to some, spooning it onto her plate. “Is it poisoned?”
“I ain’t gonna off you anytime soon,” he assured as he settled into his spot opposite to hers.
“That’s good to know,” she muttered before she ate a forkful, squeezing her eyes shut and moaning as she savored the blast of the past.
Nick then shot out, “How long as my son known about me, Ray?”
She nearly choked on her food and reached for her flute of mimosa to help wash down her breakfast. “No lube, straight drilling, Nick? Can I eat a little first?”
He repeated in a concise tone, “How long as he known?”
“About three months,” she admitted softly as she used her fork to toy with a red potato. “He asked about you on occasion, but he accepted my weak-ass answers. Then he had a family tree project when he got to third grade and he got a lot more determined to learn about you. He found his birth certificate, did an internet search on your info, and found you.”
The corner of his lip quirked. “He’s smart as a whip. You raised him well, Desiree.”
Her tensed shoulders relaxed. “I know I did.”
“But he needs his father in his life,” Nick said. “He needs a man to look up to. He’s hungry for it.”
She shoved a forkful into her mouth, chewing as she listened.
“My son and I have eight years of making up to do, but in order to do that, his mom and I need to hash out some things,” Nick continued. “Like moving you two here.”
She swallowed hard and let out a shocked laugh. “Excuse me?”
“I refuse to let my son live in that seedy apartment complex,” he declared. “You two will stay here with me. The neighborhood is gated and guarded. This place is over 10-thousand square feet. Plenty of room for the three of us. My interior designer is on standby for a consultation with you and Milo, so your rooms reflect your wants.”
Tallulah stared at him in disbelief.
“And he’s getting transferred out of that school of his too. My assistant has scheduled a few school tours we’ll both attend in the upcoming days,” he stated. “We need a swift turnaround on this.”
She dropped the eating utensil onto the plate and held up her palms. “That’s enough, Nicholas! Yes, you are his father, but what gives you the right to make these decisions without my input? Yanking Milo from everything he knows overnight isn’t good for him. Furthermore, you telling me what I need to do or what I’m going to do is the surest way to getting your ass handed to you on a breakfast platter.”
Nick leaned back in his chair, clenching his jaw. “The moment the media finds out that I have a ‘secret’ son and an ex-wife, they’re going to be swarming out your apartment complex. Lurking around day and night willing to do anything to get a glimpse of Nick Bryant’s secret child and his mother, which puts both of you endanger. Staying here with me in Trousdale will ensure your safeties and our family’s privacy.”
With his presented logic, her anger and frustration bubbled down to a simmer. “Fine, but we can’t stay here forever.”
He reached for his mimosa, cocking a thick eyebrow. “And why not?”
“Yes, the three of us are a family, but Milo and I live a very different life from you. Your filming schedules, press tours, and deciding to jet off to Fiji in the middle of the night is going to be difficult for Milo, Nicholas,” she said. “Plus, every kid wants their parents together, so all of us living under the same roof is going to give him the wrong impression that we’re an item when actuality I have my love life and you have yours.”
His blue eyes narrowed. “You seeing somebody?”
“Yes, I go out on dates, Nicholas,” she said as she reached for her fork once more. “Why? Surprised I can still catch some flies with all this thick honey?”
He eyed her carefully, tilting a head. “Why would I be surprised when I’ve tasted that thick honey and married you, so I could have it all to myself?”
An electrical current blazed through her veins and her breath faltered accordingly, but she got her shit together and sinking her fork into a bell pepper, noting, “Obviously, you got tired of the taste or you wouldn’t have divorced me.”
She embraced the tense silence wafting between them, using the time to polish the rest of her meal and think about his demands.
“While Milo and I stay here temporarily, maybe your realtor has a listing for reasonably priced places for us to stay like a condo or a loft,” she suggested. “We’re a very low maintenance duo. We don’t require much.”
“I want to give him everything and more, Desiree.”
“The only thing you need to give him, Nicholas, is you,” she sighed. “He doesn’t care about materialistic shit. Sure, he wants game consoles and the latest iPad like every other American kid, but other than that, he doesn’t ask for much.”
Nick stroked his beard. “Maybe, he hasn’t asked for much because he knows you’ve never had the means to give him those things.”
She gaped at his audacity before she curled her lip and spat out, “So, that makes me a bad mother because I couldn’t spoil him with expensive things? If that’s your parenting philosophy then you’ve got a lot to learn, sweetheart. Thanks for breakfast and by the way, go fuck yourself.”
Tallulah abruptly rose from her chair and stormed into the mansion, praying that town car awaited her in the driveway.
Nick growled as he tailed after her, seizing her arm and twisting her to face him. “Either you have a terrible habit of jumping to conclusions or you just think that low of me to imply I’d blatantly disregard all the sacrifices you’ve made for Milo.”
“Let go of me now,” she hissed.
He begrudgingly obliged, but he wouldn’t budge from her personal space. Their fiery gazes latched onto each other as their feelings got the best of them. Their chests heaved, teeth grit, and nostrils flared. Her pink tongue darted across her matte black lipstick that coated her plump lips and no more than a millisecond after, he bowed his head, plunged her into a heated kiss. At first, she melted into it. Savored it. Drowned in it. But she came to her senses and in turn she wrenched her head back, snapping the kiss in half and putting a halting hand on his bare chest.
“Stop toying with me, Nick,” she panted. “Obviously, you aren’t in your right mind or you wouldn’t have kissed me twice, but I refuse to let you use me like all the others. As the mother of your child, I deserve a hell of a lot more than that.”
Her dark brown eyes scanned his towering figure with an unimpressed glare. “Plus, after years of screwing women with a body mass index of 19, I doubt you even remember what to do with a full-figured chick like myself.”
His voice darkened in color as he spurred, “Is that a challenge?”
“No, just a factual observation,” she replied, feigning innocence with a bat of her eyelashes.
“How can you make an observation when you haven’t a single clue as to how I handle business nowadays?”
Tallulah crossed her arms. “I saw your sextape with that Instagram model along with the rest of the internet when she leaked it last year. Her yowling like a wounded animal was comedic gold, by the way.”
He smirked. “You seem to know a lot about my escapades.”
“Well, Nicholas, when you have them—which is often—it seems to be world breaking news,” she retorted.
“This whole conversation seems rather one-sided. Don’t you think? So, let’s even the balance scale a little and riddle me this: When’s the last time a man broke your back, Desiree?”
She blinked at the question. “Um, a couple of months.”
If nineteen months could be considered ‘a couple.’
He queried cockily, “At least a year then? Or somewhere around two?”
She rolled her eyes. “Somewhere around those figures.”
“That’s a long time, Ray.”
“When you’re a single mom, men aren’t at the forefront of your mind, Nick,” she countered. “But since you’re in the picture now, I can actually get back into the game using Tinder or something. You and Milo can do some father-son bonding in the meanwhile.”
He questioned tightly, “So you accuse me of wanting to use you, but you’re willing to turn to Tinder to be used?”
She cocked her chin up. “Yes.”
He narrowed his eyes. “Pray tell why?”
“Because if I meet a guy on Tinder, I don’t have a kid with him,” she began. “He wouldn’t be my ex-husband. I can fuck him and walk away without complicating things. He won’t be one of the hottest bachelors in Hollywood or my co-star in Eugene Aaron’s next film. He won’t want to sleep with me because he’s severely depressed and has been reminiscing about the good old days before his fame and riches. Take your pick, Nicholas.”
Nick crossed the slither of empty air between them. “You think I’m depressed?”
Tallulah stood her ground.
“How else would you explain the kiss in my kitchen last night or the other one moments ago? You’ve obviously got mental health issues going on in your life if you’re trying to sleep with your ex-wife who’s one bowl of turtle tracks ice cream away from busting out of her size-eighteen jeans, especially when you have the entire female population at your fingertips,” she said matter-of-factly. “You gotta be.”
He circled her like a predator, situating himself behind her and it took every ounce of her strength to keep her eyes forward. She stared out past the glass windows, the patio, the wide pool that stretched to the end of the foothill’s crest, and the breathtaking view of downtown Los Angeles glittering in the sun.
A whole world away it seemed.
Now, she was in a completely different universe and he was the king of it.
Nick brushed her hair aside for the second time that morning and leaned in, grazing his lips against the rim of her ear. “According to you, I’m depressed for missing the taste your lips and the feel of your tongue against mine. According to you, I’m depressed for aching to have your thighs hug my head while I eat your pussy like it’s brunch time. According to you, I’m depressed for wanting to put you in positions you didn’t even know you’d qualified for.”
Her eyelids fluttered shut, she chewed on her bottom lip, and swallowed down a moan, her body strumming to life with his words. She shuddered as his hands slid down her curves then toward the knotted tie that held her wrap dress taut.
“Why settle for wax fruit anymore when I sink my teeth back into plump sweet fruit, hm?” His teeth gently caught her earlobe, nipping it which made her whimper helplessly.
“I know I hurt you in the past, Desiree,” he said, “and I’m trying to make up for that. Let me start by taking care of you.”
He undid her tie with careful fingers and her dress fell loose. His rough hands roamed her brown skin. Her desire for him was starting to get the best of her, but she still had a clear enough head to issue a forewarning. She already let him break her heart once. She refused to let him do it again.
She declared in an airy whisper, “This is strictly sex and nothing more.”
His hands halted and she took it as an opportunity to turn to face him.
“Nothing more, Nicholas,” she repeated carefully.
Tallulah Edmond slept with her ex-husband plenty enough to create a whole child and yet all these years later, she felt vulnerable as she laid in his California king size bed. An irony not lost to her as Hollywood treated him like the king of California. As if sensing her unease, his hand slipped into his robe’s pocket and brought out a silver flask, tossing it to her. She unscrewed the cap and took a few gulps of Kentucky whiskey, coughing as it went down.
Her chest heaved as the burn slithered down her throat and seeped into her bloodstream, warming up her insides and relaxing her nerves. She closed the flask, her head swimming with lightness.
“I forgot how much you loved whiskey,” she confessed with a slight slur. With drooped eyelids, she watched as he knelt before the bed and undid her footwear’s ankle-straps, plucking them off and letting them clomp to the tiled floor.
“I forgot how much you’re a lightweight when you drink it,” he returned with a throaty chuckle.
“The only instance where I’m light in anything,” she giggled as she sat up, reaching around her back to unclasp her bra and tossing it to the side.
His blue eyes darkened as she unveiled her breasts. She laid back down, slid her eyelids shut, and rested her arms above her head, offering herself to him.
She felt his weight dip into the bed and his body nestle between her legs. She shivered as a rough tongue dragged from her belly button and up to her breast, an eager mouth latching onto her nipple. She arched the small of her back as he teased the hardening peak with suckles and licks. Her lips fell wide and she gasped sharply. Catching the bud with his teeth, he tugged it gently before he released it, pulling himself back.
Nick took it upon himself to peel off her panties, forcing her to lift her full hips to help him along. He came back to her, leaving a trial of bites and licks down her plush body—his hands roaming and groping her skin and curves. Her head lolled to one side as his head found its way in between her thighs, his tongue burying itself in between her pussy’s lips and steering it from south to north with the flat of his tongue. The palms of his hands gripped the underside of her quivering thighs, keeping them opened wide for his invasion.
“Nicholas,” she drew out a groan as his tongue greeted her clit with a greedy lick.
He answered back with a deep growl, covering his mouth over her clit and assaulted it. A hand shot down to grip a fistful of his hair, hanging on as it rode the rhythm of his head as he ate her wet core. Her neglected clit welcomed the attention, swift pleasure twisting into knots within her. She squirmed and writhed underneath the command of his mouth, her heavy breasts jiggling as she struggled to breath.
Tears escaped the corners of her shut eyelids as she endured an exquisite ecstasy she hadn’t felt in such a long time—since him. When his teeth nipped her clit, she cried out, relishing the entangled sensations of pleasure and pain. He did it over and over, driving her crazy. She thrashed her head from side to side.
Another bounding leap to an escalating orgasm.
He soothed the ache with hard sucks and lazy licks that set her body afire.
He breathed out in between his licks. “You could always handle how I like it, Ray. No woman could take what I’ve got to give like you could. You remember how mean I can be in bed, don’t you?”
Nick caught her clit with his teeth, drawing it back into his mouth’s warmth. She rocked herself against his face, wanting more of his meanness. He tortured her again, relentless in his masterful technique. The arrival of her climax was a pointed gasp that gave way to a sob of rapture, tears streaming down her cheeks. As she panted heavily, she gazed up at the ceiling, her eyesight blurry and stinging while he lapped up her release and slithered a hand to her right breast. Squeezing and kneading the fleshy mound, tweaking and plucking her nipple.
Nothing more was what Tallulah told him, but as she laid in her ex-husband’s bed bathed in the morning sunlight and the distinct afterglow of an orgasm, she realized she was dead wrong.
She wouldn’t be going home in three hours tops.