The man is massive, making the tiny baby look even smaller against him.
“Who is this?” I ask and point to the baby.
“This is our new baby brother,” Josie says proudly and Caleb smiles kindly down at me.
“The program was great,” Brynna says. The new mom looks fantastic.
“Thank you. When did you have him?” I pat his little diaper-covered bottom, but stay back. Babies kind of scare me.
“A month ago,” she replies and gazes lovingly at her son.
“His name is Michael,” Maddie says.
“That’s a great name,” I reply. “Congratulations, you guys.”
“Thank you,” Caleb replies and kisses his son’s head. Geez, all these hot men with babies are making me squirmy.
I turn to look for Jax and instead find Mark walking toward the exit. He’s going to leave without saying goodbye again? I shouldn’t be disappointed, but I can’t help it. But then, as if he can sense me, he turns back and smiles at me, nods and points to my pocket where my phone is, and disappears through the door.
“So, tell me about Mr. Hot Tamale,” Jax says and passes me the vinaigrette dressing for our salads.
“Don’t play coy with me. That tall drink of water you were talking with today. He was the same guy at the funeral.”
We settle in the living room, me on the couch and Jax on the floor with our grilled chicken salad and water.
His fork stills midway between his plate and mouth and he stares at me. “He’s that Mark?”
“The one and the same,” I reply and take a bite of salad.
“I knew I couldn’t get lucky enough for him to be gay.” He shakes his head in disgust and continues eating. Jax is a hot guy. Tall with dark hair and eyes, chiseled face and body. He’s perfect physically, even at thirty. He could have kept dancing another year or two but he chose to retire and come back to Seattle with me when Mom got sick last year.
He’s also the best friend I’ve ever had. We met my first week in New York and we’ve stuck together ever since. We’ve been through everything together: Auditions. Gigs. Lovers.
All the drama that comes with the dance world.
He’s my brother in every way that counts.
“He’s definitely not gay,” I mutter and drink half the water bottle in one guzzle.
“He’s into you,” he says and watches me closely.
“Used to be, Jax. Used to be.”
“No, he is.”
I raise my eyebrows and stare at him like he’s crazy. “He doesn’t know me anymore.”
“He’d like to get to know you again, sugarbaby.” He points his fork at me and keeps talking with a mouthful of food. “Trust me. I know what a man in lust looks like.”
“I’m sure you do, man whore.”
“Only because it’s true.”
Jax laughs and shrugs. “Okay, it’s true. So, see? I know what it looks like.”
I finish my salad and set the plate aside then pull my hair up in a ponytail with my hands and lean my head back on the couch.
“Mark and I were a long time ago.” Yet when I’m standing next to him, it feels like yesterday. It feels like home.
“I saw that look of mutiny in your eyes today when you thought he had a wife and kid,” Jax says and sets his plate aside.
“It was just a gut reaction,” I insist but Jax shakes his head.
“You gave a shit about him, Mer. You still do. Just admit it.”
I blow out a long breath and hate the heaviness I feel on my chest. “I do.”
“Do you know how to contact him?”
“He gave me his number today,” I reply absently and pick at a string in the cushion of the couch. “I don’t know if I should call him. We were kids, Jax. Babies. It was forever ago.”
“So what?” He shrugs. “You’re not babies now. If you still feel something, why not call him? Get to know each other. Maybe you’ll discover that he turned into an asshole and you can put the whole thing to rest.”
“He’s not an asshole,” I reply with a laugh. “That I know for sure. Mom wouldn’t have loved an asshole.”
“Look, the way you explained it to me that time we got drunk and poured our hearts out to each other that night we both blew the Annie audition, you were the one to break his heart, not the other way around. So, if he’s willing to give it another shot, maybe you should give it a shot too.”
“Who are you? Dr. Phil?”
“I’m much better looking than Dr. Phil,” he replies. “Don’t insult me.”
“I’m busy with the studio now. Business is crazy and I’m taking on more one-on-one clients too, and you’re starting that choreography job at the university soon.” I sound like an idiot to my own ears.
“Is it the sex you’re worried about?” he asks with a smart-assy frown. “Here, I’ll help. Sex 101.”
“Stop it.” I giggle and kick out at him, missing him by a good eight feet.
“How to give a hand job.”
“Stop talking!” I am laughing hard now, loving Jax for being fun and hilarious.
“Step one: use your mouth.”
“Oh my God!” I laugh and laugh and Jax joins me, flashing that perfect, white smile.
“I’m not worried about the sex.” Not very worried.
“It’s been a while for you. I understand.”
I stick my tongue out at him and watch as he starts to laugh again.
“I’m so happy that I amuse you.”
“You do, cupcake. You really do.” He takes a deep breath and then sobers. “Call him. You could use a little excitement in your life.”
“Maybe.” I pull the throw pillow against my chest and sigh. “I’ll think about it.”
“Think about getting some new throw pillows while you’re at it. Those are hideous.”
“I told you that we could go furniture shopping whenever you want.”
“Okay, we’ll go this weekend then.”
I nod, then climb to my feet and stretch my arms over my head. “I’m going to take a shower and call it a night.”
“Running with me in the morning?”
“Yeah. Wake me up.”
“Set your fucking alarm. You throw shit at me when I wake you up.”
I wave at him and walk away without answering. He’ll wake me up. He does every morning.