“Yes, Christian?” God, he had a headache.
“The baby colored on the table.”
“Well, good thing it washes, huh?” He ruffled Christian’s — not Chris, his name was not Chris, thank you very much — hair and headed into the kitchen. Maggie sat her booster seat coloring away while Jenny busily ate her blue crayon. It was a good thing they were non-toxic, too. “Out of your mouth, Jenny girl. Maggie, on the paper, not the table. Christian, do you want to color, too?”
“Coloring’s for girls.”
“It is? Nonsense. Art is amazing. Your other options at the moment are reading at the table, clay, or practicing your writing. I need to clean up the kitchen and start lunch.”
Then they were all taking a nap so Slayde could sit for five minutes and go through all the mail, the bills. Good thing he loved Mindy and her kids, or he’d run screaming into the night.
A racket sounded outside. Maybe a motorcycle. After it stopped, there was a knock at the door.
“Christian, can you please keep an eye on your sisters? I need to answer the door.”
“Yes, Uncle Slayde.”
He went to the door, opening it to a stud in leather. “Can I help you?” Lick you all over? Direct you to Austin?
“It’s Slayde, right?”
“Yes, sir.” He held firm to the door. No way was he letting this guy in, no matter how hot the man was.
The guy put his hands on his hips. Shit, he was amazing. “Drake Baltimore. Mindy’s big brother. Are you going to let me in?”
“Nope. Do you have any ID?” He’d never met Drake, somehow. The man tended to visit when he was on vacation.
“ID. Identification. Driver’s license. Military ID. Something with your picture and your name and some way to prove you are you.” Slayde wouldn’t risk these babies.
The guy stared at him for a long moment before pulling out a wallet from his back pocket, opening it, and holding it up to his face. “Happy now?”
“Well, no, but you’re Drake. How can I help you?”
“You can let me in.” Drake was starting to growl now.
“What’s wrong?” He backed up, frowning. “Mindy didn’t mention you were coming.”
“I told her it would be okay, that I’d take care of everything. So I’m here to take care of the kids.” Drake stepped over the threshold, and Slayde noticed for the first time Drake had a bag over his shoulder. “So where’re the rugrats?”
“Take care of the kids?” Oh, he didn’t think so. “They’re having art time and waiting for lunch. You are not disrupting them before naptime.” Who the fuck was this asshole?
“I’m not going to…” Drake snorted and headed for the kitchen. “Hey, Christian! Come say hi to your Uncle Drake.”
The kids stared, all of them, then Jenny started to cry.
“Great.” The kids all looked at Slayde, eyes wide. “You have company, how neat is that? Momma must have forgotten to email and remind us!” He was going to kill someone.
“Christian? I know Jenny’s too little to remember me, but you and Maggie must.”
“Do you remember your uncle? Momma’s brother? He came last summer and you went to San Antonio to see the dolphins?”
“We had cotton candy and alligator on a stick?” For the first time since Slayde had answered the door, Drake looked disconcerted.
Christian came to him, took his hand, and Slayde knelt down. “He’s the one with the motorcycle.”
“Oh…” Christian’s eyes lit up.
“Your mom called me to let me know she was going away and I came as soon as I could.”
But why? And why didn’t she let Slayde know?
Drake stepped from foot to foot. “So uh. It’s lunch time, huh?”
“It is.” Slayde sighed, went to Maggie, who looked stunned. “Peanut butter sandwich, Mags? Or spaghetti?”
“We could go to McDonald’s. My treat.”
“No. No, we can’t.” He shook his head, eyes wide. “Maggie is gluten-free, Uncle Drake, and Jenny is terrified of Ronald. Like hysterical.”
“But I like McDonald’s!” Christian whined.
“Gluten-free? What the hell is that?” Drake grinned at Christian. “I like McDonald’s too.”
“Gluten-free. No wheat. No barley. No buns. No wheat-soaked French fries. No McDonald’s.” Oh, God. What was
the son of a bitch doing here?
“Seriously?” Drake gave him a wide-eyed look. “What does that leave?”
“Food.” He bit the word out. “Peanut butter and jelly, guys?”
Maggie nodded, Jenny threw a crayon, and Christian burst into tears.