Home > Single Dad Seeks Juliet(6)

Single Dad Seeks Juliet(6)
Author: Max Monroe

Another woman with wavy auburn hair opens her mouth, and I cut her off. “Not your mom. Not your sister. No one.”

They all kind of frown, but I charge ahead. “It’s like being on a jury. You are sworn to secrecy over the details until the contest is completely over. And even then, you’ll have to be released from your nondisclosure agreement in order to share anything.”

“What’s the point if we can’t share anything?” the blonde asks again.

“To find love,” I offer. “To meet someone you can spend the rest of your life with.”

“But, like, how would that work? My mom is going to want to meet the guy I marry,” the blonde asserts.

I nod, though I kind of want to smash my head into the table. Really, though, it’s my fault. I should have seen this coming. When there’s this much hair spray in a room, the fumes are at least partially noxious. I should have told Dolly to put them in a room with a window.

“The nondisclosure will almost definitely end after the contest is over,” I begin to explain. “And then, you’ll be free to share your relationship wherever you and your partner like. But it’s an integral part of the contest now. It’s to protect both your and the bachelor’s privacy as you get to know each other.”

Four of five women put their pens to the paper and sign. One, though, she’s a holdout for some reason. To be honest, I can’t tell if she has a genuine problem with those terms or if she’s still trying to make sense of it all in her head.

I take a deep breath, reminding myself that these women have done nothing to wrong me, no matter their striking likeness to Raleigh’s assistant, and smile.

“Is there something I need to explain more?”

She shakes her head but doesn’t offer up any explanation for her hesitance.

“Are you uncomfortable with the terms? You’re free to back out at any time if this makes you uncomfortable, and we’ll fill your slot with another contestant.”

That apparently strikes a chord. She picks up the pen and signs her name at the bottom of the paper.

“Great,” I approve with a smile, collecting the NDAs and filing them in my folder immediately. “Now we can move on to the fun stuff.”

More squeals fill the air, and I reach into the folder, pull out the next round of forms, and mentally brace myself to be stuck in this room of giggly squealers for the next hour and a half.

Lord, please give me strength.

 

 

Jake

 

Music thumps through the ceiling of the kitchen like there’s almost no buffer of drywall and wood at all between one floor and the next, but I’m the one who built this house—I know better. The construction is sound.

That can only mean one thing—my daughter Chloe is trying to communicate with otherworldly lifeforms via her stereo system.

Just another normal Tuesday night.

I smile to myself as I jog down the hall and take the steps two at a time up the stairs to the second floor. I pass a guest room and bath and knock on the closed door on the right with four hard raps. There’s no point in wasting my time with a gentle tap. She’s raving in there—there’s no way she would hear me.

“Chloe!” I yell through the closed door when the volume doesn’t descend to non-rock-concert levels immediately. “Open up!”

The heart-shaking music finally drops in intensity, and a few seconds later, the door swings open to my beautiful daughter’s repentant face. “Uh, hey, Dad. Music too loud?”

I shake my head with a smile and a laugh. “I’ve only just started to bleed from my ears.”

“Sorry,” she apologizes with a giggle.

“It’s fine. I mean, when I go deaf in about five years, you’ll only have your music to blame. But it’s perfectly fine.” I grin, and she just rolls her eyes on another giggle.

I reach forward and tug on the end of her long ponytail. “And it’s time to come down for dinner anyway.”

Something rings on the screen of her iPad, which is propped up on its stand on the desk, and we both look behind her to the source of it.

“Okay, Dad,” she agrees, walking swiftly toward the tablet. “Let me just answer this call from Hailie and tell her I’ll call her back, and then I’ll be down.”

I look at the screen harder, trying to make out the image there. It doesn’t look like Hailie at all, and I’m instantly confused.

“Uh, Chlo?” I prompt.

“Yeah, Dad?”

“Is Hailie dressed like a chicken or something?”

“What?” she asks, turning her head to face me, the screen still ringing.

“I know you said it’s Hailie, but it looks like a guy dressed like a chicken to me.”

She looks back to the screen and bursts out laughing, grabbing her stomach so hard she almost falls to the floor when she glances back at me.

“What?” I ask.

“Oh my God, Dad. That’s not Hailie. That’s my screensaver of Conan O’Brien dressed as The Crazy Rooster!”

Her laughter rings out in peals as she finally does something to answer the call, and a camera screen pops over the man-chicken, putting Hailie’s face in the window.

Ohh.

“Oh my God,” Chloe squeals again, immediately inciting a whirlwind of excitement from her best friend. “My dad just confused you and Conan O’Brien!” she yells toward the screen, and I take that opportunity to make my exit with a roll of my eyes.

“Two minutes, Chlo,” I remind her, and she turns around to nod as I’m shutting the door, still laughing so hard she can hardly breathe.

Jesus, I think to myself. Some days I convince myself that forty is still young. And then, moments like this make it painfully obvious just how old I’m actually getting.

I’m halfway down the stairs on my way back to the kitchen when my phone vibrates in my back pocket.

I pull it out and look at the screen.

One new message: Heather

Ah, the lovely Heather. A flight attendant with an irregular route, she’s been one of the easiest women to meet up with without complication as of late.

She comes into town, we get together if it works out, and then she goes back on her way without any hurt feelings on either side.

I click the box to open the message and see what she has to say—and to remind myself that I’m not exactly dead and buried yet.

 

Heather: Hey, handsome. In town tonight only. Want to get together?

 

Ah, tonight only. I hum to myself before typing out a message in response. Shame.

 

Me: Can’t tonight, busy. Maybe next time.

 

I have a strict rule when it comes to easy sex, and it’s that I never put it ahead of my daughter on my list of priorities. I fit it in where I can, when I can. But I never cancel even the smallest of moments with my daughter to do it.

If she’s busy with friends or otherwise occupied, okay. But spending time with her is more important than any random fuck will ever be.

I make my way back to the kitchen and take off the lid to the pot of rice to combine it with the chicken when Heather responds.

I scan the message quickly, but I don’t feel any guilt or disappointment.

 

Heather: ☹ Okay. Next time!

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