Home > Single Dad Seeks Juliet(8)

Single Dad Seeks Juliet(8)
Author: Max Monroe

Man, I make it a point not to judge people or relationships that don’t involve me, but Garrett’s wife Bethanny has proven to be a heartless shrew on more than one occasion. He’s worked so hard to make it work, but at a certain point, I’m just not sure it should work anymore.

“I could go with,” Chloe offers. “Play buffer and stuff. Maybe Sarah will end up with more of what she wants that way.”

Garrett leans over and kisses Chloe on the top of the head, and I smile at my girl.

“That would be amazing, Chlo. Sarah would love that so much.”

“No problem! I don’t need an excuse to shop.”

I laugh. “Isn’t that the truth.”

Chloe waggles her eyebrows at me, and I don’t have to think twice about the motive.

“I suppose I could give you an allowance to spend on yourself while you’re there. Just to make the reasoning credible.”

Chloe squeals, jumps up from her seat, and runs around the table to give me a kiss on the cheek. “Woo-hoo! Thanks, Dad!”

Without waiting, she heads for the den to do what I have no doubt is a massive amount of online “pre-shopping,” as she calls it. As I understand, it’s intended to make the actual shopping easier and more efficient when she gets to the store.

I usually just take the shortcut of doing the pre-shopping and leaving it at that. They deliver clothes these days, and it’s amazing. I haven’t had to set foot in the mall to shop for myself in years.

Just like that, dinner with Chloe is over.

I sigh, but I focus my energy on tonight’s uninvited, but always welcome, guest.

“So, what’s up, man?” I ask, knowing that even being the pain in the ass he is, he wouldn’t be here if there weren’t something bothering him at home.

Garrett shrugs at first, ignoring the question, so I take the opportunity to get up from the table and go to the fridge to get each of us a beer.

When I return to the table, I set it in front of him with a resounding thunk. “Come on, man. Talk.”

He scrubs a hand down his face and then sits back, putting the bottle to his lips for a swig before complying.

“She’s just giving me shit about work. I’m supposed to go up north for a couple weeks, battling those two big fires that are approaching the national forest. She says I’m abandoning her and the kids.”

Fucking hell.

“Dude, you know that’s bullshit.”

“Of course I do,” he agrees. “And it’s not like I really get a choice. The captain says we’re going…we’re going. You know?”

I nod. I’ve known Garrett for nearly fifteen years, and being a dedicated firefighter is truly one of the things that makes him tick. Even his beloved facial hair—I’ve never seen a man love sporting a beard more—takes a back seat to his commitment to the job. In fact, that’s usually how I know his schedule—if he’s sporting a beard, he’s on downtime. And his family has always been the most important thing to him, but he doesn’t have a normal nine-to-five job. Bethanny just never seems to understand that—and she’s been with him longer than I’ve known him.

“Anyway, she’s at the spa. Said if I wasn’t going to make her a priority, she’d just do it herself. I dropped the kids at the movies and headed over here.”

It’s hard to hold my tongue anymore. Shit like this has happened one too many times, and I’m getting tired of watching my buddy get treated like he’s a piece of garbage. “Look, man. You know I back you one hundred percent. I know you’re fighting for this. Trying your best. But at what point is enough enough?”

He shrugs. “I am gone a lot. I…don’t want to be insensitive to that.”

“You’re gone for work when you have to be,” I reassert. “Every other moment, you’re home being a husband and a father.”

“I want her to do what she needs to do to feel whole. If she needs to go to the spa, I understand.”

“Yeah, Garrett,” I say gently. “I get that. I’m all for it. Self-care, whatever. It’s not about her going to the spa or buying shit or any of that. It’s about how she treats you, dude. There are ways for her to communicate her needs that don’t shit all over who you are as a human being, you know?”

He looks at me for a long moment before one corner of his mouth cracks into the curve of a smile. “Maybe I should be paying you to be my marriage counselor.”

I smirk. “You’d never be able to afford me.”

He snorts.

I raise my beer bottle in front of me in a sort of shrug. “I’m not married, dude. So, I guess you have to take what I say with a grain of salt. But it seems to me the principal of a relationship should be pretty cut-and-dried. It’s both give-and-take. Not just one or the other. And I haven’t seen Bethanny give you much of anything other than a headache and blue balls in quite a fucking while.”

He doesn’t say anything, just pulls at the label on his beer bottle as he considers my words.

“Now, come on,” I say, cutting into his thoughts. “You interrupted dinner, so now you’re going to buy me dessert on the way to pick up your kids.”

He nods with a smile and stands up to carry his plate to the sink while I yell for Chloe in the den.

“Chloe! Get your shoes! We gotta go!”

“Where?” she shouts back but makes no move to come out from behind the closed den doors.

“To grab some ice cream and pick up the twins with Uncle Garrett.”

“Um…hello? I’m a little busy in here!” she retorts, but after only a few seconds of silence, she adds, “But I could be convinced into going if we get froyo!”

“Yeah. Sure thing, Chlo.”

“What the fuck is froyo?” Garrett asks and I shrug.

“Hell if I know.”

“It’s frozen yogurt, Uncle Garrett,” Chloe chimes in, already heading into the mudroom to grab her shoes. “Sheesh. You guys need to learn the lingo.”

“Is it just me or do teenagers make you feel really damn old?” Garrett asks and I laugh.

“Preaching to the choir, dude.”





Now would be a fantastic time to put on your big-girl panties and get out of the car, my mind sasses me as I stay rooted in the driver’s seat of my parked car.

Instantly, I lean my head back against the headrest and force myself to inhale a big, cleansing breath.

For a Wednesday morning, this is the very last place I want to be—sitting in a public parking lot in front of Coronado Beach, moments away from attempting to find Jake Brent.

Holy moly, talk about insane.

The rearview mirror taunts me, and it doesn’t take long before I meet my reflection again and check my makeup for a third—or is it fourth?—time. I doubt much has changed since I last looked a minute and a half ago, but my nerves are acting like this is a Fourth of July fireworks show.

Pow, bam, sizzle!

Any more of this, and they’re going to drag me out to the barge in the Hudson River to be a part of the television broadcast display.

Not that I know much about the Hudson River and New York City. I’ve only ever been twice, and after growing up in the Midwest with my dad, I ended up choosing the West Coast over the East. Once I graduated from my small-town high school, I headed for the bright lights of Southern California to attend college at San Diego State.

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