Home > Hot Stuff(4)

Hot Stuff(4)
Author: Max Monroe

“Oh my God, Hayden!” she yells at her twin, and her dark, chocolate-brown hair fans out behind her with a dramatic flair. “Did you eat a decaying corpse for breakfast? Ugh! You’re so gross!”

I roll my eyes. “Sarah, don’t take forever in there. We’re already late.”

“It’s not like I’ll be able to survive in here for more than a freaking minute,” she snaps back, and Hayden chimes in with his two cents.

“So what if we’re late?” he remarks. “Mom doesn’t want us there anyway.”

“Yes,” I contest. “She does. You kids are important to both of us.”

Hayden rolls his eyes. “Right.”

“Hayden, you are.”

“Save it, Dad,” he tosses out over his shoulder. “I’ll be in the car.”

I heave a heavy sigh and let my head fall back on my shoulders. Divorce sure is fun sometimes. And since our divorce situation is fairly new, most days it feels like the obstacles just keep coming.

I pace the kitchen while Sarah appears to have adjusted to the awful aroma of shit her brother left behind in the bathroom and takes her sweet time.

After a quick glance to my watch, I realize that not only am I running late to drop off the kids to my ex-wife Bethanny, but I’m also running late to the captain’s house, at which I have been invited to Thanksgiving dinner. When he invited me last week, he gave me a huge spiel about San Diego’s Station 18—my firehouse—being like a big family, and you didn’t let your family spend Thanksgiving alone.

It also didn’t help that I’m only on call today for work, not scheduled. My typical three-days-on and three-days-off rotation just happened to give me Thanksgiving off this year.

And truth be told, I’m kind of dreading going to my boss’s house—I would’ve much rather spent Thanksgiving with my best friend Jake and his wife Holley and their girls—but when the captain asks, you don’t say no. Especially, since after welcoming me with open arms, he told one of the other guys, right in front of me, that the real reason he was inviting me was to keep me from getting in trouble like a fucking idiot.

I wanted to decline, but I couldn’t. Saying no would rank right below being late on his list of offenses. I can only hope it doesn’t count when I’m not on the work time clock.

The door to the half bath swings open, and Sarah saunters out like she has all the time in the fucking world.

Like I’m a damn cattle rancher, I herd her through the kitchen and down the hall to the back door to try to influence her to move a little faster. “Come on, baby girl, move like you’re not dead.”

“I am dead,” she sasses. “Long past it. As soon as you agreed to let Hay and me spend Thanksgiving with Mom and her new bucktoothed boyfriend, you killed me.”

I roll my eyes. By God, my daughter can do drama. I cannot even imagine what my life is going to be like when she’s a full-blown teenager. On the other hand, I guess this explains the all-black wardrobe and heavy eyeliner around her midnight-blue eyes—it’s a metaphor for her own funeral.

“You’re not dead. And Blake isn’t bucktoothed. He’s…just got nice, somewhat large teeth,” I hedge. Frankly, I’m Team Blake every day of the week. Having some other guy to keep Bethanny distracted from trying to make my life a living hell has been a godsend to our divorce.

The first few months were rough—tension-filled.

But Blake has actually inserted himself as a buffer, and I’d rather he didn’t move from his distract-my-ex-wife-from-tossing-bullshit-my-way spot any time soon.

Sarah grunts, the way only a girl of her intelligence and cool-factor can. “Right.”

“Sarah—”

“Whatever, Dad,” she cuts me off with a dramatic hand in the air. “Let’s just go.”

I’m not thrilled with all the prepubescent attitude she keeps tossing my way, but because I know it’s not just from hormones, I let it slide. For now.

This moment warrants kid gloves. Not tough love.

“Not whatever, baby.” Grabbing her elbow gently, I turn her back to face me, softening my mouth around the edges. “I know you’d rather spend the day with me, and to be honest, I can even appreciate it. But I know your mother is a good mother. She’s given you her time and her love, and she’s done it in a lot of moments when I was gone for work and I couldn’t. You can’t see it now, but one day, you’re going to want both of us. Together, separately—you’re going to want your mom and your dad to be there for you. So, maybe today you don’t want to spend the holiday with your mom and Bucktooth Blake, and I don’t want to let you because I’d much rather keep you to myself, but one day…one day, you’re going to be glad you did.”

She considers me closely for a long moment—long enough that I actually think I might be getting through.

And then she crushes all of my hope like it’s a bug. “Lay off the Hallmark movies, okay, Dad? Jesus.”

I sigh and look to the ceiling before laughing to myself as she storms out the door. Jesus is right. Jesus is going to need to help me get through the next few years of parenthood, for real.

I grab my keys and phone off the kitchen counter and jog after her, out to my Suburban and toward the unknown.

It’s already a Thanksgiving for the books, and it hasn’t even started.

Swinging up into the driver’s seat, I glance back in the rearview mirror to find Sarah glaring at me. I swear, she was just sitting there, waiting for me to look in the mirror so she could scowl at me.

Honestly, sometimes she kind of scares me.

With a deep sigh, I crank the ignition by pushing the start button and give the engine a brief moment to warm up.

“You know what makes you poop a lot?” Hayden asks into the void as I pull out of the driveway.

Sarah huffs, and I roll my eyes. “Good gracious, how many hours are left in this day?” I mumble to myself.

“You’re kind of tragic, Hay,” Sarah says with disdain. “If we didn’t have a biological bond of twin-dom, I wouldn’t associate with you.”

“Sar,” I chastise.

“He’s talking about feces, Dad. He’s been talking about feces all morning. You can’t expect me to condone that behavior, even if you guys are the inferior gender of the species.”

I grin. The world is in so much trouble when it comes to my girl.

“All right. You’re right. Hay, stop talking about feces so much. But Sarah, you need to change your expectations a little bit.”

“Excuse me?” she scoffs. “I know you’re not telling your only daughter that she should settle for some grunting Neanderthal because that’s how men are, are you?”

“No. I’m not.” I shake my head and take a deep breath. “You shouldn’t settle for anything less than the best. Love, honesty, genuine affection, attention, understanding—those are all things you should expect from any human you decide to give your time to. But you also have to understand that, like it or not, sometimes brains work differently from yours, and for Hayden, his operates on a continuous roll of humor. Some things you might find funny, some you may not. But as long as he’s not speaking derogatorily about another person, he’s allowed to get his kicks in where he wants them.”

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