“I’m gonna go make your soup,” he growls.
I nod, licking my lips, my eyes tracking his movements. I want to lean out of the shower and wrap myself around him.
“Motherfucker,” he mumbles before turning and leaving me standing in the shower.
I hear him as he goes down the stairs and listen as cabinets open and close. I can’t help it; the smile that spreads across my lips gets bigger the louder he becomes downstairs. I can imagine him muttering under his breath while slamming the cabinets.
I finish washing up then get out. I twist my hair in a towel before wrapping up in my favorite robe and climbing back into bed. I turn on the TV just as Mike walks into the room carrying a tray I didn’t even know I owned.
“Where did you find that?” I ask him as he walks around the bed, setting the tray down on my lap.
“Brought it with me.” He smiles. “Ma was over at my place when I called you. She told me what you would need.”
My heart flutters. No one has ever looked after me when I was sick before—not even my ex-husband. He was always too busy. Of course, later I learned that it was difficult for him to be married to me while carrying on a relationship with his girlfriend and her children.
“Thank you,” I whisper, looking down at the tray. Not only did he bring me soup, but he also brought me crackers and ginger ale. I dip the spoon into the soup, coming up with broth and tiny stars. I smile bigger as I swallow a spoonful.
“You feel better after your shower?”
“Actually, yes.” I nod, watching as he takes off his boots and pulls his shirt off over his head. I don’t think I will ever get over the sight of him.
I’ve never had any problems with my weight. My whole life, I have been the same size. Even when I was pregnant with my son, I didn’t gain more than twenty pounds. But Mike’s body is something different altogether. His muscles are defined. You can tell just by looking at him that he takes care of himself.
After he is down to his boxers and his clothes are neatly placed in the large, oversized chair in the corner of my room, he climbs into bed next to me, careful not to spill my soup as he wraps an arm around my shoulder.
“You got the remote?” he asks.
Without thinking, I hand it to him. Then he turns on a football game and kisses the side of my head. The whole thing feels surreal. It feels like we have done this a million times.
“What time do you have to go into work?” I ask him. I don’t want him to leave, but he works nights and being the owner of a strip club doesn’t come with a normal schedule.
“Joe’s got it covered tonight,” he says absently, his eyes focused on the game.
My insides are turning liquid. He is having his brother take over so he can be with me.
“I’ll be okay if you need to go to work,” I tell him, scooping up another spoonful of soup.
“He’s got it, babe,” he says, looking over at me. “The club’s not going anywhere. It’s probably gonna be a slow night anyway, and Joe can handle it.”
“Okay,” I whisper.
“Eat,” he says, his tone gentle.
I nod and finish eating. When I’m done, he takes the tray downstairs only to come back up carrying a plastic shopping bag. When he gets back into the bed, he dumps the bag out and I start to laugh. There is every kind of medication you could think of, from stuff for colds, period pain relievers, and stuff for gas and bloating.
“I didn’t want to have to leave after I got here, so I got a little bit of everything.”
“I can see that.” I smile then start putting stuff back. “I don’t need any of this,” I tell him, handing him the bag.
He takes it and puts it on the floor. I pick up the Nyquil and he takes it from me, opening it and pouring it into the little cup before handing the cup to me. I take it immediately before handing him the empty cup back. He puts the stuff on the table next to him before lying down, pulling me with him.
“Thank you for coming and taking care of me.”
His hands wrap around me tighter and his lips touch the top of my head. “It’s my job to take care of you,” he tells me, and I can hear the seriousness in his tone.
“And I get to take care of you.”
His body stills and he takes a deep breath. “I’d like that,” he says quietly.
I know about his dating history, and I know that he never wanted to get close to anyone again. However, I also know that, even if he told himself that all of his previous bed partners were long term and that he might not have been looking for love, he was not sleeping with a different woman every night. He wanted to connect with someone, but somehow, he never did.
I burrow deeper into his side and angle my face towards the TV.
“Night,” Mike says, his lips resting on my forehead briefly before pulling away.
“Night,” I whisper back. My eyes close completely, and my only thought is that this is the thing I’ve been looking for.
“What the fuck are you doing here?” I hear Brandon say.
I sit up quickly, looking at the open door of my room. My eyes meet my son’s angry ones. Then his go back to Mike, who is now sitting up as well, wrapping an arm around me.
“Brandon Tim, watch your mouth,” I tell him, running a hand through my hair.
“Seriously, Mom, this is bullshit.”
“Mind your mom,” Mike says in a tone I’ve never heard from him before.
Brandon glares at Mike then looks at me. “I’m taking the car,” he states, his jaw clenching.
I start to nod when Mike cuts in. “Ask.”
“What?” Brandon asks, confused.
I hate to admit it, but since my husband left, I have let Brandon do his own thing. I know it’s stupid, but I hate fighting with him. I feel so guilty that he no longer has his father in his life, and sometimes, it’s just easier to go with the flow than to go head-to-head with an eighteen-year-old man-child.
“Ask if you can use your mom’s car. Don’t tell her you’re taking it,” Mike says, not taking his eyes off Brandon.
Brandon’s jaw starts to grind and his eyes cut to me. “Can I use the car?” he grits out.
“Yes,” I say.
Brandon immediately stomps off down the stairs, slamming the front door behind him, and I flop back on the bed and cover my face.
I just shake my head.
“He knows we’re together,” Mike says, and I know he knows, but it’s one thing to know and another to find your mom in bed with a man.