A Previous Engagement

A Previous Engagement by Stephanie Haddad

Book: A Previous Engagement by Stephanie Haddad Read Free Book Online
Authors: Stephanie Haddad
Tags: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
trying to determine exactly what was happening between us. “I got things under control, if you need to be somewhere else. It’s not really a two-person job.”
    Where did he expect me to go? We always babysat Riley together. “No, it’s fine. I was—Can I come in?” His expression contorted briefly but he stepped aside, ushering me into the house. “You don’t mind? I can leave if you’d rather—”
    “No, of course not.” His answer sounded kind, but still his tone was icy. Super. My brain buzzed with explanations. Was he back together with Marcy? Did she tell him she caught me snooping around his apartment, showing him my jacket, left behind as proof? Crap! My jacket! I’d completely forgotten about it. What if I needed it for something and couldn’t get it back from him? Like hell was I about to ask for it, on the off-chance he hadn’t noticed it yet. Dig your own grave much, Tess?
    Riley was in the kitchen, racing toy cars along the tray of his high chair. “Anntess!” he cried happily. “Vroom! Vroom!”
    “He just ate,” Christian said. This was unnecessary, given the dried baby food circling his mouth. I wet a nearby burp cloth and wiped him down.
    “Who’s a big boy?” I asked him, in my official Auntie voice.
    “Riwey!” came his response. Too cute, this little guy.
    A pan of Kendra’s famous macaroni and cheese sat on the counter as payment for our babysitting services. Christian scooped some onto a plate for himself. He was stubborn, but not rude, so he wordlessly offered to serve me as well.
    We ate in silence at the little kitchen table, one of us occasionally leaning over to pick up a car flung wide of the high chair and return it to Riley’s tiny hands. Once in a while, he’d interrupt the silence with a ‘Vrrrrrroooom!’ or an ‘Unc-Kwishen’ for Uncle Christian and an ‘Anntess!’ for me. Between Riley’s outbursts, the kitchen was eerily quiet, brimming with a palpable tension I hadn’t experienced since dinners at home with my own parents. I didn’t like witnessing it and I certainly didn’t like participating in it either.
    “Come on, Riley,” I jumped up, dropped my plate in the sink and unbuckled his five-point harness. Riley reached for me, smiling, and buried his face in my shoulder. He rubbed his eyes and yawned, snuggling against me, the sure sign of approaching bedtime.
    “Where’re you going?” Christian asked with his mouth full.
    “I’ll give him his bath tonight. It’s been a while since we’ve played duckies,” I squeezed him to me. “Hasn’t it, my darling boy?
    “Want me to do story time?” Christian offered, rinsing his plate in the sink.
    “Sure, that sounds good,” I smiled weakly at him, hoping he’d just start talking already. Maybe after the little guy went to bed, we’d get somewhere. “What do you say, Riley? Bath time?”
    “Yay!!” he answered, clapping his hands, and off we skipped to the bathroom.
    After bath time, I dressed Riley in a diaper and his favorite tug-boat pajamas. They were warm fleece, with little feet on them, and looked cozy enough to make me jealous. I often asked Kendra to scout out adult sizes when she shopped for her son’s pajamas. Maybe footie pajamas fight insomnia—how could I know until I tried?
    With Riley clean and snuggly, I turned him over to Christian for story time. They sat together in the rocking chair in the nursery, with Christian holding the book open and his little godson pointing to the pictures. I excused myself to give them privacy, but hung close by the door, mesmerized by the change in Christian’s tone and demeanor the moment it was time to play dad. I listened to him—not in a creepy way—as he read three books to Riley, doing all the voices, and then finally said, “All right, little man, it’s time for bed.”
    Riley yawned in response and didn’t fuss as Christian tucked him in for

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