Baby’s first Christmas featuring Sean, Asher, and Mia from Single (Single Dads book 1)
Set between Single and Today (Single Dads book 2)rjscott.co.uk/read-always
Cap’s nose was sticky with frosting as he finished off Mia’s entire birthday cake on the kitchen floor. It would have been cute to see if it wasn’t the cake I’d only finished decorating a short hour ago. Hell, it would have been cute if not for everything else that conspired to ruin Mia’s first birthday. Like the fact that, for some inexplicable reason, it was raining on what was supposed to be a hot San Diego day, and also that artfully arranged helium balloons were deflating and bobbing on the floor. Also, Sean was stuck at work because the ER had been inundated after a car-meets-storefront accident. Not only all of that but Mia was red-cheeked and fretful, cutting a tooth and chewing her fist, all while clinging to me like a limpet.
What did I do first? Did I shout at Cap and stop him eating? Was there any point in salvaging the cake? It was nearly two-thirds gone, smeared up the cupboard and as I watched in numb shock, the black lab bit off the frosty castle that had sat on top of the grand Frozen-themed cake, then swallowed it whole. No point in shouting now.
I couldn’t stop the rain.
I couldn’t fix the humidity that was messing with the balloons.
I couldn’t stop Mia from teething, or make the pain go away.
That just left Sean, and unfortunately for him, he answered the phone on the first ring.
“I’m just leaving,” he sounded out of breath, as if he’d been running, “I’m nearly at the car.”
Just hearing his voice was enough to make things better. Clever, capable Sean was going to come home and fix everything, and everything that had gone wrong spilled out of me in one long breath.
“Cap ate the entire cake, the balloons are dying, and it’s raining, Mia’s unhappy, and I wish you were here!” I said all of that in a run-on sentence that would have confused even the best of men. Add to that, Sean was coming off a fifteen-hour shift, and I bet none of what I was saying made any sense at all.
“I’m coming home now, babe—”
“Cap ate the cake! The entire fu—fudging cake, Sean. Why is Cap even here in our house?” I wasn’t angry, or pissed, I was just… done with today.
“Because Leo is away on that training course and—”
“That was a rhetorical question,” I said miserably, and slumped to the sofa, with Mia curled into my neck. All my textbook plans for the absolutely picture-perfect birthday had been destroyed in an instant. When I’d gone upstairs to change Mia, the balloons had been hanging perfectly over the bright blue cake, the garden was filled with sunshine, and I’d expected Sean home at three.
Somehow, I’d forgotten to lock up Cap who’d been eyeing the cake ever since I finished the work. It didn’t look exactly the same as the expensive one I’d seen in the window of Kelly’s Cakes but it wasn’t so bad that I would make it into an episode of Nailed It. I’d been proud of it and everything was going so well.
But in the space of an hour it was the opposite of going well, in fact it was bad.
“I’m in the car,” Sean advised, and I heard the noise of the engine. “I’ll be home soon.”
“Love you,” he added, and then the line was dead.
As I stroked her back, Mia finally slept, curled up against me, blissfully unaware that her first birthday party was even happening, let alone ruined by the weather and a dog named Cap.
Talking of the devil dog, he slunk into the front room, tail between his legs, hugging the wall, and then darted past me and out into the yard. If he thought I was going to chase him then he was mistaken. It was my fault—I should never have left the cake where he could reach it, or in fact let Cap anywhere near the kitchen at all.
I was too tired to care—deadlines messed with teething, and this week had been so busy that sleep had been low on the list. Sean, Mia and I were on vacation from tomorrow—five whole days in a villa with a pool—and I’d tried to clear the decks of everything.
Overdone it as usual.
I just needed five minutes to close my eyes and get my head straight before I fixed the mess, but after getting hardly any sleep last night, the moment I closed my eyes I was dead to the world.
“Is he alive?” The murmured words woke me slowly. Eric.
“He’s definitely alive,” a second voice added. Leo
“We should poke him to see,” Eric added.
“I’m not poking him, that’s Sean’s job.” Leo sounded horrified.
I opened an eye to find Eric and Leo standing over me with matching shit-eating grins. Sean pushed past them to take Mia from my arms, and stole a kiss from me while he was at it.
“Up and at ‘em sleepyhead,” he said and offered a hand to help me stand. I took the help, ignored Eric and poked Leo in the chest.
“Your dog… your… dog…” I didn’t have all the words in my head yet, but I knew what I meant.
“Cap didn’t mean it,” Leo said, and stared pointedly at Cap sitting at his side acting as if butter wouldn’t melt. “Did you, Cap?”
“He’s a menace to cakes everywhere,” I muttered, but scratched his ears as I followed Sean through the kitchen, stopping when I saw what was in the middle of the table.
A cake just like the one in the window of Kelly’s Cakes, all blue and white and perfect.
“I ordered it last week as a surprise, but then Sean said you were going to make one, so I put it at our place with no plans what to do next, although Jason and Daisy have had their eyes on it. Good job they hadn’t started on it.” Leo laughed as he spoke, and I him a glance and he bit his lip. He was more serious. “So anyway, it’s the least I could do to bring it over, and Cap is really sorry.”
“Thank you,” I murmured.
“And I fixed the balloons,” Eric added helpfully.
Emotion welled inside me. The cake was nearly the same size as Mia, and the balloons were indeed bobbing gently in the breeze from the ceiling fan.
“Thanks guys,” I said, and then offered fist bumps and bro-hugs before going up to find Sean and Mia.
“Your best friends are idiots but they’re good idiots,” I announced as I watched Sean change Mia from a now drooled-on sleeper to the tiny party dress we’d bought.
“Believe me, I know that.” He threw me an amused glance and then scooped Mia up and danced around the room humming the tune to Stevie Wonder’s ‘Happy Birthday’. How had I got so lucky to have Eric and Leo in my life, not to mention Cap the ever-hungry dog?
And what miracle had happened that I’d met Sean, and we shared Mia, and I was so in love that it hurt?
“I love you,” I stopped him dancing and hugged him and Mia close. “I love you both so much.”
Sean held me and Mia, then kissed the top of my head.
“And we love you more.” He glanced out of the window, “Your family is here, ready to go down?”
“As I’ll ever be.”
We exchanged a quick kiss and then headed downstairs.
Who needed a three-tier princess cake, perfect balloons, and sunshine?
As long as family and friends were there, all you really needed was love.
❤ ❤ ❤
Coming January – Adam and Cameron, in Always – rjscott.co.uk/read-always
NEW THIS CHRISTMAS
Cupcakes and Christmas
The story of long nights in a wintry mountain hotel, a baking show with secrets, a snowman called Jeremy, and finding the greatest love of all.
After winning season four of ratings hit the World’s Best Baking Show, Brody Thomas had become a sought-after cake maker to the stars. Happily married, he dreamed of a bright future, but his perfect life imploded when he discovered that his husband had done nothing but lie to him. A year later, Brody is mid-divorce, and his life has been turned upside down, so being part of the WBBS charity event is excellent timing. He’s sure it will give him time away from home and space to get his head straight, only he never expected to meet the man of his dreams in a snowy Alberta.
Winning season one of WBBS gave Justin Mallory a chance to outrun the demons of a childhood lost in the foster system. He’s a social media influencer, with millions of followers, and works every hour to make money that equals security for the rest of his life. His marketing team signs him up for the WBBS Christmas charity show, but he’s convinced he’ll fall at the first hurdle. Only, after a few days in the competition, his worry isn’t that he’ll be the first to leave, it’s that he’ll lose his heart to a rival baker, Brody.