Hazel smiled our way. “It looks like she’s comfortable with you.”
“I like kids. I used to help watch James and Leah’s little sister when she was a newborn. Kind of comes naturally for me.”
“Well, I wish I could say the same,” she joked. “Trying to get her to calm down when she’s hollering is a new kind of hell. Do you want me to feed her?”
“I can do it.” I reached for the bottle, and once I started feeding Rosie, she began eating like a champion. It was crazy how the first time I saw her, she’d looked so small and broken in that incubator, but now she was growing so fast, making a big turnover from her rocky start at life.
Hazel sat on the floor in front of us and looked with wonderment in her eyes. “I want to ask why you’re here, but honestly, I really don’t care. I’m just so glad you’re home.”
I smirked. “Me too. Max surprised the band with tickets home for a small holiday break. He said it was a gift for us hitting the Billboard charts. Which . . . by the way, we hit the Billboard charts.”
She grinned cheek to cheek. “Yeah, I know. I read about that early this morning.” She picked up her phone and showed it to me. “I sent you a text message about it but obviously was too out of it to remember to hit send.”
“Ha. No worries. You have good reason to be exhausted.”
“Yeah, but still, I’m so proud of you. Not to sound like a complete creep, but I kind of stalk you guys on the internet like it’s a drug habit.”
“Careful. You can’t trust everything you read online.”
She raised an eyebrow. “That’s funny, because before you said believe everything on the internet.”
“Yeah, well, that was before I saw the dark sides of it.”
“You mean your single bachelor lifestyle and panty-melting skills?”
I cringed as those words left her mouth. “I was hoping you didn’t read that article.”
“That’s the problem with being your biggest fan. I read every article.”
Rosie finished eating, and I moved her to my shoulder to burp her as I kept gliding in the chair. “Listen, Hazel, that whole article was my publicist’s doing. We hadn’t even known it was going to be run that way until it was up. I talked to Max about it and told him it was uncool. I want the world to know about us.”
She shook her head. “I’m fine with it being this way. I get that part of being a rock star is having the sex appeal that makes women melt. In the words of the All-American Rejects, I’m fine with being your dirty little secret.”
I groaned. “But I don’t want you to be my dirty little secret. I want you to be my dirty little public girl.”
A wicked grin fell against her lips as she leaned forward. “I can do a lot of dirty things privately and publicly.”
“Don’t say things you don’t mean.”
“Trust me. I mean it. The minute Rosie goes down, I’ll show you.”
Well, that didn’t sound too awful. As I held Rosie on my shoulder, I felt a wetness moving down my back as realization set in that the baby had thrown up all over my shoulder.
I held her away from me, and Hazel was quick to grab her. “Sorry about that. Gosh, she’s been spitting up like crazy after eating.”
“It’s really no trouble. Vomit happens. How about this. How about you try to get her back to sleep. I’ll go take a quick shower from the long flight, and then we’ll talk about those dirty little secrets you mentioned before.”
She smiled and nodded. “I’ll be here waiting.”
I dashed out of her bedroom and hopped into the shower. My hands moved all over my body, washing up as quick as possible, so I could hurry and get back to Hazel, wishing, praying, and hoping that Rosie was sleeping already.
I headed back over to Hazel’s room, ready to do things I’d only been able to imagine for the past few weeks, and all hope died the moment I saw her lying in her bed, completely passed out while Rosie slept in her crib.
Well then, this is a new hurdle to the relationship.
Instead of bothering to wake her, I crawled into bed beside her, and without thought, she curled her body against mine, just like the good ol’ days. In that moment, I was happy to have something that made me feel like I was officially home again.
“I figured she could wear this,” Big Paw grumbled as he stood on the front porch of my house the night before Thanksgiving. He held a turkey onesie for Rosie in his hands, and he looked so mad about it, but the fact that he even was holding a onesie made him look that much gentler. “I saw it at the store when I went out of town to get some supplies. Figured the girl should have a first-Thanksgiving outfit.”
“I’ll make sure to pass it on to Hazel,” I promised, taking it from him.
He scratched at his beard and muttered a bit before looking back up toward me. “Saw you and the boys on TV the other night. You sounded good. Real good.”
What was that? A compliment from Big Paw?
Little Rosie must’ve been making him soft.
“But don’t let it go to your damn head. You aren’t that good, boy.”
Ah, that sounded more like the grandfather I knew and loved.
“You, Hazel, and Rosie should come over to our place tonight to help Grams with some food prep. Plus, she cooked a meal for you being back in town.”