Nothing, he suspected, would help until he and Dylan had her naked and alone for nearly an entire day.
They would all have to fight the urge to sleep. Sleep had replaced sex as their preferred bedroom activity. He stopped that line of thought cold—if he kept being so pessimistic, what he thought would become what he lived. No. Absolutely not. Of course, it already had become what he lived, but he was not going to let his thoughts rule him.
Mind over matter needed to become hands over thoughts. Hands over Laura’s sweet, creamy skin. Her fingers wrapping around his shaft, their lips mingled in a kiss as his palms explored her body, loving the woman who had brought him so much joy.
Not thoughts of sleep. Fuck no.
His will was stronger than his worry.
When had life become so odd? Even Dylan seemed…diminished somehow these days. Less cocky. Tired. Beaten down. They all were, and as much as he wanted to blame it on the transition to parenthood, something else accounted for it. Even the discovery of Laura’s BDSM reading couldn’t quite make everything add up.
Something deeper was troubling Laura, and the preparations for Josie’s and Alex’s arrival had helped him to understand more.
She was altered. Different. Completely consumed with Jillian and yet it was more than that, as if she were consumed precisely because she was running away from something. It was familiar to Mike, of course—he literally ran away from problems. Pounding feet on pavement took his worries and troubles away. At least for the time he was running.
Laura’s form of running was the baby.
And when you were away from the distraction you used to escape your problems, they all came back in one full, enormous rush.
Were he and Dylan doing more harm than good with their crazy scheme? He hated overthinking plans, but right now his mind raced as he watched Laura talking with Josie and Alex, Jillian resting in her baby wrap on Laura’s hip, reaching out to play with Alex’s sleeve. Serious and frowning, Laura was explaining something about how to warm up breast milk without using a microwave while Josie’s deer-in-the-headlights look visibly increased. Alex was charmed by the baby, whose hair was the exact blonde shade of her mother, Jillian’s little bow lips pouting as she concentrated on accurately grabbing a button on Alex’s cuff.
Mike could watch Laura forever. How could someone so beautiful and loving have found her way to them? Being given a second chance and, now, an opportunity to parent seemed more surreal than becoming a billionaire. The horrors of Jill’s cancer and death seemed somehow cleansed by the baby, as if her little soul were here to wash away grief and sadness. Rich beyond his dreams, deliriously in love, and content with a family of his own making, he found himself pausing and pulling back, watching the scene not from an emotional point but, instead, with his wise mind.
Laura’s nose turned up a little when she smiled. Her cheeks looked like apples when she laughed. The skin at the edges of her eyes folded in a way that conveyed compassion and empathy when she listened. Her body moved with grace and purpose, whether she was changing a diaper or talking to the woman who baked fresh bread for the farmer’s market. From the blonde beauty they’d met online, to the woman timid and fearful they were making fun of her, to the broken-hearted person who’d been too upset to reveal her pregnancy, Laura had shown them so many sides of herself.
And he loved every damn one of them.
So why hide this? Bondage and domination and cravings and control while naked and steamy and full of temptation—how could she think he and Dylan wouldn’t be on board? Give him a collar and some rope and every sex toy you could imagine and he’d be ready, willing, able and hot.
What made her read so much, allow her mind to feed off this, but kept her from telling the two men who were her life partners, who wanted to please her and share every intimate experience you could imagine?
Had they done something wrong?
The questions killed him, ricocheting around like errant fireworks, careening aimlessly but ready to explode on impact, far off course. And then he realized people were speaking to him.
“Helloooo!” Josie waved one arm, the other struggling to put on the baby carrier Laura was offering. “Earth to Mike!”
He ran a hand through his freshly-clipped hair. It felt good to have shorter hair, no beard, and a clean, pressed shirt. What joy the little things in life held. “Sorry. Thinking.”
“Too much of that is bad for you,” Laura joked, eyes panicked. Dylan was loading their overnight bags into the jeep, and he could tell from the tension in Laura’s voice that she was about to—
“C’mere,” Mike said, pulling her into his arms. The sobs poured out. Alex now held Jillian and deftly turned away so she wouldn’t see her mother crying. Finding a blanket, he put it on the floor, and then gently set her down. As Mike soothed Laura and smoothed her hair, he realized he hadn’t been this close to her, bodies touching the full line from shoulder to knee, in far, far too long. Recent hugs had been more perfunctory. Kisses had been simple pecks.
That was far too little.
No more of too little.
They deserved caresses and pats, longing looks and playful smacks, deep kisses in the kitchen, pushed up against the counter, tongues and hands exactly where they should be, holding flesh and promises of rendezvous later in the night between the sheets. He wanted frenzied quickies during naptime and slow baths in the huge Jacuzzi on the deck, the first whispers of snow in the mountains hinting at a winter wonderland, making love beneath an audience of stars in the inky sky.
Watching Alex play with the baby, who was decked out in a red and white striped outfit with hearts sprinkled randomly in the cloth, he closed his eyes as Laura reached up and wiped her eyes, laughing sheepishly. “What’s wrong with me?” she asked. “I want to go away. I need to be with you and Dylan.”
Josie grunted next to them, wide chocolate eyes beseeching as the tangled multi-colored cloth and brass rings of the baby sling twisted her arm behind her. “Is this really some sort of strange sex toy? Because I’m totally tied up now.”
That got Laura chuckling, a genuine sound of amusement that made Mike feel better about having her pull away from him, the loss of the heat of her skin against his making him all the more determined that tonight needed to be theirs—nothing but the three of them.
“Let me unravel you,” she said as she helped her friend align the contraption. Alex turned back and waggled his eyebrows at Josie in a comically overdone lascivious look that made Mike burst out laughing, his body suddenly content. More than content—right. He felt right. Everything would be just fine, he knew, if he and Dylan could get Laura out of her head space and into a more sensorial, explorative frame of mind.