With the set up she was about to discover, there was no way she could stay in her own mind.
He and Dylan had put a lot of effort into that.
Laura unraveled Josie and was poring over a four-page, single-spaced, handwritten set of notes, complete with diagrams and charts, for how to take care of Jillian for the next eighteen hours.
Josie shot Mike a look that said, Kill me now.
He shrugged. She mouthed, You owe me.
No kidding, he mouthed back.
“You guys taking mime lessons?” Dylan asked, hands full of Laura’s purse and her coat.
“Done packing?” Mike asked, avoiding the silly question.
“We’re ready to go!” Dylan replied.
Laura looked up, eyes wide, hands reaching for Jillian. Alex gently transferred the babbling baby to her mother. Laura’s half smile vanished, her cheeks going pale, as the moment had come.
She had to trust Josie and Alex to watch the baby.
But most of all, she had to trust Mike and Dylan to go back to that time when it had just been them. To give herself a portion of a day to be Laura. Just Laura.
They wouldn’t be Mommy and Daddy and Daddy and roommate and errand runner and burper and diaper changer and breastfeeder and soother.
For eighteen hours they would be Mike, Dylan and Laura.
Mike hardened at the thought.
“If you huff the baby’s head any harder you’ll make her go bald, Laura,” Josie said as Laura sniffed Jillian’s head. Inhaling deeply, Laura used the gesture to center herself. This really was ridiculous. Everyone would be fine.
Josie wrapped her arm around Laura’s shoulder and squeezed. “We really will be fine. Just hand her over and go have fun with your guys. Get your groove on.”
Groove? Was this the ’70s? The comment made Laura laugh again, and Josie took the opportunity to slide her hands around Jillian’s little striped ribcage, expertly guiding her little feet through the baby wrap and—voila! The baby rested on Josie’s hip as she tightened the cloth to secure her on.
“That was perfect!” Laura gasped, genuinely impressed.
“Gah!” Jillian gurgled in agreement, bright eyes turning to Laura, then focusing on the ends of Josie’s hair.
Warm fingers slipped through hers. “Let’s go,” Mike urged, pulling gently. With feet feeling like concrete, she lurched along next to him, feeling both heavier and lighter with each step away from her little girl. As they crossed the threshold, she willed herself not to look back, knowing the baby might cry.
Instead, it was Laura who cried as they walked to the Jeep. Dylan was standing next to it, arms outstretched toward her. As his arms enveloped her, the scent of aftershave and his musk mingled in her senses as she inhaled, throat shaky.
He smelled so good. So man.
And all hers.
A dull ache emerged deep inside, a desire for something she hadn’t even thought to want in a very, very long time, emerged with such force she closed her eyes and tried to hold it back. It was too much, too fast, and too hard.
And…so was Dylan.
Her hand, as if driven by a will of its own, slid over his hip and down the front, fingers finding the outline of his straining erection against his pants. His sharp inhale pleased her. Ah, yes—this power. She’d forgotten about the thrill of arousing a man, how a simple caress could drive him to a frenzy, the promise of more and the tease of not now so intoxicating.
Knowing they could complete whatever she suggested pleased her, too.
A sharp stab of doubt hit her as he leaned in for a kiss.
Her hands found the same man she’d first touched fifteen months ago. What did his hands find when he reached for her? A very different Laura, with a body that had changed too much.
She was too much.
And just like that, the light turned off inside and she pulled back, leaving a very confused Dylan. Mike, thankfully, saved her.
“Let’s go! The minutes are ticking, and we have a surprise for you, Laura,” Mike said, voice a little too tight to be cheerful as he slid behind the steering wheel. His eye cut to the rear-view mirror and met Dylan’s, in the back seat. They both seemed to alternate between compassion for her and ruthless efficiency. She couldn’t blame them; they were probably worried she’d back out. She dutifully buckled herself into the front passenger seat, and as the Jeep peeled out of the driveway, gravel kicking up and pinging against the sides of the vehicle, all three shared a huge, deep, loud sigh of relief.
“My God, we did it!” Laura laughed. Each foot away from the cabin made her feel conflicted, yet she breathed easier. Maybe the conflicted feeling was what she thought she was supposed to feel, and not actually what she really felt. An entire day with no baby attached to her seemed unreal.
Leaving the cabin behind felt like a kind of escape, too. It wasn’t that she didn’t go out; she and Jillian went to stores, shopped, played at playgrounds, and took a weekly baby swimming class. But this was different. And as Mike’s hand snaked across the gear shift to hold hers, she remembered that her guys were waiting with bated breath to get into bed and unleash some pent up desires, too.
When had she become “that woman,” the one who wasn’t interested? Every sex toy you could imagine had once lived in her bedside table, and her rich inner fantasy world had created sex positions that just plain old defied the laws of physics. She, Mike and Dylan had collectively explored about half of those—and now…nothing. She was happy to please them, but not really interested in being pleased.
Why? What had changed?
Within five minutes, Mike was pulling in to a small driveway at the edge of the ski resort. “What’s this?” she asked, curious. “I thought we were going in to the city for the night.”
“It’s a surprise,” he said in a low, suggestive voice. As the road narrowed, the brown leaves clinging to trees that should have released their burden by now, large pines appeared, tall and foreboding.
And then—a tiny cabin, the size of a turret, with a winding staircase around the outside. Made of unfinished timber, it looked like a fairy cottage, delicate and sturdy all at once, like a handcrafted home out of a fantasy movie.
“What is this?” she marveled. The cabin was two stories, but small. A wall of glass faced south, and she could see a small deck near what appeared to be the front door. On the deck sat a wooden hot tub, like something you’d see in Finland.
“A new property for the resort. We’re testing out little eco-cabins, to see if we can encourage ski tourism.”