Lettie Osbourne has lived her whole life by the book. Sweet, predictable, and certainly not living life on the edge, she’s always been content to make a living as a kindergarten teacher who writes adorable children’s books on the side. After her fiancé leaves her, Lettie decides she is perfectly content to accept her fate as mother to her beloved dog Odin and favorite auntie to her niece and nephew.
But then everything changes.
When Lettie’s publisher decides to sell only erotica, her editor convinces her to turn up the heat and throw some spice into her vanilla life. Lettie sets out to find the perfect man to inspire her writing...and finds him in her school’s vice principal, Eric Clayman. As Lettie and Eric grow closer and her writing gets steamier, she’s left wondering: is Eric Mr. Wrong? Or Mr. Right?
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Seeking Mr. Wrong
I GREW UP in Westborough, Connecticut, but who cares. Nothing has ever happened there, unless you count that time someone spray-painted the sign that reads Now Entering Copper Hill to read Now Entering Poop Hole. The town was scandalized. My mom clutched her pearls when she saw it. Copper Hill is the highest-rent district of Westborough, the neighborhood where you find manicured lawns, trophy wives, and sports cars. The vandalized sign was replaced within a week or two, but sometimes when I drive to Copper Hill, I miss it. I’m much more of a Poop Hole kind of girl.
My sister, Faye, and her husband, Winston “Win” Henry Milbank III, live in Copper Hill in an old gray colonial with five bedrooms and a driveway that loops at the top so they never need to perform a three-point turn. Their first floor is painted entirely in colors named after food items: buttercream (dining room), sage (guest bathroom), Wellfleet oyster (family room and entryway), marzipan (kitchen). Their lawn is nipped and tucked and hand-combed to resemble Astroturf. I guess it’s a pretty expensive look, because Faye once complained to me about Win’s war on grubs.
“I swear he’s going to exhaust the kids’ trust funds if he keeps it up,” she said. “But he’s committed to annihilating them.” Then she sighed and lifted one shoulder. “It’s the best lawn on the block, though. It’s worth it.”
Faye is at home in Copper Hill.
Everything you need to know about me and Faye is displayed in this picture my parents have from the one and only time they forced us into the Sears Portrait Studio. I’m sure it seemed like a good idea, and also that Mom had a coupon. She bought us matching red plaid dresses with frilly white collars and told us to make sure we didn’t blink. To me, that meant widening my eyes as much as I could, and in every proof I have this wild, slightly horrifying stare. But I didn’t blink.
Faye was thirteen years old and already attracting the attention of older men. They would stop us at the grocery store and look her up and down, saying, “You’re how old?” Then we’d hear what a knockout she would be when she reached eighteen. Faye could’ve paid her college tuition catching pedophiles. The police could’ve set her by a concealed pit, waited for a pervert to come along, and pulled her away at the last second. She is gorgeous, with a heart-shaped face, clear blue eyes, and long, silky, straight blond hair. In that photo she has this self-assured smile on her face because she already knows it.
Then there’s me. I was ten and I’d just had my braces put on. I’ve got wide eyes and I’m grinning like a damn fool, but I have no teeth to speak of, only metal brackets and swollen gums. I have impossibly straight brown hair that hits my shoulders. It’s not chestnut, or amber, or whatever other shades are reserved for romance heroines. It’s brown, like the fur on a field mouse. It doesn’t crest or grace my shoulders, either. It arrives at them uninvited, decides it has nowhere better to be, and hangs out. So in the photo I have a full-on metal grimace and the haircut equivalent of a lazy drunken relative, and I’m standing next to my gorgeous sister and looking in the wrong direction with overwide eyes. Mom displayed the picture on the mantel, but she was kind enough to use a different photo on the Christmas cards that year.
Let me put it this way: No one was surprised that Faye went on to marry a lawyer and live in Copper Hill, while I teach kindergarten, write children’s books, and just got dumped by my gay fiancé two days shy of my wedding. Our destinies were written in that Sears Portrait Studio.
FAYE CALLED ME while I was contemplating my crotchless jeans, which I’d found on the floor of my bedroom next to Odin. “Hello?”
“Lettie? It’s Faye. I need you to watch the twins for a couple of hours tomorrow afternoon.” Faye doesn’t ask for things. She calmly explains what needs to happen. “I’ve got parent orientation for their kindergarten. You should stay for dinner. I’m making a roast. Grass-fed.” The roast was added to sweeten the deal, I suppose.
“I thought Dad was watching them.” I held up the jeans and frowned at the yellow Lab sprawled out on his bed. Odin thumped his tail happily.
“Dad and Sadie have other plans. Sailing or something.”
No surprise there. Dad is a semiretired trial lawyer who loves sailing. His other interests include whiskey, cigars, and marrying and divorcing younger women. Sadie is his fourth wife.
“Sure, I’ll be there.” I looked down at my ruined jeans. They had been my favorite pair. “But I don’t know about dinner.” The next day was Wednesday, the day before the convocation at school, and I had my end-of-summer routine. I’d scheduled a hot bath with a glass of red wine and an evening of trashy television. “I have school on Thursday. Plus, Odin gets lonely.” He lifted his head at the sound of his name.
“You have to eat, Lettie. The dog will be fine. Come over, bring the new Sweet Pea book. Portia and Blaise would love to hear it.”
I started writing children’s books a few years earlier to use in my classroom. Mostly I use them to teach social graces, so my first is entitled Say Hello, Sweet Pea! and the next one is Sweet Pea Loves to Share. I’ve published five so far, each of them involving a little girl who lives with humans but has a peapod for a body. Back when we were still engaged, this bugged the hell out of James. “A sweet pea is a flower,” he would explain. “You’re confusing sweet pea, the flower, with sugar snap peas, the legume.”
“James, she’s a human head on a peapod body. Do you really think my readers expect realism?”
I claimed artistic license then, and I do to this day. Though to be fair, a few gardeners have left single-star reviews for this very reason and suggested that someone teach me something about horticulture.
“Thanks, Faye. I’d love to share my new manuscript with the kids,” I said. “I’m having lunch with my editor on Saturday, and I want to be able to tell her that my book has been test-driven by actual children.”
“Sure, sure. They love those books. Portia! Put your pants back on!” Faye sighed into the phone. “The doctor tells me this is normal, that it’s just a phase.”
“Huh. So, what time?”
“Make it three thirty. The twins will be home from camp. Portia! Put on your damn pants! Sorry, Lettie, I gotta run. She’s naked again.” She hung up.
Children are permitted in Copper Hill, but I suspect they don’t play outside. There could be an ordinance for all I know. Keep your dogs on a leash, keep your children inside, and for God’s sake, no clotheslines. But like I said, I’m more of a Poop Hole girl, so when I arrived at Faye’s the next day at three thirty, I urged the twins to go outside and play on their grub-free not-really-Astroturf lawn. It was a cloudless early-September day: warm and sunny, the prelude to a perfect Labor Day weekend. Kids are supposed to like that sort of thing. I tried bribing them with whole-grain cookies and the all-natural apple juice I found at the back of the cupboard, but Portia and Blaise wouldn’t have it.
“We don’t want to go outside,” Portia said, folding her chubby arms across her chest. “We want you to play a game with us inside.”
Portia is not bossy. She is a leader, and Faye has instructed that saying otherwise will damage her self-esteem irreparably. Of course, Portia has no reservations about chipping away at mine. Auntie, why do you always wear the same shirt? Or Auntie, how come you don’t like to put on makeup and look pretty like Mommy does? I’d been there under a half hour, and I already wanted to bury my feelings in a sleeve of artificially preserved cookies.
“What if we went outside and played a picnic game?” I said. “We can even bring a blanket.”
Blaise brightened and looked like he might come around, but Portia shot me down again. “No. Inside. End of discussion.”
I don’t actually care about fresh air and exercise. I just wanted to spy on their neighbor, Dr. Lewiston. He has a small brown mustache and beady eyes, and I just know there are body parts in his basement. I’ve raised this with my sister. “You realize your neighbor is a serial killer, right? You may want to put up a fence.”
“Dr. Lewiston? He’s a dentist,” Faye said, like this was evidence of his upstanding moral character. “He’s married with three kids.”
“These aren’t mutually exclusive things, Faye. Mark my words: he keeps mason jars filled with urine.”
What was it about him that had me so convinced? He was shifty and stern, and one time I caught him chasing Blaise off his lawn. Poor Blaise, who was only retrieving a ball. All I can hope is that when they find the bodies and arrest him, someone from the media will interview me so that I can say, “Oh, that guy? Yeah, I thought so.”
Faye dislikes these conversations and tells me that I have a macabre fixation. She’s probably right. Still, as we stood in the living room, I pulled aside the curtain and peeked outside to study him as he hauled a large trash bag to the curb. After all, I have to find something interesting about Copper Hill. The place is boooring.
Dr. Lewiston dragged the trash bag down the driveway, stealing furtive glances to the right and left. He’d found the blood shocking the first time. He was used to it by now. But this girl had been a bleeder. He felt a thrill dart through him, the pleasure of having a secret. Mine, he thought. Mine forever.
He glanced up suddenly. Was it his imagination, or had there been a face in that window?
I dropped the curtain. “Hey, kids? What do you think about your neighbor? Does he drive a windowless van?”
Portia and Blaise weren’t listening. They were arguing over who would get to use the big pad of paper for coloring.
“No, I had it first!” Blaise shrieked. “No!” He whacked Portia on the head with his fist.
Good for Blaise, I thought, finally standing up to the dictator.
“It’s my turn! You had it last time!” Portia lunged at his arm, her mouth open.
I sighed and glanced at the clock. It was going to be a long afternoon. “Hey, kids? I have something special for you. Hey!” I snapped my fingers, then physically pulled them apart. “I said I have something special for you.”
The twins both resemble Win, with light brown hair and a slightly husky build. They have plump cheeks that were red and angry just then as they fought to regain self-control. “Is it candy?” Portia said.
“No, not candy.” I lifted my eyebrows and tried to look super excited. “It’s my new book! Should we read it together?”
“No.” Blaise turned away. “I want to watch TV.”
“I get to pick the show!” Portia cried, and ran to retrieve the remote control.
“No one’s watching television.” I put the remote on a high shelf on the built-in bookcase. “I want to read my book to you.”
“No, thank you,” Blaise said. He grabbed the unattended pad of paper while his sister was distracted.
“Come on. It’s an alphabet book. I drew the pictures!”
“Alphabet books are for babies.” Portia pouted and set her hands on her waist. “We want to watch TV.”
This was no good. I pressed my lips together as I reconsidered my approach. “Tell you what,” I said. “If you listen to my books, I’ll take you for ice cream.”
That got their attention. Two pairs of brown eyes widened.
“Can we get sprinkles?” Blaise asked.
“You sure can.” I sat down on the overstuffed tan sectional and patted the spots beside me. “Come on over.”
They climbed up, one on each side, and snuggled their warm bodies against my legs. It was so endearing, and my heart surged as I lifted my manuscript and thought about parents reading my words to their children. My little books would become a part of someone’s childhood. I couldn’t help but smile as I opened to the title page. “This is called Sweet Pea’s Foodie Alphabet.”
“What’s that mean?” Portia asked.
“You’ll see. It’s an alphabet book for kids and parents who appreciate good food.” I turned the first page before she could ask a follow-up. “?‘A is for aubergine. Aubergine purple, aubergine soft, aubergine broiled with saffron sauce!’?” There was a picture of Sweet Pea dancing across a giant eggplant. I pointed to the opposite page. “And see, here’s a recipe for broiled aubergines with saffron yogurt. It’s something kids can make with Mommy and Daddy’s help. Doesn’t that sound like fun?”
I thought it was a clever premise: an alphabet book loaded with recipes. Something parents and children could enjoy together. Blaise sank his head back against the seat cushion, his eyes already glazed over as I turned the page. “?‘B is for bruschetta. Bruschetta on baguette is the perfect treat, add a little basil and eat, eat, eat!’ Here’s a nice recipe for bruschetta with plum tomatoes and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. It’s one of Auntie’s favorites!”
Portia tilted her head to an unnatural position, the better to illustrate her boredom. “Is this almost over?”
“Well, no. There are twenty-six letters in the alphabet, and we’re on the letter C,” I said brightly. “?‘C is for crème fraîche—”
“I’m bored.” Blaise slid off the couch and crawled toward the drawing pad.
“Blaise? It’s only a few more—”
“No, thank you.” He flattened onto his stomach, grabbed a red crayon off the floor, and started drawing.
“I want to color, too!” Portia said, and ran over to her brother’s side. This time, he pulled off a piece of paper and handed it to her and they both sat coloring side by side.
I was conflicted. On one hand, they hated my book. On the other, my writing had bored them into playing nicely. I decided it was a net neutral. “Okay, if anyone asks you, you loved my book, all right?”
“Okay,” Portia mumbled. “Can we still go out for ice cream?”
“Sure. A deal’s a deal.”
FAYE LEFT her Lexus LX behind because the twins were still riding in car seats. The vehicle exterior was a shade called “Nebula Gray Pearl,” which I learned after I called it “pewter” and Faye corrected me. I held my breath as I strapped Portia and Blaise into their car seats, because I know what this car cost. I’d taken out a first mortgage to pay Faye for her half of our grandfather’s house when I decided to live in it. If I returned her car with a scratch or a dent, I would have to take out a second mortgage to pay her back for repairs. Faye, by contrast, was driving my little Toyota Corolla that afternoon. I’d convinced myself my car was practical yet sporty, but Portia panicked at the thought. “Mommy can’t drive that old car! What if it falls apart?” I gritted my teeth.
I was lucky to get a parking spot on Linden Street only a block away from West Creamery. It was a beautiful day, and the exercise would do us all some good.
“I’m going to have cherry-chocolate-chip ice cream with rainbow sprinkles,” Portia said as I unfastened her car seat harness.
“That sounds yummy. What if they don’t have cherry-chocolate-chip?”
“They do. Wanna know how I know that?” She didn’t wait for me to reply. “My vagina told me.”
Faye had warned me that Portia was going through what she called “an exploratory phase.”
“It’s perfectly normal, of course,” she’d said. “But just be aware. These days, she’s all about private parts. It’s important that we allow the exploration and not shame her.”
Fine. But no one had told me that my niece was actually talking to her bits. “Huh. Is that right?”
“Yes,” Portia replied. She looked at me earnestly. “Does your vagina talk to you, Aunt Lettie?”
I was about to inform Portia that vagina wasn’t a nice word, but then, what was the alternative? Va-jay-jay? Then she’d just sound foolish. I’ve always pitied kids in my class who referred to their private parts by cutesy names, like “winkie” and “cha-cha.” I inevitably wonder whether they will continue to use those terms into adulthood, and if so, how many relationships it will end.
“Actually, no, my vagina doesn’t talk to me.” I lifted her out of her car seat and walked her over to the sidewalk so I could get Blaise out of the car. Sweet Blaise, who didn’t ask me about such things. “Stand over here, honey, away from the cars.”
I hoped that would end the discussion, but Portia wasn’t easily deterred. “Why doesn’t your vagina talk to you? Did you get into a fight?”
I shot her a quick look over my shoulder. Was she screwing with me? But no, her eyes were wide and curious. I wondered how Faye would want me to answer her daughter’s question so as not to cause shame. I came up empty.
“My vagina used to talk to me, but she’s been in a coma for some time. It’s very sad,” I added gently, sorry to break the bad news.
“Oh.” Portia frowned and glanced down at the cement. “Why’s she in a coma?”
Another excellent question. My niece was just chock-full of them, bless her heart. “It’s a little complicated.” I searched for an explanation that wouldn’t win a lecture from my big sister. “Basically it was medically induced.”
“What’s that mean?” Blaise asked as I lifted him onto the sidewalk.
“Sometimes when there’s a lot of swelling or someone gets very sick, doctors will put them into a coma so they can rest.” I thought that was mostly true, and they wouldn’t be able to run Internet fact checks for a few years yet. “Do you remember Uncle James?”
“Yes,” they both said in unison.
“You wanted to marry him,” Portia added.
“It’s because of him.” I grabbed the twins’ hands. “All right, let’s go get some ice cream!”
But it was Blaise’s turn to press my vulnerable spots. “Is this because he made you a cuckoo?”
I looked down at him. “A cuckoo? What’s that mean?”
“With horns,” Portia added. “Daddy said he made you a cuckoo.” She started giggling.
I frowned as we came to the intersection, trying to translate the conversation. Then it hit me like a fist to the gut. “You mean a cuckold. Uncle James made me a cuckold.”
Blaise nodded. “Yes. Daddy told us that.”
“Did he, now? I’ll have to ask him about that.”
So Win was teaching his children about cuckolds—that myth that a man would grow horns if his wife was unfaithful—and I was the example. My blood pressure rose a few notches, but I held my chin high as we approached the creamery. Ice cream before dinner was no longer a bribe. It was an act of rebellion against my thoughtless ass of a brother-in-law. “You know, cuckold is a term that only applies to men. Technically Uncle James made me a cuckquean.” Technically, your dad doesn’t know what he’s talking about.
But I could see I’d lost the twins’ attention again, and it was just as well.
When we entered the creamery, a little silver bell chimed above the glass door. There was a line, so we waited our turn. Just as we came up to the freezer display, Portia grabbed at my sleeve and hissed, “I have to go the bathroom.”
I glanced at the line of people behind us. “Now? Can you wait until after we have our ice cream?”
She shook her head and grabbed herself. “No. It’s an emergency.”
I sighed and reached for their hands. “All right. Come on, both of you.”
“I’m not going in the girls’ room,” Blaise said as we walked to the back of the ice cream parlor. “I’m not a girl!”
Oh for the love of it.
There were two restrooms, one for each gender, each with one toilet. I ushered Portia into the girls’ room. “Go ahead, we’ll wait.”
“No, I need help with my buttons,” she said, and gestured to her jeans.
“But I have—” I stopped and placed my hands over my face. After drawing a few calming breaths, I said, “Blaise, honey? Can you wait right here while I help your sister in the bathroom?”
“Don’t run off, okay? We’ll be right out.”
We were in there for three minutes, tops. I lifted Portia up to wash her hands in the sink and grabbed her a paper towel, and then I opened the door to look for Blaise.
He was gone.
“Hey, Blaise?” I walked back into the ice cream parlor and looked around. The place was busy, but I didn’t see him anywhere. “Blaise?”
No answer. Behind me, Portia called, “Blaise?” She waited for a beat before shaking her head and giving a little shrug. “Looks like he’s lost forever.”
Panic rose in my chest. How could I be so irresponsible? I immediately feared the worst. He was gone. Abducted. Someone took him and walked right out, and everyone assumed that Blaise was his or her son. Had Faye and Win instructed their children not to go anywhere with strangers? It would be just my luck if they eschewed that discussion in favor of constant supervision.
“Blaise?” I raised my voice to implore, “Has anyone seen a little boy?”
Of course there were several little boys in the ice cream parlor, so when I saw the blank stares, I tried again. “He was wearing a red shirt and gray pants.” More blank stares. “It was a waffle-knit long-sleeve henley in apple red, and corduroy slacks in misty gray. Four pockets, slim fit,” I added, feeling confident that the citizens of Westborough would respond well to catalog descriptions. I was right.
“I think he went out the back,” a young woman said, and gestured to the back door. “Out there.”
“Thank you!” I grabbed Portia’s hand. “Come on.”
I took off in a hurry, trying to calculate how fast his little legs could carry him in miles per hour. If he left by himself, he couldn’t be more than a block or two away. Portia whined behind me, dragging her feet, but I kept moving. All I could think was that if Blaise got hurt on our little outing, Faye would kill me. More important, I’d never be able to forgive myself.
We stepped into the late-afternoon sunlight and into a small alleyway. We were facing the dirty backs of a line of stores and restaurants. Every now and then there was a little green fence that blocked a trash can or Dumpster from view. I glanced to my right and left. Which way would he go? Portia tugged my hand. “Not now, honey. I have to find your brother.”
“He’s over there,” she said, and pointed to the right.
Sure enough, there he was, across the alley and a few doors down. He was sitting on gray-painted cement stairs. My heart arrested. There was a man next to him, and—oh God. He was offering Blaise a cigarette. “Blaise! Stop! Put that down right now, mister!”
I dropped Portia’s hand and took off in a full sprint. Smoking! At five years old! Faye would never speak to me again. “Stop it right now! Don’t you move!”
Blaise froze in place, the cigarette in his hand. “Smoking kills people. Do you want to die, young man?” I tugged the cigarette out from between his fingers. That’s when I realized it was the stem of a lollipop. I was a complete ass.
The man on the step chuckled. “Hey, buddy. You told me you were legal.”
I didn’t appreciate it. I looked up at him and prepared to give him a piece of my mind, but when I saw him it promptly went blank. Goodness, was he handsome. He had intense green eyes and a chiseled jaw. Full lips that were smirking at me. He was wearing a white T-shirt and black slacks, and his body was nicely defined. He didn’t look like he lived at the gym, just strong. Strong enough to handle the lecture I was about to lob at him.
I took a breath. “You can’t do that, you know. Give candy to children. What if he had an allergy? Or diabetes?”
He cocked his head at her, amusement playing on his lips. He couldn’t help but admire her passion and her strong maternal instincts. And of course she had a certain look about her as she gazed at her young charges. An elegant profile, soft brown hair, and hazel eyes that reminded him of the lush fields of Ireland in spring. But he denied the attraction. He couldn’t dare hope. A woman like that, single? No. She would have a line of suitors a mile long. What man wouldn’t clamor to get next to her? What he wouldn’t do—
He nodded at Blaise. “Are you his mom?”
My shoulders sagged. “No. I’m his aunt.”
Flustered didn’t begin to cover what I was feeling as he directed those eyes toward me. Wilted. Jumbled. Clumbergooped. Yes, I was clumbergooped. There I was in a back alley, talking to the hottest guy I’d ever seen, and he thought I was a mom, which I’m pretty sure meant that my jeans rode too high. If he’d mistaken me for the nanny, well then. Whole other story.
“I told him he couldn’t eat the lollipop until he had your permission,” he explained.
“Hm.” I turned away and leaned in toward my nephew. “Blaise. I didn’t know where you were. I was so scared.”
He looked down at the ground. “Sorry.”
Beside me, Portia said, “Hey, I want a lollipop, too!”
“I thought you wanted ice cream?” I said.
The hot guy chuckled again. “I’m guessing they don’t have diabetes.” He reached into his pocket and pulled another lollipop out. “Can I give her one?”
I glanced at Portia’s wide eyes. “I suppose so. Do you carry lollipops around with you all the time or something?” To lure children into your windowless van?
He handed the candy to Portia, who was waiting with open hands. “Nah, I found some inside. One of the waitresses had some from a party.”
“Can I eat mine?” Blaise asked.
“Yes, honey. Go ahead.” I squinted at the building behind him. It was a restaurant called Bar Harbor, but I’d never been. “You work here?”
“A friend runs the restaurant. I help him out when he’s short-staffed. I used to bartend during college.”
“Oh. That’s nice of you.”
“He pays.” Hot Guy smiled, crinkling the corners of his eyes. “Listen. I saw a kid wandering around by himself. I thought if I sat with him, he’d be safe if someone came looking. I didn’t mean to scare you or do anything wrong. I couldn’t find anything other than a lollipop. We don’t keep modeling clay behind the bar.” He grinned. “Maybe we should.”
When he put it that way, it was sort of thoughtful. I reconsidered my self-righteous anger. “Sorry. I’m babysitting them, so when he wandered off . . .” I set my hands on my purse. “Can I pay you for the lollipops?”
His eyebrows rose. “No, I wouldn’t think of it.” He stood.
Portia tore off the clear cellophane wrapping and held up her candy. “Ooh, it’s a snake!”
“A snake lollipop?” I smiled. “Isn’t that funny. Let me see.”
I leaned forward to get a peek. It was blue, and sure enough, it did resemble a snake. Then the details came into focus and my blood pooled at my feet. Holy crap. Hot Guy had given my niece a candy phallus. I grabbed for it. “Portia! Give that to me!”
“No!” She was too quick. She actually jumped off the stairs to avoid my reach. “No, it’s mine!”
“Dammit!” I reached up and tugged at my hair. Then I spun toward Hot Guy, my hands wide. “What the— Why would you— What is wrong with you?”
He frowned at me like I was being totally unreasonable. “I thought you said it was fine.”
“I didn’t realize you were giving her . . . that.”
“It’s the same as the one I gave her brother. What’s wrong with it?” He pulled another lollipop from his pocket and took a good look. I saw the realization settle on his features. “Oh, now I see. Jeez.” He winced. “I didn’t know.”
“Well, that’s not going to play in court,” I snapped. Clearly I’d started channeling my inner trial lawyer. Thanks, Dad!
His green eyes narrowed. “Court? What are you talking about?”
I turned in horror to watch the twins standing beside each other, merrily enjoying their candy. Portia waved hers around. “Look! I bit off its head!”
“Oh my God. My sister is going to kill me.” I set my hands over my face. “Kids, eat those quickly! Hurry up!”
“They don’t even know what it is. It’s hardly anatomically correct.”
He said it so easily, standing there with his hands in his pockets and leaning against the railing like he was posing for a cologne advertisement. I glared at him until he returned my gaze and said, “What?”
“Are you some kind of pervert?”
His eyes didn’t waver. “Is that a real question?”
I looked away. Damn him and his sexy green eyes. I took Portia’s and Blaise’s hands. “Come on, let’s go home. It’s almost dinnertime. Eat your lollipops. Bite them as hard as you can.”
Both kids started chomping away at the evidence. I glanced over my shoulder. He was still leaning against the railing, looking like something I’d rip out of a magazine and tape to my bedroom wall. I mean, when I was much younger.
“Hey! I didn’t even catch your name!” he called. “I’m Eric.”
He apparently didn’t realize we were fighting. “Matilda,” I said, and hurried the twins along.
“See you around, Matilda!”
Portia pulled the lollipop out of her mouth long enough to say, “That’s not your name. Why did you lie—”
“Shush. Let’s get you both home.” I tried to sound chipper and pulled together. Failed. “Your mom is making a roast tonight. Doesn’t that sound delicious?”
They sucked on their candy and didn’t answer, and I realized that all I needed to do to manage them from then on was carry some lollipops around in my purse. Live and learn.