Читать онлайн "Just Play" автора Hart Taylor - RuLit - Страница 4

 
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That was the reason he’d come to Roman. He wanted to change. He wanted to be what he used to be. He wanted to be the kind of man he could face in the mirror everyday and not want to look away.

“Da. Da.” The little girl sucked in fast breaths before bursting into tears.

Feeling paralyzed, Sam finally stood and took one step toward her.

Opening her eyes, she saw him coming and howled even louder.

Before he even knew what he was doing, he swept her into his arms, holding her against him like he’d seen Roman do. But unlike the grin and happy giggle she’d been giving Roman, she howled loudly at him. Rushing into the house, he looked for something to calm her down. He spotted a bunch of toys on the floor. Squatting, with her now thrashing around along with the screaming, he picked up a small ball. He put it by her face and squeezed it. It made two loud sounds.

This stopped her for a minute.

It was a tentative standoff. She looked at the ball and then him. Sam winced when she burst into tears again.

He cursed under his breath and felt sweat trickle down the center of his back as he rushed around picking up toys and trying to get her to stop crying.

He searched the kitchen, which he noticed was a complete mess. Assorted crackers and snacks littered the counters. Baby formula sat out. Old spaghetti stuck to the stovetop. Seeing the mess disgusted him. Seriously, get a maid, Roman. If Roman could afford shares in the franchise, he could afford to hire some help. Sam had lived with Roman for a time when he’d first come to the Destroyers, and he’d been a slob then, too. Apparently some things don’t change with age or marriage.

Sam flung open the fridge and saw some open baby food on the top shelf. Spying a half eaten baby jar labeled carrots, he picked it up and put it in front of her. This had a magical effect.

“Num, num.”

Her new noise, made at a tolerable volume, actually elicited a chuckle of relief from him. “Num. Num. That’s right, Maddy.” He moved to the drawers, jerking them all open until he found spoons. Little spoons to boot.

Next, he searched for something to put her in while he fed her. He didn’t have to look long. A few feet away he found a high chair. This was no normal plastic baby chair. It was a high chair fit for a princess. It was completely covered by a sticker that transformed it into a castle turret, and it was fitted with a plastic princess sippy cup and a princess plate with old peas on it. After removing the dirty plate and cup, he put Maddy down on the floor. It wasn’t any cleaner, but he couldn’t risk her falling off the counter while he figured out how the chair worked. It’s not as if the counter was clean anyway.

The difficult part was trying to figure out how to remove the top of the high chair. Yanking on it, even hard, didn’t work. He looked for a latch, but couldn’t find one.

Maddy continued to howl at a louder and louder pitch. He’d thought she didn’t want him holding her, but it appeared that not holding her was worse. Her red, ruddy cheeks had big crocodile tears on them.

Picking her back up, he turned the lid on the carrots and began feeding her while holding her. It was sloppy and messy and, he was sure, he had more of it on his shirt than in her mouth by the third spoonful, but she had quieted down substantially. She would suck in a bite, take a gulp or two, and look back at him. Then a low cry would start until he stuffed in another bite. He figured, at this pace, he would need more supplies if he wanted to keep the noise down. Not caring what he had to do, he was determined to keep her from wailing.

Deliberately avoiding the fact he had no idea how long he would be on duty, he put the jar of food on the table. He needed a free hand to rummage in the fridge for the next food distraction while still keeping her mouth occupied with scoops of mushy carrots. He flung the fridge back open and found three more jars of baby food—vanilla pudding, green beans, and bananas.

Sam gingerly sat the food, himself, and the baby on the floor. The extremely messy floor, Sam noted, again, in righteous judgment. Seriously, Roman should have the health department on his back over these conditions. He looked around and couldn’t see any paper towels. All the wash clothes were scrunched up and dirty looking—definitely not fit for a baby’s mouth.

Sam made a command decision to take his shirt off and use it to wipe Maddy’s face.

At this point, she was still eating at only a marginally less frantic rate. It made Sam wonder if Roman purposely starved the kid. Should she be this hungry?

Maddy was steady enough in a sitting position that he felt comfortable reaching for the princess sippy cup.

She took it with both hands and took a loud sucking gulp. Afterwards, she astonished him by flashing a beautiful, wide carrot-covered smile.

His whole heart filled with joy. “Yeah.” He let out a light laugh. “That’s it, Maddy. You were just hungry and thirsty. See, that’s good. Uncle Sam’s got this under control.” Instantly, his mind zipped to the old ‘Uncle Sam Wants You’ posters, and he chugged out a laugh. He’d never though of himself as ‘Uncle Sam.’ He relaxed against the side of cabinet and held out another bite of food to her.

Then just as quickly as she’d smiled, her face turned red as she scrunched it up and let out a yell worthy of a mini banshee.

Rushing to his feet, Sam picked her up only to stop short in shock. She gave him her own brand of a right hook, smacking him in the same place on his eye that Roman had previously hit.

He cursed and then closed his eyes and held her at bay.

Instantly, the baby stilled.

Guilt surged into him for losing control of his tongue in front of a child. He ducked his head and squeezed his eyes shut as Maddy began to cry again.

Without warning, she was abruptly pulled out of his hands.

3

“What do you think you’re doing?” the woman said, pulling Maddy and her roaring cries into her shoulder.

She was medium height, about 5’ 7 or 5’ 8 he quickly judged, with startlingly blue eyes. A light vanilla smell assaulted him, and her blonde ponytail smacked his face as she turned away from him.

“I—” He tried to find words, but his mind felt scattered like Yahtzee dice.

“Don’t,” she cut him off, turning back and glaring. Swishing past him, the look of scorn changed instantly to happy glee as she grinned at Maddy. “Maadeeee,” she let the last vowel go long. “What is going on with my baby girl?” She stopped at the sink and turned the water on. She took the cup away and began cleaning Maddy’s face, hands, and clothes. “What is that man doing to you?” Her voice oozed happy for the baby.

Sam noticed her bright blue headband that held back the blonde curls falling out of her ponytail down her back. She wore purple spandex pants, athletic shoes, and a bright pink t-shirt. It looked like she’d been on a run.

Maddy smiled and cooed at the woman.

“What the—?”

“Language!” The woman flipped her head to him, giving him a sharp glare before turning back to Maddy. “She may be a baby, but they understand a lot more than you think. Don’t you, Maddy?” Her voice held a singsong quality, and she methodically stripped the baby of her clothes and checked the back of her diaper.

“I wasn’t going to…” He trailed off. “I was just going to ask what you think you’re doing,” he said stubbornly.

With a fiercely protective glance at him, the woman picked up Maddy and began moving across the kitchen toward the hallway. “Yeah, guys like you never mean to do anything. I know exactly who you are, Sam Dumont. You’re a cheating jerk.” She gestured for the door. “I got this handled.”

He watched her hurry down the hall. Then he heard a bath being run and the same singsong voice talking to Maddy.

     

 

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