Tyler laughed again, and she looked over the couch to see him playing video games on a huge widescreen TV with a gorgeous man. Correction—the gorgeous god from the pool. Who apparently passed the time playing video games. Okay.
“Yeah! High five me, buddy,” the man said.
He held his hand up for Tyler to slap and then looked over his shoulder and saw her standing there. He passed the game controller over to Tyler. “Take over for me, buddy, okay? I’ll be right back. I wanna talk to your mom.”
Tyler looked over his shoulder. “I’m going to build a new room in the castle, kay? Hey, Mom!” He grinned at her, showing a mouthful of Oreo-encrusted teeth.
She sucked back a groan. “You okay?”
The man hurried over to her.
“The kid’s a total natural. He’s already beat some creepers and built a whole new wing onto my castle. It took me a month to figure out how to do half the stuff he’s doing. I’ll never hear the end of it if my friends find out.”
Lena’s eyes widened a little in surprise. “Your friends know you play video games?”
His smile faded around the edges, and Lena flushed. “I’m sorry. I only meant… Well, I usually don’t let him play video games.”
And the fact that this guy had not only let him play video games but had spent the afternoon pumping him full of sugar and junk food and playing with him meant that Tyler would probably be completely obsessed with him. Tyler had a tendency to latch on to men, any man, who paid attention to him. Oz was a great father figure for him, but it wasn’t quite the same as having a real dad, and Oz was always so busy, even he didn’t always get to spend a lot of time with Tyler. The last thing Lena wanted was for Tyler to get attached to some random guy. The fact that he was beyond hot, and Lena wanted to get attached to him herself, was even worse.
The guy jammed his hand through his hair, the wary expression on his face reminded her of Tyler when he was caught doing something naughty.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “He didn’t say he wasn’t allowed, and I didn’t think to ask. He saw the console when we brought you up and wanted to play. I didn’t have much else here to entertain him, and he was getting into everything.”
She snorted. “Yeah, he’s good at that.”
Lena rose up onto her toes to see better over the couch, frowning at the pile of junk food surrounding Tyler. His little hand dove into a bowl of chips, and he promptly shoved them into his mouth.
“Tyler, no more junk food, baby. It’s probably almost time for dinner.”
Tyler groaned, but he kept his hand out of the chips.
“Sorry,” the man said again. “He was hungry, so I let him pick out some snacks. Since you were asleep, I didn’t want to wake you to ask what he usually ate.”
Lena swallowed back the lecture on proper child nutrition. The guy obviously wasn’t used to being around children. She should be thankful that her son was still in the hotel room in one piece.
“No. That’s okay. Really. I mean, I don’t usually let him eat junk food. He gets a little crazy when sugar gets into his system, so I usually stick to fruits, and cheese, and…” Lena stopped at the man’s growing concern. “Don’t worry about it. It was kind of you to take care of him.”
The sudden smolder in his eyes warmed her down to her toes. “My pleasure. He’s a great kid. We had fun.”
Yeah, that was what worried her. It was going to be embarrassing if she had to pry her kid off some stranger’s leg.
He looked her over, his eyes narrowing in concern. “How are you feeling?”
“A little headache, but better. Thanks.”
“Glad to hear it. You gave me a scare there for a second,” he said, leaning in to give her arm a gentle squeeze with a half smile that set a few thousand butterflies loose in her stomach. “I’m Elliot, by the way. Debusshere. Cherice’s brother.”
Relief flooded through Lena that her child hadn’t been in the care of some stranger all afternoon. Well, he was a stranger, technically, but he was almost family so… That was better. Kind of. No, actually, it was worse. That meant they’d be seeing him all week. A week of the kind of attention Tyler had just gotten, and her poor little boy would be crushed when it was time to go home and he realized Elliot wasn’t his to keep. She needed to make sure Tyler knew it had been a one-time deal.
“I’m Lena, Oz’s sister,” she said, sticking her hand out.
He squeezed her hand as he shook it. His hand was warm and smooth and at least twice the size of hers. And he held it quite a bit longer than politeness demanded. “Yes, the bridesmaid. I’m the groomsman, at your service,” he said with a little bow.
The butterflies kicked into high gear. She clenched her ab muscles trying to squash the damn things. They had no business showing up to throw a kink into her life.
“Nice to meet you. Officially,” she said in what she hoped was a pleasant but casual tone.
“My pleasure,” he said again. “Tyler mentioned his Uncle Oz a few times, so I figured that’s who you were. I called my sister to make sure Oz knew where you two were.”
“Oh, good. Thank you.”
“No problem. I was hoping we’d meet up before all the wedding festivities got into full swing. Didn’t want our first meeting to be when I escorted you down the aisle,” he said, waggling his eyebrows.
The sudden image of them walking down the aisle with her dressed in a gorgeous white gown instead of the mint-green bridesmaid number she’d wear that weekend had Lena’s cheeks flaming again. Where the hell did that come from? She’d known the guy, what, five minutes? Usually, the married-happily-ever-after fantasies took a few weeks to start running rampant. Though, really, he’d kept Tyler entertained, and he was funny and drop dead gorgeous. She’d certainly done a lot worse.
Then again, Elliot really wasn’t relationship material. Lena had heard stories from Cher. Stories that were funny when told over family dinners, but not so funny when her child was in danger of becoming too attached. Elliot was much more the sweep-them-off-their-feet-love-’em-then-leave-’em type. Different girl on his arm every week. Not the type a single mother needed to be messing with.
Thankfully, Elliot had turned his attention back to Tyler and didn’t seem to notice her momentary flusterfication.
“Tyler’s been telling me all about being the ring bearer,” he said.
Tyler didn’t take his eyes off the game but called over his shoulder. “I have ta carry them on a pillow, and I have ta go slow so I don’t drop ’em. Elliot showed me.”
Elliot laughed. “You’re going to do great.” He turned back to Lena. “We practiced a little.”
“Yep!” chimed in Tyler.
Lena’s heart was in danger of melting around the edges. Until she reminded herself that no matter how hot or charming the man in front of her was, he was a headache, or heartache, waiting to happen. For her and Tyler. She shoved her hair behind her ear and looked around the room. Anywhere but directly at the handsome hunk-of-a-hero in front of her. She needed to steer clear. “So, what happened? I passed out?”
“Yeah. Damn near gave me a heart attack. I almost didn’t catch you.”
“Sorry about that,” she mumbled.
Her cheeks burned, both in mortification that she’d dropped like a fly for no real reason and at the thought that he’d caught her. And carried her up to his hotel room where he had tucked her into his bed. Where he slept, probably naked as gorgeous hunks do. In her fantasies, at least.
She swallowed and tried desperately to get a grip. She was drooling over the poor guy like she’d never seen one before. Her gaze raked over him while she pondered that thought for a second. To be fair, she hadn’t seen one quite so well put together before. At least not close up. Still. She needed to chill the hell out.
He laughed, an easy going, happy sound that eased her embarrassment. There was something about him that was extremely comforting. Well, aside from the high school crush-like tingles running riot through her body. But instead of wanting to die from sheer humiliation because she’d passed out while her son had been in two feet of water, Elliot made it seem like a normal, everyday occurrence that was no big deal. He was very sweet.