Now it’s time for me to scramble to finish getting ready. Thankfully, my hair is in its usual messy waves. What you see is what you get. The reddish locks are long, wavy, and thick. There’s no amount of blowing it dry or using a flat iron that will keep it straight. Thankfully, my makeup only takes five minutes, so besides getting dressed and the few swipes of mascara, blush, and lip gloss, I’m ready. Especially since Keller only lives ten minutes down the road. I offered to meet him wherever we were going, but Keller wasn’t having any of that, going as far to bring out the big guns, saying he’s setting an example for Jace and how he’d expect him to treat a woman. Keller isn’t wrong. Kids seem to look up, follow, and do almost everything their parents do, well, hopefully, except for me. My mother isn’t much of a mother, and my father, God, do I pray that he one day he sees the light before life passes him by. I will say one thing: I will not marry someone like my father. I’ll definitely be more interested in finding someone who emulates how Gramps treats Grams.
It’s a good thing I finish my routine quickly because I’m walking out my bedroom when the doorbell to my apartment rings. The nerves in my stomach are rattling a million miles a minute. Even my hand pressing on it isn’t helping. It’s now or never, I think to myself, hopeful in a way I haven’t been before. Something tells me, though, that things are only going uphill from here.
“Dad, can we get ice cream?” Jace asks from the backseat. I guess that’s better than him asking if Alana and I are getting married when she first slid in the front seat. I just hung my head. My boy has no filter. Thankfully, Alana spared me from answering by redirecting the question and asking what we had planned for the day.
“Are you okay with that?” I’m at a stop sign. There’s little to no traffic right now, since we started our date around ten o’clock in the morning and it’s just now rounding out to three. The park was our first adventure. Poor Alana got put to work more than I did with Jace wanting her to go down the slide with him. Seeing the two of them together, it only solidified just how badly I fucked up when it came to keeping her at a distance. Jace kept up with calling Alana by the same name he calls her at school, which I know seems awkward, but it works. That way, he won’t mess up and say the wrong thing at school.
“I’d love to. Will you at least let me buy this time?” Alana is referring to the lunch I bought after our time at the park. It wasn’t anything huge—pizza, salad, and a couple of drinks. That being said, there’s no way in hell I’m letting her think of buying anything on our date.
“Lana, this is a date, so the answer to that would be no.” Her arm is resting on the center console, fingers dangling over the edge. Without another thought, I slide my hand into Alana’s soft one, so much smaller than mine, not work-roughened, and I tangle our fingers together.
“Keller.” The hitch in her throat as she says my name tells me she’s not not affected. I don’t say anything, though. Nope, I just drive along the road leading to the small ice cream shop that Jace suckers everyone into taking him. I can’t fault him, not when I was the one who introduced it to him. You see, he’s got a sweet tooth much like his father, and not having ice cream or some kind of dessert every night would be a damn shame.
“Fine. Maybe next time, I can bake for you guys.” That has me thinking about all kinds of fun stuff.
“Miss. M, you bake?” Jace asks.
“I do, well, honestly, brownies are probably the most of it, but I can make homemade ice cream like no other.” My eyes drift from the road to Alana’s then to the rearview mirror, seeing Jace’s face light up.
“Oh, can we make both? Dad, please say Miss. M. can come over and do that with us? Pretty please?” Jace all but begs.
“Well, it’s up to your dad. We can swing by my place, grab the ice cream maker, and head to your house, or we can do it at mine, instead of getting it from the shop?” she offers.
“Dad, please,” Jace elongates the d at the end of my name.
“Are you sure?” I ask Alana.
“I’m positive.” It doesn’t take me long to do a U-turn and head to her place.
“You okay doing it at my place? Jace gets messy. Plus, if he gets bored while the ice cream is working its magic, he’ll have toys at the house to play with.” The fact that I’m not sick to my stomach with worry over how things will play out at my place is another awakening. I’m not even going to touch on the subject of how I’ve already envisioned Alana in all the areas of my house, and not in just a sexual way. I’m talking getting home from work when she’s home with Jace, and watching her do all the family things with the Hart clan, barbecues with us, dinner with her grandparents, the whole fucking enchilada. There hasn’t been a stutter step since I got injured either. The only shitty part is me having to take my hand out of hers to give my left arm from holding the steering wheel while it’s propped on my thigh to keep the pain away from this dumb as hell self-induced injury.