|:|PART 6|:| Bad Tastes So Good|

He was careful to close the door quietly so he wouldn’t wake Abby.

He took off his suit jacket and hung it and his keys on hooks near the entrance. He exhaled. The exhaustion from the last few hours was weighing hard on him. He could remember, with irritating accuracy, almost everything about Tabetha’s body. Her face when he entered her made him want to come. 

He shook his head. That ship had sailed. 

The living room light clicked on as he made his way inside, loosening his tie.

He frowned as his eyes adjusted to the light in the room. “Abby? What are you doing up?”

“How did it go?” His daughter’s groggy voice filled the silent space. “It’s late. That must be a good thing.” The girl pushed off the chair she was sitting in, a blanket left in her wake. Had she been sleeping down there just to assault him with questions when he came home? He’d be lying if he said he was surprised. “She didn’t ask you to stay the night?” she asked, through a yawn while she stretched. She pouted and crossed her arms.

He stared at his child, her eyelids still heavy from sleep. “Go to bed.” He strolled into the master suite, but she followed him. 

“Come on, Dad,” she whined. “Tell me something, anything.” She flopped on his bed, looking up at the ceiling.

He went into the large closet out of sight from where the bed was and changed into his pajamas. 

He brushed his teeth.  “Come on, Dad!” she said again, over the sound of the sink. As much as he thought a shower would be a good idea, he thought might fall down from exhaustion. He needed to recharge his battery. 

His hands tingled at the muscle memory of gliding over smooth brown skin. He licked his lips as that memory flowed into another where his hips were nestled between the woman’s legs. He wasn’t sure how she tasted so good. He loved the way her body moved under his touch, how wet she was. He growled and shook the thought. 

The little girl propped her head up on her palm when he came out of the bathroom. “Just tell me if you’re going to ask her out on another date.”

He shrugged. “No. I don’t think so. We’re just different people.”

She frowned. “Gah!” she shouted. It startled him. “Are you going to stay alone forever?”

“Abby, let’s not go there tonight. I’m tired.” He pulled back a corner of the bed cover and she scooted off. She faced him with crossed arms. 

“She’s a good woman,” she presented a deep frown. “Did you mess things up?” Her knowing eyes assessed him carefully, waiting to decipher fact from fiction.

“Seriously, Abby. Stop meddling.” He left out the part that he was the adult and she was the child, that he was a grown-ass man and didn’t need to answer to anyone else, especially not to the likes of her! But he also knew that she was just worried about him.

“Is this how you dated Mom? A waffling, stumbling, bumbling fool?”

He flinched at the thought of Beth, knowing what he had just done. Not the sex part -- that was natural, a normal need. It was the other things he did, how he felt. “It’s not so easy, you know.” He took off his watch and put it on the bedside table.

“Oh, really? Explain.”

 He shrugged, his guilt starting to gnaw at him. “I don’t know. Sometimes I just wonder what your mom would think. That’s all.”

“Nothing!” Abby shouted, flailing her arms in the air. “She’s dead! She’ll think nothing because she’s not here any more.” She started to pace. “Look, I know you miss her. I do too, but there’s nothing wrong with moving on. You said those very words to me, remember?”

He stopped his task and turned to find tears running slowly down her flushed, pink cheeks. He took a deep, cleansing breath. 

He nodded. 

When Abby had been struggling with the loss of her mother it had been easy for him to comfort her, but wrestling with his own feelings was different. 

“You’re not betraying me, you know,” she continued, when he looked down at his lap. “I know I look so much like her and you never want me to think you love me any less. I’ll never think that.” Her voice soften.

He frowned and glanced over at his daughter. She did look a hell of a lot like Beth, and maybe he did feel what Abby was saying. “What makes you say that? The bit about me betraying you.”

She shrugged. “That’s what uncle Sam said to me. Is it true? Do you think dating women is a betrayal to me?”

He patted the bed next to him. When she secured her stance, he perched on the bed and patted it again then waited until she moped over and flopped down next to him.

“Maybe.” He ran his hand down his face. “Maybe I am a little torn. I loved your mom and I might not ever find anyone like her.”

“So what?” the tween said. “Find someone better.”

He glanced over at his daughter with a weary expression. “You think Tabetha is that someone?”

She shrugged. “Doesn’t much matter what I think,” she said, mischief in her voice.

He sighed then ran his hand down his face. “Tabetha and I are just so different.”

“Oh, big deal, Dad. She challenges you. That’s not bad. I saw the way you looked at her when she dropped me off. You like her, don’t you?”

He grumbled, trying to think of a way to position it so it wasn’t a lie. “I like her. She’s pretty, but there’s more to relationships.”

“I agree,” Abby said, pushing off the bed. She picked up his phone off the charger and handed it to him. “You’ll never know the more if you don’t make the effort. Set up another date.”

How old was she again? “Abby, it’s too late. That is, assuming I think contacting her was a good idea to begin with.”

Abby waved him off, heading to the door. “She’s still awake.”

He frowned knowing the girl was baiting him. “What makes you think that?”

She smirked, her hand on the doorknob. “Because, she just had a date with my Dad. I’m sure she’s awake thinking about you.” She laughed. “Good night,” she sang, leaving the room.

Sebastian rolled his eyes, shaking his head at his offspring. He looked at his phone after his daughter closed the door. He pulled up Tabetha’s number and stared at her name. 

Don’t be a chickenshit, his inner voice whispered. 

Afraid? He wasn’t afraid, really. 

Tabetha’s pretty smile echoed in his mind’s eye and he fell back on his pillow, the phone resting on his chest. 

Without giving it much more thought he smashed her number and let the phone ring. To his surprise, his insides were swimming with anticipation. He hadn’t felt that foreign feeling since he was first dating Abby’s mother. 

“It’s late,” Tabetha's familiar, sultry voice said on the other end of the phone. “What do you think this is, a booty call or something?” She laughed, making him laugh too.

“I know it’s late, but I wanted to know if you were interested in a date. Like a real one where we actually order food.”

He frowned when she was quiet for longer than he thought was good.

“Abby put you up to it?”

His stomach tightened and his palms started to sweat. Would she say no to him? He hadn’t thought that would happen for some strange reason. Perhaps because he had convinced himself he wouldn’t call her again. No matter how much he’d wanted to. “She attacked me at the door.”

The woman laughed. “That’s my girl.”

“But,” he continued. “I’m calling because I’d like to argue with you again.”

He could hear the laughter in her voice when she responded. “Well, in that case, count me in.”




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