I pick you, p.20

I Pick You, page 20


I Pick You

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  I found Rydell in the kitchen, tossing an empty bottle of beer in the trash.

  “I should go. It’s getting late.”

  “What? Are you seven? It’s twenty till nine. Grab us a beer. Let’s play.”

  Never in a million years would I have thought this would be so much fun. Rydell was so, so good, and her voice reminded me a lot of Sheryl Crow. Powerful, and her fingers were crazy on a set of strings; made my tremolo look like a second-grade student. She was fast on the high strings, and slow on the lower ones, the fast tempos blending with the slow ones. That was talent and lots of practice.

  I smiled a huge smile when she slowed completely down, strumming to one of my favorite Joe Cocker songs. She started Jennifer Warne’s part and I did the male part. Sitting there singing to her about mountains being in our way made me fall a little more. Jesus. I was in love with this girl. She was made for me. My little Florida cowgirl.

  We both leaned in for a quick kiss, a smiling kiss that warmed my blood and made me feel happy, and then we laughed.

  I started the fast pace picking, breaking into the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and some Fishing In The Dark.

  Rydell picked, but I did the singing, and then I put it on her.

  “Go solo, pick your poison,” I said, with another smiling kiss.

  She did. Rydell sang Strawberry Wine like an angel, eyes closing while she felt the music, performing the same way I did. With all of her heart and soul. Music was as much a part of her as it was to me and I loved that about her.

  I kissed her before she got the last note out, only this one was real. Emotions flowed through my body like I hadn’t felt before. Like I always said was bullshit. Butterflies? Me? Really?

  Rydell and I stood at the same time, getting lost in a passionate kiss, both holding onto the necks of our instruments. Believe it or not, that made it way more obsessive, something only her and I could share. A musical connection.

  “Hey, can I tell you something?” I teased.

  Rydell laughed, her lips lingering on mine without an audible response.

  I contemplated the right words, and then just put it out there. “Stay the night with me.”

  “I don’t want to do that yet, but you can take me to bed.”

  I didn’t plan on letting her leave, but I would build that bridge when we got there. Right now I only wanted to lay her down in my bed, but again, this was different. I wasn’t selfish. I didn’t care if she didn’t go down on me, I didn’t care if she wouldn’t let me put it in her ass, I didn’t care about being dirty with her. This was so different, so out of my league.

  Everything went in slow motion. I gently helped her out of her clothes and laid her back, moving into her with ease, not a care in the world. Rydell was everything to me at that moment. The euphoric vibes that passed through our bodies as I slid, deep, in and out of her were galactic. Something I had never in my life felt, and something I wanted more of. I liked the tingling sensation in my chest, and I loved her below me. I was sure I had never witnessed such pleasure on a female before. This wasn’t like other girls, but I couldn’t even begin to explain why. I’d pleased many, many women in my time, but I never did this. Whatever this was. There was no kinky foreplay; only hot, passionate…this.

  “Please be ready,” I begged, as I felt the inevitable building more and more.

  “Oh, God. I am. Oh yes, right like that, baby. Hmmm.”

  I did hold back long enough to watch her call out in ecstasy, her body twisting below mine as her nails sank into my ass. I pulled out and jerked myself to her swollen nub, moaning the same satisfying relief.

  “Aahh, fuck, baby.”

  “I love making love to you.”

  Whoa. That stunned me for a second. I had no response to that. I kissed her with everything I had in me instead, confusing myself even more. Making love? Me? Nah. It was sex. Maybe. “Stay with me.”

  “No, Brantley. I don’t want to do that yet. Please let me go home.”

  I took a deep breath, knowing I could talk her into it with not much persuasion, but I didn’t do that. I let her go. “Okay, but I have this brand new carton of butter pecan ice cream out there calling my name.”

  “Hmm, my favorite. I’m in.”

  Rydell and I ate ice cream, flirting, kissing, and being happy until she finally demanded she had to go. I walked her out, kissing her for another ten minutes in my driveway. I didn’t want to let her go. Ever.

  Chapter Twenty

  Rydell became part of my routine very quickly, but I still couldn’t get her to spend the night. She left by ten, sometimes eleven every night, and once in a while she’d leave during my Kit time, usually for school work responsibilities. My days as a teacher turned into weeks, and I was finally one of the gang. Wendi and Jonas treated me like an old friend, and Crystal Cantral wouldn’t even give me the time of day, not even a glance, but it wasn’t her glances I was interested in anyway. Rydell held that title. Although she still hated my teaching methods. I called her students soldiers, she called mine hellions, but tests showed my kids were right on track with hers. As long as they were learning, and I kept pretending to care about Miss Day’s monotonous rules, she stayed off my ass.

  I stood against the red bricks with my new clique of teachers, only caring about one of them. Wendi was in a heated conversation with Rydell because she never came to the bar anymore, while we all stood around watching kids run around the playground, hoping they ran off a lot of energy. Especially my class. I was never handing out candy bars for good grades again. Lesson learned.

  “What do you want us to do? Bay can’t come to the bar.”

  “Get a sitter like everyone else does.”

  I looked past Jonas to Wendi. “I’m not leaving her with strangers. Besides, we have fun at my place. You and John should come over this weekend. We’ll grill some steaks and play some music.”

  “Hey, what am I, chopped liver?”

  “Hey, can I tell you something?”

  I jumped, jerking my arm when Harry Potter magically appeared at my side. “What, kid? It’s recess. Don’t you want to go play?”

  “Well, can I tell you something?”


  “The term chopped liver. Do you know where that derived from?”

  “Are you eavesdropping?”

  “Well, it’s used as a semi-rhetorical question. I would say the origin is probably American Jewish humor. Early-to-mid 20th century.”

  “Why do you know that? Go play.”

  “Can I tell you something?”

  “Are you dying?”


  “Then, no. Go away.”

  “Well, what if I’m not dying, but I need to use the facilities?”

  “Go to the bathroom, Simon.”

  “Well?” Jonas questioned, as Simon skipped off in his too short uniform pants.

  “You can come,” I offered.

  “Can I bring a date?”

  “Sure, whatever.”

  Jonas and Matthew did come to my house Saturday night, as did Wendi and John, and the Pierce family. Gabriella invited Bay to Rowan’s birthday party that afternoon in carpool line, and in return, and for whatever reason, I invited her and her family to my house. They were my neighbors after all.

  Rydell was busy filling my outside refrigerator with beer while we waited for our company. “I still can’t believe you invited one of our student’s mom and dad. That’s such a bad idea.”

  “Why? She’s always been nice to me, and I stopped and helped Paxton out a few days ago with one of his work trucks. I let him sit in my air conditioning while we waited on a tow truck, and then I drove him home. He’s cool. He just comes off as being a dick. I don’t know if he was joking or not, but he told me he couldn’t wait to get home and burn a big fat one,” I said as I slid in behind her, watching Bay peel an orange in the middle of the island. I swear she thought that was her personal seat. The majority of the pictures on my phone were right there, her little bu
tt planted in the middle of the smoky-gray granite like it was built there for her.

  “She’s still a mom. I’m not going to have a good time with her here.”

  I kissed the back of her neck and went to help Bay with her orange. “If it sucks, you guys can pretend to leave and they’ll leave. I’ll tell them I have to go because of Kit.”

  “Aaaaahhhh, Bay do it,” Bay screamed a high pitch shrill right in my ear.

  I let go of the orange, surrendering with my hands in the air. “Jesus, you don’t have to be so dramatic.”

  Bay ignored me and continued to let orange juice run down her arms, making things way harder on herself. Telling her that, however, was a waste of my time. She would still want to do it herself. Miss Independent.

  Rydell opened a beer and leaned against the sink. God, she was sexy. “You know that little girl is going to have a voice on her, don’t you?”

  “What do you mean?”

  “That high note. Impossible to hit even for her age.”

  “That was an annoying, drama queen screech. That wasn’t a note.”

  “Okay, but you mark my words. Bay is going to have a beautiful voice.”

  That made me happy. If Bay loved music half as much as I did, I’d be a proud papa. She already had the name for it. I could see it as a vision as plain as day. Bay Berry Jandt, number one on the Billboard. Living my dream through Bay would have made me happier than getting it myself.

  “I love it. Please welcome, Bay Berry Jandt, to the Grand Ole Opry,” I said while using my best host voice, waving my hand toward Bay, wishing like hell she’d give me that sticky orange.

  Rydell and I messed around, making music together while Bay played in the water and then took a nap on the lounge chair. I wasn’t sure how many beers I’d already consumed, but I do know I felt it before our guests ever arrived.

  Jonas was the funniest man I had ever met in my entire life. The guy was a regular smart ass and the way he bickered with his date was worse than Rydell and me. Then again, Paxton and Gabriella did a lot of bantering, too. She couldn’t drink, but he could. He was funny as hell to us, but not to her. That made it even funnier. Gabriella fit right in with Wendi and Rydell, and nobody pretended to leave. Even with her not drinking, she had fun, and Bay loved having the kids to play with. They played in the pool until late in the evening until I had to take Bay in to talk to her mom.

  Rydell followed me inside and to the bathroom where I gave Bay a two minute bath, and waited while she brushed her teeth. Rydell slipped her arms around me from behind and I turned to her.

  “Can’t you tell Kit you have company tonight? I don’t want you to disappear for an hour.”

  I kissed her, noticing right away how her body fell into mine. “I’ll let her say goodnight to Bay and tell her I have to go. Do you want to play?”

  “I don’t know. I heard Gabriella say something about a new song from Megan Trainer. That girl is pop, right?”

  “Beats me. I don’t know who that is. How about some CCR? Everyone likes a little Credence.”

  Rydell stepped around me and kissed Bay from behind. “Maybe, hurry up. Goodnight, princess pants.”


  “Daddy will go find him. Go get in bed and wait for Mommy.”

  “I gig a puter.”

  “Yup, on the computer.”

  “Hurry up, baby,” Rydell said again as she passed me, letting her hand drag over my stomach.

  “I will,” I promised, while I pondered on Phil. I hadn’t seen him for a while. I set up my computer on the bed, lifting Bay to the front of it.


  “I’m looking. What did you do with him?”

  “Ia Phil.”

  “Okay, push the button when Mommy calls.”

  Nobody had seen Phil outside, and I couldn’t find him inside anywhere. I did find a pork chop bone in one of my boots though, and a handful of raisins stuffed inside a toy car, but no Phil. I took off running back to the bedroom when I heard Kit calling. Bay knew how to answer it, she just needed help.

  “Hi, Baby.”

  “Ia Phil.”

  “Where is Phil?” Kit questioned.

  I answered when Bay started whining. “I can’t find him.”

  “Oh no. Where did she have him last?”

  “I have no idea. He has to be here. We haven’t been anywhere today.”

  “Phil, Da-day.”

  I gasped with an audible breath and big eyes. “Did you hear that? She said daddy. Say it again, Bay. Say daddy.”

  “I Phil, Da-day.”

  Kit laughed, the joy shining through her eyes. “She sounds like a little British girl.”

  “Phil, Da-day.”

  “Okay, okay. Tell me where to look, Kit.”

  “Did she take a nap today?”

  “Yes, outside, but I’ve checked everywhere out there.”

  “Was she in the pots and pans today?”

  “Hmm, yes, hang on.”

  I ran out to the kitchen and right into Gabby, Wendi, and Rydell, gossiping in my kitchen. About Kit.

  “It’s so annoying, but I mean what do you do? I can’t tell him she doesn’t need to talk to her mom every night. And it’s not even that. It’s that he has to disappear every night. Clock work. It’s just—.”

  I never was one to keep my foot out of my mouth. “Maybe you and I should discuss this before you talk about it with your friend, and a complete stranger.”

  “Shit. I’m sorry, babe.”

  “Have you seen Phil? He’s nowhere to be found,” I questioned, while giving Rydell a look. We weren’t talking about Kit to her friends, and I couldn’t believe Rydell.

  “Hey, I’m not a stranger. I’ve known Rydell from school for three years now. I just don’t remember her,” Gabriella said, a failed attempt to bring back the fun mood.

  I looked in all the drawers and cabinets Bay could have reached, and left them alone, tempted to linger at the door.


  “I can’t find him, baby.”

  “Check the dryer.”

  I ran off, back to the dryer, hearing Bay repeat the alphabet in mostly English.

  Sure enough. There he was. Sopping wet along with the floor. I knew that was more water than should have slid from her wet body. I tossed Phil into the washer and gave him a good spin while I grabbed a mop.

  “Brantley, I’m sorry.”

  I looked up to Rydell, and then back to the puddles. “Why would you talk to them about that, but not me? What the fuck, Rydell? I have been completely honest with you. Why would you feel the need to do that? Talk to me, damn it.”

  “Because, Brantley. It’s stupid and selfish of me. Bay needs her mom and I know she’s too little for you to leave her alone with the computer.”

  That thought made me need to go to her. “We’ll talk later.”

  “Brantley, I’m sorry. I’m not a selfish person, but I can’t help it. I feel like everything we do revolves around eight p.m.”

  “Then tell me these things, Rydell. Kit’s not a selfish person, either. She would gladly work around something I wanted to do. Don’t talk about us to Wendi, and certainly not Gabriella. Her daughter is in my class.”

  “I’m sorry.”

  “Ia button.”

  “You pushed a button?” I questioned, eyes shifting to Bay.

  “S. Phil?”

  “He’s in the washer and then he has to go in the dryer. You can’t just throw him in the dryer like that. You have to push the buttons.”

  “Ia button, mommy.”

  “Yes, I know. Where are your pants?”

  “I pee.”

  “I’ll throw Phil in the dryer. I’m sorry, Brantley.”

  I kissed Rydell’s lips. “Gone, forgotten, but next time tell me, not them.”

  “And me,” Bay yelled.

  We laughed at her and I scooped her up and went to see if I could salvage Kit’s call. Women were so complicated. That right there was why I didn
t do relationships. I turned the camera back on to Kit, tapping her nail on the table in front of her.

  “Sorry, I had a mishap with Phil, and Bay pushed a button.”

  “I button, Mommy.”

  “I know, silly. What happened to Phil?”

  “He was in the dryer sopping wet, but hey, I have some friends over. Can we cut it short tonight?”

  “Yeah, sure, but that means I get more time tomorrow night.”

  “Deal. Say goodnight to Mommy.”

  “Nigh, Mommy.”

  “Night, baby. I love you so much.”

  “Wus you so much.”

  “She’s really starting to talk a lot more.”

  “Ha, remember when I told you I wish she’d hurry up and start talking? I take it back. She doesn’t shut up.”

  Kit smiled, but it was sad, a guilt ridden grin that she wasn’t here to witness it for herself. “Night, Brantley.”

  “Night, Kit.”

  I ended up taking Bay back outside with me. She wasn’t about to go to sleep without Phil, and he was at least forty minutes away from that. I’m almost certain Wendi and Gabriella were the ones to pull the plug on the party. Wendi talked Jonas and Matthew into going to the bar, and Gabriella gathered her troops right after. Paxton complained at first, but then agreed, with the hidden comment about having something for her, anyway.

  “Do you want to take a walk on the beach?”

  “Me, Da-day. Me.”

  “Yes, you, too. Did you hear that? She’s saying daddy.”

  “A little British girl,” Rydell praised, reaching for Bay.

  Bay leaped into her arms and I refrained from telling her that Kit had said the exact same thing. We didn’t talk about our incident again, but I didn’t think we needed to. I said what I needed to say, and if she didn’t, she didn’t mention it.

  We took a short walk along the beach, not even making it to the rocks. Bay was passed out like a wet noodle in no time, slumped over my left shoulder. Rydell and I talked like nothing had happened, flirting and holding hands as we walked along the moon-lit beach.

  “Do you like porn?” I questioned, as I watched the bedroom light come on from the Paxton’s bedroom.


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