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Chapter Twenty Two

March 24

"That has to be the best innovation ever. She's happy, I'm happy."

"No, you're codeine happy. There's a difference."

I stared out the plane window. I guess I was smiling because my cheeks felt like they were being pushed upward by my lips, but I couldn't really tell. "My knee doesn't hurt."

Nick fixed the blanket across my lap. "That husband of yours is going to need to check it out. Just in case you need surgery."

"He won't care."

"He's a doctor."

"Just to everyone else."

I looked over at Rie and smiled wider (or at least I thought I did). The greatest invention ever was working perfectly. The giant noise canceling headphones she had worn for the concert were keeping her asleep. No distractions could tickle her eardrums. Parker was wearing a matching set. He was so exhausted I could hear him snoring.

"Brian tired them out," I said. "I miss Brian. If I could, I'd keep him at my house like a built in toddler tire-outer."

Nick laughed. "He's already spent a lot of years as a pet, Midge. Besides, if you keep a Backstreet Boy at your house it better be--"

He didn't finish. I lolled my head back against the seat rest. My butt was asleep. My butt had practically gone around the world asleep, I was sure that had to be a record.

"I'm sure one of the girls at LAX would keep you," I teased.

Somehow in the short time we were gone, word about Nick's divorce had broke. We had arrived at LAX to a screaming gaggle of women and a barrage of airborne panties and bras. Brain had loved it, but most of them only had Nick's name rolling off their tongues.

"We still have quite awhile before the plane lands. Why don't you get some more sleep?"

"You don't want to talk to me anymore?"

His lips twitched. "You're something else when you're medicated."

I laughed. Or snorted. Or both. "You should see me when I'm drunk...or so I've been told."

Nick leaned towards me. "When's the last time you were drunk?"

"It's been a long time," I nodded. "Before Rie was born for sure. I don't ever go out. I don't have friends."

"I'm your friend."

Nick looked so sincere I wanted to wrap my arms around his neck and hug him. Or kiss him. Or both. Or--

"But, you're a boy."

His eyes crinkled and he laughed so loudly that others on the plane turned to look at him. I was sure if the kids weren't wearing the headphones that they would have woken up for sure. "Last time I checked, I was."

My tongue was threatening to break completely loose. "I probably shouldn't see you after this."

The happiness on his face melted. "What? Why?"

“‘Cause you make me think.”

“When has thinking ever been bad? I just started thinking myself recently and I kinda like it.”

He was teasing again. “You’re dangerous for me.”

Nick actually looked surprised. I couldn’t imagine how that news could actually surprise him but he didn’t have a quick comeback.

“I find you extremely attractive but I wouldn’t ever try anything while you’re married. I’m not that kind of guy.”

“Well, I’m going to be married forever.”

Nick didn’t answer. My eyes grew heavy and I fought against it, determined to keep talking and explaining why we couldn’t hang out anymore, but my head fell onto his shoulder and my brain shut off.

Maybe I was codeine happy.

“Mama, home! Mama, home!”

Rielynn’s stared eagerly out the window as we pulled to a stop outside the house. It had only been a few days and yet it felt like I had been away forever. My knee was beginning to ache, the result of the drugs beginning to wear off.

“Parker, let’s help the ladies in,” Nick said. He undid his seatbelt. I tried to hurry and cut him off at the pass, but I failed. Miserably.

“You don’t have to help,” I said as he opened the door. “I got this.”

Nick smiled. I had woken up from the nap just as the plane had landed on the runway. He was unusually quiet, but as always charming, as he navigated us all through the airport. The trip to the house had been filled with the kids babbling. My thoughts of our conversation on the plane were fuzzy, but I had a feeling I had said something that had caused the retreat. It was a relief to see the smile.

“You’re going to get yourself in, Rielynn in and all your luggage? I didn’t know you were Ironman, Midge.”

“In, pay! In, pay!” Parker said excitedly. I almost collapsed on the ground as I stood up. My fingers wrapped tightly around the top of the door. I smiled sheepishly.

“I guess I might need a little help.”

“Then just follow my lead,” he said. He threw my arm around his neck and I began to hobble along beside him. I fished my keys out of my purse.

“Are you glad to be home?”

“It looks different,” I said. I tried to put the key in the lock and for a moment thought that the locks might have changed. Then, realizing I had tried to shove the key in upside down, I flipped it around and all was well.

“I’m going to put you on the couch,” Nick said. Before I could stop him, he scooped me up. With a little shriek, I landed on the soft cushions.

“I’ll go back and get both kids and get your bags last. Don’t move.”

Before I could answer, he was outside. I shifted my knee, wincing gingerly and leaned forward, hoping pressure from my hands would stop the throbbing. I looked down and my eye caught a glimpse of something red peeking out from under the couch. Extending my body, my palm met the floor and I slid my hand awkwardly behind my legs. As soon as my hand brushed up against the object, I knew what it was. My heart raced as I used just one finger to lift and examine the object. My eyes burned.

The redness of the object was so bright because it was pure silk. The panties were expensive, definitely not the kind one would pick up at Walmart or even Kohl’s. Delicate lace ran along the bottom of the leg holes. I held it with my pointer finger feeling like I just might have to burn the whole digit off. I had never felt more gross in my life. I was halfway between fainting and screaming when I felt Nick’s breath on the back of my hair.

“They’re not yours,” he guessed. “They’re too big.”

Parker and Rielynn went toddler running by and I barely noticed. I didn’t ask him how he knew they were too big. I had a feeling he was probably a panty expert from way back. He could probably tell what size a woman’s butt and boobs were the second he met you. I nodded.

“They’re not mine,” I said tightly.

Charlie was cheating on me. The thought seemed to fly all around me, making me want to smack it away, before finally flying into my brain.

“He’s cheating on me with a girl that has hurricane hips,” I said numbly.

It was a good thing I was sitting down. I let the panties drop. Nick came around the couch and I could see the concern for me written all over his face.

“My fists pack a pretty damn good punch,” he said seriously.

“And to be honest, I’ve kinda been waiting to punch this guy out since I met you.” He squatted down in front of me.

“So can I?”