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Mother Faker: Chapter 18

Beckett

Red. I was seeing nothing but red.

This day had gone nothing like I hoped. To my complete and utter surprise, I woke up in Arizona, excited to fly home. In a king-size bed, surrounded by silence, by myself, I practically jumped out of bed, looking forward to returning to the chaos that exists in the brownstone. I found myself counting down the minutes until my evening with the kids—followed by another restless night in the twin-size bed from hell—all because it would mean Liv would be snuggled up just a few feet away, in my bed.

Complete insanity.

And when I heard her voice in the hall outside my office, I couldn’t stop myself from rushing out to greet her, only to find her chatting with Sabrina.

Liv disappeared before I could get a word in, and Sabrina tried to sweet talk me into taking her to lunch, even though I ended things with her months ago. She swore it was okay, that Liv had informed her that our marriage was fake and said she was fine so long as Sabrina and I were discreet. And I saw red.

Fucking red.

Is that what Liv really thinks? That I’d touch another woman? That I would want to see another woman? That she can allow another man to touch her while she’s married to me?

In no uncertain terms, I told Sabrina that she was mistaken, and that Liv is the love of my fucking life. Again, I reminded her that she and I were through and emphasized the part where there was no way we’d ever have a future together.

Regardless of whether Liv believes what’s happening between us is real, I would never cheat on her like her husband did.

And then to be told that I speak to her the way that dipshit of an ex does?

Red. The whole goddamn world is nothing but red.

My brothers have been bugging me all day about going out tonight. I could use a few shots, but more than anything, I need my wife, her kids, and that damn twin-size bed. What the fuck is wrong with me?

I stumble into the house feeling uneasy and surprised my things haven’t already been thrown on the front walk.

“Hey, Beckett. How was your trip?” Shayla asks from the kitchen, all bright and cheery.

There’s no way she knows about what happened today. If she did, she’d ignore me.

“Liv home?”

“She went straight up to her room when she got home.” Shayla scrutinizes me under the fringe of her dark hair. It’s cut asymmetrically, so one side always falls over one eye. “Did something happen at work today?”

Sighing, I run my hand over my face. “I think we both had a bad day.” I consider leaving it at that, but Shay’s genuinely concerned expression has me opening up. From the beginning, she’s been nothing but kind to me. She’s quiet, but obviously observant. “Can I ask you something?”

Shayla stops cutting the vegetables on the cutting board and sets her knife down. “Sure, what’s up? I’m making a smoothie. Want one?”

I hold back my grimace. Dylan warned me about the smoothies. She called them swamp sludge. “Nah, I’m okay. I know tonight is girls’ night, but is there any chance I can do something for Liv first? Something that will relax her before you ladies head out?”

Shayla presses her lips together and raises her brows.

“Not like that.” I laugh, holding up my hand as my face heats. “Just… what does Liv enjoy?”

Shayla’s expression goes soft. “All Liv ever talks about is wanting a hot tub. So maybe a bath?”

A bath. I can do that. “Thanks, Shay.”

She watches me for a minute longer, her gaze locking me in place where I stand in the doorway of the kitchen.

I can practically see her brain at work. “Something wrong?”

She shakes her head, her dark hair swaying. “No, it’s nothing.”

Swallowing past the lump of trepidation in my throat, I step closer. “I have a sister. I know that look.”

“It’s just…” She licks her lips and averts her gaze. “You have a nickname for everyone else.”

“Huh?”

“Kai is Iceman, Finn is Huck, Dylan is Dippy Do. Even Delia has a name.”

I let out a light scoff. “Medusa?”

She huffs a laugh, her eyes downcast now. “I just… kinda feel left out.”

“Pipsqueak.” I gave her the name in my head the first time I met her. I guess I’ve never spoken it aloud.

“Huh?” She’s frowning when she looks at me again.

“Cause you’re tiny.”

She laughs. “That works, Becks.”

My grimace is immediate. Damn Dippy Do and her nickname.

Shay giggles. “That’s what Dylan calls you!”

“She says it’s our thing.” I shake my head and slip my hands into my pockets. “It’s not.”

“It so is!” Dylan sings as she sashays her way into the kitchen. “But I’m good at sharing, Shay, so you can use it too.”

I don’t have time for this. “Whatever makes ya happy, Pip. Can I go take care of my girl now?”

Dylan’s grin brightens the whole hideous kitchen. “Ya hear that? He called her his girl. I told you.”

I laugh. “Yeah, Dippy Do, you told us. But seriously, I need to see Liv. Am I excused?”

She shrugs, all giddy. “I suppose.”

I take the stairs two at a time—making sure to skip the loose step—eager as shit to see her. In the bathroom, I start her bath and add floral-scented bubbles I find under the sink. Then I go in search of her. When I’m met with an empty room, I turn off the water and head up the last set of stairs, knowing precisely where to find my wife.

Liv’s standing on the roof, looking out over the park. Her shoulders are slumped and her dark hair is down and blowing with the wind. My entire being relaxes now that I’m in her proximity. This feeling is absurd, but I’m done questioning it.

In three strides, I’m behind her with a hand on her shoulder.

Before I can open my mouth to speak, she shakes her head. “Go away, Beckett.”

The words don’t bother me nearly as much as the sound of her voice. Is she crying?

“What’s wrong?” I don’t back up, and I don’t remove my hand from her arm.

“Why are you here?” She spins out of my grasp. When she turns to me, her face is red and splotchy. “Shouldn’t you be with your girlfriend?”

My damn lungs seize at the pain in her voice. “I don’t have a girlfriend.”

“Ha,” she jeers. “Right. You don’t commit to anyone.”

“I committed to you. I’m committed to our marriage.”

Her only response is a roll of her eyes.

“Wait. Were you jealous?” I don’t know why, but that idea excites me. See? I’m clearly an ass. But if she’s jealous, then that means she cares, right?

“No, but we’re married. For show anyway. How do you think it looks for you to be out with your gorgeous ex while your wife is getting a lecture from her doctor about being fat?”

And now I’m back to seeing red. “What?”

Liv slaps a hand over her mouth and her wide eyes well with tears. “Oh my God. I have no idea why I said that.”

“Livy,” I say softly, peeling her hand from her face.

“What?” The tears break free and my heart fucking cracks.

Cupping her cheeks, I swipe the tears with the pads of my thumbs, wishing it was as easy to erase every hurtful word ever spoken to her.

“Never again,” I whisper.

“Never again what?” She hiccups.

“I’ll never have lunch with her again.”

Shaking her head, she tries to pull back. “No, I was being ridiculous.”

Instead of releasing her, I pull her closer and give her the softest smile I can manage. “No, you were jealous. Just like I was jealous when I found you talking to your ex on the phone. Though that jealousy pretty quickly turned to rage. He can’t talk to you like that, Livy.”

She closes her eyes and pulls in a deep breath. “Why do you keep calling me that?”

“Calling you what?”

Livy. You’ve never called me that. I’ve always been Liv.” She mimics the same damn tone her ex used earlier and my teeth nearly crack.

“Because you’re my wife.” I emphasize the last word, hoping she’ll hear the meaning behind my words, praying she’ll feel the power in them like I do. “I’ll be damned if I talk to my wife like I used to talk to you. I’m so sorry, Livy. God, I hate the idea that I ever sounded like him.”

With a little shake of her head, she licks her lush lips. The way I want to dip my head closer and possess those lips is a problem. “Now tell me about this damn doctor.”

She rolls her eyes, and this time, she does manage to pull out of my grasp. As if she’s trying to hide from me, she crosses her arms over her chest and hunches her shoulders, making herself smaller again. “It’s nothing I haven’t heard before. I gained weight during each of my pregnancies, but I’ve never been small, and—” She sighs and drops her attention to the top button of my shirt. “It’s nothing. I like my curves. It was just one of those days, ya know? And yes, maybe I was a little jealous of Sabrina, but who wouldn’t be? She’s perfect.”

I drop my head back and groan at the sky. Damn, this woman can be so blind sometimes. Edging in closer, I cage her in against the banister.

“Why are you looking at me like that?” she grumbles, lifting her chin as if she’s donning armor in preparation for my response.

“I was always looking, Livy. When you were married to someone else. When you were pregnant. When you were a different size after giving birth… I was never not looking, and I always liked what I saw.” I lean down, my nose brushing against her neck, and inhale her. “You’ve always had my attention,” I whisper against her. “This is just the first time you’ve noticed, because you’re finally looking back.”

Pulling back, Liv studies me, her lip caught between her teeth. Let her stare. Let her look for the lie. She won’t find it. I’ve been looking at her like this for years, and I’m tired of pretending I’m anything but obsessed with my wife.


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