I'm so so so so so excited for this one, y'all.

Couple of things though: if cheat fics aren't for you, move along. Please. For your sanity and mine. Just pass this one up right now.

For those of you who are still here, get ready for some angst! But also some fun? IDK maybe I'm sick.

Huge, heartfelt hugs to all the ladies in my corner: Hadley, Paige, Heba, May, Rhi, Janelle, Pamela... and to Lizzie for the beautiful banner!

Love you guys for sticking with me on yet another story! Can't wait to hear your thoughts. :)

- sparks -



"Momma, no."

"Baby, you have to put your shoes back on," I say, trying to reason with my three-year-old, Mikey.

We're at the park, and he abandoned his socks and shoes five minutes into arriving because he wanted to play in a puddle. I'm not always a "no" mom, but the last time we were here, there were broken beer bottles littering the rubbered turf. Because getting wasted after-hours on a playscape is apparently appealing to some teenagers.

"Sef have no shoes," Mikey pouts, unable to properly say Seth's name.

I look over to my right and find Edward also trying to wrangle his son into socks and shoes.

I softly laugh. It's sympathetic though because I fucking get it.

Edward and I share a look.

Is it five o'clock yet?

Maybe he's not thinking about it, but I certainly am.

It's been a hell of a day.

A house I was trying to sell fell through. My husband's been short with me because he's stressed about making partner at his law firm. And the morning started off with me having to get a pap smear.

So, yeah.

I'm ready for a fucking glass of wine.

"No shoes means no park," I tell Mikey, barely holding onto my patience. We've only been here for ten minutes. The last five minutes were spent doing this. The first five were settling an argument between Mikey and Seth over sharing a ball they found on the playground.

Edward and I thought it would be nice to bring them to the park and take advantage of the sunny day after picking them up from their preschool. I guess we thought wrong.

I hear a soft, melodic voice to my left. "Your son really knows best. You should listen to him. Let him teach you. That's what I do with my child."

I glance over my shoulder and see a young mom with long brunette hair, wearing a crop top and sitting on a bench, an infant carrier beside her.

"I'm sorry, what?" I ask, confused.

"There really are benefits to being barefoot and walking along the earth's surface. It's called grounding," she says in a peaceful tone that makes me kind of want to… not be peaceful, I guess.

My first thought is, "Who the fuck wears a crop top in March… in Seattle?" My other is "Who sits down while wearing one?" The rolls that happen to your stomach are just… no. But I get a better look and see her stomach is flat. I guess she sits down while wearing a crop top and is immune to the bite in the air.

"We're good. Thanks," I say, kind of clipped, and brush my wavy blonde hair out of my face.

"Check out my Instagram if you'd like to hear more about grounding. My username is Wellnessmama69."

Of course, it is.

I hear the stifling of a laugh and look over at Edward, who seems to have caught this entire exchange as well. He looks bemused, which honestly is the correct response. His bewilderment dampens my annoyance a little and confirms that I'm not a lunatic.

Edward hoists Seth up into his arms, his almost-four-year-old still throwing a fit.

"Gonna call it," Edward tells me when he walks by. Then he turns around to look at me while walking backward. "See you later? I'll make some sides, and Gianna will bring wine. I hear it's super grounding."

I don't even bother fighting my laugh. "Sounds good." I focus on my son again. "I guess the playdate is over, baby. I just want you to be safe with your body, but if you can't do that, then we can't play," I tell Mikey, who starts to cry. It's more of a wail, really. Nearly screaming bloody murder. No matter how many times I've dealt with a public meltdown, it never gets less embarrassing.

I try to put his shoes on, but he starts kicking. So I forget the fucking shoes, and with his hand in mine, I gently tug for him to stand. I don't necessarily want him walking barefoot to the car, even if it is just yards away and grounding. I attempt to pick him up, but with everything in my hands—his shoes and water bottle, my phone and keys—it's hard. Add in the fact that he's throwing a fit and fighting against me, and it makes carrying him nearly impossible.

The young mom coughs, and I look over at her yet again. She smiles, but I don't. Maybe she's sweet and not being judgmental. Maybe I'm being sensitive.

Just wait, I think. This will be your kid one day.

Suddenly, Edward is back, and while still holding Seth, he picks up Mikey for me, too.

"Bud, why do you have to give your mom a hard time?" Edward asks him.

"Me plaaaaay!" Mikey wails.

Seth wails.

I would, too, but we've already made enough of a scene.

I give Edward an appreciative look for coming back to help, and we walk to our cars.

After unlocking my SUV, I set everything down, then take Mikey from Edward. I help him into his car seat and buckle him in as he reaches for one of his books. I hand him two of them. He throws one onto the floorboard but opens the other and looks at it.

"Thanks for helping," I tell Edward, shutting the back door.

He lingers by my car after getting Seth strapped in, too. "Man. They're on one today."

I sigh. "I know. Their teacher said they were little mischief-makers this afternoon. I think I just need to get him home and down for a nap."

Edward smiles sympathetically. I know he gets it. "We don't have to come over for dinner later if it's too much."

"No, no. We have to eat dinner regardless, and I need some adult interaction," I insist.

"I feel you. Meeting you here was my one big outing for the day, and we didn't even really interact. Mostly got scolded by that hippie."

We laugh at the absurdity.

"Wow, I'm honored I was your one big outing today," I tease.

He smirks. "You should be. I even put pants on for you."

"You didn't have to."

His eyes shine in amusement. "You'd rather I didn't wear pants to the park? Pretty sure I'd show up on a sex offender list if I did that."

My cheeks heat. "I mean, like, joggers are fine. Or sweats. Whatever. You didn't have to put on jeans, is what I'm saying." I need to shut up. Or maybe he does.

He just grins. "Okay."

"Have you started editing your manuscript yet?" I ask, changing the subject and brushing off any awkwardness that just occurred between us. "You said you finished the first draft a few days ago, right?" I don't know why I'm pretending like I don't remember. It's a huge deal, and I'm super proud of him.

"Yeah, edits are going fine, I guess. But I've completely scrapped a chapter, and I'm trying to rework it…" He trails off, looking stressed. "I sent my manuscript to a few friends and family, but no one has said anything yet, so it's probably shit."

"Okay, Mr. New York Times' Best Seller," I say dryly, and he smiles because he knows his last book did really well. "I doubt it's shit. It's only been three days, right? Give them time."

After a beat of hesitation, he asks, "Would you maybe want to read it for me?"

"You want me to read your manuscript?" I clarify, raising my brows

I watch his throat bob with a swallow. "Yeah."

"I don't know if I'm qualified."

"You can read, and I value your opinion. That's enough qualification," he says simply, watching my face. "Unless you don't want to, then—"

"Of course, I want to." I wanted to ask, but I didn't want it to be weird like I'm trying to get early access or a free copy or whatever.

"Really, no pressure or anything. Just want different perspectives, you know? If you're busy, it's fine," he goes on, still rambling. "I just have to edit the first half by the end of April, so you could just read that, not even the entire book. But again, if you're busy—"

"Edward." I chuckle softly at how nervous he seems. It feels unlike him, but I know this book is important. "I'd love to read it," I say, genuinely interested.

He looks surprised. "Really?"

I smile. "Yes. You've only been talking about it for the last year or so. Just email it later tonight."

"I actually brought a copy with me," he replies, looking a little sheepish.

"Like a physical copy?"

Without another word, he moves toward his car and opens the passenger-side door. "I had it printed and bound because I know you hate reading digital books." When he turns around, he's holding his first draft and hands it over. I try to grab it, but he tugs it back, not letting go. "Only if you're sure."

"I'm sure." He releases his grip, and I flip through the bound paper, smiling. "I'm excited. Thank you."

"Thank you. Seriously." He shoves his hands in his pockets. "So, you're sure it's still cool if we come over for dinner?"

I look at him like he's crazy. "Not anymore. I have a manuscript to read." He just laughs, looking down at the pavement like he's suddenly gone shy. "Yes, still on for dinner. Jared might be late, but that's okay. You'll be on grill duty until he gets home."

Edward looks up, scoffing. "Like hell, I will. You never touch another man's grill."

I roll my eyes and start walking toward my driver's side door. "How very caveman of you."

He walks backward toward his car. "What can I say? I'm a traditionalist."

"No, you're not," I accuse.

"No, I'm not," he agrees, biting back a smirk.

As an author, Edward works from home and has the flexibility to take care of Seth more often than his wife, who's VP of a software development company. I don't actually know what she does, but she tends to have a tight schedule and occasionally has to travel.

It works for them, and from what I've seen and heard, neither have complaints about him being the more present parent.

Every marriage is different, of course, but sometimes I wish my husband helped out a little more than he does. It makes sense that I look after Mikey more since my job as a realtor offers that flexibility. But if I'm being honest, this is why I don't want a second child. I know I'll get the brunt of the work again. That's not to say I don't love Mikey with every fiber of my being because I do. He's the greatest thing I ever did. The best part of Jared and me and the littlest love of my life.

Mikey's enough for me.

I don't need another child.

Unfortunately, my husband wants one.

"Daddy, I hungry!" Seth calls out from the backseat.

"Guess I'll see you in a bit," Edward says, and we both get into our cars. I place his manuscript in the passenger seat then look behind me.

"You good, baby?" I ask Mikey, his light brown hair falling in his eyes.

"Me good," he answers, and the book in his hands gets tossed to the floorboard.

Starting the engine, I look to my left, waiting for Edward to back up. He motions for me to go, so I do, pulling out of the lot first with Edward driving behind me.

My eyes cut to him in my rearview mirror a couple of times.

I replay his words.

You'd rather I didn't wear pants to the park?


I mentally slap myself for making that awkward comment about him not having to wear pants. Then again, maybe the awkwardness is more on him for making it suggestive when I really didn't mean it that way.

My eyes flick back up to the mirror. I can see his eyes are hidden behind Ray-Bans now, but it almost looks like he smiles. It's faint, but I swear it's there.

I stop looking after that and focus on driving.

Minutes later, I'm turning into the driveway.

Seconds after that, Edward pulls into his too.

Right next door.