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The Sterling Shore Series - Father's Day short story

WREN


“You really need to do something about that, Daddy,” Angel points out, sighing as though she’s exasperated.


I glare at her, trying not to let how sweet she looks deter from the fact she’s the reason I’m wearing cake batter, piss, and dog hair.


“Sweetie, where did the puppy come from?” I ask as softly as I can.


She leans forward, picking the spilled bowl up from the ground where the tiny puppy is still lapping up the remains of the cake batter that Allie had left on a stool. The stool the puppy knocked over while sliding through its own piss puddle in the middle of the floor.


“It’s your Father’s Day present. Mommy says you’re supposed to say ‘thank you’ when someone gives you a gift. Why do you look so mad?”


I groan while dragging my hand over my face, then gag when I remember why my hand is wet. Shit.

Quickly moving to the sink, I wash my hands and my face, still fighting back a gag.


“Where did you get it? Did Aunt Bella take you to get it?”


I wouldn’t put it past Bella. She’s evil like that. And she knows I’m not an animal lover.


“Aunt Bella is allergic,” Angel says matter-of-factly as I turn around to face her again.


“Did Mommy take you to get it?” Allie is just as evil. But then again, she acted as surprised by the puppy as I did.


“Nope,” she says, making the word pop.


Allie rounds the corner, still shuddering in disgust even though she has changed and showered quickly. Did I forget to mention the puppy wasn’t the only one to fall in the piss puddle?


I woke up to something whining and whimpering, and I followed the sounds with Angel’s bat in my hand. Why I didn’t grab my bat—a full grown man’s bat instead of the little pink one—I don’t know.


Allie was in the kitchen, working on my first Father’s Day cake, and she heard it at the same time I did. We met halfway in the living room, and we both spotted a ball of fur going crazy while trying to get its head out of my shoe. Yes—MY shoe that now has bite marks and drool all over it.


Allie squealed, I cursed, and the puppy freed itself, only to start the first wave of destruction. We were chasing it, and only lost sight of it for a split second before we heard a crash in the kitchen. That was the stool with the cake batter on it.


I caught the pup as he was licking up the feast, but put him down quickly when I realized why he was wet. And that’s how I came to wear piss, fur, and cake batter. I never saw Allie falling until she was mid-flight, busting her ass, and splattering in the biggest puddle ever.


And here we are, both of us staring down our little girl whose name does not fit her right now.


“Where did he sleep?” I ask her. Maybe I can get a clue as to how she managed to get a pup in here without us knowing.


“With Uncle Rye,” she admits, then her eyes get round in her head because she realizes she just sold that asshole out.


Allie is torn between laughing and groaning, so the sound she makes is almost comical. Almost. I’m too busy looking at the chaos the small puppy has left behind in such a short span of time.


“When did Uncle Rye drop him off?” Allie asks, crossing her arms over her chest as she stares down our daughter.


“This morning. While you were making coffee,” Angel states quickly, immediately feeling the effect of Allie’s glower.


I really need to learn how to do that. I always feel guilty when I intimidate Angel.


“And I didn’t hear him because?” Allie goes on.


Angel sheepishly looks down. “He called me and told me to meet him at the door. I wanted a puppy for Daddy, and Uncle Rye said he’d get me one.”


I’ll just bet he did. The dick.


“Angel, we’ve gone over this many times in the past. We can’t have a puppy,” Allie says softly.


Angel’s eyes get big and watery, and her bottom lip trembles. Ah, fuck.


“Because Aunt Bella’s allergic,” Angel says, already choking on emotion. “Aunt Bella doesn’t live with us anymore.”


When the first tear falls, I resign myself to the destructive future ahead.


“Looks like we have a puppy,” I sigh.


Allie’s eyes cut to me, but Angel’s tears immediately dry, and a delighted squeal bubbles out. “Thank you!”


She runs and hugs me, while Allie gives me a you’re-so-weak look. Yeah, I can’t help it. I admit I’m weak when it comes to Angel crying.


That’s when the puppy barks and decides to create a new puddle. Right beside my laptop. Which has been knocked to floor as well. Fucking eh.


****


TAG


“Where the hell did he get that?” I demand, pointing at the obnoxious set of drums Trip is loudly banging, while stomping the even more obnoxious keyboard on the floor, and blowing a train whistle like a one-boy-band that is horrendously out of tune. “Those are all on the never-buy-list.”


Ash shakes her head, looking every bit as exhausted as I feel. Trip started his concert at five this morning, after he managed to climb out of his crib, because he’s apparently turned into a monkey these days, and bars just won’t hold him back anymore.


The baby starts crying on the monitor, and Ash points toward Trip. “You handle him. I need to go check on her.”


I whimper while sitting down. I thought Father’s Day would be me kicking my feet up, lounging peacefully while Ash and Trip stayed cuddled up against me. Just like last time. Only this time We’d have our daughter curled up with us, too.


What a difference time can make. Now one kid is on a mission to crumble the world, while the other is pissed about it. Can’t blame her. With a house as big as this one, you’d think you’d be able to escape the noise.


Not possible.


“Trip,” I say soothingly, trying not to make him wary.


He grins as he bangs the drums harder with one hand, still holding that big train whistle and blowing it. And that foot kicks harder against the keyboard as though he’s on a mission.


“How about we go outside and play?” I ask hopefully.


He shakes his head, and his ear-killing melody increases in volume.


“How about we watch TV? Or take a bath? Or go see Grandma? Either one you want to see…”


Tempting him with all his favorites only earns me another head shake and even louder noise. I know what I should have asked for Father’s Day now. Earplugs. Lots of earplugs.


“Want to go see one of your cousins?” I prattle on, still sounding so damn hopeful.


He shakes his head again, and I listen as Ash tries to soothe our baby girl through the monitor. But she only cries harder, because Trip is relentless. And he knows I plan to steal his instruments of torture the second he steps away. So he’s like an attack dog ready to fight.


“Where did you get these?” I groan, dropping down to the floor.


“Wye,” he says, prompting me to snap my head in his direction.


The whistling has stopped, making way for his words to form.


“What did you say?” I ask him, knowing damn well I had to have heard him wrong.


“Wye,” he says again. He’s not asking why. He’s saying Rye. That bastard!


“When did he bring these?”


He grins, then starts banging the drums with the train whistle, making the noise almost deafening. “Moosic!” he shouts.


Music? Not even close. Now I know what Base’s mother went through. I also know why the hell all these toys are on the never-buy-list that we hand out to all our friends and family. Damn Rye. He used it against me. And he has a key.


Why the hell did I ever give him a key?


Oh yeah. Because he was just a brooding lump before he met Brin. It’s her fault. This is all HER fault.

When my daughter cries harder, I hear Ash talking to me through the monitor. “We’re going to need a padded room for instruments.”


I’m going to lock Rye in that padded room with Trip for three hours. That still won’t be enough to pay him back for this.


Damn him.


******


DANE


“Son of a bit—” My words halt immediately when I see Carrie smiling at me. Why is she smiling while I spit out the worst coffee ever? What happened to it?


“Happy Father’s Day,” she says in a volume that is just above a whisper.


That makes me forget all about the gross coffee, and I lean down to scoop her up and kiss her on the forehead. “Thank you, baby girl. You’re up early.”


She hugs my neck, and in the same low volume, she says, “I wanted to see you get all your Father’s Day gifts.”


I smile against her cheek before kissing it. She still struggles to speak in front of people. There’s only a few of us she’ll speak to at all. It makes my heart break for her, but it also makes me feel special because she lets me in.


“That’s great, sweetie. I’ll open them as soon as Mommy gets up.”


She’s smiling as she leans back, and then her eyes flick to my coffee. She starts to speak, but my phone rings, and she wiggles out of my arms, giggling instead. Which is good. She’s never so happy as she seems to be this morning. That’s huge progress.


“Dane Sterling,” I say, considering I don’t know the number.


It’s just someone trying to sell me something, so I hang up and move on, searching for Carrie. I turn to walk into her room, but I run all over some invisible wall, and I crash back to the ground, losing my breath with a painful thud.


“Oh fudge,” I grumble, coughing on the air as it slowly enters my lungs.


That’s when I hear the wild cackle break free from my normally quiet little girl, and I lift my head to see Carrie grinning bigger than I’ve ever seen her grin before. I also realize there is something over her doorway, something almost clear, but just barely visible. Only a gap at the bottom remains open, which must be how she got in there.


What is that?


“I thought you were going to wait for Mommy to wake up to get all your gifts,” she says, whispering this time.


I rub my head, confused as hell. “Sweetie, what is that?” I ask, pointing to the shit that took me down.

“Your present,” she whispers again, still beaming. “You like it?”


I have no idea what she’s talking about. Maybe it’s supposed to be art? “Yeah. I love it,” I say quickly, not wanting her to feel upset.


She grins again before running by me, and I heave out a breath before climbing back up to my feet. Is she still giggling? That makes me smile despite the hard lick I just took.


I follow her giggly trail all the way back to the kitchen. She runs out the door to go outside, and I curse while slipping on my shoes. Then I curse louder while doing a seriously fucked up dance to get my foot back out of my shoe when I feel something nauseatingly squishy inside.

What the fucking hell?


I glare down at the gummy worms that are all in my shoe, and my brow furrows in confusion. That’s when all the pieces suddenly fall into place. Immediately I rush over to the sugar I used for my coffee this morning, and I taste it. Fucking salt.


Fucking Brin.


That evil woman.


I should have known she was up to something when she volunteered to watch Carrie for us last night. The Country Club had a big event, and Rain was going to miss it until Brin magically appeared, offering her services all too sweetly.


I’m an idiot.


“Rain!” I call before running outside.


Rain doesn’t like the mornings, but I need her to go throttle Brin for me, since I can’t hurt a woman.

My breath leaves in a rush when I’m suddenly falling, tripping over string that WAS NOT there when I got home last night. Then I hear loud, yet sweet laughter fill the air when water slaps me in the face. I shake my head and wipe my eyes, looking up to see there had been a bucket tied to that string, hiding in the rafters of my porch’s overhang.


Evil. Pure evil.


But Carrie continues to laugh as Rain comes outside, looking mussed by sleep, and confused by me. Her eyes move from me to the bucket as she stays in the safety of the doorway, and a slow smile curls her lips as Carrie’s laughter continues.


“What’s this?” Rain asks, looking too amused. Traitor.


“This would be Brin’s idea of babysitting,” I grumble, which prompts Rain to laugh as loud as Carrie.

“You like it, Daddy?” Carrie continues.


She’s never celebrated a Father’s Day before. She’s never had a true father figure before me. Her life has been a series of disappointments and heartache. Now it seems Brin has made her believe pranks are for Father’s Day presents.


When Carrie can’t stop grinning, I internally curse Brin. Carrie is never this excited or happy. It takes a lot to make her smile. I’m a little worried that she shares the same sense of humor with Brin, but damn. That smile is my undoing.


“Yeah,” I tell Carrie, not really lying because I’d do anything to see that smile stay there. “I love it.”


That’s when I get a message from Wren, but I’m quickly hit by a text from Tag as well. I read them without bothering to get up. I’m worried this will now be Carrie’s traditional Father’s Day process.


Tag: I’m killing Rye.


Wren: I’m killing Rye.


Apparently I’m not the only one the prankster couple hit. Oh shit. I hope this doesn’t meant that they’re bored with pranking each other and are now teaming up on us. That’s… Dear God, no.


“You look a little pale,” Rain points out, still snickering as Carrie comes to hug my wet neck.


I kiss her on the cheek again, and she giggles all the way back inside. I’m half afraid that’s not all my “presents.”


“Tag and Wren got hit, too.”


Rain’s laughter pours out as she goes back inside, apparently fucking loving this. Of course she loves it. It takes her back to the days when we all pranked each other. The only time she didn’t love it was when she was the target.


I text Wren and Tag in a group message.


Me: I’m killing Brin.


Then I type out another message.


Me: We need Ethan.


Almost instantly, they both message back.


Tag: Hell to the fuck yes.


Wren: Already messaged him.


Time to even up the score.


I walk in just as Rain spits coffee everywhere, glaring at the cup as though it has offended her, and I smirk. Okay. Even I admit that’s a little funny.


My phone chirps, and I pull it out, expecting a message from the two of them, but instead see Brin’s name. As if she’s not evil enough, she has to rub my face in the fact she has started a Father’s Day tradition.


Brin: Happy Father’s Day ;)

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