A sexy, single dad standalone romance coming soon from New York Times bestselling author Kendall Ryan.
Life threw me a curveball. An adorable eight-pound, four-ounce curveball with her mother’s eyes and my dark hair. I’d like to think my single-dad game is strong, but honestly? I’ve been struggling a little.
When a beautiful young woman moves in next door and offers to give me a hand, I jump at the chance to hire her as a nanny. Jessa is amazing with my daughter. She’s also patient, kind, and way too pretty.
The number one rule of hiring a nanny? Don’t bed the nanny.
It’s a rule I intend to keep.
But as the days pass, I begin to realize how much my life is missing. Companionship. Romance. Intimacy. When I discover my heart has space for one more female, it’s a lost cause, another curveball. The hot-as-hell nanny is leaving soon for a mission trip to Central America. No sense in letting myself fantasize about Jessa being a permanent part of my life.
The closer we get, the more difficult it becomes to keep my feelings in check, because my heart won’t listen. And neither will my libido.
Well, you know what they say. Rules are meant to be broken . . .
Sunlight pours onto the front porch of the three-bedroom home I bought several months ago. I gave up my apartment in the city for a suburban zip code, a lawn I don’t have time to mow, and nosy neighbors who want to know why my baby’s mom isn’t in the picture.
It’s . . . a lot.
But at this moment, lawn mowers and property taxes are the least of my concerns.
The stress I’ve been under for the last few months, ever since before my daughter was born, has been beaten into temporary submission by warm sunshine, good company, and the cold beer in my hand. Anxiety still lurks just below the surface, in the tension in my shoulders, in the dark thoughts that linger, but for now at least, I’m relatively at ease. Summer has finally come to Chicago, and I’m parked in a lawn chair on my front porch with three of my best friends.
“Just like old times. Right, man?” Hayes leans back in his chair, kicking his feet up onto the brick ledge. He’s the easygoing one, always able to put people at ease.
I used to be that way. Friendly. Fun-loving. Always down for a good time. Now it’s a mixed bag. The stress of becoming a single father has done a number on me, and I’m still fighting for breath on what feels like a sinking ship at times.
“Something like that,” I murmur, lifting the bottle to my lips for a sip. The beer goes down with a bite, hoppy and full-bodied.
To my left, Wolfie grunts his approval. In contrast to Hayes, Wolfie is a bit of a handful. Complicated, but loyal. Unpredictably moody, yet reliable. Although his foul moods have improved drastically since he started dating my younger sister—a story that I have no intention of getting into right now.
“Thanks for the beer, man,” I say, raising my beverage in Caleb’s direction.
“Fuck yeah. Anytime,” he says before downing what I can only assume is half of his beer and releasing an enormous belch.
Caleb is a bit of a wild child. I keep waiting for the guy to grow up, but so far, that hasn’t happened. He’s still the same shamelessly immature guy I met in college, and by all indications, that’s not changing anytime soon.
“Chill, man,” Hayes whispers to Caleb, nodding in my direction. “Boys’ night isn’t just for the boys anymore.”
Ah. That’s my cue to acknowledge the tiny little cherub resting in my arms. Marley, my baby girl, who has my dark hair and my ex’s blue eyes and creamy skin.
“Oh, come on. She’s dead asleep.” Caleb leans forward in his chair. “Hey, Marley. Maaarley. Marzipan!”
My two-month-old daughter doesn’t wake, nestled peacefully against my chest, her plump little fist clutching my T-shirt.
We all take a moment to watch the rise and fall of her back, the cutest little poop-and-puke machine you ever did see. Even when she’s pooping and puking, she’s the most beautiful thing in the world, and you can fight me on that. I’ll die on that hill.
“How’s she been?” Wolfie asks with a deep line etched between his brows, tipping his chin toward the sleeping baby.
I smile. I’ve missed my old roommate’s perpetual frown.
Paternity leave has been . . . interesting. A bit isolating, but I’m starting to realize it doesn’t have to be that way.
“Good. She’s good.” It isn’t a lie. Marley is a good baby, usually low maintenance with only the occasional meltdown. Kind of like her dad.
“How about you?” Hayes frowns as he studies me.
Damn, I must look as exhausted as I feel.
“I’m alive.” I chuckle, but the humor in my voice sounds forced. That’s a new one for me.
“You’ll feel better once you’re back.” Caleb nods sagely, as if my returning to work will somehow restore the balance of the universe.
“If I come back,” I say to remind them, only half joking.
My partners graciously gave me six weeks of paid paternity leave, with a little leeway in the budget to sneak in another week or two.
Together, the guys and I own a sex toy business named Frisky Business, both an ecofriendly line of toys that we manufacture, as well as a retail store in the heart of Chicago. Despite the shop being a second home to me for years, I haven’t set foot in the place in six weeks, and part of me can’t picture myself going back. At least, not until I find someone I trust to take care of the most important person in my life, Marley.
“What about the day cares you were researching?” Wolfie asks, and I can see him crunching the numbers in his head.
I’m well aware that Frisky Business can’t afford to keep me on paternity leave for much longer. It’s already been two months.
I scowl. “No luck. Did you know there’s a government website where you can look up safety violations and infractions of any licensed day care? It’s terrifying,” I say with a shudder that’s all too real. “All the day cares within a five-mile radius have too many accident reports to even count.”
“Shit, seriously? Well, what about Beth?” Hayes asks.
Ah, yes. Beth. Part-time mother of my child, full-time med-school student alongside her med-school-student boyfriend.
They certainly don’t have the time to care for a child 24/7. We share joint custody, but a lot has been falling on me lately, not that I’m complaining. I love spending time with Marley, and I want Beth to be able to build her career. She’s a good mom, juggling school, a new relationship, and Marley with relative ease.
“When she finishes her residency next year, she’ll have more time to care for Marley. For now, she and Brett have her two days of the week. Beth wants more, but she can’t quite swing it right now.”
The guys nod, trying to understand this new life I’ve found myself living.
One day at a time . . .
Let’s rewind. Thirteen months ago, I was happily single, living in the city without a care in the world. The only unknown in my life was the familiar and somewhat amusing panic of waking up next to a woman whose name I couldn’t remember. Back then, I was going on a minimum of three dates per week, some of which ended with a satisfying hookup with whichever lucky lady could keep up with me.
My love-for-life dial was cranked up to 100 and locked into place with superglue. Nothing was gonna slow me down.
Of course, all that changed with a phone call from my former friend-with-benefits. Beth was busy becoming a doctor, and neither of us had time for a relationship. But Netflix and chilling became our thing for a couple of months last year, until those two little pink lines changed everything. Beth was carrying my baby, despite the precautions we’d taken.
But even with the massive overhaul of my social life, life is better with Marley, on all counts. She’s given me purpose, a word I thought was only reserved for the kind of people who go on mission trips to Guatemala twice a year.
Nowadays, I’m so much more than just Connor Blake, the bachelor. More than co-owner of Chicago’s number one sex-toy shop.
I’m a dad.
Read the ENTIRE first chapter ———-> Kendall Ryan’s Website