Jessie watched Grace scratch the dog’s belly. “You’re never going to get her into bed tonight. She’s going to want to play with him all night.”
Mack’s cheek brushed against hers as he leaned in to her ear. “I know the feeling. I’d love to play with you all night long.”
Heat scorched her face and she prayed no one had heard him. “Not tonight with Grace around.”
He tugged her earlobe. “That doesn’t mean I can’t wish it.” He pulled away then, his attention once again on the food, leaving her to wish for the very same thing.
Although a little chaotic, the party went smoothly considering the children and the dog running around. The only real disaster occurred when Mack left a plate of hot dogs unattended and Socks decided they looked good for lunch. Even with that little mishap, everyone had plenty of food and fun, including Jessie—despite the evil daggers Bethany threw her way all afternoon. Like Mack, though, she silently rejoiced when everyone except his parents and Bethany left. Finally, they could give Grace their birthday gift. Jessie doubted it would trump the dog from her grandparents, but she thought it would earn a close second.
As a team, everyone worked to clean up the backyard. While the children and their parents had been good about throwing away their trash, uneaten food remained out. “If you don’t mind bringing in the cake, I’ll handle the trash,” Mack said. Two large trash bags sat near the deck, overflowing with everything from wrapping paper to unfinished hamburgers.
Jessie grabbed the cake and headed inside while Mack’s parents closed up the folding tables.
“Mack mentioned you and he got Grace a joint gift.”
Jessie looked up when she heard Bethany. She hadn’t realized the other woman had followed her inside, but there stood Grace’s mom with extra party plates in her hands.
“We’re going to give it to her as soon as we’re done with this.” Jessie put the cake into its original box, and then stored it in the refrigerator.
Stone-faced, Bethany advanced on her. “Word of advice, Jessica. Stay away from my family.”
Jessie stared at the woman, shocked by the animosity she heard. “Excuse me?” Had Bethany just told her to stay away from Mack and Grace?
“You heard me just fine.” Bethany crossed her arms. “Mack and Grace are not your family, they’re mine.”
Jessie understood Bethany claiming Grace as her family. Grace was her daughter and Bethany might feel threatened. Mack, however, was not her husband and hadn’t been for a while. He could spend time with whomever he wanted.
“Grace is your daughter, I get that.” Jessie didn’t want a scene in Mack’s kitchen, but then again, she didn’t want Bethany pushing her around. “I’d never do anything to interfere in your relationship with her. But you and Mack are divorced now. Whether we spend time together or not is none of your business.” She managed a calm, cool voice although, inside, her blood boiled with anger. Who did Bethany think she was?
The woman took a step closer. “People make mistakes. We have history together and a child. That supersedes any little fling he’s having with you now. Besides, do you really think he’d prefer you to me? Just look at the two of us.” A smug conceited expression settled on Bethany’s face and Jessie’s hand itched to slap it away.