Melanie Shawn

Dear Love Vixen,

Six months ago, my life changed forever, and I had no idea it was coming.

My sister—the strongest and most selfless person I’ve ever met and the kickass mom to three adorable kids—was killed in a car accident.

In an instant, I became the mom to those three adorable kids, and lemme tell ya…I am far from strong. Or kickass. In fact, up until that night, I was a party girl who never worried about anything deeper than my plans for the weekend. I’m not equipped for this—especially since I lost the person I would’ve normally leaned on in this situation!

To say I’ve been flailing would be an understatement.

There has been one bright spot in the messy-house-late-to-school-bedtime-chaos darkness, though.

My neighbor.

He comes over pretty much every evening, and spends almost the entire weekend at our place. Every weekend. He’s amazing with the kids, which isn’t surprising considering he’s the oldest of nine siblings and helped to raise them.

That’s kind of the problem, though. He’s always said he never wanted kids. That his childhood burned him out. That it was a dealbreaker.

So, even though the sparks are flying so fast and furious it feels like they could burn the house down (which, to be honest, with the year I’ve had, a burned-down house would pretty much fit), I don’t feel safe trusting those sparks.

Or the look in his eyes when he turns to me. Or the soft smile on his face when he watches me with the kids.

I would’ve asked my sister about this, so I’m asking you instead. And I’ve gotta warn you, those are big shoes to fill. But I trust you!

So, Love Vixen—is there a chance that a newly-reformed party girl, a guy who swore he’d never have children, and the three kids neither of them ever expected to land in their lives can come together and make an unconventional but happy family?

(Not to tell you your job or anything, but PLEASE SAY THERE IS A CHANCE!)

Heartbroken but Hopeful

Dear Heartbroken,

Sweetie, I wish I could give you a hug and tell you what you want to hear. Let’s unpack your question a bit and break it down. What’s your reason for crushing on him?

With all you’ve been through it would be easy to confuse dependency and loneliness with love. Does he make your heart race because of his babysitting skills or does the man behind the child whisperer do it for you? That’s something only you can answer. Neighbor guy sounds like a very caring and nurturing friend. A person can’t turn those traits off. I bet if you found the answer to why he doesn’t want a family of his own you might discover the chance you want with him.

You’ve done an incredible thing by stepping up and giving those precious children love and stability during a very scary time in their lives. Be just as kind to yourself. Seek your own happiness, even if it’s not waiting for you just outside your door.

Good luck, hon!

The ♥ Vixen

***Let’s Talk Love introduces you to The Love Vixen and gives you a peek inside her life. The Love Vixen ultimately finds her HEA in December in My Bet’s on Love.


Meet the Author!

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NEW YORK TIMES & USA TODAY bestselling author Melanie Shawn is the writing team of sister duo Melanie and Shawna. Originally from Northern California, they both migrated south and now call So Cal their home.

They have joined forces to create a world where true love and happily ever after always has a sexy twist!

Whitney

Breathe. I just needed to concentrate on my breaths.  

One, two, three, four, I counted as I inhaled.

One, two, three, four, I counted as I exhaled.

I filled the pan with water and tried to hold the nervous breakdown that I’d been on the brink of having every second of every day for the past six months at bay. One day, I would let myself breakdown and feel all the feelings that I needed to feel.

“But today is not that day,” I whispered beneath my breath as I set the pan on the front burner of the stove and switched on the heat.

I looked at the time. It was five in the evening. I had two hours before baths, and then there was story time, water, and getting Benji down which all took roughly two hours. I just needed to make it until nine and then I could have a glass of wine and cry. Four more hours. That was what I looked forward to in my days now. Getting to have a glass of wine and cry, alone.

But first, there were things to do. I ran the mental list through my head as I grabbed the noodles and spaghetti sauce from the cabinet.  

Dinner. Laundry. Homework. Baths. 

Mikey had a science project due tomorrow. He’d been working on it for the past two weeks. It was some sort of biosphere, which I didn’t totally understand, but he seemed to have a handle on. I needed to make sure that it was done. 

Alice was still having nightmares. I needed to try and figure out what to say to her so she wouldn’t be terrified to go to bed. I’d meant to look online today and research tips but Benji had had a rough day and I’d just gotten him down for the first time today. He was teething and running a fever which meant this was the first moment I’d had to myself since five this morning. I’d even had to pee with him on my lap. But, thankfully, either the Tylenol had kicked in or he’d just worn himself out and he’d drifted off to sleep about ten minutes ago.

Which reminded me, I was almost out of Tylenol. I needed to Postmate it so I would have enough to get through the night. I opened the box of noodles, and as I put them into the pan I looked around my house. It looked like a tornado had hit it. There were toys, shoes, bottles, clothes, plates, cups, everywhere.

How was this my life?

How was I responsible for keeping three little people alive when I hadn’t even been doing that great a job of keeping myself alive? I’d never even been able to keep a plant alive, much less a living, breathing—anything.

I never wanted to be a mom. That was Addison. She was the nurturing one. She was the one whose bed I climbed into when I was having nightmares. She was the one who helped me with my science project.

The past six months had passed in a fog. I remembered flashes, but it all just seemed like a bad dream that I couldn’t wake up from.

One minute I’d been stumbling home drunk after finding out that my boyfriend— whose name I barely remember—was cheating on me with my best friend and then I was in a hospital waiting room and a doctor was telling me that my sister and her husband were gone. 

Next thing I knew, I had to go to her house and tell my niece and nephew that their mom and dad weren’t ever coming back.

There was a funeral, but that entire day felt like a dream. Like I was outside my body looking in. Mikey didn’t cry at all, and Alice couldn’t stop. The baby was passed from person to person.

After that, I sat in a lawyer’s office and a woman told me that I was the legal guardian of my nephews and niece. I told her I didn’t know how to do that. She said that that was my sister and brother-in-law’s wishes but that I didn’t have to accept it. I could turn them over to the state. I asked about my brother-in-law’s family, and she said that his parents were elderly, and he was an only child.

I’d known that, but I figured there might be a cousin or something.

There wasn’t.

The two options I had were to raise my nephews and niece or turn them over to the state.

I hadn’t had a choice. Not really.

I went back to my sister and brother-in-law’s house and told Mikey and Alice that their mom and dad wanted me to take care of them and asked them if that was okay with them.

They were happy. Or as happy as two kids who’d just lost their parents could be.

I told them that I would move in with them, my sister and brother-in-law had left me the house, but neither of them wanted to stay there. They wanted to come and live at Gamma Mary’s house, which was what they called my house because that’s what it had been when Mikey was little. 

So that’s where we all were. The house was originally a three-bedroom one bath, but when I inherited it five years ago, I’d converted one of the bedrooms into my closet. Now, it was half nursery, half closet and Mikey and Alice shared a room. 

It wasn’t ideal, and I knew that I’d have to figure something else out since Mikey had just turned ten and would want his own space soon, but we were surviving. Barely.

The truth was, I was drowning. I had no clue what I was doing. If it wasn’t for Wyatt, I wouldn’t have made it these past months. He’d saved me and the kids more times than I could count. 

“What were you thinking, Sissy?” I whispered as I felt myself begin to hyperventilate again.

One, two, three, four, I counted as I inhaled.

One, two, three, four, I counted as I exhaled.

Breathe. I just had to breathe. 

“She wrecked it!” Mikey screamed as he ran into the kitchen. “I told her not to touch it and she wrecked it!”

“I was helping!” Alice screamed even louder.

“It’s my homework and she wrecked it!”

“Shh! Mikey, please stop yelling. I don’t want you to wake up Benji. I’ll help you fix your project.”

“No! I don’t want your help! I just want her to leave my shit alone!”

“Michael, do not curse.” I spun around and my hand hit the pan of noodles knocking the pan off the stove onto the floor. The hot water splashed up and burned my skin.

“Fuck!” I screamed as scalding pain ripped through me.

“You curse!” Michael yelled accusatorily.

“Shut up, stupid face!” Alice defended me, she always defended me. 

“Go to your room! Both of you! Now!”

“But Aunt Whitney—” Alice’s lip quivered. 

“Now! Both of you!” I yelled. 

Mikey stomped down the hallway and Alice trailed behind him. He slammed the door and a few seconds later I heard Benji screaming.

“No,” I cried out as I grabbed the baby monitor. “I can’t do this.”

And that’s when I heard it. The knock. He was here. He didn’t come over every night, but somehow, he always showed up when I was at my breaking point.

I tried to wipe my face as I rushed to the front door and sniffed. When I opened it, Moose trotted in, and I heard Alice squeal from behind me. Apparently, she hadn’t gone to her room as instructed.

And there he was. My knight in shining khakis and a polo standing on my porch. He’d come to rescue me.

I’d thought that I had a thing for Wyatt Briggs before my life got turned inside out, and I had. But now, now I was head over heels in love with the man. I wasn’t sure what to do about it, but that was a question for another day when I wasn’t in crisis mode.

“Hi!” I lifted my arm and wiped my nose, coating the back of my hand in snot.

Attractive. Real attractive.

“What happened?” His brows furrowed as he gently lifted the arm I had cradled to my side.

“She said fuck,” Alice offered in way of explanation.

I sighed. “Hot boiling water happened.”

“Alice, can you and Moose go check on Benji for me?” Wyatt asked as he calmly took the baby monitor out of my hand. 

“Yes!” She hopped up and down. “Come on Moose!”

He gently cupped my elbow and walked me into the bathroom and turned the water on and placed my forearm beneath it. “Are you okay?” 

“No,” I answered honestly. 

Although, I had to admit that being this close to Wyatt, smelling the musky scent of his aftershave and feeling his tender touch was a step in the right direction of okay.

Over the baby monitor I heard Alice. “Don’t cry, Benji. Moose and Wyatt are here so everything is going to be okay.”

Even at four she knew what was up.

After a few minutes, he shut off the water and grabbed some aloe and a bandage from the medicine cabinet. He tenderly dressed my wound and then brushed the hair that had fallen in my snotty face back behind my ear.

I watched as his stare darkened and I felt his thumb brush lightly down my neck. My breath hitched and for a glorious moment I was sure that he was going to lower his mouth to meet mine. I’d waited for this moment for five years. Did I think it was going to happen when I was a snotty, blubbering mess? No. But beggars couldn’t be choosers and I would take it.

My lids automatically began to close when he spoke.

“When’s the last time you took a shower?”

Reality crashed back over me. He wasn’t about to kiss me. He was noticing how disgusting I was. 

“I don’t remember,” I lied.

It had been five days.

“I’m going to run you a bath.” He stepped away from me and began to do just that.

“The kitchen is a mess and I have to make—” I began to argue.

“I’ve got it,” he cut me off. After making sure the temperature was correct, he stood back up and instructed, “Don’t get in yet.”

Then he left. Less than a minute later he returned with Saran Wrap and bandage tape. He gently wrapped my arm with the saran wrap then secured it in place with the tape.

“Try not to get it wet.”

“Thank you,” I sniffed as I looked up at him.

He looked down at me and the look in his whiskey stare stole my breath. “It’s going to be okay.”

It was the same promise he’d been making to me since the night he pulled me into his arms in the waiting room of Mercy General.

I nodded even though I had no idea how it could be.

He took the baby monitor, walked out of the bathroom and closed the door behind him.

Moments later I heard him come back down the hall. Benji was cooing and Alice was talking a mile a minute. “And then Mikey said shit and Aunt Whitney said that he can’t curse but then she said fuck.”

I stared at myself in the mirror and didn’t even recognize the girl in front of me. I hadn’t gotten my lashes or nails done in six months. I had a mystery stain on my shirt, and I wasn’t wearing a stitch of makeup. 

Who was I?

Before I became the legal guardian of my niece and nephews, I had a standing appointment with my nail lady and eyelash technician every two weeks. I used self-tanner religiously giving me a year-round sun kissed glow. I got Brazilian blowouts regularly and treated my long locks to hot oil treatments between blowout appointments.

As an influencer my appearance was my brand. I knew that most people didn’t take me seriously, but I’d taken my brand—which was my appearance—very seriously.

Now, there were dark circles beneath my eyes, my sun kissed complexion had faded to a pasty pale, and my hair resembled a bird’s nest sitting atop my head. I hadn’t even washed it in at least two weeks.

I sniffed back the emotion that was building inside of me like a pressure cooker. There was no way I was going to waste the precious moments to myself by having a breakdown. I could do that later, when Wyatt wasn’t here being my knight in shining armor.

Right now, I wanted to take this time to make myself look like me again. Before stepping into the bath, I removed the rubber band from my hair, which required scissors to cut the thing out of my tangled mess. Once it was gone, I brushed out my hair, hissing as pain shot to my scalp.

After I’d tamed my hair beast, I stepped into the bath, washed my hair and even shaved my legs. The makeshift waterproofing job Wyatt had done on my arm worked well.  I tried not to think about how good it had felt when he’d gently held my arm in his hand. Or how sexy he’d looked as he’d concentrated on wrapping my wound.

How could one man be so strong, smart, sexy, and capable? He just knew how to handle everything.

The only time I hadn’t been scared shitless the past six months was when Wyatt was here. The only problem was, I had no idea how long he’d keep showing up and saving me. Another week. A month. A year, if I was lucky. 

And then what? I had no fucking clue.