Cross barely made it through the front door of his parents’ Newport home before the stomping started.
Click, click, click, click.
Like goddamn plastic hammers hitting the floor one right after the other. All he saw was a tiny human-shaped tornado with wild brown curls coming his way before his three-year-old daughter crashed into his legs.
Cross’s hand skimmed overtop the crown of his daughter’s head as she peered up at him with a beautiful, toothy smile. Girlish, child-like features that matched her mother’s looked back. Her big soul-brown eyes were all him, though.
That, and her attitude.
Damn, though, he loved his little girl. She was everything that was bright, beautiful, and perfect in his life. That, and her mother. Cecelia “Cece” Donati made her way into the world on the second of September just two years into his and Catherine’s marriage. She had not exactly been planned, but they hadn’t prevented anything, either. Oh, he adored his child beyond measure. Nothing was more perfect than her angel face when she looked at him. The rest of the world ceased to exist.
Cece blinked up at him, smiling impossibly wider. “Hi, Daddy!”
Her little feet stomped in her excitement, making that damn clicky noise against the hard wood once more. He tried to get her to wear mini Doc Martens. His girl wanted heels like her mother.
No one would ever know how difficult and irritating it was to drive from one side of New York to the other looking for toddler girl shoes with something resembling a heel. A heel that was not too high, if barely there at all, yet visible enough to satisfy his daughter, while also sounding like heels.
She wore them all the time.
It was the end of November, and she was still wearing them.
“I see someone put the clicky shoes back on,” Cross said.
Cece beamed. “Grandpapa.”
Calisto rounded the kitchen entryway and came in their direction. “She wanted them on, son.”
“Where’s Ma?” Cross asked.
“Packing up Cece’s things.”
Cece tugged on her father’s pants with a firm hand. “Daddy?”
Instantly, Cross was on his knees. He drifted his fingers through his daughter’s waist-length brown waves as she grabbed his face in both her tiny hands.
“What, mia topina?”
It was a horrible nickname for her. She was nothing like a little mouse.
Not at all quiet. She still loved it. He kept using it.
“Cary has baby brudder,” Cece said.
Cross chuckled. “Does he?”
Cary, a four year old neighbor that lived across the street from his parents’ home, regularly came to play with Cece when she was with her grandparents.
“Yes, and I wants one, too.”
Cross tried to hide his smirk as he looked up at the ceiling. “That’s not really how it works, Cece.”
“I wants one, too, Daddy!”
Did he mention his daughter was spoiled?
Because she was.
“We can get a brudder at the shop,” Cece said matter-of-fact.
“First, you can’t go to the store and get a baby brother. We don’t shop for siblings, Cece. That’s not how it works.”
“Can, too. Grandmamma says! I wants one, Daddy.”
Calisto cleared his throat from his position leaning against the wall. “Yes, Cross, go get her a baby brother from the shop.”
Oh, for fuck’s sake.
He shot his father a glare over his daughter’s shoulder, silently shouting for the man to shut up. Once Cece got her mind made up on something, she was having it no matter what anyone said. She also learned pretty early on that her parents weren’t very good at telling her no.
“We can get a brudder at the shop, Daddy.”
“No, you can’t, but—”
“I’s telling Ma.”
Yes, his daughter’s best defense when she was told no by her father was to go to her mother. Or vice versa. At this moment, that absolutely worked for Cross.
“You tell Ma, then.”
Cece’s eyes narrowed. “I wills!”
“Okay,” he said seriously.
His daughter huffed, and stomped a heeled foot to the floor once more before she turned and darted back down the hall. Over her shoulder, he heard her say, “Gonna has a baby brudder.”