The First Taste (Slip of the Tongue #2) - Jessica Hawkins



From the moment I left the house, I’ve been tempted to turn around and call the whole thing off. Tonight will be the first I’ve spent away from Bell since we’ve been on our own. Before her, I wouldn’t have thought twice about that. Before her, I didn’t think twice about much. One thing’s for sure—my definition of a sleepover has changed drastically since I became a father.

“We’ll roast marshmallows on the stove for s’mores and have girl talk.” My six-year-old lists the ways her aunt has enticed her to come for the weekend as we fight our way through Penn Station. “She has a doll for me that wears diapers and everything.”

“Diapers? Fascinating.” Sadie will have no problem parenting if she’s managed to trick Bell into thinking changing diapers is fun.

Bell tries to take her hand from my grip, but I tighten mine around hers and adjust her overnight bag on my shoulder. “Stay with me.”

“Look.” She points to the 1 train. “There it is!”

“Yeah,” I say, my tone decidedly less enthusiastic. We get passes and board. Bell’s nearly bouncing with excitement just from being on the subway. She didn’t get her fascination with New York City from me. Each time I bring her, part of me hopes the city’ll lose its appeal.

When we come up from the station into Times Square, though, I see that won’t be happening anytime soon. “Can we go to M&M World?” she asks before pulling me in another direction. “Can I get a dress from the Disney store?”

“No,” I say and repeat the same answer to all her demands. “I thought we were here to see Aunt Sadie, not buy a bunch of crap we don’t need.”

“We should bring Aunt Sadie a gift, though,” she says. “I remember she loves M&Ms.”

If I were younger, dumber, and greener, I’d praise my little girl for her selflessness. In fact, she’d pour “Aunt Sadie’s M&Ms” into her mouth first chance she got.

I steer her away from the flashing screens and bright lights, and in the direction of Bryant Park. Parking, boarding the train to Penn Station, switching to the subway, walking to Sadie’s office building—it’s a fuck of a lot of trouble for something I don’t even want to be doing.

We take the elevator to the seventh floor. The receptionist looks up from his computer when we walk in. With his gray button down and silver tie, he fits in perfectly with the neutral walls and glossy white desk of Amelia Van Ecken Communications, or avec.

“Look, Daddy,” Bell says, running to a chair in the foyer to touch it. “Blue suede—like Elvis.”

“That’s velvet,” I say.

She loses interest quickly and strides alongside me to the front desk. The lacquered surface reflects and distorts us as we approach, highlighting our height disparity, making our black hair even shinier.

The receptionist looks from me to Bell and back. “We don’t take walk-ins. Models need to make advance appointments or wait for casting calls.”

I straighten a little, feeling suddenly on display. It’s not my first time being mistaken for someone in the entertainment industry when visiting the city, but it hasn’t happened since my twenties. It’s always uncomfortable. “I’m not a model.” I show him a smudged hand. “Not unless it’s a commercial for car grease.”

“I was talking about her,” he says, raising one pruned eyebrow in Bell’s direction. “One of our clients designs a children’s line, and we occasionally hire kids to model the clothing during events.”

“Oh. Yeah, I figured.” I rub the back of my neck. Bell’s hair hasn’t been brushed since this morning, and she’s got Go-Gurt stains on her top but whatever. “I was joking.”

“No worries.” He trails his eyes down my body. “I can understand why you’d make that mistake.”

“We’re here to see Sadie Hunt,” I say before we stumble into any more misunderstandings.


“She’s my aunt,” Bell says.

“Oh. Of course.” He lifts a corner of his mouth and motions at a woman passing by. “Mindy—this is Sadie’s niece. Will you take them back?”

She stops mid-stride, her brown ponytail swinging as she gazes at me, wide-eyed. “Sadie?” she asks.

“Yes, you know, the woman who’s been training you the last month,” he says. “The only other brunette on the floor. Your point person on the IncrediBlast campaign.”

“Oh. Right. Sadie.” She blinks down to Bell’s hand in mine and then to her face. “You must be Bell.”

Bell squeezes my hand, rolling onto the balls of her feet. “You know me?”

“Sure.” She smiles. “Sadie talks about you all the time. Come