My (Mostly) Secret Baby - Penelope Bloom Page 0,1

giving a shit was the strongest armor out there, and I was decked head to toe in the lack of shits I gave.

So I watched the balloon sail right past me, not even lifting a hand as it drifted by. It blew over a sewer grate and launched upwards, quickly turning into a sad little red dot that was destined to explode in the stratosphere.

I realized the girl’s mom was yelling at me and someone was actually filming the whole ordeal on their cell phone—because sure, an angry lady yelling at a guy on the street was going to be riveting entertainment for her twelve Facebook friends.

“Are you—” the lady stammered. Her mouth worked soundlessly like she’d just turned into a fish out of water. “Un-be-lievable. Do you enjoy making little girls cry?”


“Are you even going to say anything?” she demanded.

Not if I don’t have to.

“I should—I wish you would—” She shook her head, soundless in her outrage as the little girl on her leg finally started to realize her balloon wasn’t coming back. Her small face crumpled up and a big, fat, salty tear fell from her chubby cheeks.

Jesus. I held up my hand to shut the mom up and fished in my wallet for something to shut her up. I stuck out a hundred-dollar bill for the little girl. “Go buy another one. And hold onto it next time, or I’ll pop it myself.”

The mother looked even more outraged, if that was possible. The little girl immediately cheered up and took the money, though. “Let’s go buy a car!” the girl said.

With one last dirty look for me, the mother hurried off with her daughter.

“Wow.” A young woman in her early twenties was standing beside me with a duffel bag over her shoulder. At another glance, I realized she was some sort of athlete. I guessed tennis from the lean build, somewhat muscular shoulders, and the giant stitched green tennis ball on her bag. She had sun-bleached hair, tan skin, and looked like she belonged on the grass courts of a country club moaning with each stroke she took.

I’d meant the thought to be dismissive, but it stirred up an irritatingly vivid thought of what it’d feel like to take a handful of her hair and listen to her gasp as she stroked something other than fuzzy yellow balls.

“Impressive, I know,” I said dryly. I’d perfected the technique of saying “fuck off” without actually saying it. The secret was all in the tone. You could say “have a nice day” and bring someone to tears if you really practiced. So when I started walking toward the hotel, I was surprised she hadn’t taken the hint.

She followed. “If you mean your ability to be disgusting and cruel to a little kid? Yeah. It was super impressive.”

“Is that all?”

She took two quick steps, putting herself in front of me and placing her fist on her hip. The way she cocked her ass out to the side like that made me want to laugh.

“Does that pose usually frighten people into taking you seriously? Once they get past the whole Barbie aesthetic, I mean.”

She pulled a water bottle from her bag, untwisted the cap, and then flicked it toward me. Cold water splashed from my forehead to my chest, but there was nothing cold about the anger that roared up in me. “What the f—”

“Sorry,” she shrugged, smiling in a sugary sweet, completely fake way. “I thought if you were actually Satan, water might boil off you or something.”

“Wouldn’t it need to be holy water? Or do tennis players carry that around in their bags now?”

“I actually just wanted to splash you. Consider it karma for all the little kids you probably stepped on to get out of bed this morning.”

I had to give her credit. She had my attention, and that was an accomplishment in itself. But I also knew better than to give my attention to those who demanded it. I needed to ramp up the asshole factor by a few levels to get her out of my life before she caused me problems.

“I didn’t get your name.”

“It’s Chelsea.”

“Wonderful. I’ll make sure when you eventually decide to take your pathetic career to the next level and get an agent, nobody will work with you. Have a nice day.” I’d already given her more energy and words than I cared to waste on strangers, but she seemed to rile me up more than usual.

“No.” She planted her other fist on her