"You're good at that," I observed carefully, because I didn't want to seem to be prying.
I still wanted to know. The man was a biker. As far as I knew he had no children (something, even at this early juncture between us, I would hope he'd already have shared with me). But he was very good with them.
"Long time ago, rented a room in a basement," he returned easily. "Woman needed the money. She had a man who was a dick. Gone more than he was home. She had kids, one was a baby. She worked. She also jacked down rent if I helped out. I needed her to jack down rent, so I helped out."
That explained that.
"That was nice," I noted.
"Her kids were the bomb."
That was nice too.
"She probably appreciated it," I told him, though even though I didn't know her, I still knew there was no probably about it.
"She did. Then she got deep in meth. I was gone by then but, last I heard, her kids were in the system."
"Oh no," I whispered.
He juggled Travis, jar, and spoon to scrape the last bits out and muttered, "Way of life."
"Not life like I know it."
His head didn't move but still, his eyes came to me.
That one word was low. It was meaningful. I wasn't sure I got the meaning. I just knew I liked it.
Travis gurgled through the last bite of carrots while Joker ordered, "Almost done. Pack up. Let's hit the road. I'm fuckin' starved."
"You're almost at a dollar, Joker," I shared, still feeling hopeful and riding the happy wave of watching Joker feed Travis, but nevertheless annoyed.
"You do know I'm never gonna quit bein' me," he remarked, tipping the spoon into the empty jar and lifting Travis's bib to wipe his mouth.
"You do know that Travis maybe said his first word last night. Since it was Mommy, that made me happy. His second word being the f-word would not do the same."
His eyes came to mine. Then I made a quiet sound of surprise when his hand shot out and caught me behind the head, something he could do seated since I was bent over Travis's diaper bag, which I'd dropped into my vacated seat.
After that, he pulled me to him so my mouth was on his.
He gave me a hard, short kiss.
"Bah buh bah!" Travis squealed.
Joker released the pressure on my neck just enough for me to move back an inch.
He looked into my eyes.
His, I couldn't read. That didn't mean he wasn't telling me something. I just didn't know what it was.
What I did know was that the guard was gone. I wasn't shut out by steel.
I just didn't know what to make of it now that I was in.
Then he let me go without giving more and I shifted out of his way as he straightened from his chair.
We packed up. We got Travis sorted. Joker yanked the diaper bag out of my hand and slung it on his shoulder even though he still had Travis in his arm. And off we went.
We did this in his spacious dual-cab truck. He'd picked me up at work. The "red wreck" (what Joker that night had christened my car) was to remain behind. I was off the next day. Joker told me he, or "one of the brothers" would be around in the morning to help me retrieve it.
So it was a proper date, him picking me up and everything.
Okay, he'd picked me up from work brought my son with him, and we'd started our time at an attorney's office talking about battling my ex, so it wasn't a normal date, but it was still a proper one
This made me happy.
Travis was snug in his seat behind us, babbling at nothing, and I was watching Denver slide by and smelling new car smell.
"So, you didn't get pine," I remarked.
"Your car. It's obviously just been cleaned and you got new car smell," I said. "Not pine."
"I got new car smell 'cause this isn't a clean car. It's a new car. Bought this truck today."
I went still.
But only for a moment.
Then I woodenly turned my head his way.
He had a bike. That I knew.
But that day he had a date with a single mom who had a baby with a car seat.
So now he had a dual-cab truck.
Joker stopped at a red light and looked at me.
And when he did, I watched by the lights of a Denver city night as his face got soft.
It was a vision of beauty.
"Like a whole lot the way you're lookin' at me, Butterfly," he said softly. "But I got a bike and we don't live in Arizona. We can get weather. Used to be, weather was bad, I needed to get somewhere, I had to borrow someone else's vehicle. That gets old. I had to get you and your boy to dinner, but that doesn't mean the time wasn't ripe."
I heard it all, but most especially the I had to get your and your boy to dinner part, so I just smiled at him brightly.
He shook his head looked forward, and we went when the light was green.
He drove and, while he did, I wanted to hold his hand. I wasn't sure we were at that place but I was sure I wanted to do it and badly.
The problem was, he drove with his wrist, that wrist being the right one draped over the steering wheel. Therefore, I couldn't grab his hand.
Also, I had some concerns about this since the truck was large and probably more easily maneuvered if his fingers were wrapped around the steering wheel.
I didn't say anything since he promptly wrapped them around said wheel in order to parallel park outside Las Delicias.
We went in. We got one of their side half-oval booths. They gave us a high chair. We ordered. I gave Travis his pears then some Cheerios for him to play with, eat, and toss around. Finally, Joker and I ate.
All day, I'd been looking forward to this like it was Christmas Eve.
But I hadn't been on a first date since Aaron took me miniature golfing over a decade ago.
And Joker was so not Aaron it wasn't funny.
So all day I was also nervous like crazy.
But I shouldn't have been. Somehow, things between Joker and me were just easy. Conversation flowed.
And I wasn't the one making it flow.
He talked. Mostly about the Club, and that was mostly about his brothers, who he clearly respected and even cared a lot for.
He told me all their Club names. He told me all their real names (the only weird spot was when I asked his, he didn't answer, and it seemed he was acting like he didn't hear me but then again, he probably just didn't hear me). He told me about their old ladies. How long they'd been in the Club. About Ride, the store, the garage, and the new store they were opening in Grand Junction, which meant they were already looking for new recruits since all Chaos members did their "time" in Denver before they moved on to other branches, like Fort Collins, Boulder, Colorado Springs, and soon-to-be Grand Junction. He also told me he designed and built some of their custom builds.