The Mrs. Degree (Accidentally in Love #2) by Sara Ney




Chapter 1





Penelope





Today is over, thank god.

It started off with a bang. I was late getting my daughter to school, which is… honestly? My lateness is nothing new.

We’re late most mornings. Usually, we’re about to run out the door, and I’ll look down to see that my daughter, Skipper, isn’t wearing shoes after I told her to be ready. Or she won’t have school clothes on and still be in pajamas.

Or she won’t be wearing anything at all.

Today, Skipper decided to take the braids out of her hair as we walked through the front door because one of them felt too loose. She then insisted on having me redo them, crying until I relented on the front stoop while squirming and wiggling around like she had ants in her pants.

It made me late for work.

Then I couldn’t find anyone to grab Skipper after work, so I spent my entire lunch break on the phone texting every mom I knew. At the same time, my boss stuck her nose over the top of my cubicle for a status update on an overdue report.

After word-vomiting an excuse, I snuck off to the bathroom a short while later and continued my mission there.

My boss? She isn’t a parent—doesn’t even own a pet—and has a lack of sympathy for working moms that rival any dictator’s. It’s not that I don’t like her. Maxine Wallaby has her redeeming qualities, but compassion and patience are just not included.

In any case, none of this is my boss’s fault.

None of it is Skipper’s fault, either.

The little shit—who was picked up by my new hero, Raina, the mom of a little girl named Ivy, and let Skipper swim in their pool until I could pick her up—gives the back of my seat a kick with the toe of her shoe, causing the peppermint mocha I’d just splurged four dollars on to spill out of the cup and onto the front of my blouse.

Great.

Perfect.

Awesome.

With a loud sigh, I reach blindly for the package of baby wipes I keep wedged between the center console and the passenger seat, grappling for it with my fingertips. It seems they’re wedged a bit too far down for an easy grab.

With a sigh, I settle for a dry napkin from the glove box and dab to no avail.

The blouse is ruined.

Skipper kicks me again, but I know it’s not intentional. She’s dancing to the music on the car radio, happily bebopping to the upbeat pop song, head tipping back and forth and side to side as she sings along.

Her cute little voice makes me smile despite the dark-brown sludge staining my powder-pink silk blouse.

“Mom, is Uncle Davis going to be there when we get home?”

Home.

My brother, Davis, lives next door. Technically, my house is his house because he owns it. Back in his glory days, he played professional football. I was a teenager when I got pregnant with Skipper, and Davis had gotten his first big paycheck. With it, he bought two houses side by side—one for him and one for me—and the day I brought Skipper home from the hospital, he moved me in.

He’s looked after me for as long as I can remember. Our mom was single, too, and worked her ass off to keep a roof over our heads. Davis was tasked with babysitting when she was gone, and he still watches out for me.

Davis Halbrook is my brother, my neighbor, and one of my best friends.

I glance at my daughter through the rearview mirror. “I’m not sure, honey. I think he has a date tonight with Juliet.”

Skipper bops her head to and fro. “Where are they going?”

“I don’t know, sweetie. He didn’t say.” Now that my brother is seeing someone, he hasn’t been around as much as he normally would. It’s a nice change but a foreign one. I’m used to him being at the house and spending loads of time with us.

“Can we stop and get chicken nuggets?”

I glance back to see that she’s munching on something already, probably something she fished from the cushions of her booster seat.

Hmm. “No, baby girl, I think I’m going to bake chicken tonight.”

“Can we eat at Uncle Davis’s?”

He has better apps on his television because he actually has a television with apps, and his refrigerator is stocked with more food. Plus, he buys Skipper snacks she likes, and his pantry is always bursting.

Unlike mine.

“Sure.” I know I should ask my brother before I barge in on his evening now that he’s dating someone, but I’m almost positive he won’t be around. And if they come back to his place afterward, it won’t take me but a few seconds to make myself scarce.