He held up a hand, leaning down to hear another customer’s order.
As I got to our table, Stone already had a beer in hand. Cammie was bringing over a tray of food and a couple of waters. A basket of fries and I already knew there’d be two chicken sandwiches with them. “Heya! How’s the date?” Her amusement was evident, and as I slid onto a stool on the inside of the table, right next to Stone, she tapped my arm. “Let me know if you need anything. I don’t work tomorrow, so we should grab lunch, yeah?”
I nodded. “Sounds good.”
It was more than good. It sounded perfect.
Stone excused himself and moved so he was facing only me. He blocked out the rest of the room. He leaned over, resting a hand on my hip and reached forward to grab a fry.
“That all okay back there?”
I looked. Char, Mia, and Lisa were still talking, their heads pressed tightly together. Nicole had returned and Dent put his arm around her shoulders. Savannah was snuggling against Noel’s side, and I knew my answer.
“Yes. It’s all good.”
Yes. Mushy. Me.
I didn’t care.
I reached up, my finger under his chin, and I said, “Come here.”
He flashed me a grin, bending, and his mouth fit over mine just how it should’ve been. Perfectly.
Epilogue After The Epilogue
The alarm went off, and I was up.
“Fuck, babe.” The covers moved and a muscled arm came over me, pulling me back down into his warmth.
I would not be deterred. No way. No how.
Even if that warmth and that muscled arm was connected to my husband. We’d been married four years now, and to say our journey had been smooth sailing would’ve been a lie. Not between us. Well, we still fought.
Stone and I would never not fight.
We fought. We bickered. Then we had hate sex (it wasn’t really hate sex, but I still liked to use the term), which turned into hot sex, and then make-up sex, and well—
There was our reward.
I grinned, but we heard the door slam into the wall. The door was already open. We didn’t sleep with our bedroom door closed, and we didn’t let Grayson’s door remain shut either, so why he hit the floor running every morning and why he had to shove the door open when it was already open was beyond me.
Stone muttered, sitting up and running a hand over his face, “We’ve already fixed three holes this month. It’s time to take the doorknobs off.”
That was another battle on our hands.
We wanted to take Grayson’s knob off his door, but his door wasn’t the only door he slammed open. That meant we’d have to take all the knobs off the doors, ours included and to say Grayson was hyper and unpredictable was an understatement. There was no rhythm or reason to why he fell asleep, how long he’d fall asleep, or more specifically how long he’d remain asleep. That meant we never knew which doorknobs we could actually lock, say…if we wanted to have any forms of sex stated above. He was also an expert at escaping anything. No crib held him. No fence contained him. Tables and cupboards weren’t too scary to him. The kitchen became his personal gym, and yeah, it was panic-inducing and I almost had three heart attacks when he first began crawling. He went straight to climbing and the kid was not normal.
I blamed Stone. Those were his genes.
Bare feet were running down the hall. A pause. Then, a big heave (even though our door was already open) and wham! The door flew back into the wall. In its place, our three-year-old not-quite-human child stood. His chest heaved again, his cheeks got big, and, “DAD! IT’S TIME TO GO SEE THE TURTLES!”
Stone sighed and lay back down. His arm came over his face. “Fuck, babe.”
I fought back a grin.
Grayson’s eyes got big, and he pumped his legs, then launched himself. He landed in between us, but not quite on the bed. Grabbing the blankets, he pumped again, and then he grappled up. Another battle on our hands. We were not allowed to help him with these challenges.
Our kid was going to be either a professional athlete or an adrenaline junkie. Either way, I was going to be having heart attacks the rest of my life. I was just resigned. But this morning, knowing why we were awake, my own excitement was bubbling to the surface. I couldn’t help myself and I scooped him up, rolling so he was on his back, in the middle of the bed with us.
“Mom!” He squirmed, trying to push my tickling hands away. “Stop!” But he was giggling, and I only upped the tickle monster even more.
Stone grinned, dropping his arm. His hand came down and he joined in.
Grayson was shrieking and kicking to get back up. “Stop! You guys! Stop. The turtles.”
That was only cuter, and soon he was shrieking so loud I was pretty sure we didn’t need coffee or alarms to wake the rest of the house occupants.
“Language.” It was a reprimand from me, but there was no heat in it.
Standing in the doorway, his hair messed and standing upright, a hand idly itching his chest was Jared. He yawned, his hand moving to rub his jaw. “Some of us need our hearing for the rest of our lives, you know. We’re not all already washed up and hall-of-famers.”
Stone only grinned. “Washed up?” He raised an eyebrow. “We won the Super Bowl last year.” And there was talk they’d do it all over again the next season.
Jared started laughing, then his face went slack. “Fuck!”
“Jared!” There was more heat in that one this time.
He grimaced. “Sorry. Forgot about the game today.”
Our day was packed.
We were off to watch the baby sea turtles hatch, and we were running out of time. We had forty minutes to get in the vehicles. Twenty minutes to get there, and that was not counting any stopping time for coffee or pee breaks. Another thing Grayson loved doing. Peeing. The higher the stream in the air, the better, and he got a kick out of it no matter how old he was. I wasn’t holding my breath he’d grow out of that one either.
But Jared was thinking about a scrimmage at his future law school. He’d gotten accepted, but once they found out who his brother-in-law was, his faculty advisor asked if Stone and a few of his teammates would participate in a charity game with a bunch of their law students and football alumni. It was going to be televised and Jared was earning major points that not only did Stone say he’d participate, but so were Cortez, Jake, and Colby. There were a bunch more too, including Apollo, who had flown in the previous night just for the game.
“Is Apollo up?”
Jared shrugged, yawning again. “Not a clue. We got in late, so I doubt he’s going to see the sea turtles.”
Grayson gasped. “No way! He has to come!”
This was apocalyptic in his eyes.
Another door opened across the hall, and Apollo stepped out, the whole shebang in repeat. Hair messed up. Yawning. Jaw rubbing. Chest itching. And he added a new one, rubbing his eyes before grinning at Gray. “Hey, little dude. No way am I missing a hatching.” He smirked, glancing at me. “It’s like we don’t see a dozen others over the summer.”
Now that was apocalyptic to me.
I huffed, shooting upright. “Excuse me?!”
I missed the shared grins from all the guys except my little dude, who leaned into my side, glaring at Apollo with me.
Jared rolled his eyes, but smacked his brother in the chest with the back of his hand. He nodded at me. “Respect my sister, man. There can never be enough sea turtle hatchings to watch and help.”
I felt it coming. A fight. I was gearing up. The steam was rising.
If they were going to mock my need to do whatever I could to help the ocean and any and all marine sea life, then—
Both Jared and Apollo started laughing.
Jared gestured to me. “Relax, sis. We’ve helped stranded whales with you. We’ve volunteered at sea otter hospitals, at sea turtle rescue and rehabilitation centers, and yeah, we’ve gone to protest environmental bills with you in D.C. The next step is flying to Japan to help the dolphins over there. We love the creatures as much as you do, but damn, I need some coffee before being there at five in the freaking morning.”
He headed off, Apollo right behind him.
Grayson had perched on the edge of the bed, taking in the exchange, but Stone moved. His arm curved around my waist and he pulled me back down to him.
Stone started to roll over me, but paused and lifted his head. A fond and adoring smile softened his face. “Do your pops a favor and go wake up Grandma Barb. Yeah? Grandpa Chuck might need an extra yell in the ear, too. Flying in for the visit probably made him extra tired. Right up here. Right in here.” He pointed to his own ear, winking.
Gray’s eyes got big, and he shoved off the bed, jumping down with a thud which he didn’t feel at all. He was off and sprinting down to the main floor because that was where Stone’s parents liked to sleep. Their bedroom was off by the kitchen, and relatively more quiet until everyone decided to eat, but they liked being closer to the coffee machine. That was my guess.