“Are you guys ready to get some breakfast?” Emmy asked.
“Let’s do it.” I lifted Brayleigh into my arms and her surprised little giggle melted my heart.
Ben took Mace from Emmy and placed him in his luxury stroller. Seriously, that thing was nicer than my first car.
Breakfast out together had become a Sunday morning tradition for us over the past year. When Emmy had gotten pregnant a few months after Ellie, Ben and I had been at the mercy of their cravings, and this diner we’d stumbled across had quite the eclectic menu. They could order anything from blueberry pancakes to tuna salad to beef stroganoff no matter the time of day. And it was kid friendly, which meant even after the babies were born, we’d continued our tradition.
As we set off down the sidewalk, I tucked Ellie’s hand inside the warmth of my jacket and pressed a kiss to her lips. “You cold?”
“Not too bad.” She wedged herself closer, opening my jacket to nestle in against my side. Her hand drifted lower down my abs.
“No copping a feel in public, Mrs. Kincaid,” I warned.
“I’m glad to see having a baby hasn’t changed you two.” Emmy rolled her eyes as she pushed Mace alongside us.
Not a thing had cooled between me and Ellie. If anything, watching her with our daughter only made me love her more. She was so loving, so patient, so sweet with Brayleigh that it stole my breath. Though she sometimes complained that she rarely had time to get ready, put on makeup, and get dressed in something that wasn’t covered in baby drool, she’d never looked more beautiful to me. I loved watching her sit and feed the baby, cooing sweet little nonsense words as she gazed down into our daughter’s inquisitive blue eyes.
We entered the diner and made our way toward our usual booth as Ben grabbed two highchairs from the front, carrying one in each arm back to our spot. We had dining out with two small infants down to a science.
I slid Brayleigh into a highchair and her chubby little hands immediately began slapping down against the tray. Mace watched her, flashing a silly toothless grin, and began imitating her, slapping his own tray. Ellie pulled a plastic container of cereal from her purse and dumped some onto each tray.
Since we no longer needed to consult the menus here, we sat watching the babies babble and play. Brayleigh picked up a Cheerio and held it out to Mace’s open mouth.
“Look at that, she’s feeding him.” Ellie smiled proudly.
“Our little girl is obviously going to be awesome—I mean, look at her. She’ll be top of her class, an academic all-star, a cellist . . . no a pianist,” I said.
Emmy giggled. “Passionate about penis just like her mom.”
“I hate to break it to you, but in eighteen years, my son is gonna be balls deep in your daughter,” Ben said, looking me squarely in the eye.
“No, dude. My daughter’s not dating until she’s forty.” Fuck that.
Ben laughed. “I didn’t say anything about dating.”
“No way, she’s not going out with guys like us.”
“What? We turned out all right. We wised up and got the girls in the end, didn’t we?”
Emmy and Ellie were watching our exchange, shaking their heads. I laced Ellie’s fingers in between mine. She was still getting used to the big rock I’d put on her finger. She twisted it around constantly fidgeting with it. I had gotten my act together just in time. Looking back, I was surprised she’d given me so many second chances. I guess she’d known all along how good things could be between us. She might have thought I was rushing things—moving her into my apartment, proposing, and then marrying her last spring when she was pregnant, but when you know, you know. It was advice my dad had given me, and he’d been spot on. I’d never been more certain about anything than having this amazing girl in my life. Thank God I’d come to my senses. I couldn’t imagine missing out on all this.
Brayleigh might have come as a surprise, but she’d enriched our lives in ways we never could have imagined. Caring for a tiny, helpless person brought a deeper meaning, a sense of purpose, to my life that wasn’t there before.
Ben met my eyes and I knew he was thinking the same thing. Our lives had changed drastically. Instead of dining in five-star restaurants and discussing the wine list, we were at a tiny diner with Formica floors where our kids’ spilled food could easily be swept up.
As I watched Ellie cut a waffle and sausage link into tiny bits, I couldn’t help lifting her mouth to mine. “I love you,” I whispered against her lips. I didn’t know if it was because I’d waited so long to tell her, or maybe because we had a child together, but either way, I felt emotions more intensely now, and I didn’t keep things to myself.
Her eyes flashed quizzically on mine. “I love you, too.”
Ben chuckled. “All right you two. Cool it. Seriously, there’s no way your daughter’s waiting until she’s forty to date. She’s got your genes. She’ll be a horn dog. It runs in the family.”
“Excuse me,” Ellie injected, turning to fully face Ben. “You’re one to talk. You two . . .” She raised her eyebrows, waggling a finger between Ben and Emmy. “You two are worse. You joined the mile-high club during our Christmas flight to Aspen while we babysat your son.”
Emmy’s cheeks went pink. Seriously? She had to realize that everyone on that plane knew what was happening in the first-class lavatory. They were loud as hell. I laughed out loud and Brayleigh mimicked me, giggling along.
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