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When Izzy told me he was on his way home with Cohen, I knew without a doubt that there was nothing this man wouldn’t do if he felt it was best for his family.

We don’t talk about the details of his trip to bring Cohen home. I don’t want to know. What we do talk about now is how lucky we are. We have been given a chance that few in our position ever have. A second chance at life.

Chapter 28

It’s been two month since we lost my mom and almost lost Cohen. Today we are going out to celebrate my twenty-ninth birthday. The plans aren’t really anything special, but it’s just another way we are staying on our path back to normal.

Cohen is almost back to the little boy he was before all of this. He still has days that he will ask for my mom, but now that his time is filled with constant Greg bonding, he is finally moving on.

“Melissa?” I’ve been in the bathroom getting ready for the last fifteen minutes. He’s lucky that it doesn’t take me years to get ready, but my men are ready to eat so they don’t mind rushing me.

“In here, babe!” I call out the door before returning to the mirror to finish applying my mascara.

“You almost ready?” he asks and bends to kiss my temple. “Cohen is ready, cape and all.”

Of course he is. One of these days, he might take that thing off but right now, it might as well be surgically attached.

“Almost.” I cap the mascara and turn, fisting his shirt and pulling him towards me. When my lips meet his, I run my hands up his solid chest before pushing my fingers into his hair. He hums his approval into my mouth and just like that, we forget the world around us.

When he grabs my ass and pulls me to his body, I know I accidently woke the beast. Pulling away, offer him a look of regret before speaking, “Sorry, I really just wanted a kiss before we left.”

“Happy to accommodate you Beauty, but let’s make sure the next time you want a kiss like that, that we aren’t about to go meet up with the gang to have dinner. Sitting around for hours and shooting the shit is no fun when my dick is about to be strangled by my pants.” I start to laugh and turn to walk out into the bedroom, almost knocking Cohen over in the process.

“Daddy? What’s a dick and why are your pants hurting him?” I turn back and look at Greg. His face is open with astonishment and his cheeks have a little color on them. Who would have thought that it’s actually possible to shock the man.

“Um, C-Man, remember that day I told you there were some questions you can’t ask until you’re ten?” He waits for Cohen’s little head to nod before continuing, “Well, that is one of those questions you can’t ask again until then, okay?”

“That’s okay, Daddy. I’ll just ask Maddox Locke!” Ever since Cohen got back from Vegas, Greg can’t stand the thought of putting him in pre-school. He just feels like it’s too soon. So Cohen has become the newest member of the Corps Security team. Since those men have a tendency to go by last names, first names, both, or sometimes neither, Cohen was slightly confused with what he should call them. He finally decided to call them whatever he wanted. Not everyone got both first and last names. He seemed to save this for his favorites only.

Beck is now Beckett. Maddox is Maddox Locke, and my personal favorite, Sway is Dilbert.

“Good idea. Ask him.” Greg makes quick work in ushering Cohen out of the room so I can continue to get ready. I am still laughing when I make my way downstairs to meet up with my boys.

It doesn’t take long to get to the restaurant. We have decided to meet up at one of the local Italian places that we all enjoy, and as normal, we are the last to arrive. One of these days, we will be first, maybe. Probably not.

When we walk in, I am immediately ambushed. I get a smile from Greg before he takes Cohen by the hand and leads him to the table. When Izzy, Dee, and Emmy finally shove me into the bathroom, the questions started flying.

“What the hell?” flies from Izzy.

“Would have been nice to get a call! Is that too much to ask?” sputters Dee.

“Did he knock you up?” Surprisingly, this comes from Emmy.

We all look over at her and I laugh when her ivory cheeks instantly flush. “What?” she whispers. “You were all thinking it too.”

I laugh outright with that comment. Truth is, this is something I knew was coming. Greg and I have already talked about what would happen if we did it. The backlash we, or rather I, will have to deal with. It looks like he was right. My girlfriends don’t like the thought that they have missed our wedding. But, I know, it’s more than that. Izzy and Greg are like family, so for us to disappear and run up to the mountains for a quick wedding with just him, Cohen, and me, well, it isn’t sitting well with Izzy.

“I’m sorry?” I offer. “Actually I’m not, but you can believe that if it makes you feel better.” They all laugh, but I can tell that Izzy is still a little sour.

“I wish I could have been there. I’m so happy for you two, but I wish I could have seen him get married.” I understand where she is coming from. And so does Greg. But, this is about us and that’s what really mattered.

“I know, Iz. I really do, but we needed this. It was something special for us. It was just a small ceremony with us and Cohen, then later we had a special day to do things our sisters and my mother would have enjoyed.” And we did. We did small things like drop feathers down one of the mountains that we hiked up, watching them as they floated away. We even found a wishing well. These little things will mean something to Cohen one day.

“So that means you aren’t knocked up?” Dee asks hopefully.

“No, I’m not knocked up.” I laugh when her face falls. “Not now, but we aren’t doing anything to prevent it. If it happens, it does. It’s just one of those things we’ve let go of the control on and now, we’re just living our lives.”

“Well, I’m happy for you,” Emmy offers and wraps her small arms around me.

“I am too. I promise. I was a little upset about it, but I understand.” Izzy smiles and her green eyes twinkle with moisture. “You’re kind of like my sister now.” She steps forward and gives me a hug. I haven’t thought about it that way, but she’s right. I think, and not for the first time in the last few months, how truly blessed I am.

“What’s your problem?” I hear Emmy ask Dee. “You’re this disappointed that she isn’t knocked up?”

She looks at us for a while, taking her time to look us all in the eye. Crazy chick really is disappointed and is doing a shit job at hiding it.

“What? So what if I’m a little upset. I was looking forward to having another baby around here now that Nate is all ‘alpha baby’.”

“What the hell is an alpha baby?” Izzy asks on a laugh.

“Uh, really? He is constantly saying ‘mine’. But does he say it about normal things a one year old would claim? Noooo, not Axel Reid’s baby. His baby claims boobs, Izzy. I took him with me to the mall the other day, and when we ran into Victoria’s Secret to get some new boyshorts, because hey, they were on sale so why not? Anyway, we walk in and he starts pointing to every mannequin, every sales lady’s chest. Then when I’m checking out, he pulls my top down and screams ‘mine’. You have issues with that boy if he is already chasing tits at one.”

Before she is even halfway through her story, we’re all wiping the tears away and laughing like loons. Jesus, sometimes the things that come out of her mouth are just unbelievable.

“Did you ever think that maybe he was just hungry?” Izzy asks. Like just the thought of her breast fed child being hungry might not even be on Dee’s radar.

“No. I didn’t, because it’s just weird you are still breastfeeding and your child has teeth. What if he bites off your nipple?”

“You’re serious?” Emmy says in shock.

“Hell yes, I am. When I have kids, there is no way they are coming anywhere near my girls with teeth. No way.”

“You’re ridiculous, it’s good for him. And seriously, Dee, I had them pierced. Do you really think a nip here and there is going to bother these milk machines?” I can tell that Izzy is starting to get upset. This is a debate we have constantly, ‘we’ being Dee against us. There is just no turning her around on that whole teeth and nipples thing.

“Gah! Can you not call them milk machines?” Dee shrieks.

“You know Dee, I don’t know what you’re so freaked out about. I love it when Greg uses his teeth.” I laugh when her jaw drops. It really is just too easy to shock her these days. I’m pretty sure the last time she got some, Bush Sr. was president.

“I do not need to know that about Greg.” She looks over at Izzy who is still laughing. “Why are you laughing? That’s just gross?”

Izzy calms herself down, and looks at Dee with mirth dancing in her bright eyes. “Then I guess you don’t want to hear her tell you about when she first discovered he has not one, not two, but three piercings on his junk!” She starts laughing all over again when Dee starts gagging and leaves the bathroom.

“Cruel, but fucking hilarious.” I laugh right along with Izzy for a few seconds. When we both are able to stop, I look at her and offer a small smile. “Are you really okay? I know you wanted to be there with us, but this really was just something that we needed to do, just the three of us.”

“My feelings were hurt for a second, but then Axel explained it to me. I understand, really I do.” We hug for a second before she pulls back and grabs my hand. “At least he did something right.”

She’s not wrong there either. While he and Emmy take turns complimenting the ring he picked out for me, I take a second to take it all in again.

My heart swells when I think about what wearing these rings mean. My husband. It’s so new, and honestly hasn’t sunk in yet. Not sure that it even will for a while, but the thought that the man I was so determined to avoid and evade is now my husband and soon the adoptive father of Cohen, makes my heart expand.

When we make it back to the table, Greg stands and pulls the chair out for me. Right as I’m getting ready to say hey to Beck sitting at my right, Greg leans over and whispers in my ear. “Do you know why Dee came out before you three spouting some nonsense about me being disgusting?” I look across the table at Dee. She is still looking at Greg as if he’s the carrier of every incurable disease out there, and it has me in fits all over again.

“Knock it off, Dee!” I yell across the table.

She shakes her head a few times and looks back at Greg, “There are just some things that I do not want to know about you. Three? Really?”

Greg wraps his arm around my shoulder and pulls me closer to his side. I can feel his laughter vibrating through his shaking body as he laughs at Dee. With my husband’s strong arms wrapped around me, Cohen in his lap, and all of our friends surrounding us, I thank my sister for the millionth time for always reminding me to live.

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