Page 57

Lisa was pushing out of the booth, a finger in the air, and she was coming in real hard. “Brian Caldriona is an idiot and he was not worthy of dating you. And he proved that fact. He rebounded by banging Vallia Cortega.”

Char sucked in her breath again. “He didn’t.”

“He did.”

She looked at Mia.

Who nodded, her hand resting on her hip. “He did. Week after you left for Greece, he went through half her sorority house.”

Another sucking in of air. “That piss ant. He knows I hated her. That’s why he banged her.”

“See.” Both Lisa and Mia. At the same time.

Char’s mouth pressed together, fury was tightening her face. “But whatever. I can destroy him before lunch tomorrow. You. Me. Us.” She waved between the three of them. “I need you guys back. It was so hard being in Greece without you guys. I mean, yeah. My new boyfriend chartered a boat for us and they had chocolate-dipped strawberries and would make us truffle fries at our request, and their coffee was divine and the wine and cheese, don’t get me started, but I didn’t have you guys. I needed you guys.”

Nicole tugged on the back of my dress, motioning to go back a few feet.

Stone read the situation and leaned in. “Grabbing a table just for us, some beer and food. Find me?”

I nodded. That was always easy. He’d be surrounded by at least a couple guys. It happened every time. They all wanted to talk football, and especially with Stone Reeves.

Nicole indicated the girls. “Don’t worry about Char. Those three will make up, probably tonight. They’re halfway there, but Mia meant what she said. We’d all talked about it a couple weeks ago because Char sent an email, hinting she was coming back. We took a vote. Three to zero, but not about if we’d kick you out for her. It was if we’d find a room somewhere in the house for Char. Mia was the holdout because she didn’t vote. She didn’t know what she wanted.” Her eyes trailed past my shoulders, going to the girls again. “Looks like she decided. Char’s not in until she majorly kisses ass. Between you and me, Char will be our sixth roommate by next semester. That’s just how those three are, hot and cold, but usually always hot together. And again, that room is yours for as long as you want it.” She turned, finding Stone and nodding at him. “Unless you and he are moving in together?”

I wasn’t ready. I just wasn’t ready.

“I think if that happens, it’ll be later, much later. Like senior year later.”

“Good.” Nicole seemed relieved. “I have to ask. It’s been on my mind, but I know you’re going for marine biology, but I don’t know. Your cooking, it’s fucking phenomenal. You could go to culinary school and be a personal chef. I mean, you got the hookup.” She went back to watching Stone, who, as I knew would happen, was now talking to two guys.

Had I thought about being a chef? Yes. Stone suggested the same thing a week ago, but the marine biology thing stuck deep in me. It was my vow, and who knew. Maybe I’d do both at some point. I didn’t know, but I didn’t have to make that decision.

I had time.

I had lots of time.

And I felt good knowing that.

Instead of answering Nicole, I went over to Char.

She stopped talking, blinking at me. “Yes?”

“You owe me a full month’s rent.” I narrowed my eyes. “And if you don’t pay, I can make your life hell.”

Her mouth opened but held there.

Mia clamped a hand on her arm. “Don’t even think it. We will back her up in a heartbeat, Char.”

Char’s mouth closed. She nodded to me. “You’ll get the check tomorrow.”

“Good.” I grinned at the rest. “Now, excuse me. I’m going to go sit with my boyfriend.”

And that’s what I did. As I went, I heard, “Blue!” Looking over, Joe slid a beer toward me. I reached out a hand just in time, and the mug slid right into my palm, splashing a little. He tipped his head. “Nice to see you enjoying life right now, but can you take a shift in two days? You never answered my text.”

A second laugh from me. I was letting more and more of those out. “Thanks, Joe. And yes. I’ll cover the shift.”

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.

“Fuck. Babe.”

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.

“Fuck, guys.”

“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.”