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.
“That wasn’t nice.” I grinned up at him as he looked back down at me.
His eyes were already darkening, taking in my eyes, my lips, remaining on my lips, still on my lips, and then he rolled completely over top of me. Our door was wide open. We had two recent college graduates in their own showers. Our little dude was downstairs and currently doing his best impersonation of a human alarm clock, but nope. He nestled in, grinding into me, and my mind turned off.
Sea turtles who?
He grinned, dropping his head and kissing my neck. “You and my mom seemed good last night.”
I frowned, a hand to his chin and I lifted his head up. “Excuse me?”
Another grin. His hand slid around my waist, sliding up my back, but I knew it would move down. He said before that happened, “You two cooked last night together. Don’t think I didn’t notice. Kept expecting the house to burn down.”
I was annoyed.
I scowled. “Are you kidding?”
“No, babe. That’s not a joke.”
Ah. Screw it. He was half-right to worry.
It’d been a long road for Barb and Charles (now Chuck once Grayson was born), but we were at the place where we could cook an entire meal for hungry teammates, college students, and three-year-olds together and I was happy. When Stone let them know we were serious, they hadn’t been pleased. They warned him off me, saying I’d turn around and finish blackmailing them exactly how Gail had started.
I’d been furious until Jared happened, and how he heard, I had no clue. He wasn’t saying.
He was the one who went up to her at the end of his basketball game. Sweaty. Had been one of the two star players for that game, and when Barb went up to him to congratulate him on the win, he asked her if she said what he heard she said. She stammered, stepping back. Her neck and face went beet red. Charles had been there, and he stepped back, coughing, uncomfortable. There’d been two other couples with them, and the women looked aghast. One of the husbands coughed, laughing, but Stone got a phone call that night.
It’d been loud and long, until Stone said, “She’s going to be my wife one day. It would be smart for you to change your attitude.” That was it. He hung up, and he didn’t take another call from her for six months.
Barb and Charles changed their attitudes.
But then it was on my end, and I had to get over everything they’d done to my family and me.
So that’d been another long journey of ups and downs.
But we cooked a meal together last night, and there’d been wine, and while Barb cut back on hers, I upped mine so we met in the middle. It was a wine-compromise, and it worked. It also helped that they adored Grayson, and I knew they were hoping for another four grandchildren. Not two, not one more. Four. Chuck told me one night after too many bourbons.
So yes, we were all a work in progress, but things were getting smoother. Much, much smoother.
They also earned bonus points because not only could we hear them getting up to start the coffee, but they’d been adamant they’d attend the hatching, too. I also heard Barb asking Stone one night if it was true that an octopus changed colors when they slept.
I yelled from the other room, “They also come to say thank you if you save their lives. It’s true. Youtube it.”
I said now to Stone, “She’s been trying. It helps.”
He lifted his head from my throat. “Babe. She’s been kissing your ass for years now.”
I was growing heated, but not in the bad way. I shrugged before twining my arms around his neck. “There was a lot of stuff she needed to kiss my ass about.” Then I grinned. “Now shut up and give me a proper good morning kiss before we go off to shield baby turtles from frigate birds.”
So he did just that.
And after Stone carried me to the shower, behind a locked door, we were quick but panting when we finished just in time to dress and dash downstairs. Jared was shaking his head. Apollo was smirking, again. Grayson was dressed and jumping up and down. Barb and Chuck were at the door, having helped to get everyone ready and dressed and fed.
Barb held out two coffees for us and a bag. “Those are toasted bagels for you both. Now we must go or we’ll miss the hatching.”
We were off.
We got there in time.
The babies were just crawling out, starting their speeding for the ocean, and people lined the way for them. With Stone’s arm around my shoulders, with Grayson leaning against both of us and standing on our toes, and with both of my brothers with us, and yes, even with Grandpa and Grandma there, I was happy.
I tipped my head back.
Stone gazed down, those eyes reading my need and he bent his head.
His lips touched mine, and then I raised up and told him we needed to stop for a pregnancy test on the way home.