“I’m actually feeling a bit tired, Big Paw. I was hoping to crash for a few hours.”

“If you can perform for strangers, you can show up for your grandmother,” he said. “We’ll see you in a few.”

He turned around and walked off, not giving me much of a choice. Then again, he was right. I hadn’t been able to connect with my grandparents much over the past few months, and I’d missed them.

Sleep could come later; family was always first.

It didn’t take much to convince Hazel to come with me, and an hour later, we were on our way. The moment I walked in the door, it smelled like Thanksgiving. The warmth of the season filled my grandparents’ house, and I welcomed it. I’d missed them. I’d missed home. After traveling and working nonstop for the past few months, I felt pretty damn homesick.

“Sweetheart!” Grams said, grinning ear to ear as she walked over to me wearing her turkey apron. She was covered in flour and moving a bit slower than I remembered, but when she hugged me, I felt her love.

Gosh, I missed Grams’s hugs.

As she let me go, I rolled up my sleeves. “How can I help you?” I asked.

She snickered. “Oh, sweetie, I think we are safer with you not in the kitchen.”

I knew she had to be overwhelmed with cooking.

Thanksgiving in Eres wasn’t a small event for my grandparents. Just as they did with everything, they thought about the town’s overall enjoyment. Therefore, the barn house was set up with over two hundred chairs for people to show up and enjoy a meal. It worked mostly as a potluck where everyone brought a signature dish to pass around.

“Are you sure you don’t want me to make my grand slam sloppy joe sliders?” I joked.

She shivered. “No, no. Sliders aren’t made for Thanksgiving.”

“They can be. I’ll even add a few slices of cheese to make them fancy.”

She shot that down fast.

What a shame—a nice can of sloppy joe could go a long way.

Just then, Hazel popped her head into the room. “Do you need any help in here, Holly? Big Paw is holding Rosie for a while.”

Grams reacted completely differently to Hazel’s request to help. She beamed ear to ear and waved Hazel into the kitchen. “Yes, yes, honey. I’d love the help. Please, come on in.”

Hazel wandered into the room, and Grams gave her tasks instantly, and I felt personally attacked. “Are you kidding? I can help!”

“You’re better helping Big Paw,” Hazel said. “He’s requesting your presence in his office.”

I headed toward Big Paw’s office, and when I walked inside, I snickered a little at the image of him holding little Rosie in his hands.

“That’s a good look for you, Big Paw,” I joked, but he didn’t laugh.

He nodded toward the seat across from him. “Take a seat, Ian.”

“What is this? A godfather moment?” I joked.

“Sit your ass down,” he ordered.

I swallowed hard at his tone and took my seat. The sternness of his voice threw me for a loop and shot me back to my high school days when he used to scold me for being a dumbass kid.

He cradled Rosie in his arms—and to be clear, it was still hilarious to watch—and he narrowed his eyes toward me. “What are your intentions with Hazel?”

I chuckled, completely thrown off by his words. “What? What do you mean?”

“I mean exactly what I said, boy. What are your intentions? Do you see a future of some kind with her, or are you just playing the field out there on the road? Because that’s a good girl with a hard work ethic who is raising her sister, and so help me, if you hurt her, I will kick your ass so hard you’ll become a soprano.”

“What the heck, Big Paw? I’m your grandson, not the other way around. Shouldn’t you be giving Hazel this talk about her intentions for me?”

“I already did,” he stated matter-of-factly. “She’s a good girl who sees a future with you. But I can’t have you out there playing with her emotions. She’s a great human being, Ian. This world doesn’t get many great human beings, and she’s already been through a lot in her short lifetime, so if this isn’t something you see yourself going with, if your career is the main focus for you right now, that’s fine. But if that’s so, let her go now before she falls deeper. Don’t drag her along if you don’t want something more. So I ask you again—what are your intentions?”

I clasped my hands together and leaned back in my chair, looking straight into my grandfather’s eyes. “It’s the kind of thing you have with Grams,” I said, feeling it deep in my gut. I wanted to make a million memories with Hazel. I wanted our grandchildren to witness our love story firsthand as we grew older with one another down the line. I wanted her to sass me for the rest of forever.

I wanted to grow old with that girl who’d helped me open up my heart.

“All right, then.” Big Paw smiled with the corner of his mouth, and he nodded once and only once. “No matter the fame and success you find, you keep holding on to that girl, all right? No matter what, you don’t let her go.”



“Please tell me that you got the godfather talk from Big Paw, too, and he wasn’t just saying he gave it to you?” Ian asked as we drove back home late that evening from helping his grandparents.