It’s getting romantic.
Brendan and Michael together on the lake with their families… that’ll mean a lot of fun and noise with the kids, lol.
Yup, it’s time to let the good times roll!
Good grief… you really think we’d do that to Maria? Ya just never know what it’ll take to end a ridiculous bet.
Things are coming together quite nicely.
With these two… well, you just never know.
Thanks! Nah, they can’t forget about those! Nope, now they finally understand what that difference is and Sean’s no longer trying to pretend to be something he isn’t and the guys are responding well to that.
Lol, looking forward to a little moonlight action, huh? We’re not sure about that… there is that crazy bet, after all…
Yep, our boys have made a lot of progress since their introductions early on.
Very busy will be the understatement!
The Candy bond is awesome and we’ll see more moments with them.
Sean’s finally starting to fit in with our group.
Thanks for reading!
The guys did do pretty well with that, huh?
Yup, love Liz with some alcohol in her system, she’s pretty funny! The beach house meeting is coming soon. We’re rooting for Long Beach too!
Those nights are important to our gang… time with your significant other is great, but ya gotta remember your friends too. We all need that on occasion!
Yup, gotta visit with Dad and see what happens.
Maria’s awesome and we love ‘er!
These guys may have their moments, but they would never intentionally hurt anyone and Sean also has a connection through the girls. But it helps that he’s dealing with things and they just wanna put him at ease.
Hmm… we’re not sure, he hasn’t clued us in about that.
Aww, it would be nice for everyone to have someone, huh?
It’s comin’ soon!
Maria? Drama? Surely you jest!
The guys are doing well with Sean.
Yeah, Nancy isn’t giving us much to work with. Jeff on the other hand, he’s at least trying.
Part 126 – A Whole Lotta Lovin’
Michael parked on the street in front of Alex’s house and crept through the neighbor’s yard so Buffy and Spike wouldn’t hear him and start barking and wake the entire house. He had taken about a dozen steps when he heard a warning growl and he froze for a moment.
He slowly turned his head to look for the source of the menacing growl and he rolled his eyes and breathed a sigh of relief when he realized it was just a very tiny... Doberman Pinscher? He shook his head and continued on his way, glancing back over his shoulder when the sound of tiny nails running across the back porch picked up speed.
“What the fuck is your deal?” he snarled as he realized it was coming after him. Not that he was necessarily scared of the stupid thing, but the last thing he needed was for the thing to get its teeth into his lower leg and fuck up something that would keep him from playing in tomorrow’s game.
Damn, the little demon could run
, he thought as he dodged it, throwing his sleeping bag over the thankfully low fence and ran after it, jumping the fence and landing face-first in the soft sand. “Ha! Sucks to be you, Cujo.” He dusted himself off and looked around to make sure no one had seen that before he grabbed the sleeping bag and headed down to the pier.
[/i]The pier that was completely dark[/i], he mused as he smiled to himself. He slowed his steps as he neared the pier, creeping along silently as he came up behind Maria. She had abandoned her deck chair and was sitting on the side of the pier.
“Michael,” she breathed, “tryin’ to scare me to death?”
“Thought those lights were on,” he said as he dropped the sleeping bag on the pier and eased down to sit behind her.
“Well, they suddenly went off,” she said and shrugged innocently.
“You are so lyin’,” he muttered as he leaned in to kiss her neck.
“Ya can’t really see the ocean when the lights are on, Michael,” she told him and leaned her head to the side.
“Um-hmm... not sure it’s safe to leave you alone.” He reached up to brush her hair aside and he nipped her earlobe playfully.
“Hey, I’m still alive after a night with a bunch of crazy girls.”
He snorted, grinning when his breath against her skin made her shiver. “What’d you guys do?”
“Hmm, let’s see, we ordered tons of pizza. After that we went skinny dipping from the pier and then we had some drinks on the deck.”
“No, you didn’t,” he denied, shaking his head. “What’d you really do?”
She turned to look at him. “That is the truth, baby.”
“Skinny dipping... ALL of you?”
“Well, not the pregnant lady.”
He snorted. “Okay... you an’ Tess, yeah, I’ll give you that one. But, Liz? And, Karen?” He shook his head. “You’re makin’ it up.” There was no way, he thought.
“Well, we didn’t exactly take pics of it, so you can believe me or not.”
Nope, he didn’t believe it. “Damn shame,” he mumbled against her skin. “Wouldn’t mind pics of you... naked... wet...”
She giggled. “Maybe you should ask that old lady from the neighborhood. Ya know, the one who watched us making out on the back deck.”
He chuckled. “I’d better not find out she or anyone else has been takin’ naked pics of you ‘cause I’ll beat their ass for that.”
“So what’d you guys do?”
Michael shrugged. “Just hung out and got caught up with each other. Didn’t really do much else.”
“Was Sean with you? Karen mentioned that Brendan might ask him to hang out.”
“Yeah, Bren brought him over. I felt kinda bad for him, ya know? It’s like he has no idea how to act around people.”
“Yeah, it’s probably hard to finally admit that and live with it.”
“Guess so... I can’t imagine what that’d be like.”
“Uh-huh, and I am very glad about that.”
“That makes two of us.”
She let her hand wander over his denim-covered leg. “Are ya nervous about Adam’s arrival?”
“Uh, yeah, a little bit. Last time it was just him, this time it’ll be his wife an’ kids too.”
“It’ll be fun,” Maria said without a doubt.
“Yeah, I’m sure you’re right, it’s just a little nerve-wrackin’, ya know? I’ve seen what Brooke’s dealin’ with an’... I don’t know, what if his kids are dealin’ with somethin’ similar?”
Maria chuckled. “Then it’ll get a little dramatic, but we’re used to that.”
He rested his chin on her shoulder and he held her tighter when he felt her shiver. “You getting cold?”
“No,” she denied. She didn’t want to go anywhere else right now.
“We don’t have to go far,” he whispered. “Sleepin’ bag’s right there on the beach.”
She shivered again, not from the cold air this time though.
“C’mon before you get too cold.”
“Okay,” she got up from the pier and took her flip-flops in her hand.
“I could build a fire,” he offered as he unrolled the sleeping bag and got it ready.
“That’d be cool.”
He nodded and motioned for her to crawl inside while he got the fire going.
Maria sat up and wrapped the material of the sleeping bag around her while he went to get some wood from under the back deck of Alex’s house.
Within minutes the fire was going and he was satisfied that they were close enough to be warm but far enough away that they wouldn’t burn themselves. He kicked his shoes off and wiggled into the sleeping bag next to her.
“I heard ya offered Brendan part of your property on the lake,” she said as she snuggled up closer to him.
“It’d be kinda cool, don’tcha think?”
“Yeah, we could hang out a lot and our kids can play together.”
He grinned, liking the sound of that. “We’re gonna have a lot of fun with this, Maria.”
“Yeah, it is something to look forward to. I can’t wait to tell my mom about it.”
“Maybe next time she’s up here we can take her out an’ show her the property.”
“Yeah, definitely. I know she’ll love it.”
“As long as you love it, that’s all that matters to me.” Michael shifted onto his side and placed a trail of tiny kissed along her jaw.
She ran her hand over his hair, closing her eyes as she enjoyed his light kisses.
He watched the firelight play over her features and he rearranged his position again, resting over her with his weight on his forearms. “God, I love you so much, girl,” he whispered as his right thumb traced over her cheek.
She gasped slightly as his words, spoken so softly and openly that it took her breath away. “I… I love you,” she said, her voice hushed.
“I’m never gonna get tired of hearin’ that,” he admitted as he lowered his head to kiss her. His right hand skimmed over her side, bare skin teasing his fingers where her shirt had ridden up.
She groaned into his mouth as he deepened the kiss and her hands wandered down over his sides while her body moved against him.
Michael shifted down as his lips wandered down over her neck, working his way to the collar of her shirt. He used his nose to push it out of the way so he could kiss her shoulder.
He is so tender
, Maria thought. She would let it happen if he didn’t bring up the bet on his own.
He moved his hand up over her side, easing her shirt up and over her head when she shifted to give him room to move. His eyes darkened even more when he realized she wasn’t wearing a bra and her breasts were already bared for him. He let his fingertips move over her skin, watching her nipples as they reacted to his touch and the cool night air. “So beautiful,” he murmured and took one in his mouth.
He made her feel like she was something special. As if she was the most beautiful thing in the world and she could only hope that he knew she felt the same way for him.
Michael shifted as he fumbled with the button on her shorts and he growled when it didn’t cooperate and immediately release.
She reached between them, helping him to unbutton her shorts.
He breathed a sigh of relief when she gave him a hand and he shoved the shorts out of his way, letting her work them the rest of the way down her legs. “Just love the invisible underwear thing you’ve got goin’ on tonight.”
She smiled. “Didn’t bother to pull them on after skinny-dippin’.”
It briefly crossed his mind to ask about that again, but the feel of her skin against his where she was working his shirt up distracted him and it was forgotten.
She let her fingers trail over his upper body, enjoying the feeling of his taut muscles. “Is this allowed before the big game? I’ve heard that sexual activities aren’t allowed the day before,” she joked.
He unsnapped his jeans and wiggled out of them while she otherwise occupied and he nearly opened his mouth and ruined the moment as the thought of the bet surfaced. No reason to remind her of that, he thought and met her gaze when she spoke. “Do you see the coach around here?” He shuddered at that and shook his head. “Ungh, nevermind, let’s just say that what he doesn’t know won’t hurt me.”
“I can live with that,” she agreed. He hadn’t brought up the bet, she thought. Was he just playing with her to win it? Or was he honestly not even thinking about it?
“I don’t know who came up with that anyway... I’ve got more than enough aggression to make my point out on the field. Sex before a game in no way diminishes my ability to win a game.”
“I have no doubt about that, baby.”
Yeah, his chest swelled with pride... there was no denying it. He nudged her with his hips. “Speakin’ of makin’ a point,” he whispered against her lips, “I think Mike Jr. might just be ready to get busy.”
She giggled. “Guess, we shouldn’t make him wait then, huh?”
“No, waitin’ would just be cruel,” he agreed, unable to keep the grin off of his face.
She glanced at the fire. “Think we’ll be able to spend the whole night out here?”
He bit back a groan when she shifted beneath him. “Yeah, no reason why we can’t.”
Maria nodded, glancing up into his soft eyes. “Okay.” She ran her hands down his sides while her lower body moved against him.
God, she was driving him crazy! But, damn, what a way to go! Even though he knew perfectly well that she was ready for him he reached between them to be certain. He would never hurt her if he could help it; he knew she believed she was safe with him and he never wanted to make her question that. He bit his bottom lip and watched her as he entered her slowly, drawing her pleasure out as long as possible.
She wanted to close her eyes but resisted the urge and forced herself to look into his eyes as he slowly started to move. They had connected so much, especially since the last days they had spent at the cabin. Hopefully these feelings between them would never go away.
“I never saw this comin’, ya know,” he said quietly.
“Ya mean us?”
“Yeah.” He increased his pace as he kissed her.
“Neither did I,” she mumbled against his lips. “Remember, you were the type of guy I was trying to avoid.”
He chuckled and glanced down when the metallic clink caught his attention and he saw their dog tags tangled together. “Guess we were both runnin’ from what we really needed, huh?”
“Well, you were running a little bit faster,” she teased.
“Good thing for us you don’t give up easily.”
She smiled. “We both didn’t.”
“No, guess not,” he conceded. He shifted his position just enough to make sure he was hitting her G-spot with every thrust and her quick intake of air let him know he was right on target.
Her hands clawed into the sleeping bag. “Love you,” she breathed.
His hands cradled her face and he kissed her, his touch gentle as he drew it out. “You ready?” he rasped against her lips.
She nodded. “Always.”
He smiled slightly and his right hand sought hers out, their fingers interlocking as he thrust harder and faster.
She squeezed his hand tightly when she felt her orgasm start to wash over her. She could hear the waves of the ocean not far away from them and it felt like the most perfect moment to her.
“Love you, M’ria,” he growled as the moment began to overtake them and his lips crashed into hers.
She held him tightly against her as they both calmed down, not allowing him to move away from her.
“Not goin’ anywhere,” he whispered, his smile evident in his voice.
“Promise?” she mumbled against his neck.
He shifted over onto his back, taking her with him so she was sprawled over him, and he nodded. “Promise.”
“We should set an alarm before we fall asleep.”
“Why? You gotta be up early?”
“I promised Isabel I’d help out with the food and all the preparations for later. Think you could go to the airport on your own? Or ya want me to go with you?”
“By myself? Jeez, Maria...” He sighed as he stared up at the sky. “Well, I guess me an’ Bren can go.”
“I don’t know... promise you’re gonna feed me more than salad and I’ll think about it.”
She giggled. “You’ve got an important game tomorrow, so you’ll get some meat as well.”
“Just some? Ya gotta feed me damn good tomorrow, woman.” He grinned when she lifted her head to look at him with one eyebrow raised at his tone. “Just sayin’.”
“Uh-huh. Ya better shut up or I’m gonna eat it all by myself.”
“Whatever.” He hooked his left arm around her waist. “What’re you guys makin’ for lunch anyway?”
“We’ll make a lot of different things since there’ll be... A LOT of people and we have no clue what Adam’s family likes to eat.”
“Are the others gonna be there? Ya know, Kyle, Max, and their girls?”
“Yeah, we thought it’d be fun to all hang out together. Karen’s Mom included and Kyle said his parents would come by as well.”
“They must be flyin’ in for the game.”
“Yeah, Tess mentioned it,” she shrugged. “Liz told me her Dad’s here as well. I bet she’ll figure things out with him and she’ll bring him over too.”
“This’s turnin’ into quite a production, isn’t it?” he asked, trying to ignore the feeling of discomfort.
“Definitely bigger than we planned it to be,” she rested her head on his chest.
It would be okay
, he reminded himself. She would be there and he knew she would run interference if he needed it. “It’s just... a LOT of people.”
“I’ll be there,” she told him, sensing his nervousness.
He nodded. “Just, stay close, okay?” Even though he knew she understood why it made him nervous he still felt kinda stupid having to ask her to hold his hand throughout the day.
She nodded and tightened her arms around him. “I’m not goin’ anywhere.” He always told her the same thing.
He smirked when she tossed his own words back at him and he shuffled around to grasp his jeans. “What time you wanna get up?” he asked as he pulled his phone out and opened it up.
“Maybe around 9am.”
“Alright,” he agreed and quickly changed the alarm setting on his phone before dropping it on the bag next to them. “We’re all set for 9am.”
“Thanks,” she said tiredly. “Hey, baby?”
“Hmm?” he mumbled drowsily.
“Can we agree that nobody won the stupid bet?”
“Yeah, I don’t think either of us could honestly say we won...” he kissed her forehead. “Can‘t say I’m sorry ‘bout that though.”
She smiled. “Me neither.”
“Cool. Now let’s get some sleep ‘cause we’ve got a big day tomorrow.”
“Yeah, it’s gonna be exhausting. Good night, big boy.”
Yeah, it was gonna be exhausting
, he thought. “G’night, baby.” He held her snugly against him as he stared up at the sky, hoping that the next day went smoothly.
Tess stood at the glass wall at the back of Alex’ house, smirking as she noticed that Maria and Michael hadn’t been able stay away from each other even for just a night. She had been on her way to the kitchen for a glass of water when she had realized that Maria wasn’t in the house and she had wandered into the living room to check outside because she knew her best friend loved to sit out by the ocean. It looked like they had settled down with the intention of sleeping on the beach and she was pretty sure that their stupid ‘no-sex bet’ had been forfeited.
She rolled her eyes and went into the kitchen, pulling the refrigerator door open and grabbing a bottle of water. She and Kyle would never even bother with anything as ridiculous as a no-sex bet… although… She frowned. Why hadn’t Kyle come over to see her?
Yeah, okay, they had agreed that the girls and boys nights would be just that and they would hang out with their own friends, but Maria and Michael had broken the ‘rule’ so why hadn’t Kyle?
Great, she thought, now she was annoyed.
She glanced at the clock over the stove and tapped her chin with the unopened bottle. 2am… that jerk was probably sleeping! And he knew she was all alone… Well, okay, she was with her friends, but that wasn’t the same thing. Ungh, guys! Yes, she had told him that he should stay over at his place with the guys, but she couldn’t believe that he had actually listened to her!
She put the bottle of water back and hurried back to the den to grab her things, made a quick stop in the bathroom to make sure she was presentable, and then snatched up her purse on her way to the door. She scribbled out a quick note that she left on the table by the door and then quietly left the house.
She made it over to the boy’s apartment in only a few minutes, smiling when she stepped into the living room and heard Alex snoring slightly on the couch while Brendan and Sean were lying on air mattresses on the floor.
She made her way to Kyle’s bedroom without waking them up and slipped into the dark room.
Kyle shifted and frowned in his sleep when she gave his blanket an experimental tug and he made a sleepy grab for it when it slid over his body to be tossed aside. He grumbled and rolled over onto his side, curling up and hugging his pillow to stay warm.
Tess smirked at his sleeping behavior and glanced at the boxer he was wearing. Ungh, he had promised that he had already thrown the ugly things away. You’re cheating, Valenti.
He barely moved when the mattress dipped slightly with her added weight, but when he unconsciously registered the heat from her body he eased over onto his back once more, wiggling closer to her.
Tess bit her lip from laughing and reached into his nightstand, knowing that there was a pair of scissors there for whatever reason. She took them and pulled on the hem of his shorts. “Time to say bye-bye, boxers,” she whispered.
Kyle mumbled something completely unintelligible and pushed at the annoying itch at his waist.
She continued her actions until the boxers were in two halves before she placed the scissors aside and got up again to strip her clothes off.
His right hand moved lower to cover himself when the cool air in the apartment brushed against his newly-exposed skin and his other hand came up to rub at his chest.
She climbed onto the bed, removing his hands gently to rest them on the bed next to his body.
Kyle moved around, his fuzzy brain trying to figure out why he was cool while still desperately trying to hold onto sleep.
While she held his arms down on the mattress with her own hands, she swung one leg over him and sat down on his thighs.
A smile eased over his features at the familiar weight and he contentedly let the dream unfold, taking him to his happy place.
She shook her head when he stubbornly remained asleep. “Ya don’t know when it’s time to wake up, Valenti.”
The voice wasn’t loud, but it was enough to tug at him and he squeezed his eyes shut as he rubbed at them. God, he knew he should’ve told Tess that sleeping in separate beds was a stupid idea
, he thought. That last dream had felt so real he would’ve sworn that she was right there with him. Why had he woken up before the dream had come to a nice, satisfying conclusion?
he wondered, irritated that now he was half-awake with a hard-on and only his right hand for relief. He shifted to lower his right hand again and his eyes shot open when the back of his hand collided with a leg that wasn’t his.
“Took ya long enough,” she said, amused.
“Tess?” he rasped as he glanced around blearily.
“Did ya expect someone else?”
“Wasn’t expectin’ anyone,” he denied. He motioned to his erection that was blatantly awaiting attention. “You gonna do somethin’ with that?”
“Thought you knew how to use it all by yourself,” she teased.
“Wake a guy up in the middle of the night, wake his dick up, and then you’re gonna make me do all the work?” He shook his head and his hands settled on her hips, pulling her forward until he could feel her wet heat rubbing against that needy part of his body.
She leaned forward and brushed her lips against his. “You said it in the wrong order. I’m pretty sure that he,” she pressed her lower body against him, “was awake first.”
“Tess,” he complained, drawing her name out into several syllables. “This really isn’t the time to correct me.” His grip tightened and he held her still for several long moments.
“Ya better do something to shut me up then,” she whispered into his ear playfully.
He chuckled as he reversed their positions, covering her mouth with his hand as he entered her and stilled. “This isn’t exactly a good way to silence you,” he teased, his lips brushing against her earlobe.
She groaned against the hand that covered her mouth and brushed it away with her own hand to crash her lips onto his. “Much better.”
“Um-hmm,” he agreed as he started to move. His hands moved over her flesh, loving the feel of every silken inch of her body pressed against him.
She had already forgotten that she was annoyed with him for not showing up at Alex’s place. “I love you,” she whispered against his lips. She did love him so much and he deserved to know that. No matter how bitchy she sometimes was he had never turned his back on her.
“Love you too,” he murmured. His thrusts picked up speed and intensity, bringing her to the edge and then he slowed down again. “So, I’ve been thinkin’...” Probably not the best time to bring it up, but probably the best time to get a positive answer. “Wanna get a place together?”
She looked at him, irritated. “You’re seriously askin’ me this right now?”
He bit her bottom lip gently. “Sorry,” he muttered. “Retract that last question and forget I asked.”
She shook her head. “No, no, I can’t just forget about it now,” she said and rolled them gently over to their sides.
“Is it too soon?”
She looked into his eyes, searching for an answer there. “I don’t know. Ya really wanna give this up,” she gestured to the room.
“I’d give up sharin’ a place with the guys if it meant we’d have our own space. It’s not like a deal-breaker or anything, Tess; if you’re not ready or you don’t think as a couple we should make that move yet, we can wait. We probably wouldn’t do anything until the end of the school year anyway, but I just thought it was somethin’ to think about.”
“Ya really sure you could stand me 24/7?”
“Hell, babe, we have active lives outside of our life together... we hang out with our friends together and separately, we’ve got other interests, but yeah, I think I could stand you 24/7.”
She smiled at his certainty that it would work out with them. “Okay,” she said softly.
His eyebrows lifted. “Yeah?”
She bit her lip and nodded.
He shifted his hips and grinned. “So, maybe we should finish this conversation later, huh?”
“Good idea,” she told him breathlessly when his slight movement reminded her that he had interrupted them with his question at a cruel point.
He grabbed half of what was left of his favorite pair of boxers. “This wasn’t a good idea... they’re my lucky boxers. I always wear them the night before a game. So, if we lose tomorrow, I’m tellin’ everyone it’s your fault.”
“You won’t lose,” she denied.
“How do you know?”
She shrugged. “Just a feeling.”
“Uh-huh.” He rolled them over so she was on top and his hands rested on her thighs. “You’d better take over so I don’t start talkin’ again,” he said with a teasing grin.
“We don’t want that,” she told him teasingly and started to move, slowly first, but the need for more overtook pretty fast.
Kyle knew she was close, had been close for a while now and it wasn’t going to take much for her orgasm to hit her. He surged up to kiss her when he heard her breathing change, knowing she was about to let it go. He forced his own orgasm back, intending to make sure she took that freefall a second time since he had started talking earlier and momentarily ruined the mood.
He caught her when she slumped against him bonelessly and he grinned when she realized he was still hard and he heard her sharp intake of breath. He gave her a few moments to recover before he reversed their positions once more and within minutes had her screaming over that edge again. He came just moments after her and he chuckled against her shoulder. “I’m gonna be worthless for tomorrow’s game,” he huffed against her shoulder.
She laughed breathlessly. “I’ll do my best to motivate ya from the stands.”
“That’s good, I think I’m gonna need it.”
Max watched Liz as she paced around the girls’ apartment, chewing on her bottom lip and staring at the clock on the wall. She had called her dad an hour earlier and asked him to come over so they could talk and he had quickly agreed. She was nervous and uncertain and he hoped that this meeting would give her some resolution and peace going into the New Year.
“Why do you think my mom didn’t come with Dad?” she asked finally.
“Your mom’s got some issues to work out, darlin’, and personally I’d rather she steer clear of you until she’s figured out what she’s doin’.” He shook his head when she paused in her pacing to turn and look at him. “I know she’s your mom and you love her regardless of the way she’s treated you, but I also see how much it hurts you when she says some of the thoughtless things she says. And don’t even get me started about the way she pushes her thoughts and what she wants on you.”
Liz sat down next to him and shifted so that she was facing him. “I don’t think my parents are happy,” she admitted. “Together, I mean.”
“They didn’t strike me as bein’ all that happy when I met ‘em at Christmastime,” he said, watching her closely. “But you know that has nothin’ at all to do with you, right?”
“No, I know that.” She picked at her thumbnail and shrugged one shoulder.
“Do you?” he asked, reaching out to tip her chin up.
“Yeah, I know.” She shrugged. “Okay, part of me does wonder if my choices have caused a problem with my parents, but the other part, the rational part, knows that I’m not responsible for any problems in their relationship.”
“Just keep that rational part at the front of your mind, okay?” He glanced up when he heard footsteps outside and a knock on the door a moment later.
“I’ll try,” she promised as she stood and brushed her hands over her clothes nervously. “Do I look okay?”
“Darlin’, you look perfect.” He stood and walked to the door with her. “I’m gonna run out and grab coffee an’ donuts while you guys talk for a bit. I won’t be gone long,” he promised.
Liz nodded, knowing he was trying to give her space to deal with the situation in whatever way she felt was needed. She stretched up on her tiptoes to kiss him before opening the door and facing her father. “Hi, Dad.”
Jeff smiled at his only daughter and shook Max’s hand when the younger man extended it in his direction. His mind was so busy going over what he wanted to say that he completely missed what Max had said to him as he passed him on his way to take the steps to the ground level two at a time.
“He’s leaving?” He was surprised that Max would willingly leave her alone considering the situation.
“Just making a quick coffee and donut run.” She stepped back and motioned for him to enter the apartment, closing the door after him and leaving it unlocked for Max. “He’ll be right back.”
“I would’ve been here sooner, but… your card got mixed in with some other… things, and I didn’t see it until just a couple of days ago.”
“That’s alright – “
“No,” he interrupted, “it’s not alright, Liz. There’re a lot of things that haven’t been alright for a long time now and it’s time for us to work on that.” He sighed. “And when I say us, I’m not talkin’ about you, honey. Your mom and I have a lot of things to work out.”
“You guys aren’t happy are you?” she asked as she fussed with the coffee pot for several minutes.
“We haven’t been happy for a long time, honey.” He reached out to cover her hand when she filled the pot with water. “Didn’t you just say your boyfriend went out for coffee?”
She smiled slightly. “They won’t sell his coffee at any of the local shops.” She finished making a pot of the over-priced, nasty-tasting coffee before she turned to look at her dad again. “What happens now?”
“That’s between your mom and me, Liz. I won’t lie to you; I’m fairly certain that when I get back home we’ll be separating. I don’t know if divorce is a sure thing, but it is a possibility.”
“Because of me?” she asked, unable to stop the question.
Jeff shook his head and hurried to pull her into his arms. “Honey, don’t ever think that whatever happens between us is your fault. We’ve just let things between us go too long without dealin’ with them and now we’re payin’ for it. We lost sight of what was important a long time ago and what hurts the most is that you’ve been payin’ for our mistakes.” He released her and looked down to meet her gaze. “This boy you’re seein’… you love him? He makes you happy?”
“Then promise me something?”
She nodded, waiting for him to speak again.
“Don’t lose sight of your dreams, honey. His dreams are important too, and you should support him as he pursues them just like he should support you, but don’t lose sight of your own in the pursuit of his.”
“Max would never let that happen,” she said confidently. “And neither would I. We’re going into fields that aren’t the same, but we have an active interest in each other’s career choices.”
Jeff smiled when he heard the absolute trust and faith in her voice.
“Is that part of what’s wrong with you and Mom?”
“It’s a big part of it, yeah. I kinda let my dreams go when I took over the restaurant and somewhere along the way your mom let hers go too. And instead of us talkin’ about it, we just let it slide and now we’re in our forties and we’re both unhappy.” He shook his head. “I don’t want that for you, Liz. You deserve so much more than that.”
“Yes, I do.” She glanced up when she heard the quiet knock on the door before it was pushed open. “And so does Max.”
Jeff watched the younger man as he entered the kitchen, his sharp gaze automatically moving over them, assessing the situation and making sure she was alright. He saw the small nod she gave when Max looked at her directly and he felt like an intruder when they carried on a silent conversation in a matter of seconds.
“They were out of the donuts with the sprinkles on ‘em, but they had the croissants with the cream cheese that you like, so I got those.”
“Oooh, I like those.”
Max grinned and kissed her. “I know.” He glanced at her father. “Mr. Parker, Liz said the cake donuts were your favorite, so we’ve got those too.”
Jeff nodded. “I’m hopin’ you’ve got some regular coffee ‘cause whatever it was that Liz brewed…” he wrinkled his nose. “I think I’ll pass on that.”
“No one appreciates good quality coffee,” Max complained.
Liz rubbed his arm in a consoling gesture. “Not true, darlin’. Tess appreciates it.”
He rolled his eyes. “Don’t get me started on that topic.” He poured a cup of his coffee and sat on one of the barstools. “Speakin’ of touchy topics… are Sean’s parents dealin’ with things any better?”
Jeff was surprised when Max brought up the subject of Liz’s ex-fiancé but it only took moments for him to realize that neither of them was uncomfortable with the mention of Sean. “Well, Darren isn’t likely to change his mind about things. Sherry’s initial reaction wasn’t great, but now she just wants to know that her son’s alright. They’ve been havin’ some problems over the situation because neither of them can agree on how to handle things. She wanted to come and see Sean but Darren’s forbidden it.” He shrugged one shoulder and frowned. “I don’t know if she’ll make it up here, but if she does it’ll likely mean the end of their marriage. That’s the way Darren’s made it sound anyway.”
“What a jerk,” Liz muttered as she unwrapped one of the flaky, golden croissants. “I hope she does come and visit Sean. It would mean so much to him.”
They talked for a while longer before deciding to head over to the beach house for lunch with the twins and their ever-growing family.