“Let mommy finish adding the caramel swirl to the brownies, and then we can finish playing our game.”
Hadley babbled on as she danced around Kyla’s playpen. Kyla clapped her little chubby hands while my little three-year-old kept dancing, playing a song in her head.
Our oldest, Jackson, sat with a book in his hands, his glasses falling down his nose, and just smiled at his little sisters.
My heart filled three sizes, and I let out a curse when I realized that I hadn’t been paying attention, burning my fingers in the process.
“Mommy bad word, Mommy bad word!”
I sucked my finger into my mouth and winced before speaking around it. “Don’t say the bad word. I just burnt myself on my brownie pan.”
“Are you okay?” Sloane asked as he walked into the kitchen. He was all thick muscle, sexy ink, and sexy man. The love of my life set down his phone on the table next to me and took my finger out of my mouth. He blew on it and shook his head. “Not paying attention again?”
“I was being all warm and happy with our kids, and I forgot that brownie pans are hot.”
“Shocking thing for a baker.”
I rolled my eyes. “This batch is starting to cool, and now I’m finishing up the next pan as soon as I add this caramel. Just let me work.”
Sloane shook his head. “I’ll add the caramel, and you put your finger under water and take care of yourself.”
“I’ll get a Band-Aid,” Jackson said, running towards the bathroom.
“I don’t think I need a Band-Aid,” I said softly.
Sloane leaned forward and kissed the tip of my nose. “Let him take care of you. It’s what us guys do. Taking care of our women.”
“Could you be any more misogynistic?” I asked with a laugh. I couldn’t believe that I was a wife and a mother. It felt like just yesterday I was telling myself that I could never have anything like this.
And here I was, a mother of three, still healthy, in love with the best and sexiest man in the world.
“I’m fine,” I said and kissed him softly on the mouth. “But should I trust you with the caramel?”
Sloane scoffed and went to the sink to wash his hands. “I am good with caramel. You know it.” He purred the last part of his sentence, and I was grateful that the little kids with big ears didn’t understand his meaning.
“Plus, this is for the Montgomery dinner and not for your shop. I’m pretty sure the Montgomerys will eat anything that has chocolate or cheese, no matter what it looks like. Just not together,” he said, visibly shuddering.
I winced. “Well, that’s an image I’m never going to get out of my head. Chocolate-covered cheese. And now I’m sick.”
He grinned, kissed me on the mouth again, and then went about swirling in the caramel. I had already poured it, and he was finishing the look and blending. I could trust him with that. It didn’t have to be perfect. Marginally. I knelt in front of my son as he smiled at me and slowly wrapped the Band-Aid around my finger.
“Good mom?” he asked before kissing the tip of the band-aid.
My heart swelled, and I blinked back tears. I had never thought I’d become a mother. Years of breast cancer treatment and everything that came with it meant that I couldn’t easily get pregnant on my own. We could have gone the surrogate route using a donated egg or IVF, but instead, we had decided to go with adoption. There were children that needed us, and they were as much as our children as anyone we could have had biologically.
We were still not used to this whole mom and dad thing since it hadn’t been long since we’d grown our family as it had. I was so freaking happy I could barely stand it.
“Mama sad?” Hadley asked as she patted my cheek.
I kissed her little face and smiled. “Mom is very happy. Now, what were you talking to me about earlier?” I asked as I sat next to Kyla’s sit and stay. I picked her up, set her on my lap, and she played with the bottom of my hair as Hadley started dancing around, and Jackson leaned into my side, his book in hand. I watched as Sloane put the brownies into the oven, set the timer, and sat cross-legged in front of us. Jackson ended up on his lap as Hadley bounced between us, talking about her day. As her day had been my day, I just laughed.
“So, I hear my girls had a good day, then?” Sloane asks, meeting my gaze.
“They did. The Montgomery daycare is getting pretty full,” I said, speaking of the building next to his.
“Well, since all of us had children near at the same time, it only made sense to open up the space next to us rather than adding onto the shop itself.”
“Do you think Maya and Austin are going to open up another shop then?”
“Pretty sure. It’s on the docket, at least. I think they will, either another one in Denver or one of the suburbs. I know a few of us are talking about keeping within the Montgomery branch, but maybe not working in the same area, just so that way, we’re not as overwhelmed as we are.”
I nodded, running my hand over Kyla’s soft hair. “It’s a big change.”
“It is, and with the Colorado Springs shop already opening and full to capacity, we’re thinking about adding more. We just don’t know yet. I’m with them no matter what.”
“They made you partner, so yes, you’re with them no matter what.”
My husband grinned and turned the page as Jackson kept reading. Our son had tapped him on the hands so that way Sloane could be part of it, even if he wasn’t reading the book with him.
“So now we have your shop, Taboo, on one side of us, the daycare on the other side, and they’re thinking about moving the daycare outside of downtown, and either making that another part of the tattoo shop, or something else for the family business.”
“With so many kids, it’s nice that it’s so close, but it is eating up some real estate.”
“And it wasn’t originally doing so, but everybody decided to have fifty kids,” he said, kissing the top of Jackson’s head.
“You’re going to have to make it so that way.” Jackson sits in his lap as Hadley dances around them.
“We’ll make it all work. We always do.”
“Either way, though, I’m not leaving. I like the door to our places so close.”
“Well, if you hadn’t come over for my brownies, you never know what would have happened.”
He met my gaze, and I swallowed hard. “I’m pretty sure I came over for more than your brownies.”
“Kiss kiss!” Hadley said, clapping her hands. Sloane scooted over with Jackson on his lap and leaned forward. I kissed my husband softly and sighed. Somehow the big scary growling man next door had smoothed out into this swoon-worthy specimen that I got to call husband.
Our lives had changed dramatically in the years that we had been together, and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Because of our friends and others, we were able to still work in the jobs that we loved and have a family close to us at all times.
We knew we were blessed, and not everybody had our options, but, in the end, all that matters is that we had each other and those we loved.
And as Kyla fell asleep in my arms, and Hadley went to sit next to Jackson so that he could read the book to her, I just smiled at our family.
The brownies would go off at any minute, and then we’d have to head out to the Montgomery family dinner, but for now, it was just us. The Montgomery friends who had somehow become part of their big family.
Through pain and agony and sweet happiness, we were forever connected.
I had fallen for the bad boy, but in the end, he had been just right for me.
And I knew that no matter what we had been through, and whatever we would go through in the future, I was the luckiest woman alive.
With the look in my husband’s eyes, I knew he would show me exactly how lucky we were later.
And I couldn’t wait.