Unexpected Reality (27 page)

I’m just hitting the bottom step when I hear Reagan. “How’d you do it?” she asks Kendall. I stop and listen.

“He’s stressed, Reagan. He just needed someone to help him feel like it was okay to ask for help, and it is. He needs to lean on us.”

‘Us.’ Not ‘you,’ not ‘your parents,’ but ‘us.’ My sweet girl.

“That’s what I was trying to do,” Reagan says, exasperated.

Kendall laughs softly. “Maybe, but you also got pissed off when he didn’t do what you expected.”

“He just wants in your pants,” Dawn teases.

“Maybe, but he also needs support.”

I’ve heard enough. Taking the final step, I walk the short distance down the hall and into the living room. “Hey,” I say, but only to Kendall. She’s all I see, holding my son, who is now blissfully sleeping in her arms.

“Hey, that was the quickest shower ever.” She smiles up at me.

I take the spot next to her on the love seat and lean in to her, my lips close to her ear. “Yeah, didn’t want to miss this,” I tell her honestly.

She runs her thumb over Knox’s hand, which is gripping her finger tightly. “Miss what?” she asks, watching my son sleep in her arms.

I don’t hesitate when I say, just for her, “You, sweet girl. I didn’t want to miss you, here in my house, where I can be close to you. You make it all better.”

She sucks in a breath. I’ve managed to shock her. Good, that’s what I’ve felt since the moment I met her—like I’ve been shocked, and the only balm is to be near her, talk to her. Hell, a simple text from her changes the outcome of my day.

“Ridge,” Reagan says softly, and I can hear the apology in her voice.

“I’m sorry, sister.”

“What can I do?” she asks.

“I have nothing ready. There are drinks in the garage refrigerator, but that’s about it.”

“We got this.” Dawn stands and heads toward the kitchen. Reagan smiles in our direction and follows her.

“The guys will be here soon,” I tell Kendall.

“Hey,” Reagan calls from the kitchen. “I told the guys to hold off until eight thirty. I recorded the prelims, since we always bitch about the commercials anyway,” she informs me.

Kendall smiles. “Go take a nap, Daddy. I got this little guy.”

Come with me.
“I can’t—”

“Ridge, you can and you will. I’ll be right here. I promise, if I need you I’ll wake you up. Go get some rest. You’ll need it to take care of him when we’re not here.”

Reaching out, I gently smooth the hair out of her eyes. I could stare into them for hours, get lost in their blue depths. But I don’t have hours—not today anyway. Instead, I lean in and press my lips to hers. “Thank you.”

Pulling back, I watch as she licks her lips. “Go rest, Mr. Beckett.” She points to the ceiling.

I chuckle. “I’m going.” I lean in and give her one more quick, chaste kiss and slowly stand. She doesn’t push me away, and I’m going to keep stealing kisses until she does. Three times. Three times I’ve had her soft lips next to mine, and I’m already addicted.

I wake to laughter and sit up, startled. Then I remember—I’ve got company. Peering over at the alarm clock, I see it’s two minutes to nine. I rub my hands over my face before climbing out of bed. I hate to admit it, but I needed that. Hell, I could go back to sleep and not wake up until the morning, but I can’t. I have a son to take care of, and then there’s Kendall.

She’s here.

I’ll sleep later.

“Hey, princess,” Seth greets me as I enter the living room. I flip him off with a grin, which causes everyone to laugh.

“Sleeping beauty,” Tyler chimes in.

“Feel better?” Kendall asks.

“Yeah.” I walk toward her, stopping beside her chair. “You had him the whole time?”

“Pretty much,” Reagan pouts, and I turn to look at her. She’s sitting on the love seat with Tyler, while Dawn, Mark and Kent are on the couch. Seth is in one chair, Kendall in the other.

“Hey!” Kendall pretends to be offended, but I can tell by the look on her face she’s not in the slightest.

“She’s got the touch,” Mark says, patting Reagan’s knee as if consoling her.

“The touch?” I ask, confused.

“Yeah. I held him but he started to fuss, so I passed him off to Reagan,” Dawn explains.

“Except that’s not what he wanted at all,” Tyler adds. “The little guy continued to fuss, until Kendall convinced Reagan to let her try to get him calmed down.”

“Dude, as soon as she had him, he stopped. Just absolutely stopped, like he wanted her all along. Like he was trying to tell us the whole time,” Seth adds.

“It really was weird, so we had them try it again. He cried with both of them, but stopped when Kendall had him,” Kent finishes.

I look down at Kendall. “Really?”

She shrugs. “Babies can sense tension,” she says, as a way of explaining why my son’s latched onto her.

Bending over, I whisper in her ear, “Can you stand a minute?” She looks confused but does as I ask, my son still in her arms. Once she’s on her feet, I settle into the chair.

“Hey . . .” Reagan starts to defend her when I pull Kendall gently into my lap, who stiffens at the contact.

“I got you, sweet girl. Both of you,” I say, rubbing my fingers on my son’s head while my other hand massages circles on Kendall’s back. Within minutes, she’s relaxing into me and I can’t keep the smile from tipping my lips.

“This is . . . new,” Reagan says with a grin. “Is it serious?” she asks, like the protective little sister. I know damn well she’s just calling me out.

“Yes.” I see all six of them with varied versions of shock on their faces.

“Ridge,” Kendall turns and whispers.

“Yes,” I say to her. No room for negotiation. I don’t understand it, the pull she has over me, but I’m not fighting that shit. “You find her, and you hold on” That’s what Dad always said.

I’ve found her, and I’m not letting go.



I should climb off his lap and tell him to go to Hell. I should tell him that he can’t make decisions for me—or for ‘us,’ as it seems—without consulting me first. I
do that, but I don’t. Instead, I just sit here on his lap and melt against him. I told myself that I wanted to see where this went, but to say it’s serious?

I think about how I feel when I’m with him. How I feel in this moment with him openly claiming me.

Yeah, it’s serious. At least my reaction to him is, anyway.

His friends as well as Reagan and Dawn seem to accept his one-word reply of “Yes” and move on. The guys are talking about the upcoming fight, Ridge included. Dawn and Reagan are talking about going to the local amusement park tomorrow.

“Kendall?” Dawn laughs. She knows better.

“Nope. No desire.”

“Come on, Kendall, it’s going to be a blast,” Reagan begs.

“Not for me. I’m scared to death of heights.”

“What about you?” Reagan asks Tyler.

He shrugs. “Sure, I’m in. Fellas?”

“I told Dad I’d help him finish their deck tomorrow,” Seth declines.

“Kent?” Tyler asks.

“I’m out, man. I plan to sleep all fucking day.”

“Mark?” Dawn asks. I can see how badly she wants him to say yes. I’m sure the others are oblivious, but I know my best friend.

“Yeah, sounds like a plan.”

“Ridge?” Reagan asks.

“We have plans,” he says, pulling me to relax further against him. This has me sitting almost beside him, my legs lying across his lap, Knox still sleeping in my arms.

“We do?” I whisper.

He tucks my hair behind my ear. “Yeah, I want to spend the day with you.” He gives me a shy smile. “I’ll have Knox, though. I can’t have Mom watch him when she already does all week.” He sounds apologetic.

Placing my hand on his cheek, I have his full attention. “He’s a part of you, Ridge. This is a package deal, and I’m good with that.”

He closes his eyes and his lips find my forehead, placing a tender kiss there. I drop my hand and lean against him, and we sit like that for the next hour. His hands tenderly rub circles on my legs, draped across his lap.

“Is the food ready?” Tyler asks.

“Yeah, I’ll go set everything out.” Reagan stands and heads to the kitchen.

“I’ll help.” Dawn follows her.

I stand as well, and without thinking, kiss Knox on his little cheek. “Here, Daddy, I’m going to help too.” I gently place Knox in Ridge’s arms. His hands slide around the back of my neck, pulling me closer. His lips touch mine, all too briefly, and then he’s releasing me.

I can feel the guys staring as I walk to the kitchen, and I wonder what they think of all this. Of Ridge and me, the way he acts with me? I don’t get to dwell on it long because as soon as I clear the kitchen door, Dawn and Reagan are all over the topic.

“Holy shit, my brother just claimed you.” Reagan claps her hands loudly.

“What? No, he . . .” Well, shit. He did, and I have not rebuttal.

“That was so hot,” Dawn adds.

“I mean, he’s my brother, so there is some ick factor there, but damn, if that were Tyler . . .” She lowers her voice. “Hot hell.” She fans her face with her hands.

“When did this happen? How could you not tell me?” Dawn asks.

“It just did.”

“What?” she asks, confused.

“You saw it happen.” I can’t help but grin when I see understanding cross her face. “We’ve been talking, and he’s told me he’s interested, but this . . . Tonight was it. He made it official.” I shrug.

“Is that what you want?” Reagan asks me.

“Yes. He’s all I’ve been able to think about. I look forward to his phone calls, his messages. I think it’s worth seeing if there’s something there. I just. . . .”

“You just what?” she repeats when I don’t say anything.

“I don’t want to be his rebound,” I confess.

“What are you talking about?” Her expression shows that she’s truly confused.

“He just lost her, Knox’s mom, and now . . . It’s too soon.”

“Shit. I thought you two had been talking?”

“Pretty much every day, either by text or phone.”

“Have you asked him about all of this?”

“Yeah, but he said he wanted to do it in person, and we’ve just not had the opportunity.”

“You let him claim that this was serious before you knew,” Dawn points out.

“Yeah, I just . . . I really want to see where this goes. I guess I’m willing to get my heart broken to find out.”

“That won’t happen,” his deep voice says from behind me.


Slowly, I turn to face him. He stalks forward and wraps his arms around me, his large arms engulfing me in the best hug I’ve ever received. His chin rests on top of my head.

“Give us a minute,” he tells Dawn and his sister.

I don’t try to pull away to see if they granted his request. Instead, I grip the back of his shirt and enjoy the fact that I’m in his arms. It’s almost as if both of us are afraid the other will disappear.

“We need to have that talk,” he finally says.

This time, I do pull back. “Where’s Knox?” I ask.

He chuckles. “Tyler has him, although I would bet one of the girls has stolen him by now. I need you to take a walk with me. Will you do that?”

“Ridge, you have people here,” I try to protest. I don’t expect him to leave his home when he has company just to pacify my worries.

“Don’t care. They know where everything is.”

“We can talk tomorrow.”

“No, now. I don’t want another second to go by with you thinking you’re not what I want or that I’m not ready to give you all of me.”

“Where are we going?” I concede.

“Just for a walk. I have a small pond out back with a gazebo. We can go there.”


He kisses the top of my head, laces his fingers through mine, and leads us back out to the living room. We’re both surprised when we see Tyler still has Knox. Reagan whispers something about baby whisperers, and I giggle. I just can’t help it.

“Hey, can you all keep an eye on him for a little while? We’re going to take a walk.”

Reagan and Dawn must have clued the guys in, because they didn’t bat an eye when all six of them assured Ridge that little man was in good hands. He nods his thanks, grabs a throw blanket from the back of the couch, and leads me through the dining room to the patio door.

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