“Do we need to buy Christmas decorations?” Kat asks.
Brandon groans behind her. Kat loves to shop and could spend hours in one store just walking around.
“We can do that another time,” I say.
Brandon mumbles, “Thank God,” under his breath, making me laugh and causing Kat to roll her eyes.
When we get to the tree farm, we spend way more time than is necessary looking at trees. When I was on my own, I would come here and pick out whatever tree was closest to the entrance of the farm. But like she does when she’s shopping, Kat has to look at and compare each tree before settling on one. I swear she does it to be a pain in the ass. She liked two trees when we got to the farm but insisted on looking around only to end up coming back to the first two.
“That wasn’t so bad,” Kat says with a smile, sipping on her hot chocolate.
“Mom, you had us walk around for over an hour only to come back to the first trees you saw,” Brandon says.
“I wanted to make sure we got good ones,” she says then looks at me.
I can’t help but laugh at the innocent look on her face. “Let’s get these tied down, bud,” I tell Brandon when I see that he is going to say something else.
I send a message to Asher to make sure he and November are home before getting back into the truck with Kat pressed to my side and Brandon sitting next to the door. As soon as we pull up in front of November’s house, July and June are on the porch, jumping up and down, while November stands behind them with a smile on her face. I get out and help Kat, walking her up the front steps, where she and November hug and start laughing when the girls yell, “Uncle Brandon,” and attack him before he even makes it up all the steps. Once he has both girls picked up, one on each side of him, he makes it up the rest of the steps, the girls talking to him about God knows what.
“Hi, Daddy,” November says, smiling at me.
“Hey, baby girl,” I say and pull her in for a hug before releasing her and putting my arm around Kat’s shoulder.
“Tree time already?” Asher asks with a smile.
“Yep,” I tell him.
He nods then kisses November’s head before heading down the stairs to the truck. I kiss Kat and Brandon puts the girls down before we follow behind Asher and work at getting the tree inside.
“It’s Christmas already?” July asks, looking at me then her mom.
“No, baby.” November laughs. “Grandpa always brings me a tree before my birthday and Thanksgiving,” she explains.
“Oh.” July pouts. “When do we get presents from Santa?” she asks, making me laugh.
“On Christmas, but you have to be good.”
“I’m good. June’s not always good,” she says, lifting her chin.
November bites her lip and looks at me then back down at July, who is watching the men put up the tree. “Is tattling being good?” she asks July.
“I didn’t twattle,” she says, her eyes going wide.
“Just making sure.” November laughs.
July jumps off her lap and runs to her dad, pouting out her lip. I can’t hear exactly what he says, but I can tell by the look on her face that it must make it better.
“Dad’s so happy,” November says quietly.
I look at her then over at Mike, who turns his head and winks when his eyes meet mine.
“I wanted him to find someone. I set him up on an online dating website and pushed him to date, but he was never really into it. I thought that he would spend the rest of his life alone. I never would have thought that he would be getting married and having a baby. And that I would be getting not only one but two brothers.” She smiles and lets out a small laugh.
“I never expected all of this either,” I say quietly, laying my hand against my stomach.
“Well, I’m excited. Even if Asher is jealous that you’re having a boy,” she says, and I laugh. “He swears he’s cursed with girls because he was a man-whore.” She rolls her eyes, and I laugh harder.
“What are you guys talking about?” Asher asks.
I immediately stop laughing, look at November, and feel my eyes go wide.
“Oh, nothing,” November tells him, leaning back in her chair so she can smile up at him.
“Hmmm,” he grunts then bends down and kisses her. “I’m going to head up to the attic and get the Christmas decorations. The girls want to decorate tonight,” he says.
November sighs. “Honey, it’s late. They need to take a bath.”
“Babe…” is all he says, and she shakes her head.
“Okay, honey,” she mumbles. When he walks away, she says, “When our girls get older, he is so screwed.”
“Tired?” Mike asks.
I roll over to look at him. “Yes, but I had a really great time,” I tell him, wrapping my arm around his stomach. “June and July have their daddy wrapped around their little fingers.” I smile.
“They do,” he agrees and takes a breath. “I couldn’t ask for more for my daughter or my grandbabies. He loves all of them unconditionally and would do anything for them.”
“I love that for them,” I say, kissing his chest.
“Just think. Next year, that will be us and our little man,” he says, and I smile.
“I can’t wait to make thousands of memories with you,” I tell him quietly.
“Me too, babe,” he says, kissing the top of my forehead.
After seeing Mike with his granddaughters and Brandon, I know that the memories we make as a family will be extra special.
A few years later
“So, you’re going to let me run the club?” Brandon asks.
I nod. I never really thought about retiring at my age, but I like the idea of being home with Kat. Brandon has taken it upon himself to get management classes under his belt, and he had also proven himself mature enough on more than one occasion to run the club without me around. I knew that he would take the job seriously and always treat the girls at the club with respect. He also works well with Joe, and that says a lot. My brother is difficult and doesn’t trust many people, but he loves Brandon like his own kid.
“Yep. I’m handing the reins over to you. But if you need me, I’ll be around,” I tell him, watching as his face changes.
He looks away from me and scrubs his hands down his face before lowering his head, his shoulders slumping. “I know you’re not my dad,” he says, and I can hear the strain in his voice.