“Okay.” I swallow the lump in my throat.
“The minute I met you, I stopped seeing her and any anyone else.” I nod, my eyes closing in relief. “About three months later, she calls me to tell me that she’s pregnant, and that unless I want her to get an abortion, I needed to go with her to the doctor.” I look down to make sure that both the kids are still asleep. I don’t think that this is something they should ever know. “I met her at the appointment and the doctor did an ultrasound. I saw Jax for the first time and heard his heartbeat, and I fell so deeply in love in that moment.” He takes a deep breath. “After the appointment, Jules told me that if I wanted her to keep the baby, I needed to cut everyone else off and focus on her.” He looks past me, running his hand over his mouth before his eyes come back to me. “I hated doing it, but I wanted my son. I knew that Jules wasn’t going to make it easy, but at the end of the day, if my child was healthy and happy, everything else would pale in comparison.”
“I can understand that,” I whisper, running my fingers through Cash’s hair that had fallen forward into his eyes.
“Well, you know I called you and told you I couldn’t see you anymore.” I nod, that same pain from a few years ago shooting through my chest. “She moved in with me. I wanted to keep her close; I didn’t want her to have a chance to get an abortion. I was afraid if I turned my back for a second, that’s exactly what she would do. At first, our relationship was nothing but her living in my house, and then things changed. I didn’t love her, but I cared about her, and I looked at Asher and Trevor’s relationships and they were both so happy…and I wanted that for myself. At the time, Jules was so easy to get along with. So I tried to build a relationship with her.” I bite my lip trying not to cry; I don’t want to know this. “It never worked. Right after we got married, things changed. She changed. She turned into someone who was mean and manipulative. Or maybe she was like that before, but I was wanting what my brothers had so badly that I looked past it,” he says quietly, reaching towards me and wiping away a single tear that has made its way down my cheek. “You know, she was bad, but I'm also to blame.” He runs his thumb across my bottom lip. “I was still stuck on you, and kept comparing everything about her to you.” Oh, God, I couldn’t take anymore. I was going to start sobbing if he didn’t stop. “I will do everything in my power to keep us together and to make you fall in love with me again.” I don’t think that it’ll be that hard for him to do. My mom and dad are going to kick my ass, but I just can’t help feeling like I’m meant to be with him.
“Yeah?” He leans forward, kissing me lightly.
“What did she say to you before she left?”
“That she was going to try and get custody of Jax.”
“No,” I gasp as I run my hand over Jax’s head at my waist.
“Don’t worry; this isn’t the first time she’s tried. She won’t take him from me. He doesn’t even really know her. Yes, he knows she’s his mom, but that’s all. They don’t have a relationship.”
“That’s really sad.” I look down at Ashlyn. I can’t imagine not having her.
“She’s not like normal moms, babe. Even when Jax was a baby, she would get mad if he cried or if he needed attention. My mom has been more of a mom to him than she has.”
“Maybe she needs help.”
“I don’t know; I tried to help her. I also tried to talk her into seeing someone after Jax was born, but she wouldn’t. The last straw for me was when Jax was learning to walk and he stumbled into her. She was holding a glass of juice, and when he bumped her, the juice went all over her outfit. She pushed Jax back, and then started yelling about her ruined clothes. After that, I kicked her out of the house and told her I was getting a lawyer and filing for full custody.”
“Poor Jax,” I whisper, closing my eyes.
“She’s not around often, and if she is, the visitations are supervised.” Just then, I feel movement at my left and look down to see Jax opening his eyes.
“Hey, dude, did you have a good nap?” Cash asks him, and Jax climbs over me onto Cash’s chest, kicking Ashlyn accidently in the process, waking her up.
“Hey, love bug.”
“Are we going to the zoo?” She smiles sleepily up at me, then Cash.
“Tomorrow,” I tell her as she cuddles into me. Cash pulls me over so my head is on his chest with Ashlyn between us, and Jax laying on top of him. We all lay there, the warmth of the sun beating down on us. Cash’s fingers run up and down my arm. I feel loved, safe, and whole for the first time in years. I know it’s too soon, but it feels so right that I don’t care.
“Hey, man, are you okay?” Asher asks. I look around the now-quiet jobsite realizing I must have been daydreaming. It’s been two months since the bar-b-que at Asher’s house—two months of getting to know my daughter, and two months of reconnecting with Lilly. All of it has been perfect, except I want more. I want Ashlyn and Lilly in my house with Jax and me. I want to be able to kiss them both before bed at night, and wake up and see them and my son every morning. I hate when I have to say goodbye to them, and I know Jax doesn’t like it much either.
“Yeah.” I smile as Asher sits, opening a bottle of water.
“How are things with you and Lilly?”
“Really good.” I look at Asher, who seems to want to say something. “What is it?” I sigh. I know everyone likes Lilly. My mom loves her, but there are times I can see them waiting for her to flip out like Jules would.
“Why doesn’t she live with you?”
“What? That’s what you want to say?”
“Yeah, I mean, I can’t imagine not having my girls there when I get up in the morning.”
“I don’t like it, if that’s what you’re thinking. But I have been trying to take things slow. I f**ked up big time with her, so right now, I'm just trying to prove to her that I'm in for the long haul.”
“Can you prove it by this weekend?”
“What?” I feel my eyebrows draw together in confusion.
“You know, this weekend. Can you have her move in with you by this weekend?”
“Were you listening to what I just said?” I mean, I want her to live with me; shit, there are a lot of things I want, but taking it slow includes waiting on moving in and sleeping together. Since that time in the shower at Asher’s house, I haven’t had my mouth on anything but her mouth. Just thinking about the way she looked—the way she f**king tasted—makes me hard.