“You good, baby?” I put my arm around her waist, kissing her hair.
“Yeah.” She leans in, wrapping her arm around my back. “Should we order pizza for everyone?”
“No,” I say, just as everyone else says yes, and all the kids start yelling, “PIZZA!”
“Honey,” Lilly whispers, her fingers digging into my side. I look into her eyes and shake my head.
“Jesus, fine, you girls call it in, and me and the boys will go pick it up,” I tell her, kissing her forehead before dipping my head to the side and whispering into her ear, “You owe me later.” I watch her face turn a light pink before hiding it against my chest. “Love you, Lil,” I say into the hair at the top of her head.
“Love you, too,” she says, her words muffled by my shirt.
“All right, I’m going to take the rug rats outside. Let me know when you guys order the pizza so we can go pick it up.”
“Sure,” she mumbles. I tilt her head back with a thumb under her chin so I can kiss her. The second my lips touch hers, I pull her a little tighter against me, wanting to absorb as much of her into me as I can.
“Stop being gross!” Jax yells.
“Yeah, that’s icky,” Ashlyn says, and Lilly smiles against my mouth.
“Get used to it,” I can hear my oldest niece July say, and I smile, rubbing my nose against Lilly’s before pulling away.
“All right, let’s go.” I throw out a hand towards the door and watch as all the kids start to run outside.
“So I did a background check on Lilly,” Nico says once we’re outside and all the kids are running around screaming. His words catch me off guard and I turn to look at him.
“Say what?” I ask. I can feel my body preparing to attack.
“Look, I did it a while back after the first time you saw her. I wanted—” That was it; I couldn’t take anymore. I looked around, seeing if anyone was watching us before putting him in a headlock. We have all been fighting since we were kids; yes, we all love each other, and yes, we are close, but we are male, and sometimes you had to let that shit out through your fist. I pull his head down low so that if any of the kids were to see us, they would think that we are just horsing around.
“I’m going to say this one f**king time, and I want to make sure you hear me, so I’m going to speak really slowly.” I tightened my arm around his neck, and it barely registers that he isn’t fighting back. Nico is as big as Asher and has filled out even more since working for Kenton, and I know if he wanted to, he could put me on my ass any other time, but right now, I’m so pissed that I feel like The Hulk. “Lilly is off limits. She is not Jules; she’s not some chick that I’m just f**king with. She is someone I have history with. And the person I plan to spend the rest of my life with. So I’m gonna tell you like I told Dad—if you’re not on Lil’s side, you’re not on my side. Do you understand?”
“What the f**k?” I hear before I’m being pulled away from Nico. I brush Trevor and Asher off and right myself.
“It’s cool; we’re cool,” Nico says, holding up his hands.
“Are we cool? Tell me what I want to hear.” I look at all three of my brothers. “You three all need to tell me that you’re on her side.”
“Dude, chill, we’re all on Lil’s side,” Trevor says softly.
“Don’t f**king call her Lil,” I growl, and Nico laughs.
“Look, we get it, and we’re all sorry,” Nico says smiling.
“So why the f**k did you have a background check done on her?”
“I wanted to see what she’s been up to,” he mumbles, and I run my hands down my face.
“I love you all, but I know what I'm doing. This situation with Lil is stressful enough for her. If she finds out that you’re running background checks or anything else,” I tug my hat off and run my hands though my hair, “that might send her running.” I close my eyes and shake my head. When I open my eyes back up, I look at the three of them. “I have to tell you, if she runs, I'm following her. Even if that means moving to another state.”
“The only reason I said anything was because I wanted you to know that I didn’t think she would commit check fraud,” Nico says, looking worried.
“I already knew that without you telling me you did a background check, dick. It’s called trust.”
“You know, if you ever did something like that to November, I would kick your ass!” Asher says, glaring at Nico.
“Yep, I would f**k you up if you did that shit to Liz.”
“Just don’t do anymore shit like that,” I say.
“You have my word.” Nico nods. “She’s good for you. I see that, and I can tell she loves you and Jax,” Nico says.
“Just, all of you, stay out of my love life.”
“You haven’t had a love life in a long time; we’re all waiting to see what happens,” Asher chuckles.
“This isn’t The Real Housewives; this is my life!” I shout.
“Hey, that’s a good show,” Trevor mumbles.
“You’re all idiots,” I toss over my shoulder as I walk off to join the kids. A few hours later, after everyone has left and the kids are in bed, Lil and I are cuddled up on the couch watching Ridiculousness, laughing our asses off at the stupid things people do, when she reaches over, grabbing the remote and pausing the TV.
“Thank you for having everyone over today,” she says, turning towards me.
“I didn’t want them here,” I tell her, and her eyebrows come together.
“I didn’t invite them. They just showed up. All I wanted to do today was relax with you and the kids.”
“Oh,” she says, her eyes searching my face.
“They wanted to prove to you that they’ve got your back. They do care about you, baby.”
“No buts.” I cover her lips with my finger. “They know that they shouldn’t have placed you in the same category as Jules. They wanted to show you that we are all family, and we all stick together.”
“I really like them all. And I'm happy they have been here for you,” she says, leaning in and kissing my chest before turning her body back around and laying her head against my chest. Then she lifts the remote in her hand towards the TV and the sound of Rob Dyrdek’s voice fills the room. I sit watching the show, but not really seeing it. My mind is full of thoughts about the past, and if I'm lucky, what the future will hold for all of us. I hold Lil a little closer when I hear her laugh. This is my boom. I knew it years ago, and I know it now.