We step off the plane, and I have never been happier in my life to have my feet on solid ground. All I want to do is eat, shower, and sleep.
“Do you want me to take her?” Lilly asks, looking at Ashlyn, who is still asleep.
“No, baby, I got her,” I say, grabbing her hand as we make our way into the terminal.
“Mommy…I mean…Lilly,” Jax says, and I look over at Lilly, who is smiling down at Jax.
“Yeah, honey?” she says quietly, running her hand down the back of his head. My stomach drops as I watch the woman I love and plan on asking to marry me interact with my son, who has gotten so close to her that he slipped and called her Mom. I wish his mother was normal and sane and had a relationship with him, but she doesn’t. I don’t even think she cares one way or another what happens with Jax. The more time that goes by, I’m convinced that the only reason she is involved in Jax’s life at all is to hold him over my head or f**k with me.
“Can we go fishing like Grandpa talked about?” Jax asks.
“Yes, I’m sure Grandpa will take you fishing, just not today.”
“Okay,” he sighs, grabbing Lilly’s other hand. “Can we go look for beers?”
“Yes, honey, but not today.” She laughs softly. I drop her hand so I can shift Ashlyn, and I feel Lilly’s hand go into my back pocket.
“Can we go out on the boat and see otters, like Grandpa said?” Jax asks and I chuckle. He and Ashlyn have been having Skype sessions with Lilly’s parents every few days since our first time a few months ago. Every time the kids talked to Lilly’s parents, her dad told Jax about all the cool things that they were going to do when we came to visit.
“I'm sure we will go out on the boat at some point while we’re here, honey.”
“Can we go to McDonald’s?”
“There is no McDonald’s here.” Lilly laughs when Jax’s eyes get huge, and he looks around the airport—if you can even call it that; it’s more like a large metal building with a check-in counter and two doors, one where you enter, and one where you go out onto the tarmac. Every plane that lands has to be boarded from outside.
“Oh, my babies!” is cried loudly and echoes through the metal building. Ashlyn startles in my arms, and Lilly and Jax are plowed into. Both of them are hugged and rocked back and forth.
“Hey, Mom,” Lilly says, smiling and untangling herself and Jax from her mom. Once her mom steps back, she looks down at Jax. “This guy here that you just scared the crap out of is Jax,” she says, putting her hand on Jax’s shoulder, “and this is Cash.” She slides her arm around my waist, looking up at me. And I don’t know what it is about that exact moment, but the look on her face and her introducing us to her mom as a family makes me shift Ashlyn so that I can kiss her. When I take my mouth from hers, her eyes are soft and so full of emotion that my heart beat kicks up a notch.
“Uuuummm,” I hear Lilly’s mom clear her throat and I smile, my face still near Lil’s. She grins before going back to flat-footed.
“They do that a lot,” Jax says, and I pull completely away from Lil and meet her mom’s eyes.
“Nice to meet you, Mrs. Donovan.” I lean forward slightly, kissing her cheek and giving her a one-handed hug, trying not to wake Ashlyn. She shakes her head and rolls her eyes.
“Call me Mom. Obviously, you’re not going anywhere.” I chuckle and look at Lilly when I hear her laugh. She shakes her head before looking back at Mom.
“So where’s Dad?” She looks around, and I do as well. I can’t see her dad anywhere.
“Oh, well, he had to help Austin put his boat in the water,” she says, and Lilly’s posture changes slightly. I don’t know why, but it starts to set off alarm bells. I want to ask who Austin is, but a loud buzz fills the room. I look over to the side to see bags being tossed in through a little hole in the wall.
“Our bags,” Lilly says making her way to the conveyor belt.
“Here, baby, take Ashlyn and I’ll get our bags.” I make sure Ashlyn is settled before I go about collecting our bags. Once I’ve gotten them all, we make our way outside to a large SUV and load everything in before getting the kids settled. Ashlyn is still asleep, and Jax’s little head has started to bob to the side.
“How was the flight?” Lilly’s mom asks.
“Good, both the kids were well behaved, so we didn’t really have any problems,” Lil tells her. We talk on the way to her parents’ house, Lil catching her mom up on the kids and telling her about what she hopes will be her new job at the school in town. She still hasn’t told her parents about leaving the other school or what happened. I have tried to tell her that she should, but the damn woman is stubborn and won’t listen. She only told her parents about living with me a few weeks ago. I wasn’t around for that Skype session, but she said it went okay. My guess is they were not happy. But I honestly couldn’t find it in myself to care. I had both my girls and my son under one roof; that’s all that mattered to me. It takes about thirty minutes to get from the airport, which is in the middle of nowhere, to town. Well, if you can call it a town. We drive through it in about one minute. I swear, if I would have blinked, I would have missed the whole thing. There is a bank, a few stores, and about three bars that I can spot. We turn off the main street, heading down to what I can tell is the water; the closer we get, the more boats and men in fishing gear I see.
“I want to stop by the pier and see if your dad wants to go out to dinner, or if he wants to cook at home,” Mom says as we continue our drive, until we reach a dead end. Jax’s head comes up, and when we stop, he looks around before yelling, “Yay, we’re going fishing!”
“No, little dude, we’re going to see Lil’s dad before we go to the house.”
“Oh.” He slumps in his seat and I look to my other side when I feel Ashlyn grab my arm.
“Did you have a good nap, baby?” She nods then looks around, and I can tell exactly when she notices where we are by the smile that lights up her face.
“Memaw,” Ashlyn says quietly, and I can see Lil’s mom smile at her in the rearview mirror before hopping out of the truck and opening the back door on Ashlyn’s side.
“How’s my girl?” she asks Ashlyn, helping her out of her car seat. Once she’s free, she’s picked up and smothered in kisses.