“Stop, Memaw! Stop!” Ashlyn squeals, trying to get free.
“I need my sugar. I haven’t had any in a long time, so I need to make up for lost time,” Lil’s mom says between kisses. Ashlyn finally squirms out of her arms and runs to stand behind Jax. “I guess your big brother is going to protect you,” Mom says, laughing. “What do you say we go find Papa?” she asks, starting to walk towards a large boat with the name Wolf on the side in large black letters. I grab Lilly’s hand, and we follow along behind her. Once we reach the boat that is tied to the dock, she steps onboard then leans over, grabbing Jax first and bringing him over before grabbing Ashlyn and pulling her on. I can see Jax’s face is completely lit up with excitement as he looks around the deck of the boat.
“Papa!” Ashlyn yells. I follow her with my eyes just as Lilly’s dad bends down to pick her up.
“Hey, angel girl,” he says, hugging her and tucking her head into his chest before pulling her face away and looking her over.
“Look! My brother,” Ashlyn says, pointing down at Jax.
“Hey, buddy,” Mr. Donovan says, bending to set Ashlyn down before rubbing the top of Jax’s head.
“Are we gonna go fishin’?” Jax asks, making Lil’s dad laugh.
“Not today. But before you go back home, we will be going out on the boat to fish for halibut.”
“Cool,” Jax breathes, looking around again. Mr. Donovan stands back up, his eyes coming to us before Lilly lets go of my hand and takes off running into her dad’s open arms.
“Hey, Dad,” I can hear her say before she leans away, placing her hand on his cheek.
“How’s my girl?” he asks her, pulling her back in for another hug.
“Really good,” she says, and then looks over her shoulder at me. I step forward as he tucks Lil under his arm and sticks out his hand for me to take.
“Sir,” I say, giving his hand a shake.
“Nice to have you here, son,” he says, and a little bit of the knot that I didn’t even notice before loosens.
“Nice to be here.” I step back and look over Lil’s dad’s shoulder as a giant guy comes out of nowhere. He is tall, way taller than my 6’1. I would guess that he is closer to 6’6; his hair is blond and is overgrown, matching his beard. He is huge; his arms look as big as my thighs. His whole body is large, and I’m taken slightly aback. I start to step towards Lilly, wanting her near me while this guy is around, then I hear him speak and want her near me for a different reason.
“Lilly?” he says, and she turns around. Her face lights up and she runs to the guy, throwing her arms around his neck as his hands slide around her waist, pulling her in for a hug.
“Austin,” she says low, but I still catch it and it sounds intimate, or maybe it’s my own personal jealousy taking over. “How have you been?” she asks stepping back, but his hands are still on her hips and it’s taking everything in me not to walk over to him, rip his hands off her, and toss his ass overboard.
“Good, better now I have seen your face,” he says, and his eyes are soft while looking at her. My jaw clenches. Lilly steps back out of his touch, then turns to look at me.
“Cash, this is Austin. Austin, this is Cash.” I take a few steps in their direction, putting my hand out to meet his.
“Nice to meet you,” I say, but it sounds more like a growl. My hand slides around the back of Lilly’s waist, pulling her tight against me. Jax comes up, grabbing Lilly’s hand, and I wonder if my son senses the same threat I do.
“Cash. Cash?” Austin repeats, his eyes get big before narrowing. “You’re Cash, as in Ashlyn’s father, Cash?” he asks, his eyes going to Lil before coming back to me.
“It’s a long story, Austin,” Lilly says quickly, then pulls his attention back to her. “Maybe while were here, we can meet up for lunch and I can tell you everything.”
“Or not,” I say low enough for only Lilly to hear.
“Cash,” she replies, her head swinging my way and her eyes narrowing.
“All right, well, we just wanted to stop by and see if you wanted to have dinner at home, or if you wanted to go out to dinner tonight,” Lilly’s mom says loudly, taking the attention away from what’s going on.
“I think we should eat at home. I can grill up some of those elk steaks that I’ve got in the freezer,” Lil’s dad says, then looking at Austin, “You wanna come to dinner?”
“No, not tonight. I have to finish getting the boat ready to head out tomorrow.” He looks around the boat. “Maybe when I get back we can set something up?” He looks at Lilly, who nods. We all turn around and head off the boat, the kids jumping onto the dock, followed by Lil’s parents, then me. I put my arm around her shoulders, and lean my head to the side so I can speak to her without anyone hearing.
“Austin?” I ask, and her steps falter slightly.
“He’s a friend.”
“What kind of friend?”
“A good friend,” she says, and I know I shouldn’t, but I see red.
“A good friend,” I repeat.
“Yess,” she hisses, “he was a good friend. He was there for me when I needed him.”
“How was he there?” I ask, wanting to take the words back as soon as I say them.
“You know, I can’t believe you’re going to act like a jealous ass when you were flipping married,” she growls, and her elbow connects with my ribs, then she slides out from under my arm, walking up to where the kids are. I want to kick my own ass. I cannot believe I just did that. I look over my shoulder when I get the feeling someone is watching me. Austin is standing on the deck of his boat, his arms crossed and his legs spread apart. Fucking great. I shake my head. Lilly’s dad looks back at me and I shrug, picking up my pace. By the time I get to the SUV, Lilly has both kids inside and is buckled in herself. She doesn’t look at me when I pass by her to get into the back, and she doesn’t say a word while we drive to her parents’ house. But she doesn’t have to say anything. I can feel the anger coming off her in waves. We drive for about twenty minutes and end up in front of a large, two-story log house with a large wraparound front porch. The kids both unbuckle themselves, and Lilly hops out before helping each of them down. I get out on the other side of the SUV and make my way around the back to get our bags. I watch as Lilly makes her way inside with Jax, Ashlyn, and her mom.