“Nope, you haven’t.”
He looks at where Nico’s hand is wrapped around my waist, and his little eyes narrow slightly. “You said girls are weird and that you didn’t want one,” Jax says, looking at Nico accusingly.
“I did, little dude, but that was before I met Sophie,” Nico explains, and I want to laugh, but Jax looks very serious about this topic.
“But she’s a girl,” he argues, looking around at all the girls then back at Nico. “We already hab too many girls.”
“He’s right, you know. You are the one who’s always said girls are gross,” a guy in a baseball cap says, walking across the room and holding a woman’s hand, both of them wearing wide smiles on their faces.
“Hi, Sophie, it’s nice to meet you. This is my wife, Lilly. I’m Cash. This little guy here is Jax, and he is ours, along with Ashlyn,” he says, pointing out one of the little girls.
“Nice to meet you too,” I say as all the little girls it the room start running around us, yelling in their high-pitched singsong voices, “Uncle Nico’s in love!” I can help but laugh.
“Welcome to the insanity,” Lilly says, smiling, and that’s when I recognize her from school.
“You used to work at the middle school, right?” Her hair is different, but I’m pretty sure it’s her.
“That’s why I recognize you!” She smiles excitedly. “Are you still working in the library?”
“Yes. I wondered what happened to you,” I say quietly.
“It’s a long story. One day when you have time, we’ll meet for coffee so I can tell you all about it,” she replies just as quietly.
I’m taken aback by her offer; even when she worked at the school, we never socialized. Well, I never socialize with anyone.
“I would like that,” I say sincerely, liking the idea of having some friends here.
“It really is a small world.” She shakes her head, looks at Cash, and smiles as he leans forward, kissing her forehead.
Then the other guy who arrived comes over, scooping up one little girl along the way. “Sophie, it’s nice to finally meet you. I’m Asher, this is November, and those three girls are ours—July, June, and May,” he says, pointing to each daughter as he says their name. If Nico hadn’t prepared me for their names, I may have laughed, but thankfully, he warned me.
“Nice to meet you guys.” I smile at both of them before taking a second to look around. Nico’s whole family’s beautiful…like, really beautiful.
“You okay, babe?” Nico whispers next to my ear, sending a small shiver down my spine. I nod and lean into him.
“All right, everyone. I need your help getting dinner on the table. Who wants to help Grandma?” Susan asks, and all the kids start yelling about who gets to help set the table, who gets to butter the rolls, and all sorts of other tasks they clearly do often.
“We call it controlled chaos,” November says, watching as all the kids follow after Susan.
“I just call it insanity,” Trevor says, walking into the living room with Liz, who he helps sit down before putting her feet up on a pillow.
“Honey, I told you I’m fine,” she grumbles, but seeing the size of her ankles has me wincing and thankful she’s off her feet.
“Well, be fine sitting your pretty little ass in here with your feet up,” he replies, kissing her hard before going back into the kitchen.
“He’s so bossy,” Liz says, but I can tell she really doesn’t mind that he’s bossy with her.
“So, you sure you’re ready to be a part of this craziness?” Asher asks me, wrapping an arm around November’s waist.
I look at Trevor, who comes in to give Liz a glass of water, and then Cash, who is whispering something into Lilly’s ear making her smile. I glance at November, who is looking at Asher like he holds the secrets of the universe, and as I feel Nico’s hand on my side, his fingers running along the skin between my shirt and jeans, in his touch alone, I feel love.
“It may take some getting used to, but yes, I’m ready,” I tell Asher, and Nico’s fingers give me a squeeze.
“I’m still trying to get used to it, but as long as you have a backbone and don’t let these guys boss you around too much, you’ll be fine,” November says, smiling.
“Hey, I don’t boss you around,” Asher says, glaring at November.
“I know you don’t.” She pats his chest then rolls her eyes, making me giggle.
“Dad’s home,” Nico says as we hear a loud diesel engine pulling up outside, and before I have a second to gather my thoughts, “Grandpa’s here!” is yelled and a swarm of children run into the living room then out the front door.
My heart swells as we walk out onto the front porch. There’s obviously a rule in place and the kids must do this often, because they all stay on the porch until the truck is shut off. The second the engine dies, the kids all run full speed down the steps. An older man—who is still very handsome and looks a lot like his sons—hops out of the truck. Then chaos ensues, and the kids are on him, jumping up and down, and all of them talking to him a million miles a minute at the same time. He takes his time, greeting each one, picking one up, and giving them a second of his time before kissing them on their head and putting them down until every single one of them has had their turn.
I fall in love with Nico’s family right then and there—his mom, brothers, sisters-in-law, and now his dad—and I can tell without a doubt that they all genuinely love each other. They are the definition of family and exactly what I never knew I wanted for myself.
After all the kids have their time with their grandfather, he makes his way up the porch steps with a wide smile on his face holding Jax.
“So I hear Nico’s in love. That right?” he asks, looking at Nico and then at me.
I bite my lip to keep from smiling at Jax, who looks utterly annoyed with his uncle. “Um…” I don’t know how to respond.
“He is, Grandpa. He was wookin’ at her all funny and everything,” Jax says, crossing his arms over his chest with a huff.
“Well then, I’m James, but you can call me Dad. Welcome to the family.” I’m about to put out my hand and introduce myself, but I’m suddenly pulled into a bear hug that forces Jax between us.
“I’m Sophie,” I tell him, hugging him back.