“Why didn’t you say anything?” They were both crying now, and he couldn’t stand to see her cry.
“I didn’t want you to freak out, and I was selfish, Aria. So fucking selfish. I haven’t been honest with you about a lot of things.” He ran a hand over his face, hating how much of a dick he’d been to her. “I love you. I’ve been in love with you for some time now. I guess, in the back of my mind maybe, I figured if you were pregnant with my kid, I’d be able to, you know, keep you.”
“You love me?”
He stared into her eyes. “So much. I’ve never felt this way before in my life. I know you hate me, and I’ve done a lot of bad things to you. I want to make it up to you. To love you and to prove to you that Max from the past, he’s gone. He’s gone, and he isn’t coming back. It’s just me.”
“I can’t believe you love me.”
“I do. So fucking much it scares me. I … I should have told you about the stupid condom, but I was scared.”
“So Max Carter gets scared?”
“Yeah, I get scared.”
She wiped at her tears. “I’ve got a bit of a confession to make. I don’t hate you, Max. In fact, I rather kind of love you. I know I should find an excuse not to, but I’m tired of fighting this. I love that you come and walk me to work every single day. I even noticed that you sometimes followed me. A little bit like a stalker, but it was kind of nice for you to do that. I like dancing with you. I don’t like the way women look at you, but I had noticed you don’t look at them. Not even a little bit. You always pay me attention, never anyone else.” She held his hands tightly. “I’m scared about what we’re going to be like together, but if you’d have me, I’d very much like to raise this child with you.”
“I want that. I want to be with you. Every single step of the way. Birthing classes, moving in together. My place is bigger. You’ll move in with me.” She laughed. “I don’t care if people think it’s too soon. I’m gonna be a dad.”
“Yes. I have an appointment next week to see the doctor. If you’d like to come.”
“Aria, I’ve never been the kind of guy to hang around a woman’s neck, and to be needy, but with you, going a couple of hours without knowing you’re okay drives me crazy. I want to be with you, every single day. Every appointment, every second, we’re in this together.”
He got up from his seat and walked around, holding her tightly.
“I love you, Max.”
“Aria, marry me.”
“And you said yes?” June asked.
“I did.” Aria looked around the spare bedroom. Max, Dale, and Trey were moving her stuff into his place. She couldn’t argue as it was bigger than hers, and with a spare bedroom as well, which they were already turning into a nursery for their child.
The doctor had already confirmed her pregnancy. She was on folic acid as all pregnant women were, and also, she had a strict diet of what to avoid.
“I’ve never seen him like this,” Molly said. “I think being a fiancé has kind of settled him down.”
“I know. He’s babyproofing everything. No corners or edges. He doesn’t like me walking downstairs in case I fall.” Aria laughed.
“You’re loving it.”
“Totally.” He loved her.
Aria at times still found that incredibly hard to believe. Max loved her.
“There you are. You’re supposed to be resting.”
“Max, I’m having a baby. I’m fine to help move things around. You need to relax.”
“I will, when I know you’re resting.” He wrapped his arms around her, kissing her neck.
Trey and Dale walked into the room, both of them going to their women.
“Look at us, all of us happy, settled down.”
“You’ve been engaged and a soon to be dad for, like, ten minutes, and you already think you know more than all of us.”
“Because I totally do,” Max said.
Aria laughed at his confidence. She held his arm, which was across her stomach, and she hugged him tightly.
“You both look great together and so happy,” June said. “I’m so excited for the both of you.”
She looked up at Max. “Thank you.”
Their friends left the room, and she turned in Max’s arms, placing her hands on his chest. She rubbed across the patch where his heart lay.
“Any regrets at all?” she asked.
“I have one single regret.”
“I didn’t tell you I loved you sooner.” He sank his fingers into her hair, holding her close as he deepened the kiss. Her entire body moaned as this tongue stroked over her lip, and she whimpered his name, begging for more.
“Please don’t have sex,” Dale said. “We’re still here, and we have to move more stuff.”
“I didn’t think you had so much stuff,” he said, groaning against her lips.
“I don’t, but we did also agree to feed our friends for their help.”
“I can make them starve.”
“I know you would, but that is mean, and we’re not mean to our friends.” She kissed him again. “You’ll be all mine tonight. I promise.”
She went to walk away, but he caught her wrist, pulling her close. “You don’t get to leave that quickly.”
He pressed her against the wall, and she wished they could send their friends off now as she wanted Max all to herself.
She kept her resolve though, because they had plenty of time to make up for it. They had the rest of their lives.
Ten years later
“My kids are getting ready to go to college, and yours are going to be heading up to high school soon. Where did the time go?” Dale asked.
Max watched his three sons and two daughters as they played on the field. They were enjoying the high school fair, which took place every single summer at the end of term without fail.
Dale’s kids were wandering around the stalls, while Aria, June, and Molly were running their food tent. Each year June always offered to host a food tent, and this was no different.
He was taking care of his and Aria’s kids, like he did every single year.
Ten years he’d been married.
Ten years he’d belonged to Aria, and each day he considered more precious than the last. Their relationship had been the talk of the town for a short time, until they were married, and until they saw Aria actually pregnant with his kid.
He knew some of the women believed he’d stray, but never in all the years he’d been married or engaged, or even before that, had he ever stepped out on his woman.
Some men cheated, but Max knew he never would. Glancing behind him, toward the tent where his woman was working selling all the baked goods she’d been working on, he knew she was the love of his life. There was no one else in the world for him.
“You’ve got that completely besotted look on your face again. It kind of makes me want to vomit,” Dale said.
“You’re just scared. Your kids are getting older, and you’re worried Molly’s going to leave your ass.”
“I’m not worried. I’m happy. I just … time is flying by so fast. I don’t want to waste a single moment of it.”
“Dad, Dad, look, I can totally do a handstand,” Luke said, running toward him. Luke was six years old, and constantly trying to copy his oldest sister, Louise.
Every single time he was called “Dad” it was like his heart stopped beating or some shit like that. He was over the moon to be a dad and so proud to be a husband.
He clapped his hands as his son did a handstand, or at least something where he kicked his feet out from under him.
“Well, losers, we’re all dads, and we’re all happily married men,” Max said. “When did that happen?”