Jesus, I can’t believe I just said that.
“Fuck, Charly. Jesus.” He scrubs a hand over his face. “Here I am, whining like a little bitch about my privileged life…and you lost your mom. I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry. I guess…I think everyone’s problems are individual to them. No one else’s problems are bigger or more important than the next person’s, you know. I think we all deal with things differently. We all have different levels of coping abilities.”
“And you have the dealing ability of a lioness. And, still, I’m a whiny dick who’s not worthy of you. I’m sorry, Pins.”
“Like I said, don’t be. That’s not why I said it.”
Why did I?
“Then, why did you?” His words echo my own thoughts.
I look down at my hands. “I don’t know. I guess, it kind of just popped out because I feel safe with you. I know I can talk to you. Tell you anything. I trust you, Vaughn.”
I finally look back up at him, and the warmth in his eyes coats my skin like a blanket.
“I trust you, too, Pins.”
He kisses my forehead, and then I lay my head back down on his chest and take a sip of my beer.
And I realize something in this moment.
I get to see the real Vaughn West. One not many other people get to see.
I can’t tell you how incredibly privileged that makes me feel because he’s so very special. He’s so much more than what people see on-screen.
He’s smart and witty and beautiful, inside and out, and he’s incredibly talented. I’ve never known a man who loved his family more.
He has such a big heart. A heart that I want to keep all for myself.
I don’t ever want to let him go.
I’m just not sure how I can keep him forever.
It’s a warm evening, so Charly and I decide to walk over to my parents’ house, as it’s only a ten-minute walk.
She’s wearing this sexy strappy, knee-length pink dress that I can’t wait to take off her later. Surprisingly, she doesn’t have heels on her feet; instead, she has on a pair of flip-flops.
She looks beautiful.
I catch hold of her hand as we walk.
She smiles up at me and wraps her other hand over my arm, bringing herself closer to me.
It’s good to be able to walk outside and hold her hand. Okay, so it’s on my parents’ land, not in the middle of town, but still, it feels good.
“This is nice,” she murmurs.
“Yeah, it is.”
And it really is. Not just the hand-holding. Being here with her. I’m usually here on my own. I don’t bring anyone here. I thought it would be weird, her being here, but it isn’t. Having her in my home feels as natural as breathing.
We reach my parents’ house and head on inside. As usual, the noise is at an epic level.
A swarm of kids run at me, hugging my legs and stomach.
“Hey,” I say to my nieces and nephews. “Kids, this is Charly.”
They all let me go, and four sets of eyes all stare at Charly.
“Charly, this is George.” I pat his head. “He belongs to Meg and Vic. These three are Parker, Thomas, and Nora. They’re Sasha and Greg’s.”
“My mama and daddy are getting married,” Nora tells her.
Nora’s three and beyond cute. I adore her.
I know you’re not supposed to have favorites, but she’s my favorite.
“I know,” Charly says, crouching down to Nora’s level. “It’s so exciting. I bet you’re a bridesmaid, right?”
“Uh-huh,” Nora replies. “My brothers are page boys. I’m three, you know.”
“She doesn’t care how old you are,” Thomas says to her. “Are you Uncle Vaughn’s girlfriend?” he asks Charly.
Charly looks up at me and then back at Thomas. “Yeah, I guess I am.”
“Mama said you were his girlfriend,” Nora says. “She was telling Aunt Meg how pretty you are and that she thinks that Uncle Vaughn is going to marry you.”
“And that’s enough of this conversation.” I scoop Nora up in my arms, carrying her through to the living room, blowing a raspberry on her stomach.
“Stop, Uncle Vaughn!” she squeals, grabbing my hair.
Then, I feel arms grab me from behind, and it’s Parker. I drop to my knees, placing Nora on the floor, and take hold of Parker, bringing him over my shoulder. I go down to the floor with him. The next thing I know, I’m under attack from four kids, who are all on me. Three are tickling me while Nora is blowing raspberries on my stomach.
“Uncle Vaughn, why is your tummy so hard? Daddy’s tummy isn’t this hard when I blow raspberries on it. It’s all squishy.”
“Thanks, baby.” I hear Greg’s voice, followed by his laughter.
“Sounds like you need to get to the gym, man.” I look up at him, grinning.
He picks Nora up from off me, gives her a kiss, and puts her to her feet while I continue to wrestle with the boys.
“Grandma wants you all in the kitchen to wash up for dinner.”
They all groan in unison, and then, one by one, they clamber off me and head into the kitchen.
Greg offers me a hand, and I get to my feet.
“Good to see you.” I give him a one-armed hug. “Greg, this is my girl, Charly.”
Charly’s lingering in the living room doorway with this odd look on her face.