I got out and raced to help her, taking the bags from her hands so she could pull the baby out of the sling and set her in Nanny’s lap, who was waiting on the porch in the rocking chair, arms outstretched.

“I’ve already gotten to hold Liam and he needed his butt changed. That’s his momma’s duty. I put my time in all them damn years ago, so now I just get to do the spoilin’. You go on in there. I’ll holler if she needs something,” she cackled.


Poppy, sitting in the other rocker beside her, nodded his head, but I couldn’t tell if he was really nodding or just couldn’t keep his head still while he rocked.

I took the bags inside, following Luke and the crockpot. I peeked inside it to see it was full of Emma’s chili con queso, a delicious blend of cheese, green chilies, salsa, hamburger, sausage, and other yummy things that you dip Doritos in. Sure, you could use regular tortilla chips, but I definitely recommend the Doritos. The cheese kind, not that yucky ranch stuff.

“Chloe, don’t touch the con queso!” I heard Emma yell from the porch.

I jumped back, even though I was no where near…okay, so I was near it, but I had no intention of popping open the bag of chips and digging in at that exact moment. Not really, anyway.

Okay, maybe a little one.

“Chloe!” she yelled again.

“I’m coming, I’m coming,” I grumbled, making my way back outside to start getting stuff out of Brandon’s truck.

He passed me coming in the door. “No, you’re not, sunshine. You’re barely breathing hard.”

I rolled my eyes and moved past him out the door, choosing not to engage in that particular conversation.

We made short work of getting everything in the kitchen and put away where it needed to be until it was time to eat. We’d all decided to eat around four, which gave us an hour beforehand to just hang out, swim, and whatever.

I grabbed my bag with my swimsuit in it and went to go change. Brandon, seeing me grab the bag, followed me into the bathroom.

“Brandon, no funny business,” I scolded him, laughing as I dodged his questing fingers.

He pouted playfully, kissed me, and then grabbed his trunks and left me alone in the bathroom. By the time I got done changing, wrapped a towel around me, and headed out to the pool area, he was already wet from being in the pool and was currently on the diving board, challenging Jarrod to a cannon ball competition.

He surfaced after a mega splash that got him yelled at by Jan, Emma’s mom, because she happened to be walking by the edge of the pool at that moment. He gave her a sheepish grin, but it didn’t matter that he had done it about two seconds later because Calland nonchalantly walked by and shoved his mom in.

Clothes and all.

“Damnit, Calland!” she hollered, wiping water from her eyes as she surfaced and waded towards the steps.

“Son, if I were you, I’d be moving pretty quickly,” Ben, Emma’s dad said.

Calland shot a look to his mom, who was now out of the pool and sidling up to him on the sly, and then shouted, “Oh, shit!” before he took off running to the other side of the pool.

Jenna came out then and hollered at the kids to come in and get dried off for some reason, even though they’d only been in it for about half an hour at that point. They pouted but complied, then giggled as they watched their uncle run from their grandma like his ass was on fire.

I laughed along with them, then dropped my towel, preparing to get in the water myself. I stepped up to the side of the deep end and jumped in, splashing Brandon, who was still treading water. I smiled at him when I came up, flipping my hair out of my eyes. He didn’t smile back.

My smile faded. “What’s wrong?” I asked him quietly.

“What are you wearing, sunshine?” he asked, his voice low, tone rough.

I clutched the edge of the pool and crossed my other arm across my chest self-consciously. I swallowed hard, beating myself up for wearing a two piece bikini that showed my scars. Without a word, I moved to swim toward the steps to get out, but stopped when a heavy arm wrapped around my waist, pulling me back against a muscular, tattooed chest.

“Chloe,” he said, “where are you going?”

“I’m getting out to change,” I replied, very softly.

“You know that’s not what I meant.” He arched his hips into my ass below the water, deliberately brushing the hardened length of his erection against me. “You look fucking amazing in the suit, baby. How am I ever supposed to get out of the water?”

I inclined my head, indicating that maybe I had jumped to a conclusion in haste. Unable to help myself, I pushed back into him, rubbing my ass against his hardness. He groaned low in my ear, his fingers biting into my hips. His lips brushed against the outer shell of my ear as he leaned close and whispered, “You do that again and I’m jerking your ass out of the pool, tossing you in the car, taking you home, and fucking the shit out of you all night long.”

I snorted quietly, my eyes gleaming as I turned my head to meet his gaze. “You call that a threat?”

He growled and his fingers tightened once more, preparing to pick me up, I would presume, but stopped when a throat cleared at the edge where we were standing.

Allie stood there, tapping her toes, waiting on us to look at her. As soon as we did, she said, brightly, “Excuse me, you two hornballs, but would you mind not humping in my pool? K, thanks, bye,” before she spun on her heel and headed back inside.

Jackson, who had just come outside, cracked up, laughing until tears formed in his eyes.

I got out of the pool, leaving Brandon to cool himself off until he could exit the water without giving everyone an eyeful, muttering to my brother, “It wasn’t that funny, dick.”

“Oh, yes, yes it was,” he chuckled, then grabbed my shoulders and turned so that I could see Nanny sitting in the shade of the umbrella on the other side, craning her neck to get a peek at Brandon’s you-know-what in its upright position. Noticing that we were watching her, she waved and winked before yelling at Brandon, “Hey, hotstuff! Come give granny a kiss! Is that a hot dog in your pocket or you just happy to see me? She cackled uncontrollably while Brandon just shook his head and grinned.

“Oh, Lord. Nanny’s a perv,” I mumbled to Jacks, grabbing my towel and walking inside.

As I walked away, Jackson called out, “You hadn’t figured that out yet?”

I just laughed and kept walking.

After I changed, I headed into the kitchen to help set things up while Jackson and Luke got the grill going. Calland, after apologizing to his mom, finally, motioned Brandon out of the pool and they took off in Calland’s car, going to get the fireworks.

When Emma asked him why he didn’t just bring them when he came, Calland just sniffed, put his nose in the air, and said, haughtily, “Cause you nosy bitches would have peeked.”

She glared at him and punched him in the arm, making him laugh and pretend he got stung by a bee.

They were back in half an hour. By then the tables were laden with food, the grill was in full force firing up hot dogs, burgers, and brats, and they smelled delicious. There was probably way too much food, but it was a party, so that’s kind of a prerequisite, right?

We had my goodies, Emma’s con queso, Allie had the grilling items, Jan had brought her homemade mac & cheese, of course, and Jenna and Noah brought a veggie and dip tray, as well as cheeses, crackers, and snack meats. Calland, God love him, brought four gigantic bags of different flavored potato chips because he, and I quote, “don’t fucking cook. You want ramen? I’ll cook. Grilled cheese? We’re good. Burgers or steak on the grill? Yup. But I’m not cooking a goddamned thing, so here’s some chips.”

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