Thankfully, the Victoria pop-ups had dwindled, though she still lurks around the edges.

But, back to Ian. Jesus, he was so good looking. Dark green, gold flecked eyes, dark brown hair that he kept cut short, but was still unruly; it gave him that I-just-woke-up-but-how-sexy-am-I? look that was just…yummy. Take into account his tall (6’3”), lean but muscular frame, the delicious collage of premium ink winding up both of his arms and disappearing beneath the sleeves of his shirt, and his killer smile and you’ve got…well, Ian.

And Ian was just about perfect. He owned his own construction company and did very well for himself, a fact that, even though his parents love him dearly and support him (mostly), did not sit well overall with his family. That’s because his family is rich. Like uber rich. And they don’t think he needs to work himself so hard, you know, him being only 31 and all. (Insert eye roll here.)

I hated the fact that he came from money because the first time I met his parents, they acted like I was only with him to ride the gravy train to trophy wife town. They don’t know me well, obviously, but I’m working on changing that. And by working, I mean avoiding them at all costs unless I absolutely have to be around them and their uppity friends, especially the Jones family. Victoria is their daughter. Need I say more?

So, a lot has happened in the year since we met. For instance, Brandon and Chloe are planning their wedding, Liam (Allie and Jacks’ gorgeous baby boy) and Everly (Emma and Luke’s beautiful baby girl) both turned one, and I became an auntie again as my sister, Jenna, and her husband, Noah, had their third child, a sweet, even tempered little baby boy named Caleb Andrew, who was now almost three months old.

My parents love Ian, so there’s that, and Calland, my brother, gets along with him very well, too. Everyone does. And I love that. I love that he already had history with Brandon and Luke (a fact that I found out the night we met; I mean, what a coincidence that they were the ones who did all his tattoos?), and now he’s grown pretty close to T.J., the new tattoo artist that Brandon met in L.A. when he went with Chloe. Did I mention that even Allie’s family loves Ian? Especially Nanny…

Everyone was happy, but, in my opinion, no one was happier than me.

“Leah Nicole Jensen!”

I shook my head, jarred from my reverie by Ian’s voice, smiling automatically at the warm mirth I heard in his tone.

“Well, hello, stranger. Are you going to join me for dinner instead of staring at me all night? Not that I mind…I am a rather fetching fellow,” he said jokingly.

I shrugged and grinned at him as I grabbed my fork and speared a nice, creamy bite of chicken alfredo.

“Where the hell were you, love? You seemed a million miles away.”

I chewed and swallowed, taking a sip of my wine before I answered. “No where, really. Just kind of thinking about you and the last year. And maybe thanking my brother and the douchebag at the UFC fight mentally for basically dropping you in my lap.” I winked at him and shot him a saucy little smile when his eyes lit up.

The corners of his mouth turned up in his endearing little grin and he winked back. “I think you were the one dropping in people’s laps, love.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” I muttered. He wasn’t wrong. I literally had launched myself at the drunken asshat after he’d dumped his whole beer down Chloe’s back, and then when she looked at him, he’d said some pretty nasty stuff. I’m kinda little and I’m quick on my feet, so before Calland could do anything, I did. I tried, anyway. Ian came out of nowhere and caught me in his arms, throwing me over his shoulder and whisking me away to the lobby.

We’d all missed the rest of the fight but I can’t say that we much cared.

I pulled myself back to the present and Ian and I finished dinner before making a quick run through the store so I could pick up a couple things I needed to make double-dipped strawberries for the party. I had to make two batches; one that the kids and “good” adults could eat, and another for me and the other “bad” adults. Those were the special ones, injected with hundred proof vodka. So freakin’ delicious and addictive.

It was around ten at night by the time we got back home and settled in. I took a few minutes to wash and prep the strawberries so they’d be ready to inject and dip in the morning and then have time to chill before the party, which would start at two.

When everything was cleaned up and put away, I walked in and plopped down in Ian’s lap, reveling in the way he accepted my presence with no complaint, his arms coming up to embrace me, pulling me closer into his chest.

“Ready for bed?” he asked me, his voice rumbling through me.

I scoffed. “At almost eleven at night on a Friday?” I looked at him like he had two heads and then finished, “Hell, yeah, I’m ready for bed!”

Sad part is that I was and not only because I was ready to jump him, but because I was seriously tired.

He smacked my thigh gently and commanded, “Up,” getting to his feet and pulling me down the hall once I’d vacated his lap.

Without a word, I stripped down and crawled into bed, Ian following me close behind. He hit the bed and stretched out, his arms already reaching for me. He dragged me into his arms, my head pillowed on his chest, one of my thighs draped over his, my arm around his stomach. I sighed as we settled into our familiar night-time pose, and then laughed as Ian whispered into the silent darkness.

“So…you remember when I said you’d pay me back later? Well, it’s later.”

I smacked his chest lightly with my hand, my lips smiling against his warm skin. I faked (sort of) a big, jaw-cracking yawn, and snuggled tighter into him before whispering back, “I’m soooo sleepy…”

He just chuckled and squeezed me tight.

So I did what any woman who was so over-the-moon, happy in love with her man would do- I kissed down his chest, moved lower, and paid him back. In full.


I winced as I carefully kicked the door to Ian’s truck shut, balancing the trays of strawberries as I looked at Ian over the hood.

His face was lit with amusement, even as he shook his head, muttering, “That bodes well for the party, already, eh?”

I sighed, opened my mouth to say something but didn’t get a word out as the shrieking started back up again.

“EMMA! Seriously! Get your Godforsaken dogs OUT!” Allie was screaming.

“It’s not MY FAULT that YOUR DOG taught mine how to swim!” Emma shrieked back in defense, her voice overriding the now audible barking of multiple canines.

“Well, so what! Who cares about that? Get them OUT OF THE HOUSE!” Allie yelled in reply.

I winced again as a crash sounded and then heard, “There! They’re out, are you happy?”

“They just took out my screen door; do you THINK I’m happy?”

“Allie, I’m not sure if you realize this, but that was YOUR DOG who just took out the screen door…NOT MINE!” Emma screeched.

Mumbling under my breath, I headed up the stairs onto the porch, Ian following behind me, his eyes sparkling with mirth as he reached for the knob to open the front door of Allie and Jacks’ house.

Before he could open it, though, it swung wide and Jacks was there in front of us, Liam on his hip. “Run. Get out while you still can…it’s not safe in here!” he mock-whispered. Then he rolled his eyes and said, “And I swear to God, I’m not replacing that screen one more time. This is the fourth time Grady has run through it this month.”