I shook my head at him and kissed his cheek when he bent and presented it to me, then kissed Liam’s rosy little cheek in passing, cooing to him that I’d be back to give him more lovin’ as soon as my hands were empty.

I braced myself and headed into the war zone, leaving Ian behind, talking with Jacks. As soon as I stepped foot in the kitchen, I saw Luke standing against the wall, holding Everly, both of them wide-eyed but grinning. I smiled and said hello as I sat the strawberries down on the counter.

“I see I didn’t miss the fireworks,” I quipped, winking at my brother-in-law.

“Nope,” he replied, drolly.

“How long has this been going on?” I asked him, moving across the kitchen to peek outside, but not seeing either of the crazies.

“Oh, you know. Since Grady decided to show Doug and DJ that the pool is a great toy and then break down the screen door to let them all run wild and wet through Allie’s house last week. And again today.”

“Yeah, but they have a gate, so how’re Doug and DJ getting into the pool area?” I asked Luke, moving back across the kitchen to take my niece from him.

I kissed her cheeks and cuddled her as Luke replied, “Grady has figured out how to knock the latch just right with his nose, so he swings it open and leaves it wide so his friends can come through. Pretty smart if you ask me…but it’s not my house they’re trashing.”

I winced, pulling air through my teeth as I thought about three large dogs, each roughly a hundred pounds plus, running wet through my nice, well kept house. I’d probably kill them…which is, I’m guessing, what Allie was wanting to do right about then.

Jackson and Ian came into the kitchen, Ian now holding Liam, just as Allie and Emma came back inside, each still glowering at the other.

“Aww, fight nice, kids,” I called out to them, grinning mischievously and then laughing as they both transferred their glares to me.

Emma’s broke first, but that had more to do with the fact that I was holding her daughter, whose face had lit up when her mom had walked into the room.

Emma crossed the kitchen and reached for her daughter, just as Everly yelled out, “Mama!” in her sweet little voice, thus breaking the tension in the room.

I looked over at Allie but she just shook her head at me and moved to take her son from his father. Jackson left the room briefly, coming back with a stack of towels, and then he and Luke went off to clean up the mess. They’re pretty good husbands, eh?

As they left the room, Allie walked over by Emma, both of them holding their kids, and we watched in amusement as Emma leaned her head on Allie’s shoulder and whispered, “I still love you and I’m sorry my dogs are jerks.”

Allie leaned her head against Emma’s and whispered back, “I still love you, too. And I’m used to it. After all, Grady gets it honestly-he is definitely his father’s son.”

Emma nodded and whispered back, “Damn dogs.”

Everyone else started arriving then, and it was a whirlwind to get things set up, but it didn’t take long before everyone was seated wherever they could find a place, eating food, and enjoying the sunshine and company.

Ian was sitting on the lounger beside me, his plate heaped high with food. I was sharing a lounger with my now 6 year old niece, Hayden, who was telling me, so very kindly as I ate, about her baby brother’s latest diaper blow-out.

“Auntie Leah, it was everywhere! Like, Mommy had to change the bed and his clothes and her clothes and it was all down his legs and…”

“Alright, kiddo, I think Auntie Leah and Uncle Ian have heard enough about that,” Jenna called from the porch. “Come on up here and get something to eat.”

“But, Mom, I already ate-” Hayden started to whine, but Jenna cut her off quickly with a stern look.

“Uh-oh, better go on, Hayden-girl. Your momma’s got that Mother-stink-eye look going,” Calland called out, laughing, winking at Hayden as she grinned his way and nodded.

“Calland!” Jenna yelled exasperatedly. “Can you ever just keep your mouth shut and not teach my children bad habits?”

“Nope!” he replied sweetly, then gave an exaggerated wince as our mother smacked his shoulder when she walked by.

I just shook my head and looked over at Ian, who was, as usual, silently laughing through the whole exchange, and then continued eating.

I’d finished eating when a gravelly old voice broke in loudly and looked up to see Allie’s grandma, Nanny, standing beside Ian.

“You gonna let an old woman just stand here, stud? Or are you gonna move that tight little hiney and let me sit with you?” she asked him, hands on her hips, the toes of one foot tapping impatiently.

Ian wisely moved over to sit beside me, giving up his whole lounger to let Nanny sit down. “That’s more like it there, hot stuff. But you could’a just sat here with me, you know,” she grumbled, shooting a glare at him.

“Sorry, Nanny,” he said smoothly. “I figured you might want to stretch out and rest yourself a little so you can go for a swim with me in a bit.” He finished that up with a wink that had her chortling with glee.

“Hooo-we! Aren’t you just a hot one? Trying to get me in my bikini and in the water so you can get a look at my goodies,” she cackled, clapping her hands together as she laughed.

“Your goodies, Nanny? Is that what you’re calling them these days?” Allie called from the table by the door where she was sitting with her parents, my parents, and Poppy, Nanny’s husband and Allie’s Grandpa.

“Allie, girl, you know I still got my girls. They haven’t given up on me yet, and your Poppy can vouch for me.”

Allie giggled and nudged her mom before she replied, “You mean your fried eggs?”

“I’ll show you fried eggs!” Nanny hollered and before anyone could blink, she flipped her shirt up and flashed everyone. And she didn’t have a bra on. Oy. But seriously, Nanny’s girls have gone a little flat over the years, so strangely (or maybe not-so-strangely), Allie’s fried egg reference fit.

The fall-out from this act was instantaneous and deafening. Allie could only laugh; her mom yelled, “MOTHER!” loudly; Poppy grinned and waggled his eyebrows; my parents both shook their heads and looked away, but I could see them trying to fight back their laughter and smiles; Calland yelled, “My eyes!” and clapped his hands over them; Emma just laughed outright while Luke kept his eyes averted.

Thankfully, Brandon and Chloe had gone inside, so they missed the peep show, and the kids were in the house with Jenna to clean up, but, seeing as how Allie and her family have been a part of their lives since birth, I wasn’t so certain they hadn’t seen this before.

Ian, on the other hand, looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

Never a dull moment around here…

Chapter 3

I giggled and tapped Ian’s ass, since it was literally dangling in front of my face. Okay, so it wasn’t dangling so much as I was, seeing as how I was thrown over Ian’s shoulder and he was carrying me through our house into the bedroom. Quite a familiar pose for me by now.

He sighed good-naturedly and jiggled me on his shoulder, making me giggle again and, because I could, pinch his ass.

Then I was (seemingly) flying through the air to land on the bed that had (miraculously) showed up at just the right time to catch me.

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