He stops when he gets to the living room and puts me back on my feet. I see people all around us, but my focus is on my husband. He brings his hands to my face and cups my cheeks.
“Thank you, Jules.” He drops his forehead to mine and the room goes quiet. “We didn’t know who you were that day, but I knew the moment you turned around and your eyes met mine you were one of us. You are as much a part of this family as any of us. We’re your family now, my little hostage.”
“Willing captive!” Mags chimes in from somewhere, helping break through some of my tears as I smile.
“Sister,” Tracks offers as a title, and he has my eyes watering again.
“I love you,” I tell Cooper. “All of you,” I say louder, and I hear it multiple times across the room. They’re better than any family I could’ve ever dreamed of.
Cooper gave more than just himself the day he took me. He gave me everything.
Fifteen years later…
I run my hand down my face and check my watch again. “It’s been two minutes,” Jonas chuckles.
I narrow my normally easy-going gaze on him and he lifts his hands in a bullshit apology. He’s poking me on purpose. He’s bored or he’s hoping I crack first because his wife is with mine. All of our wives are out together for a girls’ night while we’re supposed to be having a guys’ night. Instead we’re sitting around a poker table in my basement, not playing poker.
“Isn’t retirement supposed to make you more laid back?” Jonas says it with a half-smile.
I get it. It’s fucking hilarious that I’m worked up to go get my wife and bring her back home. People said the crazy need I have for her would fade over the years, but people are stupid. If anything I’ve gotten worse.
Before she came into my life I didn’t know what I was missing. Now that she’s mine I know I couldn’t exist without her. That woman is my everything and gave me my family. She gave birth to our son and three little girls.
“I’m enjoying retirement. I’ll just enjoy it more when my wife’s under me.”
“Jesus, Dad.” My eyes snap over to my son Grayson. He stands up from the sofa and drops the Xbox controller.
Track is silently laughing in his spot on the sofa next to him.
“Shit. Forgot you were over there.”
Grayson shakes his head. The boy is fifteen and he knows how I am with Jules. I’m sure one day he’ll find a woman of his own and be the same. The kid is like me in every way and sometimes it’s fucking scary.
“Going to go check on the girls,” he says as he walks out of the room.
It’s my turn to smile. Thank God I had my son first. He helps me keep an eye on the women in our lives. All three of our little girls are beautiful just like their mom.
I walk over to the refrigerator that’s filled with beer and open and close the door without getting one. I might have to go at any moment to get Jules. They rented some party bus thing to take them out, but I’m picking my wife up and that’s that.
“Relax. We know everyone in the bar they’re at,” Jonas reminds me.
We do because it’s the only bar that’s down in the middle of the warehouse district. The only people that go to it are people who work around there. It’s the only way to know the place exists. It was pretty smart on Pattie’s part when she opened the place. It’s surrounded on all sides by warehouses and she has her pick of thirsty warehouse workers.
“I’m guessing you didn’t see how they were dressed.” I turn to look at Jonas.
“I brought my wife over here,” he reminds me. Yeah, his wife showed up in jeans and a sweater. I think. I wasn’t paying close attention. I just know when they left they were all in dresses.
“Yeah, then they went upstairs and got ready before they took off.”
“What?” Now Jonas is standing up and he’s not finding this shit so funny anymore.
Track holds up his phone. “You think I don’t have eyes on them?” All of us move to the sofa and with a few flicks Track takes the feed from his phone and puts it on the large TV. The screen fills with images from the bar I’ve been in a few times over the years.
The place is packed and right there in the center of the bar are our women, all sharing a giant table together. I watch as Mags hands Jules a shot glass and she takes it from her and throws it back. I can’t take my eyes off her.
“It looks like no one is bothering them,” Walsh says with a deep exhale.