“So I guess you’re not sharing.” I laugh, and she shrugs, chewing like crazy then swallowing hard. She then leans over, without taking her cup from me, and takes a huge gulp through the straw.

“There’s one chocolate one left.” She smiles, and I shake my head.

“You’ve got chocolate all over your teeth.”

“Do I?” She grins, showing off her chocolate-coated mouth, and I toss back my head and laugh.

“You’re a nut.” I wrap my hand holding her drink around her back and tug her into me.

“I’m not a nut.” She leans up, giving me a chocolaty kiss, then freezes when someone whimpers behind us.

Peeking around me, her eyes widen. “Mom,” she whispers, pulling from me. “Are you okay?”

“Fine, I’m fine. I have to go.” She rushes out of the coffee shop with Ashlyn hot on her heels. I follow close, but not too close, and wait a few feet away, watching Lilly pull her daughter in for a hug, closing her eyes. I can’t hear what she says to her, but I can see her mouth move. Then she leans back, kisses Ashlyn’s cheek, and sends me a wave before getting into her car. Standing on the curb, Ashlyn wraps her arms around her waist while her mom backs out and drives off.

“Baby,” I murmur, seeing tears in her eyes when she starts toward me. Holding my arms out, she comes right to me and drops her face to my chest while wrapping her arms around my middle. “I hate the tears. Please stop crying.” I do hate them; they are something I have no control over, something that makes me feel helpless when it comes to her.

“She… she saw us.”

“I know,” I confirm, and her forehead bobs up and down against my chest.

“Let’s get into the office where I can put this shit down and hold you.” I kiss the top of her head.

“’Kay,” she agrees, taking her drink from my hand in the one still holding the paper bag full of her treats, and twining my fingers with her free ones.

Walking the few feet to the office, I let her go to unlock the door then let her in before me, only stopping briefly to shut off the alarm. “We have patients coming in soon,” she reminds me as I wrap my hand around hers and lead her to the back, without doing the normal routine of turning on the lights and starting up the computers.

“Matt can do it when he gets in,” I say softly, once we’re in my office and the door’s closed. Taking her drink and the paper bag from her grasp, I drop both to the top of my desk, along with my coffee. “C’mere.” I take a seat in my chair then maneuver her into my lap, with her legs over my thighs, and wrap one arm around her back. “Now tell me what she said,” I say as I push a large hunk of hair over her shoulder so I can see her face completely.

“She told me she loves me, that she’s still angry.” She pulls in a deep breath, and I can see a fresh wave of tears swimming in her eyes. “Then she said she’s happy for us.” A single tear falls down her cheek, and I catch it with my thumb while my teeth clench shut.

I knew her parents would both be happy for us. I knew if I could ever make Ashlyn see me for more than her boss and a dick we would have something beautiful. Something like what my parents had before they died. Something her parents have now. I know I shouldn’t have married her in Vegas. I knew when she suggested we get married as a joke, I should have taken her back to the hotel and put her to bed so she could sober up. I didn’t do what I should have done. Instead, I took her directly to the nearest wedding chapel, where I bought us each a ring from a cheep plastic display case, and then stood in front of a guy who looked a lot like the Hulk.

She laughed herself silly up until it was time for us to say our vows to each other. During that part of the ceremony, I would have laid down money she was sober. Her words were clear, her eyes too; she was in that moment with me, completely conscious of what was taking place. I know I took advantage of her, but I regret nothing. I wanted her to admit there was something between us, and I got my way in the end. I just hate that the relationship between her and her parents was collateral damage.

“They’ll come around,” I assure softly, tucking her head under my chin then wrapping my arms around her middle, holding her tighter against me.

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