“I can see that.” He pats my shoulder. “I’m happy for you, and Mom and Dad would be happy for you too.”

“Do you think so?” I question, feeling a pain hit my chest. The same pain I get every time I think about them.


“All they ever wanted was for us to be happy, so I know, without a doubt, they would be happy for you.”

“I still miss them,” I sigh, taking a seat, dropping my elbows to my knees, and watching him take a seat in the chair next to mine.

“Me too, every damn day. And since we had the boys, it’s only gotten worse. They would have loved being grandparents, and they missed out on that, while I missed out on seeing them with my kids. That shit sucks and does not go away.”

“How do you deal with it?” I ask, realizing this is the first time we’ve talked about our parents in years.

“Having Cara’s parents helps. Having you does, too. But really, having the memories I had with Mom and Dad, and being able to share those with my sons, is what gets me by. There will always be an empty place from their loss, but I hope that in someway I’m keeping their memory alive through my boys.”

“You are, and Mom and Dad would have been proud of you,” I assure, holding his gaze, and his eyes flash with both sadness and gratitude.

Hearing the sliding door open, both our heads turn toward it as Jordan sticks his head out of the crack, and yells, “Monkey melt’s ready! Come on, hurry up!” before sliding the door closed.

“What the hell is monkey melt?” Parker asks, and I shrug while standing.

“Don’t know, but I guess we’re going to find out.”

Taking my empty beer with me, I head inside where I’m immediately struck by the scent of baked cinnamon rolls. Dumping my empty bottle in the trash, I grab a fresh one for me and another for Parker before heading across the kitchen to where Ashlyn is standing. Leaning against the island at her side, I watch her scoop out vanilla ice cream on top of a large pan of baked cinnamon rolls and sliced bananas.

“Will you get me the caramel out of the microwave?” she asks, tilting her head back to look at me, and I nod, placing a kiss to her temple, then get the caramel she’s heated in the jar to take over to her.

“This is a communal dessert.” She smiles, tipping the jar of caramel over, letting it run across the top of the ice cream, and finishing with a handful of crushed pecans. “Everyone grab a spoon and dig in,” she murmurs, pushing the hot pan into the middle of the island we are all gathered around.

“Oh, my God. This is what Heaven must taste like,” Cara groans, digging her spoon into the pan for another bite before she’s even swallowed her first one.

“Holy shit, this is good,” Parker says a second later, and I hear Ash laugh as Cara hits his chest and nods at the boys, who are not paying attention to him. They are both now belly-down on the island, with their faces hovering over the pan, shoveling the monkey melt into their mouths like it’s going to disappear, which it kind of is.

“Are you going to have any?” Ash asks, looking at me after she’s swallowed her bite.

“I’m trying to come up with a plan of attack, so I don’t get my hand bitten off,” I mutter dryly.

Laughing, she takes the spoon from me and digs into the dish before holding it in front of my mouth. Leaning in, I close my lips around the spoon and hold her eyes as I pull back, watching them flare and darken.

“So,” she tips her head to the side once I’ve chewed and swallowed, “what do you think?”

“I think you’ve been holding out on me,” I mutter, digging in for another bite, stealing a scoop right off Jordan’s spoon. I hear him whine, “Uncle Dillon, that was mine!” which makes me laugh.

“I couldn’t make it before now. There has to be enough people to eat it,” she explains, scooping out a bite for herself.

“I could eat a whole pan of it by myself,” I tell her truthfully around a mouthful, and she grins.

“You would be sick. Trust me, I know from experience.”

“You have to give me the recipe for this,” Cara says, not even ten minutes later, as the boys scrape the bottom of the pan for the remnants of the dessert.

“It’s easy. Just a can of cinnamon rolls cut up and baked. Once they’re done, you top them with sliced bananas, ice cream, caramel, and pecans. Sometimes, I melt peanut butter into the caramel and dump that on there, but this is really the best way to make it.”

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