I’m sure many women judge me when they see me wearing a bikini with my stomach stretched out and distorted from three babies, two of them just over nine pounds. I know this because, at one point in my life, I was that person judging others. I’m not anymore.
Jake snakes his hands around me, palms pressed to my not-so-perfectly-flat stomach just above my bikini bottoms. He kisses my shoulder.
I cover his hands with mine and smile at his reflection—at my reflection. “I love my body.” I don’t just say the words. I mean them to the depths of my soul. “It’s given us Tyler, Kylie, and Rylen. It’s taken me many places. It’s fed babies and held them. It’s given my husband pleasure.” I smirk.
Jake bites his bottom lip, but it doesn’t hide his grin or that look. I love that look. It usually ends with me being pregnant, but I love it just the same.
“There are a dozen or more packages at the door, Miss Blogger.” His right hand slips below the waist of my bikini. “I carried them inside, unpacked them, broke down the boxes, rinsed the sand and ocean off the kids, and packed their bags. Your dad and Deedy should be here soon to get them.”
“Packages.” I grin as my eyes grow heavy from his touch.
“Mommy? Grandpa and Grandma are here!” Tyler calls.
My eyes snap open.
Jake removes his hand from the inside of my bikini bottoms. “Go tell our kids goodbye. I’ll be in the shower. Join me when you get them out the door.”
I turn, sliding my arms around his neck. “A full week. We get a full week to ourselves. We haven’t had a road trip to ourselves since I was pregnant with Tyler. Whatever will we do, Mr. Matthews?” My eyebrows waggle at him.
“No computer, Mrs. Matthews. No The Princess and Her Peas blog. All those items I just unpacked will have to wait a week to be tested and reviewed. Because…” he grabs my ass and brings me as close as possible to his firm body “…we have a week without kids. A week in the RV. A week I will spend inside of you, beneath you, on top of you, all the fuck over you. Okay, Princess?”
I grin. “Mkay. I like all of those scenarios, specifically the one where I’ll be joining you in the shower soon. But count to five hundred before you turn on the water because I’m going to get the kids off first with Dad and Deedy. Then I’m going to look at my new stuff.”
Old habits don’t necessarily die hard. Some habits just never die. And my love of fashion is one of them. However, I changed my ways. My love for fashion shifted to eco-friendly fashion. I started a very successful blog about it, and companies send me all the things to test, try, and review on my blog—handbags, clothes, shoes, accessories, makeup. I make money doing my favorite thing.
We spend most of the year traveling in the RV with the kids to check up on Jake’s restaurants. He and Addy now own eleven Sage Leaf Cafe locations in the U.S., and they have plans to open one in London next spring.
Me, London, and fashion? Yes, please!
Jake closes his eyes, rubbing me against him with a little more intensity. “Four hundred and ninety-nine, four hundred and ninety-eight.”
I giggle, pressing a quick kiss to his lips before running out to the living room of our conservative house along the beach, a few miles from the cafe in L.A. Deedy and my dad took over the loft two years ago to be closer to family as we ran out of space when Rylen was born.
“Where’s Trip’s stuff?” Dad asks as Deedy scoops up Rylen and takes Kylie’s hand.
“The mutt’s coming with us.” I wink.
“You’re taking a five-hundred-pound dog with you on a romantic getaway?”
I chuckle, giving kisses to each one of my beautiful children, all blond-haired, blue-eyed babes. “Trip is not five-hundred pounds.”
“Close enough.” Dad smirks.
We found Trip three years ago at a campsite. No one else was there. He had no collar, no chip and he was a nice, medium-sized dog. A mix of some sort. We took him home. I obsessed over his rapid growth the following months, so I ordered a DNA test for him. Yeah, Trip is mostly a Mastiff, aka a small horse.
“Jake and I fell in love on a road trip with a dog. After three kids, we want to reconnect on a road trip, and we want to take Trip with us. I already called Sydney and told her you wouldn’t be dropping Trip off on your way to Disney with the kiddos.”
“Well …” Dad gives Trip a twisted grin. “He does love to camp.”
Trip cocks his head to the side.
I hear the water turn on in the master bathroom.
“Okay then. Did you already put their bags in the car?” I do my best to funnel everyone toward the door because … Jake … shower … alone time.
“Tommy put them all in the back.” Deedy smiles.
“Love you, babies.” They all get one more round of hugs and kisses from me. “Thank you, both.”
Dad and Deedy nod.
“Where’s Jake?” Deedy asks.
“Um … the shower. I think.”
“Bye, guys. Thanks!” Jake peeks his head around the corner, wearing nothing but a white towel barely holding on to his waist.
Deedy waves at him then shoots me a sly grin.
I turn ten shades of red, returning a tightlipped smile.
Yeah, Deedy, as soon as you leave with our kids, I’m all over that.
Five years without one night of uninterrupted sleep.
Five years of sprinting through sex before someone calls Mommy or Daddy.
Five years of a child in the middle at some point, every single night.
Five years of dirty diapers, spit up, and leaky boobs.
I’m going to ride the Jake train for a solid week.
And if Trip enjoys time alone with his humping pillow, without one of the kids trying to take it from him … well, that’s just a bonus.
The door closes behind them.
I restrain myself from sprinting to the bathroom. When I pull open the glass door, Jake slicks back his wet, now longer, hair as rivulets of water venture down his perfectly inked body.
“Ave …” He grins.
I step inside, closing the door behind me, trapping the steam in with us.
“Tell me how you love me.” I press my lips to his chest as my hand slides lower, forcing his breath to catch.
His eyes drift shut for a few seconds before he kisses the top of my head. “I love you like an acoustic song. The words mean more. The emotions are magnified. It’s like the stars … during the day we don’t see them, but at night when the world around us feels stripped and bare, they shine so brightly.” He ghosts his hands up my hips and brushes his lips over my cheek to my mouth. “I’ve never seen anything as beautiful as you are in this very moment. Our love is … flawed but perfect.” His tongue drags along my top lip. “It’s honest and open. It’s naked, Ave … our love is a naked love.”