Somehow, broken rib and all, Jax finds a way to make love to me. Slow, passionate, raw, all consuming love making that connects us in way that I know deep down can never be broken again. True love making, because we both finally give in, letting what we feel show through in our emotions as we exchange the words.
Afterwards, when we finally still, I roll to the side not wanting to put any weight on his ribs.
“You bought my painting.”
“Why? We’d just met.”
“I just knew,” he says so simply with a shrug.
“Knew I’d want to see your face every day. If I couldn’t have you, I’d have the painting.”
“And if this doesn’t work out? What do you think your next girlfriend will think of a picture of a half-naked woman hanging around?”
He turns his head to face me. “There is no next girlfriend, Angel. Haven’t you realized that yet?”
Lily – Six years later
“You have your own cinnamon bun, you know,” I scold, but I’m not really mad. Besides, we need to be out the door in five minutes or we’ll be late.
“Yours tastes better,” Jackson grins, his lips lined with white frosting, the smile he gives me lets him get away with so much. Just like his father.
I playfully swat at his hand reaching to lick the icing from my plate with his finger. “Wash your hands when you’re done, piggy.” I stand. “We’re out the door in five minutes. We don’t want you to be late for your first day of kindergarten. I’m going to go grab my shoes. Put your plate in the sink when you are done eating both our breakfasts.”
“I don’t care if I’m late,” Jackson whines a bit. He’s been nervous about starting kindergarten the last few weeks, although he’ll never admit it. The boy idolizes his father so much, he thinks he has to be fearless just because Jax is.
“Well I do. So put a move on it, brat,” I tease over my shoulder as I run up the stairs to get my sandals.
My phone chimes before I can get back down the stairs. It’s my tenth text from Jax this morning. He feels badly that he isn’t going to be home to walk Jackson to his first day of school, but I’m glad he decided to fly out to Vegas for Vince’s fight a few days ago. After a rocky start finding out about the existence of each other, Jax and Vince have found their way. Lately it seems like the two spend so much time talking, they’re trying to make up for lost time. Although if you ask the two of them, they’d swear all of their talking is due to the new gyms Jax and I are opening with Vince, an extension of our Ralley’s business out on the west coast. But if you ask me, the business venture was only a ruse to give them more reason to spend time together. Unconsciously, my hand goes to the small bump growing again in my belly. I hope it’s another boy. I’d love to have mini Jax paired with a mini Vince. Although I’d venture to guess we’d have lots of broken furniture when the two tots discovered wrestling.
He’s fine. Not nervous at all. I lie, texting back when he inquires again how Jackson is doing. Telling Jax his mini me is nervous will only make him feel guiltier.
How is Vince feeling this morning? Last night was Vince’s fourth time defending his champion title. The fight was the shortest yet, lasted barely one minute before Vince won by TKO.
Hurt harder than it looked on TV?
He’s hurting alright. Just not from the fight. Rough celebration afterward.
LOL. Okay, behave.
Always. Be home tonight, Angel. Take care of my boys.
You don’t know this one is a boy yet. I rub my belly.
Sure I do. I smile, shake my head, and roll my eyes.
Jackson is standing at the door waiting anxiously for me when I get back downstairs. He looks up at me, his big blue eyes nervous behind a sea of dark lashes. It grips at my heartstrings, but I don’t let on I know he’s scared. The Knight boys are a prideful bunch, I wouldn’t want to damage his ego.
Side by side, we walk the seven blocks to PS 199. The tension on his face increases as his new school comes into sight. I want so badly to reach down and grab his hand, squeeze hard, letting him know everything is going to be okay. But I don’t. Aside from not wanting to shatter the fearless façade he works so hard to face me with, I remember back to my dad walking me to school. How I loved to hold his hand, he made me feel so safe – like everything in the world was going to be fine as long as he was near me. But kids could be so cruel. I don’t want Jackson to be picked on like I was for holding my father’s hand. I have to put my own hands into my pockets to restrain myself from not reaching for Jackson’s, but I know it’s for the best.
We arrive at the front door. Two boys linger at the top step, they spot Jackson and yell his name excitedly. His face lights up with relief and it makes me exhale the breath I’d been holding. My little boy turns to me, awkward with affection for the first time, and seems conflicted. Then he smiles and reaches out his little fist.
“Fist bump,” he offers clearing his throat. I’ve watched Jax and Jackson do it a million times, but I’d always gotten a hug. With a mix of pride and reluctance, I tap my fist to his before he runs away – never looking back.
People turn their heads and whisper as we walk by. I’m not sure if they recognize Vince and Nico or if it’s the sight of three oversized, muscular men shoving each other as we walk.
“What the f**k?” Nico growls, his lidded cup spilling as we clip him while walking. Vince and I have been wrestling since we got to the airport. This time, I barrel him into the wall, unfortunately shoving at Nico in the process. We’re only f**king around, but people aren’t sure and clear out of our path like we’re royalty coming down the red carpet.
“You ass**les make me spill one more time…,” Nico trails off, blotting the top of his cup and the fluids dripping down the sides.
“Spill your decaffeinated green tea with honey? What kind of guy orders shit like that anyway?” Vince goads Nico. Nico’s clean eating habits are a frequent topic of ball busting between the two men. It’s in good fun, although it won’t stop Nico from serving a bruise to Vince’s chest if he continues. When men our size screw around, it always ends with bruises.
“The kind that’s going to kick your ass in two minutes if you don’t shut your trap,” Nico warns.
“Old man, I’m the four time reigning Light Heavyweight Champion of the United State of America. I don’t think you have a shot anymore.” Vince holds his arms up victoriously as he concededly rattles off his title.
“You wanna go?” Nico dares.
“You bet, old man. You bet.” Vince smiles.
Nico shakes his head. “Why don’t you put some of your effort to get me into the ring into your brother,” Nico deflects.
I quickly interject. “Been there, done that. Let’s not go down that road again. Thought we finally put that debate to bed,” I say. After my fight with Caden, I needed to know I could win and not just by default. So I got in the ring twice more for sanctioned fights. Won both times too. I don’t regret a minute of it. If I hadn’t done it, I would have wondered what if for the rest of my life. Instead, I learned I could win, I had what it took, but it wasn’t what I really wanted to do. I love the sport, yet fighting for a living wasn’t in me in the end. So I went out on top. Although my brother and Nico couldn’t comprehend that my heart was somewhere else.
Caden was banned from fighting after his conviction for Grand Larceny. In the end, Lily decided it was Joe’s decision what to do about the money Caden stole. I was surprised when Joe turned his nephew in, but relieved Lily and I didn’t have to look over our shoulder for a while. Last I heard, his sentence was extended for fighting too many times in prison. Some people just never learn when to quit.
Lily and I grew Ralley’s from sixty-two stores to nearly one hundred and fifty after I put a ring on her finger. And now with taking on my brother as a partner for the new stores, we’ll be at two hundred by year end. I finally found a way to merge the three things in my life that I love - running our company, my wife, and fighting. I’d be hard pressed to find a happier man than me.
“Alright gentlemen. And I use the term very loosely.” I grin as we arrive at my gate. We’re all flying back home to our wives. Vince with another championship under his belt, and Nico and I proud. “I’ll see you in a few weeks. When that lovely wife of yours delivers.” Vince’s wife Liv is pregnant too, our wives are excited the cousins will only be a few months apart. “Hope his head won’t be as big as yours, little brother.” I tousle the top of my brother’s head and we hug, a one armed chest bump, guy style.
“Later, Spawn 1,” Vince yells over his shoulder, walking down the terminal with Nico.
“Later, Spawn 2,” I yell back.
Turned out my father, elected again despite being the biggest liar and user east of the Mississippi, gave me something that made my life complete after all – my brother.
Pregnancy definitely slows me down. It’s nine at night, yet I’m ready for bed. Jax just landed and should be home within the hour, I hope I can stay awake that long to see him. I crack the door to check in on Jackson. His eyes are shut, but he stirs a bit when I turn off the TV. I smile at the poster of Vince “The Invincible” hanging over his bed and tiptoe over to collect the clothes he wore today lying in the middle of his bedroom floor.
I lift the shirt and shorts and something falls to the floor from his pocket. Leaning down in the dark, I can’t make out what it is, till I pick it up. Jax’s pocket watch. Jackson’s groggy voice speaks, taking me by surprise. I’d thought he was sleeping.
“Can I have that?”
“This?” I hold up the pocket watch, confused at why he has it.
“Sure.” I walk to the bed. “But where did you get it from?”
Jackson shrugs his shoulder. “I don’t know, it was in my pocket when I got dressed this morning. Maybe Dad put it in the wrong shorts. My favorite blue shorts are almost the same color as his.”
I lean down and kiss him on the forehead, pulling the covers up.
“I was playing with it in my pocket at school today when the teacher was going around the room and making us stand up and say our name. I might have been a little nervous,” he says, trying to come off casual. So Jax’s son. He reaches up to take the pocket watch. “It’s weird. But it made me feel better. It reminded me of dad and then I thought of watching Uncle Vince on the TV last night, and by the time they got to me, I’d forgotten all about being nervous.”
I hand him the pocket watch and smile watching him fold it into his hand and snuggle back up on his side.
Leaning my back against my son’s closed door, I smile and wonder how I ever got so lucky to have had two amazing men in my life. My Dad and Jax. I barely remember telling him the story about my dad and his pocket watch, yet it touched him so much, he remembered and gave that gift to our son. It’s just the kind of man he is. Thoughtful, kind, protective, sexy, and beautiful. A man I took a chance on forgiving so long ago and never looked back. A man worth forgiving, because I could never forget.