Now that Jenna and Jayden are all grown up, they’re looking forward to moving out and have been searching for an apartment they can afford. With high school graduation approaching, I’ve been concerned that Kendra’s grades aren’t as good as her siblings, and I don’t want her to be left behind. So, I asked Jenna if she’d spend the afternoon tutoring her sister, and Jenna said she’d be happy to oblige.
As I walk towards the kitchen, I hear Jayden’s booming voice yelling something unintelligible. As soon as I catch sight of him, I can see that the kitchen faucet is spraying him like a fire hose.
Stifling a giggle, I slowly back up before Jayden can see me. I generally don’t approve of the kids playing pranks on each other, but Jayden can be mean-spirited, and I’m sure someone is taking great satisfaction on getting Jayden back one last time before he moves out. If I was a betting woman, I’d put my money on Kylie. She’s looking pretty smug right now, although she’s trying to play innocent.
I have some errands to run, and now seems like the perfect time to do them. I’m nearly done checking items off my to-do list when I get a call from Charles asking me on a date. Ever since our first night together, Charles has been so attentive — a true southern gentleman courting his lady. Charles says he’s taking me to The Serenity Retreat spa and offers to pick me up. Since the spa is nearby, I tell him I can meet him there.
Charles waits for me in the parking lot, and we enter the spa together. He leads me towards the staircase with his hand on the small of my back. “I’ve reserved one of the upstairs massage rooms for us, sugar,” he drawls with a glint in his eye. We barely enter the room when a woman barges in and starts up a conversation with Charles as if I wasn’t standing right next to him. I’m feeling rather possessive of my man and can’t hide my irritation. Even though this is a short-term affair, I’m carrying Charles’s child.
Charles is his usual pleasant self as he tells the woman in no uncertain terms that while he’s flattered, he is quite unavailable. “Now, I’ve reserved a room here with the expectation of privacy, Miss. I trust you’ll see that we aren’t disturbed again. Thank you kindly. You have a good day.” The way Charles asks her to leave is so tactful and charming that she doesn’t even realize she’s been summarily dismissed.
Once we’re alone again, Charles sighs and says, “I’m so sorry, sugar. I’m afraid that happens all too often. You see, that’s why I started wearing a wedding ring. Being hit on by random women is a nuisance when I’m alone or with friends. But being interrupted when I’m with you, sugar — well, I hope you can forgive me. I know we have precious little time, and I want you all to myself.”
“There’s nothing to forgive, Charles. You didn’t invite her, nor did you lead her on. I can see why all the ladies throw themselves at you, though. Even when you’re telling a woman to get lost, you do it so sweetly that she gets the message without getting her feelings hurt.”
“Thank you, darlin’, for being so understanding. Now, let’s get you undressed, shall we? Did you bring your bikini as I requested?”
I smile at Charles, saying, “You’re just lucky I still had my beach bag in the trunk.”
“Well, I’d prefer to massage you naked, sugar, but I thought you’d be more comfortable in your bikini,” Charles chuckles. “Now run along to the dressing room before I reconsider.”
When I come out of the dressing room in my bikini, Charles’s face lights up and he leads me to the massage table. I crawl onto the table while he lights a couple of vanilla scented candles.
After pouring massage oil onto his hands, Charles begins to massage my back with just the right amount of pressure. “Sugar, I want to make you feel good. Let me know how I’m doing so I can make any necessary adjustments.”
“Mmm… you’re doing great, honey. Just keep doing what you’re doing, although if you’re not careful, I might just nod off.”
“Jill darlin’, I must confess that I had an ulterior motive in selecting the spa for our date.”
I smirk. “You mean so you could get me half-naked and have a reason to touch me in public?”
Charles chortles. “Am I that transparent?”
“Well, yes. You’re a man, first and foremost. But being raised to avoid any public displays of affection has made you get creative in the date department. I, for one, applaud your creativity and happen to enjoy your choice … mmm … very much.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” After I flip over and Charles completes my massage, I say, “Your turn. I’ll go get dressed while you put on your swim trunks.”
I pour a liberal amount of massage oil in my hands as I look down at Charles’s firm body and contemplate where to begin.
I start by working out the tension in Charles’s shoulders. “Honey, your muscles are so tight. Is anything wrong?”
“Wrong? On the contrary, darlin’. I’m just wound a little tight after having my hands all over your gorgeous body — well ‘almost’ all over. I’ll manage,” he winks.
“Well, I’ll just have to work extra hard to massage away that tension.”
Charles groans in pleasure. “Jill darlin’, your hands are so soft. They feel wonderful.”
After Charles flips over and I complete his massage, he’s nearly out like a light. I gently wake him and tell him it’s time to get dressed. He looks a little sad, and I know exactly how he feels. A really good massage is never long enough.
Charles comes out of the dressing room looking relaxed but like he’s trying very hard not to get too close to me. Having no such qualms about PDA’s, I lean into him with my hands on his chest and whisper in his ear, “Honey, this was one awesome date. I like the way you think.” Then I give him a sweet kiss below his ear.
“We can do this again any time you’d like. Darlin’, are you purposely trying to test my control?” He watches as I lick my lips and say, “Now why would I want to do that?”
Charles puts his hands on my waist and backs me further into the room, out of sight of any passersby. He draws me against him with his hand at the nape of my neck and kisses me ravenously. A soft moan escapes my throat as I kiss him back with equal fervor. Some long minutes later, when our lips part, I say, barely above a whisper, “Mmm … that’s why. God, you’re a good kisser.”
“Darlin’, come back to my place tonight. I want to fall asleep with you in my arms.”
“Sounds like the perfect end to our date. Let me just call and see if Jenna or Jayden will be home to watch the kids tonight.”
The first few months with Charles really flew by and before I knew it, I was well into my maternity wardrobe. Charles was so excited about becoming a father, and he doted on me throughout my pregnancy. Things on the home front were getting interesting, too. Jayden said he needed to talk to me and it looked like it was something serious. When he said it was about Kevin, I said, “I’m all ears. What is it, son?”
He began to recount what he had seen and heard last night as he was coming home. “Mom, I was coming around the corner into the backyard when I nearly ran into Kevin and some girl who were hugging it out on the back patio.”
“It was the first time I’d seen my little bro with a girl and I was curious, so I hung out in the kitchen and eavesdropped on their conversation through the sliding door.”
“Jayden, that’s not very nice.”
“Yeah, but don’t you want to know the rest?”
“Well, I probably shouldn’t, but spill it.”
“He asked her out. I think her name is Abrielle … at least that’s what it sounded like. I could be wrong.”
“And .. what did she say?”
“She said she was seeing some guy named Ethan, but that she was thinking of breaking up with him.”
“They talked a little longer and then, bam, out of the blue, Kevin just grabbed her and kissed her.”
“Uh-oh. What happened then?”
“At first she looked like she might deck him, but then she pulled him back and they were practically making out.”
“Hmm … I’d like to meet this Abrielle that’s got my boy all twisted in knots. Thanks for telling me, Jayden. Not that I want to encourage eavesdropping.”
“Hey, just looking out for my little bro, that’s all. She’s a cutie. Now if we can just get rid of this Ethan character….”
“Jayden, that’ll be quite enough meddling in your brother’s love life. I still need to wrap my head around the fact that Kevin has one.”
The next morning, Jayden says he had quite the eventful night. Apparently, he heard something in the middle of the night and went downstairs to investigate. He found a burglar attempting to break in through our back patio entrance. “Before he even had a chance to get in the house, I jumped him.”
“We wrestled and I got him in a choke hold.”
I gasped. “Honey, that was so dangerous. You could’ve been hurt.”
“Mom, when I finished with him, he hit the concrete patio with a thud. He jumped up and ran for his life. I never even had a chance to call the cops, but I think he learned his lesson about messing with the Thomases. Consider it a parting gift since Jenna and I are moving out today.”
The twins have both landed jobs in their respective fields and are excited to begin their new adventure. That afternoon, Jayden places a call to the realtor to let her know that they’d be arriving within the hour.
“Mom, I guess it’s time for us to hit the road. I’ll miss you and the kids.”
“Love you, Jenna. Your dad would be especially proud to know that you’ll be following in his footsteps and pursuing a career in law enforcement. Take good care of yourself.”
“My turn, Mom. Come and give me a big squeeze.”
“Love you, Jayden. Thanks for always looking out for us. Keep me posted on how your music career is going. I can’t wait to hear your first movie soundtrack. I’m proud of you, son.”
“Well, we’re off. Come on, Jenna, let’s go check out our new place.”
“I’m right behind you, brother.”
Months have passed and I’ve grown accustomed to my smaller household and growing belly. Vaughn, Charles’s roommate is having a party tonight, and Charles has, of course, invited me. When I arrive, Vaughn answers the door. I can see Charles is in the kitchen getting a drink. Vaughn says, “I’m so glad you could make it, Jill. How’ve you been feeling these days?”
“I’m feeling a little cramped in my clothes,” I chuckle, “but otherwise, I’m just fine.”
Charles walks over, gives me a peck on the lips and says, “Hey, sugar. How are you and my little chicklets doing today?”
“The little chicklets have been kicking up a storm. Feel…”
Charles puts his hand on my very pregnant belly and says, “God, darlin’, that is the most amazing thing I’ve ever felt.”
While a couple of Vaughn’s guests chat over their meal, Charles flirts with me. I love that he still does that when I’m due to give birth any time now and am not feeling my most attractive. “Jill darlin’, if this party doesn’t end soon, I may have to take you up to my room so we can have some private time.”
Luckily, after the guys eat, they decide to head home. I guess this wasn’t their type of party. It works for me, though, because as soon as they’re gone, Charles pulls me into his arms and kisses me breathless. Apparently, kissing me in front of his roommate doesn’t count as a PDA. That makes sense considering this is Charles’s home, too.
“Did you bring an overnight bag as I suggested?”
“Mm-hmm. It’s out in the car.”
“I’ll go fetch it and meet you upstairs in a minute, sugar.”
Before we even have a chance to undress for bed, my water breaks and contractions start. “Charles! The babies are coming! Can you please grab my bag? We need to head to the hospital.”
“Oh, sugar, let me help you down the stairs and then I’ll pull the car around.”
Charles is by my side in the labor and delivery room to witness the birth of our twins. Our firstborn is a baby girl we named Molly. Molly is Brave and Loves the Heat.
Her twin sister, Megan, is Disciplined and Eccentric. Charles is in awe of our babies, or chicklets as he sometimes calls them.
Months later, when Leisure Day rolls around, the kids spend most of their time in the pool. We couldn’t afford to have a pool when we lived in Moonlight Falls, but being that Lucky Palms is in a desert, most of the homes in town have in-ground pools. Now, it’s a luxury I don’t know if we’ll ever want to live without again. I decide to throw a last-minute pool party. I invite Charles, a few guys I met through the online dating service (before I started dating Charles), and a few friends of the triplets.
I noticed Kylie spent some time talking to Sahan Diwan, the guy she wanted me to invite. They seem to be getting along pretty well.
Kevin invited Abrielle, but she wasn’t able to stay long. Kevin looks disappointed. When it starts getting late and the party moves indoors, the kids go up to bed. I hear Logan asking Kevin if he’d read him a bedtime story. Kevin says, “Sure, bud. Just go pick out a book.”
Kylie offers to read to Lucas, who jumped at the opportunity. Kylie says, “I get to pick the book, though.”
Meanwhile, Megan and Molly are playing peacefully in their room.
With all the kids upstairs, all that was left in the house was me and a bunch of guys. Charles hadn’t arrived yet. It was a little awkward at first, but Jared Shipman starts chatting with me, and he’s quite charming. Well, I suppose all vampires can be charming when they want to be. Did I mention he’s also handsome?
He asks me to dance, and I agree since a fast song was playing. Apparently, Jared wants to slow dance with me. Charles has arrived by now, and I feel a little weird about it, but Jared isn’t acting improperly. In fact, there’s plenty of space between us, which makes me feel a little better. Still, I feel as though I’m being watched.
When the song ends, Jared holds my hands for a moment and says, “Thank you for the dance, Jill. I hope to see you again sometime.” Then he walks away.
I see Charles, smile and walk over to give him a hug. “Hello, sugar. I was beginning to think your dance card was full. Should I be concerned about your handsome guest?”
“Of course not, Charles. I was just being a good hostess. As I’m sure you noticed, he was a perfect gentleman. And I always save the last dance for you. Honestly,” I chuckled, “I was a little surprised when he started slow dancing with me to a song with a fast beat.”
“What do you say we show them how it’s done. Sugar, will you do me the honor of dancing with me?”
“You know it, handsome. Anytime … anywhere.”