I get him.

I love him.

When we pull up to Nik and Tina’s, we somehow get the parking spot right out front. Making a funny, I whoop then say, “Oh my God! You just won at life, baby!”

Brow still furrowed, he utters, “Never really been a winner before.”

That makes me sad.

Unsure if anyone is watching us, I keep my eyes forward and say confidently, “All that’s changing, babe. You’ll see.” Sliding my hand over to his thigh, I whisper on a squeeze, “I love you. You’re a winner to me. You always will be. So suck it up. Let’s get in there and show everyone how happy we are.”

His hand covers mine and he squeezes it, saying confidently, “Let’s do it, babe.”

We exit the car barely looking at each other. I approach the front door and enter without knocking, I yell out, “Hey, hey!”

Ceecee spots me down the hall. Wearing a brilliant crooked smile, she wheels herself over to me really damn fast. I chuckle at her enthusiasm and lower myself to my knees to hug the crap out of her. Brushing her auburn hair out of her face, I say, “My God, sweetie. Every time I see you, you’re more and more beautiful.” And I’m being honest too. She’s so pretty. Max is going to have a hard time when she’s older. He’ll have to beat ‘em off with a stick. Scowling at her playfully, I utter, “Stop stealing all the beauty! We old people need it too!”

Covering her mouth with her palm, she giggles. “You’re so silly, Nat.”

Standing back up, I moan tiredly, “I know. I know.”


I follow her into the open lounge slash dining room slash kitchen and see everyone sitting out on the porch. I tell Ceecee, “You mind telling everyone we’re here, honey?”

With another sweet smile, she speeds off towards the backyard. I feel Asher press in behind me and mutter, “Ready?”

Without looking back at him, I nod and walk toward the sliding door. I take a deep breath to steady myself and slide the door open. Everyone looks over at us. I walk out and say, “Hey guys.”

A smiling Max stands first and wraps me up in a flirtatious and very touchy hug. Knowing Ash is probably scowling behind me, I chuckle in embarrassment. When Max’s hand reaches my ass and squeezes, my laughter can no longer be contained. It bursts out of me and I wrap my arms around Max’s neck tightly, knowing this hug will be the last of its kind. Pulling back from Max a little, I peck a kiss to his mouth and tell him, “You know I love you, right?”

Max gifts me a stunning smile. His amber eyes sparkle and he says, “Uh, hell yeah I do. I love you too, boo.”

Letting go of him, I move around the table, hugging and kissing everyone in greeting, even though I just saw Tina not an hour ago, but I love them all so much right now that I need contact with them all. When I reach Nik, his eyes narrow at me suspiciously. Suddenly panicked, I lean down and kiss him full on the mouth. I pull back from him and say a little too loudly, “I love you too, Nik.”

Nik smiles so hard it looks like his dimple might slit his cheek open.

What the fuck are you doing?

I have no idea, brain. Just roll with it.

Realizing I missed out on Trick, I walk over to him and his eyes widen. I grab his cheeks, pull him forward and smack a kiss on his mouth too. I announce a little dramatically, “I love you all. A lot.”

I turn to Ash and we have a silent conversation.

His eyes narrow. What the fuck are you doing?

My eyes widen and I play with my wedding ring. Oh god, I’m so bad at this shit.

He slightly nods to his side. Get over here, girl.

Sitting in the vacant seat by Nik, I shake my head discreetly. You are on your own, buddy.

Ash dips his chin and places both hands on his hips. I know he’s this close from going all caveman on me, but he somehow pulls it together. He looks around the table and says, “I bet you’re wondering why I’ve gathered you all here today.”

Lola looks up at Ash and chuckles, “That was a kickass line, Ghost.”

Mimi laughs and looks to Lola, “I know! It was all mega cool villain-like.”

Tina giggles and whispers, “Sorry, Ghost, but it totally was.”

They all look around that table smiling like a bunch of fools and I’m so nervous that I blurt out, “Please, go on, Dr. Evil.”

The whole table erupts into laughter. I look up and even Ash is losing his fight to be sincere. We all laugh til we cry and I’m so glad tonight is going this way. I prefer laughter than tears any night of the week. When it’s clear we aren’t going to get over our giggles, Ash announces loudly, “I got married two days ago.”

And the conversation all comes to a screeching halt.

No one says a word for a good minute. I’m pretty sure I hear crickets chirping in the background too.

Ash explains, “The girl I was telling you all about, the one I was dating, I realized I love her too and didn’t want to be without her, so I proposed and we got married the same day.”

I look around the table to find almost everyone’s gaping at Ash. Only Mimi and Nik look at me and gape. Tina exclaims, “Ghost, honey! That’s great! Who is she?”

Ash shifts from foot to foot, and I smile at his sudden nervousness. He clears his throat and confesses, “Well, she’s here…right now.”

Lola looks a little glum when she says quietly, “Okay. Bring her in so we can meet the lucky lady.”

Trick booms, “Holy shit!” He looks around the table in shock and shouts again, “Holy shit!”

Ash looks over to me, his expression pleading. I breathe deep and stand up, moving to my husband. When I reach his side, I say quietly, “Hey guys.”

Tina, Lola, Trick and Max all look at me wearing blank expressions. They don’t get it.

Mimi and Nik smile big. They get it.

Unsure of where to go from here, I take hold of Ash’s hand, linking our fingers. I look up to my husband with a tender smile which he returns, and standing on my tiptoes, I gently kiss his mouth. He wraps his arms around me and I run my hands up his back.

Through our kiss, I hear Tina and Lola gasp in obvious shock.

Max says slowly, “No. Freakin’. Way.”

Trick yells out once again, “Holy shit!”

When we pull back from each other, I look into Asher’s eyes and peck his mouth once, twice, three times and whisper, “I love you.”

He pulls me close, kisses my forehead and whispers against it, “Best thing that ever happened to me.”

I look over at the table to look at my friends.

Lola looks as if I just told her that ice cream actually has crack in it. Tina weeps softly wearing a watery smile. Max smirks at me. I wink at him. He winks back at me. Mimi kisses her fingertips and places them on her heart and I want to cry from the overwhelming support I feel. Trick, who’s obviously having trouble getting over this, says quietly, “Holy shit.”

Nik stands and walks over to us. He kisses my cheek before taking Ash in a full-blown man hug. A long one. They both seem to be a little emotional. Nik whispers something to Ash and Ash nods before he slaps Nik’s back a few times and they part. Nik moves to stand between us and says, “It’s my honor to present the new Mr. and Mrs. Asher Collins.”

Everyone stands up, whooping and cheering. And that’s about the time I burst into tears.

I’m suddenly being group hugged and Tina wails, “I’m so happy for you, you crazy lady!”

I wail right back, “I’m so happy I could shit rainbows!”

Lola cheers. “I’m so fucking happy right now!”

Mimi kisses my head and rocks me slightly. She says in a sing-song voice, “I knew all along!”

Laughing and carrying on with my friends, I look towards my husband who is being interrogated by his friends. He winks at me. I mouth, “Love you.”

Warmth settles in my belly and I breathe deeply.

All is right in my world.

We get home from a long night of celebration and I drag my ass through the door of Ash’s apartment. He’d called someone to clean my place and wasn’t sure if it was done yet, so he told me to shower and relax at his place while he went to check on my apartment.

I smile tiredly.

What a great husband.

I shower quickly and get my jammies on. Nothing sexy tonight, just my Minnie Mouse pajama pants and a tight black tank because I’m seriously pooped. When I lie down on the bed, I close my eyes and lie to myself that I’m only resting them.

Something wet and warm licks my nose. Another something licks my cheek. My brow furrows in annoyance. If Ash is licking my face, I’m going to be pissed. I don’t roll that way.

Opening my eyes, I gasp in astonishment and sit up. Then I shriek in excitement, causing the two little puppies to jump up and down on me in equally as much excitement. Looking around, I spot Ash leaning in the door frame smiling. He says, “Now these guys are not your babies. They’re our dogs. Dogs. Got that? We’re going to have babies, so don’t baby them. And if I see you dress them in fucking tutus and dresses and shit, they’re gone. You’re not gonna put ‘em through that kind of torture, okay?”

I whisper in awe, “Oh my God.”

I watch the little tan pug puppy attack the little black pug puppy. They wrestle and make sweet little whimpering noises and baby growls. They are so precious and perfect. I love them immediately. They both have collars already on them. The tan puppy has on a blue collar and the black puppy has on a yellow collar. They have little metal tags on them in the shape of a bone. They’re engraved too. My little tan puppy’s name is Pizza and my little black puppy is called Donut.

My family is forming right before my eyes.

Covering my eyes with my hands, I give myself a mental pep talk to get my shit together. I’m becoming an emotional wreck and that was not part of the deal. Breathing deeply, I look up at Ash and tell him quietly, “I love them. Thank you, baby.”

Walking over to the bed, he says, “Now I’m no expert, but I don’t think you need to thank someone for loving you. You just need to…I don’t know…appreciate it, I guess.” He shrugs and says sheepishly, “I think. I’m still learning.”

I look up at him and wonder how I was ever happy without him. The truth is, I wasn’t. Not at all. I was faking my way through life. You know that saying ‘Fake it til you make it.’?

I was living it.

And I hated it.

I mentally vow from this day to never fake my happiness. I won’t need to. As long as I have the other part of my heart sleeping next to me every night, everything will be great in my world.

Starting tomorrow, I will live my life as it was meant to be lived.

In the wise words of my husband…

…Just happy.

Chapter Twenty-Nine

No fucking way!

Before I know it, Saturday night is here and I’m dying to get to the club.

This week has been a great one but I’m exhausted. I need to let my hair down and hang out with my favorite people. A smile creeps onto my face.

Who knew so many great memories could come from a single week?

As I walk from room to room, my two little boys follow me around like a couple of sheep, and it makes me smile. They are just too cute. They’re only ten weeks old, so a life in the day of Pizza and Donut goes a little like this:

Eat, sleep, poop.

Eat again, poop then nap.

Play time, eat, poop OR vomit.

Nap, wrestle, eat and fall asleep for the night. Check and check.

My widdle babies. I wuv them sooo much.

Ash can’t stand the baby talk. He says he’s going to give them away if I keep doing it. He has no idea I saw him squishing Pizza’s face together while telling him, “You are pretty cute for such an ugly little thing.” I’m confident nothing I do will cause the swift departure of my widdle babies.

I walk into the bathroom and stand at the counter. Both Pizza and Donut decide it’s a good time to bite mommy’s ankles. And it hurts! Their little teeth are like needles right now. They leave me no choice but to sit on the counter while I do my makeup. Donut whines and cries which makes Pizza howl. It breaks my heart, but I know I need to give them a dose of tough love.

We both decided it’s a good idea if we live in Asher’s apartment and keep mine until we can find someone to take over the lease. Breaking the lease would mean losing a whole lot of cash, and I’m absolutely sure we can find someone who needs a place to live. How hard can it be?

Ash was worried the puppies would wreck the apartment while we’re out so I went to a pet store and got a doggie pen for them.

I didn’t guess that the little worms would be able to fit through the wooden slats so I went to a fabric store and got some fishnet material. I wound it around all by myself and stepping back to look at it, I was pretty proud of the job I did. That is until Ash came home.

He opened the door to his apartment, stepped inside and stopped dead. Pointing to the new and improved pen, he said, “What the fuck is that?”

Smiling proudly, I told him, “Fishnet! Great, huh?”

Wide-eyed and shaking his head slowly, he muttered, “No. Not even a bit.”

Offended, I put my hands in my hips and demanded, “What’s wrong with it?”

Looking about to burst into laughter, he replied, “You have two male dogs in a pen which is wrapped in bright pink fishnet. They look like they’re strippers. They look like hookers, Nat!”

Flushing, I explained a little too loudly, “It was the only kind they had!”

Dipping his head, I saw his body shake in silent laughter. He sighed through a smile and said, “Ready to go?”

Narrowing my eyes at him, I uttered, “Yeah. Let me grab my purse.”

Ash held the door open for me and as I was walking out, he looked over to the pen and told my babies, “Don’t work the streets too hard tonight, boys. And remember, if it’s not on, it’s not on. No one likes a puppy with STDs.”

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