I slip into her room, being quiet as her light is off. I strip down to my boxers & climb into her bed. In the dim light filtering through the window, I see her look over her shoulder at me.
“Hey,” She sleepily says.
“Hey,” I reply, draping my arm over her body. “Sorry I woke you.”
“Its fine,” She replies, rolling onto her back. “How did it go?”
“Yeah, it went really well. They were impressed enough they gave me a trial tonight. That's why I’m so late.”
“That's really good!”
She leans in & kisses me.
“I'm sorry that I freaked you out earlier by bringing up having more kids.”
“Don't,” She replies. “I was just taken aback. I haven't thought about it. I’ve been so… Afraid of letting anyone in, I haven't let myself even imagine my life in the future.”
“You’ve got to stop letting the past hold you back.”
She nods, before turning to face me.
“You know I’m not saying no to it, yeah?” She asks. “I’m just saying it's going to take me a while before I’m ready to have another kid.”
I nod, rubbing my hand along her back. “I didn't mean I wanted us to start trying,” I tell her. “I just wanted to see where you stand.”
“And… Where do you stand?”
“I want to have kids,” I reply. “But I’m not in any rush. I don't want to pressure you into it. I know that you're an amazing mother, & I hope that one day I get to have a child with you. I suppose the idea came to mind because of Mark & Paige.”
She smiles. “You’ll be a great dad someday,” she replies. “I see it every time I see you with Felicity.”
I smile, before kissing her. “I think it's time we get some sleep.”
She nods before turning around. I shift closer, draping my arm over her. I kiss the back of her bare shoulder & she sighs contentedly.
I wake to the sound of our babies crying. As much as their nursery is ready for them, I don't want them being away from us- especially given how much time they spent in hospital. I get up & cross to them.
“Hey, shhh,” I whisper to them.
I rock their cribs. Mark steps up, looking just as sleepy.
“Think they need feeding?” He asks.
“Well, I’ll cuddle one while you feed the other if you want.”
“Awwwww!” I reply & then kiss his cheek. “I’ll start with Lilly. She can be fussier sometimes.”
He nods before scooping up Scott. He cradles our son against his bare chest, walking around to his side of the bed as I pick up Lilly. We both get back into bed to keep warm. I support Lilly with one arm as I adjust my pillows so I’ll be comfortable while feeding. When I’m settled, I position Lilly before dropping one of my straps & feed her. The first few times I’d tried breastfeeding them was just over a week ago when we were still in the hospital. It had been a difficult few attempts, both myself & each of our babies having to adjust to it all. But by the time they were allowed to leave, I had gained some skill with it. Dr Brooke reassured me that we could always bottle feed them, but I’d been determined to keep at it. And it paid off when I was successful at feeding them.
I look over at Mark, watching him as he cradles our son. Scott has quietened down now, which is good cause he won't wake the others, but he’s still fussing in Mark’s arms.
“Okay, she's done,” I say. “Can you take her?”
“Of course,” he says, smiling.
We do a slightly awkward swap & I watch Mark for a minute as he holds Lilly higher up on his chest & lightly taps her back to burp her. Scott fusses in my arms, his way of demanding my attention, & I feed him on my other side.
I look over to Mark as I burp Scott. He realises I’m watching & looks at me.
“She's asleep,” he mouths.
I nod before tilting my head towards the cots. He gets up & carries her back to her cot. It's surprising how quickly we’ve adjusted to having them home. How well we’re handling their night-time routine. How well they're handling it.
“How about him?” Mark whispers as he crosses to me now Lilly's in her bed.
I look at Scott. “He's asleep,” I whisper.
I go to get up, but Mark blocks my way.
“I’ll do it,” he whispers. “Save you getting up.”
I smile. “Thank you.”
He smiles. “You do most of the work,” he whispers. “The least I can do is put them back to bed.”
He leans down to take him from me & I take the opportunity to kiss him. I watch as he carries Scott back to his crib, admiring Mark’s body. I find myself staring at his butt as he bends over to place Scott down. It's been a while since we made love, & I long for it.
Mark slips back into bed & I busy myself with lowering my pillows so I can sleep again. We lie down, Mark shifting so his front is almost moulded to my back & drapes his arm over me, his hand resting on mine like it always does.
“I want us to make love,” I whisper.
“Now?” He whispers, surprised.
I shift so I can look at him. “Do you want to? You don't have the early shift, so… We can.”
He swallows. “I want to,” he whispers. “But… What about…?” He tilts his head towards our babies.
I smirk. “You’ll just have to make sure you don't make me scream.”
“Oh, that's going to be hard,” he replies, closing the gap between us.
He rolls on top of me as we kiss, & I spread my legs as I wrap my arms around his neck. We strip off & he pushes inside me, both of us sighing contentedly. We kiss as he thrusts slowly, to keep the noise down.
“Oi!” Mark says as Tyler snatches his freshly buttered toast.
“Sorry, bro,” Tyler says before taking a bite. “I gotta fly. I’m late to see Pipes.”
Tyler heads for the door & Mark sighs as Tyler exits. Felicity laughs & I turn back to her. She's sitting on Jay’s lap & he's feeding her. I smile. This is the kind of family that I want. This is enough for me. At least, for now.
“So what are your plans for today?” Mark asks as he makes more food for himself.
“Working,” I reply. “I have a meeting with a client, & then I’m heading to the Waterhole to run through things with Sheila.”
“Well, I’ve got the morning off,” Mark replies. “If you want, I can look after Felicity & take her to childcare for the afternoon?” He looks at Jay. “I mean, if you're busy too.”
“Yeah, they want me back at the venue,” Jay replies. “To play the lunch crowd. Part two of the trial.”
Mark nods. “That's really good, mate.”
Jay nods. “Yeah.”
“I’ll take you up on that,” I tell Mark. “It will be good for her to have some time away from childcare during the day.”
“Yeah,” he replies with a smile. “Plus, who wouldn't want some one on one time with Uncle Markie.”
He pulls a face at Felicity, who laughs.
I’m sitting outside Harold’s, reading the newspaper & enjoying a coffee when I spot her. Erin. Beautiful Erin. Jogging towards the lake, her blonde hair tied up in a ponytail. She doesn't look like her brothers. Maybe she’s adopted… Which means technically we could date without it being weird since we’re practically family thanks to Paige.
I wonder what it would be like to kiss her, to press my body against hers, to hold her… And suddenly she's making her way into the complex, stretching as she goes. She looks gorgeous, her figure exposed by the workout gear she has on- especially the sports bra style crop top she's wearing. How I wish I could hold her hips, make her moan as we make love… Oh, how I would kiss every inch of her!
Annnnd now she’s looking at you from several meters away.
I swallow the lump in my throat as I quickly turn my focus onto the newspaper, hoping to avoid her eyes for long enough that she doesn't suspect I was staring.
“You know, the key to perving is to not get caught,” She says.
I look up, finding her standing on the other side of my table. She's holding onto the back of the chair, her right hand on her hip. And I suppress the urge to stand up & kiss her right now.
“Sorry?” I reply. “I don't know what you're talking about.”
She rolls her eyes. “I saw you,” She replies. “You were staring at me.”
“How do you know I wasn't staring into space?”
“Because,” She says, sitting down. “You looked like every man caught perving. That deer in the headlights look, panics & then averts his eyes quickly like it's gonna hide the fact that he was staring but it is way too late.”
I put the paper down, resting my arms on the table & lean closer. “Would it be such a bad thing if I was checking you out?”
She tilts her head slightly, eyes narrowing as she thinks. “It's a little weird.”
“We’re family,” She replies. “Remember I’m Mark’s sister. Which makes me your sister-in-law.”
“Technically half sister-in-law,” I reply. “Paige is only my half-sister.”
“I’m not ashamed of admiring such a beautiful woman,” I reply. “Even if she’s distantly related to me.”
For a few seconds she looks flustered, & not from her run. I smirk.
“Do you try to get in the pants of everyone you're ‘kinda’ related to?”
I smirk. “Just the stunningly beautiful ones.”
“And where does Lauren land in that scaling?”
She smirks. “You didn't think I would know so quickly,” She replies, leaning back & crosses her arms. “You see, yesterday you mentioned to Paige about something that happened the last time you were here that would make you unwelcome here. And so I asked Sheila. I'm sure you know she's a really big gossiper. Well, she was delighted to fill me in. So I know that you kissed Lauren. That you wanted to sleep with her. Maybe it was to get back at Brad, but either way it was so massively wrong of you. And that's my rather long-winded way of telling you that you can flirt all you want with me, but you're not getting anything in return.”
“That's a bit harsh,” I reply. “Judging me on a mistake I made months ago.”
“I should probably also tell you I’m in a relationship.”
I shrug. “Not gonna stop me.”
She stands up &, instead of walking off like I expect, she steps round to beside me.
“Keep having those little fantasies where you picture yourself touching me,” She replies. “Wouldn’t be surprised if you have hot fantasies where we do it. But keep having them, by all means, don’t stop.” She then bends over, putting herself very close to me. Close enough to kiss. My eyes drift down, looking at her cleavage that is on full display. “Cause this is the closest you'll ever get to it.”
And with that, she walks off into Harold’s. I sigh, trying to relax.
“I thought you were going to see Sheila,” Paige says as I walk in after my run.
“I pushed it back a few hours,” I reply. “My other meeting went so well, I’m in a good mood. And handling Sheila can kill a good mood in… Ohhh thirty seconds.”
“Mmm,” she replies. “She has that knack. Just like she's able to gossip in lighting speed.”
“Yeah, that has its benefits sometimes.”
She nods. “Anyway… Have you talked to Jay again about having children?”
I raise my eyebrow. “Wow. Direct, much?”
“Hey, I’m just saying I know what it's like to throw a relationship under a bus over talking about babies,” She replies. “I want you to be okay.”
I sigh as I flop on the couch. “We did talk about it late last night, after he got home from his trial at the new venue.”
“That's good!” She says. “Right?”
I shrug. “I hadn't even considered it until he asked me about it,” I reply. “I told him that I want to wait. That it doesn't feel right to have one right now, which he’s fine with, cause he wasn't trying to pressure me into it. But…” I sigh. “The more I think about it, the more I wonder if I’ll ever be ready to have another kid. What if I’m happy with just Felicity?”
“If you're really that unsure, stop stressing,” She replies. “You need to forget about it. Cause you’ll talk yourself into doing something you’ll regret later on, & you’ll end up paying the cost. Jay says he’ll willing to wait. That's really good. Trust that. Listen to him.”
“He wants to have a family,” I reply. “I’ll just hold him back.”
“Uh, have you seen him with Felicity? The guy’s a fricking natural! Having her will help him. He’ll get in the practice, & it will do until you two have one of your own. He loves her like she’s his own,” She replies. She shifts closer. “You know, I once felt like you. I mean, I didn't have a kid already, but… I faced that burning question- settle down & have kids. I didn't think I was ready to start a family. Mark said he was willing to wait, but I ignored it & it eventually added to us breaking up. And now… Look at us. We're married & have two gorgeous babies.”
“What's your point? That I should break up with him?”
“That you should listen to him when he says he's willing to wait,” She replies. “A guy who’s willing to lay down that much devotion is worth keeping around.”
I’ve decided to walk to The Waterhole to take advantage of the beautiful day. It's winter still, but the weather is surprisingly warmish. On my way there, I come across a heavily pregnant woman who looks lost- she keeps walking off in one direction, but stops, hesitates & walks back.
“Hey, excuse me,” I say to her. “Sorry to intrude, but… Are you okay?”
“Hey, uh… Yeah, I’m… This is embarrassing to admit, but… I’m a bit lost.”
“Okay. Maybe I can help. Were you trying to get somewhere?”
She nods. “Yeah,” She says. “I'm trying to find a local pub. I was told by the staff at the motel I’m staying at that it wasn't too far away, so I decided to walk. But… As you can tell, I got myself lost. And I’m not local, which is obvious from the fact that I’m staying at a motel & got myself turned around.”
I smile. “Don't worry, it happens to the best of us,” I reply. “What's the name of the pub?”
“Ummm…” She says, putting her hand on her forehead. “It’s the billabong?? No, that's not right…”
“Yes! Yes! That's it!”
“Well, you're in luck,” I reply. “I’m actually on my way there now. If you want, you can walk with me.”
“Oh, that would be really good!” She replies. “Thank you so much!”
“You're welcome,” I reply, smiling. “It's this way.”
We walk off side by side.
"I'm Erin, by the way."
“Nice to meet you, Erin,” She says. “I’m Rachael.”
“It's lovely to meet you, Rachael,” I reply. “So what brings you to the area?”
“Oh, well, I’m going to meet my husband at The Waterhole,” She replies. “I would call him, but he doesn't know I’m here & I’m ashamed to call him for help.”
“See, we live in Sydney,” She replies. “And he's down here for work. So I thought it would nice if I popped down & surprised him.”
“Awww that sounds really lovely.”
She smiles. “I hope so,” She replies. “And what… Why are you going there?”
“I actually work at the pub.”
“Oh? A barmaid?”
“Actually, I’m the PR Manager,” I reply. “The pub is owned by the Lassiters hotel, which is next door. My brother & I have a PR business, & the hotel is one of our clients. And the pub falls under our folio.”
“Wow. That's impressive.”
“Here we go,” I say as Rachael & I turn the corner & the complex comes into view.
“Oh, I cannot thank you enough for your help!”
I smile as we continue walking. “You're more than welcome. Happy to help out a stranger.”
“Well, you are a true angel!”
I smile. We walk in silence for a bit.
“This place is so beautiful,” She says, as we walk outside Harold’s. “Maybe we should move down here permanently once the baby is born…”
“It's a great place to raise a family.”
“I can get that feeling,” She says as we stop outside the pub. “Well, thank you again for your help. I really do appreciate it.”
“Erin!” Sheila says, trotting over from one of the outside tables.
“I’ll leave you to it,” Rachael says. “Bye.”
Rachael passes Sheila on her way to the door. Sheila looks at Rachael.
“Who's that?” Sheila asks. “Got a new friend?”
“No, she was lost & so I offered to walk her here since we were both coming here.”
“Well, I came over to tell you that your handsome man is inside,” Sheila says. “I thought you might want to go say hello to him before we get stuck into it. He’s looking pretty lonely in there.”
I smile. “Thanks.”
She smiles before heading off to another table. I cross to the front door & I pull it open. I scan the room as I step in. I smile as I see him across the room, but as I’m about to head to him, still hidden out of his sight by one of the partitions, I notice that he's not alone. I stop mid-step when I realise that Rachael is with him. They're hugging. But that's not what cuts me deep.
I watch in shock as they kiss.
Not just a simple, friendly kiss on the cheek. A full on lip lock.
Devastated & unable to breathe, I turn around on one heel & walk back outside. I falter a few steps outside, feeling the world spin. I close my eyes, trying to steady everything.
“Erin?” Sheila asks.
I open my eyes, feeling them stinging with tears. I can’t face her right now. I walk off, moving as fast as I can as I struggle not to cry.
How could he do this to me????