We are taking book requests on our companion website. You can request books here. Make sure, you are following the rules.

Caught Up: Chapter 40


With Max already buckled in the back seat and my truck engine on, Isaiah finally pulls up to my house.

“He’s alive,” my brother observes as he hops into the passenger seat of my truck.


Isaiah chuckles. “Well, it looks like you showered, so that’s a good start.”

My brother turns around to say hi to my son while I pull out of the driveway and start the short drive to Ryan’s house.

“How big is this wedding?” he asks.

“It’s small. Fifty people, I think Ryan said.”

“Too bad Miller couldn’t make it.”

If my truck reacted the same way my body does at hearing her name, we’d be parked, frozen in the middle of this street.

“I don’t want to talk about her.” My tone snaps.

I don’t want to think about her. I don’t want to miss her. That’s all I’ve been able to do for the past thirteen days.

Out of my periphery, Isaiah’s usual confidence falters. He’s a sensitive soul and I know that better than anyone.

“Sorry,” I exhale. “I didn’t mean to snap at you. I’m just exhausted and I really fucking miss her.”

“She misses you too, Kai.”

My attention jerks to him before refocusing on the drive ahead of me. “Are you assuming, or do you know that as fact?”

My brother hesitates. “Fact.”

“Have you talked to her?” Because what the fuck? I haven’t even spoken to the woman I’m helplessly in love with.

He throws his hands up in admission. “Yes, okay? I’ve talked to her every day since she left, but I wasn’t doing it to go behind your back. Before she left, she asked me to keep her updated on Max. So that’s what I’ve been doing.”

She wanted to be kept up to date on my son? Of course, she did. My girl loves my boy.

“Don’t be mad at me,” Isaiah continues.

I shake my head, trying to come to terms that my best friend has spoken to the woman I’ve spent every one of the last thirteen days torturing myself over not hearing from, not speaking to. “I’m not. I’m glad you’re doing that. She deserves to know how he’s doing.”

“She tries not to, but a couple of times she’s slipped up and asked about you.”

“And what do you say?”

“That you’re thriving. That you’re killing it. That you’re not wallowing in self-pity and don’t have a real questionable eating and sleeping routine at the moment.”

I shoot him with a deadpan glare.

“I tell her that you’re missing her too,” he admits. “Don’t shoot the messenger.”

“Nah, it’s fine. She should know I miss her.”

She should know I don’t know how to do anything but miss her.

Isaiah hesitates, but I can tell from the lingering tension in the car, there’s more he wants to say.

“What is it?” I prompt.

“Everyone is worried about you, Kai. The team, your friends.”

“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry about me. That’s not your responsibility.”

He chuckles without humor. “So that’s your responsibility too? You’ll take care of it like you always do? How about you stop being such a fucking martyr and ask for help, huh?”

His voice raises with frustration, and my wide eyes swing to him once again, only this time in surprise.

“Whoa. What’s up with you, man?”

“I’m frustrated. With you, and with myself for not seeing it sooner. You spent all of your teen years working odd jobs to feed me and never asked me to get my own job to help. You figured out how to get me through high school and into college without a penny to our names by sticking close to home so I could live with you. Then when life throws you new responsibilities”—he gestures to my smiling son in the back seat—“whom yes, we love and are so thankful for, you still can’t ask me for my help.”

“I just . . .” I shake my head. “I didn’t want you to be burdened with any of that. I just wanted my little brother to be happy.”

“And what about you? Why can’t you be happy? Why haven’t you asked me to help out with Max this off-season so you could go spend time with Miller?”

“Because . . .”

Well, I’m not exactly sure why I haven’t.

“God, you’re both so fucking annoying with this constant guilty need to do everything for others.”

“What are you talking about?” Miller’s guilt regarding her adoption isn’t common knowledge, and I sure as hell haven’t shared the information.

“You and Miller, you both do things out of guilt and it’s annoying. You, because you didn’t want me to feel the effects of Mom dying and Dad leaving. And Miller because she’s trying to do all these big things to make up for Monty not being able to.”

“She told you that? About their relationship?”

“No, this guy on Atlanta’s staff was going in on her at Family Day a couple of weeks ago. It was weird, like he was mad all these years later because Monty quit and he kind of blamed it on her. I swear, Kai, there was a part of her that was hesitating about leaving the next day. I saw it, but I think that conversation solidified her decision to go back to work.”

And just like that, a pathetic amount of hope blooms.

Hope that’s irresponsible because it doesn’t change anything about our situation. Miller is gone and I’m here.

“And also,” he continues. “I’m kind of grouchy because I haven’t gotten laid in almost two months. I totally get why you used to be such a grumpy dick. Becoming a changed man fucking sucks.”

I huff a laugh, the tension drifting away until my eyes fall to the back seat where Max is.

“You’d really help me out with him during the off-season so I could figure out a time to go see Miller?”

He scoffs with a smile. “Of course, Kai. I’d do anything for you. You’re my brother.”

“Let’s just . . .” I shake my head, more hope than I’ve felt in two weeks flowing through me. “Let’s just get through this season and we can figure out the rest after.”


I sneak a peek in his direction. “Love you, Isaiah.”

“Yeah, yeah.” He chuckles. “Love you too.”


There’s not much room to park at Ryan and Indy’s house. Even though the guest list is small, it’s still much bigger than their driveway allows, so I leave the truck a couple of blocks away and the three of us make the walk to their house.

There are caterers and coordinators buzzing around. Though this ceremony is going to be intimate, it’s clear that no expense was spared.

We make our way to the backyard, where a flower arch acts as the centerpiece for the ceremony. White chairs flank either side, leaving a center aisle that’s also entirely covered in pink and purple flower petals.

The backyard screams Indy, all bright, feminine colors.

There doesn’t seem to be set sides, so we pick a spot three rows back and wait for the ceremony to begin. Max sits on my lap in his little dress shirt and bow tie, smiling and waving at the handful of people who come up to say hi to him.

I recognize most of the people here. Some of Ryan’s teammates I’ve met at gatherings at his house. One of Zanders’ teammates and his wife who have been there too. Both Ryan and Indy’s parents who I’ve come to know.

Lastly, there’s a man standing to the right side of the flower arch, but not at the center where you’d expect the officiant to be.

The music begins and Ryan is the first one out, finding his way to the center of the arch. Contrasted by the lavender and pastel pinks behind him, Ryan wears all black. Black shoes, black suit. Black tie.

It couldn’t be more fitting for him.

The crowd cheers when Ryan takes his place, and he offers a small fist pump in response, setting the tone for the casualness of their day.

Zanders and Ethan, one of Ryan’s teammates, take their place up front standing behind him.

From my lap, my son waves at them and they each offer excited waves back.

Then the music shifts and all our attention slides to the back door of the house and, when it opens Rio, wearing a lavender suit, white shirt, and a lavender tie, struts out as if this day is for him, and him alone.

The crowd erupts as he slowly makes his way down the aisle.

My attention drifts back to Ryan at the front who is simply standing there, shaking his head with a not-so-suppressed smile on his lips.

Rio continues hyping up the crowd and when he gets to the front, he wraps his arms around Ryan. Knowing how much he loves the dude, I’m fairly certain he’s losing his shit at the knowledge that he’s in Ryan Shay’s wedding.

Next is Stevie, hand under her baby bump as she smiles that sweet Stevie smile, making her way down the aisle. The groom peeks a look over his shoulder at Zanders, who is watching Ryan’s sister as if she were his entire world.

When she gets to the front, she hugs her twin brother for a long while before taking her spot directly under the flower arch, but slightly back from where Ryan and Indy will be standing.

The music shifts and we all stand when Indy, wearing her white dress, appears with her dad at her side.

“Wow,” I whisper to Max. “Indy looks like a princess, huh?”

From my arms, Max claps excitedly for her entrance.

She’s beautiful. Stunningly happy smile on her face contrasted to her future husband standing up front and crying like a little bitch. Granted he’s laughing at himself for being emotional and even Indy is giving him shit from down the aisle because Ryan used to be the least emotional man I knew.

Now, he’s a blubbering fucking mess over how happy he is.

She stares only at him the whole walk down and when she and her dad meet Ryan at the front, they don’t speak with their voices. Instead, Ryan signs something, Indy’s dad signs back, the three of them laugh before her dad hugs his future son-in-law, leaves his daughter with him, and takes a seat.

The man that was standing off to the side steps up, using his hands to interpret everything Stevie has to say while she officiates. Ryan and Indy speak with both their voices and their hands the entire time as well.

I couldn’t be happier for them. I can’t think of two better people, but there’s this selfish part of me that aches from watching them say their vows and walk back as husband and wife.

As beautiful as it is, this could be used as a form of torture. Going through a heartbreak? Watch your happy friends commit their lives to each other.

Isaiah pats me on the back after it’s all done. “What do you say we go grab a drink?”

“Yes, please.”


Max was a trooper during the reception, taking a quick nap on me during the toasts. Zanders’ best man speech got everyone laughing, and Stevie’s maid of honor speech was sweet and sentimental. The newly married couple had their first dance before the rest of the wedding guests joined.

The sun has set, the string lights over the dance floor giving enough light to see, but dim enough that it’s moody and romantic. Drinks are flowing; the food was delicious.

My brother has taken it upon himself to dance with every single woman here, well aware from the bouquet toss that the only single women here are elderly widows. Regardless, Isaiah makes their nights, spinning them around the dance floor.

“Hey, Max!” Ryan ruffles his hair before clapping me on the back. “Hey, man.”

“There he is.” I clink my glass of champagne with his. “Congrats, Ry. This is amazing, and Indy looks . . .”

“Breathtaking.” His wistful gaze is locked on the dance floor, watching his new wife dance with his sister.

“You two deserve each other.”

I can feel Ryan watching me, eager to say something about Miller, I’m sure, but I deflect before he gets the chance to.

“Zee,” I call out, waving him over.

Where Ryan will ask me personal questions, wondering how I’m doing, and thinking of ways he can help, Zanders brings humor to our friendship. And right now, I need him giving me shit far more than I need Ryan asking how heartbroken I am.

Zanders knocks his fist with mine. “I promise I won’t bring up how terrible you’ve pitched for your last three starts. And I for sure won’t remind you that you got pulled in the third inning last week.”

I turn to Ryan. “Why is he here again?”

“Married into the family, I guess.”

“You guys had your appointment this week, right?” I ask Zee.

Zanders’ face lights up, a cheeky smile on his lips. Ryan’s proud grin makes its timely appearance as well.

“It’s a girl,” Zanders declares. “And I’m stoked. Did you hear that, Max? I’m finally getting you a new friend.”

Max giggles in my grasp.

“You’re gonna be a girl dad, huh? Congratulations, man, that’s awesome.” I swing an arm over him in a hug.

“Did you know they make little hockey skates with tiny hearts on them? I’m going to get her those.”

Ryan shoots him a knowing look.

“Okay.” Zanders holds his hands up. “Maybe I’ve already gotten them. And maybe I’ve already stocked her closet with designer onesies. Sue me.”

Ryan and I chuckle.

“Do you have a name? I know you had convinced yourself you were having a boy.”

“The name has been picked since we found out we were going to be parents. Boy or girl, this was always their name.” Zanders swings an arm over Ryan’s shoulders. “Just had to run it by this guy first. Which we did at his rehearsal dinner last night where Mr. Unemotional started crying over it.”

“Yeah, yeah. Fuck off.”

“Her name is Taylor,” Zanders explains to me. “After Ryan Taylor Shay.”

Ryan’s blue-green eyes take on a glossy sheen, but he bites it back. This day has been a lot for him, especially when less than a year ago the guy was a complete recluse, not letting anyone too close.

“Max and Kai!” Indy exclaims, joining our conversation. “I’m so glad you two are here!”

“You look beautiful, Indy. Tonight has been amazing.”

Indy eyes me for a moment, and I can see the questions on the tip of her tongue.

How are you?

How’s your heart?

Are you going to curl up on the dance floor in the fetal position and sob in front of everyone because the girl you’re in love with is off doing bigger and better things with her life than anything you could ever offer her?

Okay, the last one was a bit specific.

Stevie slides in under Zanders’ arm. “My feet are hurting, so if you want to get one more dance in with your baby mama, you better make it now.”

Without a word, the two of them take off towards the dance floor.

“How about you, wife?” Ryan asks. “Can I take you for a spin?”

She smiles at her new title. “Please.”

Indy looks back at me cautiously, as if she doesn’t want to leave me and my son on the outskirts of the dance floor, sad and alone.

“I’ll um . . .” I look around, trying to find something that can keep me occupied. My attention lands on the portable bathroom. “I’m going to go use the restroom.”

I couldn’t have picked the bar? Or the dessert table? I don’t even have to piss.

“Let us take Max for a dance then.” She takes my son before nodding towards their back door. “And don’t use the portable one. Go use the one in the house.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, Kai. You’re family. Our home is your home.” She gives my forearm a squeeze before she takes off with Ryan and Max to dance.

With my friends all occupied on the dance floor, I slip my hands into my pockets, head hanging low as I walk into the house to pretend to use the bathroom. As soon as I shut the back door, the music drowns and silence creeps in again.

Things feel like they did before summer began—me, alone, with my friends happy and in love. Only now, I know what it feels like to have what they have.

I feel equal parts jealous as I do grateful.

Jealous that I don’t have it anymore, that I don’t have her by my side to celebrate the good moments with. And grateful that I had the chance to love Miller, to be loved by her even though I never let her say it.

That’s the part that’s getting me through the dark days, the undeniable gratitude that I had her. Our time together was short, but it was everything.

I linger into the living room, wasting time, and trying to figure out just how long I should be inside. I pace, attempting to keep my mind occupied, when I spot a magazine on the side table by the couch.

And right there, the girl who has haunted my every waking moment is plastered on the cover.

It’s her Food & Wine edition, but that makes no sense. It doesn’t go to print until next week.

I’m eager to touch it, eager to know what the fuck this is doing in my friends’ house. Eventually, I find the strength to pull my shaking hand from my pocket, taking a seat on the couch, and bringing the magazine into clearer view.

Miller looks stunning. Unhappy as fuck, but beautiful nonetheless. She’s standing in her crisp chef’s coat, arms crossed over her chest, hair slicked back, no septum ring in sight. My kitchen is blurred in the background and my stomach sinks at the memories.

Her and my son making a mess, having so much fun baking together.

The team coming over to try her creations.

Us, sliding our bodies together because we finally had to touch each other.

Leaning my elbows on my knees, I stare at the magazine in my hand.

God, she’s impressive. I’m so fucking proud of the girl. As much as I’ve been hurting since she left, the pride I feel hasn’t diminished.

After taking in every inch of the image, my attention finally slides over to the headlines.

Zero-Waste Cuisine Takes Hold.

Six Tips on Poaching the Perfect Egg. I should send those to my brother.

And finally . . .

James Beard’s Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year Talks Family, Food, and Changing Things Up.

Without wasting more time, I flip through the pages, looking for the article. I land on it halfway through the magazine.


The Best Things in Life Are Sweet

By Gabby Sanchez


I first met Chef Miller Montgomery in the dimly lit dining room of up-and-coming restaurant, Luna’s (Los Angeles—Chef Maven Crown). We filled the potentially awkward opening minutes with small talk, both of us easing into the hard-hitting questions, but before I could get to them, Montgomery stopped me, fleeing to the kitchen to pull a baking sheet from the oven.

Returning, Montgomery proceeded to place a freshly baked chocolate chip cookie on the table between us before casually asking, “Should we get started?”

Here I was, sitting across from James Beard’s newest Outstanding Pastry Chef of the Year, with an entry-level baked good offered to me on a small dessert plate.

There wasn’t much that made sense to me that afternoon. Our interview took place in another chef’s restaurant. Montgomery was casual and used words that an at-home baker could understand, distinctly unlike any James Beard recipient I had interviewed before. There was an approachability about the young chef, a relatability that so many long-time professionals lack, but every juxtaposition, every contradiction, disappeared when that chocolate chip cookie hit my tongue.

There are an immeasurable number of good cookies out there, but it’s difficult to make the simple great. Montgomery not only made a simply great chocolate chip cookie, but simultaneously readjusted my scale on which all future desserts will be judged.

I’ll admit, though this article was always going to be written in a positive light, when I walked into Luna’s that early September afternoon, I was skeptical of the reputation Montgomery had earned. I was positive her name, pastries, and menu magic were that of another overhyped but ultimately underwhelming chef. But I’m proud to admit that when I left, I did so as a new fan, willing to travel anywhere the star chef is working.

Taking a moment, I quickly look around the living room to see if anyone knows what the hell is going on. But no one is here with me. With my head back in the pages, I continue to read about Miller’s work history, the internships she did overseas and in the States, the big-time names she’s worked for, but it’s the third page that has my heart beating far faster than what’s most likely safe.

But the most shocking revelation from our time together is when Montgomery admitted with a beaming smile that after earning the top honor in the industry, she’s leaving it all behind. 

I reread that sentence three more times to make sure I got it correctly. What the hell is going on? My knees are bouncing so rapidly from the adrenaline coursing through me that I have to pull my elbows off them so I can continue reading. 

I was thankful I had my recorder on because my journalist hand had frozen mid-pen stroke. 

“It’s not my passion anymore,” Montgomery admitted. “I took a summer hiatus from the restaurant industry and fell in love with a different kind of life. Baking is all about passion. If you don’t feel it, your food reflects those sentiments. One of those art imitating life situations.” 

“And you’ve found a new passion then?” I asked.

“A new dream as I like to call it.” She wore a meaningful grin at the statement. “One with balance, friendship, and a whole lot of love.” 

I close the magazine for a moment. There’s no way this is real. This has to be some kind of sick joke the guys are playing on me. Like they typed this up and left it in here for me to find, except . . . the pictures. The fucking pictures. From the first page to the last you can see the transformation in Miller, starting with the photos from that morning at my house and evolving into pictures I assume were shot at Luna’s. 

I reopen to see Miller’s hair gradually falling to her shoulders as you move through the article. Eventually, she removes her chef’s coat around the time she reveals she’s leaving the industry. Her tattoos and beautifully bright smile are on full display by the time I flip to the final page.

“Can we expect to find you consulting at kitchens in the Chicago area?” 

“No,” Montgomery said with a hearty laugh. “There’s only one kitchen I plan on spending my time in and that’s the one featured on the cover of this magazine.” 

Chef Montgomery has never owned her own restaurant or patisserie, so when asked if she had plans to change that, she simply said, “Yes.”

“I feel it’s time to put my own name on my work,” Montgomery clarified. “I don’t know yet what that will look like, but the biggest thing I’ve learned through my years of consulting is that it wasn’t the type of food that had me excited to wake up. It was the teaching, the sharing of a craft I love so much. I’m excited to find ways to continue doing that in a capacity that’s more suitable to my new life.”

“And what about this new life has you so excited?” 

“I’m looking forward to living in one spot. Having a place to call home. Having my dad close by and being a part of a community that supports me, who I support in return. Hearing the constant encouragement from the man I love, and I’m equally excited to cheer him on in his endeavors. But the part I’m most looking forward to is having the opportunity to bake every future birthday cake for the little boy who stole my heart this summer.” 

“How does it feel to know you’re settling down?” I asked.

“I don’t like the term ‘settling down.’ I didn’t settle for anything. I simply stopped running when the two best boys I know caught me.” 

We continued the afternoon by swapping stories, her sharing that she was nervous for the new role she was stepping into but felt as if she had all the support from the people who mattered most. She revealed that she had three alternate desserts lined up to be featured in this article, but with her big announcement, she wanted to go back to the basics. She wanted to showcase recipes that the everyday baker could execute. 

“My favorite part of baking is feeding the people I love,” Montgomery said. “I hope these recipes will help others do just that.”

We drank chai tea lattes as we spoke about life, family, and food, and it was the first time I could recall an interview of mine that derailed so wonderfully. 

I left our time together with a reminder so many of us in the industry need at times—there’s life outside of the kitchen . . . and it’s beautiful. 

I inhale a sharp breath, attempting to swallow down the lump in my throat as I move my attention to the recipes she worked so hard on this summer. Only now, they’re simplified and meaningful. 

Banana (Nana) Bread—the one that got me back in my groove.

M&M Cookies—named after my favorite people. 

And finally, the one that makes my eyes burn.

Mae’s Tiramisu—for the woman I never got to meet but who raised two amazing men. I hope I follow in your steps by being a fantastic boy-mom. 

Closing the magazine, I shut my eyes because the tears are about to free-fall. Dropping my head back on the couch, I try to steady my erratic breathing. 

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but the way I’ve taken it, Miller is coming back.

She’s coming home.

I exhale a disbelieving laugh at the realization, a stupidly giddy smile living on my lips, because for the first time in thirteen days my world feels right.

“Not too concerned about those wrinkles, I see. Smiling like that.” It’s that raspy tone I love so much. The one that I haven’t heard in far too long.

My lips only curve more as I keep my eyes closed, basking in the knowledge that she’s back. 

She’s fucking back. 

“You should probably hook me up with some of that skin care, Miller, because I have a feeling this smile isn’t going anywhere.” 

She laughs that deep throaty sound and it’s then that I finally open my eyes for the confirmation.

There she is.

Miller is leaning on the partition that separates the living room from the dining room, wearing a forest green dress that makes her eyes infinitely more vibrant. Hair down, tattoos on full display with this strapless number hugging every inch of her body. She looks so fucking good.

And she looks so fucking mine

I adjust my glasses to confirm I’m seeing this correctly, that I’m not hallucinating after living in my own personal hell for the past two weeks.

But she’s here all right, because it wouldn’t be a Miller Montgomery entrance without her double fisting. 

With champagne this time, but still. 

“Double fisting again, Montgomery? A little late in the day for your drinking habits, don’t you think?”

Her knowing smile grows. “I’m celebrating.” 

“Oh, yeah? And what are you celebrating?” 

She holds both flutes up. “I quit my job.” 

Just like the first day I laid eyes on her.

Cautiously, I rise from the couch, not quite believing that she’s really standing in front of me or that she might be back for good.

I don’t make it far, needing to take a seat on the arm of the couch because if I get any closer to her, I won’t be able to stop myself from kissing her, and I need the confirmation that she’s here to stay. 

“What are you doing here, Mills?” There’s so much hope in my tone, but I need to hear it from her. 

She sets the champagne glasses down on a nearby table, nervous hands fiddling. Miller is not a nervous woman, but sentimental moments are out of her comfort zone. 

She steps between my open legs, and I hold her hands in mine, taking away that nervous tick. But now my hands are shaking because I’m finally touching the woman I convinced myself I’d never get to hold again.

Miller exhales with a smile on her lips. “You said it was my choice if I wanted to live up to expectations, and I do. But now, the only expectations I’m going to worry about are the ones I set for myself. And the only expectations I have for myself are to be happy and to chase the things I want.”

“And what do you want, baby?” 

The term of endearment rolls off my tongue so easily, as if it hasn’t been almost two weeks since I last called her that. But in my mind, it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since I’ve seen or spoken to her. We could’ve gone years and I still would’ve claimed her as mine the moment she decided she wanted to be.

She holds steady eye contact, so brave and bold while being vulnerable. “I want to open my own patisserie and teach classes there a couple of times a week. I want to watch as many of your games as I can. I want to wake up with you every morning. I want to live close to my dad. I want to read stories to Max every night before bed. I want to try my hardest to be who he needs me to be. I want to be the one to bake him cupcakes for his first birthday at school and for all his birthdays after that. I want to have more babies with you because you are such an amazing dad. But most of all, I want to be happy and you two make me happy, Kai. And I hope I make you happy too.”

The words tumble out of her mouth, as if she spent her entire drive here rehearsing and needing to say them.

They’re words I’ve ached to hear. A part of me always hoped she felt them, but I’ve been dreaming of the day she might voice them out loud.

She squeezes my hands. “But what do you want?” 

Does she really have to ask? It’s the same thing I wanted two weeks ago. The same thing I wanted all summer.

“You. Just you. I want it all with you, Miller.” 

Her beaming smile is back. “Just to give you a heads-up before you really make your final decision, I’m currently homeless, jobless, and my van is way past due for an oil change.” 

Chuckling, I pull her into me. “I can work with that.”

She slants over me, but before I can kiss her, she stops with her hands on either side of my face. “And I love you.”

My eyes dart to hers. 

“I love you so much, Kai. Nothing about me leaving was because of you. I need you to know that. You’re more than enough, more than I could’ve dreamt for. I loved you before I left, and I love Max and I’ve never felt so much at once that I’m fairly certain my heart is going to give out soon. I’m only twenty-six, Malakai. It’s too soon.”

Hand bracketing her jaw, I pull her down. “Don’t worry, Mills. I’ll go long before you, due to my old age and all.” 

“That would be best,” she whispers against me, her forehead leaning on mine. “Because if I go first and you meet someone else, I promise you I’ll come back and haunt the shit out of her.”

“I’m glad to know your jealousy goes beyond the grave, baby. Now please shut up and kiss me.” 

Palm cupping her cheek, I thread my fingers through her hair and pull her lips to mine. 

It’s as if every missing part of my life is entirely reassembled in that moment. Everything I’ve wanted for my life, for my son’s life is wrapped up in this woman I love. This woman I thought I lost.

She makes the sweetest moan of relief and I part my mouth, taking her deeper before our tongues tangle, slow and measured as if we’ve both been dreaming about this moment for the past two weeks.

Miller’s lower half melts into me, right into the cradle of my hips, and I use my other hand to curve around her ass, keeping us pressed together. 

She slides her hands over my shoulders as we kiss and touch and remind each other that we’re here, in the same place, with no expiration date on our time together. 

We have forever. 

I pull away only slightly, needing to tell her something. “I love you.”

She smiles into my lips. “I love you.”

“Mmm,” I hum. “You should probably say it again.”

“I love you, Malakai, and I love your son.”

Fuck, that’s the one that does it.

Head dropping back, I look up towards the ceiling, taking a deep breath. 

She runs a palm over my scruff, regaining my attention. “When I left, I hadn’t fully come to terms that what I was chasing was no longer my dream, but as soon as I got there, I knew. I have a new dream now. You and Max are my dream.”

I can feel my chest expand, as if it needs to make room for all the love in my life. Never once did that lonely fifteen-year-old boy ever think he’d be surrounded by so much support. So much love.

Love I didn’t see before—from her, her dad, my brother, my team, and my friends. I have this huge support system backing me and my son. I have the family I had always hoped for. 

“Miller.” Wrapping my arms around her waist, I keep her close. “We were missing you before we even met.” 

She leans down to kiss me as I sit on the edge of the couch with her standing between my legs.

For a long time, I felt a bit broken from trying to be enough for everyone else. But once this woman walked into my life, she made me realize that not only am I enough for Max, but I’m also enough for myself. And now I know, without a shred of doubt, that I’m enough for Miller too.

“Quite the party out there,” she says, gesturing towards the back door. “Why aren’t you dancing?”

My eyes track every inch of her face, basking in the knowledge that I’m going to have the privilege to see it every day for the rest of my life. “Because I only want to dance with you.”

She leans back as if she were ready for us to join our friends, but I pull her into my lap, letting her know I need a few more moments with just her.

I grab the magazine off the couch.

“You featured a dessert for my mom.” 

“Do you think she would’ve liked it?”

“She would’ve loved it.” My attention bounces back to her. “And you.”

“Cute girl on the cover, don’t you think?” 

“Cute?” I scoff. “How dare you call her cute.” I flip through the pages, finding her article. “This means so much to me, Mills.”

She smiles in a way that is so sexy, so seductive, all I can think about is getting her out of here, peeling her out of that sinfully tight dress, and letting my body tell her just how much I fucking missed her. 

“And you look stunning tonight.”

“I’m sorry I’m late,” she says. “I was hoping to meet you at the house before the ceremony, but the drive took me so much longer than I expected. I hit traffic in Nebraska. Who hits traffic in Nebraska?” She toys with the hair at the back of my neck. “I did the interview on Monday, but then I had to stay in LA for the photographer to take new photos and Violet was able to slip me an early copy before I left. I wanted to surprise you with it.”

“This is the best surprise I could’ve asked for, but how much does Violet hate me?” 

She bobs her head from side to side. “She’s not stoked about losing her top-earning client, but she’s happy for me. She apparently had her suspicions all summer long.”

“And your contracts?” 

“The only one that was set in stone was with Maven and she dissolved it on the spot when I told her I wanted to leave.” 

I can’t hold back my smile. “This is really what you want?” 

I know it is, but fuck if I don’t love to hear her say it.

“This is what I want. This life together. The three of us. You keep me grounded, Kai, and I’ll keep you wild.” 

I nod before sealing it with a kiss. “Deal.”

A knock sounds at the back door of the house and we both turn to find Isaiah, Zanders, Stevie, Ryan, Indy, and Rio with their faces pressed up to the glass, watching us. 

“Jesus, fuck,” I exhale as Miller waves at them. “Did they all know?”

“Only Indy. I couldn’t show up to someone’s wedding without RSVPing.”

“Mama!” Max calls out from the other side of the glass, and when we look back, Ryan’s got him hoisted on his arm to get a good view. 

His blue eyes are wide with excitement, looking right at the woman he and I love so much. He smacks the glass as if he it’ll help him get to her.

“Max is here?” Miller asks on a gasp.

He claps in excitement. “Mama! Mama!”

Miller drops her forehead to mine, eyes closed in relief, speaking quietly. “Today was a good day.” 

There were so many times I said that this summer with the fear that they were going to all end, but now . . .

“They’re all going to be good days, Miller.” 

I hold her, this girl I’m hopelessly in love with, and I only fall further when she places a soft kiss on the corner of my mouth and whispers, “Let’s go get our boy.” 

With her hand in mine, I lead her to the back door, opening it to let her out first.

The small crowd is excited to see her, but she doesn’t hesitate to go right to my son, and just like the first day they met, Max is eager to get in her arms, throwing himself off Ryan’s body in her direction.

“Hi, baby,” Miller whispers to him, a bit emotional as her forehead falls to his. “Oh, how I missed you.” 

She slightly bounces with him, taking her time. Our friends give them space, heading back to the dance floor with a squeeze of her arm or a wave of acknowledgment in her direction. 

She smiles at them all, clearly looking forward to catching up, but right now her attention is solely on my son.

“Mama,” Max whispers, his little fingers tracing her inked arm. 

“I’m here, Bug, and I promise I’m not going anywhere.”

Standing on the back porch, I lean against a pillar and watch them, trying not to cry. But this moment is everything to me. I watch as everything falls into place, when our family becomes whole. How do I not get emotional over seeing the two people I love more than anything, find that same love in each other?

Max doesn’t have the vocabulary to express how much he missed her, how much he loves her, but you can see it in the way he looks at her, the way he melts onto her shoulder to hug her. 

She’s everything to him, in the same way she is to me.

Miller sways with him, dotting soft kisses against his hair.

“Kai! Miller!” my brother calls out from the dance floor, waving us over to join.

Miller’s sparkling eyes bounce back to mine. 

“You coming, Baseball Daddy?”

I chuckle but need a moment to gather myself, needing to let the realizations sink in. “Yeah. Give me a second, and I’ll be right there.”

She leans up to kiss my lips before the two of them bound down the stairs to join our friends on the dance floor. With couples pairing off and the space filled, Miller helps my son stand his feet on the tops of hers. Holding his hands, she starts to move, the two of them dancing together. 

Max is looking up at her as if she were his entire world. 

Those two, this life . . . I don’t know how I got so lucky that I now get to call those two mine. 

The fear that once consumed me, that Max wouldn’t have enough, that he wouldn’t feel loved unless he was with me, it’s gone. He has so much love in his life, and so do I.

Miller finds me over her shoulder, happy green eyes sparkling under the string lights. She gestures me to the dance floor, and though I love this view, I can’t keep myself from them.

I scoop Max up, holding him on my hip before sliding a hand against Miller’s lower back. Pulling her into us, she snakes one arm over my shoulder, the other over my son, pressing her cheek to my chest as we dance together.

“I love you,” I remind her once again.

She smiles up at me, so content, so at peace. “I love you.” Miller runs a soothing hand over my Max’s hair, her attention drifting to him. “And I love you.” 

With our friends surrounding us, I finally got my family.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


not work with dark mode