“Are you fucking serious?” Caleb asks, trying to mask the smirk that is plastered across his face, his laugh slipping through too.
“Yes, I’m fucking serious,” I scoff, letting out an offended huff. I know he thinks what I’ve just suggested is completely ridiculous, but it won’t stop me from forcing him to participate.
I’m scowling at him, my nose turned up and my lips are pulled into a snarl, which only seems to make him laugh even harder.
“When’s this going to end?” Caleb now asks, looking over at Reid, who also happens to be smirking like the damn Cheshire Cat. For some reason these two find it hilarious to give me shit when all I really want is for them to humor me and just give in. They eventually will, but it won’t be without balking at my suggestion, mocking me and shooting me a couple of eye rolls. All I have is Ruby to back me and I look over at her for at least a dash of sympathy and solidarity.
She smiles, her beautiful brown eyes shining back at me. She understands what I’m doing; the need to celebrate our accomplishments because getting here wasn’t a simple stroll around the block. I refuse to act like we haven’t overcome some serious shit, no matter how cheesy Reid and Caleb think it is. It’s taken us a long time to get here and I will not take any of it for granted even if they’re ready for me too.
It’s been ten months since we bought the bar, and our life has changed immensely. Caleb’s assault charges failed to materialize, and the baseless civil suit went to shit when the professor turned out to be as big of a fucking creep-o as we expected. Somehow, after everything, we finally found ourselves on the receiving end of the best life has to offer.
“Fine, I’ll go first,” I say, annoyed, but refusing to let them off the hook. “I’m thankful for all of you because I love you so much. You make my life complete and I wouldn’t want to call anyone else family.” I fold my hands on the table, looking at Reid and then Caleb, waiting for one of them to add onto my sentiment.
“Could you be any cheesier?” Caleb shoots, cackling at me as Ruby hits him with a stern look and swear I feel the table shift a little like she kicked him. “Fine. I’m grateful for you guys too.”
“Hey, you can’t steal mine. Your creativity sucks, dude,” I respond disgustedly, offended by Caleb’s lack of originality. I should’ve known he’d behave like an insolent third grader and steal someone else’s answer.
“I’ll go,” Ruby inserts, trying to keep the conversation going despite her boyfriend’s noncompliance. “I’m thankful for our new house and all the people in it. Without all of you this place would never be a home.” She nods her head with flourish, and also with a bit of a fuck you to Caleb for his unoriginal answer. Her chin is held high and she begins to tap her foot impatiently awaiting a better answer from the two boys who are left.
There’s no way either of them will come up with something that will knock us on our ass, but that doesn’t mean they’re off the hook.
“You two took all the good ones,” Reid now says with Caleb muttering his agreement under his breath.
“Maybe you should’ve gone first then. I offered, but you ass clowns got all offended because you’re guys and guys don’t talk about shit like this.”
“You put me on the spot,” Caleb defends, crossing his arms over his chest and letting out an agitated huff of disapproval.
“Caleb, it’s fucking Thanksgiving. The whole point is to celebrate what we’re thankful for. Would you rather I do it on a random Tuesday in June instead?”
I look around our house and wonder how these two can’t come up with an infinite list of things they’re thankful for. We bought this house with the money we had leftover after purchasing the bar. It’s bigger, it’s our own and it doesn’t hold any old memories, only the new ones we’ll make here together.
It’s totally weird owning my own home. It’s mine and Reid’s and Caleb’s, and yeah it’s even weirder that I own a home with my brother. Most people don’t live with their brother and their boyfriend and their best friend, but this is my normal for now. I’m sure down the road when the bar continues its success, Caleb and Ruby will move out, but until then, I’m going to enjoy having everyone I love under one roof.
Without Reid’s trust fund none of this would’ve ever happened. Not that we couldn’t have stayed in our little cottage just off campus, but something about it felt wrong, even though Caleb had overcome all the bullshit with Professor Keller. It would be forever tied to that mess and no one wants to live like that.
We moved away from campus to the quiet suburban area that houses families and couples and few students because in the end Caleb was still recognized after what happened. It happens in the bar nearly every night and despite now being the face of the person who helped bring a sexual predator down, he likes his anonymity. Moving gives him that, especially since students who drink at the pub regularly still ask him about it.
Caleb lets out another sigh, resigned to the fact that I’m not letting him off the hook. He’s now looking around too, knowing he has plenty to be grateful for.
“Fine, Sie,” he finally says on a hard exhale. “I’m thankful for Reid’s money that allowed us to buy the bar. Without it…” he stalls out, swallowing and looking away from my eyes. “Without it, I’m not sure where I’d be. Even though everything had fallen into place with the civil suit and everything, I guess I still felt like I didn’t really have a direction, that I didn’t really have something that I felt…” He stops again, struggling to find the words and I understand. Sharing out loud isn’t the kind of thing we do, or we ever did.
We were two kids who kept our thoughts and feelings bottled up. We didn’t have anyone to share them with and when you live day to day, it’s hard to ever picture anything past tomorrow. It’s even harder to picture what you’re thankful for because at times even that seems like toxic positivity.
You can’t wish your life to be better. You can’t talk with someone who tells you it will be okay, because in the end that’s all bullshit. But we’re all in therapy and every day that we wake up and everything is going along fine, we finally aren’t waiting for the other shoe to drop.
It’s been ten months, ten long fucking months of normalcy and I couldn’t ask for anything better. Other than Caleb and Reid learning to share their gratitude more often.
“That you felt worthy of?” Ruby says, almost a question as if she’s prompting him. She knows exactly what he wants to say, and she’s spent as much time as his therapist getting him to say it out loud.
“Yes, my sweet Ruby that’s exactly it,” he replies, smiling at her in a way that makes my heart sing. He’s found his future in Ruby, something I’m still in awe over.
“I’m also thankful that you fell in love with my best friend because one day when you get married she’s going to be my sister in law and now she can never get rid of me,” I say, my words coming out in an excited rush.
“Oh my god! I’m so thankful for the same thing!” Ruby squeals, scrambling from her chair to throw her arms around me.
“Well, since we’re all tossing our shit out here,” Reid says, acting as if he’s only participating out of peer pressure. I know he’s full of shit because he’s the first person to say I love you when I roll over in bed in the morning. “I’m grateful for the fact that I live with you saps and I get to tell you how much I appreciate you.”
“Sometimes you’re such a shithead,” I say, getting up from my chair and flopping down in his lap.
“Yeah, but you love me.”
“Just cut the damn turkey!” I yell, making everyone at the table laugh.
A few hours later we’re stuffed and happy and practically falling asleep, but it doesn’t matter because I’ve never loved a holiday more. Last year at this time we were battling how to handle Caleb getting assaulted and the trauma that came with it. Nothing about Thanksgiving felt hopeful, but this year, it feels like we have more hope than we could’ve ever dreamed of.
“What now?” I ask, wondering if I’m the only one who wants to continue this celebration train.
“Let’s go to the bar and have Caleb fry like two hundred cheesecake bites and eat ourselves sick,” Ruby suggests.
“I’m in!” I yell, jumping up from the couch where we’ve all been sprawled out for the last hour, letting our food digest and trying not to fall asleep at six o’clock in the evening.
“Now you two realize that if I’m constantly feeding you excessive amounts of the food I’m supposed to feed my customers, I’m never going to make any money, right?”
“Why is he always such a fucking downer?” I ask, hitting Ruby with a look of mock annoyance.
“He’s like a grown up now and it’s weird,” Ruby says, laughing as she pokes him in the side. “He’s all responsible and serious. Some might even say a little boring.” She climbs on top of him and tries to pin his arms down, but he overpowers her immediately, sitting up and wrapping his arms around her.
“Even with a belly full of turkey I can still take you down,” he teases, kissing her quickly. “And yes, I’m boring and yes, I want the bar to make money and one day when we can all live comfortably because of me, you’ll be thanking me.”
“So can we still get the cheesecake bites?” Reid now interjects, riotous laughter filling the room.
“Fine, we can get cheesecake bites, but it’s coming out of each of your profits.”
“I’m good with that,” Reid says. “That’s a problem for the me in six months. The me now wants the cheesecake bites.”
“Fine let’s go,” Caleb concedes, picking Ruby up with him when he stands.
I can’t handle how fucking cute they are.
“Baby, can you rub my belly?”
“What?” Sie asks, laughing a little as she walks out of our ensuite bathroom and toward our bed where I am lying.
“Rub my belly,” I moan.
She quirks a brow at me as she sits on the bed. “Like legit rub your belly or is that code for something else?”
I grin. “Please, Sie, you know if I wanted you to rub me there, I’d just ask you,” I tease, grabbing her hand and moving it to my cock. “But seriously, my belly is so fucking full.”
Sienna rolls her eyes, leaning down to kiss me quickly. “That’s because you ate too many cheesecake bites, piggie.”
“But they’re so fucking good,” I whine, wrapping my arms around her and pulling her down so she’s lying beside me, her head resting on my shoulder. “I couldn’t stop.”
Sienna chuckles, her hand smoothing over my chest, her fingers slowly tracing the lines of ink that spell out her name. “I noticed,” she whispers, fingers moving lower, a trail of goosebumps following their path. “Here?”
“Mmmm,” I murmur, closing my eyes as she flattens her hand against my stomach. I turn my head slightly, resting my lips against her forehead. “Today was fun.”
Sienna scoffs as she pinches my stomach.
“Ow, baby, don’t,” I moan.
She lets out a soft laugh. “This coming from the guy who was bitching about the whole being thankful thing. Honestly you and Caleb are hopeless.”
I shuffle a little so I’m looking at Sie as I brush the hair back from her face. “I wasn’t bitching.”
“Oh really,” she replies sarcastically.
“No,” I scoff. “I just didn’t exactly want to publicly announce what I’m really thankful for, that’s all.”
“What?” Sie asks confused, pulling back a little. “What do you mean?”
I grin, leaning in for a quick kiss. “Because, what I’m really grateful for, baby, is that road trip we took. For that pit stop in Chicago and for you busting in on me in the shower. I’m grateful for all the things you let me do to you that day and all the days and nights that have followed.” I pause, watching as her cheeks flush a little. “I’m grateful for you, Sienna. So fucking grateful.”
She smiles up at me now, her hand on my cheek as she leans in and brushes her lips against mine. “You are such a softie,” she whispers, before kissing me.
I grin against her mouth. “Yeah, but you love me.”
I roll us over so she’s lying beneath me. “And I love you, Sie. So much.”
She groans as my body covers hers now, her skin bare and still warm from the shower. “I thought you were full,” she whispers, even as she widens her legs to accommodate me.
I lift my head, smiling down at her as my fingers brush against her cheek. “I’m never too full for this,” I tell her.
“You know they’re waiting for us,” she replies, tipping her head in the direction of the door.
“Let them wait,” I whisper, before lowering my mouth to hers and silencing any more conversation.
“Alright, what are we watching?” I shout as we walk downstairs to the living room.
“Well we were watching this,” Caleb says, gesturing to a show on the TV. “While we waited for you two.”
I smirk at him as I flop down onto the large sectional couch, pulling Sie into my lap. “Whatever. It’s your fault. I had to work those cheesecake bites off,” I tell him with a wink.
Caleb rolls his eyes. “My fault? Seriously?” he asks, punching my shoulder. “And fuck off for that extra detail too.”
I laugh, unable to resist giving him shit about the fact that I regularly get naked and dirty with his sister. Doesn’t matter how many times I remind him of it, it never gets old.
“Where’s Ruby?” I ask, glancing over the back of the couch.
“Here,” she says, walking out with four beers and handing each of us one.
“Man, I fucking love Thanksgiving,” I say, resting my feet on the coffee table. “It’s literally a whole day of eating and drinking. It’s awesome.”
Sienna pinches my side, her mouth at my ear as she whispers. “And other things.”
I chuckle, turning to give her a quick kiss. “Most definitely other things,” I tell her before turning to the others. “So, I’m officially announcing I am thankful for Thanksgiving.”
Caleb laughs, wrapping an arm around Ruby as she rests her head on his shoulder.
“Okay, what are we watching?” she asks, glancing at Sienna before turning back to Caleb.
He grins, probably because he’s about to pick something that Sie’s not going to like. It’s funny watching her get mad at us for the movie choices we make. It used to happen all the time when we were kids and it’s safe to say nothing has changed now. Well, nothing except that Ruby is usually on our side too, so Sie has no chance trying to convince us to pick something else.
“Don’t be dick,” Sie warns her brother as she holds her beer out to him.
Caleb lets out another laugh as he picks up the remote. “Guess if you hadn’t been distracted fucking my best friend, you might have had a say in what we watch, huh?” he says, shooting her a sideways glance.
I burst out laughing at his comment, knowing it’s not often that he throws the jabs back at us, but pretty funny when he does.
“Like you can talk,” Sie says, sitting up a little as she narrows her eyes at him.
Caleb grins. “Relax, Sienna, I’ve got you,” he says, as he flicks through to the movie he’s picked.
When the sounds of a car revving fill the living room, Sienna turns to the TV, her eyes wide and her mouth open in a little O shape. I grin, shaking my head because in this second, Caleb has probably made Sie’s day even more perfect.
“Seriously?” she asks, turning to him.
He chuckles. “Yes, Sienna, I’m serious. I know you love these movies.”
“Ahhhhhh,” she screams, practically bouncing up and down as the opening scenes of The Fast and the Furious start to play. “Yes! We are totally watching all of them too.”
I pull her back so she’s resting against me. “Um, you know there’s like eight of them, right, babe?”
Sienna turns to look at me, a huge grin on her face. “Nope, nine when you count Hobbs & Shaw,” she replies.
“Oh god,” I moan dramatically, rolling my eyes as I look over at Caleb.
“Shouldn’t have made us wait, should you?” he says, smiling.
I grin back at him, not even close to being annoyed about this. Honestly, I couldn’t think of a better way to spend the rest of our night than lying around on the couch, drinking beers and watching a movie franchise that makes my girl happy.
Everything about today, hell this past year, has been so fucking awesome, it sometimes feels like a dream.
Life today is so different to the life the three of us had growing up. And as shit as those days and months and years were, they all finally feel like a distant memory now.
Everything is different and just so much better. Having this house together, our bar, our family of four, it’s more than anything Sie, Caleb or I could’ve ever dreamed of growing up. Because even though we always knew we’d get away, run as far as we possibly could from the shitty hand we’d all been dealt, I don’t think any of us could’ve pictured this, where we are now.
It’s amazing and perfect and even though we had to go through a hell of a lot of shit to get here, I don’t think any of us would change a thing. Our childhood and all the struggles we endured, Caleb more than anyone, have all led us to this point.
Sienna snuggles into my side and when I look over, I can see Ruby is doing the same with Caleb. Both of them are watching the movie as it plays on the big screen. He must sense me watching him though, because he turns and meets my gaze, an easy smile on his face.
I lift my beer to him, returning the smile, grateful to have my friend back too, to know that he’s getting better and better every single day.
As Sie murmurs a line from the movie, I chuckle, turning back to the screen and taking a sip of beer.
Yeah, it’s pretty fucking hard not to be thankful for everything right now.
I look up at Caleb as I lie against him, his eyes focused on the screen and as much as I want to continue Sie’s tradition of announcing our gratitude, I know Caleb is embarrassingly uncomfortable. It’s so damn cute though. Our lives have changed so much and despite his hesitancy to scream his gratitude from the rooftops, I know he is.
The smile on my face hasn’t left in what feels like forever. With everything we’ve been through we deserve this quiet Thanksgiving so we can reflect on how grateful we truly are.
I have to admit I was totally shocked that Caleb didn’t give away our secret when Sie was prodding him to talk during dinner. We’ve been holding onto it for a week now with Caleb telling me that Thanksgiving would be the perfect time to announce it.
I still can’t believe he has kept it a secret from Reid and Sie at all. I can’t believe I have been able to keep it from Sienna. I’m pretty horrible at keeping something to myself, especially when I’m excited. Luckily my parents knew before I did, and I haven’t had to keep myself from telling them.
I squirm a little, chewing on my lip as the movie plays in front of us. It doesn’t matter that this is one of my favorites, I haven’t heard a word of it. Maybe that’s the problem. I don’t need to concentrate on it. I need something to distract me, something complicated that will force me to listen and take my mind off the secret that is making my heart race every time I think about it.
Caleb chuckles a little, his breath moving my hair as he pulls me closer.
“Settle down,” he whispers in my ear, his lips curling into a smile that I feel move against my skin.
What the hell is he waiting for? I’m starting to think he isn’t going to say something and it’s killing me.
“When?” I whisper back, my eyes instantly darting over to where Sienna and Reid are curled up on the other side of the couch.
“You have absolutely no chill. Do you know that?” Caleb jokes, shaking his head and moving again so he can pull me even closer.
Things have been so good between us, better than I could’ve ever expected out of a relationship. It never crossed my mind to not stand by Caleb after his arrest and I’m certain that unwavering support brought us closer together. I understand everything about him and he does me, which makes being apart impossible.
He’s still going to therapy once a week because trauma doesn’t just heal overnight or in a week or even in a year. There’s no deadline on when it ends, but the improvement I’ve seen is unreal.
Running the bar, regular exercise and the therapist has created a solid routine for all of us and that’s what led us to this decision. Well, honestly, it was a huge and lengthy conversation between Caleb and his therapist. I knew nothing about it until the day he approached me with it, and while I was caught off guard, I couldn’t have been happier.
“That might be true, but you enjoy torturing me,” I say, not bothering to keep my voice down now.
“What are you two muttering about over there?” Sie asks, hitting both of us a narrowed eyed stare.
“Ruby’s impatience,” Caleb says, letting out a laugh. I swear he loves fucking with me, but this playful side of him is hard not to love.
“We all know Ruby’s impatient,” Reid chimes in, rolling his eyes, mockingly. “What’s the problem now, Ruby? Don’t tell me you want something else to eat, because I don’t think I could put a grain of rice in my mouth right now.”
I move away from Caleb, slide over a little on the couch. I need some distance since he’s keeping things locked up tight.
I have no idea what he’s waiting for and I’m pretty sure that once Sienna finds out she’s going to be livid. We’ve kept this secret from her and while it wasn’t out of malice, she may not feel that way.
She finally has her brother back and her little family is complete with all of us living together in our house just off campus. None of us have any plans to move, even after we graduate. With Caleb owning the bar here in Hawthorn, we’re pretty much here for the long haul.
I’m sure things will change as we have kids and the house gets a little more crowded, but until then, we’re here together enjoying the life that Sienna, Caleb and Reid all missed out on growing up.
“It’s not food,” I reply, pursing my lips and waiting for Caleb to make his far too late announcement. I look around, folding my arms over my chest and letting out a small huff.
Sienna immediately starts laughing, her head falling forward, her blonde hair a curtain that covers her face.
“She’s using the mom sigh on you, Caleb,” she teases. She took to calling my annoyed sighs “mom sighs” because they usually come right after I have something to say, but I don’t want to say it. It’s my way of annoyingly prompting someone to say what I’m thinking.
Caleb knows exactly what I’m thinking.
“Do I need to huff again?” I point blank ask him and when he smirks at me, all perfect and happy and beautiful, I almost give in and let him hold our secret close.
He slides over so he’s now sitting right next to me. He slings an arm around my shoulders and tugs me against him.
“So I do have something else to be thankful for,” he says, his words louder than I expect.
“Oh, so now you’re ready to participate?” Sie says, pretending to be bothered. “We’re watching a movie now. Can it wait?”
She folds her arms and leans back against the couch as if she’s not interested in what Caleb has to say. Obviously she’s full of shit and there’s not a chance she’s going to want to miss this.
“Yes, you snarky pain in my ass. I should’ve shared it then, but I was…” he stops for a second, tightening his arm around me. “I was… I guess I was nervous. I still am.”
He’s rambling and I had no idea he was seriously this nervous about telling Reid and Sie. I do wonder if they’re going to think we’re crazy. We haven’t been together very long, but from the day I met Caleb, I knew I could never be without him.
“What are you nervous about?” Sie asks, taking a more comforting tone.
Caleb takes in a long deep breath and lets it out slowly. I rest a hand on his knee, letting him know I’m here and there’s nothing to worry about. He looks over at me and I nod, urging him on.
“So last week,” he stops and swallows hard and as much as the words are on the tip of my tongue, I know better than blurting them out and ruining this for him. “Last week I asked Ruby to marry me.”
He finally gets the words out and whatever he says after it is lost in the ear-piercing scream Sienna lets out.
She jumps up from the couch, squealing and stamping her feet as she jumps around like she’s just won the lottery. She practically tackles Caleb, throwing herself on top of him and hugging him with reckless abandon.
He’s still funny about all the hugging Sie is constantly doing and I can’t help but giggle at how absolutely adorable they are.
She climbs off of him, still shrieking and she pulls me from the couch, wrapping me in her arms as she shakes me up and down. She’s wailing into my ear so loudly that I’m sure she could call dolphins out of the Pacific, but as loud as she is, her excitement is contagious.
“You’re not mad at me?” I ask her loudly, shouting over her high-pitched excitement. Still feeling a little worried that when the newness wears off, she’ll realize I hid it from her for a week.
“No I’m not mad. Where is your ring?” Sienna now asks, the squeal back in her words as she pushes my question aside and she looks down at my hand.
“Hang on,” I say, as I scamper off to my room to grab the ring I’ve been dying to wear for the last week.
“You sneaky motherfucker,” Reid says with a laugh.
I turn to him, a grin on my face. “What? You jealous I got in first?” I ask, my eyes flicking over to Sie who’s impatiently waiting for Ruby to return with her ring.
Reid chuckles, rolling his eyes a little. “Nope, not at all. I’m happy for you, man.”
“Yeah,” he replies with a nod. “This is good for you.”
I glance over at Ruby, who has now returned from our bedroom and is showing Sie the ring I gave her last week. My sister is giddy with excitement, the two of them dancing around as they stare at Ruby’s hand.
“Yeah,” I say, watching them. “She’s good for me.”
She’s actually more than good for me. She’s everything to me.
And even though I know we are young and we haven’t known each other that long and I’m still a bit of a mess, this wasn’t a hard decision for me. Asking her wasn’t something I even had to think twice about. My only worry came from what Ruby would think. Whether she’d think it was too soon or too much.
But she hadn’t. Saying yes before I’d even finished asking the question as she threw her arms around my neck and kissed me hard. It had been hands down the best moment of my life and such a long way from where I was this time last year.
“She’s more than good for you,” Reid says. “And it’s good to see you happy, seriously.”
I let out a laugh, knowing I feel happier and more at peace now than I ever have. “I know, why do you think I’m hanging on to her,” I reply. “And you know, you might want to consider doing the same,” I add, tipping my head in Sie’s direction.
Reid scoffs. “Please, like I don’t already have that shit under control.”
“Wait, what?” I ask. “You mean you—”
Reid gives me a wink, a huge grin on his face as Sie and Ruby come back and join us on the couch. I want to ask him if he’s serious, if he actually already has something planned for Sie, but I don’t get a chance before my sister starts grilling us with questions about how I proposed and when we’re getting married and does this mean we’re moving out now.
“Jesus, Sie, settle down,” I say with a laugh. “It literally happened a week ago.”
“Yeah but I mean, you must have some ideas right?” she asks, an expectant look on her face as she turns from me to Ruby and back to me again.
I let out a breath as I glance at Ruby, who’s smiling at me, her eyes shining with happiness. “Honestly, no,” I admit. “I mean I don’t think we’re gonna rush and do it next week or whatever.”
“Nor are we moving out,” Ruby adds.
“Definitely not,” I confirm, knowing how much we all enjoy living together like this. Even though it was always our plan to live together; me, Reid and Sienna anyway, Ruby is a natural fit to it all and the four of us have fallen into an easy family dynamic pretty much since we bought this place.
My sister exhales in relief as though she was legit worried about that.
“You know what we should do?” Reid suddenly says, pressing a kiss to Sie’s neck.
“What?” I ask.
“Vegas!” he replies, eyes wide with excitement. “We should totally road trip it to Vegas and you two can have Elvis marry you and the four of us can have an awesome weekend getting drunk and gambling and seeing the sights and all sorts of shit.”
“Yes!” Sie shouts, clapping her hands together as though this is the best idea she’s ever heard.
“Oh my god, we are not getting married by Elvis,” I groan as Ruby laughs. “I mean, right, babe?”
“Right,” she says, nodding her head. “Although Vegas isn’t that bad an idea.”
I turn to her. “Really?” I ask. “You’d want to get married in Vegas?”
Ruby shrugs. “I don’t care where we get married, as long as we do.”
I press my mouth to hers in a kiss. “God, I love you,” I whisper against her lips as they curve into a smile against mine.
“I love you,” Ruby whispers back.
“Ugh, god you two are nauseating,” Reid groans.
I pull back to find him smirking at us. I know he’s only giving us shit and honestly, he can basically do that as much as he likes, it isn’t going to kill this buzz I’ve been riding for the last seven days. I don’t think anything will.
The movie continues to play in the background, but none of us are watching it now, too busy talking about wedding ideas and Vegas and a bunch of other shit. By the time the credits roll, it’s late and I turn to Ruby. “Time for bed?”
She wraps her arms around my neck as her mouth finds my ear. “Definitely,” she whispers, her tone filled with promise and suggestion.
We say our goodnights to Reid and Sie before heading to our bedroom, where I close the door behind us, pulling off my clothes before slipping into bed.
“Happy?” I ask, as I watch Ruby get undressed.
She smiles, her left hand out in front of her as she adjusts the ring. “Very. You?”
I smile, beckoning her over with my finger. “Absolutely.” Ruby slides beneath the covers, snuggling closer so her warm body is half lying on mine “You gonna tell Mila now?” I ask.
She pulls back, her mouth open in surprise. “Oh my god, yes, I should, shouldn’t I?”
I chuckle, glancing at the clock which tells me it’s well after midnight. “Yeah you should, although it can probably wait till tomorrow.”
“Mmm,” Ruby murmurs, lowering her head to rest on my shoulder. “She’s going to be so mad when she finds out.”
I press my lips to her temple. “Mad because she’s the last to know or mad because you’re getting married.”
Ruby laughs, propping herself up on her elbow as she looks down at me. “Oh definitely mad because she’s the last to know,” she says, smiling. “Does Adam know?”
Ruby’s smile widens, almost as though she’s enjoying the fact that her sister and my friend have no idea about this. “Should we fuck with them a bit too?” she asks, reminding me of how we fucked with my sister and best friend when we first got together nearly a year ago and then how we held off telling them about our engagement for a week.
That last part wasn’t for malicious reasons, not even close. It was more because we just wanted to enjoy it ourselves for a little bit first. Savor this connection we’d just made before everything got crazy.
“Actually, we tell Mila and you won’t need to worry about telling him,” Ruby says, laughing a little. “Or anyone else really.”
I slip my hand to the back of Ruby’s neck, pulling her closer. “This is very true,” I whisper against her lips. “And for the record,” I add.
“Yes?” she murmurs, brushing her lips against mine.
“I know I didn’t say it earlier,” I say, my thumb brushing against her cheekbone. “But what I’m most grateful for, is you.”
Ruby smiles down at me, her eyes filled with happiness and love. “I know you are,” she whispers, understanding how hard it is for me to say these things, how much I hate feeling vulnerable, even now.
It’s getting better, a lot better, and I know it’s going to take time before I’m back to what I’d consider normal, but for the first time in a really long time, I am finally in a place where I feel content and at ease.
Part of that is this new house and the new life the four of us have created together. Part of it is buying the bar and having responsibility and purpose again. Part of it is the therapy, which despite my earlier reservations, doesn’t feel so hard anymore.
And a huge part of it is Ruby. This woman who has healed me in ways I never knew were possible.
“I love you, Ruby,” I say, my eyes locked with hers. “I love you and I’m so grateful I met you, so grateful for everything.”
Her face softens, her fingers brushing against my cheek as she looks down at me. I reach up and take her hand in mine, my fingers twisting the engagement ring that sits on her finger.
“I love you, Caleb,” she whispers.
Then she kisses me and lets me show her how grateful I truly am.