Published in Hot Boy Summer: A Romance Charity Anthology
“I think I’m done for the day. How are you doing?”
I slide my sunglasses over my head and wipe the sweat from my brow as I get up from my beach chair. “I’m doing great. You looked wonderful out there.”
Harlow laughs. “Tell that to my calves tomorrow. Playing on sand is nothing like a hard court in the high desert.” She turns to Dax and kisses him on the lips. “You better find another partner, amor. I’m going to accompany Arden back to the house.”
He frowns as he looks at me. “Everything okay?”
“Everything’s good, but we have to start preparing dinner.”
“Which means you’ll need to find a new partner.” Harlow cocks her head toward Taylor. “He’s open.”
“You need me to go with you?” Hudson asks as he hurries toward us and I shake my head.
“Harlow’s coming with me,” I say as he bends down for a sweaty kiss but I don’t mind it one bit. I love watching him play beach volleyball, his muscles rippling with every move. “Go ahead with the rest of your game. We’ll get dinner ready.”
Harlow and I wave goodbye to everyone and make our way to the house. She’s got eight years on me but at 47, you wouldn’t even know it. She’s stunning with her toned body and long legs, her shoulder-length dark hair streaked with gray secured in a ponytail.
It had taken a lot of planning for her and her family to visit given their busy schedules, her with the clinic where she works three times a week and Dax with his furniture production. She’d done the math and figured this week would be the perfect time and knowing how exact she is, she just might be right. Even my next door neighbors Sam and Erik who happens to be a family practice doctor, agreed.
They’re currently hosting the twins for their second sleepover since they arrived three days ago. Their kids have always got along well with the twins and this sleepover will give Harlow and Dax time alone with us.
I squeeze her hand. “Can you believe it’s been a year since I took your advice to come out here? And look what happened.” It’s actually been longer than a year but my brain isn’t exactly good at numbers these days. The doctor says it’s all those hormones going haywire.
“Let me guess. You fell in love and are living the life you’ve always wanted?”
“Exactly,” I reply, chuckling. “Hudson wanted to try as soon as the ink was dry on the marriage certificate.” We’d gotten married at the City Hall first and by the time we made it official with a church wedding, I was five months along.
“So what’s wrong?” Harlow asks. “You don’t feel a hundred percent about this?”
I sigh. “I don’t know if this is what Hudson really wants. He’s not even thirty and none of his friends out there are married or have kids.” I cock my head toward the window where on the beach, Hudson is diving for the ball. He manages to get it in time, his partner bumping it back to him as he gets up from the sand.
“Dax was only 27 when I got pregnant and he was so excited about it that there was absolutely no doubt he wanted the same thing. People grow up, even guys who play beach volleyball every day.” She checks the crockpot display. “Fifteen more minutes.”
I pull open the refrigerator, resting the bag of salad greens on my baby bump as I grab the salad dressing. “Harlow, I was also his babysitter. I’ve heard people talk.”
She scoffs. “So what? You could have been anything and they’ll still talk all because you’re ten years older. But in the end, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you and Hudson love each other and very soon…” She rubs my baby bump. “You’ll both be parents.”
“And you’ll be a godmother.”
She laughs. “Damn right. I can’t wait to hold her.”
“Or him.” Even though our doctor knows, Hudson and I decided not to find out whether we’re having a boy or a girl and so everything is yellow or green in the nursery.
I take a deep breath and lean against the counter. “Oh boy.”
“How far along are they?” she asks as I press the timer on my watch.
“The last one was ten minutes ago so not there yet.”
“Almost though.” She rubs my lower back, the tightness slowly fading away. “Remember, five minutes and we’re all going in.”
The five-minute mark comes two hours later, after everyone has showered and changed, had dinner, and are about to settle in front of the TV to see an old movie, Look Who’s Talking. I’d picked the movie partly because it brings back my New York roots and it’s got a baby. It’s part of having baby on the brain, I guess, especially since one is just about to introduce himself (or herself) to us very soon.
Luisa Carmella Sloane arrives four hours later and Hudson is right there with me the whole time, coaching me through every breath, every push. He’s there when they place her on my chest and remarks how she’s got my pert nose. When she opens her eyes and blinks, I’m happy to see she got his blue eyes.
“I love you,” Hudson murmurs as he kisses me on the forehead. “I love you more than words can say, Arden.”
“And I love you right back,” I whisper as our baby decides right then to scream at the top of her lungs, as if not happy she’s not getting the attention she rightfully deserves.
As the nurse takes Luisa to be cleaned and weighed, I can’t help but marvel at how things happen when we least expect them to. Like meeting the boy you babysat twenty years earlier just when you’d convinced yourself you’d never find love again. But you do. And you realize all it took was a little patience and a lot of self-love to find a love that lasts.
I hope you enjoyed Arden and Hudson’s story, my contribution to the Hot Boy Summer Charity Romance Anthology.
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Curious about Arden’s friend Harlow?
Her story is Everything She Ever Wanted.