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Four Pucking Christmases: Chapter 13

Crew

DAMN, I really love Nathan’s shower.

I did not spill my extra large soda on myself in the RV on purpose. But the fact that I need to jump in the shower when we all get back to Nathan’s apartment doesn’t make me mad.

I slip into his bathrobe too. Because why not? Yeah, my bag is right outside the door, but I’ve worn most of what’s in it and… Nathan has great taste in just about everything. Coffee, sports drinks, women, bathrobes.

I’m tightening the belt as I step out into the living room. I just stop in the doorway for a moment. My little family is here, and they’ve all crashed hard.

Michael is puttering around in the kitchen, storing leftovers.

Nathan is stretched out on the couch, with Dani on top of him. His eyes are closed, his tie and shoes are off, and though his hand is resting on her back, it’s not moving.

I come around the end of the couch and glance down at my girl. Her eyes are open, but she’s staring dreamily at the white Christmas lights on the fireplace mantle.

I run my hand over her hair. She gives me a sweet smile.

I drop onto the end of the other couch.

She moves her head so she can look at me. ‘You’re wearing his robe?’

‘You can’t scold me for this since you didn’t join me in the shower.”

She smiles, then yawns. “I wouldn’t have done a good job soaping you up. I’m exhausted.’

‘There’s no such thing as a bad job soaping me up,” I say with a chuckle. But honestly, I’m not sure I have the energy to put her up against the shower wall. It’s probably for the best that she crashed out here. I motion with my hand. “Come here.”

She carefully removes Nathan’s hand from her back and slips off of him. He grunts softly but doesn’t open his eyes. She comes over to me and climbs up into my lap, tucking her knees underneath her skirt. She cuddles into my chest, resting her head on my shoulder.

I wrap my arms around her and just breathe in her scent.

‘I should probably go home soon,’ I tell her. ‘Game tomorrow.’

She sighs. ‘I understand. I wish you didn’t have to leave.’

I do too. We all spend a lot of time together, and it’s not that I’m not comfortable here. But all my gear is at my place, and to really be in the right headspace before a game, I’m best when I can crank my music and zone out a little. No matter how much time we all spend here, this is still Nathan’s place.

‘You can come home with me,’ I say to Dani. I definitely sleep better when she’s with me.

The other guys say the same.

She nods. ‘Maybe I will.’

‘No,’ Nathan says from the couch.

Of course, he wasn’t totally asleep.

‘Why do you get to keep her?’ I ask.

For the most part, when Dani and I sleep together…and when we sleep together… it’s here at Nathan’s. But just like I’ve taken her to the movies by myself and Michael’s taken her to museums, just the two of them, she has spent the night with both of us alone at our places a couple of times.

But I won’t lie, it feels weird. We have a great time. If it were just me and Dani together forever, I’d be perfectly happy. But if I’m totally honest, there’s something missing when the other two aren’t there.

‘Because I call dibs,’ Nathan says.

Dani giggles, and I grin. ‘I said it first, so I get dibs,” I tell him.

“Nope. Mine.”

“What do you think dibs is?” I ask.

‘I think dibs is when the guy who signs the paychecks wants something and gets it.’

I laugh and stroke my hand up and down Dani’s thigh. I just want to touch her. I’m not even up for sex, which is something I never say. But these four Christmases were a lot. And, though I will never admit this out loud, sleeping in that RV last night kind of sucked.

‘I wish you could just stay so I can have you all here,’ Dani says softly.

‘He can stay,’ Nathan says. ‘Hell, he’s already in my bathrobe.’

‘Does this mean I get to keep it?’ I ask him. ‘My naked balls are all over it, just so you know.’

Nathan looks at Dani. “If I had a problem touching things that your naked balls touch, we’d all be in a very different situation.” Then he winks at her.

She and I both laugh.

Damn, exhausted Nathan is funny.

“I’m still keeping it,” I say, pulling one side of the robe more tightly around me. “I’ll consider it my Christmas gift.’

Michael comes into the room and hands me a plate with a sandwich. Turkey, but he did something fancy by including dressing and cranberry sauce on the sandwich. And I think I see gravy too.

“Thanks, Doc.”

‘You know, our idea not to exchange gifts was a good one,’ Michael comments as he sinks down onto the couch next to Dani and me and reaches for one of her feet, pulling it over into his lap. He lifts half a sandwich and bites into it.

Nathan nods. “You are all impossible to buy for.”

Dani laughs. “That’s probably because you all are millionaires, and you buy me stuff all the time for no reason.”

I kiss her head. “The reason is we love you and want to spoil you, and don’t think that’s going to stop anytime soon.”

“And I’m actually a billionaire,” Nathan says.

Just then, Nathan’s phone dings with a text, and he reaches into his pocket to pull it out. He reads something on the screen. Then smiles. ‘We now have a house to stay in when we go to Franklin.’

Michael shakes his head. ‘I thought we agreed you wouldn’t call your real estate agent on Christmas.”

‘I didn’t call him. I texted him. And I waited until this evening. Christmas is practically over.”

Dani sits up a little straighter and looks at him. ‘You bought a house in Franklin? By text?’

‘My agent knows what I like. And there aren’t that many houses in Franklin that meet my standards,” he says as he closes his eyes again.

Michael chuckles. “How many were there that were good enough for Nathan Armstrong?”

Nathan’s eyes are still closed, but he smiles. “One.”

We all laugh.

“Does it have a barn?” Michael asks.

“It does, as a matter of fact,” Nathan says. “Hey, Crew, do you want a pony?”

“Hell yeah,” I say. “Who doesn’t want a pony?”

“Grown-assed men,” Nathan says.

“You don’t need a barn, and Crew doesn’t need a pony,” Michael says.

I shrug. “It’s not about need, Doc. You heard Nate. It’s about want. Maybe I want a pony.” I really don’t. But I enjoy messing with Nathan.

“Well, you’ll have to buy your own pony. But you can keep it in my barn.”

“You’re such a dirty-talker, Boss,” I tell him, taking a big bite of my sandwich.

Nathan just shakes his head. He doesn’t even bother flipping me off or anything. He really is tired.

‘You know,’ Michael says in that thoughtful, I-have-a-fantastic-idea voice of his. ‘While you’re in the real estate buying mood, we should talk about something.’

Nathan opens his eyes at that and tucks a hand behind his head. ‘Something like what?’

Oh, sure, he’ll pay full attention when Doc talks.

I just grin and keep eating.

Michael is rubbing his hand up and down Dani’s calf, and he looks over at us. ‘I think we’d all agree that we would prefer to all be here together all the time.’

Nathan snorts.

‘Okay, eighty-seven percent of the time,’ Michael corrects.

I shoot Nathan a look. He doesn’t argue with that, and I smile.

‘What are you saying?’ Dani asks. Her eyes are wide.

‘I think we proved with all these Christmases, meeting each other’s families, and showing that we are a united front no matter what, that we’re serious. About each other. About this relationship. About doing this long-term,’ Michael says.

‘I definitely am,’ I say.

‘Yes,’ Nathan says simply.

Dani’s blinking rapidly now, but she nods.

‘So, it just makes sense that we start looking for a place where all four of us can live. Together. Full-time.’

Whoa. That’s…fast.

But I want it. I know that immediately. My chest feels warm, and I hug Dani tighter.

Never kissing Dani goodbye at Nathan’s door? Never going back to my empty, lonely apartment by myself? Knowing when I come home from being on the road, Dani will always be there?

‘I’m in,’ I say.

We all look over at Nathan.

He’s got his phone up in front of his face.

‘Nathan?’ Dani asks quietly.

He looks over. ‘My agent says that he can send some listings over to us in a couple of days. We just need to let him know what specifications we have.”

We all look at one another. Michael grins. I say, “fuck yeah,’ and then add, “hot tub.” And Nathan just puts his phone back in his pocket.

And then Dani bursts into tears.

We all react like we always do to her tears. We all lean in with frowns.

‘Cookie?’ Michael asks.

I squeeze her tighter. ‘What’s wrong?’

‘Danielle,’ Nathan’s voice is firm, but he’s sitting up now.

But she’s shaking her head. ‘Nothing’s wrong. I’m so happy.” She gives us each a bright smile. “This is what I wanted for Christmas.’

We all look at her.

Nathan pulls in a breath. ‘Jesus, why didn’t you just tell us that?’

‘Because you all had to get to this point by yourselves,” she says, dashing the tears off her cheeks. “I know that you would’ve said yes. You all always do everything to make me happy. But you all had to decide this is what you wanted too.’

‘It is what we want,’ Michael says, leaning over and kissing her knee.

‘Definitely. Definitely want it,’ I say against her temple.

‘Me too,’ Nathan says, his voice a little gruff. He clears his throat. ‘But we’re getting a place with four rooms. Even if we don’t sleep separately, everybody needs their own space.’ He looks right at me. ‘We’re not sharing a closet.’

I grin at him. ‘As long as we can share a shower.’

Nathan groans. ‘When you say it like that, it sounds like we’re in the shower together.’

I just wiggle my brows at him.

Nathan narrows his eyes. ‘You know that’s never going to happen right?’

I realize that I am a lot more laid back about sex and sexuality than Nathan will ever be. And I need to respect that. I nod. ‘Yes, Boss, I know.’

‘I just want to be sure no one gets confused,” Nathan says.

I make sure he sees that I’m sincere when I say, ‘I know. I get it. I promise I won’t tease anymore.”

Nathan nods, and I can already read him well enough to know that he believes me.

‘Here at home, it’s funny. As long as you don’t say stuff like that in front of anybody else at the Racketeers. Or on social media. Or our families. Or in public at all.’

I grin. “Got it. You keep me in bougie shampoo and body wash, and I’ll keep my mouth shut about where I use it.’

Nathan shakes his head as if he’s maybe already regretting this new living arrangement idea. ‘You’re a fucking millionaire. You could buy your own shampoo and body wash,” he tells me. As he always does.

I hug Dani closer and kiss her head again. ‘Yeah, but it’s so fun having a sugar daddy, isn’t it Dani?”

Michael laughs. ‘Watch yourself, McNeill.” He lifts his sandwich for another bite. “At least until we have the papers signed on our new place. Then he won’t be able to get rid of you.”

Not that Nathan would kick me out—he’d miss me whether he’ll admit it or not. But damn, our new place sounds really fucking good.

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Dani says. “I love you all so much.”

“What do you want in a new apartment?” I ask Dani, sweeping my fingers over her red curls.

“I don’t know. I haven’t thought about it.”

“You need a writing room,” Michael says. “Like an office and reading room combination.”

“Dani needs her own bathroom,” Nathan points out.

“I think she needs a pony.”

But Dani snuggles in closer against my chest. “All I need is the three of you. Merry Christmas to me.”

I feel a wave of contentment wash over me.

My eyes land on the Christmas stockings with our initials that Dani hung on Nathan’s sleek and modern fireplace. New traditions for Cookie & Co.

I can’t wait for the next step.


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