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Secret Baby with Brother’s Best Friend: Epilogue


Six months later…

My phone rang. I knew the ring tone. I wasn’t in the mood. I picked it up.

“Fuck off,” I said before ending the call. I should block his number but telling John to fuck off at random was more fun.

I relaxed on the couch, Gemma was almost asleep as she rested against my chest, a movie on the big screen television. It was one of those moments I wanted branded in my memory forever. My woman in my arms, my hand resting on her pregnant belly, our first daughter tucked up in her crib. Everyone was happy and comfortable.

Gemma squirmed against my chest. “Was that John again?”

“I didn’t mean to wake you,” I mumbled against her hair.

The phone rang again. She reached for it. I’d let her deal with him, he was her estranged brother after all.

“John?” She paused. She fumbled with the remote in her other hand, freezing the movie on the screen. “If you want to talk to him John, you’re going to have to figure out how to talk to me first. I know Chase has told you that.”

I was too relaxed to be surprised when she started making affirmative humming sounds and nodding her head.

I took the phone from Gemma. She only lightly protested with an indignant, “Hey!”

“I’ve told you before, you have to figure out how to be nice to my betrothed, and act like a real brother before I will even entertain discussing business with you. You have a buy-out offer I will accept. It’s in your court now.” I ended the call before I let him say anything.

Gemma took the phone from me and texted something.

“What was that?” I asked.

“I told him to meet us for dinner tomorrow at the townhouse. If he’s going to be making amends, he starts with Mom.”

I kissed her long and slow. “Have I ever told you how smart and beautiful you are?”

She smiled. “Yes, but you can always tell me again.” She picked up the remote and started the movie again.

The second I saw John when he walked in the door of the townhouse for dinner the next evening, I told him he looked like shit. He was thinner, had bags under his eyes, and hadn’t shaved in days.

He grunted.

Katherine was the epitome of a gracious lady and host.

“John, welcome back,” she greeted him with both arms held out to him. She took both of his hands in hers and squeezed.

He looked at her confused and beaten. I had seen John after many weekend benders. I knew what the man looked like after a smackdown. This time he looked like he had been pummeled and stayed down.

“Katherine,” he started. His voice was groggy and broken. He cleared his throat and started again. “Katherine, thank you. I fear I owe you an apology many years past due.”

“Hush, you loved your mother greatly and were scared and lost. And as much as I loved your father, as we both did, he failed you in this regard. But you are here now, and so am I. It’s never too late to mend fences when it’s family. And…” She blinked away a few tears.

John pulled her into a hug. “I’m sorry. You never once tried to take over from my mother, I know that now. I’m so sorry.”

Gemma leaned against my arm, her hand against her chest. I reached over and wiped away an escaped tear from her cheek. She looked up at me, a weak, yet hopeful smile on her face. She took my hand and pulled me away from John’s moment with Katherine.

“That’s a hopeful start,” she said. “Now play nice when he comes in here.”

“But I like torturing your brother,” I teased.

Gemma left us alone when John entered the drawing-room. That’s the evening we learned that John’s life had scraped along rock bottom. After our altercation, he had a series of reality checks, the first one from Jennifer. He had done everything for her, and yet it had never been enough. Jennifer threw a fit when he came home with bruises on his face, angrier at his appearance than concerned for his well-being. As John told the story, she had no sympathy as he explained how his day went from bad to worse. It was another few weeks before he finally realized it never would be enough for her.

It had taken him almost a month to see that the damage to CP Manhattan’s social media reputation was from him shutting everything down, not the existence and building of those platforms. That’s when he started to call me. That’s when I would answer the phone telling him to fuck off before I hung up on him.

He would be forever grateful that Gemma had the capacity to have hope when it came to him, and that she had invited him over for dinner.

“You cook?” John looked at Gemma with his fork halfway to his mouth. The chicken cordon-bleu on his plate already half gone.

Gemma smiled and laughed. It was good to see her not wince and flinch around him, something she had done entirely too much in her past, enough so that I remembered.

“From the look on your face, I’m not too bad at it either,” she giggled.

“I had no idea. Jennifer couldn’t cook, not even the simplest of things. Even I know how to fry an egg.”

“You should know a touch more than that. I did arrange for cooking lessons for you boys at least two summers in a row,” Katherine said.

“You did,” I said. “It’s the only reason he knows how to fry an egg, grill a steak, bake a cake—”

“Box mix, man,” John cut me off.

“Cake is cake,” Gemma said. “And box mix is better than nothing. You know if you are interested, there are so many cooking classes in the city. You can even have them bring all the stuff and come to your house.”

“Is that what you did?” John asked.

“No, I used cookbooks and videos. And I made a lot of mistakes. But it’s a skill worth learning. Everyone should be able to feed themselves.”

“Well, Jennifer’s idea of feeding herself was ordering in.” John got very quiet and very thoughtful. “I thought I knew what she wanted. I thought I knew what I was doing. In my personal life and in business. She officially ended things with me when she found out I went to Tiffany and Company with Chase to look at rings. It didn’t matter that I had a customized Theda Wu engagement made for her. It didn’t come in the little blue box. I hadn’t gotten her a ring from Tiffany’s. No blue box and our future together was ruined.” He shook his head and took another bite of the dinner Gemma had cooked. He locked eyes with me.

“The board wants me out unless I can convince you to come back. I fu- messed up. I messed everything up.”

I agreed, he had screwed everything. The first thing he needed to do was admit it. Done.

He pulled several pages from his back pocket. They had clearly been folded and wrinkled and refolded many times. He opened the pages and flattened them with his hands before handing them the Gemma.

“The marketing department really helped to position CP Manhattan so that when I lost my business sense, I didn’t do nearly as much damage as I could have.”

“These are the numbers I tried to show you,” Gemma stared open mouthed at the sheets in front of her.

“Yeah, that data shows strong growth and positioning in a short amount of time. I had no idea the power a good marketing department had. I need to find those people and get them back. It starts with you.”

Gemma shook her head. “I only do consultations these days.”

“Well, CP Manhattan needs to consult with you.”

“You can talk business, but you can’t do business at the table,” Katherine cut in.

“Sorry Mom,” Gemma said as she folded up the papers.

“Stop by my office any time this week. Seriously any time.” He turned to me, “You too, the door is open.”

That had been the start of a year of making amends, fixing bridges, rebuilding the company, and moving forward.

Today, almost a year after he humbled himself to apologize and seek forgiveness, six months after the birth of my second daughter, the day of my wedding, he sat there as if there hadn’t been a major rift in the fabric of our friendship and business partnership.

I swung Delilah gently in my arms. She was a healthy cherub of a baby with her mother’s green eyes and my dark hair. I had baby duty so that Gemma could get ready. Her mother, Katherine, was helping her, and Amelia.

John and I were already dressed. Classic tuxedos with white vests and black ties. All I needed was to straighten my tie and put on my jacket.

John sat in the side chair, his jacket on the hanger next to mine. With his feet crossed at the ankle and propped on a suitcase, he looked like he didn’t have a care in the world. There was nothing in his attitude to indicate that had things gone differently a year ago he wouldn’t have been here.

I didn’t know who would be sitting there, who would I have asked to stand with me at my wedding if John hadn’t gotten his head out of his ass and come around. I didn’t want to imagine my wedding without him there as my best man.

“Are you nervous?” he asked.

“Not right now, but if you keep asking me that.” I gave John a glare, and he laughed at me.

Our relationship was as close as ever. He felt comfortable razzing me, and I had no qualms about protecting the mother of my children.

“What are you gonna do about it?” He talked a big game, but there was no threat behind his words.

We were interrupted by a soft knock on the open door frame.

“I’m here to pick up the baby,” Yana said. She held out her arms and reached for my daughter.

“She’s asleep,” I said.

“She’s an angel today. This means she’ll be awake when it’s time to take photos. The guests are all ready.”

Tanner swept in behind Yana and shooed her out. “I’ve got something for you” Tanner stood holding a small cake box. “Make sure you do not leave for the honeymoon without this box.”

He eased the cover back.

“They are perfect,” I said as I looked at the chocolate covered strawberries.

“Now get moving, it’s go-time.” Tanner hustled us out of the back bedroom where as the groom, I was exiled to prepare.

“Looks like I beat you to the kids and getting married, after all,” I said as we took our posting under an archway of flowers in the entry near the grand stairs.

“You know it’s supposed to be married and then kids.” John bumped my shoulder. “I can’t believe you’re going to be my brother-in-law after all this time.”

“I can’t believe you almost fucked it up,” I smirked.

The music grew louder, and we turned to face the stairs. Once Gemma had told me she had dreamed of getting married here and making her entrance down those stairs, there was no other location we even considered for the ceremony.

First, I saw Amelia. She clutched tightly to Bria’s hand. They made their way down the stairs slowly. At the bottom, Amelia forgot that she needed to continue walking slowly and ran straight to me.

I picked her up and turned to see Gemma at the top of the stairs.

“Look at mommy,” I managed to say around a hard lump in my throat.

Gemma, my bride, mother of my children was a vision. Her dress was a cloud of white and lace. She was perfect.


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