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Wait for It: Epilogue

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

Louie nodded quickly—excited—he was so damn excited it made a knot form in my throat for about the thousandth time since he’d brought up his idea to me months ago. It had been all him. I couldn’t take credit for what he was about to do.

All I wanted was to make sure no one’s feelings would get hurt.

“Lou, you’re positive?” I asked him, knowing we’d gone over this each and every single time in the thousand times since he’d mentioned it.

He had the same answer each time: Yes, Tia.

“You can’t go back from this.”

He blinked those beautiful blue eyes at me as he moved away from the breakfast table and went toward the birthday cake I’d just pulled out of the fridge. The white and blue sheet cake we’d bought from the grocery store on the way home said HAPPY 80TH BIRTHDAY, DALASS on the top of it in red icing. Josh and I had fist-bumped each other at least three times at how funny we were.

Louie shrugged as his hands gripped the edge of the kitchen counter. He was so tall now it made my heart hurt a little. Josh had left me in the dark height-wise about three years ago, but I thought I’d had more time with Louie before he grew up. I’d give him another year before he shot up like a rocket, and I knew eventually that would make me cry over the baby he no longer was.

“I know, Tia.” His mouth twitched and he smiled down at the cake. “I really want to.” He eyed me. “You’re sure Dad wouldn’t mind?”

Oh, my fucking brother. A day hadn’t gone by that I didn’t think about him and not wanted to cry, but especially while talking about this… it got to me every single time.

It didn’t help that I was four months pregnant.

Me. Four months pregnant. I still couldn’t pinpoint how or when Dallas had talked me into it, but my guess was he’d convinced me about a year ago. He never brought up having kids outright, but had gone about it the same way he’d made me fall in love with him. Slowly, unexpectedly, and completely.

I also blamed Vanessa for how it happened. If the four of us hadn’t gone to visit her, and I hadn’t seen Dallas playing with her youngest baby, my ovaries might have never been lit on fire. The next thing I knew, we were in the middle of baby-making fever, and I was sure as hell never going to complain about that.

Now I was paying for it with horrible morning sickness and mood swings that had me crying half the day over the dumbest stuff. I’d walk by a picture of my brother randomly? I’d cry. Josh needed a new pair of pants because he’d outgrown his? I’d cry. Dallas left me a Post-It note on the mirror of our bathroom? I’d cry.

It was a little pathetic.

And I wouldn’t change it for anything. Dallas had lit up like a firecracker—like I’d given him the world—and the boys had been more excited than I ever could have imagined when they found out I was expecting the newest member of our family. I now had three over protective males that nagged at me when I carried groceries, took the trash out, and worked too many hours.

Fast-forward to two months after I’d found out I was carrying someone new to love. We were celebrating Dallas’s forty-sixth birthday, just the four of us. One of my distant aunts had died, and my parents were out of town attending the funeral.

When Louie had first asked me if I thought my brother would be fine with what he wanted to do, I hadn’t been sure what to tell him. I wanted to think he’d be okay with it, but how could I really know? But the more I thought about Louie and Dallas’s relationship, taking in how close they were after five years, how much Dallas genuinely loved this boy who had always been my heart…

I had my answer.

“Nothing will ever take him away from you. Your dad would want you to do what makes you happy, Gooey Louie. He’d understand, and I know he would have really liked Dallas.”

Louie nodded slowly, thinking about it, and then nodded with more determination. “Yeah, me too. I wanna do it. I really wanna do it.”

I’m not going to cry. I’m not going to cry. “I know you do, but I want to make sure you understand this isn’t something light. This is a huge decision. Like if I ever get tired of him, we could get a divorce—”

“Over my dead body,” came the reply from behind me.

Shit. How much had he heard?

Dallas came up behind me, his chin coming to a rest on the top of my head as his arm went around to my front to palm my stomach, instantly going to the exact spot where my tiny peanut of life was still hiding. “I’d never let you go anywhere,” he said, and I could already imagine him smiling at Louie from over the top of my head.

I leaned back into him and squeezed the hand that he’d just placed at my hip. “I’d like to see you try to stop me if I wanted to.”

“You wouldn’t make it down the block. You love us too much.”

I laughed. “Us?”

“J and Lou wouldn’t leave me.”

Honestly, he was right. They wouldn’t. I’d been the star of the show until this man came into it and set this space for himself that no one else could ever fill. The boys loved him almost as much as me. I wasn’t even a little upset about it.

That was a lie. Maybe a little. I’d always had problems sharing, but I figured, if they were going to love anybody new, it might as well be him.

Dallas’s chin moved down the side of my head, rubbing the bristles against my temple. “Why are you talking about something that’s never gonna happen?” he asked.

Of course it was never going to happen. If I’d thought I loved Dallas back when he first divorced She Who Was Never Mentioned Again, it was nothing compared to now. He was honest to God, the love of my life, and he told me at least once a week I was the love of his. Via Post-It note, whispered into my ear when we were in bed together at night, said out loud when he gave me a hug….

I eyed Louie and watched him smile as I lied. “We were talking about what to name the baby and how we have to pick something good because it isn’t like we can change it later on. If it’s a girl, I think we’re both still thinking Pearl would be a good name.”

He made a thoughtful noise against my ear. Almost immediately after Dallas moved in with us, we had asked her if she wanted to come live with us instead of staying in her remodeled house all by herself, but we had never talked her into it. She was happy alone and seemed perfectly fine with us going over there to help with things or invite her to dinner. There hadn’t been anything wrong with her. So two years ago, when Dallas found her not breathing, sitting on her couch, we had all been shocked as shit to find out she’d passed away.

Her funeral happened to be the last time we saw Jackson, too. Dallas told me he called him from time to time, but that was all there was between the two of them. It broke my heart a little because I knew Dallas still held out hope that his brother would come around and quit being an asshole, but it hadn’t happened.

Louie cleared his throat way too loudly, and it made me grin and shove away thinking about Miss Pearl and Jackson. I knew exactly who he had picked up that habit from. “Dal, want your present?” he asked him.

“You didn’t need to get me anything, Lou,” the man behind me said.

Louie’s face brightened. “I wanted to,” he said as he grabbed the slim, eight-by-ten-inch package he’d wrapped all on his own a couple of days ago.

I watched as Dallas stepped around me and paused at my side. He took the gift with one hand. If he thought it was weird that the part he wasn’t touching bent toward him, flexible and paper-like, he didn’t comment. He reached forward with his free arm and threw it around Louie’s back, hugging him with a pat as the ten-year-old wrapped both arms around the man who had come to mean so much to him.

“You’re doing presents and you weren’t going to tell me?” Josh’s voice came from behind all of us.

At nearly six feet tall and sixteen years old, he looked a lot older than he was. My Josh. He still hadn’t filled out his height yet, but I knew it was coming; his was all long muscles and a face that was still boyish enough. Still the face of my Joshy Poo. He elbowed Dallas as he went between me and the man who had stopped being his Select coach two years ago, and put an arm over my shoulders. “What’d you get?” he asked him, knowing damn well what his little brother was giving him.

That was the second thing I’d asked Louie to do when he’d come to me: talk to his brother and let him know what he was planning. I thought Josh had been hurt for maybe a day once he found out, but we’d talked about it, and he’d come to peace with it. He got it.

The other person I had told Louie to talk to was my mom. Over the years, she had warmed up to Dallas a lot which wasn’t surprising. He was perfect, why wouldn’t she grow to love him once she gave him a chance? But what Louie wanted to do had the potential to send my mom over the tipping point. I wasn’t positive what exactly was said between the two of them during their conversation, but whatever it was, Louie was still going through with his plans. I figured it couldn’t have gone that badly.

Dallas elbowed him back as he flipped the gift over, his fingers going to the creased, taped edges and plucked at them. “I don’t know.”

I pinched my lips together and looked back and forth between Louie and Dallas as he opened his gift. This was going to change both of their lives, but for me, nothing at all would be different.

I watched as Dallas frowned a little as he tore the paper off the stack of papers Louie had wrapped up. He flipped them over, right side up, and his forehead scrunched up as he read the print.

Seconds later, he glanced over at Louie and his throat bobbed. Seconds after that, he turned to me with those hazel eyes wide, and his throat bobbed again. Then he turned his attention back to the papers and mouthed the words he was reading before he brought his hands down to his hips, papers clutched in one hand, and let out a deep, deep breath.

His eyes were watery. He blinked a whole bunch of times. The tip of his tongue went to his upper lip and he let out another deep breath.

Dallas glanced at me and raised his eyebrows again before facing Louie once more and stated in a broken voice, “Lou, I would adopt you a thousand times over, bud. Nothing would make me happier.”

I’d blame the hormones for how I burst into tears the second Louie rushed into Dallas’s arms, but honestly, it wasn’t the hormones at all.

All I could think about as I stood there was that sometimes life gave you a tragedy that burned everything you knew to the ground and changed you completely. But somehow, if you really wanted to, you could learn how to hold your breath as you made your way through the smoke left in its wake, and you could keep going. And sometimes, sometimes, you could grow something beautiful from the ashes that were left behind. If you were lucky.

And I was a really, really lucky bitch.


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