Roman held me in place, his chin tucking over my shoulder to kiss up the column of my neck. “Beautiful,” he sighed against my skin.
I leaned my head back against his shoulder, catching my breath as love and happiness filled my soul so much I was pretty sure it was healing.
Not just from Roman’s love, but from my own love.
Because he’d helped me love myself again. With that, I knew I could give him every piece of me—the dark and the light. The real and the raw.
Roman had made me whole.
And I had a lifetime to thank him for it.
Cars packed the street in front of the row of houses Teagan and I had grown up in. Thanksgiving was always crowded, and this year was no exception. It didn’t matter how many times I offered my house up to the mess Mom endured when it came to hosting dinner, she never took me up on it.
Just like she never let me buy her another house.
The fact that I’d paid off this one with my signing bonus had earned me nearly a month of the silent treatment, but what was I supposed to have done with those millions? Sit tight on them and not thank my parents for raising me?
“Thanks for helping with the dishes.” Mom smiled, putting away a stack of plates.
“No problem.” Helping with dinner wasn’t ever allowed, Mom always looked at me like I might screw up one of her signature dishes. But doing those dishes? Yeah, that was always up for grabs.
“How the hell did you get a parking spot?” My sister asked as she sailed through the door in a set of pale blue scrubs.
“Mom put out a construction cone. Don’t be pissed that Matt took your spot.”
“He what?” Her mouth dropped. “Stupid boys.”
“Hey, you married that stupid boy.”
She smacked my shoulder, and I flicked sudsy water at her.
“Knock it off, Elena. You, too, Roman.” Mom looked Elena up and down and shook her head. “Tough shift?”
“Always. Did I make it in time for pie?” Her eyes lit up.
“Of course. I saved you a plate. It’s in the oven. You’re too thin.” Mom launched straight into another lecture as I finished up the last of the pots, glancing at the clock every so often.
It was four-ten, which meant I had about an hour before I’d get to see Teagan.
Funny, the wall that separated our homes had always been a sort of comfort, but today I wanted to shred the thing with my bare hands to get at her. She’d moved out two weeks ago, and though I’d spent half my nights with her, I missed her like hell.
It only made it that much sweeter in the moments I saw her.
“Hey!” Mom yelled into the living room as Dad switched on a game. “No football!” She launched into rapid-fire Spanish about how this was the one day-a-year she didn’t let that fly, and if he wanted any of this pie, he’d shut it off.
Elena and I grinned but quickly schooled our faces when Mom caught us.
“Uncle Roman!” Celia shouted, racing in from the back yard with mud covering her Chucks and a football under her arm. “The Davidsons are beating us!”
Slowly, both Elena and I looked toward our mother.
She shook her head.
Celia used those big brown eyes on Mom. “Please? They brought their brother in, and he plays for the high school. It’s not fair.”
I lifted my eyebrows at Mom.
She sighed. “Well, we can’t have that. Get out there and show the Davidson boy how it’s done, Roman.”
My grin was instant. “Yes, ma’am.”
I chased my nine-year-old niece outside and reveled in the groan of the neighborhood kids who had gathered in the small field behind the houses that served as a community yard. To include one very tall high school kid on the opposition.
The kids on my side were ecstatic.
“Got our seventh!” Celia announced, her head held high.
“Yes!” My seven-year-old nephew, Alex, jumped to give me a high five. I’d always been a sucker for Elena’s kids. Figured they were the closest to having kids I was ever really going to get.
“Isn’t this against your contract or something?” The high-schooler called across the line.
“Why don’t you let me worry about my contract. You concentrate on the scoreboard.” I took the quarterback position—it was already unfair to be playing, but putting me at running back was just too cruel, even for the smartass across the street.
Half-an-hour later, our side of the street was decidedly up by a handful of touchdowns, and that high school kid wasn’t looking as cocky.
“That’s the game!” One mom called from the back porch a few houses down.
“Guess time’s up,” I told Celia and Alex before swinging Alex up onto my shoulders.
“Thanks for playing with us, Uncle Roman.” Celia tucked her ball under her arm—uncaring that it had been autographed by both Hendrix and Nixon because to her, they were just family.