Protect Me (Rivers Edge Book 4)(8)

By: Lacey Black

Though the loss of the building sucks, the fact that none of my men were injured, no animals were lost, and no further property damage was sustained is a plus in my book. As early evening starts to set in, we finish packing up our gear and equipment and get ready to head back to the station in Rivers Edge.

Once the equipment and all of our gear is back at the station, cleaned, put away, and ready to go for its next use, everyone sets out towards their respective homes. It’s Thursday evening and I could use a little unwinding after the long, tiresome afternoon. I slide into the Mustang, grab my phone and call Jake.

“Hello?” he answers after two rings.

“Hey, whatcha doing?”

“Getting ready to head over to the man cave. Maddox is finalizing the bachelor party for next weekend, and I think he clearly needs supervision,” he responds with a chuckle.

Maddox bought Avery her dream house which came with Maddox’s dream man cave. I frequently find myself dropping by and enjoying a cold beer with my brother-in-law in the comfort of his domain.

The bachelor party has been in the works for several months. Jake had planned a big, elaborate party for Maddox a year and a half ago, complete with a no-show stripper, and I think Jake is a little worried about what Maddox has planned in return. But, it wouldn’t be a true bachelor party without some naked ass dancing around, right?

“Are you in town? Wanna stop by for a beer?” Jake asks.

“Yeah, I’ll stop by. I just left the firehouse,” I say into the portable Bluetooth I stuck in my ear.

“Heard about the Frazier barn. Glad they got the horses out before it went down,” Jake adds.

“Me too. I’m nearing Ave’s now. I’ll see you there shortly,” I say.

“Yep,” Jake starts to say but then I hear Erin’s voice in the background. Jake’s conversation quickly steers away from me and focuses on his fiancée. I hear what sounds like kissing into the phone.

“Seriously, man? Don’t screw your almost-wife while you’re on the phone with me,” I tell him in mock horror.

Jake starts laughing. Bastard. “Sorry, but when the most beautiful woman in the world walks up and starts to rub against you like a cat, you tend to get a little distracted.”

“Gross. I really don’t want to picture Erin rubbing up against you next time I see her so keep that shit to yourself,” I respond as I turn into Avery’s driveway.

Jake throws a deep laugh my way as he says, “Suit yourself, brother. I’m heading your way in a few moments.” But the way his attention returns to Erin and the noises I hear coming through the phone receiver, something tells me that he will be a little late to Avery and Maddox’s place.

I don’t even answer as I click off the phone. I’m pretty sure Jake doesn’t even care about our lack of goodbyes right now anyway.

I step out into the early August evening and head towards their front door. Maddox may already be out in the man cave, but I’ll be damned if I don’t stop in and see my niece and nephew first.

I throw a quick knock on the front door and give it a push open. The house is cool with air conditioning and filled with the warm and welcoming noise of laughter. I hear my niece, Bean, laughing hysterically and my nephew, Ryder, giggling as only a five month old can.

When I step around the corner and into the living room, I see Maddox crouching on the floor, tickling Bean in the stomach. Her laughter fills the entire room, bouncing off the walls like sweet music. Ryder is sitting next to them on the floor laughing and throwing his arms up and down as he watches his dad tickle his sister.

“Stop it, Daddy! I’m gonna pee!” Bean exclaims in between tickle fits.

“Don’t pee on me,” Maddox laughs and jumps off of her.

Maddox notices me for the first time and produces a big, full-watt smile. He reaches down and picks up Ryder who has his arms extended upward towards him.

“Hey. I didn’t hear you come in,” Maddox says as he settles his son on his hip.

“Uncle Nate!” Brooklyn exclaims as she climbs up off the floor and runs towards me.

I catch her mid-leap and smile as I snuggle my only niece against me. I feel this ping of emotion deep within my chest which causes me to hold her extra tight.

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