“The secret of life is not in what happens to you. It is in what you do with what happens to you.”Norman Vincent Peale
Windenburg Cameron Jr. Residence
Natalie stood and watched Brendan, who was entertaining their son Declan as well as their feisty cat Grimm and mischievous dog Loki all at the same time with seeming ease. She smiled, her eyes reflecting all the love she felt for that man, who had just recently given up his exiting childhood dream career as an FBI agent to accept a mellow position as a lead lecturer for Criminal Science and Justice at the local college to spend more time with his family.
When the university heard about his quick rise through the ranks first at the police, then the FBI, they approached him and offered the position to him, it paid fairly well, allowed him to work from home a lot and it was much safer. Natalie had meanwhile made it to Director of Communications in the PR department of a large company, and it afforded her to often work from home as well meaning both were now able to spend more time with each other, their toddler son and the pets, while still finding balance and challenges in their careers.
Chuckling, Brendan looked up at her, their eyes met, so he sat down Declan, rose up and came over to Natalie.
“Did you hear what our son just said?” Brendan’s voice was filled with amusement.
“No, sorry, I missed it. Zoned out.”
“Ah, I know that look. I betcha I can guess where your pretty head was at.”
“Oh, can you now? Do tell.”
“Tell me if I am close when saying you were most likely picking out baby names for that baby girl you want, am I right? I know it’s coming. Looks like today is the day.”
“Nope. Close, but no cigar. I realized something, Brenny. We are complete. Look, I am obsessed with your niece Claire, she like a living doll, and so different from having a boy, but after everything that happened with your sister, I am totally turned off from wanting a baby girl. I did not envy your parents or you at all, and my mom and dad reminded me that my brother may have been the problem child of the family, an athlete who got into steroids which in a roundabout way was what eventually killed him and his girlfriend orphaning their son, but as a teen I was no picnic either, sneaking out to parties and all that, leaving them to sit there and pray I’d come home in one piece. So, I don’t think I could deal with all that, one child is plenty and I am kinda glad he’s a boy, hoping he’ll take after you, since you were and are always so sweet. I wouldn’t mind that one bit.”
“Natty, don’t take this the wrong way, but I am so glad you feel that way. About the baby I mean. I really don’t think we need another one. I agree, this feels complete and we can totally dedicate ourselves to raising Declan, while still having careers and lots of time with each other. Come here you!”
He hugged her, kissed her.
“Brenny! Let’s spend some of the money we saved up to go on a vacation. Splurge a tiny bit on us, we earned it. Like your sister’s family does, to Sulani, just a few days or so. I always wanted to go back, our wedding there was so amazing but it was so stressful and we didn’t have that much time to just hang out. I want to go back and just lazily lay around the beach, eat my belly full and watch the sunset with you, cradled in your arms with one of those exotic drinks in my hand. Do all those romantic things and explore and jetski and snorkel and all that with you.”
“With a toddler in tow? I know Declan is a pretty easy kid, but I think even he has his limits.”
“We could take your parents, they may want a vacation after all the Ana drama, won’t hurt to ask. Mine can’t go, since they are now raising my nephew and he has all that college application stuff going on. They are laser-focused on making sure Christian doesn’t go down his dad’s bad route and I am sure he won’t but my parents just really want to stay on top of it with their grandson. Yours are available though …”
“To go on vacation with us so they can watch our kid while we do whatever? Not sure that will be the easiest sell and I can already tell you what my dad will say: ‘not Mary Poppins’ and ‘what about the dogs’.”
“That’s why we will ask your mom, and she will handle your dad. My parents can take the dogs. Or Ana, since she is doing the stay-at-home mom thing now.”
“Let’s leave Ana and Chase out of it. They need couple’s time without having to worry about a small zoo. Especially with our mutt and kitty. They aren’t exactly the most low maintenance.”
“OMG – Brenny! That’s it! Let’s ask them to go too! Yeah, us two, your parents and Chase and Ana, plus the kids. That would be so cool. We get romantic moments without having to worry about a babysitter and I get some playtime in with those adorable twins!”
“Let’s ask the jury. Hey Declan, do you want to go play in the sand with Collin and Claire?”
“I am sure there would be ice cream too, but what do you think, little man? Sand castles and playing in the water with your cousins, grandma and grandpa.”
“… and ice cweam?”
“Definitely your son. Same one track mind as your dad. Likes to take his clothes off just as much too. Totally his grandpa.” Natalie giggled.
“Well, yeah. We Cameron men know what we want for sure and when we want it. Do we even have ice cream?”
“Nope. Ate the last two nights ago.”
“Uh oh. Sorry little buddy.”
“But …. but …. ICE CWEAM?! Ice cweam, ice cweam … ICE CWEAM!” Declan insisted.
“Okay, so I am going to get my car keys and I will be making a store run.”
“No, you will not! Declan, honey. We are about to have dinner and then we will have cookies after. The big ones, with the gummy bears. And the ones with the big chocolate pieces. As a matter of fact, why don’t we go and pick out which ones right now?”
“You are amazing!” Brendan admitted shocked.
“Like I said, you Cameron boys have a one-track mind. Once a girl knows that, she knows how to bridle you and steer you with it. Call your sister and your parents about Sulani, Brenny, while I appease our little cookie monster.”
“Okway, if you promise me big cookies and ice cweam too.” Brendan quipped.
“Nope, I have better things in mind for you after Declan went to bed. But that will only be happening if you lay off the toddler talk.”
“Okay, one-track mind, check!” Brendan smirked.
Brindleton Bay Cunningham Estates
Anastasia moaned comfortably, snuggling deeper into Chase’s arms by their pool. The first rays of sun of early Spring were balmy, but the cool breeze of the ocean brought on a slight chill.
Taking some time every day just the two of them together had become one of their favorite things to do, something both looked forward to, usually they would have some wine and just enjoy each other’s company and closeness, laced with kisses and caressing.
“This is so nice.”
“Yes, it is. So very, very nice.” he agreed, then kissed her.
She looked up at him, smiling.
“Not allowed to stare at my own hunky husband?” she sat up, he followed suit and pulled her into his lap.
“All day long, just makes me wonder why.”
“Because you are amazing, and handsome and because I love you so much.” she kissed him.
“Music to my ears. And I love you too, but I am pretty sure I have proven that sufficiently.”
“Prove it again?” she gave him a come-and-get-me-look, smiling.
They began to make out.
Seconds later the patio door flew open and suddenly it got noisy, toddlers fighting and crying in the background, accompanied by a dog barking and a cat meowing.
“Guys, sorry to interrupt, but one of you really needs to help deal with your kids. They are out of hand and my arthritis is flaring up badly. Chase, your mother laid down with a migraine.”
“I am coming Gerard! Hold that thought, Chase, we are so not done. I am going to mediate this drama and then I will meet you back at the hot tub.” Anastasia told Chase, before hurrying towards Chase’s father to help him diffuse the twins’ current meltdown. She was now taking her role as a mother extremely serious and had gotten quite good at it.
Chuckling and shaking his head, Chase tried to shake the scary memories of how close this idyll had come to being over for good as he walked over to start up the hot tub for them.
A little while later Ana returned with wine and two glasses.
“Oh! That was quick. And more wine, white this time, chilled and a Magnum bottle. Are you trying to get me drunk and take advantage of me?” Chase snickered.
“Oh, absolutely! Any objections? Oh, and please do note the very much intentional absence of bathing suits for us. Yeah, this is happening, Dr. Cunningham.”
“May have to defer you to my lawyer. I am so smitten by your beauty and this outlook, I am not in a sound state of mind.” he mumbled in between kisses.
“Oh, your lawyer thinks you should absolutely just go for it. She also suggests you take your wife and the two bratty darlings on a trip to Sulani with her parents, her brother and his family. Brendan called me, they want to go and are wondering if we were interested. I think it would be really nice.”
“Well, we used to have little family trips to Sulani quite frequently, had some wonderful moments there and haven’t been back in a while. So, it sounds like acceptable legal advice I am willing to take. We can probably do that. How about inviting your family to come along, we’ll pick up the tab.”
Sulani Two weeks later ...
Blaine smirked at Chase, his arm casually on his son-in-law’s shoulder.
“Hey there, my son from another mother and father. Looks like you two got the last kinks ironed out now. Good for you both.”
“We have. Everything is now better than I would have ever dared dream it to be. I have been meaning to catch you alone at some point to thank you for talking some candid talk with me that one afternoon. You did help a lot with my anxiety, albeit with your rather unorthodox ways. But you were right. She has changed, for the better, and I haven’t the shadow of a doubt left that she now truly wants me, and loves me wholly. She is the wife and mother I always hoped she would want to be. Asking her to quit her job, at least temporarily, took no effort at all. She went right for it, almost relieved, just as you said, Blaine. And even in aspects of more – pardon me – romantic nature, us as a couple, it feels absolutely exclusive now. Before it was nice, but I could never shake the feeling that there were three people in our bed at all times.”
“Yeah, I get that. Riordan has moved on too. And I may seem like all I got that noggin on top of my shoulders for is so I can listen to my babygirl bitch when I forgot to shave and kiss her … ‘ouch, so rough…’, but on rare occasions I use it to observe and think. And write music.”
“Very good music at that. I still enjoy listening to your pieces on occasion …”
“Ah, Chase, knock it off kid. There is just not enough room up my ass for ya and I hate the feeling of sugar blown up there. I told you, you are like a son to me already, and I am thrilled that you two are working out. You make my little girl happy, you are a great dad to my grandkids, so no need to pretend you like my music. If you did, you would know that rock music has songs or tunes, but never ‘pieces’. It’s not Mozart, kiddo.”
“Sorry. Just wanted to be supportive, like you were.”
“Okay, you wanna support me and be appreciative? Then do this for me. Go grab your wife, throw her over your shoulder and toss her in the ocean. Head first so her hair gets all wet.”
“Oh, she wouldn’t like that one bit. She’d be very upset. Her hair takes a long time to look like she wants it and she gets upset if it gets messed up. I’d rather not chance upsetting her unnecessarily, now that everything is going so well.”
“Oh, for Christ’s sake, grow a pair, my boy. Last thing I’d want is to have you two at odds again, but you need to learn to trust me sometimes. I know women and I know my daughter. Sure she’ll get some feathers ruffled, that’s exactly the point kid. She needs a bit of roughness sometimes, excitement and I will make sure you will deliver. So, you go do what I told you, when she gets nice and rancid with ya about her hair being wet and all, you grab her and kiss her so hard that she may be pregnant from it and you won’t stop until you both turn blue and she’s about ready to bust out of her bikini. Then you take her to your rental as soon as possible and enjoy, don’t worry about them kids. Babygirl and I got that. Trust good old Blaine on that. Sugar and spice, turn every nice girl into a vixen. Works on her mother, will work on her. My daughter is no choir girl, she needs some rollercoaster or she’ll go create her own. No off with ya, son, grab that girl and toss her in.”
“Okay. If you say so …” Chase’s face reflected his discomfort with the suggestion but he walked over to Ana and did exactly as Blaine instructed him.
It was a brief struggle, Anastasia cursed very unladylike and kicked as she was dangling over her husband’s shoulder, while he made his way towards the water with her, wading into the deeper end.
Chuckling Blaine watched the resulting drama unfold, when I joined him.
“Blaine-y, what did you do? I can tell by your smirk that you did something and I am thinking you instigated this over there. Poor Chase! You know how Ana gets about her hair.”
“Yeah, I know. Relax, it’s harmless, I just jumpstarted something that needed it. We are gonna watch the twins tonight.”
“Are we? Ana didn’t mention anything.” I said while trying to ignore my daughter’s angry screams, that turned into giggling, soon followed by a splash.
“Ana didn’t know yet, but she will soon. I am kinda making sure that during this trip Ana forgets all about whatever enticed her about Riordan. I have a feeling Chase is a bit too tame for the female mini-me, so I nudged him in the right direction. A few more nudges by this pro here and we’ll be at ‘Riordan-who?'”
“I think she is pretty much there already, without your nudging, you pro. Chase is amazing and handsome, courteous … that can be very pleasing when romantic with a man. Not every girl wants things rougher. There is a time and a place for everything. After a near divorce I think calmers seas may have been good for those two, at least for a while.”
“And I think tamer seas were what caused this mess to begin with, as part of what enticed our daughter about Riordan is the same thing that drew you towards me and why you could never leave me. You were always such a goodie two shoes, so straight-laced, until I “Blaine-ified” you, but you always had a dark side to ya, and I recognized that. I utilize that and bring that inner animal out and you LOVE it!”
“Inner animal, gimme a break! The only reason I turn into an animal and have a dark side is solely because you bring me close to fuming so much with your idiotic antics and filterless spewing. You got us in so much trouble with that through the years …”
“My point exactly. I do my thing, you get mad, then I kiss you and you forget all about what you were mad at. But you are still all hot and bothered, which keeps things interesting in the bedroom.” Blaine stepped behind me and started kissing my neck and nibbling on my ear lobe.
“Blaine … that’s not how that works!”
“That is exactly how that works. I am the ultimate relationship guru. Observe!”
“Gimme a break, you relationship guru. We have little kids to watch.”
“Brendan!” Blaine shrugged and continued his nibbling.
“Blaine stop! Get off of me! Brendan and Natalie left. Which is what I came to tell you.”
“Left?! Dafuq?! They better be bringing their happy asses back ASAP or I will bring them back for them!”
“But they won’t and you won’t either. I mentioned to them a certain amazing waterfall down a very scenic and romantic path … and suggested they go check it out. I may also have offered that we could take Declan for the night.”
“Oh come on now, babygirl! Three toddlers?! What kinda fresh hell is that now?! That was not what I had in mind!”
“Looks like your actions without thinking or running it by me first caused something again, Blainey. But I don’t feel hot or bothered by it at all, in fact, I feel totally relaxed and am going to take a little nap now while working on my tan.”
I giggled and walked back to where the kids were building a sand castle, listing to Blaine’s cursing fade into the breeze.