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chapter

twenty-five

loe

“Okay Loelifers, big update happening on the legal battle between my dear friend Seamus and his Ex-in laws. As we all know, this case has been moving at a snail’s pace courtesy of Kelly’s parents. When you don’t have a case, you use your money to bog things down in hopes the other side will go belly up. Well, that won’t be happening. Now they’re filing for a dismissal of the entire case. The judge is reviewing all the evidence and will give her decision in three days. If the case is dismissed, and honestly I don’t see that happening, then the judge will deny the motion, and we’ll finally get a hearing date! If you’re in the area, come show support at the Denver District Court House at 1pm on Thursday. Hope to see as many of you there as possible.

Until then, remember: it doesn’t matter if you’re livin’ the low life or the high life, just making sure you’re livin’ your best life! See you in a few days.”

****

Local law enforcement scramble to set up barricades and redirect the bumper to bumper traffic as hoards of people fill the streets outside the courthouse.

Two men in suits come out of the courthouse, stumbling over themselves as they spot the unprecedented crowd. They whisper to each other, then slowly walk away, eyeing the insanity until they turn the corner and head out of view.

Seamus fidgets with his jacket and looks at the time on his phone, then glances at the doors for the hundredth time.

Matt rubs his arms. “It’s fine. They’ll come get us when they’re ready. Just look at this,” he says, nodding at the thousands of people holding signs of support. “They’re all here for you.”

“Well, they’re here for Loe.”

“They’re here for you and Loe.”

With Aidan in one arm, Jay wraps his other around me and whispers. “I can’t believe you did this.”

“One of my many magic tricks.”

The crowd stirs. A small group exits the parking garage and climbs the courthouse stairs. The only thing giving Kelly’s family away is the undeniable scowl of contempt.

Seamus squares his shoulders and confidently tracks their movement until they disappear into the building. A moment later, his lawyer opens the door and waves us in.

The crowd erupts, cheering as we head inside to find out if this thing is moving forward or not. Hopefully, the judge reviewed everything and has decided there is reasonable evidence to prove a crime was committed.

****

I walk to the bottom of the steps. A tall, slender man in the crowd gives me a megaphone. I tell you, these people are prepared for anything. I carry the amplifier back to the top and face the crowd. “The Judge denied the motion to dismiss the case!” I pump my fist in the air. “That means there’s enough evidence to justify trying the case!” A loud roar rolls across the crowd, gaining momentum as it makes its way back to me.

Kelly’s family storms out of the courthouse as the crowd reaches a crescendo. Kelly’s mother, Gale Jacobson, gives Seamus a lethal look, her fist clenched at her side. If I ever saw a snake preparing its final strike, it’s now. It won’t be long before dozens of memes with that scowl go viral.

Robert puts his hand on Gale’s lower back and guides his wife away from the crowd and away from a potential disaster. Embezzlement Mike follows behind like a good little lackey, never making eye contact, but his jaw ticks as the crowd cheers at their bad luck.

Even as they scurry away, Seamus can’t seem to stop glaring at them. His muscles twitch and his neck reddens. I’ve been on the receiving end of Seamus’ unwelcoming eyes, but it was nothing compared to what they’re receiving. I lower the megaphone and step his way, distracting him from mentally decapitating his ex-in laws and ‘forever nemesis”. Once I have his attention, I smile softly. “Why don’t we walk down there, mingle and answer questions? A lot of these people have been following this for a year and drove hours to be here.”

It takes a second for his eyes to clear from the ragey fog they were drowning in seconds ago. He nods and follows me down the steps. For the next hour, the four of us mingle with the crowd. Though no one shines brighter than the master crowd captivator himself, Aidan.

****

Every time we visit Denver, Jay comes alive in ways he never does in Seattle. I look down and smile. Jay is swinging our hands while he talks animatedly with the other. As we near the door, Jay jogs ahead, holding it open with a face splitting smile. “Welcome to the board meeting my friends.”

He pulls my chair out and then squeezes my ass before I sit. I shoot him a look but he just smiles like he doesn’t give a fuck, and I’m sure he doesn’t. When he’s around these guys, it’s like he doesn’t have a care in the world.

“Round of drinks on Seamus,” Matt offers with a flirty wink to his fiancé. Seamus doesn’t argue. He raises his hand to the bartender and güvenilir bahis motions for a round, then he, Jay, and Scott huddle up. Scott works for the law firm representing Seamus, they no doubt have a lot to discuss. Matt leans in, curious about their discussion, leaving Will and me.

“You know, when we were in college, there was nothing that would keep Jay away from football.”

I half laugh at the truth in that statement. “I believe it.”

“I’m not sure you do, but that’s a good thing. As much as that guy idolizes the thought of love and family, I was starting to wonder if it was ever going to happen for him. But it has. I’m happy he’s happy.”

Done with shop talk, Jay slides his arm around me. “I’m very happy. Happiest I’ve ever been.”

“Happier than when you were with Jett Romero?”

Jay reaches around me and punches Will’s shoulder. “Why you gotta do me dirty?”

I look between the two. “Who’s Jett Romero?”

Will’s mouth drops. “You haven’t talked about Jett?”

Scott and Seamus drop their conversation and lean forward. Scott looks way too happy. “Are we talking about Jett Romero?”

Jay leans back in his chair, but before he resigns himself for what’s about to come, he looks at me very seriously. “I love you. Remember that.”

“That’s encouraging…”

“Jett was a…fan,” Will says carefully.

Scott grins. “A big fan.”

Jay groans. “Okay, they’re going to make this out to be worse than it was. Jett was a fan, and we were…”

“You were in a relationship,” Will finishes. “A very psycho relationship.”

Jay doesn’t deny it. He concedes to their analysis with a laugh.

Will turns to me with joyful, ready-to-throw-his-friend-under-the-bus eyes. “Jett was the definition of a cleat chaser and Jay was a big name in college football. Out, cute, well liked, and NFL bound. Jett dived headfirst, literally, if you know what I mean, at the chance. He was everywhere Jay was, practically slobbering on our friend’s dick. Jay here loved the attention. Jett would flatter the shit out of him, throwing stats and replaying everything he did on the field like he was a God among men.”

I narrow my eyes at Jay. “I thought you didn’t have time for guys in college. Too focused on football.”

“I was!” he cries, throwing his hands up in the air like everyone is picking on him. He thumps his chest with his thumb. “It’s not like I was instigating–often. I didn’t have to do anything. I just called him and he came over. It was easy.”

“Easy, until he showed up at your parents for Easter…unannounced.”

“That was a red flag,” Jay admits.

“You were too busy getting daily lap dances to see any of the flags the guy was throwing,” Scott teases.

I raise my brow. “Daily lap dances?”

His friends laugh as they recall the memory. Taking turns, they share Jay had never been to a strip club, so Jett thought he could keep Jay interested by bringing the strip club to him…every chance he got, apparently. One night they went to surprise Jay and found him on the couch with a naked Jett shoving his ass in Jay’s face.

“Was this before or after Easter with the parents?”

“Before,” Will says. “Easter was pretty much the end of Jett Romero.”

I look at Jay. “Your parents didn’t care for him?”

“Nope, not even a little.”

Jay’s little cleat-chaser boyfriend, who was practically a stalker, stows-away to Wisconsin to meet the parents without permission. Of course they hate him. Jay breaks up with him. Jett freaks out and turns up the stalker vibes. He’s at every game, every party, the grocery store, etc. Jay should have stayed away, but Jett is sweet when he’s not being crazy and Jay was horny…

“It was a disaster of a year,” Scott tells me. “A real vicious cycle.”

I lean in, bumping Jay’s shoulder. “But the lap-dances were good, right?”

His neck and cheeks bloom bright red. I don’t think he’s ever been to a strip-club, and I don’t know what’s worse, the thought of some random stranger grinding on him or him thinking that the psycho Jett Romero was a good lap dance.

Before the guys can give Jay more flak, Seamus fumbles around the booth until he’s perched on his knee. “Umm, so, there’s a reason I wanted to have this meeting tonight.”

I watch as his friends stare nervously. They genuinely do not know what’s going on. What’s there to be nervous about? We know things are going well with the case against Kelly’s family. Aidan’s fine. Business is booming. Clearly, no one has looked at Matt. If they did, they’d know exactly what Seamus is about to say.

They’re getting married.

“We’re getting married!”

Except, no one is all that surprised. Jay should get an Emmy for his performance, though. He stands and gives Seamus a hug, then does the same for Matt. He gushes and goes on and on.

“I thought you guys were already married,” Scott says. Damn, he’s not a very good supporting actor. No award for him. Jay glares güvenilir bahis siteleri at his friend and sits down in a huff. Scott shakes his head, his lips curling in amusement at pissing off his friend. But it’s not about Jay, so he quickly returns his attention to Seamus. “Aren’t you adopting Aidan and all that?”

“We are. That’s part of the reason. It’s just going to be a small wedding. In fact, it’s tomorrow at the courthouse.”

Jay walks around the table and wraps his arms around his friend. “As happy as I am that you two are getting married, I’m even happier to know you’re forgoing the horse and pony show,” he jokes. “After jumping through a million hoops for Taylor and Derek’s weddings last year, I don’t have it in me to do again.”

“We’re also having another baby.”

Even I double take on that one. I saw the marriage thing coming from a mile away, but a baby? I’m fucking shocked. Aidan is a newborn himself. He’s still in diapers.

“We’ve been looking into surrogacy. We have signed contracts and are ready to get matched with a surrogate. Before we do that, we want to be married first.”

Jay sits forward and holds his hands together like a prayer. “Another baby?”

Matt nods excitingly.

“So this is a shotgun wedding?” Scott teases.

Jay ignores him, then looks between the two. “Do you know who…?” will be the dad.

When Seamus raises his hand, Jay jumps up and fist pumps the sky.

Will slowly swirls his drink. When he looks up, the corner of his mouth twists in a wicked grin. “That kind of makes this the bachelorette party?”

I nod excitedly. This I can get on board with. I look at Matt. “Call your friends and tell them to get their asses here, pronto. Shits about to get real.”

****

“They’re gonna have another baby!” Jay slurs as we make our way out of the bar.

I laugh to myself as I shoulder most of his weight. “Pretty exciting stuff,” I say for his benefit.

“I haven’t been around a baby in…forever. I can’t wait to hold a wittle squishy. Ugh. Aidan will be such a good big brother.”

“Definitely.”

“Oh! We can get them matching Seahawks stuff.”

“Sounds cute.”

He leans his head against my shoulder. Quite the feat considering he’s six inches taller than me. “Seamus asked me to be his best man.”

“Very cool.”

I open the door to the minivan and shove his giant ass in. I turn. The sidewalk is littered with inebriated men. Maybe drinking this much wasn’t a good idea right before the wedding.

Eh. Who cares? It’s just us, anyway. So what if everyone but Matt’s dad is wearing sunglasses?

****

“Matt wanted us to barge in and yell surprise, but given the outcome when your parents did that, I declined,” Seamus says as he comes through the front door with his weekender bag. It’s been an entire month since the shotgun wedding and they’re in town on official baby business.

“My brothers and their wives came by a few weeks ago. They didn’t share your concern. They definitely snuck into the house. I think Taylor was disappointed to find us watering the plants.”

“How are things with your brothers?”

Jay falls back on the chair in the living room. “Super great. We’re still sorting stuff out. They weren’t exactly forthcoming when we first talked, trying to protect me or some BS, but I think we’re past that.”

“Any headway on talking with your parents about it all?”

“Not yet. It was more important to get the nitty gritty with my brothers first, now that we’re getting there, my parents will be next. I’m not rushing it, though. It might be good for them to see some changes first, then I can have a sit down and explain the ‘why’ later.”

“And I will not be there for that,” I interject. “I’ll be in Mexico with my street dog, Kado.”

The rest of the evening is Jay grilling Matt and Seamus about the baby process. Even though it’s not my thing, I find it fascinating. What I know about surrogacy, I learned from prime time made-for-tv horror movies, smut headlines, and Reddit’s AITA blurbs.

“So your lady oven will live in Seattle?” Jay inquires excitedly. The prospect of being close to their surrogate is the newest and grandest news ever. He’s almost more excited than the baby announcement itself.

“Or nearby.”

“There’s one we really like…” Matt says nervously, his eyes darting to mine.

Seamus squeezes Matt’s thigh in a show of support. I can’t imagine how stressful this can be. You’re entrusting someone you don’t know to grow and carry your child, to bring them into this world to the best of their abilities.

Jay claps. “That sounds promising.”

“We hope.” Matt’s eyes dart to mine once more. “She actually lives in Puyallup with her husband and two kids.”

“That’s awesome!” Jay looks at me like ‘isn’t this great? Neighbors!’

I tilt my head and wait…

Seamus smiles awkwardly. “After we matched, Matt found her iddaa siteleri social media.”

Matt scratches his neck. At least he has the balls to hold my eyes. “She follows you…”

Jay elbows me and grins. “Maybe she’d want to hangout. We could get to know her! I could get her tickets to the games!”

Matt and Seamus stare at me. I realize, rather late, that Jay hit the nail on the head. I wave my hands in front of me. “Whoa whoa whoa.”

What do they want from me? To be their surro watcher? To babysit the babysitter? No way.

“I know this seems like a weird request, but we don’t know what else to do. We trust her to do what is agreed between us, but it’s hard to be all the way in Denver while she’s here. We have to tread lightly and the last thing we want is to overstep. It would make us feel so much better if someone was on the ground, you know?”

“You want me to spy on her?”

“No!” Matt shouts, his eyes wide with shock. “Not at all. Just someone to be friends with her. Grab coffee, see how she’s feeling, that kind of thing. What if she doesn’t feel comfortable telling us how she really feels? We’d never know what we can do to make things easier on her. We want to be involved as much as possible and thought it would help to have like…a liaison?”

I blink at Matt and Seamus, then I blink at Jay.

How do I get roped into this stuff? Of everyone in the entire world, I couldn’t care less about any of this and yet I’m the one they’re recruiting to be their lady oven liaison?

Jay watches, entirely too happy with how things are unfolding, because, yeah, they want me to talk to her about feelings, and pregnancy, and kids, and…what in the actual fuck is happening?

“Okay, I’ll meet with her or whatever, but I’m not delivering a baby. I refuse.”

Jay might be smiling, but when I start doing the dishes once we call it a night, he gives me a wide berth. I scrub the design off the plate and set it none too gently with the others. I’m not a feel-good person. I have no idea why they would ask this of me. I know their motives aren’t to garner fans or followings. Honestly, I don’t know what the fuck is happening.

Seamus comes out of nowhere and grabs the plate from my hand before I toss it in the clean pile. Probably a good call. The pile is one careless act away from toppling like a Jenga tower.

He grabs a clean dish towel and begins drying. “I told Matt it was asking too much of you.”

“I just don’t understand why me.”

“Because I’m scared. This is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done. It will forever change our lives. We think we found a really great surrogate in MaryBeth, but that doesn’t dispel our fears. My fears. I’d move to Seattle to be closer, but I know it would only make the worrying worse. I’d ask Jay, but he’s way too emotional. He’d get too attached to remain objective. The truth is, I trust you. I trust you in a way that I don’t trust anyone else. I’ve seen you with Aidan. I know you care for him and would do anything for him and at the same time, you don’t let bullshit get in the way. So I know I can trust you with our little Tater. I know you would make MaryBeth feel like the most important thing in the world, while also making sure our child is the most important thing in the world. I know you wouldn’t betray her trust or worrying us with things that aren’t important, but I trust you’d come to us if there were real concerns. I wouldn’t have asked you if I thought there was anyone else who could guard this part of our lives for us.”

I grip the edge of the counter and hang my head. “Fuck.”

Seamus laughs. “I take that as a yes?”

“Well, if you don’t think anyone else is capable of, whatever the fuck it is you want me to do, then I guess the answer is yes.”

He turns and leans his butt against the counter. Our shoulders are almost touching. “You can say no. You’re already doing so much for us with the court battle, and now this. I understand the enormity of it all. It’s not a small request. If all goes well, we’re looking at twelve-months. And that’s if we’re successful on our first transfer. I’d owe you.”

“You’d owe me big.”

“So big.”

“One great big, giant favor, redeemable by me at a time and place of my choosing.”

Seamus reaches out his hand. “Deal.”

****

You know the saying time flies when you’re having fun? Well, I can’t say it was exactly fun, but a year later and I’m the master of surrogacy. I know everything there is to know about being an intended parent and a surrogate. I can tell you the IVF protocol down to how to best time administer progesterone and how to store meds. I know more than my share of how a woman’s body changes during pregnancy and what vegetable represents what stage of fetal growth.

All useless information that I wish I could forget, but as Matt and Seamus’s official lady oven liaison, I have no choice.

It’s funny. MaryBeth is always worried that Seamus and Matt won’t be happy with something she’s doing while Matt and Seamus just want her to do whatever makes her comfortable and happy. Meanwhile, I’m over here ordering her a sugar cookie latte, half caf, so everyone can calm the fuck down.

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