Nathan had always been a heavy sleeper. He always supposed he’d built up an immunity to outside noise because, otherwise, he’d never get any sleep while on the road with his three best friends. Of course, the fact that he could sleep through a hurricane had greatly annoyed his wife when the twins were younger, because it meant she always had to shove him awake when it was his turn to do the middle of the night soothing rituals.
Now that the twins were grown up and away at college for a good part of the year, he no longer needed to worry about missing out on something while he was asleep. Which was why he was more than a little confused when his wife punched his arm in the middle of the night and mumbled something about how he needed to get up because someone was calling.
Groaning, Nathan lifted his head from the pillow to see his phone screen lit up and vibrating against the nightstand and an unknown number flashing across the screen. Reaching for his phone with one hand, he pushed the covers off with the other and swung his feet to the floor, pressing the ‘accept’ button as he exited the room, but waiting to speak until he was in the hallway to keep from further disturbing his wife.
“Hello?” he mumbled, using his free hand to rub one of his eyes.
Immediately becoming alert at the sound of Tyler Copeland’s voice, Nathan stood up a little straighter. ”Ty? Is everything alright?”
“Not exactly,” Tyler replied slowly. “We need you to come somewhere.”
“Sure,” Nathan agreed immediately, sensing something was wrong. “Where? What’s going on?”
“To the police station. Brody’s been arrested.”
6 HOURS EARLIER
Tongue poking between his lips in concentration, Jamie combed his fingers through his hair as he stared at his reflection in the mirror, wondering why it took him longer to get it to look right now than it ever had when he used copious amounts of product. Sighing and deciding this was as good as it was going to get, he straightened his posture and double checked the buttons on his pale green shirt before turning towards the closet to find his shoes.
He stopped short in the entrance to the closet, his eyes widening at the sight of his sparkling white Converse with the laces untied. Despite the fact that he was nearly twenty-six years old and really should have gained some experience in the shoelace tying area, he hadn’t really ever gotten around to learning. Generally, it wasn’t an issue, because he’d gotten so used to not knowing what to do that he just left his laces tied at all times and bought shoes a size too big so that he could slip in and out of them easily. But apparently, he’d had a lapse of judgment the last time he’d worn these particular shoes and decided to untie the laces before he took them off, completely screwing himself over for the next time he wanted to wear them.
“Need some help?”
Glancing up from the staring contest he was having with his shoes, he instantly smiled at the sight of his uber pregnant fiancé standing in the bathroom doorway, her hands resting peacefully atop her swollen middle.
“Yeah, actually,” he laughed lightly, knowing he didn’t need to be embarrassed about the fact that he still had yet to acquire this particular skill because Kira wasn’t one to be judgmental. “Do you mind?”
“Of course not,” she grinned nodding towards the bed. At seven months into her pregnancy, she was too large to successfully bend over, so she settled down on the edge of their bed instead and motioned for him to lift his feet one by one into her lap once he’d slipped into the shoes.
“Thanks, babe,” he whispered, leaning down to press a kiss to her lips before lifting one leg and settling his foot on top of her thigh, careful to keep his weight on the leg which was still straightened.
She flashed him a smile as she double knotted his laces, gesturing when she was finished with one to indicate he should switch legs and resting her hands on his waist when both his feet were planted on the floor again to keep him in place as she spoke. “Hey, promise me something, okay?”
“Of course, anything,” he replied immediately, knowing he’d move heaven and earth to make Kira happy. “What’s up?”
A slow smile stretched her lips as she squeezed his hips lightly. “Have some fun tonight.”
“Kira Saxton,” he teased, leaning down to press another sweet kiss to her lips before stepping away to grab his wallet off the dresser. “Are you insinuating that I don’t have enough fun?”
“Not at all,” she laughed, watching as he stuffed his wallet into the back pocket of his dark wash jeans. “I just know you get worried about me and the baby and I just want you to relax and enjoy tonight. I’ll be fine.”
In celebration of the fact that Jamie and Kira were getting married in two weeks, Tyler had organized a boys’ night out, which basically consisted of barhopping, and although Jamie appreciated the sentiment, he was a bit anxious about leaving super pregnant Kira home alone for the night. Her girls’ night would be the next weekend because Caroline had a soccer game in another city tonight and wouldn’t be able to come home.
“You sure?” he asked, stepping towards her again and reaching out to brush her bangs out of her eye. “Maybe you should call Jessa or Eve to come hang out.”
Because Caroline couldn’t make it home this weekend, Piper and Lucy had stayed at college as well, which meant that the only of the girls who were in town were Jessamine and Cassie, who still remained roommates despite having already graduated from college and lived in an apartment a few streets over, which was conveniently located near both the studio workshop of the designer Jessamine worked for and the tech company that Cassie worked for.
“I’ll be fine,” Kira promised, flattening her hands against his chest and tilting her head back so she could more easily look him in the eyes. “You go get wild, babe.”
“Alright,” Jamie laughed, lifting the corners of his mouth into a smile. “But if you need me, don’t hesitate to call.”
“Will do,” she grinned, sliding her hands upwards to hook her fingers over his shoulders and using his body as leverage to hoist herself to her feet just as someone rapped on the door.
“Go answer,” she laughed once she was stable. “I’ll make my way over.”
Flashing her a smile, he pressed a kiss to her cheek before turning to exit the bedroom and wind his way to the front door, pulling it open to reveal Brody Peters on the other side.
“Hey, Brody,” Jamie greeted, stepping aside to allow the younger boy to enter before pulling him into a hug. “Did you just get in?”
Brody shared a house with three other people just off campus of the art school he attended, but had come home just to partake in this weekend’s adventures.
“Really late last night,” he nodded, his expression lighting with joy as Kira wandered into the room. “Hey, Keeks! Don’t you look gorgeous.”
“Well, aren’t you the sweetest?” she laughed, pulling him into a hug, her pregnant belly keeping her from holding him too close. Her smile widened when he kissed her cheek as he pulled away. “Hey, do me a favor and make sure Jamie has a wild time tonight. I’m talking like, I wanna be bailing him out of jail tomorrow wild.”
“We’ll do our best,” Brody smiled widely as he replied. “Knowing Ty, that’s exactly what’s gonna end up happening. Speaking of which, where is he?”
A few miles away, Tyler was loudly calling out for his mother as he frantically emptied out the contents of his closet.
“What is going on?”
Tyler turned at the sound of a voice which definitely did not belong to his mother to find Justin standing just inside the doorway of his bedroom, his brows drawn downwards in confusion.
“Have you seen my jacket?” Tyler asked, turning his attention back to the closet he’d already looked through five times. “The leather one with the gray hood.”
“That’s what you’ve been yelling about?” Justin relaxed a bit, his eyebrows returning to their normal position as he shoved his fingers into the front pockets of his jeans. “I thought you had a crisis.”
“This is a crisis, Dad,” Tyler shot his father a glare over his shoulder before squatting down to dig through the pile of dirty clothes on his closet floor. “I’m already late to meet Jamie and Brody and this outfit is kind of incomplete without that jacket.”
Justin knew better than to make any sort of sarcastic remarks about how the jacket was unnecessary because if having a fashionista as a daughter had taught him anything, it was that accessories were critical in completing an outfit. “Did you leave it at Jessa’s place? You were there last weekend.”
Tyler spent quite a bit of the very little free time he had at his sister’s apartment, driving home from college every other weekend just to spend the night. Partly because he wanted to see his sister and partly because he wanted to see his sister’s roommate.
“You’re right,” Tyler nodded quickly, grabbing his car keys off the top of his dresser and striding towards the door. “I’ll swing by there on my way to Jamie’s. Thanks, Dad.”
“No problem,” Justin laughed, turning to follow his son into the hallway and calling out his name before he descended the stairs. “Hey, Ty, I know from experience that guys’ nights can get a little wild, so I just want you to know that you can call me if you get in any sort of trouble.”
“Trouble?” Tyler quirked one eyebrow upwards as he rested a hand on the bannister, unsuccessfully trying to keep from laughing. “Me? I think you must be confusing me with your other child.”
Justin rolled his eyes and lifted a hand in a wave. “Have fun. Be safe. Love you.”
“Love you!” Tyler called out as he turned to jog down the stairs, leaving his father laughing on the landing.
He arrived at his sister’s apartment fifteen minutes later, keeping his keys in his hand as he jogged towards the apartment at the end of the hallway on the first floor, knocking twice on the door and having his lips automatically stretch into a smile when it swung open a few moments later to reveal his sister’s roommate.
“Hey, gorgeous,” he grinned, leaning down to kiss her cheek as a greeting and relishing in the way her skin tinted a bit pinker at the contact. Even two years later and she still couldn’t stop blushing around him; it was adorable.
“Hey,” Cassie’s eyebrows lifted in surprise as she stepped to the side to silently indicate that he should enter. “What are you doing here? Aren’t you supposed to be with Jamie and Brody?”
He nodded as his eyes searched the common area for his missing accessory. “Yeah, but I think I left my jacket here last weekend. Have you seen it?”
She hummed in response, stepping around him towards her bedroom to find the jacket he’d left on her floor the last time he’d been over. After he had left, she had noticed it in her room and meant to tell him she had it, but she’d forgotten because she’d ended up wearing it to work a couple times the past week. It was warm and comfortable and it smelled just like him: chlorine and cedar.
A wide grin immediately stretched his lips when she held it out towards him upon her return, and he grabbed it excitedly as he threaded his arms through the sleeves. “You’re a lifesaver, babe.”
“No worries,” she laughed crossing her arms over her chest as she watched him adjust the jacket over his shoulders. “Excited for tonight?”
“Should be amazing,” he exclaimed, pausing in his mission to straighten the Copeland of his jacket to notice her emerald colored dress and black leather ankle booties. “You look pretty. Hot date?”
His tone was teasing, but his expression instantly shifted from one of humor to one of horror when she quickly replied, “Yep.”
They stared at each other for a good thirty seconds as Tyler attempted to figure out whether or not she was messing with him and sighed in relief when she could no longer hold back a smile and began to laugh and he mentally scolded himself for being ridiculous.
“I’m going to dinner with some friends,” she explained, her gold eyes light with joy, “And speaking of having plans, don’t you have somewhere to be?”
“Right,” he nodded. Stepping forward, he grabbed her face between his palms and leaned down to press a quick kiss to her lips before making his way towards the door. “I’ll see you at dinner tomorrow.”
“Okay,” she smiled widely, flushing at the physical contact as she turned to watched him open the door and step back into the hallway. She paused before she closed it after him, calling out his name. “Hey, Ty, text me when you get home, okay? So I know everything’s alright.”
“Will do,” he raised one hand in a small wave and clutched his car keys with the other. “Have fun tonight.”
“You too,” she called after him as he sprinted down the hallway.
He arrived at Jamie’s apartment exactly ten minutes later to find that Brody, as always, had been on time.
“Fashionably late as usual,” Kira laughed as she wrapped as much as her arms as she could around Tyler’s middle, her grin widening when he kissed her cheek as he pulled away.
“I had a little bit of a fashion emergency, actually,” Tyler chuckled in response. “Kiki, you’re beautiful. Will you have my baby next?”
Despite the fact that he knew the flirting was perfectly harmless, Jamie still smacked Tyler upside the head, looking smugly pleased when the younger boy shot him a glare before turning his attention back to Kira, who was squeezing his hand to get his attention.
“Hey, do me a favor,” she said with mock sternness. “Get Jamie in some trouble tonight.”
“Will do,” Tyler dropped one eye in a wink, squeezing Kira’s hand back before dropping it to turn his attention to the other boys. “Ready to go?”
Nodding, Brody turned to hug Kira goodbye and Tyler followed suit, the two of them stepping into the hallway to watch as Jamie planted a sound kiss on his future wife’s lips before following them out the door to begin the night’s festivities. Jamie and Kira lived walking distance from a street which housed a multitude of bars and restaurants, so the plan was to begin with dinner at a pub and then work their way down the street. The best part about walking was that they could get as absolutely hammered as they liked without having to worry about driving back, especially since Kira had absolutely no problem with Brody and Tyler crashing in the lounge room afterwards.
They began by scarfing down burgers and fries and pints of beer and their favorite pub before moving on to the first bar down the street. The next two hours were spent sipping beers and taking shots as they played darts and reminisced about their childhoods. Like how Jamie always seemed to be able to rope them into his latest scheme to prank someone while the kids were on tour with their parents and how if he ever got caught by someone who wasn’t his father, he somehow managed to talk his way out of it. It wasn’t until their third bar that they decided they should probably slow down a bit and settled into a booth near the back to drink their pints slowly.
“Okay, but really, bro,” Tyler said, his words coming out a bit slurred as he leaned against the back of the leather booth. “You’re getting married in two weeks and you’re having a kid a few weeks after that. Aren’t you freaked out?”
“A little,” Jamie admitted, knowing he didn’t need to hide anything from his brothers. “I mean, not so much about the marriage part, because I’ve pretty much known Kira was the one since we were eighteen. But I did think we’d be a bit more settled into married life before we started having kids.”
“Well,” Brody sighed, setting down his half drained pint glass. “I think the two of you are gonna be pretty great parents.”
“Yeah?” Jamie laughed, his lips stretching into a smile, glad for the support. “And are you guys ready to be uncles?”
Tyler grinned almost immediately and nodded enthusiastically. “Yes! Dude, I love kids. And the best part is that once I’m done playing with it, I get to give it back to you.”
“So you and Cassie aren’t planning on starting your own brood anytime soon?” Jamie laughed, lifting a hand to tug his fingers through his hair, enjoying the way the question made Tyler squirm.
“Hell, no,” Tyler spat out, a bit of fear in his voice. “I only just got out of my teen years a few months ago. I’m nowhere near ready to be a husband or father.”
“To be honest,” Brody piped up quietly. “I’m just impressed that the two of you are still together. I thought relationships scared the shit out of you, but here you are, over a year later, still going strong.”
“Trust me, dude,” Tyler muttered, a smile stretching his lips as thoughts of his girlfriend filled his mind. “I’m just as surprised as you are. And I was terrified, when we first started going out, but the longer we’re together, the more I wonder why I ever thought relationships were scary at all because I can’t really imagine life without her.”
“Would you look at that?” Jamie smirked, reaching out for his half empty pint glass. “Our little Ty is all grown up.”
“Shut up,” Tyler rolled his eyes, a blush tinting his cheeks as he grabbed his drink as well.
“What about you, Brody?” Jamie turned his attention to the sandy haired boy sitting beside him, deciding not to embarrass Tyler any further. “Thinking about putting a ring on my sister’s finger anytime soon?”
Brody instantly became red at the mention of Caroline, thinking it was amazing that he had been in love with the same girl since he was fifteen. Even when they had broken up just after high school graduation, thinking that they shouldn’t be tied down when they were attending colleges in different cities and that the distance would just strain their relationship, he hadn’t ever even looked at anyone else. He’d thrown himself into his art to keep from thinking about her and she’d done the same with her soccer and eight months later, they’d both agreed that breaking up had been one of their dumber ideas.
“I don’t know…,” Brody replied slowly, his hazel eyes wide behind his black rimmed glasses. “Do you think she’d be into that?”
“I guess you’ll have to ask and find out,” Jamie laughed, knowing perfectly well that if Brody did, in fact, ask, Caroline would undoubtedly say yes.
Dropping his gaze to hide his growing blush, Brody mumbled something about using the restroom and slipped out of the booth, allowing Jamie to stretch his arm across the back of the leather seat. They talked about how Tyler was working his way up the ranks of his college’s swim team and how he felt like his business classes were bringing him one step closer to his dream of one day owning his own restaurant. They talked about how excited Jamie was to be a father and how even though the timing wasn’t perfect, he felt as though everything in his life was exactly how it was supposed to be.
Thirty minutes later, they realized something was wrong.
“Brody’s been gone a long time,” Tyler noted, glancing towards the vacant spot in the booth next to Jamie. “Should we go check on him?”
Nodding, but not speaking, Jamie slipped out of the booth and Tyler followed close behind as they wandered around the corner to the bathroom. Tyler pushed open the door with one hand and called out Brody’s name, only to furrow his brow in confusion when he received no response.
His concern increasing, Jamie called out to the next person who exited the bathroom, asking if they’d seen a tall boy with sandy blonde curls and glasses and found himself even more bewildered when the burly man mentioned something about seeing a man matching that description walk out towards the back alley.
Tyler and Jamie followed the man’s directions, turning down the small hallway at the back of the pub and pushing open the back service door, craning their heads in both directions in search of their missing brother. It was Jamie who spotted Brody first, standing a ways down the alley, staring quizzically at the brick wall.
“Brody?” Jamie called out, holding the door open so Tyler could step into the alleyway as well before the two of them made their way towards Nathan’s son. “What are you doing out here?”
Rather than respond, Brody lifted his hand, which was clutching what looked to be a can of spray paint and shook it a few times before he opened the lid and began to spray the paint on the brick.
“Brody!” Jamie gasped in horror when he and Tyler came to a skidding stop beside their friend. “What are you doing?”
“Painting,” he replied simply, lifting one shoulder in a shrug as he continued to add his own artistic flavor to someone else’s rendition of what was supposed to be two people holding hands. “I saw these guys with spray paint coming out here when I was leaving the bathroom and they started painting this wall, but they didn’t finish, so I figured I’d finish it for them.”
“Okay…,” Tyler replied slowly, his heart rate increasing with each passing second, because although he could appreciate Brody’s need for completeness, what the Peters boy was doing was very public and very illegal. “But since when do you paint public property without permission?”
“Will you relax, Ty?” Brody laughed, keeping his gaze focused on his painting. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
Not entirely sure how to respond to that because neither of them were used to Brody being the one who was doing something that could get him in trouble, both Tyler and Jamie gaped at him, wondering how they could talk him into walking away before he got caught. But it took them too long to think of any sort of persuasive argument to get them to stop, because before they could speak again, flashlights were being shined down the alley and two uniformed police officers were staring at them sternly.
“Are you mad?” Brody asked his father quietly in the car once they’d dropped Jamie and Tyler off at their respective homes.
Nathan shook his head, the corners of his lips lifting into a smile as he shifted his gaze from the road momentarily to glance at his son. “Impressed, actually. Between you and your sister, I definitely thought she would be the first to get arrested.”
Brody let out a relieved laugh, feeling as though a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. “Me too.”
“That being said,” Nathan continued, a smile still stretching his lips. “Make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
“Will do,” Brody grinned as Nathan pulled the car into the garage.
They bid each other goodnight with a hug and Brody trudged up to his bedroom, pulling his phone from the front pocket of his jeans and opening the text message conversation he was having with Caroline as he kicked off his shoes and fell backwards onto the bed.
It was too late to call her because he knew she’d be resting up for the soccer game she had later that day, and he would tell her about his eventful evening eventually, but for now he just wanted to let her know that he was thinking about her. Chewing on his lower lip, he typed out ‘Good night with the boys. Miss you loads. Love you’. After pressing send, his fingers hesitated over the touch screen and he began to spell out a question that had been on his mind since Jamie brought it up a few hours earlier.
If I asked you to marry me someday, would you say yes?
As soon as the message was sent, he instantly regretted it, wishing like hell he could take it back and racking his brain for excuses as to what he would say when Caroline undoubtedly asked him about it later that day. However, he was saved from having to mentally act out how that conversation would go when his phone buzzed with a response from his girlfriend a few seconds later. His eyes widened in surprise, but his lips soon stretched into a wide grin as he read her one word reply.
The house was quiet when Tyler pushed open the front door using his house key because he had left his car in the parking garage at Jamie and Kira’s apartment. Shutting the door as quietly as possible to keep from waking his parents, he clutched his keys in his hand and tiptoed up the stairs, breathing easily again once he had shut his bedroom door and plopped down on the edge of his bed.
As promised, he dug his phone from the pocket of his jeans to text Cassie, surprised, when after he sent her a message saying he’d got home safe, she called him in response. His lips automatically lifting into a smile, he spoke softly as he lay back on his bed and stared at his ceiling.
“Hey, beautiful. I didn’t think you’d still be awake.”
“Me neither,” she laughed, a sound which made him feel instantly warm. “But I actually just got home as well. How was your night?”
“Wild,” he sighed, reaching up to tug his fingers through his hair and deciding he’d tell her the details later. “How was yours?”
“Amazing!” she replied brightly. “We just talked and laughed for ages and it was great because I hadn’t seen any of those people in a while.”
Tyler yawned as exhaustion finally washed over him. “That’s great, babe.”
“Alright, I’ll let you sleep,” Cassie chuckled quietly at his yawning. “Goodnight.”
“Sweet dreams,” he replied. “Hey, Cass?"
“I love you.” It wasn’t the first time he’d said those words to her, but he still couldn’t believe he felt so comfortable saying them, like loving her was the most natural thing in the world.
He could tell she was smiling when she responded. “I know. I love you, too.”
Jamie slipped off his shoes as soon as he entered the apartment, padding quietly towards the bedroom, where Kira was sleeping soundly. Double checking to make sure his laces were still tied, he placed his Converse in the empty spot in the line of shoes at the bottom of his side of the closet before beginning to unbutton his shirt.
“Hey,” a soft voice rang out from the bedroom. “Did you get in some trouble?”
He took a step backwards so he could look into the bedroom as he shrugged off his shirt and saw Kira lying on her side, her eyelids heavy with sleep, but the corners of her lips turned up into a smile.
“Yes, actually,” he grinned, tossing his shirt in the laundry basket and reaching up to grab a t-shirt off a shelf. “I’ll tell you all about it in the morning.”
“Alright,” she murmured, her eyes fluttering closed as he pulled on the t-shirt and then unbuttoned his jeans, pushing them down his legs and kicking them into the basket as well. “Are Ty and Brody okay on the couch?”
“They’re actually at home,” he explained, stepping into a pair of plaid pajama pants and turning to brush his teeth. “Uncle Nate dropped them off.”
“Uncle Nate?” her eyes shot open again and she propped herself up on one elbow, knowing there would be no reason for any of her uncles to get involved unless something had gone horribly wrong. “Why was Uncle Nate there?”
“It’s kind of a long story,” he sighed after he finished brushing his teeth, turning off the bathroom and closet lights and closing the door behind him as he stepped back into the bedroom. “I’ll explain later.”
She wanted to ask what that meant, but she was too exhausted to argue, so she nodded and set her head back down on the pillow as Jamie climbed into the bed beside her, getting comfortable under the covers before scooching as close to her as possible and wrapping one arm around her waist.
“I’m just glad you had a good time,” she whispered, the volume of her voice rapidly fading as sleep overcame her once more.
Smiling softly, he leaned in to press a kiss to her forehead, lifting his hand to push aside her bangs so his lips could touch her skin and whispering how he loved her against as he pulled away. He would be lying if he said the thought of all that was to come in the months ahead didn’t scare him just a little. After all, marriage and a child in such a short amount of time was a lot of life changes, but Jamie was ready for it. And even if he had no idea how to be a parent, he had his entire extended family to help him out in that area and Kira, who would always be his rock.
He smiled as he fell asleep, his arms wrapped around the love his life, thinking that he really was the luckiest guy in the world.
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