As the weeks passed into months, Lacey and I grew even closer. I was finally allowing myself to feel things that I’d long forbidden myself to feel. After all these years, they flooded to me, so strong, so overpowering. I admired and adored the woman that was becoming a significant piece of my life, and with every day that we spent together, I was aware of how much I was beginning to fall for her. I couldn’t fight it any longer, I couldn’t stop it, and if I was being entirely honest with myself, I didn’t want to either. I was swept up in pure paradise, and I never wanted it to end.
“What are you thinking about?” Lacey asked sleepily, rolling onto her side and blinking up at me.
“You.” I answered simply, stretching out an arm and drawing her in closer, feeling satisfaction spreading through me as she rested her head on my chest.
“Oh yeah? Anything in particular about me?”
“Maybe.” I admitted.
The words were right there, on the tip of my tongue, but something stopped me from uttering them. Maybe this wasn’t the right time, or the right place, maybe it was fear that was stopping me, maybe it was perfectionism. Whatever it was, I knew that I’d say them soon, I needed to, and I needed her to know.
“Are you going to tell me?” She laughed, moving to sit up, the sheets falling off of her and revealing her sun kissed skin, and perfect curves, still naked from last night.
“Soon.” I smirked, leaning in and kissing her.
I could kiss her all day, everyday, and never want to stop. But sadly, we had other plans today, and they would involve getting out of bed, which wouldn’t happen if I didn’t hurry up and move.
The park was busy, as it always was at this time of year. The sun beamed down from the cloudless blue sky, and the scent of freshly mown grass and barbecue lingered on the warm breeze. Climbing out of the car, I reached into the back seat for the selection of food that we’d packaged up for the occasion, and passed some to Lacey. This was a tradition that we did every year. A big Red Watch family barbecue in the park. Everyone was invited, along with their families. My dad and Marya had already texted me to say they were here, and I could see from the crowd, that everyone else was too.
“Seems that we’re the last here.” Lacey said as we started to walk across the field.
“Might have something to do with a certain person not wanting to get out of bed.” I teased, nudging her slightly.
The nearer we got, the more that everyone came into focus. Tom was monitoring the barbecue, as always. He was used to being in charge, so it was only natural that he took that role, along with his wife, Crystal, who stood at his side, slicing up bread, her red hair glowing like fire under the sun. I was pleased to see Cindy not too far from there, casually dressed for once, but clearly looking like she’d made an effort. A glass of wine in hand, and watching as Alex played with their two year old son. He was the happiest that I’d seen him in ages, and that smile grew even brighter as his ex wife put down her drink and moved to sit beside him on the grass. Cain and Sam were by the cooler, pulling out a few beers, whilst their wives, Hope and Eva were settling their kids with some cups of juice. My father, Marya, Jax, Heidi and Will were all sitting at the table, picking at the snacks and clearly in deep conversation, whilst Pixie and Johnny laid on the grass a stone’s throw away, both sunbathing and chatting quietly. An umbrella was erected at the next bench, and I saw Dodger and Emilia seated beneath it, his arms wrapped around her as she leant against him, her growing bump standing out under her simple top and flowing skirt.
“About bloody time.” Jax shouted, spotting us drawing nearer.
I laughed, stopping at the table, and placing the food down with Lacey.
“Bane, lovely to see you again.” Crystal said warmly.
“You too.” I replied, giving her a brief hug.
“Lacey, this is Crystal Steele, Tom’s wife.”
With a fleeting hello to Tom, I continued to introduce Lacey to the others that she was yet to meet.
Once we’d successfully made our way around the entire group, we settled at the table with Dodger and Em, beers in hand and picking our way through some potato salad and doritos.
“Ugh, what I wouldn’t give for a beer right now.” Em groaned, stroking her hand over her belly and staring at the newly opened bottle in Dodger’s hand.
“Sorry baby, but that’s a huge no.” He replied, taking a swig.
“How far along are you now?” Lacey asked.
“Five months. Feels like it’s been much longer though.” She groaned.
“Oh I know that feeling.” Eva called out, joining the table with Sam, and lifting their four year old son onto the bench, both of them taking seats on each side of him.
Laughter rumbled around the table as she sighed, sweeping her long, light brown hair over her shoulder, and lifting her glass of wine to her lips.
“It’ll all be worth it though when I get to hold him.” Em said longingly.
“Him? Have you found out?” Sam asked.
“No, we want it to be a surprise.” Dodger answered. “But Em is convinced that it’s a boy. I think it’s a girl though.”
“I’m rapidly regretting the choice to wait. I need to know.”
Dodger hugged her as we all laughed, the whining tone she was using was clearly aimed at breaking Dodge’s resolve, and allowing her to find out. But by his expression, I’d guessed that it wasn’t the first time that she’d attempted this… or that she’d failed.
With the arrival of the cooked food, we pushed the benches together and sat, eating our way through hot dogs, burgers and chicken until we were all stuffed, and on the verge of food comas. Some of the group drifted off to get ice creams for the kids, or more drinks, I was about to grab another beer, when my sister dropped into the seat next to me.
“How are you enjoying your first Watch barbecue party?” She asked Lacey.
“It’s fun, and it’s been great getting to know everyone.” She smiled.
Marya nodded, lifting her beer to her lips.
“They’re always fun, that’s for sure. I can’t believe there’s going to be another little baby here next year.” She said excitedly, looking over at Em. “I’m beginning to feel jealous. I want one.”
I nearly choked on my drink at her words. Thumping myself on the chest, I stared at her in confused horror.
“Please tell me that’s not your way of breaking the news that you’re knocked up?” I asked, my heart beginning to race at the very thought.
She slapped me on the arm as Dodger and Lacey laughed on either side of me.
“Calm down, bro. I’m not pregnant… yet.”
I fixed her with a scathing glare, and she buckled, holding her hands up in surrender.
“I’m sure you’ll come round to the idea when there are little ones crawling around fussing over their Uncle Rebel.”
I saw Sam smirking opposite, and Cain throwing a wink my way.
“How about you Lacey? Do you want kids?”
“Mari!” I snapped.
She shrugged, then rolled her eyes.
“I was just asking. Geesh, chill out. I want to be an aunty, she’s flipped you on dating I was just hoping it extended further, that’s all.”
I wanted to throw something at her. Lacey and I just stared at her aghast, unable to believe that she had just pretty much announced our relationship to the entire Watch.
“What?” She asked over the top of her beer bottle.
“Seriously?” I asked with deathly calm.
I heard the others sniggering, and then Sam cut in:
“He thinks you just revealed their secret relationship.”
I spun towards him with such speed that I felt the crick in my neck.
“What the fuck? Do all of you know?” I asked in disbelief, as they all burst out laughing.
“You’re not exactly sneaky. You turn up at work together quite a lot you know.” Cain chuckled.
“And whenever you’re on a shout, you have this look when you meet back up.” Will added.
I groaned, wanting to sink beneath the table at this point. I looked at Lacey, who appeared equally stunned by their revelation. Her cheeks were the faintest shade of pink and she cradled a bottle in her hands.
“Well, I guess that’s out of the bag now then.” I laughed.
“We’re family Dumbass. You can’t hide anything from us.” Sam smirked.
The time ticked on, and the sun began to sink lower. Glowing oranges and neon pinks started to tinge the clear aqua sky, and the breeze picked up, rustling the trees. As the kids grew restless, people began to split, getting ready to head home, or packing up their cars and jamming their sugar fuelled kids into the back seats with saint-like patience and alluring bribes. I got Lacey on her own, nodding my head towards the large, open space of the field that was now unoccupied. Together we wandered slowly along the grass, her arm wrapped around mine, and her head resting against my shoulder. It was peculiar to be able to be so open whilst still around the crew, but it was a relief and also a comfort to know that we didn’t have to hide it anymore.
“Do you mind?” She asked timidly, neither of us stopping.
“Mhm.” She nodded against me.
I thought on it for a fraction of a second, and then replied:
“No.” I said honestly. “I wasn’t keeping it from them for any reason other than not wanting it to become something that needed to be a big deal.”
She stayed silent, and I began to worry for a moment that she wasn’t as happy with them knowing as I was.
“What about you?” I asked, feeling a lump rising in my throat.
She exhaled, and straightened up, coming to a stop. I turned towards her, bracing myself for whatever she was about to say.
“I don’t mind. I’m sort of relieved,” She began, “But I think it’s just something that I’d have liked them to know from us, when we were ready.”
I wasn’t sure what she meant, I felt like I was ready, and I had thought that she felt that too.
“You’re not ready?”
Her eyes narrowed and she shook her head, reaching out to me and taking hold of my hands, intertwining our fingers.
“I didn’t mean that.” She said softly. “Just, we’ve been doing this for months now, the dates, the sex… it’s felt like it’s going somewhere, but we’ve never really said it.”
“You mean officially?” I asked.
She nodded, looking down at our hands.
“I don’t want this to be cemented by them thinking we’re together, when we aren’t.” She admitted.
“It’s not. At least not by me. I’m sorry that I haven’t made it clear enough before. I’m not good with this stuff, it’s been a long road, and it’s all so new to me.”
We both laughed, a tender and relief fueled laugh.
“Then we’re bound to make mistakes.” I stated, “But let me correct my biggest one.”
I pulled her against me, her warm body feeling right at home nestled in my grasp, her chest against mine until I felt like I could feel her heart beating side by side with my own.
“Lacey Rose, I’ve been completely taken under your spell. You’re fierce, strong, beautiful and everything that I could ever want in a woman.”
Her smile blossomed, and her grey eyes were locked with mine, shimmering in the setting sun, rainbows sparkling in their silvery depths.
“I was an idiot for not making you mine after the very first time that we kissed. Because with every day since then, you have claimed another piece of my heart. I love you Rosie, so please, will you be my girlfriend… officially.”
She giggled, closing the space between us and locking her lips with mine, kissing me deeply, and passionately, breaking apart just long enough to whisper:
“Yes… I love you too.”