Author: Jaci Burton
"Agree," Jenna said. "In some ways, he's better than Mick, because of the way he runs. He confuses the hell out of the defense."
Liz nodded. "I'm eager to get my hands on him and get him an NFL contract."
Tara looked horrified. "Oh, God, don't tell him that. He'll want to come out next year, and Mick and I want him to stay in school and finish up his degree."
Liz laughed. "My lips are sealed. And I tend to agree with you. Some of these boys leave school too soon, the lure of the big contract and big money too much to resist. The longer they stay in college, the more experience they gain. At least that's what I always advise them."
"Obviously, they don't always listen."
She shrugged. "Bottom line is the choice is theirs to make. Many of them go on to have highly successful careers, but it's my hope they all get their degrees. Or at least stay through their junior years, then finish up their degrees later."
Tara nodded. "We're going to push for Nathan to stay in school as long as possible, but you're right, it's his career and his choice. We just hope he makes the right one."
They went over wedding planning, then went out to lunch. Liz parted ways with Tara and Jenna, then headed home, hoping to find Gavin there. Instead, he'd left a message on her phone letting her know he was going for a tux fitting, and then lunch.
Which was fine with her. She had some work to do, anyway, so she opened her laptop and answered a few emails. When she was done, she reviewed her calendar.
It was going to be an extremely busy holiday season. Not only was Jenna getting married-with Liz taking a very active role in that, which she was very excited about-but in addition, she and Gavin would be hosting Christmas for the Riley family in their home this year. Since this was the first time they'd have the entire family over for Christmas, Liz felt the burden of doing everything just right.
Not that Gavin's family put high expectations on Christmas or anything. His parents were the kindest people she'd ever known. Kathleen and Jimmy Riley had been family to her-more parents to her than her own-since before she and Gavin had ever gotten together. She loved them so much, and they were genuinely warm people. So there was no pressure, other than the normal pressure she put on herself, which was always high.
But still, there'd be a lot of coordinating to do. The Riley family was formidable, and now that there were wives and kids and significant others in the picture, Christmas was going to be huge this year. And Liz intended for this to be the best holiday ever.
She made a few notes about food. Catering was out, unfortunately, because the Rileys just wouldn't go for that. Nothing but homemade at Christmas. Kathleen would help her, of course, and so would Tara, along with Kathleen's sister-in-law, Cara. They'd all have to get together and discuss options.
This would totally work.
She leaned back in her chair and stretched, then thought about Gavin and that wretched pregnancy test from earlier.
She pushed back and stood, heading into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. She'd be damned if she'd let her body defeat her. She poured tea into her cup and leaned against the kitchen counter.
If someone had told her two years ago that she would be married and trying to have a baby, she'd have laughed in their face. She'd been totally career driven, and there had been no man on her radar.
Except Gavin, of course. She'd always loved Gavin, but in secret. He'd been the man of her dreams, someone she'd been close to as a client only. Never in her wildest dreams had she ever thought she and Gavin would get together, let alone fall in love and end up married. That's when her desire for a child-someone who was part of both of them-had started to take hold. She was almost in her midthirties now. If she was ever going to have children, it was time to get going on that. A now or never kind of thing, because she wasn't getting any younger.
Which was why she wouldn't let her dream of having a child go up in smoke.
Giving up wasn't an option. They just needed to have more sex. Gavin was strong and virile, and she was still young enough. She worked out and ate right. There was no reason they couldn't get pregnant. Gavin was off season right now, which meant he was more available than usual, and that meant more time for sex. Granted, she'd be a more than a little busy with the wedding and holiday planning, but if there was one thing Liz knew how to do, it was make time for sex.
She smiled against the rim of her teacup.
Operation Make A Baby was on.
Gavin smirked at his soon-to-be brother-in-law while they sat waiting in the tuxedo shop. "So, Tyler, what are your intentions toward my baby sister?"
"I plan to marry the hell out of her, if that's okay with you."
Gavin shrugged. "Are you sure you know what you're getting into? She's kind of a pain in the ass. Moody. Sometimes grouchy as hell."
"Sounds like that's how she treats you. She's great to me."
Gavin laughed. "You're probably right."
"I don't know," Mick said. "She's always liked me."
"Bullshit. She fought with you as much as she fought with me."
Mick arched a brow at Gavin. "That's not the way I remember it. She always ran to me when you were picking on her."
"No. It was me. She hated both of you and ran to her favorite cousin."
Gavin laughed at Cole.
"Oooh, we're a party," Gavin said, nudging Ty when he stood.
"Not yet," Ty said. "But as soon as all this tuxedo crap is over with, we're heading to the bar
"Sounds like a plan," Gavin said.
It took about an hour to pick out the tuxes, though Jenna had already made a couple suggestions, and Ty, not really caring, went with what Jenna wanted. They were all fitted, except for Ty's two teammates and friends Victor and Eddie, who couldn't make it. But now that the tuxes had been selected, they could stop in and get their measurements anytime. All Gavin cared about was that his part was done. They were out of there as fast as possible, so they could head to Riley's bar.
"We're lucky we could all be together this week," Mick said. "Fortunately, we're playing Cole's team, so I'm actually in town in time for the tux fitting."
"Yeah, it worked out well," Ty said.
"We're going to kick your ass."
"In your fucking dreams, Cole" Mick said.
"We'll see, pretty boy. You're getting kind of old to play football. Shouldn't you think about moving into the broadcast booth or something? Maybe play stay-at-home dad while Tara makes the big bucks?"
"Hey," Mick said. "You're my brother. Shouldn't you be on my side?"
"I'm on nobody's side when it comes to family playing family. I'm just going to enjoy the two of you trash-talking each other."
Cole smirked and leaned back in his chair. When Renee, their waitress came over, she high-fived them all.
"I was wondering when the Riley crew would come in. Beers?"
"I'll definitely have one," Tyler said.
Gavin nodded. "Me, too."
"Soda for me," Mick said.
"Soda here, too," Cole said. "Though I could drink ten beers and still kick your ass come game time."
Gavin rolled his eyes at Ty. "Here we go again."
Ty laughed. "I wonder if we should take bets on whether they'll come to blows or not."
"They won't. But it's fun to watch them bullshit each other about whose team is better."
Ty nodded. "I can't wait for the game on Sunday. The bar should be packed. Are you gonna go to the game?"
"Wouldn't miss it. You?"
"Are you kidding? Jenna would kill me if I wasn't there for the game. It's a big family day for the Rileys."
"I think we're gonna have a lot of big Riley days coming up in the next few weeks," Mick said.
Ty grinned. "Yeah. Seems that way."
"Are you excited?" Cole asked.
"You know, I didn't think I'd be. I mean, Jenna and I wanted this to be low-key, but it didn't quite work out that way."
"I know how that is. Liz and I were the same way," Gavin said. We were going to have a small thing, which turned into a big thing because. . . well, my mom wanted a big wedding, and then Liz decided maybe just having a small wedding wasn't going to work. Suddenly it was this huge affair. Can't blame that all on the parents, though. Weddings seem to take on a life of their own."
Ty laughed. "Yeah. It is becoming kind of an event, and I can't say I'm all that disappointed about it. Despite Jenna not wanting to make a big deal out of the wedding, I know secretly she's pretty excited about having the family all together to celebrate us getting married. I don't think she would have really been happy if we'd eloped or gotten married at city hall."
Gavin nodded and took a long pull of the beer Renee had set down in front of him. "I know what you mean. Liz was never about the big wedding. Until it came time to plan the big wedding. Then she became driven, like planning a wedding had been the one and only thing she'd dreamed about doing since she was a little girl."
"Yeah. Can't figure them out. Don't even try. Just go with it."
"That's what I do, man. I just try and keep her happy. If she's happy, then I'm happy."
Gavin tipped his beer against Ty's. "Amen to that."
The conversation reverted back to Cole and Mick's heavily testosterone-laden one-upmanship over who was going to beat whom. In the end, the two of them just ended up laughing and toasted each other, then they got down to the business of eating burgers, until they got on the topic of the wedding again, which put Ty on the hot seat for making them all wear tuxes.
Ty didn't take the bait. Instead, he chewed a mouthful of cheeseburger and swallowed. "Not my fault. Talk to Jenna. I would have been happy in jeans."
"You'd throw your fiancée-my sweet baby sister-under the bus like that?" Mick asked.
Ty reached for his beer. "Yup."
"Wait 'til I tell her," Gavin said.
"Go for it," Ty said with a shrug. "She'll back me up."
Cole slapped Ty on the back. "That's what I like about you. No fear."
Mick took off after lunch to do some football-related thing. And Cole had to leave for the airport to pick up Savannah.
"Has she been out of town again?" Gavin asked.
"Yeah. She's been doing a consulting thing for a client in Chicago for the past couple weeks."
"Rough on both of you with all the travel, isn't it?"
"We manage. At least the homecomings are hot." Cole waggled his brows.
Tyler laughed. "Speaking of hot fiancées, I need to go see mine. We have . . . God forbid, wedding stuff that I promised to discuss with her. Thanks for meeting with me today, guys."
They all took off. Gavin headed home, figuring Liz would be out doing some of that wedding stuff, too.
So he was surprised to see her car in the garage when he pulled in.
"Liz?" he called when he walked through the door.
She didn't answer. He looked for her downstairs, but didn't find her, so he headed upstairs. It was already getting dark outside, and cloudy, as he looked out the window in the landing.
There was a light on in their bedroom, so he pushed the door open.