Author: Jaci Burton
"Such a tough loss."
Savannah nodded. "It was. But it was a great game and two amazing teams. I know Cole is going to be upset."
"He shouldn't be. I know he will be, but he played an amazing game."
Liz gave victory hugs to Kathleen and Jimmy, and commiseration ones to Jack and Cara. They were all going to meet up at Riley's Bar, so she and Gavin headed over there. She felt both pumped up and sad about the game. It was hard when you had family on both sides, but there was nothing you could do. Short of a tie, someone had to lose.
"How do you handle it?" she asked Gavin on the ride over.
He shrugged. "It's part of the game. You deal. It blows, especially in a close game like today's. Cole will hate it, because he's competitive and because of what it means for his team. Plus, he didn't want to lose, especially to his cousin. But he's a man and a decent one. He'll suck it up."
She understood about losing. She spoke with a lot of her clients about it, especially those going through rough patches. Fortunately, Cole's career was on an uptick right now and they were having a winning season. One game wouldn't matter all that much. She looked forward to seeing him at Riley's Bar and being able to congratulate him on the game today. He'd played well and his stats showed it.
Still, Gavin was right-it sucked to lose. As she sat back in the car and looked over at her husband, she was consumed with the thought of having a baby. His baby. A child who looked like him, with his dark hair and his drive and sense of honor. And maybe a child who had a touch of her ambition. She was going to make it happen, one way or the other.
If she was one thing, it was tenacious. She might not be a Riley by blood, but she was still part of the family, and she understood grit and determination. And, like every member of the Riley family, she didn't give up.
Christmas decorations were up, which always put Liz in the holiday spirit. She wasn't sure Gavin had been all that happy about having to drag a six-and-a-half-foot live tree into the house, especially since she'd insisted they go to one of those places where they could cut their own tree.
He'd told her they had plenty of trees on the property and she could wander around, pick one out, and he'd chop it down. Then they wouldn't have to drive the truck an hour outside the city to get one.
Clearly, the man had no Christmas spirit. Besides, she loved all the trees on the property and wasn't about to cut one of those down when there were places specifically set up for that very function. And those places would replant trees.
Since they'd be celebrating Christmas at their house this year, everything had to be perfect. She'd spent the past two weeks running nonstop. Between the holiday and Jenna and Ty's wedding, there was something to do every week. In between those two functions, she also had work to do with her clients.
Frankly, she was exhausted. But as Gavin climbed up on the ladder to put the star on the top of the Christmas tree, she was satisfied that at least the decorating part was finished.
"Does it look okay?" he asked.
She found herself staring at his butt, which looked mighty fine in his jeans. Then she realized she had to add more sex to her list of things to do. How else was she going to get pregnant if she didn't jump her husband-repeatedly.
"Perfect. Just . . . perfect."
He turned around. "You're staring at my ass, Liz."
"Oh . . . was I?" She leveled a smirk at him.
"We had sex this morning."
"And your point?"
He climbed down the ladder and folded it up. "No point at all." He brushed her lips as he walked by. "Except we're going to my parents for dinner tonight, remember?"
"So your nefarious plans to take advantage of my body are going to have to wait."
"We'll see about that."
He paused, ladder in hand. "Planning to seduce me in my old childhood bedroom?"
She waggled her brows. "That's a distinct possibility."
"I'd like to see you try, considering the entire family will be there. Minus Mick, who's not in town."
"See? One person down. That should make it so much easier to grab some alone time for a quickie."
"Uh-huh. Good luck with that."
"Now you're challenging me. You know how much I love a challenge."
He walked away, shaking his head. As if he didn't believe she could find a way to get him alone in his parents' house for sex. Did he not know her at all? When she was determined to have something, nothing got in her way.
Not even a houseful of Rileys.
She went upstairs to change. Gavin came up to change, too, and they headed over to his parents' house. As soon as they walked in, the smell of baked bread assailed her. Her stomach growled. Gavin looked over at her.
"Ravenous." She gave him a direct look.
"I believe you're trying to seduce me."
She saw Gavin's mother coming toward them down the hall, so she gave him a quick smile. "I don't know what you're talking about."
She hugged Kathleen, then Jimmy, who'd entered the room behind Kathleen. The house was full, the women gathered in the kitchen and the guys in the living room. She made her way into the throng of females, all talking over each other in groups.
"And then he said he wanted a bigger house," Tara said with a roll of her eyes.
"Bigger than the five bedroom?" Kathleen asked. "For what?"
"I have no idea. Maybe he thinks we're going to have six more kids or something
. If he does, he's going to need to practice polygamy, because this uterus is closed for business."
Liz laughed and poured a glass of iced tea. "What? You're not going to pop out two or three more?"
"I don't think so. I have an eighteen-year-old son and one that's just about ready to walk. That's more than enough children for me to handle."
"Maybe he doesn't like the house," Jenna suggested, popping a cherry tomato into her mouth.
"I saw that Jenna. Those are for the salad."
"Sorry, Mom." Jenna winked at Liz, who smiled at her.
"He loves the house. It has plenty of room both inside and out. Plus there's the game room. So I don't know what he was thinking."
"Does he miss living in San Francisco? Do you?"
Liz caught the look of concern on Kathleen's face.
"Not at all, Mom. Mick's only there for home games with the Sabers, and the condo there is fine for him. St. Louis is home to us-to me and to Nathan and to Sam. This is where we're staying."
"Okay. I just wanted to be sure."
Tara slid off the bar stood and went over to hug Kathleen. "Don't worry about us leaving. We're happy here. My guess is Mick thinks I want a bigger office space, or maybe a separate place to house an office."
"No. I like working outside the house. I need my retail space where clients can see me. Plus, would we really want my staff traipsing in and out of our house?"
"Lord. I know I wouldn't," Savannah said.
"Neither would I." Liz agreed. She knew having people other than family in her house would drive her crazy. Of course, she sometimes answered emails or made phone calls from home at night or on the weekends, but primarily she worked nine to five. "I need my office. It's where the majority of my work gets done. I like to keep my office and home life separate."
"A-men," Tara said. "Plus I get walk-in traffic at the shop. I'd never want to lose that."
"Or have them show up at your house," Jenna said.
Tara nodded. "Exactly."
"So I understand where Mick is coming from. He knows I miss Sam when I'm at work, but I also love my job and want to continue to do it."
Kathleen rubbed her arm. "He just wants you to be happy."
Tara smiled. "I am happy. Happier than I ever thought I'd be."
"And speaking of all things happy," Jenna said, "I have a few wedding details. Well, actually they're not wedding details so much as they are the fun stuff before the wedding details. We have final dress fittings on Thursday night, and the bachelorette party trip is this weekend. Just in case any of you forgot, which I'm hoping you didn't."
"I definitely didn't forget," Liz said. "I've been looking forward to that trip for months."
"Me, too," Savannah said. "I can't wait."
"Everyone's coming, right?"
"I will not be coming to the bachelorette party," Jenna's mom said.
"Aww, Mom, you know you're welcome to come."
Kathleen gave Jenna a smile. "I'll be babysitting my adorable grandson this weekend so Tara can go. Besides, I've done my partying. You girls can go have some fun drinking and carousing. I'll be happy to have Sam all to myself."
Liz took out her phone. "By the way, I'm going to be out of town Monday through Thursday, but I'll be back Thursday afternoon."
Alicia nodded and grabbed her phone. "Are we doing the fitting at the bridal shop on Thursday? And what time?"
"Yes," Jenna said. "At six thirty."
"Six thirty works for me, too," Liz said. "My flight gets in at three."
"What are we synchronizing our phones for, ladies?" Gavin asked as he walked in to get a beer. "Planning epic world domination?"
Liz laughed. "Sort of. Wedding stuff."
"No, pre-wedding stuff," Jenna corrected. "Dress fittings and the bachelorette party."
Jenna turned to him. "Speaking of, care to share the details of the bachelor party with me?"
Gavin shot Jenna an enigmatic smile. "Nope."
"Damn you, Gavin."
He grinned at Jenna, screwed the top off his beer, then shot Liz a look. "You aren't going to get drunk and dance naked on the table at a bar, are you?"
"I don't know. Will you come rescue me if I do?"
"Sure. As soon as I get video."
She shook her head. "And all this time I thought you were my protective knight in shining armor."
He walked by and kissed her cheek. "How foolish of you, wife."
Good thing she knew he was joking.
It was also a good thing he wouldn't be at the bachelorette party. She intended to have a very good time.
Gavin reentered the living room, where all the guys were gathered around the television watching the game. Mick's team was playing Denver today in San Francisco. Cole would be playing the Monday night game, so he actually got to be at the house for Sunday dinner.
"Mick's arm looks strong," Jimmy said to Ty as Gavin took his seat on one of the chairs.
"It does," Ty said as they settled in to watch Mick take the offense after Denver scored a field goal.
There was a round of hysterical laugher coming from the kitchen.
"I can't believe you waded in there," Ty said. "What's going on?"
"Wedding stuff. Something about the dresses and the bachelorette party."
"Oh. Jenna's kind of excited."
Gavin took a long pull of his beer. "Yeah, I can tell. I hate to break it to you, but I think she's more excited about the bachelorette party."
Ty laughed. "I'm not surprised. There's a lot of stress with the wedding. She needs to get away and unwind."