As if knowing we were talking about him, Hunter came sauntering into the kitchen, swinging his arms and shaking his little hips. For a two year old, he sure had attitude.
"Hey bud." Grayson smiled proudly at his son. He was the perfect mixture of Huntley and Grayson with his daddy's dark hair and his mamma's stormy blue eyes. Kid was going to be a real killer in a few years time, no doubt. He threw his arms up and Huntley managed to bend down from her position on Grayson's lap to pick Hunter up. They looked like the perfect little family, and I wanted nothing more than to experience it. I came close to it, once.
"I think it's time to feed our little man," Huntley said, kissing Hunter's forehead.
We all got up, and I was grateful to have the attention taken away from me. Huntley walked outside with Hunter, and I was about to follow when Grayson stopped me.
"Would you mind staying a little longer," he asked. "I wanted to talk to you, but after everyone else has left."
"Sure," I replied. "Is everything okay Gray?"
He gave me a small half-smile and wrapped his arm around my shoulders. "Yeah, it's fine." I didn't believe him, but decided not to press the issue. I'd wait until later.
I WAS SITTING ON THE back steps of the porch. Grayson's parents left a little while ago, and Huntley's uncle and aunt followed shortly afterwards. We'd spent the day eating good food, chatting, and finalizing the plans for Huntley and Grayson's wedding. I laughed for the first time in months, feeling completely at ease and at home with the people around me. I was nursing a bottle of water when the deck creaked behind me, and Grayson's big body bent to take a seat on the steps next to me. He sighed and brought his all-knowing eyes to me.
"You have fun today?" he asked. I knew he was stalling but I allowed it. "I did," I replied honestly. "You don't have to worry about me anymore Gray. I'm okay. I'm getting better."
"I know, but - "
"But nothing," I interrupted. "I'm okay, Gray. This is going to be the best week of your life, and the last thing I want is for you and Huntley to spend it worrying about me."
"You're family Dem, we always worry about you. I will never understand how difficult the last few months have been for you and I'm sorry that you had to even go through it at all but Huntley was right there with you, feeling everything you felt. It killed me to see you girls hurting so bad knowing there was nothing I could do. I wanted nothing more than to kick Brody's ass for leaving but I couldn't. I didn't want him to think I was choosing sides." It was the first time Grayson was talking to me about this, and I was more than a little surprised. "I should've spoken you sooner," he continued, looking somewhat sheepish. "But I didn't want to upset you."
"Are you talking to me now because Brody is coming tomorrow?" I asked quietly.
"I need to make sure you're going to be okay seeing him this week. If not, I'll phone him right now and tell him to stay in Chicago."
My heart warmed at Grayson's thoughtfulness and I wondered what I'd done to deserve a friend like him. I was just me, an average Southern girl who had been to hell and back in the last year, and for some reason God blessed me with this amazing, loving family. It wasn't a flesh and blood family, but it was family all the same.
"You don't have to do that," I sighed. "He deserves to experience the most magical day of your life with you. We've all been friends for too long to let what happened with us come between that."
"If you don't want him here, just say the word Dem and he won't be here. I don't want you to feel uncomfortable, because then I'll get hell from Huntley and we all know how that works out for me
I chuckled then, knowing he was right. Huntley could be a real hellcat when she was pissed, or unhappy. We'd managed to avoid Bridezilla so far, we weren't about coax it out now.
"I'm going to be just fine," I replied. I wrapped my arms around his bicep and rested my head on his arm. "He's not the only one responsible for our mess, Gray. I was also wrong."
I felt Grayson kiss the top of my head and it was comforting. I was terrified as all hell to see Brody, but I tried hiding it as best I could. This week wasn't about me. It was about two of the most amazing people I knew pledging their lives and hearts to each other forever. I wasn't about to let my problems ruin that.
"Are you going to tell him about… you know?" Grayson asked hesitantly.
Thinking about what I had to tell Brody made my chest tighten, and my throat start to burn. I tried to will the tears to stay away, but it was hard. I'd been doing so well but there were some things that would still cut me up.
"I don't know," I sniffled, trying to be quiet. I didn't want Huntley to hear me, or see me if I started crying. This felt like a set back of sorts but I knew I'd have to tell Brody everything at some point. Not only did he deserve to know but it was important for me to get this closure. I wasn't going to heal otherwise.
"He deserves to know," Grayson murmured, reading my mind. "It won't change what happened but it will make it a whole lot easier on you." I wasn't entirely sure that was true but he was right to some extent. Brody deserved to know what happened after he left.
"I have something else you need to know." I looked up at Grayson, and the expression on his face worried me.
"Brody might be bringing someone with him," he said. He watched me carefully, and I had no idea what he was expecting to see on my face.
"I know," I replied. Grayson looked surprised but didn't ask me how I knew. I wasn't ready to tell him anyway, even if he had asked. "Your brother will be on my arm," I said, trying to sound unfazed. "Brody can bring whoever he wants."
Grayson looked skeptical and probably thought every word coming out of my mouth was bullshit. He wasn't wrong.
"So you and my brother, huh?" he smirked. I smiled, a real genuine one at that and ducked my head a little.
"I don't have to tell you what's been going on with us," I said. "I'm sure Jeff has been keeping you up-to-date."
It was Grayson's turn to chuckle. "It's the only way I can find out how you're really doing. I know you don't always tell us everything."
"I wasn't lying when I said I was doing better, Gray. Sometimes I just need to talk to someone who won't pity me. Jeff is that person, and I really care about him."
"We don't pity you, Dem," Grayson argued. I shook my head.
"Yeah, Gray, you kinda do. You guys have looked at me like I'm broken beyond repair for too long, and I didn't want to end up resenting you for it. Besides, I had to pull myself together on my own. I may not be completely there yet, but I will be."
"You've always been strong, but it's alright to lean on someone every now and then."
"That's why I have your brother," I replied quietly, thinking about just how much Jeff had helped me.
"Okay you two, it's late and I need to put the little monster to bed." Grayson and I both looked up to find Huntley smiling at us with a sleepy Hunter in her arms. Grayson helped me up, and I walked over to Huntley. I kissed Hunter goodnight, and Huntley passed him to Grayson. I said goodnight to him too and Huntley walked me to my car.