Authors: Bijou Hunter
I'll never admit this fact out loud, but Jace leaving me was a godsend. Until that day, my life was too easy, and I lacked coping skills. By the time we got back together, I'd gotten a taste of the darkness Jace felt when life fucked him over.
Besides, those eight months between losing Jace and Pop passing away, I spent more time with my parents. In fact, I rarely left their sides except to go to school. Pop and I remained attached at the hips otherwise. He was my rock when the world felt scary. I'd have missed so many conversations with Pop during his last months.
Jace and I don't do the big wedding deal. Not when Pop can't walk me down the aisle. During a weeklong trip with Mom to Hawaii, Jace and I decide to make things official. We marry at sunset wearing swimsuits and carrying fancy drinks. Mom is off her ass drunk at that point and laughs through the five-minute ceremony.
In my senior year of college, I convince Cooper to open a second Whiskey Kirk's. My goal is to franchise the restaurant and expand throughout the state and eventually the country. I plan to keep my Pop alive by serving his favorite foods, playing his favorite music, and expecting the kind of service a man of his power enjoyed. At each restaurant, I insist a photo hang near the door. The picture shows Pop and Mom back when they first met, and the world was at their feet.
Throughout the last two years in college, I really believe a baby boy is in my near future. I toss caution to the wind and expect every month to be the one I miss my period.
God has other plans.
My period sticks around until the summer after I finish college, during a Caribbean cruise with Jace and Mom. I'd nearly figured I was barren by this point. The pregnancy is a breeze, but I worry. A woman like me with so many fertile turtles in my family ought to have gotten pregnant the first time out. Paranoid, I almost wear bubble wrap to protect the baby and me.
Ariel is born five minutes after I arrive at the hospital. Jace nearly has to catch her as we hurry to a delivery room. Mom is so busy telling people to get their heads out of their asses and take care of her baby that she's startled when Ariel is suddenly staring at her.
I get the hang of being a mom right away, but I'm blessed enough to have plenty of help from Jace, Mom, and Mama Giang. The latter arrives as a care package from the McLaughlins. They insist we keep her.
Mama Phuong's niece thinks bikers are funny. Every time the club guys show up at the house, she laughs and laughs. I admit her laughing makes me laugh. Of course, Coop the Poop isn't amused when she laughs at him, which makes me laugh even harder.
Since I never have a son to carry on Pop's name, I start calling Ariel by the nickname Kiki. Mom hates it. Jace says he loves it, but he's clearly lying. Mama Giang tends to pronounce Kiki as Cookie. My siblings mock me endlessly about how I've turned Pop's tribute into a stripper name. Despite all their bitching, the name sticks.
I never find out why no more babies come along. The doctors find nothing wrong with Jace or me, yet after one, we're done.
By the time Kiki is three, I oversee four Whiskey Kirk's restaurants, and travel several days a week. My daughter is always at my side. She loves hotels and meeting new people. Kiki has her daddy's easygoing personality. While I hope she gets a little meaner as she gets older, I can't deny she's naturally gentle like Jace.
My man works jobs for Cooper until I begin traveling. Taking on the role of my security, Jace owns every room he enters. As soon as strangers' eyes are off us, he returns to his gentle self.
I miss my pop the most when watching Jace and Kiki in the pool. They look so much like I must have with Pop when he taught me to swim. Sometimes, I see my husband and daughter together and can't hold back the tears. I still grieve, yet also feel joy at the many memories Pop and I shared.
When I cry, Kiki worries. Jace never misses a beat though. He reminds her how I miss my pop. Then, they wave upward and say hi to grandpop in Heaven.
I wish to give Jace a piece of his past, but the best our private detective can find is his parents' fake license info. Otherwise, his family remains ghosts. Nothing links them back to a bigger family.
"I have what I need," Jace tells me when I want to keep searching.
Even stubborn, I believe him. This man once hid from me, but he's an open book these days. Jace really does have everything he needs, and so do I.
When Pop died, I wondered how the world could go on. How could I ever smile again? Or feel happiness when he wasn't around to enjoy it? Now, I understand.
I can go on because Pop raised me to be strong. He offered me a good life with wonderful people and provided me a million opportunities he didn't enjoy growing up. Pop taught me right from wrong. He also taught me when to break the rules. His unbending love all my life made me capable of loving and forgiving Jace, even after the pain and disappointment.
The reason I go on is because I'm Kirk Johansson's daughter, and he'd expect nothing less from me.
Living in Indiana with my three sweet sons, three wacky cats, one super mom (and her ugly dog), I love writing, cats, Denny's, 1970's rock, Beanie Boos, and sitcoms cancelled before their time.
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Bijou Hunter Books
Damaged and the Beast
Damaged and the Knight
Damaged and the Cobra
Damaged and the Outlaw
Damaged and the Dragon
Damaged and the Bulldog
Damaged and the Saint
Little Memphis MC Series