Thank you so much reading HOLD YOU CLOSE. We LOVE Ian and London and hope you did too. If you wanted more, we have it here for you. There was just something that we couldn’t let go of with these two … so, we thought maybe you’d enjoy a trip into the future with them!
“Daddy!” Brina yells from the front door. “We’re going to be late!”
“I’ll be right there!!” I yell back at her. She’s driving me nuts. It’s Morgan’s opening night at the museum, and between running from the car to the house and back again, no shit we’re going to be late.
I can’t believe the little know-it all-kid has her own exhibit. I don’t know what the hell any of it means, but it’s a big deal.
“Babe!” London’s voice now chimes in. “We’re leaving without you!”
The hell they are. I have the freaking keys.
I rush out of my bedroom, dangling them from my hand. “You won’t get very far.”
“Come on, Morgan will kill us if we’re not there.”
Morgan has only gotten scarier with age—more brilliant, more beautiful, more driven—well, scarier to everyone other than me. I still see her as a freckled-face little squirt with enough attitude to fill a pool. However, I love her fiercely–mostly because she reminds me of me.
We get in the car and I turn to my wife. “That loser she’s dating won’t be there, will he?”
“Seriously? Of course Gage will be there.” London rolls her eyes.
“He’s such a tool.”
“Like you’d approve of anyone your kids dated?”
No. Actually, everyone sucks. I turn and look at Sabrina. “You’re never dating.”
She rolls her eyes. “Sure, Dad.”
Then I turn to Ruby. “Or you.”
“Uh huh. Sure thing, Dad,” Ruby replies. She’s the only one of my sister’s kids that calls me Dad. At first it was a little weird, because I’d always been Uncle Ian, but then I realized to Ruby, I am her father. And London is her mother. Since Ruby and Brina are closer in age, we never corrected her. I love those kid as much as I love our biological child, so it makes perfect sense.
“Let’s go before we’re really late,” London says as her hand touches my arm.
I back out of the drive, grumbling the entire time because I really hate being nice to that douchebag. However, Morgan basically threatened to kill me in my sleep if I didn’t quit being an ass. If anyone could do that and get away with it, it’s her. She’s a science buff. She knows all kinds of crap regarding chemicals. She’s also slightly unglued and would probably do it.
Ruby and Brina watch some crap on their phones and London hums to the music as we make our way to the science museum.
I park the SUV—I got rid of that damn minivan the second I could—and we head to the entrance.
“Oh, you’re Ian Chase!” The girl at the cashier window screeches, her voice rising two octaves. “Oh, my God! I love your club. It’s like, the best place on the strip!”
“Thanks.” I smile and then place my arm around London’s back, pulling her close. “My wife and I really love that you enjoy going there.”
Veil is still by far the hottest place in Vegas. I don’t have to do anything really anymore. It basically runs itself. I’ve since opened two more clubs, which are double the size of the original, and we’re always at capacity.
“Seriously, it’s the best.” The girl clasps her hands together. “Are you here for the exhibit?”
London answers before I can. “Yes, we are. Our daughter is Morgan Donegal.”
“Great.” The girl smiles at me, blatantly ignoring London.
London snorts as we walk away, and I kiss her cheek. “Only you for me, baby.”
“Why is it that as you get older, more people stare at you? I get older and spend more time trying to get people to look, but you’re always the main attraction.”
She’s crazy. London is still the most beautiful woman in the world. No one compares to her. Why the hell she doesn’t see herself the way I do, I’ll never understand. “It doesn’t matter what other people do, baby. You’re mine.”
I hear gagging noises behind us. “You guys are so gross,” Brina says.
“Seriously,” Ruby agrees.
London turns to them both. “You should be so lucky to marry a man who loves you after all this time.”
Yeah, damn right. I puff my chest a little. “Exactly.”
London is quick to shoot me a look. “Don’t go thinking you’re perfect, babe. You’re still aggravating on many fronts.”
“Aunt London! Uncle Ian!” Morgan yells as she rushes towards us. “You’re here!”
My wife has that girl in a vise grip before I can even move. They’re more like best friends since she got older. It makes a lot of sense, though. Morgan is my sister in every way. She’s nosey, smart, chock-full of advice no one ever wants to hear (but she doesn’t care), and she’s got a heart of gold. There’s no surprise these two are like peas and carrots.
And then my buddy walks over. “Uncle Ian.” Christopher shakes my hand and pulls me in for a man hug. One arm. A clap on the back, and a grab of the neck. It’s the way it should be done.
“How’s the SWAT team treating you?” I ask.
“Good. Everything’s good,” he says with a nod.
Christopher is a scary fucking dude. He’s six-four and can bench press me with ease. He was real big into weight-lifting for a while, and then he joined the Vegas PD. London was so against it, I was sure she was going to chain him in his room.
That fight was epic and comical.
“It’s good because he knows it’ll kill me if something happens to him,” London says as she pulls him into her arms.
It doesn’t matter that she’s a dwarf compared to him, she still pushes him around. “Yes, Auntie, I’m careful just for you.”
“Continue to lie to me, Christopher. You have no idea how much I worry.”
No, it’s just me that gets to hear about it. “She really does.”
“I love you, too,” he tells her.
“Of all the jobs, you had to pick one that puts you in danger. Couldn’t you have been an accountant, like me? No, you have to be a cop. Not just any cop though, you have to be a super cop. God forbid you just be a dispatcher,” she starts to mutter.
“All right, baby, we hear this each time.”
She gives me a glare that would bring a normal man to his knees. Luckily, she doesn’t scare me anymore. “I’ll say it as much as I have to, Ian Chase.”
Morgan laughs. “I love this. Let’s all rip on Chris some more.”
“Shut up, nerd.” He jabs at her playfully.
“Whatever, I’m obviously the favorite,” Morgan proclaims.
And this is our family. We bicker, tell each other to shut up, and make fun of each other. I’d like to think my sister would approve of how we’ve handled things. The kids have all their limbs, the oldest two are functioning members of society, and at the heart of it all, we love each other.
We walk through the museum and I’m in awe. There are some really confusing things here, but people just look around and nod.
“This is mine.” Morgan smiles as she sweeps her arm in front.
I always knew Morgan was special, but this is beyond what I ever comprehended.
“Wow, honey.” London’s voice is full of pride. “You found this gene?”
“Gene?” I ask.
“What did you think this was?” Morgan asks.
“I don’t know!” I know she’s a bio-something.
London swats my arm. “Seriously, Ian, do you even pay attention when she talks?”
I snort. “I pay attention to the tuition bills I’ll be paying until I’m a hundred.” But no matter how broke this kid made me, it was worth it.
London and I walk around, hand in hand, not saying a word. There’s so much to take in and read. The amount of research this kid did is astounding.
In my life, I’ve known pride and hard work. Building something from nothing with Veil was hard, learning how to become a father to three kids was hard, getting London to fall in love with me was damn near impossible, but this is something else.
Then we come to a plate on the wall. Genetic mutation discovered by: Morgan Donegan-Chase
London finally breaks the silence. “Look, honey.”
“Oh my God.” My voice is hoarse. “I don’t know what to say.”
My wife chuckles. “There’s a first.”
“When did she take my last name?” I ask.
London smiles. “When she went to graduate school. She wanted the same last name as her sisters–and you.”
“Why didn’t she tell me?”
“Because she wanted you to be surprised.” She takes my hand and rests her chin on my shoulder. “You’ve always been more than just her uncle. That girl idolizes you, and when we had Brina, she wasn’t sure how to show you that she saw you as her Dad as well, even if she doesn’t use the label.”
A hand rests on my other shoulder. “What do you think?” Morgan asks.
“I think you’re back in the favorite position position,” I joke.
“Man, all I had to do was add Chase to my name.”
“All you had to do was be you,” I tell her.
“I love you, Uncle Ian.”
“I love you too, kid. I’m proud of you.” And I am. More so than I think she’ll ever know. Maybe when she has her own kids, she’ll understand.
“Okay, I’m not going to cry.” Morgan shakes her head and releases a deep breath. “Just know that without you both, none of this would’ve happened. I don’t know that I would’ve had the courage to take chances, but you guys always were behind me. I love you, and I’m going to talk science so that I don’t ruin my makeup.”
With that, she turns and leaves us here.
I wrap my arms around London, kissing her softly. “Now that was all my doing.”
She bursts out laughing, slapping her hands on my chest. “Yes, darling. You totally did something right.”
I smile, rocking her side to side. “Yeah I did. I married you.”
London’s eyes fill with love. “Looks like we both made good choices, then.”
We’ve had ups and downs, times when we wanted to smother the other with a pillow, but London is the only person I want beside me. She makes me a better man, father, uncle, and I couldn’t live without her.
I look at her, thanking God that by some miracle I was able to hold onto her this time. “Loving you was never a choice, baby. It was what I was meant to do.”