Thank you so much for reading Could Have Been Us. I enjoyed every second with this couple. Every word written was a place of love and I don’t know that I have ever felt so passionately about a story as I do this one. I had written these two scenes in the book, and we chose to cut them. I didn’t want them to really go though, so you get them anyway. * sticks my tongue out at my editor * …
I hope you enjoy just a little more Jack and the Parkerson’s.
Also, be ready for Delia and Josh!
“What do you mean I have to move again?” Oliver sounds like he’s ready to kill me.
“I’m bringing Kinsley and her father back with me tomorrow, and I need to put them in my cabin.”
“You know, I’ve moved more times in the last month that I have in my entire life because of you and my sister.”
Under normal circumstances, I might feel bad for him, but it’s Oliver, and he’s always been a pain in my ass. “Go stay in the other RV. Then you’d have your own space.”
“Do I look like an RV-living kind of guy?”
I snort. “You’re too much of a priss, huh?”
“I’ll show you a priss.”
Oliver is so damn predictable. “I’ll kick your ass from here. Listen, you love Stella, and this is for her. I want this surprise to be perfect, so you need to pack up and go anywhere you want. The RV, your mother’s apartment, Grayson’s . . . I don’t give a shit.”
He grumbles. “I’ll go stay with Delia. She just moved into a new place that has an extra bedroom.”
Oh, Josh will just love that. Regardless of what he says, he is twisted up over that girl. “Maybe that’s a good idea.”
“Yeah, I’ll get my ass kicked by my oldest brother.”
At least we’re both thinking the same thing. “You suggested it.”
“It might be good for him, make him think twice about his whole bullshit that life is better without anyone to love.” He mimics Josh’s low voice at the end.
“That was a pretty good impression.”
“Right?” Oliver asks, sounding rather proud of himself.
“I know you’ve been thrown around a lot, and I’m sorry for that. I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t think this mattered.”
Oliver stays quiet for a minute. “What is it that you need to talk with us all about tomorrow?”
Tomorrow, after I drop off Samuel and Kinsley, I plan to go to dinner with her brothers and ask them all for permission. While I have it from Grayson, I want them all to know how I feel about her. Gray may be my best friend, but Josh, Alex, and Oliver are like brothers to me as well. They love Stella just as much, and I want to respect that.
“Don’t worry about it.”
“Are you backing out of the business?”
“No, not even close.”
“You’re marrying my sister,” Oliver says a statement, not a question.
“I hope so.”
“Worried she’ll say no?”
I laugh. “Considering she tried proposing to me, not even a little.”
“Jesus, she needs constant supervision. Are you sure you want to take that on for life?”
There isn’t a single doubt in my mind. I love her beyond all measure of reason. She’s every damn thing that makes sense in my world. Without her, I wasn’t living—I was just surviving. When we finally stopped pretending, I really saw just how happy I could be. She’s the reason I get up now. She’s the reason I breathe. She’s the person I would lay down my life to make happy.
Oliver lets out a low chuckle. “I wish you luck, my friend, but if you hurt her, I’ll chop your fucking balls off.”
“So, let’s talk about this marrying her thing.”
I roll my eyes. “Oliver, I like you and all, but I’ve dealt with Grayson, and comparatively you really aren’t all that scary.”
“I wasn’t trying to be. Honestly, Jack, I’m more worried for you.”
“I’ve loved that woman a long time, I know what I’m doing.”
“Even still,” Oliver says, “I know what living with her is like, and she’s no walk in the park.”
I’ve been doing it for over a month now, and I feel pretty good about my future. “You can tell me all about it tomorrow at dinner.”
He chuckles. “I can’t wait.”
* * *
“So you want my permission?” Josh asks while rubbing his chin.
“I think he wants all our permission,” Alex adds.
Gray sits there, a shit-eating grin on his face. “I’ve already given him mine. God knows why.”
“Because you’re a pussy.”
“I am what I eat,” Gray says and leans back. “How’s your dry spell going, Josh?”
Josh flips him off.
I don’t know why I’m surprised by this. The Parkerson brothers are a bunch of juveniles. It doesn’t matter they’re all over thirty, grown, and supposed to be model adults. They can’t seem to stop themselves when they get together.
“Listen, while this is a ton of fun, I’d just like you all to be on board when I ask her to marry me. I’d like to avoid any scenes.”
Alex laughs. “Like the scene you didn’t cause at Grayson’s wedding.”
Gray nods. “Exactly. Hey, maybe I can convince Jessica to go into labor at yours!”
“I’m sure that would make you feel better.”
He shrugs. “It would, actually.”
I ignore that one and address Josh first. “You’re her oldest brother, the guy who has been there from the start. You and she may not be close the way that she is with Gray or Oliver, but your relationship is the most like a parent. I’m asking you, man-to-man, for your blessing to marry her.”
Josh leans forward, arms resting on the table. “And what assurances do I have that you’ll keep her safe?”
“I can’t give you assurances, I can just tell you that I’d lay down my life for Stella. I would walk through a burning building, fight off a hundred men, take a bullet to my heart if it meant I kept her safe and happy. I know I fucked up when we were younger. I’ve lived with that guilt for the last twelve years. If I could, I would go back in time and change things, but I can’t. None of us can, but we can go forward and do better.”
Josh sits back. “Jack, I’ve known you since we were kids, and I knew all that. I also know that my sister gives zero fucks about what we think. She loves you. I know you love her, and I’d be honored if you would be the man who takes her off our damn hands.”
Alex raises a glass. “Seriously!”
Oliver laughs. “See? I told you. We’re more worried about you than Stella.”
I grab my beer, feeling victorious. “You know, you don’t see her the way I do.”
“Thank God for that,” Gray mutters.
“I’m serious. She’s wonderful.”
Oliver tips his beer toward me. “We know. We aren’t saying she isn’t the most precious and wonderful woman we know.”
“Then why the hell would you be worried about my future.”
Josh grins and then laughs under his breath. “Because we also know she’s lethal when she’s angry.”
I’ve seen Stella in action. Grayson didn’t walk right for a week after he tore all the heads off her dolls and she kneed him in the balls.
Grayson shudders as though we’re both gripped by the same memory. “She has great aim too.”
“She has my heart.”
Alex clasps my shoulder. “Then, my friend, you have our blessing.”
“And our brotherhood,” Josh says.
Took over thirty years, but it’s finally going to happen. These four guys, who I’ve always considered brothers, will actually be.
“You’ll officially be family.”
I nod once to Grayson. “You’ve never made me feel otherwise.”
I shake all their hands, and we drink, talking about my plan to make Stella’s dream come true tomorrow.
Next up are Josh and Delia! Gaaaaaah! This book might be the death of me! It’s all the things! I love Josh and I love how Delia is. She reminds me a lot of some of my favorite heroines. She’s not at all afraid to put him in his place and … well, aren’t we all a little curious how this will go?