Five and a half years later
Back arched, arms pulled above my head, I pant as my husband growls. I love that noise. Ben doesn’t know he makes it, and I’m not about to tell him. But when he gets really into sex, he makes that sound, and it lights me up.
My knees quake on either side of his head as I come. A delighted squeal leaves my lips, and he shushes me with a laugh.
“I know. I know, but you’re doing that thing I love.”
“But if you wake Jonah—”
“Don’t jinx us!”
Ben rises up over me and slowly enters me. I wiggle beneath him, and he sinks deeper. I yank on the nylon rope above my head, because I’m dying to touch him, and he gives me that devilish grin. “You’re at my mercy.”
“Just wait until it’s your turn.”
Is it my imagination or did he just get thicker?
“Did you take the class yet?”
Yes, he took an online course on rope play to make sure he didn’t hurt me. I’d laugh, but he’s so sweet and responsible.
He starts to move, and I’m finding it difficult to think straight. “I reg...registered.”
Kneeling back, he watches my tits bounce. Since I had our kiddos, they’re definitely bigger, but the wild thing is he looks at them the same way whether they’re big or small: with hunger.
“Fuck, you’re sexy. I’m such a lucky man.” Reaching up, he unsnaps the tethers at my wrists, and I immediately thread my hands through his damp hair.
I lift my hips to match his rhythm, and he flips us over so I’m on top. I sit up and bounce on his lap, and because there’s nothing I love more than giving my husband a show, I grab my boob with one hand and reach between my legs with the other.
He goes off a second later, and I follow him over the ledge again.
I rest my head on his muscular chest and breathe him in. After six years together, I’m still crazy about this man.
“How long do you think we have before the kids come back?” I ask. Lily and Rose are out with Ben’s cousin Bianca.
Just then, a door slams downstairs, and little feet pound up the stairs.
Ben and I look at each other with wide eyes as he scrambles to throw blankets over us.
The bedroom door flings open, and Lily comes to a halt and scrunches her nose. “Why are y’all taking a nap in the middle of the day?”
Ben clears his throat. “Honey, remember what we said about knocking first?”
“I know, Dad, but we got pizza! That supreme stuff you love!”
Bianca and Rose, our four-year-old, round the corner, and when Bianca sees us, she bursts out laughing. “Oh dear lord. Lily, come on. Give your parents some time to, uh—”
“Wake up,” I add. “We were napping.”
“Uh-huh. Sure. We’ll go with that.”
“Smartass,” Ben mumbles under his breath after they’re gone.
I give him a kiss. “That was a close call.”
“That’s what I get for renting a condo without a lock on the master bedroom.”
“It’s okay.” I disengage us, and he groans that sexy groan that has me wishing we didn’t have to leave this bed for lunch. “I’d say it was a great nooner regardless.”
He gets that look in his eyes. “Wanna join me for a shower?”
I open my mouth to say yes, but our son Jonah calls out through the monitor. “Ugh, I swear his naps are getting shorter and shorter.”
Jonah is one, and he looks just like his father. Dark hair. Dark, mischievous eyes. A killer smile even if it is toothless. Actually, Rose and Lily look like their dad too.
“Go enjoy that shower.” Ben pats me on the butt. “I’ll get our little monster.”
“He’s not so little. Have you seen the guns I’m getting from hauling him all over the house?” I make a muscle, and Ben laughs.
Then he leans down and nibbles on my neck. “Don’t forget that surprise I told you about.”
I grin. “I love surprises.”
“I think I know this about you.” He kisses my forehead and then ducks into the bathroom for a quick cleanup before he goes to retrieve our son.
Ben just wrapped up his fifth season in the NFL. After college, he was drafted to Houston, which was great because we could still see his family regularly.
He’s thinking he might go one more season before he retires. He says he doesn’t want to be so banged up by the sport that he can’t enjoy our life together after.
We’re planning to move to Dallas eventually because we want our kids to grow up with Gabby and Rider’s brood. Plus, my after-school yoga program was such a hit in Austin, we’ve expanded it to Houston and Dallas schools. Students who participate are not only in better shape than their peers, they also report feeling more balanced and less stressed. In addition to yoga, we teach meditation and mindfulness. I want kids to feel empowered to go after their dreams, but not suffer from ulcers in the process.
Sunshine Yoga has been expanding in ways I never could’ve predicted. We partnered with my father to create an exercise program similar to Peloton, but for yoga, and at a far more affordable price. Keeping everything affordable for the average family was important to us. Ben and I know we’ve had privileged lives and want to be able to bring health and fitness to people who don’t have our resources.
Fitness helped save both of us in many ways. It gave us outlets when we were young and our families were falling apart. We want to provide that anchor to as many children as possible.
Once our kiddos are fed and slathered in sunscreen, Ben drives us to the beach. We’ve been enjoying the sleepy town of Port Aransas for the last week. It’s not a fancy resort town, but that suits us just fine. Just like Charming, no one bothers us here.
We park and Ben hands me some vouchers. “How do you feel about parasailing?”
I hop up and down in my seat. “I’ve always wanted to try this!”
Ben might not want to go skydiving, but he knows I love trying new things, and ever since we got in that argument about hopping out of planes, he’s always made an effort to encourage that side of me while minimizing risks. And I get it. I wouldn’t want either of us to do anything too risky since we have children now. It makes me love him that much more to see how hard he tries when this doesn’t come naturally to him.
“My little daredevil.” He leans over and kisses me.
After we get the kids out of their car seats, Ben gathers everyone together. “Okay, guys, I need your help. Lily, I want you to take video, and Bianca, could you and Rosie take photos? Bianca, I got you a voucher too, so you can get a turn too if you’d like.”
“Can I go parasailing?” Lily asks with her hands folded like she’s praying.
“When you get a little older, I’ll take you up, but there’s a height requirement, peanut.”
“Don’t worry. Before you know it, you’ll be big enough. And until then, you can still be my peanut.”
She giggles, and I smile.
Lily gets more and more beautiful each day. It hurts my heart to think Janelle tossed her away so easily. Janelle eventually had a child with Ernest, but they recently separated.
After Ben got his first NFL paycheck, he offered to reimburse her for three years’ worth of child support—to cover the pregnancy as well as the first two years of Lily’s life. She took it and gave him full custodial rights and signed off on a nondisclosure agreement. Given her penchant for trouble, we hoped to keep her antics out of the press. After everything I went through with my parents in the limelight, Ben and I wanted to spare Lily that trauma.
We told Janelle’s parents that his ex could see Lily if she wanted, that we wouldn’t keep them apart, but she’s never taken us up on it.
While it makes me sad, I hope Lily is better off without the drama. She knows who her birth mother is, and whenever we’re in Dallas, we see Ben’s aunt and uncle, who make a point to invite Ignacio and Yolanda. Lily jokes that she has more grandparents than any of her friends.
A little hand reaches into mine. I look down at Lily, and she asks, “Mom, can we go to that shop later?”
“The one with the seashell necklaces?” She likes to collect a little necklace every time we go on vacation, the way I like to collect sand.
“Yeah. The one I got here last summer broke.”
“We can definitely go there.” I lean down to hug her. “Can you help Bianca keep an eye on Rosie and Jonah this afternoon?”
She nods, her little brows furrowed. “So they don’t get into trouble. Again.”
We look at each other and laugh. “Love you, Lilybug.”
“Love you too.” She watches me a second. “And you love Daddy a lot, too, huh?”
“I do. How can you tell?”
“Because you guys look at each other like this.” Then she makes this silly face and bats her eyelashes.
Strong hands wrap around my waist, and Ben kisses my temple. “You ready? I booked the best company in South Texas. Their safety record is impeccable. Melvin hooked me up.”
I turn to him and smile. “Yup. Let’s do this.”
Lily laughs. “See? Right there. Y’all are making googly eyes at each other.”
“Course I’m gonna make googly eyes at this woman.” He nuzzles my neck. “She’s my sunshine. The queen of my heart.”
I never get tired of hearing that.
“If Mom’s the queen, that makes me your princess, right, Daddy?”
“Definitely.” He hugs her and covers her in kisses until she squeals. “That’s why I got y’all matching tiaras for Christmas last year.”
He did, the goof. But they’re beautiful. Lily, Rosie, and I decided we’d wear them on our birthdays. They’re little dainty things.
Ben wanted to get me real diamonds, but I told him a long time ago that I never want expensive gifts. My father bought us expensive things but was never around. I just want Ben’s time. His heart. His love. And he’s given those things to me in spades.
The season is always tough, but when Ben’s away at games, we constantly text or call or video-chat. I don’t know if it’s like that for every couple, but he’s my best friend. I want to tell him the funny things the kids do or ask if he remembered to take his vitamins. He wants me to know that he landed safely or fill me in on the crazy antics his teammates pull on each other.
And maybe it was good that we were challenged early in our relationship. Because now our roots are stronger than ever.
We set up our kids under some giant umbrellas. Ben drops off an ice chest full of drinks and snacks. Before he and I take off on our excursion, he gets the children’s attention. “What’s the number one rule on the beach?”
Lily raises her hand.
“We stay with Aunt Bianca.”
“Good. And what else?”
Rosie stands and waves her arm. Ben calls on her.
“Don’t go in the water by ourthelves. We need an adult.” She tries so hard to pronounce everything correctly, but she has a hard time with a few words.
“That’s right, darling. Good. And we always...?” He lifts an eyebrow.
“Always stick together and watch out for Jonah!” the girls yell together.
“Great job. Okay, we’ll be back in about half an hour. Stay hydrated.”
I smile as he takes my hand and walks me down the beach. He pauses halfway to the water and turns to me. “You know you’re the light of my life, right?”
I sniffle. He always makes me emotional when he says things like this. “Yes, sweetheart, I know that. And you’re the best thing to ever happen to me. Well, you and our humans.”
We turn to look at our kids, who are sprawled out under those giant umbrellas, busy building castles in the sand.
He kisses me. “You, us, our kids, this is my idea of paradise. I love you, Sienna.”
I wrap my arms around him and rest my head on his strong chest. “Love you too, Ben. Thank you for making all my dreams come true.”
I thank my lucky stars that he was my neighbor in college. I’m even grateful for the bad stuff that happened that summer because it brought me and Ben together. And it made us strong.
When we get to the boat, he turns to me. “Ready for an adventure?”
“With you? Always.”