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“OWEN, CAN YOU GRAB the diaper bag? I’m almost ready to go,” I call out as I put Matt in the car seat. Michelle is screaming her head off in the other car seat and I take a deep breath.
I don’t know how hard it is to have one child, but twins are almost unmanageable. I click Matt into his seat and he flicks his hand towards me, hitting me in the face. I jump and he giggles. Michelle stops crying and looks over at her brother.
“You enjoyed that, did you Michelle? You liked seeing Mommy being hit in the face?” I say with my eyebrow raised. She cocks her head to the side and suddenly she’s laughing.
I stand up and close the car door just as Owen appears with the diaper bag. I shake my head.
“I think our kids are assholes,” I say as he swings the bag into the trunk. “Michelle just started laughing when Matt hit me in the face.”
“Yesterday Matt looked me in the eye and then threw all his food on the floor,” Owen replies as he shuts the trunk. “They’re definitely assholes.”
I laugh and Owen grins. “But they’re our little assholes and we love them,” he adds as he wraps his arms around me. I melt into his arms and wrap my arms around his neck. I twirl his hair in my hands and take a deep breath.
If you’d have told me a year and a half ago that I’d have found Owen and we’d have had two kids together, I would have said you were insane. Owen dips his head down and presses his lips against mine. Even though I see him every day, even though we’re both exhausted and frazzled and feel like we’re doing everything wrong with the kids, Owen’s kiss is still the sweetest thing I’ve ever felt.
He pulls away and rubs his nose against mine. I chuckle and stand up onto my tip toes to lay another soft kiss on his lips.
“Do we have to go?” I whine. “Dinner at your coworker’s house just sounds like a chore right now.
Owen smiles and strokes my face. “We can leave straight after dinner. They’ve asked us three times already. We have to go.”
I sigh. “I know. I’m just tired.”
“Me too.” He kisses my forehead and rubs my nose with his again.
The last thing I want to do is pretend to be pleasant. I feel like I could sleep for a year. It’s supposed to be my birthday tomorrow, but we haven’t planned anything. Owen hasn’t mentioned it and neither have I. I look up at him as he smiles at me and squeezes me closer. I wonder if he even remembers that my birthday is tomorrow. A pang passes through my heart when I think that he might have forgotten.
Owen gives my hip a little tap. “Come on, hottie. Let’s go.”
I glance up at Owen as I turn, trying to hide the hint of a smile on my lips. He laughs and nods his head towards the car. We climb in and I glance back at the kids. They’re quiet now. Matt is chewing his fingers and Michelle is focused on getting her shoes and socks off.
I watch them for a second and then swing my gaze back up to the front of the car. My irritation from earlier fades away and all that’s left is the fiercest love I’ve ever felt. Ever since I’ve had these kids, I feel like my heart is permanently outside of my body. It’s no longer protected by my bones and flesh, it’s exposed and raw Every time I watch them or hold them or feed them or even think of them, I can feel my love for them growing. It’s completely terrifying but somehow also the best feeling I’ve ever felt.
Owen backs it up and we head off down the street. I take a deep breath and let it all out. Owen glances over at me and chuckles.
“It’s always a bit of a production getting into the car, isn’t it?” he says with a grin.
“Honestly, it’s a production doing anything. It’s a production sitting quietly at home with these two,” I laugh. I glance back at them and Michelle looks up. She sees me and her face splits open into a smile. A bubble of spit forms on her lips and then pops. It surprises her and she falls into a fit of giggles. I have to laugh and I shake my head.
“I love you two so much,” I say to my oblivious kids. Owen make a noise.
“What about me!” he says in mock outrage.
I poke his side. “You’re ok too.” I glance at him and speak again. “So… do you want to do anything tomorrow?”
He frowns and looks over at me. “Tomorrow? What do you mean?”
My heart sinks as I realize that he’s forgotten. He has no idea my birthday is tomorrow, and from the sounds of it, it hasn’t even crossed his mind.
I can’t blame him, not really. We’ve both been worn out and haven’t had much time for anything except taking care of these babies and surviving. It still stings though. It would be nice to feel special for one day, and to have one day that’s about me instead of being about laundry and dishes and work. Tears start to prickle at my eyes and I shake my head.
“I just meant it’s Saturday,” I lie. “I thought we could do something as a family.”
“Oh, right. Yeah, of course babe. I might have to go into work tomorrow morning but it should only be for a couple hours.”
A lump forms in my throat and I know I should say something. I should just tell him it’s my birthday and ask him to stay at home. But as we turn onto the freeway, the words catch in my throat and I say nothing. I don’t want to nag at him or start crying when we’re on our way to his coworker’s house. The last thing I want to do is show up with tears in my eyes, exhausted and grumpy with two young kids in tow.
I swallow and straighten my shoulders, glancing out the window as we keep driving.
“You ok?” he asks gently. He looks over at me and slides his hand onto my thigh. I put my fingers over his and he gives my leg a squeeze. I nod, not trusting my voice.
“I’m fine,” I finally say. “Just tired, babe.”
I swallow the lump in my throat and stare out the window. Don’t be silly. Just try to enjoy yourself. I almost start laughing to myself. I doubt very much I’ll be enjoying myself at my husband’s coworker’s dinner party.
Jess is staring out the window silently and I know she’s thinking of her birthday. It’s killing me to keep my mouth shut right now. I’m surprised that she thinks I’ve forgotten. I can tell what she’s thinking because it’s written all over her face. She’s thinking she can’t believe that we’re going over to Bill’s house, and I haven’t even planned anything for her own birthday. The corners of my mouth start to tug upwards and I fight with my face to keep it still.
The look on her face is going to be priceless when we walk into the restaurant and everyone yells ‘surprise’. It was Harper’s idea - she’s always been great at planning parties. Everyone has been able to keep it quiet for weeks and now we’re driving towards the restaurant and my heart is thumping. It’s not just the surprise party, it’s the other surprise that I have for her, that little square box that’s burning a hole in my pocket. I fight with my smile again as Jess shifts in her seat and lets out a sigh.
I just want to tell her. I hate seeing her unhappy, even if I know it’s only temporary. I steal a glance towards her and see her lift her finger to her eye. Is she brushing a tear away?
I should just tell her. Making her cry over a stupid surprise party isn’t worth it. The last thing I want to do is make her feel upset. She drops her hand again and keeps staring out the window. I take a deep breath and glance in the rear view mirror at our kids.
Michelle is focused on getting her socks off. She’s pulling at her toes with all her might and I glance back towards the road. Jess lifts her hand to her eye again and my heart squeezes. It’s not worth it, I’ll just tell her. I part my lips and take a deep breath. Her friends can be mad at me but I don’t care. I don’t want her to feel bad about this on the one day that she should be feeling great.
The words are on my lips when I glance back over at Jess. Just as I take a breath to speak, Michelle starts wailing in the back seat. Jess turns around and starts cooing.
“What happened?” I ask, glancing quickly in the mirror.
“Well, she’s holding her sock so I’m guessing she did that thing where she hits herself in the head when taking them off.”
“Again??” I ask. Jess glances over at me and grins.
“Yup. I don’t understand what the problem is with wearing socks.” She turns back towards Michelle and reaches over to stroke her leg. “Come on, Michelle, it’s ok. You’re ok.”
Matt must feel lonely, because he starts crying as well. All of a sudden, we’re driving down the highway with two wailing kids and Jess who’s on the verge of tears. Jess sighs.
“Come on, Matt, it’s ok,” she looks at me and I shrug. “They’re so tired today, Owen, I don’t know how we’re going to make it through this dinner.”
“We’ll manage,” I respond.
Jess sighs and shakes her head. “Maybe I should have just stayed home with the kids.”
I start to grin and glance over at the mother of my children. I know that she doesn’t want to go and that she tried to find any excuse to get out of this dinner party. I had to make up an elaborate story about Bill’s anniversary and him performing well at work. It felt wrong to lie to Jess but I just want her to feel special for her birthday.
She turns back towards the front as the kids keep sniffling and crying in the back seat. I slide my hand over her leg and give it a squeeze. She puts her hand over mine and leans her head back on the head rest. I can tell she’s stressed, and the closer we get to the restaurant the worse she’s feeling.
This is killing me. I should just tell her.
Michelle starts crying again and Matt gets louder. I glance in the rear view mirror to see both my kids red-faced with snot and tears and spit dripping down their chins. Jess shakes her head.
“Let’s go back, Owen. I’ll stay home with the kids. We can’t show up with them like this.”
My heart starts thumping and I look over at Jess. Her eyebrows are knitted together and she’s looking at me, almost pleading with me to turn around.
“Please, Owen. I can’t face anyone. Not tonight.” Her voice is unsteady and my heart squeezes. I put on my indicator and pull over on the side of the road. The kids are screeching in the back seat and I turn to face Jess.
“We’re not going to Bill’s house,” I blurt out. “It’s a surprise party for you.”
Her jaw falls open. Her brows knit together and her head moves back as she stares at me.
“For your birthday. It was Harper’s idea. It’s a surprise party at the Den.”
“My favorite restaurant,” she breathes. Her brows furrow some more. “So all this…”
“Yeah,” I sigh. She looks towards the road and then back at me.
“So you hadn’t forgotten?”
The kids are starting to quiet down, as if they are getting more curious about what we’re talking about. I chuckle.
“No. I remembered months ago and mentioned it to Harper one day. She said we should have a surprise party and ever since then it’s been in the works.” I lift my hand up and stroke her cheek. Jess’s bottom lip is starting to tremble and I can see the tears welling up in her eyes. “Don’t cry.”
“I just thought…” she trails off and stares into my eyes. My lips start to curl upwards.
“You thought I forgot?”
Jess’s lips form a thin line as she throws me a sheepish grin. “Yeah.”
I chuckle softly and lean over, sliding my hands into her hair and pulling her close. “I wouldn’t forget that, Jess. You know that.”
Before she can answer, I crush my lips against hers. I kiss her softly, tangling my fingers into her hair and inhaling her smell. When we pull away, she wipes her eyes.
I shake my head. “I was trying to stop you from crying.”
“Impossible,” she laughs. “You know I’m a mess.”
“You ready to keep going?” I look at Jess and place a soft kiss on her forehead. She nods slowly and I glance back at the twins. Both of them are staring at us, wide-eyed. Michelle starts laughing and I turn to Jess and shake my head.
“They’re happy now,” I say. Jess just laughs and glances back at them, reaching towards the backseat to stroke Matt’s leg. I put the car into gear. “Ok, but Jess, you have to pretend to be surprised. They’ll kill me if they knew I told you ten minutes before we got there.”
“I will be the most surprised person,” she says with a laugh. “I’ll start crying. How’s this?” she says, and then turns to me and makes her best impression of a surprised face. I laugh.
“That’s terrible,” I reply as I start to drive. Jess just laughs and shrugs, and then slides her hand over my leg. She takes a deep breath and lets it all out.
“Thank you, Owen,” she says softly.
I just smile. “I love you.”
When we pull up to the restaurant, Owen glances over at me before we get out.
“Now just be surprised, ok?”
I laugh and nod my head. “Cross my heart,” I say, moving my hand in a cross over my chest. “No one will suspect a thing.”
“Harper is going to kill me,” he laughs.
The operation to get the kids out of the car gets under way, and pretty soon Owen, the twins and I are heading up to the front door of the restaurant. It swings open and we’re led by the Maître D to a function room at the back. The lights are off and I glance at Owen, grinning.
“Stop smiling,” he whispers. “You’re supposed to be confused.”
I rearrange my face and nod dutifully. “Right.”
Owen just laughs. He’s carrying Michelle, who sticks her fingers in his mouth and laughs with him. Matt squirms in my arms and I grab him a bit tighter. By the time we get to the function room, I’ve put a neutral expression on my face and I’m ready to walk in.
Even though I knew it was coming, I still jump a little bit as we walk in. Matt starts crying as the shout surprises him and the lights turn on. I bounce him up and down. Harper and Rosie come rushing towards me with arms open.
“You guys!” I exclaim, turning towards them. Harper’s eyes narrow and she smacks Owen lightly on the arm.
“You told her!” she says. I start laughing and Owen just shakes his head.
“I was ready to turn around and go home,” I say. “He had no choice.”
“Don’t defend him!”
“It doesn’t matter. Harper, Rosie, thank you,” I say, turning to my friends. Rosie takes Matt out of my arms and I give Harper a hug.
“Happy birthday,” she says with a smile. More friends come and give me a hug and pretty soon, music is coming on and we’re all sitting at a gorgeous table. Food, drinks, and laughter are flowing. I glance over at Owen, who’s sitting to my right. He turns to me and smiles.
“Happy birthday, babe.”
“Thank you. You’re the best,” I say. He leans over and places a soft kiss on my lips when I hear a whistle. Rosie is wiggling her eyebrows at us and laughing.
“Well,” she says. “I guess now is as good a time as any to tell you what we got you for your birthday!”
I grin. “What is it?” I look around for a box, but Rosie slides a white envelope across the table.
“Not even Owen knew about this one, so he couldn’t ruin that surprise, at least.”
Owen laughs. “I’ll never live this down, will I?”
“Nope,” Rosie says. I take the envelope and open it up to pull out a single sheet of paper. It looks like a booking confirmation of some sort.
Harper explains: “The two of you haven’t had a night away from the twins since they were born. We’ve all pitched in for a night at the honeymoon suite at the Ritz. Rosie is free to babysit overnight. We have the cribs and baby monitors all set up already. You won’t have to worry about a thing.”
My jaw drops as I stare back at my friends. They’re grinning from ear to ear and I look over at my children. A night away from them? It makes me nervous to be away from them, but at the same time…
As if he’s reading my mind, Owen slides his hand over my thigh and smiles at me. He turns to Rosie and Harper.
“Thank you, seriously,” he says. “This means a lot.”
“Pamper that woman,” Rosie replies with a wink. I turn to Owen who wraps his arm around my shoulder. He squeezes me into him and I take a deep breath. The smile starts spreading across my face and my eyes are once again prickling with tears. I brush them away and smile at Rosie and Harper.
“Thank you,” I say, almost choking on my own words.
Rosie waves her hand. “Let’s have some champagne. To Jess!”
The whole table toasts. My cheeks are starting to hurt from smiling so much but it doesn’t matter. Matt and Michelle are giggling in their high chairs, Owen is smiling, and I’m surrounded by all the people that I love the most. I couldn’t be happier.
HARPER WAVES US AWAY as we drive towards the Ritz. I take a deep breath and blow all the air out of my lungs. It’s strange to be driving away from the kids, but there’s excitement bubbling in the pit of my stomach as well.
“The honeymoon suite at the Ritz! It must have cost a fortune. We’re not even married!” I laugh. Owen smiles and slides his hand over to me. I wrap my fingers into his as we drive towards the city.
A couple hours ago I was sitting in this seat on the verge of tears, thinking that he’d forgotten about me. Now, my heart is beating fiercely and I’m looking forward to our first night alone in months.
“Is it bad that I’m really looking forward to a full night’s sleep? I know that we’re supposed to screw each other’s brains out but all I really want to do is sleep.”
Owen chuckles. “I’ll do my best to change your mind,” he says with a grin. “But it’s your birthday, Jess. If you just want to sleep, then we’ll just sleep.”
I squeeze his hand and smile. Somehow, I think we won’t just be sleeping tonight.
My cock is already throbbing and we haven’t even checked in to the hotel yet. This has thrown out my plans for the night, but I don’t mind. It’s made them better. I pat my pocket again to make sure the little box is still there. Even though we have twins together and we’re fully committed to each other, my heart is thumping at the thought of asking her that little question.
Will you marry me?
Jess slips her hand into mine as we walk into the hotel, and my heart doesn’t stop hammering against my ribcage until we step into the honeymoon suite.
Harper and Rosie have outdone themselves. It’s almost bigger than our house at home, with a full living room and bedroom. I can just glimpse the jacuzzi from where we stand in the entrance. Jess gasps as we walk in. She hops over to the full row of windows that gives us a panoramic view of the city. I walk beside her and wrap my arms around her waist, inhaling the fresh smell of her hair as I nuzzle my face into her neck.
“This is amazing,” she breathes.
“You’re amazing,” I reply. Jess turns around and wraps her arms around me. She tilts her head up towards mine and I dip my lips down to kiss her. Every time I kiss this woman my heart does a backflip. I can’t help it. She’s the most incredible person I’ve ever met, and she’s the best mother that our children could ask for.
That little four-word question is still bouncing around my head when I pull away. Jess smiles at me and tilts her head to the side.
A lump forms in my throat and I shake my head. “Nothing,” I say. Jess smiles at me again. I could just ask her right now, like this, with my arms wrapped around her and the New York City skyline twinkling below us. I could just say those words and pull out the ring and ask her right now. Jess starts chuckling and wraps her arms around me, letting her fingers trail back and forth along the nape of my neck.
“Something’s on your mind,” she says. “I can tell.”
I open my mouth to speak when there’s a knock on the door. We both glance over and I pull away to go answer. I glance through the peephole and see a Ritz employee in the hallway.
“Hi sir,” he says as I open the door. “I have your complimentary honeymoon suite platter.”
He gestures to the tray in front of him, laden with chocolate covered strawberries, chocolate truffles, various cheeses and crackers and of course, a bottle of champagne. I step aside and he wheels it into the room. He pulls out a tablecloth and whips it over the table in the living room, placing the items one by one and finally lighting a candle and sprinkling rose petals around the dishes. Jess glances at me and raises her eyebrows. I grin.
“Can I get you anything else?” the man asks.
“No, thank you, that’s perfect,” Jess responds. I slip the man a tip and he walks out the door, closing it firmly behind him. Jess starts laughing.
“This is the best birthday ever!”
My chest tightens and I zip my lips closed again. I don’t want to ruin the moment by asking her to marry me - what if she says no! I just want to enjoy this. Instead, I walk over to the strawberries and pick one up.
“Just like the first time we met,” I say as I bite down. “Sitting on the edge of the bed eating strawberries. Do you remember?”
Jess laughs. “First time we hooked up, you mean,” she corrects.
“Right,” I respond, picking another one up and lifting it to her lips. She bites down and my cock twitches as I watch her lips surround the fruit. Strawberry juice runs down her chin and she giggles, wiping it away.
“You’re so sexy,” I say in a low voice. Jess looks at me and grins.
“Not too bad yourself,” she says as she trails a finger from my collar down to my waistband. She bites her lip and hooks her fingers into my pants, tugging me closer. I pull her into me and crush my lips against hers. She melts in my arms and my cock grows immediately. Jess grinds her hips against me, pressing my cock against her stomach as she moves closer. She hooks her hands around my neck as I run my fingers down to her ass.
I groan as she reaches down and strokes my hard cock through my pants.
“That feels so good,” I groan.
“Mm,” she replies as she kisses my neck. She trails kisses down my neck and chest, unbuttoning my shirt button by button and placing a kiss on the newly exposed skin as she moves down. Soon, she’s on her knees in front of me unbuckling my pants. I back up.
“It’s your birthday,” I say. “This isn’t right.”
“I want to,” she purrs. I grin and shake my head.
I hook my arms under hers and lift her up so that she wraps her legs around my waist. Our lips find each other again and we kiss again and again until I drop her down on the sofa. It’s my turn to drop to my knees and hike her dress up around her waist. I glance up at her and grin as I pull her underwear down her legs.
Those soft moans of hers are like oxygen to me. I live for them. As soon as my lips touch her clit, she’s melting into the sofa and tangling her fingers into my hair. I lift her legs up onto my shoulders and run my tongue over bud. She shivers and moans as I move back and forth.
She’s like a coiled spring. I can feel her tensing and relaxing as my mouth moves in slow circles around the little bundle of nerves above her opening. I slide my fingers inside her and she contracts, fisting her hand into my hair as another moan escapes her lips.
I love it when Jess comes. I love feeling her body tense and arch as the pleasure rips through her. I love feeling her walls grip down on my fingers and feeling the wetness gush out of her. I love the look on her face and the way her mouth falls open. I love it all.
When I lift my head, she’s in a daze. Her legs fall off my shoulders and she groans.
“What have you done to me?” she breathes.
I just chuckle and get the bottle of champagne from the table. I pull out the box from my pocket and glance at Jess. She’s got her eyes closed, still recovering from her orgasm. I take the ring from the box and drop it into her glass. The bubbles fizz up and my heart starts bouncing against my ribcage. I take a deep breath and turn around, ready to ask Jess to be my wife.
I’m still in a daze when Owen hands me a glass of champagne. The bubbles are climbing up the walls of the flute and I just watch them travel upwards and explode up the top. Owen sits beside me and lays a hand on my leg.
“Cheers,” he says as he clinks his glass against mine. I grunt. “Happy birthday.”
“Thanks,” I manage to breathe.
Owen chuckles and takes a sip of his drink. I glance over at him and watch as he inspects his glass and then sets it down. He looks at me and smiles.
“What are you looking at?”
“You,” I answer. My heartbeat is just calming down, and I can feel my heart growing in my chest. I feel drunk on love right now. Owen leans back and puts his arm around my shoulder. I rest my head in that little crook between his chest and his shoulder, closing my eyes and sinking into him.
“This is so comfortable,” I say. My voice is muffled in his chest and Owen just leans over and kisses the top of my head.
“You’re not having any champagne,” he says. I open my eyes again and glance down at the glass.
“I’d forgotten about it,” I laugh. “Another couple seconds and I’d be asleep and spilling it all over you.”
Owen chuckles softly and then clears his throat. “I think you should drink it.”
“Are you trying to get me drunk?” I ask, glancing up at him. I frown when I see something in his eyes. He looks almost... Nervous? He tries to smile but it comes out as a grimace. I lean back and feel my brows knit together.
“Is everything ok?”
“Everything is fine, Jess.” He tries to relax his face and then just laughs. “Just drink your champagne already.”
I frown again and then finally look down at my glass. Now that the bubbles have slowed, I see something at the bottom of the glass. My heart starts beating faster and I look from the glass to Owen and back to the glass again.
“Owen, is this…” my voice trails off as I stare at the sparkling ring at the bottom of the drink.
“I love you Jess. Marry me,” he whispers.
I can hardly see from the tears that are gathering in my eyes. My hand flies up to my mouth and I try to speak but nothing comes out. I just nod my head up and down until Owen wraps his arms around me and we’re both laughing and crying together.
He pulls away from me and helps to wipe the tears off my cheeks.
“You make me so happy, Jess, and I couldn’t ask for a better mother for our kids. I want to make it official. I want to make an honest woman out of you,” he adds with a grin.
I laugh and snort at his words as the tears start streaming down my face again.
“I was going to do it at the restaurant but then they told me about this suite and I thought proposing with just the two of us alone was better,” he says. “I don’t need a big show, I just want you.”
I just nod vigorously because my voice still isn’t working. I finally clear my throat and take a sip of champagne. I can only manage the tiniest sip before the lump in my throat stops me. The glass is still mostly full and I shake my head.
“I’ll never get through this much champagne,” I laugh. “I won’t be able to get it on.”
Owen laughs and takes the glass from me. “Fuck the champagne,” he says as he gets up and walks towards the ice bucket. “I’ll get rid of it.”
He dumps the champagne and comes back with the ring between his thumb and forefinger. He gets down on one knee in front of me and presents the ring to me. I hold out my hand and he slides it on. It feels like it was made for me. I stare at the sparkling diamond on my hand and then look up at Owen.
I shake my head and take a deep breath.
“I love you so much, Owen,” I say. “I’m so happy right now I can’t even put it into words.”
Owen sits down beside me and wraps me in his arms. “You’re not as happy as I am,” he says. I nuzzle into my favorite spot on his shoulder and close my eyes. Within minutes, the two of us are asleep, arms wrapped around each other and hearts beating as one, completely, blissfully happy.