After Everett and Blaine had returned to the beach house, where Rett had parked his car, he drove to Willow Creek to get Katie, then bring her back to Brindleton Bay for dinner at his parents’ home.
Everybody would be there.
His mom and dad – obviousy, his grandpa and grandma Cameron, grandma Hanson, his three siblings, his oldest sister’s boyfriend Rhys, aunt Vivian, uncle Vitto and cousin Vincenzo. A total of three dogs. And of course he and Katie.
It was slightly awkward, when he picked her up at the door at her uncle’s home.
He wanted to kiss her, but she quickly shook her head and smiled.
Once in the car he complained
“He’s your uncle. Even he can’t know?”
“Just us. For now. I just need some time to wrap my head around it all.” she explained.
He did not like that.
There was no reason to keep this a secret from family. Not in his book.
Katie was playing with her fingers, when she finally said
“Look, I just don’t want it to become awkward. I’m afraid if he knows you are my boyfriend and boss, he may ask you for money. He took on part of the debts, from his parents, my grandparents, so we are both not doing too rosy. Uncle Matt is nice and sweet, but not what you call a hard worker, so if he sees you as an easy button, it could get messy. And he was nice enough to let me move in, in exchange for me helping with the bills. But he really was my last resort. I know he has issues, and has serious crook-tendencies. If he knew WHO you were, who your parents are, he would not stop bugging me to get into your pockets or threaten to toss me out on the street if I refuse. He is that kind of naughty-nice person. Which is why he used to be the black sheep. After all that went down, he just seems normal for my family. Man, that’s sad.”
“Move in with me and pay me rent. That sounds legit.” Everett suggested.
“You’d charge your girlfriend rent?”
“Would you move in just so?”
“I am not moving in with you either way, Rett. We talked about this. Remember the taking it slow part? I just want to make sure we are both ready for this. I don’t take relationships lightly and neither should you. This is big.”
The Cameron’s home was a circus as always.
Two high school aged teens with motormouths, a third teen, Vincenzo, who was mostly quiet, a 19 year old college girl plus boyfriend, three dogs excited to have everybody together, running about, barking, two parents who were absolute family people and elated to have the entire family in one place, a grandfather who had everybody rolling with his jokes and antics, his wife, who kept reeling him back in if he went a little too far, and a quiet grandmother – Leonie’s mom – who said very little, which Everett’s aunt Vivian made up for by talking endlessly about fashion and funny moments from Liam’s and her youth, while her husband Vitto just sat and looked on in admiration for her, if Natty wasn’t occupying his time whenever she took a break from loving on her boyfriend. In the midst Everett and Katie. While Rett was often preoccupied with his youngest siblings, Katie was secretly watching his sister and her boyfriend very openly exchange affections, regret reflecting in her eyes, wondering if keeping her relationship with Rett a secret was such a good idea after all.
She had been alone for so long, and this was loud and chaotic, but so warm and fun and cozy, she felt like she belonged already.
After dinner the noise level increased even further, so Katie asked Rett to see his old room.
He took her there, she quickly shut the door he had left open and kissed him.
Longing and demanding.
They ended up on the bed, when the door opened and Jake came in.
“Umm, eww! Can you guys not do that at home!? That’s just nasty!” he complained appalled.
“Get out, Jake!” Everett told him.
“You get out! This is my room now!” he argued.
“You got your own place, so I got the bigger room. So go home and screw your girlfriend there!”
“OUT!!!” Everett threw a pillow at him, missing by a mile due to his bad angle atop Katie, unable to get up as her blouse was unbuttoned.
Jake left, mumbling to himself.
“Sorry about that. And as far as keeping this a secret goes…” he smiled apologetic at Katie.
“Fine, we can tell your family. Hopefully we beat your brother to the punch. I’d prefer it a bit more romantic than whatever he may say.” she giggled as they both got up, and she buttoned up her blouse, then they looked at each other as if bracing for a jury trial.
They went downstairs and found his parents in the kitchen, where most of his family was hanging out.
Natty was helping Leonie with the dishes.
“Umm, mom, dad, everyone … Katie and I wanted to tell you something. About us.”
Everett said with raised voice to talk over the dull roar of conversation.
“OMG – are you guys pregnant?” Natty turned around, a little too excited.
“Probably! And I need a new mattress! Caught them doing it in my bed! EWW!” Jake interjected.
“Shut up Jake! We weren’t doing anything. We were just … kissing. And no, not pregnant, little sis. What the hell?!” Everett addressed his brother, then his sister, while both he and Katie blushed.
“Are you getting married now?” asked 13 year old Brianna, the youngest, still in a romantic princess phase.
“Oh yeah, dad and I meant to talk to you about your old room, Rett.” his mother said at the same time.
“I called it! I knew since like forever that you were an item!” Natty gloated, clapping excitedly.
“Not getting married Bree, thanks for the heads up wayyy too late, mom and you are wrong Natty. It is brand new. Since yesterday to be exact.” Everett addressed them one by one.
“If you say so…” she smiled and winked at Katie.
“I still want new bedding – at least. If not a new bed. Gross!” Jake said, annoyed.
“Oh, zip it kid. We all know you have done worse to yourself in that bed.” Blaine told him, grinning.
“Oh my gawd! What is wrong with everybody?!” sixteen year old Jake looked horrified at his grandfather as his face turned a deep shade of pink before he stormed off.
“Thanks grandpa!” Everett laughed as they fist-bumped.
“Congrats you two. But dammit, now I owe my father 20 bucks.” Liam pat his son on the shoulder, as he was complaining, but smiling.
“Yes, you do!” Blaine smirked as his eyes met his son Liam’s, both men grinned.
“Liam! Shut up! You too Blaine.” Leonie giggled.
“Wait. My own father made a bet with my grandpa about Katie and me? And you guys knew already?”
“It was not hard to guess. Rett, your mother and I made you, we can read you like a book! Most of the time. I bet your grandfather that you would not have the balls to tell us, he had faith in you. Dammit, kid. But you didn’t do it during the actual dinner, so I did NOT lose. HA!”
“You still lost. I heard nothing about dinner. So pay up, sweet child o’mine!” Blaine grinned.
“Well, congratulations and welcome to the family, Katie. Just to make this clear, they are not always like this.” Leonie told her, smiling gently.
“Actually, yeah we ARE!” Vivian added laughing, everyone chimed in.
Leonie went to hug Katie, smiling big, then everybody else lined up for hugs.
“Thanks.” Katie did not even know what to say or whom to look at and listen to.
“Maybe we have a dinner again next weekend and you invite your family, and I’ll get Rhys to bring his…” Natalie suggested.
“Natty, Katie does not have family anymore. Just an uncle.”
“So bring the uncle. Rhys only has his mom.”
“Hey, would you excuse me for a second?” Everett said and walked off.
He had spotted his grandfather sneak away like he always did during crowded events.
He followed him to the water’s edge, where they stood quietly for a while.
“So that’s out in the open now.” Rett said.
“Great. And you made me 20 bucks, kid.”
“Dad is gonna argue with you on that.”
“Your dad came out of your grandmother arguing with me. Has not worked for him yet, not gonna start working for him now.”
“Thanks, grandpa. For everything. You really are the best. I need one more piece of advice, though.”
“I’ll do my best.” Blaine’s smile widened as Everett spoke, then he put his arm around his grandson and spoke for a little while as both men looked out over the ocean.
On the car ride back to Willow Creek Everett suddenly said
“We are staying at my place tonight. Together.”
“Me. You cannot do what you did at my parents’ house and then send me home alone.”
“Listen to you! Yesterday I had to nearly rape you, and today you are all macho?” she giggled.
“I am all gentleman. Were I a macho I would have pulled you into the bushes back home and taken what you promised me then.”
“Hey Rett? I do hope we do a better job fooling people at work than we did with your family. I just know that my uncle isn’t really buying my ‘just friends’ spiel either.”
Monday rolled around.
Everett had thought hiding his feelings from everybody before he and Katie got together had been hard, but it was nothing compared to what they were facing now.
Maybe it was their age.
She was 21, he 22 and giggly like school kids.
The more both tried to behave businesslike, the worse it got. If it wasn’t uncontrollable giggling, it was random and extreme blushing.
Both saw other employees trade knowing glances, which made them both blush even more.
Not very covert.
After the all hands meeting they ran into his office and shut the door.
“Oh my gawd, we are so bad at this!” she giggled.
“Might as well lease a billboard and tell the entire world.” Rett chuckled.
“Why is this so hard?!” she laughed.
“I tell you what else is hard.” Everett grinned, winking.
“What is wrong with you?” she playfully and gently punched him in the stomach.
“I am freshly in love with a beautiful girl, nothing’s wrong, totally normal.”
“Can you tame your testosterone for a little while longer? I have something I wanted to discuss with you. Something important. Something really BIG.” her smiled faded and her face became serious.
“Are you sick?”
“Are you quitting?”
“WHAT? HELL NO!”
“Can’t be so dramatic then. It can wait.”
He pulled her closer and began to kiss her neck, when she said
“I think I DO wanna move in with you…”
He froze, his head still bend and lips attached to her neck, he looked up at her.
“Are you gonna say something?” she asked, looking worried.
He shook his head and pulled her over to the couch, showing her what he thought of her idea instead.
That very evening, at Everett’s home, they were laying in bed, together.
They had decided on a game to speed up getting to know each other in a fun way.
She had moved in with him already, which was a matter of dropping by her uncle’s home after work, telling him the plan, thanking him, packing her few belongings into the duffel bag and driving 20 minutes to his home.
Now here they were, atop his bed.
Giggling and talking.
Going through all topics imaginable, music, movies, food, drink, …
“Favorite color?” he asked.
“Red – no pun intended.” she giggled at the realization that it kinda sounded like his nickname.
“Mine’s green, obviously.”
“Is that why the walls at work all look like the inside of a murky pond?”
“You don’t like green?”
“I do, it’s just a LOT of it… my turn: do you want kids?”
“Yes, in many years from now. And only one. You?”
“Same, actually. When I am like in my mid-thirties or so. One kid. And only with the right guy.”
“Umm… so what does that mean? Where do I rank in that equation?”
“We only just became a couple. I meant as in husband. Like the man for life.”
“And I don’t qualify?”
“I don’t know yet. I am 21 years old. I do not think of kids and marriage yet, Rett. But, if I didn’t think you had potential, I would not bother with you. And certainly not live with you. Although, honestly, this house would be worth just keeping you as a sugar daddy…in case Chris Hemsworth does come around after all.” she laughed, he pushed her over and they play-fought as he tickled her for a moment then calmed back down
“Some sugar daddy I’d make. I have no money. Only debts. My parents are wealthy, but that doesn’t mean I am.”
“Well, in that case, I am out of here…” she grinned, acting as if she wanted to get up. He pulled her back down and rolled atop her.
“Nuh uh. You are stuck with me now, Missy.”
“I can still knee you in the balls.”
“You still would never.” he smiled down at her, his words sounded certain.
“You’re right. I would never hurt you, Everett.” after all the joking, she had gotten very serious for the last part.
“I love you, Katie.” he said very serious now too before he bend down for a long kiss, which she returned.
Afterwards she smiled up at him
“Hey Rett, can I revise one of my previous answers?”
“The one with the marriage and stuff. I changed my mind. Screw Hemsworth and uncertainty. I love you, Everett Cameron. Pretty sure you are the one. You know, the hubby-material and future-baby-daddy type.” she giggled at her statement.
“I am pretty sure you are the one, too, Miss Wilson. And I am happy to add to my resume that I just outranked Chris Hemsworth on your awesome-dude-scale. Ha!” he said grinning.
“Still – aren’t we both a bit young for such a serious commitment talk?”
“Not like we are getting married tomorrow. Hey, next question: big wedding or eloping?”
“Tough one. Part of me wants the full princess experience. Alas, I have no money and no family to help pay for it, so probably eloping, unless I hit the lottery big.”
“Thought you did, meeting me?”
“Wow, so humble.” she stuck her tongue out at Rett.
“I want a big wedding. Maybe not epic, but mom would have a heart attack if I eloped.”
“Well, by the time we both are ready for all that we’ll have it figured out. Ok, my turn. Honeymoon or no?”
“Of course! My turn: beach vacation or more like sightseeing trip?”
“Yeah, just before I dropped out, they did an excavation trip to Selvadorama. I so wanted to go, but that was way out of my reach.”
“In college you mean? What the heck did you study?”
“That’s two questions in a row. Archaeology. I am a history nerd, Rett. And an adventurer at heart. But I didn’t get too far. Too much work, not enough time to learn. And then it was over with college and just work. Oh well.”
“Do you plan on going back to college to finish your degree?”
“I used to, but not anymore. I love my job now. My boss is pretty awesome … and hot.”
“Is he now? Must be an awesome guy.”
“He is, bit self-absorbed though… hey, another question: cats or dogs?”
“Dogs! That big black dog at my parents’ home is actually my dog, Shadow. But I cannot have him here alone all day.”
“Me too, dogs. Whenever we get married, we’ll get a puppy!”
“What kind of home? Traditional, modern,…?”
“Rett, I went from traditional to trailer to homeless… so anything with walls, a roof, no leaks, that doesn’t require a gas station or for you to feed a parking meter sounds like a castle to me.” she giggled.
“Yeah… I thought I designed my perfect home when I designed this one, but now I am full of doubts… got a lot better though of late …” he smiled at her, referring to her moving in.
“This home is great, the interior decoration needs some help.”
“A little bit of feminine touch maybe?”
“I tell you what else could use a little bit of feminine touch …”
“You go straight from monk-like geek to workaholic to Don Juan, huh? Say, we are both about the same age, and I grew up here, so why did we not meet in school? I know I would remember you. And without doubt, you would have heard about me, after the bullying. Everybody heard the rumors.”
“My siblings and I didn’t move back here until I was like 9 or 10 and we all attended a private school after a failed brief attempt to have us in public school.”
“Of course you did. Poor lil rich kid.” she teased.
“Hey, I cannot help the life my dad chose, but the other kids were seriously weird about it. I was in public school for a minute, Natty was too, and everyone just wanted to be our friend to meet dad or say they were friends with the kids of Liam Cameron. So, he put us into a school where nobody cared. In college that started all over again, which is why I did not date. No point. And I was obsessed with learning and getting my degree as soon as I could.”
“How come Natalie has a boyfriend then?”
“They met when she was walking Dakota, her dog. One of those movie moments, you know he sees her, she sees him, hearts flying. She gave him a false name so for the first month or so of them dating he had no clue who she was.”
“Aww, how romantic … in a weird kind of way. I prefer honesty though.”
“OK, here is some honesty for you: I think I fell in love with you when we met in college.”
“Yeah right. So you are into abuse? I was such a bitch to you. Still feel guilty in retrospect.”
“Well, whenever you were not yelling at me or insulting me, you were actually really sweet. And my grandparents liked you right away, they have a good radar. But suddenly you were gone. Where were you anyway?”
“Remember that assistant job I told you about? I left campus and moved to Sunset Valley for it. I only just moved back when you opened your business. And while we are so honest, I was crushing on you hard too, but you had too much going against you.”
“How many boyfriends have you had?”
“Oh no, do you really want to go there?” she sat up and changed her position from the awkward diagonal they had been laying in to one closer to a sleeping one.
“That many, huh?” he asked, following her lead.
“No,that’s not it. One. I tried dating, but if you have not noticed, I have a problem with trusting others intentions…”
“You don’t say? Just one boyfriend? A girl like you? That’s hard to believe.”
“Why did you break up?”
“Just want to make sure I don’t make the same mistakes he did.”
“Why do you assume it was him who caused the break up?”
“You messed up?”
“Yeah. Badly. If you must know, he was a super-sweet guy, good looking, kind, genuine, kinda like you in a way. But I had been through so much at that point and just could not believe anybody could be trusted, so I kept being jealous about everything, saw bad intentions in the smallest things, like if he forgot to pick up milk on his way home, I would freak out and we had a major fight. Eventually he couldn’t take it anymore and left. And I felt confirmed. Wasn’t until I met you that I saw the big picture. I have issues, man.”
“You lived with him?”
“Yes, I had just moved to Sunset Valley for the job and he had the nicer apartment.”
“How old was he?”
“24. I was 19. So, my turn. You said Maddie was your first and only girlfriend before me. I cannot help but wonder about your type. She and I are VERY different kinds of woman.”
“What’s the question?”
“Do you date just any girl who will have you? Or what is the idea here? What IS your type?”
“I don’t have a type. I like nice, sweet, kind girls with drive and intellect. I cannot deal with girls who are just pretty but dumb. I like women who stand up for themselves. My grandparents on my mom’s side were one of those couples where the man decides everything and the woman just cooks and cleans. I actually remember my grandpa on my mother’s side, and I hated him. He was mean. He was always mean to my dad, too. And my mom. My mom is so sweet, how can you be mean to her, right? So I definitely never wanted THAT.”
“Ha, so I won’t bring you coffee and lunch at work then anymore.”
“Well, that I actually like. Especially since I never asked for it. Even the stuff you spit on.”
“I have to wonder though, how come there are no women lining up to date you? I mean, you are adorable, totally hunky, smart and perceived wealthy … how come you hardly dated?”
“I don’t go out. I never have. Maybe a restaurant. Never been to a dance club. I am actually really boring. Which is why I am so afraid to lose you.”
“Haven’t been bored by you yet. Doubt that is even possible. You seriously underestimate yourself, Mr. Cameron. And you won’t lose me. Ever. Rett, you may well be the only thing in this world I believe in these days.”