Cole picked up Avery to ceremoniously carry her over the threshold. He groaned when he saw Noah’s mug grinning at him on the other side of the door. Ami evidently spilled the beans before they could return home and tell everyone themselves. He was going to kill her. “Damn Avery. The whole family is probably here. You ready for this, Mrs. Murdock?” he asked as he let her down so they could walk inside.
Avery gave him a quick kiss and grabbed his hand. “Let’s go,” she said brightly and they walked in the door. Noah hugged him first when he walked in and Ami squealed when she hugged Avery. He saw his father out of the corner of his eye and he didn’t look happy.
As soon as Noah released Cole, his father walked over. “We need to talk,” he said under his breath and headed towards Cole’s tiny office.
Cole glanced at Avery watching nervously, as the two of them disappeared into the hallway.
As soon as the door was shut, his dad started his rant. “Cole, goddammit. What the fuck were you thinking? Oh wait, you weren’t. You haven’t given yourself time to get over Yasmine. You just jumped into this relationship with Avery. Don’t get me wrong, I like Avery, but Cole, I don’t want to see you get hurt. You need to get this sham of a marriage annulled today!”
Cole was incensed. He never expected his dad to act like such a jackass. “How dare you judge me! I love her very much! It’s not like I just met her. I have worked with her every summer for four years. And she loves me too.” Cole couldn’t control his anger, and his words became harsh as he fought back and stood his ground. His voice shook as he forced out his words. “And if you don’t like it, you can kiss my ass and leave my house now!” He never in a million years thought he would be throwing his father out of his home. He was shaking with hurt and anger.
Ben inhaled sharply and looked at his hands. “Fuck Cole,” he said, his tone less confrontational as he ran his hands through his hair before speaking again. “She’s not…? Is there more news we haven’t heard yet? IS THERE?”
“News?” asked Cole confused and then in the same instant realized what he was getting at. “Fuck you Dad. No, she’s not pregnant! But I fucking hope she is soon. You make me sick. Maybe what Papa said is true. Just get out!”
Cole spun around and started to walk out, but Ben grabbed his arm stopping him. Cole froze dead in his tracks, unsure if they were actually going to come to blows.
“Don’t leave Cole. I’m sorry. Really,” said Be from behind him. “It’s just, you are my son and I want the best for you. I don’t want you to get hurt. Living together is one thing, marriage is altogether different. It’s not like you. I just don’t understand.”
At the pained sound of his father’s voice, Cole turned around to face him. The look on his his face floored him. He could clearly see the love and worry written all over it. Still, he was mad that they couldn’t have had a civil conversation, instead of him coming in and trying to tell him what to do.
“Look, I don’t know what your fucking problem really is,” said Cole, unable to keep the hurt and anger out of his voice, “or what happened, because you don’t tell me shit. You are obsessed with C&M. And Papa told me, when he was sick, that you were a troublemaker. So just because you got my mother pregnant, doesn’t mean I am also irresponsible.”
At the mention of his birth mother, his Dad completely deflated and Cole began to feel bad for him. It took Ben a minute to compose himself before he could speak. “You are right. You aren’t me. You have been nothing but responsible and mature. Papa is right. I made so many mistakes. But Cole, Grace was not one of them. You were one of the best things I ever did. I was given a second chance with Sofia and she gave me Ami.” He paused when his voice became so thick with emotion he could barely get the words out and he scrubbed his hands over his face.
Finally he continued. “My family is the most important thing in the world to me, Cole. And making a life for all you through C&M, it’s all I can do to repay you….” He stopped again and swallowed hard. He let out a shaky breath and finished. “for giving me my life back.”
Cole pulled his Dad into a hug, barely keeping his swirling emotions at bay. “Dad,” he said thickly, “we all love you. You’ve been an excellent father. Your love is all we need. And, I promise you, Avery and I are ready for this. We’re very happy. Please, be happy for us.”
He released his death grip on his father. He didn’t realize he had been holding him so tight. He loved his dad very much and it pained him to think they might be estranged over his marriage to Avery.
Ben smiled and Cole could feel the stress leave his body. “Congratulations son,” he said, “Avery has a good head on her shoulders, I’m sure she wouldn’t rush into this with you if she weren’t sure. And I like the new puppy. Ami hasn’t put him down since we got here. C’mon. We need to get back before your mom kills me.”
Cole and his Dad walked out of the office together, his Dad’s arm wrapped around his neck. When they entered Cole’s tiny living room smiling, the look of relief on both his mom’s and his new wife’s faces said volumes. Things were going to be okay.
Cole stood back and watched as his father went to Avery and kissed her on the cheek. “Welcome to the family Avery honey,” he said sincerely, “Sofia and I couldn’t be happier.” Ben wrapped his long time employee, now also his daughter-in-law, in a hug.
Cole’s mother walked over to him and they watched the exchange between his dad and Avery. She slid her arm around him and gave him a sideways squeeze. “I’ll admit Cole, this was a bit unexpected, but I suppose you two are adults and know what you want. I’m just glad you and your father worked it out. Congratulations sweetie. I love you.”
Before they could say more, Ben grabbed one of the glasses of wine that had been poured while he and Cole were ‘talking’. He held it up in a toast. “Congratulations to Cole and Avery. Avery, I hope he makes you as happy as Sofia has made me,” he said, beaming at his wife and son who were still standing with their arms around each other.
After everyone finally left, the newly married couple collapsed on the sofa. “So you and Ben worked it out it seems,” said Avery, “I was worried when he dragged you in your office.”
“Yes. He thought you might be pregnant … and that I was rebounding,” said Cole. Nothing but the truth, he said to himself. No secrets.
Avery started to get upset. “That pisses me …..”
“It’s okay babe,” said Cole, “I set him straight. It’s no secret that my mother was pregnant with me when they got married.”
“He doesn’t give you enough credit,” said Avery still mad.
Cole loved she was taking up for him. “Yes, he does. He had a somewhat troubled past evidently. He promised to tell me about it one day. Let’s give him a pass, okay?” Avery had to work with his dad and he didn’t want any tension between them, especially since his father had finally accepted their relationship.
Avery smiled and Cole was relieved. “You are so good. That’s why Phil and I love you so much. Don’t we Phil?” she asked the puppy and kissed it’s little nose. Then she inhaled sharply before continuing. “Oh god! We really are married! I can’t believe it!”
Cole felt a little tug of worry at her words, probably because his father’s meltdown today. What if she really had just got swept up in the moment? “I know. It almost doesn’t feel real, does it? But it is. And I am deliriously happy. Is that weird for a guy to say?”
Avery laughed. “Not my guy,” she said.
He felt himself relax. She really did love him. He pulled her close and the puppy jumped down. “Good,” he said and kissed her, “because I am.”
“Wanna show me how happy?” she asked and pulled him down on top of her.
“Why Mrs. Murdock, I believe I do,” he said, and kissed her passionately.
Cole woke up to an empty bed. He had long since became accustomed to waking up with Avery next to him. He could smell coffee, so he knew she had been up for awhile.
When he stepped out of the bedroom, he could hear Avery talking. At first he thought she was talking to the dogs, but she was on the phone. Evidently it was her Aunt, the one that raised her after her father’s death.
He grabbed coffee and waited while she finished her conversation.
“Yes. Of course I love him,” said Avery sounding irritated, “What kind of question is that?”
“It’s been over between us for a long time Aunt June.”
“No! I’m not calling him. That’s insane! If he had cared, he would have come with me, but he didn’t. And I haven’t heard from him in at least 6 months, if not longer.”
Avery sighed. “If he calls, tell him. Why do I care? I am in love with my husband.”
“I told you. Cole Murdock.”
“Yes, his father owns C&M Development. They are a wonderful close knit family. Something you wouldn’t know about.”
Avery’s expression changed quickly into a sweet smile when she saw him standing there in his boxers cuddling Phil. “I need to go now,” she said to her caller, “My new husband just walked in and we want to have breakfast together.”
“My Aunt,” explained Avery, “At least that’s over with. Thanks for giving me an excuse to get off the phone.”
“So, there was someone before me?” he asked as he sat down.
Avery cocked her head. “Oh, so you heard? I told you, I had a boyfriend back in Windenburg. It was on again, off again for awhile, but he wouldn’t come to Newcrest. He said his work was more important than me chasing rainbows. I guess he figured I would fail and come running back. We saw each other some after I moved here. But I haven’t seen him for awhile. Aunt June probably hoped I would go back to him. I think she liked him because he had money. But instead, I found my true love and my future right here, with you. Best thing I ever did.”
“In that case, there is something I want to talk about,” said Cole.
“Oh? I hope no more secrets,” she said warily.
“No. I am an open book Avery. I have no secrets sweetheart. Just some things we need to decide on since we are married now. So, I have been thinking. We have two houses. We should probably sell them both so we can buy a larger one. Because Avery, I want to have babies with you. Plus, Phil isn’t going to be pint sized dog long and the dogs will need a bigger yard, which will be good for kids too someday. We can certainly afford something larger. Maybe we can build in Phase Two.”
“Damn…you scared me,” she said and laughed. “I thought you were wanting to get pregnant right now. Not that I would necessarily say no, but I would like just a little time to enjoy being married first, don’t you think? And building our dream home? That’s a wonderful idea. I know just the lot too. Ben might not like like it though, since it’s a super nice one. We might have to settle for one of the others. But I will check when I get back to work on Monday.”
“Perfect,” said Cole thinking he was indeed very lucky his parents decided on Tiramisu at the Heart Ball.
“In the meantime, though, you are right, we should still consolidate,” she said, “Mine is bigger so I guess we move into mine. I have a fireplace too or I would stay here. I love fireplaces. Our new house definitely has to have a fireplace, for cuddling.” She smiled seductively.
She’s already started planning, thought Cole, always planning. He couldn’t help but laugh. He loved seeing Avery so animated and happy. He believed that just maybe, she had never been this happy, and he was thrilled he was the reason for it. Finally, he replied with a smirk, “Definitely a fireplace, but not just for cuddling, for making love to each other on cold winter nights.”