Love Realized (The Real Love Series)
Author:Melanie Codina

chapter TWENTY-TWO

Once Jake had Gillian again, he felt comfortable enough to let her out of bed without the risk of groping her in public. His need to touch her, though, was just as strong as ever so there was rarely a moment he wasn’t holding her hand or wrapping his arm around her waist. He was very proud of the fact that he managed to control his desire to carry her around. After the morning had gotten away from them, he had to take her out for breakfast; otherwise he knew they would never eat.

Jake decided to head over to Coronado Island where they could get some good food and then take a walk. The scenery was great, the day was warm, and conditions were perfect to just enjoy the day. They were walking hand in hand along the sidewalk next to the Hotel del Coronado, one of the historic landmarks on the island that was well over one hundred years old, when Gillian stopped. Jake turned to see a hesitant look on her face so he asked, “What’s the matter, beautiful?”

She was biting her lip, seeming to be thinking of how to answer. He didn’t like that she felt nervous about whatever it was she was thinking about so he had to reassure her. He stopped and sat on a bench at the edge of the sidewalk and pulled her into his lap. Once she was there, and his arms were secured around herm he asked again, “Tell me what has you worried? You have to know you can tell me whatever you’re thinking about.”

There was a soft breeze, and it blew her hair forward so that it surrounded the two of them. There was so much of it that almost blocked out the beach around them, which he had no problem with. She smiled as she tried to gather all of it and then proceeded to twist and braid it over her shoulder in an attempt to control it. He watched the expression on her face as she pondered what she was going to say. She took in a deep breath and let it out slowly, then said, “I wanted to talk to you about Logan.” Immediately on guard, for no reason other than remembering what happened between him and Logan the night before—which he had almost forgotten about completely—he rubbed his hand up her back, gently trying to encourage her to go on.

“I’m sorry about what happened last night. He apparently felt he should try to make one more attempt to beg me to reconsider our divorce.” She wasn’t looking at him as she played with the thick braid of hair she had just created. Jake wasn’t going to push her since she was talking, so he just continued to stroke her back. He was fine with it so long as he was touching her. After a long pause, she said, “I, of course, made sure he knew that was a firm no— that there was no chance for reconciling, and that I was not his anymore.”

She lifted her head to make eye contact with him, and smiled shyly. “But I realized something last night. I realized that for the first time in months, I didn’t feel lost. I felt comfortable with the fact that I was no longer married to Logan, that I was moving on.” After another pause, she placed her hand on his cheek, and he couldn’t help but lean into her touch. “I realized that I was moving on, and that I wanted to do that with you.”

Jake felt warmth immediately infuse his chest as he listened to Gillian’s sweet confession. She didn’t declare her love for him, but she would, he was sure of it. He smiled up at her and stroked her cheek just as she did to him. “You have no idea how wonderful it is to hear words like that from you.” Pulling her lips down to meet his, he whispered, “Thank you.” Then he kissed her. He kissed her with all the passion he felt between them; it was the only thing to do. It was what the moment required. Sitting there in his lap, on a public beach where people were mulling about, Jake fell even more in love with Gillian, and he knew that no matter what, she needed to know that he was her future now.

Slowly breaking off the kiss, he held her forehead against his as they caught their breath. He hugged her tighter to him as he said, “Gillian, baby, you’re mine. I need you to know that this is it. I'm not going anywhere. I’m so glad that you realized you wanted to move on with me,” he pulled back and gave her a mischievous smile and said, “But I already knew that.”

She did that adorable snort thing and said, “Is that so?”

“Oh yes, it is … and it’s about time you caught up with the plan.” Because he knew her so well, it was very easy for the two of them to have their conversation go from deep and emotional to light and fun.

So when she retorted in a playful snarky voice, “And what exactly is this plan you speak of, Jake Michaels? Or is it more of a need to know kind of plan?”

“Of course not. It’s a simple plan, and it will be very easy to carry out. You see there is only one thing that needs to be done.” He gave her a pointed look and said, “All you have to do is love me, because I already love you. Everything else, it’s just fluff, it can be dealt with. Logan, the kids, our friends, all of it can be handled, so long as we get to love each other.” She was quietly watching him, absorbing his words. He knew it was too much to expect she would actually say the words I love you, but he couldn’t help but feel hopeful. And while hope was a dangerously evil emotion to have at times, he didn’t think this was one of those times. He was confident that he would get it sometime very soon.

Still looking at him, she smiled sweetly, leaned in, and pressed her lips against his forehead before pulling back and saying, “So long as we get to love each other, huh?” Jake just gave a quick nod at her question. Then she said words that were as close to an I love you as he could hope for, “You know what? You’re right. That seems like a very easy plan to carry out.”

~*~*~*~*~~*~*~*~*~

Gillian knew that if their relationship was any older, she would have said the words I love you to Jake then. But for some reason, it just felt like a response. He deserved more than a response to his declaration. He deserved it to be delivered to him with all the emotion that she was feeling then. It deserved its own declaration, and he would get it that way. His answering smile to her response was big, and beautiful, and so full of happiness that she couldn’t help but smile at him indulgently. He was definitely like a drug to her—she fed off his happiness. Knowing that there was still plenty to discuss about complications they could face, she knew the biggest was going to be Logan.

Jake leaned his head against her chest and sighed, holding her tightly to him. She wrapped her hands around his back and just let him rest there. They sat quietly for a little while just absorbing each other and the resolution they had come to. Jake loved her, and everything else would be fine as long as they had that. It wasn’t long before life started to intrude on their solace, and Jake’s phone started to vibrate in his pocket, which she happened to be sitting on. Startling a little, she unsuccessfully tried to extricate herself from his hold. He simply shifted her a little, pulled out the phone, and settled her back where she was. He glanced at the screen and said, “It’s Allie, or as I like to call her now, Little Cockblocker.”

Gillian laughed out loud at that as Jake answered the call. Listening to the one side of the conversation, she could tell that it was time to head home. So as Jake ended the call, he allowed her to stand from his lap, but she didn’t get too far. He draped his long arm across her shoulders and pulled her against him, allowing her to wrap hers behind his waist as they walked back to his car. Figuring now was as good a time as any, she brought up one of those potential complications.

“You know, last week when I went to dinner with Logan, we came to a solution on custody.”

“Great. I didn’t think the two of you would have an issue with it. What did you decide?”

Thinking, here goes nothing, she said, “I am going to stay in the house, and then Logan is going to move into the property next door. We already spoke with the tenant, and he’s going to move into the larger property we own with a roommate since the rent is more expensive.”

“Why doesn’t Logan just move into the larger one?” Jake asked her. She didn’t detect any irritation at it, just a plain and simple question.

“Because we want the kids to be able to come and go as they please—to have access to each parent as they need, not just when the custody schedule says. We figure that this way, he and I have separation, but the kids don’t have as much.” She glanced up to see his expression, fearing he would be upset.

He looked down and said, “I can see that as being a good thing. I'm sure there will still be some issues, but I understand why the two of you should try doing something like that. Especially since you have the ability to with two properties next to each other like that.”

Gillian stopped dead in her tracks. He was okay with it; he agreed that it was a good idea? Standing there looking at him, he huffed a laugh at her and asked, “What? You didn’t think I would be fine with that?”

“I'm just surprised that you seem completely okay with it.”

He moved to stand in front of her, and once again pulled her body up against his. Her hands were on his chest and his arms wrapped around her—probably her new favorite position to be in since it gave her the perfect view of his strong jaw and soft lips as he smiled down at her.

“Did you not hear what I said to you back there? I love you, and everything else is just fluff, which can be dealt with. There’s no need to get bothered by something that might not be a problem at all. Regardless of where Logan is, I know that I’m going to be with you. I need you to understand that whatever preparations or plans you have made for your future should include me. I’m not saying you have to discuss decisions with me, but please keep in mind that they will affect me, too. But know that we have the same goal Gillian, you, me, some of the kids, all of the kids, together. I’ve waited for this a long time now, and I just ask that when you and Logan make decisions about the kids, make sure you fit me in the picture, because I'm going to be right there, baby.”

Taking in all that he said, she couldn’t find any words that would express how grateful she was to have his support. Her kids were everything to her, and he knew it. So she kissed him. She threw her arms around his neck and kissed him hard. Oh yeah, she loved him, and since she didn’t want to say it yet, she had to show him somehow.

~*~*~*~*~~*~*~*~*~

Jake reluctantly pulled Gillian off of him and they finished the walk back to his jeep, hand in hand, silent. He didn’t feel the need to fill the air with words—they just walked. It was comfortable. After helping her into her seat and buckling her in, she just smiled down at him and shook her head at his actions.

“Must keep woman safe,” he grunted at her. She laughed, grabbed him by the cheeks and kissed him. Smiling at her, he removed himself and climbed in his side. The drive home was a content one as he made sure to have his hand on her leg every second he could, in between shifting gears. As they pulled onto her street, she asked, “Are you going to stay for dinner tonight?”

He turned and gave her a look that implied she was crazy for asking such a thing, then said, “Woman, I plan to stay for dinner every night. So get used to it.” The pleased look on her face was very satisfying for him, and he wanted to reproduce that look over and over again. Turning back to road, he caught sight of Gillian’s driveway and swore out loud.

“Oh, for fuck’s sake, Gillian. I don’t know how you put up with all of us. Why is it that there is always somebody at your house?” Jake heard her burst out with laughter as he turned to park his jeep in the only available spot, and then he realized what was going on. Gillian was still laughing in the seat next to him when he pulled the keys out of the ignition. He saw Allie standing in the window … next to Sean. “Seriously, someone needs to get a handle on that girl. She has far too much control over the rest of us. Did she really call everyone over here to check me out as your date?”

Gillian’s laughter was being muffled now as she tried to stifle it with her hands. A few snorts and a couple of deep breaths later, she was a little more composed and answered, “It sure looks that way.” Jake just shook his head and got out. He noticed Sean stood there trying to look imposing with his hands crossed over his chest, and Little Cockblocker was standing next to him, waving like a fool. Jake couldn’t control his smile as he opened Gillian’s door for her and helped her out. She jokingly asked, “Now do I have to prepare you for what’s inside that house? Or do you want to turn and run from my crazy group of friends?”

Jake quickly wrapped his arm around her and slammed his lips down on hers. His tongue demanded entrance, and she allowed it. He possessed her with his lips and tongue as he felt her body soften against his. Her hands wound their way up into his hair, and her nails scratched his scalp as she let herself fall into the kiss. Once he felt like she was good and ravaged there in the driveway, while her brother and Allie watched, he pulled his lips off hers. Breathlessly, he said, “How many times do I have to tell you, you’re mine woman, and I'm not going anywhere.”

“And do you think kissing me like that is the answer to help me remember? If you kiss me like that when I forget something, I will have to play dumb all the time,” she said in a husky voice.

He kissed her one more time before letting her go, then turned to look at the window again. Allie was applauding their performance, and Sean just rolled his eyes and walked away. Jake laughed under his breath as he threw his arm around his woman and strolled into the house.

~*~*~*~*~~*~*~*~*~

Gillian should’ve known that Allie would do this again, simply because Allie was … well, Allie. As they walked into the house, Allie was standing near the front window still applauding them. Gillian walked over and hugged her before saying, “Do you like to torture everyone, or is it just me?”

“Pfft, I'm an equal opportunity torturer. This was a double whammy ‘cause it was both of you. Everyone is in the back.” And with that, she made her way to the back of the house.

Jake turned and looked at Gillian and said, “Maybe you should make a mental note to change the locks on your doors because, clearly, everyone has too much access.”

“You have a key, too, you know. Are you saying you have too much access?”

“Not at all. I just think that maybe you should limit everyone else’s access to you just in case I am accessing you at the time.” He waggled his eyebrows at her before reaching back and smacking her ass. She was giggling again and was about to say something about his accessing her when someone cleared their throat. Both of them looked up to see Jason standing in the doorway to the kitchen, smiling at them. She smiled back.

“I thought I should interrupt before I saw something that I really didn’t want to see,” Jason said, and Gillian could’ve sworn she heard Jake mumble cockblocker under his breath before he let go of her. She laughed and walked over to Jason, who leaned down to allow her to kiss his cheek. “Hey there Mr. Michaels, how goes it?”

“It looks to be a good day, sweetheart, how goes it with you?”

She looked over her shoulder at Jake, then back up at Jason and smiled. “Perfect.”

Jason’s smile was a lot like Jake’s, even though it wasn’t seen as often. It was no less magnificent. “Glad to hear that. Do you mind if I have word with my little brother?”

“Of course not. I’ll head to the back with the others.”

“I won’t keep him long. I just wanted to ask him something. And just so you know, Logan is back there, too. Allie threatened to staple him to the chair by his balls if he tried to get up and leave.” Jason huffed a small laugh at that, while Gillian just shook her head. Leave it to Allie to force Logan to be a part of this. It was comical and uncomfortable at the same time.

“Great, this should be fun,” she grumbled as she gave Jake a small wave before leaving him with his brother.

Gillian found everyone in the yard; the kids were in the pool since it was late afternoon. Her brother and his wife were watching the kids and chatting with a few other friends. Logan was sitting over on the other side of the pool, away from everyone else. Sunglasses on, his view was hidden, but she assumed he was glaring at Allie. Making her way over to him, she took up the chair next to him and sighed as she sat down. Logan spoke up immediately.

“Jake that tough to be around already?” he asked, sarcasm heavy in his voice.

She huffed at him and said, “That sigh was for you so don’t be an ass. I know you are being held against your will.”

“One of these days I'm going to challenge her and find out if she really is bluffing,” he said with a bit of admiration. His little sister could always make him do anything.

“Just make sure whatever you choose to stand up to her about doesn’t involve stapling your nuts to a chair.”

Logan flinched and nodded. “Exactly why today wasn’t the day. Even if I thought she wouldn’t touch my junk, I'm afraid she could get some guy to do it for her.”

“Oh yes, that’s a good point,” she replied as she watched Allie heading her way. “Speak of the devil herself. Did you really tell your brother you would staple his nuts to the chair if he tried to leave?”

Allie glared at her brother. “Had to go and tattle on me, I see.” Logan’s hand immediately went up in defense. “Whoa there, little sis. She got her information from another source, not me.”

Gillian called Logan a wuss before telling Allie she heard it from Jason. The subject then changed to Allie moving home and getting her stuff moved down from Los Angeles. When the topic of her driving Logan’s truck up to load smaller stuff in it arose, Gillian brought up her concerns.

“Logan, do you think it’s safe for Allie to drive your truck, you know, with the vandalizing and everything?”

“I think it should be fine. She’s taking the truck out of the area so I wouldn’t worry. Besides, I'm going to take the train up there to drive it back down for her. I don’t want her doing it with a full bed.” Logan tried to reassure her, but Gillian wasn’t convinced.

“It makes me nervous, Logan. I'm sorry if it bothers you, but I think Jodi is responsible for what happened. And I sure as hell don’t like the thought of something else happening to your truck while Allie has it.”

Logan sat up, took his glasses off, and looked at her, while Allie remained silent. “Gillian, the police say that she has solid alibi for the night my truck was trashed. I know you want to blame her, but it doesn’t make sense. I haven’t seen her in months, so why would it come up now?”

“It’s just a feeling I have. It’s obvious the woman is a liar, who knows what else she is capable of?”

Allie chimed in, “Seriously, Logan, we’ve all seen the movie Fatal Attraction.”

That was as much as Logan could tolerate. He stood up and dropped his glasses back down over his eyes. He looked at his sister and said, “I assume I can go now, Al? Or would either of you like to rub my nose in my mistakes a little bit more? Maybe bring up how my son won’t speak to me? Want to pour a little salt on that wound before I leave?”

Gillian just shook her head in irritation as she snapped at him, “Logan Baxter, why the hell did you have to turn that into something about you? You know damn well that it’s a legitimate concern to have. But if you want to act like a baby about it, go ahead, it’s not my problem anymore.” Standing up, she glared at his glasses since he was hiding behind them, then she walked away. Her new niece was over on the other side of the pool, and that was just what she needed at the moment. Nothing was more calming than holding a baby.

~*~*~*~*~~*~*~*~*~

Jake and Jason just finished talking and had just made it to the back door when Logan came in. He stopped when he saw them, and the three men stood there in silence. There really was nothing anyone could say to clear the air. It’s not like he could tell him what a fantastic day he had—that would just be fucked up. Jake decided that if he was going to be around his friend anymore in the future, he was going to have to treat him like he always had. So Jake nodded and said, “Logan.”

Logan didn’t respond, just stood there a moment, mumbled something toward Jason and then left. Jake didn’t blame the guy; he wouldn’t want to be here if the tables were reversed. Jake shrugged his shoulders at Jason and went looking for Gillian. Finding her with Sean and Morgan, he pulled up a seat next to her and watched as she held one of her nieces and talked with another. Sure, he felt bad for Logan, but he was right where he belonged, and he wasn’t going to feel bad about that.