“Daddy,” Paige whines.
“The answer is no, Paige.”
“That’s so unfair. Noah gets to bring Peyton.”
I stifle a laugh at her argument. She uses it anytime Liam tells her no. He sets his fork down and makes a steeple with his fingers. These two butt heads like there’s no tomorrow.
“Betty Paige, Peyton is your brother’s wife. Of course, he can bring her. Mack, is your friend, who would rather—and I’m just guessing here—spend Christmas with his parents and sister.”
She sighs heavily. “Maybe Mack can come after Christmas?”
Liam glances at me, and I shrug. Honestly, we love Mack. He’s a great kid and excels at whatever he does. Despite Nick and Liam's issues, there isn’t another boy Liam would rather see his daughter start dating when she’s allowed to date—which isn’t for another forty years or so.
“If you ask your mother nicely, maybe she’ll reach out to Mack’s parents and see if we can arrange something.”
Paige’s eyes go wide, and her mouth drops open. Before she even asks, I set my hand on hers and nod. “I’ll ask Nick and Aubrey. If they say yes, you can invite Mack.”
“Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you.” She bounces up from her seat and tackles me with a hug. She goes over to Liam next and whispers, “Don’t worry, Daddy. You’re still my number one guy.”
When she goes back to her chair, I hand Liam a napkin. “Your eyes are sweating.”
He clears his throat and excuses himself. Trudy returns with our drinks. A vanilla milkshake for Paige, a chocolate one for Liam, and coffee for me.
“I made Dad cry,” Paige says.
I nod as I take a sip of my coffee. “You gotta give your dad a break sometimes. He doesn’t want you to grow up.”
“Is it because he missed so much time with Noah?”
Shrugging, I sigh and set my mug down. “One of the reasons, but mostly because you’re his baby. Growing up is hard on parents. One day, you’re this tiny little thing we carry around, and then you’re a walking, talking, sassing teenager. It’s like we blink and boom, you’re a big kid.”
Liam returns, clear-eyed, and with a smile on his face. He sits down, glances at the milkshake Trudy brought him, and starts drinking. Betty Paige and I watch with rapt attention as he sucks on the straw.
“He’s going to give himself a brain freeze,” she says quietly.
“He deserves it if he’s going to drink like that.”
Liam gets to the end of the glass and sets it down. He lets out what is undoubtedly a satisfying “ah” and looks at us.
“Feel better?” I ask.
He rubs his stomach and winks. If we were at home, he’d let out a burp, and I’d yell at him for being rude. Thankfully, we’re in public, and even though we own the deli, Liam would never do anything to embarrass me.
“Much,” he says, going back to his pie. “Okay, let’s talk vacation. When are we leaving?”
“Friday morning. Paige is going to miss school. I figured with everyone else coming, we can fly on a commercial airline and let Harrison and Jimmy use the jet.”
Liam nods. “I’ll touch base with the guys later and check-in. Did you ask my mom?”
“I did, but she’s going on a cruise with her friends, and I told her not to worry about us, we’ll celebrate when she gets back. She was worried we’d be upset that she made plans.”
Liam shakes his head. “Not at all. I’m happy she’s found people to socialize with.”
The relationship Liam has with his mother, Bianca, is good, but sometimes odd. She’s a part of our lives and is very close to Noah and Betty Paige. I talk to her occasionally, but we’re not close and never will be. I don’t know if I’ll ever get over the way she treated Noah and me in those first ten years. Liam knows how I feel and doesn’t push me to have some miraculous change of heart. She’s good to the kids now, and that’s all I can ask for.
“And you said you haven’t spoken to Noah yet?”
I shake my head. “I left him a message. I’m hoping he’ll call back tonight.”