“What’s that?” Liam asks, even though I suspect he knows what I’m talking about.
“Mack.” Harrison clears his throat and looks at Liam while I lean forward. “Spill.”
Liam groans, takes a long drink from the can, and sets it back down onto the table. “You know, sometimes I wish I had put my foot down and told Ashford to take a hike. But I know deep down, if I had, I would’ve lost Noah. And likely Josie because we would’ve fought about Nick and Noah being in each other’s lives. Had Sam . . .” Liam trails off. The bane of our lives, well mostly Liam and Harrison’s, was Sam, our former manager. I never really gave her the time of day, other than needing a job from her. She mostly stayed out of my life and only meddled when Chelsea and I broke up. Even though Sam died years ago, it seems my mates are still dealing with her bullshit. Liam stands and goes to the fridge. He comes back with six more beers and hands two to each of us. We all open them at the same time and take a drink.
“The other night, I’m at the water tower, doing my thing.”
“You mean you had your own pity party?” Harrison asks. He’s smiling, but Liam isn’t. We all know Liam wishes we still lived in Beaumont with him and have begged him to move back to Los Angeles. Harrison and I get it. His life is there, but he’s built himself a nice life in L.A. too, and I know Katelyn and Jenna would be ecstatic to have Josie there.
“Yeah, something like that,” Liam says. “Anyway, Ashford shows up. Earlier, Paige had asked us if Mack could come with us on this trip. I was adamant the kid stays home with his parents but conceded that he could come the day after Christmas and stay with us until we went back. When Ashford showed up, I thought he was there to discuss Mack and Paige.” Liam takes another sip and pauses before finishing. “Nick and Aubrey are getting divorced, and she’s taking Amelia to South Africa to live. Mack is staying in Beaumont.”
“Whoa,” Harrison says.
Liam nods. “I wasn’t expecting him to ask me to keep his son over the holidays.”
“Why did you?” I ask.
“Because of Noah. I know for some it might be hard to justify why I’d let some hormonal teen stay in my house, especially when my daughter has a massive crush on him, but the truth is, Noah would want me to. He thinks of Nick as a father, and I can’t change that, which means he thinks of Mack as a brother. I’m not going to let Mack suffer because his parents have hit a rough patch. Noah would never forgive me.”
“I’m not sure I’d be able to do it. Let some bloke sleep in a room next to my daughter, especially one she has eyes for,” I say.
Liam smirks. “I don’t think I’ve slept since Mack arrived at the house the other night. He’s broken though. He knows what’s going on with his parents. His sister is leaving. He’s going to need some constant in his life, and I think Josie and I can provide that for the time being. It’ll be a good thing for Mack when Noah arrives.”
“Aren’t you afraid of what might happen?” I nod toward the room where everyone is, not knowing if the kids are in there or not.
Liam shakes his head slowly. “No, I’m not. Mack knows not to disrespect my rules.”
“You’re very trusting, my friend.” Harrison squeezes Liam’s shoulder.
“So are you,” Liam laughs. “Lest I remind you about my son and your daughter.”
Harrison stands and picks up his full can of beer. He points at Liam with his other hand. “True love, man. True love,” he says with a pretend sob.
Liam and I follow Harrison into the other room. The ladies are still in awe over Ollie, which I get. Thankfully, Jenna’s arms are empty. I’d hate to take time away from her and the baby. “Wanna head to the pool?” Jenna nods and reaches for my hand to help her up.
“Where are you going?” Katelyn asks.
“To the pool? You should come with us,” I say.
“You know, you guys haven’t even seen the house. Come on, let me show you around before I take the kids to pick up the pizzas,” Josie says as she stands.
Liam puts his beer down on the coffee table and tells Harrison he and Mack will get their things from the cars so everyone can tour the house. “Mack,” he yells, and within seconds the boy appears.
“Do you want to help me get the Jameses’ luggage from their cars while Josie shows them around the house?”
I notice that Liam asks Mack to help and doesn’t tell him he has to. To me, Liam is showing Mack the respect he’s demanding in return.
“Of course,” Mack says straight away. There isn’t any hesitation in his answer. In fact, he’s already putting his coat on.
“I’ll help,” I add, even though I’d rather get half-naked with my wife. Helping to unload the cars is the right thing to do though. After I get bundled up because it’s bloody well freezing outside, we head out. I’m grateful for snowblowers, deep shovels, and plows for clearing as much of the snow away as possible. Those tools make it so much easier to walk around, although you still have to watch for ice. I already slipped on some earlier and about fell flat on my arse. Jenna laughed and said my arms looked like windmills. I found none of it funny.
I can easily say this, the Jameses pack way too much stuff. It takes Mack and me two trips to bring everything into the house. After the first load, Liam complained of a broken fingernail or some stupid shit like that and used it as an excuse to seek medical attention. I should’ve known he’d flake out.
“What’s it like to live with Liam?” I ask Mack as we shed our winter gear.
“Well, sir,” he says. “It’s only been a few days.”