A/N: Thank you to Honeymoon Edward and LizziePaige for pre-reading, and Midnight Cougar for working your magic.
Age tracker for this chapter: Emmett (45), Lily (14), Rachel (25)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m just here having fun.
C13 – Happy 14th Birthday, Lily
“Emmett, how is Lily adjusting to Rachel being there full-time?” Irina sits with legs crossed and pen perched, waiting to note my answer.
I scratch my head. “I don’t know. Good?”
She sighs at my response. “Why don’t you know? Moving your girlfriend into your home is a big step. One you haven’t taken lightly.”
“It feels the same. Rachel was staying over more, and I didn’t like her driving late at night when she was leaving work. So, it seemed like the natural next step.”
“Has Rachel found a new job closer to your home?” Irina asks.
“Why don’t you sound happy about that?”
I sigh. “Because I’m not. She doesn’t have to work. I can take care of her. And bartending takes her away during the hours I’m available. It cuts into the time we can spend together.”
“From what you’ve told me about Rachel, she doesn’t seem like a woman who wants to be kept.” Irina raises an eyebrow in my direction.
“Perhaps you mean independent. Isn’t that what you were looking for when you began dating Rachel? Someone with no intention to marry or have children. A playmate?”
“Playmate sounds cheap. Maybe companion. I like we’re both on the same page on those issues. And she’s great with Lily.”
“Do you expect her changing her mind in the future?” Irina probes at one of my insecurities.
I shrug. “I haven’t really thought about it for a while. She’s all about having fun and living in the moment. A free spirit, but with her own ideas.”
“Then why are you trying to change that?”
Irina sits up a little straighter. “Oh, but you are. Emmett, Rachel is your most successful relationship to date, but the twenty-year age gap is working against you statistically.”
“I don’t care about the age difference and neither does she. We’re having fun, and she makes me feel happy again.”
“I understand, but you need to respect her desire to work and support herself. Let me ask you this—has she ever asked you for money or to pay her bills in the past while you were dating?”
I pause, thinking back over our year of dating. “No. She isn’t after me for my money, which I like. Do you know how rare it is to find someone like that?”
“And you’re finding more common ground outside the bedroom?”
Irina nods. “Is it love or lust?”
“Does it matter?” I wonder.
“Yes. It is how we can gauge your emotional attachment in this relationship. Your progress.”
I sigh, stating the obvious. “One hundred percent lust at the beginning.”
“And now that Rachel has been living with you and Lily for a month?” she questions.
“Fuck. I don’t know. Maybe it’s fifty-fifty. We go out on dates as we did in the beginning, but the sex is still incredible.”
“Any issues on your end?” She glances up from her notepad.
With a nod, Irina starts down another line of questioning. “Do you see Rachel as perfect? Have you found any flaws?”
“She does things completely out of the blue. Little things—a new tie or cologne for me, a picnic in the park or museum visit with Lily. Sometimes, it’s a weekend trip just the two of us. I feel guilty that I’m not doing more for her.” I slouch in my seat, feeling the reality of not pulling my weight in this relationship.
Irina continues taking notes. “She was probably already doing those things before she moved in with you. What else?”
I think back to the few fights that we’ve had, which weren’t anything major. “She speaks her mind and doesn’t hold back. I never know what will come out of her mouth.”
“That can be good. Communication, good or bad, in any relationship is important. Any other things that bug you?”
“There is something. I’m not sure why it bugs me, but she always wants to be touching even when we’re sleeping. You know like holding hands, arms around each other, or cuddling no matter how hot it is.”
Irina watches me carefully. “Touching without sex is a form of intimacy. Haven’t you experienced it in the past?”
I shrug. “Not really. That’s why it’s different with Rachel, and I have to admit I like it.”
“If I were to ask Rachel how she sees your relationship in terms of lust or love, what would she say?”
The answer comes instantly, but I can barely get the word out. Because I know, it’s a huge risk for her. I’m not a safe bet, and the word chokes me like a noose around my neck. “Love.”
Irina stands, walks to her mini-fridge, and grabs a bottle of water, then hands it to me.
“Take your time.” She sits next to me on the couch.
I open the bottle, tilting it back and finishing almost half of it immediately, then take a few deep breaths.
“Love. One hundred percent,” I repeat and clarify.
She nods knowingly. “And that scares you.”
I exhale a breath. “Rachel doesn’t care I’ve fucked up in life. She doesn’t live in the past like I do, trying to atone for my sins every day. She lives for today and tomorrow, always planning our next great adventure together.”
Irina smiles. “Last question—then we’ll stop for the day. At this point in your relationship, what are your fears?”
“Only one—losing her,” I say barely above a whisper.
She smirks as if she’s uncovered a great find. “Sounds like we will have plenty to discuss next time.”
After my session with Irina, I’m exhausted, but I don’t have the luxury of staying home and pulling my head together as I normally do after one of our sessions. I would love to lose myself in a glass of whisky or between Rachel’s legs, but it isn’t possible this evening.
Tonight, I’m taking Rachel, Lily, and five of Lily’s friends to a concert at CenturyLink Field where the Seahawks play. I scored eight tickets with VIP backstage passes to what Rachel and Lily claim is the biggest concert of the year. They haven’t stopped chattering with excitement since I gave Lily the heads up on the tickets for her birthday earlier this week.
Top Shelf is a new boy band from Canada starting the first leg of their U.S. tour in Seattle. According to Lily, the five teens grew up playing hockey in the same hockey club from the time they were little, but abandoned their roots to start a singing career with some hotshot producer in Vancouver. Their debut album Faceoff is climbing the charts, but it’s that damn catchy song, Icebreakers, that has every female’s panties in a twist.
I’ve done my research and they all look like trouble.
“Paul is so sweet and those hazel eyes are to die for. He’s only three years older than us,” Maggie gushes.
“Did you see the photos of Top Shelf at Children’s Hospital?” Lily asks. “Paul brought princess gowns for some of the patients then took pictures with them while he was on bended knee.”
“No wonder they call him ‘Prince Charming.'” Heidi sighs.
Lily continues. “It was adorable. I’m so jealous.”
“Me, too, but I love Jared. His French accent makes me melt, and when he speaks French, I’m done,” Senna shares, then sags in her seat.
I’m trying not to act interested in their conversation, but I can hear everything and see them in my rearview mirror. It’s better than listening to Top Shelf’s music and having the girls belt out every word at the top of their lungs on the ride to the concert.
“I agree. Jared pegs the hotness meter,” Maggie adds, fanning herself.
“Did you see Embry posted a new tattoo on his Instagram?” Tia asks.
Lily grins. “He’s always shirtless.”
Tia lowers her voice, but I can hear her. “He was in the tattoo shop and drinking straight from a bottle of tequila.”
“You only have to be nineteen to drink in Vancouver,” Maggie informs the group.
“Lily, we should go there for your nineteenth birthday,” Senna suggests.
Rachel chuckles from the passenger seat at my internal turmoil then reaches across, rubbing my leg. She can read me a little too easily tonight. Maybe I can find a beer once we are settled. I tune back into their conversation, wondering what I’ve missed.
“Brady got in another fight the other day. There’s a fan photo of him with a busted lip and a black eye,” Heidi says.
“I bet it hurts to sing or… to kiss.” Maggie giggles, and the rest of the group joins her.
Tia offers, “I’d be willing to kiss his boo-boo and make it better.”
“You and everyone else,” Zafrina—or “Zee” as everyone calls her—adds, hardly looking up from her phone.
Tia continues. “I love his brown eyes, but his dark hair is perfect—not too long or too short. I wish I could run my hands through it. That flow is incredible.”
“He’s the definition of tall, dark, and handsome,” Lily agrees.
“I think Collin has a new girlfriend. She’s blonde,” Maggie shares.
Senna sighs. “Lucky girl.”
“He’s so tall, and she’s tiny in the photos he posted. Maybe we have a chance. We’re all short except for Lily,” Heidi concludes.
While Lily looks so much like her mom, it seems she’s going to be taller than most, getting my height. While high school coaches have expressed great interest in Lily playing basketball or volleyball, she’s content to stick with dancing, which is something she’s loved since she was little.
“Dad, will we be able to get autographs and photos when we go backstage?” Lily asks.
The chorus of squeals nearly deafens me. Maybe I’m too old for this concert. And too male.
Rachel squeezes my thigh where her hand is resting while I drive past the people waving me toward VIP parking.
My relief is immediate when I put my new Chevy Suburban in park and the girls pour from the vehicle, bubbling with excitement. I miss my Range Rover, but it was time for a newer, larger SUV, which easily accommodates our group this evening.
Rachel’s hand finds its way in my back pocket, giving my ass cheek a squeeze, then we all walk into the special entrance together. We receive bags full of Top Shelf souvenirs, including Odd Man Rush Tour concert tees, which cause another massive group squeal from the girls as they sort through their new treasures.
With the help of several event workers, our tickets and VIP credentials are hanging from around our necks while we wait in a room with other girls and parents for the members of Top Shelf.
There’re plenty of food and snacks for everyone to enjoy, making the wait more tolerable. Lily shows me a small plate of food she’s selected that includes a mini-cupcake with white icing and pink sprinkles.
Lily holds it up. “It’s like they know, Dad.”
I grin, thinking it’s purely coincidental, but flattered Lily thinks I could pull off getting birthday cupcakes for her in the VIP area.
Rachel is sitting on my lap, playing with the hair at the back of my neck, helping me to relax. “Emmett, this is amazing. I would guess this one sits at the top of all Lily’s birthdays. She won’t ever forget it.”
I shrug and wink. “I’m only following another one of your suggestions. You were right. Again.”
The girls are ignoring us as all are too focused on the door anytime it opens. So, I sneak a few kisses from Rachel.
“I need a beer,” I tell her between kisses.
“We’ll take care of you after this.” She winks.
“I don’t know if we define ‘taking care’ in the same way.” I rub my hand over her jean-covered thigh, letting my fingers slide inside one of the ripped areas near her knee.
“I’ll do your other way later tonight, after the concert.” She lowers her voice. “When we’re home and locked away in our bedroom.”
The tightness in my chest loosens a little at her references to “home” and “our bedroom.” I think over today’s conversation with Irina about Rachel. There are too many nuggets of truth waiting to spill from my lips, and I do everything I can to hold them back.
My mind swims with the overwhelming reality of our relationship.
You’re too good for me.
I’m too old for you.
Please don’t leave me.
I tighten my grip on Rachel, holding her closer than necessary when the door finally opens and the members of Top Shelf file into the room.
There’s a collective gasp at first then a buzzing as approximately thirty girls and their parents move between the five teenagers under the watchful eye of event workers. The girls ask plenty of questions, grinning non-stop at the latest teen heartthrobs, and the thirty minutes of selfies and signatures flies by all too quickly for my group.
We are shown to our seats near the stage, and after requesting water and soda for the girls and beer for Rachel and me, a concessions worker arrives with my expected dose of liquid nirvana.
I’m taking a long, appreciative sip when Lily turns around.
“Dad, can you believe this? I told them it was my fourteenth birthday and was kissed by all the guys. Look!”
Lily hands me her phone and I swipe through the photos where I confirm visual evidence exists of selfies with each of the guys, including kisses on her cheek.
I hand over her phone, not happy with their lips touching my daughter’s face. “This is good?”
“Not just good, Dad. It’s great! And Paul signed a photo for me that says: ‘With Love.’ Dad, he drew a heart for the dot of the ‘i’ in Lily. Isn’t that romantic?”
Rachel pokes my side, noticing my surly mood. “Keep drinking.”
“Rachel, will you take our picture together?” Lily asks, not paying any attention to my less than stellar mood.
I hold Rachel’s beer when she stands to assist with the request. The girls squeeze together, making faces while Rachel patiently takes photos with each of their phones, elevating their levels of happiness even higher than I could ever imagine possible.
The lights soon dim, and the opening act takes the stage—a young girl from Seattle who sounds almost exactly like Stevie Nicks blows everyone away.
With a beer under my belt, I’m feeling a little more at ease and think nothing of keeping Rachel on my lap while we share her remaining beer between kisses.
When Top Shelf goes on stage, the crowd jumps to their feet where they stay for the rest of the concert, singing every word with the teens. I raise a few eyebrows at the songs—Cherry Picking and Sin Bin, but Rachel tells me to roll with it and be easy.
There’s nothing sweet or innocent about those two songs. My hearing must be getting worse because I don’t catch all of the words for the song Cat-Trick, but from what I can tell it’s about a guy dating three girls then it all blows up in his face.
Just as I’m about to protest my concerns to Rachel, she puts a finger over my lips, then the guys pause singing and make an announcement.
“We’ve got a special birthday tonight, Seattle,” the tattooed, lead singer Embry tells the crowd.
“Our favorite girl, Lily, is fourteen today.” He points toward the VIP section where we are sitting, then whips off his shirt, throwing it in her direction. One of the event workers grabs the shirt at the edge of the stage then walks it over, handing it to Lily.
“Oh my gosh!” Lily screams, waving the shirt at Embry, bringing it to her face. “He smells so good.”
She holds it out for her friends to smell, and they nod in agreement.
“Let’s sing to Lily together,” Embry suggests, as if this crowd wouldn’t do anything he asks at this point.
I’m overwhelmed and awed, but Lily is blown away as Top Shelf and over fifty thousand fans sing a rousing version of Happy Birthday to her.
When they finish singing, her smile is blinding, but no one misses a beat as Top Shelf goes back to their current hit song, Icebreakers, sending all concertgoers into a tizzy.
I wrap my arms around Rachel, her back to my chest, as we sway to the beat.
For once, everything feels right—Lily, Rachel, and me. I’m filled with a happiness I didn’t know was possible, and something special is bubbling up inside me.
I know I can’t contain it. I shouldn’t. This kind of thing needs to be shared.
I spin Rachel in my arms, gently kissing her lips, then lean closer to her ear so she doesn’t miss a single word.
“I love you, Rachel.” I pull back to gauge her reaction, but any doubt she didn’t hear me is squashed when she jumps up, locking her arms around my neck and legs around my waist. Her lips land on mine, full of fire and fury.
I give her everything I have in this kiss, hoping she understands the depth of my feelings for her.
She pulls back briefly. “I love you too, Emmett. More than you’ll ever know.”
Her lips capture mine again in a heated display of want and need.
The music fades and the muffled booming of confetti cannons around the audience signals the end of the concert and our not-fit-for-public kiss. But for Rachel and me this feels like only the beginning as we gather the girls together and make our way home.