Britland pushed the magazine aside tired of the abundance of never-ending choices. “Tell me again why we can’t have a simple justice of the peace wedding?”
Carson grunted unintelligibly from his position in the living room. He was on his back lifting Rush into the air with his legs. “We waited long enough for this day. We deserve something special.”
“It will be special regardless of where we get married” Britland grumbled moving into the living room. “What does it matter if we’re wearing a tux or a nice suit?”
“Or nothing at all” Carson’s eyes sparkled with mischief.
“Rush Daddy’s being silly” Britland snorted giving his fiance an irritated look.
“We could have a location wedding” Carson continued as if Britland wasn’t glaring at him. “A nudist beach. It would be legal and warm.”
“Absolutely not” Britland tossed the offending magazine towards Carson’s head. It fell harmlessly to the floor missing him by a foot. “You could help with the planning” he huffed.
“Alright” Carson grunted lifting Rush into the air to the little boy’s delight. “Our wedding colors will be purple and green. More green though. Purple can be the accent color.”
“Won’t that look a little too Christmasy” Britland asked.
“So what if it does” Carson challenged “it’s our wedding. Those colors represent us. Who cares what anyone else thinks.”
“Ok smarty pants what tux should we get” Britland moved from the couch to the floor picking up the magazine from the floor in the process.
“Let’s skip the tux and go with a casual suit” Carson suggested. “Rush can wear a little suit with a bow tie. He’ll be adorable.”
“No” Rush nodded his head vigorously in response, making both his parents laugh. They exchanged amused glances, their son’s favorite word at the moment was no. It didn’t matter what the question was the answer was always no.
“Now that we have that taken care of” Carson carefully lifted Rush from this legs and set him on the floor. He sat up crossing his legs Indian style on the floor. “Let’s discuss the honeymoon.”
Shaking his head Britland moved to get up “we can’t…”
“Why not” he demanded gently placing his hand over the blonde’s. “Give me one good reason why.”
“Rush” Britland nodded towards their son who was attempting to stand on his.
“What about him” Carson asked watching Britland’s facial expression closely. “Your parents volunteered to watch him while we’re gone.”
“I know it’s just that” his voice faded. “Rush is so active now. What if he’s too much for my dad to handle now? We can’t expect my mom to do all the work.”
“Honey” Carson scooted closer to him “you have to stop seeing your dad as an invalid. He can do almost everything we can do. He has that new lift wheel chair that allows him to stand and reach things that he wouldn’t normally be able to reach.”
“I know it’s just ….” he bit his bottom lip stifling the words he almost blurted out. He still blamed himself for what happened. He could feel Carson envelop him in his warm comforting embrace. Leaning into him Britland sighed “I love you.”
In response Carson pressed his lips to Britland’s forehead before moving to capture his lips. “I love you too” he murmured running a finger along the blonde’s jaw line. “Is that a yes” he asked peering deeply into Britland’s eyes.
“Yes we’ll have a honeymoon” Britland grinned leaning forward to resume the kiss Carson started. Groaning at the sound of someone impatiently pounding on their apartment door.
“I get it” Rush yelled running for the door. Jumping to his feet Carson caught the toddler before he reached the door. “You know better than that” he scolded lifting the squirming little boy into his arms.
“No” Rush shook his head from side to side.
Ignoring him Carson opened the door. His happy grin disappeared as his eyes took in who stood in front of him. “What are you doing here” he demanded.
At the unfriendly tone Britland moved to Carson’s side worried about who had come to visit. Gasping in shock he found an older man he had only ever seen from across a court room. “I’ll take him” he murmured reaching for Rush.
“Is that” the man reached out to touch Rush “is that my grandson?”
“No” Carson crossed his arms barring entry into their apartment concerned that the man would attempt to take Rush.
“I don’t blame you for being upset” the man eyed Carson. “We need to talk son.”
“What could you possibly have to say to me” Carson demanded. He tried to disguise the quiver present in his voice as he spoke. Catching the expression on Britland’s anxious face he knew he hadn’t succeeded.
“A few minutes is all I ask” the man persisted “please. If you still want me to go I will.”
He glanced over his shoulder locking eyes with Britland “I don’t know…”
“I’ll put Rush down for his nap” Britland offered. His eyes moved towards the man standing in their doorway. “Do you want me to come back” he asked Carson.
Nodding Carson was grateful he wouldn’t have to confront his father on his own. He stepped aside allowing the older man access into their home. “We’ll talk.”
The man stepped inside. His eyes followed Britland as he took Rush into his room. “Can I see my grandson” he asked taking a step to follow after them.
Moving quickly Carson stepped in front of him “he doesn’t like strangers.” He came up with the first excuse he could think of even though Rush was fearless when it came to meeting people. “What right do you have claiming my son when you kicked me out?”
“I know you’re angry. You have every right to be” the man attempted to placate him. “As I said at the trial I had no choice. The past is the past. I so see no reason for you to keep me from getting to know my grandson.”
“I’ll be the judge of that” he glared at his father. “You may have fooled the judge and jury into thinking you were a victim but I’m not buying the whole act.”
“That’s part of the reason why I’m here” he turned towards Carson a contrite expression on his face. “You’re my son. I love you. I want to make amends for what I’ve done.”
“How am I supposed to believe that” Carson demanded. There was something off about this whole situation. His father’s words sounded sincere but there was a coldness in his eyes that chilled him.
The door down the hall opened and Britland emerged from their son’s room. His eye took in the defensive posture of both men. “We can talk in the living room” he suggested. He led the way and casually sat in the chair closest to the hallway not giving his soon to be father-in-law the advantage of being closer to their son’s room.
Nodding Carson appreciated how Britland had maneuvered the situation to their advantage. “Say what you came to say and go” he growled at the man he knew as his father but felt nothing but a deep loathing for.
Slowly he crossed the room taking the empty chair opposite the one Britland was sitting in. “You have a nice place here” he mumbled looking around.
Carson rolled his eyes “no thanks to you” he mumbled.
“Look son, I’m sorry” he leaned forward like he intended to take Carson’s hand.
Britland watched as Carson scooted closer to the other end of the couch away from his father. “You don’t get to call him that” he found himself saying. “A father doesn’t do what you did. He does everything he can to protect his children from harm. He doesn’t just stand by while someone hurts them.”
“You don’t understand how it was” the man’s voice took on an offended tone. “They threatened to kill him if I didn’t go along with them. I had no choice.”
“So you say” Britland mumbled unconvinced. He rose from his chair feeling too restless to sit. “All you had to do was change your will. That’s all it would have taken to keep your children safe. Yet you couldn’t bring yourself to do that. You found convenient little ways to oppose them to keep your money safe but not your children.”
A hard calculating expression hardened the man’s face to stone. “How dare you! You have no idea the things I suffered because of them. I lost one son. I wasn’t about to lose another.” Getting up he moved over to the couch. Sitting down he directed his next words to Carson. “Son I made mistakes. I admit that. Maybe I could have done more to protect you. That’s no reason to cut me out of my grandson’s life.”
“You didn’t want me. A gay son” all the hurt, the pain and the guilt came out in his voice.
“I had to say those things. I had to get you out of the house by any means I could. I was trying to protect you.” His words sounded sincere but there was something in his eyes that told a different story. They remained remote, cold like he was talking about someone else far removed from him.
“You need an heir” Britland blurted out in the sudden silence of the room. “You don’t care about Carson. From the moment you got here all you wanted was to see Rush.”
The man stood up facing Britland. “You’re not as dumb as you look” he said all pretenses falling away “I need a suitable heir. Someone to take over the family business. Keep the family name going.” He looked down at Carson chuckled dismissively. “I can nurture that boy into something I can be proud of. A fine young man unlike his father.”
Carson gasped “he’s our son not yours.”
“Don’t be ridiculous” the man snorted “I can give him the best money can buy. The best schools. The best teachers. Everything you can’t.” Turning his back on Carson he approached Britland “how much?” He reached into his pocket and pulled out his checkbook.
Stunned Carson stood up hands clenched into fists “get out.”
“Don’t be stupid. You can have other children. I just want the boy. I can give him all the advantages that come with the Ratcliff name.” He wrote out a sum on the check and held the check out to Britland confident he could buy what he wanted.
“You heard my fiance Mr Ratcliffm, it’s time for you to leave.” Britland took the check and tore it in half without looking at it. “We don’t want your filthy money. Our son’s not for sale.”
Smirking he casually wrote out another check. Silently he held it out to Britland.
Britland took it. Read the sum. His hands shook as he lifted his eyes from the sum on the little piece of paper to the confident sneer on the older man’s face. “How dare you assume we would give our son to you. You may have been willing to jeopardize your children’s well-being for your millions we are not.”
Something in the man’s eyes shifted as they narrowed. “I’ve found most people have a price. All I have to do is find yours.” Looking around at the comfortable apartment he nodded slowly as if reaching a decision. “I can make living in the city very difficult for you. How long do you think the court will let you keep custody of your son once they find out your homeless?”
Walking to the door Britland opened it wide. “You have our answer. You may be able to make our lives miserable but you can’t give our son what we can.”
Carson stared at Britland a smile spreading across his face. Grimly he turned to the man who caused him so much grief when he was growing up. He could see by the befuddled expression on the man’s face that he had no clue what Britland was talking about. “You can’t give him love. You never could. You never loved me or Dawson. That’s why you never did anything to protect us from those monsters. You were more concerned about protecting your money. Your one true love.”
Grunting he made his way to the door “you’ll regret this.”
“I sincerely doubt it” Britland assured him closing the door in the man’s shocked face.
“That’s it I’ve decided” Carson said taking Britland’s hands.
“You decided what” he asked relaxing into him.
“I want to move” he brushed his fingers over Britland’s face. “I want our children to grow up around family. I want to know they’re safe and far away from anyone with name Ratcliff.” He stopped puzzled “what’s that look for?”
“You said children” Britland smiled up at him “does that mean you’re planning on us having more kids some day?”
“It does” he leaned in close pressing his lips to Britland’s forehead. “I want them all to have your name too. Once we’re married we’ll all be Olivia.”
“You don’t have to do ….”
Carson cut him off by kissing him “I want to” he said with a smile. “I don’t want anything tying me to the Ratcliff name.”
“Are you ready son” Robbie asked watching Britland twirl in front of the mirror.
“Dad” he cried cheeks darkening.
“It’s alright son” Robbie grinned from where he sat. “Everyone wants to look good on their wedding day.”
“I have so many butterflies fluttering in my stomach right now” Britland confided in him.
“Are you sure it’s only butterflies” Robbie asked with a knowing grin.
“Dad” he protested turning a deeper shade of green.
“Well it’s been known to happen” he shrugged.
“Aren’t you supposed to give me the speech about waiting until the wedding night” he asked trying to straighten his collar.
“Let me do that” Robbie rose with the lift. “That ship sailed a long time ago” he patted the shoulders of his son’s suit. “Now hurry up and give me a granddaughter.”
“After the honeymoon” Britland turned to appraise his dad’s work in the mirror “thanks.”
“Nothing to it” Robbie assured him.
“Are you sure you and Mom can handle Rush while we’re gone” Britland asked.
“Don’t worry about us” Robbie winked “worry about keeping your husband satisfied.”
“Dad that’s just gross” Britland screwed up his face in disgust.
“It isn’t” Robbie contradicted chuckling softly.
“It is when it’s your dad saying it” Britland protested.
“Point taken” Robbie shook his head laughing. “I’d have felt the same if my dad had said that to me.” He fell silent for a moment watching his son. “Britland I’m so proud of you and the man you’ve become.”
“Thanks” he mumbled “are you trying to make me blush or something.” He complained loudly as his cheeks burned.
“No” Robbie chuckled “I don’t think Carson will complain though.”
“Knowing him probably not” he smiled “this is it. I’ll be a married man soon.”
“Any second thoughts” Robbie asked.
“None” he smiled “Carson is the only one for me.”
“Good then let’s get you married” he put his arm out putting his chair in gear. “I thought I’d only get to walk Ariel down the aisle.”
“I know it’s a bit unconventional” he stammered “I wouldn’t have asked if Mom hadn’t suggested it.”
“I’m honored” Robbie patted his hand that rested on his arm “besides since when has our family ever been conventional.”
Crystal leaned into Felix. “I have something to tell you” she whispered in his ear.
He smiled without taking his eyes from the couple saying their vows.”What’s so important it couldn’t wait until after my best friend says I do?”
“I don’t want you to freak out.” She grinned up at him.
“I don’t want to miss this” his attention drifted back to the couple under the arch. He clapped loudly whistling in approval when the couple kissed for the first time as a married couple. Several attendees turned with disapproving glares at him for disturbing the solemn moment. He shrugged unabashed. Robbie caught his eye giving him a nod of approval before clapping his hands along with him followed by several others. If anyone deserved a standing ovation it was this couple after everything they had gone through to get to this moment.
“Felix please” Crystal grabbed one of his hands.
“What” he demanded looking down at her “can’t I be happy for my best friend?”
“It’s not that. I need to tell you something” she placed his hand on her stomach.
He raised an eyebrow staring at his hand. It was obvious she wanted him to notice something. He moved his hand around noticing the subtle changes he had been missing now that he was forced to observe them. He gave her a wide-eyed look “you’re not…” he choked up. Swallowing he blinked “am I going to be a daddy?”
Nodding she let the tears fall “yes.” The next thing she knew she was being swung around through the air. Her feet knocking into chairs and hapless people who couldn’t move quick enough.
“We’re having a baby” Felix shouted to one and all. “We’re going to be parents.” He set her down as he lost all color in his face. He fell to his knees as if he were about to be sick. “I’m going to be a dad” he whispered as he if didn’t quite believe it.
Crystal ran her fingers through his hair heedless of the stares from everyone around them. “You’ll be a wonderful dad” she assured him.
“What if I screw up? What if I become like my parents” he mumbled pressing his face into her stomach. His arms snaking around her waist holding her tight.
“You won’t” she told him firmly. “You’re ten times the man your dad is or ever will be.”
That was enough for him to relax. As long as she believed in him he could do anything even if becoming a dad was the most terrifying thing he could imagine.