(This Invertary Short takes place about eight years after Bad Boy. )
You are the love of my life.
“You’re really going to write her a letter about this?” Flynn’s thirteen-year-old daughter shook her head as she looked over his shoulder.
Flynn Boyle held up the card he’d spent good money on. “It isn’t a letter. It’s a huge, sparkly card. With. Hearts.”
She gave him a pitying look. “It won’t work. And you can’t start it like that. It’s really corny.”
Flynn let out a frustrated growl and tried again.
You are the love of my life. You’re the most amazing woman I know.
“Still corny,” Katy said.
“If you aren’t going to help, you need to get lost.”
She put a hand on his back, tossed her plaited hair over her shoulder, and gave him the kind of superior look only a newly minted teenager could deliver. “A hand-written note won’t get you out of this mess. Maybe you should take her away somewhere, like Paris. Or the moon. Somewhere she can’t see what you’ve done.”
“Helpful. Really helpful.” He eyed her Invertary Juniors soccer strip. “Why aren’t you at practice?”
“Because the coach is here, screwing up his marriage.”
“That’s no excuse for missing practice. Serious football players put in the work. You know that.”
“What’s the point? There’s hardly any opportunity for me to play anyway. Apart from our tiny league, there’s nothing for girls around here. And there’s no girls’ team at school, and they won’t let me join the boys’ team—even though I am way better than all their other players put together.”
Damn right she was. “Don’t worry. I’m dealing with that. By the time my lawyers are finished with your school, they’ll be begging you to captain their boys’ team. Which is why you can’t miss any practices, and why I asked Harry to cover for me while I deal with this.”
“Uncle Harry doesn’t know squat about football. We both know that he’ll have the team stay inside and play FIFA International Soccer online, while he calls it a strategy session.”
She had a point.
“Go away. I need to concentrate. Go find your sisters and annoy them.”
“Um, they’re busy playing with your new acquisition.” She pointed to the wall of windows overlooking the garden, to the paddock beyond, where two seven-years-olds were adding bows to the latest animal he’d been conned into rescuing.
“How does this keep happening to me?” Flynn groaned.
Katy patted his back. “It’s because you’re a soft touch. You shouldn’t have done that interview with Cosmo where you told the world all about the animals you rescue. I told you it was a bad idea. Now everybody wants you to take on their unwanted pets because you’re rich enough to look after them and you’re easy to con. At least before that interview, the begging phone calls only came from locals, now we’re getting them from all over Europe. I picked up the phone the other day and someone asked me about a monkey–in French!”
“I did the interview to spread the word about responsible animal ownership.” He’d wanted to use his fame from his footballing days to promote a worthy cause. One that was dear to his heart, now he was a newly minted veterinarian. What the hell was wrong with that?
“It was Cosmo, Dad. They don’t care about your cause, all they cared about was getting you shirtless and comparing you to Beckham. Which, by the way, was disgusting. You need to keep your clothes on.”
“Bloody Beckham. I hate that smug bastard, and there was no competition. I look way better than he does, and that’s without all the make-up and tattoos he needs to look pretty. Plus, I was a better player than he ever managed to be, even on his good days. Which weren’t many. Do I have to remind you about that red card? In a World Cup game? A game he could have helped his team win if he hadn’t been such a dickhead and got kicked off the field. Okay, so he was playing for England, and national pride forbids any decent Scot from supporting their World Cup efforts, but as a professional footballer, I was affronted. He played like a wean throwing a tantrum. That kind of thing makes us all look bad. And don’t even get me started on that ‘magic left foot’ of his. Magic, my arse.” He glanced out the window and shot to his feet. “Crap!” He raced for the doors, threw them open and shouted, “Fergus Boyle, stop painting the alpacas!”
His four-year-old grinned at him but carried right on where he’d left off.
Flynn hung his head. “This is my life.”
“I blame Claire and Megan,” Katy said with the wisdom of a seen-it-all, done-it-all, thirteen-year-old. “You shouldn’t have let them tell the story about the time they dyed Mrs Baxter’s sheep pink.”
“I blame lack of birth control,” Flynn muttered. Then he lifted his T-shirt to check his abs. Aye, still better than Beckham’s.
“I’m back,” Abby shouted from the front of the house.
Flynn spun to face his daughter. “I’ll give you twenty pounds if you keep the kids out of the way until I break the news to your mother.”
Her eyes narrowed. “Fifty, and I’ll take away Fergus’ paints.”
“Done.” Bloody terrorist.
She held out her hand. “Cash up front.”
He narrowed his eyes at her as he dug his wallet out of his back pocket. “No trust. I would have been good for it. As you keep reminding me, I’m still sitting on a pile of gold from my footballing days.” And from the odd advertising campaign—just to keep up awareness of his causes. It had absolutely nothing to do with reminding the world he was still there and looking damn good too.
He slapped a fifty into her palm. “Run. I’ll head her off.” And then he was jogging out of the dining room and through the house to intercept his wife.
His breath caught in his throat as it usually did when he first saw her. Had there ever been a more beautiful woman? With her long chestnut hair and her peaches-and-cream complexion, she was a sexier version of Kate Middleton, and way better looking than Beckham’s Posh.
“Hey, gorgeous.” Flynn wrapped an arm around her waist and tugged her to him. “How was your day?”
He looked down into her wide eyes and stilled. She looked shocked, or worried, maybe afraid. Whatever it was, it wasn’t good. His hold on her tightened. “What’s wrong?”
She licked her lips and blinked up at him. “Don’t be mad.”
And just like that, his blood pressure shot right up. “Did you crash the car? Are you hurt?” He looked behind her, through the glass in the front door, but the car seemed fine.
“No.” She glanced away from him as her usually pink cheeks paled. “Maybe we should sit down? How about a nice cup of tea?”
He looked at her, his eyes narrowing as his heart raced. Something was very wrong. The last time she’d looked like this was when…
His knees gave way and he plopped back onto the stairs behind him. “No,” he groaned as he ran a hand through his hair.
She sat close beside him on the stairs, her hand on his leg, patting him. “This is all your fault,” she said gently, making his eyes jerk up to look at her.
She smiled at him. That angel smile of hers that she only pulled out when she wanted to get away with murder. “I told you to use condoms, but you said, ‘it’ll be fine.’ You were wrong.”
“We can’t have more children,” he whined. “We can barely cope with the four we have.”
“I know.” She wrapped an arm around his waist and rested her head on his shoulder. “It will be okay. We’ll manage.”
He sighed and pulled her into his lap, wrapping his arms around her. “How far along are you?”
He shook his head. “I thought you were just getting fat.”
“Flynn!” She smacked his shoulder.
“Women don’t like it when you call them fat.”
“I didn’t call you fat. Plus, any man worth his salt likes a little junk in the trunk.”
She shook her head at him before snuggling in closer. “You’re the reason the kids are wild, you know that, don’t you?”
He wasn’t even going to deign to answer that. Instead, he stroked her silken hair and tried to get his head around the fact he was going to be a father—for the fifth time. On the plus side, Beckham only had four kids. Just one more way he trumped the bastard—virility. The thought perked him up no end, and he couldn’t wait to Instagram the latest proof of his masculinity.
“You’re thinking about David Beckham again, aren’t you?” Abby said.
“What? No.” Maybe he’d call him later, just to catch up…
“You’re not mad about the pregnancy, are you? It wasn’t on purpose. We agreed no more kids, and I meant it. This was just the antibiotics messing with the pill.”
“No, I’m not mad. Just shocked.” And thinking he probably should have worn a condom.
She wriggled in his lap looking up at him. “Love you,” she said. And there it was, the look in her eye she only got when she looked at him. The one that had him wrapped around her little finger and doing every single thing she ever wanted.
“Love you too.” Loving Abby was like breathing. He needed it to live.
Damn, he should have put that in the card.
With a knowing smile, she leaned in and pressed her lips to his. And, just like that, they went up in flames. The kiss became hungry, desperate, and all other thoughts fled from Flynn’s mind. Abby broke the kiss, pressed her forehead to his and let out a needy little sigh that had him fighting the urge to carry her upstairs and finish what they’d started.
“This is exactly how we got into this situation to begin with,” she said.
And at that moment, Flynn honestly didn’t care. He nuzzled her throat. “Katy’s watching the monsters. Let’s go upstairs and celebrate.” He planned to get her into a state of total satiation before he told her his news. That way, she would be too worn out to protest.
“I can’t believe I’m pregnant again,” she said.
A grin broke out as the excitement of the situation hit him. “We can cope with another kid. It’s all good.” He felt her body tense, and his stomach clenched. “Abby?”
Big brown eyes looked up at him. “Um, I had a scan. And…” She smiled at him. “Congratulations! It’s twins!”
“Twins!” He shot to his feet, toppling her out of his lap, but making sure he steadied her before glaring down at her. “Twins?”
“It’s not my fault. They run in your family.”
“Take a deep breath. Everything will be fine.”
“Six kids? Are we trying to grow our own football team here?” He pinched the bridge of his nose and forced himself to breathe evenly. Nope. It didn’t work. He still felt like his head was going to explode. “Six kids?!”
“Calm down.” Abby folded her arms. “You’re always saying we have plenty of room to expand.”
“With animals! I was talking about animals.”
“Well, now we’re expanding our family too. You just need to act like an adult and deal with it.”
He glared at her. “I adopted an elephant, and I’m not sorry.”
“A small one. It’s Indian. Ex-circus.”
“You just need to act like an adult and deal with it.”
There may have been steam coming out of her ears, and he had a passing thought that her reaction might not be good for the babies. Then he reminded himself that the word was babies and not baby and he lost his mind all over again. “I planned to tell you in a sparkly card, but you got pregnant and ruined it.”
“You can’t adopt an elephant.”
“If you can have twins, I can have an elephant.” And he needed to check on it to make sure the girls hadn’t turned it into a princess with pink freaking bows.
“Will you listen to yourself?” Abby strode behind him, the heels of her peekaboo nude pumps tapping on the wooden floors. “The twins are yours too. It takes two to make babies. And you should have worn a damn condom when I told you to.”
Flynn slammed through the back door and out into the garden where Katy had let the girls and the elephant into the yard. It had pink ribbons tied around its trunk, and a Disney blanket with Dumbo on it draped over its back. It was embarrassing—for Flynn and the elephant.
“I keep telling them the elephant is a boy, but they don’t care,” Katy said.
“It’s a real elephant,” Abby said behind him.
Flynn rolled his eyes. What had she been expecting? No. Don’t think the word expecting. Don’t think about twins. Don’t think about yet more kids painting his animals.
“Fergus! What the hell?”
“Don’t curse at the children,” Abby snapped. “Oh.” She covered her mouth with her hand and giggled.
Because, painted on the side of the elephant, in wobbly letters, was the word, Elifart.
“You were supposed to take his paints,” Flynn said to Katy.
“He threatened to paint me, and I decided I wasn’t getting enough money to deal with that.”
Two ostriches ran past the fence, both wearing sparkly blue bows. Behind him, a three-legged turtle made its way to the rabbit compound where giant bunnies ate their way through a ton of lettuce. A donkey brayed in the distance before chasing two miniature horses. And the goat was eating the laundry from the line.
He felt Abby’s arm snake around his waist, and he tugged her under his shoulder. If they could cope with this, they could cope with anything. “We can do two more,” he told her.
“Never doubted it,” she said.
“Two more what?” The twins said at the same time.
And Flynn and Abby burst out laughing, which turned a little hysterical when a sheep strolled past with a chicken on its back.