"You ready to go?" Grace smiled as Paul took her suitcase. The two weeks had seemed to fly by.
"Yeah. We're just waiting on Hailey."
Andrew was already sitting in the truck with his stuffed dog in his lap. "Paw, is Bear coming with us?"
"No buddy, I gave him to my friend. She's gonna watch him until we get back okay?"
Andrew looked horrified. "She's not gonna keep him is she?"
Paul chuckled. "No. She's just gonna baby-sit him until I get back from vacation." Andrew nodded and resumed playing with his toy.
Hailey came out of the house dragging her duffel bag behind her. Paul grabbed it from her and set it in the floorboard of the truck. "Okay guys, ready to go?"
Grace was in awe of all the green. She had never seen such a pretty sight. The lake was shining and the trees were beautiful. "Guys, isn't it beautiful?" Paul couldn't help but watch her. She had him mesmerized.
"Okay, see that house right across the lake?" Paul slowed his truck to point out the house. "That's where we'll be staying." As they neared the house, the trees and flowers made Grace want to cry.
It was all so breathtaking. So serene. So calm. It made her ache for her husband. He loved this lake. He'd brought her here on several of their dates. And they'd been married here.
"We built this place right before Ronnie died. He got to see one family vacation before he died." Paul mumbled as they turned down the twisting driveway.
His twin brother Ronnie had died in a car accident. He'd been out late, partying, and decided to take his sports car out for a spin. He'd hit an eighteen-wheeler head on and had died instantly.
"Will she be here?"
Fara. "I don't think so. Their daughter comes but she hasn't stayed." Grace cleared her throat. "I know what you're thinking. No, I do not mind seeing her. Casey is a great kid. And she is my niece; no matter what it took to make her my niece. You can't blame the child for the sins of the father."
Grace smiled at him; she traced his jaw line with her finger. "You are one in a million Paul Brenner."
Paul cleared his throat. "We're here." Paul's older brother, Jeff, was unloading groceries from his truck. His wife was shutting her car trunk, trying to heave a cooler full of ice into the building.
"Hey Paul." Jeff called as they got out.
"Hey Jeff. Jeff, you remember Grace, and this is Andrew and that's Hailey."
Jeff smiled warmly. He looked like Paul. "How are you Grace?"
She knew he meant about Allan. "I'm fine…we're fine."
Jeff smiled and squeezed her shoulder. An exasperated grunt made him turn his head. "Let me get that for you, Hun."
"My husband, the gentleman." She thrust the cooler at him. "Hi, I'm Katrina. The kids are somewhere. Natalie is our oldest, then Kelly, and Will is our baby."
Grace shook her hand. "It's nice to meet you."
A Lincoln pulled up into the yard. Greg. Paul's other older brother. "Jack, if you don't leave your sister alone, I'm going to beat you!"
Jeff chuckled. "And that would be Denise."
Greg and Denise climbed out of their SUV.
Grace was shocked. Jeff's family looked so much more easygoing than Greg's. She'd always remembered Greg as the popular, dress-up king but this was extreme. His whole little family was sporting Oxford sweaters and Polo shorts.
"Who is this?" Denise asked.
"I'm Grace, Paul's friend."
"She's a cutie, Paul. Come here!" Denise squealed. She wrapped her arm around Grace's neck, nearly choking her.
Denise turned to her children. "Okay, I'm sure you know Greg, that's Jack and Lilly."
"No. Eleven months apart. How do I do it?"
"Hey, where's Philbin?" As if on cue, Paul's baby brother Phillip pulled into the yard. Paul waved.
"Sophie, get the baby in please. I gotta get the drinks." Sophie scrambled out of the car.
Grace's eyes widened. Sophie was very pregnant.
"Baby, I'm eight months pregnant, I can't do everything."
Phillip smiled and kissed her. "I know. And you're glowing. The baby?" She giggled and unhooked their daughter from her car seat. She took the sleeping girl inside and laid her on the couch.
"Hey Paul, who's this?"
"Phillip, you remember Grace right?"
"Allan's Grace?" She nodded. "No way, how you been girl? I haven't seen you in forever. Are these the kids? Yeah, they have to be. They look just like Allan." Grace smiled. "What's your name?" Phillip asked as he bent in front of Andrew.
"My name is Andrew. I'm four." Phillip chuckled as the boy held up four fingers.
"What about you little lady?"
"Well, it's nice to meet you. I'm Phillip."
The tiny toddler that had been asleep only moments ago was now wailing. "Jordan, I'm right here, baby." Phillip picked up the little girl.
"She's precious. How old is she?"
Phillip smiled. "She just turned two."
"I know right?"
"Hey Paul, did you get the meat?"
"Yeah. It's in the back of the truck." Paul lifted the hatch and let the tailgate fall.
"What'd you get?" Jeff asked.
"I got what you told me to get: steak, hamburgers, hotdogs, chicken, pork chops. Whatever you told me to get."
Jeff patted his cheek. "Good brother."
"Where're Mom and Dad?"
"Dad is gonna be here late. He had to talk to a couple and Mom should be here sometime soon. She said she had to pick up Casey." Grace turned to Paul. He smiled but it looked forced. She knew it was hard for him to see his brother's daughter when she was his ex-fiancé's daughter as well.
Jeff clapped his hands together. "Okay, kids, Natalie and them are down by the lake, why don't you guys go play?" Jack and Lilly ran off with Andrew in tow. "Hailey what about you?" She shook her head, gripping Grace's hand all the tighter.
"Alright then, come on. We'll show you around." Jeff flipped on the light switch in the house. "The kids will be sleeping in here." He gestured to the living room. The kitchen, living room, and dining room were all in one big open space.
Grace loved the rustic feel of the cabin. She loved how open it was. Jeff pointed out the three bathrooms. "Mom and Dad got the master bedroom, Katrina and I will be in this room, Greg and Denise there, and Phillip, Sophie, and Jordan are in this room. That's Paul's room. Any questions?"
"Grace, you and the kids can have my room."
"No, Paul, I couldn't kick you out of your own room."
"Take it Grace, I'll sleep in the living room."
"No. I don't want it…"
"I'll take it." Paul cringed at that all too familiar voice.