‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

Without You

Ronnie was going to meet me in Pasadena, at my father's house, for the baby shower. Despite the fact that he was supposed to return to the tour, he'd been in LA for the last two weeks instead, trying to figure out a way he could officially get the band out of that commitment. He'd gotten into it with the label a couple times, and I'd heard through the grapevine that he'd thrown a fit when Epitaph refused to let him walk away, pointing out that they'd already done advertising and sold tickets. It would be nearly impossible to lose that much money.

Ronnie hadn't said anything about having to go back, so I assumed that despite their objections, the label ultimately let him do what he wanted. My father was also suspiciously quiet when I told him that Ronnie was staying in town and would be with me for the baby shower so we could reveal the gender together. It was painfully obvious that the two of them would never completely get along. They only time they ever got along was when they were teaming up against me.

"Can you tell me first?" Arch questioned in the car, looking at me in the rear-view mirror from the backseat. He pressed himself up and against the tightened to get a better look at me. Since he wasn't going to Nicholas at all today, he was dressed in street clothes. A pair of loose jeans and a child's basketball jersey. There was a jacket too, but he'd torn it off and tossed it onto the seat next to him. His hair was a mess from yanking the hood off.

"No, you've been waiting this long, you can wait another hour," I answered, giving him a look. He'd spent the last week sneaking peaks and begging me to tell him. We'd been planning the family get together since we first learned and most of the time I'd managed to take him to Nicholas to keep his prying eyes away, but there were a couple days where I let him come and he'd gotten close to figuring it out.

Ronnie's family had driven into LA yesterday, and Ronnie put them up at a hotel downtown. The singer was bringing them to my dad's today, where we were having dinner and the big reveal. Sabrina had a school event she couldn't miss, so Amanda stayed behind with her. Russel drove out with Anthony and the boys.

When I pulled into my father's rounded driveway, I saw that the Radkes hadn't arrived yet. My eyes scanned the unfamiliar cars automatically and noticed the banner tacked to the glass door.

"What does it say?!" Arch asked, reaching for unclick himself from his booster seat. He stopped before he did, remembering the last time he'd tried to get out early.

I pulled to a stop behind my brother's car and smiled at the little boy. "Congratulations," I read to him, turning the car off and unbuckling my own seat-belt. "It's what you say when something good happens to someone. Like a baby or a wedding."

"Congratulations," he echoed, grinning.

I opened his door and let him out and then moved to the open trunk to get our things out. We'd picked up cupcakes to help with the gender reveal. On the outside, they were chocolate cake with white frosting, but the inside was filled with more frosting. Blue for our little boy.

"Arch, do you want to hold the plates and stuff?" I asked, reaching in for the black plates and utensils. We weren't taking any chances with the colors. Everything was neutral so they wouldn't have any help guessing what we might be having.

"I want the cupcakes," he answered, knowing they held the answer inside. "Please, I won't drop them." He leaned up into the trunk, reaching for the multiple boxes.

"There's too many," I said, handing him one of the lighter bags instead. "Don't think I'm not onto you, little boy." I grinned at him, turning him towards the house and away from my car.

He turned his blonde head and darted towards the front door. When I looked after him, I saw my father standing there, pushing the door open for him. "Grandpa!" Arch yelled, grinning as he bounded up the stairs. "I'm so excited!"

My brother sidestepped around our dad and Arch and came down the driveway to me. He grinned as he walked over to the open trunk. "Looking awfully pregnant there, Att," he said, laughing as he sidestepped me and grabbed another set of cupcakes from the back.

"You're not supposed to insult pregnant women, Max," I said, shooting him a look. "You're supposed to honor us for being the gateway to life." I grabbed my bag, and Max closed the trunk for me. My father and Arch were already back inside the house.

"Have you heard from Ronnie at all? Is he on his way?" Max asked, balancing three boxes of cupcakes. "People are going to be arriving soon and there's still a couple things left to do. And I was hoping that he and Dad could have their fight before everyone gets here." He glanced nervously at me over his shoulder.

"Yeah, and Heather and Aiden should be here soon too," I told him, stepping into the house behind him, "And I talked to Ronnie this morning and he promised me that there wouldn't be any issues. As long as they're not locked in a room together, they should be fine."

Max nodded and switched the topic of conversation to something more predictable. "Gina talked to Cemi and she's already back from Vienna. She and Luca flew in last night or something, and Uncle Jay is coming with Hunter and Miles. Greg is already here. He and dad are in the back."

"I told Dad not to invite his entire social circle," I commented uselessly. I had known the request was futile when I made it, which was why I bought more cupcakes and supplies than we needed for our official guest list.

"He didn't invite his entire social circle," Max laughed, pressing into the swinging kitchen door to open it. "If he did, this place would already be packed with people."

I agreed and then turned to grin at my step-mother. She was in the kitchen, packing the catering boxes into the garbage. Neither one of us was that much of a cook, so I'd ordered food to their house. It was so much easier just to have items delivered. "Gina, thanks for doing all this," I said, watching my mother turn around to us as we set the dessert boxes down on the counter.

"Atticus, I was wondering where you were," she greeted, grinning. "I just saw that little boy of yours running through here with Brett," she said, reaching for the cupcake trays so she could arrange them on the tiered platter. "Looks like he's going to be a handful tonight."

"He's having a hayday already," I agreed. "Where is everyone though? Nico, Frida, and Holland?"

"Holland is napping," Gina told me, glancing around like she wasn't sure about her other daughter. "Nico was here a little bit ago. She might be upstairs now too."

"Out back," Max corrected. "She was looking for Arch when I came out, so she probably followed them outside. The decorations look great, by the way. I think Frida and Kasey are finishing up with the table cloths and center pieces and shit."

I nodded gratefully and then turned to head out that way. Like Max said, my dad and Greg were sitting at the table on the patio and Arch was seated next to them. When I walked out, they both the adults stood up and moved over to me. Greg was my father's bandmate and one of his best friends, and he'd been in my life since the day I was born. And on my side through everything.

"Atticus," he murmured as he wrapped his arms around my shoulders. "Arch was just telling me how good everything is going. You look amazing. How have you been, really?" He pulled back enough to look me in the eye and smiled.

"Hi Greg," I replied, grateful to have him here. "I've been busy, but good. The doctors say that the baby is doing fine in there, so as long as that's true, I don't have any complaints."

"You shouldn't stress about that too much," he answered easily. "Your dad told me that you've got some of the best OBGYNs in the state, if not the western United States."

I glanced back to my dad and offered him a hello smile before responding to my pseudo-uncle. "Yeah, they're actually really great. I was really lucky to get in with them. I had to pull a lot of strings to have them take me on this late in the pregnancy, but being able to learn as much about the baby as possible makes it worth it."

"I'm excited to know more too," he said, grinning conspiratorially. He stepped back to let me say hello to my dad and after I hugged him and assured him that I was doing fine, again, I excused myself and headed downstairs to thank my sister and Kasey and help them finish up before everyone started arriving. They were bustling around the tables, putting finishing touches on the decor.

"You don't have to thank us, Atticus," Kasey said after I spoke, setting another glass and water center piece onto the center of one of the tables were Nico was sitting, watching. They were small cylindrical vases with rocks on the bottom and flowers suspended in the water. A white, rounded candle floated at the top, unlit. We had stuck to neutral colors with the decorations as well.

"Still," I argued, stepping up behind Nico and fingering her loose curls, "I was going to be here earlier to help with all of this, but I overslept this morning and then of course that means Arch over slept, and then I had to get the cupcakes, which reminded me that I had to call and make sure Ronnie was actually going to be here on time with everything, which he isn't, and I just really wanted to be here to help with this."

"Don't worry about it," Frida rebutted, looking at me across the table. "You were here yesterday and pretty much drew a diagram for how you wanted everything. It wasn't that hard to follow step-by-step directions, Atticus."

I took a moment to take a breath and look around the backyard. There were multiple tables set up around the pool with umbrella awnings that held white dangling lights. Like the tables, there were floating candles in the pool, waiting for it to get dark enough to be lit up. And nearer to the balcony where lights were threaded through the balcony, was another table, although long and rectangular instead of round. Gina walked over there, telling the caterers where they could plug in the heating trays and pots to the house. She'd deposited the tiered-rack of cupcakes on the table.

"This place looks gorgeous," I complimented, allowing myself to take it in and relax. "Really guys, you did an amazing job. I couldn't have done better myself."

Frida grinned at me. "I just want the best for my little niece," she said, walking over as she carefully gaged my reaction.

"What makes you think it's a girl?" I asked, trying to give nothing away.

"I don't think it's a girl," she said just as airily. "I'm just going to keep naming genders until I figure out which one you react to. Like, who knows, maybe it's a boy." She kept her eyes on my expression as she spoke, but I laughed at her logic, rolling my eyes as I pulled Nico's chair out and lifted her into my arms.

"I'm going to go check on things," I said, walking off towards the house. Nico wrapped her arms around me and held on, smiling at me as her little palm pressed into my neck.

"Atticus, put her down!" my father yelled, looking at me incredulously from the top of the balcony. He leaned over the railing, stopping me dead in my tracks as I started up the stairs. "Put her down," he repeated, stepping around Arch to come down to me. "She's too big for you to carry around like that. You're six months pregnant."

"Yeah, Dad," I answered, staring at him like he'd lost his marbles. "I'm pregnant, not incapable."

"You better not be carrying Arch around like that," he said loudly, grabbing Nico from me quickly. "One wrong move and you'll be in serious trouble, Atticus."

"It's not dangerous, Dad," I said in the same tone, frowning at him and glancing at the others. "I have Arch, you don't think I've checked into that? I know what I'm doing." I stepped up the stairs with him, waiting for his response, but it didn't come. I rolled me eyes and stepped away, leaving him and his irrational fears alone.

I walked into the house through the sliding back door and was met with the overwhelming sound of Radkes. I grinned, immediately heading to the front foyer. As I came through the door, I saw the four dark heads huddled together, chatting wildly. With them were the three older Radkes: Anthony, Russ, and Ronnie.

"Hey, boys," I greeted, unable to control my grin as they looked me to quickly. "How nice of you to come all the way here for little ol' me."

"Atticus!" the boys yelled, charging toward me with unbridled enthusiasm. I wrapped my arms around as many of them as I could as Ronnie's four nephews pulled me into a group hug, lightly holding onto me. I figured someone had already warned them about being too rough with the pregnant woman.

Anthony lifted some of his boys out of his way as he came to me, wrapping his arms around my shoulders. "Hey, sweetheart," he whispered into my ear. "It's good to see you again."

"You too," I said honestly, reveling in his hold on me. Anthony was like a brick wall. Sturdy in that way. He pressed a light kiss into the side of my head and then released me, standing like a pillar between Ronnie and I. Russ greeted me quickly, cupping my face with one hand before turning his attention to his grandsons.

"You guys can head out back," I said, turning around to show them the way. "There's a few people out there already. I know that Nico and Arch will be excited to see you all."

Russ and Anthony herded the boys through the back hall and out to the back door, and as I went to follow, Ronnie wrapped long, slim fingers around my wrist, stopping me in my tracks. "I don't get a hello?" he asked, his tone making it obvious he noticed the closeness between his family and I. "You've barely even looked at me, Att."

I pulled my wrist out of his grasp. "You seem to make a habit out of grabbing me when you want to talk," I said, turning to look at him for the first time. "You need to stop that."

He sighed. "I'm sorry," he said, dark eyes turning up to mine. "I just really don't want to fight with you tonight. I'm sorry I'm late, I know you're probably pissed about that."

"You managed to show up before most of the guests," I answered, pushing my long, dark hair out of my eyes so I could look at him unobscured. "Did you bring everything?"

He nodded. "Your brother is helping me get it all from the car," he answered, glancing back towards the closed glass front door. "It was a pain in the ass trying to get all the way here without the boys trying to open everything."

We had decided that we were going to do more than just cupcakes with blue frosting on the inside. Along with that, Ronnie had brought multiple boxes filled with colored balloons that read 'it's a boy!' as well as non-toxic dye that I was planning on dropping into my father's pool, unbeknownst to him. It would fade out in a few hours, so there wasn't much risk of ruining anything.

"Who's all coming?" Ronnie asked, following me out through the front door. Like he said, Max was down at the Escalade, unloading large boxes that had been sealed shut with clear tape.

"Gina's best friend, my father's band, Jadeen, Anderson and their kids. Heather and Aiden, of course with Kyat. The guys, right?" I said, looking at the dark haired man. "Are they even back in the States? What's going on with all that, Ronnie? Jacky hasn't come by to get his car."

"They're back," he said as we stopped at the car. "Don't worry about it. They'll be here tonight. We're working on getting everything sorted out, but they wouldn't miss this."

"What's in the boxes?" Max questioned, fingering the edge of the cardboard like he might pry it open.

Ronnie smacked his hand away and lifted one of them up from the ground. "Don't mess with stuff," he said, frowning at my younger brother. "Atticus, you should get those bags. There's state secrets inside." He sent a heavy glare at Max, daring the boy to try anything.

Max held his hands up and turned away from the trunk of the car. I stepped around him and gathered up the bags, hiding the items inside while Ronnie and my brother carried the two balloon boxes into the house and out to the backyard. I closed the trunk and followed them, watching as my family greeted Ronnie. Unlike me, they hadn't seen him for almost five months.

Brett didn't get up from his spot as Ronnie set his box down on top of Max's and said hello to my siblings and step-mother. It was easy to forget that after all of this, my dad still wasn't Ronnie's biggest fan.

Arch rocketed up the stairs and into the singer's arms in seconds. He was screaming Ronnie's name, pushing through everyone to get to the man. I watched from the door as Ronnie kneeled down and pulled the boy into him with a grin. He pressed his cheek into the little boy's head and lifted him from the ground, talking quietly as Arch hung on for dear life. Ronnie grinned as Arch leaned back in his arms, talking in circles about how happy he was that he was finally home.

I dragged my eyes off of them and stepped around them, hoping to god that Ronnie wouldn't break Arch's heart. If Ronnie walked away again, there would be no survivors.