‹ Prequel: Infinite

Summer Boy

Christmas Part III

Ronnie’s father was practically hanging out of the house when we finally made it into the heart of Las Vegas. I glanced from the man to Arch, who was asleep as we pulled into the driveway. Ronnie turned the car off and smiled when his dad came down out through the front door. The elder man shot his son a grin, but bypassed him and came straight to me.

“My favorite girl,” he crooned, wrapping his arms around me. “How’s my grandson doing in there?” He stepped back and brushed my hair over my shoulder, leaning back to look me over.

I nodded, smiling. “He’s hanging in there,” I answered with a laugh. Behind me, Ronnie pulled the back door open and carefully pulled Arch out, trying not to jostle the boy.

“How’ve you been, dad?” Ron asked, standing at my side. “Where are the boys?” He looked to the unusually quiet house and back to his father.

“I’ll be better when my little boy gets out here,” Russ joked, nodding to my stomach. He slipped his arm lightly over my shoulders and answered his son. “The boys will be here in a little bit. They had to stop at Sabrina’s dad’s house.”

I was surprised to hear Russ mention Amanda’s ex . For as long as I’d been involved in the Radkes’ family, I hadn’t heard much about Sabrina’s biological father. And I definitely didn’t know that he was still involved in her life.

The look on Ronnie’s face told me that it wasn’t a frequent occurrence. Neither one of them said anything about it, and Russ ushered us into the house. The tree was set up in the corner of the living room, squished between the front window and the TV on the back wall.

“Atticus, I figure you can sleep in Ronnie’s room tonight,” Russell said, referring to the dining room that Ronnie converted into his own room when he was a teenager. “Anthony helped me set up a bed in the boys’ room for Arch, so he can have his own spot to sleep. I don’t have a crib yet, but the time the baby comes, it should be ready to go.”

I couldn’t help but smile at Russ’s words. “You really don’t have to do all that,” I replied, setting my things down on the couch, “but thank you.”

“I’m going to put him down for awhile,” Ronnie said, stepping around us so he could get to the back bedroom that he used to share with his own brother. Russ had converted it years back so that his grandsons could share it when they stayed. The last time I’d been inside it, there were two bunkbeds and toys everywhere.

When Ronnie came back, sans Arch, Russ nodded to the couch. “You can sleep out here tonight or camp with the boys,” he said pointedly, handing his younger son my things. “Go put Atti’s stuff away. I’m going to check on dinner.” He sent me a conspiratorial glance and headed around to the kitchen.

I ignored Ron’s bewildered look and picked up Arch’s bag. Ronnie grabbed his and mine and then headed to the makeshift bedroom. “You know, if you let me sleep in here with you, my dad might think we’re getting along and forgive me.”

I dropped Arch’s bag onto the bed. Ronnie’s room wasn’t very big, but he’d managed to stuff a bed, desk , and dresser into the space, leaving only a couple of feet between each item. There were two doors off the room - one that led into the kitchen and the other to the living room and bathroom across the hall.

“We’re not getting along that well,” I retorted, watching him.

Ronnie sighed, rolling his eyes slightly, and shrugged out of the room. “If my nephews stay the night, you’re really going to leave me to sleep alone with them?” he asked, halfway into the kitchen already.

I shrugged. “I’m sure you’ll manage.”

Ronnie gave me a look and slipped into the kitchen with his father. They started up a quiet conversation and I turned my attention to our bags. Ronnie carted in the same duffel bag that he’d had on tour two summers ago. It sat at the end of the bed now, next to my own. I grabbed mine and dragged it across the bed.

I unzipped the front pocket and pulled out a small envelop. It was part of Russ’s Christmas present but I didn’t want to make a big deal out of it. I followed Ronnie’s footsteps out to the kitchen.

The musician sat at the table and I blinked in surprise when his father wasn’t in sight. “Where’d your dad go?” I questioned, moving around through the kitchen towards the living room.

Ronnie didn’t have a chance to answer before Russ came back in. He stopped just in front of me, surprised to see me standing in the direct center of the room. I filled in the silent by holding the envelop out to him.

“Those are for you,” I said easily. “A little pre-Christmas gift.”

Russ pulled the little white envelop from my fingers and smiled, flipping it open. I watched as he reached in and pulled out the photos. The first one was of Arch from his picture day a Nicolas. He looked adorable in his uniform and happy to be there.

Underneath it was my most recent ultrasound picture of the baby. Russell went quiet as he held both pictures side by side. This baby meant that Russell was going to be in Arch’s life almost as much as Ronnie was and I hoped that Russ would treat Arch the same as the baby.

Russell grinned, dark eyes darting back to mine. He stepped around me and I turned just in time to see him attach them to the fridge with magnets. “I love them,” Russ said. “I love you, Atticus.”

I held my arms out to my ex-almost-father-in-law and he wrapped his arms around me, tucking me tight against him. Despite everything, Russ and I had the type of relationship that I wouldn’t trade for anything. “I love you, Russ,” I said. “We’re so lucky to have you.”

The man held the back of my head as he pressed a kiss into my temple and then stepped back. “I’m glad you’re the mother of my grandchild,” he said, his voice returning to its normal humorous tone. “I’m sure you’ll show my kid a thing or two on how to raise kids of your own.”

I laughed at Russ’s backwards compliment and jab at Ronnie. I met the singer’s eyes behind his father’s back. “I don’t know about that,” I said softly. “He’s pretty great with Arch.”

Russ quieted, acknowledging his son’s relationship with Arch. As much as he gave Ronnie a hard time, it was obvious that Russ knew that Ronnie was going to make a good dad. It was mine and Ronnie’s relationship more than anything that would put a strain on the relationship between him and the boys. It was nearly impossible to be confident in our ability to raise this baby together. We had no idea how it would all work.

Anthony and Amanda came through the front door with a bang and I heard the boys before I saw them. The four of them bulleted through the house until they found us in the kitchen. I grinned as they swarmed around us.

I’d last seen the nephews at the baby shower and they were surprised to see how quickly the baby was growing. Devin, the oldest at ten, came to my side almost immediately.

“When will he come out?” he questioned, catching his brothers’ attention. Tanner bulleted to my side and crashed into his brother, knocking him out of the way.

Tanner grinned and wrapped his arms around me, trying to clasp his fingers around my back. “Your belly looks bigger,” the eight year old said, dark eyes raising to mine for clarification.

“He’s growing, but we still have a few more months,” I explained, brushing Tanner’s dark hair back away from his face.

Nolan’s eye widened and he giggled from my other side, pressing his little palm flat against my stomach. “He’s going to be huge, Atti!”

The rest of the boys giggled and their sister, Sabrina, frowned at them. She followed them out of the room when their mom shoed them away from me and out of the kitchen.

I watched the boys disappear into the bedroom where Arch was sleeping and I grinned, knowing he’d wake up to the group of them.

Amanda, Anthony, and I joined Ronnie at the table after Russ adamantly denied needing help from any of us. I felt Ronnie’s arm around the back of my chair as I joined the conversation with his family. I could hear Arch awake now, giggling and shouting with the other boys.

Reeve, the youngest Radke, wandered into the kitchen after a little while, pausing at the mouth of the entrance to look at us. He waited until our conversation slowed to a lull and then stepped forward, holding onto the edge of my chair. His brown eyes darted back to the living room and then he glanced between his father and grandpa.

“Papa,” he spoke to Russ, “can we open our presents?”

The boys were silent in the other room, so I glanced over Reeve’s head and noticed them pressed against the wall in the small halfway, leaning around the corner to see and hear. I caught a glimpse of Arch’s blonde head among the brunettes before he darted back away from my gaze.

Russell shook his head at his grandson, shooting a knowing look towards the boys’ shared bedroom. “After dinner,” he said. “It’s almost time to eat.”

Anthony spoke up, nodding towards the front of the house. “Go get some of your new toys out of the car,” he suggested, holding to stall the boys a little longer. “You could bring Grandpa, Uncle Ronnie’s, Aunt Atti, and Arch’s presents in with you.”

Anthony nodded, liking the idea that he came up with, and he began getting up from the table as Reeve complained, trying to wriggle away.

“Nolan, Tanner, Devin!” he called, rounding up the troops, “Come ‘ere!” He grabbed Reeve’s arm and tugged him up. He held his youngest son as the others reluctantly appeared from the hallway. Arch stepped out among them.

Arch slipped between his makeshift cousins and came to my side, pressing against me as he wrapped his arms around my neck.

“Are you still tired?” I questioned softly, brushing his messy hair back from his face. His cheeks were flushed and warm from running around with the boys and he smiled lazily, nodding at me.

He moved my arm so that he could climb into my lap the best he could. He leaned back against the table so that he wasn’t pressing against the baby and put his hand on my stomach, blue eyes meeting mine.

The Radke boys disappeared out of the kitchen in a group and I heard as they trudged outside. Ronnie, seeming to realize that our presents were still in the car too, climbed up from his chair, pressing his mouth to the side of my head as he leaned over me and pulled Arch from my lap.

“Lets go spy on them,” the singer said to Arch, shooting him a mischievous grin. Ronnie carted the little boy out of the kitchen, following in his brother’s footsteps.

“How are things between you two?” Amanda said cautiously, her eyes following Ronnie’s path out of the kitchen.

I paused, unsure of how to explain the relationship between us. “He bought me a car,” I blurted, brown eyes settling on Amanda’s expression. I watched her lips part in surprise.

“He did what?”

“For Christmas,” I clarified. “He gave me a box at my father’s and when I opened it, it had a key inside. Apparently there’s a car waiting for me at his apartment.”

Amanda was dumbfounded. “I don’t know why I’m surprised,” she said softly. “Ronnie goes all out for you, but he’s obviously really working hard to get back on your good side.”

I glanced towards Russ. Our relationship was great, but I still didn’t want to talk about my relationship with Ronnie in front of him. I wasn’t sure how much of it would get back to the singer.

“He’s really come back hard,” I said. “Since he came home, he’s been nothing but helpful. He stayed at my side at the baby shower, came to my dad’s for the holidays. He’s even helping me find a house downtown. He’s doing all the work.”

“It sounds like you’re getting back on the right page,” she noted, glancing towards the front of the house.

“I don’t know if things can go back to the way they were,” I admitted, running my hand over my stomach. Things would never be the same. We couldn’t go back to being two people. There were so many other factors that impacted our relationship now. More than anything, I wanted clarity.

When the boys lumbered back into the house, each carting as many presents as they could hold, the front door slammed shut and I smiled as Arch raced into the room, eyes wide and excited.

“There’s more presents for me!” he said, practically jumping into my arms. He wrapped his fingers around the arm of my chair and grinned at me, bouncing on his heels.

Ronnie came in just behind him and grinned, slipping back into the chair beside me. He pulled at the neck of his sweatshirt, loosing the collar from his throat. His eyes slid from Arch to me, lingering.

I looked away, turning my attention to his father as he announced that dinner was finished. The Radke clan raced in from the living room, shouting as Anthony barreled after them. Sabrina followed, smiling at her brothers and step-dad.