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|Fall From India Place(On Dublin Street #4)(6) by Samantha Young|
“You too.” I grinned suddenly at the imagery that had popped into my head. “Are all the guys together with the kids?”
Joss chuckled. “Yeah. They took them to the zoo.”
I burst out laughing. “Four men and five young children. The guys are totally outnumbered.”
Braden was dad to the almost-six-year-old Beth and three-year-old Luke. Joss was an American who had come to Edinburgh to study. Tragically, she’d lost her entire family when she was fourteen – her mother, Sarah, her father, Luke, and her baby sister, Beth. Sarah had been Scottish, so Joss decided to start over in her motherland. After graduation she moved in with Ellie, met Braden, and began an affair with him that quickly grew into so much more. They’d been married for seven years and were two of the happiest people I knew.
“We’ll see who comes back in one piece,” Joss muttered dryly.
After joking with them all for a bit, I could hear Mum calling me, so I hurried into the kitchen and gave her a hand sorting out the buffet.
We all settled in the sitting room, oohing and aahing over the presents and laughing when Jo threw the packet of condoms at me.
I let them all chat, sitting there, just enjoying the happy atmosphere and the excitement of the upcoming births. Jo and Ellie were both almost seven months pregnant. Neither wanted to know what the sex of the baby was, so everyone had mostly gone neutral with the presents.
A few hours later, a little buzzed from the Buck’s Fizz and needing some water, I quietly disappeared into the kitchen. I was trailed by Joss.
“Hey.” I smiled at her over my shoulder as I filled my glass with water from the fridge.
Joss gave me an appraising look. “You seem tired. Are you okay?”
“Late night. And I’m exhausted at the thought of another two babies,” I said teasingly. “I’m not going to have a life with all the babysitting I’m going to be doing.”
Joss groaned. “I hear you. After all the babysitting Jo and Cam have done for me, I’m going to have to reciprocate. Beth, Luke, and a baby? It’s going to cripple me.”
“Ach, let Braden do it.”
Joss laughed, but a masculine voice called out, “Let Braden do what?”
We both turned to the doorway to see Braden towering inside it. In his arms was Luke and hurtling toward her mother was Beth.
“Mummy, I sat on a penguin!” she shrieked, throwing her arms around Joss’s legs.
Joss caught her, but her eyes were wide on Braden.
He chuckled. “Not a real one.”
“Oh, thank God.” Joss reached down and lifted her skinny, tousled-haired girl into her arms. “I thought we had a lawsuit on our hands.” She rubbed her nose against Beth’s. “Did you have fun with the animals, honey?”
Beth nodded and turned her head to look at her dad. Whatever she was about to say was abruptly halted when she spotted me. “Hannah!” she squealed.
Beth immediately scrambled out of Joss’s arms and threw herself at me, whereupon Joss walked over to kiss her son’s head and her husband’s lips. I bent down to catch Beth, who chattered to me excitedly as the noise level in the house rose. I heard what I could only imagine was baby January crying, and William giggling. Pushing past Joss’s leg was the beautiful, dark-haired, olive-skinned Lily. She ran at Beth and me, a stuffed tiger dangling from her small hand.
I caught her too, as Braden and Joss moved out of the doorway to allow a harried-looking Nate into the room. When he saw me with Lily, he relaxed and threw Braden a relieved look. “I handed Jan over to Liv. She’s the baby whisperer.”
We heard sudden laughter coming from the sitting room.
“William.” Braden smiled. “A comedian in the making.”
“Hannah!” Beth pulled on my hand, drawing my attention back to her. “We saw lions.”
“And tiggers, Nanna,” Lily added softly, pronouncing my name the only way she knew how, before chewing on the paw of her stuffed toy.
“What the hell…” We heard a loud, familiar voice speaking in a tone of confusion and dismay. A few seconds later my little brother, Declan, came into the kitchen, his hand clasped in his girlfriend’s. Dec was eighteen and had been dating Penny since he was sixteen. I wasn’t as close with him as I’d like to be, but I think that had much to do with his age and the fact that he spent most of his time with Penny.
His eyes swept the room and he looked beyond flummoxed. “Is this Sunday?”
I laughed. He was referring to my mum’s famous Sunday lunches. Not everyone could make Sunday lunch every week, but on the occasions we did, the house was loud and full to bursting. “No. It’s Ellie and Jo’s baby shower.”
Dec grunted moodily. “As if we need more people in this family.”
“Hey,” Joss admonished, “you should be grateful you have this.”
“Yeah, yeah.” He gave her a half grin. “It’d just be nice to come home to an empty house every once in a while.”
“Hmm.” I stood up, holding on to the girls’ tiny hands. “We all know why.” I looked at Penny pointedly and then winked at my brother.
He rolled his eyes. “There’s something seriously wrong with you.” He gently nudged the ever quiet and now blushing Penny out the door. “We’ll be upstairs.”
“Don’t do anything I would do!” I called after him as Braden, Nate, and Joss laughed.
Nate shook his head at me. “You’re mean to him.”
I made a mock-shocked face and looked down at the girls. “Do you hear that? Auntie Hannah isn’t mean, is she?”
Beth shook her head adamantly, while Lily nodded, clearly confused by the question.
The house was quiet once everyone but my little brother and Penny had scampered. Although there had been many offers to help Mum clean up, in the end I helped her shoo them out and I stayed behind to offer my services, despite the pile of marking waiting for me in my flat.
I was just putting away some newly washed and dried dishes when Mum said my name almost tentatively. Wary at her apprehensive tone, I turned around, my eyebrow raised in question.
She was fiddling a little nervously with a sponge she’d been using to wipe down the counters. “Your dad and I have something we need to ask you.”
I sighed, crossing my arms over my chest. “If it’s to help you get rid of another body I told you last time I was done with that.”