Andy was bursting at the seams to get to work the next morning. He had plenty to do, and not much time to arrange things, but it was exactly this adrenaline rush for which he lived. He kissed Danae goodbye before she was awake and drove to the office, but he had so much energy, he could have flown himself there.
He turned the key in his office door and powered his computer on. “I don’t even need coffee this morning,” he said aloud to himself. His office door was ajar, and his happy twittering caught Aaron’s attention.
“What are you so happy about, Murph?”
“I had a fabulous evening last night. I’m still flying high from it.” Andy puttered around his office, waiting for the computer to boot. He really needed to discuss an upgrade with Kirby.
“Oh? What happened that was so spectacular?” Aaron really hoped he didn’t have to hear about a night of passion with Danae. It was way too much information for an early morning.
“Well, Danae and I brought Darcey and Clint to Kirby’s restaurant last night for dinner. We did the chef’s table with them, and they loved it. Then Danae gave her sister the half of the inheritance that she deserved and would never take from us. That felt amazing!”
“Wow, I guess you did have a good night.” Aaron quietly breathed a sigh of relief. Some things were better left unsaid.
“But one of the best parts of the evening came before we even walked out our front door.” Andy grinned brightly as the desktop on his computer finally loaded.
“Uh oh,” Aaron said. Maybe I was too hasty…
Andy laughed. “It’s nothing like that at all. Get your mind out of the gutter, Aaron. No, I don’t know if I mentioned to you that we’re trying to get that Tillman guy from Sunlit Tides. We tried to get him for the Llamas two years ago, but Fiona was a cheapskate. Big surprise.”
Aaron laughed. “I do remember you saying something along those lines, yes.”
“Well, he and his wife are coming this weekend to negotiate. Aaron, if we can snag him, we’re all but guaranteed the championship next season.”
Aaron coughed. “But no pressure.”
“Right. No pressure, my friend.” Andy winked. “You’ve got this in the bag, with Wyatt, Avery, plus the rest of the team and your coaching talent. Kirby is going to love this. He has no idea yet.”
“What am I going to love?” Kirby was walking by Andy’s office on his way to see Aaron when he heard his name.
“Just the man I wanted to see this morning!” Andy greeted him. “I have some fantastic news, Kirby. The Tillmans will be here this weekend.”
“I knew I hired you for a good reason, Andy. I’m proud of you! Now, reel him in and catch him, and we’ll talk about a raise.”
“Are you sure, Kirby? I’m still overpaid for the job I’m doing.”
“Andy, you’ve proven yourself so valuable to me and this franchise, that I never want to see you walk away from it. Whatever it takes to keep you, I will do.” Kirby patted him on the back. “Now Aaron, if you’re done, I’d like to discuss the roster with you and the upcoming drafts. Is now a good time?”
Aaron waved to Andy. “I’ll catch you later, bud. Yes, Kirby. Let’s go grab a cup of coffee and chat.”
With everyone out of his office, Andy sat at his desk to arrange for the Tillman’s arrival. He dialed the number for the airport, and booked the pilot to fly round trip to and from the island, with all of the amenities onboard. Next came the suite at the resort, and lastly, a reservation on Saturday evening for four at Kirby’s beach restaurant. When everything was confirmed, he compiled the itinerary into a file and attached it to an email addressed to Avery:
I have attached your travel itinerary for this coming weekend, per our conversation. Your flight will leave Sunlit Tides at 10am Thursday morning, with an arrival in Isla Paradiso at approximately 6pm local time.
A limo will meet you at the airport and bring you to the Grand Tower resort, where you will stay in the finest luxury suite. The resort has two 18-hole golf courses, a private beach, a spa, its own five-star restaurant and a shuttle that will take you nearly anywhere on the island you desire, all complimentary.
On Saturday night, my wife and I will host you at Kirby’s five-star restaurant on the beach for business, dinner, and drinks. Kirby and Rae Kemp will meet with us on Sunday morning at the resort for brunch. The rest of your time in Isla Paradiso is yours to enjoy as you please.
Danae and I look forward to hosting you this weekend. We wish you a safe flight. I’ll be in touch on Friday morning.
Living the dream,
P.S. How many children do you have? We just had our third, a son.
Andy was busy with prospects that Aaron and Kirby had discussed earlier when Avery’s return email arrived. The sense of excitement built within him as he clicked the header:
I received your email, and Dina and I are thrilled to have this opportunity. The Sharks have been an impressive franchise for the past two to three years, so we’re looking forward to negotiations with you.
To answer your question, we have two children, a son, 10 and a daughter, 12. They are both spitting images of my lovely Dina. Thank you for asking about them.
I will advise you of our arrival on the island on Thursday evening. Thank you again for accommodating us this weekend. We look forward to our time away.
“Fantastic!” Andy exclaimed, again to nobody. Things were shaping up.
Andy’s afternoon commute phone call came just as Emmitt had finished nursing. “Hey babe,” she greeted him.
“Hi, my sweet, beautiful princess!” Andy replied. “How’s my favorite girl?”
“The kids are great, and I’m tired, but happy. How was your day, love?”
“I have the itinerary set for Avery and Dina for the weekend. I hope you have an evening dress to wear. You can wear the one you did last night, because dang, Danae. Wow.”
She blushed. “That good, huh?”
“Trixie said it herself. You looked like a celebrity. Drop-dead gorgeous is more like it, truthfully.”
“Someone is in a good mood,” she flirted. “Does that mean I get lucky tonight?”
“Oh baby, you’re getting so lucky tonight.” Andy stepped up his flirtation game.
She rolled her eyes and chuckled. “You wouldn’t be my Andy if you weren’t perpetually frisky.”
He belly laughed. “Takes one to know one, my sweet! We are equally yoked in that department.” He stopped at a traffic light, about three miles from the house. “Is there anything you need while I’m out, honey? I’m almost home.”
“Not today. Just come home. Your daughter misses you.”
“I’ll see you in a few minutes then.” Andy blew kisses to her and hung up the phone.
“Lysie, Eamon! Guess who is coming home!” Danae sang to her two oldest.
“Daddy!” Elyse squealed. She ran down the steps from the playroom and waited by the front door, watching for the gate to open.
Eamon cried at the top of the steps, afraid to navigate them. “Mama!”
She walked up the stairs and picked him up. “Do you want to see Daddy?” she asked him excitedly.
“Daddy!” he repeated. “Daddy!”
“He’s home!” Elyse shrieked, jumping up and down. Danae smiled.
Andy opened the front door, and Elyse popped out of his office and wrapped herself around him. “Hey sweet pea,” he said as he knelt down to hug her.
“I missed you!” she chirped, and covered his face in kisses. Andy laughed, his heart full.
Eamon toddled to him and tapped him on the shoulder. “Daddy!” he exclaimed and plopped a wet baby kiss on his cheek.
Andy picked Eamon up and blew bubbles on his belly, and then tickled him. Giggles of epic proportions ensued, and Danae smiled as she watched the children love their daddy. But the fracas awakened the baby, and he cried softly.
“Oh honey, I’m sorry we woke him,” Andy apologized.
“It’s okay. I will rock him while you play with the kids.”
“Can we go swimming? Please, Daddy?” Elyse begged.
“Lysie, it’s almost dinnertime, sweetheart. Why don’t we go swimming after dinner?”
“But…” tears formed in her eyes. “Please?”
Crocodile tears and puppy dog eyes won his heart every time, and she knew it. He sighed, having lost the battle. “Go get your swimsuit on, Lysie. Give Daddy a few minutes, okay?”
She squealed loudly and ran for her bedroom, chattering enthusiastically. Andy walked toward the boys’ bedroom and peeked his head inside. “I guess you heard?”
Danae smiled at him. “Bring Eamon in here for me so I can watch him. The baby was almost asleep until she squealed.”
“I can do that, and I’m sorry.” He leaned down to kiss her. “When is dinner anyway?”
“I’m just warming leftovers tonight, so whenever. Have fun in the pool with your little sweet pea. She’s been wanting to swim with you all day.”
“Daddy! Help!” she yelled from her bedroom.
“I have been summoned,” he snickered. “Coming, sweetie.”
After dinner, and after the kids were asleep, Andy and Danae sat outside by the pool, a glass of wine in hand, and listened to the sounds of evening. Frogs, crickets, cicadas and even an owl or two serenaded them.
“In two days, we’ll be sitting in Kirby’s restaurant with Avery and Dina Tillman, baby. This meeting is big, and I’m a little nervous.”
“Andy, you’re going to kill it. You’re an awesome negotiator. You’re a genuinely likable guy. Plus, you are the best at what you do. Honey,” she took his hand and kissed it. “You have this.”
“Your confidence in me is reassuring, my sweet. Have I told you how much I love you today?”
“You haven’t, babe. Please, do tell.” Danae flirted with him.
“I love you more than I love this glass of wine.” He winked at her.
“Hmm. How much do you love that glass of wine?”
“I don’t know, baby. I love it a lot.” His smile was pure mischief.
She got up off the lounge chair and joined him on his, laying on his belly. “Why don’t you show me?”
“Right here? I mean, this backyard is so wide open.” He kissed her tenderly.
“It doesn’t have to be right here. I hear there is a bedroom nearby.” She caressed his cheek, and he smiled sweetly at her.
“Where is your sense of adventure?”
“Oh, you want adventure?” She got up off the lounge, unzipped her shorts and shimmied out of them. “Let’s go.”
“Hmm. Where are we going?”
She stripped her shirt off and threw it at him. “We are going to skinny dip in that big, beautiful pool.” She ran through the grass and dove in.
“Why in the world am I sitting here?” He stripped his shorts off and ran for the pool, diving in. “Woo! This water is chilly!”
“It’s no colder than it was earlier today when you were in with Lysie.” She swam to him and wrapped herself around him.
“True,” he cooed. “Danae, I crazy love you right now.” He kissed her.
“Oh babe, I love you forever and always.”
“When is Trix coming?” Andy asked as he stepped out of the shower. Danae was soaking in the spa tub.
“She should be here by 5:45, babe. The limo is supposed to pick us up at six, right?.”
“Yes, and we need to be there long before Avery and Dina arrive.” He walked to the mirror and combed his hair while it was still wet. “How are you feeling?”
“Sore,” she replied. “Remind me to talk to Lysie about leaving her toys on the floor.”
“I already mentioned it to her. She feels bad about it.”
“I don’t want her to feel bad. I just want her to pick up after herself. At least I didn’t get really hurt.”
“Let me see your knee,” he asked. Danae held her leg out of the water and showed him. “Wow, that bruise covers your whole knee cap. No wonder it’s sore.”
“I’ll survive.” She pulled the drain on the tub and stood up. “I feel better already.”
“That’s good, love. Shower now?”
“You know it.” She kissed him on the way by.
About forty-five minutes later, Andy was in the living room when Trixie rang the call box. “Come on in Trix,” he said as he walked to the front door. “Danae, honey, are you almost ready?”
She was finishing up with her breast pump, getting dinner for Emmitt. “Yes, love. Just another minute.” Not wanting to leave the mess for Trixie to clean, she left the pump in the bathroom sink to clean when they got home.
When she walked from the bedroom, Trixie greeted her. “Wow, Miss Danae, you look lovely this evening!” Danae wore a black strapless gown encrusted with crystals, fitted to her body almost perfectly, her hair braided with flowers taken from the garden. Over her shoulders, she wore an off-white pashmina. Her style was impeccable, and she presented herself elegantly.
“Thank you, Trixie,” she smiled. “I am leaving a fresh bottle in the refrigerator for Emmitt. He should be hungry in about an hour or so.”
“He’s in good hands, Miss Danae. Have fun tonight, you two.”
“Thank you, Trixie. You know where to reach us if there is a problem.” Andy took Danae’s arm and together they walked to the limousine that waited for them.
When they arrived at the restaurant, they were seated at the chef’s table, courtesy of Kirby, who happened to be cooking that evening. He greeted Andy heartily.
“There’s my team manager,” he beamed. “And Miss Danae, you look radiant this evening. I thought I would reserve this experience for tonight.” He nodded at Andy and gave him a thumbs up. “Go get ‘em, Andy. I have every confidence that you will.”
“Thanks, Kirby. I appreciate your faith in me.” He took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. “I wish I had the same.”
“Andy, my boy, you have given me no reason to doubt you. I don’t see why tonight would be any different.” Kirby patted him on the shoulder and walked back to the kitchen.
A few minutes later, the hostess arrived with the Tillmans in tow. “Mr. and Mrs. Murphy, the Tillmans.”
Andy stood and shook their hands. “Avery, Miss Dina, it’s good to see you again. This is my lovely wife, Danae.”
Avery shook Danae’s hand almost a little too vigorously, but Dina’s handshake was delicate but confident. “It’s a pleasure to meet you both,” Danae said softly. All four of them sat.
Kirby noticed the group was complete, and walked from the kitchen to greet them. “You must be Avery and Dina!” he began. “My name is Kirby Kemp, and I own this restaurant and the Isla Paradiso Sharks. How is everything so far? I trust that Andy is treating you well?”
“Mr. Kemp, the pleasure is all mine,” Avery said. “And yes, Andy is treating us very well. The resort is exquisite. And this place is just spectacular. I couldn’t be more impressed.”
Kirby took Dina’s hand to shake. “Miss Dina, welcome to Isla Paradiso.” Danae saw her blush. Kirby was extremely charming, and none of it was fake. He and Rae were the real deal.
“I think we’ll begin with a bottle of wine for the table, Kirby. Whatever you recommend is wonderful,” Andy stated. Kirby nodded and disappeared into the kitchen.
“This place is incredible, Andy. Holy cow.” Avery looked around the restaurant, impressed with the atmosphere, the scenery and the ambiance.
“Kirby likes to pull out the finery when we’re courting a new player. I’m so pleased you two were agreeable to coming here. We have a six-month-old, and leaving Danae with three children would have been a hardship.”
“Oh wow,” Dina remarked. “You don’t look like you’ve had one baby, never mind three, Danae! You are stunningly beautiful.”
Danae blushed. “Thank you so much. It’s been hard work, but every mile I run and every pound I lift are well worth the results.”
The ladies continued to talk while Andy and Avery caught up. Kirby appeared with a bottle of wine and poured a glass for each of them.
“I forgot to welcome you officially when I introduced myself. This is a special experience, reserved mostly for VIPs and well-to-do tourists who want something a little different. You are my guests, and this is something we call the chef’s table.”
He bowed politely before them and continued. “I recommend the wagyu rib eye this evening. This particular cut is perfectly marbled and very flavorful, and is one of my favorite special items this evening. I’m also featuring the roast lamb with homemade mint sauce, risotto, and grilled asparagus. It is magnificent! Other local delicacies and specials are on the menu.”
Kirby winked at Andy, and whispered to him, “Make sure you order the rib eye for your darling. I remember she loved it last time.” Andy nodded and ordered four entrees to be shared, as Kirby had recommended.
“Meals here are usually done family style, so I’ve taken the liberty to order some of the specialties and local dishes.” Andy took his glass and raised it for a toast. “To new friends!”
The four of them raised their glasses and toasted with him. “Family style is fantastic with us,” Dina spoke up. “I feel like family already.” She and Danae went back to discussing interests while the men talked business.
“So, Andy, tell me what brings us here. You mentioned an irresistible offer.”
“I did indeed. I know what we offered you when Fiona and I discussed a contract with the Llamas. However, we can well exceed that figure today.”
“I’m intrigued. Let’s talk numbers.” Avery clasped his hands together in anticipation.
“Well, as a start, we can go 40% over your current salary. Our standard benefits package includes a car or a boat, your choice, 10x your annual salary in term life insurance, and full medical coverage for your whole family.”
“Come on, Andy. You can do better than forty, can’t you?”
“I’ll tell you what. Tell me what you need, Avery.” Andy was just getting started.
“Well, I don’t give a rip about a car. But I can probably secure 40% back home with no problem,” Avery bargained.
Andy knew he was bluffing on what he could comfortably get back in Sunlit Tides. The team was struggling, and he knew Avery was unhappy there. “Well, maybe this will entice you. We have some excellent schools here. Danae and I just enrolled our oldest in preschool at a very prestigious private school. How about this… §10k per child per year in tuition reimbursement for a private school of your choice, for as long as they attend.”
The look on Avery’s face told Andy he wasn’t expecting that as part of a benefit package. “Are you serious about that?”
“I never joke about this sort of thing Avery. Ever. The allowance should cover each child’s tuition fully, and if not, very close.”
“Damn, you were right about making this difficult to resist.” He touched Dina’s arm. “Doll, you might want to hear some of this. Andy is offering some good stuff.”
“Oh?” Dina was suddenly interested in the business dealings. “Like what?”
“Well, the offer so far is 40% over current, plus §10k each for the kids in tuition reimbursement at any private school, plus 10x life insurance, and full medical.”
“Wow,” she remarked. “That is a decent offer.”
“You don’t look convinced, Dina,” Andy said. “What would you like to see in the deal?”
“Well, there’s moving expenses, and I know something was mentioned about a car.”
“Moving and packing is always included, and I can tell you firsthand, they are top-notch. Very professional, and everything is insured.” Andy saw Kirby smiling from the kitchen.
“What about the car?” Dina inquired.
“That is certainly on the table as well.” Andy was trying to read her. He still had wiggle room on the salary offer, and he would squeeze every nickel out of the negotiations he could.
“What do you think, love?” Avery asked her. “The school tuition is big. We couldn’t get that at home.”
Dina nodded her head. “Can’t you get 40% at home, though? We wouldn’t have to move the kids…” Her thoughts trailed off. She was the reason the last negotiations failed, and suddenly Andy was happy he began the starting offer low.
“We can, but the school thing is big. Dina, no more out of pocket for tuition, and it’s a private school. Exclusive, from what I understand.”
Andy sensed her trepidation. “Okay, how about this, Dina? What if we go to a 50% increase in the salary? And I’ll throw the car in just for you, because you like it.”
Avery’s eyes widened at the new offer. “Seriously? Andy, don’t pull my leg.”
Andy smiled. “Like I said, I never joke at the negotiation table. Everything I offer is legitimate.”
Avery looked at his wife. “Doll, I don’t know if we’ll be able to top this back home. The island is gorgeous, I mean, wouldn’t you love to live here?”
Dina nodded her head. “I have to admit, it’s prettier here than it is at home.”
“I’m still sensing a but, Dina,” Andy said. He still had one card to play, and he believed it was the winning card.
“A little,” she admitted.
Danae, who had been watching Andy work his magic, finally decided to speak up. “Dina, when Andy and I moved here, we left my family legacy behind in Starlight Shores. For four generations, my family lived there. The house was like a museum, and for many years, I was content to live there for the rest of my life.
When Andy was offered this job, I knew I had to allow him to shine, to grow, to be the man he was born to be.” She smiled sweetly at Andy. “The decision wasn’t made lightly, but I wanted him to thrive. He is so excited to go to work every morning. The team has made great strides since he became manager, and Avery will be a perfect fit.”
Andy nodded his head. “She’s right, you know. The team needs your kind of talent, Avery. With you added to the roster, along with Wyatt Searcy and Aaron Hall’s coaching talents, the Sharks will be a championship team within a season. Don’t you want to be a champion, Avery? It was all Danae’s father ever wanted.”
Avery cocked his head. “Who is Danae’s father?”
“Travis Jones,” Andy announced proudly.
“Holy cow, I had no idea.” He smiled at Danae. “Your father is a household name everywhere. I am honored.”
Danae blushed. “Thank you. I am proud to be his daughter.”
“Now I understand why you said you left a legacy in Starlight Shores, Danae. The Jones name is esteemed there.” Dina was incredibly impressed.
Andy was set to play his last two cards to catch Avery Tillman. “Okay, I have one last trick up my sleeve. Avery, I will personally pay for a security system to be installed on any home you choose on the island or in the archipelago. It will include everything you need, fencing, cameras, alarms, a call box, you name it. And, I’m willing to go another 10% on your salary increase, for a total of 60% above current.”
Avery and Dina looked at one another, and neither of them could believe what they had heard. “Sixty? That’s six-zero. I heard you correctly?” Avery was stunned.
“That’s what I said, plus everything else we’ve already mentioned. The tuition reimbursement, Dina’s car, plus the term life, full medical.” Andy smiled at Danae, and she winked at him. “What do you say?”
Dina whispered into her husband’s ear and smiled. Avery nodded and stood, holding his hand out to shake. “Andy, you have a deal.”
“This is outstanding!” Andy stood to shake Avery’s hand and smiled. “Welcome to the Sharks! This will be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made. I haven’t regretted one time moving here, and you won’t either.” Seeing the handshake from the kitchen, Kirby decided to visit.
“Ladies and gentlemen, dinner will be out shortly.” He winked at Andy and nodded. “Can I get a bottle of champagne to celebrate?”
“That is a wonderful idea!” Andy agreed. “Thank you, Kirby.”
The mood at the table was merry for the rest of the evening. Both couples found much to discuss, but Danae and Dina found a bond she hadn’t felt since her best friend left Starlight Shores after high school. The two women were fast friends, and looked forward to building a relationship.
After dinner, Andy and Danae were in their limo on the way home. There wasn’t much talking, but there didn’t need to be. She knew Andy was flying on a cloud, and she couldn’t remember seeing him as happy, save for their wedding day. They sat side by side in the limo, their fingers intertwined, and she rested her head on his shoulder.
“A penny for your thoughts,” she asked. “What’s on your mind, my love?”
“I’m just pleased with how tonight went. Kirby is happy, I’m thrilled. The guys will love having Avery on the team. They’ll sign the new contract in the morning at brunch, and I’ll start making arrangements with movers, the jet and resort as soon as we have a move date for them.”
“There’s more to it than that, isn’t there?”
“This is a huge victory for me personally, Danae. I couldn’t win them over the last time we negotiated. But I learned much from it. This just feels so amazing, I feel like I could burst.”
“Your dad would be so proud of you, babe. I am extremely proud of you, and I’m so happy I had a part of this tonight. This is where the tide turns for the Sharks. You’re making them into a championship team, Andy. It’s all you.”
“Well, not all of it. The players are 75% of everything. Aaron’s plays are insanely creative, and most teams have a hard time beating them. This is a good move. Next season, we will win the cup. I almost guarantee it.”
“Andy, I love you, and I love seeing you so happy.” She kissed him on the cheek.
“I crazy love you, Danae. Thank you for allowing me to live my dream like this.”
“Thank you for letting me be a part of it. There is nowhere else I’d rather be, and nobody else I’d rather live my life with.”
The limousine driver dropped them off in front of their home, and they walked in together, hand in hand. Trixie was watching a movie on the large screen television, and she waved when they came through the door.
“Hi!” she greeted them. “How was dinner?”
Andy smiled. “It went exactly how we anticipated.”
“That’s fantastic!” she chirped. “The kids were great, no problems. Lysie wanted her daddy to wake her when he got home, so that’s my message to you.” She laughed. “That girl is so sweet. I was a daddy’s girl when I was little, too.”
“Yep, she’s my sweet pea,” Andy smiled proudly. He paid Trixie for the evening and dismissed her. He was standing in the door watching her leave when he felt Danae’s hand on him.
“Yes, my sweet?”
“Do you love me?”
“Of course! I crazy love you.” He turned around and caught her in his tender embrace, and kissed her with great passion.
“Yes, my sweet?”
“Come show me.”
“Baby, I thought you’d never ask.”
The next morning found Andy feeling invincible. After a good night at the restaurant with Avery and Dina, he looked forward to the contract signing with Kirby and Rae at the resort in just a few hours. Danae was up nursing the baby when he appeared in the doorway of the boys’ bedroom.
“Good morning beautiful,” he cooed at her. “How’s my favorite girl?”
“Good morning, my handsome prince,” she flirted back. “I’m fabulous.”
“Yes, you are.” Andy smiled at her as she fed their infant son. “Are you joining me this morning for brunch?”
“Of course,” she replied. Danae never missed an opportunity to support him, and she was excited about the meeting as well. “Would you get Eamon up and feed him? I’m only about half done feeding Emm.”
“You know I will, my sweet.” He walked to the other crib and gently woke their son. Eamon smiled when he saw his daddy and reached for him excitedly. Andy kissed the boy’s cheek and carried him to the kitchen.
Danae sat the baby up to burp him, and began to sing to him softly. Emmitt cooed and giggled, and she snuggled him.
Andy warmed some of Danae’s banana pancakes for Eamon and cut them up for him. “Can you do this yourself, little man?” Andy asked him, not really expecting an answer.
“Yesss!” Eamon giggled as he dug into breakfast. He walked to Elyse’s room to find her playing quietly by herself, and when she saw Andy, her eyes lit up.
“Hi Daddy,” she said happily.
“Are you ready for breakfast, sweet pea?”
“Yes,” she answered and yawned. “Did Mama make pancakes?”
“Not fresh, but they’re good. Come on, honey. I’ll warm them for you.” He held his arms open for her, and she snuggled into his embrace. He prepared breakfast for her and sat her at the dining room table near Eamon. “Call for me when he’s finished, Lysie? I need to take a shower.”
“Sure, Daddy,” she smiled. “Thank you for breakfast.”
“You’re welcome, little love.” Andy walked toward the boys’ bedroom again. Danae was almost done nursing Emmitt. “Baby, the kids are fed, and I’m going to take a shower. I feel a bit… dirty.” He winked at her.
“I’ll be out in a few. He’s almost asleep.”
About an hour later, Danae and Andy were nearly ready to leave, and Trixie was on her way in the gate. As she stepped through the door, Elyse greeted her.
“Thanks for taking the kids again this morning. We appreciate you,” Andy told her. “We should be home early afternoon. Lysie wants to swim, and I’m not about to disappoint her.”
“Not a problem, Andy. Enjoy yourselves.”
Together, they walked to the limousine that would bring them to the Grand Tower resort. They sat side by side, snuggled together, excited for the meeting that would shortly take place.
“How are you today, Nae? How’s your knee?”
“Stiff, but I’m okay. I was going to ask you how you feel going into this meeting. You seem very confident.”
“Oh I am, baby. This is my most successful deal yet. The long term implications for the team are astounding.”
“I’m very proud of you.” She squeezed his hand. “I’m really fond of Dina. She and I have a lot in common.”
“That’s great, honey!” Andy smiled at her. “I can’t wait for Aaron and Wyatt to meet them, too.”
The limo arrived at the resort, and they walked toward the door. The concierge greeted them.
“Hello, Mr. Andy and Miss Danae! Welcome.”
“Good morning, Marcela!” Andy greeted her. “We’re meeting Kirby and Rae at the restaurant this morning. Have the Tillmans arrived yet?”
“I haven’t seen them, no. But when they arrive, I will send them in.” She smiled at Andy.
“Thank you,” he replied. “Come, my sweet.” He held his arm for Danae, and together they walked to the restaurant. “Murphy. We are with the Kemps this morning.”
“Ah yes, they are expecting you. This way, please.”
Kirby stood as Danae and Andy approached, and Rae stood to hug Danae.
“There’s my star manager,” Kirby gushed over Andy. “Son, you have earned yourself a big ol’ raise after this is finalized.”
“It’s not necessary, Kirby—” Andy tried to protest.
“Nonsense! I have to take care of my manager.”
“Danae, you look stunning, my dear,” Rae complimented her. “How is the baby? How are you feeling?”
“I’m good, the baby is adorable. Elyse is getting big, and almost ready to start preschool. I’m working with her so she’s ready.”
“Wow, it doesn’t seem possible,” Rae remarked. “She seemed so little when you moved here last year.”
“She’s sprouted up, and her language skills are above her age level. She’s also on the edge of being able to read!”
“It’s probably because you talk and read to her constantly, baby,” Andy interjected. “She’s a smart cookie, and you’re the reason.”
Danae blushed as they all sat together.
A few minutes later, the host arrived with Dina and Avery Tillman. Kirby stood to greet them, and introduced Rae.
The server brought mimosas for the table, and Kirby brought out the contract for Avery to sign.
“We are still on for this, correct?” Kirby asked.
“Naturally! Dina and I talked of nothing else, and we called the kids to tell them. Surprisingly, they are excited, too.”
Andy felt a wave of relief wash over him. Nothing was concrete until Avery’s signature was on the contract, and it was moments away from being reality.
“Well, let’s make it all official, shall we?” Kirby slid the contract to Avery to sign. It was straightforward and simple and laid out terms and conditions in layman’s terms. After a quick read, Avery smiled and picked up the pen, signing his name on the document. And in that moment, he became a Shark.
Andy was the first to offer his hand. “Welcome home, Avery. This will be one of the best decisions you’ve ever made.”
The ladies all chatted together while the men talked about future plans with the team, already planning the upcoming season. Together, the three couples shared dreams, plans, and hopes for the future, and by the end of brunch, everything was looking up.
“Can I tempt you with a game of golf, Andy?” Kirby asked. “Avery and I are going to play the back nine.”
“Ordinarily, I would love to. But I promised Elyse I would swim with her today. She will be a disappointed little girl if I don’t fulfill that promise.” Danae took his hand and squeezed it.
“I understand. Sometimes, I miss our kids being that little. Enjoy your afternoon with your family, Andy. And Miss Danae, it was a pleasure, as always.”
“Thank you, Kirby.” Danae walked to Dina. “I’ll call you soon!” she said, and hugged her.
“I look forward to it, Danae.”
On the way home, Andy was all smiles. “I did it, Nae.”
“Why are you so surprised? I had faith in you.”
“It was so important. But we played our cards right. I probably could have snagged him without going to 60%, but I wanted to be sure we had him. Kirby still approved anyway.”
“Babe, I’m so proud of you. And I will never regret leaving the Shores, seeing how you’ve grown professionally. All the things you’ve accomplished here, you could have never done them back home.”
“I feel the same way, sweetie. Everything I am, it’s all because of your support. Danae Elizabeth, I love you so very much.”
“Anduin Rowan,” she said, watching him wince at the use of his middle name, “I love you forever and always.”
“You know I hate that name, don’t you?” he laughed.
“I do. That’s okay, my middle name comes from my paternal grandmother, who was a horrible, wicked woman. We’re even.”
“Stories about your grandma Jones are legendary. Mine is just medieval-sounding, so you win,” he belly laughed.
The limo dropped them at home, and Elyse was waiting for them to walk in the door.
“Daddy!” she squealed. She ran for him and wrapped her arms around his leg. “You’re home!”
“I am! Mama is, too. We’re all going to go swimming, how’s that?”
“Yes. Mama is going to swim with him, baby girl. Let’s have some fun together.” He bent down to kiss her head. “Go get into your suit.”
“She has been impatiently waiting for you to come home, Andy,” Trixie laughed.
“Thank you for taking care of our little sweetie pies,” Danae said. “We should be good for a while. Negotiations are over for now.”
Andy paid Trixie and gave her a generous tip. “Do something nice for yourself, Trix,” Andy said, folding her hand around the paper bills. “You deserve it.”
“Thank you, Andy, Danae. Remember, anytime you need me, I’m here.” She took her bag and left. Andy watched her walk to her car, and safely leave the neighborhood. Though the area was secure, there was always a Paparazzi or two hanging around outside the gate, and he worried about her.
Andy and Danae played with the children outside in the pool until dinnertime, enjoying family time, which was at a premium these days. He prepared dinner at the grill in their outdoor kitchen, and they ate at the table on the patio. Afterward, Andy and Elyse spent a little more time in the pool, while Danae watched Eamon play in the sandbox as Emmitt nursed.
By bedtime, the kids were tired, and after they were tucked into bed and soundly sleeping, Andy and Danae sat by the pool with a glass of wine. The moon was new, and the night just a bit darker. Their home was not near the lights in town, and stars filled the skies in abundance. In the pampas grass behind their pool, fireflies buzzed around, and Danae was thrilled to see them. The crickets sang, and frogs croaked their evening songs. Their world was peaceful and idyllic.
“What’s on your mind, my love?” Danae asked him.
“I’m just thinking of you, my sweet. Everything good in my life is because of you. This house, our family, our love, my job. Thank you, honey, for all of it.” She was gazing at him. “What about you, my sweet?”
“You have given me more than I could have dreamed, Andy. All I ever wanted was to be a wife and a mother, and you gave that to me. Every good thing I have is all you. You’re so much more than enough.”
He stood up and took her hand. “Come with me,” he invited her.
“Where are we going?”
“Tonight, I’m taking you to heaven with me.” When she stood, he picked her up and carried her from the poolside to the double doors that opened onto the patio from their bedroom. “Danae, I crazy love you.”
“I love you, Andy, forever and always.”
Up Next: Chapter Twenty, Generation Five