Raymond thinks for a moment, choosing his words. “You’re pretty great at the dad stuff, too.”

Kids are incredible—their insight, their capacity to adapt and accept, grow and love. They’re powerful, too. We’d all be in some seriously deep shit if they ever realized just how much power they have over us. Because the warm, tingling, insanely proud, totally devoted feeling that spreads through me—it’s indescribable. And Raymond did that. He gave me that.

He nods. And then goes back to playing basketball.

And I head into the house to kiss my wife again, and help take care of the other minions.

Later that night, after homework is done, the dishes are clean, and the kids are all tucked in their beds, I sit alone at the kitchen table with a bottle of scotch and a half-empty glass in front of me. Chelsea walks in, her hair pinned up from her bath, dressed in cotton, pastel-pink pajamas. Her steps slow when she sees me. And I feel her eyes drift to the bottle, then back to me.

She knows me, inside and out—knows I’m not a drinker. Unless there’s a reason. So she pulls out a chair and quietly sits down. The crystal-blue eyes that own my dreams, hold me in their grasp.

I sip the scotch, then watch the amber liquid bob when I set the glass back down on the table. My voice comes out hushed but certain. “I would pick you.”

Finally, I look up at her, and I know my face is clouded with guilt. “In that scenario that always plays out on TV shows, when the doctors tell the father he has to choose between the life of the baby or the life of the mother . . . I would pick you.”

Her head tilts to the side and her voice is so soft. “I would want you to pick the baby.”

“I know. I know that.” I stare into her eyes. “But I would still pick you.”

Is that as fucked-up as it feels? I raise the glass to my lips, draining it empty, trying to wash the feeling away.

And my whispered words slice the stillness of the moment. “All of this only works if you’re here. It begins with you, it ends . . .”

I’m not good with flowery, romantic kinds of words. But she makes me wish I was.

Because she’s more than my wife—more than the owner of the pussy that has me so very whipped. She’s my love, my home, the solace to my soul, the keeper of my heart, the center of my entire fucking world. The only reason I really believe in my own goodness is because I see it reflected in her eyes.

“Without you, I don’t know how . . . I don’t know what I’d do.”

A sad smile haunts Chelsea’s rosy lips as she rises and plants herself on my lap. My arms automatically wrap around her.

“I know what you would do.” Her fingers comb through my hair soothingly, rubbing at the base of my neck. “You would hold all the kids at once, because your arms are big enough to do that. And you’d let them all sleep in the bed with you, so you could be right there if they needed you. Then, after a few days, you’d lead them through it—get them back on schedule. Back to the routine. You’d still be broken inside, but you would tape yourself together because you’d know that’s what they needed.” Her warm lips press against my jaw and her breath tickles my neck. “Life would go on. And after some time, you’d meet someone. A kind woman. Smart. Maybe a lawyer who always wanted kids but never found the time.”

“Jesus fucking Christ, Chelsea,” I curse—because I don’t want to hear this.

“She would fall in love with you so easily. And with them. And it would all be okay. It would be a good life—a different life, but still good.”

My eyes burn behind my eyelids, because I don’t want any part of that fucking life. She’s right, in a way—I would go on—just like I’d want her to. You don’t have a whole lot of choice when you have kids—when you love them like you’re supposed to. You suck it up. Move heaven and hell to make sure they’re all right.

But it’d be a waking nightmare for me—every horrible second without her.

My hands press her closer. Melancholy fingers scrape her back, her thigh. “Don’t ever leave me. Promise me you’ll be with me always. I know it’s not a promise you can make . . . but do it anyway.”

Chelsea punctuates each word with a gentle kiss—to my forehead, my nose, my jaw, my cheeks, my closed eyelids. “Never. I’ll never leave you, Jake Becker. Ever. Ever. Ever. Ever. Ever. Ever. Ever . . . never.”

When her mouth settles on mine it’s like lighting a match. Sparking a needy, frantic fire. Because I have to feel her—alive and vibrant—beneath me, surrounding me.

I should take her to our room, but I don’t. I should slow down, but I can’t.

All I can do is set her on the table and strip the fabric from her body with trembling hands. Kiss her like there’s never been a tomorrow, lick her skin and swallow her moans.

I grip the back of my shirt, pulling it off, and my pants follow. My fingers rub and delve between her legs, feeling sleek, slippery wetness, and then I’m pushing inside her. That first thrust—the slide of her smooth, tight walls against my hot, hard cock. Fucking unreal. Like it’s always been with her. Like it always will be. Her body welcomes me, then clamps down like it can’t bear for me to leave. And just like every time before, the thought flits through my mind, that nothing will ever feel better than this—it’s as good as it can ever possibly be.