Maybe especially for them.

There’s something primal about giving into this base need—being rough and dirty and fast. There’s something so intimate and comfortable and fucking honest about just wanting to come, and come hard, with the person you love.

It’s a feeling I’ve only ever known with this woman in my arms—something I’ll only ever share with her. Till death do us part.

“Please, Jake, please, please, please . . .” Chelsea chants mindlessly, and I know she’s right on the edge. I let go of her leg and bring my hand to the juncture of her thighs—rubbing her clit in feather-light circles—providing the added pressure she needs.

She lifts her head and gasps when she comes, every muscle contracting and squeezing. My breaths are harsh and my hips push without a rhythm, until I roll us over so Chelsea’s flat on her stomach and I cover her back. I thrust into her once, twice, and then my vision goes hazy as I come—the feeling so intense, all I can hear is the pounding of blood in my ears.

Seconds, minutes, later we recover our breaths. I roll onto my back and wipe the sweat from my forehead with my arm. Chelsea rises up on her elbows and looks at me with sparkling blue eyes.

I kiss her lips gently—because she’s so fucking pretty. Because she makes me so stupidly happy.

I open my arms and she curls against me, giggling. We stay like that for only a few minutes because now it’s a little after five—time to officially start my day. As usual, Chelsea drifts back to sleep as I kiss her forehead, ease out of bed, and get dressed for my morning run.

Frigging isn’t typically part of my vocabulary, but after a conversation with Chelsea—several conversations—and a few unfortunate imitations in preschool by Ronan, I’m making a concerted effort to tone down my language.

My running partner for the last two weeks, Rosaleen, gasps for breath as she jogs beside me, blond curly pigtails bouncing in the wind. She’s eleven now. I can’t fucking believe how fast she’s changed from the little blond Shirley Temple look-alike I first met, who thought thirty was so old.

Well . . . she probably still thinks thirty is old, and thirty-four must be goddamn ancient.

Anyway, she’s still short, still has those corkscrew curls and big, innocent blue eyes. But she’s grown, changed—matured. A few months ago she started worrying about her weight, because she’d put on a little.

So not going there.

Chelsea explained it’s just her age—that she’d arrived at the “awkward stage” and in a few months she’d hit a growth spurt and that extra weight would disperse the way it’s supposed to. But Rosaleen didn’t want to wait. So after I run seven miles on my own, I circle back and do an extra mile with her. She’s improved—her running form and her stamina. Though you wouldn’t know it by listening to her.

I can’t help but laugh as we turn the corner onto our street.

“Come on—there’s the house,” I coach. “Dig deep and get there.”

Labored breathing is the only response I get.

I’m not the kind of guy who sings. Like—ever.

The exception being when the kid beside me plucked my man-card from my death grip years ago—and pathetically begged for a lullaby while suffering a stomach virus.

And I caved. Spectacularly. With a One Direction ballad.

Humiliating? Sure. But since the damage has already been done . . .

It’s the Rocky theme song in case you can’t tell. If you ever need an inspiration boost when working out? The Rocky sound track kicks ass.

But damn if she doesn’t pick up the pace.

Rosaleen crosses the threshold of the house, arms raised like a mini–Rocky Balboa at the top of the Philadelphia steps.

And seeing the pride on her face?

Humiliation’s got nothing on that.

Once inside, Rosaleen immediately crumples to the living-room floor in a comatose heap. And stays there.

I grab two bottles of water from the kitchen, drink one myself, and put the other in her hand. “You want to come downstairs and lift weights with me?”

I pat the back of her head.

After lifting weights in the basement and a quick shower I head to the kitchen, where I’m greeted by chaos. Noisy, vibrating, bickering, laughing chaos.

Because the gang’s all up, eating breakfast at the kitchen table.

“Can I have some more bacon?” Rory asks with his mouth full of scrambled eggs, his brown wavy hair falling over his forehead as he hunkers over his plate.

When I first met Rory McQuaid he was a pissed-off, stubborn little punk who was picking pockets and stealing cars to deal with the anger and devastation over his parents’ sudden death. He’s better now. Happier. Still a smart-ass, still gets a kick out of torturing his siblings, but he’s steering clear of activities that could land him in juvenile detention.