**Four Years Later**
"Two weeks at my dad’s with m’lady and the beach just a porch step away. Can’t think of a better way to kick off the summer," Jake said, glancing at Athena in the passenger seat. She sat, in her shorts and white tank, barefoot and crossed legged in her seat with a book on her lap. Her legs had started to cramp up after the first two hours. She smiled to indicate that she heard him but didn’t look up. "Yeah, God knows how much I need this break," she said and reached up to put her hair into a messy ponytail. "I feel like I should already start preparing for next semester," she said.
"Hey, enough. You got through, amazingly actually. Reward yourself and take it easy. We were on the same campus all year and I hardly saw you. You’ve neglected me enough," he teased. She looked over at him.
She closed the book in her lap when the town gave away to the beach. She smiled, feeling the pressure in her chest break at the sight of the glistening ocean as the sun lowered itself near the horizon. "I still can’t get over how amazing this place is," she said. "There’s my girl," Jake said.
"I had forgotten how beautiful she gets when she’s relaxed."
Athena shot him a teasing glare. "I wasn’t that bad!"
He raised an eyebrow. She felt heat rush up her neck and laughed.
"Okay, fine. I apologize. You’ll have half of my undivided attention this summer," she said as the car came to a stop in front of the beach house that had gone down in Darcy’s family over generations. "Half?" Jake asked, while unbuckling his seatbelt. The back door of the Victorian house flew open and a brown-haired toddler flew from the door, shooting towards their car.
"Thneed! Jake!" Theo called as he ran towards the car. Athena winked when her seatbelt popped loose. "Half," she repeated and opened the door. Theo jumped into her arms when she got out. "Oh," Athena called when she lifted the four-year-old. "You’re getting heavy, sweetie," she said and hugged him. Theo’s arms wrapped around her neck and pulled her as tightly as his little strength could. "I missed you," she said.
"I missed you too. Jake!"
Theo let go and reached for his elder brother when Jake walked towards them, big brown eyes shining brightly. Jake shot Athena a cocky grin and she stuck her tongue out at him. "Guess I know who you love more, Theo," she said and handed him over to Jake. Theo just giggled. "Hey, bud," Jake said when Theo hugged him as well.
"There’s my family!"
Their eyes shot towards the house where Kevin Brown stepped out from the back door and headed towards them. Athena laughed when he hugged her. "Hey, uncle K," she said.
"Finally! We were wondering when you two would show up," Darcy said as she came towards them. Kevin let go of Athena and turned toward his sons. "Hey, Darcy," Athena said and hugged her. "Ooh, it’s good to see you two again," she said smiling. "And I need a favor. Dinner’s almost ready and Theo’s getting a bit fidgety. Would you mind watching him for a while?" She asked. Athena laughed. "No problem," she said.
Athena stared at the rolling waves through the darkness from the hammock on the porch and breathed in deeply. She felt her muscles relax and started playing with the pendant around her neck. "Am I disturbing?"
She looked up at Jake as he walked over the wooden porch towards her with a sleeping Theo clinging to him like a sloth on a tree. She giggled quietly at the sight and shook her head. "I was actually wondering when you’d come join me," she said. He smiled and sat down on one of the chairs close to the hammock. Jake let out a gust of air. "I’m totally spent," he said, looking down at his little brother. Athena giggled again and reached over to stroke Theo’s brown hair. "He’s got the energy of all three of Kelly’s cousins," Jake said and lay back. "You can’t help but love him though," she said, looking down at Theo and leaning closer. Jake smiled. "Yeah, but tomorrow night, we take a break from baby-sitting and I’ll take you out. I recon it’s about time I got to have your attention for a few hours," he said. Athena smiled. "I agree," she said and leaned towards him. Jake closed the gap between their lips, smiling when he kissed her. The kiss instantly energized him again, making his heart race. Athena broke the kiss and looked back at Theo. Jake knew Athena matched his love in every way, even when it came to Theo. Somehow, he loved her more every time he saw her playing with his little brother.
Athena pressed her lips against Theo’s forehead, closing her eyes as she did. Jake smiled at the sight. She opened her eyes and looked at him. "What are you thinking?" She asked. "That..."
Jake paused, taking in the smile on her lips. "I want this one day, with you. With our own place and kids and a ring on your finger," he admitted, almost stuttering. She stared at him. Her smile dropped slowly and he feared he may have timed it wrong - again. Tears welled up in her eyes. She smiled again, shattering all fear inside him. "Me too," she said quietly.
Do You Remember - EpilogueFour years later...
By Simone Reeds