“You were having too much fun,” she teased.
“Yeah, Noah’s a big hit. I’ve got six other cousins who are living out of state, but other than that, Zoe is the last baby we’ve had around here.” His arms went around her, and he whispered in her hair, “About what happened with the ice cream . . . ”
“No, it’s okay. I love that you didn’t give a second thought about sharing with Noah. I just had a mommy meltdown moment.”
“I’ve heard of those. Do they happen often?”
“Probably, but I’ll try to keep them at a minimum,” she said, snuggling against his chest.
“Hey, can I get a hug?” one of the twins called.
Dani looked up in time to catch Tyler’s murderous glare. “No.”
“Ah, come on, cuz,” the other chimed in.
“You’re both asking to get your dicks knocked in the dirt.”
“Whoa, little ears!” Zoe protested, covering Noah’s ears and removing her hands with a laugh. “Earmuffs, Noah!”
Suddenly, Dani was picked up from behind and pulled away from Tyler. She squealed as Dereck spun her away and then dumped her over his shoulder. “Wanna play keep-away, big brother?”
He took off at a run, and Dani’s full stomach protested as she bumped along on his shoulder. “I’m gonna puke on you!”
Dereck set her down in a hurry, but before she could get her bearings, one of the twins swung her up, cradling her with an evil laugh as he ran. She glanced over his shoulder at Tyler, who was shaking his head with a scowl.
“Toss her to me, Kyle!” Kent called from a few feet away.
“Wait, don’t throw me—” She was laughing too hard to say more as Kyle tossed her up. Luckily, Kent caught her before she hit the ground, and, finally catching her breath, she shouted, “Okay, that is enough! I am not a toy!”
Kent released her when Tyler came up behind him and grabbed him by the back of the neck.
“Ow! Ow . . . ow . . . ow . . . ”
“You heard her. Down, now.”
Dani escaped over to where Zoe and Chris were trying not to laugh.
“Now, Noah, don’t ever try to be like Kent, Kyle, and Dereck. They are naughty,” Zoe said.
Dani held her arms out for her son, who flew into them. She turned around to watch as Tyler flipped Dereck over his shoulder and took down Kyle next.
Kent, who she’d now figured out was wearing the green shirt while Kyle was in red, lay on his back, his chest rising and falling rapidly. As he climbed to his feet, he called, “It’s not fair. You have all that ninja training. Even with the gimpy knee, you’re still—”
“Shut up, Kent!” Dereck snapped.
Everyone in the yard stiffened, and Dani had no idea what had happened to change the mood of the play, but as Tyler climbed to his feet, she noticed a definite limp in his step.
As he neared her, she stepped forward with Noah. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, we just probably should start heading back. It’s getting late.”
“Tyler, I’m sorry,” Kent called.
Tyler didn’t say anything, but as they opened the glass door, she heard Zoe hiss, “You are such a fucking asshole, Kent.”
TYLER WAS READY to get out of the car. He was stiff, and his knee was aching, despite the Tylenol his mother had given him.