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Tiny Problem Bonus Epilogue

Emotions Mingled

 Sierra

Four years later

“Mommy, why doesn’t Daddy hold me like that?” Nichole asked.

I glanced down at my three-year-old girl, trying not to laugh. “Baby doll, you’re too big for one thing, and for another, he did hold you just like that when you were that small.”

Gamble’s wife, Victoria, had delivered triplets four months ago and they’d come by the house for a visit. Tiny had gone out to help them unload the SUV, and by help – he insisted on carrying their daughter, Mikayla, into our house. Somehow my lumberjack of a biker had it stuck in his head that he was no good to baby boys… even though he’d helped out two teenage boys plenty.

My thoughts were interrupted when Nichole lifted her chin up. She took on such a haughty air, something told me I got my first glimpse of what she’d be like as a teenager. “Well, he doesn’t call me ‘Button.’”

Tiny twisted his face to us. “Of course, I don’t. You’re my Princess Nichole. There’s no higher title than that, sweetheart.”

I crouched down and tapped Nichole’s button-nose with my index finger. “Let this be a lesson to you, little girl. I know you feel jealous. But just because Daddy holds baby Mikayla doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. We can love everybody.”

“But nobody lets me hold her,” my girl pouted.

I scooped her up as I stood. “Come on. We’ll sit on the couch, and I’ll help you hold her.”

When I passed by Tiny, I gave him a look and jerked my head toward the couch. Once I situated Nichole next to me, I held out my hands for Mikayla. She fussed a little, but I eased her into my arms.

“Okay, honey, put the pillow in your lap.”

“But I want to hold her.”

I nodded. “You will, with Mommy’s help. We have to make sure she’s comfy, right?”

Nichole nodded and put the pillow in her lap.

Tiny sat on the other side of Nichole, and I settled Mikayla on the pillow, so her head was near the crook of my daughter’s arm.

Nichole’s face lit up with a beaming smile. “I’m holding the baby.”

“Yes, you are, Princess,” Tiny said.

Nichole looked at me. “When will she wake up?”

I shrugged. “I don’t know, honey. Babies sleep a lot.”

Victoria wandered to us wearing one of the boys in a stylish baby wrap. Try as I might, I hadn’t been able to get the hang of wrapping Nichole to me with what was essentially a huge scarf – no matter how many YouTube videos I watched.

She grinned at us. “Look at you all. Nichole needs to become a big sister pronto. She looks ready for the job.”

Tiny shook his head. “And I thought Gamble was the troublemaker between the two of you.”

Victoria held out an envelope to me. “That’s for J.J. We wish we could be there, but I don’t see how at least one—if not all three—of my babies won’t make a fuss during the ceremony.”

“So? That’s no reason to stay home,” Tiny said.

Victoria shook her head. “I don’t want to be that person. Besides, high school graduations have limited seating as I recall.”

Gamble sauntered up behind Victoria, holding Killian judging from name embroidered on the tiny hat perched on the baby’s head. “It’s always your night to catch up on sleep, baby.” He handed an envelope to Tiny. “That’s for Scrap. Make sure he gets it tonight. You wait until this weekend, he’ll be too drunk to read the card.”

I aimed a confused look at Gamble. “What are you talking about? Scrap doesn’t drink. Only decent thing his father taught him. For that matter, he isn’t even of age.”

Tiny draped an arm along the couch and squeezed my shoulder. “He keeps beer at the apartment, but the brothers voted, Erra. Scrap starts his time as a prospect this weekend.”

“What’s he doing?” Nichole asked.

Tiny’s hand ruffled our daughter’s hair. “Your big brother, Scrap, is joining the Riot like Daddy did.” He looked up at Gamble. “The graduation ceremony is tomorrow. Why can’t you give this to Scrap yourself?”

Gamble shrugged. “Man, we’re here now. As sleep deprived as we are, I don’t know which end is up, and I just do what Vickie tells me to make it through each day.”

Victoria grinned at me. “J.J.’s card is the same, but I genuinely wasn’t sure when the ceremony was or if J.J. is even walking. Rumor has it, he might be drafted.”

The smile on my face couldn’t be contained. “Oh, he’s walking. Mom and I would throw a serious fit if he didn’t.”

Scouts had been lined up at J.J.’s games and we’d even been approached by an agent or two. After lengthy conversations with his coaches, me, Trevor, and even Tiny, J.J. had decided to accept a full-ride scholarship at Kansas where he would pursue an engineering degree. I couldn’t be any prouder of him or Scrap.

Scrap would graduate from high school with a three-point-five GPA. He kept threatening to not attend college, but he was all talk. He’d taken a couple dual-enrollment courses in high school and had plans to get a graphic design degree. He’d already used the knowledge from his dual-enrollment courses while working at Major Meats – Tiny’s butcher shop.

The business name was a round-about nod to Block, who’d partnered with Tiny. Majors was Heidi’s maiden name, and she’d been rather adamant about Block helping with the butcher shop. Not to mention, Scrap had pointed out that ‘Tiny Meats’ would make people think of small servings if not hors d’oeuvres.

Scrap had designed a logo for the store. Then he set up the website after the first design came back and Tiny didn’t like it but couldn’t pin-point what was wrong with it. The past three years, he’d been assistant manager to Tiny, and he took that responsibility seriously.

As much as I knew Scrap would be successful at whatever he put his mind to, I hoped he finished his college degree.

Gamble spoke in a stern tone. “I’m serious about the instructions, Tiny.”

My husband tilted his head with annoyance, but I spoke first.

“What are the instructions, if you don’t mind me asking?”

Victoria smiled. “He wants Scrap to give him a portfolio. Black and white sketches and color. Figures that won’t happen if he gets all soused after becoming a prospect.”

I shook my head. “You want him to design pieces for Har’s body shop?”

Gamble carefully shifted Killian to his other shoulder. “I want to see what he’d ink on me for each of my kids. And how he’d soften that up if my wife wanted to ink her children somewhere on her body.”

Mikayla began to fuss and instinctively, I picked her up. “But he didn’t study—”

Gamble interrupted me. “With his artistic talent, he should be able to get trained and certified for a tattoo license in around eighteen months. He’s got what it takes to run a business. If I could deal with people one-on-one, I’d offer to partner with him, but I much prefer working on inanimate objects.”

I chuckled. “You seem to like people from what I can tell.”

He shook his head. “I like my brothers and their women. Other people… not so much.”

“Why the secrecy?” Tiny asked.

“There’s money in there for him to pay the application fee.” Gamble lowered Killian into a nearby baby carrier, and took a now fussy, Mikayla from me. “This way, he can’t try to give that back when he sees it.”

I shook my head. “Scrap turn down money?”

Tiny took the pillow from Nichole’s lap. “He’d turn this down, but don’t worry, brother. I won’t let him.”

“Good,” Gamble nodded.

As though hearing his sister woke him, Ryan fussed. Victoria tried to soothe him by swaying her body, but his cries became shrill. She put a hand under his baby bottom as she began to unwrap him. “Sorry to cut this short, but we wanted to drop off the cards in person.”

“No need to leave. We still have a baby changing pad, if you want to use it.”

Victoria grimaced. “I appreciate it, but they’re going to be hungry soon. It’s a production—”

“Which is why you should stay,” Tiny muttered, rising from the sofa.

Gamble offered Mikayla a pacifier and she quieted. “Nah, man. Help me get these two loaded up.”

“I want to help,” Nichole said, jumping up.

Victoria grinned. “You will make such a great big sister.”

Our daughter beamed. “That’s right.”

Tiny dipped his chin. “Thinking that ship has sailed, Miss Vickie.”

***

Nichole wandered to her room while I cut up tomatoes for a salad.

Tiny sauntered to the fridge and pulled out a beer. “You good, baby? Seems like you went quiet since Gamble and Vickie left.”

I set down the knife and looked at him. “Why do you think the ship has sailed?”

He took a sip of his beer and shook his head. “What are you talking about?”

“Victoria said our girl would make a great big sister and you said—”

“Erra, you had a twenty-four-hour labor with our girl. I saw what that did to you.”

I pointed at him. “Did. Past tense. And, it didn’t do anything to me. Some women have thirty-six-hour labors.”

He set his beer down and came toward me. “Well, it did shit to me, woman. I can’t bear to watch you go through that again.”

I shook my head. “It did not. You handled everything just fine.”

His eyes narrowed. “Not gonna let you see me crack, Sierra. But, I’m tellin’ you, I can’t deal with that.”

“Tough,” I blurted.

His head turned and he gave me stern side-eye. “Say that again?”

I straightened and smiled to soften my tone. “I said, ‘tough.’”

“You’re turning forty this year. I figure we’re done at this point.”

“There are women who have babies in their forties.”

He shook his head. “You want a baby? Seein’ those triplets gave you baby fever, is that it?”

The breath I blew out was part sigh, part silent chuckle. I stepped into his space. “No, Nicholas. I’m already pregnant, so you’re gonna have to suck it up and deal with me going through labor again.”

I should have had my cell phone ready to take his picture. At least four different emotions mingled on his handsome face. Fear, disbelief, giddiness, and gratitude.

“You’re not fuckin’ with me?”

I shook my head. “I will never fuck with you about our babies.”

His eyes rounded. “What do you mean, ‘babies’?”

I laughed. “I mean, Nichole and our next bundle of joy.”

The sound of his relieved breath made me smile. His lengthy silence concerned me. “This isn’t the same as your last reaction to me being pregnant.”

He blinked for a moment. Then he dropped to a crouch, wrapped his arms around my legs, and picked me up. “I love you so fuckin’ much, Sierra. Whoo! I’m the luckiest Sonuvabitch!”

Nichole scurried to the kitchen. “Daddy! Why are you yelling? And why’s Mommy in the air?”

Before either of us could answer, Scrap came into the kitchen. “You knock her up again, man?”

Nichole looked from Scrap to Tiny. “What’s knocked up mean?”

Tiny lowered me to my feet, and I rested my forehead on his chest as we laughed.

***

Tiny

The following evening, standing amid a swarm of people, J.J let go of Sierra and turned to Tiny with his arms open. They exchanged a man-hug with two shoulder slaps.

“Congrats, J.J.”

J.J. nodded. “Thanks, Tiny. I told you not to get me anything for graduation, but… I thought of something last night after the big announcement.”

Last night, after getting Sierra’s stellar news, Tiny had thrown together a massive spread of burgers for dinner. He’d insisted Carolyn come over and invited all the Riot MC brothers, though only Roman, Trinity, Block, and Heidi had been able to make it.

He chuckled. “Really? What’s that?”

“Get snipped, man! I’m gonna be nineteen years older than my own brother or sister. That’s messed up!”

With a booming laugh, Tiny clapped J.J.’s bicep. “That ain’t messed up. That’s life, Jay.”

J.J. nodded. “It would be, except I had a girl who thought Nichole was my daughter.”

Tiny shrugged. “And you cut her loose, right? See. That’s family protecting family. Nobody’s got time for judgmental bitches like that.”

Carolyn squeezed through the crowd to them. “What are you two bickering about? I need to hug my grandson!”

Tiny picked up Nichole, propping her on his hip, then slung his other arm around Sierra.

Scrap pushed his way to Tiny and Sierra. “Jay tell you what you can do for us for graduation?”

Tiny shook his head. “He told me, smart ass. Word to the wise, bask in the glory of getting your diploma, Elijah.”

Scrap’s cheeks bulged as a huge grin spread across his face. “Oh, I’m basking all right. Next payday, that five percent raise hits. You didn’t forget about that, right?”

Sierra chuckled. “He doesn’t forget things like that, Scrap. Give me a hug!”

“Me, too,” Nichole cried, leaning toward Scrap when Sierra let him go.

Scrap took Nichole from Tiny. She wrapped her arms around Scrap’s neck. “I has your hat now, right?”

Tiny shook his head. “Princess, he’s gotta go toss the hat in the air first.”

Scrap narrowed his eyes at Tiny. “Man, you need pay better attention. We did that already.” He took off the cap, put it on Nichole’s head, and set her on her feet. “There you go, short stuff.”

Sierra smiled at their daughter. “Remember, you have to study hard to get a cap and gown of your own.”

Nichole’s blue eyes shined with impish cunning. “I’m smart already, Mommy. Daddy says so.”

Sierra glanced at him and back to Nichole. “Just remember, little girl, use it or lose it. That means you gotta keep studying.”

Scrap crouched in front of Nichole. “Listen to your Mommy. She’s the best Mom I know. See you tomorrow, short stuff.”

Tiny held Nichole’s hand and tucked Sierra to his side while he watched Scrap and J.J. mingle with their friends. “You did a helluva great job, gorgeous.”

She leaned against him. “Tell me that twenty years a from now when we get the next two taken care of. Besides, I had lots of help, Nicholas.”

He kissed the top of his wife’s head. “And you always will, baby.”

THE END