TRAINING THE MOTHER - NEW VERSION

**Love story with explicit content**
The story of Fifty Shades/One Direction fan Alexa and Jake continues. Now married and settling into life in the suburbs with Jacob, can they fit their love life in between caring for an active 9 year old? How will Alexa cope with her role of Wife and Step-Mum? Is their passion and love for each other still as strong?

Only one way to find out...


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8. CHAPTER SEVEN

"No Ninito."

"But Papa, all my class are asking when are we going to have another party so they can all come! I want to invite them all to my birthday party!"

Jake sighs and looks directly into the pleading face of his son.

"Niñito, having twelve kids here at Halloween was one thing, but having almost twice that amount running round the house, would be impossible! They'd destroy the place, plus it's too much work for Alexa."

Jacob turns towards me. "Please, Alexa." He begs.

Oh God! Puppy-Dog eyes and the magic word...

"Umm..."

"Alexa," Jake cuts in sternly. "Remember what I said about not pandering to him..."

Oh crap!

In the two years we have been together, we have been incredibly lucky and never had a major argument. We're both similar characters, quite easy going and laid back. In fact, if Jake was any more laid back, he'd be horizontal! We'd had disagreements obviously, but we're always quick to make up and try and resolve the issue, both not wanting to see the other upset in any way. Sadly, the one thing that did seem to cause conflict was Jacob. Although I was his main care-giver, he was Jake's son and therefore Jake dictated how things should be for him. Even though Jake told me to treat him like he was mine and discipline him when he got out of line, I never got further than a cross word to him. Jake was the one who raised his voice, but I could literally count the number of times that had ever happened. I know I'm far too soft with him, I can't help it. He may not be my son, but he's my adorable little man...

"I'm not pandering to him," I explain. "I was just thinking if there was a way we could resolve it, without rejecting the idea completely."

In a millisecond, Jacob launches himself at me and throws his little arms around my neck.

"Oh! Thank you, Alexa!"

I hug him tightly then release him with a kiss to the top of his head. "Don't get your hopes up too much, honey. I can't promise I'll find a solution." I grab his shoulders and look him in the eyes, now bright and shining with happiness. "Promise you won't be disappointed if I can't?"

He nods eagerly. "I promise."

"Good boy. Now go and make a start on your homework."

Beaming, he runs upstairs. I turn apprehensively towards my husband...

...who surprises me by grabbing my face and plunging his tongue into my mouth!

Once we had practically chewed each other's faces off, I reluctantly pull away.

"W-What was that for?" I pant, trying to catch my breath.

Jake gives me his all-dimples-all-worshipping smile. "For caring enough to try."

************

 

It has taken me a week, but I have accomplished my mission. I rang Sue and asked her if she would consider hiring us the rooms at the Playscheme on a Saturday. I'd take full responsibility for the place - it wasn't as if it would be the first time I had opened or closed up the place on my own. I knew the alarm code and I still had a set of keys to the building that Sue had refused to take from me. Sue hadn't backed down on her offer of 'the door always being open to me.' When I had told her I wanted to hire the place for Jacob's birthday party, she told me to meet her for lunch in a couple of days to discuss it properly. When I got there, not only did she say I could have the venue, she also volunteered to help and gave me a list of party ideas that we brainstormed. In the end we had come up with what we thought would be not only a great party for a ten year old, but also a great new business opportunity. After all, all the boys went to St. Austin so if the parents came in and saw the place and what we could offer in the form of childcare and activities, Sue may get some of the parents applying for places. Plus, if it was a success, Sue was also considering offering it as a party venue to parents who already came to the Playscheme, so all in all, we both stood to benefit, hopefully.

 

To say Jacob had been delighted, was probably the worlds biggest understatement. I hadn't said anything until I had got him home after school, then he had squealed in excitement and launched himself at me again! He then proceeded to bounce off the walls for pretty much the whole of the evening, only stopping when I got him to focus and to go and have a think about designing his party invitations. I didn't see the point in 'doing a Stephanie' and getting a printer to design it all for us. Yes, they looked very impressive, but they lacked that personal touch and the fact that Jacob had designed them himself, just made them all the more special. Every single boy replied that they were coming, so it was all systems go in the Martin household to get it all organised.

 

We arrived almost two hours before the party start time of 10am on a warm April morning. Sue had already opened up when me, Jake, Jacob, Joe and Krystal all turned up. We set about organising the furniture and the food, then Sue and I began to prepare the activities with Krystal's help whilst the boys went out and marked out a football pitch. Glancing out of the window, I spot my beloved, moving cones about with his feet as he adjusts the boundaries, and it brings back a rush of memories and emotions from the first day I had laid eyes on him.

"Alexa, do you think you can take your eyes off your husband for long enough to concentrate on what you are doing, please? The planes are meant to have one set of wings, not three!"

I jump at Sue's words and look down. She was right, I had totally messed up the amount of wings on the last five airplanes!

"Sorry," I blush at being caught out. "He's very distracting!"

Sue shakes her head in mock exasperation. "You have got it SO bad!"

"And then some," Krystal chips in, smiling.

I turn on my dear Mother-In-Law. "Oh - this from the woman who goes all gooey at the mere mention of Joe's name!"

"I do not!"

There is a sudden tap at the window.

"Mi amor, could you get me a glass of water please?"

"Of course, my love. Coming right up."

I fold my arms and arch an eyebrow at her.

"Okay, okay. Point taken!"

 

Twenty minutes later we are up to our eyes in excitable boys. We are kicking off the party by making the airplanes. They are simply made using a wooden clothes peg and two wooden lollypop sticks stuck to the opened end of the peg to form an airplane shape. Each boy painted and personalized them and we put them on a table to dry. Then it was straight into the kitchen area whilst Jacob and I gave a master class on how to make cupcakes and simple circular biscuits that were all to be decorated later on. Whilst they were baking in the oven we melted batches of milk chocolate and all the boys stirred in rice-crispie cereal and spooned the mixture into cupcake cases to set. By that time, the cakes and biscuits were done, so we turned the ovens down to low and moved all the boys to another table in the kitchen. Each boy had a plate with a raw pizza base on it and the table was laden with pizza sauce, cheeses, olives, sweetcorn, cut up ham, pineapple and pepperoni. Each boy then set about creating their own individual pizza for lunch. They had a ball experimenting with different toppings and when all the pizzas were literally groaning under the weight of the food on top of them, we whacked the oven temperatures up and placed them carefully inside. They would only take around twenty minutes, so Jake and Joe took them outside and Jake set up impromptu games of tick, chase and bulldog, whilst we organised one of the rooms for lunch and kept our eyes on the pizzas.

When the pizzas were done, we took them out of the oven, left them to cool for a few minutes and wandered outside to see how the boys were getting on.

"Jacob is so tiny in comparison to his classmates," I observe sadly, as they whizz past in a frenetic game of tick. "He barely looks like a seven year old."

Krystal squeezes my hand. "I know. Jake was the same. He was always small for his age and Joe and I were quite concerned he had some kind of growth deficiency. But we took him for tests and they just said he was a late developer. We signed him up for all the sports at the boarding school in the hope it would jolt his development, but it only made him good at sports!" She laughed. "He only really started to grow when he hit puberty. It was like magic. I left a little boy at school after the Easter Holidays when he was thirteen and I picked up a man at the end of that summer term! I didn't even recognise him! He was literally in my face before I realised who he was!"

"I hope that happens to Jacob. He's forever saying; "When I'm big and strong like Papa." Jake's given him the once over, but he says he's absolutely fine, just a late developer like him. Manuela was only petite herself, so he may not get to be quite as big as Jake. But he's wiry and strong and literally all muscle. There isn't a scrap of fat on him and I don't have to tell YOU about his ravenous appetite!"

"Something else he has in common with Jake!" Krystal laughs. "Oh will you look at Joe! Standing in the sun with his baseball cap tucked in his back pocket! The man is impossible!" She says in irritation. "JOE!" She calls and heads over to him.

Jake races past with Jacob on his back squealing with laughter, as they track Roman to tick. I take yet another moment to admire my beautiful boys.

"He's very energetic, isn't he?" Sue says mischievously. She lowers her voice. "I bet he's great in bed!"

I stagger slightly in horror. "SUE!"

Jesus, really?

Sue looks at me sardonically. "Oh come on Alexa. Don't be so coy! No one that fit could possibly be crap in bed. He's just a bundle of testosterone!"

I shake my head in disbelief at her line of questions. "Oh my God," I groan in embarrassment.

She grins wickedly. "Yeah, bet you say that a lot!"

I gape at her and start to blush.

Oh if only you knew...

 

When the boys had finished feasting on their own pizza's and fizzy drinks, I embarrass Jacob by making him stand on a chair and Jake carries in his cake in the shape of a football top, covered with an edible transfer of the Valencia shirt. Opposite the club crest blazed two candles - a one and a zero. We'd ordered it specially and had managed to hide it away from him at Joe and Krystals. All thoughts of being embarrassed dissipate off his little face as soon as he sees his cake. I lead the boys in a Happy Birthday singsong and on cue, Jacob screws his eyes, makes his secret wish and blows out his candles, whilst we all cheer.

 

After feasting on delicious cake, the boys get changed into their football kits as Jake takes them for football skills on the field. I get changed too as I'm helping him, and as I come out, I high five the two boys wearing Liverpool tops like me. Jake rolls his eyes and laughs. The three Martin boys look very dashing in matching Valencia shirts. It was so lovely of Joe to join in with the theme, even though he won't be taking an active role - he had a minor operation last month to insert a stent into his narrowed artery and is still taking it easy. Krystal very kindly washes up, whilst Sue dries, then they set up the cupcakes and biscuits on a table ready to be iced. The boys spend an hour learning various ball skills, whilst I run around providing drinks and patching up any bumps and grazes. Jake then split them into four teams and we had a mini football tournament where each team plays each other until two make it into the 'final'. Jacob's team was one of the finalists, but in the end, they lose out to a late flukey winner, where Henry literally shuts his eyes and hits the ball as hard as he can and it just flies into the net. Jake had them all well drilled during his football skills about being good sports - gracious losers and humble winners - and all the games were won and lost in good spirits. Then it was back inside for a rest, plenty to drink and to ice the cupcakes and football biscuits. Sue and Krystal had made up a few batches of red, white and blue butter icing and the same colours in thick, water icing, plus there are bowls full of sprinkles and each boy delights in decorating two of each thing under my and Sue's supervision, whilst Krystal, Joe and Jake rattle up a bunch of jam, cheese and plain butter sandwiches. When the boys have finished decorating their treats, they go back into the room they'd had lunch in, to eat their tea of sandwiches and the chocolate crispie cakes they'd made earlier.

Whilst they're eating, our last birthday surprise arrives. Thanks to Sue's contacts, she had organised the guy who provides inflatables during 'fun days' at the Playscheme to bring a bouncy slide and an inflatable 'Duel' game complete with pugil sticks and raised platforms. The boys are blissfully unaware of what is happening outside, so when I get the nod from Sue that everything was all in place, we open the side door to the front field and I take Jacob's hand and lead him and the boys outside. We are nearly deafened by loud squeals and screams of delight and Jacob turns and impulsively hugs me. It is the first PDA he has ever shown me in front of an audience and I hug him back tightly and whisper "Happy Birthday, honey. Papa is waiting for you."

Jake had sneaked out earlier and was already padded up in protective gear and swinging his pugil stick around, whilst balancing on his platform.

"Come on Mrs. Martin," Jake croons. "Get padded up. There's a podium here with your name on," he grins, pointing to the opposite platform with his stick.

The boys gasp and as one, turn towards me.

"So not funny, Mr. Martin," I growl.

"Alexa can't do it papa, she'd get hurt." Jacob says protectively.

I give my little man a squeeze and poke my tongue out at my husband.

"See - Jacob knows what I'm capable of," I say proudly.

"I know what you're capable of," Jake calls, twirling the stick in his hands. "Especially with that tongue..."

Jesus, Jake!

I gasp as the adults snigger. Thankfully the comment goes completely unnoticed by the boys as by now they've split and some have raced off to the bouncy slide and others surround the Duel, talking loudly and at top speed in excited voices. I help Jacob get kitted out in his protective gear and he scrambles onto the podium. I hand him his pugil stick. Father and son square off to each other.

"Ready?" I ask them.

They both nod eagerly.

I take a wary breath. "Three, two, one, GO!"

Jacob lifts his stick and begins to batter Jake. Jake grins and deflects his shots easily. He makes no attempt to retaliate, just lets Jacob try and beat the crap out of him. After a good few minutes, Jake stops trying and Jacob begins to land a few shots. Eventually, Jacob lands a good blow to Jake's midriff and he drops the pugil stick, staggers dramatically like he's been shot for a few moments, then gracefully somersaults off the podium, landing on his feet like a cat.

The boys gasp in awe and applaud him. I shake my head at him and he grins.

Show off!

The parents slowly begin to arrive over the next hour, staring in astonishment at the inflatables as the boys either bounce around or whack each other, all screaming with laughter and joy. Each boy now has a cake box with their own biscuits and cakes, plus whilst they were having tea and I was making up the boxes, I wrote each boys name onto the wooden airplane in permanent marker, filled a sandwich bag with sweets, and clipped it to the clothes peg as a personalised treat. The boxes also contain a business card for the club on the underside of the lid, so they can see it when they open the box and as I carry out the boxes and arrange them on a table outside, Sue is deep in conversation with a group of mums. I smile inwardly. Even if she gets one mum booking her son in, it will be a result.

An older man, crossing the field catches my eye. I don't recognise him, but he looks very distinguished and obviously knows one of the boys.

"DADDY!"

I watch in shock as Theo breaks from the group at the Duel and runs to him.

Jesus...HE'S Stephanie's husband?

Theo runs to my table and I just manage to compose myself in time.

"My daddy's here Mrs. Martin!" He says in breathless excitement. "Can I show him what I made?"

"Of course!" I smile.

Theo turns just as his father makes it to the table.

"Look daddy! I made this airplane for you, and..." he eagerly opens up the box. "I made these cupcakes and biscuits and decorated them myself!"

His father looks at them in astonishment, then catches my eye, his expression giving nothing away. I swallow and decide to go for blatant politeness.

"Hello," I extend my hand towards him. "I'm Alexa. Jacob's step-mum."

He inhales sharply, but takes my outstretched hand, shaking it firmly.

"Hugo Owen," he begins in a posh, plummy voice. "Nice to meet you at last, Alexa. I've heard a lot about you."

OH FUCK. Not in any glowing terms either no doubt, thanks to that Biaatch you're married to...

I hastily try and make eye contact with Jake, but he is too busy refereeing the Duel. I swallow again and try and glaze over his words by ignoring him and concentrating on Theo.

"Thank you so much for coming today, Theo. Have you had a good time?"

Theo nods enthusiastically. "Yes, thank you Mrs. Martin. It's been really cool." He looks up at his father. "Daddy, please can I have one last go on the Duel before we go? I want you to watch me on it."

Hugo smiles down at his son, obviously used to pandering to his every wish. "Of course. Lead the way." Theo grabs his hand and at the last minute Hugo turns his head towards me. "Nice to have met you, Alexa." He emphasises my name in almost a hiss.

Jesus, what the FUCK has Stephanie told him about me?

I watch him apprehensively as he heads over to the Duel.

Heading straight over to where Jake is...

OH FUCK!

I hurriedly fish out my iPhone from my pocket, nearly drop it in my rush, but manage to quickly tap out a text to Jake.

*Just met Stephanie's husband for the first time and he's incoming! He was a bit weird with me, so just be on your guard. I love you xx*

I see Jake look at his phone as Hugo and Theo approach, then he puts it back in his shorts pocket, shakes Hugo's hand and starts chatting away to him as he pads up Theo. Jake sets off the match, then stands right next to Hugo and continues to talk to him, whilst refereeing. Hugo turns and looks over to me, then turns back and continues to chat to Jake.

WHAT. THE. FUCK.

I am then distracted by Olga and Roman as they come up to say goodbye and praise me on a wonderful party. I thank them and reel off about how I called in a favour to use the Playscheme premises and how based on today's success, Sue was going to pitch it to the owners about using it as a possible venue for kids parties. Roman then said he'd like to come to the Playscheme to see what it was like, so I then launch into my patented spiel about the many benefits of the Playscheme, both after school and in the holidays, borne from my many years of practice. All the while, I keep glancing subtlety just over Olga's shoulder, where Jake and Hugo are still chatting.

"Can't get over Steph's husband, huh?" Olga suddenly asks.

I jump.

Shit, I thought I was being subtle...

I blush. "Sorry Olga. He just took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting him to..." I stop, trying to find a diplomatic way to phrase it.

"...Look like her dad?" Olga suggests innocently, but with a wicked gleam in her eyes.

I gasp and blush. Olga grins at me. Roman has now wondered off and is sat down on a nearby chair, happily tucking into a cupcake from his box.

Olga leans towards me. "Apparently she's his second wife. He went to Yale to study business and married an American woman. He eventually decided he wanted to come back over here, but his wife wouldn't make the move. So they divorced and she kept the kids with her. They're grown up now, but he still flies over and sees them regularly."

OH MY GOD! I remember Stephanie's conversation before Halloween, when she told me that Hugo had just come back from America having sealed some major business deal. Had he really done that, or was she just covering the fact he had another family out there?

"Anyway," Olga continues. "Apparently, Hugo was old friends with Steph's dad and that's how they met. She married him as soon as she left Grammar School. Hugo is mega rich. His family own properties all over the world and he runs the business."

I inhale sharply. "How do you know all this?"

She smiles conspiratorially at me. "Debz - Charlie's mummy is old friends with her. She had one two many glasses of wine at our mum's Christmas lunch and told me the whole story in the taxi on the way back to her house. Steph has no idea I know and Debz - was too out of it to remember telling me!"

I look back towards Jake, but Hugo and Theo have gone. Olga looks over to Roman.

"Christ, I better go and take that box off him before he pukes up all over the car seat!" She squeezes my hand. "Roman said it was one of the best parties he's ever been to. Another triumph, Mrs. Martin! You're getting good at those!"

I smile gratefully. "He's a pleasure to look after. A real credit to you and Giulio. We'll organise a play-date soon, Jacob would love to have him over."

"Oh definitely, Roman would love that and to return it in kind. I'll be in touch. Thanks again, Alexa."

"No worries."

She heads off and Jake approaches the table, with a face-splitting grin on his face.

"What the FUCK were you two talking about?" I hiss, anger getting the better of me as I walk round the table to him.

"Hospitals, The NHS, whether the same health scheme they have in the U.S. would work here..." Jake sighs. "But we were mostly talking about you."

I gasp in shock. Before I can gather my wits, Jake continues to talk.

"He's actually a nice bloke. He was really impressed with the party set up and said he'd been to corporate events at major companies that weren't nearly as well organised. He said he'd be very interested in speaking to the party organiser about employing her to organise social events for his company. I then said, well you've just been talking to her! He assumed Sue had organised it all!"

I continue to stand there in stunned silence as Jake carries on.

"So I filled him in on your story. Told him how you had worked your way up through the ranks here to Assistant Manageress and all the crafts and activities you'd organised and how you'd then given it all up to look after a kid who wasn't even yours. I then briefly told him everything you'd done to make today a success. He was a bit taken aback. I get the impression that his wife just sits around all day at various posh lunches and beauty salons. He said I was a really lucky guy and that you must be one in a million."

"He said that?" I whisper in awe. "What did you say?"

He bends his head to mine. "I said you were a great fuck, too!"

I gasp in horror and then hit his arm, my hand deflecting harmlessly off his bicep.

He laughs wickedly, grasps my hands and kisses my knuckles. "I said, I knew how lucky I was." His jet eyes glow as he gives me an intense look that makes my knees weaken. "I've known it from the first time I held you, on this very field."

"Oh, Jake..." I breathe, tears beginning to prick my eyes. I am transported back in time to almost seven years ago when I had turned round and caught sight of him for the first time - then promptly fell at his feet. His hands had come round my waist as he'd helped me to stand and I had first smelled that wonderful musky scent of his, from being in such close proximity to him. "I've loved you from that moment too."

"Jesus you two, give it a rest, you're making me itch!" Sue groaned coming up unseen next to us. "Are you always this bloody mushy?"

"Pretty much," Jake says, shooting me a sensual look that makes me blush.

I swallow and clear my throat. "Any joy with the mums?"

Sue brightens up. "Yes! Quite a few interested parties - a couple of them said they'd definitely need summer holiday care this year, so I've taken email addresses down to get them on the mailing list."

"Oh Sue! That's brilliant!" I beam.

"I know!" She grins. "I got asked as many questions about the club as I did about who the fit guy supervising the inflatables was! The mums didn't recognise Jake in his footie kit!"

Jake looks towards a group of mum's who are half watching their kids, half eyeing him up and I shake my head. "They call him hot 4x4 Dad."

Sue snorts.

"Weeeellll...you know, if you've got it..." Jake begins.

And before I can stop him, he grabs the edge of his football top and hauls it off.

"JAKE!"  I hiss in a mixture of annoyance, embarrassment and pure lust.

Not taking his mischievous dark eyes off mine, he interlaces his fingers and stretches slowly upwards.

"Jesus..."  Sue begins. "It's like watching the 3D version of the Diet Coke advert!"

Looking past my infuriatingly hot husband, I can see the mums attention is now completely focused on him and they are totally ignoring their kids.

"Please stop," I groan.

I have to face them all in the playground...

Taking me off-guard, Jake suddenly swoops his arms down and places one on my nape, one round my waist and tips me expertly backwards. I grab onto his biceps as I gasp in shock -giving him the perfect opportunity to push his tongue into my mouth and kiss me so deeply it makes my toes curl in my trainers.

OH MY GOD! Could you possibly embarrass me any more, you crazy, impetuous...Mmmmm

Gently tilting me back upright, he slowly withdraws his tongue and my eyes flap open to find him smiling his all-dimples-all-worshipping-smile.

"Just making sure they all know who I'm married to," he breathes.

******

 

"Have you enjoyed your special day honey?"

We arrived home a couple of hours ago, totally exhausted. I insisted Joe and Krystal stay for tea as it was the least I could do for all their help today. I rustled up a pile of bacon sandwiches and we feasted on spare cakes and biscuits. Satisfied they were well fed and rested, I then consented on their release back home. They had left about half an hour ago, then it was straight into the shower for the two Martin boys, whilst I used the one in our en-suite. Jake had got Jacob into bed, by the time I wandered into his bedroom in my nightie.

"It's been the best birthday, EVER!" He beams all dimply, just like his daddy.

I beam back. "It makes me so happy to hear you say that." I lower my head and place a kiss on his forehead and he surprises me by wrapping his arms round my neck.

"Thank you for everything, Alexa."

"Aww...you're welcome..." I croak past the lump in my throat.

He releases my neck. "Then tomorrow, can we go through the photos and make up the albums like we did for Halloween?"

"Niñito, there's no rush with that. Alexa hasn't stopped all day. I want us to have a quiet, relaxing day tomorrow."

"Okay papa," Jacob says dejectedly.

Oh, I can't bear it...

"We'll just see how it goes, honey. Maybe we can find some time in the afternoon to sit and go through them."

Jacob flashes me his all-dimples smile again and Jake rolls his eyes at me.

"Time to go to sleep, Niñito. Good night." He bends and kisses his forehead. Jacob wraps his arms round his neck and hugs him.

"Night papa. Thank you for today."

Jake grins and kisses his forehead again as Jacob releases him.

"Sweet dreams honey," I kiss his cheek as I tuck him in. "I love you."

"Goodnight Alexa," he grins, then yawns widely. "I'm so tired."

"That's because you're getting old now, son!"

He laughs as I turn on his night light and Jake turns off his lamp.

 

"Do you miss it?" Jake asks as I curl round him in our bed.

"Miss what?" I ask sleepily.

Christ, I'm knackered...

"The job - working at the Playscheme. You were in your element today...it was a pleasure to watch you. I'd almost forgotten how good at your job you were."

I lift my head off his chest and look at him. "To be honest, I don't really think about it anymore. And with me volunteering in the holidays sometimes when Jacob goes, it hardly feels like I've ever left! But given the choice of working at the Playscheme and looking after Jacob, I'll always pick option two. Nothing gives me more pleasure, than looking after him."

He smiles adoringly at me and strokes my cheek. "I can't tell you how my heart warms every time I see you with him. He worships you. Seems there isn't a Martin man out there you haven't charmed!"

I smile, but something weighs heavy on me.

He stops stroking my cheek. "Sweetheart, something wrong?"

I sigh and shake my head. "It's nothing."

I go to put my head back on his chest, but Jake cups my face, preventing me.

"Talk to me," he whispers. "Please."

Him and that bastard word...

"It's just...just...Oh it's so trivial. It really doesn't matter, babe."

His grip on my face intensifies slightly. "Please, Alexa. Just tell me what's bothering you."

I take a deep breath. "It's just me being sentimental and stupid. I tell him I love him over and over and he never says it back. It's not that I desperately want to hear it or anything...and I've got used to it now...It really doesn't matter, Jake."

He frowns at me. "He's really never said it to you? I hadn't realised. You've gotten so close..."

I nod. "I know. And I don't want to push him into saying it. I say it to him for reassurance mainly. He's been through so much and lost so much...I just want him to know how much he's loved."

Jake nods. "I'll speak to him."

I shake my head. "No babe, please don't. I don't want to pressurise him or make him feel obliged to say it to me."

"But there may be a reason why he doesn't say it to you. Some kind of barrier that he won't let down for some reason. I thought he'd fully accepted you as his Step-Mum."

"Oh I don't doubt he has. But it's still early days, Jake. Eighteen months ago, all he'd known was Manuela and his life in Spain. Look how much he's been through in such a short space of time. The fact that he has dealt with it all so well, is incredible. He is an amazing little boy."

Jake strokes his thumb over my lip. "He is amazing...but he's only got to where he is today because of your unconditional love and support. Yes - he has me and mum and papa but you're the one he spends the most time with. You're his cornerstone, Alexa. And even though he doesn't say it, he DOES love you, sweetheart. It's in his eyes every time he looks at you."

Oh God...just when I think I have heard every sweet thing my darling husband has to say...

He pushes his hands under my armpits and hauls me upwards to his face, kissing my tears away.

 

*For details of recipes, please refer to index at the end of the book*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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