Denise arrived early the next morning and helped Kat and Brenda with all the food. AJ and Nick managed to keep themselves out of the way and took care of all the little things that needed to be done. Everything was pretty much finished by the time people started showing up and Kat was glad they had done a lot the day before.
Howie, Leigh, James and Holden showed up first followed by Kevin, Kristen and Mason. Brian, Leighanne, and Baylee arrived as few minutes later.
“Something smells really good!” Leigh said finding Kat in the throng of people. “Is there anything I can help you do?”
“No but thank you. Denise and Brenda pretty much did everything this morning and I think we’re all set.”
“Thanks for having us by the way. Cooking for this many gets crazy!” Leighanne said joining the two women.
“Nah,” Nick said, “Kat’s used to this. You should see her family!”
“Thanks for the vote of confidence Nick.”
“Anytime.” he replied with a smile and went off to find Brenda.
“Nick seems pretty happy huh?” Kristen asked joining the conversation.
Kat smiled and was glad that she had Brenda out there for support. She was also happy that she and Nick were getting along so well. It was nice to see her friend with someone who made her smile so much.
“Hey beautiful.” AJ said slipping his arm around Kat’s waist and kissing her softly. “You did a great job.”
“You guys did most of the work.” Kat smiled up at him.
“Uh I don’t think so. If Nick and I had been left to our own devices we’d be having pizza. You saved Thanksgiving.”
“Well, maybe a little.” Kat said laughing.
‘Hey, are we ready to eat yet?” Nick yelled over.
“My God,” Leigh said, “that boy can’t go 20 minutes without eating. Is he still going through a growth spurt?”
Everyone cracked up and headed over to the dinner table to take their seats. Once they all got settled, AJ stood up and raised his glass.
“I want to thank everybody for coming. Thanksgiving seems to be the one holiday that we can all spend together wherever we are. I know some of you are dying to eat,” he said looking over at Nick,” but I just want to say a couple of things.”
AJ turned to Denise. “Thank you for so many things Mom. You’ve always stood by me and you’ve helped me deal with all the messes I’ve made. You never gave up on me and encouraged me to grow. I love you.”
“I love you too sweetheart.” Denise said wiping her eyes.
“And to you guys,” AJ said looking at the boys, “you’re my brothers and I couldn’t ask for better family. I know I’ve disappointed you all at some point and I know I’ve caused a lot of drama. Even though I tried pushing everyone away, you all stood by me and kicked my ass when I needed it. Thanks for hanging in there with me and for keeping us together.”
He turned to Kristen, Leigh and Leighanne. “Thank you for keeping these guys sane and from getting big heads. You’re all like sisters to me and I’m glad you decided to keep these boys!”
Finally, he turned to Kat with tears in his eyes. “And I saved the best for last Kat.” He took a deep breath. “I can’t believe that I finally found you. I never thought I would find someone who made me comfortable with myself and who loved me for me. Someone who didn’t want anything from me except for me to love them. You changed my life for the better the minute you walked into it even though I didn’t know it at the time. You forgave me for being a dumbass and welcomed me with open arms. You’re the most amazing woman and I am extremely thankful that you’re mine.”
He leaned over and kissed Kat on the lips. “I love you Kat Brady.”
Kat had lost her ability to speak. No one had ever said anything like that about her before and she was stunned that AJ had done it in front of everyone. It took her a few seconds but she looked back up at him and told him that she loved him too.
Nick cleared his throat and everyone looked at him. “I know we’re all in this magical moment and all but the food’s getting cold. Can we eat now?”
Brenda elbowed in him the stomach. “Way to kill a magical moment.”
“Sorry.” Nick said quietly and everyone chuckled.
“All right Nick. Let’s eat.” AJ replied.