Winter & Birdie Bonus Chapter


Two Weeks after Battle Hearts Epilogue


“Amelia, there’s no colouring tonight if you don’t eat your veggies.”

My four-year-old scrunches her little face up at me, glaring in the way she’s started doing over the last month when she doesn’t get what she wants. Then, pushing her plate away, sending peas all over the table, she yells, “I wanna colour!”

I eye the peas scattered everywhere and then look at her.

One of these days I will get to the bottom of my thoughts on whether parenting was a great life choice, but that won’t be today. In all honesty, it probably won’t be for another fifteen good years. I’m far too exhausted to even get to the bottom of my thoughts on whether the mini-grocery store I carry with me at all times should include both peanut butter sandwiches and Vegemite sandwiches, or whether just one type will be enough, let alone contemplating my thoughts on parenting.

When I take a little more time responding to her than she prefers, Amelia bangs her hands down onto the table and yells again. “I wanna colour!”

This banging on the table sends me over the edge. Picking her up, I carry her into her bedroom, ignoring the kicking she does. Depositing her on her bed, I say, “No colouring. And no leaving your bedroom. You can stay in here until you calm down.”

She begins screaming while lying on her bed, kicking her legs in the air, and flinging her arms all over the place.

History has taught me not to engage at this point. Instead, I calmly exit her bedroom, closing her door behind me, praying that she doesn’t take hours to work this temper tantrum out of her system. Winter told me he’s going to be home late tonight, so I’m on my own with this, and I’m not sure I have it in me to last hours.

I’m halfway down the hall towards the kitchen when my teens, Abbi and Maddox, stalk towards me. They both have anger strewn across their faces.

“You’re being an asshole,” Abbi says as she strides after Maddox. “You guys were broken up!”

I’ve never seen Maddox look as angry as he does right now. I’ve also never heard the kind of vicious anger I hear in his voice when he stops and turns to face Abbi, and snarls, “She told me she wanted to work through this with me, Abbi. You don’t fucking sleep with another guy when you tell your ex that shit. Fuck her.”

Abbi’s eyes flash with her own anger as she throws back, “I get it, but you didn’t have to be so mean to her.”

“I’m done with her, and if I never fucking see her again, it’d make my fucking year.”

“Right,” I say, stepping in, “I’m not loving this language, Maddox.”

He spins and faces me, his features a mess of fury, his eyes dark with emotion. “I don’t care,” he spits before pushing past me, striding down the hall, and exiting the house without a backwards glance.

My eyes go wide as I watch him leave.

Maddox has never spoken to me like that before.

He’s lucky Winter isn’t here; he’d kick his ass for that.

I let him go. Maddox does better with some space when he’s angry.

“God!” Abbi rants. “He’s being a real prick at the moment.”

I turn to her. “What’s happened?”

She throws her arms up in the air and I see all the frustration and hurt that’s sitting behind her anger. “Leia slept with Todd Harrison at a party on the weekend. Todd told everyone at school, because he’s an asshole like that. Maddox heard about it and lost his absolute shit at Leia today. Told her she deserves a guy like Todd and that he hopes they live happily together for life. She regrets it all. Mostly because she realised how much she wants Maddox back, but also because everyone at school is treating her awfully.” She exhales a long breath. “It’s a fucking mess, and if Maddox could pull his head out of his ass for one minute, he’d see that Leia didn’t actually do anything wrong. They were broken up for God’s sake!”

“Language, Abbi,” I chastise while I quickly try to process everything she’s told me.

Maddox and Leia broke up just over two months ago after dating for eight months. He’s been moping around since the break-up and I know he’s wanted to put the relationship back together. Leia’s a beautiful girl, inside and out, so it surprises me that she told Maddox she wanted to work through things with him and then slept with another guy. But then, I shouldn’t be surprised by too much that teens do; I remember what a turbulent time in a person’s life it can be.

“Sorry for swearing,” Abbi says. “I just can’t believe how awful Maddox is being to Leia.”

“I understand what you’re saying, but surely you can see that Maddox doesn’t have his head up his ass so much as he’s hurt by what she’s done.”

Abbi exhales another long breath and I watch as a whole lot of fight leaves her body. “I can see that. I can also see how hurt Leia is. I hate being able to see it all from everyone’s shoes. Shit is so much easier when you can only see one side.”

“So true.” I pause for a moment. It’s been two weeks since she came to me unsure of whether she should tell Maddox something about Leia. “Has this got anything to do with the stuff you were conflicted over telling Maddox about?”

“What stuff?” Maddox demands from behind me.


I didn’t hear him come back in.

Abbi’s eyes dart to Maddox’s.

When she doesn’t answer him, he comes closer and demands again, “Tell me.”

“Well,” Abbi starts, “it’s all pretty irrelevant now, but I knew you were feeling guilty for that kiss with Bri that Leia broke up with you over, and I wanted you to know that you weren’t the only one flirting with someone else. I found out that Leia’s been flirting with Todd for a while.”

I stare at Maddox stunned at this news while he flattens his lips and says darkly, “I wasn’t flirting with Bri. You know that.”

Abbi waves him off. “You might think you weren’t, but as far as a girl is concerned, what you were doing was flirting.”

“It fucking wasn’t,” Maddox says, his tone low and dark again.

I hold up my hand and say very strongly, “Can we please stop with the swearing?”

Maddox looks suitably regretful at that. “Sorry.”

I nod. “Apology accepted. Although, if you ever tell me you don’t care about something I say again, you won’t like the consequences.”

More regret as he nods his understanding.

“Right,” I carry on, looking at him questioningly. “You kissed Bri?” Bri’s the girl who has spent most of this year tutoring Maddox in maths. As far as I knew, he thought of her only as a friend. A nerdy friend who he really liked but had no interest in.

“No, I didn’t kiss her,” he says, using the tone he takes when he’s adamant you listen carefully to what he’s saying. “She kissed me. And I told Leia about it.”

I put two and two together. “And she wasn’t happy? So she broke up with you.”

He nods. “Yeah. But hey”—he turns angry again—“it turns out it’s okay for a chick to mess around behind your back while acting like she’s all perfect.”

“I didn’t say she was sleeping with him, Maddox,” Abbi says.

Maddox looks at her. “You didn’t have to. I get it. She’s probably sleeping with half the fucking guys in our year.” With that, he smacks his hand against the wall and yells, “Fuck!” before striding out of the house again.

This time, I go after him. “Maddox!” I call out.

He stalks across the front lawn towards his car that’s parked in the driveway, refusing to stop and answer me.

I call out to him again right as Winter pulls his bike into the driveway.

Abbi joins me as I make my way across the yard. “Do you see what I’m dealing with?” she says. “I mean, as if Leia’s sleeping with other guys. She loves Maddox and made a mistake. Once. She made one freaking mistake and yet he’s acting like she’s the worst person alive.”

Winter gets off his bike and frowns at me as he pulls his helmet off. His eyes shift to Abbi before coming back to mine. He then looks at Maddox who has gotten in his car and has turned it on. God knows what he’s doing; Winter has parked behind him, so he can’t go anywhere.

When Maddox reverses the car as much as he can and then turns it so he can drive forward onto the lawn, I realise he fully intends on going somewhere.

Making wide eyes at Winter, I say with urgency, “You need to stop him. He’s angry and upset, and should not be behind the wheel.”

Winter moves without hesitation, making his way to the driver’s door. Yanking it open, he reaches inside and stops Maddox from going anywhere. They argue for a minute until Maddox finally turns the car off. Winter then lifts his chin and orders, “Out.”

Maddox unleashes his anger in a torrent of words I can’t decipher. I’m unsure if Winter figures them out or not, but I’m relieved when he somehow gets Maddox out of the car.

“What’s going on?” Winter asks Maddox as I move closer to them.

“Ask Abbi,” Maddox snaps. “She knows all about it.” With that, he storms back inside, leaving us staring after him.

“Oh my God,” Abbi says. “I’m seriously done with him today.” With that, she also storms back inside.

Winter’s eyes come to me. “Why do I feel like I just walked into a war?”

I release all the air in my lungs. “Because you did.” I stare at him with all the bewilderment I’m feeling. “I quit.”

His lips slowly curl up at the ends as he reaches for me. Pulling me close, he says, “It’s too fucking late to quit now, baby.”

“I beg to differ. I’ll stay on as your wife, but I quit as a mother. The job description wasn’t clear enough when I took on the job. In fact, I think I should sue for being misled. Deceived, even.”

His arms come around me and he brushes his lips over mine. “Where’s Amelia?”

I grip his shirt while inhaling his scent. It’s the same scent he’s worn for years and it never fails to soothe and centre me. “She’s been naughty all day and is currently in her bedroom. You’ll need to deal with her too because, in case you already need the reminder, I’ve quit.”

“Care to fill me in on the Maddox situation?”

I share what I know with him, including the bit about Maddox swearing. “You need to have a talk with him about that, Winter. I’m not putting up with him speaking that way to me, and while I’ll be sure to tell him that, I think he needs to hear it from you too.”

Winter nods. “I’ll let him cool down for a bit and then I’ll go talk with him.” He bends his face to mine so he can kiss me again, this time for longer. Then, he says, “So, this quitting business, does cooking dinner come under wife or mother duties?”

“You’ll be lucky if I don’t send you to your room, too.”

His lips twitch. “You’ll have to handle all the kids on your own if you do that. I think I’m safe.”

“You can eat Amelia’s veggies. Oh, except for the peas. They’re all over the table.”

He puts his arm around my shoulders and says, “Come on. Let’s get you inside. I’m thinking some time on your meditation pillow might be good.”

I walk with him, sinking into him and his love. Grateful that he’s home. “I’m thinking fifteen straight years might do it.”

“Does that involve time out for sucking my dick?”

“Of course that’s where your thoughts go.”

“I’d give you fifteen years, but only if those lips are around my dick often.”

I look up at him. “Let’s be real; you love me enough that you’d do it without that.”

He meets my gaze, his eyes flashing with love. “Yeah,” he says, “I think you might be right.”

How I got so lucky to have this man by my side I’ll never know.


Lily: I’m sorry I missed all your texts today! It’s been hectic here between King and the kids. Are you okay?

Birdie: How have you survived so many years of parenting?

Lily: ‘Survived’ might be exaggerating.

Birdie: You make it look like you were made for this job. Me? I’m a hot mess. I mean, it’s a miracle I even manage to dress myself most mornings.

Lily: I think you must be smoking weed. I’m a hot mess too. What happened today?

Birdie: Amelia has been pushing my buttons all day, and Maddox just lost his shit over his ex-girlfriend while fighting with Abbi. I’m thinking I need to find a book of spells with one for turning your kids into angels.

Lily: I think you need the Stormgirl chat for this.

Birdie: The what?

Lily: The Brisbane Storm girls have a group chat they use to message for support throughout the day when they need it. You can vent, grumble, share good news, ask for help, anything. Do you want me to add you? It might be good for days like today when I’m busy and don’t have time to text you back.

Birdie: Add me! Yes!

Lily: OK, I’ve added you.

A text comes through in another thread.

Lily: Hey girls, I’ve added Birdie. She’s had a rough day and needs all our love.

Madison: Hey, Birdie! Kids or husband?

Birdie: I already love this group. KIDS! Husband is good today.

Velvet: Well that makes one of us at least whose husband is good today. Mine is about to find out how sharp our kitchen knives actually are.

Chelsea: Eeek. What’s he done now?

Velvet: Let’s just say it involved a promise he broke, food that disappeared out of our fridge that I’d made for a BBQ at our neighbour’s place tomorrow, and no fucking toilet paper in the house, which may I add, he was supposed to buy on his way home this afternoon.

Layla: No toilet paper is the worst. That happened to us last week. All Blade’s fault too. I threw a book at him and told him to use that.

Nash: Fuckin’ hell, woman. You never told me that cheesecake was for the BBQ.

Velvet: Don’t even, Nash. I did. End of story. Unless you want me to finish the story while using our knives.

Birdie: LOL, did you just hijack Velvet’s phone, Nash?

Lily: Oh shit, I added you to the wrong chat group, Birdie.

Birdie: You have more than one group?

Nash: Fuck knows how many they actually have. I wouldn’t be fuckin’ surprised if they have one for every fuckin’ day of the week.

Gunnar: Yeah, I could see that happening.

Harlow: We have two groups. One for just the girls, and this one for when we have stuff to discuss with the guys.

Nash: And when she says ‘discuss’ she means ‘harass the fuck out of’.

Birdie: You’ve already made my day better. Thank you <3

Scott: Is Winter with you at the moment?

Birdie: He’s talking with Maddox.

Scott: Can you ask him when he’ll be in Brisbane next?

Birdie: You want me to add him to the group?

Nash: Fuck yes. If we have to fuckin’ be in it, he should too.

<Birdie adds Winter to the group>

Birdie: Winter, I’ve just added you to the Brisbane chat group. Scott asked when you’ll be in Brisbane next.

Scott: Thanks, Birdie.

Scarlett: Oh, this is gold. I’m getting my popcorn ready.

Birdie: LOL, why?

Scarlett: You’ll see.

“Birdie,” Winter says as he enters our bedroom where I’m sitting on the bed texting. “What’s this chat group for?” He holds up his phone.

I place my phone down. “I’ll tell you in a minute. How did you go with Maddox?” Winter gave him half an hour to calm down before pulling him aside for a chat.

He sits on his side of the bed and takes his boots off. “He won’t talk to you like he did today again. He’ll also cut the swearing. And if he does either of those things, he knows he’ll lose more privileges than he’s got.”

“Did you find out more about what happened with him and Leia?”

Winter looks at me. “No.”

My eyes widen. “Why not?”

He stands and makes his way around the bed, heading for the en suite. “It didn’t come up.”

I follow him into the bathroom, standing behind him as he washes his hands. “You suck at this part of the job, just FYI.”

“This part of the job doesn’t involve prying into our kids’ lives, Birdie.”

“Yes, it does.”

“No, it involves giving them the space to come to us when they want to talk.” He turns to face me. “Now, this group chat. What the fuck is it for?”

“Scott asked me to ask you something. I figured it was easier just to add you to the group.”

He pulls his phone out of his pocket and looks at it. “Fifteen texts have come through in the time we just had that conversation. I’m not thinking I agree with you.”

I grin. Winter has a serious dislike of excessive texting. He’d rather just pick the phone up and call. I understand now why Scarlett was getting the popcorn. Stepping forward, I pat his chest, still grinning, and say, “You better check them. The guys might be asking you more questions.”

I turn to exit the bathroom but Winter grabs my hand and stops me. Pulling me to him, he curves his hand over my ass and says, “What’s for dinner?”

“I told you, Amelia’s veggies.”

“Smartass,” he murmurs, brushing his lips over mine.

I smile into the kiss. “I’m thinking pizza with Abbi and Maddox might be good.”

Winter looks down at me and nods. “Yeah, I think that’s a good plan. I’ll order it now. Do you want the usual?”

Pizza with our older kids is something we try to do once a month. We put Amelia to bed and hang out with them for a few hours, eating, talking, and laughing. It’s often the time when we learn what’s going on in their lives, like a monthly update.

“Yes, the usual.” I hook my hand around his neck and pull his face down so I can kiss him again. “I love you.”

“Good. You can show me how much later.” He lightly smacks my ass and then lets me go.

“Did you wake up thinking about your dick today?” He’s mentioned it far more than usual today.

“Baby, I wake up thinking about it every day. It fucking beats any alternative. And you haven’t wrapped your lips around it often enough lately.”

He’s right. Where we used to have sex daily, this year we’ve been lucky to have it twice a week. I’m too damn tired.

“You should see my earlier statement in which I told you I quit my parenting job. We could go back to all the sex in the world,” I say.

He smiles as he slides stray strands of hair off my face. “We’ll get back there one day.”

“Yes, and by then you’ll be old and arthritic and barely able to lift me. Hell, you mightn’t even be able to get it up anymore.”

“I don’t need to lift you to fuck you. And I’ll take whatever drugs we need me to take to get it up. There’s no way I’m not fucking my wife once our kids are off our hands.” His eyes soften. “But we both know neither of us would trade what we’ve got now for more sex.”

I reach for his shirt, my entire body flooding with love for him. “You should go and order pizza before I demand you get naked with me instead.”

With one last kiss, he exits the bathroom and then the bedroom, leaving me with my thoughts. Also, leaving me with a phone that’s going berserk with text messages.

I snatch it up off the bed as I think about Maddox and what I learned today about him and Bri. I know him, so I know he wouldn’t have cheated on Leia, but still, this all came as a surprise. I’m going to need time on my meditation cushion to process it all.

There are a stack of texts from the group. I don’t have time to read them all now and am about to slip my phone into my pocket when Winter texts the group.

Winter: Scott, I’ll be in Brisbane in two weeks. Now, can someone remove me from this group? No fucking way can I sit through a million texts a day.

Nash comes straight back.

Nash: Good fuckin’ luck, brother. This is the gift that keeps on fuckin’ giving. And no one gets out once they’re in. Except King. That fucker somehow managed to get out.

A smile fills my face.

I want some of Scarlett’s popcorn.


“How the hell did we end up with no kids and three pizzas that are going to put me in a food coma that will leave me unable to summon the energy for sex later?” I ask as I drop down onto the couch next to Winter.

He leans over and takes my piece of pizza from me.

I frown as he places it back in the pizza box. “Why did you take my pizza?”

“I’m preserving your energy for more important things. And as far as the kids are concerned, it’s Friday night. We should have known not to bother with pizza tonight.” Maddox and Abbi ditched us for a party.

I reach for my pizza. “If you take this again, your dick won’t see my lips, my hands, or anything for a long time.”

“You’re all talk, Birdie.” He eats some pizza before saying, “Amelia was out faster than ever tonight.”

Winter read to her while we waited for the pizza to arrive. That was after I got her ready for bed. “I think the heat has exhausted her this week, which is probably why she wasn’t herself today.”

My phone sounds with a text and Winter groans. “I’m getting rid of my phone,” he mutters.

I check my phone in case it’s not the chat group texting us and discover a text from Maddox.

Maddox: Girls are so confusing.

My heart trips over herself as I read his message. Maddox sometimes reaches out this way. I think it’s because he finds it easier to be vulnerable via text rather than face-to-face. Whatever the reason, I live for these texts.

“It’s Maddox,” I say to Winter who watches me knowingly.

Birdie: Just so you know, boys are too.

Maddox: Like, why does she tell me she wants to get back with me and then sleep with him? That makes no sense.

My heart doesn’t just trip now; she full on falls to her knees.

This is why I will forever keep on getting up every day and putting one foot in front of the other while making peanut butter sandwiches, packing Wet Ones in my bag, pulling my kids up on swearing while thinking it’d be a hell of a lot easier to just let them swear their heart out, arguing over homework, fighting over who will fill the dishwasher every night, and praying every bed in the house is occupied each night.

He needs me to love him, and cherish him, and help him get through this precious life we have.

He needs me to hold his hand even though he thinks he’s too old for that.

He needs me to bandage his scars when the world is mean.

Birdie: I agree. Completely. But love doesn’t always make sense because people don’t always make sense. Life beats us up, Maddox, and we find odd ways of dealing with those beatings. The trick is to find the people who see the beatings for what they are and who will love you through them.

Maddox: Okay, Queen, now you’re doing that thing you do when you talk in riddles. Can you dumb that shit down for me?

Birdie: Go to her and talk to her. Ask her why she did it, and when I say ask her, I mean exactly that. Don’t throw your hurt at her and tell her she deserves a guy like Todd. You don’t really mean that. I know she hurt you, and she’ll need to find a way to make that right with you, but I know Leia, and I’m guessing she’s got her reasons for what she did. You have to find out those reasons and then decide if you can live with them.

Maddox: And if I can’t?

Birdie: If you can’t, she’s not the girl for you.

Maddox: This is all so dumb.

Birdie: Yeah, it feels like it sometimes, but when you find your person, every second of it is worth it. I love you, Maddox.

Maddox: Yeah. Back at you, Queen. Thanks.

I place my phone down next to the pizza box and move closer to Winter. Looking up at him, I say, “I love you.”

His arm comes around my shoulder. “What did I do to deserve that?”

I smile. My heart is still on her knees. It’s in times like this that I’m reminded of how lucky I am to have Winter by my side in everything I do in life. “You never have to do anything to deserve that. I love you simply because you are the very best human I know.”

He presses a kiss to the top of my head. “Here’s what we’re going to do tonight. First, we’re going to eat as much pizza as we can fit in our stomachs. Then, I’m going to carry you to bed where we’re going to watch Blindspot. You’re going to curl up next to me with your arms and legs all the fuck over me in the way I like. You’re going to pass out after half an episode. And then I’m going to pass out right before I get to the end of that episode. We’re going to sleep for hours and then I’m going to wake you up with my mouth to your pussy. We’re going to shower after that and you’re going to suck my dick. And then we’re going to spend another day teaching our kids how to be good humans.”

“I can’t decide if I’m more excited about the pizza part of all that or the sleep for hours part of all that.”

“I’m fairly fucking sure it was the sleep part of all that. I don’t know any woman who loves her bed as much as you do.”

I shake my head at him as I sit up straight and reach for some pizza. “Honestly, Winter Morrison, you have no idea about women sometimes. I’m fairly fucking sure all mothers love their bed more than anything else on earth.”

We proceed to bicker over sleep, and mothers, and fathers, and all the differences between them while getting as much pizza in our stomachs as possible.

I overeat by about two slices.

Winter makes some smartass remark about the food coma I’m about to enter.

I make some smartass remark about him practically ordering me to enter that food coma.

He lifts me over his shoulder and carries me into the bedroom while telling me I’m deluded if I think I’m the kind of woman any man can order to do anything.

I argue that he sure as hell tries often enough to order me into things.

And all the while, our phones sound with text messages that I just know are going to drive him insane.

I fucking love this man and the life we’ve built.

And as exhausted as I always am, I wouldn’t change one thing about any of it.