The jabs continued, and Celina leaned into Cooper’s side, sighing contently. His arm went around her, naturally tucking her beneath his shoulder without even breaking conversation. Celina smiled, her heart melting a little. It was such a natural movement that he probably didn’t even realize he’d done it. Even on a subconscious level, Cooper seemed to know exactly what she needed and made it happen. She couldn’t love this man more if she tried.
This is exactly what they needed—a night out with friends before they dug into things tomorrow. It’s been too long since we’ve been out together without the baby.
Stealing a glance at Cooper’s laughing face made her heart swell even more. He looked so relaxed and happy as he added snarky commentary to the jabs that were rolling around. They had both given up a lot when they’d had Via. Celina moved from fieldwork to crime scene photography, while Cooper managed his team on the home front, rarely going into the field on missions anymore. They seldom went out without Via, and never had they both gone to meet friends for drinks. Putting family first was important, but Celina wondered if it wasn’t time to start making more time for their friends again, and for each other.
Nelson was about to reply to one of Roman’s jabs when he suddenly straightened, his gaze centering on something over Celina’s shoulder. Celina turned to see what held his attention so rapt, doing a double take when she saw the very pregnant Sophie Diaz returning from the restroom. The dark-haired, hazel-eyed FBI agent was expecting twins in a few weeks. She normally worked undercover in Mexico, but had reluctantly agreed to be on desk duty until after she had the babies.
“I know what you’re thinking.” Sophie smiled as she waddled towards the table. “I’m huge, I know it.”
Celina jumped up to give her an awkward hug, laughing softly. “I would never call you huge, you are absolutely beautiful. I just can’t believe how much the babies have grown in the month since I’ve seen you.”
“That’s the understatement of the year.” Sophie rubbed her belly. “I feel like I'm as big as a bus.” As she returned Celina’s hug, she flinched, drawing back to press a hand to her back. Everyone at the table froze, and if Celina didn’t know any better, she could have sworn the color in Nelson’s face faded three shades.
Spotting Nelson’s worry, Sophie waved a hand through the air, one hand rubbing her large belly, the other supporting her back. “Relax everyone. The babies are stretching. Not every pain means I’m going into labor.”
Nelson rubbed his forehead wearily, looking more tired than he had moments before. “She keeps saying that, but the doctor said she could go any day now. Maybe it wasn’t such a good time to leave home.”
Sophie scowled, swatting his arm. “And do what, sit around while you guys get to have all the fun? I don’t think so. I may not be able to participate in the training, but I sure as heck can hang out with the girls. The pool and spa are calling my name.”
“Absolutely,” Celina quickly interjected, vigilant as Nelson helped Sophie into a chair before retaking his seat. “You can sit poolside all day tomorrow while we do the training session, then we can hang out tomorrow night.”
“We should go to the spa and get our nails done,” Polly added, which Celina found really sweet considering she knew how much Polly hated doing anything that qualified as too girlie.
Sophie smiled demurely, patting Nelson on the cheek. “See, my love? All taken care of.”
Nelson didn’t look convinced, but he forced a smile for her benefit, brushing a kiss on her temple.
“Have you guys decided on names, yet?” Celina asked as Nelson fussed over Sophie.
“We’ve tossed around a few ideas, but haven’t settled on anything yet,” Sophie smiled. “Since we don’t know the sex of the babies, the possibilities are endless.”
Nelson scowled. “You didn’t want to find out.”
Celina exchanged a look with Cooper, noting the smile curving his mouth. They were thinking the same thing: for a man used to being in control of every situation, not being allowed to know the sex of the babies must have been hard for Nelson to swallow.
“And I appreciate your support with that decision.” Sophie’s droll tone said she knew what a stretch it had been for him to abide by her wishes.
Nelson’s scowl faded and he leaned down to brush her mouth with his. “Hey, I’m a supportive guy. Whatever you need, you get. End of story.”
“I’m going to hold you to that, Agent Cruz.” Sophie smirked, her gaze finding Celina’s. “So, spa time after the training tomorrow?”
“Does anyone else feel their balls shrinking with all this girl talk?” Roman commented, taking a pull from his beer.
“Why don’t you boys move to the end of the table so us girls can talk.” Polly shooed him, already standing to switch seats.
“You don’t have to tell me twice. I could use some manly conversation.” Nelson pressed a smacking kiss to Sophie’s cheek then moved down a couple chairs too, still keeping a watchful eye on his wife.
“You good?” Cooper glanced at her, and Celina smiled at his thoughtfulness. One word from her and he would gladly blow off the guys to stay by her side, but she didn’t want that. Not tonight. Tonight was about reconnecting with friends and forging a new chapter in their lives—even if he didn’t know it yet.
“Go play,” she laughed, returning his kiss when he brushed his mouth over hers before untucking herself from beneath his arm.
“You and I will play more later,” he promised and the desire in his gaze sent a shiver down her spine. She had big plans for him when they got back to the room.