Walking into my very own house for the first time is by far one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced in my entire life. We’d gone round and round on whether or not we should all pitch in and buy it, but in the end, it’s something I’ve always wanted to do, so I bought it. All on my own, with the money I made from my book that not only hit the top ten in the entire Amazon kindle store, but also hit the NYT bestseller’s list.

I have no idea how that happened, or why, but my second book in the series is heading in the same direction. I periodically have to pinch myself to remind me that I wrote both those books, and now I’m reaping the rewards… this house being one of them.

Of course, neither of those books would’ve seen the success they have if Rosie hadn’t stepped in and pulled me out of my personal lockdown.

Amazing how a best friend can change your entire life… for the better… if you let them.

Which brings me to my exceptional relationship with the men I love and who love me. Yes, we had to make up the rules as we went along, such as kitchen duties, bathroom courtesies, and a myriad of daily tasks that had to be addressed, but we came through it all, and we’re stronger for it, much stronger.

Love really does conquer all; well… almost all. We still battle over that damn toilet seat, which can be startling in the middle of the night.

That said, I may never have that problem again. This house is so big, we each have our own bathroom.   

“It’s even more beautiful than I thought it would be.” I’m walking in with Blake, Grant, and Jerry, who love the house as much as I do.

We’d been living in Grant’s house, but it wasn’t nearly big enough for us. Whereas, in this one, not only do we have our own bathrooms and bedrooms, but we’ll also eventually have our own workspaces off those bedrooms.

There’s plenty of room to expand and build.

“It still needs a lot of work, but for now, we can all live here and enjoy that amazing ocean right out our back door,” Blake says. “You did good, love.”

Blake has never stopped using all his pet names for me, but “love” melts my heart every time.

“Seriously good,” Jerry adds as he walks through the large empty rooms. Our new furniture will arrive tomorrow, along with the truck that contains all our things from Grant’s house, including the monster bed I bought as soon as I moved into his house. The four of us couldn’t fit on his regular bed, so I used some of the money I won from the race and had a custom bed made for us.

And of course, a special bed just for Brute, who loves our new house. He’s sniffing out every inch of the place just to make sure it’s safe for us.

Our new house is located in St. Pete’s, mostly because we love the beach here. It’s spectacular, with white sand and miles of blue ocean. Plus, Rosie lives a few doors down. I can walk there either on the sidewalk or on the beach, depending on how I want to get there.

Either way, it’s convenient and incredible to be living so close to my best friend again.

When I walk out the back doors and stand on our massive deck, my eyes flood with tears. I try to wipe them away, but they just keep coming. As if somebody turned on a spicket.

“Hey, sweetheart, what’s with all the tears?” Grant asks as he approaches, carrying a bottle of champagne and four glasses. “You should be laughing, This entire foursome should be laughing. This is a day for celebration. No tears allowed.”

“I can’t help it. I never, ever thought I’d be walking through my own house with one man I love, let alone three.” I wipe my tears away once again with my fingers, but they just keep pouring out.

Grant places the bottle and glasses on the wide wooden railing, then takes me in his arms, as a gentle breeze off the ocean caresses our bodies. It’s evening, so the sun is low in the gulf sky. It’s going to be another spectacular sunset, only this time, I’ll be watching it from the deck of my very own beach house.

I sob on his shoulder, like a kid who skinned her knees.

“What’s wrong?” Jerry asks as he steps out on the deck. I can hear him right behind us.

“Hey, what’s going on?” Blake now joins us, as well as Brute, who barks and whines as he rubs against my legs.

“I’m fine,” I tell them, but I still can’t seem to stop the waterworks. “I’m just… I’m just… so fucking happy!”

I turn to Blake, who pulls me into him and wraps his arms completely around me. I sink into him and sob even harder this time. “Hey, buttercup, this is no way to show your joy. Save the tears for something tragic… and believe me, there’s nothing tragic about today.”

“I saw some tissues in one of the bathrooms,” Jerry says. “I’ll be right back.”

He goes in search of the much-needed tissues. My nose is even running now, and it’s getting seriously ugly.

“I know. I know, but I can’t… I can’t…”

“Stop?” he asks as Grant pops open the champagne. “I know something that might get you to stop.”

Jerry hurries over, handing me the entire box of tissues. I pull out three, blow my nose, then pull out three more to wipe my eyes. “What’s that?”

“I’m not telling you until you calm down,” Blake says, looking as if he means it.

I pull in a deep breath, blow my nose again, then take some calming breaths. Grant passes out the champagne in flute glasses… plastic flute glasses. “Is this about what my sister is planning?”

“Yes,” Blake tells him.

“Oh, you’re going to want to hear this one,” Jerry adds, holding his glass, waiting until we toast before he takes a sip. We’ve celebrated enough times that we know when to wait and when it’s okay to drink up.

“Okay. Okay. I’m better now,” I tell them, finally getting control over my emotions. “Tell me!”

“Rosie and Tony have decided to branch out and sponsor a race in Europe,” Blake says.

“Where in Europe?”

“Your favorite country, buttercup,” Blake says, enticing me with his sly little grin. My heart rate instantly quickens, and excitement is stacking up.  

“Oh my, God… Italy? They’re going to hold a race in Italy? What about Positano? Will the race be going through my favorite small town on earth?”

“It’s going to start there and end in Sicily,” Blake says, and I can hardly control myself!

I may have to try to convince these guys to participate in yet another race.

“What’s the winning amount of this first race? And why the hell didn’t Rosie tell me?”

“Because between writing your books, advertising those books, and buying this house, you already have too much going on,” he says. “But before we get more specific with race facts, let’s give a toast to you, my darling Juliette. Congratulations on this extraordinary house! Your first house! May it bring you years of joy and love. You’re a remarkable woman, Juliette, and I’m… no, we’re in awe of your fierce courage, your relentless tenacity, and the extraordinary kindness and love you show the three of us. And believe me, that alone is amazing. You’ve changed our lives, and I for one, am truly grateful… To Juliette!”

He holds up his glass, and we tap them together… even though they don’t quite make a noise.

“To Juliette,” Jerry and Blake echo.

And just as the sun gives its final burst of light to wash the sky, I want to cry again… can feel it in my throat… but instead, I wash away the urge with the entire glass of champagne.

“That’s the way to do it!” Blake says and copies me. Jerry and Grant do the same.

“I can tell this is going to be a great night,” I tell them, as Grant pops open a second bottle. “Okay. What’s the winning pot on this new race?”

“That’s the thing… It’s gotten up to ten million dollars this time,” Grant says.

I take a step back and run into Brute, who has been sitting at my feet, watching the waves. He’s taken to the water like he’s grown up with it and loves to fetch almost anything we toss out. I’m sure he’s waiting to do just that.

“That’s a lot of money! How is that even possible?” And right away, I’m thinking of joining the race.

“Big money has entered the game. It might go even higher,” Jerry says, sounding as if he’s as impressed as I am.

“Wow!” I say, astounded by the total.

“Remember your friend Emily?” Grant asks, as he pours another round.

“Not exactly a friend, but what about her? Did she sign up? How could she afford to? Unless, of course, she’s partnering with some rich dude.”

“Dudes is more like it,” Blake says, taking a long sip from his plastic flute.

“So, this is a group effort,” I say, after drinking down more champagne. “Who’s on her team?”

“She’s partnering with Terry, Brandon, and Don… the Dream Team!” Jerry says, smirking. He never has liked these guys.

My mind swirls with ideas.

“We could take them down, I’m sure of it. We did it once, we can do it again. We can use that money to really do this house up right. Plus, there’s a few folks I’d like to help out.”

I’m thinking of helping out fellow writers, starting a fund to help get them started, get them some advertising for their books, and a few other things. Writers helping writers kind of thing.

“What are you saying?” Blake asks, and I can tell he’s intrigued.

“I’m saying we should look into signing up. Plus, we could spend a week in Positano before the race even gets going.”

“Only a week? Why not an entire month?” Blake runs his hand down my back, giving me shivers. “If we’re going to do this, let’s do it right. We’ll rent a villa. We can work from anywhere. Why not there? You can set your next book in Positano.”

“Really? You’re not kidding, are you?”

“I think that’s a great idea,” Jerry says. “And I’d like nothing more than to beat the dream team again. Nothing would make me happier.”

“Nothing?” I ask, going over to him and wrapping my leg around his.

“It’s a figure of speech. I think we both know what makes me happy,” he says, then chuckles.

“Let’s do this,” Grant says. “I’ll tell Rosie tomorrow and get all the details.”

We toast once again, clicking our plastic glasses together. “To Positano and ten million dollars!”

And just like that, we’re on our way to yet another race, but this time, I’ll be starting from a place of love.

Will that change anything?

Who knows… I’ll have to wait to find out.