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Chapter 40

"Shayla, wake up," I smiled as I nudged her awake. July. The most expensive month of the year for me. For others, it's between November and December because of the holidays. But for me, it's because my wife insists that she celebrate her birthday the entire month. And I get it, I guess, because that one day goes by so fast, but at the same time, it's expensive, so I'm trying my best to make this a moneyless celebration. She was born July 13, 1960 at 12:05 a.m., not every day of the month. But if she's happy, then I'm happy.

"Michael," she groaned looking over at the clock. "It's two a.m.!"

"Correction. Two a.m. July first. Get dressed. We've got stuff to do," I slapped her butt as I got up to finish getting dressed.

"It's my birthday," she smiled, stretching.

"Your birthday isn't for another twelve days. You won't be twenty-seven until then," I laughed.

"What do you have up your sleeve this early, huh?"

"It's a surprise. Come on, we don't have time to waste!" I put on a windbreaker. "You already look beautiful. Just go brush your teeth, put on a tracksuit and come on."

"How come you get to look all nice and smell like you just hopped out of the shower, but you want me to just get dressed?" She narrowed her eyes at me.

"You took a shower last night. I don't see what the big deal is. Can you just get dressed? You're going to ruin your surprise if you keep asking all these questions."

"Are we leaving the house?"


"Well, who is going to watch Mariah?"

"If you quit asking questions, we'll be back before she wakes up. If not, she'll be fine. Bubbles will keep her company. I'm going out to the car. You should be down there in thirty minutes," I hurried downstairs to meet Bill in the car. "You know what else I'm going to get Shayla for her birthday?"

"What's that?" He looked at me with tired eyes.

"Her own security. I know you're probably tired of working double time."

"Nah," he shrugged. "My only issue is that you expect me to keep certain things from Shayla, and you know I can't do that."

"Yeah... and I can't put you in a situation like that again."

"Which is why you're getting her own security, huh?" He smirked.

"No... Things are about to get really hectic with the tour and traveling and all. You can't be in two places at once. She's going to need protection, whether the public knows who she is or not. Like that time in the UK when she and Mariah were hounded for the news. Had she had security, they wouldn't have been hounded like that."

"You've got a point, but I see what you're doing here. What's going on with that Tatiana girl?"

"Nothing. I haven't kept in contact with her if that's what you're wondering. She sent me a thank you letter, but I promise you, Bill, I've washed my hands clean of that woman," I dusted my hands off to illustrate how serious I was.

"You better! Like I told you before, a single girl like her doesn't care if you're married or not. Especially with the way you were acting with her. As far as she was concerned, Shayla barely existed." Shayla opened the car door accompanied by a gust of her new signature scent Bal à Versailles. She knows how much I love that perfume. Whenever she wore it, you'd know she was nearby before seeing her. And when she left, she would leave a cloud of the scent behind. It's the little things that keep me in love with her.

"Morning, Bill. I see Michael has you up early too huh?" She buckled her seatbelt.

"Yep... Happy Birthday, Shayla," he nodded as he began driving.

"Any idea where Michael is taking me?"

"It's a surprise. That's one thing you won't get out of me."

"Dang it. I tried!"

"Michael tells me you're a New York Times Bestseller."

"Where?" She gave me a look.

I took hold of her shoulders, "you've got to speak it into existence, babe."

"I mean, yeah, but I'm still disappointed in that cover."

"Forget the cover. You are now officially an author. As far as I'm concerned, you'll be a bestseller before you know it. And my baby is going to be twenty-freaking-seven!" I kissed her lips.

"Ugh... that sounds so old," she sulked.

"If you're old then what does that make me? Ancient?" A raised eyebrow accompanied my inquiry.

"You're in your prime, Michael."

"So are you! Come on. You can't tell me I'm more excited about your twenty-seventh birthday than you are."

"I mean, I just feel like I haven't accomplished much."

"What? You have! You've graduated from high school and college. You were a teacher. You're an author. You're married! What haven't you accomplished? You're only just getting started. Don't do that to yourself."

"I mean, but compared to you, I just feel like-"

"Nope. I'm not going to let you do that. Don't compare yourself to me. And I'm not going to allow you to be sad in your birthday month. You can forget that. It's never too late to do anything. We're only in our twenties. Before you know it, we'll be forty years old and we'll have accomplished all of our dreams and hearts desires. You've only just begun, girl."

She laughed through her nose, "thanks, baby. How long will it take us to get to our destination?"

"About two hours, so you can take a nap if you want to."

"I'll do just that," she lay her head down on my lap and curled up on the seat.


I watched as Bill spoke to the security guard for directions. We got here right on time. Shayla just might be a little irritated that I brought her all this way for something so simple, but it will all work out in the long run. If anything, it'll be a beautiful beginning to her birth month. We started to drive through the gates down the road that would lead us into the vast amount of land. Everything is moving so fast with the album almost complete and the tour coming up in September. I'm excited to begin rehearsing for it. Making the setlist is my favorite part and for the first time, I'll be making the setlist by myself. It's going to feel weird being on stage without my brothers. We've been on stage together for so long, it'll almost feel like something is missing. But I've learned over the years, you can't do business with family. Granted, we've been working together since I was young, but I had no choice. I'm glad I made the choice to go on my own and do things my way. It'll work out for the better in the long run. Unlike the Victory tour, Shayla will be with me the entire way and I'm so excited about that. Being away from Shayla for as long as I was right after we got married was tough, but we did it. This time it'll be different, and she'll get to join me in all the fun that comes with touring. Shayla sat up and stretched her limbs as far as the car would allow.

"How'd you sleep?" I asked.

She yawned, "well, I guess. It's not comfortable sleeping in a car, ya know?"

"We're here," Bill put the car in park and turned off the ignition.

Shayla looked out the window, "where?"

"This mountain is part of your birthday present."

"You got me a mountain?"

I laughed, "no... Come on." I opened the door and helped her out. Once outside, she stretched some more, looking around at the landscape.

"Are we walking up this mountain, Michael?"

"That was the plan originally, but I'm not much of a hiker and neither are you. So, we have a golf cart to get up there." I took her hand and led her to the passenger's side of the golf cart, "after you, my love." She smiled, shaking her head as she took my hand and got in. "We'll see you in a little bit over an hour, Bill. You get some rest," I called over to him as I started the ignition and started driving up the path.

"It's so chilly," Shayla rubbed her arms.

I reached over and rubbed her hand, "I've got some blankets up there."

"This must be something serious, huh? Got me up at two in the morning and it's five a.m. now. You put some serious thought into this."

"Things were getting pretty repetitive the last three years, ya know? Me spending beaucoup amounts of money for your birth month. You're expensive, girl, you know that?" I laughed.

"Hey, I never asked for all that jewelry. I just asked for the trips," she shrugged.

"And the clothes," I reminded her.

"I mean, with a sister-in-law like LaToya, I'm almost bound to have the latest and greatest in fashion, don't you think?"

"So, you're going to blame my sister, huh?"

"Not blame," she laughed. "She has influenced my choice in clothing though... Hey, what's going on with her by the way?"

"What do you mean?"

"Is everything okay with her?"

"Yeah, why?"

"We rarely ever get to talk to her anymore. It took you forever to finally get through to her for her to help you out with the short film. And I don't like that Jack fellow."

"Nobody does."

"Then why is she letting him manage her?"

"To get out from under Joseph just like everyone else," I shrugged. "It's no big deal. I understand where she's coming from."

"But to go all the way out to Germany? Why can't she work on her career in the States?"

"Jack probably thinks her career will blossom out there or something. Ion know," I stopped the cart once we got to the top.

As I helped her out, she looked around at the scenery in awe. "Michael, this is beautiful!" she smiled. I pulled out two blankets from the tote perched on the top that had been waiting for us for God knows how long. "Are we going to watch the sunrise?" she smiled mischievously as if she knew all along.

"How'd you know?" I laughed.

"Just a guess," she shrugged. Shayla waited as I laid out one blanket for us to sit on. "You really showed out this time. But why did we have to take a two-hour drive for something we could have done in our backyard?" I knew it was coming.

"Because this place actually has some significance," I instructed her to sit down and sat down behind her, wrapping the other blanket around her arms and holding her tight.

"Oh, yeah? And what's that?"

"You see all this land?"


"It's going to be all ours someday..."

"All of this?!" She looked back at me. I nodded. "This is a lot of space... We're in the middle of nowhere, Michael..."

"I know," I smiled. I kissed her cheek and whispered, "it's going to be Neverland."

She gasped, "are you serious?" I nodded. "No way... You're going to have the theme park rides and everything?" I nodded again. "Even this mountain will be ours?"

"Yep. Don't miss the sunrise," I pointed straight ahead as the sun slowly began to rise over the hills before us. This actually takes me back to when we first met, and she insisted on us going to the park before the morning dew evaporated. I smiled at the memory, kissing the back of her head.


"Yes, baby?"

"I'll never forget this day."

"Oh, it's not over yet. Breakfast should be here shortly."

"Breakfast up here?"

"Yeah, why not?"

"I'm not complaining..." she smiled. "I love how much thought you put into this. Thank you so much. What a way to begin my birthday..."

"Birth month."

"And all of this will be ours? Like, all of this?"

I nodded, "once John gets everything together for us, it's ours forever."

"If you don't mind me asking, how much-"

I cut her off, "I do mind you asking. Don't worry about it. This will be our land and our house, and I just want my beautiful wife to make this all a home."

She smiled, "what about the hideout?"

"Oh, we're still keeping the hideout. We've got to have houses everywhere. LA, Las Vegas, Paris, Ohio... This will just be home base."


"And this is only the beginning. You won't ever have to want for anything. Happy Birth month, baby..."

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