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The 40th

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Phoenix woke with Maya’s arm around his middle, and her head on his chest. Her hair, much as he loved the long black tresses, was all over, much of it tickling his face or getting in his mouth. He lifted an arm to try to smooth it down, but Maya was a light sleeper, and at the feeling of his hand on her head, she woke.

She took a deep breath and shifted, nuzzling her face into the side of his neck. He moved his arm around her shoulder, using it to stealthily push her hair out of their way. “Good morning,” he said, trying to stay relatively quiet.

“Mm. Mornin’,” she mumbled. “And happy birthday.”

Phoenix groaned. He almost wished she would have forgotten, but of course she didn’t. “Don’t remind me,” he said. He blew a raspberry. “I can’t believe I’m 40 already. I’m old, Maya.”

She laughed lightly, opening her eyes and lifting her head to look closer at him. “You know, I remember you said the exact same thing when you turned 30.”

“Hm. What I wouldn’t give now to be 30 again.”

“I bet,” she said, a hint of teasing in her voice. “I remember I gave you a pretty good birthday present that year.”

He raised an eyebrow at her, a smile finding its way to his face. “And I will cherish that memory forever.”

She laughed, this time a little louder. “If it makes you feel any better, you’re still just as good looking as when I met you.” She thought for a moment. “Maybe even more so.”

“Sure, sure. Thanks for trying to make me feel better.”

“I’m serious, Nick. Don’t get me wrong, you were adorable when I met you, but you’re so handsome now. There’s a difference between being cute and being handsome, you know,” she said matter-of-factly.

She reached a hand up to run her fingers through the hair at his temples. “Maybe you’re a little greyer now,” she said. Her fingers left his hair to trace down the side of his face. “Maybe you’ve even got some laugh lines and crow’s feet.” The arm around his middle tightened. “Maybe you’re not working out as much as you used to,” she said, smiling. “But I still wouldn’t trade you for the sexiest, most ripped guy alive.”

Phoenix rolled his eyes, but strangely that did make him feel a little better. Maya had a way with words, but that was one of the things he loved about her. He looked down at her. She was 33 now, but she just seemed to get more gorgeous with each passing year. She was lucky that way.

“Thanks, Maya.”

She nodded before putting her head back down. They were quiet for a few seconds, until Phoenix spoke again.

“So, am I going to get as good of a birthday present today as I did on my 30th?”

Maya looked up at him again with eyes half-lidded. “Maybe something even better.”

“You don’t say,” he said, beginning to shift in bed, hoping that the present would come sooner rather than later.

“Ah, ah, ah,” she said, dashing his hopes. “Before any of that, I know the girls planned on making you breakfast today for the occasion, and I can already smell bacon!”

She pulled away from him and began to get out of bed. She grabbed a housecoat from the back of the bedroom door and turned back to him as she pulled it on.

“Let’s go eat.” She winked at him. “You’ll want to keep your energy up for your present later, old man.”