Soft beeps and buzzes pulled me from the darkness that had held me captive. As the sleep started to fade and my body became aware, I felt my head throbbing and aching unlike anything I’d ever felt before. My body felt heavy and I was annoyed that it wasn’t obeying me as quickly as I was commanding it to. I just wanted to open my eyes, and go to the bathroom. I tried to move my hand but couldn’t.
“Abie, honey,” Davis’s voice whispered close to me.
My eyes peeked open to see him holding my hand, looking down at me from where he now stood. “Davis…”
He smiled, kissing my forehead, but I didn’t really feel it. “It’s okay, sugar. You’re going to be okay,” he told me, then pushed a button on my bed.
My eyes wandered around the room, then I saw the bags that were connected to me. Slowly I turned back to him. “The baby?” I whispered, and felt the tears start to run down my face.
He quickly sat next to me. “The baby’s fine, Abie. You were given some blood but I was assured that it wouldn’t harm the baby.” Then his lips went to my hand, kissing it, and he held it firmly in his. “But even if it would’ve, sugar, I would’ve let them do anything they had to, to keep you here with me,” he confessed through his own tears, and I could see the guilt he felt at saying such a thing.
My free hand went slowly to his face. “Davis,” I whispered. He looked up at me as tears welled in his eyes. “Don’t go there, darling. The baby’s fine, and I would’ve trusted any decision you had to make under the circumstances,” I whispered to him.
“Okay, honey, okay.” He smiled at me, taking a deep breath.
A whole slew of nurses came in a moment later. Davis was informed that he needed to wait outside so I could be addressed and looked at. He went, but he did so very reluctantly. After I was looked at, poked, prodded, and had things taken from my body that I will not mention, I was helped to use the restroom, and the doctor came in to see me.
“Good evening, Adire. I’m Doctor Curtis.” She smiled. “Looks like you’re doing extremely well after such an ordeal. Your vitals are good, the baby’s heartbeat is strong. I would suggest taking Tylenol every six hours for the rest of the day to help with the pain,” she informed me.
“How long have I been out?” I asked.
“About five hours. The bullet grazed the side of your head. You are a very lucky woman, but head injuries tend to bleed profusely,” she said. “Now, I’m sure your biggest question is the baby.” I nodded my head to that. “Like I said, that little guy is doing just fine. You did receive some blood because of what you lost from your injury, but other than that, I think you’re well enough to go home. I just need you to relax and stay off your feet.”
Davis came in and shook her hand, then made his way over to me. “So how is she?” he asked nervously.
Dr. Curtis smiled again. “I just informed your wife that she’s fine. I think it’s safe for her to go home and rest in her own bed. But let me tell you the same thing I told her. She needs to relax; I don’t want her on her feet for a good three weeks. That means no running around, or being put under any stressful conditions. Just rest,” she warned him.
“I think I can manage that,” I smiled at the both of them. All I wanted was to go home, see my puppy and lie in bed, feeling safe in my husband’s arms. But what happened when I finally made it home and up to our bed turned out to be completely different.
Sheer exhaustion won over as Davis helped me off with my clothing and into a comfy nightie. He tucked me into bed and placed Choo close to me, where he cuddled his head right next to the baby, and I fell fast asleep thinking these two would be the best of friends.
My dad was over first thing in the morning. I didn’t even know he was there until I heard him and Davis downstairs talking. I came down, pulling my robe tightly around me. “Dad?” I asked as he sat at the table with my husband. He stared at me, then pushed his way up from the table to come stand in front of me. He didn’t say anything at first, but as I looked up at him I saw the tears start to well in his eyes. “Kitten,” came his gruff strained voice, as he gently pulled me into his arms and gave me a bear hug. “I’m so glad you and my grandbaby are all right,” he sniffed.
Slowly my arms went around him and he stiffened again. But then he cried a little harder under my embrace. “I love yah, kitten.”
“I love you too, Dad,” I whispered back to him.
Lucy saw the story on the news. Davis told her everything that had happened, and about the baby that was coming. She’d told Davis that she was coming up to help with anything that was needed. So Davis sent Tony down to retrieve her and bring her back to Boston, where she was given the downstairs as her living space, and told she could stay as long as she wanted. I was so happy to have her there with me.
Allie and Peter came over, along with Kitty and Rich, and life was falling back into a routine. But during the week and a half that had gone by, I’d finally had a chance to think about the things that had happened, and the changes in our life, my life. Now it was time to make some wise decisions for this family.
Late one night Davis and I were on our bed, watching a movie he’d chosen for us, and little Choo was once again sleeping next to my belly. I thought it was a good time to talk to Davis about some things I’d been thinking about. My fingers smoothed over his lower stomach, and I heard a little growl of approval. “Darling, can I ask you something?” I glanced up, and his deep blue eyes gazed down at me. “Sure, sugar, ask me anything,” he shrugged.
I laid my head back down upon his chest before I spoke. “After everything that happened with the Thompson Agency, it isn’t wise to go looking into employment with the competition, who’ve most likely heard of the scandal…” I began.
His muscles tightened. We’d been talking about me staying close to home, to him, our baby. To get a job with another major agency would have me traveling again. “I was thinking about starting my own consulting business. Something small, yet would help me keep busy in the field I love. What would you think about something like that?” I asked.
A big smile broke across his face when I looked back up at him. “I think it sounds great, sugar. I know you’re the best there is out there,” he chuckled at me.
I nodded and petted his chest as I asked the next question. “And if I wanted to start it in Houston… Would you be fine with helping me with such a venture?”
That stopped him, as the hands that were behind his head came down, caressing my back. “Abie, you want to start your company in Houston?” he asked skeptically.
“Yes. In one of those old brick buildings. The architecture is so magnificent, and those buildings deserve to have a second chance to be loved and taken care of. Just like I received a second chance in love,” I told him softly.
He beamed at me, and his smile was infectious. “Yeah, honey. We can do that.”
I bit my lip, wanting to get out everything I’d thought about. “But there’s more…” I said hesitantly. I wanted to express my thoughts correctly and not sound silly to him, but was having a hard time finding the right words.
“Go on, sugar. I want to hear what you have to say,” he encouraged me, as his hand still caressed my back in loving support.
“Would it offend you if we built a smaller house on the property in Houston? I was thinking a little closer to the road in case of an emergency, closer to town so it would be only a twenty or thirty minute drive away instead of over an hour, maybe be closer to people…”
“What do you mean, Abie?” he asked, but looked like he understood some of the things that I’d brought up.
I sighed over my silliness, but this was the truth of how I felt, right, wrong, or indifferent. “Your ranch, Davis, is absolutely stunning, but it is enormous. I’d need the staff to help me maintain such a beautiful place. But I would rather have a place that only requires the three of us, and one puppy.”
I glanced up again before I said the rest. “I would really love to be able to raise the baby in a more cozy environment.So I was thinking maybe have a little home that we would raise the family in, and then the ranch is there as well…for holidays, or barbecues…” I sighed, shaking my head, not knowing if I was even making sense to him. “I don’t have it all figured out yet, but I guess it would be called more of a home site,” I thought out loud.
Davis helped me sit up on the bed and examined me. “You really thinkin’ Houston is where you want to raise the baby?”
I thought back to all the wild open space, the animals that he or she would be able to play with and enjoy. Plus there was Betty Ann, and Jess. Jess was marrying Yancy right after the baby was born. She wanted to make sure she was around for the delivery of her new niece or nephew.
“Yes. We’ll keep the brownstone for now. But in time I think it might be something I’m willing to part with. Especially if Kitty lives there in Houston, and I could talk Allie and Peter into moving out this way as well…” I thought aloud once more. “And…”
“And…” he prompted.
“I would like to help my dad move out there as well. Maybe have him help do something on the ranch or in town, so he can be a part of his grandchild’s life. Are you okay with that?” I asked.
He took my face in his hands, kissing the tip of my nose. “Yeah, I’m okay with that, honey.” He smiled. “It’s called a homestead, by the way.”
“What you were talkin’ about, you want us to live on a little homestead to raise the kids,” he smiled happily at me.
“Well, I didn’t say anything in the plural sense of ‘the children.’ But with the baby and Choo, maybe a garden out back with a big front porch, and trees surrounding us… Yes. I would love to raise our family like that.” I craned up, kissing his lips teasingly. “Then I can see my cowboy come in all sweaty and dirty every day. And take him into the house and make my sweaty man obey my whims,” I purred.
He carefully got me onto my back, and I chuckled at him as his adorable crinkle came to his forehead. “Damn it, sugar. You talk like that and I need you,” he growled down at me.
My fingers trailed the side of his face, loving the little bite of his whiskers. “Well, I talked to my OB this afternoon, and she informed me that I was perfectly fine for some hardcore vanilla this evening. All soft and buttery…” I chuckled again at the look in his eyes.
That little-boy grin came to his face. “Well, let’s see what Daddy can do to accommodate you with all the vanilla that you can handle, Mrs. Mills,” his voice rumbled right before he came down and kissed me.
“I can handle quite a bit when it comes to you, darling,” I whispered, letting him have his way with me.
Five years later, Homestead in Houston
Davis pulled up to the house and saw Abie sitting on the front porch with a glass of tea in her hand, and Lucy over in the garden, pulling weeds that she’d found in the front flowerbeds. Those two had always had a mother/daughter relationship, but now they were inseparable.
Lucy had moved to Houston only three months after Michael was born. Abie had a difficult delivery, and she’d offered to come out and help her get her bearings with a new baby, and let her heal. Once Lucy was there and she held little Michael in her arms, she never went back home to Savannah. She now lived only thirty minutes away in the next town, and went out to the homestead almost every day to see her grandbabies. Now Abie sat chatting with her second momma, waiting for her men to come home. The large oak trees shaded her from the hot July sun, as her flimsy little dress blew in the warm Texas breeze. And his heart swelled with love at the sight of her.
As soon as he turned off the ATV, Choo jumped out to go see his beautiful woman, whom Davis himself wanted to go see. And despite having the worst name for a cattle dog there ever was, he was also the best cow dog around. He still slept at the end of the bed every night, and fought with Davis for cuddling rights with his wife.
He unbuckled their three boys and they piled out of the vehicle, running over to give Nana a kiss. Michael was four, with sandy blond hair and speckled eyes. The twins Jason and Jacob were identical, and at three already a handful. With hair white as snow and deep blue eyes, they might look like little angels, but they had a streak of devil that ran through them as well. After they’d had Michael, three months later they found out Abie was pregnant again, but this time with the twins, which was a shocker for the two of them.
“Oh lord, look at my little sweet peas. Michael, Jason, Jacob, you get those cute little behinds over here to give your Nana some sugar now,” Lucy told them.After she got her required affection, Michael took her by the hand, leading her to his prize. He’d been making a mud puddle so all the bullfrogs would have a place to live, right there in the front yard, and he could play with them every day. Abie would sigh every night; she’d have to literally hose them all down before bringing them into the house, just so they could have their baths.
“Davis, why do boys purposely go about looking for ways to get dirty? I think our boys have a gene in them to help find anything that will attract dirt to their bodies!” she told him almost every night, when the bathtub was brown from all the earth the boys had collected on themselves. He would laugh and help her bathe them…again.
He made his way over to the steps as his beautiful wife sat with his fourth child in her belly, just about ready to pop. “How’s my girls this afternoon?” he asked, kissing her. Her slender fingers rubbed her belly that was hidden under a cool cotton blue sundress. “I was fine, until this little one wanted to kick my bladder all through my conference call this morning. She already wants to make herself known. I’m afraid we have a little princess on our hands here, darling,” she told him with a smile. Davis bent down, his knee going to one of the steps, taking her belly in his hands. “Loretta Ann, are you givin’ your momma sass already, princess?” he asked, and the baby started kicking. That got him laughing and he kissed the top of her stomach. Abie chuckled at him. “Well, that nickname won’t help, now will it?” she scolded.
He laughed, just staring at her. He was always amazed at what a lucky bastard he was when he saw her, and how remarkably talented she was when it came to the workplace. Her agency in Houston was a huge success; AA Mills was on its way to being a real competitor in the consulting field.
He looked at the twins just as Jacob stuck his head in the mud with the frogs, and groaned at the afternoon bath that the boys would be needing. “The twins are going to be hellions I’m afraid, sugar. Three years old and not afraid of a damn thing. Mike put Jason on ol’ Duke the stallion, and he wasn’t afraid at all. Then Jacob wanted his turn of course,” he told her, as he watched Jason follow his twin by dunking his head in the goopy mud.
“And Michael?” she questioned, already knowing the answer.
He laughed, tipping his hat back. “I’m afraid he’s got too much you in him. I see him as a very good businessman. Or maybe a scientist, helping the world and little critters.”
She chuckled at that. “Yes, he might be, but Dad said that he has quite an arm on him. Maybe he’ll play baseball.”
He turned and looked at his son with his hands covered once again in mud, showing his Nana all his frogs. “Maybe… I wouldn’t mind havin’ a baseball player in the family,” he told her.
Her hands rubbed the sides of his arms. “Oh, Dad’s coming over tonight. He thought it might be nice to enjoy a barbecue on your big wood grill together. Maybe I should call everyone to come over this evening. Betty Ann and Hank, Kitty and Rich, Allie and Peter, and I think Jess and Yancy are back from Boston now, as well. Don’t you think it’d be nice to have them come join us? Then just sit and talk for a bit, you know, a quiet night before Loretta makes her entrance into the world,” she told him happily.
His hand went around her back, and he bent forward, his lips almost touching hers. “You think little Loretta might make her appearance tonight?”
She smiled and shrugged at his question. “She is already three days overdue. Did you have something in mind, cowboy, for helping her find her way out this evening?” she said with that sly smile that he so loved.
“Yes, damn it, sugar, you know I do. But I was thinking about afternoon naptime. I say we hose them boys down in the back yard, put them down for a nap, and let Daddy have a little alone time with their momma. After I’m done with you, I’m thinkin’ we’ll be headin’ to the hospital for the birth of our little princess,” he whispered, kissing her lips tenderly.
“And the barbecue?” she asked with a grin.
“Well, your dad will already be over to watch the boys, and Lucy can just come with us to the hospital,” he explained, thinking of things he really wanted to do to her at the moment.
Little voices were calling out “Daddy!” He and Abie looked over at each boy, holding something wiggling in his hands, and Lucy was making a face as if to tell him he was the one to deal with this situation.
“I think you might want to go deal with that, darling. Or there will be no vanilla with naptime this afternoon. I think if they bring one of those slimy creatures over, my water may just break from the fright,” she told him with a wicked smile.
He started to chuckle, getting up from the porch. “Daddy doesn’t want that, now does he? My sugar’s going to be off limits for a little while after the baby’s born, and I want to play with her while I can now,” he told her, giving her one last good kiss.
He made his way off the porch and she laughed. “Oh, I forgot to tell you. I bought you a present, looks like a rather interesting device. I think you’ll like it very much,” she purred as he walked away.
He glanced over his shoulder at her, then started walking again. “Damn it! You’ve already got my mind goin’ again!” he growled, needing to hose himself down with ice-cold water. He went to go get the mud-covered boys, so he could wash them up and ready them for their naps. He was needing his little dominatrix, he needed her bad!
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