Storm Warning

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Baby Book Blues

Later That Evening

Rayna’s Music Room…

Distance don’t mean a thing

I come when you pull the strings

The stings of my heart, wherever you are

Just pull, tug, tease

I’ll keep coming back, oh, it’s true

I’ll keep coming back, that’s what I’ll do

I’ll retrace my tracks, to you

Time isn’t all it seems

No measure of you and me

Hours turn into days

Though I’m far away

Just pull, tug, tease

I’ll keep coming back

Deacon sighed as he lifted his fingers from the keys of Rayna’s piano and ran them through his hair, only to swing around quickly in his seat a moment later when he heard the sound of someone clearing their throat behind him. He found Rayna standing in the doorway, watching him. “Oh hey, Ray,” he greeted, a little flustered at the thought of her standing there, listening to him.

She gave him a slight smile as she started forward. “Hey. New song?” she asked, glancing at the piano as she crossed the room towards him.

He closed the lid on the keys and wiped his piano-sweaty palms on the pant-legs of his jeans. “It’s a work-in-progress,” he answered with an easy shrug. “Something I thought I’d put on my EP album. Nothing special.”

She raised a brow, as if to say Oh, really, but just nodded. “Oh. Well, what little I heard sounded good. It’s got a great melody,” she complimented him as she stopped to lean against the back of the sofa to stand across from where he sat at the piano.

He nodded. “Uh, thanks. So um—“ he started, quickly changing the conversation. “Did Tandy and the girls get away unscathed?” he asked.

She nodded, giving him a small smile that didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Yeah,” she said, sadly. “Luckily, I don’t think they realized the girls were with her in the car or they probably would have followed her home instead of still being camped out at my gate,” she said with distaste.

“Well, that’s a relief.” He hesitated as he read her face. “So how are you holding up?” he asked, sensing her emotional exhaustion despite the several feet of distance that separated them.

She sighed deeply, and then gave a little shrug. “Okay, I guess. I mean, I know the girls are probably better off at my sister’s tonight, being away from the circus outside and everything—and I’m grateful to Tandy for suggesting the idea and getting their minds off of things…but still, I kinda just wish they were here with me tonight. Especially with what happened with Maddie and those reporters and the way she reacted, you know?” She shook her head. “I mean, I know she and I talked a little but I don’t know. Maybe I’m just overreacting, but I feel like she’s pushing me away, Deacon…like she’s never going to forgive me for this…like I’m losing her… God, that scares the hell out of me,” she admitted, her voice cracking as she looked down at the floor at her feet.

He sighed as he stood and walked over to where she stood, stopping in front of her and slowly reaching out to cup her face in his hands. “Ray, look at me…please,” he said softly, waiting until she finally lifted her tear-filled eyes to his a few moments later. He gently wiped away a few of the fallen tears from her cheeks with the pads of his thumbs and sighed. “Rayna, you’re not going to lose her, alright? Trust me, that girl loves you, so much. You want to know how I know that?” he asked when she flashed him a look of disbelief. “Because she went out there today and faced all those reporters by herself—despite how terrified and intimidated she must have been and felt…for you, Rayna. So you wouldn’t have to and so they’d stop blaming you for what’s happening. She loves you, Ray. And you have to have realized by now that she practically idolizes you,” he said.

She scoffed at that as she wiped away a fallen tear. “Ha. Yeah right,” she said, shaking her head with disbelief.

He laughed at her. “Are you kidding me, Ray? She wants to be just like you…her talented, famous Mama. Why do you think she’s so hell bent on you signing her to your new label and wanting to get real gigs? She knows you started playing when you were around her age and she wants to do the same thing. Not to mention, I’ve seen her watching you during your shows and at some of your sound checks. The look on her face—she’s in total awe of you, Ray. And so proud that you’re her mother. You can’t fake that kind of adoration. Maddie loves you. Right now, she may not understand everything that’s happened or the reasons behind the decisions that were made, but she loves you, Rayna. Don’t ever doubt that,” he said softly, smiling at her upturned face.

She sighed as she blinked back fresh tears and nodded, smiling slightly at him. “Thank you,” she finally whispered with emotion in her voice. Without words and as if by natural instinct, her arms went up to wrap around Deacon’s neck, even as she buried her face into his shoulder. Deacon responded in turn, wrapping his arms around her and holding her close, tight to his own body, wishing he could absorb all the uncertainties he could tell she still holding onto.

When she pulled back a few minutes later and looked up at him, she had a semblance of a smile on her lips. “Stay with me tonight,” she said softly, then ducked her head in embarrassment when he gave her a knowing, lusty look. She slapped at his arm. “Not for that,” she said with a small smile and a laugh. “I mean…just…I’d rather not be alone tonight, you know?” she added quietly.

Sensing her trepidation, he stilled his laughter. “Babe…hey, look at me…” he ordered softly, lifting her chin with his index finger so she met his eyes. “It’s gonna be okay, Ray. Everything will be alright.”

“You promise?” she asked, needing the reassurance.

He smiled as he slid his hand to the nape of the neck and pulled her close, burying his face in her soft curls. “I promise,” he whispered against her ear. And come hell or high water, it was one promise he was going to make damn sure he kept. Considering the pile of ones he hadn’t, he owed her that one. At the very least, he owed her that one.

Some Time Later…

“Rayna—Ray where are—“ Deacon came to a stop in the hallway, standing in the doorway of Maddie’s room. “Oh hey, there you are,” he said as he started into the room. As he neared, he saw Rayna was sitting on the flowery chaise he’d sat upon earlier, Maddie’s baby book sitting on her lap, open to one of the pages.

He approached slowly, waiting for her to lift her head and acknowledge his presence before he spoke. Finally, she did, lifting her teary gaze to his. He could see from her glistening cheeks that she’d been crying. As always, the thought of her in tears didn’t sit well with him. She gave him a small, reassuring smile before she glanced down at the book in her lap. “I was tidying up and I couldn’t put this away just yet.” She looked back up at him. “Maddie said you’d found it.”

He swallowed hard, then nodded as he carefully sat down next to her. “Yep. I did. I only flipped through the first couple of pages before she woke up but Ray—it’s beautiful.”

She ran her fingers along the border of Maddie’s first picture, taken in the hospital just moments after she was born, a small pink bundle pressed against Rayna’s chest. Rayna’s eyes were closed and she was smiling as she cuddled Maddie close, a lone tear falling down her cheek. She looked so happy…so maternal. She glanced at Deacon, who was looking at the photo as well. “I remember the moment this picture was taken…how happy I was…but a little sad, too because something was missing. You,” she said simply as she waited for him to lift his gaze and meet her eyes.

He nodded. “I’d give anything to have been there, Ray. For you and her,” he added. “Tell me about that night, Ray,” he said. “Tell me about the night our little girl was born,” he said softly.

He heard her quick intake of breath and he knew he’d surprised her with the request, but it was something he’d been wondering about almost since the moment he’d learned that Maddie was his. He couldn’t explain it, but he needed to know. She hesitated, her eyes searching his a moment, before nodding and taking a deep breath.

“I was in labor most of the day…but I think I was too scared and too stubborn to admit it. The pains weren’t that bad, so I just dismissed them. I wasn’t due for three more weeks, so really, I wasn’t ready. But Maddie had other ideas,” she said with a small smile as she recalled the event. “It wasn’t until Teddy got home from work that they really got bad. When I told him, he lost it…panicked really. He insisted we go right to the hospital…but you know me, I refused. The contractions weren’t at all close together, so I knew I had time. So, I labored here at the house…downstairs in the music room, in fact…for about three more hours. I played a little on the piano and listened to some Loretta records…while Teddy freaked out in the background, insisting that I at least sit on the sofa and relax,” she said with a chuckle. “My water broke in the kitchen while I was fixin’ some sweet tea…of all things,” she smiled. “So we headed to the hospital…my contractions were close by then…and they wheeled me right into the delivery room. Less than an hour later, they were putting our little girl in my arms,” she said, brushing at a fallen tear. “She had a set of lungs on her like you wouldn’t believe, our girl did,” she said, smiling at him. “The nurse kept saying she was gonna be just like me, her Mama…but all I kept thinking was that she looked just like you. They put her in my arms and she stopped crying and she looked right up at me and it was looking at you, Deacon. Your eyes. And I knew in that moment that no matter what happened with you and me, I’d always have a piece of you in her. All those little moments…these moments in here…that’s what got me through. We made her, Deacon. You and me. That our love could create something so beautiful…so perfect…it’s just…incredible,” she said.

He smiled as he wrapped his arm around her back and she leaned into him, laying her head against his shoulder. “It sure is, Ray. Thank you…for her. For our amazing girl. And for the book,” he added.

She lifted her head to look at him, then dropped her gaze in shame. “I always was going to tell you, Deacon. At some point. That’s what this book was for. I planned on giving it to you, so in a way, you’d have a piece of every moment with her. I just…I just didn’t know how to tell you. I was so afraid that you’d hate me…that you’d never forgive me and I just—I couldn’t lose you. I know that sounds selfish, but it’s true. And the older Maddie got, I just—I don’t know, felt like I’d be turning her whole world inside-out if I told her the truth. I didn’t—I couldn’t bear the thought of hurting her.” She scoffed at her words. “And the irony is, it happened anyway. I lost you and her. It’s even worse than I imagined,” she said as the tears fell. “Deacon…” she said on a sob as she turned into him.

“Shh,” he said as closed the book and set it down on the other side of him, then wrapped her in his arms. “Ray, it’s gonna be okay. I promise. It’s all gonna be okay. Everything works out the way it’s meant to…that’s what we’ve always said, darlin’. And you haven’t lost either one of us. Maddie loves you, Ray. And I’m right here. I’m not goin’ anywhere,” he said.

She sniffled and looked up at him. “Promise?” she asked tearfully.

He smiled down at her. “You’re not getting rid of me that easily, Babe. Not this time,” he added as he pressed a kiss to the top of her head and tightened his arms around her. “Not this time,” he repeated softly. And heaven knows, he meant it.

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