Storm Warning

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Not Always Puppies And Rainbows

Deacon opened his eyes slowly as he came awake, finding himself staring into the larger-than-life-sized portrait painting of the girls that hung on the wall of the master bedroom, Rayna’s bedroom. Rayna, who at that moment, was curled up against him, fast asleep. Her legs were tangled with his and one of her hands was lightly fisted in the material of his t-shirt, while the other was tucked between her cheek and pillow. He smiled as he stared down at her—her face only inches from his. God, she was gorgeous, he thought to himself. And then, I’ve missed this. Oh, how he missed it—waking up with Rayna in his arms was one of the things he’d missed most in all the years they were apart. Most of the time he’d wake to find himself nearly on the edge of his side of the bed, with Rayna sprawled out somewhere in the middle, most of the covers tucked tightly around her body. But on those rare occasions—like this one—she’d be curled up against him, so close that it was almost as though they were one. It usually happened when she was worried or upset about something, or following a rough night like the one she’d had the night before.

He frowned as he recalled how upset she’d been in Maddie’s room, after he’d found her with Maddie’s baby book and asked her to tell him about the night Maddie was born. It was as though the dam had finally broken—and all the stress and pain that she’d been bottling up over the past few months—came bubbling to the surface with a vengeance. He’d done what he could, which wasn’t much. All he’d been able to do was hold her close and whisper words of comfort to her until her tears were finally spent. Afterwards, he’d led her to the master bedroom, helped her change into something more comfortable to sleep in, then held the covers back while she slipped into the bed. Despite the intimate night they’d shared, he’d planned on bunking in the guest room down the hall to give her some space, but the way she’d reached out and grabbed his hand and the pleading look in her eyes as she quietly asked him to stay with her—he couldn’t have refused her if he’d tried. So, with a simple nod in assent, he stripped down to his undershirt and boxers and slid into the bed beside her. Before he’d even settled in, she’d turned and curled herself up against him, burying her face into his chest. Exhausted as she’d been, he wasn’t surprised when she’d relaxed and fallen asleep mere minutes later. He’d joined her not long after.

As his focus the night before had been on comforting Rayna, he hadn’t preemptively considered the involuntary reaction his lower body would have to waking up with her wrapped around him. He groaned inwardly as he became painfully aware of his growing morning arousal, which at that very moment was pressed snugly against Rayna’s hipbone.

He was in the process of considering how to extricate himself from Rayna’s tangle of limbs without waking her when, as if on cue, Rayna sighed in her sleep and shifted closer. He winced at the movement, his breath nearly a hiss, and looked down to find himself staring into Rayna’s amused, sleepy gaze. “ Mornin’ Ray,” he managed.

She smiled sleepily as she smoothed the wrinkles in his shirt from her clutching it in her sleep. “G’morning,” she replied. “Sleep well?” she asked, a dark tint in her eyes that teased of laughter and something else.

He struggled to ignore the sexy, sleep-gravelly tone in her voice that had always turned him on in the morning and keep things innocent, but it was hard. Literally and figuratively, especially with her looking at him like she was. “Surprisingly well, in fact,” he replied with a nod. “Considering someone was wrapped around me like a vine all night and this morning,” he said, smiling as he brushed a flyaway curl behind her ear. “How ‘bout yourself?”

She smiled. “Better than ever. You know, you make a great pillow, Deacon Claybourne,” she said playfully, tapping on his chest with her fingers. “Among other things,” she said, her voice husky.

Recognizing the instinctive warning signs, Deacon nodded. “Well you know us Southern gentlemen…we aim to please,” he said, his voice a little gruff. “Speaking of, I should probably go fix us some breakfast,” he suggested, using the excuse as a means to get out of the bed before he did something particularly inappropriate. “Eggs?” he asked her as he flipped the covers back.

“Mhmm, maybe later,” she said, shifting closer. “I was thinking something more along the lines of…this…” her voice trailed off as her fingertips brushed down his shirt.

He inhaled sharply even as he grabbed her traveling hand, gripping her wrist and stopping her decent. “Whoa…um, Ray…maybe we should talk about things first. You know, we just kind of jumped right into things the other night without really discussing—“

“Hey, Deacon…?” she asked, interrupting him as she shifted and propped herself up on her elbow, looking up at him.

“Yeah Ray?” he asked, looking down at her, mesmerized and distracted.

She smirked at him. “Just shut up and kiss me already,” she demanded, even as she snuck her arm around his neck and pulled him down, fusing her mouth to his.

And just like that…he was lost. And all his reasons for getting out of that bed…were quickly forgotten.


Some Time Later…

Sweaty and sated, Deacon looked down at Rayna, who was snuggled up against his side, her face flushed and body exhausted from their intense bout of lovemaking only moments before. Her eyes were closed, but he could tell from her panting breaths that she was still very much awake. “Ray…Babe…we gotta talk about this,” he said finally, his own breathing still labored.

She groaned as she opened her eyes and tipped her face up to look at him. “Do we? I mean, can’t we just lie here and enjoy this bed…and each other…and just, I don’t know—forget everything else? It always gets so complicated when we talk,” she said, scrunching up her face at the thought.

He grinned down at her. “As tempting as that is, Ray...and damn it, is…we have to talk about this. All that complicated stuff you’re afraid of—it’s just gonna keep building up, if we let it. And eventually, it’s going to come to head, or worse, it’ll drive a wedge between us. And godknows, Babe—that’s the last thing I want. I want us to figure things out…I think we owe it to ourselves to at least try, don’t you?” he asked.

She stared at him a long moment, then sighed, nodding. “Yeah...I know you’re right, Deacon, I just—“ she looked away from him.

“Just what, Ray?” he asked. “Babe, look at me…talk to me. Please. What are you so scared of, Rayna?” he asked when she finally lifted her gaze to his, tears in those gorgeous blue eyes of hers.

“Everything, Deacon,” she admitted after a pause. “We’re so good at this part,” she whispered. “We always have been. And being in your arms feels so…perfect, you know? Like it’s meant to be. It’s just everything else that’s so messed up,” she said with a small cry. “In here, being with you like this, it’s easy to forget all the bad…all the hurt. But out there,” she began, “it’s always there. The past…all that pain, the doubt…”

He swallowed hard, trying not to take what she was saying as a direct hit. “The drinking, you mean? Are you afraid I’m going to start drinking again? Because I swear to you, Ray, that’s not going to happen,” he promised in earnest.

She shook her head and sat up, pulling the sheet with her and wrapping it around herself. He sat up next to her, looking at her, willing her to say something. “It’s not…that, Deacon,” she said after a moment, shaking her head.

He heard the hesitation in her voice. “Isn’t it, Ray?” he asked, angry that it always came back to his old demons, and hurt that Rayna still didn’t trust him.

Hearing the hurt in his voice, she turned towards him. “Deacon, I—“ she bit her lip, trying to find the right words to somehow fix the mess of a conversation they were having.

He nodded as he scoffed and threw back the covers, slipping out of the bed. Without a word, he quickly found his clothes and dressed. “I’m just gonna go. You were right Ray, talking was a bad idea,” he said, starting for the door of the bedroom.

“You’re just going to leave?” Rayna exclaimed from where she sat on the bed, clutching the sheet to her chest. Her conflicted eyes were filled with unshed tears, not unlike Deacon’s.

He stopped and turned back. “What else is there for me to do, Rayna? You said it yourself, it’s too complicated to work. And as much as I love making love to you, Ray…I need more than that. Hell, I want more than that. Godknows, I’ve waited long enough.” He sighed and ran a frustrated hand through his hair as he continued. “I know what I’ve done. Hell, I broke your heart a thousand different ways and God, I am sorry for that, Ray. I am. But something changed. Me. I know how to love you now. And that man you always wanted me to me—I am that man. And I can be a husband now. And a father. And I can give you everything that we were always meant to have.” She opened her mouth to say something, but he shook his head, stopping her as he continued. “Maybe I’m too late and maybe I should just move on, but I can’t. I’ve tried like hell, but all that ever happens is that I just get better at lying to myself. I don’t want to do that anymore. I want us to be a family. You and me, Ray. That’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s Maddie…and Daphne…and you…and me. That’s what I want, Rayna. And if you don’t want the same thing then…well I guess I’ll just have to learn to accept that… somehow. But in the meantime, I can’t do this…with you. I can’t be with you and not have all of you. It’s just…I can’t do it. It’s too hard. I’m sorry,” he said. He shifted his feet, nodding. “I’m gonna call Scarlett and have her give me a lift back to my truck, then head back to the cabin. I think it’s best that way. I’ll go ahead and give Maddie a call and let her know my plans. Take care of yourself, Ray,” he said, lingering a moment as he stared at her crushed expression. For a moment, he was tempted to go to her and gather her in his arms, but he knew it would only make it worse. Besides, there was only so much pride a man could sacrifice in the name of love, and after that speech he’d just given, he’d just about reached his limit. With a heavy heart and a brisk nod, he turned and walked out of the room…


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