Storm Warning

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The Parts That I Remember

Several Hours Later

By the time she and Maddie had packed their things and left the house, it was nearly 8pm. Then they’d had to deal with the throng of reporters outside of Teddy’s apartment building when they’d stopped to drop off Daphne’s bag for her sleep-away. As such, it was fairly late by the time Rayna turned onto the private road leading to Deacon’s cabin. A few hundred yards down the road, Rayna came to a stop in front of a newly-installed security gate. “What’s this?” she asked quietly, mindful of Maddie sleeping in the passenger seat beside her. Rolling down her window, she pulled up to the keypad and pressed the small white call button. Moments later, she heard a clicking sound and then looked ahead as the gate opened, allowing her access through.

Driving forward, she pulled up to the cabin mere minutes later, parking behind Deacon’s truck. She shut off the car and turned towards Maddie, who was sleeping so peacefully, grimacing. She hated to wake her, especially with how upset Maddie had gotten with one of the reporters outside Teddy’s building earlier when they’d shoved a tape recorder in front of her, asking her about her video again. Rayna had waved the woman away with a “no comment” reply, and wrapped her arm around Maddie as she ushered her inside to the safety of the lobby of private building. Maddie hadn’t said a word throughout the entire encounter, but she’d been visibly upset, Rayna could tell. It hadn’t been any better when they’d had to leave and go through the same thing all over again. When they’d finally gotten away and had reached the outer city limits of Nashville, Rayna had looked over at Maddie and seen her silently crying. She’d tried talking to her and had even reached for Maddie’s hand, but Maddie had pulled away, emotionally and physically. She’d turned her head and looked out the window, refusing to look at Rayna when she spoke to her. Eventually she’d fallen asleep.

Noticing that Deacon had come outside and was standing on the porch waiting, she slipped out of the car, shutting the door quietly before walking around the front of the car. “Hey,” she said softly.

“Hey Ray,” he replied in acknowledgement, nodding. Even in the dim porch lighting, she could see that his expression was guarded. “Sorry about the gate,” he said.

She tipped her head to the side, nodding. “Yeah, what’s up with that anyhow?”

He shrugged. “Well, I figured that Maddie might like to come up here sometime with me and after what happened at your place and the world knowing that she’s mine now, I don’t want to take the chance that one of them reporters decides to come up here, you know? Granted, no one’s ever bothered me here before, but there’s always a first time for everything. And I think we’ve both seen how ruthless they’ve gotten lately. I want Maddie to feel comfortable and safe while she’s here, so I had it installed a few days ago,” he said in explanation. “Anyways, how was the drive?” he asked politely.

She shrugged. “Fine. Sorry we’re so late getting here. We had a bit of a “thing” with some of those reporters outside Teddy’s apartment building.” She sighed. “She was pretty upset after. Poor thing finally passed out about an hour ago,” she said, motioning towards Maddie. “Oh, I hate to wake her when she’s sleeping so soundly,” she said softly, as she reached for the door handle.

“Don’t,” he said, stopping her as he came down the steps towards her. “I’ll get her,” he said.

She raised a brow, gesturing towards his arm. “Are you sure—what about your hand? She’s not exactly light as a feather,” she said, smiling.

He cracked a small smile as he opened the door. “I think I can manage it. You grab the bags, I’ve got her,” he said, reaching in to undo Maddie’s seat belt. Moments later, he was lifting Maddie out of the car. She stirred a little in his arms, just long enough to wrap her arms around his neck before closing her eyes again. Rayna grabbed hers and Maddie’s bags from the backseat, then followed Deacon up the porch stairs, closing the sliding glass door behind them after he’d carried Maddie inside. She expected him to lay Maddie down on the made-up sofa, but he surprised her by heading towards the stairs.

“Deacon, really…just lay her on the couch. She’ll be fine there tonight. You don’t have to carry her all the way up,” she told him.

He shifted Maddie in his arms, throwing her a sideways glance. “Ray, I’ve got a guest room for a reason. She’s sleeping in a bed,” he said firmly. “You said it yourself, she needs the rest. Besides,” he said as he started up the stairs. “I recall carrying you up these stairs a time or two without incident. I think I’ve got it.”

Rayna smirked as she followed him closely. “Yeah, but you were a lot younger then,” she said, her tone teasing.

He stopped on the stair and glanced back at her. “Are you calling me old, Ray?” a hint of playfulness in his tone.

She shook her head. “I wouldn’t think of it,” she said, holding back a smile.

“Good answer,” he said, with a grin as he continued his ascent. He carried Maddie the rest of the way up the staircase, then down the hall to the guest bedroom. Rayna saw that he’d already turned down the bed in preparation for their arrival. Turning towards Rayna, he waited for her to remove Maddie’s shoes and set them on the floor before carefully lying Maddie down. He smiled as Maddie turned over onto her stomach in her sleep and sprawled her arms and legs out, effectively claiming a good majority of the bed. She looked like a starfish, he noted. “Sleeps like someone else I know,” he said, tossing Rayna a glance and a grin over his shoulder as he reached down and lifted the covers over Maddie’s sleeping form.

Rayna took a step back and out of the way as she watched Deacon tuck Maddie in, noting how he paused to smooth Maddie’s hair back from her face before softly saying “Sweet dreams, Darlin’.” She felt a tug at her heart as she witnessed the bittersweet moment, realizing that because of her, Deacon had never before completed this nightly routine “tuck-in” ritual with Maddie. She’d tucked Maddie in thousands of times over the years and had thought nothing of it. But standing there, watching Deacon do it—it tore at her. It was yet another reminder of what she’d stolen from him—from them both--by keeping the truth about Maddie from him.

When he turned around and saw her staring so intensely like she was, he shifted uncomfortably. “She okay like this?” he asked, breaking the silence.

Rayna just nodded. “Yeah. She’ll sleep through anything,” she said.

He nodded. “Right. Good. Well um, I figured Maddie’d like some privacy, so you can take the other bedroom. I’ll be on the sofa downstairs,” he said.

Rayna shook her head. “What? No—Deacon, I’ll sleep downstairs. It’s not a problem. I don’t want to put you out,” she argued.

“Exactly, Ray, you’re a guest in my home. You’re not sleeping on the couch,” he said. “Look, it’s not up for debate,” he said firmly when she opened her mouth to protest again. “Now get some sleep. It’s late. I’ll see you in the morning. Good night,” he said with a nod before walking out of the room without another word.

Rayna watched him go as tears filled and burned her eyes.

Guest.

Yep, that just happened, she told herself. Deacon had just referred to her as a guest in the home he’d once bought for her; for them to live together in and share their lives. For heaven sakes, she had memories of them christening nearly every surface in the place. Not to mention, they’d conceived Maddie right there on the rug that still lay in front of the fireplace downstairs. All those intimate memories and he considered her just a guest in his home? It threw her, for sure.

As she made her way down the hall to the Master bedroom a few moments later, she told herself she was reading far too much into it—that it was just a word and it wasn’t as though the term negated all those memories. But surprisingly still, for some reason…it hurt. As she readied for bed and slipped between the sheets, she recognized that fresh scent smell, realizing that he’d recently laundered the sheets. Gone were the ones they’d made love on just a week before. The tears slipped down her cheeks then as she hugged a pillow from his side of the bed. She knew it was irrational, but her heart didn’t care about rational things right then. All it saw and felt like right then was that Deacon was trying to erase her. From his bed, from the home that had once been theirs…logically, it was a only a matter of time before he cut her out of his heart, too. With a sob, she buried her face into the pillow that smelled of Summer Rain, and not of Deacon, like she wished it did…


The Following Morning

It was barely 9am when Rayna awoke to the sound of Maddie’s laughter wafting through the cabin from the open bedroom door. She sat up, bleary-eyed and disoriented for a moment, before remembering that she and Maddie had driven to Deacon’s cabin the night before. As she looked around the bedroom and the side of the bed next to hers that hadn’t been slept in, she recalled the clipped conversation with Deacon after he’d carried Maddie up to the guest bedroom and tucked her in. She shuddered as she recalled how he’d referred to her as a “guest in my home”, and how it had been those four words that were responsible for her restless night and the tear-stained pillow to her right.

As much as she wanted to lie back down, bury her face in that pillow again, and sleep away the memory of those words, she couldn’t ignore Maddie’s laughter. It’d been far too long, as far as she was concerned, since she’d heard that beautiful sound and she wanted to witness it first-hand. So, ignoring the way her body protested in exhaustion as she slipped out of the bed and pulled on a pair of shorts to go with the cami she’d slept in, she left the room and made her way downstairs towards the sound.

A smile found its way to her lips as she found Maddie in the kitchen area off of the living room with Deacon. Maddie was sitting on the island counter, giggling as Deacon flipped—not too successfully from the looks of it—what she suspected were pancakes into the air with a pancake griddle.

“Dammit,” she heard Deacon curse as a pancake fell to the floor. She brought her hand up to cover her mouth as a giggle escaped when Maddie quickly admonished him with a “Hey, language!” He mumbled an apology as both he and Maddie turned towards her.

“Mom, good, you’re up!” Maddie said with a smile. “Come here. You gotta see Deacon try to flip pancakes,” she said with a giggle. “It’s hilarious!”

Rayna slowly made her way towards Maddie, stopping beside the counter as she watched Deacon kneel down and scoop up the half-done pancake mess from the floor with a wet cloth, then toss it into the nearby sink as he straightened and faced her. “Emphasis on “try”, I take it?” she asked with a smirk.

“Funny Ray,” he said with a returned smirk. She tried not to read too much into the way his gaze traveled down the length of her body, taking in her skimpy sleeping attire. When he cocked a brow at her, she shrugged. After all, it was summer in Tennessee. What’d he expect, long johns? All too quickly the playful smirk disappeared from his face, filling her with disappointment. “Sorry if we woke you up with all the ruckus. Miss Maddie here insisted on chocolate chip pancakes, although I tried to tell her that omelets are my specialty,” he said, smiling at Maddie.

Maddie made a gagging sound. “Ugh, eggs are like, so gross,” she said in true teenage fashion.

Rayna laughed as Deacon put his hands on his hips and looked at her. “She hates eggs? Are you sure she’s yours, Ray?” he asked, teasing.

Rayna laughed at that, slipping her arm around Maddie’s waist while she sat on the counter. “I know. It’s totally weird, right? But I think we’ll keep her anyway,” she teased. “How’d you sleep, sweetie?” she asked Maddie.

“Pretty good,” Maddie answered. “It’s so quiet here. I like it,” she commented as she leaned over and swiped a spatula from the utensil bowl next to her and held it out to Deacon. “So you don’t ruin any more of my pancakes,” she said, cheekily.

Deacon held the spatula to his chest. “Ooh, that hurt,” he teased, then swatted her thigh playfully. “How ‘bout you take your sassy self and set the table and leave the cooking to the chef?” he suggested, throwing Rayna a grin.

“Chef—ha!” Maddie teased as she jumped down from the counter and narrowly avoided another swat from Deacon’s spatula. She sprinted off, laughing.

Rayna waited until Maddie grabbed some plates and silverware from the cupboard next to the sink and was out of earshot before she turned to Deacon. “Thank you…for making her laugh again. You’re so great with her,” she said softly.

He shrugged. “She makes it easy. She’s amazing, Ray. She really is.” They stared at each other for a long moment, and then he cleared his throat loudly and turned back towards the stovetop. “Pancakes okay? Or I can whip up an omelet quick, if you’d rather have that,” he offered.

She shook her head. “Nah, I’m good. It’s too early for me to think about food. I will have a cup of that coffee that smells so good, though,” she said as she headed towards the coffeepot on the counter. All too familiar with the layout, she found a mug and fixed herself a cup of the steaming liquid. Deacon always made the best coffee, she recalled. “I’m gonna go drink this on the porch I think and try to wake up a little. Good luck with the pancakes,” she said with an impish grin, and then scooted out of the room with her coffee before he could swat her, too—should he try.


A Short Time Later…

Rayna had outside for some time when she heard the door slide open. Over the rim of her coffee mug, she watched Deacon step over the threshold, then close the door behind him before heading towards her. He carried a plate in his hand and she knew before she even saw the contents it held that it was one of his amazing omelets. He knew that they were her favorite, especially when he made them. It warmed her to know that he hadn’t forgotten—and that he’d cared enough to go out of his way to make one for her, though she’d turned down his offer before.

“Thought you might be hungry by now,” he said as he set the plate down on the small wicker table between a pair of matching wicker porch chairs, sitting down in the one opposite hers.

“Thanks,” she said softly, not knowing what else to say, then turned and looked out at the lake for a distraction.

She heard Deacon clear his throat a few moments later, and turned back to him. “So um, I thought I’d show Maddie around the property, then take her down to the creek and do a little fishing, if you’d like to join us. She says she’s never been,” he said.

Rayna nodded. “Yeah, Teddy was never big on the whole camping and outdoorsy stuff, so that’s probably true. And you know I’m not,” she said with a small smile. “You two go. I’ll um, just stay here and hang out, if that’s okay with you,” she said. “Or you know, I can just head back to town and give you and Maddie some time together. I’ll just pick her up on Monday, or you can bring her back, whichever,” she said, rattling off the words as she nervously stared at her lap.

She heard him sigh. “Now why would you go and do that, Ray? Maddie said on the phone yesterday that this whole weekend getaway was your idea,” he said.

She nodded. “Well yeah, but I wasn’t expecting her to want to come here,” she admitted. “I mean, not that I don’t want her to spend time with you or be here, but well…I know you wanted your space and us being here—well me being here anyways—isn’t really conducive to that and so—“

He held up his hand, stopping her. “Ray—it’s fine. Really. And I’m glad Maddie wanted to come. She’s always welcome here. For that matter, so are you.”

She looked at him then, the surprise evident on her face. “Really? Even after—I mean, what you said last week—then you just left and I figured—“

He sighed again. “Ray, honestly--I really don’t want to get into all that. I mean, I know we’ll eventually have to talk about things, but right now—I’d really just like to focus on Maddie. I just want us all to have a good weekend, that’s all. Let’s just…keep it simple,” he said. “Okay?”

She bit back a protest, searching his troubled gaze for a moment before nodding. “Okay,” she agreed. “You’re right. We need to focus on Maddie. Right,” she said, nodding absently.

He nodded and stood up to leave. “Eat your breakfast before it gets cold, Ray,” he said, gesturing towards the plate before walking away.

As she heard him go back inside, closing the door behind him, she turned and looked at the omelet. With a sad sigh, she looked away. She didn’t feel like eating; her appetite gone for obvious reasons…


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