Storm Warning

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Deja Vu, Happily-Ever-After, Too


“So you’re telling me that you caught five fish and threw all five back in? Am I hearing that right?” Rayna asked, her question poised at Deacon, who was sitting behind her on the couch. She had turned and leaned back against his chest, tipping her head up to ask him the question.

Her, Deacon, and Maddie were all sitting on the couch—Rayna lying back between Deacon’s legs and Maddie sitting Indian-Style on the other end, facing them—with the fire roaring in the background, talking about Deacon and Maddie’s little fishing adventure the afternoon before.

Deacon laughed, the sound vibrating through Rayna—the sound like music to her ears—and gave Maddie a mock-stern look that failed, completely. “Thanks a lot, Maddie,” he said, shaking his head when she just grinned without the slightest hint of remorse. He caught Rayna’s smirk and rolled his eyes. “Okay, fine. Yes, I did. But only because Maddie asked me to,” he said, smiling over at his daughter.

“What?” Rayna asked, looking back and forth between the two.

“You wanna tell her?” Deacon asked, sharing a look with Maddie, who ducked her head in embarrassment. “Save me a little humiliation here, darlin’,” he said and Maddie laughed.

“Alright,” she conceded. “It’s my fault. The first fish was really, really small. A baby, really. Well…not really, but yeah. So I told Deacon it’d be like cruel to keep it ‘cause it was so small and it really wouldn’t be worth the trouble of cleaning it. So I asked him—nicely—“ she said, grinning at Deacon over Rayna’s shoulder “--to throw it back and catch another one. A bigger one. So he did. But I told him that one was too small, too and to throw it back. The same with the two after that.” She laughed. “Then finally the last one he caught, it was a really big one. Like huge. So he caught it and he was like so happy. But I begged him to throw it back,” she said, starting a fit of giggles.

Rayna raised a brow, turning back to Deacon. “What was wrong with the fish?” she asked.

Deacon smirked. “Oh, absolutely nothing was wrong with the fish. It was a beauty. A huge bass. Would’ve tasted great for supper,” he said, smirking at Maddie, who shuddered. “If our little animal activist here hadn’t begged me to release it back.”

Maddie raised her hands in protest. “Okay, in my defense—it was gross. I mean, the fishing part was fun and all—but then Deacon just kept talking about how he was going to show me how to clean what we caught and that then we’d have to eat it and—“ she shuddered again “ew, so gross. So I figured if we didn’t catch anything, then we wouldn’t have anything to eat. That and they looked so helpless, Mom. It would have been cruel to kill ‘em,” Maddie explained, much to Rayna’s chagrin.

She turned and looked at Deacon. “You didn’t know she doesn’t eat fish?” she asked, grinning.

“No,” Deacon answered slowly. “First she doesn’t eat eggs and then fish? How’d this girl even survive in your household, Ray?” he asked. “You’re crazy about seafood and you’re the only person I know who actually thinks eggs are a comfort food.”

She joined in with Maddie’s laughter. “I know, it makes no sense, right? Daphne’s my little seafood nut, so it’s not a complete strike-out,” she said, smiling at him.

He shook his head, smiling. “You two are impossible.” Rayna just smiled.

“Well, I’m glad both of you had a good time,” Rayna said.

“The best,” Maddie agreed, catching Deacon’s gaze and flashing him a huge grin when he nodded along with her.

Rayna sighed. “And on that note…I think it’s time Miss Animal Rights’ gets her little behind to bed. It’s getting late and we’ve got to hit the road early to get back in time to pick up your sister,” she told Maddie, breaking the mood.

Maddie scrunched up her features. “Aw, Mom. Really? It’s still early. Can’t I stay up a little while longer?” she pleaded.

Rayna shook her head. “Sorry, sweetheart. It’s after eleven already.”

Maddie pouted and glanced at the guitar that was sitting on the coffee table nearby, her face lighting up. “But I forgot to play the song Deacon and I wrote,” she said, leaning forward and grabbing the guitar, settling it in her lap.

“Maddie…” Rayna said, her tone even and full of that motherly warning.

“Please, Mom?” Maddie pleaded. “It’s really important. It’s the song I recorded in the video, so in a way, it’s kinda the reason we’re even here. Please? I’ll go to bed right after, I swear,” she promised.

Rayna sighed, unable to resist Maddie’s pleading face. That and her own curiosity getting the better of her had her relenting. After the last song Maddie and Deacon had written together, “Believing”, she could only imagine the musical genius she was in store for. “Okay, but bed right after,” she said, nodding in acquiescence as she leaned back against Deacon, settling herself against him, feeling that instant rush of warmth when he instinctively wrapped his arms around her, holding her to him.

Maddie grinned. “Awesome.” She looked up at Deacon. “Are you gonna join me?” she asked.

Deacon shook his head, resting his chin on Rayna’s shoulder. “Nope. I’m just going to sit back and be a spectator. Take it away, darlin’,” he encouraged her.

She smiled and nodded, adjusting her fingers on the strings. “Okay, um, it’s called “I Can’t Sleep Tonight”,” she introduced the song as she began strumming.

The moment her fingers touched the strings, both Rayna and Deacon were mesmerized.

The shadows of regret

The ghosts of things we said

They've got me dead to right

And I can't sleep tonight

So here I am again

Another one that I can't win

Well, it's too late now to fight

And I can't sleep tonight

Love and loss and toss and turn

Light a match, then watch them burn

I don't know who's wrong or right

All I know is I can't sleep tonight


A little dream would do me good

And I'd dream one if I could

Of you and me in a better light

But I can't sleep tonight

And I felt the rise and fall

The earthquake of it all

With a bitter end in sight

Baby, I can't sleep tonight

Yeah I know that

When it's good it's good

When it works, it works

And when it don't, it hurts

The shadows of regret

The ghosts of things we said

They've got me dead to right

But I can't sleep tonight

“Wow,” Rayna whispered, still wiping the tears from her eyes minutes later, even after Maddie had finished the song, said her goodnights, and gone upstairs. She turned to look at Deacon, who was smiling. He frowned when he saw the traces of tears on her face and immediately leaned forward to wipe her cheeks with the pads of his thumbs.

“Aw, don’t cry, Babe,” he told her.

She smiled. “I can’t help it. That was…so beautiful, Deacon. The music the two of you write, it’s—“ she ducked her head as a fresh flurry of tears began.

He laughed as he pulled her back into his arms, holding her close to him. “She did most of it. I just helped her along with the melody,” he said, playing down his role as he always did.

She didn’t believe him for a second. She pulled back and looked down at him. “The words, Deacon—“ she shook her head, her voice trailing off. “It was a wonderful song. I’d love to hear the two of you sing it together sometime,” she said softly as she leaned down and forward to press a kiss to his mouth before snuggling up against him, just breathing him and the moment in. In truth, she was a loss for words. After the song, all she could feel was the emotion swelling up inside her—all the love she felt for her beautiful, talented daughter, and the man that had helped create her—and her admiration for the song itself. She closed her eyes, reveling in Deacon’s warmth.

He held her that way for quite some time before the crackle of the firewood in the hearth reminded her of the lateness of the hour. She sighed and groaned as she slowly pulled away from his embrace and sat up. “Guess we should get to bed, too,” she said, slowly standing. She stretched a moment, and then looked down at Deacon, holding out her hand to him. “Are you coming?” she asked with a smile.

Deacon stared at Rayna’s outstretched hand. Her left hand, he realized. His gaze settled on her bare, ring finger and suddenly, the ring in his pocket burned like a smoldering ember, the heaviness seeping through the denim of his jean-clad leg. His heart felt full, more than it had ever been before, and his pulse skipped a beat, and then raced. Furious.

His gaze slowly followed the path up her arm, past her shoulders, to her face…meeting her downturned, expectant eyes. Her cheeks were flushed pink from the warmth of the room and she looked drowsy…and radiant. God, she was truly beautiful.

He cleared his throat loudly when she wiggled her brows at him. He reached out, taking her hand in his. But instead of standing, he tugged her back down onto the couch. She laughed and reached for him, misreading his intent. When he moved out of reach and slid to the floor on one knee, crouching in front of her and placing his hands on either side of her knees, she leaned forward, brow-raised.

“Deacon? Babe, what are you doing?” she asked.

He hesitated as he took her hands in his, linking them a moment as he stared at them. After a full minute, he finally lifted his gaze to meet her confused one. “Ray, there’s something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, something I lost the right to even think about doing fourteen years ago, but that I think—I hope—I’ve gained back.” When she opened her mouth to speak, he shook his head, cutting off whatever words she might have said. “I-I have to say this. I love you, Rayna Jaymes. More than life, more than breathing. God, I love you so much it scares the hell out of me sometimes,” he said with a small grin. “I know I screwed up the last time we were here, in this moment, but I won’t do it again. This is our second chance, Ray. You said after the accident that you didn’t think we could save each other, but I know that’s not true because you did. You saved me, Rayna. Every day, you give me a reason to wake up and to want to live. It’s you. And that sweet girl upstairs. You and Maddie and Daphne—the three of you are everything I could have possibly dreamed of having and so, so much more.” He reached into his pocket and brought out the ring, holding it out for her. “Rayna, I love you. I want to spend the rest of our lives making you and our girls happy. Will you marry me?” he asked, holding his breath.

Her eyes shined bright with tears as she first looked at the ring, and then at his face. The moments that passed were the longest of both their lives, it seemed. She searched his gaze, finding nothing but the truth…and love. Biting her lip as a tear fell, she nodded. “Yes…yes,” she breathed as he slid the ring on her finger and reached for her.

His mouth took hers on a rush of breath. “Thank God,” she heard him say with a relieved laugh when they broke for air. As their mouths fused again and before she lost sense of all things real and surrendered to sensation alone, she thought to herself, no not God. It was love.

Their love. The same force that had driven them apart so long ago had now brought them back together. To right there. To that place and that moment. And it felt right.

So, so right.

The last time they’d lain on that rug together in front of the fire, fourteen years ago, they’d created a life. And now, they were marking the start of another…one they’d share together. Wherever they were. Whatever came their way. No matter what.

They could face anything, as long as they were together…

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