“They’ll be fine,” Nick reminds me as he wraps an arm around my waist and brings me close. He nods to the teenage babysitter. “You have our number. Call us if you have questions.”
She nods enthusiastically, probably glad to be done with my mile-long list of instructions. But it’s not easy for me to leave Gilbert behind. He’s a year old now, and it’s my first time being away from him for more than a few hours.
With Annie and Sarah, it was different. They were easy pregnancies and deliveries. Gilbert was an easy pregnancy but a complicated delivery. We nearly lost him twice and even now, I have trouble letting him out of my sight.
I chew on my bottom lip. “Maybe I should check on him just one more time.”
Nick ruffles my hair. “He’s napping. His diaper is dry. His belly is full. He’s fine, mama.”
I melt a little every time he calls me that. Even after years together, he’s still my rock. He’s my steady one that I can always rely on. I echo the words, “He’s fine?”
My husband nods. “They’re in great hands. Let’s go now.”
With a deep breath, I nod and let him tug me out the door. There’s no way that Nick would leave the kids if he thought they wouldn’t be fine without us.
He’s a devoted father that lives for our little brood. He’s loving and affectionate while still being a firm leader. I don’t know how my man balances it, but he always manages to be exactly what our children and I need.
A country song starts as soon as we’re in the truck, and it makes me smile. It played at our wedding reception. It’s still crazy to me to think that I married Nick after knowing him twenty-four hours. But when it’s love, you just know it.
He threads his fingers through mine and hums along to the radio. His Stetson bobs as he nods in time to the slow beat.
I don’t ask where we’re going. This is our first date alone together in over a year, and I’m content just to have the time together. We still have date nights at the house, but with three kids, we’re usually interrupted. Not that Nick minds. He’s patient with our children and always reminds me that they’ll only be this little once.
Nick pulls the truck to a stop at the base of a mountain on the Taylor Ranch. It’s our mountain, or at least, that’s what we call it. We’ve had so many adventures here together. We realized I was pregnant with Sarah on this trail. We made love at the base of this mountain. We even had Annie’s birthday party here one year.
My husband helps me out of the truck then reaches into the back for a blanket and picnic basket. I know it contains all of my favorite foods.
Nick loves to spoil me. He’s always looking for ways to delight me. Whether it’s wildflowers on the table at dinner or cleaning up the kitchen after a long day, he never stops taking care of me.
I take the blanket from him and spread it out on the hard-packed ground. Summer storms are predicted later this week, so I’m extra thankful for this beautiful day. I settle on the blanket and tilt my face up, so I can enjoy some of those rays.
The light fades then Nick’s lips are brushing against mine. “You look beautiful today.”
He’d say that even if I looked terrible. Nick is so supportive of my body. He loves worshipping it and takes care of me in and out of the bedroom.
“You look pretty good too,” I answer, reaching for his sunglasses. They add to that mysterious cowboy vibe, but I love the color of his eyes. I love his strong hands and his kind heart. I love what a dedicated father he is. But most of all, I love how he’s always my partner in everything.
He takes a seat on the blanket before he dishes me a plate of food and passes it to me. He always makes sure I eat first. Me and the kids get served before anyone else, even our guests.
I tried to tell him that sent a bad message to our kids. He told me it sent exactly the message he wanted it to—that they and their pretty mama always come first in his house. My heart melted when he said that.
As we eat, I can tell there’s something he wants to say. But I know my Nick. He takes his time, thinking over his words before he shares what’s on his mind. I love that he doesn’t feel the need to go off over every little thing. Instead, he quietly considers a matter before giving a reply.
I finally set my plate down when I’m stuffed. There’s still more food on it. Nick would feed me twice as much as I eat now if I let him. “Do you have something on your mind, cowboy?”
He nods and pushes his own food away. He doesn’t have the same body he did when we first met. Now he’s soft and squishy around the middle. I love his dad bod. It’s one he’s earned from sleepless nights up with sick kids and the chaos of having chicken nuggets four days in a row. “This is my favorite place to be with you.”
A bird sings a love song in the trees above our heads as the wind whistles through the bright, green leaves. This whole farm is a little piece of paradise, but I can’t deny that the base of the mountain with my husband is my favorite spot on it. “I love being here with you too.”
“And our place is getting kind of cramped,” he says. We’re still living in the cabin he built years ago. Even with the addition of another two bedrooms, it’s definitely a tight squeeze.
Still, I raise my eyebrow at him. “Whose fault is that?”
We both know it’s his fault. Annie has a heart bigger than the Texas sky when it comes to animals and Nick has a heart bigger than Texas for his daughter. So every time she wants to adopt a little creature, her father finds a way to make it happen.
Thanks to Annie, we have a Labrador that thinks he’s Annie’s shadow, three kittens that Sarah carries everywhere, two lizards that like to sun on the kitchen counter, and a turtle that wanders from room to room with a balloon tied to his back. Add in three active kids, and it’s a miracle we manage to get anything done at all.
“It’s not my fault you look so pretty when you’re pregnant,” Nick defends.
I laugh. “Don’t turn this around on me. You like the process of getting me pregnant.”
His mouth tips up at the corner, and he gestures around us. “Point is that we need a bigger cabin. I talked to my brothers, and if you like, we could build here. They say we’re welcome to claim the land. What do you think?”
I launch myself into his arms and he catches me effortlessly. “I think that is an excellent idea, Mr. Taylor.”
He holds me close, putting his head against my heart to listen to the quiet thrum. He tells me it’s his favorite sound in the world. “I don’t know how I got so lucky. Every day I thank God that it was my barn you stumbled into.”
I stroke my fingers through his hair. “Every day, I thank God that he sent me a cowboy.”
To this day, I’m grateful for Nick and the kindness he showed me. He took in a scared, pregnant runaway and gave her more than just a place to stay. He gave her a home, his last name and most importantly, a family. Now, I’ll forever be in love with my alpha cowboy.
If you enjoyed Nick and Riley’s story, you’ll love Cash’s too. He’s the town doctor who’s determined to help his best friend’s little sister when she needs a favor.
Summer is desperate for a baby, and I insist on being the one to help her make one. The good ole fashioned way. Because it’s time to finally claim my curvy woman and show her that this cowboy plays for keeps.