“No, Freya, no one wants to see how many gummy worms you can cram into your mouth,” I tell our ten-year-old daughter as she sits across from me on the picnic blanket.
Adam and I took the kids down to the river this evening. It’s been one of those endlessly long summer days where the air was hot and sticky, and the kids were restless.
“I think twelve,” Freya muses, estimating how much of the gummy food she can hold in her mouth at once.
Adam has nicknamed our second oldest child, Freya the Fearless. It’s accurate on a scary level. I don’t think this girl has ever met anything she’s afraid of.
“Freya,” Adam calls her name softly. He’s never loud with our kids. When he wants their attention, he gets quieter. I love that he never yells, never raises his voice. He’s always patient with our children. “Your mom said no.”
Her shoulders slump. “How about–?”
“No is the answer,” he responds easily. Freya may push the boundaries, but Adam never minds. He says kids are meant to push boundaries and it’s up to parents to make them feel safe enough to do that. Freya adores her dad. She’s always following him around the ranch as he does his chores.
“Maybe if you ate the gummy worms while driving a racecar. That would be cool,” Jeremy argues. He’s our eight-year-old son, the class clown who has a constant need for speed.
If something goes fast, he wants to know how and why. He’s become obsessed with helping his dad fix up old cars lately. I don’t think he does much more than hand Adam tools, but I know my husband. He’s an amazing teacher that uses everything as a learning experience.
“The statistical probability of choking to death is—” Hunter begins.
Adam cuts him off with a look. Hunter means well. Our oldest son is a bookworm that loves to immerse himself in the world of facts and figures. He’s a little scientist that is constantly studying and learning.
This past year, he won the national spelling bee. No one was prouder that day than Adam. He never cared much for studying or school, but he’ll spend hours helping Hunter prepare for tests.
“Sorry, Dad,” he mutters. He shared statistics on the likelihood of drowning a few months ago and after that, it was nearly impossible to convince Alfie, our four-year-old, to take a bath.
He was certain that something bad would happen if he got into the water. Thankfully, I was able to help him through those fears and he’s right back to enjoying the water again, especially swimming in the river.
Adam has made sure our kids are strong swimmers and understand water safety rules. More than that, he’s taken the time to show them how the river works.
Freya shoves her plate away. A half-eaten sandwich is left, but her chips are gone. It’s a struggle to feed this girl anything nutritious. Part of the problem is she always wants to be doing something. It’s hard to get her to slow down long enough to eat. “Done. Can I go swimming now, Dad?”
“Sure,” Adam answers. “As soon as Hunter is ready to go with you because the number one rule is–”
“Always swim with a buddy,” she finishes his sentence with an eyeroll.
I shake my head at her disrespect, and she mumbles an apology to Adam. She’s our little handful and keeping her on track is a full-time job. But I wouldn’t trade her big personality and loudmouth tendencies for anything. Adam tells me that one day she’s going to change the world, and I believe him.
She turns to Hunter who’s already buried his nose in a book on his reading tablet. Most nights when I go to tuck him in bed, I find he’s already asleep with the tablet on his chest. The amount of money we spend on books every month is astounding and I’ve grumbled to Adam that it was cheaper when our oldest was in diapers.
“Come on, nerd, let’s go swimming.”
“In a minute, simpleton,” he answers, still scanning the page.
They’re a good pair, Hunter and Freya. They have a solid friendship with Hunter giving Freya just a little more cautiousness to help her see around the next bend while Freya encourages Hunter to be brave and live outside of his books. I imagine that they’ll be the best of friends once they’re grown. For now, they enjoy taunting each other.
“One minute first,” Adam says and drags out his camera.
He got into photography after Hunter’s first birthday, and he takes pictures constantly. Our house is filled with photographs of our family on every available surface. We have so many now that I’ve taken to scrapbooking.
The kids groan but look up at their father and give him a smile. They’ve learned it’s over faster if they just look straight into the camera and let him take the picture.
“Last one in is a rotten egg,” Jeremy calls, pushing to his feet and racing toward the river. Freya is off after him immediately and Hunter turns off his reading tablet with a sigh. He mutters something under his breath that sounds like a Shakespearean insult.
The three of them take off for the river, and I chuckle at their antics. My fingers go to little Alfie who is sleeping quietly with his head on my lap. He’s the youngest, and he does his best to keep up with his siblings. But he still tires more easily than they do.
Adam snaps several pictures of me and Alfie before I insist on a few selfies. I love that he takes so many pictures but sometimes, he forgets to be in them. That’s a shame too because my husband has only gotten hotter since our decade together.
He has a nice full beard now. It’s salt and pepper, gray mixing with his dark curls. I can’t wait until it’s all silver. My man is going to be one handsome silver fox.
“I love you, Mrs. Taylor,” he tells me as he kisses my cheek. He’s put the camera away and the two of us are relaxing together.
We watch the kids playing together in the water while he takes my hand. “Can you believe we got so lucky?”
“Our little family is definitely a miracle,” I agree as Alfie begins to stir. The moment he’s awake, he’s reaching for his daddy. Unlike our other kids, Alfie is adopted. We took him in when he was just a baby and though the courts moved slowly, eventually he was ours.
Adam shares a special bond with all of his children but especially our youngest. He holds him close, embracing sleepy cuddles from his boy. “How are you, buddy? Good nap?”
Alfie nods his agreement and I pass him a juice box in his favorite flavor with a flower on the front. He’s obsessed with plants and always out there in the garden helping me. I think we have a future botanist on our hands.
When he’s finally awake enough, we walk down to the river with Alfie where he joins his siblings who are playing in the shallow part of the water.
“Thank you,” Adam murmurs, wrapping an arm around my shoulders and pulling me close.
“For what?” I ask. He was the one who packed the picnic. He helped the kids find their swimwear and he took the photos. Everything Adam does is for our family.
“For giving me this beautiful life,” he whispers.
I smile up at him and the love shining in his gaze takes my breath away. This dirty cowboy says the sweetest things to me. He always has my back. He loves our children fiercely and is always there for them. But most of all, he loves this curvy cowgirl.
If you enjoyed Tara and Adam’s story, you’ll love Beau’s too. He’s the sweet, sexy cowboy who has fallen for a woman in jeopardy…
This protective cowboy will love and defend this single mom and her baby no matter what it takes.