“Are we there yet?” Lyla asks for the tenth time in the last hour. At nine, she’s capable of telling time, but she still doesn’t have a very strong grasp of how much has passed. Not that it would matter. Like her father, she’s eternally impatient.
“We’ll get there when we get there,” Pops answers from his place beside Pearl. They’re in the middle seats of the big passenger van that we rented for this family vacation while the kids are in the backseat.
“I’m going to swim with the sharks,” Lyla says enthusiastically. This is an annual vacation and every year, she swears it will be the year she gets the chance to swim with them. She’s obsessed with the creatures since she saw that documentary three years ago. Now she owns dozens of books about them and Shark Week is practically sacred at our house.
“There will be no swimming with the sharks,” Lincoln says with that firm, authoritative tone that still makes me ache. It’s been five years since we got married and we’re just as in love as ever. We’re also still doing it all the time, if that bump I’m carrying didn’t give it away.
“Aww, dad, why not? I promise I won’t—”
“According to the Wildlife Museum, her chances of being attacked by a shark are one in three million point seven,” Leo points out. “While the estimated fatality rate is one in four million point three. Based on the statistics, Lyla and me will be safe.”
We call Leo our little scientist. He’s always using facts and data to support Lyla’s arguments, no matter how foolish her schemes. I’m pretty sure he’d put together a presentation if he thought it would help her case.
He continues, “We have better odds of being killed by a lightning strike, fireworks, or—”
“The answer is no,” Lincoln interrupts. If he doesn’t, our little guy will just keep going and going. He’s a cutie who’s already president of the Chess club. He and Lincoln always have a game going at any time. In fact, there’s an open one on the kitchen table at home. When we arrive at the beach house, he’ll leave an open chess board on whatever surface is empty. He’ll make the opening move then Lincoln will come along later and make the next one. They’ll keep games going for days. I love that they have it to bond over and share.
“You just don’t want to lose your best goalkeeper,” Lyla grumps. Lincoln is the coach for the Courage County Elementary girls’ soccer team. He loves coaching her but she’s a handful that has her own way of playing. Every season, I quickly lose track of the number of times he has to bench her. She defies him at every turn both on the field and off of it. Yet, somehow they adore each other. It takes a strong man to raise such a strong daughter.
He sighs, a longsuffering sound. “Yes, Lyla. As your father, my top concern is what would happen to our undefeated record if you were attacked by a shark.”
I manage to stifle my laugh but it’s hard. He’s crazy about our kids, even when they’re frustrating him.
“Burds,” Lottie says from her place in the backseat. She’s our four-year-old daughter. I couldn’t have asked for an easier pregnancy. My morning sickness was mild and cleared up quickly. I had a smooth delivery, a fact I was thankful for not just for my sake but for Lincoln’s as well.
He’s a great dad to Lottie. Just as patient and understanding with her as his twins. It’s amazing to me sometimes the way the five of us just fit. Our little family is held together by miracles and love.
“They’re seagulls,” I remind her. “They mean we’re close to the ocean.”
“Sand time!” She exclaims.
“And sharks,” Lyla reminds her.
“No sharks will be getting near you,” Lincoln is quick to reassure her. Lyla watched a shark documentary last week and didn’t realize Lottie was in the room. Our littlest one is having nightmares and crawling into the big boy bed every night thanks to that.
Even now, the twins still come into the room sometimes. Like last month when there was a bad thunderstorm, they cuddled right up to us. But I love that my husband has created a safe space where they can always come when they’re afraid.
“No sharks,” Lottie repeats, sounding relieved.
Lyla opens her mouth. She looks like she’s about to start spouting off more shark facts but Lincoln manages to get out, “Roll down your windows, kids. Inhale that fresh beach air.”
They do as they’re told and soon the wind is whipping through the van and filling our vehicle with the scent of sand and sun. My body relaxes a little more at the familiar smells. After Lincoln and I got married, I took college classes. I majored in secondary education and work as a substitute teacher at Courage County Elementary. Except I won’t be going back this year. I wanted to take time off to be with the baby. He’s due around Christmas.
Lincoln was supportive of me taking the time away. He’s always supportive of whatever I want to do. If it makes me happy or makes me smile, he’ll move heaven and earth to make it happen. I feel so lucky because of this man.
A few minutes later, he pulls to a stop in front of the beach house. The little green cottage might look rundown on the outside but it’s beautiful and tidy inside. I love staying here every year.
While Lincoln unloads the luggage, I help the kids inside and lather them in sunscreen. Lyla tries to complain about it until Leo starts spouting on about the effects of UV rays. Finally, she accepts the oily lotion to avoid her brother’s lecture.
They’re ready just as Lincoln is done with retrieving all the suitcases. He spends a lot of time working on these vacations. From handling the luggage to watching over the kids and even grilling our food on the back deck, he never stops providing for and protecting his family.
Now he’s looking so sexy as he patiently helps Lottie look through the suitcases to find her favorite bright green shovel.
“You kids go on ahead to the beach,” I tell them once the missing toy has been located. “Your dad and I will stay behind to make sandwiches.”
Pearl’s mouth quirks up and she holds out a hand to Lottie. “Come on, sweetie. Let’s go exploring!”
Pops nods to the twins. “I bet you can’t beat an old man like me out onto the sand.” Then without waiting for them, he starts running toward the boardwalk.
The moment the house is empty, Lincoln closes the sliding glass door and prowls toward me. He invades my space, caging me in against the beadboard walls of the living room. “That was sneaky.”
“You like it when I’m sneaky,” I wrap my arms around him. It’s getting harder to be close, thanks to my growing bump. But he always manages to find a way to satisfy me.
He chuckles and places soft kisses on my neck. He spends the next hour loving on my body and making sure he takes care of me before he finally finds his own release.
Later as we lie together lazily in the king-size bed, he pulls me close. “I love you, firecracker. You’re my whole world.”
I smile as I snuggle closer to this man and fight a sleepy yawn. He’s my whole world too. He’s the best gift I’ve ever had, and I treasure this beautiful man who loves me and our babies so completely.
After a scorching one-night stand with a sexy firefighter, I realize I’m pregnant…with my brother’s best friend’s baby.
If you enjoyed Lincoln and Lucy, you’ll love Camden and Journey in The Firefighter’s Secret Baby. Pre-order The Firefighter’s Secret Baby for a funny, sexy firefighter romance with a secret baby trope.