“I look pretty!” Carolina exclaims as she glances in the mirror at her reflection. She’s sitting at her bright purple vanity.
Underneath the glow of the light bulbs, her blonde hair looks almost golden. It’s done up in a crown braid complete with little flowers in it. If there were ever a girl who related to princesses, it’s my little Carolina.
Today, her dad has outdone himself with her hair. She’s always showing him hairstyle pictures, and he learns how to create them by watching endless video tutorials. Whereas her sisters are just fine with a basic ponytail and blue jeans, Carolina always looks runway ready. Out of all the girls, she’s our sassy, defiant one.
Brennon is close to all of the triplets, but there’s something special about his relationship with Carolina. I think it’s because she reminds him the most of me. They’re always talking together and planning some mischief.
“Pretty,” Brennon agrees in his trademark growl. When the girls were born, he spent another two years working with a speech therapist in the hopes that he would make more progress with the aphasia. It never happened, but that’s made him more determined than ever to find a cure.
Together, we launched an organization that gives grants to doctors studying speech disorders. So far, we’ve given away millions, but I know that’s not enough in my husband’s eyes. It’ll never be enough until we’ve given everyone on earth a voice. It’s a beautiful dream, and I’m so proud of him and the man he is.
My father has also joined the cause. He’s been focused on creating assistive medical devices. His recent breakthrough with a specialized hearing aid has been featured in national magazines, and he was in New York last month on a talk show discussing his ideas.
He’d still rather be a tinkerer in the basement than on TV. But seeing Brennon’s struggles and others like him has made my dad insistent upon doing something to better the world for those with disabilities.
When he’s not creating, he’s babysitting his grandkids. He still lives with us, and I think he always will. I’m grateful for him though. I’m glad my girls have him around. He babysits at least twice a week so I can have alone time with my handsome husband.
Given how busy we are raising our kids and running the family company, I’m grateful my father does that. It lets me recharge with my man. When we’re alone together, we’re not business partners or parents. We’re just a gruff mountain man and his woman, which is the way I like it.
“Mama!” Cora tugs on my dress and pushes her Viking helmet up her head. She’s obsessed with Viking culture these days. She has been ever since she watched one of her dad’s documentaries with him. They share a love of all things history and she’s constantly going into “battle” with her daddy at her side. He’s her faithful second-in-command who patiently awaits orders from his little general.
“Is it time for presents?” Clara asks. Today is her fifth birthday. We’re throwing the triplets a big party outside and Brennon has been teasing them for weeks that he has a special birthday gift they’ll love.
They haven’t seen it yet, but it’s a big playhouse outside the cabin. It has a library for my quiet Clara and a dressing room and runway for Carolina. For my Cora, there’s an armory. It even has fake weapons and a few shields in it.
I had to talk Brennon out of letting his friends make Viking style weapons for her. They mean well, but I’m not sure my fearless girl needs access to anything too realistic.
“Almost,” I tease them. “Let’s go outside!”
All of their friends are waiting for them including Gianna Taylor. She’s Jake Taylor’s little girl. Like Brennon, Jake Taylor can’t speak due to a childhood accident. He communicates mainly in sign language and he’s been teaching it to Brennon and Bear Scott.
Bear also suffered a stroke when he was a baby. He’s had some luck with speech therapy though he still struggles to communicate like my husband. The three of them have formed a tight-knit friendship and I’m glad Brennon has them. They understand him and his struggles.
Brennon follows me out the door, proudly carrying his three girls. He’s so big and strong that he carries them with ease. I think even when they’re grown, he’ll still be trying to carry them. He just delights in his girls so much. Everything he does is for them and for me. Our happiness is his life’s mission.
Nash has arrived with his woman and the birthday cake he made. All of Brennon’s mountain men friends have found women of their own and started families. It’s a beautiful thing to watch these strong, scarred men fall in love and get married.
We sing happy birthday to the girls, my dad’s loud voice ringing out as Brennon squeezes my hand. After years of poverty and struggle, my life is now filled with so much love and happiness. Sometimes, it all feels like a beautiful dream.
Once the gifts are opened and the generous slices of cake are eaten, most of our friends slip away from the party by the early afternoon. Finally, it’s only the six of us left.
I turn to the girls. “Did you have a good birthday?”
Cora nods enthusiastically and plops her Viking helmet back on her head. She only took it off when I had to stop her from goring the other kids with her horns. They’re plastic, thank goodness.
But I could tell from the look on Brennon’s face that he finally saw my point about not giving her realistic weapons. She’s fearless enough as it is. “Can we play hide and seek now?”
I glance at my husband who nods with a big smile on his face. For the next hour, the adults seek out the kids. I love that they’re growing up on this mountain with its thick forest and abundant vegetation.
They’ve learned so much about the natural world because of where we live. Plus, there are no shortages of hiding places and we have rules about unsafe areas. The girls know they aren’t allowed to hide near the river or beyond the boundaries of our property. Not unless they’re with an adult.
When we’ve found the girls for the final time, Carolina makes a gesture at Brennon. She and her sisters are quickly learning sign language. They’ve picked it up a lot faster than me, and they love to communicate with their father in.
“What are they saying?” I ask Clara. She loves nothing more than curling up beside me with a good book. Her favorites are fairytales, and she asks me to read the story of Beauty and the Beast to her every night.
“Caro says it’s you and Daddy’s turn to hide,” she explains.
I glance at Brennon, and he nods at me.
“Go on now,” Dad says. “I’ll watch the girls while they seek.”
“The rules still apply,” I warn my daughters. “You don’t leave the boundaries of hide and seek, and you three have to listen to Pops. That means you, Cora.”
Cora gives me a grin, flashing her missing front tooth. “Promise.”
Brennon is already tugging on my hand, pulling me away from them. He doesn’t have to be told twice to enjoy our alone time together.
Our daughters start counting while my dad watches us leave. He waves at us, sending me a wink.
My husband takes me to our usual spot, the back porch swing. I can’t help grinning as he pulls me close and covers my lap with a warm blanket. It’ll take the girls a long time to think to search the house for us. Even if they do consider it, I’m sure my dad will divert them.
“I’ve missed you lately,” I admit as the birds chirp overhead and the autumn wind whistles through the trees. Leaves dance down to earth, reminding me that winter will soon be here.
He puts an arm around my shoulder and gives me a gentle squeeze. “Missed…too.”
He was in New York with my father. The two of them are an incredible team, and I’m glad that they get along so well. But that doesn’t mean that I didn’t miss my husband when he was away.
“We should go on another honeymoon,” I tell him, remembering back to our first one. It was six months after we got married, and I learned I was pregnant. It’s one of my favorite memories.
“Baby,” Brennon agrees as he drops his hand lower to squeeze my curvy stomach. He loves every inch of my body, especially all the stretch marks from the pregnancy and the scars from the emergency surgery that was necessary to deliver them.
I worried when I saw them. I worried that he wouldn’t think I was attractive anymore. But the moment that Brennon spotted the scars, he dropped to his knees. He pressed kisses to them and thanked me in his broken growl. He thanked me for the babies my body gave him. I never worried about them after that because I saw them through his eyes that day. They weren’t something to be ashamed of. They were proof that my body had given life to the three most amazing people on this planet.
“Yeah, that was when I took the pregnancy test.” I smile.
“Want,” Brennon whispers, pressing a soft kiss to my neck.
My breath catches in my throat. This is something I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, but I’ve been nervous about bringing it up to him. Our lives are already so busy and hectic. I don’t even know how we’ll manage another little one, but there’s still a feeling deep in my heart. Like our family is missing a member. “You want a baby?”
He growls against my skin, confirming my thoughts.
I shrug off the blanket and stand, giving him a saucy grin. “I think we have time to work on that project right now, husband.”
He stands too, taking my hand in his. He presses a gentle kiss to my knuckles before I lead the way to our bedroom in the cabin.
All these years later, I’m thankful for a mountain man who punched his brother and demanded I marry him instead. He saved my life and gave me a beautiful family. I can’t wait to make more babies that look just like him.
Yeah, she was on her way to grandma’s house. And I’m the big, bad wolf. I can’t deny there’s definitely something in me that wants to eat up this curvy little thief.
Nash is falling for the woman trying to steal more than just his heart in Owned by the Mountain Man. Pre-order Owned by the Mountain Man now for a grumpy alpha male who falls hard and loves his curvy woman fiercely.