“I think mama is asleep,” my ten-year-old son whispers. Well, he tries to whisper. This kid has never been quiet a day in his life. Not that I mind. I love that I have a son who is so enthusiastic about everything. He helps me to look at the world in a whole new way.
I glance over at the passenger seat where my beautiful wife is resting. I doubt she’s sleeping now. Her long brown hair is gathered back in a ponytail and I’m itching to pull the tie from her hair. But the moment I do that, I’ll want to press kisses to her neck. Then I’ll want other things.
“She sleeps a lot.” Reese had an art class this afternoon with me and his mom. Every week, one of the kids gets to go on a special date with just us. It’s Charlie’s way of making sure each of our children gets one-on-one attention from their mom and dad.
“She’s growing another person. It’s hard work,” I explain.
This is her sixth pregnancy. We have two beautiful sons and three adorable daughters. She is an amazing mom and popular internet personality. She used to run a travel video channel but now she does one on parenting. Millions of viewers tune in every time she goes live. I’m proud of her and all she’s accomplished.
I can practically feel the questions that my son isn’t asking. It’s rare for him to hold anything back from me, unless he’s nervous or embarrassed. “Remember yesterday when I took you fishing? I told you that you can always ask me questions about anything.”
Reese leans between the front seats. “Does Mom get pregnant every time?”
It takes me a moment to understand the question he’s asking. I took him fishing yesterday when I caught him looking at art of scantily clad women on my phone. I explained that it’s natural to be curious, but that there are some things he doesn’t need to be viewing until he’s older.
“You mean, does Mom get pregnant every time we’re intimate? No, she doesn’t.”
“Oh.” He’s quiet for a long moment. We call Reese our little thinker. He’s always puzzling over something in his mind. “How do you know then?”
“You don’t usually know your woman is pregnant until a few weeks after. Then she starts to feel different, and she takes a pregnancy test.” I click the wiper blades on and avoid looking toward Charlie. I don’t want to tip off Reese.
“It takes that long to know?” His tone is filled with disappointment.
“Shhh, inside voice when Mama is sleeping,” I remind him. “Not always. Sometimes, you get a gut feeling about it. Like the night your mom got pregnant with you. I felt like we’d made a baby, but it wasn’t until about two months later that we knew for sure.”
I’m taking Reese to Uncle Colt and Aunt Sierra’s house for a sleepover. Our other children are already there and once we drop Reese off, I’m driving my wife to our place for some grown up time.
No matter how busy we are, I insist on taking one weekend every month for me and Charlie. It gives my wife time to relax and recharge. She’d run herself ragged caring for me and the kids if I let her. That’s why I’m always insisting that she take time away from us for her girls’ nights and time away for us to reconnect.
“Does Mom like being pregnant?” He wrinkles his nose. At his age, pregnancy is a mystery. He doesn’t yet realize how magical it is to watch the changes your woman goes through. To feel the satisfaction of seeing her stomach grow big and know that you’re the one who put that beautiful life inside of her.
Still, I can’t help chuckling at his question. She’s usually the one seducing me and demanding I breed her. “I guess so.”
We’re quiet for a while before he asks, “Do I have to go tonight? Can’t I stay with you and Mom? I’ll be quiet.”
I pull the truck to a stop in Colt’s driveway just as the downpour starts. “Why aren’t you excited about having a sleepover with your cousins tonight? Normally, you love this.”
“What if you don’t come back? Lincoln’s dad didn’t come back for him. He just left him at baseball practice one afternoon and now his mom cries all the time.”
My heart cracks open inside my chest. Nothing breaks me like seeing a kid without a dad. I was that kid growing up. It’s why all of Reese’s friends are always allowed to come along with us anytime. “You listen to me right now. You and your brother and your sisters are my favorite people in the whole world. I’ll always come back for you, no matter how far away I have to go.”
Reese sniffs. “What about Mom?”
“She’s my best friend. I’ll never leave her,” I promise. We have an amazing bond that only gets stronger each year. “Now, come here.”
I’m pretty sure that Reese jostles Charlie as he gets in my lap. I wrap my arms around him and hold him close. He might be growing up, but he still needs reassurances from me. I don’t care how old he is or how big he gets, if he needs something from me, I’m always going to provide it. I’m his dad and that’s what we do. “I’m your mom’s husband and your father. I’m both of those things for life.”
He settles at my words.
I tap the gold band around my finger. “You see this band? I made a promise to your mom and to our future family on that day. I’ll always be here for her and you and your siblings. Do you understand that now?”
He nods but he doesn’t move from my lap. I don’t mind. I cherish these moments when he still lets me hold him. One day, he’ll be grown and living his own life, making his way as a man in the world.
I let the rain slack off some more before I tell him, “You look out for your sisters and brother while I’m gone. When I get back, we’ll go out for ice cream. Just you and me.”
Then I walk Reese into the house. Colt and Sierra know they’re watching over my heart this weekend.
As soon as I’m back in the truck, Charlie pretends to wake up. The way she does that cute little yawn and stretch thing of hers makes me smile. She’s the world’s worst actress but she’s mine. All mine.
I back out of Colt’s driveway, pausing to wait for several cats to move from behind the vehicle. When they’re gone, I glance at her. “How much of that did you hear?”
“All of it,” she admits sheepishly. Her cheeks pinken and I love that sight. They were pink when we tried that new thing in the kitchen last night after the kids went to bed. I already want to do that one again, just to see the blush steal across her face.
She sighs. “I didn’t realize he’d started talking to you about that. He still seems so little to me.”
“I caught him yesterday looking up art of…women. He said it was homework for his drawing class.” I chuckle at the memory. We both knew what he was doing. “So, I took him fishing, and we had a really long discussion about things.”
“Is he OK?” She sounds so worried.
All I want to do is reassure her. Just like with Reese, I’m determined to make her feel better. I put my hand on her knee and let my touch soothe her. “Don’t worry, pretty mama. Your man is holding onto your boy.”
She clutches my hand, turning it over to run her fingertips across my palm. It may have been over a decade since we made vows to each other and yet her touch still sends longing through me. I want her. I want her body plastered underneath mine. I want her throwing her head back and screaming my name in ecstasy.
“Then the rules commence now,” she says softly.
There are two rules when we’re alone for the weekend. The first is that we don’t discuss her video channel that we run together. The second is that we don’t discuss the kids. It’s time for us to simply be Brody and Charlie, husband and wife. Not business partners or parents.
We don’t say a word for the rest of the drive to our house. We still live in the same one that Charlie first stayed in. We’ve made a lot of changes and additions since then. Added extra bedrooms and a family room. The place is huge now and when it’s filled with our kids, it’s noisy.
When I stop the truck in front of the house, Charlie reaches for her doorhandle, but I stop her with a shake of my head. “Wait for me.”
It only takes me a second to jog around the front of the truck and pull her into my arms. I love carrying my woman anytime but especially when she’s pregnant. There’s something magical about feeling that bump against me. She’s six months along, her belly nice and round. It’s not just that. I love all the stuff that comes along with her pregnancy. The dark line that appears on her stomach and the varicose veins and the silvery marks that are proof her body carried my babies.
“Brody!” She exclaims when we step into the house. Before I met her for Reese’s art class, I got the kids to help me clean up the house. I put her favorite dinner on in the pressure cooker and had Ryker come over to light candles about three minutes ago.
“It’s so pretty,” she whispers when she sees the dining room table. I put down a tablecloth on our old worn farmhouse table that’s dotted with fingerpaint from the kids. There’s a vase of fresh sunflowers on the table and I even set out the nice dishes that we normally reserve for holidays or anniversaries.
“What’s the occasion?” She asks, nuzzling my neck.
“Just wanted to spoil my wife.” I set my world down in a chair.
She lets me feed her dinner and I love watching as she enjoys each bite of my cooking, savoring the flavors and textures. The tension from the past few weeks slowly drains from her shoulders as we laugh and talk. It’s easy for me to forget all the things my lamb carries. She makes it all look so effortless.
“What are you thinking?” She asks later when we’re snuggled together on the couch underneath the red throw blanket she loves so much. There’s a movie playing but I don’t know the title. I’m too busy staring down at my beautiful wife.
“That I’m the luckiest man in the world.” Before Charlie came back to me, my days were an endless cycle of survival. But then she was there, bringing in her light and laughter and love. So much love.
“Maybe you’ll get luckier,” she whispers as she runs her fingertips along my thigh.
“Maybe we’ll both get lucky,” I growl right before I pick her up and carry her to our bedroom. I take my time and cherish her body in a hundred different ways until she’s a sweaty mess that’s gasping against me.
When she finally drifts to sleep in my arms, I know one thing for sure. I’m her forever and she’s mine. Together, my lamb and I will live happily ever after.
When trouble comes looking for me, I know who to call—my ex-boyfriend’s dad. He’s the only one who can get me out of this mess. But can I convince this grumpy cowboy to finally claim me?
If you enjoyed Brody and Charlie’s story, you’ll love Ryker’s too. He’s a grumpy cowboy who falls for his son’s ex-girlfriend! Pre-order Shield Me now for a delicious protective alpha male age gap romance!