“Stop hitting your brother with the pool noodle, Dax,” Jack says to our six-year-old from his place in the passenger seat of our minivan. We’re on our way to the lake an hour from the house for an afternoon of splashing and fun, but the kids are already getting restless on the road. Our two boys are just like their father. They’re men of action, and they get bored easily.
“I wasn’t doing nothing,” Dax insists.
Carson, who is almost eleven now, uses his brother’s moment of distraction to strike back. He smacks Dax on the back of the head with his foam piece. They’re almost five years apart in age, but they constantly pick on each other.
I’d be worried, but I saw Dax comfort his big brother when he was stung by a bumblebee and had a severe allergic reaction.
When Dax had surgery for a broken arm, it was Carson who insisted on staying with him in his hospital room that night. The two of them might have an age gap, but they’re always there for each other when it counts.
Dax reacts with his pool noodle and before I know it, they’re hitting each other again, right back to their imaginary war.
Connie snores from the backseat of the minivan. She’s a chronic insomniac, so she tends to nap frequently throughout the day. Ever the doting grandmother, she’s used to the boys and typically sleeps through their noise.
“Your sons,” I mouth when Jack sends me a frustrated look. He finally reaches in the back and confiscates both foam toys with ease. “You two aren’t going to distract mom while she’s driving.”
“I thought mom wasn’t supposed to drive when she’s pregnant,” Carson says. My oldest has never met a secret he could keep.
“Your mom is not pregnant,” Jack says, a man that’s too confident given how careless we are with protection.
Besides that, Jack has rules for my pregnancies. He doesn’t like me to drive or work or do anything really. If I spent each pregnancy lying in bed and eating cake, he’d be a happy man. He’s always so overprotective, and that hasn’t changed in our decade together.
“But Aunt Riley said she has the flu again,” Dax offers, confirming the news.
I keep my attention focused on the road, counting down the mile markers. But I can feel Jack’s gaze on me. I know if I glance in his direction, those green eyes would be glittering and filled with that possessive caveman look he always gets when he knows he’s put a baby in my belly.
“Is that right?” He asks his sons.
They confirm the news as I fiddle with the radio, flipping it to a kids’ station that plays songs they both recognize. They sing along, but I know from Jack’s silence that we’ll be discussing this the moment the two of us are alone.
Sure enough, the moment we’re at the lake house, Jack pulls Connie aside. I can tell from the way he angles his head that he’s asking her to go ahead with the boys. She’ll watch over them and supervise them in the water.
As soon as the three of them are gone, Jack is stalking into the kitchen where I’m unloading the cooler and placing the drinks in the fridge. When I’m done, I turn back to the island, but he’s there. He traps me against it with an arm on either side of me. “You’ve been keeping things from me, Tiger.”
Jack doesn’t like it when I keep him in the dark, and normally, I tell him everything. “I knew if I said something, you’d want to cancel this whole trip because you’re incredibly bossy and grumpy and way too domineering.”
He arches an eyebrow though his gaze twinkles with amusement. “Anything else you want to get off your chest?”
“I really hope we get lucky with another son that looks like you,” I add and lean up to give him a quick peck on the lips. I mean for it to be a quick peck, but my bossy husband has other ideas. He deepens the kiss, placing a hand on the back of my neck and angling my head.
When he finally pulls away from me, I’m panting and can barely remember my own name. That always happens when Jack kisses me.
I chew on my bottom lip, that’s puffy and swollen from his kisses. My whole body is buzzing with need, but there’s something I have to know first. “Are you happy?”
I think he is. He always has been in the past, and we’ve talked about continuing to expand our family. But I need him to say the words, to gently reassure me in that gravelly rumble of his.
He smiles then, the expression filled with so much tenderness. “Am I happy to see my woman pregnant again with another one of my sons? Hell yes.”
“About that last part…Cash says it’s a girl,” I tell him, referring to the town doctor.
“What?” He sways on his feet.
I reach for a chair and guide him to it, waiting until we’re both seated next to each other to explain, “I went in yesterday for persistent nausea. I wasn’t even thinking about that…and Cash confirmed it, and they were able to do an ultrasound right there in the office.”
Jack has run into countless battles, he’s served time as a prisoner of war, and he’s faced off with my rich, powerful uncle. He’s the strongest, bravest man I know. But when he looks up at me now, there’s a sheen of tears in his eyes. He blinks once and his voice is wobbly when he says, “You’re giving me a daughter?”
“You kind of helped with her, daddy,” I tell him, taking his hand. I place it over my t-shirt, letting him feel the little bump that I’d barely noticed. I’ve been so busy with Justice, running her shop and running after our boys. Helping my strong husband run the farm. With how busy we are, I never stopped to put together all the weird symptoms I’ve been having lately.
He slides from his chair, kneeling on the tile next to me. He leans close to my stomach. “Hey, baby girl. Your daddy loves you.”
I run my fingers through his hair, “She loves you too. She has the world’s best father and two adorable brothers. Her life will be perfect.”
He looks up. “You make my life perfect.”
My heart overfills with love and gratitude for this man in front of me. He’s a loving husband and father. I know that won’t ever change. Jack is steady, the warrior who guards his family and wraps us all in love.
If you enjoyed Justice and Jack’s story, you’ll love Dean’s too. He’s the quiet cowboy who’s secretly in love with his best friend’s widow.
A thunderstorm has left me stranded with her, and I realize it’s time to finally claim the pregnant single mom who belongs to me. But after one night together, will she be willing to take a chance on forever with this veteran cowboy?