“Whoa, Mama, you look pretty!” Noah says as he pauses in hitting his brother with his light saber. The boys spend their days wrestling, fishing, and farming with their dad. They’re loud and obnoxious and so precious to us.
“Thank you, sweetie.” I slip the earring into place then dab some perfume on my neck, the scent that Beau likes so much. “Now, come over here and let me fix that tie of yours.”
I’m sitting in the vanity area of our bedroom, getting ready for our anniversary celebration tonight. It’s ten years together and Beau wanted to go all out with a fancy party with our friends.
Noah scowls, but he comes close and lets me fix his tie. At just over ten years old, he’s almost as tall as me. He has my eyes and even though they’re not biologically related, I swear he has Beau’s smirk.
Zach and Theo try to leave when they see that I’m clucking over their brother.
I call their names, fighting the urge to laugh at their antics. They both groan but drop their plastic toys and stand behind their brother.
“You boys look so sharp tonight,” I tell them as I brush Zach’s hair off his shoulders. I tried to get him to get a haircut but he’s my wild child. He likes wearing it a little long. He’s already obsessed with the electric guitar that his grandparents got him for his birthday. I hear him almost every day, plucking at the strings and writing his own music.
“Mom.” Zach ducks my attempts to fix his hair. He’s nine and way too cool to have his mom styling his hair. My boys like to pretend they’re big and tough and fearless. But they slept in our bedroom for a week after they watched a scary movie at a friend’s house. Beau warned them against doing it, yet he was still patient with their fears. The sexy cowboy was born to be a father.
As if he senses my thoughts, Beau enters the room with Nico, our youngest. Our little one-year-old boy is dressed in a black suit that perfectly matches my husband’s clothing, and tears prick my eyes. I never thought my life would turn out this way. With four beautiful sons and a husband who loves us all so fiercely.
While I’m distracted, they grab up their toys and start play-fighting again. Zach and Theo are against Noah who is holding his own. He’s becoming obsessed with fencing lately and has been pestering his dad to let him take lessons.
Beau somehow keeps Nico in his arms while plucking the sabers from the kids. “Alright, boys, your grandmother is looking for you. She has a slice of chocolate cake for anyone who sits still while Grandpa takes family photos.”
He watches them go and chuckles. Nico is still in his arms. “Cake!”
“Yeah, cake soon,” he promises his son. He turns his attention to me, stooping to kiss my lips. “You look hot tonight.”
I press a hand to my chest and feign outrage in my voice. “I’m a married woman, Mr. Everett.”
He gives me a wink. “And don’t you forget it.”
I laugh and follow him downstairs to our waiting family and friends. True to their promise, the boys let their grandparents get plenty of photos before they start demanding Grandma’s chocolate cake.
We spend the next two hours, entertaining our guests with stories from our years together and even a slideshow of photos from our vacations. When our guests are finally distracted by some story that my mom is telling, Beau tugs on my hand and we sneak away.
Outside, the sun is setting and painting the sky with pinks and oranges that take my breath away. I spent so long in darkness, scared my life would always be miserable. Now, every sunset with my husband is a gift I treasure, a reminder that life can always become beautiful again, even after the worst of tragedies.
I put my hand on Beau’s arm to keep my balance as I pull off my high heels. They were my special anniversary shoes, and it looks like I’ll just be wearing them the once. I curl my toes and sigh in relief.
Beau frowns at me. “I wanted to show you something out back.”
I massage my aching toes. Normally, I’m up for anything that Beau wants to show me. He’s a man that loves sharing his life with me, and he makes everything an adventure for me and the boys. “Could you possibly text me a picture?”
He does that thing again. He smiles with his eyes, and that one look always makes me feel so loved. Then without a word, he scoops me into his arms.
“Beau…” I call his name softly, my voice tinged with laughter. I love the way he carries me, but he hasn’t picked me up in a long time. Our lives are busy and chaotic and we’re usually chasing after four boys.
“This is the way it works. When you’re in pain, I carry you,” he reminds me.
I bury my head in his white dress shirt, inhaling his masculine scent. He’s not just referring to physical pain. He’s carried me through every type of hurt our whole marriage. He takes on my burdens, never leaving me alone in them.
After a few minutes of walking, he finally stops. I can hear the gentle bubbling of the river, and I have a pretty good idea of where we are. We’re near the oak tree where we had our first date and later where we married.
“I have an anniversary gift for you,” he murmurs quietly as he sets me down. The cool grass is a welcome relief to my aching feet.
My pain is forgotten when I spot the beautiful wooden bench underneath our favorite tree. It’s hand-carved, my husband’s handiwork. He loves woodworking but he rarely takes the time for the hobby, choosing instead to focus on activities our young boys can do with him. But he knows how much it means to me when he makes me something.
I run my fingertips over the smooth wood and look up at him. “You did this for me?”
He wraps an arm around my shoulders and points to the engraving on it. I lean forward and read it out loud, “For Hannah Everett, my best friend, my partner in crime, my wife. I love you always.”
I burst into tears, managing to get out the words, “Happy tears.”
“I figured,” Beau murmurs and takes a seat on the park bench, pulling me into his lap. He lets me cry softly, rubbing my back the entire time. He’s used to my tears by now. He knows I’m an easy crier and will sob at even the simplest of gifts.
He doesn’t make it any better with the way he’s always spoiling me, like giving me a bouquet of wildflowers in the middle of the day or getting me a warm pair of fuzzy socks on a cold night. He loves me so much, but more than that, he’s determined to make sure I feel that love. He speaks it over me in a thousand different ways every day.
When it’s over, he dries my tears and wraps me in his suitcoat to ward off the evening chill. Then he hugs me tight again, humming softly. We stay intertwined like that for several moments, watching as the sun dips lower and lower in the sky.
“You make my heart so happy,” he tells me, his voice rumbling in my ear.
“I love the anniversary gift,” I sniffle against his shirt and have to will myself not to cry again. The new hormones aren’t making it easy. “I got you a gift too.”
“I don’t need anything. I have the most beautiful woman in the world, and she’s all mine.” He presses a kiss to the crown of my head.
Warmth fills me at his words. If I never did anything nice for him again or got him another gift, he’d still spoil me. He would still provide for me and care for me and love me. “You’re not going to see my gift for a while though.”
“It doesn’t matter if it’s lost in the mail,” he answers easily.
“It’s not something I ordered online,” I say, a smile stretching across my face. “Actually, it’s not something I ordered at all. But I’ll let you make two more guesses before I tell you.”
He frowns at me. “Is it big?”
“It’s the size of an orange.” I’m only fifteen weeks along and normally, he would have noticed by now. Normally, both of us would have. But we’ve been busy with our boys and neither of us have paid attention to my changing body. We’ve never worried too much about protection, assuming that our family would grow at its own pace.
“Then it fits in your pocket.” He pats my dress but finds nothing, despite running his big hands all over my curves. “Hmm, clearly not on you. Does it make noise?”
“Not yet, but it will in about five months.” I can’t resist the teasing tone to my voice. He’ll figure it out the moment he starts doing the math.
His gaze softens then. “Would it be about four months along by now?”
“You guessed it, Daddy.” Every pregnancy has been a miracle and Beau has celebrated each one. He loves watching my body grow round and delights in knowing that I’m giving him babies.
He presses a tender kiss to my forehead and lets out a soft sigh before he tucks my head under his chin. “Our lives just keep getting better together.”
I snuggle deeper into my cowboy’s arms, and I can’t help but agree. Every day together is a beautiful adventure, and with Beau by my side, it always will be. He’s my best friend, my partner in crime, and my husband. I couldn’t ask for more than that.
Our marriage of convenience isn’t meant to be real, but I’m falling in love with this protective cowboy.