“Sweetheart? You in here?” Donovan Miller called out to his wife, as he opened the door to the beachside house his sister-in-law and her husband shared.
A child’s soft giggle reached his ears, calling his attention up the stairs. As he approached his nephew’s nursery, his chest squeezed when he caught sight of Valerie cradling the baby as she sat in the rocking chair. He still couldn’t believe she’d married him. It had been a little over a year, and every morning when he woke up next to her, his life still felt surreal. As he stood in the doorway, watching Valerie make silly faces at Lennon, he fought the urge to laugh and break the spell.
“I see you over there, hotshot.” Her voice was smooth, warm, and sexy. “Come on over and say hello to your nephew.”
Lennon looked just like his dad, Garrett. Curly black hair, big dark eyes, and a temperament that matched Garrett’s sometimes broody tendencies as well. As soon as Donovan came into view, the boy’s lower lip pushed out as if in warning. The little face turned red, eyes filling with tears, before he let out an almighty wail.
“He hates me.”
Valerie let out a soft laugh, bouncing Lennon gently. “He doesn’t hate you. Maybe if you weren’t scowling at him, he’d smile.”
“I’m not scowling.”
Placing her small hand on Donovan’s cheek, she patted his day-old stubble. “Definitely scowling. Makes me think you don’t like babies or something.”
“Not true. I like babies just fine. It’s this little guy who doesn’t like me.”
She stood, motioning for him to take her place. “Go on. He’s almost asleep and I need to pee.”
Worry filled his head as she handed Lennon over. She was right. Babies made him nervous until they were at least two years old. Sturdy, less breakable. But there was no way he’d admit it to her. It would be so different when it was their baby he held. Lennon stared at him, a dubious expression on his face, but soon he was overtaken by an enormous yawn and his large eyes drooped. As Donovan rocked back and forth, he hummed a soft lullaby that his mom used to sing and soon the baby was sleeping in his arms.
“See?” Valerie whispered as she reentered the room and moved to stand beside him. “He likes you.”
Donovan smiled at her and stood, carefully placing Lennon in his crib. “When will Angie and Garrett be back?”
Pulling out her phone, she checked the time. “Pretty soon. This is the first time they’ve really gone out on any sort of date since Lennon was born.”
“He’s almost a year old.”
“I know, but Angie has this thing about asking people for help. She always wants to appear like she can handle everything.”
As they closed the door to Lennon’s room, the sound of Garrett’s laugh floated up the stairs. Donovan grinned and snagged Valerie by the wrist before she headed down the staircase. He’d been working at a fundraiser for the fire department all day and couldn’t wait any longer to get his hands on her. Pulling her close, he grabbed her hips and pressed her against him. She let out a little squeal of surprise before he could stop her. Running his nose along the skin of her neck, he inhaled. She smelled so good. She always smelled good.
“I can’t wait to get you home, sweetheart.”
Her breath hitched when he caught her earlobe between his teeth and tugged. “Donovan, what’s gotten into you?”
He had no clue. All he knew was his desire for her. “Can’t a man just want his wife?”
She pushed her ass back against his arousal and squirmed. “Let’s get home, then.”
~ ~ ~
Thank God the drive was short. By the time he had the key in the door, he was straining against his pants. Before she could utter a word, he kicked the door closed and wrapped both hands around her tiny waist, lifting her and turning them so he could get her up against the wall. Her sharp intake of breath had him fighting for control. He didn’t want to take her here and now. He needed to savor it—savor her.
“Tell me what you want, sweetheart.” The sound of his own voice surprised him. It was needy, rough, and held a slight tinge of desperation.
“You. I want you,” she breathed before kicking her hips forward and grinding along his aching erection.
“You’ve got me. Forever.”
He crushed her lips with his, tongue delving deep into her mouth, tasting her sweetness. With a groan, he broke the kiss and held her close.
“Why did you stop?” she asked. Her large aqua irises locked on his, sending a shockwave straight to his soul.
“I don’t want to do this hard and fast. I want to watch myself push inside you, see your eyelashes flutter when you start to come. I want to take my time with you tonight.”
Her face softened, bringing a look filled with nothing but love over her. “You are so damn romantic sometimes, hotshot.”
Carrying her with him, he entered their bedroom and lowered them both to the mattress. “Shh, don’t tell anyone.” Pulling at her shirt, he slid the fabric over her head and stared down at her gorgeous naked torso. “No bra today?”
She shrugged. “I was just babysitting.”
Not saying another word, he dipped his head and sucked one taut nipple into his mouth, loving the gasp of pleasure he heard come from his wife. While his tongue circled the tight bud, his hands were busy, working Valerie’s pants over her hips until he couldn’t reach any farther. Releasing her breast, he sat back and slipped the denim free of her body. Tugging his own shirt off, he smiled at the lust in her eyes. She liked what she saw, that was obvious.
Sitting up, she rose to her knees and traced the lines of ink he’d had etched into his skin after their wedding. Her name over his heart and the date. Simple, but meaningful. “I still can’t believe you did this.”
“It was the only way I could always have you with me.”
Her hand trailed down his stomach, stopping when she reached the fly of his jeans. Turning her face up to look at him, he almost lost it when she licked her lips.
“Did you remember to get condoms?” Her voice hinted at her desperation.
His stomach clenched. She was on the pill. “What?”
Disappointment colored her features. “I told you, my birth control prescription ran out and I haven’t been able to get in to see my doctor.”
Closing his eyes, he took a deep breath, cursing himself for not remembering. “Sweetheart, I’m sorry. I totally forgot.”
Leaning away from him, she sighed. “Damn.”
“What if . . . what if we don’t use anything?” Butterflies started in his stomach as he uttered the words.
Eyes wide, she let out a nervous laugh. “What?”
“We could start trying for a baby.”
As the idea took hold in his head, excitement won out over fear. He could picture her months from now, her belly round with his baby. Damn, the image sent a wave of fierce male pride through him. At this moment, he didn’t want anything more than to get her pregnant and start their family.
“Now?” The fear in her voice took him by surprise.
Backing away from him, she scooted to the edge of the bed and stood. “It’s just, we haven’t planned anything. I’m still in my first year of teaching. I . . . there’s a lot to consider. I’d have to take maternity leave, then there’s day care.”
His heart sank as she paced the room, pulling on her robe and avoiding his eyes. He stood, grasping her arms with both hands. “Sweetheart, calm down. Remember what you told me? Five or six kids. The first one is the leap, the rest are the building blocks that will make our family. Why wait? We know we want a big family.”
Shaking her head, she stared up at him. “It’s not the right time.”
“There’s never going to be a right time. Do you think Angie and Garrett thought it was the right time when they found out Lennon was coming? Now look at them. They couldn’t be happier.”
A sad look passed over her. “I’m not ready, Donovan. I . . . I need more time.”
Disappointment took his breath like a punch to the gut. This was like their wedding all over again. “You’re still not sure of me, are you?”
“What are you talking about? Of course I’m sure of you. I love you.”
“I don’t know how else to show you I’m never leaving. I’ve given you everything I have.”
“I’m not unsure. You’re mine and I’m yours. I’m just saying I’m not ready for a baby yet.” Her chin wobbled as she stared at him. “It took almost losing you in that fire to show me how sure I was. I don’t want to share you yet.”
His chest was tight, uncomfortably so. A phantom ache started in his reconstructed femur at the mention of that terrible call. He could feel a cold sweat creeping up on him—a signal of an oncoming panic attack.
He hadn’t had one of those in over a year, not since Klip had died. Valerie closed the small gap between them and wrapped her tiny body around his. Her arms encircled him as she pressed her cheek to his bare chest.
“Breathe, Donovan. Calm down.”
He felt like a jackass, panicking over something like this, but he’d lost her once before and never wanted to experience that again. Taking deep, measured breaths, he worked to calm the storm inside him. This wasn’t the same. She wasn’t backing out on him, wasn’t changing her mind about their forever. He continued to tell himself he was overreacting, trying desperately to push away the fear of losing her.
~ ~ ~
Valerie watched her husband warily as he worked to bring himself under control. They’d made it through more than one panic attack over their time together. It was easy to forget that firefighters saw so much trauma. Her heart ached at the memories of Donovan as he struggled to cope with the things he’d seen and experienced during his career. She knew that for him, sometimes things got too real and the anxiety took over.
Moving behind him, she pulled him to the bed and wrapped her arms around his chest, breathing steadily and just holding him tight.
“You’re okay, Donovan.”
He nodded, his big hand coming up to hold hers. “I’m fine. Thanks, sweetheart. That snuck up on me.”
Pressing a kiss to his shoulder, she let him go and got off the bed. “Can we talk about this baby thing now?”
Raking a hand through his dark hair, he settled his moss green gaze on her. “I get it. I do. Sorry. We can wait, but let’s make a plan, okay? I want everything with you, and everything includes sleepless nights and crying babies.”
Her heart swelled at his words. She wanted it, too, but she had so little teaching under her belt. She wanted to get settled in her career before adding kids to the mix. Nodding, she offered him a soft smile. “Two years. In two years I’ll be established. We can plan around the summer break so I can have the baby after school gets out.”
He frowned. “How about next year? That’s one solid school year of experience, then a second while you’re pregnant.”
This was so strange, discussing a non-existent pregnancy as though they could just pencil it in. Shaking her head, she stood her ground. “Two years. I need more experience before I’ll be ready to handle being pregnant and working with my class.”
“You act like being pregnant is going to be awful.”
In her experience it kind of was. Her mom had been sicker than a dog for the first three months with all six of them. Angela had dealt with pre-term labor twice. Then there was Grace; her best friend had almost bled to death having her twins. Pregnancy seemed like a terrifying and dangerous full-time job.
“I don’t know how else to say it, Donovan. I am not ready to have a baby.” She annunciated each word slowly, needing him to understand her.
His gaze dropped to the floor. “Right. Okay, two years. But after that, I’m knocking you up, sweetheart.”
She laughed. “I like it when you say it that way. It sounds so dominant and sexy.”
Cocking one eyebrow, he smirked. “You like it when I take charge.”
The arousal she’d felt earlier came roaring back to life. “Yes,” she breathed. “Let’s go to the store and stock up on protection and then you can dominate me for the rest of the night.”
He let out a soft groan. “You’re killing me. Can’t I just pull out?”
Shaking her head, she grabbed her shirt and pants. “No way. That’s how Angie and Garrett got Lennon.”
“Ugh, don’t talk to me about Angie’s sex life. She’s like my little sister. As far as I’m concerned, she doesn’t have sex.”
“Okay, hotshot. Either way, no pulling out for us. I’ve got an appointment this week at the doctor. I’ll get the birth control option taken care of.”
As she started pulling her jeans over her hips, he stopped her. “You stay right here. I’ll go get what we need. I expect you naked in the bed when I get back.”
A wave of lust washed over her and she said a silent prayer of thanks that there was a convenience store only a block away from their apartment. Pulling him to her in a heated kiss, she let her need take control. Her tongue danced with his, tasting his fresh breath. The vibration of his moan ran over her lips and had her nipples hard and straining against the thin fabric of her robe. They were both breathing heavily when he broke the kiss.
“God damn, sweetheart. I just got this under control,” he said, looking down his body at the thick bulge in his pants.
“Sorry. Hurry up and get back to me so I can take care of you.”
He winked at her and slipped his shirt over his head. “Yes, ma’am.”
As the door closed, she sighed and walked to the bed. The last thing she wanted to do was make him feel like she didn’t want him. It seemed like over the last three years he’d been trying to make up for the one horrible moment in their relationship. His whole world had crashed and burned, breaking them apart while he pulled himself from the ashes. She didn’t know how to make him see that just coming back to her had been enough to fix them. All she knew for sure was that a baby wouldn’t be the glue that held them together. They needed to be strong on their own.
The sound of the key turning in the lock had her grinning from ear to ear. As Donovan stepped over the threshold, her breath hitched and she squirmed on the bed. She watched his eyes darken as he stalked across the living room and through their bedroom door. Tossing the plastic bag on the bed, he pulled off his shirt, unbuttoned his fly, and dropped his pants, revealing the heavy length of him.
“Are you ready?” he asked, his voice harsh and rough.
Her mouth ran dry at the sight of him. All she could do was nod at her gorgeous husband.
With a wicked grin, he grabbed her ankles and pulled her body down the bed. “I’d better make sure.” His hands ran up her thighs as he spread her knees wide and slid one finger inside. “I wanted to be slow and gentle, sweetheart, but I can’t. Not anymore.”
Shaking her head, she tangled her fingers in his hair. “Get up here and kiss me. I need you.”
Crawling over her body, he groaned when her hand gripped his erection, sliding over the rigid shaft. His eyes rolled back in his head and he groped blindly for the box of condoms. After rolling the latex barrier down his length, he gazed at her, his expression changing from fierce and full of lust, to loving and soft.
“I love you. So fucking much.”
As she positioned him at her entrance, she whispered, “Me, too, hotshot.”
He filled her in one strong thrust and as they moved together, she knew they’d be all right. The love between them grew stronger each day. She just wished there was a way for her to show him she didn’t doubt him.