Read More from Calle J. Brookes

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WHEN WE were finished, I curled up against his side and he held me. Big dork. I’d missed him, too. If my sister Carrie wasn’t nine months pregnant with her second child, I wouldn’t have left him for so long. We’d spent over a year and a half apart before finding each other again—now I hated to be away from him for even one day.

“How is Carrie?”

“Doing ok. This pregnancy has been harder than her last.”

“And Bryn? Did she drive you insane?”

I had to smile at that. Both my older sister Carrie and my younger sister Brynna were high-functioning autistic and had their own particular little quirks. “She and Carrie spent most of the time talking about pregnancy. And diapers and baby food and books on babies and pregnancy and motherhood.”

Which I’ll admit, had hurt a bit. Thanks to my physical condition, I would probably never have a successful pregnancy. It was just a fact. And something I was learning to deal with. It hadn’t bothered me too much before Houghton and I married…but he was meant to have a family, to be a father.

We’d discussed it, of course. Adoption was probably the path we were going to take once we’d been married for a while.

It was still hard to have two pregnant sisters around, though. “Truth? They drove me nuts. But I’m used to the two of them. And happy I still get the chance to be driven nuts by them.”

After what my sisters—my entire family—had gone through in recent years, I would never forget that.

But…I was back with my husband. It was time to push the memories of everything that had happened away and focus on the future. “So…other than giving the hospital a scare, what did you do while I was gone?”

“Chance and I kept your father company at Finley Lake. He wanted to go fishing.”

Something Houghton thought was barbaric. I didn’t agree with him on that. Some of my best memories of my childhood involved hanging out at Finley Lake with my mother and father. “He goes there sometimes when he’s really missing mom.”

Houghton rolled me carefully on top of him. There was a lot of him to be on top of. My husband was tall and muscled and put together in a way that had to be unreal. For as good as he looked in his clothes, he looked even better out. “Your father needs his own woman.”

“Ok. Why?” I hadn’t thought about that. For the past six years, my father had focused on me and my sisters. And like it or not, we were enough to keep him busy, even with the youngest of us being full-grown at eighteen now. Since my mother died six years ago we’ve found Carrie who had been kidnapped when she was nine, I’ve been shot and paralyzed and learned to walk again, Brynna was kidnapped, stabbed, held hostage and nearly killed in an explosion, and Jillian had almost had her throat cut by the man responsible for the infamous Marshall Murders. The only one who hadn’t caused problems for my father was my youngest sister, Syd.

Oh. Yeah. There was also the fact that I was kidnapped right out of my father’s kitchen and held in Mexico for three days.

My father was finally starting to forgive Houghton for that one.

“You have any women in mind?”

“Not a clue. What would your father even like?”

“Redheads. Dad has always had a thing for redheads.” Every member of my family was redheaded, including my father. But my mother…her hair had been the deepest red that only my sister Jilly had inherited.

“I know the fascination.” He had his hands in my hair again. I often thought of cutting it; then I’d remember this…

Houghton was enthralled by my hair. Especially in our bed.

It was a long time before he let me out of bed. And he’d extracted a promise that no more being away from him so long.

When I finally made it out of the bed, he rolled on his side and watched me move. I didn’t feel awkward with him watching. Not like I would have once before. The crutch I used was just another part of my daily life.

I have adapted to my new circumstances rather well, I think. It hasn’t always been easy, though.

I don’t fall nearly as often as I did even six weeks ago. Houghton hired the best physical therapist in the city to come to our house four times a week. I now had an entire regimen of therapies, including those that occurred in the pool.

I loved the pool. It was a love we shared. I grabbed my robe and wrapped it around myself.

We’d end up in that pool within the hour, I suspected. We somehow always did.

“Did you send the staff home already?”

“Other than security.”

Of course. Just like the crutch, Houghton’s security team are a part of our life. One that would always be.

I had once thought it had to be like living in a cage, but now…It wasn’t like that at all. I wasn’t contained in any real way.

The head of that security brought his wife to work with him almost every day, after all. I didn’t spend my days alone while Houghton worked. Not at all.

Brynna even had her own office right next to the one Houghton had decorated just for me. She hung out in their all day writing computer programs—many intended for either Luc’s company or Houghton’s—and I hung out in my own office, writing.

There was a connecting wall between the two spaces. If we wanted to, Bryn and I could open the wall and have one large office space. We could each do our own thing, while still being together. We did that a lot.

Sometimes Gabby showed up to work with Brynna or to have me edit her cookbooks she was creating. We were a team, just like we had always been. Marriage hadn’t changed us that much, though we didn’t see Gabby as much as I would have liked.

My best friend had married Elliot the week before Brynna and Chance had eloped. They lived a ways outside the city at Elliot’s family ranch.

Life had changed for Gabby, Brynna, and me, but strictly for the good.

It was my sister Jillian who worried me, though.

For all the good changes that had come mine and Brynna’s way, Jillian seemed to be the one who had paid the price.

And I don’t quite know how to help her. Yet. I will. I’m not going to stop until I do.

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