Blame it on the Sun
117 pages

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117 pages

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Dave Naughton’s laid-back attitude has cost him two sports writing jobs. Fear of commitment and uncertainty may cost him a whole lot more where his personal life is concerned. He’s summoned home to face his father, the owner of the family business and the one man he really doesn’t want to disappoint. Before the showdown gets underway, Steve Naughton collapses and is taken to the hospital with a serious and frightening ailment. Carys Connelly knows what she wants and goes after it. When the pretty nurse decides she wants Dave, he’s not sure what to think. Taking matters into her own hands, she wrangles a job as his father’s home health nurse to be closer to Dave. Will she have to whack him over the head before he realizes she might be the best thing that’s ever happened to him? “Kiss me until I can’t see straight. If we’re tired tomorrow, we’ll blame it on the sun.”



Publié par
Date de parution 04 octobre 2014
Nombre de lectures 2
EAN13 9781773620268
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,0032€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Blame it on the Sun
The Blame Game Book Three
By Jamie Hill
Digital ISBNs:
EPUB 978-0-2286-0258-3
Kindle 978-0-2286-0259-0
Amazon Print ISBN 978-0-2286-0260-6

Copyright 2 nd Ed. 2018 JamieGerry
Cover Art by Michelle Lee
All rights reserved. Without limiting therights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publicationmay be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system,or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic,mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without theprior written permission of both the copyright owner and the abovepublisher of this book.
To Kathy Fischer-Brown for letting me pickyour brain, so to speak.
Your help is much appreciated!
Yours is the light by which my spirit’sborn: yours is the darkness of my soul’s return~ you are my sun, mymoon, and all my stars. ~ E. E. Cummings
* * *
To love and be loved is to feel the sunfrom both sides. ~ David Viscott
Chapter One
“It’s a boy!”
David Naughton heard the excitement in hissister’s voice, although she sounded tired. Of course she wouldbe. Her labor started sometime the previous day, and had lastedover twenty-four hours. “Congratulations, Sis! Is he okay? Tenfingers, ten toes?”
“All the requisite body parts accounted for,including a headful of light brown hair, which has Clint wonderingwhere that came from since we’re both blond.”
He laughed and changed lanes on the highwayto make his exit. “Tell that husband of yours the hair lightens upas the kid gets older, or so they say. Unless it’s not his, thentell him whatever you want to.”
“Shush. Where are you? I thought you’d behere by now.”
“Got a late start. I’m about thirty minutesout.”
“Which explains the ‘you sound like you’re ina well’ phone connection.”
“Yeah, I’m driving and using the hands-free.So how are you, Dana? Doing okay?”
“Exhausted, exhilarated…my emotions arerunning the gamut. I’m good.”
“Glad to hear it. And happy little Stevie isfinally here.”
“We did not name him Stevie.”
Dave snorted. His sister had been ‘Daddy’slittle girl’ for as long as he could remember, and it hadn’timproved with age. Their parents divorced when they were teenagersand while they both lived with their dad, Dave had tried to bethere for their mom. Dana stayed firmly encamped in their father’shouse with his new wife and kids. “Okay, so what is the baby’sname?”
His sister hesitated. “Sam.”
“Sam?” Dave repeated, knowing full well therewas more.
“Samuel Steven.”
He laughed again, but didn’t give her toomuch static. “Nice. I’m going to let you go, traffic is gettinghairy out here and I’ll be there in just a few.”
“Thanks, David. See you soon.”
He pushed the ‘end call’ button on hissteering wheel and adjusted his sunglasses. Then he smiled. He’dhad no doubt his sister’s first son would somehow be namedSteve. Dana’s husband of two years was just as enamored of theirfather as she was. He even worked for the man at the MarshallGazette, one of the newspapers Steve owned. It was no secret Stevewas grooming Clint to take over running the paper one day.
Dave didn’t really mind. He could have had aposition on the Gazette in an instant had he wanted it. Instead, hechose a different family paper in Wichita, so he’d be a couplehours away. Close enough to go home when he wanted, but not too close.
The job had worked out for the first twoyears. The managing editor was cool, a friend of his father’s sure,but regardless, Tom Smith had been a good man to work for. Then theeconomy took a nose dive and his dad had to make some toughdecisions. Smaller newspapers struggled with news availabletwenty-four/seven online. Steve hadn’t wanted to sell the Wichitapaper, but another publisher made him an offer too hard to resist.He’d discussed it with Tom at great length, including Dave in someof the meetings. They all could see the sale was the best way togo, even if it meant Tom no longer had a job. Steve offered him aposition at any of his remaining seven papers, but Tom declined,saying he and his wife were ready to move to a warmer climate inFlorida.
Dave kept his position as a sports reporter,but the new managing editor was harder to work for. After nearly ayear of the man’s petty micro-managing, Dave gave five minute’snotice, said ‘see you, screw you,’ and walked out. He knew at thetime it wasn’t a smart move. He wasn’t too worried. Tom wouldprovide him a good reference if he needed one. Deep down, herealized he’d probably never need one. He could work for his dadanytime he wanted.
At the moment he was doing freelancereporting for an online sports magazine. When he got tired of thatand decided he was ready to make a move and settle down somewherenew, he’d bring it up to his dad. After the initial explosion andhis father had a chance to yell at him for a while, they’d discusswhere he might like to work.
He still wasn’t convinced that place wasMarshall. He loved his father and stepmother, and enjoyed spendingtime with his younger brother and sister. But he also loved hisprivacy, and could never imagine moving in with them as Dana haddone when she graduated from college.
He drove into Marshall and glanced around.The town never seemed to change much. It’d grown to aboutfifty-thousand people and acquired a few new restaurants and shops,but generally stayed the same. People called Kansas a ‘fly-over’state but he’d never felt that way. Fresh out of college he’d hadother job offers and knew, in theory, he could go wherever heliked. Part of him wanted to travel and go places he’d only readabout. The bigger part remembered the trauma his family had beenthrough when his parents split up and later when his stepbrotherdied. Something deep inside pulled at him, a desire to remainwithin a few hours’ driving distance of all of them.
Dave drove straight to the town’s onehospital. He passed the emergency entrance and pulled around to thefront parking lot. The old brick building held lots of memories forhis family, the worst of which took place in the emergency andintensive care departments. Fortunately, he was able to bypass themtoday and head straight to the third floor Family and BirthingCenter.
A phone hung on the wall outside the door. Hetucked his sunglasses into his shirt pocket and lifted thereceiver.
A woman’s voice responded, “May I helpyou?”
“Dana Stewart?” Dave didn’t realize they hadso many protective measures in place for newborns, but now that hisnephew was here, he didn’t mind a bit.
“I’ll buzz you in,” the woman said.
He replaced the receiver and heard the door’ssoft buzzing sound. He pressed it open and entered the cool, lightgreen space.
A petite pony-tailed blonde inWinnie-the-Pooh scrubs met him. “Hi. Dana’s in three-ten. Thebaby’s in there now, so you might want to knock first.” Shemotioned toward a corridor to their right.
“Will do.” He cocked his head. The nurse, orapparent nurse if the stethoscope hanging around her neck was anyindication, looked strangely familiar. Pretty, with clear blue eyesand a light smattering of freckles across her nose. Definitely aface he’d seen before. “Have we met?”
She smiled. “I’ve been through this with afew of your family members. I used to work in Intensive Care. I wason duty the night your brother had his accident.”
One of the worst nights of my life. “Ah, that’s it.” He glanced at her nametag. “Carys. I remember. Youwere supposed to get off at seven a.m. that day, but stuck aroundbecause of everything that was going on.”
She beamed. “You do remember. I just couldn’tleave. It was a horrible time.”
Dave smiled. “You were very kind to myfamily.”
Her eyes reflected the pain those memoriesbrought up. “I can’t imagine how you all held up. Personally, afterthat night, I put in a request to be moved to a different ward.I’ve been in several departments but am so glad I finally landed inmaternity.” She looked around. “People are happy here. There’s therare bad outcome, of course, but more folks than not leave thisdepartment with genuine smiles on their faces.”
He grinned at her assessment. “True. I’m gladyou ended up here, too. I expect it’s a much more pleasant place towork.”
She nodded. “Nice to see you again, uh…”
He extended his hand. “Dave. Dave Naughton.The pleasure is mine.”
They shook, and he couldn’t help noticing howsoft and smooth her hand felt. And warm. Obviously, it’d have tobe all those things to work around newborn infants . It justsurprised him, as did the sizzle which shot down his spine. Hereleased his grip and cleared his throat. “I’d better get—”
She nodded, and watched him go.
Did he see a pang of regret in her eyes? Hadshe felt the same jolt he’d experienced? Questions for anothertime . Room three-ten was directly in front of him, the doorpart-way closed. He knocked softly and stuck his head in. “It’sDave.”
“David!” his sister called. “Come in!”
He entered and glanced around. Dana sat up inbed, a small wrapped bundle in her arms. Her husband Clint sat onthe bed facing her, but the room was otherwise empty. “Hey! Ithought there’d be more people here.”
“Who else do you need?” Clint grinned.
Dave glanced back over his shoulder. “Thatlittle blonde nurse is pretty cute. Maybe you could call her forhelp or something.”
Dana waved a hand. “Shush, you. Get over hereand meet your nephew.”
Approaching the bed, he leaned in a pressed akiss on her cheek. She looks good. Tired, but very happy. Heglanced down at the sleeping child. He could only see rosy pinkcheeks. The head was covered by a knit cap, the rest of him wascocooned in a little blanket. “Hey Stevie. How you doing, littleman?”
Dana made a face at him. “Hi name isSam.”
Dave smiled. “Oh, that’s right. He’s verycute. As Dad would say, you two do good work.”
Clint ran a finger over the baby’s face.“That’s exactly what he said. They just left a while ago.”
Dave noticed the large bouquet of red rosessitting on the table behind them. “Yes, I can see he’s been here.Roses are Dad’s answer to everything.”
He suddenly realized he shouldn’t havearrived empty-handed. “Oh, shoot. I got you something but forgot tobring it in. Too big of a hurry, I guess.”
Dana shook her head. “It doesn’t matter.We’re just glad to see you. Mom’s coming tomorrow to stay for aweek. Will you be able to see her before you leave?”
Dave realized they thought he still workedhis Monday through Friday job at the newspaper. His new positionoffered more freedom, and much less pay. “I can stick around awhile tomorrow.” He looked at the baby. “Convenient of you toarrive on a Saturday.”
“We try to accommodate.” Dana said in ahigh-pitched voice to her son. “Grandpa even brought the kids upfor a few minutes. They were excited to see their nephew.”
Dave chuckled. “How did he react to the‘grandpa’ business? I know he said he was okay with it, butnow that it’s become a reality…I mean, he’s got a five-year-olddaughter, for crying out loud!”
Clint smirked. “He seemed okay. Not sureabout Catlin, though. She appears willing to let GrandmaBarbara take that title. We’ll find something else for Sam tocall her.”
“There probably aren’t a lot of thirty-fouryear old grandmas out there,” Dana agreed. “Although, I guess therecould be.” A puzzled expression crossed her face, then she shookher head, apparently too tired to try and figure it out. She lookedup at Dave. “Do you want to hold him?”
He raised his hands. “Oh, no thank you. I’lljust watch for now.”
“Chicken.” Smiling, Clint reached for Sam andscooped the child into his arms. He stood and placed a kiss onDana’s forehead. “Why don’t you try and get some rest? The nursessuggested you sleep when he sleeps.”
“I suppose I should. He’ll be awake againbefore we know it.”
Dave touched her arm. “I’ll leave you torelax. Have a good night. See you tomorrow sometime.”
“Don’t rush off,” Dana insisted.
He could tell she was exhausted, and smiled.“You need to sleep. We’ll catch up soon.” He moved toward the doorand paused when it opened.
The blonde nurse entered with a smile. “Howare we doing in here?”
Clint spoke up, “Dana was just going to catcha nap.”
“Good idea,” the nurse agreed. “I need totake the little guy for a couple quick tests. Why don’t we justkeep him until he wakes, then we’ll bring him back.” She took Samand nestled him in the rolling bassinet next to Dana’s bed.
“Sounds perfect. Thank you.” Clint settledinto the recliner on the other side of the bed. “I might close myeyes for a minute, too.”
“See you.” Dave nodded to them, then followedthe nurse and Sam out.
“They did so well.” She smiled over hershoulder at him.
“Yeah, aren’t they just the cutest things?”His tone was sarcastic but he grinned to take the edge off. Hissister and her husband seemed to live fairy tale lives. Theyeven had an abstinence agreement until they were married . Heshuddered at the thought.
“They seem very happy.”
“That’s because they are very happy.What you see is what you get with those two. Barbie and Kencouldn’t play it any straighter.”
She paused. “I think that’s nice.”
He glanced at her nametag and then realizedit probably appeared that he was staring at her chest. He quicklymet her gaze. “Well, um, Carys.” Another thought struck him and hechecked out her left hand. No ring. “I, uh…”
Dave didn’t know what to say. He needed toleave, but something inside him said ‘stay’. He didn’t know thepretty blonde other than their chance meeting two years earlier,but she seemed like someone he might want to know.
She smiled, seeming to sense his discomfort.“Do you live around here?”
“I used to. I live in Wichita, now. For thepast three years or so.”
She nodded. “Traveling by yourself?”
He grinned. “Are you reading my mind? BecauseI was trying to think of a tactful way to ask if you were married,or engaged, or living with someone, or seeing someone.”
Carys smiled. “No, no, no and no. And Iwasn’t reading your mind. I was just wondering the same thing aboutyou.”
He took a step closer. “No, no, no andno.”
She looked at Sam, who slept quietly in hisbassinet, then back up into Dave’s eyes. “So if I was reading yourmind, what would I discover is going on in there?”
He laughed. “Now that’s a scary thought. Wemight not want to take that leap yet. Perhaps start with somethingsafer—say dinner? What time do you get off work?”
She made a face. “Midnight. But tomorrow’s myearly night, I’m off at six. Will you still be here?”
Sunday night. His mind raced. His dadwould expect him to go back tomorrow. But he wouldn’t know if Davewent out to dinner first. He could leave after he dropped Carysoff.
He glanced at the baby. “I’ll stick around tosee Sam and the family tomorrow. So, yeah. Dinner soundsgreat.”
“They’ll go home in the morning as long asboth of them are feeling fine.”
Do I detect a note of disappointment? He grinned. “They boot them right out, don’t they? I thought Imight get to see you again.”
She pushed the bassinet down the hall. “Youwill. Tomorrow night. Pick me up here at six-thirty? I should bechanged and ready by then.”
Dave followed her. “Six-thirty it is.” Hewanted to add that he was looking forward to it, but hated to soundlike a letch.
“I’m looking forward to it.” Carys smiled athim. “Meet you out front. I’d better get this little guy into thenursery. See you.”
“See you,” he repeated, wondering what justhappened. He watched the sway of her hips as she walked away, shookhis head, and smiled.
His father’s house was just a few minutesfrom the hospital. Dave pulled his rust colored Nissan Murano intothe circle drive out front and grabbed his overnight bag. Steppinginto the foyer, he heard the unmistakable sounds of a board game inprogress.
“ Sor-ry!” his brother Charlie spoutedto some poor soul whose token had evidently just been senthome.
“That’s not fair!” Five-year-old Clarissayelled back. “Mama! Charlie did it again!”
“It was too fair!” a third voice chimedin.
David stepped into the family room and sawhis brother and sister sprawled on the floor around the game, theirfriend Jenny joining the fray.
“Is Charlie cheating?” David teased, settingdown his bag.
“I’m not cheating!” His eight-year-oldbrother shook his head vehemently.
“He’s not.” Seven-year-old Jenny tookCharlie’s side. No surprise there . The two friends were soclose, if she didn’t have cocoa-colored skin, people might assumethey were twins.
“David!” Clarissa jumped up and ran to hughim. “Did you see the baby? He’s so tiny! I wanted to hold him butDaddy said not today.”
He dropped onto the sofa and drew her intohis lap. “Hey, Lissa. Give the kid a chance to catch his breath.He’s not even a day old yet. You’ll have plenty of chances to holdhim.”
“It’s your turn,” Charlie told her,irritation oozing from his voice.
“I don’t want to play anymore.” She leanedback and snuggled into Dave.
“Baby.” Charlie stuck his tongue out at her,and wiped her pieces off the board.
Jenny cast a disparaging glance at Clarissabut knew better than to join in the taunting. She could besent home. “Keep playing,” she told Charlie, turning her attentionback to the game.
Dave wrapped his arms around his sister.“Where is everybody?”
“Roscoe pooped on the floor. Mama sent himoutside and Daddy’s cleaning it up.”
“Poor Daddy.” Dave chuckled. It wasn’t ashock that his old man got that end of the deal. His father woulddo anything for Catlin, there’d never been any doubt about that.From the first time they met, nine years ago, she’d had him wrappedaround her little finger.
Problem was, at the time, he wasn’t quite divorced. His parents had been having problems for along time, and were separated when his dad went to ‘Back to School’night and met Catlin, who was going to be his and Dana’s Englishteacher. The couple started a passionate, intense relationship, butit wasn’t meant to be at that time. It took a strange series ofevents and the better part of a year before everyone realized thatSteve and Barbara’s marriage was truly over, and Catlin was thewoman for him.
“Poor Daddy, what?” his father entered theroom, drying his hands on a paper towel. His eyes lit up when hespotted Dave. “Hey, son. When did you get here?”
“Right after the poop incident, apparently.”He grinned. “How you doing, Grandpa?”
“Grandpa, grandpa,” the children repeated insing-song voices.
Steve dropped into his recliner. “Enough outof you three, or you’ll all be sent to bed without any gruel.” Hesmiled at Dave. “I’m good. Did you see the boy? He’s a keeper.”
“Yeah, I did. Cute kid from what I could see.They had him pretty bundled up.”
“Oh, Catlin got in there and unwrapped him.Had to count the toes and all that.”
Clarissa patted Dave’s face to get hisattention. “I don’t want gruel for dinner. I thought we were havingpizza.”
He shook his head. “Dad always threatensgruel, Lis. But have you ever had it? I think not. Don’t worry,he’s just going all Charles Dickens on you.”
Jenny snickered. “Charles is a dickens!”
“Stop it!” Charlie shoved her arm.
Steve looked at Dave. “Thanks for that. Jimmyand Jetta are out for the evening, so Jenny’s spending the night.If you keep getting them riled up, you might be on babysittingduty.” To the children on the floor he said, “No shoving, you two.Your behavior determines how late you’ll be allowed to stay uptonight.”
“Yes Sir,” they replied in unison, then brokeup in a fit of giggles.
Dave rolled his eyes, the humor escaping him.He turned to his dad. “What’s up with Roscoe? He knows better thanthat.” The golden German Shepherd had been in their family foryears.
Steve shrugged. “Getting older. Happens tothe best of us.”
Dave grinned. His father would turn fifty onhis next birthday, and he knew the man hated the idea. Itdidn’t help that Catlin was barely thirty-four. She’d always kepthim young, but Dave thought his dad was finally starting to showhis age. He appeared tired, thinner than usual, and had a few morehints of gray around his temples. “You’re just a pup,” Davescoffed. “You’ve got a lot of living left to do, my good man.” Hetickled his sister’s ribs. “This one’s going to keep you hopping,as if the rest of us weren’t enough.”
Clarissa squirmed away, laughing. She tradedlaps and snuggled up to her father. “Do you want to hop, Daddy? Ican get my jump rope.”
“No thank you, princess. We’re good, righthere.” He held her tight and leaned back in his chair.
“David! Hi!” Catlin entered the room andmoved behind the sofa. She squeezed his shoulders and placed a kisson his cheek. “How are you? How was the drive? Job going okay?”
He chuckled, and recalled his conversationwith Carys a short while earlier. Glancing over his shoulder hereplied, “Fine, fine and fine.” His stepmother looked good. Hercurly brown hair bobbed to her shoulders, and she just seemed happy . She’d been a knockout when he was in high school, buthe wouldn’t ever have admitted it since she was dating his father.He remained aloof, but had always thought Catlin was cool. “How are you, Grandma?”
She squeezed his shoulders harder. “Not readyto be called ‘grandma’ , thank you very much. Although Sam ispretty cute. He might get away with it, but the rest of you betterthink twice before that word passes your lips again.”
Dave raised his hands. “I give, I give! SorryMama.”
She tweaked his cheek and moved to stand infront of Steve’s recliner, hands on her hips. “In my spot again,princess? We’re going to need to talk about this.”
Clarissa smirked, while Steve smiled andpatted his other leg. “We’ll make room.”
“Tempting.” She leaned in and pressed a kissto his lips. “But I’ve got pizza to order. Any specialrequests?”
“The usual works for me. The kids are havinggruel. Not sure what Dave wants.”
“Daddy!” Clarissa complained.
Charlie piped up, “We want pineapple and hamon our gruel, please.”
“I know you do.” Catlin crinkled her nose athim. “One Hawaiian and one supreme with no onion or green pepper.Davey, you up for pizza or did you have other plans?”
He shrugged. “What plans would I have? Pizzasounds great. Supreme with extra onions and jalapenos,please.”
She returned her hands to her hips. “Oh, Idon’t know. Someone said they saw you talking to the cute littlenurse at the hospital today. Carys?”
He rolled his eyes. “I was making politeconversation, nothing more. Does Clint call here regularly withstatus updates or does he post them to Facebook like everybodyelse?”
Catlin grinned. “You’re losing your touch,buddy. Because rumor has it she was asking about you. If you didn’ttake advantage of that, then you are not your father’sson.”
He tapped his wrist where a watch might be.“Pizza? Tonight?”
“Chump.” She cackled as she headed for thephone.
“Chump! Chump!” Three little voices echoedaround the room.
Dave glanced at his father. “I’m surprisedyour hair isn’t totally silver by now.”
Steve leaned back and closed his eyes, asmall smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “Some days, I’msurprised about that myself.”
Dave padded down to the kitchen the nextmorning and found it blissfully quiet. He couldn’t believe that hisdad hadn’t woken him to attend church with the family. He also knewhis parents appreciated him playing with the children as much as hehad after dinner, giving the folks a break. When he finally fellinto bed he was out before he had the chance to think about Carys’sshapely hips, and figure out where he was going to take her fordinner.
He mulled it over as he fixed a cup of coffeein the Keurig. It wouldn’t surprise him if she had the restaurantall picked out before he got there. She seemed to know exactly whatshe wanted, and wasn’t worried about going after it. Not the kindof woman he usually dated, but he was up for the challenge. Hewelcomed it.
The family returned with three chatteringchildren and one big box of donuts.
“Upstairs, out of your church clothes beforeyou can eat,” Steve instructed, and the kids raced off.
Dave rubbed his temples. “Is Jenny stayingall day?”
“Twenty-four hours, that’s the deal.” Catlinput plates on the table. “They keep our two for eighteen, we keepher for twenty-four. Once a month.”
“Eighteen hours?” He wasn’t sure he wanted tohear the explanation, but asked anyway.
Catlin waggled her brows. “Twelve hours justdoesn’t quite cut it. Eighteen is better.”
“Go Dad.” Dave grinned, shaking his head.“Hope that runs in the family.”
“T.M.I. dear,” Steve told his wife as hepassed her, reaching for cups. “Too much information.”
“Whatever.” She waved a hand. “The boy usedto live here. I think he knows we have sex.”
Dave nodded. “I suspected it, anyway, whenCharlie was born. I try not to dwell on it. What I was reallythinking is that the kids are so much noisier when there’s three ofthem.”
Steve ran a hand through Dave’s tousled hair.“There used to be five of you, remember? We managed just fine.”
“Yeah.” Dave’s eyes sought out the familypicture on top of the china hutch. Taken three years earlier whentheir family still had five children, the photo was the lastportrait they’d had done before Chris was killed in a car accident.His father had adopted Catlin’s biological son and Chris lived withthem for six years before he died. Dave and Dana had been off tocollege for most of that time, but they were close with theirbrother nevertheless. His death hit the whole family hard.
The kids returned in jeans and t-shirts,ready for donuts and milk. Catlin served while Steve poured. Davidtook his coffee to the family room for a few moments of calmsolitude. Once breakfast was over, he figured there’d be no more ofthat for the rest of the day.
At least there’s tonight to look forwardto. His date with Carys loomed, and the closer it got, the moreexcited he allowed himself to get. He pictured her marble-blueeyes, and wondered what her hair might look like when it wasn’tpulled back. As he continued to recall her attributes, his jeansgrew uncomfortable. Tamping down the thoughts, he put the daydreamson hold for now. The real thing will be so much bettertonight.
Chapter Two
Clint took Dana and Sam home from thehospital the next morning. After lunch, Dave went over with thefamily to see them for a short visit. Their house was a ten minutedrive from home, in a new subdivision with lots of young families.Dave originally suspected their dad had helped with the purchase,but Clint drove that idea out quickly. He and Dana made their owndown payment, and were handling the loan themselves. He did agreeto let Steve buy him a lawn mower.
They pulled up to the cheery green house. Asilver Lincoln Navigator sat in the driveway.
“Mom and Roger must be here,” Davecommented.
Steve groaned. “Roger? Really? I thought yourmom was staying for the week. What’s he doing here?”
Grinning, Dave leaned forward in his seat.“Roger is cool, Dad. Much better than the last guy mom hooked upwith. Remember Kirk, the construction engineer ?”
“We all remember Kirk.” Catlin frowned. “Thebum. Of course Roger is better. He’s got a real job and he treatsher well. Your dad just doesn’t think anyone is good enough foryour mother except him. I have to keep reminding him that he’salready spoken for.”
Steve waved her off. “It’s not that. Checkyour watch. See how long we’re there before he starts telling meabout some award his magazines have won.”
“Your papers win lots of awards,” Catlinreminded him. “Don’t let it get to you.”
“He’s just so—”
“Rich and handsome?” Catlin grinned. “Thatcutting a little too close to home for you, is it, dear?”
He shot her a look. “I was going to say obnoxious . He’s all about the digital media. His online magsdo as well as the print copies, newspapers are dinosaurs, all thatcrap.”
She touched his arm. “Ignore him. We’re hereto see Dana, Clint and Sam. We won’t stay long.” She glanced backat the three children. “Best behavior from all of you.”
Steve’s shoulders slumped as he seemed toremember the children. “No kidding.” He waved his sunglasses atthem before tucking them into the visor. “Be polite, don’t touchanything especially the baby , and no running.”
They exited the Expedition and Catlin grabbedhis hand as they approached the door. “Can I touch the baby?”
“Not if you’re going to be sassy,” heteased.
Dave looked to the heavens before herding thekids in front of him.
His dad knocked once then opened the frontdoor. “It’s just us.”
“Come in!” they heard Clint call, and theyall stepped inside.
He met them at the door. “Hi!” He looked atthe children. “Hi guys. Hi Jenny.”
“I’d like to see the baby,” sheannounced.
He chuckled. “Rats, I thought you were hereto see me.”
“Get used to it.” Steve patted Clint’sshoulder. “You’ll be coming in third pretty much from here onout.”
“Oh, boo hoo.” Catlin linked her arms throughSteve and Clint’s, and they headed into the family room.
“Look who’s here,” Clint told his wife.
“Hi everyone.” Dana smiled from her chair.“Hey Jenny.”
They murmured greetings and Jenny repeated,“I’d like to see the baby, please.”
“He’s just beautiful.” Barbara Naughton saton the sofa, her grandson in her arms. “Come over and see him,children. But be quiet, he’s sleeping.”
The three kids surrounded Barbara and lookedat Sam.
“Hey Mom.” Dave leaned down and kissed hercheek.
She smiled up at him. “Hi sweetheart. How areyou?”
“Great.” He looked at Sam. “Sleeping again.That’s the life, kid. Enjoy it while you can.”
He handed a package to his sister. “It’s notmuch, just a little something.”
“Thanks, David!” Dana opened the gift andheld up the Wichita State Shocker onesie and stuffed toy. “Sweet! Ilove it.”
“Thanks!” Clint added.
David nodded and glanced around the room. No sign of Roger . He gave his father a pointed look.
Steve smiled and said, “Hello Barb.”
She gazed at him and Catlin brightly. “Hello.What do you think of our boy, here?”
“Amazing,” his father replied.
“He’s so sweet,” Catlin added.
Roger Powers came from the kitchen, sipping aglass of iced tea. “Well, look what the cat dragged in.” He glancedat the children. “The whole brood, apparently.”
“Hello Roger,” Steve said without muchenthusiasm.
Catlin turned her head and coughed. “Try tohold down the contempt, if you could,” she whispered and pinchedhim.
Steve smiled through gritted teeth. “Hestarted it.” He turned to Clint and asked, “How did Samuel Stevensleep last night?”
“Not worth a hoot,” Clint answered. “Luckyfor us the nurses kept him most of the night so we could rest.”
Dana added, “It seems like he wants to eatevery hour. It takes him thirty minutes to eat, and he’s hungryagain before I can even get my straps fastened up. I’mexhausted.”
Catlin moved to Dana and ran her hand overthe new mother’s hair. “I remember those days. It gets better,sweetie, it really does.”
Barbara spoke to the baby, “And now thatGrandma is here, we’ll get you on a schedule so Mommy cansleep.”
“Good luck with that!” Catlin chuckled.
Barbara gave her a small smile.
Charlie told Barbara, “Sam has my middlename.”
She looked at him and started to saysomething, but apparently decided against it. “Isn’t that nice?”she offered instead.
Roger sided up to Steve and said, “Steve oldboy, I didn’t see your name when the Kansas Press Associationawards were announced last month. Did you notice my ‘About Kansas’won for best quarterly periodical?”
David glanced at the clock then back at hisfather. “About six minutes, I’d say.”
Catlin’s eyes bugged and she shook her headat him.
Steve smiled at Dave then looked at Roger.“Congratulations.”
Dave knew it was against his father’s betterjudgment, but he probably couldn’t resist and took the bait when headded, “Six of my newspapers were in the top ten for thestate.”
Roger waved a hand. “Oh, sure, I saw thepapers, but I used to see your name amongst the editorial awardwinners. Not writing these days, or just not winning?”
A tiny vein popped out in Steve’s temple ashe visibly tried to control himself. “Actually, I’m not writing much these days. I find that overseeing the publishing ofall my papers keeps me busy enough. Especially with a wife and fourchildren, and now a grandchild.” He pulled Catlin close to him andkissed the side of her head for emphasis.
She smiled adoringly at him, and turned toRoger. “I don’t like him to get too tired out during theday.” She gave an exaggerated wink.
Roger’s face reddened and he turned away.
Clint stood up in front of them. “Why don’tyou come in the kitchen and help me get drinks for everyone.”
“Of course, excuse us.” Steve slid an armaround Catlin and led her into the kitchen.
Dave couldn’t resist. “I’ll help, too.” Hefollowed them in.
“You guys are terrible!” Clint whispered tohis in-laws.
Catlin slapped Steve’s shoulder. “I can’tbelieve you! You are so jealous of him!”
“I am not!” Steve insisted, and reached forthe glasses.
“Me thinks he doth protest too much.” Clintpulled pitchers of iced tea and Kool-Aid from the fridge.
Steve gave Clint a look. “Me thinks youbetter shut the hell up.”
Clint grinned at Catlin and Dave, and clickedan imaginary lock on his mouth.
She shook her head. “Jealous.”
Clint poured into the glass she was holdingand agreed, “Definitely.” He set the glasses down and went to thekitchen door. “Hey guys,” he said to the children, “my mom madesome monster cookies just for you. Would you like some?”
“Yeah!” Charlie, Jenny and Clarissa were inthe kitchen in a flash.
“Here you go.” Clint set out the cookies,drinks and plates.
Steve pouted. “I want monster cookies.”
Catlin shooed him towards the other room.“You haven’t been playing nice. If you can go out there and behaveyourself, maybe we’ll save you one.”
“Look who’s talking, Lolita.” David grinnedat his stepmom.
“No kidding.” Clint made a face at her, too.“Both of you behave yourselves or no cookies for you.”
Steve and Catlin raised their brows at eachother, taking their tea into the family room. David grabbed acookie and followed.
The doorbell rang and he was closest, so heoffered to get it. Jim and Jetta Craig, his parents’ best friends,were there with a gift for the baby. “Hey guys, come in. The gang’sall here.”
“Hey David!” Jetta kissed his cheek. Thepretty, dark-skinned woman rarely changed. She taught math at thehigh school he’d attended, another hot teacher who’d been theobject of many high school boys’ fantasies. She and Catlin wereclose then, and had grown even closer over the years. Jetta pattedhis chest. “Good to see you.”
“You too, Hot Stuff.” He pulled his hand awayfrom her and made a sizzling sound. To her husband, Dave said, “Youare still one lucky, lucky man.”
“With a badge and a weapon. Remember that,son.” Jim shook his hand, an ever-present grin plastered on hisface.
“Oh, yes Sir. I always have.”
Jetta smiled. “I can’t believe some prettyyoung thing hasn’t caught you yet, you charmer.”
He leaned in and said conspiratorially, “Ikeep a set of track shoes under the bed.”
They chuckled and Jim asked, “How’s the worldtreating you?”
“Can’t complain. Come on in. Mom and Rogerare here, so things have been interesting to say the least.”
The Crafts nodded and moved to the other roomwhere they greeted everyone and admired the baby.
“We’re not going to stay,” Jetta said. “Wethought we’d take the kids back to our place so you all can visit.If it’s all right, we’ll bring them home after dinner and pick upJenny’s suitcase then.”
“Are you sure?” Catlin asked her friend. “Youdidn’t get your full weekend.”
Jetta batted her lashes. “Don’t you worry,I’m happy as can be. And you have a new baby to make googly facesat. We’re going to get those little rascals out of your hair.”
“Thank you,” Steve told Jim sincerely.
“Anytime, Grandpa.” Jim grinned.
Steve whispered something Dave couldn’t hear,and Jim laughed all the way to the door as they led the threechildren out.
It suddenly became much quieter in the house.Dave breathed a sigh of relief and he was pretty sure several otherpeople did, too.
Barbara looked at Steve. “I’ve beenmonopolizing Sam. Would you like to hold him?”
“Sure.” He set his glass down and took theinfant, gazing at the sleeping child’s face. “Hello, little guy.”Steve smiled at his grandson, then sat in Clint’s chair androcked.
Dave tried to fill the lull in conversation.“So, Roger, how’s business?”
His mother answered, “Really wonderful.Circulation is up again this year.”
Dave nodded and smiled politely, while Rogerproceeded to expound on what Barbara had stated succinctly. Tenminutes later, the subject of the Kansas Press Awards came backup.
Steve asked, “Did you see Clint won for hisfeature on the emergency shelter?”
“No!” Roger looked at Clint.“Congratulations, boy! I guess I need to watch for the Stewartname, now.”
Clint smiled and blushed. “It was only secondplace.”
Steve spoke up, “Do you realize how manyentries they get each year? You took second out of hundreds ofentries. That’s damn good for a young guy like you.” He spoke tothe sleeping baby in his arms. “Expect big things from your father,Sam. He’s doing great.”
Clint’s blush continued. “Thanks.”
Catlin smiled at Clint, who grinned back ather.
Roger said, “Barbara tells me David isrunning the sports department of the Wichita paper.”
Dave choked on the ice he’d been chewing.
“Not exactly running it.” Steve smiled atBarbara and told Roger, “He’s doing just fine. Of course that one’sout of my hands, now. But I’ve no doubt one of these days he’ll beready to take over.”
Barbara shook her head. “I can’t understandwhy you make the boys start at the bottom and work up. Couldn’t youfind more prestigious positions for them? They are family,after all.”
Steve started to respond when Roger said, “Hecouldn’t do that, honey. The boys have to work their way up likeanyone else. That’s how they learn the important stuff, the littleaspects of the business. It’s also how they earn the respect oftheir co-workers. The staff knows who’s eventually going to berunning those papers. Believe me; the boys will get along muchbetter later if they put in their time now.”
Dave saw the look of surprise on his father’sface as he exchanged glances with Catlin.
She smiled and gave her husband a nod.
Steve looked back at Roger. “So, uh,Roger…did you get a chance to hold this boy yet?” He offered thebaby up.
Roger smiled. “No, but, I’d be honored to.”He took Sam and sat next to Barbara on the sofa.
Catlin sat on the arm of Steve’s chair. “Iguess you get a cookie,” she said softly.
He smiled at her.
Dave tried to think of anything to change thetopic of conversation He glanced at his mother. “So, Mom, you’restaying for a while?”
She nodded. “I figured I might as well. Ihave no reason to rush off. We’ll just see how it goes, and Rogerwill come back and get me when I call him.”
Dana yawned. “I’ll appreciate the help. I’mexhausted.”
Catlin hopped up and Steve stood. “I’m sorry,honey,” he said to Dana. “We didn’t mean to wear you out. We’llgo.”
“I didn’t mean that!” Dana protested, buteveryone could see how tired she was.
Steve gave her a hug. “We have plenty oftime. The important thing is you getting rested up right now.”
Catlin hugged her next, and then Dave steppedup. “I’ll be back in a couple weeks. Don’t let him grow too muchwhile I’m gone.”
“No promises, the way he eats!” She huggedher brother’s neck. “Thanks for coming, David. I feel bad we didn’tget more time together after you came all this way.”
“I wanted to be here, and I didn’t expect youto entertain me. Like I told you, I’ll be back soon. You take iteasy and get some rest.”
She nodded and wiped a tear from her eye.
He told his mother and Roger goodbye, as didthe others.
Clint walked them out and handed Dave a plateof cookies. “Not sure it’s safe to let you hold these. Make sureyou save one for your dad. He earned it.”
“We’ll see.” David waggled his brows. “Takeit easy, bro. See you soon.”
“Drive carefully,” Clint patted hisshoulder.
Climbing in the back seat of the Expedition,Dave nearly forgot he had a three hour drive ahead of him. All hecould think about was Carys, and the date that would be here beforehe knew it.
Chapter Three
Dave hadn’t brought anything besides jeansfor the weekend, so he hoped Carys didn’t dress up too much. He’dbrought a nice button-down shirt which he changed into beforepacking his things and heading out. He promised his folks and thekids he’d be back soon, and figured he might try to come home againin a couple weeks. He wouldn’t mind spending more time with Dana,but it would be easier once things had settled down.
The sun was still peeking through the treesin the autumn sky so he adjusted his Oakleys and drove to the frontdoor of the hospital. No sign of her yet, he parked in a drop-offzone and figured he’d move if need be.
Before he had time to get comfortable, Carysappeared. Dressed in tight jeans and a long-sleeved pink pullover,she looked even prettier than when he’d seen her in scrubs.Straight blonde hair fell just past her shoulders. She peered inthe window to make sure it was him, then a smile spread across herface.
He moved to get out but she reached for thepassenger door and had it open before he could react. “Stay put,”she instructed.

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