“So what did you think?” I took Blair’s hand as we walked down the cracked cement path from the house’s front door to the sidewalk.
She didn’t even glance at the FOR SALE sign on the lawn. “It’s okay,” she said with a heavy sigh, kicking a pebble with the toe of her sneaker.
Okay was actually pretty generous. I’d thought the place was ugly, decrepit, and smelled like moldy carpet. It wasn’t even the best one we’d seen today, let alone in the three months we’d been looking. But my surprise would make a bigger impact if I played with her a little. “Okay but not perfect?”
She shook her head. “Not even close. The kitchen looked like 1975 and 1995 had an ugly baby—sorry, I know all babies are supposed to be beautiful, but I can’t with the knotty pine soffits and the stained formica counters.”
“We can always remodel a kitchen.”
“Not right away. We don’t have that kind of money. And I need a kitchen I can at least live with for a while. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but I don’t want to hate it.”
“The three bedrooms were nice and big.”
“But there’s only one and a half baths. I really think we need two full.”
“It had a decent-sized yard, though.”
“I guess. But that deck is practically falling off the back of the house. It’s all rotted.”
“I can fix that.” We reached the truck and I unlocked it before pulling open the passenger door for her.
“I know.” She looked up at me, her expression guilty. “Am I being a princess?”
I laughed, dropping a kiss on her lips. “No.”
“I’m sorry, I swear I am trying not to be too picky, and I know we’ve looked at like every house in our price range in Bellamy Creek, but . . .” She twisted her hands together. “I just haven’t felt right in any of them. I feel like when I walk in to the right one, I’ll know it.”
“It will give you a hug?” I teased her.
Her cheeks grew pink, and she laughed. “Yes.”
“Listen,” I said, slipping my arms around her waist. “I want you to be happy in our new house. You deserve to have all the things you want.”
Brightening, she threw her arms around my neck. “Me too. I know I said the apartment was feeling a little cramped, but I can be patient. Let’s not rush.”
“It wouldn’t feel so cramped if we hadn’t gotten so many wedding presents.”
“I can’t help it if our friends and families are generous!”
“Seriously, how many kitchen utensils and mixing bowls does one woman need? And when are we ever going to use those fancy plates your mother sent?”
“That was my grandmother’s china, and I happen to think it goes perfectly with your great-grandmother’s silver, so I’m planning lots of formal dinner parties.”
I groaned. “I’m sorry I asked.”
We got into the truck, and I started the engine. “Want to go for a little Sunday drive?”
“Sure.” She rolled down the window and let the early autumn breeze ruffle her hair.
A few minutes of silence later, I glanced over at her, surprised she wasn’t chattering away as usual, and saw that she’d fallen asleep.
It concerned me a little—she’d been napping a lot more than usual lately. We’d been married about ten months, and I knew she got up really early every morning to open her bakery, but in the last few weeks she’d been more exhausted than usual. It seemed worrisome to me that she was falling asleep in the middle of the day more and more. Three times in the last week I’d come home from work to find her passed out on the couch—once she hadn’t even taken her shoes off. I’d asked her about it that day, but she’d brushed off my concern and simply said she hadn’t been sleeping well, maybe because of the heat. It had been an unusually warm fall so far, so I hadn’t pressed her. But I made up my mind to ask her about it again.
She was everything to me, and I wanted to take care of her.
She woke up when I turned off the highway onto the familiar dirt road, sitting up straighter and rubbing her eyes. “Sheesh, how long was I out?”
“About ten minutes.” I glanced at her again and took her hand. “You feeling okay?”
“Yeah. I feel great.” She looked around, recognizing where we were heading. “Hey, are we going to the pond? I didn’t pack a picnic.”
“That’s okay.” About a mile down the dirt road, I turned into a driveway. Putting the truck in park, I jumped out and unlocked the gate with the sign on it that read PRIVATE PROPERTY.
Soon, if all went well, it would be our property—at least part of it.
Back in the truck, I pulled past the gate and drove slowly through the woods until we reached the clearing. Over to the left was the pond with the little wooden dock at one end, and somewhere beyond the trees ahead was the lake. We were at the height of the season for fall colors, surrounded on all sides by shades so vibrant you could almost taste them—honey and pumpkin and cinnamon and sweet potato and cider. Blair and I often came here for date nights, preferring the quiet intimacy of a picnic to a restaurant or bar.
But this afternoon was about something else.
I got out of the truck, and she followed suit. “Come here,” I said, taking her hand and leading her toward the dock.
“Are we going fishing?” she asked.
“Not without a pole.”
“Oh, right. Skinny dipping?” she joked, squeezing my hand.
I laughed. “We could. Might be a little chilly.”
We reached the dock and walked out on it. Then I turned her toward the clearing where the truck was parked and put my arms around her. “Look over there,” I said softly, my lips next to her ear.
She put her arms over mine. “What am I looking for?”
“Something that isn’t there yet. You have to imagine it.”
In my arms, she shivered. “Whose house?”
I wrapped her up tighter. “Ours.”
She sucked in her breath. “What?”
“Beckett offered to sell me some acreage—not a lot, but enough for us to have some space of our own.”
Another gasp, and she turned to face me. “Griffin, can we afford it?”
“Yes. He’s being extremely generous with the sale price.”
Her eyes teared up. “He is?”
“Beckett’s a good guy.”
“And we can build a home here?”
I shrugged. “I mean, we could pitch a tent and call it a day, but I thought you might like to build your dream house complete with the perfect kitchen.”
She sniffled, swatting at my chest. “It’s too good to be true!”
I turned her around again, keeping her wrapped in my embrace. “But can you see it?”
“Yes,” she whispered. “I can.”
“It’s white, and it has a big wraparound porch.”
“Yes. And on the porch are rocking chairs and a hammock and all kinds of hanging flower baskets.”
“Where’s my three-car garage?”
“Hmm. That’s not coming to me.”
Laughing, I scooped her off her feet and pretended I was going to toss her in the pond. “Maybe it’ll come to you after a swim, Mrs. Dempsey!”
“Griffin, don’t you dare!” Squealing, she flailed and kicked in my arms. “I see the garage! I see the garage! Oh my God, it’s huge! It’s massive! It’s bigger and nicer than the house!”
Grinning, I set her on her feet again. “Now you’re talking.”
She nestled her back against my chest again, and I looped my arms around her waist. Placing her hands over mine, she played with my wedding band. “I see something else,” she said.
“Mmm.” I kissed her temple. “Our bedroom?”
“Yes. But not just ours. I see the baby’s room too.”
I went completely still. “Baby?”
“Yes.” She took my hands and flattened my palms over her belly. “I’m pregnant, Griffin.”
My entire body warmed, flooded with five different feelings at once—love and joy and shock and fear and above all, a ferocious, all-consuming sense of protectiveness. “Are you sure?”
“Yes. I’ve taken like five tests. I didn’t want to tell you unless I was positive.” She turned to face me, putting her hands on my chest. Her smile was tentative. “Are you happy?”
“Are you serious? Of course I’m happy!” I crushed her body against mine, lifting her off her feet. “We’re going to have a baby—you and me!”
She grinned. “Yes, we are.”
“I didn’t think it would happen so soon.” We’d only decided to stop using protection a month ago. Then it hit me—the reason she’d been so tired. I set her down and looked at her. “That’s why you keep falling asleep.”
“I think so.”
“Are you feeling okay? Jesus, I shouldn’t have threatened to throw you in the water like that—I’m such an asshole!”
“It’s okay,” she said, laughing. “I’m not breakable, all of a sudden. And my body is going to have to withstand a lot more than an unexpected swim.”
“Are you nervous?” I asked, overwhelmed with love and gratitude and awe at the journey she was willing to take for me, for us. “Don’t be. You’re stronger than you think, and I am going to be here with you every step of the way.”
“I know you will.” Rising up on her toes, she kissed me. “I feel very lucky.”
I kissed her back, hoping she could feel how much I cherished her, wishing I could think of words to say that would make her understand how fiercely I would protect her and our children, how hard I would work for them, how deeply I would love them. On impulse, I dropped to my knees on the dock, lifted up her shirt, and put my hands on her stomach again. “Hey, you.”
Above me, she giggled. “I don’t think he has ears yet.”
“He might. Our kid is gonna be ahead of the pack on everything.”
“Of course.” Her hands played in my hair.
“Hey in there. It’s your dad.” But then I found myself too choked up to speak, and all I could do was close my eyes, rest my forehead against my wife’s belly, and thank my own father for sending me this angel—and the one inside her.
“I love you,” Blair whispered.
I swallowed hard, and pressed my lips to her skin.
My heart was too full for words.
Blair’s Raspberry Pistachio Torte
- 3/4 C. Sugar
- 4 oz. unsalted butter, room temp
- 2 eggs
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1/2 C. all-purpose flour
- 1/2 C. almond flour
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1/8 tsp salt
- 12 oz of raspberries
- Juice from half a lemon
- Sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling
- Handful of coarsely chopped unsalted, roasted pistachios for garnish
- Powdered sugar for sprinkling
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Grease 9″ pan with baking spray. Line bottom of pan with parchment.
- Beat Butter and sugar until light. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix until combined. Add dry ingredients.
- Spread into prepared pan. Top with fresh fruit. Make sure to cover the top.
- Sprinkle with lemon juice, sugar and cinnamon. Then sprinkle with chopped pistachios.
- Bake for about an hour at 350 degrees. Once cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar.