“Can I look yet?” I asked Gianni.
He’d blindfolded me the moment we left the house, and for the last ninety minutes I’d been trying to guess where we were going for the weekend. All I had for clues was the hum of the tires on the highway and a rough estimate of the distance we’d traveled, although I wasn’t sure what direction we were heading, and for all I knew, Gianni had been driving in circles just to keep me confused. He still loved to mess with me, even after ten years together and nine years of marriage.
“No, you can’t. And stop asking.” He reached over and thumped my leg.
I tipped my head back far enough so the barest sliver of light appeared at the bottom of the black satin sleep mask. “This is kidnapping.”
“You’re thirty-three, Ell.”
“Then it’s adult-napping. Wife snatching. Abduction!” I risked lifting up the bottom of the mask slightly. “It’s got to be some kind of crime.”
“Hey.” He tossed me one of his grins. “No peeking. You’ll ruin the surprise.”
“Fine.” I put the mask in place again and sighed. “But are we almost there yet?”
“Almost, princess. We just have one stop to make first.”
My phone vibrated in my lap. “Am I allowed to answer this?”
“Yes.” My husband laughed. “You get one phone call.”
“I can’t even see who’s calling,” I complained. “How am I supposed to know if I want to pick up?”
“Give it here.” He took the phone from me. “It’s your mom. Here, you’re on.”
Feeling the phone in my hand again, I brought it to my ear. “Hello?”
“Hi, Mom. Everything okay with the kids?”
“I’m sorry to bother you on your weekend away, and everything is totally fine, but Benny had a little accident on the playground after school.”
Panicked, I whipped the mask off. Benny, our eight-year-old, was always injuring himself. He’d inherited his dad’s reckless, daring streak along with his blue eyes and dimples. “What kind of accident?”
Gianni glanced at me and frowned.
“Mom, I’m putting you on speaker,” I said, touching the screen. “What happened to Benny?”
“It’s nothing to worry about,” she soothed. “He sprained his wrist, but he’s okay.”
“But what happened?”
“He fell off the top of the spiral slide.”
Gianni harrumphed. “He didn’t fall. He jumped.”
“He may have jumped,” said my mother. “Claudia says he did. My back was turned because I was pushing Gabrielle on the swings and chatting with Coco.”
Poor Claudia. She was only a year and a half older than Benny, and so protective, but she could never talk him out of all the dumb, impulsive ideas he had. Instead, she was the one who helped him up after he wiped out or got the Band-Aids after he bloodied a knee. The funny thing was, she rarely told on him because she hated seeing him get in trouble. I often wondered if that would last. “But he’s okay?”
“Yes. He’s fine. I was going to run him over to Urgent Care, but he can move it a little bit, and it doesn’t look too swollen. Your dad says he’ll be fine, but I thought you should know.”
“Thanks, Mom. How’s everyone else?”
“Fine.” Her voice brightened. “Claudia is helping me with dinner, Benny is resting on the couch, and Gabrielle is practicing her French with Dad.”
I smiled. Our youngest was only four, but her ear was amazing and she was picking up French quickly. My dad wouldn’t speak anything else to her. “Good.”
“Okay, you two have fun. We’ll see you Sunday.”
“Bye, Mom. Thanks.”
I hung up and sighed. “That kid is going to drive me crazy.”
“He gets that from me.”
“He certainly does.” I poked Gianni’s shoulder. “Do I have to put the sleep mask back on?”
“Nope. We’re nearly at our first stop.” He signaled and exited the highway before I had a chance to read any signs.
Eagerly, I sat up taller in the passenger seat and looked out the window. It was mid-January, and everything was covered in snow, but it wasn’t quite dark yet. Craning my neck, I glanced to the right and left, but didn’t see anything resembling the fancy resort I’d been hoping for. All I saw was a gas station, and I was surprised when Gianni pulled into the parking lot. “Do we need gas?” I asked. “I thought you filled up before we—”
It hit me.
I started to laugh as Gianni put the SUV in park outside the door to the little convenience store. “You didn’t.”
“The Pineview Motel?”
“Room thirteen awaits us. Come on.” He unbuckled his seatbelt and jumped out of the car.
Laughing, I followed him into the store. “What do we need here?”
“Provisions. I’m going to cook dinner for you tonight in our room. Tomorrow night we have a reservation at a nice restaurant in Harbor Springs—and we’ll stay the night there too, in that resort you always want to go to and never book.”
“Because it’s not a place for kids, and we always have them with us!”
“Well, this weekend is just for us.” He kissed my forehead and tugged my elbow. “I confess, I did pack some ingredients from home, but I also wanted to honor the tradition of gas station spaghetti.”
I grinned. “Gas station spaghetti” was what our kids called pasta with tomato sauce too. We’d told them the story of how we’d gotten stranded together years ago during a blizzard.
“Was that when you fell in love?” Claudia once asked.
Gianni and I had exchanged an amused glance.
“Definitely,” he said, his blue eyes alive with the secret of what had actually gone on at the motel. “After that blizzard, I knew she was the one for me. I just had to convince her of it. She didn’t believe me.”
“Is that true, Mom?”
“Sort of,” I told her. “He used to tease me a lot and that made me mad. But that blizzard definitely changed everything.”
Gianni gathered what he needed from the shelves and we made our way toward the register. Behind the counter was the man who’d been there ten years ago, portly and grizzled, his beard more white than gray. “Milton!” Gianni said. “How the heck are you?”
“Good.” Milton eyeballed us and scratched his chin. “I know you?”
“We met ten years ago. We were stranded here because of—”
“The blizzard,” Milton finished with a nod. “That’s right. Now I remember. I’ll be darned.”
Gianni put the groceries on the counter. “We’re back for a little anniversary celebration.”
Milton cocked his head. “As I recall, you two weren’t married. Fact, you said you didn’t even like each other. I always remembered that.”
I laughed and tucked my arm through my husband’s. “We didn’t like each other much back then. But all that changed during the snowstorm.”
Milton chuckled. “Mother Nature had that one up her sleeve, didn’t she?”
“She did,” said Gianni. “And it’s a good thing.”
After paying for our groceries, we made our way to the Pineview Motel. The big old sign was the same, but there had been a couple improvements. “Look, they replaced the L!” I said with a laugh. “It’s a swimming pool again!”
“Good to know, although I don’t plan on giving you time for a polar bear plunge tonight,” Gianni said, pulling up in front of the office. “I never get you to myself these days and I’m gonna make the most of it.”
“Fine with me,” I said. “Is Rose still here?”
“She is, and she knows we’re coming. I’ll be right back with the key to our favorite knotty pine oasis.”
I giggled. “I’ll be here.”
Five minutes later, we stood outside the door to our old room while Gianni fumbled with the key. “Rose said she refuses to switch over to keyless entry. She likes to be old-fashioned.”
“We knew this about her.”
“We did.” He got the door open and held it for me. “After you, Mrs. Lupo.”
I laughed. “Thank you kindly, Mr. Lupo.”
Entering the room sent a warm tingle up my spine. Everything looked exactly the same, right down to the red and black buffalo plaid curtains and bedding. “Wow. It’s like a time warp, isn’t it?”
Gianni shut the door and came up behind me, wrapping his arms around my shoulders. He kissed my head. “I take you to all the best places, don’t I?”
Turning in his arms, I faced him and looped my hands behind his neck. Looking up at him still gave me butterflies. “I just want to be where you are.”
He lowered his lips to mine and kissed me softly. “What should we do first? Walk in the woods? Some wine and a drinking game? Skip right to the good stuff?”
I started unbuttoning his black wool coat. “Let’s skip to the good stuff.”
He gave me his old grin. “Princess, your wish is my command.”
The following morning, we slept in and stayed curled up beneath the blankets. “God, I forgot what life was like before kids,” I said, my cheek on his warm, bare chest.
“We should do this more often.”
“Hey, I ask you to run away with me all the time—you’re the one who always suggests bringing the entire brood along.”
I laughed. “I know. I just like it when we’re all together. But this is nice too—especially being right back where we started.”
Gianni turned his head. “Right over there against that wall.”
“Why haven’t we ever come back here before?”
“I’ve thought about it. But life gets busy and, you know—kids.”
“Right. Kids.” I sighed.
“But we do have awesome kids,” Gianni said, his voice full of fatherly pride.
“I mean, Benny’s an idiot, but he’ll learn to rein that in.”
I laughed. “He’s such a charmer too, just like you were. He can talk his way out of anything.”
“Thank God Claudia is so sweet,” Gianni said. “And Gabrielle is so smart. At least two out of the three won’t give us heart attacks.”
“Until it’s time for them to date,” I reminded him.
“Oh, I’m sending them to a convent before they hit puberty. Are you kidding? They’re too beautiful to just walk around on the street with regular people.” He rolled over, stretching out above me. “Just like their mama. I don’t know how I convinced you to let me have you to myself for good.”
“You knocked me up.”
“Oh, right. Fucking genius of me.”
I laughed, wrapping my arms and legs around him. “Speaking of knocking me up . . .”
His eyes popped. “You’re pregnant?”
“No, not at the moment.”
“You mean you want to get pregnant?” He sounded surprised, but not unhappy.
I bit my lip. “I’ve been pondering the idea. I thought I’d be done after Gabrielle, but I’ve been thinking maybe one more would be nice. What do you think?”
“I’m down with any plan that involves having lots of sex with you, even if it results in sleepless nights and more noise at home and repainting that bedroom for the fourth time in eight years.”
“Good.” I smiled seductively at him. “Want to get started?”
“What the princess wants, the princess gets.” He buried his face in my neck and kissed my throat.
“Are you ever going to stop calling me that?” Against my thigh, I felt his cock growing hard, stirring up desire within me.
“Never.” He picked his head up and looked down at me. “Not as long as there’s an us.”
I smiled again as my whole body hummed. “There will always be an us.”