Disclaimers: See Part one.
If you're interested in Amanda's Blog, go to http://rockingwmom.wordpress.com/ and check it out. My brilliant wife has been having a good time :-) – Carrie
I can be contacted at email@example.com and at my website – www.CarrieLCarr.com
Martha and Charlie met Chet as he was coming through the back door of the house. He tipped his baseball cap at Martha. “Afternoon, Mrs. Bristol. Charlie. Isn't it something?”
“What in the Sam-hill are you talking about, Chet?” Martha asked, as she removed the damp scarf from her head.
“Uh, nothing, ma'am.” He grinned and jogged down the steps, hurrying out of the sleet to his truck.
Martha shared a glance with her husband as they stepped into the house. “I wonder what Lexie and Amanda did this time?”
“What makes you think they did anything?” Charlie took her coat and hung it on the hook, followed by his. He peeked into the kitchen, finding it empty.
“Because, we don't usually see any of the hands here at the house, unless something's going on.” She followed Charlie to the den. “Where in the world are they?”
A thump from upstairs answered her. Charlie walked sedately behind his wife, as she continued to mumble under her breath. It wasn't long before they were both upstairs, and could hear voices coming from the master bedroom. “Maybe Lex's back was giving her trouble, and they needed help getting her up here,” he mused.
Martha crossed the threshold and stopped, causing Charlie to run into her back. “Amanda? What on earth is that?”
Amanda sat on the bed, cradling an infant in her arms. The baby suckled enthusiastically on the bottle she held, oblivious to the newcomers.
“After all this time, you don't know?” teased Lex from the corner of the bedroom, where she was putting the finishing touches on a crib. “For shame, Martha.” She slowly stretched, fighting back a moan at the twinge in her back.
“I can always go downstairs for a spoon to tan your backside, you know,” Martha threatened. She joined Amanda and looked down on the baby. “Honey, where did this little tyke come from? I know I'm not going to get a straight answer from that one over there.”
Lex stood next to them. “You probably won't believe it if we tell you.” She flinched as Martha backhanded her in the stomach. “Ow!”
“Brat.” Martha sat beside Amanda. “Now start talking, Lexie. And no smart aleck remarks, either.”
“Yes, ma'am.” Lex looked at Amanda, who shrugged. “Long story short, he's Hubert's, and we've adopted him.”
“What?” both Charlie and Martha exclaimed, which caused Eddie to stop sucking on the bottle and let out a cry.
Amanda patted his bottom and put the nipple back in his mouth, to settle him down. “Ssh. It's okay, sweetie. Mada and Grandpa Charlie didn't mean to scare you.”
Martha stood, grabbed Lex by the ear, and tugged. Hard. “You'd better start explaining everything, right now.”
“Ow, ow. Okay, let go.” Lex tipped her head to keep her ear from being torn off. Once Martha released her, she rubbed her earlobe. “Hubert showed up this morning. He told us that the mother basically dumped the baby with him and left. He knew he wouldn't be able to raise him, so he brought him to us.”
“And you believed him?” Martha faced showed her skepticism.
Amanda saw Lex's face flush, and decided to jump in. “We both believed him, Martha. You wouldn't have recognized him. He's really settled down and become a different man.”
“A snake doesn't change. And that man's always been pure evil. For all you know, he stole that baby, and is setting you up for a kidnapping charge!”
Charlie put his arm around Martha in an attempt to calm her. “Let them finish, hon.”
“Thanks, Charlie.” Lex sat next to Amanda and picked up an envelope that was on the nightstand. “Here's Eddie's birth certificate, showing Hubert as the father. And, if you looked at the baby, you'd see how much he favors him.”
Martha accepted the envelope and removed the paper from inside, while Charlie observed over her shoulder. “Edward Lee Walters. Well, I'll be damned.” She handed it to Lex, who put it in the top drawer. “And he just gave you his baby, out of the goodness of his heart? I'm sorry, Lexie. But I can't just forget everything Hubert has done to you in the past. There's got to be a catch. He's always had it in for you.”
“We asked him about that.” Amanda noticed Eddie had stopped sucking, and removed the bottle. When Lex took the towel from her shoulder, she smiled and handed the baby for Lex to burp.
Lex lifted Eddie to her shoulder and gently patted his back. “He not only apologized, but genuinely seemed remorseful. Did you know that when I was born, Dad basically ignored Hubert? The only thing he ever did was yell at him for not doing anything right at the ranch. And, something I didn't know, was that Hubert was afraid of horses, and the smell of the animals and feed made him physically ill. When he was twelve, Dad told him he was going to leave me in charge of the ranch as soon as I was old enough.”
“My lord. What a horrible way to treat a child,” Martha whispered. “No wonder he hated you so much.”
“Yeah.” Lex kissed Eddie's head after he released a mighty belch. “I can't imagine ever being disappointed in any of our kids, no matter what. Ranching is a hard life, and isn't for everyone. If they decided they didn't want to work out here, I'd never hold it against them.”
Martha caressed Lex's cheek. “I know that, honey. That's probably why Hubert knew his son would be safe with the two of you.” She held out her hands. “Now hand me my grandson. I think I've been quite patient, up ‘til now.”
Charlie watched as his wife cooed at the baby. “I can't wait to see how you explain him to the girls.”
Lex laughed. “I want to tell them he's a present from Santa, but Amanda won't let me.” She dodged as Amanda tried to pinch her. “Watch it, woman.”
“We've got all night and tomorrow to think of something. I called my grandparents, and they're going to pick the girls up at school and keep them tonight. With the way the sleet is coming down, I don't want them riding the bus home.” Amanda poked Lex in the ribs. “And I wasn't about to let Lex drive all the way into town.”
“I can drive just fine,” Lex grumbled.
“Don't pay any attention to that lunkhead,” Martha told the baby. She gasped when he opened his eyes and smiled at her. “Oh, you're going to charm everyone with that smile, handsome.” She raised her head and grinned at Lex. “He sure favors you, Lexie.”
“Yeah, for once I'm grateful for Hubert and me looking alike.” She couldn't help but smirk. “Although his hair is completely gray, and so's his beard.”
Martha cradled Eddie with one hand, while she used the other to tug on Lex's hair. “Well, he does have seven years on you. At least you've got something to look forward to.”
“Hey!” Lex glared at her.
Amanda patted Lex's thigh. “Don't worry, honey. I'm sure you won't be totally white-headed. Did you notice that little bald spot on the back of Hubert's head?”
“I'm not losing my hair,” Lex argued, running her fingers through it. “Am I?”
“Of course not. It'll probably be nice and silver before it ever falls out,” Charlie helpfully added.
Lex stood. “I'm going to see if I can find any old baby clothes in the storeroom. I think we saved some of the yellow and green one-piece sleepers, just in case.” She ignored the laughter that followed her.
Well past two in the morning, Ellie trudged up the stairs. So tired she could barely keep her eyes open, she paused at the top of the staircase and listened. “I must be tired. That sounded like a baby,” she mumbled. She had to grab onto the banister to keep from falling back when the door to the master bedroom opened and Lex stepped out.
“Oh. Hi, Ellie. You're home late.” Lex stood in her nighttime tee shirt and boxers, and she kept blinking, as if trying to awaken.
“Yeah. Working the swing shift is kicking my butt. Especially with the long commute. What are you doing up?”
Lex ran her hand through her hair in an attempt to straighten out the tangles. “Gotta grab a bottle from downstairs.” She started to walk past Ellie, who grabbed her arm.
“Wait just a minute. A bottle?”
“Yep.” Another cry from the bedroom caused Lex to shrug. “Go on in. Amanda will explain it to you.” She trudged down the stairs.
Ellie watched her go, before her curiosity got the best of her. She tapped lightly on the doorframe to the master bedroom. “Amanda?”
“Come in,” Amanda called. She was sitting in the rocking chair in the corner of the room, rocking back and forth. “Hi, Ellie. Are you just getting home?”
“Uh, yeah.” Ellie stepped carefully in the room. “That's a baby.”
Amanda shook her head and laughed. “Nothing gets past you. Come on over and meet the newest addition to our family.”
“I hate to be dense, but when did you have time to get a baby?”
Lex returned with a bottle. “Haven't you heard? You can order just about anything online nowadays.” She handed the bottle to Amanda and grinned as Eddie latched onto his meal. “You'd think we were starving the little guy, the way he was carrying on.”
Ellie crossed her arms and glared at her cousin. “You did not order a baby online. Now where did it come from?”
“You're a nurse, Ellie. Don't tell me they didn't cover biology in nursing school,” Lex quipped. At the glare she received, she started to laugh. “Sorry. I think I'm getting a little punchy from lack of sleep. My brother Hubert dropped by this morning, and asked us to adopt his son.”
“Oh. Well, okay. I guess that makes sense.” Ellie yawned. “Sorry. That drive is kicking my butt. Amanda? Would you mind helping me find a place closer to Parkdale? I can't keep this up for long.”
Amanda stood and handed Eddie to Lex. “Sure.” She put her arm around Ellie and gently turned her around. “Come on. Let's get you to your room. We'll talk about all this tomorrow.”
“All right.” Ellie allowed herself to be led down the hall. “I'm gonna kick Lex's butt tomorrow for teasing me,” she grumbled.
“Of course you are,” Amanda soothed, guiding Ellie to her bed. She sat her down and took off her shoes, then pulled a blanket over the slumbering woman. “Goodnight.”
Lex grinned as her wife returned to the bedroom and closed the door. “Did you get her all tucked in?”
“Poor thing was asleep before her head hit the pillow. I can't believe she made it home safely.” With a heavy sigh, Amanda crawled under the sheets and turned onto her side, so she could watch Lex feed Eddie. “As much as I'd miss seeing her around here, it would be better for Ellie to live closer to the hospital in Parkdale.”
“The girls will be devastated, especially Melanie. She's still pouting because her ‘El' had to work on Thanksgiving.” The lack of noise from Eddie alerted Lex that he had fallen asleep. She carefully removed the bottle from his mouth, wiped his chin, and burped him. “Didn't take much to put him back out.” She kissed the top of his head before settling him in the crib. “Sleep well, little man.”
Amanda opened the covers and beckoned Lex with a crooked finger. “Come here, Momma. It's time to tuck me in.”
Lex grinned and quickly slid next to her wife. “You already look all nice and cozy. How can I help you?” Her hands snaked beneath Amanda's nightgown and started to trace a familiar pattern.
“I think you've figured it out,” Amanda purred. She cupped the back of Lex's head and pulled her close. Right before their lips touched, she smiled as a warm hand stroked her ribcage. “Yeah.”
The following morning, Lex came out of the bathroom, towel-drying her hair. She noticed Amanda had her laptop open. “Whatcha doin'?”
“Car shopping. Come here and see what I've found.”
Lex sat beside her on the bed and peered at the screen. “Nice. Does this mean you're tired of fighting the wind in yours?”
“Definitely. Not to mention, the Xterra isn't big enough for all of us to comfortably ride in.”
Amanda pointed to something on the screen. “I emailed the dealership, told them about the Xterra, and here's the deal they'll make me.”
“Really? Wow. So, what do we have to do?” Lex grinned as Amanda's attention went from the laptop screen to look her in the eyes. When Amanda didn't answer her, the grin widened. “Sweetheart?”
Lex waved a hand in front of Amanda's face. “Road trip this morning?”
“Sure.” Amanda blinked and shook her head. “Let me email them back, and tell them we'll be there before lunch.” She leaned into Lex and stole a kiss. “I love you.”
“Love you, too.” Lex climbed off the bed and started to get dressed. “After we pick up your new ride, let's stop by Davenport 's and get Eddie some more clothes.”
Amanda sent off her email. “And diapers, formula, and everything else.” She shut down her laptop. “Are we ready for this?”
Lex buttoned her jeans. “What? Buying a new SUV?”
“No, raising another baby.”
“Hell of a time to ask that, isn't it? I thought you wanted another baby.” After another trip to the closet, Lex had on a light gray button down shirt. She carried her boots and socks to the bed and sat on the edge. “Are you having second thoughts?”
With a shrug, Amanda stood and peeked into the cradle, where Eddie lay sound asleep. “No, I'm not. I did want another child, and Eddie's a blessing.” She made her own trip to the closet, returning in jeans and a cotton blouse. “I guess I'm a little concerned about the girls, and how they'll take it. If I was trying to get pregnant, we'd have time to acclimate them to the idea of a sibling. But this is almost like we made a wish and it came true.”
“Santa works in mysterious ways,” Lex teased. She tugged on her boots and got up. “I know we're a little rusty with handling a baby, but everything's going to work out great. We can convert the spare guest room into a nursery, or maybe ask Melanie if she'd like to move down the hall to be closer to Lorrie. That way, Eddie won't disturb the girls if he cries at night. Although, I'm not sure they want to come home. They sounded way too happy at your grandparent's house last night when we called.” She stood in front of Amanda and wrapped her arms loosely around her wife's waist. “We got all the perks, with none of the waiting. I can't wait to rub it in your sister's face.”
Amanda smirked at that last thought. “Ooh. She's gonna gain a lot of weight, and I haven't. You're right. She's going to be pissed.” She kissed Lex on the chin. “I like that.”
“I thought you would.” Lex swatted Amanda on the rear. “Come on. I'll run down to the storage building, get Melanie's old car seat, and put it in the Xterra. We've got a road trip to head out on.” Before she could get away, Lex felt Amanda tug on her belt loop.
“Deal.” Amanda pulled Lex closer and gave her a kiss. “See you in a few minutes.”
Amanda parked the Xterra near the front door of the dealership and exhaled. “After that drive, I'm more certain than ever that this is the right thing to do.” On the drive in a strong gust of wind, coupled with a patch of slick highway, almost sent them into the ditch. Only Amanda's good driving skills kept the three of them safe.
“Amen.” Lex removed her hand from the “oh shit” handle above her head and flexed her hand. “I'm glad you were driving. I would have probably landed us in the trees.” She glanced back at Eddie, who was kicking happily in the car seat. “I think our son is a daredevil.”
“Great. Another one? Between you and Lorrie, my hair's already getting gray.” Amanda unbuckled and tucked the folder of papers beneath her arm. “Do you want to wait here, or—”
Lex got out and opened the back door. “We'll come in with you. No telling how long it'll take.” She removed Eddie from his seat and wrapped an extra blanket around him. “Settle down, son. I don't want to drop you.” Once he was secure in her arms, they followed Amanda inside.
A thin, balding man, wearing a cheap, pea-green suit greeted them before the door closed behind them. “Good morning, little ladies. I bet I know exactly what you want. We've got a lovely, slightly used, two-thousand six Ford Freestar mini-van. It's only got eighty-three thousand miles, and I can even get you a good trade in for your vehicle.” He spoke so quickly that it took Lex and Amanda a moment to understand everything he said.
Amanda cocked her head. “Do I look like a soccer mom?” She pointed a warning finger at Lex. “Don't answer that, if you know what's good for you.”
With a shake of her head, Lex gave her wife her best “who me?” look, but wisely kept silent.
“Well, now, little lady, no need to get yourself all worked up, I was only trying—”
Amanda's upraised hand stopped him in mid-sentence. “I'm looking for Mike. We have an appointment with him.”
The salesman's countenance changed immediately. “Second office on your left.” He turned and walked away without another word.
As they headed for Mike's office, Lex whispered to Amanda. “Little lady? What was he, suicidal?” She pretended not to hear the profane answer, deciding instead to enjoy the view from behind Amanda, as she stalked away in a huff.
The sound of the key in the lock caused Hubert to look up from where he sat quietly on the living room sofa. He stood, took a deep breath, and exhaled slowly. The door opened, and the woman he had planned on spending the rest of his life with came inside.
Ramona Buchanan closed the door and dropped her suitcase. When she saw Hubert by the sofa, her face wrinkled into a delighted smile. “Hubert! I wasn't expecting to see you home this early in the day. Is everything all right?” She set her keys on the table by the door and moved to embrace her fiancé.
“I had some things to take care of, and your dad gave me a couple of days off.” Hubert held onto Ramona as if his life depended on it. “When you get settled, I need to tell you something.” He had a lot of time on the drive home to think about everything that had happened. As much as he wanted to spare Ramona, and himself, from the consequences of what he'd done, he knew he needed to come clean.
She pulled away from him to look into his face. “What's the matter, honey?”
“I don't want to lose you.” Hubert wiped a shaky hand over his beard. “Before I say anything, you've got to realize how much I love you, Ramona. And I'd never do anything to hurt you.”
Ramona dropped to the sofa. “What happened?”
Hubert knelt beside her and took her hands in his. “Remember last year, when I asked you to marry me, and you turned me down?”
She nodded. “That was one hell of a fight. After you cussed and yelled, I believe I told you that I never wanted to see you again.” The pain in his eyes almost broke her heart. “But everything turned out all right. We got back together the next week, and things have been wonderful ever since.” When tears welled in Hubert's eyes, Ramona bit her lip. “They are, aren't they? I've never been happier.”
“Me either.” Hubert kissed her hands. “But that weekend, I screwed up. Really bad. To tell you the truth, I didn't remember much about it until recently.”
“How did you screw up? I remember you telling me you fell off the wagon. But you've been sober since then, right?” She caressed his cheek with one hand. “Honey?”
Hubert lowered his eyes, not wanting to see her face when he told her. “I spent the weekend with a stripper I met at the bar,” he whispered hoarsely.
“Oh, god.” Ramona pulled her other hand away from him and covered her mouth.
“That's not all. She came into the store, day before yesterday, and asked me to meet her after work.”
Ramona put her hand beneath his chin and forced Hubert to look her in the eye. “Did you.” She closed her eyes briefly. “Did you sleep with her again?”
Hubert frantically shook his head. “God, no! I love you, Ramona. I would never cheat,” his voice trailed off. “No. I had been so drunk, I blacked out that weekend. I didn't even remember her when she spoke to me.” He gathered his strength to finish. “I wasn't sure what she wanted, so I met with her, at the coffee shop across the street from the store.”
“What did she want?”
“She had something to give me.” Hubert lowered his face again in shame. “My son.” The loss of Ramona's hand on his cheek hurt Hubert more than he ever thought it would. “She said she'd been looking for me since she found out she was pregnant, and didn't want to raise him on her own.”
Ramona's voice was soft. “Where is he?”
“I. I,” Hubert stuttered. “I asked my sister to raise him.”
“Were you going to keep this a secret from me?” Ramona asked, as she stood and stepped away from him.
Hubert began to cry in earnest. “Yeah. But I couldn't.” Still on his knees, he turned to her. “I didn't want any lies between us, Ramona. You mean everything in the world to me.”
“I thought you were estranged from your sister. I can't believe she'd just happily take your son to help you.” Ramona crossed her arms over her chest. “Especially after everything you'd done to her in the past.” When they first started dating, it was the heartfelt confessions from Hubert about his past that prompted Ramona to take a chance on him.
“That's kind of the funny thing about it,” he admitted. “They were planning on trying to have another baby soon, so it worked out.”
“Made it easy for you, didn't it?”
Hubert shook his head. “Not at all. I'll admit, when she first gave me the baby, I had every intention of just dropping him off at the nearest fire station. But then, I realized it wasn't his fault that he was born, it was mine.” He sighed. “God, he was so damned cute. Looked just like my baby pictures. I couldn't pass him off to some stranger to raise.” He climbed to his feet and stuck his hands in his front pockets. “And I knew damned good and well that I was the last person who should try to raise a kid. My sister and her partner are good people. It's taken me this long to come to terms with that. So I asked them to adopt him and raise him as theirs.”
Ramona's eyes were cold. “I should hate you,” she said, her voice so low it was hard to hear.
“Please, sweetheart. Give me another chance. I'll do whatever you want.” Hubert took his hands from his pockets and held out his arms. “Please, Ramona. I'm begging you.”
“You've hurt me, Hubert.”
“I know, baby. But if you let me, I'll spend the rest of my life trying to make it up to you.”
With a sob, Ramona fell into his arms. “Thank you for telling me the truth. But it's going to take some time for me to trust you again.”
“That's all right,” he murmured, kissing her head over and over. “Take as long as you need. Just don't leave me.”
“No, I won't.” She tumbled onto the couch with him.
They sat quietly for a while, until Ramona kissed Hubert on the neck. “I think I realized what I was really upset about.”
Hubert was almost afraid of the answer. “What was that?”
“It wasn't the fact that you slept with someone. After all, I'm the one who told you I didn't want to see you again. I mean, yes, that hurt, but I really couldn't blame you.”
“What was it, then? I blame myself for sleeping with that woman. That was extremely stupid.”
Ramona rubbed his chest. “Sounds to me like she took advantage of you while you were so drunk you couldn't even remember it happening. No, what really upset me was the way you decided on handling everything on your own, without any input from me.”
“It was my mess to clean up, sweetheart.”
“No, Hubert. There is no me or you. There's just us. We have to make important decisions together, or we'll never be partners. I consulted you before I went to visit my mother, so it's only fair that you allow me to help you with your decisions.” She unbuttoned his shirt and slipped her hand inside.
He nodded. “You're right. But I have to admit, at first I was doing it totally out of self-preservation. I panicked.” A sharp tug on his chest hair caused Hubert to wince. “But I promise to never do it again.” The tug turned into a caress, and he bent his head to hers.
Amanda checked the time on the dash of her new Ford Expedition. “It's only a little after one. Should we drop by my grandparent's and introduce them to Eddie?”
“Sure. Want to see if your sister will meet us over there? I want to see her face,” Lex teased. “You know she's going to accuse us of cheating.”
“Yeah. Sounds like fun.” Amanda concentrated on the road while Lex made the phone calls. She had to keep from laughing, when Lex was purposely vague as to the reason of their request.
“No, Jeannie. Nothing's wrong. Amanda's just excited over her new ride, and she wants to show it off.” Lex listened for a moment. “Okay, fine. We'll pick up a couple of pizzas. Yes, I know what kind you like. No, I won't forget.” Lex growled at the phone. “I am not asking them to do that to a perfectly good pizza. No way. I'll have them put the nasty things on the side. No. Have Lois bring you over.”
Amanda tapped Lex on the arm and held out her hand. She put the phone to her ear. “Jeanne Louise, quit tormenting Lex. You don't like anchovies any more than she does. Now get your ass in gear and head over to Gramma's. Goodbye.” She handed the phone to Lex. “You've just got to know how to handle her.”
“Obviously.” Lex dialed another number and placed a pizza order to be delivered to the Cauble's home. Once she was finished, she stretched her legs out. “These leather seats are nice. And I like how much more legroom this has, compared to the Xterra.”
“Me, too. And it rides a lot smoother.” Amanda glanced in the rearview mirror. “Eddie looks so small back there.”
Lex turned to look at their son. “At least there's enough room on either side of him for each girl. I'd hate to think about the fights they'd have over who would get to sit beside him.”
“Don't remind me.” Amanda mock shivered. “How are we going to handle it with them?”
“I was hoping you'd have an idea.”
Amanda sighed. “I thought about picking them up from school and bringing them over to Gramma's, but there's going to be a house full of people. I was hoping for a little more privacy with them.”
Lex nodded. “Yeah, I know what you mean. Why don't we let them ride the bus home, since they won't recognize us in this? That way, no matter what, we're already at home.” When there was no answer from her wife, Lex shifted so she could look directly at Amanda. “What's wrong?”
“I'm a little worried about how the girls are going to handle this. Remember how Lorrie was, once the ‘new' wore off on her baby sister?”
“Yeah, but she was only four years old. I don't think she understood how we could love her anymore, since there was a new addition to the household. But it didn't take long for her to be totally on board with being a big sister.” Lex put her hand, palm up, on the console between them. She was gratified when Amanda quickly covered it with her own. “They're good kids. What's really bothering you?”
Amanda didn't answer right away, but tightened the grip she had on Lex's hand. They drove along in silence for several miles, before Amanda finally spoke. “What if he changes his mind? I know we sign the papers tomorrow, but what's to keep Hubert from not returning them once he gets them? It could hang over us for weeks.”
“Not gonna happen,” Lex vowed. “As soon as we get the papers signed, I'm taking them to Oklahoma , personally. And I'm not leaving until I get them back from him.”
“Yep. I was going to take a trip to Dallas and check on the family cemetery, so this is as good a time as any. Besides, I was hoping to meet this woman that has made my brother human.”
Amanda laughed at the comment. “I know what you mean. I'm still not sure what to think about the new Hubert.” She turned onto her grandparent's street and shook her head at the amount of cars in their driveway. “Do you think the promise of free food caused this crowd?”
“Nah. I'm betting Martha already told Lois, and your dad wants to see how Jeannie reacts. He seems to enjoy watching you put her in her place.”
“She does tend to be full of herself,” Amanda grumbled. “But I can't wait to see her face when we walk in with Eddie.” She parked behind her sister's Pathfinder. “Since she always has to out do me, I wonder if she'll try to find a used Excursion.”
Lex got out and opened the back door. “She'd look funny, trying to climb into one. Probably would need a ladder.” She unbuckled Eddie and wrapped a blanket around him. “Are you ready to meet the rest of the family, little man?” The baby gurgled and kicked, giving Lex a smile. She followed Amanda up the steps to the front porch, not surprised when the door opened.
Anna Leigh greeted Amanda with a hug. “It's so good to see you. Now get in the house and introduce us to your new little friend.” She kissed Lex on the cheek. “I was quite excited when I heard the news, Lexington . Please, come in.”
They were herded into the living room, where Jacob, Lois, Michael and Jeannie were waiting. Lex held Eddie close to her chest. “Hey, guys.” She turned to Amanda. “Do you want to do the honors?”
“Chicken,” Amanda whispered, but she gently took Eddie from Lex and unwrapped him from the blanket. “Everyone, we'd like you to meet our son, Edward Lee Walters.”
Jeannie was the first to step forward. “I knew you were good, Slim. But how on earth did you manage this?” She poked Lex in the stomach and peered at the baby in Amanda's arms. “He looks just like Lex.” She looked into her sister's eyes. “Cheater.”
“I don't know what you're talking about.” Amanda grinned at Jeannie. “He's definitely a gift, though.”
Jacob and Michael joined the group. Jacob held out his hands and was rewarded with Eddie. “I didn't even know you were thinking of another child, girls. But he's adorable.”
“I agree,” Lois cooed.
“How did you keep him a secret for so long?” Michael asked.
Lex put her arm around his shoulders. “We didn't.”
“Give them some air,” Anna Leigh commanded. “Jacob, take the baby and sit on the sofa. Michael, bring the girls some coffee, please.” She sat beside her husband, who immediately passed Eddie to her. “Thank you, dearest.” She smiled as Eddie reached for her necklace.
“Of course.” Jacob rested his arm on the back of the sofa and enjoyed the feeling of his wife leaning against him. When Amanda parked on the other side of him, he patted her leg. “So, are you going to tell us little Edward's story? Or will we have to wait until he can talk? I'd really like to know how you managed to get a baby that is the spitting image of Lex.”
Amanda laughed. “It's really very simple, Grandpa. He's actually a Walters.”
Everyone turned and looked at Lex, who shook her head. “No, I was not pregnant.” She pointed to her flat stomach. “Do you honestly think I could hide a baby here?” She sat on the chair nearest Amanda.
“Stranger things have happened, Slim.” Jeannie dropped onto Lex's lap and put her arm around her neck. “So, if not you, who's the daddy?”
“My brother, Hubert.” Lex had to wrap her arms around Jeannie, when she almost fell off her lap.
Now the room's attention was on Amanda, who was confused for a moment, then grimaced. “Eww. No! Hubert found out he was a father a few days ago. A woman dumped the baby off and left. He couldn't raise him, so he asked us to adopt Eddie.”
A chorus of “Oh” echoed around the room. Jeannie poked Lex. “And here I thought you were a stud.”
“She is,” Amanda asserted. She stood and tapped her sister on the shoulder. “Do you mind?”
“Not a bit.” Jeannie snuggled closer to Lex as the rest of the room laughed.
Lex blushed, but wisely kept her mouth shut.
Amanda tugged on Jeannie's hair. “Move it or lose it,” she threatened.
With a sigh, Jeannie got off of Lex, but not before lightly kissing her on the lips. “Anytime you get tired of old grumpy butt there, just let me know.” She shrieked when Amanda pinched her on the rear.
With a deep, heartfelt sigh, Lex dropped onto their bed, where Amanda already lay with Eddie. “I love our family, but damn, they can sure wear a person out.”
Amanda propped her head on one hand and smiled at her wife. “I know what you mean. Jeannie was certainly frisky today.”
“Yeah. She was pretty funny, and seemed to feel good. I hope she has another easy pregnancy.” Lex mirrored Amanda's posture and looked at their sleeping son. “Eddie had a good time.”
“I was worried he would be scared with all those people around. But he seemed to enjoy the attention.” Amanda groaned. “Speaking of attention, it's almost time to meet the school bus.” She tried to fight off a yawn, but failed. “Guess I'd better get my shoes on.”
Lex sat up. “Nah. I'll do it. I think I've got more energy than you.” She carefully leaned over Eddie and kissed Amanda. “I'll talk to them about our new little addition before we get here.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yep.” Lex pulled on her boots and stood. “I'll probably stop by the bridge to talk with them, so don't expect us back immediately, okay?”
Amanda's eyes shone with love. “You've come a long way, Lexington Walters. There was a time when I couldn't get five words in a row out of you, and here you are, volunteering to talk to our girls.”
Lex tried to appear nonchalant, but the blush on her face gave her away. “Yeah, well. You're a bad influence, Amanda Walters.” She winked and left the room.
The truck had barely come to a stop, when Lex saw the yellow-orange school bus crest the hill. She waited patiently until the bus stopped and released two excited girls. Within moments, the back doors to the truck opened, and the silence was broken by non-stop chatter.
“Momma! I got to paint a Christmas orminant,” Melanie bragged. She stood on the seat and waved a small box in Lex's face. “It's taped in the box so's it doesn't get broke.”
Lex took the box before it hit her nose. “That's great, sweetheart. Let's wait until we get back to the house, so your Mom can see it, too, okay?”
“'kay.” Melanie sat and buckled her seatbelt.
“How about you, Lorrie? Did you have a good day at school?”
“Yes, ma'am.” Lorrie fastened her seatbelt as well. “I got a ninety-six on my math test, and only missed one word on the spelling list.”
Lex stretched over the seat and ruffled Lorrie's hair. “I knew you'd do great, kiddo. You studied too hard, not to. Do either one of you have any homework tonight?” After negative answers from both, Lex turned around and started the truck. “Good.”
As the truck headed up the graded road toward the house, Lex tried to think of the best way to start the conversation she needed to have. “Girls? Do you remember when your Mom and I told you we were thinking of adding to the family?”
“Like a kitty?” Melanie asked, excited. She had been asking for a kitten for the last month, after a classmate's cat had a litter.
“No, silly. Like a brother or sister,” Lorrie corrected. “Right, Momma?”
Lex tried to keep a serious expression on her face. “Right.”
“Are you going to have a baby?” Lorrie asked.
“Uh, no. I'm not.” Lex parked the truck in the clearing by the bridge and unbuckled her seatbelt, so she could turn around and face them. “Why? Do I look pregnant?”
Melanie giggled. “No, Momma. You're not fat. Aunt Jeannie's fat.”
Lex's eyes widened. “No, sweetheart. Aunt Jeannie's got a baby growing inside.” She could just imagine Jeannie's reaction. “She's not fat at all. So let's not say that, okay?”
“Okay. Is Mommy going to have a baby?” Melanie asked. “She's not fat, either.”
“No. Your Mom isn't pregnant.” Lex rubbed her face. The conversation was quickly getting out of hand. “I know we haven't talked about him, but I have an older brother, Hubert. He lives in Oklahoma . Anyway, he came to see us yesterday morning.”
Lorrie frowned. “Is that why we stayed with Gramma and Grandpa? ‘Cause you had company? Did he not want to see us?”
Lex shook her head. “No, not at all. The reason your grandparents picked you up at school, was because the roads were icy, and we didn't want you riding the bus. But, your Uncle Hubert did ask us to do something for him, and we agreed.”
“Is he going to live with us, Momma?” Lorrie asked.
“No, Uncle Hubert isn't, but his son, Eddie, is.”
“How old is he? Can he stay in my room with me?” Melanie squirmed in her seat. “Does he like to play puzzles or games?”
Lex held up her hand to stop the barrage of questions from Melanie. “Hold on there. Eddie's just a baby, so he can't play just yet. Your Uncle Hubert had some, um, troubles, and he asked your Mom and me to adopt Eddie. He's three months old.”
Lorrie crossed her arms over her chest. “Adopt? Kind of like you did me?”
“In a way, yes. So Eddie is our son, just like you and Melanie are our daughters. We love you girls so much, and we thought it would be nice for you to have a little brother.” Lex noticed the unhappy look on Lorrie's face. “What's wrong, lil' bit?”
Lex knew better than to accept her answer. “No, come on. Talk to me. You can say anything you want, and I won't get mad. I promise.”
“Does this mean I can't play softball, now?”
“Of course not. Why would you think that?”
Lorrie looked at her shoes. “'cause you and Mommy will be too busy with a baby to take me to practices and games, and stuff.”
“Why would you think that?”
“My friend, Kayla, doesn't get to do anything, anymore. Her mommy had two babies this summer. She used to play soccer, but she's stuck at home helping all the time.” Lorrie looked as if she were about to cry.
Lex got out of the truck and opened Lorrie's door. She brought her onto her right hip and held her. “You can still do whatever sports or activities you want, sweetheart. We may need you to help a little with Eddie, but not enough to take away from the things you already do. I promise you that.”
“Really?” Lorrie sniffled and looked up into Lex's face.
“Yep.” Lex kissed the top of Lorrie's head. “Are you girls ready to go meet your little brother?”
Melanie crawled across the seat to slip into Lex's other arm. “Where's he gonna sleep?”
“Right now, he's in a crib in our room. But we're going to probably redecorate the guest room that shares a bathroom with Lorrie.”
“Oooh! Can I move there?” Melanie squealed, as she wriggled up and down. “I want to share with Lorrie.”
It was a struggle to keep from falling back, but somehow Lex held firm. “Settle down, kiddo. Let's get up to the house, and we'll talk to your Mom about it. How's that sound?”
Both girls cheered.
Amanda had finished snapping Eddie's one-piece sleeper closed after changing a particularly noxious diaper, when she heard the back door slam. Seconds later, the pounding of rushing feet on the stairway alerted her to the impending invasion. She picked Eddie up and kissed his tummy. “It's about to get wild in here, son. But you might as well get used to it.”
Both girls hit the doorway at the same time. Lorrie was first to stand beside Amanda. “Is that him?” she asked, excitedly. She stood on her tiptoes to try and see his face.
“Can I pet him?” Melanie added.
“He's not an animal, Mel. You don't pet babies.” Lorrie elbowed her sister.
Lex stood in the doorway and grinned at the girl's exuberance. “I'm sure you'll both get a chance to see him, if you'd let your Mom sit down.”
“That's a good idea.” Amanda moved to sit on the bed, where she was immediately surrounded by the girls.
Melanie studied him carefully. “He doesn't have much hair.”
“It's dark, like mine,” Lorrie marveled. She reached out to touch his hair, but paused. “Can I touch him?”
“Be gentle,” Amanda softly warned. She smiled as Lorrie used one finger to brush at his wispy hair.
“It's soft, too,” Lorrie whispered.
Lex picked up Melanie and sat in her place. She held Melanie in her lap. “Touch his arm. It's really silky.”
Melanie followed her sister's lead, and lightly stroked Eddie's arm. “He's softer than my baby doll.” When Eddie's eyes tracked directly to her, she gasped. “He's looking at me!”
Eddie grinned and kicked his feet, causing both girls to giggle.
“Where's his teeth?” Melanie asked.
Lex laughed. “He's too young for teeth. He'll get them, a little at a time.”
Lorrie sniffed and leaned closer to the baby. “He smells nice.”
Amanda exchanged amused grins with Lex. “He didn't a few minutes ago.”
“I'm sorry to have missed that,” Lex teased. When Eddie started to wave a fist, she whispered in Melanie's ear. “Stick out your finger by his hand, and watch what he does.”
Melanie did as she was told, and marveled when Eddie immediately grasped her finger. “He grabbed me!” She wriggled her hand until Eddie released her.
Lorrie did the same, and was just as excited when her finger was grabbed. “Cool.” When Eddie pulled her finger to his mouth and started to gum it, she wrinkled her nose. “Eew. He's slobbering on me.”
“That means he's probably hungry. Would you girls like to follow me down to the kitchen and watch me make his bottle?” Lex lifted Melanie off her lap and stood.
“Yay!” Melanie danced from foot to foot. “Can we have a snack, too?”
Lex winked at Amanda. “Sure thing. I think there's some apples we can slice up. How's that sound?”
Lorrie took one of Lex's hands, while Melanie captured the other. “We'll help with the bottle first, right, Mel?”
“Right!” Melanie tugged on Lex's hand. “Come on, Momma. Eddie's hungry!”
After Eddie was fed and put in his crib for a short nap, Lex and Amanda took the girls downstairs for dinner. As they sat around the table, Amanda got caught up with the conversation Lex had with them in the truck. “Are you sure you want to switch rooms, Melanie?”
“Uh-huh. Momma said we had to talk to you about it.” Melanie tucked several potato chips into her peanut butter and jelly sandwich and took a bite.
Amanda tried not to wince as she watched Melanie enjoy the unusual meal. “I guess we'll go pick out some paint colors this weekend.”
Lorrie put her glass of milk down and pushed her empty plate away. “Mommy?”
“Can I paint my room, too?”
Lex stood and put her plate in the dishwasher. “Are you tired of the light green walls?”
Lorrie nodded. “I'm too old for a baby room.”
“Green is a baby color?” Lex asked.
Amanda covered her mouth with her hand to keep from laughing at the look on her wife's face.
“Okay. What's a better color, lil' bit?”
“Purple!” Melanie helpfully interjected.
Lorrie rolled her eyes. “Yuck. Black, or maybe silver,” she decided.
“Black?” Lex practically yelped. “I don't think so.”
“But, Momma, I'm old, now. I want a grown up room.”
Lex sat beside Lorrie and put her hand on her shoulder. “Sweetheart, we don't mind you changing the color of your room, but let's wait and look at some paint samples before you decide for sure.”
Melanie bounced in her chair. “Can my new room be purple? That's my favorite color now.”
“We'll see,” Amanda deferred. “Why don't you two go upstairs and think about your rooms?”
Both girls grabbed their plates and quickly left them in the sink. Melanie took Lorrie by the hand. “Come on, Lorrie. You can help me decide where my art wall will be.”
Lorrie sighed, but dutifully followed. “Okay, but next you get to help me decide what posters to keep on my walls.”
Amanda waited until she heard both sets of footsteps on the stairs, before she turned to Lex. “Are we going to survive those two?”
“Sure.” Lex scooted over a chair to sit beside her wife. “We'll probably both be completely gray-headed before they're in high school, though.” She shook her head as Amanda leaned into her. “Black or purple walls? Good lord.”
“As long as you don't make me be the bad guy, this time. Don't let those little sad eyes sway you, honey.”
Lex laughed as she looked into Amanda's eyes, which gave her the same sweet look that she could never say no to. “What can I say? I'm a sucker for any of my girls.” She flinched as Amanda poked her in the stomach. “Watch it.”
“Want to go upstairs and relax? I think the girls will be occupied for a while.” Amanda stood and tugged Lex to her feet.
“Relax, huh?” Lex swatted Amanda's rear. “I've got an even better idea,” she growled.
Amanda giggled. “I like the sound of that.”
The following morning, Amanda and Ellie sat at the kitchen table, relaxing after the whirlwind of getting two girls off to school. Lex had drawn the short straw, and was the one who ended up taking them to the bus. Amanda had Eddie in the seat that Hubert had brought, feeding him his morning bottle.
Ellie sipped at her coffee. “I appreciate you going with me this morning. There's only three places that I'm going to look at, so it shouldn't take too long.”
“I don't mind at all. I need to stop at the hardware store at some point today, anyway.”
“That's all the girls could talk about this morning, getting their ‘new' rooms. You and Lex are brave.”
Amanda laughed as she took the empty bottle from Eddie and lifted him into her arms. “Not really. That's why I'm getting a few paint samples for them to choose from. Otherwise, I shudder at the thought of what they'd pick out.”
“Yeah, I loved the look on your face when Lorrie kept going on and on about black or silver walls.”
“I don't know where she gets some of these things from. I can understand Melanie's obsession with purple, since it's not far off from the hot pink she favored last year. But black? I'm hoping that Lorrie will settle for a nice, sedate gray, or maybe a subdued blue.”
Ellie held out her hands, happy when Amanda passed Eddie to her. “Hey, handsome. Looks like you're outnumbered in this house.” She grinned at Amanda. “Do you think he's going to survive being the only guy around here?”
“Please. You know how Lex is. She's more of a guy than most men. I've never seen someone so afraid of dresses and frills.” Amanda refilled both their coffee cups. “And don't even get me started on how involved she gets watching football or baseball.”
“Oh, yeah. She's really intense when the Cowboys are playing. I'd forgotten all about that.” Ellie cradled Eddie and made faces at him, which made him smile. “You are just the cutest little guy I've ever seen,” she cooed.
The back door slammed and Lex came into the kitchen, rubbing her hands together. “Damn, it's chilly out there.” She sat beside Amanda and gratefully accepted the warm coffee mug her wife handed her. “Thanks.”
Amanda flicked a finger at Lex's denim sleeve. “Did you forget your coat?”
“Uh, no. I didn't see any sense in wearing it, since I was going to stay in the truck. But Melanie dropped her folder before getting on the bus, and I had to get out and chase down her papers.” Lex sipped at the hot brew and sighed happily.
“Why wasn't her folder in her backpack?”
Lex shrugged. “Hell if I know. It was in her backpack when we left the house. Guess it's a good thing I didn't wear my pajamas to take the girls to the bus.”
“That would have been a sight,” Ellie laughed. She looked at the clock on the stove. “Amanda? I think we'd better get ready to leave. My first appointment is at eight-thirty.”
“All right.” Amanda stood, took her coffee mug to the sink and rinsed it out. “Who's driving?”
Ellie handed Eddie to Lex and followed Amanda to the sink. “We can take mine, since it's parked behind you. I'll run get my coat from upstairs.”
Once Ellie left the kitchen, Amanda stopped beside Lex. “What do you have planned for the day?”
“I'm going to call over to the bunkhouse and see if the guys will come and help move stuff out of the spare room. Maybe we can get it painted in the next couple of days, so we can move Melanie.”
Amanda ran her fingers through Lex's hair. “You're not going to be lifting anything heavy, are you?”
“Only this little guy,” Lex assured her. “He's going to help me supervise.” Lex was pleasantly surprised when her answer garnered her a kiss.
Lex grinned as Amanda backed away. “After a kiss like that, and you're thanking me? Wow. I must be better than I thought.”
“You are such a brat.” Amanda fluffed Lex's hair and placed a soft kiss on Eddie's head. “Don't let your momma get into too much trouble while I'm gone, Eddie. She needs constant supervision.” She squeaked when Lex swatted her on the rear. “Watch it. Remember, paybacks.”
“I'm looking forward to it.”
Ellie poked her head into the kitchen. “Are you two still at it?”
“Aren't we always?” Lex quipped.
Amanda shook a finger at her wife. “Behave.” She turned to Ellie, who was grinning. “I don't want to hear it out of you, either.”
“I didn't say anything.” Ellie waved at Lex. “See you later, cuz.”
Lex waited until the back door closed before she stood. “You've got great timing, little man. Why didn't you dirty your diaper while Ellie was holding you, hmm?” She laughed as he grunted. “You don't have to fill it up all at once, you know,” she chastised, as she carried him upstairs. “Save some for your mommy.”
By the time they hit the top of the stairs, Lex was trying not to gag. “Good lord, son. What on earth did your mommy feed you this morning? Did she add something extra stinky to your formula?”
Eddie grinned at her when she placed him on the changing table. He started to kick his feet while Lex tried to unsnap the one-piece sleeper.
“Settle down, little guy. If you keep wriggling around, it's gonna get real messy around here.” She got the sleeper tucked out of the way and opened the diaper. “Holy hell! That's nasty.” Lex tried not to breathe too much while she removed the soiled diaper. She wrapped it up and placed it in the diaper genie with one hand, while the other held Eddie on the table.
Lex finished cleaning Eddie up and was about to slip on a fresh diaper, when she was almost hit by a spray. “Whoa!” She quickly covered him with the diaper and laughed. “I never had to worry about that with the girls,” she told him, while he smiled. “Don't look so proud, you missed me.”
In short order, Lex had him diapered and dressed in a fresh sleeper. She placed him in his crib and turned on the mobile over his head. “Give me a minute to wash my hands, and I'll be right back.”
When Lex returned to the bedroom, she peeked into the crib and saw Eddie fast asleep. “I can't believe what a good baby you are, considering who your father is. Guess some genes are recessive.” She turned on the baby monitor and took the satellite handset with her, as she went downstairs to her office.
To be continued in Part Eight
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