A Kentucky Wedding

By: Kelley


"Damnit Kate, can't you pay attention for 2 seconds!  I swear you spend more time driving off the road than on it!" I bitched.


"At least I don't drive like a grandma" 


"OK lets review.  Kate you've had how many tickets-4, 5-and Colleen" turning to my other sister in the backseat "you've had just as many and I've had, what, NONE in the 14 years I've been driving.  I think that says it all."


"You do drive really slow Kelley" piped Colleen.




"Fuck you both."


We continued down the road in silence.  It never failed.  The three of us couldn't spend time in an enclosed space like a car without getting into a fight. 


"Do you think that's bluegras..."


"Shut up Colleen!" Kate and I both snapped at the same time.


We were driving through Kentucky on the way to our grandmother's wedding.  The three of us were bridesmaids.  She was marrying some guy named Ted Richardson.  We found out last month that he was the grandfather of none other Kevin Richardson or "that really hot guy from the Backstreet Boys" as we liked to call him.  My grandma heard us call him that and said that she wouldn't pick which one of us would walk down the aisle with him, we'd have to decide for ourselves.  The only fair way to do this, of course, was the time honored rock/paper/scissors.  My sister Colleen shrewdly threw out paper while Kate and I both threw out rock.  Kate and I were both very disappointed. 


"You know" Kate started "if there's some bald kid in overalls on the front porch playing 'Dueling Banjo's' I'm going home."


"It can't be that bad.  I'm sure not all of them have married their cousins.  Kevin turned out OK."


"Yes and I'm going to know just how OK he turned out since, you know, he gets to walk ME down the aisle.  Don't the groomsmen have to dance with their respective bridesmaid or something."


"Shut up Colleen!" Kate and I both snapped again.  She just laughed an evil laugh. 


We finally arrived at my grandma and Ted's house.  They have been living in sin, as she likes to call it, for the past 5 months. 


"It's amazing Kate.  You drive so doggoned fast, yet we are still the last ones to arrive."  I turned and walked towards the house.  I could see my parents, aunts, uncles and cousins already in the front yard and saw various strangers that had to be Ted's family.  I slowed down instantly.  I hated meeting new people, especially large groups of them.  My sisters and mom were so outgoing and I had an incredible knack for blending into the background.  I headed towards my parents since I hadn't seen them for a few months.  If nothing else I could hide behind one of them.  I hugged my parents and grandma and finally met Ted.  We had spoken on the phone a few times so I didn't count him as a stranger.  I reached out to shake his hand and he pulled me in for a hug.  "Come on now Kelley, you act like we've never met before.  And you better get used to calling me grandpa, Ted's just not going to cut it."


I kissed him on the cheek.  "Hi Grandpa.  It is nice to put a face with a voice."  He was quite possibly the sweetest man I had ever met.  "Come on and meet my family"   The rest of the afternoon was a blur.  I met so many people they all just sort of blended together.  Kevin and I shook hands briefly and then I was swept into the next group.  We all sat down to dinner and of course my grandma made sure I was seated next to complete strangers.  Even though I'm 30, she feels the need to try to push me to change.  She just doesn't get that after 30 years, I'm not going to all of a sudden become unshy.  I used my usual tactic-smile and nod.  It worked just fine!  After dinner everyone congregated in the back yard.  It had been a long day and I needed a little time alone.  I wandered to the front porch and curled up on the porch swing and watched the beautiful sunset. 


"So you like to watch them too."


I was stunned out of my reverie by a deep voice from behind me.  "Hi Kevin. Yeah I do.  My apartment doesn't face the right direction so I never get to see the sunset."  He sat down next to me


"I never get to either.  Always too busy I guess.  How come you're up here?"


"Too much commotion.  I just needed a little quiet.  After that drive with my sisters I really needed some quiet." 


He chuckled, "I know just what you mean.  I love my brothers, but get us in a small space and it's just a matter of time before we're taking each others heads off.  Do they complain about your driving?"


"Urgh, yes.  They won't even let me drive.  According to Kate and Colleen I drive like a grandma.  I tried to point out the fact that I am the only ticketless one of the three of us..."


"Your kidding, me too!"


"They don't let you drive either do they." 


"Nope."  His green eyes sparkled as he kept talking and he grinned slyly.  "I hear you and Kate lost the bid to walk down the aisle with me."


I could feel my cheeks get red, really red.  "Damn Colleen.  Kate and I never saw that paper coming."  My eyes narrowed. "What else did Grandma tell you?"


"Nothing.  I'm just glad you and your sisters are calling me Kevin in public."  I groaned and hid my face in my hands and he threw his head back and laughed.  "Don't feel too bad.  After my brothers and I saw your picture we started calling you 'Stell's really hot granddaughter'"  My jaw dropped as I watched him walk away.


Kate, Colleen, and I drove back to the hotel in silence.  I was going to tell them about my little Kevin run-in, but figured they probably wouldn't believe me anyway.  In another time honored tradition, Kate and I drew straws to see who would get stuck sleeping with Colleen.   To my great relief I won...I didn't need to be kicked all night. 


My sisters and I went shopping the next day since I had yet to find any shoes to go with my dress.  I finally found a pair of way too expensive, way too high heeled, way too sexy sandals.  My feet would hurt, but damn they looked good.   We met up again at Grandma and Ted's for yet another family dinner.  I found that I couldn't look at Kevin or his brothers without blushing furiously.  They all noticed and laughed every time they caught my eye.  I wandered to the front porch again after dinner and found Kevin already sitting there.  "I hope I'm not interrupting anything."


He smiled as he looked at me.  "Nope.  I was hoping you would wander up here.  I was wondering if you'd like to take a walk.  We could go down by the lake."


I smiled right back.  "Sure.  I could use some exercise after all I've eaten in the past two days."


We walked through the back yard and headed for the lake.  It was a beautiful night.  "I miss the country.  I forget how dark it gets and how the much the stars shine away from the city."


"I didn't know you grew up in the country.  Was it a farm?" Kevin questioned.


"No, just a small town, all 2500 people.  I miss it though.  It's kind of nice to go to the bank or the grocery store and see 10 people you know."


"I miss it too.  I really just miss the quiet...no cars, no stereos, just the birds singing and the crickets chirping."


"Yeah" I sighed.  "Do you think you'll ever move back?"


"I think so" he said.  "I'd like to raise my kids out here away from it all."


"Same here.  I want my kids to be able to run around barefoot all summer and be outside from sunrise to sundown."   I laughed as I remembered, "When I was a kid, my Mom used to hose us off every night before she'd let us in the house because we'd be covered in dirt from head to toe.  I loved to dig for worms."


We had come to a clearing beside the lake and laid down in the cool grass next to each other, looking up at the stars.  We talked for hours, reminiscing about our childhoods both of us trying to outdo the other with funny stories.


"My sister Kate's specialty was Julia Childs.  She would take weeds and rocks and stand behind the air conditioner outside and pretend to chop them up.  She did a perfect imitation.   One time we were home alone and were playing Julia Childs on the kitchen table."  Kevin was in hysterics by this time.   "The guy who was going to tune our piano shows up and we were really embarrassed so we threw the weeds and rocks down the garbage disposal and turned it on.  Broke it.  My parents were NOT pleased."


"Oh god, you have to stop. I can't breath" he gasped.  He rolled over on to his side and rested his head on his hand  "How come you're so quiet around everyone else?"


"I'm always shy at first.  My sisters and my mom are so out there that's it's just easier to let them talk.  I do warm up eventually."


"I thought you might."  He leaned over and kissed me gently.  "Come on, I don't know about you but I'm getting cold"  He helped me up and we walked hand in hand back to the house.


We decided to walk around the lake before heading for home. 


"Thanks for the walk Kevin."


"You're welcome.  What are you doing tomorrow?  I was thinking we could drive out to my parent's cabin. It's on a lake, we could go swimming, have a picnic maybe?  We'll be back before the rehearsal tomorrow night."


"Um, sure.  My extremely white Minnesotan skin could use some sun.  Unlike my sisters, I believe tanning beds are the product of Satan himself.  If I'm going to get skin cancer, I'm going to get it the natural way."


Kevin laughed.  "Why don't we meet here tomorrow morning.  I think if we both look pathetic enough she might give us breakfast."


"Oh my god, biscuits and gravy!  I know my grandma and if we tell her that 'No, toast is plenty' we'll get biscuits and gravy AND bacon."  My mouth was salivating at the thought.


"That stuff is really bad for you.  I'm sure she could give us some fruit or something."


I looked at him like he was crazy.  "Kevin, don't you ever have the urge to do something really bad...like not make the bed for a week or eat candy for breakfast or.."


He silenced me with a kiss.  "Or make love to a beautiful woman you met yesterday."  "Kev..."  Dammit he was kissing me again.  I was going to protest but then his tongue was in my mouth and suddenly it just seemed to be the right thing to do.  I mean if you can't follow your own advice?  We tore each other's clothes off and tumbled to the ground.  Kevin entered me immediately.  "Oh Kelley" he moaned.  He rocked me gently.  He almost seemed afraid to go faster.  I started thrusting my hips "Oh god Kev, oh fuck me harder..."  His eyes widened and he almost stopped moving he was so surprised.  I had enough of his torment and I rolled him over.  "I told you I'd warm up eventually" I smirked as I began to thrust roughly onto him.  It had been a long time, a really really long time since I'd been with a man and I was in heaven.  Kevin joined me in heaven not long after.  We laid in each other's arms, coming down off the high. 


"Kelley, can I just say that I never, ever, ever, would have thought you were that feisty.  You seem so sweet and shy."


"Appearances are deceiving Kevin.  You didn't see the half of it tonight." I said slyly. 


"Can I see the other half tomorrow?"


"If you're lucky.  Come on, we'd better get back before my sisters leave my ass."


We got dressed and made sure we didn't have any grass or leaves in our hair and headed back.  I knew that what had happened was a purely physical thing for both of us, but Kevin was so easy to talk to and we had so much in common it was scary.  Being with him was like being with my best friend...I could tell him anything.  I knew that I was falling for him hard.  Oh hell, I had fallen for him the moment we watched the sunset together yesterday.  We talked and laughed all the way back to the house where I was immediately driven out of my fantasy world.


Kevin dropped my hand and his eyes got wide.  "Shelly? Oh my god, oh baby it's been forever!"  He ran towards a tall, cool blond and their lips met in a passionate kiss. 


Shit.  Now I wasn't sure if he had yelled my name or hers during our little tryst.  Now I was feeling like a fool.  I used my years of experience of blending into the background and made it to the front yard unnoticed.  I had seen my sisters heading in the same direction so I waited in the dark on the porch for them.  I watched as Kevin and Shelly walked to his car, oblivious to everything but each other.  I was feeling like a grade A, number 1 fool.  Kate and Colleen finally showed up and we made our way back to the hotel. 


"Where did you and Kevin disappear to?" asked Kate.


"We just took a walk.  Not very eventful."


Luckily I once again drew the short straw and didn't have to sleep with Colleen.  If I was going to cry myself to sleep, I would at least be able to do it alone.


I made three decisions that night.  Number one, no one would ever know what happened last night.  Number two, any feelings of love I had were immediately gone, never to be remembered.  And number three, Kevin Richardson would never, ever know how badly he hurt me.  It was just a fuck for him and as far as he'll ever know, it was just a fuck for me too.


I pleaded a bad headache and stayed in bed for most of the day.  I figured if I got the moping out of my system I would be able to make it through the rehearsal and wedding.  I knew that Kevin wouldn't even remember asking me to his parent's cabin...Shelly was probably there with him right now. 


By the time my sisters picked me up my sorrow had been replaced with anger, mainly at myself.  How stupid could I be, falling in love with a total stranger.  How could I have ever thought Kevin would want the same from me.  We drove in total silence, an unusual occurrence for us.  "Kelley, is there something wrong?  You haven't complained about my driving once today" asked Kate.


"No.  Just a little tired"  I turned my head and looked out the window once again.


"Kate and I took a little walk last night too, Kel" said Colleen.  I looked at both of them and realized they knew.  "Are you OK?"


I nodded.  So much for my little plan.  "I'm fine" I sighed.  "Have you ever made a connection with someone instantly?  You know, you feel like you've know them your whole life?  I feel, I mean I felt that with Kevin.  I was just stupid enough to believe that he might actually feel something for me too."


"You know, we'll hate him if you want us to.  After listening to you cry last night we already do."


"No!!" I snapped.  "It will just make things worse if Kevin ever knows how I feel, I mean felt, especially since Shelly is here.  I'm going to act like nothing happened and I want you two to do the same" I demanded.


"Oh, Kelley. You didn't get to meet her did you?  No that's right you were occupied."  Colleen finally got a smile out of me. "Oh. My. God.  Ding dong!  She is every blond joke rolled into one.  She actually thought you and Kevin were just 'taking a walk'."  I was laughing histerically by this time. 


"And did you see those shoes she was wearing" chimed Kate.  "Hello, it's always a good idea to wear 3 inch heels to the middle of the country.  You should have seen her try to walk across the lawn.  You should have seen it when she stepped in the little package grandma's dog left in the yard!"


"She should have touched up her roots too.  And she should know that when you increase your boob size by more that 50%, people are gonna know they are fake!"  I loved my sisters more than anything.  "She's his fiancée, Kelley."


"What!" I yelled.  I started banging my head against the window.  "Not only do I help him cheat on his fiancée, but he's stupid enough to want to marry that bimbo.  Silly me, I just have a brain and can actually put words together to form a sentence.  How in the world could I compare to a leggy, blond, boobalicious model or whatever it is that she does.  It just gets easier and easier not to love him."


"You know Kel, if you just keep telling yourself you might believe it someday" said Kate.


"That's my plan."


We finally arrived at the church.  We were, of course, late and the rehearsal was just getting started.  I caught Kevin staring at me when we walked in and saw the look of pure, unadulterated fear in his eyes.  Kevin and Shelly were snuggled up in one of the pews and I thought this would be a really good time for me to meet her.  I suddenly wasn't feeling so shy anymore!


"Hi Kevin.  You didn't introduce my last night!  Hi Shelly, I'm Kelley, Stelle's granddaughter" I extended my hand and took her over-manicured one in my.  This girl had so many chemicals in and on her that if someone lit a match anywhere near her she would go up in flames.  I made a mental note to have her sit next to my mom who smokes.  "I don't remember seeing you last night" she chirped.  "Kevin honey, is this the one you took a walk with?  I guess I thought you would be a lot younger" she giggled.  "You were right, Kevy, I don't have anything to worry about."  Shelly had just disproved my theory that Kevin was with her because she was really sweet.  That just left the "able to suck a golf ball through a garden hose" theory and I would have a hard time proving that one.


"Well, when you walk the streets for as many years as I did you tend to age a little bit."


"Kevy, you didn't tell me..."  "Shelly, she's kidding.  The rehearsal is starting.  I'll talk to you when we get done" he leaned over to kiss her and she threw her arms around him, shoving her tongue into his mouth.  I rolled my eyes and walked away.  Kevin soon caught up with me.  "Oh Kevy, she's sweet" I smirked.


"What the hell do you think you're doing?" he demanded grabbing my arm. 


"Take your hands off of me" I hissed.  "I was just introducing myself to your fiancée, Kevy.  She's going to be family too.  Oh, I'm glad you mentioned her last night.  If I had known she existed it never would have happened."  My plan was really going to hell quickly.


"Kelley, I..." he began guiltily. 


"Save it Kevin.  We fucked last night, plain and simple.  Did you really think I was using you for anything other than your cock?"  I made yet another mental note to go to confession ASAP because I was headed straight to hell for that one.  I turned sharply and walked away.


"It meant more than that to me" I heard him murmur.


I just kept walking.


By the time the rehearsal was over I was so glad Colleen had won the rock/paper/scissors challenge.  She was able to keep her mouth shut for about five minutes, but soon was whispering things into Kevin's ear, making him squirm.  I found out later that she was threatening him within an inch of his life.  Kate tripped him every time he walked by her.  I love my sisters!


The day of the wedding finally arrived.  Kate, Colleen and I actually made it to the church on time.  There was so much commotion before the wedding started I decided to walk out to the small garden in back of the church.  "You look beautiful Kelley."


I jumped when I heard his voice and my insides turned to mush.  I tried to collect myself before I answered.  "Hi Kevin.  Where's Shelly, I thought you two were usually joined at the hip?"  I guess I didn't collect myself as well as I had hoped.


"She's on her way to California.  She just flew in for the night.  Kelley, about last night.  I never meant to hurt you, but..."


"Whatever.  Save it.  Any explanation you give me is just going to make you feel better, not me" I snapped.


"I thought you were just using me for my cock?" he challenged.


"Wake up stupid, I lied!"  I stormed back to the church, leaving him speechless.  I was really glad I had the presence of mind that morning to wear waterproof mascara.  I went into the bathroom and calmed down.  It took a while, but with enough makeup, I started to look normal again. 


We lined up.  Kate was first down the aisle, then Colleen and Kevin, then me and Kevin's brother Tim.  Just as Colleen and Kevin were starting out, Kevin and Tim switched places.  "What the hell do you think you're doing" I hissed.


"You're sister has been threatening to tear me limb from limb. I bribed Tim to switch."  He took my arm and we headed down the aisle.  My cheeks were getting tired from the fake smile on my face.  I couldn't help but notice that Kevin looked fabulous and smelled even better, and I hated myself for even thinking it. 


The wedding went off without a hitch.  Handily my grandma seated me next to Kevin at the reception.  I couldn't get away from this guy.  We even had to dance together.  I hated myself even more for the naughty thoughts I was entertaining involving me and Kevin enjoying ourselves on top of one of the reception tables.  I could feel myself blushing.  Kevin's breath was warm on my neck.  "Why are you blushing Kelley?" he said as he lightly kissed my neck.  I fought a major battle with myself.  Yes this man had hurt me, no he didn't love me, but this would be my last chance I would ever have to be with him.  I stopped thinking when he gently bit my earlobe.  This was going to be a mistake, a big one, but I was going to enjoy it.  "I was thinking about fucking you on that table over there" I whispered into his ear.  He took my hand and led me from the dance floor.  Neither one of us spoke a word as we headed for the elevator.  Once we were safely inside we attacked each other.  His hands were everywhere as he backed me up against one of the elevator walls, kissing me furiously.  Luckily we made it to his floor before things got too out of hand.  We ran to his room and he threw me against the door, pulling my dress up and my undies off while I unzipped his pants.  He pulled my legs around his waist and slammed into me.  We groaned in unison.  The pace was furious and it didn't take long for us to be calling each other's names.  Kevin carried me to the bed and we spent the rest of the afternoon releasing the passion we felt for each other. 


I was snuggled in his arms and we were both drifting off.  "We're going to have a lot of explaining to do Kevin."


He laughed, "I'll just tell everyone I spent the afternoon with the woman I love."


"But you're still going to marry Shelly?" I asked, already knowing the answer to the question. 


Sigh.  "I don't really have a choice, the invitations are already sent out.  We've already received gifts.  I can't turn back now."


I straddled his waist and put his hands on my breasts.  "I love you too, Kevin, but you always have a choice" moaning as he began to fondle my nipples.  "You may marry her, but I'm the one who's going to haunt your every breath."  I slid onto his awaiting erection.  "It's my face you're going to see when you make love to her and you're going to have a hard time calling out her name and not mine.  It's my voice you're going to want to hear when you come home at night and it's my body you will want to wake up to every morning." 


As I thrust onto him I made sure to burn the memory of me into his brain.  


I left Kevin that morning naked and snoring.  I stared at him for what seemed like an eternity, memorizing every muscle and curve in his body, watching the rise and fall of his chest.  I knew he too would haunt my every breath.  I kissed his forehead and walked out of his life.  A part of me died when I gently closed the door behind me.


I didn't even say goodbye to my family that day.  I left a note with my sisters explaining everything.  I knew they would understand.  Five hours later I arrived on my doorstep.  "Hi kitty kitty!" I exclaimed as I picked her up.  "At least you still love me."  I fed the cat, read the mail, watched the news, attempting to go through the motions of life, though inside I was crying.  I finally gave up and collapsed on the couch, sobs racking my body.  For the second time that week I cried myself to sleep. 


Kevin and Shelly got married six months later.  I was invited and I thought briefly about going, but decided against it.  I couldn't bear the thought of seeing them together as husband and wife.  My sisters went.  They said that Shelly looked remarkably like a Barbie doll, only uglier....a very pregnant Barbie doll.  This would explain a lot.  Colleen said that Kevin had asked her were I was.  She called him a bastard and told him to go fuck himself.  Kate was also able to confirm my "able to suck a golf ball through a garden hose" theory.  Apparently AJ and Shelly had, at one point, explored this theory.  Kate and Colleen both received very nice Christmas presents that year. 


I tried to get over Kevin.  I actually changed a great deal, becoming much more outgoing.  I could actually walk into a room full of strangers with wanting to throw up.  I did date, but I knew in the back of my mind I was using Kevin as my measuring stick, praying that someday, someone would measure up.  No one ever seemed to and I finally gave up trying.  I hated the fact that Kevin had this sort of hold over me, but I had no one to blame but myself.  He could only haunt me if I let him, but how do you let go of the one and only man who touched you soul?


Every once in a while, I would pick up the phone and would hear someone on the other end, but they would never speak.  I knew each time that it was him.  Every time my response before hanging up was the same.  "Goodbye Kevin."


I was cleaning my house one Saturday about a year later when my doorbell rang.  My t-shirt was soaking wet from cleaning the bathtub, my hair was a mess, and I had paint smudged on my face from painting my kitchen.  "Damn, why is it that no one ever comes over when I'm lounging around in one of my evening gowns?" I mumbled to no one.  I opened the door and my eyes widened in amazement.  "Kevin?"


"Hi Kelley."  He took my face in his hands and began to kiss me.  For a brief moment I was lost in the feel of his lips and tongue.  God it would be so easy to lose myself in them again.  My mind began to scream "STOP!" and I pulled away from him.


"What the hell do you think you are doing Kevin?" I yelled.  I didn't give him a chance to speak.  "Do you think you can just show up here and have me fall into bed with you?"


"Kelley I'm sorry, I didn't plan to do that.  You're the only woman who could manage to look such a mess and so beautiful at the same time."


"How are Shelly and the baby?"  I so didn't want to know but the thought of Shelly banished all sexual thoughts from my mind. 


"I don't know how Shelly is, she left me three months ago and I haven't heard from her since" he sighed.


"Oh god Kevin, did she take the baby with....."   I heard a laugh coming from behind and there, sitting in a stroller, was Kevin's daughter.  "Oh Kevin, she's beautiful!"  I knelt down in front of her, her little hand grasped my finger.


"Kelley, this is Lexie, Lexie this is Kelley."  She was the spitting image of her father, same dark hair and green eyes.  "Kel we can't stay long, I have an interview this afternoon, though it's during the time that she naps so it should be interesting" he laughed. 


"You know, I could watch her here if you wanted."  What the fuck was I doing?  He leaves me, marries someone else and I was going to babysit for him!  What the hell!!


"I don't want to bother you Kel."


"It's really no bother.  I could use the company."  I was officially crazy.  Completely mental. 


"I'll only be gone and hour or two.  Are you sure?"


"Positive."  I pushed Lexie into the house and grabbed the diaper bag from Kevin.  "Now go, we'll be fine."


"Here's my pager number, don't hesitate to use it."  He bent down and kissed Lexie.  "Bye bye sweetheart, Daddy loves you."  Kevin kissed me soundly again, leaving me breathless.  "Daddy loves you too."


And with that, Kevin walked back into my life.


Lexie and I fell for each other immediately.  She was such a sweet little girl with a sunny disposition.  She laughed at everything I said, a quality I like in people no matter how old they are.  After an enjoyable game of pat-a-cake it was nap time.  I quickly realized that I had no place to put her and decided to just let her sleep on my shoulder.  We got settled in the rocking chair and I sang to her softly, Christmas carols because I don't know any lullabies.  We both fell asleep in no time. 


I awoke when I felt warm lips on my forehead.  "Hey" I said sleepily. 


"Hey yourself.  Did she behave?"  I nodded.  He was kneeling next to the chair, rubbing Lexie's back.  "Seeing you two together is like something out of one of my dreams" he sighed.


"Kevin, I..."


He cut me off immediately.  "Kelley, I know I can't just waltz back into you life and expect you to take me back, no questions asked."


"You're right, you can't.  Why didn't you tell me Shelly was pregnant?"


"I don't know, I just don't know."  I looked at him skeptically.  "OK" he sighed.  "I knew if I told you I never would have touched you again and I just wanted one more time with you.  I fully planned on seducing you at the reception, as it turned out I didn't need to.  I suppose that makes me a total prick, huh."


"Don't swear in front of Lexie, Kev" I said, unconsciously slipping into the mom role.  "I can't condemn you for what you did because I felt the exact same way.  I could have resisted you know, but I didn't and I didn't for the exact same reason-I wanted one more time with you.  OK, as it turned out it was a few more times with you."


He chuckled at the memory.  "Man, being here with you makes me feel alive for the first time in years.  If Shelly hadn't been pregnant, I wouldn't have married her you know.   After I met you I was ready to leave her, but I just couldn't.  I couldn't let my daughter grow up alone with that airhead.  I was too afraid of what might happen."


"And what if she comes back in six months?" I asked.


"She won't be coming back.  When she left she served me with divorce papers and gave up all parental rights."  He took my hand in his.  "Kelley, I want you, all of you.  Lexie and I need you in our lives.  All I want to know is if I have any chance of winning back your heart."


"Kev, you've always had my heart, that hasn't changed, but I just don't know if I can trust you.  I've finally picked up the pieces of my life, I don't know if I could take you leaving me again."  He flinched at my words. 


"I'm not planning on ever leaving you side again.  I'm going to try no matter what you say" he smiled.


Against my better judgement I smiled right back.  "I'm not easy you know."  He cocked an eyebrow at me.  "OK, not that easy, you're going to have to work for it.  You've got lots and lots of sucking up to do.  I have a lot to forgive you for."  His face softened as relief washed over it and he kissed me gently. 


"Stand up Kel, I think the three of us can fit in this chair."  Kevin sat down and took Lexie and me in his arms.  We rocked in silence as we watched her sleep.


We sat there for an hour, just watching her.  "I can see she gets her sleeping habits from her daddy."  He nodded.  "How long are you two in town?" I asked nervously.  I still didn't trust him at all.


"I don't really know, probably about as long as it takes me to get you back."


I smiled broadly.  "Where are you staying?"


"I was thinking about buying a house, but I think we'll just stay in a hotel. I don't want to have to mess with furnishing a place."


"Kevin, you can't do that!" I exclaimed.  "Lexie can't crawl around on a hotel room floor and she needs to have some place to play outside.  You're going to stay here" I announced.   He eyed me suspiciously.  "I have plenty of space, you can each have your own room and I have a huge back yard.  We could get a swing set and a sandbox...oooh, we could get one of those cute little turtle ones with a lid!"  In my excitement I woke Lexie up.  She looked at us and burst into tears.  "Oh baby, it's ok.  Come on, you definitely need a new diaper." I stood up and grabbed a diaper from the bag.  "We need to go get you a crib today."  I left Kevin sitting in amazement.   "Kev, she probably should eat something before we leave."


He didn't say a word as we got Lexie changed and fed and I was getting nervous.  We walked in silence to the car and got Lexie into her car seat.  I reached for the door handle but before I could open it, Kevin pulled me into his arms.  "Are you sure?" he whispered.


"Positive" I whispered back.  He kissed me gently on the cheek and opened the door for me.  "Is this when the sucking up starts?" I asked innocently. 


"Something like that." he smiled.


We managed to get all the necessities for Lexie's room.  To the outside world, we simply looked like any family out and about.  It amazed me that it felt like that so quickly, like it was the most natural thing on earth. 


Kevin put the crib together while I made dinner or should I say, ordered dinner.  Lex was asleep before Kevin and I could even finish eating, nodding off in her new highchair.  "Kev I'll take her up.  Finish your dinner."  I was headed upstairs before he could protest.  Lex was so tired she didn't even wake up as I put her in her jammies.  She was definitely her father's daughter.  "Goodnight sweetpea" I whispered and kissed her little forehead.  It had taken about twelve hours, but she had completely stolen my heart.  Her daddy wasn't so bad either. 


By the time I came back, Kevin had the dishes done and the kitchen clean.  I stood in the doorway, my mouth open.  I felt strong arms being wrapped around my waist and I felt his breath on my ear as he whispered "Sucking up, baby."  He kissed my earlobe, sending shivers up my spine, and started walking towards the stairs up to his room. 


"I'll be expecting breakfast" I called up after him.  He threw his head back in laughter, a sound I had missed desperately.   "Goodnight Kel."


"Night Kev."  I can't speak for Kevin, but I didn't sleep a wink that night.


Ok, maybe I did sleep a little since I awoke to the smell of coffee.  I stumbled down the stairs and found Lex in her highchair knee deep in Cheerios and Kevin unloading groceries.  "Kel, do you ever eat? You didn't have anything in your fridge."  I gave him an evil look and poured myself a cup of coffee.  I sat at the table and a piece of toast with peanut butter, my favorite, magically appeared.  "How did you know?" I asked in amazement.


"I called your Mom this morning.  She says 'Hi' by the way."  He turned and kept unloading.  I made a mental note to turn off the ringer on the phone.  I wasn't looking forward to that phone call.  "Done.  At least we won't starve now.  Could you watch Lex while I go take a shower?"  I nodded.  He kissed us both on the forehead and went up. 


"Lex honey, your father is really good at this."  She looked at me and smiled, rubbing another Cheerio into her hair.  "You my dear are a mess.  Let's go give you a bath."  I wanted to get her clean before Kevin used up all the hot water.   I stripped down to a tank top and boxers, preparing for the worst.  It was a good idea because Lex greatly enjoys splashing.  I was just as wet as she was by the time we were done.  I took her to her room and got her dressed in the cute little outfit I bought her yesterday at Baby Gap.  "We can't have you looking like a slouch when we go to the park today, can we.  I'm going to hate when Monday comes and I have to go back to work."  I left her in her playpen playing happily with some blocks as I rushed to get my robe from my room.  I didn't want to leave her alone for any longer than I had to.  I had the robe in my hand and was headed back to her room when Kevin came out of his bathroom, in nothing but a towel.  We both just stood there like deer in headlights.  I could feel my nipples get hard just from looking at him.  "It looks like Lex got you a little wet" he smirked.  I quickly realized that I was wearing a soaking wet, white tank top and that Kevin knew exactly what his presence was doing to me.   From the looks of the towel I was having the same effect on him.  We both began to breathe heavily as our eyes locked, both of us wanting the same thing.  I soon flashed him a sly smile as I went into Lexie's room, pulling the robe around me.


The day flew by as we went to the park and to get Lexie's new swing set.  Every time Kevin and I brushed against each other sparks flew.  I knew it was way too soon, I just wasn't ready to have him back in my bed, but by the time we got home I was on fire.  I kept my distance for the rest of the evening, knowing that I would have a hard time controlling myself. I actually cooked dinner, actual cooking, and the three of us sat down like a family.


I attempted to feed Lex without much success.  She was tired, stubborn, and squirmy and most of her food ended up on the side of her head.  "Sweetpea, you're just not hungry are you" I said finally giving up.  I wiped her off and cradled her in my arms as she held her bottle.   


"What did you call her?"  I looked up to see Kevin with tears in his green eyes. 


"Sweetpea.  Honey I hope that's OK, my mom used to call me that.   I didn't even think that you might not...."


"Oh Kel, it's more than alright."  He slid his arm across the table and took my hand in his.  Thought the words didn't leave our mouths, we could see the love that was reflected in the other's eyes.  And for now that was enough. 


Kevin and Lexie were the hit of the neighborhood.  They were both so cute how could anyone resist them?  Lexie had more surrogate grandparents than I could count.  Kevin had thrown himself into the stay at home dad role and was enthusiastically going forward with what he called his "sucking up master plan".   Some mornings I awoke to flowers by my bed.  Sometimes a hot bubble bath would be waiting for me when I got home from work.  But as much as I enjoyed his efforts, it was the little things that made all the difference.  It was nice to have someone, no it was nice to have Kevin and Lexie to come home to.  It was nice to hear the sound of our mingled laughter when Lexie did something cute.  It was nice to have him watch me from the door way when I sang Lexie to sleep.  It was nice to have Kevin to snuggle with on the couch and watch old movies on a cold Saturday.  These were the things that were wearing away any resistance I had left. 




"OK, yes, I'll call it in right away.  Yeah, they'll get it fixed for you.  Well, their response time is usually around four hours.  No, if you unplug it customers can't use it.  Ok, not a problem.  Bye.  URRGH, these people are so stupid."  I was working at the help desk today because they were short handed.  The phone was ringing off the hook and everyone I talked to today was either rude or stupid.  I was standing at my desk wearing my crown.  I had recently declared myself "Queen of Everything" and my co-workers bought me a crown for my birthday.  I liked to wear it when things got tense at work because it made everyone laugh and because I knew it subtly solidified my position as alpha female of the help desk.  I was waiting on hold with a service company, eyes closed, picturing Kevin in that towel, when my personal line rang.  "Fuck it."  I hung up and picked up my line.  "This is Kelley."


"Hey baby.  What are you doing for dinner tonight?"


"Probably nothing" I sighed.  "We're down three people today, I'm not going to be home until late."


"How late?"  I could hear the irritation in his voice.


"I don't know Kevin, 7:00, maybe 8:00.  It depends on when things calm down a little bit."


"What about me and Lexie?"


"I'm not abandoning you Kev, I just have to work late.  Why are you getting so upset?"


"Because you're putting work before us.  Your family should always come first."


I was getting upset now.  "I haven't worked late since you and Lex arrived.  What you're saying is that I should just ditch everyone here and come home.  They have families too, Kevin that I'm sure they would like to see."


"So, let them worry about that."


"That's a poor attitude to have Kev."  My coworkers were beginning to stare.  "I'll see you when I get home" I said as I hung up.  I rubbed my forehead as my left eye started to twitch.  "Maybe I should try wearing the crown at home too" I grumbled to myself.  I didn't know what had gotten into him tonight.  I sighed as I dialed the service company again, settling down for a long wait on hold.  As angry as I was, the only thing running through my head was Kev in that towel.  Damn it.


I finally hauled myself home at 9:00.  The house was dark and quiet but I could see a faint flicker of light coming from the dining room.   "Kevin?"  There was no answer.  I walked into the dining room and found the long cold remnants of dinner, two candles burned down to almost nothing, an untouched bottle of wine, and Kevin sitting with his elbows on the table and his head in his hands.  "Kev?"


He looked up at me.  "Hey beautiful."


"Why didn't you tell me?"  I could feel the tears threaten to fall as I walked towards him. 


"Would it have made a difference?"


"No."  I threw my coat and briefcase on the floor and straddled his lap, wrapping my arms around his neck.   "But just knowing that you did this for me means more to me than you'll ever know."  He slid his arms around my waist pulling me close. 


"It's part of my sucking up master plan.  I keep meaning to ask you, is it working?"


"Yes Mr. Richardson, it is."  I kissed him softly.  In the month that Kevin had been here, we hadn't kissed since the day he arrived.  "It's working very well."  I kissed him again and this time our lips lingered a little longer.   Kevin hugged me tightly and I could hear him singing softly..


"I would do anything for you

Give up the world I made me

And I'd take you away

Oh I swear from now on

To trust in my heart

And the vision

Of you in my life"


"Happy Birthday dear Daddy, Happy Birthday to you!"


"Yeeeaaaahhhh" Lexie squealed from her highchair.


I stood behind Kevin and wrapped my arms around his neck.  "Make a wish" I murmured in his ear.  He took my hand and softly kissed my palm, causing me to shiver.  He pulled me onto his lap and caressed my cheek with his thumb.


"Don't you know everything I've ever wanted is sitting at this table right now?"  I kissed his thumb as he ran it across my lips. 


"You better hurry up, you still have to open your present."


"Well in that case.."  He shoved me off his lap and blew out the candles in one breath.   "Now what did you get me?" he asked as he rubbed his hands together.


"Come on, it's in the living room."  I grabbed Lex from her high chair and we headed down the hallway.  "Close your eyes Kevin!"


"I don't want to walk into anything."


"I'm not going to let you.  Just close 'em"  I sighed, exasperated at his lack of adventure.   


"Kel, this is stupid.  Whatever you got me...."




"You tell him Lex.  Close your eyes or you're not going to get it."


"I'm not getting any now" he mumbled.


"I heard that" I said as I narrowed my eyes.  "Fine you big baby, just open the door."  He flung open the doors to the living room and there, next to the large bay window, was his new piano, complete with large red bow on top. 


"It's from Lexie and me.  I hope it's ok, I wasn't quite sure what kind you would want and Brian said that he thought this was..........."  I was silenced with a passionate kiss that went on.  And on.  And on, until we heard Lexie reaching up with her little fingers and testing the keys. 


"Do you like it" I asked breathlessly.


"I love it almost as much as I love you" he panted back.  Damn, it was so easy to get lost in those green eyes. 


"Play something Kev."  He thought for a minute and then sat down, looking very serious.  He cleared his throat and started playing.


"I have a little yellow duck, he says"


"Quack Quack" screamed Lexie as she danced around the room.


"I like to feel the yellow down, he wears upon his back.

He likes to go out in the rain, goes splashing on my windowpane.

He waddles up and down outside and says"


"Quack Quack. Yeeeaaaaahhhhh!" Lexie clapped.  It was her favorite song.   She and I always sang it when I gave her a bath.  It was the same song my grandma would sing me.


We spent the rest of the evening listening to Kevin play.  Lexie and I danced until she dropped, falling asleep in the middle of the living room floor.  "I'm going to go tuck her in Kev" I said, scooping her up. 


"Are you going to tuck me in too?"


"You have to be in bed for me to tuck you in" I smirked.  He jumped up and ran past me, up the stairs.  "If he only knew" I smiled to myself.  I got Lex settled in bed and kissed her good night.  "It's a good thing you're a heavy sleeper Sweetpea."


I changed into my silk robe, walked down the hallway to his room and knocked on his door.  "Come in" he called.


I stepped into his room, closing the door behind me.  "You have one more present to unwrap Kev."  I undid the tie on my robe, letting it fall to the floor.  I walked over to the bed and stood in front of him, naked except for the ribbon I'd tied around my waist. 


He sat on the edge of the bed, as naked as I was.  He pulled me close to him so I was standing between his legs.  Slowly, deliberately he untied the ribbon, placing it on the nightstand.  He rested his hands on my hips and placed a gentle kiss on my stomach.  "Are you sure Kel?" he whispered. 


I took his face in my hands and softly caressed his cheeks.  "I couldn't think of a better present for the man I love than me."  He wrapped his arms around my waist, resting his head on my stomach. 


"Say it again Kelley, I need to hear you say it."


I ran my hands up and down his back, remembering how good his skin felt beneath my fingers.  "I love you Kevin.  I'm just sorry it took me so long to say it."


"Again"  He began placing light kisses on my stomach, causing me to shiver. 


"I love you Kevin" I gasped as he began to swirl his tongue around my belly button. 




I knelt down in front of him and looked him in the eye.  "I love you Kevin."


"About time my plan worked."  I smiled and kissed him.


When he entered me it was like our first time and I was finally whole.


I awoke to the sweetest sound in the world.  Kevin and Lexie were dancing around the room singing the little yellow duck song.  I pulled on my robe and joined them.  "Who wants breakfast.  I'm cooking."


"You mean like actual cooking Kel?"   I nodded.  He pulled me into his arms and whispered "I would have gotten you into my bed a long time ago if it meant that you would cook."  He then wisely took of running down the stairs.  "You obviously haven't tasted my cooking often enough" I called after him.  "Come on tootsie, let's get you dressed."


When Lex and I were finally dressed, we came downstairs to find breakfast waiting. 


"Kev, what is this?  I told you I would cook" I said as I placed Lex in her highchair. 


"You were busy getting her dressed and I was too hungry to wait" he shrugged and pulled me into his arms.  "I didn't get a chance to say good morning."


"You don't think moaning my name at five AM counts?" I asked innocently.


He buried his face in my neck, nipping it gently.  "You and that mouth of yours can wake me up like that anytime."  Our good mornings were in interrupted by Lexie's screaming.  She had crawled out of her highchair onto the kitchen table and had grabbed a knife Kevin had left in the middle of the table.  She had sliced her hand open and blood was flowing down her arm.


"Oh god Lex!"  I rushed over to the table. "Kevin throw me a towel.  Shh, it's OK baby, Mommy's here."  I wrapped the towel around her hand, hoping to stop the flow of blood.  "Go put a shirt on and grab my shoes.  I think she might need stitches."  Kevin ran upstairs and within minutes we were on our way. 


We were both too hysterical to be in the room with Lex while she got her stitches.   Kevin just paced around the waiting room.  "How could I be so stupid!  I just left that knife there.  Damn it, I should have been paying more attention."


"Kev, honey sit down, you're making me crazy."  He sat next to me and I cradled him in my arms.  "Lex has never done that before you know.  She's never even tried to get out of her high chair.  There's no way you could have know that might happen.  You heard the doctor, it's just a few stitches.  She'll be fine."


It took a while but she was finally done.  Her little hand was all bandaged up.  She snuggled up in Kevin's arms and fell asleep.  "You'll need to bring her back in a week to get them out.  Here's what you should do to keep it clean and a list of signs of infection."  The doctor handed me a list of instructions.  "Don't worry, it doesn't appear the cut did any kind of damage to her hand."


"Thank you for taking good care of her."  Kevin shook the doctor's hand. 


We finally made it home and were all exhausted.  I cleaned the blood off the table while Kevin put Lexie to bed.  Lex was still out cold when I checked on her.  I just stood and watched her-my beautiful little girl.  I knew what happened today wasn't serious, but it made me appreciate all that I had.  "Sleep tight Sweetpea."  I kissed her gently. 


I found Kevin laying in my, I mean our bed, crying softly.  "Oh Kev.."  I joined him under the covers.  He hugged me tightly and rested his head against my chest as I ran my fingers through his hair.  "What's wrong honey."


"Nothing's wrong.  Everything is just so right now, I guess I'm just a little overwhelmed.  Do you even know what you did today?"  I shook my head, totally confused.  "You called yourself 'Mommy'.  Do you think of her as your daughter?"


"I didn't even know I did it.  I know I don't have the right to even think of myself like that, but I do.  I couldn't love her any more if she was my own.  In my heart she is my daughter.   How do you feel about that Kev..."  He kissed me to show his acceptance.  "Love me Kevin" I said breathlessly.


"Yes ma'am" he murmured against my neck and he obliged.


My parents and sisters came up for Thanksgiving.  I was a tad bit hesitant about the whole thing.  The last words my sister Colleen spoke to him were "Bastard, go fuck yourself" at his wedding.   I did get promises out of both Kate and Colleen to behave and at least act civil.  It figured it would last for about five minutes.


I was a crazy woman.  Not only do was I going to have house guests, but they were going to meet the man of my dreams and his daughter.   I cleaned everything twice.  I bought us all new clothes, new towels, new sheets.  Lexie had enough outfits she wouldn't have to wear the same thing twice for an entire month.  I read recipe after recipe until I found exactly what I wanted.  I sent Kevin to the grocery store time and time again because I kept forgetting one thing or another.  After his last trip at 2:00 AM the night before they were to arrive, I cornered him in the kitchen. 


"Kevin, I know I've been crazy the past couple of days."  I pushed him into one of the kitchen chairs.  "I just wanted to let you know how much I appreciate how patient you've been with me."  I knelt between his legs and undid his pants, pulling them and his undies off.   "It really means a lot to me, love."  I started to tease him, gently kissing and licking my way up and down his shaft.  "Mmmmm, you're so beautiful Kev."  The vibrations made him gasp.  I continued teasing him with my mouth and ran my hands under his shirt, gently pinching his nipples.  He was beginning to writhe under my touch.  I continued licking and nibbling until he was panting my name.   I stopped what I was doing for a second and looked at his cock.  "Well, what have we here."  I could see a bead of moisture at the tip.  I rubbed my finger on Kevin's lips until he opened him mouth and sucked it briefly, wetting it.  I rubbed wet finger around the tip of his cock, gathering a bit of the precum.  Kevin's eyes never left mine as I slowly licked my finger clean.  "Ohhh, you taste so good Kev."  I wanted to work him into a frenzy.  I slowly started to swirl my tongue around the tip.


"Kelley, please.." he begged huskily, head thrown back.


I smiled and took him deep within my mouth and he exploded almost instantly.  I took everything he had to give.  I stood and placed light kisses all over his face as he recovered.  I was startled when he grabbed me and sat me on the kitchen table.  "It my turn" he growled.  As it turned out, it really was my turn.  It's a good thing we would be eating in the dining room.  I'll never look at that kitchen table the same way again. 


Everyone arrived the next day.  Kate and Colleen were wary of Kevin, but he soon charmed them into submission.  Lexie on the other hand had everyone wrapped around her little finger instantly.  My parents have been hankering for a grandchild and this was the closest thing they had.  My Dad was especially hooked and Lex felt the same way.  The were in love about fifteen seconds after they met.  He read her stories, sang songs with her, changed her, carried her everywhere.  I don't think the kid walked for their entire visit.  Kevin was a little melancholy throughout their visit.  He kept watching Lex and my Dad and I knew what he was thinking.


"Kev, is there something wrong?  You seemed a little down today.  My sisters didn't say anything to you did they?"  We were snuggled in our bed, the house was finally quiet.   


"It's just, seeing Lexie with your Dad makes me wish she could have met mine.  He would have loved her to pieces" he sighed.  "I'm glad though that she will have one grandpa to spoil her rotten."   I kissed him softly and laid my head on his shoulder. 


We laid there, feeling the other's heart beating, safe and content in our own little world.


"To the left Kev."  I watched as he adjusted the tree in the complete wrong direction.  "Left Kevin, left."  He continued in the same direction.  "Not your left, my left...Kevin!" I cried as he dropped the tree to the floor.


"If you think you can do it better, have at it!"  Our eyes narrowed as we stared at each other.  It was a big tree, really big.  I wasn't sure I could lift it, but there was no way I was going to not try. 


"Give me the gloves" I demanded as I walked towards Kevin.


"Gladly."  I snatched them from him, put my puny hands into the giant work gloves and went to work.  Kevin just laid back on the couch, hands behind his head and smirked.   I actually got the tree into the stand before he made any sort of comment.


"Left Kelley.  That's my left, not yours.  It's really crooked.  Still really crooked.  Still really crooked.  You want some help?"


I didn't say a word because I was furious.  It took me a while to turn those stupid screws in the stand and I had to lean the tree against the wall to do it, but after thirty minutes of struggling I was done.  And that bastard was straight! 


Kevin had fallen asleep about ten minutes into the whole thing.  I pulled off the gloves and threw them at his head.  His eyes were wide as he saw our Christmas tree, upright, straight and in place.  "Kelley, I can't believe you...."  The look I gave him shut him up quickly. 


"Don't ever assume I can't do something.  I'll always find a way to get it done, no matter what."  And with that I walked out of the room.  I decided to save the gloating for later. 


He found me in the bathroom trying to get the sap off of my hands. 




"I'm ignoring you Kevin."  He slid his arms around my waist.




"Still ignoring you Kev." 


"We'll see about that."  He moved my hair away from my neck and began to gently kiss and nibble on it.


"Almost done ignoring you Kev" I whispered as he continued.  He chuckled and moved up to my earlobe.  Bingo.  I turned around in his arms kissed him passionately. 


"I thought that might do it" he smiled.  "I never thought you would be able to do that Kel.  You amaze me you know."


"Keep that in mind honey.  Now, I hear our daughter calling.  Let's go decorate!   Oooooh, Rudolph is on tonight!!  I love Rudolph, I always wanted one of those misfit toys."  Kevin rolled his eyes at me as I rambled on and on.


We were supposed to go to Kentucky for Christmas but a last minute blizzard kept the three of us at home.   As much as I missed my parents and sisters, it was nice to be home with my family.  We did call my family and put each other on speaker phone as we opened presents.  Lexie was so excited she could barely breath.  When she got too excited she'd just stand up, jump up and down and clap.  Then she'd just sit back down and go back to opening presents. 


Lex finally collapsed on Kevin's lap at midnight.  He took her to bed while I sat on the floor among the presents and shredded wrapping paper, too tired and too happy to move.   I always thought Christmas was fun when I was a kid, but it paled in comparison to the joy I felt being with Kevin and Lexie today.  I know now why parents would do anything for their children. 


"What a mess."  Kevin sat on the floor next to me.


"It's the best mess I've ever seen."  He looked at me like I was crazy.  "You know, I have one more present for you.  I wanted to give it to you when we were alone."  I reached under the couch and pulled it out.


"Funny you should say that."  Kevin reached under and pulled out a package of his own.  


"You first Kev."  He tore into it, adding to the mess on the floor.


"Kel..." he whispered.  "It the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."  I could see the tears streaming down his face.  A few months ago I had been at a neighbor's house with Lexie and she had fallen asleep on my chest.  My neighbor had taken a picture at the exact time I had lowered my head and kissed Lex on the forehead.  I had framed it for Kevin.  He pulled me into his arms.  "I love you so much Kel.  It's the best present anyone's ever given me.  Your turn."


I opened my and was completely confused.  It was a picture too, but it was a picture of someplace in the country that I didn't recognize.  "Kevin, I'm sorry but I don't get it."


"Do you remember the night we met and we took that walk."  I nodded.  "Well, we both want to raise our kids in the country, so the last time I was in Kentucky I bought some land, that piece of land to be exact.  Our house will be right here, next to these trees.  And there's a lake in the back, oh and we'll put the barn over...."


I rested my head on his shoulder and listened to this amazing man describe how we were going to live out our dreams.


"What!" I screamed.  "Just when exactly were you planning on telling me this."  Kevin ducked as I threw an egg at his head.  "Maybe you could have just written me a note on the bathroom mirror."  I threw another egg, just missing his arm.  "You could tape a note to my forehead.  Haaaa!"  I had pegged him squarely in the stomach.


"Damn it Kel!  Would you stop being a big baby."


"Baby...baby!  You're leaving for a tour in fucking Europe, for three fucking months, TOMORROW, and you just manage to tell me today.  What the fuck are you thinking Kev?  Who's going to watch Lex while you're on tour?  Are you taking a nanny with you?  And what is a toddler going to do in Europe, she doesn't need to be on a tour bus, staying in hotel after hotel...."


"Which is exactly why I want her to stay here with you.  I don't trust anyone else with her and she's too little to be dragged around Europe.  I had my lawyer draw up some papers making you her legal guardian so there won't be any problems."


I grabbed a towel and began to wipe up the egg from Kevin's shirt, tears falling down my face.  "And what am I going to do without you?"  I couldn't look him in the eye because I knew I would completely break down.


"Oh baby, come here."  He held me tightly as I sobbed.  "Shhh.  I know how you feel, it's going to seem like an eternity.  I can't imagine not waking up next to you.  And I feel like I'm gonna miss so much of Lexie while I'm gone.  Promise me you'll write down everything cute she says and take pictures every day.  Damn it, now you've got me crying."


I laughed and wiped my nose on his shirt.  "We make quite a team, huh?"


"I'm sorry I didn't tell you sooner.  I just didn't want to hurt you again."


I took his face in my hands.  "Kevin, I learned a long time ago that you would never leave me again.  What time do you go?"


He looked a little guilty.  "I actually leave in about five hours."


I took several deep breaths and tried not to lunge for the eggs again.  "Just so you know, I will be kicking your ass the moment you get home.  Since we have so little time left, I suggest you carry me up those stairs so I can show you just how much I'm going to miss you."


"Why should we waste all that time?" he asked as he kissed me passionately, taking my breath away.  Before I knew it I was sitting on the kitchen counter, legs wrapped around Kevin as he slid into me.  "Oh dear god I'm going to miss you Kev" I sighed as he started thrusting. 


"Kelllllleeeeeeeeey" he moaned, filling me completely.  "Oh god baby, I'm gonna miss you too."  As much as we wanted it to last, the intense need for fulfillment won out and we were soon shuddering with pleasure, our kisses muffling our screams.     


"I love you Kelley" he whispered, his head resting against my chest.  He was damp with sweat and totally spent from our intense encounter.


"I love you too."  I kissed him slowly, savoring the feel of his tongue against mine.  I could hear Lexie stirring and soon her cries were coming through the monitor.  "I'll go honey, it's going to be a while before I get a chance to do this again."  


After cleaning the rest of the egg from the wall, I headed upstairs only to find Kevin and Lexie asleep in our bed.  I set the alarm and snuggled up next to them, crying myself to sleep. 


The first two months went smoothly.  Lexie asked for her Daddy about a hundred times a day.  I e-mailed Kevin new pictures of both of us every day and Kevin called as often as he could.  I even stopped crying myself to sleep after three weeks, but I still slept in one of Kevin's shirts.  I couldn't bear to wash it because then it wouldn't smell like him anymore. 


I was rocking Lexie to sleep one afternoon when the doorbell rang.  I managed to get her into her crib without waking her up and looked out the window.  I didn't recognize the unfamiliar car but I did recognize the blond woman standing at my front door.  I immediately hit the floor, thankful that all of Lexie's toys were picked up, that Lexie was asleep and quiet, that my car with Lexie's car seat was parked in my locked garage, and that Lexie's mother didn't turn around and see me standing at the window. 


I crawled into the bathroom, grabbed my hand mirror, and crawled back to the window.  I watched in the mirror until I saw her drive away.  I sat on the floor for another five minutes, shaking in fear.  I finally got up the nerve to stand up and started peeking out the windows, making sure no one was watching the house.  Once I was sure the coast was clear, I ran for the phone and dialed Kevin's emergency pager, hoping that he wasn't in an interview because he was going to be hysterical when it went off. 


"What's wrong Kelley?  Is Lex OK?  Are you OK?  Is Mom OK?  Is...."



"Kev, we're all fine.  Shelley knocked on the door about 15 minutes ago."



"What!!" he shrieked.  "You didn't let her in did you?"


"No.  Luckily I looked out the window first and when I saw who it was I hit the floor.  Lex is taking a nap right now, so she wasn't making any noise.  What am I supposed to do, Kev?  What if she comes back?  She doesn't have any rights, right?"


"No baby, she doesn't.  I'm guessing she has no idea that we're together and is probably just trying to get information about me.  How would you feel about coming to Europe with Lexie?  I don't think Shelley would try anything, but I'd just feel safer having you here."


"I'd feel safer if I were with you.  Can you get something arranged?  I'll start packing right now."


"I'll call you as soon as I know something.  I love you baby, thank you for protecting our daughter."  I could feel the tears starting.  "Don't cry Kel, everything will be OK."


"I know" I sniffed.  "It's just been a really scary 30 minutes and I miss you and I love you and you called Lexie our daughter which makes me love you even more and right now you're smiling and shaking your head at me because I'm a little hysterical and that makes me love you more than anything."  I was half sobbing and half laughing at this point.  "Get us the soonest flight you can Kev.  I need you."


"Give me twenty minutes."  I heard the dial tone as he hung up.  I laid on the bed and cried for a few minutes getting the rest of my anxiety out of my system.  Lexie started to cry and I immediately snapped back into responsible adult mode.  She was playing on our bed, "helping" me pack when Kevin called back.   "Can you be at the airport in 2 hours?"


"Kev, honey, Lex is all packed and I'm almost done.  I can be there within the hour."


"Good.  Your flight for Florence leaves at 3:00.  I'll get someone to pick you up at the airport.  I would do it but I don't want Lexie around if things get crazy.  God I can't wait to see the two of you."


"We can't wait to see you either.  I've always wanted to see Italy.  If I ever see Shelley again, I'm going to thank her right after I kick her ass."


"You'll have to take a number Kel 'cause I'm first.  Call a cab, I'll see you soon."  Three hours later Lexie and I were on our way.


Lexie and I finally arrived in Florence.  It took forever to get through customs and by the time we did, Lexie was screaming.  Someone was there to meet us, but he wasn't much help.  We finally got our luggage and I was trying to carry her and her luggage, while the driver guy carried mine, struggling to catch up with me as I hurried through the airport, dodging old people and little kids.  I just wanted to get into the car so I could calm Lex down.  I think I scared the poor kid to death because once we got to the car, he couldn't find his keys.  I reminded him to look in his pants pocket and of course he immediately found them.  We were finally on our way.  Lex fell asleep about 30 seconds into the ride and I just stared out the window, not even seeing all the beauty that surrounded us.  It was all I could do not to cry. 


Lex was still asleep when we arrived at the hotel.  Hell, she didn't even wake up when I took her out of her car seat.  There were throngs of women and girls outside the hotel, but Lex slept through them too.  Now I knew why Kev didn't want to come to the airport. 


Kevin was pacing the hallway when we stepped off of the elevator.  I thought I was happy when he and Lexie showed up at my doorstep all those months ago.  It didn't even compare to the way I felt now.


"Oh thank god!  I was getting worried."  He took Lex from my arms and grabbed my hand.  "Come on, lets go lay her down and then we can talk."  I was too exhausted physically and mentally to do anything but follow him.  Kevin got Lex all tucked in and I just looked out the window, completely at the breaking point. 


"Kelley?"  I didn't even hear him.  "Kel?"  I jumped when I felt his hands on my shoulders.   I turned around into his arms and buried my head in his chest.  All the fear, worry, and loneliness of the past day, hell the past two months, came out.  "Shhhhh, it's OK baby, I've got you.  God I've missed you so much."  His words were starting to come out in sobs too.  "I can't do this again Kel.  Next time you two are coming with me."  He kissed my forehead and kissed my tears away before finally kissing me.  The feel of his lips and tongue on mine, the feel of finally being in his arms was like a drug.  Everything, the all-consuming stress and tension, everything was just gone.  All that remained was the intense, sweet, white-hot love I felt for Kevin.  Neither one of us spoke a word after that, it wasn't necessary.  Slowly, deliberately, we removed each other's clothes until we were standing naked before each other.  Our eyes never left one anothers.   Kevin gently picked me up and laid me on the bed.  With the same slow, deliberate pace he entered me until he filled me completely.   For that brief time, in that bed in Florence, Kevin and I became one...one person, one body, one soul.  I knew I would never feel like this with another man. 


We were laying in each others arms, both a little stunned by the intensity of what just happened.  "Kel?"




"Marry me."


I laid there, stunned.  I knew we would get married, but I just wasn't expecting it right now.  I rolled him over and straddled his waist.  "Ask me again."


"I love you more than anything and I can't imagine my or Lexie's life without you.  Marry me" he said very slowly.


"There is nothing in the world that would make me happier than to be your wife and Lexie's mom."  It was his turn to roll me over, pulling my legs around his waist, and plunging himself into me.  "Oh god Kevin, I love you" I gasped, startled by the sudden pleasure of having him inside of me again.


"I love you too" he moaned.  This time was hard, fast, and just as intense. 


"God Kelley.  I really mean it when I say that you two are coming with me next time" he panted as he collapsed on top of me.


"You'd better, because I'm not giving you a choice in the matter.  I hope you didn't have any plans to go shirtless in the next few days."  Kevin had nice red scratches running down his back.


"I thought my back kind of hurt.  I hope you brought a turtleneck to wear."


"Oh you didn't."  I hopped out of bed and checked out my neck.  "Kev, I am way to old to have a hickey!"


"Apparently you're not.  Don't you think it was worth it?"  The sun was just going down, the light in the room was dim and Kevin was laying naked on the bed, smirking at me.  He was on his side, head propped up with his hand, skin shimmering in the dim light.  He was in a word, magnificent. 


"It was so fucking worth it."  I jumped into bed and snuggled up into his arms.   "Do you think it would look funny if I wore a scarf?"  I fell asleep to the sound of his laughter.  


I woke up alone, Kevin and Lexie were no where to be found.  I finally found a note written on the bathroom mirror, in my new lipstick of course.  They had gone to get breakfast.  "They could have woken me up to see if I wanted to go with" I whined.  I was starving at this point, hell I couldn't remember the last time I had eaten.  I hopped in the shower and got ready.  By the time I was done I was way past starving and well into shaky.  I found Lexie and Kevin in the small cafe in the hotel.  Lexie was holding court, sucking up all the attention she could get.  She spotted me first.


"Mama, Mama, Yeahh!" she yelled and clapped.  How could you not love a kid that greeted you like this every morning.  I could see the odd looks coming from the rest of the table and chose to ignore them. 


"Hi babydoll, hi baby" I said as I kissed Kevin.  "Thanks for waking me up."


"You looked so beautiful sleeping, I just couldn't bring myself to do it."  We both ignored the gagging sounds from across the table.  "Hungry?"


"Starving.  If I don't get something soon I'm gonna die."


"I know just how that feels" he growled as he leaned over to kiss me hungrily. 


"OK, that's all I can take.  Lexie, why don't you come upstairs with Uncle Nick and Uncle Brian.  I'm sure we can find something for you to play with.  Let's leave Daddy and Mommy or whatever Kelley is alone for a while."


"Did you say something Nick?" Kevin panted.


"We're taking Lexie upstairs to play.  We're not going to do this everyday so you two better take advantage of it."  Lexie waved as they headed for the elevator. 


Kevin and I looked at each other for a minute before I grabbed a banana and an orange from the table and ran with Kevin to the elevator.  "Just so you know Kel, I have plans for that banana."


I started pushing the elevator buttons frantically.  "Damn it, can't this thing go any faster."


"Mmmmmm, Kelley flavored banana."  Kevin was chewing the last piece of banana he had just eaten out of me.  "Or banana flavored Kelley" he smirked.  I was clutching the sheets, totally white-knuckled, trying to catch my breath. 


"Where the hell did you come up with that?" I gasped, still unable to open my eyes.  "Not that I'm complaining, I might add."


"You can thank AJ for that one.  You don't want to know where he got it from."


"I'm gonna have to send him a card or something."


"Baby, I don't think Hallmark covers something like this."  Kevin was slowly kissing his way up my body. 


"They should.  Now honey, you need to roll over and let me take care of your banana."


"Kelley, I should....ohhhhhhhhhh god I think I'll just roll over now" he moaned as I took him deep into my mouth. 


Kevin and I were just getting out of the shower when there was a knock on our door.  I could hear Lexie screaming and Nick trying to quiet her down. 


"Damn, does this kid ever stop?"


"Don't swear in front of my daughter Nick.  She likes to scream when she's bored.  Hi baby!  Were you good for Uncle Nick?"  Lexie jumped into Kevin's arms and was immediately quiet and snuggled into his arms.


"How do you do that?  We tried everything.  Just so you know, I will be purchasing a large supply of condoms this afternoon." 


"Oh Nicky" I said, pinching his cheeks, "wouldn't it be fun to have a little Nick running around."  He just shuddered and walked out of the room.


"Mama" Lex whimpered.


"Come here babydoll."  I started swaying gently back and forth.  Kevin wrapped his arms around us and swayed too, singing Lex's favorite bedtime song.


"Babyface, you've got the cutest little babyface

There is no other who can take your place, babyface

My poor heart is thumpin', you sure have started somethin'

Babyface, I'm up in heaven when I'm in your fond embrace

I didn't need a shove, 'cause I just fell in love

With your pretty babyface."


I could feel Kevin's tears on my cheek and soon mine were flowing too.  "I know honey, me too" I whispered.  He kissed me softly and rested his head against mine, the three of us just swaying in our own little world.


"What are we going to do about Shelley?"  Lexie and I had been with Kevin for two weeks and we were now in Spain.  We had somehow convinced Brian and Nick to babysit again and Kev and I had spent the afternoon getting reacquainted.  We were now laying naked in each other's arms. 


"I don't know baby" he sighed.  "I talked to her lawyer this morning but he didn't know anything.  He did say that she hasn't mentioned anything to him about wanting Lexie back."  I tried to hide the fear in my eyes, but wasn't quick enough.  "I know Kel, it scares me too, but she willingly gave up her daughter, hell it was her idea."  I could feel his body getting tense as his voice got louder and louder.  "I don't care how long it takes or how much it costs, that bitch won't get Lexie back!"  He was yelling at the top of his lungs and stormed out of bed, grabbing his robe before going out onto the balcony. 


I gave him a few minutes before heading out after him.  He was just looking over the railing, no emotion on his face.  "Kev" I said as I slid my arms around his waist "there's nothing we can do until we hear from Shelley again.  You're getting upset over something that might not even happ...."


He grabbed my wrists and threw my arms from around his waist.  "Damn it Kelley!  She's not your daughter so it's not your concern how I feel or what I do about it!"

I left the balcony without saying a word.  I didn't know the Kevin that was standing out there.  I quickly threw on some clothes and got out of there. 


I stood by the elevator, punching the down button by the elevator doors frantically.  The doors finally opened and out walked Nick with a sleeping Lexie in his arms.  "Hey Kelley.  I've brought your daughter back."


"She's not my daughter Nick.  Take her to her father."  I left him standing there, his mouth gaping. 


I don't know how long I walked around in a daze that afternoon.   I just couldn't believe that after all we had been through, he had actually said those horrible words to me.  I wanted to believe that Kevin was just upset and taking it out on me, but what if he wasn't?  What if everything he had ever said to me was a lie?   


It was long after dark when I got back to our room.  The suite was dark and I was surprised to see Kevin's shape in the bed.  I tiptoed to Lexie's room and kissed her goodnight.  I stroked her dark hair, marveling at how soft it was under my fingertips.  No matter what Kevin truly thought, in my heart she was my daughter and I was her mother. 


I slipped into my nightshirt and crawled into bed.  Kevin was facing away from me.  I could see his beautiful skin in the moonlight and I wanted to reach out to him and hold him.  I wanted him to take me in his arms and tell me everything was going to be OK.  I wanted to feel his lips on mine, to feel his long, hard body pressed against mine, to feel his strong hands caressing me.  I wanted to know why he wasn't worried about where I was or if something had happened to me.  I wanted to know why he was sleeping so peacefully.  I wanted to give him a good, swift kick in the ass.


"Are you going to say something or are you just going to keep looking at my back?"


"I'm trying to think of something to say.  Right now the only thing that comes to mind is 'fuck you Kevin Richardson.'"


"I suppose I deserve that."  He rolled over and looked at me.  "Why did you run away?"


"Oh that's good Kev.  Hmm, let's see.  You pretty much tell me that everything you've ever said to me about being Lex's mom, about us being a family has been a lie.  Do you have any idea what it felt like to have the man I love pull the rug out from under me?" I choked, tears streaming down my face.  "I need to know Kevin, how do you really feel about me?  Are we really a family?"


"Oh god Kelley I'm so sorry" he said as he pulled me into his arms.  "Baby, I never meant to hurt you like this.   I'm just so afraid Shelley's going to try to take Lexie I'm not thinking straight anymore.  I love you Kelley, you know I didn't mean it." 



"I know Kev" I whispered as I kissed his tears away.  "I love you too."


Being in his arms did make everything all right, at least for tonight.


The next few weeks were the longest weeks of my life.  The tension between Kevin and I was so thick you could cut it with a knife.  I tried to talk to him about Shelley and what we were going to do, but he'd always cut me off with an abrupt "I don't want to talk about it" and would walk out of the room.  Hell, when I tried to talk to him about anything, he'd mumble something about being busy and would walk out of the room.  I'd lost count of the number of nights I cried myself to sleep-me on one side of the bed and Kevin on the other as far away from me as he could get.  Lexie was the only bright spot.  I don't know if she felt the tension between her father and me, but she was the same sunny little girl she had always been. 


It was beautiful that Saturday and I decided to take Lex for a walk.  The birds were singing, the sun was shining and there was a park near the hotel.  I packed up some books and some snacks and began to get Lexie dressed. 


"What are you doing?" Kevin barked as he walked into the room.


"Um, getting Lexie dressed."  It took every ounce of willpower to not add some sort of smart-ass comment.  "It's such a beautiful day, I thought we would go to the park.  We've been cooped up in hotel rooms for way too long."


"No."  It was not a request, it was an order.


"What do you mean no?  Did you have something else planned?"  I was doing my best to keep my temper in check.  I knew where this was going, but I wasn't going to jump to any conclusions and make things worse. 


"I don't think it's a good idea for you to be taking her to the park.  I'll be free tomorrow.  I'll take her then."


"And why exactly is it a bad idea for me to take her to the park?"


"I just want to make sure she's OK."


"So what you're saying is that you don't trust me with Lexie."   Kevin didn't have an answer for me and his silence was all the answer I needed.   "Fine.  You'll need to find someone to watch Lex from here on out."  I handed her to her father, my heart breaking.  "I'm going home Kevin.  You obviously don't need me here and I'm not comfortable staying where I'm not wanted.  I'll get the first flight I can find."  I grabbed my suitcase and started to pack.  Kevin and Lexie watched me for a minute and then walked out the door. 


I was packed in no time and soon had my flight arrangements made.  I had no clue where Kevin and Lex even went and in a way I was relieved.  I was on the verge of a breakdown and saying goodbye to them would send me right over the edge.  I wrote them both a note and left the envelopes on the dresser.  I grabbed my suitcase and headed downstairs to hail a cab.  In four hours I would be heading back to the States...alone. 



Kevin walked into the empty hotel room.  Part of him hoped that her leaving was just an idle threat.  When he saw the notes, he knew the truth.  He read Lexie's first. 


Dear Sweetpea,


I don't know when I'll see you again and I couldn't leave without saying goodbye.  I know you're not going to understand what's happened, but I hope you will always know that I love you with all my heart.  You might not have come from me, but you will always be my daughter.  


I love you babydoll....


Love, Mama


He couldn't stop the tears from falling as he opened his note.


My dearest Kevin,


Do you remember the day we met?  I fell in love with you that day, sitting on that porch, watching the sunset.  I fell in love all over again when you and Lexie arrived on my doorstep all those months ago. I thought we could face anything as long as we had each other.  I guess I was wrong.  





Both pieces of paper fell to the floor.  "Oh god, what have I done" he sobbed.


Kevin sat in the chair near the window, looking out, but not seeing a thing.  She had been gone for four months now and he hadn't heard a word from her.  He and Lexie were lost without her.  His heart broke every time Lexie looked up at him with tears in her eyes and asked "Where's Mama?" 


They went to Kentucky after returning from Europe.  He felt closest to her here and there was always that chance that she might come to visit her grandma.  Shelley did finally get in touch with him.  She wanted to return her wedding ring, which had been his grandmother's.  She said she just didn't feel right about keeping it.  Lexie's name didn't even enter the conversation.  He thought he would be physically sick after he hung up the phone.  He had lost his best friend, his lover, his Kelley.  He had shut her out of his heart to protect it...now it had shattered into a million pieces. 


"Kevin....Kev?"  A familiar voice brought him out of his trance.


"Oh, hey Brian.  I didn't hear you come in."   Brian was shocked by his cousin's appearance.  He hadn't shaved in god-knows-how long, his hair was long and messy, his clothes hung from his body he'd lost so much weight.


"I'm going to go over to Stelle and Grandpa's.  Why don't you and Lexie come with me.  Once she gets a look at you she'll be throwing the food at you."


"I don't think so" Kevin sighed.  "You can take Lex with you if you want.  She could use a little Grandma attention."


"Kev, you can't sit here forever.  You need to get out, take a shower, something!  Lexie needs her father back."


"And I need Kelley back...."


"Damn it" Brian exploded.  "I'm so tired of hearing about her.  If she loved you and Lex so fucking much why did she leave.  She considers Lexie her daughter?  Bullshit!  She hasn't even picked up the phone and asked how she is.  I know you think she loved you but how can you even believe that when she just runs away when things get rough!"


"Rough-that's a laugh.  Brian, I totally and completely shut her out of my life.  Hell, there were some days we didn't actually talk to each other.  She tried everything, but I just ignored her.  I didn't even trust her with Lex.  Why should she have stayed with me, I didn't give her any reason to."  Kevin walked over to his desk and pulled out a box overflowing with letters.  "And don't you ever, ever say she doesn't care.  See these."  He dumped the letters on to the desk.  "These are all letters to Lexie.  We get two or three every day and every night I read them to her."  Kevin's voice softened as he began to pick up the mess he had made.  "Lex is dressed and ready to go.  You two go and have a good time."   




"Just go Brian."  He put the box back on it's place on the desk and went back to his chair, watching the sun set over the land that was supposed to have been their home.


"Mama!!!!"  Lexie screamed when she saw me and struggled to get out of Brian's arms.  He reluctantly let her down and she ran full speed into my waiting arms. 


"Oh baby" I sobbed.  I smothered her face with kisses, memorizing her sweet baby smell.  "Let Mama look at you...you got so big.  I missed you so much!"  We clung to each other, both of us afraid to let go.  She snuggled up against my neck, sucking her thumb.


"Story Mama."


We climbed into the rocking chair and got comfortable.  This was our nightly routine from the first night she spent with me.  "Once upon a time there was a very stupid woman named Kelley who had a very beautiful daughter named Lexie...."  We sat and rocked for an hour as I told her the whole story.  Every so often she would reach up and pat my face, almost reassuring herself that I was real.  Lexie was sleeping in my arms when Grandma came to check on us.


"She's missed you Kel.  We've all missed you."


"I know."  I couldn't keep the tears from falling.  "Have you seen him?"


She nodded.  "He told me what happened.  I'm not going to take sides because you were both in the wrong.  All I know is that you love each other and you've spent too much time pushing each other away."  She took my hand and gently squeezed it.  "Go to him Kelley.  He needs you and you need him.  He's been lost without you."


"Oh Gram, I've been lost without him too" I sobbed.   


"I know baby, it's OK."  She pulled Lex and me into her arms, hugging us fiercely.  "Come on.  I've packed up enough food for the three of you."


I managed to get Lex out of her carseat without waking her up.  Kevin was asleep in the chair and I tiptoed past him, trying desperately not to wake him up.  My sweet baby was so exhausted that she didn't even wake up when I got her into her PJ's.  She looked so beautiful, lying there in her bed.  "Don't worry Sweetpea.  Mama's back and she's never going to leave you and Daddy again."


I just stood there and watched her sleep, my little Lexie.  How I had left her for as long as I did I will never know.  I don't think I will ever forgive myself for abandoning her.  I kissed her again and turned off the lights.  Kevin was leaning against the wall just outside of Lex's room.  Neither one of us spoke, we just drank in the sight of each other.  He tentatively extended his hand, reaching for me.  I smiled and laced my fingers with his.  His other hand gently caressed my cheek, brushing away my tears.  "Hi baby."


"Kevin, I'm so sorr..."  He stroked his thumb across my lips, silencing me.  Smiling, he cradled my face in his hands, kissing me softly.


"Welcome home Kelley."


With those three simple words, all was forgiven between us. 


I ran my fingers through his long, messy hair.  "You look terrible Kev.  When was the last time you ate?"  He just shrugged his shoulders and smiled.  "Come on, Gram packed up enough food to feed an army."


"I'm not hungry right now."   He pulled me into his arms and I immediately melted into them as he gently pressed his lips against my forehead   "All I want to do is lay in bed and hold you in my arms."


I cocked my eyebrow.  "Is that all you want to do?"


"Welllll, if we both happen to end up naked that would be OK too."


"Well then let's go."  Still hugging each other tightly, we scooted into the, I mean our bedroom.  "Hey, you never did tell me, what happened with Shelley?"


He got a somber expression on his face.  "She wanted to give my grandmother's wedding ring back.  She never even asked about Lexie."  I dissolved into hysterical laughter, tears rolling down my face.  "Kelley, it's not funny!"


"Kev, we are two of the dumbest, stubborn people on the face of the earth" I gasped.  "We've both just spent four miserable months away from each other for nothing!   If we ever make it to happily ever after it will be a miracle."  I collapsed on the bed, snorting with laughter.  He looked at me like I was crazy.  "Oh, don't look at me like that Mr. Serious...."


"I just fail to see the humor in this.....hey!"  I had grabbed him by the belt loops and pulled him onto the bed.  Before he could react I had him on his back and was straddling his waist and laying on top of him.  His hands were soon cupping my behind and I tenderly kissed his lips. 


"If I don't laugh about it honey" I whispered, "I'm gonna end up in the corner, curled up in a little ball, crying my eyes out.  I've spent the past four months crying, it's time to stop."  He kissed me again, this time our lips lingered a little longer. 


"What made you come back Kel?"


"As much as I hate to quote Jerry McGuire, you and Lex complete me.  Without the two of you, I'm so empty inside."  This time the kiss was brutal and passionate.  His hands were everywhere, stroking my hair, my back, my breasts.  Without warning he sat the two of us up, me sitting on his lap, my legs wrapped around his waist.  He stopped kissing me long enough to yank my shirt over my head and to tear the bra from my body.  I threw my head back as he began to lick and suck my hardened nipples.  "Oh god I've missed you Kev" I moaned. 


We spent the rest of the night in sexual oblivion.  I don't even know how many times we made love, they all just sort of blended together after a while.  I awoke in a tangle of sheets, my head next to Kevin's feet at the foot of the bed.  I guess that's sort of where we left off last night.  I scooted around until my head was on the pillow and snuggled up next to him.  He had lost so much weight he was almost emaciated.  I couldn't help the tears that fell...it was my fault he had suffered so much. 


I felt his finger lift my chin and he made me look into his eyes.  "No regrets baby.  We can't change what happened and you'll make yourself crazy if you keep blaming yourself.  Now I have something for you."  He reached into the nightstand drawer and pulled out a plain, battered and dented gold band.  "When my grandma gave this to me she told me to only put it on the finger of the woman who was going to be with me forever.  I never put it on Shelley's finger...she said it wasn't her style.  I suppose that should have been my first clue."  He slid it on my finger.  "I know it's not exactly an engagement ring...."


"Kevin, this is the only ring I want.  It's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen."  I knew the only time it would leave my hand would be the day of our wedding when he would put it back on forever. 


"My grandma never took it off until the day she gave it to me."  I smiled, loving the fact that he could read my mind.  "OK, I really am hungry now.  Why don't you stay here and I'll go make us breakfast."


"I've got a better idea.  Why don't I go get our daughter and we'll make breakfast while you shave off that damn beard."


"You don't like it?" he pouted.  "It really complimented the I've-lost-my-woman-and-I'm-really-depressed look I had there for a while."


"Kevin, you're the most beautiful man I've ever seen, but it gets in my way when I try to nibble on your jaw."  His jaw was very sensitive and I knew from experience that a little jaw nibbling drove him out of his mind. 


"I'll meet the two of you in the kitchen."  He hopped out of bed and hurried into the bathroom. 


"Hi Mama"  Lexie was waving at me from our doorway, blankie in hand.


"Hi baby.  Are you ready for breakfast?"  She nodded and I swept her into my arms.  "How about pancakes this morning?"  She nodded again as we headed down the stairs like nothing had ever happened.


Funny how life can change so quickly.


"Hey Kel, Grandma called while you were brushing your teeth.  She wants us to come over for dinner tonight and she said you should wear a dress."  I had been back for a month and Kevin and I were still in our "honeymoon" phase.  Lexie had spent the day with Kevin's mom and we had spent the day in bed.  In fact, we hadn't really bothered with getting dressed that day.  In our case, it was just easier to stay naked.


"A dress" I whined.  "Unh hun, I don't want to!"


"Kelley, you are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen, but pouting doesn't become you."  I stood in front of my closet, doing a quick inventory.  I soon felt his strong arms wrap around my waist and his lips on my neck.  "Wear the yellow one.  I love the way it makes your skin look all golden and warm."   His hands had moved up to my breasts, running his palms in circles over my hard nipples. 


"Kev..." I gasped.


"And when we come home tonight" he continued as he moved one hand between my legs to stroke my clit, "I'll tear it from your body and make love to you until you can't see straight."


"Oh god..."


"Would you like that Kel?  Would you like to feel me inside you?"


"Yeeeessss........"  He held me tightly as my body trembled from the powerful orgasm rushing through it.  "When are we supposed to be there?" I panted.


"In 30 minutes." 


"Then I'm going to have to suck fast"   I dropped to my knees in front of him, loving the sound of his moans as he wove his fingers through my hair.



We pulled into Grandma's driveway with 2 minutes to spare. 


"Man, what's with all these cars?"  There were cars everywhere, but there was no one in sight.  "Jeez, I'm not in the mood for a big family thing right now.  We had the house all to ourselves.  We could be naked right now."


"Is that all you think about?" Kevin smirked.


I reached over and started stroking him through his pants.  "I love you Kevin and I love showing you how much.  You got a problem with that?"


"I've got no problem with that at all baby.  Come on, we're gonna be late."  He hopped out of the car and took off for the house.  I was apprehensive because he was acting a little strange. 


"Kevin, what is up with you?  You could wait for me you know......."  As I got closer to the porch, our families started filing out the front door.  Everyone was there, my parents and sisters, Kevin's brothers, Nick, Brian, AJ, Howie, everyone...and they were all looking at me.  "What's going on?"  Kevin was standing at the steps leading to the porch.  As I reached him, he turned and cupped my face in his hands, his thumbs gently caressing my cheeks. 


"We're getting married.  I couldn't think of a better way to do it that with everyone we love around us and the only place I would ever want to marry you is the place we fell in love.  Now come on, the sun is just getting ready to set."


I couldn't stop the tears from falling.  "I love you Kev."  There was so much I wanted to say to him but when it came down to it, those four words said everything. 


"I love you to Kel."  He took my hand and five minutes later we were man and wife.


Grandma and Ted had set up a huge tent in their back yard for our reception.  There was a band, cake, dinner, the whole works.  I don't know how Kevin had done it all in such a short time.  He and I were dancing, completely oblivious to everything, when Brian and Lex cut in.  "Hey Kev, why don't you dance with your daughter so I can have a turn with your beautiful wife." 


"Hi Daddy!"


"Hi baby, do you want to dance?"


"Sure"  She took his hands and stood on his feet and they swirled away from us. 


"This is unexpected Brian."  He had been civil to me since my return, but that was the extent of it. 


"I know" he sighed.  "And I'm sorry for the way I've acted.  It just killed me to see Kevin so hurt and to know there was nothing I could do for him.  Please don't cry Kel." 


'"I'm sorry.  I guess I haven't really forgiven myself."  He pulled me close and we swayed to the music.  The music ended but he continued to hug me.  "Thanks Brian.  That meant more to me than you can imagine." 


"Anytime sweetheart.  Don't be too hard on yourself, look at your family Kel.   See how happy they are...you did that.  Don't forget it."  Kevin and Lexie were headed towards us, both of their faces lit up with smiles that also lit up the whole room. 


"Lexie wants to say goodbye to her Mama."  Kevin was holding her and pulled me into his arms too. 


"OK Sugar, you're gonna be good for Grandma Ann, right?"  She nodded, a solemn look on her face.  "And you're gonna be good for Grandma and Grandpa Leffler, right?"  Another nod.  "Now don't forget, we're going to call you every night before you go to bed and be sure to look in your suitcase.  Daddy told me he left you a present in there." 


" 'Kay Mama."  She squirmed until Kev put her down.  Our daughter was no fool.  She knew that she was in for two full week of being spoiled rotten. 


"Are you going to tell me where we're going Kev?" 


"Nope, but I'm ready to go."  He hugged me tightly, sliding his hands down to cup my rear.  "I am so ready to make love to my wife" he whispered as he kissed my neck. 


"Oh god, let's get out of here."  He grabbed my hand and we practically ran from the room, the whistles and applause of our family following us. 



"So did this live up to your dreams Kel?"  We were snuggled up in front of the fireplace of his parents cabin.  We actually made it into the cabin before we tore each other's clothes off, but we just couldn't make it past the fireplace. 


"I could be in a shack in the middle of nowhere, as long as I was with you."  He kissed me until I was breathless, again. 


"Close your eyes baby and hold out your hands, I have a surprise for you."  I complied and he put a piece of paper into my hands. 


"What is this?" 


"Read it silly."  


"Whereby....Kelley Richardson.....Lexie Richardson.....adopt...."  I scanned through the rest of it, tears streaming down my face.  "Kevin...."


"It's high time you legally became her mother.  I'm gonna take those tears as a yes."


"A big, huge yes!"  I threw my arms around his neck, half laughing, half sobbing.  "OK, now for your present."


"Present?  You didn't even know we were getting married, how did you get me anything?" 


"It's something I was going to give you tonight.  I had a romantic dinner planned and everything.  Close your eyes and hold out your hand Kev."  He looked so cute, laying there buck naked, eyes closed and hands out like a little kid.  I took his hand and put it on my stomach.  "I'm pregnant."


"Pregnant? You mean like having a baby?"  He had both hands on my belly, stroking it gently. 


"That's generally what it means." 


"Oh my god....oh my god....Oh Kelley!"  Pulling me into to his arms, he crushed my lips with a searing kiss.  He kissed his way down my body, spending considerable time on my nipples until I was writhing beneath him. 


"Please Kevin!" I gasped. 


"With pleasure baby."  He pulled my legs over his shoulders and entered me slowly.  He was so slow, gentle, and loving it melted my heart.   His eyes never left mine and I was drowning in the heat of his gaze.   My orgasm started slowly, spreading through my body like a slow fire.  Kevin shuddered and buried his head in my neck.  "I love you so much baby."


"I love you too, Kev."  He held me tightly and we slept for the rest of the night snuggled in front of the fireplace. 



The next few months flew by.  I legally became Lexie's mother and we held a huge birthday party for us.  Quite frankly she was a little confused because I was the only mother she had ever known, legal or not, though the presents she got made her feel better.  Kevin and I finally decided on a house plan and construction was underway.  It would be completed by the time the baby arrived. 


"You look cute in that hard hat Kel."


"I feel like an idiot."  We were taking a look at the house which was almost complete.  All it needed was carpeting, paint, and the rest of the finishing touches.  "No one else has to wear one, why do I?  They're not even doing anything today" I whined.


"Kelley, they just want to make sure you don't get hurt." 


"Whatever."  We were upstairs in what would soon be our bedroom. 


"Mr & Mrs Richardson...we're done for the day" a voice called from downstairs.  "The carpet should be here tomorrow.  We'll see you."  The few workers got in their trucks and drove away as I watched from our window.  Kevin stepped behind me and slid his arms around my swollen stomach. 


"You realize this means we are alone."  His lips trailed up and down my neck, making me shiver.


I turned around in his arms.  "And what are you suggesting?"


"Wait here."  He ran from the room and down the stairs, returning in a few minutes with a blanket and some pillows.  "I bribed them to leave early today.  I thought we should christen this place as soon as we could."  He spread out the blanket and made a little bed for us. 


"So what you're saying is that you want to have sex with me on this cold, unfinished floor in this cold unfinished bedroom?"




"I guess if I have to."  I struggled to lay down next to him, finally ending up flat on my back.  "Go ahead."


"You want me and you know it Kel" he said in that low, deep voice that turned my insides to mush.  I threw my arms around his neck and pulled him close, running my tongue along his jaw and nipping it gently until he moaned.


"I always want you honey" I murmured against his smooth skin.  He groaned and kissed me furiously.  Before the afternoon was over, we had christened both our bedroom and the living room. 


"Kevin, I realize it's your birthday, but do I have to go with you guys?"  I was 8 1/2 months pregnant, huge and crabby and the last place I wanted to be was in some club because I couldn't drink and I sure as hell couldn't dance. 


"Please!  It'll be fun.  You don't have to dance or anything.  We'll sit, we'll talk, you can tell dirty jokes."  As a last resort he pulled out the sad face.  "Please."


"Damn, you know I can't resist that.  Fine, I'll go.  But when I start bitching, and you know I will, I better not catch any crap for it!"  I turned without saying another word and stomped up the stairs.


"I love you sunshine!"


"Fuck you Kev!"  I made sure to flip him off for good measure and I could hear him chuckling as he watched me.  I actually loved the fact that he wasn't afraid of me when I was in full bitch mode.  He would have been incredibly boring if he didn't challenge or make fun of me when I acted like this.


"Kelley, baby, come dance with me."  There was a slow song playing and Nick was beckoning.


"No" I scoffed.  What a moron.


"Please....pleeeeaaaaaaaasssssseeeeeeeeee" he whined. 


"God, what is it with you guys and your whining.  Fine, I'll dance if it will shut you up."  I joined him on the dance floor and he wrapped his arms around me, moving us gently across the floor.


"Are you always this crabby Kel?" 


"Yeah" I sighed.  "I can't sleep at night, my back hurts constantly, I have to pee all the time, I.."  I looked up into his horror filled eyes.  "Oh god, I'm sorry.  I know, too much information.  I guess I need to whine sometimes too." 


"If it makes you feel any better, I got a paper cut today."  I stopped dead in my tracks...and then I started to laugh, hard.  The kind of laugh where you snort.  It wasn't long before Nick was snorting right along with me. 


"Oh Nick, I've got to go sit down before I fall down."   He helped me back to the table, the entire group looked at us like we were crazy.  "Thanks for the dance Nicky" I said sweetly and kissed him on the cheek.


"Anytime beautiful."


"Nicky?  You call him Nicky?  And you're smiling?  You give me nothing but crap, hell you won't dance with your husband, and you're being nice to him..........."  I grabbed his face and cut him off with a really hot, deep, wet kiss.  "OK so you're being kind of nice to me."  I slid my arms around his neck and whispered all the naughty things I was going to do to him when we got home.  I had already been banned from having sex, but that didn't mean I couldn't do anything.  "OK, we're going home now.  It's been fun."  He took my hand and pulled me up and out of the club.  When we got home I did every single naughty thing I had promised. 


"Damn Kel."  Kevin was laying in our bed, gasping for air.  I crawled up the bed next to him and pulled him close, resting his head on my chest.  His big hands gently caressed my belly.  It was a nightly ritual for us, he was just fascinated by it. 


"You know honey, you act like you've never touched a pregnant woman before.  Didn't you do this to Shelley?"


"Nope, she wouldn't let me touch her at all.  We didn't even kiss the entire time she was pregnant with Lex.  Hell, you're the first naked pregnant woman I've ever seen.  A very beautiful one I might add."   He smiled when he felt the baby kick.  I don't know if Kevin's touch had anything to do with it, but the youngster was always more active when Kev was touching me.  "He knows it's me, doesn't he" he said, a huge grin on his face. 


"Yeah baby, I think he does." 


"I can't wait to meet him Kel" he sighed.  I fell asleep long before Kevin did.  He was still caressing me as I slept.


"Push Kelley, push!"  My feet were in the stirrups and I was exhausted.  This damn baby was taking forever.  I had been in labor for 26 hours now and had been pushing for 20 minutes. 


"Uuuuunnnnnnnn" I groaned.  I was pretty sure I was having a bowling ball, not a baby.


"Oh my god Kel, I can see the top of the head!"  Kevin was doing a little happy dance as he held my hand.  


"That's great Kev, I can FEEL the whole freakin' head" I panted. 


"Sorry baby.  Oh honey, you're doing so great.  Just a little more."  He showered my sweaty face with kisses. 


"OK Kelley and push" Dr. Jones said in his soothing voice.   "And again."


"Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh man" I growled.




"Baby, it's a girl!  It's a girl!"  I collapsed on the table, completely exhausted, amazed by the sounds of my daughter's cries.  They laid her on my stomach and that was it.  It was kind of like the first time I saw Lex.  She was my daughter, I was her Mommy and I would go to the ends of the earth for her.  "Oh Kelley, look at her."   To everyone else she was probably red faced and ugly, but Kevin and I had never seen anything so beautiful.


"Hi baby" I sobbed.  "I'm your mommy, this is daddy."  When she heard my voice, she calmed down immediately.  "We are really glad to see you."


"OK mom and dad, we're going to get her cleaned up a little and we'll bring her to your room.  Does this little one have a name?"


"Anna.  Anna Estelle"  Kevin and I hadn't ever discussed this name, he just made it up on the spot.  It was perfect. 


"Anna Estelle it is then.  Wipe that look off you face mama, she'll be back in a few minutes."   The nurse wrapped her up and walked out of the room.  Kevin hopped into bed with me and snuggled up.


"You are sweaty, you've got bags under your eyes, your hair is a mess and you are by far the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."


"Kevin, honey, you are a lying sack of shit and I love you more than anything in this world."  He kissed me with more passion and love than I had ever felt. 


"Hey you two, your daughter cleans up good.  Call me if you need me."  We were finally alone with our baby.  Kevin held us both as I fed her, both of us just fascinated with her every move. 


"I'm afraid to take my eyes off of her Kel.  I'm afraid I'm going to miss something." 


"I know honey, me too."  I unsuccessfully stifled a yawn.


"OK, come here baby.  Mommy's going to take a nap while Daddy rocks you."  He took her from my arms and kissed me soundly.  "Isn't she?"  I was too tired to argue. 


Anna and I both fell asleep to the sound of Kevin singing. 


"Baby face, you've got the cutest little baby face....."


Anna was brought home with little fanfare.  It wasn't long before we fell into the new baby routine...eat, poop, cry, sleep...in that order.  Kevin had actually managed to convince the others to record their next album in Kentucky so he got to be there for all of it.  I was really afraid Lex would be jealous of Anna, but four uncles who worshipped the ground she walked on helped to ease the pain. 


Anna was actually a really good baby.  She started sleeping through the night when she was three weeks old, thank god.  When I told other mother's this they just looked at me with big, tired eyes that misted over at the thought of getting a good night's sleep.  I will never forget that first smile she gave me.  She had just woken up from a nap and I was walking to her crib, cooing and talking baby talk.  When I got there she was looking up at me with the biggest grin on her face.  Kevin heard me squeal and ran up the stairs. 


"Kel, what's going on?"


"Come look, come look!  Talk to her..."  He walked in, Lexie not far behind.


"Hi baby, what are you doing?"  She focused on the sound of a new voice for a second and broke out into that same drooly grin.  "Oh man, that's the cutest thing I've ever seen." 


"I wanna see." 


Kevin lifted her up.  "Say hi to her Lex."


"Hi Anna."  She waved as she said it.  "Hey she can smile now.  Can I go play?"  He let her down and she scampered off. 


"Not really phased by anything, is she."  I shook my head.  "Come on Anna, Daddy's gonna show you the piano." 



Kevin was actually home one afternoon about a month later.  The new album was almost finished and they were working like crazy.  It was a beautiful fall afternoon and I decided to go take a walk while there was actually someone in the house.  "I'll be back in a little while."  I kissed his forehead before I headed out the door.  Anna was napping, Lexie was napping, Kevin was home and I was going to enjoy the sunshine while I could. 


It was my favorite time of year.  There was a little chill in the air, the leaves were changing colors and I could hear the honking of geese overhead.  I walked quickly and was amazed at how much my life had changed over the past year...I was married, had two kids, a new house...I was a step away from becoming a soccer mom.  I also had to find a way to tell Kevin that I was pregnant again.  Apparently a woman is very fertile after she gives birth and it was a well known fact that Kevin and I couldn't keep our hands off each other.  My thoughts were interrupted by the sounds of sirens, sounds that were coming from the direction of our house.  My quick pace soon turned into an all out sprint. 


I got there just as they were wheeling Anna out.  "Kevin....KEVIN!!!!" I screamed, trying to find him in the crowd of EMT's.  He rushed from the house and pulled me into his arms, hysterical. 


"I went to check on her and she wasn't breathing and she was so cold.  I gave her CPR and I called 911 and they came and they won't let me near her..." he broke down, sobbing. 


"Kevin!"  I took his face in my hands and he immediately focused.  "I'm going in the ambulance with her.  Call your mom and get her to take Lex.  Call Brian and get him to drive you to the hospital.  Do not try to drive ok?"  He nodded.  "It'll be fine honey, you did everything right" I whispered.  I hopped into the back of the ambulance, shocked by the site of her.  She was so pale and they were trying frantically to revive her.  I reached out and touched her foot and I knew in my heart nothing they did was going to help.  Her little foot was so cold, so fucking cold. 


I was in the waiting area when Kevin and Brian finally arrived twenty minutes later.  The doctor had already talked to me....our little Anna was dead.  There was nothing Kevin or the EMT's could have done.  I had OK'd an autopsy for her...I had to know if it was something, some condition or something, her father and I had passed on to her.  I had to know for the sake of the baby I had inside me.   He offered to tell Kevin, but I wanted to do it.  Kevin was going to completely fall apart. 


"Kelley....."  I turned and he took one look at me and knew.  "Oh god, oh no!  No!"  He screamed and crumpled onto the couch.  I cradled him in my arms, grateful to have something to focus on.  "It's my fault, I should have checked on her sooner!"


"Honey, the doctor said that it probably happened right after I put her down for a nap.  You know she always takes long naps, you would have had no reason to check on her sooner."


"Oh god, my baby...."  I held him as he sobbed.  I wanted to cry but I just couldn't, not yet, because when I started, it was going to be a long, long time before I stopped.


I was still holding Kevin in the waiting room when a nurse came back out. 


"Mr and Mrs Richardson, would you like to say goodbye?"  We both nodded weakly.  She led us to a room where Anna was laying on a table, tubes sticking out of her.  "I can't remove the tubes, they have to stay there until the autopsy is done."


"Autopsy, autopsy!  Who said you could do that?  I sure as hell...." Kevin started to yell.  I laid my hand on his arm and he immediately calmed down.


"Honey, I said they could."  His face was stricken, tears forming again.  I caressed his cheek gently.  "I have to know what caused this.  We have to know or we're going to forever blame ourselves."  He nodded his approval.  "Could you leave us alone for a few minutes?  Can I hold her?" 


She nodded  "I'll be at the nurse's station, just let me know when you are done."  I couldn't help but notice the tears in her eyes too. 


Anna was laying on a blanket.  I gently wrapped it around her, trying hard not to disturb the tubes, and picked her up, swaying slowly back and forth.  Kevin just stood there, his body shaking as he sobbed.  I could tell he was afraid to touch her.  I just couldn't make him do it.  I just couldn't cause him any more pain.  "Hi baby, mommy and daddy are here."  Kevin couldn't take it.  He went to the window and rested his head against it.  "I'm so sorry this happened to you honey.  If I could, I would take your place so you could grow up and see how wonderful life is.  I just want you to know that we'll never forget you, no matter what.  You will always have a birthday, and Christmas and everything.  We love you Sweetpea."  I laid her down and kissed her gently.  Kevin had slid to the floor and was holding his head in his hands.   I walked over to him, crouching beside him.  "Kev, you need to say goodbye to her."


"I don't know....."


"I'll help you."  He took my hands and I pulled him up.  He stood over her, just looking at her.  A few minutes passed before he finally bent and kissed her forehead.  I don't think I'll ever know what he said to her in his heart.  "Let's go home Kev."


I sat in the back seat and tried to sleep as Brian drove us home.  I could hear them whispering in the front seat. 


"Kev, I'm worried about her.  Has she even cried yet?"


"No.  I've done the crying for the both of us."


"I know, man, I know.  Just watch her when you get home.  She seems a little off."


"Brian, our daughter died today, of course she's a little off!" Kevin hissed.


"That's not what I mean and you know it.  It's like she's detached herself from all of this, you know?  Like she's keeping it at a distance.  When she lets it hit her, it's gonna hit her hard.  She's gonna need you."


"I know.  I'm sorry I snapped....."


The conversation continued as I drifted off.  Don't they know that I don't have time to cry?  I have a funeral to plan, out of town relatives that are going to have to find a place to stay, a house to clean, a husband who was on the verge of a breakdown that needed me.  I don't have time to cry....


I held Kevin as he cried himself to sleep that night.  It was so hard to watch my big, strong husband fall apart.  Exhaustion finally came and I feel into a deep, dreamless sleep.  I didn't even hear the phone when it rang the next morning. 


"Kelley.   Baby, wake up."  I opened my eyes to him sitting next to me, stroking my hair and trying desperately not to cry.  "Anna's doctor called, they have the results of the autopsy and they want to talk to us in person.  Kel, I don't think I can...."


"It's OK Kev.  I'll go" I sighed, not really meaning to.


"No, I'll come with..."


"Kevin."  I cupped his face in my hands, brushing away his tears.  "Why don't you go to your Mom's and see how Lex is doing.  She needs one of us right now."


"Are you sure?"


"Yeah honey, I am."  He pulled me into his arms, hugging me fiercely.  I could feel myself drift towards that line I'd drawn for myself, that line where I lose complete control, and I slipped from his arms.  "I'm going to take a shower.  I'll meet you at your Moms."  I left the room before he could say a word. 


Kevin was gone by the time I got out of the shower.  I dressed quickly and headed for the doctors, hoping I wouldn't have to wait too long.  Sitting in a waiting room with mother's and children was not how I wanted to spend my morning.   A nurse was waiting for me when I stepped in the door.  She quickly ushered me into Dr. Jones' office, where he was waiting. 


"Kelley, please sit."


"Kevin, he couldn't make it...."   My voice trailed off.


"It's OK Kelley, what I have to tell you isn't going to be easy and it might be better for him to hear it from you.  I wish I had something concrete, but they concluded that Anna died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome."


"But we did everything that was recommended.  She slept on her back, there were no pillows or blankets in her crib, I breastfed her."  The tears that had threatened to fall since yesterday were coming back.  "Did we do something wrong?  Was there some kind of sign that we missed?"


"No.  That the hard thing about SIDS.  There are no symptoms, no signs.  There isn't a test we can do.  And yes, you did everything we recommend.  Unfortunately, it can still happen."


"Did she suffer?" I whispered, so afraid of the answer.


"We don't think so.  There never is a sign of a struggle, so we believe it happens very quickly and painlessly.  I know what your next question is going to be.  It also doesn't appear to run in families.  I know I can tell you that, but when the new little one comes, you're going to worry your head off.  We can give you a monitor that will tell you if he or she stops breathing.  I think you'll all sleep easier that way.  Do you have any other questions?"


"No.  Thank you for your time.  And could you please thank your staff for taking such good care of her."


"Of course.  I want you to stop and make an appointment for next week.  You're going through hell right now and we have to make sure you stay healthy."  I did as he asked and made it to my car, my vision blurred by my tears.  I rested my head on the steering wheel until I regained control and headed for the funeral home.  I knew Kevin wouldn't be able to handle that either. 


An hour later, a very simple funeral was planned and I was on my way home.  I spent the drive trying to decide how to tell Kevin about the baby.  By the time I reached Ann's house, I had decided to tell him after the funeral.  Things would be calmer then. 


"Hi Mama."  Lex and Kev were sitting on the porch, reading a book. 


"Hi baby.  How are you and Daddy doing?" I asked as I sat down next to them.  Kevin tried to put his arm around me, but I shrugged him off. 


"We're sad Mama.  I miss Anna, but Daddy said that she died and that means she's not coming back.   Is he right?"  Kevin had tears running down his face.  I'm sure my actions didn't help matters. 


"Yeah baby, Daddy is right."  I prayed that she wouldn't cry.   I didn't think I could take her tears too.  "Tomorrow we're all going to say goodbye to her.  I was thinking that you might like to draw her a picture that she could keep with her."


"So she could 'member me?"


"That's right."  She scooted off of Kevin's lap and ran for the front door.


"I'm gonna see if Grandma wants to help" she called as she ran inside.  Kevin and I sat there, swinging the porch swing gently, staring straight ahead, both of us afraid to speak. 


"So the funeral is planned" he finally said.


"Yeah.  I hope it's OK."


"Yeah.  I couldn't have done that either."  He took my hand, stroking his thumb over my knuckles, playing with my wedding ring.  "I feel like I've failed you Kel.  You've been so strong through all of this and I've been a mess."


"That's what marriage is Kev.  Sometimes we're both strong, sometimes one of us carries the load.  Right now it's my turn.  One day, probably soon, it's going to be yours."  We sat there for a long time, watching the sun go down.  "They said it was SIDS.  There were no signs or symptoms that we could have missed."


"Did she suffer?"


"The doctor said it was quick and painless." 


He started to cry again and I cradled him in my arms.  I loved him more than anything in the world, but I was getting so tired.  I just wanted to collapse into his arms and let go, but I couldn't.  I just had to make it through the funeral.  Just one more day.   




I don't even remember the funeral.  One minute we were driving to the cemetery, the next we were at Ann's house having lunch.  Everyone was very nice and comforting, but I just wanted them all to go away.  Even Kevin.  I was hiding out in the den when I heard my mother's voice behind me.


"I know what you're doing Kel.  You can't run away from this forever."


"I don't know what you're talking about Mom.  I'm not running away from anything."


"Honey, I'm not going to make a big deal about this right now, but don't push Kevin away.  He wants to be there for you."  She kissed me gently on the cheek and walked away.  I turned and looked out the window some more, watching the falling leaves.  


The day was finally over and Kevin and I were laying in bed in the dark.  I could hear him breathing and knew he wasn't asleep. 


"I'm pregnant Kev."  He didn't say a word, didn't move.  It was a few minutes before I felt his hand on my stomach.


"I don't know whether to laugh or cry.  How far along are you?"


"Two months."  I felt him scoot down on the bed until his head was resting on my tummy. 


"Hi baby, I'm your daddy.  I just can't believe you're in there."  He kissed my stomach gently and kissed his way up my body until he reached my head, pulling me into his arms.  "I'm worried about you Kel.  I've been a mess all this time and you haven't cried at all."


"I just..."


"Baby, you can't hold it in.  It's gonna tear you up if you don't let it out."


"I'm so afraid Kev" I whispered.  That line was getting closer and I knew I wasn't going to be able to hold out for much longer. 


"I know, I've got you though.  I won't let you fall."


"I just want to go to sleep now.  Please."  I tried to roll over, but he just held me tighter.


"Then go to sleep.  I'll be here when you wake up."  I gave up and relaxed in his arms, falling asleep in no time.  I awoke to brilliant sunlight streaming through our window and Kevin, sound asleep and dead to the world.  I squirmed from under his arm and headed for the kitchen.  It started so normal.  I made coffee, wiped up the counter and looked for Kevin's mug in the cabinet.  I couldn't find it there and finally located it in the dish drainer, next to Anna's little spoon and bowl.  Three days ago she was having breakfast.  Now my baby was in laying in the cold, hard, ground.  I would never hold her again.  She would never hold my finger as she ate, her big green eyes staring into mine.  Her sweet smile would never greet me first thing in the morning.  I would never smell her sweet baby smell again.  Whatever it was that was holding me together snapped at that moment.


"Oh god my baby!  Oh god no....nooooo" I wailed, crumpling to the floor.  I didn't hear Kevin as he ran into the room and jumped when he put his arms around me.  "Why her?" I cried against his chest.  "Why?  I loved her so much.  It's not supposed to happen like this."


"Shhhh, baby, I know.  It's ok."  He rocked me gently in his arms as I sobbed.  I don't even know how long we sat on that cold kitchen floor.  My sobs finally quieted and we still sat there, just holding each other.


"Can we go upstairs Kev?  My ass is getting tired."


He smiled for the first time in days.  "You know, that's the first real thing you've said to me in a long time.  Come on, let's get you up to bed."  He pulled me to my feet and picked me up. 


"I'm not sick Kev."


"No but you are pregnant and you need some rest 'cause frankly, you look like hell."  He headed upstairs and both of us looked at the door to Anna's room as we passed.  "Kel, I know what you're thinking, but we don't have to clean it out today, or tomorrow, or next week.  We have lots of time to face that.  Right now we have to concentrate on you and me and Lex.  That's all that matters now."  He laid me gently in bed and slid in next to me.   I snuggled up into his strong arms.  "I love you Kelley."


"I love you too" I whispered. 


Our little family limped along as best as we could, only now it wasn't me trying to hold all of us up.  Some days were better than others.  Kevin and I stopped trying to do what we thought grieving people should do and just went with what we felt, supporting each other no matter what.   There was one stretch where I didn't get out of bed for three days.  Kevin did everything from taking care of Lex to bringing me meals in bed.  Another time, he just disappeared for a week, leaving me a note telling me not to worry and amazingly, I didn't.  I trusted him enough to know he needed some time to himself to heal. 


My tummy was growing quickly and in no time I was back in maternity wear.  Everyone was shocked, to say the least, that we were expecting another baby.  I didn't quite believe it myself.  I felt the baby move, but I just didn't feel connected to it.  I didn't talk to it like I did with Anna, I didn't rub my belly, trying to feel it move like I did with Anna.  As far as I was concerned, all this meant for me was a new wardrobe. 




"Hmmmm" I replied.  Kevin and I were laying in bed, all spooned up, his hands running over my stomach. 


"You know, ever since, well, it happened, we haven't, well...."  His words trailed off as he struggled to say the right thing.


"Made love?"


"Yeah.  And well, I was thinking, why don't we go somewhere this weekend, just the two of us.  I've already talked to Mom, she'll take Lex.  We could go to the cabin and nothing would have to happen, but we could spend some time together and...."  He was so incredibly sweet and embarrassed, though I don't know why, I couldn't help but cry.  I turned around in his arms, tears streaming down my face.


"I would love to spend the weekend alone with you.   We've been walking on eggshells for too long.  I think it's time we started living again." 


"Are you sure, because we don't have to.  We could just stay here, or we could..."


I pulled him close and tangled my fingers in his soft hair.  "Kevin, honey, stop talking and kiss me already."  He looked a little stunned before he smiled and complied, taking my breath away with a slow, deep kiss that lasted forever. 


My eyes were closed and I was panting when he pulled away.  "Hope that lived up to expectations Kel."  I could hear the smirk without even opening my eyes.


"Bastard.  Who said you could stop?"  His laughter was the sweetest sound I'd heard in a long time. 



Of course that night was the night Lex chose to have nightmares and just had to sleep with Mommy and Daddy.  By the time we dropped her off at Ann's the next morning and made it to the cabin, Kevin and I were exhausted and sex was the furthest thing from our minds.  We immediately hopped into bed and both fell fast asleep.  I woke up three hours later feeling better than I had in a long time.  I puttered around in the kitchen wearing nothing but one of Kevin's shirts.


"You know Kel, I never see you talking to the baby like you did with Anna."  His voice made me jump.


"Kevin, I..."


"Give me your hands baby."  He walked up behind me and slid his arms around me.  Taking my hands in his, we began to rub my belly.  "Can you feel it?  It needs you Kel, not just your body, but you." 


"I know, it's just..."  I was crying too hard to continue.


"You're afraid something's going to happen."  I nodded.  "Sweetie, a terrible thing happened to us, and I wish I could give you a guarantee that everything will be fine from here on out, but I can't and you know that.  You can't be afraid to love this baby."


"W-w-what if I can't love it?  I feel like my heart is dead right now."  I had finally spoken the words that had haunted me since Anna died. 


"That's because you've got it closed off from everything.  Do you still love me and Lex?"


"Of course" I snapped, furious that he even had to ask.


"Then feel this one Kel."  We started rubbing my stomach again, both of us feeling it's little kicks.   "See, it knows we're here."


"Do you ever ask yourself why, Kev?   Why us, why Anna, why another baby?"


"Every day.  Maybe it was just her time.  Maybe there's a lesson in all of this.  Maybe we just have to accept what happened and move on.  All I know is if we don't move past this and focus on this new little baby, we're cheating it out of two loving parents.   Can you honestly tell me that you don't love this baby?" 


"No" I whispered. 


"Junior needs it's Mama, Kel, and whether you want to admit it, you need it too."


I rested my head on his shoulder and the two of us just stood there, rubbing my belly, as I finally met our baby for the first time. 


"Kev, honey, do you ever regret the fact that you've married an idiot?"  We were still standing there 15 minutes later, both of us still rubbing my belly. 


"Ahhh, Kel, you're my idiot and I love you." 


I turned around and slid my arms around his neck, weaving my fingers through his hair.  "What in the world would I do without you?" I whispered. 


"Every morning when I wake up and see you sleeping next to me, I ask myself that same question.  I'm just glad we don't have to find out the answer.  I never would have made it through this without you, Kel."


"Same here, though I'm beginning to wonder if we'll ever be through it."


"It takes time, baby.  I don't think the hurt will ever go away completely, it just doesn't sting as bad after a while."  He kissed me very gently and cautiously.


"I'm not gonna break Kev" I murmured against his lips.  He groaned and deepened the kiss, teasing my lips with his tongue before he slid it into my mouth. 


We spent the rest of the weekend reacquainting our bodies and our hearts.  I had been so wrapped up in grief that I didn't even realize how much I had missed him.  The touch of his hand on my face, the feel of him inside me, the way he sang to my belly before we went to sleep, waking up next to him, both of us curled up together, his arm resting on my hip.  For that little amount of time, we were a couple, just Kevin and Kelley.  No cameras, no interruptions, no distractions.  We knew things wouldn't be perfect when we got back, but they would be better. 


The months passed and Kevin was right, the hurt didn't sting quite as bad.  There were still days that one or both of us would just lose it, but more often, we were able to remember Anna with smiles instead of tears.  We completely redid the nursery, getting rid of everything, sort of a fresh start.  At least that's what I told Kevin.  The irrational part of my brain was afraid they might somehow be tainted.


Kevin and I were painting the baby's room on Valentine's Day.  He wanted to hire painters, but I was bored out of my skull and begged him to let me do it.  He wouldn't let me get on a ladder so I had to content myself with painting the bottom half of the wall while he did the top.  "Baby, you look beautiful with paint on your face" he smirked.  I shot a few daggers out my eyes, but his only response was to laugh.  "You know, today is Valentine's Day."


"Kevin" I sighed, "you know how I feel about that.  I hate that people feel that you have to buy some stupid teddy bear to show someone how much you love them.  I try to make you feel loved every day, not just some stupid holiday that the greeting card companies made up."


"Are you done?"  I nodded.  "Good, then get off your damn soapbox and let me finish what I was saying."  More daggers from my eyes didn't stop him.  "What I was trying to say was that it's Valentine's Day and I know how much you hate it, but I got you something anyway.  I was going to give it to you tomorrow, but I think you'll appreciate it today.  Open it."  He climbed off the ladder and handed me an envelope from his pocket that contained a picture of a bathtub. 


"Call me stupid but I don't get it."


"Well, the one thing we did wrong in this house is our bathroom.  You're always complaining that the tub isn't big enough.  So, tomorrow, we're getting a brand spanking new tub.  It's deep enough that you'll be able to soak up to your neck and I made sure it was big enough for both of us.  I've always wanted to have my way with you in a bubble bath."  I was actually speechless.  "You think it's stupid don't you."  He sighed, grabbed the picture from my hands and headed back to the ladder. 




"What" he snapped.  


I walked over to him and cupped his face in my hands and kissed him passionately.  Before it was over my fingers were tangled in his hair and his hands had slid down, cupping my rear.  "That is the most wonderful, thoughtful thing you could have given me.   Thank you" I whispered.  "Do you want your present?"


"I thought you hated Valentine's Day?"


"I do, but I love you.  I'll go get it."  I scampered, ok walked, from the room and grabbed his present from the top drawer of my dresser.  "Ahhh, you scared me."  Kevin had followed me into our bedroom and was standing behind me when I turned around.  "Open it, open it" I squealed as I jumped up and down and clapped.


"Kel, I love you honey, but your moods are swinging so fast I can't keep up."


"That's why you love me Kev.  It would be boring if I didn't keep you guessing."


"If you say so.  Now what's did you....oh my god, where did you find this?"   His voice was shaky with emotion and I could see the tears threatening to fall.  A few weeks ago he had mentioned that he wished he still had the shirt from when he was a camp counselor and I had found it for him. 


"Your mom and I dug around in her attic until we found it.  We also found your Dad's whistle and I thought you would like to have it."  


"I love you so damn much Kelley" he said between kisses. 


"I love you too.  Now, you need to make love to me before Lex wakes up from her nap.  There's no way I can wait until tonight."


"I wouldn't have followed you in here if I didn't think I would get lucky" he smirked.   I loved him when he was all romantic and sweet, I loved him when he was intense and dark, but by god when he made me laugh, I loved him so much I though my heart would burst.


"Mama, when is she coming back?"  Lexie and I were making our weekly trip to Anna's grave.  There was a large tree nearby and we often came, picnic lunch in hand, and ate in it's cool shade.  I wanted her to remember Anna with fond memories, not with sadness.  I wanted to keep Anna alive in our memories and to keep her a part of our family.  I pulled Lex into my arms and we rested against the tree.


"She's not coming back baby."


"But what if I want to see her again?"  Her bottom lip was quivering and her breath was coming in gasps. 


"It's hard to understand, isn't it."  He little head nodded against my chest.  "I don't understand it either sometimes, but when I close my eyes, I can still see her smile."


"Me too Mama.  It's not the same though."


"No baby, it's not."


"Hi Daddy!"  Her face brightened at the sight of her father walking towards us.


"There's my girls, all three of them."  Lexie ran into his waiting arms as I struggled to stand up.  I was still a month away from my due date, but I was huge and clumsy.  "No, no, don't help me up or anything."  Kevin and Lex were used to my crabbiness and just rolled their eyes.  I waddled into Kevin's arms too. 


"Kel, you are soooo lucky that you're cute when you're crabby."


"Hehe.  And you are lucky you're so hot 'cause it's the only reason I keep you around."  He only smiled and kissed the hell out of me.  "Grab the basket, I'm gonna say goodbye."  His thumb caressed my cheek as his eyes filled with tears.  "I know honey, I'll tell her goodbye for you too" I whispered.  He kissed me again, softly this time, and carried Lex and the picnic basket to the car. 


I knelt in front of her tombstone, pulling stray weeds from the base and brushing dust from the top.  "Oh baby."  My voice cracked as my eyes filled with tears that I wiped away quickly.  "We got a new swing set this week, you'd love it, it has a little swing that would be perfect for you.  The nursery is all painted, but we've got your picture on the wall so you can watch out for this little one.  Daddy and I miss you so much honey."  The tears that had threatened to fall earlier now flowed freely.  My fingers traced her name cut into the cold stone.  I would have given anything in the world just to hold her in my arms one more time.  I started to struggle to my feet and felt a strong hand help me up.  Kevin's green eyes met mine.


"Come on Kel, lets go home."  He bent over and kissed Anna's gravestone and we walked arm in arm back to our lives.


"He's going to be just fine."


"I know."  Kevin and I were standing over our son's crib.  Jack had been home for a month and I don't think I'd had more than two hours of sleep a night since then.  We had a monitor that watched his breathing, but I didn't trust it.  What if I fell asleep and the monitor didn't work?  I couldn't take that chance.   "I just like to look at him" I said in the foolish hope that Kevin would buy it.


"Ummhmm, and that's why you hold a mirror under his nose too." 


"You saw that, huh."  Kevin reached into the pocket of my bathrobe and pulled out a small mirror. 


"Yeah, I saw that.  Baby, you are going to make yourself sick if you don't get some sleep and what good are you going to be to Jack or Lex if you're sick?  The monitor is on, it's got a battery in it in case the electricity goes off, everything will be fine, lets go to bed." 


"Can you guarantee that everything will be OK?"  He cupped my face between his hands, stroking my cheeks with his thumbs.


"You know I can't and it's not fair to ask me that question.  All I know is that whatever happens, happens.  It's Jack's destiny and we can't stop it.  It's the same with me or you or Lex.  We don't know when we wake up every morning if we'll still be here to fall asleep at night, but you can't live in fear or you're not really living.  We just have to savor every moment we have so we don't miss anything."


I kissed him gently, wrapping my arms around his waist and stroking the soft skin of his back.  "It is safe to say, my darling husband, that I love you with every fiber of my being.  The smartest decision I've ever made was to go on that walk with you that night."  I kissed him again, our lips lingering a little longer this time. 


"You wanna take a walk now?" he smirked.  "I know a nice empty bed with our name on it."


"I'll probably get pregnant again, you know" I said as Kevin pulled me towards our bedroom.

"At least all your clothes will still be in style.  Besides, is that such a bad thing?"


"No, but we need to talk about just how many rugrats we're going to have.  I'm starting to feel like...." His lips cut me off as his hands untied my robe.  I lost all coherent thought as his lips traveled down my neck and he laid me on the bed. 


"What were you saying Kel?"  He smirked again. 


"Oh fuck it, what am I saying, fuck me" I moaned as he kissed his way down my stomach.....


The next morning....


"Where are you two going?"  Kevin watched as I got Jack into his little coat.


"I think it's time for Jack to meet Anna."  He didn't say a word as I carried our son out the door. 


"Where's Mama and Jack goin' Daddy?"  Kevin smiled down at his daughter's sleepy-eyed face.


"They are running an errand.  How would you like to give Mama a big surprise."  Lexie nodded her little head in agreement.  "Good, pick out some clothes and we'll go."


At the cemetery....


"This is your sister Anna.  Anna, this is Jack."  I sat cross-legged in front of her tombstone, holding Jack in my arms.  He, of course, was sound asleep.  "He really did want to meet you, he's just a little tired.  I wanted you to know what he looked like so you could keep an eye out for him, though I think you probably already have been."  We sat in silence for a few minutes before starting to head back to the car.  I was surprised to see Kevin and Lex waiting for us.


"I thought I'd take my family to breakfast."  He took Jack from me and got both the kids strapped into the car.  I just stood and watched him.  "What?  Is my hair sticking up or something?"  Without a word I pulled him into my arms and kissed him passionately.


"I love you Kev" I whispered.


"I love you to baby.  You do realize that every day we have together is happily-ever-after, don't you?"  I could only nod.  "Good, now get in the car, I'm starving.  If you are pregnant, we're going to have to get a mini-van or something."

"Yuck, that would make my transition into a soccer mom complete.  It's all downhill from there.  We'll have to get a dog or two, Lex will have to start taking some kind of lessons, Jack will have......"


 The End


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