Sequel to Protect Her, Love Her, Hold Her, Keep Her, From Her, With Her, Beside Her, and Near Her. Thirty years and three children later, Quil and Claire have settled down and settled in to their happy life together. But when an old enemy moves back into town and threatens a member of their family in a way no one could have predicted, how will they keep him safe?
I am SERIOUSLY running out of titles here. I'll need some suggestions when the sequel rolls around. So read the prequels. Please. Or else this will be extremely confusing.
1. Chapter 1
Rating 5/5 Word Count 584 Review this Chapter
I cradled Claire in my arms as the rain washed the world. We were sitting in the backyard, watching Leah play with Quil. It was his fifth birthday, and, as usual, no amount of precipitation could keep him away from Leah.
They were outside at my insistence, because Julia, who was almost four, really preferred the outdoors and she was excluded enough anyway. Even though it wasn’t her birthday…
Our youngest daughter was sleeping in Claire’s arms. She was three months old. We’d named her Emily, but since she’d spent two-thirds of her life at her aunt’s house, we just called her by her middle name, Rose.
Claire’s head leaned back, until the full weight of it was resting on my shoulder. This felt more right than anything else in the world, watching our children play while I held her close. I could feel her breathe as her chest rose and fell, I could feel the rain land softly on my skin, I could feel the wind settle against the cool drops.
“Leah, Leah!” Quil called, catapulting into her arms. He’d finally learned how to say her name, it looked like.
“Hey, little guy. Happy Birthday.”
“You’ve said that like ten times today, Leah.” He rolled his eyes. I laughed.
“Was I like that?” Claire asked me.
“I don’t know,” I whispered.
There was silence. Then, “I love you.”
“I love you, sweetheart.” I peered over her shoulder and looked down at Rose. Her eyes were just opening. They were a clear, dark color. Both our other children had Claire’s green eyes, but Rose looked more like me.
She cooed a little, and I smiled. “You were a really pretty baby, though. Like Rose. Everyone was wrapped around your fingers.”
“Okay, so especially me.”
I could feel the laughter shake her body.
She remained there, resting against me. I covered her hands with mine, the sensation of her skin still new, still thrilling, after all these years. Claire was a marvel, forever, no longer how long we spent together. She was thirty-four years old.
We had been married for seven years. Seven years of perfection, of rapture, of bliss. And I would never get used to it. The awe would never wear off.
I had everything I could ever want. It was personified in this exact moment, perfected.
“Daddy!” Quil screamed, and pulled away from Leah to run to me.
“Gentle, sweetheart. Rose’s on Mommy’s lap. You don’t want to hurt her.”
He slowed from a sprint into his stateliest walk and softly kissed first me, then his mother, and finally his baby sister on the cheek.
“Happy birthday, Li’l Quil.” I ruffled his hair and he grinned.
He bounced away. Julia and Leah were playing catch with a softball. They got along surprisingly well. I remember Claire’s sister never liked me, but Leah loved all our children.
Quil clung to Leah’s leg. Claire snuggled into my chest and whispered, “Thank you, Quil. For all of this.”
I smiled and kissed the top of her head. Her hair felt like silk. “It’s all thanks to you that I have everything I ever wanted, sweetheart. All thanks to you.”
In that instant, I was perfectly happy.
Of course that’s when something had to go wrong, wasn’t it?