Savage Love, page 16
Sighing, she relaxed into him saying, “Down deep I am. But I'm terrified I won't be pregnant or that I'll miscarry.”
He tightened his hold on her, “I'll plan to be at your side through good and bad.”
“Thank you.” She smiled weakly before stepping out of his embrace. “Now I better get moving. Will you make sure Justin and the twins are ready?”
Despite all the mechanisms he'd rushed to put in place this morning to assure she couldn't leave him for good and though she'd given her word to wed him, he was still afraid she wouldn't come back and he let it be known, “They're my sons Carolina, don't take them from me.”
She saw dread in his eyes, heard doubt in his voice and quickly tried to assure him, “Treacle bear, they need clothes for the ceremony, but I guess you're wanting a really casual wedding.”
Dylan allowed her words to comfort him, thinking it would be great to enter a union of families comfortably. Plus, he hated dressing up. “An informal ceremony sounds great and while you're working on the plans with Patrick I'll throw together another engagement party for the clan tonight. The boys can help me. Bring Patrick back with you. I want the entire family here.”
She gave him a worried look. “I'm not sure that's wise. Patrick can be intense.”
“Don't worry, everything will be fine,” sliding his arms around her waist he gave her a lingering kiss before strolling away whistling 'Carolina in My Mind'.
“You're making a mistake,” Patrick told Carolina as he placed the fast food bag and Styrofoam cup on her kitchen table. Taking the seat across from her, he dug into the large order of fries and double cheeseburger, giving her a disapproving look before taking a long slurp of the cola he'd earlier dosed with whiskey.
Leaning forward, Carolina folded her hands on the table's black surface. He was the man she'd loved nearly her entire human life, with his attractive, deceptively boyish face, chocolate-brown hair habitually styled in a collegiate cut, eyes the color of spent coffee grounds and a lethally lean, yet muscular body that had given her unparalleled pleasure. He was a man she could trust, not one she could control. “I'm begging you to forget about Liz and her boyfriend,” her voice was smooth, belying the nervousness she felt at asking him to go against one of his fundamental beliefs.
“Because you're in love with Dylan,” he stated, before taking a bite of his burger.
While his hands were busy, Carolina swiped one of his fries and popped it in her mouth. After she devoured the tiny morsel, she noted, “I don't want to tell him the woman he holds in such high regard is evil.”
Patrick wiped his mouth with a paper napkin looking at her intently. He never tired of seeing her. She wore her radiant ginger-red hair brushed back, secured with an elastic band at the nape, with the long ends left free to coil down the back of her nutmeg colored shirt she'd paired with a complimentary multicolored chiffon skirt that he'd had to resist lifting up all day for a feel of her silky legs. Her getting married would be hard on him. She would legally belong to another, as she'd wanted to belong to him since she was a colleen, but he'd never been able to commit to being the type of man she needed forever. Now she was to bond her soul to another for the rest of her life without the requisite acknowledgment that she cared for her intended greater than any other. For all her talents he was astounded that she often lacked insight or the ability to see what was before her eyes. “Do you honestly not know or are you messing with me?”
Her stomach made an audible growl and she looked longingly at the remainder of his fries. “I don't want to make the admission aloud.” When her belly made another annoyed rumble she asked unabashedly, “Are you going to eat the rest of those? I'm feeling as weak as a salmon in a sandpit.”
Removing his food from her reach, Patrick lightly scolded Carolina, “You shouldn't eat stuff like this.” Standing, he went over to the large black refrigerator saying, “For you I'll warm up some homemade vegetable soup.” Taking a pot to the range, he talked over his shoulder to her, “Look in the cookie jar. I baked gingersnaps.”
Carolina moved on bare feet to the counter that housed a row of canisters and hungrily raided the black ceramic jar. She'd been too sick to have breakfast and hadn't wanted to eat before coming to see Patrick. While they'd finalized business at her office and as they'd personally obliterated the evidence of Justin's ordeal, she'd been content to sip bottled water. As they'd worked through her wedding arrangements, getting everything accomplished except for selecting rings, a task Patrick wouldn't undertake because he insisted Dylan already had them, she'd felt the first stirrings of hunger. Now her appetite was fully aroused and she was headache free.
Returning to her seat she arranged the cookies on the saucer he placed before her, breathing in the aroma of cinnamon and molasses before taking a healthy bite of one, savoring its melt-in-your-mouth texture before retuning to the original topic of conversation, admitting, “I feel a fierce love for him Patrick close to what I have for you and I'm frightened. My every action whether right or wrong is taken to prove I can be everything he needs which is why I don't want you to finish off Liz and her boyfriend. In his eyes, I need to be better than her. If she goes missing or turns up dead, he'll know you or I had something to do with her demise. He's not stupid.”
Patrick's tone was derisive, “Dylan's an idiot. He had sex with her in your bed.”
Carolina paid no mind to his tone, continuing her efforts to sway him, “Liz or her boyfriend, won't want to cross me again and I'll not have Dylan in a rage because of my actions against that woman. Patrick, he's not gentle or easy to manage and though he's proven his love by holding on to me every time I've pushed him away or was set to leave with the boys, he carries a deep wound he believes only she can heal, 'tis why he slithered about with that she-serpent the other afternoon, and if she disappears from this world, I fear, as was the case with Ciaran, Clover and you, he would go after her.”
Taking one of her hands Patrick requested her full attention, speaking to her in a controlled manner he set about bringing her back to reality, “Your thinking is dangerously faulty if you believe Liz and her boyfriend aren't planning to separate you and the twins from Dylan when she finds out you're marrying him. The pregnancy will make you an easier target. Don’t take this unnecessary risk Gingernut. Dylan and his brothers are all die-hard family men,and now that he knows you're carrying a Savage heir, have proven your devotion to his firstborn, he won't care what happens to Liz.”
Pulling her hand away from his Carolina resumed eating, electing to keep the veil over her eyes. “There's a chance I might not be pregnant.”
Leaning across the table, he gave her a platonic peck on the lips because she was adorable in her foolish single-mindedness. Sitting back, Patrick assured her in an uncharacteristically exuberant fashion, “You're pregnant, Gingernut. On Saturday, I knew you were. You had a different flavor, your fragrance was more profuse and when I touched your stomach I got the most exhilarating shock.”
She didn't doubt him. Patrick had ways off knowing some things before they happened or before they were revealed. She stroked the smoothness of his jaw asking with admiration, “Why didn't you tell me?”
For a moment, he pressed his cheek against the warmth of her palm before pulling away. Walking to the stove he dished up a bowl of soup then returned to serve her ceremoniously. Taking his seat he watched as she spooned the hot broth into her mouth without allowing the steaming liquid to cool. “Knowing wouldn't have made any difference. You've been fighting against and for the truest love of your life and you'll be warring even more if you don't permit me to end this.”
Allowing her spoon to rest in the bowl she asserted, “No Patrick. Justin is safe, you've avenged him and he's getting the best help possible. Dylan is very grateful for all you've done. He wants you to come home tonight.”
Patrick shrugged, his tone cool, “I'll be there.”
Carolina resumed eating. “So are we straight on the Liz issue? Sh
He drummed his fingers on the tabletop, “Alright, but only if you can assure me the kids will not suffer, including the little dote you're carrying.”
“On my life,” she vowed.
Patrick's finger's stilled, rigidity creeping into his voice, as he warned, “No, not on yours. I love you too much. But if anything happens to the kids, without hesitation, I'll finally rid this planet of Liz and her boyfriend, and then I'm out of your life forever.”
Carolina choked on the soup, placing her hand over her mouth she coughed and sputtered. As much as she knew Patrick loved her, he couldn’t change what he was. He'd always be committed to his purpose no matter how personally painful. This was the man who'd aided in the suicide of her brother, the only person in an eternity he'd ever been in love with. He'd taught her loving meant doing what was hard, and in saying he, the sole constant in her life would leave, he would be demonstrating his adoration of her, although torturing them both. Looking at him she struggled to stay calm, her voice full of sorrow, “Do you expect me to live without you?”
Placing both palms flat against the table, he settled deeper into himself, tamping down the desire to claim her, not trespassing into her mind to make her see reason. Resolutely he cautioned her, “Yes. If something happens to the kids. You, the twins, Justin and your baby are everything to me. Dylan Savage, although you love him and he's the father of your children, is expendable. I have no bond with him. Nevertheless, I won't hurt him because you'd hate me and I won't hurt his family because you love them. I just won't be around ever again to be reminded of your sacrifice. Now choose, do I end this or do you allow them to live?”
She pushed her food away, “You will not kill them nor will you leave me. My brother may possess your heart, but form and spirit, you've always been as one with me. I don't even think you have the strength to leave forever, just remember what happened after Ciaran's death,” she stated firmly, unwilling to loose Dylan or Patrick. She'd sooner sell her soul for one and extinguish the flames of Hell for the other.
“Alright Gingernut,” he accepted. With an aggrieved look at the soup and cookies he'd made especially for her, he pushed them back to where they belonged, looking at her expectantly. Carolina quietly rose from the table and walked out.
In the casually decorated music room, Dylan sat on a brown leather sofa listening to his sons practice, Justin singing lead vocals, Calder playing guitar and Callum at the piano. Dylan realized he should have paid more attention to Chris’ comments on the quality of their music. He wasn't getting goosebumps as his brother had reported. Instead, his eyes were misty and he had a lump in his throat. The trio's execution was flawless and indeed the twins were demonstrating a musical sophistication they hadn't shown a few days earlier. Justin, who already possessed a wide vocal range, now poured more of his soul into the music, belting out the classic 'Always and Forever', moving from the high notes to the lows effortlessly.
When they finished the song Dylan called them over to sit on an identical sofa across from him and he wasn't surprised when Justin sat between the twins because they always seemed to be aligning themselves in a sort of inverted “V” with the taller, golden-haired, Justin at its apex and the twins' shorter builds with their mahogany-red locks on each side. They were all dressed in denim shorts, tie-dyed tees and tattered sneakers. Smiling warmly, he praised them, “I haven’t heard such moving music since before my Ma passed on. If y’all keep up like that and if Carolina agrees the three of you can start a music career of your own.”
Sitting back on the couch, Justin took the announcement in stride, but the twins couldn’t contain their excitement. They sat on the edge of the sofa, bouncing slightly, eyes so wide with eagerness that they dominated their faces. In much anticipation the asked, “Dad, do you really think so?”
He nodded at them. “Yep, but remember your mom has the final say. She may not want y’all on the road and away from her for long periods of time.” He watched as some of the excitement left the twins’ faces and although he thought he’d do almost anything to make them happy, his sober and sensible mind didn’t relish the idea of causing Carolina upset before the wedding or the birth of their child. He didn’t even know if she realized that he and Justin would have to be away from home so many weeks out of the year. Thinking he’d tell her that piece of business after they were married and at the same time broach the topic of the twins getting into the music industry, so they’d have only one big argument, he mentally applauded his self-serving underhandedness and obsessive determination to be married to his honey With his lopsided decisions made, Dylan spoke in a gentle but commanding tone to address a more immediate issue with the trio, “Boys I told Carolina I'd talk to y'all because you presented her with concerns about adoption. Callum and Calder you want me to become your father legally and I'm honored. A few days after the wedding we'll go to my lawyers and get the process started.”
“Great,” the twins chimed, jumping up to give each other a high-five over Justin's head before settling back on the sofa.
During the twin's brief celebration, Dylan looked at Justin's expectant face, saw the brilliant light of excitement in the boy's eyes and realized why Carolina hadn't wanted to deliver the news. “Justin, first of all Carolina isn't upset with you. She wasn't feeling well and the news she heard from the doctor had her a bit out of sorts.”
Justin sighed in relief. “Okay dad. So when she gets back she'll talk to me?”
“Let's see how she's feeling,” Dylan responded patiently.
Justin voice lowered, “Is she worried about being pregnant?”
“A little. I promised I wouldn't talk with y'all about the baby 'til after she sees the doctors. For now we'll respect her wishes by not bringing up her condition.”
“Okay,” the boys all chorused their agreement.
Dylan leaned back. “Now Justin about you being adopted.”
With a wide smile, Justin sat forward excitedly, “Yeah dad?”
Dylan crossed his arms over his chest, “Carolina will be your step-mother.”
Justin scowled, “Did you trick mom into saying she didn't want to adopt me?”
Seeing the anger in his son's eyes, Dylan wondered how he’d never noticed the irises that he’d always considered identical to his own, held flecks of Connemara green. In a decided tone, he told his child, “I'm the one who's against the adoption.”
Staring at Dylan in hurt disbelief Justin and Callum chimed, “Why?
“Because Liz is your mother, Justin,” he replied mildly.
“Bullshit,” Justin yelled, pointing his finger at his father.
Taken aback by his son's profanity Dylan's eyes widened, “Excuse me?”
Justin's finger remained aimed at his father, “I won't accept what you say. I want my real mother to adopt me. I don't see the problem.”
Dylan's posture stayed relaxed, “Liz is your real mother and she'll never agree to you being adopted by Carolina or any woman.”
Justin's finger punctuated the air as he hotheadedly voiced his opinion, “Liz is a whore. She's not my mother.”
Raking his fingers slowly through his hair, Dylan struggled to remain understanding with Justin. “I know you've been through a rough time and I'm willin' to let a bit of your attitude slide off my back but you need to muzzle the profanity or so help me you'll be grounded so long you'll have more white-hairs than a polar bear before you get any freedom. Now, accept that Carolina can't adopt you.”
His father's cool power dampened some of the fire Justin was feeling, his hand lowering to his side, his bottom lip trembling, “No. I will not obey you on this matter. Everything I went through was to bring Carolina into our lives and keep her with us. All the times I got kicked out of school was so we'd relocate so I could get to where she was and when I found her by accident you had to make love to her and scare her off. She was never going to see you again, not even the twins could
Leaning forward, clasping his hands between his spread knees Dylan's voice was concerned, “It's okay to care for her but you have to stop making things up.”
Matching his father's posture, Justin unerringly stated, “It's true. You need to stop hiding who and what you are. I was created solely by your essence, but birthed by that demon you married so my existence would be acceptable to our clan and society. My spirit came to you so I'd finally have the caring father I longed for. I entered this world to find the mother who'd been stolen from me and unite her with you, bring the whole of our family together. Mom is the love of your entire being. You've dreamed of her completing you since your birth. She's everything the mother of your children and your wife is supposed to be, plus she's exceptionally pleasing in bed.”
Shocked by his son's words Dylan abruptly sat back, “Justin that's enough. By all that's holy, I can't believe you'd say such a thing.”
Justin's anger resurfaced two-fold, his finger wagging once again in his father's direction, “I can't believe you'd cheat on my mother with Liz.”
In the light of his son's anger Dylan remained levelheaded, “What I do or don't do with Carolina or Liz beyond the realm of parenting you is none of your concern.”
Justin remained argumentative, “That's where you're wrong. I've waited three decades to have her back and won't allow you to mess things up. Soon she'll get upset over your decision and refuse to marry you even though you did impregnate her.”
To Dylan, Justin's words sounded contemptuous, “That's enough young man.”
Justin refused to back down, “I'm warning you dad, this morning she was set to leave but she didn't because she's afraid you'll remarry Liz. By not legally acknowledging she's my mother, not getting Liz completely out of our lives, worry will plague my mother until disaster strikes and when it does I doubt I'll be able to forgive you.”