“That’s not right!” I yelled at the TV. “He left fingerprints on the counter, are you just gonna ignore that?”

With a huff, I looked down at my nails. I’d smudged them in my ire at the true crime show. “Dang,” I muttered.

The distant buzz of the lawnmower grew louder as my husband drove it toward the house. He’d be another half hour out there, just enough time for my nails to dry.

Using a cotton swab, I cleaned off the nail and started again with a base coat. Having pretty nails had always been important to me. Maybe because my mom had always bitten hers, and I’d strived all my life to do things better than my mom.

Blowing on the polish, I watched the detectives finally put the obvious together. “I don’t know why I watch this garbage, but I love it,” I said. Talking to my stomach was my norm these days, but I wasn’t a lunatic. Just pregnant. And maybe a little bit of a lunatic.

The baby kicked in response to my conversation. “Oh, you like talking to Mama?” I chuckled and applied the first coat of jet-black polish. My favorite.

“Well,” I said in a cutesy voice, something I’d never imagined I’d do. Cutesy and I didn’t get along much. Until now. Having a baby had turned me into a blithering—well, mom. Not an idiot, even on my worst day I wasn’t that. But I’d also never expected to be a mom, so this had been a pleasant surprise.

“Your Daddy will be inside soon,” I told the baby. We’d opted not to find out the sex. The surprise and subsequent shopping would be a blast. I’d picked up one outfit for the baby to wear home from the hospital, and we’d bought enough clothes in yellow and other neutral colors to last us a week or two. Then we would be able to shop, and well, I already did most of my shopping online anyway.

It wasn’t like the baby would care. All they’d care about was that they’d get all the love and acceptance in the world.

Lucian and I were over the moon about the pregnancy. I sat up in my recliner and peeked out of the window at him. He was halfway done with the front yard and had already finished in the back. He’d be done just in time for a shower, then a quick bowl of the soup from the slow cooker, then off to choir practice.

The baby kicked again, reminding me I was supposed to be talking to it. “Sorry, Bubula,” I crooned, using a pet name my mother had used for me. “Mommy is still here.”

The baby rolled around, delighting me with the movement. “You’ll be out here soon, and you’ll see why I think your dad is so awesome.” Ten more weeks, if I made it to my due date. The doctor said I could go over, given it was my first pregnancy. I hoped not. However, I didn’t want my little one to come too early either and have difficulties. But I also couldn’t wait to meet them.

I hummed and finished my nails with one eye on the show I’d seen several times before, but still, I learned something new every time I watched it. My work as a beauty blogger wasn’t particularly strenuous, it allowed me time to pursue leisurely pleasures like television shows, reading, and crafts. And my favorite thing, exercise.

And why did I love to exercise? Simple. I loved to eat. Absolutely loved it. To keep the pounds at bay, I kept a regular exercise regimen including swimming, yoga, and running.

I didn’t have a lot of time for goofing off. Staying on top of beauty trends, new products, as well as creating and editing my videos took nearly as much time as Lucian did at his day job.

A sharp movement made me grunt. “My gosh, baby, which way are you facing?” It’d either punched or kicked my bladder. I struggled out of the recliner and made my way to the bathroom, then wiped very carefully so I didn’t smudge my nails again.

When I realized how far away my underwear was, given my belly and the strain it took to bend over, I just left them off. Wasn’t worth the trouble. I kicked them into the corner of the bathroom where a small pile of dirty clothes rested. Lucian would get them later and put them in the wash. He washed and dried, and I folded. Our deal, because he hated to fold clothes.

Which was fine with me because he was really bad at it.

As I waddled into the kitchen, I inspected my nails. Dang, I’d smudged one.

Instead of repainting it, I licked it and sure enough, the nail smoothed out. An old beauty hack.

“Ha,” I told the rogue nail. “Fixed you.”

“Connie? Who are you talking to?” Lucian’s voice scared the piss out of me—almost literally.

I jumped and whirled around, moving faster than I’d moved in quite a while. “Dang, Luc, you scared me. I almost peed.”

He burst out laughing as he walked to the sink. Turning on the water, he washed the grime off his hands.

“You should do that in the garage,” I scolded. “That’s why we have a utility sink in there.”

He blanched. “Sorry, Princess. I wasn’t thinking. I took my boots off on the back porch. I’ll clean them off after choir practice.”

His jeans were covered in grass, and he’d tracked it in. “Go strip in the laundry room.” I pointed to the big utility room off the kitchen. Luc saluted me and tiptoed out of the room. I grabbed the broom, which I’d left leaning against the corner of the fridge, and cleaned up the grass. When bending over had become nearly impossible, I’d bought a dustpan with a long handle, but Lucian rarely let me use it. He said it was my job to make a baby and do whatever made me happy.

Nesting made me happy, so I’d cleaned and organized the entire house. I’d had to switch to doing it while he was at work or else he hovered over me, trying to take over and do it all for me.

The man was a saint.

He ambled out of the utility room in his black boxer briefs, and I raised an eyebrow. My husband’s physique had grown larger and bulkier as time went by and he continued working out. He enjoyed exercise as much as I did maybe even more, but he was more into weights than cardio. I loved all the ridges and planes on his large body.

I wolf-whistled at him, eliciting a deep chuckle. “You like what you see?” He flexed his muscles and wiggled his eyebrows at me.

“Too sexy for words.” After blowing him a kiss, I giggled as I watched his black hair fall into his eyes since he hadn’t fixed it yet. He normally gelled it and dried it in a way that looked natural and out of his face. He blew it away and turned for the stairs. “Be right back.”

I loved that he took care of his appearance without going overboard. He was all masculine, but he also smelled nice and had great hair. My kind of man.

I had a friend whose husband believed a man should have a natural, musky smell that came from infrequent showers and hard work.

No, thanks. Not in this lifetime or any other.

He climbed the stairs one at a time, flexing and wiggling his butt on his way up.

“Go on, you ham!” I called after him.

Mine was truly a charmed life.

By the time he joined me downstairs, I stood at the counter, slow cooker open, dishing out a bowl. It was just warm enough and would need little time to cool before he could eat. “You’ve got a few minutes,” I said.

“Oh, good. I wanted to shoot off a couple of emails I didn’t get to before I left the office.” He pressed a kiss to my cheek and walked toward our home office.

Movement out the window had me jerking my gaze. I cried out as hot soup sloshed over my hand.

I scurried to the kitchen sink and held it under the tap as I peered out the window. I could have sworn someone had just walked past the window, but I couldn’t be sure. They seemed to have been moving so fast, but I hadn’t heard footsteps on the back porch.

As the sting in my hand faded, I peered left and right, trying to figure out what in the world had gone past my kitchen window. I knew darn well I wasn’t imagining things. I’d not been cursed with an overactive imagination.

Lucian was the one that was whimsical and silly at times. I loved that about him, but even as I was thankful that he was, I wasn’t. He complimented me in so many ways. His sweet optimism to my cold cynicism.

Shutting off the water, I dried my hands and pushed my long, black hair over my shoulder as I leaned forward to look again.

There was nothing back there; still, I had to be sure.

After tiptoeing to the back door, I opened it slowly, wary of someone jumping out to scare me. Pregnancy brought a certain amount of paranoia with it, and I had no desire to be the next big news story. When I was sure there wasn’t anyone near the back door, I stepped out onto the porch and looked around the backyard.


“What the heck?” I rubbed my belly, comforting the baby, who didn’t need comforting at all. I needed it because I felt like a lunatic.

I hadn’t imagined it. “You’re not losing it, Connie.”

As I turned to go back into the house, movement caught my eye on the other side of our yard and our neighbor’s field. An enormous brown owl launched out of our neighbor’s barn.

“Holy crap!” I squinted against the dwindling rays of the sun as the owl rose in the sky, then flew out of sight. It was possible that if it had flown by very close to the window, I could’ve mistaken it for someone walking by out of the corner of my eye. It was that big.

It didn’t sit right, though. The shape I’d seen, even though it had only been a split second, had been tall, like a person, though very bulky.

“What are you doing out here?” Lucian asked.

I squeaked and whirled around again. “Stop scaring me!” I scolded. “You’re going to put me into labor.”

Concern washed over his face, and he stepped outside. “Is that possible? I didn’t mean to scare you.”

Bless him. He was so worried about me all the time. “No, silly. I don’t think it’s possible to be startled into labor.”

He put his hands on my belly and rubbed softly. I couldn’t stand for anyone else to do that, but when he did, I wanted to purr like a kitten. “Good. I wouldn’t do anything to harm either of you.” He bent and nuzzled my belly as I tickled the back of his neck and smiled at him. “Why are you out here, though?”

“I thought I saw something through the window.”

He straightened and looked around. “Like an animal?”

Shaking my head, I looked toward the barn, but the owl was long gone. “I thought it was a person, but when I got out here, nobody was here. Just a huge owl. I’m guessing the owl flew by really close to the window.”

He nodded. “That makes sense.”

“It’s almost time for you to leave.” We walked back into the house, and I grabbed a cloth to clean up the soup I’d spilled.

“Fifteen minutes,” he said, his mouth already full of soup. “This is so good.”

I smiled and rinsed out the rag. “I’m glad you like it. You always cook for me, it’s nice to do it for you once in a while.”

Lucian hated for me to cook. I wasn’t particularly good at it, but I could follow basic instructions like nobody’s business. I didn’t consider throwing ingredients into a pot Michelin star cooking, but he still hated to see me work, though.

“You’re my princess,” he said around his soup. “I like pampering you.”

Beaming, I made myself a bowl. He finished his in minutes, while I was still blowing on mine.

“Kiss me, I’m leaving,” he said.

I jumped up from the table and threw my arms around him. “Have fun at practice.”

As I watched my husband walk out of the kitchen and into the garage, I sighed. My childhood had been somewhat chaotic, but Lucian had been my best friend for as long as I could remember. His family lived next door to mine in our small, run-down neighborhood. It had always been him and me against the world.

Nothing had changed, and I hoped it never did.