Even without knowing the story, he’d known it meant a lot to me.

“I got it out of the box with all the things you’ve kept from your family, had it polished up.” He turned it in my hand so Beth’s name was facing upward. “I was thinking if we have a wee girl, we could name her Beth.”

Swallowing past the lump of emotion clogging my throat, I nodded. “I’d like that. Thank you.” I threw my arms around his neck, the rattle clenched tight in my fist, as I kissed him.

We kissed, sweet brushes of our lips that grew quickly heated. My breathing was heavy as I pulled back, my forehead pressing against his. “Do you think we’ve finally made it through?”

“Made it through?”

“All the crap.” I grinned cheekily. “Do you think we finally get everything about each other?”

Braden shook his head, pressing another kiss to my lips as I clung to him. “No, babe. We’re going to spend every day growing up. We’ll learn new things about ourselves, never mind each other.”

I pulled back. “Did anyone ever tell you that when your fear doesn’t get in the way of your perceptiveness, you are an incredibly wise man, Mr. Carmichael?”

He rolled his eyes. “Am I ever going to live this down?”

I snorted, threading my arm through his as we started to stroll back down the castle hill. “When I fucked up you joked about it inappropriately for months and then pulled it out every now and then when you wanted to make a point.”

He grunted. “I’ll allow you to emotionally manipulate me with it for a week.”

“A year.”

“A month.”

“A year.”

“Six months.”

I thought about it. That was a fairly lengthy period of torture and it probably fit in better with our pregnancy time frame. “Okay, six months. But I should warn you that it’ll include more than emotional manipulation.”


I smiled up at him. “I’m pregnant. My requests, cravings, they may get a little outrageous.”

His body shook with laughter. “You’re carrying my child. I’d probably take the blame if you murdered someone.”

“You’d probably do that anyway, pregnant or not.”

Braden smiled softly down at me. “No probably about it.”

Chuckling, I held on tighter. “I’m going to make you come shopping with me for maternity clothes.”

“I can handle it. In fact, I’m rather looking forward to you having a bump.” He smoothed a hand across my stomach, something he’d taken to doing a lot.

“My bump? Why?”

“It’s a caveman thing,” he joked.

“Elaborate.” I repeated his word back at him.

“I’m not sure you want to know. You’ve just recently stopped being pissed off at me.”

“Braden . . .”

He stopped just as we were about to walk outside the castle entrance onto the esplanade. I let him pull me against him as he bent to whisper his answer in my ear. “When every man sees our bump, they’ll know I was the one you let inside you, they’ll know you’re mine and I’m yours, and that growing inside you is our kid.”

My lips parted as I pulled back to meet his eyes. “The idea of the bump turns you on,” I said more succinctly.

He grinned unrepentantly.

I shrugged. “That’s fine with me. I start showing during my second trimester, and I’ve heard that’s also when I’ll get horny as hell.”

Braden grabbed my hand as we began walking down the esplanade. “I’ll do my best to accommodate you.”

“I’m expecting a lot,” I teased. “Filthy comments in restaurants, sex in bathrooms, cars, elevators, the changing rooms of maternity clothes shops . . .”

My husband laughed, letting go of my hand to wrap his arm around my shoulders and draw me into his side. “You missed the couch, the kitchen table, the shower, the bathtub—and the bed could work, too, you know.”

“We need to get a cab.” I began walking faster down the Mile.

I felt Braden grinning at me. “Pregnancy hormones?”

“Braden-induced hormones,” I grumbled, flagging down an oncoming black cab. I turned to him, my eyes glittering with anticipation. “Since you fucked up last week, I’m in charge. And on top. We’ll see how it goes from there.”

He sighed heavily, as if it was such a hardship. “Ah, and so it begins.”

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