Savage Love, p.15
Dylan looked sadly at his brother, who still couldn't say, let alone accept, their parents were dead and unthinkingly told him, “Carolina keeps having headaches and throwing up,” seeing the rippling waves of anger contorting his brother’s face, Dylan realized Chris was ready to strangle him or at least punch him really hard so he hurriedly added, “It's not cause I gave her that little tap. I'd never hurt her.” But he had, and knew he’d be prone to taking his hand to her rump if she sassed him or behaved disrespectfully.
Chris allowed himself to relax. “I know I kid you about your playing rough with women. Hell, I've enjoyed bondage myself. It's real satisfying, eases a lot of tension, and having married Vega after her years with you I feel I owe you mightily for all you taught her without removing her prized jewels. What you had with her, the games you played, were rare, sweet and tender, a world away from the miserable, twisted relationship you had with Liz which you shouldn't be recreating with Carolina.”
He met his brother's gaze squarely, “I'm not going to.”
Chris wanted Dylan to see that his search for the right woman was finally over. He just had to mind himself. “Although your little lass seems as hard as a coffin nail when she's riled up you have to know Carolina is mostly sweet and soft like mama, like all of the current Savage wives are. I'm not ashamed to admit she had my eyes burning last night with that speech she gave. Ma, Pa and August are very pleased with her indeed. I'm warning you Dylan, too much rough handling won't be good for that little gal, or you especially, if she comes to me complaining that you’ve mistreated her.”
“I know Carolina is a lot like mama.” That's why he'd sent her away the other night, why he'd satisfied his intense cravings with Liz, why he was determined to keep her out of his darkness.
“So if she's having migraines or feeling stressed I'm not surprised with the way y'all carry on. But you've gotta get control of your life, slow the pace or risk burning her out or running her off. Now you know Pa has no liking for shrinks, cause he believes the Good Book and a stiff drink can heal all, but l won't think less of you if you need to seek the advice of a good therapist to keep you from doing something you'll regret.”
Remembering what he'd done to Carolina the previous night Dylan felt his neck burning. “Naw Chris I'll be alright and Carolina just thinks she's suffering from stress, says she's been having headaches almost everyday for the last three weeks. In which case she should've gone for a check-up by now. But no, I had to push the issue of Dr. Arnie coming to examine her and only won because she was too exhausted to argue.”
“Maybe the two of you should stop carryin' on like a couple of teenagers. And speaking of adolescents where are your boys?”
“They're with their tutors.”
Casting a glance here and there, Chris lowered his booming voice, leaning across the table to whisper, “Have you noticed anything strange about them?”
Dylan laughed outright at his brother's dramatics, “Like what?”
Chris spoke with a straight face, “Well for one they're hardly ever separated. The only time I've seen them apart is when one of the twins, the one with the brown eyes and little shamrock birthmark is off talking to my gal Constance or when he's got his head stuck in a book.”
Dylan didn't correct his brother's classification of the child's eyes but he knew they weren't just brown. The twin Chris was referring to was Calder and his eyes were a unique sort of brownish-green hazel with bits of dark blue and vivid orange at their centers. Callum's eyes were the reverse hazel, greenish-brown with the same blue and orange combination in their depths. When they stood along side Justin they were a very handsome trio, destined to be the recipients of many female advances, although they'd yet to voice any interest in the opposite sex and by Savage standards that made them very late bloomers and perhaps in his brother's eyes, somewhat peculiar. Feeling protective of his sons Dylan assured his brother, “Sometimes, we were like that when we were kids.”
Chris gave him a look that read 'who are you trying to fool' before he asked, “What about them saying the same thing at the same time? Synchronicity between the twins, I can understand. But Justin, what's he doing it for?”
“Their just goofing around,” Dylan defended them.
Chris wasn't convinced. “What about the music they play? When the twins first arrived, I heard them and they were nothing special, and that was on Saturday. Now instrumentally they sound as good as Justin and when they all play together and my godson lends that tremendous voice of his to the arrangement, well it's magnificent music to hear. I get goosebumps.”
Dylan shook his head, “You're full of malarkey.”
Chris made the sign of the cross. “I kid you not. Just listen to them rehearse.”
“I will and just so you know, they're coming this way. I wouldn't want you to get scared and pee your pants.” Dylan waved to the approaching trio and watched as they sauntered over, each twin on either side of Justin.
“Hi, Uncle Chris,” the trio greeted in unison before turning to Dylan and falling silent.
He nearly burst out laughing at the 'see what I told you' look Chris gave him. To the trio he smilingly asked, “What's up guys?”
Justin was the only one to say, “Mom won't talk to me.”
“She's just sick with a bad headache. We're waiting for the doctor to take a look at her. When she feels better she'll talk to you,” he assured.
“No she won't. The doctor's already finished with her. Dad, perhaps I’ve done something to upset her or maybe she thinks I’m horrible? When the twins went in to see her she was talking with them just fine, but when I tried to ask about what the doctor had determined, she started crying and won't stop,” he complained glumly.
Chris mentally reviewed her detailed symptoms and blurted out, “It's probably her time of the month. Vega gets like-”
“Shut up Chris,” Dylan lightly told his brother, not wanting to get into a detailed explanation of the female reproductive cycle, especially not Carolina or Vega’s. Knowing the extreme closeness existing between Justin and Carolina, Dylan tried to comfort the boy, “She loves you Justin. She loves all of you. Carolina wouldn't be mad with y'all about anything. I'm sure it's the headache. I'll go up and talk to her.”
The twins asserted in wizened unison, “It's not PMS. She hasn't had a period in ages and it's not just a headache either.”
Dylan, who'd been about to rise from the table, reconsidered the move and asked the boys, “Do y’all want to tell me something?”
The twins looked supportively at Justin who confessed, “I'd been standing outside the door from the time Dr. Arnie arrived. They didn't know I was there until he was leaving. I was just making sure nothing happened to mom. But, Dr. Arnie was totally professional and mom made him examine her through her robe.”
Dylan was proud of the concern Justin showed for Carolina but his eavesdropping had probably made her a little uncomfortable. “Justin you shouldn't have been listening. But even still, I don't think that would have made her cry and not speak to you. But from here on out, no more spying on her by any of you. People need their privacy, even in families, women especially.”
“Dad, whatever is wrong with her it's serious. She only cries like that when someone leaves her or when someone dies,” trumpeted the twins.
Chris made a motion to speak and Dylan put up his hand to silence him. “Callum and Calder what did Carolina say to you?”
“She kept saying she'd always loved us and she really started bawling when she remembered we called her mom for the very first time last night,” stated Callum.
Calder added, “She talked about our family members who've died and she talked a lot about Patrick and their history together.”
“She called him earlier, he's supposed to be on the way here,” said Justin.
That wasn't good, Dylan thought and although he didn't support Justin's well meant listening in he had to know what he'd overheard. “Justin, what did Arnie tell her?”
Dylan and Chris exchanged worried glances. They were all silent awhile before Dylan rose from his seat feeling very unsteady, saying to his brother, “I'll let you know what's going on as soon as I can.”
He found Carolina sitting on the deck adjacent to their bedroom. She was still dressed in his blue robe and sat barefooted staring across the lush acreage. Kneeling in front of her he took both her hands in his, searched her face for any sign as to the nature of the doctor's findings but all he saw on her face and in her eyes was sadness and his presence didn't draw her gaze from the horizon.
Fear made him speak directly, “The kids are worried. What did the doctor say?”
Her voice was wistful, “Did you know riding is one of my favorite pastimes?”
“No I didn't. We'll go now if you want,” he said, thinking he'd do almost anything to see her happy and smiling.
She looked at Dylan, drawing her hands from his she folded them tightly in her lap, thinking that if she could just not touch him, not consider how much he professed to care for her she could get through what she had to tell him without turning into a complete emotional wreck. Taking a deep breath, she rushed through the first part of what she had to say, “I can't ride now. Dr. Arnie says I might be pregnant. The urine test read positive so he wants me to go in for blood work, to be certain. He also referred me for a neurological consultation to rule out secondary causes of the headaches.”
Dylan had been prepared to hear the worse but part of what she reported was his wish, a baby, their baby. He cupped her face in his hands, stroking the slant of her cheekbones with his thumbs. “That's great precious, I want a big family. I thought you were going to tell me something horrible with the way the kids said you were weeping and carrying on. Does the doctor think the headaches are serious?”
Carolina drew away from him averting her eyes, not wanting to see the genuine happiness on his face, afraid of loosing her resolve. “No he didn't. He told me some women experience headaches during pregnancy. He's just being thorough.”
Dylan thought he'd never seen such a lack-luster expression on her face, heard such an emotionless quality to her voice. “Why aren't you happy?”
She felt confused and torn. “I'm not supposed to be pregnant by you. I’m cursed with a malady akin to an ovulation disorder.”
Lightly touching her face, he willed her to look at him again and when she did he revealed with the joy of a preferent soul, “But that makes your being with child even more special. We're being blessed. From the moment I saw you I knew you'd be my happiness and I know you love me although you can't or won't say the words.”
Clasping the wrist of the hand he was using to caress her throat Carolina dejectedly pushed him away. “I'm leaving-” She stopped when she saw his eyes welling up. This was the man who'd stayed strong the whole time she'd told him about his son's abuse. For her to reject him and the possibility of their child, because she couldn't face his not accepting her as Justin's mother and because she was terrified of loosing him to Liz or another woman was crazy, cowardly, and cruel. Carolina knew she had to stop running, had to stop fighting and give way to the guide directing her life with him.
Dylan's voice held desperation and terror, “Honey, I can’t let you go.” Unlike the previous night he didn't hide his tears, allowed the hot liquid of his anguish to spill from his eyes and burn trails down his face. “I don't want you to forgive me for my infidelity. I don't need you to tell me you love me. We never have to get married. Just stay with the kids and me. I'll devote my life to-”
Carolina's lips found his, moving slowly to luxuriate in the sweet vanilla coffee flavor of his mouth, wanting to give him all he'd ever need, showing him he was the keeper of her life, soul and spirit, all the while revealing a small measure of the fear that had gripped her from their beginning. Her lips kept up their gentle friction against his. She knew by his response he was moving away from the sadness she'd caused, felt him catch his breath as her unsteady fingers dried away his tears, gloried in the moment he opened the robe she wore to run his hands up her naked thighs, easing them apart.
Dylan kissed his way down her throat and on to her breasts where he slowly bathed each with his tongue, taking time to nurse from them as their child would, biting delicately on each nipple until he felt her arching into him, her thighs quivering beneath his touch. His lips resumed their downward journey to stop at the residence that housed, nurtured and protected his child and he mouthed the words 'I've been waiting for you' against her stomach. After a long while he moved on to the dense red forest that bordered paradise, where he sampled her nectar, coating his tongue and lips, kissing, jabbing, sucking, nipping and licking her slowly, then more purposefully until she gripped his head, holding him closer. His mouth was full of her honeyed flavor, his nose inhaling her sweet-piquant bouquet. He went pearl diving and found her precious jewel and lustily admired the tiny gem with slow flicks of his tongue until she was frantic, pushing against his mouth, moaning out her release. Her satisfaction ignited his own, causing his fingers to dig into the flesh of her thighs as his body quaked.
When his mind cleared and he regained motor control, Dylan wrapped her in the warmth of his robe. As he was leaning away, she caught him, drawing him back. He felt her mouth on his, her tongue cleaning his lips with tantalizing strokes that set off massive aftershocks in his system, momentarily stopping his heart and when the anomaly of aphrodisia abated Dylan rested his forehead against hers.
“I'm meeting Patrick. He was coming here but we changed plans.” She looked deep into his eyes, stroking the damp, thick fall of hair framing his face, “There are three days left until I become your wife. Arrangements must be made and Patrick is a wizard at getting things done.”
Dylan knew loving her meant accepting Patrick and if she wanted the other man to help plan their wedding then he would happily defer to her wishes because he adored her and after everything they'd done for his son, he knew he could trust them. Standing he drew her to her feet and walked with her into the bedroom to stand before the closet. “Please thank Patrick for me. I owe you both more than I can ever repay.”
She assured him, “We're family, all of us. There will never be a debt to settle.”
“I spoke with Justin this morning. He confirmed everything you told me. I'm amazed that after such a short time he seems grounded, healthy, and happy even.”
“He's a very special young man,” she tried to keep the sadness from her voice.
“What you and Patrick did for my son enabled him to find a peace neither I, nor his mother would have ever been able to give him,” Dylan professed gratefully.
She didn't want to talk about Justin because inevitably the conversation would shift to the only mother Dylan was willing to acknowledge for him and she knew she'd start bawling again from frustration and fear. Opening the closet, she stopped short at the sight of the nearly bare interior. Quickly she regained her composure and withdrew the only two garments of hers the closet held, silently vowing not to get upset over his trying to hold her prisoner. Looking at him reassuringly, she stated calmly, “Dylan I've given you my word that I'm staying and will marry you. When I get back this afternoon, I want my belonging back in here. Now I better grab a shower and get dressed, dilly-dallying might work against my respite from illness. I'd like to drive myself but if you'd prefer having a staff member accompany me I won't object.”
In many ways, Dylan trusted her, but there were major areas of doubt in his mind regarding her commitment that had him taking desperate measures. He reached into the front pockets of his jeans to withdraw her car and house keys. Reluctantly he relinquished them, despite his having had GPS tracking devices installed in her SUV that morning and tiny transmitters attached to her keys. Earlier when he'd begged her to stay it was because he'd wanted her to do so out of
Carolina turned so he could clearly see her expression, because she didn't want there to be any misunderstanding between them on the points she was going to make. “After last night I've had to consider my relationship with Justin and feel I must be less focused on him. I wasn't emotionally prepared earlier, but I will be from now on.”
He stroked her hair, “Are you still upset about me not wanting you to adopt him?”
She felt her bottom lip tremble, her heart lurch and knew she still wasn't ready. “I'm sorry Dylan, I believed I'd come to terms with your decision but just the thought of you not accepting him as my child, of us not having a strong, recognized bond between us upsets me. Please don't be cross with me; I just need a bit more time to make the adjustment in my own mind. You can help me by telling him and the twins your decisions. I want to avoid as much stress as possible in case I am truly with child.”
What she was asking was easy enough Dylan thought. “Honey I'm not upset with you. I'll talk with the boys later today. Should I tell them about the baby?”
She shook her head. “Not yet. We'll wait until the pregnancy is confirmed.”
He smoothed the worry from her brow. “Justin already overheard Dr. Arnie.”
She caught Dylan's hand, drawing his palm unsteadily to her lips. “Please, treacle bear, just this once I need my feelings considered first.”
He drew her into the circle of his arms, felt the moderate tremors of fear within her body and he held her close, humming to her softly until the shudders stilled. Then he lightly demanded, “I need you to tell me you're happy about our baby.”