This story takes place between Ransom and Rich
There were habits from his years in the military that Callum McKay hadn’t been able to shake. He’d never gotten over being out of uniform, and for that reason, he wore the same thing every day—a gray Henley and a pair of jeans. Growing his hair out was something else that bothered him, so he kept it regulation short. On top of that, he struggled with the lack of structure and discipline within his new workplace of Benson Security. But he mainly dealt with that by gritting his teeth, or shouting—when absolutely necessary. And, lastly, he found it impossible to sleep late in the mornings.
Which was why he opened his eyes at the crack of dawn on Valentine’s Day, instantly alert. There was never any dozing for Callum. But that didn’t mean he couldn’t enjoy the lazy early morning hours in bed—especially now that he shared it with his gorgeous wife.
Turning carefully toward Isobel’s sleeping form, he propped himself up on an elbow to look at her. As usual, she’d stolen all of the bedding during the night, leaving him with only a sheet to cover his body. The duvet and soft pink blanket that should have stripped him of his masculinity, were piled high on top of her, almost burying her underneath. No matter how warm the room, she always ended up cocooned in bedding, or spread over him, absorbing his heat. Either way, her sleeping habits didn’t bother him. All he cared about was that she was still in his bed.
As soft early morning light crept through the gap where the blind didn’t quite cover the window, it washed over her, making her pale skin glow and her dark hair shine. She lay on her back under the mountain of bedding with one leg sticking out of bed—for temperature control, she’d told him. And she was snoring. As loud as a train in a tunnel. There was no stopping the grin that spread over his face. She was too damn adorable—and adamant she didn’t snore.
Slowly, so as not to disturb her, he slid his hand under one of the satin camisoles she loved to sleep in and over the curve of her belly. The curve that was getting bigger every day as his baby grew inside of her.
Wonder stole over him, along with the same deep sense of awe he felt every time he thought about the miracle in front of him. Not just the baby, but Isobel too. The woman who’d captured his heart when she stormed into his cold, empty life, sweeping right past his broken body and painfully lost soul to declare him a hero. Her hero. Not for one second had she seen the physical and psychological damage war had done to him. Or the limits he’d put on himself because of it. No, she’d seen only someone who was strong and capable and perfect—in her eyes. It’d humbled him. It still did. Seeing himself through Isobel’s eyes made him feel whole. And feeling her love for him gave him back the purpose he’d lost. Aye, she was definitely his wee miracle.
As was the child growing inside of her. The child that was part of him, but no more valued than the other two children she’d brought into their relationship who didn’t carry his DNA. Jack and Sophie were his children, no matter who had sired them. There was no denying that his cold, cynical heart overflowed with the gifts Isobel had given him—love, family, home, purpose. It was enough to bring a man to his plastic knees.
“You’ve got that look on your face again,” her sleep roughened voice said. “Like you can’t believe this is your life.”
“Oh, I believe it.” Callum caressed her baby bump. “I just want to make sure I never stop being grateful for it.”
“Sentimental man,” she said softly as her hand came up to stroke his jaw. “You’re going to ruin your tough-guy reputation if you keep getting mushy like this.”
“My rep can take it.”
“Well, don’t come running to me when those imbeciles we work with start slagging you off for going soft.”
His lips quirked as he fought a smile. “I’m going to ignore the fact you just told a man who’s lost both his legs not to run to you. That’s harsh, Isobel, very harsh.”
“Don’t try and make me feel sorry for you.” Her eyes danced with laughter. “You only lost the bit from the knees down. The rest of you could model for a Greek statue. You’re getting more ruggedly handsome every day, while I’m just getting fatter.”
“You’re no’ fat, my wee darlin’, you’re pregnant. And anyway”—Callum’s hand slid up to cup the weight of her breast—“I’m very partial to your curves.”
She blinked away tears that came faster these days with the hormones assaulting her body. “I’m getting stretch marks on my stretch marks!”
“I know.” He leaned down to press a soft kiss to those full lips of hers. “And I plan to trace every one of them with my tongue.”
She slapped his shoulder, her cheeks flushing a pretty pink. “You’re terrible. It was that wicked tongue of yours that got us in this state to begin with.”
Heat rushed through him at the memory of the night he’d decided he needed to taste every inch of her. “You’re wrong there. It wasn’t my tongue that got you in that state. If you need an anatomy lesson, I’d be more than happy to provide you with one.”
A cute little frown curved her brow. “You have no idea how much I want to take you up on that offer, but your baby is currently kicking my bladder like it’s her own personal beach ball. I really need to go to the toilet. And…” She bit her bottom lip and looked at him through her lashes. But before she could confess whatever else was on her mind, her stomach let out a loud rumble, and her cheeks turned red.
Callum couldn’t help but laugh. “Aye, I can hear the and. What are you hungry for today?”
Her whole face lit up. “I want a huge cheeseburger. With extra pickles. And when you get back, can you chop up a banana and add it to the bun?”
He blinked at her. “You want a banana, pickle cheeseburger?”
She nodded. “Is that really gross?”
“Aye.” He shook his head. “But I’ll get it for you anyway.”
“You’re wonderful.” She beamed at him. “Now, lever me out of bed. I really need to get to the loo.”
After unearthing her from under the bedding, Callum helped his wife sit up before gently shoving her off the bed and onto her feet. She wobbled a little before steadying.
“Perfect,” she said as she waddle-ran to the bathroom. “Can you get my burger from that all-night place instead of the fast-food people?” she called over her shoulder. “The all-night place does great fried onions on their burgers.”
As the door shut behind her, Callum chuckled. Now this banana pickle burger had onions. He sat up, threw back the covers, and swung what was left of his legs over the side of the bed. An envelope propped against the lamp on his bedside table caught his attention, and he felt his heart swell as he reached for it.
His four-year-old stepdaughter had managed to sneak into the room while they’d been sleeping. For years Callum had woken at the slightest noise, but since Isobel and the kids had moved in, he found he was attuned to their movements and less likely to let them wake him.
There was a stick figure drawing on the front of the envelope that he knew was supposed to be him, Isobel, Sophie’s brother Jack, Sophie, and the baby inside Isobel—who was waving from her stomach. Smiling, he opened the envelope and slid out the card that someone had obviously helped her make at kindy. There was a paper heart stuck to the front, with lots of random glitter and a few stickers of puppies. Inside, there were more drawings of her family and the words Happy Valentine’s Day, which a teacher had written, but Sophie had scrawled her name over, adding lots of little x kisses.
“What’s that?” Isobel said as she came up to stand beside him.
He handed her the card, and she beamed at it. “Our daughter is so talented.”
And she was right. Sophie was talented. She was also very much their daughter. It didn’t matter who’d fathered her. That little girl was the daughter of his heart.
“I forgot it was Valentine’s Day,” Isobel said sheepishly. “Sorry.”
Callum wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her between his legs. “I didn’t forget. I have a whole evening planned for you.”
She rested her forearms on his shoulders as her fingers played with his short hair. “Does it involve feeding me?”
Considering she had to be fed every twenty minutes or so—otherwise she turned into a raving maniac—any plans he had these days involved food. “Aye, it does.”
“Do I have to get dressed up?”
Usually she loved dressing up, but since she’d outgrown most of her clothes, the shine had gone off it. “I was hoping you’d spend the evening naked.”
Her eyebrows shot up. “So, we aren’t going to a restaurant?”
“No.” He’d booked a night at the Savoy hotel, with a gourmet meal delivered to their suite. Private, sexy, and a bathroom within easy reach for his very pregnant wife.
“Are you going to tell me what we’re doing?” She sounded a little testy.
“It wouldn’t be a surprise if I did.”
“I don’t like surprises. They make me anxious.”
“Then I’ll just have to work extra hard to soothe your nerves.”
“Yeah?” Her eyes darkened. “How will you do that?”
“Like this.” He pressed her closer to him and covered her mouth with his.
Kissing Isobel was always a paradox. Each time felt like the first time, yet it also felt like returning home. Her lips were soft and plump and perfect; her taste, like sunshine after the rain. Their kiss was languorous, sensual, filled with emotion. It was everything that made up life with Isobel.
At last, she retreated and pressed her forehead to his. “I really need my burger,” she said.
“There’s nothing more reassuring for a man’s ego than knowing his woman is thinking about food while he kisses her,” he teased. “Pass me my legs, and I’ll fetch your burger for you.”
“But more kisses later,” she pouted.
With clear reluctance, she turned from him to pick up the prosthetics he’d left beside his nightstand—and she burst out laughing. Okay, this pregnancy was definitely messing with her moods because spontaneous laughter was something new.
Shaking from the giggles, she turned to him, holding up his state-of-the-art legs.
“Seriously?” Callum groaned.
“They’re so pretty,” she said before falling into hysterics again.
All Callum could do was shake his head at the state of his legs. It seemed that sometime during the night, they’d suffered an art attack. They were covered in marker pen drawings, pink glitter, and lots of stickers—from hearts to dinosaurs. One of them had a purple ribbon wrapped around its foot. The other had googly eyes on the knee cup.
“It’s going tae be fun explaining this to the prosthetic’s technician,” he said.
“I’ll clean them off,” Isobel said through a grin.
“Not until the munchkin has seen me with them,” Callum warned.
As though summoned by the discovery of her latest art project, the door to their bedroom slammed open and Sophie rushed in. “You found them! Dontcha love them?” She scrambled over to sit in Callum’s lap, then pressed her hands to his cheeks. “I made them pretty for Vlantes Day, Clam.”
Isobel was laughing so hard tears were streaming down her face.
“What’s all the racket?” Jack, their teenage son, asked from the doorway. He rubbed his eyes before staring at them all as though they’d lost their minds. “It isn’t even seven. Why is everybody awake?”
Isobel held up his prosthetics. “Sophie decorated Callum’s legs for Valentine’s Day.”
Jack stared at them as Sophie clapped her hands. “Aren’t they bwetifool?”
A slow grin covered Jack’s face. “I think Callum should wear shorts today to show them off.”
“I agree,” Isobel said. “You can’t hide art like this.”
“Yay,” Sophie shouted as she scrambled up to jump on the bed. “Happy Vlantes Day to me!”
“You two”—Callum pointed at Jack and Isobel—“are enjoying this far too much. Now pass me the damn legs so I can go get that burger you want.”
“I was joking,” Isobel said. “I can fetch the spares from the closet.”
“Hand them over.” Callum reached for them. “As long as she didn’t put anything inside the cup, I’m wearing them. They’re my bloody Valentine’s Day present. Aren’t they, Soph?”
“Yay!” she shouted as she jumped. “Clam’s gonna be pretty!”
“Damn straight,” he said as he took the legs.
Isobel stepped into him, placing her hand on his cheek. “I love you, Callum McKay,” she said, her heart in her eyes for all to see.
“And I’m going back to bed before you two make me vomit,” Jack said.
Callum looked around his bedroom at his family before looking down at his decorated prosthetics. Could there ever have been a more perfect Valentine’s Day?