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Protecting His Own Part 19

Nolan pointed to them. Sure you dont want to help Beth pull weeds?

Uh-uh. Grant stared at his feet. I like flowers, but I cant tell which ones are weeds. Connor was only a little kid, and he could tell.

Nolan ruffled his hair. Me, neither. Beth wont let me help unless she can sit right beside me and make sure I dont screw up.

Grant checked, but Nolan didnt look like he felt bad about it.

We all have different talents, tiger. Beth cant build houses like I do; I cant design gardens like she does. Part of getting older is figuring out what youre good at and what you love.

Like Lego pieces, the words snapped into Grants mind, fitting right into place. It was good Connor had something he did well, cause Grant had other things he did better than Connor.

In the building"Nolan called it a shop"they got to work. Grant helped Nolan measure the boards and helped hold them as they were cut.

By the time they had a stack made, Connor appeared. I heared the saw. Can I help?

Were going to screw in the chair slats now. Nolan set a piece of wood on the chair frame. Line up the holes, put the screw in, then use the screwdriver. Connor can start the screw. Grant, take over when it gets hard to turn.

Grant helped Connor get the screw started. Connor did the first turns, Grant did the harder turns"and Nolan finished.

THE BOYS HAD done a fine job, Nolan thought as he leaned against the workbench and watched. They were on the last slat.

Connor looked over. We better finish and find Beff. She might have cookies she needs to give us.

She probably does. Good kids. Grant had a real knack for the wood. Connor, not so much. He mostly wanted to be wherever Grant was.

Dumb wood. Face scrunched up, Connor turned the screwdriver, but got nowhere. Undoubtedly, the screw wasnt lined up with the second piece of wood.

Its not in the right place. Let me do it. Grant reached for the screwdriver.

Connor pulled it away. This is my part. He tried again, his frustration increasing as he wiggled it. He jabbed at the screw with the screwdriver.

Uh-oh. Nolan headed for the two. Connor, stop.

The kids face turned mulish, and he pushed harder.

Stop now.

Before Nolan could reach the boys, the screwdriver slipped and jabbed into Connors other hand. Gashed it good. Connor screamed.

Nolan spun back, grabbed the first aid kit off the workbench, and flipped it open as he dropped onto a knee beside Connor. Jesus, he should have stayed closer. Should have caught that the boy was getting frustrated and not being careful. Guilt burned in his gut.

He ripped open a gauze packet, applied pressure, and kept his tone mild. Itll be fine.

God, he hated seeing the child crying. More guilt slid in as he saw Grant had tears in his own eyes. Give the boy something to do. Can you turn the water on in the sink and fetch me a clean towel?

Grant nodded and ran across the shop.

Washing the cut made Connor cry harder, but finally, they were done. As the bleeding slowed, Nolan butterflied the edges together and applied a bandage. Wasnt deep, although itd sure bled enough. It hurt to see an injury on a hand so fucking little.

What happened? Beth stood in the doorway, concern in her face.

Connor pulled free, ran over to her, and shoved his face against her. Holding him with one hand, she crooned her sympathy and examined the bandaging. Hey, you got a cool bandage.

Without moving, Connor nodded.

Nice job. She gave Nolan a gentle smile. Of course, you probably get a fair amount of first aid practice on those construction sites.

It happens, Nolan muttered. But it happened to men, not little boys. Fuck, they shouldnt even be in the damned shop. You want to give them some lunch?

Her brows drew together at the flatness of his voice. Sure. She kissed Connors head and hugged Grant. You two head up to the house, and Ill be right there.

As the boys ran out of the shop, she walked over and slid her arms around Nolan, leaning into him, merging her body with his. She was warm from the sun outside, her skin scented with the herbs shed been working with. You okay, Sir?

It was my fault. I shouldve watched more carefully. He led her out of the shop"hed clean up later. Go feed the kids. Ill be up in a while. When he had his emotions back under control.

But"

He shook his head, stopping her protest. As she headed toward the house, he walked down to the lake, leaving the gate slightly ajar behind him. He might need to run up to the house if Connor started bleeding again.

On the dock, he took a seat in one of the two chairs. The boys probably hadnt noticed, but the one they were building was kid-sized. He planned to make two, one for each boy, but damned if he wouldnt finish them himself.

How could he have been so careless? Nolan stared out over the water, blindly watching an egret trolling for frogs and minnows in the shallows. A few butterflies flitted over the yellow canna lilies along the banks.

He kept hearing Connors scream. Seeing his tears.

The gates squeak caught his attention. Grant walked out onto the dock, carrying a paper plate as carefully as if it were glass.

Nolan frowned, and the boy stopped. I brought you Beth said you should eat. Grant took a step back. She did.

Scaring children now. Way to go, King. He made his lips curve up as he took the plate. Shes a bossy wife.

Relief flashed across Grants face. Yeah, he had scared the kid. And hed thought he wanted to be a father? Crap job hed make of it. He nodded at the other chair.

The boy slid onto it halfway, stood back up, and pulled a can of Red Bull from his pocket. He handed it over.

Thanks. Not hungry. Not thirsty. Feeling obligated, Nolan opened the can, but simply held it. After a minute, he noticed Grant was watching him carefully. Problem?

Beth said you felt bad cause Connor got hurt, and so you wouldnt eat. Grant kicked at the legs of the chair and admitted, I cant eat ifif I dont feel right. My stomach gets all twisty.

The easy sympathy smoothed some of the knots in Nolans gut. Yep. That it does.

You didnt make Connor get hurt. You told him to stop, only he didnt listen.

Kids dont always listen. I shouldnt have had you two in the shop.

Youre wrong. Grants eyes fired with anger. We want to learn. To do stuff. Im your home crew.

But you can get hurt.

When Grant lifted his chin, he looked uncommonly like Beth. Yeah, the resolute movement was hers. Maybe the next generation wouldnt inherit her genes, but her influence would damn well survive.

Maybe you can get hurt. The kid pointed at Nolans scabbed knuckles"skinned-up when helping the roofing crew move stacks of shingles. I guess you better stay home.

Sheer disrespect.

Nolan grinned.

The worry disappeared from Grants eyes, and he grinned back. Problem solved, he dropped to his hands and knees to peer at the catfish in the shallows.

So young. So fucking fragile. So much like Beth"who had no problem telling him when he got overprotective.

Hell. Grant had a point. Injuries were part of life. A part of growing up. He couldnt shield the boys from everything. Not really. All a man could do was guard the youngsters and try to keep accidents to a minimum. Wrapping them in cotton batting would hurt them more in the end.

It wasnt as if hed given the children power tools. In fact, his father taught Nolan and his brothers to use hand tools at Connors age. And theyd gotten banged up some in the process of gaining skill, independence, and patience. Mastering the art of building came with the price of cuts and bruises and the occasional smashed finger.

Life had its own balance. Took a kid to make him remember it.

Took a kid to remind him to call his own father"and offer his heartfelt thanks.

Nolan started eating his ham and beef sandwich, enjoying the spicy mustardand something else. When theyd first been together, hed asked Beth what shed whispered as she spread the mustard. Shed turned an adorable red and silenced him completely with her answer. Adding a bit of love.

Her sandwiches always tasted better than the ones he made himself.

As he took the last bite, he realized Grant was waiting patiently. Yeah?

Beth said to bring you back when you finished, an shed give us cookies"or pie.

Pie? Got a bribe for both of them, did she? Sneaky submissive.

WATCHING OUT THE kitchen window, Beth smiled as both guys headed back to the house. From the anticipation displayed by Grants dancing feet, Nolan had finished his sandwich. Cookies were expected.

Why didnt Nolan eat lunch wiff us? Seated on the counter, Connor licked a batter-covered spoon. Is he mad?

No, baby. Beth brushed his silky, soft hair out of his face. He felt bad because you got hurt.

Connor studied the bandage on his hand. Like when Jermaine hits me and Grant feels bad?

Beth pulled in a breath at the thought of someone hitting the child. But oh, she was so proud of Grant. Yes, Grant is a lot like Nolan. They want to keep us safe, and they get upset if they cant.

Oh. Connor looked up as the patio door opened, and Nolan followed Grant inside.

Before she could help Connor down, he jumped off the counter, staggered, got his balance, and darted to Nolan. Dont feel bad. Im more careful next time. Promise.

Rumbling a laugh, Nolan picked him up and gave him a hearty squeeze. I appreciate the promise, my man. Ill watch over you more carefully, too.

Beaming proudly at his success, Grant claimed the cookies Beth held out.

Nolan pointed toward the boys bedroom. Quiet time for an hour, crew. Then well go swimming.

They trotted to their room, exchanging competitive comments about who could hold their breath longer.

Grinning, Nolan entered the kitchen. Without speaking, he backed Beth up against the counter, leaned into her, and kissed the worry right out of her.

When he lifted his head, she laid her hand on his cheek, seeing his eyes were clear again. Youre feeling better.

Youre a manipulative little subbie. I should beat you more often. He kissed her again and murmured, Grant offered me pie. I take it you lost our bet? Uzuri and Holt arent a couple?

Thats right, darn it.

Well, damn. Apple or cherry? He didnt wait for her answer, ignored her giggling, and with a hunters single-mindedness, searched the kitchen for his prize.

A few minutes later"after hed practically inhaled a third of the apple pie"they settled down in the great room to have a second cup of coffee. As Nolan picked up the paper hed started earlier, Beth slid off the couch and settled at his feet, leaning against his legs. While he absently stroked her hair and read the news, she drifted into a quiet contentment.

He loved her. And her body. And would go to extraordinary lengths to prove it. Somehow, what hed done at the club had wiped out the derogatory voice in her mind, the one whispering of her unworthiness. Shelikedherself again. Felt at home in her own skin.

Both Jessica and Kari had called earlier to offer congratulations on smacking down Alyssa. Her lips twitched. How embarrassing. Yet, confronting the submissive had felt good, too. Truly, she wished Alyssa the best"as long as she kept her distance from Sir.

The murmuring of the boys came from their room. Sounded as if Connor was falling asleep.

Grant was probably working on his puzzle. He had a mind that liked shapes, hands that liked putting things together. Connor showed a talent for wordsand she wanted to see what hed do with music. Both boys were going to be amazing men. Butwould they get the love and the attention they needed to nurture those gifts?

It was amazing how giving they were with their own affection. And how protective. Beths heart melted. Nolan had told her how Connor had yelled at Alyssa, and Grant had thrown a dish at her simply because the woman had hurt Beths feelings.

How could she stand to let them leave? To not know if they were all right?

Frowning, Beth tried to turn her focus to a little baby girl. A baby. Yet, her arms seemed shaped these days to hold solid, sturdy frames. Little boys.

Lord, was she crazy? Darn it, Nolan wanted a girl. But, shed seen his face when hed lifted Connor into the air. He was as bound up in the boys as she was.

Plans change.

When shed joined the Shadowlands after escaping Kyler, shed known exactly what she wanted"a gentle, sweet, tame Dom. But no one had clicked and, to her dismay, Master Z had handed her over to Nolan, the roughest, most dangerous Dom in the club. No, in the state. Maybe even in the country.

He sure wasnt any gentle, sweet Dom. Sheesh, it was like putting in an order for a nice tame camellia bush and receiving a huge, knotty cypress tree.

But love came where it would.

Nolan set his paper to one side. Youre frowning, sugar. His hand was on her face as he studied her with Doms eyes. Tell me whats wrong.

Pulling in a careful breath, she put her hand on his and tossed their careful plans to the winds. I want to adopt Grant and Connor. We can always hunt for a little girl later, right?

A slow smile appeared on his hard face.

Yes, he was her cypress tree, big enough to shelter the world. And it looked as if their family wouldnt be a well-planned garden, but rather a forest that would endure for generations to come.

Chapter end

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