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Protecting His Own Part 6

Warmth filled her"the wonderful heat of his seed. Yetnothing would come of his gift. As she stared into his intent night-dark eyes, pain slashed into her heart. There would be no baby with his beautiful skin, his dark eyes. Not from her.

Oh, Nolan. She wanted to touch him. Couldnt. Her voice broke, as shattered as her heart. Itit wont happen. Her breathing hitched, and tears filled her eyes.

What wont, sweetheart? His warm hand cupped her cheek.

The first sobs felt as if they would crack her ribs"oh, they hurt"and more followed, as she drowned in sorrow. She felt him slide out. Felt him remove everything. Felt his careful hands undo the restraints. She cried harder.

Then he was beside her on the bed, holding her in his strong arms.

N-no! She struggled. Your shoulder, youll"

He gave a hard laugh. Fuck, I love you, Beth. He pulled her closer, lying on his side, half on top of her, restraining her with his size alone. As he smoothed the hair from her wet face, she realized tears still flowed from her eyes. Now, tell me, sugar.

Her throat closed, trapping the words, choking her.

Beth. The growl pushed past her grief.

While you were gone, I went in for the last treatment. Her words were barely audible. It didnt work. The doctor told me to find a surrogate or adopt.

Ah, sugar. Despite his Doms face, his emotions were obvious. Anger that shed acted without him present. Sorrowfor her.

Im sorry. Sorry. She dissolved into tears again, wanting"needing"to apologize. My body is worthless. Im hopeless, never good for anything, not"

There was a crack of sound and pain scorched her bottom. The shocking sting splintered her thoughts into fragments. Jerking, she met his annoyed dark gaze.

Oh, God, shed been speaking out loud.

If I hear any more of the crap Kyler shoved in your head, Ill lay you across my knees, and youll get yourself a spanking session thatll leave you unable to sit down for a week. His voice was a low rasp.

She closed her tear-swollen eyes, grateful hed broken her free of the spiral. With a shuddering sigh, she pressed her forehead against his shoulder, tangling her fingers in his loosened hair. Im sorry.

You be sorry for letting that bullshit into your head, Beth. For the rest His sigh echoed hers. Im sorry, too. I do know how much youd hoped for a different outcome. But, sugar, the doctors said it was doubtful a fetus could come to term even if you did get pregnant.

I know. She sniffled. So many hopes. Gone. She needed to say the words, accept their truth: Master, I cant give you a child of your own. Of your blood. There wont be"

His snort stopped her. At Christmas, did you count how many nieces and nephews I have?

It had appeared there were hundreds of children running around. A l-lot.

They are all my blood, so to speak. The King bloodline isnt in danger of dying out. His hand was warm against her back. Yours, either. Your mother has brothers and a sister in the Midwest, and they have children.

I guess.

Wed already planned on adopting, sooner or later, hadnt we?

She nodded, as her muscles started to relax. So many children needed a home that shed felt guilty about wanting to bear Nolans child first. Are you sure you dont want a baby of your own?

Beth, any child coming into our family will be my own.

As he cradled her against him, she rested her head against his chest and listened to the slow thud of his heart"one big enough to love any number of children.

SITTING NEXT TO Beth on their screened, covered patio, Nolan drank a beer and watched the best show on Earth"a noisy, pounding, late-afternoon storm. Rain sheeted down so hard he could barely see the lake. On the banks, the grass was being pounded flat. A streak of brilliant white turned the world to high noon, and seconds later, a crack of thunder shook his bones. A chill breeze wafted past, carrying the scent of green vegetation and lake water.

Fucking great entertainment. It was even better when a man had someone with whom to share. He gave the fingers twined with his a slight squeeze and turned his head.

In the chair beside him, Beth had her legs pulled to her chest, her chin resting on her bare knees. Her expression as she gazed at the roiling clouds waspeaceful. She was something. His wife. His submissive. His love.

When hed met her mother, hed tried to convey his appreciation for the strong foundation Beth had received. How, despite the damage Kyler had done, shed kept moving forward. Lisabet had laughed and said her child had been born resilient. In fact, when Lisabets husband had died, Beth had supported her distraught mother.

The two shared a hell of a lot of traits. Like how theyd straighten their shoulders when facing down a problem. How careful they were with others, managing a graceful honesty rarely seen in this uncivil world.

But, unlike Beth, Lisabet didnt bury her emotions. She cried easily and often. Nolan remembered when hed called her from the hospital to say Beth had been rescued from her abusive husband. Lisabet had burst into tears.

Undoubtedly, Beth had been more open before shed suffered two years of abuse. Counseling had helped her work out her issues, but the therapist had warned them both that during times of stress, Kylers destructive programming might resurface.

And so it had.

It broke his heart to hear Beth call herself worthless. She had to be the finest woman hed ever met, and it pissed him off she couldnt accept how amazing she was. Hed never met anyone as generous and spirited, as strong and caring. Hell, even now, her heartbreak wasnt for herself, but because she couldnt give him a baby.

He took a sip of his beer. Next time they visited Texas, hed point out all his relatives who were adoptedassuming he could remember which of his cousins they were.

Dammit, shed taken that last treatment without him present. The fucking hormones the doctors administered always shoved her onto an emotional rollercoaster. At least he was back now and could keep an eye on Little Miss Independent.

Leaning forward, he pulled the low footstool closer, annoyed when his shoulder blasted a painful objection to the movement. Damn injury. Hed ignored the pain while holding Beth in bed, but itd been aching ever since. Settling back, he put his feet up and put the beer to one side. Come here, sugar.

She rose to stand beside him, barefoot, dressed in her pale blue cover-up, and smelling faintly of chlorine from her swim in the pool. Taking her hand, he tugged her into his lap. Just the right size for him. Taller than Zs Jessica, shorter than Cullens Andrea. Average, she called her size. Fucking perfect, hed say. Big enough he could be rough with her and shed hold her own, small enough she fit perfectly in his arms and on his lap.

Even better, they were on the same wavelength again. He could feel the tie between them, strong and open, no more tangles or knots.

He understood her desire to give him a baby who looked like him, since hed love to see a little girl with Beths eyesand her stubborn, sweet personality. Using a surrogate to carry a child with both of their genes would work, but, damn, he couldnt put a woman at risk like that. Friends of his had hired a surrogate"another friend"and had a beautiful son. Their happiness was destroyed when the surrogate tried to keep the baby herself, and failing, fell into depression and committed suicide. And there was Fawn, his cousin whod loved being a surrogate and had died in labor with her third contract. Twenty-four years old. Not more than a baby herself, dammit.

Beth had understood why hed refused. His little submissive had the courage to step into someones shoes and empathize. Braver than he was in many ways.

He rubbed his freshly-shaved chin on the top of her head. Well call the social worker tomorrow, the one we worked with when we were getting the adoption certifications. Well call the private adoption lawyer, as well.

Her shoulders tensed and relaxed. Yes, Master. Her resigned exhale said she was with him, and she recognized it was time to move on. Did you want to try the foster care route?

According to the states priorities, a childs relatives topped the listbut foster parents were second. However, until parental rights were terminated, children could"and often did"return to their parents. Although he and Beth had completed the foster care licensing, he didnt want her subjected to any more disappointments. Not right now. Lets save fostering as a last option.

Okay. As a rain-laden wind whipped her hair back, she rubbed her head against him like a small cat.

What we didnt kick around last spring"because she hadnt been ready to give up"was our specs.

Specifications? Youre not ordering lumber for a building, Sir. Her husky giggle was muffled by his shirt. There was his Beth. She might cry if the world fell apart, but then shed throw her shoulders back and survive"and make sure everyone around her did as well.

Although any child would be a gift, the adoption agency will ask if we have any preferences. He ran his knuckles over her chin. For mealthough boys would be nice, Id like a girl first. If she had red hair like her mama-to-be, I sure wouldnt object.

She tilted her head, as if shed never thought about choices. Probably hadnt since shed been so damned set on bearing a child herself. A little girl She smiled. Yes. Absolutely yes.

What about you, Beth? Do you have a preference?

Um Spit it out, sugar. Ill only beat on you if I dont like the answer.

A laugh appeared in her eyes. Yeah, she was feeling better. Moving ahead was the right thing to do. Id like a baby if possible. To feel like were starting from scratch. Her arms moved to form a cradle.

Makes sense. One baby girl. We got a plan. A baby girl. He could almost see her tiny face. Snuggling Beth closer, he kissed the top of her head. You ready for this?

Her nod was firm. Were not getting any younger, and"a real smile appeared"if you want to fill all those rooms upstairs, wed better get moving.

When hed built the house, hed planned for a big family. Although adoption might be less straightforward than getting Beth pregnant, it didnt matter. What mattered was filling their home with noise and laughter. Bickering and broken dishes and pranks. Homework on the table and artwork on the fridge. Girly shit and giggles. Add some boys and thered be frogs in the bathtub and football on the lawn.

Fuck, yeah. Have I mentioned recently how much I love you?

Her lips tilted up. I think its been hours and hours. It filled his heart to hear the easy way she added, I love you, Sir.

Chapter Five.

ON THE COUCH beside Connor, Grant watched a movie on television. The little lion cub was stuck on a cliff, and his daddy was trying to save him. Connor had been giggling, but now he was silent. Scared of what was coming although theyd both seen it before.

Grant was tense mostly because he was hoping Mama and Jermaine would be done fighting when they returned.

Since leaving the shelter last weekend, Mama kept getting worse. This morning, shed been mean to Connor. Then shed screamed at Jermaine, telling him to get the stuff or she would, and theyd yelled at each other all the way out the door.

Why couldnt he and Connor have been lions? Theyd be fast and could hide in the grass andwould have a daddy like Mufasa.

But Simbas daddy died, too.

On the television, Mufasa fell and fell and fell, and the big animals ran over him as if he wasnt there. As Connor started sniffling, Grants eyes filled with tears, and he shook his head hard. Boys didnt cry. But he knew how Simba must be wailing, Daddy, come back.

A car door slammed outside the duplex. Another one. Rubbing his arm over his wet eyes, Grant turned to see Mama stomp into the house. She didnt lookright. Her yellow hair wasnt combed and the top was dark. She hadnt put on the makeup stuff that made her eyes bigger or her mouth red.

Jermaine followed. He was almost as tall as Nolanman, but was skinny"more bones than muscles. His greasy, black hair hung in his eyes, and he hadnt shaved for a few days so an ugly, patchy beard covered his lower face. Slamming the door behind him, he pointed at Mama. Told you, bitch, dont set up buys here. Cant afford a cop on my ass right now.

Mama made a pffffing sound. Dont be a dick. No one knows Pythons a dealer. Hes an asshole, but hell be in and out before anyone notices, and Im not going to wait until you think its safe. That taste he gave me wont last long.

Twirling around and around, she spotted Grant and Connor and danced over to the couch. Up close, her brown eyes had turned blacker and twitchy. She ruffled Grants hair so hard it hurt, and he pulled away, but she didnt notice. Arent my boys the prettiest boys youve ever seen? Just like their daddy. She bounced on her toes, like when Connor waited too long to use the bathroom.

I dont give a shit about the little brats, but dont you fucking call me a dick. Jermaine kicked the footstool across the room. Bitch, if I toss you in the ditch out back, the gatorsd make your body disappear, all neat and tidy.

Oooo, Im scared now. When Mama spun to face him, her face changed to the crazy one. Ill call you any fucking thing I want. Dickhead.

Go, Grant whispered to his brother. They edged off the couch and started real quiet toward the hallway.

Jermaine stepped in front of Grant. I dont like you sneaking around, you little bastards. You look guilty as shit. You get into the food again?

Grant swallowed. Uh-uh. We watched television.

Mama turned, and her face went mean. Then whyre you running off? Youre always in your rooms. With an arm, she swiped the magazines off the coffee table. You dont like your mama no more?

Hell no, they dont. Fucking beggars, eating all the food when our backs are turned. Im sick of it. Of them. When Jermaine swung his arm, Grant tried to dodge.

Wham.

The backhanded blow knocked Grant into the coffee table and onto his back. His head went all fuzzy. He couldnt stand, couldnt even roll over. A warm trickle ran from his nose, and his cheek hurt. Hurt. He sobbed once before he could stop.

His mama heard him, and her face changed. Got soft. When she whispered, her voice was soft, too. Oh, Grant.

Jermaine laughed and repeated in a high voice, Oh, Grant.

Mamas mouth pinched together; her eyes turned crazy again, and she slapped Jermaine right across the face. Leave my kid alone, dickhead.

You cunt. He shoved her so hard she tripped. Her shoulders hit the wall with a loud thud.

Scrambling up, she lunged toward him with a screech of fury.

Grant managed to roll onto his hands and knees before Connor started pulling at him. Hurry, Grant.

Teeth gritted together, Grant crawled toward the bedroom. His ears hummed funny, and his mouth tasted bad, like when hed taken a sip of Mamas booze.

Mama was crazy-swearing, her words tangled up, her face the color of Supermans cape. She grabbed stuff around her, throwing at the wall, the floor, Jermaine, anywhere. Justthrowing, not aiming. A picture landed on the floor between Grant and Connor, sending glass everywhere.

Jermaine yelled at her.

Grant pushed to his feet. The room whirled for a second, and he staggered before it all settled. Cmon, he whispered to Connor. But where could they go? Hiding under the bed wouldnt work. Jermaine would see them go in the bedroom. He was awful mad"he might search for them.

A dish slammed into Connors back. Screaming in pain, he fell to his hands and knees.

Blood. Blood showed on his brothers white T-shirt.

No! Fear pushed Grant forward, bit at his heels as he dragged Connor up, through the kitchen, and out the back. As he yanked the door shut behind them, something heavy crashed against it. Running, he pulled Connor across the yard, pushed him through the hole in the falling-down fence, and followed.

They stopped beside the fence. Wiping his eyes roughly, Grant checked for gators. The low, muddy ditch was full of water from the last rain. Two gray shapes sunning on the far bank raised their heads to study the boys. One was bigger than Grant, and he held his breath. Jermaine said gators ate little kids"bit into them and tore their legs off and made them scream and scream.

Grant grabbed Connors hand and held on tight. Nothing would get his brother. Lets go.

As they ran down the bank, he could still hear Mama calling names and swearing, Jermaine yelling. Things crashed and broke, and he was a big boy, but he couldnt stop crying.

Chapter end

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