Authors: Jaci Burton
MEGAN HAD BAKED
two cakes for Des's and Emma's baby showers, and pink and blue cupcakes as well. She was going all out for this event, but then again, two of her closest friends were having babies. She wanted this to be special.
The main cakes were vanilla and chocolate, with yellow and green frosting. Since for some odd reason both Des and Emma had decided to be surprised about the sex of their babies, she couldn't have a definitive coloring on their main cakes. Their decision, of course, and it gave her more leeway on decorating. Des liked chocolate, and Emma liked vanilla cake, so there would be something for everyone. Plus, she'd used pink and blue on the cupcakes.
After finishing up the fondant bows on the cakes and icing the cupcakes earlier this morning, she'd set them all in the refrigerator so she could run home and shower. When she'd texted Brady last night he'd told her he'd pick her up, but since he had a truck and she had the car, she said she'd rather drive, since she had more room for all the cakes. So she stopped at the auto shop first.
He was standing outside with Roxie. She couldn't help
but smile at the picture the two of them made. Tall, gorgeous hunk of man wearing jeans and a dark long-sleeved Henley. And a tiny dog on a leash, said dog with a yellow stuffed chicken hanging out of her mouth.
So incongruent, yet so perfect together.
She stopped at the curb and he climbed into the passenger seat, putting Roxie on his lap.
“Hey,” she said.
“I need to stop by the bakery and load the cakes, then we'll be on our way.”
She pulled up to the back of the bakery and popped the trunk of her car.
“I'll be right back,” she said. She got out and went to the back door. She unlocked it and went inside, surprised to realize Brady was right on her heels.
“Figured you might need some help carrying all of whatever you have there out to your car.”
“Oh. Okay. Thanks.”
She had a huge refrigerator, and once she opened the door, it took up a lot of space, especially with Brady and her both in the small bakery kitchen. She'd stored the cakes and cupcakes down on the bottom rack, so once she bent over to retrieve them, her bottom rubbed against Brady'sâlegs? Or maybe that was hisÂ .Â .Â .
Something else that she was having a fun time imagining.
“Oh. Sorry,” he said, and then his back was draped over hers. “Let me get those.”
Talk about intimate. Not that she minded having his body all over hers. Except she'd spent all yesterday making these cakes and cupcakes, and she was totally distracted having her butt nestled in between his very hard thighs.
Distraction was never a good thing when she was holding a cake in her hands.
“I'm going to hand this one up to you. You can pack it in the trunk.”
Then his forearm brushed against her hair as he lifted the cake out of her hands. She breathed in his freshly showered scent, and all her synapses started firing in the “Hey, Brady, let's have fast, hot sex in the bakery kitchen” direction when she should be focused on the “Hey, Megan, let's not drop the cupcakes, okay?” direction.
But they finally wrangled everything into the trunk and were off to the ranch, much to her libido's utter disappointment.
And now her nerves were a jangled mess. Not only was she worried about the cakes and cupcakes being perfect but she was trying not to focus on Brady's long legs stretched out in the passenger seat of her car or the way he kept running his fingers over Roxie's back, wishing it was his hands on her.
She decided to keep her attention on the road.
“SoÂ .Â .Â . cakes, huh?”
She nodded. “Yes. Cakes.”
“Chocolate for Des, vanilla for Emma. And the cupcakes are a mix as well.”
She wanted to cringe at the small talk. “How's Roxie doing?”
“Pretty good, actually. She's walking well with the leash.”
“I'm glad to hear that.”
“Now tell me about this baby shower thing. Are you sure the guys are going to be there?”
She gave him a quick glance. “Of course. It's actually an excuse for a party. With Des and Emma both due soon, it'll be the last chance to get everyone together before their babies arrive.”
“When are their babies due?”
“In a few weeks, actually. We tried to organize the baby shower last month, but had to cancel due to the storms we had, so this is the best date they could come up with that
everyone was available. It's cutting it pretty close to their due dates. Fortunately, neither Des or Emma has gone into labor yet.”
“That's good news.”
“Yeah. Those cakes look good. I wouldn't have wanted to miss out on that.”
She laughed. “You'll enjoy the rest of the food, too. There are a lot of people coming and everyone's bringing a dish, plus there will be barbecue.”
“And now I'm hungry.”
They arrived at the ranch. Megan pulled up in front and parked. Emma's sister, Molly, and their mother, Georgia, came outside to help carry the cakes in, where Martha, the ranch manager, was waiting for them.
Brady had let Roxie out of the car. Minus her favorite chicken.
“Don't want the other dogs taking that away from her. It's her favorite toy.”
“Is it?” Megan asked.
He gave her a smile. “Yeah. She loves that damn thing. Carries it everywhere with her.”
Roxie immediately ran off to join all the other dogs on the ranch.
“Oh, these look amazing, Megan,” Martha said, giving her a big hug. “Des and Emma are going to love them.”
“Where are they?” Megan asked.
“They're upstairs. Des is getting dressed. They should be down shortly.”
“Martha, you know Brady Conners, don't you?”
Martha smiled. “I sure do. You've been here before. Nice to see you again.”
Brady nodded. “Ma'am. Thanks for having me here today.”
“You're very welcome. There's beer in the cooler outside, and iced tea and lemonade in the pitchers here on the counter. Megan, there's also wine and sangria.”
“I'll have a glass of sangria,” Megan said.
“The guys are all outside over by the barbecues,” Martha said to Brady.
Brady nodded. “I think I'll see what they're doing.”
While Megan poured herself a glass of sangria, the front door opened and Samantha and Reid came in.
She loved her best friend, Sam. Since Sam and Reid had gotten married and moved in together, Megan hadn't had a lot of time with her. Plus, Sam's grandmother's Alzheimer's had advanced, taking up a lot of her time. She understood family came first, so she'd backed away, knowing Sam needed space not only with her new husband, but also to take care of Grammy Claire.
But now she went over to Sam and hugged her. “I've missed you.”
Sam smiled. “I've missed you, too.”
“How's Grammy Claire?”
“Having a good day today. I spent over an hour with her visiting, and she was fully aware the entire time.”
Megan squeezed her hand, knowing how precious those moments with her grandmother were to Sam. “I'm so glad.”
“Me, too. So what's to drink?”
“I'm having a sangria.”
“That sounds amazing. I'm going to have that, too.”
Reid walked by and brushed his lips across Sam's. “I'm heading outside to find the guys.”
“Okay, bye,” Sam said, then went to fix herself a glass. “Where are Des and Emma?”
“Slowly making our way down the stairs,” Emma said.
Megan smiled as she watched Des and Emma coming toward the kitchen. At nearly nine months, both of them were the blooming vision of impending motherhood. Emma had her hair pulled to the side in a blond braid, while Des had her dark hair piled high on her head in a messy but oh-so-attractive bun. They both wore maxi
skirts and short-sleeved blouses that barely covered their protruding bellies.
And she'd never seen two women look more gloriously beautiful.
“What would you two like to drink?” Martha asked.
“Just water for me,” Emma said, rubbing the small of her back.
“I'll pass for now,” Des said.
“Hi, honey.” Georgia Burnett came over to pull Emma into a hug.
“Hey, Mom,” Emma said.
Georgia gave Emma a quick up and down look. “Baby has definitely dropped.”
Emma laughed. “That's what the doctor said this week. He thinks I might go early.”
Des sniffed. “My doctor did not say that, unfortunately. I'm ready for this to be over with.”
“It'll be over with soon enough,” Martha said. “Just not today. We have a party to get to. Now it's a beautiful day outside, so you two go sit and get some sun.”
Emma held up her hands. “As if
have any control over what this baby wants to do.”
Georgia looked over at Martha and smirked. “She's grouchy today.”
“I heard that, Mom,” Emma said as she and Des retreated out the front door.
Megan looked at Sam and Molly, and the three of them grinned.
“Glad it's them and not me,” Sam said.
Molly lifted her glass. “I'll drink to that.”
Megan followed the women out to the large front patio, where Logan, Des's husband, and Luke, Emma's husband, had set up cushioned chairs with footrests for Des and Emma. There were folding chairs for the rest of the nonpregnant women, so Megan pulled up a chair and sipped her sangria and listened to Emma and Des talk, learning way more about pregnancy than she ever wanted to know.
She grimaced and shuddered, listening to their talk about hemorrhoids and mucus plugs and Braxton Hicks contractions until one of the womenâMegan thought her name was Shellyâleaned forward.
“I take it you haven't had any kids yet?” Shelly asked.
Megan shook her head. “Not yet.”
“Wait until after those babies pop out,” she said. “Then you get to hear the horror stories about labor and childbirth, and the oversharing of intimate information gets worse.”
“Really?” She couldn't imagine it could get much worse than this. She'd tried to be stoic about this. She'd never been pregnant, nauseous, or swollen, so she couldn't be empathetic to her friends.
Shelly nodded and gave Megan a sympathetic look. “It's just what we moms do. Sorry about that.”
“Well, I guess by the time I get around to having a baby, I'll be fully informed.”
Shelly laughed. “And you'll do the same thing. Trust me. Whenever a mom starts talking about pregnancy, we all chime in with our own stories. It's just a natural thing.”
“Sure. Of course it is.” And Shelly was probably right, though Megan had no idea if that would ever happen to her, since pregnancy wasn't anywhere on her radar in the near future.
First, she'd have to get married, which wasn't looking to be anytime soon.
Actually, she'd be happy enough just to find a stable guy to have regular sex with.
That thought made her smile.
Babies were down the line somewhere later.
She could just imagine Des and Emma holding their babies. And maybe at some point she'd get a chance to babysit. That was as far as she wanted to project her future.
Marriage and babies for herself? Yeah, someday.
But at the moment, after hearing those horror stories? That someday could definitely wait.
*Â Â Â *Â Â Â *
BRADY HUNG OUT
with the guys near the barbecue. He kept one eye on Roxie, who seemed to be having a great time mixing it up with the other dogs. Good thing they were all friendly so he wouldn't have to worry about her today.
He drank beer and Logan and Luke and Reid talked about the ranchâand about babies, since that seemed to be the topic of the day.
Though, fortunately, they switched pretty quickly from babies to baseball. He currently sat between Carter and Logan, who were arguing baseball teams.
“Haven't heard you weigh in yet,” Logan said.
Brady shrugged. “I'm a St. Louis fan. Always have been.”
“Ha,” Logan said to Carter. “Another one on my team.”
“You're fired, Brady,” Carter said, shooting a glare in Brady's direction. “Everyone knows Kansas City is the better team.”
Brady's lips lifted and he took a long swallow of his beer. “Yeah, I'll pack up my things and move out as soon as I get back today.”
“Okay, so you're not fired,” Carter said. “But I seriously question your loyalties.”
Logan slapped him on the back. “Don't worry, Brady. If Carter's too stupid to realize your value, you can come work for the McCormacks.”
“Hey, I didn't say I was a St. Louis fan,” Reid said.
“You didn't have to say it,” Logan said. “All the McCormacks are.”
“Yeah, but I lived in Boston for all those years.”
“Don't even try to tell us you switched loyalties while you lived there,” Luke said.
“I didn't say that.” Reid offered up a smirk. “But I did go to some games in Boston.”
When Reid's brothers gave him looks, Reid laughed, then added, “With clients. For business purposes only. Promise.”
“You're lucky you added that âbusiness purposes only' in there, kid,” Logan said.
Brady enjoyed this brotherly exchange, but it also gave him a twinge in his gut. He and Kurt used to argue baseball all the time. Hell, as kids, they'd get in fights about whose team was better. His brother was a die-hard Kansas City fan, and Brady loved St. Louis. So he understood the back and forth about team loyalty.
It made him miss his brother.
“Thinking about Kurt?” Carter asked.
His boss was astute. “Yeah.”
“Sometimes that's not a bad thing, especially if it's a good memory.”