“You sure?” Dad asked.

Chloe nodded. “Sorry about that, y’all.”

Everyone quickly got busy filling their plates with roast and vegetables, then made their way to the table. Steed and my father quickly fell into a conversation about the barn that Chloe had suggested they transform into an event venue. Mom and Paxton went over last-minute things that needed to be done before tomorrow. The actual wedding ceremony was family only and a few close friends. The reception, on the other hand, was going to be held at Chloe’s grandparents’ house. It was the largest on the ranch, and Melanie had everything already to go since she hosted a spring charity event each year. The backyard was being transformed for the wedding reception. I had to admit it all came together pretty fast since I had first shown Chloe the chapel a month-and-a-half ago.

I glanced over at Chloe. She was staring at me. We both smiled at each other, and I cleared my throat.

“Um, since we have all four of you here, there is something Chloe and I would like you to know before the wedding tomorrow.”

All eyes were on me. Looking at my beautiful bride, I motioned for her to take over.

“Rip and I are going to be making an announcement when we come back from our honeymoon, but we wanted y’all to know first.”

“What is it, sweetheart?” my mom asked.

Chloe’s eyes lit up and her face broke into a stunning smile. “Rip and I are expecting a baby. My due date is March 7.”

I had to admit, I was nervous about what our folks would say. So far, no one had told us we were rushing into anything, especially since we had really only started dating in June. Now we were getting married and having a baby.

“A baby?” Mom said, standing up. “A baby! A baby!”

Paxton jumped up next. “A baby!”

My father was next. “We’re having another grandbaby!”

My parents hugged while Paxton walked up to Chloe and wrapped her arms around her. I smiled as I took in the whole scene. When I got to Steed, my smile faded. He was sitting there, staring at Chloe.


Steed slowly shook his head and then stood. “Excuse me one moment.”

He walked out of the kitchen. My heart dropped, and when I saw the tears forming in Chloe’s eyes, I wanted to go after Steed and hit him.

Paxton moved to follow him. “I’ll go see what’s…”

“No, Mom, I need to go. If you’ll excuse me.” Chloe gave a polite grin and went in the direction Steed had disappeared.

“Paxton, is he not happy about this?” my mother asked.

“I’m sure he is in shock. I know he’s happy.” She looked at me. “He knows how much you love her. He probably wasn’t expecting y’all to have a baby so soon.”

“Well, we weren’t either,” I said. “I don’t regret it for one moment.”

“Of course you don’t, RJ. Of course you don’t,” Mom said.

I glanced to where Chloe and Steed had walked out of the kitchen. Paxton reached for my hand. “Give them a few minutes, sweetheart. It’s going to be fine.”

“Of course it will,” Dad added. “It’s hard for a dad. You’ll learn that someday, son, if you have a girl.”

Doing the only thing I could, I nodded and sat back down at the table.


I FOUND MY father sitting on the front porch steps, staring out over the perfectly manicured lawn.


He looked over his shoulder and smiled. “Come sit down, pumpkin.”

A warm rush of happiness washed over me. My father hadn’t called me pumpkin in years. I sat down next to him.

“Are you disappointed in me?” I asked, barely above a whisper.

“What? God, no. I’m sorry I reacted that way. I needed to leave before I did something.”

“Hit Rip?”

He jerked his head to look at me. “No! Why in the world would I hit the boy?”

I shrugged. “I dunno. You sat there with a deadpan expression, then got up and left.”

Daddy chuckled. “Chloe, I was trying not to get upset. I can’t be crying in front of Rip’s daddy. I’ll look like a pansy ass.”

Grinning, I wrapped my arm around his and leaned my head on his shoulder. For a man in his forties, he was still muscular. I could easily remember these arms lifting me up and putting me on his shoulders for a ride.

“You’re not mad?”

“Pumpkin, I’m so happy for you and Rip. I mean, I wish y’all would have waited just a bit longer, but I understand.”

“It was an accident. My birth control failed. Big time.”

He laughed. “I would say so. How are you feeling?”

“Well, anything chocolate makes me sick. I’ve had some light to moderate morning sickness. Except it comes at all times of the day so I’m not really sure why it is called morning sickness.”

He laughed. “Rip taking good care of you?”

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