A/N: Alright, so we have finally reached the end of this story. Although Julie requested a third part to this tale, at this time, there are no plans for another fic to conclude this series. That said, I tried to include things that were requested in this chapter, so I hope that helps. Just as a reminder, you have one last chance to vote for the next story. The options are: Possible Fic #1: Egypt, strangers, nuptials, expectations, adventure Possible Fic #2: birth, aging, crisis, surprise, familiarity Possible Fic #3: road trip, doctor, infidelity, snow, secret The votes are close, so, at this point, it could still be any one of the three stories. Thanks for sticking with me on this tale. I've appreciated your interest and all your amazing comments. Enjoy the final chapter! (And cast your vote if you haven't yet. ;) Thanks!) Charlynn
Possible Fic #1: Egypt, strangers, nuptials, expectations, adventure
Possible Fic #2: birth, aging, crisis, surprise, familiarity
Possible Fic #3: road trip, doctor, infidelity, snow, secret
The votes are close, so, at this point, it could still be any one of the three stories. Thanks for sticking with me on this tale. I've appreciated your interest and all your amazing comments. Enjoy the final chapter! (And cast your vote if you haven't yet. ;) Thanks!)
It was over, it was official, and it felt wonderful. Not only was he the father of one amazing child, but Ryan now could claim that right to all three of his wife's children. While they had been at the court house finalizing the adoption papers for Rowan and Quentin, he and Marissa had legally changed Bailey's name, dropping Cooper as his surname and shortening his moniker to simply Bailey Ryan Atwood. The best part was that everything had gone smoothly. Andrew had offered no objections, his lawyer had not tried to included any restrictive or objectionable clauses, and the judge had even been friendly – not that the judge's personality mattered, but it did help to make the afternoon go even more smoothly.
"What are you thinking about?"
Marissa's question startled him for he had been so lost in thought. While still watching the road out of the corner of his eye, the journalist turned towards her and smiled. "Today," he replied, "and how good it feels to know that the kids are now our children. We should do something to celebrate?"
"I don't know," he shrugged, looking back at the traffic in front of him. "Maybe we could do something special this weekend as a family – take the kids somewhere."
"That sounds great…"
"And don't you dare mention it to your sister," he warned her, rolling his eyes at her pout. "You know exactly what she'll do. She'll invite herself, pawn her kids off on us so she and Jackson can go away together for the weekend, or try to change our minds so that Jackson and I will take all five kids and the two of you can go to the spa or something. When I said 'as a family,' I meant you, me, Bailey, Rowan, and Quentin. Did you hear me say anything about Caitlyn? "
"Come on, Ryan," the mother of three cajoled, "think of it this way. We'll go to the water park, and you'll be able to take pictures of her in her bathing suit on your phone and then use the photos as blackmail material in the future."
Arguing, he stated, "it wouldn't work; she'd break my phone."
"That is not funny," Marissa protested through her giggling. "Besides, I know that you like doing things with just the five of us, and I do, too, don't get me wrong, but with…"
Her voice trailed off for nothing else was needed to be said; he understood what she was implying. "We don't even know yet what we're going to do. At this point, it's just speculation. I mean, we haven't even talked to Bailey yet."
"When do you want to do that?"
"I don't know," Ryan shrugged noncommittally. "There's no time like the present. Why don't we talk to him tonight while we're making dinner?"
"With Rowan there to ask questions and offer up commentary the whole time," the dance instructor quipped. "That should be interesting."
"Hey, between the two of us," he protested, "you're the talkative one. So don't blame me for her gift of gab. That's all from your side of the family."
"Oh," Marissa feigned insult, "you think that I talk too much? Well, then, in that case, I'm just going to lay back here and take a nap while you drive home in silence." Curling into the seat, she closed her eyes and immediately attempted to get comfortable in the upright position.
"Hey," the sports writer tried to get her attention, "you know that I was just teasing you, right?"
"I know," she yawned, never opening her eyes or twisting her head around to look at him while they talked. "It was just a convenient excuse for me to go to sleep."
"Preparing yourself for the big talk tonight?"
"You could say that," his wife agreed, her words fading off and getting softer the longer she talked. "Wake me up when we get home?"
Smiling, amused at her antics, Ryan assured her, "you know I will."
Pressing the cruise control button on the steering wheel, he sat back and relaxed in his seat, enjoying the pleasant, early fall day and simply absorbing the fact that his life really was ideal. He had a wife and three children that he loved more than anything else in the world, an extended family he couldn't quite say the same thing about but still appreciated their presence in his life, and an amazing opportunity at his fingertips. The only problem was taking advantage of that opportunity would completely turn his and his family's life upside down, and the immense decision was resting upon his ten year old son's very capable yet undersized shoulders. It was going to be an interesting night in the Atwood household.
"Don't you like the job you have now?"
It was five o'clock, Elizabeth and Nikolas were late bringing home Rowan and Quentin after spending the day with their youngest two children, Marissa was sitting at the kitchen table balancing their check book and paying bills, and he was cooking dinner while talking to Bailey who, in his distraction, had pushed aside the homework he was supposed to be working on.
"No, no, it's nothing like that," Ryan reassured his son. "My job with the newspaper has been great. I've made friends with some of the other guys who work with me, and it definitely has several pretty amazing perks."
"Then I don't get it," the ten year old complained. "You just moved here, you and Mom just got married a few months ago, and you just adopted Rowy and Quentin today. Why would you want to move?"
"It's not that I want to move…exactly. This job that I've been offered though is amazing. You know how much I love the Cubbies."
His son nodded. "Aunt Caitlyn said it's because you enjoy self torture and pain."
Lowering his voice, Ryan made sure that his wife wasn't listening to their conversation. "If that were the case, then I'd be inviting your aunt over for dinner every night, and you don't see that happening, do you?" The little boy laughed. "I think it's all about rooting for the underdog. I identify with them, because, at one point, I, myself, was the underdog."
"That makes sense," Bailey allowed. "So, tell me more about this job."
"I'd be working in the public relations department for the Cubs, acting as a liaison between the franchise and the media, and who is better qualified for such a position than someone who once was the media himself."
Warming up to the idea, his oldest son asked, "would you get to work at Wrigley Field?"
Apparently, that was enough to attract Marissa's attention. "What's this about Wrigley Field?"
"If Dad takes the job in Chicago," the ten year old explained, "I was curious if he would get to work at the stadium?"
Turning towards the startled, slightly emotional voice that had interrupted their conversation, all three Atwoods found Elizabeth Channing holding a fussy Quentin in her arms while searching for an answer on his and his wife's face.
Ignoring her, Marissa held her arms out for their youngest child. "What's wrong; why is he upset?" Changing tactics, she accused, "you're late. Did something happen?"
Before the children's grandmother could answer, Rowan ran up the stairs, flew across the kitchen, and threw herself into Ryan's arms. "Daddy, Daddy," she cried out pitifully, "Rowy got hurted."
"What happened baby girl?"
"She snuck into her Grandmother's closet and was trying to wear her heels," Nikolas answered him. He was the last to join their confused group. "And, when she was trying to walk down the stairs in them, she tripped, fell, and skinned her knee and elbow on the hardwood floors, but she seems fine now. As soon as we pulled into the driveway, she was out the car and running towards the house demanding to see her Daddy."
While his words were said calmly, both he and Marissa could sense an underlying tension to his tone. Evidently not all the Channings were supportive of him adopting their grandchildren.
"Rowy missed you, Daddy," the three year old pronounced, wrapping her arms around his neck and hugging him tightly. Pulling away, she placed a kiss on his cheek. "Her had a bad day. Baby cried the whole time, Gamma yelled at Rowy for breaking her big-girl shoes, and Papa wouldn't let Rowy save her crusts from lunch to feed to the punkins."
"I'm sorry," Marissa apologized to her former in-laws. "It's my fault that she tried to wear your shoes. I always let her play in my closet. She likes dressing up in my clothes and playing pretend. If you'd like, we," she motioned between the two of them, "would happily pay to replace your heels."
"That's not necessary," Elizabeth reassured her. "I really wasn't that upset. My nerves were just slightly frayed, and I took my frustration out of Rowan. It was a…long day."
"You still haven't told us what's wrong with Quentin yet," Ryan urged his wife's ex-husband's parents to explain. "Did he get hurt somehow, too?"
"No, we think he's teething," Nikolas replied. "We tried some Baby Oragel, but, not used to having little ones in the house, we didn't have any teething rings lying around."
"Rowy get one for baby," their daughter announced, pointing towards the fridge. When he simply stood there still holding her, she playfully pulled on his neck. "Move, Daddy. You have to carry Rowy to the freezer."
"You know," Elizabeth offered some advice, "you shouldn't really indulge her every whim. She's going to become spoiled. And, as for this habit of hers to speak in the third person, you should try to break her of it before she goes to preschool next year."
"Rowy's not spoiwled, Gamma," the toddler argued. "Her is Daddy's baby girl, and he loves her."
"See what I mean."
"Mrs. Channing, no offense, but I think Marissa and I will decide what our daughter is and isn't allowed to do. I realize that you've already raised your son and that I'm new at this whole fatherhood thing, but my wife has practically raised these three children on her own for years now, and I, for one, think she's done a wonderful job."
"You're right," Nikolas pacified him. "Liz was out of line, but we're getting sidetracked. When I walked in, she was asking the two of you," he looked at his former daughter-in-law but implied both of them, "something about moving?"
"Yay," Rowan cheered. "Mama, can we move to Paris?"
"Why do you want to move there, sweetie," the mother his children asked her three year old.
"Because Aunt Caity said I could be a Can-Can dancer if we lived in Paris."
"Oh, this is just wonderful," Elizabeth complained under her breath while glaring at him. "Would someone please just give me a straight answer? You've already legally taken our rights to our grandchildren away from us. Are you physically going to tear them out of our lives, too?"
"You walked in on a personal and private family discussion," Ryan answered. "Until we make a decision on our own, I don't feel as if you need to be included in our conversation."
"But, no matter what," Marissa assured the grandparents of her two youngest children, "I will not keep you from Rowan and Quentin. No matter where we live, the both of you will always be a part of their family. I promised you when we started the adoption process that Ryan becoming Rowan and Quentin's legal father and guardian would not change your relationship with them, and that sill holds and always will no matter if we live in Atlanta, Boise, Caracas, or Timbuktu."
"Timbuktu, Timbuktu," their three year old daughter called out from his arms. "Daddy, Rowy wants to go there! Where is Timbuktu?"
Because of the slightly tense atmosphere of the kitchen, the adults all ignored her and her question, and Bailey, too engrossed with the situation around him, appeared to have not even heard his sister's comments.
"I think we should be going," Nikolas finally stated, gently ushering his wife from the room and towards the stairs that would take them back to the first floor, outside, and, eventually, their car. "Please, whenever you reach a conclusion about this possible, potential move, let us know what you decide."
"We will," Ryan heard his wife reassure The Channings. "Thank you for watching the kids this afternoon. We appreciate it."
"We weren't babysitting them; we were simply spending time with out grandchildren," Elizabeth corrected her before stepping out of the room and disappearing. The five Atwoods remained quiet as they listened to the elderly couple leave, waiting until the sound of the front door closing drifted up to their ears before speaking.
"Here, Mama," Rowan beamed up at her mother, reaching out her little, chubby arm and handing Marissa the frozen teething ring for her fussy brother.
"Thank you." After placing the cold, frozen circle in their son's hands and watching him as he lifted the ring to his mouth to chew, she looked up and met Ryan's gaze. "Now, back to where we were before we were interrupted, "the Cubs play at Wrigley Field…the Wrigley Field you mentioned to me all those years ago?"
Smirking he replied, "there is only one."
"So you could…perhaps…get special privileges, maybe even be allowed to give me a private tour of the stadium?"
"Oh yeah," the journalist agreed, "I'm sure that could be arranged."
"I must say, Chicago is looking better and better for me," Marissa declared, "but the final decision isn't mine to make. Like your Dad said, Bailey, it's up to you."
"Your brother and sister," Ryan explained, "haven't started school yet. They wouldn't be leaving behind their friends, their sports teams, all their memories, but you would, so we wanted to allow you the choice of whether or not you want to try this. If you don't, that's fine. We're happy here. But, if you're feeling adventurous, this move could make us all even happier than we already are and closer as a family."
"Rowy says yes," their daughter announced eagerly. "Her likes playing in boxes while Mama unpacks."
"What about Mom's studio," Bailey wanted to know.
"Well, I'd sell this one," she responded, "but, once we're settled in our new home, I'll find a new building to buy and turn into my dance studio."
"And they get snow in Chicago, right?"
"More snow than you could ever wish for," the sports writer responded to his oldest child's question.
Debating, the ten year old wondered, "what about Aunt Caitlyn, Uncle Jackson, JJ, and Carter?"
"Because of your uncle's job, they all fly for free," Marissa answered, "and we get great discounts, too, so we'll travel to see each other all the time. Trust me, they're your family, and they're going nowhere anytime soon."
Silence descended over the kitchen as all eyes rested upon Bailey. He chewed his lip, fidgeted in his chair, and rubbed the back of his neck while he thought. Finally, looking up to meet his parents' gaze, he bargained, "if I say yes, I want to move, will you promise that you won't be mad and that I won't get in trouble?"
"Trouble for what," the dance instructor queried. "What did you do?"
"You have to promise," the little boy insisted.
Sharing a discreet glance, they concurred to give in to his demands, and Ryan spoke up. "Alright, we agree."
"We should start packing then," their oldest child suggested, standing up and moving towards his room. "After all, the sooner we're ready to go, the sooner we can move."
"Not so fast," the note of warning in Marissa's voice stopping him in his tracks. "You still have to tell us what you did."
Without looking at his parents, the ten year old replied, "I got a detention at school today," before simply walking out the room and leaving behind him a smirking sister, two frowning parents, and a content and slobbering little brother. So much for their perfect day; the night just kept getting better and better.
"I can't believe that our son got a detention for snapping a girl's bra," Marissa exclaimed as she walked into their bedroom that evening. As he listened to her talk, an amused smirk on his face, Ryan simply went about their typical pre-bed routine, setting the alarm, putting his cell phone on its charger, and turning down the bedding. "I'm not ready for this," she pronounced. "I thought we'd have a few more years before girls became an issue."
"So he's taking after his father and starting young," he teased her. "It could be worse."
"No, you don't understand. These girls aren't like the ones we grew up with during our generation." Stripping off her blouse, she started changing and putting her pajamas on while she talked, oblivious to her husband's appreciative attention. "Instead of dreaming of college, marriage, and eventually daughters of their own, they're counting down the days until they can get implants and nose jobs. They don't want a happy family someday; instead, they fantasize about having sugar daddies and sexy lawn and pool boys on the side. Those girls don't want to grow up and become teachers or doctors or lawyers, they want to become famous for being a slut, for filming illicit sex videos and releasing them onto the internet, for sleeping their days away and partying all night."
"I think you're exaggerating a little bit."
Protesting, she argued, "I'm not. Just last week when I picked Bailey up for his dentist appointment, I was walking behind two of his fellow fifth graders. They were both wearing more makeup than Tammy Faye Baker and smelled like the perfume counter at a department store. One girl was wearing these skin tight jeans and a midriff bearing shirt, but the worst part was that her thong was sticking out the top of her pants, and the other one had on a skirt so short, I'm not sure it would have been thick enough for me to wear as a headband." Taking a deep breath and refocusing, she continued. "I guess they were arguing about something, and, all of a sudden, I heard one of the little girls say 'Bitch, please' before tossing her highlighted hair over her shoulder and stalking off."
Playfully taunting her, Ryan chided, "you were eavesdropping on their conversation?"
"You're missing the point."
"We have to do something about this before it gets out of hand. I'll make you a deal," Marissa bargained while brushing out her long locks. "I'll take care of the boys if you handle the girls."
Confused, he asked, "what do you mean?"
"I'll protect the boys and scare all the skanks away while you lock the girls up in a white tower and force feed them birth control pills as an added precaution."
"Would you relax, please," the journalist begged of her. "Yes, Bailey shouldn't have snapped the girl's bra, and I'll talk to him about it, but he's not going to go out and make you a grandmother anytime soon. What has you so jumpy tonight? You usually like thunderstorms."
"It's just…my god, Ryan, that's our little boy. I mean, I still read to him every night before he goes to bed, and, sometimes, when I'm lucky, he still calls me Mommy. I'm not ready for him to grow up yet."
"Come on," he urged her, "let's get into bed." Easing her brush from her hands, he put it down on her vanity and helped her stand up, leading the mother of three towards their bed. "We've had quite the day. I think we both need to just relax."
"Tell me about it," she complained with a tense sigh. "Between meeting with the judge, our confrontation with Elizabeth and Nikolas, deciding to move, Bailey's detention, Rowan's belated fit about her injuries when it came time to go to bed, and Quentin's absolute refusal to go to sleep tonight, I want to hiberate for a week." Settling into his waiting arms, she closed her eyes and took a deep, cleansing breath. "This is nice though."
"Nights like tonight sometimes make me question our sanity," Ryan confessed. "Is it really such a good idea to have another child? It seems as if we have our hands full with three."
Suddenly, his wife was tense again in his arms. He felt her twist around until she was facing him. "Have you changed your mind? Don't you want to have a baby?"
He noticed the tears gathering in her eyes and felt terrible. "I didn't say that exactly, but you've got to admit that now might not be the best time to consider expanding our family, especially with the move coming up. Why, what's wrong; why are you crying?"
Seeing her bite her lip and fidget with her hands, the sports writer knew that she was struggling with something. Patiently, he waited for her to respond. After several quiet moments, Marissa looked up and met his gaze. Speaking quickly, she replied, "I think I might be pregnant."
"As in…with a baby?"
"No, with a litter of kittens," she snapped, glaring at him. "Of course with a baby! What kind of question is that?"
"You surprised me."
"Well it shouldn't. Look how easy it was for me to get pregnant with Bailey all those years ago."
"We haven't really even been trying," he stated.
"Yeah, but we haven't done anything to prevent it either," the dance instructor countered. "Look, I might be wrong. After all, I haven't even taken a home pregnancy test yet, but I have been through this three other times, so I kind of know what to expect and how this feels."
Realization swept over Ryan. "So that's why you said girls when you were telling me earlier how we're going to remain grandchildren free for the foreseeable future. How far along are you if you already think you're having a girl?"
"Probably no more than a month," she admitted. "As for thinking it's a girl, that's just a feeling I have."
"Based on what?"
"With Rowan, I got extremely emotional and tended to overreact with only the slightest provocation," the mother of three…possibly four confessed, "and, well, look at how I behaved tonight. It's like my body senses there's another person inside of me that's going to suffer from PMS someday, and it starts acting doubly hormonal."
"And the fun begins now," he quipped, earning himself a dark glower and an elbow to the ribs.
"Laugh it up now, Funnyman, because I'm only going to get worse, and, eventually, the idea of sleeping with me won't even compensate for putting up with my mood swings."
"What if I told you I found pregnant women to be extremely sexy?"
"I'd tell you that you have some strange fetishes and should talk to a therapist about them," Marissa returned in all seriousness. However, he couldn't stop himself and laughed.
"Wait here," he instructed while climbing out of bed.
"Where are you going?"
"I have to make a phone call. Tonight's the perfect night for us to do something before we leave Georgia, but I have to arrange something first." She went to argue, but he stopped her. "Do you trust me?"
"You know I do."
"Then just believe that this is a good surprise. Take it easy," Ryan suggested, "but, whatever you do, don't change and don't fall asleep."
Intrigued, the dance instructor suggestively quirked an eyebrow at her husband. "Why does it sound like you're going to try and seduce me?"
Turning around and walking out of the doorway, he called over his shoulder, "because I am." As he walked down the hallway towards the kitchen where he would find a phone far enough away from their bedroom that she wouldn't be able to eavesdrop, he heard her laughter floating softly on the humid, electrically charged night air as it battled for supremacy over the claps of thunder assaulting the Southern countryside.
Listening to his irritable sister-in-law's oh so not amused and sleep ridden voice, Ryan realized that he really was a man who liked to live dangerously. She had warned him about waking her up at night, but, like a man with a death wish, he had ignored her.
"I need a favor."
"Is this a life or death situation for Marissa, my two nephews, or my niece, people I actually care about," she questioned him.
Grumbling under her breath, Caitlyn announced, "then I'm going back to bed, and you should start running now, because, after I get eight full hours of sleep, I'm coming after you for waking me up."
"I need you to come over here and watch the kids for a couple of hours," he explained, ignoring her and her idle threats.
"I can't," the redhead excused, "Jackson's working, so I'm home alone with the boys."
"And you're also a liar," Ryan countered. "I spoke to Jackson yesterday, and he told me that he had domestic flights for the rest of the month to help you and the boys adjust to JJ's new school schedule. So, nice try, Caity, but you're losing your touch."
"Why can't whatever this is wait until tomorrow," she inquired. He could hear the growing curiosity in her voice and vowed to keep her in the dark.
"It has to be done at night, and who knows when another storm like this will occur."
"You're asking for my help, and that's all you're going to tell me," the younger woman complained. "You really need to work on your manners, Atwood. Talk about being stingy."
"Just….will you help me or not," the journalist demanded an answer. "This is a time sensitive favor."
"Fine, yes, I'll help you," Caitlyn announced with a cantankerous huff of frustration. "I'll send Jackson over. He'll be there in fifteen minutes."
"Thank you," Ryan said appreciatively. Without waiting for her to respond again, he slammed the phone down and went to get himself and Marissa ready. Their day, thus far, had been a see-saw, constantly moving up and down as one bad thing was followed by something equally as good. However, he was determined to end the evening on a positive note. After all, they had some celebrating to do.
"What are we doing here," Marissa asked. She sounded confused, bewildered, and slightly worried. However, he mused to himself, she looked utterly adorable. Dressed in a light short and tank top set of summer pajamas with a pair of flip flops, an umbrella to ward off the rain, and her hair tossed up in a messy ponytail, she looked positively glowing – the glow of a pregnant, expecting mother, and Ryan couldn't believe that he had not realized the difference in her before she admitted to him their news.
"We're here to make one of your fantasies come true," the journalist explained to her. "I reminded you of a very important conversation we had months ago when we sat underneath this very tree and had a picnic with the kids, and you reminded me of it tonight when you remembered the significance of Wrigley Field."
It took several moments, but, eventually realization dawned on her face. "No, Ryan," she argued, "we're in the middle of a public park."
"But it's the perfect night," he contested. Taking the umbrella from her hand, he closed it and set it aside. Standing underneath the dense, thick foliage of the magnolia, very few raindrops made it through the leaves and onto their bodies. "We're going to be moving soon, and I doubt there are very many trees of this kind in Chicago. Plus, just like you told me you wanted, it's storming, it's still warm enough to be outside together…naked, and the fact that we have something to celebrate only makes it even better."
"So…you're okay with me being pregnant?"
"I'm more than okay," he reassured her. "I'm excited."
"But before…" Her voice trailed off. Although the words were left unsaid, they both knew what she was referring to.
"I was having a momentary lapse of good judgment," Ryan excused his own behavior. "We're already talked about this, and we both agreed that we wanted at least one more child so we could experience having a baby together. We had a long night," he shrugged, unsure of how else to explain his actions. "I guess I just needed to think about all the good things having a fourth child will bring us."
"You mean you were scared earlier, and it took you a few minutes to get over your initial fright?"
"I wasn't scared," Ryan defended himself, encircling his arms around her waist and pulling her flush against him. Leaning in, he captured her mouth with his in a lazy, luxurious kiss. Their embrace deepened, their hands took possession of the others body, and they both, temporarily, forgot where they were. Pulling away breathless, he dropped a teasing kiss on her nose before reiterating, "I was not scared."
The mother of his children simply smirked before moving her hands up from his hips to wrap around his neck. Changing the subject, she warned, "we can't do this here."
He moved in for another kiss, his adept fingers finding their way under her shirt to whisper across her taunt abdomen, and played with her mouth, sipping from it slowly while replying, "I think we already are."
"But what if we get caught," she continued to argue while tangling her lean digits around the long, sandy blonde hairs at the nape of his neck, allowing their lips to mate the entire time.
"We could," Marissa persisted.
"Even if we did," the sports writer reasoned, "it's only a minor offense."
He wrenched his mouth away from hers as if it was almost painful to leave her embrace just long enough to pull her shirt off, freeing the upper half of her body to his gaze and attentions. While his lips moved in to rememorize her taste, his pleased and excited fingers toyed with her naked breasts, manipulating the lush mounds and further stimulating her already aroused nipples.
"Are you really happy about the baby?"
"Yes," Ryan assured her, pulling back far enough to look deeply into her eyes. Her pupils were dilated and almost fully eclipsing the sapphire blue of her irises, a sure sign that she needed him just as much as he needed her. "I want this child…our child…more than anything."
"Okay," she agreed, but, unfortunately, he was unsure what she was agreeing to.
"Okay, you believe that I want to have this baby, or, okay, you want to make love?"
Lifting his t-shirt from his muscular frame and tossing it aside, Marissa grinned cheekily. "How about both?"
"Sounds good to me."
Together, they fell to the damp ground, their clothes disappearing quickly as they started to make love under the large, sheltering, blossoming Magnolia tree, the scent of its flowers tingeing the air with a sweet, sultry, almost sensual essence. Their lives were about to change dramatically. They were moving, saying goodbye to the home Marissa and her children had known for years, leaving behind family that were near and dear to their hearts, and going forward to forge a new life for themselves and their family in an unfamiliar town, and, on top of everything else, they were having a baby. However, as their bodies joined together as one, a powerful jolt of lightening spread across the night sky, illuminating it and sending a blue light crashing through both of their lust filled and adoring gazes. In that moment, Ryan and Marissa knew that their life together would be eventful, it would be nonconforming, amorous, and memorable, and it would be everything they had both been waiting more than decade for. It wouldn't be perfect, but it would be real, it would be honest, and it would be theirs.