Chapter 9

When Kate woke up the next morning she was surprised when only one of her eyes would open. Then she remembered - Micheal. She was suddenly mortified. Danny had seen enough to know what a disaster her life was. And then all the crying...she closed her eye against the rooms brightness, embarrassed for what had happened.

Brightness! Her good eye shot open and her heart began to pound. Grace! The last thing Kate remembered was crying in Danny's arms. It couldn't have been past midnight and Grace always woke up at least once a night. What had happened to Grace? Kate knew that she had slept all night. The heaviness in her breasts letting her know that she hadn't gotten up to feed Grace and then forgotten about it. Had Micheal come back? Did he do something to Grace in retaliation? Rolling over towards the crib in a panic Kate caught her breath in shock.

Lying next to her in bed was Danny and curled up in the crook of his arm, one chubby fist pressed to her mouth, was Grace. Kate's intial panic faded as tears began to well up.

This. This picture of domestic tranquility was all she had ever wanted in life. As a young, unmarried, woman she used to imagine lazy weekend mornings with her husband and children and it looked just like this. A handsome man who had tenderly held her throughout the night, then later got up with their child allowing her to sleep a bit more. They would wake up an smile at each other over the child. He'd gently caress her cheek and tell her that he loved her and she would believe him and return the feeling with her whole heart.

Kate closed her eyes as her tears began to fall. Two weeks after marrying Micheal she had realized that he wold never love her, let alone any child they would have. And now she was looking at her dream, but it was all false. Danny was little more than a stranger. A kind, considerate one, but a stranger who was most definitly not in love with her. Especially when he knew how messed up her life was. She probably looked horrible after her encounter with Micheal, too. From experience she knew that her eyes was probably a lovely shade of purple with yellow edges and that her lip had split and was swollen to twice it's size. Nowhere in her dreams did she imagine being bruised and battered. But that didn't really matter, because she'd given up on this particular dream long ago. It just hurt to be confronted with such a mockery of it.

Kate flinched when a hand began to gently wipe away her tears. She opened her eye and looked into Danny's compassionate ones, his obvious pity and sorrow for her making her want to cry even harder.

"Hey," he whispered. "How are you doing? You going to be okay?"

Kate wanted to tell him 'Yes, I'll be fine.' But she couldn't find the words. "I don't know," she managed to say.

Danny looked into her eyes, his eyes briefly roaming over her bruised face. "What a pair we make, huh?" he asked. He took her hand and gave it a squeeze. "You're going to be fine now," he predicted with confidence. "You know why?" Kate shook her head, not sure what he was saying, but captivated by his reassurance. "Because we're in this together, that's why You and me." He placed a kiss onto her knuckles. He smiled as Grace let out a small cry. "And Miss Grace too," he added, dangling his dogtags above her to catch her attention.

His words and ease with Grace seemed so loving and natural that Kate had to work through the lump in her throat before she could speak. "Thanks for taking care of her last night. I didn't even hear her."

"Well, you were obviously tired," he said. "Miss Grace and I had a little talk. She chewed on my tags for a bit and then fell asleep. No problem." He glanced down at Grace making a silly face. "But I don't think the dog tags will work this time. I think she's probably hungry," he said, looking back up at Kate with a charming half smile that made her heart skip.

And even though it hurt, she smiled back at him. Because they were in this together.


I have plans for part 2 - getting Danny and Kate out of China and back home to Tennessee. Just be patient.