A hand on her shoulder broke Sue from her deep concentration, making her look up into kind brown eyes. The other hand reached around her and placed a plate of food in front of her as her husband's face lowered, kissing her softly.

"I'm sorry," Sue said softly. "I forgot again, didn't I?"

Jack smiled. "It's okay. We all understand." He kissed her again, then walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.

Sue looked down at Levi, giving the golden retriever a sad half smile before turning back to her computer and the plate of food. She typed as she ate, a bite, half a dozen words, another bite, and so on. She didn't know why this was so important to her, but something about this novel...

It wasn't the first time she had worked all her family and friends into a book, she did that regularly. But something about this particular novel, about a deaf FBI analyst, touched her in a way none of her previous books had. Luckily her husband, Jack, and their children seemed to understand Sue's need to write.

Levi's paw in her lap got her attention and Sue turned, seeing Shennyn standing in the doorway. Sue smiled.

Hi, Baby Girl, she signed.

Hi, Momma, Shennyn signed back. She was learning sign language very quickly, and at seven, she was as coherent as most ten year old hearing children.

Sue took in the sad expression on the girl's face. What's wrong?

Shennyn burst into tears and Sue was out of her chair in an instant, holding her daughter close. When she finally calmed down enough, Shennyn pulled away, signing rapidly. The kids at school keep saying that I sound funny! I just wanna be normal, Momma! Like Anilyn and Zekk!

Knowing there was nothing to say, but her heart aching for her oldest child, Sue pulled Shennyn close again. She well knew how cruel peers could be to anyone who was different, and she asked God, not for the first time, why Shennyn had to be born deaf.

Shennyn was the only one of Sue and Jack's three children that had any kind of hearing impairment, not even her twin sister, Anilyn, had hearing problems, but Shennyn was born completely deaf.

Feeling Shennyn start to cry again, Sue carefully picked her up, carrying her over to her "thinking chair," an overstuffed armchair, and sat down, arranging the girl on her lap, rocking back and forth slightly, comforting her. Shennyn slowly grew heavy in Sue's arms, and when Jack appeared in the doorway to ask if Sue had seen Shennyn, the girl was fast asleep, safe in her mother's arms.

Jack carefully took Shennyn from Sue, and together they put her to bed, tucking her in and each kissing her softly on the forehead before creeping out of the bedroom.

You should have called me to get her, Jack signed once he and Sue were in the hallway.

Sue shook her head. She needed me, Jack. More than my novel. That's important, but not as important as our family.

Pulling his wife closer, Jack smiled. "I love you," he whispered, before leaning down and capturing Sue's lips. Hearing the tiny whimper, Jack slowly walked Sue backward toward their own bedroom, closing the door behind them.

The next morning, after Sue saw her children off to school, her novel was waiting for her, and as she sat down, she realized she felt rejuvenated by her time with her family, and her passionate night with her husband. Setting into writing with determination, Sue vowed that she wouldn't work past dinner time on this novel, nor any other.

As she had said the evening before, Sue Thomas, FBEye was important, but not nearly so much as her family.