Taming Natasha Page 55

“No.” He took both her hands and she opened her eyes. “Don’t do that. Listen to me. I can only imagine what it would be like to go through what you went through, but I know that when truly horrible things happen, it’s usually out of our control.”

“It took me a long time to accept what I can never understand.” She turned over her hands in his. “A long time to start living again, going back to work, finally moving here, starting my business. I think I would have died without my family.” She gave herself a moment, sipping the water to cool her dry throat. “I didn’t want to love anyone again. Then there was you. And Freddie.”

“We need you, Natasha. And you need us.”

“Yes.” She took his hand to press it to her lips. “I want you to understand. Spence, when I learned I was pregnant, it all came flying back at me. I tell you, I don’t think I could survive going through that again. I’m so afraid to love this child. And I already do.”

“Come here.” He lifted her to her feet, keeping her hands locked tight in his. “I know that you loved Lily, and that you’ll always love her and grieve for her. So will I now. What happened before can’t be changed, but this is a different place, a different time. A different child. I want you to understand that we’re going to go through this pregnancy, the birth and the rearing together. Whether you want me or not.”

“I’m afraid.”

“Then we’ll be afraid together. And when this baby is eight and rides a two-wheeler for the first time, we’ll be afraid together.”

Her lips trembled into a smile. “When you say it, I can almost believe it.”

“Believe it.” He bent to kiss her. “Because it’s a promise.”

“Yes, it’s time for promises.” Her smile grew. “I love you.” It was so easy to say it now. So easy to feel it. “Will you hold me?”

“On one condition.” He rubbed away a drying tear with his thumb. “I want to tell Freddie she’s expecting a baby brother or sister. I think it would make a great Christmas present for her.”

“Yes.” She felt stronger, surer. “I want us to tell her.”

“All right, you’ve got five days.”

“Five days for what?”

“To make whatever plans you want to make, to arrange to have your family come down, buy a dress, whatever you need to do to get ready for the wedding.”


“No buts.” He framed her face with his hands and silenced her. “I love you, I want you. You’re the best thing to come into my life since Freddie, and I don’t intend to lose you. We’ve made a child, Natasha.” Watching her, he laid a hand on her stomach, gently possessive. “A child I want. A child I already love.”

In a gesture of trust, she placed her hand on his. “I won’t be afraid if you’re with me.”

“We have a date here Christmas Eve. I’m going to wake up Christmas morning with my wife.”

She steadied herself by putting her hands on his forearms. “Just like that?”

“Just like that.”

With a laugh, she threw her arms around his neck and said one word. “Yes.”


Christmas Eve was the most beautiful day in the year as far as Natasha was concerned. It was a time to celebrate life and love and family.

The house was quiet when she came in. She was drawn to the tree and the light. She sent an angel spinning on one branch, then turned to study the room.

On the table there was a papier-mâché reindeer with only one ear. Compliments of Freddie’s second-grade art class. Beside it stood a pudgy snowman holding a lantern. An exquisite porcelain crèche was displayed on the mantel. Beneath it hung four stockings. A fire crackled in the grate.

A year before she had stood before the fire and promised to love, honor and cherish. They had been the easiest promises she had ever had to keep. Now this was her home.

Home. She took a deep breath to draw in the scents of pine and candles. It was so good to be home. Last-minute shoppers had crowded The Fun House until late in the afternoon. Now there was only family.

“Mama.” Freddie raced in, trailing a bright red ribbon. “You’re home.”

“I’m home.” Laughing, Natasha scooped her up to spin her around.

“We took Vera to the airport so she can spend Christmas with her sister, then we watched the planes. Daddy said when you got home we’d have dinner, then sing Christmas carols.”

“Daddy’s absolutely right.” Natasha draped the ribbon over Freddie’s shoulder. “What’s this?”

“I’m wrapping a present, all by myself. It’s for you.”

“For me? What is it?”

“I can’t tell you.”

“Yes, you can. Watch.” She dropped onto the couch to run her fingers along Freddie’s ribs. “It’ll be easy,” she said as Freddie squealed and squirmed.

“Torturing the child again,” Spence commented from the doorway.

“Daddy!” Springing up, Freddie raced to him. “I didn’t tell.”

“I knew I could count on you, funny face. Look who woke up.” He bounced a baby on his hip.

“Here, Brandon.” Madly in love, Freddie passed up the ribbon so that he could play with it. “It’s pretty, just like you.”

At six months, young Brandon Kimball was chubby, rosy-cheeked and delighted with the world in general. He clutched the ribbon in one hand and reached for Freddie’s hair with the other.

Walking over, Natasha held out her arms. “Such a big boy,” she murmured as her son reached for her. Gathering him close, she pressed a kiss to his throat. “So beautiful.”

“He looks just like his mother.” Spence stroked a hand over Brandon’s thick, black curls. As if he approved of the statement, Brandon let out a gurgling laugh. When he wriggled, Natasha set him down to crawl on the rug.

“It’s his first Christmas.” Natasha watched him scoot over to torment one of the cats and saw Lucy dart under the sofa. She’s no fool, Natasha thought happily.

“And our second.” He turned Natasha into his arms. “Happy anniversary.”

Natasha kissed him once, then twice. “Have I told you today that I love you?”

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