Copyright © 2016 by Kay Edwards
All Rights Reserved.
Kay Edwards is new to the publishing scene. This is the first book in her second series. Kay grew up in the church. She loves Christ. In her books she does her best to bring an entertaining story to life with her Savior in mind. After her Susquehanna Trilogy, Kay takes us to Texas. She brings wit and charm to some very daring ladies. Her Crazy in Texas series will have you laughing and crying. Please join Kay as she introduces you to her very first couple in the series. Enjoy the adventure of Misty Adams and Dalton Nelson in this fast pace hysterical romance. Let’s face it, things can get pretty crazy in Texas.
I want to first and foremost dedicate this book to those that serve this country in the military, and to the families that have had to say goodbye too soon to their beloved soldiers.
I also want to dedicate this book to my Texas friends. I have been a transplant here for over ten years and love it.
I would like to also say a special thanks to my awesome cover artist and photographer Diana Wilson. You rock with a camera.
To Diane Graves a true Texas gal. I love laughing and getting into trouble with you.
Last but not least, I would like to thank my family. You have been great during this journey of discovery. Leron, Tyler, Samantha, Joseph, and Maggie thank you for giving me the space I need to create.
Misty Adams stood at her front door. Her hand went to her mouth as the two uniformed men informed her that her husband had died in combat. Tears streamed down her cheeks as she shook her head. He had just left two weeks ago. They had found out she was having a baby the day before and he had knelt in front of her telling their unborn child he would come home soon. Sobbing uncontrollably Misty’s knees buckled. She felt strong arms pick her up and carry her into her house. “Please God,” she begged, “Please let me wake up.”
Six Months Later
Misty Adams stood beside her car. Looking at her cell phone she whispered, “No bars…” It was freezing outside and all she wanted to do was get home to Texas. Her heart had ached when she had left the house that she and her husband, Brent, had shared in Colorado, but it was time to go home to her parents’ ranch. Looking at her flat tire she headed to the back of the car for the spare. She may be thirty-six weeks pregnant, but she was pretty sure she could still change a flat tire.
“No…” she whispered as she opened the trunk and saw that the spare was dry rotted. She put her hand protectively on her abdomen and looked around. She was miles from any town or house. Looking up into the sky she looked for any signs of life. She was just getting ready to give up when she saw it. A tiny strand of smoke was in the distant sky.
Tears filled Misty’s eyes as she prayed. “Please help me get there. Please, Jesus, help me get there.” Pulling her coat tight around her, she grabbed two blankets from the car and started walking.
Dalton added another log to the fire. He had decided to spend Christmas alone in the cabin his grandfather had left him. It was not that he wanted time away from the rest of his family; it was just that he felt he needed time away from them. He had been working non-stop as an ER physician and felt so out of touch with God that the thought of reconnecting was more appealing than a holiday meal. When he was approved for two weeks off, he went to the nearest Christian book store and grabbed a devotional book. The next two weeks would be a time for him to rest and renew himself in Christ.
Dalton looked at his dog, Jamie. “Do you need to go out girl?”
Jamie scratched the door again and made a small woof sound.
Opening the door, Dalton was surprised to see Jamie dash toward the woods. He yelled her name, but she did not seem inclined to listen. Looking at the snow coming down, he knew he needed to go find her now because later would be impossible. There was a blizzard coming and he wanted to have her back here and safe before then.
Misty gasped as the first pain hit her. She could still see the smoke, but knew she was still a solid four miles away. Tears started streaming down her cheeks as the snow she was hoping to avoid started to swirl around her. “Please, Jesus, please help me. I’m so afraid.”
A peace came over Misty. She looked around her as she walked toward the smoke. She knew she needed to find a land mark behind the smoke just in case the snow made it hard to see. “I trust you Jesus. I know you will give me strength. Please help me to remember that.”
Two hours later, she was leaning against a tree and panting through a very strong contraction. Looking up she saw a blur coming toward her. She almost cried out thinking it was a bear, but a wave of hope washed over her as she saw it was not a bear but a dog heading right toward her. She had never been so happy to see a dog in her life.
“Come here puppy. I won’t hurt you.” She said softly. She cried in relief as the dog walked up to her and nudged her hand. “I need help girl. I hope you live close. Can you take me home? Go home girl.” She said hoping the dog would listen.
Another contraction hit her as the dog turned and started walking, but Misty walked through it. It hurt like crazy, but this dog was her and her baby’s best hope. The dog would turn and bark loudly at her every couple of yards as if to tell her to keep up. “Please, Jesus…” she begged again as she felt the wetness of her water breaking saturate her pants.
Dalton followed Jamie’s tracks. He had been looking for her for almost thirty minutes now. He could finally hear her barking and quickened his pace. The snow was really coming down now and he needed to get both of them back to the cabin. “Jamie…!” he yelled over the now howling wind. Looking up he saw Jamie coming toward him.
“Come, Jamie.” He commanded sternly. He was surprised when she didn’t listen. Instead, she turned around and barked. She paced back toward the path a little and then turned and barked at him. She started whimpering and Dalton knew something was wrong.
“Ok, girl, show me what you found.” He said as he started to follow her. Maybe there was a lost animal or something. Rounding the bend of the path Dalton saw that Jamie had not found a what, but a who. He broke into a run. Leaning against a tree was a young woman, as he neared her he saw why she had stopped.
Misty looked up. A man was running toward her. “Thank You, Jesus.” She whispered as she watched him get closer.
Dalton didn’t ask any questions. As soon as he got to the woman, he scooped her up into his arms and started back toward the cabin at a run. He knew questions needed to be asked on the way.
Misty whimpered as another contraction started. She panted against the man’s chest. “They are only seconds apart. Please…”
Dalton tried to reassure the woman. “It’s ok. I have you. We can’t let you have this baby out here. We are not that far now.”
Misty could see the cabin in the distance. “Thank You, Jesus, thank you…” her gasp ended her prayer, as another contraction hit her small body.
Dalton could feel her body shuddering from the pain. He knew that they did not have much time. He was at a run as he reached the front door of the cabin. He walked in and laid her on the bed in the corner of the room. “We need to get your pants off. I need to see what is going on.”
Misty’s body was again contracting. She nodded her head, but could not speak. She felt his cold fingers hook into her maternity pants and pull them off.
Dalton breathed a sigh of relief at the absence of blood. It looked like the moister was slightly pink and clear. “I know you don’t know me, but I need you to listen to me. I am a doctor and I can help you, but I need you to help yourself too. I need to wash my hands. I need you to not push until I can see what is going on. Can you do that?”
Misty nodded as she panted. “Yes.”
Dalton walked over and grabbed a bottle of rubbing alcohol. He poured it over his hands and then waved them to air dry. Walking over he spoke to the young woman gently. “I’m going to move your legs. Just relax and let me see if the baby’s head is down ok. I know this is going to hurt, but don’t tense up. I need you to breathe.”
Misty nodded and tried not to hold her breath. She started panting and then another contraction shook her. She wanted to push so bad, but she didn’t. She listened to the man God had sent to help her.
Dalton felt the baby’s head and breathed a sigh of relief. “It looks like this little one wants to come out right. How many weeks are you?”
Misty’s voice was breathless as she said. “I’m thirty-six weeks.”
Dalton was relieved. There was a good chance everything would turn out fine. “Ok. It feels like you are fully dilated. The next time you feel a contraction, I want you to push. I’m going to show you how to hold your knees.”
Misty was exhausted. She nodded her head and looked up into the doctor’s kind eyes. She grabbed her knees. As she felt another contraction hit, she pushed with all of her might.
Dalton spoke firmly. “Now that I can see your pushing right, I need you to give me three big pushes with every contraction. Listen to my voice. I will count to four and then you take a breath and get ready for the next push.”
Misty looked up again in to his face. “I can do it.” She whispered as another contraction hit. She pushed with all of her might for the four seconds and then pushed again and again. She leaned back against the pillow waiting for the next contraction breathless.
Dalton encouraged the young woman. “That was perfect.”
Misty listened to everything the doctor said for the next hour. She pushed with everything she had. When she had trouble holding her legs, he came beside her and helped. He never stopped talking and she never stopped listening. He only left her a couple of times to get things ready for the baby, once it was finally delivered.
Dalton could finally see the baby’s head. “I need you to hold your legs again. I can see your baby’s head. We are almost there.” Dalton positioned himself to deliver the baby. “Ok, now push. That’s it; don’t stop. One more time…” Dalton caught the baby in his hands and started to clear her mouth. He smiled as she started crying, and then laid her on her mother’s stomach.
Misty let out a yell as she pushed one last time. She felt her baby leave her body and enter the world. She cried as she gently pulled her crying baby into her arms. “Hello there Rachel, I have waited so long to meet you”
Dalton knew it was time to deliver the placenta. He looked up at the new mother and spoke softly. “Do you have one more push in you?”
Misty looked up from her baby’s face. “I do.”
Dalton delivered the placenta and then cut the cord. He tied it off with a shoelace he had soaked in rubbing alcohol. He examined the young woman for tearing and grimaced as he realized she would need a few stitches. He was glad he had fishing line and a needle soaking in alcohol. “I’m going to have to put a few stitches in. This is going to hurt just a little, are you able to be still?”
Misty nodded yes. She held Rachel close as he stitched her and breathed through the pain. It had not taken long, but it did hurt.
Dalton finished with the stitches and looked up at the young mother. He needed to clean her and the bed up, but first he needed to help her feed the baby. “Have you read any books on breastfeeding?” he asked softly.
Misty answered. “I have read a couple. Should I try to feed her?”
Dalton smiled gently. “I think it is time to see if this little girl is as anxious to eat as she was to get here.”
Misty let the doctor help her position Rachel. He helped her get the baby latched on and then smiled when she started nursing. “She is doing it.” Misty said smiling up at him.
Dalton looked down at them. “She is doing great. I’m going to get you cleaned up now and then get you two settled. You may feel some stinging because I’m using water mixed with salt and alcohol.”
Misty pulled the blanket over her and Rachel. She smiled down at her eating daughter. She could feel the doctor cleaning her stitches. She looked up at him as he pulled the blanket down and wrap it around her legs. “My name is Misty.” She said softly.
Dalton looked up at the young mom. He smiled at her. “I’m Dalton. It seems a little too late to say very nice to meet you, but it is very nice to meet you.”
Misty chuckled. “After all of this, I agree.” She watched as he put a plastic bag on the chair and then a towel on top of it.
Dalton spoke as he walked back over to Misty. “I’m going to put you in the chair while I clean the bed. Are you able to sit up or should I wait?”
Misty was not sure. She looked up at him and answered. “I guess we can try it and see. I honestly don’t know. I feel fine right now.”
Dalton gently scooped up mom and baby into his arms. He placed her in the chair and waited to see if she would be ok. “How do you feel?”
Misty felt just a little weak, but not lightheaded. “I think I’m good.”
Dalton walked over and cleaned up the bed. He had never been so grateful that he had put plastic covers on the mattresses to protect them from dust. He cleaned and made the bed and then walked over and picked up Misty and the baby. He gently laid them on the bed and covered them up. “I will see what I can find to diaper little Rachel. You go ahead and rest.”
Misty looked down into Rachel’s face. Tears formed in her eyes and she sobbed as she pulled the baby closer to her. “He would have loved you. Your daddy would have loved you so much.” She whispered softly. She looked up and saw Dalton looking at her. He didn’t say anything. When his strong arms pulled her into his chest she wept.
Dalton woke up in the night to the sound of a baby’s cry. He looked over at the other bed and saw Misty trying to nurse her. When it became evident the baby needed something else, Dalton got up and walked over to them.
Misty looked up at Dalton. “I think she needs changed.”
Dalton gently took the baby from her. “I’ll take care of her.” He said as he walked over to the coffee table. He gently laid her down on the blanket and checked.
Misty watched Dalton smile, “Is she ok?” she asked softly.
Dalton looked over at Misty. “She just needs changed. I was hoping she would need that. When a baby is born, we need to make sure they pass their meconium. It is exactly what I want to see. She is wet too, so that means she is getting something. Your milk isn’t in yet. You are giving her colostrum right now. It is thick but not as abundant as your milk will be. However, it is full of great stuff for her.”
Misty watched as he finished changing Rachel. She spoke softly. “I prayed so hard when I was out there. I can’t believe your dog found me.”
Dalton looked over at her as he picked Rachel up. Walking over he gently put the baby back in her mother’s arms. “What were you doing out there?” he asked gently as he sat on the chair beside the bed.
Misty looked down at her sleeping baby. She felt tears stinging her eyes as she said. “It was time for me to say goodbye to what could have been and embrace what God has for me now.” She paused and looked up at him. “My husband was in the military. We had just found out I was pregnant the day before he was deployed. Two weeks later he was killed in combat.”
Dalton waited for her to finish. He took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.
Misty finished softly. “Staying in Colorado at a house that was meant to be my home with him was not right. He would not have wanted me to do that. I will always miss him, but I know God has a plan. I’m finally ready to follow that plan. My parent’s own a ranch outside of Austin, Texas. I was on my way home when I got a flat tire. The spare was dry rotted and there was no cell phone reception. I saw the smoke from your cabin and started walking.”
Dalton closed his eyes at the thought of what could have been. He had never been so glad that he had followed God’s direction. He almost cancelled this trip, when he had heard a blizzard was expected to hit. “God is very good. I’m glad I was here to help you and Rachel.”
Misty looked down at her baby. It was now obvious that with a clean diaper on she was ready to eat. “I’m thinking she is hungry.”
Dalton agreed. He helped her get Rachel latched on again. He smiled as the little girl’s feet wiggled as she ate. “She really does enjoy eating. Her feet are hysterical.” He looked back up at Misty. “After she is done, why don’t we see if you can make it to the bathroom?”
Misty smiled up at him and suddenly realized how bizarre their situation was. She chuckled as she answered. “I guess there are some instructions for that now too.”
Dalton laughed. “Yes there are. We are stuck here for a couple of days and the last thing I want is for you to get an infection.”
Misty looked at Dalton. He looked young, but she assumed he must be a bit older since he was a doctor. “How old are you?”
Dalton leaned back in his chair. “Some days I feel like I’m one hundred, but I’m actually only thirty-one.”
Misty grinned. “Wow, you really are old.”
Dalton defended himself. “I’m not that old.”
Misty conceded. “No you’re not. I’m not that much younger than you. I agree though, there are days I feel a bunch older than twenty-seven.”
Dalton was actually surprised she was that old. “I thought you were younger than that.”
Misty laughed. “I get my genes from my mom. I am actually a school teacher. It is funny when high schoolers walk into my classroom the first day and seem to be still waiting for the teacher to show up.”
Dalton could see how that would be a problem. He could just imagine how difficult it would be to get their attention. “How many times do you tell them you’re the teacher before they believe you?”
Misty grinned. “I actually wait. It gives me a chance to see who I need to keep an eye on.”
Dalton laughed. “That isn’t fair at all.”
Misty gently changed Rachel from one breast to the other. Dalton once again helped her. As Rachel started eating with gusto she looked up at him and smiled. “Thank you for saving us.”
Dalton touched Rachel’s little head as he said softly. “You both are more than welcome.”
Misty cocked her head to the side. “Do you live close to here? She had told him a bit about her, but she knew very little about him.”
Dalton shook his head no. “I live in Houston. I work in the medical center there.”
Misty looked at him surprised. “That is crazy, you are from Texas too, what are you doing here?”
Dalton looked around the small cabin he smiled as he answered. “This was my grandfather’s cabin. I used to spend a great deal of time here when I was younger. He left it to me in his will.”
“When did you get here?” Misty asked as she took the now sleeping baby from her breast and fixed her shirt.
Dalton realized how much God had used him as he said softly. “I got here about four hours before you did.”
Misty realized how close she and Rachel had been to dying. He was starting the fire about the same time she was looking for direction. She shuddered as she thought about what could have happened. “God came through big today.”
Dalton corrected her as he took Rachel and put her in the dresser drawer he had made into a makeshift crib. “God always comes through big. We just don’t always get to see it.”
Misty yawned as she agreed. “I’m glad I got to see it this time. Why are you here instead of in Houston?”
Dalton smiled as he answered. “I just needed some one on one time with God. I have been working crazy hours and feel so disconnected. I bought a devotional and brought it with me so I could spend time bonding with Him.”
Misty curled onto her side and looked at him. She smiled. “Maybe we can do the devotional together. There is no reason we can’t bond with God together as long as Rachel and I are here.”
Dalton was fine with that. “I think that would be ok, but right now, you need to go to the bathroom.”
Misty allowed him to help her to the restroom. He explained what he expected her to do to keep her stitches clean. When she was done, she set the squirt bottle on the sink and washed her hands. She was so tired. When she walked out he helped her back to bed and tucked the covers around her again. She closed her eyes as soon as her head hit the pillow. She felt him touch her forehead and smiled. “Goodnight again, Dalton…”
Dalton smiled as he walked over to his bed. “Goodnight again, Misty…”
Dalton pulled his covers up and looked over at Misty and Rachel. The thought of what could have happened to them made him shudder again. He breathed a prayer of thanks. The thought of this new mother and little baby dying in the cold harsh Colorado winter was heartbreaking. He closed his eyes and thought about the long hour it had taken to get little Rachel into this world. Misty had been such a trooper. She didn’t scream or yell until the final push. She had been tired from her hours of walking, and he had been concerned she would fade on him. When her body had given her a breather between contractions, she would close her eyes and rest. He knew when a contraction was coming because she would open them and listen to every word he said. It had been a very long hour, but she had made it.
“Dalton…?” Misty said softly from across the room.
He was surprised to hear her voice. “Yes, Misty.”
“You won’t just leave me will you?” she asked softly.
Dalton looked over at Misty. “I won’t leave you, Misty. It will be ok. You can go to sleep; I’ll stay right here.”
Misty reached over her bed and patted Jamie’s head. “She didn’t leave me until she heard your voice. I knew she would come back with you.”
Dalton smiled as he watched Jamie give Misty’s hand an affectionate lick. “She has never run off before. I should have known something was up.”
Misty turned onto her side and looked at Dalton. She had mourned her husband, but the one thing she had always struggled with, was her anger that he did not come back. Tears stung her eyes. “I don’t deserve Rachel.”
Dalton could not believe she had said that. “Why would you say that?”
“I was so angry with Brent. I was so mad that he didn’t come home. A part of me knew that wasn’t right, but I could not help but be angry. We had talked so many times about him leaving the army, but he didn’t. I was so proud to be his wife. I was proud that he was a soldier. I feel guilty that I encouraged him to stay when that was what he wanted to do.”
Dalton spoke gently. “Anger is a part of grief. You can’t blame yourself for that. You can’t dwell on the ‘what ifs’. For reasons we may never know, God allowed Brent to die. Once you are able to leave that fact in God’s hands, you will learn to fly again.”
Misty watched the flames from the fire place play off the wall. “I wish I could understand why.”
Dalton was not sure how to answer her. He had never been in love. He understood being lonely and had asked God many times to send him a bride. He had to agree. “It would be nice to understand the why.”
“What have you prayed for, Dalton?” She whispered.
Dalton looked across the room at her. He had never told anyone his feelings. He spoke softly. “I have always done what God has expected me to do when it comes to…saving myself for marriage. I would be thrilled to find love; to find a woman who loved Christ and spend the rest of my life with her.”
Misty rolled onto her back again. She looked at the ceiling and whispered. “Maybe, we can stay friends after this and keep each other company. We don’t live that far apart. Dalton, I don’t want you to leave us.”
Dalton knew his work schedule was busy, but at that moment, he also knew he was tired of being lonely. Being friends with Misty was something he wanted very much. “I think I would like that. I won’t leave you.”
Misty rolled back over to her side. She didn’t say anything, but looked at the man who had saved her and Rachel’s life. She had known him less than a day, but the thought of him not being near her scared her. At a time, when she had needed someone the most, he had been the one sent to her.
Dalton watched the play of emotions cross Misty’s face. He smiled at her. “Rachel is going to be up again soon. We should try to get some sleep.”
Misty looked at him and said softly. “Goodnight Dalton.”
Dalton woke up and looked over to the other bed. He smiled as he watched Misty feeding Rachel. “I must have been out. I didn’t even hear her wake up.”
Misty looked at her daughter. She chuckled as she answered. “She has eaten three times since we said goodnight. I even got up once and changed her.”
Dalton got out of his bed. He walked over to the door and let Jamie out as he asked. “How did you feel?”
Misty switched Rachel to the other side as she answered. “I didn’t feel bad. I actually laid Rachel down and stood without her in my arms just in case.”
Dalton stood up and walked over to her. He touched her forehead. “You don’t feel feverish, so that is good. How do your stitches feel?”
“I’m tender, but overall I feel pretty good. I was able to go to the restroom myself.” She answered honestly.
“You used the bottle like I instructed?” Dalton sat down on the chair beside the bed.
“I did.” She said as she put Rachel on her shoulder to burp.
Dalton knew he needed to check her stitches and bleeding. Things were not as intense as yesterday and he was suddenly feeling strange about it. He looked at Misty. “May I examine you?”
Misty could tell Dalton was uncomfortable. If she had to be honest, she was too. She nodded as she gently put Rachel back in her bed. She let him make sure things were ok. He ended by pushing gently on her stomach before checking her pulse.
“Your uterus is going back to normal. You can thank that little eater for that. Everything looks good. I used fishing line for your stitches so you may feel a bit of a scratch from the knot. You are doing great. Do you have any questions?” Dalton asked as he pulled her sheet back down over her legs.
Misty started blushing. She did have a question. She looked at him. She shook her head no.
Dalton smiled at Misty gently. “Talk to me. I am just as uncomfortable as you. We are now friends and it does seem weird, but right now I’m your doctor too.”
Misty cleared her throat. She looked down at her hands as she said softly. “Rachel is making me a little uncomfortable.”
“I have some lip balm that may help. You can also express a little of your colostrum when she is done eating. It will help with the tenderness. Do you understand how to do that?” he asked praying she did.
Misty nodded relieved that she knew what he meant. “I do understand.”
Dalton stood up and walked over to one of his travel bags. He pulled out the lip balm and handed it to her. “This will help too. Go ahead and do both. Please let me know if it gets worse. It is really important that she keeps eating. It will help bring your milk down. I know we don’t have everything hygiene wise for you, but we need to make sure you are walking around today.”
Misty suddenly realized that she didn’t need to be embarrassed. She had just given birth and that was the most beautiful thing in the world to her. “Am I allowed to shower?”
Dalton thought about that just a second. “I think it will be fine if I put a chair in there for you. You can stand, but I want you to have the option of sitting down. We need to keep the door open too. I will respect your privacy of course, but if you fall, I want to be able to hear you. If you want, we can get that ready now.”
“I’m absolutely ready.” She said as she started to get out of bed. She followed Dalton to the bathroom and watched as he put a chair in.
“I’ll get you some more of my clothes. With a couple of old washcloths, we can get you to the point of being comfortable enough to walk around. Call me when you have the curtain closed and I’ll put them on the stand.”
Misty smiled as she answered. “I can do that, but aren’t you going to run out of clothes?”
Dalton laughed. “I actually keep some here just because of how the weather can change. It can get chilly even in the summer. Don’t worry about it, Misty, I can buy new ones. I just want to make sure we keep you and Rachel healthy until we are able to leave.”
Misty knew that may take a while. “Do you know how long it normally takes for them to clear the way for you here?”
Dalton thought for a moment. He had been here before when this happened, but this storm had more snow. “It took them a week to get to me before, but we have six inches more this time. I can only guess and say a little over a week.”
Misty thought about her parents. They were going to be out of their minds with worry. “My parents are going to be upset not knowing what happened to me.”
Dalton had to agree. If they were expecting her, she would have been almost there by now. “My neighbor checked on me last time. He has a snow mobile. If he stops, I’ll see if he can get a message to them. He may even be able to get to your car and your clothes. We will still have to wait for you to leave, but at least your family will have some peace.”
Misty nodded. “Ok, then I guess I’m ready for my shower.”
Dalton left the area giving her the opportunity to get into the shower. He walked over to his suitcase and pulled out a pair of his boxers and a button down shirt. It would give Misty the freedom to nurse without needed to lift her shirt up. When he heard her say she was in the shower, he took the clothes in and put them on the stand with some old wash clothes.
Misty felt the warm water hit her body. She wet her hair and washed it. She saw the curtain move and looked down to see Jamie peeking in. The dog whined a little. Misty sat down on the chair to pet her. As soon as she sat, she felt her knees go a little week. Looking at the dog she patted her head as she whispered. “You seem to know just when I need you.” Jamie pulled her head out of the shower and sat down. Misty finished washing and turned off the water. She knew she needed help but was once again feeling uncomfortable. “You just had a baby. You aren’t in a hospital. Now put your big girl panties on and call for help.” She giggled as she gave herself a pep talk.
Dalton heard Misty’s soft call. He walked in the bathroom and looked at his dog sitting there looking at him expectantly. “Do you need help?” he asked Misty through the curtain.
“I’m dizzy. I don’t want to fall when I dry off.” He could hear the uncertainty in her voice.
Looking around Dalton had an idea. “I’ll hand you a towel to sit on and one to dry off. Then I can hand you the clothes. Are you comfortable with that?”
Misty was so grateful that he was in tune with her embarrassment. “That would be great.” She said relieved.
Dalton watched Jamie get up and nudge the curtain again. “It’s ok girl. I’m going to help her. Go watch the baby.” He watched as Jamie left the bathroom giving him a backwards glace.
Misty heard him talking to the dog. She chuckled as she said. “If she hadn’t come in, you would be picking me off the floor. I sat down just in time.”
Dalton handed her the towels. “How far away were you when she found you yesterday?”
Misty paused and thought about that. “I was at least a mile away. I was only able to take a few steps at a time.”
“I don’t know how she knew you were out there. Were you yelling at all?” he asked as he started to hand her the clothes.
“I was shouting help for a little while on the off chance someone would hear me, but I don’t think Jamie could have heard me all the way here. Dalton, I think God sent Jamie to me.” Misty said in confidence.
Dalton handed her the last of the clothes. He had to agree. “I can’t see how it could be anything else. I think God used her as a way for me to get to you. It really is a miracle you and Rachel are alive.”
Misty finished getting dressed. She spoke through the curtain. “I’m ready.”
Dalton pulled back the curtain. He held out his hand and helped Misty to her feet. She faltered just a bit before she felt her head clear. “Why do I feel like this? I felt fine earlier.”
Dalton held her arm as they walked to the bed. He helped her sit down. “You started losing blood yesterday and your pressure may be a little low. I’m going to have you drinking a lot today. The fluids should help get your pressure up a little and it will also get your body ready to make milk. Every time you nurse Rachel today, I want you to have a cup of juice, water, or milk.”
Misty thought that sounded like an awful lot of liquid. “I’m thinking the bathroom is going to be my best friend today.”
Dalton chuckled. “Just make sure you ask for help. I’m going to make breakfast for us.”
Dalton looked down at Misty. “Yes?”
Misty looked down at her hands. She suddenly felt very sad and insecure. “I’m sorry I interrupted your time here. It sounds like you needed a break, but…”
Dalton sat down on the side of her bed. “I need you to know that I don’t mind you here. I truly believe that God has done everything for me to be here with you and Rachel at this time.”
Misty suddenly felt like wailing like a child. She nodded her head and burst into tears. “Why am I crying? I never cry.” She hiccupped as she sobbed into her hands.
Dalton chuckled as he pulled her against his chest. “Your hormones are a little crazy right now. I promise they will start to level out. If you feel this way in a couple of weeks, then you need to tell someone.”
Misty got herself under control. She pulled back and looked up at Dalton. “I don’t understand why I felt that way. I think I’m ok now. I’m sorry I leaked all over your shirt.”
Dalton gently touched her cheek. “You have not had an easy time the last twenty-four hours. I’m thinking a good cry is ok.”
Misty nodded slightly as she watched her daughter’s feet start to move. “I’m thinking it is almost time to feed her again.”
Dalton smiled. “It is time for you to eat too. You feed her and I’ll feed you.”
Misty watched as Dalton walked to the kitchen area of the cabin. She gently picked Rachel up and waited for her to start searching for some food. In less than five minutes her little girl’s feet were wiggling as she nursed.
Dalton puttered around the small cabin kitchen. He poured some orange juice in a cup and walked over to Misty. He winked at her as he put it on the stand. He had to chuckle at Rachel’s little feet, before he headed back out to the kitchen.
Misty closed her eyes as Rachel nursed. The lip balm was making it much easier for her not to tense up as her little one fed. When it was time, she switched the baby to the other side. She could smell the food and suddenly realized how hungry she was. She picked up the orange juice and sipped it to help her hunger. She smiled as she watched Dalton coming toward her with a plate of food.
Dalton walked over to Misty. Setting the plate on the stand next to her he asked. “Is she done eating?”
“I think so. I just need to burp her.” Misty answered as she pulled the baby from her chest.
Dalton gently took Rachel. “I’ll do that. You eat.”
Misty watched Dalton put Rachel on his shoulder. She smiled and wondered what his future wife would be like. Whoever she was, she would be blessed. He would be a great husband and father. She nibbled her toast and wondered if God would have someone for her too. She had not really thought about it until now. If she had to be honest, she would not have been open to another relationship until now. She was not lying when she had said she was letting go. As hard as it was, she knew it was time for her to live. She also knew Brent would have wanted that for her and Rachel.
Dalton sat down on the small sofa. Rachel had burped, but he wanted to hold her just a little longer. He smiled over at Misty. “I love the smell of new babies.”
Misty had to agree. “They smell so sweet. You are going to be a great dad someday. I know you are not sure why God is making you wait, but I have a feeling it will be worth it.”
Dalton smiled. He spoke softly. “What about you? Are you going to let God lead you to a new love?”
Misty nodded. “I am. I don’t think I was ready until now to even talk about it, but I’m willing to do that. I can’t say I’m ready to do more than that. It has only been six months since Brent was killed. I know I need to start opening myself up to that possibility, but just that for now. I don’t think Brent would have wanted to me shut love out.”
Dalton watched as Jamie got up and walked to the door. She started scratching. “Hold on girl, let me give Rachel back to her mommy.”
Misty smiled up at Dalton as he put her daughter back into her arms. She could not resist teasing the man. “I wonder who Jamie will drag here next. I’m surprised she came in empty handed earlier.”
Dalton laughed as he let the dog out. He stepped out onto the porch and closed the door behind him. Jamie was having fun in the snow. After doing her business, she started rolling and jumping. When she stopped and looked toward the woods, he followed her gaze. Her ears were perked up, so he knew she heard something.
“What do you hear girl?” he asked as his eyes continued to focus on the edge of the woods. A few seconds later, Dalton saw a snow mobile emerge. He watched as it came up to the cabin.
The man on the snow mobile turned off the motor. It was not his neighbor, but he seemed friendly enough. “Good day. There is a search going on for a pregnant gal reported missing. We are checking the cabins around here in hopes that she found safety. It looks like she got a flat and had to set out on foot before the blizzard started. Did you happen to see her?” He asked sounding more defeated than hopeful.
Dalton smiled. “She is here.”
The man looked up surprised. “You have her?”
“If the woman in question is Misty, I have her here in the cabin with me.” Dalton said as he watched the man try to process what he had just been told.
The man got off of his snow mobile and held out his hand. “My name is Cameron. I’m not going to lie to you. We were all sure this was going to end badly. We didn’t get started with the search until almost eight this morning. As soon as the snow stopped we got on our sleds and started searching.”
Dalton shook the man’s hand. “I’m Dalton. Please come in.”
Misty had heard the machine outside. She looked up as Dalton and another man came in. “Dalton…?”
Cameron looked at the woman holding a baby. He grinned. “I guess we aren’t looking for a pregnant gal anymore.”
Dalton walked over to Misty. “It seems you were reported missing. This man here has been out for a couple of hours looking for you.”
Cameron smiled down at the new mother. “When you didn’t contact your mom after she called your cell, that woman brought the wrath of Texas down on us. She knew you were in trouble and demanded we at least try to find your car. After getting the route from her that you were supposed to take, we told the snow plows to watch out for your car. They found it early this morning. It is a good thing you made it here.”
Misty felt tears stinging her eyes. “My mom is worried? Please tell her I’m fine. I have a little girl.”
Cameron smiled at her gently. He looked at Dalton. “How did you manage to help her have a baby? I bet that was an experience.”
Dalton laughed. “I’m a doctor. Of all the cabins to come to this was actually the perfect one.”
Cameron smiled. “I am going to be so happy to deliver this news. This storm has everything shut down. Even if we make this cabin a priority you two are stuck here for at least another week. What do you need to care of our new mom here, Doc?”
Dalton smiled at the man’s straightforwardness. “Can I make you a list?”
“You sure can. I will have it back up here before dark. Mam, it is nice to know you and your baby are ok. I won’t lie to you. We were not sure this one was going to have a happy ending.” Cameron talked as he sat down on the chair and took her hand.
Misty smiled at the older man. “I’m glad my mom will be able to know I’m ok. Thank you so much for looking for me.”
Dalton spoke from the table as he made the list. “Let her mom know that I’ll be traveling with her. She will not be alone until she is safe at their home.”
Misty looked at Dalton. “You don’t have to do that.”
Dalton laughed. “If you think I can just let you travel alone after giving birth, you are crazy. We are friends now and I plan on being a good one.”
Cameron stood and took the list that Dalton offered. “Like I said folks, I am sure glad this turned out to be a happy ending.”
It had been three days since Misty had given birth. She was up and walking around the cabin in her own clothes now. She grinned as she watched Dalton nuzzle Rachel’s little cheek. She was making breakfast and couldn’t resist teasing him. “You are going to have her spoiled. I don’t care what you say Mr. Doc.”
Dalton looked up at her dancing eyes. “I told you before you can’t spoil them at this age. All you can do is love on them. Isn’t that right, Rachel?” he cooed at the baby girl.
Rachel shook her head. “Do you want pancakes or French toast?”
Dalton noticed Rachel’s little feet start to move. He walked out and stood beside Misty. “How about you tell me what you want, and then go feed this little princess.”
Misty chuckled as she took her squirmy baby. “I say pancakes. I love watching you try to flip them.”
Dalton gave her a nudge with his hip. “With that mean streak, I’m surprised your family reported you missing.”
Misty laughed. “You have no idea.”
Dalton was curious. “What does that mean?”
Misty snickered. “I would like you to want to stay my friend. Some things are best found out on your own.”
Dalton chuckled. “You can’t be that bad.”
Misty grinned. “The curiosity may have killed the cat, but it was also what kept it around.”
Dalton watched her go and sit down. He reached for the pancake mix thinking that the woman was right. He was curious and had all intentions of sticking around to see what she was talking about.
Misty started to feed Rachel and was a bit surprised. “Did you say something about my milk changing?”
Dalton turned around from the stove. “It should start to be thinner and more abundant in the next twenty-four hours. I take it you are seeing a difference.”
Misty did. She wanted to make sure it was normal. She thought about how to do that and stay modest. She cleared her throat. “Everything seems a little different. Is there a way for me to know if this is normal?”
Dalton grimaced. He flipped the pancakes over and then washed his hands. “This being your doctor thing is starting to make me blush.”
Misty chuckled. “You and me both…”
Dalton examined her as briefly as he could. His face was crimson as he started to explain things. “They are supposed to be a bit firmer and yup that is what her food is supposed to look like.”
Misty knew she was not comfortable, but she started to laugh at the color Dalton had turned. He looked absolutely mortified to be a doctor at the moment. She couldn’t resist tormenting him. “Those are some top notch medical terms you’re using there, sir. Who would have thought? I bet you just make your mamma proud.”
Dalton shook his head at her lack of mercy. “Brat…” he said as he started for the stove.
Misty had to laugh at him and then at Rachel. It was more than obvious she was thrilled with her new food. She could hear her growling as she ate. “It is nice to see you like the new stuff.” She whispered softly as she kissed her little brow.
Dalton finished breakfast. He brought her a plate of food and some juice. After setting it down he took Rachel to burp her. He laughed as the little girl let out a lusty belch. “I guess you find the fare acceptable.”
Misty nibbled at a piece of bacon. She smiled as she watched Dalton hold her daughter close. He was a very gentle man. She felt blessed to have met him. “You’re good with her.”
Dalton looked at Misty. “She has taken my heart and wrapped it around her little finger.”
Misty watched as he cradled Rachel in the crook of his elbow and ate with the other hand. He seemed to be a natural. She was watching them and feeling so content and then without warning, she could feel it creeping up on her. It was trying to devour her and she was suddenly afraid again.
Dalton looked at Misty. He had seen that look on her face many times during the last three days. Her absolute fear of being alone would creep up on her without warning. He got up and put Rachel into her little bed. By the time he got back to her she was shaking. “It’s ok.”
Misty shook her head no. “It was so cold. Don’t leave us ok? I don’t want to be cold again. I’m so scared. I don’t want to leave here.”
Dalton pulled her against his chest. “I’m right here. You are going to be ok, Misty.”
Misty tried to breath. She closed her eyes and tried to focus on Dalton’s heartbeat. “I feel like it is swallowing me.” She said softly.
Dalton spoke. “You can’t let it do that. I know you are afraid, but you need to know you are safe. You have to find a way to see that you are safe now.”
Misty could feel herself calming. She closed her eyes. Dalton always made her feel safe. When she had been afraid and alone, he had come and helped her.
Dalton pulled away and looked down into Misty’s face. He gently kissed her forehead. “Are you ok now?”
Misty nodded. “I think so. Dalton, why is this happening? I have never felt like this.”
Dalton could only guess. “You were faced with a very real life and death situation out in that cold. You understand fully you and Rachel could have died. I can’t imagine that not playing havoc on your mind.”
Misty nodded as she eased herself out of his arms. “I’m glad we are on the second verse of Psalm 23 today. I have never felt more in need of green fields and a nice gentle stream.”
Dalton picked up the devotional and started to read. The two talked about what the verse meant to the author of the devotional as well as what it meant to them. They each opened up to the other about how some days it was hard to see that God was leading them daily. They prayed at the end of their talk. Each of them sought guidance, from the Great Shephard. When Rachel stirred to be fed, Misty felt refreshed and unafraid. She was not sure how long that feeling would last, but she embraced it.
Eight hours later, Misty was once again in the kitchen. She was cutting up carrots, potatoes, and beef. She seasoned them with salt and pepper before chopping up some onion and garlic. After all the ingredients were in the cast iron pot, Misty put it in the oven. She turned and looked at Dalton and smiled. “I have to say you bring great supplies.”
Dalton laughed. “I like beef. I also like chicken and…”
Misty laughed. “I get it, if it breaths you will try to eat it.”
Dalton gave her a lopsided grin. “I’m a man and we do like our meat.”
Misty washed her hands at the sink and then joined him and Rachel on the sofa. She yawned. “I guess, I’m a little tired.”
Dalton smiled down at her. “Take a nap. The food won’t be ready for a few hours.”
Misty looked up at Dalton. Her eyes looked haunted. “I’m afraid you’ll leave. Please don’t leave me.”
Dalton got up and put Rachel in her bed. He walked back over to the sofa and sat down. “I’ll be right here. You need to rest. It will be ok. I’m not going to leave you.”
Tears stung her eyes as she nodded. The day before she had taken a nap and woke up with only Rachel in the cabin. She had immediately gone into a full blown panic attack. Dalton had only gone out to chop some wood, but she had thought he had left her. She had been crying uncontrollably when he had come back into the cabin. She was embarrassed as she remembered how long it had taken him to calm her down. “You’ll stay?” she asked her voice shaking.
Dalton pulled her into his arms trying to ease her fear. He felt her tremble before he said softly. “I won’t go out of the cabin again when you are sleeping. Your body needs to rest. It needs to heal. Close your eyes and go to sleep. I’m right here.”
Misty could see he was telling her the truth. She snuggled into the safety of his chest and closed her eyes. She was asleep within minutes. He gently picked her up and laid her on her bed.
He looked at her as he gently pushed some hair out of her face. “I’ll be right here.” He whispered once more and then turned and walked back to the sofa. Picking up a book he settled in to read until she woke up.
Misty sat on the sofa feeding Rachel as she watched Dalton making sandwiches for lunch. They had been together for seven days and had fallen into a comfortable routine. She smiled as he turned and looked at her. He picked up the plate with her sandwich and walked toward her. “Thank you.” She said as he sat it down beside her.
Dalton chuckled at Rachel’s feet moving. “You are welcome. That little girl is eating everything I give you up fast. Look how chubby her little legs are getting.”
Misty giggled. “She really does like eating.”
Dalton touched the baby’s head as he walked out to get his sandwich. “I better eat before she needs burped. We all have our jobs you know?”
Misty laughed. “I guess we do. You deliver her, I feed her, you feed me, you feed you, and you burp the baby.”
Dalton laughed at the picture. “Well, I would say we both worked at the part of delivering her. It was not exactly like you didn’t do anything. My job there was a breeze compared to yours.”
Misty looked down at Rachel. “At the time I thought my mom had lied, but she is right. I don’t remember the pain at all. It just diminished into the shadows the second you put her on my tummy.”
Dalton smiled. “She really is perfect.”
Misty had to agree. “I loved her before she was born, but I was not prepared for all of the emotions I would feel when I finally met her.”
The two finished their sandwiches and Rachel finished her milk. Misty laughed as Dalton took the baby and put her on his shoulder. He grinned as he said. “I think this may be the best job in the world. I get to hold her close.”
Misty chuckled as she stood and picked up their plates. She walked out to the kitchen and did the dishes. She finished wiping up the countertop and then grabbed the devotion. Sitting down beside Dalton she opened it up and started to read the last verse of the 23rd Psalm.
Dalton thought about David’s words. His desire to dwell with the God of creation was one of the things that had brought him to Colorado. He could not help but think out loud. “With all that life throws at us, it is good to know that at the end of our earthly journey, we will dwell with the God of creation forever. We will be in the very presence of Christ.”
Misty thought for a moment about what Dalton had said. She had not thought of it that way, but he was right. “No matter what road we take, when we put our lives in the hands of Christ and believe in Him, our journeys will all end in Heaven.”
Dalton thought about the entire chapter. “In life we all travel at least one of those paths at some time or another. He is with us until the end of life here on earth and then with us forever in eternity.”
Misty thought of Brent. His road had been at times one with hers. In the end, his led to combat and ultimately heaven. A part of her found peace in knowing that Brent was just fine. He was in Christ’s presence. She was the one that was not fine. She hurt. Her road was still going through the valley of the shadow of death. She longed for rest. She had only had a few friends in Colorado, but they just seemed to disappear with Brent.
Dalton watched the play of emotion on Misty’s face. He knew she was dealing with so much. Her roads were all weaving in and out of each other. The only One with her all the time was Christ. “It is hard for you.”
Misty looked up. “I know that this Psalm is true. God is with us. I guess sometimes the road seems longer and lonelier than I want it to be. I’m all alone with Rachel. I am not sure if I will be even a fraction of what she needs.”
Dalton nodded his head in understanding. He looked down at the sleeping baby in his arms. “You will always be more than what she needs, and you are not as alone as you think. I know there is some part of you absolutely sure that I’m not going to stay your friend. I plan on proving that part wrong. You will not be alone with Rachel. I will do everything I can to help.”
Tears stung her eyes. She knew he really believed what he said, but he was right, she didn’t believe him. Her heart hurt at the thought of leaving this sanctuary in the woods. She had felt lonely and afraid for so long, here she found a refuge and a reprieve from the loneliness that sometimes engulfed her. When his arm went around her shoulders, she leaned into him. At this moment, Dalton was her friend. At this moment, that was enough. It was the moments after she would leave here that caused fear to consume her. She started to shake at the thought.
Dalton stood and took Rachel to her bed. He turned and walked back to Misty. He picked her up and held her close. He pulled her as close as he could, trying desperately to help her see she was not alone. He knew she didn’t believe him. He knew she was afraid of what life held for her outside this cabin. He kissed her forehead. “I’m here now and I will be here tomorrow. I will stay. I promise, Misty, I will stay with you as long as life lets me.”
Misty sobbed into his chest. “I’m trying to believe you. It just seems like friends always go away. I don’t want you to go away. After Brent died, no one knew what to say. They just stopped being there. My best friend even started to keep her distance. I was hurting and I needed understanding. They just…left.”
Dalton could feel her trembling. He continued to hug her tight. “Real friends don’t do that to each other. I won’t go away and forget you. I promise I will come and visit. I’ll talk to you every day on the phone when we are apart if that is what you need. I am your friend. God, Himself, arranged for us to meet and help each other. If you don’t trust me, trust Him.”
“How do you know we didn’t just meet so you could save our lives? How do you know that we are going to stay friends?” she asked softly.
Dalton could only be honest. His voice was soft as he said. “I need this friendship too.”
Misty started to hear what he was saying. A part of her, though it was a small part, started to believe in this friendship. She started to relax and listen to Dalton’s heartbeat. She closed her eyes.
Dalton felt Misty relax. When her breathing became even he knew she was sleeping. He eased her off of his lap and onto the sofa. He scooted himself beside her and pulled her against his chest. He could still feel her trembling. The doctor in him was frustrated that this was not something he could simply fix. Misty didn’t have a broken arm, she had a fearful heart. What ailed her could only be fixed by time and faith in Christ. He did the only thing he knew he could do; he sought his heavenly Father’s help. He prayed and asked for God to give her peace. He was still praying when he joined her and Rachel in sleep.
It was three days before Christmas and time for Dalton and Misty to leave the cabin. The road was cleared of the snow and the vehicle was loaded with everything they would need. Misty’s car had been damaged beyond repair by a snow plow, so the three would be traveling to Texas in Dalton’s SUV. Misty looked around the small cabin that had been her refuge for the last nine days. A part of her was sad to leave. She felt Dalton’s hand on her shoulder and looked up at him. He had done a lot of talking the last couple of days. Mostly to assure her that everything would be ok. “I’m sad about this.”
Dalton had to agree. “I am too. It was great hanging out with you and Rachel. I mean it when I say we are friends now. I was not lying when I said that I plan on visiting often.”
Misty smiled up at him. She was more at peace than she had been. “I will hold you to that, Doctor.”
Dalton walked over and picked the car seat up. Rachel was covered up and ready to go. He knew they would need to stop during their trip for her to eat and Jamie to do her business. He put his hand on the small of Misty’s back and guided her to the door. “It’s time to go.”
Dalton opened Misty’s car door for her. After that he hooked Rachel’s seat in the back of the car and then got in behind the wheel. Looking over at Misty he smiled gently. Tears were running down her cheeks. She had become very special to him these last nine days. He wished that she understood this was not the end of their friendship. Though, she seemed to understand it more now than she had before.
Misty looked over at Dalton and tried to smile. She didn’t understand why her heart was hurting so much. She was going home, but the thought of not seeing Dalton again hurt. “You won’t forget us will you?”
Dalton shook his head no. “I told you I will not ever forget you. I will be visiting you and Rachel as often as I can. You may end up getting sick of me.”
Misty shook her head no. “I will never get sick of you.”
Dalton put the car in drive and headed down the long windy drive to the highway. He reached over and grabbed Misty’s hand. “It will be ok.”
Misty nodded as she brought his big yet gentle hand to her heart. She knew her hormones were still off and hoped that all of these emotions would settle. She took a deep breath. Feeling more in control she looked over at Dalton. “How long will our trip be?”
Dalton smiled. “We will drive seven to eight hours today and then stop. You really shouldn’t be cramped up in a car like this. We will finish the second half of the trip tomorrow.”
Misty held Dalton’s hand on her lap. She knew he would need to it drive, but wanted to hold it just a little longer. “Does your family live in Houston with you?”
Dalton shook his head no. “They live in Tennessee.”
“Will you be able to stay with us a couple of more days and be with us for Christmas?” Misty asked hopefully.
Dalton looked over at Misty. He had planned on being alone at the cabin, but realized that he would enjoy being with her during Christmas. “If I’m welcome, I would love to stay for Christmas.”
Misty reluctantly let go of his hand. She looked out the window at the passing landscape. “I’m going to miss this.”
Dalton looked over at her as he pulled onto I-25. “I know you are having a difficult time believing me, but I really am going to stay in your life.”
Misty looked over at him and shrugged. “I want to believe you.”
Dalton thought about what she was saying. “I really want to stay in touch and be friends. You will always have a special place in my life. Misty, you need to talk to someone about all of this. It is not healthy or normal to have this much anxiety. I do think some of it could be the fact that you just gave birth, but not all of it. You need to work through this fear. Some people are able to come back. You have to start understanding and believing in that. Don’t miss out on what God has for you by not dealing with not just Brent’s death, but the feeling of abandonment his death caused. I truly believe that almost all of the fear you harbor can be tied back to you not dealing head on with Brent not coming home.”
Misty thought about what he said. What if God wanted her to open herself back up to love? It was too much to think about. She loved Brent so much. They had planned on raising their child and growing old together. They had planned on ‘happily ever after’. She was not sure she could find love only to lose it again. She also knew that she could never let Brent fully go. He was the father of her child. He would always have a special place in her heart, but she could still see what he was saying. She was terrified that those closest to her would not come back. She knew the fear was not reasonable but couldn’t seem to stop from feeling it. Dalton’s friendship was almost overwhelming to her. She had let him in and the fear didn’t let up but intensified. He was right. She needed to seek help.
Dalton could tell she was deep in thought. He could not imagine the fear and pain she must hold. He knew that he could not understand totally what she was going through, but he knew she needed to tell someone what she was feeling. “What is your biggest fear in seeking help to work through your grief?”
Misty looked at him. “I’m afraid that they will tell me I need to forget him. How do you say goodbye and forget your first love?”
Dalton thought about it for a moment. “I don’t think that is what they would tell you to do. If I had to guess, I would say that they would tell you it is ok that Brent occupies a place in your heart, but I also think they will want you to portion that space properly. If God sends you someone to love you, you need to be able to see that it is ok. You are allowed to let someone else in.”
Misty agreed that it made sense, but could she really do that? Could she make room for someone in her heart? “I feel like even talking about this is betraying Brent’s memory.”
“I don’t think Brent would have wanted you to mourn him forever. You said that too. He would want you to live. If a man comes into your life that you start to have feelings for, you need to pray and seek Christ first. If Christ is the One that sent him, you need to open yourself up to him. The man that God chooses will be understanding and gentle about Brent’s memory.”
Misty hoped he was right. She suddenly smiled. “We are kind of the strangest friends aren’t we? I didn’t even know you and then…boom, I have a baby at your cabin.”
Dalton had to laugh at the picture. “It will always be an interesting story when people ask how we became friends.”
The rest of the drive that day went by fast. They continued to talk and laugh. They stopped a couple of times to feed Rachel, and let Jamie out; but made great time on the road. Before they knew it was time to stop driving and seek rest for the night.
Dalton and Misty pulled into the long drive that led to her parents’ ranch. A half mile later, Misty could see her mom and dad standing out in front of the house. She looked over at Dalton. “Just heads up, my parents are huggers.”
Dalton laughed. “I think I can handle it.” He said as he parked the car and got out. Walking around the SUV he opened Misty’s door and then Rachel’s. He unlatched the car seat and pulled it out. Jamie jumped out and followed Misty toward her parents.
Terry Bishop rushed to her daughter. “Thank God you are ok. I was so worried.” Looking past her daughter she walked up to Dalton and gave him a hug as well. “Thank you so much for saving our girl and her baby.”
Dalton returned her embrace with one arm. Looking down at the woman he asked. “Would you like to meet your granddaughter?”
Terry grinned. “I would like that very much.” Terry watched as Dalton set the seat down and pull back the blanket. Tears filled her eyes as the most perfect little baby slept peacefully in the seat. She looked behind her as Chad walked up to them.
Chad shook Dalton’s hand. He looked down at the sleeping infant and then at his daughter. “You did good Lil’ Pea.”
Misty giggled as she patted Jamie’s head. Her dad’s nickname for her would never change and she didn’t mind that at all. “Now you have a Lil’ Pea Jr.”
Chad looked at Dalton. “I can’t thank you enough for helping out little girl. If you need anything all you need to do is let me know. While you are here, you are family.”
Dalton smiled at the man. “Thank you, sir, I’m honored to be considered a family member.”
Chad looked at the man and asked. “Where are your bags? The boys and I will get them. Those two should be driving up anytime now.”
Dalton spoke. “It is fine. If you want to take Rachel, I’ll grab our bags.”
Chad was hearing none of it. “No sir. You have done your part. You go on with Terry and Misty. The boys and I will get them.”
As if on cue Dalton observed a pickup truck heading down the drive. He conceded and showed Chad which bags were needed. As the ‘boys’ got out of the truck Dalton chuckled. Coming toward him were two of the biggest men he had ever seen. “Your ‘boys’ are giants.”
Chad laughed. “I guess they are.”
Brock Bishop looked at the man standing beside his father. He assumed this was the doctor that had saved his sister’s life. Holding out his hand he introduced himself. “Hi, I’m Brock. This ugly cuss beside me is Wyatt.”
Wyatt elbowed his brother before he shook the man’s hand. “Like he said, I’m Wyatt. I have to disagree with the ugly part though.”
Dalton laughed as he shook each of the men’s hands. “I’m Dalton. It is very nice to meet you.”
Wyatt looked at the car seat Dalton was still holding. “Is that little hiccup in the car seat our niece?”
Dalton gently laid the car seat back down. “She sure is.”
The men smiled as they looked at the sleeping baby. Dalton knew she would be getting awake any second to eat. “I better get her to Misty. This little gal likes her food. That wiggle her little feet are doing right now, is a sure fire sign things are about to get ugly.”
Dalton turned and walked toward the house as the men got the bags out of the car. He saw Misty and her mom on the swing waiting for him and Rachel. He smiled at the peaceful look on Misty’s face. Jamie was lying at the women’s feet. As he walked up to them he smiled at Misty. “Her feet are moving and we know what that means.”
Misty laughed as she watched Dalton taking Rachel out of the seat. Dalton gently laid Rachel in Misty’s arms as he helped her get comfortable to nurse. Terry laughed as her granddaughter started eating. “She really does move around when she eats.”
Misty watched as her brothers came up to the house. She pulled the blanket over herself to be a bit more discrete. When she started fumbling, Dalton walked over and helped her. “Thank you.” She whispered.
“You’re welcome.” He whispered back.
Terry couldn’t help but notice how gentle Dalton was. He was a perfect gentleman with Misty. She looked up at him and said. “We have the guest room all made up for you. If you need anything, you let me know. I will be upset if you don’t ask.”
Dalton smiled at the older woman. “I will do that, but I think I have everything I need.”
Misty watched Dalton go into the house with her brothers and father. She looked over at her mom and asked. “Did you get a chance to make that appointment for tomorrow?”
Terry chuckled as she answered. “I made the appointment for you. They seemed a bit troubled that you had fishing line that needed to be taken care of.”
Misty laughed. “He kind of had to use what was there.”
Terry looked down at the dog. She gave her a little pat on the head as she asked. “What is this girl’s name?”
Misty smiled as everyone came back out. Dalton heard the question and winked at her as he answered. “This is Jamie. I’m hoping she is still my dog though. She seems to follow Misty everywhere.”
Misty spoke softly. “She saved my life. She found me and wouldn’t leave me until she heard Dalton’s voice. When she came back, Dalton was with her.”
Chad finally had to ask. “What exactly happened? They told us you were safe, but nothing more.”
Misty looked at her family. “I got a flat tire on the way here. When I tried to change it, I discovered the spare was dry rotted. That was when I realized I needed to find help. I looked around and saw smoke. I started walking and about an hour later my contractions started….”
Dalton knew she was remembering how afraid she was. He walked over to her and sat on the chair beside the swing. She looked at Dalton and took a breath then started to speak again. “Two hours after the contractions started, I knew I was in big trouble if I didn’t find help. I was leaning against a tree and my contractions were getting closer together. I looked up and saw Jamie. I followed her and she stayed with me. When my water broke, my fear kept me walking. I knew I had to keep going. It was really starting to snow at that point, and my contractions were on top of each other. I have never prayed so much in my life. I…” Misty looked at Dalton. She could feel the fear trying to come again. She breathed deeply, her eyes begging him to finish the story.
Dalton continued the story. “I knew we were in for a blizzard and was out looking for Jamie. When I heard Jamie barking, I tried to get her to come, but when I saw her she wouldn’t come to me. She started whimpering I knew she had found something; I just didn’t know what or in this case who. I was surprised to find out it was Misty. I took one look at your daughter and knew she was going to have a baby outside if I didn’t get her back to my cabin quickly. I picked her up and ran all the way back.”
Misty was able to swallow her fear. She felt more confident as she spoke again. “When he told me, he was a doctor, I could have cried I was so relieved. Dalton spent the next hour helping me bring Rachel into the world. I don’t know what I would have done without him.”
Chad and Terry looked at each other. They had not been told how close to death their daughter had been. The way they had been spoken to, it seemed like Misty had been sheltered the entire time. “We almost lost both of you…” Terry said in a strangled voice.
Dalton spoke softly. “God made sure you didn’t. Try not to think about what could have been.”
Brock looked at Dalton. He knew the man was right. Looking at his mother he rubbed his stomach. “I couldn’t help but smell the food you have in the oven.”
Terry frowned at her son. “I just bet you couldn’t. Did you peek?”
Brock grinned. “I may have.”
Chad chuckled. “It wouldn’t be Brock if he didn’t peek.”
Misty was hungry too. She looked at Brock. “What did you find in the oven?”
Brock winked at Misty. “Mom has baked chicken, green bean casserole, and apple cobbler in the oven.”
Misty’s mouth watered. “That sounds so yummy. When is it done?”
Terry took Rachel and started burping her, as Misty fixed her shirt. She looked at her youngest son and answered. “It will be ready in about ten minutes.”
Wyatt looked at Brock. “I say we go set the table.”
Chad laughed at his sons. “You two are very helpful when food is involved.”
Brock gave his dad a lopsided grin. “If the food is mom’s cooking, that is more than true. I don’t even try to deny it.”
Dalton laughed as he stood up. “I’ll help. If I have to be honest, I’m starving.”
Misty watched the men go back in the house. She smiled as her brother Wyatt gave her a devilish wink. Laughter filled her voice as she said. “Those two are never going to grow up. They are the biggest kids I have ever seen.”
Terry kissed the top of Rachel’s head. Her voice was wistful as she said. “They grow up faster than you think. Before you know it, your babies are having babies.”
Misty smiled gently at her mother as she asked. “Does it make you sad?”
“It does not make me sad. It just reminds me how fast time goes by. I feel like it was just yesterday you were a baby in my arms. I hold this little girl and remember her mommy being this small. You really did a great job. She is perfect.” Terry answered.
Misty leaned her head against her mom’s shoulder. Her family had no idea how much she had changed. Brent’s death and her near miss in the wilderness had stunted her. “I miss being a little girl.”
Terry knew Misty was thinking of Brent. “It will get easier. I know it hurts right now, but you will survive this and thrive.”
Misty felt tears sting her eyes as she spoke. “It hurts so badly. I feel like I have a hole in my heart.”
Terry spoke softly. “It will be ok. I promise. As I said, I know it hurts now, but God has plans for you. He wants you to heal and grow strong, not wilt away in pain.”
Misty knew her mom was right. She just didn’t know how to let go of that very real pain. “I know God will work in my heart. I will always do my best to listen to His leading. I trust that He will show me how to fully let go and embrace His will. It just seems so hard to do that right now.”
Chad opened the door and smiled at his wife and daughter. “The table is set. Are you two ready to come eat?”
Misty wiped the tears from her eyes. Getting up from the swing she walked over to her dad and smiled up at him. “I think we are.”
Chad hugged his only daughter and whispered. “It will be ok, Lil Pea. Let us help you. Remember that God has a season for everything in our lives. This season will pass.”
Misty whispered into her father’s chest. “I’m trying to remember that.”
Chad pulled her closer. “You serve a big God. Don’t lose faith now. You may not see it, but I think your future is closer than you think.”
Misty looked up into her father’s face. She smiled as she touched his face. “Thanks for letting me come home.”
Chad kissed her forehead. “You are always welcome here. We don’t stop being your parents just because you become an adult. We were thrilled you wanted to come home.”
Misty turned and looked at her mother. “Do you need me to take her?”
Terry looked down at the sleeping baby. She said softly. “I think I would like to stay out here and hold her just a little longer. Go ahead and go eat.”
Chad looked down at Misty. “I guess we have been dismissed.”
Misty smiled up at her father. “I guess we have.”
Terry watched the two go into the house. She sat there for an hour holding her first grandchild and praying for her daughter. It was time for the sad moments to lessen and the happy ones to once again become abundant. Terry prayed that her daughter would see that.
Dalton woke up to the sound of Rachel’s cry; he had almost forgotten where he was. Getting out of bed he made his way to Misty’s room and knocked gently on the door before opening it. “Are you two ok?” he asked softly.
Misty looked up at him with exhausted eyes. She had been awake for two hours now. Rachel did not seem to want to calm down. Tears filled her eyes and streamed down her cheeks. “I’m so tired, Dalton. I don’t know why she won’t sleep. She just ate, but does not seem to want to sleep.”
Dalton walked over to the bed and took Rachel into his arms. “I’ll walk with her. You go ahead and try to sleep.”
Misty looked up at him. “Am I doing something wrong? I fed her and changed her. Dalton, I’m trying to be a good mom, but…” Misty started sobbing into her hands.
Dalton sat down on the bed beside Misty. “Misty, you are a good mom. Babies do this. I have her. You go to sleep and rest. I really do have her. When she needs you, I’ll bring her back.” He reassured her again.
Misty nodded as she got her emotions under control. Looking up at Dalton, she whispered. “I will try to listen to you and sleep. Thank you Dalton.”
Dalton touched her forehead and whispered. “You are welcome. Now sleep.” When she pulled the covers up over herself, he got up and quietly left the room with Rachel. When he shut the door and turned around, he was surprised to see Chad.
“I can hear this little miss causing trouble all the way down the hall.” Chad said as he took his grandbaby into his arms.
Dalton grinned at the man. “She seems to think it is time to wake up. Misty is exhausted.”
Chad chuckled. “I could hear how emotional she was. I didn’t think it was the right time to tell her, that she loved to stay awake at night when she was a baby.”
Dalton made a face. “I’m not sure there will be a good time to break that bit of news to her.”
Chad started down the hall. Looking over his shoulder he asked. “Would you like some coffee? If Lil’ Pea Jr is like her mom, we have at least two more hours before she wants to eat again and go back to sleep.”
Dalton looked at the older man. “Well then I guess we better go get some caffeine in us.”
The two headed toward the kitchen. Chad handed Rachel back to Dalton as he started to putter around the kitchen. As he made the coffee, he chatted. “Misty tells me your folks live in Tennessee. How did you end up in Colorado for the holiday?”
“I was really feeling disconnected from God. I have been working crazy hours at the hospital and just wanted to spend some time alone with Christ.” Dalton explained as he kissed Rachel’s little cheek.
Chad studied the younger man. It was refreshing to hear him talk about his desire to know Christ better. The way he was with Rachel also warmed his heart. Anyone looking could tell he loved her. “I hope your job slows down enough for you to get that connection back. I know it can be hard.”
Dalton was honest. “It really is. I know I should go to church more often, but after doing a third shift, I’m just beat. I don’t allow that to stop me from my daily time alone with God, but it would be nice to get to church. I think I may need to work on making it a priority and leaning on God for my physical rest those days.”
Chad nodded his head. “I know when I was a younger man, I had the same issues. I love having a ranch, but there are days it really is a lot of hard work. Now that Wyatt is able to help more, I let him, but a part of me is wondering if I’m robbing him of some time with Christ.”
Wyatt spoke from the doorway. “I still manage to get to church almost every Sunday. No need to worry.”
Dalton grinned at the man. He had not even heard him coming. “For your size, you sure are stealthy.”
Walking over to Dalton, Wyatt laughed as he took Rachel. “I have been told that a time or two.”
Wyatt nuzzled the baby’s head and said softly. “She is a sweet little thing, isn’t she? I could just love on her all day long.”
Dalton nodded. “She really is perfect. I’m going to miss her and her mommy when it is time for me to go.”
Chad looked at Dalton. He was very serious as he said. “We were told you were going to wear out your welcome. We expect you to give that a try. You have a room here now.”
Dalton laughed. “I’m not going to lie. I enjoy being around this family. I will give it an honest effort.”
Chad poured four cups of coffee. Looking at Dalton he said. “It is only a matter of time before Brock wakes up. He can smell coffee a mile away.”
As if on cue, Brock walked into the kitchen. The men watched him yawn and stretch. “I thought I heard voices. What are we talking about at one in the morning?”
Chad answered him. “I’m making sure that Dalton here tires to wear his welcome out.”
Brock laughed. “Misty said you were going to try. I know I want you to try too. You just seem to fit in here.”
Dalton smiled. “Thanks. I feel at home here.”
Chad handed Dalton his cup of coffee and asked. “Are you ready to tell Misty ‘no’ tomorrow?”
Dalton looked at him confused. “I’m not following you. Why would I tell her no?”
Brock laughed and looked at the other two men. “She has all intentions of trying to go horseback riding after her doctor’s appointment. I know for a fact she will not even bring it up at the appointment.”
Dalton looked at the men. Were they serious? “There is no way she should be getting on a horse yet. You are joking, right? Please tell me you are joking.”
Wyatt laughed at the look on Dalton’s face. He looked back down at Rachel and asked. “So, does that me you are going to tell her ‘no’?”
Dalton looked at the men’s faces. They were all grinning. He realized they were not joking. He sighed as he said. “I have a feeling Misty and I are about to have our first fight tomorrow. She is going to be difficult isn’t she?”
Chad laughed. “She is going to be very difficult. Terry told me what she planned on doing, and the fact is you are the only one we think she may listen to.”
Dalton had seen a bit of the stubborn streak they were talking about. “Are you sure she won’t listen to you? I don’t like the idea of telling her she can’t do something.”
Chad laughed. “She won’t ask me. That is how she works. As soon as my back is turned, she will head out to the barn and saddle up a horse. She will be a mile away from the house before we even realize she is gone.”
Dalton thought a moment. “It will have to be more difficult than that. She will need to ask someone to watch Rachel.”
Brock chuckled. “She will make sure Rachel is fed and in someone’s arms. Dalton, it is time we let you in on a little secret about Misty. She is a Texas sized handful. She knows how to do what she wants without drawing attention to herself.”
Dalton thought for a moment this was not the Misty he knew. He was trying to figure out a way to take the heat directly off of him. He had an idea and asked. “Would she ignore her doctor’s orders?”
Chad thought for a moment. “I don’t think so.”
Dalton had the answer. “I’m not telling her ‘no’ tomorrow. Her doctor is. I’m going to that appointment. I mean, don’t you all think I should explain to him why she needs to have fishing line taken care of?”
Wyatt busted out laughing. He had to give it to Dalton, the man was smart. “That is brilliant. She can’t even argue with it.”
Brock had to agree with Wyatt. “She will not even have a clue that you’re going to make sure she knows her limits. Well played, Dalton.”
Chad looked at Dalton. “I think Misty may have met her match the moment you picked her up and carried her to your cabin. I agree with Brock. Well played.”
Wyatt looked down at Rachel. Her eyes were trying to focus and look around. Looking up at Dalton he asked. “When do babies start to actually see us clearly? She looks like she is trying to see me.”
Dalton smiled as he went over and got close to Rachel’s face. “She can see me right now. I just need to be close.”
Brock looked confused. “I thought babies had trouble seeing. I thought it took them a bit more time to see us.”
“They are just very near sited. When you are close enough, they can see you just fine.” Dalton said as he watched Rachel’s eyes focus on him. He gently touched her cheek and then walked back over to the counter.
Wyatt put his face a little closer to his niece’s face. “Uncle Wyatt can get this close, but don’t worry. I won’t let Uncle Brock get so close. I don’t want him to scare you.”
Chad laughed as Rachel kicked her legs. It was obvious she was thrilled with her surroundings right now. “She really is a sweet little thing.”
Brock walked over to Wyatt. “It’s my turn to hold her. You have been brainwashing her enough.”
Dalton watched Wyatt give his niece a little kiss and then hand her over to Brock. “Brent may be gone, but she will have a great male influence.” He said softly.
Chad looked at Dalton a bit surprised. Misty didn’t outright talk to any of them about Brent. She would say things here and there, but nothing to deep. “She talked to you about him?”
Dalton felt his eyes mist as he remembered Rachel’s first day of life. He relayed the story to the men. The picture of Misty telling Rachel how much her daddy would have loved her would stay with him forever.
Wyatt wiped a tear from his eye. He chuckled as he remembered the man fondly. “Brent was a good man. He had a devil of a time keeping Misty out of trouble, but he loved her to the moon and back.”
Brock smiled as he remembered too. “I thought he was going to have a heart attack the first time he saw her standing on a horses back. He never yelled, but man you could tell he wanted to.”
Dalton choked on his coffee. He kept his voice calm as he asked. “I’m sorry. Did I hear you say she was standing on her horse’s back?”
Wyatt laughed at the look on Dalton’s face and answered. “She was trying to get something off the roof of the one shed. We keep some of our tools up there under the overhang. When she couldn’t reach it, she stood up on Ginger’s back to get it. We all knew Ginger was used to Misty doing that kind of stuff, Brent was not. He stayed calm, but man you could see he wanted to yell.”
Chad still remembered the look on Brent’s face. “He was even less happy when she said she wouldn’t do it when he was around. That man wanted a promise that she would never do it again. Misty had no intention of making that vow.”
Brock grinned. “It didn’t take her long to sweet talk him into forgetting how upset he was at her. She had him wrapped around her little finger.”
Chad smiled. “That is exactly where he wanted to be. My girl isn’t afraid of anything.”
Dalton spoke softly. “She is terrified of being abandoned.”
Wyatt looked at Dalton. He couldn’t believe it. “She told you that?”
Dalton remembered the look in Misty’s eyes every time she asked if he would stay. “She didn’t have to. She couldn’t go to sleep without making sure I wouldn’t leave her. She is afraid I won’t come back, which is one of the reasons I plan on coming back. Brent’s death has affected her more than you know. I told her she needed to talk to someone about it. She told me she was going to. I hope she does.”
Brock tried to picture his sister anything but confident. He looked at Dalton and knew the man was speaking the truth. “How do we help her?”
“You encourage her to find a grief counselor. She needs to work through all of the feeling she has.” Dalton answered.
Chad knew Dalton was holding something back. “What else is there?”
“She blames herself for his death.” Dalton said grimly.
Wyatt couldn’t believe it. “How could she think that?”
Dalton remembered how Misty had opened up to him. “She was proud to be the wife of a soldier. When they would talk about him getting out, she would encourage him to do what he wanted to do. She blames herself for not telling him to leave the military. Your sister is in more pain than you see.”
Chad was heartbroken to think of the struggles his daughter was facing. “Thanks for telling us. I would never have guessed she felt that way. I’m glad she opened up to you. She doesn’t go that deep with us.”
Dalton smiled at the men. “I’m not going to lie. I think I need Misty’s friendship just as much as she needs mine. We are just comfortable with each other.”
Brock looked at Dalton. “I hope you consider us friends too. If you ever need an ear, I would listen.”
Dalton grinned. “I will do that if you do the same.”
Wyatt noticed Rachel’s feet starting to move. He looked at Brock. “It looks like you are going to have to give her up soon. She is getting hungry.”
Chad laughed as Rachel’s feet seemed to become more frantic. “I guess we should get this little lady back to her mom.”
Brock walked over to Dalton and handed him the baby. “She seems a bit shy with us. Why don’t you go ahead and take Rachel back to her?”
Dalton held the baby gently as he went to Misty’s room. He knocked gently and opened the door. Misty stretched and smiled up at him. “Your girl is ready to eat. Are you rested?” He asked softly.
Misty allowed Dalton to help her get comfortable. “I am rested. Thank you. I was so tired.”
Dalton sat on the side of the bed. He touched her cheek gently. “It is ok to ask for help. Your dad and brothers were up with me. They will help you when you need it.”
Misty looked up at Dalton. “I just don’t like asking them. With you it is just different.”
Dalton smiled at her. “If you don’t need me, I’ll head back to my room.”
Misty suddenly wanted to panic. “Don’t leave me just yet. Dalton…”
Dalton heard the fear in her voice. He propped a pillow behind his back and got comfortable. When she leaned into him, he put his arm around her. “I’ll wait until Rachel is fed and you are asleep.”
Misty’s voice was soft as she asked. “You will be here in the morning, right? You won’t leave the house?”
Dalton answered gently. “I will be here in the morning. I won’t leave you.”
Misty started to cry. “Dalton, I’m afraid again. I don’t want to be cold again.”
Dalton put his arm around her. He could feel her trembling. “Misty, I promise. I won’t leave. The cold is behind you. It will be ok.”
The three men standing out in the hallway looked at each other. Not one of them had ever witnessed this side of Misty. Chad had tears in his eyes as he heard the fear in his daughter’s voice. They each sought their beds with a prayerful heart. Tonight they would each approach the throne of God on her behalf.
Christmas Eve found Misty in a bit of a huff. She folded her arms across her chest and frowned at Dalton. “I can’t believe you asked the doctor all of those questions. I can’t do anything now.”
Dalton grinned at her and winked. He knew she was furious, but he also knew she needed to take care of herself. He had no intentions of standing here arguing with her. He turned and walked toward the house with Rachel in his arms.
Misty was mad. “Don’t just walk away when I’m talking to you. I mean it. Why did you do that?”
Dalton knew they were being observed. He could see Brock in the barn doorway laughing. He turned and looked at Misty. “You need to take care of yourself. Rachel needs you to do everything by the book. You can be mad all you want. You and I both know you should not have even thought about going riding today.”
Misty frowned again. “Riding a horse isn’t going to kill me. I wish you had just stayed home.” She said in a huff and headed for the house. Anyone looking had no doubt she was madder than a wet hen and should probably not follow her.
Dalton followed her. He had no intention of letting her stew and get madder. When Chad held his arms out for Rachel, Dalton handed the baby over and went in search of Misty. He walked into the kitchen and waited for her to look at him. When she didn’t he walked over to her. “Misty, you need to stop doing this.”
Misty was suddenly very sorry she yelled at him. She started crying. “I’m sorry. I just wanted to have some time alone. I love riding horses.”
Dalton sighed as he pulled her into his arms. He rested his chin on her head as he spoke. “I can’t sit back and watch you hurt yourself. If you need a moment, why not take a walk? Misty, you have to take care of yourself.”
Misty nodded against his chest. She knew he was right. It was just so hard not being able to do certain things. She closed her eyes and let him calm her. “I’m so afraid of you leaving.” She confessed in a whisper.
Dalton spoke softly. Whether she realized it or not, she needed him to leave. “I’ll be back in two weeks. Why don’t I leave Jamie here with you?”
Misty pulled away and looked up at him. “You would do that? You wouldn’t mind?”
Dalton nodded. “I would do that for you. Misty, you need to talk to someone about this. I will come back. I would rather our friendship not enable a co-dependency. You need me to go, so you know how strong you really are. Does that make sense?”
Misty knew he was right. “I will find someone to talk to after Christmas. I promise. I have never been afraid like this. I don’t even know how to tell my family.”
Dalton knew she needed to be more honest with them. “Misty, you have to let them know. They need to be able to help you. They can’t understand you if you don’t let them. They love you and they will help you find someone to talk to if you ask. Don’t do this alone.”
Misty smiled miserably. “I do not like this feeling at all. I have cried more in front of you than I have anyone, ever.”
Dalton grinned. “We kind have been through a great deal together. If you can’t cry in front of me, who can you cry in front of? You are one stubborn woman, Misty, but you sure do grow on a person.”
Terry walked into the kitchen. She smiled at her daughter. “I have been sent to inform you that your daughter is starting to dance.”
Dalton watched her leave and then looked at Terry. “You have a funny look on your face. Care to share?”
Terry smiled at Dalton. “You are a very special man. Thank you for being willing to help Misty through this. I wish she would open up to us more.”
Dalton chuckled. “She doesn’t make it easy, does she?”
Terry looked at him a bit sheepish. “She takes after her mom.”
Dalton laughed. “At least you are mom enough to admit it.”
Terry looked at Dalton. “Not to get personal, but how have you stayed single? I can’t believe no one has snatched you up yet. You are a really nice guy.”
Dalton chuckled. “I do have some say in the dating part. I don’t know why I haven’t found the right ‘one’ yet. I am just waiting for God to show me who that is.”
Terry kissed his cheek. “I think whoever she is will be very lucky.”
Dalton smiled down at Terry. “Misty is her mother’s daughter. She said the same thing to me.”
Chad spoke up behind the two making Terry jump. “Are my eyes deceiving me or is my wife kissing another man?”
Terry laughed at her husband. “You are going to give me heart failure! …and yes you did see me kissing another man. I was just letting him know how sweet I think he is.”
Misty came into the kitchen and smiled at her parents. She walked over to Dalton and grinned. “Are you causing problems?”
Dalton laughed. “I think it may be your dad doing that.”
Misty grinned. “He is very good at that. You have to watch my mom too. She can be a stinker.”
Dalton pushed a stray hair away from her face as he asked. “Are you still mad at me? I really am trying to help.”
Misty shrugged her shoulders. “I can’t be mad at the fact you care. I guess I just like to have my own way. I tend to get upset when that doesn’t happen.”
Dalton nodded. “I am sorry about upsetting you, but I would do it again. I just can’t stand the idea of seeing you get hurt.”
Misty grinned. “Brent was always making me mad too. I was kind of a handful sometimes.”
Dalton muttered jokingly. “Sometimes…?”
“Now that is just being mean…” Misty said as she playfully punched him in the stomach.
Dalton held his stomach in exaggerated pain. “I think I need a doctor.”
Chad laughed as the two of them joked around. He couldn’t help but wonder if these two would be more than friends. Looking at them now, he knew that was all that it could be for the moment, but he still had to wonder if one day they both would realize there was something more for them. “Are you two going to the candlelight service with us tonight?”
Dalton looked at Misty and nodded. “I would like to go, but if Misty wants to stay home, I’ll stay with her.”
Misty wanted to go. She gave Dalton a frown and said. “The doctor didn’t say I had to skip church. So, as long as this doctor says it is ok. I would like to go too.”
Dalton laughed. “This doctor says it is ok. I thought you said you forgave me.”
Misty giggled. “I did forgive you. This would have been an entirely different fight.”
Dalton shook his head. “This is going to be a very exhausting friendship.”
Misty gave him another playful punch. “You really are mean.”
Dalton pulled her into his arms to keep her from punching him again. “Ok. I give. I’m sorry you are going to be exhausting.”
Misty looked up at him. Her eyes were sparkling with laughter. “I will get an apology out of you for that one.”
Dalton winked at her. “If I say sorry now, will you hit me again?”
Misty cocked her head to the side. “It depends on if it is like your last one. It needs to be from the heart.”
Dalton smiled. He put a dramatic tone to his voice as he said. “I’m sorry for calling you exhausting. Misty, can you ever find it in your heart to forgive such a grievance? Does that appease you?”
Misty grinned at the theatrical display. “I forgive you. The drama was a very nice touch.”
Terry looked at Chad. If the look on his face was any indication, he was thinking the same thing too. Dalton and Misty were good together. She said a silent prayer asking God to make a way for them to see that. She knew Misty still needed to mourn, but she hoped that her daughter would find love again, when that time passed.
Dalton tweaked Misty’s nose as they heard Rachel’s cry over the monitor. “I think someone is lonely and is calling for her mommy. Your time of tormenting the innocent is over.”
Misty grinned as she elbowed him. “My time is never up.” She said as she headed toward the door.
Dalton looked at Terry and Chad and grinned. “Yup, she is difficult.”
Chad busted out laughing. “You are in trouble if she finds out you said that.”
Dalton sobered a bit. “That is ‘if’ she finds out. You wouldn’t tell would you?”
Terry chuckled. “Don’t worry. Your secret is safe with us.”
Chad looked at Dalton. He needed to know certain things. Especially, if what he had thought about earlier happened. “Does it bother you when she talks about Brent?”
Dalton looked a bit surprised. “Why would that bother me?”
“I don’t know. I guess some people would not want to know about her life with him.” Chad answered.
Dalton thought for a moment and then spoke. “I guess when I see her I know that Brent is a part of who she is. I like Misty just the way she is. I would not ask her to give that up. Brent also gave all of us Rachel. A part of me is sad I was not able to know him.”
Chad had to agree. “Brent was a special part of this family. The man, who wins Misty’s heart from him, will be just as special.”
Terry watched Dalton’s face. She knew the moment he understood why Chad was asking the questions he was. “You know you are special, right Dalton? We would not be upset if you started feeling more than friendship.” she spoke softly.
Dalton looked at the couple. He was not sure what he should say. He was friends with Misty. Or, was he? Was it possible that she was God’s choice for him? He asked softly. “Do you think my feelings for her will change?”
Chad smiled. “I think they will grow. I don’t see how that won’t lead to more than friendship.”
Terry looked at him. “Do you hug other women like you do Misty? When she is upset, you don’t even hesitate to just hold her. You seem more than comfortable doing that.”
Dalton shook his head. “I don’t treat other women that way, but I have not been through such a harrowing experience with others. We didn’t have much of a choice. We had to become comfortable fast. Her life depended on it.”
Chad smiled at the man. “You don’t have to figure this out now. Misty still has some mourning to do, but should your feelings change; I want you to know we are ok with it.”
Dalton nodded his head. He was not sure what to do with what they were thinking. He smiled as he said. “I will be praying about what you are saying.”
Terry walked up and gave Dalton a hug. She looked up at him and said. “No matter what, you are family now. Make sure you don’t forget that.”
Dalton looked down at the woman in his arms. “I will not forget. I promise.”
Christmas Eve service had ended hours ago. Dalton sat staring into the flames of the fire Chad had built. Everyone else had gone to bed, but Dalton still sat enjoying the peace.
Misty watched Dalton from the doorway of the living room. Rachel was finally asleep, but she was more restless. She put the monitor on the end table. Walking over to him she sat down beside him on the floor and snuggled into his side. She whispered. “Are you ok?”
Dalton smiled as he kissed the top of her head. “I was just enjoying the fire. There is something so calming when you watch the flames.”
Misty closed her eyes. She smiled as she spoke. “Rachel ate about fifteen minutes ago. She is out like a light, but I can’t seem to sleep now. I think she went and changed my schedule.”
Dalton chuckled. “You seem drowsy enough now.”
Misty sighed softly her eyes still closed. “I think you are making me that way.”
“Umm…thanks?” Dalton said with a soft laugh.
Misty giggled as she scooched herself into a laying position. “It is a compliment. You are nice and warm. It makes me tired.”
Dalton put a pillow under her head. He watched her curl onto her side beside him. “Do you need a blanket?”
Misty shook her head no. “Dalton?”
“Yes?” Dalton knew the look she was giving him.
Misty hesitated for only a second. “Will you just hold me a little? I just need to feel safe again for just a little. You make me feel safe. I still feel so cold sometimes.”
Dalton scooched himself down beside her and pulled her against his chest. He knew she was not asking anything that was inappropriate. It was not the first time Misty had asked him to keep her warm. He felt her shiver and knew she was reliving her time alone in the cold. He whispered softly as he had done before. “It’s ok. You’re safe now.”
Misty turned in his arms and grabbed his shirt like a lifeline. Her voice shook as she spoke softly. “I’m so tired of being afraid. When I remember, I just can’t seem to warm up. It is like the cold is swallowing me again. Please don’t let it.”
Dalton closed his eyes and assured her gently. “It is ok. I’m not going to let the cold take you.”
Chad and Terry looked at each other. Terry held Rachel in her arms as she walked over to her daughter and Dalton. The two were sound asleep on the floor in front of the fireplace. She gently tapped her daughter’s shoulder. “Hey Lil’ Pea, your baby needs some food. Merry Christmas…”
Misty looked up at her mom confused. Looking down at her waist she saw Dalton’s hand. Her eyes flew to her mom’s eyes as she said softly. “This isn’t what it looks like.”
Terry smiled gently. “I don’t think it looks like anything.”
Misty started to get up only to have Dalton pull her back against him. The women heard him murmur about the cold not getting her and that Misty was safe. Misty looked up at her mom.
Terry looked at her daughter with compassion. “You still don’t feel safe from the cold do you?”
Misty shook her head no. She whispered softly. “I can almost feel it trying to steal my life. It is like it is trying to consume me.”
Terry nodded as she helped Misty position herself to feed her daughter. Instead of getting up Misty stayed by Dalton and fed her baby. Her mom sat down on the floor beside them and watched her granddaughter’s feet move. She almost said out loud what she thought of the picture. These three made a very beautiful family. She looked past her daughter to Dalton. “He is pretty tired. I guess you must have had a restless night.”
Misty nodded her head. “I know I probably shouldn’t have, but I asked him to hold me. He just…”
Terry looked at her daughter. “I know you are hurting and afraid right now, but be very careful with the temptations you may find yourself in.”
Misty understood what her mom was saying. “I’m going to start grief counseling on Friday. I’m thinking it will be ok if I talk about my fear too. I would never want you to think less of Dalton, because I needed him.”
Terry kissed her daughter’s forehead. “You are a very smart woman. I’m sure you will do your best to heal, but the temptation I’m talking about is Dalton the man not the friend. Be careful that emotions don’t lead down a road you will both regret. We could never think less of him.”
Misty looked up at her mom surprised. She had never looked at Dalton like that, but she knew that could change. He was her friend, but like her mom said. He was also a man, and not a bad looking one. “I will remember that. He is special to me and I wouldn’t want to tarnish that.”
Terry looked past her daughter to Dalton again. She smiled as she made eye contact with him. “Dalton has endeared himself to all of us.”
Dalton smiled at Terry. “Thank you…and Merry Christmas.” He whispered making no move to stop holding Misty.
Terry winked at him. “You are welcome…and Merry Christmas to you too. Now it is time for me to go start some breakfast.
Dalton pulled Misty a little closer. “Are you feeling better now?”
Misty nodded. A part of her felt so guilty for feeling so comfortable in Dalton’s arms. “Thank you for holding me. I’m sorry we fell asleep.”
Dalton closed his eyes. He knew that his heart was more involved than he had first thought. The talk he had in the kitchen with Terry and Chad was fresh in his mind, but even before they had said something, he knew his heart was becoming engaged no matter how he had tried to deny it. “Holding you is not that hard Misty. You’re welcome.”
Misty knew it was time for Rachel to switch sides. She allowed Dalton to help her sit up and get Rachel comfortable. She spoke softly not making eye contact. “When I am done dealing with my grief and fear, we aren’t going to stay friends, are we?”
“I’m not going anywhere. I promise.” Dalton assured her.
Misty shook her head. “I didn’t say you were.”
Dalton spoke softly. “I think no matter what we are going to stay friends, but…”
Misty understood. She let him put his arm around her and pull her closer as she said softly. “I feel guilty because this feels so normal so…”
Dalton kissed the top of her head. “It feels right.”
Brock and Wyatt looked at each other and then walked into the living room. They had both witnessed the exchange. As much as they loved Brent, the couple was right. There was just something about Dalton that fit into their family.
Misty looked up at her brothers. “Merry Christmas…” she greeted them warmly.
Wyatt sat down on the sofa. “Merry Christmas…”
Brock smiled as he asked. “When is the baby done eating? I need my Rachel fix.”
Misty grinned at her brother. “I’m thinking she is done now. Her feet quit moving, are you willing to burp her?”
Brock answered with a wink. “If that is what it takes to get her before Wyatt does.”
Dalton laughed as Brock scooped the little girl into his arms. He had to admit. He was going to miss her when he headed back to Houston. He did know one thing though. He was going to start looking at some hospitals in Austin for work. He knew he needed to wait on God’s timing, but he would start looking.
Wyatt looked at his sister and Dalton. He was a bit bolder than most of his family. “So, what is the deal with you two?”
Misty wanted to die. What was he thinking? “Umm… I think you need to not ask that until we have figured that out.”
Dalton laughed. “What she said…”
Brock suddenly got nosey too. “So, you two are still trying to figure out if you like each other?”
Misty glared at her brothers. “Are you two crazy? We know we like each other; we are friends for goodness sake.”
Wyatt started to speak. “So…”
Misty cut him off. “I swear, if you two don’t stop, I am going to be an only child.”
Dalton winked at her as he stood. “I’m going to go help with breakfast. I think it may be safer.”
Misty glared at her brothers again after Dalton left the room. “Why would you do that?”
Wyatt grinned. “Because, we knew it would annoy you. Isn’t that how this sibling thing works?”
Misty shook her head and became serious. “Please don’t do that again. I …”
Brock felt bad. He walked over and gave Wyatt the baby and then sat beside his sister. He pulled her into his arms as he said. “You still love Brent.”
Misty started to sob. She nodded as she confessed. “I feel so guilty that Dalton has a place in my heart now too.”
Wyatt looked at his brother and sister. He knew his sister was hurting, but he also knew that her guilt was not fair. “Brent would have liked Dalton. He would have approved of your heart’s choice.”
Misty looked up at Wyatt. The one other person in the world that knew Brent as well as her was Wyatt. They had been best friends for as long as she could remember. It had never occurred to her how hard his death had been on her brother. “You miss him too.” She said softly.
Wyatt looked at his sister and said softly but firmly. “I miss him, but I also know he would be furious with you for not dealing with his death. His love for you was so unselfish. Don’t turn it into something it wasn’t. When you go for counseling, you fight for the heart he cherished. Make room for Dalton to flourish there. It is what he would have wanted.”
Brock added. “And, stop feeling so guilty about being alive. I didn’t know him as well as you two, but he would have wanted you to live.”
Before the three joined the others in the kitchen, Wyatt said one more thing. “You have found a man that will not hesitate to keep Brent’s memory alive. He already cherishes the one part of Brent left alive. Don’t stop talking to Dalton. He wants to know everything, so you need to let him.”
It was two days after Christmas and time for Dalton to leave. Leaning against his SUV Dalton held Misty against his chest. “I’m coming back in a month.” He said gently.
Misty sniffed. “It was supposed to be two weeks.”
Dalton smiled. “My schedule changed. I know you are not happy, but Misty, you need to take this time to mourn.”
Misty didn’t want to say goodbye. She was terrified of goodbyes now. Her heart was in her eyes as she looked up into his face. “I can’t say goodbye.”
Dalton touched her cheek. “Then say ‘see you later’. I am less than three hours away. I promise that if they change my schedule again, I will drive here on my day off even if it means I turn around and go back that day.”
Misty laid her head back on his chest. She closed her eyes and tried to absorb his strength. She felt his chin on the top of her head. She heard his heart beating. She knew she had a special place in that heart. She also knew it was time for her to make sure Dalton had a place in her heart. A place he could be cherished.
Dalton felt her calm. He was not sure what her thoughts were, but whatever they were, he could feel a peace settle over her. He kissed the top of her head and then pulled away. “I have to go.”
Misty reached up and touched his face. “I need you to go.”
Dalton smiled gently. “I know. If it helps, my heart hurts a bit too.”
Misty put her forehead on his chest. “It helps just a little.”
Dalton kissed the top of her head one more time and pulled away. He opened his car door and got in. “I’ll call you when I get there and every chance I get after that. Don’t stop talking to me, Misty. Whatever you are going through, I want to know.”
Misty nodded through the tears. “I will tell you everything. Thank you for letting me, and thank you for letting Jamie stay with me.”
Dalton put his SUV in drive. He looked at Misty one last time and did the hardest thing he had ever been asked to do in his life. He drove away from the woman that had finally captured his heart.
It had been two weeks since Dalton had left. Misty sat on the front porch swing nursing Rachel as she thought about those two weeks. She had started her grief counseling and today would be her second appointment. She looked out toward the barn and watched as Wyatt made his way toward them, with Jamie at his side.
“She has taken a real liking to you.” Misty said as her brother joined her on the swing.
Wyatt grinned. “She is female. How could she not like a handsome cuss like me?”
Misty pulled Rachel from her chest and handed her to her uncle. As she adjusted her shirt she teased him. “Females don’t find you attractive. They feel sorry for how ugly you are and try to make you feel better.”
Wyatt pinched her leg making her jump. “I may be your little brother, but I’m still bigger than you are Lil’ Pea.”
Misty grinned. Her brother was younger, but only by eleven months. Her mom said it was the best ‘woops’ she and dad had ever made. Of course he was the only ‘woops’. Growing up her friends had always swooned over her brother. He was tall, broad, and handsome. She often wondered why he didn’t date much.
Wyatt looked at his sister thinking. He couldn’t help but be curious. “What are all of those faces for?”
Misty smiled up at him. “I was wondering why you don’t date much.”
Wyatt looked out across the front yard. He had never told his family why he gave up being a detective in San Antonio. Sadness came over him as he remembered his lost love. “I was in love once. Maybe I still am.”
Misty looked at him surprised. “What?”
Wyatt thought for moment. He didn’t take his eyes off the distant fields. “Her name is Kelly. We met each other at church. I thought we were in love, but it always seemed like she was holding something back. One day she was just gone. She left a note telling me she would find me again, but she still left. That was eight months ago. I have not heard from her, but… I guess it is just complicated.”
Misty felt tears stinging her eyes. Wyatt was hurting. “Did you try to find her?”
Wyatt looked down at Misty. “I did and that only added to my confusion. I could not find anything on her. It was like she never existed. She simply…vanished. Her and I…. it is like I said we are complicated.”
Misty looked at Wyatt. She knew what it was to be a woman in love. You didn’t just walk away unless you didn’t have a choice. “She has to be running.”
Wyatt looked at his sister. “What?”
“If she loves you, she is either running from that or something else. Whatever was haunting her must have spooked her.” Misty said with real conviction.
“It doesn’t change the fact that she left. She should have trusted me.” Wyatt said with a hint of bitterness in his voice.
Misty knew she needed to get to her appointment. She kissed Rachel’s head softly. “I’ll be praying about this. You can’t let bitterness into your heart or it will consume you. If she finds you again, maybe you can let her back in.”
Wyatt smiled up at his sister. “I won’t let bitterness in. I pray about this more often than you think. Now go to your appointment and I’ll keep Lil’ Bean Jr.”
Misty leaned down and kissed his cheek. “Thanks for watching the baby.” Picking up her keys and purse, Misty headed to her car.
Dalton looked up from the chart he was reading. “Yes?”
“We have three victims of a MVA on the way. How do you want us to set up?” The ER charge nurse, Kim, asked.
Dalton closed the chart and asked. “What are the ages of the victims?”
Kim looked at her notes. “We have a mom, age unknown, and two kids. They are guessing one to be no more than two months old the other is around three.”
Dalton looked at her and asked. “What is the ETA and how sever are the injuries? If we can keep mom and kids together we need to.”
Kim walked beside Dalton as they headed toward the trauma rooms as she spoke. “The paramedic was still questioning the mom and said both children were in proper car seats. I don’t know if they are injured or not.”
Dalton walked into the bigger of the trauma rooms. “Let’s keep them together here. The kids will be easier to assess if we can have mom help keep them calm.”
Kim nodded her head. She looked at the chart he held. “Do you want me to pass that off to Dr. Huff?”
Dalton handed her the chart. “Yes, thanks.”
Kim came back with the paramedics and the mom. Dalton heard the children’s cries from the hallway. “Let’s get those kids in here. We can’t check them for injuries quickly if they are that upset.”
The group of nurses and doctors spent the next thirty minutes doing their best to assess any damage done to the victims. It was great for all involved to find out that the only significant injury was that the mom had bruises from the seat belt. The kids suffered no injury at all.
Dalton walked out of the room to chart and sign release papers. He sat down at the nurses’ station and started to write. When his cell rang he pulled it out of his pocket and looked at the number. He smiled and answered it. “Hey, I’m almost out of work. Can I call you back in ten minutes? I miss you.” He said softly before he hung up.
Kim and another nurse looked at each other. As long as they had known Dalton, they had never seen him even remotely interested in dating. Sitting down beside him she nudged him with her elbow. “Care to share who that was?”
Dalton chuckled as he continued to do his work. “Not really.”
Kim was not deterred. “Come on Dr. Nelson. Just a hint of who that was is all I want.”
Dalton looked at her and smiled. “Not a chance, Kim, I have no desire to have my romantic life known all over the ER.”
Kim’s eyes lit up. “So, it was a special ‘someone’ on the other end.”
Dalton finished signing the last of the paperwork. He stood and handed it to her as he said with a grin. “I’m done with this conversation, and I’m out of here. Find someone else to chat about.”
Kim grinned at the other nurses. “Have a nice night Dr. Nelson.”
Dalton chuckled as he waved at his co-workers. As much as he enjoyed his job, his personal life was just that, and he had no intentions of sharing. Pulling his phone from his scrubs pocket, he dialed Misty’s number.
“It is almost midnight. I take it Rachel didn’t go down easy.” He said when Misty answered.
Misty giggled. “I think she knew I wanted to talk to you and gave me the perfect excuse to stay up late.”
Dalton laughed. “How was your session today?”
Misty paused. “As strange as it sounds, I’m supposed to write down how I feel about you.”
Dalton opened his car door and got in. “Really…?”
Misty answered him. “Yup… I’m supposed to write how I feel about you and then address it the way I know Brent would.”
Dalton thought it seemed a little fast for her to be doing that. He could not understand the grief process that included that. “Did she say why you were doing this?”
Misty paused on the other end of the phone. “You know I have the fear of saying ‘goodbye’. I also feel very guilty.”
Dalton started his drive home. “What do you feel guilty about?”
“I feel guilty because…” Misty was not sure if she should say it over the phone.
Dalton stopped at a red light. “What is it? You know you can tell me anything.”
Misty took a deep breath. “I feel guilty, because of all of these feelings I have for you. You have a place in my heart that used to belong to Brent.”
Dalton understood why she hesitated to tell him. “You feel guilty because you think it is too soon?”
Misty spoke softly. “I miss Brent so much, but I miss you so much right now too. I don’t understand how I could love Brent and still miss you so much it hurts.”
Dalton spoke. “God’s timing doesn’t always make sense. I guess that is why we are supposed to trust Him. I don’t know how you feel in some cases, but I do miss you like crazy. Don’t be afraid to work through this. We are not in love. At this point, we are just really good friends that know it could be more.”
Misty whispered. “Dalton, the part I feel really guilty about is that I guess I know it could be more, but …. Dalton, I want it to be more.”
Dalton whispered back. “I guess if I’m honest a future with you is what I want. We are drawn to each other even though love is not there yet. It is still ok to work through that though. Please tell me you will.”
Misty hesitated. “I will. It doesn’t change the fact I feel guilty, but I will be honest with how I feel. A part of me had wondered if your feelings came from the intense emotion of our meeting. I was worried that once you left… you might realize they were not real.”
Dalton chuckled. “You do know I’m an ER doctor? Things get very intense some days and I’m surrounded by nurses, most of whom are female. Trust me when I say, it is only you that has ever made me feel this way.”
Misty giggled. “You say that with such conviction that I can’t help but believe you.”
The two talked for Dalton’s entire drive home. When Misty yawned, they both knew it was time to hang up. Each spent the night praying for God’s wisdom as they journeyed the path that was before them.
The month was up and Dalton was finishing his charting. As soon as he was done, he was driving to Austin and staying for three days. He was once again at the nurses’ station when his phone rang. Looking at it he was surprised to see Brock’s number.
The nurses paid close attention to Dalton’s side of the conversation. “Hey, Brock, what’s up?”
Dalton didn’t mean to raise his voice but he did. He was at almost a shout when he asked. “Your sister did what?”
Kim chuckled at the look on Dalton’s face as he continued the conversation. “What do you mean I can’t talk to her if I’m going to raise my voice? Your sister should never have put herself at risk like that.”
Dalton ran his hands through his hair as he listened to Brock. “I don’t care if she has gotten on the roof of the shed a thousand times; she just gave birth for Pete’s sake.”
Dalton was unaware that the entire nursing staff was looking and listening. “Yes, you and your brother did warn me she was a Texas sized handful, but what could she have been thinking?” Dalton took a deep breath. “Ok, Brock, I’m calm, now please put Misty on the phone.”
Kim almost died laughing as she watched Dalton visibly get his temper in check. Dalton kept his voice under control as he started to speak to Misty. “Yes, Misty, I am upset. I know you didn’t mean to slice your arm wide open, but you did. Honey, you have to think of Rachel.”
The nurses looked at each other as he started speaking again. “Awe…Misty, please don’t cry. I’m not trying to make you feel bad, but you have fifteen stitches in your arm, that is not a little scratch. You can’t be standing on your horse’s back like that.”
One of the nurses started chuckling when she got a picture of what their very calm Dr. Nelson had gotten, himself, into. “Misty I am still coming. No, I won’t stay away because I’m mad at you. I’m leaving as soon as I’m done charting. I will be there when you wake up. I promise I won’t raise my voice, but you and I both know I can’t promise to not be upset. I will see you in the morning. Put Brock back on ok?”
Dalton waited until Brock was back on the phone. No one had ever heard him speak the way he did next. Dalton’s voice was as hard as steel as he said. “Do not let your sister anywhere near a horse, a ladder, or anything else that could get her killed.” Dalton paused and listened to Brock. “I understand I’m the crazy one falling in love with her, but that is going to be very difficult if she gets herself killed. I’ll see you in the morning. Bye.”
Dalton rubbed his face after he hung up the phone. He looked around and realized what he had just done. Kim busted out laughing. “This is so much better than anything I could have made up.”
Dalton shook his head. “That is a drop in the bucket. One of these days I’ll tell you the story of how we met.”
When they all realized he wasn’t mad at their obvious eavesdropping, they joined Kim in laughter. Dr. Huff chuckled. “It sounds like you have your hands full.”
Dalton grinned. “As you heard, a Texas sized handful. I would like to keep her alive long enough to at least kiss her. I need to go before she ends up in ICU.” He said as he picked his stuff up and headed for the door. He heard the laughter and knew his co-workers were amused.
Misty sat on the sofa looking at the flames in the fireplace. Her mom gave her a sympathetic look from across the room. “Brock did the right thing.” Terry said softly.
Misty shrugged her shoulders, which caused her stitches to hurt. She winced before she said. “He didn’t have to laugh the entire time. I have never heard Dalton so mad.”
Terry smiled. “You said he calmed down when he got on the phone with you.”
Misty frowned. “I could hear him when he talked to Brock. He told him to keep me alive. I’m not a child.”
Terry cleared her throat as she laughed. “You have to admit your track record with him is a bit shaky when it comes to your health.”
Misty shrugged her shoulders. “I just can’t help it. I do things before I think. Dalton is going to lecture me for sure and I don’t want to fight. Once he realizes the crazy stuff I do, he will never want to be more than friends.”
Chad spoke from the doorway. “I think you are underestimating the man. He is going to lecture you for sure, but that is because he cares for you a great deal. He is a bit different than Brent in that department. Dalton is not going to go around your little finger so easily.”
Misty frowned at her dad. “I didn’t do that on purpose. It just happened that when I would cry, Brent would cave.”
Terry snickered. “I agree with your dad. Dalton is going to be harder to sway with tears.”
Misty spoke softly. “I’m more worried he will see me as someone who always needs rescued. I want him to see me as more than that.”
Terry looked at her daughter. “I don’t think Dalton has any issue seeing you as a woman. He is an ER doctor and so he is a bit more…practical.”
It was almost 2am. Misty knew she wouldn’t be able to sleep until she saw Dalton, but that didn’t mean her parents had to stay up. “If you two want to head to bed, I can face the ‘practical’ doctor alone.”
Chad chuckled. “I don’t think she wants any witnesses.”
Misty watched her parents head to bed. It was not even two minutes before she saw Dalton’s headlights. The door was unlocked so she waited for him to come in.
Dalton walked into Misty’s house. He saw her on the sofa with her knees pulled up against her chest. Taking a deep breath, he walked over and sat down beside her. “You know we need to talk about this.”
Misty nodded her head, but remained silent.
Dalton put his arm around her and was relieved when she leaned into his side. “You have to start thinking, Misty. You are a mom now. You can’t just…” he trailed off as she started to cry. He pulled her closer and whispered softly. “I just found you. I can’t let you go.”
Misty nodded. She sniffled before she spoke. “I’m sorry. I just don’t always think. I’m usually half way into the danger before it hits me what I’m doing.”
Dalton closed his eyes. He remained calm as he spoke. “You need to figure out how to stop being so impulsive. I know you are used to ‘sorry’ being enough, but Misty, I can’t imagine life without you now that I know you. You really have to stop and think.”
Misty knew he was right. She had always had a bit of a wild streak. Thinking was not her strong point, but that was not because she couldn’t stop and think, it was because she chose not to. “I’ll do a better job of thinking before I act. It scared me when I saw all of the blood.”
Dalton paled at the thought and pulled her closer. His voice was shaky as he said. “Woman, you are aging me ten years.”
Misty giggled. She knew it wasn’t funny, but she had heard those words so many times. Her parents and her brothers said them more times than she could count. She leaned back and looked up at Dalton. “I promise I will start to think more before I act.”
Dalton put his forehead against hers. “That is all I can ask.”
Misty grinned. “I really can be a Texas sized handful.”
Dalton chuckled. “That you can be, now let me take a look at the damage.”
Misty watched as he took off her bandage. She had a feeling he was going to start lecturing her again when he saw the stitches. He gently felt it for heat and then asked. “Did you get a tetanus shot while you were in the ER?”
Misty didn’t think before she spoke, but darn she wished she had. “Nope, I had one two years ago when I fell out of a tree and onto a rusty piece of metal. Let me tell you, that right there hurt like the very devil. There wasn’t as much blood as today, but when I was falling, it felt like a dream.”
Dalton had remained calm until she started explaining why she had needed the shot. He was done looking at the damage and had her in his arms again. “You did what? What in the world were you doing in a tree?”
Misty shrugged her shoulders delicately. He knew darn well that gesture was anything but true. This woman didn’t have a delicate bone in her body. “My neighbor’s cat got out and was stuck. It never occurred to me the thing would jump at my face. He was stuck up in a tree and the kids were crying that he wouldn’t come down. It just made perfect sense to go up after him.”
Dalton started to count to ten in his head before he spoke again. He took a deep breath and stayed calm. “That is the past. We just need to go forward from here. You promised me you would try to think from here on out.”
Misty held her laughter inside as she was squished tightly against Dalton’s chest. The poor man had paled when she had told him about the cat. There was no way she would be able to tell him about all of the other stuff she used to do. Of course, there would be some scars to explain. She decided to soothe him. “You are right. I promised to be a bunch more careful.” She said gently, as she patted his chest.
Dalton was not fooled for a second. He pulled away and looked at her. He couldn’t help but notice her lack of eye contact. “What are you trying to avoid now?”
Misty was getting annoyed now. “You said that it was from here on out you were happy about. Really, Dalton, I don’t understand why you need to hear about everything. I’m alive to tell the tales aren’t I?”
Dalton paled again. His voice was choked as he asked. “You mean there is more?”
Brock stood in the doorway watching the couple. He couldn’t help laughing as he answered. “If you worked, at the hospital we use, you would know her by name.”
Misty glared at her brother. “Now that is a lie. Only the older doctors know me by name. The new ones were just as shocked as Dalton that I had stood on my horse’s back, which resulted in my little mishap.”
Dalton started to rub his temples. Misty noticed and started to pat his leg. This soothing thing was exhausting. “It will be ok, Dalton. I promised to start thinking before acting. I can tell you all about things later.”
Dalton looked at Misty and realized he didn’t want to know. “I think I’ll live without knowing everything.” He croaked out.
Misty didn’t quite make eye contact with him as she agreed. “Ok.”
Dalton knew he shouldn’t ask. He had no idea why he did, but sure enough he did. “What does that mean? That ‘Ok’ is not ok.”
Misty grimaced as she answered. “If we end up…you know together…like married. You may have a few more questions, but hey, like I said, I’m alive to tell the tales.”
Brock about died at the look on Dalton’s face. Once he was done laughing he said. “Maybe we should all head to bed. Dalton looks like he needs to process this a bit more.”
Dalton watched Brock go back to his room. He looked over at Misty and stood up. She took his hand and let him help her up. She looked up into his eyes hesitantly. He knew she was worried about his thoughts. He leaned down and kissed her forehead. “It will be ok.”
Misty relaxed. “I was a bit worried you may see me as more of a kid than a woman.” She admitted softly.
Dalton chuckled. “As much as I have learned tonight, there is no way, Misty Adams, that I could think of you as a child.”
Misty went to bed happy that Dalton had kept his cool. Dalton walked to his room thinking that, one day, he had all intentions of marrying a mental patient.
Dalton stretched as he woke up. He could hear Rachel fussing so he got out of bed and went to investigate. Knocking on the door he slowly opened it and walked in keeping it open. Dalton could see Misty was starting to understand some of the consequences of her actions.
Misty looked up at Dalton. “I can’t get comfortable, which means she can’t either. I need to switch sides and can’t. These stitches are keeping me from feeding her.”
Dalton crawled in behind her and pulled her against his chest. He could have taken the opportunity to point out she had done this to herself. Instead he said. “Use my arm. It will be easier for both of you.”
Misty got comfortable and maneuvered his arm to cradle Rachel against her. The little girl calmed down as she was finally able to finish eating. Misty looked back at Dalton. “It worked.” She said excitedly.
Dalton’s eyes were closed but he smiled. He was tired but was still ready to get up.
“Are you still tired?” Misty asked softly.
Dalton opened his eyes a bit and answered honestly. “I may be just a little bit.”
Misty leaned against his chest and waited for Rachel to finish eating. “Do you want to go horseback riding later?”
Dalton opened his eyes. “That sounds like fun. I just need you to promise me you won’t do anything crazy.”
Misty smiled. “I promise to try not to do anything crazy without thinking about it first.”
Dalton chuckled. “I guess that will have to do, though you might not want to do anything crazy even after you think about it.”
The couple looked at the doorway when they heard a soft knock. “Hey, Wyatt, how are you?” Dalton greeted the man as he walked into the room.
Wyatt gave Dalton a lopsided grin. “I’m doing well. I see Misty and you have talked through her little escapade. She is really good at the talking part.”
Dalton felt Misty tense. “We had a great talk. She has assured me she plans on doing more than talking though.”
Wyatt looked at his sister’s blushing face. “I am glad to hear that. Rachel needs her to do a bit more than talk.”
Dalton could tell Misty was getting annoyed. That made him annoyed. Dalton’s voice was firm as he said. “She has promised me she is going to stop and put some thought into it before she does anything like that again. Didn’t you, Misty?”
Misty looked at Wyatt and frowned. She finally shrugged her shoulders and admitted. “I did.”
Wyatt was impressed that his sister had agreed to more cautious. He could tell she wasn’t thrilled with that, but if he had to be honest, Brent couldn’t have gotten her to do that. “Well, I just wanted to say hi.”
Dalton looked down at Misty. He knew she was still upset with some of the things they had talked about. He kissed the side of her head. “If I didn’t care, I would not have asked you to be more careful. I promise we will be fine. Let’s finish feeding Rachel.”
Misty nodded. She knew she should not be upset. “I’m sorry. I guess I like having my way a bit more than I thought. I know you care and I am glad you do.”
Rachel was done eating so Dalton eased himself out of the bed. He stood and looked down. “Even if we just stay friends, life with you will never be dull. I’m not going to lie though. I have no intentions of just staying friends. I’m going to go get my shower and ready for the day. Are you good now with Rachel or do you need me to help with something else?”
Misty smiled up at him. His words warmed her. She knew she was blushing as she said. “I’m ok now. I’ll see you at breakfast.”
Dalton winked at her and walked out.
Chad and Terry started breakfast. They smiled at Dalton as he came in and started helping. Chad cleared his throat. “So, how did your talk with Lil’ Pea go last night?”
Dalton chuckled. “Your daughter is crazy, but she has assured me she will do her best to think before doing something absolutely nuts next time. She does like to keep things interesting.”
Terry looked at Chad and then back at Dalton. “She agreed to stop and think? I mean… she told you she would stop and think? She didn’t insinuate but actually said the words?”
Dalton looked at her and smiled. “She did. Why does everyone seem shocked at that? She may be crazy, but she is smart.”
Chad chuckled. “I’m thinking because we have been trying to get her to do that since she could walk. That girl doesn’t listen to anyone. She has used the smart part to trick us into thinking she would listen, without actually agreeing to listen.”
Dalton laughed. “She tried that. I was not going to bed without getting some type of assurance she was going to be more careful.”
Terry looked at Chad. “She has met her match. Dalton will not be so easily fooled.”
Brock walked in with Rachel in his arms. “Misty is getting her shower.”
Dalton walked over and took Rachel. “You have gotten so big.” He said as he nuzzled her close.
Terry still was not done with how Dalton got Misty to listen to reason. He had said he wasn’t going to bed without some assurance. That couldn’t have been enough to get her to agree. “Did you threaten her?”
Dalton looked at her appalled. He shook his head no. “I wouldn’t do that.”
Misty walked in unnoticed by everyone but Dalton. Terry asked one more time. She just had to know how he did it. “How did you get her to see that she needs to think before she acts?”
Misty never took her eyes off of Dalton as she spoke. “He told me that he didn’t want to lose me.”
Terry jumped and turned around. She gave Misty a good frown. “My goodness, you scared me.”
Misty chuckled at her mom. “That will teach you to talk behind my back.”
Chad grinned at his daughter. “Well you know darn well we have been trying to get you to see reason for years. You can’t blame us for trying to figure it out.”
Misty walked over and started to help her mom. She kissed her cheek as she said. “I guess you just didn’t know how to ask.”
Dalton winked at her as he kissed Rachel’s chubby little cheek. “She is getting nice a plump. I feel like I’ve been gone forever.”
Misty grinned. “She really enjoys her food. You know that.”
Wyatt walked in and smiled at the group. He seemed a bit nervous. He looked at Misty and said softly. “Liz and Vince are on their way from Florida.”
Misty smiled at him. “I’m ok Wyatt.”
Wyatt looked at Dalton. “I guess; I’m wondering if they will be.”
Dalton took a guess. “They are Brent’s parents.”
Wyatt nodded. He thought Dalton was great, but he couldn’t imagine what it would be like to see the man who would be a part of their granddaughter’s life. It would be Dalton not Brent there to tuck her in at night.
Dalton thought for a moment. He knew this could be difficult for Brent’s parents, but he also knew things they may not know. “Would it be ok if I talked to them alone?”
Wyatt looked at his dad. Chad thought for a moment. “I don’t think it would be a problem.”
Dalton spoke thoughtfully. “I want them to know that Brent will always be welcomed. I understand their need to know that more than most could.”
Misty looked at Dalton. “How do you understand?”
Dalton answered softly. “My biological father was killed before I was born. My dad never tried to keep him out of my life. I love my dad for being secure in who he is so that I can be secured in who I am. My father is my father and my dad is my dad. I love them both even though I only ever got to meet one.”
Chad looked at Dalton in a whole new light. “God does not mess around with divine appointments.”
Wyatt looked at Dalton with tears in his eyes. He missed his friend, but it was nice to know, Dalton was ok with that. When the two men made eye contact, Dalton smiled and nodded. Wyatt knew he was understood.
The group finished making and eating breakfast. Dalton looked at Misty. “I think I would like to check your arm one more time before we go riding.”
Misty rolled her eyes and presented her wounded arm. Dalton winked as he once again unwound the gauze. He felt it for the warmth of infection while looking for any redness. “It looks good.” He murmured as he gently put the gauze back in place.
Brock watched his sister. When she looked at him, he stuck his tongue out. Dalton looked up just in time to see Misty return the gesture. Feeling like a little kid she muttered. “He started it.”
Dalton laughed. “I have siblings. You act like I’m going to think you’re a kid. Believe it or not, you all are tame compared to my family.”
Terry looked over her should from the sink. She couldn’t believe that for a second. “You are lying.”
Dalton shook his head. “Not even close. My little brother still gets put into a headlock and a noogie if he crosses me, which usually leads to my sister jumping on my back. That girl will pull the heck out of my ear if I don’t get her off.”
Chad had to know. “How much younger are your siblings?”
Dalton laughed, “My sister is twenty-six and my brother is twenty-eight. You thought they were younger, but nope they are just nuts.”
Misty cocked her head to the side. “You sound like you are joking. How can we trust you?”
Dalton mimicked her action. “My mom and dad have started food fights at our table, and you will have no doubt I’m telling you the truth the first time you meet them.”
Chad realized Dalton was telling the truth. He could not imagine throwing food at his wife. “That sounds….”
Dalton busted out laughing. He took one look at Chad’s face and finished for him. “…appalling…”
Chad grinned. “It sounds fun too, but yes appalling would be another way to say it.”
Dalton chuckled. “They do behave when we have company.”
Misty looked outraged. “I hope not too much. They sound like my kind of people.”
Dalton didn’t miss a beat. “Yup they are your kind of people alright. They are all crazy.”
Misty punched him playfully in the abdomen. “You are going to regret that when I join forces with your sister.”
Brock chuckled. “That must be why you are so good with Misty. You are used to crazy.”
Dalton shook his head no. “Your sister is a whole new kind of crazy.”
Misty put her hands on her hips. “I’m standing right here.”
Dalton nudged her with his hip. “I know.”
Wyatt walked over and took Rachel from Dalton. “I think it may be safer if I take you.” He said as he kissed her brow.
Dalton had never been accused of being stupid. The second his human shield was gone; he ran with Misty on his heels. Looking over his shoulder he was surprised to see her keeping up. She may be tiny, but she was fast. He turned and stopped. “Is it too late to say I’m sorry?”
They were in the front yard now and Misty slowly started walking toward him. He laughed as she shook her head no. “Dalton Nelson, you have crossed a line, and now you must pay.”
He chuckled as she darted for him. He didn’t move which made her stop and eye him with suspicion. “What are you up to?” she asked.
Dalton walked toward her slowly. “I’m trying to figure out if I want to get away.”
Misty looked in his eyes as he walked up to her. “Dalton…?”
He was right in front of her now. “I think I like holding you more than running from you.”
Misty smiled up at him as he pulled her into his arms. She nestled against his chest. “I think I like that too.”
Dalton kissed her forehead and said softly. “You are a crazy woman, Misty, but you are my crazy woman.”
Misty chuckled. “You do say the sweetest things. I guess I should go feed Rachel so we can go riding.”
The two linked hands and walked back to the house. Their friendship was growing, and it felt right and safe.
Dalton and Misty sat in the living room and waited for Brent’s parents. They had flown in from Florida and Wyatt was picking them up. Misty trembled just a little. “I haven’t seen them since the funeral. They were beside themselves with grief. Dalton, are you sure about this?”
Dalton held her hand. “As a child I didn’t understand the dynamics of my family. My biological dad’s parents loved all of us kids. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized how special my dad was for being willing to share. I want them to know I will give them that. They need to be normal with Rachel. They need to show her the Brent they knew.”
“What if they don’t like what you have to say?” Misty started to shake as her nerves took over.
Dalton smiled at her. “It will be up to them, but I’m hoping that they will see me and understand it does work. I am proof that death does not mean it has to be the end.”
The door opened and Wyatt walked in followed by Liz and Vince. Misty hesitated until Dalton gave her a little shove in their direction. The action didn’t go unnoticed by Brent’s parents. They looked at him curiously. Misty hugged Brent’s parents. “I’ve missed you both.” She whispered.
Vince looked at Dalton. He realized who this man could be. His heart broke that it was this man not his son that was standing here. He looked down at Misty and was surprised to hear her refer to them as she had when Brent was alive.
Misty led Brent’s parents over to Dalton. “Mom and Dad Adams, I would like to introduce you to Dalton Nelson.”
Dalton stretched out his hand and shook Vince’s hand. “It is very nice to meet you both.”
Wyatt watched as they shook hands. He cleared his throat. “Misty, come help me in the kitchen.”
Dalton watched the surprised looks on Vince and Liz’s faces. He spoke softly. “I asked them to do that.”
Vince gaged the man in front of him. “Why?”
Dalton took a deep breath. “If my father walked down the street today I would recognize him. The reason I would is because my dad made him a part of our family even though he had died before I was born. My dad is the man that chose me to be his son. My father is the one who loved me and never got to hold me. He is the one my dad wanted to make sure I knew of and loved. He told me everything he could about my dad. When I had questions he didn’t have the answer for, he would call my grandparents and ask.”
Liz felt tears sting her eyes. She needed to know how it worked. “How did that work? How did your dad share you and your mom?”
Dalton shrugged his shoulders. “The main reason it worked would be that God was the center of our home. My dad obeyed His leading. We never knew it was different. My father’s parents, Granny and Poppy, treated all of us kids the same. To them even the children my mom and dad had were theirs to spoil. I don’t think my siblings had a clue until we were older that they were not their grandparents by blood but grandparents to them by choice. My father was a police officer killed in the line of duty. I was taught that he was brave and a hero. I had a picture of him on my nightstand. My mom and dad both encouraged me to love him. They showed me how to mourn the fact that I never got to know him. They showed me it was ok to want to know everything I could about him.”
Vince asked softly. “Why are you telling us this?”
Dalton didn’t hesitate. “If Misty and I are ever more than friends, and I believe we will be, Brent will always be a part of our family. Rachel will always know who her father is. She will be so familiar with his face; she could pick his face out in a crowd. I don’t have a problem sitting down with a photo album and talking to her about her father. You are her grandparents and you would have the same privileges at our home that you would have had at Brent’s. You can show up and spoil her anytime you want, no strings attached. She is a part of Brent and that means she is a part of you two.”
Liz wept softly into her hands. Vince pulled her into his arms. Dalton stood and walked over to them. He knelt in front of them. The look on his face was earnest as he said with conviction. “It will be ok. I don’t understand why it happened. I have never understood that about my own father. I do understand why God has put me here and now. I trust that He sees a picture we do not, and that is enough.”
For the first time since they had found out Rachel had been born, this couple believed those words. Vince embraced Dalton and whispered. “Thank you Dalton. You have no idea our worry. When we found out you existed we were so afraid we were losing our grandbaby too. It never occurred to us that God had a special man other than Brent for Misty. Wyatt is right, Brent would have approved. Can you ever forgive us for judging you before we even met you?”
Dalton looked at the couple. “There is nothing to forgive.”
Misty stood in the doorway with Rachel in her arms. Tears streamed down her cheeks at the scene. She walked in and knelt beside Dalton on the floor. Liz’s hand came to her mouth as she looked into Brent’s eyes. “She is beautiful.”
Misty nodded. “She looks like her father.”
Dalton smiled down at Rachel. He lightened the mood a bit when he said. “If we are lucky she will act like him too. Her mom is crazy.”
Vince laughed through the tears. “Brent would be agreeing on that one. Keeping Misty from hurting herself was a full time job.” He caught a glimpse of her bandaged arm and grinned. “I can see you are already seeing that.”
Dalton gave Misty a playful shove as he said. “I’m hoping to stop any more accidents from happening.”
Liz frowned at the men. She looked back down at the baby in Misty’s arms. “You two need to behave. Misty did a great job with this little person. Rachel is perfect.”
Misty gently placed her daughter in her grandmother’s arms. Dalton rose and helped her to her feet. The couple sat on the sofa and watched as the new grandparents loved on their grandbaby. Vince looked over at Dalton and Misty you could see the pain in his eyes as he asked. “How did you two meet?”
Misty was surprised by the question. She looked at Dalton and then back at them. “Didn’t my parents or Wyatt tell you?”
Terry stood in the doorway. Liz and Vince watched as she came in with the rest of the family. “We didn’t tell them you were missing. We needed to know more before we did something like that to them. After losing Brent, we just couldn’t tell them you never made it here.”
Liz looked at Vince. She looked at Misty and asked. “What happened?”
Misty looked up into Dalton’s eyes. “It’s ok.” He whispered softly. He knew she hated remembering the cold, but it was up to her to tell them the story. He watched her frame shudder as she told them the near death experience she had in the Colorado wilderness.
Liz looked at Dalton. “How did you manage to deliver a baby?”
Misty finished the story. “Dalton is a doctor. He knew exactly what to do. I didn’t even know his name until after Rachel was safe in my arms.”
Vince and Liz looked at Dalton. Liz spoke softly as she pulled Rachel closer. “You saved our Misty and Brent’s baby.”
Dalton would not take credit for that. “I almost didn’t go on my trip. I felt God telling me to go and went; it was He who saved Rachel. I was just the human He used.”
Vince smiled at the man’s humble response. “You obeyed God. Don’t forget that Dalton. If you had not been there, this could have been a different story.”
The group talked for hours. Misty showed her in-laws the notes she had from counseling. Vince had to agree with what she had written for Brent’s side of the conversation. The fact is Brent loved his wife with passion, but his love was also unselfish. He would want her to deal with the loss of his love and find a new love. As Liz and Vince sat and talked, they realized that Brent’s love for Misty would be welcomed by Dalton. He would not expect her to forget their son, but only make room for the love he wanted to show her. They also understood that they wanted to make room for Dalton as well. He had embraced them as more than just Rachel’s grandparents, but as a part of his new family. The grief and fear that had embraced them was losing its’ grip. They realized that even during this season of mourning, God had made a way for His light to shine.
Dalton, Chad and Vince walked into the kitchen the next afternoon. They all stopped and watched Misty standing on the counter trying to reach something in the top cupboard. She was so focused on her task she had not even heard the men enter. Dalton shook his head as he walked up behind her. When he cleared his throat, it surprised her causing her to lose her balance. She fell right into his arms.
Misty could tell Dalton was not happy. She had tried to wait, but darn it she wanted to see if she could find the antique plate her mom had wanted. She had done as she had promised and thought before she acted. If she had to be honest, she thought for almost an entire minute before she got up on the counter. For her that was doing pretty darn good. From the look on Dalton’s face, it probably wasn’t the best time for her to explain that. She looked past him to her father and father-in-law. Her eyes widened as the two turned and left leaving her alone with him.
Dalton waited for Misty to look at him again. It took a few moments, but she finally looked up at him. “Would you like to tell me how you could possibly think that was a good idea?”
Misty tried to look sorry as she said. “I didn’t break my promise. I thought before I acted. I gave it a full minute of thought before I decided it couldn’t hurt to take a peek for my mom.”
Dalton rolled his eyes. “You are supposed to think and not act. If you talk yourself into doing it, you’re defeating the point. Misty, you have got to stop doing things that are going to get you hurt or killed.”
Dalton walked over to a chair and sat with her in his lap. He wanted to make sure he didn’t speak in anger, but this woman was an absolute nightmare to keep safe. He took a deep breath. “Misty, I work in the ER. You have to understand; I see the worst case scenarios of what can happen.”
Misty realized what she had done. It had never occurred to her that the reason he was so adamant is because he had seen firsthand what can happen when you take chances. She really had done it many times before. She was not sure why it was such a big deal, but he saw so much of the bad she knew it must be hard on him. She patted his chest to soothe him.
Dalton’s voice shook as he said softly. “I just don’t want you to become a memory. I really don’t want to lose you.”
Misty stopped patting his chest and patted his hand trying to comfort him. She really didn’t understand why it was such a big deal. She decided to help him understand. She spoke softly. “I guess I have done that so many times and nothings ever…Dalton would you please stop squeezing me.”
The picture Misty started to paint was not comforting. Dalton started to hug her closer the more she talked. He loosened his hug when he realized what he was doing. “Misty, I think I need you to stop talking and just let me hold you.”
Misty let him hold her. She really hoped this fear he had would pass. She was going to tell him that, but thought maybe he wouldn’t like to hear that.
Terry was just getting ready to go into the kitchen when she saw her husband and Vince come out. She smiled at them. “Have you seen Misty?”
Vince spoke first since Chad was still laughing. “Yes, we have seen Misty.”
Terry looked at the men confused. “Are either of you going to tell me where she is?”
Chad grinned. “She is in trouble if the look on Dalton’s face is any indication.”
Terry realized what happened. “She was on the counter wasn’t she? I told her to wait for one of the boys to help.”
Chad laughed. “Well she didn’t wait.”
“I guess I better go take some of the blame.” Terry said not making eye contact with her husband.
Chad sobered. He knew his wife was avoiding his eyes. That only meant one thing. She was just as guilty as Misty. “For Pete’s sake, Terry, tell me Misty didn’t bust you on the counter first.”
Terry shrugged her shoulders. “I didn’t think anyone would walk in. You were all supposed to be out at the barn.”
Chad followed his wife into the kitchen. His voice was firm. “I told you not to get up on that counter. You already broke your arm once falling.”
Dalton choked as he realized Misty took after her mom. Terry’s response made him want to weep. “I have gotten much better since we’ve been married. I only end up in the ER once or twice every six months.”
Misty was thrilled the attention was off of her. She decided to keep it that way. “Mom you can’t do that again. As we ladies age our bones get more fragile. Dalton….would you please stop squeezing me?”
Terry looked at her daughter. “Now you listen here young lady. I have not even come close to your trips to the ER. Dalton is not going to forget you were just on that counter too.”
Misty took immediate offense to her mom saying that. “I have gotten better too. I have only… Dalton, would you please stop squeezing me?”
Dalton looked at her and tried to speak. He loosened his hold, but he was absolutely unable to speak.
Chad spoke up now. “Now you listen to me Terry. Dalton may not forget Misty, but I am not going to forget you either. I do not want you to ever get on that counter top again. You will give me your word on this woman!”
Wyatt and Brock stood in the doorway with Vince and Liz. Brock took one look at Dalton’s face and started roaring with laughter. He had just gotten himself under control when the baby monitor informed his sister Rachel was awake. Her look of absolute relief was hilarious as she flew out of Dalton’s arms and out of the kitchen. Brock couldn’t help but start laughing again.
The rest of the group started to laugh as Dalton said a heartfelt prayer. “Please, God, let Rachel take after her father.” He stood and followed Misty to her room.
Misty looked up at Dalton. She was having trouble feeding Rachel again, but didn’t want to ask for help. Her arm hurt, but telling him that now would be the same as admitting she needed to be more careful.
Dalton knew she needed his help. He also knew why she wasn’t asking him for help. He looked at her and said softly. “Ask me.”
Misty looked at her bandaged arm. Her carelessness had made it almost impossible to feed her daughter without hurting her stitches. Tears gathered in her eyes as she spoke. “Would you help me please?”
Dalton walked over to the bed and crawled in behind her. He allowed Misty to manipulate his arm so she could feed Rachel. He looked up as Liz came in the open door. When she sat beside the bed her voice was firm. “Misty, I love you. You are my daughter by choice, but Dalton is right. Look what it is doing to you. You can’t even feed her without help. She has lost Brent, please listen to Dalton before she loses you too.”
Misty looked at the pain in her mother-in-law’s eyes. This woman had lost her son overseas while he was defending his country. There was no shame in that. Dalton had lost his father in the line of duty. For Misty to lose her life in an accident that was preventable would be shameful. Tears made it hard for her to speak. She simply nodded her head and looked down at her baby.
Liz looked at Dalton and smiled. “Don’t back down. She is too special to do that. You keep her safe.”
Dalton watched Liz leave the room. He kissed the top of Misty’s head. “This is not the worst thing we have had to deal with. We’ll figure it out. God made you the way you are. We just need to find a way for you to be that person without hurting yourself.”
Misty nodded. She was hurting, but it was pain she had brought to herself. What hurt worse was the pain she had brought to Liz and Dalton. However, it was the pain she didn’t want to bring to Rachel that started to give her a real pause. “I am so sorry.” She whispered again.
Dalton chuckled. “I’m sorry too. I need to stop treating you like a little kid.”
Misty shrugged her shoulders. “I was kind of acting like one.”
Dalton pulled her closer. “It doesn’t matter. You aren’t one. I need to remember that. It isn’t fair. I just have never met anyone like you before. I want to shake you and hug you all at one time. That is a very frustrating way to feel. As I said, I have never met anyone like you before.”
Misty chuckled. “It is probably a good thing you haven’t. You seem to be drawn to demented women.”
Dalton smiled. He knew his heart was becoming more engaged with this woman every time he saw her. It scared him and fascinated him all at the same time. He spoke softly. “I seem to be only falling for one demented woman.”
Misty knew most women would be offended by that statement. It was a good thing she wasn’t most women. “I do believe that is one of the sweetest things you have ever said to me.”
Dalton chuckled. He paled a little as he realized life with Misty would never be dull. He couldn’t help but pray one more time. “Please, God, let Rachel be like her father.”
Misty chuckled. “Rachel is only my first. If we get married, you do know we will have more?”
Dalton squeezed her. “Stop being a brat.”
Misty looked up at him and grinned. “I’m being honest. If you start praying now, it gives you a head start.”
Dalton winked at her. “I’ll keep that in mind. Now let’s finish feeding Rachel, so we can join the others.”
Misty allowed Dalton to help her move Rachel. She didn’t need his help after that, but it was nice to feel his arms around her. To feel cherished was something special that Misty would never again take for granite.
Dalton had another month stretch at work. He had days off, but not enough in a row to go see Misty and Rachel. It had only been a week since he had left them, but it felt much longer. He sat at the nurses’ station and charted for a while before he got up and checked his phone. He smiled as he realized that no news was probably good news. Misty would call tonight if she didn’t doze off with Rachel.
Kim watched Dalton and grinned. “Dr. Nelson, you have it bad.”
Dalton looked at her and grinned. “I won’t even deny it.”
Kim cocked her head to the side and asked. “What is it that draws you to this woman other than the obvious danger?”
Dalton laughed. “I assure you it is not the danger that draws me to her. I often wonder if we will ever be more than friends at the rate she is trying to get herself killed.”
Kim laughed. “You are still friends? I would have guessed a bit more.”
Dalton thought before he spoke. “It is a bit complicated in some areas. I know God is in control, but some things only He can work out.”
Kim understood. “You are a Christian?”
Dalton looked at her. “I am.”
Kim voice was more serious as she spoke. “I will pray that God guides you. I understand complicated. My husband Tyler and I had to deal with that. If you ever want to talk, let me know. I know I torment you a lot, but I am a fellow Christian.”
Dalton smiled at her. “I will keep that in mind.”
He picked up another chart and started for another room. Kim watched him go inside and laughed. She turned and looked at her friend Miriam. “He is so darn funny. How can you be in love and still think your friends?”
Miriam shrugged her shoulders. “He is really not catching on to that fact is he? I didn’t realize he was a fellow believer. He always turned down dates, but I thought it was because he liked to keep his personal life and work life separate.”
The two watched as he walked back out and headed their way. He smiled as he sat down and started charting. Looking up he spoke to Miriam. “I’m going to order some IV antibiotics on that room. If you could take care of my orders as soon as I’m done here, I would appreciate it.”
Miriam smiled. “No problem.”
Dalton was preoccupied writing orders when his phone rang he didn’t think, and simply hit the speaker button. “Doctor Nelson…”
Brock’s voice came on the other end. “What are your thoughts on my sister sky diving?”
Dalton closed his eyes. “Please tell me you’re joking.”
Brock laughed. “I’m joking. I just wanted to let you know Wyatt and I will be in Houston next week. We need to get together and have lunch or something.”
Kim laughed drawing attention to the fact that Brock was still on loud speaker. Dalton smiled at her and then hit the button to continue his conversation in private.
Miriam took the orders he handed her and looked at Kim. “It sounds like her brother is a bit of a rascal.”
Kim agreed. “It sure does. Did you see Dr. Nelson’s face though? That was hysterical.”
Miriam had a thought. “His face said he wouldn’t put it past her.”
Kim looked back at Dalton. “She would really go sky diving?”
Dalton laughed. “I would love to say no, but I have found it is best not to assume when Misty is involved.”
Kim started laughing. “You really do have your hands full.”
Dalton shook his head. “You have no idea.”
The three continued to work. Dalton took great care in making sure all of his patients’ needs were addressed and taken care of. He admitted some to the hospital while others were sent home. All in all, it was a normal night working in the ER. When the shift ended the three walked out together.
Miriam waved as she walked to her car. Kim and Dalton walked toward their cars. When Dalton’s phone rang, he answered it. Kim laughed as she heard him speak. “Misty, don’t be mad. You have to remember you do have a tendency to throw caution to the wind.”
Kim opened her car door and gave the doctor a final wave. She almost lost it when she heard him speak again. “Yes, I was worried he was telling me the truth about the sky diving.”
Dalton got in his car and listened to Misty. He could hear the anger in her voice. “Dalton, I am trying to not be impulsive. I thought you knew me better than to think I would do something like that.”
Dalton felt bad. It bothered him that she was so upset. “I’m sorry, you are right. I shouldn’t have thought the worst.”
Misty paused for a second. Now she felt bad that Dalton felt bad. “Well, I guess the last time he called you, I was injured. I’m sorry. I guess I shouldn’t have been so upset. I do kind of have a track record with you.”
Dalton smiled. He was relieved she had calmed down. “How about I promise to try to think the best from now on and assume your brother is joking?”
Misty answered him honestly. She could live with that. She probably should have stopped there, but she didn’t. “I think I can handle that. Dalton, I miss you. I wished you lived closer. I think maybe I overreact because of that. I just don’t want you to think the worst and you are not here to see I’m doing my best. Just today Brock asked me if I wanted to go dirt biking. I really wanted to, but I told him no.”
Dalton counted to ten. “Brock asked you to what?” He was so proud of himself. He didn’t sound upset to even him, and he knew darn well he was upset.
Misty was thrilled he wanted to know more. “He asked me to go dirt biking. When you jump the little hills it can be a pretty rough landing. I have had a couple of stitches and a broken arm from it. I know I have Rachel now and told him I couldn’t.”
Dalton was not sure if he wanted to laugh or cry. He had never heard anyone in his entire life so darn proud of the fact they didn’t do something that could get them killed. He cleared his throat. “You did the right thing. Does it bother you?” Why did he ask that? He was almost sure he was going to regret asking her that.
Misty paused. She knew he wanted to hear that it was fine, but a part of her was sad about saying not going. “I like doing things like that, but I’m a mom now. I guess I have to change who I am.”
Dalton spoke softly. “I don’t want you to change who you are to please me. Maybe we can find something thrilling with a little less danger. …something to remind you that you are still Misty.”
Misty thought for a moment. “Maybe something like a roller coaster?”
Dalton had to agree. It was thrilling, but for the most part safe. “That sounds fun. I think we may need to find an amusement park and make that happen.”
Misty laughed. “I’m glad you see my need to still be me.”
Dalton whispered. “My heart is very engaged with your happiness.”
Misty spoke softly too. “My heart is engaged as well. I want to keep your attention.”
“You don’t have to try at all to get my attention. You have it.” Dalton said with a smile.
“You know you have my attention too? My heart hurts when I think of you not in my life. A part of me is unsure of whether or not I’m good enough for you. I have been married and you have saved yourself. I guess…” Misty trailed off.
Dalton spoke firmly into the phone. “Are you kidding me? Misty you were married and even if you weren’t I didn’t save myself for someone I didn’t love. I saved myself for the person I would fall in love with. I’m pretty sure that person is going to be you. When that time comes I want you to accept my gift for what it is. It is all of me for only you.”
Misty spoke softly threw the tears. “That was so beautiful. If we are married, I will gladly accept your gift.”
Dalton was pulling into his driveway. He knew he should let her go, but wanted just a moment longer with her on the phone. “I don’t think the word is ‘if’. I think the word is ‘when’. Anything less would break my heart.”
Misty hiccupped through her tears. “Dalton, how did I get so blessed to have found you?”
Dalton answered softly. “Misty, you didn’t find me. God did. He used that crazy dog of mine to save your life and bring us together. We have things we need to work on before we allow our hearts to be totally engaged, but God will lead us on those paths. We just have to trust Him with our future. Am I ready to say ‘I love you.’? I don’t think so yet. Am I ready to kiss you? I would say not right now. I am having a blast just getting to know you as my friend. You have things you need to do and I have things to work on too. Is that enough for you right now?”
Misty was suddenly happy. His words took so much pressure off of her. “I am more than happy with that right now. I think I may be misreading you sometimes. I feel like it is going too fast. It feels almost like I have to rush and put Brent in his proper place and just start letting you take over my heart.”
Dalton smiled. “I do not want to do that. If there is one thing I am certain on, I want you to make room for me in your heart at your pace. When you give me your heart, I want to know you are ready to do that. Brent was your husband. You were planning on growing old together. That just doesn’t go away. I understand that I can’t just walk in and take his place. He deserves more than that and so do you.”
Misty was deeply touched by his words. “Dalton, I am so thankful that you are the man God created you to be.”
The two talked a few more minutes. Each of them parted in their own thoughts. Dalton was at peace with all God had for him. Misty was still fighting her insecurities, but felt better about putting it all in God’s hands, even if that meant doing it daily.
Misty sat on the front porch drinking tea with her mom. Dalton would be there in two days, but to Misty it seemed much longer. She watched as Wyatt and Brock walked toward them. Brock had Rachel in his arms. “Did she like the pony?” Misty asked amused.
Brock frowned at his sister. “You know darn well she slept through the entire introduction.”
Misty laughed. “She is only two and a half months old. What exactly did you two think was going to happen?”
Wyatt grinned. “We just want to make sure, that as she grows up, she is aware her first pony was bought by her uncles.”
Brock nodded his head as he agreed. “It brings a whole new level of awesome to the table.”
Misty looked at her mother. “They do know Dalton has the awesome part already, don’t they? I mean he is the one that brought her into the world.”
Terry shook her head. “I’m thinking if they are buying her a pony they may have overlooked that.”
Wyatt looked at his sister. “I didn’t even think about that. Brock, we just wasted our time going for awesome.”
Brock gave his sister a cocky grin. “Well, we may just have to go for epic.”
Misty decided that her brothers could have awesome. She had no desire to see what epic would entail. “How about you two keep awesome and we give Dalton epic? I’m just not sure I want to know what you two would do to surpass the fact that without Dalton’s help, the two of us would have died.”
Wyatt looked at Brock. “I’m good with awesome.”
Brock agreed. “I guess it would be a little hard to beat epic. The man saved her and Rachel’s life.”
Misty took Rachel from Brock and started feeding her. As she watched her brothers walk away she had to ask. “I know I have issues, but Brock…how in the world did he get that line of thinking?”
Terry laughed. “I’m not sure. Out of all of you, he is the wild card. Wyatt might have been a ‘woops’, but Brock is the one that makes us nod our heads.”
Misty looked down at Rachel. She was awake more these days and Misty smiled as her beautiful brown eyes looked up at her. “I will never be able to look in her eyes and not see Brent.”
Terry smiled. “You have a very blessed life Misty. I know with Brent’s death you may not think so, but to have a man like Dalton that has come into your world. Not many men can share the woman they love.”
Misty smiled. “He doesn’t love me yet.”
Terry grinned. “He may not be ‘in’ love with you yet, but that man does love you, and you love him. You two are just waiting for the falling to complete.”
Misty laughed at her mother’s imagery. “I think Dalton will always be waiting for the falling to complete. I do tend to get myself into some real pickles.”
Terry laughed. “You know what I mean.”
Misty grinned. “I know what you mean. I do love him. I would be heartbroken if he never came back.”
Terry looked out across the ranch. “You know that the houses we rent out are for you and your brothers? Have you given any thought about taking that step?”
Misty smiled. She answered honestly. “I think I want to wait just a bit longer. I’m not sure if I will be living here or in Houston.”
Terry laughed. “I hadn’t thought of that. I think you both have made it perfectly clear there is a future.”
Misty smiled softly. “It is still hard to think about that without feeling guilty. I would have given Brent forever.”
Terry smiled sadly. “I know you would have, but now that he is gone. He would be furious if you still tried to give that to him.”
Misty thought about her counseling. “My counselor says that one day it will just click. I will be able to look at Dalton and want to have forever with him without the guilt. I am blessed to have a man that is willing to wait for that to happen. I don’t think I thank God nearly enough.”
The two women sat and chatted for quite some time. Terry encouraged her daughter to be all God wanted her to be. Misty listened to her mother’s words of wisdom.
Dalton sat at the nurses’ station writing down orders. His phone was on the desk so when it rang he pressed the speaker button again. “Doctor Nelson here…”
Brock’s voice sounded on the other end. “I just wanted you to know Wyatt and I are awesome and you are epic.”
Dalton laughed. “Umm…ok.”
The nursing staff listened as Brock continued to talk. “We got Rachel a pony, but Misty pointed out that since you were actually the one that saved their lives and delivered Rachel in the middle of a Colorado blizzard, we couldn’t be awesome. When I explained to her that we may go for epic, I think it may have worried her a bit with what that may actually involve us doing. I mean you and I both know Wyatt and I would have to go big to beat the entire save your life and deliver a baby thing.”
Dalton was laughing and shuddering at the same time. “I take it that is when your sister upped me to epic and gave you two awesome?”
Brock sounded proud on the other end of the line. “Yup, we all got upgraded.”
Dalton chuckled and then realized he said they got Rachel a pony. He sobered up fast as he said. “Please tell me you two are going to wait to put her on that pony.”
Brock laughed. “It’s ok Dalton. We won’t put her on until she can walk.”
Dalton’s voice was strangled as he said. “Brock your family is killing me.”
Brock laughed. “That is kind of what we do. You were there when my dad was giving my mom grief about standing on the counter. Of course, you may not have been paying attention since you were lecturing Misty about the same thing. Well, I see Misty coming toward me. Dang if she doesn’t look madder than a hornet. I’ll let you go. Bye Dalton.”
Dalton shook his head and looked around at the shocked faces. “Are you all ok?”
Kim’s mouth was opening and closing, but Miriam found her tongue. “You met her in the middle of a blizzard?”
Dalton looked at his phone annoyed. “I keep forgetting you all listen in on my calls.”
Kim finally found her voice. “We can’t help it. Your phone calls are,” she paused and winked at Miriam, “dare I say, epic.”
Dr. Huff had to agree. “I would love to know how you managed to keep the fact that you delivered a baby in the middle of a blizzard a secret.”
Dalton shrugged his shoulders. “I guess it is just something that happened.”
Kim sensed he was leaving something out. “Dalton, did you really save their lives?”
Dalton nodded his head. “The snow had already started when my dog led me to her. Her water had broken already and her contractions were on top of each other. I picked her up and got back to my cabin as fast as I could. I could feel her body shuddering with each contraction. I’m not going to lie I was terrified.”
Miriam was confused. “You are a doctor. Why would you be terrified?”
Dalton spoke softly. “I was in the middle of nowhere with no medical supplies and getting ready to deliver a baby that was only thirty-six weeks’ gestation. If Misty had needed a cesarean section, I could not have saved her. I didn’t even know if she had the strength to push. By the time I got to her she had already been walking for four hours in freezing temperatures.”
Kim looked at him and said softly. “When you put it that way, I can see how it would be terrifying.”
Miriam spoke honestly. “I’m not going to lie. I’m glad it was slow enough for you to take that call. My respect for you continues to go up the more I see who you are. Though I will say your future in-laws seem crazy. Was her mom really standing on the counter?”
Dalton smiled at her. “I try not to think about that, but yes Misty’s dad was furious.”
Kim had a question. “What happened to the baby’s father?”
Dalton paused before he said softly. “Brent was killed in combat six months before Rachel was born.”
Kim spoke with understanding. “That explains why you and Misty are proceeding with caution.”
Dalton nodded. “That would be why.”
The group chatted as they waited for their next patient to show up. Dalton was more than ready to get back to work. The others, however, were now even more curious about this young woman, Misty.
Misty was still up when Dalton drove up the driveway. She sat on the porch swing and watched him get out of the SUV. She smiled as Jamie greeted him warmly. For the first time Misty allowed herself to really look at Dalton as a man. He was not as big as her brothers, but he was still a very muscular man. She knew his eyes were the deepest blue she had ever seen. They seemed to see clear to her soul, when she would look into them. As he came up and sat down beside her she smiled up at him.
Dalton grinned at Misty’s face. He almost chuckled as she inspected him. He had no intention of telling her that he could read her like a book. Instead he spoke honestly. “I missed you.”
Misty leaned into him as he put his arm around you. “I missed you too.”
Dalton looked up at the night sky. “I love seeing the stars. It is a little hard to see them through the city lights in Houston.”
Misty looked up too. “They are nice to look at. There is something so calming about them.”
“You know you don’t have to stay up and wait for me, don’t you?” Dalton asked looking back down at her.
Misty snuggled into his side. “I like waiting for you.”
Dalton chuckled. “I think you just like to snuggle and it would be strange doing something like this with your brothers.”
Misty laughed. “I do enjoy a good snuggle. My mom lets me snuggle with her, but it isn’t the same as snuggling with someone bigger. Your arms make me feel safe.”
Dalton chuckled. Looking at her he knew he was drawn to her. At the same time there was truly more of a friendship than any other feeling to their relationship. He was not lying to her the other night when he had said he was not ready to kiss her. He really wasn’t. He was fine enjoying their comfortable companionship. He did miss her when they were apart, but not to the point he could say he was pining for her. He did however agree that snuggling was kind of nice. The main times he felt the actual need to hold her was when she was doing something downright crazy that could hurt her. Then he couldn’t seem to hold her close enough. He understood his emotions during those times. He really was uncomfortable with the thought that a world without Misty could exist.
Misty looked up at him. “How was work this week?”
Dalton shook his head. “Misty, your brother is nuts.”
Misty didn’t even need to ask which one. “Brock is a mess. I take it he called and told you about the upgrade.”
Dalton laughed. “I was charting and had my phone on speaker. He informed everyone I worked with that I was upgraded. They also know our little adventure story now too.”
Misty was confused. “Your coworkers didn’t know about Colorado?”
Dalton shook his head. “I didn’t tell them. I have always been private at work, but I guess that time with you and Rachel was… special. I didn’t want to share.”
Snuggling back into his side, Misty asked. “What didn’t you want to share?”
“I don’t know how to put it into words. I guess, for me, I didn’t see what happened as a hero status thing. It was just like I said, special. It took all of twelve hours for the entire hospital to take it and turn it into something different.” Dalton answered.
“What did they turn it into?” Misty asked with a yawn.
Dalton could still see the intra-net. “They called the authorities in Colorado and got the entire story from them. The way they made it sound I was this super human that carried you four hours to my cabin and then delivered your premature baby. I then kept you and your baby alive until supplies reached us. The way they made that part sound you would think I was breathing for you two.” His voice was dramatic as he finished that last part.
Misty giggled and said theatrically. “My hero…”
Dalton pinched her side. “Brat…”
Misty closed her eyes and smiled as she leaned her head on his shoulder. “I don’t think I have ever had a best friend like you. It is kind of nice.”
Dalton had to agree. “It is very comfortable.”
Misty thought before she spoke. She had an idea of what they could do the next day, but was unsure how receptive Dalton would be to it. She should have probably thought just a bit more before she spoke. “Have you ever shot a bow and arrow?”
Dalton answered honestly, though, he was almost positive he was not going to like where this was going. “I have a couple of times. It has been years though.”
Misty knew he was tense. She thought a moment again and then asked. “Do you want to shoot with us tomorrow?”
Dalton smiled trying not to picture this accident prone woman with a weapon. “Are you a good shot?”
Misty nodded. “I’m actually a very good shot. Is your face ok? It looks like your eye is twitching.”
Dalton ignored the question. He decided to ask one of his own. “When was the last time you hurt yourself shooting?”
Misty didn’t think before she spoke. “Last year I needed stitches, but that was only a scratch from a broad head.”
Dalton choked out his next words. “Do you ever shoot guns?”
Misty was quick to answer that question too. “I love shooting guns. I’m a good shot with them too. Are you sure you’re ok? Your eye looks super funny.”
Dalton smiled. He knew he probably didn’t want to know, but darn if he couldn’t help himself. “When did you last hurt yourself shooting a gun?”
Misty thought for a moment. She spoke very carefully. “Well, you know those scars I keep telling you I may one day need to explain…?”
Dalton paled. “Please tell me you didn’t shoot yourself…”
Misty suddenly realized what Dalton had been doing. “I’m not that bad. The kick of the gun going off made me fall on my backside. It just so happens that there was a very sharp piece of glass on the ground.”
Dalton looked at her relieved. He knew he had been busted thinking the worst and tried to look guilty. “Ok. I can see I’m worrying for nothing.”
Misty showed him the side of her ring finger. “This is the scar from the broad head. I only had two stitches. They weren’t going to even do that until they read my chart. I guess they figured it was better to be safe than sorry. Dalton, I thought we agreed you were going to try to stop seeing the worst case scenario with me.”
Dalton grinned at her. “I’m trying. You have to admit, that when you start talking about bows and guns, it would be a bit hard for me not to start thinking about what could go wrong.”
Misty punched him playfully and then yawned. “Now who is being the brat?”
Dalton had to admit. “I guess that would be me.”
Misty stretched. She stood up and looked at him. “I think my time for staying awake is up.”
Dalton grinned up at her. “I may stay here just a bit longer. I need to come to terms with the fact I’m going to see you with a bow and arrow tomorrow.”
Mist shook her head as she started for the door. “Keep it up and you’ll see me with my gun tomorrow.”
Dalton shuddered at the thought which earned him another frown. He sat on the porch taking in the fresh air. He thought about how nice it would be to one day live in this area. He leaned his head against the back of the swing and closed his eyes.
Wyatt and Brock sat down and watched Dalton sleep. It was morning and the two could hardly contain their laughter. Brock leaned over to his brother and whispered. “He is going to have one heck of a pain in the neck after this.”
Wyatt had to agree. “The porch swing is probably not the best place to catch up on your sleep.”
Brock was just getting ready to wake him up when Misty stopped him cold. “Don’t you dare put that piece of grass in his mouth, Brock Bishop, or I will skin you alive.”
Wyatt looked up at his sister and smiled. His smile faded as she turned toward him. “I suppose you planned on stopping him?” she asked with a raised eyebrow.
Misty went over and sat beside Dalton. She gently laid her hand on his chest. When he opened his eyes he looked confused. “Misty, why are you in my bed?”
Brock started chuckling. “If that is what was going on this would be an entirely different conversation.”
Misty glared at her brother. “I’m not in your bed Dalton. You are on the front porch.”
Dalton went to move and groaned. Brock and Wyatt looked at each other as Brock said. “Yup, he is going to have a pain in the neck for sure.”
Misty looked at her brothers and frowned. “I’m sure you two would be welcome in the kitchen helping with breakfast. You two are being a pain in my neck.”
Brock shook his head. “Nope, mom already kicked us out.”
Dalton finally managed to sit up on the swing. “I can’t believe I fell asleep out here. After you went in, I don’t remember a thing.”
Misty touched his face and grimaced. “You did not look comfy at all. Are you going to be ok?”
Dalton nodded his head and winced. “I think I’ll be ok once I start moving.”
Wyatt helped Dalton to his feet and the group went into the house. Misty laughed as her brothers started to ‘help’ Dalton to his room.
Chad stood behind his daughter and spoke through his laughter. “We men never really truly grow up.”
Misty had to agree as she watched Dalton put Brock in a headlock. “I can see that.”
Chad grinned at her as he said. “Let’s go in and help your mom. Those two brothers of yours had her all in an uproar.”
Misty worked with her parents to get breakfast on the table. It was time to eat and she looked up as her brothers and Dalton headed into the kitchen. She had been getting ready to sit down just as she got a look at Dalton. The weather had always been chilly, but today it was warm. He was wearing a muscle shirt and a pair of shorts. She couldn’t help but notice his very muscular arms. She may have actually hit the chair if she had just looked away, but she didn’t look away so she didn’t hit the chair.
Dalton looked at Misty just as she missed her chair. He frowned at Brock who was laughing at his sister’s mishap. He walked over and knelt beside her. “Are you ok?”
Terry and Chad had watched the entire thing unfold. It appeared the only one that was clueless was Dalton. Misty glared at her family and answered Dalton. “I’ll live.”
Dalton couldn’t help but notice her flushed face. He touched her forehead. “Did you get dizzy?”
Wyatt and Brock were leaning into each other laughing now. Terry was coughing as Chad looked at anyone, but his boys.
Misty shook her head no. “I guess I was not paying attention. I’m fine. The only thing damaged is my pride.” She really wanted to throttle her brothers right now.
Wyatt couldn’t help but add. “…and her bottom…”
Dalton knew he was missing something. He stood up and helped Misty to her feet. “Are you sure you’re ok?”
Misty looked up at him and smiled. “I’m fine.”
Looking around the room he finally had to ask. “Ok. What am I missing?”
Misty glared her brothers into silence. “You aren’t missing anything.”
Dalton looked at her. “Ok. We can talk later, because I’m not buying that.”
Misty now glared at Dalton. “Now listen here…” she started, but was interrupted as Dalton grabbed her hand and proceeded to drag her from the room.
As soon as they were alone Dalton turned folded his arms across his chest and waited for her to look at him.
Misty started to shake her head. Of all the things he could do, he had to stand there like that. She knew if she looked at him now, she would not be able to form a complete thought. She had no intention of looking at him.
Dalton was frustrated. “What is going on Misty?”
Misty started to chuckle. Of all the things she could say, every one of them were going to embarrass her. She didn’t look at him as she began to speak. “Do you happen to have any other shirts?”
Dalton looked at her and said. “Come again?”
Misty finally looked up at him. “Dalton, I have just realized how nice you are to look at.”
Dalton looked down at his shirt. He looked back at her and started to laugh. “You missed your chair because of what I’m wearing? Good grief I thought you were getting sick…and your family.”
Misty could feel herself blush. She shrugged her shoulders. “I was not aware that you were so… healthy.”
Dalton touched her cheek. “I’ll go change. I didn’t realize you would find me…healthy.”
Misty looked back down at the ground as she said a heartfelt. “Thank you.”
Dalton shook his head as he headed toward his room. “I’ll take my time if you want to yell at your family.”
Misty grinned. “I may take you up on that.” She said as she turned and marched into the kitchen.
Terry looked at Misty and smiled. “We are sorry, but that was funny.”
Misty frowned. “I can’t believe you all did that.”
Wyatt knew he probably shouldn’t say what he was going to but he couldn’t seem to stop his tongue. “Really…?”
Brock started to laugh and then stopped, giving his brother a shove he said. “We are sorry. It is just that…” He pictured his sister’s face as she missed her chair and started laughing again.
Misty heard Rachel start to fuss. Grabbing the monitor, she headed for the door. “If you bring this up again, Brock, you better start to sleep with your eyes open.”
Brock grinned at her and then winked. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
Misty turned and walked out of the kitchen door and right into Dalton’s arms. She looked up at him as he steadied her. “Summer is going to kill me.” She said miserably, as she eased out of his arms and continued to walk toward Rachel.
Dalton watched her go. He was flattered that she found him attractive. He had to chuckle at the fact that she wasn’t so happy about that. He turned and walked into the kitchen. Everyone looked at him expectantly. He finally looked up at them with a sheepish grin and said. “She finds me…healthy.”
Brock and Wyatt roared with laughter and her parents started to chuckle. Dalton felt the need to defend Misty and said. “The funny thing is when you boys bring home ‘healthy’ girls. Misty and I will probably enjoy getting even.”
Misty busted out laughing at her brothers’ expressions. She was suddenly, back to being comfortable with Dalton again. “That is an absolute guarantee.”
Wyatt looked at Brock and frowned. “This is your fault.”
Brock frowned back at him. “You were laughing too.”
Misty walked up beside Dalton and nudged him with her hip. When he looked down she smiled. “Thanks for defending me.”
He winked at her and then smiled. “No problem…”
Dalton looked at the blood on his hands. He kept waiting to wake up, because there could not be a family this full of accident prone people. He was also trying to keep his cool. This family seemed to be doing their best to kill each other. He looked over at Misty who was crying hysterically into her hands. He then looked at Wyatt and realized he would not be any help at all, since he couldn’t stop laughing. The fact was this could be a serious wound that Brock had.
Brock glared at his sister. “You shot me!”
Misty started to wail. “It was an accident. We agreed we were going to wait until everyone shot. What were you thinking going out there?”
Dalton had to agree with Misty. Brock had started to go to the target without making sure all the arrows were shot. He knew he couldn’t take the arrow out yet. Taking a deep breath, he asked Wyatt again if he would please go call 911.
Wyatt saw the look in Dalton’s eyes and sobered. He jogged back to the house as Dalton started to assess the damage. He tried to calm Brock down. “It looks like it hit the upper quadrant of your butt. That is actually a good thing. The other good thing is that we are all using regular tips. If this had been a broad head it would have caused a bunch more damage.”
Brock yelled at Misty again. “You shot my butt!”
Misty watched as her parents came running with Wyatt. The look her dad gave her made her cry even harder. Dalton was not letting that stand. “Misty didn’t do anything wrong.”
Brock disagreed loudly. “She shot me!”
Wyatt looked at Brock and tried to calm him down. “Brock you walked right out in front of her. You can’t blame her for this. Look at her, she is terrified for you.”
Brock looked at Misty and felt horrible. The fact was he was mad at everyone but himself. He flinched as Dalton started to rip the material around the wound. “I’m sorry Misty.” He looked at his mom and dad. “They are right. I walked right out in front of her. It isn’t her fault.”
Dalton looked at Misty. He spoke firmly. “I need you to go in the house.” She looked hurt, but he didn’t have time to comfort her now. He looked at Chad. “Do you have a knife on you?”
Chad reached in his pants and pulled out a pocketknife. “Will this do?”
Dalton nodded. “I don’t think she hit the superior artery, but I want to make sure he isn’t losing too much blood.”
Terry put her hand to her face as she saw the wound. To her it looked like a lot of blood, to Dalton it looked like it was supposed to look considering the man just got shot in the butt. He looked at Terry’s face and spoke. “You need to go in the house.”
Terry was getting ready to protest, when Dalton spoke again. “I know he is your son, but if you faint, I will be taking treatment that he needs away from him and giving it to you. I have this. Please, Terry, go in with Misty.”
Chad nudged his wife toward the house. Wyatt knelt beside Brock. He looked at Dalton. “Should we take the arrow out?”
Dalton shook his head. “No, we need to get a picture of where the tip is at before we do that. I can’t see inside, so I’m guessing when I say I don’t ‘think’ it hit an artery. I’m not going to put that guess to the test.”
Chad watched as the ambulance came up the drive. He saw Misty point toward them.
The crew got out and started for them. Dalton spoke to each of them giving them specific instruction. When one gave him a questioning look his voice was like steel. “Is there a problem?”
The crew member was honest. “I’m just hoping you are a doctor. You act like one, but …”
Dalton understood. “I’m Dr. Nelson. I work in the medical center in Houston. Sorry, for not letting you know that up front.”
They got Brock loaded and into the ambulance. Dalton rode with them. It never occurred to him that he was not at his hospital. When they got to the ER, the group of nurses and doctors just went with it. If they had to be honest, it looked like this man was used to these kinds of injuries. Every order Dalton gave was approved by the ER Attending physician that was standing behind him. Dalton was absolutely clueless to the curious stares.
When Brock was carted off for his x-ray, Dalton looked around and realized what he had done. He took off his gloves and washed his hands. Turning back to the attending he said with an apologetic grin and an outstretched hand. “Dr. Dalton Nelson from Houston…”
The attending gave Dalton his name as he shook his hand. “I’m Dr. Fisk. That was some pretty impressive work.”
Dalton shrugged his shoulders. “I’m sorry about hijacking your ER. I guess I kind of forgot where I was.”
Dr. Fisk smiled at the younger physician. “If you are interested in moving to this area, we have one of our Fellows leaving in two months. I’m thinking we can avoid a lot of interviews if you just say yes.”
Dalton looked at the older man. He remembered what Misty had said about the older doctors knowing her. He couldn’t resist. “You may need to know that I’m kind of involved with Misty Bishop Adams.”
Dr. Fisk’s eyes widened in recognition of the name. He looked at the empty doorway that Brock was just rolled out of. “Was that her brother? I usually know them all on sight, but all I could see was his backside.”
Dalton laughed. He ran his hand through his hair as he said. “She kind of shot him. It was an accident. He walked right out in front of her. That family is never …dull.”
Dr. Fisk started laughing. “Most ER physicians run when they see Misty. You really are a glutton for punishment.”
Dalton laughed. He asked about the job. “When would I need to give you my answer about working here? I would like to pray about it and then talk it over with Misty.”
The two men headed for the waiting room as Dr. Fisk explained the details to Dalton.
Four hours later Dalton, Chad and Brock made it home. Brock had refused to be put under while they removed the arrow and tended his wound. He was sent home with an antibiotic and supplies to irrigate the area.
Dalton explained everything to Terry. His eyes never left Misty. When Terry went to make supper he walked over to the sofa and sat down beside her. “It was an accident.”
Misty’s eyes were red and puffy from crying. She looked up at Dalton and nodded. “Misty, I wasn’t mad at you when I told you to come to the house. I was getting ready to cut some of his clothes away from the arrow. I didn’t want you to see that.”
“I shot him.” She whispered.
“It was an accident. He walked right out in front of you. This wound is all on him and he knows that.” Dalton said softly.
Misty nodded. She rested her chin on her knees. He didn’t know what to do to make her feel better. “Misty…” he whispered as he pulled her into his arms.
Misty held on to Dalton like her life depended on it. She knew they all thought she was still feeling bad about what happened, and she did. However, seeing a person wounded like that broke her heart. Her vibrant husband had been shot. As she watched the blood coming out of Brock’s wound, all she could think about was Brent. He must have been so scared knowing what was going on. The grief she felt poured out of her in the most gut wrenching sobs. Her mother and brothers all came to the living room and watched as Dalton held on to her. Chad walked over and knelt in front of his daughter he wasn’t sure what was wrong until he heard her speak. “Brent knew he was dying. He must have been so scared.”
Dalton released Misty into her father’s arms. Tears stung his eyes at the picture she was dealing with. He watched Chad hold his daughter close. Dalton’s heart tore in half as he heard her, at almost a scream, plead with her father. “It hurts Daddy. Please make it go away.”
Chad spoke softly into his daughter’s hair. “It will be ok, Misty. I’m right here. Let it out, it will be ok.”
The family watched as Misty unraveled in front of them. Wyatt and Brock comforted their mother. Dalton held fast to Misty’s hand. Chad held his sobbing daughter to his chest. Thirty minutes had passed before she calmed. Dalton’s hand was bleeding from the force of her grip which caused her nails to dig into him. It didn’t matter. All that mattered was letting Misty deal with her grief.
Chad pushed Misty’s hair out of her sweaty face and kissed her forehead. He could feel her relax against him and knew she was exhausted.
Misty opened her eyes. She looked down at her hand in Dalton’s hand. She could see the blood and closed her eyes as fresh tears stung them. She felt so tired. She started to open her eyes again and then decided not to. She allowed her body to relax fully and sleep.
Chad looked up at Dalton. “Take her.”
Misty’s body was limp as Dalton picked her up and took her to the bedroom. He gently laid her on the bed and brushed her damp hair out of her face. He quietly turned and left the room closing the door softly behind him.
Dalton had been back at work for a few days when he was called into a meeting. He handed his chart off to one of the Residents and then followed Dr. Huff down the hall. Walking into the room he was a bit surprised by the other staff there. He sat and waited for the meeting to start when a young woman came in and sat beside the Chief of Staff. He glanced at her briefly before turning his attention to the Chief of Staff.
Dr. Huff watched Dalton. The man seemed totally relaxed even when the nurse who was the reason for this meeting walked in. He watched the young doctor’s face for any recognition and found none. He knew he wasn’t the only one that had been observing his reaction. He looked across the table to the Chief of Staff.
Chief of Staff Harold Swank looked around the table and started the meeting. His voice was clear and firm as he spoke. “I’m sorry to pull all of you away from your duties, but an emergency meeting of the ethics committee was called on to address a case of sexual harassment.”
Dalton looked at Dr. Huff confused and asked in a whisper. “Why are we here?”
Dr. Huff nodded for Dalton to turn his attention back to Dr. Swank.
Dr. Swank looked around the room and spoke again. “We have an allegation on the table by Mindy Forney RN. She has claimed that in the last year a doctor on staff has pressured her into a sexual relationship. She also claims that this doctor threatened her job if she did not comply with his request. The result of this relationship has ended in pregnancy.”
Dalton’s eyes stayed on the man talking. He still had no idea why he was there, but he felt bad for the nurse in question.
As Dr. Swank continued talking he couldn’t help but note Dr. Nelson seemed relaxed. He didn’t look at all uncomfortable like one would expect if this allegation was true. He had the man’s undivided attention as he continued to speak. “I will now name the doctor in question and hear his side of the story. Dr. Dalton Nelson you are the one she has accused of this misconduct. How would you defend yourself against these allegations?”
Dalton knew his jaw dropped open. He looked at Dr. Swank and then at the nurse at his side. He looked around the room and realized why he was here. He looked at the nurse with sympathy and then at Dr. Swank. He didn’t yell, but spoke calmly and softly. “I have never met this nurse. I don’t know why she has accused me of this, but I have never pushed anyone into this kind of relationship.” He looked at his accuser and asked softly. “Why did you say this?”
The nurse turned her face away and started to cry. “I am the victim here. He has no right to question me on this.”
Dalton shook his head. “I have every right, because you know you are lying. When your baby is born the DNA will show that I am not the father.”
Dr. Swank looked at Dalton. “You deny having a relationship with this nurse?”
Dalton nodded. “I do. I have never seen her before today. I have not had any sexual contact with her ever. I don’t understand why she is saying this.”
The nurse started to weep into her hands. “He is lying. I’m going to have his baby and he is scared.”
Dalton looked around the room. He could see some of the people there actually believed what this nurse was saying. He spoke in confidence. “I don’t know why this woman is saying this, but I am telling you right now, there is no way I could be the father of any child at this point in time. I serve Jesus Christ. I live a life that reflects Him. I may not be perfect, but I am not guilty of doing this.”
The nurse stood and yelled. “You want me to abort this baby. Maybe that is what I should do.”
Dalton shook his head and looked at the woman. He didn’t yell back at her but remained calm. “Who did this to you?”
The nurse started pacing. She looked at him and yelled. “You did!”
Dalton could see the fear and madness in her eyes. He stayed calm and spoke softly. “You and I both know that isn’t true. What I do know is you are afraid. If a doctor did this, it is time to tell all of us the real name of this person.”
Dr. Swank watched as the nurse started to rub her hands on her skirt as she paced. Looking at Dr. Nelson, he had no doubt the man was innocent. He spoke sharply. “You came to us and lied about this man. What do you have to say for yourself?”
Dalton put his hand up to silence Dr. Swank. He then continued to speak softly to the nurse. “Who did this to you?”
Dr. Huff was upset that this nurse had tried to set Dalton up. His voice rose as he asked. “You can’t believe what she is saying. Dr. Nelson, she just wanted to set you up for child support, why do you even care?”
Dalton never took his eyes off of the nurse. “You work in the ER. What do you see? If she were a patient, what would be your first instinct? Just because she lied, doesn’t mean we can ignore what we see. We are doctors we took an oath to care.”
Dr. Huff had to admit what he saw. Dalton may not be the one who hurt her, but something was very wrong with this young nurse.
Dr. Amanda Berth had to agree with Dr. Nelson too. Looking around the room full of men and only a few women she realized how difficult it would be for them to get answers. She cleared her throat and spoke. “I think it is time to clear the room of everyone but Nurse Forney and myself. Does anyone disagree?”
Dalton and Dr. Huff walked out of the room with the rest of the doctors. As they walked down the hall, Dr. Swank caught up to them. He shook Dalton’s hand and said. “I really am sorry about that. I knew the second she walked in you were innocent. You didn’t even recognize her.”
Dalton smiled at the other man sadly. “I’m innocent, but my gut is telling me something is still very wrong.”
Dr. Huff was still confused. “Why do you care?”
Dalton smiled at him. “I was not lying in there; I am a Christian. If I can’t see her through Christ’s eyes, who will?”
Dr. Huff shook his head. “If I had been accused of forcing a relationship, I’m not sure I would care regardless of my beliefs.”
Dr. Swank had to agree. “You never once got angry. I don’t know if I could have stayed calm.”
Dalton looked at the doctors shocked. “You don’t think I was angry? I was very angry. I just refused to let it control my actions. Once I saw her start to pace, the anger left because I saw someone that was hurt and needed help.”
Dr. Swank held out his hand to Dalton once more and shook his hand. “You are an asset to this hospital. I’m proud to have you on staff, Dr. Nelson.”
“Thank you. I appreciate your confidence.” Dalton said as he shook the man’s hand.
Dr. Huff and Dalton watched the man walk away. They started down the hall toward the ER. Dr. Huff cleared his throat and spoke. “You need to know that the rumor has already started. I don’t know how the others will treat you until this is cleared up.”
Dalton looked at his college. “Did you think I was guilty?”
The older man shook his head. “I never for one moment thought you were capable of what she had accused you of.”
Dalton nodded. He looked back down the hall and took a deep breath. “I guess it is time to go figure out the damage.”
The two walked into the ER. Dalton watched Kim walk up to him and smile. “I see they could see what bull hockey this was.”
Dalton nodded. “It is nice to know you didn’t believe what was said.”
Kim chuckled as she handed him a chart. “I know you may not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but you are a pretty nice guy all the same.”
Dalton laughed. “I am not sure whether I need to be upset or thank you.”
Miriam walked up to the two and answered. “I say just consider the source. Not to end this little heart fest, but we have three people coming from a MVA. One of them is being brought via life flight. Time to roll up our sleeves and get dirty…”
Dalton looked at Dr. Huff. “Are you doing the life flight patient or am I?”
“I’ve got the patient via life flight. Find out what you can about the other two and let’s get these rooms ready.”
Dalton started giving orders. “I need as much information on every patient coming via ambulance. We need to get all three rooms ready for the worst. The one coming via life flight is Huff’s, let’s make sure the room for him is set up first and the surgeon on call knows he may be up. All right people, let’s move.”
Kim started giving information as she got it. “We have a family of three hit by a drunk driver. The passenger of the drunk’s car is the life flight patient. Mom was killed on impact. The dad and child are on their way via ambulance. Child’s age is estimated at nine years old and is a female. Dad’s age is verified via driver’s license at thirty-four. The dad appears to have head trauma and is unresponsive. His vitals look stable for the moment. Female child is awake and responsive. Her abdomen is rigid and distended.”
Dalton put on his protective gear. “Alright people. Dr. Stevens, you take the dad. I’ll take the child. We are going to get messy in here people. Gown up and protect yourselves. Kim, we need the pediatric trauma surgeon here yesterday. I need you to get them here STAT please. I need the lab to release two unites of O negative to us and have at least four more ready to run. Let’s get them stable and ready for surgery.”
The teams worked frantically to save each life that came in the door. Dalton gave his undivided attention to the little girl in front of him. They got her sedated and blood running into her to replace what she was losing from internal injuries. Everything seemed stable and then Dalton watched as her heart stop. He did everything to bring her back. When all hope seemed lost, the heart monitor picked up a weak but steady rhythm, and the child was rushed to surgery.
Walking out of the room with Miriam and Kim, he said softly. “She is in God’s hands now.”
Dalton went to the desk and sat down to sign off on all of the orders he had given. Dalton hoped that the only things coming from here on out were sore throats and broken arms. He was exhausted both mentally and physically.
Four hours later Dalton walked toward his car. His phone rang as he pulled out of the parking garage. He put it on loud speaker. “Hey…”
Misty knew something was wrong. “Are you ok?”
Dalton’s voice was emotional as he answered. “We had a family hit by a drunk driver today. The mom was killed on impact and the dad died later in surgery. The little girl is in very critical condition. I lost her once, but was able to get her back. It just…” his voice trailed off.
Misty felt tears sting her eyes at the picture of the child fighting for her life. “I’m sorry your day was so hard.”
Dalton thought about the nurse’s accusation. He spoke softly. “Things happen. I guess that is life.”
Misty listened to his voice. She didn’t know how, but she knew something else was going on. “Dalton,” she whispered, “let me be there for it all. What else happened?”
Dalton didn’t know how to tell her. He continued to drive for a few more minutes and then said softly. “A nurse accused me of sexual misconduct. She said I forced myself on her and that she was now pregnant with my baby.”
Mist was shocked. “What? Who in the world would believe that?”
Dalton smiled at her absolute trust in his innocence. He relayed the story of the meeting to her. It had been angering at first, but he was truthful when he told Drs. Swank and Huff he had been more worried about what the nurse was holding back.
Misty’s voice was sympathetic as she asked. “What did they find out about her?”
Dalton answered her. “She actually is pregnant, but the baby is her boyfriend’s. It took a while, but they figured out that she has a delusional mental disorder. She was being treated for it but went off her meds when she found out she was pregnant. She saw the story of you and me on the Intra net and fixated on it and me. She had already been a nurse when she was diagnosed so she flew right under the radar. I won’t lie to you. I actually thought she had been the victim of something.”
Misty remembered the father of one of her former students. “Mental illness does stink, but at least we are starting to advance in treating it. I had a student with a father who had chronic depression. It was hard on the student, but he always said the meds and therapy helped his father immensely.”
Dalton had to agree as he turned into his neighborhood. “It is one of those things people don’t want to think about.”
Misty watched the headlights come toward her and Wyatt. She spoke softly. “There you are.”
Dalton looked at his front porch as he pulled into his driveway. There sitting on his front porch was Misty with a car seat and his dog at her feet. Wyatt sat beside her and grinned as his sister stood and walked toward Dalton.
Misty walked up to Dalton and smiled up into his face. “Friendship goes both ways.”
Dalton chuckled. His voice was raw with emotion as he asked. “How did you know? How did you know I needed you?”
“That still small voice that comes when God wants something done.” She answered as he leaned down and kissed her forehead.
Dalton and Misty turned and joined Wyatt on the porch. “I guess letting you and Brock crash here last month has its benefits.”
Wyatt laughed. “When Misty knew you had off tomorrow she was pretty adamant about crashing here with us too.”
Dalton unlocked the door and picked up Rachel. He watched as Jamie went in and settled onto her bed. “I guess you haven’t forgotten me after all.”
Misty laughed. “She just prefers country living.”
The three talked for a few more hours before seeking rest. Dalton had needed a friend and Misty had been there to meet that need. He went to sleep comforted by the fact that God had provided what he needed at the moment he had needed it most.
Dalton stretched and felt something beside him. He opened one eye to peak and then busted out laughing. “What are you doing?”
Misty giggled. “I’m watching you sleep.”
Dalton pulled the blanket over his head. “I’m not done sleeping yet. You can’t just come in and watch a guy sleep.”
Misty started poking his side. “I think you should be awake. It is a beautiful day and I want to go to the zoo.”
Dalton groaned. He kept his face under the covers as he asked. “What time is it?”
“It is time for you to get up.” She said with a smile.
“You are a cruel woman, Misty Adams.” He pulled back the blanket and looked at her sparkling eyes.
“Does that mean you’re getting up?” she asked hopefully.
“I guess it means I’m getting up.” He said with a smile.
“I’ll go make breakfast. I was thinking French toast, bacon and eggs.” Misty said as she walked out of the room.
“I don’t have any of those things.” He said as he sat up.
“I figured that out already and went shopping.” She said loudly from the hallway.
Dalton shook his head and headed for his bathroom to shower. He was not really tired and had actually been getting awake when Misty had started teasing him. He could smell the bacon in the air. His stomach growled. He got out of the shower and dressed and then allowed his nose and stomach to follow the aromas coming from the kitchen.
Wyatt looked up from his coffee and smiled at Dalton. “How did you rest?”
Dalton walked over and poured himself some coffee as he answered. “I slept great.” He watched Misty as she worked on breakfast. “Do you need any help?” he asked.
Misty looked over her shoulder and smiled. “I’ve got it. You two sit and talk.”
Wyatt smiled at his sister. She had been so adamant about coming yesterday. He looked over at Dalton. “She knew you needed her. She was stubborn about getting here.”
Dalton spoke truthfully. “I actually did need friends yesterday. It was a really long one.”
Wyatt remembered what he had told them the previous night. “Are you going to ask that the nurse lose her job?”
Dalton shook his head. “I’m not sure that would be right. I think what I may insist on is that she is evaluated before she works with patients again. There are people with these challenges that are fine and I would hate to make that evaluation based on what she tried to do. If an expert says she is fine when she is on her meds again, I will trust that.”
Wyatt nodded his head. “You are a very forgiving person. I’m not sure I would want to continue working with someone that did that to me.”
Dalton looked up at Misty’s back. He had not told anyone about the offer in Austin. Maybe this was the time. “I’ve been offered a position in Austin.”
Misty turned from the stove and looked at Dalton. “You have?”
Dalton nodded his head. “The head of the ER told me the job is mine in two months. All I have to do is let them know if I want it.”
Wyatt knew Dalton was gaging Misty’s reaction. He could have told him he had nothing to worry about. Misty’s smile lit up her face. “You are going to say yes, right?”
Dalton smiled. “I was thinking I would say yes. I just needed to make sure it would be the right move.”
Wyatt laughed. “I’m thinking you just realized it is the right move.”
Misty turned back to her cooking as she asked. “Which hospital is it?”
Dalton laughed. “The one you frequent.”
Wyatt roared as he heard Dalton’s answer. “I guess she will become a VIP every time she visits now.”
Dalton couldn’t resist. “I’ll make sure her picture is on the doctor’s board.”
Misty turned and walked toward Dalton. Her smile was so sweet. He got up and ran. She caught up to him in the living room. “You are in big trouble.”
Dalton took a step toward her. “I think I can handle it.”
Misty frowned at him. “I do believe I just saw you run. That does not seem to me like a man that can handle it.”
Dalton grinned. “How about I pay for the zoo and lunch? Will that soothe your temper.”
Misty walked up to him and grinned. “Food is always a great peace offering.”
Dalton winked at her. He had planned on paying for her anyway. She didn’t have to know that though. His cell rang and he walked over and answered it. He watched Misty go back into the kitchen as he heard Kim’s voice.
“Hey Dr. Nelson, I forgot to have you sign one of the orders from yesterday’s MVA. It is totally my fault, but they wanted to know if you would be willing to stop by and sign them. I tried to tell them you lived in Katy, but…”
Dalton laughed. “I’m actually going to the zoo today, so I can stop by. You are there kind of early, aren’t you normally second shift with me.” He said as he walked into the kitchen.
Kim laughed. “I am, but they talked me into doing a sixteen hour shift today.”
Dalton sobered. “Kim, you need to make sure they let you rest. Those shifts are brutal.”
Kim chuckled. “Dr. Nelson, I have three children at home all under six. I can handle this.”
Dalton laughed. “How is…” he looked up and remembered he had guests. Not wanting to give away patient privacy he changed how he asked his question. “How is our little girl from yesterday? When I left she was still holding her own.”
Kim was happy to deliver the news. “They are pretty sure she is going to make it now. She has a huge road ahead of her, but her grandparents and aunts and uncles are here with her. I’m not sure if you know, but she is the only survivor other than the drunk driver. The passenger of that car died early this morning.”
Dalton closed his eyes and hoped that the man had been ready to face eternity. “I’m sad to hear about the passenger. Thanks for letting me know about the girl.”
Kim told him it was no problem before hanging up the phone. Dalton hung up and looked at Misty and Wyatt. He smiled as he told them the little girl was doing well.
Wyatt had seen the news that morning. He was surprised anyone had survived the accident. “The cars were demolished. I don’t know how an eight-year-old could have lived through that.”
Dalton looked at him surprised. “She is eight? We were given an estimated age, but I could not have told you her name until an hour after she left my table.”
Misty had seen the news too. The fact that this man was able to save that little girl gave her a new respect for him. “Her name is Bella. The picture they showed of her and her family was heartbreaking. She is a beautiful little girl.”
Dalton looked at his guests and chuckled. “So much for HIPPA…you two seem to know more than me. I do need to go sign a couple of orders though before we head to the zoo.”
Wyatt asked. “Do you have to go in a lot on your days off?”
Dalton shook his head. “Not that often. When we have a really nasty trauma, I don’t actually write the orders. I kind of shout them and one of the nurses will write them down. If they happen to miss something, I have to go in and sign off on it. I’m a doctor that for sure recognizes my nurses and other coworkers. We are all a part of a puzzle. It is almost impossible to do my job without the staff that supports me.”
Misty walked over and sat a plate down in front of him. She leaned down and kissed his cheek. “You are a special kind of crazy doctor.”
Dalton was surprised by Misty’s affection. It was not that she was not affectionate; but she had never kissed him in any manner. He was usually the one that did that. “Thanks Misty.” He said thoughtfully.
Wyatt rolled his eyes. These two were hysterical. He knew it was just a little too soon for Misty and Dalton to be more than friends, but also knew that with each passing day, his sister’s heart was one step closer to being ready for Dalton’s love.
Misty watched Jamie come into the kitchen. She smiled at the men as she said. “I guess Rachel is awake.”
Wyatt laughed. “We could have skipped the monitor with that dog. She does not like her little angel upset.”
Dalton watched as Misty left the kitchen. He looked over at Wyatt and asked. “She got me a plate of food. Would you like me to grab you one too?”
Wyatt laughed as he stood up and headed toward the counter. “I can get my own. She wants to pamper you right now and we should probably let her. The truth is if she is doing that then there is a good chance she won’t end up in the ER here too.”
Dalton laughed. “Your family is anything but dull. I’m trying to figure out how you three managed to make it to adulthood.”
Wyatt sat back down at the table. “I have only been to the ER once and that was because of Brock.”
Dalton laughed. The men bowed their heads and blessed the food, before they continued their talk. “What did Brock do?”
Wyatt answered with a chuckle. “He was furious about something and kicked me off a horse. I was only nine at the time and landed just right. My arm was in a cast for six weeks in the middle of a Texas summer.”
Dalton grimaced. “That would not be fun.” He glanced up as Misty walked back in with Rachel in a sling.
Looking at Dalton, Misty grinned. “This thing is so nice to have. I can eat while Rachel eats.”
They finished breakfast and cleaned up the kitchen before they headed for the zoo. Dalton pulled into the parking garage. The three got out and headed for the entrance of the ER. Dalton watched as a little lady he didn’t know walked up to him
“Dr. Nelson?” she asked.
Dalton took the hand she held out to him. Her grip was tight as she said. “Thank you for saving our Bella. Our hearts are a little less sad because she is alive.”
Dalton looked down at the woman. “You are welcome. I’m glad I could help.”
The little lady looked up at him. “May I kiss the cheek of my hero?”
Dalton leaned down and let her kiss his cheek. He smiled at her gently. “Tell Bella I said ‘hi’.”
Misty, Wyatt, and Dalton watched the lady walk away. Dalton felt Misty take his hand and he looked down at her. She had tears streaming down her face. “You are something else, Dalton.”
They continued on toward the ER. Each of them lost in their own thoughts.
Misty and Wyatt sat down in the waiting area while Dalton went back to sign the orders.
Kim looked up from the nurses’ station. “Hey, Dr. Nelson; thanks for doing this.”
Dalton looked at Kim and Dr. Huff. “Like I said, I was on my way to the zoo.”
Dr. Huff gave him a funny look and asked. “You are going alone?”
Dalton chuckled. “No, Misty and Wyatt are in the waiting room.”
Kim and Dr. Huff looked at each other. Dr. Huff said firmly. “I’m thinking they need to come back here so we can meet them.” He picked up the phone on the desk and called the front receptionist.
Dalton rolled his eyes and then sat down and waited for Kim to get the chart. He laughed at his coworker’s eagerness to meet Misty. He looked up to see Wyatt, but not Misty. “Where is Misty?”
Wyatt winked at Kim and answered. “She is checking her side arm in with security.”
Dalton’s face paled. “She brought a gun?”
Wyatt laughed. “I’m just kidding. Rachel needed changed.”
Kim wagged her finger at Wyatt. “You need to behave.”
He winked at her as he said. “Yes, Mam…”
Dalton signed off on his orders. He handed the chart to Kim and asked. “Does it look like anything else is missing?”
Kim shook her head. “Not that I see. Thanks for coming in. I really do appreciate it.”
The group turned as Misty walked toward them. She smiled at the group. Dalton took Rachel out of her arms and asked. “Are you all clean little miss?”
Misty smiled at them and then turned toward Dalton’s coworkers. The shocked look on their faces made her frown. She turned toward Dalton and put her hands on her hips. “Dalton Nelson, what have you told these people?”
Wyatt laughed at Dalton’s look. “I’m thinking he told them what a handful you are.”
Dr. Huff laughed. “I believe the words he used were ‘Texas sized handful’. Your brother Brock was very informative too.”
Misty was just getting ready to give her opinion on that, when Dr. Huff took her arm and started looking at the scar from her last set of stitches. “How did you do this again?”
Kim winked at Misty as she answered. “I believe Brock said she was standing on her horse’ back so she could get on a roof. At least that was what we gathered from the phone conversation. Your brother calls often.”
Misty shrugged her shoulders. “I guess I can be a bit accident prone.”
Kim smiled at Misty. “I don’t think we were expecting such an innocent looking package. You look like you couldn’t hurt a fly.”
Misty whirled back around and faced Dalton. She looked mortified as she asked. “You told them I shot Brock?”
Dr. Huff started choking. “You shot your brother.”
Dalton raised an eyebrow as he looked at Misty. “Nope, but you just did.”
Misty frowned at Dalton as she walked over and started patting Dr. Huff’s back. The poor man was unable to catch his breath. “It was an accident. He walked right in front of me.”
Kim could not wait for Miriam to come in. If she thought the phone calls were golden, this was platinum. She smiled at Misty and asked. “How exactly did it happen?”
Dalton shook his head. Kim was so obvious, but Misty really did want to clear the air. He kissed the side of Rachel’s head and whispered. “Your mommy is crazy.”
Misty explained the rules. “Brock didn’t follow the rules. It wasn’t my fault he walked right out in front of me. Who does that?”
Dr. Huff looked at Dalton incredulously. “She shot her brother in the butt?”
Misty took the older man’s hand and started to pat it. It seemed this man needed just as much soothing as Dalton. “Dr. Huff you need to pay attention. I said it was an accident.”
Dr. Huff looked at Misty and smiled. “Do they give you weapons often?”
Misty’s eyes narrowed. “I am not that bad. The only gun accident…”
Dr. Huff stared coughing again. Misty glared at the older man as she started whacking his back again. “Seriously Doctor, you need to calm down. I was going to say the kick put me on my butt. It wasn’t my fault there was a sharp piece of glass on the ground. Wyatt, could you please stop laughing? Dalton, are you going to help me explain? “
Dalton shook his head. “I’m thinking you are doing a fine job of doing that yourself.”
Wyatt managed to control his laughter long enough to say. “Misty, you need to throw the shovel down. You are digging this hole yourself.”
Kim took pity on Misty. “The zoo sounds like it will be fun. Is this Rachel’s first time?”
Misty took the life saver for what it was. “It is Rachel’s first time.”
Dalton held out his hand. “Are you ready to go?”
Misty gave Dr. Huff a firm look, as she took Dalton’s hand and answered. “I guess I’m ready.”
Kim watched them go. “That is hysterical.”
Dr. Huff had to agree. “I would never have guessed.”
It was the last day of Dalton’s stretch. He walked into a patient’s room and smiled at the young mother and child. “I hear you have a very bad sore throat.” He said gently to the little boy.
The little boy nodded his head and sniffled. No tears came out though and Dalton knew that was not a good thing. He gently picked up the child and put him on the table. He looked into his mouth and cringed. Looking at the mom he said. “We are going to do a rapid strep on him, but I’m almost certain it will come back positive. His throat is extremely inflamed. Can you tell me how long he has had a sore throat?”
The mother spoke softly. “He started complaining about it two days ago. I thought he was trying to get out of school. He hasn’t been able to drink or eat anything for almost a day.”
Dalton was not surprised to hear that. It was obvious the little guy was dangerously dehydrated. He sat down on the bed beside the boy. “I’m going to talk to you now buddy. Is that ok?”
The boy looked up and nodded. “I know you don’t feel good and I know you are afraid, but I’m not going to lie to you. I am going to tell you exactly what we need to do to get you better. Do you understand me?”
The boy nodded again and whimpered. “We are going to need to start what we call an IV. It will give your body something to drink since you can’t. In order to do that we will need to put a needle in you. It will hurt a bit, but if you fight, it will hurt more.”
He watched the little guys face crumple. He looked at him again and spoke gently. “I know you are brave. You can do this. When they put the IV in I will hold your hand and count to one hundred. It will be over before I’m done counting. Can you be still for us?”
He watched a look of determination enter the boy’s eyes and knew he wouldn’t fight them. He looked up at Miriam and nodded his head. In less than a minute Miriam had the IV in and running. The little guy looked very pleased with himself. Dalton smiled down at him. “You did great. We will get you feeling better in no time at all.”
Kim watched Dalton walk toward the desk she smiled at him when he sat down. “You are great with the kids.”
Dalton grinned. “Thanks. I don’t like lying to them. I find that if you give it to the little ankle biters straight they are willing to avoid more pain.”
Kim laughed. “Is that a medical term for child that I missed?”
Dalton chuckled. “It is. If you were an elite doctor, such me, you would know it too.”
Kim busted out laughing. “Elite my foot…”
Miriam came down the hall. “We have a stab victim coming via ambulance. They said she seems to be in shock. Can’t get anything out of her and the wound does not seem to be life threatening. This is your call Dr. Nelson.”
Dalton looked at her and answered. “I’ll take her. Kim, if the little guy needs anything let me know. Alright Miriam, let’s get the trauma room ready.”
The two walked down the hall. After setting up they watched as the paramedic rolled the young woman in. Dalton spoke gently. “Alright, let’s take a look and see what we have.” He pulled away the gauze the EMT had on her wound.
Kelly didn’t even flinch as the doctor took care of her wound. She knew this game well. When the needle hit her skin to numb it her eyes showed no emotion. She knew the police had been called. She listened for the ETA. As soon as the doctor was done stitching up her wound and everyone had left the room, she got up put her shirt on and made her escape.
Dalton and Miriam walked back into the trauma room. They looked at each other and took off running. They hit the outside of the hospital and looked both ways. “Where did she go?” Miriam looked at him with wide eyes.
Dalton shook his head. “I don’t know. She had to have been alert the entire time. There is no way she was in shock.”
They watched as a police cruiser came up to the entrance. Dalton walked over and explained what happened. They pulled video coverage and did their best to figure out who the young woman was and why she ran. Dalton put in his USB and copied the video. Maybe there was a clue he would find on his time off.
Miriam walked over to the desk he was at. “Why do you think she ran?”
Dalton shrugged his shoulders. “I have no idea. I’m hoping to look at the video on my time off. I just don’t get it. We were trying to help her.”
Miriam nodded her head. “Have fun on your time off. Don’t look at that video too long. There is nothing we can do now. I’ll see you when you get back.”
Dalton thanked her and left the hospital. He got in his car and started the three-hour drive when his phone rang he was surprised to hear Wyatt on the other end. “Hey Dalton are you on your way?”
“I am.” He heard the frustration in the other man’s voice.
“Before I moved home, I had a person I was searching for. One of my contacts in HPD just told me she was at your hospital. I was hoping to get a look at the security video.” Wyatt said softly.
Dalton had to verify. “Are you talking about our stab victim?”
Wyatt’s breath came out in a hiss. “She was stabbed?”
Dalton paused. He knew he had to be careful with how much information he gave Wyatt. He decided to ask him questions. “What does the person you are looking for look like?”
Wyatt described Kelly. He paused before he added. “I know for you she is a Jane Doe, but her name is Kelly.”
Dalton paused. “Wyatt, she knew how to act to keep our guard down. I thought she was in shock. She didn’t even flinch when I stitched her up. I have the security video on my USB drive.”
Wyatt spoke on his end. “I’ll wait up for you.”
The two men hung up each of them looking for answers. This woman was obviously on the run, from what was the crux of the matter.
A little less than three hours later found both men at the Bishop’s kitchen table. Wyatt watched the footage. “That is her. Misty was right. She is running. I just wish she had told me. I could have helped.”
Dalton looked at Wyatt. “How do you know her?”
Wyatt answered. “I’m in love with her. Our relationship is…I don’t know. I guess it is more complicated than I thought it was. I wish she would have trusted me instead of just… leaving. I was an officer; I could have helped.”
Dalton looked at Wyatt surprised. “You were in law enforcement?”
Wyatt nodded. “I think I prefer ranching. I came back here after she left and I couldn’t find her. The fact is this will be her last appearance for a little while. She doesn’t want to be found. I’m trying not to be angry with her, but…”
Dalton looked at Wyatt. “Do you have any clue why she is running?”
Wyatt shook his head. “Not one…”
Dalton hesitated before he spoke, but was sure Wyatt would want to know as much as possible. “I don’t think this is the first time she has been physically harmed. She was way too calm. Her plan was flawless. She knew exactly how to get the treatment she needed and get out before we could stop her.”
Wyatt tried to understand what was going on with her. The Kelly he knew was not this person. “Thanks for showing me the video. I think I’m going to go to bed now. Maybe if I sleep on it something will come to me?”
Misty watched her brother walk down the hall. She had Rachel in her arms as she walked up to the table and sat down. When Dalton looked at her she smiled. “I would ask how things went, but I take it you are no closer to figuring out what she is running from.”
Dalton shook his head. “It just doesn’t make sense.”
Misty nodded. She wished she could be more help, but had never met the woman that was the center of all of the drama. Looking up at Dalton she knew he felt responsible for her as a physician. “Are you ready for bed or do you want to hang out?”
Dalton stood and pulled Misty up. He peeked at the now sleeping Rachel. “I can hang out.”
Misty looked at her sleeping daughter and said softly. “I’ll lay her down and then meet you in the living room.”
Dalton walked in and sat on the sofa. He looked up as Misty came into the room. When she sat down beside him he put his arm around her and let her snuggle in. “Are you ok?” he whispered sensing something was off.
Misty spoke softly. “Nothing is wrong. I’m just enjoying our time together.”
He kissed the top of her head and pulled her a bit closer. When she looked up at him, he could see what was different. He slowly lowered his lips to hers and kissed her. When he pulled away she said softly. “I love you Dalton. I don’t feel guilty for that. I know you may…” he stopped her with another kiss.
When Dalton ended the kiss, he whispered softly. “I am in love with you too.”
Misty looked up at Dalton. She really was in love with this man. It had not snuck up on her, but came slowly as she worked through her grief. She touched his face with her hand. “Will you kiss me again?”
Dalton kissed her one last time. He smiled at her gently. “I think I have always loved you.”
Misty cuddled into his side. “I think I have always wanted to love you. I was just afraid to let myself fall.”
Dalton whispered softly. “After all we have been through together, didn’t you know I would catch you?”
“I do now.” She said as she closed her eyes and listened to his heart beat.
Dalton woke up to the sound of something crashing to the ground. He jumped out of the bed and ran in the direction of the bang. When he hit the living room he stopped and looked at Brock holding his mom, next to them was a fallen ladder. Terry looked extremely guilty. “Are you ok?” He asked looking at the older woman.
Brock looked at Dalton and stated. “She is ok. I caught her.”
Terry knew she was in so much trouble. She smiled at Dalton as she asked. “I don’t suppose we can keep this between us?”
Dalton was not sure if he was calm enough to speak. He opened his mouth and then closed it. He looked up and could see the dust rag hanging on the light fixture. The only way she could have reached that high was if she had taken a chance and stood on the very top of the ladder. He ran his hand threw his hair and looked up again. “Brock, did your mom start this without you?”
Brock shook his head. “I walked in just as she lost her balance.”
Terry knew she was old enough to be Dalton’s mom, but right now she felt like one of Misty’s students. She also knew that if Brock had not caught her she would be in very serious shape right now. She knew she needed to speak, but she also knew she needed to proceed with caution. “I wasn’t thinking. I have been asking for help and just got impatient I guess.”
Dalton looked at Terry. “You could have been killed. Rachel lost Brent. Does she need to lose you too?” He asked softly before turning to go back to his room.
Terry covered her mouth with a shaky hand as Brock put her on the ground. Tears formed in her eyes as she realized the truth that rang in his words. She felt Brock put a hand on her shoulder and she looked up at him. Her voice was a choked whisper. “He’s right.”
Brock nodded. “He is right. You took ten years off of my life. I didn’t think I would get to you in time.”
Terry nodded as Chad, Misty, and Wyatt walked in the front door. She took one look at Rachel tucked safely into her little sling and burst into tears. She turned and walked down the hall toward the bedrooms.
Chad looked at Brock and then the ladder. He shook his head as he followed his wife.
Brock looked at Misty and Wyatt. His voice shook as he repeated what he had said earlier. “I didn’t think I would get to her in time.”
Dalton spoke softly from the doorway. “You did get to her. You can’t dwell on the ‘what if’.”
Brock nodded. “I think you have finally gotten through to her in a way dad couldn’t.”
Dalton took a deep breath. “She knew I was speaking the truth. That truth just happened to be one she had not thought of.”
Misty looked at Dalton talking to her brother. When he finished she watched as he walked up to her. She smiled up at him. When he bent down and kissed her, she kissed him back. “Good morning.” she said shyly.
Tucking a stray hair behind her ear he said softly. “Good morning.”
Wyatt and Brock looked at each other. This was new. They grinned at each other and left the room, leaving the couple alone.
Misty whispered softly. “I’m so in love with you.”
Dalton smiled down at her. “I’m so in love with you too.”
Misty looked up at him and said softly. “It is nice and comfortable yet scary too.”
Dalton took her hand and walked toward the kitchen. “I love it though. We are exploring something fresh and pure. It is scary in a thrilling kind of way.”
Misty understood what he meant. She had some concerns about certain things, but knew she could talk to him open and honestly.
Dalton opened the door and the two walked into the kitchen. Wyatt gave him a lopsided grin, but didn’t say anything. Brock had no such sensor on his mouth. “I see you have gotten a bit sweet on my sister.”
Misty frowned at him. “Do you happen to ever think before you speak? It is like you think it and say it all at the same time.”
Brock grinned at her. “I actually have quite a bit of time to think. I just choose not to.”
Dalton laughed at Misty’s face. It was more than obvious that was not a great answer. He pulled her back against him when she started for Brock. “I think we should start breakfast.”
Misty looked up at Dalton and frowned. “I think you should hold Rachel and I should teach Brock a lesson.”
Dalton winked at her. “Or, we could make breakfast.”
Misty sighed. “I guess so.”
They all turned as Terry and Chad walked into the kitchen. Dalton was surprised when she walked up to him and kissed his cheek. “You are loved in this family.” She whispered softly.
Dalton kissed her forehead. “You are too.”
Misty smiled at Dalton’s responds to her mom. She was not sure what he had said to her, but she had all intentions of finding out. This was the first time in her life that she had ever seen her mom truly sorry for getting herself into a pickle. When Dalton looked down at her she stood on her tiptoes and kissed his cheek.
The group worked in silence. When breakfast was served Dalton knew he needed to try to lighten things up. He looked over at Terry and grinned. “After breakfast we are going shopping.”
Terry looked confused. “We are?”
Dalton nodded. “Call me crazy, but this house needs somethings to make it easier on the shorter folk.”
Misty looked confused too. “How are you going to help that?”
“Both of you finish up and you’ll see.” He said with a grin.
Misty looked at her mom. “I guess we’ll see. If he starts going toward the hospital though, we’ll have Rachel distract him so we can run. I’m not up for any type of lobotomy.”
Chad grinned. “I take it you have contacts in the loony bin?”
Terry swatted him. “We are not crazy; we just tend to do things without thinking.”
The group finished breakfast. The men offered to clean the kitchen while the ladies went and got ready for their shopping trip. Chad had to ask. “What exactly are you going to get?”
Dalton laughed. “Everything and anything that will keep our women off the counter and ladder tops….”
Chad chuckled. “That could be an all day job.”
When Misty and Terry returned with Rachel, Dalton held out his elbows and said. “Shall we go ladies?”
Two hours later both Misty and Terry were adamantly telling Dalton he could not get what he had planned on getting them. Terry had her hands on her hips. “I can’t let you get this.”
Dalton laughed. “You can and you will. This makes sense for your kitchen. It will allow you so much freedom to get what you want when you want it, and it is safe.”
Misty looked at the rolling ladder system. She had used one when she worked in a library and had to admit it made things so much easier, but the price was way too much. “Dalton, don’t you think this is a bit much? I mean we can get a step ladder…”
Dalton looked at the women and said firmly. “If you get a step ladder it won’t be tall enough. It will only be a matter of time before one of you starts stepping higher on it than you’re supposed to. We have the duster with a handle extension for all the high dusting. We have the same thing in a window washer, but they won’t help you two reach the top cupboard safely.”
Misty looked up at him. “It is just so expensive.”
Dalton looked at both of them. “I have never had a family to look after. Now I do. Please let me do this. My mom has one in her kitchen and it is not just a life saver it is a time saver. Let me be the man I was taught to be and take care of you both.”
Terry looked at Misty. “He’s good.”
Misty had to agree. “I agree. The sincerity makes it almost impossible to contend with him. His argument makes me absolutely gooey inside.”
Terry had to agree. “Yup, all warm and fuzzy…”
Dalton watched the women have their bizarre conversation. When they finished he looked at them and smiled. “So, does this mean yes?”
Terry nodded. “This is a yes. We are grateful for your gift. Thank you for being concerned about our safety, while understanding our independent streaks.”
Dalton grinned. “You are welcome.”
Misty looked at Terry. “I can’t help but feel like we are rewarding him. His face is adorable.”
Terry laughed as Dalton turned Misty around and tugged her into his arms. “You are not being nice.”
Misty looked up at him. “What happens when I’m not nice?”
He leaned down close to her lips, but instead of kissing her he said softly. “Your mom sends you to bed without supper.”
Misty wasn’t being denied the kiss. When he was starting to pull away, she caught his face between her hands and softly kissed his lips.
Terry cleared her throat. “Misty, umm…”
Misty winked at her mother. “It was only a little kiss.”
Terry shook her head and looked at Dalton. “That whole supper scenario is starting to sound good.”
Dalton grinned at Terry. “She seemed determined.”
Terry swatted his arm. “I think you liked her determination.”
Dalton winked at Terry. “I know I did.”
The three went and ordered the ladder unit and then headed home. The three had fun on their little outing. Dalton had enjoyed doing something special for them. His time off would end soon enough. Dalton knew that the next time he came back to Austin; it would be to start a new job and live. A sense of belonging folded around him at the thought.
It had been three months since Dalton had left Houston. He was renting the house that would one day belong to him and Misty. He sat on the front porch swing and waited for her to come. They were going horse-back riding together today. It was summer time in Texas and that meant it was hot. The two had decided that an early morning ride would be wise. He hadn’t seen her in a week with all of his work hours being crazy. He missed her and was ready to spend time with her. He looked across the field and smiled as he saw her riding toward him leading another horse.
Misty rode up to the porch and looked at Dalton. She smiled at him as he walked toward her. “Are you ready?”
Dalton chuckled. “I woke up before the sun today I hope I am.”
Misty looked at the twilight. “It will be breathtaking to watch.”
Dalton mounted his horse. “You lead the way. I will follow.”
Misty smiled over at him. “I missed you this week. Thanks for doing this.”
Dalton looked at her surprised. “You’re welcome, but why would I not want do this? I missed you too.”
Misty chuckled. “You worked until midnight. I am not sure this would be my cup of tea if the shoe was on the other foot.”
Dalton pretended to be hurt. “You would not move the very air around you to get to me? I’m so upset.”
Misty slapped his leg. “Stop being a pick.”
Dalton looked at her gently. “Can you believe we only have one month left?”
Misty blushed. “I can’t wait. Are you ready?”
Dalton chuckled. “I just turned thirty-two. Trust me; I’m ready, but only for you. No other woman has captured my heart like you.”
Misty grinned. “Well then, my future husband, let’s enjoy today and hope it goes fast.”
Dalton watched her nudge her horse into a comfortable walk. “Come on Dusty.” He said as he followed her.
The two rode in a peace filled silence as they watched twilight turn into sunrise. The different colors that kissed the sky were beautiful. You could almost see the hand of God painting each hue with an expert stroke.
Dalton looked at the woman in front of him. In a short period of time, she had become his life. He watched the sun dance off the strands of her hair. When she turned and looked at him he smiled. No words were necessary as they continued down the path.
Misty was overwhelmed when she turned and saw the love in Dalton’s eyes. Her life had been marred with unexpected tragedy. It was also seasoned with unexpected blessings. She had thanked God often for both. She knew that both had happened for a reason and was at peace with that.
They had been on the trail for an hour when Misty stopped by a little stream. She watched as Dalton dismounted and walked toward her. When he helped her off her horse he pulled her close and kissed her. She melted at the touch of his lips. “I love you.” She said her voice breathless.
Dalton whispered back. “I love you too.” They had agreed to be careful when they were alone. He winked at her as he released her to take care of her horse.
Misty spoke her mind. “I can’t wait until we are married. Then you can kiss me all I want.”
Dalton chuckled. “All you want? What about me?”
Misty winked. “Trust me. We will be on the same page.”
Dalton shook his head. “Just remember what the pastor said Sunday about love.”
Misty recalled the sermon. “You’re talking about the patient part aren’t you?”
He smiled as he tucked a stray hair behind her ear. “You are worth being patient for.”
Misty looked up at him. When she thought of the sermon, she couldn’t help but see Dalton in the entire scripture passage. He was patient and kind, but what she thought was most impressive was the fact that he didn’t envy. He loved her completely without worrying about Brent’s place in her heart. He loved Rachel the same way too. “Do you even know how special you are?” she asked softly.
Dalton pulled her close and whispered. “No more than you.”
It was getting hot and time to get back on the trail and home. Dalton was just about to help Misty on to her horse when a movement to the side caught his attention. Dread filled him as he turned and saw a coyote foaming at the mouth coming toward them. He stayed calm. “Misty, I need you to get back on your horse and just go. Don’t look back ok?”
Misty’s eyes widened as she saw the rabid creature coming their way. She started to do what he said when her horse spooked and took off. Her voice trembled. “Dalton…”
Dalton tried to get Misty to his horse, but the minute the horse sensed danger it took off. He looked around for a weapon. The thing was charging mindlessly now. Dalton kept Misty behind him as he felt the teeth enter his wrist. “Go into the water.” He ordered.
Misty listened without hesitating. She knew Dalton was bleeding. She also knew the animal was rabid. She felt the bottom of the creek hoping to find something to fight the animal off with.
Dalton spoke calmly. “Misty, I’m going to get bit again. I need you to not touch this animal. I’m going to try to hold it under water. Can you stay calm for me?”
Misty’s voice was confident. “I can. The only way I’ll help is if you need it.” She understood he was protecting her.
The coyote finally became aggressive enough to lunge into the water. Dalton allowed it to bite into his arm again. With his other hand he pushed the creatures head underwater. He could feel the front claws of the animal trying to free itself. The struggle lasted for only a few minutes and then it was done. The coyote was dead.
Misty looked at the blood coming from Dalton’s wrist. “We need to get home.”
Dalton took off his shirt and wrapped it around his hand and arm after washing his wounds in the stream. He knew he was bleeding but was pretty certain it would stop. He also knew he would be in for the rounds of rabies shots because he was bit. His main concern was the fact that he and Misty were miles from home without their horses and without water and the temperature was climbing fast. “How long of a walk are we looking at?”
Misty thought. “We are a solid hour on foot. I’m hoping the horses go back to the barn and help comes.”
Dalton could feel his wrist and arm throbbing. “We need to start walking before it gets too much hotter. If something happens, Misty, you need to keep going. Do you understand me? The best way to help me is going and getting help. I need my first shot today.”
Misty had tears running down her cheeks as she nodded. “I will keep going. I won’t stop.”
Dalton nodded and the two started walking. An hour after walking Dalton could feel his head start to swim. He knew he had lost some blood and that, mixed with him sweating was causing issues. He kept going though.
Misty continued to lead the way back home. She knew Dalton was starting to feel the effects of the attack and the heat. When he leaned against a tree she went back to him. “Please don’t stop.”
Dalton nodded and continued to follow. He was not sure how much further he could go, but he would go until he couldn’t. He could feel the stickiness of his blood in his shirt and knew he should take a look just in case he was bleeding more than he thought. Just when he thought he couldn’t go any further, her heard people yelling his and Misty’s names. He leaned heavily against the tree as Misty shouted.
Misty screamed at the top of her lungs. “We are here! Please, we are over here!” She screamed it over and over again until her brothers were finally able to see her.
Brock looked at Dalton and knew they needed to get him help. They had an extra horse with them and Misty mounted it. She watched with tears in her eyes as her brothers got Dalton up in front of Brock. Brock kicked his mount into a faster pace. “Hold on Dalton things are fixing to get bumpy we are only a few minutes from the ranch on our horses.”
Misty and Wyatt kept up with Brock. As they neared the barn Brock shouted out for some help. Terry came out with Rachel in her arms. Dalton saw Misty getting ready to touch Rachel. He knew she had not touched the animal, but didn’t want to risk it. “No! Get a shower Misty. Don’t touch her until you’ve showered.”
Misty nodded. “I’m going with you.”
Dalton was going to argue. The look on her face said it wouldn’t work. He nodded. They piled into the truck and Wyatt sped toward the ER.
As Brock pulled into the ER parking lot, he was surprised to see some staff there ready to help with a wheel chair. Dr. Fisk immediately started yelling orders. Misty followed close behind. She stood back and let them work as they got him into a room and on a bed.
The more Dalton was able to cool down the clearer his head got. He was able to help guide them with what treatment he would need. He knew Misty was worried and managed to smile at her. When the one nurse came in with an IV he held out his arm.
Dr. Fisk shook his head. “Don’t you think you’re going a little overboard trying to fit in with this family?” he joked.
Dalton smiled at the joke, but flinched as they started working on his wounds. It was almost an hour before Misty could sit beside his bed. He had to chuckle at what she was wearing. “My scrubs are a bit too big.”
Misty looked down at the shirt and rolled up pants. “You were the one that insist I shower.” She said with a smile.
Dalton looked up at the IV antibiotics. “I’m allowed to leave once these run through.”
Misty looked at his bandaged arm and wrist. “How many stitches did you end up with?”
Dalton looked at her. “I’m not sure. I know I have five in my wrist, but it was my antecubital area that was bleeding so much. His tooth got my vein just right when he was gripped on.”
Misty nodded and then crawled in beside him. She curled into his side. “I was so scared.”
Dalton kissed the top of her head. “I will survive. My blood count is only a little low from the blood loss.”
A knock sounded on the door and Dalton looked up. Dr. Fisk walked in and sat down by the bed. “I’m sending you home with an oral antibiotic. You said you would take over the counter pain reliever, but if you change your mind, let me know. You and I both know this is going to start hurting like the dickens. You have another ten minutes left on this bag and then you can go.”
Misty and Dalton rested until it was time to go. They spent the time talking about the wedding instead of dwelling on the day’s dramatic turn.
Misty yawned and then stretched. Dalton’s family would be coming today. She was very excited to meet them, but also a little nervous. In less than two weeks, she would be Dalton’s wife. Rachel was almost nine months old, and trying her best to walk.
Hearing a noise on the floor, Misty looked over the side of her bed and into the beautiful eyes of her daughter. “You need to stop getting out of your crib little girl.” She said as she picked her up.
Misty nuzzled her daughter’s cheek. “I love you Rachel. Are you hungry?” she asked as she got comfortable. She watched Rachel’s feet wiggle as she ate.
Hearing a knock on the door Misty looked up. She smiled as she watched Liz walk in. “Good morning.”
Liz walked over to the bed and sat down. She looked at her granddaughter’s feet. “I will always remember that. She is just so fun.”
Misty chuckled. “She got out of her crib again today. She has no intentions of waiting these days. She is just like her father.”
Liz laughed. “He really was a morning person. I used to dread the sunrise because it usually coincided with Brent’s rise.”
Misty smiled fondly at some of her memories. “I am not one to sleep in, but Brent always took it to a whole new level.”
Liz laughed. “I watched Dalton with her yesterday. When she tried to crawl off the porch, he was adamant that she needed to take after Brent. He was gently telling her how great it would be if she got her safety from her father.”
Misty grinned. “Brent was sure fond of giving me safety instructions. He would do his best to make sure he covered everything he could think of that I could end up in trouble with.”
Liz remembered that well. Her son was always trying to stay one step ahead of Misty. A part of her would always mourn the loss of her son, but she felt it could be much worse. Here she was able to keep a part of him alive and she valued that more than anyone could ever know.
Misty smiled up at her mother-in-law. She said softly. “Are you ready to meet the people that raise Dalton?”
Liz nodded. “I have been ready since that young man knelt in front of me and told me it would be ok. I am glad I made room in my heart to embrace him as a son. I felt so guilty at first, but then I did what you did. I wrote down what Brent would have said.”
Misty felt tears stinging her eyes. “He really did love unselfishly.”
Liz nodded her head. “He really did.”
The women turned to the door as a knock sounded. Both smiled as Dalton walked in. He walked over and kissed Liz’s cheek. “Good morning, Mom Adams. How did you sleep?”
Liz smiled up at him. “I slept well. Are you ready for your little campout with the men?”
He smiled down at her. “I am ready.”
Misty smiled up at him as he kissed her forehead. “You aren’t nervous?”
Dalton laughed. “With Wyatt and Brock coming maybe I should be.”
Wyatt spoke from the doorway. “I can hear you.”
Misty watched her brother walk in. She knew exactly why he was there. “She isn’t done eating yet.”
Wyatt smiled. “I know, but since I’m here I can call dibs.”
Dalton shook his head. “What? I was here before you.”
Misty pulled Rachel from her chest and handed her to Liz. She smiled at Liz as she buttoned her shirt. “Nana Adams beat both of you.”
Liz smiled triumphantly as she stood and headed toward the door with Wyatt close behind. Dalton watched Wyatt put his arm around Liz trying to sweet talk her out of the baby. “He really has an addiction.”
Misty nodded. “I had no choice but to get used to nursing in front of him.”
Dalton sat down on the bed. He looked at Misty. “I can’t believe in less than two weeks you are going to be my wife.”
Misty closed her eyes as he touched her cheek softly. “How did I get so blessed?”
Dalton stood up and said with a smile. “I was thinking the same thing.”
Misty watched him walk toward the door. “I’ll see you at breakfast.”
Dalton closed the door behind him. He walked toward the kitchen to help. He was just about there when he saw Wyatt. He wasn’t trying to get his niece now, but instead, looked deep in thought. He walked over and sat down. “Are you ok?”
Wyatt looked at Dalton. “I guess there are some things that I would love to talk about, but can’t. I have prayed Dalton and am not really happy with the answer.”
Dalton looked at the man. It was obvious he was really struggling. He had seen glimpses of it before, but this was a bit more noticeable. “Is there anything you can tell me?”
Wyatt shook his head. The note Kelly had left had shaken him. She had told him she was coming back, and to trust her. She also said that it was better if no one knew how close she and Wyatt were. It was confusing and painful all at the same time. “I don’t think I can. I have prayed so long and hard about this and the answer is an absolute no.”
Dalton nodded his head. “I’m sorry you are going through this. I will be praying for you, but just a word of advice. If God’s answer is no, lean on Him. Find a way to trust that He sees a bigger picture than you.”
Wyatt nodded. “Thanks. It is nice to know you will be praying for me. I will do my best to remember to trust.”
The men stood and made their way to the kitchen. Chad saw them come in and smiled at them. “Are you two ready for the trip?”
Wyatt laughed. “We young men are eager to hear the words, of wisdom that you, older folk, want to bestow upon us.”
Chad laughed. “When Dalton’s family gets here we plan on eating breakfast and heading out. The women folk can do their thing and we can do ours.”
Wyatt became serious as he said. “I actually plan on listening to everything you all say. I really want to be a good husband. Three men, from three successful marriages, it seems like the best place to start.”
Dalton had to agree. “I know I will be all ears.”
Just as Dalton finished speaking Misty came into the kitchen. “You are all ears for what?” She said as she walked over and stood beside him.
“I’m all ears to learn how to be the best husband I can be.” He said as he smiled down at her.
Misty looked at her mom. “I can tell you how to do that. All you need to do is let me have my own way whenever I want it and agree with me all of the time.”
Dalton laughed. “I guess that would be the kind of advice I would get from you.”
Misty stood on her tiptoes. “I think I need a kiss. Is that a hard….”
Dalton’s kiss stopped her. When he pulled away he said. “That order I think I can handle.”
Liz laughed at Misty’s face. “I’m thinking she likes giving you that order.”
Chad grinned at Dalton. “That may be the only way to keep her out of trouble.”
Misty frowned at her dad. “I’m standing right here.”
Chad winked at Dalton as he said. “I know you are standing there. I may be getting old, but I’m not blind.”
Brock walked into the kitchen. “Look who came to visit. I don’t know them, but the scene they were causing when they got here makes me think they may be related to Dalton.”
Jeanie Nelson, Dalton’s mom, smiled sweetly as she pulled Brock’s ear. When he yelped she smiled satisfied.
Chad choked on his coffee and Terry chuckled. Dalton watched his dad come in behind her and shake his head. “He isn’t yours Jeanie. You can’t just go pulling peoples ears.”
Jeanie walked over to Dalton and kissed his cheek. “Your father is terrible to travel with. He sang the entire way.” She looked at Misty and grinned and then hugged her. “I do believe you told me that one is a bit of rascal. I’ll keep him in line for your big day.”
Wyatt looked at Dalton’s mom and grinned. She was shorter than Misty. That darn thing in his brain that should have stopped his tongue from moving neglected to do its’ job again. He had to ask. “How tall are you?”
Jeanie turned her four foot ten-inch frame around and put her hand on her hip. “I’m tall enough to make a grown man cry.”
David Nelson obviously had his tongue stopper broken too because he said way too emphatically. “She sure can. Dalton gets his mild mannerism from his father.”
Dalton grinned at David. “You have always told me that, Dad. How did you put it?”
David leveled Dalton with a frown. “Now you don’t need to be getting me in any more trouble than I already am in. Your mother is a difficult woman to travel with, Son. A man needs to stay awake and that means putting on some tunes.”
Dalton smiled as David walked up and gave Misty a kiss on the cheek. “Welcome to the family. Now, I’m not trying to be disrespectful or anything…”
Jeanie looked at her husband and rolled her eyes. “I told you not to give her the ‘don’t run’ speech.”
Dalton watched as his younger siblings came into the kitchen. Darby’s husband and son stood beside her as she looked at her parents and then at Misty. “I don’t know. You may want to rethink this thing.”
Rodney laughed at the appalled looks. “You did warn them about us, right, Dalton?”
Jeanie shook her head. She looked at Rachel. “That little gem must look just like Brent. Look at those eyes. She is an absolute dumpling.”
Liz and Vince looked at each other as they watched the family interact. They smiled at how comfortable this family was with who they had chosen to be. Liz giggled as Brock and Rodney started to goof around. When Darby walked up to them and smiled they hugged her.
“Welcome to all of this Mom and Dad Adams. I sure hope you know what you’re getting into.” She said softly with laughter in her eyes.
Liz smiled at her. “All of ‘this’ is beautiful.”
Darby kissed the woman’s cheek. She waved her hand at her husband and son. “This is my husband Grant and my son Brayden.”
Misty looked up at Dalton. “Your family is very loud and…loud.”
Terry laughed at her daughter’s face. “I’m thinking there is not going to be any dull moments at this wedding.”
The group gathered around the table and prayed. As they sat and ate breakfast, David looked over at Dalton. “Poppy had something for me to give you. Don’t let me forget.”
Dalton asked. “How is he doing?”
David answered. “I make sure I check on him daily. I hired a nurse to stay with him until we get back. He can’t get around like he used to, but he is still sharp as a tack. He wanted to come, but his body just wouldn’t have made it.”
Vince looked at David. “I’m sorry your father was not able to make it.”
David looked at Vince. “Poppy is Kyle’s father. My dad passed away three years ago. He is the only grandparent still alive.”
Darby smiled. “He is the one that spoiled us the most. If I didn’t get my own way, I would just walk over and talk to Poppy.”
Dalton watched Vince and Liz take in what was being said. He had said some pretty bold things to them. He had meant every one of them. “Poppy knows how to sweet talk Mom and Dad too.”
Rodney laughed. “We always got to choose which set of grandparents to stay with when Mom and Dad would go away for the weekend. Poppy and Granny always won.”
Liz had to know. “How did you keep them straight?”
Darby answered. “We had Poppy and Granny. Then we had Gee Gee and Pawpaw. Last but not least we had Nana and Pap. We were so spoiled.”
Liz looked at Vince. “I’m thinking we should move back.”
Dalton and Misty looked very happy. Dalton spoke. “That will make the dropping by whenever you want easier.”
Grant laughed. “Poppy still lectures me when Darby isn’t getting her own way.”
Liz looked at Brayden. “What does he call his other grandparents?”
Darby grinned. “My mom and dad are Gee Gee and Pawpaw. Grant’s parents are Granny and Peepaw. That means you are Nana and Vince is Pap. Terry is Mimi and Chad is Pops. ”
Liz chuckled. “You all put a lot of thought into this.”
David grinned. “We have found it is worth it.”
The group finished breakfast as they continued to socialize. After the dishes were done and the trucks loaded, it was time for the men to leave. Rodney, Grant, and Brayden were going to visit Grant’s parents, so the ladies would have the house to themselves. Dalton wanted to say one last goodbye to the love of his life. He found Misty in the barn looking at a new colt. She looked up and smiled as he came toward her.
“Are you ready?” Misty asked.
Dalton shook his head no.
Misty giggled as she stood up and walked over to him. “What did you forget?” she asked in a whisper.
Dalton kissed her forehead and then the tip of her nose. “I forgot that.” He turned to walk away with a smirk on his face.
Misty grinned as she stepped in front of him. Standing on her tiptoes she touched his face. “I think you forgot something else.”
Dalton chuckled as he kissed her. When he pulled away he looked into her eyes. “I love you.”
Misty smiled up at him. “I love you too. Be safe.”
Dalton winked at her. “Make sure you are safe too.”
The two linked hands and walked out of the barn. Dalton kissed her one last time before he headed toward the trucks.
Dalton looked at the men around the campfire. He knew that it was time for the older ones to share some of their wisdom on marriage. He watched Brock hand Chad a piece of wood.
Chad looked up at Brock. “What is this?”
Brock looked at him and said with a grin. “It is the passing stick. We had one when I was in school. It just helps keep order.”
David looked at Brock. “Son, we are grownups here. I’m thinking we can keep the order.”
Brock laughed. “I know, but come on. We are men too.”
David looked thoughtful. “Chad, hey, go ahead and let me have that there stick.”
Chad shook his head. “I had it first. I think I should start.”
Wyatt watched as Vince walked up behind his dad and snatched it out of his hand. He sat down on a log and got comfortable. He smiled and said. “Ok. Now here is what I’m going to tell you boys. I know people use I Corinthians 13 all the time, but that is for a reason. It really is a great way to guide how loving you are with those around you. We have each taken a couple of the characteristics of love from that chapter and have put it into words on how it worked for us in our marriages.”
Wyatt watched as the stick was passed to Chad. Chad looked at his sons and soon to be son. He spoke with confidence. “Love truly is patient. It is only love that will stop you and have you count to ten before you say something hurtful to your wife. If ten isn’t enough, it is patience that will have you counting until twenty or thirty. If you need more space, it is patience that will keep you calm as you ask for more space, but… and I say but for a reason, but you need to specify a time you will be able to talk. It isn’t kind to allow your loved one to feel insecure. If you give a time to come back together and communicate, it holds you accountable to do just that.”
Brock watched as the stick was passed to David. “If you are not kind to the woman you love, you are not showing love. Kindness and love go hand in hand. Kindness when it is easy to give is fine, but kindness when it isn’t easy to give is spectacular. It is a radical choice to not lash out and be kind even if we don’t feel they deserve it or have earned it. Real love does not ever need to be earned. It just is. Real love will stop and be patient so it can be kind. If your direct action or inaction is causing her pain when you are in a disagreement, you are not being kind. If you think you being right, supersedes showing kindness you are not showing your spouse love.”
Dalton watched his father pass it to Vince. “When you love someone, you are satisfied with who you are to them. You do not look at what was not yours to give and wish it had been you. God has given us all life. Do we envy Him the ability to do that? We don’t. Love does not wish to be something that it is not. It does not feel inferior and is satisfied with who it is. You have to be satisfied with not only who you are, but who your wife is in a marriage. Do not look at other marriages and wish that your marriage was like theirs. You do not know what goes on behind the closed door of any marriage. Be content with the one God has blessed you with. The first three are out there now it is your turn to ask questions.”
Brock took the stick as it was passed to him. He looked around and asked. “Have any of you struggled with envy. I’m not sure I can see how it applies to marriage, but then again I’m not married.”
Vince was the only one that held his hand out for the stick. “I remember one time there was a couple in our church that just seemed to click. I would look at the man’s wife and see how she seemed to dote on him. He would speak she would listen. I was so hard on Liz and she had no idea why. When I started to get absolutely nasty with her, she would do what I wanted. When Liz started acting like the other man’s wife. I realized the only reason she was doing it was because I was being a bully. I was acting like a jerk. It almost destroyed her and our marriage. She was never anything but thin, but when I started treating her like that she started to lose weight. She was sickly thin by the time I realized what I was doing. Looking for happiness in another person’s marriage is not only stupid, it is dangerous.”
Vince passed the stick back to Brock. “I think I’m done.” Brock said as he passed it to Dalton.
Dalton knew what one he may have trouble with. “How does a man stay patient with a person that is as impulsive as Misty? I know this one is going to kick my butt.”
Everyone laughed as Chad held out his hand. “The first thing you need to understand is it is ok to be firm. Being firm, when you are right, isn’t wrong. Being hurtful is. When you are doing your best to find a way to speak to some one that doesn’t understand why you are upset, it can get tricky. The more thought you put into your words so they understand, the more you are demonstrating patience. If you start yelling, that will accomplish nothing. If you can’t make your point, you have to simply lead. You have to ask her to follow and trust what you want. Ask her to trust you even when she can’t understand why you want her to do something, and ask her gently.”
Dalton took the stick back. He had one more question. “Why do you say lead her? If she has her mind set, isn’t she going to just ignore me?”
Chad held his hand back out. “When you talk, to the woman you love gently, she will follow you anywhere. She will want to understand you, because you have tried to understand her. There may be things that you won’t get, but the fact that you tried shows you love her. Who doesn’t want to be loved?”
Chad handed the stick back to Dalton. He smiled and handed it to Wyatt. “There has to be some things in marriage that are a bit harder to show kindness in. I mean in any relationship, when do you know the kindness is not how you should proceed? When do you know in any relationship that your love is being taken advantage of?”
All three men looked at Wyatt. Dalton held out his hand, surprising everyone. Wyatt gave him the stick. “There are times that God will say it is ok to walk away. I do believe when a person is married, that God is not going to just release that person. If you are seeking answers from God and He is giving them. You have to follow them and trust in Him. He needs to be enough to sustain you for that time. You are not released from any relationship, until God says you are. If you try to walk away and it doesn’t feel right. It probably means it isn’t. The thing you have to ask yourself is if God truly is enough. If He is the lover of our souls, He should be, but we have to choose to let Him. I have been praying for you and Kelly since I stitched her up in the ER. I don’t know the dynamics of your relationship, but I do know what God has laid on my heart to pray for. I pray daily for her safety and your patience. I have been doing that for months now.”
Dalton handed the stick back to Wyatt. The man looked at Dalton. “Thanks for praying. What you said helps.”
Wyatt handed the stick back to Chad. “Love does not build itself while putting another down. It doesn’t brag. Braggarts only do so because of insecurity. You have to be confident of your love. You should be pure enough in how you show love to let your actions speak for themselves. If you need to brag take a look at what you have been doing and correct it. You are being deficient and that is not how to keep a marriage a happy place.”
David took the stick from Chad. “Love is never afraid to admit a wrong. Love will not allow pride to keep a person from saying sorry. When pride stops a person from owning a wrong they have done, it is destructive. Love is not afraid to grow and change, owning your flaws will help you do that. Pride keeps a person from acknowledging their sin. I have always thought of fear and pride as holding hands. It is the fear of seeming wrong that keeps a person from admitting that they have wronged their spouse. They know deep down inside they are wrong, but they would rather stay right where they are than admit that. Love is so secure that it will admit wrong. It will be brave and choose to grow. The kind of pride this is talking about is not brave, but cowardice. It is having so much pride in being right that you either can’t or won’t see how wrong you are. The end will destroy your marriage. You may stay married until death, but you will not have a spouse that is as whole as God wants her to be. You will destroy the one you promised to cherish and your pride will keep you from admitting it. If you allow this kind of pride into your love, you are not strong, but weak, and everyone but you will see it.”
Vince accepted the stick. He looked at the men. “Love puts your wife in a place of honor. Love does not make her earn that place, it just is. It is because she is the one you chose to love and no one must be able to touch that place. Love will never dishonor the one you promised to cherish. Love will understand that everyone has flaws. Love will not speak ill to anyone about his wife. Love will protect his wife from the ramblings of a fool. He will only seek Godly advice from someone who embodies love. Love will find a way to show honor even when she is wrong.”
Brock took the stick. He actually thought he understood what the men were saying and had no questions. He looked over at Dalton and handed it to him. Dalton felt the same way and handed it to Wyatt. Wyatt did have one question. “I just want to clarify the one about honor. We should do our best to not speak ill of those we love, but if we have to we should only do so with some one that would give us advice from God’s word.”
Vince put his hand out. “We are human and we do need advice sometimes. If all you are going to do is put your spouse down, you are showing her no honor at all. If you are truly trying to understand or just need someone to be quiet so you can vent, you are doing your best to show her respect. That is showing her honor.”
Wyatt nodded and then gestured for Chad to take back the stick. Chad looked around. “Why don’t we finish tomorrow night? I say we bust out the chocolate, graham crackers and marshmallows.”
Wyatt looked at Dalton and smiled. “One thing you need to know about Misty and s’mores, she will eat every one of them she can as fast as she can.”
Dalton laughed. “Where does she put it?”
Brock chuckled. “I don’t think she cares as long as she can have the most. She is downright greedy with them.”
“She ate so many one time, she was sick as a dog.” Chad spoke up as he sat beside them with the bad of chocolate.
The men spent the next couple of hours just having fun and enjoying being together. Vince and David talked and got to know each other better. It was apparent that this family, no matter how different, could work.
Darby and Misty had the living room to themselves. Rachel was tucked in bed and the moms all were in the family room getting to know each other. Darby smiled as she pulled out two bags of candy. “Look what I smuggled here. If Grant found out, he would be so upset.”
Misty took a sip of her soda. “I never drink this stuff. It is just too darn good to stop at one.”
Hearing door open Darby raised an eyebrow as she and Misty both started to hide the candy. “I guess you are lectured about it to?”
Putting her soda behind her back, Misty giggled. “I know I will regret it in the morning.”
Terry walked out and smiled at the younger women. “Are you two having fun?”
Darby smiled. “We are finding things we have in common.”
Misty snorted and then agreed. “We are enjoying ourselves.”
Terry gave them each a suspicious look and then headed into the kitchen. Darby was just getting ready to pull out her bag of candy, but Misty stopped her. “She is on to us.”
A second later Terry came back into the room briskly. You could tell she wanted to catch them doing something. Darby smiled. “Are you ok?”
Terry shrugged her shoulders. “I guess I thought…. Well, never mind you two have fun.”
They watched her walk down the hall. Misty looked at Darby. “Mom Adams will be next.”
The two women kept their stash behind them. Darby was just getting ready to pull hers out when she saw a shadow move. “Don’t mind me you two…just getting a drink of water.”
Misty smiled sweetly. “You, take your time. Darby and I are just educating each other on our families.”
“Well that’s nice dear.” Liz said as she walked into the kitchen.
Darby looked at Misty. “I didn’t even hear her come out.”
Misty nodded. “She is stealthy. Brent was like that. He would scare the jeepers right out of me.”
Darby smiled at her. “I’m glad you had time with him. I was talking to his mom. He sounds like he was a very gentle man.”
Misty smiled. “It still hurts in a way. Not as much as it did, but still…”
Darby looked at her. “You would have given him your forever. That is something that you will never forget.”
Misty nodded. She looked up and saw Liz standing in the doorway. The older woman smiled at Misty gently. “He would have enjoyed knowing this family.”
The two watched her walk back the hall. Darby smiled as she pulled out her bag of candy. “I almost feel guilty for eating this. When she tells them what we were talking about they will leave us alone.”
Misty chuckled. “I didn’t even think about that.”
Darby got up and walked to the kitchen, when she came back out she had two more root beers. Grinning she said. “If we are going to do this, we need to do it right.”
Misty held her already open one up to her mouth. “See who can drink these faster?”
Darby sat down beside her. Misty watched her open her second one and get it ready. “I say we see who can drink two the fastest.”
For the next hour the two women let themselves be kids again. The more sugar they ate the louder they got. They laughed and giggled like teenagers. When they looked up and saw all of the moms looking at them from the doorway, they giggled some more.
Terry looked at her daughter. “You know you are going to be sick in the morning? I knew you two were up to something. Where did all of this candy and soda come from?”
Darby snorted as she laughed. “I smuggled it in. The second I knew Grant and Brayden were going to be gone, I knew I had to.”
Jeanie shook her head. “He is going to find out about this. You are still going to be sick when he and Brayden get back tomorrow. He will guess.”
Darby winked at Misty. “It will be ok. I happen to know he is kind of sweet on me. A couple of kisses and all will be fine.”
Liz bent down and picked up three empty candy bags. She looked at the women and grimaced. “You two ate all of this?”
Misty chuckled and then hiccupped. “We did. I think Darby had a bit more than me. I was enjoying the root beer.”
Darby had to agree. “She drank four of them. Of course, the first two were for competition purposes.”
Terry watched Misty yawn and knew the crash was coming. She laughed at her. “You are going to be a mess in the morning.”
Jeanie looked at the two women. She joined Terry in laughter. “Well at least we know that these two should never be left alone together.”
Liz chuckled as well. She shook her said and went to Dalton’s phrase. “Please let Rachel take after her father.”
Jeanie busted out laughing. “Amen!”
Misty grinned at the women and then stood up. She started for the kitchen. “Anyone want a root beer?’
Terry ran after her daughter. “You have had more than enough.”
Darby protested from the floor. “She is going to be married soon. Let her have some fun.” She giggled and snorted as she stood up.
Jeanie laughed. “You two are tired and hyped up on sugar. You two are acting like little drunks.”
Misty walked over to her future mother in law. Putting her arm around her shoulders she said. “Your son has put an end to my dangerous side. I think you should talk my mom into letting me have one more.”
Jeanie looked at Misty. She looked at Terry. “Maybe one more is ok. They are already feeling the rush now.”
Terry shook her head and laughed. “OK, but we do not tell Dalton about this.”
Darby reached down into her bag. She pulled out five more bags of candy. “You three can join us and we won’t tell anyone.”
Liz absolutely loved chocolate. “I’m in.” she said surprising the other women.
Terry looked at the chocolate covered caramels. She gave Misty a little shove toward the kitchen. “I’ll take one of those root beers.”
Jeanie laughed. “Darby gets her sweet tooth from me. I was in the second Liz caved.”
Liz walked down the hall and closed all of the doors but Misty’s door. She wanted to make sure they could all hear Rachel if she needed them. She made sure the monitor was on and walked back out to the living room.
Sitting down on the floor beside Jeanie she giggled. “I can see the appeal of doing this. I feel sixteen.”
Jeanie agreed. “I agree. It is fun to let lose sometimes. My practical son would be appalled.”
Darby chuckled. “He takes after Father Kyle that way.”
Liz looked at Darby surprised. “You call him Father?”
Darby nodded. “He may not have been there, but with Poppy and Granny in the picture, we were very much raised in a way Father Kyle would have wanted. It would not have been fair if only Dalton got to know him.”
Liz popped some chocolate in her mouth and thought. She was deep in thought, when Jeanie spoke. “How do you feel about Misty and Dalton’s other children calling Brent that?”
Liz looked at Misty. “I guess I was not sure how it would be. I guess with Dalton; I am going to be able to have more grandchildren. I think I love them even though they don’t exist yet.”
Jeanie looked at her new friend. “Of course when they visit us in Tennessee you will need to come. You can’t leave Brayden out.”
Liz looked surprised. She looked at Darby. Darby smiled. “It is only fair. He has already asked me if he could call you and Dad Adams, Nana and Pap. He wants to call Mom and Dad Bishop, Mimi and Pops.”
Liz had tears in her eyes. “I would be honored.”
Terry smiled. “She is right. It would be an honor. I am still in awe of God’s divine intervention.”
Darby smiled at everyone. “Now that we got all the mushy stuff out of the way, I say we take this slumber party to the next level.”
The next few hours were a blast. Each of the ladies ate way too much candy and drank way too much soda. They were all giggling and snorting as they told stories. When Liz got up and went to the piano, they all sang crazy campfire songs. They were all off key and having a blast. As their sugar rushes left, each of them slept where they crashed. It was a fun night that would be remembered fondly. The next morning not so much…
Grant, Rodney and Brayden all looked at the sleeping bodies in front of them and then at each other. Grant shook his head and chuckled as he picked up a candy wrapper. Rodney picked up three soda cans and lost it. Brayden walked over to Misty and smiled at Rachel, who seemed to be having a blast licking a candy wrapper. Grant took the wrapper from the little girl’s hand and said softly. “I’m thinking that is a choking hazard little girl.”
Rodney watched as Grant pick up Rachel. The men looked at each other. Rodney scratched his head and asked. “Do we wake them?”
Grant pulled out his cell phone and started snapping pictures. “I don’t think we should just yet. This is just too good to pass up.”
Rodney laughed as he pulled out his phone and started snapping. “The guys are going to want proof of this for sure.”
The men had just finished putting their phones away when Misty moaned. She slowly opened her eyes and then closed them with another moan. They watched as she sat up.
Rodney smiled at Misty and asked. “How do you feel after what appears to be the most epic candy binge in history?”
Misty glared at her soon to be brother. She looked at Grant holding Rachel. “Does she need fed?”
Grant was just getting ready to answer when Misty shot up and ran down the hall. He looked at Rodney. “I’m thinking she is regretting all of this.”
Darby stretched and then moaned. She felt something at her feet and started kicking at it. Rodney laughed as Liz started to hit Darby back. Grant touched his wife’s cheek. “Honey, you need to stop kicking Mom Adams.”
Darby opened her eyes a little and then a lot. She shot up and bumped heads with her husband. She then groaned and lay back down. She opened her eyes and tried to smile.
Grant looked around the room and then back at his wife. “I take it you are responsible for this little candy fest?”
Darby watched as Misty stumbled back into the living room. She looked back at her husband. “I may have had a huge part in it.”
Grant could tell her head was hurting. “You are regretting it now, aren’t you?”
Misty tripped and Rodney caught her. She spoke. “I’m regretting last night a lot. My head is pounding. I think I have a little person in there trying to drill its way out.”
Brayden sat down beside his mom. He looked at the floor. He smiled at Darby. “I love you, mommy.”
Darby smiled as his little hand touched her face. “I love you too.”
All of the ladies were up now. They all looked like death. Rodney laughed. “I’m thinking Brayden would have known when to stop and he is only three.”
Rachel started getting fussy. It was obvious she was ready for Misty. Grant put her down beside her mom. “Rodney and I will start some breakfast, while you ladies….clean…recover…both.”
Jeanie spoke loudly as the men started for the kitchen. “Boys…?”
Grant and Rodney turned and looked at her. “Yes?”
She leveled both with a frim stare. “You will not speak of this to the men when you get to the campground.”
Grant and Rodney looked at each other and grinned. They would not need to speak a single word with all of the pictures they had. They both agreed.
Terry’s eyes narrowed as she looked at them enter the kitchen. “That was too easy.”
Jeanie agreed. “They agreed to not say a word. I just can’t help but wonder if they…”
Darby looked at her mom. “They took pictures.” She got up and headed to the kitchen.
Grant knew he and Rodney needed to act fast. They had no sooner gotten into the kitchen when they texted every one of the pictures to David’s phone. They had just put their phones away when Darby shot in. “Alright you two…I need to see your phones.”
Grant looked at her outstretched and shook his head no. “I think we would like to keep our phones.”
Darby looked at him and smiled. She leaned up and touched his face. When she touched his lips with her fingers, Grant leaned down and kissed her. He knew she had all intentions of taking his phone out of his pocket. The evidence was already sent so it didn’t matter if she did. He decided to take advantage of his wife thinking she was taking advantage. He would have his cake and eat it too. When he deepened the kiss, he heard Rodney start to cough. He pulled away and laughed at his wife’s face.
She looked at him triumphantly as she held up his phone. He pretended to grab it and look guilty. She smiled as she deleted all of the pictures he had taken. She turned and looked at Rodney. “You either give me your phone, or I will tell every girl you date from here on out that you got busted skinny dipping.”
Rodney looked at her like she was nuts. “I was five.”
Darby leveled him with a glare. “I will leave that part out.”
Rodney pretended to look peeved as he handed her the phone. She looked gleeful as she deleted all of the pictures. “You two can start breakfast now.” She said with a haughty look as she left the kitchen.
The men looked at each other and grinned. They could hardly wait to get to the campground. Even if they had to take David’s phone and find service, the men would all know what had transpired in their absence.
Chad watched as Grant pulled into camp. He stood up and walked over to the minivan. “Hey there…”
Rodney smiled. “Did David get our texts?”
Chad shook his head. “I don’t think any of us have service here.”
The rest of them men walked up to the van. Grant looked at them and smiled. “Get in. We need to go down the road just a little.”
Dalton looked confused. “Why?”
Grant and Rodney looked at each other. Rodney answered. “We gave our word not to say a word.”
The men could only guess this had something to do with the ladies. They all grinned and got into the vehicle. “You have your phone on you, Dad?” Rodney asked.
David nodded. “I don’t have any service, but yes I do.”
Grant started driving. “We only have to go far enough for you to get our texts.”
David pulled his phone out. He could see bars in less than five minutes. “Ok.” He watched as the texts came in. He opened them and started laughing. He passed his phone around.
Vince chuckled. “Is my wife sleeping with a soda can?”
Dalton chuckled at what looked like an empty candy bag beside Misty. “How many bags of candy did they eat?”
Rodney pulled out his phone and texted how many he saw.
Chad about died. “They ate eight bags of candy? How much soda did they drink?”
Grant did a quick count in his mind. He texted what he remembered seeing.
Dalton paled at the amount of sugar they had consumed. “You counted twenty cans in the garbage?”
David asked. “Were they all sick?”
Rodney sent a text.
Wyatt read the answer. “They all deserved to wake up with a killer headache. I’m not surprised Misty threw up. She knows she will get sick the next morning. What were they thinking?”
Everyone laughed as Grant texted that they obviously weren’t thinking.
Grant drove back to camp. As they all got out of the car, Wyatt unhooked Brayden from his car seat. “You can come with Uncle Wyatt.” He said as he scooped the little guy up and got out of the van.
Brayden beamed at the idea. “I’m almost four.” He said proudly.
Wyatt put him down and took his hand. They started walking toward the tents as Wyatt said. “That is a very big age. I know for a fact that almost four year olds can ride ponies if their mommy and daddy say yes.”
Grant looked down at his son. “I think riding a pony would be great.”
Wyatt smiled down at Brayden. “When we get back, I will get you on one for sure.”
Grant looked over at Wyatt. “When you and Brock get married, you two are going to be great dads. You both are great with Rachel and now Brayden.”
Wyatt smiled at him. Dalton couldn’t help but notice a sad look in Wyatt’s eyes as he answered. “Thanks.”
Brock came up on them and scooped Brayden up. He put the little guy on his shoulder. “Are you ready for Uncle Brock? I’m way more fun than Uncle Wyatt.”
Wyatt laughed as the little boy giggled gleefully. He looked over at Dalton. “How much trouble is my sister in?”
Dalton laughed. “She doesn’t do this often. I’m not going to fuss. If she were still pregnant that would be another ball game, but they seemed to have fun. I think letting her think I’m upset will be more fun.”
Vince laughed. “That is because she cuddles up to you and gives you kisses.”
Dalton gave the man a lopsided grin. “That, Sir, would be correct.”
Grant laughed. “Once you are married. Those kisses get just a little sweeter.”
Wyatt smiled at Dalton. “Are you blushing? I do believe he is.”
Vince swatted Wyatt. “You are terrible.”
Dalton laughed. “I guess I am.”
Wyatt gave Vince a friendly elbow. “I told you.”
Dalton looked at his dad. “I am glad I blush. You did a great job teaching me to value my wife enough to be only hers.”
David nodded. “We live in a world that doesn’t value that any longer. I’m glad you listened. Once you give yourself away, you can’t take it back.”
Brock agreed. “If you give yourself away, you have given away something that wasn’t yours to give.”
Chad smiled proudly. “That is what I have taught you.”
Wyatt looked at Dalton. “I can’t imagine that was easy with you being a doctor.”
Dalton agreed. “It wasn’t. I have had more than one offer. I just knew it was wrong.”
Brock laughed. “I guess the offers tend to come at you when you are ‘healthy’.”
Dalton chuckled. “She really was adorable. I was trying to figure out what I did to upset her.”
Brock told the story and everyone chuckled at it. “It was hysterical.”
Wyatt looked at Grant and Rodney. “You two do realize you will be in so much trouble once they realize you outfoxed them?”
Grant smiled. “It won’t be a problem. I kind of got Darby wrapped around my finger. All I have to do is whisper sweet nothings and kiss her.”
Rodney smirked. “That is the same tactic she uses with you.”
Grant raised an eyebrow. “It is a good tactic, and it is fun.”
The men sat around and chatted. Wyatt and Brayden played and ran. They all enjoyed each other’s company and took the time to get to know each other on a more personal level. It was a great time in many ways.
The women found themselves in the kitchen making supper together. They were laughing and having fun. Liz noticed Darby grab the counter. “Are you dizzy?”
Darby looked at Liz. “I am. It just kind of came out of nowhere. I’m thinking I over did it with the candy.”
Liz smiled. “I don’t think you were the only one. I know I did.”
Misty started to fry the chicken. Darby looked over at her and smiled. She was just getting ready to say something when the smell of the chicken overwhelmed her. She covered her nose and then realized she was going to be sick.
Liz and Jeanie followed her to the bathroom. Jeanie looked at her. “Are you ok?”
Darby looked up. “I can’t believe the candy is making me sick still. I took one whiff of that chicken and….”
Liz walked over to her and touched her brow. “You are kind of sweaty.”
Darby nodded and then stood up. A wave of dizziness caught her again. She fell forward and her mom helped Liz catch her. Jeanie looked at her daughter. “This is more than candy. I think we need to get you some help.”
Darby was getting ready to disagree when the smells from the kitchen hit her. She covered her mouth and Liz helped her back down to the floor. Jeanie and Liz looked at each other with concern as Darby started to dry heave.
Terry watched from the doorway. “I’ll tell Misty and then get the car.”
Darby tried to stand, but the dizziness would not leave. She looked up at her mother. “I’m kind of scared. I have never felt like this.”
Jeanie knelt beside her daughter. “It will be ok. Let Liz and I help you up. We need to get you to the car.”
Misty had Rachel on her hip. She had turned everything in the kitchen off and headed toward the porch. “Let me help get her off the porch. I just need to get Rachel in the car.”
Terry had the car at the porch. She got out and took Rach from Misty and put her in her car seat. Darby’s face was horribly pale. “We should go get Grant.”
Darby shook her head. “Not yet. Let’s just see what they say at the ER. If it is serous then someone can get him.”
Jeanie agreed. “We stopped a couple of times on the way here. It could be food poisoning that just needs to pass.”
Everyone was in the car now and buckled. Terry drove down the drive and toward the ER. Darby leaned on Misty. “It will be ok. They will take care of you.” Misty assured Darby.
When they got to the ER, Darby still felt dizzy but the nausea seemed to have passed. She stood and with just a little help walked in. “I’m feeling better. Maybe we should go.”
Jeanie looked at her daughter. “I think we need to have you checked just in case. You still look a bit pale.”
The receptionist recognized Misty and smiled. She handed them clip board. “You can just follow me back and fill it out in the room.”
One of the younger doctors came in. She smiled at the group and introduced herself. “I’m Dr. Kurtz. What is the problem today?”
Darby explained what was going on. She tried to describe what she was feeling as best she could. An odor reached her and she put her hand over her mouth. Dr. Kurtz saw what happened and helped her to the sink.
Jeanie was starting to get worried as she watched her daughter get sick again. She felt Liz grab her hand.
Dr. Kurtz looked at the worried ladies. She smiled as she handed Darby a urine cup. “Why don’t we start with the basics? I’ll help you to the bathroom. I’ll have them draw some blood after we get this specimen.”
Once the specimen was obtained a nurse came in and drew some blood. She smiled at Darby. “Your brother is very nice to work with. We will take really good care of you.”
Ten minutes had passed before Dr. Kurtz came back in. She smiled at Darby. “We have some results for you. I first need to ask you if it is ok for me to tell you with everyone on here. Is that a problem?”
Darby was worried. Her tests needed to be discussed. She wanted everyone there. “It is ok.” She said as she held tight to Misty’s hand. She looked at her mom who was holding Rachel.
Dr. Kurtz smiled. “Darby, you are pregnant. I promise you that everything looks ok.”
Jeanie started to cry. “Another baby…”
Misty smiled. She had a thought and her smile vanished. “Umm… I have a question.”
Dr. Kurtz looked at Misty. “Ok.”
Darby realized what they had done. She watched as Misty asked. “We kind of went overboard last night with candy and soda. When I say that I mean eight packs of candy and all of us had at least two sodas.”
Dr. Kurtz’s eyebrows raised in surprise. That was a lot of sugar. She smiled as she answered. “It should not do anything. From here on out though you need to be careful. How in the world did Dr. Nelson respond to that?”
Misty gave her a sheepish grin. “He doesn’t exactly know since he and the guys are camping. If we could keep it that way…?”
Dr. Kurtz laughed. “He won’t hear it from me, but trust me; husbands always find out.”
Darby was released and the women started walking to the car. Darby looked at the women. “She is right they are so going to find out. When Grant realizes I’m pregnant he is going to flip. Not about the pregnancy, but about what he walked into this morning.”
Misty looked at her mom. “Weren’t they going to go over I Corinthians 13?”
Terry nodded as she buckled Rachel into her seat. “That was the plan.”
Misty’s face was determined. “I guess we need to go over it too.”
Darby looked at her. “Why?”
“While it is fresh in their memories, we need to remind them that love is patient and kind and so on and so forth.” Misty answered.
Liz shook her head. “Maybe while you are at it you can learn from it too. Misty it is not right to learn it just to not get into trouble.”
Misty knew she was right. “Ok. Then we will learn it. I say we go for honesty. We can tell them exactly what we are doing.”
They were all in the car now. Terry was pulling out and heading home. “I don’t know. It still feels kind of deceptive.”
Misty frowned. “If we are being honest, how can it be deceptive?”
Terry answered. “We have to ask ourselves if we are doing it for the right reasons.”
Darby felt miserable. “This is all my fault.” She said.
Misty looked at her. “I happen to know from experience that getting pregnant takes two people.”
Darby grinned. “That is not what I meant. Maybe we can keep the pregnancy a secret and I can tell him on the way back?”
Misty shook her head. “No. Don’t do that. You are having a baby; he needs to know that.”
“I guess you’re right.” Darby said reluctantly.
Terry pulled into the drive. She actually had an idea. “What if we are worried for nothing? The sugar fest was probably not the best choice, but I don’t think they will be all that upset. It isn’t like we were doing something that was going to get us killed.”
Misty thought about it. “You know, she is right. Maybe we are worried for nothing. I mean the doctor didn’t seem concerned about it. Dalton and Rodney are doctors. They can reassure all the parties involved that it isn’t that bad.”
Liz started laughing. She would start to gain control and then start all over. As Terry parked in front of the house, she looked over at the woman. “Care to share.”
“I just realized all of our boys married or are getting married to women like their mothers. We are actually all on the same page. We don’t just get into to trouble, we do it knowingly. When we decided to eat and drink all that sugar, we knew it was probably not a good idea, but we still did it anyway.”
Terry started to laugh. “Poor Rodney, Brock and Wyatt are in so much trouble.”
Liz caught her breath. “It is like they have seen it their entire lives and are drawn to it or something.”
The women all giggled as they got out of the car. Making their way into the house they continued to laugh. After cooking supper and eating they sat and continued to talk and enjoy the company. Misty put Rachel to bed and the ladies continued to talk well into the night.
The men found the ladies all in the kitchen making lunch when they returned from their camping trip. Wyatt scooped his niece out of the playpen. “Did you miss me?” he asked as he nuzzled her cheek.
Dalton smiled at Misty. He couldn’t help, but notice the guilt written all over her face. He then took a good look around. All of the women seemed quiet. His voice was firm as he said. “All right, whatever it is, spill it.”
Darby burst into tears surprising Grant. He walked over and started to comfort her. “It’s ok. It was just a little sugar.”
Misty felt horrible for Darby and started to tear up too. When Darby looked at her, Misty started crying too. The men looked absolutely stunned. Dalton was just getting ready to console his future wife when Chad looked at Terry. “What in the world happened, and don’t you dare tell me this is about the candy?”
Darby pulled away from Grant. “I had to go to the ER. It wasn’t the candy though.”
Grant kept calm, but he couldn’t help being alarmed. His wife seemed beside herself with worry. “Why?”
Darby sniffled. “It will be ok. The doctor said the sugar won’t hurt the baby.”
Grant opened and closed his mouth. He looked at the other women. He pulled his wife into his arms. “You had that much sugar and you’re pregnant?”
Darby knew she should have put a bit more thought into her words, but darn it she was upset. “I didn’t know. When I almost passed out is when we knew something was wrong. I felt so sick when I smelled the chicken and then everything got fuzzy.”
Grant didn’t want to shout. He just didn’t. He very calmly asked. “Why didn’t someone come and get me if you were feeling so sick?”
Darby tried to breath. “Grant you are squishing me.”
Misty answered. “We didn’t want to disturb you unless it was something serious. Don’t be mad. We tried to come up with a plan to use your trip against you, but Mom Adams said that would be wrong. We decided our best bet was to throw ourselves on the mercy of the court.”
Terry looked at her daughter. “Thanks for letting them know that bit of information.”
Misty looked at the other women. “I thought we agreed to be honest.”
Liz looked at Misty. “Being honest is one thing, telling them the entire plan was not necessary.”
Darby looked up at Grant. “Are you mad? We stopped the plan before we went through with it.”
The men all looked at each other. Vince spoke softly. “They are all crazy. Every one of them is absolutely nuts. What were we thinking leaving them alone together? We should have seen this coming.”
Misty took exception to that statement. “Now you can’t blame us for Darby being pregnant. That is all on Grant. We didn’t know that when we indulged just a bit.”
Dalton started coughing, but decided to keep his mouth shut. He pulled Misty against his chest and said nothing.
Darby looked up at her husband. “I’m not nuts. I just ignore good choices sometimes. Are you mad at me?”
Grant pulled away and looked down at his wife. “I’m not mad.” He said gently. “We are having a baby.”
Darby smiled up at him. “We are having a baby. I would not have done that if I had known. You know that right?”
Grant kissed her softly. “I know you wouldn’t. You are a good mom.”
Misty leaned into Dalton. She smiled up at him and then frowned. “Are you mad about the candy?”
Dalton didn’t say anything. He was waiting to be soothed. When she pulled on his hand and led him out of the kitchen, he winked at everyone.
Vince laughed. “He sure does like being soothed.”
Misty turned and looked at Dalton. He could see her mind working; she had all intentions of trying to butter him up. He couldn’t wait to see what she would do. When she walked up and hugged him he could not help but grin. He wiped it off his face as she pulled away and looked at him. “Please don’t be mad. I don’t do it all the time.”
Dalton watched her stand on her tiptoes to kiss him. He pulled her close and kissed her. He knew it was time to end the kiss and reluctantly pulled away. “I’m not mad.” He said softly. “I just wanted soothed.”
Misty punched in the stomach. “Shame on you worrying me like that, now I need soothed.”
Dalton pulled her into his arms. “Ok.” He said before he kissed her again. He ended the kiss as he heard a cough.
Brock shook his head. He smiled at his sister’s face. “It is time to eat lunch.”
Misty smiled up at Dalton. “That was some pretty impressive soothing.”
Dalton winked at her. “I learned from the best.”
The two walked into the kitchen. Misty looked at Grant and Rodney. “I thought you two promised to not say anything about the candy fest.”
Rodney smiled. “We didn’t. Before Darby took our phones we sent pictures to dad’s phone. All we did was text.”
Chad looked at the ladies. “Eight bags of candy and twenty cans of soda seems a bit excessive don’t you think.”
Terry looked at Misty. “She drank six of the root beers herself.”
Misty looked at her mother. “You ate a bag and a half of candy all by yourself. Darby had the least amount out of all of us and still had three sodas and a bag of candy.”
Vince spoke. “The pictures were hysterical. I didn’t realize my wife was so affectionate with soda cans.”
Liz looked at Rodney. “Did you send that one?”
Rodney gave her a devilish grin. “I’m not admitting to anything.”
Darby looked up at Grant. He was still holding her close she smiled. “Are you really happy about the baby?”
Grant leaned down and kissed her brow. “I am ecstatic about the baby. I can’t wait to see your belly grow again. You are the most beautiful pregnant woman I know.”
Misty smiled. She leaned into Dalton. Their life was just getting ready to start. She couldn’t wait to be his wife. She smiled up at him. “Are you ready to be a married man?”
Dalton raised an eyebrow. “I am ready. Are you ready to wake up beside me?”
Misty nodded. “I am.”
They all sat down and started to eat. Liz smiled as she watched Misty shamelessly flirt with Dalton. She smiled at Vince. “It doesn’t hurt anymore.”
Vince had to agree. “No it doesn’t. The loss is still there and is painful, but seeing her happy, it just feels right.”
Jeanie smiled at them. “Kyle would have been so proud to see the man he became.”
Vince nodded. “I know Dalton will bring Rachel up to be a Godly young woman. You did raise a special man.”
David looked at the couple. “I have been humbled by what God has entrusted to me. When I think back to the night I asked God for direction, I can honestly say it was one of the hardest things to trust God in. It was the most rewarding too.”
Vince smiled as he gestured toward Misty and Dalton. “Your willingness to obey the leading of God has allowed this special relationship to happen.”
David looked at his son and soon to be daughter. “They really are happy.”
Vince smiled as he watched Misty wink at him. “She is a handful. He will need to stay on his toes.”
Jeanie and Liz looked at each other. If they had to be honest, their husbands would realize Dalton wasn’t getting himself into anything they hadn’t already gotten themselves into. Every woman in the room was a handful.
David chuckled as Misty winked at him too. “Life will never be boring.”
Vince looked at Liz and nodded. They stood and walked over to Wyatt. “Can we have Rachel for a second?”
Misty looked at Vince and Liz. They had told her what they had wanted to do and she had agreed it was a beautiful idea. She watched as they came closer. As predicted Rachel reached for Dalton. She watched as Dalton smiled and reached for her. She watched tears gather in his eyes as Vince said. “There you go Rachel. Sit with your daddy.”
Dalton looked up at Vince and Liz. He looked down at his parents who both had tears in their eyes. Pulling Rachel close to him, he stood and hugged the couple. “Thank you.” He whispered in a strangled voice.
Liz kissed his cheek. “Thank you. You are one of the most beautiful human beings I have ever met.”
Dalton kissed her cheek. “I could say the same for you.”
There was not a dry eye in the room as Dalton sat back down with his daughter. Misty’s cheeks were wet with tears as she leaned into his arm and looked up at him. “I love you Dalton. Thank you for being her dad.”
Dalton looked down at Misty. “Thank you for letting me. I love you both so much.”
The group finished their meal with a sense of rightness. It was one of the most beautiful things to have witnessed by those that were there. It was easy to see that God had brought them all from a season of sorrow to a season of joy.
Misty giggled as Dalton pulled her closer. She turned in his arms and smiled. “Don’t you work today?”
Dalton kissed her neck, and laughed as she giggled some more. “I do work today. I have all morning though with my girls.”
Misty smiled up at him. “Do you like being married?”
Dalton raised his eyebrows and asked. “What do you think?”
Misty blushed. “I would guess yes.”
Dalton kissed her forehead. “I can’t believe we have been married for two months now. The time is going so fast and in another month Rachel will be a year old.”
Misty cuddled into his chest. “I still can’t believe it will be Thanksgiving soon. I wish your family could come, but I guess we have to wait till Christmas.”
Dalton held her close. “As long as I have you and Rachel, I’m satisfied.”
Misty could hear Rachel on the monitor. “I guess someone is ready to face the day.”
Dalton watched her stand and reach for her robe. When she looked back at him he smiled. “You are one beautiful woman Misty Nelson.”
Misty grinned at her husband. “You are one ‘healthy’ man Dalton Nelson. I am glad I said yes.”
Dalton watched her leave. He looked up at the ceiling and thanked God for his life. What had started as a friendship based on an urgent need, had blossomed into a friendship of love. His best friend was in the next room tending to their daughter. He could not help but thank God for the seasons that life had. The good and the bad were both needed. If you never had a season of sadness or sorrow, how could you know a season of joy? Right now at this moment, he and Misty were in a season of joy and it was beautiful.
Misty watched her husband from the doorway. She had Rachel on her hip as she watched the play of emotions cross over his face. Walking over to the bed she handed him Rachel. “Say good morning to Daddy.”
Rachel cuddled into Dalton. She looked up into his face and said “Da… bow do”
Dalton nuzzled her cheek. “I love you too princess.”
Misty looked at her husband. “What was going through your mind right now?”
Dalton looked at her and smiled. “I have waited so long for you and this, but I’m glad my season of waiting is over.”
Misty leaned down and kissed his lips softly. “I don’t know what seasons wait for us, but I’m glad to know I serve a God that can hold us through them all. I am glad that he led me from a season of sadness to a season of love. I love you Dalton.”
Dalton kissed her head as she laid it on his shoulder. “I love you Misty.”
The little family would grow eventually, but at this moment and in the season, it was complete.
I hope you enjoyed getting to know Misty and Dalton in the first book of my Crazy in Texas series. If you did, I invite you to join them again as we watch Wyatt find lost love. Please join me on Wyatt and Kelly’s story, in A Season of Secrets, which is now available for preorder and will be released in April 15 of 2016.
Misty Adams finds herself in a real life and death struggle. When she becomes stranded along the road, will she find help before the forecasted blizzard hits. Alone and pregnant, will she find shelter? When Dalton Nelson's dog takes off before the blizzard, he goes to find her. He ends up finding more than he bargained for. Can Dalton do what needs to be done to help Misty? As a fragile friendship is forged, can this couple see that God has more than friendship for them? As a season of mourning is dealt with, can this couple see a season of love? As Dalton gets to know Misty, can he see the Texas handful she is and learn to save her from herself? This book will have you crying and then laughing until you are crying. You know what they say, things tend to get very crazy in Texas.