Cassidy sat wrapped up in her comforter and rolled her eyes at Cord who had just entered with a rather impressive spread of breakfast to bring to her in bed.
"Walker, that's really not necessary," she said, "I can get my own breakfast…when I feel up to it."
Alas, not long after returning home from her brief say in the hospital, she had been hit by morning sickness and so far, it lived up to its name. This morning, she had made it just in time to lose what had been left of last night's dinner. Cord had joined her in the bathroom and wordlessly handed her a damp wash cloth when she had finished and helped her on her feet again. She had been living on saltines and weak tea in the morning but by noon, her appetite usually returned with a rush.
He placed the tray in front of her as she sat cross-legged on the bed and checked out what he'd scrounged up in the kitchen. Scrambled eggs and plenty of toast with her favorite strawberry jelly and some orange juice. Nothing on her plate even remotely resembling bacon or any other meat which caused her stomach to turn at this stage and plenty of sliced apples which were her latest craving. She and Beulah competed each day for the best quality of fruit from the orchard with Buck making sure the most important female in his life getting her share while Cord did the same for her.
A truce had to be in order soon so that both human and porcine could share the spoils.
"Come here and sit with me," she said, patting the bed.
He looked at her, showing off his most dubious expression.
"I remember what happened last time I did that," he said, "We…hmmm…"
"It's okay Walker," she said, "I just want someone to share my breakfast with me and then I want to get dressed."
His eyes narrowed.
"Get dressed, where are you going?"
She blew the tendril of hair out of her face but kept smiling.
"I've got work to do before the party," she said, "You know the ranch warming that you invited half of L.A. too."
He settled for sitting on the edge of the bed.
" Cassidy I think that's a bit of an exaggeration…"
"Not much of one," she said, "Not that I'm complaining but I've still got work to do, decorations to put up and what about the food for the visiting army?"
He put his hands up.
"That's all taken care of sweetheart," he said, "All you have to do is show up looking as beautiful as you do right now."
His words worked their magic and her face softened.
"Okay but…I'm still going to have to oversee the whole operation."
Cord knew he couldn't fight her on that so he just sat while she ate wearing an expression that attracted her attention away from the wondrous meal back to him soon enough.
"What's the matter," he asked.
She tilted her face.
"You're up to something…"
He looked innocent.
"What do you mean?"
She put her fork down for a moment.
"I know that look…now I love that look don't get me wrong Walker but I know it."
He smiled wider.
"What could I possibly be up to," he said, "I'm sitting here with you."
She rolled her eyes.
"Walker, if you are planning anything else for the party, you might as well just tell me."
His face changed and mischief flashed through those eyes now.
"Well actually this is something else…and it's a surprise for later on…"
Now that piqued her interest.
"Surprise what surprise?"
He didn't budge.
"You'll find out later on," he said, "Now start eating…"
Cassidy did eat all of her breakfast and it did stay down, much to her relief. The morning sickness had her worried that her growing baby wouldn't be properly nourished to keep growing but her doctor had reassured her after giving them both a clean bill of health that this was a normal stage of pregnancy that would soon pass. Her appetite had been voracious at other times so she felt better and less guilty about eating extra servings at her other meals.
She had ditched the oatmeal, rediscovered her love for eggs and still had a yen for the chilies growing in her yard which Buck and Larson dutifully picked daily to keep up with her appetite. But for the most part, she couldn't be happier than she was now. Steel and his accomplice were both locked up in prison and Jonathan had folded like a house of cards during his interrogation and had given the investigators of different law enforcement agencies enough goods to put Marquis behind bars in the super maximum prison in Colorado for a long time. He would find slipping through the gates of that facility to be much more challenging. Still Cord and Cassidy knew he would never stop plotting another round of vengeance against them but they had better thoughts to occupy their time.
Like the new baby coming. Cassidy had decided which room in the ranch house would be perfect for the nursery and never willing to put off anything to the last moment, she had started planning it already. She had already cut back on her physical labor though her doctor said she could keep on riding for a while longer as long as she was very careful. Slade had handled most of the financial part of their work to help the ranchers as Cassidy had prepared for the court appearance next month. Her ex had taken news of her pregnancy very well and had been graceful enough to congratulate the proud couple. She still heard the trace of wistfulness in Slade's voice for what might have been but he had been so busy with his new venture of ranching and breaking and training yearlings with some new hands that he didn't have much time for regrets.
Her vacation time would be ending soon as she had decided to commute with Cord via helicopter to the office three mornings a week just as they used to do. Dennis had been greatly relieved to hear that news and during her most recent phone conversation, he had excitedly listed in a single breath all of the paperwork and case files that were awaiting attention on her desk at the penthouse suite. She finally had to beg off and hang up the phone because a certain someone had come up behind her, wrapped his arms around her and started doing pleasant things to that sensitive spot on the nape on the back of her neck.
She wondered if Dennis knew the difference.
But anyway, she had been grappling with trying to find balance in her life between pursuing her career in the bustling metropolis that was L.A. and having a quiet place to retreat to at the end of the day. And she knew she had found it and the man who would share all that with her. After showering and changing, she had headed out to the barn and saw Buck and Larson arguing about whether or not Beulah could be trained as a guardian pig. Cord had sent most of the security team back to the firm but kept a couple of them around for a while until they were absolutely sure the threat posed by Steel had truly passed.
"I say she can be trained to do that," Buck insisted, "Look how well she handled that prowler."
Larson put his hand on his hips.
"We don't even know there was someone," he said, "All we saw were shadows."
"That's just nonsense Larson," he said, "Of course we know it was that guy Steel or what's his name trying to cause some real trouble."
Larson just shook his head and walked away. He brightened when he saw Cassidy approach.
"Hi there Cassidy," he said, smiling.
"How you feeling Larson?"
He tossed a look at Buck.
"Buck's being silly again," he said, "but otherwise it's a beautiful day."
She smiled back at him.
"It is, isn't it," she said, "I think I'll do some gardening today."
He looked unsure.
"Are you going to be okay…?"
She gave him her look that he recognized well.
"Larson, I'm pregnant, not sick," she said, "At least not most of the day."
"Okay then…oh wait I was told to give this to you…"
He handed her an envelope and her brow furrowed as she looked at it.
"Who gave this to you," she asked.
Larson just shrugged his shoulders.
"I'm not supposed to tell you," he said, "Why don't you just read it?"
Cassidy opened up the envelope and her eyes widened. The card inside stated that she was to show up at the stables later that afternoon…alone.
"Well the bad guys are locked up now so it can't be them," she said, "I wonder…"
But she had just been playing with Larson because she knew damn well who sent it and she hid that with a smile as she walked to the barn. Thinking that she had a surprise of her own.
Cord worked all day fixing some fencing in the far side of the pasture, counting the hours until he could set his plan in motion. He knew that Larson had given her the invitation and that curiosity if nothing else would get her out to the stable. But he had something important to do and its success met everything to him. He tried to keep his mind off of it while he hammered nails into faded wood and carried planks back and forth under the hot sun. Next week he would be returning to the office but Cassidy would be sharing the commute with him as she had decided to spend part of the week working in L.A. at least until she got her feet wet again.
But he would savor the time they had spent together this week always. He had quickly gotten used to the idea that some months from now he was going to be a father and felt that he had been waiting for that moment most of his life. His father had joked to him often enough that he had better get moving on, get busy and give him a grandchild.
Cord looked at his watch for the hundredth time thinking this day was passing too damn slowly.
Cassidy had ridden up to the barn, trusting that her mare would look out for her as she always had and had seen Cayenne tied up there as well. Intrigued, she dismounted and tied up Chelsea near the filly and brushing her pants off, headed to the stable. She smiled as she noted the decorations that had been placed over the entrance and along the stalls which lined the passage to the rooms on the end. She entered the small room to see Cord standing there dressed up in his favorite pair of faded jeans and shirt and those damn chaps. She walked straight up to him and embraced him, kissing him on the mouth. His mouth tasted good on her own as it always did and when they broke for air, she stood back and folded her arms.
"Okay cowboy fess up."
He just looked at her.
"About what darling?"
"Why you invited me all the way out here to…"
He smiled slowly, his eyes lighting up.
"Our first love nest?"
Her face flushed at that and she bit her lip, watching him carefully.
"You know if it hadn't been for that…I might not be in this condition," she pointed out.
He shook his head.
"If it hadn't been here, it would have been one of the other dozen or so times…"
She chuckled at that.
"True…but why did you bring me here," she said, "For another trip down memory lane?"
He grew really serious for a moment and what she saw in his brown eyes, nearly brought tears to her own.
"Walker is everything okay…"
He nodded and reached for her hand. He then fumbled into his pocket for something as she watched him. She didn't see what he pulled out but the smile that lit up his face…priceless. But when he actually knelt down before her, chaps and all, then of course she knew.
She clasped her hands together, her heart swelling.
"Walker, is this what I think…"
"Shhh now and let me do this properly," he instructed.
She bit back a smile and when she saw what lie inside the box, the emotion that filled her overwhelmed everything else.
" Cassidy I know it's taken me…a long time to figure things out and I've never enjoyed my life more than in the past few weeks…Never felt like this with anyone else and I can't move forward in my life without you…and him or her or any other babies to come in it…Will you…."
"Damn straight I will Walker…"
He broke into an even wider smile, laced with what Cassidy believed to be immense joy laced with more than a bit of relief. But seriously, could he doubt that she would ever refuse him? Now he looked like he might cry and she reached her hand to brush his cheek. He then slipped that ring right on her finger and damn if he didn't draw that hand to his mouth and work some magic over it by brushing his lips over it. Then when she smiled back at him, he embraced her tightly and then the tears did come for both of them.
They toasted their engagement with some sparkling grape soda and as it buzzed pleasantly down her throat, she looked at him thoughtfully.
"Walker, I don't want a huge wedding or anything. I just want to celebrate it with our family and friends together."
"Okay so keep the guest list to less than a thousand…"
She rolled her eyes at him and then chuckled.
"That's the place to start…and finding a tailor who can keep making adjustments..."
"We'll do that," he said.
They kissed once they got that all settled, leaving most of the logistics of wedding planning for another day. She closed her eyes as she felt his lips claim her own and his hands begin fiddling with the buttons on her shirt.
"Shouldn't we be heading back," she asked.
He noticed it had been getting darker outside, as some clouds had began to roll in from the east.
"I think it's going to rain," he said, "No sense in riding in it when we have everything we need here…Some of this delicious grape soda, some food and over there…"
She gazed over at the cot that awaited them and then back at him as he started on the buttons again.
"I think I'd rather stay here for a little while…"
And so they did.
Cassidy walked amid the throngs of people who had come out to the ranch to celebrate its housewarming and made sure that her family and friends had plenty to eat and drink. Buck and Larson had combined their best chili cooking skills with Cord's talent at the barbecue to make some truly tasty sirloin chili burgers. She had of course roasted the potatoes with garlic and rosemary and Lulu had prepared the salad utilizing vegetables that she and Dylan had harvested from the garden. Slade had gotten over his jealousy over not hooking back together with her to man the bar outside by the swimming pool and other guests like everyone at the office and Stone's wife had brought including several delicious desserts which waited in the kitchen for their unveiling.
Luke had arrived bearing gifts for the newest member of the family. The biggest surprise had been the arrival of Santiago and his family who had flown in on Cord's Lear Jet along with of course, his mama as a surprise for Cassidy.
And it had been the most wonderful of surprises even when she had walked into the kitchen and had just taken over, but Cassidy welcomed her presence having missed the woman so much. And of course, Mama had brought some of her trademark recipes for them to enjoy.
"You need to eat much more now," she fussed, "You're eating for two…does Cord keep you well fed?"
Cassidy smiled at the woman's maternal side showing.
"Yes he does," she said, "He takes really good care of me."
"He should," she said, "Hopefully he's more attentive than my son who refuses to even consider giving me another grandchild. Says he's too tired…It's because he eats like a bird."
Cassidy chuckled, thinking it to be just like old times.
"I've never been happier," she said, "I really love him."
The older woman's face softened and she patted Cassidy s cheek.
"Of course you do," she said, "I've always known that. I was just wondering when the two of you would have enough sense between you to figure that out."
Cassidy smiled, yes they finally did and to think it had been helped along by her impulsive decision to purchase his ranch.
"And they've put the bad men away in jail?"
Cassidy nodded. Oh yes, Steel was back cooling his heels again this time in much more secure surroundings this time.
Lulu joined them in the kitchen and went to help Cassidy get the final touches on the potatoes.
"The guys are almost done with the barbecue," she said, "Cord's been keeping them in line."
"I'll bet," Cassidy said, "I'd better check on them."
Everyone seemed like they were having a great time at the party and before mingling, Cassidy had brought out a freshly baked apple pie for Buck to give to Beulah who at least this time appeared to be securely locked up in the barn. This would be a great peace offering for the porcine forced to miss out on the festivities. She walked out to where Cord had been with Santiago, Stone and Luke preparing a stack of burgers to place on the neatly decorated tables.
"They look great," she said.
Cord walked over and kissed her before brushing her hair off of her face.
"So do you," he said, "How you feeling?"
She rolled her eyes at him.
"As good as I did the last time you asked," she said, "Really I'm fine."
The other men chuckled.
"It's always like this with the first one," Santiago said, "You live and learn in time for the rest of them."
Cassidy raised a brow at the ex-cop who looked more relaxed than she had ever seen him.
"Your mama says you're holding out on her…"
Santiago sipped his beer.
"I told her…my wife and I would think about it," he said, "but we've got our hands filled just with the four boys."
That had grown like weeds since Cassidy had last seen them. No doubt, so have their appetites. They could put away so much food, something which made their grandmother very happy. She watched them play with Stone's daughter. Cassidy noticed that the two of them looked very happy together.
The food proved to be delicious and everyone returned to the table for seconds including Santiago's four sons who had gone off with Buck and Larson to tour the barn even stopping to visit Beulah who had made short work of her pie. Cord had made sure that Cassidy had plenty to eat and that she actually sat down and ate her meal rather than run around making sure everyone else had enough to eat. With Santiago's mama at the party, there could only be one captain anyway and Cord had been grateful to her when she had arrived and just taken command of that ship right away. Cassidy hadn't minded in the least and she looked happy now talking with Shelli who had left Walker Enterprises to go backpacking in Europe where she had met a man who owned a winery on the Italian coast and fallen in love. She showed off her wedding ring and everyone thought it beautiful.
"Where's Roberto now," Ruth Ann asked.
"He's in Paris on business," Shelli said, "We're going to meet back up in Rome for a quick vacation before we start organizing for the new season."
Cassidy had been happy for her friend when she had found true love, though she herself still looked in between balancing different work assignments for Dennis who was now regaling a group of guests with tales of life at the office. Theyseemed to be indulging him for the moment despite being double teamed by another corporate bigwig, Harold who had flown in from back East to attend the party.
Cassidy sat enjoying her meal thoroughly, having developed quite a healthy appetite and as she cast a glance at Cord talking with the men folk, other things. She saw an older woman with a cowboy hat bring her dish on over and smiled warmly at the woman who had delivered Cord as a baby and saved her life. This of course made it possible for him to hook up with her and start off on the next generation of the Walker family tree. Not for the first time, she wished that her own parents had lived long enough to meet the grandchild they would have wanted. She liked to believe that they was watching from someplace else
Dottie, her neighbor who happened to be a retired midwife walked right up to her and sat beside her.
"So who's going to deliver this baby of yours and Cord's," she said, "Got a doctor lined up."
Cassidy thought this woman never missed a step.
"I do here," she said, "Some women here recommended her to me. She's supposed to be very good."
"Then you're in good hands," she said, "Of course I'm going to be checking up regularly on you and Cord and the little one to make sure everything's fine."
"I'd like that," she said, "I know Walker will."
Dottie shook his head.
"He didn't waste any time did he," he said, "Once he figured out what he should have known all along. But Walker men are much quicker on the draw in the business world than their personal lives."
Yeah, Cassidy thought, maybe that was true. Cord's own complicated history being what it had turned out to be but at least they had both found their way home together.
The party played out for some hours well into the night before everyone started saying goodbye, rounding up their flocks and setting off. Santiago's family would be off to Disneyland and other tourist sites but would be returning to spend a week on their ranch. Cassidy looked forward to that and would have the guest house ready for them. Dylan and Lulu along with Buck and Larson had done most of the cleaning up because Cord had insisted on Cassidy relaxing along with him. He had taken her hand and had brought her down to the veranda just off of the house where he had made sure she had a comfortable seat on the chaise there.
"Walker, I'm not sick…I'm pregnant."
"I know that but the doctor said…"
"He said to keep living my life except for a few minor adjustments," she said, "That means some time spent at the office next week so we can spend more time here when Santiago and his family come here."
"It will be nice to spend more time with them," he said, "It's been a long time."
Cassidy wrapped her arms around him and pulled him closer to her, resting her head against him.
"They seem so happy," she said, "I've never seen Santiago so relaxed."
Cord had noticed that too and figured that a retirement spent in a nice piece of paradise and a new business venture suited his friend.
"I'd like to keep in closer touch with them."
"Me too," she said, "That's why we're going to spend some time with them next month."
"Cassidy will it be safe…"
She blew a tendril of hair out of her face, suddenly facing him.
"Walker, I'm perfectly fine and you're going to have to settle down if you're going to make it the whole nine yards…"
" Cassidy that's football darling," he said, "I believe you mean almost nine months give or take the time that's passed since we…found shelter in the stable."
"Okay, but really I'm perfectly fine," she said, "In fact I feel great…once the mornings pass."
"Okay I'll accept that…as long as you let me help you," he said, "Make it easier on you."
She smiled at the concern in his voice.
"You can do that in other ways cowboy," she said, "I'm pretty easy to please."
He stroked her face.
"I think I'm up for that," he said, adjusting his position to cradle her body against his better.
"What did I just tell you," he said.
"No I just have a present for you and I forgot to give it," she said.
He caressed her abdomen.
"Oh I don't think so."
"No…something else," she said, moving around as if looking for something.
"Okay I'm game…"
She suppressed a chuckle at the expression on his face. Finally she searched her pocket and found it, unfolding it.
"This isn't it," she said, "This is just the reminder to tell you…"
"Tell me what, because now my curiosity's been aroused."
Cassidy knew that hadn't been the only part of him but anyway, first things first and she had news to tell him. Something really important …
"It's about the ranch…"
He stroked her skin beneath her shirt.
"What about it?"
"I went and did something."
She paused for a moment and he positioned himself to read her face, not that it told him much…except that she appreciated his touch.
"I had the deed changed," she said, slowly, "I had a name added."
A sense of wonder hit him and his brows rose.
"Yeah I changed it so that it's not my ranch anymore," she said, "It's our ranch…we both own it."
"But Cassidy, it's really not necessary…"
She looked at him and he detected something in her hazel eyes.
"This is what I want," she said, "I never met to take your ranch away from you Walker…"
"You didn't take anything," he said, "I sold it and you bought it and I'm so damn glad you did because I had forgotten how much it meant to me and how much its owner does."
Her face grew warmer.
"I have a confession to make too," she said, "I bought it to bring you to your senses about who you are and what you really wanted."
"What do you mean?"
"Remember that night we spent playing poker at that club on Sunset," she said, "You know the one where we both walked into the illegal gambling ring."
His eyes lit up.
"Ah yes, that was the plan but then this woman at the table, she kissed me and took me right out of my game," he recalled, "She looked a lot like you and I wanted to do much more than kiss her."
She rolled her eyes.
"Walker we just kissed because they would have taken us out and killed us if we hadn't."
"Oh I'd have done it anyway," he said, "Who could let an opportunity like that go by? It's just a shame we weren't in more...romantic surroundings."
She took a deep breath as he started touching her skin again, beneath her shirt. Her skin tingled beneath his touch and she closed her eyes. But then she remembered she still had more to say before they got down to business.
"But you get what I'm saying don't you," she said, "Ever since then, I knew exactly what I wanted and who, I just had to figure out a way to let you know…away from the chaos of our lives in L.A."
"Well, I didn't come out here just to protect you from Steel," he said, "I had my other reasons because I was there in that club too."
She drew him closer to kiss him, even as his fingers continued to work their magic.
"Well I guess we both got what we wanted in the end," she said.
He closed his eyes as he felt her hands working the buttons on his shirt.
"Indeed," he said, "Only we've got a whole future ahead of us and I can't wait to see how it turns out."
They both got off the couch and after he swooped her off of her feet into his arms, they headed on inside to start living that future.