I've never been in love before. I didn't realize it was such a physical thing.
Waking up next to Tanner, I had to squeeze my eyes shut tightly against the swirling in my head. I was never going to get tired of seeing him there next to me in bed, the sheets all crumpled in a heap from last night's love...and tented around his massive morning wood.
"Is this for me?" I smiled, sliding my hand down into the crisp, wiry hairs at his base.
He groaned and snuffled awake, and a sexy, sleepy grin spread across his lips. "It can be if you want it," he murmured into my neck. Then he rolled on top of me, crushing me under his half-awake deadweight.
"Hold that thought, cowboy, I need to pee."
He flopped back off of me and let out a loud snore. I hid my giggle behind my hand and stood up.
The room slid sideways a moment and I had to grip the sheets tightly to keep from falling on the floor. "Fuck," I whispered.
"You okay?" Tanner was instantly awake and at my side.
I grabbed his hand and blinked several times. "Yeah," I exhaled, confused. "Guess I didn't eat enough yesterday. Got lightheaded there for a second."
"Well we have today off." Tanner could barely keep the glee out of his voice. "A whole day, just to lie around and be naked."
"Aren't Blake's wife and baby coming today?" I asked, sliding carefully from the bed. The dizziness seemed to have dissipated. I needed to make sure to eat better today. Road food was playing havoc with my stomach.
"So?" Tanner called from the bed.
I laughed. "So I don't think they'll appreciate us being naked when we meet them."
Tanner grumbled something darkly. "So hurry up and get back here," he called.
"Be there in a sec." My bladder was aching badly. I went to sit on the toilet, but midway through the act of sitting, the dizziness came back with a vengeance. I let out a small yelp as my ass hit the toilet, hard, then bounced to the side. I caught myself on the sink just as Tanner appeared in the doorway. He was at my side in a moment.
"I'm going to get your something to eat," he growled.
"Wait." I grabbed his hand and squeezed it as the edges of my sight swirled around. Tanner's confused face disappeared into a swirl of red confusion. "Stay for a sec," I said, hoping that he couldn't hear the panic in my voice.
I took several slow, deep breaths. "Thanks," I finally managed to croak out as his face swam back into view. "I don't know what's going on."
"Life on the road," Tanner said darkly. "You're not the first person I've seen break down from the pace."
I looked up at him and felt my eyebrows knit together. "I'm not breaking down," I declared. "I just need to eat a real meal. I only had road food yesterday."
Tanner held up his hands placating. "Okay fine, you're not breaking down. I'm gonna go get you some food. "Something with protein. Hey, you know what has protein?"
I socked him in the shoulder and he smiled widely. "Feeling better already, I see."
By the time I had collected myself enough to emerge from the bathroom, room service had delivered a steaming tray of food to the door. Tanner hovered over me like a worried mother hen, watching me closely as I devoured everything...right up until the last bite.
Suddenly my stomach turned. I swallowed hard against the bile and pushed the plate away. "Not going to finish that?" Tanner asked quizzically.
Even though I had been shoveling them into my mouth only a second ago, the shiny yellow glob of scrambled egg suddenly looked like the most repulsive thing I had ever seen. "Urgh, no," I protested weakly. "I'm done."
"Okay darlin', you're not workin' today. You need to lie your sweet ass down and take a damn nap." He raked his eyes over me. "I've been working you too hard," he snarled, trying to mask his concern with a joke.
I wanted to protest. I still needed some more shots of the guys. When I checked through my rolls, every picture I took was Tanner, Tanner, Tanner. That was good for me, but not for my job.
But I was suddenly so fucking tired.
"Wake me up when Blake's wife gets here," I murmured as I hit the pillow. "I'll need some shots of...."
I don't think I finished the sentence before I fell asleep. But just as I fell into oblivion, a fleeting thought raced across my brain.
Have I been taking my pills?
As I closed the door on Monique I pushed the concern from my mind. Monique was tough as nails, but even the toughest of us needed down days. I resolved to let her sleep as long as she could. Feeling slightly lost, I leaned back into the sofa and hummed the tune that had been driving me nuts for weeks now.
"She's here," Blake yelled from his room, then came bounding out into the living area. We were staying in a hotel only three hours from the ranch and it was killing me to be so close. I could pop down, sleep in my own bed the night and be back here in time for load in tomorrow.
But I couldn't be sure I actually would come back.
The elevator dinged and Blake let out another whoop. An exhausted looking LeeAnne emerged from the elevator, but her eyes lit up when she saw her husband bounding towards her.
I felt like I was intruding on a private moment, so I turned away as the two of them held each other close, their daughter clutched in between them emitting an indignant squawk of protest over being squashed in their embrace. I studiously looked down at my hands as I heard Blake exclaim, "holy shit she got big!"
"Watch your mouth, honey," LeeAnne chided gently. "And I know, she'd better be gettin' big, all that eatin' she's been doin'!"
I turned around just in time to see Blake fold his fat little daughter into his arms. She waved her chubby fist in the air, then bopped him on the nose. LeeAnne and Blake both laughed and I couldn't help but follow suit. Standing up, I extended my hand. "It's good to see you again, LeeAnne," I smiled.
LeeAnne batted my hand away with a huffing noise. "Stop bein' so formal with me, Tanner Brock. You might be a bigshot now, but I still remember how you were back in high school."
"Hope you don't share that with too many people," I grinned, accepting her bone-crushing hug with a slight cough. I guess holding a baby all day really works the biceps, because she damn near cracked one of my ribs.
"She doesn't know all the stories," Blake smiled down at his wife fondly.
"That's only because y'all went to that fancy prep school in the next county," LeeAnne shot back. She caught me smiling and smiled herself. "You want to hold her, Tanner?"
"Oh, no, um..." I held out my hands to ward her off, but LeeAnne grabbed the little baby from Blake and plopped her right into my outstretched hands.
She was heavier than I was expecting, a good, solid weight. And as I held her little body in my arms, an instinct I didn't know I had suddenly kicked in. "Hey there, little princess," I said softly, cradling her close to my chest. "Hey there."
Maddie looked up at me, her big blue eyes so clear and innocent that my heart skipped a beat. "She's gorgeous," I exhaled, and for once I wasn't saying that to blow smoke up the asses of proud new parents. I meant it. She was gorgeous in the way a sunset over the ocean is gorgeous. Gorgeous in the way the spring buds emerging from winter's bare earth is gorgeous. She was a revelation, something completely new and spell-binding.
"That's a good look
on you, Tanner." I could hear the grin in Blake's voice even if I wasn't looking at him to see it. I was too wrapped up in looking at every little expression that crossed Maddie's face.
There was a sound at the bedroom and we all turned to look.
Monique stood in the doorway, a funny look screwed up on her face. She looked like she wanted to cry and run away, but more than that; she looked like she had something very important to say.
I went to her, drawn like I always was to stand right by her side. "Hey, are you feeling any better?" I asked, hefting Maddie to my shoulder and touching her cheek.