I swallowed around the emotion clogging my throat, my heart expanding so much it hurt. “Nixon,” I said, tearing my gaze from the wall and crossing the distance to him in two strides. I wrapped my arms around him, and he instantly snaked his arms around me to haul me up to his level. “I love it,” I said, tears rolling down my cheeks.
I’d never lived in a home longer than six months, not a true home with a mortgage instead of rent. I’d never stayed in one city longer than necessary, and I’d always prided myself on not staying stagnant and exploring the world.
The way Nixon loved me—unconditionally and without hesitation. The way he constantly went out of his way to show that love, even when he hadn’t been able to say the words, spoke volumes about how he saw our future together.
And for the first time in my life, I saw the value in a home. In putting down roots and formulating a plan—one that revolved around the happiness and love we wanted to raise this baby in. I’d been a little sad since the day they’d passed me over for the Breaking Boundaries abroad internship, but not now. Not after all of this. Not after realizing there was so much to explore here, with him.
“You do?” he asked, planting a quick kiss on my lips.
“Yes!” I said, kissing him back, harder, hungrier, my heart racing with the revelation that maybe adventures didn’t always have to consist of traveling every six months or exploring a new country. It could exist right here between Nixon’s arms, his kiss.
Something fluttered in my tummy that had nothing to do with the surging bliss racing through my blood, and I jolted against Nixon.
“What’s wrong?” he asked, instantly noting my wide-eyed stare. He set me gently on my feet, and I stepped back to hold my stomach. “Babe,” he said, his tone laced with worry. “Talk to me.”
I couldn’t speak because tears rolled down my cheeks. I grabbed his hand instead, jerking him toward me and settling his hand over the left side of my tummy.
I practically held my breath as that flutter happened again. I jerked my gaze up to his.
Nixon’s face shifted from worried to awed, his eyes wide.
“Say something else,” I whispered, and the man dropped to his knees before me but kept his hands on my stomach.
“Hi, baby,” he said, his voice strained with emotion.
Another flutter, and he half laughed, half gasped, his eyes drawing up to mine. They were glistening with unshed tears.
“Hi, baby,” he said again, this time there was no hiding the overwhelming hope in his tone. The baby kicked again in the same spot, and I choked out a laugh covering my mouth with a hand to keep from sobbing.
Because I’d felt this baby in my soul since the day those two pink lines had shown up, but watching Nixon finally, fully connect?
“You’re so strong,” he said to my tummy, delight dancing in his eyes as he remained on his knees. “God, Liberty, she’s incredible.” He rested his forehead against my stomach, seeming very well content to kneel there forever.
I raked my fingers through his hair, sucking in a sharp breath as I glanced at the nursery he’d created for our baby. The travel and adventure and football all combined together in a seamless mixture of the best pieces of us.
Nixon and me, and the baby between us.
“Thank you,” he whispered, keeping his head against my stomach.
“I love you,” I said, the words light and heavy at the same time. God, did I love this man, love his child. So much I felt it in every pore of my body.
Nixon shifted, slowly standing until I had to arch my neck to meet his gaze. He cupped my cheeks, his eyes open and raw and real as he looked down at me.
“I love you, Liberty. So damn much.” Then he slanted his mouth over mine, claiming me, body and soul, with those words, with his kiss.
And he didn’t stop, not even when I moaned between his lips, when I rocked against him, or when I’d taken him to the floor and rode him.
He didn’t stop touching me, loving me.
And I was certain I never wanted him to.
“You are not going to believe this!” I called out, wiping the sweat from my forehead as I walked into the living room. My chest heaved as I caught my breath since Mom had interrupted my six-mile run in the middle of the fourth mile.
But apparently, I was talking to myself, since Liberty wasn’t on the couch, where she usually sat with a book while I finished my early morning run. She’d been there when I headed down to the gym, but she wasn’t in the kitchen, or the dining room, either.