Authors: Elizabeth Lennox
They were walking into the kitchen and she spun around, putting a finger to the middle of his chest and glaring up at him. “Don’t mess with my pasta, dude,” she warned, not joking in the least. “I don’t know why, but I’m craving that macaroni and cheese. So just stay away from the pasta!”
He held up his hands defensively, but he was laughing at her as well. “I won’t touch the pasta.”
She breathed a sigh of relief and turned back around, moving back to the kitchen. “What are you in the mood to eat tonight?”
Damon raised his eyebrows at her question, then let them wander down her still slender figure. “Do I get anything I want?”
Gabby slowly realized what he was asking and blushed. “Not that,” she whispered, looking around as if someone might see or know what he was saying to her.
Damon had to laugh. “Gabriella, we’re in our own home. No one is going to see anything we do.”
She blushed and looked away. Was she that obvious? Was he a mind reader on top of all of his other talents? “I know that!” But she also knew that his security guards were constantly walking around the perimeter of this property. The curtains were already closed because of the early nightfall, but she checked to make sure anyway.
He laughed even harder when she looked around again. “So why are you looking around as if someone might overhear our conversation?”
Her mouth quirked into a grimace and he laughed even harder. “Because of what you’re suggesting,” she said and walked out of the family room and back into the kitchen. “What about a pizza?” she suggested, not allowing her eyes to look towards her stash of mac and cheese. “With lots of cheese and vegetables on it?”
“Sounds perfect,” he replied and dialed a number.
“Who do you call when you do that?” she asked, taking out a pitcher of water from the fridge and poured herself a glass.
“My security guards. And yours.”
“Why don’t we just order from our phone?”
He held up his finger, silently telling her to hold on while he spoke into his phone, then clicked it closed. “They would prefer to put in the order themselves and pick it up. The fewer strangers who enter the area, the easier it is to do their jobs. And when they order the pizza, they talk to the manager and ask certain questions. What they are, I have no idea but it’s their process so I don’t mess with it.”
Gabby thought about that and shrugged. She didn’t care how she got a pizza, it just seemed a little odd to ask someone else to dial a phone. But it made sense from a security standpoint, she supposed. She had a lot to learn. After having lived with this man for the past few months, she still thought he was a mystery.
They ate pizza in front of the fire and talked about pointless things. After a while, Gabby realized that it didn’t matter too much that Damon didn’t talk about himself much or his past at all. He talked to her about the things that mattered to him now and Gabby knew that was as important to her as learning about why he was the way he is.
She tried to stay awake and listen to him longer, loving the deep sound of his voice, but by nine o’clock that night, she was too tired to hold her head up. She tried to walk up the stairs, but Damon just lifted her into his arms and carried her despite her protests. He put her into bed, then took off his clothes and slid in behind her, his hand covering her belly as he held her sleeping.
Gabby woke up and glanced at the clock on the bedside table. It was only thirteen minutes after two o’clock, the stars were still out and she should be exhausted. She instantly realized that she was curled up beside Damon, using his arm as her pillow and wanted to savor the moment. She’d spent so many nights dreaming about him and waking up alone. Now that he was here, warm and sexy right next to her, she didn’t want to lose this feeling. She tried desperately to go back to sleep and ignore the craving, but after thirty minutes, she accepted that the effort was pointless.
She slipped out of his arms and snuck downstairs. She couldn’t help it. The boxes were calling to her. If she didn’t make this pasta now, she was going to do something crazy. What that crazy thing was, she didn’t know she just knew that it was imperative that she make some mac and cheese fast.
Thankfully, the state of the art kitchen appliances had the water boiling in no time. She dumped the pasta in, stirred the water occasionally and waited impatiently for the pasta to re-hydrate. It was a long, tedious process, especially for a pregnant woman, but finally the pasta was finished. She was just putting the powdered cheese into the pasta, milk and margarine when Damon’s tall, dark shadow came up behind her. “What the hell is that?” he asked, putting a hand on both of her hips.
She looked behind her, surprised that he’d never tried mac and cheese. “Oh, that’s right, you grew up in Moscow. They probably don’t have anything this delicious there, do they?”
Damon looked down at the orange colored pasta and cringed. “I certainly hope not.” He looked at her eager expression and was confused. “Why are you doing this at three o’clock in the morning?” he asked.
Gabby shrugged and continued stirring. “I can’t help it. The baby wants it. When she wants something, she has a pretty powerful influence on me.”
Damon’s only response was to grunt. He hadn’t grown up with a mother who had discussed her pregnancies, so he had no idea what she craved during either his pregnancy or Yuri’s. He’d never thought of those kinds of small things before, but it was interesting to see Gabriella go through this. Even in his ignorance, he was still amazed.
“So how long does this last?” he asked, leaning against the counter, watching as she picked up a fork and just started eating right out of the pot. “Do you want a bowl or plate?” he asked, almost laughing at her ecstatic expression. “I never knew you were such a cheap date.”
She laughed and took another bite. “Now you know. And I have no idea how long this lasts but I hope not very long because this stuff isn’t the healthiest in the world.”
He peered into the pot at the orange colored stuff and nodded. “I would have to agree with you there.”
“I am not going to get fat during this pregnancy. And this girl is not going to become addicted to things like this. In fact, I can’t imagine ever serving her something like this.”
“What if she’s a he?” he asked carefully. Gabriella seemed to have accepted the idea of the pregnancy, but her comment about getting fat worried him. Was she also stuck on a girl? He had to know, not one to beat around the bush or let things fester.
She thought about that for a split second, then shrugged her shoulders as if it didn’t matter. “A boy would be nice, but I think a girl would be more fun. I could dress her up in fun clothes and go shopping with her.” She tossed the empty pasta box into the garbage. “I just hope this baby is healthy. If that’s the case, I don’t care if it’s a boy or a girl. Just healthy and happy.”
He raised one eyebrow at her comment, although he agreed with the healthy part of her declaration. And he would do everything in his power to ensure that the baby remained healthy. “I thought you mentioned you didn’t like to shop.”
Gabby thought about that and nodded. “Okay, so maybe no shopping. But she could do ballet and cool sports.”
“A boy could do all of that as well. Maybe not the ballet stuff though.”
She glared at him. “A boy could do ballet as well.”
He rolled his eyes and shook his head. “Not any man my size.”
She had to laugh at that because it was true. Or at least she assumed it was true. She’d never gotten into ballet much but it was a beautiful art with many very buff men. “I’ll concede the possibility with you.” She took one more bite of the pasta, then found a container and put it all into the fridge.
“That’s all you’re going to eat?” he asked. He would have thought she’d eat a larger portion since she’d spent the time in the middle of the night to make the stuff.
“Yes. Craving is gone. Time to go back to bed,” she said and released a huge yawn. “I’m pretty tired. Are you coming?”
He was relieved that she was going with him willingly. Did she know that he’d been sleeping with her? Had she accepted that they were going to get married and be a family? He’d have to bring that up to her tomorrow when she was more awake and he could trust her answer. She might just tell him something now to appease him so she could get back to sleep.
She walked up the stairs tiredly, then crawled into bed. She was asleep before he even climbed in behind her but he didn’t care. He pulled her against him once again and within moments, he too was asleep.
Gabby tied the last bow nervously and gave each dog a treat for being so patient. She had no idea how Damon would feel about pets, they’d barely covered the issue last week, but things were going so well and she hoped this would be a good surprise.
She wondered why he hadn’t mentioned that today was his birthday. She’d spied his wallet on the dresser yesterday morning and, just by accident, she looked at his driver’s license. How odd that his birthday was on the first of November, she thought. But then again, everyone had to be born on some day so why not the first of the month? It was a nice, round number, easy to remember too. It also occurred to her that he didn’t know when her birthday was either so tonight was going to be a big surprise.
The whole house smelled wonderful with the scent of chocolate cake wafting through the rooms but she had no idea what kind of cake he liked. Or even if he liked cake at all. It sounded crazy, but she knew that some people didn’t like cake at all. How someone could not like cake she couldn’t fathom but…okay, now she was rambling in her head and that just had to stop. It was one thing to ramble when she was nervous and actually speaking out loud. But it was a whole other issue when she was doing it all alone and in her mind with no one to argue with.
She heard Justin pull up out front and knew that, even if she’d messed up royally with the cake and the special dinner and the dogs as a surprise present, there was no turning back now. And no way to hide his surprise. There were just too many to hide and they weren’t very quiet in their enthusiasm over their new home. In her mind, their scruffy appearance was negated by their sweet, loyal temperament and the adoring look in their eyes. She just hoped that Damon would see past their appearance to their wonderful personalities as well.
She hurried to the front door, eager to see the expression on his face when he walked in and saw her surprise. She smoothed the dress down over her hips nervously, then twirled the cake slightly so that the best side was visible on the kitchen counter and rushed to the front door. Was her lipstick okay? Her hair? She wanted everything to be perfect tonight. She’d called several of his favorite restaurants, asking them what he normally ordered. Unfortunately, he rarely ordered the same thing twice so she couldn’t discover what his favorite meal might be. Guessing was the best she could do and went with the old macho favorite of steak and potatoes.
Damon walked into the front door and the barking and chaos, not to mention the incredible smell of something delicious struck him all at once.
Gabby was standing in the hallway, a hopeful look on her beautiful face and her hands clasped in front of her. But the wiggling animals that came rushing towards him caught his attention. He stared down at his feet, looking at three of the mangiest mutts he’d ever seen in his life. When Gabriella walked closer, he immediately noticed the nervousness in her eyes. He stood absolutely still, his eyes moving from the dogs with ridiculous looking bows around their necks, all of whom were sniffing him as if he were their dessert and wagging their tails so hard the back half of their bodies might fall off. Gabriella stood a few feet away in a lovely pink dress, her hair pulled back in a scarf and a light in her eyes that told him she’d done something special, although why she would do that was a mystery.
“You mentioned that you like dogs,” she said by way of an explanation.
He nodded his head. “I guess when we were having that conversation, it was more of a theoretical discussion in my mind.”
He felt like an absolute heel when her face fell to utter disappointment. “But that doesn’t mean I’m not surprised,” he said, hoping to get her smile back once again. At least the statement was honest. He wasn’t just surprised, he was floored. “Why are there three of them?” he asked, looking down at a small, medium and large canine, all of whom were still wagging their tails, but were now sitting in front of him, one with his mouth hanging open and his tongue draped off to the side as he waited for whatever was going to happen next.
“They are sort of your birthday present,” she said softly.
Damon’s eyes snapped up to hers, then back to the dogs. “My birthday?” he clarified.
“Yes. I guess you don’t like to celebrate it but I saw the date on your driver’s license a few days ago and realized that today was your birthday. Since we sort of talked about pets the other night, I thought you might want a pet as a present.”
“My birthday?” he repeated.
Damon knew how old he was, but the actual date and month of his birthday hadn’t ever been told to him. He’d just picked a date the first time one of his assistants had asked him and that must be the date on his legal documents. He and Yuri had never celebrated their birthdays. In fact, Damon hadn’t even realized that people did that sort of thing until he was in his mid-twenties. Even now, he rarely even acknowledged his mistresses birthdays, assigning the task of finding something appropriate for their presents to his assistant. She mentioned what she purchased and delivered, but it wasn’t a piece of information he generally retained.
He knew Gabby’s birthday though. It was in three months and he’d been wondering what might be appropriate as a gift to her. She didn’t seem to really want anything from him. She hadn’t touched the credit cards he’d arranged for her use, she came home with new clothes occasionally, but he suspected that she bought them with her own money. That was a discussion he was going to have with her at some point, but tonight, with these animals still waiting for something, Damon wasn’t sure what, the discussion about her using his money instead of her own was going to have to wait.