Authors: Lori King
Tags: #erotic, #short story, #hea, #western, #ranch, #cowboys, #north dakota, #prequel, #foster children
Danica shrugged. “Unfortunately we don’t.
There’s a shot record on file at the hospital where he was born,
but it hasn’t been updated since he left the hospital two days
after that. I got the feeling his mother was financially down and
out, and just realized she couldn’t give him what he needed. Poor
Sera snuggled Vincent close, and crooned to
him. “Don’t worry Vin, we’ll take good care of you. You’re going to
love Crawley Creek. There are horses, and doggies, and cows… do you
know what sound a cow makes?”
The boy’s face broke into a smile, and he
said softly, “Moo.”
“That’s right! What a smart boy you are!”
Sera said, laughing. “We’ll take it from here, Danica. Just keep us
posted. Vin will be perfectly safe with us.”
“Thank you again to both of you. I wasn’t
sure what I was going to do with him, but I’m glad this worked
Saying her goodbyes, Danica let herself out
leaving Abe to face his wife and Vincent. Cracking his knuckles
nervously, he rocked on his heels. “So, what do we do now?”
“We need to talk,” she said, giving him a
pointed look. “But first, I think this little guy needs to have
something to eat and a diaper change. Are you big enough to potty
in the stool yet, Vin?”
The child shook his head, making his dark
hair bounce against his skull.
“Well I’ll teach you how starting tomorrow.
Tonight you get to pick out which bedroom you want to sleep in. We
have four you can pick from.” She spoke to Vincent like he was a
small adult, holding her hand up with four fingers extended. “Do
you like tuna casserole? That’s what we’re having for supper
Without another word to Abe, Seraphina
carried the boy off in the direction of the kitchen still rambling
on about washing hands and eating a good dinner. Sighing with
relief, Abe collected himself and followed them.
After dinner and a bath, Sera settled Vin
into a bedroom right next to the one she shared with Abe. The child
was quit and withdrawn, but she knew in her gut that he was just
overwhelmed. He needed to feel secure and loved, and he would bloom
like a flower. Watching him fall asleep, gripping a small stuffed
monkey in his tiny arms, she felt a pang of sorrow burn through her
chest, only to find it replaced by a feeling of rightness.
Maybe this was the reason she wasn’t able to
have children. There were so many kids out there just like Vincent.
Children who didn’t have a stable place to grow up and be loved.
She and Abe might not have much financially, but they had an
abundance of love to give.
She just hoped Abe had an abundance of
forgiveness inside of him, too.
He was waiting for her on their bed,
stripped down to his boxer shorts, covers thrown aside, and a book
in his hands. His head lifted and he watched her as she moved about
readying herself for bed.
“Seraphina, I’m so sorry I didn’t tell you
before…” he started to say, stopping when she shook her head at
“Forgiven. Do I wish you’d told me so that I
could get a few things prepared before he arrived? Yes. Am I angry
that he’s here? Absolutely not.” She climbed up onto the bed, faced
him, and took his hand in hers, staring down at his scarred
knuckles. “Abe, I’ve been keeping something from you, and today I
realized that I wasn’t keeping the secret to protect you from it, I
was trying to protect me.”
“What’s wrong, angel? Does this have to do
with the pregnancy problems?” Concern laced his tone. He dropped
his book on the bed and reached for her.
Accepting the embrace, she rested her cheek
against his chest and squeezed her eyes shut. “I can’t get
pregnant, Abe. I’m barren. The tests I took in Grand Forks
Silence weighed her down, but she didn’t
dare say any more. Holding her breath, she waited for him to
respond. It only took a few heartbeats before he lifted her face
and pressed his lips to hers. “I’m so sorry, baby,” he whispered.
“I know how much you wanted to be pregnant.”
“You’re not mad?” She couldn’t hide her
surprise. “I’ve known for weeks, but I just couldn’t figure out how
to tell you. Doc said I have a hostile uterus. My own body rejects
pregnancies before they can get established. We can’t have the
children we’ve always wanted.”
“No I’m not mad. I don’t need a child to
make my life worth living. I just need you. Maybe having a baby of
our own isn’t written in the stars for us, but that doesn’t mean we
can’t have children,” Abe said firmly. “There’s a young man in the
next room who certainly needs our love right now, and I say if
you’re okay with it, we petition the courts to give us foster care
custody of him. Maybe even adopt him for our own, but I need you to
be okay. I want whatever makes you happy.”
Sera felt her heart lighten in her chest,
and tears slid down her cheeks. “Abraham Crawley, there’s never
been a better man on this planet than you. I’m so lucky to have
“Damn right you are,” he teased.
Slapping his arm lightly, she giggled
through her tears. “How did you know that I’d be okay with Vin
coming to stay with us?”
“Because you were made to be a mom. Maybe
not physically, but your heart was created too big for any one
person to absorb all of the love inside. I have a feeling we’ll end
up with a whole slew of children to love,” Abe replied. “As long as
we have each other, we have it all, angel.”
“What would I do without you?” she murmured,
kissing him softly.
“I hope we never have to be without each
other, because you’re my whole world.” He pulled her up over him so
that she straddled his hips.
“Show me,” she whispered, pulling her
nightgown over her head and letting it drop to the floor.
“For the rest of my days, angel. This is
only the beginning.”
Find out what happens to the children who
make their way to Crawley Creek in the Crawley Creek Series
Forget Me Knot
Rough Ride Romeo
Claiming His Cowgirl (Coming August
Forget Me Knot
Crawley Creek Book
“You can’t keep doing this to yourself,
Romeo.” Drannon stared down at the half-naked form of his brother
sprawled out on the front porch. It was lucky Roman had made so
much noise stumbling around drunk, or he might have frozen to death
before morning. As it was, he’d woken Drannon from a sound sleep,
and as usual, Drannon had gone to his brother’s rescue. Dragging
Roman’s limp body up over his shoulder, and carrying him out of the
February night air, he grumbled under his breath, “Going to end up
poisoning your blood with alcohol, or get some sort of damn STD.
Why the hell do you think you have to bang every woman this side of
the Mississippi anyway? Stupid. Just plain ol’stupid is what that
There was no response from the unconscious
man, but Drannon felt better as he spewed out his feelings on the
recurrent situation. For months he and the other guys had been
bailing Roman out and cleaning him up after his binge partying
sessions. Maybe it was time to give the kid an ultimatum. Dry out
and straighten up, or…
It was the “or” that was the problem.
Drannon would never be able to kick his brother off the ranch, no
matter how stupid he behaved. Crawley Creek was all Roman had, all
any of them had, and it belonged to the whole lot of them.
With one final curse, he dumped Roman onto
the sofa and headed for the kitchen in search of a midnight snack.
The bright light of the fridge made him squint as he reached for
the milk to go with the cookies he knew Marilyn had just put in the
“I thought I heard something.” Vin’s voice
startled him, and he choked on his cookie spewing crumbs all over
the counter top. Laughing, Vin slapped him on the back, “Sorry D,
didn’t mean to scare you. Didn’t you bring your teddy-bear
downstairs with you?”
"Asshole,” Drannon grumbled, reaching for a
napkin to wipe his face. “The teddy bear is passed out on the sofa,
probably drooling all over Marilyn’s fancy pillows, and mumbling to
himself, as usual.”
Vin’s eyes narrowed, and he shook his head.
“Yep. Found him on the porch minus his coat,
shirt and boots.”
“Fuck. That kid is trying to kill himself.”
Vin took a seat at the breakfast bar, and swiped a cookie from the
jar. “Who’d he go out with tonight?”
“No clue, but he smells like cheap perfume
and cigarettes. I was half tempted to dunk him in the horse tank
before I brought him in, but that isn’t fair to the horses.”
Drannon snorted at his own joke. Roman Freemont, aka Romeo, was
only ten years younger than he and Vin, but he acted like a
teenager. Partying, and womanizing like it was going out of style.
“We’re going to have to do something about it.”
“Yeah, but I don’t have a clue what.” Vin
scraped his nails over his shaved head in a gesture that was as
routine as breathing for him. “He’s been tore up ever since…”
His words drifted off, but Drannon nodded
his understanding. Less than a year ago, Abraham Crawley had died
of a sudden heart attack while fixing a fence in the west pasture.
Roman was supposed to have gone with him that day to help him make
the repairs, but he’d spent the night at a lady friend’s house, and
hadn’t gotten home in time, so Abe had left on his own. Roman held
on to the crazy idea that if he’d been there with Abe he could have
saved him, even though the doctors insisted Abe had died almost
“Guilt’s still eating him alive inside.”
Drannon said, sighing heavily as the sweets he’d consumed turned
into a heavy lump in his belly. “He needs help.”
“Yep, but he’s too stubborn to admit
“Just like someone else I know,” Drannon
shot back with a pointed look at Vin.
His brother’s nostrils flared, and his eyes
darkened in the murky kitchen lighting. “What’s that supposed to
“Like you don’t know? You go all Incredible
Hulk on everyone at the slightest thing lately. That PTSD isn’t
something to play around with, Vin. You need to get back on those
meds.” Drannon hated pointing it out, especially this late at
night, but the opportunity had presented itself, and he couldn’t
let it go.
“That medicine makes me numb. I’d rather
feel something than nothing,” Vin grumbled. “Besides, it ain’t my
fault the guys you hired last summer are morons. Shit, if we had
some hands with brains around here maybe I wouldn’t lose my temper
It was an argument Vin had made for too
long, but Drannon let it drop because two a.m. was not the time to
get into it with his brother.
“I’m going back to bed. We have an empty
house until Thursday, but then we get a guest.” Drannon put the
milk away, and wiped the crumbs from the counter into his palm.
Vin frowned back at him as he put the cookie
jar away, “A guest? In February?”
“I know, but they booked it a while ago, and
it’s already paid for. I can’t imagine anyone taking a trip to the
Dakotas in the dead of winter for fun, but whatever. Money is
money, and if we’re going to start taking in fosters this summer,
we need what we can get.”
Following Drannon into the main hallway, Vin
nodded, “True that. Want me to take him upstairs?” He gestured
toward the living room where Roman’s snores rumbled.
Drannon shook his head, “Don’t bother.
Marilyn will lay into him when she finds him in the morning, and he
deserves what he gets.”
“That’s stone cold, man,” Vin said with a
chuckle, “but I like it.”
The two parted ways, with Drannon heading up
the main staircase to the original wing of the house, and Vin
heading farther down the hallway to the new wing that was added a
couple of decades ago. Abraham and Seraphina Crawley had turned
Crawley Creek Ranch into a home for foster children, and as their
small clan of orphans and runaways grew, they kept adding on to the
main house until it was obvious they needed more space. Cabins
sprang up all over the back forty acres, and after the kids grew up
and moved away, the buildings stood empty.
Walking through the silence in the dimly lit
hallway regularly brought back the memory of how Drannon came to be
at Crawley Creek, and he let himself drift back thirty years on a
No one ever told Drannon outright that his
mother was dead, but it wasn’t hard to figure out. All around him,
people avoided his questioning gaze until he stopped looking
altogether. The doctor gave him an uncomfortable one-armed hug, and
told him that everything would be okay, but the stately man left
unspoken the phrase that would shatter a child’s eight-year-old
It didn’t matter that Elena Russo was a drug
addict who frequently sold her body to men in order to buy peanut
butter and bread to keep in the cupboards of their tiny one bedroom
apartment. All that mattered was that she was his mom and the only
person in the world who had ever loved him. Now she was gone. A
victim of her own demons.
After several hours of lonely boredom in the
tiny hospital waiting room, a tired looking woman with dark
coffee-colored skin, her hair pulled back in a severe bun, arrived
to collect him. By the time she’d completed the hospital’s
necessary release paperwork, Drannon was near to falling over with
hunger and exhaustion.
Hello Drannon, my name is Danica. I’m
with social services, and I’m going to get you someplace more
comfortable so that you can get some rest. It’s been a trying day
for you hasn’t it, sugar?” Her voice was raspy but comforting after
the haunted silence of the last hours alone wondering and worrying.
When she cocked her head and frowned, he nodded quickly, feeling
his cheeks heat. “Do you have anything with you?”