Author: Corrina Lawson
Characters: Philip “Hawk” Drake & Delilah Sefton
“Rituals are important.”
Del watched her husband assess their home one more time, patient, knowing Hawk hesitated because they’d never left their son overnight before, never mind for a few days. This was a milestone for any couple with a baby but for Hawk, who’d never known any proper family, it was a milestone he approached with trepidation.
Even if it was their one-year anniversary.
She worried too but her level of worry was normal, similar to any other new mother’s worry. Nothing was normal for Hawk. Abused as a child, he’d grown into an adult who assumed and shucked identities when necessary, a trait that kept him alive in his undercover work but left him woefully unprepared for this new life, though God knows he tried.
He could fake being normal. But she knew. All the more reason to nudge him into this trip. He’d made great strides this past year with her, with their son, settling in to run the bar with her, and even learning to relax with his extended family, which included his foster daughter, Beth Nakamora.
Beth would watch little Sam while they were away. Hawk would trust no one else.
Del hugged her husband from behind. He accepted the comfort, even leaned into her, which told her he was trying.
“I want to celebrate our anniversary with you,” he said.
“I know you do.”
“But I’m terrified,” he whispered. “Terrified something will go wrong.”
In Hawk’s life, something had always gone wrong. Hell, he was only alive because he possessed a telekinetic ability to heal nearly any injury. Mental damage, however, was not so easily cured.
She slid around to face him.
“Beth can handle Sam.” Beth was a telepath, able to communicate with baby Sam, which came in handy.
“I know that. Rationally.”
Del framed his face in her hands. He looked young, vital, untouched by life, his looks another side effect of his healing ability. But it also covered over his real self to the world.
“If you don’t go now, you never will. You’ll hover over Sam forever. That’s not the way to create an independent adult.”
“It’s hard for me to imagine that life for him in the future. Hard to imagine any future, still,” he said.
“I know, love.”
He squeezed her hands, let her go, and walked over to the crib, to double check it one more time. Of course, he also made sure the custom-made alarm was set to his satisfaction. They had enemies. But they also had some damn fine allies.
He picked up their suitcase. “Okay, let’s go.”
Together, they descended the newly widened staircase from their home to the bar. On the patio, Del caught sight of Beth bouncing Sam on her knee. Del heard the sound of swimming in the lake and Alec, Beth’s boyfriend, yell something to her. Alec Farley. Not Hawk’s favorite person, for the simple reason that Alec was Beth’s boyfriend. But having Alec here made her easier about their absence. Alec was the most powerful person Del knew, possessed of firestarting and telekinetic powers that made him the perfect guardian for Sam.
Despite Hawk’s grumbling that no one was good enough for Beth.
Beth waved to them. A smile creased Hawk’s face and he led Del to the front door and out to the driveway.
Hawk loaded their luggage in the classic Dodge Charger.
“What did she say to you?” Del asked. “Telepathically, I mean.”
Hawk shut the trunk. “How do you know she said something?”
“Because I could read it on your face.”
“You can read everything about me.” He pulled her into his arms unexpectedly and leaned in for a kiss. She rose on her tip-toes, her hands twisting into the fabric of his t-shirt. Their lips met, he pulled her off her feet, and she was enveloped by him.
He set her down and stroked her cheek with his thumb. “You know everything I am and you still love me.”
Oh, Hawk. “It’s because I know you that I love you.”
He laughed, finally releasing the tension. “I adore you.”
“Excellent. Great way to start an anniversary weekend. Now climb in.”
He did as she ordered.
“You’re not going to ask me where we’re going?” she asked.
“Anywhere you take me is perfect.” He smiled. “But be careful with my car and try to avoid speeding tickets.”
She put the Charger in gear. “No promises.”
He could feel something different inside. The year with Del, with their son, and re-bonding with Beth (and even Alec, though he would not admit that out loud), had stirred something new within him.
He welcomed the ups and downs of raising a baby, especially one that had the same healing ability as he did. It gave him a job, a goal, a challenge to be met. Which was not to say days were perfect. Del had distinct ideas about raising a baby, about running her business, and about the way all things should be done. They clashed often enough but making this marriage work was their priority and always would be.
She punched the radio button and the modern jazz she liked filled the speakers. It bored him and he fell asleep as the sun began to set behind them.
When he opened his eyes, the sight of the morning sunrise greeted him.
“You should have let me take a turn instead of driving all night,” he said.
“Nah, I stopped once or twice for coffee while you slept. Besides, I was having a good time.” She patted the steering wheel. “I love this car.”
He smiled. Good. She would love her anniversary present then. Of course, since she insisted on going away together, she would receive it late but he could give the keys tonight to her.
They passed a highway sign.
He frowned and bit back a curse.
“There’s nothing left for me here,” he snapped.
“There’s nothing left that you know of,” she corrected, staring straight ahead, avoiding his scrutiny.
“Is this why you insisted on driving?”
“Because I was afraid you would refuse? Yes,” Del said. “But this is important.”
He stared at the window, at the rising sun. “This is where I failed Beth.”
“You didn’t fail. You had a temporary setback.”
Temporary? He wondered how much of the real story Beth had told his wife. He’d not only failed to save his daughter from capture but his cabin, his sanctuary, had been destroyed and he’d come as close to death as he’d ever been. Only the emergence of his telekinetic healing ability had saved his life.
Del turned off Route 1 and onto the road that led, inevitably now, to his ruined cabin. He stifled all objections. Either he trusted Del or he didn’t. But this, the ashes of his failure, was the last place he’d imagined for their anniversary celebration.
With every curve of the winding road, his dread grew, spreading through his limbs, stilling movement. He rolled down the window and closed his eyes, taking in the fresh scents on the air, the distinctive whiff of the sea, only miles away, the sounds of the sea gulls cawing overhead and the chirps of the birds on the trees that lined the road.
He knew they were on the cabin’s driveway by the sound of the tires over the dirt road and then the crunching of the gravel that signaled the end of the drive.
Del stopped the car and put his hand on her knee. “Hawk.” A pause. “Please open your eyes.”
He could never refuse any request from her. He did as she asked.
The cabin stood before him. Intact. Just as it had been.
He slammed the car door and walked closer to this new structure. The gravel crunched underfoot. He looked down and realized it wasn’t gravel at all but broken bits of sea shells. The cabin, too, wasn’t quite the same. The blue was one shade off its original color but, oh, it was built to the same specifications. Same door, same windows, same roof.
He suspected if he walked around to the back, he’d see the same patio, perhaps with even the same furniture.
Del laid a hand on his back. “Come inside, love.”
“I don’t…how did you..?” He shook his head.
She opened the front door and gestured. “Come and see.”
Hawk hesitated. She gave him the time he needed, though she wondered if he was struggling with anger, surprise or pleasure? With Hawk, they were all entwined.
Beth had helped her rebuild the cabin but it had been Del’s idea. She knew the cabin was the only home he’d created in all his life, knew what it must have meant for him to see it so destroyed.
He squared his shoulders, walked past her and stepped inside. He clenched his fists tight as he examined the living room, holding his emotions in check. To Hawk, emotions, good or bad, meant exposure, that people could hurt you with them. But he was trying to learn otherwise.
She slipped outside to get their bags. When she returned, she found him exploring the kitchen. More specifically, staring into the fridge. “You stocked it,” he accused.
“I run a bar and I know your favorite beer. Of course, I stocked it.”
“Alec helped me rebuild. It would have taken a lot longer without his TK to zip things around.”
“That does come in handy.” Finally, he smiled.
Oh, thank God, he’d smiled.
He pulled two beers from the fridge. “Want to join me on the patio?”
He put his arm around her as they stepped outside. For a long while, they sipped the beers and stared out from the hills to the sea and the waves crashing into the cliffs far below.
“Thank you,” he whispered. “Thank you.”
She rested her head on his shoulder. Take all the over-the-top declarations of love in the world and toss them aside. They’d never mean as much to her as Hawk’s simple ‘thank you.’
“I have a gift for you.” He set the beer on the patio table. Not quite the same one that had been there before but, hey, close enough.
“What kind of gift?” She raised her eyebrows. Out here, in the open? Why the hell not. He pulled her into a kiss. She tasted the bitter remnants of the stout he liked best. Yes, definitely here and now.
But he stepped away and put his hand in his pocket. “Not that, not yet.” He grinned. “Your other gift first.”
He pulled out a set of car keys hooked to a keychain with the symbol of a classic Ford Thunderbird.
She squealed and grabbed the keys. “You didn’t!”
“I did.” He dropped the keys into her hand. “It’s a 1957 T-bird convertible. I restored most of it myself.”
She flung her arms around him, laughing. “Best. Gift. Ever!”
He laughed, a sound that seemed to release all the tension in him, and pointed to the cabin. “I beg to differ.”
They’d both been ridiculously over-the-top about presents, hadn’t they? “What do we do for an encore next year?”
He lifted her into his arms. “Celebrate being together another year, naturally. After all, rituals are important.”
Corrina is a former newspaper reporter with a degree in journalism from Boston University. A mom of four, she now works from home writing romance novels with a geeky twist and as the Content Director and co-founder of GeekMom.com.