Wherefore art thou Valentine?
When reading a great book, I find that I want to read it quickly to discover what happens and how it ends, but when I finish, I’m sad it’s over, and I miss hanging out with the characters.
Um, ahem, ok…mostly with the male ones. 😉
If you’d like to re-visit or spend some extra time with your favorite characters – you’re in luck.
Six of my favorite authors wrote Valentine bonus scenes for my book blog last year, and they’re too amazing not to share again.
Prepare to fall in love (again), with a half dozen swoony book boyfriends from authors, Kim Holden, K. Webster and Emma Louise.
Part 2 with stories from Julie Richman, Max Monroe, and Helena Hunting will be live tomorrow!
Saturday, February 13th
Gus (the dude) ten years after Gus (the book)
“Dad, are you sure we shouldn’t call Grandma?” Gracen asks, a hint of apology swirling around the doubt in his voice. He knows we’re standing on the precipice of monumental failure, and possible house torching, before we even unpack the groceries. Of all my kids, he’s the fixer, the problem solver.
“Pfft.” I wave off his concern with all the kitchen swagger I can muster and then kneel holding out my hand palm down and say, “We’ve got this. Huddle up, team.”
The first hand to slap down on top of mine in a bold move of solidarity is my oldest kiddo, Kate, followed by her younger sister, Clover. After a beat, the little peanut, Ruby toddles over on shaky newborn deer legs (because she just started walking last week) and copycats her sisters by placing her tiny, but overly sticky, hand on top and giggles.
Clover cringes because sticky fingers are now affixed to her like super glue, but to her credit she valiantly keeps the, Gross, that she badly wants to give voice, to herself.
I catch Clover’s eye and whisper, “It’s banana. My bad, sorry.”
Gracen is still eyeballing the scene. “Are you sure we shouldn’t call Grandma? Or Uncle Keller? Stella? Paxton, maybe?” He’s grasping at straws now because Pax lives over one thousand miles away in Austin. And he’s a worse cook than I am. “We can Skype,” he adds with a weak grimace.
“Dude, every trailblazer has to start somewhere. The road to baking greatness begins here and now. We’re about to be part of history, my friend.”
He places his hand on top of the sticky twelve month old’s and deadpans with a genuine smile because he can’t hold back, “We’re only baking cookies, Dad.”
He knows he’s baited me, so I widen my eyes for effect and question, “Only baking cookies? Oh no, we’re baking nothing short of magic, amigo.” His smile stretches until I can see all of his teeth. Or what’s left of them because he’s been losing them right and left. It’s adorable. The tooth fairy is bank rolling him at the moment; I may need a second part-time job to keep up with the gig. “Okay, you know the drill. We need a team name before we get this show on the road. Hit me with your best, superstars.”
“Hawthorne Badass Baking Brigade,” Kate suggests hopefully, but with a confidence that makes it sound more like a declaration. A proud declaration. My girl has never been lacking in family pride, an incredibly strong sense of girl power (you don’t grow up with a mom like Scout and a grandma like Ma and not own the hell out of it), or charisma.
I nod aggressively in agreement, but then stop when I realize I should probably kibosh the swearing. I point at her with my free hand. “Yes! That is exactly the type of hype this production needs. But maybe without the curse word. For your mom’s sake,” I add as an afterthought.
She nods understanding and her eyes rove, fixing on nothing while she’s deep in eight year old thought.
Meanwhile Clover’s cringe is growing more exaggerated with each passing second as her fingers wiggle beneath the gooey banana digits of her sibling. She hates being dirty, I feel bad for her, so I offer, “We’re going with Kate’s suggestion. No one tells mom, agreed?” When I look each of my kids they’re all nodding and smiling conspiratorially and I both mentally high five their mischievous nature and make a note to thank their mom profusely for being such a good influence in their lives or we would have a pack of wild hellions on our hands. Because with their sweet faces they can literally get away with anything when it comes to me. I nod once to finalize the baking covenant and say, “Hawthorne Badass Baking Brigade on the count of three.”
Their hands are already in motion, so I bounce mine in beat to the count, “One, two, three.”
As our hands all uproariously lift into the air in celebration, we all shout in unison, “Hawthorne Badass Baking Brigade!” Except Ruby. Ruby only knows how to say Mama, Dada, and no. She really, really digs no and uses it like a Royal lording over her peasants. Poor Spare Ribs, the cat, hears it no less than three thousand times a day. Ruby claps with glee mimicking her siblings and all is right in the world looking at their combined happy faces.
While I wash off the tiny princess’s hands and Clover washes her own, Gracen and Kate take all the ingredients we need for this cookie sorcery out of the Trader Joe’s bags.
There’s flour, chocolate chips, butter, baking soda, salt, vanilla extract, all the sugars (granulated, powdered, and brown), eggs, rainbow sprinkles, and gummy bears. Clover insisted on the gummy bears because they’re Scout’s favorite candy, not sure how they fit into the cookie equation but we’ll make it work.
The kids and I gave Scout a spa visit for Valentine’s so she’ll be out of the house getting pampered like the queen she is all day. Technically that means we have three hours remaining to bake the best chocolate chip cookies the world has ever seen. Looking at my crew, I’m thinking this is going to be a piece of cake. They’re ready for battle. Everyone, including me, has their hair pulled back in a ponytail. I hand each of them a matching sweatband accompanied with a fist bump, that they each accept with their game face on and slip on around their heads like the warriors they are. After putting my sweatband in place, I raise my hands in the air and pump them up, “Let’s do this!”
Ruby wore her baby sweatband for two seconds before shedding it and chasing the cat around the kitchen floor. She was promptly plucked up and placed in her high chair with a handful of chocolate chips and a handful of sprinkles courtesy of her big brother. Gracen is the problem solver, I’m telling you. Most of time he just foresees there might be an issue and acts. There’s so much Scout in him. Thank god for that.
With Ruby’s highchair by my side, the other three crawl up on the countertop of the island and crowd around the recipe card that Ma wrote out for us last week. I got the measuring cups, mixing bowls, spoons, and cookie sheets out this morning so they’re already on the counter too. “Grace, you do the honors.” He spins the recipe card around so it’s facing him and he can read it. “Preheat oven to 350 degrees.”
I spin on my heel and poke the buttons to make that happen. “Check,” I say when it’s done.
He proceeds to read off the ingredients while Kate and Clover take turns measuring them out and dumping them in the bowls, calling out, “Check,” after completing each task.
“Drop heaping spoonful of dough on cookie sheet,” Gracen instructs.
“Which spoon?” Kate asks. “A tablespoon or a teaspoon?”
Gracen shrugs and looks at me to give confirmation.
I shrug too and say, “Whatever’s clever, Trevor,” leaving it up to them to decide.
Kate’s eyes narrow in thought for a beat and she nods, decided. “Tablespoon. Mom deserves big cookies.”
I’m leaning against the counter with both of my palms flat on the concrete surface but I lift one and hold it out for a high five—it’s, good call.
She high fives me back—it’s, I know.
All three take turns passing the spoon around to place balls of dough on the baking sheet. When they’re done I look each one in the eye and smile while I pick up the pan, “Dude, these cookies are going to blow your mom’s mind. Well done, Hawthorne Badass Baking Brigade.”
“Wait,” Gracen says halting me midway to the oven. “We forgot the sprinkles.”
“And the gummy bears,” Clover adds.
I don’t have the heart to tell my well meaning five year old that the gummy bears will likely meet a blazing demise in the oven, so I suggest diplomatically, “Why don’t we put a few on one cookie and see how the bears fare in 350 degree heat?”
She tilts her head back forth, her dark brown ponytail swaying behind her and looks at me with the thoughtful eyes that are an exact copy of Scout’s while she deliberates. She finally settles on, “Okay.”
I nod and watch them decorate the cookies. When the motion stops and I suspect they’re done, I lift the baking sheet from the counter and commend, “Masterpiece,” before tucking it away in the oven, setting the timer for ten minutes, and turning the light on inside the oven so we can watch the progress.
Clover groans melodramatically when the gummy bears melt before her eyes and begin to turn black under the intense heat. “The bears didn’t fare,” she says sadly.
“Lesson learned, Clove. What do we always say?” I prompt.
A small, shy smile lights her face. “Imagination without action will only ever be an impossible dream.”
I kiss her on the forehead above her sweatband. “That’s my girl. Always try. Always. Otherwise you never know.”
She nods once, proud of herself.
Cookies out of the oven, we load up two baking sheets this time and slip them in. While they’re baking, I pour four glasses of milk and a sippy cup of the cold stuff for Ruby and we sample the goods. All of us are dunkers, so they all get plunged in dairy before we take a bite. Even Ruby pulls at my arm holding the glass of milk until I offer it up for her to dunk hers in because her sippy cup has a lid and she doesn’t have easy access.
Kate’s eyelids flutter shut over her dark eyes and she hums while she chews. “These are so good,” she whispers to no one in particular.
Gracen looks at the partial cookie in his hand in amazement while he chews the rest of it. “We did it.” He sounds truly astonished.
“Heck yeah, we did. We slayed these cookies,” I say with my mouth full. “Hawthorne Badass Baking Brigade are officially the masters of the chocolate chip cookie universe.”
The final batch comes out of the oven an hour before Scout is scheduled to arrive home. And Clover makes sure each cookie is topped with a gummy bear while they’re still warm.
They all help me clean up. It’s funny how the clean up process with the kids and I always feels like it gets way messier before it actually gets clean.
When we hear the garage door open we’re all on the big sofa watching the beginning of a Disney movie. Ruby’s crashed; she’s sprawled out across my torso sleeping. Clover is on my right side, her arms wrapped around mine and her head resting against my bicep. Gracen is leaning against my left side and Kate is sitting on the other side of him crossways, her long legs stretched across Gracen’s lap and onto mine. We’re one giant snuggle until the door opens into the kitchen and we hear, “What smells so good in here?”
We put the cookies in a box that the kids decorated so the evidence, except the scent apparently, is stashed away. The kids are all suppressing their giggles and keeping the secret.
When she walks through the doorway from the kitchen and into the living room I can’t help but smile at her. We’ve been together for ten years and she still takes my breath away. She’s wearing sweatpants and a tank top and her hair is coiled into a messy bun on top of her head. This is my favorite version of Scout.
“How was the spa?” I ask.
She sighs dreamily as she walks toward the sofa. “Heavenly,” she says before going down the line starting with Clover and kissing each of us before settling in and shifting Kate onto her lap and wrapping one arm around her and the other around Gracen. There is no place in the world I’d rather be right now than here. I miss this so much when I’m out on tour with the band.
“What did I miss?” Scout asks sneakily.
“Nice try, Mom,” answers Kate with a chuckle while Clover looks at me and runs a pinched thumb and forefinger across her mouth like a zipper. I wink at her.
“What happens in the Hawthorne kitchen, stays in the Hawthorne kitchen,” I offer solemnly.
She smirks, because she knows she won’t get a real answer out of me. Ten years of sarcasm has trained her well. “You didn’t burn the house down. Kudos.”
Laughing under my breath, I reply, “You’re welcome. And gracias, sweetheart.”
“Da nada, babe.” I can hear the amused smile in her voice. I love that.
The brood will give their mom her Valentine’s Day cookies first thing in the morning. Likely before six o’clock because that’s how they roll.
And I’ll give Girl Scout my cookies tonight as soon as all the kids are asleep. I hope she left her panties in her purse when she left the spa today.
Valentine’s Day scene from My Torin by K Webster
So unrealistic. So fake. So cheesy.
I watch the romantic comedy on the Lifetime channel and compare it to my own life. Romance is different in my house. Certainly not red roses and boxes of chocolates and letters of undying love. No bubble baths with glasses of champagne. No fancy steak dinners. No balloons or teddy bears or Hallmark cards.
Tearing my gaze from the movie, I take a moment to stare at the hero in my story. The real-life story. One that’s full of heartache and confusion and continuously wondering if I’m doing love right.
Torin’s hood is pulled down low over his head, hiding his eyes from me. All that’s visible is his strong nose and full lips. His lips twitch and move as he murmurs a string of words that only make sense to him. Words low enough only he hears. He doesn’t come bearing gifts or sentiments meant for me.
We are nothing like the movies.
He knows what today is. We’ve discussed the meaning. That it’s the world’s day to devote to the one you love. A day to show them how much you appreciate them.
Torin doesn’t understand.
He thinks it should be Valentine’s Day every day.
My Torin has a point.
“Hey,” I tell him, a smile tugging at my lips.
Just like the girl in the movie, I am flushed and happy in the hero’s presence. I feel jittery and excited to see him. My lips crave to press against his. He’s no less than the swoonworthy male on the television.
In fact, he’s more.
He makes a wide arc of the room until he’s circled his way to stand right in front of me. Tall, strong, a brilliant mind trapped inside a beautifully stubborn body. I watch as he crouches down in front of the coffee table. His hand dives into his hoodie pocket and then he plucks out a shiny penny. With a clink on the glass, he sets it down on the surface. I’m enraptured as he pulls out another. And another. And another.
Clink. Clink. Clink. Clink.
His movements are jerky and quick. He’s working on a task that he will not be distracted from. All focus is directed on his pennies.
Clink. Clink. Clink. Clink.
The sounds soothe my soul. His movements warm my heart.
I love him and he loves me.
I don’t need balloons or heart-shaped chocolates.
I need my Torin.
The last penny gets clinked into place and he rises abruptly. My gaze darts over to the glass surface and tears well in my eyes, blurring his beautiful art.
A heart made of pennies.
So Torin. So right. So special.
I climb from the sofa and fling myself against his strong body. His arms remain at his sides, unmoving. I don’t expect them to move. I don’t need them to move.
I just need him.
Wrapping my arms around his neck, I stand on my toes so I can look into his eyes that are no longer hidden from me. He blinks without emotion. He doesn’t smile.
But I know.
I know my Torin.
Deep inside his mind and in his heart, he burns with love for me. So much love it needs to be contained inside the strongest of bodies or it’d explode this entire earth.
Our love is special.
Our love is strange.
Our love is the best.
“Casey-Casey,” he utters again in his deep, robotic voice. Two words that hold a million unspoken ones inside them.
“My Torin,” I say back, brushing a kiss against his lips that don’t kiss back.
It takes some coaxing but then his mouth is open. Letting me in. Accepting a kiss he doesn’t always know how to return. I taste him. I love him.
“I like your present,” I tell him, grinning wide. All for him. Always for him.
Blinks and blinks and blinks.
Words he wants to say remain trapped, although I know his mind is whirring with every single word ever created.
Frustration brews like a storm within his eyes. The man inside longs to escape. But where would he go? He doesn’t need to escape if I go to him. We’ll be trapped together.
“I love you.” My words are easy to say. Words everyone else takes for granted, I speak them with gentleness and care as they are the most important ones I can offer him.
He loves me too.
Characters From Fixed
“Shhh.” I plant my hand over Bailey’s mouth before she can speak. It doesn’t stop her talking but at least it keeps the noise level down a touch.
“We don’t want mommy to hear us, remember?” Why did I think getting two 6-year olds to help with a Valentines surprise for my wife was a good idea? Will I ever learn? They’ve argued over everything from who gets to stir the pancake mix, to who is the best Shopkin.
That’s right. I, Duke Nash, former Army Ranger, is well versed in all thing miniature toy related these days.
“You going to be quiet if I let you go?” Her faux innocent eyes gaze up at me as she nods. Sliding my hand away, I hold my breath, waiting for her to start shouting again. Thankfully, she actually listens for once.
Making her way over to the table where her twin sister Brooke sits, Bailey pulls out a chair and climbs up, kneeling in front of the mixing bowl I have set up already. “Here, you can mix the pancakes.” Brooke says inching the bowl closer to her sister. My sweet girl, always playing peacekeeper.
When we’ve finally gotten the breakfast made and arranged on a tray, I pull out the small gift bag I stashed away after work last night. Passing it to Brooke, Bailey takes the flowers we picked from the garden early this morning. Tiptoeing up the stairs, I push the bedroom door open enough for the girls to creep in. Placing the tray on the floor next to the bed, I take a second to appreciate the spectacular view in front of me.
My wife is a vision. I wonder if I’ll ever get used to calling her that.
I doubt it.
When I’d asked Elliott to marry me on Christmas eve, I knew I didn’t want to wait around. I wanted to get her tied to me as quickly as possible. We’d been together long enough, been through enough shit. I knew there was no one else for me but her. I hadn’t been surprised when she’d told me she didn’t want to wait either.
However, I was surprised when she told me she wanted us to fly to Vegas as soon as we possibly could. Maybe it was because she’d already had the big wedding once before. Or maybe she just felt the same burning need to be tied together that I did. Whatever the reason, I wasn’t going to argue. We’d been married by a fake Elvis just over three weeks later. One month ago, today.
Elliott lays on my side of the bed, my pillow bunched up under her and her grip on it tight. She does that a lot. As soon as my ass leaves the bed, she’s there, grabbing my pillow. Her blonde hair is wild from me having my hands in it most of the night, just how I love it. The girls gently climb up next to her, thankfully she slept in one of my shirts last night. Her eyes blink open slowly and a smile forms on her pouty lips. If you’d have asked me a year ago if I’d ever used the word pouty, the answer would have been a big fuck no. Just one of the many, many things that’s changed since the first time I kissed Elliott.
“Morning babies.” Elliott smiles, giving each girl a kiss on their head. “Happy Valentine’s day.”
“Happy bannentynes Mommy!” They chirp in unison. They might be twins, but Brooke and Bailey have very different personalities, so it makes it even more cute when they speak together like that.
A little while later, once the pancakes are eaten and Elliott has her gifts, the girls run off to get dressed before their dad comes to collect them. As much as I love those kids, I’m more than ready for some alone time with my wife.
Pulling her across the bed, I wrap my arms around her waist and settle her against my chest.
“Happy Valentine’s Sweetheart.” I murmur against her lips.
“Mmmm…best gift I’ve gotten today.” Her hands snake into my hair just like they always do and just like always, the kiss ignites out of control. In the blink of an eye, Elliott is straddling me. My hands grip her bare ass, as she grinds down on to my rock-solid cock. I know I need to slow this shit down, but fuck if I can find the strength to be the one to stop. We keep it up, lips locked and hips grinding until the two little cockblockers down the hall start yet another row.
Elliott pulls away from me, resting her forehead against mine while she catches her breath. I just about see the smile that ghosts her lips. .
This woman. God. She has no idea what she does to me. She fucking turns me inside out every damn day.
Pressing my lips to hers one last time, I tap her ass, signalling her to get off my lap. It’s either that or I’m going to end up throwing her on to her back and fucking her into the mattress. Climbing off me, she slips her arms into her robe. Elliott starts to leave the room but stops and turns to me right at the last second.
“Thank you for my gift.” She says softly, toying with the bracelet I let the twins pick out for her.
“Glad you like it, Sweetheart.”
“I love it. You’ll have to wait until later for your gift.” She nods towards a Victoria’s Secret bag that’s perched on the dressing table on the other side of the room. Letting out a pained groan, I fall back on to the bed. She’s trying to kill me.
The sound of her laughter floats through the air as she walks out of the room.
Yep. She’s definitely trying to kill me.
But I can’t think of a better way to go.
“Why the fuck are we leaving the house again?” I groan as I help Elliott out of the car. Of course, she treats me to a prime view of her incredible legs as she steps out. I’m sure I just saw a scrap of pink lace under the stupidly short dress she has on.
“Because it will be fun. We never all manage to get a sitter on the same night.” She answers on an eye roll as she drags me towards the restaurant entrance. If anyone has the right to eye roll it’s me, I’m the idiot that’s spending Valentine’s with my wife, my sister and her husband. A double fucking date. Did I mention we are child free? I deserve a medal for this shit.
Before we get to the doors, I pull on Elliott’s hand. Not giving her the chance to speak, I take her mouth in a deep, wet kiss with plenty of tongue. Just how she likes it. She melts into me, gripping onto my waist for support. This time it’s me pulling away first, thrilled at the dazed expression on her flushed face.
“Come on. Let’s go have fun.” Chuckling at the groan she lets out, I guide her into the restaurant.
Stopping at the hostess stand, I tell her my name and that we have a reservation. Knowing my sister and her husband, they will be late. I’m sure they’ll be making the most of some baby free time. Jeez, just the thought makes me shudder.
“Okay, let me just look for you.” The hostess smiles. “Yep, here we go. Nash party of five.” She grabs a handful of menus and starts to walk towards the table.
“There must be a mistake.” I tell her before she can get too far ahead of us. “There’s just the four of us.”
“Oh. Well it definitely says five in here. Four plus a baby?” She scans the page again when I repeat there’s just the four adults. “Well, that’s ok. We’ll clear the highchair away. No need to move tables.”
Elliott is suspiciously quiet through the whole exchange. Suspiciously because she’s never quiet for long. What is she up to?
I’m sure my wife forgets how well I know her. She’s up to something.
The hostess shows us to a private table at the back of the restaurant, it’s tucked away in an alcove so nobody can see it if they’re walking past. My eyes narrow as they take in the table. Four seats, no highchair in sight. One of the seats has a gift bag sitting in front of it.
Turning to look at El, I see she’s biting on her lip, fighting a smile.
“Well, look at that. No need to take anything away. Must have been a mistake in the reservation book is all.” The hostess babbles on as we take our seats and she passes us a wine list. The more she talks, the harder Elliott has to fight her smile.
When we’re finally alone, I drag her chair closer to mine so I can place my hand on her thigh. “What’s the smile for, Sweetheart?” I ask leaning close to her ear. I learnt a long time ago where my wife’s weak spots are. A few light touches traced down her spine, and my breath tickling her ear? She’s biting her lip for a completely different reason now.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about.” She says the words on a quiet breath at the same time she shivers. Pulling back just enough to look in her eyes I keep speaking.
“You sure about that?”
“Stop trying to turn me on and open your gift.” She says, pulling the small bag closer to us.
“I thought you were wearing my gift.” I emphasize my point my sliding my hand under the hem of her dress. The skin like silk, leading to damp panties. And yes, they’re lace.
“Well, I distinctly remember you getting me two amazing Christmas gifts.” She’s referring to the house I bought us and her engagement ring. “So, it seemed fair to get you two gifts too. One for now.” She taps the bag twice. “and the other you’ll get later when you strip me out of this dress.” Looks she knows my weak spots just as well as I know hers.
Pulling the tissue paper out of the bag, I find a long thin box wrapped in a white ribbon.
“What’s this?” I give the box a shake, causing Elliott to roll her eyes at me.
“Typical guy.” She sighs, smile still in place. “Just open it.”
I do as I’m told. Pulling the ribbon off and sliding the lid off.
It takes a minute for my brain to figure out what it is I’m looking at. I can feel my heart beat in my throat as a million thoughts flow through my mind at once. Is she telling me she’s…
Fuck. I’m think I’m about to fucking cry.
My hand shakes as I lift the white stick out of the box. Elliott places her hand on my thigh and leans into my side. The soft skin of her nose grazing a path towards my ear pulls me from the brain fog I’ve been in.
“If it’s a boy. I hope he looks like you.” She whispers, shifting back enough I can see her eyes. Eyes that are shimmering with tears. Happy tears that match the ones in my own eyes.
Elliott has already given me the incredible gift of two little girls.
I might not have made them with her, but her letting me raise them with her is more than I ever hoped for. Knowing she’s giving me another baby to add to our chaotic, slightly crazy family is a dream come true.
One I’ll never stop being thankful for.