Danae and Darcey were sitting at the kitchen table doing homework when they heard the gate open. Both of them stopped and listened, looked at each other and squealed. “They’re home!” Darcey yelled, getting up to run for the door. Devin stopped what he was doing and ran for the door, joining his sisters. Charlotte and Travis left their suitcases in the garage, because most of the clothing inside was dirty anyway. As they walked for the house, three faces were pressed up against the glass, waiting for them.
Charlotte walked through the door first and was totally overwhelmed with kisses and hugs as all three of her children swamped her. “Mama, we missed you SO much!” Darcey cried, so happy to see her. Travis walked in next, and knelt down, holding his arms open.
“Come see your Daddy!” he laughed. Danae ran to him and knocked him over. Giggling, she covered him in kisses, as Darcey and Devin joined her. “Oh, I missed you guys so much,” Travis said, smiling. Charlotte joined the fun, tickling whoever was closest, reveling in the sound of their happy giggles.
“Welcome home, Travis and Charlotte!” Tracy greeted them from the top of the stairs. She didn’t want to interfere in the homecoming for the children’s sake. They missed their parents so much, that many nights they cried at bedtime. No matter how much they loved Tracy, she would never be Mama or Daddy.
“Thank you for everything Tracy,” Charlotte quipped. “The kids look very happy and cared for, and I appreciate your hard work.”
“It was my pleasure. You two look positively radiant. Vacation agreed with you!” Tracy was relieved to see her friends refreshed and renewed. They had been through some rough times, and they deserved their time away.
Travis paid Tracy their agreed-upon rate for seven days of childcare, plus a generous tip on top of it. “You can take your time, Tracy. You can even stay for dinner if you’d like.”
“Oh, I’ll be out of your hair in an hour or so. I’m almost finished packing and cleaning up.” Tracy replied.
“Don’t worry about cleaning,” Charlotte said. “I will take care of it. The girls and Devin will help, right kids?”
Danae gave her a look, but Darcey readily volunteered. “Thank you, you’re too good to me,” Tracy replied.
Devin wrapped himself around Charlotte, weeping. “What’s the matter, sweetie pie?” she asked him.
“I missed you, Mama,” he answered.
She bent to wipe his tears and picked him up, kissing his cheek. “I missed you so much, little bear.” She hugged him tightly and covered his little face in kisses. “Let Mama and Daddy unpack, and we have some goodies for you. All of you!”
Charlotte went to the garage to unpack dirty clothing and threw it all right into the washer. The few things they had for the kids were together in one bag, so she left it in the suitcase to keep a secret until she had sorted through what she had bought for which child. Travis helped her bring the cases upstairs and put other things away. They hadn’t brought much home, except for the massage oils and the presents for the children.
Travis wrapped his arms around her and buried his face into her hair. “I feel like this is our last moment alone for a while,” he joked. She turned around, still in his embrace. “But it’s so good to be home.”
“Thank you for the trip of a lifetime, baby,” she cooed, kissing him. “I loved almost every moment of it.” She didn’t need to speak of their off day, he already understood what she meant.
“Me too. I can’t wait to go back someday, maybe for good.” He looked through the window and saw a fresh bunch of snow flurries in the sky. “I miss the sun and warm already.”
“Look at it this way,” she countered. “There’s a reason to sit by the fireplace here.”
“True.” He kissed her, hurrying to separate as they heard a thundering of footsteps on the stairs.
Three sets of feet, eyes, and bodies appeared in their doorway. “What did you bring us?” Devin asked expectantly.
“Okay, come here!” Charlotte said, holding her arms open for them. For the twins, Charlotte brought back some bath gels and perfume from the spa, which they absolutely loved. For Devin, Travis brought home some shells from their scuba trip and a stuffed bear, who Devin promptly named Daddybear.
Charlotte excused herself to the loft, to see how much cleaning needed to be done, and the only thing she saw was the linens that Tracy had used, so she gathered them up and brought them to the garage to be washed. Instead of cooking, Travis decided it was a good night for pizza and a movie, so all of them sat and watched a movie together, eating pizza and laughing.
“Time for bed, kiddos,” Travis finally said at 9 o’clock. He and Charlotte had been up since 4am local time, and they were tired. Devin fell asleep during the movie, so Travis carried him up the stairs and tucked him in, while Charlotte tucked the girls in for the night. They met back in their bedroom and collapsed on the bed.
“I don’t know about you, but I’m beat,” Charlotte finally said. “We’ve put in a long day.”
“Me too,” Travis agreed, yawning. “And I have to be to work tomorrow. I guess we have a presser about upcoming player trades. Since I’m the ‘star player’ I get to be on the Q&A panel.”
They both got undressed and crawled into bed together, wrapped around each other, and quickly fell asleep.
“So, how was your vacation?” Neil asked Travis on his first day back from Isla Paradiso. “Did people recognize you out of your element?”
Travis nodded. “Some of it was good, some I could have done without.” He thought fondly of Rosa. “The concierge was a huge Llamas fan. She really made our stay at the resort memorable.”
“How’s things with Charlotte? Better, I hope. How did she like her ring?”
“Oh man, Neil, you should have seen her eyes light up when she saw it. It was like watching a little girl on Snowflake Day morning. Our anniversary was pretty passionate, but we hit a rough patch that night. Charlotte started having nightmares about Kathleen. I guess that night she confronted Charlotte during the game really affected her.” He pulled Neil out of earshot of other players, and especially the press. “Is there any reason why I need to fear for my family’s safety with Kathleen? Is she crazy, or is she harmless?”
“I don’t think she’d do anything weird. It’s you she’s after, not Charlotte or the kids, and she only wants you for one thing.”
“Can you get her last name for me? I’d like to have an old friend run a background on her. Just to be safe. One of Charlotte’s dreams really freaked me out. I never told her that. She didn’t need any more stress that day.”
“Yeah, I’ll ask Lee about it. He’s done more than one round with her, I’d bet.” Neil walked away. “I’ll see you back here in 10 for that presser.”
Travis spotted Ed, the head of security at the Clips Center, and motioned him over. “Hey Ed, have you made any headway with getting Kathleen banned from the complex?”
“Yeah, no can do, Travis,” Ed said. “Turns out, her family is pretty big here in town, and she has free access to the stadium.”
Travis rolled his eyes. “Oh goody. Well, that won’t help the situation at home. Thanks anyway, Ed.” He began to walk away when it occurred to him that he should ask about the family. “Hey Ed, what’s her last name?”
“I’m not sure, but she is Mandy Best’s daughter,” Ed remarked.
“Thanks, Ed,” Travis replied, looking at his watch. “Oh shoot, I have no time before this press conference.” Travis sprinted toward the cameras and joined Neil and the owner of the team.
The next morning, while Charlotte was at work, Travis called Steve McKinnon. “Hey Steve, I have a favor to ask of you.”
“Hey Travis, what can I do for you?” came the friendly reply.
“I would like, if I could, to get some information about a woman that is bothering my family. She hangs around the Clips Center, but we can’t get her banished. Apparently, she’s from a big family here in town.
“Sure, what’s her name?” Steve readied his notepad and a pencil.
“I don’t have her last name, but apparently she is Mandy Best’s daughter. Her first name is Kathleen.”
“Well, isn’t that a coincidence,” Steve remarked. “Dad would have loved this.”
“What’s that, Steve? What’s the coincidence?” Travis was legitimately confused.
“Your wife’s family has a history with the Best family. I’m surprised she never told you about Estevan Best.”
Travis felt the blood drain from his face and suddenly felt woozy. “Wait, Kathleen is related to who now?”
“Estevan Best. You know, the guy who stalked Charlotte’s mother Bella for many, many years.”
Travis’ head got foggy, and he could hear his heartbeat in his ears. “Would you please find out if this Kathleen person has a criminal background, or if she’s mentally unstable? This might need more than security if we’re dealing with this again.”
“I probably can’t look into medical records, unless something becomes public domain, like arrest records. But I’ll do the best I can, Travis.” Steve loved a good mystery, and his dad, Mike, would have loved to hear this new development. But he had passed away just a month ago.
“Thanks, Steve. I look forward to hearing from you.” He hung up the phone, feeling worse than he had before he called. There’s nothing to worry about until there’s something to worry about, he thought to himself.
“I’m overthinking this, Neil. What do I do?” Travis told him what he knew about the Best family, but Neil, a lifelong resident of Starlight Shores, knew all the details from the news.
“If I were you, I’d pray Charlotte doesn’t find out that Kathleen is a Best, or that poor thing will never sleep again.”
“Well, that’s not practical, Neil. She’s going to find out. I just don’t want to be the one who tells her.” Travis wiped a bead of sweat from his forehead and turned off the treadmill. “She will want to move somewhere else. I know player trades are done for the coming season, but keep me in mind if someone needs a mid-season trade.”
“Yeah, that isn’t going to happen, big guy. The owner will not break your contract so easily. You’re stuck.” Neil felt bad for him. He wouldn’t want to tell Charlotte about Kathleen, either. “On the field, Travis. You can’t hide in here for the rest of your career.”
Travis sighed. This was the last news he needed, and when he left the locker room, Kathleen was in the stands, waving furiously at him. Ignore her, Travis. Ignore. Her. He told himself. A half-hour into practice, she was so desperate to get his attention that she jumped the wall that cordoned off the field from the stadium.
“Where have you been, sexy?” she snarled at him. “I’ve missed seeing you out here. Everyone else is just so plain, but you…” Kathleen studied him for a moment. “Hmmm, you are darker,” she observed. “You must have gone somewhere exotic.”
“What do you want?” he asked, losing his patience.
“I already told you, you’re barking up the wrong tree.” Travis backed up, increasing the distance between them. Neil saw them talking and shook his head.
“Jones!” came the yell, followed by a sharp whistle. “In my office, NOW!”
Travis jogged to Neil, more than a little annoyed. “What?”
“Nothing, I just wanted to pull you away from her. You don’t need your face in the tabloids anywhere near hers.” Neil tried to watch out for their star player, but he was stubborn.
“Thanks. I can handle myself, Neil.” He looked around, and at his watch. “Are we done here? I need to get a few more laps in before I shower.”
“Yeah, you’re good, Lothario.” Travis shot him a look and grumbled to himself.
Travis finished his workout and went to shower, and ran into Kathleen in the tunnel leading into the locker room. “I can’t catch a break,” Travis muttered to himself. “Leave me alone, woman.”
“You’re so cute, Travis, thinking you have a say in the matter. I always get what I want.”
“You’ve mentioned that. But not this time.” He turned to go into the locker room and disappeared from her sight.
“Man, what is up with Miss Tight Britches and you, Travis?” one of his teammates asked. “She has it bad for you.”
“If you figure it out, let me know, Smitty,” Travis answered, walking for the showers.
“Baby, I’m home honey,” Travis announced upon his arrival from work. Charlotte was busy in the kitchen making dinner, and the kids were finishing up homework. He sauntered into the kitchen and wrapped his arms around Charlotte’s waist.
“Hey, honeybear. You smell good,” she remarked. “You must have showered before you came home.”
“Of course!” he laughed. “It smells amazing in here. What are you cooking tonight?”
“Devin’s favorite. Spaghetti with veggie sauce.” It was actually a family favorite, but Devin especially loved it.
Devin, hearing his father downstairs, started giggling and came down the stairs as quickly as he could. “There’s my little bear!” Travis exclaimed, wrapping Devin in a hug. “How was your field trip today?”
“It was awesome, Daddy!” His second-grade class took a trip to the firehouse, and he got to tour the whole inside. “I wanted to ride down the pole, but I was too little,” he pouted.
“Maybe next time, little bear,” Travis said. Suddenly, he gripped the boy in one arm and tickled him with the other. A giggle explosion erupted in the foyer and was heard through the entire house. He got up off the floor and walked back toward Charlotte and whispered in her ear. “We need to talk, honey.”
She looked at him, alarmed. “What’s wrong?”
“Something at work. We’ll talk when the kids are in bed.”
Putting on her best smile, she finished dinner and served it. “Come on everyone.”
After dinner, Charlotte and the girls cleaned up, and Travis got Devin into the shower and tucked into bed after a story. The twins came upstairs, with Charlotte right behind them. “The house is closed up downstairs,” she whispered. “Let’s talk up here.” He nodded. “Lights out in 20 minutes, girls. You can read or do whatever, but please wrap it up, babies.” She blew them both a kiss. “I love you.”
“Love you, Mama,” they answered together.
She slipped through the door that went between their rooms and locked it behind her. Travis was sitting on the side of the bed, acting nervous. “Baby, you’re scaring me.”
“I’m sorry honey, I don’t mean to. I just have a lot on my mind.” He patted the bed next to him for her to sit down. “I called Steve McKinnon this morning to get some background on that Kathleen because I promised you when we were on vacation I’d look into it for us.”
“What did he say?”
“Well, Ed, the security guy from the stadium gave me a name, but I didn’t think anything of it until I mentioned it to Steve today.” He looked at her, and shook his head, not wanting to utter the words. “Baby, Kathleen is Estevan Best’s niece.” There was no easy way to say it.
Charlotte began to tremble. Even from beyond the grave he continued to haunt her and the family. “You’ve got to be kidding me.”
“I wish I was, honey.” He held her as she trembled, and just tried to comfort her. “What do I need to know about this? I get the feeling I don’t have the whole picture.”
Charlotte explained everything in excruciating detail. Everything Bella had told her about their high school relationship, and what it involved. Estevan and his sister Maria sabotaging Bella’s career. The prison sentence when they refused to pony up the money they owed Bella, and Estevan blaming her for being in prison. The situation with Alexis and the hired hit. The book, the rumors, every little thing. Anything that Travis hadn’t known before, he knew when Charlotte was done explaining and he was left shaking his head, and wondering what they should do next.
“Dang, baby, that is a mess, honey. What do we do? How do we protect our children from this?”
“How do we protect you? If she is a Best, then I know what they are capable of, and quite frankly, I’m terrified.” It made sense to Charlotte now. Kathleen’s confidence that she would get what she wanted came from past family history. Travis was targeted for a reason, and it was because she knew she could manipulate him by targeting a weakness. “This is never going to stop, as long as there is a Best in Starlight Shores.”
“We either need to face it head-on, or we need to run away from it. Which one is better for our kids?” Travis didn’t know the answer.
“There is so much to know, so much to unpack.” And then she thought about Christopher and Cade, and Greg. Charlotte knew she had to tell Chris, that the nightmare was beginning all over again, and she felt powerless to stop it.
“Well, what is the chance this is coincidental, honey?” Travis wondered if the meeting in the bar was by chance, or on purpose. “Is there a possibility she doesn’t realize you are an Atwood?”
“I suppose there is that possibility, however slim it might be. Maybe. I guess it depends on which of Estevan’s sisters was her mother, and how much she thought of her uncle.” Her eyes dampened with tears. “This can’t be starting again. It can’t.”
“Well, let’s wait to hear back from Steve. Maybe he’ll have some news for us tomorrow.”
“With all that I am, I hope so honeybear.”
He spotted her out of the corner of his eye, waving energetically. Travis sighed. Reluctantly, he jogged to where she stood and approached her. “Kathleen, can I ask you a question?”
“What is it, sugar?” she purred at him.
He rolled his eyes. “Do you know my wife?”
“No, should I?” She looked at him, perplexed.
“You’re not lying to me about this… you’d better not be lying about this.” Travis frowned.
“Travis, honey,” she said, “I am a lot of things, but I am no liar. I don’t know your wife. Should I know her?”
“Never mind,” he said, not really trusting her. “If I find out you’re lying about this…”
“You’ll what, Travis?” she taunted.
“Never mind. Just please, leave her alone.” He turned and jogged away. Travis still hadn’t heard anything from Steve, and he was beginning to worry.
Neil walked to where Travis was signing autographs for a few fans in the closed section and pulled him aside. “What were you doing talking to Kathleen, Travis? I thought I warned you to stay away from her.”
“I had to ask her a question, praying she was honest with me about the answer.” He shook his head. “Something tells me she wasn’t.”
“You should know better than that. I have a last name for you, I don’t know if it will help you out, though.” He pulled a slip of paper from his pocket. “Vasquez. Kathleen Vasquez.”
“Thanks, Neil. Is there any truth to the rumor that she is related to the Best family?” Travis had to know.
“I hadn’t heard that particular rumor before yesterday. But I don’t know everything, either, Travis. Considering the history there, you had better hope it’s not true.” Neil waved to the fans that stood waving for autographs from the star player. “Your adoring fans beckon. You should go finish what you started.”
“Thanks, Neil,” Travis replied, jogging back towards the stands.
“May I speak with Travis please?” came the request from the caller on the other end of the phone.
“He isn’t at home,” Charlotte replied. “May I ask who is calling?”
“This is Steve McKinnon, he asked me to call him at this number.”
“Steve, hi, this is Charlotte.” She hoped he would discuss this issue with her, and she wouldn’t have to wait for Travis to come home.
“Hey Charlotte, could you have him give me a call when he gets home?”
“Is there any chance you could talk to me about this? I know all about it.”
“Well, I actually had a question. I’m not able to link up the name he gave me with the Best family. I was wondering if he’d found out Kathleen’s last name yet.”
“I haven’t heard that yet, sorry Steve. Does that mean we’re out of the woods on the connection with the Bests?” Charlotte remained guardedly hopeful.
“I can’t be sure yet, but if he has a last name for me, it would be helpful. Have him give me a call?”
She was just about to speak when she heard the gate open outside. “Steve, I think he’s home. If you’ll just give me a minute, I’ll call him inside.”
“Sure thing, I’ll wait, Charlotte.”
She ran for the garage, where Travis was parking the car. “Baby!” She called to him. “Steve is on the phone for you inside.”
A look of urgency showed on his face as he ran for the house. “Steve!” he said, out of breath. “I have some information for you.”
“Ah, Travis, I was hoping you’d say that. I’m coming up empty without a last name.”
“Vasquez. Kathleen Vasquez.” Travis put his hand over the receiver of the phone, struggling to catch his breath. “I spoke with her briefly today, but didn’t let on who Charlotte is, and just asked her if she knew my wife. She claims she doesn’t. We’ll see if she’s telling me the truth.”
“This will help big time,” Steve replied. “I’ll be in touch shortly, Travis. Thanks again.”
“Honey?” Travis called to her. “Charlotte?”
She was coming through the back door, carrying a load of washed clothing to fold and put away. “Sorry, baby, I remembered the laundry when I got outside, and thought I’d grab it.” She put the basket down and hugged him.
“I might have some better news today. The connection between the Bests and Kathleen seems to be not as obvious as we first thought.” He took her hands in his, massaging her fingers. “Neil really wasn’t sure, and Steve was coming up empty on the connection.” He thought carefully, and then decided to tell her. “Against my better judgment, I asked Kathleen today if she knew you.”
He saw Charlotte tense up and saw her temples throbbing as she gritted her teeth. “You still see that woman at work?”
“Baby, they can’t banish her. I have to learn to cope with it. But that wasn’t my point. She didn’t seem to know you, past the times you’ve spoken with her.”
“But what does that tell us, exactly? We already know she’s not above lying to get her way.”
“That’s what my gut tells me. But, it’s still a glimmer of hope, and with the other information we have from Steve, maybe it seems more plausible.” He caressed her cheek. “Remember, I love you, and no one else. I will never betray you.”
“I know, honeybear. It’s just that, thinking of her there, watching you, preying on you. It makes me crazy.” She nuzzled into his hand, kissing his fingers. “I am so afraid someone will take you from me.”
He opened his arms and wrapped her in them. “Not on my watch, baby.” He suddenly noticed there was nothing cooking in the kitchen. “What did you say we were having for dinner tonight?”
“I didn’t. I was thinking of leftovers. Tracy had a lot of prepared food in the fridge, we should probably eat it before it goes bad.”
“Not a bad thing.” He hugged her tightly. “We’re going to be okay, honey.”
A few days passed before Travis heard from Steve McKinnon, but the phone call arrived just as Charlotte was leaving for work. “Steve, I hope you have some good news for me, man.”
“I do, Travis. Whoever it was that told you that Kathleen was related to the Best family was only partially right. Her blood family comes from out of town, Bridgeport, but her ex-husband was Mandy Best-Vasquez’s son, Blake Vasquez. She wouldn’t know anything about Charlotte or Bella, and she has no blood relation to Estevan Best. She does, however, have a history of criminal mischief and solicitation.”
“I can’t wait to tell Charlotte. This will be a huge burden lifted off her shoulders. However,” Travis said, “just for fun, prepare an estimate for a bodyguard for me.” He could almost hear Steve’s surprised expression on the other end of the phone. “Charlotte is worried, because she’s had some really frightening dreams, and Kathleen has threatened me on a few occasions. Her peace of mind is important to me.”
“Absolutely, I understand,” Steve said, laughing. “Happy wife, happy life.”
“See? I knew you’d understand.” Travis thanked him and they hung up the phone. He immediately dialed Charlotte’s pager and left a message. She returned his call within minutes.
“Baby? Is everything okay?” she asked, trying not to sound scared out of her mind.
“It’s better than okay, honey. Steve just called. Kathleen is no blood relation to Estevan. It was by marriage, and it was only briefly. She was being truthful when she said she didn’t know you. Her family is from Bridgeport.”
“Oh honeybear, this was so worth the phone call!” She squealed, obviously ready to put the whole nightmare behind them. “So everything is alright?”
“Steve did mention she has a criminal history, but it’s criminal mischief and,” he laughed as he said it, “solicitation.”
Charlotte chuckled. “That doesn’t surprise me in the least, knowing what I know.”
“Steve is going to get an estimate for me to have a guard when I leave the house. I know it will put your mind at ease.”
“You always know just the right things to say, baby,” she beamed, as she heard her name being paged on the address system. “I have to run, but I’ll see you after work tonight. I love you!”
“I love you too. Have a good day, sweetie.”
Travis heaved a sigh of relief.
“Why are you so chipper today?” Neil teased Travis, noticing the obvious spring in his step.
“I got some good news this morning.” Travis unzipped his duffel bag and pulled his uniform out, getting ready for practice.
“Well, are you going to tell me your good news, or are you going to make me guess?”
Travis scratched his chin, acting as though he was thinking. “Oh, okay. The Best connection with Kathleen was by marriage and apparently, they’re divorced.”
“So the hag was telling the truth about not knowing Charlotte. Go figure.”
“That might have been the only time she’s ever told the truth. Apparently, she has a history of solicitation and criminal mischief.” Travis chuckled. “This also means her ‘family’ influence isn’t as great as she makes it sound. Maybe there’s hope to get her kicked out of here after all.”
“Ask Ed about it. He knows the proper channels.” Neil checked his watch. “Hop on it, sports star. Practice in 10 minutes, and you have a throng of waiting fans out there already.”
Travis laced his shoes, and grabbed his water bottle from the duffel, walking through the tunnel to the field. Looking around the stands, Kathleen was conspicuously missing. Finally, he thought. He signed a few autographs and posed for a few photo ops before Neil brought the rest of the team out for a full-scale practice.
After practice, the team headed for the showers. In the tunnel that led to the locker room, he saw the familiar outline of a female in a fur coat. “Travis,” she called to him. He ignored her, which made her angry. “Travis!” her sharper cry came, which fell on deaf ears.
“He’s done playing with you, Kath,” Neil said. “Your time here is limited.”
“He doesn’t know what he’s done,” she seethed, and turned to stomp away. Neil chuckled at her.
“That woman is nuttier than a Snickers bar,” he joked, walking toward where Travis was drying off. “You’ve ticked her off now, Travis.”
Travis rolled his eyes. It’s a good thing he requested the estimate from Steve, if for no other reason than for Charlotte’s peace. “I’m really afraid of her,” he joked, laughing.
“Miss Tight Britches again, Travis?” his buddy, Smitty asked, joining Travis in a chuckle. “Shoot, she is crazy.”
“Yeah,” he sighed. “It’s nothing.” He looked at his watch. “I have to get going. I’m taking Charlotte for dinner tonight. It’s date night.”
“You literally just came back from vacation, man,” Neil said, incredulous. “Give it a rest.”
“Hey, don’t hate me just because I have a smokin’ hot wife…” Travis laughed. “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
“Presser tomorrow, Travis. Come prepared.” Neil yelled.
Charlotte was ready when Travis got home from work. From his car out front, he dialed her cell. “Baby, are you coming? Is Tracy here?”
“Yes, I’m just giving Devin goodnight kisses, and I’ll be out.”
She met him by the front gate, and he opened the door for her. Taking her hand, he kissed it, and helped her into the car. The girls, who were watching from the front door, waved at Travis, and he blew kisses to them as he got into the car. He drove them to their favorite off-strip restaurant, and valet parked the car. They walked in, arm in arm, and were seated right away. Taking her sweater off, she set it on an empty chair, and Travis helped her with her chair. He noticed how beautiful her ring was in the light of the dining room, and he smiled at her. “You look gorgeous tonight, honey,” he said.
“I love your work uniform,” she said, admiring him. “Whoever designed it did a great job. Plus, you fill it out rather well to boot!”
Travis chuckled at her. He noticed her wearing the vanilla scent she had purchased at the spa, and he grinned. “You even smell good tonight.”
“I’m glad you noticed,” she purred. “What looks good tonight?” she asked, checking out the daily specials.
“You,” he said, very matter-of-factly.
“That isn’t what I meant,” she grinned. “What do you want?”
“You,” he repeated.
She rolled her eyes. “You’re incorrigible. For dinner,” she clarified.
“You,” he laughed. “No matter the question, you’re the answer.” Her heart melted.
Travis ordered a steak, and Charlotte got grilled salmon, with a Caprese salad to share, and a bottle of French nectar. They talked about their day, the kids, work, and even the end of the whole nightmare that had begun six months prior. “I’m glad you’re considering a guard, honeybear. Especially after what you told me she did tonight. She still freaks me out a little.”
“I’m sure I will never need him, but I will hire him anyway, so you can sleep peacefully at night, my love.” He held her hand, the diamond sparkling brightly even in the dim light. Their dinner arrived shortly after, and they spent more time talking, especially about Devin’s upcoming birthday. Travis thought it would be a good idea to get him a bicycle, and Charlotte agreed.
“Someday, I’d like to take the kids on a weekend trip to Isla Paradiso, honeybear,” Charlotte said, as they pondered some tiramisu. She really loved it, and she was hoping to test the waters, to see if the kids would like it, too. “Maybe, if they like it there, we don’t have to wait until we retire to go.”
“You know, that would depend on me getting on that team. I’ve been informed my contract is very binding, and it’s not up for years.”
“True, and I would never ask you to give up your passion.” He still had many good years to play, and he truly thrived on the field and in the spotlight. She would have never guessed that the shy boy she knew in college would have such an affinity for the public eye. “You’ve made yourself valuable to the team. They’d be wise to keep you for the remainder of your career.”
“Well, moving would be no small feat for you, too. Exams, recerts, licensing. Isn’t it a nightmare to move as a doctor?”
“It depends on what you call a nightmare. I have to do yearly recerts anyway, and licensing exams are standard. What I’d really need to study is regional laws pertaining to the job, like that ridiculous one they still have here.”
“That reminds me,” Travis remarked. “We have to fund that scholarship and redo it for this coming school year. I’ll call Sarah in the morning.”
“Sounds good,” Charlotte said, sipping the last of her nectar. “I think I’m going to pass on tiramisu, baby. I’m full.”
“Okay, love,” he said, calling the waiter for the check.
“Mr. Jones, the manager of the restaurant would like to comp you for dinner tonight, and wants to thank you for being a loyal customer.” The waiter brought a check that was marked ‘Paid.’
“Well, please tell your manager thank you, and if he needs anything from me, promos, ads, to let me know.” Travis took a business card from his vest pocket and handed it to the waiter. “Come, my sweet Charlotte,” he smiled, taking her hand. They retrieved the car from valet and drove home.
The kids were already tucked into bed, and Tracy was reading Bella’s romance novel by the fireplace when Charlotte and Travis returned home. She tiptoed into the living room while Travis parked, and paid Tracy for watching the kids. “You know it’s always my pleasure to watch them,” she told Charlotte. “I adore your sweet little family, as though they were my own.”
“That’s really kind of you to say, Tracy. I know they adore you, too.” She saw Tracy safely to her car and waved as she pulled away.
“Thank you, for a beautiful evening,” Travis said as he stood behind her, his face buried into Charlotte’s hair, breathing in her vanilla scent.
“The pleasure was mine,” she said. “I love date nights with you.”
“I just love you so much, my sweet Charlotte.”
“Shall we?” she asked, leading him to their bedroom.
“I’d have it no other way,” he purred, both of them laughing softly.
Up Next: Chapter Sixteen, Generation Four