A birthday story for Wendy
Special Thanks: Thank you to Jo for the wonderful collage she made for the story. Thank you to Jo, Sherry, and Sue M for reading the story over for me and helping to make it better. Thank you to Sherry for sharing her wonderful MCAT AU.
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the Magnificent Seven characters. They are the property of MGM and Trilogy Entertainment, darn; the original characters not from the MCAT series are mine. The original characters from the MCAT series belong to Sherry and Wendy. No money is being made from this story, it is purely for enjoyment purposes only. No infringements of these copyrights are intended, and are used here without permission. Thank you to Sherry for sharing her wonderful MCAT AU.
Vin brushed the hair out of his wife's face before kissing her gently saying, "Time to get up, Baby."
Kelli snuggled up against his warm body mumbling, "Just a little while longer, please."
"I think we can hold out for a few more minutes," Vin answered soaking up how he felt when she was in his arms...the feelings that this was so...right.
Vin groaned out his pleasure when Kelli started to nibble on his neck, alternating sucking kisses with slight scrapes of her teeth,
The sounds of children waking up to greet the morning interrupted their delightful play. With a sigh Vin looked deep into his wife's blue eyes saying, "Sounds like our kids want our attention."
"We're going to have to work on their timin'," Kelli replied her eyes telling him how much she regretted not continuing with their play. Rubbing her hands on Vin's chest sighing, "Remember the good ole days when we didn't have to worry about kids."
Vin laughed, "Yep, and neither one of us would give up those kids for anythin' in the world."
"Nope, we wouldn't they make our time together more precious," Kelly agreed.
"This mornin' belongs to the kids," Vin said kissing her gently. "But tonight is all ours Baby."
"It's a date Tanner," Kelli said pressing her body close.
One last kiss then Vin got out of bed pulling Kelli behind him. "I'll take the two oldest and you take the two youngest," he said pulling on some sweatpants.
"Deal," Kelli replied as she pulled on her robe, swatting Vin's rear as she walked out of their room.
Vin was still smiling when he entered the bedroom of his oldest. Jason looked out from his closet saying, "Hi Dad."
"Mornin' Pard, you got it under control?"
"Yep," Jason replied pulling out a shirt. They heard a thud coming from the next room making Jason smile at Vin saying, "Sounds like Andi could use some help Dad."
"I think you're right there Son," Vin said with a quick wink before he headed to his daughter's room.
Entering Andi's room, Vin saw two little legs sticking out from under the bed. "What are you doin' there Princess?"
"Daddy, I can't find my purple shoes," Andi wailed. Vin couldn't hold back his laughter when a little cherubic face covered with blonde curls looked out at him from under the bed. "Please Daddy; I have to wear my purple shoes."
"You have to wear them?" Vin asked crawling down next to Andi to help her find the treasured shoes.
"Yep, they's my most favorite," Andi answered returning to her search.
"Ah ha," Vin said pulling one purple shoe from Andi's toy chest. Tossing that shoe on the bed Vin dug around until he found the other one also in with Andi's toys.
Throwing herself in Vin's arms she yelled, "You're the bestest Daddy in the whole world, thank you."
"You're welcome Princess, let's get you dressed and ready to face the day."
Vin was brushing Andi's hair when Jason came in to ask, "Can I feed the animals Dad?"
"The animals in the house only Son, okay," Vin replied knowing how tempting it was for Jason to go feed the horses too.
"Yes, sir," Jason answered beaming as he ran off to feed Tracker and Bandit.
"Can I help Jason Daddy?" Andi asked giving Vin the big eyes as she gazed lovingly at her most favorite man.
Vin finished her hair before he said, "You'll listen to what Jason says." Andi nodded solemnly before she crossed her finger over her heart. "Okay then."
"Hey," Vin called as Andi started to run out of the room. "Don't you want to put on your purple shoes first?"
Andi just laughed as she jumped up on her bed, holding her feet out for him to put her shoes on. Vin shook his head, mumbling under his breath as he put her back on the ground and watched her run off, "You're gettin' more like your Mama every day,"
Kelli had finished feeding Trey and it was Bren's turn when Vin joined them in the nursery. Vin stood there taking a minute to enjoy the sight of his son nursing at his wife's breast before announcing his presence. "You got your two ready?" Kelli asked.
"Yep, they're feedin' Tracker and Bandit," Vin replied as he scooped up Trey. "How about if Trey and I go start breakfast while you finish up here with Bren, and then come join us?"
"Okay, Bren and I will be there soon," Kelli agreed smiling as she watched Vin talking to Trey while they headed for the kitchen.
Stroking Bren's soft hair Kelli confided, "What you say we plan somethin' special for Daddy tonight?"
Kelli took the smacking sounds Bren was making as a yes. A while later Mother and baby joined the rest of their family in the kitchen. Andi was setting the table, smiling up she said, "I helpin' Mama."
"Yes you are sweetheart," Kelli answered. "I see you are too Jason."
"Yep," Jason grinned at her from his post of cooking the bacon in the microwave.
Trey was in his infant seat on the counter next to the stove, kicking his feet and giggling at the faces Vin was making at him. The Texan was telling the kids a story while he made pancakes for their breakfast.
"Anythin' I can do," Kelli asked putting Bren in his infant seat next to Trey.
Vin winked at her saying, "Just stand there and be beautiful."
"Aw Dad, you know Mom's always beautiful," Jason added joining in the fun.
The look in Vin's eyes made Kelli weak in the knees and blush as he replied, "That's right Son, your Mom can take a man's breath away with her beauty."
The ding of the microwave broke the spell. "Bacon's ready," Jason called out putting the latest batch on the plate with what he already had done.
"So are the pancakes," Vin added, turning off the stove and carrying the plate piled high with pancakes to the table.
Kelli poured herself and Vin a cup of coffee, giving herself a few minutes to get her raging emotions back under control before she joined the others at the table. She was pouring Jason and Andi some milk and Vin was turning the twin's chairs so they faced the table. That way they could all be together for a family breakfast.
Jason and Andi were telling them about their plans for a play date over at the Wilmington's that day. Vin filled them in on the horse auction he was going to with Chris and Buck. They had their eye on a couple of mares that would make good breeding stock for Larabee 7's quarter horse business. Kelli confided she was looking forward to having the twins all to herself for the day.
Finishing breakfast Vin looked over at Jason saying, "Jason will you help your Mom clean up while I get dressed, then we can feed the horses."
"I help too," Andi said carefully carrying her plate to the sink.
"Y'all listen to your Mom," Vin reminded them as Kelli pushed him out of the kitchen laughing.
Vin returned just as they were finishing the dishes. Kissing Kelli Vin said to Jason, "Ready, Son."
"Ready when you are Dad," Jason replied hanging up the towel from drying his hands.
Vin turned to head out the door and saw Andi standing there, her eyes pleading with him to come help. He squatted down in front of her, smiling he asked, "If you help do you think you can stay clean?"
Andi's head bobbed up and down nodding yes with a big smile. Looking down at her feet before looking her in the eye again Vin added, "If you get your purple shoes dirty you can't wear them today."
"I be careful Daddy, promise," Andi told him solemnly to show how serious she was.
"Okay, let's go," Vin said taking Andi's hand.
"Bye, Mama," Andi called out waving wildly at Kelli.
Jason and Vin added their bye's, as did Kelli laughing as she waved them out the door.
Kelli and the twins were in the living room when Vin, Jason, and Andi returned. "Look Mama, I stay clean," Andi announced, dancing around in a circle.
Chris followed them in, joining in the laughter when he heard Kelli tell Andi, "I never had a doubt sweetheart." Turning to Chris she added, "Mornin' Dad, did you help and stay clean too?"
"Mornin' Missy, yes I helped and yes I stayed clean," Chris said mimicking Andi he turned in a circle in front of his eldest.
Buck, Inez, and their kids arrived shortly after that. "We best get on the road if we want to make it there in time to check those mares out before the auction," Buck told Vin and Chris.
Chris stood there waiting while Vin and Buck both took the time to kiss each member of their families goodbye. He couldn't help but think back to when they first started Team Seven with the ATF. Seven single men came together with a bond that joined them tighter than blood ever could. Now they had added six wives and sixteen kids to the Wild Bunch. It'd been a wild ride, but Chris honestly told himself there wasn't much he would've changed.
Kelli watched Vin walk out the door and thought of his promise that tonight was for them. She knew he meant after the kids were in bed and asleep but Kelli had an idea. "Inez, do you mind if Jason and Andi spend the night tonight?"
"Sure, my kids would love it," Inez replied as quietly as Kelli. "Are you looking for some play time alone with that sexy husband of yours?"
Kelli felt the her cheeks grow warm as she blushed thinking about what she had planned. "Anytime Vin and I can return the favor we'd be glad to take your kids overnight."
"I know you will and one of these days I'm going to ask you to take them," Inez said making the two ladies laugh.
"Andi and Jason, let's get your bags packed you're going to spent the night at the Wilmington's," Kelli told her kids. Both women smiled at the cheers that erupted from Jason, Andi, Caleb, Sarah, and Maria.
Inez, Sarah, and Maria helped Andi pack while Kelli and Caleb helped Jason. "Mom, we told Dad we'd see him when he got home," Jason said stopping as he was putting his shirt for tomorrow in his bag.
"It'll be fine, Son. I promise your Dad'll understand," Kelli assured Jason with a warm smile.
Jason really wanted to go so that was all it took for him to be fine with the idea. Kelli waved bye to Inez and the kids as they drove off. Looking over at Bren and Trey she told them, "I'm goin' to call Max to see if she and Walter want to babysit you two for the night. You'll be good for them won't you?" She didn't expect an answer, talking to the boys was a practice both she and Vin had gotten into while Kelli was pregnant.
Hanging up from talking to Max, Kelli turned to her twins again. "Looks like you two get to have a sleep over too. We have plenty of time before Daddy gets home to prepare his surprise. Let's have some time just for us first and then you can help me set up for tonight."
Chris pulled his truck into a parking space near the stables. The three men checked in and got their auction number before going to the barns to check out the horses.
Over the years they had learned the tricks of the trade at the auctions and they knew that the regulars were a tight knit group. This time they saw some friends and competitors walking around. Not wanting to tip their hand by showing too much interest in any one animal, they added some horses they had eliminated from their want list to check out thoroughly also.
The other bidders were aware of the talent both Vin and Chris had for picking quality animals. The men were careful to check out all the horses to never give away their interest, knowing that would drive the price up. They would patiently answer questions and give advice when requested.
Buck smiled while he watched his two friends giving a young family several suggestions on what horse to get for their son. The couple also had a toddler and another baby on the way. Buck watched the toddler drop her toy horse in the mud. Without missing a beat in his conversation with the Dad, Chris bent over and picked up the toy horse then carefully rinsed it off before handing it back to the little girl.
The criminals Chris had stared down in the interrogation room would never believe how gentle he was with kids. Buck knew that all of the Seven were just as bad and he for one was thrilled that they had a chance to let that side of themselves out. He freely admitted being married with kids was one of the best things that had happened to the Seven and now that Ezra had joined the ranks of married men he knew there would be some little Standish's running around with the rest of the Wild Bunch kids.
Lost in his thoughts Buck didn't see the little girl standing in front of him until he knocked her over. Her Mom was at her side before Buck had her back on her feet. "I'm sorry Lit'l Darlin', I wasn't paying attention to where I was going," Buck told the girl giving her his most charming smile.
"No harm done," the Mom replied brushing off her daughter. "Isn't that right, April?"
"Is that your name, April?" Buck asked. "A real fitting name with all that beautiful strawberry blonde hair, just like the April sun that brightens up the day after the long winter."
The giggle told Buck he was successful in making up to April for knocking her down. Holding out his hand he said, "My name's Buck, Buck Wilmington."
Buck shook April's hand first and then her Mom's. "Nice to meet you Buck, I'm Wendy Anderson and you've met my daughter April."
"We just moved here from Texas," April added with a toothless grin.
"Texas is a mighty fine place to be from, some of my family are from Texas," Buck told them. Noticing the smashed ice cream cone on the ground he added, "I made you drop that didn't I. Here let me replace it."
As Buck was digging in his pocket for some money Wendy said, "That's not necessary."
"Yes, ma'am it is. You see I have a little girl right about April's age and I know she'd be mad at me if I didn't. You don't want my Sarah to be mad at me now do you?" Buck charmed her while holding out a dollar to Wendy.
"No, I wouldn't want that," Wendy replied laughing. "Thank you. What do you say April?"
"Thank you Mister Buck. You better be more careful."
Buck laughed letting Wendy know he wasn't offended by April's words. "You're right, Darlin'. I'll be sure to watch better from now on out."
Buck was looking at April and Wendy walk off when Vin and Chris joined him. "Makin' some new friends there Bucklin'?" Vin asked.
"You two aren't the only ones that people around here want to talk to you know," Buck replied his eyes twinkling with humor. "You help that family pick out a horse?"
"They have three to bid on and know which one should be their first choice," Vin answered. "About time for the auction to start, should we find some seats?"
"There's some over by Jake Wilson," Chris pointed out as he heading over to the seats trusting Vin and Buck to follow.
Chris took charge of doing their bidding. Vin and Buck shared a knowing smile when he volunteered, like there was a doubt who would be in control. The bidding on the third horse was going back and forth between Larabee 7 and Hank Johnson. Hank saw the smirk on Chris's face when Hank made the winning bid, calling out over the crowd he said, "Larabee you sneak, you drove the price up on purpose."
"Just making sure you paid a fair price Johnson," Chris called back to the delight of the crowd who cheered.
"Feel better about Johnson doin' the same to us last time?" Vin asked quietly.
"Yep," Chris replied smugly.
Vin and Chris nodded approvingly when the family they had been giving advice to made the successful bid on the horse they recommended as the first choice for a good price. In their job as MCAT agents they didn't always see the happy results of their actions. This time the beaming smile on the little boy's face told them how proud he was of his first horse.
Chris was also the successful bidder on both of the mares they were interested in. Buck looked over shaking his head when he realized Vin and Chris were talking in their heads again.
*We got good deals on both of the mares, Cowboy."
*What do I need to do to get you stop calling me Cowboy.*
*Ain't gonna happen.*
*Want to go ahead and bid on the third horse?*
*The one after this one, right.*
*Yep, he's that sorrel geldin' we looked at. Young and green broke but shows promise.*
*As long as we stick to the budget we all voted on I don't see a problem.*
*Good, looks like they're gettin' ready to bring him out now. Don't tip our hand too soon.*
*I know how to bid, been doing it since you were in diapers.*
Chris knew he had just walked right into an old man comment so he turned to Buck quickly saying, "You said something on wanting to stop somewhere on the way home."
"That little bakery halfway between here and home, Inez loves their cinnamon rolls and I thought I'd pick some up for breakfast tomorrow to surprise her," Buck answered.
Chris knew his plan to distract Vin worked when Vin asked Buck, "They that good?"
"Just a slice of heaven, melt in your mouth goodness," Buck answered with glee as he licked his lips for good measure.
"Maybe I should surprise Kel with some too," Vin added nodding.
"Trust me Junior, she'll be thanking you for them," Buck told him waggling his eyebrows making both Vin and Chris laugh.
Chris's skillful bidding won them the young sorrel gelding with some money left over to go back into their fund for new stock. "Let's head home boys. I want to spend some time with Grace and Cody."
They stopped by the cashier to pay for their purchases and make the arrangements to have the horses delivered to Larabee 7. They were laughing and talking about the antics of their kids as they walked back to Chris's truck by the stables.
A woman's scream drew the three agents' attention, and signaling each other, they quickly moved in the direction of the scream. A large man was running toward a saddled horse, a kicking child in his grasp.
The man managed to get on the horse with the still struggling child and ride off before anyone could get close. Ben Roberts caught Vin's attention before leading the horse he was getting ready to show at the auction over. "No saddle but that won't be a problem for a good rider," Ben told Vin handing him the lead rope. "He's fast and you'll be able to catch 'em with Biscuit."
Vin nodded his thanks as he was mounting Biscuit and took off after the fleeing man. Chris watched Vin ride out before turning to Ben, who hollered, "There's a couple of saddled horses in the barn I'll get 'em for you."
Chris had known Ben Roberts most of the young man's life, his family owned a ranch near Larabee 7. Trusting Ben to get the horses they needed Chris joined Buck who was calming down the sobbing Mom. "Wendy, it wasn't your fault," Buck said softly dapping at the blood coming from the split lip she got when the man hit her.
Annie Roberts, Ben's Mom, came running up. She sat on the ground next to Wendy telling Buck, "I've got her, you go after that man."
Wendy reached out to Buck begging, "My April, please save my baby."
"Vin's already on the way to save her and we're right behind him," Buck said with a reassuring smile before joining Chris on the horses Ben brought them.
"Those men are the best," Annie told Wendy watching Chris and Buck ride out in the direction Vin had gone.
Ben was right about Biscuit; Vin was making good time closing in the man. Running over his options Vin knew his best choice was to slow the man down enough for Chris and Buck to catch up. Without a saddle he made faster time but it would make it harder for him to safely rescue the child.
Decision made to slow the man down; Vin rode up next to him and punched him hard before attempting to grab the reins. Unfortunately for Vin the man wasn't willing to give up his prize and without the reins to worry about he had his arm free to strike back at Vin.
One look at the terrified girl steeled Vin's resolve to stop this man who smelled of stale cigarette smoke. Mentally Vin began to call the man Stinky as the two fought for control of the reins. Blows were exchanged, elbows jabbed into ribs, and fists connected with soft tissue telling the receiving party bruises would be forming. Being careful not to endanger the girl allowed Stinky to get in some shots, but Vin's skills were far superior, he was succeeding in his plan to slow Stinky down.
Vin was relieved to see Chris and Buck riding up on them hard. He winked at April before giving Stinky a shot that had him shaking his head. It confused Stinky enough to allow Chris to ride up and scoop April onto his horse then pull back to let Buck and Vin take care of Stinky.
Stinky knew he was in trouble as soon as his prize was taken from him. The look the long haired man was giving him told him loud and clear playtime was over. Stinky tried to spur his horse away only to have the man he'd been fighting with fly off the horse he was riding to tackle him taking them both to the ground hard.
After a few well placed punches Stinky gave up consciousness, collapsing at Vin's feet. "I think he's had enough Junior," Buck called out returning with both horses the look on his face telling Vin he was disappointed not to get some hits in himself.
Buck saw Chris riding up with April clinging to the man in black for all she was worth. He handed Vin a handkerchief saying, "You best clean up some before you scare April more than she already is."
Vin managed to get most of the blood wiped off his face by the time Chris rode up to join them. Looking at Stinky Chris said, "Buck, tie that garbage up."
April kept her head buried in Chris's shoulder until they were on the ground. She heard the concern in his voice when he asked, "You all right, Vin?"
"Yeah, just some bruises nothing serious," Vin replied. Placing his hand on April's back he asked, "You all right, sweetheart?"
She nodded against Chris's neck while she smiled shyly at Vin. "The mean man hurted my Mommy and made her cry."
"The mean man is going where he ain't gonna hurt anybody for a long time," Vin told her.
Lifting her head April reached out to Vin, lightly brushing her little hand over the black eye forming. Vin saw her eyes fill with tears and her bottom lip begin to quiver. Lifting her from Chris's arms, Vin settled April in his arms before he told her, "Just like your Mommy's, the bruises on the outside will fade. They are a small price to pay to make sure you're safe."
Chris left April in Vin's care, and he heard them talking softly to each other while he and Buck tied Stinky on the back of the horse he had taken when he attacked Wendy and kidnapped April. Vin's soft Texas drawl reminded her of home and safety, he was the one she wanted to ride with on the way back to the auction. Seeing the tears start to form again the three men quickly gave in, April allowed Chris to hold her while Vin mounted Biscuit then Chris handed her up to sit in front of Vin. He had assured them all that Biscuit had a smooth gait and April would be fine riding with him.
"Here they come," Ben hollered out when the group rode up. Smiling over at Wendy he added, "Vin has April riding with him."
"Thank God," Wendy sighed glad for the support of her husband Eric and Annie.
The Sheriff was there when they got back waiting to take custody of their prisoner. Chris gave him a card and told him to contact the office to set up taking their statements. Wendy couldn't hold back her tears when she finally had April back in her arms.
"Thank you so much," she said tears streaming down her face. Eric needed his chance to hold his daughter too so Wendy let her husband snuggle with his little angel while she hugged Chris and Buck. Brushing her fingers lightly over the bruises on Vin's face, just as April had done earlier. Wendy gave Vin a longer hug than she did the others, crying softly on his shoulder as she thanked him for bringing April back to them.
Annie Roberts whispered to Chris that she would make sure the Anderson's made it home that night and would keep an eye on them for a few days to until she felt comfortable they were all past the worst of the trauma.
Finally making it to Chris's truck Vin crawled into the back seat, he was tired and sore and just wanted to stretch out and put some ice on the forming bruises during the ride home. They were pulling out onto the highway when Vin said, "Don't forget to stop by that bakery of Buck's. If I'm going home bruised I better be bringin' some goodies with me."
Back at the Tanner home, Kelli was putting the finishing touches on her surprise. She had blankets and pillows laid out in front of the fireplace, along with an ice bucket for the bottle of wine she had chilling. Candles were spread around the living room, waiting to be lit when Walter called to say that Chris's truck had entered the front gate. Fresh flowers adorned the coffee table in the beautiful crystal vase Vin had given her just because as soon as he saw it he knew she would like it.
She had made a CD of some of her and Vin's favorite love songs and it was playing quietly in the back ground. Singing along with George Strait's I Cross My Heart, Kelli made one finally sweep of the room satisfied all the toys were put away and everything was where she wanted it to be.
Checking her watch Kelli figured she had at least a half an hour before her estimate of the earliest Vin would be home. She felt she was safe to assume she had more time but wanted to be ready just in case the men left the auction early. Satisfied that the living room was ready Kelli went to the kitchen to check on her dinner. She had debated several different menus and finally decided on a simple crock pot meal of hearty potato, cheese, and ham soup with rolls, a Caesar salad, and strawberries. Okay so it wasn't romantic, but both she and Vin liked the soup and since it was pretty much ready and just keeping warm in the crock pot it met Kelli's criteria for a worry free meal.
Bren and Trey had their afternoon feeding before Max and Walter picked them up for the night. Kelli was a little sad watching them drive off, Jason and Andi had both spent the night away from her and Vin before but this would be the first night that at least one of them wasn't with the twins. Picking up their wedding picture, Kelli thought of all the changes they both had been through since they had first met. Through it all Vin had been by her side, giving her his love and support, just as he would tonight. There had to be a first time to be separated from the twins, and she couldn't think of a better reason for it than a romantic evening alone with the long haired Texan who was the love of her life.
Moving to their bedroom Kelli just needed to take a quick shower then change into that new nightgown she had purchased especially for Vin. He had such wonderful taste in fashions for her that Kelli usually had him help her shop for new clothes. It was a fluke she even saw that the lingerie boutique around the corner from where she had parked to take the twins to their doctor's appointment.
She was an excellent MCAT agent and could hold her own as an equal with the men she dealt with regularly. Every now and again though, she felt the need to let her feminine side out, and that day she was feeling the need. After their appointment she and the twins checked out the shop.
Kelli smiled thinking about how much she was looking forward to taking Vin with her to shop at the lingerie boutique. She wanted to surprise him with her first purchase before she shared her discovery with him.
Laid out on the bed was an emerald green long gown, made of the sheerest chiffon, just waiting for Kelli to finish her shower. Taking some extra time to apply body lotion with a hint of vanilla scent to her entire body she walked back into the bedroom, leaving behind Kelli Tanner MCAT agent and Mom and becoming Kelli Tanner lover of Vin.
Sliding the gown over her head, Kelli loved how it clung to the curves of her body, with a slit up the left leg that ended at her hip giving a tempting view of leg with each step. The deep V neckline gave an almost indecent view of cleavage and the back was bare to her hips except for the delicate straps that held in all in place. Up the right leg a pattern of climbing roses wound around hiding only the most intimate parts of her body from view while the rest was clearly visible beneath the sheer material.
Kelli looked in the mirror and was thrilled by the sight that looked back at her. Red curls cascaded down her back and over her shoulders giving her the seductive appearance she was looking for. Now all she needed was for Vin to get home.
The Tanner phone finally rang with Walter's call. Kelli fluffed her hair and then lit the candles. A quick look around told her everything was perfect and more than ready for that sexy husband of hers.
Chris dropped off Buck first, pulling up in front of Vin's home he got out to help Vin who had stiffened up during the drive. "I can do it," Vin protested.
"Sure you can," Chris smirked lending a hand to steady his friend then reaching into the truck to grab Vin's box from the bakery.
They slowly made their way up the steps then in the front door. Intent on getting to the couch neither man noticed Kelli until she gasped, "Vin, what happened?"
Both men's eyes grew big at the sight of Kelli standing there in her nightgown. Chris turned bright red looking down quickly; this was not an image of his oldest daughter that he wanted to have in his brain. Vin was delighted by Kelli's appearance, his eyes raking over her drinking in her beauty while his own body was reacting to the sight.
Her worry about Vin made Kelli forget her scanty attire and Chris's presence. Rushing to his side she ran her fingers over the bruises on his face. "What happened?"
"Kelli, don't you..." Vin started only to be interrupted by Kelli.
"Damnit, Tanner, you tell me what happened right now."
"Texas, you need..."
"Fine, little girl named April got kidnapped as we were getting ready to leave the auction," Vin told her.
"You saved her? Is she all right?" Kelli asked calming down a little.
"Yep, on both," Vin said smugly enjoying the fact that Chris was dying of embarrassment and Kelli was being too stubborn to let him warn her.
Seeing the twinkling in Vin's eyes she asked, "He look worse than you?"
"Yep, Sheriff has him locked up," Vin replied running his fingers on her back. "Can I tell you what I was tryin' to say before?"
"One more question first. How bad are you hurt?" Kelli asked her hands running along his chest checking for injuries.
Vin gasped when she hit a tender spot, the concern in her eyes warming his heart. "Just some bruises and a bloody nose, Baby. I'm sore that's all."
Kelli believed him but she also knew Vin had a tendency to minimize his injuries so he turned to Chris who seemed fascinated by the floor. His behavior and blushing made her think there was more going on so she asked, "Dad, is there more?"
Chris refused to look up from the floor and felt himself blushing even more if it was possible. "He's telling you all of it Kel, just some bruises."
"Okay," Kelli said still confused by his actions looked back to Vin. "What was so important for you to tell me?"
Vin smiled then reached out to brush her hair back and whispered in her ear, "I love your outfit, Baby but you might want to put on a robe, I think it's embarrassin' Chris."
A look of horror replaced the smiled on Kelli's face, she gasped then jumped behind Vin trying to use him to hide her. Punching his shoulder she cried, "Why didn't you warn me?"
Vin knew if he laughed that the romantic evening his loving wife had planned was over before it had started so he stayed quiet trying to think of what to say that wouldn't get him in more trouble.
"Um, I'll just put your box here and head on home," Chris said still looking at the floor.
Vin was struggling not to laugh again, knowing that Chris didn't say goodbye or tell him to take care of his injuries because he was so rattled. He managed to say, "Bye, Cowboy."
Kelli leaned her head over Vin's shoulder to say, "Bye Dad, I'm sorry."
Chris stopped at the door, and then he looked back saying, "You don't have anything to apologize for. I figure I'm standing in the way of your plans for tonight. The kids are gone so you two don't need Dad hanging around. Have fun, and Missy, don't be too hard on Vin he did a good thing today."
Chris winked at the couple adding "Bye," as he walked out the door.
Once they were alone Vin turned around to face Kelli, lifting her chin he said, "You did all this for us?" Brushing his thumb on her cheek he added, "Thank you, Baby. I'm sorry I messed up your surprise."
Her cheeks still pink with embarrassment Kelli smiled up at him. "Dad's right, you did a good thing today and it's not too late for us to have our romantic evenin'."
"I love you, Kelli," Vin told her huskily. Looking up and down her body he added, "And I love this outfit too."
"I love you too, Vin and I thought you would like this," Kelli said laughing as she twirled for him giving him the complete view. "Hey, what's in the box Dad left?"
"Buck wanted to stop at this little bakery. He said they had melt in your mouth cinnamon rolls so I picked some up for our breakfast." Walking over to the box Vin opened it to show her the delicious delicacies adding, "And I thought after the kids went to bed we could have these just for the two of us."
"Chocolate éclairs," Kelli exclaimed licking her lips. Rubbing her hand on his chest she said, "Those will be wonderful for dessert."
Vin pulled her into his arms and began to nuzzle her neck, "I had somethin' else in mind for dessert."
"You sure you're up to it," Kelli teased.
"Bruises Baby, they may slow me down but they won't stop me," Vin reminded her.
"You go take a shower and loosen up those sore muscles and I'll get dinner ready," Kelli suggested.
"Why don't you get in the hot tub with me to loosen them up," Vin countered.
"Oh we'll do that later," Kelli promised kissing him gently. "This is my party. We'll play by my rules, Tanner. You shower and take the time to let the water soak in."
Vin figured he already messed with Kelli's plans enough, plus a hot shower was sounding really good. Once in their bathroom he peeled off his clothes and put them in the hamper. Turning on the water on both sides of the shower, Vin brushed his teeth while waiting for it to get warm. Stepping into the shower he sighed with pleasure when the hot water ran over his body soothing the aches and pains. Vin just stood there for awhile letting the hot water do it's magic before washing away the dirt and blood from his fight with Stinky. Once clean he stood there again enjoying the feelings the hot water was causing.
Deciding the water had done its work; Vin turned it off then stepped out of the shower to dry himself. Wrapping a towel around his slim hips Vin walked into the master bedroom. He debated about what, if anything, to put on finally deciding a pair of silk boxers would be best. There was no use trying to hide his bruising from Kelli, she would insist she check him over just as he would her if the situation was reversed.
Back in the living room Kelli had brought out the crock pot and had it plugged in near the fireplace. The wine was in the ice bucket, Caesar salad dished out and the strawberries sat next to the chocolate éclairs Vin brought home.
Kelli smiled when Vin walked into the room. She stood when he walked over to join her, carefully examining his injuries in the firelight before leading him over to sit with her on the blankets and pillows she had set out.
Over the salad Kelli told Vin about the lingerie shop she had found, "I'm lookin' forward to see what other treasures we can find there if that gown is an example. It fits like it was made just for you."
"Good thing too, I think Dad would have melted into the floor if the roses hadn't been lined up just right," Kelli laughed.
"You can be damn sure I would have made you listen if they weren't," Vin added happy to see she was now able to laugh about it.
While they ate the potato, cheese, and ham soup Vin told Kelli all about the auction, including the abduction and rescue of little April Anderson. "Thank God you and the others were there Vin, a few bruises and some embarrassment to me and Chris are nothin' compared to a child's safety."
"Does that mean you aren't mad anymore?"
"You tried to tell me and I have to admit I don't think I've ever seen Dad so red."
"Probably best if no one but the three of us every finds out about it."
"Absolutely, and I don't think we have to worry about Dad tellin' anyone."
Vin and Kelli snuggled together as they fed each other strawberries and chocolate éclairs and talked about their kids. Both missed the twins but they also knew that the next time would be easier for them. Vin took Kelli's hand after she finished feeding him and slowly licked each finger and then the palm of hand.
"I'm ready for my other dessert now," Vin said his voice throaty with the desire shining from his blue eyes.
"Ezra always tells me that you have perfect timin'," Kelli said laughing as she pulled Vin to her so they could love the night away.
Happy Birthday Wendy