Disclaimer: The boys are the property of MGM, Mirisch, and Trilogy Entertainment. I do not own them or make money from them but if I did own them I promise I would share.
Characters: Old West. Chris, Vin (Baby Vin), OFC. Pre-series
TEXAS circa 1850
She felt strangely at peace in spite of the momentous event about to take place. Assuredly she would have felt far more trepidation if her lawfully wedded husband, Vincent Tanner, had been present. No, birthing her child alone struck her as the lesser of two evils. He couldn't pretend to be unaware of the fact that her baby was due. Her baby, not his. Never his. So there was no doubt in her mind that he had quite deliberately absented himself from her side.
She had done all she could to prepare herself now she could only wait.
Idly, she wondered if it would be a girl after all? No, she was sure it was a boy. She had been certain from the start that it was a boy growing inside her. A strong, healthy, baby boy. She blinked her big dark doe eyes as the pain knifed through her again. She was certain it would not be long now and she gathered all her strength.
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It was over and she held the boy in her arms. He was still. Too still. She cradled him against her and tried to find enough strength to help him draw his first breath. Why was it taking so long?
The cabin door burst open and a dark shape blotted out the light. His face was mean, his green eyes cold and narrowed as he strode towards the bed. Tall and far younger than he had first appeared, perhaps a little under twenty years old, he leaned over her. The reek of cheap cheroots clung to his long duster and filled her with nausea.
He seized the child, holding it upside down by the ankles like a dead rat, he smacked the child hard on the bottom. Once, twice, the third time even harder. A loud ear-splitting wail erupted from the child. With a tenderness that surprised her beyond belief, he gently placed the child in her arms.
She gazed down at her baby breathing contentedly against her breast. "Thank you, mister...?"
"Chris," he said.
"Beatrice but most folks call me Honey on account a the fact I keep honeybees."
The silence between them was long and awkward.
"Big baby," he remarked finally.
"Yes, he is. Big an' strong," she said, realizing it was true, he was quite the largest baby she ever remembered seeing.
"A porker," he said, with a smile that completely changed his face from mean to handsome.
The baby's long dark eyelashes fluttered seemingly in recognition of the young man's voice. The child's eyes, however, remained firmly closed.
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He stayed a week.
On the seventh day he bent over the child. "The baby still hasn't opened his eyes. Not once. Do you think I should bring the doctor out here?"
"The doctor won't come all the way out here," sighed Honey.
"Why not? It's not much of a distance."
"Doctor ain't got no likin' fer Indian women."
He compressed his lips into a hard thin line. "I could make him come out here," he stated, coldly.
She laughed, a delightful musical sound. "I'm rightly sure ya could."
"You're not worried?"
"This little 'un is a mite stubborn is all."
Reaching into the wooden cradle that Chris had fashioned for her baby, she stroked the baby blond cowlick flat and sighed when it proudly sprang back up. Putting her finger on the baby's dimpled cheek she looked Chris in the eye. "Reckon my son will do things in his own time. He ain't never goin' ta be pushed none."
"He's got a hero's heart."
"Takes after his Mama."
"He takes after his Pa."
This didn't tally with his opinion on the subject. He sat on the edge of the bed and taking hold of her hand he pulled her down close beside him.
"I signed on with a big ranching outfit as a..." he paused, suddenly ashamed of what he was.
"Ya sure ain't no cowboy," she laughed.
"I'm already a week late joining up with 'em."
"I'm not keepin' ya here."
"No," he said, staring at the chubby little fists waving in the air, already fighting the world and everyone in it.
"Ya'll be gone afore I wake in the morning?"
She squeezed his hand. "True love will find ya, Cowboy. One day ya'll have a fine boy of yer own."
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He'd found more love in this little cabin than he ever thought existed. As he dressed in the harsh gray light of dawn he hoped that she was right when she'd said that one day he'd find love in another cabin just like this one and have a fine son of his own. Before he left Texas forever he bent over the cradle.
"You mind your Mama," he said, tucking the small wooden horse that he'd spent the last few hours restlessly whittling, safely under the periwinkle blue baby blanket.
The baby's eyes flew open for the first time. Chris Larabee took a step back as two pools of such intensity that they were almost violet in color stared at him. He could have almost sworn on a stack of holy books that the baby looked deep into his soul. Feeling giddy he strode towards the door and still not sure that he was doing the right thing, he left.
"Tell me the stranger story ag'in."
"Which story, my little man?" Honey Tanner teased.
He climbed up onto her lap with his beloved toy horsey and put his little arms around her neck.
"When I's born ya sees I ain't breathin' an' ya ain't thinkin' I's goin' ta live an' mebbe I's goin' ta die when a tall fair-headed stranger all in black on a big ornery black horse come ridin' by an' grabbin' me up slapped me on the butt three times an' I's soon breathin' real good but he done stayed a few days ta help ya look after me then afore he rides out he give me this little wooden horsey he done whittled all night jus' fer me," said Vin, without pausing to take a breath.
"Aw, that story," smiled Honey, kissing the boy with the wide blue eyes.
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