Irreplaceable Chapter 22

Rafferty couldn’t believe that he was going to ring in the New Year in bed with his wife. This morning, he couldn’t even have dreamed that this could be a possibility. Why she was here, he didn’t ask. He didn’t care. She was there. He walked out of the shower, and she was in his bed, as if she had been there forever. Sure, he was pretty sure she was sleeping, but she was there.

Over this last year, he had come to the realization that she pushed herself too much. Almost every morning, she woke up at five a.m. to get to work by six, then spent the next nine or so hours on her feet. Afterward, she would make time for family and friends and staying out late. She had to be exhausted. He was exhausted for her.

Running a hand over her still-brown hair as she slept, he just watched her. After they had made love, she had almost instantly fallen asleep and had been sleeping since. He had slept for a little while, but her groaning in her sleep had woken him. It was then that he had went down and made them some sandwiches. He hadn’t eaten, and he was sure she hadn’t either. Back in the bedroom, he didn’t have the heart to wake her, so he climbed back into bed.

He wondered what she had thought of the paint. He had taken her suggestion, even if she hadn’t help pick it out with him since she had been on a date that day. Not that he was worried about it, or worried now. If the date had gone well, she wouldn’t be here two weeks later.

Okay, so he had spent two weeks worrying about it, but he had thought he would’ve heard if it had gone well. He listened to gossip as much as the next guy.

Her winter carnival had been a huge success, Anderson had said, but he had known she would put on a great show. He had been proud of her.

Leaning down, he k!ssed her forehead and whispered, “Mia, wake up.”

He was rewarded by her mumbling and groaning and rolling over onto her stomach. So, he got to k!ss his way from the middle of her back up her spine until it disappeared in her hairline. At that point, she rolled back onto her back and looked at him with her hazel eyes.

“It’s almost midnight. Want to ring in the New Year?” he k!ssed her neck and shoulder.

“No,” she answered, pushing his face away.

“You want to stay in this year?” K!ssing her hand that covered his mouth, he then lightly bit it.

“If at all possible.” With a frown, she pulled her hand away at the nip.

“It’s been a great year.” It was the truth. He had few complaints.

“Speak for yourself, Brooks,” she rolled away from him.

Pulling her close to him, he asked, “What’s wrong? Is it that you wanted to not be in Landstad anymore?”

“Yes and no.”

He k!ssed her shoulder that was in the air. “Which one is making you sad?”

She sighed. “The no.”

“Can you tell me?”

“No, it’s a secret,” she said to the wall.

“I think you can tell your secret husband. He can keep a secret, too.”

“It’s been a long year of secrets.”

“Tell me?” He pulled at her shoulder until she rolled onto her back, so he could see her face.

“First, it was all that stuff with Ruth and Anderson, but mostly Ruth’s stuff, though. Then it was that Tess was pregnant. Then it was that Hazel had hooked up with Ruston. Then also that summer, Natalie had a secret mom, and Mandy had a secret lover. Then this fall, there was all the Ruth and Anderson secrets.” Mia shut her eyes.

“But most of those are out in the open. Even the Ruth one, where she owned all the buildings in town.” Rafferty was confused why all these secrets would still bother her.

“I knew that years ago,” she smiled at him. Of course, she knew that one before anyone else did.

“So, the only ones left are Ruth and Anderson’s marriage and ours. And nobody knows about that one.” Though he wished that one was in the open. Of all the secrets she listed, he wanted the entire town to know that one.

“Mandy told me one tonight that I can’t tell anyone, and I don’t know if I should keep it or tell. It’s not like the rest; those were little. They would all come out eventually, except of course ours. But this one might stay hidden forever, and I think it needs to be told. There are people who need to know, should know.” Mia rubbed her hands over her face.

“Can you tell me, so I can maybe help?”

“You can’t help. I can’t help, either.” She leaned over and buried her face in his chest.

Holding her while she let the tears for her cousin fall, he watched as the clock struck midnight, just letting her get her emotions out as he murmured in her ear about how special she was. When her tears finally were gone, she looked up at him. “Thank you for keeping my secrets.”

“I don’t even know this one, but I will never tell a soul.” He k!ssed her nose.

“Mandy is pregnant but won’t tell anyone because she thinks she’s going to lose it. She doesn’t plan to ever tell anyone,” she whispered into his chest.

Rafferty hid his shock. That was the last thing he thought it was going to be about. He didn’t know the woman well, but his heart broke for her just the same. Maybe it was because Mia’s heart was broken already for her.

“Does she have a good reason?”

She shook her head. “She thinks so, but she’s really, really depressed.”

“I would be, too.” If Mia was going to lose his baby, he would be barely hanging on.

“Do you even want kids?” she asked him.

“Of course, I do, one day.” Suddenly, with the new year ringing in, that day seemed closer than ever.

“You just don’t seem the type.”

“Are you going to have six like your mom?” Maybe one day, she would see him as father material.

“No, never. Maybe two. But with the way my life is going, it will probably be none.”

“What’s wrong with your life? You run a successful business and are married to an amazing guy who sells insurance. Seems like you have it all.” He ran his thumbs over her cheeks, wiping away the tears.

“Married,” she said with a grunt.

Rafferty rolled onto his back, taking her with him so that she was half laying on top of him. “Okay, back to Mandy. I think you have to respect her wishes. But keep a close eye on her. Maybe check in more often.”

“You’re right. I just needed to tell someone. I just can’t keep some secrets to myself. But you can’t tell anyone. Ever,” she said from above him, her hazel eyes boring into him.

Wrapping his arms around her, he whispered, “I’ll keep your secrets forever, Mia. Till death do us part.”

Sliding his hands down her body, he loved that he could touch her. It had taken him so long to get her here that he wasn’t going to miss a chance to just touch her gorgeous body. When she didn’t push him away but responded to his touch, he pulled her closer and rolled her over.

As he k!ssed her, he knew the New Year was going to be even better than the year he married her. Maybe this was the year she would became his wife.

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