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BELOW, recorded Friday, 8/18/17!

If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts

unto your children, how much more shall your Father in heaven


give good things to them that ask him?


— Matthew 7:11

I believe this, I do. And I’ve seen it first-hand, the good gifts God has given me.

—A marriage with a man I adore.

—A family I’m crazy about.

—A career that blesses me to no end.

—A circle of friends (including you!) who bring joy to my life.

But I will admit there are times for all of us when we ask God for something that doesn’t come to pass.

Like my cataract surgery that did not go well. Oh I prayed about it plenty, trust me, as did my prayer partners and family, but for whatever reason, the 20/20 eyesight I had hoped for didn’t happen. Instead, I could barely read the first line of the eye chart.

So I prayed for healing, as did so many family and friends on my behalf, but that didn’t happen either. It took six months for me to even find a contact that would correct my eyesight.

But I finally did. And now my vision is almost better than 20/20.

Just this morning on the treadmill while bellowing to worship music (it can hardly be called “singing” according to my daughter and husband!), it suddenly came to me. God doesn’t always give us the things we ask for, but He always fixes it in the end. Kind of a roundabout answer to prayer, if you will, but an answer to prayer nonetheless. And one that makes me sooooooo incredibly grateful that I now can see so well after being deprived for so long. A true heart of gratitude that might not have been as deep as the gratitude I now have had He healed me outright. And one thing I’ve definitely learned, gratitude helps me to experience far more joy in my life than any 20/20 vision.

Coincidentally enough, this is a lesson that Charity O’Connor Dennehy learns all too well in my upcoming O’Connor Christmas novella, A Whisper of Hope, due out in e-book September 1st, along with Lizzie & Brady’s Christmas novella, The Best Gift of All, a Blake “The Rake” McClare novella, Grace Like Rain, and finally, my Frontier Christmas novella, The Gift of Grace.

So, I thought it might be fun to give you a sneak peek of each of these novellas in the next two weeks before they release. I already gave you the first chapter to Blake’s love story, Grace Like Rain at the end of this blog HERE, so today I’m going to give you one of my favorite (and most romantic) scenes from A Whisper of Hope that I hope will catapult you right back into the O’Connor family like it did for me.

This is a scene where Mitch suspects Charity has been pining over babies at the St. Mary’s Home for Unwed Mothers, something he asked her not to do. After ten years of trying for more children, he suspects God figured their wild twin Henry was more than enough to handle. And at sixteen years older than Charity, Mitch figured he was well beyond age for raising anymore infants. So he tries to cut Charity off at the pass whenever she brings up babies, including coercing it out of her when she has been sneaking visits to St. Mary’s. This scene was actually part of a subplot in the last O’Connor nove, A Love Surrendered, but it was cut because the book was too long. Imagine that! 😉 You’ll find the excerpt at the bottom of this blog, so I hope you enjoy it!


Here’s my latest Facebook Live


Gosh, I had SO much fun with my very first Facebook Live last week, that I did it again, so check it out below to see the winner of my Facebook Live video contest from last week for a $25 Amazon gift card and a character named after them in my next book! Leave a comment with a question for my next FB Live Q&A, and if I answer it live, YOU will win a book! Here’s the link to today’s Facebook Live Video, and it’s a lot shorter than my last one, I promise!

Last-Minute Blog Giveaway!

Leave a comment for me on Splickety’s Lightning Blog, and you’ll be entered to win your choice of any of my indie e-books, including my latest release, His Steadfast Love PLUS a signed copy of the Splickety Magazine issue that has my alternate ending to Gone With the Wind!

Have a great weekend, and hope to see you both at the Splickety blog and for my FB Live at noon on Friday!





Grace Like Rain:

A Heart Of San Franciso Novella

Yes, it’s true — Blake “The Rake” McClare has found love in his own novella, so you won’t want to miss this one because it’s one of my faves. So much so, that I am including the first chapter down below, so do check it out. Here’s the blurb:

He’s everybody’s lovable rogue.
She’s nobody’s fool
who hopes to steer clear.
Until a thunderstorm sinks them both
into a sea of love.

Blake “The Rake” McClare has a notorious reputation as a womanizer, which is why soft-spoken Patience Peabody carefully avoids the lovable rogue attorney at the law firm in which they both work.

Until a rare thunderstorm brings them together in a love soaked with the grace of God and a whole lot of lightning!


A Whisper of Hope:

An O’Connor Christmas Novella

Ahhhh … Charity & Mitch … two of my very faves, and now they have their very own Christmas novella that you will not want to miss.

I know that Mitch doesn’t look a lot like his orginal cover picture on A Passion Redeemed, but it’s incredibly difficult to find a historical-looking couple that actually resembles a prior cover, so I did the best I could, even though I realize the couple looks more modern than historical. But I do think the pose replicates the love Mitch has for Charity very nicely, especially after you read the story! 😉  Here’s the blurb:

She’s desperate for a baby.
He’s desperate for an empty nest.
And love is desperate to surprise them both.

With a husband dead set against adoption, Charity O’Connor Dennehy has barely a whisper of hope for more children, but if hope doesn’t disappoint … will it be enough to find a precious bundle under her tree?


The Best Gift of All:

An O’Connor Christmas Novella

This is Lizzie and Brady’s story because it was a subplot that was cut from A Love Surrendered, the final O’Connor book. Since it was already basically written, I used it instead of writing a Christmas novella for Faith & Collin and Katie & Luke. But rest assured that each year I plan to release another O’Connor Christmas novella until I have covered everyone in the family, including Marcy & Patrick!

I have to say that this particular novella contains a very important life lesson I learned, so not only is it a good read, I hope, but it contains a powerful lesson as well. Here’s the blurb:

  She longs to be the perfect mother.
He just longs for his wife.
Until they receive … the best gift of all.

Everyone knows Lizzie and John Brady have the perfect marriage. But when Lizzie’s desire to be a good mother eclipses her desire for her husband, the honeymoon is definitely over. Can the spirit of Christmas heal their hearts when Lizzie gives John the best gift of all?


The Gift of Grace:

A Frontier Christmas Novella

Although The Gift of Grace is basically a Christmas story, I didn’t want the cover to be limited to only Christmas. And actually, since Grace almost burns down the hero’s house on a number of occasions, I thought the flame-orange sky was somewhat fitting! 😉 Here’s the blurb:

She’s the Accident
to His Prayers …

Pastor Cole McCabe isn’t sure he’ll survive the holidays with his new housekeeper and nanny. She’s caught fire to the kitchen, dyed his long johns pink, and scorched nearly everything she cooks. But he’s desperate, and she’s a destitute ex-saloon girl.

Even though she’s no good with her hands, Grace sure has a way with her heart. She’s brought a warmth into Cole’s home, added color to his daughters’ lives, and broken down the wall he’s built up since his beloved wife died. But when Grace’s past threatens Cole’s family, she’s given one last chance to be home for Christmas . . . if she hasn’t burned it down yet.




An Excerpt From A Whisper of Hope

An O’Connor Christmas Novella

“Mama, why do you have this?”

Mitch Dennehy glanced up from the newspaper in his lap, blood freezing in his brain when his ten-year-old daughter waggled a pacifier she’d just found in her mother’s purse. His gaze flicked from Hope’s innocent face to his wife’s guilty one, and he knew in one fractured heartbeat he had trouble on his hands.

“Oh,” Charity said, tone breathless as she snatched the offensive object from Hope’s hands. His fears were confirmed when she avoided his gaze with a telling blush. “Emma must have dropped Daniel’s binky in my purse by accident,” she explained, stowing it away so fast, Mitch might have imagined it if he didn’t know better.

But, God help him—he did.

One did not live with Charity O’Connor Dennehy for over a decade without learning to stay one step ahead out of sheer self-preservation. Mitch snapped the paper back up, the smile on his lips as stiff as his jaw. No, he learned early on that when one was possessed by such a woman, survival of the fittest became a way of life. It was essential to know every inflection in her voice, every nuance in her beautiful face, every action concocted by that diabolical mind. A mind that drove him crazy—both with frustration and desire. His father-in-law Patrick O’Connor had once told him that Charity needed a firm hand coupled with a firm heart, and from the moment Mitch made her his wife, he purposed to do just that. Because no other woman had ever bewitched him like his wife, and he knew a tight rein was critical in maintaining peace and control in a marriage with a woman like her.

A tender-hearted temptress whose brain never shut down.

Bong. Bong. Bong. His heart thudded as loudly as the boom of the clock, echoing in their parlour like the thrill of adventure echoed in his mind over uncovering the secret she was obviously trying to hide. Yes, she was a handful and challenging and infused his life with more drama than any woman he’d ever known, but life with Charity was never boring, never dry, and an adventure to be relished. She was the most passionate woman he’d ever met, loving her family, her friends—him—with an intensity that took his breath away. She took his breath away—a blonde-haired beauty with a generous heart and a body to match, and Mitch never, ever took that for granted. His mouth twisted.

Or let his guard down.

“Hope, Henry, it’s time for bed,” Charity said, her tone decidedly edgier than usual. Glancing over his paper, Mitch kept his grin under wraps while he studied his wife, whose sky-blue eyes avoided his as if her secret were hidden inside.

His daughter Hope looked up, gentle blue eyes the exact shade of her mother’s. “Okay, Mama.” With a sweet, little yawn, she carefully arranged her doll’s blanket over their golden retriever, Runt, then hopped to her feet.

Unfortunately, not his son. “But I just started,” Henry pleaded, blue eyes as fierce as his twin sister’s were docile. “Can’t I have a little more time—please?

Charity laid her knitting needles aside. “Sorry, young man. You’re on borrowed time as it is after the stunt you pulled today. You best pack everything up or I’ll do it for you, and then you may never see them again.”

Henry’s gaze narrowed. “Why can’t you be like Stu Landon’s mom? She’s never mean.”

Mitch lowered his newspaper, his son’s face matching his to a scowl. “Henry, do as your mother says and no backtalk.” The edges of his mouth twitched. “And she is not mean … except to me.” He winked at his wife. “But then, I can handle it.”

Henry groused as he picked up his toys while Hope bent to give Mitch a kiss. “Good night, Daddy.” She pressed the lips of her doll to his mouth. “We love you.”

“Love you, too, princess.”

“G’night, Pop.” Henry’s tone was belligerent as he offered a half-hearted hug. In a sneak attack, Mitch reeled him in with a tickle of his hands, and Henry squirmed in laughter, his grumpy mood obviously waylaid. With lightening speed, Mitch followed with a quick, noisy kiss. “G’night, Henry,” he said in an equally belligerent voice, an exaggerated echo of his son’s.

Henry grinned and made his way up the stairs as Charity stashed knitting needles and yarn in her sewing box. She bent to give Mitch a quick kiss while her lips zagged into a droll smile. “Mean, huh? Well, you won’t have to worry about ‘handling’ it tonight, because I’m exhausted. I plan to tuck Hope and Henry in bed and head there myself.” With a ruffle of fingers through his curls that now sported far more silver than blonde, she turned to go, patting her thigh for Runt to follow.

Mitch grabbed her hand, concern etched in his face. “You okay? You seem distracted.” His brows dipped low. “You don’t have one of your headaches, do you?”

She shook her head with a telltale swipe of her tongue that gave her dead away. Clearly nervous, there was a time when she would have lied through her teeth, but thanks to her faith in God, her days of lying had ended at the altar—both when she’d given her heart to God and her wedding pledge to him. He watched as she chewed on her lip while he slowly grazed his thumb against the soft flesh of her palm, fully aware his touch tempted her as much as hers did him. Easing her hand free, she tried to distance herself, a blatant confirmation something was amiss when a needy woman such as Charity turned her husband away. “No, just tired,” she said, avoiding his eyes, “but you stay and read, please. I’ll probably nod right off.”

Putting the paper aside, he started to rise. “Nope, I’m coming up.” His palm slid down the side of her arm, fingers lingering and eyes, tender. “I can read upstairs.”

She faltered back, hand to her chest, and he quickly steadied her. “Charity, are you okay? You look flushed. Do you need me to carry you up?”

“No!” A blush gorged her cheeks. “I mean, no, of course not, Mitch. I’m fine, really, other than tired.” She warded him off with a hand to his chest, obviously hoping to get him to stay. “Besides, Hope wants to snuggle, so why don’t you just read a while, undisturbed. You don’t get to do that very often.”

He stroked a gentle hand along the curve of her jaw, a hint of worry in his tone that she might really be ill. “All right, take care of Hope, and I’ll be up soon, okay?” He leaned to tempt her with a languid kiss that heated his blood.

“Could be a while,” she whispered, swallowing hard, “so please take your time.”

He smiled and dropped back on the sofa with a soft whoosh, looking forward to coaxing the truth out of her in bed. “Don’t you dare fall asleep on me,” he warned, giving her a look that conveyed his intentions loud and clear.

She gave him a shaky smile and bolted from the room with Runt on her heels, obviously frantic to get upstairs and fall fast asleep. A faint smile shadowed his lips as he sank into the couch. But tonight is not the night, little girl. Between working late, bouts of the flu, and sheer exhaustion, they hadn’t made love in weeks, and Mitch was not a man to be deterred. The edge of his lip crooked. Nor was Charity a woman who could go without his affections for long.

He actually finished the entire paper, but it was a sad attempt at best. The print only blurred in his mind, thoughts of Charity invading without mercy. Gaze glued to a newspaper he didn’t really see, Mitch released a heavy sigh. No, something was definitely up, and he had a sinking suspicion it had to do with more babies.

It always did.

Somehow his wife had always envisioned a houseful of children, but it wasn’t to be, evidently, at least not with children of their own, a fact Charity had finally accepted—or so he thought. Until both Charity’s parents and Sean and Emma had to go and stir the pot by adopting last year. Suddenly Mitch was battling the threat of adoption at every turn, stomach clenching whenever he’d spotted that glint of longing in Charity’s eye. A dilemma that usually occurred after she’d visited the home for unwed mothers with Emma, where she and Sean had adopted Daniel last Christmas.

Tossing his paper aside, he lumbered to his feet, determined to squelch Charity’s plan for more babies once and for all. For pity’s sake, he was sixteen years older than his wife, which meant he might not even be around to provide for another baby, much less his eleven-year-old twins. Jaw grinding, he kneaded the left side of his chest, where he’d recently experienced pain whenever he worked out at the gym. Hope and Henry were only eleven—barely two years older than he’d been when his own father died—and although Charity was a wonderful mother, children needed a father. His mouth sloped off-center as he turned out the lights. Especially a son like Henry.

Locking the front door, Mitch thought of all the years Charity and he had been trying for more children to no avail, and now he was glad. The thought of another baby scared the living daylights out of him. He’d just be that much older, that much closer to dying and leaving them without a father like his father had done to him. For the love of family, if something were to happen to him now, Henry and Hope would already be well on their way, but a new baby? A familiar pain suddenly flared in his chest as a chill iced his spine. No! Glancing at his watch, he made a beeline for the stairs, scaling them as briskly as a man half his age. And confound it, he could keep up with the younger pups if it weren’t for this infernal cramp in his chest.

By now Charity should have both kids tucked into their beds, stories read, and prayers said before cuddling with Hope, one of the most precious times of her day. Avoiding the squeak of the middle step, Mitch quietly ascended, hoping he’d timed it just right. A smile skimmed his lips when he spied her hovering outside Hope’s door, easing it shut in her robe before she gingerly tiptoed toward their room at the end of the hall.

“Ah, perfect timing,” he said, grinning when she jerked around, hand to her chest as if she’d just sprinted a mile.

“Oh, sweet heavens, Mitch, you scared me half to death …”

Chuckling, he pulled her into his arms, butting her to the wall with a heated look in his eyes. “Sorry, little girl, but I can always revive you with mouth to mouth if need be—just give me the word.” He bent to nestle his lips to her neck with a low, aching moan. “Blue blazes, Charity, do you have any idea how long it’s been since I really held you in my arms?” She caught her breath when his mouth took hers with a vengeance, and sweeping her up, he strode down the hall into their bedroom, kicking the door closed behind him.

“Mitch, what are you doing?” Her voice was a raspy squeal beneath his wandering lips.

“Putting you to bed,” he whispered, tone husky while he untied the sash to her robe. Side-stepping Runt, he carefully laid her down and buried his lips in the crook of her neck, the scent of lilac water warming his blood. “I swear, Mrs. Dennehy, I love you more with every breath I take …”

“Wait!” Breathless, she halted him with two hands to his chest. “Did you remember to secure the latch? What if Hope or Henry were to come in?”

A growl rumbled from his throat as he jumped up and strode to the door. He locked it and turned, searing her with intent as he jerked off his tie, almost ripping it in two. His eyes all but devoured her as he moved toward the bed, fingers fumbling with the buttons of his shirt—

“Mitch—I didn’t lock the back door! Did you lock the back door?”

He froze, white oxford shirt half off, revealing corded arms still sore from the gym. His facial muscles all but cramped with pain. “For the love of mercy, Charity, I’ll lock it later.”

She sat up, sheet tugged high. “No, Mitch, please! I would worry, I just know it, and wouldn’t be able to relax. Please check the doors and hurry back.” She rubbed her jaw with a sheepish smile. “And do you mind shaving? Your beard feels like sandpaper.”

He groaned and unlocked the door.

She sat up higher. “Oh, and Hope wants you to kiss her good-night.”

He turned, lips as tight as his hand on the knob. “I did—downstairs.”

“I know, but she wants another.” She shrugged, her smile repentant before she stifled a yawn. “And I’m so tired, I think I may have forgotten Runt’s water—can you double-check?”

With an unhappy grunt, he heaved the door wide, brandishing a finger. “Don’t you dare fall asleep, do you hear?” He stormed out, feet bare and shirt flapping.

He checked doors and water bowl in record time, then ducked in to give both Henry and Hope a final kiss before reentering his bedroom. He paused, hand on the lock of the door. “Charity? Are you asleep?”

She stifled a groan. Oh, that I were! “Mmmm-no,” she muttered in a groggy voice, desperate to succumb to the safety of sleep rather than the affections of her husband. She uttered a silent prayer that her mind would doze, body sluggish and consciousness slipping away, hopefully to secure Emma’s secret for yet another day. He disappeared into their bathroom and left the door ajar, a sliver of light slicing across their bed like a blade of guilt. Exhaling, she willed herself to sleep, her mind fading to the sounds of running water.

The water stopped and Charity stiffened. She lay completely still, certain he’d hear the pounding of her pulse. Forcing her body to relax, she curled on her side, breathing even to mimic the rhythm of sleep. The bed shifted as Mitch crawled in and wrapped thick arms around the whole of her waist. He lifted her hair and kissed the back of her neck. “Charity,” he whispered, “are you awake?”

“Mmm …” She scrunched up, feigning sleep while Bay Rum tormented her senses.

“Oh!” Midway in a fake snore, the bedsprings squeaked when he flipped her on her back.

He hovered with a dangerous smile. “You want something awfully bad to pretend you’re sleep when I know you want me as much as I want you.”

She gulped, quickly covering with a yawn. “Actually, I’m just so tired, Mitch, I can hardly keep my eyes open.” She stroked his clean-shaven jaw “I’m sorry you went to the trouble of shaving, darling, but you do understand, don’t you?”

“Absolutely,” he whispered, taking his time at the hollow of her throat, kissing the soft dip in her neck where her blood throbbed beneath his mouth. Raspy air shuddered from her lips when he finally lifted his head, his lidded gaze heating her even more. “I understand that the pulse at the base of your neck is racing faster than mine, Charity, and that in almost twelve years of marriage, you have never turned me away unless you had an ulterior motive. He bent to slowly sway his mouth against hers, coercing with a gentle tug of her lip in a manner calculated to drive her insane. “So I suggest you just spit it out, little girl,” he said, his breath blowing warm in her ear, “because I will coax it out of you one way or another.”

“No, I really am tired, Mitch, I prom—”

He silenced her with his mouth when he kissed her so deeply, she could hardly contain the moan that ached in her throat. “Where’d you go today?” he whispered, nuzzling her neck till she thought she would faint.

“M-mother’s,” she said in a rush. “She’s been after Emma to bring Daniel to play.”

“Where else?” His lips meandered the length of her jaw.

“S-shopping with Emma,” she rasped, nearly melting when he suckled her ear.

“That’s it? Nowhere else?”

She jerked him close with a groan, kissing him hard in an effort to derail his thoughts.

He took over with a kiss that devoured her before he glanced up with a heated gaze that all but pinned her to the pillow. “Charity?”

She battled a telltale gulp, unwilling to lie. “Uh … lunch, we had lunch at a darling new café Sean told Emma about …” Latching his neck, she jerked him back down to give him a bit of his own.

Mitch groaned and finished it off with a kiss that tingled all the way to her toes. “Before or after St. Mary’s?” he rasped, voice huskier than usual when she strayed to nibble his throat.

Her lips adhered to his skin as if pasted with glue. No! How could he possibly know? Lids shuttering closed, she emitted a sound dangerously close to a squeak. “W-what?”

As soft as a baby’s kiss, he grazed each of her eyes with his mouth, gently stroking her temples with the pads of his thumbs. “You’ve been holding babies,” he said softly, the tenderness of his touch belying the sobriety of his tone, “at St. Mary’s, most likely, and I want to know why.”

A soft gasp popped from her mouth, which now gaped wider than her eyes. “Oh my goodness, why w-would you s-say that?” she stuttered, fear of divulging Emma’s secret racing her pulse.

Leaning in, he feathered her throat with soft, little kisses, nose buried in the curve of her neck. “Because I know your scent, Charity—and tonight it hints at baby powder.”

A silent groan lodged in her throat. She fought off a gulp that would only confirm he was right. “For heaven’s sake, Mitch,” she whispered in a near croak, “I hold Daniel every chance I get, so of course I smell like baby powder.”

He sniffed and lifted his head. “And soy. The last time I noticed that formula scent was last year after you and Emma visited St. Mary’s.”

She swallowed hard, no stopping the gulp now. Not when Emma fed Daniel whole milk.

He gently smoothed the hair from her face. “So, out with it, little girl,” he said, gaze probing hers, “why are you and Emma visiting St. Mary’s again?”

“Because we like to hold the babies,” she hissed, yanking him back with a greedy arm to his neck.

He pulled away, fingers tunneling into her hair to caress and contain her. “Not the right answer. Why, Charity?” he repeated, his jaw suddenly as tight as his hold.

Her eyelids sank like her spirits. “I can’t say, Mitch, I promised.”

“You better say,” he threatened, his mouth coercing with a nip of her ear before he turned his attention to the crook of her neck, “or neither of us will get any sleep tonight.”

She stared, chest heaving and eyes glazed, well aware he had her just where he wanted … and now, regrettably, just where she wanted to be. Oh, Emma, I tried … “Because,” she said with a shuddering sigh, “Sean and Emma are adopting again, and they don’t want anyone to know until it’s for sure. So please, Mitch, you can’t say a word—not a hint to Father at work or any of the brothers-in-law.”

He nuzzled her mouth, tender and slow, before cupping her head with his hands. “I won’t say anything, little girl,” he whispered. “I think it’s wonderful.”

“You do?” Her voice nearly cracked.

“Of course.” He pressed a soft kiss to her nose. “Adoption is always a good thing, giving kids a home and family who otherwise have none.”

“Really?” Her voice carried way too much hope and she knew it.

He kneaded the nape of her neck with magical fingers, reading her mind like the front page of the Herald. “For Sean and Emma, Charity,” he emphasized gently, “so get it out of your head.”

The muscles constricted in her throat. “But, Mitch—”

“I’m too old to adopt, little girl, and we already have two wonderful children.”

“But I’m talking foster care, Mitch, not adoption,” she reasoned, desperate to cloak her deep-seated desire in noble intent. “The most worthy of causes—rescuing abandoned orphans by giving them the love and benefit of a normal home until they’re placed in one of their own.”

He tucked a finger to her chin. “Same thing, at least to you O’Connor women, and you won’t convince me otherwise, so case closed.” With a kiss to her nose, he studied her with affection, finger-combing the hair splayed across her pillow. “Besides,” he said, mouth in a slant, “our home is anything but ‘normal.’”

She shot up, shoving his hand away. “You mean you won’t even consider it? Pray about it?” Her eyes narrowed. “And what do you mean ‘anything but normal’?”

He huffed out a sigh, dropping back on his pillow as he scoured his face with a hand. “Face it, little girl—your mind never shuts down. You’re always thinking, planning, plotting ways to improve what you think needs to improve. Whether it’s matchmaking for your brothers, pushing me to let you work at the store, or something as simple as tricking Henry into eating his vegetables—you never rest.” He propped a muscled arm to the back of his neck, bicep bulging while he assessed her through blue eyes brimming with tease. “The truth is living with you is like a sprint through a field of wildflowers, Charity, embedded with mines—I never know when one of your well-meaning ploys is going to blow up in my face.”

“So, what’s wrong with vegetables?” she countered, unable to hide the thread of hurt in her tone. “They’re essential for a strong body.”

“Yes, they are,” he said quietly, tugging her into the crook of his hold. He cradled her body close as his palms gently skimmed the length of her arm. “As are direct communication and honesty in a marriage, which is what I thought we agreed to.”

She expelled a frustrated breath that ruffled the hairs on his chest. “We also agreed to compromise, Mitch Dennehy, but you’ll probably ban me from St. Mary’s forever just for spite because you wouldn’t know compromise if it bit you in the backside.” She couldn’t help the pout in her voice.

His chuckle blew warm against her hair. “Sure I would, sweetheart—I’ve been bitten in the backside many a time by one of your harebrained schemes, and we both know it.” He kissed the top of her head. “But to prove I’m not adverse to compromise, I have no problem with you holding babies at St. Mary’s whenever you want …” He rolled to his side and drew her close, his tone tender but firm. “As long as they stay there,” he stressed with a sober gaze. Before she could reply, he brushed his lips to hers, as soft as a whisper and as gentle as the trace of a plea in his tone. “I love you, Charity, with every fiber of my being, but I need you to promise you’ll give up any notion of babies unless God chooses to give us more of our own.”

She had no control over the moisture that sprang to her eyes. “But we’ve tried forever, Mitch, and there’s still no babies to love …” Her voice wobbled into a heave that brought a soft smile to his lips.

He held her close, the warmth of his hand massaging her back. “I know, sweetheart, but God obviously thought Henry was all we could handle.” With a lingering kiss to her brow, he tucked a finger to her chin, a hint of a twinkle in his gaze. “Besides, look at all the fun we had trying.” His humor faded as he studied her, no mistaking the depth of love in his eyes. “I need your word, Charity,” he said quietly, tenderly stroking the length of her jaw, “that from now on you will take your fill of holding and loving babies at St. Mary’s, and never mention adopting one again.”

In the skim of his finger, Gabe’s image entered her mind, and all air hitched in her chest. She blinked, her obsession for a baby suddenly peeling away to reveal what God might have intended all along—the rescue of a lost older child who had no parents of her own. Someone abused and forsaken like her adopted sister Gabe, in dire need of a family to love. Her eyes drifted closed.

And be loved.

“Charity—do I have your promise?” He underscored each word with the gentlest of kisses to both her eyelids and cheeks. “No … more … talk… of … babies, unless it’s about making our own?”

Her eyelids lifted, spilling tears that caught in the sad curve of her smile. “All right, Mitch,” she whispered, her melancholy over babies melting away in the face of adopting an older child in need. “I promise—no more talk of babies.”

“That’s my girl.” His sigh of relief was warm against her skin while he fondled her mouth with his own, drawing her close to cocoon her in his arms.

No more talk of babies, no … Her eyes drifted closed as she reveled in the touch of her husband. Warmth purled through her like heated honey when he took his time to slowly nuzzle her neck. But babies who have grown up? She moaned when his mouth strayed to the hollow of her throat, coaxing a sweet smile of surrender.

Oh, you bet …