Tori nodded as she caught the toddler to finish cleaning remnants of his meal from his hands and mouth. “Yes. And Lauren’s ear infection seems to be better too.” She glanced at the clock. “I need to go shopping.”
Swallowing the rest of his coffee, he nodded. “I’ll wrangle him into his car seat, if you want to get Lauren ready.”
Tori agreed and ten minutes later they drove through the gates.
“Mama?” Stevie tugged on his mother’s pants.
“Mmmm?” Tori answered absently as she studied the jewellery in the case in front of her.
“I’m looking for a present for your sister.”
“Oh.” He thought about that for a moment. “Bean? Seetpea?”
“Bean.” She sat Lauren on the case and smiled at the clerk.
“Oh. Missmas pesent?”
“No, not Christmas, Easter.” At his confused look, she smiled. “Bunny, not Ho Ho.”
“Oooooh.” He stretched up on his toes. “I see?”
Holding Lauren with one hand, Tori reached down and lifted him onto the case. “What’s Daddy doing?” They’d separated in the large store, the men going in one direction, the girls in another.
“Yeah? What’d he buy?”
Stevie’s blue eyes widened. “Mama! I no tell, it a prize!”
“Victoria Sambora! I’m shocked at you!” Richie managed to sound scandalized having come up behind them in time to hear the end of their conversation.
“Pumping our son for information.”
Tori just shrugged and winked at the sales clerk. “It was worth a try.”
“I no tell Daddy.”
“I know you didn’t Peanut. You’re a good boy, better behaved than your mother.”
Throughout the conversation the sales clerk had been glancing back and forth between the children and their parents. “Wow. You’ve got a real mix and match.”
Tori smiled affectionately at her children. “Yeah.”
“What her mean Mama?”
“She means that you look like Daddy, but have my eyes and Lauren looks like me but has Daddy’s eyes.”
The sound of her father’s voice distracted Lauren from the shiny bracelets under the glass and she held her arms out to him commandingly, squealing indignantly when he didn’t respond immediately.
“And Mommy’s temper.” Richie added.
Stevie shook his head. “Nuh uh. Tunca Jon.”
Tori grinned. “Mommy doesn’t have a temper does she?” Stevie shook his head. Tori hugged him. “That’s my boy!”
Lauren got louder. Tori winced and handed her to Richie. “Take her please before she screams.”
As soon as she was in her father’s arms, Lauren quieted. She leaned against him with a contented sigh...and promptly drooled all over him.
The clerk handed him a tissue. “Daddy’s girl?”
Richie nodded and kissed the baby’s head. “This week anyway.” He glanced at his watch. “You just about ready angel? We don’t have much time before Ma’s flight comes in.”
“Nana tomin?” Stevie asked his father.
“Yay!” He clapped his hands together. “When Bean tomin home?”
“I’ll pick her up after I pick up Nana.”
“Hurry Mama! We gotta go!”
“Okay, okay.” She decided on a bracelet made of fine gold chain interspersed with synthetic sapphires, paid for it and they headed home.
“Hi T-Mom!” Ava breezed into the livingroom. “Where’s my favourite squirts?”
“Bean!” Stevie yelled and ran to hug her.
Lauren laughed from her seat on the floor where she was playing with blocks and held out her arms to her big sister.
“What did she call you?” Richie asked his wife quietly.
Tori just shrugged. “As long as she isn’t calling me the evil step-mother, I really don’t care.” Taking a deep breath, she stood to greet her all too perceptive mother-in-law and hoped that maybe this time she could keep her condition a secret for a few weeks. “Hi Joan. Nice to see you. How was your flight?”
“Hi Tori. Good to see you too. Flight was fine thanks.” Joan hugged her daughter-in-law then held her at arms length to study her. “You look tired.”
Tori and Richie exchanged a look. “Yeah, Stevie’s had the flu and Lauren had an ear infection and she’s teething. They’ve been up a lot in the night.”
“Mmmhmm. That’ll happen. Well, Ava and I are here now. We’ll help and you can get some rest.” Joan winked at her and moved to cuddle her youngest two grandchildren.
“What about me? I help.” Richie frowned.
“Oh, I think you’ve done enough, don’t you?” Joan retorted without turning around.
Tori snorted softly and shook her head. “She’s like a blood hound.”
Richie chuckled, ignoring his reddening face and rubbed her back. “Are we telling Ava?”
“Not yet please. Give me a couple more weeks.”
“Okay. Let me know when I can share.”
She studied his face. “You’re really happy about this aren’t you?”
“Yes.” He nodded. “Now I won’t have to listen to your brother and Shirley lord it over me that they have more than I do.”
“Unless Karin has twins.”
He looked horrified. “Has she said something to you? Does she think she might?”
“No. Her ultrasound isn’t until next week.”
“Whew! Don’t spoil my few minutes of peace angel.”