“Nope.” Richie answered as he stood up. “You?”
“Hey man.” Richie greeted the man on the doorstep. “Are you lost?”
Jon snorted. “I must be to be here in La La Land.”
“Oh stop.” Dorothea pushed her husband out of the way. “Hi Rich.”
“Hi Dot.” He leaned down to kiss her cheek. “Come on in. Tori’s in the living room.”
“Hey!” Tori struggled to stand up to hug her sister-in-law. “This is a surprise.”
When Jon stepped forward to hug his sister, he heard a low growl rumbling around his shins. He froze and looked down to see a golden retriever glaring at him, teeth slightly bared. “Umm...hello?”
“Taffy no. Jon’s a friend...sort of.” Tori bent to stroke the silky head and clamped a hand around the dog’s muzzle. “Friend. Stop it.” As the growl subsided, she straightened and stepped forward to greet her brother. “Sorry about that.”
Jon gave her a careful squeeze and kissed her cheek. “No problem.” He crouched down and held his hand out. “So this is Taffy. Hi girl. Are you on guard duty?”
Tori smiled wryly. “Seems the bigger I get the more protective she gets.”
“She must sense your condition.” Dorothea observed. “I’ve heard some dogs are like that.”
“It’s funny though. She only growls at men.” Tori shrugged. “Where are the kids?”
“At home. I thought you might need us more than they do right now.” Dorothea explained giving Tori’s stomach an assessing look. “You’ve dropped.”
“Yeah, a little. Dr. Crandall said everything’s on track and I could go at anytime.”
Dorothea shot Jon a smug look. “Then we came just in time.”
Jon rolled his eyes and turned to Richie. “I brought my guitar. Thought we might get some writing done while we’re here.”
“Good. I’ve got a couple ideas.”
With that the men left to bring in the luggage, then disappeared into the studio.
The women sat in the living room with a cup of tea and a snack.
“Where are your little ones?”
“Napping.” Tori checked her watch. “Probably not for much longer.”
No sooner were the words out of her mouth, than Lauren’s voice came yelling through the monitor. Stevie followed. “Mama! ‘Oren ‘wake!”
“I hear you.” As Tori started to stand up, Cathy passed through the room.
“I’m going upstairs. I’ll get them. You sit and relax.”
“Thanks Cathy.” Tori sank back onto the couch.
A few minutes later, Stevie came running into the living room. His face lit up when he saw his aunt. “Tant Dot!”
“Hi Peanut!” Dorothea picked him up and hugged him. “How are you?”
“I good. Mama gonna have the baby soon.”
“I know! Isn’t that exciting?”
Dark brows drew into a small frown. He looked over at his sister and shrugged.
Taffy came running into the room, Elmo once again in her mouth.
“What’s that?” Dorothea looked closer. “Uh oh. Lauren’s going to be mad.”
“It’s a running battle.” Tori smiled. “Watch, Lauren will come in after her.”
Sure enough a minute or so later, the toddler came in nattering angrily at the dog. Snatching Elmo back, she smiled and went to her aunt, her arms held up commandingly.
Dorothea picked her up for a hug. “Hi Sweetpea. I see you got Elmo back.”
Lauren grinned and nodded.
Stevie had been looking around, and now he frowned at his aunt and mother. “Where Tunca Jon?”
“In the studio with Daddy.” His mother answered.
At that, Lauren wiggled her way back to the floor and took off down the hallway. Stevie hopped off the couch and followed.
“Don’t knock her over Peanut!” Tori warned just in time. Stevie had been about to push his sister out of the way, but at his mother’s words, he slowed down and eased by her.
Tori sighed. “I must be crazy to have another one.”
“Or just crazy in love with your husband.” Dot argued. “Children are often a result of that. Look at me, I have four!”
“Well, at least I don’t have to worry about it happening again.”
Dot lifted a speculative brow. “He did it?”
Tori nodded. “Yep. Didn’t even tell me he was going to. Just did it.”
“Good for him! Now you can have the fun without the worry.”
“Speaking from experience?”
“Yep!” Dot grinned and raised her teacup. “And the best part? We didn’t have to go under the knife!”
Tori raised hers and clinked them together. “Hear, hear!”
The next day, Tori was putting laundry away in their dressing room, when she heard the bathroom door open. Stepping to the doorway, she watched as Jon and Richie emerged, carrying guitars. Richie saw her and opened his mouth to explain. “We were just...”
She held up a hand to stop him. “I really don’t want to know.”
A little while later, Dorothea found Tori in the nursery, washing windows. “So you moved Lauren instead of making up another room into the nursery?”
“Yeah. I like the location of this room best for a baby.” She moved to the dresser and change table, checking their contents. “And she’s happy with her new Elmo room. It’s a new crib though. I thought we were disrupting Lauren enough without adding a new bed to it. Richie was thrilled when he found out he had to put together another one. He had so much fun with the first one.”
“How many tries did it take?”
“Three. And I had to make sure I kept Peanut away so that he didn’t learn any new words.”
“Where are Richie and Jon anyway? I haven’t seen them for awhile.”
“Last time I saw them they were coming out of our bathroom.”
Dot frowned in confusion. “Both of them? What were they....nevermind. I really don’t want to know.”
“That’s what I said.” Tori shook her head and adjusted the mobile above the crib.
Joining her husband in bed that night, Dorothea warned him. “I think the baby’s about ready to be born.”
“Why do you say that?” Jon didn’t doubt his wife’s instincts, but he was curious.
“Is that why she’s cleaning everything in sight?” He’d seen Dorothea do the same thing, but never realized what it symbolized.
The next morning after breakfast, the guys had disappeared once again....either into the studio or bathroom, neither of their wives wanted to ask....and Dorothea and Tori were in the living room with Stevie, Lauren and Taffy. The women were sitting on the couch, children and dog were on the floor playing with building blocks. Well, the kids were building, the dog was more into demolition.
Tori stood up and wandered over to look out the wall of windows into the back yard, one hand pressing on her back.
Dorothea watched her intently for a minute. “When did it start?”