After the football season ended, the team and staff were given a two-week vacation in celebration of a season well played and their first-ever championship title. With three young children, leaving the island wasn’t feasible for the Murphy family, so they stayed in town and decided to take in the local sights and attractions.
The first morning of Andy’s vacation began with a little girl planted between them, neither of them knowing how she got there, or when she snuck into their bedroom. That something frightened her was obvious, though it was unclear what. Luckily, Elyse was asleep when Andy got up and pulled on enough clothing to ensure he was modest.
The sun had only begun to rise, and the morning was fresh and cool, so he dressed for a run. In a pair of shorts, a muscle shirt, and his running shoes, Andy left a message on Danae’s nightstand and slipped out the door quietly. Just outside the gate, he stretched his muscles and warmed up before heading down the long dead-end street into the town proper.
The wild jasmine that grew along the village streets scented the air faintly as he ran past Aaron’s home, along the dirt road that led into town. A doe and her fawn looked up from grazing as he jogged past, not fearful of him in the slightest. The streets were littered with streamers and confetti that the sweepers missed, remnants of the ticker-tape parade held the day after the championship game. And nearby, the smell of coffee and greasy breakfast food emanated from a family-owned cafe. Andy surmised the food was good, as the crowd waiting for tables overflowed from inside out onto the sidewalk.
He made his way to the festival grounds, though nothing was happening in the town center this day. He found a park bench and sat and rested his legs before he headed back the almost three miles he had jogged from the house. As he stood and stretched, his peripheral vision caught the art gallery, with banners outside featuring a local artist. He knew Danae loved art and made a mental note to bring her for the special exhibition.
One of the items on their ‘to-do’ list was to host a few of the guys, plus Kirby, Rae and their kids for a pool party. The wavemaker in the pool was very popular with Wyatt and Aaron, and Andy was certain the Kemp and Tillman children would love to play in it as well. The party was planned for the coming weekend, and there was much to do to prepare for it.
Andy’s footsteps made their way back into the house, which was alive with the laughter of children. He opened the front door to Elyse’s chatter, and when she spotted him, she dropped what she was doing to greet him.
“Hi, Daddy!” she chirped happily.
“Hi, sweet pea,” he replied, hugging her. “I need to take a shower before we play, okay?”
“Yep!” came her answer.
“Andy? Is that you, love?” Danae called from the boys’ room, where she sat feeding their son. Emmitt wouldn’t be nursing for much longer, but since he was the last child, she didn’t mind continuing for another month or two. It was a bonding activity she would miss once he was completely weaned.
“It is, my sweet. I went for a run. Do you need something, baby?”
“Not yet. I know you’re going for a shower. It can wait.”
“I won’t be long.” Andy kicked his shoes off and carried them into the bedroom, where he placed them into the closet. His sweaty clothing went into the hamper, and he got into the shower to clean up. The warm water felt good as he stood under it for a moment. He washed his hair and body, and stood in the warm water jets another second or two before turning the water off and stepping out. Danae was sitting on the bed, folding laundry when he opened the shower door.
“Hey, sexy,” she purred.
“The kids are awake,” he laughed.
“I’m aware.” She smiled at him.
“What did you need, baby?” he asked as he dried off.
“I was going to ask if you would carry some of the dirty laundry to the garage for me. I’m overwhelmed by how many clothes the kids dirty in one day.”
“Of course I will, honey. I was going to bring ours in anyway. My sweaty running clothes will get funky real quick if I don’t.” He chuckled softly. “Do you need help with the house? We can hire help anytime you need it, sweetie.”
“No, I’m good. Laundry gets ahead of me sometimes. It’s a bit easier with Elyse in preschool during the day. Eamon has always been a good napper, and Emmitt still goes down easily, too.” She stood and walked to him. “I will love having you home for the next two weeks. You deserve the vacation time.” She wrapped her arms around his neck and kissed him.
“Mmm, there’s nothing like your sweet kisses in the morning.” He hugged her close.
“You smell so good, Andy. Better than you did when you came home this morning,” she snorted. He was about to give her a playful swat when he noticed Elyse standing in the doorway, watching their exchange.
“Daddy? Can we go swimming today?”
“Yes, sweet pea, but later on. I have to help your Mama with some stuff.”
“Can I help?”
Danae looked at him, shocked. Elyse had never offered to help her before. Andy apparently had the magic touch. “Of course, little love. Why don’t you pick up the toys in the living room for Daddy, please?”
“Yay!” she squealed, excited.
“I’m impressed,” Danae exclaimed. “Maybe I should go to work, and you can play Mr. Mom.”
He ignored her comment and kissed her forehead. “Let me get dressed, and I’ll help you get this house in shape. The pool party is only a few days away.”
“I know. I have a lot of cooking to do, and I need to go to the market to pick up stuff I don’t have in the garden.”
“If you don’t need help at the market, I’ll stay home and watch the kids while you go,” he suggested.
“Oh my goodness, that would be amazing!” Danae exclaimed. Visiting the grocery store with three small children in tow was no small feat, and she hated it.
“Just let me know when you want to go, and I’m on the job.” He collected towels from the bathroom to put into the hamper. “I’ve got the laundry. You know where I’ll be.”
“Thank you, babe. You have no idea what a help it is.”
“It is my pleasure, my sweet.”
Danae returned home from the market about 90 minutes after she left, her trunk filled with bags that needed to be brought inside.
“Andy? Honey, can you help with the groceries?” she called into the house. “Andy?”
Seconds later, the back door opened, and he walked through, a giggling Elyse on his six. “Shh!” he scolded her. “Your brothers are sleeping.”
“Babe!” Danae looked at him. “Tell me you didn’t leave the boys in here alone while you were swimming!”
“I had a monitor outside with us, my sweet. Don’t worry, they’re fine.” He smiled at her and cocked his head. “Do you need help?”
“In fact, I do. Lysie, could you play quietly for a few minutes, baby girl?” She nodded her head while they walked to the garage.
“Are you angry with me, Nae?” Andy asked as he grabbed bags from the trunk of her car.
She smiled. “No, babe. I do the same thing when I need time during the day. Thanks for helping me. I’ll get the rest.” They walked into the house together. “Hey,” she said to him as he set the bags down. “Thank you for a peaceful market trip.”
“You’re welcome, my sweet. I’ll get the last two bags, baby. You relax.” He stroked her cheek, and she nuzzled into his hand.
“I love you,” she cooed.
“I love you more,” he replied, and walked to the garage.
The pool was freshly cleaned and maintained, the mini-fridge in the outdoor kitchen was stocked, the steaks were marinated and other goodies prepared and ready to go. Danae ran the vacuum one last time before the first guests arrived, and settled Eamon and Emmitt down to nap, closing their bedroom door. Aaron and Wyatt were the first to arrive.
“How’s it goin’ Murph?” Aaron asked as they walked in, carrying some beer and wine in a large cooler.
Andy hugged both of them. “It’s going great! Welcome! Make yourselves at home.”
Elyse ran from her bedroom, excited to see them. “Uncle Aaron! Uncle Wyatt!”
Wyatt knelt down to her and hugged her. “Hey little princess!” he said as he kissed her cheek.
The call box rang, and Andy answered it. Kirby and Rae were requesting entrance, and he let them in. Danae walked to the front door to greet them.
“Kirby! Rae! What a pleasure to finally have you in our home,” she twittered. “Please make yourselves at home.”
“These are our children, Corrie and Cody. Kids, this is Nae.”
The young girl’s eyes lit up. “You mean, the Nae, Mom?”
Corrie squealed in delight. “I’m such a big fan!” Danae blushed madly.
Avery, Dina, and their children arrived last, and they were welcomed into the house. Everyone moved to the patio outside, and Andy fired up the wavemaker for the kids. Rae and Dina admired the house, and Danae gave them the tour.
The women walked up the stairs to the second floor and admired the floor plan. “Putting a catwalk was genius, Danae,” Dina remarked. “I love that you can see the bottom floor from up here.”
“Thanks,” she replied. “The workout area gets a lot of use, but this doesn’t.” Danae pointed to her art studio. “I mean, my things are set up, but I haven’t painted since college. I just don’t have the time.”
“I knew your major was fine arts, but I had no idea that you were an artist,” Rae remarked. “Do you have any of your work in the house?”
“The piece in the dining area is mine. My great grandmother was an artist, and many of the pieces up here were hers, but most of her paintings and sketches were donated to the museum when we left.”
“I love the guest suite,” Dina quipped. “It looks almost like a master bedroom.”
“When we designed it, we had actually planned on using it as our bedroom, but the extra space we gained in the master suite downstairs convinced us to stay there. I keep hoping my cousin will come visit from the Shores, but it’s doubtful. Greg has a good job, but doesn’t get much time off.”
Danae led them downstairs to the kitchen and dining area when Rae spotted Danae’s painting. She walked towards it and admired it. “Danae, you really painted this? It’s a masterpiece!”
“Thank you. I did. This piece was my senior project. It took me a whole semester to finish it.”
“You have a real talent, Nae. You should paint more. Make time to do it. The art gallery features local artists regularly, and based upon what I see here, you would have no problem being featured.” Rae continued to inspect the painting.
Danae blushed. “Maybe I will. I love to paint almost as much as I love to sing.”
“That reminds me, Corrie would love to hear you sing today. She has been dying to hear you sing.”
“That I can do!” She laughed. “Let’s go join the guys. They can’t have all the fun without us!”
Andy and the guys cooked up a huge pile of steaks on the grill while Danae, Rae, and Dina got other food ready for the picnic. They all sat outside on the patio and enjoyed each other’s company, laughing and talking about the past season, life and family.
Danae put the children to bed just before dark settled in, and the rest of the group sat around the fire pit, toasting marshmallows and making s’mores. Danae brought her guitar out and played some of Destiny’s hit songs, sounding exactly like her great grandmother. Corrie flipped out when she heard the songs, and Dina was amazed, not knowing her secret. Even Avery and Dina’s daughter, Kira, was impressed.
When the party was over, and almost everyone had gone home, Wyatt and Aaron were still there, helping them clean up. Andy took Wyatt aside, seeing his drunken state.
“Wy, you’re not going anywhere tonight. Stay in the guest room upstairs. I’d rather have you here than read about you in the newspaper tomorrow morning.”
“Are you sure,” Wyatt slurred. “I don’t want to impose.”
“You’re not imposing. Just stay. I’d drive you, but I’m in no shape either.” Andy laughed. The beer had gone down easily, and the three of them were feeling no pain.
“What about Aaron?” Wyatt asked.
“Well, he’s going to stay, too. I hope you guys are okay with sharing the bed upstairs.”
“I’m too drunk to care,” Wyatt laughed. “I think Aaron is, too. We’ll be fine. And thanks.”
Danae was tired, and she went to check on the children before she went to bed. Andy was upstairs getting the two guys settled in and laughing with them. He’d better not wake Emmitt and Eamon, she thought. She dragged herself to the bedroom, undressed and climbed into bed. Andy stumbled in a few minutes later, feeling amorous.
“Hey, my sweet,” he flirted with her. “You wanna?”
“No, babe. You’re drunk, and I’m extremely tired. I’m surprised you’re not.” She yawned and pulled the covers over her.
“You don’t know what you’re missing,” he teased. “Come on, baby.” A sudden wave of nausea swept over him, and he ran for the toilet, making it by a split second. She rolled her eyes and sat on the side of the bed.
“Babe, are you okay?” She saw him resting on the floor, his head on the toilet seat.
“No. But I guess I deserve it.” He sighed, his stomach felt queasy.
“No, you don’t deserve it. But I hope you don’t spend your whole vacation doing this with the guys, either.”
“Oh, I don’t think I will,” he said just before he retched and vomited again. Reluctantly, she got up from bed and went to him.
“Oh babe,” she said sadly. “Every time you get with Aaron and Wyatt, you do this and then you swear you won’t anymore.” She rubbed his back as he threw up again. “When will you learn?”
“I hope someday soon. My memory is short when I’m sipping a few back with the guys. Maybe I need you to remind me.” He heaved a few more times, but nothing came up.
“If that is what you truly want, I will. Did I tell you about when my Daddy nearly drank himself to death? I will never forget that night.”
“You probably did. But damned if I can remember it right now.” He struggled to stand, and she steadied him on his feet. “Help me to the bed?”
“Of course,” she smiled. “Are you feeling better now?” He breathed in her face, and it smelled revolting. She nearly gagged.
“Yes and no. I don’t feel like barfing anymore, but I’m so drunk. Baby, I just want to sleep this off.”
She sighed sadly. “I’ll tuck you in, love.” He climbed into bed, and she pulled the covers over him. Gently, she kissed his forehead. “I love you, Andy. See you in the morning.” She took her pillow and a blanket from the closet and went to the living room to settle on the floor.
Wyatt came down first the next morning and found Danae sleeping on the floor in the living room. Quietly he sat on the steps and watched her, wishing to himself that things were different. If you were mine, he thought, you’d never have to sleep on the floor. At the same time, they were fourth cousins, and that was more than enough to deter him.
He tiptoed around her and started the coffee maker. The baby cried in the other room, and it awakened her. Danae groaned and saw Wyatt in the kitchen.
“I forgot you guys were here. I’m glad you’ve made yourself at home. Hold that thought with the coffee, and I’ll join you for a cup.” She walked to the boys’ bedroom and returned with Emmitt. She sat him in his high chair and prepared some oatmeal with fruit for him, and poured a cup of coffee before she sat to feed him.
“Thanks for having us all here yesterday. You did the lion’s share of the work, and I forgot to say thank you yesterday.” Wyatt sipped his coffee while Danae fed Emmitt.
“You’re welcome, Wyatt. I’m glad everyone could come. I had a great time.”
The floor upstairs creaked, and Aaron descended the stairs, one cautious step at a time. “Good morning you two,” he said, his head pounding. “I’m getting too old for this drinking thing.”
Danae chuckled. “You and Andy both. He was throwing up after you guys went to bed. He will not be feeling good today. Have some coffee. Wyatt just made a fresh pot.”
“Thanks, sis,” Aaron said. “I wasn’t sure it smelled good, but I’m going to drink it anyway.”
Andy awakened in the master suite, alone and hungover. He thought nothing of being alone until he noticed Danae’s pillow was gone, and he got up quickly and put pajamas on.
“Nae?” he called to her from the bedroom door.
“Yeah?” she answered. “I’m feeding Emm, do you need me?”
“No, honey. I’m just checking on where you are.” He shambled out of the suite to see her pillow and blanket on the floor, and his two best friends sitting at the dining table with his wife. “Did you sleep out here?”
“Yes,” she said bluntly. No explanation, just a simple yes.
He walked to the coffee pot and poured a cup, prepared it and sat with the three of them at the table. “Is everything okay, sweetie?”
“Yes, why wouldn’t it be?”
“Why did you sleep out here?”
“Your breath reeked of stale beer. It nauseated me, so I slept out here.” She was very clear and blunt.
“Baby, I’m sorry,” he apologized.
“We’ll talk later,” she said.
Wyatt and Aaron looked at each other. “We’ll go outside and let you two talk.”
“No, you don’t have to,” she protested, but Aaron insisted. She sighed as Andy switched to a closer chair.
“Baby, what’s wrong?”
“Andy, I’m tired of the drinking. I’m afraid that someday…” tears filled her eyes. “I don’t want to end up like my mother, in a hospital room crying over a husband half-dead from alcohol poisoning, scared that you will leave me with three children to raise alone. I don’t want to explain to Elyse someday why her daddy is gone.”
“Where is this coming from? I don’t ever get that drunk.”
“I asked you last night if I told you about the night my daddy almost killed himself.” She wiped a tear away.
“I don’t know, you might have.” He shrugged, knowing a story was coming his way.
“It was almost our 13th birthday, and it was Mama and Daddy’s date night. They went out for dinner, and she came home alone. They’d had a big fight at the restaurant, and he went out and got drunk. That was the night he almost cheated on her.”
“I remember your dad telling me something about this the night he died,” he said quietly.
“Well, when the taxi driver brought him home, he was nearly dead. Andy, I had nightmares about that night for years. I saw him, my mother holding him upright so that if he threw up, he didn’t choke on it. He looked dead. I’d never been so scared in my life. We almost lost him.” She choked up. “I don’t ever want to explain to Lysie that her daddy died like that.”
He took her hands in his. “You never told me the whole story before. I’d only heard bits and pieces of it. I won’t do this anymore, baby. You shouldn’t have to live scared like this.” He kissed her hands as he held them. “I’m so sorry, my sweet.”
“I don’t mind if you have a beer or two. But no more of this, please. I love you too much to lose you.” She sighed deeply, tears ran down her face.
Elyse walked out of her room and caught them in a tender embrace. “Why are you crying, Mama?”
Danae picked her up into her lap. “Daddy and I were just talking. That’s all, sweetheart. I promise.”
She snuggled into Danae’s embrace. “I’m sorry you’re sad, Mama.” Elyse’s words cut Andy to the quick, and suddenly he understood completely why it was an emotional topic for Danae.
“I’m all better now, honey. Are you hungry?”
“Yes,” she replied, cooing at her baby brother.
“I’ll make banana pancakes. Go tell Uncle Wyatt and Uncle Aaron to come in for breakfast. Andy, could you wake Eamon for me and bring him out?”
“You bet, my sweet.” He disappeared for a few minutes and came back with Eamon in tow.
Danae made breakfast for everyone, and they all sat around the table and ate. Aaron commented on the painting.
“I saw Rae admiring this painting yesterday. She seemed interested in it.”
“She was. I painted it in college. She told me it was a masterpiece.” Danae shrugged her shoulders. “I didn’t think it was that spectacular. I only got a B on it.”
“A masterpiece?” Andy was stunned. “That’s quite a designation, Nae.”
“That’s what she said. I don’t think she really meant it. She was being nice.”
“I don’t think Rae is superficial, sweetie. If she said it, she must have meant it. Maybe you should look into having it appraised?”
“Andy, even if it is a ‘masterpiece,’ I’m relatively unknown in the art world. It would be worth next to nothing.”
“Even the great artists were unknown at one point,” Aaron stated. “What do you have to lose?”
“He has a point, baby.”
“I’ll think about it,” she replied.
A few days later, Danae’s phone rang with a number she didn’t recognize. She almost didn’t answer it, but decided to anyway.
“Hello. Is this Danae Murphy?” the voice inquired.
“Yes, it is. May I ask who is calling?”
“Mrs. Murphy, my name is Lena Sanchez, and I’m with the Isla Paradiso Council for Fine Arts. Mrs. Kemp gave me your number. She informed me that you are an artist. I am interested in seeing your work.”
Danae blushed deeply. “Ms. Sanchez, I am truly flattered, but I only have the work I did in college, and quite frankly, it isn’t that great.”
“With all due respect, why don’t you let me decide that Mrs. Murphy? I hold a master’s degree in Fine Arts, and I am an esteemed expert in the field. I would really like to take a look at what you have.”
“Well, I guess I can’t say no to that. When is it good for you?”
“I was thinking about coming this afternoon, if that is okay?”
“Very well, Ms. Sanchez. You may call me Danae, by the way.”
“And you may call me Lena if you wish. I look forward to seeing you.”
Danae didn’t get a chance to say anything else before Lena ended the call.
“Who was that, love?” Andy asked her.
“I think I just got a prank call, babe. Some woman says she’s from the council for fine arts and wants to see my artwork. She said Rae contacted her.” She shook her head.
“Why assume it’s a prank? Baby, your stuff is good.”
“Just for fun, where is that box of my old paintings? Is it still above the garage, or in the storage unit?”
“Storage, I am sure of it. We wanted it climate controlled, so they didn’t get damaged. Remember, baby?”
“Yeah, I do now. Do you think I should go get them?”
“Yes, I think you should. I don’t think that was a fake call. If Rae had anything to do with this, it’s the real deal.”
“Would you watch the kids for me? I shouldn’t be more than an hour.”
“Of course, my sweet. I’ll take Lysie and Eamon in the pool, and Emmitt in the swing on the patio under the umbrella.”
“That sounds like a plan,” she replied. Danae took her car keys and drove down the dead-end road toward town.
She arrived at the storage unit and opened the door. The unit smelled of the furniture from the Shores that sat inside, and it all reminded her of the old house. Carefully, she dug through the contents of the shed until she found the box she wanted. Rather than go through the paintings there, she lugged the box from the unit and put it in the back seat of her car.
Less than an hour later, she walked through the front door of the house. She had a few precious, quiet minutes to herself, so she opened the box gingerly. The paintings had been packed carefully by the movers and not touched since they had arrived on the island.
Danae removed the first one and unwrapped it, revealing her favorite painting, the one she had done of Darcey. Carefully, she set it aside and pulled the next one out to unwrap. This one was an abstract she had done on canvas in oils, and it was prettier than she remembered it.
The third one was more of a modern piece she had painted in acrylic for a specific project. Each one she unwrapped was nicer than she recalled, and she began to believe Rae might have been right.
When Lena rang the call box outside the gate, Danae had ten paintings set up around the living room, displayed in the frames. She walked outside to greet Lena and welcomed her into the house.
“What a lovely home you have here, Danae,” Lena complimented her. Her eyes were drawn immediately to the abstract painting, and she fussed over it. “This painting is so unique, Danae. This is one of yours?”
“It is, but like I said, they were all painted when I was in college. My signature is my maiden name.”
“Well, that’s not a problem.” Lena jotted a note in her book and stuck a slip of paper into the frame with a number on it. She moved on to Darcey’s portrait. “Is this a self-portrait, Danae?”
“No, it’s of my identical twin sister, Darcey. We were much more identical when we were my daughter’s age than we are in adulthood.”
Lena passed that one up and moved on to the next painting, a large framed one that was another abstract. “This one is simply astonishing! What vision you have, and your use of color is inspired.”
Danae was uncomfortable with the compliments and wished Andy was inside with her. “I didn’t do very well in class with that one,” she said. “My art professor was not very impressed with it.”
“Your professor lacked taste. Miss Danae, this is simply refined.” She jotted another note in her book and put a number on the painting. “Now, where is the one that Mrs. Kemp saw? That was the one I was truly interested in.”
Danae showed her to the dining room and pointed to it. “This was my senior project. It took me an entire semester to get it done. I only got a B on it, which was 40 percent of my grade.”
Lena’s eyes lit up. “I see what Rae meant,” she remarked. “This is a true masterpiece, Danae. It is classic, timeless and totally original. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”
“Thank you for all your kind compliments. They mean a lot to me as an amateur artist—”
“With all due respect, Mrs. Murphy, you are no amateur. These paintings are remarkable.”
“I-I don’t know what to say.” Danae was gobsmacked.
“Danae, I’d like to feature your work in the next local artist showcase. The one we have going on now lasts for another six months, but these need to be seen. Of course, you would be handsomely compensated for the exhibition.”
“Wow. Lena, I am so flattered.” She fumbled with words, trying to sound as gracious and humbled as she felt.
“Here is my card. I’d like to see some newer stuff, too. Since you have a few months, why don’t you paint a few new ones for the gallery? Anything you need can be written off as a business expense, so paints, canvas, brushes. Danae, we’re going to make you famous in Isla Paradiso, and hopefully around the world.”
Danae took Lena’s card with shaking hands. “I appreciate you stopping by.”
“I will be in touch, Danae. It was a pleasure to meet you.”
After Lena left the house, Danae flopped into a chair in front of the television. She sat for what seemed an eternity when Andy, two wet, squealing children, and one sleeping baby came inside. She was so lost in her thoughts that she really didn’t recognize they were there. Andy walked back out from the boys’ bedroom, minus the baby, and sat with her.
“How did the meeting go?” he asked. But she continued her vacant stare. “Danae?”
Hearing her name brought her back to reality, and she looked at Andy and smiled. “Babe. They want to showcase my work at the gallery.”
His heart swelled with pride. “This is amazing! See? I knew you were a fantastic artist, Nae.”
“She wants some of the old stuff, but she wants some new paintings, too. Babe, I don’t have time to dedicate to painting like I’d want to. We have three young children. They are always my first priority.”
“Honey, we can hire some temporary help while you paint. That isn’t a problem. Danae, sweetie, let me do this for you. I’m so very proud of you!”
The next day, Andy began the monumental task of hiring a professional to care for the house and children while Danae focused her attention on painting. Unlike in Starlight Shores, executive butlers and nannies were at a premium and very few in number. But he knew what the opportunity could mean for her, and wanted to give his very deserving wife every chance she needed to succeed. He was still on vacation, so in the meantime, he picked up her workload and became Mr. Mom while she painted. The irony was not lost on him.
Danae spent her first full day driving around the island, looking for inspiration, snapping well-framed photos on her camera to paint. Much of her subject matter was local flora since it interested her, and it was so unique to the island. But rather than focus on the flowers themselves, she found inspiration in the shadows inside the flower bushes and plants.
Her last stop was the art supply store, where she bought oils, acrylics, a whole set of paintbrushes and several stretched canvases. She also had six of the more intriguing photos printed in high definition, so she could see what had inspired her in each shot.
Her arms were full when she returned home, and she walked right upstairs to set all of her treasures down by her easel. The kids were not allowed upstairs without supervision, and the staircase was blocked off during the night, so she didn’t worry about either of them getting into her supplies.
She was pleasantly surprised to see Andy had fed the children, bathed the younger two and read to all three of them by the time she returned that evening.
“Did you get everything you needed today, my sweet?” he asked as they sat by the pool, listening to the crickets and frogs outside.
“I think so,” she replied. She handed her camera to Andy. “These are the photos I took today. But if you look beyond what I actually photographed, you can see my inspiration.”
Andy looked at several of the pictures, but he just couldn’t see what she did in them. “I don’t have your eye for art, baby, but you did take some gorgeous photos.”
“When the paintings are done, if I can pull this off, I’ll compare them. Maybe you’ll see it.” She sipped a glass of wine with him.
“I see beauty in more obvious places,” he flirted.
“Well, I see your beauty.” His caramel brown eyes always sparkled when he saw her, and the way he looked at her always melted her heart. It was something she knew intimately when he wore his adoration and love for her.
“Just when I think you must have run out of sweet things to say, you find another one. Andy, sometimes I can’t fathom why you love me so much.”
“It’s simple, Danae. You made it easy to love you. You’re sweet, unassuming, humble, charming, incredibly sexy,” he paused to look at her. “Danae, I simply love you. No conditions, no questions, everywhere and all the time.”
He looked away from her suddenly, his expression changed. “Now me, on the other hand, I have caused you more hurt than I want to admit. I screw up constantly, and yet you love me anyway. I should be asking you why you love me so much.”
“You don’t screw up constantly, and you have never hurt me deliberately. Andy, I still get butterflies in my stomach when you smile at me. You are charismatic, handsome, incredibly ambitious, extremely talented, sexy beyond words. I like who I am when I’m with you so much better than who I was without you, and I will never get tired of telling you how much I love you.”
“Danae, let’s sit in the grass and count the stars tonight. I’ll name every single one of them after you.”
“I can’t think of anything I’d rather do, as long as we are together.”
Up Next: Chapter Twenty One, Generation Five