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Shoulda Been a Cowboy


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"Right now?"


"Yes. I didn't want to do this here, with your family around but I have to do it before I lose my nerve."


Cursing, Cam dragged her around the corner of the house, out of sight. He braced her spine against the trunk of an old oak tree and framed her face in his hands, not saying a word, just watching her with those dark blue eyes.


Domini attempted to push him back because he was crowding her, but he didn't allow it. "Talk."


"I haven't been…honest about something. Something big. Something that will probably change everything between us."


"What?"


Breathe. Own up to it. Just say it straight out like he would. "You know that scar on my abdomen?"


He nodded guardedly.


"It's not from getting my appendix taken out. It's from getting my uterus taken out." Domini detailed the short version of her medical history. She finished by saying; "I know I should've told you I can't have children before you married me. I'm sorry. It was selfish. You deserve better, Cam. You deserve more. You deserve a woman who's as selfless as you are and I understand if you-"


"Stop. Talking. Now."


She froze.


Cam's hands dropped. He spun on his heel away from her and retreated to pace like a caged animal.


Her heart pounded with pure fear. Was he resetting the distance between them with each step?


Finally, Cam got right in her face. "Listen to me very carefully, Domini McKay. I don't mean to be flip or make light of your medical condition, but guess what? It doesn't matter to me. Should you have told me sooner? Yes. Would it have made a damn bit of difference when I asked you to marry me? Hell no. I'm taking the fact you're telling me this now as a good sign that you haven't dragged me behind the goddamn house to tell me you're leaving me."


She blinked at him, unable to formulate the words leaving me out loud. Cam thought she wanted to leave him?


"Havin' a mini-Cam running around isn't important to me. You are important to me." He flattened his palm on her lower belly. "This isn't why I love you." His hand slid up to cover her heart. "This is."


Domini choked out, "You love me?"


"Yes, I love you. Why do you think I married you?"


"Because of the foster care issue with Anton. Because it was the right thing to do, you told me that yourself in Ginger's office."


"That was a total lie."


Her head reeled back as if she'd been slapped. "What?"


"I told you what you wanted to hear. You were so…mired in grief about Nadia and worried about Anton's future you weren't thinking straight. I seized my chance to get what I wanted."


"Which was?"


"You."


A shiver worked loose at his forceful tone. "Me? But-"


"You think me offering to marry you was selfless?" His grip increased on her shoulders and he shook her a little. "Wrong. I'm a total selfish bastard, Domini. I used the legal system I'm supposed to be upholding to benefit me. Despite the shitty circumstances of Nadia's death, it made me happy you had no choice but to marry me without delay if you wanted Anton. Even now I wouldn't change a goddamn thing. How fucked up is that?"


She forced a hoarse, "Why?" through her dry throat.


Cam's eyes searched hers. "Because I hoped if you were around me every day as my wife you'd fall in love with me, given the chance. Don't you understand? I'm not the one who always does the right thing, princess. You are. You're the one who's selfless, taking on a grieving boy and a handicapped man all in one fell swoop."


"Cam-"


"Let me finish. I fell in love with you so goddamned hard and fast my ass is still sore. The thing is, I fought it from the first time I set eyes on you, which is partially why I tried to just stay friends with you."


"Partially?"


"The other part was I didn't think you could handle my sexual needs. Boy was I ever wrong." He smiled cagily. "Then you told me what you needed in bed and gave me everything I'd dreamed of-and more-in return. The night you called my bluff, refusing to let me hide my body from you, I knew you were meant to be mine.


"You fill a part of me that's been empty since before I lost my damn leg. For the first time in my life I feel like a whole man. Not because you accept my handicap, but because you accept me. All of me." Cam's hand shook as his knuckle drifted down the side of her face. "You own my soul, Domini. You are my heart."


Domini studied his handsome, serious face for a long time, mustering her courage, because her next confession would be the hardest one.


"Say something," he insisted.


"I'm sorry. All this time we've been together, I demanded something from you that I wasn't prepared to give in return. I've given you my body without hesitation, but not my…" Emotion engulfed her.


"Sweet Jesus, Domini, baby, why are you crying?"


"Because I'm an idiot. I tried to protect my heart from you, but it's safe with you, isn't it?"


"Yes, baby, it's safe with me. I'll always keep it safe."


"I love you. I think I've always loved you."


Then his mouth was on hers. Kissing her with sweetness and tenderness so rare for him. Her tears fell with each gentle glide of his lips, with each heartbeat, with each shared breath. When she broke the kiss to whisper, "You make me feel whole too," he clutched her like he'd never let her go.


After he'd squeezed the breath out of her, he laughed. Hard.


"What?"


"Did you really think I'd trade you in for a model that wasn't missing parts?" He swept her hair behind her ear. "I'm missing parts. That hasn't mattered to you, has it?"


"No."


"Then why would you think it'd matter to me? I married you for real, for keeps, forever. I want to spend the rest of my life loving you, not making babies with you."


"You're too good to be true."


"Nah. Just crazy about my wife." Cam kissed her again. "Besides, if we ever get a handle on how to parent the kid we've already got, and if we decide we want more, we can adopt. After what we've seen the world over…we both know-you probably better than anyone-that there are kids all over the world who need a home."


"You want to adopt Anton?"


"Yes. I know you're surprised."


"That's putting it mildly."


"It's taken me time to adjust. Maybe you should've kept me in the loop as far as what legal steps you were taking alone, with the help of Ginger Paulson, on lining up Anton's adoption."


Her face flamed. "You knew?"


"Only because I saw her bill on your desk at Dewey's. Were you going to tell me?"


"Maybe. Probably. I guess I wanted to see if you'd change your mind."


"Princess, I'm damn stubborn. Once I set my mind to something, I don't change it. Since you've been sick and I've been hanging out with Anton I had an epiphany of sorts. I realized I really like the kid. I also understood that for the last two months I tried to get along with Anton for your sake. That's unfair, not only to you, but to me, and most of all to Anton.


"It's scary shit being entrusted with the care of a child, but you've bucked up to the challenge so can I. Anton deserves better than my half-assed attempt at being a father figure. He needs a real father and I intend to be one to him if he'll let me."


Domini closed her eyes. She was half afraid if she reopened them she'd find this was all some kind of cruel dream. One of those where everything she'd ever wanted was within her grasp and as soon as she reached for it, it'd vanish into mist and she'd wake up.


"Domini? Say something."


"Am I dreaming?"


"No baby, this is as real as it gets."


Chapter Twenty-Four


Everything Domini said, everything that'd come out, gave Cam an unbelievable sense of relief their marriage was real-and finally on the right track. When Domini insisted on helping his mother clean up, he'd been grateful for a few moments alone. Not that it'd last long. Sure enough he heard, "Cam?"


He glanced up at Jack Donohue's approach. Cam tried not to scowl at the man his sister hated, who was also his brother's best friend. "Hey, Jack. What's up?"


"Not much. I'm looking for…" Jack jammed his hands in his pockets and scowled at his shoes.


Cam knew who Jack was seeking out, but no way would he point the man in Keely's direction. But he would let the poor sucker off the hook. "You looking for Carter?"


"No, I know where Carter and Thane are. They're partnering up for the games. Are you joining in?"


His mother loved games. Which meant she subjected her children to games, even as adults. "I haven't decided. Why?"


"I saw Anton sitting by himself on the porch swing."


His eyes narrowed. Did Jack's tone sound a little judgmental?


"Jesus. Do all you McKays practice that fiery death stare from the cradle?" Jack demanded.


"Yep."


"Awesome. I'd hate to think that foul-mouthed cowgirl cornered the market on dirty looks in this family." He sighed. "Anyway, I just thought you should know about Anton." Jack sauntered off.


Cam headed for the front of the house, discreetly rubbing at the top of his socket. He was sweating like crazy and the damn thing itched today.


When he saw Anton with Gracie's head in his lap, the dejected look on the kid's face released a flood of emotions, none of which he knew how to handle.



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