***Contains spoilers for Not Negotiable and Absolving His Sins.
Shelby Christiansen unpacked, then repacked the little, blue knapsack. Full of nervous energy, she tried to get herself under control. Her husband and Dom, Parker, would laugh at her again if he saw her, but he was in the bathroom, shaving. He’d taken her mind off today for a little while in the shower by giving her two amazing orgasms before entering her from behind and finding his own release. But now that she was dressed with nothing left to do but wait, she couldn’t sit still.
The door to the bathroom swung open and before she had a chance to hide what she’d been doing, Parker strolled into the room, looking for his shirt. His chest rumbled with a deep chuckle, drawing her gaze to his tan, muscular pecs. Damn, he was beautiful, but she wouldn’t tell him that. Like most men, he thought the word was more feminine than masculine. He preferred she use the word handsome.
Parker stepped over to the bed and slid the knapsack from her reach. Sitting, he pulled her between his legs. “Baby, you know Sister Patrice said we shouldn’t bring anything the first time we meet him. We want him to like us, not the toys and stuff we bring. No bribery.”
Rubbing his velvety, bare shoulders, she dropped her forehead to his. “I know. But what if he doesn’t like us?”
“He will. I promise. What’s not to like? He’s going to have a beautiful and caring mother and a super cool dad.”
“What? I can’t be beautiful, caring, and super cool?” she teased.
Cupping her jaw, he kissed her sweetly. “You’re going to be the best mother there ever was or will be.”
What he didn’t add was what he’d told her many times before. It’s not giving birth to a child that makes you a good mother, it’s the love you give that child. Shelby couldn’t have children since her first of two battles with cancer had left her barren. After she and Parker had fallen in love and gotten married in Vegas, with their friends surrounding them, they’d looked into adoption. But in the United States, teenage and single mom pregnancies weren’t as frowned upon as they’d been years ago. None of the public adoption agencies would approve the couple due to her health history, even though she was now cancer-free. Turning to private agencies hadn’t produced any success either. Nowadays, birth mothers were given thick dossiers on prospective parents and picked the ones they wanted to give their newborns to, and again her cancer had been an issue.
Then, a miracle in the form of Master Carter’s submissive, lover, and partner, Jordyn, had stepped forward. Carter was a good friend of the men of Trident Security, a private-sector business run by the Sawyer brothers, who also owned the BDSM club they all belonged to. All Shelby knew about the other couple was they worked for the government. But if she had to guess, it was for the CIA or FBI or some agency like that. Carter was like a US version of James Bond in her mind; he definitely had the looks for the role.
Apparently, the couple had heard about the problems Shelby and Parker were having and had come up with a solution. Jordyn had been born in Argentina and lived there until she was fourteen. Her parents had died. How, Shelby didn’t know. Jordyn had spent three months in Sister Patrice’s orphanage, before being brought to the states by an uncle as soon as he’d learned of her whereabouts.
After receiving pictures, videos, and profiles on over two dozen children looking for forever homes, Shelby and Parker had poured through them. She wished she could take them all, but little, six-year-old Franco had won their hearts the moment they watched his video. Bright-eyed and chubby cheeked, he was full of life. From what his profile said, he’d been born to a single mother who’d died when he was four years old from a burst appendix. She hadn’t gone to the doctor or hospital because the closest one had been an hour away from her small village, and she didn’t have anyone to leave Franco with. By the time she did try to make the trip, it’d been too late.
Having made their decision, Parker and Shelby had contacted Sister Patrice and arranged to come meet Franco. They’d flown into Buenos Aires yesterday and checked into the Alvear Palace Hotel, ninety minutes from the orphanage. If all worked out well today, they’d spend the rest of the week before Easter processing the paperwork to adopt the boy. Sister Patrice had a relative in the government who helped move the process along. It was all legal, but they would be moved to the top of the court docket, cutting the wait time dramatically.
Jordyn had told them Sister Patrice did her best to find good homes for her charges, but was more open to the problems that threw up roadblocks for some prospective parents. Since Shelby was in remission and had gotten a clean bill of health recently, that wasn’t an issue this time. Parker had a thriving construction business and had even taken on an old college buddy as a partner to help with the increasing number of contracts, which meant Shelby was able to resign from her job. If it was a choice between being a stay-at-home mom or working in the human resource department for a pharmaceutical company for an obnoxious boss, it was a no-brainer. Her last day had been four weeks ago, and as soon as they’d let Sister Patrice know their decision, Shelby had been finishing Franco’s bedroom and buying him clothes, toys, and everything else the little boy would need.
A knock sounded at the door, and Parker stood and grabbed his blue polo shirt. “Must be the driver and bodyguards.” Part of the area they had to drive through was not the greatest, and Ian Sawyer had made arrangements for them to be safe going to and from the orphanage.
Pulling on his shirt, Parker answered the door. There was no disguising the surprise in his voice. “Hey, what are you doing here?”
“We’re just here for the food, my friend.”
Shelby spun around at the sound of Carter’s deep timber as he and Jordyn strode into the room. Throwing her arms open, Shelby hugged Jordyn first and then Carter. Tears filled her eyes and the Dom pulled back and wiped her cheek with his thumbs. “What’s this, little one?”
Embarrassed, she backed up a few steps and waved her hands in front of her face. “Don’t mind me. I’m just super nervous.”
“She’s worried Franco won’t like her.” Her husband moved behind her and wrapped his arms around her waist. “But I keep telling her that won’t happen. So back to my original question, what are you two doing here? Not that I’m not glad to see you.”
Striding over to the little table and chairs by the window, Jordyn sat down. The dark-haired woman was a knockout, kick-ass, sarcastic, and sweet—Carter had chosen well for his life partner; she kept him on his toes. “We were sort of in the area and figured you could use some support. Besides, it’s been a while since I’ve visited Sister Patrice, and she’s been asking to meet Carter.”
“So, I’m the one who should be worried about the trip to the orphanage, Shelby,” Carter said with a grin. “You, on the other hand, should listen to your Dom. Franco is going to love you, just like everyone else does.”
When she’d faced her second battle with cancer, her parents had both passed away a few years earlier, and she’d tried to deal with it herself. That’s when Parker had stepped in to help, and the rest, as they say, is history. But when everyone at The Covenant had learned she was sick and undergoing chemo, she’d found out how many friends she truly had. They’d all stepped forward and helped out any way they could, but mostly it was their emotional support that had been most appreciated. When she’d shaved her short blonde hair during her chemo, almost all the male members had shaved their heads to boost her spirits, along with a few of the women.
Jordan took a sip of the bottled water she’d brought in with her. “I know you don’t have to leave for the orphanage for another hour, so how about going shopping with us real quick? Your bodyguards and driver are downstairs already—we called Ian to find out who he’d contracted. While Parker and Carter load up on some food staples for Sister Patrice, you and I can do some damage in the children’s clothing shop. I always bring her clothes, socks, underwear, and sneakers in different sizes, so she has them in stock whenever needed. Sound like a plan? It’ll get your mind off worrying.”
Relief had Shelby’s shoulders relaxing. “That sounds like a great plan. Let me just use the bathroom and we’re out of here.”
Two and a half hours later, the foursome, two bodyguards, and their driver, pulled their vehicles past the wall surrounding the orphanage’s courtyard. Carter and Jordyn had followed the others in a rented van filled with all their purchases. There was a small fence blocking off a play area where about thirty children were enjoying themselves under the watchful eye of three women wearing traditional navy and white headpieces, which were in contrast to their jeans and button-down, white, Oxford shirts. One of the nuns waved at the newcomers, then exited the gate separating her from them.
“Jordyn! What a surprise!” The woman, who looked to be in her sixties, embraced her former charge. “I didn’t know you were coming today.”
“And miss an opportunity to see you? Never.” Jordyn turned to her lover and friends. “Sister Patrice, this is Carter. And this is Shelby and Parker Christiansen who are very excited to meet their new son.”
“Well, I’m very excited to introduce you to Franco,” Sister Patrice said, shaking the couple’s hands before addressing the taller man with his long, dirty-blond hair pulled back in a ponytail. “So you’re Carter, the man with one name who’s won my little girl’s heart. Treat her right or I’ll put a bad word in for you with the man upstairs.”
As she pointed to the sky, Carter burst out laughing. “No worries there, Sister. Jordyn will always come before myself.”
Shelby almost choked on the veiled innuendo, and by the way Parker hid his grin behind his fist, and Jordyn’s eyes flaring, they’d noticed it too. But the sexual reference clearly went over the nun’s head.
“Well, now that the pleasantries and threats are out of the way, why don’t you come inside and we’ll chat for a bit before I introduce you to Franco?”
“Actually,” Carter interrupted, “I’ll stay here and help bring in the supplies. Where do they go?”
Jordyn held up a finger to him. “Give me one second to fetch Pedro, their handyman, to help and I’ll show you where everything goes. Unless things have change since I was here last.”
She raised a questioning eyebrow at the nun, who shook her head. “No, everything is still the same. Pedro is in his workshop. Shelby and Parker can come with me.”
The couple followed her into a single-story building, larger than Shelby had expected. “I didn’t know you were from America, Sister. If I’m not mistaken, I detect a Chicago accent.”
The woman grinned as she held open the door to her sparsely furnished office. “Yes. I was born and raised there. We’ve had a few missionaries from my childhood parish visiting and helping out for the past two weeks. They come every year, and every time my old accent returns for a few weeks. Please, have a seat.”
Shelby’s nervousness must have been showing as she fingered her D/s collar Parker had given her, because the nun gave her a reassuring smile as she sat behind the desk. “I promise, Shelby, I don’t bite or snarl. Please relax.”
Taking a deep breath, she let it out slowly as Parker clasped her hand in support. “Sorry. I’m not sure why I’m so edgy.”
“It’s understandable. It’s not every day you meet the boy who will be your son.”
Her eyes widened. “H-He’s definitely ours?”
Sister Patrice’s smile widened. “I wouldn’t have had you fly down here to tell you no. With Jordyn’s glowing recommendation, your background checks, and the fact you’re in remission, I don’t see any reason for you not to take Franco home with you after the court proceedings. I’ve already arranged for you to be on the court docket on Thursday. You’ll receive a temporary passport for Franco, his birth certificate, and all the papers you’ll need for the US Social Security Administration at that time.” She handed Parker a sheet of paper. “Here’s a list of things you’ll need to do before then, and things you’ll need to bring to court. It’s the same the list I emailed you. One thing you’ll want to do right away, because I’ve had people forget and have to stay an extra day, is to book Franco a seat on the plane.”
“That won’t be necessary,” he explained. “The parents of very good friends of ours have a private jet that flew us down here. We’ve become close to them, and that was their adoption present to us.” Ian and Devon Sawyer’s father was a self-made, real estate billionaire, and his wife was a plastic surgeon who spent a lot of time in third-world countries with Operation Smile. As soon as they’d heard about Franco, they’d offered one of Chuck Sawyer’s company jets, and Marie Sawyer wouldn’t take no for an answer. It’d been awesome taking the long flight in luxurious style—and being inducted into the Mile High Club.
“Nice friends.” After a few more minutes of going over a few things, Sister Patrice stood. “Well, then, let me go get Franco and introduce you. The art room is right across the hall. We’ll meet you in there. It’s his favorite school subject.”
They’d already known that as most of his video had been filmed in that room. For a young child, he was a very talented artist, and Shelby and Parker planned to help him cultivate his gift.
When they stepped into the room, it was just like they’d seen on the video. Long tables and shelves held a variety of artistic mediums from crayons to pastel pencils and paints to clay. All around the room, the children’s art projects hung on the walls. Shelby scanned them until she spotted Franco’s name at the bottom of several drawings. “Parker, look how he drew this dog! He’s going to love Spanky!” Their lovable and huge Bullmastiff, Spanky, had been adopted by Parker before he and Shelby had gotten together, and as a Dom in the lifestyle, he’d been too amused to change the name the dog had already been dubbed.
Her husband stepped behind her to eye the picture and placed his hands on her hips. “He really is good. I can’t draw a stick figure to save my life, which is why I read blueprints and don’t draw them.”
A noise behind them had the couple turning to see Sister Patrice and a dark-haired, little boy. Shelby recognized her son immediately. Her son. Yes, from the moment she’d seen his video, she’d known he was going to be their son.
Sister Patrice stood behind Franco, with her hands on his shoulders. She’d explained earlier she’d tell him the news when she thought it was the right time. Since the nun was experienced in the introductions of children and prospective parents, they’d agreed to follow her lead. Being bilingual, Sister Patrice and the other nuns taught the children in both Spanish and English so communicating with new families would be easier. “Franco, this is Mr. and Mrs. Christiansen. They’ve been admiring your artwork.”
The boy smiled shyly, but his dark brown eyes shined with pride. “I like to draw.”
Her heart expanding with love, Shelby swallowed hard and sat in a nearby chair so she was on eye level with the precious, little boy. “You do it very well, Franco. I love your picture of the dog. We have a dog; would you like to see a picture of him?” Franco nodded and stepped closer as Shelby dug in her purse while Parker sat next to her. “See, this is Spanky. He’s a big dog—bigger than you. But he loves little boys and girls, and he’s very gentle.”
Franco giggled. “He’s funny looking.”
“Yes, he is,” Parker said with a grin. “He’s always making funny faces like that.”
“I wish I had a dog.” The wistfulness in his soft voice was unmistakable.
Her eyes filling with happy tears that she tried to keep from falling, Shelby looked up at Sister Patrice, who nodded and sat down next to the couple, taking the little boy’s hand. “Franco, Mr. & Mrs. Christiansen would like to be your parents . . . tu madre y tu padre. Would you like that?
The boy’s eyes went wide. “¿De verdad?”
“Really. They live in the United States, and want you to go live with them and Spanky.” She grinned, indicating the photo he was still holding.
As if he still couldn’t believe it, he looked back and forth between the adults. Parker held out his hand. “Would you like to come live with us, Franco? We have a nice house that’s right near a school and park. There are lots of other children in the neighborhood. And I know Spanky would love to be your dog.” His voice grew thick with emotion. “We’d love to be your mother and father.”
His mouth open, Franco shook Parker’s hand and began to nod his head, but then his eyes furrowed. “But what about Victor? Can he come, too?”
Not knowing who he was talking about, Shelby glanced at Parker and then Sister Patrice. “Who’s Victor? I don’t remember that name from the profiles you sent.”
“He’s my best friend,” Franco piped up before the nun could speak. “Can you be his mother and father, too? Please?”
Sister Patrice had an apologetic expression on her face. “I’m sorry. Like Franco said, the two are fast friends. Victor is also six years old. I didn’t send his file to you because, at the time, he had a pending adoption. However, it fell through after I learned from the background checks that the couple had fabricated quite a few things on their application. I thought it was best to deny them and have Victor remain with us.”
Shelby was stunned. The hopeful look on Franco’s face was more than she could bear, and she turned to see Parker staring at her. There was nothing but love in his eyes as he raised an eyebrow at her. She nodded back. His gaze never left hers as he asked, “Sister Patrice, how hard would it be to add another application to the court docket?” He was purposely being vague in case the answer was not what they wanted Franco to hear.
“Well, since I have connections, it won’t be hard at all. Would you like me to go find Victor so you can meet him?”
Tapping her lap, Shelby beckoned Franco to sit on it. When he did so, with the shyness that had returned, she gently put his arm around her. “Franco, how would you like Victor to be more than your best friend? How would you like him to be your brother?”
He threw his arms around her neck and hugged her tightly. “Yeah!”
Three days later, the new family of four was on the private jet, soaring at 41,000 feet. Shelby tucked a blanket around Franco’s shoulders and then did the same for Victor. After ninety minutes of their first time on an airplane, looking at the clouds, and playing a few games, they’d passed out on opposite sides of one of the couches. For not being blood related, the boys’ features were remarkably similar. Being the same age, they’d probably be mistaken for twins until they grew older.
Parker came out of the bathroom and sat down in one of the recliners, pulling Shelby onto his lap. “Come here, little mama.”
“Yes, Master Papa,” she teased. Setting down the cell phone she’d been using moments before, she cupped his jaw in her hands and pecked his lips with hers. “Kristen said the girls took care of everything. The second twin bed and dresser were delivered this morning, and they made sure there’s two of everything the boys will need. Jenn has been showing Spanky the video of the boys we made, so hopefully he’ll recognize their voices right away. She’s not sure if he understands what he’s watching, but she swears he’s enjoying it and his tail wags each time she plays it.”
“He’s going to love the boys.”
“Just like we do already. I-I still can’t believe we’re parents to two boys. I hope we do a good job.”
He squeezed his arms around her. “It’ll be trial and error and correction, just like everything else in life. If—actually I should say when we hit a rough spot, because I’m sure we’ll hit a lot of them—we’ll do the best we can, and give them all the love we have.”
Leaning forward again, she kissed him deeper this time. While she would love to take it further, they now had young, impressionable boys to think of first, so she reluctantly pulled away and snuggled into his chest, tucking her head under his chin. “I love you, Papa Christiansen.”
“And I love you, Mama Christiansen, and I always will.”
Copyright ©2017 by Samantha A. Cole