This time, instead of sitting in uncomfortable silence on the drive back to Cole’s house, Dannie and Cole made small talk, and decided where they wanted to take the kids to eat.
Dannie kept stealing glances at Cole while they chatted about nothing. He looked – almost happy. A million times better than he had just an hour ago and she was immensely relieved. It pained her that her actions cut him so deeply. He had been through enough hurt already.
She had made so many mistakes and it almost cost her dearly. How could she have ever thought keeping Taylor secret from Cole was a good idea? Of course he would have embraced his child. She didn’t want to disappoint anyone, but honestly, she was a little afraid of Ryker. She didn’t want to think about him anymore. She wasted 15 years of her life doing what her Dad wanted, and then what Ryker wanted, trying to keep them happy. She had finally escaped, and was going to do what she wanted, but now, she wasn’t sure what that was anymore.
She knew she desperately wanted Cole to continue to be a part of her life. Even if it had to be as friends only. She was terrified he would hate her. But he forgave her. When he hugged her, she felt truly loved for the first time in – well – maybe ever. She thought Ryker’s jealousy and controlling nature meant he loved her. She was wrong. He wanted to own her. And when they finally got married, it only became worse.
She had been ready for a simple, boring life with her daughter. But now Cole made it complicated. But was it a good or bad complication? She was grateful he had forgiven her and surprised that he still wanted to see her – to date her even. That thought brought a smile to her face in spite of the obstacles that were still in front of them.
“You getting out?” asked Cole surprising her out of her thoughts. He was looking at her with so much tenderness that it made chills run through her. Yes, this was going to be really hard. She was already falling in love with him. Or was it just lust? How could she be sure and not make another mistake?
When they walked into his home, the kids were in the playroom with his Nanny, Sarah. Cole told her their plans and asked if she wanted to join them. She politely declined.
“Mom!” exclaimed Taylor when she saw her ran to give her a hug. She and Taylor were two peas in a pod. They were as close as any mother and daughter could ever be. She loved her little girl more than anything.
Then Cole introduced his children. “Ryan, Reagan,” he called out, “I have someone I want you to meet. This is Dannie Perkins, a very, very good friend of mine, and as you can clearly see, Taylor’s mother.”
The look in his eyes as he introduced her warmed her heart. He wore his heart on his sleeve. She could see the love he had for his children when he called them over. He had a similar expression when he looked at her. He needed to stop or she was in trouble.
This was the first time she had seen the twins and she almost gasped out loud. He was right. Taylor and Reagan looked like sisters. Duh, she thought to herself, they are sisters. “It’s a pleasure to meet you both,” she finally said to them. “You have a very cool dad. But I suppose you know that already.” She and Cole exchanged a quick glance. He smiled, she melted.
“You guys hungry?” asked Cole grinning. He was rewarded with a resounding chorus of yeses from the three kids. It would be their first ‘play date’ with the children. This really is a new beginning, she thought and smiled to herself.
Dannie was getting ready for her and Cole’s first official non-play date date. She and Taylor had been spending a couple of days a week with him and the twins either at the park or his house. Finally he asked her if she would like to go out to eat. She knew they had a lot to settle that hadn’t been done yet because they needed privacy to talk. She was excited and nervous. She was 33 but had butterflies like a teenager going out on their first date.
Part of her nerves had to do with the test results. They had come in the mail the day before, confirming what she already knew. Regardless, she cried when she read them. It was like one more weight had been removed and she hadn’t realized how heavy it had been until it was gone. This was getting real, and people would know.
Her mom walked in and saw her and she knew it was time to let them in on her secret. It was almost harder to disappoint them, than it had been to tell Cole.
Her father rolled his eyes and started to say something about that being the reason Ryker messed around, but her mother, thankfully, cut him off. He seemed more upset that his grandchild’s father was not a famous football star, but the town vet. He wanted to blame her for their divorce.
She told them she had a date with Cole, her daughter’s father, and that they were now seeing each other regularly. Her Dad flipped out. He knew all about Cole’s ex-wife being in prison. As she listened to him rant, she decided she didn’t care what he thought. He was part of the reason she married Ryker in the first place, so she tuned him out. She knew he loved Taylor, she just hoped it wasn’t less now.
But her mom was her rock. She had helped her through her divorce and would help her through the next few months while she and Cole figured things out. Her mom knows first hand what a compassionate person he is, because she takes their dog to him.
When Cole rang the bell, she blew out a slow breath and answered the door. When she saw him standing there, dressed up for her, her heart skipped a beat. She was already falling hard for him. Cole had the power to make her feel better.
When he let out a low whistle, her insides turned to jelly. No one had made her feel this way in a very long time. 10 years ago maybe – at the reunion.
She stood there with her mouth open and he took her hands in his. “You look beautiful Dannie,” he said with a smirk. Then he dropped her hands and motioned towards his car, “After you.” She was hopelessly hooked on this man.
Once they were seated and their food ordered, she decided to tell him about the test. “Cole. I got the results back. You officially have three children.”
He smiled and his eyes sparkled. “I adore Taylor,” he said. She could hear the love in his voice for his newest daughter. “She’s beautiful, sweet and polite. Just like her mother. You’ve done a wonderful job with her.”
Dannie felt heat run up her neck and into her face at his compliment. “She has been easy, such a blessing.” She stopped and huffed out a small breath. “Cole, until yesterday, you were the only person that knew about Taylor. I told my parents last night. I had to. Mom saw me crying over the test results.”
Cole’s expression changed from admiration to concern in an instant. “You mean, you never told anyone at all? You carried that secret alone for all this time?”
Dannie swallowed hard. “You were the first to know. It’s only right that you were, but it felt good to finally share it with them too.”
Cole smiled at her. “My mom told me something similar. Actually it was when Laney cheated on me with YOUR ex-husband. I was understandably upset. And she told me when you share your pain, it only hurts half as much. Evidently my real mother told my dad that. And it got passed down. But sweetheart. It’s true. If you have someone to share what hurts, it somehow makes it more bearable. Like, when you came to the trial with me, it helped so much to have you there.”
Dannie was getting emotional. Cole was the best thing to happen to her since Taylor. She wanted to jump across the table and kiss him. But she couldn’t let herself get carried away and ruin their fragile friendship. “I’m glad it helped. I will have to remember that.”
“So I probably should tell my parents too, if that’s okay with you.” said Cole.
He asked? Sweet Cole. “Of course. Whenever you are ready. But, make sure to tell them we don’t want it to get out until we are ready to tell the kids. It would be terrible for them to find out…like you did.”
“Okay. What about Ryker?”
“I’ve already contacted my lawyer and he is sending papers to him letting him know and to stop the child support. I have offered to pay back what he has paid so far,” replied Dannie.
“I will pay it. She’s my daughter and whatever he was sending you, I will start sending too. We are in this together – remember?”
“It’s just hard Cole. I promise I didn’t come back to try and get money from you.”
“Dannie! I know you didn’t. Please, stop apologizing for stuff you didn’t do!” he said, frustration obvious in his tone. Then he looked at her curiously for a minute. “Did Ryker abuse you? Is that why you always apologize? Please, be honest with me.”
“No. He never hit me. You’ve asked me that before,” she said honestly.
“It’s just you act like you don’t have a say in anything, and do whatever anyone says. LIke you’re afraid to express your wishes. I guess it’s just that hint of fear that didn’t used to be there back in high school. You were more confident then. You’re not afraid of me – are you?”
“No. You are considerate and sweet. I’m not afraid of you Cole. Maybe afraid of losing your friendship again, but not of you.”
“I’m not going anywhere Dannie. But that’s what it is, isn’t it. Ryker made you afraid. He controlled you. When you weren’t with him, you seemed really happy. Why’d you go back?”
“Cole, do we have to do this?” she said sheepishly. She really didn’t want to discuss Ryker.
“I just want to understand you better. That’s what we’re doing, aren’t we? Dating so we can get to know each other. I want to know what makes you act afraid. That’s all.”
“I went back with him because he was being nice – okay? And…” Dannie paused not wanting to go on and ruin the mood.
“And?” asked Cole prompting her to continue.
Dannie sighed loudly and continued. “My father idolizes Ryker and had always wanted us to be together. He wished he had a boy to play sports with. So he kept pushing us together. He was thrilled when we got married. And he doesn’t like that I’m getting ready to publish a series of cheap romance novels. He was okay with it while I was with Ryker. Said it was a stupid hobby, but figured the wife of a football star didn’t need a real job.”
“That sucks,” deadpanned Cole.
Dannie couldn’t help but laugh. “Yes. It did, does.”
Dannie rolled her eyes. “He told me what I needed to do and when. But, I knew he worked really, really hard. It’s a tough profession and takes a toll on the men both physically and mentally. So I had to be there for him when he needed me. When he would get hurt, and he did a few times, it stressed him out badly. The fact that I defied him and came to the reunion caused a huge fight. That’s why I was so upset. He wanted me to be there for him. But he didn’t need me. He was in training camp all day everyday and then came home and crashed. He just wanted me in the stands. I was just arm candy.” Dannie felt relief flood through her at having unloaded her frustrations.
“Dannie, don’t make excuses for him anymore,” said Cole. He looked upset even though his voice was soft. Then he smiled at her. She was all kinds of confused by him. “Feel better?” he asked.
How did he know? she wondered. “Yes. I guess you tricked me into sharing my pain. You sneaky man.”
“Maybe,” he said with a smirk, “But, you know, I will never demand that you do anything. I’m not Ryker. We will discuss it. You have an opinion. It counts and is valued.”
“Cole,” I love you, she almost said, but swallowed her words. Did she? She had said that before, but it was meant as ‘I love you as a friend’, not ‘I’m in love with you’. “We should talk about when to tell the kids,” she said instead.
Cole got serious. “Yes. I’ve been thinking about that too. They have been through so much, I’m not sure I want to tell them yet. What do you think?”
She smiled at him before answering. “I think you are probably right. I am sure the twins are still feeling vulnerable after their mother was yanked out of their lives. And well, Taylor was uprooted and is expecting to move again. I do need to let her know we aren’t, but I suspect that will be a welcome conversation. I think we do need to wait.” Dannie fiddled with her wine a bit before continuing. “And we need to figure us out. Whatever that means, and however long it takes.”
“We should establish some ground rules. Right now, all I want to do is take you to the nearest hotel. But I don’t think that would be a good idea. You and I are both still reeling from the past few months, and now we have just added another stressor on top of all of that. We need to go slow and make sure what we might be feeling isn’t just lust, or the need to not be alone. And Dannie, I’m not saying that lust is all I’m feeling for you. It’s not. But there’s so much more at stake now. We have to be sure.”
Dannie was close to tears at his speech. She wanted the exact same thing. To blow off dinner and go to a hotel. “I know, but Cole, how will we know?”
“I’m not sure. Take it a day at time I guess. And maybe we should take sex off the table. A no sex pact will take the pressure off. It will give us time to get comfortable with each other and what we want out of this relationship. Whether to remain BFFs or move to the next step. Plus that gives us time to get to know each other’s kids. God, this feels so clinical.”
Dannie couldn’t help but laugh. “Sorry. It’s not funny. But you are right. We are both so gun shy that we need ground rules to feel comfortable. How did our lives get so messed up?”
Cole shook his head. “Impulsive decisions maybe? So we need ground rules for the kids too. I think we should wait to see how things go between us before telling them. It’ll be better if our relationship is settled first, that way we can answer their questions with certainty.”
Dannie held up her glass. “To ground rules,” she said, feeling relieved. He was right, the pressure was suddenly off. She felt like she could breathe, even though she still wanted to find that hotel, she knew it was better to wait. She’d just stock up on batteries.
Cole and Dannie were alone together in a cabin in the woods celebrating the union of their two families. Dannie thought back over the last nine months since they instituted the ‘no sex pact’. She learned that she could trust Cole, but he had been hurt badly and it had been harder for him to give her his trust and therefore his love.
A year had passed since Avery’s conviction. She and Taylor spent every weekend and at least one day during the week together with Cole and his children. There was no doubt they had a strong physical attraction to each other. But he was right to make them go slow. He had to be sure.
Four months into their agreement, Ryan, who she learned had no filter, asked when they were getting married. The the girls chimed in excitedly. It was nice to see Cole smile at their excitement. He could see that his children had accepted her and there was no doubt that Taylor adored him.
Only a few days later, they shared their second ‘first’ kiss. Dannie remembered it vividly. Taylor had asked if she could spend the night with Reagan. So after the kids were in bed, she and Cole settled on the couch, with a glass of wine to relax, and watch a movie together before she went home.
Instead of turning on a movie though, Cole surprised her. He took the wine from her and pulled her into his lap. Then, he kissed her. It was gentle and sweet at first before blind passion took over.
Dannie was ready for him right then and there. But, when she moved to push off his shirt, he stopped her and whispered – ‘no sex pact’ – and apologized. At least he kissed her again.
It had been difficult to stop, but it allowed her to think straight. Even though, when she got home, all she could think about was his kiss and had to give herself relief. She imagined he was probably doing the same thing. She giggled in the dark, and figured it was good fodder for her books.
After three months of making out like horny teenagers, Cole said the three words she had longed to hear. I love you. Evidently they just slipped out, and she cried when he said he was sorry for saying it. He was going painfully slow and each next step was hard for him. She knew by now, she loved him very much, and it had hurt for him to want to take back his declaration of love. He was afraid. And part of that was her fault.
The next time he told her how he felt, it was very deliberate. It was one of their date nights at dinner in the late spring. She wanted to cry this time because she knew he had reconciled his feelings about her. She responded in kind. Then he blew her mind and asked her if she and Taylor would move in with them as soon as school was out for the summer.
When he brought up marriage, she sadly suggested they wait until they told the kids about Taylor. Taylor would be the only one without the Murdock name, and she didn’t want her to feel ‘different’. In reality, Dannie was the only one that wasn’t a Murdock. Cole didn’t question her and she was relieved. She was afraid he would take it as rejection. Later they would decide when the right time was to tell the kids the truth about Taylor.
“Mmmm,” said Dannie and sighed, “That was amazing.” She closed her eyes and leaned into Cole’s chest.
Cole relished the feel of her in his arms. They had waited so long. “It was…,” he readily agreed. He kissed her forehead and chuckled. “But maybe it’s because it’s been a helluva long time since either of us have had sex?”
“Don’t you dare say that Cole Murdock!” objected Dannie. “That’s so mean and so not true. Well, the ‘helluva long time’ part is, but that’s not what made it amazing and you know it. It’s because we made love. And you know what else? I truly believe Taylor was conceived in love as well. For me, it wasn’t just sex, it meant something.”
“I do know,” he said grinning. “I felt it too. I love you Dannie and I want to make love to you for the rest of our lives.”
Dannie let out another contented sigh and looked up at him. “Promise?”
Cole pulled her closer. “Promise,” he said, “because if you ever left me I might just die.”
Dannie giggled. “I’ll never, ever leave you, so no dying.….” she said and giggled drunkenly again.
Her tinkly giggle gave Cole chill bumps and he smiled. Not so long ago, he had been afraid he would never hear it again.
Then she wiggled her little finger in his face, her eyes glowing. “Pinky swear! Neither of us will ever leave the other. We’re together forever.” She ended her sentence with a flourish.
Cole laughed at Dannie and her pinky swears. But he didn’t care, he would do it for her. Hell, he’d probably do just about anything for her. He scooted around so he could hook his little finger with hers. “I love you, so I happily pinky swear that I will never, ever leave you. We’re together forever.”
After they hooked pinkies, Cole kissed her deeply. Then they lay back down together.
“Are you happy now?” asked Cole teasing.
“Yes,” said Dannie and locked her fingers with his. “It felt like we just said our own private marriage vows. And now we’re married by virtue of our Pinky Promise to each other. I know, it’s silly. But don’t you dare laugh at me.”
He bit back his laugh because that’s exactly what he was going to do. “It’s not silly Dannie, it’s true,” agreed Cole and smirked at her, “Pinky Promises don’t have expiration dates, remember? They’re forever.”
Of Gen 2
Go to the Epilogue >>>>>>
Go Back to Chapter 2.81
A/N: I have a Casting Call thread for Gen 3. It contains sneak peek pics of Gen 3 kids as teens! Click here to see them and get inspired!
To my readers: Thank you for hanging in there with me, reading and commenting. And for those whose sims you let me have to use and abuse – I am eternally grateful. You guys make what I already love doing even more fun! Gen 3 will begin the week of January 20th. Thanks again! ♥♥♥♥♥
♥♥♥♥♥ Happy New Year! ♥♥♥♥♥