A/N: I know this isn't an addition to the "Wanting Something More" story arc that most of my readers have been hoping for. This is something else I've written, before WSM was ever thought of. It, like WSM and the related stories, is under the revision process and currently being rewritten. I'm working primarily on rewriting this story and Distance Makes the Heart, but Distance is undergoing more serious revision, so I thought I'd throw this story out and see if anyone enjoyed it. It hasn't been read by anyone for about five years, and never in its revised form, but I figured it was worth a try. Please note, the Lydia in this story is NOT the same Lydia from my other stories. I had a fixation with the name several years ago and grew so attached to the characters in both stories that name changes were out of the question. Anyway, read if you want to, review if you feel generous, and I'll try to have some of Distance up in a month or so? Other than that...it's good to be back.

Chapter One

Lydia Hale balanced her eighteen-month old baby on her hip as she fumbled with her keys. She unlocked the door and stepped into her kitchen, nudging the door shut with her foot and then putting Ryan down. The toddler waddled across the tile floor with his favorite stuffed yellow duck clutched in his tiny hands as Lydia pushed aside a box of crayons and a stack of vibrantly colored pictures to make room on the kitchen table for her purse. She turned around, stepped over a stuffed rabbit and a tiny pair of boots, and made her way to the laundry room adjoining the kitchen. There, she took a pair of grass-stained blue jeans and a sweaty tee shirt off of the top of the dryer, picked up two pairs of socks off the floor, and dropped them all into the laundry basket. A few tendrils of her tawny blonde hair had worked their way out of her clip, and she absently brushed them out of her face, tucking them behind one ear as she left the laundry room.

Her son had disappeared from the kitchen in the minute she'd let him out of her sight, and she sighed loudly as she set off in search of the toddler, picking up a variety of toys as she made her way through the living room. She dropped them all into the toy basket by the foot of the stairs, then started for the dining room and study—it was the only room that Ryan could be in now that she'd checked the others. She rounded the corner and gasped as she found herself enveloped in a pair of strong, muscular arms. She released the tension from her body as she heard a familiar laugh. "Easy, babe, it's just me."

Lydia looked up into her husband's smiling face and sparkling green eyes. She managed a weak smile and kissed him quickly in greeting. "Sorry…you just startled me, and it's just been one of those days…" she trailed off as she peered around her husband's body and saw their son happily playing on the floor with his duck and a stack of blocks.

Her husband's expression changed to one of concern as he gave her a sympathetic frown. "Need to vent?" he asked.

She shook her head wearily. "It's just so much, Trent…" she sighed. "I'm so glad that this is my last semester—I don't think I'd ever finish if I had to go back next year. School just puts so much more stress on me, and we just can't afford to have me not home right now, you know? I don't think I've stopped moving all day, first classes and then I had to go get Ryan from my parents and take him for his check-up and I walk in just now and the house is a mess, so I can't even take a second to stop and get off my feet because I need to straighten up, and I don't have time for that because I've got to figure out what we're doing for dinner, and after dinner I…"

"Shh," Trent put one finger up to her lips and pulled her into a tight embrace. He rubbed one hand up and down her back soothingly. "It's okay, Lyds. I'm sorry I let the house get this bad; we just got carried away playing this afternoon. I'll tell you what, why don't you go lay down for a little while, and I'll straighten up down here, and when you wake up, we'll all go out for dinner. How does that sound?"

"Wonderful, but we can't," Lydia shook her head. "I can't. We'll just think of something easy for dinner tonight and if I can get the house straightened up and everyone off to bed on time, maybe I can get a little extra rest. Have you picked up the girls yet, or are they still at my sister's?"

"They're playing in their room," Trent replied. "I sent them up there about fifteen minutes ago…I had planned to straighten up before you got home."

"I'm going to go see them," she said. "I'll be back down in a minute and we'll figure out dinner." She turned and headed for the staircase, picking up still more toys as she climbed each step to the second floor. At the second floor landing, she rounded the corner and peered around the first door on the right side of the hall. Her four-and-a-half year old twin daughters were playing together, oblivious to their mother's presence. Ariana, the younger twin, had pulled on her princess dress that she'd worn the last Halloween and had a plastic wand in her hand, with a silver tiara balanced on her golden curls. Holly's school clothes lay in a crumpled heap on the floor, and she had changed into her riding clothes, complete with black velvet riding helmet, and was sitting on the edge of her bed earnestly trying to tug on her riding boots.

"Well, well, what do we have here?" Lydia asked as she smiled warmly at her daughters. Their heads immediately snapped up at the sound of her voice, and grins beamed on their faces as they saw their mother in the doorway.

"Mommy!" they both cried. Ariana jumped up, throwing aside her wand, and ran to wrap herself around Lydia's legs. Holly followed much more slowly as she hobbled across the floor with her tall boots half-on. Lydia caught her halfway and scooped her up into her arms, giving her a tight hug a kiss on the cheek.

"What have you two been up to?" Lydia asked as she put Holly back on the floor and helped her finish putting on her boots.

"We're playing dress-up," Ariana replied matter-of-factly. "I'm a princess fairy godmother, and Holly is you."

"Holly is me?" Lydia turned to her older daughter again and saw her nodding eagerly.

"I wanted to be like you in that picture," Holly explained.

"What picture?" Lydia asked, furrowing her brow in thought. She couldn't imagine where Holly had seen a picture of her dressed in show attire—she hadn't ridden in a horse show since before the twins were born.

"The picture Grandma has in her house," Holly said. "Remember? You said it was the day you met Daddy."

"Oh, that picture!" Lydia exclaimed. Now she realized which picture Holly had meant; a few weeks before, the girls had discovered a picture of Lydia and her horse Quasar taken nearly six years before at a horse show; it happened to have been the same show where she had first met Trent, as Lydia had told the girls when they asked her about the picture. She shook her head in amazement at her daughter's seemingly random memory. "Well, you both look absolutely beautiful. Did you have a good day at school?"

"Uh-huh!" Ariana replied. "Come look at what I made!"

"Me too!" Holly echoed as both girls grabbed their mother by the hand and led her downstairs. Lydia sat on the couch as the girls rummaged in their backpacks for their art projects from that day. Ariana found hers first and eagerly handed it to Lydia.

Lydia gently took the Popsicle-stick framed picture from Ariana and studied it. A picture of Ariana was pasted on a bright red, construction paper heart, which was glued on a bigger square of white paper. The Popsicle sticks had been colored pink and red and decorated with little hearts, and around her picture were the words, "Happy Valentine's Day". Beneath the picture, in Ariana's messy print were the words, "I Love You", followed by her name scrawled across the bottom.

"This is beautiful, Ariana," Lydia praised her younger daughter. "Holly, did you make me a Valentine, too?" Holly nodded her blonde head and showed her mother her own art project, which Lydia praised as highly as Ariana's. "And look," she added, "they have magnets on the back of them! I'm going to go hang these on the refrigerator right now!"

The girls followed closely as she went into the kitchen and proudly displayed their latest creations on the refrigerator, which was already covered in dozens of drawings and art projects the girls had brought home. Trent entered the kitchen from the side door with Ryan in his arms. He walked over to the rest of his family and observed the new additions to the refrigerator. "I see my two favorite girls didn't make me a valentine," he said, pretending to be hurt.

Holly rolled her eyes—she had learned that her father could seldom be taken seriously. "Daddy!" she said, exasperated, "they're for both of you!"

Trent smiled and rumpled his oldest daughter's hair. "Thank you, princess." He took Lydia by the arm and pulled her towards the dining room. "Let me talk to your mom for a second, girls. We'll be right back."

In the dining room, Trent plopped down into his huge armchair and pulled Lydia down into his lap. Ryan immediately scrambled out of Trent's arms and into Lydia's lap. She kissed her baby on his forehead and turned to her husband. "What did you need to talk to me about?"

"Dinner tonight," he replied. "I had a thought, while you were upstairs with the girls."

"Oh really?" Lydia raised her eyebrows in interest. "What was that?"

"Well…why don't we make like…peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and chicken noodle soup for the kids? Quick and easy, right?" he suggested, kissing her softly before continuing. "And then after that, while you give Ryan his bath and put him to bed, I'll have the girls help me straighten up down here—we'll make a game of it, the person who picks up the most toys gets a dollar or something. Once Ryan's asleep and we're done cleaning up, you can make sure the girls get a bath and put them in bed, and while you're taking care of them, I'll go out and pick up some Chinese food. And when I come back, I'll build a fire and we'll pop in a movie down here and cuddle up with our dinner and have a nice little date, just you and me."

"Hmm…some alone time with my husband?" Lydia replied thoughtfully. "I like the sound of that…but what's the occasion? Just because you love me?"

"Well of course I do," Trent grinned and kissed her. "But you and I need a date soon, and since I have a game tomorrow night, our Valentine's Day is going to be pretty non-existent." She frowned at that and Trent reached up to brush his fingers against her cheek. "Baby, you knew about this game…"

"I know," she sighed. "It's just ridiculous…don't people understand that you're not just hockey players, that you have families and wives that want to see you on holidays? And attendance is going to be poor anyway tomorrow—why schedule a game on Valentine's Day when everyone is going to be at a romantic location with their significant other?"

"I know it's not easy for you, Lyds," Trent squeezed her hand reassuringly. "But we can have our Valentine's Day, tonight, if that's what you want."

She smiled softly at him as she rose from his lap, handed the baby back to him, and started for the kitchen.

Trent jumped up after her, "Hey, hey, where are you going?"

She turned to look at him with her sparkling blue eyes and smiled again. "To start making chicken noodle soup."