Hey, folks, this is a preview of First Degree Burns, so it's just the first three chapters. First Degree Burns has been published by Desert Palm Press. If you're interested you can get an ebook or paperback copy of it on Amazon or Smashwords and other ereaders written under the name S. L. Kassidy. Details on my profile.

First Degree Burns

Chapter One

The rays of morning sunlight flickered through closed blinds into the bedroom of Nicole Cardell, causing emerald eyes to open. The light wasn't bothersome, not even shining by the bed, but Nicole woke up and immediately appreciated the energy. Easing herself out of bed, making sure not to wake her partner, she went to the window. A soft smile graced her face.

It looks gorgeous outside. I hope the weather forecast was right, because today looks like the perfect day for a picnic. Nicole practically beamed right along with the sun as it cast highlights in her long, auburn hair and made the world shine bright.

Danny Wolfe groaned in her sleep, drawing Nicole's attention from the window. She looked at her girlfriend and noted that the sun gave Danny a bit of a golden halo around her body. Danny's copper toned arm moved around under the covers, clearly searching for her missing lover. Nicole smiled. She misses me in her sleep. Moving silently, she went back to sit on the bed. Danny groaned, again, as her hand settled on Nicole's thigh.

"Chem, lie back down." Danny's voice was a mere grumble, and she didn't bother to open her beautiful, grey eyes. Too bad since she was missing out on a gorgeous morning.

"Sorry, baby, but I'm up and I think I'm going to get ready for Luke and Thomas." Nicole leaned down to kiss her lover's slightly chubby cheek.

Danny's nephews were coming over, as they did almost every Saturday now. Sometimes, they took the boys on short trips, like to the zoo or the children's museum. It was also a chance for Danny to experience things she'd missed out on in her childhood.

"They won't be here for a couple of hours," Danny said.

"I know, but I want to take them on a picnic, so I need to get things ready."

"Picnic?" Danny's forehead wrinkled before she opened one eye. "What's this about a picnic?"

"It's supposed to be really nice today. I want to take the boys on a picnic in the park. I'm sure they'll love it. In fact, I'm sure you'll love it, too." Nicole leaned down and kissed a now smooth forehead.

Danny made a noise, and her eye shut once more. A soft chuckle escaped Nicole, as she eased out of bed again and went downstairs to prepare for the picnic. Most of the food she'd prepared last night, while Danny had occupied herself with her guitar. But she needed to check her list, pack the items, and also make sure there was more than food for them.

By the time she was done, Danny was awake and dressed. Since it was supposed to be warm today, Nicole spared them both the argument of telling Danny to go put on pants. Besides, Danny was in the living room having fun with Haydn, their white German shepherd. There was no reason to bust up a happy morning for everyone with talk Danny didn't want to hear. The doorbell rang, and Haydn high-trotted around Danny as she went to answer it.

"Hey, Dane!" Luke chirped, as soon as the door opened.

Had he gotten taller since last they saw him? Nicole doubted it since they had seen him a week ago, but he definitely was growing like a weed. One day, in a few years, he'd have plenty of girls chasing after him.

"Haydn!" Thomas rushed into the house and hugged the dog. Haydn let out a happy yelp, licking Thomas' face.

Folding her arms down by her stomach, Danny smiled at them and Nicole couldn't fight off a smile of her own. He'd be a little heartthrob, too, when he got older. Thankfully, they'd learn how to deal with it through Luke before Thomas had his go. Thomas had charisma that Nicole was certain shouldn't be in someone so young.

"Nick!" Luke waved to her. He hugged his aunt and then ran over to hug Nicole, who stood in the doorway of the living room. Nicole hugged him back before going to help deal with Adam, in case Danny's brother wanted to chat for a few minutes. Danny didn't do well with Adam and small talk.

Nicole offered him a pleasant smile. "Hello, Adam."

"Hey. I was just telling Dane, I'll be back for the boys at the usual time," Adam said.

The women both nodded, and Adam was gone. Nicole was pleased it seemed to be one of their easier times dealing with Adam. Sometimes, the man lingered with them, asking a million questions and making it seem like he thought they planned to kidnap the boys. Such nervous behavior always set Danny on edge and irked Nicole. They turned their attention to the boys.

"So, who's ready to spend the day at the park?" Nicole inquired with a grin.

"Is Haydn coming, too?" Luke countered. Haydn's whereabouts during trips was always of the utmost importance to both boys.

"Yes, Haydn's coming, too. Nick made a special picnic for us all, and we're going to spend the day at the park." Danny held a hand up like she was delivering an important speech.

The boys cheered, which made Nicole and Danny smile. Nicole gathered the picnic basket, which was more an insulated blue cooler than a basket, that she'd bought after her first picnic with Danny. And, they were off. The weather was gorgeous, especially for early spring, so they silently decided to walk. The trip to the park wasn't long, anyway. Luke and Thomas took control of Haydn's leash, making sure the dog did not run off.

"Now, where should we sit?" Nicole scanned the area with her index finger on her chin. There were picnic tables, but Danny had been kind enough to grab the blanket for them to sit on, so they could get the full picnic effect. Besides, most of the picnic areas with tables were taken and crowded. I guess everyone is taking advantage of the nice weather.

"How about by those trees?" Danny pointed ahead of them. There were a few trees by the clear pond that'd give them a great view of the field, which was freshly cut from the smell of things.

Nicole nodded. The nice shady area would still give them a good view of Luke and Thomas when they, undoubtedly, ran off to play. The couple set up for the picnic while their darling charges ran around the open grass with Haydn. The couple watched them for a moment, just smiling to themselves. Briefly, Nicole reached out and held her lover's hand.

"This was a great idea, Chem," Danny declared, as she laid out the blanket.

Nicole smiled as she helped Danny. "I just hope it doesn't rain like it did the last time I planned a picnic." Of course, it hadn't been so bad.

A light laugh escaped Danny. "Enjoyed that picnic, too. It was my first one. You always treat me to great firsts."

Nicole felt a hot blush in her cheeks from the compliment. "I like it."

Danny flashed her a giant grin, which she had come to love and appreciate. With the blanket in place, Danny moved to go play with her nephews and dog. Grabbing Danny before she got too far, Nicole gave her a little yank.

Danny's forehead wrinkled as she looked down at Nicole. "Uh…yeah?"

"I want you to try something."

"Try something?"

Nodding, Nicole turned and rummaged through the basket until she found what she sought. She held up her bounty. Danny pulled back, scratching her forehead.

"Uh…what is that?" Danny asked.

"This is for your knee, my dear. It should help a little with the pain."

Danny looked at Nicole like she was speaking Greek. Nicole only chuckled. Of course Danny had never considered a knee brace. Honestly, Nicole was pissed with herself for not thinking of this until now.

Danny nodded. "Okay."

"Let me put it on and then you can go join the other scamps."

Danny nodded again, and Nicole quickly strapped the knee brace in place. Giving Danny a thumb's up, Nicole watched as the boys' sapphire eyes lit up with delight when Danny joined her nephews. Haydn barked happily when Danny hopped in, rolling around in the still-green grass.

The sight of Danny playing with her towheaded nephews, and their equally light-haired dog, tickled Nicole. She and Danny had their first picnic on a rainy day in their bedroom. Nicole had expressed her wish that they picnic again, but with a child. Danny naturally volunteered her adored nephews. Nicole had someone different in mind.

Their indoor picnic had been the last time that Nicole casually brought up the idea of them having a child. Danny had confessed that the idea of parenthood scared her. It was a step up from Danny always claiming she never thought about it. Nicole should've expected Danny to be afraid to have children, considering her childhood.

But, Danny had told her she'd truly think about it, now. Nicole could only hope time with the boys would change Danny's mind. She was wonderful with children. Every time Nicole saw the crew, it made her long, just a little more, for her own child with her girlfriend.

Of course, she was getting ahead of herself with such a thought. She refused to really consider a child until she was married, and Danny refused to marry her until she "got to a better place." Besides, they had only been dating for a year and a half. They had plenty of time ahead of them, provided Danny didn't ride her bike in front of any more cars. Of course, Nicole had to make sure she didn't push an issue so hard that Danny felt the urge to run away.

Shaking that thought aside, Nicole turned her attention back to the crew. The boys had Danny on the ground, tickling her. Haydn circled, not sure whom to help. The high pitched, happy, and infectious sounds brought a smile to Nicole's face, despite the fact that she knew those grass stains wouldn't come out.

"Danny really deserves a family that can show her just how great she is." Nicole sighed into the warm air.

Danny considered her all the family she needed. The nephews were an added bonus they both feared would one day be taken away. After all, the boys' mother hated Danny, hated Nicole for being with Danny, and hated their relationship for being unnatural. Adam wasn't the strongest man she had ever met, and she was waiting for the day he caved into his wife's desires to keep the boys away from the evil lesbians. It was like waiting for the apocalypse.

"Danny, you put that boy down right now!" Nicole pointed at them, as her lover limped through the field toward the pond with Thomas over her shoulder. He wiggled like a fish out of water, while Danny threatened to "throw him back."

"Nick said you gotta put me down!" Thomas giggled, reaching out as if wanting to fly into Nicole's arms.

"Nick's not the boss of me!" Danny grinned, making sure to give her girlfriend a playful wink.

"No, but no treats for you if you don't listen," Nicole replied with a smile of her own.

Danny threw her an adorable, but very much exaggerated pout before lowering Thomas from her shoulder. She placed him in front of Nicole and wagged her finger at him. "You're lucky Nick saved you. Go tell her thank you."

Thomas giggled wildly as he darted toward Nicole to express his thanks. She smiled, but the expression was a little forced after she noticed Danny behind him. Her girlfriend was limping much more than usual. She beckoned Danny with a crooked a finger. Danny pouted, assuming she was in trouble.

"I wasn't really going to do it," Danny said.

Nicole smiled and patted the space by her. "I know you weren't. Sit with me for a moment." She turned to Thomas. "Run and go play Frisbee with your brother and Haydn."

Thomas nodded and picked up the Frisbee from the picnic basket. Danny sat down, and Nicole brought her leg into her lap. Unstrapping the brace, she massaged Danny's knee while Danny offered her a smile.

"What happened? We're here ten minutes and your knee's hurting?" Nicole asked. "Of course, you're not helping it by throwing Thomas over your shoulder." It probably didn't help that they had walked to the park, but Danny walked to the park all the time, with Haydn.

Danny had the decency to look sheepish, glancing away and blushing for a second. "I figured that was better than throwing Luke over my shoulder."

"Yes, that would have been worse. But, what happened? Roughhousing usually lasts longer." She thought the knee brace would help playtime last, which they all would've appreciated.

Danny shrugged. "I think one of them fell on my knee while we were rolling around in the grass. Plus, I probably need to get used to the brace."

Nicole nodded. "You might want to consider the surgery if you want to keep up with them." Also, in case they ever had a child, Danny would be able to keep up with the kid.

Danny nodded, but she didn't say anything else on the matter. Nicole wasn't sure what Danny's thoughts were on the surgery. The doctor had suggested that he could at least lessen the residual pain from the broken leg Danny received when she was hit by a car, and from when she was beaten by bookies. Danny hadn't shown any interest in surgery.

"I might," Danny muttered, glancing away briefly.

Nicole arched an eyebrow. "What does that mean? Is it something you really want to do?"

Sighing, Danny scratched her head. "Probably should. I'm not a fan of the hospital, but I would like to be able to run around with them and Haydn."

Nicole nodded, but before she could chime in, Danny got up. She went to toss around the Frisbee with the boys and the dog without putting the brace back on. Nicole watched, wanting to make sure Danny wasn't in serious pain. She seemed fine, but didn't move around much to avoid stressing her leg out any more than it was already. Nicole brought out juice boxes, knowing they'd be thirsty in a few minutes. She was right on point.

"Empty boxes go in this bag." Nicole showed them the empty plastic bag she'd brought for their garbage.

They only nodded and, as soon as the boxes were empty, they were off again. Nicole joined them for a moment to throw around the plastic disc. She was impressed at how high Haydn jumped for the thing. He stole a toss from the boys every now and then. Danny mostly dropped her catches, so Haydn took the disc from her plenty of times.

"Nick, I'm hungry," Thomas announced, rubbing his little belly, which was covered by a t-shirt with a cartoon alien Nicole wasn't familiar with.

"Well, let's have lunch, buddy," Nicole said with a smile.

"Lunch!" Luke cheered, patting his stomach, too.

The group retreated back to the blanket. Nicole passed out more juice and poured Haydn some water in a bowl. The boys got separate halves of a hero sandwich with small bags of potato chips. Danny had a hero sandwich and apple slices.

"No potato salad this time?" Danny asked with a teasing smile.

Nicole shot her lover a slight glare. "You don't need any more potato salad. How do you eat a bowl of potato salad on your own?" Thankfully, Danny hadn't done this recently, but she had done it on more than one occasion.

Danny flashed an impish smile. "Hey, at least I'm not gaining weight."

"Baby, that's not the issue and you know it. It's not healthy to eat a big bowl of potato salad. I don't even want to think about your cholesterol level."

Danny waved her off. "I'm fine."

Nicole couldn't argue. Danny had been to the doctor several times since her accident, had all sorts of examinations, and "passed" them all, including her cholesterol levels. Danny was healthy, which Nicole always took as a miracle considering her girlfriend's life before they met. Nicole shook that away, not wanting to think about Danny's life back then. Hell, she even wanted to forget some parts of Danny's life that they had shared.

"This sandwich is great!" Luke grinned at Nicole. "Thanks for making such a good picnic!"

"You're welcome. I thought this would be nice," Nicole replied, as she leaned down to gently wipe his face of crumbs. This is nice.

Giggling, Luke nodded. "It is." He pulled away from the napkin that brushed his cheek.

"Yeah, we never had a picnic before." Thomas beamed. He was still eating his sandwich, but he was nearly done.

"Oh, finally did something they haven't done before but I have," Danny playfully cheered, pumping a fist in the air.

"You went on a picnic before?" Luke asked with wide eyes. It wasn't surprising that he was stunned. Usually, when they did something outside with the boys, the pleasure was new for Danny, while the boys had done it at least once.

"Oh, yeah. Nick took me on a picnic before."

The boys turned their attention to Nicole and asked her a ton of questions about the picnic she'd taken their aunt on. She smiled and answered what she could, but they were hard to keep up with. She loved their excitement and enthusiasm.

"How come Nick made you a picnic, Dane? Is it because you live together?" Luke innocently inquired.

Danny laughed and looked at Nicole who, only now, realized they had never really explained their relationship to the boys. Hell, she knew Adam would never do it.

"I just wanted to do something nice for Danny," Nicole replied.

The brothers accepted that with shrugs and turned their attention back to their food. Luke finished first and ran off with Haydn to play fetch with a ball. As soon as Danny was done, she joined him. Thomas, on the other hand, finished and curled up against Nicole to take a nap. She held him close and ran her hand through his downy hair. A soft smile settled on her face.

"I want one of these," Nicole whispered with a light laugh. She held Thomas close and enjoyed just listening to him breathe.

She tried to shake the feeling, but it was impossible with the little boy resting on her. She had never felt the tug as much as she did now. She supposed she'd brought it on herself, thinking about kids earlier. Glancing at Danny, she wondered if her lover would want a boy or a girl. Would she want to adopt or have one of us get pregnant? Casting another look at Danny, she realized she couldn't see her girlfriend pregnant.

Now, she wasn't ruling out that Danny might want to get pregnant. After all, her love enjoyed describing herself as a housewife, which no one would think if they saw her. Danny might want to go through a pregnancy. Nicole just couldn't see it; Danny with a swollen belly escaped her mind's eye.

"I would like that." She smiled.

Chuckling, she pictured a whole "honey, I'm home," afternoon. Of course, it was already something they did, but she tried to add a pregnant Danny to the vision. She attempted to add a baby, too. Then, she tried to shake away the thoughts. They were years away from a child. She was still in school, and Danny did not have a steady income. Although, she imagined Danny would be a great stay-at-home mom.

"I don't need to be thinking about this." She hummed aloud, hoping to take her mind off her current thoughts.

Thankfully, Haydn charged over and she was able to focus her attention on him. Haydn whined for a treat, which she gave him. He slurped up some water and charged back to Danny and Luke. Their laughter filled the air again, competing with a few birds. After fifteen minutes, Thomas awoke with fully charged batteries and joined the fray.

Nicole played a little, but mostly watched. She supplied drink and snack to them whenever they came back to the blanket. They all picked up the area when it was time to go.

"We got this, Chem. Just cool out," Danny said, as Nicole moved to throw out their trash. Danny took the bag to the nearest trashcan.

Danny carried the folded blanket, while Luke took charge of the empty basket. Thomas had Haydn's leash, and Nicole had Thomas' hand. They walked back to the house to find Adam leaning against his car, which was parked in front of the their house, shaded by a tree.

"Dad!" Both boys grinned.

Luke put the basket down, while Thomas passed Haydn's leash to Nicole. The brothers charged Adam, who crouched down to hug them. They laughed and began rattling off about their day in the park. Danny and Nicole just watched the scene as Adam led the boys to the car.

"Wait!" Luke turned around and ran back to hug them. He looked up at them with shining eyes. "Thank you for a great picnic." His little brother followed his lead.

"Yeah, thanks." Thomas gave a massive grin.

"We'll do it again sometime soon." Smiling, Nicole rubbed their backs. She thought picnics with Danny and her nephews could easily become her favorite way to spend time outside.

The boys nodded and it seemed like they were gone in the blink of an eye. Thanks to Adam, they saw the boys almost every weekend, now. But he still made sure to get them at six on the dot and barely allowed them a minute to say goodbye. There were only so many times they could blame his wife and those times had passed. Now, it was time to blame his cowardice.

"Let's go cuddle on the couch." Danny grinned, undoubtedly trying to lift Nicole's spirits.

Nicole smiled a bit and shrugged. "That does sound like the perfect way to end the day."

They walked inside, and Danny took a shower while Nicole fixed some snacks. When Danny was done, Nicole went to take a shower and they met on the couch. A movie played on television, but Danny fell asleep with her head in Nicole's lap, worn out, undoubtedly. Nicole zoned out, listening to Danny's light breathing and staring at the framed picture sitting on the coffee table.

The photograph was possibly the only baby picture of Danny in existence. She had taken it from her mother, Christine, who had kept a shoebox of keepsakes from Danny's childhood. Nicole couldn't understand how anyone could keep an entire childhood in a shoebox and think that meant something, but she didn't understand Christine at all.

Christine had tried to do the impossible, forsake Danny and keep her close. It had worked as well as one might expect. She had thrown her daughter away to please her husband. She still didn't want to admit the ghastly decision, but she was now trying to build something with Danny. Was it only because she was certain her husband wouldn't leave her now? Nicole didn't know the whole story, but little by little, Danny was telling her about Christine. Every new bit of information troubled Nicole a little bit more. She didn't understand how Danny managed to survive that household. Well, she's strong.

"Not that it would ever come up, but I can't see Mommy throwing me away to save her marriage," Nicole muttered. "But, then again, I am Mommy's only child." Christine had three others before Danny.

"She wouldn't throw you away if she had a dozen kids," Danny assured her with a yawn.

Nicole glanced down at Danny. "When did you wake up?"

"As soon as the credits started rolling. Movies are getting so boring now. Why are you thinking about my mother?"

Squinting a bit as she eyed Danny, Nicole couldn't help wondering if her beloved was suddenly psychic. "How'd you know I was thinking of your mother?"

Danny wiggled a bit, popping a couple of joints in her neck. "Because you're trying to figure out how someone could throw away a child to save their marriage. One of the many things my mother has done. So, why are you thinking of her?"

Nicole smiled a bit. "I was just admiring your baby picture and she popped into my mind. Have you spoken to her recently?"

A snort escaped Danny, and she stretched as she yawned again. "She's been calling, but I haven't been in the mood to talk to her. It takes a lot of work to wade through the bullshit. I try, but it's so goddamn hard."

"Well, let's not think about that. We still have a couple of hours before we need to go to bed."

"We should have a light dinner. Want me to heat up that pasta from last night?"

"Yes, please."

Danny walked into the kitchen, and Nicole took the time alone to try to get her mind right. She hated being unable to get babies off of her mind today. But, looking at the baby picture of a red-skinned, curly-haired, almost blond Danny made her think about holding such a child to her chest, singing a lullaby. The way her body melted at the thought, she knew she was a lost cause. Her biological clock was about to explode before she turned thirty.

"I can't jump the gun like this. I have to get married first, and I have to let Danny get settled, whatever that means. So, stop thinking about this," Nicole ordered herself in a low growl.

She shook it off enough to enjoy dinner. Danny ended up playing with Haydn before they both took him for his nighttime walk. Once their little man was tucked away in his crate, they retreated to their bedroom.

Danny was in bed first, mostly because she had fewer bedtime ablutions compared to Nicole. In fact, Nicole was the one that put lotion on Danny every couple of days, because Danny would just let her skin go dry. If Nicole tried to lotion her everyday, Danny would complain about being babied. Nicole also had to remind Danny to floss, no matter how much she complained about it.

"Today was great. Had a lot of fun with the boys." Danny smiled, as Nicole lay down next to her.

Nicole wasn't sure where her response to this came from, but she blamed her goddamn, overactive ovaries. She rolled over onto Danny and gave her a sexy smirk. Danny's arms automatically went around her, as Nicole said the least sexy thing possible.

"How about we practice making one of our own?" Nicole purred, gently grinding against her lover's leg. As soon as the words left her mouth, she felt horrified. She thought Danny might see right through her forehead into her mind and know exactly what had been on her mind all day.

Danny did give her a tilted look and, for a long moment of silence, Nicole was sure her heart would beat right out of her chest. She wasn't sure about Danny's stance on children now, but she knew the suggestion, in the past, hadn't garnered much of a positive reaction. She hoped she hadn't just accidentally blurted her way out of making love with Danny.

"Practice does make perfect," Danny replied with a sexy smirk before going in for a kiss.

She smiled against Danny's lips and opened her mouth to receive her lover. Internally, she breathed a sigh of relief and decided that full sentences were done for the rest of the night. She limited her vocabulary to moaning, crying out, and occasionally screaming Danny's name to the heavens.


The night was quiet, except for Danny's heavy breathing. Nicole would have to move Danny off of her stomach if she didn't roll over on her own, not because of the breathing, but because she wanted Danny to hold her in her sleep. Of course, she had to fall asleep for that to happen, but her mind wasn't ready to turn off just yet.

She was still stuck on this idea of having a baby with Danny. If that was her heart's desire, she realized she'd have to do something to move their relationship forward. She didn't want to think about it that way, because the last time she pushed Danny, they had almost broken up, and Danny had been hit by a car.

This wasn't about shoving anything on Danny, especially not after they had made such great progress. They had gone on dates and trips, getting closer and gaining better understandings of each other. They had also gained a better understanding of what they wanted from their relationship. It made her confident that one day she and Danny would have a family together.

Yes, these six months had made them stronger, but now they needed more. She needed to do something to remind Danny that she was endgame for her. She had taken to letting Danny come with her on business trips, mixing business and pleasure. Danny understood what that meant, but it had been a while since they had done that.

What's to do? Nicole stared off into the darkness, as if it had the answers. Unless the occasional passing car and floating headlights were answers, the nighttime had nothing.

She really didn't know what to do beyond what they were already doing. She had known Danny for as long as her longest relationship had lasted. She felt like she had done everything with Danny as she had with other lovers, and more. She definitely never imagined marriage or fantasized kids with another lover. Between meeting her family and their vacations, she wasn't sure what was left.

Wait, she hasn't met my whole family, and she hasn't done one of the things that I love to do.

There was still her father's side of her family. They'd probably receive Danny similarly to how her mother's side had. Her mother's family liked Danny and had, albeit playfully, encouraged her to marry Danny. Of course, there had been a few hiccups, like when her grandfather embarrassed them at Thanksgiving. Benito misunderstood why Danny proclaimed she wouldn't see her family for the holiday. Thankfully, her girlfriend and grandfather worked it out and came out stronger than before.

So, I should let Danny meet my other cousins and aunts and uncles. It's been a while, anyway. We should go camping.

Glancing at her lover, Nicole knew Danny would go, even though Danny had, admittedly, never gone camping. Danny had gone skiing with her, even though she was fairly certain she wouldn't be able to do it with her knee and leg. Danny liked to try things, even things she didn't think she could do. Besides, Danny seemed to be of the mind that camping was easier compared to being homeless.

Nicole didn't like to think about Danny being homeless, but she was slowly accepting that part her lover's life. She hated that homelessness probably had been the better choice for Danny, instead of living at her parents' house. She refused to even think of that place as Danny's home. No place that held tortures in the walls and screams in its memories could be home. The few things she knew and continued learning about her lover helped her accept Danny's vagabond lifestyle, because she could see how much Danny was improving.

Is that her way of moving us forward? Opening up a little more each day? Nicole mused.

Danny groaned and moved a bit. She turned onto her side and reached for Nicole. Unable to stop it, a smile settled on Nicole's face as she moved closer to her beloved, tingling at the feel of their naked skin touching once more. Danny wrapped her up in her arms and held her close without waking up. She put her hand over Danny's, which was over her heart.

"I love you so much," Nicole whispered and brought Danny's hand to her lips. She placed a gentle kiss to those long fingers and closed her eyes.

She dreamed of camping, instead of babies, which cemented things for her. She'd put together a camping trip for them and her family. Danny would meet some of her favorite cousins and hopefully things would go well. If nothing else, she'd be able to share a well-loved tradition with her beloved. Maybe they'd be able to carry on the tradition if Danny enjoyed herself.