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My candidate for this week and for my twelfth post comes from Earth Bound (Sisters of the Heart #4) by Christine Feehan
Synopsis: After escaping from a cult, Lexi found refuge with her sisters on the farm that more than sustained her body—it nurtured her soul as well. But she never forgot the terror she left behind or the always present fear that the cult would find her again, and claim her. Then her nightmare came true.
Lexi was discovered and threatened—only to be suddenly saved by a stranger. He is Gavriil Prakenskii, and he’s awestruck by the woman he’s rescued. She is destined for him. He can feel it in his soul. But how can Lexi find happiness with a man steeped in secrets and shadows, one intimately acquainted with violence, and whose very love could be the death of them?
This scene is a wonderful little glimpse into the daily lives of the Prakenskii brothers and their wives and the adopted children of Max and Airiana. It is cute, funny, and charming.
“Don’t look now,” Max cautioned, “but we’re under surveillance, and it’s not Benito this time.”
Airiana scooted over to casually lean her hip against the railing beside Max, fitting beneath his shoulder. She tried not to laugh. “Nicia and Siena? They’re babies. What in the world are they doing over here?”
“They’ve got Benito’s binoculars, and he’s never far from them,” Max said.
“I think the strap has grown right into his neck,” Airiana agreed. “If the girls are here, Lucia must be as well. She doesn’t let them out of her sight, and this is her first official big babysitting opportunity. I told her I’d pay her to watch the children for an hour or two, but that I’d be on the property if they need us.”
“Where is that little devil?” Max asked. “He’s got to be close by.”
Airiana tilted her head up to Max’s face. “Surely you’re not referring to our son as a ‘devil.’ He’s so like you.”
“My point exactly.”
If you can’t see him,” Blythe said, “he’s really becoming like you. When have you never been able to spot someone sneaking up on you? I think it’s so great that he’s emulating you.”
“They spend every night in our bedroom,” Max groused. “All four of them. The two little girls are in our bed. Lucia sleeps on Airiana’s side on the floor, and Benito sleeps on the my side on the floor. We’ve taken to escaping through the upstairs window to the gazebo. Of course they position themselves perfectly to know if we get up and try to sneak out. That boy has actually tried to follow us.”
Rikki snickered. Lissa burst out laughing. Judith covered her mouth and buried her face in Thomas’s shirt. THomas and Levi laughed uproariously.
“I can see I’m not getting any sympathy from the lot of you,” Max said, but his eyes were laughing, and there was no doubt that he was proud of Benito’s blossoming abilities.
“Fortunately for you,” Levi said, returning to the porch with a picnic basket filled with food, “it isn’t easy to get close to this house. All the ground cover is low and fireproof. He can’t have overheard us.”
“I wouldn’t put it past him to have some sort of a listening device,” Max said. He frowned as he surveyed the food Levi handed over to Blyths. “Is that a picnic basket? I mean like a real one? With a handle and plates and silverware?”
“Does it have a checkered cloth as well?” Thomas asked innocently.
“Go to hell, both of you,” Levi suggested, with a rude gesture behind Rikki’s back. “You’re jealous because I’m civilized and know what a picnic basket is.”
“Is there something wrong with a picnic basket?” Rikki asked, her eyes widening. She turned as though looking to Levi for an answer.
Levi scowled darkly at his brothers. “They’re trolls, baby, of course there’s nothing wrong with using a picnic basket.”
“Oh. I thought maybe you bought it as a joke or something,” she said, looking serious.
Thomas and Max nearly fell to the porch floor laughing. Thomas actually held his sides. Levi couldn’t help laughing either. It was rare for Rikki to tease him. He definitely hadn’t bought the picnic basket. Judith had given it to Rikki, thinking she might use it on her boat when she went diving. Rikki used a cooler, but she treasured the basket because it had been a gift.
“He’s on the roof,” Max said suddenly, his head snapping around. He glared up at the rooftop. “Benito, get down from there right this minute.”
“That’s awesome,” Levi said. “He made it all the way across the open yard and didn’t tip any of us off to this presence. He’s getting good, Max.”
“Benito, I’m warning you. Get your butt down from that rood right this minute,” Max said. “Airiana’s about to have a heart attack.”
Airiana raised her eyebrow. Clearly Max was the one worried about Benito’s safety, but she didn’t contradict him. “Do come down, Benito,” she encouraged.
“Did you come in from the other side of the house?” Levi asked, as the boy shimmied down from the top of the roof to the overhand of the porch.
Before he could answer, Max reached up and caught the boy around the waist, pulling him down and setting him down beside him none too gently. “Stop scaring Airiana.”
“Sorry, Airiana,” Benito murmured, his eyes bright with his accomplishment. He couldn’t stop smiling. “I did it, Max. All three of you and the women. I snuck up on you, and no one even noticed me.”
“You used your sisters as bait, keeping our eyes on them, didn’t you?” Thomas asked.
Benito nodded. “Max said to use any distraction that might seem natural. I knew it would top you off that I was close, but if you weren’t looking at them, you might have felt me getting close to the house.”
Max dropped his hand on top of the boy’s head and carelessly ruffled his hair. “That was good thinking. What did you use to get up on the roof? There’s nothing to climb on to make that kind of height.”
He knew Levi wouldn’t keep a ladder that close to the house and there was no trees to use the branches.
Benito looked smug. “Rikki always sleeps with the window open. I’ve never seen it closed, not once when I’ve come around. I just used the windowsill.”
Max narrowed his eyes at the boy. “You’re not that tall.”
Benito shrugged, but he looked a little apprehensive. “I jumped and caught the beam and swung my legs up.”
Airiana gasped. “Benito, you could have missed and broken something.”
“I know. I realized it wasn’t the smartest idea,” he hastily admitted. “I won’t do it again. I was going to ask Max what would have been a better way to do it, but I was going to wait until you weren’t around.”
Max groaned and looked away from Airiana’s darkening frown.
“Wait until I wasn’t around? What exactly do you two discuss when I’m not around?”
“Man things,” Benito said, puffing out his chest. “Not for women’s ears.”
Max clapped his hand over Benito’s mouth and pulled the boy into him, pretending to strangle him. “You can’t say things like that. How many times do I have to have this conversation with you?”
Airiana made a face at Max. “I see, Benito. How often do you and Max have these little manly talks?”
“Lucia!” Max raised his voice and signaled to the three children still hiding in the brush. “Now would be a really good time for you girls to join us.”
“Coward,” Airiana hissed, and winked at her sisters.