Toddlers Brett and Noelle were able to feed themselves once the food was brought to them in their high chairs. They jabbered a lot and when the adults couldn't understand, Alain or Desiree translated.
The day Alain brought home his first A+ report card he exploded into the kitchen to show Lalique, who was properly impressed. Desiree had invited schoolmate Melinda Howard to supper. She was a little jealous and hoped she would receive her first A+ soon. Alain quickly seemed to develop a crush on Melinda, but she seemed oblivious.
The babies had learned to walk and talk but there was so much more to discover. They were both even more active children than their older siblings had been at that age. Each day was a learning adventure so Lalique had re-installed the safety gate at the top of the stairs.
Christabel Smith and Randy Hanzlik were two more children who came over for a play-date which included playing a video game in Lalique's bedroom and a fried chicken supper. When Alain again began to brag during the meal about his exploits on the playground and his talent at games Lalique surmised that he also had a thing for Christabel. At least he was keeping his new found interest in girls universal, rather than specific.
It was late spring and after almost a year of seeing Perry regularly and spending the Christmas holidays together Lalique had to admit to herself that she was crazy for the man. She couldn't decide if she'd fallen in love with him in spite of--or because of--the alpha male aspect of his personality. He could be overwhelming and intoxicating and every day she learned more about him. It only added to her immense admiration and respect for him, not to mention the killer physical attraction she felt whenever she heard his deep voice. Below that naturally arrogant yet charming exterior was a warm, highly intelligent and kindhearted man, not unlike her own father. He was still unfailingly patient and loving with the kids. In fact, he was throwing out little hints now and then that he might ask her to marry him. Lalique decided to go to her mother for counsel.
"Let's go upstairs to Melanie and Gareth's den--it's more private and they're gone for the weekend to Raleigh for an arts seminar at the University. Your father and I are taking care of the children. Monique can play in here with us and Scarlett is still at school," Olivia told her.
Lalique explained that she was unsure what to do about her relationship with Perry.
"Do you believe he is a good man at heart?" Olivia asked. She herself thought he was quite a remarkable man, but she wasn't the one seeing him.
"Oh, yes! Of that I am sure."
"Then do you doubt his love for you?"
"He takes every opportunity to show me how much he cares and he's supportive and affectionate. It's just...well, I can't help wondering why he chose me."
"What?" Olivia said indignantly rearing up like a defensive mother bear, "Lalique I brought you up to have more self-esteem than that."
Lalique hastened to explain,
"Oh, I know I'm reasonably attractive and intelligent, but I come with so much baggage, Mom, and he's such a "catch", handsome with an important and lucrative job as assistant district attorney. And if he went into private practice he'd be equally successful. He's good at everything and anything; very accomplished. It's not even a struggle for him. So he could have anyone. When we go out I see the women drooling over him even though he pays no attention to them. Some of them are sophisticated society women. I'm thinking that he may want to go further into politics one day, though he says not. In other words he could have a woman with no past to be ashamed of and no children who would be an asset to his career."
"I can't imagine Perry making disparaging remarks, does he say it's important to him to marry the "right woman"? Olivia sounded incredulous.
"Oh, no! He says he knew I was the girl for him from the first time we met and he's always praising me and telling me he's proud to be with me. It's not him, I guess, well, I guess it's me. I love him so much, Mom, but I'm a little worried. I've always been on my own, been responsible for myself. I've been terrified of being hurt, so I was afraid to trust in something that might disappear, scared that I'd become dependent and then go to pieces if things went wrong."
Olivia knew that much of this fear stemmed from the time Lalique's old boyfriend, Devon, took off for New York when his book was published after college. Then when he returned and tried to get back with Lalique she was afraid to trust him. Eventually he married Lalique's old friend and rival, Grace Lassiter. John Lassiter's oldest daughter.
"Is there a problem with you having children that aren't his? Does he hope for a child of his own?"
Lalique shook her head,
"He's wonderful with the kids. And he was told when his wife got sick that he could not father a child, so he's not expecting that. I really wouldn't want another child with the four I have--well, no that's a lie--I'd love to have his child if he was able, but he seems at peace with that."
Olivia put her hand to her daughter's cheek,
"My dear, I can only tell you that which I have learned myself. With love there can be hurt and there definitely is always risk. The trouble is that the pain in love is mixed with the joy and the good. And there is no way to separate them out. You take them both or you get nothing at all.
Life itself is a gamble. I knew when I married your father that the odds were against us considering the way he'd lived his life up to that time, but we persevered. Our marriage has not been without problems, but always the good has outweighed the bad. In the end only you can decide if Perry is worth taking a chance on, it's your decision."
Lalique gratefully hugged her mother and headed to her car, parked in their driveway. As she drove back to Blue Water she mulled over the truth her mother had given her that love didn't promise freedom from all pain. She decided that to back away from Perry would be the stupidest thing she could ever do--and that was saying a lot since she'd done so many dumb things in her time. She didn't want to chalk up another mistake. Besides, she was addicted to him, it was useless to deny it.
Her fears had been allayed by Olivia just in time it seemed because it was a week later that Perry proposed.
"You might as well say yes because you belong to me, honey. I knew you were supposed to be mine from that first night I came here and we argued on the front porch. That's why I kissed you," he grinned confidently.
Lalique had to snicker a bit,
"Perry, honestly you are such a dictatorial, presumptuous, egotistical man--and you get away with murder. I ought to pinch your head off for saying I 'belong' to you when I haven't even answered your proposal. Really, it's a miracle that I love you," and she paused and said more softly, "But I really, really do, my love. So much I can't even tell you. Besides, you're a hottie and you love my kids. So, my answer is yes, I will marry you."
The always calm and controlled Perry put the ring on her finger and rose from one knee. Lalique could feel his heart beating like a trip-hammer when he pulled her up against him and softly kissed her eyes, the tip of her nose and then her mouth.
"I love you, Lalique," he said, "I'm going to make you and the kids so happy and keep you so safe you'll never be sorry. I swear it."
They didn't set a date but she knew he was ready to run off to Vegas with her at the earliest opportunity. They eventually decided a fairly small wedding, mostly just their two families, would be best and Lalique said she needed a couple months to plan it at least. Perry was so pleased with his new fiancee that he refused to argue about how soon it would be. So the plans remained tentative.
Next update: Lalique Flynn Ch. 13 Things Change