For those of you who asked for it, here is the "short" story line for the Cowboy and his Sidekick's shopping adventure........ (A behind the scenes look from the Ackerman Security Consultants series)
Shopping... It’s an adventure!
“You want us to get what?” Jake Lawson asked his fiancée, staring at the list she’d put in his hand.
Pushing her wavy red hair away from her face, Natalya Jennings gave Jake an innocent blink. “It’s all right there. In writing, Cowboy.” She tapped the paper with the tip of her finger.
Jake studied the list once again, his eyes going round as saucers. “You’ve lost your mind, darlin’. No way am I picking up THESE items,” he snarled, pointing to several things on the list.
“What’s wrong, partner?” Stefan Cupertino asked, walking into the room, overhearing the tail end of the conversation. “You afraid to pick up butter and eggs for your woman?” He winked at Cayla, giving her hand a squeeze.
Snarling at his best friend and partner, Jake narrowed his eyes, waving the list in the air, “Read this and then you’ll be right there alongside me in refusing to buy some of the items on this list.”
Unable to hide his grin, Stefan took the proffered list and read over it, shrugging his shoulders when he got to the end. “Only question I have is why are we buying ‘Aunt Flo’ items when both of you are pregnant?”
Slapping a hand down on the counter, Jake snapped, “Exactly!”
Biting her lip in an effort to hide her laughter, Cayla shared a knowing look with her twin. She and Nat had discussed what all they needed from the store with Hannah and the other ladies of the house. Each of them had offered to go shopping, but the guys had all adamantly refused to allow that. Not when there was a threat lying over their heads and someone out to kill at least one of them, if not more. They were still on the hunt for Mr. X, the person behind the drug trafficking and the attempted murder of Rosalind, Z’s fiancée.
“You find this funny?” Jake snapped at Cayla, his soon to be sister-in-law. He loomed over her petite frame earning a hard shove from Stefan.
“Watch your step, partner. How’d you like me to try that crap with Nurse Nat over there?” Stefan asked.
Cayla blinked up at Stefan with a look of fury. “You think I can’t handle myself against the Cowboy, here?” She rolled her eyes at Nat. “Do you think they’re always going to underestimate us?”
“That’d be my take on things,” Hannah Marie Ackerman stated, stepping into the kitchen, grabbing a can of Pepsi from the fridge. “They’ve been that way as long as I’ve known them.”
“Kitten.” The one word held so much meaning coming from Spade, one of Hannah’s fiancés.
“Don’t Kitten me, Spade Dartrazenoff. You know very well that I’m right,” Hannah spat out at him, filling her glass with ice from the door of the freezer. “Every one of you males are overprotective and often underestimate the power we females hold.” She arched a brow in challenge.
“My brother,” Nicholas Callahan, Hannah’s other fiancé, began, “you know better than to argue with the angel when she gets on her soapbox.” He moved across the room, taking the glass of ice from her, pouring her Pepsi over it before handing it back to her. “Now what’s all the fuss about? You guys all know better than to start these discussions until after Hannah’s had at least one Pepsi or a latte.”
Once again Jake retrieved the list and held it into the air, “First, we didn’t know Hannah was on her way in here or I, for one, would have avoided this discussion altogether. Secondly, would you look at this damn list of items my darlin’ thinks Stefan and I need to get at the store? I’d kill for my woman but I am not buying feminine products that she doesn’t even need for at least another five months.”
Nick took the list and held it out so he and Spade could both read it. Each of them smirked at the other then handed the list back to Jake. “I’d suggest you call when you get there to make sure you pick up the right products or you’ll find yourselves making a return trip. Pictures might help, too,” Nick stated with amusement in his tone. He and Spade both knew who the products were for and they had to admit, they were glad it wasn’t them going to the store, but they would have, IF they’d have drawn the short straws. But since they didn’t, it was on the Cowboy and his Sidekick to do the chore.
Mumbling under his breath, Jake kissed Natalya with a huff, his eyes softening when he looked down at her, but his face still showed the frustration. Grabbing his hat from the rack by the door, he tossed the SUV keys to Stefan. “Let’s get this done, partner.”
Dropping a kiss on top of Cayla’s head, Stefan easily caught the keys and winked at his woman. “Call me if y’all have anything to add to the list while we’re gone, little filly.”
Opening the passenger door to the SUV, Jake was still grumbling under his breath when the sound of light footsteps startled him out of his rambling. He knew it wasn’t Stefan, because his partner didn’t make a sound when he walked. Pivoting on his heels, it took him a moment to focus downward instead of outward. “Fawn? Something I can do for you, Princess?” His tone of voice automatically softened when speaking to the six year old that had every one of them wrapped around her finger.
“You can get the door,” she stated, matter of factly, pointing to the backdoor of the SUV. “I’m going with you and Uncle Stefan. Daddy and Grandpapa Harm said I could.” She flashed a thousand watt smile at him. “Besides, somebody has to make sure you get the right ice cream for Aunt Nat.” Holding her hand to her mouth like she was whispering to him, “I’m trying to keep you out of trouble, Uncle Cowboy.”
Opening the door with an Old World bow, Jake grinned at her, “Good thing I have you around, then, huh?”
“Yes sir! It’s a very good thing,” Fawn said, buckling her seat belt around the booster seat. Most of the SUVs had one already installed in case Fawn rode with them, but her usual choice of rides was with Stefan and Cayla, Jake and Nat. “Oh! And don’t forget that we should get Grandmama Ivy some flowers. They make her smile.”
Shaking his head, Jake slid into the passenger seat at the same time Stefan cranked the vehicle. “Shouldn’t Harmond be the one buying Ivanna flowers, Princess?”
Crossing her arms over her chest, she frowned at the back of Jake’s head, “Shouldn’t you want to bring a smile to any of the ladies’ faces in the house, if you can?”
Chuckling low in his throat, Stefan glanced at Jake as he pulled out onto the main road, “She’s got you there, partner.”
Walking down the aisles of the supercenter, Jake sighed, yet again, “I still don’t understand why we’re buying these items,” he declared, pointing out the lady things. “They don’t use these when they’re pregnant.”
Fawn tsked at him. “Uncle Cowboy, let me ask you something…” She paused making sure he was looking down at her. “Are Aunties Nat and Cayla the only ladies in the house?”
Jake’s mouth moved like a fish out of water. He opened it to say something then stopped himself. Repeating the action several times; his gaze moved up to meet the amusement in Stefan’s eyes. “What do you know about this?”
Laughing, Stefan shared a fist bump with Fawn then turned his attention back to Jake. “Are you really that obtuse, partner? You can’t do the math and figure out who we are buying THOSE items for?”
Stunned, Jake just stood there staring at his partner. Words failed to form. He wasn’t even sure he could breathe. The only thing that brought him out of his stupor was the fact that some elderly lady rounded the corner of the aisle and bumped into him with her cart. He tipped his hat at her, accepting her apology before gathering his wits. “Please tell me we aren’t buying these for Hannah Marie.”
Giggling, Fawn slapped her hands against her knees in laughter, “Okay, Uncle Cowboy. We won’t tell you.” Glancing up to Stefan, she tried to wink at him. “I just don’t get what the big deal is. It’s not like ALL ladies don’t need those things once in a while. How come Uncle Cowboy is turning all red? Is he choking or something?”
Slapping Jake on the back, Stefan cupped his shoulder with a shake, “All these years I thought you were the toughest one out of the two of us and look how you’ve shattered my image of you, now.” He chuckled at Jake’s scowl. “You’re really going to let a box of tampons bring you to your knees, partner? Do you think Hannah would blink twice about buying a box of condoms for one of us guys if we asked her to?”
That brought a snarl and a growl from Jake’s lips, “Like any of us would ever ask that of her.”
Fawn started laughing again, tapping Jake’s thigh, “That’s probably something you and Uncle Stefan should have done before the cruise, huh?”
“Not even funny, mini Hannah. Not one bit,” Jake snapped, but his eyes crinkled with laughter. Okay, so the girl might only be six, but she had spent her whole life on military bases or around men and women connected to the service, so she knew more than she should, but still. He looked up at Stefan, “Did we just get reprimanded by a six year old for forgetting that particular thing when we…..” He let the words hang in the air and then wondered why he’d spoken them out loud instead of sending them telepathically to his partner.
“If you don’t know for sure, then I’m not gonna tell ya,” Fawn giggled out. Walking away from them, she went right up to the feminine products and started reading the brands loud enough for them to hear her.
“Princess,” Stefan whispered, “Your Uncle Cowboy is having enough trouble over here. Think you could keep it to a level one on the voice decibel system?”
Her eyes lit up when she tipped her chin upward. “I could do that. The question is, do I WANT to do that?” She couldn’t hide the laughter in her expression. She was having too much fun. Now she knew why the other ladies so often pushed their ‘men’ to the brink. It was like having your own private party of fun.
“Can we just get this already and then tackle the rest of the list?” Jake asked, clearly frustrated.
“Does the list say what brand or size?” Stefan asked, he was now starting to see the humor in the situation and having a hard time not laughing right alongside of Fawn.
Jake stared at the list as if it would change before his eyes, “Of course not. That’s why Nicholas was having such a good time with this before we left. Damn… I mean darn him.” Correcting his language, since Fawn was there; something they were all trying to do.
Holding her hand out, palm up, Fawn motioned towards his phone. “Uncle Nick said to take pics and send back.” Her eyes suddenly turned mischievous. “I say we do exactly what he said. Send pics to him; lots and lots of pics.”
Hooting out a laugh, Jake crouched down to her level, giving her a high five, “Sometimes I like the way you think, little Princess.” He handed the phone to her and let her proceed to take a picture of every single item on the shelf. He and Stefan took turns lifting her up so she could get close-up shots of the items on the top shelves.
“I think we should park our cart by the coffee stand and have some hot chocolate while we send off all the pics to Uncle Nick. Whatcha think?” Fawn asked, licking her lips at the thought of hot chocolate and the whipped cream they put on top.
“I’ll buy,” Jake offered, smiling down at Fawn when she tucked his phone into the pocket of her dress and slipped her hand into his.
Stefan followed behind them, pushing the shopping cart along the way. Both he and Jake let Fawn order, another trait that she’d picked up from their boss lady. Although, they had to admit, the little one knew exactly how they liked their coffee, so they couldn’t very well argue with her. He sent a telepathic message to Hannah, letting her know that whatever Nicholas received on his phone over the next few minutes was from Fawn and not Jake. He was trying to keep his partner out of trouble, mostly.
Curled up on the sofa with her head resting against Nick’s side, her feet in Spade’s lap, Hannah burst out laughing when Nick swore under his breath at the thirty-seventh picture that had popped up on his phone.
“I’m gonna kill the Cowboy when he gets home,” Nick blurted out.
“No you’re not,” Hannah said, softly, sharing a look with Spade. She’d relayed Stefan’s message to Spade, so the joke really was on Nick.
“This is your own fault, my brother,” Spade reminded him. “You’re the one that told him he’d need to send pictures.”
Growling, “Yes, but that was when I thought he’d send them to Nat, not me. I mean what the heck? Like I know what he needs to get,” Nick snarled.
“You mean you don’t?” Spade asked, winking at Hannah, his hand rubbing over her stomach muscles. “I know exactly what our angel uses. I pay attention.”
Spade’s softly spoken words brought a slight giggle to Hannah’s lips and a tear to her eyes. Her hard edged man had a soft side that only she was privy to, but this, knowing he paid attention to something so, embarrassing to her, touched her soul. “You do?” she asked in a whispered tone.
Nodding his head, Spade massaged the knotted muscles under his fingertips, “Of course I do, Kitten. Nick does too, he’s just being a hard-head today,” he added with a wink.
“So I do,” Nick admitted, “What of it?” Deleting yet another round of pics from his phone.
“So answer them so they’ll stop sending pictures to you,” Spade replied, grinning down at Hannah, “Sometimes you have to lead him by the hand.”
“Oh that was just mean, my love,” Hannah admonished, although there was laughter in her eyes. “Nick’s one of the smartest people I know,” she added, smoothing her hand over his thigh.
“Thank you, Love,” Nick told her, dropping his head down to press a kiss to her forehead. “I’m still gonna kill the Cowboy,” he muttered, sending off the text with the name brand, size, and any other detail he could think of.
“You say that now, but when you find out it’s not Jake sending those pics, you’ll amend your statement, Nicholas,” Hannah said with a grin.
Nick’s head went back to the top of the couch as he stared up at the ceiling, “Fawn. Of course it’s the mini Hannah being mischievous, who else.”
Carefully sipping her hot chocolate, Fawn started laughing when Jake’s phone pinged with a text from Nick. “How mad you think he is?” she asked, swiping her finger over the phone to view the message.
“Probably ready to do some serious damage to my body,” Jake answered her, honestly.
“Nah. Auntie Hannah and I won’t let him touch you,” Fawn stated, firmly. She shifted in her chair to lean closer to Jake, wrapping her arms around his arm in a tight hug. “We love ya and won’t let anybody hurt you.”
“Yeah, man,” Stefan chimed in with sarcasm, “We love ya! We’ll protect you from the big bad Nicholas.”
“Hardy har har.” Jake kissed the top of Fawn’s head, hugging her back. “Come on, kiddo, we can drink the rest of this while we’re shopping. What’s next on the list after that?” Pointing to the message on the phone.
She studied the list, carefully pronouncing the words she knew how to read. “Body wash. We should probably get all this kind of stuff first and save the cold stuff for last. Who is this for? You know everybody has a different brand and scent they use. I like the green apple kind.”
Jake stared at Stefan, both with blank looks on their faces. Fawn peeked up at them with a laugh. “Aunties Nat and Cayla set you guys up. I bet they wanted to see if you thought about asking all that before you left.”
“Well, hell!” Jake said, not even sorry for cursing in front of Fawn. “That sounds just like my darlin’ fiancée. You want to call her, Princess?”
Her grin was as wide as her face, “No sir! I think we should just buy one of each of them and dump them on the counter in front of them.” Pointing to the word ‘cookies’ on the list, “Same thing with these and the yogurt too. That’ll teach ‘em to put every detail on the list next time.” She flashed another grin their way, “Or send someone else in your place.”
Holding his hand out to fist bump with Fawn, Stefan winked down at her, “Good thinking, mini Hannah. Maybe next time they’ll send Wade Antonio in our place.”
“He’d get lost at the coffee stand ordering his Chai Tea,” Fawn laughed out.
Turning down the aisle where the selection of soaps and body washes were located, she started selecting one of each brand and scent. “We’re gonna need another cart.”
“When we fill this one, I’ll grab another one,” Jake told her, grabbing the brands she couldn’t reach.
From the body wash, they moved on toward the snack aisle, choosing the cookies they wanted when Fawn froze in position. Her head barely turned, but her eyes moved as far to the side as she could make them go, a frown on her face. She didn’t miss the way Jake and Stefan stepped closer to her and knew they had caught her slight movement. Her eyes narrowed, a frown marring her face. “I don’t find that one bit funny,” she whispered so low they could barely hear her.
Dropping to his haunches, Stefan held her by the shoulders looking at her face, “What’s that?” he asked quietly. He nor Jake had noticed anything that should have Fawn acting like she was, but they had never been a little girl before, so they didn’t know what might be going through her mind.
“You don’t see it?” she asked, her voice still low.
“See what, little Princess?” Stefan asked, again. He was looking all around the store and so was Jake, but neither were making it obvious.
Sighing, clearly wanting to roll her eyes at them both, Fawn heaved out another breath before speaking, “Wow! To be trained like you are to notice everything, sometimes you guys are so blind.” She tossed her long hair over her shoulder and spun away from the guys with an air of royalty floating around her. She tossed another bag of cookies into the cart then reached up to hold each of their hands, her voice louder than normal, “You know, I don’t think my mommies,” stressing the plural form of the word, “are going to like it too much if we don’t make sure we get the right ice cream for them. You know how they get when the babies in their bellies get a craving.”
Blinking down at Fawn then back up to Jake, Stefan arched a brow in question to his partner, ‘What the hell was that all about?’ he asked telepathically.
‘Beats me, but you know she’s like Hannah. She always has a method to her madness. I guess we just play along with her,’ Jake answered back then spoke to Fawn, “So what do you think the babies have a taste for today?”
Catching sight of what had caused her hackles to rise, Fawn narrowed her gaze then looked up at Jake, adoringly. “Why chocolate chip cookie dough. What else?” As if that was a silly question to be asking.
Stefan couldn’t help but grin down at her, “Isn’t that your favorite, little Princess?”
Blinking up at him, Fawn giggled, “That’s my second favorite. I like rocky road the best, like Auntie Hannah does.” Tipping her head to the side, she resisted the urge to stick her tongue out at the thing that was making her skin crawl. She was trying her best not to make a big deal about it to Stefan and Jake, since they were apparently completely blind to what was happening. She wondered how Nat and Cayla would react in the same situation, or Hannah. That brought her t0 tears of laughter just thinking about what Hannah would do.
Scooping her up in his arms, Stefan whispered into her ear, “Are you planning to clue Jake and me in on your little scheme or are you going to keep us in the dark?”
Wiping away the moisture from her eyes on the sleeve of his T-shirt, Fawn pressed her lips to his ear so only he could hear her, “You really don’t see it, do you?”
“No honey, I don’t,” Stefan admitted to her. “Neither does Jake. You’re gonna have to help us out here.”
Giggling harder, she asked him to move a few aisles away from the one they were on and then wrapped her arms tighter around his neck, crooking her finger to Jake so he’d lean in close. “That lady back there was staring at you guys like YOU were gonna be HER dessert. Just ‘cause you’re all smexy and all, like Aunties Nat and Cayla say you are, doesn’t mean them other ladies can stare at you like yummy candy. It’s just not right.”
Her voice was as serious as if she were stating weather facts; no humor in her tone at all. That alone made Jake and Stefan bite back a roar of laughter. Their little warrior princess had the temper of every other female in the household and darned if they weren’t proud of her in spite of the fact it would probably cause some male a world of trouble one day. Not that it wasn’t already causing every male in the household a fit, because they all had their own plan of how to keep the boys at bay when they started showing an interest in Fawn.
The duo couldn’t hold back the laughter when Fawn growled at them. “I know what you’re both thinking and I don’t like it one bit. When I get ready, and that’s a very, very long time away, to date a boy, then you will all have to let me,” she stated firmly.
“Whatever you say, mini Hannah,” Jake chuckled, glancing at the list. “Fresh fruits and vegetables and then the frozen items are all that’s left.” He glanced to Stefan and then back to Fawn, “So, if we would have noticed the lady looking at us, what should we have done?” He was curious as to how this six year old thought they should handle the situation.
She tapped her chin in deep thought for a long moment, then her eyes lit up, clearly showing she’d come up with a solution, “It’s simple. We need to tell all the ladies that you guys need to have engagement rings or something too.”
Cocking her head to the side, her grin turned evil. “Or maybe we need to have ‘TAKEN’ printed on all your shirts in great big letters.”
Tipping his hat back with the edge of his thumb, Jake shook his head, “Don’t you dare mention that to the ladies back at the house, mini Hannah or they’d probably do it and I am not walking around next to Stefan, as we usually are, with both of us having ‘TAKEN’ printed on our shirts.”
By the look in Fawn’s eyes, both men knew they’d just stepped into a pile of manure so fresh it barely had time to produce a smell. Their little Princess was going to set them up just like their fiancées had done with the damn shopping list. Growling under their breath, they pushed on through the store to finish up the list discussing privately how they could possibly bribe Fawn into not revealing her latest idea to the rest of the family.