The sound of Caulter's voice cuts through the quiet stillness of the Boston apartment, and I smile.
I haven’t gotten tired of hearing it yet, not once in the past four years since we’ve officially been together.
It feels warm. It feels like home.
Even if that voice is saying something like Merry Effing Christmas. The effing part is actually kind of endearing, since Caulter has been making an attempt to tone down his filthy mouth before the baby gets here.
That’s right -- I'm pregnant. With Caulter Sterling's baby.
Never in my life did I think I would be speaking those words.
When I was in high school, if anyone would have told me that Caulter Sterling, Brighton Academy’s Manwhore Extraordinaire, would end up being my husband, I'd have doubled over with laughter.
Scratch that. I’d have probably slapped the person who said something that obscene.
I’d say I used to hate Caulter Sterling, but that would be an understatement. Back in high school, that boy was the bane of my existence, alternating between making lewd comments designed solely to get a rise out of me and being just downright insulting.
Then I hooked up with him.
It wasn’t one of my finer moments. But I was determined not to go to college with my virginity intact, and Caulter was up for the job of deflowering me.
Pun very much intended, of course.
And the sex…well, I just couldn’t get him out of my head. I craved his touch. Even if I could barely stand him.
And then I slept with him again – despite hating him. Okay, I slept with him a lot. That part was really good.
And finally, I fell in love with him.
Now I'm pregnant, and we're getting married.
That is a real life fairytale, folks.
"Earth to Kate." Caulter's voice snaps me out of my thoughts, and I spin around, a pre-lit pine garland in my hands.
“Sorry,” I say, shaking off the feeling of nostalgia as I reach back to place the garland over the mantle.
“You looked like you were lost in thought,” he says. “You’re not having second thoughts about all of this, are you?”
He's asking if I'm having second thoughts about the wedding and the baby.
I cock my head to the side and pretend to be contemplating my answer, but in reality I’m standing here checking out my fiancé. Caulter still remains that bad boy from high school, but he’s grown up into someone far more attractive than he was back then.
And not just physically, either – although my soon-to-be husband is pretty damn hot, if I do say so myself. He still has that rough-around-the-edges look, with his dark hair and brooding eyes, but all of that has mellowed out slightly the past few years.
He’s growing into the kind of man I think will be a great father.
“You’re pausing for an awful long time,” Caulter says. He crosses the room and slips his arms around me, my ever-expanding belly pressing against him. When he looks down at me with his lips hovering close to mine, my heart races, the same way it has since the first time he kissed me.
“I’m considering all of my options,” I tease.
“Oh?” he whispers. “Is that the case? Maybe I need to remind you why you're marrying me."
"I'm pretty sure I'm marrying you because you knocked me up," I say.
Caulter chuckles low under his breath, before he brings his mouth down on mine, his way of reminding me exactly why I'm marrying him.
As if I'd ever forget.
His lips are the most familiar feeling in the world, yet a thrill rushes through me all the way from the top of my head to the tips of my toes, every time he touches me.
The way he touches me now is nothing like the way it was in the beginning. Back then, sneaking around with Caulter was itself an aphrodisiac. He was a bad boy, off-limits to a good girl like me, the relationship made even more forbidden when we found out our parents were getting married. Back then, there was a sense of urgency in every furtive coupling, each liaison made even more exciting because there was an expiration date on what was happening between us.
I was certain it was simply a summer fling – something dangerous and exciting and rebellious that would end when our parents got married.
But it wasn't.
It was more than that.
It did end at our parents' wedding, actually. For a little while. I didn't see Caulter for a year after that. I didn't think I'd ever see him again, in fact.
But then he came back.
And now, when he kisses me like this, his lips soft against mine, his touch the most comforting thing I know, it's somehow more exciting than before. His tongue seeks out mine with the kind of familiarity that comes from certain knowledge of exactly what I want. It's the kind of familiarity that develops over time with someone.