Jake and Dani’s Valentine’s Day
Jake and Dani fans… I wrote this for you. Happy Valentine’s Day.
~ Zoe, Feb 2016
Dani Foster’s alarm clock jarred her awake at four in the morning. She rolled out of bed before turning it off. If her feet weren’t on the floor, she’d just slide back under the blankets and snuggle up to her husband’s warm, solid back. Getting out of bed this early on Valentine’s Day was all kinds of wrong.
She trudged to the bathroom for a quick, hot shower, then quietly padded downstairs, wrapped in Jake’s robe because it smelled like his cologne. The plaid flannel also reminded her of the shirts he wore while chopping wood. That was an image that would have to keep her warm over the next fourteen hours.
First order of business: something to eat. She’d grab a second breakfast once she was at the EMS station, but just in case it was a busy morning, she needed something in her belly.
When she flipped on the kitchen light, she found her travel mug already sitting under the coffee maker. A post-it note next to the brew button made her tear up.
Happy Valentine’s Day, my beautiful bride. Don’t go to work without waking me up.
She started the coffee and grabbed a banana, a smile on her face. When she heard a faint creak from upstairs, the smile turned into a full-fledged grin, and she took the stairs two at a time, only slowing down when she caught sight of Jake standing at the side of the bed, clearly just waking up.
There was nothing more glorious than the reach of his strong arms, stretching wide, then high, bunching the muscles of his back. She watched the tattoos there ripple as he flexed and straightened his limbs. He yawned as he turned, then jumped back a foot.
“You scared me,” he said, totally without fear, giving her a sloppy, sleepy, happy grin that probably matched her own.
She wiggled the banana. “I got your note. I’m making coffee, you want one?”
Nodding as he crossed the room, he pulled her in tight for a hug and patted her hip. “I’m gonna try and get a run in before going to work.”
That sounded awful. Dani liked being active, but willingly getting out of bed when sleep was an option? “Lunatic.”
“I’m an old man, beautiful.” His voice rumbled through his body and against her cheek as she leaned into him. “Gotta keep myself in shape for you.”
She yawned. “You’ve got more energy than I do this morning.”
“You’re just not a morning person,” he said with affection. “And you need a vacation.”
True on both counts. They’d held off on a winter getaway because she’d hoped to be pregnant by now. It hadn’t happened in the five months since their wedding, and while she refused to pout about that—she was blessed beyond measure, with a wonderful career and an amazing husband—she still ached inside.
Maybe that was where her grumpiness about work was coming from. She was ready to be thinking about maternity leave and alternate work responsibilities. Not more of the same old, same old.
You love being a first responder. Keep your perspective. She did. She would. It was just dark o’clock. Too early to be Ms. Positivity. If this was a night shift, she wouldn’t be drifting into melancholy.
From the dresser closer to the window, her cell phone alarm chimed. She had thirty minutes until she had to leave.
“Coffee,” she repeated, and he squeezed her neck.
So much to be grateful for. She’d keep telling herself that.
Jake brushed his teeth and washed his face, then hurried to the kitchen to give his wife a proper good morning kiss. She’d been in a funk, off and on, for nearly a month now. This time last year they’d just started dating, in secret at first, then she’d accompanied him to his unit’s Regimental Ball. Earlier that day he’d gone and spoken to her parents. Informed her father that he intended to ask Dani to marry him.
He’d ended up waiting a few more weeks, but their first Valentine’s Day together had been magical. He’d given her a necklace and matching earrings. She’d worn a red ball gown and rocked his world in every way.
What a difference a year made. This Valentine’s Day, they were both working.
He had a present for her, of course, but he’d wait until she got home.
Cupping her face in his hands, he stroked his thumbs over her cheekbones and searched her gaze for some clue as to what was bothering her. “You okay?” he finally asked, because he cared about her with every fibre of his being, but he wasn’t a mind reader.
She gave him a soft smile. “I am when you kiss me.”
“Any requests for dinner tonight?” On her work days, he did the cooking. Usually something that would keep warm, in case her shift ran long, and could be eaten on the couch while they watched a half hour of TV before she passed out.
He couldn’t imagine a better way to spend a romantic holiday.
“Up to you.” Her smile was bigger now.
“Chili?” Even if she didn’t care, he was giving her the choice.
She made a face. “No, maybe not.”
Another face. “Maybe something with chicken? And a cream sauce.”
He chuckled and kissed the tip of her nose. “Deal.”
Dani opened her locker and dropped her duffle bag on the bottom shelf. The small plastic bag on the top shelf caught her eye. She was starting to think it was a bad omen, keeping the newborn lumberjack onesie she’d bought on their honeymoon.
But Jake had been so excited to start trying for a family, and the tiny red and black plaid outfit had called to her from across the shop in Banff. Jake had been at an outfitters across the road, and she’d bought it before she could talk herself down.
And for five months, it had sat on the shelf here at work, ready for whenever she had some good news to share with him.
The dull cramps low in her belly told her this month wouldn’t be the month. Again.
Loud voices echoed into the locker room, announcing the arrival of Jake’s brother, Matt.
Small-town life meant that your co-worker was also your brother-in-law, who apparently today had decided to wear cologne to work—a seriously violation of their scent-sensitive policy.
Dani slammed her locker door shut and turned to give him the stink-eye. “Matt, did you forget the rules?”
Her brother-in-law froze in front of his own locker. “What rules are we talking about, exactly? Because there are some that I purposefully ignore, but you know most of them. And usually don’t mind.”
She scowled. “Did you shower in Axe instead of water this morning?”
He blinked, then sniffed himself. “No?”
“Seriously, dude, I can smell you from over here.”
“It’s just body wash.” He shrugged. “It’s not my usual stuff, but I swear, I didn’t put cologne on.”
Her lips tightened, and she pressed them together to keep from saying anything further. It wasn’t like she was his supervisor, and even if she was, what was she going to do? Make him take a shower again? They had to check out their ambulance and be on the road in less than an hour. And there was a solid chance that nobody else would care today.
Damn Valentine’s Day.
She wasn’t going to be pleasant to work with today.
“Everything okay with my much older and uglier brother at home there?” Matt said, laughing as he tucked away his personal belongings. “Because you’re being kind of a—”
She stalked over and slammed his locker shut for him. Yep. Not pleasant at all. “Kind of a what?”
He whistled, low and slow, and shook his head. “Nothing. Nothing at all.”
“Come on. I’ll buy you a bagel if you hang your head out of the rig long enough to stop smelling like a high school dance.”
By mid-morning, she’d gotten over being grumpy. She hadn’t gotten over being sensitive to smells, though. Their second call had been to a house with a cat, something she normally didn’t mind, but right now, she could still smell the litter box.
She took a long, slow inhale over her cup of peppermint tea to try and erase the scent memory.
“So…” Matt sat down beside her, bumping his chair back a bit to give her some space.
“Nothing. Winter blahs. Having to work with you.” She stuck out her tongue. She didn’t mean it. He was a hopeless flirt and a loveable rogue, but on the job, he was a seriously capable medic.
There wasn’t anyone else she’d rather have in the back of her rig. It helped that he loved her just the way she was, bitching and all.
“You hungry? Kincaid made enough tuna salad for all the first responders.”
She gagged before she could think about her response.
Matt just laughed. “So how far along are you, anyway?”
Heat rushed through her body and her hands started to shake. Carefully, she put down her mug of tea.
Hormonal. Sensitive to smells. Wanted to hurl at the thought of some foods. She could see how he would think that, being an observant guy with good medical training. How she wished it were true. But she shook her head. “This might be too much information for my brother-in-law, but I’m not pregnant.”
“Okay.” But he looked at her like he’d known her for twenty years and never known her to recoil at a scent. It was a fair point.
But she wasn’t pregnant. “My period is due any minute now, and I’ll crampy.”
He laughed. “Good job on the TMI. But if it ends up being late, you should test. Or, you know, just test anyway, because there’s a million of them in the stores room.”
She nodded, but inside, she was mentally toughening herself up. If she had been tougher today, less PMS-y, Matt wouldn’t have noticed anything. Then she wouldn’t have had to have this conversation.
He patted her shoulder at the same time as her pager went off and his radio squawked to life.
Saved by the emergency. “Let’s go.”
Jake pulled the chicken and rice casserole out of the oven and set it on the stovetop to cool.
On the back burners were two pans. One had mushrooms, ready to sauté as soon as Dani walked in the door, the other had baby asparagus shoots, ready to steam.
He turned both pans on when he heard the dull motor of the automatic garage door kick into gear.
“In the kitchen. How was your day?”
“It was a day.” Her voice was muffled as she moved around the foyer, hanging up her coat and dumping her duffel bag on the stairs, but he could still tell she was exhausted.
“Dinner’s five minutes away.”
“You are my prince,” she sighed as she found him, and he barely got his arm held out for her before she was pressed against his side. She’d changed before leaving work, into a super-soft t-shirt and her favourite jeans. She was soft and warm and just right in his arms, but he rubbed his hand up and down her spine, he could feel the tightness in her back muscles through the thin fabric.
Must have been a long day.
“Back rub after dinner?”
She made an appreciative noise and relaxed into him. “I don’t deserve you.”
“Of course you do. Besides, I didn’t get you a huge Valentine’s Day present, just a little thing, so this is part of that.”
“We said we weren’t going to do gifts,” she murmured, rubbing her cheek against his shoulder as she shifted out of his way so he could stir the mushrooms. “But I’m glad you got me a little something, because it turns out I got you something, too. Little, too.”
“Fun.” He kissed her temple, then shifted her out of the way. “Scoot.”
“Just the way you like it.”
“I need to warn you, I’m too zonked for sex.”
He laughed and pointed his spatula at her. She was too gorgeous for words. Her long, dark waves spilled over her shoulders as she pulled her hair out of the loose bun she’d wrapped it in after her post-work shower, and her face, soft and free of make-up, took his breath away. “Who said anything about sex? But if you’re still awake after the back rub, I’ll keep on rubbing. And licking. And—”
“Okay.” Now her gaze was darker. Heavier. Loaded with desire that he wanted to consume, slowly and carefully, savouring each delicious nibble. Not that it would ever be enough. A year had passed since he’d finally been able to call her his. Five months since he’d stood in front of their friends and family and finally laid claim to her as his wife, his partner, the love of his life.
And still there burned inside him a desperate need to be more for her, to give her more. To make her happy.
And right now, even though she was tired, she looked happy. He’d like to think it was his promise of oral sex, and maybe the dinner and back rub, but this happiness was something else.
“Tell me more about your day,” he said softly, turning off the stove. He kept his gaze on her as he lifted the asparagus onto their plates, then spooned up some casserole. “Mushrooms?”
She tipped her head to the side, thinking, then nodded. “Yes, please.”
Shaking her head, she pointed to the table. “Too messy. Let’s eat in here, then do presents.”
He set their plates down and disappeared for a minute to get her gift. He’d found a snow globe with miniature birch trees in it, decorated with tiny red hearts. It would play her a pretty classical piece of music when she wound it up. He’d happily dance to that tune with her for the rest of their lives, and the red flowers were ethereal and popped out of the bleak winter setting, just the way she had for him a year earlier.
It was wrapped in matching red paper, and Dani started laughing when he brought it to the table.
“Okay, yours is gorgeous, that’s not fair.” She wiped her eyes and giggled as she pulled a white plastic bag from behind her back and set it on the table. “But in my defense, I wasn’t prepared. This was a last-minute thing.”
He reached for it, curiosity killing him, but she shook her head and set it down out of reach.
“Let’s eat first.” She grinned.
“Your mood is improving,” he said as they tucked in.
Her cheeks pinked up. “Yep.”
They ate in companionable silence. He wanted to know more about her day, but he’d asked twice and she’d avoided the conversation, so he’d leave it for a bit.
He noticed she devoured the casserole and mushrooms, but ate around the asparagus, only taking two bites of one stalk before sliding her plate away from her. “I’m stuffed, thank you. That was delicious.”
He reached for her veggies. One advantage of having a wife—total comfort being a food mooch. “You don’t want these?”
She hesitated, then shook her head. “They were nicely done, just the right amount of crisp, but…”
After he finished eating and they cleared their plates, she carried their gifts into the living room and pointed for him to sit on the couch. A secret smile played over her mouth as she handed over the white plastic bag.
It was light. He was dying to know what was inside. “Same time?”
She made an adorable thinking noise, then shook her head. “Let me go first. All bets may be off once you open it, I don’t know.”
He wiggled the bag. “Is this lingerie?”
She made a noise that could only be described as a giggle snort, laughing so hard tears streamed down her face as she shook her head. “Oh my God, no.”
“A tie? Something I can strap you to the bed with?”
“Stop, just stop!” she gasped. “You’re so going to regret that. Whew.”
“Now I gotta open it.”
She grinned. “Nope. My turn first.”
He set the bag down and sat back, crossing his arms as she carefully peeled back the paper. Her laughter faded and was replaced by a soft hitch in her breath as she opened the box. “Oh, Jake. Wow, it’s beautiful.”
He set the plastic bag on the coffee table and reached for her, and the snow globe. “Come here.”
She swayed into his arms after he wound it up and they set it next to their engagement picture on the mantle.
“Remember the snowstorm after you proposed?” she whispered as he spun her slowly around in a circle.
“Best night of my life. Matched only by our wedding.”
A tear sprang into the corner of her eye. “I love you.”
“Me, too. With all of my heart.”
“Your turn,” she said softly.
He held onto her hand as he snagged the plastic bag and held it between them, still dancing ever so slightly.
He grinned as he reached into it awkwardly with his free hand.
The plaid t-shirt didn’t make sense at first.
It was impossibly small.
And it had buttons at the bottom.
And it was impossibly small.
His heart stopped.
“Happy Valentine’s Day, baby” she whispered. “You’re going to be the world’s best dad.”
With a whoop that was too loud, too crazy, and somehow hardly even enough to contain his joy, he lifted her in his arms and laid a kiss on her that he hoped she’d never forget.
“I was wrong, gorgeous. Tonight. Tonight is the best day of my life. And tomorrow’s going to be even better.”