Chapter Twenty-one

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As he approached the top of the stairs, Mathew glanced in the direction of his favorite room, feeling a warm smile on his lips. One more peek? he asked himself, though he and Sunny had taken a quick look earlier that day. He paused at their bedroom door for a moment before continuing down the hall. His feet carried him to the door of what would soon be his son's bedroom. The door was slightly ajar but the room was dark. Slowly, he pushed the door open and hit the light switch. With a click, a soft white light filled what would surely become the happiest room in their home. The walls were alive with a host of soothing colors—rich cream, buttery yellow, watery blues, and muted greens. Images of stars surrounded him, suspended in a cheerful sky. And a Little Prince, perched proudly atop a distant planet, looked down upon him with quiet confidence. He'd stepped inside the pages of a children's book, as the drawings of St. Exupery's famed work was brought to life, dancing playfully around the perimeter of their baby boy's room. The floor was littered with paint cans and brushes, all shapes and sizes, resting atop a splattered drop cloth. The artist he'd commissioned to create this magical world for his son had far exceeded his expectations. Every stroke was perfect; every detail precise. His eyes continued to travel around the room, and he smiled has he read the neatly lettered quotes that hung just below the crown molding. Each wall held a different yet cherished quote from the celebrated story. The words of a young hero. The wisdom of an aged soul. In the far corner of the room, he eyed the new crib. His smile turned to a laugh, as he recalled the comedy of errors that occurred the night he and Leo assembled it...

"It won't fit Matty" Leo shook his head.

"It's gotta fit. Let's try turning it this way..." Mathew motioned with his hands.

"I'm telling you this won't work. We've turned it every which but loose."

"Damn!" Mathew wiped the sweat from his brow. "How is it that you can slide a king size bed through any door, but a baby crib won't fit?"

"Well, I guess we've learned a very valuable bit of information."

"Yeah? What's that?" He gave Leo an exasperated look.

"Read the directions first." Leo held out the assembly manual, pointing to a specific page. Mathew took the booklet from him and read the line aloud.

"Note: Assemble crib in room where crib will remain. Crib dimensions are greater than standard door widths." Mathew looked up Leo, dumbfounded.

"Back to work." Leo rolled his eyes and handed Mathew a screwdriver.

Carefully, Mathew navigated around the collection of the artist's tools to the crib. It was the only piece of furniture they'd purchased. The only piece Sunny knew about anyway. Santa would be delivering the remaining goodies for them soon. His goal was to have the nursery finished in time for Huck's arrival—and as an extra holiday surprise for his wife. Looking down into the crib, he imagined the tiny body that would rest peacefully inside. Leaning over, he gently rubbed his hand back and forth across the soft white sheet with a smile. The feelings inside him were unlike anything he'd experienced. He'd never wanted a child—never thought of himself raising a child. He remembered the night Cass had informed him of her pregnancy—and the ice cold chill that ran through him. The words 'I'm pregnant' had barely left her mouth, and already he'd felt like running. Of course he would never allow his own flesh and blood to grow up fatherless, as he'd had to. But Cass...Cass was a different story. She was everything that a man could want—beautiful, kind, smart and funny. And no matter how hard he'd tried, he just didn't love her. They'd been the closest of friends and shared quiet times in each other's beds. But it hadn't been enough. The thought of being forever bound to a woman who was anything less than his soul mate scared him. He didn't want to play house.

Looking around, he couldn't imagine being anywhere else in his life than exactly where he stood. And it was all because of one person. If you love a flower that lives on a star, it is sweet to look up at the night sky, he read the words above his head. One amazing woman had changed everything—changed him. It was as if he was The Little Prince and Sunny, his precious flower. His rose. And he was still learning to hold on loosely without letting go. Taking care not to crush her velvety petals. Close enough to linger in her intoxicating fragrance, but with enough distance to allow the world to admire her grace and beauty. The last words of Cass's father had spoken to him crept quietly back into his thoughts. "My family is my greatest accomplishment, Mathew. Not my business. Not my luxuries."

Sunny. Leo. Huck. Even Bunny. He knew he was already enjoying the blessing of a perfect family. And now, in just a few short months, a baby. He returned to the door, turning back for one last look. Another smile crossed his lips, and he pulled the door closed.

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