Hands in his pockets, Matthew looked her over, scowling as he thought through the best way to handle this particular situation. Pursing his lips, he looked to the side, clearing his throat before looking back to her pouty lips. She looked so cute, even with the tear stained cheeks and red nose. His expression softened. “Walter Diggs has six children. I’ll ask him to send his wife over tomorrow.”
Walter was one of the local men sitting at her husband’s table that very night, a fellow bootlegger and a man who’d always been polite and normal with Charlie. Suddenly happy, she started to wipe her face on her skirt. Matthew stopped her and used his handkerchief to clean away the tears.
“You let yourself get all worked up broodin’,” Matthew softly chastised. “I’m your husband—next time, tell me what’s botherin’ you.”
Charlie offered an apologetic glance before sharing one last complaint. “I also really want to eat peaches and we don’t have any.”
A twitch of a smile came to the corner of his mouth at her uncustomarily whiny tone. He helped her stand and took her back to the main room, depositing her at her rocking chair before going back to the men. The room took notice of the suddenly content woman and the stoic Emerson who’d fixed her in less than five minutes.
“Diggs,” Matthew spoke around the cigar he was lighting, “send Gertrude on over tomorrow round noon.”
Charlie heard Matthew’s idea of ‘asking’ and fought not to chuckle.
* * *
Come morning, Matthew had Eli buy all the canned peaches in stock at the General Store and was feeling pretty proud of himself for finding her a woman to share her wisdom. At noon sharp, the middle-aged Gertrude Diggs came calling. Together, they sat at the corner table, speaking out of earshot of the menfolk.
From the looks of it, Matthew had chosen well. Nodding to himself over a job well done, he left her to it and went to tend the stills with Nathaniel.
When he came home, Charlie was nowhere to be seen. Assuming she was upstairs napping, he did not think of it until she came in through the backdoor, hair wet and her rifle hanging from her shoulder.
He scowled, not happy with the sight before him. “Where you been?”
Running her fingers through her mussed hair, she waggled her eyebrows and teased, “Swimming.”
The instant darkening of his eyes proved he did not approve. “Charlotte…”
“Did you know that if a woman with child swims backward in cool water from one side of a pond to the other she will have a boy?” Charlie was snickering at the old wives’ tale, one of many Gertrude had shared. “I just about died laughing when Mrs. Diggs told me that ridiculous fable… but it did offer some inspiration. And before you get all huffy, it’s hot as Hell today and just cause I’m pregnant doesn’t mean I can’t have any fun.”
Hot? It was the middle of October.
Before Matthew could rail at her, something caught her attention and Charlie’s eyes went wide as plates. “You making fritters, Eli? I am sooo hungry.” She pushed past her husband and went, salivating, towards the food.
One bite and she just melted. “You battered and fried peaches… Eli, you are a brilliant man.”
“It was Matthew’s idea,” Eli said with a shrug and boyish smirk.
Mouth full, she turned towards her glowering husband. “Matthew, you are amazing and I love you more than I love these frittered peaches… which is a lot.”
Eli flat out laughed at Matthew’s instant inability to scold her like he wanted to.
Matthew set down his hat, about to start speaking when Charlie gasped and looked down at her stomach, causing Matthew to worry until she let out a satisfied hum and cradled her belly with her hand.
Full of awe, she whispered, “He’s moving…”
The peaches were forgotten, Charlie taking Matthew’s hand, pressing it to where the little one was causing a ruckus. The glowering man went soft, when his baby began pressing back. Captivated, he continued to pass his palm over her belly, following each little sensation until the little one settled down, comforted by his daddy.
“He likes when you do that,” Charlie murmured lovingly, her fingers smoothing Matthew’s hair. Her expression changed when their eyes met, as did her tone. Suddenly full of hunger for something other than peaches, Charlie whispered, “Take a walk with me, Matthew?”
He grabbed his hat and followed her out the door, Eli was confused, but the customers, having seen this particular show several times before, smirked knowingly at the backsides of the pregnant couple.
Tugging her husband down the well-known path towards their house, Charlie led her man to a familiar secluded clearing. Matthew stopped walking, gave her a long, heated stare.
She giggled wickedly, pressing close. “You wanna spank me for going swimming?”
A deep growl came from his throat, Matthew drawing her in until his palm was running over her bottom. “I wouldn’t have to spank you if you’d simply learned how to behave.”