Arianna's First Fall
(Deacon and Violet from Aphrodite's Gift)
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The falling of brown leaves from trees always meant that fall had arrived and soon, winter would be following. Deacon had seen many falls and winters in his lifetime, but this fall was special to him, made precious by the soulmate he’d almost lost his life to save and the child they’d created together. What he could do without was the back-breaking labor of having to rake all those damn leaves into piles.
“I’m gettin’ too old for this,” he muttered beneath his breath. No matter how fast he raked and fought to keep them all in their nice neat heaps, more leaves fell or the wind would come barreling through and bustle them all over the yard again.
Deacon let out a growl as another roaring wind swept through. “That’s it. I quit,” he declared as he dropped the rake in the center of the yard. “We’ll hire someone or something.”
“What’s wrong?” he heard Violet’s beautiful voice from just beneath the cover of the back patio. She hadn’t been out there the whole time… he hoped.
Deacon looked up and saw his soulmate, and in her arms was the most precious little girl the world had ever seen. The sight of her tiny auburn curls and bright green eyes, her chubby rosy cheeks and her button nose made Deacon’s heart melt. Suddenly, the thought of battling fallen leaves was gone, replaced only with the thought of being close to his family.
“Gimme,” he said in gooey gibberish as he reached out to take his daughter from Violet’s hands.
He cradled the toddler against his chest and slowly rocked her back and forth. Deacon couldn’t believe almost a year had already passed since she’d been born. It was amazing how quickly time flew when he stopped counting his never ending days, now he held on to those days and cherished, cherished them more now that he had two very important reasons to keep himself alive.
“Why don’t you let her try to walk around?” Violet suggested.
“Because, she could get hurt,” the big guy said in a lilting voice as he kept his smiling face directed at Arianna.
“Deacon, she can get hurt inside too.”
“She could get dirty.”
“Honey, she has to learn to walk. She has to get dirty. She has to grow up. What are you going to do when she brings a boy home?”
Deacon growled so hard it vibrated his chest and the toddler cuddled against him. Arianna cooed, making sounds that resembled “da-da” when strung together. “That’s right, honey, da-da will take care of those dangerous boys,” he said to think princess bathed in purple bouncing in his arms.
“Sweetheart,” Violet said as she tucked her arm around Deacon’s back and laid her head on his shoulder. He loved the closeness. It soothed the protective streak he had when it came to his wife and his daughter. “You’re adorable and utterly nerve-racking, you know that?”
“Let the child crawl around on the grass. We can give her a bath when we go inside.”
“What if she gets bit by a bug?”
“Children get bit by bugs, Deacon. You’re being ridiculous.”
“Fine,” Deacon said tersely.
With obvious hesitation and a level of tension he hadn’t felt since the day of Arianna’s birth, when he’d heard Violet scream out labored curses, he set his daughter down on her feet and held her tiny hands in his. She started walking toward the last pile he’d attempted to rake and he felt her little fingers loosen around his meaty thumb. She was letting him go, as if she didn’t need him anymore. He couldn’t stand the thought. It broke a little piece of his heart.
“Look, baby, she’s walking!” Violet exclaimed. “She’s walking on her own.”
Deacon looked down to find his little girl slowly padding her way toward the pile of leaves he’d worked so hard to create. If she fell down, at least she would have something soft to land in. Funny, the thought wasn’t as comforting as it should’ve been.
He followed close behind her, ready in case she took a fall and started screaming. Her crying was a sound he couldn’t deal with too well, even when Violet reminded him that sometimes, children just had to cry it out.
Arianna stopped, wobbled back and forth a bit, tried for another step, then fell forward in the pile. The impact made the dried leaves poof out around her, sending a few back into the sky, and when they land again, his daughter was nearly buried. Nothing but the light purple hood of her little sweatshirt poked out. She started to scream and Deacon charged for her.
“Deacon,” Violet called out to stop him, but it was too late. He’d already dug his daughter out of the heap. The sound of Violet sighing made him look back.
“What? What if she was hurt?” he said as he dusted crushed leaves and debris from Arianna’s clothing.
“Hurt on what?”
“I don’t know. A rock. A stick. Something.”
“She’s obviously fine.” Violet nodded toward the toddler giggling in Deacon’s arms.
The big guy just shook his head and brushed his thick fingers over her plump, rosy cheeks. He gently kissed her forehead and whispered with a smile, “I love you, but you’ll be the death of me, kiddo.”