Updated: Nov 26, 2020
Finally! The end has arrived! I do hope that y'all have enjoyed reading my first ever completed manuscript. Although I myself read it with a sneer and shake of my head, uncertain how I could have written such...blah...I have been wanting to share Beyond the Inner Storm with the world. These characters, Cade and Arielle, hold a special place in my heart because they were the first I'd ever poured my whole heart into. (Of course, Rina and Xavier's place is slightly bigger, seeing as how I actually published them.) If it weren't for Beyond the Inner Storm, I wouldn't be the writer I am today, and I wouldn't have Kerri and Forrest's amazing story and the Cannon/Sterling/Billingham world I so adore!
Ten years later
Hmm. Something sure smells good.”
Well, with her husband’s arms around her waist and his lips nuzzling her neck, Arielle didn’t care what smelled good. She turned in his arms to face him, letting her palms slide up his chest to his shoulders, then leaned up to kiss his lips.
Cade returned her kiss, tugging her closer, which brought forth echoing ewws from behind them, along with the happy babbling of their newest edition, one month old Caden. Just to irritate the kids, Cade deepened the kiss, making silly smoochy noises.
After sweet Alexander was born, it was only two years before quiet Judah Reuben came along, then, only a day after Judah turned three, their one and only daughter entered the world, Emily Hope, named after the non-existent ghost at the lighthouse. Then, God brought one last little blessing into the family five years later, Caden Blaze. And today was a special day for the newborn baby.
As was tradition in the Darren household, Arielle would paint his small handprints on the blue door outside. That is, as soon as she finished kissing her husband.
“Stop it! That’s gross!” Emily and Alex yelled out in unison from where they were seated at the dinner table, and once Arielle pulled back, opening her eyes, she noticed they were covering their faces with their hands. Though Judah just sat still, staring at his fingers, which happened to be coated in dirt.
She scowled, extracting herself from Cade’s arms. “Judah, didn’t I tell you to wash your hands before coming inside?” Even as she scolded her son, she couldn’t help but smile as he hopped from his chair and walked away to clean up.
It was crazy, really. It wasn’t all that long ago she was living in the same house, painting and gardening, just getting by, wishing the haunting memories of the fire would disappear. And now, here she was, married with four wonderful children. God blessed her more was than she ever could’ve imagined, and it was all made by possible by the fire. No matter how much it hurt, it was because the fire took her house that she found a home, and that it took her parents so that she could gain a family. For that, she was truly grateful. And one day, she would see her parents and Opa again. But for now...this was her life, and she loved it.
“Caden, stop squirmin’” Emily told her little brother as Arielle dipped his hand into some green paint. She planted her hands on her hips and frowned. “Mommy’s tryin’ to paint the door, and you ain’t co-oper-tin.”
Her mispronunciation of the last word brought a smile to Cade's lips. His daughter was five going on eighteen, reminding him a lot of her aunt. He reached down and patted her head of red-brown hair. “It’s okay, Em,” he told her, trying not to laugh at the cute frown that marred her freckled face.
Still frowning, Em sighed and backed up, but she shook a finger at Caden anyway, just to make sure he got the message.
Arielle held Caden up to the door and gently pressed his hand to the slowly fading paint, leaving a bright emerald-colored print. Then, before she could wipe the paint from his hand, he stuck his thumb inside his mouth and began to suck, causing Emily to jerk his wrist and scold him. Ari quickly cleaned him up, then set him in Cade's care while she put the paint back in the shed behind the house.
“Well, kids, I don’t know about you, but I think lil’ Caden here is ready for a nap,” Cade stated, judging by the huge yawn his son let out. He looked at the rest of the family, awaiting a response.
Emily crossed her arms over her chest. “No, Daddy, Mommy don’t want him to sleep till two o’clock, and it’s only one-thirty. You need to wait,” she explained matter-of-factly, a smug smirk on her face. She cocked her head, expecting his declaration of defeat.
He tried and failed to suppress a grin. “Oh, Ms. Darren, I didn’t know that. You don’t suppose Mommy will mind if we’re thirty minutes off, do you? Besides, who’s gonna hold him while we eat that cake Mommy made?” He countered her words, motioning to the half-asleep baby in his arms.
She sighed, a sure sign of frustration, and shook her head, her curls bobbing from side-to-side. “If that’s what you want, Daddy. But Mommy might not wanna kiss ya if you mess up.” And with that she marched into the house, followed by her older brothers.
Cade looked down at sleeping Caden and expelled a breath. “Bossy girl if there was ever was one,” he muttered, traipsing right along behind the young’uns, carefully shutting the door behind them and slipping into Emily's room, which sided as the nursery until Caden was old enough to sleep upstairs with the other boys. He cautiously laid the baby into the crib, tucking his blanket up to his tummy, then waited until Caden’s thumb absently drifted to his mouth before he left the room.
At that moment, Arielle walked into the house, reaching up to wipe a bit of sweat from her brow. “You laid Caden down?” she whispered, heading into the kitchen.
He nodded in reply as he entered the kitchen, digging inside a drawer for a towel, then handing said towel to his wife, who was surprisingly wearing a scowl. Oopsy daisy, he thought, trying not to laugh at his ignoring his daughter’s warning. Perhaps she’d been right.
Arielle rolled her eyes and snatched the towel from his hands, opening the oven and retrieving a steaming cake pan from the fiery depths. “You know I don’t like him napping until two o’clock,” she scolded, setting the pan on the counter beside her.
He returned her glowering expression with one of his own, hoisting himself on the top of the counter by the cake. “You’ve gotten ornery in your old age, mürrisch,” he commented, proud of himself for remembering the German word for grumpy.
She gasped, looking up at him with that icy gaze of hers. “I am not grumpy or ornery, gemeine Brüche,” she shot back at him, just like always.
And, just like always, Cade hopped off the counter top and pulled her into his arms, giving her a light kiss on her lips. “You’re stuck with me anyway, sweetheart,” he whispered in her ear, then pulled back, releasing her. “I’m hungry. When can I eat that cake o’ yours?”
She huffed, hitting his leg with the towel still in her hands. “As soon as it cools and I make the frosting,” she replied, grabbing a mixing bowl from the cabinet above her head.
Before Cade could make some silly comment on that taking so long, a scream came from upstairs. “Daddy, Mommy, Alex is being mean to me!” The exclamation could only belong to Em.
He bit back a sigh and waved at Arielle. “I got it.” He left the kitchen, climbed up the stairs, and swung open the door to the boys’ bedroom. He stood the doorway, arms crossed, trying to figure out the problem.
Emily was standing in the corner of the room by Alex’s bed, mimicking Cade’s stance, a tear trickling down her cheek. She ran to him and wrapped her arms around his legs. “Daddy, Alex won’t share his toy,” she whimpered, burying her head in his thigh.
He shook his head, attempting to not smile. The girl was more dramatic than an actor on stage. “Alex, share your toy with Em, ‘kay? ‘Cause I don’t wanna hear her cry all day long.” He mumbled that last part under his breath to avoid Emily hearing and contradicting him, saying she wouldn’t cry all day, which would’ve been a lie.
With an exhale of annoyance, Alex crossed the room and handed his little sister his wooden train. “There you go,” he muttered, “Sorry.”
From the opposite side of the room, Judah smiled, but didn’t bother to speak. The kid was the quietest thing Cade’d ever seen, but smarter than one would imagine of an eight year old, that was for sure.
Emily pulled away from Cade with a grin, more of a foxy smirk, really, and wrapped her arms around Alex’s neck, squeezing him so tightly, his face turned red. “Thank you, Alex. You’re the best big brother ever!” she cheered.
Cade turned to leave, glad that was taken care of, and bounded down the stairs to where Arielle stood over the counter, mixing up icing for the cake.
She spun her head around. “All good?”
“Yep.” He dunked his finger into the bowl and scooped up some sugary frosting, then licked it off. “Not so bad. Better than that glacier stuff of yours,” he teased, getting a thump on the shoulder. He threw his arm up in surrender. “Kidding, kidding.”
As she continued to stir the frosting, she smiled at him, her blue eyes glistening. “I didn’t think it was so bad. Quite yummy, really. But then again, you always have been one for a more American style of food. I’m surprised you lasted during our trip to Germany last spring,” she said, dipping her own finger into the icing and licking off.
Sending her a boyish grin, Cade replied, “I had you. Didn’t need to worry about food then.”
Arielle shook her head, yet her smile never wavered. “Oh, really?”
“M-hmm.” Cade then slid his arms around her waist and whispered into her ear, “I love you, Mrs. Darren.”
Turning her head slightly, Arielle planted a kiss on his nose. “And I love you, Mr. Darren.”