Placing the last plate in the dishwasher, I wipe my hands on the towel slung over my shoulder and glance out the window to where our children are playing in the backyard.
My eyes go wide. At first, I don’t believe what I’m seeing.
“It can’t be,” I mumble to myself. “It’s impossible.”
Rubbing my eyes, I look again. Sure enough, I find exactly what I thought I was seeing. My three little pirates—Rylan, Ronan, and Rosie—are in the process of digging up the flower garden their mother and I planted last weekend.
“Daphne is going to kill me.”
Tossing the towel aside, I race out the back door. “Stop!”
Three little bandana-covered heads turn my way. Rylan tosses his shovel aside. Ronan hides his mud-covered hands behind his back. And as for my sweet little Rosie, she dares to hold up the bundle of flowers in her muddy little fist.
“Look Daddy!” she calls out. “Look.”
“Come on, Rosie,” Rylan mutters. “Be cool.”
“Yeah.” Ronan glares at her. “Be cool.”
“We’re looking for treasure, Daddy!” she calls out.
Of course, they are. Their Grandpa Ruben was over last night. And because he only has one story, he gave a dramatic retelling of Remington Prince and the Klondike Gold Rush. Only, he’s added a few more action-packed chapters, and several new characters, to his story.
I sigh. “We don’t have any treasure in this backyard.”
“But Grandpa says you can sometimes find treasure where you least expect it.” Rylan arches an eyebrow in challenge. I swear, he didn’t get that from me.
“He’s not wrong about that,” I concede. “But I don’t think he meant you could find it by digging up your mother’s flower garden.”
“Then what did he mean?” Ronan asks.
“Your grandpa meant that sometimes you can spend your whole life searching for the big prize. Like a cave full of gold.”
“Like Remington?” Rylan asks.
“Like Remington. But sometimes you’ll find the greatest treasure of all isn’t something like gold or silver.”
“What is it?” Ronan asks.
“It’s finding someone to love. Like how your mom and I found each other. It’s building a house, like the one we had here. And”—I give them all a meaningful look—“it’s having a family with three beautiful, but very, very naughty children.”
Three pairs of eyes stare back at me.
Rosie stares at me like I’m crazy. Ronan clears his throat. And Rylan rolls his eyes.
“No offense, Dad,” he says, “but that’s really lame.”
“Sometimes the best things in life sound lame until you have them.” I pat his shoulder. “Now, come on, kids. Let’s fix this before your mom gets home and sends us all to bed without dinner.”
Like that would ever happen.
Ronan’s eyes go wide. “But it’s taco night.”
“Then we’d better hurry.”
We scramble to get the flowers back into position, though it mostly comes down to Rylan and me as Rosie loses interest and Ronan moves at a snail’s pace. We’re just putting the last bloom into place when Daphne calls out to us.
We all turn as she steps out into the backyard. Putting a hand to her brow, she shakes her head. “What are you doing?”
Ronan scrambles to tell her everything. When he’s finished she tells him—and his siblings—to go inside and wash up for dinner.
When we’re alone, I study her with interest. “You don’t seem upset.”
“You’ve already cleaned up most of the mess.” She lifts a shoulder. “Besides, I suppose I’ve been waiting for this day for a while now.”
“You’ve been waiting for the kids to dig up our garden.”
“I’ve been waiting for our kids to develop the treasure-hunting bug.” She wraps her arms around my waist and rests her head against my chest. “It does run in their blood.”
“That it does.” I put an arm around her and press my lips to the side of her head. “Luckily they inherited their mom’s sense of perseverance and creativity too.”
“We make pretty good babies.” She trails a hand suggestively up my chest. “Maybe tonight we should get to work making another to even out our numbers.”
I beam down at her. “That sounds like a plan.”
Because even if we have another baby with an overactive imagination and a penchant for digging up gardens, they’ll still be an amazing kid because they’re ours.
* * *
Check out the next installment in the Princes of the Mountain series, RIVER. In it, a mountain man and a headstrong city slicker find opposites attract when they’re stranded together as they go in search of a family legend.