YOU got right up there and declared to the world that Sissy is ours. Just like the proud father you are. I don’t know how you managed to get Black to give up all ties to her, and I don’t really care. But not once did I experience a moment of humiliation watching you. Now it’s time for me to speak and I want you to listen to me for once.”
“But . . .”
“For goodness’ sake.” Nadia sighed impatiently. “Can’t you be silent for a second or two?”
He frowned down at her, looking as though he wanted to argue.
“Fine, wife. What is it you want me to hear?”
She reached up and placed her palm flat against his cheek.
“I am so proud of you. Standing up there takes a man of courage to do such a thing. A man who puts the feelings of a young girl first. A man I am privileged and grateful to call my husband.”
“Not one person has the right to look down on Sissy. As her father it’s up to me to protect her and deal with the Rebecca Moores in the world.” She grinned.
“After listening to you I doubt there’s one person who will dare to do differently. Some people around here have long memories and little compassion in their hearts, but you showed them what a real man does. How a good man looks and acts. The real way a man protects his kin. You are a man of great heart and I thank God he nudged you into choosing me for your wife.”
“God had nothing to do with it,” he replied. “I make up my own mind.”
She laughed and continued to caress his face.
“Is it true?” Sissy interrupted as she ran up to them. Ed and Dawnie trailed behind. “Have you really adopted me?” Nadia wrapped her arms around Sissy.
“Yes, we have. Are you pleased?”
Sissy’s grin lit up her face.
“I’m ecstatic. I’m so happy I can hardly speak! May I call you Ma and Pa?” she asked.
“I expect nothing else from my girl,” Diggory said.
Sissy threw herself into his arms and hugged him tight.
“I love you, Pa. Ma, too. I love you so much I think my heart is going to burst out of my chest.”
Diggory smiled over his daughter’s head at his wife. His own happiness shining in his eyes.
“We love you, too, darling.”
“If you have all finished with the family hugs and tears, how about we take our little sister down to the water and teach her how to paddle the Rorke way,” Tynan suggested.
“The Rorke way?” Sissy asked, confused.
“What is that?”
“Best come with your big brother and find out.” He lifted her off the ground and carried her away, the rest of his brothers following behind.
Nadia watched them leave until she and Diggory once again stood alone. He pulled her close once more.
“What were you saying before our daughter interrupted us?”
She stood on tiptoe and kissed his mouth.
Her lips lingered as her eyes held his.
“I love you, Diggory Rorke. You’ve stolen my heart and made it all yours.”
He grinned and circled his arms around her.
“It’s what I’ve wanted since the very first time I saw you in town when you first moved here. You were wearing a pink sun bonnet and a pink gingham dress.”
Her eyes widened at the memory.
“It was my favourite dress. I made it before I left home.”
“You looked so fine sitting up there on the wagon, ignoring all the curious stares from people walking by. I wanted to climb up and kiss you until you saw stars. But then Bennett walked out of the store, sat beside you and shouted at you for some reason.”
“And I turned away from him and saw you,” she finished, recalling the day as though it was only recent instead of years ago.
“I thought my heart was going to stop. I fell in love. I’ve waited a long time for you to tell me you love me back.”
Fresh tears filled her eyes, but she didn’t need to see him clearly to reply.
“I do, Diggory Rorke. I love you and I’ve never loved anyone as much.”
“Then how about you promise to stay my wife for a whole lot longer?”
“If you’ll be my husband for a whole lot more, I will.”
He kissed her mouth.
“You remember the other night when Grandma Mary came to visit?” Nadia asked.
“I do. I also recall her taking a liking to you, so I expect her to visit often. You’ve made a firm friend in that woman.”
“Do you remember what she said after she checked Sissy over?”
“Which part in particular?”
“The part about seeing children in my eyes?”
He pulled away and stared down at her.
“Mmm. How she said you would give me children.”
Diggory lifted her up and swung her around on the spot, yelling with joy as they twirled.
“A baby? We’re going to have a baby?”
She laughed and nodded. His happiness as big as her own.
Diggory hugged her close.
“I hope Grandma Mary’s right about us having some girls. Wouldn’t be fair for Sissy to be our only one. Girl needs some help to keep our boys in line.”
She had waited a long time for joy to enter her life, and never did she imagine it coming in the form of one very opinionated cowboy. But he had taught her there was nothing better than the love of a good man and family to fulfil a person.
As far as she was concerned, hers was surely the best.