Liana sat sideways in the front seat of Ben's black Range Rover, keeping a constant eye on Livvy who was cooing and waving her hands in her car seat. She seemed to be fascinated by her fingers and constantly kept trying to grasp the fingers of one hand with the other hand. Liana was smiling at her.
Ben kept his eye on the road, with an occasional glance into the rear view mirror to smile at his daughter, or over to the passenger seat to smile at his wife. They were on their way to Jeff's house, so that he and Stevo could keep Olivia while the Wades went into Sydney overnight.
Ben had fussed about the whole thing. "Don' know why we've got to haul her clear across town," he'd said to Liana. "We got Dan an' Frank fightin' one another to keep her for us. An' Frank's gotta send a security man to keep watch on Jeff's house while she's here. Wouldn'ta had to do that if we'd jus' left her with Dan or Frank."
"I promised Jeff," Liana had told him firmly. "He's been asking me if he could babysit sometime since we brought Livvy home from the hospital. You've seen how he looks at her. It'll be nice for Dan to have some time alone with his boys without having to take care of her too. And Frank's supposed to be a security man, not a babysitter."
As they pulled into Jeff's driveway now, she asked Ben, "Do you think we brought too much stuff?" The back of the Range Rover was filled with a playpen, a baby swing, a stroller, and all sorts of odds and ends. "Jeff and Stevo will think we're moving her in with them."
"Not a chance," Ben grinned at her, as he opened the back door and scooped Olivia out of the car seat. As always, she smiled from ear to ear at the sight of daddy. "C'mere, Princess."
As they walked toward the door, Liana remarked, "Well, if Jeff's interested in having one, this ought to give him a good idea of what it would be like."
"I still can't figure out how that's gonna work," Ben answered with a smirk. "What with him and his 'partner' both bein'-"
"Shhhh." Liana gave him a warning look as she knocked at the door. "Honestly, Ben! Get over it!"
The door opened and she saw Stevo looking out at them.
Stevo looked in the guest bedroom as he made his way to the door. Jeff was too busy in there to have heard the knock. He opened the door to see Ben, Liana and Livvy. He smiled as he stood back to let them in.
"Hello, it's good to see you. I'll just get Jeff, he's putting last minute touches to the guest bedroom for Livvy."
He turned and headed back to the guest room and stuck his head round the door. "Jeff, they're here."
"Oh bugger...they're early," Jeff replied, brushing back his hair with his hands.
"No, mate, they're right on time. You've been so busy in here you've lost track."
Jeff grinned before answering. "Hey, it was well worth it don't ya think?" he stood back to let Stevo see his hard work. He'd been putting together a beautiful baby cot. He'd told Stevo it was well worth the effort as he was sure Livvy wouldn't be the only baby in the Glen who would visit. He followed Stevo back into the lounge room where their guests were waiting. His face lit up when he spotted Livvy. He controlled the urge to rush over to her and turned to Liana.
"G'Day, Liana. I can't thank you enough for putting your trust in us to look after Livvy. We won't take our eyes off her."
He turned to Ben next. He was quite wary of Ben Wade. There was something dangerous about the man he was certain. "Mr. Wade. Good to see you."
Finally his eyes dropped to Livvy, who was happily playing with Ben's beard, running her little fingers across it and giggling.
"Hello, Angel. You sure are growing. You want to stay with Uncle Jeff and Uncle Seb?"
Stevo grinned at Jeff, loving the way he interacted
with the child. He turned to Ben. "Jeff's been getting a cot put together for
Livvy. I noticed you'd got some stuff in the back of the car, but we didn't want
to assume you'd have a travel cot. Come take a look, you can let us know if it's
suitable for her."
Ben was quite dangerous, but you'd never know that watching him with his daughter, Liana thought to herself. The man who could kill without hesitation was easily brought to his knees by the tiny little girl with his blue eyes and her own dark hair.
Following Jeff, she said with surprise, "You really didn't have to go to all that trouble, Jeff! I was thinking that, with some extra padding, she could sleep in the playpen for one night. She naps in it all the time and seems perfectly comfortable."
"It was no trouble, Liana. I just threw it together in a couple of minutes."
"He's been at it all day," Stevo whispered to Ben.
"Besides, the little angel deserves to be comfy when she's away from home, it will make her more secure if she's sleeping in something that is on the same lines as what she has at home."
"Even if it only cost a quarter of the price," Stevo
said under his breath.
Liana heard him and almost giggled. A quick look at Ben told her that, luckily, he hadn't heard. To Ben, no amount of money spent on his princess was too much.
Ben was walking toward the cot with Livvy. "Looky here, Livvy." He put her down on the little bed. "How you like your bed for tonight?"
The baby gazed around her curiously. Finally, she looked up at Jeff and smiled.
Jeff beamed at Liana and Ben. "Look at that, ya think she recognises me?"
Stevo smiled indulgently at his partner.
"Hey, Little Angel. Uncle Jeff and Uncle Seb are going to keep you safe while Mummy and Daddy have a well deserved break." He looked up at the proud parents and smiled.
"We can't thank you enough for trusting us with Livvy. She'll come to no harm while she's in our care."
"Ain't that the truth," Stevo smiled. "We even fenced off the pool, and she's not likely to crawl that far yet."
"Don't listen to him," Jeff interrupted. "we were
going to do it anyway, make a feature out of it, so I thought we may as well get
it done before bubs came to stay. That way if it's not too hot, we can take her
out onto the patio and not worry about the swimming pool."
"You two are just too good," Liana told them. "We didn't mean for you to go around making all these changes for her."
"As for comin' to no harm," Ben said, flicking back a curtain to take a quick look out the window, "Frank Parker's got one 'a his men watchin' over the place. He'll be there until we get back and Frank calls him off."
Ben had been peering suspiciously around outside. He had no worries about the inside of the house. Despite the way he teased about Jeff and Stevo's relationship, he didn't have any doubts about them taking care of his daughter. If he had, he would never have left her there. It wasn't inside dangers, but outside ones that he worried about.
Liana glanced at her husband and then quickly back to the two men fussing over Livvy. "It's not that we don't trust you," she said, hoping they understood. "It's just that, after what happened when Livvy was born, we haven't taken any chances since."
Jeff looked crest fallen at Ben's remark, but cheered up a bit when Liana added to it.
"Oh, okay, we understand. At least we won't have to worry if we spot a stranger outside, but I guess if he's good enough to guard the place he'll be too good for us to spot. Will we need to keep him fed and watered?"
Stevo put his arm round Jeff's shoulder, sensing how
upset his really was. "If she was ours, we'd most likely do the same in the
circumstances. Be assured that we would both die rather than let any harm come
to her...but that's not gonna happen here, especially as my mum has given the
house an Aboriginal blessing to keep us all safe." He smiled at the look of
shock on Ben's face.
Liana looked a warning at her husband. "How wonderful," she said. "Maybe she would come over and do the same at our place sometime."
"There's no need to worry about Frank's men. They take care of themselves, and they work in shifts, so none of them get hungry or thirsty without getting a break. Honestly," she added, "they're only around to make sure nobody from outside could come in and try to kidnap Livvy or anything. You'll never see them unless there's some sort of trouble and there's never been any so far."
Although someone watching her and the baby all the time when Ben wasn't around had bothered Liana at first, she'd quickly become used to the idea that someone was present all the time. After what had happened to her with Charlie Prince, she had been afraid and come to welcome the idea that someone was around to protect them.
"Okie dokie then, we can give 100% of our attention to the little one and not worry about feeding the troops. All you two have to worry about is having a great night out," Jeff smiled.
"And we really don't care how many times you call us
to ask how she's going," Stevo added with a huge grin.
"Not much of a night out." Ben had relaxed a little and was grinning at Liana. "We're goin' down to look at some horses. Too long a trip to come back the same day."
"Cool, I love horses. Jeffie is coming round to my way of thinking, but being a city boy and all, he hasn't really come into contact with them too much. Maybe you can help him overcome his wariness around them, Mr. Wade."
"Be glad to." Ben was always happy to discuss one of his favorite subjects other than his little girl. "You boys come around any time. Got a few out at the ranch that're gentle as lambs. Won't even slap a fly with their tails."
"Livvy here'll be ridin' fore you know it." He raised his daughter high over his head and smiled up at her. "Won't you, darlin'?"
Liana glanced at Jeff and Stevo. "I'm amazed he hasn't tried to put her car seat on a horse and take her riding already."
Jeff suddenly had an uncontrollable fit of giggles at the thought of Livvy's car seat strapped to a horse, and when he was able to speak again and explain, even Ben couldn't help but laugh.
"Couldn't you hold her in front of you, Mr. Wade? I'm sure she'd love to go riding with her daddy. I'd love to learn to ride, as long as it's not on a bucking bronco," Jeff said, tickling Livvy to make her gurgle with delight.
"Tried that a little bit already," Ben said. "Not like having her riding sitting up, though. Can't wait for that."
He looked over at Jeff. "I can put you on a horse that ain't never bucked in his life."
"I'm grateful for that, Mr. Wade. Jeff's been through enough recently, don't want him to get all beat up again any time soon," Stevo replied.
"You know something, Liana," Jeff said quietly. "Your
husband isn't as scary as I thought he was." He then spoke up a bit, "I'm not
being a very good host. Can I offer you both something to drink? Tea...coffee?"
Liana could see Ben's smirk at Jeff's comment. If only he knew. Then she squelched that thought. If he, or anyone else, knew, Ben would be in prison, not here with her and their daughter.
"Hate to be runnin' off," Ben said, and he had eyes only for his daughter as he spoke. "But we'd best skip anythin' to drink. We gotta unload the car and be goin'"
"Right-o," Jeff smiled. "Maybe you'll have more time
when you come pick Angel up tomorrow." With that, he bounded out the door to
help Ben unload the car. Stevo shrugged his shoulders at Liana and followed Jeff
Liana shrugged back and held Olivia as the men unloaded the things they had brought. Cradling the baby, she cooed to her. "Mommy and Daddy will be gone for awhile. Just for a day, while we look at horses and Jeff and Stevo will take really good care of you while we're gone."
Livvy looked up at her solemnly, as though understanding every word. Liana had noticed almost right away that, although Livvy always listened to her and seemed content when her mama held her, she almost never smiled at her. It was as though her smiles were reserved only for daddy. It distressed her sometimes, but then Ben had been the first to really hold her, the first to bond with her. It made sense in that light.
As Jeff came puffing through the door with his load, Liana laughed. "I'm sorry if we brought too much. We didn't know what you might need."
"No worries," he gasped, dropping the load in the
guest bedroom. "Angel can't have too much stuff, and the more things she
recognises, the better she'll settle, won't you, Little One," he said, tickling
Livvy and giggling along with her. "She'll be right, don't worry. Just make sure
you have fun checking out the horses."
"I will," Liana told him. "Ben's teaching me about them little by little. Wants me to know enough eventually to be able to know what to buy on my own, but I'm not sure I'll ever know as much about them as he does."
"I'm sure that's not true. I think he's a good
teacher. Have a great time, and don't feel you have to rush back, we'll keep
Livvy entertained while you're away."
Ben came into the room with his own load of baby things. After setting it down, he went over and took Livvy from her mama. "Daddy's little princess gonna be good tonight?"
As he lifted her, Livvy gave a high-pitched giggle. Ben answered it with his own laugh and Liana looked at both of them with pride. "I'm sure she will," she said, speaking as much to Jeff and Stevo as to Ben. "Not too much trouble she can get into yet at this age."
"We'll be back late tomorrow afternoon, Jeff." Liana fished in the pocket of her jeans. "I've written down both our cell phone numbers, Dan Evans' number and Frank Parker's too. Either one of them could help you out if there's an emergency, and they'd only be a few minutes away."
"Okie dokie," Jeff replied, taking the paper from
Liana. "We'll see you tomorrow arvo. Take care."
They were both reluctant to leave Livvy, but Ben and Liana finally managed to drag themselves out of the house and into the car. As they drove away, Liana was still looking back and waving.