Dakota Blues

By: Lisa Mondello

Chapter One

The Badlands of South Dakota were unlike anywhere else in the world, especially during the winter. Some people hated the South Dakota winters. But to Hawk McKinnon, it was a time for Sunday dinners with the family and snuggling by a warm fire with the woman who had the whole of his heart, Regis Simpson.

Reggie, as she liked to be referred to, had been increasingly absent for more Sunday dinners in the two years since they’d been together than Hawk could count. Today she was home and he was going to make sure she stayed there long enough for him to finally talk about the one thing she’d been avoiding since she’d moved into his house. The two of them finally getting married!

He’d thought briefly about stopping by the diner across the street, the home away from home that his mother had owned and operated for nearly all of his thirty-seven years. But he decided against it. She was probably ready to leave for the day and would only stay longer to feed him like she used to do before Regis had come into his life. Now he and Regis made dinner together. Well, on the nights she was home.

As he walked in the snow through the clinic parking lot, he thought about getting into his truck and driving it back to the house. Why bother? The air was crisp. It was a good night even if it had already started to snow again.

Last night’s snowfall had piled on to the snow they’d had earlier in the week. The plows were already out throwing salt and sand on the roads to keep them drivable. Good. Hawk didn’t need any accidents or emergency to call him away tonight and keep him from what he’d planned.

The light inside the house was on, he discovered as he rounded the trees and his house came into view. Regis’s car was parked out front, which made him smile. It was infinitely better to come home to Regis than to an empty house.

A cleared spot where his truck had been parked this morning was starting to get covered over with snow. Anticipation made his insides hum and had his gait picking up a notch as he walked. He shoved his hand in his pocket and smiled. It was going to be a great night.

* * *

This was the absolute last thing she'd expected. Well, maybe not the last thing. Reggie Simpson leaned against the bathroom vanity and stared down at the pregnancy test she’d just taken. The results were clear. She knew how to read them even if it was the first time she’d ever taken a pregnancy test.

She was a grown-up girl and had always prided herself on being responsible. She knew how babies were made. So did Keith, Hawk as his friends and family liked to call him. She loved Keith McKinnon with every fiber of her being. And she was well-loved by an honorable man. Keith never crowded her, and he didn’t push her to do things his way. He respected her independence. She was a lucky woman in so many respects.

But today her luck had run out.

No, not luck. Timing.

Reggie wasn’t ready for this. A baby? How could she fit a baby into her busy schedule? They weren’t ready for this. She and Keith weren’t even married.

Reggie searched her mind for what might have happened. She’d thought she’d taken her pill every day like clockwork, but maybe she'd missed a day.

She’d had a case of the flu the last time she'd gone on a business trip and spent most of the trip curled up in bed in her hotel room, and ordering room service. She’d only left the room to get medication, and to meet with Joel Bennington, an administrator working on Veterans Affairs in Washington, DC. Perhaps the medication or the flu had thrown off her cycle enough to make her birth-control pills ineffective.

That had to be it. She was good about taking her pill every day. She’d have noticed if she’d accidentally skipped a day. She hadn’t. She’d been careful.

But obviously not careful enough.

Reggie sighed as she stared at the pregnancy test again, as if the results she’d just seen would magically disappear, and she could just walk out of the bathroom as if nothing had changed. Her life with Keith would be the same as it was before she’d walked into the bathroom. But the line on the pregnancy test remained blue as if it were mocking her.

It was unmistakable. Reggie was pregnant. It was the worst possible news she could hear right now.

Most women in her position would be crying with joy after getting news like this, she thought as she held the pregnancy test with trembling hands. But all Reggie wanted to do was break down and cry for a very different reason. One she knew Keith would never understand. How could he? He was perfect, and well, she wasn’t. Not in the way it mattered in becoming parents.

Reggie knew Keith would be over the moon when she told him the news. If it had been up to him alone, they would have been married a year ago. He made no secret that he wanted to start a family right away. Neither of them were getting younger. Keith wanted a big McKinnon brood just like his parents had. Like the families his brothers were starting.