Author's Note: So here's Chapter 2. I had hoped to get it to you sooner and be posting Chapter 3 today, but that's life for you. I will do my best to get Chapter 3 to you soon.


A loud knocking sound started up from under the hood of Clay's truck, and soon the entire body began to vibrate. Even though his foot pressed on the accelerator, the truck's forward motion decreased. Sighing, he turned the wheel, guiding the vehicle off the road as it came to a complete stop. He banged his fists on the steering wheel and let his head fall back against the headrest. He meant to follow up on that email from the dealership about the recall repair, but he kept putting the chore off.

He pulled out his cell phone. At least he had a signal, because no one would be driving by on this back road. He opted to take a shortcut to Virginia Beach when he hit heavy traffic on Route 284. Of course, he wouldn't have needed a shortcut if he hadn't volunteered to do an errand for Commander Blackburn at Yorktown Naval Base.

As much as he now regretted agreeing to the trip, at the time he had jumped at the chance to be out from under the watchful eyes of Sonny and Trent, and the entire team. All of them had been smothering him since his return to duty after being injured on the winter survival training mission.

Scrolling through his contacts, he considered calling Sonny, but not wanting to leave his truck out in the middle of nowhere, he decided on AAA for a tow. The operator promised someone would be there as soon as possible, and he settled back to wait. He hoped he wouldn't be sitting here long.


Emma finished peeling up the last piece of painter's tape from the trim in her home office. The freshly painted, pale green walls soothed her on this gray winter's day. She and Clay had lived in this house for over a year and a half, but she took her time deciding what color she wanted in this room. She spent the majority of her working days in here writing her songs, and she needed the room to help put her in the right mood to create.

She turned to the dog sitting by the door "What do you think, Cerb? Looks pretty good in here, huh?"

Cerberus let out a small bark of agreement.

Glancing at her phone, she checked she had enough time to clean up before needing to start dinner. As soon as she dealt with the painting supplies and straightened up the room, she would begin cooking. Then once things were in the oven, there would be time for her to hop in the shower and freshen up.

Today was Valentine's Day, the first since her and Clay's marriage. They had decided not to go out as money was tight right now. With all the work they had been doing on the house and their wedding less than a year ago, their savings had been depleted. However, Emma still wanted to prepare a special dinner.

Her Grandma Linda supplied Emma with a recipe for pot roast. While she loved to bake, Emma found cooking big meals more challenging. She handled the basics, like pasta, chicken breasts, or tacos, fine, but she needed guidance for anything more complex. She spent at least an hour on the phone picking her grandmother's brain for advice on preparing this dinner.

Folding the last drop cloth, she checked over the room. The furniture still needed to be put back into place, but otherwise everything looked good. She picked up all her supplies and headed to the basement with Cerb following behind.


Clay paced by the side of the road while the tow truck driver pulled the broken-down pickup onto his flat bed. Checking the time again, Clay frowned. Who knew how long the drive from here would take?

While he waited two hours for AAA to arrive, his phone rang repeatedly with his teammates wondering what happened to him. Sonny planned on meeting Clay at the dealership and giving him a ride. Clay hoped they would make it to the florist shop before closing time. He ordered a bouquet of roses for Emma for Valentine's Day, and he didn't want to miss picking them up.

Finally, the vehicle was secured, and the driver motioned for Clay to hop in the passenger seat of the tow truck. Climbing in the cab, Clay crossed his fingers the trip would be quick.


The delicious smell of pot roast cooking permeated the air as Emma came downstairs. Cerb joined her at the bottom of the steps and followed her to the dining room.

"You be a good boy tonight, and I'll slip you some pot roast later, okay?"

Still wearing her robe and with hot rollers in her hair, she began setting the dining room table. As she organized two place settings, she debated digging out the candlesticks her grandparents gave her and Clay as a wedding gift. They barely used them, okay, make that never, and she was sure brand-new tapers were stored with them.

Figuring why not go all out for their first married Valentine's Day, Emma pulled the candlesticks out and found two sets of candles, one white and one pink. Deciding the pink ones fit the holiday better, she set them up on the table. Pleased with the results of her decorating, she nodded and headed back upstairs to find an outfit and deal with her hair.


Over an hour later, Clay climbed out of the tow truck and spoke to a mechanic about his vehicle and the recall. While he discussed the time frame for getting his truck back, Sonny meandered by examining the new models in the showroom. Clay finished with the mechanic, handed over his keys and began following his teammate around the sales floor.

"Sir, what would it take for us to get you into a new one of these today?"

"Oh, I'm just look—" Sonny spun around and stopped speaking when he realized it was Clay harassing him. "Took you long enough to get here Blondie."

"I know. I think we hit every traffic jam possible. Thanks for waiting. I really appreciate the ride."

"No problem, just remember this the next time I want you to come out with me." Sonny grinned at Clay as the pair walked out to the parking lot towards his truck.

Clay nodded, accepting Sonny would use this at least five times as a reason why Clay should come out to the Bulkhead with him.

As they climbed into Sonny's ride, the Texan grabbed something off the passenger seat. "Here. I saw this in your cage and figured you'd want it."

Taking the item, Clay realized it was the card he had bought, but not yet signed, for Emma for Valentine's Day. "Thanks… Wait a minute. Wasn't my cage locked?"

"You think a little thing like a lock is going to stop me? I'm a SEAL." Sonny snorted. "You should be thankin' me. If I didn't bring it, you'd be stuck with whatever's left at the store."

"You're right, thanks."

"Although, there are some funny cards I saw, if you wanted to go that way, instead of so flowery." As he drove, Sonny waved a hand in the air at the word flowery.

"You're suggesting I give my wife a funny card for the first Valentine's Day we're married?" Clay shook his head.

"Okay, when you put it like that, it's not so good. I just think ladies like a laugh, you know?"

"Right, on Valentine's Day."

"No, really, and there was this one card. It had a poem. It said 'Love is hard, love is complex. Something, Something. Let's have sex.'" Sonny laughed as he recalled the card.

Clay raised his eyebrows. "And you think that's the one I should have bought for Emma?"

Sonny's eyes widened as he remembered exactly who Clay's wife was. "No, no, of course not. Because you two don't, you aren't…"

Snickering, Clay waited to see how his friend would finish that statement. When no more words were forthcoming, he shook his head. He knew Sonny did his best to pretend Emma and Clay had a completely chaste relationship. "Son, you know Emma and I are married now, right?"

"Sure, yeah." Doing his best to ignore Clay's words, Sonny focused on the traffic ahead.

"And you know married people—"

"Whoa, would you look at that. Some kind of accident up there. Looks like we're going to be here a while, Poster Boy." Sonny's relief at being able to change the topic was obvious.

Clay's face fell as the size of the backup ahead became apparent. "Shit. There must be some other way we can go."

Turning into the entrance to the parking area of a strip mall, Sonny was able to take them back in the direction they came from. "Where's the florist again?"

"On Princess Anne Road."

"Hmmm, I'm not sure we're gonna make it." Sonny took them down a side road to try to detour around the accident. "Emma will understand if you can't get her flowers until tomorrow."

Tensing as they hit a line up of cars also trying to divert around the first traffic jam, Clay frowned. "I know she'll understand, but I don't want her to understand. She already accepts so much because of my job, the least I can do is give her flowers on Valentine's Day when I'm actually home."

Sonny nodded. "Okay then, hold on, Blondie. And you might wanna call the florist and see if they're willin' to stay a little late." He spun the steering wheel and raced them down a barely paved alley way behind a bunch of stores, passing the line of backed-up cars.

Clay pulled out his phone. "Good idea. I should tell Emma too."


Frowning, Emma read the text from Clay. He would be later than expected because his truck broke down and traffic was a mess. The pot roast was taking longer than expected to cook anyway, so she didn't think his delay would be a problem.

She had reminded him about bringing the truck in for the recall though. She even offered to do it while he was spun up to make being without a vehicle less inconvenient, but he insisted he would take care of it.

Examining herself one more time in the mirror, Emma decided she was ready. She didn't dress up too much as they were staying home, but she did want to look nicer than usual. She wore a soft red sweater she knew Clay liked to touch along with a pair of faux leather leggings. Her make-up wasn't too heavy, but she had used hot rollers to give her hair more body than usual.

Underneath her outfit, she wore a matching, black lace bra and thong set she thought Clay would appreciate. She did have plans for after dinner. Her lips curved in a smile as she considered those plans while on her way to check on their meal.


Sonny's truck squealed to a stop at the curb in front of the flower shop, and Clay sprang out the door as an employee locked the store's door for the night.

"Wait, please, I'm here to pick up the bouquet of roses I ordered. I called on the phone earlier." Clay hoped the woman would take pity on him and reopen.

"You made it just in time. I couldn't wait any longer." The florist turned the key back in the lock to open the door. "Do you have your order confirmation? I'll pull your bouquet from the cooler while you find it."

Walking into the shop, Clay scrolled through his emails for the confirmation. Once he found the shop's email, he opened it and waited for the woman to come back with Emma's flowers.

"Here you go. One dozen, long-stemmed red roses." Coming out of the back, the florist carried the flowers, already wrapped and ready to go. Clay showed her the confirmation, and she scanned it into the system.

Picking up the flowers from the counter, he gave her a grateful smile. "Thank you so much. Today has been terrible with my truck breaking down and traffic everywhere. This is the first Valentine's Day since my wife and I got married, and I didn't want to go home without flowers for her."

"You're welcome. I'm glad I was able to wait long enough for you to make it here. Happy Valentine's Day." She began collecting her things to close up the shop again.

"Happy Valentine's Day." Clay headed out the door back to Sonny's truck.


Pulling the pot roast out of the oven, Emma wondered how much later Clay would be. The meat was cooked, and she didn't want to leave it in any longer, but she didn't want the food to get cold either. She decided to take the meat and potatoes out of the roasting pan and put them on the serving dish. Then she'd cover the food with tinfoil to help it stay warm.

While she put the roast and potatoes on the platter, Cerb went to the back door and let out happy bark. The door opened, and Clay walked in carrying a large bouquet. "Happy Valentine's Day. Wow, it smells delicious in here." He leaned down and with his free hand scratched Cerb's head.

Placing the serving spoon on the counter, Emma turned to Clay. "Happy Valentine's Day. I made pot roast with potatoes. Oh, and broccoli too."

"Pot roast, mmm, I can't wait to try some." He handed Emma the bouquet and gave her a soft kiss. "You look beautiful."

"Thank you. These are gorgeous."

She leaned forward to kiss him again. They stood nibbling at each other's lips, and he slid his arms around her, holding her loosely as Emma still held the flowers between them. Clay's hands rubbed up and down the soft material of her sweater on her back, and he moved to deepen their kiss.

Seeing his humans were too busy to pay any attention to him, Cerb went to lie down in his bed in the living room.

Breaking off their kiss, Emma stepped out of his hold. "As nice as this is, we should eat before the food gets cold. And I should put these in water."

"You're right. What can I do to help?"

Emma grabbed a vase from a cabinet. "You could get the wine. There's a Cabernet, or I have some Prosecco in the fridge."

"How about the Prosecco since it's Valentine's Day." Clay opened the fridge and took out the bottle.

After putting the roses in water and placing the vase at one end of the table, Emma carried in the food. Clay dealt with opening the wine and pouring them each a glass. He held out a chair for Emma to sit and sat down opposite her.

Clay lifted his glass. "Let's have a toast."

"Okay." Emma picked up her glass and waited.

Clay flashed her a self-conscious smile and cleared his throat. "To my beautiful wife on the first Valentine's Day of our marriage. I hope we have many more together. I love you. Cheers."

"Cheers. I love you too." She reached forward to touch her glass to his. Clay didn't often make big displays of his affections. He was more likely to show his love in his actions, cleaning the snow off her car in winter, bringing her a treat she might like from the bakery, or planning some outing she'd enjoy, and she always appreciated those things. She knew not everyone's significant other was so thoughtful. But she always found it touching when he put his feelings into words.

They each took a sip of their Prosecco and settled in to enjoy their meal. As they ate, they chatted about their days. Emma laughed at Sonny's suggestion for a Valentine's Day card and rolled her eyes at Clay when he told her the mechanic thought the truck would have been fine if it had been brought in earlier.

Once they finished eating, Emma stood to clear their plates and bring out dessert, chocolate lava cakes with vanilla ice cream. As she came around the table to take Clay's dish, he pulled her down into his lap. Pushing her hair back, he began to kiss her neck.

"Mmm… don't you want dessert?" She let her eyes drift closed as she enjoyed Clay's touch.

Lifting his head, Clay smiled. "This is my dessert. Besides, didn't you say you finished painting in your office? You know what that means."

She grinned. "I do, Spenser House Rules."

When they moved into their house, Clay told her they needed to christen all the rooms. Emma agreed that was a perfectly fine idea, but eventually they ran out of rooms. At which point, Clay suggested a new 'rule' for their house, whenever they finished remodeling or fixing any of the rooms in any way, it needed to be re-christened.

"That's right, Spenser House Rules." Clay stood up from his chair, cradling her in his arms. "You wouldn't want to be a bad girl and break any of our rules, would you?"

Emma ran a finger down Clay's chest, as he carried her towards her office. "I don't know. I think I'd like to be a bad girl with you."

"When you put it that way, how can I say no?"

Their intimate laughter floated down the hall to Cerberus curled up in his bed in the living room. His tail thumped contentedly on the floor as listened to his owners' happiness.