The Search

PART ONE

Properly trained, a man can be a dog’s best friend.

COREY FORD

ONE

On a chilly morning in February with a misty rain shuttering the windows, Devin and Rosie Cauldwell made slow, sleepy love. It was day three of their week’s vacation—and month two of their attempt to conceive a second child. Their three-year-old son, Hugh, was the result of a long weekend on Orcas Island in the San Juans and—Rosie was convinced—a rainy afternoon and a bottle of Pinot Noir.

They hoped to repeat their success with a return visit to Orcas, and happily applied themselves to the mission at hand while their toddler slept with his beloved Wubby in the next room.

It was too early in the day for wine, but Rosie took the quiet rain as an omen.

When they were snuggled up together, loose and warm from sex, she smiled.

“Who had the best idea ever?”

Devin gave her ass an easy squeeze. “You did.”

“Hang on, because I just had another one.”

“I think I need a few minutes, first.”

She laughed, rolled and propped herself on his chest to grin at him. “Get your mind off sex, Sleazy.”

“I think I need a few minutes for that, too.”

“Pancakes. We need pancakes. Rainy morning, our cozy little house. Definitely calls for pancakes.”

He squinted at her. “Who’s making them?”

“Let the fates decide.”

She scooted up, and in a long-standing Cauldwell family tradition they let the balance hang on Rock, Paper, Scissors—best two out of three.

“Damn it,” she muttered when he crushed her scissors with his rock.

“Superior skill wins out.”

“My ass. But fair’s fair—and I have to pee anyway.” She bent down to give him a smacking kiss, then jumped out of bed. “I love vacation,” she said as she dashed into the bathroom.

She especially loved this vacation, she thought, with her two handsome men. If the rain kept up, or got heavier, they’d play games inside. But if it let up, maybe they’d strap Hugh in the carrier and take a bike ride, or just go for a long hike.

Hugh just loved it here, loved the birds, the lake, the deer they’d spotted and of course the rabbits—all brothers to his faithful Wubby.

And maybe he’d have a brother of his own in the fall. She was ovulating—not that she was obsessing about getting pregnant. But counting days wasn’t obsessing, she thought as she caught her sleep- and sex-mussed hair back in a band. It was just being self-aware.

She grabbed a sweatshirt and some flannel pants, glanced back at Devin, who’d gone back to snoozing.

She really thought they’d hit the money shot.

Delighted with the idea, she pulled on heavy socks, then glanced at the watch she’d left on the dresser.

“Gosh, it’s after eight. We must’ve worn Hugh out last night for him to sleep this late.”

“Probably the rain,” Devin mumbled.

“Yeah, probably.”

Still, she turned out of their room for his, as she did every morning, at home or away. She moved quietly, content to let him sleep—a bonus if she could grab her first cup of coffee before she heard the first Mommy of the day.

She peeked in, expecting to find him curled up with his stuffed bunny. The empty bed didn’t bring panic. He might’ve gotten up to pee, just as she had. He’d gotten so good with his potty training.

Even when she didn’t find him in the little bathroom off the hall, she didn’t panic. Since he was habitually an early riser, they’d encouraged him to play for a bit before waking them. She usually heard him, talking to his toys or running his cars, but she’d been a little distracted having vacation sex.

God, she thought as she