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Chapter Twenty-six
A Husband's Reward

"So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church."
~ Ephesians 5:28, 29 ~

As the snow and blustery winds of winter continued to rage through the middle of January, Abby was beginning to feel huge in more ways than one. Her belly was getting bigger, and so were other parts of her body. To her embarrassment, Jake first noticed the change as he was walking past her open bedroom door one morning, as she was finishing buttoning her blouse.

"Don't say it," Abby begged, as she caught the young man gaping at her in the reflection of her mirror.

Broadly grinning, Jake stared at his wife with raised eyebrows.

"Wow, Abby," he smiled, "either you've grown, or that top shrunk in the dryer!"

"Thanks a lot!" she cried, adjusting her shoulders and taking another look at herself in the mirror. "This blouse isn't too tight, is it?"

"No... it isn't," he hesitated, finding it difficult to take his eyes off her, "but if you get any bigger, it will be."

"Do you have to gawk at me like that?" she whimpered, catching his steady gaze in the mirror. "No wonder you haven't come near me in days. I'm getting so ugly!"

"Hey," he gently scolded her, "stop saying that about the woman I love."

"Why not?" Abby gloomily sighed. "It's true. Oh, Jake! I'm even getting stretch marks on my belly!"

Jake answered Abby by coming to her side and nuzzling his face into the nape of her neck. Then, he rested his head against hers and looked at their reflection in the mirror.

"You're so beautiful, Abby," he breathed, "inside and out." Jake kissed her ear and smiled affectionately. "You don't really think I sleep alone because you gained a little weight, do you?"

"No, I suppose not," she answered slowly, closing her eyes and relaxing against him. Abby was about to get cozier, when she noticed two apologetic brown eyes staring back at her, and realized that she had to let him go.

"Abby," he whispered, "you'll always be desirable to me."

"I will?" she asked hopefully.

"You have nothing to worry about," Jake consoled her, nervously taking a few steps back and shoving his hands into his pockets. "Would you do me a favor?" he wondered. "Change out of that blouse. It may not be too snug for anyone else, but it is for me."

"Yes, Jake," she smiled.

Before turning to leave, he stared at her once more and shook his senses back to reality.

"Abby," he muttered, "you turn me inside out, without even knowing it."

With a soft groan, Jake disappeared down the hall to go put on his coat and boots to start breakfast at her parents' house. As Abby changed tops, she could hear Jake call her from the living room.

continued on next page...
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