It had taken her and Gray almost ten years to conceive their Maddie—ten years plus four miscarriages and thousands of dollars. But when Maddie came along, Mackenzie finally had the one thing she felt her life was missing—a child. And now, five years later, she was desperate for another. Wanted it like an ache in the soul wants a healing balm.

The latest round of fertility treatments had begun again almost a year ago. They’d bypassed the Clomid altogether this time and gone straight to the injections. To date, the only thing they had to show for it was a sore behind.

Mackenzie let her robe fall to the marble floor. The matching lingerie set in black was all that remained. She saw Gray’s expression change. “Just the shot, mister. You might get action this afternoon, but right now, just the shot.”

He had been a good partner in this journey. Though she knew he sometimes wearied of the routine, still he was at every doctor’s appointment, shared each piece of heartbreaking news, and was a pretty good nurse. He’d even become fairly handy with a needle. As she leaned against the cabinet, she suddenly got the giggles.

He moved the needle back. “You’ve got to be still, or this is liable to end up in your side. What’s so funny anyway?”

She could hardly talk now. The laughter had all but taken over. “Wonder what Tennesseans would think if they knew that their governor was putting shots in his wife’s bootie this morning. That would make a front-page picture.”

“I’ll tell you what they would think. They’d think, ‘Man, I knew that governor could do anything. What a specimen.’”

She turned her head toward him, and that was it. She threw her head back and laughed until she was wiping a different set of tears. He crossed his arms, the syringe still between his fingers. But it would take another five minutes before the governor was able to take care of his first order of duty on this beautiful Sunday morning in Tennessee.

***

The twenty-minute drive from the governor’s mansion in Nashville to downtown Franklin, where Mackenzie had grown up, encompassed almost everything she loved about middle Tennessee. America’s perception of the area seemed to be limited to country music, rednecks, and the term NashVegas. But natives like Mackenzie knew there was so much more. A straight shot down Franklin Road took her from her present house to her childhood home. And along the thirteen-mile stretch, she passed twenty-one churches, acres of gently rolling farmland with grazing cattle and horses, golf courses, schools, antebellum homes, and dozens of “meat and three” restaurants offering sweet tea and chocolate pie that were so good you’d want to slap your mama.

Of course, Mackenzie could never slap her mother. Her mother would declare that none of it was even capable of being as good as hers. Mackenzie couldn’t argue because her mother was one of the best Southern cooks she knew. And Sunday afternoon dinners with Eugenia Quinn were as much a ritual as Friday night football in the fall.

The screen door of the recently remodeled Victorian home slammed against the white wood casing, the noise potentially heard two blocks over on Main Street. “Are y’all still taking my granddaughter to that church where the preacher says ‘crap’ in the pulpit?” Mackenzie’s mother asked.

The same words had greeted them every Sunday afternoon since they had taken Eugenia to their church. It just so happened their preacher used a word she disapproved of that Sunday. She had never let them forget it.

Eugenia was carrying a big bouquet of zinnias and daisies from her garden, but she still managed to reach down and scoop her granddaughter up in her arms.

Gray gave her a kiss on the cheek. “What? You don’t do that, Mom?”