The house is dark and quiet. The sun hasn't risen yet, and I've turned out all the lights after getting ready for work. The Queen is sound asleep in bed, and the cat has disappeared to wherever he goes to be alone.
I gather my things and head for the front door carrying my boots so that I don't make too much noise and inadvertently disturb my girls. I take a moment to put my boots by the door and detour into M&M's room to check on her. She is hot natured like me, and tends to migrate around the bed in an effort to escape blankets and other things that make her too warm.
With the light from my phone, I find a curly haired head rising to a sitting position in the bed followed by a drowsy "Daddy?". A small hand reaches to rub an eye as I kneel down next to her bed. Recognition seeps through the sleepy fog, and little legs unfold to carry her over to me with arms outstretched.
Slender arms with warm, smooth skin encircle my neck and left shoulder as she clings to me in a tight embrace. I hear a little voice whisper a contented "Daddy" next to my ear as a fuzzy head burrows into my shoulder and neck.
We stay there for a moment. Each of us enjoying the hugs we had stored up this week while I was away from home on business.
Then, a quiet request: "Up?"
My long arms adjust slightly to better hold her weight with her still clinging to me like she was never going to let go. Neither of us want to break the spell.
After a time though, I must go. I gently lay her back into bed whispering "Go night night. I love you, and I will see you at lunch." A kiss on the cheek, and I have to head to the door. Last I saw, she was snuggled back into the blanket with her dolls with her precious eyes closing.