Journey: 1st version

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Chapter 11

Ezekiel entered the room as Isabelle set up the ultrasound. Raine watched him from the bed trying not to laugh. Her bladder was so full she was afraid if she even moved she’d wet herself.

“Zeke,” Raine squirmed, “Babe, relax.”

Ezekiel paused in his pacing, looked Isabelle over, and then sighed sitting down in the chair next to Raine’s side.

“We’re almost ready,” Isabelle reassured him, “Pull your shirt up.” She instructed Raine while pulling out a bottle of clear jelly looking stuff. Raine did as she was told and Isabelle carefully applied a good amount of the stuff onto her stomach.

“What is that?” Ezekiel made a face, watching Isabelle put the probe on the gel.

Isabelle chuckled, “It’s a conductive medium. It helps the ultrasound work better.” She summed it up absently, her eyes turning to the monitor as she ran the probe around Raine’s belly, “How do you feel?” She directed to Raine.

“Good. You find it yet?” Raine asked nervously.

Isabelle nodded, “Mhmm, do you feel like a chicken?”

Raine’s eyes grew wide, “What do you mean by that?” She said between grit teeth.

Ezekiel looked between the two in confusion, his eyebrows drawing together in concern, “It’s okay, right?”

“I’m just kidding,” Isabelle laughed, “It’s not in an egg,” She winked at Raine, who sighed loudly, “And there’s two.”

Ezekiel and Raine sat silently, both eyeing Isabelle skeptically.
She turned the monitor towards them, “One,” She moved the probe showing off one tiny baby swimming around, “Two.” She said moving the probe to the other side, and tilted it showing both babies swimming together.

Raine and Ezekiel’s jaws dropped simultaneously making Isabelle giggle.

“Congratulations!” She grinned, “They look to be around the same stage as a ten week Human fetus. I’m guessing you’ll have a pretty short pregnancy,” She tilted her head to the side looking at the babies, “Maybe 20ish more weeks to go.”

“Twins...” Raine snapped out of her shock, “20 weeks?”

Isabelle nodded, “Mmhm, I’m guessing though. It looks like you’re progressing a little faster than a normal Lycanthrope pregnancy.”

“Oh my god there’s two.” Raine said, tears welling up in her eyes. She turned to Ezekiel just in time to see him fall to the floor with a thump, “Zeke!”

Isabelle moved the ultrasound back and stood up, “He took that better than the pregnancy news at least.”

“Izzy!” Raine gasped, “Help him!” She went to get up but quickly laid back down again, “And get this stuff off me... I need to pee!”

Isabelle giggled throwing Raine a towel before going over to Ezekiel. She knelt down by him waving a hand in front of his face, “Ezekiel,” She patted her pockets and sighed, “I left the smelling salts in the other office.” She pouted looking up at Raine hurrying to the bathroom.

“I’ll help you in a minute!” Raine closed the bathroom door.

Isabelle smirked turning back to Ezekiel as he groaned, “He’s waking up!” She yelled.

The toilet flushed, followed by the sound of water running. Raine opened the door, hurrying over to both Isabelle and Ezekiel, “Sorry, sorry!” She said stroking Ezekiel’s hair back, “I really had to go. Are you okay?”

Ezekiel pushed himself up onto his elbows, “My head hurts... What happened?” He sat forward, rubbing the back of his head.

“You passed out-” Raine started to say.

Isabelle cut in, “Because you’re having twins! Isn’t that exciting?!”

“Twins,” Ezekiel blinked looking between Isabelle and Raine, his eyes stopping at Raine and widening, “Twins?”

Raine nodded slowly, “In 20 weeks.”

“20 weeks.” Ezekiel repeated, “That’s... Like 5 months?”

“Yes,” Raine worried her lip, “Are you going to be okay?”

Isabelle stood up and began cleaning her equipment. Leaving the two to their conversation, but still close enough to eavesdrop.

Ezekiel took a deep breath in and slowly let it out, “Yes, I’m alright.” He shakily climbed to his feet, Raine helping him, “Twins?” He said again.

Raine nodded, laughing nervously, “Yeah... It’s going to be okay, we’ll both be okay. Just... Very tired.” She laughed again, shooting Isabelle a nervous look.

“Oh!” Isabelle turned, “Valery and I will help you guys out too!” She bounced excitedly, “I know I’m totally volunteering her, but I know she will be happy too!”

Ezekiel sat down the bed, “I need to add on to the house... There’s not going to be enough rooms.”

“Vince and Gabriel can help you!” Isabelle grinned.
Raine laughed, “You’re volunteering everyone, Izzy.”

Isabelle waved her off, “I know, I know. But I know they will, we all love you guys! This is so exciting!” She pulled out her cellphone and wandered off sending texts and making phone calls, “Oh!” She popped her head back into the room, her phone pressed to her ear, “Don’t worry about costs either, I have you covered.” She disappeared again.

Raine and Ezekiel exchanged unsure looks. Ezekiel stood up and paced a little then sat back down, wrapping his arm around Raine’s shoulders. They sat there in comfortable silence for a few minutes, just allowing the other to think and take in their big news.

“Let’s go.” Ezekiel said at last, standing up and helping Raine to her feet, “We should tell Cole. I think he’s going to be excited.” He smiled wrapping his arm around her waist as they walked out of the little examination room.

Raine leaned into him a little, “I hope so. I’m a little nervous about it.” She pulled away, grabbing his hand and interlaced her fingers with his.

“He will be.” Ezekiel reassured her. They paused by the back door, looking out at the window at the boys playing in the yard.

Gabriel and Valery had come over at some point as well with Ira. Isabelle was already outside talking to Vince, Gabriel and Valery standing by listening in. The guys nodded at something Isabelle said, then looked at each other shrugging simultaneously, before looking back at Isabelle. Ezekiel pushed open the door and held it for Raine as she walked out. The group of adults looked up as they approached.

“Hey guys,” Raine greeted with a small wave, “Isabelle tell you?”

“I haven’t told them anything,” Isabelle smiled, “Just that you guys are going to need help with building onto the house.”

Valery tilted her head to the side, “Is there something else?”

“Everything’s okay with the baby, right?” Gabriel raised an eyebrow curiously.

Ezekiel and Raine nodded simultaneously, “Yeah, fine.” Raine eyed Ezekiel, “We need to tell Cole... Should we tell him with everyone here?”

“He’s going to find out in a minute anyway, I don’t think Isabelle can keep quiet any longer.” Ezekiel rubbed at his temple.

“Hey! I can too!” Isabelle stuck her tongue out at him.

Vince raised an eyebrow at her knowingly, “You? Keep secrets longer than 10 minutes? Hah.” He smirked at her as she punched his arm.

“Cole!” Ezekiel called over to the boys, “Come here for a minute.”

The boys all looked at each other then came running, sliding to a stop in front of the adults.

Cole looked up at his dad with wide eyes, “Am I in trouble?” He asked, Ira and Trevor standing behind him looking just as confused.

“No,” Ezekiel kneeled down, Raine following suit, “We have something to tell you.”

Raine nodded, “It’s a good thing. I think you’ll be excited.”

“What is it?” Cole chewed on his lip, feeling a little nervous at all the attention from the adults.

Ezekiel and Raine looked at each other, silently debating who would be the one to tell him. Raine smiled turning to Cole,

“You get to be a big brother, kiddo.” She said putting her hand on his shoulder.

Cole looked between the two, then over his shoulder at his friends reacting excitedly for him.

“Aw, I want to be a big brother!” Trevor grumbled folding his arms over his chest.

Ira bounced happily, “You’re so lucky!” He grinned tapping Cole’s arm excitedly.

Cole looked back at his parents, “Really?” He smiled, but Raine could tell he was really confused about what was being said.

“Yeah, kiddo, you’re going to be a big brother.” She nudge Ezekiel lightly, “He’s confused.” She whispered in his ear while Cole was distracted by the other boys.

Ezekiel leaned back a little, “Yep, Raine’s going to have a baby.” He said watching the information sink in and Cole’s eyes widen.

“You’re going to have a baby!?” Cole shouted and launched himself at her, hugging her around the neck, “Will I be able to hold it?” He asked excitedly.

Raine laughed in relief, “Y-yes!” She stood up while still holding onto him, “You can absolutely hold them!”

“Them!?” Valery and Gabriel exclaimed together, their eyes wide.

“You did just say, them, didn’t you? Are you...?” Valery moved forward pointing at Raine, “Are you having-?”

“Twins.” Raine said grinning.

“Oh wow!” Gabriel threw his arm around Ezekiel, “No wonder you need to build onto the house!” He laughed.

Ezekiel rolled his eyes trying to move away from Gabriel’s hold, “Yeah, lots of surprises.” He chuckled, pushing Gabriel away gently.

“Hm, two more half breeds to the group,” Vince grunted, turning away, “Should be interesting. I’ll be at your place tomorrow, early.” He sauntered off, disappearing around the side of the house.

Gabriel turned to Ezekiel, “I guess we’re starting tomorrow. I’ll see if I can get Kevin and Alex to help out as well. Tomorrow okay with you?”

“Yeah, fine by me,” Ezekiel rubbed the back of his neck, “I think Raine will appreciate it getting done sooner the better.”

Raine shot him an amused look before turning back to Valery and Isabelle. Cole and the boys were hanging around them listening in on the conversation intently.

“Mom,” Ira tugged at Valery’s pant leg, “Will I be a big brother too?”

Valery flushed, “Oh, not right now, hon. Maybe one day.”
Raine grinned as Isabelle shooed the boys off to go play in the pool, “They’re all excited. You know what that means, girls?”

“Stop your mouth,” Isabelle held her hand up, “We’re not even going there right now.”

Raine smirked, “You sure?” She poked Isabelle’s belly, “I give it a couple months. Something’s in the water and I’m not going to be the only one pregnant.”

Valery giggled, “Are you cursing her?”

“Don’t you dare!” Isabelle screeched, “We have a nice thing going on here, I don’t need Vince freaking out too!”

Raine’s smirk spread into a full on toothy grin, “You’ll love it!”

Valery laughed, “Better you than me!” Isabelle threw her the dirtiest look she could manage. Valery stuck her tongue out in return and laughed again.

“Okay, I would like another one,” Isabelle admitted, “But not soon. Vince is... Well you know, he’s Vince,” She looked at them out of the side of her eye, then shrugged, “I’ll come over and help out with whatever I can. I’ll come with Vince tomorrow too! The boys can play.” She beamed happily.

“Me too!” Valery bounced on the balls of her feet, “I’ll bring Ira. We can start planning out what you guys will need! Oh! And when to have the baby shower!”

Raine’s eyes widened, “Baby shower?”

Isabelle nodded enthusiastically, “Yeeeeessssssssss!” She exclaimed, biting her lip in excitement, “Oh my god, so much yes!” She wrapped her arm around Raine, leading her to the house, Valery hot on their heels, “What will your theme be!?”
Ezekiel made eye contact with Raine and raised an eyebrow as she mouthed out “Help me.” He smirked, shaking his head, “No.” much to her chagrin.

“I think you should do a purple and green theme!” Valery chirped.

“Those are colors, not a theme!” Isabelle chided as the door shut behind them.

Gabriel laughed, “Aw Zeke, you’re not going to help her?”

“Yeah,” Ezekiel shrugged, the smirk still plastered to his face, “Maybe in a few minutes.”

“We’re going to the mall!” Valery yelled out the door then slammed it shut. Gabriel and Ezekiel exchanged surprised looks before laughing.

~*~

White noise filled with random bits and pieces of conversations, music, and running water assaulted Raine’s ears. The group of women walked through the mall aimlessly, their conversations fluidly rotating through one topic to the next. Raine giggled, trying to ignore the curious looks cast her way by a group of Humans.

“You’re going to need maternity clothes- Raine, are you listening?” Isabelle poked at Raine, nudging her arm gently, “Trust me, you’re going to get huge.” Valery stifled a laugh at Raine’s expression, her eyes immediately dropping to her stomach.

“Well,” Raine said dryly, her hands running self-consciously across her belly, “I’m very excited for that.”

Valery grinned, her hand reaching out and resting on Raine’s stomach, “I hope you both get your mommy’s sarcasm and sense of humor,” She giggled, pulling back and wrapping her arm around Raine, “I can’t wait for that.”

The corners of Raine’s lips turned up, “Me either,” She frowned suddenly, “Ew... Whatever they’re making in the food court,” Her hands went up to her face, “Can we... Can we not go that way?”

“There it is!” Isabelle cheered, “I win! Ten dollars!” She turned to Valery, holding her hand out.

Valery pouted digging around in her purse, “You couldn’t wait, could you?” She said to Raine with mock accusations.

Opening and closing her mouth a couple times in shock, Raine blinked hard, “Were you two betting on me?” She looked between the two then let out an indignant noise, “You were!”

“Only ten dollars,” Isabelle rolled her eyes, “And I’ll even use it to buy you lunch.”

Raine let out a laugh, “Stop your mouth,” She shook her head, “What was the bet?”

“Uhm,” Valery smirked a little, glancing at Isabelle, “How long until you started getting morning sickness or food aversions.”

“Oh the love,” Raine sang out jokingly, leading them away from the food court, “I can so feel it from you two.”

Valery and Isabelle giggled like children, following Raine closely as they entered into a clothing store. They paused at a rack of pants and skirts, casually looking through them.

“Honestly,” Raine sighed, stepping away from the clothes, “I’m really just thinking of sticking to sweats and T-shirts. That’s okay, right?” She cracked a smile at the nonplus look Isabelle gave her.

“Raine?”

The group of women turned to the voice curiously finding a young Drakon woman cautiously walking over. Valery and Isabelle exchanged looks, seeing if the other recognized the woman.

Raine stepped forward, “Xadel! Hey!” She smiled happily, “It’s been awhile! How’ve you been?” She turned to her friends, “Guys, this is Xadel!”

Xadel laughed nervously, “Hi,” She said softly, “I’m okay… actually,” Her face fell slightly, “I’m kind of annoyed. Skyler ditched me.”

“She is the waitress from the restaurant...” Isabelle whispered to Valery, “Right?”

Valery nodded, “Yeah,” She whispered back, “But who’s Skyler?”

“Oh, she’s Ezekiel’s bitchy ex.”

Raine looked at Xadel apologetically, “You guys,” She said over her shoulder, “We can hear you.”

Both women flushed slightly, “We’re just trying to keep up!” Isabelle stuck her tongue out at Raine, making Raine roll her eyes and Xadel laugh softly.

“It’s okay,” Xadel smiled, “Sorry I ruined your dinner.”

“No, no! You didn’t!” Isabelle held her hands up, “Sorry, we’re being rude. I’m Isabelle and this is Valery,” Valery waved, “Did you say your friend ditched you?” She moved closer to Xadel.

Pressing her lips together angrily, Xadel nodded, “Yeah, she picked me up to hang out. Then when we got here she ran into one of her fuck buddies and wanted to leave. We got into it, and she took off.” Her ears pinned back in annoyance.

Raine frowned, “She’s bitchy,” She looked at Valery and Isabelle then back to Xadel, “You’re welcome to shop with us. We’re just looking at clothes right now.”

“I don’t want to intrude,” Xadel shook her head, taking a step back, “I just wanted to say hi.”

Isabelle stepped forward, wrapping her arm around Xadel’s shoulders, “Oh, you’re not intruding at all! Come on! Come shop with us, it’s always fun with more!” She led Xadel away, leaving Valery and Raine giggling in amusement.

“If you’re sure?” Xadel uncertainly looked over her shoulder at Raine.

Raine nodded, “Yes! We’ll get lunch after this.” She smiled warmly at Xadel, catching up to the two to walk along side of them, Valery on her other side.

“Isabelle wants to get Raine maternity clothing.” Valery told Xadel, her eyes scanning over the racks of clothing they passed as they walked.

Xadel’s eyes lit up, “You... Are you pregnant?!” Her jaw dropped open a bit, and Raine could see the wheels turning in her head.

“Mhm,” She flushed as Xadel looked her up and down, “With twins.”

Eyes widening, Xadel stopped walking, “Twins!? When are you due? Is Ezekiel the dad?” She rambled out, her eyes jumping from Raine’s stomach to her face and back again.

Raine grabbed ahold of her tail, smoothing the fur down nervously, “He is... That’s why we’re not sure exactly the due date, thinking it’s in 20ish weeks by their development.”

“Wow,” Xadel leaned back in shock then smiled, “Congratulations! I’m really excited for you guys! Ezekiel is a good guy, you two are good for each other,” She turned towards a rack of clothes, “I bet you’re excited.”

“We all are!” Isabelle interjected, “I’m going to throw a baby shower, and you’re welcome to come!” She wrapped her arm around Raine, pulling her over to a rack of long flowy shirts.

Valery nodded, “It’s going to be purple and green theme!” She moved around to the other side of the rack. Raine giggled at Isabelle’s expression.

“Yeah, we’re still deciding on the theme.” Isabelle mumbled pulling a pink tank top out and held it up to Raine. Raine gave her a look that said, ‘really?’ and Isabelle promptly put it back.

Xadel nodded, “Okay, thanks!” She walked over to a display of pants and hesitated, “Do you know what they are yet?”

“No,” Raine shook her head, picking out a screen print t-shirt, “It’s too early to tell yet.”

“I’m hungry,” Valery announced, putting back a dress she had been looking at, “Can we go eat before doing,” She waved her hands at the display, “This... Anymore?”

Raine nodded enthusiastically, “But not at the food court, please.”

“What’s wrong with the food court?” Xadel raised an eyebrow.

Isabelle chuckled, “Nothing, Raine is just having a pregnancy moment,” She took the shirt Raine was holding and added it to her stack, “Let me just get these first, then we’ll go. Xadel, you can ride with us.” She smiled at the girl before walking away to the cash register.

“You guys can just drop me off, if that’s okay, I don’t really have enough for lunch. Pay day is tomorrow.” Her ears lowered sheepishly.

Valery shook her head, “We’ll pay, you don’t have to worry about it. Unless you’re not having fun?”

Xadel perked up, “Oh! I am having fun! You guys are awesome. I just don’t want to impose!”

“Don’t worry about it, we’re inviting you,” Raine smiled at her, gently nudging her shoulder, “We want to hang out with you.”

Looking at the two with relief, Xadel smiled back, “Okay.”

“So there’s this place I want to try out, it’s down town,” Isabelle returned to the group, with a bag on her wrist and digging through her purse, “Soup and sandwiches sound good?” She looked up at the girls.

Not missing a beat, Raine nodded, “Yep,” She walked forward, bee lining for the exit, “I’ll be outside.”

Xadel made a small noise, “She okay?” She looked to Isabelle and Valery, both now following after Raine, and jogged after them. The small group found Raine outside sitting on the curb.

“Raine?” Isabelle called out, her tone a mixture of worried and curiosity, “You okay, honey?”

Raine nodded, standing up, “Sorry, yeah, I’m fine,” She took a deep breath, stretching her arms up above her head, “It just got really hot in there suddenly.” She smiled at the group, “I’m good, just needed air. Let’s go eat.”

“$10.” Valery said turning to Isabelle.

“Seriously!?” Raine exclaimed, “That too!?”

Valery broke up laughing as Isabelle handed her a ten while Xadel watched on in confusion.

Isabelle shrugged, “Maybe?” She smiled innocently at Raine as she passed her to the parking lot.

“What exactly was the bet?” Raine asked Valery, following behind Isabelle.

Xadel’s jaw dropped slightly, “You guys are making bets on Raine?” She shook her head slightly at Raine’s pointed look that screamed, ‘Right?!’.

Valery giggled, “Just a couple things here and there.” She grinned mischievously at the two, climbing into the car as they reached it.

“Don’t worry, there’s no other bets.” Isabelle reassured Raine, waiting for the three to get in and close their doors before starting up the car.

Raine eyed her, buckling her seat belt, “Really? How come I don’t believe that?” She tilted her head to the side, raising an eyebrow.

Valery leaned forward, “She bet you do lay an egg.” She chirped, quickly leaning back in her seat as Raine whirled around towards her.

“What?!” Both she and Xadel shouted, looking at Isabelle and Raine with wide eyes, Xadel’s out of confusion and Raine’s out of fear.

Raine grabbed Isabelle’s arm, making the car swerve slightly, “You said I wasn’t going to lay an egg!”

Xadel and Valery grabbed onto the door handles, Valery laughing loudly at Raine’s outburst. Xadel covered her mouth, trying hard not to join in Valery’s laughter in fear of pissing Raine off even more.

Giggling, Isabelle slowed the car while trying to shake Raine’s grip off her arm, “Hey! I’m driving, calm down!”

“You. Said.” Raine ground out letting go of Isabelle’s arm and turning away, “I hate you both.”

Valery wiped tears from her eyes, “I was just joking.” She squeaked out in between laughter.

Raine turned in her seat, “You’re evil.” She hissed, getting a cheeky smile back in return.

“Oh my god, you guys,” Xadel laughed, “You’re hilarious,” She wrapped her arms around her stomach, “Are you always like this?”

“No,” Raine grunted, missing the enthusiastic nod Valery gave Xadel behind her back, “They’re just being stupid.”

Isabelle patted Raine’s leg, “You need food, you’re grumpy,” She flashed Raine a sympathetic smile, “We’re almost there.”

Pouting, Raine nodded, “I am grumpy.” She looked out the window, her tail tapping her thigh.

Xadel and Valery chatted quietly the rest of the way to the restaurant, while Raine leaned her head against the window quietly sulking about the egg joke. Isabelle nudged her arm after parking the car, breaking her out of her thoughts.

“Come on, I’ve heard their broccoli cheddar soup is really good.” She said climbing out of the car and waited for the rest of the girls to join her.

Raine stretched her back as she walked alongside the three, “I want grilled cheese and tomato soup.” She licked her lips, ducking under Isabelle’s arm as she held the door for her.

“What are you, like ten?” Valery snickered, grabbing the door for Isabelle, going in last.

“No,” Raine pouted again, making Valery smirk, “You’re in a mood!” Raine accused, pointing at Valery.

Valery shrugged, “Maybe,” She laughed at Raine’s eye roll, “Grilled cheese does sound good.”

Raine swatted Valery with her tail, “That’s right, it does!” She grinned moving to the counter to order and stepped back behind the others to wait for them. As Xadel finished up ordering, Raine started for the soda machine, but paused as a stray remark made its way to her. She glanced around the restaurant curiously, her eyebrows furrowing.

“What’s wrong?” Xadel asked, following her to the drink dispenser.

Raine shrugged, “Nothing… just thought I heard something.” She filled up her cup and scooted over for Isabelle and Valery to get their drinks as well. They looked around for a booth, and moved together towards an empty table and sat down. As they waited for their meals, Valery and Xadel continued their conversation from the car while Isabelle observed Raine curiously.

Raine pulled her tail into her lap, running her fingers through it nervously, she felt like someone was watching her. Casually she looked over her shoulder, spotting a table of Humans giving her and her friends dirty looks. She turned back, making eye contact with Isabelle.

“What?” Isabelle whispered, drawing Xadel and Valery’s attention.

Xadel’s ears perked up then quickly lowered, “Oh.” She straightened up and sneered at the table behind them, then blinked noticing other curious looks from others.

“We seem to be quite popular,” Raine whispered sarcastically, “Two Humans hanging out with a Drakon and Lycanthrope, apparently we’re making a scene.” She slouched slightly in her chair, making herself smaller.

Isabelle frowned, “Well they can mind their own business.” She growled, making eye contact with everyone that looked in their direction.

“Maybe we should just get it to go.” Raine suggested, ducking her head.

“No way!” Valery spoke up, “Isabelle’s right, they can just deal with it.” She looked pointedly at a Drakon man that was staring at them, making him look away in embarrassment.
Raine straightened up a little as their food was brought to them.

The waiter, a young Human man, smiled friendly at them, “Hey,” He said softly to them, glancing over his shoulder, “If there’s any issues, let me know. We’ve noticed some people might be giving you a hard time.”

“Thank you,” Isabelle smiled at him, “I think we’re okay,” She looked at her friends who all nodded, “We appreciate it.”

He nodded back, “You’re welcome.” He said before heading back to his work station.

Valery elbowed Raine gently, “See, we’ll be fine.” She winked.

“Yes!” Xadel smiled at her then down at her food, “This all looks great too. So, Raine,” She picked up her sandwich and looked to Raine, “I want to hear about the baby shower being planned.”

Raine grinned, “Oh, that’s Isabelle’s topic right there.”

Isabelle perked up, “I’m still planning it, want to help?” She asked around a mouthful of bread.

“It’s going to be a purple and green theme.” Valery added, making Raine laugh and Isabelle sigh in defeat.

Xadel nodded enthusiastically, “I’d love to help!”

~*~

The sun was just peaking up over the land, and the men were already at work. Raine sat at the kitchen table, her head cradled in her arms. Valery was making tea while helping Isabelle make breakfast.

Raine startled as someone suddenly started hammering from the other side of the house, “Three weeks of this... How are they not done yet?” She groaned putting her head back down, “I’m so tired.”

Valery set down a steaming mug of tea in front of her, “Have you seen any of it yet?”

“No,” Raine sat up taking the mug into her hands, “Thank you,” She blew on it before taking a small sip, “Ezekiel wants to surprise me. They built a whole room down here so they could build the nursery above it. I’m not sure why they did that.” She looked at Valery in confusion, “And he won’t let me see that room either.” She sighed.

Isabelle laughed, “Well that’s fun. Maybe you shouldn’t tell him the genders and let it be a surprise?”

“Ha,” Raine took another sip of her tea, “I couldn’t do that. I’m not good at keeping secrets.”

Valery stirred the eggs and began plating them next to a plate of bacon, “I think it’s sweet.” She smiled thoughtfully making a plate for Raine.

“Oh, it is,” Raine nodded, “I’m just really tired of the early mornings... Obscenely early mornings. We don’t need to do this for a few more weeks. I’d like to be able to sleep in just a few more times before the little ones arrive.” She rubbed her eyes.

Valery set the plate of food down in front of her, “I think they’re going to be done today. I saw Gabriel bringing in paint earlier.”

Isabelle sat down at the table with her own plate of food, “Oh! What colors?”

Raine pushed her plate to the side, “Uh... I’ll eat in a little bit. I’m not a morning food person.” She pressed her lips together, looking up just in time to see Xadel approaching the back door holding a white box.

Isabelle scooted her chair to the side, and unlocked the door, letting Xadel in, “Good morning!” She greeted her, scooting over more so Xadel had a place to sit.

“Morning!” Xadel greeted the group, placing the box on the table, “I brought bagels and doughnuts.”

Valery moved Raine’s plate to the counter, “I made eggs and bacon, help yourself!” She grabbed her own plate of food and a bagel from the box before sitting at the table, “And, I think the color was just white. Gabriel said Ezekiel wanted Raine to have a say in it later.”

“I’m thinking blue.” Raine said nursing her tea.
Isabelle tilted her head to the side, “Oh? What if you have a girl?”

Raine shrugged, “I like blue, and I’m a girl.”

“I like blue too.” Xadel agreed, dishing herself some eggs.

Valery grinned taking a bite of her food, “You’re supposed to have pink if you have girl.”

Taking a seat next to Isabelle, Xadel nodded, “Hah, oh yeah.” She grinned.

“Yes!” Isabelle agreed, missing the sarcasm in Valery’s voice, “Girly colors! And bows, oh you need bows!” She clasped her hands together, “Oh, I wish I had a girl! All the cute little dresses and shoes. Shoes!” She daydreamed.

Xadel giggled while Raine and Valery exchanged looks, Raine not at all impressed, “Okay, Izzy.” She stood up, her stomach obviously swollen and starting to show the pregnancy, “I’m still going to probably go with blue,” Isabelle started to protest, “And!” She interrupted Isabelle, “Purple. No matter the genders. I have to look at it, and I’m pretty sure infants don’t care what color their room is.” She picked up her plate from the counter and sat down at the table with it.

Isabelle pouted, “Fine,” She took a bite of her eggs, “At least you’ll be using purple.” She grumbled.

“I think that sounds like a nice color combo.” Valery winked at Raine.

“Thanks,” Raine smiled picking at the bacon on her plate, “I don’t know how the boys are sleeping through this noise.” She flinched as another onslaught of hammering sounds echoed into the kitchen.

Isabelle stood up taking Valery’s and her own plates to the sink, “They’ve gotten used to it.” She ran the water, rinsing the plates, “Trevor can sleep through anything it seems like.”

“Lucky,” Raine sighed, “Can you grab me a bagel, Xadel?”

“Sure,” Xadel patted her on the back, “They’ll be done soon.” She leaned over to the counter to grab the box she brought.

“I just can’t wait-” The words died in her throat as an explosion rocked the kitchen from outside. It was followed by a series of small pops and crackling sounds. Raine fell to the floor covering her head as Valery and Isabelle ran to the door. Xadel dropped down next to Raine, immediately trying to comfort her.

A door slammed open upstairs, “What was that!?” Ezekiel yelled, followed by a series of stomping feet running down the stairs. The men entered the kitchen, Ezekiel going to Raine while Vince and Gabriel met their wives at the door.

“I think fireworks.” Isabelle said ducking slightly at another explosion just outside the door.

Vince threw the door open, “Hey!” He shouted, running out into the yard and turned towards the house, “Come down here, coward!”

Gabriel followed him out, “What do you want?” He growled, “You have no business being here.”

Ezekiel managed to coax Raine out from under the table, “Thanks, Xadel,” He said softly as she went into the kitchen to get a glass of water for Raine, “Belle,” He called out, gaining both her and Valery’s attention. The two women rushed over to his side to take Raine from him, “I need to see what’s going on.”

“We gotta get down.” Raine was repeating, hanging onto Ezekiel, her body trembling.

Ezekiel hugged her tightly, “It was fireworks, love,” He kissed her forehead, “I’m going to go help the guys clean it up, okay?”

She nodded slowly, letting go of him, “Just... Just be careful.” She bit her lip, letting Isabelle lead her into the other room.
Ezekiel stood torn for a moment, unsure if he should stay comforting Raine and let the others handle it, or go and help them. Raine sent him one last worried look over her shoulder before sitting down on the couch.

“She’ll be okay, go see what’s going on.” Xadel reassured him as she passed by. He nodded hesitantly then took off out the door.

“Where’s that bitch? She run and hide like the bitch she is?” Stuvock yelled from the roof of the house.

Vince folded his arms across his chest, “Did you already forget the ass kicking you got last time? I’ll be happy to give you a reminder.” He smirked.

“You forget,” Stuvock’s face started to change, “We’re out of the city.” He growled dropping down to his hands and knees as his body began morphing into that of a wolf’s.

Vince looked at Gabriel unimpressed, “He’s pretty stupid, isn’t he?”

Ezekiel walked up to the two Lycan’s, “Stuvock.” He said calmly.

“He decided to bless us with his wolf self this time.” Vince replied sarcastically, his own transformation starting.

Ezekiel turned around just as the last of Stuvock’s black fur finished sprouting over his body. A long jagged pink scar ran down his chest and upper front right leg. Stuvock gnashed his teeth at them, emitting a low deep growl. Ezekiel reeled back in shock, images from the war flashing through his head.

It was him. Stuvock was the black wolf he saved Gabriel from. Before he could react, Stuvock jumped at him, tackling him to the ground. Ezekiel elbowed him in the jaw, knocking him back. Vince, fully transformed into a black and gray wolf, tackled Stuvock, biting him in the throat.

“That’s him!” Gabriel helped Ezekiel to his feet, “That’s the Lycan who attacked me when I was a kid!” He shivered, “How did I miss that?! How did I not know after all these years?”

Ezekiel shook his head, “I don’t know, but that’s him.” He growled, watching Vince and Stuvock roll around on the ground.

“Dad? What’s going on?”

Ezekiel startled, his head snapping around in time to see Cole stepping out of the house, “Cole! Inside!” He ordered.

Stuvock flung Vince off himself and made a beeline towards Cole. Gabriel dove for Stuvock, missing him as he ran passed. Ezekiel raced towards Cole, his intentions to intercept him before Stuvock. Cole stood paralyzed, his eyes wide with fear. Stuvock made it two feet away from the boy before a loud roar startled everyone into a full on stop. A smaller white and brown wolf towered over Cole protectively.

Cole looked up at the wolf, “M-mama?” He stuttered. The wolf moved in front of him slowly, her lips pulling back away from her teeth. Stuvock backed up slowly, his tail lowering between his legs as the wolf continued forward.

Ezekiel moved to Cole, “Go inside,” He said softly, standing guard in front of the door.

Cole backed up, “Dad, that’s the wolf,” He whispered, “The one from my dream.” He stumbled into the table.

“Cheap trick,” Ezekiel and Gabriel startled as the white and brown wolf began to speak, its voice both guttural and feminine, “Using my PTSD against me,” Raine snapped her jaws at Stuvock, “But you’re at my home now. This is my territory, Stuvock.” She spat his name out like it was the most vile thing she had ever tasted, “I won’t hesitate to tear you to pieces and let the birds eat you if you so much as look at my child again.”

Stuvock huffed, cowering, his hair standing on end.

“I am not yours, do not come here again,” She got into his face, “You do not scare me anymore.”
Stuvock whimpered softly before turning and running off into the forest.

“He wasn’t expecting that,” Vince said now transformed back to his regular self, “He was expecting to scare you, not enrage you.”

The women peeked outside trying to see what was happening.

Isabelle gasped, “Vince! Where’s your clothes?”

“What do you think happened to them, woman!?” Vince snapped, “Do you think they transform with me?!” He folded his arms over his chest angrily, “If it bothers you so much, get me something to wear!”

Gabriel rolled his eyes, “I’ll get you both something.” He nodded towards Raine beginning her transition back.

Ezekiel moved over to Raine and knelt by her, “He was going after my child,” She said, her voice strained, “I didn’t think, I just reacted.” She finished transforming and collapsed into Ezekiel.

“Raine!” Ezekiel panicked, picking her up, “Raine, wake up!”

Isabelle ran to his side, “Raine?” She looked the woman over, “She’s over exerted herself. Let’s get her to my place so I can do a more thorough examination.”

“I’m fine,” Raine mumbled trying to wave Isabelle off, “I’m just... Tired...” She faded out again, leaning heavily against Ezekiel’s chest.

Ezekiel looked at Isabelle worriedly, “I’ll meet you there.”

~*~

Raine woke up to Isabelle hovering over her and Ezekiel looking out the window. His ears were pinned back, eyes narrowed as he focused on some point in the distance.

“Hello!” Isabelle said cheerfully, “You gave us a scare. I wasn’t sure the babies would be okay with you transforming like that.”

Raine’s eyes widened, “Oh! But they’re fine!” Isabelle said quickly, “We were just waiting for you to wake up to do an ultrasound. I thought you might want to see them, maybe find out the genders?” She smiled warmly as she carefully applied the ultrasound medium to Raine’s belly. Raine shook her head, trying to knock loose the cobwebs.

Ezekiel moved over to her side, picking up her hand, “How do you feel?”

“Surprisingly well,” Raine answered groggily, “I feel like that was a good nap.” She laughed under her breath.

“Gabriel and Valery stayed with the boys for us, Xadel said she’d come back later to help out if we need anything.” Ezekiel brushed a stray strand of hair from Raine’s eyes. Raine smiled at him before looking over at the monitor.

“Here’s baby A,” Isabelle said landing on a small squirming baby.

Ezekiel breathed in deeply through his nose, “Wow. That... That actually looks like a baby now.”

Raine giggled, “I hope so.”

“I mean, compared to last time...” Ezekiel flushed.

“Do you want to know the gender?” Isabelle asked, the image moving around the baby as she checked on its anatomy.

Raine looked at Ezekiel, who shrugged, “It’s up to you.” He said, still looking slightly in awe of the baby before him on the monitor.

“Yes.” Raine said immediately, looking back to Isabelle and the monitor.

Isabelle moved the probe around, “It’s a...” She smiled finally getting a good image, “Boy! He looks good too. Heart looks good, and everything looks to be right on schedule.”

“A boy,” Raine repeated smiling at Ezekiel, “Now we really do need to start thinking of names.”

“Oh yeah...” Ezekiel chuckled, “We still have time right?”

“Roughly 17 weeks,” Isabelle moved the probe around to see the other baby, “Twins usually come early.”

Ezekiel’s ears twitched, “17 weeks...”

“Here’s baby B!” Isabelle announced, turning the monitor a little more for them.

Raine smiled up at the image of the wiggling baby, “Aw... Look at the little nose.” She squeezed Ezekiel’s hand, “I can’t wait to hold them!”

“Everything looks good,” Isabelle frowned slightly, “But doesn’t look like we’ll be able to tell this one’s gender. The cord’s in the way.”

“The cord’s in the way? What’s that mean?” Ezekiel asked trying to make sense of what he was seeing on the monitor.

Isabelle laughed, “Means this one will be a surprise!” She wiped off Raine’s stomach with a towel.

Ezekiel helped Raine sit up, “We’ll just have to think of an extra name then.” She said with a shrug, stood up and stretched her sides out.

“We need to talk about what happened earlier.” Ezekiel stood back folding his arms over his chest, “With Stuvock...”

Isabelle moved over next to him, “Yeah... And while we do that, let me check your arm too.” She waited with her hands on her hips for Ezekiel to unwrap his arm.

Raine shrugged avoiding making eye contact with either of them. She walked over to the window and looked out, her hands rubbing her arms as though she were cold.

“I recognized him, Raine.” Ezekiel said, his voice low, soft with hidden emotions.

Raine looked up at him curiously, her face awash with various emotions, fear the strongest of them, “What do you mean?”

Ezekiel breathed in deeply through his nose, his ears laying low on his head for a brief minute, “From the war. The scar on his leg, I gave that to him when he tried to attack Gabriel.”

“That would explain it...” Raine frowned, her tail bristling, “I heard him yell he was going for payback. I didn’t know he meant you.”

Isabelle furrowed her eyebrows, “When he attacked you?” She asked, gently taking Ezekiel’s arm. He flinched slightly at the contact, his lips pressing together as Isabelle gently moved his arm, “Any pain?” She asked, letting go when he shook his head ‘no’.

Raine shook her head, “At the house.”

“I didn’t hear him say that.” Ezekiel exchanged looks with Isabelle, his eyes landing on Raine with confusion.

Raine bit her lip, “It’s why I transformed. I heard him say something about Cole, and getting revenge. When I got there he was running at him.”

“Oh,” Isabelle eyes widened a little in realization, “I think I know what you’re talking about! Vince mentioned something about it before. He told me that Lycanthropes can sometimes hear each other telepathically while in their wolf forms. We’ll have to ask them if they heard him when we go back.”

“Yeah,” Raine shrugged, “That sounds right. I just know that I felt like I needed to get to and protect Cole.”

Ezekiel moved over to her, pulling her against him wordlessly, and hugged her tight.

Raine sighed, leaning against him, “I didn’t mean to worry you guys. I know he won’t be coming back.”

“Why did he come in the first place?” Isabelle asked, watching Ezekiel kiss the top of Raine’s head gently.

Raine frowned, “He liked to use my fears and PTSD to keep me with him. When I left, you know I tried to disappear. Moved and everything. I have no idea when he found that apartment near my job. He or one of his friends must have seen me with Ezekiel, because when his friends attacked me it was all about being with a Drakon instead of a ‘real man’,” She made quotation marks with her fingers, “He was jealous and sent them. He wanted to scare me back to him. When he showed up today, he finally realized I wasn’t going to be scared back into being with him. I’ve never seen him that scared before.”

Isabelle frowned, “He won’t come back, right?”

“I will kill him if he sets foot near my house again.” Ezekiel growled.

Raine nodded, “He won’t come back.”

“Good,” Isabelle sighed in relief, “As for your arm,” She turned to Ezekiel, “There’s no swelling, and you said no pain?” He nodded and she smiled, “Great, looks like it’s healed up well. Just continue to take it easy with it for another few weeks.” She stretched from side to side, “Now, let’s go back and brainstorm baby names while the boys finish up the nursery!”

Raine looked up at Ezekiel and grinned, “Okay?”

Ezekiel smiled back, “Okay.”

~*~

The boys were playing out in the yard, throwing water balloons at each other, when the group returned. Inside two police officers awaited Raine, one standing and the other sitting at the kitchen table. Raine looked between the two and Valery uncomfortably.

“W-What’s going on?” She asked Valery, her eyes sliding over to the two Human men in uniform.

The older of the two policemen snorted, stepping towards Raine and Ezekiel as his younger counterpart stood up with a cheerful smile, “Are you Raine?”

Raine nodded, “Yes sir.”

“I called them when Stuvock was here. They just got here not too long ago.” Valery said rubbing her arms nervously.

The younger officer held up a clipboard, “Your friend said you might want to fill out a report.”

“Oh,” Raine looked at the clipboard for a moment, relaxing slightly when Ezekiel placed his hand on her shoulder, “I… I don’t know. I don’t think he’ll be an issue.”

“If you’re not going to file a report, then we’re not wasting our time here.” The elder officer looked at the group with disgust before walking out into the yard.

The other officer looked apologetically at Raine, “I’m sorry about him,” He said softly, “He’s um…” He stuttered, then shook his head, “If you change your mind and do want to file a report, then you can get ahold of me,” He pulled a business card out from his pocket, “My name’s Mark. I would be happy to file the report for you. Take care.” He nodded to the others before jogging to catch up with his superior at their car.

Raine set the card down on the table, “I don’t know what good that would even do.” She sighed then rolled her eyes, “What are the boys doing?” She changed subjects, walking out into the yard once the officers had driven away.

Valery giggled following Raine and Ezekiel outside and walked over to the faucet with a bucket sitting next to it, “Having a water balloon fight.”

Ezekiel chuckled, “I’m going to go and finish up the nursery before they turn on us.” He winked at Raine and kissed her forehead. Raine kissed him on the cheek before he disappeared into the house to find Gabriel and Vince.

“Whose idea was this?” She laughed, dodging a small pink balloon aimed at her head.

Valery, kneeling on the ground filling up more balloons, grinned mischievously at the two women approaching, “Vince’s.” She tossed a yellow balloon to Raine and a purple one to Isabelle.

Isabelle caught the balloon and squeaked as it exploded on her, “Thanks Val!” She shook the water from her hands then blinked, “Wait, did you say it was Vince’s idea? Since when does he have ideas like this?”

A green balloon feel from the roof, exploding at Isabelle’s feet, “When don’t I have good ideas, woman?” Vince smirked at her from the ledge.

“You’re never fun.” Isabelle shot him a look, the corner of her lips twitching up.

Raine smashed the yellow water balloon over Isabelle’s head, “It’s a great idea!”

“Raine!!” Isabelle cried out, her hair dripping in her eyes.

Valery leaned back laughing, tying off another balloon and tossing it into a bucket, “The boys were bored. Gabriel and him ran to the store for some things to finish up the nursery and came back with these.” She stood up, carrying the bucket to the middle of the yard, replacing it with an empty one. She ran back, unable to dodge the multiple balloons thrown at her from the giggling boys. Xadel ducked around the corner dodging a stray water balloon aimed at Valery.

“Hey!” She grinned holding up a bag, “I found it!”

“Really!” Valery ran to her excitedly, looking through the bag, “Oh, you’re awesome!”

Raine tried to exchange looks with Isabelle, only to be ignored as Isabelle grumbled, ringing out her shirt. Cautiously, she moved to see what Valery and Xadel had in the bag.

“Hey, Vince!” Valery called up to the Lycan tossing balloons at the boys from the roof, “Can you come set these up please?” She held up a couple boxes, one with an inflatable pool, the other a slip and slide. Vince nodded, disappearing around the other side of the roof.

Raine grinned, “Oh, this is awesome! You guys are really spoiling them.” She pulled out another bag full of balloons and giggled.

Xadel nodded, “It’s turned out to be such a hot day, why waste it? They can use this stuff all summer too.”
While the girls were distracted with the new water toys, Isabelle moved over to where Valery had been using the hose to fill the balloons. She looked up at the girls and smirked.

“Oooh laaadies!” She sang, getting their attention quickly.

“Don’t do it.” Raine backed up, “Izzy...”

Isabelle grabbed the hose and cranked on the water spraying all three with it. The women screamed as Isabelle exploded into peals of laughter. The boys stood nearby, their jaws hanging open slightly at the scene. Isabelle turned the hose on them and they ran away giggling and screaming.

“Well now.” Ezekiel stood in the doorway looking at the dripping women with a raised eyebrow. Isabelle shut off the hose, smiling impishly at him.

“The nursery is done... You guys might want to go get cleaned up before seeing it.”

Raine squealed, “Really?!” She kissed Ezekiel as she ran past into the house. Valery and Isabelle followed behind her quickly, both giggling as they tried not to slip on the kitchen floor. The women disappeared into the bedroom for a moment, reemerging in dry clothes. Vince and Gabriel stood in front of the new nursery’s door, blocking the women from entering.

“Can we go in yet?” Raine asked, looking over her shoulder at Ezekiel walking up behind them.

He nodded, “Vince and Gabe finished it up while we were gone.”

Raine turned to them smiling, “Thank you guys! Thank you for so much!” She hugged them both before opening the door. Vince looked away from Isabelle smiling proudly at him, his face tinged red in embarrassment. Raine stood in the center of the room speechlessly, her eyes welling up with tears. The walls were painted light teal with white trim. On the left side of the room was a small nook, complete with light blue cushions, and purple pillows. The underside a bookcase full of kid’s books, the windows draped with white curtains. The floors were light wood with a purple and blue night sky rug lying in the center. Raine moved forward, gently touching one of the white cribs placed against the far wall. Purple, blue, and green baby blankets were draped over the railings of both cribs. A white rocking chair with a purple cushion was placed between the two cribs. White cubical book cases sat on the other sides of the cribs; both filled with books and stuffed toys.

Raine turned around looking at everyone, “You guys,” She choked up, “This is... This is amazing!” Ezekiel walked over and hugged her, “How did you know to do these colors?”

Valery stepped forward, “I told Gabriel, he and Vince finished it up while you guys were out.”

“There’s still a few more things we can do once you have names picked out.” Isabelle smiled happily at her friend’s reaction to the room, “And we can load up the closets with baby clothes!” She said opening the white closet doors revealing a nice size empty closet.

“I don’t know how to thank you all enough.” Raine rubbed at her eyes, “Really, this is so awesome.”

“Wait until you see the downstairs!” Xadel said excitedly as her and Isabelle ushered her out of the room. Raine shot Ezekiel a ‘what’s going on?’ look as she passed by him. He smirked at her in return. The group climbed down the stairs, rounded them into the living room then stopped at a closed door in the far wall.

Raine looked over her shoulder at her friends, “Okay, you guys.” She raised an eyebrow, “What’s going on here?” She laughed nervously.

Valery nudged her, “Open it.”

Taking a deep breath, Raine opened the door and walked in. The floors were dark wood, like the living room, the walls painted white and accented with the same teal as the nursery. It was a large room separated into two areas, a baby gate dividing them. The one side of the gate had lots of shelves and storage close to the floor. Including a couple toy boxes, one filled with Cole’s toys and a few new ones on the higher up shelves. It had a large play rug rolled out in the center with a few cars sitting next to it. On the other side of the room was a desk. More shelves and storage spaces lined the walls on either side of the desk, and a long counter with cupboards above it.

Raine turned around to the group, “Has Cole seen this yet?” She asked grinning, “I mean… this is amazing! He’s going to love it if he hasn’t! And the gate so that the babies can play and I won’t have to worry... But what’s this?” She pointed to the empty shelves and desk.

Ezekiel stepped forward, “This was my idea. I thought you might want an area to work on your art. I got the idea when we unpacked your paintings. You said you didn’t really have a place to work on them anymore. I thought this would give you a space to be able to, especially after the babies are born and are a little more mobile.”

“I helped with the baby gate idea!” Isabelle chimed in, “And Valery thought of the shelves and the layout.”

“I don’t know how I can thank you guys,” Raine’s eyes watered, “This is... Just amazing. I know I keep saying it, but,” She looked around, “Wow, you guys!”

Isabelle and Valery hugged her, “Wait until after the baby shower.” Isabelle winked.

“Oh my god, stop your mouth!” Raine nudged Isabelle, “You all have done more than enough!” She hugged Xadel, making her laugh.

“Why are you hugging me?”

Raine grinned, “Because you’ve been here almost every morning helping out too, you deserve a hug.”

“Fair enough.” Xadel hugged her back.

Raine moved over to Ezekiel and hugged him then hugged Gabriel and Vince again, “Thank you! I’m going to make it up somehow! Starting by making lunch.” She walked out of the room.

Both Isabelle’s and Valery’s eyes widened, “Oh, we’ll help!” They called out running after her.

Gabriel chuckled, “They don’t trust her cooking yet.” He winked at Ezekiel.

Vince snorted, “I wouldn’t trust Izzy’s either.”

“Oh, I better go help then.” Xadel ran out of the room.

“I heard that!” Isabelle shouted from the other room.

Vince rolled his eyes, “She would.” He said walking out.
Gabriel and Ezekiel smirked following him out into the kitchen. They stood around for a moment, watching the women rummage through the kitchen, before walking out the back door to see what the kids were up to.

“We found out one of the baby’s genders.” Raine said to Valery and Xadel as she opened and closed cupboards looking for various things.

Valery bounced excitedly, “And!?” She opened the fridge and pulled out eggs and milk.

“I bet it’s a girl!” Xadel said, “I just have that feeling.” She nodded to Valery, who turned back to Raine.

“Well!?”

Raine smiled, “One’s a boy, and the other’s a surprise. The cord was in the way.” She laughed softly, finding a measuring cup and putting it down on the counter.

“Aw, more boys! I bet the other one is a boy then!” Valery did a small happy dance making the other three giggle, “Any names thought of yet?”

“I don’t know,” Raine sighed, her hand resting on her belly, “I’m thinking Jax and Phoenix if the other one’s a boy. Not sure of a girl’s name yet. We haven’t talked about names yet.” She smiled feeling a light nudge against her hand from one of the babies.

“Oh, I like that!” Isabelle cracked an egg into a small bowl, “Jax! That’s a nice name.”

Xadel dug out a pan from under the stove, “I really like Phoenix, that’s a cool name. What about middle names?”
Valery nodded, “Ira’s is Blake, after my grandfather.”

“I like that.” Raine said softly, “I’m not sure yet. What’s Trevor’s middle name?”

Isabelle pressed her lips together, “It’s Vince. Vince wanted to name Trevor after him, Vince Junior. We compromised by putting his name as Trevor’s middle.”

Raine laughed, “Well... It works at least.”

“Not really.” Isabelle sighed, stirring the egg.

Valery opened the fridge and took out a package of chicken breasts, “It’s really not that bad, don’t be so dramatic.” She nudged Isabelle before setting the package down next to her.

Raine walked over with a bowl of flour and a bowl of breadcrumbs, “Were we all thinking chicken strips...? Or what’s going on here?” She laughed as the women stopped what they were doing and looked down at what they had on the counter.

“Huh,” Isabelle blinked, “I guess so... I’m going to make mashed potatoes then!” She said looking around for potatoes and a pot.

Xadel laughed, “I was wondering what you all were doing.” She grinned, giving Isabelle more room to make her potatoes.

Cole ran in through the sliding glass door with Ezekiel following shortly behind. The boy skidded through the kitchen disappearing into the next room.

“He wants to see the playroom.” Ezekiel said smiling at Raine. He stopped to kiss her on the cheek before continuing on into the next room.

Isabelle paused her search, an amused smile pulling at her lips, “You know,” She said pulling out a bag of potatoes from a lower cupboard, “He really has changed a lot in the past few months.”

“Hm?” Raine continued to dredge the chicken in flour without looking up, “What do you mean?”

“I’ve known that man for years, off and on that is. Mostly if Gabriel invited him to something would he show up. He was always so distant. It’s like a huge weight has lifted off him.”

Valery lined a cookie sheet with aluminum foil, “Now that you mention it,” She said preheating the oven, “He’s not as standoffish as he used to be. He’s pretty open with his affection towards you.” She looked at Raine with a smile.

“Hell, even I can see a difference, and I haven’t known him that long,” Xadel sat down at the table, “You really have been good for him.”

Raine shook her hands over the bowl, “I feel like I’m having déjà vu,” She moved over to the sink and washed her hands, “Didn’t we have this conversation already?”

“But it’s true!” Isabelle stuck the pot under the running water, cutting it off from Raine’s hands. Raine waited patiently for her to finish filling up the pot and move, before continuing to washing her hands.

“I didn’t change him though, Cole did.” She said softly, her tail flicked at the air, “I met Ezekiel shortly after I met you and Val. I think it was about a year before you disappeared, Val.”

“You disappeared?” Xadel got up, helping Valery with the chicken.

Valery bowed her head slightly, “Yeah... That was pretty stupid of me.”

“You were a kid still,” Raine reassured her, then quickly added, “Not that it wasn’t stupid, because it was, but I’m glad you came back.” She hugged Valery before moving over to the table and sat down.

“Gee, thanks.” Valery rolled her eyes as she went to wash her hands after putting the chicken on the cookie sheet, “So you met him a year before that, what happened?”

Raine shrugged, “Nothing. He was like what you guys are saying, quiet and to himself. I didn’t really get to know him or even have a real conversation with him until the wedding.”

“Come on, you guys did talk on that date,” Isabelle pointed at Raine, then smiled smugly, “All of which wouldn’t of happened had I not pushed you into talking to him at Joey’s birthday party.”

Raine laughed, “You didn’t push me to do anything, dork!” She shook her head, “I told him at the wedding that you felt we should talk and be friends,” She laughed again at Isabelle’s reaction, “I talked to him then because I realized you were giving him a panic attack.”

“How!?” Isabelle put her hands on her hips.

Raine shook her head, “You touched his arm.”

“Huh... Oh!” Isabelle gasped as she pieced together all the times Ezekiel had left her office with a sudden anxiety attack, “Oh... Wow, I’m stupid. Uhg, that’s horrible of me.” She winced, “I’ll work on that. I don’t know why I didn’t realize that sooner.” She rambled in embarrassment.

“It’s okay,” Raine held her hands up, “Just keep it in mind,” She leaned back in her chair, “I did like him back then, but I was with Stu.”

Valery frowned, “Why can’t I remember him, aside from the drama he caused here earlier?”

Isabelle shot Raine a sympathetic look, before turning to the stove.

Raine sighed, “That relationship was all kinds of messed up. I didn’t see much of Isabelle either. After you left, I pretty much disappeared as well. Stuvock liked me to be either at home or at work.”

“Oh...” Valery leaned against the counter, “How long were you with him for?”

Raine chewed on her lip, “Uh...” She glanced at Isabelle nervously.

“4 years,” Isabelle answered for her, “I helped her plan moving out without letting Vince or anyone know. We felt the quieter we could do it, the better. Then the day of, I told both Vince and Gabriel, and they helped get her out pretty quick.”

Both Valery and Xadel looked at Raine sympathetically, “I’m sorry you went through that...” Valery said softly.

“It’s in the past.” Raine said quickly, “He won’t come back knowing I’m not afraid of him anymore.”

“Still,” Xadel spoke up, “I know what you went through, so if you do need someone to talk about it with...” She trailed off at the sudden curious looks she was receiving from the other three, “What?”

Raine frowned, “I’m sorry you can even sympathize, no one should go through that shit. Thank you.”

Cracking a smile, Xadel nodded, “Yeah, well, you know... It happened, but it’s been a couple years, so I’m good. Like you said, it’s in the past. We’re stronger because of it.”

“Yes,” Raine smiled, “And because we now surround ourselves with good people.”

Cole ran into the kitchen, “It’s so awesome!” He hugged Raine, “I can play with the babies too!” He said excitedly, “Dad said I can show them how to fight, and how to catch fireflies too!”

Raine ruffled Cole’s hair, “You’re going to be the best big brother.” She smiled happily, looking up to Ezekiel smiling proudly at them.

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Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.