Heart of Stone - Book 3: Souls Entwine

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Epilogue - Baby (Part 2)

“Ugh, I feel huge—like a beluga whale,” Aubree complained. “Lycan pregnancies suck!”

It was the first day of spring, sixty weeks since the lunar eclipse and her first heat in January last year. She’d been stuck in her human form for the last thirty weeks, and couldn’t get over the fact that she might still have another ten weeks left before this pup decided to pop out.

She rubbed her giant belly, her legs propped up with a pillow as she relaxed on the couch, feeling too uncomfortable to get up and do anything.

“Beluga whales aren’t that big, Love,” Stone said as he walked out of the kitchen with a plate of food in hand.

“I know, but the name sounds like the way I feel. Big, fat, and lazy. It’s going to take me a year to get back into shape.”

Scooting up and leaning against the arm of the couch, she accepted the plate Stone handed her and set it down on her humongous belly as Stone kissed the top of her head. Steak. Lightly seared and salted—the way she now enjoyed it since becoming a lycan. Blood was still pooling around the bite-sized pieces Stone cut for her.

“It won’t be too much longer,” Stone said as he pressed his palm against the side of her stomach and under her plate. “She’ll likely come any day now.”

“She dropped weeks ago,” Aubree grumbled as her fork pierced a piece of meat and shoveled it into her mouth. “She’s just teasing me now. She’s going to be like her uncle, isn’t she?”

Stone chuckled. “I don’t know about that. They’re not blood-related after all.”

“But my dad has a goofy side. She could pick it up from him.”

Movement within had her groaning in discomfort. There wasn’t any more room for the pup to move, but she kept on moving, pressing against her spine as if she were trying to stretch out or get comfortable in her tight space.

“I need to sit up straight,” Aubree said with a grimace as her hand went to her stomach.

Stone took her plate and set it down on the coffee table before helping her to sit up.

Pressing her shoulders into the back of the couch and reaching up to the ceiling, she stretched out her spine before rubbing her stomach and trying to ease the pup’s discomfort.

[There, there, babygirl,] she told her, not that she ever got a reply back when she tried mind-linking with her. [I know you’re uncomfortable. I am too. Whenever you’re ready to come, I’m ready too.]

Pressure built against her bladder and she groaned again. “Dammit. Didn’t I pee an hour ago?”

“Hour and a half,” Stone answered as she tried, unsuccessfully, to push herself up off the couch.

She huffed in exasperation, hating that she needed everyone to wait on her hand and foot these last few weeks. No one seemed to mind, but it was annoying her. It was one thing when she couldn’t reach something high up on a shelf, it was another when she dropped her pen and she couldn’t bend down far enough to pick it up off the floor.

He took her outstretched hand and helped to pull her up to her feet as she grumbled all the way to the bathroom.

As soon as she was about to pull the door closed behind her, fluid trickled down her legs and an unfamiliar smell wafted up her nose.

Stone was pulling the door open immediately while she stood there, frozen.

[The pup is on her way,] he announced to everyone in the pack.

A howl sounded outside in the distance and two pairs of feet hurried across the upper level and down the stairs like a pair of hungry wolves running after their prey.

Excitement bubbled around her as panic smacked her in the face and a mild cramp shot up through her abdomen.

She swore as Stone steered her out of the powder room with both hands on her shoulders.

[Weren’t you saying a minute ago that you couldn’t wait for her to come?] he teased.

[Shut up! You’re not the one who has to push her out!]

[But I’ll be with you the entire time. I won’t leave you for a moment.]

[If this hurts as much as my first shift, you’re getting neutered!]

[It won’t. Trust me. I’ve been through this three times already. It will be as easy as pie.]

“Out of my way, pup! My sister is having a baby!”

“Out of my way—that’s my half-sister coming—and Aubree’s not even related to you by blood!”

Alistair sputtered incoherently in protest as the two clamored down the stairs, Gwen taking the lead with Alistair close on her heels. Her phone was in her hand as she reached Stone and Aubree. “Lance, the pup is coming. I’ll call you back later. Wish her luck!”

She held her phone out and Aubree saw Lance wave on the screen. ”Good luck, Luna.”

“Thanks,” Aubree muttered before Gwen blew Lance a kiss and ended the call.

Alistair was practically bouncing around them as they walked across the living room to the conference room that they had temporarily turned into the delivery room as soon as the pup dropped down a few weeks ago.

“Chill guys, I’ll probably be in labor for 20 hours like my mom had been,” she said as they entered the delivery room.

The long table that once occupied the space had been removed and a plastic blow-up birthing pool put in its place. The floor was lined with plastic tarps with a stack of towels in one corner and a rocking chair in the other. Everything was in order and ready to go, except that the pool needed warm water to submerge herself in.

Stone shook his head. “Lycan pregnancies may be long, but the labor is brief.”

“That pup will be here as soon as the moon is out,” Alistair said.

“Yeah, but I’m in my human form, not my lycan one. Wouldn’t that make a difference?” Aubree argued as both Gwen and Alistair picked up plastic buckets stacked in the corner of the room and hurried out to fill them with hot water.

“Perhaps,” Stone said, “but I’m certain we’ll be greeting our daughter in a few hours. I’ll call the midwife from North Fang. Shall I call your parents and let them know as well?”

She leaned against him for a moment and took a deep breath before nodding her head and stepping back.

He kissed her forehead before leaving to fetch his phone.

Lycans didn’t worry about complications during labor, but Aubree asked for a midwife months ago when she could no longer shift. A trained midwife from a werewolf pack would know what to expect and how to handle the human aspect of the procedure better than lycans would. Although Aubree was now a lycan, she still wasn’t a typical one with her human form being the more dominant one than her wolf form.

Another cramp shot up, stronger than the previous and tightened the muscles around her stomach. She gasped as she clutched it with one hand and pressed the other against the wall for support. Her eyes widened as she stared at the wall. Were the contractions only a few minutes apart already?

Alistair and Gwen returned briefly to dump their water into the plastic pool before dashing back out for more.

She watched them, realizing that in a few short, painful hours, she’d be holding their daughter in her arms. It was all overwhelmingly real now.

“Yes, she’ll be here soon, perhaps in a few hours,” Stone said as he came into the room with the phone pressed to his ear.

"Can I talk to her?" Aubree heard her mother ask.

“Of course,” he replied and handed Aubree the cell phone.

Aubree took the phone from him and leaned against him with her other hand rubbing her stomach. “Hi, Mom.”

“Honey, are you sure you want to do this at home? You still have time to go to the hospital.”

A smile found itself on her lips. She would worry. “Yeah, I’m sure. We have a midwife on her way. We already know what to expect from practice runs in the last few weeks.”

“I know, but there’s always a chance of complications...”

Her parents still didn’t know the truth. Lycans and pups didn’t die from complications in childbirth because of their fast healing capabilities. It was even rare for werewolves, though not unheard of.

“It will be okay,” Aubree tried to reassure her through gritted teeth as another contraction gripped her, stronger than the last one.

Her mother caught it though. “Aubree?”

“I’m fine. Contractions are normal after all,” she replied.

She could hear and feel the pup’s heartbeat and knew that she was fine as well. She noticed the little drum picked up speed when a contraction hit, but slowed back down to normal after. The labor pains affected her too, putting stress on her entire body as Aubree’s prepared to push her out.

“Okay... Do you want us to come over? I can be by your side in six hours if we speed and—”

“Mom, it’s fine. Don’t worry. Come over on the weekend. It’s only a few days away.”

“Aubree, I have two weeks saved up at work and my boss is ready for me to jump the gun with little notice. I’ll be there A.S.A.P.”

“Mom, you are the boss,” Aubree reminded her.

“Yes, but even I have to report back to the president or VP of the company.”

If Aubree were having a human child, she would have wanted her mother over as soon as possible, but things were different now and they had to keep their identities secret.

And what if the pup shifted while her parents visited? The Goddess did say that their pups would be special and capable of shifting immediately after birth. How would her parents react to their grandchild turning into a little baby wolf?

“Mom, please. If you lived in the same city, I’d ask you to be here for the delivery, but you live in Chicago—six hours away—and you both still have jobs. Wait until the weekend, please. Stone and his brother and sister will be here if I need anything.”

“Okay, okay. You can’t blame me for being impatient to see you and the baby—I mean, come on! I’m going to be a grandma!”

There was a brief shuffling sound and her father’s voice greeted her. “We’ll see you on Friday, Princess. Have Stone call us immediately if you have any complications, doesn’t matter the time of day, okay?”

She smiled, missing his calmness when her mother would freak out. “I will, Dad. Don’t worry.”

“Worrying is our job. You know that.”

She could imagine him winking before wishing her the best and ending their call.

Alistair and Gwen briefly popped back in to dump their water before disappearing again, one at a time.

After stripping down, she stood in the pool as Stone tied on her bikini top before he dipped a washcloth into the warm water to wipe the sticky fluid from her legs. When he was done, he dried her off and she sat down on the new rocking chair he picked up for her with a thin blanket over her lap. He massaged her feet, ankles, calves, thighs, neck, and shoulders as the contractions continued growing stronger and closer together. She could feel herself stretching, the pup straining against the tight space as her body prepared to push her out.

Another howl in the distance alerted them of the werewolf midwife’s arrival into their territory and as Aubree listened, she peered out the window to the darkening sky, anxiety building within.

Snow covered the ground and lined the windowsill, despite it being the first day of spring. She hadn’t stepped outside since they got hit with the last snowstorm three days ago. She hoped the roads were clear and the midwife had no issues driving.

[You haven’t had a contraction in a while,] Stone said, breaking into her mind as she rubbed her stomach.

“See?” Aubree said, looking up at him before he crouched down next to her and pressed his cheek to her womb. “She’s just teasing me. She’s going to drag this out all night.”

She felt him smile against her tight skin. “I don’t think she’ll drag it out all night. A few more hours, perhaps.”

“Should we stop filling the pool for now?” Gwen asked as she came in and dumped her bucket of water.

“Maybe,” Aubree said. “It’s just going to get cold, right?”

“I told you, we should have invested in an extra-long hose to hook up to the faucet,” Alistair said from the kitchen as he turned off the water.

“We did, but the nozzle didn’t fit properly and sprayed water everywhere,” Stone told him before he lowered his voice and caressed her stomach. “Take your time, little one, but don’t hurt your mama too much.”

Alistair appeared in the doorway with his arms crossed over his chest. “Huh, I must have been outside at that time.”

“Most likely. You have been taking on more of my patrol duties these last few months,” Stone said before adding, “thank you for that.”

With the contractions subsiding a bit, Aubree stood up, wrapped a towel around her waist and wandered slowly around the main level of the pack house until the midwife arrived.

The werewolf was an older woman with a kind face, graying hair, and a firm, but gentle touch. She went through a mental checklist as she examined Aubree before peering between her propped up legs.

“Halfway there,” she reported before covering Aubree’s legs up on the couch with a blanket. “How long since your last contraction?”

“I don’t know... ten minutes?” Aubree guessed. “They were getting stronger and closer together before stopping. I’m sure she’s just teasing me. That’s what we do around here, anyway.”

Aubree glanced out the window to see that it was pitch black outside.

“The Goddess knows best,” the midwife replied. “Since we have time to spare, I’ll prepare the tea I brought.”

Aubree watched her walk into the kitchen and put a kettle on to boil.

Everyone had gone outside to burn off their excess energy. Only Stone remained with her at all times like he had promised.

Her contractions began to resurface, but they were still not as strong or frequent as they had been before the midwife arrived.

She drank the herbal tea the midwife prepared and half an hour after that, the contractions started increasing in strength and frequency. More water was called for and Gavin took Alistair’s place as the two older males guarded the house outside.

Eventually, Aubree was moved to the pool and Stone joined her, her back pressed to his chest and his arms locked around hers as the contractions ripped through her over and over.

Finally, after what felt like eons, she pushed the pup out and collapsed against Stone.

[I’m going to castrate you,] she half-threatened as she panted.

He pressed proud, soothing feelings into her tired, aching body as the midwife unblocked the pup’s nasal passages.

[You say that now.]

[You are cut-off, mister. Do you see the size of her head?]

“Two minutes after midnight. March 21st,” the midwife said and pressed the now screaming newborn to Aubree’s chest. “Here is your beautiful daughter.”

Aubree had always anticipated the moment she would get to hold her child for the first time, but as soon as she felt the small body pressed to hers and gazed her eyes upon her, emotions flooded over and all she could do was cry.

A mother’s love is the strongest bond there is. Love made flesh.

The Goddess set her sight on them. To use them as an example of her Glory, Love, and Mercy. Her blessing in the small life they held in their arms.

“Truth,” Aubree whispered to the sleeping newborn minutes later after calming down and basking in the peaceful warmth of love.

Stone smiled against her temple at the reference to one of the names they had chosen to name her once they finally met her. “I had a feeling you would choose that one and I agree. She is the truth and all who see her cannot question the Goddess’ blessings.”

“Alethea.” Aubree pressed a soft kiss to her daughter’s head of thin blonde hair. “My little Thea.”

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