BONUS - Baby Meets Grandparents
Stone watched Aubree and Baby Thea sleep on the couch in the golden lamplight. Thea rose up and down on her mother’s chest with each breath Aubree took. Her little pink lips puckered in a slight frown.
Aubree had just finished nursing Thea, burped her, and tried to stay awake but couldn’t keep her eyes open and fell asleep.
Stone covered them up with a blanket and brushed his fingertips over Thea’s soft head. He marveled at her as he sat on the floor next to them. Marveled at this little creation that they had been blessed with.
He was still afraid to pick her up on his own. Aubree had placed Thea in his arms both times he held her since her birth and he sat still, unable to tear his eyes off her and afraid he’d wake her if he moved an inch.
Everyone had taken turns holding her when Aubree wasn’t feeding her and were extra careful knowing how delicate she would be—and how over-protective Stone would be. He hovered over them until they had settled in the plush chair with the baby securely placed in their arms.
Aubree’s parents had entered the territory shortly after she had fallen asleep. He didn’t have the heart to wake her when she looked so peaceful and content with their daughter sleeping on her chest.
He heard the muted sound of gravel crunching under tires outside as a vehicle pulled up to their private cabin.
Her parents were here.
Gwen’s voice flitted up as doors opened and he went to the window to peer out. She had picked them up knowing that the flight would have made them tired and finding the cabin would have been impossible for them.
Aubree’s parents met Gwen at the wedding almost two years ago and immediately connected with her. They always asked about her and Gavin when Aubree called them on the phone.
Going to the door, he pulled on a heavy winter coat and boots before opening and closing it as quickly as he could to keep the warmth inside and the cold outside. Snowflakes fluttered lightly down from gray clouds as the sky grew dark with evening setting in. A pale glow reflected on the snow gathered around the house from the porch lights as he took a few steps toward them with his finger pressed to his lips, a request for them to be quiet.
Her parents didn’t notice him at first as they were too busy looking around the cabin surrounded by dense, snow-covered woods.
It was small and quaint with only two bedrooms—one intended for him and Aubree and the other for their pup to grow up in. They would still use the pack house for everything and the cabin for when visitors came, but the cabin was their private space for their family to grow in. The small eat-in kitchen was stocked with food, knowing that Aubree’s parents would be joining them.
Finally, her parents noticed him and waved with big smiles on their faces as they met him halfway across the stone path with a thin dusting of snow on it.
Despite the cold nipping at their cheeks, Steve greeted him with a slap on the back. “There he is.”
“Welcome,” Stone said as he gave Aubree’s mother an awkward hug.
“How’s she doing?” Sandra asked as she pulled away, her forehead creased with worry. “I couldn’t sleep a wink last night, so I called into work to get the day off and come as quickly as I could.”
“Dragging me along with her,” Steve piped up, earning himself a playful smack in the chest from his wife.
“Good,” Stone replied. “She finished nursing a little while ago and tried to stay awake for you both, but ended up falling asleep. I couldn’t bring myself to wake her.”
They were both nodding their heads in understanding, excitement bubbling up underneath their worried exteriors as their breaths puffed out in misty clouds before them.
Trying not to grin too much, he ushered them inside.
Aubree stirred as they entered and took their coats and boots off—her heightened hearing alerting her of their arrival.
“Hey,” she croaked from the couch.
At the sound of her voice, her mother shoved her coat into Stone’s face and immediately hurried over, leaving him and Steve in the doorway while Gwen went into the kitchen to get drinks and snacks, playing hostess so everyone else could be comfortable.
“Everything went smoothly, then?” Steve asked him softly while the mother and daughter duo greeted each other and spoke in hushed tones.
Stone nodded as he hung Sandra’s coat up in the closet. “Seemed Thea didn’t want to come right away and opted to wait until the midwife arrived. We thought she’d come before the midwife had a chance to get here.”
“Well, that’s good then. No complications or anything?”
Stone shook his head as he took Steve’s jacket. “No, sir. Everything went well.”
Her father smiled in relief before he turned his attention to his wife and daughter. “Good. That’s good. Did she threaten to neuter you as well?”
Stone didn’t know how to respond when Steve looked back at him with quirked lips. He rubbed the back of his neck, “Something like that.”
Steve’s eyes crinkled. “They always do. Not that I blame them. I don’t know how they do it—I mean, I know how they do it, but still... Don’t know if I could do it myself.”
Clearing his throat, Stone invited him to join the females before hanging his own coat up and went into the kitchen to give Gwen a hand.
Baby Thea was passed around to Aubree’s parents, who handled her expertly. Stone knew he didn’t have to worry, but he couldn’t help straining his senses for any sign of Alethea’s discomfort—his hackles slightly raised.
Gwen smacked him upside the head, earning her a glare.
[I was just as protective with you and Gawain,] he snapped.
She wiggled her eyebrows at him as she picked up her platter of sandwiches and veggie sticks. It was a snack to tide them over for dinner. That thought had him going to the oven to check on the large chicken in the roast pan. Aubree told him that it wouldn’t be ready for another two hours, but it never hurt to check. He had a reputation for somehow burning things in the oven and he didn’t want to embarrass himself in front of her parents.
When everything appeared to be fine, he returned to the living room to spend time with the family.
After dinner, Gwen left for patrol duty and Aubree’s parents took a few moments to settle into their room. Baby Thea was sleeping again after waking up a bit during dinner.
With a belly full of chicken now, Aubree was feeling much better and more like herself. The last twenty-four hours had really worn her out.
“I’m going to have to pretend to be more tired than I am,” she said as they stood next to the bed, her eyes watching the baby sleep in the middle of the mattress. “Humans don’t recover this quickly after delivery.”
He nodded, holding her in his arms and resting his chin on top of her head. “I shall tend to your every need like a dutiful, doting husband.”
She giggled softly. “I should hope so! I heard that comment my dad made earlier.”
Smirking, his thoughts flitted back to Aubree’s castration threats and her father’s comments. “Would you do it all again?”
“Totally. I hope we have a boy next.”
He brushed his nose in her hair, inhaled and exhaled. “Doesn’t matter to me, as long as you are here with me.”
The next few days fell into a pattern. Aubree exaggerated her exhaustion, her mother often jumping in before Stone got the chance to. He simply shook his head in amusement at her mother’s desire to baby her daughter.
Alethea spent the majority of the time sleeping, waking up only to nurse and look up at the person holding her with large blue eyes before returning to sleep.
One thing he loved to do with her was have her little hands, with her soft little fingers, clutch his pinky finger. He could feel her strength increasing each time he did this and he tried not to beam in pride.
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