After calming my father down after dinner with the reminder that my mother had only been a couple years older than I when she had me and that she too had gotten pregnant within the first six months of meeting him, I told him I was happy with West and explained how good he was to me. In the middle of that conversation, West got a mindlink from his Alpha and he excused himself, advising it was on urgent business.
We ate the strawberry pie I had made—which was the only appetizing thing I consumed all night—and then went into the living room. After chatting a bit, West came back home looking like he’d tromped through mud and thick foliage before he advised us he would wash up and be back in just a moment.
With his tail—ok, ha ha, very funny—between his legs when he walked back into the room, he could barely make eye contact with my dad, who was looking much less homicidal. I patted myself on the back for thinking of making his favorite dessert. My hunches were on-fucking-point.
Well, except for being pregnant—there’s that.
“Mr. Carver, I’d like to apologi—”
Dad put his hands up in a halting gesture before giving a long, exhausted smile. “Please, son, if you’re mated to my daughter, you can call be Carver. I…I understand the pull to one’s destined, I do. It was just so surprising that it happened so quickly. I mean, Lucy may be my oldest child, but I still consider her my baby. I mean, I remember her birth like it was just yesterday.”
West nodded, though the tense set of his shoulders seemed to relax a tad as he took a deep, cleansing breath and finally met my father’s eyes.
I heaved my own sigh of relief that claws and fangs would remain sheathed, and I offered everyone seconds of dessert.
I am going to get fat, because I could eat half of the damn pie by myself.
Only Emery wanted a second slice, and I waltzed into the kitchen to grab him and me another. Honestly, though, I just wanted to get out of the room. The tension was making my tummy roll uneasily.
Mom popped into the kitchen and gave me one of her gentlest hugs, even if it was from behind. She whispered into my ear and squeezed a little harder. “How you doing with all this? Overwhelming, isn’t it?”
I turned around and gave her a wry smile. “Very. I know West and I weren’t very…very careful the first couple of times, but I never thought…” I blew out an unsteady breath and felt myself getting weepy. It’s already starting. Dear Lord.
“It’s okay, sweet girl,” she comforted me, bringing me into her arms again. “You’ll be just fine. It’s a bit sooner than I expected or would have liked, but you’ve always acted older than your age, and I know you’ll be a good mom. There’s a learning curve, but isn’t there always when it comes to trying new things?”
She smiled warmly at me before she gave me another squeeze, and I melted into her arms, a lone tear sweeping down my cheek.
Zach and I had talked about kids when we thought we would mate, but that was in the abstract, never going deeper than the superficial surface—things like names, or how many children we would have. It was never when, or how we want to raise them. Now I was looking down the barrel of motherhood at 18, and I was completely flabbergasted that this was my life. Rejected, then mated, then pregnant all within two months. If I hadn’t been living it, I would have thought it was something made for daytime soap operas. Throw in some ill-times amnesia and a resurrected villain and we’d have ourselves the pilot for the next big daytime drama.
When I brought out two big slices of strawberry pie, I shared mine with West, though it could have been thought as being the other way since he insisted on feeding me bite after bite. He seemed more relaxed, even pleased to see me eat, and I had to wonder why. After my parents finally left to go home, I questioned him about it.
“You looked ridiculously happy to be feeding me pastries tonight,” I told him. “What gives?”
“I saw you didn’t eat much of your dinner tonight,” he admitted. “You looked a little green at the sight of the baked chicken and potatoes, but your face lit up when you brought out the pie.” He paused. “Besides, I want that baby of ours coming out cute and chubby.”
“I’ll be the chubby one more like.” I scoffed at him as I got dressed in my sleep apparel. “It seems as if already the baby has a sweet tooth. Maybe if I just douse all our food in sugar, the little nugget will actually let me keep down food.”
He snorted and coughed out a laugh before pulling off his dress shirt and sliding his trousers down his legs. When he was left only in his boxers, he got under the covers and pulled my side back. It was relatively early for bed, but we had both gotten up early that morning because I had been fretting so much about having my parents over. I wanted them to like West, not just tolerate him because he’s my mate. My mother didn’t seem at all put-out about my pregnancy, but it took my dad longer to remember that we’re wolves—not humans. The need to mate is intense, and if one’s not careful, a baby follows soon after.
Exhibit A: My still flat tummy.
I dropped onto the bed and laid on my back to stare at the ceiling. When West’s hand curled over my stomach, I had a good idea of what he was thinking.
“I’m glad your father doesn’t hate me,” he murmured into my ear on a sigh.
Patting his hand, I decided to goad him a little. “I’m glad you still have your genitals, too, babe.”
He huffed out a surprised laugh before kissing me on the cheek. His chin rested on my shoulder, and I nuzzled my head against his.
“My dad isn’t a bad guy, he just thinks of me still as a kid. You’ll feel that way someday too,” I assured him and rolled onto my side to face him. He pulled my body into his, and our legs tangled together.
“I know, and I also know I can’t wait to have this baby with you, even if it is a bit early.” He paused. “Paul knows, by the way. I was pretty agitated earlier when I went to see him. And Zach was there.”
“What did he want?”
He sighed. “Not what I thought he did at first. Not you, sweet girl. He just had some information and he was passing it along. I’ll tell you all about it in the morning. Now get some rest, angel.”
I was tired, but when I closed my eyes, I only saw pacifiers and those mobiles you hung over cribs that rotated in a circle.
It took me longer than I’d like to admit to fall asleep that night.
When Monday morning came, I was fatigued, though my lazy ass didn’t wake up until 10 AM. West was long gone and over to meet with Paul, and I didn’t think much about what we’d talked about, though I was curious as to why Paul was speaking with Zach. I hoped he was doing well. He was still a dear friend, and I didn’t wish him anything but well. It had broken my heart when I asked West to mark me in front of him, but I knew how stubborn he could be. Anything less and he might have tried to convince me to go back with him.
As curious as I was to find out what Zach had needed to inform Paul, I tried to keep myself busy until West came back—hopefully for a late lunch as it was already 1 PM by the time I was done doing a quick go-through of the house. I found that even if a house was cleaned prior to company coming over, it always seemed to end up being even messier after they left. It was a mystery as to why that was so, so I ended up cleaning the downstairs and then heading over to the packhouse to visit Faith at some point in the mid-morning. She wasn’t there, and Cassidy told me she had moved in with Carter, so I wasn’t all that surprised and used the time to catch up with Cassidy, whom had been told by Paul that West and I were expecting. The excitable female was as thrilled as if she had found out she was the one having a baby herself and made ridiculously early plans for a shower and what to do with the baby’s room.
“I think for now, the nursery should be in the room next to yours—you know, for quick response. In the event of a midnight feeding or diaper changing. West can be completely irritable if woken up in the middle of the night, but make sure he is just as involved as you are! He may gripe and complain, but he’s just as culpable for your little angel as you.” She changed directions with lightning quick precision. “Would you want a tea-party type shower with women, or one of those co-ed things where the men all go off to smoke cigars and regale the expectant father with tales of diaper changes gone wrong and projectile vomiting?”
She continued on that vein for a bit, and my stomach got queasy. After a while, I weakly requested a cup of mint tea. When Cass saw how pale and clammy I had gotten, she blinked and shot up from her chair before hurrying out of the living room and into the kitchen to brew me a cup, mumbling to herself the whole time.
By the time she came back with two cups of mint tea, I had my head in my hands and was fighting with the urge to vomit.
We chatted for a bit more about babies until I didn’t feel as queasy, and then I went back home to make myself some lunch, praying the whole time it would stay down. I reminded myself to ask for some Saltines the next time West went into town to shop.
I had some Ritz crackers with peanut butter on them since it was the closest thing I could get to Saltines, and sat in the living room digesting for a bit before there was a knock on the door. I got up from my slouch on the couch and moved slowly to the entrance, not caring if I was keeping whoever it was waiting for me. If they didn’t want me to heave all over their sneakers when I finally opened up for them, they’d just have to cool their heels for a minute.
When the door was finally opened, I noticed no one around, nor any scent that would tell me who it was that had ding dong dashed me.
Shrugging my shoulders, I was about to close the door when I saw something head-center taped to it.
My eyes widened, and I ripped it down from the crimson-painted door to bring inside. Taking the piece of masking tape off it and tossing it to the ground, I examined the photo, absolutely unable to believe my eyes.
It looked real, but how could it be? I tried to make it make sense, but I was so close to sobbing, my vision became blurry before I could try and figure out what it meant. When I heard footsteps coming up the steps to the front door, my head snapped to it before seeing a tired West walking in and scuffing the bottom of his hiking boots on the Welcome mat on the front porch. I waited for all of three seconds before he had closed the door behind him and thrust out the photograph to him with one shaky hand.
“What. Is this?”
It didn’t matter how hard I tried to mask the hurt in my voice; the the tears were leaking down my face, hot and unwanted, and the photo floated to the ground before my body collapsed into the dining room table chair and I wept like I hadn’t since being rejected.