“I still can’t get over the fact Emma and Luke are mates,” I whispered to Sam.
Quite a lot had transpired during the festive holidays. Our friends disappeared after Christmas dinner, only to turn up again hours later... mated.
It had stopped snowing a couple of days ago and the boys had used snow shovels to clear the back garden, ready for the new years eve party. We were getting ready to celebrate a brand new year and were outside waiting for the firework display to begin.
Sam wrapped his arms around me from behind, leaning down to speak in a hushed tone beside my ear. “It’s like they’ve been married for years... look at them.”
We both glanced to the right of us, catching Luke kiss Emma on the nose and pull her in for a cuddle. My heart warmed, seeing my friends so happy. Sam kissed the side of my head and I turned seeking the heat from his body, inhaling a lungful of his spicy cologne.
Mom and Nina came scrambling out through the back door to open a bottle of champagne. “It’s almost twelve!” Mom announced. She angled the cork away from the house and grimaced as she wiggled it, waiting for the pop.
As the countdown chant began, Sam reached inside his coat pocket to retrieve something. “Close your eyes.” He shot me a playful look as I peeked through my lashes. The pain in my back had worsened and my ankles were swollen through standing. But I’d been looking forward to this, so there was no way I was gonna be a party pooper. As soon as the fireworks were over, I was gonna go curl up on Luke’s sofa and relax until we were ready to leave.
“Ah-ah, no peeking.” He chuckled. I scrunched my nose having been rumbled. It was freezing out here in the wintery mountains of Bear Creek, but the fire pits that Luke and Sam had lit around the garden provided us with some warmth.
Yellow and orange embers danced above the crackling flames in a soft hazy glow, and the mouthwatering scent of roast pork and apple sauce wafted past me with each billow of smoke. Whatever meat was left on the hog roast rotisserie, dripped juices onto the orange coals, hissing, and popping, creating rippling heat waves in the bitter cold air.
“Okay,” I huffed happily, holding out my gloved palm. There was the sound of metal clashing against metal and I felt him place something firm in my hand, closing my fingers around it.
“Sam?” My voice questioned with anticipation. “Are those what I think they are?”
“You can open them now,” he urged. His handsome face brightened as he smiled and I gasped, un-clenching my fist.
There in my hand, was the keys to the guest house. He had once promised me that he would give me the world and he’d delivered. He’d given me a life, a home, and a family. When I gazed back into his steely, grey eyes that were drowned with devotion, all I could see was our future.
“We’ve got power and running water. All that’s left to do is the painting before the furniture can start going in,” Sam spoke with pride.
He couldn’t have picked a more perfect moment as the sky above Bear Creek burst into glittering colors of gold, red, green and blue. Our lips crashed together as we marked a new chapter in our lives, with a fervent kiss.
“Happy New year, Mrs. Evans.” Sam beamed. “Happy New year,” I replied, feeling as if my heart had just detonated inside my chest.
Something twinged in my lower back and I grimaced, trying to cope with the discomfort that had annoyingly increased throughout the day. Sam frowned with a look of distrust. “Babe, are you in any pain?”
All day, I had said that I was fine, when in fact, I wasn’t fine at all. I just assumed it was another gut slaughtering ambush of Brackston Hicks.
With each hiss and bang from the fireworks, the babies flinched and squirmed in my womb and I grunted feeling a sharp pain stabbing my stomach.
“Sam!” I pulled away from his embrace, grimacing and placed a hand over my bump. “Mother fucker,” I groaned.
Sam’s brows scrunched, then his eyes fell to my stomach. “Is it starting?” He asked, looking worried.
I tried to breathe through the pain. “I don’t know, I feel...” No sooner had I spoken, the pressure stretched my pelvic floor and something popped, sending a sudden gush of warm fluid that seeped through my underwear and down my legs, soaking my maternity leggings. Both our faces contorted with horror as my waters splattered on the floor of Luke’s patio.
Everyone was here celebrating and enjoying the party that Luke and Emma were hosting. Mom and Jack, Nina and Joe, all froze where they stood. Luke and Emma were right beside us, their eyes widening with shock as they realized what had just happened. I clutched hold of Sam’s forearms for support.
“This can’t be happening, it's too soon,” I complained. The immediate pain that came from out of nowhere, strangled my uterus. “I’m two weeks early.”
I knew there was every chance the twins could come early but now that it was actually happening, my nerve had given out. Truth be told, I wasn’t ready. I was scared: scared of the pain, scared of the labor, scared of the responsibility of keeping two living beings alive. I couldn’t even keep a house plant alive, or a goldfish. How was I supposed to raise two children? All these sudden fears had only just decided to pop up and swamp my brain with doubt, right at this point.
“We haven’t even made up the cribs yet! God, we’re shit parents,” I sobbed in hysterics, overreacting, as per usual.
You could see the whites of Luke’s eyes. “Holy shit! She’s having them now?”
“No shit, genius,” Emma interjected, equally as shocked. “Quick, get her inside!”
Sam swallowed hard, then his tongue darted out to moisten his dry lips. “Don’t panic. Doctor Thorne said they could come early, didn’t she?” He spoke in reassurance, reminding me what our doctor had said during my follow up appointment last week.
Emma thrust her beer bottle at Luke, turning her attention on me and rubbing the base of my back with her palm. Nina grabbed a handful of napkins from the table underneath the gazebo and handed a wad to Sam. He was getting flustered, not knowing whether to stuff them inside my pants or walk behind me with his hands against my crotch, catching the liquid as it continued to flow out. “Out of the way, Jack.” Mom elbowed past her husband. “Go grab the hospital bag, she doesn’t need an audience.” She swatted him and Joe away.
Nina clutched the sides of her head. “Don’t let her walk on the linoleum in case she slips in the amniotic fluid.” Luke scrunched his nose, turning a sickly shade of pale.
I was in way too much pain to feel any sort of embarrassment but I appreciated the women taking over. “Have the contractions only just started?” Mom asked, placing a hand over my bump to check the pressure. I gave a half-hearted shrug. “I’ve felt like shit all day but I thought nothing of it. The pain in my back has been constant since first thing this morning.” I told her, having not expected it to start like that.
“All day?” Both Mom and Sam exclaimed in disbelief.
In the books, it explained everything step by step. I should’ve known that when it came to me, nothing was gonna be textbook perfect. The pain had spread like a tidal wave, engulfing me whole. What started out as a knotting ball of pressure in my lower spine, soon swept around my midriff like a boa constrictor, squeezing the life out of me. I sucked in a breath through gritted teeth. “It’s happening again.” I felt the pressure build, stopping me in my tracks. First came the pressure as my stomach pulled tautly, then along came the pain that blasted from within, robbing the air from my lungs.
“Oh, that’s pretty close.” Mom began to lose the last ounce of cool she had left. “You were born quickly. From my first contraction, you were born literally within the hour. We need to get her to the hospital.” Mom advised Sam.
I took a shaky step towards the back door to Luke’s cabin, then stilled.
“Here, let me.” Sam tried to carry me bridal style but the pressure was just way too uncomfortable for me to endure.
“Put me back down, it hurts,” I complained through anguished breaths. I could barely move a couple of steps without stopping to clutch my stomach in agony. “Oh God, I feel sick.” I moaned. Everything I had just eaten in the last few hours threatened to force it’s way up my throat. I clutched hold of Sam to steady myself.
“Luke, lend me a hand,” Sam called out. “You support one side and I’ll support the other,” he suggested.
Both men then lifted me, my arms wrapped around their shoulders as they carried me through to the kitchen. “We need to call doctor Thorne.” Luke looked to his mom, Nina.
She nodded, pulling off her gloves with her teeth and unlocking her phone with trembling fingers. Both Jack and Joe had gone in hiding. It was only when Nina came back into the room, did we find out that each of them had rung the hospital in frantic hysterics.
“Doctor Thorne is coming here, she said don’t try and move her,” Nina announced.
“Why not?” Sam replied, panic-stricken.
“She said something about the roads being deadly tonight. Temperatures have dropped pretty bad,” Nina added.
Great, we were stuck here. My inner voice was cursing me for not taking this seriously earlier. Another wave of pain caused me to cry out and my eyes clamped shut. Sam and Luke had placed me down and I slumped, relying on the table for support. Time passed as we waited but I wasn’t conscious of how much exactly. It wasn’t long... minutes maybe. Definitely no longer than an hour. With each passing moment, my labor intensified.
“Sam, I can feel something!” I forced out my words as I wailed.
“Where?” I heard him say. My eyes were fused shut with pain. I couldn’t open them if I tried. I could hear Emma and mom panicking in the kitchen where we stood. Then Nina spoke. “Doctor Thorne just called. She said, go fetch hot water and towels.”
Fan-fucking-tastic, I thought. There was me, hoping for a pain-free birth, dosed up with as many drugs as they could pump into my veins but...no. Instead, I could feel everything that was coming out of my... “Sam! I can feel something coming out of my vagina!” I screamed out loud, causing him to freeze with shock.
Sam and Luke helped me to lay as comfortable as possible on the floor, thrusting a pillow behind me. My ass was lifted long enough for a towel to cover the area. The slightest movement felt as if someone had shoved a red hot poker up me and was twisting it round and round. “Get off me!” I screamed, lashing out, hating being touched.
My shoes were pulled from my feet and my soaked clothing was peeled from my legs. Cool air blew around my lower region and that’s when my eyes sprang open, suddenly aware that I was naked from the waist down. I scanned the room like a hawk, relieved to see that the only male present in the room was Sam.
A powerful burning sensation, similar to a rubber band being stretched to maximum capacity, began to happen downtown. It felt like I was pushing a watermelon out of a drain hole. I screamed out an agonizing cry as if the fiery pits of hell had unleashed its wrath upon my girl parts, tearing them apart.
“Woah,” Sam and Emma both exclaimed as they glanced between my legs. “There’s a head,” Sam voiced, with a mixture of shock and awe.
“Either that, or she forgot to wax?” Emma’s attempt at a light-hearted joke made Sam chuckle.
I wanted to scream back at them to do something but they were just as scared as I was. Images and sounds merged together as one big blur and all that was left to focus on was the pain and the imminent urge to push. I didn’t even realize Doctor Thorne had arrived, having had no concept of how much time had passed.
Instructions were thrown at me and I struggled through the agony to do as advised. “You’re doing great, Helen. That’s it.” Doctor Thorne encouraged.
“One more... keep going!” Sam kept urging, repeatedly, much to my annoyance. “It’s not a fucking horse race Sam!” I spat back in temper. He flinched as I squeezed his fingers in an iron-hard grip as I screamed, bearing down with every ounce of strength I could muster.
“Good girl, that’s it!” They both kept repeating.
I wouldn’t exactly say it was all plain sailing but after what felt like an hour of gut-twisting agony, the twins were born, ten minutes apart. Doctor Thorne assisted with delivering the placentas. Then she was busy stitching my perineum where she had to make an incision to prevent a worse tear. Caleb had been born first, followed by Ashlyn, and both Sam and I felt love at first sight.
“She’s got your nose,” Sam commented, while rocking baby Ashlyn in his strong muscular arms. She looked so tiny in comparison to Caleb, who was the bigger of the two. Ashlyn could’ve been mistaken for a little porcelain doll. Sam took a seat at the kitchen table, covering her with his shirt as she nuzzled against his bare chest. Mom passed Caleb to Emma and I saw my best friend since childhood burst into tears of happiness. “He’s perfect,” she choked.
Luke was standing beside her at the far end of the room, keeping well out of view of my nether regions. “Thanks for bringing the hospital bag,” Sam mentioned, gratefully.
“Wasn’t a problem. Couldn’t have you cuties wrapped up in towels, could I?” I heard Luke speaking in a playfully gentle tone. Was he cooing over little Caleb? I craned my head around to see that he was.
“That's you all patched up.” Doctor Thorne struggled to her feet from where she had been kneeling on the floor. Mom mopped up the splatterings of blood from the linoleum, then gathered the crimson, stained towels to take them to the washing machine. “We owe Luke and Emma brand new towels,” I mentioned to Sam, who nodded back in agreement.
“Aww, don’t worry about it,” Luke mumbled, now having his turn holding the baby. “It was totally worth it.”
Sam’s eyes widened as I looked to him mouthing, “babysitters.” Then grinned.
It all felt surreal, seeing my babies with my own eyes. I couldn’t wait to hold them again but my limbs were still trembling with shock. “You want a sweet tea or something, honey?” Doctor Thorne offered. She had that maternal tone, that just put you straight at ease.
“Yes, please,” I replied, needing something to quench my parched throat.
“My eldest daughter had her first cub in November. She just spat’em out like you. The best way if you ask me.” She smiled a warm cheerful smile. “All my girls were easy to birth but my boy...” She shook her head, scrunching her lips in memory. “He was almost two weeks late and refused to come out. After sixteen long and tiresome hours of agonizing labor, he was dragged into the world using forceps, kicking and screaming. He’s six-foot-five now in his stockinged feet. Can you imagine? They start out so small and then they grow into humongous pains in the asses that don’t wanna leave home,” she chuckled.
“How is Axel anyway?” Sam inquired.
Doctor Thorne removed the latex gloves she was wearing and discarded them in the trash. “He’s doing just fine,” she replied.
“He’s being posted up at Hawcroft though, isn’t he?” Sam questioned, scrunching his brows. “Right next to the wolf quadruplets, if I remember correctly.”
“Yeah,” she confirmed, widening her eyes and making me feel as if I was missing something. “That should be interesting.”
A roguish grin spread across Sam’s face. “Don’t worry. I’ll keep an eye on him. The guest house isn’t too far from their cabins. It’s right on the outskirts of the forest,” he told her.
“I can’t wait for him to find a nice girl and settle down. If Luke can do it, then there’s hope for Axel.” She shrugged, sending Emma an apologetic look. “Sorry, honey, Nina and I had bets on Lukey there joining a monastery.”
Luke turned to her, opened mouthed and with the look of offense sprawled across his face. Emma sucked in a deep breath through her nostrils to stifle a laugh. When her eyes flashed to mine I could see the humor they held.
“He’s definitely not eligible to join one now,” she mumbled with a smirk. His expression relaxed, turning lustful as he shot Emma a devouring smolder.
Doctor Thorne let out a heavy sigh. “Ah well. It’ll happen when it happens, I guess. Until then, I’ll just have to lock away the vacuum cleaner.”
That night, I lay resting in our bed, back at our own cabin. The babies suckled happily on the breast, while Sam made up the cribs with clean soft bedding. After they fed, we each took one of the cubs and rubbed their backs to expel the gas. They were so tiny and both Sam and I held them gently, like fragile little dolls.
Caleb burped more or less immediately for Sam, whereas Ashlyn just held it all in for me, like a bloated gas tank. “Here, let’s swap,” Sam suggested, seeing me grow more anxious by the second. We exchanged the cute little bundles of love and low and behold, no sooner had he placed her upright against his shoulder, she let out an almighty belch. An accomplished cocky grin stretched across his face. “See, I’ve got the Midas touch,” he gloated.
“Good for you, King Midas. She needs changing. I’d like to see you turn that shit into gold,” I retorted, giving him a deadpan look.
Sam placed her onto our bed, side by side next to Caleb. Every time I stood up I felt wet gushes of blood seep into my maternity pad. It was a good job mom bought me a box of disposable underwear, or else my thongs just wouldn’t have accommodated for those mattresses. That’s what it felt like I housed between my legs anyway.
As we each changed a diaper, like the amateurs we were, we couldn’t help the proud smiles that remained on our faces. We had our little family now, all safe and sound, tucked up high in the mountains of Forest Lake.
Parenthood came to us naturally. As the twins reached six months old, the bond between Sam and I solidified. He often wanted to know what I was thinking about but just lately, it wasn’t so much as a mystery anymore. We lived for the children as well as each other, and as soon as the paint had dried on the walls of our guest house, we packed up our lives here at Bear Creek and moved to the neighboring town of Hawcroft.
The mid-afternoon sun beat down on the windshield, warming everything it touched. Every now and then I would glance down and admire the trio of rings Sam had bought me for Christmas. The golden wedding band and the diamond encrusted, engagement and eternity rings glittered as they captured the light. The scent of daisies and freshly cut grass filled the warm summer air, lulling me into a sense of deep contentment. I was happy.
I loved it here, and the thought of never having to venture back into the human world didn’t faze me in the slightest. Everything I needed was already here. There was nothing else I could possibly want.
“How’s Brittany?” Sam inquired as we drove. “Talking again, thank God,” I told him. Emma and I spoke to her daily on the phone. She was living with Emma’s parents permanently. They had taken her in and were treating her as if she was their own flesh and blood.
“That’s a start,” Sam mumbled. “You know, she could always move out here if you girls wanted to be closer together?” He offered, knowing just what to say as usual.
“Yeah, but I think she just needs time to heal first. She’s getting the help she needs right now. Maybe when she’s back to her old self.” I replied. Then took a second to consider that, before adding. “Not her old, old self, but better, you know?” I chuckled.
“Emma and Luke are expecting, huh?” He changed the subject. Our friends found out that they were with cub two days ago. We had our celebratory dinner last night, where they revealed their news to our families. I knew about it before anyone else, obviously. I was there when Emma took the test. I’d even hid the news from Sam until they were ready to make the announcement.
“I know, it’s great isn’t it?” I smiled. “I can’t wait to become an aunt.”
“Do you think we’ll have more children?” Sam asked, in a way that suggested that he wanted more, not yet but someday.
“Sure. When the kids are at least five or six.” I quickly glanced to check his reaction. He seemed to mirror my thoughts, remaining pleasantly nonchalant. “Yeah, I’d like more but not quite yet,” he replied.
“Glad we’re on the same page,” I commented, turning to admire the scenery through the window. Wildflowers splashed the mountains in a mixture of colors and the forest stretched vast in multiple shades of green. Not a day went by when I didn’t drag out my sketch pad and watercolors, immortalizing the beauty of Bear Creek the way I saw it through my eyes.
“Penny for them?” Sam asked, more out of habit than anything else.
“Nothing much,” I admitted, clasping my hands in my lap. “But last night, I was thinking about how overwhelming all this is gonna be when you’re off doing your ranger duties and I’ll be busy taking care of the twins. We really need to start interviewing for some help, soon.”
We were going to be in way over our head if we tried to go it alone. Running a Guesthouse was a huge responsibility. The rooms would need to be cleaned daily; the guests would require breakfast and refreshments; laundry would need to be done as well as the general running of the place. I was capable of getting my hands dirty but even I couldn’t be in half a dozen places at once.
“Hmm,” Sam hummed as he thought. “You’re right. I’ll advertise the job positions at the town hall.” There was a momentary pause before he spoke again. “I was thinking of asking Luke’s dad, Joe, to manage the place. It was something that he said to me the other day about wishing he hadn’t retired yet. He’s bored and wants something to do. What do you think?” He asked for my opinion, waiting for a reply.
I liked Joe. He was kinda like an uncle figure to me and he was great with the babies. “Sam, that’s a brilliant idea,” I told him. “As soon as we get there, call him and ask. I’d rather at least have one position filled already.”
“He’ll be thrilled.” Sam beamed. “That’ll free up some time so you can work on your other projects.”
Sam was fully supportive of me wanting to become an illustrator. He didn’t want me to feel obliged to give it up to help run the guest house. “Speaking of which, Emma and I had an idea,” I told him, earning his curiosity. “Oh yeah... what’s that?” He asked, showing genuine interest.
“We’re gonna write our own children’s books and illustrate them ourselves,” I revealed. “Forest Lake doesn’t have shifter books for kids. Just plain boring history books... and the odd smutty romance,” I muttered, hearing Sam give a dirty chuckle.
“So, you’ve read a few, huh?” He spared me a side glance while he drove.
“Don’t worry.” I stroked his thigh, then gripped his knee. “Those are wolf shifter ones and I only have eyes for a ruggedly handsome bear.”
“I think you should write a bear shifter erotica, so we can read it in bed.” He gripped the steering wheel tighter as I rubbed my fingers back along his inner thigh, loving the way he shuddered.
“Hmm. I may need some inspiration for that,” I teased seductively.
Sam wasted no time at all, taking a few shortcuts that only rangers used. Before I could ask where the hell he was taking us, I saw the lake which led up to the harbor. Hawcroft was bustling with life, just like any regular town at midday but Sam wasn’t planning on stopping to admire the view.
This bear was hungry and I was dessert.
My stomach was doing somersaults the closer we got to the guest house. The last time I had been up this way, Sam and I had conceived the twins. It was more or less an empty field back then, give or take a few ancient trees. Now, in place of the vast stretch of greenery, stood a two-story, grey brick building with white window shutters, a full-length porch and a blue and white striped canopy overhead. Evan’s Retreats was spelled out in large gold lettering along the brickwork and there were brass spotlights directly above each one.
“Oh my God!” I exclaimed, with both shock and awe. “This is ours?” I asked, unable to believe it with my own eyes.
He swung the car into the closest space beside the front doors. “Yes, do you like it?”
Was that even a question? “I love it Sam.” And I meant it too. Everything looked picture perfect. The structure; the external decor; the gardens; everything looked as if it came straight out of a magazine. You could still see the turf lines in the newly laid grass. The shrubs and trees that had been planted along the edge of the green still needed to establish. But it was beyond perfect, and I hadn’t even seen inside yet. Finally, I was gonna get to see what Sam had been doing night and day for the past few months. He’d only ever shown me the architectural blueprints. Seeing it with my own eyes, really was something else.
Sam exhaled a relieved smile. “Good, because this is the first day of the rest of our lives.” He placed his large warm hand on top of my clasped ones and gave them a gentle squeeze.
I bit my bottom lip with excitement and squealed. “Our own business, kids, and marriage. God, I feel so grown up right now.” I sounded like a little girl on Christmas morning. Sam shook his head grinning. “Come on, let’s go inside and take a look around.”
Sam and I took hold of a baby carrier each and ventured inside our new home. It felt exhilarating carrying our kids over the threshold. This would be their forever home, filled with a lifetimes worth of happy memories. No matter what life had in store for them, this place would always be the heart of the family.
The scent of newly laid carpets and fresh paint hit me with abundance. The walls were a neutral white, with my paintings displayed tastefully in every room. Each piece of cherrywood furniture had been handcrafted by Jack, and the fabric Mom and I had picked out was used as curtains and upholstery. This was ours in every way imaginable. It made me feel so proud of my husband and all that he’d accomplished.
We placed the sleeping cubs in the private sitting room, which backed onto our own separate living quarters. “One problem though?” Sam mumbled as he followed me into the kitchen. “What’s that?” I turned to ask.
“We need to go grocery shopping unless you want to get take out tonight?” He shrugged.
My shoulders slumped. “I don’t want to spend today shopping. Let’s do it tomorrow.” We had the bare essentials that we brought from the cabin. I was fairly sure we could survive the night and the way my husband was eying me up right now, he wasn't planning on staying clothed for too long.
“The kids are sound asleep.” Sam hinted, his voice dripping with need. “I think you should come and see what I did with the master bedroom.”
I cocked an eyebrow. “But what about all the unpacking?” I asked, earning an irritated huff from Sam. He stalked over in three-wide strides and lifted me up by my ass. I giggled, wrapping my arms and legs around him as he carried me off into the heart of his den. Mischief blazed in his eyes as he laid me down onto the comfy, unmade bed.
“I’ve been wanting to do this all fucking day.” He groaned, as we frantically stripped off our clothing and flung them onto the floor. I gasped at the sensation of chaste kisses trailing from my neck, down to my breasts. His moistened tongue darted out and he dragged it around each nipple, stopping to suck each in turn into his hot wet mouth.
Both taut buds ached as milk began to bead, then run down the sides of my body. Sam trailed kisses along my navel, then lower, blowing hot air against my mound. I reared my head back feeling his softened muscle delve between the folds of my lower lips, dragging the length of my slit and sucking my sensitive bundle of nerves into his mouth. He lapped greedily with merciless strokes as he tasted me. A low guttural groan tore its way through my throat.
Sam stroked himself as he licked me, getting himself ready to rut into my pussy, like a man possessed. My stomach tightened, feeling my climax build. “Fuck, oh God, don’t stop,” I chanted as I relaxed and let go, surrendering to the sensation.
He stopped abruptly, just as I was close, then his hulking frame crawled above me. With his cock standing to attention, nudged it through my drenched walls, then thrust his hips into mine with a slap, making us both cry out.
Those weren’t the only cries that rang through the house.
Sam winced with a look of defeat as I lay beneath him, panting and sexually frustrated.
“Duty calls,” he mumbled with the saddened edge of disappointment. “I think they can scent the milk.”
Sam pulled out, then fished around for his clothes. I did the same, hurrying so that I could see to the kids.
“That’s the joys of parenthood,” I muttered, disgruntled.