When another arm encircles my shoulders, and a voice says, “I thought you’d be all over that big cake by now,” Lucian and I begin laughing. Leave it to Rose to break the melancholy mood.
I glance at the elaborate red velvet cake and feel—nothing. For once, I’m not starving. I feel kind of full, even though I haven’t eaten for hours. I shrug my shoulders and say, “I can’t believe it, but I don’t want a piece right now.” And then it happens—the ultimate humiliation. Pregnancy has me peeing constantly and there have been a few close calls, but I’ve never actually lost control and certainly not in public. And on my wedding day. OH, MY GOD! I begin backing up, trying to free myself from Lucian and Rose’s arms. “I…er…I’ve got to go inside for a moment.”
They’re both staring at me now. I keep walking backward, giving them both a bright, reassuring smile when Rose suddenly looks down and cringes. “What the hell is on my shoes?” Lucian automatically follows the direction of her stare and appears to notice the puddle they’re standing in.
Mortified, I stutter, “I’m sorry, I didn’t even know it was coming.”
Lucian looks bemused while Rose throws her hands up in the air. “You peed on my new Jimmy Choos? Shit balls, I’d shoot you right now if I didn’t love your leaking ass so much.”
I have to give Lucian credit for keeping a straight face. He comes toward me, looking as if he’s biting his lip to keep from grinning. “Come on, baby, let’s go inside and get you changed.”
A smile pulls at my lips just as intense pain stabs through my back. “Ugh,” I shriek as I bend over. “Ouch, that hurt,” I muse as I rub at the now aching spot.
All humor has fled Lucian as he runs the last few feet to reach me. “Baby, are you all right?”
“My back kind of hurts,” I admit. “Maybe I’ve overdone it a bit today. I’ll get into some new clothes and sit down for a bit.”
Rose walks up in time to hear our exchange and puts her hands on her hips. “Wake up, you two. That wasn’t pee; that was that fluid stuff. Your water broke and you’re in labor.” She gives a huff that says, must I do everything? before ushering a stunned Lucian and me toward the house. “Hey, everyone,” she yells as we pass the pool area, “Lia just drenched us and she’s having a baby. We’re just gonna go to the hospital now. You’re welcome to join us.” After that, it was sheer pandemonium.
Before I could blink, I was in a delivery room and Lucian was at my side. As I labored to bring our daughter into the world, I alternated between telling him how much I loved him and how much I hated him and his big pecker. The nurses got a kick out of that one. Since they were already staring at him, I’m sure they were thrilled to have an excuse to drop their eyes below his waist. “I love you,” he says again as sweat soaks my brow and I take a moment to regroup before pushing.
“I know,” I rasp out, “and you damn well better never stop.” And that was the moment Lara Anne was born. Right as I was throwing a profanity at her father, and he was simply staring at me in adoration as if I were the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
My tiny baby daughter is snuggled in my arms while my wife sleeps next to us. She was exhausted, but still didn’t want to miss a moment of our first night as a family. I never would have guessed I could love someone so much at first sight, but this little girl owns me much the same as her mother. I had hoped she would be a miniature version of Lia, but instead, she looks so much like me. Her hair is dark and full and even though I argued with Lia about it, she does indeed have my nose and mouth. Her vibrant blue eyes are all Lia’s though, which I adore. That she is a combination of us cannot be denied.
“Well, well,” drawls Rose as she walks in with Max. “Papa Quinn is on the job I see. Have you even let poor Lia hold the baby yet or are you still hogging her?” I pull Lara closer to my chest and Rose gets the message that she won’t be holding her tonight. I’m possessive of my girls and not ready to share yet. Rose walks over and drops a kiss on my cheek before doing the same to Lara. “Just wanted to say goodbye. I’m heading out now. Tell Lia I’ll be back tomorrow.”
Max steps up next to her and claps me on the shoulder. “Congratulations again, Luc. I’m really happy for you and Lia.”
“Thanks for being here,” I tell them both, grateful for friends who are always by our side no matter what.
I watch them curiously, as they turn to leave. Max pauses at the door and looks at Rose. She raises a hand as if to touch him and then lets it fall back to her side. He walks off to the left and her to the right. Whatever has been going on between them, it’s glaringly obvious they are once again going their separate ways.
I get to my feet to put Lara in her bassinette since I promised Lia I wouldn’t fall asleep while holding her. She’s a protective mother lion and I don’t want to piss her off—for now. I’m patting her back to soothe her to sleep when Aidan appears at my side. I hadn’t even heard him come in. “She’s gorgeous, Luc,” he says wistfully as he lowers a hand to stroke the back of her head.
“She is,” I agree, and for a time, we stand there staring at Lara. I know he’s thinking of Cassie, as am I in a way. If those who speak of the circle of life are to be believed, then might Cassie’s death have been the catalyst for Lara’s birth? Did her tortured soul depart this Earth to make way for an innocent one to take its place? It’s a rather deep thought, but I like to think that in a strange way, it’s brought balance to the world once again.