***Note: this scene takes place eight months after the events of Sin Undone***
Luc was going to be a father.
That was some scary shit. Kar didn’t think so, but then, she tended to put way too much faith in him. Like that time she’d been sure he wouldn’t make one of Shade and Runa’s triplets cry. But shit, how the hell was he supposed to know that little kids didn’t like it when you roared at them? The tots were demons, after all.
Shade had put Luc on his ass for that. Not that Luc hadn’t gotten in a few licks of his own. But Shade had pent-up fury on his side, had been gunning for Luc ever since the demon learned that Luc had been the one to turn Runa into a werewolf. And had almost killed her.
Demons were so fucking sensitive.
Luc definitely didn’t have that problem. Hell, half the reason he was afraid of parenthood was that he didn’t know if he could love anyone besides Kar. What if he felt nothing for this child? What if he couldn’t love it? That had been his fear from the beginning, and nothing had changed.
Kar stood at the foot of the bed, naked, her hands on her swollen belly as she stared at him. Not in a million years had he ever thought he’d think anyone or anything was cute, but she was. She’d grown out her strawberry-blonde hair so it now hung around milky, lightly-freckled shoulders, and she’d plumped up from pregnancy, giving her a rounded, softer look that suited her. She’d be a beautiful mother.
He shifted his own naked body on the bed, barely able to move. Kar had been raging with pregnancy hormones and Feast moon twitchiness, and the two combined had given her one hell of a sexual appetite. Her excuse for attacking him every couple of hours was that sex could trigger labor. He could state for the record that it wasn’t true, or she’d have dropped the cub two weeks ago.
But hell if he was going to contradict her. In her state, she’d flay him alive. And then make him have more sex. Not that he was complaining, but he’d like to get more than two hours of sleep at a time.
He yawned. “Time? For more sex? Because it’s only been half an hour.”
She whacked him on the foot. “For the baby.”
For a dozen heartbeats, he lay there, fuzzy-brained and uncomprehending. Then he sat up so fast he thought he might have pulled a muscle in his back.
“I’m not ready,” he said, as if saying it would make the baby behave and just stay put. For another ten years.
Kar smiled, the warm one that always reminded him that as hard as they could both be, they could also let down their walls with each other.
If ready meant hyperventilating, then he was so ready. “You’re sure you don’t want to go to the hospital?” He swung his legs over the side of the mattress and threw on his jeans.
“I’m sure.” She shuffled out of the bedroom without waiting for him, heading to the hidden door in the living room floor. He caught up to her as she opened it.
“Wait. Let me go down first. I want to be able to catch you if you fall.”
She cocked an eyebrow at him. “Are you suggesting that I’m fat and awkward?”
She punched him in the shoulder hard enough to make him yelp, which made her grin. The grin only lasted a second though, because then she was wincing, and a trickle of blood dripped down her thigh.
Fear twisted his insides into a pretzel. Yeah, he was a paramedic, and he knew how a werewolf’s labor worked. But he didn’t like seeing his mate bleeding, even if it was supposed to happen that way. He didn’t like her to be in pain, either, and he wished he could do this for her.
“Come on,” he said softly. “Let’s get you down there.”
Before he started down the ladder into the secret den where they could either hide from enemies or chain themselves for their shifts, he kissed her. Framed her face in his palms and put every ounce of what he felt for her into it. He didn’t get mushy often, and he didn’t plan on it now. But this was the last time they’d have a chance to be alone for a long time, and he was going to make it count.
When he pulled back, Kar’s pale blue eyes were misty and her voice gravelly. “I love you, Luc.”
It still stunned him every time she said that. He’d been such an asshole when they’d met, and then again when she’d come to him for help a month later. He was so fucking lucky she hadn’t just shot him and called it good, because he’d have deserved a bullet in the head.
“Love you too.” He stepped onto the first ladder rung. “Now let’s get you settled in.”
Luc helped her down into the dark space beneath the cabin, and while she poured a bowl of water from the jug he’d brought down last week, he got a fire going in the wood stove to combat the ever-present chill.
“Seriously,” he said, turning to watch her arrange blankets and soft towels into a giant nest. “You’re really sure you want to do this?”
“Yes,” she groaned, and he felt his gut twist tighter.
She was a turned warg, but she had the instinct of born werewolf, maybe because she belonged to a rare subspecies that turned on the new moon instead of the full one. Whatever the reason, her instinct was to go underground and give birth by herself. She didn’t even want him there.
Which sucked, because his instinct was to be at her side, helping, watching over her, doing what he could to ease her pain and ensure the safety of both her and his cub.
Once the fire was going, she started pacing and gestured to the hatch door.
“Go.” She panted through a contraction, her eyes glittering with pain. “Please, Luc. We’ll be fine.”
Dammit. “I’ll be at the top of the ladder if you need me, and I’ll call Eidolon, have him on standby.”
She cried out, then snarled when he moved toward her. Right. Go. Today probably wouldn’t be a good day to lose a hand…or worse, his life. There was a high probability that she’d shift during the birth, and the bite of a Feast warg was death to a regular werewolf like him. Which was another reason she wanted to do this alone. In her beast form, she was likely to eat anyone who came within snapping distance of her massive jaws.
He scaled the ladder, closed the hatch, and called Doc E, who he hoped to hell wouldn’t be needed. Not only would that mean Kar was in trouble, but the hospital couldn’t afford for him to be gone long. Not with the way he underworld was going crazy with the impending apocalypse.
So, now what? Every cell in his body was screaming for him to be downstairs with Kar, and when he heard her cry out, he had to forcefully peel his hand off the hatch with his other hand. It was as if part of his body wasn’t paying attention to his brain, and damn, but this could end badly.
Sweating, jamming his fingers through his hair, he paced. And listened to her moans and cries, every one of which was a spear to the heart. He hated this. Hated it. No more kids for them. No way. He couldn’t go through this again. And if anything happened to her…
He forced his thoughts away from worst-case scenarios and back to the present. And in the present, it was clear that Kar had turned. The whimpers and yelps coming up through the wood slats in the floor were punctuated by panting breaths, some of which were his. He kept forgetting to breathe.
“Kar,” he rasped. “I’m right here, baby.”
He didn’t know if she could hear him through her cries, but he was sure she could feel him. They’d grown so close over the last nine months that he swore they could sense each others’ emotions even when he was at work at Underworld General and she was here at home.
A pained scream nearly ripped him in half, and he dropped to his knees, jamming the heels of his palms into his eyes as he let out a scream of his own. God, he hurt for her. He hurt so…fucking…bad.
There was a knock at the front door, and then it swung open, and Con sauntered inside, followed by Runa. Both were loaded down with giant baskets full of food and baby stuff.
“Hey, man,” Con said. “We brought you guys a couple of meals and a ton of shit Runa and Serena said you’d need for the baby.”
Luc thought they already had everything the baby would need, but whatever. He hadn’t even known what Onesies were, so he was pretty clueless.
Runa started toward the kitchen. “Plus, I wanted to be here for Kar, in case she needed help.” Runa, being a warg who had gone through the birth of three babies, was probably the best person who could be here.
“Thank you,” he croaked.
She gave him a “duh” look that females were so good at. “You didn’t really think we’d let you go through this alone, did you? How long have you been working at UG? Silly wolf.”
Con waited until Runa was gone to plop down on the floor beside Luc. “And I wanted to make sure you were okay.” He cracked a smile. “Silly wolf.”
The vampire was the closest thing Luc had ever had to a friend, and though he couldn’t say it, he was glad Con had come.
Kar made another bloodcurdling noise, and Luc started to tremble. “She’s in so much pain.” He blinked back humiliating wetness in his eyes. “She’s alone, and I’m fucking stuck up here.”
“I can’t say I understand what you’re going through,” Con said. “But dhampire females do the same thing, and it all works out. Kar and the baby will be fine.”
Luc sat there with Con for what felt like hours, and it probably was. Runa brought him a shot of whiskey, and the two of them did their best to keep Luc occupied. For the most part, it worked.
Until he heard the sound of a baby’s cry.
Heart slamming into his throat, he ripped open the hatch door so hard it tore off its hinges, and then he hit the ground floor without taking a single step on the ladder.
His mouth went dry and his eyes went wet when he saw Kar lying in her little nest, a squirming bundle of baby tucked protectively to her breast.
“It’s a girl,” she whispered. “We have a beautiful daughter with your black hair.”
Luc dampened one of the folded cloths with the jug of water and eased down next to them.
“You’re both beautiful,” he said, as he wiped sweat from Kar’s forehead. “Are you okay? Can I get you anything?”
Her smile was tired but as happy as he’d ever seen it, and his heart gave a great thump. “I’m perfect.” She glanced down at their daughter, who Kar had insisted they name Luca if it was a girl. “Do you want to hold her?”
Anxiety wracked him, and he broke out in a sweat. He’d held a million babies, had delivered several in his ambulance, and while the miracle of birth was nice and all that, he’d never felt anything beyond a professional obligation to a patient.
Now he was under obligation as a father. What if he experienced the same non-emotion he felt when he was holding a patient?
“Luc? She won’t bite.” Kar stroked Luca’s wispy hair and grinned. “Not yet, anyway.”
He puffed up a little with pride. As a born warg, his daughter would have one hell of a bite.
Inhaling a shaky, deep breath, he gently wrapped the infant in one of the clean blankets and lifted her into his arms.
Her blue eyes met his, and instantly, she was a part of him. Instantly, he was in love. Gods, he was nearly knocked on his ass by the intensity of it.
“I told you,” Kar murmured.
Yeah. Yeah, she had. She’d been certain that he had room in his heart for a baby, and she was right.
He leaned over and kissed her, taking care to cradle their daughter between them.
“For once,” he said, “I don’t mind the I-told-you-so.”
“Good.” She reached up and cupped his cheek, the glint in her eye warning him to duck for cover. “Then you’ll remember this when we have our next baby.”
“Oh, hell, no,” he growled, but even as he said it, he knew he was talking out of his ass. What Kar wanted, she’d get. And, as he looked down into his daughter’s gorgeous eyes, he realized he wouldn’t mind more I-told-you-sos.
Bring ’em on.