I’m startled when I feel Avery’s fingers in my hair. “What are you doing?”

I’m a little rattled by what I’ve just heard. “I wanted to see if I could hear the baby’s heartbeat.”

She’s amused by my anxiousness. “I think it’s a little early for that. Dr. Knight doesn’t even think we’ll see anything on the ultrasound today.”

“But I do. I hear it.”

Her eyes grow large. “No way.”

“It’s very faint but it’s there.”

She’s simultaneously happy and sad. “I wish I could hear it.”

Maybe I shouldn’t have listened. It’s not right that I’m able to hear the heartbeat when she can’t, especially when she’s the one carrying our baby inside her body. “I’m sorry. That wasn’t fair to you.”

“Don’t be sorry. I’m thrilled to know there’s already a heartbeat.”

My mind is whirling. “Maybe there’s a way for you to hear it.”

“I doubt it. Your hearing is far better than any type of equipment Dr. Knight will have in her office.”

That’s not what I had in mind at all. “No. I wonder if you’d be able to hear it through our connection.”

“It’s an interesting idea if nothing else. It wouldn’t hurt to try so I’m up for it.”

I place my ear to her lower abdomen. “Concentrate on our place where it’s only us.” She strokes my hair and I close my eyes so I can focus as well. I listen until I’m able to pick up on the sound again and then I centralize all of my thoughts on connecting with Avery.

Our connection comes easy and I sense how hard she’s trying to find the sound within my head. It’s a peculiar feeling–one I’ve never experienced–and then I feel her burst of happiness and know she is able to hear our baby’s heart beating.

She’s silent and perfectly still but the happiness animating from her is unmistakable. “I hear it. It’s hard to wrap my head around it being so tiny and already so amazing.”

Maybe she can’t believe it but I can. “This baby is genetically tied to you so it doesn’t have much choice in the amazing department.”

“You contributed half the genes and I happen to think you rank pretty high in the amazing department yourself.” She leans up and kisses the top of my head. “Thank you for giving me this baby. And for giving me the gift of hearing it’s beating heart. I’m glad you and I were able to do that together at home instead of in a doctor’s office using cold, foreign instruments.”

She laces her fingers with mine. “I’m happy I was able to give you that, love.”

“I hope I’m able to give you something as equally special one day.”

“I’ll think of something.” Nothing could top the special gift she was giving me but I had thought of something else I wanted from her. Now wasn’t the right time to bring it up. I needed perfect words–and a beautiful ring–so she would give me the answer I desperately wanted to hear.

I’m driving Avery in my black Lexus convertible to her first prenatal appointment with Dr. Knight. I bought the car about a month after she came to live with us. I was searching for anything that might bring some distraction from her presence but looking back on that decision, it seems so ridiculous now. What kind of vampire buys a convertible he can never drive in the sun with the top down?

Oddly enough, I can now if I’m willing to accept the minor sting that goes along with sun exposure. But this car isn’t baby friendly so I guess I’m trading it for something designed to fit a family.

Weird. I’m thinking like a human husband and father.

“What’s so funny?”

She’s picked up on my internal conversation with myself. “This car.”

“And why is it amusing?” she asks. “I happen to love it.”

“I have to get rid of it after I’m able to drop the top and drive it in the sun. The irony of it is humorous to me.”

She takes my hand in hers. “I say keep it and enjoy the sun.”

Most women wouldn’t want their mate driving around in a car that gets so much attention. “You’d be okay with that?”

“Of course. Why wouldn’t I be if it brings you joy?” We are mates. She knows I wouldn’t look in another woman’s direction.

“We need something for a family. I guess I’ll get rid of one of the other vehicles since the garage won’t hold another.” I have too many anyway. I can only drive one car at a time.

I have chased pleasure in material things since becoming a vampire but nothing has ever fulfilled the need inside of me until Avery. My fruitless search for happiness is finally over because I have everything I need in her. Except my ring on her finger but I plan to remedy that as soon as possible. We aren’t bound by human standards but it only seems right for her to be my wife before this baby arrives.

Avery is sitting on the exam table clutching her gown closed when Dr. Knight and a nurse enter the exam room. She takes a seat on a rolling stool. “How do you feel this morning?”

“Great.” Her voice is cheerful.

“And what about you, Solomon?”

“Couldn’t be better.”

“Good.” Dr. Knight rolls over to the exam table and positions Avery. “We’ll get the routine stuff out of the way and then move on to the fun part.” I don’t look after they place a drape over her legs and I hear the sound of metal clanking. I don’t even want to know what’s going on under that sheet.

No more than two minutes and she’s finished with what she referred to as routine stuff. “You can slide up the table.”

Dr. Knight holds the probe for the ultrasound in her hand as the nurse squirts clear jelly on top of Avery’s belly. She places the wand in the goo and slides it back and forth a few times to spread it. “Let’s see what we have hiding in here.”

She’s watching the screen as she moves the probe one way and then another but I have no idea what it is I’m looking at. “There it is.” She points toward a white spot. “I didn’t expect to be able to see it with the abdominal ultrasound but there’s your baby.”

She said baby so that means she sees one. But then again there was only one on Chansey’s first ultrasound.

She presses some buttons. “I’m going to do some measurements to see how far along you are.” She enters the data and a date pops up on the screen. “You’re measuring around six weeks.” Six weeks is still a tiny baby but it’s already two weeks bigger than it should be.

Dr. Knight talks to us in terms she would use for all of her patients because the nurse is present but we all know the information is to be disregarded. This pregnancy is already showing signs of abnormality–just as Chansey’s did–but at least we have something to compare it to. Curry and Chansey weren’t that lucky.

Dr. Knight is busy entering charting into the computer. “I’ll just be another minute, Jane. You can set up the room for our next patient.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The door closes and she looks up from the computer. “We should scan you once a week to track the growth and watch for the appearance of a second baby. We should expect the unexpected so I want you to call me immediately if anything unusual happens.”

I need to hear her affirmation because I don’t want to assume anything. “You think everything looks all right?”

“It looks like a normal six week pregnancy but we already know how deceiving the first glance can be. We’ll have to wait to see how things progress but I think we should expect rapid development since we know the exact date you conceived and you’re already measuring ahead. I’m guessing we’re looking at approximately three months if this pregnancy follows the same growth curve as Chansey’s.”

Three months. It’s the timeframe I imagined in my head but hearing Dr. Knight say it makes it feel … real.

Avery is quiet on the ride back to the compound. She’s full of joy as she stares at the ultrasound picture in her hand–and I am too–but I can’t stop the worry I feel. I try to push it away so she doesn’t pick up on it but I’m unsuccessful since I haven’t had practice. “This baby and I are going to be fine so please stop worrying.”

“I’m your protector but I’m helpless to control the situation. It isn’t a reassuring place for me to be.”

“I’m quite sure all fathers experience the same uncertainties you’re having right now.”

Our situation is unique–only known to have occurred one other time. “There’s only one other father that’s shared the fear I have right now.”

“Then it’s a good thing he’s your best friend and you can talk to him about your worries.” I’m lucky in that regard but so many complications can pop up over the next couple of months. Seeing Avery hold a healthy baby in her arms is the only thing that’ll give me peace of mind.

Chapter Nineteen

My conversations with Curry this week have eased my mind. Minimally. I remain consumed by my fear for Avery’s well-being and the safety of our child has been added to my list of concerns. But it’s a gift. Not a curse.

I managed to slip away from Avery one day earlier in the week. I scheduled a meeting with Jim Graff about the new construction of our private quarters–per Curry’s advice–so she wouldn’t suspect my true reason for needing to leave the compound.

Avery’s in the bathroom preparing for bed so I take the white leather box from the drawer where it’s been hidden. I’ve stolen glances at it the last few days at every opportunity but this would be the last. I’d be seeing it on my agápe’s finger from this night forward.

I return the platinum and diamond ring to the top drawer of the nightstand not a moment too soon as Avery is coming out of the bathroom. She’s dressed for bed in a champagne satin gown and I love the way the color brings out the flaxen highlights in her hair and flecks of gold in her light brown eyes.




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