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FOR THE WANT OF A CHERRY
“I’ll be back in the morning, my Leah,” the vampire I’d imprinted on promised me for the fourth time as we stood on the front steps , rubbing my bulging stomach with his ice cold hands. “I always come back, don’t I?”
He was willing to do anything for me, that much was already clear, but I hated that we couldn’t find a good way to balance the things that I wanted and needed with the things that I couldn’t have. For him, I was apparently more than enough. He never asked for anything. I, in moments eerily reminiscent of the former, human, Bella Swan, demanded everything.
“I know you do,” I sighed wearily as our daughter decided it was time for gymnastics practice inside of me. “I just hate the hours without you.”
“You’re supposed to sleep during those hours,” he chided me gently. “I would have thought you wouldn’t mind not sleeping next to a popsicle.”
“I like popsicles,” I told him bluntly. “Not as much as milkshakes, but it would be really weird to sleep next to a milkshake, so I’ll take a popsicle any day.”
“I’ll have you know that I don’t just waste my nights away from you. I hunt with the Cullens most nights. Not tonight, though,” he added with a small grimace.
That piqued my interest and staved off a yawn that had been threatening. “Why not tonight? Are they being asses again about your past?”
He shook his head and smiled. “Not at all, my Leah. Quite the contrary. Edward is hunting with his brothers and Bella has rather gallantly offered to teach me how to make milkshakes beyond your usual chocolate, vanilla and strawberry varieties.”
“Damn, I hate it when I find reasons to like her,” I muttered petulantly before smiling at him. “I do love you for it, though.”
“As I love you,” he murmured, pressing his cold lips to my mine as his hands rested on my belly. He pulled back too soon and sighed softly. “Your mother is yawning very pointedly inside. I believe that is my cue to leave for the evening.”
I hated to admit it, but he was right. My mom was incredibly open-minded when it came to having a vampire as a would-be son-in-law, but she drew the line at him spending the night. Not because of the sex issue that most mothers faced, though. No one could argue that she shouldn’t be just a little freaked out by the thought of a vampire, still in the process of mastering the Cullens’ diet, awake in the house while she slept. Or didn’t sleep because she was worried about the vampire in the house..
There had been a couple blissful nights that she’d spent with Charlie and Seth, ever the best friend of vampires the world over, hadn’t objected so Demetri stayed with me. But I don’t think she strictly trusted him, even around Seth, so she didn’t stay away often.
I watched him disappear into the trees and walked back into the house, waving at my mom as I crossed the tiny living room. “Vampire free dreams, Mom,” I told her. “I’m beat, though. See you in the morning.”
“Wait, Leah, can I talk to you for a minute?” She actually seemed nervous and I said a silent prayer that this wasn’t the are-you-sure-you-haven’t-got-things-mixed-up-since-wolves-probably-shouldn’t-imprint-on-vampires talks that I’d heard from her twice, Sam four times and the rest of the pack more than I cared to remember.
I lowered myself onto the couch, wincing when my little girl did a perfect dismount off my ribs and onto my pelvis. “Sure, Mom. Is everything okay?”
“It’s fine,” she said quickly. “I was just thinking about you. And Demetri. And the baby. Anyway, I think he should stay the night tomorrow, if he doesn’t need to hunt and you want him to stay, of course.”
She almost never said his name, as if saying his name would acknowledge his presence in her life, and hearing her say it made me very happy. “Really, Mom? Are you absolutely sure?”
“I am, sweetie. I want you to be happy and you look so sad when he leaves. And, of course, I talked to Edward and Carlisle this afternoon. They are both confident that Demetri would be fine staying with you while you slept. So yes, I am absolutely sure. I can’t very well keep him away after the baby comes, can I? I don’t want to lose you before I have to.”
I swallowed the lump in my throat and leaned my head on her shoulder. My plans to quit phasing and start aging as soon as possible had gone out the window when I clapped eyes on Demetri that day in the clearing. The wait for him to break away from the Volturi and come back to me, even though we’d never spoken so much as a word to each other, had been the most painful part of my life. But now that was over and I would keeping phasing as long as I needed to so that I could be with him and our daughter who, by Dr. Cullen’s best guess, would be more invincible than either of her parents. By Seth’s best guess, she was in for a serious identity crisis. That was something to worry about later.
“Mom, don’t do that. Even when it would look strange for us to be around La Push, never aging, you will never lose me. Never. Demetri has a bank account like you wouldn’t believe. He’s already promised me that I will be able to see you once a week if that’s what I want. We can get away with a lot more time here, especially with a baby. So don’t start thinking about that, okay?”
She ran her fingers through my hair, just like she used to do when I was a little girl. My hair was growing at an alarming rate when I wasn’t phasing, something strictly forbidden by my vampire ob/gyn, and was pregnant. “Okay,” she agreed with a soft laugh. She fell silent and then blurted out the question I only half expected. “How much money does he have?”
I thought about how best to answer her question without giving her a heart attack. I wasn’t exactly sure how much money he had, and I wasn’t sure he knew, but I had a general idea. “Let’s just say that he could rebuild all of La Push and hardly notice it in his balance,” I replied cryptically. “He’s not as rich as Carlisle, of course, but who really knows what to do with thirty-six billion dollars anyway? Even when you’re immortal.”
“Don’t worry, I knew that,” she said with a slightly ragged sigh. “How much the Cullens are worth, I mean. Seth weaseled it out of Edward and told me.”
“That kid’s got a big mouth,” I said through a long yawn.
She laughed and stood up, pulling me to my feet. “I sometimes wonder if Edward ever considers asking Sam to give Seth an order not to think about or tell anyone the things that he tells him. But enough about Seth, can you deal with your mom putting you to bed one more time?”
I fell asleep with my mom’s arm around me. For once, I didn’t wake up until morning and my mom still had her arm around me although I could tell by her breathing that she was awake. “Did you stay all night?” I mumbled.
“Would you believe me if I said I didn’t mean to?” she asked, sitting up behind me.
“No,” I answered with a smirk.
She laughed and helped me sit up. “In that case, I did stay all night and I stayed on purpose. I didn’t want to wake you, so I haven’t moved a muscle. Don’t apologize or tell me that I should have woken you up. That would be rude.”
“You’re so bossy,” I teased as I stood up and stretched, smiling when my daughter did the same thing. “And you wonder where I get it from.”
“Very funny. Demetri’s already been in to check on you, go use the bathroom and I’ll tell him to start your milkshake and your breakfast.”
When I got to the kitchen, washed and dressed, Seth was busily inhaling scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage and toast. That made me want to throw up. Demetri came to my rescue with a milkshake that smelled absolutely delicious. The only thing that had the potential to upset me was the distinct lack of a maraschino cherry on top the whipped cream. Chocolate shavings adorned the mountain of white fluff instead.
“Seth told me that a cherry wouldn’t be appropriate on a cappuccino milkshake,” Demetri said quickly when he saw me eyeing the shake critically.
Ready to yell at Seth for costing me a cherry, I came up short when he mentioned cappuccino. “A cappuccino milkshake?” I asked doubtfully. To my endless frustration, Dr. Cullen had banned me from the caffeine that I craved like a newborn vampire craved blood. Cappuccino milkshakes seemed like a nice compromise that someone really should have thought of earlier.
“Yes, would you like to try it?” Demetri cautiously held it out to me from across the table.
I took the glass from him and sipped it through the straw. A part of me hated that they were all so fearful of upsetting me but the other part of me, the louder and more stubborn part, just wanted to drink my milkshake in peace. And it was even more delicious than it smelled. “Thank you, Demetri,” I said, hoping to erase some of the slightly panicked look from his eyes. “It’s really, really, really good.”
The relief was evident in his very posture. “Do you want breakfast or just milkshakes?”
I looked again at the remnants of Seth’s breakfast, just crumbs now, and cringed. “Just milkshakes, please,” I decided.
“Carlisle said that you’re allowed two cappuccino ones twice a day,” Demetri told me, the wariness back. “After that, you can choose non-caffeinated flavors.”
I drummed my fingers on the table as I drank my cappuccino. “Is chocolate on the approved list?”
He came around behind me and put his hand over mine, stilling my nervous, frustrated fingers. “If you stay calm for me, yes, it is,” he whispered firmly.
I closed my eyes and tried to center myself. When I got upset, it was inevitable that I would be taken to the Cullens where Jasper would touch me, I didn’t like it when any vampire besides Demetri touched me, and force me to calm down while Carlisle softly spoke to me and made me focus on his voice instead of whatever was upsetting me that time. To my irritation, my imprint had picked up that very habit of speaking softly to make me listen.
I had to admit, though, that their concerns were for a good reason. The first time I’d got upset enough to come close to phasing after I found out I was pregnant had been enough to convince me that that I needed to stay calm because, as they say, everything was peachy until the ultrasound.
It had started out simply enough. Paul snarled at Demetri for standing on the street in front of my house. Part of the agreement for Demetri to be allowed to stay on the rez until we left when the Cullens did was that he be accompanied by me or Seth, and just Seth since I got pregnant, at all times. Seth, however, was standing on the front step putting his shoe on when Paul snarled. I nearly lost it.
Seth ordered my mom, Emily and even Demetri to get back while he was the only thing between me and Paul. My brother faced me and almost had me completely calmed down when Sam showed up, responding to Emily’s screams, in wolf form and forced Paul, who had phased, into the woods.
I got upset all over again that I couldn’t take care of myself and that’s when Seth suggested Jasper and the Cullens. Not needing any more prodding, my vampire lover swept me into his arms and followed my wolf-brother to the Cullen house.
That’s when things got very weird.
When Jasper had calmed me down, something I discovered was far stronger when he touched you than when he did it from afar, Carlisle asked me how I felt.
Jasper eased up on the tranquil juice a little and let me focus on answering the question. When I announced that, instead of feeling like there was a cold rock in my stomach, I felt something ticklish and fuzzy, Dr. Cullen whipped out one of the expensive medical machines that vampires apparently had lying around the house in case of emergencies.
He smeared the cold jelly on my bulging middle and stared at the screen intently. Edward was leaning over his shoulder, in case his vampire eyes missed something, I guess. I don’t think I breathed until Dr. Cullen cleared his throat and put down the wand thingy.
“I don’t really know what to call this news,” he said with a slight hesitation as Edward kept his eyes fixed on the screen, “so do you want me to just blurt it out?”
I heard Demetri growl behind me and decided that I should be the voice of reason for once, even if it was just to prove how calm I could be. “Yes, please. And quickly,” I insisted with a forced smile.
“Alright, then, your daughter seems perfectly healthy. Her heartbeat sounds just as I expect that it should and she’s moving around just as she should.” It was obvious that he’d said the easiest part of whatever he had to say first given that he was quite noticeably having a silent conversation with Edward.
“Just tell them whatever it is,” Jasper muttered, earning an approving nod from Demetri and half a smile of thanks from me.
“I apologize, Leah, Demetri,” Carlisle said quickly. “It’s just that your daughter has inherited a lot from you, Leah, and I didn’t really expect that she would have shown the inheritance so … soon. Perhaps it would be better if I just let you see for yourselves.”
He turned the screen around and fell silent as I blinked repeatedly, trying to believe what I was seeing.
My daughter, my baby, was pure white with a tiny black nose, pointed little ears and a tail that looked as long as her body. My little girl was a wolf. In utero.
“È lei va bene?” Demetri had a slightly annoying habit of lapsing into Italian when he got flustered, but the Cullens spoke every language in the world and I wasn’t usually lost for long.
“Yes, she’s fine,” Dr. Cullen answered, explaining the question at the same time. “Both Leah and the baby are fine. Apparently the baby is rather protective of her mother. I do think we need to try and get the baby to phase back to her human body. It would be best if she grew that way. And, if we can get her to phase, I’d prefer it if she stayed human as much as possible.”
I’d been in complete agreement. I did not want to give birth to a … puppy. I looked at Jasper, desperate for his help now. “Can you help her calm down enough to phase back?” And then I looked at Edward. “Can she understand us talking to her?”
Jasper moved his hands to my stomach and Edward nodded once. “She isn’t having perfectly clear and lucid thoughts but she is responding to voices. As far as I can tell, she knows your voice as a noise that she likes but, when Demetri speaks at vampire speed, she understands some of what he says.”
I wrenched Demetri’s hand in mine. “You have to get her to phase back,” I begged him.
“I don’t know how that works!” he protested in mini-panic mode.
“I’ll talk you through it, Demetri,” Edward offered. “Just stay calm.”
It took three hours, but my little girl returned to the form I’d expected her to be. She’d been in that form since, to my relief.
“Leah?” Demetri said, bringing me back to the present moment. “Are you alright?”
I rubbed my stomach and sighed. “I don’t actually know,” I admitted reluctantly. “My back hurts and she feels a lot lower down.”
My mom was at my side in an instant. “Does your back just ache or does it hurt in spurts?”
I chewed the inside of my lip and thought back over the last few hours. “I woke up early because of it but then it stopped and I went back to sleep. It’s happened twice since I got up. I think I should maybe go and see Dr. Cullen.”
Apparently me suggesting that I needed Dr. Cullen was all the convincing that anyone needed. Demetri plucked me off the chair and Seth, ignoring her squeak of shock, scooped my mom into his arms. They kept pace with each other as they ran through the forest behind our house and directly onto the Cullens’ property. My mind was sort of blank and, given that Dr. Cullen, Edward and Jasper were all standing on the front steps, I could only imagine what my escort party had been thinking.
“Bring her upstairs,” Dr. Cullen instructed Demetri. “Everything is ready.”
In less than a minute, I was lying on the medical bed that had been used for Bella. Dr. Cullen had ordered my mom and Seth to stay downstairs since none of us knew quite what to expect. I hated that she couldn’t be there, but it made sense to consider that Demetri, the baby or me might react in unexpected ways. I felt a twinge of guilt that Jasper, Edward and Dr. Cullen were putting themselves on the line.
We’d decided, shortly after discovering my knocked up condition, that a caesarean section of sorts was the safest way to go. With a surgery, there would a much smaller risk of anything remotely venom-like coming into contact with me and hurting me. And the baby wouldn’t go through the stress of a natural delivery and phase at a bad time.
Since I healed ridiculously fast and burned off pain medication, not that I wanted to expose my baby to it, like I was on a sugar high, we had to make a few alterations to the plans. First, only a vampire could do the procedure in the time frame that my body would reluctantly provide so Edward was assisting to make sure that we didn’t have to start all over again because my incision healed. And second, my only pain medication would be the intense calm supplied by Jasper.
It was entirely too many vampires for my liking, but it couldn’t be avoided. I was just happy that Demetri was at my side.
The calm was so powerful that, even though I could feel some pressure and pain, I simply felt like I was having an out of body experience as I watched Dr. Cullen work on the lump that was where I’d kept my little girl safe so long. I couldn’t have phased or even spoken if I’d wanted to. For a moment, I wondered how Jasper’s calm wasn’t affecting everyone else in the room, but that thought soon faded away. Eventually, I think I fell asleep from the effects of my ‘medicine’.
I was annoyed when I woke up, right until I saw Demetri sitting on the edge of the bed with a bundle wrapped in white. “Is she okay?” I whispered, reaching out to touch him.
He turned around, a glorious smile on his face and a light I’d never seen before shining in his almost golden eyes, and placed the bundle in my arms. “Lei è divina, mio Leah, assolutamente divina,” he whispered almost reverently.
And she was divine. She had her father’s face but my eyes, almost mahogany in color, and her skin was closer to mine, save for the pearly sheen that covered every inch of her. She was an angel in my arms.
I don’t know how Dr. Cullen did it, but he managed give Demetri, me and our daughter an entire hour alone before my mom just wouldn’t be held back any longer. Seth, of course, was with her and he led Sam, Emily, Jacob and the rest of the Cullens into the room.
“She’s beautiful,” my mom whispered, awestruck, as she kissed her granddaughter’s soft and slightly chilly forehead. “And Dr. Cullen said that she doesn’t have venom or teeth, yet, so I don’t have to worry about holding her.”
“Yes, Mom,” I giggled, something that I rarely did. I offered her the bundle. “You can hold her now.”
“Does she have a name, Leah?” Nessie asked from her mother’s arms.
I felt, for what would certainly not be the last time, like a horrible mother then. I hadn’t really thought about that at all. I sighed gratefully when I felt Jasper calm down my rising panic.
“If I may?” Demetri asked hesitantly.
I nodded eagerly even though the Cullens looked a bit floored that he’d thought about it.
“I was doing some research,” he began, keeping his eyes fixed on me, “and thinking about your father. I don’t like the name Harriet at all but I found out that Hettie is also a feminine form of Harry and I think it suits her perfectly.”
There were tears streaming down my cheeks as soon as he said the word ‘father.’ We’d talked about my father a lot but for him to search for a variation of Harry to give to his daughter made me love him impossibly more. “Hettie is perfect,” I agreed while trying to sob. “Can I pick her middle name?”
He leaned over and kissed me gently on the lips. “Of course, my Leah. And remember that I don’t have a last name so we’ll be using yours, if you don’t mind.”
“You’re going to use Leah’s name?” Seth choked out.
“Demetri Clearwater sounds very nice, I think,” my love answered with a smile before turning back to me. “So what is our daughter’s full name?”
He’d already honored my family and now it was time to honor his. “Her middle name will be Demetria, after you, of course. So I’d like to introduce Hettie Demetria Clearwater.”
“It’s a mouthful,” Demetri laughed as Seth looked relieved, apparently he’d been trying not to say the same thing, “but I love it. As I love both of my girls. And now she needs godparents, doesn’t she?”
My mom gave Demetri a strange look. “What did you do, read What to Expect When You’re Expecting and 10001 Baby Names?”
“Yes,” he answered honestly. “I think she should have two sets, one chosen by you and one chosen by me.”
I nodded in agreement as I tugged on my mom’s arm and made her, very reluctantly, give my baby back. “Okay, but you pick first and it can’t be anyone that lives in Italy.”
He ignored that and turned to Sam and Emily. “Hettie is a part of two very different worlds,” he told them solemnly. “I would be very honored if you would consider becoming her guardians and guides in the Quileute world.”
I hadn’t expected that at all and my tears came faster as Sam held out his hand to Demetri, for the first time, and just as solemnly agreed to become Hettie’s godfather. Emily scurried around Seth and ran her fingers over the baby’s tiny face.
It was my turn then and I desperately thought about what would make Demetri happiest given the very different new world that he lived in for me. When I settled on my best guess, I cheated and glanced at Edward. My heart soared when he nodded and offered an encouraging smile.
“Jasper, Alice,” I said, happy that the wolves in the room screwed with the psychic’s vision, “you’ve been the most open to the idea of Demetri being able to change what he was to what he is and can be. I know that he’s closest to you, and Jasper’s helped me so very much, and I want you to be Hettie’s guardians and guides in the vampire world.”
If vampires could cry, I think she would have been. She contented herself, instead, with throwing her tiny, cold arms around me and joining Emily in cooing over the baby.
“You know that your daughter will be the best dressed kid in the world, don’t you?” Carlisle pointed out, nodding in Alice’s direction.
“That’s alright,” I laughed easily. “If the past is any indication, she might be ruining a lot of clothes for a little while.”
“It’s going to be so hard to find things that she can take off quickly and carry,” Alice murmured absently, as though she weren’t really part of the conversation. “But I can do it.”
Jasper gently tugged his wife out of the room and everyone else grudgingly followed.
Demetri wedged himself in next to me on the bed and we held our daughter together, simply staring at her and marveling that two freaks of nature like us could make something so utterly flawless.
He laughed when his girls yawned in unison. “I’m not going anywhere, mio ama. Sleep now for we have an eternity together.”
I snuggled closer to him, letting him hold Hettie so I didn’t drop her in my sleep. “Just make sure I have a cappuccino milkshake waiting for me,” I murmured. “With whipped cream, chocolate shavings and a maraschino cherry.”