Kiss of Snow Page 37

The panther made a low grumbling sound but didn’t leave his branch.

Much as she respected the leopard alpha, Sienna wasn’t sure she was comfortable discussing this particular topic with him in hearing range. “It’s okay. You need to relax anyway.”

“Talking to you is hardly a strain.” A chiding look. “Luc will be a Sphinx, won’t you, pussycat?” Her mate’s responding rumble made Sascha smile. “He’s feeling very grumpy this afternoon.”

Needing answers, Sienna decided to ask her questions and trust in Lucas’s discretion. “With Hawke,” she said, walking with Sascha as the empath continued her easy pacing, “I . . . something happened.” Though it was in her nature to be private, she shared the gist of what had taken place between them the night of the attack. “He’s been busy since then, but even when we’ve run into each other, he hasn’t made a single move—it’s like his wolf is watching, but for what, I’m not certain.”

“Hmm.” Sascha rubbed at her belly, her head cocked at a listening angle. “Oh, well, yes.”

Sienna looked from the empath to her mate. “You have a telepathic bond?” Extraordinary.

“It’s grown exponentially during the pregnancy.” Digging the heel of one hand into her back while cradling her abdomen with the other, she blew out a breath. “I think Lucas is right—he says Hawke is waiting for you to go to him.”

“He’s not the kind of man who waits.” If Sienna knew one thing, it was that immutable fact, which was why his sudden watchful distance had left her so at sea. “Sascha,” she said, noticing the wince on the empath’s face, “your back’s hurting you.”

“It’ll be worse if I sit.” Waving off Sienna’s gesture toward the wicker outdoor furniture, Sascha continued to walk. “The thing is, Hawke needs to know you’re making a conscious choice to be with him, even understanding that it’s not going to be an easy road—though I have no doubt his patience will be shoved aside by his arrogance very soon and you’ll find yourself hunted.”

The black panther jumped down from his branch to stand against Sascha’s side as she completed that dry statement. Smile curving her lips, the empath stroked her hand over that proud head. “There’s also—” A startled cry, liquid gushing down her legs.

And Lucas was shifting in wild sparks of color. “Sascha, did your water just break?” Stunned leopard-green eyes.

“I’ve been having small contractions since the middle of last night,” Sascha admitted, chest heaving. “I didn’t want to call Tamsyn too early.”

Rising without another word, Lucas gathered his mate into his arms, carrying her with no evidence of strain. “Sienna.”

“I’m on it.” Grateful she had the DarkRiver healer’s code on her cell phone, she stabbed at the touchpad of her phone, missed. Tried again.

Tamsyn’s calm response settled her own frantic heart. “I want you to go in,” the healer said, “time her contractions, keep me updated. Can you do that?”

Sienna nodded, then realized Tamsyn couldn’t see her. “Yes, yes, of course.” She was a cardinal X and a SnowDancer soldier. She could time contractions. Sascha was having her baby!

“I’ll be there in less than ten minutes.”

Heading inside, Sienna knocked on the bedroom door before entering. Lucas had pulled on a pair of sweatpants and sat behind Sascha on the bed, one hand tangled with hers, the other petting her abdomen with soothing strokes. “How long till Tammy arrives?”

“Under ten minutes.”

Sascha blinked. “So soon?”

“You think I’m an idiot?” Lucas’s voice was a growl, his touch unbearably tender. “I knew you were having contractions, stubborn woman.”

Sascha laughed, then winced. “Oh, here we go again.”

Sienna started timing.

SASCHA felt another contraction building as Tammy walked in through the door, a competent, unruffled presence. “I’m so glad to see you.” She’d been so sure she’d timed it right, except her own body had decided to reschedule things.

“I was never far away,” the healer said with a smile as she checked the progress of the labor, her touch gentle and capable. “Sienna’s in the kitchen with Nate. She’s putting together food for the people she knows are going to start dropping by any minute—that girl is terrifyingly efficient.”

“I thought,” Sascha said, clutching at the topic to keep her mind off the rippling waves of pain, “she was going to pass out when my water broke.”

“No, that was me,” Lucas growled next to her ear. “Now, remember, don’t try any more shit—do it like we practiced. Funnel the pain through the mating bond and into me.”

It went against everything in Sascha’s nature to cause him pain, but she knew he’d never forgive her if she didn’t allow him to help her through this. “You have a terrible bedside manner.”

A nip on her ear. “This is my first time.”

Her heart bloomed. “Me, too.” Gripping his hand as her abdomen rippled, she diverted the pain along the mating bond to the panther who held her so tight, so close.

His body jerked before he hissed out a breath. “Jesus H. Christ. I have new respect for the female of the species suddenly.”

Tamsyn snorted. “You ain’t seen nothing yet, buckaroo.” Glancing at Sascha, she added, “I think it’ll help if you walk around for a while. Nate will keep everyone from the back of the house if you want to go out there.”

“Yes, okay.” The next several hours were the most scary—and most wonderful—of Sascha’s life. Exhausted, her hair sticking to the side of her face, she clung to Lucas’s hand and rode out the contractions as they got progressively longer and closer together, until she couldn’t stay on her feet. He took most of the pain, her panther, but her muscles ached, so many strands of jelly in her body. “Oh dear,” she said toward the end of the third hour.

“What?” Tammy and Lucas asked at once, acute concern in their voices.

“The baby’s decided it wants to stay right where it is.” Sascha could feel its anger at the current circumstances clear as day. “It is not impressed by all this squeezing and jostling about and could we please stop.”

Tamsyn’s eyes widened. “Wow, everyone knows babies must feel like that, but you actually know. Since you do—you’re going to have to convince the little darling to come on out. Your body is ready.”

Sascha touched her babe’s mind. It’s warm in my arms, too, she cajoled. Your papa’s waiting to kiss you, pet you. Don’t you want that?

A vocal negative, for all that their child had no words yet.

“Come on, princess,” Lucas murmured in his deep voice, stroking Sascha’s abdomen with strong, loving hands as she lay with her back to his chest, “you know I’ve been waiting a long time for you. How am I ever going to hold you if you stay in there?”

The baby wasn’t convinced, but Sascha felt a slight hesitation. “Keep talking,” she said, continuing to reassure their child with her own loving murmurs until another contraction bowed her back.

The baby was shocked, scared.

You’re safe. You’re safe. She wrapped it in a warm blanket of love. I’ve got you, my baby.

“This time,” Tamsyn ordered, “push.”

“Hear that, princess?” Lucas whispered, pressing his lips to Sascha’s temple. “Help your mama out.”

Their child still wasn’t sure they knew what they were talking about, but it was ready.

Just in the nick of time.

The next contraction almost lifted Sascha off the bed. She forgot all about funneling pain, all about doing anything but pushing, her grip on Lucas’s hand a steel trap.

“One more time,” Tammy’s encouraging voice. “Come on, sweetheart.”

As Sascha shuddered, tried to breathe, Lucas tangled his fingers with those of her other hand, too, bent to press his lips to her ear. “I’ve got you, Sascha darling.”

Those were the last words she heard before she pushed one final time, and suddenly, her child was no longer inside of her, its angry screams filling the air. Our baby. Her heart clenched, and she felt Lucas stop breathing. “Go cut the cord,” she urged him, knowing he was torn between the need to hold her and cradling their baby. “Go.”

Sliding out from behind her with care, he followed Tammy’s directions to cut the cord. The wonder on his face as he took their squalling child into his arms was a gift for Sascha’s heart, a moment she would never, ever forget. “Hush, sweet darling.” A deep murmur that washed over mother and child both. “Papa’s got you.” When he looked up, those wild green eyes shimmered with such protective love that she knew their child would never, for one single minute, feel unwanted, unloved.

Fingers shaking, she opened the top buttons of her maternity smock. Lucas moved to lay their baby skin to skin against her without a word. Tears rolling down her face, Sascha held their baby’s fragile body while her mate cupped her cheek and touched his forehead to hers. “God, I love you.”

Her laughter was tear wet. “Even now you’ve gotten your little princess?”

Lucas’s smile creased his cheeks, brought the cat into his eyes. “I told you it was a girl.”

Chapter 25

SIENNA FELT AS if she’d burst out of her skin when she heard the baby’s first cry.

The bedroom door opened what seemed like years later to reveal Lucas holding a tiny—so tiny—bundle wrapped in a soft white blanket. The sentinels and their mates, all of whom had arrived over the past two hours, crowded into the cabin.

“I’d like you,” Lucas said, his smile touched with a fierce tenderness, “to meet Miss Nadiya Shayla Hunter.”

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