What She Wants Chapter twenty-one

"What are you doing? You cannot cross her legs like that. Uncross them. She must push now. Push, Willa," her father instructed. Tristan D'Orland's hair was a wild mass about his head and he wore only a robe.

Willa's father had visited Hillcrest often since their reunion at court. He and Hugh had become good friends, enjoying the hunt and sharing old war stories together. Willa had also grown close to him. She'd even begun to use the affectionate term Papa with him. Richard Hillcrest was still the father of her heart, but her heart had room for two papas.

"Do not push!" Hugh bellowed as Willa grunted and sat up in the bed. He'd taken the linen and furs with him on leaping out of bed, leaving her lying there in only her shift. Now he replaced the linen and ordered, "Wait for Eada. She will - "

"You cannot tell her to wait!" Lord D'Orland snapped. "The babe is ready to come now."

"Babies." Willa panted out the reminder and watched with exasperation as both men blanched.

The first pain had struck while she slept. She had woken with a scream. The sound had roused Hugh at once, and drawn her father from his bed. Lord D'Orland had rushed into the room before Hugh had even managed to find and don his braies. Now the two men were arguing over how things should proceed. Or at least they had been.

"Dear God. I forgot 'twas twins," Lord D'Orland breathed. "You did tell me but - Cross your legs, Willa, and wait for Eada," he ordered firmly. When she didn't move to do so, he stepped forward, clasped her ankles through the linen and crossed them for her. It seemed the great warrior, Tristan D'Orland, felt capable of managing the birth of one babe, but quailed at the thought of two.

Willa started to smile with amusement, but the expression died as her body cramped again. Closing her eyes tightly, she grimaced in agony.

"Does it hurt much?" Hugh asked with concern.

Willa's eyes popped open and her husband became the target of a pain-induced fury. "Aye, husband," she said through gritted teeth. "Shall I show you how it hurts?"

"Ah... no." Hugh moved warily out of reach as she reached toward his groin.

"Do not upset her, Hugh. You are upsetting her." Lord D'Orland frowned at his son-in-law, then managed an encouraging smile for his daughter. "Do try to relax, daughter. Eada should arrive shortly." He scowled toward the door fretfully. "Where is the woman?"

"Probably asleep in her bed since no one has bothered to fetch her," Willa pointed out.

Hugh and her father straightened at once, horror on their faces as they realized she was right.

"What the devil is all the racket in here?" Jollivet stumbled sleepily through the open door and found himself the cynosure of three pairs of eyes.

"Eada!" Willa's father barked. "We need Eada!"

That made Hugh's cousin pause, his sleepiness disappearing at once. "Is it the babes?"

"Aye, 'tis the babes," Hugh snapped. "Go fetch Eada!"

The man turned on his heel, nearly running into Lucan as he appeared in the hall behind him. Hugh's friend watched Jollivet rush off, then wandered into the room, stifling a yawn.

"Where is he off to in such a hurry?" Lucan asked.

"To fetch Eada. The babes are coming."

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Lucan's mouth closed with a snap, his gaze shooting to Willa. "Now?" he asked with alarm. " 'Tis the middle of the night!"

"They do not seem to care, my lord," Willa said wearily, sagging where she lay as the latest pain ended. Closing her eyes, she tried to think whose brilliant idea it had been for the men to have a hunting party. Oh yes. Hers. Hugh had been driving her mad with his anxious hovering around her and she'd hoped to divert his attention. Instead, she was now the center of almost everyone's attention.

Not almost. Everyone's, she corrected as a rustle from the doorway drew her hopeful gaze to see Baldulf rushing in with Lord Wynekyn on his heels.

"Jollivet said the babes were coming," Baldulf said.

Lord Wynekyn rushed around the guard as both Hugh and her father gave unhappy nods. Uncle Luieus also had come for the hunt. Lord Richard's oldest and dearest friend had even begun to develop a friendship with Willa's father. They were of an age, and now that the matter of Tristan's trying to kill Willa had been resolved, the two men got along like a cottage on fire.

"Why are her legs crossed?" Lord Wynekyn cried. "The babes cannot get out like that!"

Rushing to the bed, he grabbed her ankles through the linen and uncrossed them. Then he seemed to realize what he was doing and flushed bright red. Releasing her ankles, he leapt away from the bed.

"There, that is better." He looked terribly embarrassed, then stepped forward to pat her foot through the linen. "I believe you are supposed to push."

"Do not push!" Hugh and Willa's father shouted as one.

"Of course, she must push!" Eada hurried into the room with Jollivet on her heels. "Out! All of you. This is no place for men."

Willa did not miss the fact that every last man was quick to abandon her now that Eada was there. She heaved out a relieved breath as the door closed behind them. "Men!"

"Aye." Eada removed the linen with which Hugh had covered her. "But they love you."

"Aye." Willa smiled as she watched the other woman putter about. There was not a doubt in her mind that every last man who had just left the room, plus the woman now preparing to help bring her babies into the world, loved her. Willa had much love now. A family to make up for all she'd lost. These new loved ones couldn't replace those who had died, but their presence had eased the ache of loss. Sometimes their love filled her up so that it felt as though her heart might burst with joy.

"What has you smiling?"

Willa glanced toward the door in surprise as Hugh closed it behind him and moved to the bed. "I thought you were going below with the others?"

"I would not leave you to travail on your own. Now, what were you smiling about?"

The smile bloomed on her face again. "I was just thinking how lucky I am, and that Eada was right... as usual."

Hugh looked disgruntled, but nodded. "Aye. She told me I would quickly come to love you and that we would enjoy happiness, many babies and a long life. I have the love and happiness and we have started on the babies." His hand moved to cover her stomach. "I only hope that she was correct about the long life, for 'twill take a lifetime to show you all the love I have for you."

"Oh, Hugh." Tears filled her eyes and Willa squeezed the hand holding hers. "That is the longest, sweetest speech I have ever heard you utter. Jollivet is rubbing off on you."

He blanched at the very thought. "Dear God, I hope not!"

Willa chuckled at his horror, knowing it was feigned. Then she raised his hand to her lips and kissed it. "I love you husband."

Hugh retrieved his hand, taking hers with it to press a kiss to her knuckles. "And I love you, wife."
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