Authors: Brenna Lyons
“I expected that. How’s her nutrition? I’m betting she hasn’t been eating a balanced diet.”
“I can guarantee it. Her mother also reports that Sammy is always sick, that she often vomits after eating. She displays no food allergies, though.”
Janice appeared at her side, sinking to the floor beside her. “What do you think?”
“I think, when I hand her the bottle, she’s done eating. Sammy will drink her calories rather than eat them.”
“Is that why the bottle is behind you?”
“You’ve got it.” Meredith considered their options. “We’re going to have to ease her into real food.”
“What’s your plan?”
Sammy finished the first cookie and peeked at Meredith. When she raised another and held it out, the toddler ran over, grabbed it, and retreated again, half tripping over shoes Meredith guessed were too large for her feet.
“Can your cooks make little baby-sized pies filled with fruits and vegetables?”
“They can make anything we want.”
Meredith considered what she knew about Alice. “I take it it’s normal for Sakk children not to eat eggs and meat. We noticed early on that Alice didn’t eat anything but fish and tofu proteins...and the occasional chunk of cheese.”
“That’s typical,” Janice confirmed.
“Have the cooks ever tried to make soy burgers and soy chicken nuggets?”
One of the healers ruffled his wings at the suggestion.
Janice shot him a quelling look. “I think I see what you’re getting at. Convenience foods. The mother could tolerate meat and eggs. She was trying to feed Sammy what she ate, but Sammy wouldn’t tolerate it.”
“She was hungry enough to eat it,” Meredith corrected. “She just couldn’t keep it down.”
The healer gasped. “She was feeding the young one...fowl?” His horror at the suggestion was impossible to miss.
Sammy appeared again, rocking her back foot. She stood on tiptoe, probably searching for another cookie. Meredith raised it but didn’t extend her arm. The toddler walked to her calmly, took the cookie, and sat just more than an arm’s length from Meredith’s feet to eat it.
“That’s right. A few days of eating food you don’t puke up, and you may actually trust me.”
Janice sighed. “I knew you were the right woman for the job.”
“What job would that be?”
“What would you think of being mother to these three babies?” After a moment of hesitation, she continued. “In fact, I believe I’ve found the perfect punishment for your crime.”
Meredith paced the floor of the large suite she now shared with all three children.
Alice and Sammy had matching cribs on one side of the combination nursery and library, and Todd’s crib was along the opposite wall. A changing table sat between them, stocked with Pull-Ups and two sizes of diapers, wipes, and pajamas for all three children. A large wardrobe near the door held clothing for all three.
Two highchairs were pushed close to the dining room table, and one of the chairs had been outfitted with a booster seat for Sammy. Alice’s playpen sat in the center of the living room, a smaller playpen was nestled next to it for Todd, and a wide variety of toys were scattered around the floor for Sammy.
And more toys arrive every hour.
It seemed each of the warriors at the consulate wanted to give the children a toy.
Or a dress for one of the girls.
Meredith guessed that the vans the Sakk warriors took to shop in town were full on every run.
The large screen on the wall would play practically anything Meredith asked for, thanks to the generosity of the Sakk consulate. So far, she’d learned that Sammy liked
Bear in the Big Blue House
, and the
sing-along specials. Meredith hadn’t been desperate enough to attempt
; that would have been a last resort, and thankfully it wasn’t necessary.
“It looks like a fricken day care center,” she muttered.
Not that Meredith minded having the three children around. She’d always promised herself a big family. She just hadn’t expected to get it this way.
Three children under the age of eighteen months in one fell swoop.
And then there was the rest of Janice’s plan. Meredith could hardly fathom following through with it, though she’d already agreed to it.
Unless Jarem is willing to be part of it. That wouldn’t be a hardship at all.
But what were the chances of that?
In fact, she wasn’t sure any of the warriors were willing to follow through, though Janice seemed certain at least a few would be interested. Despite her assurances, no warrior had announced his intentions yet.
And they’ve had half the day.
A light tapping on the door announced that Jarem had arrived. Meredith steeled her nerves and went to answer the door.
Jarem shifted from foot to foot, excited by the news. Word that two more babies had been located—and that Meredith was caring for all of them—had reached him shortly after he returned to the consulate that afternoon.
Meredith opened the door and waved him inside. He hesitated, noting how worn she looked.
She is caring for three babies. That must be hard work.
He located the cribs and examined the three sleeping children. They were as different as could be. The new little female had wispy hair the color of snow, and the infant male had hair as dark as Meredith’s and skin that seemed to be naturally deep beige. Alice was the only winged babe in the group.
Based on their relative sizes, he guessed the new female to be the oldest of the group and the male to be the youngest, with Alice somewhere between the other two. Jarem cursed the fact that he hadn’t been exposed to babies. He had little idea of their ages or what they would be able to do at their respective sizes.
He turned to Meredith, his excitement bubbling over. “What are their names?” he whispered.
She pointed toward the females. “Sammy.” Then toward the young male. “Todd.”
He committed the names to memory. Since the nest parents they’d rerouted wouldn’t arrive for more than a month, Jarem would have ample time in their presence to get to know the babies before they went to permanent homes.
“The families who choose them will be very fortunate. They are all beautiful.”
Meredith winced, and the hair feathers at the back of Jarem’s neck rose in warning.
“What is it?”
She hesitated, then waved him toward the sleeping area. When they were closed behind the heavy curtain, Jarem still had no clue what was bothering her.
“Janice decided that it would be traumatic for the surrendered children to spend three months with the nest parents and then go to other parents when they reach Sakk, especially Alice, after spending all this time with me.”
Words fought emerging. “The nest parents have agreed to keep all three babies?”
“Not these ones. And they won’t care for the babies longer than it takes to get another pair of nest parents, unless they agree to take on the next set permanently.”
has agreed to care for these babies permanently.”
She swallowed hard and managed a tight smile. “I have.”
“On Earth?” That made no sense. Representative Janice had argued that, for legal reasons, the young had to leave the planet within three months of surrender, at which point, they would be legally adopted by their Sakk parents.
She shook her head.
“You’re going to Sakk?”
“Alone? I mean...unmated?” No female was supposed to leave the planet without mating first.
His stomach dropped out. “And who will be your mate?”
Meredith shrugged, her entire body quaking.
“No.” He wasn’t giving her up. Not now. Not ever.
His family would accept an adopted son, if that was the only choice they had. His sire had demanded Jarem save the family name, not the family’s genetic code. That had already been saved, thanks to his female cousins.
“What?” His tight-lipped fury and that single-word answer made no sense to her.
In the next coherent moment, she was pressed to Jarem’s chest, his lips parting hers. Meredith moaned into his mouth.
At last, he pulled away. “Do you wish another male?” he challenged.
She shook her head. It was the last thing she wanted.
“Then you and all three babies are mine to claim.”
“I intend to claim you before any other male has a chance to. Will you accept the
, if I lay them?”
Her breathing went strangled, and Meredith nodded frantically.
He looked at the comm board beside the bed, glaring at it.
Realization made her gasp. “I know how to call for them,” she admitted.
One eyebrow went up in surprise. Or maybe challenge.
“Janice told me how. She said...When I chose a male who was willing to adopt all three babies and...and everything else, I could call for the chains.”
“Everything else?” There was a warning couched in that.
“She said no family would accept the situation unless I carried a child created with a donor egg and my...my mate’s sperm. That way, he’ll have a child of his own as well as the adopted children.”
A sly smile curved his lips and he pulled Meredith into a kiss. “I think it’s time to call for those
“You’d accept that?”
“Have I been less than straight-forward in my interactions with you so far?”
“Well...no, but we both thought that couldn’t go any further.”
He sighed and pressed a kiss to her lips. “We are sexually compatible. We have interests in common. The babies, for one thing. The Sakk have the technology to make sure we can have children together. Don’t you realize that most Sakk mate without knowing if they are sexually compatible or if they share any interests at all?”
Does it really matter if he has feelings for me? Most Sakk don’t consider that in mating.
It was unlikely any male she chose would have feelings for her.
His next kiss was fully carnal. When he broke away, Meredith pressed a hand to his chest, trying to find her elusive balance.
Okay, a marriage based on that kind of sex wouldn’t be such a hardship.
He smiled, most likely at her reaction. “I won’t let you choose another male if you have any interest in me at all. That must tell you I have very definitive feelings for you.”
Yes, but those feelings could be possessive or something warmer.
She managed a smile that felt natural.
His expression softened. “I told you long ago what I wanted to give you, were it possible. It
Her heart started pounding at the memory.
It was pillow talk. Wasn’t it?
“Promise me.” He was starkly serious. “Promise me two children, if you are capable of carrying twice. And promise me that you are not choosing me as the lesser of evils.”
“I promise...as long as we wait until Todd is at least a year old. There are only so many babies I can handle at once.”
She expected him to argue it. Instead, Jarem laughed heartily. “As you wish.”
“I’ll give you more children,” she hastened to add. “If the first two are girls... I know you want—”
Jarem’s mouth closed over hers in a searing kiss that made her head spin. When he pulled away, she was boneless in pleasure, and every muscle in his chest and arms was strung tight.
“Get the chains. Let me place them.”
Meredith made her way to the comm board on shaking legs. She entered the code and pulled the chains from the drawer that opened. She tried to hand them to Jarem, but he shook his head.
He raised his right wrist between them. “Clasp mine on.”
She had to hold them up to see which was the larger chain. That established, she pulled the male chain around his wrist. “How do I—?” She gasped as the chain snapped together without her working a clasp.
Jarem’s gasp echoed hers.
“Are you all right?” she asked, concerned.
“More than all right.” He smiled. “You’ll see.” He took the remaining chain from her hand. “Do I have permission to lay the
?” There was an air of formality to the question.
Meredith nodded and offered her wrist. The chain clicked shut, and the arousal washed over her body, causing her to shudder in the abrupt influx of sensation.
“That’s right,” he breathed.
In the next moment, they were engaged in deep kisses, and Jarem was guiding her to the bed. It wasn’t enough. Meredith reached for his clothing, intent on getting him naked and inside her.
He pulled her hands away from the clasps with a sound of censure. Then his tongue was buried in her mouth again.
He pulled back abruptly. “Kneel on the bed.”
Meredith followed his instructions, and Jarem did the same. His wings spread as they had when he’d shielded her from public view the first time they’d met. She gasped, awed by the show.
She trembled in need. There was something sinfully appealing in taking his orders. “Okay.”
Jarem took his time, stripping her clothes off and then his own. A tone sounded, and his smile widened. “You’re mine now.”
“Already? But I thought—”
“Oh, we will consummate it. Never fear. We will.”
He pushed lightly at her shoulder, tumbling Meredith to the mattress and coming down over her. She spread her legs, offering herself to him.
Jarem groaned. In the next heartbeat, he was lodged deep inside her.
Meredith stifled a cry behind closed lips, trying not to wake the children.
Not yet. Not before we have a chance to finish.
She reached for his shoulders, needing something to hold onto, something to anchor herself with. Her fingers tangled in Jarem’s wings.
He pulled back and thrust again. “Touch my wings, Meredith.” It was a plea.
She did so, her heart fluttering in excitement at his gasps and the jerking of his cock inside her. Inspiration made her smile. “Later, I am going to climb into your lap and make you come just by doing this to your wings.”