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Aurora

 

“Yes, just like that,” I said, spreading my knees farther apart as I crouched down. I hovered just above the ground as I snapped another shot. A terrible storm had whipped through Ashfield the week before, and most of us were still busy cleaning up the aftermath.

Eloise and Molly were cleaning up some of the rubble around the local park with their classmates. I snuck over with my camera to document the volunteer work. But I’d snuck the girls away for a moment when the sun cast its light on a perfect little tree that withstood the high winds and battering rains. There were two little leaves that looked as tired as the town felt, but they’d hung on to live another day. I positioned the twins on either side of the tree, their backs to me, and snapped some more photos. In the background, the volunteers were out of focus, but still visible in the frame.

“All done. Would you like to see?” I asked them. They’d grown in the last couple of years. No longer the little girls that snipped Talon’s long locks. Now they were eight with the attitudes to match. Though they were always sweet to me, but I knew they gave their mom and dad a run for their money.

“Yes, Aunt Rory,” Molly said enthusiastically as she skipped over. Eloise followed at a more amble pace. I flipped the viewfinder on my digital camera around so they could see the images as I scrolled through.

“Can you teach me to take pictures like that?” Eloise asked when they were finished.

“Sure, I’d love to. I can talk to your mom and dad about a beginner’s camera, if you’d like.” She nodded enthusiastically, then the twins darted off to play with their friends. I knew they were there to clean, but it was hard to keep kiddos off the playground equipment when they were at the park.

Just as I placed my camera back in its carrying case, my stomach rolled. I knew trying that jalapeno salsa at the market today had been a bad idea. There was a bench about thirty feet away. I slipped the bag over my shoulders and shuffled to the seat, slouching onto the wooden slats as I tilted my face toward the sky.

“You okay?” Franny shouted. She must have witnessed my sprint to the bench.

I went to nod my head, only for another bout of nausea to roll through my stomach. I pitched forward and tucked my head between my legs the way my mom used to do when I was little with a stomachache. I closed my eyes, breathed through my nose, and prayed that this would be over soon.

I was startled when a hand fell onto my shoulder. “Rory?” When I sat up, my best friend gasped. “You’re as white as a ghost. Are you feeling okay?”

“I don’t know. I was taking pictures then all of a sudden I got really sick to my stomach. I tried Dustin’s jalapeno salsa this morning, and I think it’s just not sitting right with me.”

She nodded in understanding, running her hand over her very pregnant belly. Franny still had three weeks to go until she’d get to meet her little one. They opted not to learn the gender until the delivery.

“Are you sure that’s all it could be?”

Of course it is.

“Yeah. I mean, what else –“ the words died on my tongue as Franny smiled knowingly while continue to stroke her stomach.

“You don’t think?” I asked, and she shrugged her shoulders. Franny knew of the difficulties Talon and I were having trying to get pregnant. We’d even scheduled an appointment with a specialist for next month. It had been almost a year and a half since I stopped taking my birth control pills, and there had been zero lack of trying on Talon or my behalf.

I stood abruptly, my head spinning from the quick change.

“I’ll call you!” I yelled to my best friend as I dashed to my car, ignoring the nausea that was growing with every step.

My palms were sweating by the time I arrived at the gorgeous home Talon and I built. He’d found an architect that combined both an A-frame and farmhouse style. It was a perfect for us. There were five bedrooms in total and we hoped that they’d be filled up soon.

His car was in the garage when I pulled in and parked my SUV. It was an upgrade when my little sedan died last year.

I stepped quietly inside the house and I heard a football game playing in the living room. Turning the corner, I found Talon typing away on his laptop while he spoke to someone on the phone. Since he was thankfully preoccupied, I climbed the stairs toward our master bedroom.

I let my camera’s carrying case slip down my shoulder onto the bed and I sat beside it. I needed to calm down before I got my hopes up. Over the last year, I’d taken so many pregnancy tests that I lost count. The disappointment with each negative result hadn’t gotten any easier to take. Talon was always supportive, but I knew it hurt him just as much.

“It’s okay. It’s just a test. Breathe,” I whispered to the empty room. I repeated it until I couldn’t stand the wait any longer.

In the attached bathroom, I reached into the linen cabinet for the box of tests I’d bought in bulk. With shaking hands, I opened the package and read over the instructions that I already knew by heart. I did my business as directed and then set the test on the counter. Using my phone, I set an alarm for three minutes. Unable to sit and wait, I went into the bedroom and took out my camera, scrolling through the pictures one more time, deleting the ones I would never use. It was a good thing I loved to scrutinize my own work because the alarm buzzed in my pocket when I was only midway through the images.

“It’s okay. It’s just a test. Breathe.”

As I entered the bathroom, I looked at myself in the mirror. My eyes filled with excitement and fear. A look I’d become familiar with over the years. I took a deep breath, the nausea subsiding for the first time since it hit, then I glanced down.

Pregnant

The words were clear as day on the screen.

Oh my God. We’re going to have a baby!

Tucking the test in my back pocket, I skipped out of the room and dashed down the steps. Talon was still sitting in the living room. This time, I stood at the end of the couch where he could see me.

“Hey, Dean, let me call you back later. Aurora’s home.”

Dean said something to Talon that had my husband’s grin turning wicked.

“Hey, Peaches. How was the cleanup this morning?” Talon asked. He may have skipped out on the manual labor today, but he’d spent the better part of the week working alongside my family to clean up some of the local farms. He’d even donated some money to the local charities assisting people in town.

“It was good. They got a lot done.”

“Good. You look happy. I haven’t seen you smile like that in a while.”

I sat on the couch beside him, tucking my ankles beneath me as I turned toward him.

“Well, I had a really great idea.”

“Yeah?”

“Mmhmm…,” I hummed. “What do you think about heading to Knoxville next weekend to do a little shopping?”

“Not sure that’s what I was expecting you to say, but sure, we can do that. I can get our room at the lodge ready.” We’d stayed at The Dawn a few times, using one of the three Presidential Suites on the property. “What are we shopping for?”

“Well, I thought it would be a good time to look for some baby furniture.” Talon’s eyes that had been growing heavy with lust as his fingers swirled around my knee, bolted open like saucers.

“What?”

I reached into my back pocket and pulled out the positive test, turning it so he could see the screen.

“We’re going to have a baby.”

In a flash, the test fell somewhere on the floor when Talon’s hands cupped my face.

“I love you so fucking much, Aurora.”

“I love you too. I can’t believe we’re going to have a baby,” I said, tears leaking from the corners of my eyes. Talon’s thumbs brushed them away.

“Thank you for saying yes to marrying me. I don’t know where I’d be without you as my wife.”

“We’re both exactly where we’re meant to be.”

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