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Wonder Tummy, or not quite breakfast in bed

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“Charlie.” I cradled the shallow curve of Wonder Tummy Two, smiled at the coincidental thump. “Do you want to meet your little sister?”

“Or brother,” Damon added, arm warm around my shoulder. Dark hair rubbed silky-soft against my temple, and the length of him was a solid, familiar comfort beside me in our bed. From the kitchen, the smell of cooking bacon made my mouth water. Before too long, we’d have to get up, be adults, mingle, but… not yet.

Charlie sidled over from the doorway, curious as all get-out, but wary of change. He’d had enough in five years, with the coming and going of Orphans, Damon’s sometimes frightening missions with the Formyndari, Tyler’s marriage and new baby. With my classes and part-time jobs, although last year I’d finally landed a good one at the college library, full-time with benefits—including maternity leave.

Hair as red as mine shone under the morning sun when Charlie crossed in front of the window. He reached out, hesitated. I nearly held my breath, marveling still at his terrible delicacy, the green veins in his wrists, the gentle curve of his skull. For months afterward, I’d worried that his premature birth had damaged him, but Charlie was fine. Perfect.

His little hands came to a tentative rest just below my stomach. Good timing—baby Westley or Helen greeted their big brother with a hearty kick. Charlie gasped, eyes wide and blue, mouth round, before pressing more firmly against me. “She wants to come out,” he said, and broke into a snaggle-toothed grin when the baby thumped several times before subsiding. My side ached a bit, but I’d have to grin and bear it for six more months, if my second child stayed on schedule.

Damon leaned over to sweep Charlie off his feet, depositing him between us on the bed. “Not yet.” He ruffled fine red hair until Charlie giggled and squirmed away. I rolled him neatly against me, close enough to plant a big smacking kiss onto the downy softness of his cheek.

Charlie curled close, an arm coming up across my chest, fingers hot and jam-sticky on my skin. Of course. “If she’s a girl,” he said, working it out, “I’ll have two little sisters. Or a sister and a brother, if she’s a boy.”

“Or neither, or both,” Damon pointed out, earning a wrinkled nose from Charlie. “What?” He sulked a bit as I rolled my eyes. “It’s happened before!”

“We’ll work with what we get,” I said, nudging my shoulder against his. “As long as we have a healthy baby.”

Damon glowed—no other word for it. Fertility was low among the Tenebri and Lumi, and for years he’d simply…existed, tortured by the loss of his former love, his Lumi who’d loved him and abused him and whom he’d renounced so violently. He’d focused entirely on helping other breached Shadows, all suffering the pain of that sheared bond when by all Tenebrial history, they should have died with their Lumia, or gone insane, feral.

And now we were together, befasted, married, and expecting. I turned my face to Damon, finding him turning to me, and we kissed, morning breath and all, until Charlie said, “Ewww,” and wriggled away, off the bed and out of the room.

Damon laughed softly. “Breakfast?” He rested a gentle hand on the Wonder Tummy, fingers splaying wide, his touch tentative as it sometimes was, disbelieving. His wonder and muted fear came through clearly. I spread my fingers over his. They tangled together. His fear diffused a bit, enough that his smile returned.

“Bacon and eggs,” I said. “With cream cheese.”

“Ewww,” he said, wrinkling his nose.

I laughed, in love with, loving my Shadow.