Chapter One

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Funny how two pink lines could completely upend your life.

Just two small, thin, pink lines.

Nothing more than that.

Except for, you know, the baby possibly growing inside of me. Like an alien just waiting to burst free of its squishy prison.

No, no, too graphic. It wouldn’t be anything like that—she said sarcastically.

Maybe I was reading the stick wrong?

I glanced at the directions—which had to consist of the finest print I’d ever seen—and squinted my eyes. Then I read the instructions over and over again. Remove stick from wrapper. Check. Submerge stick in urine stream. Gross, but check. Wait two minutes. Check and check. Heck, I’d even gone so far as to wait three. Then four. Just to make sure the stick didn’t change its mind. I’d given it a mighty shake, too, as though that might erase the second line. Alas, they were both stuck on there, staring up at me all accusatory.

And according to the guide, two lines could only mean one thing.

Impregnato.

“This can’t be,” I whispered to myself.

A twist in my gut nearly had me dashing for the toilet, but with a fist pressed to my mouth, I managed to tamp it back. Hurling wouldn’t accomplish anything. Not that I could control it like that. It wasn’t as simple as mind over matter.

As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t argue the results. Anna herself had proclaimed me pregnant. And no one argued with vampires when it came to blood. According to my best friend, the bloodhound, I smelled different. Then she’d taken a nip of my blood to confirm her suspicions. Afterward, she’d suggested I go to the grocery store to pick up one of these darn sticks. Of course, I’d grabbed five. You know, to be sure. False positives were a thing, yo.

Except… all five had come back positive. One even had a little smiley face staring up at me. For those who were hoping to conceive, a smiley face was a good thing. But that was a category in which Sam and I did not fall under.

It wasn’t like I didn’t want kids. I loved kids. What I didn’t love was the vulnerability that came with it. Especially now.

My life was a hot mess. Imagine the worst case scenario, and that was my life to a T.

My sixty-year-old mother recently became a vampire—of which, she was utterly ungrateful. My stepfather was only starting to recuperate from a brutal attack that had nearly killed him. My birth father was dead—murdered, actually. Then there was me. In the past few months, I’d nearly died more times than I could count. Well, not quite. I can count much higher than three. But that didn’t sound near as dramatic. Not to mention, Sam—my mate and baby’s father—and I had only just reconciled ten weeks ago after a year’s long estrangement. A steady home, we were not.

Especially considering my half-sister, Olivia, still wanted me dead.

I scrubbed a hand down my face, lowered the toilet seat, and sat. I gripped all five pregnancy tests, all the while glaring at them as though they’d been the ones to make this happen. No, that blame rested with me and Sam.

Man, my mom was right. Sex truly did only lead to trouble.

I mean, pleasurable, sure. Orgasmic, some might even say. But then this occurs, and you’re left staring at a plastic stick, wondering what the heck happened.

Sam’s dick happened.

That thing needed to come with a warning sign. Warning: will knock you up. Proceed with caution.

Sighing, I leaned forward and rested my elbows against my knees. Nausea churned in the pit of my stomach—a feeling I assumed I’d need to get used to. Yaaaay.

I needed to pull myself together.

Step one consisted of leaving this bathroom. I couldn’t hide in here forever. Not with Olivia out there, stirring up trouble. When last we met, I’d sorta kinda killed her mate. And that wasn’t something a girl forgot or forgave. In all fairness, they’d both been trying to kill me first, so fair’s fair and all that. But it seemed unlikely she’d see it that way. So, I had to assume she had a bullet point on her to-do list labeled revenge. Hopefully that was one task she never managed to tick off.

Step two was telling Sam. Sounded simple, right? Except, the thought made my stomach churn again. It wasn’t like he’d be mad. I knew that. The man wanted a family. And he loved me with every fiber of his being. Of that, I had no doubts. Still. Telling a man you were pregnant was a little bit, well, terrifying.

I had a feeling Sam’s wolf already knew something had changed. An instinct, type thing. His protective nature had been working overtime lately. I hadn’t given it much thought considering everything we’d been through lately. But now, I saw things differently. Hindsight and all that.

Perhaps I should have suspected something when he started working with my second in command, Cole. The two quite literally loathed each other. Fur usually flew when they were alone in a room. Yet, there they were, working together to canvass the neighborhood, patrolling for signs of a threat, all to protect me.

I was their alpha. I was supposed to protect them, not the other way around.

A gentle knock rapped against the bathroom door.

“Luce? You okay in there?”

I sagged at the sound of Anna’s voice.

When I didn’t answer, she jiggled the doorknob. “Can I come in?”

“Sure,” I whispered, knowing she’d hear it.

The doorknob turned slowly, then the door eased open. She popped her head in, her long blonde locks flowing past her shoulders. Her hazel eyes creased with concern, her nose wrinkling. “How you doing in here?”

I lifted my hand and brandished the five tests.

Not a flicker of surprise crossed her face. Of course not. She’d tasted it in my blood. She’d recommended the pregnancy tests for my state of mind, not hers.

She stepped into the bathroom, then closed the door and leaned against it. Her gaze raked over the tests, and then my face. “Guess you guys weren’t trying, huh?”

“Not even a little,” I mumbled.

A smile graced her lips, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. “Try not to panic. Everything’s gonna be alright.”

“Nothing is going to be alright,” I growled. “I’m in the middle of a freakin’ blood feud with my sister. It isn’t like she’s going to stop just because I’m pregnant. If anything, she’ll take advantage of this.” My chest squeezed as the thought registered in my head. “Oh my god, she’s going to take advantage of this.”

“Luce—”

“She’s going to use this to hurt me.” My hands flew to my stomach, even though it was far too early for me to be showing. My heart leapt into action, furiously thumping against my ribs, and my pulse thundered in my ears. “Anna, I can’t—I don’t—what am I… I-I don’t know what to do.”

Anna pushed off the door and crouched before me, her hands covering mine. “Shh. Take a deep breath.” She pantomimed the movement, even though she didn’t breathe. When my chest filled with air, she released her breath and indicated I should do the same. “One more time.”

We sat there for a few moments, just breathing. Slowly, my body relaxed, but my skin broke into a cold sweat. Thoughts of everything Olivia could do to hurt me rolled around in my mind, taunting me.

“The timing isn’t great, I’ll give you that,” Anna said, her voice uncharacteristically soft. “But that doesn’t mean we’ll let Olivia hurt you or your baby. You know we’ll do everything we can to protect you. Sam, Vlad, me, Cole, your pack… we’re all here for you.”

My head jerked with a nod.

“What’s important right now is remaining calm. It’s hard, I know. Your nerves are probably shredded. But panicking isn’t going to help you or the baby.”

Right. Anxiety was bad for babies or something. Oh god, we were so screwed then. I was a walking stress ball, thanks to everything.

“Breathe, Luce,” Anna urged me again.

I drew another deep breath, then focused on the color blue. Soothing, peaceful blue.

“Good.” Anna squeezed my hands. “The most important thing right now is telling Sam.”

I nodded. “And my mother too, I guess. Since she’ll likely smell it on me.”

Anna chuckled. “You have some time still, I think, before she’ll notice anything. Her senses are still developing and she’s learning how to understand them. She might not notice your scent has changed yet. It’s very subtle. Plus, Vlad’s always said my nose is my strongest asset. Your mother’s seems to be stubbornness.”

I snorted a laugh, then sighed when all my tight muscles finally loosened. Stubbornness was my mother’s number one strength, to the point where she still refused to accept she’d been turned into a vampire. Ignorance is bliss, and all that. But she’d even gone so far as to shun my stepfather, and at times, me, since we’d been the ones to give Anna permission to change her. It made for living with her only slightly awkward.

“Okay, how about we leave this bathroom and head into the living room? I’ll whip you up a healthy smoothie or something. Then you can just sit and rest.”

I inwardly winced. While I appreciated Anna’s offer, her cooking skills had taken a sharp right hand turn into disgusting-ville after she became a vampire. Incredible sense of smell aside, she’d lost the ability to sample foods, and with that gone, it seemed so was her talent for cooking. I guess when one only drank blood, their taste buds withered and died.

Anna took my hand and gave a gentle tug, pulling me up from the toilet. I rose with a low groan, then turned and faced the mirror. By my calculations, I was maybe eight weeks pregnant at most, though the doctor would determine that whenever I booked an appointment. I wasn’t showing, it was too soon. But I felt so different already. Knowing there was this little nugget growing inside me. A part of me couldn’t believe Sam and I had made something together while the other part was still freaking the hell out.

“Come on, mama bear,” Anna teased. “Let’s get you fed. Sam should be home soon, and Vlad and your mother will be awake in the next hour or so.”

I trailed after her, my mind whirling as I headed toward the couch. Anna deviated toward the kitchen. A month ago, she wouldn’t have been able to step a toe inside it without being roasted alive, thanks to all the massive windows. But after a little prodding, I’d finally convinced her to let me add a set of black-out curtains for her protection. She’d loved the natural light, and hadn’t wanted to change that, but it’d become a bit of a nuisance, keeping her out of the kitchen during the day.

I knew it bothered her. She missed sunlight—and her humanity.

As a compromise, I’d equipped the house with a few SAD lamps and bought her a pair of light therapy glasses. More than once, I’d found her sprawled on the floor with the lamps all pointed toward her and the glasses covering her face, pretending she was sunbathing.

I listened to the sound of Anna fumbling around in the kitchen and the quick whirl of the blender. A few moments later, she stood in front of me, a chilled glass cradled in her hand. I took it from her but rested it on my thigh instead of drinking it. Instead, I just stared at it, counting the many fruit seeds.

“Come on, Lucy,” Anna urged. “Drink up! It’s good for you.”

I forced a smile, then lifted the glass to my lips. It smelled delicious, all fruity and whatnot. A quick sip had me nodding. Not bad. Guess smoothies weren’t something easily screwed up.

I’d just taken another sip when the front door opened.

My whole body tensed, like a deer caught in headlights.

“Shh,” Anna quietly whispered, patting my hand. She lounged on the couch next to me and casually stretched out as though she hadn’t a care in the world. “Hey guys.”

“Anna. Luce,” Sam greeted, his deep voice sending a shiver through my body.

I forced myself to lift my head and meet Sam’s gaze. He stood in front of the door, his eyes all on me as he removed his shoes and placed them on the mat. Cole stood behind him, gently closing the door.

“Hi,” I rasped. I cleared my throat, then tried again. “Hey.”

“Hi?” A smile curled his lips. “You okay?”

“Me?” My voice came out squeaky. Damn voice. I cleared my throat again, then took another sip of the smoothie. “I’m fine. How are you?”

He lifted a questioning brow and his mouth quirked into an amused smile. “I’m fine.”

Small talk wasn’t usually our thing. In fact, normally by now, I’d have gone to him and welcomed him home with a soft kiss. If I did that, would he realize I smelled different? He hadn’t this morning, so my fears were silly. But the thought still niggled in the back of my head.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you drink a smoothie before,” he commented.

I glanced down at the glass. Yeah, those were his thing. Part of his daily workout regime. “Oh, well, you made them look so good, I thought I’d give one a try.”

He blinked, then chuckled. “Glad to see you’re broadening your horizons.”

I forced another smile. Why was this so hard? It wasn’t like this was bad news per se. Just unexpected.

Anna nudged me with her knee, then tilted her head in his direction, mouthing, “Tell him.”

I released a shaky breath and nodded. Handing her the smoothie, I rose on shaky legs and shuffled toward Sam and Cole. “Find anything out there?”

“No. All’s quiet,” he said begrudgingly.

I cocked my head. “Isn’t that a good thing?”

“Sure. But it makes me wonder what exactly Olivia is waiting for.” Sam grunted and whipped a hand through his hair. “I’d almost rather she made her move just so we can finish this.”

Right. Well, that wasn’t on my wish list right now, that was for sure. “Maybe she realized she can’t beat us and gave up?”

“That’s not what my intel suggests,” Cole chimed in.

“Um, well we can talk about that later, when everyone else is awake or whatever…”

Sam stepped close, his hands rising to my cheeks. “Are you okay? You seem off.”

“Do I?”

He leaned down and brushed his mouth against mine. I instinctively leaned into him, my palm pressed against his chest. I couldn’t help myself. Everything about him called to me.

Once he leaned back, I drew a deep breath and steadied myself. There truly wasn’t any reason to be scared. No way in hell Sam would abandon me, nor would he get mad. Why I was so nervous, I had no idea.

I wiped my damp palms against my thighs and met his gaze. “I-I suppose I do need to talk to you.”

“What about?”

“Um.” I glanced past him to Anna and gestured to Cole.

“Right!” She hopped to her feet. “Come on, Wolf Boy. I need your help with something upstairs.”

Cole blinked. “You do?”

Considering Anna rarely spoke to him at all, his confusion seemed valid. But this conversation definitely needed to be private. The two quickly vanished from sight, their steps retreating upstairs. Likely to the gym where I assumed Anna intended to have Cole “fix something.”

Strong fingers slid through my hair, distracting me from Anna and Cole. Sam smoothed my locks back from my face, then brushed his thumb against my cheek. My eyes fluttered shut and I sighed, sinking into his touch.

“Luce, what is it?” Sam asked.

I cupped his hands and eased them out of my hair, then pressed them against my belly. His fingers curled around my sides, his hands so large they nearly touched.

“Luce?”

I met his gaze and swallowed.

“Okay, you’re starting to scare me,” he said. “What’s wrong?”

Two words. That was all I had to say.

Just rip the band aid off, already!

My mouth opened, and I forced it out. “I’m… pregnant.”

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