**The following may contain spoilers if you have not read Malsum Pass (Book One Malsum Pass Series) **
Tara Cooper felt weird as she stood in front of the closet trying to decide what to wear. Weird was pretty normal at this point though, and it wasn’t anything specific, so nothing to worry about. She wasn’t in pain, no contractions, just a sense of being a bit off. Of course she was also tired, exhausted really, but she’d been that way for weeks and the girls weren’t even here yet. She had expected to be tired once the twins were born, but what she hadn’t counted on was the acid reflux that had kept her from getting any proper sleep the last several weeks. What she wouldn’t give for a nap right now. She had taken to catching catnaps whenever she could in the recliner – it was as close as she could get to decent sleep – but she missed cuddling up to her husband and feeling his arms wrapped around her.
Tara’s lips twisted in a frown and she snorted. If Riley’s arms weren’t quite so long he wouldn’t be able to wrap them around her at all since she was about the size of a dump truck. She rubbed her back and then moved her hands around to massage her belly. This lack of sleep had her already feeling like Godzilla on steroids. What would happen once the girls arrived? She’d be a terror. She could envision the whole town screaming as Tara the Terrible went on a rampage. And Riley – oh, God, Riley – how could he stand her? She could barely stand herself. She was bitchy and hungry all the time. She snored – loudly, and drooled, she was bloated, swollen, and unattractive. That thought set her lower lip to trembling and a sob broke through. Again? Was she really going to start crying again?
As if he had hormone radar, Riley came into the bedroom where Tara was standing in front of the closet crying. He didn’t ask her what was wrong, just wrapped his arms around her and let her cry. She sniffled. “I won’t let you leave me. You’re stuck with me, hormones and all.”
With his magical hands massaging her lower back, Riley kissed the top of her head. He was used to her outbursts after the last several months. He never laughed, even if he found some of them incredibly amusing, since laughing only set her off worse. Instead, he did little things to make her love him even more. Like when she cried because she couldn’t reach the itch on her ankle. She’d carried on like it was the end of the world whereas Riley had simply bent down and scratched it for her. Later, he’d come home with a telescoping back scratcher for when he couldn’t be there. He’d done so much for her. Another sob burst out of her as she said, “I love you so much!”
Riley kissed the top of her head, each of her damp cheeks, and then her lips. “I love you, Tara.” He kneeled in front of her and slid his hands over her belly. “And I love my little ladies.” He said as he kissed the protruding mound which set the twins to moving. He smiled up at Tara and she could feel more tears prickling behind her eyes at the open adoration on Riley’s face. He dropped another kiss on her belly, stood up, kissed Tara’s nose and then said, “How about we go eat some cake?”
Her baby shower. Maybe that’s why she felt off. Addie and Sherry had put a lot of work into her shower and she knew she had to go, but she’d much rather stay home in a T-shirt and a pair of boxer shorts while watching old episodes of Supernatural on Netflix. And that kind of thinking was why they had decided not to make it a surprise. They never would have gotten her out of the house. Though, cake did sound good right now.
It looked like the entire town had turned out for the event at the Pierce house. Wrapped packages in pastel shades of pinks and yellows with festive bows were piled on every surface. Balloons and crepe paper streamers filled every corner, but Tara had spotted the cake and she suddenly had tunnel vision. It was a gorgeous creation of fluffy white frosting and someone had taken the time to slice strawberries into little rosettes. She wanted a strawberry – badly. Right then, her world revolved around those strawberries.
She was within feet of her goal when it happened. A hot gush of liquid. She turned wide stricken eyes to Riley who had stopped to chat with Tarvahl, Tara’s father. “I peed!” She whimpered and burst into tears.
Riley scooped her up in arms, not caring that she was wet, a determined look on his face as Addie and Sherry took up posts on either side. “Your water broke.” She heard the words, knew what they meant, but her brain wasn’t making the connection. This wasn’t going as planned. Doctor Bascomb, who had been on hand for all her medical needs, had told her that it was likely with twins that she’d go into labor early. He had even warned her just the day before that she could go into labor at any time now, but couldn’t the babies have waited for her to have a taste of that gorgeous cake?
Her first real contraction was a revelation. Tara had read everything she could get her hands on. Had watched videos of labor and delivery. But nothing had prepared her for the pressure that had her gasping a breath and gripping Riley’s hand as she was laid on the bed in her delivery room.
When she suddenly felt the need to push and told Doctor Bascomb so, he looked at her incredulously. Everyone had told her that first births could take hours upon hours, but apparently her girls had not gotten the memo. They were ready now. And they were coming – right now.
In just over an hour from the time her water broke, Marisol Anne Cooper made her way into the world with a gusty cry, followed immediately by Angela Marie Cooper, who was already trying to outdo her older sibling in volume. A volume that almost overpowered the collective celebratory howls of the pack just outside. They were born small, but healthy and strong, with a shock of red hair on top of their little heads (which Tara’s brothers would later use to torment Riley about the greatness of Pierce genetics).
As Riley lay beside her in the big bed without his shirt to give Angela some skin to skin bonding time with her daddy, Tara cradled Marisol against her own bare breast and smiled softly at her husband – who, for the first time ever to Tara’s recollection, promptly burst into tears. “Thank you, Tara, you were amazing.” he gasped out. “I love you so much.”
Wiping his face with his free hand, Riley sniffed. “Look at what we made, sweetheart.”