Thank you to my co-creator and editor, the Brit. This story's been a hell of a ride, and I'm grateful that we got to ride it together! xoxo
In previous chapters:
Dan, a cop, had attempted suicide after assaulting his ex-wife/sub, and ended up at the hospital, where he met Nurse Sandra.
Interested to find out what happens to a Dom after hitting his bottom? Go back to Chapter One and start reading...
In this chapter: what do you think?!
Standing outside the Matsakis' front door, unannounced, at 10am on a sunny October Friday morning, I try to steady my nerves as I reach for the bell. The movement causes my mother's ring, nestled in my shirt pocket, to prickle my chest right over my galloping heart. Gripping the pot filled with a bright flower arrangement in my other arm, I'm thankful to have chosen the traditional clay over the more sophisticated porcelain or glassware; if nothing else, its coarse surface is less likely to slip from my sweaty palms.
"Just a minute, I'm coming!"
Mrs. Matsakis sounds hurried as she shuffles to the door. She swings it wide open, not bothering with the peephole, and then freezes in place when she sees me, her welcoming smile waning.
"Dan. I - what are you doing here?" She looks over my shoulder and then adds - "Sandra isn't with you? Is everything alright?"
In the space of a few seconds her tone had gone from surprise to obvious alarm, and I'm quick to dispel her concern.
"Yes, all's good with Sandra, I promise, Mrs. Matsakis. I just wanted to speak with you and your husband and hoped to catch you both at home. My apologies for not calling beforehand... would you be willing to spare me a few minutes, please?"
"Who is it, Maria?"
Mr. Matsakis' gruff voice sounds from upstairs, and his wife looks undecided for a moment before stepping aside and letting me in, gesturing towards her kitchen, and closes the door behind me.
"Excuse me for a moment. I'll be right back."
Not waiting my reply, Mrs. Matsakis turns and walks over to the stairs climbing to the second floor. I watch as she disappears upstairs, and then, realizing I can't just stand there at the doorway, I follow her unspoken direction and enter the kitchen to wait for her.
Looking around I take in the hallmarks of a large, lively clan being raised and fed in this very room. The huge family table, and those stacks of plates and bowls piled high on shelves, enough to feed eighteen people in one sitting. The six-burner stovetop, with its array of pots and pans hanging on the walls on both sides of it. And the extra-large refrigerator, chosen as much for its surface area where family photos and kids' drawings are proudly displayed, as for its storage capacity.
In my mind, I compare it to the smaller, always-pristine kitchen at my parents' home, and the formal dining room where the three of us had taken our meals. Unwilling to wallow in my own sob story, I force my imagination to conjure up Sandra as a little girl in blonde pigtails and missing two front teeth, skipping around this spacious room as her mama cooked, or sitting at the table chatting excitedly with her siblings over dinner.
I know which of the two experiences I'd like to create for our child. Hopefully. Breathing deep I make myself stand tall. I have a mission to carry out, and it's not going to be easy. I'd better keep my head for this.
Mr. Matsakis' deep voice pulls me back to the here and now, and I turn around to see the tall, distinguished-looking man enter the kitchen, his limp more pronounced than I remembered, followed closely by his wife.
He doesn't offer his hand for a shake, but rather gestures with his head that I should take a seat, and I know I have my work cut out for me. Before I take a chair, however, I turn to Mrs. Matsakis.
"These are for you, Ma'am."
A brief half-smile passes across her face but quickly disappears.
"Thank you. They're lovely."
Taking the pot from me she places it in the middle of the table, and then wipes her hands on her apron.
"Shall we all sit?"
We each take a spot; Mr. Matsakis at the head of the table, his wife to his right, and myself to his left, facing her.
"Go ahead." Mr. Matsakis doesn't bother with niceties. I take a deep breath.
"I came to ask for your blessing."
They both gasp in surprise, looking at each other and then back at me as if I've just sprouted an extra head.
"You can't be serious." Mr. Matsakis says flatly, and Mrs. Matsakis puts a calming hand on his forearm and catches my gaze.
Her question is so unexpected, I just stare at her. After several long moments have passed in awkward silence she speaks again, her voice somewhat kinder.
"Sandra is thirty years old, Dan. She's an adult, an independent woman. Obviously, this is her decision to make, and I have a feeling that you'll ask her anyways, regardless of our answer." She raises her eyebrows, pinning me with her look, and at my curt, thin-lipped nod, she continues. "Why then even ask? When you know how we feel, given the circumstances, why put yourself - put us - in this situation?"
Maybe it's the tone of her voice, which sounds perplexed rather than accusatory, that allows me to lower my guard and answer truthfully.
"Because I know what it's like, to marry against your family's wishes. It's heartbreaking, and if I can save Sandra from that pain, I will."
"You can save her from it by not marrying her." Mr. Matsakis doesn't budge.
"Not an option." I bite my lips to keep from using the one card I know would likely sway their minds; but doing so would effectively take away Sandra's decision on the matter. I keep my mouth resolutely shut.
Sandra's parents share a silent look, and then Mrs. Matsakis drops her gaze, staring at her own fingers fumbling together. After several awkward seconds, she looks up, and quietly admits -
"I met with Ada."
I barely notice Mr. Matsakis deep scowl over the rush of blood in my ears. Sandra's mother spoke with Naomi's sister?!
Beyond my shock, there's a strange, unexpected tug in my chest, and I realize I've missed my ex-sister-in-law. Over the years she'd taken their deceased parents' place as the head of Naomi's family, and we'd spent more than one holiday dinner together, have celebrated birthdays and anniversaries with Ada and her husband and kids, have attended family events together... Ada's friendly manner and her no-nonsense approach to life had always put me at ease.
"I - how come?"
Mrs. Matsakis shrugs. "It's a small town. It didn't take long to ask around and find out that your ex-wife had an older sister who's a high-school teacher, too. Although I'd retired a few years back and she teaches with the other school on the west side of town, still it was simple to get her number. I called and asked to meet. She gladly obliged."
It is only now I notice Mr. Matsakis expression. He looks flabbergasted as he stares at his wife, mouth agape. Mrs. Matsakis notices, too, but she only waves her hand dismissively at him.
"Really, Theodore, did you expect anything else from me? You knew I would get to the bottom of this."
I half-expect a strongly-worded rebuke, judging by the old man's dark expression, but then he simply closes his mouth and nods curtly, accepting, it seems, his wife's right to do what she thought was needed to be done, even if he didn't like it.
I clear my throat. "Ehm, how is Ada?"
"She's very well. Seems happy about her sister's upcoming wedding."
Mrs. Matsakis doesn't hide her close scrutiny watching for my reaction, and I can see some of the tension leave her shoulders when I simply nod.
"Yes, I know. I'm happy for Naomi, too." the churn in my gut mellows as that truth resonates inside me, leaving me slightly breathless. I am happy for her.
"Then how come you beat her up just months ago, when you heard she had a new boyfriend?!"
Mr. Matsakis voice thunders across the table, hitting me full force. His hands are tightly fisted, shaking with his barely-contained rage. His wife places her palm on his forearm again, but he shakes it off impatiently.
"He beat her up, Maria. He assaulted the woman he said he loved. How can you be so calm?!"
"Theo, please. Lucas told us what happened. God knows, in this family, we should know better than to judge a person by their sickness, horrific as their actions may have been."
But Mr. Matsakis seems only aggravated by his wife's gentle words. "How can you even say that? How can you compare Helena's situation with post-partum and all to - to - to this?!"
If I'd expected Sandra's mother to cower before her husband's wrath, I'm in for a surprise. The woman seems to grow before my very eyes, her spine straightening and hardening as she sits tall and glares back at her husband.
"Oh, so one type of depression - the kind that leads you to attempt to murder your newborn baby - that kind deserves your compassion, but another kind doesn't?!"
Mr. Matsakis gasps, but his wife is on a roll. "Well, respectfully, Theo, that's bullshit. I spoke with Ada. She'd known Dan here for over a decade. She told me he was a decent man, a good man, who had made her sister very happy - for most of their marriage, at least. She did tell me the last couple of years had been strained, what with their trying and failing for kids, and that they eventually split over that. But she said that he'd been fair to a fault with Naomi throughout the divorce process; that it was clear it was as hard a decision for him as it was for her sister - maybe harder, she said, judging by how miserable he seemed the few times she saw him after."
Red-faced, I fidget uncomfortably in my seat, and cough a couple of times, at a loss for words at this unexpected, heated defense of my character by my ex-sister-in-law - and by the passionate way Mrs. Matsakis had delivered it.
The older couple stop their staring match for a moment to throw me a cursory look, but then they return to each other.
"Are you saying you're willing to risk our daughter's well-being because this man was once a good guy - before he went on to assault his own ex-wife?"
Mr. Matsakis raises his chin as he issues his challenge, but his fury had clearly dissipated, leaving behind the kind of stubborn protectiveness I could relate to only too well.
His wife notices, too, and her tight face relaxes into a gentle smile. I can see her love to her husband - and to Sandra - shine through when she speaks next.
"I'm saying people may do truly horrific things when they're sick, but that doesn't mean they are horrible people; nor does it mean they can never heal."
Gesturing at me with her chin, she adds - "When I see this man humbling himself by coming here, begging for our blessing, knowing it would mean getting bashed, but doing it anyways, because it would save our daughter from heartache... when Lucas tells me he'd been religious in getting the treatment he needs... when Ada tells me that for forty-odd years he'd been a good man, except for that one sin..."
She blinks, as if fighting back tears, and continues with conviction. "I'm saying I won't stand in my daughter's way; nor would I make her life choices for her. Sandra knows Dan better than any one of us. If she decides to marry him, then I trust her judgment, and I'd do anything in my power to make sure they're happy together. If that means giving them my blessing, then by God, I will."
Several seconds tick by as the older couple stare each other down, while I hold my breath. Finally, Mr. Matsakis gives a curt nod, though his lips are thinned to an almost invisible line.
"Very well, then." He mutters gruffly, and then looks up to catch my eyes in a fierce stare.
"I will give you my blessing, young man. But I'll be watching you like a hawk. If you so much as lay a finger on my daughter in anger, if you do anything to harm her..."
I nod even before he finishes. "I know, sir. And I respect that."
Looking back at Mrs. Matsakis, who smiles at her husband through her tears, I reach instinctively to squeeze her wrinkled hand in mine.
"Thank you, Mrs. Matsakis. I promise I will spend the rest of my life making your daughter happy."
To my astonishment, Mr. Matsakis' hand came to blanket my own warmly.
"You do that, son. You do that, and you'll always be welcome at our home."
I blink furiously and need to swallow several times to push down the lump in my throat before I manage to croak out -
"Thank you. Thank you both."
I'm swamped with childish longing for the kind of parents I'd never had. Pushing it down resolutely as all three of us finally withdraw our hands to lean back in our chairs, I focus my mind on Sandra, and am thankful that she, at least, had them.
They would make wonderful grandparents.
Reluctantly, I get up. "I need to go. I asked Lucas to meet me at noon, and I don't want to be late."
Sandra's parents both smile as they rise to their feet. "Making the rounds, are you?" Mr. Matsakis asks wryly, and I shrug and nod.
"I guess so. I want this to be perfect for Sandra."
We walk over to the door together, and once there Mrs. Matsakis surprises me by pulling me in for a tight hug, and then kisses me on both cheeks. "God bless, Dan."
Her husband reaches out his hand, and I take it, feeling the squeeze at my heart. "Good luck, Dan."
With a final nod I take my leave, my steps a hundred times lighter than they were on my way up these same stairs. I got Sandra's parents blessing to ask for her hand in marriage. Now all I had to do was set up the stage, make sure there were safety nets in place just in case... and then, it would be up to Sandra.
Trust and hope.
"Thanks for meeting me. I appreciate it."
Standing up, I offer my hand to Lucas. Sandra's older brother hesitates before accepting my gesture, his grip firm, and tightens further, holding onto my hand without letting go.
"Knowing what's at stake between you and my sister, there was no way I could refuse. What's going on, Dan?"
A polite cough breaks our impromptu stand-off and Lucas releases me to take his seat across the table. The waitress pulls out her order pad.
"Can I get you two anything to drink first?"
"Coffee and a glass of water for me, please. Lucas?"
"Water's fine, thanks."
Sensing the charged atmosphere between us the young woman makes a hasty retreat, and I am left to face Lucas's stare on my own.
"Talk to me."
Lucas's voice is pained, and I can guess at the source of it: feeling powerless to protect your loved ones is hell, especially to certain take-charge types of men. I should know. I hope what I'm about to ask of him will make him feel a little better.
"I need your help."
Lucas raises his eyebrows, but remains silent.
"I'm going to propose to Sandra today, and I want her to feel free to give me an honest answer. So I'd like for you to be there, to let her know she's safe to make her choice either way."
Lucas absorbs my words mutely for several long moments, and I am left to try to guess at his reaction from the way his lips thin to a grim line and his jaw muscles work under his tight, bronzed skin. Finally he speaks, his voice low:
"So, she's keeping her baby then?"
I meet and hold his gaze. "I don't know yet."
Lucas inhales sharply, his nostrils flaring. "I see."
He tears his eyes away from mine to look at the falling leaves floating in the air at the park outside the cafe's glass walls. After a while he nods to himself, and then returns to look at me.
"When and where do you need me to be?"
"Right here in this coffee shop, at four this afternoon. But sit outside so that you can see the bakery's outdoor terrace across the lawn. That's where we're going to sit."
Lucas nods somberly. "I'll be here."
"Thank you. I appreciate it." I offer, trying for a smile even though I know I'm too tense to manage it.
"I'm not doing it for you. I'm doing it for my sister." The muscle jumps in his jaw again.
"I know. That's what I'm thanking you for.
With only the briefest of nods Lucas acknowledges my words and then stands up. "I'll be here at four. I hope to God Sandra makes the right choice."
I actually smile at that. "You and I both."
Lucas grunts something under his breath, and then turns and walks away.
Arranging the rest of my little production is easy. All that's left is walking across to the bakery to reserve the right table out on the terrace, and then calling Jon to let him know I'll need him there, too. He assures me that, as always, he'd have my back. Bless him.
On my way to my apartment I stop at Mr. Sharas' to get a proper haircut and shave. When he hears what's the occasion, he tries to return my payment, and finally agrees to accept it on condition that for my wedding I'll come get a free cut, as a gift from him.
I make one more detour before heading home, and swing by Dr. Pappas's office. I had called ahead to cancel my appointment, knowing I'd be too wound up to do any real work today, but now I feel like I could use his reassurance. His admin smiles at me and motions for me to step into his office as soon as I come in, and I feel the tight nerves in my belly unwind a bit.
"Glad to see you could make it, after all."
Dr. Pappas smiles at me, and strides over to put his hand on my shoulder and propel me towards the empty chairs. I dig in my heels, and he releases me to look up in surprise.
"Or maybe not?"
I shake my head. "I can't stay for the whole session."
His typical, mildly-voiced non-question makes me smile. "But I've found that I couldn't go ahead with my plan without getting your explicit blessing. Which is what I'm here for."
Dr. Pappas tilts his head, considering me. "I'm not sure whether to be flattered or disappointed." Then he adds with unconcealed curiosity: "Wanna tell me about that plan of yours?"
"Yeah, I do." I smile nervously, fervently wishing inside that he'd give me the answer I'm looking for. "I'm going to propose to Sandra this afternoon."
"Ah." Dr. Pappas mulls over my declaration. "And you need my blessing because...?"
"Well, because I'm not at all sure she'd say 'yes'. And while I think I'd handle a different answer okay, hearing it from you would be... reassuring."
Dr. Pappas shoves his hands in his pockets and turns his back on me, walking over to his window. He looks out for a while as I stand there, waiting, trying not to get annoyed at the good doctor. Is it too much to ask of my shrink to show some moral support?!
Finally he turns back to me, and I am shocked to realize the reason he had turned away: his eyes are more than a little misty and red-rimmed, as if he's about to cry. But his smile is genuine when he slowly walks back to me, and without uttering a word puts his arms around me for a tight hug.
After a moment, I return it, and then we both draw back. With one look at my face, Dr. Pappas barks a laugh and reaches to the box of tissues on the low coffee table, offering it to me while taking one to himself, and we both take a moment to clumsily mop at our less-than-manly tears.
When we've both composed ourselves, Dr. Pappas reaches up to squeeze my upper arms.
"It's going to be fine, Dan. I have full confidence in you. Now go, I'm sure you have more important things to do than hang out with me at the clinic right now."
"Yeah, I do, actually." I chuckle my relief, and step back. "Thank you, doc. I promise to call and let you know how it all went, later on tonight."
"You do that, son. You do that. Now go, do what you need to do."
Grinning, I turn and leave the small office, then skip down the stairs two at a time in my hurry to get home.
Only three more hours. God, I can't wait!
"I wish I had time to go home and change," Sandra gestures self-consciously at herself, still wearing her white nurse's dress.
"Are you kidding me?! Baby, you're gorgeous. I'd question you wearing that to work - some patients may go into cardiac arrest seeing you in it - but for a date with me? Honestly, it's perfect."
I mean it, too. The hospital-issued white uniform dress, while respectable in length and cleavage, fits her curves as if tailor-made, lovingly tracing the lines of her body, leaving just enough mystery for my imagination. And oh, the images my mind comes up with...
Sandra smiles. "Thank you. I needed to hear that. It's just that... I dunno. This is such a nice place, you know?"
I do know. I took care choosing this specific boutique bakery, right in the middle of the park. The air is still warm at four in the afternoon, the light breeze brings the sweet-salty smell of the Mediterranean ocean right into town, and the autumn colors all around us are unequivocally romantic. It's the perfect setting. I hope.
My heartbeat quickens, and I make an effort to keep calm, at least on the outside.
"I'm glad you like it, baby. I wanted to take you somewhere special because I have something special to ask you."
Fuck. Just saying that makes my pulse accelerate until it thumps loudly in my ears.
Sandra bites her lower lip as she looks at me expectantly, and I think I hear an excited undertone in her voice, but maybe that's just my wishful thinking.
Trust and hope, Dan. Here goes.
My limbs are sluggish obeying my mind as I get out of my chair and then down on one knee, taking both her hands in my shaky, slightly damp fingers.
Sandra's eyes widen as she catches on to what I'm doing, and her mouth drops open in a gasp, and suddenly I worry she'd stop me before I got any words out.
"Wait, baby. Let me go first, okay?"
Sandra closes her mouth, giving my hands a nervous squeeze, but then blurts out:
"But - but I haven't told you my decision yet. About - about the baby."
My breath hitches, but I push through. "I know you haven't, and I don't want you to tell me. Not until I say my piece. Please." My voice starts out rough, and with effort I manage to soften it. "Please. Hear me out first, okay?"
She nods, and I mirror her gesture. "Thank you, baby. Now, first of all, I just want you to look over to that other coffee shop, on the other side of the lawn. See the table just across from us?"
Confused, Sandra looks over, and then exclaims - "That's - that's my brother Lucas!"
Her older brother waves at her casually, though his face is grim. Sandra looks back and forth between us until finally her gaze settles on me, questioning.
"I asked him to be here. And Jon and Annie are sitting at the table behind him, see?"
Sandra's head whips back as she scans the other cafe, until she finds my friends. She hadn't met Annie yet - I hope to rectify that soon - but she knows Jon from the hospital, and then from her time nursing me at home. He gives her a discreet thumbs-up, and Sandra smiles in embarrassment and returns her eyes to me, kneeling before her. Her surprise at seeing them all slowly melts into understanding.
"Is this your way of giving me a safety?"
I nod, swallowing hard.
Sandra tilts her head and squeezes my hands. "I've never been afraid of you."
My voice is strained when I reply. "One of these days, I hope I won't be afraid of me, either. Until then, I'm going to play it extra safe. Will you bear with me?"
Instead of answering she raises our joint hands, and kisses my fingers. With my heart lodged in my throat, I plunge forward, our eyes locked together.
"So, here's the deal, baby: I love you. You are the most generous, compassionate woman I've ever met. You're smart and fun and hard-working, and you're so honest it's freakin' mind-blowing."
"And you are, by far, the sexiest woman on the face of this earth."
She gasps and blushes, and I kiss her hands and continue before she can interrupt.
"Now, I figure you've made your decision, but I don't want to know what it is - not yet. Because I want this to be only about us. About you and me. Regardless of the baby. Okay?"
"Um, okay -"
"Wait. I need you to listen carefully because this is the important part, okay?"
"Okay. I'm listening."
I smile, and then inhale deeply, gathering my courage.
"I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to grow old with you. I want us to raise our children together - now or in the future, whenever you decide. I just want you."
Her chin starts to quiver and her sea-blue eyes fill with tears, and my heart swells when I rush on to finish -
"Will you marry me, Sandra?"
There's a moment of silence between us as she blinks a couple of times, tears now trailing down her flushed, pretty face, and she's biting her lips so hard I'm afraid she'd draw blood.
"Oh - I - I mean - is it my turn now?"
I nod jerkily, cough, and hope not to die of a heart attack as I await her reply.
"Yes, please. Go ahead."
She smiles through her tears. "Yes."
There's silence. Then her word sinks in.
Her smile widens, even as she sobs.
"Yes, I'll marry you. I love you, too."
I let her words wash through me. My head swims and my body trembles with relief. In the next moment, I remember the ring stuffed inside my shirt pocket. Fumbling to get it, I try and fail to keep steady as I reach for her hand.
Looking up I see her eyes riveted to the antique ring.
"Oh my gosh, it's beautiful!"
"It was my mother's; it's been in my family for generations. Here..."
Slipping the ring carefully onto her third finger we both stare at it - me a little bit in shock at the reality of it hugging her finger so perfectly, while Sandra says reverently -
"It's breathtaking, Dan. I'm - honored."
I bend to kiss her hand, the coolness of the ring tickling the edge of my lips, contrasted sharply with the warmth of her skin.
"The honor is mine, baby. Thank you."
I reach up to her as she bends towards me and we meet halfway for a sweet kiss, which soon turns spicy and then downright hot - only to be broken by Lucas's voice, sounding thicker than usual as he speaks from somewhere above our heads.
"So, may I be the first to congratulate you two?"
We break away laughing, and then there's a flurry of hugs and kisses and handshakes and back-slaps, with Jon and Annie being close on Lucas' heels. Just as we pull back and stare at each other with matching silly grins on all our faces - even Lucas - the background music turns to a loud rendition of I think I wanna marry you and a band of waiters, both male and female, create a ridiculous dance train that is headed straight to us.
The line of unlikely dancers is led by a huge bear of a man in a cook's attire holding some kind of dessert on his plate, only it's topped with the most crazy sparkler I've ever seen - like a huge sconce shooting sparkles out a couple of feet high to the air. We all stare in disbelief as the human train arrives at our table, and the cook places his platter on our table with grandiose flare.
"This one is on the house, folks. Bon Apetit!"
He shakes my hand, and then gives my still-shocked fiancé a kiss on each cheek, and then goes back to lead the waiters in dance all the way back to the kitchen, leaving us all gaping behind him, still trying to process.
"Umm, I guess we'll all share - there's a handful of spoons and enough crème brûlée here to feed a small army!" Sandra exclaims, and everyone takes the hint and joins us, pulling extra chairs from neighboring tables whose beaming patrons easily agree to adjust for us.
Belatedly, I make the official introductions between everyone, and the conversation which starts off a bit haltingly soon becomes lively and good-natured when we somehow get to talking about soccer. I sit back and relax a bit, finally letting myself fully enjoy this - this miracle - in its fullest, when Lucas's phone rings.
Checking the display, he grins and then answers. "Yes, Mama, she said yes!" and we can hear the excited squeal from the other end of the line, and then some chatter, to which Lucas replies - "The bakery at the park. Yes I know you're just around the corner -" he winks as Sandra and I both gasp - "and yes, you're welcome to join us - right?" he looks up to catch our affirming nods, and returns to the phone. "Yes, Mama, they'd love for you to come." Lucas nods as he listens and smiles. "Okay. See you in a moment then."
Indeed, it takes less than a minute for Sandra's teary-eyed mother and her no-longer-somber father to show up. I quirk an eyebrow seeing Mr. Matsakis is carrying something - a small ice-box, of all things, but he just smirks at me and goes on to give his daughter a bear hug and to shake my hand, while his wife, after showering both of us in kisses, goes on to coo over her daughter's ring.
"I'll be right back", Mr. Matsakis announces, and walks into the bakery, only to be followed out a moment later by an excited waitress carrying seven empty champagne flutes on a tray.
The waitress places the glassware in front of everyone while Mr. Matsakis opens the ice-box and produces two expensive-looking bottles of chilled champagne, and hands one to Lucas.
"You open that one, son."
Two loud pops sound shortly - to the cheers of the people around us - and then the waitress goes around pouring everyone's drinks. When she's done she takes the one empty bottle with her, and leaving it's half-full twin on the table, and Mr. Matsakis goes to his feet and raises his glass, motioning for everyone else to do the same.
"A toast, then. To my beloved daughter Sandra, and to her beloved Dan. I am not a man of words, so let me just wish you two happiness, good health, and a long and fruitful marriage. Salut!"
Everyone raises their glasses and drink. I smile as I look sideways at Sandra, and notice she barely wets her lips with champagne, and then licks them, sucking her bottom lip to get that tiny drop. Then she puts down her glass and looks up to catch me staring at her. Smiling shyly, she shrugs and nods slightly, biting her lips.
Comprehension dawns on me slowly. I gulp down the mouthful of champagne I just took, and stare at her dumbly, hope bubbling in my chest until it spills out in a delighted chuckle, which draws everyone's attention back to the two of us, staring at each other with matching silly smiles spread across our faces.
Annie is the first to catch on, gasping loudly as her hand flies up to her mouth, belatedly trying to stop the sound from escaping. Jon looks between her and us, and a smile almost as big as mine appears on his face. Lucas, on my other side exhales loudly, as if hugely relieved, and simply walks around to take Sandra in a big bear hug, holding her close for several moments and speaking quietly into her ear. She nods emphatically into his neck as fresh tears stream down her cheeks.
"Okay, someone tell me what's going on."
Mrs. Matsakis glares at me, then at her son over Sandra's head, and when neither one of us speaks she turns to Jon and Annie, who shrug apologetically and shake their heads, unwilling to answer.
Mr. Matsakis glares at his oldest son, and his deep voice bears no argument as he speaks:
"Lucas, what's going on here?"
Lucas and Sandra break their hug reluctantly as the man looks from his sister to his parents, and back.
"I'm just happy for Sandra, that's all."
I swallow my grin at their matching guilty looks, imagining Sandra as that tooth-gapped blonde little girl once more, standing a half-shoulder behind her brother who tries to protect her by somehow talking their way out of whatever mischief they'd done.
But Sandra is no longer a mischievous kid. She rests her palm on her brother's wide shoulder, squeezes it as she smiles at him, and then steps forward to face her parents squarely. My heart swells with pride as she speaks, her voice steady and strong, if a bit thick with tears:
"Mama, Papa, I have more good news for you."
Sandra's pronounced curves look even more exaggerated in the soft glow of candles.
I can't stop looking at her, at the way the light flickers across her huge belly and over her heavy breasts. Her areolas, which before her pregnancy would pucker to resemble tiny red raisins are as large as dollar coins now, and much darker in color. Her nipples stick out, glistening wet from my tongue, as does her clitoris, which peeks between her pink, swollen labia, coated in shining juice.
With her being as far along as she is, I can no longer have her flat on her back. Instead she is standing at the doorway, legs spread, hands grasping the frame on either side of her head.
My fingers tunnel in the sweaty hair at her nape, keeping her steady, and my mouth covers hers as my other hand finds her slick folds. I catch her gasp as I slowly sink two fingers into her engorged tunnel, and flick my thumb back and forth over her clit quickly, insistently, precisely the way she likes it.
Sandra mewls into my lips, her soft whimpers quickly turning into louder whines, and then she throws her head back and opens her mouth for a scream, except no sound comes out as her breath catches in her throat.
God, I love watching her cum.
She seemed suspended there on the precipice and I almost freak out at how long she'd gone without a breath when Sandra exhales with a deep shudder and convulses around my fingers, her sweet juice drenching my palm, and I smile and bring her head forward to catch her eyes.
She's panting heavily now and her eyes are glazed over, but a dreamy smile stretches on her sweaty face.
Wordlessly I slide my arm under hers and support her weight as I gently nudge her forward and then walk her over to the bed. Our folded duvet, covered with a thick towel, waits on the floor at the foot of our bed just for this occasion - having a nine-month-pregnant subby wife means a limited range of positions and extra planning in advance - and I help her down to her knees and have her place her forearms on the bed, half-bent forward.
"Spread wider, babygirl."
Kneeling between her knees on the thick padding I hold my dick in one hand to guide it to her pussy, spreading her left ass cheek with the other to get better access - and view. And oh, the view is absolutely spectacular.
I watch the head of my cock split her labia and glide easily inside. She's so wet there's barely any resistance, only a deliciously hot and sleek pressure that wraps tightly around me. She moans when I enter her and slowly grinds back against me, and I grab hold of her ass and return the favor, going as deep as I can until her beautiful, smooth globes flatten against my pelvis.
She breathes in and lowers her head to her arms with another deep moan, while her pussy clenches around me. I smile. My babygirl is impatient, isn't she?
"All right, love. I know you've had enough of waiting... here we go."
Letting my fingers sink into her soft flesh I pull out only to thrust back inside, again and again and again, my need spiking with every deep stroke, building higher by the second. My babygirl keeps working me from the inside - they called them 'Kegel exercises' in our prenatal course, and Sandra had been practicing religiously - and it doesn't take long before my balls tighten and my dick swells inside, the tight pressure becoming almost painful before it is released in several large spurts, as I splash Sandra's inner walls with thick, hot spunk.
I jerk inside her a few more times until the very last of my orgasm is gone, and then collapse over her, catching myself with my hands on both side of hers to keep any of my weight off, and heave over her, huffing and puffing in her ear, my heart still running a mile a minute.
Another moan rises from her lips and she rolls her head to the side, and I lean over to stroke her hair away from her damp face with my still-shaky hand so that I can see her eyes.
"So, you think it worked, baby?"
Sandra chuckles breathlessly and bucks lightly against me to indicate I should get off her. I move to the side and then help her up to her feet and then onto the bed, watching her move with all the gracefulness of a blue whale onto her side, then pull one pillow under her head and another between her knees, as has been her favorite sleep position for most of her third trimester.
"Well..." she breathes, and then reaches for the bottled water on the nightstand, takes a deep swig, and hands it over to me before continuing. "I think we've covered every trick in the book with this one - nipple stimulation, giving me a couple of hard orgasms to get my uterus contracting, priming my cervix with the Prostaglandins in your semen - at this point, if this doesn't work I'd be prone to think he's never coming out!"
I chuckle and gulp down half the bottle before capping it and placing it back on the night stand. "Well, we've definitely given it our best shot... guess we'll wait and see, huh?"
Sandra grunts something about 'tired of waiting' and I retreat hastily to the bathroom to look for a washcloth, having learned it would be better than remaining a sitting target to her understandable frustration. At 41 weeks gestation, a woman had a right to be short-tempered - even a good little subbie like mine.
When I'm back with the warm, wet cloth I find her already dozing off.
"Baby, I know you're tired... just let me clean you up a bit okay?"
Reluctantly she lets me lift her top leg enough to reach in between them and gently swipe over her folds. When I bring my hand back to fold the cloth, my heart stops in my chest, and then kicks into a gallop. I can barely mumble -
"Sandra, baby, you're - you're bleeding."
I don't think she heard me. Fuck. Should I stress out about this? Should I stress her out? Shit. She's the medical professional between the two of us. FUCK.
"Sandra, look at the washcloth. I think - I think you're bleeding, baby."
"What?! Let me see." Obviously she heard me now, because all sleep seem to have evaporated from her eyes as she props herself up on her left elbow and reaches for the piece of damp cloth in my hand.
"Turn the lights on, Dan. I need to see better."
I roll over to flip the switch and full light floods the room, making me blink several times before I can focus on anything. When I roll back to Sandra I see her sitting up, staring at the washcloth in her hands, an excited smile spread on her face.
"What?!" I demand, and she chuckles nervously.
"I think - I think that's the mucus plug."
"I - what the HELL is that?!"
She giggles, clearly excited. "It's one of the early signs of labor. And it's completely normal. I've been looking forward to it!"
I shake my head. "I don't get it. I see blood. That can't be good, can it?!"
She smiles as she places her hand on my forearm, sensing my agitation.
"There's a tiny bit of blood, yes, but that's not 'bleeding'. That's barely 'spotting'. And its a sign of my cervix softening and beginning to open. Which means, hopefully, that I'll be going into labor soon."
Panic, pure and swift, slices through me. "What?! When? How soon? Do we need to get to the hospital?"
I'm already on my feet, looking for my underwear, as I hear Sandra's laughter.
"Stop, please! You'll hurt yourself. Sit down, please, baby. It's not THAT soon."
I sit down heavily, and she reaches out to take my hand, squeezing my fingers.
"'Soon' can mean anything from a couple of hours to a couple of days, baby. There's no rush. I don't feel any contractions or anything. Best we can do is go to sleep now... they say they don't call it 'labor' for nothing. It's best if I get some rest."
Breathing deep, I will myself to settle down as much as I can under the circumstances. She's going into labor soon. Mutely I nod, and then get up to walk around the room and blow out all the candles before getting back to bed and flipping the main lights off.
I gather my hugely pregnant wife in my arms - and pull her gently to me until her head rests on my shoulder, and her two-sizes-larger breasts press sweetly to my side.
"All right, baby. Rest it is then. Let me know when it's the right time to panic, okay?"
Her soft chuckle tickles my neck. "Yes, sir. Will do."
I wake up a little after midnight to the sound of water running in the shower. A few minutes after Sandra shows up at the bathroom door, and smiles nervously when she sees me sitting there.
"I think it's time".
It takes all of eight minutes for us to be out the door, and during that time she has two contractions which are strong enough that she needs to concentrate and breathe through them.
The contractions come closer and closer together as we drive to the hospital, until by the time we arrive to the Labor and Delivery ward they are only two minutes apart, and Sandra no longer smiles through them.
Upon admission we are told she is 'officially' in active labor and the nurse asks if she wants any pain relief, but Sandra just shakes her head no, asking instead to get into the shower. And so, as soon as we finish filling all those forms and are assigned our labor and delivery room, she strips naked and walks into the bathroom, and then spends the next hour in there, sitting in the tub with the spray of scalding hot water on her back.
Lin, our midwife, arrives soon after Sandra gets in the shower. The petite, blue-eyed woman is in her fifties, her hair mostly grey and her smile reassuring. She'd takes a quick look at Sandra's results from her check-up upon admission and then, with a satisfied nod, goes over to the shower and gently knocks on the door before peeking her head inside.
"How are you doing in there, Sandra?"
' - I'm doing good here, let me be. I'll call you when I need you' - comes the annoyed-sounding reply, and so we do just that. I get myself a cup of coffee and tea for Lin and settle down to chat - though for the life of me I won't be able to recall any of it later on. And we wait.
Once in a while we hear low moans coming from the shower. But every time we check on her Sandra chases us away, preferring, so it seems, to labor in solitude.
We wait some more.
Then a loud moan comes from the bathroom, and by the time we get to the door it swings open from the inside and Sandra stands there, haphazardly wrapped in a hospital-issued towel.
"I feel like I need to push" she declares, and the midwife gets her on the bed to check.
"Yes, you're fully dilated, so you can push whenever you feel the need to. Are you comfortable in this position? Or would you like me help you move around to a different one?"
"Squat" Sandra answers between quick exhales. Lin motions for me to come over so that we can support Sandra from both sides as she slowly rises to a sit, gets her legs under her, turns to face the back of the bed, holds on to the railing, and finally sinks into a deep squat.
It's certainly effective - within a few contractions the baby descends fully - but then Sandra can't keep the position; her thigh muscles are shaking, and Lin quietly advises her to lower her knees to the mattress.
Once she does, though, she doesn't need our support - and she turns back to hiss between gritted teeth - "let me be, please, don't touch me right now" - and so I find myself tucked in the corner, watching my wife groan loudly and then scream with every push.
I wish I could do something to help; to ease her pain. I've never felt so useless in my life.
"Oooohhh here it comes, here it comes...!"
Sandra's low moan sounds ethereal and I watch, fascinated, as every muscle in her torso contracts in a coordinated ripple, engulfing her body, and then she throws her head back and roars - she actually roars - while the midwife places her hands at her opening.
"Ohmygod it burns, it burns so much...!"
This one comes out as a miserable whine, and the midwife does something - I can't see from where I'm standing - and speaks to her in a low voice.
"That's right, it burns, I know... don't stop pushing, push-push-push as long as you can... keep pushing... a little more... there you go! Atta girl! The head is out! Good girl, you did so well!"
Sandra blows heavily and I can see that half-smile on her face that I love so much. She tries looking down but can't see the baby's head beyond her still-huge belly. Lin rests a reassuring hand on her tense shoulder.
"You're doing great, Sandra. When the next one comes I want you to push a long one again."
The midwife looks up to catch my eyes and gives me an encouraging, confident smile and I can suddenly breathe easier.
Then the next contraction comes and Sandra growls low and long as she pushes with all of her might. Both she and Lin seem frozen in place, and then suddenly there's a rush of movement as Sandra screams 'Ohmygod-ohmygod-ohmygaawwwddd!' and then the baby is out - he's out! - and the midwife quickly clears his airways and rubs him vigorously with the towel.
I watch the process, transfixed, from my place in the corner, when Sandra's hoarse voice sounds from the bed.
"Why - why isn't he crying?"
My heart stutters as I turn my frantic eyes to Lin, but the midwife calmly picks our baby up, and then spanks on his bottom in a well-practiced move. A second later we hear his strong, healthy cry.
Lin smiles knowingly. "Sometimes it's necessary, for them to figure out how to start their new lives," she says, soothing the baby's stinging buttocks with a soft caress, and then motions for me to come forward.
"Help your wife sit back so that I can hand her the baby."
Sandra half-collapses to her side and then rolls to her back, and I help her scoot up so that she is propped against the tilted backrest, a pillow supporting her head. Lin steps forward and gently places our still-naked, newborn son in his mother's arms, and then draws the sheet up to cover both of them.
"The skin-to-skin touch is very good for both mom and baby" Lin says to the room at large, and Sandra nods absentmindedly, her teary eyes riveted to the tiny, wrinkled face lying against her breast, looking up at her through puffy eyelids.
Lin moves back, and motions for me to take her place. "Go on, Daddy. Say hello to your son."
I step forward and then bend low to take a close look at my son's face. His eyes are closed now and I swear, never in all of mankind's history has there ever been a more perfect baby.
"God, he's beautiful."
"He is, isn't he?" Sandra beams at me, and I lean to kiss her forehead.
"You are too, baby. I'm in awe, seriously."
Her exuberant grin widens even as her chin trembles.
"I love you." She squeaks out, and my own cheeks are wet when I lean for a sweet, tender kiss.
"I love you, too."
In that moment our baby's eyes blink open, and he looks up at us. I laugh out loud.
"You, too, Antonis Theodore Moreno. Mommy and Daddy love you, too."
~ The End ~
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Feb 13, 2018 in romance