•._.•´¯`•._.•´¯`•._.•´¯`•._.• epilogue •._.•´¯`•._.•´¯`•._.•´¯`•._.•
Paul drained the bottle of water, tossed it to the ground, and wiped the sweat from his face with a bandana. He and Rachel had finally gotten enough money together to buy the materials to replace the roof on his little house. He didn’t mind furnishing the labor to save as much money as possible. Steel roofs were expensive, but he wanted something that would last.
He didn’t even mind sweating like a horse. Much. It was cloudy, it wasn’t raining, and there was a good breeze.
He was grateful to the guys for helping him, and they were all learning a lot from Sam. When it was time to replace a roof on the next house, Paul would be right there with the know-how to help them.
“I really like the grey,” Rachel called from the front yard. “It looks good with the dark red shutters we put up.”
“Grey for me, red for you.” Paul winked at her.
“Do any of you need more water?”
Sam yelled from the back of the house, “Lunch in twenty. Emily’s bringing over some stuff.”
“It’s only ten o’clock!” Rachel said, laughing.
Leah peered over the peak. “We started at five! Besides, I’m starving.”
Rachel sighed and shook her head. “I sure know how that is. Paul, do you want a snack? Paul? What’s the matter?”
He was staring down the gravel driveway toward the road, disbelief written all over his face. He dropped his drill and it slid down the corrugated metal, skittered along the porch roof, and tipped over the edge. He didn’t even notice that Rachel had caught it.
He was gaping at the woman walking up his driveway. She was as beautiful as he remembered. Her long black hair was shiny and full. It fell over her shoulders like waves of satin. She was a bit heavier than she had been the last time he’d seen her, but that had been a year ago, and she did just have a baby three months before.
Paul scrubbed at his eyes with his fists. He had thought he’d never see her again. He didn’t know what to think. He shoved his bandana in his pocket and jumped off the roof, landing next to a stunned Rachel.
Jared came around the side of the house, carrying another long sheet of metal for the roof and nearly dropped it when he saw who was walking up the driveway. “Hey, Sam! Leah! Rebecca’s here. She brought the baby!”
With her head hung low, Rebecca walked hesitantly toward her sister and Paul, hugging her sleeping daughter to her chest.
“Bec, why didn’t you tell us you were coming to visit? We would have picked you up at the airport.” Rachel looked into her twin’s eyes. “What’s wrong? Is Sara sick? Is something wrong?”
“No, no. Sara’s not sick. She’s perfect.” Tears spilled over her cheeks as she kissed her baby’s forehead. “She’s beautiful and perfect, and …” Her voice faded out, unable to force any more words through the tight knot in her throat.
Rachel jabbed the speechless Paul in the ribs with her elbow. “Paul! Go get a blanket out of the linen closet. We’re going to go sit under that tree over there.”
Before the two young women reached the tree, Paul was back with two patchwork quilts, a pillow, a box of tissues, and three bottles of water. He spread out one quilt and made a little nest with the other for the sleeping baby. “If you want to put her down, I made a … But if you want to hold her, I, uh … I brought a pillow,” he stammered. “If you want to … to hold her, you can rest your arms on it. And I brought you Kleenex and some water, in case you’re thirsty, and—”
“Paul! Take the diaper bag.” Rachel lifted the straps from her sister’s shoulder and handed the bag to him, and then she helped the young mother sit down. She adjusted the pillow on her lap and dropped down beside her. “Sit, Paul.” Exasperated with him, she rolled her eyes and turned back to her sister. “Becca, she is so beautiful. She’s got the sweetest little face. The pictures you emailed just don’t do her justice,” Rachel cooed as she reached to touch baby Sara’s head. “Her hair is as soft as silk.” Rachel sighed and tilted her head to look in her sister’s tear-filled eyes. “Now tell me what’s wrong.”
Paul cleared his throat. “Uh, how long are you going to be here?” Was she only going to be there for a short time? He frantically hoped she would be there for more than a short visit.
“Paul!” Rachel smacked him on the arm. “She can stay as long as she likes.” She widened her eyes at him, showed him her teeth, and then put a pleasant smile on her face before turning back to her distraught sister. “Now, what’s going on?”
Rachel noticed that Sam had corralled Leah and Jared and herded them into the house. When Emily’s little blue car came bumping up the driveway, Sam darted out of the house to meet her and help her carry stuff inside. Her eyes were full of questions, but Sam directed her into the house and quietly closed the door.
“You got a tattoo?” Rebecca asked weakly as she sniffled.
Narrowing her eyes at Paul’s smirk, Rachel sighed and huffed loudly. “Yeah. I got the stupid tattoo.” She pushed up her sleeve and looked down her arm. “It’s not so bad. I guess. Now … about you?”
Rebecca dabbed at her eyes and wiped her nose. “Well, the best thing to do …” She sniffed again. “The best thing is to just spill it.” She took in a deep breath, trying to gather some strength. “When I got back home last year, I told Sol I was pregnant because he didn’t know I was pregnant yet … and … and I told him everything.” Her eyes flicked up to Paul and dropped again. “Well, everything except for the imprinting. I didn’t tell him about that.” She dabbed at her tears again and brushed her hair out of her face. “He didn’t seem real happy about the pregnancy—we hadn’t planned it, but I thought he would come around. The stuff about the wolves kind of blew his mind. He thought Cold Ones were vampires or zombies. He heard a few of the legends when … when we were dating.”
Rachel reached over and rubbed her arm to give her as much encouragement as she could.
“Well, then the bigger I got, the more he seemed to pull away, but I thought maybe it was just me being sensitive with the hormones, but it wasn’t that.” Rebecca pulled another tissue from the box. “Like I told you, Rach, he was in the delivery room with me, and I thought once he saw her things would be different, but they weren’t.” She swallowed thickly. “He kept looking at her like she was … like there was something wrong with her and there’s not! She perfect and beautiful, and so sweet and …” She burst into tears again.
Without thinking, Paul shifted until he was next to Rebecca and put his arm around her, tucking her head under his chin. “She is beautiful, Rebecca. She’s the prettiest baby I’ve ever seen. It was a great idea to name her after your mother. Sara Christina is a … is a beautiful name.” Paul ran his fingertips over Sara’s wispy hair. “Her hair is as pretty as yours and Rachel’s. She’s beautiful.”
Rachel grabbed a few more tissues and handed them to Rebecca before wiping the tears from her own eyes. “Did he kick you out? I’ll get on the next plane and kill him.”
“Get in line.” Paul’s voice was a low rumble.
“No!” Rebecca wailed. “I left, but—”
Rachel told hold of her sister’s hand. “You did the right thing. Nothing is more important than that precious little girl. You and Sara are staying with us. I’ll clean my stuff out of my room and—”
“No, Rach,” Paul said insistently. “They should have my room—it’s bigger. I don’t have a problem with sleeping on the couch. You know I can sleep anywhere.”
“No shit. He can fall asleep leaning in a corner.” Rachel grumbled.
Rebecca blew her nose and peeked up at them both. “You have separate rooms? You don’t share? I thought …”
“Uh, no.” Paul answered her, looking uncomfortable. “We don’t … I mean, we’re not … uh, we never—”
“Paul—eloquent as ever. What he’s trying to stutter out is we are not together. We are not a couple. We haven’t ever been, and that’s the way we want it.” Rachel leaned into her twin, wrapped her arm around her back, and patted Paul on his side. “We decided to live together because we’re both wolves and sometimes we have different shifts. Things can get a little crazy. But we won’t disturb the baby!” she quickly added to reassure her sister. “It’s an arrangement that works well for us. We’ve been fixing up the house bit by bit and …” Her voice trailed away. Then she looked up at Paul. “I guess we’ll really have to add that room and another bathroom, instead of just talking about it.”
“We will.” Paul nodded at Rachel and then gently placed a finger under Rebecca’s chin and raised her face to look into her eyes. “I would love to have you and your daughter in my house. I’ll help you take care of her.”
Rachel raised one eyebrow. “We will help you take care of her. Paul and I have become really close, but you know I’ve been closer to you than anyone. No one means as much to me as you do. I’m so glad you came to us.” Rachel pressed her lips together and then gave her sister a little smile. “Have you been to see Dad?”
“No, I came here first,” Rebecca said with a hiccup. “But after everything I said last year … I was such a bitch.”
“It doesn’t matter.” Rachel leaned into her sister again. “Believe me. We’ve all been there. We’ve all said a few things in the … heat of the moment. You got a rental car, right? Where is it?”
“I left the car—”
“We’ll get the car for you.” Paul couldn’t resist tightening his hold around her. “Are Sara’s things in it?”
“A few. I shipped some things, and they should show up at Dad’s, but—” Tears began rolling down her face again. “Thank you so much! I didn’t know what we were going to do! I couldn’t afford to ship her furniture from Hawaii, and the plane tickets were so expensive, and Sol’s barely making it with the surf shop—we could barely pay our own bills, and—”
Paul slid his hand along Rebecca’s jaw and cheek and gazed into her eyes with determination. “I don’t give a flying fuck about Sol. We’ll work on getting you and Sara whatever you need.” He held her head to his chest, running his fingers through her hair, feeling content for what felt like the first time in his life. “We have a lot of news to catch up on, but it can wait. We need to get you settled.” He turned to the house. “Sam! Get the boys over here to clean out my room. See if anybody has a crib and a couple dressers they don’t need. Have one of the guys drive Rebecca’s car up here.”
“It’ll have to go back—” Rebecca began.
“We’ll take care of it,” Paul said against her hair. “Don’t worry.”
Sam came running out of the house, his face beaming. “Yes, sir, Mr. Lahote, sir!” he said with a salute. “I’ll get the car. The rest of them are already on their way. Jacob and Billy will be here soon.”
With all the loud voices around her, Sara began squirming in her mother’s arm and let out an annoyed wail.
“Shhh, Sara, it’s okay,” Rebecca crooned to her, lifting the baby to her shoulder. “It’s okay. You’ve been such a good girl.” She suddenly clutched the fussy infant to her chest and cried, “It’s okay, Sara. Everything is going to be okay.”
“Everything will be okay now,” Paul said with conviction. He ran his fingertips down over Sara’s little head and back and patted her, marveling at how tiny she was. “Here, let me see my pretty little girl.”