"You did what?" Jeremy heard Kate choke out, sounding half amused, half dismayed. He was sitting at his desk in the sitting room and she stood beside him, the picture of health and vitality in a black and white striped knit sweater and black leggings. Her beautiful face was awash with incredulity.
Nick grinned, flashing a certificate at them. "That's right, folks. You're looking at the newest ordained minister in Upstate New York."
Jeremy, who'd at that moment been more focused on his fiancé than on Nick, balked as he absorbed the words. "When did this happen?"
Staring at the sheet of paper he held in his hand, Nick had never looked more proud of himself. "This morning. At the bargain price of $32, it's one of the coolest things I've ever done online. Who knew it was this simple?"
"I can't believe you actually spent money on something that's probably not even legal," Clay piped up, shaking his head. He was lounging beside Elena on one of the couches.
"I don't appreciate your condescending tone, Clayton," Nick protested good-naturedly. "I'll have you know that this piece of paper is one hundred percent legit. It's the free ones you have to worry about."
Elena was laughing uproariously. "Seriously Nick. This takes the cake."
"Why did you do it?" Kate asked, still seemingly bemused.
Nick shrugged. "I figured you needed someone to perform the ceremony and who better than family?"
This is preposterous, Jeremy thought, eyeing the paper sceptically. "Are you sure that's legal?"
"Completely." Nick handed the certificate over for inspection.
It looked really professional, but Jeremy didn't know much about this kind of thing. "I don't know what to say," he replied, genuinely at a loss.
"That you accept, obviously?" When Jeremy and Kate continued to stare at him in silence, Nick planted both hands on the desk, leaning forward intently. "Come on. It's the perfect solution. No clinical, impersonal civil ceremony required. You can get hitched here, at Stonehaven with the whole pack present. How's that not a win?"
Jeremy and Kate had been engaged for just over a week and had talked at length about how they wanted to get married. In the end, since inviting an actual minister to Stonehaven was not an option, they'd settled on the registrar's office. Granted, Jeremy knew it wasn't really what Kate wanted despite her protests, but since there seemed no viable alternative, they'd made peace with it.
"Sorry, Nick," Clay said. "This is officially the worst idea you've ever had. And there have been many."
Rolling his eyes at his best friend, Nick looked at Elena pleadingly. "You agree with me, right? Think about it. You get to take some pretty pictures, decorate this place, go dress shopping with Kate…"
Elena's eyes lit up and Jeremy knew Nick had gained a supporter. "Maybe he has a point," she said grudgingly, a look of growing excitement spreading across her face.
"Come on!" Clay scoffed, in disbelief.
"Nick," Jeremy started, his tone laced with apology. "I don't think—"
"Jeremy, please," he interrupted, all trace of humour suddenly gone. "Look, I know everyone thinks I take very few things seriously and they'd probably be right. But my father was your best friend and if he were alive right now, I don't doubt that he'd have been the one insisting that he do this for you. I'm his son. He'd want this. He'd want me to do it on his behalf. Please."
Silence greeted his words. Even Clay didn't have any disparaging remarks to make – probably because none of them had ever seen Nick so determined. Closing his eyes, Jeremy pinched the bridge of his nose. This was insane. Nick, playboy extraordinaire, officiating their wedding? Nothing was more laughable.
He glanced up at Kate just as she looked down at him. Sympathy lurked in the depths of her gorgeous green eyes. Nick had clearly gotten to her too.
"Let's do it," she whispered, lifting a hand and threading it through the back of his hair.
In his periphery, he could see Nick perk up, but Jeremy's eyes searched Kate's, questioning. "Are you sure?"
She nodded, smiling. "If Nick can guarantee that he won't botch it, then I have no objections."
Nick whooped, slapping his palms against the desk in triumph while Clay groaned loudly from across the room. "This is going to end badly."
Elena poked her fiancé in the ribs before hopping up. "I'll take care of everything. Have you guys set a date?" Jeremy opened his mouth, but Elena kept talking. "I was thinking—"
"What about custom vows? Maybe—" Nick asked.
Clay stood up. "I can't believe this is—"
"Stop talking!" Jeremy bellowed and everyone ground to an immediate halt. Amused, he looked at his family. "Kate and I need to a moment. Do you mind, please?"
Clay looked relieved while Elena and Nick's faces wore identical expressions of disappointment. "We'll be in the kitchen," his daughter-in-law said as she followed Clay from the room.
Finally alone, Jeremy turned to Kate. "You're really okay with all of this?"
She laughed. "I don't think we have much of a choice, do we?" Jeremy pushed his chair back and she moved to sit in his lap, one arm anchored around his neck. "Besides, I think Nick really wants to do this. Despite all the light hearted banter, it clearly means a lot to him."
Jeremy nodded. He'd been touched by the reminder of his best friend. Sure enough, had Antonio been alive, he would have insisted on marrying them. "So, a date."
Kate bit her lip, contemplating. "How long do you want to wait?"
"I don't. The sooner the better."
"Three weeks?" she asked tentatively.
"Done," he agreed instantly. Somehow he'd imagined having to wait much longer.
Grinning, she leaned down to kiss him. "Since when are you this agreeable?"
"Since three weeks is a heck of an improvement on three months," he replied, stealing another kiss. Their lips clung, both of them savouring the moment.
Kate pulled back, her breathing a little heavier, her lips a pretty pink. "Wait. Are you okay with this? If you'd prefer that we stick to our original plan and just go down to the registrar's office, I won't mind."
Jeremy smiled. "Kate, I know you. Deep down, that's not what you want."
"But this isn't only about me and what I want. It's your wedding day, too. What do you want?"
God, he loved her. "I want you to be happy. And a proper wedding is what's going to ensure that."
Her smile was radiant. "Thank you," she said, her forehead touching his.
"Don't thank me yet. You don't know Elena as well as I do. She's going to go all out."
Kate laughed, hugging him tightly. "I can't wait."
His lips twitching, Jeremy reached up and pushed the dark strands of her hair back from her face. "Should we let them out of their misery?"
Nodding eagerly, Kate gave him another swift kiss before leaping out of his lap. Together, they went to tell the others.
Three weeks later in preparation for their wedding day, Stonehaven was transformed. The sitting room had been cleared and in its place was a single row of white chairs, separated down the middle by a red carpet. At the back of the room was a sideboard laden with drinks and canapés that would later be replaced with a spread of foods to feed the newlyweds and their guests. A few feet in front of entrée laden sideboard stood a long dining table and chairs elegantly adorned with white and silver tableware. Before the fireplace was a beautiful arch of flowers, a mix of buttery calla lilies and sprinkles of baby's breath that Elena had insisted was necessary for the ceremony.
Upstairs, Elena had just left after taking a bunch of photographs, leaving Kate alone for the first time in hours. Nervously eyeing her reflection in the long mirror in the bedroom that was now as much hers as Jeremy's, she took a deep breath. After their engagement she'd officially moved in and given her landlady notice. The following week she'd gone back to work. Returning to some form of normalcy after everything that had happened over the past month had felt wonderful.
"You look beautiful," a soft voice whispered from behind.
Kate turned in the direction of the familiar voice and smiled at her best friend. Jeremy, knowing how much it would mean to her, had told her it was okay to invite Sara to the wedding. Because Stonehaven was full to bursting with the entire pack home for the festivities, her friend had opted to stay in the house Kate had been renting in town. The ideal situation.
Gorgeous in her long, strapless navy blue bridesmaid's gown, Sara was tall and slim, her thick head of chestnut curls tied back into an elegant knot. Her blue eyes were a little wary as they watched Kate, the friends having been at odds since her arrival the day before. There was an undeniable tension between them, one Kate knew was completely her fault. Sara was hurt and upset that she'd literally been the last one of learn of Kate's pregnancy and upcoming marriage and couldn't understand why there'd been the need to keep any of it a secret. For her part, Kate wished she could tell her best friend the truth, but if she hoped to keep her alive, that was not an option.
"Thank you," Kate replied, turning back to stare at herself in the mirror. "It was Elena's pick."
Sara closed the door and moved to stand beside her.
The empire style gown in a flowy ivory chiffon with lace cap sleeves hugged her breasts and fell in soft folds across her growing belly before cascading down towards the floor. The choice had been an easy one since the style had been simple, flattering and comfortable, the only criteria Kate had insisted upon. Her hair was swept back into a low bun, held in place by a diamond pin that had once belonged to her mother. Overall, she looked radiant, elegant and stylish.
"Elena's got great taste," Sara said with a soft smile. "I can't believe you're about to get married. We've talked about this moment so many times over the years."
Kate turned towards her friend. "Sara—"
They laughed, diffusing some of the tension.
"Let me go first," Sara said, grasping Kate's hands in hers. "I know things have been strained between us since I arrived and I'm sorry if I've put a damper on what's supposed to be a really happy time. I just—" She stopped and Kate knew her well enough to know she was searching for the right words. "I don't understand why you never told me that you'd met someone. Jeremy seems really nice – if a little intense for my personal taste - and it's obvious that he's crazy in love with you. I guess I didn't think when you left LA to move here that you'd be cutting me out of your life."
Kate shook her head. "That's not what I meant to do. Sara, you're the closest thing I've ever had to a sister and I love you like one. Things with Jeremy just happened. So fast. We were barely together when I found out I was pregnant and between figuring out what we meant to each other and deciding whether or not I wanted to have a child right now, I guess life got in the way." Her eyes welled with tears. "If I'm honest, I think a part of me was a little scared that I'd be disappointing you."
"What?" Sara gasped. "No. All I've ever wanted was your happiness and if Jeremy makes you feel that way, then I have no objections. But there are what? Six people here? No colleagues, no friends from back home. In fact, I'm the only one who's apparently not family. That doesn't strike me as…well, normal."
"You're my family," Kate insisted, not knowing how else to respond. She couldn't very well tell Sara that they were a pack of wolves and outsiders weren't allowed.
"Again, you're not answering the question," Sara sighed, looking dejected.
"Sara, Jeremy and I just want to be married. If it were up to us, we would have done it at the registrar's office. It was his family who insisted on having something a little more inclusive. There is no mystery here, I promise." She hated lying, but she didn't have any other choice.
Sara regarded her closely, her pale blue eyes clouded with concern. "Are you sure that's all? You know you can tell me anything."
I wish I could. "Positive. Everything's fine."
Sara exhaled slowly, her shoulders relaxing. "Alright. I am happy for you, you know."
Kate breathed a sigh of relief. "I know."
They hugged tightly.
"Now," Sara said, reaching for a tissue on the nightstand. "Enough crying. You don't want to look a mess when you walk down the aisle. Although, the way that gorgeous man of yours looks at you, I swear he'd marry you regardless of some smudged mascara."
Kate laughed, her insides flooding with warmth. "He is beautiful, isn't he?"
Sara reached for Kate's bouquet of lilies. "Like I said, a little too intense for me, but I can definitely see the appeal."
Giggling, Kate accepted her flower arrangement. She could hear someone approaching the room and seconds later there was a knock on the door.
"Kate, are you ready? Nick wants to start."
"I'll be right out, Clay," she called, taking one final look at her reflection.
"Which reminds me," Sara said. "That guy is no minister. Did you see the amount of product on his hair? It's unnatural."
Kate rolled her eyes. "His father was Jeremy's best friend and he got certified just so he could marry us. Be nice," she warned, knowing Sara's aversion to men she regarded as womanisers. "Nick is a sweetheart."
Sara looked unconvinced. "Regardless, I hope you've made sure it's actually legal. Since I arrived, I've spent a total of fifteen minutes in his company and I can already tell that he's never serious."
"Trust me, he gives individual circumstances the appropriate level of gravity."
Sara snorted. "Whatever, it's irrelevant. You picked the right guy."
Studying her friend's scowling reflection in the mirror, Kate decided to ignore Sara's irrational aversion to Nick for the moment. "Am I good to go?"
"You're perfect," Sara said, giving her tiny bump an affectionate pat before leaning over for a quick hug. "I'll see you downstairs."
Opening the bedroom door, Sara brushed past Clay, handsome in a navy blue suit. He looked at Kate and smiled, offering his arm. "Jeremy's a lucky man."
Kate flushed with pleasure. Her relationship with Jeremy's son had come a long way. When she'd asked if he'd walk her down the aisle, she wasn't certain he'd agree. But in the end, he'd been only too happy.
She nodded, accepting his arm before traversing the length of the hallway and then heading down the stairs. At the base, they paused, listening to the instrumental version of a popular romantic ballad as Sara entered the sitting room ahead of them.
Taking a deep breath Kate looked up at Clay when he squeezed her hand encouragingly. His smile steadied her nerves.
Finally, they set off. Stepping onto the crimson walkway she saw the faces of all the people she'd grown to love over the past few months. To the left of the aisle, standing as she passed by was Elena, camera in hand as she snapped away. To the right was Logan and Rachel, the latter looking radiant in the final stages of pregnancy. Ahead of her she saw Sara, standing off to one side and then…
He was striking in a three-piece navy blue suit, crisp white shirt and matching navy tie. When their eyes locked she saw the emotion in his, her own eyes welling with tears for a second time that day. Upon reaching the front of the floral arch, she handed her bouquet to Sara, before facing the man she'd love for the rest of her life. Their eyes conveying what no words adequately could, together, they turned towards Nick.
Despite his concerns, the ceremony had been beautiful and Nick had done a fantastic job. Once the formalities had concluded and Jeremy had thoroughly kissed his new bride, everyone rushed forward to congratulate them. In the midst of all the well-wishes, Elena and Rachel had quickly cleared the canapés away and filled the sideboard with platters of steaming food. Before either Jeremy or Kate had a chance to catch their breath, they were being steered towards their seats and instructed to eat.
"Any plans for a honeymoon?" Logan asked between bites of warm buttered bread.
Jeremy shook his head. "Unfortunately not. Work demands need to be met," he replied, aware that they couldn't say too much in Sara's presence.
"Surely the hospital will give you a few days off, at least?" Kate's friend asked, even as she watched Nick with wide eyes. The amount of roast lamb he'd piled on his plate could feed an entire human family.
"I've been off sick recently due to my pregnancy so I don't want to take advantage of my relationship with Dr Robinson," Kate explained and Jeremy knew it pained her to lie. "Also, I haven't accrued a large amount of vacation days. What I have I'd prefer to tack onto my maternity leave."
"Have you not eaten all year?" Sara burst forth, staring at Nick.
Nick, who had his fork midway to his mouth, glanced at her, his lips curling upward ever so slightly. Jeremy's brows rose when he watched the faint flush of colour sweep up Sara's neck. "Something like that," Nick replied with a wink that made her frown.
"How's your residency going?" Jeremy asked, hoping to distract his wife's friend.
Her frown lingered, but she turned to look at him. "Well, thank you. It's really only the start for me. I have some ways to go."
"But you enjoy it?" Elena asked.
"Very much," Sara replied.
"You must miss Kate?" Nick piped up, taking a sip from his wine glass.
"I do," came her honest response. "But she seems to have settled in here really well."
Jeremy reached for Kate's hand and brushed his lips against the back of her knuckles.
"Enough of that, you two," Logan joked. "We're trying to eat here."
"Ignore him," Rachel quipped, poking him in the ribs. "He could learn a thing or two."
"Ouch. If you're unhappy with him, Rachel, just let me know. I'd be happy to replace him," Nick teased.
Clay snorted. "Worst mistake you'll ever make."
Rachel grinned, placing a hand on Logan's shoulder. "Very generous of you, Nick. But I think I'll keep him."
"Smart move," Clay said with a smirk, joining in when everyone laughed.
"Happy?" Jeremy asked Kate while conversation flowed around them.
She nodded, her face aglow. "This day has been perfect."
"You're beautiful," he whispered, remembering the moment he'd seen her walking down the aisle towards him. He'd never been a possessive man, had never desired to have more than he'd been blessed with. But knowing Kate was his, just as he was hers had a power that was staggering. He'd never wanted anything as much as he wanted to spend his life with her and the fact that she felt the same never ceased to amaze him.
Watching as her cheeks bloomed with colour, he squeezed her hand tighter. A few more hours and they could finally be alone.
Without warning Clay got to his feet and reached for his wine glass. "I'd err…like to make a toast." He turned towards the couple, confident and self-assured and Jeremy felt a surge of pride. "When Jeremy met Kate I admit to having some reservations," he said sheepishly. "The truth is, we're not an easy bunch to get along with but Kate proved pretty early on that she could hold her own. Then as time passed it became apparent to me that they were made for each other, two halves of the same whole. Jeremy," he said, looking earnestly at his father. "I've never seen you so happy, so content and I honestly don't know of anyone who deserves it more. I wish you both a life together filled with love, health and happiness." He raised his glass. "To Jeremy and Kate."
While everyone lifted their glasses in salute, Clay leaned over to hug him and Jeremy embraced his son wholeheartedly, truly moved by his words. "Thank you."
Clay clapped him on the back before sitting down again, clearing his throat. "How about some dessert?"
Hours later Kate lay wrapped in her husband's arms, completely satisfied. Before them a fire blazed, its light casting a languid glow upon the bodies of the entwined lovers.
"Have I told you how beautiful you are?" Jeremy asked into the stillness.
Kate stirred. "About a dozen times, but I don't mind hearing it again."
She could feel his smile against her hair. "Then prepare yourself. You're going to be hearing it often."
Lifting her head, she placed a soft kiss on his lips. "Do you think everyone had a good time?"
"You couldn't tell?" he asked, amused.
She laughed. "They appeared to. Even Sara."
"Things seemed a little less tense between the two of you by the time she left this afternoon."
Kate propped her chin on her hands, leaning against Jeremy's chest. "We talked before the ceremony and I think we're going to be okay. She's hurt and I can understand why. I can't ever tell her the truth and that's hard."
He ran a finger down her cheek. "I'm sorry."
She shook her head. "You don't have to apologise, it's not your fault. You've been wonderful and having her here, even under the circumstances, has meant everything to me."
"I know. I thought since Logan had asked to bring Rachel that it would be a good opportunity to create an atmosphere that's as close to normal as we're likely to get for a while."
"What's going to happen to Logan, Jeremy? He won't leave Rachel and he won't take the baby from her either."
A shadow passed over her husband's face. "Despite being impressed by your survival, the Council wasn't receptive to my ideas about human mothers' and their roles in our society. I haven't given up, but it's going to take time for things to change."
"And in the meantime?" she asked, holding her breath.
"Logan's decided to leave the pack," he revealed, the pain evident in his tone.
"What?" Sitting up, Kate wrapped the sheet around her bare torso.
Following suit, Jeremy sat up against the headboard. "Living as a mutt is the only way he can keep his family together. If he stays, he might eventually be forced to submit to pack law. As much as I'd like him to stay, I would never want to place him in a position where he needs to choose between the pack and the woman he loves."
Kate placed a comforting hand on his shoulder, unable to imagine how difficult this was for Logan, for Jeremy, for the entire pack. "Will we ever see him again?"
"We'll keep in touch. The second things change, he'll be back."
"That's so sad," she whispered, thinking that could so easily have been them.
Jeremy reached out and pushed a strand of hair behind her ear. "But there's hope where there was none before. I can't say when, but I know Logan will return to Stonehaven. With Rachel and their son."
Kate nodded, thinking about how lucky they'd been. While she'd never view what Dimitri had done to her as a blessing, it was the one thing that meant she'd never be forced to leave Jeremy or give up their children.
"I have something for you."
Shaking off her melancholy train of thought, Kate watched as Jeremy slipped from beneath the covers and padded naked across the room. Admiring the toned lines of his body, she didn't immediately notice the large square he pulled from behind the cupboard until he walked back towards the bed and held it up for her inspection.
Hands hovering over the brown paper covering, she hesitated. "What is it?"
"Take a look," was all he said.
Moving to sit on her haunches, Kate tucked the sheet under her arms and tore at the brown paper, gasping when it finally fell away. Inside was an unframed portrait of her.
She recognised the moment he'd captured on canvas: the time she'd come to Stonehaven and met his family. When she'd left, he'd escorted her out and they'd almost kissed. With the sun behind her, his image had captured her interest, her curiosity and a hint of her confusion and vulnerability. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
"Is this how you see me?" she asked, floored.
He gave her a half smile. "It's how you are."
"When did you do this?" she asked, unable to tear her eyes away from her likeness.
"I started the day after this one," he said, jerking his head towards the painting. "I finished it just before Christmas and was going to give it to you then, but…things happened."
"Jeremy," she breathed, stunned. "It's beautiful."
"Then where would you like to put it?"
She glanced at him, wide eyed. "You want to hang it in the house?"
His eyes sparkled with humour. "Where else?"
"But you don't have portraits up anywhere. You have landscapes," she protested.
He shrugged. "I think we can make room for this one." He picked it up and placed it on the floor against the opposite wall before returning to the bed.
Rising onto her knees, Kate embraced him, her arms encircling his neck. "I love you so much," she whispered. "Sometimes I think about what my life would have been like if I'd never come to Bear Valley. We would never have met and honestly, the thought is unbearable."
His hands settled on her waist, his eyes seeking and finding hers. "I never believed in fate until I met you, so I think that even if you hadn't come here, we would have found each other, some way, somehow. We were meant to be together, meant to create life," he said, glancing down at her bourgeoning belly, his hands cupping the gentle swell. "I know it."
They kissed, a soft, sweet joining of lips, of hearts, of souls. Sinking slowly into the softness of the mattress as her husband settled between her thighs, their bodies moving together in perfect harmony, Kate gave herself up to a lifetime of loving and being loved by Jeremy Danvers.
1 Year Later
Turning into the driveway leading up to Stonehaven, Kate smiled. A lot had changed in a year and yet a lot had also remained the same. She was still working at the practice, but had scaled down to three days a week, since Jeremy needed time to work too, and secretly she wanted to spend as much time with the boys' as she could. They were growing so quickly and she didn't want to miss anything. For the most part, Clay, Elena and Nick were a big help, but Kate and Jeremy managed to juggle their careers, their family and their relationship without encroaching too much on the rest of the pack – not that they seemed to mind. Even Clay was only too happy to babysit if and when it was required.
When all was said and done, transitioning into a wolf had not been without its challenges, but it had also been the most rewarding time of her life. She had a husband who loved her without reservation, two sons she adored beyond measure and a career that was immensely satisfying. In short, she had it all and she took none of it for granted.
Parking her new Volvo beside the Land Rover, Kate grabbed her purse and headed towards the front door. It was a cold day, the snow falling persistently, blanketing the surroundings with a thick layer of white powder. Hurrying her footsteps, Kate was about to reach the front door when it was yanked open for her. Grateful, she rushed inside.
"Thank you, it's freezing outside," she said, unravelling her scarf from around her neck before unbuttoning her coat.
Her eyes fell on the table in the foyer and all the framed photographs resting on top of it. Amongst the old pictures she'd seen the first time she'd visited Stonehaven were now new ones of her and Jeremy on their wedding day, a group photograph with the entire pack and photos of the twins after they'd been born.
Turning, Kate saw Jeremy. Looking handsome in dark jeans, a check shirt and a dark waistcoat (she was certain she'd never seen a man look sexier in them), he approached her with quiet confidence. The gleam in his eyes made her insides quiver.
"We missed you," he breathed, his hands settling on her hips.
Forgetting her gloves as they fell to the ground, she stood on her toes and leaned against him, bringing their lips into perfect alignment. "The feeling is entirely mutual."
The kiss was deep and drugging, stirring the desire that never quiet died down between them. When they surfaced for air they were both breathing harder. "Where are they?" Kate asked, dropping a soft kiss on the end of Jeremy's nose.
His lips curled into a knowing smile before he jerked his head in the direction of the sitting room. Grinning, Kate shrugged out of her coat and handed it to him before hurrying inside. The room was warm, courtesy of the roaring fire in the grate, the remnants of Christmas decorations still scattered about, but Kate's full attention was commanded by the large play pen in the center of the room. Peeking over the mesh sides, she looked down into the cherubic faces of her sons amid a sea of stuffed animals and other toys.
At six months old, Finn Edward and Leo Antonio were lively and energetic babies. Weighing in at just over 6 pounds each at birth, they were both healthy and happy. With sandy blonde hair she was sure would darken to the same shade as their father's as they grew older, their blue eyes were a carbon copy of Jeremy's. When they saw her face appear overhead, their tiny arms and legs clad in adorable matching blue and white rompers, waved with excitement, their toothless grins making her heart melt.
"Hello, sweethearts. Mommy's home," she whispered, reaching for the twin closest to her. Lifting Leo into her arms, she kissed his chubby cheek, looking to Jeremy to pick up Finn. When he did, she leaned forward, planting little kisses against the other baby's temple. She missed them so much when she was at work. Her maternity leave had lasted for five months and the last four weeks back at the office had been both exciting and a tremendous struggle.
Leo nuzzled against the front of her shirt, a sure sign that he was hungry. Laughing softly, Kate moved towards one of the couches, unbuttoning her shirt once she was seated. Jeremy dropped down beside her, cradling Finn against his chest. After baring a swollen breast, the baby latched on instantly.
"So greedy," Jeremy said, unable to keep the note of pride from his voice.
Kate glanced at him, brow raised in amusement. "I know exactly who he takes after."
Jeremy gave her a slow smile. "I don't recall ever hearing any complaints."
Her cheeks heated at his mention of their passionate lovemaking. "That's because I have none."
His eyes took on that familiar smoulder that made her belly tighten in anticipation. His mouth descended towards hers, planting a gentle kiss on her lips.
"How was your day?" he asked, raising his head to grin at the baby cooing in his lap. Watching Jeremy with their children never failed to affect her emotions in the most primal way. He adored them and showered them with so much love and attention.
"Long," she replied, smiling at Finn who was blowing bubbles at his father. "In fact, that's something I wanted to talk to you about."
Jeremy's blue eyes, so like their sons', focussed on her. "Is everything okay?"
Kate nodded. "Dr Robinson came to see me today. He's thinking about retiring and he wants me to purchase the practice."
Surprise registered on Jeremy's face. "Retiring? He's still quite young, isn't he?"
"Seventy may be young for you, Danvers, but the good doctor is but a mere mortal," she quipped, her voice filled with mirth.
"Point taken," he replied, with a smirk. "Is it something you want to do?"
Kate shrugged, hugging her son closer to her chest. "Right now I'm happy working three days a week. If I become the owner, I could continue doing that if I found the right person to employ fulltime."
Jeremy nodded. "That's definitely a plus."
"The reality is that we're wolves, Jeremy. I don't want to risk having a newcomer sweep in and dictate how I can and cannot work. If I don't get along with the new owner, I might decide to leave but I do want to continue working. I'm just worried that—"
"Kate," Jeremy interjected. "Slow down."
She exhaled, smiling sheepishly. "Sorry." Reaching between them she tapped Finn's nose playfully, unable to stop herself from laughing when he gurgled in delight. "Bottom line, I think the benefits of taking Dr Robinson up on his offer outweigh the negatives. I can deal with staffing issues as they crop up."
Jeremy's free hand reached out to grasp hers. "If you're sure it's what you want, then I support you."
Her face softened as she looked at her husband. Since she'd gone back to work, Jeremy had been the one taking care of their children without complaint. He'd been wonderful and his support and encouragement meant everything to her. Kate curled her fingers around his. "Thank you."
"Swap?" Jeremy asked affectionately, when he noted that Leo was asleep at his mother's breast and Finn was becoming restless.
Exchange complete, Kate placed Finn to her opposite breast while Jeremy laid the sleeping baby down in the play pen.
He had to admit he enjoyed these quiet family moments when they were alone with the boys. Not that it wasn't fun having everyone around, family was important after all, but when the noise died down after a long day and he got to sit with his wife and children and savour the silence, those were the times he felt most at peace.
Peering down into the face of his sleeping son, he marvelled at how much the child resembled him, how much they both did. It was uncanny to look at his children and see himself reflected in their faces.
"They're growing so fast," he said, moving to rejoin Kate on the couch.
"I know," she lamented. "Before we know it they're going to be walking."
"Nick's living for the day." His best friend's son was full of mischief and Jeremy could only imagine the types of shenanigans he'd put the twins up to.
"Speaking of Nick," Kate said, glancing at him. "Before everyone gets here for dinner and it slips my mind - have you noticed something going on between him and Sara?"
Jeremy raised a brow. "Other than the constant arguments?"
Kate rolled her eyes, her lips twitching. "If you haven't realised that's a worrying form of foreplay, you're not as astute as I thought."
He laughed. "I admit that the two occasions Sara has been here, I've been more concerned with keeping her away from areas she shouldn't be venturing into, than questioning Nick's eagerness to keep her entertained."
"I know she suspects something, Jeremy," Kate said, running a finger across the drinking baby's cheek.
He wrapped an arm around her and she leaned back against him. "If it was safe to tell her, you know I'd encourage you to."
"I know," she replied regrettably. "But after what happened to me, we can't risk it."
"I understand why the deception is hard for you."
Kate shook her head. "I'm not resentful about it I just wish I didn't have to hide a huge part of my life from my best friend."
"Do you think there could be genuine feelings between her and Nick?" He remembered the strange exchange between the two on their wedding day.
"No, I don't think so. I mean, they've barely seen one another since we got married. Maybe I'm just being paranoid. I don't want to discourage her, but—"
He understood. "You don't want her to get hurt."
Kate turned slightly towards him and Jeremy noticed that Finn had also fallen asleep. "I love her like a sister and I want her to have what we have – love, acceptance, understanding, equal partnership. Same goes for Nick. After everything he's been through, he deserves to be happy, Jeremy. But any relationship between them, it's dangerous."
No one knew more than they did what the consequences of a human and a wolf falling in love could lead to. Thankfully, Kate was alive and well, they couldn't guarantee the same for someone else. "Well, she's in California and he's here. Right now, they don't see one another often enough to cause any concern. Besides, we're merely speculating. They may genuinely dislike one another."
Kate sighed. "I guess we'll see what happens." Gently disengaging the sleeping infant from her breast, she adjusted her clothing and then stood to lay him down beside his brother.
Their birth had been a stressful time for Jeremy. Afraid that the pain of labour might cause Kate to transform, they'd decided that the best birthing option would be an elective caesarean. That way, her pain would be completely controlled and the risks of a change practically eliminated. That hadn't made Jeremy any less anxious. Hospitals were a dangerous place for wolves, but having twins meant that it couldn't be avoided. They had, however, taken every possible precaution. Kate had delivered in a New York hospital where a wolf from a neighbouring pack worked and agreed to accompany them into theatre in order to ensure that nothing they didn't want detected came to light. Afterward, all Kate's medical records had been destroyed.
His hope that pack law would evolve to include mothers was slow in coming, but at least the notion was no longer being met with outright negativity. There were now a few factions who supported Jeremy's cause and he hoped that in time Logan would be able to return to Stonehaven with his son, Peter, as well as Rachel.
"This is not where I thought I'd be a year and a half ago," Jeremy said, staring into the faces of his sleeping children. His life was so different from the one he'd lead prior to meeting Kate.
Kate smiled. "Oh, I remember our first meeting like it was yesterday. You were so polite, so controlled." She turned towards him. "You have no idea what effect this—" She ran her hands over the front of his waistcoat, "had on my hormones. Well, still has on my hormones actually."
His lips curling up at the ends, Jeremy wrapped his arms around his wife. "It's an item of clothing."
Kate shook her head, her eyes filled with laughter. "It's all about how you look in said item of clothing."
Chuckling, he gathered her close, his eyes focused on her rosy lips. "If it works for you…"
She leaned up to kiss him just as they heard a car coming up the driveway. "That's Nick," Kate said with a groan.
Jeremy cocked his head to the side. "And Clay and Elena."
Giving him a saucy wink, she stepped out of his arms. "You'll have to wait until later, Danvers." At his exaggerated sigh, she laughed. "Come on, let's welcome our family home."
Jeremy had always imagined himself happy. But as he watched his wife as she rushed forward to hug his son and daughter-in-law, he realised that he'd never truly known the meaning of the word until he'd met Kate, until he'd fallen in love with her. Together, they would share a future and raise their children. He'd be able to be for them - supportive, nurturing, loving – all the things his own father had never been able to be for him.
And who knew, he thought with a smile, his heart full to bursting, there might even be more children to come.