"Another push," the doctor ordered.
Claire moaned quietly before leaning forward to push as the doctor instructed. She gripped my hand tightly. Thank God I had wolf strength, otherwise I had a feeling my hand would be broken by now.
Claire's labor had progressed too quickly. The doctor hadn't been able to give her an epidural and she was doing it naturally. I wrapped my arm around her back to help support her.
"The shoulders are out now," the doctor told us. "You're doing great Claire. One more push."
Tears ran down Claire's cheeks. I could barely stand the pain she was in. Her pain was my pain, and I felt sick every time she had even the slightest ache. I was never, ever going to put Claire through this again.
Claire made a sobbing noise and her face showed strain as she pushed one more time. Seconds later the air was filled with the sound of a newborn's cry. The doctor held the baby up for us to see.
"Say hello to your daughter," he told us before placing the baby on Claire's stomach.
I was given scissors to cut the umbilical cord. My daughter opened her eyes and looked at me suspiciously as though she knew I was about to cut off her food supply.
I could hardly take my eyes off of her to see what I was doing. Aside from her mother, she was the most beautiful girl I had ever seen in my life. I was instantly in love with her and knew she already had me wrapped around her incredibly tiny finger.
The nurse took the baby away to clean her up and weigh and measure her. Our daughter was soon returned, wrapped in a blanket, and placed in Claire's arms. Claire was still crying, only this time with tears of joy.
"Isn't she perfect Quil?" Claire said, as she held our daughter to her breast to feed her.
"Almost as perfect as you." I told her before leaning in close to whisper in Claire's ear, "I love you…thank you for our daughter."
Claire turned her head so that her lips brushed mine. "I love you too," she said before kissing me more firmly.
We broke away and I looked down at our baby and picked up her small hand, running my thumb across it. She was a miniature of Claire, right down to her caramel brown hair. But her eyes were shaped like mine. She was incredibly beautiful. Even if she wasn't my child, I would have thought the same thing.
Leaning down, I kissed my daughter's head and whispered, "Welcome to the world, Kayley Nicole."
After a while, I left Claire to tell everyone the news. I walked into the waiting room and looked around at my family. Both my parents and Claire's parents were waiting for an update, along with Claire's maternal grandparents, Roger and Eva, my grandfather, Quil Sr., Claire's siblings, Nick and Cora, my sister Kya and her husband, and Sam, Emily, Nate, and Gracie.
"It's a girl!" I boasted proudly.
Cheers erupted as everyone came over to congratulate me. I knew I was grinning like an idiot but I didn't care. Knowing that both Claire and our daughter were healthy and safe was all I could ever ask for.
Our families stuck around for an hour, cooing when they saw Kayley, and giving hugs to Claire and me. Claire soon couldn't put off sleeping any longer and the family quickly dispersed. A nurse came in and took Kayley to the nursery.
I stayed with Claire, pulling up a chair next to the bed so that I could hold her hand as she slept. I kissed her soft palm several times and just marveled at her…my Claire…the mother of my child. I couldn't believe our daughter was here! I couldn't wait to get them both home.
We had decided to add on to our house instead of move. That house had too many memories for us. It was the place where I met Claire for the first time when she was only two, where we shared our first passionate kiss during her prom. And it was where we made love for the first time.
Jared, Paul, and Sam all helped with the add-on as they had construction experience, and we now had a spacious master bedroom and bath in addition to a second bedroom…just in case we wanted more kids down the road. And after seeing my daughter, I wanted more…lots more. I'd just have to make sure the doctor knocked Claire out first the next time she went into labor so she didn't feel any pain.
A few hours later they brought Kayley in so that Claire could feed her again. I climbed up on the bed and wrapped Claire in my arms as she cradled our daughter. I watched Kayley suckle hungrily at her mother's breast.
Claire winced, "Well, she seems to have her father's appetite."
I laughed, but I couldn't look away from the vision of mother and child. Claire finally stopped feeding Kayley and burped her before cuddling her close. As I stared at Claire, I couldn't help but reflect on my life with her so far.
When Claire was younger, I could never envision that this day would happen. When she became an unruly teenager, I still couldn't picture this day in my head. And after I fell in love with her, I could only dream that we'd someday reach this stage in our lives. And it finally happened. I had everything I ever wanted all because of the woman in my arms.
My thoughts were interrupted by the arrival of my pack brothers. Nate came back in and brought Azra and Seth with him. They deemed her cute, but scrawny. Next came Lindsey and Collin. Lindsey fussed and said she wanted a baby too. When they left, Collin had a slightly dazed expression on his face. Devlin and Brady came in next. Kayley opened her eyes and looked warily at the newcomers who were interrupting her sleep.
Devlin looked at my daughter and said, "Uh..she's cute, I guess…you know…for a baby."
I rolled my eyes at the teen. Cute? That's all he could come up? Cute didn't do her justice.
I looked over at Brady and froze. He had his mouth hanging open as he stared at Kayley who was staring right back at him. He looked like he had been hit over the head with a sledgehammer.
"Shit!" I swore softly.
"Quil!" Claire objected, covering one of Kayley's little ears with her palm.
"Sorry," I apologized before turning back to glare at Brady. Claire followed my gaze.
"Did he just…"
"Yeah," I told her. Devlin snorted and quickly left the room. Brady didn't move.
"But she's only a few hours old." Claire replied.
"Yep," I responded before looking over at Claire to see how she was handling everything. Was she freaking out?
"Well…here we go again." Claire said before laughing softly. She looked at me and leaned over to kiss my lips. "Quil, has anyone ever told you that you worry too much?"
I watched as my wife brought Kayley in close so that she could kiss our daughter on the forehead.
"Kayley love, you may have to deal with an early imprint…" Claire said, before staring at me in a way that made my heart catch.
Smiling, she looked back down at our child and whispered softly, "Take it from me though…you couldn't ask for anything better."
I've had an incredible time writing this story, and I thank all of you who stuck with it for so long. It meant a lot that you were so supportive, especially when it came to the "sexual assault" part of the story. That was really difficult to write, and I know I lost some readers with it, so I really appreciate those of you who stayed with the story for so long and also those who continuously commented on it. This story ended up being a lot bigger than I anticipated. I never imagined I'd get the response this has story received. I also never planned for the story to be as long as it was. It turned into the size of a small book, lol. Quil and Claire have been a huge part of my life for four months now. I'm really sad that the story is over, but now it's time to focus on Embry.
Now, about Embry's story…the only way for me to write the story so that it fit the timeframe of Quil's story was to divide it into two parts. Part I will cover what you think you learned in Quil's story. There were a lot of things that happened to Embry after he imprinted that I was deliberately evasive about. Part II will pick up around the time of Quil's wedding. So here are some questions for you to ponder in the meantime:
1) Right after Embry imprinted he started sleeping around. How did he deal with the physical pain that caused him?
2) What is Embry's mystery job? Is he a gigolo?
3) How will Embry find happiness when his imprint is Jacob's happily married sister, Rebecca?
I have a lot of drama, angst, and romance in store for you along with a few surprises. I hope you check the story out!
In regards to the other storylines I had going in "Early Imprint," I know the ending to this story doesn't answer a lot of your questions about the other characters (Ryan/Gracie for example), but this is Quil's story. Quil's perspective on things has reached an end. The other characters will get their own time to shine. As you've probably guessed if you read my previous story "First Imprint (Sam's Story)," all my stories are connected. The Sam and Emily I created in "First Imprint" were the same ones in "Early Imprint." Nate was born in "First Imprint." In other words, I'm writing an "Imprint Saga" so all my original characters (Ryan/Gracie/Nate/Meena/Gabe/Amber) will feature in the next segment of the saga, which is called, "Forbidden Imprint (Embry's Story)."
That said…this is the final chapter of "Early Imprint." I'd love to hear from all of you…ghostreaders included. I'm curious how many people were reading this story, so please leave a review. (even if it's just to say..."Hey, I was following this story…")
Thanks again everyone! It's been a great ride!