After a few seconds, she tugged at his arm and made a face at him. “Daddy… I gots to go the bathroom now.”
Horrified, he gaped at the mere prospect of something he’d never done before.
“Now, you can panic, Hauk,” Nyk said with a rare laugh. “This one might not be housebroken.”
“Does she have nappies?” Hauk looked at Kalea. “Do you have nappies?”
“No, Daddy! Kalea a big girl. But I gots to go bad.” She twisted her legs together. “I can’t wait!”
He looked at Shahara.
“Don’t cut your eyes at me, big boy. I have a son. I know nothing about daughters.”
Darling laughed. “You’re crap out of luck, Andarion. We all got sons.”
Maris nodded in agreement. “And I’m from an all-male family, too. I’m worthless with this aspect of child-rearing.”
The flight deck door opened to show Jayne, who gave them all a withering stare. “Oh for goodness’ sakes, you big bunch of nancies. I can’t believe you’re all cowed by a little baby girl’s bladder.” She paused on Nykyrian and Caillen. “And you need to learn, since your daughters will be potty training soon enough.” She unfastened Kalea. “C’mon, sweetie. Aunt Jaynie will take you.”
Kalea clapped before she scooted down to hold Jayne’s hand and follow her to the head.
While they were gone, Hauk glared absolute murder at Nykyrian, who had the audacity to blink innocently at him.
“What is with that look?”
Hauk snarled at him. “I hate you, you minsid bastard.”
“For cursing me. Damn you to hell, Nyk. I have a beautiful daughter and I hate you for it.”
They all laughed at him.
“It’s not funny. I hate all of you!”
Nyk shook his head. “Look on the bright side, Hauk. I have four boys who will gladly help you protect Kalea.”
“Yeah, and my nightmare begins with those four little… things that they better keep away from my girl!”
Shahara laughed. “I’m so glad I have a son. I only have to worry about one penis. You guys have to worry about all the others.”
Hauk glared at her and then to Caillen. “By the way, why didn’t you volunteer? You have a daughter almost the same exact age.”
“Yeah, but her mom does it. I tried once and dropped her in and got banned from potty duty for life. Desideria never got over it and neither did Lil. I set her back a full year in potty training. She still cries every time she sees a full-sized toilet.”
Shahara covered her face and groaned. “You are so worthless. I swear I should have let Kasen drown you when you were little.”
“You see!” Kasen said. “I told you you’d regret saving him one day.”
Kalea came running out to jump into Hauk’s lap. She gave him a giant comical grin. Then laid her head down on his chest and hugged him.
Hauk was still floored by how easily she accepted him as her father. Most children were absolutely terrified and ran screaming from his presence. “Kalea? Why aren’t you afraid of me?”
She sat back on his thigh and held her hand up. “Um… see, I told them all the time. I said my daddy would come. And he would take me home. I said that… I had the biggest daddy of any daddy. Of all daddies.” She played with her ear. “And they said. They said I didn’t have no daddy. That you would never come for me ’cause you don’t exist.” She held her arm up to show him a bruise where someone had pinched her. “They said I was lying. But I didn’t lie. I said you would come. And you did! And my daddy’s the biggest of all!” She looked over at Fain then back at Hauk several times. “Okay, almost biggest.”
He cradled her against his chest. “I can’t wait to put you in your mother’s arms. But be warned. She might never let you go.”
“That okay. Kalea don’t mind. I’m just glad my daddy finally came like I knew you would.”
Fain reached out and placed his hand on Hauk’s forearm. “You have a beautiful daughter, Dancer.”
Kalea gasped. “You a dancer, Daddy?”
Laughing, Hauk shook his head. “Afraid not. But…” He turned her around in his lap to see Nykyrian and pointed to him. “Uncle Nyk is married to your Aunt Kiara. And she is a very, very famous dancer.”
“Really? Could she show me how?”
“Absolutely,” Nykyrian said. “She loves to teach little girls how to dance. She has her own dance school.”
Wide-eyed, she tilted her head back to look up at Hauk. “I can go dance school?”
“Lee-lee, you can have anything you want.”
“Anything?” she repeated in disbelief.
“Can I touch your hair, Daddy?”
Biting her lip, she stood up. Hauk expected her to touch his braids. Instead, she raked her fingers through his goatee and mustache. Then she placed her hand against her own face. “Can I have one those?”
He laughed. “I can’t do that, Lee-lee. They don’t grow on girls.”
“Oh.” She pulled his lip up so that she could see his fangs. “Why are your teeth long? Do they hurt?”
“No. They’re just like yours, only bigger. I’m an Andarion and we have longer teeth than humans.”
“Will my teeth grow long?”
“Oh… Will my eyes glow red?”
“No, sweetie. You have beautiful eyes just like your mother’s. They’re human.”
She pressed her hand against his. “Will I grow big like you, Daddy?”
“Probably not. But I don’t know for sure.”
When she opened her mouth to ask more, he looked over to Nykyrian. “How long do they do this?”
“Do what? Ask questions?”
They all burst into laughter. Shahara patted him on the shoulder. “Sweetie, your days of having an uninterrupted conversation are over.”
“What’s ‘conversation’ mean, Daddy?”
Sighing, he pressed his head against hers and laughed, too.
Hauk paused as soon as he entered his house. His grandmother was there, waiting for their return.
“Ahh,” she breathed with a smile as she saw the bundle in his arms. “Is this your Kalea?”
He nodded. “She fell asleep on the way home.”
She brushed her hand through Kalea’s soft, dark hair so that she could see her chubby cheeks and pert lips. “She’s beautiful, Dancer.”
“Thank you, Yaya. Is Sumi…”
“She’s resting. Your doctor friend knocked her out and she hasn’t awakened yet. He’s still in the room with her.” His grandmother rose up on her tiptoes to kiss his cheek. “Go and take the baby to her mother.”
He’d only taken three steps before he was surrounded by Desideria, Kiara, Zarya, and Ture, who all wanted a look at his daughter. Since it was late, their kids were all put to bed.
His heart swelled with pride as they oohed and ahhed over her.
Desideria stroked her cheek tenderly. “Let me get her one of Lil’s nightgowns. I’ll be right back with it.”
“She’s an angel,” Kiara said, patting his back. “I know you’re thrilled.”
“I am. Thank you. She also wants dance lessons from you.”
Nykyrian chuckled as he wrapped his arms around Kiara’s waist. “She heard his name was Dancer and wants to be one, too. She also wants a goatee like her father.”
Kiara laughed. “They’re so much fun at this age. I hate how fast they outgrow it.”
Ture brushed his hand over Kalea’s head. “She’s precious, Hauk. What a beauty!”
Desideria returned with a small handful of clothes. “I brought her underwear and a dress for tomorrow. I’m sure you don’t want her in that League uniform.”
He kissed her cheek. “Thank you so much.”
“No problem.” Desideria inclined her head to Kalea. “You need help dressing her for bed?”
He looked down at the tiny buttons on her clothes that seemed impossible for him to undo. “Yes. I have no idea how to dress a baby.”
Desideria took her from his arms. She held her hand out for the clothes, which he returned to her.
Hauk said his goodnights and then took them to his bedroom upstairs. While they’d been gone, the others had cleaned his room so that there was no sign of the brutal fight that had taken place.
Until he looked at Sumi. Rage flooded him as he again wanted to hunt Kyr down and rip out his throat.
“Hauk,” Syn said in warning as he stopped him from approaching her. “It’s not as bad as it looks. I mean… it is, but I gave her some Prinum to speed the healing and numb her pain.”
Tears choked him. “How could I let her get hurt? In my own home?”
“It’s not your fault.” Syn glanced over to Kalea. “And you will have made her life when she wakes up and sees what you brought her.”
His throat tight, he nodded, knowing Syn was right. He couldn’t wait to see her face when she held her daughter for the first time.
“You okay?” Desideria asked him.
Hauk swallowed. “Yeah.”
“All right. I’ll be back in just a second.” She took Kalea into the bathroom to dress her.
Syn cupped Hauk’s face and forced him to meet his gaze. “I know how pissed off you are. You have every right to be. There’s not a one of us who wouldn’t be out for blood after this. But I fixed Eleron while you were gone. Kyr cut through the system. I’m pretty sure he’s locked out, but I’m better at hacking than securing. That’s your job.”
“Trust me, he’ll never my break my system again.”
Syn released him. “We’ll get him, Hauk.”
“I know. Just not soon enough to please me.” He glanced past Syn as Desideria returned with a still-sleeping Kalea.
“She’s all ready for bed.”
His emotions overwhelmed him as he saw her in the white linen gown that was filled with pink ruffles. Desideria had even washed her hair and put matching booties on her feet. “Thank you, Des.”
Desideria grimaced and put her hand over her stomach.
“You all right?”
Breathing in short gasps, she nodded. “Kicks like his father. He’s been rolling around for hours.” She patted his arm. “Goodnight, sweetie.”
Syn paused by the bed. “She should sleep through the night. If she wakes up, let me know. I’m going to check on Shahara.”
“Goodnight, Syn. Thank you.”
“You don’t have to thank us, brother. You know that.”
Nodding, Hauk did the one thing he’d been dying to do since Sumi first told him about Kalea. He pulled the covers back from her and put Kalea in the bed by her side. Instinctively, Kalea snuggled in tight. Likewise, Sumi draped an arm around her and sighed as if she knew it was her baby with her.
Smiling as he blinked back tears, he pulled his office chair closer to the bed and propped his feet on the nightstand. “Don’t worry, mia. I’m not letting you out of my sight again. And no one’s ever going to hurt either of you during my watch.”
Sumi sucked her breath in sharply as she came awake to a strange, stinging pain in her arm. It was asleep, she realized, and something was lying on it.
Yawning, she expected to find Dancer there.
Instead, it was a tiny little girl in a white, frilly gown. She frowned at the dark hair. “Lillya?”
The little girl opened her eyes and looked up at her.
It wasn’t Desideria’s daughter.
“Are you my mommy?”
Stunned, she couldn’t breathe as her brain tried to make sense of this.
“Yes, Lee-lee,” Dancer said from beside the bed. “That’s your mommy.”
Kalea threw herself against her. “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy!”
Sumi couldn’t breathe as tears flowed and she sobbed in happiness and gratitude. Her baby was home! This was her daughter!
Closing her eyes, she savored the sensation of finally holding her baby against her.
Hauk caught Kalea and pulled her away. “Careful, baby. Mommy’s been hurt.” He turned on the intercom. “Syn! Run!”
Sumi looked down at the blood that had spread over her bandage. But honestly, she didn’t care. She reached for her daughter. “Please, Dancer…”
He carefully returned Kalea to Sumi’s uninjured side. “Don’t jump on Mommy.”
Kalea touched Sumi’s stomach. “I’m sorry, Mommy. Kalea didn’t mean to.”
Completely unperturbed by it, Sumi wrapped her arms around her again and held her close as she finally rocked her. Never in her life had she been happier than she was right now. “I don’t mind, at all.” She looked up at Dancer and saw the warm tenderness in his eyes as he watched them. In that moment, she wanted to pull him into her arms and never let him go. He had no idea just how much this meant to her. How much he meant to her. “I love you so much! Were you injured?”