Bonus Holiday Scene: The (Not) Satisfied Dragon
© COLETTE RHODES 2020
POV: SHIRA. This takes place a year or so after the end of The (Not) Satisfied Dragon.
Baby Cassandra was in her favorite spot—latched onto my breast—where I was pretty sure she'd been for the last seven hours straight. Actually, she may have been there the entire four weeks she'd been alive. It certainly felt that way.
“You okay, babe?” Hiram asked, leaning against the doorway and giving me a sympathetic look. His dark hair was more ruffled than usual, usually a good indicator that things weren’t going well in the kitchen. “Need anything? Snacks? Tea? Some cold air for your nips?”
He directed a cool stream of air over my exposed nipple, and I groaned in relief. My too-tight button up dress made modest breastfeeding impossible. I was all or nothing when it came to getting my breasts out these days.
“That felt amazing,” I sighed.
“An orgasm would make you feel good,” Hiram suggested hopefully, eyebrows waggling.
“Two more weeks,” Levi muttered, shoving Hiram out of the way so he could sit down on the couch next to me, running his hand over his buzzed black hair. “Healer's orders.”
“Two more weeks until we can have sex again. The healer said nothing about orgasms,” Hiram countered smugly.
“If I can get this hungry little pumpkin off my boob for an hour, I will definitely demand someone take me to bed. For a nap,” I clarified, dashing Hiram's hopes with three short words. “Shouldn't you be in the kitchen?”
“Seff kicked me out,” Hiram replied around a yawn which was outrageous because he'd definitely slept through at least two of Cassandra’s wakes last night. I'd been counting while shooting death stares at his useless nipples. Six parents and only one of them produced milk. The gods were laughing at us.
“Why?” Levi asked Hiram curiously, burying his hand under my hair to massage my neck. “You've been quite the little kitchen prodigy lately.”
“Who are you calling little?” Hiram asked with a mock scowl. “Seff thinks I focus too much on presentation and I'm getting in the way.” I nodded sagely. That was definitely true. Before Cassandra came along, Hiram, Seff, and I had been the primary cooks, since we were the three least likely to poison our flight. We quickly found out that while Hiram wasn't a terrible cook, he spent too much time trying to make everything look pretty. It was time-consuming.
Poor Seff was on kitchen duty alone for now. No one else had the patience for Hiram's culinary art.
“Do you want me to bring the cradle out here?” Levi asked hesitantly. Hiram winced, probably having a flashback to every other time we'd tried to get her to sleep in the gorgeous wooden bed Levi had crafted for her using his earth magic.
“No,” I replied with a grimace, stroking Cassandra’s downy baby hair. “She seems happy enough for now, so long as I don't take the goodies away.”
“You could do with a break though,” Levi said, giving me a pointed look. I'd expected his intense nurturing to transfer entirely to Cassandra when she was born, but Levi was amazing at taking care of me so I could take care of her.
“Is it rude if I summon Oren back?” I wondered, looking down at Cassandra’s sweet, far-too-alert face. She was bundled up in a beautiful cream blanket that Aura, Seff's mother, had knitted for her, a little tuft of black hair poking out the top.
“Are you kidding?” Hiram laughed. “He's probably dying up there, being forced to make small talk. You'd be doing him a favor.”
Oren and Ezra had popped in to visit their families for the Solstice since they lived on the same mountain as us, and they couldn't figure a way out of it. All of us had gotten so used to our cozy family of six—now seven—that my in-laws' enormous families were too chaotic for us to stay for too long.
//Oren?// I projected through our flight bond.
//She's still awake?// he asked instantly, concern clear in his tone.
//She's waiting for you,// I replied, aiming for soothing. I knew both Oren and Ezra would walk through the front door within two minutes. Ezra kept track of Cassandra’s naps, and everything else she did short of how many breaths she took per minute. I honestly wouldn't be surprised if he'd started counting those too.
Oren, though. Oren was the Cassandra-whisperer. Only he could get her to sleep.
As predicted, they arrived together. With their blonde hair and blue eyes, the familial resemblance was always apparent, but it was uncanny with their matching expressions of concern. Hiram went back to the kitchen chuckling, giving our Alpha and Beta room to get through the doorway.
“She must be overtired by now,” Ezra muttered, moving behind the couch so he could stare at Cassandra over my shoulder. “She was due for a nap 45 minutes ago. Do you think she's sick? Maybe she needs to burp…”
“I think she just missed her snuggle buddy, isn't that right, gorgeous?” I crooned, kissing her forehead before leaning forward so Oren could scoop her carefully out of my arms.
He laid her against his chest, one giant hand cradling her butt, and the other tapping lightly on her back. She'd be asleep in three minutes, tops. She was a little traitor like that.
“Come on,” Levi whispered, careful not to disturb Cassandra now she had relinquished her claim on my nipple.
“Where are we going?” I asked quietly, following him down the hallway. It was even more colorful now with the latest addition I’d made to the mural. I’d started working on it while I was pregnant and finished it in the last couple of days.
At the base of the wall, I'd created a grassy meadow where a little girl sat, her back facing the viewer, as she stared up at the colorful dragons that swooped overhead. She had black shoulder-length hair, though I could always change it if Cassandra's hair changed. For now, she looked most like her mama. There was plenty of space on the grass surrounding the little girl, just in case more babies were in our future.
I massaged my aching breasts through my dress and wondered if maybe one was enough. Maybe The Alchemist could come up with some kind of breastfeeding potion for males. She was always telling me what a genius she was. How hard could it be?
“I'm going to run you a bath,” Levi announced, his voice a little stronger now we'd moved down the hallway.
“I'll probably fall asleep in there,” I warned him, my heart filled with warmth and affection for this mate of mine who took such good care of me. For all of them. I could hear Seff giving Hiram exasperated orders in the kitchen, the rhythmic noises of Oren shushing and patting Cassandra in the parlor, while Ezra continued to pace, probably calculating Cassandra's exact hours of sleep over the past 24 hours.
“I'll just have to stay with you,” Levi chuckled. “For safety purposes.”
I sat on the edge of the bath while Levi ran it for me, adding the lavender oil I'd been churning through post-birth on Ezra's mother's insistence, to help me recover. I didn't protest when Levi guided me to my feet and undressed me. His touch was gentle and tender, despite the heat in his eyes.
Though I was glad he didn't act on his clear desire because I was exhausted, his heated gaze gave me a much-needed ego boost. After giving birth to Cassandra, my body had changed. I'd loved being pregnant, but I could admit to myself that I now felt a touch insecure about my figure. But every time my mates looked at me like they were barely holding themselves back from ravishing me, those insecurities melted a little further away.
Levi helped me climb in and I groaned indecently as the hot water instantly soaked into every aching, tired muscle. “This is exactly what I needed,” I murmured, my eyes already drooping. “How did you know?”
“I asked my mother,” Levi admitted, and I cracked one eye open to take in his bashful expression.
“Levi of Flight Galon, that is the cutest thing I've ever heard,” I replied, blinking back a sudden onslaught of happy tears and resting my head against the edge of the bath. Just five minutes, and I'd go check on Cassandra. I knew she was fine with her fathers, but my arms felt strangely empty without her.
* * *
When I woke up, the bath water was lukewarm and my audience had doubled.
“Cassandra—” I started, sitting up suddenly and sending water over the sides of the tub.
“—is fine,” Levi assured me quickly. “Still sleeping.”
Hiram grinned down at me, his unfailing enthusiasm for life perking me up instantly. “Dinner is served, babe. Need help to dry off?”
“Get out,” Levi chuckled, elbowing him in the ribs.
“I have air magic,” Hiram called over his shoulder as he left the room. “It only makes sense.”
“How long was I asleep?” I asked, suppressing a smile as I allowed Levi to help me out of the bath and wrap me up in the biggest towel we had, usually reserved for Ezra.
“An hour. Cassandra is still snuggled up happily with Oren, and you needed the rest so we left you to it.” Levi pulled the towel tight around me, drying me off with gentle precision. I felt a moment of shyness when his hands trailed over my post-baby stomach, but Levi didn’t pause at all. I leaned into him for a moment, burying my nose in the crook of his neck and inhaling his comforting scent.
“I needed that nap. It might be the best Winter Solstice gift you've ever given me,” I teased, grinning up at him and making Levi laugh.
“You haven't seen your new dress yet, beautiful,” Levi replied confidently, grabbing my hand and tugging me into the bedroom where a stunning green dress was laid out on the bed. It wasn’t fancy silk or decked out in jewels, but it looked comfortable and flattering, and gods it would be nice to feel a little fancy for a while.
My throat tightened with emotion at the thoughtful gesture. Sometimes it seemed impossible to believe that I’d ever run from a life with my mates.
“It wraps around the top and ties, see?” Levi added, pointing out the features. Apparently they'd been listening to my complaints about the breast prisons that had been masquerading as dresses in my closet this whole time. “If you like it, we’ll get you more.”
I grabbed Levi's face with both hands and went up on my tiptoes to give him a chaste kiss on the lips. “I love it, thank you,” I murmured, my mouth still pressed against his.
“Get dressed, beautiful. You are all kinds of temptation right now, and Hiram will lose his shit if we don't admire his table arrangement before we eat and ruin the aesthetic.”
I pressed another giggling kiss against Levi's lips before he let himself out so I could get dressed. I rubbed the soft linen fabric between my fingers before dropping the towel and pulling it on, wrapping the tie around my waist and securing it.
In a gorgeous, comfortable dress, smelling like lavender bath oil, and my hair brushed for the first time in weeks, I felt like a new woman. A new Shira. Or the old Shira. Either way, for the first time in weeks, I walked into the dining room with my head held high.
Hiram whistled the moment I stepped into the room, and I felt my face flame. He wrapped his arms around my waist and hoisted me into the air, smacking a noisy kiss on my lips.
“Way to detract from my table arrangement,” Hiram said with a heated smirk. I slid down his front, pulling him close for a cuddle and resting my cheek against his chest. Ezra’s dark blue eyes flashed with heat, even while the rest of his stoic features remained still. I sunk my teeth into my lower lip as my gaze drifted to Oren, still cuddling a sleepy Cassandra, but his icy eyes were entirely on me.
“You look beautiful,” Levi murmured, appearing at my back and resting his hands on my hips. He pressed a soft kiss on the top of my head and I almost melted into the floor from all the love in the room.
“Not just beautiful. She looks delicious,” Hiram announced. “Even better than Seff's cooking, and he was getting really cozy with that turkey today.”
“Don't make it sound weird,” Seff chastised, entering from the kitchen with an enormous platter in his hands, housing the biggest turkey I'd ever seen. He paused to lay a lingering kiss on my cheek and ran his eyes appreciatively down my body.
“It smells incredible,” I told him, close to drooling.
“You smell better,” he replied with a wink.
Cassandra chose that moment to let out her feed me cry that never failed to spur us all into action, totally killing the budding sexy mood. Levi pulled out a chair for me, and I sat down happily whipping my boob out of my fancy new dress before Oren passed Cassandra to me, his enormous hand cradling her entire head. She latched without a fuss and Levi began spooning potatoes onto my plate while Oren grunted half a compliment at Hiram's decorating prowess, and Ezra thanked Seff for cooking.
It was more than I'd envisioned for my life. It was a level of peace and happiness that I wouldn't have even been able to imagine when I'd been in one prison or another growing up. Who got to live like this? To love like this? It was a gift I appreciated more and more each day.
I leaned down to kiss Cassandra's forehead, inhaling her soothing baby scent while I admired my mates and the family we had built.
It was perfection.