My thoughts and emotions were chaotic, though frustration seemed to overshadow everything I felt. The independence I'd always fought so hard to protect had flown out the window because I had gotten myself pregnant by a vampire. That line of thinking wasn't fair, though. I couldn't blame Stefan for my current state.

Current state? I shouldn't deceive myself by making things sound so simple. At some point in the near future, I would give birth. Stefan and I were going to have a baby in the next few months. It was exciting, yet so terrifying. What would the child of a shape shifter and vampire be like? Would the baby have any of our supernatural gifts or simply carry on our human genes?

After doing the math in my head, I realized it had been nearly three months since my last period. I used to keep up with my cycle when I believed pregnancy was something I had to look out for, but now my monthly visit was unimportant. How did so much time pass without me noticing? I'll never know. My body didn't feel any different, really. Where were the telltale signs of pregnancy? I hadn't been nauseous once. How was this even possible? Stefan is a vampire. He shouldn't be able to procreate naturally.

Those thoughts and a million more ran wild through my mind. I groaned and dropped my head against the table, suddenly exhausted from the night's events. Another thought occurred to me - Weren't a pregnant woman's breasts supposed to be tender in early pregnancy? Curious, I sat up again and palmed both breasts. Nope, not tender but maybe a little bigger.

A soft snort from somewhere behind me reminded me that the source of many of my frustrations was still in the room. Turning to face my vampire lover who was leaning against the counter behind me, I raised an eyebrow and asked, "Am I amusing you?"

Stefan laughed freely at that, all signs of his own inner turmoil suddenly disappearing. Maybe it was the sight of my hands still squeezing my breasts. "Would you like some help with that or are you just enjoying yourself?"

I dropped my hands while rolling my eyes as I said, "I'm checking for signs of pregnancy. I can't figure out how I had no idea."

His laughter stopped but a soft warmth remained in his eyes. Stefan extended a hand, which I took, and pulled me against his chest, holding me tightly with his face buried between my shoulder and neck. The tip of his nose and lips ran softly up and down my sensitive skin as he inhaled my scent, causing goosebumps to break out over my arms. The unmistakable scrape of fangs against my skin alerted me to the depth of his hidden anxiety. Stefan rarely acts possessively and normally has excellent control over his vampire instincts. I knew he wasn't hungry because I'd given him blood earlier that night, so this was about his claim on me. Wulfe's presence tonight or whatever happened while Stefan was gone, or more likely both combined, had worried him. He felt threatened, vulnerable.

Turning my head to the side to expose my neck to him, I didn't object when I felt sharp teeth sink into my flesh. I trusted him not to take blood I couldn't safely give and the questions burning in my mind could wait. This was a need I understood, that I shared. He needed to know that I was still his as much as I needed to know that he was still mine. Relishing in the feeling of euphoria that comes with his my lover's bite, I leaned my face against the side of his head with my arms wrapped further around him. We stayed that way for a bit, his bite against my neck without drawing blood into his mouth and my arms holding tightly to him, until Stefan withdrew his teeth from my neck.

"I'm so sorry about tonight." He whispered softly with his face still in the spot his mouth had just occupied. "It was not my intention to control you. I know how much you value your freedom. I only wished to keep you safe, and now I have even more reason to worry about you."

As he was spoke the last words, one of his hands drifted down my side to rest over my belly. At his movement, I stepped back to give him space as he knelt down in front of me. Stefan lifted my shirt and rested his hands on my hips, then kissed the tattooed paw print beneath my belly button. With the side of his face pressed against me, he closed his eyes and remained still as if he were listening to something. Then he began murmuring quietly to the child growing in my womb. His words were too soft for even my sensitive hearing to pick up, but the love in his voice made my heart clench.

In a swift motion that earned a squeak of surprise from me, Stefan stood up holding me in his arms bridal style as he started walking towards our bedroom. "There isn't much time before the sun rises and I intend to spend as much of it as possible finishing what we started earlier."

I thumped him on the chest with the back of my hand and reminded him, "Isn't there something you need to tell me about?"

Standing at the foot of our bed, Stefan tossed me backwards, making me squawk again as I flailed until my back hit the soft surface. "Yes, yes, but that can wait until I'm done with you."

In a moment's time, Stefan had stripped down to his birthday suit and was now crawling towards me with a look that made butterflies stir in my core. When he was hovering over me, he began to undress me but stopped with my pants in his hand. He sniffed the offending garment and held them out as if he were disgusted. "We should burn these. You'll never get Wulfe's smell out of them."

With an eye roll I said, "Only if we burn your clothes, too. I can smell the scent of other vampires on you."

"It's a deal."

When we were both fully nude, Stefan covered my body with his large frame and leaned against one forearm as he cupped my cheek with his other hand. His lips found mine as I wrapped my arms around him and spread my legs to invite him in further. Before moving forward, he broke our kiss and looked into my eyes to say, "No one will ever keep me away from you." The hand he had against my face moved down to my stomach. "Either of you."

The fear I hadn't acknowledged feeling suddenly left me, replaced by the reassurance that nothing could keep us apart.


Just before sunrise, Stefan told me all about his rendezvous with Marsilia. She and her seethe had returned to America after what she claimed had been simply an extended vacation to Italy. The truth was she and her former lover, the Lord of the Night, had another falling out. Unlike their last split, this time didn't end with Marsilia being exiled. Instead, she left peaceably with the two agreeing their relationship would never be reestablished. Since the scorned vampire woman hadn't been able to take out her frustration in her former lover's territory, she had decided to unleash her wrath here.

To do so, she had to reclaim her territory in the Tri-Cities. Her plans succeeding depended on having her strongest vampires by her side, namely Wulfe and Stefan. Since Wulfe had other obligations with his own newly formed seethe, Stefan became Marsilia's last remaining hope to create a strong presence when she made her move.

Stefan had made it clear to her that he would not be leaving my side, which she did not take very well. Thankfully, she didn't know where he was staying. Well, she hadn't known at the time, but I was beginning to have my doubts about the safety of our apartment. Marsilia may not be able to enter without invitation but she could have someone do it for her. I had never known Marsilia to make rash decisions, but desperate times make people do stupid things.

Deciding I'd done enough brooding for the day, I showered and let my worries wash down the drain with the soap suds and just enjoyed the excitement of last night's revelation. We'd be having a baby soon. The thought made my stomach flutter and a large grin spread across my face.

After turning off the water and drying off my body, I wrapped up my hair and just stared at my body in the mirror. My breasts had definitely grown and turning to the side revealed a tiny bump in my belly, though the bump was still small enough that it could be overlooked or explained as bloating. I gently caressed my tummy, thoughts wandering to things like how big I'd get and what the baby would look like. We had a lot of shopping to do, too.

Eventually, I realized I'd need to find a doctor. A normal doctor probably wouldn't work, though. While my pregnancy had seemed normal so far, I wasn't too keen on the idea of explaining the delicacies of a vampire and shape shifter conceiving a child to someone who wasn't aware of either species' existence. Sam would be my first choice for a doctor, but I wasn't sure if that would be appropriate given our history. He had found his mate and they were happy, but I was fairly sure they hadn't conceived a child – an unfilled desire he'd had for centuries that nearly made him suicidal in the past. Would it be a slap in the face that I'd be asking him to care for me and my unborn child when, in the past, he'd hoped it would be his child I'd carry?

Shaking off the unpleasant thoughts, I decided I'd start by calling Bran. He would probably know of someone that could help, plus he'd be happy to know he would be a grandfather soon.