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Authors: Nina Lane

Tags: #Romance, #Fiction

Arrive

Arrive

A Spiral of Bliss Novella

NINA LANE

ARRIVE

© 2015 Snow Queen Publishing

EPUB Edition

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

A NOTE FROM NINA

Many of you lovely readers have asked me what happened during Liv’s pregnancy, and this story is the answer!

ARRIVE takes place toward the end of AWAKEN, when Liv is still pregnant with Nicholas. Liv and Allie have opened The Wonderland Café, and Dean has successfully reestablished his career.

I hope you enjoy reading this little window into the Wests’ life as much as I enjoyed writing it! I continue to be so grateful for your love of Liv and Dean.

CHAPTER ONE


O
LIVIA

“P
rofessor Hottie alert.”

Allie’s call rises up the stairs of the Wonderland Café. I leave a pile of birthday party bags on one of the tables in the Wicked Witch’s Castle room and peer out the window. My husband is standing across the street, his tall figure a welcome and familiar sight after a long day at work. Just as I start to ease back from the window, he looks up. Our eyes meet with a spark that kindled into life six years ago and still flares sunshine-bright.

Dean lifts a hand in greeting. I wave at him and head downstairs. Allie is in the reception area, fluffing out her curly red hair with one hand as she pulls open the front door with the other.

“He looks like he’s ready for a night out,” she remarks, nodding to where Dean is crossing the street. “I hope he’s taking you somewhere special.”

“Very special.” I shrug into my coat. “We’re going to a childbirth education class.”

Allie gives a little sigh of happiness. “How romantic.”

I smile at her before turning to the door. My heart does a little twirl as I watch Dean climb the front porch steps. Having just come from the university, he’s wearing a navy suit and striped tie that somehow has remained unwrinkled despite the fact that it’s past six in the evening. With his thick, brown hair burnished by the streetlights, the masculine planes of his face etched with dusky shadows, he looks both gorgeous and somewhat dangerously sexy. Then he smiles, and his dark eyes crinkle at the corners, and he’s my Dean again, all heat and tenderness.

“Hey, beauty.” He brushes his lips across my cheek and slides one hand down to my round belly. “All set?”

“All set.”

Dean lifts his head to glance at Allie. “Hey, Allie. How’s it going?”

“Just fine, thanks.” As usual, Allie blushes a little when Dean talks to her.

“Just let me get my things.” I squeeze Dean’s arm and head to the front counter, where I’d left my satchel.

When I return, Dean is speaking to Allie in a low tone, which—as his voice usually does—has her gazing at him raptly. She says something in response, then glances up at my approach and gives me a bright smile.

“You guys have a great evening, okay?” she says, waving us toward the door. “Remember if it’s a girl, the name Allison would be a perfect fit.”

“And we’ll change our last name to Wonderland,” Dean promises.

Allie grins, and we say our goodbyes before heading outside.

If it’s a girl
. We don’t know if we’re having a boy or a girl yet. At Dean’s suggestion, we decided to wait until opening night to find out, though that has made my nursery-decorating ideas and baby-stuff purchases varying shades of green and yellow.

Dean takes my satchel as we walk to his car parked halfway down the block. Black-clad witches, grinning jack-o-lanterns, and spooky ghosts cover the windows of the shops lining Avalon Street. October in Mirror Lake is crisp and clear as glass, the trees ablaze with red and gold leaves, the downtown streets bustling with activity. Though the Wonderland Café has built up a steady clientele since our June grand opening, business picked up even more when families returned to town after summer vacations.

After we get into the car, Dean drives to the health office on the campus of King’s University. I’m well into my sixth month, and everything has progressed smoothly on the baby front. My girth has increased, of course, I need to pee a lot, and I had to buy a few new pairs of shoes since my old ones no longer fit. My back hurts, and I have to sleep with four pillows to be comfortable. But the baby is fine, my bloodwork is fine, and there is no reason for me to be worried about anything.

Except, you know, giving birth.

I’m not a fan of the weekly childbirth classes, even if there are free cookies and milk. The instructor, Mary, is a lovely, soft-spoken nurse who has been with Labor and Delivery for over twenty-five years. The woman knows what she’s talking about.

But what she’s talking about are things like dilation and pain management and mucus plugs and the baby
descending
into the birth canal. Like it’s going to come out as gently as a balloon losing helium.

Truth be told, I really don’t know much about labor and delivery yet. Prior to getting pregnant, I didn’t have a reason to learn about it, and the past six months have been so busy with the café and figuring out what to do with our newly purchased (and badly in need of renovation) Butterfly House that I haven’t exactly had time to peruse all the pregnancy books I’ve checked out from the library.

Somewhat guiltily, I glance over the info sheet Mary gave us for tonight’s lecture. There are seven other couples in the class with us, all parents-to-be for the first time. We arrange our chairs in a semi-circle around Mary as she takes out a plastic model of the pelvis and shows us how the baby, in this case an infant doll, makes its way into the world.

“Dilation and effacement of the cervix happen together for most women,” Mary says. “As we discussed last week, dilation is the opening of the cervix. Who remembers what effacement is?”

Everyone raises their hand except me.

“Dean?” Mary looks at Dean expectantly.

“Thinning of the cervix,” he says. “Which is measured in percentages rather than centimeters.”

“Correct.” Mary beams at him.

Two classes in, and already Professor West is her star student.

“The cervix must soften in order to dilate,” she continues, “and often contractions help the process along. Now let’s discuss what happens when the mother begins to experience contractions.”

I glance at Dean. He’s taking notes. Seriously. The man brought a yellow legal pad to class and has already taken two pages of notes. I nudge him with my elbow.

“There’s no final exam at the end of this,” I whisper.

He looks at me over the tops of his reading glasses. “You’re kidding, right?”

“What? There
is
an exam? Mary didn’t say anything about that. Is it multiple choice? True or false? Omigod, is it an
essay
test?”

“Liv.” Dean takes off his glasses. “
Birth
is the final exam.”

I stare at him.
Birth
is the final exam.

“Oh.” I sit back. “Right.”

Holy crap. He’s the one taking notes, but I’m the one who actually has to push the little bugger out. And really, if I think about my vagina, and what has been inside it, and the indisputable fact that Dean’s erection is a very tight fit… and a baby’s head is the size of
a baby’s head

My heart starts to beat in a nervous rhythm.

I must look a little panicked because Dean reaches over to squeeze my knee. He’s supposed to be all concerned and loving, but instead amusement lights his eyes.

“You can do this,” he whispers. “We can do this.”

“We?” I hiss. “When your cervix starts dilating and effacing, you can talk about
we.

“Do you have a question, Liv?” Mary asks from the front of the room, where she is standing with a diagram of a uterus.

“Um, no. No, I’m good. Thanks.”

I frown at Dean for getting me in trouble. He winks and returns to his note-taking.

When the class takes a fifteen-minute break, I head for the bathroom with most of the other women. After taking care of business, I dig into the chocolate-chip cookies and milk. Gwen and Marshall, a young couple expecting a girl about a month after my due date, are standing near the table.

“What kind of labor are you planning, Liv?” Gwen asks.

One that results in a healthy baby.

“Just, you know… the usual,” I reply.

“We’re considering a home water birth,” Marshall says.

“A what?”

“It’s when the mother sits in a bath of warm water to give birth,” Gwen says. “It’s a very peaceful, calm way of bringing a baby into the world and it’s supposed to ease the pain of labor. I want to keep things as natural as possible. No drugs or anything stressful.”

Seems to me drugs would keep things from becoming stressful, but I have a feeling that’s not what she wants to hear.

“Well, that’s very… thoughtful,” I finally say.

“I’ve done a lot of research,” Gwen replies. “I’ve heard it also helps the baby’s transition since water resembles the intrauterine environment. You’re due quite a bit sooner than me. Have you done your birth plan yet?”

I don’t even know what a birth plan is.

Before I can respond, Mary calls the class back to attention and launches into a discussion about early labor symptoms.

“We need to write a birth plan,” I tell Dean on the way home.

“I put together a template last week.”

“You have a birth plan template? What is a birth plan?”

I should totally know this by now. The fact that I don’t makes me feel like I should stay after school for detention.

“Just a list of preferences you want for things like pain management, induction, monitoring,” Dean explains. “You bring it with you to the hospital so the nurses know what your choices are.” He turns into our garage and parks the car. “You can fill it out when you start making decisions. We’ll print out a few copies to put in your suitcase.”

I am acutely aware that he’s far more prepared for the whole birthing process than I am. Though I cut myself some slack over the fact that I’ve been busy opening a business and
growing a baby
, I guess there’s something to be said for taking notes.

That evening, I do a ton of research on home water births (no, thanks) and birth plans. Following all the links brings up a host of other questions (What’s a doula? Do I want one? Hypno-birthing? Walking epidural? Induction options? Do I plan to nurse? How long after giving birth can a woman have sex? How long after giving birth will she
want
to have sex?).

Finally I write up a list of my questions and bring it with me to my check-up with Dr. Nolan the following day. I suspect Dean already knows all the answers, but I’m not about to give him the satisfaction of showing off his knowledge.

After Dr. Nolan patiently answers all my questions, I feel much more empowered—or at least, ready for next week’s class. I go into our apartment, dropping my satchel on the front table.

“How’d it go?” Dean calls through the open door of his office.

“Everything’s fine.” I stop in the doorway and pat my round belly. “Heartbeat normal, glucose test fine. I’ve gained twenty pounds, and Dr. Nolan said I should put on one to two pounds a week from now on.”

“Might as well do what the good doctor says.” He looks meaningfully at my breasts, which have grown bigger right along with the rest of me.

“Lecher.”

“Uh huh. Did you tell Dr. Nolan that you’re having hot dreams?”

“I most certainly did not.” I huff a little at the thought, even though it’s true that my dreams have been more erotic than usual lately. “For your information, it’s perfectly natural for a woman’s libido to increase during pregnancy.”

“Oh, I know. Very lucky for me.”

Despite the brewing heat in his expression, which under normal circumstances would light my fire good and hot, I mumble something about needing to start dinner before I head into the kitchen. My body has changed more dramatically in the second trimester than it did in the first, and I’m increasingly—sometimes uncomfortably—aware of that fact.

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