Five Years Later
Daisy knew they were here somewhere. All hiding around the house in different places waiting for her. Stopping, she listened, and heard the small flicking sound. Smiling, she wrapped her fingers around the small raised leather strap on Bran’s neck, that her papa had made her, and moved forward.
Her lovely boy was old now. His four legs stiff, but he still went everywhere with her. They had brought another dog into the family, another wolf hound, and Bran was training him to be her eyes, as she and her sister, Fleur were.
Moving along the hallways of Uncle James and Aunt Eden’s house, Daisy ran her hands along the wall and encountered the thick velvet material. She sipped it open.
“Hello, Uncle Cam.”
“Daisy, you cannot see, how is it possible you are the best in our family at hide and seek? And considering three of us have the eyes they do that is saying something.”
She heard him get to his feet.
“Furthermore, why is it you always find me first?”
“You can’t be quiet. Even when you are still, you make that little flicking sound with your fingers or sniff. Besides, I’m blind therefore, all my other senses are sharper.”
“Yes, but ours are stronger.”
They’d told her what they could do, and while at first she’d been doubtful, she’d soon learned what her family were capable of. Especially when her papa was handed an upset child, and it instantly quieted in his arms.
She squealed as Uncle Cam hugged her close. Squeezing her tight as he lifted her off her feet briefly. Daisy loved that about this family of hers. They always let her know she was one of them. The hugs, the kisses, and the words. Every day they showed her she was now part of this huge, wonderful family that fate had settled her in.
Sometimes she thought it was surely a dream. She’d started life in hell, with no one to love her, and plenty of people who treated her no better than a dirty rag. Then Harry Sinclair had found her, and nothing had been the same since.
She would wake at night now and again, and remember the life she’d lived, and then she’d hear the gentle snores of Bran and know that was not her life now and never would be again.
Daisy did not believe many lived in a family like hers. In fact, she doubted there was a family like hers anywhere in the world. But she loved them, all of them.
Uncle Dev and Uncle Wolf, were identical to her father. She knew this when she ran her hands over their faces. The serious members of the family along with Uncle James. Uncle Cam who made her laugh, and her mother’s brothers who often took her for a carriage ride to buy sweets. She had lots of aunties too.
Aunt Eden was fiery, and Aunt Essex gentle like Aunt Emily. They were all so special, as were the twins and Uncle Warwick. She also had lots of younger cousins, and after a while, when they felt she was strong enough, they stopped treating her differently. Stopped being gentle. And now she was simply one of them.
Daisy loved being one of them.
“Now come and we shall find the others.” Uncle Cam took her hand in his and swung it. She heard the click of Bran’s nails on the floor following as they walked. “Are you looking forward to a new brother or sister, Daisy?”
“Fleur and I would like a brother.” Mama was going to have a baby soon, in fact any day Aunt Essie said. The thought scared her a bit, but Aunt Lilly had said it would be all right as she’d be at the birth.
“Your mother is strong, Daisy, never forget that, as are you. She will be fine and soon you’ll have another sibling to annoy you.”
“Now come this way because I smell your father.”
“What does he smell of,” Daisy asked because she knew what she thought he smelled like.
She smiled. That was how she thought of her papa, too.
“But are you sure, Mama will be all right, Uncle Cam?” Harry heard Daisy say.
He patted Mia’s back, who was slumbering over his right shoulder. Wolf had handed his youngest child to him, stating she was grizzly. This happened most days, and he didn’t mind. Harry loved children and his family.
“Lilly told you she’d be there, Daisy, but I doubt Maddie will need her help. She’s done this before, so she tells me, and said it will run smoothly. Of course childbirth is a mystery to me, and I plan to leave it like that,” Cam said.
Harry listened to his daughter question her uncle. Daisy still felt fear when one of her people was under threat… or what she saw as a threat. Maddie was due to have a child, their first together, and Daisy had started worrying immediately after she fell pregnant.
“Your father is behind that large, obscenely ugly cabinet,” Cam said.
“I’m telling Aunty Eden you said her favourite cabinet is ugly,” Daisy tittered.
Harry saw her face appear. “Hello, Papa.”
“Hello, Daisy,” he leaned down to kissed her cheek.
She’d changed so much, and in so many ways, and yet there were still traces of the vulnerability left from the life she’d been forced to live until he’d found her.
Taller than Fleur, Daisy was all arms and legs and had a pretty face that was often frowning as she contemplated something. Her nature was sweet unless she was tired or frustrated, and then she could be grumpy.
Harry watched as she lifted a hand toward him. This was her way when she was uncertain or needed comfort. She touched his face. Or that of Fleur and Maddie. He handed Mia to Cam and crouched before her.
“Your mother will be all right, Daisy, I promise you,” he said as her fingers started roaming his face. The touch was soft as she ran a finger down his nose and over his cheekbones.
“I know, Papa.”
“Well then, shall we find her?”
“You know where she is already, there will hardly be any finding involved,” Cam scoffed. He was now rocking from side to side with the babe over his shoulder.
“You find the rest, Cam,” Harry took his daughter’s hand and headed to where he knew Maddie was hiding with Fleur.
“I know you worry too, Papa.”
“I do. But as I know that between all of us, and Lilly, she will be fine even if the birth is not easy, I do not worry as much as I could.” Of course, that was a lie. He was terrified about Maddie giving birth. She was, quite simply, his life.
Maddie, Daisy and Fleur had taught Harry to love. He’d existed before they entered his life, and now he lived for them and the love they all shared. It really was that simple.
“Hello, my lovelies,” he walked into a room and found Maddie seated on the floor with Fleur behind the sofa. “Not what one would call a good hiding place.” He bent to place his hands on her non-existent waist, her words, and lifted her to her feet.
“I’m the size of an elephant, there are few places I can hide in.”
“But such a sweet elephant,” he kissed her softly.
“Mama’s back hurts,” Fleur said.
This daughter was different. She had grown in personality and beauty from the day he’d met her. Vivacious, free spirited, Fleur grabbed life with both hands. She challenged her parents and often caught Daisy up in her adventures and schemes. Harry never wanted her to change.
“Do you want to go home, Love?” Harry placed an arm around Maddie’s waist, and she leaned in to him, as she always did. Checking her color, he noted she wasn’t suffering which relieved him.
Harry sometimes wondered what he’d done in life to deserve so much happiness. He had a large, boisterous, sometimes annoying, family he loved, and his girls. Dev had told him just to accept it, and he had for the most part, but he never took it for granted.
“No. There are tea and cakes about to be served and I want those. And back ache is a good sign, it means things are progressing.”
“Excellent,” was all he could manage as panic briefly clenched in his gut.
Maddie had been a revelation to him. Her laughter was free, and she had a wicked sense of humour. Watching the relationship with her brothers grow was special, and now they teased each other freely as did everyone in this large crazy family.
“Well then, come along girls, your mother needs food.”
“Not to be rude, Mama, but you always need food,” Daisy said.
“I know,” Maddie sighed. “I blame the babe.”
“As you should,” he held her hand in his. She knew he was worried about the birth and tolerated him smothering her with attention, even if Harry had caught her rolling her eyes a few times.
“God’s blood, I have a hunger!” They turned to see Warwick running down the hallway behind them. Tall, and now a man, he had the look of his brothers.
“He is more like Cam every day,” Maddie said as he ran past.
“I fear we will run out of food with both him and Cam about,” Harry added.
They were soon all gathered in the big dining parlor. So many people it was now imperative when they congregated that they do so in one of the larger houses in their families, or the park.
The noise was deafening.
“Her back hurts,” Harry said to Essie as she approached.
“Well that’s a good sign.”
“I told Harry that, I don’t think he believed me.”
“What?” Harry looked at his wife. “Why did you say oh dear?”
“The baby is coming.”
“What! How do you know?” He picked her up, staggering slightly under the weight.
“Put me down, you fool, you’ll damage your back!”
“Help!” He bellowed to the room at large.
“Harry,” Essie used her treating patient’s voice on him. “You need to calm down.”
“How?” His skin felt suddenly too tight.
“Papa,” he felt Daisy move close and press to his side. “Stay calm, it is better for mama if you do.”
“Calm, right.” He juggled Maddie in his arms and place a hand on his daughter’s head briefly. “Look after my girls,” he said to the room at large as he followed Essie from the room.
Lowering her onto a the bed minutes later, Harry then kissed Maddie softly. “I love you.”
“I love you too, Harry, but you need to leave now.” She hissed out a breath, which told him she was in pain.
“I don’t want to leave.”
“I’ve done this before, you haven’t. Now go away.”
Rose, who had just arrived, took his hand, and tugged him from the bed.
“All will go well, Harry,” Maddie grimaced at him.
“I love you.”
“Yes, now go,” she pointed to the door before panting.
“Do something with him,” Rose placed a hand on Harry’s spine and pushed him out the door to where Wolf and Dev stood. It then closed behind him.
“Come along, cousin,” Wolf propelled him forward with a hand on his left shoulder. Dev had the right. “Maddie has her sisters and Essie with her. Lilly will go if needed. You must to get a grip on yourself.”
“I saw you when Mia was born, you were a wreck,” Harry snarled at Wolf.
“Very true, and I must admit to enjoying this side of the proceedings better.”
They took him to the room where the families waited. Only Daisy and Fleur were inside now with the adults. Harry fell into a seat and his girls cuddled to his side. There they sat and waited, tormented by thoughts of what was going on above them. Maddie was the center of their world. She would be all right, she had to be.
Compared to Fleur’s birth, this one was a great deal easier. Over in a few hours, and while she was tired and yes sore, she did not feel as battered as last time.
“I will get Harry and the girls,” Emily said after kissing Maddie on the cheek. “That was a spectacularly uneventful birth, Sister.”
“I’m sorry to have disappointed you,” Maddie smiled, looking down at the babe in her arms. The face was wrinkled, and the color of a two-day-old bruise. She felt the love swell inside her already.
“She has your nose,” Rose leaned on the edge of the bed to look at Maddie and the babe.
“She’s beautiful,” Maddie whispered.
“They call it mother blindness, I believe,” Rose kissed Maddie’s other cheek. “But she is beautiful. Hello, my darling little niece, Aunt Rose loves you very much.”
Maddie let the tears flow where once she would have swallowed them back. She was loved by so many now, as were her girls and Harry. They could not walk out their front door without falling over a family member, and Maddie would have it no other way.
“I’m so pleased to have you for my sister, Rose.”
“As I am to have you, Maddie. But now I must move back as your worried husband is about to arrive.”
“Maddie!” The door was thrown open, and there he stood. His hair was a mess, and his necktie undone. Her Harry, the man who had filled her with love. The man she called her soulmate. Only Harry really knew her, and in him she’d found the way to happiness. Before, she’d existed for her daughter. Done everything she could to keep Fleur safe. Now she lived at Harry’s side with their girls, and each day was a gift.
“I’m all right, Harry.” She held out a hand to him and he hurried forward. “Really, it was short, and I am tired but will recover fully.”
“Thank god!” He moved onto the bed gently. “I love you.”
“I know, now meet your daughter.”
“I wanted it to be a girl,” he stroked a hand down her cheek before looking at his child. “Wanted another daughter to spoil.”
He touched a little clenched fist, stroking the soft skin. “She’s beautiful.”
“Apparently, they call it mother blindness, but now it can be father blindness too. Because she’s really not beautiful, but I see only that too.”
“I defy anyone to say she’s not the most beautiful child ever born,” he leaned down and kissed a soft cheek. “Although, I’m sure Daisy and Fleur were just as beautiful.
He’d taken on their two girls as if they’d always been a part of his life and loved them fiercely as she did.
“Hello, sweetheart, your father loves you so much.”
Maddie looked to the doorway when she heard a noise and found their daughters with Max and Rory. The brothers who were now so much a part of her life. The brothers she had learned to love deeply all over again.
“Come in,” she waved them forward.
“I’m all right, Daisy. Come and meet your new sister.”
“A sister,” Fleur wrinkled her nose. At eight, she didn’t hide her emotions. “You shall have to give us a brother next then.”
“We will try,” Harry said solemnly. His eyes held a twinkle as they looked at Maddie.
Fleur took Daisy’s hand and helped her onto the bed. Harry lifted the babe and put her in Daisy’s lap.
“She’s so cute,” Fleur breathed. “Daisy, she has such a small wrinkled face, here let me show you.” Fleur took her sister’s hand and traced a finger over the babe’s face. “She has a lot of dark hair, and her little eyes are shut, and her face screwed up tight.”
“What shall we name her?” Harry asked.
They’d thrown names about over the last few months, but as yet not one had seemed to please them all.
“I think we should call her Iris,” Daisy whispered. “Aunty Somer told me she was the Goddess of the rainbows, sea and sky, and was a messenger for the Gods.”
“I like that,” Fleur said, kissing her new sister on the top of the head.
“I do too,” Maddie looked at Harry.
“Iris it is,” his smile was filled with so much emotion Maddie had to sniff back the sob she felt. It was the tiredness and exhaustion, she told herself.
They all came then, starting with her brothers, who told her how pleased they were that she’d given them another niece. The room was soon filled, and everyone marvelled dutifully over Iris.
“And now we will leave the parents and babe in peace for a while,” Essie said shooing everyone out the room.
“Thank you, my love,” Harry lay next to Maddie when they were alone, with the baby in his arms. “For the love, for my daughters, but most of all for filling up the spaces inside me I didn’t know were empty.”
“I was a man who had only one mission in life. Making money. I believed I needed nothing else. All that changed the day I found you in Calais, Maddie.”
He cupped her cheek. Kissing her softly.
“To keep my daughter safe and with a full belly was all I wished for until I met you. Now I want it all… have it all with you, Harry.”
“My love,” he whispered. “My life.”