The gates at the end of Roxie and Beowulf's long, curving drive swung open, and Kye drove his French racing blue Jaguar XKR-S coupe up it. It was the middle of the morning and his turn to watch over Roxie and her family. Now that her baby had been born, the overnight protection duty had stopped. No longer pregnant, Roxie could once again shift, which meant in her half-human and half-wolf form, she would be a force to be reckoned with.
Kye parked in front of the large detached garage, next to Dirk's car. His brother-in-arms had arrived much earlier, which was his norm. Dirk and Roxie would probably already be holed up in her office doing something Kye didn't understand on the computer. That was if Roxie wasn't busy with her new daughter, Nevaeh.
After getting out of his car, Kye pushed the remote to lock it. He smiled when he thought about Roxie and Beowulf's baby. Being over a thousand years old, and living the majority of that time with the rest of the Protectors, he hadn't had much opportunity to be around little ones. Nevaeh was only three months old, and every time he held her, he felt as if he'd break her. But he had to admit the little squirt was growing on him.
Walking right into the house, Kye decided to check upstairs. He didn't hear anyone moving around on the lower level. He took the stairs two at a time and headed for Roxie's office. The only one inside was Dirk, who looked away from the computer he worked on, once he noticed Kye standing just inside the doorway.
"Where is everyone?" he asked.
Dirk turned the steno chair to face him. "Roxie is in Nevaeh's room changing her. Beowulf is out in the backyard having his coffee."
Kye jerked his head in Dirk's direction. "I see you're busy doing whatever the hell it is you do on that damn thing. You and Roxie always seem preoccupied with something that involves the computer. Yet you never say what it is you're working on."
Dirk smiled. "You'll find out soon enough. It just took a while to set up and get rolling."
He shrugged. "Whatever. I'm sure it's something I won't understand. I guess I have to look forward to another day of sitting in here with you two, bored out of my fucking head."
"I don't think so," Dirk said with a knowing smile. "Roxie has thought of something else for you to do."
Kye wasn't sure he liked the sound of that. "And what would that be exactly?"
His brother-in-arms chuckled. "I think it would be better if you go ask Roxie yourself."
Deciding to do just that, he left the office and walked down the hall to the baby's room. He found Roxie had just finished changing Nevaeh's diaper. The task done, she lifted her daughter onto her shoulder and turned in his direction.
"Good, you're here," Roxie said.
"Dirk said you had something else you wanted me to do today."
Roxie closed the distance between them and placed Nevaeh in his arms. Kye automatically stiffened, afraid to move in case he hurt her.
"Ah," he said hesitantly, "what would that be?"
He glanced down at the baby to find her staring up at him. She had the same ice blue eyes her father had, along with his black hair. What she had of it. Kye thought she was pretty bald. In looks, she took after her mother.
"As of today, you are to be Nevaeh's sole Protector."
Kye's gaze shot to Roxie. "What?"
"Saskia and I discussed it, and we decided you will have the sole responsibility of protecting my daughter."
"Won't that be spreading the others kind of thin? There are supposed to be two of us watching over you with each shift."
"That was another thing Saskia and I talked about. Miles is no longer the threat he once was. He still thinks Jaden is the foretold one. And from what Saskia says, her brother loves his daughter. He won't make a move against her. He still hasn't a clue about me really being the one to rule over all the werewolf packs."
Jaden, the mate to Leif, another of his brothers-in-arms, had pretended to be the foretold one when her father, Miles, had taken Leif as a hostage. Since Miles had never seen Roxie, Jaden had taken her place. Finding out he had a daughter he'd never known existed had caused Miles to have a change of heart about gaining control over the foretold one. He'd wanted to use her as a figurehead to rule the packs himself. Once a Protector and brother-in-arms, it was kind of a relief to see Miles step back from the dark side.
"That might be the case now," Kye said. "But we still need to be careful. Who knows what Miles will do if he ever finds out the truth?"
"We'll make sure that never happens. Jaden is willing to keep up the charade indefinitely for her father, if need be. I still want you to be Nevaeh's Protector."
Kye looked down again at the baby in his arms. "All right, since I really don't have any choice." Roxie did rule over the packs, after all. "In a way I'll still be here to help protect you as well, since Nevaeh isn't exactly able to go anywhere without you. The only problem I have with it is I'll be on duty all day and most of the night, every day. I'm going to need a break at some point."
Roxie waved his concerns away with a flick of her hand. "Don't worry about that. One of the others can spell you out for a bit if it starts to be too much, but you will take on the majority of the task. And you'll still be here in the house most of the time, but I want you to take Nevaeh out alone."
Kye gave her a look that said he thought she was crazy. "Ah, Rox, I know nothing at all about babies. You can't expect me to look after her by myself."
"I can and do. It will force you to get used to taking care of Nevaeh. And you will be taking care of her. Saskia and I think it's important that you bond with the baby now, so she'll feel safe and secure with you." Roxie cleared her throat. "And it will give me a bit of a break from time to time."
"So you want me to be a glorified babysitter?"
"Not really. Come on, Kye, it won't be that bad. I'm not nursing her anymore. Since I couldn't produce enough milk to keep her fed, she takes a bottle. That's one hurdle we don't have to worry about."
To say he was uneasy about the whole situation was an understatement. What if he messed up? "You're willing to put your only child in the hands of a man who could forget to feed and change her? Fuck, I don't even know how to hold her properly." He stretched out his arms to show her how stiffly he held Nevaeh.
Roxie glared at him. "No swearing in front of my daughter. You got that? I don't want her first word to be a swear word. And you just need some practice is all. Plus, you don't have to worry about those other things. Nevaeh will make sure you know when she needs to be changed or is hungry. She has a good set of lungs." Roxie pushed back his arms and tucked the baby more firmly into the crook of the one she was nestled in while his hand stayed under her bottom. "There. That's better. Now put her up on your shoulder. She likes it."
Feeling like a blundering idiot, Kye somehow managed to get the small person he held up on his shoulder. He winced when Nevaeh grabbed a handful of his hair that just reached the top of his shoulders and gave it a good yank. He then heard sucking noises.
"Is she sucking on my hair?" he asked horrified.
Roxie laughed. "You should see your face. And, yes, she is. You might want to consider pulling it back in a ponytail. Beowulf has gotten in the habit of doing it whenever he's going to hold her."
He winced again as Roxie untangled his hair from the baby's fist. "So this is what you have planned for me today? To learn how to take care of Nevaeh?"
"That, and I want you to take her to the zoo."
Kye scowled. "Why the hell would I do that? She's only three months old, for Christ's sake. What the fuck would she get out of it?" Roxie smacked him on the side of his head. "Ouch!"
"I told you to watch the swearing. She might not be an active participant, but she is a werewolf."
"So? I'm a werewolf too, and I've never been to a zoo."
"I want her to be comfortable with her wolf side. I want her to learn about other animals and nature. And if you haven't, then this should be a new experience for you as well."
He rolled his eyes. "God, you can tell how young you are with all that touchy feely crap. Back when I was your age, I swung a sword, fighting on battlefields."
"Good for you," she said sarcastically. "I still want you to take Nevaeh to the zoo today. It's nice out, and not too hot. Who knows, you might even enjoy yourself."
"I doubt it," he said under his breath. By the scowl Roxie gave him, he knew she'd heard him. He breathed a deep sigh. "Fine, I'll go, but I don't want to push her in a stroller. That thing is nothing but a pain in the ass."
"Then don't take it. I have a baby sling. You can wear it across your chest. Nevaeh likes being carried in it."
In no time, Kye found himself being given a quick lesson on how to change a diaper and how to heat a bottle of formula. Before he was practically shoved out the door, carrying Nevaeh in her infant car seat, he was given the aforementioned baby sling and a diaper bag. Jesus, he'd never known how much stuff went along with a baby until Roxie had had her daughter. It seemed as if he almost took the whole house with him when he left.
Promising to return in a couple of hours, Kye strapped the car seat into the back of his Jaguar. He got into the driver's side and started the engine. As he drove to the San Francisco Zoo, he kept checking his rearview mirror, looking in the baby's direction. He could only see the back of the car seat, since it was strapped in facing the rear. So far, Nevaeh was quiet, which he hoped like hell would continue for the entire time he was out with her.
Arriving at the zoo, he parked the car and got out. Since his was a two-door, he had to flip his seat forward to get to the baby. Kye took the seatbelt off the car seat and turned it so it faced him. Nevaeh was asleep. He smiled. She looked as cute as a button. He took out the sling and put it on the way Roxie had showed him. Then carefully, he unstrapped the infant and picked her up. He felt awkward as he placed her inside the baby carrier. She squirmed and whimpered a bit but settled once he rocked her for a few seconds. Before he locked the Jaguar, he took out the diaper bag and slung it over his shoulder.
Still thinking this was a stupid idea, Kye walked toward the zoo's entrance. Whoever heard of taking a baby to a place like this? It would have been better to wait until she was at least a year old. Right now, he would be the only one who would get anything out of this trip, if he actually did. He wasn't sure if it would have been better to sit bored, watching Roxie and Dirk on the computer all day.
Kye paid the fifteen dollar admission for himself, and wouldn't you know it, the baby was free. Of course she was, since the zoo knew infants and children under four really wouldn't pay much attention to the things around them, just as he'd told Roxie. Looking at the brochure he'd been given, he ran his finger down the list of animals on exhibit. There wasn't a damn wolf on it anywhere. Figured. There were lions and tigers but no wolves.
He walked farther into the zoo, heading to the first group of exhibits. His nose twitched as he detected all the different animal scents in the air. They just about overrode everything else. Some of them he didn't even recognize.
Kye meandered from exhibit to exhibit. He had to admit, some of the animals he saw were interesting. He particularly liked the polar bears, watching them dive into the water of their enclosure. Probably forty-five minutes had gone by when Nevaeh woke up. She squirmed inside her carrier, grunting. He stopped and looked at her. The baby made a loud sucking sound as she crammed her tiny fist into her mouth. Since she didn't seem upset, he continued on his way.
Another five minutes passed before the baby whimpered as she sucked even harder on her fingers. Kye looked around for a bench to sit on. There wasn't one in the general vicinity, so he kept walking, hoping to find one farther on. Once he found what he looked for, Nevaeh's whimpers had turned into full-fledged cries. And she'd completely given up on sucking her hand.
Feeling a bit desperate, Kye sat, pulled Nevaeh out of the carrier and held her against his chest. He put the diaper bag down beside him and opened it. He pulled out what Roxie had called an "on-the-go" bottle warmer and unzipped the smaller container. By now the baby's cries were almost ear-shattering to his sensitive hearing.
He noticed Nevaeh's wails of unhappiness had drawn the stares of the other people visiting the zoo. Not liking it, Kye put the warmer down and patted the baby's back as Roxie had shown him. That seemed to quiet her a bit. He stopped the motion and went to reach for the bottle, which set Nevaeh off again.
"You look as if you need some help." The woman's voice came from a spot close to him.
Without looking up from where he reached, Kye said, "I need to get the bottle out of this warmer, but Nevaeh isn't cooperating with me."
"Here, let me."
A figure moved in front of him, blocking the sun. As her fingers brushed his, he filtered her scent from the stronger animal ones around him. It hit him like a ton of bricks. His head jerked up, and his cock went instantly hard, straining against the front of his jeans as his mating urge kicked in. Kye had to bite back a growl of need when he looked into the face of his would-be mate.
She was pretty in a cute way. She smiled, showing even white teeth as she returned his stare, her light blue eyes friendly. Her long, straight black hair had been pulled back into a high ponytail. He ran his gaze over her body when she straightened with the bottle in hand. It was hard to tell what it looked like underneath the zoo uniform she wore, but from what he could see of her arms not covered by the short-sleeved shirt, they were slim and toned. He assumed the rest of her would be as well. But the only way to be sure was for him to strip her out of her clothes, which his fingers itched to do. The baby let out a loud wail, breaking some of the sexual haze that had descended over him.
His would-be mate held out the bottle. "I think you'd better feed her."
He nodded as he clumsily settled Nevaeh in the crook of his arm. He reached for it, his fingers once again brushing hers, causing his cock to jerk. "Thanks." He placed the nipple against the Nevaeh's lips. She opened her mouth and greedily latched onto it.
"Is this the first time you've been out with your daughter since she was born?"
Kye's head snapped up. "She's not my daughter. I'm her Pro ... uncle."
"So you're babysitting," she said.
"You could say that." At that moment, Nevaeh decided to squirm against him, and what sounded like rolling thunder emanated from her diaper, along with the sound of something Kye did not want to handle in a million years.
Some of what he felt must have shown on his face because his would-be mate laughed. "Why do I get the feeling you've never changed a diaper before?"
He looked at the baby then jerked his head away as a foul odor hit him, making him wish he didn't have a werewolf's acute sense of smell. "Oh, Nevaeh." She continued to contentedly suck on her bottle as if there wasn't a stinky mess in her drawers. Kye lifted his gaze to the woman in front of him and answered her question. "Because I haven't." The idea of having to deal with his first diaper changing horrified him.
It also cooled his libido somewhat, even though the mating urge was still there, unable to be ignored. Kye felt pulled in two different directions. He wanted to be with the one who was meant to be his, but Nevaeh was his responsibility. He'd opened his mouth to say something that would prevent his would-be mate from walking away when she beat him to it.
"How about I take pity on you and help you with that too? There's an office close by we can use."
He nodded and smiled. "Thanks, I'd appreciate that."
Her gaze seemed to latch onto his mouth, making Kye wish they weren't in such a public place, or that he didn't hold a baby in his arms. As she stared at him, he took the opportunity to run his gaze over her face, wanting nothing more than to taste her kissable lips. He wanted to see if she'd moan into his mouth as he explored her or use his hair to pull him closer, becoming more of the aggressor.
At a sound that was a cross between a moan and sigh, Kye lifted his gaze to her eyes and saw her pupils had dilated. There was also a slight flush across her cheeks. He took a deep breath and detected the subtle scent of her arousal. He ground his teeth to hold back a wolf's howl that built inside him.
She gave herself a small shake, as if to break the spell between them. She cleared her throat. "Ah, if you want to come with me, I'll take you to that office."
He nodded and pulled the bottle out of Nevaeh's mouth, only long enough to sling the diaper bag over his shoulder then stood. "I'm Kye, by the way."
Falling into step with Michaela, Kye prayed she wouldn't look down and see the raging hard-on he had. Having her think he was some kind of perv was not how he wanted to start things off with her.