Elf Blood by Bonnie Lamer Chapter 1

“To my beautiful wife, you stole my heart the moment I met you and I was lost without you these many years. Thank you for making me whole once again.”

Garren has made a similar toast every night at dinner for weeks. So, every night at dinner Alita and I are forced to kick our husbands under the table to keep them from rolling their eyes, groaning or worse yet, laughing. “Ow, I am getting a nasty bruise,” Kallen mutters under his breath to me when my heel once again makes contact with his shin.

“He is being sweet,” I mutter back. Though, I must admit even the romantic in my heart is getting tired of his sappy nightly toasts. Were Kallen and I that bad when we first got married? Probably.

“Give it a rest already,” Tabitha says, letting a bowl of butter clatter to the table as she takes her seat.

Isla’s cheeks are bright pink. “Perhaps we should save the toasts for special occasions,” she says. I have been impressed with her since their hand-fasting. She seems to have opened herself up a bit. She’s not as guarded emotionally. Unfortunately, this also means one is apt to walk into a room and find her and Garren kissing. Again, the romantic in my heart can only take so much.

“Nonsense,” Garren disagrees. “I am damn glad you finally married me. I do not care who knows it.”

“Trust me, we know it,” Kallen grouses. He moves his leg so I miss when I try to kick him. He smirks at me when my heel hits the leg of the chair instead. Ow! I glare back at him.

“Do not listen to them, Garren,” Mom says. “I think it is sweet.”

“Thank you, Julienne,” Garren says with a smile.

“Would you just humor the old wind bag so we can get on with the eating?” Taz snarks from my ankle. “The food is getting cold.”

“I seriously doubt you’re starving. I’m sure you had plenty in the kitchen while Tabitha was cooking,” I reply.

“I believe he ate a whole chicken,” Felix confirms.

I nod. “I believe it.”

As I converse with my Familiars, a frown takes root on Kallen’s face. “Do you feel that?” Now that he mentions it, the hairs on the back of my neck are tingling. Not in an uncomfortable way. Actually, it feels kind of nice. That’s odd.

“Indeed,” Isla says, rising from her chair. “It seems the Elves have come to call.”

That’s why the sensation on my neck feels good. Glamour. “We still don’t have a peace treaty with the Elves, right?” I ask as Kallen and I rise from the table along with everyone else. Whatever the Elves want, they’re going to have to tell all of us.

Kallen shakes his head. “No.”

Could they be here to start trouble then? The glamour coming from the terrace is pretty strong. I wonder how many of them there are. Picking up the pace, I catch up with Isla. If there’s a fight coming, I want to be in the front to help keep the others safe. Kallen is right beside me thinking the same thing.

The glamour is growing even stronger. As we walk through the large living room with its array of couches and chairs, the walls seem to shimmer and a greenish haze fills the room. There is a distinct scent of wild flowers and grass. Kallen reaches out and takes my hand. “I do not like this,” he mutters. Me, either.

Isla pushes the sheer curtain from the terrace doorway and every single one of us has already pulled magic. We are ready for whoever we find out here whether they came to talk or to fight. I hope they came to talk.

Okay. I thought we were ready for whoever we might find. I lied. We were definitely not ready to find a lone Elf. In a bassinet. Who even uses bassinets anymore?

In the middle of the table on the terrace sits a bassinet with a lavender blanket. Under the blanket is a baby. A sleeping baby. There is not another soul in sight.

“What the hell?” Garren’s voice booms into the confused silence surrounding us.

At the sound of his voice, the startled baby’s eyes open. Unfortunately, so does her mouth. She begins to wail. Isla glares at her new husband for the first time since they wed. At least, the first time I have seen. “You have scared her.”

“Move aside,” Tabitha says, elbowing her way to the front of our group. She reaches into the bassinet and lifts the baby into her arms. I breathe a sigh of relief knowing that the wailing will soon end. Tabitha’s touch has a calming influence to it when she so desires. After a moment, though, Tabitha’s brow furrows. The baby is crying harder with absolutely no indication it plans to stop any time soon.

“Let me try,” Garren says, holding out his arms. “I always had a way with the Dragon babes.” Tabitha scowls at him but after another moment of loud crying, she hands the baby to him in defeat. Garren holds the baby to his chest and rocks back and forth making cooing sounds.

“Can’t you put a cork in its mouth? My ears are about to bleed,” Taz whines. I ignore him.

I am more concerned about the elements. The waves in the ocean have grown to towering beasts. The wind is whipping around us and the sunny sky has grown dark. At least, it seems like it has. As I look more closely at things, I note that the wind is not blowing the sand. Nor are the waves crashing onto the shore. And there, just above the horizon, the sun is still visible through the haze. It’s not real. It’s glamour. I glance up at Kallen. “Is the baby doing this?” I ask over the wailing.

He nods. “I believe so.”

By this time, Garren has handed the baby off to Alita. She is pacing the terrace and humming a tune I don’t recognize. The baby continues to cry. Moving closer to the bassinet, I notice a small roll of parchment. Whoever left the baby must have left a note. I reach a tentative hand out to it, remembering what happened when Dagda tried to open a parchment from the Sirens that was addressed to Kallen. I don’t know if the Elves use any type of enchantment like that so I first touch it with one finger. When my skin does not begin to sizzle, I wrap my fingers around it and pull it out from under the blanket where it fell when Tabitha picked the baby up.

Peering over my shoulder, Kegan asks, “What does it say?”

“Does the wanker think you have x-ray vision?” Taz snarks. “You haven’t even unrolled the thing yet.” Again, I ignore him.

Unrolling the parchment, I read the brief note. Xandra, you are the only one who can keep her safe. There is no signature. I pass it off to Kallen who shows it to Isla.

“Keep her safe from whom?” I wonder aloud.

“Excellent question,” Kallen mutters. Glancing at Alita who is working hard to keep her face pleasant even though the baby’s crying has not diminished at all, he says, “Hand the baby to Xandra.”

“What?!” I yelp. I put my hands up in front of me to fend Alita off as she approaches with the baby. “I don’t know anything about holding babies.”

Taz snorts. “I bet you’re good at dropping them.” He’s probably right.

I have backed myself up against the terrace wall and can go no further. Alita has followed and she is ignoring my protests. She holds the baby out. It turns big, blue eyes in my direction and suddenly, the sun is shining again. It lifts its arms as if it wants me to pick her up and her wails quiet to sniffles. Relieved, Alita practically shoves the baby into my arms and backs away. Having no other choice, I cradle the baby against my chest. She is suddenly, blissfully quiet. Oh, this sucks.

I look up at the stunned crowd and I’m a little insulted by their shock. “What?”

“What did you do, conk it on the head to get it to shut up?” Taz jests.

“No,” I growl back.

“Well, there’s certainly nothing that screams ‘maternal’ about you, so you must have done something to it,” Taz accuses. I don’t know if he’s still teasing or not. Probably not.

A quick peek in Kallen’s direction has my eyebrows rising. He’s a little green around the edges. “Oh, for goodness sake, just because I got her to stop crying doesn’t mean I want one,” I inform him. His greenish hue turns red and he’s torn between embarrassment and relief. Did he forget it was his idea for me to hold her?

“I do not sense any other Elf magic,” Isla notes. “Whoever left the baby was not an Elf.”

“Are you thinking Cowan or Fairy?” Kallen asks her, grateful for the switch in topics.

“I am not sensing another Fairy,” Isla replies.

“So, a human dropped off an Elf baby to me?” I am stunned. There are no Cowans in this realm other than Alita’s mom.

Taz snorts. “You are a master in the art of speaking the obvious,”

Reading my mind, Kallen explains, “It was likely a Cowan who lives amongst the Elves.”

“He couldn’t have gone far. Maybe we can catch him and give the baby back,” I suggest hopefully.

“But, the note implies the baby is in danger,” Alita reminds me. “Should we not figure out if that is true or not before sending her on her way?”

Now I feel like a heel. “Um, sure,” I mutter. I add, “We could get answers, though.”

“If the Cowan is under the glamour of the Elves,” Tabitha says, “It is unlikely we would learn anything.”

So, that sucks, too. The baby has wrapped its tiny hands around bits of my shirt and is clinging to me like a spider monkey. I stare down into its blue eyes and am startled by the clarity I find there. Around us, the scent of wildflowers has returned. “So, Elf babies are born being able to use glamour?” I ask no one in particular.

“To an extent,” Isla says slowly. “This child seems a great deal more capable than others.”

Kallen’s eyes find her. “Royal blood?”

I look down at the baby again. She has wisps of reddish hair and tiny little points on her ears. She is a beautiful baby. She also looks an awful lot like a certain Elf Queen I met not that long ago. “Do you think she’s Addylyn’s baby?” When the name Addylyn leaves my lips, a smile stretches across the baby’s mouth. I will take that as a yes.

“What would make the Queen of the Elves dump her baby in another realm?” Kegan asks. Alita nudges him in the ribs. “What? That is what she has done.”

“I don’t know, but I think I should find out,” I say. I look at Kallen. “Up for a trip to the Elf realm?” I don’t hear his response. It is drowned out by a wail louder than I thought possible from such a tiny creature. The baby’s legs begin to kick and her little fists grasp my shirt tighter.

“I do not believe she wants you to go to the Elf realm,” Kegan unhelpfully points out.

“Seriously, a cork, a gag, something,” Taz grumbles as he lays his head on the terrace floor and tries to cover his little ears with his paws.

“Shh,” I whisper soothingly next to the baby’s ear as I sway back and forth. I could take her voice away, but that doesn’t seem right with a baby. She has no other way to express herself.

“Perhaps we should wait to discuss details,” Isla suggests. “Surely, she will need sleep soon. She has had quite a day, I imagine.”

“Is there anything else in the bassinet?” I ask over the baby’s wails.

Kallen picks up the violet colored blanket and shakes it out. “No,” he says.

“What is on the blanket?” Alita asks. She takes it from Kallen. “I believe this is her name.” She holds the blanket up for us to see the embroidered word. Lielle.

The baby is beginning to calm down again. When I don’t need to shout over her anymore, I say, “Maybe she’s hungry. What do Elves feed their babies?” If they only drink breast milk, this kid is seriously out of luck. There’s not a lactater among us.

“Bring her inside, we will find something for her,” Tabitha grunts. She is still offended the baby would not calm down for her. I’m certain it was the first time ever she could not soothe a crying child.

I’m not comfortable walking so far with the baby in my arms. The way she’s squirming, I’m afraid I’m going to drop her. Yes, I helped with Zac after my parents became ghosts, but he was way past the baby stage by then and therefore much less fragile if I happened to drop him. Which I never did. Well, I did once. We both fell asleep watching a movie and when Mom woke me up, she told me to carry Zac to his room. In my defense, I was still half asleep myself.

Reading my mind, Kallen says, “You will be fine walking across the house with her. You are not going to drop her.”

Taz snorts. “He is giving you way more credit than you deserve.” If I wasn’t holding a baby, I would kick him.

Reluctantly, I ever so slowly follow everyone through the large living room and down the hall to the kitchen. I consider climbing onto a stool, but doing that while holding the baby would most likely end with one of us on the floor. I’ll stand.

“Put her in here,” Kallen suggests, setting her bassinet on the table.

I glance down at the baby and know from how big and round her eyes are, she is going to scream if I try to put her down. “Maybe when she has calmed down a bit more,” I tell him. Everyone else takes a seat.

“I should let Dagda know what has happened,” Kallen says more to Isla than me.

Isla nods. “Yes, you should. With that exception, this is something we need to keep amongst ourselves. At least until we find out what is going on.”

“Why me?” I ask no one in particular. “I mean, Addylyn has met me. Like Taz pointed out a few minutes ago, I don’t exactly ooze maternal from my pores. Why would she leave her child with someone who has no idea what to do with her?”

Kallen raises a brow. “You must know something as you are the only one who could calm her.”

I glance down at the baby again. Why am I the only one who could calm her? It was probably a fluke. To test that theory, I hold her out to Kallen. “You hold her for a minute.”

The horrified expression on his face does not bode well for our future children. “She seems quite content to be in your arms.”

To my delight and Kallen’s continued horror, the baby holds her arms out to him. “See, she wants you to take her.” With a defeated sigh, Kallen reaches for the baby. He grasps her with both hands around the waist and holds her at arms’ length.

“Good thinking him not letting her get too close. She might have rabies or some other communicable disease,” Taz remarks from where he’s sitting at Tabitha’s feet while she mashes a banana in a bowl.

I roll my eyes. “She doesn’t have rabies.”

Believing I was speaking to him, Kallen flushes red and brings the baby closer to him. Only about six inches closer, but closer nonetheless. “I do not believe she has rabies,” he says sheepishly.

“I wasn’t talking to you.”

“I cannot believe she is not screaming her head off staring at your unfortunate face,” Kegan snickers. Quite the contrary. The baby is smiling at Kallen.

“Imagine what I would do to you if I was not holding a baby at the moment,” Kallen growls. “Because as soon as I put her down, that is exactly what I am going to do.”

“Enough,” Tabitha says, setting the bowl of mashed banana on the counter. “Put her in here.” A highchair magically appears.

“Is she old enough to go in there?” I ask. I have no idea when babies are old enough to sit up on their own.

“She looks to be around six or seven months old. She will be fine,” Isla assures me.

It takes Kallen a couple of tries to get the baby into the highchair. He can only get one leg in at a time with the other getting caught on the tray making it seem like the baby is doing extreme yoga before he lifts her to try again. Finally taking pity on him, Tabitha removes the tray from the chair so Kallen can set her down and strap her in. Once the baby is settled, she puts the tray back on the highchair.

Creating a baby size spoon, Tabitha scoops up some banana and holds it out to the baby’s mouth. “Open up,” she says in the coaxing voice pretty much everyone uses when trying to get a baby to eat. The baby’s mouth remains closed. In fact, her lips are now pressed together in the universal ‘I am not eating that’ sign. After a couple more tries, Tabatha gives up and hands the bowl and spoon to me.

Moving closer to Lielle, I hold out the mashed fruit and do my own version of the baby must eat voice. “Come on, open up.” The baby looks at the banana filled spoon and smiles. Suddenly, the kitchen is filled with monkeys swinging on vines. I duck to avoid getting hit by one before I figure out it’s just glamour. I feel a little foolish now. The baby claps her hands and laughs. Taking advantage of her open mouth, I put banana in it. The baby gums at it happily.

“I take it there are monkey’s in the Elf realm,” I comment, still embarrassed I ducked.

Trying hard not to laugh at me for fear I’ll make him feed the baby, Kallen manages a choked, “Yes.”

“The rest of you might as well bring your plates in here,” Tabatha says. “No sense in our dinner getting any colder.”

“Or you could eat in the dining room,” I suggest.

“And miss out on watching you being maternal and my cousin growing more nervous by the second? Not a chance,” Kegan chuckles. Both Kallen and I glower at him but he ignores us as he goes to retrieve his plate.

Ten minutes later, everyone else is almost done with their dinner while I am still feeding the baby. Who knew they ate so slowly? I eye my own plate that Kallen retrieved for me with longing. My stomach growls loudly.

“I could feed you while you feed the baby,” Kallen suggests.

I am tempted to take him up on it but I would feel silly having him feed me in front of everyone. “No,” I grumble. Finally, I scrape the last bit of banana from the bottom of the bowl. The baby opens her mouth just as readily as she did with the first bite. “Do you think she is still hungry?” I ask no one in particular. From the way she begins to kick her feet and fuss, I will take that as a yes.

“Perhaps a bottle is in order,” Isla suggests.

“Do Elf baby’s drink cow milk?” I ask. We don’t happen to have any baby formula handy.

Surprised by my question, Isla responds, “I do not know.”

“In our realm, we don’t generally give babies cow milk so young,” Mom says. She has been hanging back watching this whole time. She had better not be getting any ideas about being a grandmother any time soon.

“Then what should we give her?” I ask.

“Kallen could go milk a goat,” Kegan suggests earning him a glare from my gorgeous husband.

“How about juice?” Alita suggests.

“Do babies drink orange juice?” I ask Mom.

She purses her lips. “Apple juice is a better choice.” Because it has no pulp, I wonder. “Not quite as acidic,” she adds as if she read my mind.

Tabitha goes to the fridge and pulls out a pitcher of homemade apple juice. She creates a bottle with magic and pours some inside. Putting the top on it, she hands it to me. I, in turn, hand it to the baby. She looks up at me with big, round blue eyes that are asking ‘what do you expect me to do with this?’ Sighing, I take the bottle back and set it on the counter. I turn back to her and lift her out of the highchair and cradle her in my arm. Picking up the bottle, I put the nipple to her lips. She smiles and latches onto it. She happily begins to suck the juice out. Around us, the room fills with apple trees in full bloom. The girl really knows her fruit. Slowly, her eyelids begin to grow heavy. No one in the room speaks for fear of waking her. When she stops sucking, I gently pull the bottle from her lips. After a few more minutes, I cautiously put her in the bassinet which Kallen has moved to the floor. We don’t want to leave her on the counter in case she can crawl out of it. To my relief, she stays asleep as I move away.

We all tiptoe from the room except Felix who stays behind to watch her. Everyone is quiet until we reach the living room. Even then, we speak in hushed tones. “So, how are we going to find out what is going on in the Elf realm?” I ask.

“I can go,” Kegan volunteers.

Kallen shakes his head. “Not alone.”

I study my husband. “Um, do you really think you’re going to go off and leave me with the baby when you are the only other person she wants to hold her?” I do not miss the guilt lurking in his eyes. That was exactly what he was thinking he would do. Fat chance of that happening.

“We will not be gone long,” Kallen hedges.

“Neither of you will be going anywhere,” Isla informs him and Kegan.

“Grandmother,” Kegan begins but Isla cuts him off.

“If we send anyone to the Elf realm, it will tip off whoever is looking for the baby,” Isla explains.

I had not thought of that. “If we go asking questions about why Addylyn would send her baby to us, it’s like a neon sign saying ‘the baby is in the Fae realm.’”

“What is a neon sign?” Alita asks.

A fair question since there are no neon signs in this realm. “A really bright sign,” I explain. She nods in semi-understanding.

“Why am I entering through the terrace?” an annoyed voice asks from the doorway.

“So you don’t wake up the baby,” I tell my biological father in a ‘be quiet’ tone.

He does a double take. “Baby?”

I glance at Kallen who shrugs. “Grandmother wanted me to be discreet. I thought it best to simply say there was an emergency.”

“Will someone please explain to me what is going on?” Dagda demands. His ‘Most Patient Fairy in the Realm’ trophy is permanently on hold.

“Tell the wanker it’s his love child and get the thing out of here,” Taz suggests.

Out of the corner of my mouth, I murmur, “Shut up.”

“A baby we believe is Queen Addylyn’s was left on the terrace a short while ago,” Isla explains.

“Why the hell would she leave her baby here?” Dagda demands to know.

“That is the question of the evening,” Isla drawls.

Dagda rubs his eyes with the heels of his palms to keep from snarking back. Finally, he asks, “Where is the child?”

“In the kitchen sleeping,” I tell him. “Follow the smell of wildflowers.”

Dagda glances toward the kitchen. “I will take your word for it.” Is he afraid of babies, too? “Why do you believe it is Addylyn’s child?”

“The child’s ability with glamour is…precocious,” Isla explains.

“And she looks like her,” I add.

Dagda frowns. “If she was seeking sanctuary for her child, why would she bring it here?” Is he insulted Addylyn didn’t send the baby to him?

“There was a note with the child stating Xandra was the only one who could protect her,” Kallen says. His words receive only a grunt from Dagda. He is still insulted.

“If it would make you feel better you can bring her back to the palace with you,” I suggest.

I get a stern look from Isla. “Though you did not ask for the responsibility, I believe it wise the child remains here until we determine the reason for it.”

In other words, suck it up and deal with it. Got it. “Fine,” I sigh.

The scent of wildflowers is suddenly replaced by the smell of smoke. Voices are coming from the kitchen and are rapidly rising in alarm but the words are indistinguishable. Fire begins to lap at the walls and a baby’s voice begins to wail. We dash to the kitchen en masse meeting Felix who was on his way to get us.

“What’s wrong?” I ask him.

“I do not know,” he replies, heading back to the kitchen with us.

In the bassinet, the baby is sitting up. Her face is streaked with tears and her lungs must have an infinite supply of oxygen because she doesn’t stop to take a breath between shrieks. I kneel down in front of her and pick her up, resting her head against my shoulder and patting her back. I make little cooing sounds in her ear to soothe her. Kallen kneels next to me and wipes a tear from the baby’s cheek with his thumb. She slowly begins to calm.

When I look up, I find the same shocked expression on Dagda’s face the others had earlier when I soothed the baby. “What?” I demand.

My biological father shakes his head as if to clear it. “Nothing,” he says. Uh huh.

“Are you sure the Elves aren’t using some trick with glamour?” Taz asks. “Because ‘comforting Xandra’ is an oxymoron.”

“Go away,” I tell him.

The smell of smoke is diminishing. The smell of something riper, and real, is growing. “Um, anyone know how to change a diaper?” I ask. Wow. I have never seen Kallen move so fast. He is up and across the room before I even finish my sentence. I guess he’s not volunteering for the job.

“I will talk you through it,” Mom says, trying hard not to laugh.

I glare at her. “I think I would learn better if someone showed me.”

“Give her to me,” Tabitha says gruffly. She is not happy when the baby clings to me in a definite ‘I am not going to her’ show of defiance. Tabitha is quick to hide the hurt on her face, but not quickly enough for us not to see it.

“Sorry,” I murmur. Turning to Isla, I ask, “Why would she only want me or Kallen to hold her?” After all, she doesn’t know any of us.

Isla grimaces. “I suspect her mother used her own glamour to ensure this.”

I furrow my brow in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“She means images of you and Kallen were probably inserted into the child’s mind. Addylyn could have used her glamour to convince the child that the two of you represent safety and comfort,” Dagda explains. “Thus, ensuring you could not pass off the responsibility for her onto anyone else.”

Taz snorts. “Let’s test that theory. You teleport the kid a thousand miles away and if you can’t hear her cry when you get back, that means she found comfort there.”

Disgusted, I tell him, “That’s just mean.”

“Yeah? Let’s talk after you change that septic tank you call a diaper.”

The baby is growing riper by the second. Ignoring Taz, I ask the room in general, “What should I use as a diaper?” I doubt they have Huggies in the Fairy realm. Can a magical diaper be used? If so, what happens to the poop when the diaper disappears? Can magic make it disappear? If so, where does it go? My stomach begins to churn as I think of the possibilities. None of them are pleasant.

“Here,” Tabitha says creating a cloth diaper with magic along with a wash cloth. “Put this one on her and then rinse the other one.” I guess that answers my question. She brings the wash cloth to the sink and wets it.

But, rinse the other diaper? “In the sink? That is so gross.” Looking at Kallen, I ask, “Change or rinse?” I admit, I get a little bit of satisfaction out of the fact that he turns as green as I feel.

“You will not be rinsing it in the sink,” Isla drawls.

Where else would we rinse it? Oh. Eew! “You can rinse,” I inform Kallen. He is too busy swallowing back bile to protest.

Kegan slaps Kallen on the back. “You have fun with that.” If looks could destroy, Kegan would be nothing but a pile of dust motes.

“Where do I do this?” I ask. It seems wrong to change a baby in the kitchen.

“Outside would be nice,” Taz grumbles from under his paws. Even Felix has moved as far from the baby as possible without leaving the room. Their sense of smell is greater than the rest of ours.

That might not be such a bad idea. Anywhere in the house I change her, the odor is sure to linger. “I’ll do it on the terrace,” I tell everyone. Okay, I may be stalling. Regardless, I carry Lielle outside hoping nothing leaks from her diaper on the way.

“Would you like me to talk you through it?” Mom asks.

I narrow my eyes in her amused direction. “You’re enjoying this way too much.”

Her face the picture of innocence now, she says, “I have no idea what you are talking about.”

My audience has not shrunk at all. Everyone followed me out here. Sighing, I lay Lielle in her bassinet and tug her light blue dress high enough to expose her diaper. There are two pins holding it in place. I carefully remove them being sure not to poke myself or the baby. I set them aside. With great trepidation, I peel the diaper back. It takes half a second for me to put it back in place. “That is so disgusting,” I exclaim. I send pleading gazes to everyone around me. “Maybe someone should show me how to do this before I try it on my own.”

Mom giggles. “Sorry, honey, I would help you if I was corporeal.” Sure she would.

“You are quite intelligent. I have every confidence you will figure this out on your own,” Isla says. She is having considerable difficulty keeping her amusement in check.

I glance at Kallen and consider offering to switch. He changes and I rinse. Then I consider what I just saw. Do I really want to rinse that out? No, I don’t. At the moment, I am having trouble figuring out why anyone chooses to have children if this is what they have to clean up on a regular basis.

Okay, time to suck it up and get this over with. I peel the diaper back again, being sure to only breathe through my mouth. I take the wet wash cloth Tabitha gives me. Now, how do I do this? I glance at Mom.

“Pick up her legs a bit and wipe from front to back,” she instructs.

Easier said than done. Lielle seems to think this is great fun and she is happily kicking her legs. It takes several tries to move them out of the way so I can wipe away everything which needs to be wiped away. I pull the diaper out from under her and clean the last bit of poo from her bottom. I grasp the edges of the diaper together and hold it out to Kallen. “Have fun,” I snark.

When he just stands there in complete horrification, Tabitha slaps the back of his head. “Get a move on.”

After glowering at the Fairy who helped raise him, Kallen finally steps forward. With two fingers, he takes the diaper from me. Holding it as far from his body as his arm will allow, he walks back into the house to the sound of Kegan snickering.

“Think it is funny, do you?” Tabitha asks him. “You can rinse off the wash cloth.”

Kegan turns green. “I am not amused in the slightest,” he insists.

Alita giggles. “Come on, I will help you.” She is a far better wife than I am. Taking Kegan in one hand and the edge of the wash cloth in the other, she drags him into the house after Kallen.

Now, I have to put the new diaper on. If only I could remember how the other one was pinned. “Do I have to fold it or something?” I ask.

Tabitha kneels down next to me and the bassinet. “Give it here,” she says and I hand her the diaper. She folds it into the appropriate shape and then tells me how to put it on the baby for optimal leak protection. When it is time to pin it, she tells me to slip my fingers between the diaper and Lielle’s skin so I don’t accidently poke her. This turns out to be excellent advice for Lielle, bad advice for my fingers which I poke several times before the pins are in place. I manage to get only a tiny drop of blood on the diaper, though.

“Will you guys watch her while I go wash my hands?” I ask no one in particular.

“Go on,” Tabitha shoos.

When Whysper’s face scrunches up like she is about to cry again, Dagda adds, “Do hurry.”

In the kitchen, I scrub my hands as if preparing for surgery. I even clean under my nails. From down the hall, I hear random insults being exchanged between cousins in between gagging sounds. The rinsing of the diaper and wash cloth does not seem to be going well. I am avoiding that room like the plague. Drying my sparkling clean hands off with a towel Tabitha keeps close by, I hurry back to the terrace. Whysper hasn’t started in with a full wail yet, but she’s gearing up for it. I lift her from the bassinet and quiet her until she is only sniffling.

“You can try rocking her,” Mom suggests.

I don’t remember any rocking chairs in the house. “Where?” I ask.

“Since the child does not want to be far from you, I suggest in your bedroom,” Isla says. “We can set up a crib, as well.”

In our bedroom? Dismayed, I ask, “You want her to sleep in there with us?”

Isla cocks her head to the side. “Do you have a better suggestion?”

Sending her back to the Elf realm is sounding better and better. Glumly, I mutter, “No, I don’t.”

“Once she is asleep, we need to discuss what we are going to do about her,” Dagda says. I notice he is standing in the far corner of the terrace. Both out of sight and smell range for the changing of the diaper. Coward.

“Right, I’ll be back as soon as she lets me get more than five feet from her,” I tell him with a bit more edge than was probably necessary.

I consider carrying Lielle up the stairs. Which brings to mind all of the ways I could drop her. I opt for teleporting. Wow. Isla is fast. There is already a crib at the end of the bed and a rocking chair in front of the balcony doors. It is an old fashioned wooden one. I walk to it and sit down, cuddling Lielle against my chest. She smiles up at me and suddenly the trauma of changing her diaper is forgotten. It doesn’t take long for the rocking motion of the chair to work its magic. The baby’s eyelids grow heavy. Soon, she is sound asleep. Unfortunately, I am afraid to move her to her crib for fear she will wake up again. So, I continue to rock until Kallen comes up.

“Is she asleep?” he whispers.

I nod. “But I don’t know how to move her without waking her up,” I say just loud enough for him to hear me

Coming closer, Kallen slips his large hands between me and Lielle. Gently, he lifts her from my arms. Every so slowly, he carries her to the crib and places her in it. She fusses for a second but it doesn’t last. She is too far gone into the land of dreams to wake up. And what dreams she is having. Since she fell asleep, the room has been filled with flowers, various animals such as bunnies and foxes, and Elves who fawn over her in her glamour. This should make for an interesting night when Kallen and I are ready for bed.

Holding his hand out to me, Kallen pulls me from the chair. We quietly leave the room with Felix once again standing sentry. I don’t trust Taz not to push her crib off the balcony or something. Once we are in the hall, I ask, “How will we hear her if she wakes up?”

“We are meeting with the others in the sitting room right below our bedroom. We will keep both doors open and we should not have a problem hearing her if she wakes.”

Good thinking. “Okay.” We walk to the stairs and join the others in the sitting room.

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