Blake came back from doing Linc’s chores with Ethan and had work to do outside, but couldn’t make himself leave the house. He put the game on, but much as he was rooting for Chase, he couldn’t stop thinking about his sister, Meg.
Liz was bustling in the kitchen. She let him hug her, but moved away almost immediately, really silent and withdrawn. He had an idea the kinds of heavy thoughts that were weighing on her. His were just as dark. Even Petra, doing her homework at the kitchen table, was uncharacteristically quiet. Ethan brought his own books down to join her and left out his earbuds, which wasn’t like him. He was obviously as anxious for news as the rest of them.
Blake hated this. He felt really helpless and, damn it, Meg deserved better. More.
Blue jerked to his feet with a rattle of his collar and a low, “Woof.”
Blake veered from pacing the living room rug to follow Liz to the window over the sink.
“It’s them,” she said over her shoulder to the kids. “If they let her out of hospital, that’s probably good news.”
Nevertheless, her knuckles were white where she gripped the edge of the sink. When Blake put his arm around her, she slid hers behind his waist and hugged herself into him, tense as she waited for Linc and Meg to emerge from Linc’s truck.
Blake unconsciously set his hand on Liz’s growing bump, needing the feel of that firm warmth, wishing for a little kick to reassure himself their own baby was safe and sound.
“Oh, look at that smile,” Liz said as Meg leaned into Linc and they started toward the house.
Blake chuckled, tension dissipating into relief as he took in the way his sister was beaming up at her fiancé. He’d had some doubts about Linc at first. He was still doing everything he could so Meg knew she had options beyond marrying a man she barely knew, but Linc was proving himself to be as solid as they came. Right at this second, things looked like they were working out just fine.
* * *
Linc had never been one for drugs, but he figured this was what if felt like to be high. His entire body was buzzing with elation, his feet not even feeling the steps as they walked into the mud room and fended off the ever-friendly Blue.
“Everything is okay?” Petra appeared in the doorway, backing up to give them room to come into the house, but she was so sweetly anxious, her slender hands wringing with such genuine caring, Linc felt a rush of affection for her.
For everyone here as they looked so concerned, searching his and Meg’s expressions, worried for her and him and their baby. Babies.
The love he felt for Meg in that moment, for bringing him into the heart of her family, for giving him a family of his own, was out of this world.
“Everything is very okay,” he said, exchanging a look with Meg as he drew her in front of him, hooking his arm across her collarbone and another around her waist, whispering against her ear, “You say it.”
She hunched a little as though trying to contain her excitement, then blurted, “It’s twins!”
For a second there was dead silence. Ethan’s mouth fell open. Blake’s expression went blank. Liz’s eyes popped open.
Then Petra squealed, “Are you serious?” She gave Linc’s elbow a little joggle, demanding he look at her. “Are you? Serious? Twins? Oh my gosh!”
And they all laughed at how she leapt up and down.
“Oh, I want to hug you, but I’m afraid!” she said to Meg. If the girl had had a tail, it would have wagged like mad.
“I’m fine,” Meg assured Petra, forcing Linc to loosen his hold so she could embrace her, then Liz, then a still speechless Blake.
Ethan fist-bumped Linc and said, “Dude,” before hugging his aunt. “You’re really okay?” he said, ducking his head a little because even at barely fifteen he was taller than she was.
“Saw them on the scan high fiving each other,” she assured him.
He grinned. “That’s so cool.”
“I might not think so on labor day, but yeah. We’re…” She looked at Linc and her eyes teared up.
His did, too. Shit.
“We’re thrilled,” he said for her, voice catching. “Shocked, but thrilled. Jeez, Meg, you really have to stop blindsiding me like this,” he teased.
“Yeah, this was all me,” she retorted, wearing the same silly grin they’d both been sporting since leaving the hospital.
Liz wiped beneath her eyes and smiled wide, too. “I’m so happy. Relieved and happy. You’re staying for dinner? Kids, can you set the table?”
“Congratulations,” Blake said with a strong, heartfelt handshake.
“Thank you,” Linc said, sincere because he felt acceptance in that handshake. Genuine welcome to the family. It moved him. He almost told them he and Meg would marry as soon as possible, but they’d decided in the truck to wait until after Blake and Liz’s wedding. They would keep it small, not wanting to steal their thunder when they were so close to tying the knot themselves.
Talk turned to the wedding over dinner anyway, when Petra said, “I guess you’re not going to marry my Uncle and have his babies after all.”
“Hell no, she isn’t,” Linc drawled, thanking Liz as she passed the mashed potatoes.
Meg chuckled, glancing at Liz. “Your brother is coming to the wedding?”
“Oh, he better,” Petra blurted, not giving her mother a chance to reply. “I told him I’d post his deepest darkest secret online if he didn’t.”
“You’re taking your life into your hands with that one, baby girl,” Liz warned, then shrugged at Meg. “He’s really hard to reach right now. Still in South America, but he’s due home any day. He kind of does whatever he wants, but I think he’ll try to make it, if only because he’s worried I’m marrying too fast. Even younger brothers can be overprotective and annoying.” She sent a sweet smile to her husband, batting her lashes, before sharing a grin with Meg.
“Did I ever use those words?” Meg said with mock innocence, hand going to her chest. “I don’t think so.”
“Take more broccoli,” Blake urged, offering his sister the bowl. “You’re eating for three.”
Over their chuckles, a cheer sounded from the television in the other room. Blake got up to turn it off, pausing long enough to note, “They won. I’ll have to watch the highlights later. Chase is going to take them to the series, watch.” He clicked off the TV and came back, saying as he took his seat, “I’m used to seeing you and Chase on TV, but it’s weird to see Skye there, isn’t it?”
“Right?” Meg agreed.
“Flynn goes to games when school is out. He’s been on TV,” Petra said.
“Chase’s little brother? Are you seeing him?” Meg asked.
“What? No.” Petra blushed, looked to her mom, looked hideously self-conscious.
Ethan stuffed a big scoop of mashed potato in is mouth and pinned his lips over it, eyeing Petra circumspectly.
“I mean, I see him at school. We talk. Sometimes,” she mumbled, ducking her red face. “He’s graduating and going to college next year. Said I could probably get his job at the pizza place if I was looking for something in September.”
Linc watched Liz’s expression grow thoughtfully concerned while Blake bristled with fatherly umbrage.
They hadn’t found out the sex of their babies, but in that moment, as he caught a glimpse of teen parenting, Linc wondered how he would be reacting in fifteen years or so, especially if the twins were girls.
Meg’s hand touched his thigh and she gave him a look that suggested she was thinking along the same lines. Which told him that they were closely connected enough that, when the time came, they would weather whatever came at them together.
He closed his hand on hers, felt her ring press into his palm, and looked forward to making his life with her.