Six Months Later
Aurora sat at the water’s edge, her toes buried in black volcanic sand. “Molto bella,” she murmured, basking in the Mediterranean sun.
“Sì,” Ethan replied, smiling down at her, as they watched Isabella run and dance in the sparkling blue waters of the sea.
“Thank you,” she told him for the tenth time since they had arrived in Italy for their honeymoon.
“Nay, thank you for allowing Isabella to join us. Many newlywed brides would not have wished such a thing.”
“She is our daughter now,” she reminded him, placing emphasis on the word ‘our.’
He grinned down at her, love shining brightly from his eyes. The words of Robert Burns that Tovar had quoted to him that cold winter’s night a half a year before came to mind. “To see her is to love her, And love but her forever; For nature made her what she is, And never made anither!”
Aurora laughed with delight. “That sounds like something Tovar would say.”
“He did, the night that you were trapped in the mine. It was his way of attempting to make me see sense.”
“Then, I am grateful to him for it.”
“As am I, but truly, Aurora, there is no other woman in all the world as you are. In my eyes, you are perfection itself, and I could not have been more blessed by God Himself to be able to call you mine. I cannot believe that I almost missed this.”
“But you did not, we did not, for here we sit in the most beautiful place in the entire world, together and in love.”
“Paradiso,” Ethan murmured, taking her into his arms and kissing her passionately. “Paradiso eterno.”
“I like that she murmured against his lips, ‘Eternal paradise.’”
“That is what holding you in my arms feels like, as if I have escaped hell and found Heaven here on earth in the arms of a copper-haired, golden-eyed angel.”
Aurora smiled and pulled him down with her upon the sand, running her fingers over the scars on his bare torso. “You are my love, my hero, my all, now and forevermore.”
“And what poetess is that one from.”
“This one,” she smiled, kissing his lips.
“Have I married a secret bard?” he teased affectionately.
“Oh, I have many secret talents that you have yet to discover,” she promised.
“And I look forward to discovering each and every one, starting with what the nape of your neck tastes like,” his eyes twinkled in mischievous delight as he lowered his lips to her neck.
“Mmm,” Aurora murmured, then giggled as his lips tickled her skin. “And what do I taste like,” she laughed.
“You taste like paradiso eterno, like amore eterno. Like love eternal,” he whispered, then claimed her lips once more.
Three Years Later
Aurora cried out in pain as another birthing pain coursed through her body. “What if I cannot produce a male heir?” she sobbed out, clutching Ethan’s hand. “What it is born dead as my mother’s sons were?” She was in terrible pain, and panic had seized her heart to the point where she was nearly delirious with it.
“The baby will be born alive and well, my love,” Ethan reassured her, as the bones in his strong hands crackled and popped beneath the pressure of her tight grip.
“How can you know for certain?” she demanded to know.
“I do not know for certain; I simply choose to believe that all will be well, my love.” Such was not an easy task for him, having lost his mother and brother to complications of childbirth. It had been why he had demanded to be in the room with his wife even though the midwife had attempted to remove him.
“The husband is simply not in the room,” the midwife tried again, not liking where their conversation was going. “It is too much excitement for the mother.”
“Be silent, woman,” both Aurora and Ethan commanded at the same time, then looked back at each other and smiled, in spite of their shared fear.
“I love you,” he murmured, kissing the back of her hand, willing his strength into her exhausted body.
“And I love you,” she gasped as another pain coursed through her body. The pains were coming more rapidly now, signaling that the baby would make its appearance quite soon.
The midwife, having been thoroughly chastened, returned to her position between Aurora’s legs. “It is time to push, my lady,” she instructed, getting right down to business, her offense quickly forgotten.
During the next pain, Aurora bore down with all of her might, roaring like a wounded animal. Ethan’s heart clenched at the sound. He had been stabbed and shot, had broken bones, but he had never experienced anything like what Aurora faced now, and it felt as if his heart was being ripped out of his chest as he watched helpless to do anything but love her.
Another pain came and the midwife ordered, “Push!”
Aurora pushed and the growl turned to a scream. “Something is wrong!” she gasped, attempting to catch her breath.
“The baby is caught on the pelvic bone,” the midwife announced after having inserted her fingers to investigate. “I am going to try and dislodge it, but if I cannot, I will have no choice but to break the babe’s collar bone, or you will both die if we cannot get this little one out in time.”
“No!” Aurora screamed as another pain hit her. “Do not harm my baby!”
Ethan, his heart torn asunder, looked at the midwife. “Do whatever you must to keep my wife alive. Do you understand me?”
The midwife met his eyes, then nodded. “Your Grace.” She turned her eyes back to the task at hand, sliding her hands into Aurora’s body to maneuver the baby. “Now push,” she instructed, removing her hands. “Push with all of your might.”
Aurora did as instructed and bore down with everything that she had nearly breaking Ethan’s hand in the process. “That’s it, love,” he murmured, swallowing the lump of fear in his throat.
“I cannot do this,” she gasped, lying back in exhaustion, tears streaming down her cheeks. “I cannot lose our child.”
“You are the strongest woman that I know. You can do this, and the baby will be fine.” Ethan brushed back the hair from her face, whispering soothing words of love and encouragement in her ear.
“Push!” the midwife commanded, and Aurora obeyed. The ungodly sound that erupted from her mouth felt as if it shook the rafters with its primal intensity, but when it ceased, it was met by another sound. The sound of their newborn babe crying in protest. “Your Grace,” the midwife stood with the squirming bloody bundle of noise, “I present to you your son and heir.”
“Thanks be to God,” Aurora whispered as she gazed in awe at their beautiful, healthy baby boy.
Ah, before you go...
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