Status: Finished.

More Than Just Baser Instincts.

Finally Home

Elaine's P.O.V.
Five Months Later

"Miss Porter!" a bunch of kids shouted, rushing at me and ramming into me at full force. I groaned teasingly before reaching out and ruffling as many heads of hair as I could.

"Well, I missed you guys, too. Were you nice to your substitute teacher?"

The room suddenly burst into twenty different shouted conversations, but I just laughed as I wriggled out of the group hug that had suddenly broken out in the middle of my classroom.

"I'm sorry I had to leave, but I'm back for good this time. But there is something you guys need to get used to: I'm not Miss Porter anymore—it's Mrs. Baum now. Can everyone say that?" Of course they could, and they all screamed at the top of their lungs. "Good! Now, I'm back from my honeymoon, and I really want to brush up on my knowledge of the biomes!"

These kids were so great... They clung to the knowledge, absorbed my words like sponges, and threw every question at me until there were simply no letters left in the alphabet. The minutes just passed so quickly, and suddenly the day was almost over.

The kids were clearly getting antsy as the last ten minutes wound down, and their eyes kept fluttering to the clock. I smiled to myself as I continued grading quizzes.

"Mrs. Baum, you have a visitor," a really weird, awkwardly high-pitched voice said.

Confused, I turned to the doorway.

"Quince, are you serious?" I groaned, slapping my hand over my eyes as the kids ran from their seats and rushed at him.

"Hands off the merchandise!" he crooned, finally managing to make it to my desk. Suddenly a little boy was screeching in delight in my arms as he pulled at my hair.

"Well, hello, Thing 2," I cooed, brushing his strawberry hair out of his eyes. "Do you miss Mama?"

"Mama!" he cooed back, patting his hand against my cheek.

"What are you doing here, Thing 1?" I muttered to Quince, trying to give him a stern look.

"I haven't been away from you for even a minute for the past few days, so this is an adjustment. Is it so bad to want to see my mate—err, my wife?" he asked, making a face. "These human customs..."

I couldn't help the grin on my face.

"I think weddings are catching on, so you better get used to it. Bryce and Anne picked a date for three months from now, you know."

Quince rolled his eyes, but then he leaned forward.

"Why don't you let the kids out a few minutes early?" he whispered, raising a damnably sexy eyebrow.

"I can't just—"

"Class dismissed!" Quince shouted, and my students were gone before I could even inhale a breath.

"Quince! You can't just do that!"

"Why not?" he mumbled, standing and moving to stand beside me. I rose carefully, allowing him to wrap his arms around me. "I just needed to see you." He released me and bent down, placing his hands on my hips and pressing his lips to my swollen belly. "And I needed to see you, too." He looked up at me. "How do you feel? Is she giving you any trouble?"

I shook my head as I ran my fingers absently through his hair.

"Rosalind hasn't been too fussy today. What about Rory?"

Quince stood slowly, taking the fussing babe into his arms.

"This teething thing is going to kill me. Other than that, fine, I guess." Quince kissed me quickly before grabbing my bag and slinging it over his shoulder. "Anyway, your sister called earlier."

"How is the sector?" I asked, locking the door behind us.

"She said Leonard had finished putting some new policies in place, and people are starting to believe in mates again."

I smiled. I knew Leonard would be a great lead male, and Arianna was certainly proud of him. Finally, she could raise her cubs in peace. It had nearly cost me everything, but I could finally stop feeling guilty about living free while Arianna was in an enslaved pride.

"And she said to tell you that she didn't have the flu after all—the doctor said she's having another boy."

"She just can't catch a break, can she?" I mumbled, shaking my head. "Her fourth son. I think she's going to have to adopt a girl!"

"They've come a long way from not wanting kids," Quince agreed, glancing to me.

I smiled, cradling my stomach.

"Must run in the family."

He kissed me quickly before opening the car door for me.

"I'm just glad that the Northern Sector is starting to get some outside breeds. This whole racial separation thing was one of the reasons lead pairs were even necessary in the beginning. We all thought it was only a matter of time before they tried to take over the entire state," Quince sighed, jamming the key into the ignition.

"Is your grandfather still coming to dinner?"

"Yeah. But I think he's going to try and talk us into taking up the lead position again. He's a broken record about it," he groaned, shaking his head despite the smile on his lips as he glanced over to me. "I think he'll back off when he hears about his granddaughter."

I smiled, but it was a bit heavy.

"Quince... You know that I'll quit my job when you're ready, right? I don't want you to keep turning down the offer because of me."

"Elaine, I'm not ready for this either," he murmured. "We're just getting started, and we need some time to ourselves. Besides, there's plenty of time for us to take over, and there's no inherent need for Home to even have a lead pair just yet. We'll keep going to the meetings on Saturdays until we're ready. At least until all of our pups are in school."

"Just how long will that be?"

He shrugged, but then he gave me a coy smile.

"I have hopes that Rosalind won't be the deciding factor."

I gave him a smile.

"I just wish our parents could have met them."

My heart felt heavy, but a hand on my knee pulled my head from the clouds.

"Nonsense. They're up in the sky with the great gods above, wrapped in each other's arms. Finally, without obstacles. And they're watching us, watching over Rory... And they're watching over Rosalind." I saw his eyes get glassy. "And my little sister is smiling down on our little Rosalind."

I nodded quietly, not saying anything. But words would just ruin the moment.

My eyes drifted down to the soft, silver gaze that gawked back up at me, and I brushed my fingers through his shaggy hair.

"There is someone who still needs to come out here, you know."

Quince glanced to me.

"I called Lucille about moving to Oregon. She's still saying no, but her answer gets more hesitant every time I ask. Maybe Rosalind will change her tune."

"I'm sure she'll change her mind," Quince offered, putting the car in park. "That's enough somber talk for one night. Anne and Bryce are standing right by the window watching us. We'd better get in there, huh?"

"If she keeps pushing her Natasha on my little Rory, we're going to have some issues," I told him, shaking my head at the woman who was standing in the open doorway, making Natasha wave at us.

"Let's just get through this dinner without too much bickering," Quince teased.

"Elaine!" Anne cooed. "Bring Rory over here! Natasha is lonely!"

I groaned.

"Just wait until Rosalind is born. Then imagine how she's going to push Cameron—"

I slapped my hand over his mouth.

"You knock on wood right now!"

"Let's just get inside before my grandfather eats his own foot, okay?"

As soon as we got to the door, Elaine snatched Rory right out of my arms and winked at me before setting them in the playpen with Lia and Cameron. Then she ran up to me and hugged the living daylights out of me.

Then my worst fears were confirmed when she leaned forward and whispered—very creepily—into my ear, "Just wait until your little Rosalind gets here. She will be my Cameron's bride."

"Damn it, Anne!" I groaned, pushing her away. "My children are not your toys!"

"Oh, but they'll be so cute together!"

"I love you, but you are such a pain!"

"Whatever, future in-law!"

"Anne!"

She shrugged all innocently, and I shook my head.

"Can we just eat already? I'm starving!" Quince groaned, and Bryce immediately started whining.

This is going to be a long lifetime...

I smiled as I looked to my big baby.

And, to think, this all started...in a small town called Home.

~Fin.
♠ ♠ ♠
Aaaaaand.... End scene! Maybe one day I'll be strong enough to skip over my love of happy endings...but until then, my characters get to lead happy lives after I'm done messing with them!

So that pulls this book to an end. Thanks for sticking with me through it all or even for just stumbling upon a single chapter before deciding it just wasn't your cup of tea. Either way, I had fun writing for you :)

So one last time: thanks for reading!
--Mira