Lydia's POV – One Year Later
My leg bounced repeatedly, – practically vibrating – as I sat and waited for Jasper to come out of the en suite bathroom to our hotel room. My heart rate had never been so high and my hands just wouldn't stop shaking. Anyone else would have been anxious about their first night as a married woman but that wasn't the reason I was acting so jumpy. I tried to take several calming breaths but it didn't really help; I only managed to begin hyperventilating. Sarah had warned me about this. It was then that Jasper came out of the bathroom. He looked gorgeous in his half-open white shirt with the bow tie hanging loose around his shoulders and crisp black trousers. He sighed dramatically.
"Call home," said Jasper simply. I gratefully rushed to the bedside phone and punched in the familiar numbers. We had agreed not to have any contact with anyone we knew while we were on our honeymoon but Jasper knew that I had a good excuse. I hadn't realised I had been holding my breath as the phone rang until it was answered and I had to breathe out to speak.
"Hello?" Robert's voice came from the other end and I was relieved to hear that there were no signs of chaos going on in the background. That was always a good thing. He quickly handed to phone to Sarah upon my request.
"How is everything?" I asked, barely giving her time to register who was speaking. I had left her and Robert in charge of everything at home until I got back with Jasper, as they were the most responsible people I knew. Well, being parents made them responsible in my eyes. Bailey and Flynn had offered but I didn't think they were attentive enough to take care of more than one dog – and with Phoenix in their care I could tell they had their hands full. Adam had convinced them to look after Phoenix when Sarah and Robert had convinced him to take in Dakota and Blaze as they didn't want any big pets in their house until little Maxwell was at least seven years old. To compensate, Sarah had purchased a goldfish and Robert had happily named it Pablo. There was a surprise.
"Atom and Amazon were picked up yesterday as promised and Zeus, Koko and Lolly's new owners came this afternoon. Elf's didn't come yet and hasn't been returning my calls..." Sarah informed me. She was talking about Vi-Vi's puppies. I was sad that we had to give away most of them but it was impossible for me and Jasper to take care of that many dogs – even with both our salaries. Tango was the one puppy I wanted to keep: she looked the most like Vi-Vi out of all of them with her fur being a darker shade of brown than the rest and her face longer. She never showed much interest in my husband, either, although she was as hyper active as Phoenix. It was the best mixture of both parents.
"Yeah, I never had much confidence in the woman who wanted Elf. She didn't look like she would be able to cope once he grew up. Are they all behaving themselves?" I asked, worriedly biting my lip. From across the room, Jasper winked at me before slowly unbuttoning his shirt and throwing it to the floor to reveal a pristine white vest. I wasn't impressed, although his triceps weren't anything to sneeze at.
"I wish Maxwell could behave as well as your dogs do! He's just naughty and cries most of the time – when he's not petting Elf. Those two have really hit it off and I think Robert is hinting to me that we, well..." Sarah trailed off as Jasper posed seductively before pulling his vest off and showing off his well-defined abdominal muscles. I just about melted. Jasper threw the vest near where the shirt had landed.
"Sh...sure. If by to-tomorrow the woman doesn't c-come, you're more than welcome to ha-have him." Jasper was stepping slowly towards me, purposefully tensing his body so his muscles stood out even more. He was driving me crazy. I was like putty in his hands.
"Thanks!" Sarah sounded pleased by this and who wouldn't be? Elf was absolutely adorable. He was the smallest out of his brothers and sisters and also the fluffiest: he looked as if he had been electrocuted. He was really sweet though, not at all boisterous like the rest of the litter. Elf would be perfect to live with Sarah, Robert and Maxwell. "Are you okay? You sound a little flustered."
"Would you be okay if your husband was putting on a strip show while you were on the phone?" I replied hurriedly. Jasper pulled a face when I confided in Sarah what was going on but continued with his show and began to get to work on his very nicely ironed trousers. Sarah laughed nervously.
"Perhaps I should hang up," she mused. I didn't give her time to think it over.
"Give Robert and Maxie my love..." I hung up quickly and smiled at Jasper, who grinned back. I noticed that my leg had stopped bouncing and I barely managed to register that if anything, I should be more anxious about this than how everything was going at home. But I wasn't. I was surprisingly and strangely calm. Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I felt safe and ready for this. That I loved Jasper probably helped some, too. I stood up and moved towards my husband. His arms wrapped around me protectively. The feel of his bare skin against me wasn't one I experienced on a daily basis yet I had to say I didn't hate it. We started kissing and I ran my hands over the taught six-pack he had kept secret from me. He had most definitely been working out in anticipation of this night. Jasper's fingers expertly found the zip at the back of my wedding dress and gently tugged it downwards. I felt the dress become loose around my shoulders.
"I love you Mrs Storm," murmured Jasper against my lips. Mmh, Mrs Lydia Storm. It had a ring to it, no doubt about that.
"I love you too," I whispered back, kissing him fiercely. My wedding dress dropped to the floor.
"Mama, Tango's not letting me play!"
"I am too! Elf's just being a pain!"
"Stop bickering, both of you!" scolded Phoenix. The two of them hung their heads in shame: they knew that if their daddy was annoyed then they were really in trouble. He wasn't often so sharp with them; Phoenix liked to mess around with them as if they were friends, not family. "Play nicely – together!" They mumbled something that I couldn't quite catch and dashed off, chasing a passing butterfly. I didn't get the chance to demand to know what it was they had muttered under their breath and punish them for it. I tell you, being a mother was hard work – with no lunch breaks.
"They're so cute!" said Angel. Demon rolled his eyes.
"Whatever. Seen one pup, you've seen them all."
"I agree entirely," said Sky. I wasn't surprised that she had so readily agreed with him. She and Demon had had a thing going for a while now although neither of them would admit to it. We weren't stupid – it was clear they liked each other from the way they spoke and acted around one another. Demon had hinted that he wanted to take it slow though; after his aggressive past he wanted to make sure that he did things right. I could remember clearly when he had first come back after being in the discipline unit. He had been so scared and shaky but over time he had returned to his normal, fearless and sarcastic self. He wasn't violent anymore though and apologised profusely for what he did to me. After much convincing that Demon had truly become a reformed character, I accepted his apology gracefully. It took me a while to get used to the idea that Demon was no longer a threat to any dog, not just me. He might have had an attitude but now he was literally all bark and no bite. It was a comforting feeling, especially when I had Phoenix to protect me if Demon ever reverted back to his old ways, as unlikely as that was.
"Tango is so much like you Nick," Sammy piped up. Phoenix chuckled: it wasn't the first time he had heard that and it probably wouldn't be the last either. Even though Tango looked a lot like I did she acted more like Phoenix whilst Elf was positively tiny, the exact same colour as his dad and was rather reserved. They were such very different puppies from the same parents. Then again, look at Sky and me. It just goes to show that being from the same litter did nothing to determine what personality you had.
Elf and Tango soon came bounding back excitedly and chattered nineteen to the dozen about how close they had come to catching a squirrel. Phoenix and I exchanged glances – they really were too easily excited, as we had discussed earlier. There was no way they had 'come close to nabbing a real live squirrel'. We would have to teach them to calm down if they were going to grow up to be respectable house pets. I didn't want them getting sent to a shelter because of unsociable behaviour.
"Hey, you want to learn something cool from your Uncle Sammy?" I was grateful to Sammy for the intervention.
"Sure!" they said in unison. Sammy beckoned them to follow him; he and Angel went off to a group of children to play with them. Demon and Sky took this temporary distraction as an invitation to wander off on their own too, so only Phoenix and I were left in our usual spot in the park. He lay down next to me, resting one of his paws on my own. We smiled contently at each other.
"Tango and Elf are amazing pups. You should be proud of them," said Phoenix, licking behind my ear. My tail began wagging automatically and I leaned in towards him. I loved that he was so affectionate.
"I am, but they wouldn't have turned out that way if you weren't their dad," I told him. He tugged my ear playfully and I nipped at him. He retaliated and it soon turned into a harmless play-fight that involved less fighting and more licking than anything else. We rolled around on the grass, oblivious to the world around us. The only thing that mattered to me right now was Phoenix. He had given me seven perfect puppies and although Lydia had had to give most of them away, I still had regular contact with Tango and Elf as they were staying with me while Lydia and Jasper were away. I didn't know how long my last two puppies would be with me and I wanted to savour any time I had with them. I loved them to bits, not just because they were mine but because Phoenix had given them to me. At one time I had been too shy to admit it to even myself but now I felt like I could stand up and declare it to the world: I love Phoenix!
"Thank you," I said unexpectedly, causing Phoenix to stop licking my chin and look at me with his deep black eyes.
"For what?" he asked quizzically. I licked seductively from the bottom of his neck up to the tip of his ear. A crooked grin stretched across his face, making him look even cuter than he did normally.
"For making me the happiest dog in the world," I replied. Phoenix scratched his head with one of his back paws bashfully.
"You make me very happy too, Vi," he responded. We grinned at each other, happily enjoying the special moment between us. As usual, it didn't last very long. Someone always came along and spoiled it – not that I particularly minded, as it was two 'someone's I happened to love and care about very much.
"Mama, Tango's being mean again!!" shrieked Elf.
"Am not!" screeched Tango.
"Are TOO!" hollered back Elf indignantly. The two of them raced towards Phoenix and me at such a speed that they didn't have enough distance to slow down and crashed into both of us, head first. We all landed in a furry heap and there was a moment of tense silence as the puppies held their breath, waiting for their parents to react. I caught Phoenix's eye and we managed to stay strong for all of two minutes – then we burst out laughing. Elf and Tango hurriedly joined in and pretty soon we were a furry, hysterical heap. It was a true Kodak moment if there ever was one.
Note: FAVOURITE chapter :D