Calleigh rested her hand on the bulge of her stomach, pressing heat into the latest ache from the baby’s kicking. It was almost time. She was sure she was stretched almost to her limit. Her skin felt thin to her, and it was her skin under her palm… but it was someone else’s foot, elbow, shoulder, head. Some stranger’s, maybe. She hadn’t seen their face yet.
She rubbed over the spot, feeling the baby turn, maybe press back at her for a moment, and took a breath. Not deep. There wasn’t much space in her for a deep breath these days.
“Did you love me before I was born?” she murmured.
Toar’s mother had always said that holding the shield right would feel like sinking into the hot space between stars and finding that the dark bed between was fitted out just for his shoulders. Like standing between mountains and finding he could look their peaks in the eye. Like finally realizing that his body really was made of rolling, unstoppable ocean water, wrapped in delicate, durable skin.
And he’d been waiting for it. Breathing in and out, ignoring aches and pinches in his shoulders, head down, eyes shut, hands spread palm out, he was waiting for it.
Toar was sweating, but he felt like someone had dropped ice down his back, under the skin, dripping down on either side of his spine. It was cold, and he could never figure out why he never shuddered under it. The chill perched in his shoulders, kicking idly off his collarbone before it rolled down his arms, wrapped muscle and bone in ice-cold silk and swept downward to his hands. Under the thin skin of his forearms, it actually began to bite and then, at his palms, it flared to dripping heat.