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A Valentine's Wedding

Chapter 1 - Xenia

Who’s bright idea was it to have a Valentine’s Day wedding? Oh right. It was mine. I thought it would be romantic and Clay would never forget our anniversary. Not that I believed he would forget any other day. This was the guy that proposed on the anniversary of our meeting in the same spot where we got ‘pongoed,’ as Makayla likes to call it.


It still makes me laugh when I think back on how we met. It wasn’t so funny at the time, but in hindsight, I can laugh. I also can’t watch 101 Dalmatians without laughing and thinking of that day in Central Park when my life changed for the better. By chance, Fate, or just the divine intervention of Zeus, I ended up with this incredible man who is hot, great in bed, and so damn sweet.


I still don’t know how, in the thousands of men that live in NYC, after only finding assholes, I found such a keeper. And trust me, I know all about the assholes that live in NYC. Between the assholes I met in college, like Alden Zachery Greenwood the Fourth. Insert snort and eye roll here. And massive line-crossing creeps like Trevor Hildebrant. I am beyond lucky to have Clay.


My mom and sisters all would agree. Even if my sisters like to think they found great guys, too. Not to discredit their boyfriends. They are great guys. But they aren’t Clay. They aren’t my fiance or soon-to-be husband. So they will never measure up. And yes, you can take that on multiple levels. I’ve not seen THAT much of their boyfriends to do a comparison. And I don’t want to.


It’s hard to believe I wouldn’t be Xenia Rosario in two hours. I’ll be Xenia Nikolaidis. I didn’t think I would be this nervous. I had been fine through all the planning. It wasn’t till these final weeks that the nerves started to settle in. I handled all the back and forth of where to have the ceremony and reception, who should be part of the wedding party, who should be invited, and what to serve. 


The latter two were very easy. I didn’t want my sisters and new friends to think I was ranking them or choosing one over the other. So, my matron of honor is a dog of honor, Tinkerbell. Clay didn’t want to pick between his cousins, and since I picked Tinkerbell as my matron of honor, he decided to have Zeus as his best man. I couldn’t think of a more fitting couple to have with us. We wouldn’t have met without our dogs. This brings it all full circle.


Neither of us wanted a big show in a church and all that. Clay may have a large extended family on the Frost side, but we knew we wouldn’t invite most of them. We knew without a doubt one Frost who was not invited, she-who-must-not-be-named. We were being selective about who we invited from that side of his family. So, just the ones we were close to. This meant we would invite his triplet cousins with their wife and kids, his Tia Artemis and Tio Shaw, his Frost grandparents, and his cousin Makayla and her girlfriend.


So, knowing we didn’t want a big church wedding and couldn’t travel to Puerto Rico easily with our dogs helped narrow things down. My parents were looking at places in Jersey to host the ceremony and the reception. But honestly, I didn’t want my wedding in New Jersey. So that ruled out the offer from my brother and our sister’s boyfriend to use their fire department connections to get a space. 


Clay’s Frost grandparents swooped in and resolved the location predicament. We would host the ceremony and reception at the massive Frost estate outside Boston. In spring, there would be this beautiful garden for the ceremony. However, we are getting married in winter so outdoors would not work. Especially with the gown design I fell in love with when Makyala’s new girlfriend showed it to me. 


I never met Makayla’s ex, and I’m okay with that because her new girl is awesome. She designed the gorgeous strapless sweetheart mermaid gown I was wearing based on my just saying a few random ideas of things I liked. I doubt anyone else could have taken my ramblings of wanting a mermaid silhouette, sweetheart neckline, and open back that wasn’t just white but was a white, turquoise, and purple ombre. It was perfect.


“You look beautiful.” Mamá smiled over my shoulder as she finished adjusting the ombre train of my dress.


“Thanks, Mamá.” I smiled or tried as I had to put a hand to my mouth, feeling nauseous again.


“Stand back. Xenia’s going to throw up again.” Reese proclaimed as she ensured I had a clear path to the attached bathroom.


“Xenia, are you still not feeling well?” Mamá sighed while I bent over the toilet to throw up.


“I’ve got your hair,” Amaya assured me as she slipped past my mom and ensured my fishtail braid adorned with white plumeria flowers wasn’t ruined.


“I’ve got the dress!” Ofelia exclaimed as she moved fast enough to get a towel between the dress and the toilet to prevent splash damage.


“I’ll be fine. It’s just nerves.” I waved a dismissive hand as I stood up. “Thank you, ladies.” I sighed.


“Here. Take these.” Reese smiled as she handed me a water bottle and a peppermint candy in my hands along with a pregnancy test.


I blinked at her, frowning at the test. “Reese? If this is a used test and your weird way of saying I will be a Tia again…”


“Oh, hell no.” Reese laughed, shaking her head. “After the twins, we knew we were done. Don got the snip.”


“Then why…” I groaned as it dawned on me that she meant I should take the test. “No way. We use protection. And I’m not supposed to replace my birth control till…”


“If you have to think about it, you missed the appointment.” Ofelia chuckled.


“Take the test.” Mamá insisted, waving me back into the bathroom.


I frowned but did as I was told. Mamá joined me in the bathroom to help hold the dress so I could take the pregnancy test. I hadn’t even considered this was a possibility. But now that I’m staring at the test on the sink, I reviewed all the possible signs I ignored. I couldn’t believe I’d have just written off the symptom, not after going through this once before. Yet here I was on the day of my wedding, taking a pregnancy test. 


I’ve been so busy planning that I likely forgot my OB appointment. All the nausea that I’ve chalked up to the nerves about being so close to the day: I barely get a period with my birth control, so that wasn’t something I’d have worried about. Then there was how tired I felt, but again, I chalked up to all the running around planning the wedding and trying to pick up more hours to put funds into our wedding account on top of regular bills. 


I placed my hand over my abdomen. What will happen if I am pregnant? How would Clay react? That’s a stupid question. I’m sure he would be happy about it. We’re getting married, and when Tink had her puppies, he held me when I was crying and told me we’d have a baby when we were ready. I don’t know if we’re ready. And what if I have another miscarriage? 


I shook my head. I shouldn’t think like that. This won’t be like last time. First, I don’t even know if I’m pregnant. Second, if I am pregnant, it’s with a man I love. A man who I’m going to marry in a matter of hours. Clay wouldn’t reject me or our baby. He won’t put any unnecessary stress on me that could cause me to miscarry. Honestly, if I was pregnant, I think we would both be very cautious and protective of my pregnancy after our past experiences.

Chapter 2 - Clay

Holy shit! It’s MY wedding day! If someone told me two years ago I’d be in a committed relationship, I’d ask if you were high. If someone said I’d be getting married, I’d recommend a trip to the nearest psych ward. Old me couldn’t imagine ever wanting to give up being a bachelor. I loved the freedom of that life and couldn’t fathom giving that up for a woman.


It wasn’t until I fell into Turtle Pond in Central Park with Xenia that I realized I was all wrong. Being in a relationship wasn’t a noose around my neck. It wasn’t the death of my freedom. It was just a change. Sure, I wasn’t free to fuck whoever caught my eye, but that’s fine with me. If I learned anything from the disaster of an attempt at a threesome before Xenia and I were official, it’s that no one else would do. 


Till Xenia, I didn’t realize that the ‘freedom’ of being a bachelor was more a cover for loneliness. It was for the loneliness that Reese gave me Zeus. The little shit never filled that loneliness. At least not directly. As much grief as he gave me when I first got him, I can’t be mad. Not because he’s an adorable fluffball, but because he’s the reason I met Xenia. I owe the little guy for that, which is why he’s my best man for the wedding. That was because I didn’t want to pick between my triplet cousins.


Speaking of my furry best man, he was next to me in the smaller gathering room that had been changed completely to suit our wedding ceremony. In front of the large marble fireplace stood an arch covered in galaxy orchids and white plumerias. The justice of the peace we hired, a golfing buddy of Grandpa Aiden, was standing a safe distance between the fireplace and the arch. I say a safe space because while the estate has central air to keep it warm, the fire is going for added warmth.


If we’d chosen a warmer season, we’d be outside in the garden, but Xenia wanted a Valentine’s Day wedding, and I’ve yet to be able to tell that woman no. So, the ceremony and reception will all be contained inside the estate. It’s a good thing Grandpa Aiden offered the use of the Frost estate. We wouldn’t have been able to find a venue that could do double duty to prevent people from having to drive to the ceremony and then to another location for the reception—least of all in our budget. 


Yes, there was a modest budget for this wedding. Xenia and I agreed that we should pay for our wedding. We didn’t expect our parents to pay for the wedding, even though it was offered. Her parents offered more because they felt they ought to, but Xenia turned them down, knowing they didn’t have much to spare. Dad and Mãe offered money, too, but accepted when I said no. The bitch egg donor tried to offer an apology. I told her to shove it because I never wanted anything from her. 


Xenia and I wanted to do this on our own. Xenia was especially hesitant about any Frost money. Not that she’s biased against everyone in my Frost family, but I won’t fault her for being cautious given her history with she-who-must-not-be-named. I know what you are thinking. If we weren’t accepting money from the family, why were we having the wedding at the Frost estate? Simple, it’s FREE.  The use of the estate is open to anyone in the family. No one else was hosting an event today, so we took the option. 


Free is the best deal you could ask for, especially for a venue like this. I know that when the estate gets rented out for events, yes the family rents it out since no one lives here, people pay TWELVE THOUSAND. And we looked at other venues and were still looking at anywhere between three to five thousand. So yes, we’ll take FREE.


Not accepting money from family doesn’t mean we didn’t accept help in other ways, like accepting the free venue. Don built the arch free of charge. Makayla’s girlfriend made Xenia’s dress, which I’ve been told is stunning and that I better control my drool. The only ones allowed to drool at this wedding are the dogs. Elijah made the three-tier red velvet wedding cake, Xenia’s choice, with a rustic frosting that looked like birch tree bark. It wasn’t Mãe’s brigadeiro cake, but my cousin makes amazing cakes. 


Then, everyone else pitched in to get everything set up. It was a divide-and-conquer method to get this room set for the ceremony and the big ballroom for the reception. Darius, Forrest, Riko, Xenia’s brother Ace, and Xenia’s sisters’ boyfriends tackled setting up for the ceremony. Riko was more of a supervisor and general perfectionist, ensuring everything was right. Each chair that flanked the aisle had a small bouquet of galaxy orchids and white plumerias with a white carpet runner to define the aisle. They did a great job. 


Dad, Mãe, Don, Xenia’s dad Jair, Makayla, and her girlfriend had set up the ballroom for the reception. Makayla, of course, claimed all control over the sound system. We had two playlists that would be used at the reception. One or while everyone was eating and then the other for the dancing. Makayla joked that I could’ve used family connections to get Aunt Kim’s cousin Landon’s band Blaze Halo the play. One that felt like overkill. Two way too many degrees of separation for a favor. And three, neither of us are Blaze Halo fans. 


I haven’t looked in the ballroom yet, but I was sure it looked great. Mãe wouldn’t accept anything less for my wedding. I glanced at my watch and decided what the hell I should take a peak instead of standing here like a bump on a logo waiting for the ceremony to start. I whistled and patted my leg before heading out of the room. Zeus barked and hurried to keep up, not an easy thing with his tiny legs. I don’t want to consider the logistics of how my ten-pound Corgi knocked up Xenia’s hundred-pound Leonberger.


As I headed for the ballroom, I paused, hearing a commotion by the front doors. Zeus paused, ears perked as he heard it too. It was hard to determine what was being said, but I knew something was off when Zeus started to growl. Zeus only growls when someone he doesn’t like is around. Zeus used to growl at any woman I tried to hook up with between getting him and meeting Xenia. And only one person I could think of would show up unannounced and uninvited to the Frost estate he’d growl at. 




Oh, fuck that. I’m not letting that bitch crash my wedding. As I rounded the corner, I could see my godparents, Tio Kevin and Tia Havana, attempting to block someone from getting inside. I couldn’t see past Tio Kevin to know for sure it was her, but then I heard that voice, and I knew.


“Get out of my way! I am the mother of the groom.” The bitch snorted.


“Not happening. You weren’t invited as this is an invite-only event.” Tio Kevin shook his head.


“And the mother of the groom is already here. So, fuck off.” Tia Havana added.


I didn’t need to see her face to know that pissed she-who-must-not-be-named off. She has always hated that Reese and I are closer and honestly love Mãe more than we ever could, would, or did her. She was never a mom. She was a tyrant in Chanel and pearls. 


“This is my ancestral home. I do not need to be invited to be here.” The bitch countered. “And don’t dare presume to call that third-world trash my son’s mother.”


At this point, I had enough, and so had Zeus. Zeus scurried forward, getting between Tio Kevin and Tia Havana to begin barking and snarling. He was about as terrifying as anyone would expect a ten-pound corgi in a doggie suit to be. So, not very scary, if I was honest. But she-who-must-not-be-named startled and backed off for a half second. Now it was my turn to bark and snarl to get this bitch away from the happiest day of my life.

Chapter 3 - Zeus

I put up with a LOT of shit with Clay as my human. The silver lining is that I have Tinkerbell and her human Xenia around. Not that Clay makes a habit of dressing me up like this. That doesn’t mean I like being in this getup. I don’t care that it’s a special day. I don’t understand what is happening, but it must be special. Clay and Xenia have been planning this gathering for what felt like forever. And all the people they like most are here. Which means all our pups are here.


I am happy and envious to see my pups. I was glad to see them since we see some of them only on special occasions. But I was envious because none of them were dressed up like me. Lucky pups. I feel ridiculous dressed like this. Whatever is supposed to happen today better happen soon, or I will find a way out of this outfit to run around free. I was restless and bored sitting in that room, waiting for something to happen.


I was happy when Clay decided we could venture out of the room. I was happy until I picked up that evil woman’s scent. I hadn’t smelled her in years, but my nose never forgot her stench. I knew she wasn’t supposed to be around. Any time she comes around, Clay gets angry, and Xenia gets upset. I won’t allow that evil human to upset my humans. 


Naturally, I stormed ahead and made my opinion of her presence known. I know I’m a small dog. I don’t have the size intimidation factor of my beloved Tinkerbell. Unlike Tinkerbell, I have an aggressive attitude to make up for my size. I’ll chew this evil human’s ankles off to get my point across. 


‘Get the fuck out!’ I barked over and over as I lunged to bite her.


She kept stepping back, so I never made contact. It’s probably for the best. I bet she tasted terrible, and Xenia would get upset if I got blood on the outfit she got me. At least it was forcing the evil woman to step back. I hope she falls on the steps and hurts herself. We can leave her in the cold—survival of the fittest and all that.


“Let me translate what my dog is saying.” Clay glared at the intruder, taking one of his giant steps forward.


She may have given birth to my human, but unlike my Tink, who isn’t afraid of our pups, even when they play aggressively, this human feared Clay. GOOD! After all she did to Clay and Xenia, she better be afraid. He had plenty of reasons not to want her around. She knew she wasn’t supposed to be here, yet foolishly thought she could show up. The audacity!


“Get. The. FUCK. OUT.” Clay said each word with rage as he stepped toward the woman.


Credit to him. He’s finally started to learn my language. That’s EXACTLY what I said, but it sounded more intimidating to him than me. But the words were still the same and got the desired effect. The evil woman was down two steps into the cold winter night. 


“You cannot be serious.” The evil woman shook her head. “I am your mother! I carried you in my womb for nine months and gave birth to you. I changed your diapers and was always up to nurse you.”


“None of that means you get to be in my life. And don’t stand here telling lies. By all accounts, you never changed a single diaper. Not to mention, we were bottle-fed, and it was Dad or our NANNY that fed us. If you were up late at night, it was because your sound machine couldn’t drown out the sound of two newborns crying.” Clay dismissed her claims.


I barked louder. She was upsetting my human, and I didn’t like it. I may not understand what was happening today, but I knew it was a celebration for Clay and Xenia. Everyone kept congratulating him, wishing him luck, and saying today would be the happiest day of his life. There is nothing happy about this evil woman. She needs to leave before she ruins the day.


“That…” She started to refute.


“Is the TRUTH!” Reese interrupted.


“Aren’t you supposed to be with Xenia? Is everything alright?” Clay asked, momentarily forgetting the intruder.


“Everything is fine. The bride asked me to come and find you. There’s something she wanted to talk about before the ceremony. But I see we have a bigger issue.” Reese paused to sneer at the evil human.


“Nothing to worry about. The cunt is leaving.” Clay smiled as he slammed the large doors shut and locked the evil woman outside. “Now, what’s going on? Why does Xenia need to talk to me before the wedding?”


“Take deep, calming breaths, bro.” Reese sighed as she fixed Clay’s jacket. “You too, Zeus.” She smiled as she crouched to fix my outfit. “You two need to settle down.”


“Reese. Just tell me what’s going on.” Clay insisted. 


“Yo! Cuz!?” I believe one of the triplets, Forrest, is what they call him, called with his youngest boy on his hip. “The JP’s ready to get this show on the road.”


Clay sighed and checked his watch. “Shit. We’re supposed to start the ceremony. That bitch took up too much of my time.”


“The ceremony can wait a few minutes. Xenia wants to talk to you before the ceremony.” Reese insisted.


“Do you want us to tell the Justice of the Peace it will be a little longer?” Clay’s aunt Havana offered.


“He’ll understand when we explain the party crasher.” Kevin gestured to the doors where we could hear that evil woman banging on them.


“Yeah. Thanks, Tia Havana and Tio Kevin.” Clay sighed. “I don’t know what Xenia needs to say before the wedding. I hope it’s not something that cancels it.” He frowned.


I whimpered and pawed his shoe to reassure him. There was no way Xenia would suddenly change her mind about Clay. Even if she’s still too good for the big oaf, she loves him. I don’t doubt her love for him, so he shouldn’t doubt it either.


“Stop being a drama queen.” Reese rolled her eyes as she tugged at Clay’s arm. “Tia Havana and Tio Kevin have things under control. Now come on.” 


I hurried to follow them upstairs. It’s difficult to climb stairs when you’re a small dog like me. Even less when you must wear this stupid outfit. Clay thankfully felt bad for me after I struggled the first five stairs and picked me up. 


“Come on, Zeus. Let’s go see what our women need from us.” He sighed and tucked me under his arm as he hurried upstairs.

Chapter 4 - Tinkerbell

Xenia is supposed to be MY emotional support human. I was not a fan of this switch of roles, but for Xenia, I would try my best. Just because I failed all those training classes to be an official support animal doesn’t mean I cannot be here for my human. She has always been there for me when I was upset. It’s about time I returned the favor. 


I didn’t understand why she was upset. She’d been so happy a few moments ago. She was trying on her new dress, and everyone was gushing over her and talking about how great today would be. I still didn’t know what was happening today. I knew Xenia was getting all dressed up, even fancier than when she and Clay went on a night out. I got a purple outfit and a crown of flowers to wear. Zeus was given a special outfit, too.


So, something big was going on. Even if all the special clothes didn’t make it clear, we were in a strange place, and there were people we only saw occasionally. Plus, all my puppies were here. I love to see my puppies. It’s such a rare occasion to see them all at once. It might be selfish of me, but I wanted Xenia to calm down so we could get to whatever was going on and I could be with my puppies. 


After Reese left, I nudged past Xenia’s sisters and mom to reach my human. She was sitting on the bed of the strange room we were using with some weird thing in one hand and a tissue in the other. I whimpered and put my head on her lap. When that didn’t get a reaction, I licked her hand and nudged closer. 


“Oh Tinkerbell…” Xenia sniffled as she hugged my neck.


“Xenia, why are you even crying?” Amaya sighed. “Isn’t this like a good thing? You’re getting married.”


“Amaya…” Their mom hissed. 


“What? It’s not like me or Ofelia popped a positive pregnancy test. We’re only dating our guys. That might be too much too soon. But she’s literally supposed to be getting married.” Amaya tapped her phone screen for emphasis.


“Amaya, you’re assuming a lot about someone else’s relationship. Maybe having a baby is too much too soon for Xenia and Clay. Their plans are going to change drastically. Instead of newlyweds, they’ll need to start preparing for family life.” Ofelia shook her head.


“Not…helping…” Xenia sniffed as she buried her face into my fur.


I whimpered again. I didn’t know what upset Xenia until her sisters started yapping. I don’t understand much about humans and their language, but I recognized the word pregnancy. Xenia and Clay used that word often when I was expecting my puppies. I can’t imagine why she’d be sad about having a human puppy. 


She loves babies. I’ve seen her with Reese’s kids. She even cried happy tears, or I thought they were happy tears when I had my puppies. So, why would she be upset about having a baby with Clay? Beyond that, they have the reverse size different from me and Zeus? I’d have been worried about carrying a litter of puppies if I was a smaller breed than my mate. I’m sure Xenia will be fine carrying the giant offspring of Clay.


I raised my head when I recognized the heavy footsteps outside the door. Clay was here. He’d make my human feel better. He always did, except for when he didn’t. But if she’s carrying his giant offspring, he better make her feel better. If he doesn’t, I will have to hurt him, and I’m not typically a violent type of dog. That’s more Zeus’ style.


“I got my brother. Do you want me to let him in, or should he stay out here?” Reese asked through the door.


“Oh please, I’m not superstitious. Seeing Xenia in her dress isn’t going to ruin shit. If seeing she-who-must-not-be-named can’t curse today, nothing will.” Clay snorted, followed by a bark from Zeus in agreement.


“Oh, not her!” Xenia sobbed. “Not today.”


“Xenia? Don’t worry about the wicked bitch of the east. She’s already been sent packing. She’s not going to screw anything up for us. I promise.” Clay assured Xenia as the doorknob started to turn.


“Wait!” Xenia shouted as she suddenly jumped up and rushed to push her body against the door.


“Xenia…” Clay sighed and laughed at her attempt to keep him out. “I am more than double your weight, babe. You really can’t keep me out. Don’t tell me you believe that stupid saying about seeing the bride before the wedding. I saw you this morning, and since I know your mom and sisters are in there, I won’t say more.”


Xenia rolled her eyes and avoided making eye contact with her family. I know what they did this morning. I live with them. Zeus and I must put up with them breeding all over the house. At least they don’t bring their breeding into our room or terrace. I don’t want that smell in my room. And I know Zeus fully agrees with that sentiment. 


“Ewww!” Xenia’s sisters exclaimed, and their sentiments were echoed in the hallway by Reese.


I don’t know why anyone is surprised. There have been many times people have walked in on my humans mating. It’s shocking that they took this long to make a baby. Zeus and I only mated a couple of times during my heat for me to get pregnant. Humans are different as they don’t go through heat: strange creatures, but whatever. 


“Xenia, come on. Talk to me. Reese said you needed to talk to me, and now I’m on the wrong side of a door.” Clay sighed.


“I didn’t send your sister to get you.” Xenia shook her head.


‘She didn’t, but she needs him.’ I barked, knowing only Zeus would understand me.


‘What’s wrong with her? Why won’t she let us in?’ Zeus barked back.


‘She found out they are having a human pup and started crying. It doesn’t make sense.’ I answered.


“Tink, stop that.” Xenia’s mom scolded me.


“Shut it, Zeus,” Clay commanded. “Xenia, baby, come on. Talk to me. What happened? We can deal with it better together. And by together, I mean without a door between us.”


“Oh, for fucks sake, move.” Reese huffed before the door was thrown open. 


Xenia gasped as she stumbled forward, and I moved to help keep her stable in the dress and fancy shoes that made her taller. 


“Clay might take the gentle approach with you, but I’ve got forty people, including small children, chilling downstairs waiting for this wedding. So…” Reese paused as she pulled Clay and Zeus into the room. “Just tell my brother what’s bothering you so he can put your worries to rest, and we can get this show on the road.”


I hoped this would be one of the times Reese’s blunt methods would work. Xenia is already upset, and while I like Reese, and she did take two of our daughters when push came to shove, I would always protect my human.

Chapter 5 - Xenia

I didn’t know what made me think pressing myself against the door was a good idea. There was no way little me could keep out Clay or his equally tall and strong twin sister. I should have been upset with Reese for deciding to get him when I started crying over the pregnancy test. But I can’t. Because as I looked at his face and saw all the love and concern in his eyes, I knew she was right. I needed him.


“Xenia, baby, what’s wrong? Why are you crying?” Clay asked as he put Zeus down. “What worries do I need to put to rest?”


“It’s not worries, per se.” I sighed and steadied myself with Tink’s help. “I just…” I frowned as I avoided eye contact with him.


It’s not that I’m ashamed that I’m pregnant. I mean, it’s my fault for not being on top of renewing my birth control. Clay couldn’t help it if a condom broke. We agreed to use both condoms and my birth control to be safe. We knew we wanted kids, eventually. Like he said, we’d have one after the puppies were born when we were ready. But are we ready? 


“Xenia, just tell him. Whatever bad things you think will happen won’t. My brother’s dumb, but he’s not an asshole.” Reese huffed.


“Reese, stay out of it.” Clay held a hand at her. “Hey…Xenia…” He sighed, tilting my chin up to look at him. “What’s got you crying? Is it something I did? Something someone else did?”


“It’s not something you or anyone else did.” I shook my head.


“Not entirely true.” Amaya scoffed.


“Stay out of it,” Clay growled. “You know what, everyone out. The only ones that can stay are the dogs.” He declared, pointing at the door.


“But…” Mom tried to protest.


“Come on, Mrs. Rosario. Let’s give them some privacy.” Reese sighed as she herded my family out of the room. “Clay, don’t do or say anything stupid. I love you, but I like Xenia more and will kick your ass if you upset her further.” With that parting warning, the door shut.


“Okay, we’re alone. Well, minus the dogs, but they don’t count. They won’t butt in with their opinions. So, talk to me.” Clay smiled cautiously.


I didn’t know how to put it all into words. So, with a sniffle, I held up the positive pregnancy test and braced myself for whatever was going to happen next. It took Clay a moment to register what I was holding up. His green eyes went wide as he took the test from my hands. I could practically hear the gears turning in his head as he looked from it to me in disbelief and wonder. 


Suddenly, I went from standing to in the air, spinning around, the ombre train of my dress swirling. I blinked, caught off guard by the sudden embrace. Then, just as suddenly as he picked me up, he quickly set me down. It’s not the first time he’s picked me up, but unlike other times, how he set me down felt different. It was like he was worried I’d break.


“Shit, sorry. I didn’t squeeze too tight?” Clay frowned and glanced at my belly.


“Seriously? You think I’m suddenly breakable now?” I arched my brow.


“No… maybe a little.” Clay shrugged.


I gaped at him. All the emotions that had me crying earlier were fading. How can he completely shift my mood in a matter of seconds? Can I blame that on pregnancy hormones? Sudden mood shifts would fit that category.


“Pregnancy doesn’t make me one of those creepy porcelain dolls I saw in one of the other rooms up here.”  I scoffed.


Legit, there are a lot of rooms up here, and I walked into the wrong one. I never thought I’d find dolls so damn creepy. I blame Clay for making me watch those Annabelle movies. I’ll never look at a doll the same way after those. And that room full of dolls staring with their dead eyes freaked me out.


“One, the dolls were part of Great-Great Aunt Cordelia’s, and that room would’ve been her room. Grandpa and his brothers never touched it, and all my aunts and cousins thought the dolls were creepy and didn’t want them.” Clay shrugged. 


“Two, of course, you aren’t a porcelain doll. Look at your complexion, no way. Porcelain dolls are the epitome of a racist white girls-only club.” He chuckled, and I couldn’t help but laugh too. This man was something else.


“And three, you realize that’s a Nikolaidis baby in there? It’s liable to be bigger than you at birth.” He teased me. 


“Oh fuck you. Nik and Leo aren’t bigger than me and are two.” I rolled my eyes.


“I’m pretty sure fucking me what got you in this situation.” Clay grinned.


“Can you please be serious?” I sighed.


“I am serious. But now that you’re smiling and in a better mood, do you want to explain how a pregnancy test made you cry?” He asked. “Does it change anything for you?”


“Well… no. I mean, I still love you, and I want to marry you.” I assured him.


“Okay. So…. why the buckets of tears? Joy? Or utter terror at giving birth to a Nikolaidis?” Clay arched his brow.


“Well, now that you mention it.” I rolled my eyes and hit his chest. “No, it’s just that it brought up a lot of my past. I mean, what if it happens again? What if I miscarry? Or what if she-who-must-not-be-named does something?”


With a long, heavy sigh, Clay pulled me into his chest in a tight hug, careful of my hair. “She-who-must-not-be-named will not do anything. She won’t be allowed anywhere near us. Even if I have to go to the lengths of a restraining order, she is not getting near you or our baby.” Clay promised.


“As for miscarrying, this isn’t like last time. I’m not some entitled piece of shit who doesn’t realize he’s the one dating or, in my case, marrying out of his league. So, even if we don’t get married today, you’re stuck with me for life.” He smiled. “I’m not going to let anyone or anything, least of all me, cause you unnecessary stress. And if something still happens, we’ll handle it… together.”


I smiled and hugged him. He was right, not something I admit to him often. This isn’t like last time. He isn’t that asshole, so all those stressors won’t exist. And I’ll have him and our families for support. Tink and Zeus nudged us as if to remind me they were here too. I smiled and sighed as I stepped out of Clay’s hug. 


“Okay. I think I’m better now. Like your sister said, we have guests waiting. So, you and Zeus better get back in your spots. Tell my sisters to come back in. I need to touch up my makeup and hair before they can sit with their boyfriends.” I smiled.


“So, we’re still doing this? You’re still going to marry me?” Clay arched a playful brow.


“That was never a doubt. Now go.” I tried to shove him and failed.


“Good. See you downstairs, mama.” Clay winked as he scooped Zeus up and strode out of the room.


Shortly after he exited, my sisters and mom rushed back in. The room became a flurry of activity as they helped fix my makeup and hair. I didn’t know if we’d announce the pregnancy here at the reception or wait till after our honeymoon. I’d have to talk to Clay about that before toasts could be made. 


That was something to worry about later. I had an amazing man waiting downstairs to marry me and start our family. What more could a girl ask for? A normal-sized baby, but I won’t get my hopes up knowing how big he and Reese were, not to mention his nephew and niece. Those Nikolaidis genes are strong.

Chapter 6 - Clay

Pregnant! Xenia is pregnant! I’m going to be a dad!? Me, of all fucking people, is going to be a dad! I know we tackled the subject when the puppies were born. But an offhand ‘we’ll have one when it’s time’ differs from a positive pregnancy test. A positive test is real. Our baby is currently growing inside her as we speak.


How far along is she? How did I miss the signs? Has she missed her period? No, I couldn’t go off that her birth control made that hard to track properly. We’ll have to wait till we see a doctor to get an estimate on how far along she is. I say estimate because, in my family, we’re big, so judging just on the size of the fetus may not work. Though I guess they can go off from developmental stages like when certain organs develop and yadda. 


As I walked into the ceremony, all eyes turned to me. Reese underestimated how many guests we had. Including Xenia’s mom, sisters, and Reese, we had 48 guests. So, add Xenia and me, and we had 50 people. That’s, of course, not counting the ten dogs. Speaking of dogs, the puppies all moved to try and get to their daddy as he trotted down the aisle next to me. 


Thankfully, most of them have been trained well enough that when their own gave a command, they begrudgingly returned to their seats. I say most because Tootles and Melete ignored mine and Xenia’s dads, who tried to call them back. It’s unbelievable how the blending of Corgi and Leonberger created these puppies. They mostly look like a Leonberger regarding their coloring and fur texture but are Corgi size. 


Zeus happily greeted his sons before my dad scooped them up. Dad may be old, but he’s in shape and grunted at picking up Tootles. Tootles was always the heavier of the puppies, and living a relatively sedentary life of leisure with my parents hasn’t helped that. Dad sighed as he tried to keep the wiggling dogs under his arms.


“Everything okay, son?” Dad asked. “Kev mentioned your m...” He paused when I glared at him. “That your grandfather’s daughter tried to crash.”


“Then he also told you she got sent out. Everything’s fine, Dad. Great even. I’m going to marry the woman I love. Today is the best day of my life so far. And is the beginning of my happily ever after.” I smiled, patting his shoulder. 


“Now get the dogs and yourself back to your seats.” I nodded over my shoulder as I saw Xenia’s sisters and mom going to their seats. “The show’s about to begin.”


Dad chuckled and took the dogs back to his seats, passing Melete to Xenia’s mom while her dad got up to join Xenia. I took a deep breath and whistled for Zeus to follow me. I wasn’t lying when I said today was the best day of my life so far. I was marrying an amazing woman I love and discovered we would start our family. The next best day of my life will be when our baby is born. 


I smiled as I watched Tinkerbell cautiously walk down the aisle. The poor dog wasn’t a fan of everyone looking at her, but she stayed on task and reached me and Zeus. My attention quickly shifted as a string quartet version of Marry You by Bruno Mars came in at a low volume over the sound system. I didn’t care about the music or anyone else. It all faded away.


The only thing left was Xenia. I hadn’t taken the time before to notice the dress and how beautiful she looked. Her hair and makeup had been fixed since I left her dressing room. And she looked stunning. The dress, the hair, those glittery pumps that gave her three extra inches, the diamond floral necklace, and matching teardrop earrings that I recognize from Nana Hazel’s collection, my great-great-grandmother on the Frost side, were all beautiful.


But they were only beautiful because they were on her. She would be beautiful walking down that aisle in a paper bag. The clothes didn’t make her beautiful. They never did and never would. There was something different about Xenia; she was glowing, and I knew it wasn’t because we were getting married. Or it wasn’t only because of that. She may have been crying a while ago about the pregnancy, but now that her worries have been put to rest, she can embrace it. 


I barely paid attention to the Justice of Peace as he did his spiel. I was absorbed in Xenia’s eyes, smiling at her as we held hands. It wasn’t until the Justice of Peace coughed and a few people laughed that I realized he was talking to me. 


“Your vows.” He whispered, holding out the ring.


I didn’t bother looking embarrassed as I took the ring from him and gave my attention to Xenia. It wasn’t my fault he was so freaking boring. Not that anything could probably hold my attention with Xenia in front of me.


“I never thought I’d find love, let alone find it falling into a pond tangled up in a dog leash.” I smiled, getting some laughter from our friends and family. “Since that day, our lives became entangled, and I knew I never wanted to be without you.” 


“I, Clay Ares Nikolaidis, take you, Xenia Marie Rosario, as mine, knowing and loving all your strengths and faults, just as I offer myself to you as yours with all my strengths and faults. I promise to catch you if you stumble, carry you over every threshold, and fall in love with you every day.” I vowed as I slipped the simple band on her finger.


“Xenia.” The Justice of Peace nodded to her, offering her my ring.


“When I fell into that pond with you, I didn’t realize I’d fall in love. You surprised me by being everything I didn’t think I could have.” Xenia smiled, tears welling in her eyes, happy tears this time. 


“I, Xenia Marie Rosario, take you, Clay Ares Nikolaidis, as mine. When I am with you, everything else fades into the background. You flood my senses with joy. You are my life, my greatest gift. I’m so lucky to call you mine. I promise to have all the patience and passion that love demands. I’ll be forever by your side in the laughter and the silence.” Xenia promised as she slipped the ring on my finger. 


The JP said some more words, but I didn’t care about them. I was only waiting for keywords, and when he said, ‘man and wife,’ that’s all I needed. It’s a good thing we didn’t have a church wedding. There is nothing church appropriate about kissing Xenia. Our friends and family laughed and whooped as I scooped my bride into my arms and walked down the aisle, still kissing her. 


This was only the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. While taking pictures, Xenia and I had a hushed conversation about the baby. We agreed to wait until after seeing a doctor and get that pregnancy confirmation before making any big announcements, which meant having to hunt down my sister, her sisters, and her mom to swear them to secrecy until we were ready to make an announcement. 


The reception was a blast. Great food: the catering was a mix of Brazilian and Puerto Rican favorites, music, and company. No one even thought it was odd that Xenia wasn’t drinking more than the non-alcoholic options we had for the kids. They figured she didn’t want to be drunk or hungover during our flight. We were catching a flight to Paris, France, for our two-week honeymoon after the reception. Tink and Zeus would stay with Reese and Don since they had the space for two extra dogs. After the honeymoon, we’d focus on doctor’s appointments and start getting ready for our future as a family of three, five if you count the dogs.

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I loved it. I am so happy they are finally having a baby. I always love Tinkerbell and Zeus POV.

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Love it❤️! Cant wait to read the rest but gotta go to work!!🤣

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