She lay weightless in his arms, her scent fresh from heaven. Ten perfect fingers, ten perfect toes, she had the face of an angel, and Dan couldn’t take his eyes off her. As he sat in the rocking chair, his daughter in his arms, the lights in the room turned low, absolute peace enveloped him. He’d missed her first few seconds for life, but as he gazed down upon her innocence, he made her a solemn vow to never miss another precious moment for as long as he lived.
“Knock, knock,” Aria whispered before stepping into the room. Brent followed close behind. Jimmy remained in the doorway, always more comfortable at a distance. “Is Stacy sleeping?”
“It’s okay,” Dan assured them. “You won’t wake her.”
Brent knelt in front of Dan. “My beautiful, little Brentahula.”
Dan let out a soft laugh. “I tried, but Stacy said no. It’s my pleasure to introduce, Emily Rose Handley.”
“Aw, I guess that’s a good name, too.” With a gentle touch, Brent shifted the receiving blanket to get a better look. “She’s beautiful, Dan. A tiny, little Stacy.”
Aria leaned in and whispered, “Millie’s happy for you. I can feel it in my heart.”
Dan nodded, lost for words as more tears came to his eyes. He’d never cried so many tears, born from so many different emotions, in a single day before. It was exhausting, but exhilarating, all at the same time.
Aria placed a soft kiss on his cheek, stroked the back of his hair. She smelled of butterscotch and vanilla. As Dan breathed in her scent, the last hint of the day’s panic drifted away. He caught her hand as she stood, thanked her once again for all she had done.
Brent lifted the baby’s fingers with one of his, smiled in wonder when she held on. “Man, she’s strong, for someone so tiny.”
“Exactly six pounds and eighteen inches long,” Dan said. “Not bad for being a little early.”
“Nature knows when it’s time. And speaking of time, it’s getting late.” She squeezed Brent’s shoulder. “We should go, let you rest.”
“Congrats, man,” Jimmy said from where he stood in the doorway. For a moment, he lingered, as though he wanted to come in closer. Instead, he turned to leave, leading Aria and Brent down the hall.
Not long after they left, Emily began to fuss in the way Dan had already started to recognize as her hunger cry. Stacy stirred, and he carefully stood, bringing Emily to her.
“Aria and the boys left,” Dan whispered as he gently transferred their daughter into her arms.
“Oh, I wanted to see them before they went home.” She lowered the front of her gown and brought Emily to her breast, the movement already as fluid and natural as breathing. “Are they coming back tomorrow?”
“I don’t know for sure. If not, you can see them when we get home.” He sat on the edge of the bed and rubbed Stacy’s leg.
“I’m ready to go now. Think we can break out of here?”
“I think you should take advantage of the nurses and get some rest while you can.”
She stroked Emily’s rosy cheek with the tip of her finger. “Let’s have another one, right now.”
Dan laughed softly. “How about we wait a little bit? You might change your mind after the endorphins wear of.”
“Oh, I was born to have babies, kochanie. I’m a natural at this.” She smiled.
“That you are.” Overwhelmed by the beauty of mother and child together, he leaned in and lightly kissed them both. “You amaze me, Stace.”
She let out a sigh of deep contentment. “Did you ever imagine she would be so beautiful?”
“I knew she would be.”
“Come sit with me.” Stacy scooted over in the bed and made room for him to stretch out alongside her.
As he kissed her neck, he noticed the slight change in her unique scent. He kissed her again, double checking, and muttered to himself, “That’s unreal.”
“What is?” Stacy asked.
“You smell different.”
“I probably stink. They haven’t let me shower yet.”
“No, seriously, you smell really, really good. Better than you ever have before.” He kissed his way up along her jaw, taking his time and savoring the variance in her essence.
She giggled when he reached a ticklish spot. “So, I used to stink?”
“Never… I don’t know how to explain what I mean… You know how Millie use to always smell like spring, and how Aria smells like vanilla or strawberries, or whatever?”
“Aria doesn’t smell like vanilla,” Stacy said, looking at him with a puzzled expression.
“Well, no, not every day. Sometimes she smells like cinnamon or lemonade.”
“I think you’ve lost your mind.”
“Ask Brent and Jimmy. They smell it, too.”
She rolled her eyes. “Must be a guy thing.”
“Maybe it is,” Dan conceded. “But the air surrounding you has always been scented in this amazingly impossible combination of freshly fallen snow and Gram’s sheets hanging out on the line in the summer sun. It’s a very pure, very clean scent. And now, there’s a sweet undertone to it that’s never been there before. Very subtle, but it’s definitely there.”
She tipped her head, giving him access as he trailed his lips along her collarbone.
“I love the way you smell. I love the strength you possess. I love the passion you put into everything you do. I love the way you laugh. I love the way you roll your eyes at me and then smile. I love everything about you, Stace.”
“Kocham Cię,” she whispered, and Dan brought his lips to hers.
Emily broke away from feeding to let out a mewing cry, and Stacy smiled. “I think she’s jealous.”
Dan placed a gentle kiss on his daughter’s downy-soft head, and damn near came undone when she grabbed onto his finger with her tiny little hand. “Daddy loves you, Emily Rose.”
Never would he tire of saying those words.