The Ryder Townhouse:
“I don’t believe it,” Stephen bellowed from the front door of the townhouse. All eyes turned to see him bounding down the slippery steps, two at a time.
Kyra was just taking Caleb’s waiting hand to step down from the coach when she saw her father’s beaming face. Hers broke open in a wide grin as he marched straight toward her without pause. Both Caleb and Blake were wordlessly ushered aside as Stephen reached out to take hold of her with both arms.
“Oh, My Darling,” he proclaimed proudly. She was at once buried deep within his embrace even before she could say hello.
“I see where your priorities lie,” Blake chided as he watched his father delighting in the feel of his long lost daughter.
“You’ll get yours later,” Stephen promised devilishly, then closing his eyes to fully appreciate the emotions he was feeling as he held Kyra in his arms.
“Kyra,” Caleb encouraged. “Why don’t you let your father take you inside where it’s warm, while Blake and I sort out all of this baggage?”
Noting the second coach pulling up to a halt behind theirs, she was immediately hushed before she could speak a word in protest. Caleb was firm in his desire to see her quickly moved out of the cold, wintry air.
“We will see to everyone’s needs,” he assured her. “Now go.”
Seeing how serious he was, she couldn’t argue against him. She sank into the welcoming warmth of her father’s side and allowed him to carefully guide her up the icy steps. It felt wondrous to be held so close to him after all these months away. She hadn’t seen him since Blake and Cassandra’s wedding, six months earlier.
Placing a hand to his midsection, she vaguely noticed that he’d put on a good bit of weight since she’d last seen him. She hoped his impending retirement wasn’t disagreeing with his health, though judging by the strength she felt in his hold she assumed he must be doing well.
“What do you think of it,” he grinned down at her playfully as his hand massaged the new crop of facial hair he’d let grow over the winter. “Distinguished and all that,” he asked her with interest.
“As a matter of fact, it is quite,” she agreed, touching it admiringly. His beard and hair were nearly as white as Blake’s now, although his was due to his natural progression in age, unlike Blake’s naturally white-blonde hair color.
“Oh, Dearest,” he gushed as he opened the front door. “It makes me happier to have you here than to have all the riches in the world. Perhaps your visit will have the same affect on your mother today.” He could only hope so.
“Where is she,” she wondered curiously.
“Upstairs in her room,” he told her. “Let’s get you out of those wrappings and I’ll take you up to see her.”
“Nothing would make me happier,” she smiled.
Nodding in agreement, Stephen helped her remove the numerous layers Caleb had wrapped her in for the journey from Damon Manor. As each layer was peeled away, Stephen’s astonishment grew more pronounced.
“My Dear,” he breathed to finally see. He was awed by the sight of her burgeoning stomach, realizing so suddenly just how heavily pregnant she really was. “That trip must have felt endless for you,” he worried. Remembering how difficult the first stages of her pregnancy had been at the time, he couldn’t help worrying about the long trip she’d just made.
“I wasn’t the one complaining so much,” she laughed rather impetuously as her hand openly caressed the mound of her stomach.
Understanding the point she was making, he still had to wonder if she should try and rest for a while before venturing to do much else. About to say so, he was cut off from the very thought before he could speak it.
“It was only a two hour trip, Father,” she reminded him fervently. “Besides, Caleb had me resting quite comfortably the whole ride here.”
“Mmm,” he agreed with a touch of doubt lingering on his face.
“Father,” she insisted abruptly, “you will take me up to see my mother this instant.”
For only a moment did he hesitate, but for an altogether different reason now. His eyes were suddenly aglow with unexpected pleasure to hear her speaking to him with such an air of authority.
“My Dear,” he suddenly sighed. “You may have married to become a Damon, but it is entirely all too apparent that you were born a Ryder. You are the image of everything your mother once embodied.” The pride in his eyes couldn’t have been any more apparent than at that very moment.
Blushing even as she accepted the unexpected compliment, Kyra felt her eyes beginning to tear up without warning. Her face lowered immediately in an attempt to control the rise of the overwhelming emotions she suddenly felt.
Stephen stood there for a long moment, watching the myriad of feelings washing through her, although he could see she was admirably trying to control the helpless response she felt to hear his words.
Staring down at her with a slow smile, he reached up with both hands to deftly grasp her cheeks in an embrace that spoke volumes. On her temple he placed a gentle kiss, then whispered with feeling, “Just remember this. You may be about to have a child of your own, but never forget that you will always be my daughter first…”
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