Thank you so much for helping me spread the word about Savage Redemption! You’ve unlocked a bonus scene titled “Better Together,” featuring Ben and baby McKenzie.
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Savage Redemption Bonus Scene: “Better Together”
Copyright 2018 Liza Street. All Rights Reserved.
This scene takes place between Chapters Sixteen and Seventeen of Savage Redemption. Delilah has been sick and Ben needs to step up and care for McKenzie, even though he has no clue what he’s doing.
Ben woke to faint light coming through his window and the baby crying. He jumped up and pulled on a pair of sweatpants and his favorite shirt. He loved this shirt. It was black with Ramones in big white letters and their seal with the eagle and baseball bat. It was like his red truck—it made him happy…or happy-ish.
Sleep still clouded his mind—he’d gotten up with McKenzie three times last night. He had brought her to Delilah so they could nurse, and then he’d rocked her back and forth in his arms until she fell asleep again.
Fuck, this baby stuff was a shit ton of work.
McKenzie yelled louder.
He rubbed his face and hurried into their bedroom. McKenzie was thrashing in Delilah’s arms, tiny fists flailing in fury as she screamed. Delilah sat half in, half out of bed. She held onto McKenzie with one arm and the edge of the nightstand with the other, trying to leverage herself up. Her tank top had gone askew and Ben got a generous view of side boob, but ogling Delilah was the last thing he should be doing right now.
“I can take her,” he said loudly over McKenzie’s yelling.
He reached for McKenzie and Delilah passed her over. What had felt so foreign to him before—holding an infant—was starting to feel almost normal. McKenzie’s screaming abated enough that he could speak over it.
“Lie back and rest,” he told Delilah.
She looked like she might argue with him, but then she nodded and eased back to her pillow. “I feel like death,” she said in a croaking voice. “I think my milk supply must be down because I’m sick. She’s sucked me dry and she’s still hungry.”
“Oh. Um, what do I do with her, then?”
“There’s milk that I pumped in the freezer. Stick one of the bags in some hot water to thaw it, then screw it into the bottle thing, with a nipple.”
McKenzie wailed again.
“Where are the bottle and nipple things?” He had to shout over McKenzie.
Rather than yell, Delilah pointed to a black bag next to the closet. It looked like a purse. He picked it up and slung it over his shoulder—it was surprisingly heavy.
“Thanks, Ben,” Delilah said loudly. “Don’t know what I’d do without you.”
“No problem.” Still cradling the fussing baby, Ben came over to Delilah and felt her forehead. Any excuse to touch her, he thought to himself, then felt disgusted. She didn’t belong to him; he had no claim on her.
He was glad he checked, though, because her forehead was burning.
“You still have a fever,” he said. “I’ll bring some Tylenol.”
She nodded weakly. “Thanks.”
McKenzie kept crying as Ben carried her to the kitchen. He opened all the blinds in the dining room and kitchen so she could look outside at the trees, but she didn’t seem too interested in the outdoors at the moment. While he heated water to drop in the plastic storage bag of pumped milk, he grabbed some Tylenol, poured a glass of water, and brought them to Delilah’s room. She gulped down the water and pills with a thank you and Ben went back to the kitchen to check on McKenzie’s milk.
McKenzie screamed the entire time. Ben marveled at the way her rage contorted her face. When she wasn’t screaming, her mouth was small, those pink lips of hers so delicate. But times like this, she opened her mouth so wide in a scream that he wondered if he’d be able to see all the way down to her empty stomach.
“It’s almost ready, okay?” he said to her.
His words had no effect. What a frustrating little creature. Why did people have babies, anyway? Didn’t make much sense. Who wanted to go without sleep? Who wanted to wipe up poop? Babies were loud, they smelled bad, and they didn’t let their parents—or anyone within a one-mile radius—get a good night’s sleep.
He touched the side of the milk storage bag. It wasn’t frozen anymore, but it was still cold. He gave McKenzie an appraising glance. Would she care if the milk wasn’t warm? He was about to say fuck it and give her cold milk, but he paused. Would cold milk hurt her? Shit, that wasn’t something he wanted to take a chance on. He heated the water in the kettle again, McKenzie’s screams punctuating each of his movements.
He opened up the big black purse to find bottle supplies. Then he realized—this wasn’t a purse, it was a machine. The inside tag read MomEasy Breast Pump. He stared at it. Two long, plastic tubes ran from the inside. They ended in two funnels.
“Is this where the boob goes?” he asked McKenzie, holding up a funnel.
She stopped crying and sniffled.
Poor hungry kid. He stuck the tubes and funnels back in the bag and found rubber bottle nipples and plastic cylinders. The cylinders made no sense—they were the right size, but they didn’t look like bottles he’d seen on TV. He went back to the bag and rooted through it until he found some folded papers in the bottom. Instructions. Perfect.
McKenzie stared. She seemed more interested in watching Ben fail than she was in eating.
Once he figured out that the bag of milk fit into the cylinder and the rubber nipple was supposed to come over that, he felt better. It seemed to take an eternity before the milk was finally warm, but once it was, he managed to balance McKenzie and get the bottle ready. She’d started crying again, but as soon as the rubber nipple touched her lips, she got quiet.
He couldn’t help but stare as she gulped, greedily consuming the milk. It was kind of miraculous, really. Two people had come together—his brother and Delilah, but he didn’t want to think about that—and they had created a small human. And this human was only, what, three months old? And she was already an autonomous being, with an impatient, feisty personality shining through.
She finished nearly all the milk in the bottle, hungry little monster. Ben wondered if he was supposed to burp her or something. They showed people burping babies on TV. He lifted her and held her under her arms, careful to support her head like Delilah had instructed him.
“Well, do you need burping, or what?” he asked her.
She stared directly at him. Her blue-green eyes were so like Chase’s, it twisted something inside of him. Most of the time growing up, he had hated Chase—Chase had been bossy, disapproving, and always lording his “big brother” status over Ben and Doug. He hated Chase for dying. And he hated Chase even more, now, because Chase had met Delilah first.
But at the same time, Chase had been his brother. They had watched out for each other as Guardians, as brothers, as pride mates.
The truth was, Ben missed him.
Ben still held McKenzie in front of him. She hadn’t given him an answer on whether she wanted to be burped or not.
Then, without warning, milk spewed forth from her mouth.
All over his favorite shirt.
He bit back several choice swearwords. His shirt. His motherfucking Ramones shirt. The fuck. Now what? He looked wildly around for place to put McKenzie. Milk was still dribbling down her chin as well as off his shirt to the carpet beneath them. Could he put her on the floor? He had never seen Delilah do that. Wait, no. She had set McKenzie on the floor to change her diaper. But that was always with some kind of blanket underneath her. Maybe the floor wasn’t clean enough for babies. He vacuumed fairly regularly, but it might not be good enough.
He could feel warm, sticky milk through the fabric of his t-shirt. Was the shirt ruined? He couldn’t bear the thought. Of all the t-shirts he could’ve chosen this morning, he had had to pick his favorite. He didn’t care one way or the other about any of his other shirts. He only liked one—this one.
The diaper bag was next to the door so he carefully carried McKenzie over to it, found the little mat that Delilah always put her on to change her diaper, and set her down. A rag hung from one of the side pockets of the diaper bag, so he pulled it out and wiped it across McKenzie’s milky face.
Now he had to deal with his shirt somehow. If he pulled it up from the bottom like he usually did, he would get a face full of spit-up.
McKenzie made a gurgling sound on the floor and kicked her legs.
He gave her a sharp look. “Tell me there’s no more where that came from.”
He grabbed his shirt at the shoulders and eased the back over his head, careful to touch as little of the messy part as possible. Once it was off, he picked up the baby again and carried her with him to the laundry room to start a new load of wash. So, baby vomit. That explained why Delilah was always doing laundry. It seemed that the washing machine and dryer were running more often than not these days.
Once the laundry was going, Ben carried McKenzie back into the living room. “Now what do I do with you?”
He knew she would probably be awake for a while. Was he supposed to entertain her or something? What did people do with their kids?
Strollers. They took them for walks and shit. Ben hadn’t seen a stroller around, and he wasn’t about to wake up Delilah to ask her for one, but he didn’t need a stroller to go for a walk. On their way to the back door, Ben paused at the doorway to his bedroom. He could grab another t-shirt, but he thought better of it. It would give the kid less to mess up.
He took McKenzie into the woods with him. She was a mountain lion shifter just like Ben, and like Viviana had said, she would have an appreciation for nature. She did seem to enjoy herself. As they walked, her eyes took in everything. Ben pointed out birds, chipmunks, and the different kinds of trees and shrubs. If he didn’t know the name of a specific plant or insect, he made it up. She would never know.
They explored for about an hour and a half, until McKenzie’s eyes started to droop. Ben walked back to the house and by the time they got inside, McKenzie was asleep against his shoulder.
He didn’t want to wake her up by putting her in her crib. Instead, he went straight to the sofa. There, he eased back and lay down with McKenzie’s warm body snuggled against his chest. He locked his hands around her tiny body to keep her safe, and there, they slept.