No, sadly one is not speaking of shifters on this fine day. You’ll have to settle for a run-of-the-mill Papa who’s gained quite the fanbase already. Take a look and you’ll see who it is I speak of…
The jingling of his phone as his car took off through Buckhead drew an annoyed sigh from him that immediately stopped at the sight of Mackenzie and Arista’s faces pressed together as they poked out their lips and crossed their eyes. He answered on the second ring.
“She’s staged a mutiny against bedtime unless she can stay up for ten more minutes and tell you about her day in gymnastics,” came a dry, wryly amused voice with enough huskiness to make him straighten in his seat and pay attention. “You’re not busy, are you?”
It would be at least an hour’s drive before he reached his home in East Pointe. He had all the time in the world. “Never too busy to talk to her.”
“I thought you’d say that,” Mackenzie replied. “She’s practically climbing my leg to get the phone so I’m handing it over.”
Ashleigh waited as it exchanged hands and grinned broadly when Arista crowed, “Daddy guess what I did today!”
He smiled. “I’m all ears, baby-doll.”
Arista went off on an excited yammer about her first back flip and a successful dismount. Without missing a beat he asked questions about her progress and how she was enjoying class. She wasn’t ready for her first competition as of yet but he’d seen her on enough video footage to know that was where his daughter was headed. Like everything Arista did, her enthusiasm for the newfound past time was extraordinary. He loved to watch her ever-advancing mind at work when she discovered another interest. Currently, she’d already taken to spelling bees, gymnastics, horseback riding, swimming and fashion. The latter wasn’t particularly surprising considering that her mother’s own career choices as a lingerie designer for a widely popular franchise of intimate apparel. Ashleigh suspected that soon enough, Arista would be picking up another pastime that would cost him in money and her mother in energy. But neither would complain. Not when someone so small had managed to bring both so much incomparable joy, even if it were accompanied by aggravation at times.
At six, Arista was a handful of funny expressions and precocious words that made her the center of attention whenever she entered a room and it was very hard to imagine a day going by where he didn’t get a chance to avidly listen to one of her stories. When Mackenzie had gotten pregnant, he’d been an second round draft pick for Miami and unsure of how far his career would take him but he’d known that he could find the motivation to carry the three of them without question. Who would have thought that he wouldn’t have to carry anyone but Arista soon afterwards?
“Your ten minutes are up, Ari-bear,” Mackenzie announced in the background. “Tell Papa Bear you love him.”
Ashleigh closed his eyes. Papa Bear. She’d started calling him that the first time they’d gotten to hear the gentle pumping of Arista’s heartbeat in utero and she hadn’t stopped as of yet. The theme in the nursery had been that of a small brown skinned princess found slumbering in a grizzly’s den, her face a mirror image of Arista’s.
“The pretty lady I live with says I have to go to bed now.”
He laughed at the exasperation in her voice. “The pretty lady is right, baby-doll. Can’t upset her, now can we?”
Fighting more laughter, he asked her, “Do you know how much Daddy loves you?”
Arista waited a moment and then answered softly, “More than his next breath?”
Ashleigh nodded from his end. “That’s right.”
She blew raspberry laden kisses across the line and he returned them before the phone was passed on to Mackenzie again.
“Thank you for that,” she said, her voice soft and warm. “She wasn’t moving until she talked to you.”
“You don’t have to thank me for talking to our daughter, Mac. I was thinking of her when you called.” He paused. “Both of you, actually.” It’s all he could ever manage to think about anymore.
“Beauty and The Barbarian” is just around the corner. Keep your eyes peeled for Mr. Thyne.