As Mila drove the limo down my driveway, Dani was practically bouncing in her seat, looking around at everything with obvious excitement. I hoped she was ready for this; I hoped I was ready for this. Explaining how Alma and I went on a honeymoon for two weeks and came back with a daughter who appeared to be near our age ― a girl with taffy-colored skin and cobalt blue hair tipped in black dye ― would be a bit of a shocking tale, even in my household. We all had agreed not to give a full account though. We couldn’t, at least not yet.
“Is that really the house? It’s huge!” exclaimed Dani after Alma gave her a nod.
“Your father and I will be occupying the second and third floor of the center part. We’re letting you have your way with my old wing in the West.” explained Alma, pointing toward the wing.
Grinning, Dani asked “And the first floor is for everyone, right?”
“Sure is.” I told her, smiling.
When I left here, I wasn’t that many years older than Dani. I couldn’t even guess my age now. Aaliyah offered to tell me, but I had told her not to make me feel old. As far as most people on this planet knew, I was still nineteen, and I needed to act the part as best as I could.
Dani led the way to the doors, practically running the moment the car stopped. Alma and I followed behind her, taking things slowly. We had spent the last two weeks on our island, attempting to finish acclimating Dani to the world, since Aaliyah didn’t want to “spoil our fun” with a more efficient course. Things would work out one way or another. Our lives were guaranteed to go well for many years.
“Z-, er… daddy, what’s with all these umm…” started Dani, spinning as she looked around.
“Engravings. They’re telling a story about a wonderful woman.” I explained, almost through the door.
“Who are you?” called Emma from down the hall as she jogged toward Dani.
I was about to reply when I felt someone tug my shirt from behind me.
“D-daddy?” asked Raine, staring up at me with wide eyes.
Adjusting to her speed again would take some time. She let me grab her shoulders, lift her, and deposit her inside next to my daughter.
“You must be Emma!” exclaimed Dani as she hugged Emma and gave her a kiss. “I’ve heard so much about you!”
Emma smiled and blushed as she inquired “Good things?”
“Emma, Raine… meet Dani.” I told them, releasing Raine from my grip.
Dani turned at Raine’s name, exclaiming “You’re the fluffy one!”
Raine was shaking slightly as Dani hugged her and kissed her forehead, but that was to be expected.
“Y-you… sm-smell good.” mumbled Raine.
“Guys, James and Alma are back, and they brought someone new!” exclaimed Brenna from the ballroom doorway.
“Sooo fluffy!” exclaimed Dani, still hugging Raine and playing with her hair.
Alma and I stepped out of the way as Mila brought our luggage inside. Portentia, Maxine, and Cosette were coming out of the ballroom behind Brenna. I spotted Jarod, Ai, and Mai coming down the hall, so Mila apparently notified them as well.
“Dani, don’t upset Raine.” cautioned Alma.
“Sorry, mom. I’m just excited!” she exclaimed as she released Raine from her embrace. “Raine’s hair is spectacular. Of course, so is yours, Emma!”
Dani couldn’t smile without it seeming flirtatious, and I would need to warn Emma before she got her hopes up too high. I didn’t care if the two had some sort of relationship eventually, but I wasn’t going to have Emma’s hopes crushed by Dani’s nature. Dani’s entire species was beautiful, empathic, capable of magic, and completely incapable of monogamy. The concept was far too alien for them to really believe. We knew quite well from our brief visits to their world and our attempts to get the idea through to Dani. Like the fey in my forest, they were a species of whim and strong emotions, though Dani’s species could show remarkable focus when passion drove them to a task.
I quickly grabbed Dani before she went around hugging every last one of them. Then I said, “Everyone, this is Dani Lyshaa Somerset. Alma and I adopted her while we were away.”
“Adopted!? Isn’t she around our age?” asked Jarod.
“Yes, but adopting her was the easiest way to get her into the country. Aaliyah assured me that all of the paperwork has been pushed through already, so she’s officially our child. Please help her as she acclimates to things around here and tell me if she gets into too much trouble.” I explained, doing my best not to smirk at the looks of shock.
If they knew how many years Alma and I spent raising Dani, they would really be in for a shock, but that was a story I would never share with everyone here, despite how much they might enjoy being regaled by our adventures.
“Can I be there when you tell your parents?” inquired Cosette with a smile.
“They’ll be here this evening, so any of you who aren’t working might be around.” I replied. “One last announcement that my parents will soon be privy to as well…”
Everyone looked at me expectantly, so I glanced at Alma to see if she wanted the honors.
“James, really… I thought we’d tell your parents first.” she stated, shaking her head and rolling her eyes. Then she sighed and said, “Fine. I suppose they might as well find out first. I’m pregnant.”
Following shouts of shock, several of them quickly congratulated us. Alma and I thanked everyone, happy to be home. The baby had certainly been a shock when Aaliyah informed us that the time was coming for us to return home. We declined letting her tell us the precise date of birth or gender, preferring the surprise, but we actually did know the month. Alma was already four months pregnant and starting to show slightly, but she had another eight and a half to go.
Dani was practically bouncing under my hand. She couldn’t be expected to contain her excitement when feeling the excitement of everyone around her. I let her go, knowing that I couldn’t contain her enthusiasm.
She hugged Brenna, kissing her cheek as Brenna turned her head. Then she looked over to Maxine for a moment before rushing her.
“Daddy, is this the criminal!?” exclaimed Dani as she hugged Maxine.
“Yes, so you should be careful around her.” warned Portentia, looking confused as Dani pulled her into the hug.
“And you’re Portentia. Your skin is sooo beautiful.” she insisted.
“Lady Pendreigh…” started Mai.
“Girls, just call me Alma. I’m married. Let’s drop titles and formalities while at home.” insisted Alma.
Ai and Mai stared at her in wide-eyed shock, glancing at one another in obvious bewilderment.
“A-Alma…” started Ai.
“Not to be rude, but…” continued Mai as she eyed Dani.
“What’s with my skin?” asked Dani, interrupting them.
“And hair.” stated the twins.
“All natural! Be jam.” replied Dani, releasing Portentia and Maxine to approach them.
“Jelly.” I corrected.
At the same time, Alma said, “Jealous.”
“Pleased to meet you all. Mom told me not to kiss you because you’re married.” explained Dani as she held out a hand to each of them while standing all too close to Jarod.
He took a step back between Ai and Mai, reaching a hand between them when Dani went to shake his hand.
Smirking, Alma said, “I actually warned you against kissing people at random, since many will find it confusing and even disturbing, married couples especially.”
“But they’re all so pretty…” complained Dani.
“Behave.” I chided. “Let’s get you set for playing that game I’ve been telling you about before my parents arrive.”
“Yes!” she exclaimed, hugging my arm as I showed her into the ballroom with several of my friends in tow.
I wasn’t certain how well she’d be able to sit still at the moment, but the others might calm down enough to help Dani calm down with a bit of gaming. Introducing my daughter to my parents was going to be interesting enough without her feeling rambunctious.