Hey! Sorry I took a couple of weeks to post this once the time passed! I was out that day and forgot all about getting it out there. But here it is now. From the Babies at the Border Compilation. Also I have a o/s posting in the Australia Compilation. There's another day to donate for that one! Reach out to Fandoms for Hope & Relief on Facebook if you want to get a bunch of stories. I'll include a teaser below.
Here's a look at our favorite family about a year after the last outtake. An update on Dani & Tanner, Champ and his Reed Girl, and of course an appearance by Rainbow! I hope it makes you smile in the midst of the insanity that is our world right now. Stay safe, friends. Happy reading!
Getting Blitzed Outtake
"News? What do you mean she has news?" I demanded, my body breaking out in a cold sweat. If this was the news I thought it was, I was going to have a heart attack. After I killed Tanner Hunt, that was.
"Relax, Champ." Reed Girl patted my arm, looking all serene and shit. How she did that, at a time like this, was fucking beyond me.
How the hell was I supposed to do that? Not when our baby could be… God. Even the word made me freak the fuck out.
"What did she say, exactly?" I asked. I needed to know what might be coming my way. Having a heart attack at the age of forty-one would be embarrassing as hell.
Reed Girl guided me out of our bedroom, where I'd been pacing around like a madman since she'd informed me of a change in plans, and pushed me down into her favorite window seat and sat next to me. "She said they were coming to town a day early because she had something to tell us."
And that didn't make my wife nervous? "Bella! She couldn't tell us on the phone? She couldn't tell you on the phone?" I amended after she raised an eyebrow at me.
Okay, maybe I was a little bit harder for Dani to talk to when it came to some things, but still. She told her mother every damn thing, which was why I was scared right now. I knew what she and that asshole had been up to over the past year.
"She wants to tell us together and in person." Reed Girl touched my cheek. "Worrying about it won't change whatever it is."
No, but it would give me time to plan. There were many forms of torture, and I had to decide just the right one for Tanner Hunt if he'd knocked up my baby girl.
"If it's the same news as Chelsea's, Hunt's going to miss his Heisman ceremony," I warned Reed Girl, frowning when she laughed.
"First of all, our daughter is not pregnant. And you need to stop being freaked out about Chelsea having a baby. She's twenty-nine years old and happily married. She's not ten anymore."
Logically, I knew that, but still, when Chels had dropped that bomb at Thanksgiving, it had thrown me for a loop. She was all grown up and having kids of her own now. It was insane. Where had the time gone? How did I have a nineteen-year-old daughter who may or may not be knocked up?
"But what if…"
"Edward, think about it. If Dani really was pregnant, do you think she'd tell us now, right before Tanner's big ceremony, knowing that you'd definitely hit first and ask questions later?" She reached up to stroke my hair. "Also, she'd tell me alone so that I could tell you for her and calm you down before they got here."
That was…probably true. All the kids knew the best way to handle me was to go through their mom since she owned my fucking ass. But still. If Dani tried to get Reed Girl alone when they got here, I'd have to put a stop to it. There'd be no sugar coating this. She was going to face me. And he was going to die. That's all there was to it.
Okay, I needed to calm down. They wouldn't be here until tomorrow. I had a whole twenty-four hours to worry about this shit. It could be anything, right? It didn't have to be dire. Maybe it was good news. Maybe they'd broken up instead, and were just going to make an appearance at the Heisman ceremony together to keep up appearances. Yes, that must be it. That was a billion times better.
"What on earth are you smiling about?" Reed Girl asked, tilting her head, her brown eyes intent upon my face.
"Maybe they broke up."
My wife snorted. She actually snorted at my comment.
"What? What's so wrong with that?"
"Because I doubt that she'd make a big announcement about that or travel out here early to tell us that. That's phone news."
Damn it. Why'd my woman have to rain on my parade? I frowned at her.
"What do you think it is, then?" She had ideas. I knew she did. The woman always had ideas, and most of the time they were dead on. She was too smart for my own good.
Bella actually smirked at me. "I think they're engaged."
"What?" I shouted, jumping up and getting ready to head for my phone in our bedroom. Like hell was my baby girl getting engaged at nineteen.
Reed Girl glared at me and pointed in the direction of my angel's bedroom. Alex was napping, and I'd kind of forgotten about it in my panic over the possible engagement news. What if she was pregnant and engaged? Fuck that noise. I'd kill Hunt twice over if that was the case.
"Sorry," I muttered.
"Come on." Reed Girl stood and grabbed my hand, leading us back into our bedroom. Just as she was about to shut the door, a plaintive "meow" sounded, and Rainbow hurried into the room.
Thank fuck. I scooped Rainbow up and hugged her to me. She gave me a few headbutts and purred into my neck. She'd be on my side over this whole engagement idea. Rainbow had my back. Always.
"Why are you so shocked at the idea that they may be engaged?" my wife demanded, putting her hands on her hips. She was so hot when she was annoyed with me. Her beautiful brown eyes narrowed, her cheeks flushed, and her awesome boobs heaved a little.
"Because she's only nineteen!" That was a big reason right there.
Reed Girl smirked. "That's the same age I was when you informed your grandmother that you were going to marry me."
Fuck. That was true. But that was different. "I didn't propose for another year and a half, though."
She nodded. "Yes, right before you were going to leave school for the NFL draft. Just like Tanner will be this spring."
Fucking hell. She was right. "They're not us! She has so much more to do before she gets married."
Reed Girl smiled at me. "Some would argue the same about me. I did get pregnant, and my plans changed. Do you think I regret what I gave up when I married you and had Dani?"
Christ, I hoped not. I put Rainbow on the bed and walked over to Reed Girl, wrapping my arms around her and burying my nose in her soft hair.
"I really hope not."
She stepped back and looked up at me. "Not for a second. And if they are engaged, it doesn't mean she has to give anything up. They don't have to get married right away." She flashed a smile. "He could be just wanting to stake his claim before he's away from her, playing in whatever city drafts him." She poked my chest. "That was part of your motivation, after all."
Damn it. I hated that she was drawing parallels between them and us. I hated that the parallels were actually there when you looked at them.
"It wasn't my only motivation, though. I was crazy in love with you." I pulled her info my arms again. "Still am."
"Same goes, Champ." She leaned her head against my chest. "Whatever it is, we'll deal with it the way we always do. Together."
She was right. I could handle anything with Reed Girl at my side. Well, almost anything. "Just as long as we're not grandparents yet."
Reed Girl laughed. "You'd be the NFL's only grandpa player."
So fucking wrong. But her giggles were irresistible so I scooped her into my arms and headed for the bed. "I'll show you a grandpa, Grandma."
Her laughter continued, but she shook her head. "Don't call me that."
"If I'm a grandpa, you're a grandma. That's just how it works," I told her, dumping her on the bed before picking up Rainbow.
Rainbow bitched about it, of course she did, but I still wouldn't have her in the room when I sexed up Reed Girl. It just wasn't done. I opened the door and put her out. "Go sleep with Alex." She gave a tail swish and headed down the hallway. Rainbow was my rock. She'd watch over my baby girl for me.
I shut the door and turned back to see Reed Girl had unbuttoned her shirt. There was a hint of black lace against her pale skin. She was sexy as hell. She looked nothing like a possible grandmother.
"Get over here and prove you're not grandpa material," she ordered, pushing her shirt open.
My wife knew just how to distract me from worries about our oldest daughter. Marrying her was the best thing I'd ever done. Tanner Hunt should be so lucky if Dani wanted to marry him. I'd deal with that tomorrow, though. I had something much better to do right now.
"I'm nervous," I told Tanner, running a hand through my hair as our cab navigated away from the airport. The closer we got to home, the worse the butterflies in my stomach were.
He twined his fingers with my free hand, bringing it up to brush a kiss across my knuckles. Just like the first day I met him, tingles went through me at just that little touch.
"I think they'll understand. Your dad…"
I threw my head back and laughed. "My dad would be more than happy to shut me away in a tower with my baby sister for the next thirty years or so. He mentions NYU every time we talk, even though he's a Nole just like us, because he wants me closer to home. I don't know how he'll feel about this."
"He'll be proud of you. So will your mom. So your plans have changed a little bit. They should understand that."
Should being the operative word. Mom would. She was cool like that. Dad was far more emotional. And he liked plans and timelines. He was pretty rigid with things like that, at least until my mom came along and threw him for a loop. But that had turned out well. This could as well.
I shook my head and tried to focus on the man next to me. "I'm sorry. This is supposed to be your big week, and I'm hijacking it with other things."
He was a shoo-in to win the Heisman. We thought he'd win it last year, but an untimely loss to Clemson and the emergence of a superstar Sooners running back had left him in second place. This year, though, it was all his. I was so proud of him and thrilled to be at his side while he got his well-deserved accolades.
"What's yours is mine, baby."
He gave me a soft kiss. I smiled against his lips. The heat blasted through me just as it had that night of our very first date over a year ago. Much to my surprise, and his I was sure, we'd been almost inseparable since that dinner. I still had the volleyball he'd written on to ask me out in a place of honor on my bookshelf. Tanner Hunt was so much more than he'd appeared to be at first glance.
To say I'd been shocked when he started turning up at my games after our showdown in the football facility was an understatement. I tried to ignore him, but how could I? He was beautiful. At first I only saw that on the outside, but once we got to talking, and I got past that egotistical exterior, I found that he was just as beautiful on the inside.
He was a mama's boy, fiercely loyal to the single mother who raised him. He was smart, funny, quick-witted, sarcastic, had a love for animals and children… My baby sister adored him, much to my dad's chagrin. Mom said he reminded her a lot of Dad, which was kind of weird to think about, but in a way, it made sense. I adored my father. I just hoped he wouldn't be too upset over my news.
"I love you, Tanner." I truly did. I was so glad he was here with me for this.
"I love you, too." He gave me the special smile that seemed to be reserved only for me.
"You say it so easily now." I smiled as I remembered how hard it had been for him the first time. He'd acted distant for a couple of weeks. I'd thought he was going to break up with me.
"I can't come by tonight. Practice is going to run late."
Practice had run late for the last few days. Or so he'd said. Bree's tight end boyfriend had somehow mysteriously had time for her. He was avoiding me, and I had no idea why. I'd had it.
"That's fine. I'll see you when I see you," I told him, doing my best to sound like I didn't give a damn that he was blowing me off again.
"Maybe tomorrow will be better."
Right. "I have plans." I didn't, but I was going to make some.
"Oh." He actually sounded disappointed. Ass.
"Well, after the game…"
Nope. I don't think so. If he couldn't make time for me during the week, I wasn't going to celebrate with him after his game. Especially not the way I knew he'd want to celebrate. No sex after he'd blown me off all week.
"Saturday?" I asked, like I didn't know when he played.
"Of course Saturday. Is something wrong?"
Yes. He was too dense to see it apparently, but something was very wrong.
"I was thinking about going out with Stephen on Saturday. I guess we could go to the game, but I don't know."
"Who in the hell is Stephen?"
I couldn't help but enjoy the anger in his voice.
"He's that guy in my bio class who keeps asking me out."
"But…I thought…" He broke off, sending an angry huff through the line.
"You thought what?"
"I thought that we were together."
Idiot. "So did I, but you haven't had time for me all week, so I figured we weren't."
A sigh this time. "You know I'm busy with practice."
Like I wasn't? What the hell? "So am I. I still managed to make time to see you."
"There's just a lot to work on right now."
Liar. "Did you forget that my roommate dates one of your teammates?" Silence. "And did you forget that my uncle is the Defensive Coordinator? I know you don't have extra practice."
"Okay, it's not organized practice, but I'm working on some stuff on my own."
Exactly. He was choosing not to spend time with me. "I guess when you're done working on it, give me a call, and if I'm free, I'll fit you in."
"I thought you of all people would understand."
"I do. I have a drive to win just like you do. But I also know there's more to life than volleyball and I make time for you. If you can't do that, that's fine, just don't expect me to be here waiting for scraps from you."
He didn't say anything and I was over it. I wanted to cry, and then call my mom and cry some more. And I wasn't going to let him know that I was crying over him.
"Good luck with your practice. Talk to you later." And I disconnected. Screw him.
I had that cry, vented to Mom and cried a little more, and went to sleep. The next morning I went to bio, and Stephen sat next to me. I didn't speak to him, or make the date I'd threatened, but I felt kind of triumphant with the knowledge that I could if I wanted to.
And when I walked out of bio, with Stephen by my side attempting to invite me to a party, I came to a screeching halt when Tanner stepped in front of me.
His gorgeous blue eyes stayed on me as he said, "She's busy," to Stephen, and he pulled me into a much-too-steamy-for-public kiss, not that I was complaining.
"Tanner, what are you doing here?" I asked once I caught my breath.
He released me and took my hand, tugging me away from the many gawking eyes upon us. We ended up by Westcott Fountain, which was close to my class. He sat down, and I sat next to him.
"I'm sorry for blowing you off this week."
"Why'd you do it?" I asked, getting annoyed again now that the fantastic kiss had worn off a little.
"I just…" He fidgeted a bit, looking everywhere but at me. I'd never seen him nervous before. It was weird and made me nervous myself. He was so handsome, with the sun glinting off some blond highlights in his hair.
I squeezed his hand. "Tanner, whatever it is, just say it. I'd rather hear what you're feeling than have you hide it from me. This week has sucked."
He sighed, his gorgeous electric blue eyes finally meeting mine.
"It has. I thought I needed to stay away from you for a bit to see if I could."
That made no sense to me. "Why would you want to? Don't you like me anymore?" I wasn't going to cry. If this was it, I wasn't going to cry. Maybe the kiss outside my class had been a goodbye kiss. The best goodbye kiss ever. Ugh.
He shook his head, and my heart cracked in two. I had to get away from him. I tried to tug my hand away, but he tightened his grip, and there was no way I could out-muscle a football player.
"You misunderstand me. I don't just like you."
I stopped trying to tug my hand away and stared at him. "What do you mean?" Did he mean what I hoped he meant?
"I love you." He looked at me, his expression so hopeful.
Holy shit. "You do?"
"Yeah. I mean, it's been there for a while and I almost said it so many times, but I couldn't, so I thought maybe I was wrong and should stay away and figure it out before I told you." He frowned. "Then you started talking about that jerk in your class and you hung up on me and I knew, without a doubt, that I do love you, because I hated the thought of you going out with anyone who wasn't me. You didn't answer the phone or my texts, it was too late to get into the dorm, so here I am."
"I didn't make a date with him. With anybody. I only want you." He'd been brave enough to finally say it, so I could as well. "I love you, too."
His smile at my words was the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. And the kiss he gave me at the fountain blew the one outside my classroom out of the water. We skipped our other classes and spent the day wrapped up in each other. It was easily the best day of my life so far.
"Where'd you go?" Tanner asked, playing with my fingers.
"I was just remembering the first time you told me you loved me."
He chuckled. "I was such an idiot, thinking that if I stayed away from you, I wouldn't be in love with you."
I grinned. "My dad did something similar with my mom. I guess you FSU quarterbacks are all alike."
Tanner smirked. "Well, we can't be too much alike, because he hates me. I think he likes himself just fine."
"He doesn't hate you. He just hates that I'm with you."
He laughed at that. "That's not overly reassuring."
I shook my head. "It's not about you at all. He just wants me to be his little girl forever."
"Well, I wish he'd realize you'll always be his daughter, even if you're my girl now. We can share."
I grinned. Dad sucked at sharing, unless it was with Mom or his kids. But he tolerated Tanner, and that was all I could ask for now. Hopefully one day that would change, when he saw that we were both in this for the long haul. I didn't know everything that the future held, especially now, but I did know that Tanner was going to be with me. I was confident in that fact.
"Whether he wants to or not, he's got to share me." The butterflies came back into my stomach as our cab turned down the familiar street. "We're here."
"Hey." Tanner squeezed my hand so I turned to look at him. "You got this. And I'm right here with you. They're going to be thrilled, once they get over the surprise. I know it."
I hoped so. I took a deep breath as we turned into the driveway. It was time.
"Why can't they stay?" I asked Bella, as she scooted the boys out the door. I needed backup, damn it. Not that I couldn't kick Hunt's ass on my own if I wanted to, mind you, but having the boys around would keep me calmer.
"Because Dani wants to talk to us, and she can't do that with her brothers here."
Ethan snorted. "You just don't want us to hear Dad yelling about whatever she has to tell you." There was a sparkle in his eye that had me wondering.
"Do you know?" I reached for him, but he ran out of the front door. The kid wasn't athletic, but he was pretty spry. And I was…less so these days. It wouldn't be that much longer to retirement.
"I know nothing!" he shouted at me from the driveway. "Come on, AJ."
My youngest son started to dash by, but I was ready this time and grabbed him. "Do you know?"
"Know what, Dad?" The scowl on his face was identical to mine. And I was being dumb. If Dani confided in one of her brothers, it would be Ethan. Those two were close in age and had always been tight.
"What to do if you've got man coverage?" I mean, may as well ask him a question while I had him.
"Quick out," he said, giving me a triumphant grin because he knew he was right.
The kid was all me. I ruffled his hair. "Good. Have fun with Brian, and don't overdo it with your arm." AJ would happily throw the football for hours every day. He wanted to be the best, and thus far, he was better than any other kid I'd seen, including myself at his age.
"I know, Dad." He squirmed out of my hold and went out to get into the car with his brother.
I sent them a wave, feeling a pang as Ethan drove off. Next year, he'd be at Julliard. At least it was a fuckton closer than Tallahassee, but still. My kids were growing up and becoming adults. It sucked.
"Daddy!" I turned and caught the little torpedo running at me, lifting her into the air and laughing with her as she giggled.
"Where do you think you're going, angel?"
"Where brudders go?" Alex asked in her adorable little way. If AJ was me made over, Alex was all Reed Girl. She had my eyes, but otherwise she was Bella's clone. I'd seen pictures of her as a kid, and yeah, that was my baby girl. She was gorgeous, just like her mom and big sister. And just like them, she owned me.
I brought her in for a snuggle, smiling when her little arms wrapped around my neck and her head rested on my shoulder. I was going to miss this when she got older. There had to be a way to keep her little forever. I couldn't lose both of my girls.
"Ethan's going to see Cindy, and AJ is visiting Brian." Ethan had been dating her for a year and a half. It seemed insane that he might be with the same girl when he went to school, but he seemed like he was committed for good. He was like his mother, so sure and confident in his relationship.
"Where I go?" Alex asked, pulling back and looking into my eyes, patting my cheeks with her little hands.
"You stay here with Mommy and me."
Her eyes started to tear up and her little lip poked out, spearing me right in the heart. I couldn't stand it when she cried.
"What's wrong, baby?"
"I no baby. I big. I has fwiends to pway with."
Good God. She was trying to leave me, too. Unacceptable. I really had to try to talk Reed Girl into another baby again. Though she'd just laugh at my ass and slip me a vasectomy pamphlet. She'd grabbed a bunch at a recent doctor visit and liked to slip them to me when I bugged her about babies. Like I'd let some hack come at my balls. Fuck that noise.
The first tear spilled over her gorgeous eyelashes and I quickly wiped it away. "Of course you have friends, baby. Everybody loves you. But your big sister is coming to visit. We thought you'd want to be here to see her and…"
"Tanner!" Her green eyes got huge, and suddenly there were no more tears.
I had no idea how, or why, but my little girl had a crush on that interloper, just like her sister did. He was some kind of girl Cullen whisperer. Reed Girl loved him, too. Just another reason why he sucked. God, I hoped they were here to announce a breakup, even if it was unlikely.
"Yes, baby. Tanner is coming, too." Unfortunately. Why hadn't I moved us all to Alaska years ago like I wanted to? They never would have met him. And yes, I knew he loved my daughter. And he was a decent football player who was going to bring us a championship this year. But still. It was better when we were all together with no outside people.
"Daddy, when they come?"
I glanced at the clock in the hallway. "Anytime, angel."
"Put down!" she demanded, pushing away from me and breaking my heart yet again.
"I go get dressed! Pwetty!"
Fuck my life. She was already acting like a teenager. I blamed Reed Girl. And Shorty. She was forever buying Alex little dresses. Probably because she was the last baby in our group, unless someone surprised us.
"You're always pretty, baby."
"Daddy!" Fuck. That was Reed Girl's commanding voice coming out of my baby girl's mouth.
I sighed and put her down, watching as she ran off to find something to wear to impress Tanner. She hollered for Reed Girl as she headed upstairs. Fucking hell.
I went into the living room and sat down, smiling when Rainbow sauntered into the room. She knew when I needed her. I picked her up and she snuggled where Alex had just been.
"Tanner's coming." She purred against my ear, clearly not understanding what that meant. "You know, he has some blond in his hair. Couldn't you go after him, for old time's sake?"
Rainbow pulled back and put a paw on my mouth. I knew she understood. She was the only one of my girls not to fall for that jerk.
"And if you hear the word pregnant, you attack him, do you hear me?"
"There will be no attacking," Reed Girl announced, coming into the room with our now fully dolled up little girl. She was in some ruffly red thing that looked like something she should wear for Christmas. Hell, it was nearly Christmas, so it was probably her Christmas dress.
"What is she…" I broke off when my angel patted her dress and said "pwetty" again.
And I didn't have the heart to complain. "Very pretty, baby. You're gorgeous." She was, too. It was only a matter of time before some asshole would come to take her away, too. Sure, it seemed far off, but time flew. It fucking sucked.
"Stop scheming with your minion," Reed Girl told me, sitting Alex down next to me.
"I can't help it if Rainbow is the only sane female in this house," I told her.
"And by sane, you mean she's the only one who doesn't like Tanner? She's only been around him for a few minutes."
But during those few minutes, she'd watched him suspiciously. I took that as a sign that she was on my side and didn't want him taking Dani away any more than I did.
"Rainbow knows," was all I said, making my wife laugh, which made Alex laugh with her. And they were so damn alike and perfect that I felt some of the tension drain out of me. That was until I heard the door open.
The elation I felt at hearing my daughter's voice was tempered some by my fear of whatever she had to tell us. I sent up a silent prayer that it wasn't a baby. I could handle anything else. Even-please don't let it be-an engagement.
I got to my feet just as they walked into the living room. Dani was somehow even more beautiful and grown-up than she'd been just a couple of weeks ago when we'd seen her for Thanksgiving. There was a glow about her that had me freaking out even as I held my arms open as she ran to hug me. I closed my eyes and just held on, breathing her in. My baby girl, back where she belonged.
"Hey, Princess." I pulled back and grinned at her gorgeous face. "Or should I call you Champ now?"
My girl, my amazing daughter, had led the Noles to the championship in just her sophomore year. She'd been the star player of the playoffs, and it had killed me that I hadn't been there to cheer her on. Watching on the computer fucking sucked. Maybe I should retire this year…
"Can we have two Champs in the family?" Dani asked, giving me a kiss on the cheek.
"Baby, this whole family is made of champs." It was fucking true. Me, obviously. Reed Girl and Ethan with their amazing musical talent, Dani with volleyball, AJ with football… I had no idea what Alex was going to rule at but I had no doubt that she would. She was a Cullen, it was in her blood.
"So true. Cullens are winners."
She pulled away from me and wrapped her arms around her mother. That forced me to acknowledge the jackass who looked at my daughter like he wanted to eat her. And fuck me if that wasn't the most disgusting thought I'd ever had. Fucking wrong.
I shook his hand. "Hunt. Good job with Florida." He'd carved up their secondary nearly as well as I used to.
He flashed a smile. "Thanks. Always feels good to kick Gator ass."
It had. "It's almost as fun kicking Cowboys, Eagles, and Skins' asses, but there's something special about those college rivalries," I told him.
"Yeah. You know…" he started, but broke off when my little angel stepped between us.
Fucking hell. I wanted to hate the kid, and I still might depending on what they had to tell us, but I couldn't hate the way his face lit up at the sight of my baby girl reaching for him. He crouched down, and Alex threw herself into them.
"Hey, pretty girl! I've missed you."
"Miss ou, too," she replied as he stood with her in his arms.
I glanced over and saw my wife and other daughter looking all starry eyed at the sight of Tanner holding Alex. A brush against my legs alerted me to Rainbow's presence, and since Tanner had stolen my other baby girl, I picked her up and held her.
Much to my complete and utter joy, she looked over at Tanner and let out a low warning growl. She didn't like it one bit that he had Alex in his arms. That was my Rainbow!
"Oh, hush, Rainbow." Dani took her from me and gave her a bunch of kisses. The growl, sadly, disappeared as Rainbow gave her headbutts.
"I can't believe you're still ali-"
"Hey! We don't say that word to Rainbow. Or the D word. She's here and she always will be." That was my story and I was sticking to it. She wasn't as fast as she used to be, but neither was I. And yes, maybe I made a few ramps for her to get up into beds easier, because I didn't want her to hurt herself jumping up or down, but she was still vital and strong. That was that.
"Sorry, Dad." Dani handed Rainbow back to me, and she curled into my neck.
"How was your flight?" Reed Girl asked, like this was a normal day and we should chit chat about normal things. I started to open my mouth to demand to know what was going on, but the woman silenced me with a look. Because she could.
"Are you hungry? Thirsty?"
"We're fine, Mom." Dani steered Tanner, who was still holding my baby, over to the loveseat and urged him to sit down. "The flight was good. I feel like all I've done lately is travel, between Thanksgiving, the tournament, and this week."
It had been a crazy time for her. "At least next semester will be quieter," I told her. "I always loved how easy the second half of the year was."
Dani flinched, and Tanner put his arm around her. What the fuck was that?
"Liar," Reed Girl said, taking my hand and pulling me onto the couch. "You got antsy as hell after a few weeks without football."
Well, that was sorta true. "But I got more time with you." I grinned at her, and she kissed my cheek. Then I realized that Dani would have more time with him, and it wasn't so pleasant a memory.
"But you'll still need to stay in shape. The next season comes around faster than you expect."
Dani glanced at Tanner, and he nodded at her and whispered something.
"Yeah, about that…"
Oh, fuck. I could feel my heart start pounding again. Here we go. Reed Girl squeezed my hand, a reminder that no matter what our daughter had to say, we were in it together. Please, don't let it be a baby.
"What is it, sweetie?" Reed Girl prompted, still looking all calm and collected. She was amazing.
"Just tell them. It's good news."
It wouldn't be good news for him if she was pregnant. Or engaged. Because now was not the time. She was at the top of her game, damn it.
"Okay." Dani took a deep breath. "I got some really good news a couple days ago, but it does require me to take some time off school."
Fuck me. She was pregnant. He was a dead man. I set Rainbow down and stood, pointing at Tanner. "I'm going to kill you."
Reed Girl's grip on my hand tightened, and Tanner used my baby girl as a shield to hide behind. Fucking coward. Hiding behind a baby. A fucking baby. He and my daughter were going to have a baby.
"Dad! He didn't do anything!" Dani got to her feet and stood in front of me, shielding her asshole baby daddy from my eyes.
"Didn't he? It takes two to make a baby!"
Okay. I had to make plans. I needed to know things. Dani was just staring at me with her mouth open, clearly unable to say anything. Probably the hormones. Oh, the fucking hormones. God, I didn't want to deal with that again. Reed Girl and I couldn't have another baby now. We'd be taking care of our grandkid. Fucking hell.
"How far along are you? We'll move you home as soon as this semester is over. Horndog over there will be paying a fuckton of child support as soon as he signs his NFL contract. You can be sure of that! Reed Girl, call our lawyer. Dani, you should be sitting. And you!" I looked to see that Tanner was pale as a ghost. "You put down my daughter, and get the hell out of my house before I tear you apart."
Tanner slowly stood and set Alex down, holding his hands up in a sign of surrender. Damn right, fucker. You get your hands off my angel. You've done enough damage.
"Daddy, you're insane. There is no baby," Dani said, just as Alex came over and tugged on my pants.
"Why you yell, Daddy?" She had tears in her eyes again, and I sighed as I reached for her. Wait, had she said no baby?
"No baby?" I asked, feeling the blood roaring through my head start to settle. Thank fuck.
"Of course not, Dad!" Dani smacked my arm. "How could you even think that?"
"I told you, Edward," Reed GIrl hissed, taking our other daughter from me, probably so Dani could hit me properly.
"Well, why would you need a semester off if not for that? You're not dropping out to follow him around, are you? Because that shit would be even worse than if you were knocked up." I'd kill them both then.
"Dad! How about you stop making ridiculous assumptions and let me talk?" Dani's green eyes were snapping with temper. She was so much like her mother in that moment that it left me speechless. She had that calm tone but the fiery glare at the same time.
"Sit, Edward," Reed Girl ordered, pointing at the spot I'd abandoned. I did as she asked because the last thing I needed was both of them pissed at me. Though I had a feeling I'd already fucked that up since my wife had the same look on her face.
"Tanner, I apologize for my husband. He tends to lead with his mouth instead of his head sometimes."
I opened my mouth to defend myself, but I really couldn't. She was right. Rainbow climbed back into my lap and gave me her silent support. At least one of the females in the room didn't hate me.
"It's fine." Tanner put a hand on Dani's shoulder as she glared down at me from her standing position. "Dani could have announced it better." He hugged her against his side. "Tell them, baby."
"As I was about to say, before I was so rudely interrupted," -she shot me another glare- "I need to take off next semester." She shook her head. "Not because I'm pregnant, Dad."
Oh, the sarcasm in that tone. I was going to have do some major ass kissing to get back in her good graces.
"But because I've been asked to be on the US Olympic Volleyball Team."
Fuck me. Holy fucking crap. She did it! Her ultimate dream, even beyond winning a championship for the Noles, was to represent us in the Olympics. We'd thought that opportunity might come after college, but of course, my girl was an overachiever. Just like me.
"Oh, my God!" Reed Girl was up and out of her seat, throwing her free arm around Dani, hugging her along with Alex, who had no clue what was going on but she was happy that everybody else was happy again.
I set Rainbow aside and stood, not sure if I would be accepted into the celebratory hug happening but needing to be part of it. But first I had to make amends.
"Tanner, I'm sorry I jumped to the wrong conclusion. I've been nervous about this news since Bella told me you were coming early, and I let my mind go to places it shouldn't." I held out a hand, which thankfully he accepted.
"I understand." He smiled over at my daughter, and damn it, I could see that he loved her. "She could have started her speech a little better, but she was nervous that you'd be upset about her taking time off."
"To live her dreams? Never." I looked over at my girl, who was glowing as she hugged her mother and sister, talking a mile a minute about what was ahead.
"That's what I told her."
He looked from me to Dani, and then reached out and tapped her shoulder. She immediately turned into his arms.
"Baby, your dad wants to congratulate you."
She glared over at me and I hated myself for ruining her moment.
"Dani." Tanner touched her cheek. "Your dad was just looking out for you. You didn't exactly start the news in the best way." He grinned at her when she frowned. "I don't blame him for assuming the worst. He was just trying to protect you. That's what dads do, or so I've heard."
Holy shit. He was her Reed Girl. He was able to get her to listen through her temper and hurt feelings, just like my wife did for me. Dani looked over at me and I held my arms out, hoping she'd come into them like she had when they'd first arrived, and thankfully she did.
I hugged her, kissed the top of her head, and rocked her in my arms. "I'm so sorry, baby. I am so incredibly proud of you, and I can't wait to go to Tokyo and see you play." I'd fucking be there. If the Giants wouldn't let me miss preseason, then I'd retire. End of story.
"You don't care that I have to defer? I've already talked to Coach, and the school has no issues with me coming back in the fall…"
"Baby, this is your dream. Of course I don't mind if you need an extra semester to graduate." I hugged her to me again. "Your gold medal is going to look awesome with my Heismans."
She laughed and squeezed me tight. "Who says I'm going to let you keep it for me?"
"I do." I pulled back and kissed her nose. "Until that one makes an honest woman of you, the medals and trophies stay here."
Tanner cleared his throat and shifted nervously at my words. Good. Maybe he wasn't ready to take her away from me yet.
"That's fair enough. If we win…"
I humphed at that nonsense. "When you win."
Dani giggled. "When we win, I don't think I'd want it in my dorm or apartment anyway."
Damn right. "I'll keep it safe for you."
"I know." She hugged me again. "I may not like that you jumped to that conclusion, but I love that you wanted to protect me."
"Always, baby girl."
"Now that that's settled…" Reed Girl kissed Dani's cheek and also gave me one. Thank fuck. Maybe I wasn't completely in the doghouse now. Thanks to Tanner. Damn it. "What do you want to do for dinner tonight? I was thinking we could take you out or…"
"Antonio's!" Dani interrupted, naming her favorite Italian place.
Reed Girl laughed. "Antonio's it is. Come help me pick out something to wear for me and your sister. You're not wearing your Christmas dress to eat spuzghetti, young lady."
"Spuzghetti! Alex clapped her hands and bounced in Bella's arms.
The girls all headed upstairs, and I turned to Tanner, knowing it would be awhile.
"Want a beer?"
"I could sure use one."
I laughed and got us both a cold one from the fridge. "You ready for the awards gauntlet?" I asked, handing him one.
He shrugged. "Yeah, I mean, I did it all last year, but this year it feels like I'll actually win."
"You will." I smiled at him. "Nobody else came close, stats wise. You're going to the National Championship Game. You would have won it last year if not for the Clemson game." He winced at the memory and I laughed. "Yeah, I get it."
I decided now was as good a time as any to ask something I'd wondered about. "Did you stay for your senior year for Dani?"
He shifted a little in his seat. "She was part of the reason, I guess."
I laughed. Sure. He guessed. "And you wanted a championship and the Heisman."
"Exactly. All three factored into it, but yeah, she's a big part of the reason I stayed. She's part of everything I do." He looked at me nervously. "I know Dani has goals and dreams, and I want them for her. And I know you think it's too early to get married, and honestly I'm fine with that. But I do want to ask her to marry me. I'm going to wait until after the Olympics, though. I don't want to be a distraction to her. She'll be twenty then, and I'll be in the NFL and we'll be separated for awhile, but I know it's right. I hope I have your blessing, but I have to tell you, even if I don't, I love her and I'm going to marry her."
Fuck. I knew this kid was trouble from day one. He was going to be the one to take Dani away from me, but after the way he handled me losing my shit, and helped Dani see that I had good intentions, I couldn't be upset about it. He was her Reed Girl. I couldn't deny her an awesome life with the person who fit her like nobody else could; the life I had.
"You have it." I clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Want to go see the trophy you're about to win?"
He smiled like he'd just won it. "Yes, sir."
"I"ll show you the trophy room. You're going to have to have one of your own for yours and Dani's, you know."
"I look forward to it."
And surprisingly, I did, too. They'd have a room with his Heisman, her gold medal-medals if things went well-her various trophies, his, and someday, in the distant future, their children's. Maybe not so distant. I could handle that.
A/N Our Champ, ever the overreactor! But Dani is a chip off the old block, achieving her athletic dreams, and she has found her very own Reed Girl to support and shine with her.
Here's a little teaser for my O/S donation for Australia Compilation mentioned above. It's called Sue Me.
Summary: Edward Cullen is the only lawyer in the small town of Forks. He's bored with the neighbor vs. neighbor cases he's dragged into, but his latest client could change everything.
I took the plate of cookies Mrs. Cope had given me and headed inside. The discontent I'd felt since I'd left the office washed away when I saw my mother sitting at the front desk, beaming at me as I walked in the door. She was the reason I was here, and she was worth giving up the big lawyer dreams.
"Edward!" She got up from her chair and walked over to me. Her limp was barely noticeable today, and there was only the slightest slur of my name. She'd come so far in her therapy, it was hard to believe she'd had a stroke just over a year ago.
I relaxed into her hug, smiling at the familiar jasmine scent that washed over me. She'd worn the same scent since I was a kid, and it always smelled like home to me.
"How'd it go with Mrs. Cope?" Mom asked, pulling back to smile at me, laughing at the expression that crossed my face. "That well, huh?"
"She agreed not to sue the Newton family if little Mikey Newton keeps away from her flowers and promises to help her plant new ones." I rolled my eyes. "He claims he didn't know the bleach would kill them, but we all know that's not true. It's only a matter of time before that idiot does something else." Mike Newton Junior was a menace, much like his father, with whom I'd gone to school. It was no surprise the kid turned out to be a terror, with Mike and Jessica being his parents.
"He'll grow out of it," my mother assured me, chuckling when I raised an eyebrow. "Hopefully."
"Sure. Newton offered me a new set of golf clubs from his store to make the problem go away. And Mrs. Cope paid me in cookies." I held out the plate, and my mom snatched it out of my hands with the fastest reflexes I'd seen her exhibit in years. I couldn't blame her, though. Mrs. Cope's cookies were better than gold.
"Worth it," Mom agreed, setting the plate on her desk.
While true, it was a good thing we had family money or I'd have had to move Mom out of Forks to a real city, where I'd get paid with real cash instead of trade. As it stood, we never had to pay for food at the diner, Mom got her hair done for free, and my car repairs were covered whenever I had an issue due to me helping with leases, contracts, and lawsuits. That was Forks for you.
"Any calls while I was gone?"
Mom shook her head. "No calls, but you did get a walk-in."
Okay, that happened from time to time. "Who was it?"
She smiled. "You'll see."
What did that even mean?
"She's in your office."
That was weird. Generally if anyone came in when I was out, Mom kept them entertained in the waiting area.
"She wanted to be professional." Mom's green eyes were twinkling, and I started to worry that this was some sort of set up. Mom was anxious for me to settle down and give her some grandchildren to spoil. Our little family of two just didn't cut it for her. Couldn't say I blamed her there. We both missed Dad and Janie.
I sighed and started to go see what was in store for me now when Mom grabbed my arm.
"Edward? Take her seriously. Please."