I hear the door of the Brandon's house swing shut from my kitchen, and only a minute later a very angry-looking Emmett stomps through our front door, slamming it behind him.
"Emmett Swan, you better apologise for slamming that door."
Flinching, Emmett's head snaps up, his face paling when he spots me in the kitchen. "Sorry," he says quietly.
I hear him dump his school bag on the floor and flip off his shoes, leaving both in the middle of the floor. I'm waiting for him to appear at my side in the kitchen, but instead turn around I find him standing in the kitchen doorway, shuffling from foot to foot.
He shrugs but nods at the same time.
I pat the stool at the kitchen counter, and with a sigh, he trudges into the kitchen and pulls the chair out. The two of us are silent as I pour him some soda, waiting for him to spit out whatever it is that's bugging him. He lifts himself into the seat slowly, and I pull the chopping board back over and continue cutting up vegetables for dinner.
Emmett sits quietly, watching me work, fidgeting as his brain ticks over. "Mom," he says finally. "Why can't girls and boys be friends? Why do they has to be boyfriend and girlfriend?"
"Who said that?" I ask as I hand him a pile of carrot sticks.
"Rosie's friend Jane?"
He nods, munching. "She said me and Rosie aren't asposed to be best friends 'cause I'm a boy and it's weird."
I shake my head. "It's not weird. I think maybe Jane is a little jealous because you and Rosie are such good friends, and you get to live next door to her and she doesn't."
This gives Emmett pause, and he slips back into that quiet place he goes so often, thinking while he crunches carrots loudly.
I drain the pasta and dig through the pantry for a jar of Mary Alice's marinara sauce. When I return, Emmett is still deep in thought, his bottom lip tucked between his teeth the way mine does when I'm lost in my own head.
"Girls are so dumb," he whispers after what feels like an age, and I can't help but laugh. His expression is so utterly perplexed.
"Rosie's a girl, you don't think she's dumb, do you?"
A deep red blush appears, pinking his cheeks, and I have to hide my smile. "No," he says. "I guess not all girls are dumb."
"Like I said, maybe she's jealous. Maybe Jane has a crush on you, and she doesn't want you spending time with Rosie."
Or maybe Jane's parents need a good smack upside the head.
"But that's so stupid!"
I laugh at Emmett's exasperation, reaching over to ruffle his blonde hair. "Just ignore her, baby. You and Rosie can be friends no matter what, okay?"
"It's not weird?"
"Of course not. Now, give your momma a kiss and then go get your homework out."
At almost nine-years-old, Emmett's head is brushing my shoulder. The little sandy-haired handful is a thing of the past, and now, he's a mess of long limbs and big feet that he constantly trips over. He's no different than Huck was as a puppy—clumsy and gangly like he's not sure how to work his own body. It's both exciting and horrifying.
I lean down a little so he can tiptoe up to kiss me on the cheek before he thunders upstairs to his bedroom, Huck, his ever-present shadow, close behind.
An hour or so later, I've just put dinner into the oven when the side door closes gently, a breeze bringing with it the smell of dirt and pine and autumn air. Turning my head a little, Edward's lips find my cheek as his hands rest against the benchtop at my hips. His skin is stained with oil and grease and he smells like sweat and engine parts, his beard scratchy-soft against my neck as he dips his head to place a kiss against my shoulder.
"Smells good," he says.
"So do you," I reply quietly, turning in the cage of his arms.
"If you say so."
My skin warms as he buries his face into my neck, inhaling through a quiet groan. He says I smell different. I think he's insane, but quietly I wonder if it's a male thing, some protective instinct or pheromone that's kicked in.
Emmett makes a retching sound behind us. "Gross."
Smirking against my skin, Edward turns, disentangling himself from me and leaving me flushed and fuzzy. "I got that part you wanted," he says to Emmett, leaning against the table beside him.
Emmett's face lights up, and he's out of his chair so fast it almost falls over. "Can I see it? Can we put it on tonight?"
"It's out back," says Edward, guiding Emmett back into his seat gently. "We'll put it on tonight as long as you finish your homework."
Em bounces in his seat. "I've only got two math questions left. Can we do it before dinner?"
The dirt bike Edward found at a junk yard has been a summer-long project for the two boys. Emmett does his chores and saves up his pocket money, and Edward buys the parts and shows him how to fit them. To say I'm worried about my son on a dirt bike is an understatement. At first, I'd been inclined to put my foot down and say no. The bike trails around here can be dangerous, and the thought of Emmett flying around the forest with nothing between him and a fur-tree makes me all sorts of nervous. But Edward and Mary Alice have both told me that I need to loosen up - let go a little.
I guess old habits die hard. That overprotective mama instinct is a hard one to kick.
Having Edward makes it easier though. His calming presence gives me a reason to loosen my grip and take a breath sometimes.
Of course, it hasn't always been this easy for us. We spent months looking over our shoulders, lying low, barely stepping foot outside of the house for fear of someone recognizing us. Coupled with fact that the last time I'd seen Edward he'd had Marcus' brain matter smeared all over him, there were moments I feared we might not be able to put the violence of our past behind us. That even so far away, it would chase us like a black cloud.
In the end, it was a shared understanding of the events that lead us to Clearwater that pulled us together.
He was there for me the days when it was all too much. When everything that had lead to the events at Blush felt like enough to consume me, to fill my lungs and drown me. He picked up after Emmett, he cooked dinner, he held me quietly until I pulled together the ragged ends of my life and made them whole again-even if just for the moment.
I was there the nights Edward woke in a sweat, hands digging beneath his pillow for a gun, muscles tensed as he sucked in lungfuls of air to calm his racing pulse. I became the light he needed to understand that the bad things he's done are what make him a good man, while Emmett showed him exactly why his actions hadn't been in vain. He wiggled his way back into Edward's space until the light that I was sure Edward had lost came back.
Clearwater has been good for him. For us.
Motorbikes, cars, trail bikes, Edward seems to have a knack for anything with an engine. We keep it pretty simple, with Edward renting a small space from a garage in town, but pretty soon word of mouth worked its magic and he had a steady flow of business. Between that and my work at the bar, we make enough to keep ourselves fed and happy. And happy we are - something I never thought I'd be.
Jasper keeps in touch. He makes the trip over every few months, even more so over the past year. He never talks about his work, and Edward never asks. From what I can gather, there is a mutual understanding between the two that Edward doesn't want to know, and Jasper doesn't want to tell him. Mary Alice probably knows more about Jasper's goings on than we do, so I leave it at that, happy to let him do his own thing well away from Edward and I.
Right before dinner, I'm finishing up Emmett's homework with him when I hear Edward coming down the stairs behind us. I turn to ask him to grab me a sweater from upstairs, but the words die in my mouth.
"Look who's awake," he says quietly, looking down at the swathed bundle in his arms.
His hand almost entirely envelops her tiny body as it sits cradled against his chest. He looks down at her, awed, as her tiny hand grips his finger tightly, tiny pink lips puckered as she pushes her face into his chest.
Standing, I reach up to brush the sandy brown hair over Elizabeth's forehead as Edward holds her between us. "I was just thinking about you," I whisper.
She's ready for yet another feed, but for just a moment longer I watch Edward fuss with her; tugging on her onesie gently, adjusting her tiny socks, whispering quietly to her.
I don't think I'll ever get enough of watching.
From the minute I found out I was pregnant, Edward was a mess of nerves. I'd never seen him so on edge. Even when all the shit went down with Marcus he kept that cool, calm exterior of his in place. He'd always been so unflappable, so steadfast in his confidence—I couldn't believe that all it took was an eight-pound baby girl to make him come undone.
He was so scared he would drop her, hurt her, hold her wrong, lover her too much or not enough. But two minutes after she was born he'd slipped gently into fatherhood as I knew he would, embracing it in all it's messy, sleepless, stressful, beautiful wonder, settling in like he'd always belonged there.
I didn't think it was possible to be in love with someone more than I was with Edward.
I was so wrong.
With our little family, I fell hard for him all over again. My heart exploded, it made room for more love than I'd ever thought was possible and it felt like free falling—completely exhilarating.
The three of us became four, and just like that, a new chapter of our lives began all over again.
Later that night, after both Emmett and, mercifully, Elizabeth are asleep, Edward and I find ourselves with some rare alone time.
"You know, I think we're going to need to sit down with Emmett soon and talk to him about girls," I say as my spoon scrapes the bottom of the ice cream tub.
I smile at him as I rise to take our spoons to the sink. "I mean you."
"I think he's got a crush."
Edward sighs. "Rosalie?"
I hum in agreement as I wash up. We'd both seen it coming a mile away, but had very much hoped they'd been a bit older. "I can do it if you'd prefer?"
"I'll do it," he says sounding resigned. My reflection smiles back at me as I think about the awkward conversation he's going to have to have. I don't know who will be more embarrassed, Emmett or Edward. "Did Mary Alice say something? Bella?"
Mind spinning, I reach over to the small iPod dock on the kitchen window sill, turning it up slightly.
Behind me, Edward's reflection stills and he lifts his head to find my gaze in the darkened kitchen window. "Is this...our song?"
I nod, unable to stop the gentle sway of my hips as the bass line drifts through the tiny speaker. Closing my eyes, I let the music sink into my skin, delighting in the way my heart remembers the adrenaline hit.
"Do remember that night?" he asks, his deep voice so close now, just over my shoulder, sending a shiver down my spine. The heat from his body presses against my back and shoulders as he lingers just out of reach. "You have no idea how hard it was to keep my hands to myself."
I smirk, thinking back to what feels like another life, remembering the way his green eyes had felt heavy against my skin. How much I'd ached for him to touch me. How at that moment, and every moment since, I'd never wanted another man to touch me ever again.
His warm hands slide around my hips, pulling me back to press my back against his chest. "How long?"
Leaning into his embrace, I sigh at the feeling of his hands as they brush over the front of my skirt. "Five and a half weeks."
His large hand slides up my stomach, pressing flat on my chest as he pulls me flush against him. "How long did the doctor say?"
My breath catches in my throat as he spins me in his arms, clearly done with waiting.
His mouth captures mine, swallowing my gasp as his thigh finds the space between mine and he presses himself against me. He kisses me dizzy, a hand pawing gently at my chest as the other pushes my skirt to my thigh. My hands find the skin beneath his t-shirt, his stomach flexing beneath my touch.
The music continues in the background—a soundtrack to the way Edward plays my body the way only he knows how. His mouth is hot and wet against my neck, leaving me panting and shaking, my fingers echoing the need I feel deep in my soul for him to consume me. Like he hears the echo, Edward lowers himself gently to my feet, his hands sliding up and under my skirt.
"Just…" I shudder as he rolls my underwear over my hips, fingers slipping beneath the elastic. "Be gentle."
"Am I ever anything else?" he asks as he looks up at me.
I simply tilt my head.
A heart-stopping smirk explodes across Edward's face, and his eyes blaze as he remembers the same thing I do.
One too many of Mary Alice's Long Island Iced Teas.
A night alone.
Lips. Teeth. Tongues. Hands. Heat.
Two blue lines.
His hands are dark inky spots across my lower abdomen, his fingers splayed wide as his thumbs brush the place where, just five and a half weeks ago, our daughter was. Like he's reading my mind, he presses a kiss to the soft, lumpy skin of my stomach.
In another life, I might be self-conscious. I might cover the loose skin and stretch marks with my hands. I might even push him away. But when he looks up from where he's kneeling at my feet, there is nothing but love and adoration in his eyes—worship of the body that held his child, admiration for the woman who created that life with him.
I brush a hand over his head, fingers finding purchase in his hair as his hands slide from my hips to my ass, my breath catching as his mouth slides lower—lower and lower until his face is buried between my legs and his mouth is on me and I have to grip the sink with my free hand.
True to his word, he's gentle until I can't take it anymore, and I need everything and all I can do whisper-beg him for it. Relenting, he adds his fingers, pressing deep until I'm silent with pleasure. He holds me still as my body shakes, as he pulls the last pieces of my love for him from deep inside my chest where they lie waiting.
Feeling soft and pliant in his arms, Edward lies me on our kitchen table, smiling down at me as I tug his dirty t-shirt over his head. His dark hair flops over his forehead, green eyes blazing at me from beneath gold lashes as he leans down to kiss me again. I can see how much effort it's taking him to restrain, to stop from taking me the way he wants. His muscles twitch and shiver beneath my hands as he buries himself inside me slowly, and the moment he does it's like my body opens up to him. It feels like home and love and real, and the overwhelming sense that I finally have everything almost makes me cry with joy.
Edward tenses above me as his end nears, brow creased and serious the way I love so much. His hand wraps around my thigh, lifting it high over his hip as his thrusts become erratic, his need wrapping itself through every fiber of his being until it bleeds into my own and we become nothing but hot panting breaths and clutching fingers and oh fuck.
Spent, he rests his forehead against mine, green eyes bright but already showing signs of that new-parent, bone-deep exhaustion we're both carrying.
As if on cue, the baby monitor crackles a whimper echoes through the quiet kitchen. Above me, Edward sighs and presses a kiss to my collarbone before lifting me up with him.
I smile lazily, kissing the hand that he brushes across my cheek.