MVP Extra Innings 1
I sat beside Bella on the plane and looked down at my fingers wrapped around hers while she smiled and looked out the window. I never knew what was going on in that woman's mind, but I imagined she was marveling at the gorgeous expanse of land and sea we were flying over. I, however, marveled at the fact I was allowed to hold Bella's hand.
Passing my thumb against her soft skin, I couldn't keep the goofy smile off my own face, thinking about all of the other soft places she allowed me to know. Just this very morning, she'd scolded me as I untied her bikini top and pulled it away from her body while she lay on her stomach on the beach chair, but she grinned at me over her shoulder and let me do it anyway.
It helped that we were totally alone on our own private stretch of beach.
Bella had finally agreed to let me take her away on vacation, and while she teased me about going overboard, she didn't argue that I deserved to spoil myself just a little after such a long, hard season. Turtle Island in Fiji was our week-long escape from a rushed, hurried schedule and unrelenting press coverage.
First, it was press covering every single angle of that bullshit Victoria had pulled with Star Magazine.
Oh, yeah. Jerry was all over that. Victoria was immediately terminated from her position working with the Cardinals organization. We called a press conference to announce that someone from the inside had stolen pictures and private information from my phone to misrepresent me to Star Magazine. I was politely asked not to mention Victoria by name during the press announcement. I honored that request after the owners and I came to the agreement that the St. Louis Cardinals organization would donate a very, very large sum of money to Level Playing Field. It was enough to ensure LPF would be comfortable in its endeavors for at least its first several years, which is more than most beginning charities can hope for. It was better than dragging the franchise's name through the mud in court.
Oddly enough, those efforts did not protect Victoria's reputation. You see, it seemed that someone else close to me happened to be friends with a certain sports writer for STACK Magazine and spilled all of the dirty details for an expose Riley Biers was writing on the mismanagement of professional athletes. He called out greedy agents and dirty accountants. He also specifically named Victoria in an example of exploitation of privacy with media handling. The article made the front page and received national attention, which effectively blacklisted the bitch and made Victoria unhireable in the professional sports market. Funny how things like that work out, eh? I could imagine Victoria would eventually end up a bitter forty-year-old, bouncing on the cock of some farm-league wanna-be ball player just to relive her glory days. Good fucking riddance. It was better than she deserved.
Of course, all of this was happening as the team headed toward post-season play. And yes, by God, I didn't let any of it affect my efforts on the field. My teammates pulled together and played through the drama surrounding the organization, eventually claiming the World Series title. That was definitely press-worthy.
And the press continued as we began the process of suing Star Magazine. They run ridiculous shit in their rag paper all the time, but they crossed the line publishing a private photo of my son. I wanted to find the editor who'd given the okay to run the piece and beat the shit out of him. Litigation seemed more civilized. Bella was involved with her own part of that lawsuit. Every single time I thought about her being exposed the way she'd been, her beautiful body on the front of that piece-of-shit gossip magazine, it made my blood boil. No one would ever be allowed to see her like that again. She didn't like it when I acted possessive, but the girl is mine. Mine. All mine.
I might've squeezed her fingers a little too tightly thinking about it. Bella turned to look at me.
"Huh?" I blinked out of my thoughts and loosened my hold, smiling over at her. "Sorry."
"You looked so serious just now. What were you thinking about?"
"My head's all over the place." I shrugged. "I wish we could've stayed in Fiji another week."
"But then we'd miss Thanksgiving dinner," she reminded me. "You know you promised Jackie."
"We should've taken our vacation after Thanksgiving." I chuckled. "A few days with my family will make us need rest and relaxation all over again."
"They're not that bad, Edward!"
"You say that now." I lifted her hand to my face to kiss her knuckles. "Anyway, you were off in your own little world over there. What were you thinking about?"
I was rewarded when that tell-tale blush of hers turned her cheeks rosy.
"I… was thinking about last night," she whispered, leaning into my side.
I wouldn't soon forget it myself.
I was lying on a chair, enjoying the sunset over the azure waters of the Blue Lagoon, when Bella came out to join me. She was still wearing the white robe she'd donned after our earlier massage, and she held two glasses of champagne in her hands.
"Want to toast to our final night in paradise?" she'd asked, straddling my lap as I sat up.
"Every evening with you is paradise," I'd foolishly offered. It was corny, and I felt dumb as hell for saying it, but Bella giggled and made me feel better. We both made a silent salute and sipped from our glasses. It was going to be hard to leave this place.
"I'm glad you didn't cut this too short," Bella murmured, pulling her fingers through the top of my hair. "I like it a little long."
"It'll be shorter before I start playing in the spring," I warned her. Of course, I was also reminding her that our crazy schedules would be starting back up in a few short months. I think I was still worried it would be too much for her. She just smiled and leaned down to kiss me.
"So… shave it all off. I'll have fun watching it grow out again, Lion," she whispered against my lips. That reaffirmation flooded me with relief, and I kissed her again. Hard.
It was obvious then we both had the same thing on our minds. I loosened the belt of her robe enough so the material slid down her shoulders before slowly pulling the chilled champagne flute down the strip of exposed skin between her breasts. Bella shivered and gave a breathy little sigh that immediately made me hard beneath her. I loved the way she reacted to me, and she definitely noticed the way I was reacting to her. I could tell by the way she shifted on my lap and rocked against my body.
Soon, our glasses were tossed to the sand, and I was attacking her chest with my mouth and hands. We made short work of my trunks, getting them pulled away so she could sink down on my cock, and then, just as I told her, I was in paradise.
God. I'd been with plenty of women—I know that—but none of them like this. Not with this weird, soul sort of connection. Every part of me loved this woman. The sight of her rolling her hips over me and the ocean wind pulling her hair like some mythological siren come from the sea, with the pink and blue sunset sky behind her, was like something out of a fantasy and an image that would be burned on my brain forever. I gripped her hips hard, probably hard enough to leave bruises, fighting the baser instinct to flip her over beneath me and fuck her hard. I could tell she needed something different, though. I was happy to let Bella take the lead, making love to me on that chair in our private cove. And it was perfect. Absolutely fucking perfect.
I would need that image with me. Obviously, for the next few days, we would have zero alone time.
Alice and Jasper arrived at Emmett and Rose's house about an hour after we did.
"Look how tan you are!" Alice laughed and hugged Bella.
"Too little too late," Bella replied. "I needed this tan before Angela's wedding. Maybe then I wouldn't have looked so disgusting in that color she chose."
"You looked beautiful that night," I corrected her.
"You want to talk about looking disgusting?" Alice did a little turn.
"Shut up! You're gorgeous!"
It was weird seeing my little sister all big and round and getting ready to pop out a baby, but I had to give Jasper a little credit. He spoiled her absolutely fucking rotten. She would sit in a recliner with her feet up, and he'd dote on her every whim.
"Babe, can you bring me some water?"
"Babe, can you get a pillow for my back?"
"Babe, can you bring me some of those crackers?"
Three hours after we arrived at Emmett and Rose's place, I was already hiding out in my brother's garage with the rest of the men, drinking beer and trying to find some peace and quiet. My nerves were shot.
"Babe?" I said, mocking my sister's voice. "Can you get me another one of those beers?"
Jasper threw a mock-punch at me and pulled a cold bottle out of the cooler before handing it over.
"Get used to it." Emmett tossed an empty bottle in the trash and threw his arm over Jasper's shoulder. "This is all practice, man. Once that kid gets here, you'll be running your ass off to help out. It's all part of being a dad." He was the voice of experience. While Rose didn't have the twins he'd been predicting, the new baby certainly was making her presence known in the McCarty household. And just like her mother, she already had Emmett tied around her tiny little finger.
"I can't wait." Jasper smiled. "I really can't fucking wait."
I'd always given Jasper a hard time about his relationship with Alice, but I think that goofy shortstop was actually going to be a really great father. He was stoked.
"Boys? You wanna get your asses in here? Lauren and Eric just pulled up, and the game's about to start!" my mother yelled from the back porch.
I quickly put my beer to the side and took off in a jog around the side of the house. Any time I spent away from Jackie was too long. Thank God he'd been kept oblivious to the shit that had gone down with the magazine. Lauren had gone into hyper-protective mode and contacted his teachers and the school administration in case any press roll-off showed up in the area. Thankfully, no one had. Other than the Star article calling me out as a fuck-off for a father who had to pay employees to take care of my son, nothing had been written about Jackie. I was grateful for that.
He dropped his backpack on the ground when he saw me, and we ran toward each other across the lawn until I was able to swing him up in my arms.
"There's my boy!" I smiled into the side of his neck. Since he was a baby, it was my favorite place to bury my face and breathe him in. God… He was already bigger than I remembered, but he smelled the same. Soon. Soon we'd be able to spend even more time together. I needed it, and from the way his thin arms squeezed around my shoulders, I could tell he did, too.
"Did you bring the stuff I asked for?" I asked him, putting him back on his feet so I could pick up his bag.
"Mom helped." Jackie nodded.
"Lauren?" I looked over at my ex-wife. I hadn't seen her in a while. She looked good.
"We got everything." She nodded. "Can I get a hug?"
I put my arms around her and kissed her lightly on the cheek, squeezing her briefly before I stepped away to shake Eric's out-stretched hand.
"How's it going man?"
"It goes well." Eric smiled. "Where's this new girlfriend of yours Jackie keeps telling us about?"
"I'm, uh, right here?" I turned to see Bella walking down the front steps. She had a kitchen apron tied around her and was wiping her hands on a dish towel.
"Hi, Bella." Jackie smiled and looked down at the grass.
"Hey, buddy." Bella knelt down. "I'm so happy to see you."
"It's really nice to finally meet you!" Lauren told her, wrapping her in a big, friendly hug as soon as Bella was upright.
"Nice to meet you, too." Bella laughed and looked at me over Lauren's shoulder with a surprised expression.
"I should've warned you she's a hugger." I shrugged.
"Be quiet!" she scolded, waving her hand toward me. "It looks like you women are already busy in the kitchen. Can I help?"
"We're peeling potatoes." Bella nodded, both women turning to walk into the house ahead of us.
"If I know Esme, she's making enough food for an army," Lauren continued.
"Well, it's a big group," Bella agreed.
Big group. Huge group. But there's no better kind of group to enjoy a holiday with.
Doc and Esme. Emmett, Rose, Sophie, Grant, and baby Ellery. Alice and Jasper. Eric and Lauren. Jackie, Bella, and me. The house was packed, warm, and full of love.
After a very large dinner, we all crowded into the family room downstairs to watch football.
"Where are you going?" I asked Jackie, who picked up his backpack and started to go upstairs.
"It's too crowded," Jackie frowned.
"Too much noise?" Bella asked from where she was sitting across my lap. "Do you still have your headphones? Maybe you could listen to some music."
"They're broken." Jackie looked down and toed the carpet.
"Oh, no!" Bella looked sincerely and adorably brokenhearted to hear that. I smiled, knowing how much she honestly cared.
"We'll get you some new ones, pal," I told my son, wiping my palms on the arms of the chair.
"Bella? Can you fix them?" Jackie suggested, making me fight to hide a grin.
"Oh… I don't know." She frowned and bit her bottom lip. "I guess it depends on what's wrong with them." She looked up at me for assistance, and I shrugged. Jackie pulled his headphones out of his backpack, and Bella scrambled off my lap to sit beside him on the floor. I got up, too, and knelt down beside them.
"Did you put new batteries in?" Bella asked, turning the item in her hands.
"It makes noise," Jackie told her. "Listen!" He gave them a good shake, and sure enough, a distinct rattle could be heard inside.
"Maybe a magnet came loose in there," Doc offered from his seat.
"Do they have magnets in those things?" Esme wondered.
"Could be a wire or something," Rose suggested. "Emmett, get a screwdriver!"
"We don't need a tool." Bella shook her head. "I think I can pop it open…"
"Careful. Don't crack the case," I told her, holding my breath as she pried the side of the ear canister off. The plastic released with a loud pop, and the room went silent when the offending item fell out and into Bella's lap. As soon as she realized what had been in the headphones, Bella covered her face with her hands and her shoulders slumped forward. I smiled and picked up the ring I'd asked Lauren to help Jackie hide for me.
"It's a surprise for you!" Jackie yelled out loud, clapping his hands together with glee. "Dad wants you to marry us!" His face scrunched up for a moment, and then his eyes shot over to me, looking worried. "I mean… him. Dad wants you to marry him. Did I mess up?"
I grabbed his head and pulled him in for a kiss, thrilled he'd pulled our plan off so wonderfully.
"You didn't mess up. You did it just right!"
Everyone in the room started talking at once. Apparently, Lauren had been able to keep my secret. Everyone was surprised and excited. I smiled over at Lauren, mouthing "thank you" as she nodded her approval.
"Oh, my God. Oh, my God," Bella whispered shakily, moving her hands to wipe the tears that were coursing down her face.
"Since I'm already down here on my knees," I said, chuckling and feeling self-conscious, "I suppose I can ask you officially. Isabella Swan? Jackie was right. I do want you to marry us. All of us. I love you. Please be my wife."
"Yes!" I nearly fell backward with the force in which she threw her arms around my neck. My family cheered, and I rocked back, holding Bella in my arms, laughing happily.
"Can I put this ring on you now?"
She put her hand forward, and I slid the diamond onto her finger.
"What were you thinking?" Bella immediately scolded me, still crying. "You really could have ruined Jackie's headphones by putting this thing in there!"
"It's not even the same pair." I chuckled, loving that she was still concerned about my son's favorite, cherished gift. "We bought another set to be sure. These ones are for you."
"Now I have my own magic headphones." Bella laughed. Jackie moved to sit on her lap, and I put my arms around them both.
The headphones she bought Jackie were what had convinced me she was absolutely perfect for me and my son. The headphones I bought for her? They helped me finally get a ring on that finger. Yeah, they really were magic.