"You want me to do what?"
"Lower your voice, Edward."
"She's my baby! He's old."
"She's twenty-two, and he's thirty. Try again."
"He's too old for her."
"Did you think I was too old?"
I knew I was heading into touchy territory when she fisted her hands on her hips and gave me that look.
I sighed. Adeline was in love with a man eight years her senior. I didn't care if it made me a hypocrite, I wasn't okay with it. "Of course not, but why is a thirty-year-old interested in a twenty-two-year-old if not for sex?"
"Do you have any idea how much you sound like your father right now?"
There were several beats of silence as I considered the ramifications of that. The last thing I wanted was to give my girls a hard time about who they dated and what they wanted to do with their lives. If I was being honest, I didn't want either of them to leave and settle down outside of my house.
"What do you want me to do?"
"Bring up the subject yourself. He's terrified of asking you."
I snorted. "Tell me again why I should approve of a grown man that doesn't have the balls to speak to his future father-in-law?"
She sighed, and I knew she was beyond exasperated with me. "I don't relish the idea of our babies leaving the nest either, Edward. I don't like to think about them being women and doing women things, but that's exactly what's happening. All I can ask for is that they're well taken care of, and Eric is really good to her."
When Preacher Weber had retired a few years ago, the church hired someone from out of town. It turned out that his replacement was infatuated by our older-than-three-minutes daughter.
"I know you're right." I shoveled my hands through my hair. "I seriously don't want to ever imagine my daughters doing women things either, but I also want them to experience life outside of this farm. What if it turns out they're city girls and just don't know it?"
I'd tried to convince them both to go to college in the big city, whichever one they chose. They both turned me down.
"They've spent plenty of time in Seattle, hon, don't worry about that."
"Logic and emotion are at war, Bella."
She leaned into me, kissing my jaw. "Please go talk to him."
I kissed her forehead, closing my eyes at the thought of talking to Eric. We had family and friends over for a barbecue, and, of course, Adeline had invited her boyfriend. Our daughters still loved the country life as much as they had when they were two. They didn't climb trees anymore, but they weren't afraid to get dirty, and Amelia was quite good at changing the oil on the machinery. She had chosen to be with Finn, Alice and Jasper's son, and I had a much less difficult time with accepting their relationship. I'd held him as a baby, and he'd spent plenty of time running around in my house. I knew him, and I trusted him with my Amelia.
Eric, on the other hand, I didn't know as well. He'd lived in Gate for three years, and dated my daughter for two. Technically, I knew I should give him a break, but my heart was having a hard time catching up with my brain.
I found him outside watching the young kids play in the yard. Rose and Emmett were grandparents, as were Mike and Jessica. It was a shock to realize that there was no reason I couldn't be holding a grandchild soon.
"Eric." I said it gently because, despite my reticence, I wasn't planning on scaring him. He looked up as I came closer. I stuck my hands in my pockets and stood there for a few minutes while I gathered my cojones.
"Bella tells me you and Addy are getting serious." There, I said it. Mission accomplished. The rest was on him.
He cleared his throat. "Yes, sir. I want to ask her to marry me, but I'm afraid she'll say no."
Well, I hadn't expected that. "Why do you think that?"
"Every time we talk about the future, she says she's never getting married. She wants to be independent."
I frowned. "What the hell? She told Bella she was more than ready for you to ask her, she just wanted my approval first." Something clicked. "And she must figure I'll never give it." I groaned. "Looks like the talk I need to have is with her, not you."
"So you approve?" He looked at me with so much hope on his face.
"Eric, just treat my daughter like I treat her mother, and you and I will never have a problem." I paused. "On second thought, I tend to make rash decisions without her input, so maybe you should strive to be a better man than me."
He grinned. "Yes, sir."
I left him to find Addy, not surprised that she and Amy were in the kitchen with Bella. The scents that were coming from in there made my mouth water.
I kissed them each on the cheek. Bella looked at me in that way of silent communication we'd perfected over twenty-three years of marriage. I raised my brows and pursed my lips, then cut my eyes at Adeline.
"Amy, can you bring this pie out to the picnic table?" Bella said.
"Sure, Mom." Amelia did as her mother asked, backing out the screen door with the pie plate in both hands.
I turned to Addy. "Adeline, I just spoke to Eric. I gave him my blessing to propose to you, but he's under the impression you'll turn him down."
She blushed and rubbed a palm over the side of her neck. "That might be because I told him I didn't want to get married." Bella opened her mouth, but Addy interrupted. "I had some second thoughts for a little while, thinking of the way your first marriage went. I know that Eric would never, ever act like that, and I know I can always come to you two if I need help. It was a moment of weakness, and fear of moving out and being a real adult."
"So it wasn't me?" I asked.
"What?" I was relieved, and her admonishment couldn't even phase me.
"Addy, honey, don't let my past hinder your happiness."
"Seriously, Adeline. Your mother and I have set a good example for you and your sister. That's not even bragging, either. You know I love your mother like crazy, and you did a fine job of picking a man that will treat you well. Make your plans to spend the rest of your life with him. Say yes when he gets down on one knee. Be happy."
She had tears in her eyes as she hugged me. "I love you, Daddy."
It had been such a long time since she had called me daddy. It made my heart swell. "I love you, too, pumpkin."
Bella and I watched her go outside. "We did good, right?"
When she hugged me, I had to wipe tears from my eyes. "We sure did, baby."
This is the final chapter. Thank you for being as much in love with this fic as I am. I never thought such a random idea would resonate so heavily with readers, but I sure am glad it did.
Thank you to BeLynda, Kim, Denise, Nan, and Yassie for helping me out.
I've mentioned it before, but if you missed it, I'm working on a fic for the end of this month. It's meant to be scary, but we'll see if I can pull that off. Follow me if you want notifications of my new stories.