Thank you for revisiting these two with me.
After everyone's cleaned up a bit, and Edward and I have made use of the king-sized bed, we head into town to check out the infamous honky-tonk and BBQ joint, Pappy and Harriet's Pioneertown Palace.
We sit outside, eating way too much food and enjoying too many beverages. There's a live band that starts playing around nine, so Emmett suggests we stay for the show.
The night grows cooler, but I grow warmer. Edward's drunk and handsy, pulling me to him and kissing me deeply every now and then. I love him like this. Flirty and cheeky and intoxicated. Part of me still feels guilty over the whole Cora thing earlier, but I let it go. He's over it, and I don't want to bring it up again when we're having so much fun.
We stay longer than we planned to and drink more than we should've. Nostalgia hits me hard, because I've missed Em and Rose. We don't really have close friends like this in LA yet. And we can't fly back and forth that often to see them. Edward senses my mood change, giving me a look while we're waiting for the check. I just shake my head, offer a reassuring smile, and finish my beer.
It's close to one in the morning by the time the four of us stumble out of the taxi and into the AirBnb.
"Hot tub time," Em announces. He and Rose disappear into the bedroom.
"Hot tub?" Edward asks, looking at me.
I shrug. "The last time I was pretty drunk and got in the hot tub, it made my hangover insanely worse."
He thinks back. "Are you sure that wasn't the two tequila shots, four beers, and—"
"Okay, okay. I get it. But… maybe no hot tub? You can if you want."
"I'm kinda tired."
"Well, I hope you're not that tired…"
He just grins.
When Em and Rose come back out, in their bathing suits, I tell them we're going to bed.
But it's not entirely true. I have other plans in mind.
We say goodnight, and head to the bedroom. Edward shuts the door behind us, closes the curtains, and turns on the lamp as I slip out of my shoes. We can hear murmured conversation from Rose and Em on the patio, and Edward gives me a look.
"If we can kinda hear them, they can probably kinda hear us, so…"
"Are you warning me to be quiet while you fuck me?"
I watch his gaze darken, just a little, and he licks his lips. "Yes."
"If you want me to be quiet, then you're gonna have to not be so good…" I start to take off my clothes.
"Undressing yourself. That's my job," he murmurs.
"Well, get over here and do it," I say flirtatiously.
He crosses the room, taking his time as he slides my already unbuttoned shorts down my legs. I step out of them and he pulls my shirt over my head. When I go to unclasp my bra, he pushes my hands out of the way, doing that for me, too. And instead of taking off my underwear, he drops to his knees, pushing them to the side.
I shift in anticipation, then gasp at the contact of his hot mouth on my clit, his wayward hair brushing against my belly as he licks and sucks.
My legs start to shake and I squirm.
I shift away a little until I can lie back on the mattress. He stays on his knees, then goes back to what he was doing, adding fingers this time to my already wet pussy. "Oh, fuck," I cry out, trembling as I come against his mouth. "Just like that."
I love that he knows exactly what to do. That he knows my body so fucking well and being together is seamless.
When he's done, I catch my breath and move further back onto the bed. He undresses himself then hovers over me with one hand, pumping his dick a few times with the other.
"That's my job," I murmur, replacing his hand with mine, stroking up and down. He hisses out a fuck, and his hips jerk forward. "You wanna fuck me?"
"You know I do," he grits out, sitting back on his heels. "Open your legs wider, baby."
So I do.
He hovers once again, but this time he grips his dick then slowly rubs the head over my pussy. He does it on purpose when he wants to make me squirm. And as much as I love it, I need him inside of me.
"Fuck," I whimper. "Fuck me."
"I dunno," he breathes a laugh, barely sliding inside of me before pulling out. "I'm kinda having fun teasing you."
"You've been teasing me all day. Propping your legs up on the dash. Grinding a little on my dick when you sat on my lap tonight. Rubbing me through my jeans in the backseat of the taxi, when Rose wasn't looking."
I bite back a grin. Yeah. I did those things.
"I was just preparing you to fuck me, is all," I pant, when the head of his dick makes another pass over me.
I lift my hips a little, and he gives in, pushing into me before collapsing his full weight on my body.
"Unghh," he groans incoherently. "You feel so fucking good."
We move against each other, quiet pants and soft grunts. I bend my knee and let him go deeper, and it feels so fucking good. I start to get a little too vocal, especially when he starts moving his hips to rub against my clit.
"Shh," he laughs a little.
"I can't help it," I say breathlessly. "Your dick is too good."
I think my words encourage him because he thrusts faster, and when my moans grow louder, he covers my mouth. I cry out from behind his hand, and the louder I try to be, the harder he fucks me.
"You wanna get on top?" he asks, pulling his hand away.
"No. I like it like this," I say, sliding a hand down my stomach to rub my clit.
He watches me touch myself, eyes glazing over and face growing slack like always. It doesn't take long for heat to blossom in my belly again, and I warn him.
"You gonna come for me again?" he asks breathlessly.
All I can do is nod dumbly, eyes clenching shut as he pounds into me, chasing his own release, soft fucks and I love you's falling from both our mouths.
He stays on top of me as we catch our breath, then kisses my forehead, cheeks, mouth before pulling out and rolling over. I leave the bed to use the bathroom, turn on the ceiling fan, then lie back in bed. He lifts his arm, inviting me to curl next to him, and I rest my head on his chest.
"Was I too loud?"
"I kinda liked it." I can hear the smirk in his voice.
"Of course you did," I say, hitching a leg over his waist. "Guess what?"
"It's after midnight." I tilt my head to kiss him. "Happy Birthday, baby."
His hands roam over my body, down my ass, pulling me even closer to him. I deepen the kiss, pushing my hips against his, until he's groaning into my mouth.
"No." I laugh at his tired expression. "Hey."
"I'm sorry for working today."
It's not, but I'm glad we were able to move past it and not let it ruin the day, like it would've in the past, before we started therapy.
He rubs his hand up and down my arm. "I know you get paid extra for that time, but if it's money you want, then I'll just pay you to hang out with me instead of work."
I laugh a little too hard, covering his cheeky grin with my hand. "Shut up." I pull my hand away, kissing him. "I'll just be better about saying no. Did you have fun tonight?"
"Yeah. I always have fun with you."
I kiss his scruffy chin. "What'd your mom call for earlier? To wish you a happy birthday?" Right after we ate his phone rang and he left the table for a few minutes.
"Yeah. The signal was really shitty, though. She says hi, by the way. So does my dad."
"Hi." I smile. "I miss them."
"Me too. I hate that it's been almost a year since we've been back home."
"We should visit them soon. I know Charlie misses us, too."
We don't mention Renee. Mostly because there isn't much to say. I haven't heard from her in over a year. It's the longest we've gone without knowing where she is or who she's with. Sometimes it makes me sad. Other times, angry. But, ultimately, I know it has to do with her, not me.
My fingers trail a path up and down his stomach, making him shiver under my touch.
"Have you ever thought about moving back to Seattle?" he asks, shifting a little to look at me.
"Like… alone? Or with you?"
He chuckles, realizing how it sounded. "Have you ever thought about us moving back to Seattle," he corrects.
"Yeah, when I first moved to LA. I wanted us to move back home. Only because it was uncomfortable. Unfamiliar. But… now? I'd stay. I like LA."
"I do, too."
"Like… you'd be okay never moving back to Seattle?"
"I would be okay with that," he agrees. "But my mom wouldn't be thrilled. Especially when we have a kid."
"When we have a kid?" I echo, smiling. "When will that be, anyway?"
"Whenever you want."
"We're not married." I don't know why I say it, because that doesn't matter to me. I'd have a baby with him without a ring or a piece of paper telling us we're legally together.
"You don't have to be married to have a baby," he says simply.
"I know." I pause, thinking. Sure, he and I have talked babies, but only recently, in my own therapy sessions, has the topic come up of kids and what kind of mom I'd be. "Sometimes I just…"
"What? You change your mind or something?" he tentatively asks.
"No." I shake my head, then shift my body so my chin is resting on his chest. "Nothing like that. But… doesn't it worry you?"
"What, having a kid? Of course, it worries me. I'm not expecting it to be easy, but I wanna do it with you."
"Well, doing it is definitely step one of making a baby happen," I tease lightly before turning more serious, dropping my gaze from his. "I just meant…"
"You're not scared I'd be a shitty mom? Like Renee?" Because I'm worried about that. It haunts me. And I know I wouldn't abandon our child or anything dramatic like that, but there are a multitude of other ways I could fuck them up, and the thought truly terrifies me.
He's quiet, and I hesitantly meet his eyes again.
"Baby, no," he whispers. "You wouldn't be a shitty mom. Not at fucking all."
"How can you be so sure I won't fuck up our kid?"
"Because I know you. I know your heart," he murmurs, words as tender and loving as his gaze. "And who's to say I wouldn't fuck up our kid?"
I laugh a little. "You wouldn't. You're perfect. Your family is perfect."
He gives me a look. He hates when I say shit like that. "We're not perfect. At all."
They are, but I don't fight him on it.
"I'm just scared I'm gonna fuck everything up and do irreparable damage to our kid, and they're gonna end up resenting me for their entire life the same way I—" I stop myself from saying the same way I resent Renee, because it feels like everything I've worked toward has been for nothing. I need to let that shit go, but it's been hard. Some days are easier than others. "Ugh." I cover my face. "Sorry. This is like the last thing we need to be talking about while drunk. And on your birthday, no less."
"Bella…" He pulls my hand away from my face. "I wanna talk about it."
My nod is small, and I sigh.
"I've had to work really fucking hard to move past some of the stuff that's happened with Renee. And even then, there's a lot I haven't even touched on yet," I tell him truthfully. "I would never forgive myself if I put our kid through even an ounce of the insecurity and chaos I dealt with growing up."
"You wouldn't. We wouldn't," he reassures me, brushing my cheek. "But why haven't you said any of this to me before?"
"Because I didn't want to say it out loud to you. I didn't want to put those same thoughts in your head."
"You can tell me anything, baby. Nothing you say will change how I feel or think about you. Okay?"
"And I get why you're scared. I get where your thoughts are coming from, but… Bella?" He takes my face in his hands, staring me in the eyes. "You're not Renee. Not even close. You're compassionate and loving and empathetic, and you're gonna be the best fucking mom."
My heart swells with emotion. "You don't have to say that."
"You don't have to thank me. It's all true."
We kiss for a moment, lips pressed against lips, until he parts his mouth and deepens it.
"I love you," he murmurs, mouth still on mine. "So fucking much."
"I love you, too." I curl against him again, resting my head on his chest, arm draped over his stomach. "I guess if your parents are a how-to guide on raising kids, Renee is how-not-to."
"That's one way to look at it." He breathes out a laugh through his nose. "No more worrying about all that, okay? We're gonna be fine. More than fine."
"Okay." I sigh deeply. "You know what's not gonna be fine?"
"Tomorrow's hike. Maybe we shouldn't go."
"Nah. We're going. That was the one thing I wanted to do this weekend for my birthday."
"Or we can stay in bed all day and have lazy hangover sex?"
"Okay, the hike was the second thing I wanted to do this weekend," he amends with a laugh. "Lazy hangover sex, then hike."
"You're a cruel man, but fine."
"You love me. And you're gonna be glad you went."
Edward falls asleep first, like he usually does, and I stay in his arms, replaying our conversation about babies and being parents and all of the things that are yet to come. Eventually, I close my eyes, feeling hopeful and emotional in the best way, then drift to sleep.
"What are y'all doing?" I ask Rose and Em when I find them posted up on the couch, still looking rough. "Aren't you hiking with us?"
We've been pretty lazy all day, waiting until late afternoon to hike, when it's not as hot out. The only other option was early morning, and there was no way we'd be up for sunrise.
I was expecting Rose and Em to get it together by now, but clearly they are still struggling.
"I think we're gonna pass," Rose croaks. "We drank too much and stayed in the hot tub way too long. Being in the sun isn't going to be a good idea for me."
"Or me," Emmett chimes in, cracking open a beer.
"Um. Is that smart?"
"It's not just smart, it's necessary," he says. "I need to keep this train going, otherwise it's gonna crash."
"Then chug a beer and let's go."
Em takes a lengthy gulp. "No can do."
I shake my head. "Buck up, bitches. It's Edward's birthday hike."
"It's cool," Edward says, walking past me into the kitchen to fill up his water bottle. "Seriously. I'd rather them wait here for us than vomit on the trail."
Disgusting, yet fair point.
"Fine. Where's the backpack?" I ask.
I give him a funny look. "Because I want to put my sunscreen and water bottle in it?"
"I got it." He takes my shit from me and disappears into the bedroom, reappearing with his shoes on and backpack securely on his back. "Let's go."
It's a half-hour drive to where we're hiking. Edward's kinda quiet, which is fine. But he was kinda short with me this morning, and I feel like something is on his mind.
He drums his fingers on the wheel. "Yeah."
"Are you still mad over the work thing?"
He takes his eyes off the road for a second to look at me. "Bella, no."
"Cora texted this morning and asked me to send her the edited photos, which I have yet to edit. So I told her no, and that I can send them to her Monday."
"Good," he says, tone a little sharper. "Was she mad?"
"I don't think she was thrilled, but fuck it."
He reaches for my hand, and brings it to his mouth, pressing a sweet kiss to my palm. "Thank you."
"I love you. I just… get caught up in all of that sometimes."
"I like feeling needed, and I like knowing that I'm good at my job, and I just… yeah."
"I need you," he says simply, and I just squeeze his hand, telling him I need him, too, before we fall into a comfortable silence.
The sun is still hot later in the day, but the hike to the top is only 1.5 miles, so we're determined to make it. It's steeper than we thought it would be, and the trail is rocky, so I lose my footing a few times. Edward stays behind me in case I fall again, which doesn't happen because the next time I kind of slip, he grabs my waist, steadying me.
We finally make it to the top, sweaty and dusty. I chug half my water then give it to him.
"Fuck, it's beautiful out here," I pant, wiping my forehead.
"It really is."
"But damn, I am out of shape."
He laughs. "You aren't. It was tough for me, too, with the incline."
We stare out at the panoramic view of jumbled rock formations and gravel desert. Joshua trees and cacti surround the summit, so we have to be careful where we step. The sky is so blue, free of any and all clouds. I snap a few selfies of the two of us—smiling, kissing, laughing. They're nauseatingly cute, but I don't plan to post them anywhere. They're just for us.
We sit for a little bit, not caring that our asses will be covered in dirt, sharing some snacks. It's a popular hike, so we definitely aren't the only ones hanging around the peak. I comment that Rose and Em really missed out, but Edward doesn't necessarily agree or disagree.
When we're ready to head back down, Edward stands, reaching down to help me up. Once I'm standing, I dust off my ass, and Edward, being the gentleman he is, assists me.
I laugh, calling him out. "So helpful."
He smirks. "I do what I can."
I start to move, but Edward shakes his head. "Hold up, you need more sunscreen."
I touch my cheeks; they do feel a little tender. He fumbles in the backpack and I'm checking out my arms and shoulders to see if those have burned, too. Which they have, of course.
When I turn back to Edward, I find him on one knee.
It doesn't strike me as odd, not at first. Not until my eyes land on the diamond ring in his hand.
My heart stops, and I cover my mouth in genuine surprise.
"Bella," he prompts, his face more earnest than I've ever seen.
"Yeah?" I ask quietly from behind my hand. My stomach flutters with the best nerves because he's proposing. To me. Edward wants me for life, and that realization overwhelms me and makes my eyes blur with tears.
He hesitates, nervous. "Remember when I told you you're it for me?"
"I remember," I reply, voice shaking as I drop my hand.
"I've felt that way for a very long time now."
"You're it for me, too." I swipe under my eyes, catching a few tears before they fall on my cheeks.
"If I'm being honest, I've felt that way since the day we met."
"But I was such a bitch to you," I laugh through my tears.
"No," he chuckles with me, "you weren't."
I can see a few people watching us, in my peripheral, but I don't focus on them because Edward is on one knee, and everything else around me blurs into the background. Everything else always fades away when he's around. He has my full attention and my entire heart. He has everything.
"I've never been more serious about anything or anyone in my entire life," he murmurs, reaching for my left hand. "I know we've been through a lot to get to this point, but it's been so fucking worth it."
"I think so, too," I murmur, sniffling. "Shit. I'm sorry. Am I supposed to just let you talk, or…"
Edward laughs, along with the few people watching.
"It's okay," he promises. "I like hearing what you have to say, because it lets me know that the next thing to come out of your mouth will be the answer I've been waiting to hear." He swallows, eyes determined and nervous all at once. "I've loved you for so long, and you've been my best friend for even longer. I just want to spend the rest of my life with you. Marry me, Bella."
I breathe out an incoherent yes, smiling through the happiest tears I've ever cried.
"Yes?" he asks.
I frantically nod, cupping his face as I lean over to kiss him. "Yes," I murmur against his lips. "Fuck, yes."
Still on one knee, his hand shakes a little as he slips the ring on my finger, letting out a relieved sigh when it fits.
"Shit," I breathe out, staring at the simple sparkling diamond on a gold band. "It's beautiful."
He stands and pulls me up into his arms, so my legs are hooked around his waist. We hear some claps from around us, but I don't pull my eyes from Edward's.
"You're gonna be my wife," he whispers in awe, and I melt from hearing the word slip from his lips.
I press my forehead to his, then kiss him with everything I have. We've been through so fucking much—so many wonderfully messy memories fill my mind—and everything led to this exact moment. He's stuck by me. He's been patient and loving and so fucking understanding. I love him, care so much about him, and cannot wait to continue our lives together.
"I was so nervous," he tells me on the walk back to the car. He's holding my left hand, and every now and then, I glance down just to look at the ring.
"But you knew I'd say yes."
"I know, but… still. It's a big moment. I didn't wanna fuck it up."
"That's why you were so quiet today?"
I give him a sympathetic smile. "Do Em and Rose know?"
He grins. "Yes. They were never gonna actually come on the hike with us. The plan was to propose alone."
"So they were pretending to be hungover?"
"No, that part was real," he says, and we laugh.
"Do our parents know?"
"They knew I bought a ring. I didn't tell them when I was gonna do it, though."
"I called him last week."
"You asked my dad for my hand in marriage?" I ask. It's so antiquated, but I find it really fucking endearing.
"He has guns. I'm not stupid." He breathes out a nervous laugh. "He said I didn't need his blessing though, but he appreciated the heads up."
"Charlie loves you."
"My family loves you, too. Beware, I'm pretty sure once we call my parents to let them know, my mom is gonna send over that wedding spreadsheet."
"I'm ready," I laugh, looking at the ring again. "I just realized though that you gave me a gift on your own birthday."
He shakes his head. "I mean, I got something out of it, too," he says sincerely. "I got you for life."
I stop in place on the trail, staring up at him, feeling overwhelmed with how fucking lucky I am to have him. From the way he's staring back at me, I know without a doubt he feels the same. I stand on my toes and press a sweet kiss to his mouth.
I can't wait to give him everything we've ever wanted.
I can't wait to have it all with him.
The good, the bad, and everything in between.