Chapter 45 Pentecost
"Christ, I love you," Edward gasps. His head is thrown back on the pillow. His chest stutters as he breathes. I crawl up his body and collapse, bone tired but happy. Edward clamps an arm around my shoulders as I rest my head on his chest.
It's almost sunrise and we haven't gotten more than a few minutes of sleep. There wasn't nearly enough time to catch up and to kiss, to fill each other in and get each other off. To love him and let him love me back.
He loves me.
He still loves me.
After almost a year apart.
It's enough to make a girl feel faint.
"Was that okay?" I wonder out loud.
He chuckles. "Well, I could really use a smoke."
"I can do better," I promise.
"Is that even possible?"
"I'm hitting up Wikipedia the first chance I get."
Edward laughs a little under his breath as he kisses the top of my head. "Pretty sure Wikipedia's got nothing on you."
He trails a sleepy hand from my shoulder to my hip and hitches my leg over him so we're wrapped around one another.
Gray light bleeds into the bedroom, illuminating the new words inked over his chest. I trace my fingers over them.
Faith Hope Love
I've held onto all three this year. Faith, hope, and love brought me back to him. And he put them over his heart forever.
Edward's chest rises and falls slowly. His hand relaxes. His warm breath ruffles my hair, tickling my forehead. I can't believe he's sleeping in my bed, in my house. Christ. I never want him to leave.
Of course, I know he'll have to at some point. He told me about school and his job. He made a life for himself here in Brooklyn. While he'll still be helping people, it's something completely different than what he was doing a year ago. It's something that fits the person he wants to be. I want to be with that person for the rest of my life.
My heart hammers in my chest as I think about just how much I want it.
The future I hardly dared to imagine is so close. It's in my arms.
He's my dream come true.
Sunlight shines into my eyes. I glance across the room and see half open sliders. We forgot to close the door last night. I slip from Edward's arms and pluck the first shirt I find from my luggage.
As I step out onto the roof deck and thread my hands through the sleeves, I notice it's Edward's old clerical shirt. I kept it with me wherever I went this past year. Whenever I wore it, it helped me to believe in myself as much as he believed in me. Even so, it was a reminder of how we could never be together. This morning it's evidence of how much two people can change but still remain the same.
Edward told me about his trip to Italy and how he petitioned the Vatican, then followed it up with months of counseling. He told me about a kid who changed his outlook.
He gave it every chance he could. I wouldn't expect anything less from him. When he left the church, he did it on his own terms. Without looking back. He's the strongest, most principled man I know.
Overhead, night's fading. In front of me, trees from the park are silhouetted against a pink and orange sky. I imagine this little deck with a chaise like we had back at Manhattan Beach. As I lean against the railing, I imagine Edward and I wrapped in blankets and sipping tea, watching sunrises and sunsets. Talking about work. Trading kisses. Then taking it inside.
I imagine things I probably shouldn't, considering we've been back together for less than twenty-four hours.
I see the day he gets down on one knee and asks me to be his wife. I dream about the two of us sitting out here as I tell him I'm pregnant. In my mind, he looks from my face to my abdomen and back, then takes my hands in his and pulls me into a kiss. He offers up a silent prayer as tears well in his eyes.
I see myself, Edward, and our little girl in the hospital the day she's born as clearly as I see the morning sunrise. Remembering how reverent he was with Rose and Little Eddie, I imagine the same look in his eyes as he gazes at our daughter. As he sinks to his knees and thanks God for her health.
We'll spoil her to death. We'll take her on the road for summer tours. She'll be the only human being alive that loves Captain America just as much as she loves Iron Man.
She'll have Edward's eyes. She'll have my spirit. She'll have our love.
She can be a little hellion who breaks all the rules and gets into never ending trouble. Instead of judging, I'll accept her. Edward will always stand up for her. We'll love her, quirks and all.
Tears sting my eyes.
Strong arms wrap themselves around me. Edward kisses my neck.
"I was afraid you left," he murmurs. His voice is thick with sleep.
I turn around in the circle of his arms. My man's topless with a sheet wrapped around his waist. Rays of sunshine glint like gold in his messy morning hair. He could be some kind of disheveled Greek God.
"You strong, sexy, steadfast man. As long as you look this fine when you wake up, I may never leave this house. Ever."
Edward's eyes dip. He plays with the lapels of his old shirt then sneaks a look underneath. My body tingles under his inspection. "Still so fucking sexy in this."
I bite my lip. "Do you mind that I'm wearing it? Is this ok?"
"More than okay."
I toy suggestively with a button before I begin unfastening them one at a time. My eyes never leave his. "If you want it back, I could -"
With one button left holding the shirt closed, Edward rests his hand over mine.
His Adam's apple bobs in his throat. He glances at the yards on either side of us, trying to be nonchalant. "In the bedroom, maybe?"
"Still want a cigarette?"
I act all casual and calm as I pluck my purse off the ground, then pull out a pack of smokes. Inside I'm freaking out. I still can't believe this is real.
"What you need, when you need it, buddy." I wink, remembering the first time he offered me a light in my parents' backyard.
"I was so fucking nervous that night," he admits as I flick my lighter.
"Meanwhile, I was imagining you just like this." I look him over, head to toe. He's practically naked with a cigarette dangling from his lips. "My imagination's got nothing on you though."
Edward's cheeks go pink. It seems like he's trying not to smile. He might not be a priest anymore, but he still reacts the same to indecent thoughts.
"I was trying very hard not to imagine you like anything back then."
I nudge his shoulder with mine and quirk an eyebrow. "When was the first time you... imagined me?"
Edward can't quite look me in the eye. "After Emily's show. It was inevitable." He twines his fingers with mine. "Holding your hand, drinking, dancing, and that fucking game."
"The game was your idea!"
"Don't I know it." He chuckles and passes me the cig. "You?"
I open his clerical shirt enough for the sun to kiss my latest tatt. Edward has a difficult time holding my gaze. I pray I don't spontaneously combust with the heat from his eyes. "The day we met," I confess. "I mean, I wasn't a priest. I imagined you a lot."
Edward smirks. He looks pretty pleased with himself. I'm pretty pleased with him too.
With us, to be exact.
He traces our date on my ribs with his thumb. I almost drop the cig as I convulse with laughter, but his strong hands grip me, keeping me steady. Like he did last night when he lifted me onto the kitchen island after we finished the papaya and the coconut water. Right before he spread my legs and lifted me to his lips.
Half exposed to Edward in the sunlight, my body trembles. My mind reels with recent memories - my legs thrown over his shoulders, my head thrown back, seeing stars through the kitchen window, and more when I closed my eyes.
While I'm lost in my thoughts, he takes me into his arms and leads us back against the cool brick of the house. We sink down to the ground and he pulls my legs over his lap.
His gaze travels from my ankles to my thighs, along the sliver of skin where his shirt is parted, then comes to rest on my lips.
"I never would have thought back then I'd be here, with you, like… this." Edward's voice is quiet, devout. It reminds me of all the times I heard him pray back at St. Mary's. It reminds me of the night he met me on the beach after Angela's rehearsal dinner. It reminds me that he loves me.
I hand him back the cigarette. "We're still smoking behind a house in Brooklyn. Minus the clothes."
His eyes smolder. "Can't say I miss the clothes."
Edward slides a hand underneath my shirt before pulling it closed. It's all I can do not to climb into his lap and shrug it off entirely.
"How about no clothes until Tuesday night?" I suggest.
"We wouldn't get anything done."
"We'd get a few things done."
Edward shrugs. For a former priest he looks practically wicked. "Practice does make perfect."
"I like the sound of that."
Edward flicks the cigarette away as I straddle him. His hands slide around to my ass bringing my body flush with his. I wrap my arms around his neck as I press along the length of him, searching for friction, ready for more.
He closes his eyes and his forehead falls against mine. "Fuck."
"Sounds like a plan. Wanna head inside?"
Edward sighs. "There's nothing I want more, but I can't ask Alice to feed Picco indefinitely."
I can tell he's disappointed even as his arms tighten around me. I completely forgot about his kitten. His cat. His…
I slide back and forth. A reminder he's got a pussy here too.
"We can put on clothes long enough to bring Picco here," I offer. "I mean, I've always wanted a cat." The second the words are out of my mouth, my eyes fly open. In my mind, the two of us already share a life. In the real world, he has a life of his own.
Edward looks thoughtful. My anxiety builds as I wonder what in the world he's going to say.
"Did you really name a cat after Nick Fury?" he finally wonders out loud.
"What?" I huff. Then I remember that disaster from middle school. Angela came close to needing rabies shots. "How did you -?"
"Alice," we say together.
Edward and I can't help but laugh. Then I realize he's changed the subject. It would probably be easiest to let it go. I don't want to though. I want him. I hope he doesn't mind, but I'm never letting him go again.
I grip his shoulders and face him head on. "So, about Picco?"
"You already have my shirt. Now you want my cat?" His voice is serious, maybe a little hopeful. I could be imagining it though.
"I want you…" I take a deep breath as I look into his eyes. "I want you here with me. Picco would be a bonus."
"I mean, I've got classes and work. Other than that, I'm all yours."
"What about when you're not busy? Would you and Picco stay here? Live here? Please?"
Edward seems stunned. "You want me to live with you? Out of wedlock?"
"At first?" My voice is shaky, I'm practically trembling. "I know it's a lot for a former priest. I get it if it's too much, too soon."
With a strong hand and a swift tug, he pulls my body against his. He looks thrilled. He looks sure. He looks in love. "I think we've waited long enough, don't you?"
I'm so excited, for the first time in my life I'm completely speechless. Instead, I answer with my arms around his neck. My lips against his. My body sliding over him, showing him exactly how good this is about to get.
Just when I'm about to ask him if he wants to head back to bed, Edward bows his head.
"How would that work though?" His brow furrows. "You'll be travelling. Touring."
"Hey, musicians get mar…" The words die in my throat. I've gone from telling the man I love him, to getting him to move in with me, to almost asking him to marry me in less than a day. He's going to think I'm insane.
I take a deep breath. My chest presses against his. He's solid and steady beneath me. He hasn't gone anywhere yet. I try to take some comfort in that. "It would work however we want it to, Edward. I just want it to work with you."
He tucks some hair behind my ear. "I want it to work with you too."
I glance up at the cloudless blue sky. "Thanks, God."
"You're doing it out loud now?"
"Only on special occasions," I tease.
Edward laughs. "You're so fucking sexy when you pray. You know that?"
"It's not even a contest. You're sexy all the goddamned time."
"I love you."
"I'm glad. Since we'll be living together and all."
I brush my lips over his. I'm giddy. I haven't scared him off.
He slips his hands inside my shirt, glides them around my waist, and holds me like he thinks I'm the one who might be going somewhere. "Say it again?"
"Happily. I love you too, Edward."
I must have said it a million times since last night. I don't mind at all. I have a whole year of I love yous to make up for.
"So," Edward murmurs. He suddenly finds the buttons on his old clerical shirt extremely fascinating. "You're saying, someday… if I asked you anything…?"
My heart flutters. Jesus Christ, he heard what I said. He's still here because he wants it too.
I nod my head. I can't stop smiling.
"Someday sounds really good to me. I'm going to hold out for a ring though."
His eyes shine. "Whatever you want."
"A honeymoon in Italy. Show me all the stuff you told me about last night?"
"And Sunday dinners here each week?" he asks.
"Maybe every other week?" I hedge. My family is… a lot.
"After last night, we'll need a new table."
"Are you kidding?" I laugh. "We are never getting rid of that table. But I think we might need to replace one of the legs."
"At least two."
"And definitely more chairs. There's my parents -"
"Jasper?" Edward asks, taking me by surprise. Of course he'd want Bishop Whitlock there, though. He's Edward's only family. If we get married, he'll be my family too.
"Jasper," I agree like it's no biggie having a freakin' bishop at Sunday dinner.
A smile lights up Edward's face.
"Oh! We can invite Alec and Emily when they're in town," I add. "And of course there's my sisters, their families. All of Rose's kids -"
I gasp. "Kids?"
"I'm thinking six."
I practically choke on my laughter. When I wipe the tears from my eyes, Edward looks dead serious.
"Seven?" he asks.
There's no fucking way.
"One if you're lucky, buddy."
"At the very least Tony would need a brother."
"Scarlet wouldn't mind being an only child."
"Scarlet?" His voice is damn near breathless. The look he gives me practically stops my heart. "You've thought about our kids?"
My cheeks burn. "Kid," I clarify.
He cups my face in his hand and runs his thumb over my cheek like he's rubbing the blush away. "You'll make a great mom"
"I might slip up and call you Father."
His lips turn up in a thoughtful smile. "I might not mind."
"Do you, um… still have the collar?"
"Do you miss it?" His hand ghosts over the spot where it used to be. "Because I'm sure I could find one somewhere."
"Think Bishop Whitlock would mind if we snuck into the confessional every now and then?"
"Jasper doesn't need to know if we're feeling the need for a confession. Or two."
I wriggle my hips. Edward's eyelids flutter. I bring my lips to his ear. "Would you settle for a bed instead of a dark, dank box?"
All at once we're standing, and the sheet falls to the ground as Edward lifts me into his arms. "As long as you're in it with me."
There's no doubt in my mind. I'm in it with Edward for life.
For the first time in over a year, my heart is settled.
For the first time since seeing Bella last night, my body is settled too. Relaxed. Sated.
The sun is brighter. It's got to be mid-morning, maybe later. I can't sleep.
Bella finally dozed off. She's breathing deep, curled up against my chest, fitting next to me perfectly. No way I'm waking her up.
I breathe her in and smile.
Her hair is still slightly damp. I want showers with her every day. I want more opportunities to worship every inch of her body. More opportunities to see her look at me the way she did when I wrapped a towel around my waist, just before she pulled it back off again.
Before her fingers teased me to life.
Before we nearly broke the claw foot tub.
We're gonna need to replace a lot of furniture in this house.
I trace invisible shapes against her arm and think about some of the things she said earlier.
She wants a ring. From me.
I see myself asking her someday soon. I see her saying yes. I see us telling her family and Charlie giving us his blessing.
I envision her walking down the aisle on her father's arm. Emmett stands beside me, elbowing me like he's reminding me the moment is real. And he's right; it's not a dream. She's there and she's fucking stunning.
I imagine Jasper marrying us, consecrating our vows. Reminding us of the sacrament we're committing ourselves to.
I think he'd do it. He'd say I owe him and he wouldn't be wrong.
I see our kids bursting through our bedroom door in the early morning, jumping on the bed, demanding we start our day.
I look down at Bella again, so relaxed in my arms.
If she hadn't walked into my life over a year ago, I never could have imagined having any of it.
Trips. To Italy. We could visit Marco. I could show him how being a disadattato isn't so bad.
Fuck. I want all of it.
I know we need to talk about a lot of things. We need to discuss how our careers are going to affect that future we want. Like Bella said, we'll make it work. It means too much to both of us.
Her arm tightens around me, she tilts her head up and smiles.
"You're still here."
"Too late, you already invited me to stay. I'm not going anywhere."
"Thank God." How the hell does she make thanking God so damn seductive?
Bella crawls up into my lap and looks down at me with pink cheeks, wild hair, and sleepy lids. My clerical shirt hangs open. "So fucking lucky," she mumbles.
I rest my hands on her hips. "I think you have that backwards."
"Nope. Luckiest girl in the world right here." Her hands are pressed against my chest as she leans down. Her hair is like a curtain around our faces.
I hum, happy. Satisfied beyond measure. "Did you get enough sleep?"
"We have forever to sleep. I have no idea how, if you're going to be naked in bed next to me every night." She rocks her hips and I'm already half hard.
"I have no idea how we're going to keep enough condoms stocked."
"We'll have to order in bulk. Or I'll go on the pill until we…" Bella lets her hair fall over her face instead of finishing her thought.
I think I know what she was about to say. And fuck, with Bella straddling me naked, thinking about marriage, looking down at me like she wants it just as much as I do. It makes me want her more than ever. In more ways than I can count.
"I can't control myself when I'm with you."
She peeks down between us. "If this is my fault, I take all the blame."
I thrust my hips and hiss as Bella slides over my dick. "I can give you your penance if you want."
She giggles. "Yes, give it to me, Edward. Please."
Her lips are so close. It's effortless to reach out and kiss them. Her mouth parts and our tongues meet. It's hard to fathom that I can kiss Bella any time, for the rest of our lives.
"You overwhelm me." I'm barely able to get the words out.
It's all too much.
"The feeling's mutual," she sighs.
"Say it again?" I ask her. Because it feels like an eternity since I've heard the words.
She holds my stare as she lifts her hips, and then lowers herself slowly, gradually. It's the best kind of agony.
"I love you."
She moves gently, purposefully, watching me, watching her.
"I love you too," I tell her.
Her body shivers as she closes her eyes. Her lips part. She lets go and lets her body take over.
"I missed... this spot." I trail a finger along the dip between her breasts.
Bella grins. "You mean… here?" She slides my hand over a nipple.
"No." I move it back. "Right here. Fucking beautiful." I drag my fingers to the dates. Our date. "Here too."
I pull her down into a kiss. My lips move along her jaw, her neck then to the spot behind her ear. "This one, too," I murmur, my lips pressed against her skin.
"And this sound."
"And this?" she asks as she tilts her hips. It leaves me lightheaded.
"Christ. Yes. This." I grab her thighs. "I fucking love how you feel."
She kisses my neck. Her nipples graze my chest. "Here?"
My head falls back, my eyes shut.
"Yes." I'm barely able to answer.
Her legs tighten around me. Christ. Everything tightens.
"Here?" she rasps. It's so damn sexy.
"You know we're gonna have to face the real world at some point," I muse as I stare up at the ceiling.
Not that I wouldn't be content staying in bed with Bella for as long as she wants, but we both have people waiting for us. Relying on us.
It is Sunday though. A day of rest.
Although there hasn't been much resting going on.
"Not yet?" Bella pleads. She wraps her arms around me like she's trying to hold me in bed.
She's right. Maybe tomorrow we worry about the real world.
"Twist my arm." I roll onto my side and kiss her collarbone, her shoulder. I nibble a little. She gives me a quick kiss then peers up at me and sighs blissfully.
"I know you're Team Stark, but you're reminding me a lot of Cap right now."
I can't say it's my favorite comparison. Bella giggles when she catches my expression.
"He can do it all day," she adds, wedging her knee between my legs.
"This is a big deal, buddy. I love you even though you're Team Stark. I never thou-" Her eyes lock with mine. "Wait."
I try not to smile. "What?"
"You're Team Stark aren't you? Like TeamStark001?"
I suppress a chuckle. She was bound to figure it out, but I can't give in yet. What fun would that be?
"I've always been Team Stark, Bella. You know that." I try to act as seriously as I can.
"You fucker. It was you! Admit it. You were with me all along."
"I mean, I might have followed your career a little." I laugh. "You never mentioned social media."
Thankfully, Bella doesn't seem angry. If anything, she looks slightly embarrassed. "I must have been way easier to stalk than you were."
"You stalked me?" My attempt to act offended fails miserably. Truth be told, I feel pretty pleased that she searched me out.
"You drove me insane." She playfully punches me in the arm. "What kind of guy has no social media presence at all? "
"I have a SoundCloud account."
Bella rolls her eyes.
I reach over and tuck some hair behind her ear. "You really looked for me?"
She blushes. "Do not type 'E' into my search bar, okay?"
"If you don't check my browser history, I won't check yours."
Bella lifts an eyebrow. An enormous smile lights up her face just before she jumps out of bed and makes a dash for the hallway.
I'm right behind her because I'd rather she didn't see the fifteen tabs I still have open, all about her.
She glances over her shoulder and shrieks as we run down the stairs.
Christ, she's fast.
The floorboards creak, our footsteps echo as we fly passed bedrooms for all the kids we'll have someday. She grabs ahold of the railing before she races down to the first floor.
Another flash of the future crosses my mind. My heart wants to burst right out of my chest at the thought of how different life with Bella already feels from the childhood I had.
There's always going to be laughter in this house.
Happiness. Music. Love. God.
All of it.
By the time I'm downstairs, Bella already has my phone in her hand.
I stop short when her eyes go wide at whatever's on my home screen. "Holy shit!"
She tosses me the phone and holds up her hands. "Nope, I'm definitely not ready for the real world yet."
"What's-" I glance down at the screen. "Fuck."
There are five texts from Emmett, three from Alice, and one from Marco.
Non sei un bugiardo
It's followed by a photo. Apparently one of the pics taken last night made its way around the internet.
Before my brain can register what that even means, there's a knock on the front door. Bella jumps away from the sound and bumps into me. She spins around and I catch her in my arms.
Bella's in my shirt. My clerical shirt. Just the fucking shirt. It's not even buttoned.
And I'm definitely naked.
We look like a couple of people that just went through two boxes of condoms in ten hours.
The knocking gets louder. I find my jeans and pull them on, then notice all the other articles of clothing we left all over the floor.
The pounding becomes faster, harder. Kids laugh and…
"Is that Renee?" I whisper yell.
Bella's eyes flit over me and she grins. "Welcome to the family, buddy."
She gives me a quick kiss on the lips as she buttons her shirt.
I pull my t-shirt on. Then grab the rest of our clothes and toss them into the nearest closet as Bella heads for the front door.
"Ready?" she asks, checking in with me one last time.
"Nope." I smooth my shirt.
She laughs. "You might want to talk to your old boss real quick. Just to be on the safe side."
I close my eyes. Dear Lord…
Then she opens the door.
"Isabella, you were supposed to meet us for Mass. You're not getting out of Sunday dinner that easy, young lady." Renee is dressed up, carrying a huge pot that looks like it's filled with marinara sauce. It smells fucking delicious.
"Sorry, Mom. I was... distracted." Bella's eyes flash to me when she says it. I feel my cheeks warm.
"I called at least a dozen times. You could have been dead in a ditch! Are you too high and mighty for us now that you're a rock star?"
"I think I lost my phone."
"It might be down in the studio," I offer.
"No bra and no pants?" Renee steps into the foyer and freezes when she sees me. Her mouth falls open. Her grocery bag slips from her shoulder and drops to the floor.
I run a hand through my hair then smile and wave. "Hi, Renee."
At first Bella's mother seems confused. Then critical. In the end, she lands on happy. Understanding. Her expression is just short of accepting.
"It's just Edward now," I remind her with a grin. She nods.
"Right. Edward," she repeats. "Good to see you again. In my daughter's home. Looking so… comfortable."
Charlie is just behind his wife. He picks Bella up off the ground and hugs her tight. "I missed you, baby girl."
Then he sees me too.
"Charlie," I clear my throat. "Good to see you." I don't sound confident, even to myself. This isn't exactly how I thought we'd tell him we're a couple. But when Charlie grins at me, I see it in his face. For him it was only a matter of time. We had his blessing months ago.
He glances around the empty home. "Guess we're not watching the game today, huh?"
He looks like he's itching for a smoke. Maybe I'll meet him out back for one, later.
Emmett has to duck to get through the entryway with Liam on his shoulders. His eyes go wide when he sees Bella's outfit. He quickly diverts his attention to the graphic on my t-shirt. "Guess the show went well," he says with a wink.
"A big romantic gesture, huh?" Bella smirks as she glances between me and her brother-in-law. She punches him on the shoulder. "You big softie."
Two kids run past. One of them shouts, "Avengers assemble!"
Emmett's smallest daughter skips by with a friendly wave. "Hi, Edwood."
Rose is struggling with a platter in one hand, Eddie in the other. Bella snatches my godson up into her arms and tosses him in the air.
"Eddie!" she sings. "I missed you!"
Rose looks between Bella and me. Her face lights up. "Finally both of his godparents are in the same room."
My eyes snap to Bella's. She's already staring my way. It never occurred to me, or her apparently, to ask who the other godparent is.
Her expression matches how I feel right now.
Surprised. Elated. Whole-heartedly committed to the child she's holding.
"Yeah, just like that," Rose whispers before she snaps a quick picture of the three of us.
She wraps an arm around Bella's shoulders. "I told you to wait for that look."
"You could have told me it was going to be last night!"
"Didn't know he'd work that fast." Emmett snorts. "Guy doesn't even know what a date is, how was I supposed to know he'd take you home, and-"
He catches the look on Rose's face and shuts up immediately.
"We couldn't talk Mom out of this," Rose explains under her breath. "Em and I thought it would be easier with all of us."
"All of us?" Bella asks, glancing over Rose's shoulder toward the front door.
"Hey, Bella," Charlie calls out from the dining room. "Did you notice the floors in here are all scratched up?"
Renee sets her pot down and the table wobbles. "And the legs on this table look broken."
"Let me get that, Renee." I take the bowl and glance over at Bella as I head into the kitchen. She's laughing like she's enjoying this.
I might be enjoying it too.
On my way back to the dining room, I nearly collide with Angela. She's got a small baby in one arm and a dish in the other.
I take the food from her as a well-dressed man I've never seen before walks in behind her. He's got bags slung over his shoulders like a pack mule while balancing a pile of Tupperware containers in his arms.
Angela beams. "Father…" She giggles and shakes her head. "Edward, this is Eric."
As I help him unload, I shake his hand. Then I peek down at the beautiful little girl in front of me. "Hey there."
"And this is Isabelle." I take her small hand. She clutches her tiny fist around the tip of one of my fingers. She practically rolls her eyes at me, if that's even possible. She definitely takes after her aunt.
"She's got your eyes, Angela."
"And her smile," Eric says, staring hopelessly at Angela.
The guy's in love.
Bella rushes into the kitchen and dumps bags of paper plates, plasticware and paper towels onto the counter. She plucks Angela's daughter into her arms. "Izzie!"
She spins the little girl around. Izzie smiles huge and starts babbling, then kicks her little feet. It's like the two of them are having their own private babytalk conversation.
I can't stop staring at them. Bella's a natural. She clearly enjoys spending time with all of her nieces and nephews. I can easily see her holding our own daughter.
Fuck. She's going to be the best mom of all time. I think I can convince her to have six. Or seven.
As Angela heads back into the dining room with Bella and the baby, Eric hesitates. He peeks around at the crowd like he's not sure he wants to jump back in.
I clap him on the shoulder. "Been there. Wish I could offer you a drink."
He grabs one of the bags and pulls a bottle of Maker's Mark out. "I heard whiskey was the way to this family's heart."
Yeah. He's gonna fit right in.
There's a nip at my ankles and I look down. Picco is attacking me like he's starved to death.
"I'll feed you in a-"
"Why is Picco here?" I ask absolutely no one.
"He was lonely," Alice says. She's got Jane's hand in one of hers, Picco's things in the other. And she's beaming like she can barely contain herself.
"I see you did a little more than imagine it," she teases.
"Seems like I owe you a lot more than just a thanks." I take Picco's things from her and realize I'm never escaping this kitchen. "Hi, Jane."
Bella throws her arms around her sister from behind and squeezes tight. "It's like you saw the future," she says in Alice's ear.
"Or maybe you were just blind," Alice shoots back.
Picco works his way around everyone's feet. "You have an adorable… um, kitten," Jane says. Then she and Alice dissolve into a fit of giggles as they disappear into the front room to go find Angela.
Renee bustles into the kitchen with even more bags. She looks between Bella and me. "You have guests. Let me handle the food." She nods to the bottle of whiskey in my hand. "Bring a glass out for Charlie unless you want him taking apart the dining room table."
"Nope. On it," I tell her quickly. Then I grab some cups before Charlie gets any crazy ideas.
The aroma of Sunday dinner fills every corner of the house. People laugh and drink. It feels natural to be a part of it all, exactly how I imagined it would.
One of the babies lets out a high-pitched wail. Renee waves a hand as she picks up the unhappy infant.
"Emmett, I need you to go get the folding chairs from the van. Charles, I think Rose left her diaper bag in their car."
Emmett salutes and Charlie huffs, but they both head outside and do as they're told. It might not be Renee's house, but no one dares disobey her.
Bella grabs my hand and leans up against me. "You mind if I invite Emily and Alec? Emily's not usually in New York, and after everything we said this morning it just feels right."
It would be great to see Emily again, but… "Alec?"
"He's one of my best friends."
Of course she doesn't know.
"He loves you."
She lets out an abrupt laugh. "You're insane."
And then I realize... the way she looks at me. Even if he does, it doesn't matter.
"Say it again?" I ask her.
"I love you, you dork. You know, one of these days it's going to get old."
"Never." I tip her chin and kiss her lips.
"And you should invite Bishop Whitlock."
"I'm not even sure he's around." I try not to expect too much from the man. Sunday's are his busiest day of the week. But Bella wants him here. She wants to get to know him better. I'm overwhelmed. It's enough that I pull my cell phone out and text him.
Hours have gone by. It feels like forever since Bella and I had the house to ourselves.
Kids are everywhere, food is everywhere. People are sitting at the table, on the floor, on the stairs. There isn't a quiet spot in the entire place, but it's perfect just like this.
I quietly observe the unorthodox family that's welcomed me into their lives.
Who all just ate dinner at the table where I fucked Bella senseless last night.
Thankfully, Rose and Renee are cleaning up. Charlie sits at the far end of the table. He's bouncing Eddie on his knee, discussing something very serious. I think I hear Bella's name mentioned.
Eddie was gracious enough to find Bella's jeans for her earlier. In the closet. She casually slipped them on like it was the most normal thing in the world, getting dressed in front of her entire family.
In the kitchen, Jane is taking Italian pastries out of bakery boxes and arranging them on a platter that Angela brought from home.
Emmett arm wrestles with Liam, who's mysteriously winning. Eric has calmed down after a few drinks. His hand rests gently on top of Angela's. She looks happier than I've ever seen her.
Alec is mansplaining the architectural importance of built-in bookshelves to Emily. Surprisingly, she's hanging onto every word he says.
When he showed up with Emily, he handed me a fist full of tickets for each of Bella's shows in Brooklyn, just to make sure the rest of her family could be there too.
He's a good guy. I'm glad Bella has someone like him in her corner.
I can hear McCarty children, squealing, giggling, calling out their favorite Avengers characters. One of them is telling the others Auntie Bella can be Captain Marvel.
I look around to see if she's heard them too. She wouldn't dare tell a small child no… unless they were forcing her to be Widow.
I don't see her but she can't be far. Not with her entire family here. Our entire family.
Everyone but Jasper.
I check my cell for the third time. I'm sure he's busy. I'm sure there's no way he's got time for a last minute, impromptu visit. I'm sure he's… standing in Bella's doorway just as a small gang of tiny Avengers burst out of the hallway closet, screaming "Hail Hydra!"
The smallest stops in front of the good bishop and holds up a lacy black bra for him to help her with.
The look of shock and embarrassment on his face is enough to make me laugh out loud.
Welcome to the club, Jasper.
He seems confused. I quickly make my way over to him.
"Edward," he says. "What are you-"
When Bella comes flying down the stairs, it all clicks for him. "I see."
I hug him tighter than I expect. It feels like forever since I've seen him. "I thought you'd have too much going on to show up on a Sunday."
"You're more important than the deacons at St. Patrick's." Then he adds in a whisper, "Don't tell them though."
Bella skips the last two stairs and lands next to me. "Thanks so much for coming, Bishop. It wouldn't be the same without you."
Jasper nods once. "Thanks for having me."
He offers Bella a friendly handshake. At first she seems slightly hesitant and he seems more than awkward. Bella peeks up at me with love in her eyes, then seems to make a decision about my old friend and mentor.
"We don't shake hands in this family, Bishop." She pulls him into a warm hug and I am pretty sure Jasper's eyes are about to pop out of their sockets. Then his arms wrap around her and the two of them look like they've known each other their whole lives.
"Call me Jasper. Please."
Bella checks in with me to make sure she heard right. All I can do is grin like an idiot.
"Um, okay. Jasper."
"It's really good to see you," he says. "And Edward... I guess," he teases, looking over at me from the corner of his eye.
"Remember how I said God was weird?" Bella's eyes flick from Jasper, to the rest of her family, then back to him.
He looks like he's almost afraid to answer. "Yeah?"
Her hand glides around my waist. She holds me tight, like she's claiming me for herself. "He's also good. Don't you think?"
Before, touching Bella like this would have made me uncomfortable. Today I couldn't be more content.
Jasper opens his mouth to say something, but I think he might be at a loss for words.
Bella smiles the most beautiful smile. Then, relaxed and easy, she leaves the two of us standing there, awestruck.
Fuck. I love her. She's tenacious. Completely comfortable in her own skin... and apparently, my old clerical shirt.
She's got it knotted at her waist. The sleeves are rolled up. Jasper notices what she's wearing and raises an eyebrow.
I pretend I don't know what he's trying to say.
"Want a drink?" I ask instead.
He smiles, genuinely happy for us. "Yes. And then I want to hear all about this new job."
I remember the day I told him I'd be helping kids, the same way he used to help me.
I'd had a slight panic attack, wondering how he'd react to my leaving the church for a less God fearing path. The truth is, I had no reason to worry. He didn't blink an eye. He didn't tell me what he would have done or suggest more counseling. He simply embraced me.
He'll always be there for me. For whatever I need, whenever I need it.
Renee meets us in the dining room as I pour a drink for Jasper. "Bishop Whitlock. It's an honor to have you here."
Her eyes dart to Bella, then to Alice and Jane on the other side of the room. She seems slightly traumatized that he's here with all her less than perfect relatives, but Renee covers it up well. She gives the bishop a warm smile.
"You remember Renee, Jasper?" I place a hand on her shoulder, hoping it tells her everything will be okay.
"I do," he says as a girl runs by waving Bella's bra. He completely ignores it. Renee relaxes a tiny bit. "This is a lovely home. Did you just move in?"
"It's actually Bella's. My baby's moving back to Brooklyn." She's so happy she starts to babble. Renee never babbles. "All four of our girls are in one borough again. I thought the day would never come. Settled, finally."
"Such a blessing," Jasper agrees.
Renee's face lights up. "A blessing. What a lovely idea! Would you bless this house, Bishop? Bella could use all the help she could get. And I would be able to sleep better at night knowing it's..." she lowers her voice. "Demon free?"
Bella groans. "Mom."
I cover my mouth. It's probably not appropriate to laugh.
Jasper looks slightly amused at the mention of demons. Aside from that, I can see he's honored. I'm honored too. I never thought I'd have a home or a family. So I take a moment to offer a prayer of my own for this life He's gifted me.
"Alright then," he says decidedly. "One demon-free home, coming up."
Everyone gathers around the dining room as Jasper begins to pray. I lean against the doorway.
As natural as it is to blink or breathe, my attention is drawn to one person in particular.
Bella is the happiest I've ever seen her, surrounded by all the people she cares about most.
Her arms are linked in Alice's. Rose leans over and whispers something to her sisters. Bella ducks her head. Alice's face goes beet red. Angela covers her mouth as she snickers. Renee shoots them a disapproving look. Charlie kisses his wife's temple to calm her down.
Bella glances around the room at her family.
She sneaks a peek upward and smiles.
My heart bursts in two.
I've been watching her, loving her from afar, yearning to be close to her on plenty of occasions. But today I can walk over to her. I can wrap my arm around her waist and pull her close. I can kiss her and let everyone in this room know just how much I love her.
How much I'll always love her. Honor her. Cherish her.
I breathe easy and thank God for the past year. For all the decisions that were made. For all the pieces that fell into place to bring us to where we are today.
I specifically thank Him for the woman who walked into my confessional one day last summer with sarcasm in her voice and a chip on her shoulder.
With more love in her heart than she knew possible.
Enough to break down my carefully constructed walls.
Enough to make me realize who I was truly meant to be.
Enough to make me fall unabashedly in love and have faith that it was God's will.
Bella catches me worshiping her and flashes me the smile. She curls a finger inviting me over. I'm halfway to her when I realize I don't want to wait for someday, or even someday soon.
"Amen," Jasper says, low and reverent, followed by everyone else.
"Amen," Bella whispers, looking into my eyes.
Standing in front of her I'm suddenly nervous.
Fuck. My heart is pounding. My hands are shaky. My stomach is tight.
I rest my hands at her hips. She wraps her arms around my neck. She bites her lip.
That's all it takes. It's just us again. No one else is in the room.
But like so many times before, Bella seems to sense what I'm thinking.
She takes my hands. Squeezes them tight. Her eyes never leave mine as she says precisely what I need to hear.
"Ask me anything."
A/N: Eight months ago we thought it would be fun to write a sexy, silly little story about a priest. Eight months later, here we are. We didn't know we'd be writing about the meaning of love and life and shit like that. Or that we'd spend countless hours on catholic websites. Who knew we could write homilies? We didn't know the world was about to fall apart and people would look forward to this fic updating as much as they did. We didn't know real, actual pastors and seminarians would be reading.
But even more than Edward's pretend former boss, we want to thank everyone who read, reviewed, lurked, rec'd, and loved these two like we do.
Thanks to Sue for her above and beyond beta skills. Thanks to ChrisAnn & Kate for pre-reading and giving us peace of mind. Thanks, Lizzie, for the fantastic banner and for all the pics you shared with us for so many chapters. Thanks to Monica/MoMo for her help with our Italian. Thanks to the blogs, websites, and FB groups that rec'd us. Thanks to the authors that mentioned us to their readers. Thanks to everyone who hung out in the Dark, Dank Box with us.
Body of Christ, along with our whole crew has been nominated for Golden Onion Awards. Polls are open through 08.27.20. You can vote once a day. twifandomnews . com
Do you need more of us in your life? You can Ask us Anything on September 20th 7pm EST. It's for a good cause! Details are on our author page and in the Author's 411 Group on facebook.
Songs you should definitely listen to for this chapter:
For Bella: First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes
For Edward: Like Real People Do by Hozier
Follow us and talk silently to the big guy. You never know when a BoC outtake, future-take, or an entirely new story might pop up in your dark, dank, in-box.
Until then, stay safe. Amen.