It kinda makes my eye twitch how long this chapter is but oh well, lol. They wouldn't shut up, but I hope y'all enjoy it?
This chapter is unbeta'd because I wrote it the other day and wanted to give Hadley a break - mistakes are mine!
Thank you to everyone who stuck with me on this story! I know it was sometimes difficult to read about them cheating and being human, but your support meant so damn much to me. I also want to thank everyone who took the time to leave a review - that feedback and support is what keeps me going!
Huge heartfelt thanks to Hadley for her beta work. To Paige for prereading and writing lovely recaps on FB. To Janelle, Rhi, Heba, Pamela, and May for prereading. And to Lizzie Paige for her beautiful banner. Love you, ladies!
I do have another story completely written, but I'm on the fence about posting. We'll see. Thanks again. Mwah!
Thanks again. Mwah!
- love me like you do -
Six Months Later
"Momma! Edward! It's Christmas!" Mikey shrieks and runs into our room, waking us at—I glance at my phone—six in the morning.
Edward sits up, shirtless. His hair is a wreck and his face is sleep-rumpled. He stretches his strong arms above his head and yawns.
My husband is adorable and sexy, and if Mikey weren't already awake, I'd straddle Edward and slide down onto his di—
"Did Santa bring us presents?" Seth asks excitedly, leaving the room as quickly as he popped in.
Edward laughs and lies back down. "What time is it?" he asks me in the dimly lit room.
"Yeah," I sigh.
He snuggles closer, sliding an arm over my waist. "Go back to sleep," he murmurs. "I can keep them occupied until you get up and we can open presents."
"It's okay," I promise, feeling more alert as the seconds go by. "I was asleep by nine. I got like, eight hours."
He breathes out a laugh. "Pretty sure you got ten hours. You fell asleep on the couch by seven. It was around nine that I woke you up and made you actually go to bed."
"It was only seven?" It felt like it was so late by the time I dozed on the couch. "I'm so lame."
Edward kisses me. "You're not lame. You're pregnant with our baby girl."
I smile softly at his tender words.
Yeah, I am pregnant. And we're having a girl.
Pretty sure it happened when I visited him on his book tour in Chicago. There's no telling which time sealed the deal, though, since we spent nearly the entire weekend in bed.
A month or so before we flew to Italy I took a pregnancy test. I didn't have any symptoms yet, but I'd been tracking my period in hopes that we made a baby. Despite being hopeful, I was realistic and knew the chances of it happening that first time was slim. I didn't think it'd actually work.
I was a week late when I took a test alone in our bathroom. Instead of sitting there and doing nothing for three excruciating minutes, I started cleaning. I scrubbed the toilet and both sinks and wiped the mirror down with Windex.
Nearly ten minutes had passed when I finally looked at the test.
It was positive.
For a split second, I wondered if I had messed up. Like maybe once the three minutes were up and it sat out too long, it automatically turned positive. Instead of getting excited, I peed on another stick and watched the indicator window the entire time.
Two pink lines appeared.
I was pregnant.
I walked out of the bathroom, stunned and so fucking elated. Edward was in the kitchen with the boys, making them breakfast and teaching them simple words in Italian. Mid-pancake-flip, I handed him the positive tests.
The boys were giggling and repeating grazie grazie, the pancake was sizzling in the skillet, and Edward was silent.
I wasn't worried. I knew he wanted this more than anything. But I waited and gave him time to accept the fact that we were having a baby.
Seconds later, his face lit up with the sweetest, most sincere smile.
He didn't ask if I was sure or if it was real or any of those other things that people in delighted disbelief might ask. He dropped the spatula and wrapped his arms around me, squeezing me tight, kissing me so many times, and letting the pancake burn.
We waited until my second trimester to tell Rose, Em, and Carlisle. Keeping up with casualness and the way Rose blurted to me she was pregnant while standing outside of the airport, I kept it simple, too. We all went out to eat one night and when it came time to order drinks, I stuck with water. I didn't even have to say anything before Rose narrowed her eyes at me and accused me of being pregnant. Before I answered, the excitement that radiated from all three of them made me feel so loved and supported.
After Edward and I told them we were expecting, it was a flurry of the biggest smiles, warmest hugs, and congratulations. Rose cried happy hormonal tears. And then I was crying, too, because I was so excited and could see it all—best friends married to brothers and raising babies together.
My mom doesn't know the news, and I don't really have it in me to tell her. I let Mikey see her from time to time, but that's the extent of our relationship. She seems lonely and a little sad, and it makes me feel guilty but hopeful that eventually, things will change. At the very least she owes me and Edward a genuine apology. Until that happens, I'm focusing my energy elsewhere.
Jared is still unaware of the pregnancy, too, thanks to baggy sweaters and oversized coats. But I didn't really start showing until a few weeks ago with the baby measuring on the smaller side. In the last few days, though, my belly has become more swollen and prominent. Harder to hide. I know when I drop Mikey off with Jared later today, there's no way to avoid this subject.
We haven't told the boys they're going to be big brothers yet, either. In the beginning, it was because I was worried Mikey would tell Jared and I didn't want to deal with that. I knew it was cowardly of me, but I assumed he'd be difficult about it and I wanted to avoid that conversation as long as I could. Things were okay between us—civil, even—and I wanted to keep riding that wave.
Edward and I decided that we'd wait until my third trimester to tell the boys. We figured it was going to be such a big concept for them to grasp, and having physical proof would help us explain it. But we also wanted enough time for them to fully comprehend what was happening before their sister arrives.
Next week marks the first day of my last trimester, but Christmas seemed like the perfect day to share the best news.
We can hear the boys' shrieks and squeals sound from downstairs now, and Edward and I laugh.
"You ready to let them know the big secret?" I ask, and Edward rubs a soothing hand over my belly.
He smiles softly. "Yeah. We can tell them after they open their gifts. Best for last and all that."
I suddenly panic. "Fuck. The presents. I forgot to put them out last night," I realize, disappointed. "I forgot to eat the cookies and drink the milk, too, so they'd think Santa came."
"I ate them after you fell asleep," Edward says with a gentle smile. "I filled the stockings, put out the presents, and I did the flour footprints leading up to the tree, too."
My heart melts for this man, and appreciation for him overwhelms me. We really are a team. Neither of us takes on everything on our own.
The last few Christmases I spent with Jared, everything would fall on me. Picking out a tree and hauling it into the house. Decorating. Prepping and cooking Christmas breakfast and dinner. I'd do all of the present shopping and wrapping for Mikey. It'd be my sole job to make the holiday as special as it could be for Jared and Mikey. And on Christmas morning, there was never a single present under the tree for me and my stocking was always empty. It's not that I needed gifts, but it was the thought that meant the most. I needed to know that Jared thought about me. And he simply didn't.
In the last two Christmases, Edward has been more involved than Jared ever was. And I didn't have to ask. He just steps in and helps because he wants to. Because that's who he is. There are presents for me. My stocking is filled. My heart is full.
"We're lucky to have you," I murmur, emotion burning my eyes.
"Baby." Edward breathes out a soft laugh at my tears, then shakes his head, fierce devotion in his gaze. "I'm the lucky one."
"No, really," I stress. "You do so much for us. And I'm finally like… not an afterthought in my own marriage. I don't know. It just means a lot."
"Of course, you're not an afterthought. You're my wife, and I love you so fucking much," he says, like it's simple.
And maybe it is.
His lips press to mine and we kiss lazily and softly for a moment. It ignites into more, his hands exploring and squeezing, and I can feel him start to grow hard.
But we know we can't. There's no time now that the boys are awake.
We break apart and he sighs, a frustrated smile on his handsome face.
"Do you want to sleep a little longer?" I offer the same way he did for me.
"Nah. Making them wait to open their presents will be torture. And I want to hang out with Mikey as long as I can before you take him to Jared's at ten."
A pang in my chest aches. I had Mikey on Christmas last year. This year he'll be at Jared's celebrating with Pete, Charlotte… and Rebecca.
Technically I was supposed to drop Mikey off last night but Jared thankfully—surprisingly—let me keep him so we could at least spend Christmas morning together.
Our co-parenting isn't perfect but it's working. He's no longer spiteful toward me. At least, not to my face. He puts Mikey first as best he can. I couldn't really ask for anything different.
I roll over to sit up and Edward throws on a shirt and joggers, walking around my side of the bed. He helps me stand even though it's not necessary. But I soak up his attention and affection, especially when he drops to his knees, lifts my shirt, and kisses my stomach.
"Merry Christmas, little one. We can't wait for you to be here next year," he murmurs to my belly button. I smile down at him, brushing my fingers through his hair.
"You ready to tell the boys?" he asks, looking up at me with the most sincere eyes.
"Yeah, but if they ask where babies come from that's all you," I tease.
He laughs, but he knows we'll do it together.
Standing, he cups my face and kisses me with his signature one, two, three pecks. And then we head downstairs and join the boys for our second Christmas morning together as a family.
After opening the presents, the talk about the new addition to our family goes exactly as I imagined: bewildering but overall successful.
Edward and I explain that I'm pregnant and there is a baby in my belly. We tell them they are going to be big brothers to a little sister in the springtime. I let them stare at and touch my belly and ask questions.
"What's her name?" Seth asks.
"We don't know yet, but we like the name Makenna," I say softly.
"What she look like?" Mikey wants to know.
Edward takes this one. "We won't know what she looks like until she's born, but she'll be a mixture of me and your Momma."
"It's going to be the very best surprise to finally meet her," I add, aching for that day.
"How she get in there?" Mikey wonders.
That one is more difficult.
"Momma and Edward love each other very much and we decided we wanted to make a baby, so we did," I tell Mikey.
"How?" Seth asks curiously.
"Uh… love. Lots and lots of love," Edward says vaguely, but I'm glad because we don't really need to get into this until they're older.
The boys lose interest after that and turn their attention to emptying their stockings. I let them split one chocolate Santa before breakfast and they think it's the best day ever.
"That wasn't so bad…" I murmur to Edward while they play with their new toys and we're snuggled on the couch
The living room is a wreck—wrapping paper and empty boxes everywhere—but we'll deal with it later, before Emmett, Rose, and Carlisle come over.
"I'm sure they'll have more questions over the next few months, but we got this."
He's right—we do. I smile and kiss him, appreciating his confidence.
After we finish eating breakfast, my phone chimes with a text.
Edward's standing at the sink, loading the dishwasher while the boys play. I'm sitting at the kitchen table savoring my one cup of caffeine while watching them.
My phone chimes a second time and I reluctantly get up to grab it from the kitchen counter.
Jared: Do you have time to talk after you drop off Mikey?
Jared: If today doesn't work, can we plan a time to meet after the holidays?
I shouldn't panic, but I do.
"Jared wants to talk," I tell Edward.
He glances over his shoulder to look at me. "About what?"
Bella: Sure, today works. What's up?
Jared: I want Mikey to start staying with me half of the time.
"He wants split custody," I tell Edward, stunned.
He shuts off the water and dries his hands on a dish towel.
"Really?" he asks, sounding just as confused as I feel.
"Yeah." Tears instantly burn my eyes and Edward pulls me to him, cradling me against his chest.
"Hey, it's okay. It's just a conversation, right? It doesn't mean it's going to happen. And if you have a problem with it or don't feel comfortable, then this will be up to the judge, not Jared."
"I know," I sniffle, looking up at him. "I know I'm totally selfish when it comes to Mikey. Like… shouldn't I be happy Jared wants to step up more than he already has?"
Edward smiles sadly. "There isn't any right way to feel about this, Bell. Of course, you're going to be sad about Mikey potentially not being with us as often. That makes me fucking sad, too. Especially since that means he'll have less time with his sister. But it is a good thing, baby. It's a good fucking thing."
My heart hurts for other reasons now because of Gianna's lack of interest in Seth. I'm not sure how I'd feel if Jared didn't want Mikey at all—relieved, maybe. But also utterly heartbroken.
I nod in agreement and wrap my arms around Edward's torso. "Yeah," I mumble. "You're right."
"It'll be okay," he reassures me with a tight hug and a kiss on my temple. "Do you want me there for that conversation with Jared? He's going to notice you're pregnant, too, and I know you're worried. I'm not sure how comfortable I am with you being alone for that."
I shake my head and blow out a breath. I appreciate his support, but my confidence when it comes to handling Jared has improved tremendously in the last year.
I've worked on myself, and while therapy has a lot to do with that confidence and empowerment, I know without a doubt it's also a result of finally having a loving husband in my corner.
Pete answers the door when I show up at Jared's and his eyes are immediately on my stomach.
Pete and Charlotte also didn't know I was pregnant. Even though we're still close, I wasn't sure how I felt about telling them without letting Jared know, so I kept it under wraps.
I'm not trying to hide my pregnancy anymore but I'm also not flaunting it. I'm wearing a casual sweater and leggings but the way my lower stomach pops out is unmistakable. Especially since Pete has seen me pregnant in the past.
He doesn't say anything about it but we hug and he smiles widely at Mikey.
"Merry Christmas, you two! You get some cool presents from Santa this morning?" he asks Mikey, picking him up.
Mikey nods excitedly and starts telling him about everything he got.
"Gimme a kiss goodbye, baby." Still in Pete's arms, Mikey leans over and kisses me on the cheek. "I love you and I'll see you Monday, okay?"
Pete smiles. "Congratulations," he says, soft and kind. "When are you due?"
"The beginning of March," I say, wishing it were now, but I'm also thankful we still have time to get the nursery ready.
"Does this kiddo know?"
My eyes shift to Mikey. "Yep. We talked about how he's going to be a big brother this morning."
"Being a big brother is the best job in the world," Pete says excitedly. "I should know. I am one."
Jared walks up behind Pete then, and his face is unreadable. He must've overheard part of our conversation because his eyes immediately bounce to my belly.
I shouldn't be nervous but I am. The last time Jared and I talked about having more kids, I told him I didn't want any. And here I am, almost seven months pregnant.
"Hey," he says, voice low.
"Dad, can you take Mikey into the kitchen? Beck is waiting to bake cookies with him," Jared says, but his eyes are still on me.
"Sure thing," Pete says. "Merry Christmas, Bella."
I smile. "You too."
Jared hooks a finger over his shoulder. "Do you want to come in to talk? It's cold."
I step inside and follow him into his study near the front door. I'm not sure how long this will be, so I don't sit. Not until he does.
We're on opposite ends of a leather couch. He seems nervous which is so unlike him.
"So, I uh… I wanted to talk…" He pauses and shakes his head. "Sorry, I just… I feel kind of thrown for a loop here. You're fucking pregnant?"
"Yes. Edward and I didn't tell Mikey and Seth until today so we didn't think you or your parents needed to know yet."
He runs a hand over his jaw and I know he's holding back. "I thought you didn't want more kids, Bella? Or did you mean you just didn't want more kids with me?"
"Jared…" I hold his gaze and hate the momentary flash of hurt I find there. "When we had that conversation we were already in a bad place. Having more kids wasn't even on my mind."
He looks away. "I guess I shouldn't be surprised or even fucking care." He exhales. "I don't know. I don't actually care, it's just weird seeing you pregnant again because the last time you were, it was with me. So. Fuck. I don't even know."
I have no idea what to say, but I want this conversation to be over so I can leave.
"I'm happy with Beck," he says out of nowhere. "It's different with her. But sometimes there are little moments where I just…" Another exhale. "Forget it. You don't owe me an explanation about any of this. I shouldn't have asked or said anything."
I'm grateful he's come to this conclusion on his own, and it just goes to show how much progress we've made over the last year and a half with setting boundaries.
"Okay," I whisper.
"Okay." He waits nearly a minute to speak again. "So, Mikey. I think it's time we change the custody agreement so I have him half the time."
"What would that even look like?" I ask. "Are you reducing your hours with the firm? Will he just be with a nanny the entire time he's not in school? What's your plan?"
Jared holds my gaze. "Beck is moving in."
"And I actually am reducing my hours. Not by much but it should help. And my parents agreed to take Mikey when Beck can't be with him."
For a moment, I'm stunned to hear he'll work less. Mostly because he says it as if it was such an easy decision to make. All I did for years was ask him to be around more, and he made it seem like it wasn't an option. Now I know that it was, and he just didn't want to.
Regardless of the way I feel slighted right now, I push it away. He's willing to make more time for Mikey, and I'm happy about that. I really am. And even if this idea still doesn't seem appealing to me, I'm glad to hear he's looked into an actual plan if Mikey ever does live here half the time.
I don't know much about Rebecca, but they've been dating for the last six months and she seems nice enough. Mikey always has good things to say about her, and she doesn't shy away from me whenever I do see her, which is a good sign.
When I found out from Mikey that they were dating, I have to admit a huge part of me wondered if Jared had something going on with her while he and I were still married. The next time I saw him, Mikey asked if Beck could push him on the swings later, which let Jared know I knew about his new girlfriend. Jared looked at me, and I was expecting smugness but all I saw was worry. He must have known exactly what I was thinking.
Once Mikey was inside, Jared told me with unwavering sincerity in his tone that this thing with Beck was new and he never cheated on me.
I didn't know how much I needed that confirmation until he said it. It was confusing—being grateful he had been faithful when I wasn't. I just nodded, believing him. And the subject thankfully never came up again.
Jared shifts on the couch now, waiting for me to answer him.
"Okay, well… I'm not opposed to the idea of split custody," I finally say, and relief sparks in Jared's eyes. "Of course, I want Mikey with me as much as possible. But… that's not fair to you. And you have stepped up a lot in the last year, which I can appreciate. Maybe we can ease into it so Mikey can adjust? Just add a couple more days for now?"
"That works. Thank you," he says, and sometimes I think Rebecca makes him softer. "I just want Mikey here more so he and Beck can start bonding. It's hard when he's only here every other weekend."
Again, I can appreciate this so much. It really gives me hope that this new relationship will be better and that his relationship with his son will only grow stronger.
"Then we'll look into modifying the agreement," I tell him.
With nothing left to discuss, we stand and move toward the door.
"Do you want to say hi to Rebecca and my mom before you go?" he asks, and yeah. I can tell Jared has changed. But I firmly believe this is thanks to Rebecca. Nothing I could've said or done would've given me this version of him. We just weren't compatible. I wasn't his person, and she is. He wasn't meant for me, but Edward is.
"I'd like that, yeah."
I follow him into the kitchen. Rebecca's at the counter with Mikey next to her, standing on a stool.
"Wow, nice job pouring all of the flour into the bowl," she says to him. When she sees me, she smiles politely. "Hi, Bella."
"We're making cookies, Momma," Mikey says with the biggest grin. "Can you eat one with me after they're done?"
"Why don't you save me one, okay? I need to get back to Edward and Seth."
Charlotte walks over then and hugs me.
"Pete told me the good news," she whispers in my ear. "Congratulations."
"Thank you," I beam.
"Do you know what you're having?" she asks.
"A girl! Oh, that is just wonderful," she says, her eyes shining with unshed tears. "We are just so thrilled for you and Edward."
Excitement radiates off of her and it warms me. And in a small way, it makes up for the lack of reaction I'll receive from my own mother. Maybe I'm wrong and Renee will be happy for me. But she disrespected my husband and that's just something I won't tolerate, so she won't receive the news from me before she eventually just catches on that I'm pregnant.
Charlotte and I get carried away chatting for a few minutes, and Jared eventually clears his throat. I look at him and though his face is neutral, it seems I've overstayed my welcome. He doesn't seem mad about it, but I get the feeling this is out of respect for Rebecca.
For a split second, part of me worries she might be jealous that I have such a close relationship with my ex-mother-in-law. But after I say goodbye to everyone again and I catch a glimpse of Rebecca's face, all I see there is genuine kindness and it makes me so damn relieved.
I kiss Mikey goodbye one more time before Jared walks me to the door.
"Maybe after New Year's we can reach out to our lawyers," he says, rubbing the back of his neck.
"Sounds good. I'll see you on Monday."
He opens the door for me and before I walk out, I turn to him.
"I know this is going to sound weird, but if you and Rebecca have kids one day, make sure there are always gifts for her under the tree, okay? And if she has a stocking, don't forget to fill hers, too," I say quietly. "She seems like a good person. Don't take her for granted."
He swallows thickly, his expression flashing with understanding and maybe even a little regret. "Okay," he murmurs. "I won't."
I walk out the door, but when I'm halfway to my car he calls out, "Bella?" I turn back to glance at him. "I'm sorry, okay?"
"Me too." I offer a small, forgiving smile, hoping one day he's able to forgive me, too, if he hasn't already. "Merry Christmas, Jared."
"I swear to God if one more person asks me what my birth plan is, I'm going to ask what their death plan is," Rose complains, sitting on our couch.
I laugh, but I get it. "Some of the shit people say to me is unreal," I muse. "We were checking out at the store the other day and the cashier told me to start doing kegels if I don't already do them."
I'm sitting in Edward's lap and he breathes out a laugh at the memory and squeezes my thigh. "Talk about over-fucking-stepping."
He gives me a look and I fight a smile. I might've had a hormonal freak out after that comment by the cashier, worrying that things weren't going to be the same romantically between Edward and me after I had our baby. He let me have my moment, and then very calmly said nothing could ever change the way he feels about me.
He used his words and then showed me with his body. Over and over and over again.
"Right?" Rose agrees, pulling my attention away. "I think I get asked once a week if I'm going to get an epidural. Like, it's none of their damn business but of course, I'm going to get an epidural! I'm not crazy!"
"Well actually, you are a little crazy, babe," Emmett jokes, swigging his beer.
"Dude," Edward admonishes, and Carlisle just shakes his head in disapproval of Emmett's remark.
"I'm kidding!" Emmett insists. "She knows I'm kidding."
Rose just offers a fake smile and asks through gritted teeth, "Do you really want to feel my wrath today of all days?"
Emmett's not scared of her. It's why they work. "It's cute crazy," he clarifies. "I love it. It makes me laugh when you get all feisty. You keep it entertaining."
Rose softens just a little but rubs her belly and says, "It's so sad this baby will only have one parent. What a shame."
Emmett laughs at her joke. Rose cracks a smile.
"You can't kill me yet, babe. I need to make my movie debut in Edward's film," Emmett reminds her, grinning.
With the script finalized, they're in pre-production. The studio wanted to start filming in the spring but Edward pushed everything back until summer so we can have a few quiet months with our girl.
He's been working on another book that's nearly done. It's grittier than his other stuff, but I love it. He's never written this fast in the past, and when I casually mentioned that, he said it was because he'd never been this supported before.
"For the last time, Emmett, you're not going to be in my movie," Edward says dryly.
Emmett scoffs. "You can't afford me anyway."
We all laugh.
My stomach growls.
Edward rubs a hand over my belly.
"I'll grab you a snack," he says, and I love how he takes care of me.
"Did someone mention food?" Rose perks up.
I chuckle, but I get it. The hormonal hanger is real.
"I'll help," I tell Edward.
I get up from his lap and he follows me into the kitchen, helping me throw together a quick charcuterie board before dinner.
"So, what happened with Jared?" Edward asks.
After I got home, Em, Rose, and Carlisle were already here so we didn't get a minute alone to talk.
"Apparently Rebecca is moving in with him, so he wants Mikey there more so Rebecca can bond with him," I say. "If she didn't seem nice, and if Jared hadn't shown me he's changed, I'd say no. But I told him I'm okay with it and suggested we only add a few days so Mikey can adjust first."
"That sounds good," Edward agrees. "You sure you're okay with it?"
I shrug. "I'm gonna have to be if I want Mikey to have a strong relationship with his dad."
Edward gently squeezes the back of my neck and presses a sweet kiss to my temple.
His phone rings and he looks at it, frowning.
"It's Gianna," he says, then answers. "Hey, you're on speakerphone."
"Because Bella's here," he tells her as I lay a triangle of brie onto the wooden cutting board.
"Hi, Gianna," I say aloud.
One, two, three beats pass.
I roll my eyes at Edward but I let it roll off my back.
"I told you not to call until later. Seth's napping," Edward reminds her.
"Why didn't you just keep him awake like I said?"
Edward sighs. "It doesn't work like that. He naps at the same time every day."
Gianna ignores how inconsiderate her request was and says, "I'll be in town for New Year's, so I can stop by and see him."
"That won't work. We're going out of town for New Year's."
We are, and I'm so excited to get away. We booked a cabin in the woods with Rose and Em. We'll let the boys stay up as late as they want, light fireworks at midnight, and toast the new year with sparkling cider.
Edward jokes that the boys will make it to midnight, but Rose and I won't. I'm pretty sure he's right, but I want so badly to prove him wrong and share a midnight kiss.
"You didn't tell me you were going out of town. I wouldn't have booked a flight if I knew," she says, and her tone reeks of entitlement.
"Why would I tell you about our plans? I didn't know you were considering coming here because you rarely ever do. Maybe if you'd told me that, we could've worked around it, but we aren't canceling now. The boys are excited."
Gianna huffs. "So, I'm making an effort to see him, but you're going to make me out to be the bad guy?"
My nerves for her intensify and Edward's jaw tightens. I run a soothing palm over his back.
"Are you staying with Alice and Jasper next week?" Edward asks, but I'm unsure why.
"Then maybe Seth can just stay with y'all for a few days," he offers, and disappointment that Seth might not celebrate the new year with us sinks in.
The line is silent.
"I don't think that will work," Gianna eventually says.
Edward shakes his head, unsurprised by her answer. "Why not?"
"Because I have a small window of time for him. Not days, Edward."
He laughs humorlessly and anger rises hot in my chest. I bite my tongue, not wanting to get involved in their co-parenting—if you can even call it that.
"Just so you know, I'm not making you out to be the bad guy, Gianna. You're doing that all on your own with your lack of concern for our son. You can call him later to say Merry Christmas, but there's nothing else you and I need to talk about," Edward says, and then he hangs up.
I'm surprised he was so civil with her, but I'm also grateful. We don't need any unnecessary drama today.
He blows out a frustrated breath and I move closer to him. Immediately, he envelops me in his strong arms, and I rest my head on his chest.
I give him a minute to cool down.
"I'm sorry," I murmur.
"Please don't apologize for her, Bella. She wouldn't ever apologize for herself, so it's pointless."
"I'm sorry for Seth," I clarify.
He pulls back but keeps holding me, anguish in his gaze. "Me too."
"But he's doing okay," I remind Edward. "He asks about her less. And it doesn't seem like he feels left out or anything."
Edward hesitates. "Last night when I put the boys to bed after you passed out on the couch Seth asked me if you're his new mommy."
"Oh." My heart already hurts but feels confusingly full at the same time. "What did you say?"
"I was going to remind him you're his step-mom, but it feels so fucking wrong. You are his mom, Bella. This call with Gianna just further proves it. You're here for the day-to-day. You take care of him when he's sick. You play with him. You do so much more for him than Gianna ever did when she was around."
Emotion pricks hot at my throat. "Well, I love him. And I love you."
It's just like earlier this morning when Edward was explaining why he does so much for me. It's the most simple reason. You show up for the people you love. It's as easy as that.
"I know you do. And you know how fucking much that means to me and how appreciative I am for it," Edward murmurs. "I wasn't sure how he would react or what he would think, but I ended up asking him if he wanted you to be his mommy. And he said yes because you make good sandwiches and you're nice and make the funniest voices while reading and…" Edward pauses, his face softening. "He loves you."
I'm crying now. Big, big tears stream down my cheeks.
"Baby," Edward breathes, smiling sadly and sweetly at my reaction.
"I'm fine, really," I sniffle, happy and overwhelmed with love and feeling so, so flattered to have earned his little boy's love.
Edward kisses me tenderly, pressing his forehead to mine for a beat.
"He also asked if you were going to go away like Gianna, and that kind of fucking broke my heart," he admits, pulling back and swallowing hard. "But I told him no and that you're always going to be here for us. That you're always going to be my wife. I'm leaving it up to him, but I hope one day soon, Seth decides to start calling you mom."
"I hope so, too," I murmur, not realizing how much that would mean to me until now.
Edward brushes my tears away and I blow out a long, shaky exhale. I don't apologize for crying though because this is a big moment for us.
Instead, I tell him I love him. And then I thank him. He doesn't ask why, he just smiles softly, eyes sparking with affection because he must know what I'm thanking him for.
Another chance at happiness.
Another opportunity to be a part of a loving family.
And the possibility that one day soon, the sweetest boy who looks exactly like him will consider me his mother.