A/N: For a long time, I've been wondering what Edward would think when Nessie was fully-grown and there was nothing left to hold Jacob back. This chapter is a brief glimpse into possibility. You'll also see the book EYES OF LIGHTNING mentioned, which is a bit of shameless self-promotion on my part—I wrote that book! If you love the romance and sarcasm of "Edward Vs. the Toddler," you'll love EYES OF LIGHTNING. It just released in November, and the ebook is now half-price. For more info, visit my Erin Keyser Horn website. Merry Christmas to all of you, and many blessings in 2013!
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the authors. No money is being made from this work. No copyright infringement is intended.
Edward Vs. His Seven-Going-on-Seventeen Daughter
Ten years ago, Edward Cullen had never met Bella Swan. Nine years ago, he'd almost killed her in Biology II. Eight years ago, he'd almost killed himself in Italy. At the time, their happily-ever-after had seemed impossible. Fathering a child had seemed doubly impossible.
Yet here he stood in the cottage he shared with his wife and daughter. His beautiful family—proof of the impossible. Life was perfect.
The one flaw was time. Time, which should've been on his side. Wasn't that the whole point of immortality? What good was vampirism if he still couldn't outrun time?
Bella slipped her arms around his waist. His self-pity was so consuming, he hadn't noticed her cat-like steps behind him. She rested her cheek between his shoulder blades.
"Nothing. Why do you ask?"
"Because you've done nothing but scowl at the clock for the last twenty minutes. I was worried time had turned you into a statue."
He took a breath—his first in twenty minutes—and tried to relax against her body. She could usually drain his tension like a sieve, but his muscles were still coiled for a run.
"It's about our daughter, isn't it?" She snuggled even closer to him.
"So you're the mind-reader now." He lifted her hands and kissed them.
"You should talk to her before Jacob gets here."
Edward stiffened back into statue mode. "I think you would handle the situation better."
"She's a girl, not a situation."
But Nessie wasn't a girl anymore—that was the problem. Carlisle's tape measure hadn't detected growth for weeks. She'd easily achieved the state's homeschooling requirements for a high school diploma. After just seven years of life, Nessie was a young woman mentally and physically ready for college.
And Jacob Black, the mongrel, was ready to propose to her.
Edward wasn't supposed to know. The day before, he'd come back from a hunt and passed within hearing distance of Jacob and Nessie. They'd been lounging in the shade of birch trees, oblivious to Edward's nearby presence. The conversation had been innocent enough, but Jacob's mind had run wild as a wolf with plans for proposing. It would happen soon. Edward had sprinted home and conveyed the sob story to Bella.
Now the scowl returned to Edward's face. No wonder Jacob had avoided him lately. He was afraid Edward would read his intentions and chase his sorry tail to Canada.
Bella slid in front of him, her arms still locked around his waist. "We've known this was coming for . . . approximately seven years. It was only a matter of time."
"Time," Edward groaned. "Time is a deceiver and a thief."
"Someone's not ready to lose his little girl," Bella said with a gentle smile.
"How can I ever be ready for that?"
She kissed his lips, then led him through the cottage, stopping outside the closed door to Nessie's room. Edward shook his head at Bella, but her smile had grown mischievous. She knocked on the door and flitted away before he could grab her.
"Come in," Nessie invited.
Sighing, he pushed the door open, hesitating on the threshold. Nessie was leaning close to her vanity mirror as she applied eyeliner.
"You don't need makeup," he said automatically. "You're beautiful without it."
It was true. Just when he thought she couldn't get more beautiful, she did. She still had bronze hair curling to her waist, chocolate eyes, and a flawless cream-and-roses complexion. But each day, womanhood seemed to add one more stroke of paint—making her colors a little brighter, her features slightly more defined. Nessie's beauty wasn't static like a vampire's; it was ever evolving.
Most teenage girls would've rolled their painted eyes, told their dads to lighten up or mind their own business. But Nessie smiled at him as if he didn't sound like a broken record. "Thanks, Dad."
Edward almost wished she'd get mad and tell him to leave her alone. Would that make it easier for him? Give him an excuse for putting distance between them?
But he didn't want distance between them, even if it would hurt him more in the long run. He took a few steps closer, gathering courage to speak his mind. He chickened out, as usual. Stalling by her desk, he picked up a book titled Eyes of Lightning. "This any good?"
She nodded before turning back to the mirror. "It has three cute boys. I can't decide which one would be the best fit for Ivy."
"Is it hard to decide in real life?" he blurted.
When she looked back at him, her smile reminded him of Bella. "Not for me."
He forced the words out but couldn't meet her eyes. "You don't have to choose Jacob, you know. Don't feel obligated because of the imprinting. Even if he'd . . . suffer without you, you shouldn't let that influence you. It's your choice." He was rambling as badly as a human Bella. Still, it was better than throwing a tantrum and ordering her never to see Jacob again.
Nessie set down the eyeliner and faced him. From her thoughts, he knew she was wondering what had brought on this conversational detour. "I don't feel obligated, and nothing's influencing me but my own heart. I love Jake—I always have. He's the only choice for me."
He searched her lovely face. He searched her loyal thoughts. Both confirmed her words. He couldn't search her heart, but he could trust her to know it well. He should've felt relieved by his daughter's confidence in her love. But that meant she would say yes when Jacob popped the question. He would lose her to that dirty dog forever.
Some of the conflict must've shown on his face, for Nessie crossed the distance between them. "I want to show you something." She placed her soft palm against his cheek.
Her abilities had grown more powerful over time. She could now transfer vivid images complete with sound, movement, and three-dimensional brilliance. It was like watching a movie in an IMAX theater, except the movie featured people he knew.
Edward saw himself in the woods, walking hand-in-hand with Bella. He was gazing at her with an adoration he would've deemed sappy on anyone else's face. "I love you," he murmured, kissing her.
The image shifted to another scene in the woods. Edward and Bella were gone, leaving Jacob's face as Nessie's sole focus. He had the same gooey expression for her that Edward had for Bella. Thankfully, the movie stopped before Edward could see Jacob's ugly maw closing in for a kiss.
Nessie lowered her hand. "I learned about real love from you and Mom. I can recognize it in Jake and me."
Edward took a sour, unnecessary breath. "If he's what you truly want . . . I won't stand in your way."
"You never have. That's one of the things I love about you, Dad."
As she hugged him and kissed his cheek, Edward realized she had the power to break his heart and put it back together again. She'd always had that power over him, and she always would.
After Jacob picked up Nessie for their date and Edward did his best not to tear out his throat, Bella dragged Edward to the couch and tried to massage his rock-hard shoulders.
"I'm proud of you," she whispered in his ear.
He glared at the clock, counting the minutes Nessie was gone. "If they get married, they might have a baby—25% human, 25% vampire, and 50% puppy."
Bella laughed, a symphony of bells. "And you'll be the best-looking grandpa in the world."
He rubbed his temples. "Please don't call me that."
She continued as if she hadn't heard him. "Maybe then you'll get the true toddler experience. I think I still have a box of Cheerios around here somewhere . . ."