A/N: OK so I stink at writing this story now, but I'll keep plugging away.
I would like to recommend two amazing stories that have been entered for the Age of Edward Contest:
Infamy by Jennde: http://www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/s/5193810/1/Infamy
Beneath the Silent Moon by Britherthansunshine28: http://www(dot)fanfiction(dot)net/s/5194909/1/Beneath_the_Silent_Moon
OH and if you know what's good for you, you'll read Rabbit Hole by profmom72. It's the best AU story ever written. Maybe the best story ever written period.
FINALLY! Announcing the Once Upon a Twilight Contest hosted by myself and Everwondering. It's twilight with a fairytale twist! Link is on my profile!! (Please please please check it out... yes, I'm begging)
Chapter 10 Devotion
Edward had come to enjoy going to church, and today as he looked down the pew at Bella's family including Charlie and even his sister and Jasper he felt… complete. Edward found himself not wanting to wait two more months to get married. He wondered what father Almeada would do if Edward raised his hand in the middle of the Homily and asked him to marry them immediately.
That might lead to Alice committing murder in church though, and Edward might not know Jesus that well yet, but he was pretty sure that might irritate him. Edward decided he would have to wait to marry Bella until their wedding day and made it through the rest of the service trying to stay in the good graces of JC. Today's camping trip would still provide plenty of excitement.
Edward and his dad had gone camping a few times, and he was pretty sure Jasper could survive outdoors, but the closest Alice had come to camping was staying at a fully furnished cabin in Paradise Valley complete with indoor hot tub and waterfall. The next few days were bound to be an adventure. After church they each went home to get their things and then met up at Emmett's. Edward was determined to treat this time as sacred since it was on Bella's list, and he would not risk another baseball game fiasco.
Emmett had plenty of camping equipment for Edward, Bella, and Charlie to use. They had picked up some sleeping bags and new jackets for the trip. Alice had looked at preparing for the trip as an opportunity to shop uncharted territory. She outfitted herself and her husband with every piece of merchandise from REI they could possibly need. When they met the group at Emmett's house, the two of them looked like they just walked off the cover of a rock climbing magazine. They had on matching khaki cargo pants and fleece pullovers with the collars flipped up. They wore similar hiking boots and had backpacks with water bottles attached by repelling carabineers.
Edward noticed Bella trying to hold her laughter in as Jasper stood aloof to the rest of them and Alice had both of her arms around his waist looking up towards the mountains as the breeze whipped through their hair. They made the oddest pair of outdoorsmen any of them had ever seen, and their expensive gear belied the fact that they had absolutely no idea what they were getting themselves into. Emmett and Charlie were loading stuff into the back of the Expedition, and Emory looked so excited that he could barely contain himself. Rosalie and Maude were staying behind. It had been an usually warm spring so far, but it was sure to be frigid at night in the mountains.
Finally, everyone was set. Emmett gave his wife and daughter a long kiss goodbye and loaded the rest of his family including his dad into the Expedition. Bella and Edward rode in the King Cab of Jasper's Tundra, and they headed west.
"So what do we do first? Do we build the fire? Set up the tents? Forage for our dinner?" Alice asked excitedly turning to Edward.
"Listen sis, I'm not the expert here. Charlie and Emmett are the pros. I'm just here to protect Bella from mountain lions."
"Oh and who will be protecting you?" Bella giggled.
"Jasper." Edward dead panned.
Jasper shook his head in silent agreement as Bella and Alice giggled. "I can't wait to eat s'mores. I love me some s'mores. S'more s'mores for me please!" Alice bounced.
"That's all you need is s'more sugar." Bella reached her hand over the seat and tried to hold Alice still.
Eventually Alice crashed from her sugar rush and fell asleep. Jasper was listening to NPR, and Bella was lazily running her fingers up and down Edward's leg. It was about to drive him crazy. He leaned over and whispered to her, "Please stop that. The thought of being separated from you for the next two nights is making me crazy."
"What do you mean separated?"
"There's no way I'm going anywhere near you to sleep with Emmett around. He'll feed me to the bears or something."
"Well there's no way I'm sleeping without my favorite cuddle bumpkin." Bella squeezed his arm.
"Mmmm hmmm. I'm a grown woman. Emmett can deal with it."
Edward wished he shared Bella's confidence. All he could think about was the impending doom that was sure to come from Emmett's hands.
They arrived at the campsite. It reminded Edward of he and Bella's first date when they went hiking. The memory made him smile as he helped his fiancée out of the truck. Emmett started barking orders. Edward and Jasper set up Alice's tent which was more like a luxury villa. Emmett single handedly set up the other two tents. There was a smaller two man tent and a large 6 person tent. Bella started dragging her and Edward's stuff to the two man tent.
Edward's worst fears were realized when he noticed Emmett scowling at him. Edward had never been so interested in nature. He started taking in the beautiful view like he'd never been outside before. Anything to avoid Emmett's stare. Out of the corner of his eye, Edward saw Emmett bending down and talking to Emily. When he stood back up, he had a smug look on his face. Emily came running up to Edward excitedly.
"Daddy says I can sleep in Bella's tent!" she squealed.
"Oh he did?"
"Yes, as long as you say it's okay." Emily looked up at Edward full of hope and joy.
"Well, I think it might be a little crowded." Edward said uncomfortably.
Emory overheard the conversation and whined, "Daaaaaaaaaad, I want to sleep in Uncle Edward's tent too."
"No problem slugger. You guys can have the big tent. Dad and I will take the twofer." Emmett hollered.
"No way. Have you ever tried to sleep near Emmett? It's like a fog horn going off every three seconds with his snoring. I'd rather sleep under the stars."
"Sleep with us grandpa!" Emily started jumping and down. "It's a slumber party!"
Edward smiled half heartedly at Charlie who could clearly see the feigned excitement on his face. Charlie laughed and slapped Edward on the shoulder. "Let's go get the rest of the gear, son."
Emory and Emily ran to tell Bella the good news. She tried to tell them no, which reduced Emily to tears. Edward knew she wouldn't be able to resist the tears, and like he predicted, she quickly gave in and agreed. Bella got her wish. She would be in the same tent as Edward - along with two small children and her dad. The trip was sure to be full of romance.
They got everything unpacked and settled. Jasper and Charlie got started putting food together, Emmett played with the kids, and Alice got to work decorating her palace. Edward and Bella walked toward the lake that was less than fifty yards from their campsite and started skipping stones in the water.
"So how do you feel about everything with Charlie now?" Edward asked once they were alone.
"Really good. I can't explain it. It's like this cloud has lifted. I want to understand everything that happened with my mom, but not yet. Right now, I just want to be here."
"I want you to be here too." Edward said grabbing her hand and then pulling her to him. Their bodies were flush against each other and they looked into each other's eyes for a moment smiling before Bella wrapped her arms around his neck and they began to kiss. They broke apart when Edward was hit in the head by a Nerf football.
"Hey, knock it off, you two," Emmett yelled. "Don't forget about how Father Obrien used to always tell us to leave room for Jesus!"
Bella sighed against Edward's chest and he rubbed her back a few times chuckling before she let him go. That night they sat around the campfire all feeling a bit ill from over dosing on s'mores. Emily was sitting on Bella's lap, and Emory was leaning on her arm. Edward loved seeing her with the kids, and for the millionth time he suppressed the ache in his chest that always came when he thought about the fact that they wouldn't be able to create a life together. Edward hoped they would adopt, but something about that still didn't seem quite the same.
Emily's eyes were closed, and Emory looked tired too. "I think I better take these little cuties to bed," Bella said. She stood to carry Emily to the tent. Edward started to stand to follow her with Emory, but Alice jumped up. "I'll walk with him. I'm getting tired, and I want to read some."
Bella looked at Edward and shrugged. Edward looked at Emmett who was giving Edward a look that told him not to dare trying to make out with his sister while his kids were in the tent. Edward smiled at Bella and settled back into his seat.
"Just us guys now," Emmett said stretching out with a satisfied look on his face.
The four of them sat around silently so long that it started to get awkward. "So how's business these days Edward?" Emmett finally asked.
"Good. It's good," Edward answered. "How's the restaurant?"
"Oh same old same old," Emmett said. "We're thinking about adding some seafood items to the menu."
The three men shook their heads like they were interested.
"Hope we'll catch some big ones tomorrow," Charlie said.
"I haven't fished in years," Jasper said.
"No, kidding." Charlie said. There was another awkward silence.
"I love this. Sitting under the stars, listening to the night, bonding," Emmett said.
"Yep," Edward said.
"Uh huh," Jasper said.
"JASPER I NEED YOU!" Alice yelled from their tent. Jasper jumped up and jogged to the tent. The other three sat in silence until he came back a few minutes later.
"What did she need?" Edward asked.
"She wanted me to zip up her sleeping bag. She was getting cold."
The three men snickered and Jasper rolled his eyes. Less than a minute later, "JASPER!"
"Yes dear?" he yelled back.
"Can you come here for a second?"
"Sure thing." Jasper jumped up and ran back toward Alice. When he came back he did not escape the ridicule of his companions.
"Jasper, I need you to jump up and come running the second I say so!" Emmett said in a girly voice.
"Jasper, I need you to run around in circles," Charlie chuckled.
"Jasper I need you to go to the store and buy me some tampons," Edward added.
Jasper didn't look the least bit embarrassed. He shrugged and sat back down. "Jasper!" Alice called for the third time. He jumped up and jogged back to the tent. He was gone for longer this time.
"That guy is so whipped," Emmett said.
Edward let out a quiet laugh that got Emmett's attention. "You got something to say, Cullen?"
"You're making fun of Jasper, yet I've noticed you are quite attentive to your own wife as well," Edward said and took a long drink of his soda.
"It's all about letting her think she wears the pants," Emmett said, and Charlie shook his head.
"So, when she told you that you were not allowed to play basketball anymore on Sundays, you agreed because you're really the one in charge?" Edward challenged.
"Something like that," Emmett mumbled.
"Men, I haven't been married for over fifteen years, but I can tell you one thing. If you're woman isn't happy, nobody's gonna be happy. Jasper seems like a smart man to me." Charlie said.
Edward and Emmett nodded at Charlie's wisdom. Jasper came back a few minutes later with an easy grin on his face. He seemed a bit flushed and his shirt was disheveled. He sat down in his chair, opened a drink, and smiled. "So worth it," he said before taking a drink.
Edward was used to Jasper and Alice's antics, but the thought of his sister… well it still made him feel ill.
"So Edward, are you looking forward to marrying my daughter?" Charlie saved Edward from himself.
"More than anything in the world," Edward said.
Emmett and Jasper chuckled. "What?" Edward asked defensively.
"More than anything," Emmett said in a feminine voice.
"Anything in the whole world," Jasper mocked.
Edward was about to argue, but they were right. Bella had turned him into a lovey dovey, flower loving, sighing, romantic comedy watching, head in the clouds girl. "Can't help it," he shrugged.
"Well at least we know you love her," Charlie muttered rolling his eyes a bit.
A few minutes later, Jasper excused himself to go to bed, and Edward followed soon after leaving Emmett and Charlie alone for some father and son bonding. He climbed into the tent and found Emily snuggled up beside Bella with her little arm draped over Bella's back. It was cute, but she was kind of in Edward's spot. He shifted on his feet trying to decide what to do about it.
"Hey," Bella whispered.
"Wanna sneak off into the woods and make out?" Edward whispered back.
"Where am I supposed to sleep?"
"In your sleeping bag?"
"Edward, just lay on the other side of her. I'll be right here."
"Okay," he sighed and drug his sleeping bag over to his spot and climbed into it. Emory was sleeping on the other side of the tent near Charlie's sleeping bag. He was snoring.
"Like father like son, I guess." Edward nodded in Emory's direction.
Bella turned on her side so that they were facing each other while Emily slept between them. She rolled her eyes and shook her head. "Did you guys have fun?" Bella whispered.
"I guess. I was just telling Charlie how much I'm looking forward to marrying you."
"You are?" Bella pretended to be surprised.
"So much they made fun of me for being mushy."
Bella smiled and looked at Edward in that way that made him feel like Superman. He smiled back at her and they just laid there staring at each other and smiling. Edward realized how incredibly cheesy this was, but he didn't care. He loved cheese – American, cheddar, Swiss, Provolone, and Bella.
Their dairyness was interrupted when they heard a low growl coming from outside the tent. "What was that?" Bella shot up.
"I don't know." Edward sat up too and strained to hear anything else.
A few seconds later they heard it again. "Edward! There's some sort of animal out there! It could be a mountain lion or a grizzly bear!"
"I'm sure it's just a raccoon or something," Edward said. Then the growl got closer and louder. Bella grabbed Emily and held her close to her body.
"Edward, the kids!"
"Shhhh. Maybe if we are quiet it will go away."
Emily woke up and said, "Aunt Bella, what's wrong? You're hurting me."
"Nothing sweetie," Bella said but didn't let go of her.
Edward moved near the entrance to the tent and listened. He was just about to unzip it a little bit to peak out, when they heard something scratching the tarp on the other wall of the tent. Bella screamed and her shriek caused Emily to scream too.
"Girls, you've got to be quiet!" Edward knew he had to go out there then and try and distract whatever it was from the tent. Charlie had a shotgun with him, if he could just get his attention from where he and Emmett were sitting. Surely he heard the girls screaming.
Edward grabbed a flashlight and held it like a club. "Stay here," he said forcefully to the girls. Emory was still snoring. He unzipped the tent with his free hand and peaked outside.
"Oh Edward, be careful!" Bella cried.
He didn't see anything. He stepped out of the tent and with a whoosh went flying through the air. He landed on his side and fought to push himself free from the clutches of the wild animal. The wild animal was laughing though as it pinned Edward down. The wild animal was Emmett.
"Oh man, I got you good," Emmett bellowed before standing up and wiping the dirt off his jeans. Edward just stayed on his back on the hard ground glaring at Emmett. For some reason he did not find this amusing.
Emily and Bella peeked their heads out of the tent. Once Bella realized what had happened, she exploded, "Emmett, you scared your daughter half to death. Of all the bad parents in the world, you have got to be the most selfish, stupid, idiotic…"
"Calm down, Bella. It was a joke," Emmett said still laughing. By this time, Alice and Jasper had come out of their tent and were laughing too.
"My dad was the bear?" Emily asked with big eyes.
"Something like that," Bella muttered.
"Dad!" Emily said and shaking her head the same way Rosalie often did when Emmett did something ridiculous.
"You weren't scared were you baby?"
"That's my girl." Emmett winked at Emily. Bella sneered at her traitor niece.
Edward finally made himself move from the ground ignoring the hand Emmett offered to help him. He'd hit the ground hard, and he knew he was going to feel it in the morning. Without a word, he walked back toward the tent looking up to meet Charlie's eyes on the way.
"I had nothing to do with this. I'm an innocent bystander." Charlie held his hands up.
Edward nodded in his direction and went back into the tent. He carefully picked up Emily's sleeping bag, moved it to the other side of Bella's and held out his hand to help her back into it. Emily hugged and kissed him on the cheek before letting him zip her up into it. Edward brushed her blonde locks out of her eyes and told her to have sweet dreams. Bella got in her sleeping bag, and kissed Edward on the cheek as well as he zipped hers up. Edward then laid down in the space he owned at Bella's side and reached an arm across her body where it belonged. Instead of resting it on her back like usual, he took Emily's hand on the other side and fell asleep.
The rest of the camping trip was fun for everyone. Bella got her revenge when she managed to push Emmett into the lake. Charlie and Emory bonded over fishing and managed to catch enough for the second evening's dinner. Alice was proud of her propensity for roughing it and bragged about it as she gave herself a pedicure. Edward and Bella snuck off into the woods to make out three times, and only got caught by Bella's father once. Edward would now count that as his most embarassing moment to date, but consoled himself with the thought that it was probably another teenage rite of passage Bella had missed.
Wednesday was full of tears and promises to visit more often when everyone told Charlie goodbye. Alice stood off to the side sobbing like a fool, and Edward wondered if she knew that Charlie wasn't even related to her. Bella held on to her dad for a long time when it was time for him to go. Edward thought even the stoic police chief got a little emotional, but he couldn't be sure.
Edward hugged his future father in law. "So we'll be seeing you in a couple of months for the wedding right?"
"Sure thing," Charlie said patting Edward on the back.
"Oh dad, I forgot," Bella said quickly. "Will you…um, well, will you…" She got tongue tied and embarrassed all the sudden. "I was hoping you would walk me down the aisle with grandpa to give me away. Like one of you on each side?"
Charlie got a huge smile on his face. None of them had ever seen a look so bright coming from him before. "That sounds great!"
"Hello, Mr. Whidbey. I'm so glad to finally meet you. Tori has told me so much about your company over the past two days."
"Please call me Laurent," the man in the expensive business suit said as he shook hands with Edward outside his office. His clothes contrasted the small hoop earrings in his ears, long dreadlocks, and the gold chain that hung from his neck with a small dragon pendant.
"Please, come in and have a seat."
"Thank you," Laurent followed Edward in and sat down in one of two leather chairs in the small sitting area. Tori came in and joined them as well.
"As much as I appreciate you choosing our company for this project, I must say I'm still not clear on why you're firm needs something this… well for lack of a better term, advanced? I can assure you some of the systems we've done for similar brokerages and banks in the past would keep your firm's data from being vulnerable."
"Yes, yes. I'm sure you're right, but some of my investors need reassurance that we have the best protection money can buy. Tori assures me that you work on the cutting edge in your field, and can manage to provide me with the technology I've requested."
"Yes, I'm sure this can be done. This is just, well, this is military grade technology we're talking about. It's more than you need. You'll be wasting your investors' money," Edward said honestly.
"Money is not my main concern. What I am able to tell my investors that sets my company apart from my competition is my concern."
"I understand," Edward said while thinking this whole thing was a little silly, but also that if he could pull this off his company would yield significant earnings.
"I'm going to do most of the programming myself, but Tori will be my liason between here and Chicago. She will be flying back and forth when parts of the system go live. She and her team will handle the installation and training of personnel. I'm sure she's gone over the specifics with you, but I wanted to meet you face to face as well."
"I appreciate that, and I look forward to seeing what you come up with," Laurent said standing.
The two men shook hands once more, and said goodbye. Tori remained professional as well and followed Laurent out.
Review or else. I'm not telling you what will happen, and trust me – YOU DON'T WANT TO FIND OUT!