AN: I'm not going to bore you with a message here. I will save it all for the end. Read on!
"It's not as bad as I thought. Hold up." I heard some rustling before my cousin's voice came back on the line. "Okay, so I ran the numbers against those from the last six months. There's been a steady increase in investors, at least 13%. Not bad. Did you get the fax I sent you?"
"Yeah, I got it right here." I picked up a sheet of paper from the pile next to me as someone cleared their throat. I looked up and saw Bella leaning against the door frame. I smiled at her and held up my finger. She nodded, walking into the office.
"So, you're looking at a general breakdown of the company – who holds what accounts and so forth," James was saying, and I quickly diverted my attention back to the paperwork. "From the looks of this, we have a few hemorrhagers."
Bella walked up behind me, wrapping her arms around my shoulders. "James, you know that's not a word, right?" I asked, as I tilted my face up to hers for a brief kiss.
"Yeah, whatever," He brushed me off. "But what I mean is, we have clients who aren't holding up their end of the bargains, so to speak. What we need is a total reconstruction internally, and that's what the second paper I faxed over is."
I looked closely at the second page, analyzing his numbers. "Wow, that's a 20% increase within a year."
"I know it's not much -"
"No," I cut him off, sitting up straighter. Bella's hands fell away and she perched herself on the edge of the desk, watching me intently. "For a company this big, that's huge. Have you showed this to anyone else?"
"Not yet. I wanted to know where you stood on this."
"Well, I think it sounds like a smart move. Think you can put something together so we can present it to the other board members when I'm there next week?"
"Yeah, I'll start working on it today."
"Good." There was an awkward pause, and I was about to say my goodbyes when he spoke again.
"So, how's Bella? I mean, how are things with you guys?"
"Um, she's good. We're good," I replied, sliding my hand over Bella's, giving it a gentle squeeze.
"Good. That's good." Pause. "So, I guess I'll see you both next week."
"See you next week." We said our goodbyes and hung up.
"Good chat?" Bella asked, sliding herself onto my lap.
I wrapped my arms around her waist. "Mhmm, it wasn't bad."
She leaned down and kissed my nose. "Well, at least you're talking again. And he seems to be adjusting well in his new position."
I brushed my lips across her neck. "How about we stop talking about his position, and talk more about your current position?" I trailed my lips up to her ear, nipping slightly.
Bella giggled, pushing on my chest lightly. "Real smooth, Casanova, but we are meeting Alice and Jasper in an hour. And besides, the contractors are here. There will be no peep show happening."
As if on cue, a loud banging sounded from downstairs. Bella gave me a look as if to say 'see?' and went to stand up. I tightened my grip around her, burying my face in her neck. She squealed, struggling to get away.
"Excuse me, Miss Swan, Mr. Cullen?" I let my head fall back against my chair with a groan. "Sorry for the interruption, but I had a few questions regarding the cabinet placement."
Bella smiled down at me. "I got this, babe. Finish up in here, and meet me downstairs." She gave me a quick peck and followed the contractor out. We've had contractors in and out of the house for the past few weeks and it appeared they would be here for the next few months as well. I was never going to have my girlfriend to myself.
With a sigh, I gathered up all the papers James had faxed me, looking over them once more. My eyes scanned the letterhead. James Cullen, CEO. Who would have thought? But he seemed to be doing well in his new role, at least on the business side. His personal life was still something to talk about, but he was working on it. And while we weren't the best of friends that we used to be, we were still working on that as well. I sat back in the chair, thinking of everything that had happened since Bella and I got back together.
Following many unanswered phone calls, James had finally had enough. He jumped on a plane and flew out to Forks, surprising us all once again. I'd wanted nothing to do with him and told him as much when he showed up at my place. Surprisingly, it was Bella who convinced me to hear him out. She kept going on about how he was my cousin who obviously had something to say, considering he flew all the way out here. As with anything with her, I relented and agreed to meet James – but in a public place so I wouldn't be tempted to kick his. After a few false starts, James actually apologized. He admitted he jumped the gun when he saw the papers naming me as CEO.
"I felt like a complete ass when Gramps sat me down and explained what was really going on. We both got played. I just wanted to get that out there, you know? That I'm sorry and shit."
After that, James headed back to Chicago. There were more conversations that followed with both Anthony and James. Anthony still wanted me to be a part of the company, he had never wanted me completely out. After much debating and talking it over with Bella, I was made a silent partner, co-CEO. I was very adamant that I wanted nothing to do with the day to day business and would not be relocating to Chicago. James was the front man; he made the majority of the decisions. I was only called to weigh in on the important matters overseeing the company as a whole. James and I didn't really have much interaction except for conference calls and whatnot. And of course, we'd be seeing him next week when I finally got Bella to Chicago.
I smiled to myself as I filed away the papers. I couldn't wait to show Bella around Chicago. We didn't really have much interaction except for conference calls and whatnot. And of course, we'd be seeing him next week when we arrived. We were going to spend two weeks there, a little vacation before things got crazy. We needed this. I turned off the fan and headed downstairs. Forks was having a heat wave and the house was boiling.
"Damn, babe. When will the air cond – OW FUCK!" I shouted, grabbing my knee. "WHO THE HELL PUT THIS HERE?" I gestured to a table which was currently placed right in the middle of the hallway.
"Oh, Mr. Cullen. I'm so sorry, sir." Some worker whose name I couldn't remember ran over and began picking up the papers that had scattered on the floor.
"Edward? Sweetie, are you okay?" Bella hurried over to me, expertly sidestepping the rogue table. She carefully ran her fingers over my knee before I pulled her into my arms.
"When did our house become a fucking episode of Survivor?" I grumbled into her neck. I felt Bella laugh which just made me grumble more. "This can't be good for you. All this noise and chemicals and shit."
Bella placed her finger over my mouth, silencing me. "Edward, we talked about this. Everything is fine. We're fine. You worry too much."
I sighed, running my hand down her side until it reached the curve of her belly. I lightly ran my fingers over the small bump before leaning and placing a soft kiss on her lips. "Well, I've got double to worry about now.
Bella rolled her eyes, but a soft smile played on her lips. "You're incorrigible. Now, let's go." I opened my mouth to protest. "Jake is here to supervise the workers, so you don't have to worry about our things going missing."
I glared down at her, unamused at her teasing and was about to tell her so when the "supervisor" in question came around the corner.
"You don't have to worry, Eddie. Your possessions are safe with me," Jake said, grinning at me before taking a drink from the beer he was holding.
"Safe, my ass. That's my fucking beer," I muttered as Bella giggled.
"Miss. Swan, I just need a signature on this form before you leave," one of the workers called out. Bella squeezed my hand and made her way back toward the kitchen with Jake following behind.
I walked into the living room, greeting workers as I passed. The living room, the office, and our bedroom were the only areas that were untouched by the construction. Before finding out Bella was pregnant, we were already discussing our current living situation. After much conversations, we decided that if we were going to stay in this house, we needed more space. I knew that she wanted to stay, and if I were being honest, I enjoyed living here. My only concern was that it didn't quite feel like it was ours. That's when we decided to make some changes.
Our initial plans were just to add a guest bedroom downstairs and remodel the upstairs bathroom. Once we found out Bella was pregnant, we added an additional bedroom to the upstairs. When my parents caught wind of what we were doing, they decided that as an early birthday gift to Bella, they would pay to have the kitchen. I, of course, knew that they were actually doing this in thanks of giving them another grandchild. So now we had contractors working around the clock to make sure they met our deadline. And for what we were paying them, our home better be completed by the time our baby was born.
I still couldn't quite wrap my mind around the fact that I was going to be a father. But here I was, remodeling a home to make room for a family. When the hell did all this happen?
"You ready?" Bella asked, coming up behind me.
Turning around, I smiled down at her. "Yeah, I'm ready.
"If it's a girl, they'll obviously be best friends. Ooh, and if it's a boy-"
"Alice," I said, cutting her off. "If it's a boy, nothing. Because what you're thinking is classified as incest."
My sister stuck her tongue out at me as she rubbed her hands over her own protruding stomach. I glanced over at Jasper who was just shaking his head, quietly laughing to himself. He caught me looking and raised his glass of iced tea in mock salute. I tipped my head in his direction and rolled my eyes. I honestly couldn't decide if having Bella and my sister both pregnant at the same time was a blessing or a curse.
Alice had found out she was pregnant about three months before Bella surprised me with the news. Once my sister found out about us, she'd done nothing but talk about the future of our children. Ours. Like my kid was hers.
"We've decided on a name." I sat up then, turning toward Alice, who was practically bouncing out of her seat after her confession.
Bella smiled, reaching down and linking her hand with mine. "I'm surprised it took you this long," Bella teased. I grinned, lightly running my thumb over her hand.
Unlike Bella and I, my sister and Jasper decided to find out what they were having. Alice said she needed to know for obvious planning reasons and pestered us to do the same. It wasn't that we decided against knowing, we just didn't need to know right now. Hell, I was still getting used to the fact that there was a little human inside my girlfriend. Besides, we were probably going to find out next week anyway when Bella went in for her check-up.
"Well, it had to be perfect," Alice stated matter-of-factly, looking over at Jasper who quickly agreed.
"Of course it did, babe."
Alice beamed at him before focusing her attention back to us. She cleared her throat. "Baylee Marie."
My eyes widened as Bella spoke. "Oh, Alice, that's beautiful."
"Um, Alice," I said, shifting in my seat. Both Alice and Bella looked over at me. "Marie?' I glanced down at Bella. "You know that's Bella's middle name, right?"
Bella gave me am annoyed look as Alice broke into laughter. "Of course I did, silly! That was part of its appeal."
Bella's head snapped toward Alice. "Wait, what? Alice..."
Alice held up her hand. "Bella, before you go getting the wrong idea, let me say that I'm not naming my baby after you. Marie has always been one of my top choices as a middle name for a girl. It's always been on my list. When I was little, I used to keep a notebook with future baby names."
"It's true, she did," I whispered in Bella's ear.
"The fact that it's also my best friend's middle name just further proves to me that it's perfect."
There was a moment of silence before Bella squealed and launched herself off of the couch at Alice. I bit my lip trying not to laugh, because if you had ever seen two pregnant women trying to hug, then you knew how funny it could look. After a few moments, they finally settled down, and Bella was back in my arms on the couch.
"Now Bella, about your birthday-"
"Alice," Bella warned.
My sister looked the perfection of innocence as she stared wide-eyed back at us. "What? I was just going to say, that despite the fact that you hate celebrating the day of your birth, some of us actually like it. Therefore, Mom would like you at their house at 7pm sharp for dinner. That is all."
"Really. That's all that I have planned for you."
I felt Bella sigh in relief as she leaned over to pick up her glass. My sister shot me a quick wink over the top of Bella's head. Technically, that was all Alice had planned for Bella's birthday. I, on the other hand, had some plans of my own. Which reminded me that I needed to call Charlotte and make sure everything was all set.
"Where did you go?" Bella whispered, trailing her finger down the side of my jaw.
I blinked and looked down at her. "What? When?"
"Just now." Bella shifted, angling her body to face me.
"I've been right here," I smiled, placing a kiss on her forehead. Her eyes narrowed, not quite believing me. "My mind is right here," I reiterated, my hand flat against her stomach.
"Aww, aren't you two just the cutest?" Jasper teased, giving my cheek a pinch as he walked by. "Let's go eat!" Alice followed behind him, laughing as she held her hand out to Bella.
The girls set up the table outside while I helped Jasper at the grill. We talked about catching an upcoming Mariner's game in the coming weeks, and maybe even dragging along Emmett since they were his seats. Alice kept trying to convince Bella and I to go baby shopping, but instantly quieted when I reminded her that we didn't have a baby room yet. It was a nice, relaxing afternoon. Nice to be away from the hospital and also the chaos that was overtaking our house. I was more than content to just chill out and relax.
"We need to stop by Thriftway. We need milk," Bella said, as were driving home later that evening.
"Okay, babe," I responded, lacing my fingers through hers.
"And eggs. And maybe we should get some more sugar. I suddenly want to make cupcakes." I chuckled, not at all surprised by this decision. "Ooh, and bell peppers!"
"For the cupcakes?" I asked, confused.
"Ew, Edward, who puts bell peppers in cupcakes?"
I shrugged, turning into the Thriftway's parking lot. "We were talking about cupcakes and then you suddenly shouted out bell peppers. How was I supposed to know you changed topics? You are pregnant." Shit. "Ow!" A loud smack sounded through the car as Bella slapped the back of my head. "Shit, baby, I'm sorry."
"Yes, I'm pregnant, but I still have taste buds. I eat your cooking after all."
I pulled into an empty spot and shut off the car, turning so that I was facing her. "I am a very good cook, Miss Swan. I believe you have told me this on multiple occasions, so don't go playing this 'I eat your cooking' shit or we can go back to Hot Pockets and frozen pizzas."
Bella's mouth dropped open in mock horror. "You wouldn't."
"Oh, yes I would."
She just shook her head. "You wouldn't do that to him or her," Bella stated gleefully, rubbing her hand over her stomach. She grinned in triumph knowing she had me. There was no way in hell my child was eating anything less than delicious and nutritious.
Her laughter followed me as I climbed out of the car, making my way around to her side. Bella had the door open and both feet on the ground when I held out my hand to help her up. I closed the door behind her, pulling her body close to mine. I gave her a quick kiss before whispering in her ear.
"I could always just insert a feeding line directly into the womb so that the baby gets all of the nutrients and you get none of the pleasure of sampling my delectable meals."
She looked shocked for a moment and then the corners of her mouth turned up in an evil grin. "Oh, I don't know about that, Eddy. I think I get plenty of pleasure from sampling your delectables."
I jumped as her hand squeezed me through my jeans. She laughed at my expression, twisting out of my arms and heading toward the store. I shook my head after her, swearing under my breath. The mother of my child, ladies and gentleman.
"You can't fire me!" I looked up to see Jessica storming out of Carlisle's office.
My father walked out behind her, pinching the bridge of his nose. "Miss. Stanley, please, calm down. I don't want to have to call security."
At the word security, Jessica's eyes bugged out. I half expected to see steam rising out of her ears. "Security! Just try, I dare you. Fuck it. I don't need this place. I'm going to own my own business. I don't need this shit!"
She pivoted on her heels and stormed down the hall, heading directly toward where I was standing. She stopped directly in front of me and jabbed her fake manicured finger into my chest.
"Don't think I don't know that you had something to do with this." I looked down at her in amusement, smirking as she continued her rant. "Just remember, as soon as that store is mine, I'm firing that bitch girlfriend of yours."
My eyes narrowed, and I took a step toward her, forcing her back. "Jessica!" Carlisle shouted. Jessica looked up, noticing that our day shift security guard was standing beside her. She let out a yell and stormed out of the ER, the door slamming into the wall after her.
"Crazy bitch," I muttered under my breath as Carlisle delivered apologies to the few patients in the waiting room.
"Edward, can you come in here, son?"
I looked up from the chart in my hands and nodded at my father. "Go ahead and release him, Heidi. But tell him to come back immediately if there's any inflammation."
"Yes, Dr. Cullen." Heidi took the chart from me and headed down the hall. I turned and walked the opposite way, following my father into his office.
"Have a seat," Carlisle said as I shut the door behind me. I cautiously took the chair in front of his desk, not knowing what he wanted to talk to me about. Our interactions hadn't quite been the same since he revealed to me his involvement in everything that went down with Anthony.
"What's up?" I asked as nonchalantly as I could.
Carlisle took the seat across from me, pulling a folder out from his drawer. He held it up for me to see then placed it between us. "This is your file. Your residency requirements are almost fulfilled; all that's left is the surgical rotation, which you've already proven your excellence in that area. I guess what I'm asking is, what are your plans?"
"What do you mean?" I asked, confused. I was pretty sure I had already made my future plans pretty clear, what with remodeling a house and having a baby.
"I'm going to be cutting back my surgical duties, focusing more on internal medicine. The hospital will be looking for someone to take on that responsibility. Dr. Laurent has expressed interest in that person being you." Surprise was evident in my face causing my father to smile. "This shouldn't come as that much of a shock, Edward. You're a brilliant doctor." He paused and took a deep breath. "I'm so very proud of you, son."
I looked at him then, really looked at him. I saw the tight creases around his eyes, the lines that defined the years on his face. Maybe it was because it had been a year since the charity event fiasco or maybe it was because I had a child of my own coming, but at that moment, I understood everything that he had done. I was a reckless, spoiled child when Carlisle had made the deal with Anthony to cut me off. I was busy drinking, busy getting arrested while the two of them discussed what to do with the problem children of the family.
Carlisle adored Bella. Loved her like she was his daughter. I knew that he never wanted to hurt her. There was no way he could have foreseen that Bella would become such an important person in my life.
I sat back in the chair and took a deep breath. "Thank you, Dad." He gave a slight nod as I continued. "As for the hospital, I have no problem finishing up the surgical rotation as planned." I paused, wondering if I should bring this up now. "Actually, I heard that Dr. Morris is leaving within the year, and I am interested in his position."
"Pediatrics?" Carlisle asked, surprised.
I nodded. "I've been spending some time down there. And…I don't know. It fits, you know?" I let out a laugh at my inability to explain.
Carlisle laughed along with me. "Honestly, I think that's a great decision. I'll talk to Laurent and see what we can do to get you on that track." He closed the file and placed it back in his desk. He glanced at the clock above the door behind me. "What time is Bella's appointment?"
"3:30." I glanced down at my watch. "Enough time for me to grab some coffee."
I stood up, stretching my arms above my head. Carlisle followed me out of the office, heading down the hall to resume his duties. I walked the opposite direction, making my way to the small cafeteria. Waving hello to Molly, the cashier, I grabbed a cup of coffee and sat down at a table in the corner. I casually flipped through an old copy of Men's Health that was lying on the table while I killed time waiting for Bella's appointment.
At 3:15, I tossed my empty cup in the trash and headed back towards admissions. Bella was already standing at the front desk signing in.
"Hey baby," I whispered into her ear as I slid my arm around her, lightly patting her stomach. "And baby number 2."
"Ugh, you're incorrigible," Bella groaned, but I could hear the smile in her voice.
"We'll call you as soon as the doctor's ready," Heidi said, smiling at the two of us. I thanked her and led Bella over to the chairs in the waiting room.
"You're early," I said, laying my arm around her shoulder.
She shrugged lightly. "I'm a little nervous," she confessed, causing me to lean forward so I could see her face. "Not about the health or anything, which is weird, because that's what I should be nervous about. I mean, it's what any normal parent would be nervous about." She was rambling now, staring down at her hands.
I gently placed my hands over hers, stilling their movement. "Hey, Bella, baby, what's wrong? Talk to me."
With a sigh, she leaned back. "We're finding out the sex today. It's not going to be an it anymore. Or just a baby. It's going to be a boy or a girl." I looked at her, confused, not really following where she was going. "I don't know. It's like, real, you know? I mean," she gestured down to the little bump of her stomach, "it's not like it wasn't real before, but now…" she trailed off.
"We don't have to find out today. We can go on not knowing. It can be an it for as long as you'd like," I teased, smiling as I kissed her cheek. "And Bella, it will still be our baby."
Bella nudged me with her shoulder, but I could see the smile on her face. "I know. And I do want to know what it," she paused, catching herself. "The baby is. I think just talking with Alice has me feeling like I'm not at all prepared for this. I mean, I know we said that we don't care what it is, but have you even thought about it? Like really thought about it?"
"Ok, first mistake there, comparing yourself to Alice. Do you remember that she has had every moment of her life planned in a diary somewhere since she could write?" I took her hand in mine and gave it a gentle squeeze. "And yes, I have thought about this. If it's a girl, then we know that God must hate me because she'll probably be bringing boys like me home and I'll just have to shoot them all, then you'll be married to a convict which would make your father very proud." Bella burst out laughing at this and I continued. "And if it's a boy, well, then I will teach him everything I know about life and women."
"Oh no," Bella said between bits of laughter. "You will teach our boy nothing of the sort. Cooking, that's all you get. And maybe sports, even though I seem to know more about that than you do."
"What?" I cried in outrage. "You wound me with your words, woman."
We were both still laughing when Heidi called us to the back. I stayed with Bella as she changed into the hospital gown and was helping her up onto the examination table when Dr. Gregory walked in. She checked Bella's vitals, asking how she was feeling and everything before pulling up the ultrasound machine. Bella's hand immediately sought mine as Dr. Gregory began rubbing the gel onto her stomach. As the wand touched down on skin, my eyes snapped to the monitor, taking in every detail on the grainy screen. My face broke out into a grin.
"What?" Bella asked, squinting her eyes, trying to see what my trained eye could.
I placed a kiss on her temple. "Let's just say your father won't be needing to make any arrests in the near future, that is unless he turns out like me."
Her eyes widened. "It's a boy?" I couldn't stop grinning, so I just nodded.
"A healthy boy," Dr. Gregory answered.
My eyes kept darting back and forth from the screen to the beautiful woman lying on the table. A boy. I was going to have a son. I leaned over and ran my finger down the front of the screen, slowly tracing his outline. A million thoughts and feelings were running through me that I didn't know how to tell from the other. I stared at the tiny being on the screen and vowed right there that I would do anything in my power to make sure no harm ever came to him. That he only knew love and was able to love in return.
Shit, you would think I was the one with the pregnancy hormones.
"Oh great, now there's going to be two of them," Bella said from behind me. I turned around and matched her smile with one of my own.
"Are you okay?" Bella asked as she pulled back her side of the blankets and climbed into bed.
I marked my page in the book I was reading and placed in on the bedside table. "Yeah, of course. Why wouldn't I be?"
She shrugged, turning off the lamp on her side. "I don't know. You were kinda quiet during dinner."
Turning off the lamp next to me, I pulled Bella into my arms. "Baby, I am perfect."
"Okay," she said, snuggling in next to me. We were quiet for a moment, neither of us able to fall asleep. "A boy."
"A boy," I repeated, smiling. "But now comes the hard part. We need a name. Hmm…boys names, boys names. What do I like?" I muttered to myself.
"What do you like? Oh no, no, no," Bella said, rolling over onto her side so that she was facing me. "If I let you pick the name, our son would end up being called Spock or Solo or something."
"Hey," I protested. "I was actually thinking more along the lines of James Kirk Cullen. It's got a nice ring to it, don't ya think?" The moonlight shone brightly through the room and I could make out Bella rolling her eyes. "No? Wait, I got it! Jean-Luc, middle name Picard. That's a nice strong– ow!" I cried out as Bella slapped my chest. "Abuse! This is major. I don't think you're taking this as seriously as I am."
"We are NOT naming him after some Star Trek character. You are such a nerd."
"Oh, and what do you suggest? Something from Gilmore Girls, perhaps? Luke? Dean? What was the name of Rory's other boyfriend?" I asked, pulling her closer to me.
"There's nothing wrong with Logan," Bella stated, as she tried to push me away but was failing miserably.
"If I can't have Jean-Luc, you can't have your boy crush." I reached down, gripping her thighs, and pulled her so that she was now straddling me.
Bella squealed, placing her hands on my bare chest for support. "Boy crush? Does that mean Captain James T Kirk is your boy crush?"
I sat up, wrapping my arms around her. "Oh, honey, don't you even know me at all? I'm Next Gen all the way. Captain Jean-Luc Picard, that's my man."
Bella was still laughing as I slid my hand around the base of her neck and pulled her mouth down to mine. Her lips parted in a sigh and I slid my tongue gently into her mouth. We were both panting when we pulled away, and I pressed my forehead to hers, smiling.
"So, no? No Jean-Luc? We could go completely off the wall. How do you feel about Brutus?"
Bella let out a little growl and fisted her hand in my hair. "Shut up," she said before she began placing hot kisses down the side of my neck.
"Ok, so I guess we'll discuss this later then?" My teasing was cut off as Bella intentionally shifted her hips, rubbing against my now hard cock. "Yes, definitely later," I mumbled as I forced her mouth back to mine. God bless pregnancy hormones.
I made quick work of her shirt, throwing it hastily in the corner. My hands cupped her breasts, which had become fuller during the pregnancy. Bella moaned into my mouth as my fingertips brushed over her pebbled nipples, and I gave one a pinch causing her to thrust her hips against mine. Lips never leaving her skin, I made a path down her neck until my tongue was circling her nipple. Bella threw her head back, and my hands splayed across her back, holding her in place as I tasted her.
With some careful maneuvering, we managed to remove all our clothing until nothing was between us. Bella pushed down on my shoulders, and I willingly complied, lying back down on the bed. She smiled down at me, her bottom lip caught between her teeth in a look of innocence, her hair falling around her like a curtain. I reached up and brushed some of her hair back, and she leaned into my touch, brushing her lips against my palm. The movement was so tender, so sweet, that I was unprepared for when in one smooth motion, she lifted her hips up and lowered herself onto me.
"Fuck!" I shouted out causing Bella to still her movement.
"Oh shit, I'm sorry," Bella gasped, eyes flickering between concern for me and desire to continue what we were doing.
I rubbed her hip. "Don't be sorry, love. Just maybe a little warning next time." I grinned.
Bella laughed, which caused me to groan and squeeze her hips. Taking the hint, Bella began to move, slowly at first, working her speed up until she was rocking above me. My eyes never left her as I watched her face twist into a look a pleasure. I knew she was close. I knew this woman's body like I knew my own, maybe even better. I slipped my hand between us to where we were joined and let my fingertip lightly brush over her clit. One touch, that was all it took until she was crying out above me. I followed closely behind, the contractions on my shaft too much for me to take.
Bella slowly removed herself from me and collapsed on her side of the bed. I rolled on my side to look at her, smiling at the look of contentment on her face. She caught me looking and grinned. Leaning over, I placed a quick peck on her lips before moving myself down so I was next to her stomach. I placed another kiss there right above her belly button. Her hand came to rest at the top of my head and she began lightly running her fingers through my hair. The motion was so calming, that I closed my eyes, letting my fingers trace lazy circles over the swell of her belly.
"How you doing in there?" I asked her bump. "I bet you're snuggled in all warm and tight, because if it's anything like your mom's…"
"I wouldn't finish that sentence if I were you," Bella warned, looking down at me. I just smirked back at her, causing her to sigh. "What am I going to do with you?"
I looked up at her, grinning. "You could always marry me."
She groaned and closed her eyes. "That's your brilliant solution to everything, isn't it?"
I chuckled, moving back up to cradle her in my arms. This wasn't the first time I'd joked – or rather hinted- at the idea of marriage. Bella knew I was kidding and part of me was. I knew I wanted to marry her, but were we ready for that?
"Soon," I whispered. "You're going to say yes soon."
Bella just giggled.
"You try telling a pregnant woman to hurry," I hissed into the phone.
Jasper laughed on the other end. "You don't have to tell me. It took Alice almost three hours to get ready."
"I don't understand why we're leaving now," Bella grumbled, coming down the stairs. "Dinner isn't until tonight. Key word: night. It's 2 in the afternoon, Edward."
"Jasper, I gotta go. I'll see you soon." I quickly pocketed my phone and made my way to Bella's side. I leaned over and kissed her cheek. "Happy Birthday, baby."
"You already said that, like, five times already." She pushed past me and sat on the couch. "Why are we going out anyway? It's my birthday. Shouldn't we do what I want?"
Of course today would be one of Bella's moody days. Walking over to her, I put on my best pouty face. "Humor me, baby. Please?"
Bella crossed her arms over her chest. "That's not going to work. You see this?" She pointed to her stomach. "This is your fault."
"My fault?" I laughed. "Doesn't the old saying go, it takes two to tango?" I ducked just as a pillow went flying by my head. "Come on, love. Besides, don't you want your birthday gift?"
Bella's eyes narrowed. "I thought you already gave me my gift this morning."
"That was just the lead up your real present," I grinned.
She rolled her eyes, and then slowly stood up. "Good, cause I was hoping for something that lasted longer than five minutes." And with that, she walked out the front door.
"Hey!" I shouted, hurrying after her. She was leaning up against the car, tapping her foot impatiently, but I could see a small smile playing at the corner of her mouth. "Not funny. At all." I glared, opening the door for her.
"I thought it was hilarious," she replied, climbing in.
"I thought it was hilarious," I mimicked, walking around to my side. I was just about to start the car when I suddenly remembered. "Oh! One more thing." I reached into my pocket and pulled out the blindfold.
"What's that for?" Bella asked, eying the piece of silk wearily.
"Part of the surprise," I grinned, leaning over.
She pulled away, cowering against the window. "Oh hell no!"
"Just for a few minutes. I can't have you spoiling the surprise. Please, Bella." I knew she would fight me over the blindfold and I tried to convey through my eyes how much it would mean to me if she complied. Everything hinged on this. I watched her struggle with idea before sighing and I knew I was in. I kissed her gently before tying the fabric around her eyes. "I love you, baby."
"You're lucky I love you," she grumbled, sinking down into the seat.
With a huge smile on my face, I backed out of the driveway and headed into town. When we were almost to our destination, I realized that Bella was counting the turns I made in. That little sneak. In order to throw her off, I began turning down random streets, going an extra fifteen minutes out of our way. When I finally parked the car, I could tell Bella had given up figuring out where we were headed judging by the scowl on her face.
"Nice try, baby," I laughed, kissing her quickly.
"Mean," was all she replied.
As I climbed out of the car, I could see my sister waving through the window, my mother right beside her. I smiled at the both of them before opening Bella's door.
"You know I hate surprises," she said as she gripped my hand, getting out of the car.
"You may have mentioned it before."
Jasper was at the door, swinging it open as we walked up. The bell above entrance began to chime, but Emmett lunged over Jasper and threw his hand over it, stilling the motion. Bella cocked her head to the side, no doubt having heard the scuffle. I quickly ushered her in the bookstore, coming to a stop in the center of the room.
"Edward?" Bella asked.
"It's ok. One more second."
I glanced around at all the smiling faces. Everyone had shown up: my parents, Alice and Jasper, Emmet, Rose and the twins, Chief Swan and Sue, Jake and the guys from the reservation, Ben, and Angela who was coming out of the back room pushing Charlotte who was holding a cake. She nodded at me and I removed Bella's blindfold as everyone began singing.
Bella blinked a few times, getting her bearings, and then began to look around the room. I wrapped my arms around her before she could entertain any thoughts of running away while we finished the song. Bella was bright red as she blew out her candles, leaning over the cake to give Charlotte a kiss on the cheek.
"What you wish for, Aunt Bella?" Bri asked, rocking on her heels as she stared longingly at the cake.
"Well, if I tell you, then it won't come true," Bella teased.
Little Shane appeared around his sister. "Happy Birtday, Bella," he said shyly.
Bella smiled. "Thank you, Shaney." She wrapped him up in her arms as he giggled.
"Cake time!" Emmett shouted from the back, earning him a resounding slap on the back of his head from Rose.
My mother carefully took the cake from Charlotte and placed it on the counter where she began cutting it into squares. Emmett was first in line to get a slice, claiming it was for his kids before plopping down in the closest arm chair and digging in. Rose just shook her head at her husband and grabbed two small slices for the twins, setting them up at the little table designated for children.
"Edward?" I turned to see my mother holding out a slice for me.
I took the plate from her, kissing her cheek. "Thanks, mom."
"When are you going to tell her?"
We glanced over at Bella who was chatting with Angela and Charlotte. I watched as Charlotte reached out her hand and lightly placed it on Bella's stomach.
"Soon," I replied with a smile. "Very soon." Esme laughed and went back to cutting the cake. I grabbed a few more plates and made my way over to Bella. "Cake?" Bella glared at me before taking the cake. "Oh come on, love. Don't act like you're not having fun."
Bella opened her mouth to say something, but Charlotte cut her off. "You have a very nice young man there, Bella. A man who would do anything for you." She reached over and patted Bella's hand. "Now, don't you forget that. He's a keeper."
I crouched down next to Bella. "Hear that, baby? I'm a keeper" I grinned. Without looking, Bella reached out and grabbed a piece of the cake with her hand, shoving it into my face. I lost my balance, falling back onto my ass as I heard laughter ring out through the store. Wiping the frosting out of my eyes, I blinked, looking around. Bella's eyes were alight with laughter as she watched me.
"You've got shit all over your face, you know that?" she asked, trying not to smile. Pushing myself up, I narrowed my eyes at the woman before me. The laughter drained from her face, and she stood quickly, holding her hands out in front of her. "Edward, don't."
I took one slow step toward her, my eyes never leaving hers. I smiled wickedly, knowing there was no way she could outrun me.
"Edward. I'm carrying your child."
"And?" I asked as I continued to stalk toward her. Bella took small steps back, looking over her shoulder every so often so she wouldn't trip – like I would let that happen.
"Get her tiger!" Jasper shouted from my left.
"Edward, it was a joke," Bella pleaded, but she was laughing now.
"Do I look like I'm laughing?"
Bella stopped. "I don't know, it's kind of hard to see with all that frosting on your face. Do you need a towel?" she asked, breaking out into laughter.
"You little -" I lunged toward her. She started to turn, but I was faster, spinning her back around and crushing her to me. Her body was shaking with laughter, and she was shouting my name, trying to push me away from her. But I was stronger and held on as I nuzzled my face against hers, smearing cake along her cheek.
"Edward!" she shrieked.
"Hmm?" I asked, brushing my nose against hers. I pulled back until only the tips of our noses were touching.
"You're a child."
"Me? I'm not the one who shoved cake in my face," I said, running a finger down her cheek, gathering up some of the frosting then lightly spreading it over her lips. Smiling, I leaned down and kissed her. She tasted like vanilla and sugar and everything Bella.
"Get a room!" someone shouted from behind us – Emmett most likely.
We broke apart, both a little breathless. Reluctantly, I dropped my arms from around her. Esme was beside me, holding a towel. She handed it to Bella before pointing at me. "Go clean up. The both of you," she said sternly, but smiling.
"Yes, mom," I muttered, leaning down to kiss her cheek, but she stepped back shaking her head. Laughing, I took Bella's hand and led her to the bathroom in the back. We both took a look at ourselves in the mirror and instantly burst out laughing. Bella had white and green frosting on the left side of her face with little spots on her neck. Her nose and lips also were smeared. As for me, there were chunks of cake stuck to my forehead leading into my hair. Frosting covered my face, making me look like some demented clown.
"We look ridiculous," Bella stated, turning on the faucet and wetting a paper towel. "Thank god I wore my hair up," she said as she began to wipe off her face. I glared at her through the mirror. "Don't look at me like that, you started this."
"I – never mind, not even going to try," I said shaking my head. "Can I have the towel please?"
Bella's face softened. "Come here." She wet another towel and began gently wiping down the sides of my face. "I should have taken a picture of you like this."
"Don't worry, Angela did. I saw her snapping away," I answered, closing my eyes.
Bella let out a laugh. "I should have known." I felt her move the towel over the top of my head as she worked on getting the cake off. "Thank you, Edward."
I opened my eyes. "For what?"
"For this," she gestured to the door. "I know I didn't want a party, but this is nice. Having everyone here. We don't get to do it that often."
Grinning, I kissed the tip of her nose. "And I haven't even given you you're surprise yet."
Her brow furrowed. "What -"
"Nope," I said, silencing her with my finger. "All in good time, my love." Winking, I turned back to the mirror, taking the towel in my own hands.
A few minutes later, we emerged from the bathrooms with clean faces, even though my hair was now a little wet. Bella helped herself to another piece of cake, eating it on the opposite side of the room from me. We spent hours mingling, just catching up with everyone. After making plans with Emmett to catch a game next week, I spotted Bella talking to Alice; both were laughing and touching their stomachs lovingly. I think now is the time.
I walked up behind Bella, wrapping my arms around her. Alice smiled at me, and I gave her a wink. She politely excused herself to go find Jasper. "How you doing?" I asked Bella.
"I'm doing great, thanks for asking."
She laughed, leaning back against me.
"I can't believe you threw me a surprise party in the bookstore."
"In your bookstore," I corrected.
Bella looked over her shoulder at me and rolled her eyes. "You know what I mean."
"Yes," I nodded. "I threw a party for you in your bookstore."
She froze, then slowly turned around. "Come again?" she asked, one eyebrow raised.
I just smiled down at her and kissed the top of her head. "Surprise," I whispered in her ear. I could almost hear the wheels turning in her head as she processed what I just said. Knowing Bella wasn't too fond of surprises or elaborate gifts, I braced myself for the impending argument. However, my sister picked that moment to come join us.
"Isn't it great, Bella?" Alice squealed. "You're a business owner."
"And I, for one, couldn't think of a better boss," Angela added, giving Bella a hug.
Bella, who still hadn't said a word about this, looked around the room before her eyes settled on Charlotte.
"What? As the old saying goes, he made me an offer I couldn't refuse," Charlotte said, smiling. Everyone, even Bella, laughed. "Besides, Angela's right. I couldn't think of a more perfect person to run this store. Heck, you already did; now it's just official."
Bella's emotions were starting to get the best of her, and I could see her eyes beginning to water. She smiled lovingly at Charlotte and then looked back at me. Wiping the moisture from her eyes, she began shaking her head.
"Well, thank God it's just the bookstore. I thought you were going to propose or something," she joked, smirking at me.
I laughed, pulling her back to me. "And would it have been so horrible if I did?" I asked.
She pulled back enough, squinting to look up at me. "Are you asking?"
I shrugged. "I don't know. Are you saying yes?"
Bella rolled her eyes and stepped up on her tiptoes to kiss me. "What am I going to do with you?" she mumbled against my lips.
Anything you want, I thought as she turned in my arms. My hands began rubbing light circles over her belly while we both surveyed the room. And that's when it hit me. Standing there, surrounded by family and friends, with Bella in my arms, I suddenly didn't know why I was waiting. Why we were waiting.
Shifting my weight, I leaned down so my chin rested on Bella's shoulder. "Marry me," I whispered, my voice lacking the normal joking nature that had accompanied this request in the past.
I heard her quick intake of breath and time seemed to stop. I didn't realize I had stopped breathing until Bella covered her hands with mine and answered with the one word I longed to hear.
My head fell forward, as I let her answer wash over me. I could feel the corners of my mouth pulling up until I was grinning like an idiot. I didn't even realize the room had gone quiet until my brother's voice sounded out.
"Well, it's about fucking time!"
"Emmett!" everyone shouted, followed by the sound of a smack.
Bella looked up at me and we both laughed. She turned in my embrace, wrapping her arms around my neck. Like a magnet, my mouth gravitated towards hers. "I don't even have a ring," I breathed out, lips hovering over lips.
"I don't care," Bella answered, closing the distance between us.
"Happy birthday, baby," I whispered before our lips touched. Applause and cheers sounded around us, but the noise was drowned out by the woman in my arms. As we kissed, I tried to pour everything out. All my feelings, everything Bella had given me, everything I wanted to give to her. She had taught me about life, hope, and the long journey ahead.
Bella had helped me find home, and I had no intention of ever leaving.
AN: Wow…I honestly never thought I would ever finish this story. And now that it's over, I can't believe it's done. I want to say thank you to everyone who stuck with me, because I know there were times (especially toward the end) where I took forever to update. I started this kind of on a whim with no real direction, and am completely humbled by how well received it was.
First let me say that there is no sequel planned. I get asked that a lot and I wanted to address it here. There may be a few outtakes coming, but that's it for now. As for if I will be writing anything else, I have a few ideas outlined, but it all comes down to time. There is an idea I have had for a while and I'm thinking of banking a few chapters before I post it. So put me on author alert if you want to check any of my future ideas out I'm also on twitter: tellingmelies. Feel free to follow me and chat!
I have met so many people through this fic and this fandom that it's crazy. So thank you to each and every one of you who have reviewed, alerted, tweeted, anything! There are a few special people that deserve shout outs. I want to thank Ohdisco, who was the very first person to read the prologue and tell me that it wasn't shit. Forever_Liz for being my musey and helping me through some hard core writers block. MelsVFP, my mon Cherie! I miss you and hopefully will catch you online soon. Phoneixhunter47, who was my very first beta and helped me sort out the mess in my head and put it to paper. Barburella, for yelling at me in colorful shouty caps in my doc because I never wrote fast enough. And last, but definitely not least, LyricalKris for pretty much just everything. And if I forgot anyone, blame her because she's currently yelling at me for not posting this fast enough.
So thank you, and I hope you enjoyed the ride!