Author's Note: Thank you all for being so patient with me with this epilogue. I hope you'll add me as a favorite author, because I have a lot more writing in me! Be on the lookout for the five oneshots I'm writing for the generous ficsters who bid on me in the Fandom Gives Back: Eclipse.
I love fanfic, I love Twilight, and I love all of you.
Eight years later:
The door from the garage swung open just as I pulled the bubbling casserole from the oven. I straightened and put the hot dish on the stove, groaning at the ache in my lower back, but glad that Jacob was finally home from work. He had been putting in some long hours lately.
I turned to greet him, just in time to see a flash of black hair whiz by, accompanied by a delighted squeal of "Daaaaaaddy!" Jacob crouched down and caught our son, pretending to be knocked backward by the force of the three-year old's tackle.
"Aaaaahhh!," he overacted, gasping in mock surprise before lifting the little boy high in the air. "Have you been good for your mommy today, Embry?" he asked, meeting my eyes with a twinkle over his shoulder. I laughed, remembering earlier when Embry had unknowingly picked some of our elderly neighbor's mums to make a bouquet for me. I had to apologize to a very upset Mrs. Baker, and offer to replace the autumn blooms.
"Yes, Daddy," he said in his little voice. "Did you fix lots of cars at work?"
Jacob put the little boy down and rumpled his hair. "Sure did, buddy. Maybe after dinner we could go out to the garage and we could work on your car." The two of them had been building a little foot-powered wooden car for Embry to "drive" around our property. I wasn't too excited about the "four-wheeled death machine," but Jacob was quick to remind me that I had once dallied in motorcycles with him, and Embry had luckily inherited his father's grace with none of my clumsiness.
Quickly, Jacob crossed the small kitchen with his long legs and placed a kiss on my nose and both cheeks. Glancing down, he caressed my swollen belly with his warm hands almost reverently.
"And how about you, little girl?" he crooned at my bump. "My little Agnes, are you treating mommy well?"
"Ugh, Agnes? Are you just trying to find the worst names possible on purpose?" I made a face. "I'm still pulling for 'Abigail' or 'Bonnie.'"
"Aye, she's a wee bonnie lass," Jacob exaggerated an Irish brogue. I smacked him with the spatula playfully. "Really, how are you feeling?"
"She's been stretching a lot today," I said, patting his hands where they rested on my tummy and turning back to finish dinner. "I swear if she got any lower, we'd be having a birthday."
"Maybe she'll share your birthday!" Jacob said enthusiastically, watching me as I predictably grimaced at the mention of my least favorite holiday. He wrapped his arms around me from behind and rested his chin on the top of my head. "Oh, it would be fun, Bells! Your birthday is tomorrow, and she's due in a week. Embry was a few days early…"
I was thoughtful. "Well, it would be nice for her to hurry up," I said. "I only have so many paid days saved up for my maternity leave, and it was risky taking the last three days off to rest and get things ready." I spooned the casserole and the vegetables onto the plates and hissed as a little foot jabbed me in the ribs. "I hope that student teacher doesn't mind having to handle library time for the next twelve weeks. Maybe I should stop by tomorrow…"
I felt Jacob's hot breath on my neck a second before his lips pressed on the sensitive junction. "We talked about this, sweetie. You need to stay off your feet for a few days. Enjoy a few naps before the craziness begins. Take a day or two just for you. And that includes having someone take Embry for the day."
I sighed and relaxed into his embrace, before remembering something. "That reminds me, have you spoken with Emily to confirm that she and Sam will watch Embry when the time comes?"
Jacob nodded. "Yes, and they're really looking forward to having him. We might never get him back…" His words were interrupted by the trilling of the telephone. Jacob sighed. "Never fails…bet that's Sue, wanting to know if you're having contractions…"
"Hush," I said, "She's just excited about her future grandchild." I stood and reached the phone, turning to admonish Embry for dipping his green beans in his milk before murmuring a soft, "hello?" and expecting Sue's voice. She always called in the evening…I hadn't the heart to tell her that she almost always interrupted us at dinnertime.
"Bella?" The unexpected voice on the other line grabbed memories from another time and forced them front and center in my mind, stunning in their clarity and the emotions they elicited.
I gasped and dropped the receiver, one hand flying up to clutch at my heart and another slapping against my forehead in overwhelming shock as the phone clattered on the kitchen floor. Jacob had leapt up and was at my side in a second.
"What is it? Is it the baby?"
My wide eyes could only fix on the phone where it lay on the ground. Jacob, understanding, picked it up and put it to his ear, his eyes never leaving mine.
"Hello?" he demanded. "Who is this?"
I could hear his velvet voice over the receiver from where I stood.
"Jacob? I…I hope this isn't too much of a shock," Edward stammered. "I didn't want to startle you both like this."
Jacob's entire body was tense, his jaw taut and his eyes flashing with a primal gleam I hadn't seen in several years. A low growl began deep in his chest and it was only stilled by a frightened whimper coming from the table. Embry's lip quivered as he took in our stressed voices and strained expressions. I knew we were a few seconds away from a meltdown, so I forced myself to fix a smile on my face and motioned to Jacob that I would be right back.
"Sweetie," I said to my frightened little boy. "How would you like to eat your dinner and watch Sesame Street in the living room? Mommy and Daddy have to talk to an old friend on the phone." Obediently, Embry complied, grabbing his sippie and settling in his favorite spot on the carpet. I quickly got him situated, found the television program for him, grabbed the cordless phone from its cradle in the living room and rushed back into the kitchen.
Jacob raised his hand to stop me where I stood. He leaned against the counter across the room, trembling from head to toe. He hadn't phased in nearly four years, so I knew he was a bit rusty at controlling the impulse, and I kept my distance, my hand instinctively going to my belly as if I could protect the tiny girl growing there. Nervously, I put my phone up to my ear as Jacob did the same with his.
"Edward?" my voice was breathless.
"Oh, thank God," Edward said, sounding relieved. "I knew it would be a shock when I called, but I didn't mean to alarm you quite this badly. Are you both okay?"
"I think so," I allowed myself to smile cautiously at Jacob, who was gulping air in an attempt to quell his shaking. "Just surprised is all. How…are you? How is everyone?"
Edward chuckled into the receiver. "They're all gathered eagerly around me, and wondering the same things about you."
I felt warmth spread in my chest, and I realized with a pang how acutely I missed them all. "Alice? Carlisle? They're all there with you?" My eyes filled with tears before I realized it, and I began shaking even more violently than my husband. "Can you tell them all that I miss them?"
Jacob was watching me closely, and I knew he wanted to cross the kitchen to hold me in his arms as I trembled and wept, but his own shaking kept him at bay. All we could do was gape at one another.
"We all miss you too, Bella. In fact, we were hoping…" Edward's voice trailed off, and I could hear his hesitation. "If it's not too much to ask…" Again he quieted. In the background, I could hear Emmett trying to chime in and being shushed by several of his family members.
"What is it, Edward?"
"Well, we are all in the area, and we were hoping to stop by for your birthday tomorrow," he finally said. "Everyone still loves you and considers you part of the family, and it's been difficult to spend the last eight years away from you."
I shot a concerned look at Jacob, wondering what he could possibly be thinking, but he just continued to gaze back at me with concern of his own.
"I'm not sure, Edward," I admitted honestly, even though I ached to see them again. I wouldn't do anything that would cause Jacob unnecessary worry. "I think Jacob and I need to discuss this first…"
Jacob sighed loudly and paused, seeming to have an internal debate with himself. I remained quiet, since he looked like he wanted to say something.
Jacob covered the receiver with his large hand and whispered, a bit more tersely than usual, "I'm fine with it, Bella…as long as you think you're okay with it. I know how much you've missed them, and even though they're…what they are…I know we can trust them."
"It's okay, Bells. You want to see them, I know you do. You don't know how much you talk about them in your sleep." His eyes softened as I gaped at him, surprised. "I think it would be good for you, and good for them to see how happy you are."
I stifled an uncharacteristically girlish squeal and instead smiled widely at him, and waddled across the space that separated us to kiss him firmly on the lips. "Thank you," I said fiercely. "You don't know how much this means to me."
I put the phone back up to my ear, but I could already hear the Cullens celebrating. They had obviously heard the conversation. Edward's voice rose above the rest. "Would 10 a.m. be too early?"
"No. Let me give you the address…"
"Not necessary." I heard the tremor of excitement in Edward's tone. "I'm…really looking forward to it, Bella. We'll see you tomorrow."
"Sure thing," I said, overwhelmed. The phone clicked to indicate that he had hung up, but I still held it to my ear until Jacob gently took it from my hand and placed it back on the cradle.
As we got ready for bed that night, I watched my husband carefully. I was overjoyed that he had agreed to the Cullen visit, but I knew he couldn't be thrilled about it.
As we brushed our teeth and I washed my face, we debated baby names again. It was becoming a daily ritual, as we still hadn't decided on a definite name. We were leaning toward "Sarah," after Jacob's mother, but the middle name was a mystery.
"Okay, how about Sarah Michelle?"
Jacob snorted and clutched his sides laughing. "Oh, how appropriate! Tell me, Bella…is our daughter going to be a vampire slayer like her father?"
"Oh yeah," I said, giggling as I turned out the light and walked over to turn down the covers.
Jacob, clad only in some light cotton pajama bottoms, climbed into our bed and put his head on the pillow, extending his arm out so I could snuggle into his embrace, as we did every night. I finished putting on my sports bra to support my aching breasts and eagerly nuzzled against his skin, resting my pregnant belly against his side so the little girl growing in me could kick him. We both sighed in relief at the close proximity of our bodies. Even after all these years, our love and the imprint demanded that we remain physically close and we were only too happy to give in.
"Jacob?" I murmured, swirling my fingers across the skin of his chest. "What are you thinking right now?"
"Mmm," he hummed, enjoying my touch. "I'm thinking of ways to convince you to let me make love to you."
My pulse sped up even as I laughed. "Well, you won't have to do much convincing. Even the doctor said it would be a good to help me progress and get us closer to labor."
"Well, if it's doctor's orders…" He moved his hands across my hip.
I smirked, but then added, "You know what I'm talking about…what are you thinking about what happened tonight? What's going to happen tomorrow?" I waited in stillness to see if I could notice any tension in his muscles, but Jacob remained relaxed.
He leaned over and kissed my forehead. "It's like I said before, Bells. I know how much it would mean to you to see them again. And they're not going to be breaking the treaty by visiting our home." He paused and then begrudgingly added, "Besides, I don't think I could have realized it when I was younger, but I have a lot to thank them for. I think a visit on your birthday is understandable."
I sat up slightly in surprise, grunting with the effort. "You're taking this so well!"
He sat up too, taking my face in his large hands and kissing me gently on the mouth. "I'll admit that I'm nervous about controlling my impulse, but I stopped worrying about Edward being my competition the moment you came after me in the woods eight years ago." He chuckled. "I don't have anything to worry about, do I?"
I launched myself at him clumsily, but met his lips right on. His strong arms cradled me against him gently, careful of my bump. "Of course you don't have anything to worry about, you silly, wonderful, sexy man," I exclaimed, kissing his lips, cheeks, chin and eyelids. He deftly reversed my attack, manipulating my body until I was flipped around and laying comfortably on my side before I realized what he was doing, his warm torso pressed against my back and his hot hands roaming up my pregnant belly to caress my swollen breasts through my bra with maddening care.
I arched against his touch, wriggling my rear against his hardening groin. It always amazed me how gentle Jacob could be, considering his superhuman strength. Twisting my head around, I met his lips with my own, nipping and tasting his mouth and moaning as he softly brushed my hyper-sensitive nipples.
"Are you comfortable?" he broke away from me and growled lowly, his breath tickling my ear. I nodded and Jacob carefully lifted the material of my bra to free my breasts. At the same time, his erection nudged my bare bottom from beneath his pajama pants. He shifted to pull his clothing off, all while carefully rubbing my nipples and kissing my neck. I moaned, my nerve endings already especially receptive to touch due to the pregnancy.
The barrier of cloth out of the way, I could feel the heat of his length pressing urgently against me, and I pressed back. Jacob ran one hand down my hip and underneath me, touching the underside of my bottom and sliding his fingers against my folds, where I was starting to become slick and ready thanks to his attentions.
"Jacob," I whispered, wanting him inside of me. "Please…"
"Shhh," he said softly, his hands continuing their work. "This might be our last time for a while if our little miss decides to come soon, and I want to make it good."
"Please!" I pleaded again, thrusting my bottom against his hardness again. With a final kiss on my neck, he cooperated, and nudged his way between my folds and into my wetness. I moaned lowly as he filled me, and we both murmured our affections as he began to move slowly and carefully, consuming me with his sex and love and tenderness.
At 9:45 the next morning, Embry sat calmly at the little desk Jacob had made for him, coloring a picture of a robot. Jacob, who had taken the day off of work to welcome our "guests," sprawled his long limbs on the couch, watching a show on college football. I waddled around frantically, straightening the already-clean room with obsessive focus. I didn't know if I was nesting or if I was simply nervous. The activity wasn't helping my back, which ached more than usual.
"Bella," Jacob finally said, looking up from his program. "You're going to put yourself into labor if you don't calm down. And I'm sure poor little Eunice can feel your nervousness."
I sank into a sitting position on the couch with a groan and rubbed my tummy. "You're probably right. I'm just…excited...and nervous...and a little freaked out. And her name will not be Eunice."
He leaned over to kiss me on the forehead, but didn't have time to say anything because at that moment we heard the sound of several cars arriving in our driveway. My body flushed with adrenaline, and I sprang up with energy that betrayed my current condition.
"Oh my God, they're here!" I exclaimed.
"Here we go," Jacob said, a bemused smile on his handsome face.
Embry cocked his head and looked at us curiously. At that moment the doorbell rang, and his curiosity turned to glee as he jumped up and exclaimed, "Papaw!" With his 3-year old vigor, he easily beat me to the door. Throwing it open, he stopped in surprise at the small crowd that was gathered on our front porch.
Soft gasps came from several of the vampires standing there, and I echoed their gasps the moment I saw their beautiful, unchanged faces. Most of the eyes were set on my son, but two pairs were fixed on me. Edward and Alice.
"You're not Papaw," Embry said uncertainly, taking one step back as the group waited on the porch, gazing at him with awed wonder. His dark brown eyes flickered across their faces, and, like I expected from my precocious little one, his reservations quickly melted away, replaced by childish energy. "Are you here to play with me? Let me show you my robot picture!"
The Cullens didn't move until Jacob nodded at Carlisle, giving an unspoken approval for them to enter.
With superhuman speed, Alice nudged her way through her family and rushed into the room to stand in front of me. She paused and her eyes widened as she took in the size of me, but she was practically vibrating with the need to hug me. "Bella!"
I closed the gap for her, wrapping my arms around her tiny frame fiercely, sobbing, "Alice…oh, Alice!"
She was deliberately careful in returning my embrace, and broke away to stare at my stomach in wonder. I noticed someone had come up to stand next to her, and looking up, I saw Rosalie, equally transfixed by my pregnant belly.
We had never been close, but that didn't matter. The moment I saw her breathtaking face and golden eyes, I launched myself into her arms, crying, "Rosalie!" I was surprised when she returned my hug, holding me against her as if savoring my rounded shape in her arms.
"I can hear your baby," she whispered in amazement when we parted. "It's sucking its thumb!"
"She," I said, laughing and sniffling, wiping my tears with the back of my hand. "The baby is a girl." Rosalie's eyes returned to my swollen baby bump, gleaming with almost mad obsession as she murmured under her breath and placed her cold hands on either side of my torso.
"Remarkable," she whispered trance-like, and I couldn't help but shift warily. That broke whatever spell had bewitched her, and Rosalie stepped back at once, offering a genuine "congratulations."
Alice's arm wrapped around my waist and we half hugged again, as I looked over to see Esme crouched down at eye level with Embry, who was engaging her in conversation. Carlisle stood right behind them, such pride and joy in his eyes that I was overwhelmed with the emotion in the room. The look on his face was similar to that of my father and Billy whenever they interacted with their grandson.
"He still considers you a daughter," Alice whispered quietly. "Family is everything to him, and I think he's just fallen in love with his adopted grandchild." The corners of my mouth tugged upwards at her words, and Carlisle, most likely hearing what Alice said, turned his eyes to me and smiled happily before turning his adoring gaze to my little man.
Embry, who had never met a 'stranger' in his life, was telling a story about his robot picture he had been coloring. I watched as Esme reached to gently touch Embry's shiny hair as he rattled on, looking almost fearful as if he were just an illusion. Impatient, Embry took her face in his hands to get her to focus directly on him — something he did to us often. She startled and her eyes widened, but then she broke out into a brilliant smile at his fearlessness. Carlisle knelt and whispered something in her ear, and she grinned again.
I took a few steps to the three of them and Carlisle stood.
"He's remarkable, Bella. I'm overjoyed that you have been so blessed. We've missed you." He surprised me with a gentle embrace.
I could feel my tears swimming to the surface as he released me. "Do you want to know Embry's full name, Carlisle?" He nodded as my speech hitched slightly with emotion. "His name is Embry Charles Cullen Black." Carlisle's eyes widened in surprise and he looked back down at the little boy at his feet.
"Cullen?" he whispered.
Jacob piped in from the other side of the room, where he had fallen into a surprisingly easy conversation with Emmett about the football program on our TV. "Bella and I both owe our lives to your family. I was kind of partial to 'Charles William' as a middle name, personally, but I was fine with it. That was one name that was pretty easy to come up with, actually, unlike the latest creation."
Carlisle crossed the distance between himself and my husband. Jacob stiffened when he drew close, as he had been maintaining a respectable distance from Emmett already, but he fought back the instinctual tremors that rose up.
"Thank you," Carlisle said, seeming incapable of forming speech for the first time since I had known him. He held out his hand. Jacob hesitated for a split second before accepting the handshake.
My cheeks hurt from the intensity of my smile, which faltered slightly as my back ached suddenly. I arched and groaned softly, wondering if the baby had wriggled against my backbone again, as she was prone to do.
Rosalie joined Esme on the carpet with Embry. It was a bit surreal to see beautiful Rosalie sitting cross-legged on the ground, but she was obviously as smitten with my son as Esme and Carlisle.
Alice flitted to my side again, not wanting to relinquish her hold on me for long. I returned her squeeze and looked around the room happily.
Jasper was alone, leaning against a far wall — his eyes closed and a blissful smile on his handsome face. "He's savoring the joy in the room," Alice whispered in my ear. "It must be satisfying for him to feel it, knowing how much we've all missed you over the years." Jasper did indeed look content, which was so different from the strained expression that usually decorated his face.
Finally, I noticed that Edward had remained on the porch, his eyes on no one but me. I was almost rendered breathless at his constant beauty, because he had not changed at all. If anything, he looked lighter, less weighed down than I remembered.
"Edward," I whispered, and he immediately entered the home and closed the door. In a blink, he had crossed the room to stand in front of me. I was aware that the conversation in the room had ceased, apart from Embry's happy chatter. Everyone watched us curiously, wondering how we'd react together. Across the room, Jacob's face looked slightly pained as he looked at us in such close proximity.
Edward looked down at my pregnant belly then back up to me, and his face broke into a dazzling smile.
"Bella!" At once, his cool arms were around me, holding carefully, but firmly. I nuzzled into his hug, inhaling his sweet scent for the first time in eight years, when he had last come to my rescue in the woods after prom. "You have no idea how I've missed you."
"Me too," I admitted as we broke apart.
"And you're a mother," he said in awe. "These two little miracles…" He tentatively stroked his long fingers against the swell of my abdomen and was rewarded by the baby's responding wriggling. He froze in wonder, a huge grin on his face. "You have a happy, full human life! That's what I always wanted the most for you." He paused. "You are happy, aren't you?"
I covered the hand that rested on my tummy with my own. "Yes…I am, Edward." My smile faltered. "And I hope you can tell me the same about you…that you're leading a full life too. Well, except for the human part, of course."
We both shared a laugh, and I noticed that Edward's expression had lightened even more. He certainly looked happy enough. His voice lowered, as if he could keep a secret in the room full of vampires and one werewolf. "It's amazing to see you again. I always knew it in my heart, but being in front of you now…I love you, Bella. After all this time, I still love you."
My smile faltered as I immediately wondered what he meant by that, and I shot a slightly panicked look at my husband, but Edward quickly reassured me with a laugh.
"No, no, no…not like that — at least, not anymore." He held my hands in his cool ones. "I won't lie to you and tell you it was easy at first, Bella." He sighed, his mind obviously recalling memories he'd rather not dwell on. "It took a few years before I felt comfortable living back with my family again, surrounded by all of those happy couples. By then, they had been in Canada for five years and it was time to move on. Carlisle decided to go across the Atlantic and reside close to some nomad friends of his in Ireland, Liam and Siobhan. I rejoined my family at last and decided to start out as a college student. I'm studying music at University College Cork. I have a year and a half to go."
"Bet you're head of your class," I joked.
"Straight A's," he laughed. "Anyway, Ireland is good for me...in many different ways." He faltered and looked uncertain for a moment.
"What is it, Edward?"
"I have something to tell you," he began, before pausing. "Actually, wait a second." He started back toward the door, pausing before opening it. "It would probably be better if you just met her."
All eyes were fixed on me and the conversation was at a standstill around us. Edward seemed hesitant to reveal this mystery "her." "I hope you'll be happy for me, Bella."
Edward opened the door to reveal a petite, plump girl with beautiful red curls, a smattering of freckles on her pale skin and friendly, butterscotch eyes. She looked around the room warily before stepping into our home and lacing her fingers through Edward's. He beamed at her proudly and pulled her over to me.
"Bella, this is Maggie." He gazed at her as if she were the most precious thing he'd ever seen, and if she could have blushed, I knew she would have. "She's…well, she's the reason for my existence."
I realized that my mouth was hanging open, and I closed it quickly and looked at the pretty girl at Edward's side. Her face dimpled with her smile, and she held out a tiny hand to me.
"It's such a pleasure to finally meet you, Bella." Her accent was charming, but her chime-like voice sound strained, and at first I wondered how truthful she was being. Then I realized she was carefully holding her breath and that was why her voice was forced.
I took her cold hand and smiled back at her, my face stretching with my growing grin. When I looked back at Edward I saw the joy clearly etched on his marble expression. The two of them regarded one another with a love that was palpable, and I felt no jealousy in my heart, only exhilarated delight.
"Wow," was all I could murmur at first, as I searched for the right thing to say. What could I say? It's so nice to meet the girl who has saved the heart of my ex-soul mate? Thank you for being what he needed? I settled for, "You two look wonderful together."
"Maggie was nervous about meeting you," Edward nudged her lovingly. "She's only been on the vegetarian diet for a few years, and she didn't want to hurt you or Jacob."
"Luckily, the wolf's…umm…fragrance is helping to suppress my appetite," Maggie said, gazing at Edward with unmasked adoration. "And I was anxious to meet the woman who first held my Edward's heart. He learned so much from his time with you."
"I, uh…" I stammered, not knowing how to respond. "Thanks?"
They both chuckled. "I can tell you're a bit freaked out," she said, relinquishing her hold on Edward and taking my arm, still holding her breath. She led me gently to the couch and we sat. "When we first met each other, there was an instant connection that neither of us could deny. But I was hesitant, especially when I heard how much he loved you."
"Hesitant? You took off to Donegal for a month!" Emmett's booming voice came from across the room, and Edward snickered.
"But I came back," Maggie pointed out. "Edward was adamant that we would be good for each other. It was actually something you had told him that helped me get over the reservations that his heart might still be with you. Once he told me what you had said, I knew we were free to fall in love."
"Something that I had said?" I asked, surprised.
She nodded, and Edward came to sit next to her on her other side, rubbing her knee lovingly. "You told me that you knew happiness would happen for me and that something beautiful would be in my future. I didn't realize it at the time, but when I left after the prom, I started anticipating it," Edward explained. "I know you can't tell the future like my sister, but I took that to heart and held onto it when the pain of losing you threatened to consume me. When I met Maggie, it was instantaneous. I knew you had been right." Edward leaned into Maggie, and their lips brushed together tenderly. "It was like I was waiting for the curtain to rise, and behind it was this beautiful creature."
Maggie giggled and kissed his nose, and I felt a happy tear leave my eye at the sight of their affections.
"I'm so glad for you, Edward," I whispered, my heart swelling with contentment. "I can't imagine a better situation…" I stopped talking as a sharp ache twinged my back, moaning softly and stretching. I was able to stop myself from vocalizing my discomfort, but I made sure to glance at the clock. Seven minutes apart.
Jacob instinctively knew, and I saw his concerned brown eyes meet mine above the din. We both nodded in recognition of what might be going on.
Bravely, I took Maggie's hand. She looked surprised and then pleased. I wanted to get to know her, and I also needed to squeeze something because the pressure in my abdomen was starting to get uncomfortable.
Edward shifted until he was perched on my other side and Alice settled herself at my feet, both of them craving closer contact with me. I smiled and patted Edward's knee before taking Alice's offered hand in my own.
"Maggie, tell me how you two met…I'd love to hear the story."
The redhead's cheeks dimpled with her happiness and she began. "Carlisle first visited about three years ago. I'd never met him before, but he's known Liam and Siobhan for centuries. I loved his family, but they mentioned that another member would be joining them soon. Edward was…abroad."
"Edward was still moping," Alice added quietly, to the amusement of Emmett and Rosalie. "He was going back and forth between Alaska and Nova Scotia."
"Literally," Edward laughed. "The running helped keep my mind off things."
"He finally met up with his family and I was smitten from the get-go," Maggie murmured, looking across me to Edward.
"As was I, love," Edward responded.
"But it was all so confusing, especially because I had been told about his relationship with you. So I took off. I needed time to think."
I shifted slightly in my seat as my stomach hardened and concentrated on taking a deep breath. Maggie continued talking, and I exhaled in relief when the pressure lifted. When the contraction was over, I noticed that both Edward and Alice had been stroking my stomach lovingly the entire time. Their cool fingers felt like relief. I leaned back and relaxed as Maggie's pleasant voice soothed me, and my two vampire friends lavished attention on me and my baby.
Two hours later, Jasper and Emmett came in from the garage with Jacob, where they had been looking at the 1960 Austin Healey Sprite that my husband had been restoring. I was surprised that Rosalie hadn't gone out to see the car, but she seemed quite happy to help Embry build with his Legos. She hadn't left his side since arriving.
Esme had busied herself in my kitchen, preparing a sandwich for my son so I could continue visiting with my guests. I politely declined any food, especially when my contractions began to increase in intensity and occurrence.
When Jacob finally entered the room, I stood abruptly, starting to get anxious and slightly nauseated. I had been waiting for him. Most of the Cullens were oblivious to what was going on — only Carlisle was giving me curious glances every few minutes. I thought I saw him check his watch once or twice as well.
Jacob used his large stride to cross the room in seconds, wrapping one arm around me and smoothing my hair back from my forehead. His eyes were alive with excitement and nervousness, with no sign of his previous instinctual trembling.
"Are you okay, Bells?" Jacob asked.
"Yeah," I responded, stopping as the next contraction began. I grabbed his arm and bent slightly over, moaning audibly this time. The room quieted and Carlisle came up to my other side.
"They've been four minutes apart for the last twenty minutes," he told Jacob. "I knew she didn't want to say anything, but I could tell what was going on. The good news is that your baby is tolerating the contractions perfectly."
The entire Cullen clan froze where they were. "Is Bella in labor?" Rosalie's beautiful eyes were as wide as I'd ever seen them.
"That would explain her anxiety," Jasper said. "I was puzzled why she would feel so uncomfortable one minute and so happy the next."
Jacob rubbed my lower back as the muscular squeezing came to an end. "Should we call Emily?" I nodded, tears springing to my eyes. I was exhilarated and scared about giving birth, but I also didn't want my visit with the Cullens to end.
Jacob seemed to understand, and murmured that he would call Emily and pack the car, giving me a few more moments with my reunited family. He took Embry's hand and told him that he needed to pick out some toys to take to Uncle Sam and Aunt Emily's.
I led the Cullens out into our small front yard. The day was overcast, as usual, but no rain marred our reunion.
I looked around at all of them and then burst into tears. At once, Alice and Edward were against me, holding me gently. The rest of them also surrounded me. "I'm so glad you came today," I managed to choke out. "I just wish that this visit didn't have to end."
"Actually, one of the reasons we came here was to judge Jacob's openness to you maintaining a relationship with us," Carlisle said softly. "We're so pleased that he's been so welcoming and understanding."
"Of course," I blurted, confused and overwhelmed.
"We're considering our next move, which will happen in only two short years, Bella," Esme said. "We'd like to be as close to you as we can."
"C-close to me?" I squeaked.
"When are you going to get that we freakin' love you, little sis?" Emmett's said warmly.
"And we understand that our time with you is limited by your human existence," Jasper added. "So as much as possible, we want to be near you."
"We thought that Astoria would be far enough away that we wouldn't be recognized, but close enough that we could run for visits frequently," Carlisle explained.
"I think that would be…it would be…" I stopped, inundated with a flood of emotions. My voice dropped to a strained whisper. "I'd like that very much. I've missed you all more than even I realized. And I love you guys too."
A contraction rose up at that moment and I nearly lost my balance. Cool, loving arms held me up and wrapped around me, their temperature soothing the throbbing in my lower back and calming the heated, tightening skin of my abdomen. I groaned and swayed, the group moving with me as if we were one entity. Their presence and the physical demonstration of their affection made the cramping seem less intense, and I was grateful as I regained my composure when the contraction settled down.
Jacob cleared his throat from the doorway and we all turned to look at him. He had the hospital bag over his shoulder and Embry's overnight bag at his feet. Next to him, my son looked like he was holding every stuffed animal from his room.
"Are you ready?" Jacob asked.
I nodded, and detangled myself from the vampire huddle. Around me, I heard murmurs of 'good luck' and 'I love you, Bella.' Jacob put the bags in the car and buckled Embry into his car seat. Before he opened the door for me, he pulled me gently to his side and we walked back to the Cullens.
"Thank you all," Jacob said, holding out his strong arm to shake their hands. "We hope you come back to see the new baby soon. I know it would make Bella happy, and I wouldn't mind spending more time with you guys." He gamely accepted hugs from Alice and Esme and even Maggie. "Just don't tell the rest of the wolves if you see them, okay?"
The Cullens laughed together, and then stepped forward to offer individual hugs to me. Maggie's was hesitant, so I whispered that I was so happy that Edward had found her. Finally, Edward wrapped me in his arms and we held each other longer than the others.
"I love you, Bella. I'll always love you."
"Me too, Edward. Be happy."
"Hey," he said softly, smiling. "That's my line."
We broke apart at last and Jacob helped me in the car. I took a deep, wavering breath, feeling total contentment in my heart. My uterus, however, was another matter, and I grabbed Jacob's arm as he turned the key, and he helped me concentrate through the contraction before he put the car in reverse.
As the group stood on the sidewalk watching us back out of the driveway, Alice wavered for a moment, her eyes going blank as she searched the future. Her face broke into a gleeful smile when her vision came to an end, and she squealed, "Sarah Alice! Oh Bella, Jacob…thank you so much! I'm going to spoil that little girl rotten!"
I laughed happily and took Jacob's warm hand in my own as we drove down the street, the group of vampires growing smaller and smaller in the rearview mirrors until they were gone.
From the back seat, Embry piped up. "I liked your friends, Mommy."
"I'm glad, Embry. I think they liked you too."
He pondered this for a moment, staring at his worn, well-loved stuffed wolf. "I hope they visit again…even if they do smell kinda bad."
I began laughing, and Jacob chuckled as he said, "I'm sure we'll be seeing them again very soon."
That thought made me stop laughing and instead I just stared out of the window, a peaceful smile on my face as I enjoyed the moment and the knowledge that my life was full and would become even more complete once little Sarah Alice was born. Edward had once told me to be happy.
And I was.
End Note: One last time, I'd love to hear from you. Reviews are the best thing about writing.