A/N…Sigh…so here it is…the last chapter. I'm a little melancholy about it, really. It was hard to write, but I fell in love with my characters.
I'll do my thanks at the bottom…and announcements…so, go ahead…
CHAPTER 20 -- Epilogue
Seven years later…
Piano music drifted into the kitchen as I packed up the food we were taking to the island. It was Fourth of July and the whole family was meeting at the beach house for a cookout. "Jake, it's beautiful, really, but we need to get going," I called, stacking the containers to load into the car.
"Ok, Bells," Jake sighed and heard him close the piano lid. Jake was almost thirteen and Edward had done an amazing job with his piano lessons. Jake had been living with us since he was eight, a year after Edward and I got married. Billy had found out that he had pancreatic cancer a month after Jasper and Alice's wedding. He fought hard, but there was nothing that could be done. He lost his battle and Jake was devastated. Sue took him in, but between Jake's nightmares and his constant begging for me, Sue let him come live with us. He's been a happier boy ever since. Sue was single, having no children and told us that a "mother and father" situation was better than an old spinster lady. Not long after that, we discovered that I was pregnant.
Jake leaned in the doorway, asking, "What do you need help with?"
"Take these to the car," I smiled, handing him the two containers of food. He started to turn and I stopped him. "She'll love it, Jake, relax," I whispered.
"Yeah, yeah," he smirked, shaking his head. "Emily and I are just friends, Mom," he said, rolling his eyes.
"I've heard that before," I muttered, watching his tall frame walk out of the kitchen. He had turned into a handsome boy. His dark eyes and short hair, not to mention his beautiful smile, had girls calling at all hours. He paid them no attention. Despite his claims that he and Emily were just friends, he lived to see her when we went to the island.
I felt a tug on my shorts and looked down to see my five year old daughter staring up at me with a huge smile. "Yes, Elizabeth…" I smiled, picking her up and setting her on the counter. She had Edward's hair color, but my eyes. She had inherited my sharp tongue as well -- as Edward was kind to point out just about every day. "Dad sent me to you…" she sighed with an eye roll, handing me the hair tie she wanted to wear. I smiled, kissing her forehead and taking the brush from her hand. "He says it's 'cause I can't sit still…he said you feed me jet fuel for breakfast."
I laughed, shaking my head. "Make sure you tell that to Aunt Alice when we get to the beach." She nodded, flinching as I pulled her hair through the rubber band. She looked over at the kitchen doorway at her twin brother.
"William, put Mr. Bear down!" She snapped, scowling. He just laughed, tossing it the air and catching it. William was the clone of his father, but with chocolate brown hair. It stood up every way possible no matter what I did to it. His eyes were a beautiful green that almost outshone Edward's.
"Will, don't tease, give her the bear," I sighed, setting Elizabeth down.
"'Kay, Mom," he sighed with a crooked grin as his sister snatched the stuffed animal out of his hands.
"Are you both packed?" I asked, guiding them out of the kitchen.
"Yes," they whined.
"Well, go get your stuff," I pointed to their room. "We are running behind as it is. Uncle Emmett will lose his mind."
"Hasn't he done that already?" Elizabeth asked her brother as they walked to their room. I bit back my laugh and walked into the bedroom.
I walked in and grabbed our bag. We were all staying at the beach house for the weekend and then the kids were heading to Carlisle and Esme's for two weeks. They were brave enough to take all the grandkids, but they were amazing with them.
Emmett and Rose got married just after Edward and I did, but they had run off to Vegas to do it. Alice and I were livid that they didn't have a wedding we could participate in, but when they got back, they let us know that Rose was over two months along with Gabby. Gabrielle was the picture of an angel with blonde hair and blue eyes. She had her mother's common sense and her father's happy disposition. She couldn't stay out of trouble and she always dragged my twins along for the ride.
Alice and Jasper were just now pregnant. They had tried for kids about a year after their wedding, but it just never happened. After years of hormone therapy, she conceived just seven months ago. Alice's small frame and large belly made her a miserable pregnant woman, which everyone pointed out to her. The Florida heat didn't help either.
"Jet fuel, Edward?" I asked as he came out of the bathroom with our last bag. He chuckled and shrugged.
"She fidgets with me," he smiled, taking the other bag out of my hands. He bent down and kissed me quickly. At thirty, Edward was still stunning. He looked like he had barely aged at all. He was an amazing father with endless amounts of patience. We were looking forward to time alone. Two whole weeks without the kids couldn't come quick enough.
"Hmm," I smiled, pulling the bags out of his hands and setting them on the bed. "More." He chuckled, wrapping his arms around my waist. I wound my arms around his neck and lost track that we were supposed to be getting in the car. With a sigh, I melted to him. A year of living together and six years of marriage did nothing to stop our passion. I loved him more if it was even possible.
His tongue swirled with mine, but the yelling from down the hall pulled us apart. "William, drop the bear or I rip the comic book!" Elizabeth growled.
"I think I threatened Emmett like that once," I snorted. Edward laughed, picking up our bags as I went to take care of the bear/comic book emergency. "Will," I sighed, leaning in the doorway to watch the standoff. Elizabeth had his comic book in both hands about to tear it in half and Will put the bear behind his back. "Keep it up, both of you and no one goes swimming today," I threatened, raising an eyebrow.
"Aw, Mom," they both whined, throwing each other's property at each other.
"Don't 'Aw, Mom' me…get your stuff," I waved around the room. "We gotta go!"
"'Kay," they said, grabbing their backpacks and heading to the car.
As the twins loaded up in the car, Edward and Jake packed the trunk. I caught the end of their conversation. "Play Moonlight Sonata or Claire de Lune," Edward nodded, "she'll like both…you've got them both down." I fought a smile. Edward saw something of himself in Jake and sheltered him. They would talk endlessly about music, books and of course, Emily. Jake turned into a mellow kid, nothing really rattling him. I wondered for years if it was Edward's influence. We couldn't love him more if he were our own.
The car ride was long, the twins chattering their own language to each other. Jake was quiet, listening to music and occasionally texting Emily. Edward picked up my hand and kissed it, holding it between us and tracing my palm. If he ever stopped that, I would be heartbroken.
As we pulled into the driveway, the twins lost their minds at the sight of my brothers. "Uncle Emmett…Uncle Jasper!" They both beamed, scrambling out of their seats. Will hit Emmett full force and Jasper scooped up Elizabeth, covering her in kisses. My brothers loved having a big family now.
Standing off to the side was Emily, nervously twirling her hair. She was a beautiful girl with piercing blue eyes and a sweet smile. She still occasionally blushed in Edward's presence, but it was really all about Jake. The way she looked at him when she thought no one was looking was eerily familiar. She rushed to Jake as he got out and after a brief hug, they disappeared into the house.
Edward watched them close the door and turned to me. "One day he'll see it," he smirked.
I laughed, shaking my head. "I hope so," I sighed, kissing his cheek as we pulled everything out of the trunk. "Otherwise, she will pine endlessly. Silly boys…" I mumbled the last thing.
"It's terrifying," he snorted, "you should know that…the girl we love holds everything in the palm of their hands." He tilted his head at me, my favorite smile on his face. I leaned in and kissed him quickly, my lips telling him I remembered our beautiful past too.
"The guys do too," I laughed, walking to the door. "Hi, big brothers…" My stuff was yanked out of my hands and I was scooped up by Emmett.
"Baby girl," he beamed, squeezing me close still holding Will upside down.
"My son is purple, Em," I smiled, kissing Emmett's cheek.
He looked down at my giggling son. "Purple looks good on you, little dude." Will laughed again, wriggling helplessly against his huge uncle. Emmett took pity and set him down.
I looked over at Jasper and Elizabeth. They were deep in conversation forehead to forehead. They had a special relationship. He adored her and she thought he hung the moon. "And then Will stole my bear," she scowled. I snickered, pulling Jasper down to kiss his temple.
"God, Bells," Jasper smirked. "She's you made over. I see it more as she gets bigger…which is every minute!" He smiled, tickling her relentlessly. She screamed, clinging to him burying her face in his chest.
Gabby appeared at the door, looking just like Rose with an exasperated face. "Daddy, Mom said to get in there and start the food, she's starving," she sighed, but seeing me she beamed. "Aunt Bella!" She tore from the door and jumped into my arms, kissing my cheek. She saw Edward walk by and reached for him. "Uncle Edward…"
He scooped her out of my arms, smiling and kissing her neck. "Miss Gabby," he smiled. "You get taller every second."
"Yeah," she smiled, grabbing his face. "Dad says it's his fault."
"It is," Edward nodded seriously.
We all went into the house, passing a piano playing Jacob with Emily sitting next to him. "Bella," she smiled, running up to give me a hug. She was a quiet girl, always shy, but we had developed a bond. It reminded me of myself and Esme.
"Go listen to him," I whispered in her ear. "He's been practicing for days." She flushed when she pulled back and nodded. "We'll catch up later."
I kissed the top of Jake's head on my way out onto the deck. "Bells!" I was greeted with by Rose, Alice, Carlisle and Esme.
"I'm not getting up!" Alice growled. "Come hug me," she waved me over from the chair she was in. Her belly was huge. She was expecting twins, though we weren't sure if it was genetic because of her and Edward or the hormone therapy. Her feet were up and I could see that she was miserably swollen. I kissed the top of her head and hugged her.
"How are you feeling?" I asked Alice, sitting next to Esme and kissing her cheek.
"Like a giant balloon," she snorted, leaning in to Edward's kiss on her cheek. He chuckled and she swatted at him. "They decided to do a c-section…" I nodded, sighing with relief. Alice's frame had been a concern for all of us when she became pregnant. Carlisle warned her and watched her like a hawk.
Will rushed up to me. "Mom, we want to go swimming…" he panted like he had run around the house a thousand times. He was my twin spokesperson. Elizabeth got him to ask everything. I pulled him on my lap, running my fingers through his familiar unruly hair.
"I don't know," I feigned concern. He looked so much like Edward when his head tilted and he pouted, that I could barely resist him.
"Please, Mom?" Will begged, kissing my cheek. He already knew, like his father, how to get his way. "Jake said he would watch us…Gabby's going…" I looked at Rose and she nodded, smirking.
"Fine," I sighed. "Jake," I called and he popped his head out the door. "Did you say you'd watch them?"
"Yeah," he nodded, "we were going out there anyway."
"Ok, go!" I laughed as Will's face broke into a huge smile. They all took off towards the water.
"He's just like Edward," Esme snorted, looking at her son. "He could play me too." Edward chuckled, shaking his head and I laughed.
Emmett started the grill and we sat and caught up. Emmett and Jasper's construction business was thriving. Edward had been a silent backer until recently. He still worked for Volterra Marketing, but was soon about to quit. Emmett and Jasper preferred the physical part of it where Edward was perfect to bring in new business. He was moving into the office as soon as our holiday was over.
Rose sold half her car company to her lead mechanic, happy to be a stay at home mom and fix cars only when it interested her. She and Emmett were thinking about trying for another child.
Carlisle never stopped. The trauma burn unit he headed was a model for hospitals around the state of Florida, so he traveled, setting them up and coming home to run his own. He still would rather be in the operating room than the meeting room. Esme was the perfect grandmother. She took them all or one at a time. She couldn't get enough of them. Jake loved to stay with her, because she lived so close to Emily.
As the sun fell, the kids all settled on a blanket on the beach with Esme. It had been a tradition from the moment that Jake had come to live with us and the first grandchild was born -- Gabby. Esme and Carlisle would keep the kids during the fireworks, feeding them hotdogs and lighting sparklers.
Edward grabbed our blanket, finding our usual secluded spot. I settled between his legs, laying my head back on his shoulder. Our silence was comfortable, sweet. Edward kissed my shoulder, wrapping his arms around me tighter. "What are you thinking about?" He asked, kissing behind my ear.
"The twins are starting school this coming year…" I started, feeling his smile against my skin. "Um…I want to teach again." I sighed, waiting for his disappointment. I had stopped when Will and Elizabeth were born, but they were about to start kindergarten.
I turned in his arms to look at him. His face was unreadable. He had liked me staying with the kids and we weren't suffering without my income.
He cupped my face, studying my eyes. "Ok," he sighed, smiling my favorite crooked smile. "You'd probably go mad home all day alone anyway."
"Yes, exactly," I laughed. "Really? You don't mind?"
"Bella," he frowned at my questioning of him. "When have I ever told you no?"
"Never," I shook my head. "Well there was this one time…something about lifting heavy objects…"
He laughed, shaking his head at me. He pulled me closer, still chuckling. "Yes, but if I remember correctly, you had to be supervised, love."
"Hmm," I sighed, running my fingers through his hair. "Do have any idea how much I love you?" I asked, getting lost in his emerald eyes.
He nodded, not saying anything for a moment. "Yes…" he whispered, leaning in slowly and taking my bottom lip. I took his top as his hand gripped my hair, turning my head. My tongue swirled with his and we both moaned. We were breathless when we broke apart. He pressed his forehead to mine. "I know, love. You've given me more than I can list…three beautiful kids," he smiled and I fought the tears, knowing he counted Jake as one of our own. "You've given me family, love, a safe haven, a best friend and the love of my life." He smiled up at me. "I can't thank you enough." He wiped my tears away. "But I'm going to try," he smirked, slowly licking his bottom lip, "as soon as we are home alone for two weeks."
"Hmm," I smiled, running my nose along his scruffy chin. "I, all of a sudden, have a ton of things you need to thank me for." He chuckled, nodding in agreement. "There's a chair that's been painfully neglected, Edward."
"True, love…very true," he said, trying to make his face serious. He failed, looking too sexy to resist. I leaned in, kissing him with all that I had, the fireworks overhead forgotten.
Some say true love doesn't exist. Some say it's Fate that brings the one person to you. I'm not sure what I believed. I fell into love on the first day of seventh grade, literally tackling him to the ground. Some also say that if you love something, set it free. If it's really yours, it will come back to you. That I truly do believe and once I had it back, I never let it go.
"Nice shiner, Jake," Emmett teased, walking out onto the deck. He slapped him on the back and sat down beside him. Jake rolled his eyes to me and sighed.
"As pretty as Emily is," Jasper snorted, sitting across from us, "it won't be the last one. I promise you, pal."
Jake groaned, his head falling back and his hand still holding the ice pack.
"What happened?" I asked, trying not to let my memories flood me.
"We were on the pier for the fireworks last night…Grandma said we could walk down there. There was a kid staring at Emily, saying things. I think he goes to her school. The dude wouldn't stop looking at her," Jake growled. "Before I knew it…I was telling him to stop. Sorry, Edward," Jake sighed again, looking up at me.
I chuckled, looking at Bella's brothers. Emmett laughed quietly, shaking his head. Jasper waited with a smile on his face. "Jake," I smiled. "The three of us," I gestured around the table, "have been in more fights like yours than I could possibly recount."
"You're not mad at me?" He asked, looking around the table and back to me.
"No," I snorted. "I can't be mad for something I've done or would do if given the same situation." Emmett and Jasper nodded in agreement. "Has Bella not told you how we met?" I asked, a smile playing on my lips.
"Well, yeah," he nodded, "you met when you guys were my age. Friends ever since she said. It's how Alice met Jasper too."
"Yes, that's the gist of it," I nodded. "You know how protective Bella is, right?" I asked, raising an eyebrow at him. He nodded. "Ok, well, that's nothing compared to how she was when she was your age…let me just tell you." I laughed, my brother in laws joining in. "She took care of us all…" I started, telling him the whole story. I had been meaning to sit him down for this weeks ago, but Bella said not to, that he wasn't ready to hear it. The black eye staring back at me proved that he was ready.
I told him about fights and friendship. Emmett told him how he and Jasper became Bella's brothers. He sat wide eyed and hardly interrupted if only to clarify something. Jasper, through tears of laughter, told him about Bella saving me and I watched as it all clicked in his head what we were trying to tell him.
"She is just a friend, Edward," he whispered, frowning.
"That may be," I nodded. "But I answer the phone at home just as much as Bella does, Jake. How many of those girls are you comfortable around?" He stuttered and stammered, not meeting my gaze. "Fine, Jake, we won't push…but I want you to know…we've all seen it, lived it. The friendship with her now?" I asked, making sure that he was looking at me. "You hold onto it…it's really important, got me?"
It surprised me how much Jake had come to mean to me. He was always a very sweet kid, loving Bella like his own mother, but despite his now tall frame and handsome face, I saw the same pattern developing with Emily that I had had with Bella. He was really smart and had developed a quiet nature. His skill at the piano was impressive and I couldn't help but see our similarities.
"Yeah," he smiled, nodding.
"Here's the thing," Jasper sighed. "It's not fair to Emily, bud. You can't drag her along and keep her away from guys…it's really frustrating for her. We didn't see it then, don't make the same mistake." Jake huffed a frustrated sigh and I could see him trying not to roll his eyes.
"Now, do you still want to stay with Grandma for two weeks?" I asked, looking over at him. He nodded, smiling. He loved my parents. He had since the first day he met them.
Gabby bolted through the deck doors, laughing. My twins were hot on her trail. I laughed until Elizabeth's foot caught a chair and she tumbled down onto her knees. "Daddy," she wailed. I can't imagine there is anything more satisfying that hearing that, than being the savior in your child's life.
"Come on, sweet girl," I stood, scooping her up, "let's clean you up." Her knee was bleeding.
"It hurts, Daddy," she sniffled into my neck as we walked into the bedroom.
"What happened?" Bella frowned, seeing the blood. She had been sitting with Alice and Rose on the sofa. A red eyed Emily sat between them all.
"I fell down," Elizabeth hiccupped. I set her on the kitchen counter, cleaned up the blood and started to put medicine on it. "No! It's gonna burn!" She wailed, wriggling on the counter to try and escape.
"I'm not using the stingy stuff, baby," I chuckled. While she was still struggling I dabbed the anti bacterial ointment on her. Her band aid was firmly in place before she could fight me anymore. "See?" I laughed, watching her mouth hang open.
"Not funny, Daddy, you tricked me!" She frowned, looking so much like her mother that I had to laugh. Her brown eyes surged with betrayal and she bit her bottom lip.
"Don't say it, Cullen," Bella snorted from the doorway. "I'm well aware."
Will burst through the door. "Liz, what happened?" He looked over his sister.
"Down, Daddy," Elizabeth pointed to the floor.
"I need payment for my medical services," I pouted. She giggled and flung herself into my arms, kissing my cheek roughly. "That's better," I smirked, setting her down.
"You're not gonna run anymore," Will reprimanded his sister. My twins couldn't be more protective of one another if they tried. It reminded me of Alice and me at that age.
"I will run if I want to," Elizabeth snorted, folding her arms across her chest.
Will shrugged, looking up at his mother. "Mom, are you guys still leaving?"
"Yep," she smiled. "Don't you want to stay with Grandma?"
"Yeah!" He smiled, reaching up for her to pick him up. "I'll miss you," he whispered, burying his face in her neck. She ran her fingers through his hair, telling him that she would miss him too. If Elizabeth was our strong willed, William was our sweet one. He would let Bella hold him all day if she wanted to.
Gabby peeked in. "Where did you guys go?" She asked, leaning in the doorway. Will's head popped up and he scrambled down. Elizabeth grabbed Gabby's hand. They tore out of there.
Bella walked into my arms, snickering. "How's Jake?" She asked into my shirt.
"Better," I smiled, kissing the top of her head. "I told him our story. He may get it, but I don't know."
"It was time, I think," she sighed, looking up at me. "Emily's frustrated with him. She knows he likes her as a friend, but won't let boys near her…" She smirked at me, waiting to see my reaction.
"I know…we told him."
"Oh?" She snorted. "How'd that go?"
"We'll see," I smiled, kissing her nose. "I think he got it, but he's twelve. It may sink in eventually." She nodded.
"Are you about ready to go, love?" I asked. "My parents are taking all the kids to the zoo, so we won't be missed."
"Yeah," she smiled, nodding.
With kisses and hugs all around, we packed our things back up. My mother said she would bring Jake and the twins home to us in two weeks.
The drive home was quiet. Too quiet. I realized Bella and I hadn't been alone in months. I picked up her hand and kissed it, tracing her palm with my finger. If she ever stopped me from doing that, I would be heartbroken. It was my reminder to us of our past and future.
"Row-ool!" We were greeted when we got home.
"Charlie, old man," I snorted, sitting next to him on the couch. He was older, but still just as healthy as ever. He stretched and yawned, curling up in a tighter ball and falling asleep again.
Bella straddled my lap, burying her face in my neck. I wrapped my arms around her, closing my eyes. She pulled back, placing her hands on each side of my face. "I love you, handsome," she smiled, tilting her head at me.
"I love you too," I smiled, looking up at her.
As I really looked at her, passed her still stunning beauty and deep brown eyes, I saw my love reflected back to me. She was everything to me. She kept me sane, happy, and grounded. She was the mother to my children and my best friend. I may have not had the courage at twelve to admit that I loved her, but I had. I had loved her my whole life. Despite the time we were apart, the busy lives we now had, and the meager alone time we had, we were still completely in love.
"What will we do with all this time alone?" I teased, smirking at her.
She turned slightly, looking over in the corner at the chaise from my Chicago apartment. It had survived the three kids and Charlie. She smirked back at me with a raised eyebrow. "Oh, I have plans," she purred, leaning in closer and rubbing her nose along my jaw line.
"You do?" I asked, kissing her neck just below her ear, my tongue snaking out to taste her.
"Mmhm," she smiled against my skin, taking my earlobe in her mouth. "I think you can catch up quickly, Edward." I nodded at her, smiling as I lifted her shirt over her head.
I growled, looking at the black and purple bra underneath. "You went shopping," I crooned, not able to resist touching her. She laughed, her head tilting back. I chuckled with her, reaching over to turn on the stereo. The groan that escaped her was just about my undoing. "Nice and Slow" by Usher wafted through the room.
I picked her up, laying her on the chaise and settling between her legs. "You're everything to me…did you know?" I asked, knowing it was the same thing I asked the first time we had made love to this song.
"Yes, baby," she nodded, wrapping her arms and legs around me. "I know." She didn't have to say it back to me. I knew it. I saw it every day in the way that she loved me, her family and our children.
"Thank you for saving me," I smiled, watching as tears came to her eyes and she bit her bottom lip.
"Always," she smiled, pulling me to her. "Thank you for saving me back."
A/N…Ok, there it is…I take it back…I'm really sad it's over, but I will just pour myself into the next thing. I really hope you liked it. From all your begging and pleading to keep it going, I would think so. I'm sorry it's not continuing for you.
I really have to thank Brits23...with everything she is writing on her own, she's still able to help me with this and take on the sequel to Broken Angel. I hope she knows how much she rocks! Love ya!!!!! And if you haven't read Show and Don't Tell or Laid Bare…you are truly missing out!
Ok…Angel's Embrace…it's under way…Brits will be getting the first chapter tonight, so it will be posted in the next few days…have patience…I will post alerts everywhere.
Oh…one thing…I mentioned ADHD in the last chapter and I received an anonymous review about it. Ok…there was no harm intended and it was one entire sentence. However, I live with an ADULT with ADHD and it's sometimes like living with an insane person…so yeah…I get it too. We just choose to laugh about it… I have no problem apologizing for something written wrong. My bad…
I really look forward to seeing you guys read Angel's Embrace…it has been really…sickeningly fun, actually…stepping back into that story…so, please come along. OH! And I have had the question asked of me…the answer is YES…ABSOLUTELY…you must read Broken Angel first. I know it's long, but there are events, characters that I have created, and jokes that will come back to haunt the new story. I hope you read it…you have time…
Now…review for my little Island folk for the last time…and know that I loved all that reviewed before…Thanks for coming along with me to my home state. Writing about Florida was fantastic! LOL
Love you all…see you soon…