A/N: A Big Hello to all our lovely readers. Melly and I can't believe the story is finished. We hope you enjoy this final chapter and will remember the story with a big smile on your face.
A special "Thank You" to Ironic Twist for rec'ing this story and bringing a lot of new readers into the fold. If you enjoy historical romances, then be sure to check out her summer fic, "The Bargain".
Once again, our thanks go out to our awesome beta, SweetThunder, for sharing her special talents to make this story even more special.
Yes, Stephenie Meyer still owns the Twilight characters, but WE OWN WESTWARD! He belongs to us and we certainly have enjoyed playing with him all these months. We hope all you guys have, too!
So now, please enjoy….
Our final ...
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Chapter 15 - Epilogue: When the Dust Settles
Jasper tapped the sheaf of papers on his desk and arranged them into a neat pile before setting them to the side. His attention was drawn away from the desk by the raucous noise coming from below. He peered out the wavy glass window and noted with some displeasure another large group of miners tumbling out of The Devil's Luck.
In the six years since all the nasty business with the Valentines went down, much had happened in the sleepy little town of Devil's Fork; howeversleepy was no longer a proper way to describe the now-bustling city. Though many changes had been for the better, there were many Jasper could do without. He rubbed his temples as he turned away from the window.
Even though the California gold rush was long over, there were always men looking for easy money and word of gold — lots of gold — being found in the area had spread like wild fire. This caused a huge influx of prospectors, gamblers, con-men, and all of the other riff-raff that follow the kind of folk who look to get rich quick, to come streaming into the town.
A tent city had cropped up not far from what used to be Miss Vicky's hotel, though she'd settled down and sold it off to one of the other working gals; business there was booming, much to the chagrin of the prim and proper set.
With this steadily increasing population came the need for supplies and other hard goods. A new mercantile had been set up on the opposite side of town from the original store, and both were still cleaned out of much of the basic necessities people were requiring. Almost every woman in town had extra work mending clothes and doing laundry. Digging for gold was frustrating work, so Emmett had plenty to do in the evenings as well, serving up libations to all the depressed miners who darkened his doorstep. There was a cobbler in town who had begun to put a pebble in a bucket for each pair of shoes he made and repaired. He told the town children that there was a nickel hidden in the bucket and when it was full he would let them all go at it to find the nickel. After the first bucket turned into a brawl of about 20 ten-year-olds, Jasper quickly put an end to that.
Rosalita had hired two apprentices and another master blacksmith to keep up with the demands of the miners for tools, shoes for their horses, and other metal work needed for their operations. The shop was so busy fixing tools and gear she had the bellows pumping from before the sun came up to after it went down. She had also taken a small step back from doing much of the heavy work in order to raise her ever increasing brood of children.
She and Emmett had gotten married and had become quite prolific in their ability to produce offspring. Their oldest, Alejandro – or Alex for short – could frequently be found in the shop pulling the bellows for the fire. And while she was busy with her family, it wasn't uncommon to see Rosalita herself, pounding away on a glowing red piece of iron with the baby, Carmelita, secured to her back in a large swath of fabric. The twins, Esperanza and Marisol, were usually running loose around the piano of the Devil's Luck or in Alice's dress shop "helping". Emmett had a constant grin plastered to his face and you could see the pride he had for his family practically bursting out of his chest.
Jasper couldn't help smiling as he thought about the twins. They were the light in Alice's life; all of the children in their close-knit circle of friends were special to both of them. Try as they might, he and his wife had not been blessed with little ones. That didn't stop them though from enjoying their roles as surrogate aunt and uncle to the constantly growing population of children in Devil's Fork.
He frowned when one of the rowdies in the street pulled his pistol and shot it into the air. It didn't take long, though, for one of Sheriff Cheney's deputies to break up the knot of drunken men in the street and send them on their way. The expansion of the two cell jail house to four cells took place a couple years back and unfortunately had been put to good use. The Sheriff had deputized two men shortly after the first wave of miners poured into the town. He nearly cried tears of joy when James Dunbar rode back into town last year. It was James that had made an honest woman out of Miss Vicky. They had settled down and even had a youngin' of their own named Lawrence. His bright orange hair was a bit unfortunate, but he was a sweet baby nonetheless.
It was taking all of their efforts to keep the peace in the burgeoning boom-town this afternoon and Jasper was sure it would probably take all of the able-bodied men they had to make sure that tomorrow's festivities went off without a hitch. That was one of the things that irked Jasper the most about being the Mayor; when things turned out well, it was undoubtedly due to his wife's impeccable ability to plan a social function. If something went wrong, it was all his fault.
He sighed as he pulled the shade down over the upper floor window, though blocking the sun did very little to block the sweltering heat. Jasper pulled on his vest, re-buttoned the top of his shirt, and descended the stairs that led from his office to the main gathering room in the town hall. He glanced briefly at the large red, white, and blue festoons of fabric that had been tacked to the walls in preparation for the big ceremony. The stage was similarly decorated and all of the benches arranged so that the gathering hall could accommodate as many people as possible. They'd even brought in some hay bales and lined them up along the walls for extra seating. This room would be packed full of people and brimming over with fun and excitement. His wife sure could put together a right proper shindig.
He locked up behind himself and headed home to a hot meal and his beautiful wife. Jasper stabled his horse and strode in through the back door, snaking an arm around Alice's slim waist. She was stirring a large pot of stew, sprinkling a pinch of something into the mix. Her face was glistening with perspiration from the heat outside and the heat of the stove. Jasper thought she was practically glowing and her beauty still took his breath away.
"Smell's tasty. Are Bella and Ward here yet?" asked Jasper, poking a finger into the pot and getting a smack with a wooden spoon as a reward.
"Tsk. Keep your paws out of the food. And you know he's gone by Ed since the moment his name was cleared in Phoenix." Alice narrowed her eyes as Jasper stuck his finger in his mouth and pulled it out with a pop.
"I know. I just can't get used to it. Not sure why." He shrugged his shoulders and pecked a kiss on Alice's cheek. Just then two little bullets zipped into the kitchen both shouting, "Uncle Jasper! Uncle Jasper!" Jasper was nearly bowled over as a brown-haired little boy and an auburn-haired little girl crashed into his legs and began jumping up and down with an energy rivaled only by his wife.
"Masen! Renny-Beth! How are my two favorite troublemakers?"
"Good!" they both chimed with a cherubic mischief glinting in their eyes. They each immediately launched into separate accounts of all the things they'd done, since the last time they'd seen their Aunt and Uncle, in excruciating detail. They were so engrossed in the telling of their own tales, that they didn't even notice that Alice continued on with the interrupted conversation.
"Does that answer your question?" Alice asked with an amused chuckle. "They got here a little while ago. Bella's getting their bags unpacked and everything settled upstairs, and Ed stepped out to meet with the representatives staying at the new hotel. I suppose he still feels like he needs to keep the wheels greased, so-to-speak." Alice pulled the white flour-sack towel from her apron and used it to open the oven door. She eyed the loaf of bread, thumped it once with her index finger and nodded, pulling it out with the towel.
"Nah, it couldn't be as simple as that. It's not like they're gonna tear up the track. He's got to be thinking something else," said Jasper, contemplatively rubbing the five o'clock shadow on his chin.
"Well whatever it is, he better be back soon. Supper's almost ready." Alice smiled up at her husband and reached up on her tip-toes for a quick peck on the lips.
Jasper didn't hesitate to accept the invitation and deepen the kiss, wrapping his arms fully around his wife's body and dipping her back slightly.
A high pitched giggle and a disgusted cry of, "Arrrrggghhhh. Ew! Uncle Jasper! I'm not looking!" resonated through the small kitchen. Renny-beth had both hands covering her mouth trying to stifle her laughter and Masen had both hands over his eyes as he ran around in a small circle.
"Jasper Whitlock, are you corrupting my children?" a voice called out, while slow footsteps could be heard plodding down the stairs. As Bella rounded the corner into the kitchen, her stomach leading the way, Jasper couldn't help but notice her beaming smile. She was radiant with the glow that came with expecting a baby. He chuckled as he pictured the little baby inside shielding its ears from hearing the kissin'. They would be the perfect set: see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.
"No ma'am," he responded with a grin, "I would never dream of corrupting these two little angels." He ruffled Masen's wild hair and scooped up Renny-Beth, setting her on his hip. "Masen was just expressing his disapproval of innocent displays of marital affection." He strode over to the door and gave Bella a one-armed hug before setting her daughter down next to her. "Why don't you come set a spell. Alice tells me supper's almost done." He then turned to Masen and asked, "Now what do you suppose a gentleman does for a lady?"
Masen tapped his chin thinking very hard. "He pulls out the chair for her!" he declared as he ran to the chair closest to his mother.
"Why thank you kind sir. What ever would I have done with out you?" Bella asked placing a kiss on her five year old son's head as she plopped down into the chair. She felt like the most ungainly creature on the planet, seeming to lumber and waddle everywhere she went. "Now do your momma a favor and grab a big drink of water for her and the baby." Masen quickly scrambled off to fulfill his mother's request.
Jasper gathered bowls and spoons to put on the table while Alice began slicing the loaf of bread.
Bella had only closed her eyes for a brief moment, but when she opened them back up, she was not at all happy with what her three-year old daughter was about to do. "Renesmee Elizabeth Cullen! Don't you dare!"
Unfortunately it was too late to stop the deed. The little imp had already plunged her pudgy hands into the uncovered lard bucket that sat in the corner next to the stove.
"What has my perfect little princess done now?" Asked the smooth-as-cream voice that came walking into the kitchen. Edward surveyed the scene and let out an amused bellow of laughter.
"Squishy Daddy!" Renny-Beth declared as she held up two gloppy handfuls of the semi-hard rendered fat, her dark brown eyes flashing with mischief.
"Yes honey, but that's not such a good thing to play with," Edward cut through the middle of the room and picked up his little girl, holding her at arms length. He walked with purposeful strides directly out the back door that Alice was currently holding open, and to the pump where a cake of soap and a large wash tub were waiting. Alice flung a towel over Ed's shoulder on his way out and tapped Renny-Beth on the rear end, just to distract the little girl from her laughing.
Once she was cleaned up, the pair headed back inside. They all seemed to gravitate to the table and though it was Jasper's house, everyone was looking to Ed. "Everything smells delicious, Alice. Are we ready?"
"We just need to say grace and then we can dig in."
Jasper nodded at Edward, who offered a short blessing on the food and they tucked in to their supper. The conversation was light, most of it centering on the events that were scheduled for the next day.
"I still can't believe they chose my Eddie to cut the ribbon!" Bella exclaimed. Crazy Izzy may be far in the past, but Bella was still a homebody and would rather dance with an ornery bear than be the center of attention.
Shortly after their home was rebuilt, a group of men from the same outfit the Valentines had been working with, came into town with a railroad survey crew. For a bit, they were insistent that the only way for the railroad to pass through Devil's Fork, as opposed to ten miles further south-thereby eliminating the economic boon a rail road station would bring to the town-would be to pass right through the Cullen ranch and the Hualapai's newly-rebuilt village.
Ed nearly came to blows with the men before one of them, a Mr. Kingman, suggested a meeting be organized to determine if there might be a better route. It had taken several months, but Ed, the tribal elders, and the railroad men were finally able to come to a mutually satisfactory route that skimmed the edges of both the Cullen property and the Hualapai land and allowed for the economical construction of the railroad.
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad company paid both parties a handsome fee for an easement that would allow tracks to be built as well as a railway station and a water tower. Construction began not long after the deal was struck and the rail was now laid through to Beale's Springs. The plan was for the line to eventually go all the way to Needles, California.
As Bella watched them build, she couldn't help but be swept away in her imagination about all the wonderful adventures and travel people on the railroad would have. She imagined where they would be going, why, and with whom they would go. Then she would look around at her ranch, her husband, her children, and she couldn't imagine anything more adventurous or fun than the family and life she had right there.
The festivities tomorrow were in honor of the grand opening of the railroad line and station. Because of Edward's participation in the negotiations, with the Hualapai in particular, he had been asked to cut the ribbon. As a testament to his honorable nature, he only agreed on the condition that Chief Black also be included in the ceremony.
The whole town was buzzing with excitement over the impending festivities, though not all of it was positive. There were a few naysayers and folks that were disgruntled by how prosperous the land deal was for the Cullens and the tribe.
There had been a few incidents early on in the negotiations: some property stolen, some vandalism, and other minor acts of mischief. Though once the story of how Isabella Cullen had single-handedly taken down Arrow Valentine, and Ed Cullen's own notoriety had circulated through all of the troublemakers, any further attempts to disrupt life on the Cullen ranch ceased.
"So are all the dignitaries taken care of, Edward?" Bella looked up expectantly, sopping up the last of her stew with a thick crust of bread.
"Yes, they're all in high spirits for tomorrow's proceedings. And everything is looking right on target to cut the ribbon just as the noon train rolls in," he responded uneasily, shooting a cautious glance at Jasper.
"Oh, this is so exciting! Are you excited to see the big steam engine, Masen?" Alice, ignoring the strange tension that had cropped up, was effervescent in her enthusiasm; Masen was particularly influenced by her energy.
"Uh huh, and Papa said I could get inside if the conducticator says it was okay." The little boy's green eyes glittered with excitement as the smile spread across his face, revealing the gaping hole left by his missing front tooth.
"Hey, Masen," Jasper called out. "How does a train hear?"
"Huh?" Masen's forehead wrinkled in confusion.
"How does a train hear?" Jasper repeated patiently, a rueful smile lighting up his angular jaw, revealing his own shiny, gold tooth.
"I dunno. How does a train hear?" Masen replied, shrugging his shoulders.
"With it's Engine-ears!"
Masen continued to look at Jasper until the light of understanding illuminated his features. He grabbed both of his ears and jumped out of his chairs. "Ooooohhhh I get it. Uncle Jasper that's just ridickerous. Engines don't have ears."
All of the adults chuckled at his mispronounced word, Bella chiding softly, "Ridi-cu-lous, Masen. Don't forget the 'L' sound in the middle."
"I know Momma, that's what I said. Reeeedickerous." Another round of laughter erupted, causing Masen to puff out his chest in pride at having elicited such a hearty reaction from all of the most important people in his life. He was definitely his father's child; he loved to make a show of everything.
Alice and Jasper began cleaning up the dinner mess. Renny-Beth yawned loud and long, stretching her arms up to the ceiling.
"I think it's time for my two little dust bunnies to hit the hay," Bella said, gently poking Masen on the nose.
"Mommmmmmma," Masen groaned, "how many times do I gots to tell you, I'm not a bunny. That's what girls are."
"Don't sass your Momma," Edward's stern voice rang out behind Masen, causing a wave of sheepishness to wash over his son.
"Sorry, sir. Sorry, Momma," Masen said as he toed the floor in front of him.
She leaned forward and gave him a kiss on the cheek and a big hug. "I forgive you. Now go mind your Pa and put your nightshirt on."
"Yes'm," the little boy replied and scrambled up the stairs.
Bella rocked forward trying to heft herself out of her chair but only managed to get halfway up before plopping back down. She grimaced and stuck out her tongue at her chuckling husband.
"Need a hand there, Mrs. Cullen?" He grasped her outstretched hand and pulled her easily to standing.
As she stretched, a twinge of pain shot across her abdomen. She gasped lightly as her hand automatically clutched at her very swollen belly.
"What is it love? Are you having pains?" He encircled her, resting his hands lightly on the hand that was already holding the underside of her stomach. He marveled at the tightness of her belly. Even though this was their third time going through the whole process, it was still a miracle. A small smile crept over his lips as the tightness dissipated and a sharp little body part, probably an elbow or some other such angular appendage, drifted by under his gentle hand.
"Oh, they come and go. That one was stronger than the last one though." Bella stood to full height, which wasn't much to speak of, and stretched backward, rubbing her hips as she steadied herself.
"Maybe you should just stay here and relax during the ceremo..."
Bella rounded on Ed faster than a rattlesnake and poked a finger into his chest. "Don't you dare start this up again. I'm going to be there and that's final. Please stop arguing the point; you won't win."
He sighed in defeat. They'd had this disagreement going on three weeks now. But Bella's stubborn self would not listen to reason. She was going to be at that ceremony come hell or high water. Or a baby for that matter.
"Fine then. Let's get you tucked into bed too, darlin'."
"I think that would be fine, handsome."
Edward twiddled with a stray piece of hair that had fallen from Bella's coiffure, tucking it behind her ear. She smiled tiredly up into his gaze and reached up on her tip toes as far as she could, trying to eliminate the space between them.
Smiling in return, he leaned in the rest of the way and kissed her tenderly. His hands slid from her shoulders to around her back, holding her firmly to his chest as he molded his body around her large belly.
"Awwwww, not agin'!" Masen's voice rang out from the stairs.
Bella couldn't help but smile against her husbands lips as she listened to the grumbling retreat of their boy.
"What's he mean 'again'?" asked Edward.
"Oh, he caught Alice and Jasper smoochin' earlier tonight."
The pair bid Alice and Jasper goodnight and made their way up the stairs to tuck their children into bed. Tomorrow was going to be a busy day.
After a rousing rendition of Columbia, the Gem of the Ocean, Jasper stepped up to the podium trying to quell the applause. Nearly the entire town had shown up, including a large portion of the transient mining population. Sheriff Cheney had been keeping a watchful eye on the more rowdy bunch that had congregated in the back. Much of Haulapai tribe was also there, very quietly standing off to the side. They hadn't ever been this involved with something in town and though Ben was happy they were there, he was cautious as well.
Bella was fanning herself furiously, the hot, stagnant air in the meeting hall pressing down on her, adding to her discomfort. She smiled tightly up at her husband as Jasper began the final speech. There was something going on and everyone was keeping her in the dark, which in turn made her quite cranky.
She had questioned why he and Jasper were wearing their full gun belts, but Edward waved her off, saying something about it "just being a formality". When they arrived and she shook hands with all of the other railroad officials who'd come for the ceremony, it wasn't lost on her that they too had sidearms. In fact, as she looked around, every man in the building was wearing some kind of weapon.
She tried to listen to the speeches, but between Masen zipping his button yo-yo back and forth, Renny-Beth climbing all over what was left of her lap, and the ever-increasing pains she could no longer ignore, her concentration was fractured. She tried to school her features as another contraction crept up, but this one was much stronger than the others she'd been having, and try as she might to hide it, Edward noticed.
He made a move to get up, but she shook her head once sternly, not wanting to detract from this moment. They were minutes away from cutting the ribbon and it just wouldn't do to have the spotlight shift from the ceremony to her labor pains. His lips thinned out in an unhappy grimace, but she wouldn't allow him to leave the stand. Her stare kept him pinned to his chair like a Sunday hat on the preachers wife.
Finally Jasper finished his speech and began introducing Edward and Chief Black to the group. "If you'll all follow us outside to the station, we'll proceed with the ceremony there." Jasper tipped his hat and turned back to shake hands with Mr. Kingman and some of the other men on the stand.
Alice and Bella busied themselves trying to get the children under control while the crowd began to move toward the exit.
"How are you doing, Bella?" asked Alice, her voice tinged with concern. Bella's increasing discomfort hadn't escaped her notice either.
"Sore. This baby is certainly not cooperating with today's schedule."
"Do we need to get you home?"
"For heaven's sake, Alice! This whole whoop-de-doo is almost over—Masen! Finger out of your nose please—I'm not going anywhere." Bella gave her friend a sharp look and then turned to her son-who at least had the decency to look contrite for his bad manners-taking his finger and wiping it on his shirt.
"Well let's head on over to the station then."
Bella took Renny-Beth by the hand and started into the aisle when a loud bang echoed through the room. Instinctively Bella ducked down, covering her daughter with her own body and pulling her son as close to her skirts as she could.
Screams rang out and people began scurrying everywhere. Bella chanced a look up and saw a wild-eyed man in a tattered and dirty white suit, wielding two pistols and wearing an expression of crazed desperation in his eyes.
"Cullen!" the man shouted, pointing one of his pistols directly at Ed.
The room quieted almost instantly, save for the distinct clicks of several dozen hammers cocking back, ready to fire.
The Sheriff made a move from behind, toward the man, but with a tiny twitch of his head, Ed communicated that Cheney should stand down. The Sheriff backed off carefully, but still stood at the ready. James was silently moving around to the other side of the man in order to flank him when the moment presented itself.
"Heard you might be stoppin' by. You got a lot of nerve showing up here today, Newton!" Ed responded from the front of the gathering hall. Bella noticed that Ed didn't look at all surprised to see Newton. He was still on the raised stage, and so had a much better vantage point than did Michael Newton, Sr. Though, at the moment, vantage points were the last thing on Newton's mind. He was out for blood. Bella was madder than a swarm of angry bees when another contraction pulled across her belly so tight, she couldn't look at Ed to shoot daggers at him with her eyes.
"I'm ruined! I'm ruined and it's your fault! My wife turned me out. My store's gone bust. My name is mud from here to Tucson. None of my kin will have anything to do with me and it's all your fault!" Newton began charging up the aisle toward the front of the stage, both pistols pointed at Ed's chest.
Seeing what was about to happen, Bella reacted in an instant; no matter what, she would protect her family. At the very last second, she stepped her foot in front of Newton causing him to go sprawling on the floor, one of the pistols skidding away from his hand.
With a surprising amount of agility for a man of such portly girth as Newton Sr., he jumped up quickly and rounded on Bella, who was now slightly doubled over holding her belly. She glanced once at Edward and then back to Newton who was now seething and red-faced with fury.
It was all the time Ed needed. As soon as Newton began raising the gun level with Bella's eyes, Ed drew his trusty Colt with lightning quickness and fired.
Newton's face was wild with surprise as the second gun flew out of his hand. James deftly caught the airborne weapon and moved in on Newton as Cheney surged in from the other side. In less than a minute, Newton was in irons and being led kicking and screaming down to the jail.
Ed leapt off the stage and pushed his way through the crowd toward his wife. She was white-faced and breathing in short puffs. "Bella! What in the he...what were you thinking? We're you trying to get yourself killed?"
"Hooo hooo hooo—I wasn't—hooo hooo hooo—thinking," she hissed through deep panting breaths. She let out a pained grunt and closed her eyes. "And we'll talk about you expecting that scoundrel later. Right now, go cut that ribbon then take me back to Alice and Jasper's."
"I'm taking you back now. No if's, and's, or but's."
"No you're not. Go cut the doggone ribbon. NOW!" Bella pushed Edward toward the door with all the force she could muster.
"I will do no such.." Edward began to try and make his point, but Alice cut him off.
"Edward, the longer you stand here and argue with her, the longer it will take to get her home. Just go quickly. I won't leave her side!"
Reluctantly, Edward began backing away toward the exit door. Thankfully, the deputies had cleared out the gathering room of most of the crowd. Just as Edward reached the door, he heard his daughter ask, "Momma, how come you'we wet? Did you pee pee youself?"
He started moving back toward his wife but she silently pointed to the door, telling him in no uncertain terms that he was to finish his honorary duties for the day. He cursed her stubborn nature under his breath-because he'd really have gotten whatfor if his children had heard him cursing-and ran over to the station.
"Come on," he shouted leaping up the stairs to the door, "let's get this done with. I'm about to be a daddy again."
Jasper handed him a pair of scissors and smiled once. Everyone seemed to understand the urgency of the situation and quickly assembled for the obligatory photograph of the event. Once the photograph was taken, Ed and Chief Black together cut the ribbon. Jasper welcomed everyone to the brand new Devil's Fork railway station. Edward was already racing back to the gathering hall and his mule of a wife, though he'd never say that to her face since he much preferred living to a slow, torturous death.
He was glad to see that Emmett had gone and pulled a wagon up and that Bella was settled in the back with Rosalita and Alice at her sides. The older children sat on the tail gate of the wagon swinging their feet while Ed scooped up Renny-Beth, held her over one shoulder like a sack of potatoes, and jumped into the seat next to Emmett. The loud howl of a whistle could be heard in the short distance as the noon train pulled into the brand new station.
"Let's go, Emmett!"
With a sharp snap of the reins, Emmett drove through town back to Alice and Jasper's home. The children were giddy and laughing at the bumps and wobbles in the road. Bella, on the other hand, had to suppress several choice words for her chauffeur.
"Emmett! You keep this up and I think I'd rather walk!" she shouted instead.
"Almost there! Just hold tight."
Several hours later, the children all fed and playing in the small garden behind the Whitlock home, the shrill cry of a newborn babe was heard floating down from the upper story windows.
"It's a boy!" shouted Edward from the window.
Simultaneously, Masen let out a whoop, while Renny-Beth sighed grumpily and whined, "I wanted a sistoh." She was still having trouble saying the letter "R".
Masen, Renny-Beth, Alex, Esperanza, and Marisol went running up the back steps into the kitchen, all clamoring to see the new baby. Emmett followed the brood, holding little Carmelita in his arms. Rosalita stepped out and headed everyone off at the pass. One stern look from her and they all made sure they were washed up and sitting quietly in the parlor.
One at a time, they all got to go upstairs and meet the newest member of the family. Masen sat gingerly at the foot of his mother's bed while his father helped him hold his new baby brother. "What're we gonna call him, Pa?"
"Charlie. His whole name is Charles Carlisle Cullen."
Masen nodded thoughtfully and said, "For Grampa Charlie and Grampa Carlisle."
"That's right," Edward smiled down at his son and watched as Charlie's unfocused blue eyes gazed up at his big brother. After a few minutes, Masen began to squirm, so Edward took the little bundle from his arms and sent him back downstairs.
A few minutes later, Renny-Beth toddled up the stairs. She peered into the blankets, that were now resting in the crook of Bella's arm, and wrinkled her nose. "Momma, how come he's not a sistoh baby?"
Bella smiled at her daughter's question. "He's not a sister because he's a brother. Because that's what God blessed us with."
Renny-Beth thought on this answer for a while, stroking the new baby's cheek with her own chubby finger. "Well, I 'appose you not so bad. Hullo, Chawlie." She then leaned forward and placed a tiny kiss on his head.
Once all the other children had had their chance to "ooh and ahhh" over the baby, Alice and Rosalita finished cleaning up the messy linens and left the new mother and father with some privacy.
Edward knelt down and leaned forward to kiss his wife tenderly. She sighed in exhausted contentment and pressed her lips gently against his.
"I'm sorry I was so stubborn."
"Me too. I'm just glad you didn't get hurt."
"I am most grateful for that."
"I love you."
"I love you too. So much."
Edward and Bella rested in comfortable silence, admiring the newest addition to their family. Twists of fate and coincidences had brought them back together. Edward never thought he'd ever live long enough to see himself so domesticated.
The life of a hired gun was never guaranteed beyond his own skill, and how widely lady luck smiled upon him. For Ed Cullen, he'd never been happier than where he was right at this moment.
"So, my love, when did you want to give Renny-Beth a little sister?" He grinned at the slack-jawed expression on the loveliest spit-fire of a woman he'd ever come across.
"I suppose when hell freezes over would be plenty of time," Bella replied with a sassy grin.
Ed kissed Charlie's forehead and then kissed Bella while silently thanking God for all the goodness that had come into his life.
That next spring it snowed three inches in May. Renny-Beth was more excited than anyone.
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Melly: Boy we sure were on a roll with those commas tonight, huh?
Belly: You said it. Boy, if I had a nickel for every comma in that story, I'd have... a lotta nickels.
Melly: You know I'm only talking about commas so that I can avoid talking about how this is the end of Sexy Marksman Westward...
Belly: Oh, please, you're gonna make me cry, saying "end" and "WestWard" in the same sentence... * sniff *
Melly: I know, but let's focus on the happy times. It sure was fun writing that hottie of a gunslinger wasn't it?
Belly: Indeed it was, Melly. And on a brighter note, you've started writing an new story.
Melly:Yes I have. The teaser/description can be found right under this little conversation, as a matter of fact. I'm hoping to start posting it in a few weeks so if anyone wants to know when it's up, they need to check that little author alert box! You've also got several works-in-progress yourself as well. (Mmmmm SWATward...)
Belly: Yes, maybe I'll be able to get another chapter posted of BWFA (SWATward), or TwiTrek (SpaceWard), or Rocket Man (NASA/FarmWard). I have a few choices.
Melly: Well, it's been a wonderful ride and I've loved every minute of the journey with you BB and all our wonderful readers! I think it only fair to wish them all a good night.
Belly and Melly: May your dreams be filled with Westward! * sigh *
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Here's the summary of Melolabel's new story:
New Story: Come Back To Me
Target Start Date: 9/1/10
When the fire of newlywed love cools, and the demands of life take over, how can you rise above the storm and resist drifting apart? Bella is drowning in a sea of doubt and loneliness while Edward has become so focused on his career goals that he is blind to his crumbling marriage. What kind of wake-up call will it take to get back to their happily-ever after?