Some time in the future. At Emmett and Rose's beach house.
I came down the stairs carrying a blue nylon cooler I'd just snagged from Rose while my free hand gripped tightly to the railing as I descended. I was on my way to the kitchen to fill up the cooler with the lunch Alice had made earlier to take down to the beach. I made it to the bottom of the stairs and had almost rounded the hallway corner when I heard Emmett's booming voice coming from the kitchen.
"Hey, tiny human number three, have you seen my wifey?"
I stopped with my back to the wall, out of sight, and heard a tiny giggle from the girl he was addressing. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes. Emmett truly had a way with the children.
"Nuh-uh," a small voice replied.
"You wouldn't lie to me, would you?" Emmett pressed.
The tiny voice giggled again. "Nooope!"
"Hmmm… for some reason I'm not buying it, Lizzie. You should know that the last kid that lied to me ended up in children prison. You don't want to go to children prison, do ya?" Emmett lowered his voice and whispered, "I hear they only feed you vegetables and you they make a stinky, grouchy old lady read you a bedtime story."
I had to bite down on my finger to keep from laughing out loud. And I waited for it, counted to three, and then…
I stifled my laughter and did my best to smooth my features.
"I'm coming!" I called, hitching the strap of the cooler up on my shoulder as I rounded the corner. As soon as my gaze fell on Lizzie, who was backing slowly away from Emmett, I couldn't help but grin.
"What's the matter, baby?" I asked, looking down at my daughter and doing my very best to look concerned.
"Uncle Em's being scary again, Mama."
I scowled at Emmett as I neared Lizzie. "You know he's only teasing you, sweetie. You just have to learn to tease him back."
"'Ease him back, mama? But you and daddy said I gotta be nice to my uncles," she said, looking adorably and terribly confused.
"Just Uncle Jasper," I fake whispered, crouching down next to her.
"Hey!" Emmett protested, standing over us with his arms crossed over his chest. I shot him a grin as I lowered my voice to speak in Lizzie's ear. "And do you wanna know a secret?"
"Uh-huh." Lizzie's eyes grew wide as she nodded.
"If you ever wanna scare Uncle Em, just take him up to the second story balcony."
Lizzie's face lit up. "Really?" She looked up at her uncle and giggled into her hand. "He's 'fraid of that? What a baby."
"I know," I laughed as I stood. "Now, Daddy's outside with Uncle Jasper, how about you go out and find him and I'll bring you guys some lunch?"
"And don't go in the water unless Daddy is there, okay sweetie!" I called after her.
"'Kay!" Lizzie called as she scampered through the sliding patio doors the led out to the beach. I watched my daughter go with a smile on my face.
Emmett cleared his throat from next to me and when I glanced over at him, he rolled his eyes. "Geez, Mom, way to ruin all the fun."
I pulled open the door to the fridge and began loading it with the premade sandwiches and Tupperware containers stuffed with fruits. I had to grin to myself as I noticed the neat little de-crusted PB&J sandwiches Al had made for the boys. She was going to make a kick ass mom.
"How about you just focus on terrorizing your own children for once, Em?"
"Rose doesn't let me," he pouted, leaning against the island as he watched me. "Besides, I was teaching her a good life lesson."
"Oh yeah? And what was the last one you taught her? That if you bug Mommy and Daddy after bedtime the boogeyman will jump out and rip your eyes out?"
"Hey! It's a valid lesson. I wouldn't want to scar any of my kids by having them walk in on me and Rose doing the nasty."
It was my turn to roll my eyes. "Yeah, because that's what will scar your kids."
"Oh, shut up. Come on, take this cooler and be a gentleman and help my ass down to the beach."
"You know, you're really setting a great example for the kids, Mrs. Cullen. Besides, I'm still trying to find my wife."
"Oh, I'm sorry if your beach house is so big that you lose half your family within the first few hours of being here."
"Whoa," he said, holding up his hands and taking a step back. "I know pregnancy hormones can be a bitch, but it doesn't mean you have to be one, Swan."
Emmett made a face at me but took the heavy cooler from my shoulder and held out his arm for me to hold as we made our ways through the kitchen and towards the back deck. I laced my arm through his and as I leaned up against him, I sighed.
"Rose is upstairs with Alice trying to get the boys into their swim trunks," I told him as a peace offering.
"Apparently they've decided they won't be taking off their Superman pajamas until we leave, because they're 'on wayation and they can do whatever they wanna.'" I quoted, glancing at Emmett out of the corner of my eye. "I have no idea where they'd get an idea like that."
Emmett's chest puffed with pride. "That's my boys, resisting conformity just like their old man! Don't let the 'em get you down, kids!" he called over his shoulder, towards the house even though there was zero chance of them hearing.
"Oh, god. I've said it once and I'll say it again: stay the hell away from my daughter, McCarty."
"Oh, I don't think you have to worry about me being the one who's a bad influence on your daughter, Bella." Emmett paused and nodded down the beach to where Jasper and Edward stood beside two ATV's that were parked in the sand. Lizzie was running down the beach towards me, a giant quadding helmet clutched between her tiny hands.
I stopped and placed my hands on my hips. "Elizabeth Faith! What in the world do you think you're doing?"
Lizzing stumbled through the sand and came to a stop beside me. "Mama! Mama! Daddy says I can go if you says I can go! I have a hewmet and everthing, Mama! Pweeeeease can I go?"
Lizzie's tiny features were scrunched up as she looked up at me, her bottom lip stuck out as she struggled to cradle the helmet against her chest. "Pweeeeease?" she repeated, widening her big green eyes and batting her dark eyelashes.
I knew that look well.
"Yeah, pleeeeease Mama?" A second voice chimed in, and I looked up to see my husband approaching us, his expressions identical to Lizzie's. I bit back a smile as Edward batted his eyelashes in the exact same way that Lizze just had.
"You both know it isn't fair when you do this to me," I couldn't help but laugh. Lizzie let out a tiny giggle.
"We'll be safe, Mama," she promised. "And you can stay here with Aunnie Alice and keep my brother and cousin safe." She placed on tiny hand on my tummy and smiled. "Daddy says babies don't like going fast."
Edward grinned, watching the exchange. "Yeah, and since you can't go this year, I need someone to ride with me so I can hold onto them and scream into their ear when we get going over those dunes. And I have a feeling Jasper wouldn't really appreciate that."
"Nope, he would not," Jasper agreed with a grin as he joined us.
I rolled my eyes, but deep down I knew I'd already give in the moment Lizzie looked up at me with the same wide green eyes I'd fallen in love with. Twice.
"Fine. Just… make sure you find a helmet that fits her, Edward."
"She can borrow one of the boys' old ones," Emmett supplied.
"Yayay!" Lizze began jumping up and down with excitement. "Aw Mama, thank you Mama!"
"Yeah, Mama, you're the best," Edward murmured as he leaned down and kissed me softly on the mouth. I smiled against his lips when I felt Lizzie throw herself around my leg in a hug.
I looked down and smoothed back my daughters hair. "Now, go with your uncles so they can show you where Austin and Riley's old helmets are and you can pick one out that fits."
"And you guys more sure and eat before you go. There are lots of sandwiches and snacks in the cooler."
"Thanks, Mama!" Lizzie called as she took off back down the beach towards the storage shed where all the quadding equipment was stored.
"Yeah, thanks, Mama!" Emmett echoed before he and Jasper took off sprinting after Lizzie. "Now be careful not to get any sand into your sandwich!" I could hear Emmett say when he caught her.
I turned back to Edward, who was trying to fight back a cocky grin as he watched me.
"What?" I asked.
His grin widened. "You are in so much trouble."
"What? Why?" I laughed.
"She's got you so figured out – you're wrapped right around her little finger. I mean, what happened to you? You used to be some kind of bad ass but you're just a big softie now."
I felt my face melt into a grin. "Yeah, I kind of screwed up somewhere didn't I?"
Edward raised his eyebrows and held back a smirk. "Yeah. Majorly."
"Oh, shut up." I laughed, elbowing him in the ribs. "I mean, that's why you have more than one kid right? Whatever you mess up with the first one you get to fix with the second."
"That's the theory."
"What? Should I have told her no?" I asked, suddenly panicked that I'd just made a major parenting error. But Riley and Austin had been going out there for years now and they weren't much older than Lizzie…
And then Edward just started laughing. I was confused until he wrapped his arms around me and kissed my forehead. "Relax, Bella. I just love watching you be a mother," he chuckled softly.
"That's not very nice," I frowned, but he only held me tighter, my bulging stomach pressed between the two of us.
"You know, when this baby is born, I totally dibs out of being bad cop this time around," I told him.
"I guess that's fair," he agreed.
But we both looked at each and laughed, because we knew it wouldn't last. If I was a softie when it came to my daughter, it was nothing compared to Edward. Elizabeth could get away with murder when her father was around… and even I had to admit it was kind of adorable. Most of the time.
"You guys will be safe, right?" I asked, swinging back into full on mother-mode.
"Of course," he assured me. "Jasper was out this morning to make sure the trails were in good shape – which they are. We've got full tanks of gas, walkie-talkies, and cell phones. Besides, we aren't even going that far."
"All right," I sighed, feeling better. Edward was getting really good at the whole 'comfort the worrywart mother' routine.
"See," he kissed my forehead again. "You don't need to be worrying about a thing but relaxing on this beautiful beach and taking care of my son."
"Or daughter," I grinned, biting my lip as I looked up at him.
He rolled his eyes. "Or daughter."
I laughed and stood on my tip-toes to kiss his lips. "Well, I'm gonna go inside then and see how the girls are making out with the twins."
"Okay," he said, smacking my ass lightly as I turned. Ah, some things never change.
"Oh, and Bella," he said, grabbing my arm to stop me. He licked his lips his lips as he leaned down and lowered his voice, his cheek pressed to mine as he murmured in my ear, "And when we get back, you better tell Alice and Jasper they're on babysitting duty because we've got some major payback to tend to."
"Payback?" I repeated blankly.
"You do remember what Em and Rose did to our guesthouse last weekend."
He grinned as a wicked smirk grew on my face.
"Ah, right. So you wanna see if we can't do some damage to that headboard, you mean?" I asked sweetly.
"Yeah." He licked his lips again and I could feel his eyes raking my body. "And then some."
"That we can do," I said, kissing him again, tingles spreading through my body. "Best not be too long then…" I grinned at him one last time before turning and making my way back to the beach house. And yeah, I could feel the gaze of my fuckhot husband following me with every step.
And yeah, some things never change.
I could probably go on and on, thanking you guys for everything you've done for this story: the pimping, the discussing, the guiding, the reviewing… But I'm just need to say this: ending this story is so, incredibly bittersweet. I'm met some truly amazing, sweet, and hilarious people along the way. I can't even put it into words – it's been awesome!
And I really do apologize for how epically long it took me to complete this story. But, hey, this is by far the longest piece I have ever written (and probably will ever write), and I gotta say I'm just pretty darn happy to have finished! So thanks for making this journey with me and being my inspiration and motivation to finish. I hope you enjoyed, and I hope it was worth however many bajillion words long this ends up being, and, um… I hope you stick around, because you know this isn't the last you'll hear from me... (And this time it won't take me like 3 years to finish a story.) Anyway, just throw me on author alert if you're interested ;)