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Chapter 61 - Epilogue
Twenty years later...
Katy and Sophia stood on the beach watching the sunrise. The rays glittered off their hard skin, reflecting off the water in rainbow prisms.
"So when are you expecting Hailey to arrive?" Sophia asked.
Katy shook her head. "This afternoon, her and this boy she likes will be coming for Christmas dinner. I don't know what happened to the time. It seems like just yesterday she was handed to me as a newborn baby and now here she is bringing home a boy for us to meet."
"So she's sure he's her mate?"
"Well, she thinks so, but I'm anxious to get Edward and Elizabeth's take on the boy. So, I know you're excited, but how is Masen handling his little Olivia being pregnant?"
Sophia laughed. "It's strange, like you said. It seems like just yesterday I was trying to catch her and cursing Masen for not changing me right away. I can't believe my baby is having a baby. Thankfully, the boys like her beau. Emanuel is a bit young, but very sweet. Caleb and Teresa raised him well. They'll be joining us again this year."
"Good, have they given any thought to changing their diet?"
"No, but Emanuel has done well with the change. I think it helps to have the support of his mate."
Carlie made her way over to the pair. "What are you two mother hens clucking about?"
They both turned and laughed at her. "Who are you calling a mother hen?" Katy teased.
"I know, I'm one to talk. I guess it's just nice to have someone with experience on hand," Carlie said as she rubbed her belly. She had finished college and traveled the world with her husband, Seth, before they settled down to have children. She was only carrying her second.
"Where is little Ian?" Sophia asked.
Carlie shrugged her shoulders. "I have no idea, this being pregnant slows me down and he uses it to his advantage, little monster. His daddy is tracking him down now."
"So how is life on the reservation? I'd guess it's nice to have Elizabeth close by?" Sophia offered.
"Yes and no. Little Jacob and Ian can be such troublemakers. I really don't know how the tribe tolerates us. I've seen your Hailey, though," she said to Katy. "She's usually over at Leah's home. I believe she's become quite infatuated with Joseph. They seemed rather cozy when I saw them walking on the beach."
"Joseph? Why didn't she tell us it was Joseph? We like him. Here we all were worried she was going to run off with some human or worse, a vampire who just wanted to use her. No, thank heavens it's Joseph," Katy let out a relieved breath.
Bella came up holding two little dark-skinned boys. "Little Jacob and Ian were looking for trouble again. Unfortunately for them, they only found grandma," she said with a smile.
"Is Elizabeth here then?" Katy asked.
"Yes, she just arrived with William. They're getting settled now. Is Grandpa Jacob going to be joining us?" Bella asked Carlie.
"Yes, I believe so; he hasn't been doing well since his father passed. He stopped shifting so he could age with Becky. Elizabeth has been over to my house several times upset about it. William is not handling it well."
"No, I suppose he wouldn't, maybe I'll have a talk with him."
"Rosalie said Nathan will be bringing home someone this year. He just graduated from college and apparently has been dating the same girl the whole time. It'll be interesting to see if she can handle being part of our family," Carlie offered.
"I hope she can for Nathan's sake," Bella said and kissed her grandbaby, Little Jacob.
Bella took the fresh loaves from the oven as Masen came up behind her. "You know, Mother, I could never understand how someone who didn't eat could make the most amazing food."
She reached over and kissed her son's cheek. "Flattery will get you everywhere, or at least a slice of bread," she said handing him a knife.
Thomas came sliding into the kitchen. "I knew it; he was always your favorite!" he accused teasingly.
"You're right, he's my favorite oldest son, just like you're my favorite youngest. Now why don't you help your brother slice up the loaves, and please leave some for the rest of our company?"
"Sure, Mom, you can trust us," Thomas said with a smirk.
Edward stepped in and wrapped his arms around his wife, kissing her softly. "I hope you have more loaves stashed somewhere because the boys are not going to let those ones see the light of day."
Bella giggled. "One can only hope."
"Jacob has just arrived, my love. He doesn't look well. I think Becky is sick and it's taking its toll on him."
Bella looked up at Edward, her worried eyes meeting his stoic ones. "I wish there was something we could do for them."
"I know, my love, but this is the way it's supposed to be. Nature is just taking its course. We've just become accustomed to keeping our loved ones with us, but your father and mother are getting quite old as well, dear. They've done well to live this long, but they'll be gone soon, too, and I'm sorry for it. I'm just glad they were able to be a part of our children's lives."
Her face looked so sad, but Edward pulled her lips to his, kissing them softly. "Hey, at least our kids will never have to say goodbye to their parents. Our grandkids and great-grandkids and great-great-grandkids will always have us. It's still hard to believe sometimes that I have a family, that you've given me children, and then I see my doubles running around chasing kids and hugging wives and I can't believe they're my sons. And then my beautiful daughters are waddling around, giving me more beautiful grandchildren. Bella, love, it reminds me of when you were swollen with my children, so amazing, so wonderful. Thank you, my love, thank you."
Everyone sat down to dinner. Those that did not eat food helped with the children that did so the parents could eat in peace.
Tammy, Nathan's fiancée as everyone had come to find out, shifted nervously in her seat. He had told her he was different, but to see it was another thing. She was obviously intimidated by Rose's beauty. The poor girl sat silent most of the night as Rose scowled at her. No one was good enough for her baby boy.
Hailey, on the other hand, bragged constantly about Joseph getting accepted into Dartmouth. They planned to attend together. Thomas seemed less than pleased about his baby girl settling down so quickly, but Katy was pleased with her daughter's choice in mates.
Caleb and Teresa were so excited to see Emanuel and Olivia. They both loved her deeply and were thrilled to become grandparents soon. They even tried the mountain lion punch Edward had made. They were both welcomed as family and loved being part of the Cullen coven, even if it was by marriage.
Carlisle hurried in after the meal with Esme. He was smiling widely as he announced that the council had reported having more vampires working on settling and blending in as their families grew. Most covens had adopted a child at some point and that child had caused many of the families to grow. There had been a softening of the vampire culture. Carlisle had proudly announced that more people had switched to animal diets because they were worried they would risk killing their children's mates. He was thrilled that his way of life had taken off. He also reported fewer vampires had been created over the past ten years, numbering at only six, all new mates to already-existing vampires. It seemed the vampires had taken to expanding their covens, or families as many had started to refer to them, by the natural way.
Edward and Bella watched contently as their family ate and helped feed their grandsons. Bella smiled when her grandson, Little Jacob, smiled widely at her, a familiar smile. She knew she would always have a part of her best friend with her long after he had left the earth. Her sad eyes looked across the table to her best friend and he smiled at her, a knowing smile. He knew even though he would be departing this world soon, he would live on in the hearts and faces of his grandchildren whom Bella would love for all time, and in doing so, he knew she never would forget him.