I shifted slightly in my seat, smiling as Liv twirled around the dance floor with James. The tall blond man was beaming down at her and it warmed my heart. He'd gone through the gauntlet with the family in the last few years, having to pass inspection from her brothers and sisters and from Patrick, her son, and had passed with flying colors. He knew that if he hurt her, he'd be simply a blip on the news as "man who disappeared." Surprisingly, he was ok with that.
My eyes wandered across the dance floor, lighting on Diana and Lucas, her arms around his neck and his around her waist as they swayed slowly to the music, laughing and talking quietly to each other. It was a good evening. The air was warm and there was no rain for the first evening in a long time. I shifted again, craning my neck to look down at Eddie fast asleep against my chest. His mouth was hanging open and he was dead to the world. I rubbed his back and shifted him to the side and cradled him that way.
I looked up and smiled at Jake. "Hey handsome."
"You look pretty content there." He traced the curve of Eddie's cheek with the tip of his finger. "Being a grandparent isn't too bad."
I chuckled. "No, it's actually pretty nice. Spoil them rotten then send them home."
He grinned. "Hell yeah." He held up a closed fist and I bumped it lightly, laughing softly. "So you wanna pass him off and come dance with me?"
"Pass him to who?" I laughed again. "All our kids are busy with their kids and significant others. I'm fine."
"Edward might enjoy holding his namesake. Or Tanya."
I sighed and looked down at Eddie's pink cheeks. "Yeah. Go get him then."
Jake kissed my head as he stood up and headed over to the table where Edward and Tanya were talking quietly, a half drunk bottle of champagne in front of them. Jake leaned over and Edward's gaze came towards me and he nodded. I stood up then and carefully walked over, smiling and nodding at guests as I passed them.
"It's my turn," he chuckled, easily taking Eddie from me. "You've had him for ages."
"Oh come on, I get to see him as often as you do," I protested.
"I think they should move back," Tanya decided, tucking the blanket around the small boy. "I don't get enough of him or Izzy."
"Speaking of," I muttered, looking around "where is that trio?"
We all scanned the room, looking for Izzy, Patrick, and Asher. The three six year olds were a terror when they got together…something we frequently tried to avoid.
"I'm sure they're fine," Jake shrugged, grabbing my wrist and pulling me towards the dance floor.
I gave him a look. "Ok, but you get to bail them out this time."
He grinned and pulled me into his chest, lightly waltzing me around the room. "So did you enjoy today?"
"I did," I smiled up at him. "Did you?"
"Immensely. Did you like your surprise?"
I laughed and immediately looked at my new diamond ring. "I love it. How can you afford this though?"
"Don't worry about it."
"Jake," I protested and he shook his head, tightening his grip on my waist.
"No, Bells. I took care of it. Everything is fine and you get a gorgeous gift that is only an iota of how gorgeous you are to me."
I smiled up at him. "Well, thank you."
"You're welcome." He leaned down and kissed me lightly.
We danced in comfortable silence, my head resting comfortably on his chest. No one had really prepared me for all the ups and downs of life. I thought I knew what it would be like to be married to Jacob Black. I thought I knew how to raise children. I was so wrong it was funny. Life was funny, in a way. If I looked back to when I was the twins' age, I'd see a tiny little girl with big dreams and hopes of marrying her pre-med student boyfriend, settling down with him in a big city and living a fabulously glamorous life full of exotic trips and expensive gifts. Instead I'd gotten heartbreak, strain, anxiety, laughter, tears, late night vomiting, and a quiet home in our hometown. Really, I was pretty sure I'd gotten the better end of that bargain.
I turned and grinned as Asher threw himself towards us, his face flushed from exertion and excitement. I scooped him up and settled him on my hip. "What, baby?"
"Patrick and Izzy were…"
"Stop," I interrupted him. "Are you about to tattle?"
He scowled at me. "I was just gonna tell you what they did."
"I don't want to hear what they did."
"But I'm their uncle. They have to listen to me."
"No they don't," I countered. "You're the same age as they are."
He sighed loudly, throwing himself backwards. It was lucky Jake was there or he would have ended up on the floor. Jake caught him and took him from me.
"Asher, you need to behave tonight, remember? And no pouting about it either."
I could tell Asher didn't want to give up his pouting or his dismay at not being heard or obeyed but he nodded sullenly. Jake kissed his cheek loudly, causing Asher to squirm and giggle. I came in on the other side and kissed his cheek while Jake and I tickled his sides. He was screaming with laughter when we finally set him down. He collapsed on the floor, panting and staring at the ceiling for a moment before jumping up. He wrapped his arms around my knees.
"Love you Mama."
"Love you too." I laughed as he took off after Patrick, the never ending game of Tag resuming. I caught Diana's eye across the room and she laughed and shook her head, turning back to Lucas.
"You know," I said softly as Jake pulled me back for another dance "the strangest thing in my life was probably being pregnant at the same time as my daughter and my daughter in law."
Jake laughed, the sound echoing across the room. "Really? Stranger than being pregnant at the same time as Renee?"
"God yes," I nodded. "I was 47 years old, my daughter in law was 22 and my daughter was 15. It was surreal to say the least."
"Well, it won't happen again, we made sure of that."
I nodded. "We probably should have sooner."
"But then we wouldn't have Asher," he pointed out.
Just then, there was a crash from another part of the room and a loud wail. I shot him a look. "That boy is going to be the death of me. He's worse than the other five combined."
Jake laughed and kissed my temple. "I'm on it." He disappeared across the room while I made my way back to my table. Ness was there now, grinning at Ryan as he danced with their tiny daughter, spinning her around so her floaty skirt billowed around her.
"Hey Sweetie." I sat next to her and watched Ryan and Sarah. "Are you going to stay at the house tonight?"
She nodded. "If that's ok."
"Of course it is," I said indignantly. "You know Dad would be disgruntled if he didn't get more time with Sarah."
She chuckled. "Grandpa sure does have a soft spot for her," she admitted. "More so than Izzy I think."
I grinned. "Izzy's bossy. Sarah snuggles. He's old enough he just wants a snuggler at this point."
Bill appeared then, carrying Asher over his shoulder. "I think this belongs to you," he joked, dropping his younger brother onto the floor gently.
"Hey," exclaimed Asher, jumping up. "You dropped me."
"No I didn't," Bill said innocently. "You leaped off my back like Spiderman."
Asher stared at him for a moment. "No I didn't," he said finally. "You dropped me."
"Can I sleep at Bill's tonight?" Asher demanded, turning to me and dropping the conversation momentarily.
I looked at Bill and he nodded slightly. "Well, I don't know. Grandpa might miss you."
I laughed. "He will?"
Asher nodded eagerly. "Yeah. I wanna stay with Bill."
"Well, ok, but you have to do everything he says, understand?"
"Sure sure." Asher looked up at Bill. "Let's go. I'll help you pick up chicks."
Bill burst out laughing and shook his head at me. "I swear, it was just that once." I quirked an eyebrow at him and pulled Asher to me, kissing his forehead.
"I'll see you in the morning sweetie. Breakfast at the house, ok?"
"Ok ok. Bye Mama."
"I'm not a baby," he said exasperatedly as he walked off with Bill.
I laughed and sat back. Ness was grinning at me and I lightly pushed her. "You wait until Sarah's like that."
"Oh I'm dreading it. Did it just break your heart when we wanted to hang out with other people?"
I shook my head. "Not really. There were so many of you I welcomed having one less around. Since Asher's the only one left, it is a little sad but we're dealing."
Jake appeared across the room then, Patrick over one shoulder and Izzy over the other. Both were laughing hysterically as he spun wildly, pretending to be in search of the source of their laughter. He first passed Izzy off to Lucas who sat her on his shoulders and then Patrick to Liv and James. Everyone around the room was slowly gathering their children and belongings. It was late and time to go home. Bill and Asher hadn't quite left yet. I could see Asher talking to a pretty redhead who was laughing and eyeing Bill flirtatiously. It was probably a good thing those two were 16 years apart. Any closer and they'd be a fierce team.
"Hey, if I could just have everyone's attention for a moment, I'll be quick." Heads around the room pivoted toward Jake where he stood on the DJ's platform, a glass of champagne in one hand and the mic in the other. "I want to thank everyone for coming. It's been a great evening and we've had a lot of fun. Or…I have anyway." a low chuckle circled the room. "I mostly want to thank the reason we're all here tonight. Bella, stand up, would ya?"
I blushed bright red but I stood up anyway. I'd get him for this later.
"A lot of you know our story so I won't go into the details, but I want to thank Bella for taking a chance on a guy she knew and for marrying me anyway. Thanks for the six gorgeous kids around the room and for the home you've made for all of us. A house is not a home without someone like Bella Black and I couldn't imagine my life without you in it. I don't want a life without you in it. You are my heart, my soul, my sun and moon, my starlit night. You are my everything and I love you more than words can say." He stopped for a moment and I wiped at my eyes. Ness wrapped her arm around my shoulders and squeezed.
"It's been a great thirty years, babe. A roller coaster of a ride and I hope you'll keep me around for another thirty. To thirty years." He raised his glass then and everyone around the room did so as well.
After we drank, I crossed the room and took the mic. "I'm not as eloquent right now so I'll just say…thanks for being there, thanks for being my sun in the darkness. And let's just get through the next year, then we'll talk."
There was a laugh and I pulled him down for a kiss. I had definitely gotten the better end of the bargain.
Tali: So, this…was a one shot. Lol started out that way anyway. I'm kind of glad you all encouraged me to continue it. I really love this story, it may be in my top five favorites of my own stories. Yes, I have favorites. I'm a bad story mama.
I hope you've enjoyed this little journey as much as I have. Love and peace to all!