Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of Stephenie Meyer, and the lyrics to I Will are the property of the Beatles. No copyright infringement is intended. The original plot and storyline of Never Enough, however, belong to me. Please be nice and don't copy or translate without permission. Thank you.
Love, hugs and so many thanks I can't even begin to count them to my betas, Iadorepugs, Cullen_Crazy01 and special guest beta PixieKat7. It's because of them that this epilogue isn't a complete and utter disaster.
Iadorepugs and I have entered a one-shot in the Curvaceous & Bodacious contest. See my author profile for the link, and go read and vote, please! We're not above begging :)
So, what have Bella and Edward been up to since we last saw them? Read on, and Edward will tell you!
Two years later - EPOV
It was an unusually warm day for early June and the sun was almost uncomfortably hot as we sat outside. There was no shade to be found inside the Port Angeles High School football stadium and people all around us could be seen fanning themselves with their programs. I was grateful for my short-sleeved polo shirt and light khakis and that I hadn't forgotten my sunglasses in our hurry to leave the house this morning.
A flurry of movement to my right caught my eye and I watched with amusement as Will struggled to keep his little brother Colin in his lap during the long graduation ceremony. Jacob and Renesmee's son was a bundle of energy who rarely sat still, although he worshiped Will and behaved better for him than almost anyone else, which made Sarah green with envy.
I looked up at the stage where Sarah sat with the other members of the National Honor Society, listening attentively to the graduation guest speaker. I noticed her sneaking occasional glances in our direction, but not at any of the family gathered to celebrate her graduation. No, as it had been for the past two years, she had eyes only for her Daniel, who had returned from his sophomore year at University of Washington to be here. He was dressed in a suit jacket and tie, holding a bouquet of flowers as he stared up at the stage, his eyes locked on Sarah with a huge smile plastered on his face.
The last two years had been difficult on their relationship, although they both worked hard at it. He was only a couple of hours away in Seattle, but came home frequently to visit his parents and spend time with Sarah. Bella was already worried about next year—we both were—when Sarah was going to be all the way across the state at Washington State University. However, Sarah was excited to begin her studies toward her veterinary medicine degree and she and Daniel joked about their cross-state rivalry. Bella and I simply tried to adopt their attitude as best we could despite our worries.
The crowd perked up when the speaker finished and the principal presented the students to the superintendent for graduation. The honor students were the first to be presented with their diplomas and I stood with our family and cheered, watching Sarah with a proud father's eyes as she crossed the stage to accept her diploma. I may not have been her father biologically, but I believed my pride in Sarah's accomplishments equaled Bella's and Jacob's.
After all, I had been there for a lot of milestones the last two years. When Sarah had struggled with Trigonometry and Physics, I was the one who helped her study to maintain her stellar grade point average. And even more importantly, at least in Sarah's estimation, I was the one who taught her how to drive, her mother and father both too stressed by the experience to be of any real assistance. Not to say I hadn't earned a couple of gray hairs when the Volvo missed obstacles by mere inches, but I was far less agitated teaching her to drive than either Bella or Jake had been.
Sarah turned and smiled, making a silly face at the crowd that cheered her on. And what a crowd it was. All of her grandparents, aunts, uncles and extended family—the Swans, the Blacks and the Cullens were in attendance and we took up several rows. Emmett and Rosalie were the loudest, stomping their feet and whistling with the twins following their lead, while Bella and Esme were the weepiest, tissues in hand as they watched Sarah accept the congratulations of the members of the school board.
Only when Sarah exited the stage did we take our seats again. I turned to help Bella sit, wishing she hadn't insisted on wearing heels and worrying about her balance. My eyes were drawn to Bella's hand, the sun sparkling off the diamond in her ring as she pressed her palm to her abdomen. I looked up to see a grimace on her face as she shifted in her chair. Just beginning her ninth month of pregnancy, she was rarely comfortable sitting for any extended period of time these days and the metal folding chairs did nothing to alleviate her discomfort.
Bella's change of heart about having our baby came right on the heels of the birth of Jacob and Renesmee's son. A few days after coming home, Renesmee was rushed back to the hospital with a very serious infection. Bella and I had volunteered to take Colin so that Jacob could stay with Renesmee at the hospital. It had truly been touch-and-go for a while and he had nearly lost Renesmee at one point. After three days and nights of taking care of the baby and seeing how Will and Sarah were with their little brother, Bella told me that she had changed her mind about having a baby of our own, if I still wanted to have one. Even though I knew I wanted a child with Bella, we waited several weeks to make sure it wasn't a hasty decision before we took such a life-altering step. When we were certain, Bella scheduled an appointment to have her IUD removed and operation make-a-baby began in earnest.
Getting pregnant had been astonishingly easy. We had only been trying for two months when Bella climbed back into bed one morning with happy tears in her eyes and a positive pregnancy test in her hand. We both called in to work that day and spent the morning making the sweetest love possible to celebrate the news.
Being pregnant – well, that was another story altogether. Bella had suffered from such horrible morning sickness that she'd been hospitalized twice during her first trimester for dehydration and she lost a lot of weight. Our little nudger finally gave her some peace starting in the fourth month and it had been a very healthy, happy and normal pregnancy from that point on.
Bella noticed me watching her and smiled radiantly. She regularly cracked jokes about looking like one of the whales we had spotted on our trip to San Juan Island, but never had she been more beautiful to me than now, heavy with my child. I had barely been able to keep my hands off her before; now it was a daily struggle to rein in my passions to allow her the rest she needed.
As if she could read my mind, Bella reached over and placed her hand high on my thigh, her thumb rubbing slow circles as she watched the remaining line of graduates proceed across the stage. I tried to think of anything and everything I could to keep my arousal down and finally just ended up being grateful that my shirt was untucked. My wife could arouse me with the simplest of glances or touches and we were both thrilled that even with the advanced state of her pregnancy, such intimacies were not only possible but overwhelmingly enjoyable.
I flinched when Bella's nails dug into my leg for a brief moment and I snuck a sideways glance at her. Her eyes were closed, her face relaxed except for the furrow between her eyebrows. Her expression smoothed and she opened her eyes again, shooting me a sideways glance and grinning, which did nothing to help the situation in my pants. I put my hand over hers and squeezed gently and we both returned our attention to the stage.
A couple of minutes later, while the principal droned on and on, I felt Bella's nails bite into my leg again, for a longer period this time. She shifted in her seat and pressed her other hand low on her abdomen, and I felt a trickle of fear slide down my spine.
"Are you okay, love?" I whispered, my voice urgent, noting that her complexion was pale and there were beads of perspiration on her brow.
"Yes, just a few contractions, no more than usual" she assured me, loosening her fingers and patting my thigh. The color was back in her cheeks and she looked more relaxed again. I sighed with relief. She'd been having Braxton-Hicks contractions for several weeks now, powerful enough that they woke her from sleep. Given how strong they felt just by touching her abdomen, I couldn't imagine how painful they were, and they weren't supposed to be anywhere near as painful as labor. It made me somewhat ill to think that Bella was going to go through that much agony to bring our child into the world. She'd had cesarean sections with both Sarah and Will, but she wanted to try a natural birth with our child. Her obstetrician was optimistic about the chances and as a result so was Bella. I just wanted both of them to be healthy and safe.
Another twenty minutes passed without incident as the graduation ceremony wrapped up. The graduates cheered and tossed their caps into the air and all around us our family and friends snapped pictures of Sarah and her classmates celebrating. Bella had forgotten the camera this morning and was berating herself for her 'pregnancy brain'. I on the other hand had no excuse other than I had been too busy trying to help Bella out of her dress rather than into it, so I made a mental note to ask the family members for copies of their pictures.
Sarah made her way through the crowd and headed straight into Bella's arms, where the two of them hugged fiercely as Sarah laughed and Bella cried. Bella's tears only made Sarah giggle harder. Bella's hormones had been out of control for the past seven months and she'd been crying at the drop of a hat. She'd cried when Sarah had aced her Trigonometry final in the first semester. She'd cried when Will made the varsity basketball team his sophomore year. Hell, she cried while watching television commercials or listening to the radio and that was when happy songs were playing. Emmett affectionately referred to her as the emotional barometer, which made Bella laugh...and then cry.
Sarah was passed down the line, hugging everyone in turn. I hugged her right after Will, whispering in her ear how proud I was of her. She hugged Jacob and Renesmee, Emmett and Rosalie, Alice and Jasper, Renee and Phil, Charlie and Sue, Esme and Carlisle, Seth and Caroline, and a host of other family and friends. Saving Daniel for last, the two of them shared a short but emotion-filled kiss that had Bella tearing-up again. I smiled at Bella and pulled her into my arms, pressing a kiss to her temple as I slid my arms around her midsection. The baby greeted me with a swift kick and I rubbed Bella's belly in response. She turned her head to smile at me and I couldn't resist the urge to kiss her.
I heard Will groan in response and mutter, "Get a room" as he turned away in disgust. Despite the fact that he had filled out and was now just as tall as I was, he still wasn't any more interested in girls than he had been when I met him almost three years ago. The girls at his school, however, had definitely noticed Will, including several members of Sarah's own senior class who were eyeing him from down the row. But between basketball, baseball, and his advanced placement classes, he rarely had time outside of practice and homework to notice there was a world outside of school anyway. I kept telling Bella that someday a girl was going to come along and rock his world, but she would plug her ears and sing "La la la, I can't hear you," until I stopped.
Esme swooped down on Bella and I and tugged Bella from my embrace, her hands immediately going to Bella's belly. "How are you feeling, sweetheart? Should you be standing? You shouldn't be in the sun like this. Edward, go get her something to drink, would you?"
Bella laughed. "Esme, I'm fine. I've been sitting for hours, just like the rest of you, so it feels good to stand up and move around. Besides, we'll all be back at the house in just a little while and I'm sure Edward won't let me do anything, will you?" she teased me.
She knew me all too well. I had been working with Alice and Esme to make sure that everything for our family gathering this afternoon was all set and that Bella would have as little to do as possible, with only a few weeks to her due date. I had even gone so far as to hire a housekeeper last month, much to Bella's irritation, but our new house was so much larger than the old one that I didn't want her to tire herself trying to work and take care of the house as well.
We had moved last fall, our new home a few blocks away from Jasper and Alice. We had purchased the house with the intention of turning the fourth bedroom into a home office. The renovation was nearly complete when we decided to start trying for a baby. We quietly stopped work on the office, but didn't tell anyone our plans so as not to jinx anything. Alice was over the moon when Bella asked her to help plan the nursery, although all of Bella's girlfriends were frustrated when we refused to find out the baby's sex. The jungle animal themed nursery was going to be perfect no matter what baby Cullen turned out to be.
Everyone joined us at our house after the graduation for a family party. Sarah was having an open house for her friends and other relatives next week at her dad's house, but we wanted to have a separate celebration before the baby came with our own family. The house and yard were full of adults and kids of all ages, and I found myself stopping quite frequently to speak with people. Even though I vowed to keep track of Bella to make sure she was taking it easy and staying off her feet as much as possible, I hadn't seen her in quite some time. I found myself trying to exit out of multiple conversations stopping me from tracking her down.
I finally made my way into the house and stopped in the kitchen to speak with Sue, Charlie, Seth, and Caroline. Every one of our friends absolutely adored Caroline, and she was the perfect match for Seth. She had endeared herself to Bella and me by helping us get back at Seth for his wedding night prank. Four months ago, at Bella's baby shower, Caroline had pretended to be the surprise baby mama. When Seth walked in with an armload of presents and saw his fiancée beaming proudly under a banner that read 'Congratulations on Your New Arrival Seth and Caroline!' he had dropped in a dead faint. The video was a You Tube sensation among our friends, and no one at the garage would let a week go by without playing it. Seth officially declared an end to all pranks, which I didn't believe would last for a minute, but it sure felt good to get him back.
"Hey Edward, how's Bella doing? I haven't seen her in a while." Caroline asked sweetly, while Seth eyed me nervously.
"I was actually going to ask if any of you have seen Bella," I said casually, trying to mask my worry with a smile. A glance at Charlie told me I wasn't doing a very good job.
"Last time I saw Bella she was headed upstairs, but that was quite a while ago," Sue offered, gesturing toward the staircase. I made small talk for a few more minutes before I excused myself to go up the stairs toward our master suite near the back of the house.
I found Bella in our room, sitting in the rocking chair I had placed near the window with her feet propped up on the ottoman. I crossed the room to stand behind her and see what she was watching outside. Emmett and Rosalie's twins were chasing Will and his friends, who were kicking a soccer ball around. Jasper and Alice's kids were throwing a Frisbee back and forth with Daniel, who was laughing as he kept pushing his glasses back up his nose. Sarah was talking and giggling with Esme and Renee, all three of them sneaking glances at Daniel, and I was pretty sure I didn't want to know what that conversation was all about.
I knelt down beside Bella, brushing her hair to one side and pressing a soft kiss to the spot on her neck that I knew always drove her crazy. She leaned into me and then turned her head to kiss me, tangling her fingers in my hair and tugging gently as our kiss grew more intense.
Bella's grip suddenly turned firm and she yanked my hair hard as she gasped. I chuckled and tried to shake my head. "Sweetheart, you know I appreciate your enthusiasm, but that kinda hurts," I joked, wincing as her fingers tightened even more.
"Oh my God, not nearly as much as this does," Bella groaned, dropping her hands to her stomach and arching her back. She bit her lip and moaned and for the first time since I met her I didn't find that sound sexy. I found it downright terrifying.
"Bella? Sweetheart, what's going on?" I asked, hearing the alarm in my voice. I lowered my hands to cover hers and felt her stomach, which was rock-hard beneath our touch.
"I hope that everyone will understand, but I think you and I need to go to the hospital," she said to me through clenched teeth as she tried to regulate her breathing.
"It's time?" I choked.
"Yes, it's time," she whispered back, her face finally relaxing into a beautiful smile as she exhaled, her stomach muscles softening and reshaping beneath our hands as the contraction subsided. "I've been timing my contractions; they've been coming every five minutes for the past hour and a half and they're getting stronger and longer."
"Why didn't you say something sooner?" I asked, feeling the panic set it. Bella wasn't due for several more weeks. Statistics ran through my mind of all the things that could go wrong with a premature birth as I felt my own breathing start to accelerate. "It can't be time, it's too early."
"I don't think that the baby cares too much about time tables right now. And we're at thirty-six weeks, so everything's going to be fine. I called the doctor and she's expecting us at the hospital. Don't worry," Bella said, raising her fingers to caress my cheek. This time I was the one to lean into the comfort of her touch. "I can't wait to meet our son or daughter."
Bella laughed as I staggered clumsily to my feet and scrambled around our bedroom, gathering her suitcase and mine, calling down the staircase to my parents. The entire household was in motion within minutes, promising to keep Sarah's party going while taking shifts at the hospital. I promised to call once we were settled in a room and drove off with Bella in the passenger seat, breathing heavily through another contraction and reassuring me at the same time that she and the baby were okay. God, how I loved my this woman.
Since Bella's doctor had called ahead we were immediately taken upstairs and settled into a room. Bella's doctor greeted us there and checked her over, indicating that we were indeed well on our way to becoming parents and that it looked like baby Cullen may even put in his or her appearance tonight if things continued to progress. Dr. Choate encouraged Bella to move around as much as possible and said it would make laboring easier, but encouraged her to remain attached to the monitors if she wasn't moving around.
The monitors—it felt like everything was ruled by the monitors. There was a monitor that gave a readout of Bella's heart rate and blood pressure, which I watched obsessively. Even though Bella was only thirty-seven, her blood pressure was a concern due to her 'advanced maternal age' and had been watched closely throughout her pregnancy. Another showed the baby's heart rate, which Bella watched even closer, having explained to me that the reason she'd needed a Cesarean section with Sarah was because her labor had been hard on Sarah and her heart rate had dropped too dramatically, putting Sarah in danger.
There were so many people in and out of Bella's room that I couldn't keep track of them. Doctors, nurses, aids, technicians. Despite her pain, Bella had a ready smile for each one and somehow could remember each person's name even as she labored. All I could do was watch my wife and those damned monitors and worry. Seeing her going through this pain was killing me. I desperately wanted to ask an anesthesiologist to simply knock her out until the baby came. Bella had promised me that she would ask for an epidural if it became too much, but had made me promise in return that I wouldn't badger her too soon to seek pain relief.
Two hours after we arrived, Bella's water broke. Her contractions immediately spiked in intensity and duration and she found it very difficult to move around after that. Another couple of hours passed and Bella cried in my arms as she admitted that she needed help with the pain, something I had been waiting for her to realize as I watched how her discomfort was affecting her numbers on all the monitors. She nearly crushed my fingers when she held my hand as the anesthesiologist administered the epidural. The look of calm on her face was almost instantaneous and I felt relief swamp me as I watched her blood pressure return to normal and the baby's heart rate level out.
Bella's labor continued to progress, now relatively pain-free and I was relieved when she was able to close her eyes to get some rest. I sat at her bedside, holding her hand and stroking her hair and inevitably watching the monitors. The nurses and aides continued to wander in and out, as did various family members, although once Sarah arrived from her party she stayed with us.
I noticed a marked change in the contractions on the monitor just as Dr. Choate re-entered the room and Bella stirred in her sleep, groaning uncomfortably. The doctor studied the monitor as well. "Looks like my timing is just about perfect. Edward, if you want to go scrub up, I think we're just about ready to start."
I dashed over to the sink and washed my hands up to the elbow, watching the room transform. A nurse and doctor from the neonatal unit came in with their warmer and equipment and started setting up for the baby's arrival. Another nurse arrived and started pulling things from the cabinet and putting together a tray for Dr. Choate's use. Sarah joined me at the sink and started washing as well and she met my gaze with a nervous smile.
"Ready for this?" I asked her.
"I sure am," she said. "Are you sure you're okay with me being here?"
"Of course I am. You know your mom and I want you here, but only if you're comfortable with it. It could get pretty intense," I reminded her. Bella and I wanted both Sarah and Will to be as involved as they wanted to be. Will was perfectly content 'participating' from down the hall, but Sarah wanted not only to be in the room but to actually help Bella through her labor.
"I know, and I can handle it, for you, Mom and for my brother or sister," Sarah answered confidently. I felt such a rush of love and pride that I wanted to reach out and hug her, but the doctor was motioning for us to return to Bella's side.
Bella was awake now, her eyes wide and scared as she watched the people moving efficiently around the room. I hurried back to her and her hand reached blindly for me, her fingers gripping mine tightly.
Dr. Choate sat down on the end of Bella's bed and checked her. "It's time," Bella said, no question in her voice. She looked up at me, her brown eyes apprehensive. "Edward, hold me?" she asked and her voice trembled.
"Always, sweetheart. Always," I said, knowing that I had to be strong and that I couldn't let my own fear show. I slipped my arm around her shoulders as I helped position her on the bed. Sarah stood by one hip, a nurse by the other. Another nurse and the neonatologist stood by the warmer, ready for the baby.
"All right Edward, Bella, we're ready to meet this little one. Bella, when the next contraction hits, take a deep breath and hold it and I want you to push while I count to ten. Then you rest and we'll do it again on the next contraction, okay?" I could see that Dr. Choate was smiling at us over her mask, her eyes sparkling behind her glasses.
Bella nodded, smiling bravely. She looked up at me, and I kissed her temple. "I love you, beautiful girl," I whispered.
"I love you too, Edward," she whispered back.
"Okay Bella, get ready, take a deep breath," Dr. Choate said and Bella started to push.
Forty-five minutes later, Bella was panting, exhausted and clearly in discomfort again. At the end of one particularly strong contraction, she collapsed back in my arms and sobbed, "I can't do it anymore, Edward."
"You can do this, Bella, you're almost there," Dr. Choate encouraged.
"You've been saying that for thirty minutes," Sarah snapped, tears in her eyes. It was hurting her as much as it was me to see her mother in pain like this.
"Your mother is doing a wonderful job Sarah and your baby brother or sister is nearly here," Dr. Choate said kindly but firmly. "Just a little bit more, Bella. I can see the head. Edward, your child has your hair, that same wild reddish-brown color. Come on, Bella, I know you want to meet him or her. Edward, get her back on track."
I wrapped my arms around Bella and helped her sit upright again, ignoring her weak protest. I pressed my lips against her sweaty forehead and kissed her, then smoothed her hair out of her face. "Come on, sweetheart. You can do this. You're the strongest person I know. Do this for me, Bella. For us."
Bella stifled a sob as the next contraction built. "Focus," Dr. Choate told her as Bella fought against the pain.
I pressed my lips against Bella's ear and began to sing. "Who knows how long I've loved you, you know I love you still, will I wait a lonely lifetime, if you want me to, I will."
"Good job, Bella, perfect. A couple more contractions like that and the baby's head will be out," Dr. Choate praised.
"Edward," Bella gasped, raising her hand to grasp mine. She buried her head in my shoulder and I took comfort in the fact that her blood pressure had lowered slightly again from the slow ascent it had taken during Bella's pushing.
"All right, here comes another one. Get ready everyone."
As the doctor counted, I sang again, Bella's hand clasping mine tightly as she bore down. "For if I ever saw you, I didn't catch your name, but it never really mattered, I will always feel the same."
"Mom, I can see the head!" Sarah exclaimed. "C'mon, it's almost out!"
Bella laughed weakly and I smiled. "Sarah's right, the next push and the head should be out. Let's make it a good one, shall we?" Dr. Choate said.
Bella took a deep breath and I started to sing. "Love you forever and forever, love you with all my heart, love you whenever we're together, love you when we're apart."
Bella cried out softly and I stopped abruptly, looking down at her anxiously. "Okay Bella, stop pushing," Dr. Choate said sharply. "The baby's head is out, let me make sure everything's clear for the shoulders to follow."
"Gosh mom, the baby's got a ton of hair," Sarah said, her eyes wide and her voice full of awe.
"Almost there sweetheart," I said. "Next couple of pushes and we're going to be parents again." I kissed her temple as she leaned in to me.
"All right, ready to finish this and meet your baby?" Dr. Choate asked. She didn't wait for an answer. "Next contraction, same thing, but then we're going to keep right on going after ten, exhale, take another deep breath and keep pushing, okay Bella?"
As soon as the doctor started counting, I started singing again, " And when at last I find you, your song will fill the air, sing it loud so I can hear you, make it easy to be near you, for the things you do endear you to me, oh, you know, I will, I will."
On the final line, I had three accompanists. One was Bella, who let out a final sob as the baby slipped from her body. The second was Sarah who gasped loudly at the same time. And the third was the quiet but strong cry of my child as it took its first breath in this world.
My eyes filled with tears at the most amazing sound I had ever heard. Dr. Choate placed the infant on Bella's stomach and the nurse started vigorously rubbing the baby with a blanket. "Bella, Edward, meet your daughter."
"She's beautiful," I said, hesitantly reaching out a finger toward her, but drawing it back as she cried.
Dr. Choate grabbed my hand and placed it on my daughter and I was amazed when she calmed under my touch. "Don't ever be afraid to touch in love. She needs that as much as she needs food, clothing and shelter. Would you like to cut her cord, Dad?"
Dad. I had given up the dream of being called that long ago. Bella had given that back to me. "Yes, please," I answered gruffly around the lump in my throat. When I looked up Bella and Sarah were watching me with tears in their eyes.
After I cut the cord, Dr. Choate wrapped the baby in a blanket and placed her in Bella's arms for a minute. All too soon, she reached for the baby. "Okay, as you know she's a little early, so we need to turn her over to the neonatal team to check her out and make sure everything's okay. They need to take her down to the unit, all right? And Bella, we've got a little work left to do."
Bella nodded wearily, watching anxiously as they bundled up our little girl and placed her in the warmer. She continued to cry and I wanted to snatch her back and protect her, but I knew that they needed to make sure she was okay. "Mr. and Mrs. Cullen, does she have a name?" the neonatal nurse asked softly.
I looked at Bella, and she nodded. We had discussed several names and had chosen one that used my initials. "Yes, her name is Elyse Abigail Cullen."
Elyse weighed in at a whopping five pounds two ounces and was sixteen and a half inches long. She did indeed have a full head of reddish brown hair that the staff actually had to wash it was so thick. One nurse even put a bow in Elyse's hair under her hospital cap. Her eyes were dark and it was difficult to tell if they would lighten or be brown like Bella's, although I fervently hoped for the latter. They tested her lung function and it appeared to be completely normal, thanks to the dose of steroids they had given Bella upon her arrival at the hospital. Aside from being on the small side, Elyse was healthy and suffered no ill-effects from her early birth.
Elyse dipped below five pounds during her hospital stay and had some difficulty latching on, although Bella was infinitely patient with her. I had never seen Bella so calm and serene as when Elyse was in her arms and my wife had never been more beautiful to me before. Ever.
I was the one who was overly emotional every time I saw my wife and daughter together. Emmett had found me standing in the hallway outside Bella's hospital room with tears in my eyes and freaked out, thinking that something had happened to either Bella or Elyse. He had laughed uproariously at me, earning twin smacks on the head from Sarah and Rosalie. Rose reminded him of the first time one of the twins learned to say 'daddy' and Emmett had bawled like a baby, at which point Emmett stopped laughing and blushed like a schoolgirl.
The neonatologist wanted to see Elyse return to her birth weight before leaving the hospital, so she had to stay a couple of extra days. The staff took one look at the determination in my wife's eyes and didn't even attempt to argue with her when she informed them she would be staying as long as Elyse did. I suspected that my father called in a few favors on our behalf, but I didn't mind if it meant that we wouldn't have to leave and return home to the empty nursery without our little girl. Bella was discharged two days after delivery, but didn't leave the hospital until Elyse did three days later.
She absolutely swam in the newborn outfit we chose as her going-home outfit and needed extra support in her car seat as well. I couldn't get over how small and delicate our little Elyse was…except for her cry. That girl had a set of lungs on her that we teased Will came straight from him. There was never a question when she needed something, because she went from silent to crying in half a second flat, even if it was the high, reedy cry of a newborn.
We returned home to find the nursery filled with boxes and bags of new clothes and accessories in various sizes for Elyse, courtesy of her aunts, grandmothers and sister who had waited to purchase clothing until they knew whether the baby was a boy or girl. We were grateful to have some smaller clothing that fit Elyse. Bella joked about never needing to shop for our daughter again, while I seriously considered whether I was going to have to add a walk-in closet to the nursery. I'd had no idea there were that many clothes for a baby girl out there, especially in that many shades of pink. There was no possible way that Elyse would be able to wear each outfit before she outgrew them.
We settled into a routine at home pretty quickly. Bella was breastfeeding, but pumping too so that I could share in feeding Elyse. It took some practice, but I became pretty adept at changing diapers, although the first time Elyse both peed and pooped on me in the same diaper change, Bella was rendered almost incoherent with her laughter. Sarah and Will pitched in as much as their schedules allowed as well, helping around the house in between their jobs, cooking and cleaning, although Will steadfastly refused to so much as touch a single diaper.
Rather than return to the bookstore full time, Bella and Angela had hired Billi to take Bella's place as the third manager of A New Page and Bella was going to stay home with Elyse for at least the first six months. She still planned to go in every week to work on the scheduling and the books, but not for a while and not until she could take Elyse with her.
By the end of July it felt as if Elyse had always been with us and I couldn't imagine life without her. She was a healthy, happy baby, if a bit stubborn at times, which caused Bella to lament that she didn't seem to nap as much as Sarah and Will had. I had pointed out with a laugh that Will still enjoyed a good nap even at sixteen and that at least Elyse was sleeping for a decent amount of time at night between feedings.
I was sitting in the rocking chair in our bedroom with Elyse snuggled against my shoulder. She was freshly bathed, changed, fed and burped after her late evening feeding and it was just about time to lay her down for the first half of her night's sleep. I loved these moments before bed, cuddling with her and inhaling her sweet baby scent as she burrowed against me. Bella was trying to convince me that it was time for Elyse to start sleeping in the nursery down the hall. I knew Bella put her in the crib during the day when she napped and used the monitor, but I loved having Elyse in the bassinet in our room, only an arm's reach away when she would cry in the night.
"Is she sleeping?" Bella called from the bathroom.
I tilted my head so I could look down at Elyse. Her sweet face was completely relaxed, her breathing soft and even, her plump cheeks rosy. I couldn't resist nuzzling them and pressing a kiss to the top of her head. "Yep, the milk coma has kicked in," I called back with a chuckle. I got up carefully from the rocker and crossed over to the bassinet and got ready to put her down.
"Crib, Edward," Bella said firmly from behind me.
"Awww sweetheart, let's keep her in here for just a couple more nights. It's Friday, I'll take the overnight feedings tonight and tomorrow, we won't disturb you at all," I wheedled, turning around with a pleading look on my face. I stopped dead in my tracks when I spotted my wife in the doorway between the bathroom and our bedroom. I'm pretty sure my jaw dropped at the sight that greeted me, while other parts of my anatomy definitely rose to the occasion.
Bella was grinning at me, her smile sweet, playful and sexy. Her luxurious brown curls were damp at the tips from her bath and piled on top of her head and she was dressed in a sheer lavender nightgown that skimmed her beautiful full curves that I found even more enticing since the birth of our daughter.
We had shared countless kisses and caresses since Elyse's birth and our emotional bond was closer than ever. But knowing how tired Bella was from caring for Elyse all day long, I hadn't wanted to rush her into rekindling our physical relationship too soon. Bella had casually mentioned the other day that we had been given the green light from Dr. Choate to resume 'normal activities', but I hadn't wanted to push her, even though I was eager…okay, desperate…to be with my wife again. She hadn't mentioned it since, but here she was in front of me, wearing sexy lingerie and a seductive smile. Could it be she was missing me as much as I was missing her?
Bella's smile faltered as I continued to gape at her and she folded her arms over her chest as she stepped quickly back into the bathroom. "Ahh, go ahead and lay her down. I'm g-going to grab my robe and go get a d-drink of water," she stuttered, her cheeks mottled red. She bolted from the room before I could form any words to try to convince her to stay.
I looked at the empty doorway through which Bella had disappeared and then down at the sleeping infant cradled in my arms. "Well Elyse, I guess I fucked that up royally, didn't I?" I sighed, grateful Elyse couldn't tattle on my language in front of her yet. I padded down the hallway to the nursery and turned on the nightlight, carefully placing Elyse in the center of the crib. I watched her cherubic face for a moment, said a prayer of thanks like I did every night for the tiny miracle that was my daughter and then went in search of her mother, the other miracle in my life.
I found Bella in the kitchen, staring out the window at the backyard. I could see the tears on her cheeks, which she wiped at hastily with the back of her hand when she heard me approach. "Elyse is down? I supposed I ought to get to bed then too, because she'll be up in a couple of hours wanting to eat again," Bella said, her voice full of false brightness. She dumped her glass of water into the sink, turning to walk out of the kitchen and attempting to give me wide berth.
I wasn't about to let her slide by, figuratively or literally. I stepped directly in front of the doorway and stopped her, my arms sliding around her waist and pulling her close to me. She hesitated for a moment before relaxing in my arms, laying her head against my shoulder, her palms flat against my chest.
I smoothed my hands along Bella's back, up over her shoulders and tangled my fingers into her hair, tilting her head back and bringing my mouth to hers. I breathed in the delicious taste of her sigh as I opened my lips over hers to deepen our kiss. Recalling the sight of her standing in the doorway in her sheer nightgown, I felt myself growing hard and I groaned her name when she slid her arms around my neck and pressed her body against mine.
Bella gasped softly when I rocked my hips toward her. God, I had missed the sounds of her arousal, the feel of her pressed against me intimately. "Elyse?" she breathed.
"In the nursery," I murmured, slipping my hands beneath her robe and palming her breasts, feeling her nipples tighten beneath my touch. I trailed kisses along her jaw and down her neck until I reached the spot beneath her ear that made her tremble. "Come to bed with me. I need to make love with my wife."
"Yessss," she hissed, her fingers in my hair, tugging as she directed my mouth back to hers, our kiss lush and wild. We paused for a moment, both of us breathing heavily and Bella giggled. "I wondered what it was going to take to get your attention. I've been hinting for days."
I stared at her and I'm pretty sure my mouth dropped open in shock. Bella laughed again. "Really, Edward. I told you the doctor gave us the green light, I've been telling you Elyse needs to be in her nursery. You worried me though when you didn't say anything when I came out of the bathroom tonight," she said, looking down. Even in the dim light, I could see a light blush on her cheeks and the uncertainty in her eyes.
Time to put those fears to rest right now. "Bella, I was completely speechless when I saw you tonight. I couldn't speak because there was no blood left in my brain. The sight of you, dressed like that and waiting for me, Jesus," I said reverently, sliding my hands down her back and cupping her ass, pulling her even tighter against me. "The almost eight weeks we waited for our wedding was nothing compared to the torture of sleeping next to you every night for the past two months. Our daughter is worth every sacrifice, but I am more than ready to have my wife back."
"Even a wife that looks like this?" Bella asked in a small voice, gesturing to her more generous curves. Bella had gained a normal amount of weight during her pregnancy and hadn't yet lost all that she had gained. I knew she was unhappy with her new figure, her wider hips, her rounder stomach, her fuller breasts, but I was utterly entranced by her shape, studying her when she wasn't paying attention so she wouldn't be self-conscious. If she knew the turn my thoughts always took when I looked at her, she wouldn't feel undesirable at all.
"Sweetheart, you have never been more beautiful to me," I told her sincerely. "I'm walking around half the time with a hard-on and feeling like a pervert because you're doing something simple like getting laundry out of the dryer or putting Elyse in her swing. I want you all the time," I said, groaning loudly when Bella pressed back against me, her insecurity being replaced by the boldness I had grown accustomed to from my wife.
"The way I figure it, we've got a couple of hours to ourselves. C'mon, husband, let's go make up for lost time," Bella whispered seductively, taking my earlobe between her lips and nibbling gently as she reached down and stroked my cock. "Race ya!" she said suddenly, pulling back, grinning and skipping up the stairs, dropping her robe at the bottom.
I stood at the bottom of the stairs, staring at where my wife had disappeared with a huge grin on my face. I was the luckiest bastard on earth with Bella in my life. She called my name from the bedroom and I saw her nightgown go sailing into the hall and I took the stairs two at a time, eager to have her in my arms again. I knew that no matter how much time I had with this woman, be it hours, days, weeks or years, it would never be enough, but that I would take every single moment that we had and cherish them forever.
And that's a wrap, folks. For all of you who have read, favorited, and especially those of you who have reviewed, thank you so much for taking this journey with me. It's been an amazing experience, especially sharing the back-and-forth with my reviewers. I'm going to miss our "conversations."
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