See A/N at the end…otherwise jump right in and enjoy your surprise! Shouldn't take too long to figure out what it is…
"Mac?" I called out as I searched through the main floor of our house, peeking into every door. "We gotta go, buddy!"
No reply. The kid could be silent as a church mouse when he wanted to be. Which was nice sometimes, but why did he have to pick now?
"C'mon, Big Mac, your mom and sister are gonna be waiting on us! You know how cranky they get when we're late..."
I took the stairs two at a time and popped my head into his room, scowling when I found it empty, apart from his little boy clutter. Bella's gonna flip if she sees he didn't clean his room last night like he said he would.
With my mood quickly growing sour and patience running thin, I jogged down the hall to Bella's and my room. Sometimes he liked to camp out with a book on the little couch at the foot of our bed.
The comforter on the bed was smooth, every pillow neatly plumped, not a single item out of place.
As my eyes flickered over the room, they paused on an object sitting on our dresser. Between Bella's jewelry box and my random pile of cufflinks, collar stays and spare change was the large wooden frame my parents had given us after our wedding. Inscribed into the frame were the words Love is Patient.
Patience. I needed some right about now.
Growing up, values held a lot of importance in our house. My parents tried to instill their beliefs in each of us kids, and they embraced them every day through teachings, words and actions. As far as I was concerned, they were a living, breathing example of the virtues that they wished for each of us to embody.
Eventually I learned—just like every other child—that neither of my parents were perfect, but I admired the way they never strayed from what they believed was important…
Honesty. Loyalty. Respect. Love—for each other and their children.
That last one had always been a little more difficult for Alice and Emmett to grasp.
Emmett was a big fan of instant-gratification, especially during his teenage years. He always wanted everything now and didn't like to be kept waiting. It usually worked out that way for him, too. It had always seemed to me that things came so easily for him-sports, friends, girls. Especially girls. While he hadn't been the best student, he'd gotten by and got an early acceptance into his first choice college on a hockey scholarship. He hadn't really needed to wait for anything…until he met Rose.
And Alice, she was too much of a planner. She needed timelines and structure and lists a plenty. She'd never been a big fan of that whole Field of Dreams notion that 'if you build it, they will come.' She's always been more of an advocate for 'build it, and then drag every person you know (and five of their friends) to come and admire it.'
But, while my brother and sister struggled with it, for some reason patience was always that virtue I grasped easily.
Most of the time, at least. Not so much right now.
How many different places could one kid hide?
I rolled my eyes in exasperation. A guy tries to catch ten minutes of SportsCenter and it comes back to bite him in the gnads.
"Masen Anthony Cullen," I bellowed, pulling out the big guns. When dad pulled out the 'full name' on me, I always came running. We knew he always meant business when he used that tactic.
Unfortunately, my son didn't seem to have the same fear I'd had at his age. Not a single peep.
Well, shit. He had to be somewhere.
I scratched my head, trying to think of where he could have disappeared to. He'd been fine that afternoon when I'd picked him up from school. Still a little down over his team losing their hockey game the night before, but nothing drastic.
Where the hell is he?
As I continued my search, I tried to keep my cool by remembering how I'd dealt with impatience in the past.
At first, with little things. Like working through my spelling homework and committing all those pesky grammar rules to memory. Even when I wanted to rip my notebook in two and throw sharpened pencil darts at the ceiling.
Or trying so hard to wait for that growth spurt my parents kept telling me was coming. The one that would transform me from a scrawny, freckled boy into a towering, chiseled man. I would have waited for that one a little longer if I'd known growing so quickly meant being caught in the purgatory of a gangly, awkward teenage body for far too many years.
I'll never forget when I'd made my first attempts at learning to skate. Falling down and eating the ice isn't fun. And I'd ate a lot of it. But, I listened to my dad when he told me to be patient and keep trying. That with hard work and persistence, I'd get it eventually and start skating circles around my friends.
And he'd been right. By the time freshman year rolled around, I was the fastest guy on two skates in the conference and had already been named to the Varsity team.
When the first girl I had the guts to ask out to a dance in middle school shot me down (rather harshly at that) my mom held me and pretended not to notice the rebel tears that leaked out of my eyes, unwanted evidence of my adolescent broken heart. She'd curled up with me on my Minnesota North Stars comforter in a room that was papered with Wayne Gretzky and Mike Modano posters. She'd smoothed back my wild hair and scratched her fingernails lightly over my scalp. And she'd told me to be patient. That someday I'd find a girl who would love me for exactly who I was, who would appreciate me and cherish my heart just as much as I cherished hers.
...I just needed to wait for her.
That advice was a little more difficult to follow.
Throughout high school, I'd watched my friends link up with girls at school, falling in and out of 'like' and 'lust' so quickly that I could barely keep track of who was hooking up with whom.
And it wasn't like I'd remained completely chaste.
While I wanted to believe what my mom had said was true, that my perfect girl was out there somewhere, my screaming hormones told a different story. So I mended that junior-high broken heart during high school. I flirted, I kissed, I even talked a girl into the backseat of my car after a particularly awesome game to make out a little...okay, maybe a lot.
And then I lost my virginity to that same cute girl after our team won the State Championships during senior year. Even though I'd known it wouldn't last.
In college, I continued to have a good time. Bragging rights as one of the top scorers for a division one team (at a Big Ten school) left me with no shortage of female attention. While I hadn't screwed around with every girl that came my way, like some of my friends, I did have a pretty balanced social life for a guy my age. I'd never been a manwhore, but I certainly wasn't a monk, either.
Then there was Kate.
At first, I thought that maybe she could have been the one. She was sweet, kind, and beautiful. Everything I thought I'd wanted...at first. But it soon became very clear that Kate hadn't been the one. She'd been convenient, she'd filled the void for a time.
I liked being in a relationship—the companionship it offered, and having someone to bring home with me for family dinners, even if it was clear they didn't particularly get along. I liked having someone to talk to, to cheer me on, to hold in my arms. When I'd been with her, I realized how lonely I'd been before, how much I'd been lacking in that department.
But she wasn't the same woman my mom had told me about, the one I needed to wait for.
We'd broken up just before Christmas and I found myself back in the position as the seventh wheel in a family full of perfect matches.
For over a year, I stuck pretty close to myself. I focused on work, and maintained my close relationships with family and friends. I laughed, I smiled, but I was never truly happy. And like she had when I was twelve, my mom sat by my side and soothingly scratched my head. And she'd repeated those same words.
She'd reiterated that when I least expected it, the right girl would come stumbling into my path.
And stumble was exactly what she did.
The moment Bella had tripped over her crutches and fallen into my arms at the airport, I knew she'd be important.
When she looked up at me with those fucking gorgeous Bambi eyes, it was like I found what I'd been waiting for.
When she hadn't shown up at the bar that next week, I was sure I'd blown my chance somehow. All those years of waiting and I'd just let my dream girl slip between my fingers and back out of my life. I had been so disappointed and pissed off at myself, not to mention the universe. She had been right there!
Patience and I had a bit of a scuffle that week...
But then I saw her through the glass, sitting between my mother and my sister. I'd been shocked, so sure I was seeing things. I'd wanted to see her again so badly that at first I'd thought I'd dreamt her up. A part of me felt that way through the entire game, expecting her to disappear again as soon as I stepped off the ice.
But when I walked out of the locker room to meet my family and friends that night, she'd still been right there, waiting for me.
It immediately felt like all was right in the universe again, erasing my letdown and replacing it with pure elation. And relief.
I hadn't lost her. From that point on, I never questioned patience again.
And that was a good thing, because I'd needed it.
Right from the very beginning, it became clear to me that Bella was different. When I met her, she didn't have all her shit together, she wasn't confident in herself, she didn't trust easily, and with good reason. There were so many times in those first few weeks of our friendship that I wanted her to just hurry up, to open her eyes and see how amazing she was, how amazing we could be together.
And she did...slowly.
It hadn't always been easy, but like I'd told Bella so many times throughout that first year together, it had always been worth it.
She was always worth it.
The happiness she'd brought into my life, the way she'd fit so seamlessly into my family. The way she made me smile every day, even on my worst days. Yeah, she was worth it.
And though patience and I had become great friends, every once in awhile we had to throw down a little. But at the end of the day, we were always on the same team. Patience was my wingman.
Especially at times like this when my very sneaky seven year old wandered off on me.
I chanced a glance in Emma's room, though it was highly doubtful a seven year old boy would have much interest in the frilly purple paradise where our five year old girl slept. Again, no dice.
And I was swiftly running out of places to look.
Our house wasn't huge by any means, but plenty large enough for a kid just shy of four feet tall to hide himself away for quite a while.
We'd moved out of our first home when we found out Mac was on the way. While we both loved the house we'd fallen in love in, the same one where we started our marriage, it just wasn't practical for more than just us two. We hadn't moved far, just a few miles away. And we'd been in the same place ever since.
Guess you couldn't classify either of us as rambling souls. We tended to find our place and dig in. We both liked to travel, but always needed a home to come back to.
I moved through the living room, dodging toys that rarely stayed in the baskets Bella had purchased to keep them organized. I peeked under the coffee table that was scuffed with crayon marks-man, those were a bitch to get out- and checked behind the couch with its baffling amount of pillows before I snapped out of it. You're looking for a kid, man, not your missing keys.
I gave a cursory glance around the room though I knew he wasn't there. Photographs hung on the walls and sat on bookshelves, chronicling the years of our lives together, a dog-eared copy of Sense & Sensibility lay open on the sunny window seat in the front room that was Bella's one requirement when hunting for a new house. She'd always loved to sit and dream, and it was always the first place I'd look to find her.
Too bad Mac wasn't quite as consistent.
As a last resort, I ran down into the basement. There were a few lights on, but someone was always forgetting to shut them off. I called out a couple times, glancing around the room that Bella had dubbed my 'man cave.' Complete with a projector screen, plushy couches, and our expansive wall of fame along the back wall. My Wild jersey hung in the middle, with Bella's skating dress from her long program in Vancouver displayed right next to it.
Seeing those up there side by side always made me smile and remember that winter, the way she'd looked wearing that dress when I got down on one knee and asked her to marry me. How she'd looked so graceful and beautiful wearing it on the ice in front of thousands at the Olympics, so spellbinding and gorgeous that I'd struggled to even breathe the entire time. The way she'd looked when, less than an hour later, she'd stood on the top step of the podium and bowed her head to receive her medal. Gold. I'm not ashamed to admit I had tears in my eyes when I'd seen her up there, her hand over her heart as the Star Spangled Banner echoed through the coliseum. My girl deserved it, even if she'd finally figured out that she didn't really need it.
When I got no response, I almost turned right back around to keep on looking. Then a little tuft of messy brown hair caught my eye, sticking up just over the back of the couch.
I blew out a breath of relief. Freaking finally.
"There you are," I said, stepping around the edge of the couch. "Didn't you hear me calling for you?"
There, curled up in the corner, was Mac. My boy. One of the best things that had ever happened to me. And he was in a full on mope.
I was always just a little stunned at how much he took after me, even from the start. It was like looking down on myself as a kid. The only difference was that the disheveled mop on top of his head was Bella's deep mahogany brown, and he got her perfect little Cupid's bow mouth. Other than that, the nose, the face, the eyes, were all me. Bella had already prophesied he'd be beating the girls away with sticks before too long.
He was wearing his favorite oversized sweatshirt with the Wild logo on the front and toying with a fuzzy brown bear, the same one I'd thrown out on the ice to Bella after her short program at the Olympics. She kept it on one of the shelves on the trophy wall and Mac liked to sit with it when he was feeling down. Something was definitely up.
"Oh. Hey, Dad," he said glumly, turning his bright green eyes up to me. He graced me with a little half smile that didn't reach his eyes before looking back down to the bear in his lap.
"What's with the frowny face, Big Mac?" I asked, tapping him on the chin. "Everything okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine." He shrugged and held the bear a little tighter to his chest.
"Dude, there's no use trying to hide stuff from me," I sighed, plopping down on the opposite end of the couch, facing him. "I'm the Dad, remember? I know all."
"That's not true," he said, giving me that little smart alec expression he'd mastered so early. "You don't know what Mom's getting you for Christmas."
"Yeah, well that's because Mom's a sneaky one with that kind of stuff. But I can always tell when she's upset about something, and it's the same with you," I said, reaching over to poke him in the in the ribs. "So, c'mon. Fess up. What's buggin' you?"
"It's really stupid," he muttered. "Some of the guys at school were raggin' on me about the game last night."
"What about it?"
"Well, you 'member that goal I missed in the second period?" he asked. I nodded, though I hadn't thought much of it. Apparently Mac did, because he looked embarrassed when he grumbled out the rest of his explanation. "They were teasing me 'cause it was such an easy shot. They said I might as well trade in my hockey skates for a tutu and become a prissy figure skater like Mom if I can't learn to shoot the puck."
Those little shits.
It had to be Derek and Cody. Sure, they were only seven, but it was clear they were both well on their way to being a couple of arrogant little fuckers. My first instinct was to go find them and knock their skulls together for putting that look of misery on my kid's face. But that'd probably get me into just a little trouble with the league, not to mention the other parents. Even if they almost all agreed with me. Guess I'd have to settle for a "dad talk" to handle the problem, at least for now.
"Hey," I said softly, scooting closer to Mac so I could nudge him in the shoulder with my elbow. His eyes were huge and full of trust when he looked up at me. I hoped I could find the right thing to say to fix this for him. "First off, those guys are as— er...jerks."
"Dad," he gasped, his jaw gaping open. "You're the coach. I don't think you're sposed to call your players jerks."
"Yeah, well I'm your dad first and the coach second. Between you and me, those guys are jerks."
"Yeah, they kinda are," he agreed, his lips twitching into a little smile.
"Second—you more than anyone should know how cool your mom is and that figure skating isn't just twirling around in sparkly skirts."
"That's part of what made me so mad," he said, his little forehead furrowed in displeasure. "I didn't like them making fun of her."
"They're just jealous," I told him, draping my arm across the back of the couch above his head. "I mean, how many other kids have a mom with two Olympic medals?"
"Yeah...she is pretty cool," he shrugged, his fingers playing with the bear's little jersey.
"You bet she is. Did you know that Sports Illustrated once said she was one of the best athletes in the world? That's counting both guys and girls. You think they'd say that if she was just another prissy figure skater? It takes a lot of hard work and—"
"I know, Dad, but I don't wanna be a figure skater," he groaned. "I wanna be a hockey player. Like you."
I tell ya, there was nothing more awesome and terrifying at the same time than seeing that look in Mac's eyes. The love, the pride, the admiration. He'd told me I was his hero and I tried to live up to that title every day, but it sure wasn't easy sometimes.
"Well, then we'll just have to keep practicing," I told him with an encouraging smile. "Every player has an off day now and then."
"Even me," I nodded. "When I was playing for the Wild, there were tons of shots I should have made that didn't go in. But sometimes you miss. And that doesn't mean you just give up. You keep trying and keep taking shots until you score. Then you try for the next one. You know what The Great One said, 'you miss..."
"A hundred percent of the shots you never take'" he finished quoting with me. "I know."
"I know it's rough when your teammates are giving you a hard time, but you've just gotta learn to brush it off," I said, gently tipping his face up with my knuckle. "Play your game, do your best. That's all you can do."
The misery faded from his glossy green eyes, replaced with grit and determination. That's my boy.
"Okay," he nodded. "I'll try."
"I love you, buddy," I said, wrapping my arm around his neck and pulling him into a hug, tousling his hair under my palm.
"Yeah, yeah, yeah," he groaned, though he wrapped his little arms around my middle. "Love you too, Dad."
"Let's get going before the girls start whining," I said, giving him a pat on the back.
"Only Emma whines," Mac pointed out as we climbed off the couch. "Mom just gives you the eyebrow. Like this." He pursed his lips together and exaggeratedly lifted his left eyebrow in a damn good mimic of Bella's irritated face.
"Think you're so smart do ya?" I asked. "Get over here!"
I reached out and managed to snag him into my arms before he could slip away, digging my fingers into his sides as he let out a rolling belly laugh. I nabbed him around the knees and hoisted him over my shoulders, dangling him down my back as I headed for the stairs.
"Gah, Dad!" he protested swatting me on the butt since it was the only place he could reach. "Lemme go, will ya?"
"Not a chance, buddy."
Fifteen minutes later, after a quick pit stop to pick up my version of a white flag, Mac and I pulled into the empty parking lot of the local ice arena. The same one I'd played on as a kid, and the same one Bella had trained on during her last competitive season. While there'd been minor repairs and renovations over the eleven years since, so much of it was the same.
I had a lot of great memories on that ice...
So did Bella, which is why she didn't even skip a beat when I approached her about us possibly purchasing it a few years back. She'd simply thrown her arms around my neck and said it was the best gift she could have ever asked for.
It had been our rink before; buying it just made it legal.
I'd dropped Bella off at the rink that morning after taking her car in for repairs. She'd had a full day of work to put in, first devoting some time to the routines she was choreographing for a few competitive skaters she'd been freelancing for. Then in the afternoon, she had a handful of private lessons. Finally, she'd finish out her day with her newest undertaking—a beginners class for local girls, including our own little twirl girl.
That was one of the things I admired most about Bella. Her drive, her ambition, her dreams. While she could have simply retired long ago, the thought had never seemed to cross her mind.
She was always taking on some new challenge, either on or off the ice.
The summer after Vancouver, we journeyed around the country together with her skating tour. While it was hard to be on the road and often far from home, it was an amazing summer that only brought us closer together. But it hadn't been all fun and games. Bella embraced the tour as an opportunity to build her name as a choreographer, not only creating her own programs, but helping out with other skaters on the tour as well. By that fall, she had already started getting inquiries.
She still freelances programs, giving her the flexibility to work from home while the kids are in school and I'm on the road. Her reputation had skaters coming to her rather than the other way around. Only recently had she taken on coaching, starting out with just a handful of skaters who only competed on a regional level. She had aspirations to explore her abilities there more over the upcoming years, but wanted to wait until both Mac and Emma were in school full time.
In addition to that, she's remained busy working with various charitable organizations. Guest commentating at a couple of the bigger events and even performing every once in a while for charity skates has enabled her to keep her toes in the competitive skating pool.
But somehow despite how many balls she had to juggle, she always kept our marriage and raising our children at the center of her focus.
And my dreams. Every day we were together, she always encouraged me to pursue my own ambitions, even if it presented new challenges to our lives and our relationship. And every time I thought about turning something down for the sake of taking the safe and easy road, she pushed me, reminding me that I'd always supported her in following her dreams and that she only wanted to provide that same support for me.
So when the opportunity came for me to put on a jersey for the US Olympic team in Sochi, Russia four years after her amazing skate in Vancouver, she had been my biggest cheerleader. And even though she was seven months pregnant with Mac at the time, she flew halfway across the world and attended every game, tirelessly and enthusiastically supporting me from the stands.
If twenty-ten was the pinnacle of Bella's skating career, twenty-fourteen was surely mine. With a silver medal in my pocket, I flew home with my beautiful wife and welcomed our handsome and healthy baby boy. And as if that wasn't enough to be thankful for, less than two months later, I stood with my team on our home ice in St. Paul and clasped my hands around the cool, inscribed metal of my ultimate hockey dream. The Stanley Cup.
Emmett, Jasper, and I remained on the team for a few more years, enjoying as much time on the ice as we could before moving on to new endeavors. Jasper had taken on sports writing, starting up a blog that followed all the latest happenings in the NHL, while Emmett had gone the more vocal route and became a commentator.
As for me, when it came time to hang up my skates, I followed my new dream, signing on as an assistant coach with my alma mater, Minnesota's Golden Gophers. At first it had been a little weird, watching the games from the bench with no hope of jumping over the boards to get in on the action. But in the two seasons I've worked with the program, I've found immense satisfaction in molding and training up-and-coming skaters with their whole careers ahead of them.
The added bonus: my schedule with the college team was less rigorous than playing with the NHL. It allowed me more time at home with Bella and the kids. She and I had handled the many winter seasons of extended road trips and separations pretty damn well, but it was so fucking wonderful knowing I'd be coming home to her almost every night.
No matter how much I loved hockey, it was nothing compared to how much I loved Bella, Masen and Emma. They were my world.
While I missed playing, coaching allowed me the time to take a step back and stand by Bella's side as we watched our kids grow.
And I still got plenty of ice time, coaching my son's Mites team along with Emmett and Jasper. Jasper and Ali's youngest boy was the same age as Mac, and we got a kick out of shooting the puck around between the five of us after practice now and then.
Maybe someday down the road I'd get back with the NHL, but for the time being, I couldn't ask for much more out of my life.
I stepped through the heavy, familiar doors of the arena, breathing in the cool, crisp air. I could always breathe easier with ice in the air. It was like an addiction, I could never get enough.
Guess I was a Minnesota boy through-and-through.
With Mac hobbling his way along in front of me, loaded down by his hockey bag, I paused just inside the doors, like I always did, and soaked in the beautiful sight before me. There, through the scuffed Plexiglas, was my reason for existence. My Bella.
I didn't think I'd ever get used to how beautiful she was, or how my heart beat just a little faster whenever she came into my view. No matter how many years we spent together, no matter how many times I held her in my arms, I was always amazed at how perfectly she fit, at the awareness my body had for hers.
She wasn't the same girl she had been when I first met her, but she was just as stunningly beautiful. Maybe even more so now. I knew every inch of her smooth and silky skin, every freckle that subtly dotted her nose, every fleck of gold in her deep brown eyes. She'd always been slender and toned, with the body of a serious athlete. It was always been so amazing to me that she could be so soft, yet so strong at the same time.
After retiring she'd devoted less time to training and working out, though she always remained active. Without the constant struggle to keep her body in the peak condition required for high level competition, the firm planes of her figure had softened into delectable curves that I was always eager to shower with attention. She'd always been sexy to me, but it was a major turn on to run my hands over those rounded, sexy curves. Even after ten years of marriage I couldn't keep my hands off her.
My lips quirked into a contented smile as I watched her, twirling and giggling alongside a little girl with glossy copper curls and porcelain skin. I knew if that tiny thing looked up, I'd see big chocolate brown eyes, an exact replica of her mother's and a smile that made me feel all warm and fuzzy. The first time she'd looked up at me, my heart had been lost to her, just as it had to Bella so many years before.
My baby girl. My Emma.
I'd texted Bella to let her know Mac wanted to spend a little time on the ice when we stopped by, so they both still wore their skates, gliding around in a moment made for just the two of them. I loved to watch my girls like that, when they thought no one else was watching. Emma wobbled a bit on her tiny blades and Bella was quick to catch her, swooping her up in a giggling mass of curls, her little legs covered in glittery blue tights and a ruffly skirt.
She really was the cutest little thing. Just like her Mama, who was looking downright sexy in a tight pair of yoga pants, a puffy vest over her long sleeved t-shirt and leg warmers over her calves. Fuck...the leg warmers. I loved those things. They reminded me of the first time I saw her wearing them with a tiny pair of shorts when I'd showed up at her house on Valentine's Day back when we were still 'friends.'
Friends, I snorted to myself. She'd always been my friend, but she'd never only been my friend. I knew right from the start that we'd be so much more.
Seeing Bella with our kids, the way her eyes lit up, the energy she had for them, the love that radiated so clearly from her... Maybe it sounds cheesy, but it was fucking magical.
Mac announced our presence by noisily plunking his equipment bag down on the metal bleachers. Bella's head snapped up instantly, a wide grin on her face when she saw me. Maybe she'd forgotten she was irritated with me...
"Daddy!" Emma squealed in delight, anxiously wiggling her way out of Bella's arms to hobble her way over to me as I stepped through the boards and out onto the ice.
"Hey, Angelface," I greeted her with a grin, stooping down to catch her as she threw herself whole-heartedly into my arms, always trusting that I'd be there. I swooped her up, pecking a kiss on her pouty lips. Then I settled her on my hip in a practiced move to avoid a toe pick in the gut from her energetic little legs. Once was enough to learn that lesson. "Did you have a good class today?"
"So good!" she exclaimed, gasping and clapping her hands together excitedly. "Mama's teaching us scratch spins." She cupped her hands around my ear and spoke her next words in a loud whisper. "She told me I did the bestest but I'm not sposed to say that in front of the other girls cuz it's favortism."
I bit back a chuckle at her childish sincerity. She never failed to make me smile with her total lack of guile.
"Well if Mama said it, it must be true," I told her, gently tugging on one of her curls. "She would know."
"Cuz she's the bestest figure skater ever, right?" she said with a dreamy sigh, batting her long eyelashes up at me.
"That's right," I smiled back at her, then turned my hopefully-charming grin on Bella as she approached. "And the prettiest."
"Don't try and use flattery to soften me up, Cullen," she droned, digging her toe pick into the ice and settling her hands on her hips. "You're late."
"Uh oh, Daddy you're in trouble again," Emma loudly whispered with a giggle. "Mama's got the eyebrow."
I bit down on my lip to keep from laughing, though it was clear Bella was going through the same struggle to keep it together. Still, I did know it bugged her when I was late, so I held it together and coughed to clear my throat and cover my amusement.
"Why don't you go practice your scratch spin so you can show me?" I suggested, setting Emma back down on her feet and giving her a pat on her butt through her ruffles.
"Okay!" she exclaimed, scurrying a few steps away before turning her head and looking back at us. "You promise you'll watch me?"
Oh Jesus with the pouty lip. The munchkin had me so wrapped around her pretty little baby finger it wasn't even funny.
"Cross my heart," I told her, drawing an 'x' over my chest. "Just gimme a couple minutes, alright, sweetheart?"
She skated off and I turned my attention to Bella.
"Sorry we're late," I said, banking on the help of that little half smile she once told me made her weak in the knees to help me out. I offered the thick paper cup I'd been hiding behind my back. Bella's favorite winter treat, white hot chocolate. "I come bearing a peace offering."
She looked down at my hand with consideration. "There better be extra whipped cream on that peace offering."
"Of course there is," I said temptingly, waving it just a little closer to her. "Just the way you like it."
She sighed and reached out to take it from me, cupping it between her fingers to steal some of its warmth.
"Alright, you're forgiven," she said. As if there were any doubt. We were both well aware she could never stay mad at me for long. She took a step closer to me and lifted her hand to lay her chilled fingertips on my cheek. "Always such a charmer."
"Only for you, love," I teased, lowering my face for a kiss.
Less than a breath away from feeling her lips beneath mine, I felt an insistent tug on my pant leg.
"Daaad," Mac groaned, shoving his way between us. "I thought you said we could come practice, not to get all gross and lovey-dovey with Mom."
"Well excuse me, Sir Masen," Bella said dryly, snagging his chin between her fingers and turning his face up to her. "Hello to you, too."
"Hey, Ma," he said with a brusque wave. "Can I go get my skates on?"
He'd already turned to step away but Bella was quick to catch him.
"Whoa whoa whoa, hold it right there," she objected. Mac stopped in his tracks and turned back, his shoulders slumped and looking very impatient.
"That's it?" Bella asked, bending down to smother him in a hug, teasingly rubbing her cheek against his in the way she had since he was a baby. "No hug, no kiss, no 'I missed you so much today oh beautiful, wonderful mother of mine?'"
"Mo-om," Mac laughingly protested when she started pecking kisses to his cheek. "Lemme go!" He broke free of her hold and made a face of disgust as he swiped at his cheek.
"Yeah, yeah tough guy. I've got your number," she said, rolling her eyes at his display. She really did. While Mac was at an age where displays of affection weren't considered 'cool,' this kid was a total Mama's boy. I'd often come home to find the two of them snuggled up together.
"Did you have a good day at school?" Bella asked him, smoothing his hair with her fingers in a useless effort.
"Yeah, it was okay," he shrugged. He turned his attention up to me. "Can we play now?"
"Sure thing, buddy," I told him. "You go lace up and I'll be out there in a minute. I'm just gonna talk to your mom for a sec first."
"Well, hurry up. You two are always getting smoochy and take forever," he groaned. I laughed heartily because it was totally true. And I wasn't about to apologize for it.
"Go on, get outta here," Bella shooed him off, stepping over to lean into my chest. "I'll send him after you when I'm done with him."
Mac groaned and scurried away to dig his skates out of his bag while I took the opportunity to properly greet my wife. My arms wound around her, gathering her close. She smiled brightly and lifted her face to mine, circling her arms low around my waist, one hand still clutching her cocoa.
"When you're done with me, huh?" I murmured, dipping my head to nudge against her nose with mine. "And when exactly will that be, Mrs. Cullen?"
She sighed and rose up on her toes, brushing her soft, sweet lips over mine in a prolonged kiss. "Never."
"Kid's gonna be waitin' out there for a long time." I smirked and dipped my head to catch her mouth in another kiss. She tasted like strawberry chapstick and white chocolate and I eagerly swooped in for another sample. Then another. And one more before she giggled and turned her head away to discourage my playful advances. She had a point. I never grew tired of kissing her and was always greedy for her perfect, pouty lips.
She slid her hands up over my chest and looked up at me with a sad smile. "What happened?"
Leave it to Mama to always know when something was wrong with her kids.
"Some guys at school were giving him a hard time about the game last night," I disclosed quietly. I chuckled when I saw the spark of fire in her eyes and the angry furrow of her brow. Gosh, she's cute. "Nothing to sharpen your claws over, Mama Bear. We had a chat. Man to man. He'll be fine."
She sighed, the tension instantly gone from her shoulders. Her eyes remained worried and just a little sad as she glanced over to where Mac was sitting. "Kids can just be so mean sometimes. And you know how he is, he takes things so close to heart," she looked back up at me imploringly. "You're sure he's okay?"
"Promise." I smiled at her reassuringly and pressed a kiss to her forehead, soothing her worry with my touch and my words. I felt her nod against me and burrow into my arms, and I knew she believed me. Hopefully she wouldn't worry too much. "How'd your class go?"
"It was good," she said, cheerful again as she lifted her head to look up at me. "It's pretty obvious a few of the girls aren't putting in the outside practice time, but I guess that's what you get teaching novice skaters. Not everyone's gonna stick with it or devote the time they need."
"Can't all grow up to be superstar gold medalists," I teased, tapping her on the nose.
"Yeah but they're so cute in their sparkly little skating dresses, wobbling all over the place," she giggled, wiggling her fingers in emphasis.
"Ya know, it's been awhile since I've seen you in a sparkly little skating dress," I said suggestively. Instantly stuck on the idea once it formed in my head. Bella in a skating dress was fucking fantastic. The legs on display, the way the leotard snuggly curved over her tight little ass when the flimsy skirt flipped up as she moved, the cling of the fabric over her tits...
Uh, yeah, definitely happening. Soon. My dick was getting hard just envisioning it. And I had lots of great visual aids stocked up in my head.
"That's true," she answered with a smirk. "About as long as it's been since I've seen you in hockey pads."
"Maybe we'll have to ship the kids off to grandma and grandpa's some night and you can give me a little private lesson." I lowered my voice so it was husky and gruff, just the way I knew got her going. I pressed my hips up against her body, rubbing my dick up against her, simultaneously trying to relieve some of the strain in my pants and make a convincing case to Bella. Then, just to drive home my point, I gently nipped at her creamy skin, scraping my teeth against her neck. "One-on-one."
"You think so, huh, Coach?" she asked, her voice just a little breathless. Fuck yes, I've so got this.
"Mmmhmm. Very...soon," I drawled, my fingers flexing against her hips. Her head fell back just enough to give my mouth more territory to explore.
"Is tonight soon enough?"
"Hmm?" I mumbled distractedly, entirely focused on lavishing attention on that tender spot just below her ear I always loved to gnaw on just a little.
"Esme called this afternoon," she explained. That certainly got my attention. I stopped nibbling and looked down at her face, trying to determine exactly what she was telling me. "She and your dad offered to take the kids for the weekend. They're gonna swing by here and pick them up in an hour."
My face split into a grin, even as my balls ached with anticipation. Two nights with no kids? Score! I crushed her little body against me and smacked my mouth enthusiastically over her face as she giggled. With my smiling lips against her skin, I groaned, "I love my parents."
"Go shoot some pucks with your son." Bella smiled up at me innocently as her hand mischievously trailed down my stomach and her fingers brushed over my dick. "We'll continue this...later." She emphasized her words with a little squeeze of her hand. Which was really fucking mean considering she was just gonna skate away without following through. Minx.
Bella patted me on the chest and kissed my cheek. She calmly sipped her cocoa as she glided off to swoop up Emma and turn on some music, leaving me aching for her and what was sure to come once the kids were gone. Tugging my hands through my hair, I indulged in a borderline petulant groan over being cockblocked. Then I slumped over to the bleachers and dug my skates out of my bag, willing away the nagging boner pressing uncomfortably against the button fly of my jeans.
Later, man. She promised. Maybe we can even talk her into a little replay action in the locker room.
As much as I loved my kids, I was pretty damn excited about the thought of an unexpected free weekend with just Bella. And if I was lucky, we'd spend most of it in the confines of our bedroom without any clothes involved. Except maybe my jersey. I never complained when she wore that in bed. There was just something about seeing my name and number on her back while I fucked her from behind, all slick and tight and...Fuck. Not helping.
I tugged on my skates, tying them with just a little bit of excessive force and grabbed my stick and gloves, stepping out to shoot a few rounds with Mac while praying that my parents would show up on time.
Of course once I was out there fooling around with Mac, time flew by. His elated little grin when he made a good shot, his rolling giggles when I chased him around the net; I loved playing with him.
While Bella and I laced our kids into skates early, we never forced them into anything. They only skated if they wanted to skate and the focus was always on the fun, not the work. But I knew someday down the road, maybe they'd have different dreams that had nothing to do with skating. And no matter what path they choose, Bella and I would stand up behind them and cheer them on.
But I had to admit that times like this, getting out on the ice with my family, was one of my favorite things in the whole world.
While I ambled around, helping Mac gather up pucks to put them back in the bucket for another round, I glanced over to Bella and Emma to see Bella showing off a bit to our daughter's delight. Emma just loved watching her Mama skate and wanted to be just like her. She was already trying to convince Bella to teach her that crazy spin with her leg up by her face. Like hell, is what I'd told Bella. I knew exactly where my mind went when I saw her pull that move and there was no way my sweet and innocent little baby girl was ever gonna start putting those ideas in horny teenage boys' heads. Charlie had my back. He'd already threatened to fly out from Forks with a loaded shotgun the first time a boy in her pre-school said she was pretty.
But Bella was a different story. She could do that spin any time she wanted. Lucky for me, she still could. My girl was still bendy as a rubber band. A fucking sexy as hell rubber band with tight, firm muscles and legs that always seemed impossibly long for how petite she was. And it still drove me crazy with lust every time she did.
Like now. Fuck, we so needed this weekend.
I turned my attention back to Mac, trying not to keep an eagle eye on the clock as we shot through the bucket.
Then the music changed to a familiar tune. Mac groaned as my lips quirked up in a mischievous smile, giving him a wink before gliding off across the ice to sweep my wife off her feet like I always did when the song came on.
"Not again," Mac grumbled, though he couldn't fight the smile back completely.
Yes, again. Every time. I couldn't help it. I was a cheesy bastard and it was our song. Lucky for me, Bella loved when I was cheesy and always played along.
"I really can't stay," she crooned and held out her hand for me when she saw me approach.
"Baby, it's cold outside," I sang back, clasping her hand in mine and tugging her away to skate with me.
"I've got to go away."
"Baby, it's cold outside," I chanted, reaching around to wrap both my arms around her as our steps matched each other's.
"This evening has been," she sang, tilting her head to the side so my lips could press against her cheek. I could feel her smiling as I did.
"Been hoping that you'd drop in."
"So very nice," she continued.
"I'll hold your hands, they're just like ice." I found her hands again with mine, weaving our fingers together at our sides.
It was perfection, skating with her. Every time. The way her cheeks would flush rosy pink from a mix of the cold and my flirtation, how perfectly in tune our bodies were as we moved across the ice. It was fucking awesome to have that with her.
Part way through the song, she turned in my arms and smiled up at me. God, she was beautiful. And I remembered another time that we moved together to this song, for once when we were off the ice. Instead, I'd held her in my arms as we danced on a wooden floor with a warm fire crackling nearby. We'd been surrounded by only our very closest family and friends, with shiny new rings glistening on our left hands.
While we hadn't gotten married right away, we hadn't waited too long. We made our promises to each other on a Friday afternoon in January, exactly two years from the day we met. We'd had less than twenty guests, keeping the occasion intimate and perfectly us. At twilight on that uncharacteristically warm day, I'd stood out under the twinkling lights in the park where we'd shared our first kiss, and watched her walk across the ground, lightly blanketed with snow, on the arm of her father.
I'd never seen her smile so bright and never seen her look more beautiful than she did that day. She'd worn a gown in a shade of blue so pale it was almost white, with a soft and flowy skirt and a lacy top that nipped in at her tiny waist, only accentuating the spectacular clevage she'd been sporting. For the ceremony, she'd slipped on a thin fuzzy sweater to ward off the cold. The thing was so soft that I took full advantage of my role as her doting groom to keep my hands on her all night. When she walked through the small crowd, she'd carried tulips, because they were what I'd given her on our first date.
I could remember how warm her hand had been in mine as I looked down into her happy, sparkling eyes and vowed to love and cherish her forever. And her voice never wavered when she vowed the same to me.
Looking down into those eyes now, nearly ten years later, they were exactly the same—filled with love and contentment.
I brushed my fingers over her soft, pink cheek, combing into the hair on the side of her face as I forgot about the song and only thought of her.
"I love you, Isabella Cullen," I murmured.
She smiled delightedly back at me and rose up on her toe picks to kiss my lips.
"Just as I love you," she whispered.
"Oh for goodness sake, are those two at it again?" I heard my father's voice call out teasingly, the Minnesota drawl still every bit as obvious as it'd always been. Bella tells me I have a bit of the accent, too, though I've certainly never noticed it.
We glanced up to see both my parents standing at the open gate in the boards.
"Grandpa Carlisle, Nana Esme!" Mac cried out, dashing over to them with his sister's hand held firmly in his, helping her catch her balance when she slipped a little. "You're here! Save us!"
I lowered my face to Bella's ear, murmuring lowly against her skin. "Yes, please. Take them away."
Bella giggled and lightly slapped me on the chest, though the flirtatious wink she gave me before turning away told me she was thinking the exact same thing.
We stepped off the ice and helped the kids with their skates, gathering up their belongings while we took a few minutes to catch up with my parents.
Though they'd aged and there were a few more gray hairs on their heads, they still seemed every bit as young and vibrant as they'd always been to me. Which was good, because their seven grandchildren kept them active.
Emmett and Rose had finally taken the plunge in the fall following Bella's and my wedding. Less than two months later, they announced that they were expecting. Apparently when they were ready, they were ready for everything. Alice and Jasper were right behind with the birth of their son only a couple months after Rose and Emmett had their first little girl.
My parents thrived on every addition to their family and were always eager to steal a child or two away on the weekends. Just another reason I was happy we'd all stuck close to home throughout the years.
With Bella's family, things were a little different. Charlie still lived out in Forks. When he'd flown to Minnesota for our wedding, he'd brought along a lovely woman named Sue who he'd been seeing for a while. They'd ended up getting married later on that summer, much to Bella's delight. I knew she'd worried about him getting lonely.
Charlie and Sue flew out to visit a couple times a year, even more often now that they had grandchildren to spoil, and we tried to make it out to Washington whenever we could. Bella even got Charlie set up on Skype the previous year so he could video chat with the kids.
And then there was Renee. She'd come back into our lives when Bella was pregnant with Mac. Apparently hearing the news that her baby was having her own baby stirred something inside her to make an effort at redemption. Forgiveness was a slow process, especially at first. Bella and I both had been very reluctant initially to Renee's efforts to contact us and try to mend fences with her daughter. But over time, as we saw how genuinely repentant she was, we decided to listen. Though she was leery, my Bella opened her courageous heart to the woman who'd abused and mistreated her, and gave her a chance.
We learned that she'd filed for divorce from Phil immediately following Nationals and all the scandals brought to light there. She'd started counseling soon after; waiting to approach her daughter until she'd made progress on issues that went back to before Bella was even born.
It was an ongoing struggle for us to let her in, but knowing she'd started making changes immediately, and that she was following through with those changes had slowly earned her our trust, even if it was with a lot of caution. She moved down to Arizona and finally found a life outside of figure skating. She'd gone into project management for a construction company and found she'd really liked it.
Bella told me that the biggest indicator to her that Renee was truly making an effort, was that she stopped seeking out the attention of men. Apparently through her counseling, she'd realized how toxic her social interactions with men had been, both to her and to Bella. Men, for her, had become an addiction, a weakness, and she'd finally started weaning herself from their destruction, trying to learn to survive on her own and take care of herself for once.
I had to admit, I'd seen the differences in her, especially once Mac and Emma came into the picture.
Renee would never be my favorite person, but for Bella's sake, I was glad that they were slowly finding a way to heal those old scars. There was still strain, even all these years later, but they were always making progress. And with Renee living her own life down in Arizona, we didn't see her all that much.
Though she was mending things with Renee, Bella still considered Esme her mother. The two of them were so close, and it always warmed my heart to see them together. The first woman I'd ever loved, and the one who'd come to own my heart.
I looked over at them and smiled as they worked together to bundle the kids up into their winter coats and boots. Bella bent to give them each a hug and a kiss, pecking my mom on the cheek as she said her goodbyes. Mom joined hands with her grandchildren, stopping over so I could get my hugs in, too. I shook my dad's hand, chuckling when he gave me a conspiratorial wink and waved them off.
Once they were gone, I turned back to find Bella, wanting to scoop her up and carry her to the closest possible private spot and get this weekend started, possibly sneaking in some good groping on the way. Okay, most definitely groping. She liked it.
She'd stepped back out on the ice, gathering up a couple stray pucks that Mac and I had missed in our pick up.
I glided up behind her, stifling a groan when she bent over at the waist to snatch up a puck. Geez, her ass is spectacular.
She turned, jolting a bit when she saw me standing so close. Her gaze darted down for just a moment, and when she looked back into my eyes, they were filled with mischief. With a wicked smile on her lips and a saucy wink, she darted away without a word to finish gathering up the pucks.
She seemed to have every intention of killing me slowly, exaggeratedly bending over every time, far more than necessary. And the look on her face when she did so told me she knew exactly what she was doing to me.
With a smirk, she dropped the handful of pucks into their bucket and slowly made her way back over to me. I reached out for her, only to grasp at the air when she swooped playfully away, digging her toe pick into the ice and swirling in a low circle.
"Get over here," I requested, reaching for her again.
She only grinned and shook her head, curving her body in the opposite direction. This time, I didn't stifle my moan of appreciation as I watched the curve of her back, the lift of her breasts, the tightening of her ass as she moved. I didn't need to. She was obviously waiting for it.
"Why, Edward," she said teasingly, finally moving within my reach. Her hands stroked up over my chest, gripping lightly into the thin fabric of my t-shirt. "Is my toe pick turning you on?"
"You know it always does," I told her, sliding my hands down over her back, kneading my fingers against her hips as they moved lower.
She hummed in satisfaction as I dipped my head to lightly suck at her neck.
"Whatcha gonna do about it?" she asked teasingly. "Check me?"
"Fucking right I am," I groaned, taking the suggestion as her consent and slamming her carefully up against the boards behind us, rattling the Plexiglas. I lifted my arms, curling my fingers over the edge of the glass and pinning her to the wall, enjoying the way her tits pressed up against my chest and the feel of my dick rubbing against her as I pushed my hips closer. My lips sought hers, tasting, demanding, devouring.
And it only made me want her more.
"This weekend's been a long time coming, baby," I murmured against her lips, groaning when her teeth sunk into my bottom lip as her hands scratched over my back. "It's been too long since we've had the house to ourselves."
"Oh, Edward," she sighed, plunging her hands into my hair and pulling my head back. She smiled up at me with such love in her eyes and said, "Don't you know that good things come to those who wait?"
Truer words had never been spoken. At least for me.
I grinned and lowered to kiss her again. Sweetly. Slowly. We had all the time in the world.
Siiiigh. Wasn't that nice?
I hope you enjoyed a peek into Hockeyward and Skaterella's future and a trip through Hockeyward's brain. I sure had fun writing it.
FGB Outtakes will be on their way in a bit when I get them written. Again, if anyone has requests for outtakes-alt POV's or missing scenes (past, present, future) throw 'em at me! I can't promise to write them all, but I'd love to hear what you want to see!
I'm gonna get sappy for a moment here. I don't have enough words to express how touched I am by every person who has taken the time to read this story, to review, to tweet with me, post on the message boards etc. Judging by my total word count…that's saying a lot. Thank you so much for coming on this journey with me and this gang. I have loved every moment and hope you've had some good times, too.
Caren, Lterthqak, Fanpiremama…you better already know how much I love and appreciate you all.
I have to share a couple last recs because this week has been a treasure trove of new favorites for me.
Dear Mr. Masen by jendonna (aka jennde and belladonna1472)
A Room With a View by Short Happy Life
The Art Teacher by spanglemaker9 (I love everything she's written. Her one shots are AWESOME.)
Updated my list of favs on my profile-seriously, check it out if you're looking for recs. They're all awesome.
I really can't say much more than I already have, so this is me, signing off. Leave me some love here and/or come find me over on Twitter!
Polyvore on the Profile