A/N...Okay...here's the very last chapter of the story...I really hope that you've enjoyed it as much as I have...
I do apologize for the delay. There are circumstances beyond my control. But I'm sure that posting this and the first new chapter of An Angel's Promise will make up for my unfortunate computer problems. :)
Enjoy this...I hope that this answers a few questions for you...
CHAPTER 23 – Epilogue
1 year later...
"Are they back yet?" I asked Rose over the phone as I drove down the street.
"Not yet, Belly," she chuckled, and I could imagine her shaking her head at me.
"There's a part of me that wants to be mad at them, but then... I sorta understand," I smiled. "They were together before us... just them. Maybe they needed to do this alone."
"Maybe," she agreed. "Though of all of us, I assumed that Alice wanted the full blown wedding."
"Yet, Vegas fits somehow," I laughed, pulling in my driveway. "Okay, I'm home. I'll walk down in a few."
"Sure, see ya," she said, ending the call.
After getting out of my car, I stopped at my mailbox, pulling out a stack of half junk, a third bills, and the rest in letters. I looked up at my house and smiled.
Edward had found it. They had been working on a renovation just down the street and saw this one for sale. It needed work, needed love, and he and the boys poured every bit of that into it. It was an old, sweet but small two-story house with a porch and porch swing. Edward had said it had reminded him of a few of the hostels on the AT. So when he showed me, I couldn't say no.
It took less than a week to buy it, but almost six months of blood, sweat, and heated discussions to get it to the perfection I considered it now. It was pale blue with white trim, and I loved it. In fact, I loved it so much, that I drove everyone to buy in the same neighborhood in Seattle. Alice and Jasper lived three streets over, and Rose and Emmett just recently bought one in between. They were working on it at that very moment, though theirs didn't require as much work. They were able to still move in, working on small projects on the weekends.
I opened my door, still flipping through the mail, and stopped cold. With a sigh and an eye roll, I folded a letter, tucking it into my back pocket for later. I looked up, and couldn't help the laugh that barked out of me.
"Oh, Abe." I chuckled at the awkward, all-feet and all-ears puppy we'd adopted not a month ago. "You are Edward's dog, I swear." He'd apparently found a box containing tools, and was currently working over the handle of a hammer. He sat there, head tilted, eyes worried, in the middle of a mess. What was even funnier was that Maggie was looking at him with an expression of, "I told you so."
"You know, Mags, you could keep better watch," I snorted, shaking my head and tossing the mess into the garbage. She huffed and snorted, and I swear she rolled her eyes at me. "You wanted him," I argued, laughing at her. Edward and I had taken a walk one evening, taking our time and just talking, when the little German Shepherd puppy that was now bouncing around my feet flew from a yard and practically jumped onto Maggie. The owner was right behind with six more puppies at his heels, sighing in relief that he didn't go into the street. Maggie sat down and cleaned the puppy from nose to tail. I was done. And Edward and the owner knew it. He was bought and paid for right there.
Maggie brought the leashes to me as I finished going through the mail, putting one more letter in my back pocket. I grabbed my keys, hooked the leashes to the dogs and left the house, checking my pocket for a very important piece of news. My heart sputtered at the thought.
In ten minutes, I was walking through Rose's front door, straight through the house and out to the back porch. They had been working on the deck for several weekends. Emmett wanted the perfect outdoor party area, a desire that Rose conceded to, considering she had every say in the baby's room upstairs.
"Hey," I smiled, unhooking the leashes from the dogs to let them roam free in the backyard. I bent over, rubbed her swollen belly, and sat in the chair next to her. "How do you feel?"
"Fat," she snorted, popping a cracker in her mouth. "Fat and nauseous."
"That's an improvement, then," I chuckled. "Yesterday was fat, nauseous, and bitchy." She was seven months along, and even though they were thrilled, she made a miserable pregnant woman.
They had gotten married just four months after us. A simple but quick ceremony on the courthouse steps. The only people that were there were me, Edward, Alice, Jasper, and Esme. Not a month and a half went by before Rose found out she was pregnant.
"I'm getting there," she laughed, popping another cracker into her mouth. "Though, I think my hormones are funky."
"Just wait," she snorted. "Maybe it's just me." She pointed to the yard.
"No, not just you," I shook my head, feeling my eyes glaze over.
The boys were laying down the wood on the deck, so they were practically doing push ups. Shirtless. And sweating. And straining every muscle to hold the wood, nail it into place, and set the next one. It was a delicious sight. No matter how long I had been with Edward, he still left me breathless.
"Abe, wait," Edward growled, but laughed anyway as the puppy licked his face. He could do nothing about it, since his hands were full and he was down on Abe's level. "My girl must be here. Hey, baby," he called out over his shoulder.
"Hey." I cracked up as he fell over and Abe attacked him earnest, his chubby butt wriggling with every tail wag.
"Belly!" Emmett smiled, looking up from the saw.
"Oh wait, you'll love this," Rose chuckled with an eye roll.
"Check this out," he grunted, hopping up from the deck floor and walking over to a brand new, all the bells and whistles grill. "I got a new grill-friend. Get it?"
I covered my face, shaking my head as I chuckled. "No, he didn't."
"Yes, he did," Edward laughed, leaning over to kiss me. "Hey, baby. What did he tear up today?"
"A hammer," I said, raising my eyebrow at him.
"Damn, I left the box in the hallway," he growled, looking down at Abe, who stared right back with a perfectly loving and innocent expression on his face. I watched as the anger slipped right off of my husband's face, morphing into a sweet smile of acceptance.
"Again," I added. He smiled and shot me a wink. "It's your tools, Edward."
"Okay, okay," he chuckled, unable to stop himself from picking Abe up. He wriggled and grunted, kissing Edward's face from chin to forehead. Maggie huffed her disapproval from right behind him. Setting Abe down, Edward knelt to Maggie's level. "Don't be jealous, pretty girl," he smirked, and Maggie walked up to him, nuzzled his face and licked his nose.
"You're forgiven," Rose chuckled. "Same shit every weekend." Edward walked into the house, coming back out with a beer, and fell into the chair beside me. Rose turned to me. "What did Heidi say?"
"Not much. She's loving Seattle, and has no problem running that office for you."
"Yeah, I figured," she nodded.
"And my Alaska shots are being featured in National Geographic," I smiled, looking at both of them.
"No way!" They beamed, both kissing my cheek.
"Nice, Belly," Emmett said, opening his own beer and sitting down.
Abe tilted his head, looking inside the house and uttered his own, high pitched but trying to be a big dog, "Boof."
"Atta boy," Emmett chuckled. "They must be back."
"Yes, we're back," Jasper smiled, leaning in the doorway. "And finally hitched."
"Oh my God, Jasper," Alice growled, smacking his arm. "If you call it hitched one more time..."
Everyone but Rose got up to hug them and congratulate them. Alice bent down, kissed Rose's belly and then her face. We all took ownership to that giant stomach of hers.
"Did you find out?" Alice asked, bouncing on her toes. Edward and I looked at each other and smiled, turning back to Alice and Jasper.
"A girl," Rose beamed. "I saw all ten toes and all ten fingers. There wasn't an extra digit in there."
"Sophia Esme," Emmett nodded, his pride barely contained.
"Pretty," Alice smiled. "We should celebrate."
"We are!" Emmett smiled. "Got my new grill-friend... the steaks are in the fridge, and the beer is cold."
"Grill-friend?" Jasper snorted.
"Don't ask," Rose, Edward and I said wryly.
"Belly," Rose sighed, her eyes tired, "do you mind?" She held up her glass.
"Juice or water?" I asked, standing up and taking it from her.
"'Kay," I smiled, walking to the kitchen with Edward following.
"We got mail?" Edward asked, snatching the two letters that must have been sticking up out of my pocket.
"Hey," I growled, spinning to face him and trying to take it back, but he was holding them above my head. "Edward, wait, one of them is important."
"Kiss me first," he commanded, giving me my favorite crooked, panty dropping smile of his. "And make it good, baby," he crooned, stepping forward until he had me pressed back into the counter.
I let my eyes drink him in. His shorts hung low, just barely holding onto his hips. His torso was just freaking mouth watering and still bare. And his hair was sweaty and sticking up everywhere. He looked good enough to eat. Rose was right, maybe it was hormonal. I giggled, slipping my hands up the smooth skin of his chest up to his jaw, pulling him to me.
"Do you drive me crazy on purpose?" I asked against his lips, snickering when he nodded, his eyes dark. "Good," I smiled, pressing my lips to his. He was really warm and tasted salty, slipping his empty hand into my hair. He turned my head, deepening the kiss and moaning softly. With three long, licking nips to my mouth, he pressed his forehead to mine.
"That meeting took too long," he said, his voice husky.
"Sorry, baby," I smiled, leaning in to kiss his chest. "Now, can I have that back?"
"Yeah," he smiled sexily, handing it over.
"Good, because one was from Lou," I frowned, taking that one and stowing the other one under my arm. Edward's face sobered up and he leaned on the counter next to me. I ripped open the envelope, pulling out only a single, short news article.
Former entrepreneur and local socialite, Stephen Harper, died on Wednesday, from a fatal stab wound to the chest while he was serving a fifteen year sentence for fraud and kidnapping charges. Harper was in an altercation with another inmate, resulting in the stabbing...
"Oh," I said, my eyebrows rising up. I looked up at Edward, his face was unreadable. "Not what I was expecting."
"Hmm," he mused, taking the article from me. He looked at it again and handed it back. "Would that be karma, love?"
"I suppose," I shrugged. Neither of us gave Harper much thought anymore. "I guess Lou wanted you to know."
"Lou will always watch out," he nodded. "Retirement hasn't stopped him. Plus, he's still friends with Garrett." He was quiet for a moment, shook his head, and asked, "What's the other one?"
"From the doctor," I smirked, hiding it behind my back as he chuckled and reached for it.
"Open it," he begged. "Can we start trying now? I wanna know, Bella. They took out the IUD ages ago."
He was too cute as he pouted in front of me. I giggled and shook my head. "It doesn't matter what it says," I teased.
"Sure it does," he huffed, folding his strong arms across his chest.
"No, Edward. It really doesn't." I smiled, feeling my tears already as I reached into my pocket. "Because it's too late."
"No," he gasped, reaching for the small plastic pregnancy test I was holding out to him. "Really?" he breathed, his mouth hanging open. I nodded, letting the tears spill. I had been holding onto the test since that morning. But I had been running late to my meeting. I had barely heard a word of it.
"I wanted to tell you this morning, but..." I found myself in his arms, my face being covered in kisses.
"God, Bella," he gushed, his face glorious as he cupped my face, wiping away my tears. "Really?" he asked again, and I nodded and giggled, pressing my forehead to his. "That's the best news. Ever," he beamed, kissing me until I was breathless.
"Rosie wants to know where her juice is..." Emmett said, walking around the corner. "Hey, in my kitchen?"
I laughed, burying my face in Edward's neck.
"Bella's pregnant!" Edward gushed.
"Holy shit! Really?" Emmett boomed, snatching me from Edward's arms and hugging me tightly. "I'm gonna be a dad and an uncle," he laughed, kissing my head.
"Me, too," Edward laughed, grabbing me back. "Oh baby," he sighed, his face practically glowing, "I'm so happy. But wait, are we too early? We were supposed to wait for the tests."
"I think fate was way ahead of us," I chuckled, shaking my head. He picked me up again, but bridal style this time, carrying me to the porch. Emmett was practically bouncing.
"I'm gonna be a dad!" Edward yelled. The whole porch exploded with gasps, everyone jumping up.
It was a true night for celebrations.
Three months later...
Edward was quiet as he came home, took the dogs outside, showered, and sat down to the table. There was a darkness I hadn't seen in his eyes in some time.
I was no better. I had been queasy all day, stuffing my face with crackers to keep it to a minimum. And my hormones – just looking at my husband was setting me on fire. Being pregnant was driving me insane.
"What's wrong?" I asked at the same time he looked up at me and blurted out, "How do you feel?"
We both smiled, but I answered him. "Gross and fat, Edward. That's how I feel."
"You're beautiful," he chuckled, caressing my face. "I meant the morning sickness."
"I know," I snickered, shrugging one shoulder. "I'm starving, but then nothing stays down."
"I'm sorry," he sighed, his gaze still distant.
"Tell me?" I asked, tilting my head at him.
He frowned, his mouth in a tight line, but he nodded, letting me know that he would share. "Emmett and I stopped by a job site today. The contractor is a friend of Lou's, and asked us to stop by to take a look at the interior. You can't even imagine who was in the office."
"Cloe," he huffed a bitter laugh.
"As in... her boyfriend threw you off the roof, Cloe?" I growled, suddenly ravenously jealous. "And?"
He looked at me, studying my face. My emotions must have been written all over it. "Bella," he shook his head. "She was fine," he huffed, his eyebrows rising. "As soon as I saw her, I thought she'd be pissed, but she married Thomas."
"Yeah," he nodded slowly, still studying my reaction. "They have a little boy."
"Good," I said, my own voice sounding flat to me. "What did she say?"
"She said that she went through a few phases, hating me, loving me..." My head snapped up, and I gripped my fork. "But in the end, she said the break was good for her and Thomas, that they had learned to be apart, to heal."
When I had first met Edward, all his past relationships weren't a big deal, but I was feeling off and unattractive. "I can't have this talk today, Edward." I said, putting my fork down.
"Bella, sweetheart..." He stopped me before I could get up from the table. "What's the matter?"
My tears flowed. "I know it's the hormones, and I know it's just in my head, but I can't think about you and another woman right now, Edward. I just can't. I feel gross and fat and extremely... hell, I don't even know at this point." I stood up, but he pulled me between his legs.
His eyes were overflowing with love and sympathy. And I noted a touch of fear.
"Mrs. Cullen, you look at me," he scolded, but a soft smile caressed his features. "There isn't a woman on this planet that compares to you. You are it, baby. I only see you, love. And this is not fat," he growled, his eyes darkening as he rubbed my stomach. "This is us, Bella. And it's amazing and beautiful. The bigger you get, the sexier you become, my love. Please know that."
"Edward," I scoffed.
"No," he shook his head. "You're stunning and perfect. Please know that's how I see you. I love this," he stated, kissing my belly. "All other women ceased to exist the minute I saw you at the drop off point. The fact that you're carrying our child... hell, love, I don't even have words." He looked up at me. "I love you. Everything about you. All of you is perfect to me."
"I'm so... wacky right now, Edward," I sniffled, frowning at him. "Tell me that she said you were ugly and she ran away from you, because I can't even stand the thought..."
He chuckled, wrapping his arms around me. "As a matter of fact, that's exactly what she did," he nodded with false sincerity, looking up at me. "Called me a troll, I believe."
"Liar," I snorted, shaking my head.
"You need me to prove it to you, love?" He crooned, taking my hand in his. He pulled me closer, placing another kiss to my belly and pulling my hand to the front of his basketball shorts. He was rock hard, throbbing under my touch. "Do you feel that? Do you feel what you do to me? I'm like this every moment I'm around you, and it's even worse since you got pregnant, my beautiful wife," he said, slipping his hand up my arm and into my hair. He stood before me, picking me up into his arms. "Let me show you..."
I needed him so badly, that I couldn't even complain about dinner or how gross I felt or any of it. He laid me down on our bed, looming over me in just his shorts and peeling my over-sized t-shirt off of me. Bending down, he pressed his lips to the scar just under my breast; his favorite – or so he claimed. I really just think he liked where it was, more than the story of the garden gnome.
He took every flaw that I felt I had and pointed out the reasons he loved them. But when it came to my stomach, our little one, he took the most time. He spoke to me and our child, telling us how much he loved us and how he couldn't wait for us to all be together. I was a sobbing mess.
He held me close and kissed me deeply as he slipped inside of me. There was no hesitation, no wavering, just pure love practically oozing from his every pore. He made love to me slowly, sensually, seeming to need it just as much as me. Or maybe he just caught up to me, because he was perfect and gentle and warm. But just when I needed him to, he picked up the pace, taking me harder just to bring us to climax together.
He kissed away my tears, holding me close as I shook in his arms. "Say it again, Bella," he commanded softly in my ear.
"I love you," I nodded, thanking him with my eyes for knowing exactly what I needed.
"And I love you... only you... hormones and all," he smiled.
Five months later...
"And just how is Daddy Dearest?" Emmett chuckled, holding a bottle for tiny Sophie. Well, she looked tiny in his arms, but in reality, she was long, strong, and healthy. My niece was the perfect combination of her parents. With Rose's blonde hair and blue eyes, and Emmett's round, sweet face and dimples, she was absolutely adorable.
"I haven't read it yet," I frowned, picking up the letter and setting it back down on my lap. "I'm sure Mom told him about Sophie and Bella's pregnancy, but I just..." I shrugged, my eyes on the tiny hand that reached out and touched Emmett's face.
"She says she's not divorcing him," Emmett frowned, "but she still stays legally separated. Wonder what she'll do when he gets out," he mused, smiling when Sophie wrapped her hand around his pinky.
"I know she's still mad," Bella sighed, waddling in. She was due any moment, and the poor thing was miserable. I helped her fall onto our sofa. "I'll never get up," she chuckled.
"I'll help you, silly," I laughed, unable not to touch her now swollen belly. My son kicked. "Definitely a football player," I beamed, chuckling when she rolled her eyes.
"Hells, yeah," Emmett nodded, grinning from ear to ear. "Quarterback, or maybe kicker... we'll see."
"God help me," Bella sighed, rolling her eyes again, causing us to laugh. "Just for that, I'm going to get Sophie addicted to shopping," she laughed. "Let me," she said, holding her arms out.
Emmett got up, placed Sophie in her arms, and handed over the bottle. The sight looked so... right.
Maggie got up, walking slowly to investigate. We had been worried about the dogs with the baby on the way, but Maggie and Abe both watched Sophie like she was one of them. If she cried, they came and got us. If she reached out and grabbed them too hard, they completely tolerated it, even if their eyes were watering with the pain of having an ear pulled too hard. Maggie licked a toe on Sophie's bare foot, causing her to squeal in happiness. There wasn't one of us that wasn't smiling.
"Are you going to read that?" Bella asked softly as Emmett got up and walked into our kitchen.
"Yes, ma'am," I nodded, leaning over and kissing her forehead and then my niece's. Big blue eyes stared back at me, and I smiled. "I know what he'll want," I said, looking up at my glowing wife. "He'll want to see Sophie and our son," I frowned.
"Charles Garrett," Bella urged. I chuckled and nodded. It was the perfect name, though I knew my father would be pissed that we went with Bella's father and my uncle. But in reality, we owed them both so much. It just seemed to fit. "We can take them."
"To see him?" I asked, wondering what she could possibly be thinking.
"Dr. Owens says it's time to face him, Edward," she said, her voice smooth and soothing. "You need to talk to him."
"I know, I know," I sighed and nodded. She was right – as usual. I wasn't sure I was ready to see my father. I hadn't started writing him back, and actually seeing him would mean facing the man that just about cost me everything – twice. My anger had not abated.
I looked at her, seeing the solid definition of family and support and happiness. "I... Can I think about it?" I asked, feeling relieved that she was nodding even before I finished the question.
"Of course, baby," she sighed, laying the cloth on her shoulder and lifting Sophie up to burp her. "I just think you'll feel better. You'll show him that he didn't succeed. That he didn't win. And you know we'll all go. Emmett, too," she said, chuckling when Sophie burped loudly. "God, you sound like your dad." A laugh barked out of me. She did sound like Emmett after a cold soda.
"Don't tease my child," Rose snorted. "And yeah, she totally burps like Emmett." She laughed, shaking her head. "Here, Belly, let me get her for you."
"Okay, 'cause I truly have to pee. I want this kid out of me," she growled as Rose and I both helped her to her feet. We all stopped when she gasped, her face contorting. "Oh hell," she groaned, looking up at me. "Baby, it's time."
"Yeah, it is," Rose nodded. "Your water just broke."
The whole house jumped into action.
"Edward, it hurts," my love cried, squeezing my hand until I thought the bones would break. But I would have taken more in order to take the pain from her. It seemed Charles Garrett Cullen was just as stubborn as I was, and was quite happy where he was residing.
"I know, baby," I said, wiping the sweat from her forehead and placing a kiss there. "Not much longer, love, I promise. We just need one more push," I said, looking up at the doctor, who was nodding fervently. "Please, love... one more."
"I can't," she panted, tears leaking from her eyes.
"You can, my love, you can." I leaned over her, pressing my lips to hers. "It's okay, baby. It's almost over. You can kick my ass when all is said and done, I promise," I chuckled, leaving my lips on her cheek.
"Not funny," she growled.
"I know," I smiled, looking over at the nurses and doctor as they laughed at us. Pressing my lips once more to her forehead and leaving them against her skin, I said, "One more time, Bella. Push, baby."
She whimpered, squeezed my hand again, and pushed. Hard. And my poor, sweet beautiful girl screamed as our son finally made it into the world. I squeezed my eyes closed, relishing the sound of the cry that filled the room.
"Good job, Bella," I smiled. "You're so beautiful, baby." The nurses quickly wrapped Charles up and placed him in her arms. "Look, Mom," I smiled, both of us in tears. "He's perfect."
And he was; he was absolutely stunning. He had my hair color, only darker, and Bella's beautiful, soulful brown eyes. "God, he's beautiful," she sobbed, looking up at me. I kissed them both, smiling as he grunted and squirmed against her. It was the best sight I had ever seen.
Bella offered him to me as the nurses started to clean her up. As I wrapped him in my arms, I'd never felt so powerful and so helpless in all my life. And he looked up at me with so much trust and need that my knees felt weak.
"Hey, Charles," I whispered, kissing his tiny hand that had escaped his wrap. "I'm gonna make you a promise, 'kay? I swear to you, no matter what, you can come to me. You can be whatever it is that makes you happy, okay? And if I get stupid, just tell Mom, 'cause she's really good at keeping me in line." I heard a giggle from all the girls in the room, and I turned to see my Bella. She was just shaking her head at me, tears flowing down her cheeks. "What?"
"Nothing," she snorted. "I just didn't know my heart could hold this much love. That's all." As I looked at her and then at my son, I knew what she meant. I felt my chest expand with it almost. I nodded, the only thing I was capable of doing. She smiled and said, "Go, Dad... Go show him off. I know you want to."
I smiled, nodding like Emmett. I kissed her and she kissed Charles before I walked out into the waiting room.
The explosion was almost deafening as I walked into the room.
A few weeks later...
"Edward Cullen." I was called from the doorway of the small waiting room. I stood, nodded, and let the large man in uniform lead me down the hall and into a large cafeteria filled with tables – and inmates.
I steeled myself, clenching my jaw and taking a deep breath as I met my father's gaze from across the room. Slowly, I made my way to him, sitting down in front of him.
"Edward," he said, his voice sounding relieved. "You look good, son."
He didn't, I noted internally, thinking he looked old and tired and scared. The latter of which almost made me smile. His fear of me had not ebbed away since the night of the kidnapping.
"I'm here, Dad. What do you want? What couldn't you say in a letter? And why just me?"
"You still hate me," he nodded slowly, looking down at his hands.
"You think?" I snapped, causing his eyes to lock with mine. "First, you sell me out. Then you almost get my wife killed. Yeah, I'm not sure you're grasping the entire size of my hatred for you."
"I know, son. I'm sorry."
"You have no idea what it was like to hear that my own father sold my name to a member of the fucking Mafia," I growled through gritted teeth. "But I could almost understand, because you were wrapped up in things that were out of your control. I get that. I've cleaned up enough behind your sorry ass to come to terms with that. I wasn't innocent in the situation with Gwen. I didn't have to continue a relationship with her. I know." I took a deep breath, trying to keep my control. "But I cannot understand why you would order the kidnapping of my future wife, which just happened to accidentally include my mother. You have no fucking idea how close Bella came to dying that night. She was sick to begin with..."
"Edward, I'm sorry."
"I know. That's the thirty-seventh time you've told me, between this past five minutes and the fourteen letters that you've sent me the last year and a half."
He flinched, but nodded. "You never wrote me back. I didn't know if you were reading them."
"I read them. I just didn't know what I wanted to say to you. I don't have it in me to forgive you just yet. If ever." I frowned, shaking my head. "See, I look at my own son... and he's perfect. But he's perfect because he's mine. And I stare at him as he sleeps at night, and wonder how you did it. Because there's nothing... fucking nothing... that I wouldn't do for him. And he's only four weeks old." I took another deep breath, because I knew my voice was rising. "I imagine his future, and I wonder what mistakes he'll make, and I can't conceive of anything that would make me turn my back on him. How did you do that?" I asked, finally meeting his gaze once more.
"I was blind and stupid. I lost sight of what was important. I became selfish and addicted to money. Like you said, I got wrapped up in things that were out of my control." He shook his head, and I could see the ancient sadness all over him like a wet blanket. "You remember what he's like right now, Edward. Don't lose that," he smiled sadly. "What's he like?"
I looked up and couldn't help but smile. I loved my family with an immense passion. Anger at my father or not, I couldn't help but brag.
"He's just perfect," I nodded. "He has Bella's eyes and my hair, only much darker like hers, and her nose and my smile. And I think he'll have dimples and freckles." I chuckled. "When he's upset, only music or Bella's voice calms him."
"I have two perfect grandchildren," he muttered to himself with a slight smile on his face. "Sophie's so pretty."
"She is... and Emmett made over. She's a mess," I snorted. "So... why am I here, Dad?"
He looked up at me, tensing for a moment. "I'm getting out soon. Good behavior and all of that..."
"So Mom told me," I nodded.
"I want to work on my family when I get out of here, Edward. But you're the key, son. Your brother protects you, and won't forgive me until you do. Bella won't answer my letters either, so I imagine she feels the same. Rose, too. Your mother... she's asked for time," he nodded like he knew as much. "And your uncles... Garrett and Aro, they've said pretty much the same thing."
"Because you are the one I caused the most damage to. You have always been the key to the family. They all love you too much," he smiled, tilting his head like I do. "They all feel that if anyone deserves the final say on me, it's you."
I stared at him, mulling it over. "I... will need time," I grunted out. "We can try, but I'm not making promises. Mom misses you and wants you to know your grandchildren, but I don't know what I'm feeling right this second."
"Okay. Try," he sighed, his eyes tired. "I just want to earn it all back."
I huffed a laugh, remembering saying that very thing to Bella when she first returned to me heartbroken from my stupid phone call and idiotic attempt to protect her.
"I will have to talk with them," I sighed, looking down at my hands. "If they want a relationship with you, I shouldn't be holding them back. They should feel free to do what they want."
"They won't," he frowned, shaking his head. "They just won't, Edward. They are loyal to you, and that's fine. Let time and effort try to fix this. I almost lost you once. I want to try and mend that. Please." He suddenly locked eyes with me, his filling with remorse. "I'm not healthy, son. I want the opportunity to get to know the future of my family and mend mistakes. Please."
I closed my eyes, leaning back in my chair and folding my arms across my chest. "When you get home, where will you stay?"
"Your mother has offered me the guest room." He chuckled, rubbing his face.
I smiled, shaking my head. "We'll try, Dad." His head shot up, and he gaped at me. "I'm not making promises I can't keep. We'll try. Charles deserves to know you. Sophie, too, for that matter. Though I won't speak for Emmett and Rose."
"That's all I'm asking," he nodded, his face hopeful. He stood when I did, offering me his hand. I eyed it for a moment, debating. It was a sign of peace, of surrender on his part. He had officially put the ball in my court. I wasn't sure I was comfortable with that fact, but I shook his hand anyway, because the only thing that ran through my head was if I had made a mistake, I would want Charles' forgiveness as well.
Another year later...
"Look at you," I crooned, picking up Alice and Jasper's daughter, Lily. "My God, you look more like Alice everyday." I laughed when Jasper snorted behind me.
"It's true," he chuckled. "Just as demanding, too," he whispered in my ear, handing me her bottle.
I laughed, walking away from him and onto Esme's back porch. I sat down on the porch swing next to Esme as she chuckled. I turned towards the backyard to see the slowest, smallest football game ever played.
Charles, Sophie, and Felix's son, Will, were all running as fast as their chunky, little legs would carry them. They were chasing Emmett, who was on his knees, holding a football. He would laugh as they dogpiled onto him, only to toss the ball into the air to Edward, and the chase was on again. It was fantastic.
Charlie and Carlisle sat off to the side next to the grill, laughing at all of them.
Carlisle met my gaze, nodding once. I had been unsure with his return back into the family dynamic. I felt protective, not only of Edward, but of Esme and Emmett, too. I didn't want them hurt. But what I came to realize was that Cullen Construction no longer existed, all of Carlisle's old contacts were no longer around, Esme still loved him and wanted to find what they had before, and Carlisle had the right to earn whatever his sons and wife decided to give him. And it wasn't easy. There were fights and tears and slammed doors. There were threats of divorce and the begging of forgiveness. But the first time that both Sophie and Charles fell asleep on the sofa watching cartoons with their grandfather, he completely changed. He became open and honest. He started to vocalize his love for his family, which made a huge difference.
Rose and I watched him with indifference at first, not wanting to let him in, but it was for nothing. The first day that Maggie and Abe both offered him their paws, we knew we could trust him. And we hated it. We wanted to stay mad and protective, but it wasn't our place. We allowed him a strained relationship with us, knowing we'll never be best friends. But our children loved him.
My son squealed in happiness, and I looked up and chuckled. Vanessa was spinning him and setting him down, just to watch him wobble around on already unsteady one-year-old legs. Her new boyfriend, Tyler, walked up to join them.
"Oh hell," I sighed, handing Lily over to Esme.
"What?" she asked, placing a kiss to her forehead.
"Look at Mags," I frowned. As Tyler got closer, Maggie and Abe loomed ominously on each side of Charles, towering over him as he held onto them both with fistfuls of fur. "I'm glad she's not serious about that guy."
"No shit," Rose frowned, coming to stand beside me on the steps. "Those dogs haven't liked him since day one."
"What do you think is his problem?" Alice asked, joining us. Rose and I both shrugged.
Tyler was in Vanessa's drama department at UW. She was excelling in classes, and had even performed in a small production of Grease a few months over the last summer. She had bloomed into an amazing talent, and an even more beautiful young woman.
Before I could say anything, the game in the yard stopped, and Vanessa looked up at Tyler. "Go home, Ty," she frowned. "We'll talk later." I smirked, turning towards Rose.
"Oh yeah," Rose and Alice nodded, and we all sat down on the steps as the boy walked off to his car.
"Mommy!" Charles beamed, catching sight of me. I opened my arms as he ran into them, smothering him with kisses. It was scary just how much he looked like his father. He was Edward made over, only with my brown eyes. He giggled and squirmed, finally straddling my waist and laying his head on my shoulder. And he was every bit as sweet and cuddly as his dad, which I ate up.
"Hey," Edward pouted, "I thought we were playing, buddy."
I smiled up in pride. "Sometimes, hugs and kisses are better than football," I teased.
"Don't I know it," he smirked, kneeling in front of me with a wink. "Looks like nap time anyway," he smiled, trying to calm his son's hair down, but it was too much like his own. It stuck up every which way no matter what. "Put him down and take a walk with me," he smiled, raising his eyebrows up and down, which only caused Rose and Alice to giggle.
"Go ahead," Rose chuckled, "I'll watch him."
I took him inside, passing Uncle Garrett along the way. "There's my boy," he whispered, standing up from the sofa. "He's out like a light, Belly."
"Yeah, I think his dad wore him out," I smiled. "I'm gonna put him in the playroom."
"God, he really looks like Edward at that age," he snorted, shaking his head. "Makes me kinda glad we didn't run away to Rome," he teased, winking at me.
"Paris," I corrected sarcastically, rolling my eyes. He barked a laugh and covered his mouth to stay quiet. He kissed my head before I walked away.
Charles stirred when I walked into the playroom. "Hey, handsome," I smiled. "Go to sleep, buddy."
He shook his head, fighting the heaviness of his eyelids. I smiled, lying down on the bed with him. "Daddy," he yawned, rubbing his face the same way that Edward did when he was frustrated.
"I'm here, pal," Edward smiled, lying down with me.
"Foo-bawl," he grinned sleepily, grabbing his dad's face with both chubby hands.
"Later," Edward chuckled, kissing his forehead. "When you wake up, we'll tackle Uncle Em."
"'Kay, Daddy," he smiled, finally giving into his last yawn. His eyes closed slowly as I ran my fingers through his hair. He was completely out in no time flat.
Rose passed us in the hallway with a yawning Sophie in her arms. "Looks like it's contagious," she smiled, "so I'll put them together."
Silently, Edward took my hand, tugging me out the front door to the side yard. I smiled when I realized he had stolen a lounge chair and stashed it in a hidden corner.
"Shameless, baby," I smirked, as he lay down and pulled me on top of him.
"I love these weekends at my parents, but I never get you alone." He pouted on that last part.
I studied his face. He was whole again. His visit to his father while still in prison had started Edward's healing process. They weren't perfect, and Edward still refused to let Charles stay overnight with Esme, but at least there was an attempt of trying to patch things up. I followed with Edward's lead on it all.
"You know," I purred, scooting up his body and pressing my forehead to his. "Rose can watch Charles tonight. Emmett owes us for last weekend."
"Mm, food for thought, beautiful," he growled, his eyes growing dark as his hands ghosted all over my back, thighs and ass. They slipped up under my shirt, gently caressing the skin of my back.
We kissed slowly, comfortably, but never any less heated than we've always kissed. If anything, the arrival of Charles caused us to fall that much deeper, become that much more than what we were. We broke apart, but left licking, nipping kisses, unable to stop.
"So tell me, love," he smiled, tilting his head at me. "Where's Heidi sending you?"
"Well, it was Mexico," I smirked, my face reddening.
"Yeah, we had to cancel my next book," I sighed, trying to feign disappointment, but failing miserably. Not only did I not want to be separated from my two boys, but I didn't want to travel anymore.
He sat up, keeping my legs straddling his. "Cancel, why? Baby, I know you don't want to go without us. Charles and I would have met up with you."
"I don't want to go now, Edward," I chuckled, running my fingers through his hair.
He studied my face for a moment out of the corner of his eye. He knew the only thing that would keep me from going was family. "You can go, my love. We'll work it out..."
"No," I smiled, "I just don't want to anymore. Alice is putting me in touch with some website designers, and I'll sell photos for them – advertising shots and such, but I'm not leaving you two."
He frowned, reaching up to tuck my hair behind my ear. "I don't want you giving up anything. I want you happy."
"Oh, Edward," I smiled, kissing his nose and lips. "You have no idea how happy I am, and that's why I don't want to travel anymore. I can't leave my handsome boys behind."
"Oh yeah," I nodded, smiling at his sweet, concerned face. "I've never been more sure of anything. I have everything I need right here in my arms and back in that playroom. I neither need, nor want for anything."
A wry smile crept up his stunning face as he tilted his head at me again. "So..." He huffed a laugh and squeezed me closer. "Does that mean we can try again?"
"You mean all that practice, and we're still trying?" I teased, wriggling on his lap when his fingers gripped my sides. "Yes," I breathed, nodding. "I stopped the birth control when I told her I wasn't traveling anymore."
"Really?" He practically growled the question. I nodded slowly with a small smile. Edward and I wanted one more, but we hadn't been sure as to when. My traveling was hindering that decision.
"Really," I nodded and found myself pressed into the chaise with a very happy, very excited Edward looming sexily over me. His eyes were dark, his hands braced by my head.
"Rose is definitely watching Charles tonight," he said huskily. "Definitely."
I giggled, writhing under him when his mouth attacked the soft spot behind my ear. "Mr. Cullen, whatever do you have in mind?"
"Ravishing you, Mrs. Cullen," he mumbled against my neck, leaving an open mouth kiss. "Trying my damnedest to make my family just a little bigger." I couldn't help but giggle, but it turned into a moan as soon as his tongue met my alarm-scar.
"Whatever you say," I panted as his tongue did things to my earlobe that should be considered illegal.
He pulled back, his smile deadly sexy, but his eyes warm and sweet. "You've given me everything," he said, his voice soft like velvet. "Say it again, my Bella."
"Oh, Edward, I love you."
"Again," he commanded, pressing his forehead to mine. My legs instinctively wrapped around his hips.
"I love you," I smiled, slipping my hands into his hair and pulling him closer.
"Again," he whispered against my lips, dropping to his elbows, his hands in my hair.
"No, you say it," I growled, smiling when he chuckled.
"I love you. So much."
As we lost ourselves in the rare, quiet moment in the chaise, I knew I'd found everything I needed. Edward and I had been broken and damaged people when we first met, but had found a way to heal together. We had found something in each other that we both never knew we were lacking. I gave my Edward strength, and he gave me comfort. I learned to shelter him from the harshness that life could dish out, and in me, he'd found a cheerleader, someone that told him there wasn't anything he couldn't do.
We had survived long hikes, breakups, lies, pasts, presents, illnesses, and therapy. We had a beautiful son and the hopes for another healthy little one. We had hope – something that I'm not sure either of us had really known until we met on the AT. We had found everything on that fateful day that we just happened to be dropped off at the same time. Fate had given us all she had to offer – hope, family, peace, and friendship.
But most of all... love.
A/N...That's the end. Some of you have asked for a sequel. Hmm, I'm not so sure about that, but maybe some outtakes. We'll see.
I really want to thank every last one of you for reading, reviewing, yelling, crying and laughing. I love you all and hope to see you in the new story.
Thanks...HUGE thanks to JenRar for editing this like the damn wind. And I can't wait to see what we do with AP...
Okay, give my campers a last review...and let me know what you think...Now I'm off to give you the story you've been begging for...LOL...Remember...I love everything you have to say...Until next time...Later...