Thank you for reading! We are almost at the end.
Huge, huge, huge thanks to Orangeappeal and TessUnderground for their mad pre-reading/betaing skills. They made this chapter much better.
Thanks to xoEmc for the design advice.
Reminder: In the last chapter, they fell asleep talking.
The sensation of feather-light kisses across my ribs pulls me from sleep.
I blink open my eyes and silently watch Bella on her knees next to me. She lifts my t-shirt and examines my healing ribs. Gently, she glides her fingertips along each one and dips her head, placing another kiss, so soft it almost tickles.
Not wanting to disturb her, I keep still as she inches her way down and brushes her lips across the line of hair that leads to the waistband of my pajamas. It sends a jolt to my groin and my cock comes alive.
At he sound of birds singing, Bella snaps her head toward the window. The early morning sun lightens her brown eyes as she stares outside. She glances at me, and smiles bashfully.
I nod and grin at her blush. "Morning." My voice is still gruff.
She cocks her head to the window. "We have company. Song Sparrows in the Maple outside."
"You know birds?"
"Love that." I rub my hand over her leg. "Come here."
"Are you sure you don't want me to stay down here?" A wicked grin emerges on her face.
"I'm sure. That's not what I had in mind."
Bella straddles me and hovers just inches above. I hold her face in my hands.
"Sorry I fell asleep on you last night," she says.
"You need your sleep."
I pull her face to mine and kiss her. The smooth, sweet mint tasting lips melt over mine. Her tongue slips into my mouth and our kiss becomes a tender dance, twisting and turning, vibrating with her hum. My skin awakens with anticipation.
Bella moves her hips into me, sliding over my lower torso. I skate my hands around her thighs and reach her backside.
She pulls her face away. "I can't wait a second longer. I want you."
"Then take me." Please take me.
We remove my pants and she climbs back on top of me. I reach under the hem of her t-shirt, looking for her underwear and realize they're already gone.
I sit up and wrap one arm around her waist, the other hooked around her thigh. She lifts up and firmly holds my erection, gliding my sensitive tip over her sex while stroking me. I twitch in her hand and I moan involuntarily. Filled with need, I want to thrust up inside of her, submerge myself, but I don't. It is even more gratifying to follow her lead.
Bella clutches my shoulder with one hand and slowly lowers herself.
Her hips stay raised above my pelvis, she only encompasses a small part of me, but it feels so good to be back where I belong. As we hold each other tight, I feel the new weight of her breasts against me. My breath quickens. With each inhale, my nipples brush through my t-shirt, against her, hardening, and sending chills down to my stomach.
She kisses my ear. "I need to go slowly."
"Does it hurt?"
"No. Just getting used to you again." She presses down further, and I feel her heart pounding through to my hand on her back. With each passing second, I feel her open, stretching around me.
"I want all of you," she murmurs, brushing her cheek against mine.
"I'm yours, all yours."
I cup her face in my hand and watch her as she presses down. Her mouth drops open and her body swallows me, our flesh meeting. Mine forever.
Bella lets out a soft, shuddering sigh and drops her head to my shoulder.
I gather her hair and pull it to one side, exposing the long muscle from neck to shoulder for me to kiss. Our voices are little more than breath. "Oh, I've missed you, Bella. I've missed this."
"Me, too." She lifts her hips and glides back down. And again.
Bella reaches behind me, and grabs at my t-shirt. Quickly, I pull it over my head and do the same with hers, watching her hair fall around her shoulders. I fling the shirts to the floor, and dig my hands into her thick locks.
I love the feeling of our flesh touching. Our lovemaking is slow, tender as we use our fingertips and lips to relearn each other's bodies. I am humbled by the knowledge that it is only I who will ever taste this mouth, touch this skin in this intimate way, just as only Bella will ever know me. And somehow it becomes clear that Bella always knew this about us, it just took me a little more time to understand. We have a lifetime to explore.
I hold her hips and she continues to rise and fall on me. She is so wet, that her movements are easy. The curls of her hair, her breasts, everything bounces as she moves.
"It feels so good, Edward. Does it feel good?"
Bella's body begins to shake, so close to release. Fingernails press into my back and small cries fill my ears. In a swift move, Bella shifts and plants her feet on the mattress. Her knees are around my fragile ribs, but everything else feel so damn good, I don't care.
She is pounding into me at a new angle, back and forth, hard and fast. So aggressive—so hot. The sound of our wet flesh and the force of her movement, Bella claiming me in this way, all nearly send me over. The pressure inside intensifies, and I begin to throb but I wait and simply hold her as she climaxes, grunting my name into my neck with each wave of release.
"Wow, beautiful." It's all I can say. She catches her breath. I rest her back with me. I'm careful to keep my place inside as I shift on top of her.
I rock into her and she gives me a small nod of approval.
"I want to look at you." I hold her pelvis to mine as I lift to my knees and rake my eyes over the new, soft curves of Bella.
She watches me watching her.
"There's more of me."
"The more the merrier." I cup her breasts, lifting them together, and feel the supple flesh spill from my fingers. "So pretty."
She strokes my forearms.
Her body is changing for the baby.
Her pink nipples harden under my thumbs as I tenderly tease them.
"Do they feel different?"
I stop my movements and Bella places her hands over mine.
"But they don't hurt. It feels good. It all feels really good."
Lifting her hips, Bella encourages me to continue moving inside of her. The pink flush of her thighs spreads and I watch myself disappear inside of her over and over again. She watches, too.
"Oh, God… Edward."
"You're close again."
She writhes and meets my hips, taking over. I spread my hand on her swollen belly and make fast circles with my thumb over her clitoris.
Her eyes squeeze shut and she bucks wildly, making sounds I've never heard, throughout her orgasm.
Bella opens her eyes and I fix on the sweat-soaked tendril of hair clinging to her neck. Suddenly, I can think of nothing else but holding her hand while she delivers our baby.
My climax recedes.
Bella stretches out her arms. "I want to feel you on top of me."
I lie down over her, barely supporting myself on my forearms.
"Are you holding back?" Her voice is careful.
"I'm not meaning to."
"I think I need to stop… I don't think I can…"
"We can stop." She brushes her fingers through the short hair on the side of my head. "Do you want to stay in me for a minute, just like this."
I nod, feeling self-conscious. "I do."
Bella pulls my head down to her lips and kisses my forehead. "You're thinking too much."
I nod. After Bella fell asleep, a million questions came to mind: Where to be married? When? Where would we live? Law school for her? Seminary for me? Those questions are still with me. I'm out of the moment.
"We'll figure out a lot of things together today. Everything will work out." She knows me so well.
She lifts her hips up, and begins a slow gyration. I feel my erection harden again.
"And you know, Edward, there are only two of us here right now, you and me."
I shake my head. "The baby."
"Oh, no. The baby is sleeping,"
Her movements become stronger. I thicken.
"Mmm-hmmm. We have a very sound sleeper. We can make noise and everything."
"I like to hear you make noise."
"You've made me come twice already—stud."
We both chuckle; she gives me the levity I need.
"Should we go for three, Isabella? I want to come with you."
"Oh, I like that confidence." Her voice is a husky whisper.
And now, I take the lead. I plant my hands far above her and pull my entire body over hers. This is what I like best, making love to her with my whole body.
I dip my head and suck her nipple into mouth. Bella arches her back, giving herself, and I take what's offered.
"Oh, gaugh, that's good."
I move to her other breast and lift my pelvis higher, diving deeper with each swift thrust. Bella works her full body. Her pelvis meets mine over and over again.
I angle my hips low when I pull back, and find the spot that makes her cry. "Oh. Oh. Oh, Edward. Yes, like that. Please." I hit the spot again and again.
A sweat breaks out over my body, and the pressure in my cock soars. I'm hard and long and tingling with sensation.
"No, don't stop." She's emphatic.
Bella wraps her legs around me. We meld into one creature, moving the bed with each deep thrust. I shove my fingers into her mouth and fist the pillow with my other hand.
Bella closes her lips around me and sucks, the whole time making muffled sounds. When I feel her teeth, my balls harden. My legs stiffen.
"Fuck. Fuck. Fuck." It feels so good, it hurts. When I come, I know I'll fill her.
Bella clamps around me and I let go. I crash my pelvis into her and come hot and long, pouring everything I have inside of Bella.
I collapse on top of her and quickly roll us onto our sides.
I slide myself up and down her body, giving small kisses everywhere my lips can find. After a moment, I look at her. If she weren't already pregnant, she would be now.
"Amazing," she says.
"Thanks for talking me through it."
I brush her hair from her face, trail my fingers along her jaw, and lift her chin, giving a grateful kiss.
She pulls her knees up and curls into a ball. The damp sheets cool immediately. We've made a milky, wet mess together and somewhere deep inside, it makes me a little proud.
"I want to take a shower with you. Let me wash you."
"Mmmm." Bella closes her eyes. "In a minute."
Exhaustion pulls her under.
I slip out of bed, and head to the bathroom. I return with a warm washcloth and tend to her while she sleeps.
When I finish, I hear her mumble, "Best husband ever."
I strike another item off my things to do list. I am a shark, focused, never stopping. I will complete this list today.
Cancel smutty magazine subscriptions
Tell Bella I love her
Though I don't need a reminder for the last item, I like writing it.
I look over to my bookshelf hiding men's magazines and wonder what Bella and I will hide in there when we have our child—or children. How many will there be? How many does she want?
The clean soapy fragrance reaches me before the words. "Here you are." Bella comes into my office and wraps her arms around my shoulders. She kisses my neck and glances at my things to do list.
"How did you sleep?"
"Very well, thank you. Did you come back to bed?"
"Nah. I thought I'd get an early start-a little prayer, a little work. Are you hungry? I can make you…"
"I'll make breakfast in a bit. Pancakes?"
"Love pancakes, but I don't have any." I should put that on the list.
"You have everything. I just looked."
"I have mix?"
"No, but I can make them from scratch." From scratch. I feel a little thrill each time she says that. "What's on our things to do list?"
"Here, I want to show you something." I open the window on my computer with the Amazon shopping cart filled with pregnancy and parenting books.
"Wow, that's a lot of books."
"Anything you want to add?"
"Love, I don't think there is anything to add." She smirks down at me. "And I have some of these already."
"It's good to have multiples." I strike a couple of keys to confirm the order.
Bella begins to knead my shoulders and neck. "You're tense."
"I'm good." She deepens her stroke, and I have to admit, it does feel good. I drop my head and let out a long exhale as she uses her thumbs to go in deeper.
"There you go." My head lolls to the side as she goes even further. "Can I ask you something?"
"You are doing great with the news. I was wondering how Teddy was feeling."
Good question, one I spent the morning praying about.
I grab her hands and kiss each palm. "Come here." I swivel my chair around and Bella sits on my lap. She is fresh out of the shower with her hair in a damp ponytail, and wearing jeans and one of my U-Dub sweatshirts. Simple. Beautiful. Bella.
"Teddy is excited about having a little brother or sister to play with."
I hold her legs and swivel the chair back and forth in a slow rhythm.
"Mmmm. That's good. He'll be a great playmate… He's just excited? Anything else?"
"Well, you know he has his issues," I tease, hoping I can say this right.
"I do. But I won't tell him you told me." She plays along.
"He hopes, you know, he'll still be important." My voice is quiet, but I meet her eyes. "I'll still be important."
Angling her head, she looks at me for a long moment. "I understand that. I've thought a lot about that myself."
My heart shrinks a little, but I try to avoid selfishness. "I know, the baby is your priority…"
"No, not that. I mean, I've thought about what this little one will mean for me." I place my hand on her belly. "Maybe this will be daddy's little girl, or daddy's best buddy… whoever it is, this baby will steal your heart, maybe steal it away from me."
"That could never be, Bella. You are my everything. I already have so much love for our baby, and for our family… but you, you are my best friend, my lover, my partner…" At my realization, my voice fades. It is one of her voodoo mind tricks. "Bella, you aren't really worried about being important, are you?"
She wrinkles her nose. "No, not really."
"Well played. I see your point. I guess I'm being foolish."
"No," she whispers. "Not foolish, honest." She holds her hand against my cheek. Her eyes scan every inch of my face, as if I'm not even here. She's in some sort of trance. Brushing her thumb across my bottom lip, her eyes focus on my mouth.
"Bella? Are you okay?"
She slowly nods, bemused.
"When you were brought into the hospital, they tried to prepare me for the worst. I didn't believe them." Her eyes follow her fingertips as they move to my forehead, pushing my hair away. "I couldn't believe I wouldn't see this face again, these green eyes. Touch you. It was a pain too great to comprehend."
It's something she's never told me. "You were strong at the hospital."
"I cried so much, and I don't think you cried once."
"Not in front of you." She places her hand on my chest. "You cried because this huge heart of yours opened up. It's healing, and I'll protect it with my life." A strange smile crosses her face. "You didn't need to be worried about me."
"I like worrying about you."
"I know." Her eyes fill with remorse. "Oh, I've made a lot of mistakes."
"What do you mean?"
"I've always tried so hard to show you how much I love you, how I could be strong and worthy of you, but…" Bella shakes her head.
"You do. You show me all the time… What you did for me, my parents," I begin to argue, but she places her fingertips over my lips.
"Maybe I don't say it enough, or well enough. Edward, I go to bed each night and wake each morning thanking God for you. You live inside my heart and I don't think a person could love another person more than I love you. You are my sun, my moon, my stars… my air, my water… you're my Edward."
It takes my breath away. She loves me that much? My eyes burn, so close to tears, yet again.
"I still can't believe you're going to be my wife."
I grasp her chin and turn my head, taking a moment to inhale her breath before I kiss her soft lips. "Can you fly?" I ask against her mouth.
She smiles and kisses me again. "You mean like Superman fly?"
"No like… Wonder Woman. On a plane?"
She tips her forehead to mine. "Oh, right, because I'm pregnant. I think I can for a while still."
"Look here." I open the browser window on my computer. "There's a flight to Vegas tonight at 6:30. We can be married by midnight."
I look at her eyes glaze over. Too soon?
"Um… last night we said sooner rather than later, and maybe this is too soon… I just thought we could throw on some jeans… you know…" She's still glazed, staring at the screen. "I'm sure you don't want a big wedding, given last time and everything…"
"Yeah, right," she murmurs.
"Or we can wait. We can wait as long as you want. Whatever you want, Bella."
"Edward, what do you want?"
"Whatever you want."
Bella looks at me with those deep brown eyes and slowly repeats, "Edward, what do you want?"
I can't fib to this woman, God has taught me that. "Well, I'm open to a lot of things."
"Remember what you said last night?"
"Yeah, I do… I'd like to bring our friends and family together, take you to God's house and make you my wife."
"I'd like that too. What else?"
"I'd like Carlisle to perform the ceremony."
"Maybe Reverend Weber can do it with him. I'd like that."
"I'd like to dress up for you and look special. I want it all to be special."
"Me too. Let's not go to Vegas tonight."
"No. Let's not." I think about Bella again the day I met her—that blood-spattered dress, a man's coat, that sad little purse. "You're sure you don't mind having a real wedding?"
"I'm sure." I looked in her purse the next morning—nothing but a rosary, the St. Francis of Assisi's prayer card, and a five-dollar bill.
Oh, Lord you are good. Thank you for speaking to me so clearly.
"Assisi." My voice doesn't waiver—it's what I want. Confused, Bella furrows her brow.
"Assisi. I want to take you to Assisi and make you my wife. My partner."
"Assisi?" It's a whisper of disbelief.
"Yes. I want to take you to that sacred place. It's who you are-it's why I fell in love with you."
Inspiration hits me, a chance to replay last night. I place Bella on her feet as I get up out of the chair. I take her hand and walk her to the center of the room. Bella wears a confused but glorious smile that lights up the room as I go to one knee, holding her hand and feeling the platinum of the ring under my finger.
"Isabella Swan, I'd like to take you to Assisi and before friends, family, and God, promise to love you forever. Will you marry me, Bella?"
Tears spring to her eyes and she nods as her mouth finds it's way from smile to words. "Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes."
Bella drops to her knees and I nearly crush her in my embrace. Our hearts press against each other—her happiness envelops me.
I hold her head to me and speak quickly in her ear, "Bella, it will be great. We'll make it simple and soon."
"Right, right… not too much stress."
I feel warm tears against my neck, and wipe my own tears away with the back of my hand.
"Baby, you're crying?" She asks.
"Nope, not crying. Just hormones."
She laughs as I wipe her tears with my t-shirt.
"Edward, will you please call me by my name?"
I'm a little lost. "Isabella?"
She shakes her head. "My new name."
Oh. "Ms… Swan-Masen?"
She shakes her head again. "Not that."
"Mrs… Ms. Masen?"
"Mrs. Edward Masen."
"You want my name?"
"I do. I never thought I'd want a name other than my father's, but that was before I met you. I want to be Mrs. Edward Masen."
"Mrs. Edward Masen."
If it were possible to die from happiness, I could go right now. And it would be a good death.
Two hours later, we are sitting across from Carlisle and Esme in their living room. By day's end, everyone will know. My hand, sweaty and soft, holds Bella's.
They all wait anxiously as I try again to say the words. "And you see, so we had a big night last night…" Too many details. "I mean, the night wasn't important. Or maybe it was. We went to the new Italian restaurant. You both like Italian." I think Carlisle's ready to send me back to the mental health wing. God, please give me words.
Bella places her hand on my knee and pulls me away from my spiral into stupidity. Her eyes are calm and confident. "May I?"
"Carlisle, Esme, Edward and I are getting married."
I focus on Carlisle. There is a flash of shock, before he springs from the couch with a hearty, "Congratulations."
In an instant, Bella and I are both in Esme's embrace and I feel a firm slap on my back from Carlisle. We end our hug and I put my hand on Carlisle's shoulder. Bella grabs Esme's hand and wraps her arm around my waist to brace me.
"And…" Bella says with shameless jubilance, "We've decided to start a family right away."
"Right away?" Carlisle says incredulously.
"Yes, as in, we're part way there," Bella says, still beaming. "You're going to be grandparents."
As if his legs were swept out from under, Carlisle plops down on a chair behind him.
"Bella," Esme sings, and takes Bella to her chest again. "You're going to be a mom." She sways Bella for a moment, then reaches for me. Back and forth, she kisses our faces over and over again.
Esme peers over to Carlisle, and nudges him with her foot. "Get up, Carlisle."
He snaps out of it and stands. "Congratulations." He looks pale and his voice is breathy.
Esme holds him by his shoulders and says with unshakable conviction. "We're going to be grandparents, Carlisle. It's wonderful news."
"Yes." He glances quickly at us, then focuses back on Esme. "It's great news." He's still dazed. Esme hugs him the same way Bella often hugs me. It's a clinch that says, "It will all be okay. Trust me."
We stay only a few minutes to share wedding plans. They need some time alone, and we have a busy day. They walk us to our car, and before I get in, Carlisle grabs me in a tight hug. It is a day of hugs, and I love it.
"Are you alright, Carlisle?" I keep my voice low.
"Me? I was worried about you."
I break the hug and look at his worried blue eyes. "Never been better. We'll talk this week?"
As we pull away, Bella and I both let out a big exhale.
"Two down, three to go," she says.
I take a few turns before heading back onto the highway.
"Where are we going?"
"You'll see." I pull up to the small, gray Craftsmen style house on the water.
"Oh. I love it. Who lives here?"
"No one, yet. I don't have the keys, but let's look in the window."
We get out of the car, and press our faces to porch windows.
"Do you like it?"
"Oh, yes. It's great. Modern, but still… look at the wood work, the hardwoods, it's historic at the same time."
She walks to the other set of windows and looks in. "Do you still like it?"
"Yes," she laughs.
"Okay. Good. Let's move in, temporarily, of course."
"What? You want to buy it?"
"I already did." Bella's face drops, then she looks back in the window. I quickly regroup. "I mean, I've owned it for a while. We own it. We own lots of things. It needed renovations, so we bought low and Esme's been overseeing everything… so we were going to put it on the market…"
"From what I can see that kitchen's nice."
"I'll get the keys tomorrow. But it will just be until the architect can come up with plans. I don't know, we might be able to break ground in a month or so."
"Architect? Break ground? You're losing me." Bella rubs her temples.
"I want to build you a house, Bella. Like the house we talked about, remember?"
"I do. A house right here in Madrona. With a great kitchen, just like this one… on the water, just like this one… Look Edward, there's enough space to get you a grand piano."
"No. My piano is perfect. I don't want another one. And, we can't stay in that condo… we need a house, but this one isn't perfect, and I want it to be perfect…" I start to babble and Bella just looks at me with a kind smile.
"I love this house."
"You do…? But, you made me pancakes from scratch this morning." I know I've lost her again.
"I can make them here, too."
"No, I mean, I want to make you a house from scratch… like pancakes or lasagna, but a house. Can I make you a house, Bella?"
"Dear Lord, I love you."
She puts her arms around me and presses her cheek to my chest.
"Edward, how important is timing to you?"
"What do you mean?"
"Do you think it would be wise to move in here and take house building slowly? Low stress, remember."
"Right." I think about it for a minute and Bella tips her head up to look at me. Really, it would be a huge relief to put the house building off for a while. "You're sure you like this house?"
"It could be a hovel. If you're in there, I'd love it… and this is far from a hovel."
"There is a good room for a nursery."
"Maybe we should wait." My muscles relax the moment I say it. "I'm going to build you a house some day."
"I know you will."
"Are you sure you want to do this alone?" I ask, pulling up to Alice's apartment building.
"Yes, some things a girl needs to tell her best friend in private. And this is definitely one of them."
"Alright. I'll talk to Jasper. Text me when it's safe to come get you."
"She's what?" Jasper springs off the couch, and I'm sorely missing Carlisle's attempts to hide his surprise. "What the fuck, Edward?"
"Jasper, relax. It's going to be fine." I try to calm him with my tone.
He paces in front of me, running his fingers through his hair. "Have you talked to Eleazar?"
"Not yet, but I have an appointment tomorrow."
"Jeez, Edward. This is the last thing either one of you needs."
"It's going to be fine."
He gives a dark laugh. "Yeah, easy for you to say."
"What do you mean? What going on?" When did I become the therapist?
"Well, I have to worry about you, and Bella, and now…" He waves his hand around, "All of the other stuff."
"What other stuff? The baby?"
"No, no…" He sighs and stops his pacing. "Alice. I have to worry about Alice."
"Bella is telling her now…"
"Damn it Edward, don't you get it? Alice is going to expect to get married now, too."
I start to laugh. I've never seen him unravel in this way.
"It's not funny."
"You two just met."
"Oh, really? We met less than three weeks after you met Bella. And, you were broken up for a month, so by my calculations, Alice and I have been seeing each other longer but you are getting married first."
You are so in love, Jasper.
"I think it's safe to say that Bella and I would not be getting married right now if it weren't for the baby."
"Yeah, well… I'm going to start wearing two condoms."
"Can I get you a drink?"
I go into his kitchen and get Jasper a beer. When I return, he's sitting on the couch with his face buried in his hands. "Here you go."
My cell phone vibrates in my pocket, and I check the message:
Minor freak out here.
How goes it there?
Major freak out.
She's afraid Jasper
Story swap on
the way to Forks?
You betcha. See you soon.
I sit next to Jasper and give him some time to take a few slugs of beer.
"I'm sorry, Edward. Maybe I over reacted."
"How are you doing? Are you breaking down?"
I shrug. "Maybe I should be. Maybe I'm in shock. But really, I'm feeling good. You know, I get over eager sometimes, wanting everything done at once. But Bella, she pulls me back down. She calms me."
"I need your support on this, Jasper."
He nods, and wears a wry grin. "You aren't going to ask me to be your best man, or anything, are you?"
"I am, and Alice will be the Maid of Honor. I don't want to scare you, but a lot of people get engaged at weddings."
"Oh, for fuck's sake."
Yes, this is going to be a lot of fun.
The four of us reconvene around Alice's dining room table to talk wedding plans.
"You're asking a lot of me, you know." Alice lips purse in a thin line.
"No, we're not, Alice," I say. "We just want to put everyone on a plane, go to Italy, and have a little party. That's it."
"Find the perfect wedding dress in a few days?"
"Hey, whoa, " Bella jumps in. "Who said anything about the perfect wedding dress? The perfect anything? Really folks, we have to get that word out of our vocabulary."
Bella looks at me and I know we both thinking the same thing: Vegas would have been fine.
I give it a try. "Bella and I have a motto for this wedding, soon and simple, low stress."
"Of course we can help." Jasper leans in and puts his arm around Alice. "We'll do whatever you need. And we'll keep it low stress."
"Fine. Low stress," Alice says. "It's time I work on a new life skill."
Since we have to get on the road to Forks, Bella and I gather our things. As Jasper and Bella say good-bye, I pull Alice aside.
She's so petite, I need to I lean down to whisper. "You know it's really hard for me to ask people for help."
"I do. I do."
"But if this is going to be a problem, you need to let me know. I don't want you upset. I don't want Bella upset. It's not worth it."
"Edward, come here." She pulls me down into a hug. "I'm just a little freaked out. By the time you're back from Forks, the wedding will be fully planned."
"I think we're coming back tonight."
"I know, buddy."
I laugh. "I love you, Alice."
"Love you, too."
"Please close your eyes, Bella."
"No, I'm awake."
I glance at her again to watch her blink slowly. It's already dark and we're still an hour from Forks. Only yesterday I made this drive to ask permission to make a promise.
"Maybe we should have waited until tomorrow."
"True. But think about how good we'll feel in the morning." Her words stretch out into a yawn and I hear her cell phone ping. "Charlie again. He wants to know how far away." She returns his text.
"Do you think he's suspicious?"
"He's a smart man. He knows we aren't coming to tell him we're getting married."
We are relieved to see Sue's car in the driveway as we approach.
"This is it, the last one, Bella. How do you feel?"
"I'll feel a lot better in about twenty minutes."
Charlie walks out onto the porch. Although it is winter, he is only in a thin, white t-shirt. Until now, I had no idea how cut the guy was. He crosses his arms; his biceps bulge. He looks menacing.
Dear Lord, Grant me honest words of peace. Please be with Bella and me as we share this news. Please give Charlie understanding. Guide him, oh Lord, guide us all.
We get out of the car and Bella places her hand in mine. Charlie stands guard at the top of the steps, as if he is blocking the entrance.
"Good evening, Charlie."
"Hello." His voice is deep. Wisps of steam come from his breath.
The porch door swings, and Sue comes up behind him, wrapped in a shawl. "Hello Edward, Bella. It's cold out here, we should go in."
We murmur our greetings. Charlie doesn't budge.
"So, you have news that you couldn't tell me over the phone?"
"Not couldn't, we didn't want to. Thought it would be nice to tell you in person." Bella keeps a positive light voice, but the trace of fear is unmistakable to my ears.
I feel a tightening in my chest, and everything changes. So many times I prayed for this man's acceptance, but now he threatens the happiness of my love, my Bella. No one can hurt her like Charlie can, and I refuse to let him. I take a step up, and with my height, it brings us eye to eye.
My voice is firm. "Bella and I are getting married."
"You could have told me that over the phone." Sue puts her hand on his shoulder. "Are you pregnant, Bella?"
I squeeze her hand and she steps up to stand beside me. "Yes I am, Dad."
He looks everywhere, but at us as he shakes his head. He takes a step back then points to me. "I thought you were going to be some sort of minister or something."
It is as if we are teenagers. He is a wall of anger. I tell myself that it stems from fear, and draw on the lessons Bella has taught me. I snake my arm around her, but keep my eyes on Charlie.
"I am a man of God. And I know you are shocked. We're surprised, too, but Bella and I have chosen to see this as a blessing."
"A blessing," he mutters under his breath.
Sue comes off the step and tucks her arm under mine. "Let's give them a minute."
"No." I won't leave her alone with this much anger.
"Oh, I can't be alone with my own daughter now. Terrific."
Bella looks up and gives me a nod. It seems like I'm the only one who wants me here. After a moment, I step way, but hold her hand until our arms are outstretched and Sue pulls me away.
Sue walks me at a fast pace down the street.
"Give him a minute, they'll be fine."
"I'm not too sure about that." I turn and look at them. Bella is now on the porch.
"You need to give Charlie some credit."
"Credit? He's pissed. That is one angry man."
"He's not angry. He's losing his daughter. Charlie is sad; he just looks angry. You, on the other hand, should watch your temper."
"I know what you were trying to do, but remember, Bella has a good father. She knows how to handle him. If you try to come between them, you'll be sorry in the end."
Sue glances back to them. "You see that."
I turn around to see Charlie swallow Bella in a hug. He stretches up and lifts her off her feet. Thank you, Jesus.
Sue and I stand there and watch in silence. Even from this distance, we can tell they are crying.
"They've been through so much together. He's dedicated his life to her. Don't ever shut him out, Edward."
I put my arm around Sue and give praise to God that she will be part of my life.
"Sue, do you like Italy?"
"No. But I already know I love it."
"How do you think Charlie will like it?"
We have one chapter and an epi left. Guess what happens on the last chapter. LOL.
Gosh, I will miss these two. Jasper, well, he might pop up again somewhere. I don't think I'm done playing with him.
When I first conceived of this story, I was listening to a song that ended up being the true inspiration for these characterizations. I could not share the song until now, for the title alone is a spoiler. Most of the lyrics can be found in this story. Please consider watching a YouTube video of The Avett Brother's January Wedding. I'm to the point of tearing up with both nostalgia and joy for finally being able to share this song with you.
So very much love,