Disclaimer: I do not own Twilight or any of its characters; they are all property of Stephenie Meyer.
Thank you Cullenfest for being the pre-reader for this story and for getting these chapters read/beta'd so quickly.
Please forgive any mistakes…J
I want to thank everyone for their reviews. I don't always get to respond, but I love everyone and they keep me writing.
For those who chose to leave an abusive review and no name…well don't bother, especially when you say you can't understand what I write and it is sooo boring. It just makes you look simple minded and unable to follow a story plot, not to mention that you only reviewed chapter 28, so either you didn't read it and are just being petty, or you liked it enough to read 27 chapters…pick one
The day Sir James was hanged on the gallows dawned bright and warm, surely an omen of the days good fortune. The palace courtyard was filled with Lords, Ladies, and commoners from near and far. Word of the hanging had spread and brought spectators out to watch the morbid scene. I wished for Isabella, Alice and Rose not to witness such a horrific thing, but they felt the need to be present, as if seeing his death would help end a part of their lives that they wished to leave behind.
I could not tell my wife no, but instead I stood by her side holding her as James of Welshford was marched up the stairs to the hangman's noose, and the floor beneath his feet fell away, letting his body sway to and fro as he tried to gain air unsuccessfully before a sickening churching sound rent through the air. Isabella refused to leave until his body fell still and she knew he would move no more.
We chose to leave the palace for home at once, not even caring that the widow of Sir James was stripped of her title. Word spread that she had been exile to live out the remainder of her life in a nunnery. I felt for the woman who was not to blame for her husband's choices, but was heartened to hear that a new duke had been named and assigned the duty of overseeing Welshford. A young Lord named Benjamin Cheney had been granted the honor due to his dedication and fortitude he had shown in serving the Crown. There was great hope that He and his wife, a kind Lady named Angela, would restore Welshford to its former glory.
Taking Isabella to my childhood home to meet my parents was quite an adventure. It took us a few more days to travel by horseback, even with an armed escort from the King. Rose had finally agreed to wed Emmett, but insisted that both have time to heal and meet our family first. They would only marry once she had been allowed to settle into a new home and felt that her health was stable enough. Emmett refused to risk her Rose's health for any matter, and we travelled slowly so she could rest frequently.
With each day, Rose seemed to study Emmett and see him with new eyes. She did not allow him to treat her as an invalid, but she allowed him to aid her on occasion, making him feel of some use. Alice and Jasper enjoyed the time we traveled. They spent much time together, as did Isabella and I. We took our leave of the camp each night to allow ourselves to have private time together away from prying eyes and piqued ears.
I could never get enough of having my wife so close. Isabella intoxicated my senses, allowing me to drown in love and desire until our bodies had to be melded into one to quench the inferno that roared within me from her touches. I had never imagined I would have been so privileged as to have such an all-consuming, gratifying love in my life, and I did not hesitate to make the most of the fact that my wife seemed to feel the same.
We spent hours making love under moonlit skies, acquainting our bodies with one another in glass-like ponds and flower-laden meadows, consummating our love over and over until we were dampened with perspiration and weak with contentment. Never had I imagined traveling across the land to be such a wondrous discovery.
Traveling by day was the hardest time for me as Isabella would often stay with Rose in the carriage to keep her company. I longed to have her near, but I understood her desire to spend time with Rose, since Rose was not able to leave the carriage. I was excited to arrive home, but sad the trip would be ending.
The expression on my parents' faces when we arrived was priceless. Not only were their two sons and daughter returning home, but they had a new daughter to greet and another woman who was soon to be a daughter as well. Our family was burgeoning.
My mother took to Isabella as if she had been born of her flesh and blood. I was touched to see the way my family accepted her, though I should not have been surprised. I found we slipped seamlessly into life at my parents home while we visited. I worked with my father and brothers to have houses built on our family's estate so our wives could remain close should we be called away to attend to business for the Crown.
My parents insisted that we take our evening meal together as a family, and we did so every evening, sharing news of the day's events and plans, as well as just enjoying pleasant conversation. It was during a family dinner that my mother commented on the high color of Isabella's skin. I glanced at my wife and saw her smiling brightly as she spoke quietly with Alice over the table.
"Perhaps the time spent walking with Alice and Rose in the gardens each afternoon is agreeing with her?" For indeed she was right, Isabella's skin was warm with a healthy glow, and her smooth cheeks flushed with color.
"Or, perhaps she bears no ill effects from being with child? Not many women have such an easy time of it-she is very lucky." My mother commented.
My mouth fell open upon hearing my mother's words.
"With child?" I repeated loudly causing the conversation at the table to stop, as all faces turned in my direction.
My mother sighed heavily at my reaction and shook her head.
"It is not that uncommon an event, Edward, good heavens!" She said as she reached for her goblet to sip her drink.
"Who is with child?" Emmett asked, staring at our mother, then, in turn, at Isabella and Alice. Alice's eyes narrowed and she glanced around the table, my mother's eyes were warm and full of wisdom, but my Isabella's eyes were wide and her cheeks flushed with hues of pink.
"I have not been to a physician, so I cannot be sure yet..." She stammered, looking up at me from out of the corner of her eye. My heart leapt. I know that in other homes, such talk would not have been appropriate, but here in the home where we were raised, it was music to my ears. I pushed my chair back and fell to my knees in front of her.
"Dear heart, is it true?" I asked as my hand reached out to gently touch the surface of her abdomen over the fabric of her dress.
Isabella's eyes sparkled as she nodded and quickly added. "It seems most likely…I was waiting to be sure before I told you, but it would explain the symptoms that have plagued me." She said softly in my ear as she began blushing once more.
"This calls for a celebration!" My father shouted, gesturing for the servants to bring more wine.
"To family!" He proclaimed once the glasses were filled and everyone held them high. We all drank to that and spent the rest of the dinner speaking about the forthcoming move into our own individual homes.
The fall flew by and as the final leaves were falling to the ground, we were finally ready to move in. Jasper and Alice moved first into their home, soon followed by Isabella and I, as we had waited for the nursery to be completed.
Isabella was now gently rounded with our child, and I could not keep my hands from wandering across the growing expanse of her belly. I was fascinated by the fact that her lovely form now housed and protected our child within it, the best present ever created, wrapped in the finest trappings. Pregnancy seemed to suit my wife and she was filled with energy and eagerness to make ready for the little one's arrival, sewing and knitting and quilting small frocks and delicate blankets.
At Christmas, Emmett and Rosalie finally wed in a small ceremony at our parents' house. They said their vows by the light of the Yule logs as they burned brightly. I had never seen my brother happier than when they were pronounced as husband and wife and he was allowed to kiss his bride. The New Year found our families complete, and each of us happily settled into our new homes, ready for our lives to begin.
Time flew in a flash of seasons and as spring flooded in, rushing in a torrent of rain as the lambs were finding their way into the world in the fields, so too did our little one join us. She graced us with her presence in the early hours of morning, just as the sun broke through the grey clouds shedding warm light on everyone.
Isabella was speechless, and exhausted, but held our little one firmly in her arms as the midwife cleaned up from the birth. My beautiful wife took one look at our small daughter and christened her with the name Elizabeth Renee Masen, in honor of her lost mother and my living one.
Our lives grew with love and with little Beth as she grew from tiny infant to precocious child. Jasper and Alice's lives also changed, as a son, Brandon Riley, joined their family when Beth was not yet one. Our own family was growing again and Isabella stayed true to form glowing as her body changed and grew, revealing the life that was swelling within her. The delivery of our son was not a replica of that of our daughter.
Anthony Edward Masen came into the world quickly and unexpectedly and his birth almost cost my darling wife her life. It was days before her fever subsided and weeks before she was able to leave our bed. I stayed by her side as she cared for our son, and thanked the heavens that she was lucky enough to have survived the ordeal of his birth. I thanked God for his blessings and gave a silent hope that Anthony would be our last child, not wishing to lose my beloved wife sooner than fate had intended.
The following summer came with hard news. Jasper and Alice had to leave with young Brandon to return to his childhood home for a time as his father had taken ill, but before they journeyed on, we were all excited to learn that Emmett and Rose had had their greatest wish answered and they were expecting a child.
We missed my sister, but kept in touch through frequent letters, and often journeyed to visit one another. Our lives continued to blossom and grow. Rose and Emmett's first born turned out to be their first and second born as two daughters, Lillian Hope and Roselyn Grace made their way into the world a bit earlier than expected, and very tiny, but healthy and strong. Emmet had insisted on names that matched the beauty of their mother's, jesting that he had his own garden of beauties.
Jasper's father passed on the following fall and Jasper inherited his father's title of Lord, and all his lands. It required him and Alice to continue living quite a distance away.
As the years passed our children grew, as did our familes. Jasper and Alice welcomed another son named Thomas Ashton. Rose and Emmett suddenly seemed to have children everywhere as the very next summer Rose again had a double blessing, but this time of boys named Samuel Charles and Embry Jacob. Their hearts ran over with love and patience it seemed.
Our own family also grew with another tiny girl named Alice-Rose. She was named for her mother's closest friends, who were also her aunts. I was in shock and awe as I watched our children grow. They constantly kept me guessing at what they would do next.
The years passed and yet my life only grew fuller as children acquired pets and friends, and those children grew into exuberant youth. Our family kept its promise and we all returned to the palace yearly to visit with the King and Queen. Prince Michael had taken a wife, a shy woman name Jessica, and they already had been blessed with a son named Phillip, much to the Queen's delight. They would add two more sons to that lineage in the following years, as well as a young princess.
The years had been kind to us, and our families had much joy, and even our share of sadness as Jasper and Alice lost their last-born child, a small child who did not have a chance to even take his first breath. The grief felt at his loss was intense and his parents and siblings never lost sight of what a blessing he had been, even though they never had a chance to know him as they would have liked. He had been named Gabriel, and the children always talked about him as if he were simply out of sight, wondering if Gabriel would like this flower, or if he would admire that horse…the whole idea was touching and kept him in our hearts every day.
We were fortunate that the children grew up as playmates, their playful dynamics changing from youthful babbling, to small tea parties and dragon slaying games. I favored those adventures more than the next stage of shy glances and emotional quarrelling amongst friends. My darling Isabella reminded me that that was life, and that children would be friends one moment, then be bickering the next before all was forgotten.
I smiled to myself as I reminisced about the wonderful life I had been blessed to have before my thoughts became sour. I then turned to my wife and she helped me lace up one of my good shirts in readiness for our visitor today. I refused to smile the way she did at the thought of a boy coming to request the right to call on our darling Beth, no matter if the boy was Phillip, the son of Prince Michael, and our daughter was actually of a proper age to be courted. This was not a pleasant day.
Isabella watched me with glee and admonished me not to be too hard on the boy, especially since he had fought for permission to court Beth when it should have been arranged for him to court a Princess from another Kingdom. I grumbled, but refused to comment on the truth of her words, after all she was my baby girl, and not just any woman.
Isabella leaned against my back and wrapped her arms around me before her soft lips found the shell of my ear and kissed it gently.
"Just promise me one thing, Love." She said in a soft voice. I grunted non-committedly lest she make me promise to be cordial. "Promise me that, when he comes to seek your permission you will look at him, and I mean really look at him. Imagine yourself when you met me…" She paused and I stilled waiting to hear the rest of her words.
"Then imagine that I had a father like you when you decided you wanted to take me as your wife." Isabella said quietly.
Had she had a father like me, I might never have had a chance to marry her. Why on earth should I think such a horrible thought? Then the realization of her words struck me, she was asking me to see the possibility of the love that could grow, to see what we could have missed out on had we never had our chance to be together. She was asking for me to give our daughter the same chance at happiness that she had been given.
I turned my head and kissed her soundly before drawing her into my arms. Her hair was tied back, and when she smiled, beautiful lines of laughter showed at the corners of her eyes. The years had not diminished her beauty at all.
"I promise, my Love." I responded knowing that she was right, but refusing to be too easy on the boy, just so he knew what I was capable of. She smiled at me and kissed my quickly before she started to move away, intent on being sure the house was presentable for a royal visitor. Isabella stopped for a moment and turned back once more with a mischievous smile on her face.
"It also wouldn't hurt for you to remember that Beth's suitor is a Prince of York, and therefore you must treat him well, whether you care to or not!" She said as she laughed merrily and ducked through the doorway.
I sighed knowing that she was right, but none too pleased about that knowledge. I took one more moment, before I turned to step through the doorway to see what the rest of my future held.