Epilogue – 10 years later

"Lo, children are a heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate."

~ Psalm 127:3-5

Bella POV

Every time I'd been in the family way, I'd been filled with wonder at God's awesome work inside my body as He knit together a new little person. It started with Anthony a little over ten years ago and had swelled to include Jane Elizabeth, John Michael, Rebecca Ann, Peter Benjamin, and Emma Rachel.

Unfortunately, as soon as Emma was born, I began hemorrhaging and Dr. Cullen had to perform a procedure to stop the blood flow. Now I'm no longer able to have children. Once I finished grieving about that and realized I could still have a full life with the beautiful family God already blessed me with, I haven't looked back.

In fact, just this week, Dr. Cullen released me to go back to my normal household duties. I'll be glad to take some of the work off Gran's shoulders. I know she would do anything for our family, but she's not getting any younger.

Several years after Edward, Gran and I moved to Washoe Valley, Dr. Cullen and his family followed us. There were several doctors in Virginia City now and none in our immediate vicinity. Prior to their move, if someone was injured or in need of a doctor, they had to go to Virginia City or Carson City. The only one not happy about the move was Ali. She liked being near us, of course, but she missed Jasper. They wrote each other letters almost every day.

One day, Jasper came to visit Dr. and Mrs. Cullen and ask for Ali's hand in marriage. Jasper would be moving to Carson City to work in the capitol building. He was very interested in the political process since his father had been mayor for so many years. Dr. and Mrs. Cullen knew he and Ali had formed a strong bond over the years and agreed to the marriage. I was honored when Ali asked me to be her matron of honor.

Their wedding was the first in our new church which was also used as a school house. A kind pastor and his former school teacher wife moved to our community and were blessing us by being our spiritual guidance and our school teacher. It was unheard of at the time to hire an already-married school teacher, but our tiny community couldn't pass up the opportunity once we met the couple. They fit in so naturally, as did their three children.

Our best friends remained Garrett and Kate Cooper. It was so nice to have Kate to spend time with when our husbands drove cattle to market in Carson City or Reno. When that happened about twice a year, she and her brood of three would stay at our house. She had Tanya and two sons, William and Henry. Anthony and Tanya had already taken to teasing each other mercilessly – I could see where that was going to end up in a few years, no matter how much his father wanted to deny it. Mothers know these things.

Ben and Angela Cheney remained in Virginia City. Angela wasn't working as a dressmaker as much as she was previously after having twin boys. They kept her busy, as she told me in her sporadic letters. My own letters to her were few and far between. Being a mother of six didn't leave one much time for letter-writing!

Papa and Mom continued to live in Chicago. They were planning another trip to Nevada when Papa had a heart attack. His doctor told him he should limit any undue stress in his life and the trip was cancelled. Dr. Cullen disagreed with Papa's doctor, citing new research about diet contributing to heart attacks and not just stressful situations. The trip was never rescheduled, so Papa and Mom have not been out to meet their grandchildren yet.

Eli and Rachel Cope have been taking it easy the last couple of months, letting Mike and Jessica Newton take over the running of the boarding house. Yes, Mike and Jessica finally married. Eric Smith took over as sheriff when it became certain Mike would be taking on the boarding house full-time. Eli and Rachel thought Mike and Jessica would make fine innkeepers. Jessica had already been helping out since I'd been there, so it was nice to see her get this well-deserved promotion.

We recently received a letter from Emmett McCarty. His father, Patrick, found a large silver vein in one of the mines and became wealthy almost overnight. Mayor Isaac Hale found it in his heart to let his daughter, Rosalie, date Emmett after that occurred. I wanted to grit my teeth in frustration. It was obvious, even when I was their teacher; those two children were sweet on each other. Why not let them date because they love each other – not because of one's status of wealth?

I didn't know what I was going to do with Sam, Paul, and now Embry, our newest ranch hand! They spoiled our children something fierce. It seemed as soon as one of our children could walk across the floor, the next day, I'd see them riding around on a horse in the front yard for a bit with one of those men. Honestly – you'd think those men were teenagers! They do protect the children as well. Having six offspring, you can't be everywhere at once. I'm certain all my children have avoided bodily injury in one way or the other because one of those men was looking out for them.

Gran is such a comfort to me. I don't know how I would've gotten through all those early years on the ranch or child-raising without her. I know Edward certainly would not have made it through his bout of typhus without her. Her relationship with Edward is really something to see. They just adore each other – it's written all over both their faces. Although she's thriving here in northern Nevada, I know she won't live forever. But until that day comes, I'm going to enjoy every moment with her.

And then there was Edward – my patient, romantic, loving, handsome husband. Thankfully I wasn't blushing as much as when I was a new bride, but he could still cause my stomach to turn to butterflies when he gave me a certain look over the dining room table or caressed my cheek with his hand. He was always so good about showing affection and showing me in a thousand different ways he loved me in addition to always saying the words. He never faltered in the "teamwork" approach to marriage – he ran every major decision through me. If it was something I didn't know a great deal about, such as the cattle, he would patiently explain the history of the situation so I could come to my own conclusion.

I happened on a conversation the other day between Edward and his father – he was pushing his father to release me to go on an anniversary trip to Carson City without the children. It's barely been six weeks! I can't leave my baby! Dr. Cullen agreed – but only if we take the Emma with us. Edward grudgingly agreed.

This morning, we are packed and Dr. and Mrs. Cullen are coming to stay while we are away for two nights. The children love it when their grandparents come to visit.

Once we were on the road, I asked, "Edward, what was the rush to get away?"

He sighed and said, "I just needed some time with you alone. All day, the children are pulling at your skirts, demanding your attention." His lower lip stuck out, pouting.

I put my hand up to his face and pulled it toward me to kiss away his pout. Thankfully, Bear knew the way to Carson City as it was quite a long kiss.

"And you, darling," I reminded him, "have cows demanding your attention all day. But I still love you and will always love you, Mr. Cullen."

I threaded my arm through his as he kept them securely on the reins and put my head on his shoulder. He hummed in contentment. "We need more of this, Bella – just you and me."

"All right," I agreed. "We'll send the children to bed earlier and we can have more of this." He agreed and we continued on. We laughed about various things the children did – how our girls could pout just like him and when they called him "Daddy" along with the pout and the bat of an eyelash, they could get just about anything they wanted. I don't know where they learned that – must've been from their father.

When we arrived in Carson City, we checked in at a hotel and then went to visit Jasper and Alice. Jasper was at work. Alice hadn't seen Emma and wanted to spend some time with her. Edward told her we'd be back in a few hours.

I had no idea what his plan was until we arrived back at the hotel. "Oh, Mr. Cullen," I told him as we entered our room once again and the door shut behind us, "you are devious."

"Devious?" he said as his eyebrows shot up. "You used to say I was romantic!"

"You are, my darling Edward, you are," I said, as I pulled him to me, crushing his lips and body against mine.

The End

Author's Note: Thanks for continuing through the end of the journey with SheriffWard and Bella. If you like my writing style, please put me on Author Alert as I'll have another story coming out soon. Thank you for reading and reviewing. I appreciate it so much!