Ten years ago the world changed in an instant and so did my life. I was a freshman in high school on September 11, 2001. It was the day I decided to join the Army.

Like every other mother in the world my mom begged and pleaded for me not to join. It wasn't an option not to, I just had to. I wanted to fight for my country and all the lives that were taken on that horrific day.

Right out of high school I left home for boot camp on a rainy, cold day and since then have been serving my country proudly.

I was headed home on leave. I'd just completed my third year long tour. It was while I was home on leave that I'd met my beautiful wife, Bella. She had been working part time as a waitress at a bar and finishing up her teaching degree. My buddies and I had gone in for a drink. From my first glimpse I knew I would spend the rest of my life with her.

"Eddie! Hey, man! Good to see you."

Emmett and I grew up together. He was like a brother to me. We played football and baseball together for four years in high school. When I decided to join the Army, he had planned to join with me, but an old football injury caused him to fail his physical. Instead, he became a fire fighter and stayed in the town where we grew up.

"Hey Em! Good to see you too, man. How've ya been?"

"Good, man. Real good. Are ya glad to be home?"

"Yeah, man. Shall we?" I asked, pointing toward the door.

Em and I were meeting up with our buddies Riley and Seth at a bar in Tacoma that Emmett insisted we go to.

"Remind me again why we're going to this bar as opposed to Pete's?" I asked.

"Because there's a hot waitress here I've got my eye on," Emmett replied with a grin.

I've shied away from relationships mainly because I was so focused on being a soldier when I joined the Army. I had girlfriends in high school but I knew they weren't serious. Most of those girls only wanted one thing. Even if they had been serious, I'd feel guilty knowing I'd left someone I loved behind, not knowing if I'd be able to return home to them.

We got to the bar before Riley and Seth, so we chose a table close to the stage. Apparently this bar also had live music. I was checking my text messages when a beautiful brunette appeared to take our drink order. I looked up and I couldn't make my voice function. She was all porcelain skin, plump rosy lips, gorgeous, wide hazel eyes, thick eyelashes that framed them, long mahogany hair and the sweetest voice I'd ever heard.

"What can I get you gentlemen to drink this evening?"

"I'll take a Miller Lite." Emmett smiled.

"Oh, umm … I'll take a Heineken, thanks."

"All right. Is it just you two this evening?"

"Nah … there two more comin' but it's hard to tell what they'll want so you'll have to come back, sweetness," Emmett said with a wink.

She turned and walked back toward the bar, our drink orders in hand and I couldn't help but stare at Emmett.

"What?" he asked.

"Sweetness?"

"Yeah. She's cute and she seems sweet. It kinda fits don't you think?"

I wanted to tell him that she was more than cute, but at the time I decided that was something I had better keep to myself.

"Besides," Emmett began, "I've got my eyes on Rosie, that gorgeous blonde over there. She's a firecracker, let me tell ya, but she's probably worth it. So when you gonna settle down? Aren't you tired of being shipped off to God-forsaken places yet? You need to find a nice girl to practice makin' babies with."

Did I want that? To be honest, yeah, I kinda did. It would be nice to come home to someone other than my mom. I never really thought I was missing out until a few months into this last tour. Most of the guys in my unit were married and either had kids already or had kids on the way. They were always so happy when they got email or even real letters from their family back home, and it made me wish so fucking bad that it wasn't just me and mom. I wanted a wife. I wanted someone to love and love me in return. I wanted a nice house where we could raise a family because I could only imagine how much better the patter of little feet would sound compared to staggering silence.

The next thing I knew, the beautiful, petite waitress was back.

"Here ya go, boys. My name's Bella, just let me know if there's anything else I can get for you."

I peeked up at her through my eyelashes and she was so innocently beautiful. There was something about her that had nothing to do with the long, slender legs, curvy ass, tiny waist and decent sized breasts she was sporting.

"Thanks," I murmured.

She smiled warmly, and it was like the entire room lit up.

"Eddie, man. You're eye-fucking her!"

"She's beautiful," I whispered.

Emmett looked at me like I'd grown three heads.

"I don't think I've ever seen you eye-fuck a chick before, dude. This is serious business. You should ask her out."

It took me a couple hours and a few more beers, but I eventually worked up the courage to talk to her. She'd come over to let us know that she was going on break but that she'd be back in a few minutes. I watched her as she slipped out the door.

"Hey."

She looked up as I approached, her eyes wide and unsure.

"Hey," I said softly. "Umm … I'm Edward."

I offered her my hand and she shook it lightly. A warmth that I've never known before spread across my skin like wildfire. But when I released her hand, it was gone.

"Nice to put a name to the face," she murmured.

"Umm … I … damn I suck at this," I said, running my hands through my hair. It was finally growing out and I was thankful I had something to tug on.

Bella stood in front of me patiently waiting for me to get out what I was trying to say. She didn't appear to be annoyed or frustrated.

"Would you like to go out with me sometime?" I managed to finally get out. "I mean I know I don't know you, but I'd like to."

She smiled sweetly at me.

"I'd love to."

We exchanged phone numbers and I took her out a few nights later. We went to my favorite place for burgers and beer. When I called her to see when she was free, she said she didn't care where we went as long as she didn't have to dress up. She wanted a jeans and t-shirt kinda place. I told her that was fine with me because I was a jeans and t-shirt kinda guy.

When I found out that she was finishing up her teaching degree, I had nothing but respect for the beautiful creature in front of me. It takes a hell of a person to be a teacher, not only do you have to give, but you have to care too. She was brutally honest, and very funny. She was perfect.

I never saw myself as being affectionate or a cuddler. But with Bella, I wanted to be. From that first night we went out, she let me hold her soft, warm hand in mine, and it felt so fucking good.

I worried about telling her that I was in the Army, but she took the news like a fucking trooper. Her dad was retired Army, and she explained that it was a life that she was used to. That life had brought her to Washington—to me.

Bella and I were inseparable after that first night. I'd sit in her apartment she shared with Rosie and just listen to her as she read from some book she was required to read. I loved the sound of her voice, it was calming for me. If she was working, Emmett and I would go down to the bar and hang out until the girls got off work. Since I lived with my mom, I pretty much spent most of my time at Bella's.

I'll never forget the first night she let me love her. She didn't have class and she didn't have to work for a change, so I'd taken her out for dinner again and then to a movie. The movie was some chick flick, but Bella wanted to see it, so I took her. She had me so wrapped around her finger and she didn't even know it. After the movie, I took her back to her apartment and walked her to her door.

"Stay with me tonight, Edward," she whispered. "Please?"

I nodded and followed her into the apartment, closing and locking the door behind me. She led me into the bedroom where she began to shed her shoes and clothes. She went into the bathroom and when she came back, she was wearing only cotton panties, a tank top, and a shy smile. She was as beautiful as I'd ever seen her. I used the bathroom as well and when I came back she was sitting in her large bed looking shy and nervous. I slowly shed my shoes and jeans, sliding into bed with just boxer briefs and a t-shirt on.

"Are you okay, baby?" I asked quietly as I held her face in my hands.

She nodded.

"It's just been a while since I've been with anyone, and it's always a little umm … unsettling at first?"

"Bella, we don't have to do anything you don't want to do. You're leading here, so you have to tell me what you want, okay?"

I knew in that moment, I would do anything Bella asked of me, even if she asked me to leave and never come back.

"Love me," Bella whispered.

I pulled her into my arms, and looked into her gorgeous eyes for any sign of hesitation before I kissed her. Yeah, I'd kissed her before, but this was different. This was … more. I took her bottom lip in mine, kissing her sweetly. Her soft, warm tongue met mine, sliding against each other.

I pulled Bella on top of me, effectively making her straddle my hips. I could feel her wet heat against my cock, and fuck if she didn't feel good. I threaded my fingers through the silky hair at the nape of her neck and continued kissing her. Soft nipping kisses from the spot behind her ear that I knew made her shiver and gave her goosebumps everywhere, down her neck to her delicious collarbone. She smelled heavenly, like honeysuckle and sunshine.

Bella giggled a bit as I nipped at her soft skin. Then she surprised me and sat up, tugging off her tank top. She sat before me in a white lace bra. My hands immediately went to her hips, my thumbs brushing against her skin. She reached behind her, unfastening her bra and she shyly pulled the lace from her body.

I sat up so that she was sitting in my lap and once again I cupped her face in my hands.

"You're so beautiful, Bella."

I ghosted my hands down her arms before I returned them to her hips. I smiled as I began to run them over her flat tummy, up her torso, between the valley of her breasts and finally I caressed her breasts. They were so round and full and perfect for her. Moving my hands to her back, I leaned forward and kissed each of her breasts before pulling one hard nipple into my mouth and sucking hard.

Bella moaned and I felt infinitely harder beneath her. I wanted her – all of her. I tugged a bit at the waistband of her panties – silently asking if it was okay to take them off. She tapped at my chin and I released her nipple with a pop. She tugged off her panties and then reached down for my boxers.

"Shit, Bella … I don't have any …" I began, but she held her finger to my lips.

"It's okay, Edward, I get the shot and I'm clean."

"Are you sure, baby?"

"I've never been more sure of anything than I am of you, Edward. Love me, please?"

I rolled us so that she was beneath me, and my lips met hers, moving against them softly and slowly. I knew from earlier that Bella was already wet. I could feel it through the thin panties she was wearing. I lined my cock up with her entrance and slowly pushed into her as she wrapped her arms around my shoulders.

With long, languid strokes I thrust in and out of her. I could feel her muscles begin to flutter around me, and I'd slow down. Being with Bella was indescribable, and I wasn't in any hurry to rush to the finish line. I had a hard time tearing my lips from hers, I knew she needed to breathe, hell I did too, but I continued to lavish her with kisses, loving the feel of her skin against my lips.

When I felt her relax around me, I began to move against her again, this time I knew I wouldn't be able to stop, she felt too good wrapped around my cock.

"Oh, God, Edward … please don't stop. You feel so good inside me. So good."

"So do you, baby. I won't stop this time if you come with me. Can you do that for me, baby?"

Bella threw her head back into the pillow as she tried to stave off her oncoming orgasm. I was so close, but then she fluttered around me once again and clenched down on my cock, triggering my own orgasm as I came hard deep inside her. When I opened my eyes, I realized hers were still closed, and a lone tear fell down her lovely face.

"Bella …" I whispered.

"I'm okay. Overwhelmed by emotion, but I'm okay."

I wiped the lone tear that fell and pulled her close still wrapped in her warmth. The thought of leaving her was unbearable. She was now my whole reason for fucking living and I never wanted to let her go.

A week later on-base housing contacted me to let me know at the end of the mouth my house would be ready to move in. I was going to be stationed at Fort Lewis-McChord base, training new recruits.

I knew my mom would be upset I was leaving home but I felt like I was finally moving in the right direction with my life. I couldn't live with her forever and I sure as hell wanted a place I could actually take Bella.

"So when you gonna make Bella an honest woman?" Emmett asked as he carried boxes into my new home.

"Jesus Emmett, we've only been dating a month."

"Yeah, but you love her. So what's the problem?"

I did love her. Even if I hadn't voiced those three little words to Bella yet. I was too afraid of scaring her off saying the words too soon. I knew she cared about me but did she love me? I didn't know.

"I'm not sure if she loves me?"

"What?"

"Fuck, Emmett. I haven't even said the words to her let alone heard them back," I said as I ran my hand through my short hair.

"What the hell ya waiting for? Christmas? Dude, I see the way that girl looks at you and if that ain't love I don't know what is. Her face lights up like a Christmas tree every time you enter the room. I'd bet my ass she's in love with you."

"You think?"

"I know."

"Thanks, man."

Six months later on a very cold Christmas Eve night I got down on one knee and proposed to my beautiful Bella. We had just finished dinner with my mom and I pulled Bella's hand in mine, grabbed her coat and asked her to sit with me on the porch. I knew she thought I was fucking nuts but I just wanted the proposal to be special.

I sat down on the swing wrapped an arm around her body and pulled her close. She was shivering so I had to make this quick or I would have a frozen girlfriend soon.

"Tell me again why we're sitting on the porch in below zero weather?"

"So I could do this?"

I got down on one knee and pulled out the red velvet ring box from my pocket and held her hands in mine.

"Bella, I love you with all my heart and soul. You've given me a reason to wake up in the morning. I know we've only been dating a short while but I want to wake up with you in my arms every morning for the rest of my life. Isabella Marie Swan, will you please give me the honor of loving you forever? Will you marry me?"

"Yes, yes, yes. I'll marry you Edward Anthony Masen."

She was a vision as she cried tears of joy and said without a doubt she would marry me. I slid the ring on her slender finger and got up swinging her around as I peppered kisses all over her face.

"You've just made me the happiest man alive."

My life was not an easy life to live, you had to live each day like it would be your last. There were never any guarantees being in the army, hell even in life. Bella and I didn't want to waste any minutes being apart when we were so happy being together.

We decided to get married on a warm April day in a very small ceremony. Bella had made all the arrangements with the help of Rose in little time at all. Her parents had made the trip from Arizona and my mom was there along with Emmett and Rose who were best man and maid of honor.

I stood next to Emmett in my mom's backyard as I watched my beautiful Bella make her way toward me. She was a vision, an angel in white with a big bright smile on her face that could light up a room.

She seemed to be holding onto her father's arm for dear life, like she might fall at any minute. When they reached the altar I took her hand and kissed it gently trying to ease her nerves.

"Do you Isabella Marie Swan take this man for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health till death do you part?"

"I do."

"Do you Edward Anthony Masen take this woman for better or worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health till death do you part?"

"I do."

"I now pronounce you man and wife. You may kiss the bride."

I took Bella in my arms and kissed her lips sweetly. The kiss was short, a mingle of breath like an interlude of things to come later.

I rested my forehead to hers, "I love you."

"I love you too."

Instead of a reception we settled for a small dinner with our family. The food was delicious and the company was great but I just wanted to get my new bride home so I could love her properly.

"Mrs. Masen, how about we get out of here?" I whispered in Bella's ear.

"I thought you'd never ask."

After saying our goodbyes we headed back to my house on the base which would now be my home with Bella. I carried her over the threshold and straight to our bedroom.

Gently I placed her on the floor and slowly unzipped her dress. A groan rumbled in my throat as I saw what Bella had on underneath. She was wearing a lace bra that had pushed her breasts up making them look more plump, a barely there white lace thong and garters that were attached to thigh high stockings.

"You're so beautiful."

I took her lips in mine nipping her lower lip as my tongue swept in her mouth to tangle with hers. My hands caressed up and down her sides finally landing on the naked flesh of her ass. A broken moan left her lips and I squeezed her luscious derriere.

Bella's hands were frantically on me trying to rid my clothes as fast she could. I grabbed her hands halting her efforts earning a cute little pout.

"Baby, slow down."

"Edward, I need to feel skin on skin. I want to touch you."

I groaned shucking out of my jacket and pulling the shirt from my pants. Bella's hands were slowly unbuttoning my shirt. When the last button was opened her hands were roaming my chest.

"I love when you touch me, baby."

She smiled and pushed the shirt from my shoulders. She lowered her mouth and kissed my chest licking her way down. My cock sprung free as Bella worked the pants over my hips and down my legs. She peppered kisses from hip to hip never kissing where I wanted her most.

I looked down to see my beautiful wife lick her lips with a gleam in her eyes just before she licked the crest of my cock. As she licked her one hand fondled my balls working me into oblivion. Finally after licking her way up and down she took my cock in her warm wet mouth. Her cheeks hollowed out as she sucked hard working it in and out.

My release was close and I knew I wouldn't be able to hold off much longer. I pulled her up in my arms for a searing kiss. I threaded my fingers in her hair bringing her mouth closer, as if she could get closer. I just couldn't get enough of her lips on mine.

Bella's fingers were playing with the hair at my neck, caressing so sweetly. Our lips still fused together I lifted her in my arms and laid her on the bed. Carefully I undid her garters and slid the stockings down her legs. Next her thong was slipped down her legs and in the pile on the floor. I crawled up the bed settling in between her legs.

A gasp left Bella's lips as I used my teeth to open the front clasp of her bra. As the lace fell from her breasts I took a supple nipple in my mouth and sucked till it was hard under my tongue. I paid her other nipple equal attention.

Her nipples were now rigid against my fingers as my thumb caressed them. I kissed a trail down the valley of her breasts to the moisture gleaming on her sex. The need to pleasure her was overwhelming; the need for my own release was secondary.

I gave her pussy a long languid teasing lick then captured her clit in my mouth. With slow sensual strokes I moved my fingers in and out as I sucked her swollen nub. Each breath that left her lips was a little moan of desire as she took pleasure from my fingers and tongue.

"Edward … yes."

Bella's pussy flexed, juices rushed across my fingers and tongue as she found her release. I lapped up all of her pleasure while she rode her orgasm out.

I moved in between her legs easing her knees further apart, inching my cock into her warm heat. Bella's inner muscles were still contracting as I pushed to the hilt.

I stopped just to look down and my lovely wife and saw nothing but love in her eyes.

"I love you so much, baby."

"I love you too. Make love to me, Edward."

With slow sensual strokes I moved in and out showing Bella just how much she was loved. I took my time with her savoring the warmth of her body as I worked her closer to another release.

"Baby, please, faster."

I knew Bella wanted to come again but I wanted this to last, give her the most pleasure. I sped up a little then slowed again only to speed up again. Finally with quick hard strokes I thrust in and out giving her what she wanted.

"Yes, Edward. Just like that. It feels soo good."

She met my thrust with a thrust of her own bringing us closer to the edge. With another shift of my hips she cried out as pleasure crashed through her system. Her clenching around me was all it took for me to explode as she came gloriously all over my cock.

Slowly I pulled out, collapsing in a heap next to Bella. I wrapped an arm around her pulling her close as I pulled the covers up over us. She laid her head on my chest drawing circles there soothing me.

"I love you, Mrs. Masen."

"I love you, too, Mr. Masen."

In the months since Bella and I met, we talked about everything. What I wanted to do when I got out of the Army and where we wanted to live. We even talked about a family. Bella finished school just before Christmas and was looking forward to starting her Master's program in the fall, but she insisted that she wanted to try for a baby soon after the wedding.

"I can go for my Master's anytime, Edward. I can teach without it. As is, there are a couple of jobs I'm going to apply for. I can't sit around all day while you're at work."

"Bella … I love you, baby. You know there isn't anything I would ever deny you. But are you absolutely sure we want to start a family now? I don't have that much longer until I'm out, we can try then and enjoy the time we have alone together now."

I really wanted to be selfish and greedy with Bella. I wasn't sure that I was ready to share her just yet. It felt like I'd only just found her. But if a baby is what she really wanted, I couldn't bring myself to tell her no.

"Edward … I've been on the shot for years. It may take a while for me to even get pregnant. I have another month before I'm supposed to go for another shot. Please just think about it?"

"If this is what you truly want, Bella, there isn't anything to think about."

The look of pure happiness on my Bella's beautiful face was all the confirmation that I needed to know that trying for a baby was what she wanted.

I couldn't even begin to imagine the heartache the next few months would bring. After the first month of Bella being off the shot, the doctor had warned us that it might take some time, confirming what Bella had already told me. After that Bella and I had a hell of a lot of fun practicing. There wasn't a surface in our house that we hadn't christened. But every month she was late and she'd run into the bathroom cheerfully with a little white stick in her hand just to come back out with tears streaming down her face in disappointment.

I hated that she was so disappointed and upset. Every time it happened it took me hours to get her calmed down again.

"Baby, we just need to relax and let it happen when it happens," I softly murmured to her.

She nodded and nestled into my lap with her head on my chest.

Months went by with no luck in conceiving. Bella had gotten a job as a kindergarten teacher at the elementary school on base, and I think having 20 little ones in her class helped fill the void. I loved to come home at the end of the day to Bella, smiling and happy because of something the kids in her class did.

For our first anniversary, I decided to take Bella on a trip. We'd never had a real honeymoon; not that either of us cared, but I thought with the stress we'd been under in trying to have a baby and the joy of celebrating our first year together we deserved a little time away even if it was only for a weekend.

We came back relaxed and refreshed, but after spending the weekend focusing on nothing but each other, it was a harsh reality when we had to return to work. A few more days passed and we were into the month of May.

I was just finishing up a training exercise when my CO stopped by and told me he needed to see me in his office ASAP. When I got there, I saluted him and he put me at ease.

"Son, I'm sorry to do this with you bein' a newlywed and all, but you knew it was a possibility when you signed up. I need you in Afghanistan. Your unit leaves July 6th. I need these men ready, Masen, and I'm counting on you to see to it that they are."

"Yes, Sir."

I hated that I had to go home that day and tell my beautiful wife that I was leaving her for an undetermined amount of time and I couldn't guarantee that I'd even make it home. My only solace was knowing that other men in my unit had to do the same thing; many of them leaving their children behind, not just their wives.

It made my heart ache that I hadn't been able to leave a piece of me behind with Bella. She owned my heart, mind, body and soul, but I didn't have anything to physically leave with her.

Bella was devastated of course when I gave her the news. As I'd already done three tours, we were hoping that I wouldn't have to go on another one before I was discharged.

"Bella … we knew this was a possibility. I never know when I'm going to get orders and have to ship out. It just so happens I have to leave in a couple of months. If I'm lucky this will be another year long tour and I can get out as soon as I get back. Thank God these orders didn't come a year from now, right?"

"I know," Bella sniffled. "I just hate that you're leaving. Not knowing when or if you're going to come back is going to kill me, Edward. I love you so much. I want you with me, always. I need you with me, always."

"One more tour, Bella. When it's over, we'll have our always. I love you, baby. You know you won't be alone here. You've got Rose and Emmett, and my Mom. She loves you too, baby, you know that right?"

Bella nodded. "I know. I just hope she won't mind me spending a lot of time there. There is a lot more of you in that house than there is in this one. This house just won't feel like home without you in it, Edward."

I pulled her into my arms and held her tightly to my chest.

"I know, baby. Home is wherever you are, so I know exactly how you feel."

In the two months we had together before I was deployed, we spent every moment we possibly could together. The weekend before I was scheduled to leave, I planned a weekend away for Bella and me. I rented a nice little cottage on the coast. I didn't tell Bella what I had planned, I just told her we were spending 4th of July off base for a change. I packed a suitcase for the both of us, and loaded up our car and we were on our way.

"Oh, Edward … it's so beautiful here."

"No, baby, you're beautiful."

A rosy blush covered my gorgeous wife's face, and I let my eyes linger, because it was one of my favorite things about her and I wanted to carry the image with me, hoping it would keep me warm during the cold desert nights.

Once we settled in, we wandered out to the beach and walked hand in hand in the surf. I chose the beach partly because I knew all I'd be seeing for the next several months was God-forsaken desert, and the sound and the feel of the ocean was soothing. The sand at our feet would be quite different than the sand I'd soon be seeing in the desert and mountains of Afghanistan.

We spent the entire weekend either walking along the beach or making love in the sanctuary of our little cottage. We never strayed far from each other, both needing our connection more than air.

On the 4th of July, we watched the fireworks from the little window in our bedroom as they lit up the bay.

Bella turned and looked at me, her brownish-green eyes filled with love and adoration.

"Make love to me, Edward," Bella breathed as she kissed my neck.

I ran my calloused hands down her side, squeezing and caressing her backside. I pulled her on top of me, so that she was straddling me. We hadn't bothered getting dressed all day, craving the skin on skin contact with each other. She leaned over me as we kissed, our tongues sliding against each other in an erotic dance. I slowly broke the kiss and my lips traveled down to the spot behind her ear that I knew made her shiver with delight, nipping my way down to her collarbone.

"Sit up, baby, I want to look at you."

"Mmm …" Bella hummed. "I want you inside me first, handsome."

Bella slowly lifted her hips and I gently guided her down onto my throbbing cock.

"Fuck, baby. You feel so good. Now will you let me look at you?"

Bella nodded into my neck.

I took her hands in mine and helped her sit up on top of me. She shimmied her hips a little in adjustment. In this position, I was so fucking deep inside her, and I couldn't help the smile on my face knowing that. Bella's head fell back slightly as she moaned in appreciation. Her silky hair cascaded down her back and tickled my thighs. Once she was steady, I released her hands and traced my own up her sides, across her pert breasts and back down her torso, finally settling them on her flat stomach.

In that moment, I had never wanted a baby so badly. I wanted to be able to caress the beautiful belly that held my unborn child, placing tender, loving kisses upon it and talking to it so it knew my voice. As if she knew what I was thinking, Bella wrapped her hands around my wrists.

"Come home to me so we can make that happen, handsome."

Bella leaned down to kiss me once again, so sweet and tender that I felt completely lost in a sea of emotions. She began to move slowly above me, our lips never leaving each other's skin. She nearly raised herself off of my cock before slowly sliding back down. She repeated the motion over and over working us slowly into a frenzy before I grabbed her hips and met her upward motion with my own. She swiveled her hips and thrust once more before crying out.

"Oh God, Edward! I'm gonna … come…"

"Fuck, baby, me too!"

As soon as I felt her muscles clamp down on my cock, I was a goner. I came harder than I ever had in my life. Bella quaked in my arms as she rode out her own orgasm and just as she was coming down a shiver wracked her entire body. I pulled the blankets up around us, trying not to jostle her too much because I wasn't ready to leave her warmth just yet. I was quite sure if I made a sudden movement Bella would come again and it wouldn't feel good for either of us.

"Shhh … baby, I've got you," I crooned.

She wrapped her arms around me and laid her head down on my chest, finally unable to support her body weight with her arms. The quaking had stopped, but she was still fighting to catch her breath.

"Are you okay, baby?" I asked, concerned.

"Mmmhmm … that was amazing, Edward. I'm fine, I promise, I just need a few minutes."

"Take all the time you need, baby."

Packing the car to leave the next morning was awful for both of us. It meant that we were one day closer to my departure. We were both silent in the car on the way home. Our fingers entwined on the center console between us. We were heading to my Mom's to spend the afternoon with her before going home to finish my packing and losing ourselves to each other once again.

Bella came out to the airfield to see me off with all the other family members of the men and women in my unit. I pulled her into my arms one last time, memorizing the feel of her body against me as I hugged her, her soft lips against mine as I kissed her and her breath warm and sweet against my skin.

"I love you, Bella. I promise to email you and call you as often as I can. If you need anything, and I mean anything, call my Mom or Rose and Emmett, okay?"

Bella nodded as I wiped the tears from her face.

"I love you too, Edward. Promise me that you'll keep yourself out of harm's way. I need you to come home to me. Stay safe and I'll be here waiting for you when you come home."

With one final brush of my lips against hers, I released my wife and turned to board the plane with my unit.

Bella was my rock, my lifeline and without her I don't think I would survive. Knowing that I had her to come home to, gave me a reason.

I'd done my best to keep in contact with Bella, emailing, calling and even writing good old fashioned letters delivered by snail mail. By mid-August, she told me she hadn't been feeling well, she was having dizzy spells and every day when she got home from work, she'd head straight to the bedroom and take a nap. I had just convinced her to see the doctor when she realized something.

"Oh my God, Edward. My period! It's 12 days late."

I think my heart stopped beating in my chest for a moment. If she was pregnant I would be the happiest man in the world, granted I wouldn't be there to share it with her, but if she wasn't, she'd be devastated and I wouldn't be there to pick up the pieces when she crumbled. I wanted so badly to know, but I'd forbidden her to keep pregnancy tests in the house, they were only a reminder of what we didn't have.

"Baby, go get a test and I will call you back in two hours, okay? We'll do this together, even if it's over the phone."

Bella agreed and I managed to call her back two hours later as promised.

"Edward! There's two lines! It's positive!"

"Are you sure, baby?"

"Yes, yes I'm sure," Bella said excitedly.

That was the best day of my life. The sound of my wife's voice on the phone as she told me the test was positive, and that I was going to be a Dad in nine months was the best thing I'd ever heard.

Before I had time to realize it, September had already arrived. Bella's birthday was coming up and I wouldn't be there to celebrate it with her. She'd been busy with the start of the new school year of course, and for that I was glad because it gave her something to think about besides worrying about me. I wanted her to focus on teaching and on our little one.

Bella had been to the doctor about a week after she'd taken the test. The doctor of course, confirmed what we already knew. Bella was definitely pregnant. Eight weeks pregnant to be exact, and our little bundle of joy was due in early April.

Bella wanted me to be a part of her pregnancy every step of the way, so every month I received a new picture with her progress. When I received the picture of her ultrasound, tears had welled up in my eyes and I cried for the first time in a very long time.

I Skyped Bella on Thanksgiving, anxious to hear how her appointment with the OB had gone that week. She insisted on finding out what we were having, and I couldn't wait to see if it was a boy or a girl. In our emails we'd gone back and forth talking about names and picked out one for each.

I sighed when I saw the image of Bella on the computer screen.

"Bella …"

"Hi, baby." Bella smiled.

"Stand up, beautiful. I want to see my son or daughter."

Bella stood up in front of the camera and pulled up her shirt so I could see her growing baby bump.

My fingers were itching to touch her, to feel the baby moving around inside her.

"What do you think of your daughter, Sergeant Masen?"

I gasped. My daughter.

"She's beautiful, baby. Just like her mommy."

Even though I was happier than I'd ever been in my life, I was sad for the things I would miss out on. I wasn't there to see my Bella glowing and beautiful as her belly grew with our child. I couldn't be there when our baby's heartbeat was heard the first time or when the doctor said we were expecting a girl. I wouldn't get to hear the sweet sound of our daughter's first cry as she came into the world while I held Bella's hand for support, telling her how beautiful she was and how thankful I was for the incredible gift she'd given me.

I'd left Bella to do it all alone, and a pang of guilt wracked my body.

"I see that look on your face, Edward Anthony. Don't you dare feel guilty for being where you are. As much as I would love you here with me I'm fine. Your mom has been there for me more than you know and so have Rose and Emmett."

"Fuck, Bella I'm sorry. I just wish I was there with you. I'm missing out on so much."

"Baby, I know you want to be here but that was just the cards we were dealt. As long as you stay safe and bring yourself home to us nothing else matters."

"Baby-"

"Don't baby me, Edward. Promise me you'll be safe and come home to us."

"Promise," I whispered even if I knew promises didn't always bring your loved ones back.

With each week that passed I received another picture and letter from Bella. She was the epitome of pregnancy with her glowing skin and beautiful protruding belly as our daughter grew bigger in her womb.

The Christmas and New Year's holiday came and went with little fan fare. I didn't want to make a big deal about it because I knew how hard it would be on Bella. I got to see for myself just how big Bella was getting when her and my mom Skyped on Christmas Day.

"Merry Christmas, baby."

"Merry Christmas, beautiful. Stand, let me see what my daughter looks like."

Bella stood lifting her shirt over her belly and I couldn't believe how big she really was.

"I feel like a beached whale carrying all this weight," Bella said as she rubbed her belly lovingly.

"My wife is no whale. You are the most beautiful woman I've ever seen."

"You're just saying that to be nice."

"Bella … you've always been beautiful in my eyes. But seeing your belly growing with our daughter inside is the sexiest sight."

"I miss you, Edward."

"I miss you too, baby."

Before I knew it March was upon us and only a few more weeks left till my baby girl was here. Bella was retaining more water than usual and her blood pressure was elevated so the doctor put her on bed rest until the delivery.

My mom was there helping and Bella's mom was going to fly in to help and be there for the delivery. Even though I was more upset than ever that I wasn't there to comfort her I knew she would be in good hands.

On April 8, 2011 Hope Elizabeth Masen came into the world at a whopping seven pounds eight ounces and twenty one inches long.

Renee and my mom were there every step of the way holding Bella's hand and coaching her. Since I couldn't be there for the delivery Esme made sure to video tape the entire thing while Renee took plenty of pictures.

Three days after the delivery Bella came into view on my Skype screen and my heart soared. There in her arms was our precious baby girl wrapped up in a pink blanket.

I touched the computer screen hoping so much that I was there to touch her in person.

"God, Bella … she's beautiful. Just like her mommy."

"Say hi to daddy, Hope."

"Daddy, wishes he was there with you. Only two more months then I'm coming home to you and mommy."

"I love you, Edward."

"I love you too, baby."

As with her pregnancy Bella didn't want me to miss out on any part of Hope's life. She sent me a picture every week which I always carried with me as my guardian angel. We Skyped and emailed when we could but it was few and far between.

Days and nights meshed together as I wished so badly I was home with my girls. The only thing that kept me going was knowing they would be there waiting for me.

"Happy Birthday Daddy," Bella cooed into the screen with Hope in her lap.

"Hi, baby girl. Daddy loves and misses you."

I saw the sadness in Bella's eyes as the tears started falling down her cheeks. She began to tremble as a strangled sob fell from her lips.

"Oh, baby. Please don't cry. Only two more weeks and then I'm coming home."

"I'm sorry Edward. I just miss you so much. I can't wait to hold you in my arms again."

"I can't wait for that too, baby. Before you know it, it'll be July 4th and I'll be stepping off that plane."

And here I was sitting on a plane with my men waiting for it to arrive at Fort Lewis-McChord base where my family would be waiting.

For the last twelve months I'd been stationed in the shithole desert called Afghanistan. Twelve months I'd endured extreme temperatures, harsh environments and had to be one step ahead of our enemy in order to stay alive.

In all those months the only thing that kept me alive was the thought of leaving my girls behind. When I had left for this deployment there was only one girl in my life, my Bella, but since then a new one had come into my life, my precious Hope Elizabeth. And soon I would be meeting her for the first time.

I couldn't contain my nerves as the hours on the plane ticked by. I was so anxious to hold my girls in my arms and shower them with love and affection.

The crowd that had gathered was so big that it took me a while to find my girls. But when I did, the biggest smile crossed my face. Bella was beautiful, more so than I remembered. My memories of her didn't do her justice. In her arms was my gorgeous daughter. Dressed all in pink, with a little bow in her soft hair, that was thankfully the same shade as her mother's. Her eyes were a bright green, and they danced as a wide smile crossed Bella's face making Hope giggle.

"Hey, handsome," Bella said softly.

"Hello, beautiful," I breathed before kissing Bella's lips tenderly.

"Say hi to your Daddy, Hope," Bella cooed.

"Can I?" I asked, hoping that Bella would understand what I was asking.

I set down my duffle as Bella handed me my daughter. Even at nearly three months, Hope was small enough to fit in my arm like a football. The love that I felt for my wife and the miracle in my arms was overwhelming.

"She's perfect," I whispered.

Bella wrapped her arms around the arm I wasn't using to hold my daughter with and kissed my cheek.

"She is perfect, and her Daddy's her hero."

When I stepped off that plane and onto home soil, I looked into the crowd of families and patriots alike who had come to welcome us home. I was surrounded by a sea of red, white and blue. Flags were everywhere and people I didn't even know were shaking my hand and thanking me for my sacrifice.

My sacrifice was not being there with my wife while she carried and gave birth to our child. My reward is my discharge papers which I'll be receiving in a few days, and a lifetime with my wife and daughter. I was finally home.