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AN: So, here is my newest fling. Thank you for taking a chance on another one of my stories. This is going to be a much bumpier ride than I usually take y'all on. We've got some serious angst ahead—so be warned. BUT, you know I always give you a HEA, so if you're willing to hang in there, I'll bring the sunshine. Until then, grab your rubbers and enjoy my rain cloud
I am blessed, once again, with the help of some amazing pre-readers and beta. Twimarti is my red pen slinging mama, and Carla, Erin, Jodi, Wendy, Beth and Megan hold my hand, give me advice and keep my butt in gear.
Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads which sew people together through the years. ~Simone Signoret
The numbers on the clock radio glowed brightly in the shallow light of the room. I groaned when I saw that it was two in the morning. I turned away to block the light and was surprised to find my husband missing. He was supposed to be home way earlier, so I was concerned. I pushed the covers back, threw my legs over the side of the bed, and padded out of the room to look for him.
When I got to the kitchen, I grabbed my cell phone off the counter to see if I'd missed a call from him. I found it odd that I hadn't. He met his brother at the bar to watch the game, and they were always home early. It wasn't like him not to call, even if he knew I'd be mad. He always called.
I immediately dialed his number and pushed send. His phone chirped from the other room, so I followed the sound into the den. I sighed, relieved, when I saw him sprawled along the length of our worn sofa. At first I smiled, noticing how adorable he was when he slept. He always slept like a log; so peaceful and carefree. My thoughts soured quickly, however, seeing him on the couch instead of in bed… with me.
My first instinct was to confront him, but after thinking about it for a minute, I reconsidered. I left him to sleep in his ragged jeans and t-shirt and returned to our room.
The next morning, my son woke me up by jumping on my bed, causing the mattress to squeak in protest. "Ma, come on. Git up! We're gonna go to Papa Charlie's. Me and Daddy. You gotta make us some samiches. Daddy said!"
I'd forgotten about the fishing trip the three of them had planned for the weekend. My mind had been all over the place, and if I didn't write down every single thing on the whiteboard I had hanging on the fridge, it would completely slip my mind.
"I'm sorry, bubba. I forgot. Give me just a few more minutes, and I'll be down. Are your sisters awake yet?" I asked groggily.
"Yup. Sissy's goin' to the beach with her friend, and I dunno what Reenie and Lottie are doin'," he said, shrugging his shoulders indifferently. He had a hard time keeping up with his older sisters.
I couldn't blame him. They were very busy girls. It was a full-time job wondering where they were and what they were doing. Riley loved them, and most of the time bugged the living crap out of them, but they were his angels.
Tanya was his little mommy. She was his go-to girl whenever he needed something and I wasn't around—or if I'd say no. He loved to curl up in her lap and play with her soft blonde hair. We always teased her about the effect she had on those around her. With her stilt-like legs, curvy figure, sea green eyes and silk-spun blonde hair, she was something to look at. She was popular at school; the typical cheerleader and activity queen. Her beauty made people take notice, but it was her wit that made her stand out in a crowd. Even though she could be a little over-dramatic sometimes, she was really soft and sweet on the inside.
"Can you go find Reenie for me? She can start packing your lunches, and I'll be down in a sec to make your sandwiches. Where's Daddy?" I asked him.
"He's loadin' the truck, Ma." He gave me a wild look. Clearly I should have known.
"All right. I'm waking up," I chuckled. I could see that he was in no mood for conversations. With Riley, he was very task oriented. The boy had a one-track mind.
He darted out of the room, and I followed behind him after wrapping up in my pink terry cloth robe. Instead of heading directly to the kitchen, I opened the door that led to the garage so that I could have a word with my husband. I was equal parts angry and concerned that he didn't feel the need to let me know he got home safely, and then slept on the couch instead of with me.
The garage door was wide open and his white pickup was backed in, with him standing in the bed, organizing the equipment.
"I didn't hear you get in last night," I said. My voice was small and scared, and I didn't like it.
Without looking back at me, he answered. "Yeah, it was late. Didn't want to wake you up."
His tone took me off guard. I grimaced and shook my head. Moving to stand in front of him, I cocked my head to the side to get a read on his expression. He looked so tired. It made me feel awful.
"That was really thoughtful, but I worry. I woke up in the middle of the night, and you weren't there."
I unconsciously pulled my robe tighter across my body and wrapped my arms around my torso. I hated the unspoken tension between us. I wasn't sure what his problem was or what was bothering him, but I was too tired to hash it out for God and all the neighbors to hear.
He finally looked at me under his arm as he latched the cover of the toolbox closed. "I was exhausted, Bella. I crashed on the couch. No big deal. It's not the first time it happened. Just because you happened to notice this time doesn't mean shit."
I was taken aback by his tone and gasped when I realized that sleeping on the couch had become a common occurrence. My stomach twisted at the thought of my husband sleeping downstairs alone. I couldn't remember a night in all the years of our marriage—aside from the birth of our children—that we'd slept apart. Not while we were under the same roof, at least. The thought made me nauseous.
Instead of arguing about it, I decided to just let it go for the time being. "Have a good time. Be sure to keep a good eye on Riley. You know how he gets." I turned and walked away before I could hear him answer.
I was on the brink of tears but contained it before the kids could see that I was upset. I knew they sensed that something was off with us lately, but I didn't want to add to their concern. I got to work on the sandwiches for their trip and grabbed the Tupperware containers from the cabinet to fill with fresh fruit.
Irina trudged in just as I pulled a cantaloupe from the refrigerator and set it on the counter. "You need help, Ma?" she asked through a yawn.
I chuckled and nodded at the melon. "You could slice that up for me and put the chunks in the dish. I think I have just about everything else ready to go," I told her.
Irina was my sweet girl. Much like her sisters, she had beautiful, flaxen blonde hair, the color of wheat and spun cotton, and long shapely legs that went on for miles. Her eyes were green like her father's, but deep and rich like the canopy of the forest. Her heart was so big that sometimes I wondered how she held so much love inside the small beating organ. Always the voice of reason, Irina tried in vain to keep the peace around our humble home. I'd never seen a child so tender and compassionate. She'd always been my little helper, ever since she was old enough to stand at the kitchen counter with me. As a little girl, she always found it more interesting to help me fold laundry than to play Barbies or watch cartoons with her sisters.
I smiled at my sweet girl and went back to the center island, spreading the white slices of bread across the tile. I slapped on some peanut-butter and jelly, smooshed them together, and slid them into plastic sandwich bags. Once I had them all wrapped up, I dumped them into a larger bag and set them to the side.
"Irina, when you're done with that, can you drag the cooler out of the garage for Daddy?" I asked over my shoulder. She gave me a low hum in response before snapping the container closed and heading toward the garage door.
I made my way upstairs to pack Riley's backpack and make his bed. The sound of my daughters arguing in the next room pulled me from my task, and I headed in to see what the newest calamity was all about.
I pushed Tanya's door open to find her and Lottie face to face, flushed and angry and ready to pounce. "What's going on in here?" I asked loudly.
"She needs to stay out of my room! I knew she was sneaking in here and taking my makeup and now I've caught her, red-handed! I just bought that mascara!"
I huffed and held my hand out for Lottie to hand the tube over. "Come on, Charlotte. You know you aren't allowed to wear makeup yet, and you are never allowed to take things from your sister's room without her permission."
It was difficult to instill privacy and boundaries with three teenage girls in the house. They all pretty much liked the same things, so sharing should have been easy. It wasn't. They were stingy and bitchy about their things, so I tried my best to make it a peaceful environment. I wasn't always successful.
I envied them in so many ways. I was an only child, so I envied those with siblings. When I married Edward, I couldn't wait to have a houseful of kids. Days when they showed their claws made me wonder why.
"Mom! It's totally not fair. I just wanted to wear a little bit. All the rest of my friends get to wear makeup!" Lottie howled.
I rolled my eyes. I dreaded this conversation. It seemed to be the only one Lottie and I had been having, and I was done. Lottie was my spitfire. She was wild-eyed and full of spunk. Her soul was old, and her spirit was as free as a red-tailed hawk. She was brilliant and wise beyond her years, which only pushed her ability to grasp the upper hand in disagreements, and what made it worse was that she was the baby girl, and she knew how to use that to her advantage. She was cherubic in her beauty, just beginning to blossom, and I knew that Edward and I would have our hands full with her. Where her sisters had hair like dove feathers, hers was bright and spun like golden honey. Sometimes I marveled at the way her hair would change just by the sun hitting it. When she'd look at you with those eyes, she would absolutely mesmerize you. They too changed, with various shades of green and blue. They reminded me of the inside of an abalone shell.
"I told you when you started 9th grade you could wear colored lip gloss. You can't wear makeup until you're sixteen. I'm not having this conversation with you again. You're father said no, so… no."
If Edward had it his way, his girls would never wear makeup. It was ironic, really, since when I met him as a teenager I was covered in the stuff, and it didn't seem to be so terrible then. He did hate when I wore lipstick, but that was different, for several reasons—mostly because he was kissing it off half the time.
"And stay out of my room!" Tanya belted out as Lottie marched away from us.
I gave her a disapproving glare and handed her the mascara. "You can't scream at her all the time, Tanya. Do you remember me screaming at you that way when you'd sneak off with my things? That is not the way to deal with it," I chided.
She rolled her eyes dramatically and slammed the tube into her drawer. "I'm sick of it! I want a lock."
I laughed quietly and shook my head. "Uh, yeah… that is so not going to happen. Your dad would bust the door down with an axe. Just calm down a little bit. Maybe if you offered her something, it would pacify her. She just wants to be like you, Tanya. Take it as a compliment."
My over-dramatic daughter shook her long, blonde locks and turned away from me without another word. That was the way things went. If they didn't get their way, we got the silent treatment. Some days I welcomed it.
"You should go say good-bye to your dad and Riley before they take off. They won't be back until tomorrow night," I told her over my shoulder.
I didn't get an answer, and I didn't expect it. I returned to Riley's room, grabbed his belongings, and headed down to wish them a good trip and kiss them good-bye. The house was never right without my boys in it. Too much estrogen clogged up the energy and made things dull.
When I returned to the garage, I noticed that Edward was latching the boat to the truck hitch, and I couldn't help the overwhelming wave of lust that flowed through me as I took in his appearance. Even after twenty-something years, the man made my heart race and my hormones boil.
The muscles in his back stretched and unraveled as he twisted and pulled while he worked. There was just a sliver of bronze hair poking out from underneath the black, billed hat that he wore to shield his eyes. In only an undershirt and khaki shorts, he was still the most handsome man I had ever seen in my life.
It felt the same way the very first time I saw him, so long ago.
Rialto Beach, Port Angeles, Washington.
The first time I saw Edward, it was the summer before my sophomore year in high school. I was fifteen and alive with the energy of a girl on the brink of becoming a woman. My best friend, Rosalie, who was a year older than I, had finally passed her driver's test and received her license right before school let out for summer. Her father bought her a cherry red Volkswagen beetle for her birthday several months before, and we couldn't wait to speed away from Forks city limits and see the world.
Unfortunately, our world was pretty limited, so our first stop was Rialto Beach in Port Angeles. Even though it was only an hour away, it was the equivalent to a big city to us. The beach was a regular hang out for most of the kids in the area. Some of our friends from school were having a party, so we decided to join them.
When we pulled into the gravel parking lot, I watched in amazement as kids piled out of cars like ants, crawling through the sand toward the water. There was music coming from car stereos, boom boxes, and a strange kid strumming a guitar from the hood of his car. I had never seen anything like it before in my life. It was so alive… exciting.
We grabbed our beach bags from the front hatch and hurried toward the sand. Once we found a spot that wasn't too crowded, we set up our towels and whipped out the tanning oil.
My eyes were all over the place. My head was spinning as I watched the action unfold on the beach. There were kids playing volleyball, football, surfing, barbequing. It was endless.
We slathered ourselves in oil, popped our sunglasses on, and propped ourselves up on the towels to watch the action. Of course, the best part was watching the plethora of boys. We'd been stuck with the same boys for so long that it was like a farmer's market of man meat for hormonal teenage girls.
Mike Newton, Jessica's on again, off again boyfriend, jogged over and invited us to sit with the other kids from Forks. Honestly, I was having more fun on our own, but Jessica whined until we agreed to move camp.
Mike was a total moron, and as usual started screwing around and pulled one of his dumbest stunts to date. While I tied my sarong around my waist, he grabbed my towel and flicked it in the air like a kite, covering me from head to toe with sand.
I was slick and greasy from all the tanning oil, so the sand stuck to me like tiny pellets of glass. I tried to wipe it away, but it was no use. I looked like a snow globe that had been turned upside down, and l felt like a fish dipped in cornmeal.
All I wanted to do was cry. And kill him. He tried to drag me to the water so I could wash off, but I was already so humiliated that walking in front of everyone was the last thing I wanted to do. Plus, the water was freezing, and I didn't want to mess up my brand new bikini—the first one I'd ever had.
I was beyond furious.
After nearly ten minutes of arguing with him, he finally told us about the concrete showers in the restrooms. If I would have been a violent person, I would have clobbered him. But, that was Mike… an idiot. Jessica didn't like the guy for his brains, that was for sure. In fact, if he hadn't been the hottest guy at Forks high school, she wouldn't have wasted her time on him.
I stuffed my things in my bag and marched toward the bathrooms angrily. They were over a mile away and the sand was killing my feet, but it was impossible to walk in the sand in flip- flops. I already looked like a freak; I didn't want to heighten said freakdom by clod-hopping through the sand and causing more to fly around and attach to my slippery skin.
I could hear music—if you could call it that—coming from behind the cold, grey building as I got closer. There were several guys sitting on the ledge of the wood-covered patio as I walked up. They were what we referred to as the "burn-outs" at Forks. They listened to heavy metal, or whatever other hideous sounding music they could find. I was always scared of them, especially after Rosalie told me that they used drugs behind the school.
The crowd that walked toward made me even more apprehensive than the idiots at home. First of all, I knew those guys. Secondly, the guys in front of me looked a lot rougher-and older.
As I walked up, they all fell silent and turned their attention to me..
I started to panic. I ran into the bathroom as fast as my legs would take me and locked myself inside. I couldn't help it—I started to cry.
I tried to stay quiet, mostly because I was embarrassed for being such a coward. I turned on the water, splashed some into my face, and wet the edge of my towel so I could start sloughing the sand away from my skin. It stung like a bitch, so I moved toward the shower against the wall and turned it on. In no time, I was smooth and clean. I dried off, re-wrapped my sarong, and slung my towel over the top of my bag.
I was in no hurry to walk out of the bathroom, but I knew I couldn't just hide in there all day long. I took another glance in the mirror to make sure I didn't look all puffy and red, then squared my shoulders to walk out.
As soon as I stepped outside of the doorway, I was assaulted by a very large, very tanned bare chest. I jumped back—startled, and clasped my hand over my heart. A low, rumbling chuckle pulled my attention up and into the eyes of the most handsome boy I had ever seen.
But, he wasn't really a boy. He looked like a… man. He was much taller than I was, with stunning hazel green eyes surrounded by dark brows and lashes, broad shoulders, and a heart-stopping smile.
I was shell-shocked. He was definitely not what I expected to see when I walked out, and I found myself unable to move. I could feel my breath quicken as he looked me over from head to toe, but I was useless to do anything else.
My head told me to book it. Run. Get the hell out of there. I was basically cornered by him and his friends, and I had no idea where my friends had gone. I was trapped. He crossed his arms across his chest, and I watched in utter amazement as his pectoral muscles twitched and flexed when he did so.
An unconscious shudder shook my body, and I pulled my bag in front of me like a hemp straw shield. A barking laugh from behind him startled me out of the staring contest we were having, and I moved aside slightly so that I could get around him.
"Hey, hey, hey," he said, slapping the palms of his hands against the concrete wall behind me, caging me in. "Where you goin', cookie?" he asked. He dipped his head lower, trying to look into my eyes.
I dropped my chin and stared at my feet. I started to shake, and I could feel my eyes burn with the urge to cry. He was so imposing—intimidating.
"Please… my friends are waiting on me," I said meekly.
A strong, warm finger curled around my chin and lifted my face to look at him. I couldn't look away. His eyes were still vibrant and beautiful, but they held concern, and it changed his whole face.
"I'm not gonna hurt you, cookie. I just wanted to say hi."
"Hi," I breathed.
He chuckled again, but this time it was melodic and so beautiful that it made my knees wobble. He pulled away from the wall to stand in front of me and smiled wider, making the corners of his eyes crinkle.
"What's your name?" he asked.
"Bella," I whispered.
"Bell-ah," he said as he leaned in and whispered in my ear. "I'm Eddie."
I felt my eyes roll into the back of my head when I felt his breath on the skin of my ear. Hearing my name fall from his lips did things to my insides that I'd never experienced before. An unattractive and rather embarrassing squeak escaped my lips as he pulled away from me, igniting a mischievous glint in his eyes.
"You kind of smell like a cookie, too. Sweet… and warm," he said in a low voice.
I gave him a questioning look and tipped my head. "Why are you calling me that?" I kind of felt like he was making fun of me, but I wasn't sure what it meant. Just another reminder of how stupid and young I was.
He laughed again and brushed his large, warm hand over my bare shoulder. "You looked like a cookie, all covered in crumbles," he laughed.
I blushed and smiled down at my feet. I realized how silly I looked when I walked up, covered in sand. "It was sand," I said dumbly.
"Obviously," he said with a tinge of humor.
We stood there for a few minutes just staring at each other, and I started to feel weird. Even though I could have looked at him all day long, he made me nervous. He was so arrogant and confident, and obviously older than I was. I needed to get back to the group—safety in numbers.
"I… um… gotta go," I stuttered. I shifted my feet back and forth and clenched my bag a little tighter to my chest as I watched his eyes wander my form once again.
No one had ever looked at me that way. No one had ever paid that much attention, in reality. I was flattered, but anxious about what his attention meant.
"Why don't you hang out? I want to talk to you for a while," he said, backing up and leaning against the wall across from me.
I tried not to look at him, afraid that if I got caught up in those eyes again, I'd be a goner. As it was, I would see his gorgeous face as soon as I closed my eyes to dream. I didn't think I would ever see a more handsome boy as long as I lived.
But, I was Bella Swan, and I was a total loser.
"I can't. My friends are waiting for me, and they're going to come looking," I said, hoping there was some kind of threat behind my words that he would read into. Apparently, he wasn't going to be that easy to get rid of.
"Is it your boyfriend?" he asked.
"No!" I said quickly, and cringed at the way it sounded. "I mean, no, my boyfriend isn't waiting."
I watched as his eyebrow lifted and his smile widened. "So, you have a boyfriend, Bella? Maybe I should go warn him that I'm going to steal his girl," he smirked.
I narrowed my eyes at his pompous rant. The sweet boy was gone, and I was no longer interested in his games. "I don't have a boyfriend, so you can just forget it. Let me go," I said. Even to my own ears, it sounded like a lie. Ever other part of my anatomy wanted to stay with him, but my brain was yelling and screaming, and I was listening.
He moved away from the wall and spread his arms, giving me a wide berth. I took a look around me, eyeing the other boys he was with before putting my feet in motion and running like hell. I caught up to the girls quickly and flopped down on the sand next to them.
"Where the hell have you been? Did you have to dig sand out of your cracks?" Rosalie remarked with a snort.
I rolled my eyes and turned over on my side to face them. I held myself up on my elbow and smiled like the starry eyed girl I was. "I think I'm in love," I sighed, and then giggled.
They both looked at me like I was crazy and sat up simultaneously on their knees. "What the hell, Bella! You weren't gone that long! Where were you?" Jessica asked earnestly.
I fell back on the towel and threw my arm over my eyes to shield them from the sun. "The bathroom. His name is Eddie, and he is so fine…" I said dreamily.
Irina clambering around in the garage shook me from the memories as I openly gawked at Edward. He spun around to see what was going on and flashed me a knowing smile. He stopped what he was doing and walked toward me purposefully. I met him stride for stride and suddenly we were in front of each other and his lips were against mine.
Cradling my head, he let his lips move against mine softly and so sure. I never got sick of kissing him; I could hardly get enough. I let myself melt into the kiss and let go of all the worry and irritation I had been carrying that morning.
"Ugh!" I heard from behind me. "Why do you guys always do that? Get a room!"
He chuckled against my lips and pulled away after leaving several small pecks. "We're embarrassing the children again," he said without apology.
I shrugged and pulled myself closer to him, wrapping my arms around his neck. "That's the fun part." I hugged him close to me and soaked up the manly scent of his skin as I pressed my nose to his chest. "I'm going to miss you," I said softly.
He stroked my back gently and hummed into my hair. "I'll miss you too, cookie," he said before kissing me again. I wasn't sure if it was more to piss off our gagging daughter, or for his benefit, but I had to admit I was dreading the trip he was about to take.
I smiled against his lips. "You haven't called me cookie for a long time," I mused. The nickname always brought back so many memories and always brought me to my knees.
"You'll always be my cookie," he promised. "I'm sorry I was an asshole earlier. I'm just tired."
I wrapped my arms around his waist and laid my head against his chest. "Wake me up next time, okay? I don't like you sleeping somewhere else."
He hugged me tight before pushing me away gently and looking into my eyes. "I don't either. I'll make it up to you when I get back. Maybe we can get Rosalie to stay with the girls for a couple of days and we can take off next weekend… just the two of us."
I lifted my head and nodded excitedly. It had been eons since we had been alone, and it sounded like heaven. As much as I adored my children, a romantic weekend alone with my husband was something I was not going to balk at.
"Yes, yes, yes! That sounds perfect. We can celebrate our anniversary."
He swung me around a few times and then dropped me to the floor. The tiny monstrous footsteps of my son behind us alerted us that it was time to say farewell.
"Pop! I found my fishin' hat that Papa Charlie got me! It was all the way at the bottom of my toy box!" He materialized in front of us and adjusted the oversized floppy hat on his head.
"Way to go, Bubba. Let's head out of here. We don't want to miss any fish, or you'll lose the contest."
The Halibut fishing derby was a tradition that Edward started with the girls. They had long stopped going once they became too cool to hang around with or fish with their father. Riley, however, filled that gap for him. His robust enthusiasm for fishing ensured Edward a fishing buddy for life.
I was relieved that Edward and I worked things out before he left. I felt revived with a new energy and excited about spending a weekend away with him. It would be easier for us to reconnect without the distractions of kids, arguing, errands, and bills. All the messy real life stuff would be left behind, and we would finally get to spend quality time together.
The girls filed out of the house early, all having plans with friends. I used the time to clean up around the house and plan the weekend trip.
After searching endless hotels in Seattle, a brilliant thought popped into my head, and I tapped away at the computer until I found the place. It was perfect. A romantic bed and breakfast with private cabins—the same cabin we stayed in for our honeymoon.
For the rest of the day, the cabin was all I could think about. I couldn't help but get carried away with thoughts about us being away—alone. I knew what I expected, but I wasn't so sure about Edward.
With that thought, I ceased my housecleaning duties, put away the vacuum cleaner, and went back to my laptop for some impromptu online lingerie shopping. As I tapped away, clicking and closing window after window, I became more and more certain that I needed to really give the romantic weekend away everything I had.
Thinking about the simple cotton panties that were staples in my wardrobe, I shook my head and browsed some risqué items. I hadn't worn lace panties in… hell, I had no idea how long. It made me wonder what made me stop wearing them in the first place. Of course, cotton panties were more comfortable, but I had gotten to a point in my life where panties were just… underwear. No wonder I hadn't seen my husband's eyes follow me when I'd dress in the morning, or heard him comment about how sexy I looked when he removed my clothing.
It had become so clinical and routine. Once in a while he'd rub against me, or mention that he'd taken a shower—that was always a dead giveaway that he was looking for a little something that night.
Very romantic, I know.
We'd undress under the sheets, and half the time I wouldn't even get my top off before he was finished with me. In. Out. In. Out. Grunt. Puff. Groan. Done. It was just… sex. All the heat… the passion, the frantic need to be together, it was all gone. We'd gone from having sex numerous times a day, to barely making time for it in months. Months. It had been months since we'd even touched one another.
I finally found a few items that I thought I could pull off and ordered a daily dose of sexy panties. It was exhilarating to do something for myself for once. I felt good about doing something that would make me feel sexy and would possibly make my husband happy.
The following day, I was sitting in the den reading when I heard the rumble of Edward's truck in the driveway. I jumped off the couch and ran to the door, eager to see my boys. I stopped in the foyer and checked my hair and pinched my cheeks before opening the door to greet them.
A flash of blue came running at me in the form of my high-spirited seven-year-old in his lucky Mariner's t-shirt. His short, brown hair stuck up in every direction, much like his father, and his whiskey-colored eyes lit up with mischief and innocence. There was nothing like the hugs he gave me after being away from me, so I whipped him up in my arms and left tiny kisses all over his face. He was crispy with sunburn and stunk to high heaven, but it felt amazing to hold him.
"How's my little man? Did you have fun with Pops and Papa Charlie?" I asked between kisses.
I looked over his shoulder and watched Edward climb out of the truck with a smile on his face. That is a very good sign, I thought to myself. He winked at me before heading to the back of the truck to unload and unhitch the boat.
"I won a prize, Mommy! I gots a new pole and free pizzas!" he said excitedly.
"That's awesome, Bubba! I'm so proud of you."
He wiggled out of my arms and ran into the house, calling out for his sisters. I chuckled when I heard them all coming down the stairs to meet him. No matter what they said, they loved the little guy and missed him when he was gone.
I walked over to the truck slowly, kind of the way you would move if you were approaching a growling dog. Even though he was smiling at me, I was still apprehensive of his mood. As much as I wanted to run into his arms, similar to the way Riley greeted me, I knew that there was an invisible wall between us. I couldn't handle the rejection, so I chickened out.
"Hey," I said lamely.
"Hey, babe. Did Riley tell you that he won?" he asked.
I smiled and nodded. "Was he so excited?"
"Hell yeah. He was a little pissed off that he didn't win one of the bikes, told the guy it was fixed," he laughed.
"Ah, that's my boy. It is, you know. We never win the bikes!"
He nodded and continued pulling things from the truck. The moment was gone, and in its place, the awkward silence resumed. We always got to this point where we were just at a loss for words. It was so confusing and exhausting. I decided to get a backbone and go with my heart.
I wrapped my arms around his waist and laid my head against his back. He smelled similar to Riley, but it didn't bother me. It never bothered me, no matter how badly he smelled. He just smelled like Edward. "I missed you," I said softly against his shirt. I pressed a kiss against his shoulder blades and hummed.
He stopped what he was doing and turned so that I was pressed against his chest. He kissed the top of my head, and then my forehead. "Missed you, too. Did you girls have a good weekend? Did they behave?" he asked.
I let out a small laugh and nodded. "As much as possible. Lottie is driving Tanya crazy, and Irina was gone most of the weekend, but it was nice to spend some time with them," I told him.
Even though we hadn't done much, it was nice to just be girls for the night. We didn't have to cook and sat around eating ice cream from the carton while we watched sappy romantic movies that Edward would never let us watch while he was in the room.
He gave me one last lingering kiss before pulling away. "Let me get this stuff put away, and I'll be inside in a bit," he said.
I smiled and nodded. "Sure thing. I have a pot roast in the oven, so as soon as you and Riley are cleaned up, we can eat."
His eyes twinkled at the mention of my roast. It was his favorite meal, and I was glad I decided to make it. I was definitely going to the ends of the earth to get through the huge gap we had between us, and my mother always said that the way to a man's heart was through his stomach.
"You're so good to me, woman!" he said, giving me a soft peck on the lips. "I'll hurry."
I left him in the garage to finish what he was doing and went back in the house to get dinner ready and Riley cleaned up. When I got upstairs and heard the splashing and gibberish coming from the bathroom, I smiled, knowing that one of the girls beat me to it.
I nudged the door open a crack with my toe and peered inside to see Lottie sitting on the toilet and Irina sitting at the edge of the tub. Both girls were smiling at Riley as he talked quickly and animatedly about his trip. I watched as he batted Irina's hands away each time she tried to swipe at him with the washcloth, each time causing her to giggle.
"Ry, you smell like rotten pond sludge! Let me get you spic and span," she begged.
"Lemme play fer a minute, Reenie. Sheesh. Mommy lets me play first."
She gave a huff and fell back on her rump, tossing the cloth down in the bubbly water. "So, Ry, how many fish did you catch?" she asked.
"A million." He answered with such conviction and confidence that it was hard to believe that he hadn't really caught that many.
"So, like ten?" Lottie asked.
"No, Lottie," he said. "I catched a million. My whole bucket was full!"
I let out a small chuckle and caught Lottie's attention. She smiled, stood from the toilet, and patted Riley on the head. "Hurry up and get clean, Bubba. Mommy'll have dinner done by the time you get out."
She stepped into the hallway and shut the door behind her. "Did you smell him?" she asked with a giggle. "He smells like Daddy let him roll around in fish guts."
I wrapped my arms around her shoulders as we went downstairs. "Knowing your dad, he probably did. Come on. Help me get dinner on the table."
The two of us worked swiftly and quietly to get the table set and the food on the table. Edward came in and showered without a word, then walked into the kitchen smelling fresh and sweet from the shower. He walked up behind me and grabbed a cooked carrot from the dish from over my shoulder.
"Smells good, babe," he said as he popped it in his mouth.
"I'm glad. Come on. Everything's ready to go. The girls cleaned Riley up for me, but he's still upstairs. Call him for me?" I asked.
He nodded and walked out into the dining room. I followed right behind with the dish containing the roast and potatoes in my hands, and Lottie followed behind me with the warm rolls. Riley came tumbling down the stairs to join us at the table, and I smiled once my whole family was sitting around the table together.
Tanya, Irina, and Edward were already in a conversation about softball, and everyone else was digging in. Throughout the meal, Edward and I would exchange smiles, and once in a while he would send me a wink. It felt so good to have all of us in the same room, smiling, talking, and laughing. It was like a dream come true, as cliché as it sounded.
I had hope—hope that everything was going to be all right. Flirting with my husband was such a foreign concept, and I found that I liked it. I felt free, light, and refreshed. Watching him interact with the girls was amazing, and it was one of the reasons I loved him so much. They idolized their father. In their eyes, he was the greatest man to walk the earth. I knew that feeling. My father was such a strong figure in my life. I couldn't imagine not having him be there for me.
Their relationship had changed as the girls got older. I think it was hard for Edward to relate to them as teenagers. He was short with them, and since they didn't have that much to talk about, aside from softball, their interaction had become more and more infrequent. It was amazing to watch them smile at each other and enjoy each other's company.
Once we had the table cleared and the kitchen was cleaned up, the girls went upstairs to get ready for bed, and I went through our nightly routine with Riley. We put his pajamas on, got his teeth brushed, and started a nighttime story. Before I could finish reading, he was fast asleep. I knew it wouldn't take him long after the adventurous weekend he had.
I snuck out and practically ran to the room I shared with my husband. The door was open, and when I walked in to find him fast asleep, sprawled out on the bed on his stomach, I couldn't help the pang of disappointment that washed over me.
Once again, we were back to the ordinary where our bed was for sleep and our bodies clung to pillows instead of each other. I stripped off my clothing, pulled on a nightshirt, and climbed into bed before pulling the quilt over the both of us.
My head hit the pillow, and the contrast between the thoughts that clogged my head and the down that held it for sleep was vast. My bed held no comfort when all I wanted was to wrap myself up in my husband's embrace and show him the love that I still held in my heart for him.
Finally, as I drifted off to sleep, lulled by the cadence of my husband's quiet snoring, I told myself that we still had the following weekend. A weekend alone—just the two of us—and hopefully we could find the Edward and Bella that I longed for.
Thank you so much for reading… are you still with me?
Dying to hear your reactions to this!
This story will unfold slowly, with bits and pieces of their past in every chapter. I am down to answer any and all questions you have, so throw them at me. You can hit me up on twitter or facebook if you want to ask me anything.
Twitter: prettykittyff Facebook: Prettykitty Artistff
Okay, I have a little timeline so that everyone knows who's who, and what's what. I always get questions about ages, so here ya go:
EDWARD: 39 (Flashback =18)
BELLA: 36 (Flashback =15)
There are pics of the characters as I picture them on my blog. The link is on my profile!
Thank you for reading! Much love!