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AN: thank you so much to my Snapgirls. Bestest friends ever. I am nothing without them.
I'm horrible about tissue warnings... this might be one of those times that they're necessary.
I cannot think of any need in childhood as strong as the need of a father's protection ~ Sigmund Freud.
I smiled at the laughter coming from the other room. My heart leapt. It had been a whirlwind of a month, but the New Year had definitely been good to us.
I went back to beating my cake mix before pouring it into pans and popping it in the oven. I set the timer and went back to work on the butter cream frosting for the cake I'd already baked—the white cake/white frosting. The chocolate one was next.
In a crazy, cosmic coincidence, Charlotte and Tony—Anthony—shared the same birthday. He'd made himself quite at home since Edward and Emmett contacted him, and had blended in with us like he'd been there forever. I guess in a way, he had.
Irina fumbled into the house, slamming the door behind her and hurling her bat bag onto the stairs.
"Everything okay?" I asked.
Her eyes narrowed and she huffed. "Not really, but… whatever. What time is dinner?"
I pinched my lips together, resisting the urge to yell at her and her attitude. She was obviously already upset. "Six-thirty. Are you sure you don't want to talk about what happened?"
She ran her hand up, pushing her bangs out of her face, and yanked the rubber band from her hair. "Not really. I'm super tired, so we'll just talk about it later. Okay?"
I nodded and watched her walk up the stairs. My non dramatic daughter was throwing attitude around like a champ, and I didn't like it. Something was brewing, and I didn't want to live in the aftermath. Sighing and shaking my head, I went back to my cake.
"Too much to ask for… just one day with no one freaking out," I mumbled to myself.
"Talking to yourself?"
I nodded without turning around. "I'm the only one around here that doesn't get on my nerves, so yeah… I'm talking to myself."
He walked over and leaned his hip against the counter, sticking his finger in the frosting. "Looks good, babe."
Swatting his hand away, I laughed. "You guys having fun in there?"
He bobbed his head, agreeing. "Em and Tony are arguing over basketball. Hey… did I hear the girls come in?" He turned, looking toward the door.
"Reenie did. I don't know where Tanya is. She must have gone off with Sam after practice. That might be why Irina was so pissed off."
His brow drooped and his mouth twisted. "She better get here in time."
I sighed and went back to the cake. "You know she will. She'd never do that to Lottie."
He stayed quiet for a while, deep in thought while he watched me work. Finally, he spoke up.
"Thank you for doing all this. I mean, for Tony, too."
I smiled. "I'm happy to. Lottie is beyond excited that they share a birthday. Leave it to her…" I said, laughing.
"So, we were talking earlier, and Tony is interested in investing in the business. What do you think?"
I breathed out my nose and closed my eyes. On one hand, it would be wonderful to have an investor. Edward was brilliant, and everything he created was a masterpiece. The business part of things was a little more out of his element, but he had built it into something great over the years. He'd worked hard, and he'd done it alone. Sure, things were tight, but it wasn't like we were eating out of dumpsters.
What worried me the most was that their relationship was still very new. We didn't know a lot about Tony, and he was still close to their father. That bothered Edward, even though he still wouldn't talk about it. Emmett had taken to Tony much faster, easier. I kind of felt like Edward was just along for the ride, kind of feeling him out. His declaration puzzled me.
"I'm not sure. I mean, I'm so happy that you are forming a relationship with him, but I don't think it's a good idea to mix family and business. It'll only cause problems."
He ran his hand through his hair, frustrated. "It could be a good idea, though, but I see what you mean. I'll think about it."
I nodded again and handed him the bowl and spoon. "Have at it, baby. I'm going to get cleaned up real fast. Dinner smells about ready."
He grinned like a ten-year-old and grabbed the bowl eagerly.
It was already seven-thirty, and I just couldn't wait another minute for Tanya to arrive. I was beyond angry with her, completely in disbelief that she'd do that to her sister. Once I had the table cleared, I joined the others in the family room and told Lottie to go ahead and open her gifts.
She looked sad, but smiled. It was just the way she was. "I want to open Uncle Emmett's first. He said it's the best one."
I laughed at Emmett, sitting there nodding with a shit-eating grin on his face. "Of course it is! I'm awesome!"
She bounced in her chair and smiled as she looked around the room. Tearing into the gift as carefully as possible, she gasped when she saw the box underneath. "Oh my God! Uncle Em! This is the best present ever! My own laptop! I love you!"
She sat it to the side and jumped up, hugging him tightly. His ears burned red as he smiled and hugged her back. "I love you, kiddo. I downloaded a bunch of designing software on there for you to mess around with."
She made a loud pitch squealing sound and went back to her seat, tucking her feet underneath her. "I'm so excited, I don't know if I can open anything else! I want to cry!"
I sat on Edward's knee and watched her as she opened the rest of her gifts—clothes, gift cards, books, a new phone from my parents, and an easel, drawing pads, and paints from Edward and I. She smiled and thanked everyone, happy as could be.
My heart was so glad to see that everyone brought a little something for Tony, too. It just made me love and admire my family and friends so much more to know they had welcomed him with open arms.
The laughter and togetherness filled the room. But still, there was something missing. The house phone rang out loudly, and everyone turned their heads. For some reason… it made my stomach knot up. It was just one of those feelings.
"Hello?" I answered.
There was no answer, but I could hear crying. "Tanya? Is that you?"
Edward's ears perked up and he stood, walking toward me. "Talk to me, Sissy. You're scaring me."
She sniffed and in a voice so small, she whispered,"I want Daddy."
I covered my mouth with my hand and held the phone out to him with a shaky hand.
As soon as he heard her crying, he choked and put his hand out to grab onto the counter. "Tell me where you are, and I'm coming. Okay? Daddy's coming, sweetheart."
I was full on sobbing and Leah, Rosalie, and Jessica were quick to my side, comforting me. Abruptly, Edward slammed the phone down and roared, kicking the chair across the room. "What is it? What's wrong?"
Everyone else had joined us in the dining room, wide-eyed and worried. The girls were crying, my mom and Esme were trying to calm them down, and Riley was examining the chair for damage.
"I need to go get her," he grinded out between his teeth. "If one fucking hair on her head…" he shook his head, as if to dispel the thought.
Emmett grabbed his shoulder. "I'll go with you, bro."
My dad jumped in, saying he'd drive. "I'm going too. I can't just sit here! I need to go!" I cried.
Edward's eyes flashed to mine, the anguish in my voice causing something inside him to snap. Pulling me into his arms, he held me tight, kissing my head and rocking me. He looked over at Em. "If Dad's driving, I need you to stay here."
Em nodded, giving him a look that said he had it under control. "Let's go. She's down by the airport."
We jumped into action, practically running from the house. My mom's car was blocking my truck in the driveway, so my dad held up his keys and nodded toward it. "Just as easy," he murmured.
I could see the anger rolling off his shoulders. God… Edward had learned from him, that was for sure. There was nothing more dangerous than a worried, protective father—except a worried, protective grandpa.
And my dad was all of the above.
Edward rode in the back and held me. I was glad he did because I was having a hard time holding myself together. The not knowing what was happening, or what had happened was terrible. My mind always went in the worst direction. I couldn't help it. I was a worrier by nature, and shit like a phone call from your crying daughter had a way of flipping a person out.
Edward wasn't in much better shape, but I could tell he was holding it in. I loved him so much for being the strong one. The thought of anything happening to my kids just paralyzed me. The expression about dying without them was raw in my gut. The emptiness would swallow me up completely.
"Over there," Edward shouted, leaning forward and pointing ahead of us.
I scooted up so I could look through the windshield and saw her, curled up around herself, holding her knees and sitting on a curb in the parking lot. My dad pulled up and we all pulled out. Her hair was wild, her eyes red, and she was shivering from the brisk air.
She got up slowly as we approached her and we all slowed down, matching her movements. It was like time just… suspended. She looked shattered, inside and out, and it killed me. Her brightness was just gone, like her light just flickered out. Gone. It broke my heart.
She shook a little, took a few steps, and then bolted, jumping into Edward's arms.
I held in my sobs with both hands, my whole body rocking with relief and fear and love. He swept her up and she wrapped her arms around his shoulders, tucking her head into his neck.
"Come on, baby. You're freezing. Let's get you home."
I followed behind him as best I could, dying to touch her with my own two hands to make sure she was okay. Feel it—know it was real. He laid her in the back seat, peeling his flannel shirt off and throwing it over her. Shutting the door, he turned to me.
"This has to do with that goddamned kid. He's fucking dead."
I just shook my head. "It's not the time, Edward. We have no idea what happened. Let's just get her out of here."
My dad came up behind us. "I asked the kid inside if he saw anything. He didn't, but he said she's been out here for a couple hours."
I peeked behind me at the gas station and shook my head. What she was doing all the way out here was anyone's guess. I was going in the direction of Edward's thinking, though. This had heartbreak written all over it, so somehow, Sam was involved.
"We'll figure it all out later."
I rode up front with my dad while Edward held her in the back. She was deadly quiet and clung to Edward like her life depended on it. There was a part of me that swelled with a joy so familiar that it hurt. Watching the mend in their relationship close right before my eyes was all I ever hoped for and yet, the bittersweet moment was hard to swallow, especially not knowing what she'd gone through. It was enough to know she was safe in her daddy's arms.
When we pulled up to the house, it looked like everyone was looking out for us. All at once, the whole family was out on the lawn. My dad walked up, arms in the air. "Let's give my baby girl some space. Just go on inside. We got her. She's okay."
Everyone did as he asked and filed back into the house. Except Jake and Emmett.
"You know who did this? Who is getting their asses beat?" Jake growled.
I put my hand on his chest. "Not now. Go inside. I need to get her upstairs."
Edward carried her up, and I followed again. Once we were in her room, she curled up on her bed, grabbing Edward's arm when he tried to move away.
He sat down. "I'm right here, Tanya. I was getting you some clean clothes so you could change and get warm. Let Mom help you—I'll wait right outside, okay?"
She gave a small nod but wouldn't let go. I moved to her side with some sweats and a hoodie and helped unlatch her hand from his forearm. "Daddy's right here. Just put these on. I'll help you. We're right here."
She finally let go, and Edward stepped out while I dressed her. She looked catatonic—cold and limp and dead inside. I was working overtime just to hold my shit together. I was scared. My heart was hurting.
Once she was dressed, I got her under the covers and sat next to her, caressing her hair. Edward returned and sat on the other side of her, rubbing her back.
"What happened, Tanya?" I asked softly. "You can tell us, no matter what. You know that, right?"
She started to cry softly again. "Sam cheated on me. I caught him."
Edward growled, and I shot him a look. "I'm so sorry, baby. That's horrible."
"I can't believe he did this, Mom!" She fell into another fit of tears, and I just didn't know what to say. There wasn't much I could say to make it better. I knew how it felt when I thought Edward was cheating on me, but for her to see him with her own two eyes…
"What can I do, sweetheart? Tell me how to make this better," I said.
"Want me to go kick his ass?" Edward said.
"Edward," I admonished.
"Yes," Tanya said with a crackly voice. "I want you to. I told him you were coming after him."
Edward's eyes danced as he smiled at me. "Get that from your mom," he teased. "She used to sic Grandpa on me, too."
Tanya rolled over and leaned forward, grabbing his arm. "I hate him! I hate his guts!"
"I know, baby girl, but you were too good for his ass anyway. It's his loss—not yours. He'll know how bad he messed up, and he'll be sorry."
She rolled over again, crying harder and crushing her face into my lap. "I was going to do it. I mean, I was!"
I brushed her hair away from her face. "Do what?"
The second the question left my mouth, I knew I didn't want to know the answer. I wished in that moment I could have turned back time and asked Edward to leave the room.
"Sex! I was going to let him!"
"Over my dead body you were!" Edward roared, jumping off the bed and pacing the room like an animal. "Did he pressure you? Did he force you? God… what the fuck happened, Tanya?"
"No!" she cried. "No, Daddy. I mean, he wanted to, but I wasn't ready. I wanted to… but I was scared."
"Oh, baby," I sighed. I held her tightly, knowing exactly what she was going through.
It was a confusing time in a girl's life. She was on the verge of being a woman. Her body was reacting, and her heart was following along. It was her head and her conscience that had her all in knots. I'd been there, and I understood completely.
"I wanted to so much, Mom. I love him and I wanted it, but I wasn't sure, so I kept putting it off, and telling him to wait."
"So, what? He wasn't going to wait? Little bastard… I'm going to break his fucking neck."
I held my hand up. "Edward, please. You're not helping things. Stop."
He shook his head and continued to pace, mumbling death threats under his breath.
"Mom. Why couldn't he just… wait. I went tonight. I was going to let him tonight. I wanted to give him my virginity. I wanted it to be him, Mom!"
I hugged her against my chest. "I know, sweetie," I said.
Edward's eyes snapped up and he threw his arms in the air, as if to ask "what the fuck." I knew because I once wanted the same thing with him. I'd been terrified to lose my virginity—to take that step, but I loved Edward so much, and in my heart, I knew that even if it didn't last between us, the feeling I had at that moment, my time with him, was all worth it. It would be unforgettable. And it was.
But, I'd been one of the lucky ones. Edward stood by me. He was my soul mate and partner for the rest of my life. When you're young, it can feel that way no matter what, and that's what Tanya was going through. She felt like Sam was her "one." He was the first boy she'd fallen in love with, and the feelings were so intense. I was just glad that she hadn't gone that far with him because honestly, I'd thought she already had. As heartbroken as she was, and as horrible as it was that she was going through it, it was easier this way. If she'd slept with him, she would have been devastated for much longer.
You never got to have a second chance at your first time.
"And I go there to tell him, and I find him in his van… naked with some girl I don't even know! They were totally having sex, and he didn't even stop! They were all… ugh. Mom… I can't get it out of my head. It was horrible."
"Well, I hope he enjoyed it because that's the last time he uses that little pecker."
"Edward," I scolded, barely holding in a giggle. He was on the verge of absolutely losing his mind, and I knew I had to get him under control before he tried to leave the house and ended up in jail.
"Tanya, I know this is hard on you. I know."
I crooked my finger at Edward to get him to come back over to where we were. He needed to concentrate on Tanya, and not his anger. It was hard for him to come to terms with her growing up, but here it was—smacking him right in the face. It was a part of life. He needed to get a grip.
She looked up and sniffed. "Daddy?"
You could see his heart melt right before our eyes. The anger dissipated and the tears came. He kneeled on the bed and reached for her, and she fell into his arms.
"I love you, baby. God… you know what it does to me to see you like this? It kills me when you cry."
She cried harder and climbed into his lap, wrapping herself around him. "You were right the whole time, Daddy. He only wanted that from me. That was it."
He closed his eyes, and my tears fell. "It was more than that, Tanya, but boys only think with their… well, they only think with one organ, and it's not their brains. I'm sorry he hurt you, and I want him to pay. I have a feeling he will, without my help. You're one of a kind, Tanya Masen. He'll never find another beautiful girl as special as you are. And you're going to find a guy one day—when you're forty—that will treat you like a queen."
She sniffed, and laughed. "Dad…" she said.
"Yeah, well, a dad can only hope. Just thinking about boys touching you makes me a monster. You're my little girl and our angel. I just want the best for you."
"I love you, Dad. I just feel so bad inside. How can someone do something like this? I can't imagine being with anyone else, and he does that with some… skank I don't even know?"
"He's stupid, baby girl. But you have to know how special it is that you aren't like that. Those girls are a dime a dozen. No one loves those girls. You're the girl boys will fall in love with."
"Not Sam," she whined.
He looked up at me, looking for answers. He was doing a great job. There was nothing I could do or say to make it any more perfect.
He sat and rocked her for a while longer, and I left them alone to go downstairs to let our guests know she was all right. Sure enough, they were all antsy and upset.
"She's fine," I said.
Immediately, everyone looked relieved. Everyone but my father.
After what I watched between Edward and Tanya, all I wanted was a hug from my daddy. He'd held me more times than I could count when the man upstairs hurt me. Love hurt. It was a fact, and young love stung the worst.
"She's fine, Dad. She just had her heart broken. It'll heal. Her daddy is making it all better."
My mom rubbed my back while I hugged my dad. "He's an amazing father. I don't think he knows how special he is."
I turned and nodded. "He is. He's hurting, too. I think it's going to be harder to come to terms with his daughter being sexually active more than anything."
My dad pushed me away and turned around. "Jesus Christ, girl. You trying to dig my grave? What in the Sam hell…"
I shook my head and turned to my mom. "Apparently, it's hard for grandpas, too."
My mom nodded, and leaned in to whisper, "she didn't, did she?"
I gave her a quick shake of my head and whispered back. "No. Thank goodness, but she was… ready."
"Oh Lord," she sighed. "Well, good luck with that, sweetie. You'll really earn your mama wings that day."
I gave her a mock glare. "Are you wishing things on me, Mom?"
She patted my cheek and smiled. "Honey, I wished a daughter on you so you'd get wrinkles before you were thirty like me. God just really likes me because he sent you three."
She winked and squeezed my hand. "Let's start a pot of coffee and go sit in the family room."
When over an hour passed and neither Edward nor Tanya came down, I decided to go ahead and cut the cakes. Everyone understood their absence of then, but I was worried about them.
Lottie and Tony blew out their candles, we all enjoyed the cake, and then everyone left, leaving the once festive house empty and the uneasy sense of dread looming. I left the girls downstairs and went up to check on Edward and Tanya. I found them asleep—him sitting up against the headboard and her head on his chest. I was glad she had finally found some peace. The next few days would surely be difficult on her, but she'd be fine. She was strong and smart and had all of us on her side for support.
I stood for a moment and watched them, the heavy tears blurring my vision. I startled when the dog bumped my leg with his nose. He always knew when something was wrong.
"I know, Angus. I love them, too."
I gave Edward's shoulder a little shake to wake him up. He looked uncomfortable, and he definitely needed his rest, too.
"Honey… come to bed. She's asleep now."
His eyes fluttered open and he looked around, groggy and unsure. He took a deep breath when he looked down at Tanya, his eyes falling closed again.
"You think she'll be okay?" he whispered.
"Absolutely. Come on. You need to rest."
He followed me out of the room and into ours. Leading him to the bed, I helped him out of his shoes and socks and made him lay back. The mental exhaustion had taken a toll on him. He was pale, his eyes wearing dark bruises beneath them.
"Do you want a drink? I think you earned one tonight," I said, trying to lighten things up a bit. Plus, he looked like he needed a nice stiff drink. Lord knew I did.
He didn't reply, so I offered to get him one, anyway.
"Maybe a little Scotch. It'll help you relax and sleep. I'll be right back."
I left him while I went down to the kitchen to fix the drink. I worked quickly so I could get back to him. He worried me, holding things in. That never worked out in our favor historically, so I was definitely wary.
I almost dropped the glass when I saw him. He sat on the edge of the bed, elbows on his knees, and sobbed.
Hard, thundering sobs rocked his body, and I'd never been so heart broken in my life. I'd seen my husband cry less than a handful of times, but I'd seen him cry. I'd never seen him in that state before, though—not even when we lost Teddy. It was as if a dam broke inside of him and he was drowning.
"Oh, Edward," I cried out.
I moved toward him as quickly as I could, just barely getting the glass on the nightstand before he grabbed onto me, wrapping his arms around my waist and laying his head on my stomach. I let him cry, not saying a word. I just let him get it all out, softly stroking his back and trying to soothe him.
I let myself cry, too.
I knew he was in pain—I felt it as well. Seeing your baby break down does something to your soul. Watching her hurt and knowing there was nothing you can do broke down the insides. It wasn't something any parent wanted to go through. But, with Edward, I could tell it was something more. I couldn't help but wonder what else he was crying about. I may have been way off, but the sense that he was releasing everything was strong.
After some time, I pushed back a bit. His sobs were shallower, softer, and I just wanted to make it better somehow. I wanted to take it all away.
"It's all right, Edward. She'll be just fine. It'll hurt for a while, but she'll move on and forget."
He clenched his fingers against my hips and pulled me back against him. "She's been through enough bullshit because of me. I should've done something—I should've tried harder to protect her."
I bent down so we were eye-to-eye. What I had to say needed to be heard loud and clear.
"This is not your fault. You're a wonderful father. She knows you love her- she knows it because you show it every day. Families go through things. You two are past all of that. It made us all stronger, both as a couple and as a family. Don't go there, Edward. Don't blame yourself for something you had no control over. You're taking this much harder than you should."
He pulled my face toward him and kissed me, tenderly and grateful like it was the only thing in the world holding him together.
"Now, let's go to sleep. You're a mess." I wiped at his face as he grudgingly pulled away.
His poor face was a pitiful sight—puffy and tear-streaked, and his eyes were nearly swollen shut. Lying on our sides with our hands entangled between us, we just looked at each other, speaking with our eyes and reading our souls underneath. There was so much more I wanted to say, so many things I needed to tell him, but finding a way to say it was difficult.
"Watching the way you took care of her made me fall in love with you all over again," I said softly. "I'm so grateful that my daughters have you as their father.".
He gave me a warm smile. "I love them so much… so hard. I see so much of you in Tanya, especially. She wants to fix everything, and she loves too easily. My heart can't even take it. I'd die for you and those girls… and Riley. It fucking hurts, right here," he said, bringing our joined hands to his heart.
I brushed my free hand over his cheek. "It was bound to happen sometime, and it'll happen again. And again and again until she finds the right one—and he'll probably make her cry, too."
"I'm still going to destroy that kid," he grumbled.
Sighing, I shook my head. "No, you're not. You have four children that need you and a wife that cannot live without you. You have to let it go. He's a kid. Kids make mistakes. If my father would've killed you for the things you put me through while we were kids, we wouldn't be here today. Think about it—he has to learn from his mistakes the same way she does. Maybe he'll learn, maybe he won't."
He closed his eyes and growled. "There'd be no way for you to talk me out of it if his little dick had gotten anywhere near my baby girl." He opened his eyes slowly and scowled. "I never want to think about what she said up there again… ever."
I leaned in to kiss him—he was going to need some buttering up for what I had to say. "Now, don't you love my daddy just a little bit more for what you did with his baby girl? You're damn lucky to be alive."
He laughed and breathed through his nose. "I should buy him a new house… or a giant boat… or I don't know. The man's a saint. Still don't want to think about that… and her. Or the other girls… fucking A… we need to move to Alaska—remote and isolated Alaska."
"You don't need to think about it, Edward, but you have to get used to the idea of them growing up and understand that they are becoming women. All three of them are going to have sex someday—it's inevitable. They're all going to have their hearts broken, and they'll probably bring home a slew of guys you and I will hate, but we have to just be there for them. Love them. Support them. We have to let them figure it out like we did. We just got lucky. You're only job is to love them the way you do."
"I fucking love you. Do you know how in love with you I am?"
I threaded my legs with his and pulled him closer, resting my face in the warm, scratchy skin of his neck. I breathed in long and heavy. I loved the smell of him, the musky, manly smell of work and life on his flesh driving me nearly insane. "I know. But I love hearing it from you."
He kissed the top of my head. "I promised I'd show and tell you every day and never forget again. I never want you to doubt me again."
We kissed some, slow and sweet before he finally lost the fight and fell asleep. I stayed up that night, unable to sleep, and watched over him. Loved him.
It was what I did best.
That was my job.
Thank you so very much for reading :)
Sorry for the delay in posting... the past few months have just been rough. I just wasn't completely happy with this, and couldn't bring myself to post what I felt was crap. Add to the fact that i'm having serious issues letting this story go... and yeah, big bag of wah.
Love you all!
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