Two years later ...


"Come out for a swim with me," Edward coaxed.

"Sure, just let me finish up in here and I'll join you," Bella replied. She watched his nude form walk away, taking a moment to admire the most perfect ass that God had ever created. A living work of art, sculpted perfection. His skin was golden from playing outside in the tropical sunshine, contrasting beautifully with his blindingly white wings.

Bella watched him through the kitchen window as he played on the beach with Dave and the puppies. Dave's mate dozed in the shadow of the palm tree at the corner the little lawn they had planted so that Edward could mow it. She was the beta from the small pack of guard dogs at the mountain facility. Edward had kept his promise to them and given them all the hamburger he could find in the kitchen of the facility. Afterward, Jane had nervously asked Edward why the pit bull was following her. The beta had told Edward that she smelled her mate inside Jane's backpack. Edward had taken Dave out and set him on the ground and the female had given him a thorough sniffing. Her head was larger than his entire body. She had confirmed that yes, indeed, Dave was her mate, or rather, he would be once he grew up.

Now, Dave was the father of five extraordinarily ugly puppies, "pitt mutts" as Emmett called them, a bizarre combination of their small, wiry-haired father and their large, muscular, blunt-faced mother. But never had a litter of puppies been more loved.

The other two guard dogs roamed the island at will; Edward had insisted they could not leave them behind since there was no one left to feed them. They had never been pets and they felt uncomfortable living in a house, so Edward kept feeders full of dog food under a little shelter in the wooded part of the island. The dogs, well-fed and happy, were fiercely protective of their new pack.

Bella finished washing the dishes and went into their bedroom to put on her swim suit. Edward was comfortable and happy being naked, but Bella had never quite managed to adopt his casual attitude toward nudity. She slathered on sunscreen before she dressed. Edward turned a luscious golden-brown in the sun; she only got burned.

She left a note for Jane in the kitchen, in case she and Rose came home from Alice and Jasper's house and wondered where Bella and Edward were. Jane spent a lot of time over there these days because Rose and Emmett were passionately in love and both of them faced the agonizing dilemma of whether to stay at the side of their human or go to be with the one they loved. So Jane took her school work over there in the afternoon so that the angels could be together and still have their humans nearby. She had graduated high school as soon as she'd taken the exams and had spent the last two years taking college courses online. By the time she was old enough to go away to college, she'd already have her Master's degree.

The surf was high today, sending tall waves to crash against their beach. She saw Jenks far down the shore, identifiable by the loud Hawaiian shirt he wore, and by the long, blonde hair of the woman who strolled beside him holding his hand. In her arms, she carried a plump baby, a little boy who, God help him, looked just like his father.

Their island was small, but their houses were comfortably spaced out to give each one the feeling of privacy. All of the team lived here, except for Amun and Kebi. None of them had ever fully forgiven her for her betrayal, except for Amun, to whom it did not seem to matter. Kebi was his, regardless of what she had done or why. They came to visit occasionally, landing Amun's plane at the island's airstrip, and the changes in him were remarkable. Dave no longer called him a "black man", nor feared him. Amun was becoming ... warm and friendly. Bella wouldn't have believed it if she hadn't seen it, and even though she didn't trust Kebi, she had to admit she had been a very positive force for Amun. The only problem, as she saw it, was Kebi's mortality, but she was hoping for another miracle.

It was Amun who had purchased the island for his friends. It was remote, and well-protected because it was deep in the territory of one of Jenks's "buddies."

"I'm not gonna tell you what he does, but it rhymes with 'bug roared'," Jenks had told her. "He's super-rich, head of a vast empire, and very well-established. His guys patrol these waters constantly, and he's made it clear we're to be protected at all costs."

And so, they built little bungalows all over the island, all powered by solar panels and wind turbines. Jenks had hooked them all up with satellite phones and internet, though he grumbled about the cost.

Phoenix and Collin shared a house, though Collin was rarely home these days. He was dating a school teacher on the mainland and visited her so often that Jenks had bought him his own plane so that he didn't take theirs. They were taking it slow, Collin said, because he still had a lot of work he had to do on himself to become the person he wanted to be, but it seemed his girlfriend was willing to help him with it.

Phoenix was still a bit bitter over Forks's death, (he was buried here, at the base of the cliff on the far side of the island, his name carved deep into the rock) but he and Ben had struck up a close friendship, and it was helping him to heal. Bella was pretty sure the grief would always be a part of him, but she didn't worry about him so much any more.

Quil, Ben's house mate, had fallen deeply in love with a fireman he'd met on the mainland (fate, it seemed, had a delicious sense of irony) and was trying to convince him to move here, to their tropical paradise. Bella didn't think it would take much more urging. She had to admit, Quil had good taste, because the guy was almost as gorgeous as Edward.

She walked down the beach, carrying a couple of towels. Edward never remembered to bring one. She saw Esme sitting on the porch of her bungalow, embroidering what looked like a pillowcase. Carlisle was seated at her feet, watching her with adoring eyes. Esme had wanted her own house, just her and Carlisle. Bella tried to coax Esme along on trips to the mainland, because she hoped that Esme would meet someone that she could love, and have the family she'd always wanted, but Esme seemed to want solitude. Maybe that would change in the future. Bella hoped so. Esme, with her loyal and loving heart, deserved to find happiness.

As soon as he spotted her, Edward charged up the beach and scooped her up into his arms. Bella laughed and then squealed as he ran into the water with her. A wave crashed over her and she sputtered. She clung to his neck.

"You did that on purpose," she accused.

"Yes, I did," he said. His grin faded as he looked down into her face and his eyes grew soft and tender. He bent his head down to kiss her. Bella moaned softly. This was a hunger that would never be sated, a fire which would never be quenched. "My Bella," he whispered.

"Ahem!" Jenks loudly cleared his throat. They both looked up and saw him standing with Lauren at the edge of the surf. "Sorry to interrupt the make-out session, but can I talk to you guys for a minute?"

The puppies jumped and yipped around his ankles. Jenks usually carried a Slim-Jim in his pocket, which he would break into five pieces whenever he encountered the pups. They worshiped him. He sat down on the sand and dispensed the treat to the puppies who climbed all over him in eagerness.

Edward carried Bella out of the water and stood her on the sand. He flapped his wings to shake off the water. She fetched their towels and wrapped her body in hers. Edward use his to dry his hair. Jenks studiously ignored Edward's nudity. Everyone on the island had gotten more-or-less used to Edward running around naked. He even mowed his little lawn in the nude.

"Amun called," Jenks said, standing and brushing the sand from his pants. He took the baby from Lauren and gave him a little snuggle. "He's found another facility."

Bella's heart sank. "Where?"


"Oh." She bit her lip. That meant another long trip to a country where she didn't speak the language, away from the island paradise that she had grown to love and the stress of protecting her friends from danger. She would do her duty, but she wasn't happy about it.

"I just wanted to let you know because you and Alice are gonna have to share babysitting duty for little Omar here."

Lauren huffed. "Jenks, his name is not Omar. His name is Bradley. Brad-lee."

Jenks planted a big, smacking kiss on his wife's cheek. "I know. I just can't help think of the General every time I hear it."

Bella was still blinking in shock. "You want to leave me here?"

Jenks nodded. "Yeah. You and the nude dude stay here and watch over the kids and the puppies, and water Lauren's houseplants. We can handle it."

"But, Jenks, if it's my task -"

"Our task," Jenks corrected. "And I think God'll give us a little leeway as to the arrangements. You sit this one out."

She started to object but Jenks interrupted her. "Seriously, Bella. I wouldn't jeopardize the team if I thought we needed you. Both Alice and Amun say this one isn't going to be difficult."

All over the world, Theta-like facilities had shut down, according to the intelligence that Amun gathered in his travels. In some cases, the Gifted trapped inside had rebelled and destroyed the facilities themselves. In others, the government had decided it wasn't worth the risk. The few that remained, they were going to take down one-by-one, with a nice, long break here in Paradise between.

"All right," Bella grudgingly acceded. "Be careful, okay?"

Jenks winked at her. "I always am. Besides, we're taking Esme. Now that Alice's visions have come back in Amun's absence, she's been able to tell us stuff, including the fact that Esme is going to meet someone very interesting on this mission."

Bella gasped. "Oh, Jenks, that's wonderful!"

"So, you just hold down the fort here, take care of my boy, and we'll be back before ya know it. We'll stop by tomorrow morning to drop him off, okay?"

Bella nodded. "Okay."

Jenks gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek before he headed down the beach toward his own house.

"Come on, Bella, let's go play," Edward coaxed. "And for supper we'll have pancakes, and then we'll play Scrabble with our daughter, and then we'll go to bed and have sex!"

"That sounds like a plan for the perfect day," Bella replied. She dropped the towel and chased him into the waves.

"We'll have many of them," Edward promised. "For the rest of your life."

And he was right.