Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. Stephenie Meyer is the author and owner of the Twilight Saga. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.
A/N: Thank you to EsmeCullen47 for her editing skills and pre-reading.
Sorry for the long absence, but writer's block really stinks and my health isn't always the best. I get very tired and I sleep a lot more than I'd like, but I've slowly been working on this chapter for a couple of months now. I've also worked through the remainder of the Wrecked chapter outlines with my beta EsmeCullen47 and we've estimated that Wrecked will finish on chapter 50, which will be the epilogue. Thank you to everyone who has reviewed or PM'd me and I apologize for not responding, but I am, as always, appreciative of the reader support for my story.
This chapter is written in multiple POVs. Lemon alert.
Where we left off: At the end of April 2013, baby Mia Carlene was born after a 5 hour labor. Rose and her daughter are doing fine. Emmett is doting on his precious little girl, though his poor, crushed hand is a little worse for wear. Before the birth, Carlisle and Edward confessed to the family the secret they've been keeping about Aro's threats to all of their safety. Both of them are in serious trouble with their wives – not for the deal they made, but for keeping it a secret so long.
Chapter 44 – United We Stand
Esme's POV – End of May 2013
It had been a month since my granddaughter had been born on the 29th of April. Mia is simply precious and eats like a little piggy just like her dad. Luckily, Rose's milk production had reached dairy-like proportions within days of the birth and she was able to keep up with Mia's demanding and frequent dietary needs.
Just this morning at breakfast, Emmett had been rocking a mewling and impatient Mia in his arms, while Rose shoveled food into her mouth as fast as she could. Within minutes, the baby's whimpering had escalated to full blown wails of fury as her hunger overcame her and she refused to be consoled. Rose whined about her new life as a carton of milk as she took the baby into the living room to nurse.
I knew some women never produced enough milk to feed their babies no matter how much they wanted to, and I was beginning to worry that I might be one of them this time around. My breasts were fuller, but they weren't as large as I remembered them being this close to my due date when I'd been pregnant with the boys. I worried that I wouldn't be able to feed my own baby and it scared me, and because of the tension between me and Carlisle, I hadn't discussed my worries with him. I simply buried them deep inside and prayed that when the time came, I would miraculously produce enough food for my precious child.
I knew in my heart that the cold shoulder treatment I was giving my husband had to end. He'd made a mistake – a big one – but in all honesty, I can't say that I might not have done the same thing had I been in his shoes. Bella and I had talked about our situations while enjoying a cup of tea on the verandah this morning. She confessed to having partially cleared the air with Edward, unable to stand his moping one moment longer. That and she missed the closeness they once shared, however they still had things to settle between them and they were taking off for a couple of hours to talk in private.
Squirming a little in discomfort, I rubbed my swollen stomach where the baby was making her presence known. She wriggled into a more comfortable position in the confines of her temporary home, her head bumping up against my ribs. I pulled my blouse up to bare the tightly stretched skin to the warm air and watched the skin ripple and roll, smiling lovingly when the outline of a tiny hand and foot pushed against my stroking hand.
Her position was another thing that added to my worry. From experience, I knew she should be in the head down position by now, but she refused to turn. A breech birth was the very worst thing that could happen when a natural birth was a certainty rather than an option. I had every confidence in Carlisle if he needed to deliver our child by Caesarian, but I also knew it was the last thing he wanted to do without the strict sanitary conditions of a hospital, and lord knows, we didn't have that here as much as Carlisle tried.
Standing up, I smoothed the soft cotton top over my stomach and stretched before waddling my way down the steps and across the compound to the garden. I let myself in through the gate, pushing Jezebel away automatically. The plot of vegetables and fruiting vines were thriving in the warm, humid conditions. One of the things we didn't really have to worry about in our isolation were transmittable diseases – those affecting humans, plants or animals – life just thrived here on Isabella Island.
Shuffling around the plot, I bent over to pull a few stray weeds tossing them to the impatient goat who was matching me step for step on the other side of the fence, until I came to where the citrus seedlings were growing strong in gourd pots. All those months ago when we'd first arrived on Isabella Island, I'd managed to salvage the seeds from a rotting lemon and a moldy orange and I had great hopes for the seedlings I was nurturing – I just wished they were mature enough to produce fruit – right now!
For months now, I had been craving oranges and being unable to satisfy the craving was driving me insane. I'd tried everything to simulate the taste and color using crushed tropical fruits mixed with quantities of lime juice, but nothing really worked. My liquid concoctions just weren't the same as drinking real orange juice no matter how much I experimented. I never, ever imagined how frustrating it could be to want something so badly and have to accept that I simply can't have it!
Finally, totally frustrated and desperate to assuage my cravings, I sliced a lime into quarters and sucked those little green babies dry. I demolished half a dozen before my craving was satisfied and I'd emptied the bowl. Now the craving was back – it was never really gone – and I considered sending Jasper and Larry to the fruit grove to collect some more.
"What did that poor tree do to you, Mom?" asked Edward as he quietly let himself into the garden.
I turned toward the voice at my side. "What?" I asked distractedly.
"You were glaring at that poor tree. I'm surprised it didn't shrivel up from fright," Edward joked.
"Oh, it's nothing really. I'm just craving oranges and wishing I could snap my fingers and have this tree fully grown and laden with fruit."
"The limes aren't cutting it anymore?"
I sighed. "Not really. They taste similar, but nothing beats the taste of the real thing."
"Why are you apologizing, Edward? It's not your fault."
"It was my boat. I get to carry the blame," he said.
I smiled wanly. Silly Edward, always taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and always trying on his own to fix our problems. "That type of talk is what got us into our current predicament, Edward," I chided. "Put aside that thinking when you talk to Bella if you don't want to be sleeping on the sofa for the next three months," I counseled. "You've got to stop carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. It's not fair to any of us."
Edward grimaced. "I will. I'd better go get ready. We're leaving shortly."
"Yes, I need to meet your father, too." My youngest son escorted me back into the house, leaving me at the foot of the stairs. "Good luck, son. Don't screw up again."
He snorted and combed through his shaggy hair. "I don't know about that, Mom, but I promise I'll try."
Thirty minutes later the house was empty of children and I was resting on one of the chaises in the upstairs lounge sipping a glass of water. The ceiling fan was whirring softly above the seating area, stirring the humid air and creating a welcome breeze. Carlisle entered the open room carrying a tray of delicacies to tempt my appetite. He placed it on the coffee table and sat down opposite me, an apprehensive expression writ all over his face. I hadn't made it easy on him lately and I felt the shame of my own disgrace heating me from the inside out until my face was aflame and I felt compelled to look at my wringing hands because I couldn't look the love of my life in the eyes.
Enough was enough. I was behaving as though my husband of over thirty years had committed a crime against humanity when all he'd done was do his best to protect me and his children from harm – exactly what a man of his generation and upbringing had been taught to do. Carlisle had instilled those same values into our three boys and it had made them into better men, because not one of them ever balked at stepping up to the batter's plate when it really counted. I was proud of my husband and it was about time I reminded him of that fact.
I looked up. "Did the kids all get away safely?"
Carlisle answered as he poured out two glasses of sweetened, iced moringa tea. "Yes. Bella and Alice prepared them all picnic baskets full of goodies for lunch and they all have island phones –" He trailed off and grinned at my confused expression. "Conch shells," he clarified.
I giggled. "Oh, island phones – I like that."
"They do the trick in an emergency," Carlisle said as he handed me a frosty glass – the ice tinkled melodiously. "They're our very own 911 emergency system."
I took a sip of the deliciously, refreshing drink that contained a squeeze of lime juice to cut the sweetness and I smiled – my husband was pulling out all the stops. "I wonder if we joined the shells with strings whether we could talk on them like we used to as kids with tin cans," I joked.
Carlisle blinked and stared at me. "My God, Esme, you're a genius!" Carlisle yelled. "Acoustic telephones are a brilliant idea! The range will be limited to probably no more than five or six hundred feet, but if we placed them in strategic places surrounding the compound, we'd have an early warning system."
I frowned. "Really? You think that would work? My brothers and I only played with about fifty feet of string when we were kids."
Carlisle laughed joyously. "Yes, Maisy! I really think it will work. I can't wait for the boys to come back so we can experiment," he said, a boyish expression on his face. "But first, these next couple of hours are about you and me," he added almost shyly.
"Yes, they are," I agreed sitting up to swing my legs around to rest on the floor. I patted the cushioned chaise. "Come sit beside me, husband. I've hated the distance between us this past month and I know it's mostly my fault."
Carlisle joined me eagerly, wrapping his arm around my shoulders. "We're both at fault, Esme. I shouldn't have kept something so important from you and then expected you to be okay with it when I confessed."
I squeezed the knee of his leg pressing up against mine. "And I shouldn't have punished you for so long when I probably would have done the same thing," I confessed.
"I'm sorry," we said together, laughing softly.
Carlisle gently and lovingly brushed the hair from my face. He looked into my suddenly teary eyes – I'd missed his touch so much – and I leaned into his body gratefully, a sigh of relief leaving my parted lips. Carlisle cupped my face and kissed away the tears, his lips tracing both sides of my face until he reached my mouth. He kissed me, injecting the gesture with all of the love he held in his heart and I sagged against him, returning his love a hundredfold.
Without conscious thought, I climbed over my husband's lap, straddling his legs and pushing his spine against the cushions while I accosted his mouth, bound and determined to capture a month of missing intimacy in a single embrace. Carlisle returned my passion, slipping his hands beneath my shirt to stroke my burgeoning body and hold me tightly against him. My shirt and his had somehow disappeared and we reveled in the skin-to-skin contact as we attacked each other, only pulling apart when we both needed to breathe.
He cupped my swollen breasts and flicked his thumbs over the engorged and darkening nipples and I felt his ardor pressing against my welcoming mound insistently. Gasping with desire, I ground against him looking for friction to relieve the pressure building inside of me. If there was one thing about this pregnancy that was normal, it was my increased sex drive and I'd had to take care of things myself in recent weeks or I would have gone mad.
Carlisle's eyes were dark with passion as I'm sure mine were and his rapid breathing matched my own as we both tried to control our ardor. If he took me to bed right now, I knew I wouldn't offer a word of objection. In fact, I was about to suggest it when our child objected to being compressed between us and kicked her father hard in the stomach. Her persistent kicks and tiny fist jabs soon had him leaning away from me reluctantly and his large hands abandoned my aching breasts to stroke over my exposed stomach, soothing the child within.
"My daughter," he whispered, "I love you dearly, but you're really killing my buzz," he groused. She responded to his voice with another push of her foot against his hand resting on my stomach.
I laughed gently and leaned forward resting my forearms against his chest to keep the pressure off my stomach. "So you agree with me that our baby is a girl?" I whispered into his neck.
"Yes," he said, stroking my back with one hand and my stomach with the other. "We need to decide on names we like," he whispered.
"I know, but there's nothing that stands out to me," I told him. "I know I don't want to name her Enid," I said carefully, reluctant to hurt his feelings. "I know that Enid was your mother's name, but it's so old fashioned and our daughter will be a 21st century woman. I want her to have a name that is uniquely her own and which reflects our hopes and dreams for her," I explained.
Carlisle pursed his lips thoughtfully for a moment and then he nodded. "I agree. The boys all have family names, so I think it's time to break the mold with our little miracle."
We spent some time cuddling on the chaise discussing possible names, but none of the suggestions really spoke to us and we put the discussion aside when my stomach grumbled hungrily.
"Time to feed you both," Carlisle said as he sat up and pulled on his shirt.
He handed me my discarded bra and shirt and I slipped the top on reluctantly, foregoing the too tight bra. The shirt fabric rasped against my sensitive nipples making me hiss in discomfort. They craved the gentle, soothing attention of my husband's warm palms and nimble fingers, but now was not the time. "Perhaps later," I whispered.
"What did you say?" Carlisle asked as he removed the protective cloth from the tray of food he'd brought with him. It was really two trays – one on top of the other, which was full of ice to keep the food cold and fresh.
"Nothing, Carl. What have you brought me for lunch? I'm ravenous," I said, and I really was.
I leaned forward to peer at the delicacies strewn across the tray. My mouth watered and my eyes ate up the treats: poached oysters in a lime dressing sitting in half shells; cooked shrimp, lobster and scallops – some loose and some grilled on skewers with vegetables; shavings of fried, cured pork wrapped around grilled lengths of zucchini and red peppers and my favorite: stacks of soft goats cheese rounds, tomatoes and wild basil on arrowroot crackers. The platter was scattered here and there with wild figs and almonds, mango slices and lime quarters. Tiny pots of fresh yogurt and honey completed the feast.
I gasped tearily. "Did you do all this for me?"
Carlisle sat beside me and hugged me close, kissing the side of my head. "Yes, my love. I had a bit of help from Bella, but otherwise it was all me. Do you like it?" he asked nervously.
"Yes!" I wailed.
His eyes widened worriedly. "Then why are you crying?!"
"I'm just so happy," I sniffled, wiping my dripping nose on the handkerchief Carlisle produced from his pocket. "Has it been so long that you've forgotten about pregnancy hormones, Carlisle?"
He laughed and looked chagrined. "I admit it has been, my darling. Rosalie was more irritable than teary during her pregnancy and Bella seems to be her usual calm self for the most part – although that might change in the next few months as she progresses. Now dry your tears and let's eat…and then we can talk about the elephant filling the room."
"Okay," I whimpered. I cuddled against my husband and he hand fed me morsels from the tray until I was stuffed and feeling a little sleepy, but I forced myself awake so that we could clear the air and get our marriage back on track. "That was delicious," I complimented as I wiped my hands on a cloth napkin.
Carlisle's chest puffed up proudly. "It was pretty good, wasn't it?" He covered the tray with the discarded cloth and stood up to take it over to the small dining table so it was out of the way. When he returned, he poured each of us another glass of iced tea and we sipped it uneasily in the growing tension.
"Esme, I'm sorry I lied –" he said, just as I said, "Carlisle, I'm sorry I pushed you away –" "You go first," we caroled, eager to allow the other the first chance to speak.
I breathed deeply and took the bull by the horns. "Why did you keep it from me, Carl? We've never kept big secrets from each other," I said, while squirming guiltily because I was keeping my own secrets.
Carl raked his hands through his silver blond hair. "At first I kept it from you because I didn't want to worry you. You seemed so frail while the Volturi were here – I've never seen you like that before. It…it frightened me," he explained quietly.
I could see in his face that he was telling me the truth and I nodded in understanding. The stress of having those bastards here had almost been too much for me. I hadn't been feeling that well – tired and nauseated mostly – but having unwelcome visitors had just added to my malaise and I'd retreated to my room and this upstairs lounge where I'd tried to ignore the fact that one wrong comment or misinterpreted glance might have meant death for one, or even all of us.
"I knew you weren't well, Esme, and you should have told me," he scolded. I blushed guiltily. "It was your deteriorating health and the future health of our child and our grandchildren that convinced me to accept Aro's deal. I knew that having all of the infant paraphernalia and extra medical supplies and drugs would make life so much easier for you – for all of us."
I sighed. How could I remain angry with Carlisle when his motives were so pure. "I understand, Carlisle, I really do, but you had months to confess – both you and Edward. We could have been weeks ahead on our weapons cache if we'd all known, and at least we all would've been prepared for when they come back. That's been the worst part – the unexpectedness of it all. First, it was James and then the Volturi – when is it all going to end, Carl?!" I cried.
My husband drew me into his arms for a cuddle and he rubbed my back soothingly while pressing kisses to the top of my head.
"I can't lose you, Carl," I sniffled into his shirt.
"Shush, Maisy, you'll make yourself ill," he crooned. "C'mon now, I'm not going anywhere. We will stay together when the Volturi return – even if we must hide in the volcano for weeks or months until we're sure they're gone."
I lifted my head and sniffed, wiping my nose with the hankie I still held as I stared at my husband incredulously. "Get real, Carlisle!" I hissed. "We can't live in a bloody volcano for months – not with three babies. We need to kill those bastards when they come back; not run and hide like scaredy cats!" I thumped the chaise with my fists.
Carl reared back comically, his blue eyes wide with shock. "Esme!"
"What?!" I snapped. "It's time we stopped being so nice to every asshole who comes along. This is our island; this is our home and I'm fed up worrying if each day might bring another threat to our shores. You and Edward need to stop trying to protect us all – it's garbage and I'm not putting up with it anymore. I know I haven't handled threats well in the past, but things are different now," I said. I heaved to my feet leaving my poor husband stuttering on the chaise as I paced in front of him. "How many times have we proven that we work better as a team?! We need a plan and we'd better make it a bloody good one, because the only ones who are going to save us are us!"
"Esme, I don't…I don't…" He shook his head.
"What, Carlisle?! What don't you know? Spit it out."
He grinned and slowly stood up. "Esme Cullen, I don't know what to say. You are magnificent," he said wonderingly. "You've always been a pacifist like me, but you're showing a side I've never seen before. I-I think I like it," he said in amazement.
I blushed and lifted my chin a bit higher. "Damn straight. A lioness always protects her young, and this lioness," I pointed at my chest, "is taking the enemy on. We're going to beat them at their own game," I asserted. Tugging my shirt down over my heaving belly, I rested my clasped hands over the top of my stomach and looked my husband in the eyes. "Now, how do you suggest we start?"
Carlisle blinked slowly in confusion before he let loose a belly laugh. He stood and pulled me into his arms. "Oh, Esme, I love you," he chortled, his arms tightening like bands around me. His chest rumbled against my ear.
Why was he laughing? I was being serious! I was about to pull back and berate him when he released me and pulled me over to the chaise. He wiped tears of mirth from his cheeks as we sat down. What the hell is so funny?! I could feel anger percolating in my belly and my teeth ground together loudly.
"Stop laughing!" I yelled, as I pushed Carlisle away. "Oomph," I groaned as the percolation in my belly became a strong pain. I bent over at the waist, cradling my tight stomach. I felt like I was going to be sick as my mouth filled with saliva and I heard myself groan as the pain stretched across my abdomen.
"Esme!" cried Carl. "Esme, what is it? Are you in pain?"
Fuck! Of course I was in pain. What type of fucking doctor was he? I turned my head to the side to glare up at him, breathing in and out slowly until the pain and nausea subsided. Carlisle eased me into a side reclining position on the chaise as I wiped the perspiration from my face with the hem of my shirt.
"I think they're Braxton Hicks contractions," I told him breathlessly. "I've had a few, but nothing this strong," I confessed reluctantly.
His mouth pursed in irritation. "You should have told me, Esme. What else haven't you told me?" he asked sternly. He stood over me with his arms crossed over his chest. I scowled, knowing the time had come to admit my concerns and his eyes narrowed suspiciously before my own skidded away guiltily. He always did know when I was hiding something. "Out with it, Esme!" he insisted.
I sighed. "Okay, but help me into a sitting position, would you; and hand me my drink?"
His lips thinned, but he did as I asked. He sat on the coffee table facing me, as he placed the glass of tea into my outstretched hand. I sipped it slowly as a delaying tactic, which further irritated Carlisle and he bounced one leg impatiently while he waited. Finally he huffed and I knew he'd reached his limit.
I handed Carlisle the empty glass. "Um, okay, apart from the Braxton Hicks, I've felt very tired and I'm…um…I'm worried because she hasn't turned yet and she should have," I said, bursting into tears, "and my boobs are too small," I wailed, holding them aloft in my hands.
Carlisle moved to the chaise and held me close while I cried away my worry. One large hand rubbed my shoulder and his other slipped under my damp shirt to feel my stomach. He pushed my pants down – held closed with a piece of rope through the belt loops – so he could examine my entire girth.
"Okay, that's enough, Esme," Carlisle said firmly as he pulled his hand away. "I know you're worried, but getting so upset is only going to stress you and the baby. Try to calm down and we'll deal with this together, hmm," he soothed.
I gasped and sniffed as I tried to get my crying under control. "I ne-need the hankie," I whined.
Carlisle searched for it and found it on the floor under the chaise. Shaking it out, he handed it to me and I wiped my eyes before pressing it against my wobbling mouth. Climbing into Carlisle's lap, I hid my face against his neck while he rocked me and crooned nonsense near my ear until I calmed down.
"Better?" he asked after about fifteen minutes.
"Yes," I whimpered, sniffing loudly into his shirt.
"Good. Let's go downstairs, Esme, so I can examine you properly."
I sniffled. "O-okay."
Carlisle helped me to climb off his lap and then he stood and reached down to take my hands and pull me to my feet. Holding me around the shoulders, we walked slowly past the bedrooms and down the stairs to his office where he helped me to sit up on the exam table. Handing me a glass of water from the covered carafe on his desk, he told me to sip it slowly and he pulled his rolling stool over to sit in front of me.
"This is the first and last time that you hide health concerns from me, Esme," Carlisle said quietly. "We're both guilty of trying to protect the other and it ends now." He rubbed his face tiredly with both hands. "I blame myself," he mumbled behind his palms, "I should never have listened to Edward –"
I almost didn't hear his last statement, it was spoken so quietly. "What?" I breathed, almost afraid to ask. My puffy eyelids narrowed as I stared at my husband's bent head. "What does Edward have to do with anything?" I asked firmly. All signs of my recent crying jag disappeared from my voice as irritation replaced worry.
I suspected the truth, knowing my masochistic son as I did – he'd had a tendency since childhood to blame himself for every unpleasant or trying experience to befall him or the rest of us. He'd overcome it in his late teens with the help of years of expensive therapy, but our sojourn on Isabella Island had brought it to the forefront of his personality once again.
"Carlisle, what about Edward?" He kept his face hidden like an ostrich. "It was his idea to keep everything a secret, wasn't it? What did he do? Did he harass you into keeping quiet for our own good?" Carlisle groaned. "He did, didn't he?!" I said shrilly. "You might as well admit it. He's been fussing around like an old sheepdog for months – driving everyone crazy. I couldn't understand why he seemed so bloody tortured when he thought no one was looking. Now I get it."
Carlisle looked up at me, a resigned expression across his face. "Are you going to get upset again?" he asked worriedly.
My lips pursed. "No. What's the point in that now…but you'd better tell him to knock that crap off, Carlisle. Edward needs to start being a team player. He is not central command around here and I will box his ears if he interferes in our relationship again!" I promised vehemently.
Carlisle gulped and nodded. "I'll talk to him," he agreed quickly, "but right now, I want to examine you."
I nodded and began to unbutton my shirt while Carlisle turned away to wash his hands and pull on a pair of gloves. I knew this was coming when he brought me down here and to be honest, I was relieved. Laying back on the table, I pushed my pants and underwear down and they fell off the end of the bed.
His examination was thorough and twenty minutes later, he helped me to sit up. He wrapped me in a hospital gown, tying it loosely in front like a bathrobe. He was quiet and pensive as he cleaned up and then he helped me off the bed.
"Let's go upstairs and talk," he said, taking my hand firmly in his. I gulped nervously and he squeezed it reassuringly as I padded slowly out of the office behind him. I was scared and I felt my mouth wobble as the tears threatened once again. What did he find? Once we were settled on our bed, propped up against the pillows, he began speaking in a calm tone.
"Your blood pressure is a little high, Esme. I'm going to take it four times per day until the baby is born. You are to rest as much as possible. In fact, I'd prefer it if you'd stay in bed –" I opened my mouth to object, but closed it with a snap when he shot me a stern glance. "But I know you won't, so, I will not fuss about it as long as your blood pressure doesn't get any higher. That means you must not exert yourself and you must keep yourself as cool as possible."
"Yes, Carlisle," I said meekly.
"I mean it, Esme," he added for good measure.
"Good. Next, I believe the cramps you're having are Braxton Hicks contractions, but I don't like how strong the pain seemed to be, or the length of the cramp you had. I want to know when you have them from now on. I want you to rate the pain between one and ten – where ten is excruciating – and I want you to time the length of the cramp and how far apart they are."
I nodded and swallowed. "Yes, Carlisle."
He squeezed my hand comfortingly with his. "Now, my physical exam confirmed that the baby has not yet turned. She's in a complete breech position meaning that her bottom is down and her legs are tucked up against her belly and chest –" I stiffened worriedly. "Don't panic, Esme," Carlisle chided gently. "You're nearing thirty-six weeks pregnant and she may yet turn on her own in the next few weeks…but, your cervix is starting to ripen and I think you might go early," he told me softly. I raised worried eyes to his. "If she's still in the breech position at your thirty-eighth week, I'd like to try to turn her," Carlisle added quietly.
I swallowed. "Is…is that dangerous?" I asked.
He cuddled me close. "Not generally, sweetheart, but it will be uncomfortable and I don't have all of the drugs I'll need to relax your muscles. If we have to try it, we're only going to get one shot at it."
"Have…have you done it before – turned a baby?" I asked worriedly.
Carlisle nodded. "Yes, a few times, though not for many years. Don't worry, Esme, I won't do it unless I think it's absolutely necessary."
I sighed. "I'm not worried about your skill or ability to perform the procedure, Carl," I assured him. "I'm just worried about everything in general – my pregnancy and the threats to our safety. I don't want anything to happen to our little girl."
"Neither do I and more importantly, I don't want anything to happen to my beautiful wife, which is why I want you to remain relaxed, calm, rested and hydrated at all times."
"I will, Carl, I promise."
"Good." We laid quietly together for awhile and I was dozing off against Carlisle's chest when he whispered, "Esme, I want Bella to be present for all of your exams from now on – just as a precaution – and I don't want you left alone anymore. If the worst happens and the Volturi return before the baby is born, I want you and Bella to make your way to the grotto and wait there until someone comes for you. I'm going to stock the grotto with medical supplies as a safety measure and I'm going to give the same instruction to Bella and Edward."
I shook my head. "No, I want to stay with you –"
"Please do this for me, Esme," Carlisle beseeched. "I need to know you'll have someone close by who knows what to do if I can't be there." He leaned back and used one finger to gently lift my chin so he could see into my eyes. "Please, Esme."
My eyes watered with new tears and I nodded reluctantly as I sniffled quietly into Carlisle's neck. Damned hormones. I cried myself to sleep, safe in my husband's arms.
I held the heavy picnic basket in one hand and Bella's small warm hand in my other as we walked eastward toward the Polynesian ruins and the small beach where we'd decided to spend the afternoon, allowing Emmett and Rose the use of the grotto since they had baby Mia with them.
We strolled in silence, my pace measured as I adapted my stride to Bella's shorter and slower one. I was nervous about the conversation to come. Bella was pissed with me again – really pissed and this time it was because I refused to teach her fighting skills while she was pregnant. Alice had become quite the little fighting machine after her months of training and she practiced with Jasper all the time now that he'd stopped being a pussy about it. He'd quit treating her like a delicate piece of china when she'd brought him down with a roundhouse kick that he never saw coming.
I sighed and Bella looked up at me inquiringly. I shook my head that it was nothing and she went back to thinking about whatever it was she was thinking – I swallowed and cringed inwardly – she was probably planning my flogging for what she perceived as my latest infraction. She'd accused me again of treating her like some 1950s wallflower in need of constant protection.
God, what a dickhead I was. Did I never learn how to deal with my wife – my pregnant, hormonal wife? Why couldn't I evolve more like Jasper had in recent times. Yeah, I know why. My wife was pregnant and his wasn't – that's why! Why is it that I was the bad guy for not wanting my pregnant wife – I'll say it again – my pregnant wife wading into hand-to-hand combat even in a controlled training exercise. I huffed quietly in self-righteous victory knowing that in this situation I was not wrong, although, I conceded, it wouldn't hurt for her to know some defensive tactics. I decided to broach the subject with her today after lunch.
I'd cleared the air with Bella about my huge omission of the truth. I refused to call it a lie because I hadn't actually lied; I'd just neglected to say anything. However, Bella had quite rightly torn strips off me when she called me a hypocrite, saying that she didn't realize when she married me that I was going to be one of those husbands that expected his wife to do as he said …
"This is not the 1950s, Edward," she'd spat, as she moodily folded clean laundry on our bed.
I'd sat on the edge of the mattress determined to talk sense into her after suffering through nearly a month of chilly, monosyllabic speech; cold glances – when she could be bothered to look at me – and the yawning divide in our bed that I'd failed to breach except when we actually slept. We hadn't made love since she found out about Aro's blackmail and my – admittedly – huge error in judgment in hiding it from her, but not even Bella's anger with me could stop her traitorous, sleeping body from gravitating toward the comfort mine gave her.
Most mornings I awoke with her small body curled into my side, her rounded belly pressed against my hip and one hand resting against my stomach. I'd cherished those moments holding her close against me before she slowly woke and pulled away without acknowledging her position in my arms. The first few times it happened, I took great pleasure in the sweet flush of discomfiture on her face and in my arrogance, I made doubly sure she knew I was enjoying her failure to keep me at bay while she slept. I'd laid back in our bed, propped up against the headboard with my arms behind my head smirking at her as she gathered her clothes and disappeared to wash and dress for the day, mumbling acidly 'what a prick' just loud enough for me to hear as she slammed the bathroom door.
"Edward, are you even listening to me?!" she'd shouted as she viciously shook the creases from a pair of jeans, one of the legs slapping me in the face as the stiff fabric cracked through the air.
Fuck! I'd howled silently as my eyes watered. Who knew denim could hurt so fucking much. I wiped my streaming eyes with the hem of my t-shirt while Bella ranted, completely unaware she'd almost taken my eye out.
"I am not going to sit idly by while my husband makes all the decisions and does what he thinks is best without any discussion or input from me. You've got some nerve, Edward. You reprimanded me for thinking and acting independently when you've done exactly the same thing," she'd said, reminding me of her escapade with James after Rose's kidnapping. I shuddered in remembered terror when I thought I may have lost her before we'd even begun.
"It's not the same thing!" I'd argued. "The threat was already here when you acted whereas I've had time to think of a way out –"
"Oh, it so is the same thing, Edward," Bella hissed, interrupting my righteous lecture. She threw a rolled up pair of socks at my head. It bounced off my forehead and I'd gaped at her stupidly in shock. "Stop turning this around on me, you shit! You hid something huge from me – from all of us – and after all of your endless speeches about working together and not keeping secrets for our collective safety," she parodied, taking the piss out of me.
My jaw clenched and I heard my teeth grinding as I flushed angrily. No woman had ever spoken to me in such away before. They'd all fallen over themselves to please me so I'd keep coming back – at least until I shipped out to sea, and then they could brag that they'd dated Edward Cullen. She continued her castigation of my character until I finally broke. God dammit, I'd had enough!
"Isabella!" I roared, standing up to tower over her. To her credit she didn't back down one inch, standing toe-to-toe with me with her hands on her hips rebelliously.
"What?!"she snapped, her eyes glittering dangerously.
"That's enough," I said firmly in my best Officer Cullen voice. "I'm sorry you think I lied to you, but I did what I thought was best at the time –"
"Bullshit!" she snarled. "You're a damned hypocrite, Edward Cullen, changing the rules to suit yourself whenever the notion takes you, and right now, I don't care to talk to you if the only thing coming out of your mouth is one worthless excuse after another!"
With that final invective, she'd abandoned her laundry folding and flounced from our bedroom, slamming the door behind her. I'd stood there wondering what the hell had just happened. Picking up the empty plastic laundry basket, I hurled it at the wall and turned my back, completely missing its perfect bounce off the bamboo wall until it slammed into the back of my head and I flew across the bed.
"Fuck!"I screamed as I rolled off the other side and landed on the floor, flat on my back.
I laid there, clenching and unclenching my fists and grinding my teeth. Not even the pounding of two sets of feet as Emmett and Larry burst into my room was able to penetrate my rage. They stood over me as I stared up at them through a red mist wondering if I could take them both on and release some of this fury that had taken up residence inside me, seemingly out of nowhere.
"I told you not to piss her off," Emmett lectured, leaning down to help me up. I scowled, but took his outstretched hand and sprung to my feet.
"She's completely unreasonable," I complained as I rubbed the back of my head. My hand came away with a smear of blood from where the sharp, plastic rim had scratched my scalp.
"Hey, dude, you're injured," Emmett said, stating the obvious, and I rolled my eyes at his brilliant deductive powers. "You must have really pissed her off. What'd she hit you with?" he chortled.
I flushed. "A pair of rolled up socks, but I did this all on my own. I threw the laundry basket at the wall and it fought back," I told him.
"At least the socks were soft," Emmett remarked, not the slightest bit sympathetic. "Rose threw a bottle of shampoo at me once and that shit hurt like a son of a bitch," he said, rubbing the back of his head in recollection.
"Do ya want me to get Dr Pops?" Larry asked. "It might need stitches," he said gleefully, "and I can help." He rubbed his hands together eagerly and I shivered uncomfortably.
Larry had recently developed a macabre delight in all things gruesome and had taken to dissecting dead bugs and sea creatures with one of Dad's scalpels. Dad kept locking them up, but somehow, Larry found a way into the locked cabinet. He always took the same scalpel and he never touched anything else in the office. Just last week, Mom had found him in her pristine laundry about to begin an autopsy on a dead rat he'd found using one of her stainless steel serving trays as an operating table and a white cloth napkin as a surgical sheet. She'd screamed like a banshee and sent him to his room for the rest of the day and I still don't know what made her scream the loudest – the fact that there were rats on the island or that Larry was using her best serving ware and linen in his experiments.
I glared at him darkly. "It does not need stitches, and you stop with the Jekyll and Hyde shit – it's creeping us all out," I hissed.
Emmett chuckled and fist bumped Larry. "C'mon, bro, lighten up, will ya. Larry's just doing what all kids do. Don't you remember that dead frog you found in the pool when you were nine? You decided it would make the perfect science project and you set up your autopsy room on Dad's desk dressed in one of his lab coats and a surgical mask. He caught you just as you were poised over the poor dead thing about to make the first incision with a paring knife. You couldn't even hold the knife properly 'cause the gloves were too big and were hanging off your fingers." He shook his head and chuckled. "Man, did you ever get into trouble. Mom grounded you for a week for playing with a knife, and Dad took you to see a real autopsy at the vet hospital. You came home looking as green as the frog you tried to dissect."
I shuddered in remembered revulsion. "Yeah, that experience turned me off becoming a doctor for good. But," I said, pointing a superior finger at them both, "it also taught me that it takes skill to dissect a creature – you can't just go hacking at it, even if it is dead!"
"We're here," said Bella softly, interrupting my memories. The pathway had changed from firm and compact to soft and sandy without me even realizing it until we were walking down the beach toward the water. "What were you thinking about?" she asked me as I released her hand and lowered the basket to the sand to spread out the picnic blanket.
I flushed. "Um, our argument the other day," I admitted quietly, "and Larry's recent fascination with surgery."
She shuddered. "Ew, yes. You'd think he was twelve the way he's been carrying on. Every time he goes exploring, he comes back with something dead and decomposing. It's starting to turn my stomach, especially the smell."
"Yeah, I know. Mom makes him scrub his hands and under his nails with soap and hot water every time he comes within six feet of her. I saw him skedaddle out of the kitchen side door yesterday just as Mom came in and saw him raiding the fruit bowl. Dad thinks he's doing all the things that he was never allowed to do when he was a kid – he's playing catch up."
"I think he's bored," Bella offered instead. "Rose hasn't had any time to continue his lessons since Mia was born and I haven't had much time to spend with him either, though his grasp of the Hawaiian language is pretty good. He's surprised the hell out of me, to be honest," she said, giggling.
"You're probably right," I agreed, ecstatic to see her smiling and happy. "At least in part, anyway. I think it's more likely a combination of both. Spending some one-on-one time with Jasper today will be good for him. They'll spend the afternoon fishing and they took the coit set he got for Christmas, so they can have a game on the beach –"
They looked at each other and grinned. "While Alice sunbathes in solitude," they sang in unison, parroting Alice's much repeated phrase over the last twenty-four hours.
"Yeah, she's exhausted from all of the cooking on top of her other chores," Bella said. "I feel a tiny bit sorry for her because I know how much she hates it, but she's been a real trooper about it."
"Her skill has certainly improved," I agreed with relief. "Jasper reckons that if she can master cookery on our stone, wood burning cook range, then she shouldn't have any problems using a state-of-the-art gas range when we get home to Honolulu."
Bella smirked. "I wouldn't be so sure about that. Alice said she foresees her forgetting all unnecessary skills as soon as they're no longer needed. Once we get home, her idea of making dinner is ordering off the menu at La Mer while she sips five hundred dollar champagne and gets waited on hand and foot by cute men speaking Parisian French."
I snorted, quite sure that Alice's vision of the future would prevail over Jasper's prediction any day. She was sometimes a bit fey in that way. Bella slipped into speaking about life after Isabella Island as a certainty rather than a vague possibility while we talked. We all had been lately ever since Alice told us about a prophetic dream she'd had.
Alice said she dreamed that the Volturi would be destroyed and the event would be the catalyst for major change in our lives, but she said the Volturi wasn't the source of our rescue. Her dream had been shrouded in shadows and fast moving images that she could barely comprehend and they faded just as quickly when she woke. All she was sure of was that something big was coming and it would be soon and not all of it would be good.
"Are you hungry?" I asked Bella as she lowered herself to kneel on the blanket covered sand.
"Hmm, yes, starving. What about you?"
I shrugged. "I could eat."
"Good, because we have a feast packed into this basket – lots of leftovers and some new dishes I made when I helped Carlisle with his tasting menu for Esme."
I flinched at the mention of my parents, especially my mother. She'd been loving and kind to me as she always was, but I knew she was just as pissed with Dad – and probably with me to a lesser extent – as Bella was with me. I should have apologized to Mom this morning in the garden, but the moment was lost when we both had to get ready for our respective plans. I didn't want to rush my apology to my mother or my wife – they both deserved better from me – Bella had made me see that when I'd sought her out following our argument …
I'd crept onto the front verandah where Bella was slowly rocking in a bamboo rocking chair after Emmett and Larry finished bawling me out for fucking up – again! I stood looking shamefaced at her face in profile as she wiped angry tears from her cheeks.
"You can be a real asshole sometimes, Edward," she sniffled quietly.
"I know," I replied apologetically. I walked over to kneel at her feet in supplication. "I'm sorry."
"For what?" she asked, glancing at me with disdain. "For being an asshole, or for lying to me for months."
I gritted my teeth. Bella certainly wasn't making this easy for me. "For being an asshole … and I'm not sorry for protecting you from the ugliness in my life. I will always try to shield the people I love from harm and that includes any information that might terrify the hell out of you," I said quietly.
Taking one of her tightly clenched hands in mine, I stroked the soft skin with my calloused thumb. "Please try to understand, Manulani," I whispered. She blinked and stared down at our hands, her face softening slightly when I spoke her Polynesian name. "You and our baby mean everything to me – everything! Do you understand? You … you're my entire world. I don't care about myself. I only care about you. If anything ever happened to you, I wouldn't want to exist anymore. When James shot you, my heart stopped when I thought the evil bastard had stolen you from me and I'd never have the chance with you that we have now."
I squeezed her hand and she sniffled, wiping her teary eyes with her free hand. I levered into a crouching position and sat on the edge of the round coffee table, looking up at her flushed face. She wouldn't look at me and I sighed.
"To keep you safe I will do anything necessary to protect you and keep you from harm. When," I gulped compulsively, "when Aro threatened to take you and our child away if I didn't cooperate, my heart turned to stone. It was like James all over again and I couldn't go through that for a second time. I decided then to sacrifice myself to save you and our child."
"You could have told me some of it, Edward; tried to explain what happened. Isn't that what the government always does – tell the population just enough so they know what's going on, but not enough to make them panic," she said, her voice croaky from crying. "Don't you know that I feel the same way about you – that I would sacrifice myself for you and our child? You're not alone in feeling this way. Your parents feel the same way; so do your brothers and their wives.
"There is so much love in this family, Edward that it spills over into the air and nurtures those around us – look at what being an adopted Cullen has done for Larry; he's thriving. Look at what it did for me. You all embraced me and made me fall in love with you all – you most especially. You protected me from James not once, but time and time again – on the boat, when they first came here and then when he kidnapped Rosalie and shot me.
"The love this family has for each other," she laid her open hand over the place on my chest where my heart was thumping frantically, "that's why Aro targeted you and Carlisle – he saw what would cause the most agony for everyone. Killing us would be too easy, but taking some of us away – ripping our love asunder – that is what would be the living death from which none of us would ever recover."
My own tears coursed down my cheeks as I listened to Bella's impassioned speech. I leaned forward to hug her close, pulling her up so I could sit in the rocking chair with her cuddled on my lap. We rocked softly in the warm air, the silence broken only by the sound of our sniffles and the creak of the rockers against the floor. Burying my face in the curve of her sweet smelling neck, I mumbled words of love and apology.
"I'm sorry, Bella, I didn't know ... I –"
She leaned back to look into my eyes. "How could you not, Edward? There isn't one person in this family who wouldn't lay down in front of a bus if it meant saving another, but we've also proved that united we are strongest. Please, Edward, you have to understand how wrong it was of you to keep something this big from me – from all of us."
She leaned down to kiss my mouth gently. "You have to stop carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, baby. It's not your job, not here. We listen to you, because of your navy training and skills, but you don't get to make decisions for all of us – you don't get to make important decisions for me," she said resolutely.
I lifted my head back to look up at her. She was remarkable – so strong and capable and fearless. She'd take on Aro Volturi herself if it was the only choice to be had and I said as much, reminding her that I had only done what she had before.
"Bella, you would do the same thing – you have done it. How can you hate me for doing what I did?" I begged her to understand.
She sighed. "Oh, Edward, I don't hate you, you silly man. I love you, but my situation and yours are completely different and you know it. You and Jasper were gone exploring the fishing village; Emmett was unconscious and Rosalie had been kidnapped. I had very little time to decide on the best course of action to save her. And by the way, I've already apologized for my singular actions on that matter and I don't think it's fair of you to keep bringing it up to excuse your own behavior," she admonished firmly.
I flushed, knowing she was right and I was grasping at straws trying to defend my actions. But I was right, as well. I know I was! Yes, I'd harangued my father into going along with me when he'd wanted to confess all to the family and come up with a plan together, but I wanted to work out a solution on my own. Dammit, I wanted to atone for everything that had come before.
"But-but it's all my fault, Bella – everything!" I yelled as I reared to my feet with her still in my arms. She yelped at the sudden movement and I settled her gently in the rocking chair, and then commenced pacing the length of the verandah.
"What is your fault, Edward?" she yelled back in exasperation.
I slid my hands through my hair to fist its shaggy length tightly. "Everything!" I screamed. "Being boarded by the Volturi pirates and getting us ship wrecked. What type of sailor am I if I can't even sail us to a populated island? I failed to protect you," I reminded her shrilly on a half sob. "You nearly drowned and then you nearly died when your lungs began to fail. I almost got you killed falling into a volcanic cavern; I couldn't stop James from shooting you," I said, counting the offenses off on my fingers.
"That pervert Alec wanted you, and I don't know if I could have stopped him if Aro hadn't sent him away." I bent over at the waist as the thought of Alec's depraved interest in my beautiful wife made me sick to my stomach. Gasping for breath, I willed the nausea away and stood tall once again. "And then Aro decided that he wanted me, but that he'd take you instead if I didn't agree to go quietly when he returned," I said quietly.
Bella stood and walked over to me. She brought her hands up to stroke my face, collecting my tears against her finger tips. I didn't realize I was crying. "Edward, none of that was your fault. None. Of. It!" She repeated forcefully and slowly. "Do you hear me? None of it," she countered, her lips against my mouth. "And far from causing any of it, you saved me, each and every time. If it wasn't for you, I would have died before we even found this island. You're my hero, Edward. Don't you know that? I thank God every time you come to my rescue." She kissed me. "I thank God that you love me as much as I love you." Another kiss, this one slightly longer and deeper. "I thank God for the child we've created from our love. I thank God that you are smart and determined and wily, and most of the time," she smiled, "I thank God for your wisdom."
I looked away, refusing to accept her praise when I knew the truth.
She sighed. "You really are masochistic, aren't you, my love? Your mother told me you were, but I didn't believe her."
I looked back at her reluctantly and grimaced apologetically. "Um, yeah. I was worse as a teenager. I cost my parents twenty-five grand in therapy. Mom despaired of me ever getting over it, but I eventually did – mostly – until this island," I admitted. We were silent for long minutes, while I mulled over everything that she said. I called on some of the techniques I'd learned more than a decade earlier to push aside my masochistic tendencies, finally coming to a compromise I could live with.
"I'm," I coughed, "I'm sorry, Bella. You're right, I should have told you what was going on – a sanitized version of it – but the truth none the less. Please say you forgive me and that you'll be patient with me. I can't promise I won't ever do it again, because any time you're threatened, my protective instincts rear their head." She raised her eyebrows at my indirect apology and I hurried to clarify. "But I will try to do better if you'll help me. I need you to remind me sometimes that secrets are destructive. I need you to call me out on my shit like you have recently." I pouted. "But I don't like being on the outs with you in bed. I've missed you," I told her sulkily, rubbing my groin against the V of her legs below her rounded belly.
"Oh, Edward, you really are a boy, aren't you?" she'd said, giggling into her hand. She stopped laughing at my expense long enough to say dryly, "Your apology could use some refinement, but I get what you're saying and I accept that you are sorry in your own way. Just know, Edward Cullen, that I will call you out on your shit and if you ever keep something like this from me again, I will call Larry and his scalpel into service and he will dissect your ass until you can't sit down for a month!"
I swallowed and blanched at the thought of my ass being crisscrossed with jagged scalpel cuts, and the subsequent lines of tiny, itchy stitches holding them closed.
"C'mon you big baby, let's go take a nap," Bella said with a suggestive wiggle of her brows. I followed along eagerly, my hand held in hers.
"Here you go, Edward; feast on that," I said, holding out a loaded plate. It was almost groaning under the weight of the food: cold ham, slices of cooked goat meat, shrimp, lobster, potato salad, jungle salad and chicken. He reached out to accept it, but did a double-take pulling his hand away in disbelief.
"No way," he breathed softly. "I must be delirious."
I giggled as he stared at my offering and then at me. Taking pity on him, I smiled and nodded at his pleading face. "It's real," I promised, "take it." I laughed when he almost fell onto the plate in his eagerness to claim the prize.
"Roast chicken!" he gasped, tearing into the succulent flesh of the crisp drumstick.
I held his plate, watching his obvious enjoyment of the treat. The last time we'd eaten poultry was at Thanksgiving when we'd eaten the wild turkeys Emmett and Rose had caught.
"When, how?" he asked between licking his fingers clean. He'd striped the bone of every scrap of the delicious meat.
"Yesterday," I answered. "Carlisle killed and dressed two of the males for me. The chicks are plenty big enough for eating and they're not much use for laying eggs being, well, male," I said flippantly. I giggled at the expression on Edward's face as he moved to protect his junk.
He snorted and took the plate I offered so I could eat my own lunch. There was another piece of chicken on his plate – this one the thigh bone and he put his sharp teeth to efficient use, groaning with each mouthful.
"Do we all have chicken for lunch?" he asked, as I nibbled on my own roasted thigh. Shit, I was a good cook! This was fucking delicious.
"Yep, except Esme and Carlisle. He's saving their portions for dinner tonight. He planned something else for their lunch today."
His face fell. "So there's no more when we go home?"
"Nope, not until Carlisle or Jasper kill another two chickens, which won't be for a couple of weeks. We have to make them last despite what we know is coming," I reasoned.
He pouted and eyed the half eaten thigh on my plate and the thick slice of breast meat I'd taken for myself. I smirked to myself as I made him sweat it out. I knew that I wouldn't eat all of my own portion and I had every intention of giving him half of the chicken on my plate. Using the silverware I'd brought, I carved off a piece of the breast meat and loaded up my fork with the meat and potato salad. Edward's eyes were fixated on my fork as it traveled from my plate to my mouth. He was almost drooling while he watched me eat and his gaze only broke when I reached up and snapped my fingers in front of his face.
"Sorry," he mumbled, flushing brightly as he stared distastefully at the cold goat slices on his plate.
"Don't you like goat anymore?" I asked him slyly.
He shrugged. "It's alright," he grumbled.
Smirking, I decided I wanted a drink to chase my lunch down. "Edward, would you get me a glass of iced tea from the basket, please? It's in the gourd flask," I told him.
"Sure, baby," he said, setting his plate aside to turn around and rifle through the basket. While his back was turned, I transferred the rest of my chicken to his plate. "Here you go, sweetheart," he said handing me a glass of the sweet tea tinkling with melting ice-cubes. "Those gourds are great insulators – the tea's nice and cold."
"Hmm," I agreed. "Nature does very well at providing what we need if we just use some imagination."
Edward picked up his plate to begin eating again, but he stopped with his fork poised over the chicken where the goat used to be.
"Bella," he chided. "This is your meat. You and the baby need the protein. I was just being a sulky brat before." He tried to fork it back onto my plate, but I stopped him with a held up hand.
"No, Edward, it's fine. I took more than I knew I would eat. I just wanted to tease you a bit. I'm happy with my other meat and seafood. You eat the chicken. Please, Edward, I want you to," I said when it looked like he would argue.
He looked torn for a moment, but finally relented gratefully when I forked chunks of lobster into my mouth groaning in delight over the succulent, sweet, white flesh.
"How come you're so good to me even when I'm being an asshole?" He mumbled around the fleshy thigh bone in his mouth.
"Because I love you and you're my asshole," I told him possessively.
He leaned over and kissed me, transferring chicken flavor to my lips. "How did I get so fucking lucky?" he asked reverently.
We finished our lunch and packed the remaining food away before walking down to the waves lapping at the shoreline to rinse our greasy hands. Wiping them on our clothes, Edward offered me his hand and I took it as we strolled along the beach under the afternoon sun.
"So," I said taking a deep breath, "are we going to talk about our latest argument?" I asked softly, when it seemed that Edward was determined to remain silent.
He sighed. "Yes … Um, I don't treat you like a 1950s wife, do I? he asked me sulkily.
I cocked a brow of disbelief in his direction. "Yeah, you kind of do," I told him, "and the chivalrous parts of it I like, so it's not everything – it's just the 'Isabella, do as I say' or the 'Isabella, I'm not asking you' or the 'Isabella, I'm only telling you what you need to know' attitude that I get pissy with you about."
He flushed and rubbed the back of his neck. "Oh, um, yeah, I can see how that might piss anyone off, but in my own defense, you know why I do it … did it," he corrected and I nodded. After a moment, he cocked his own questioning brow and asked about the chivalry that I said I liked.
I felt myself blushing. "Um, you know, I like it when you hold open a door for me or pull out my chair. I loved it when you made me a new comb because my plastic one got broken, and when you help me into the dinghy – it makes me feel special."
Edward looked astounded. "Well, I'm glad, Bella, but all of those things are just good manners that any well raised man should demonstrate. My father raised me and my brothers to treat women – especially our women as special. I don't think of those things as being 1950s," he quoted with raised fingers.
"Yeah, well, no one has ever done any of that for me before. You and your dad and brothers are the first." She shouldered me teasingly with her smaller frame. "You all must be rubbing off on Larry, because he's doing things like that now. He rushes to open the door for Esme whenever he sees her coming."
He smiled. "Yeah, he's really coming along as a person," Edward remarked. "I wonder what will happen to him when we get off this island."
I shuddered. "I hope the authorities don't blame him for the actions of James and Vivi – thank God she's still in custody. Do you think … um, do you think that they'd let him stay with us? With the Cullen family, I mean," I asked, chewing on my lip worriedly.
Edward's eyes widened in shock. The idea had never occurred to him. "I don't know and to be honest, I haven't thought about it. Where did that come from anyway?"
I shrugged and pouted, kicking at the sand with my bare feet. "I just worry about him, Edward. He's not a bad person; just misunderstood and mistreated. I don't want to see him end up in jail or in a facility again because the authorities don't know what to do with him."
He pulled me comfortingly into his body with his arm around my shoulders as we walked. "I tell you what, Bella, I can't promise anything, but if – when – we get rescued, I will do my very best to make sure that Larry is treated fairly and I know my father will do the same."
"Thank you, Edward."
"You're welcome. Now, about you learning to fight, I've reconsidered –"
My face lit up and I wriggled around on the sand excitedly, while clapping my hands ecstatically like a performing seal.
Edward reached out and stilled me with his hands on my shoulders. "Stop channeling Alice, will you? It's disconcerting," he said grinning.
I nodded my head vigorously, but otherwise stopped wriggling around like a litter of puppies.
"Okay, if you are agreeable, I will teach you some self-defense tactics you can use to free yourself from an assailant."
I squealed and leapt into Edward's arms. I really didn't know how I did it, considering how unwieldy I'd been feeling lately, but I dismissed it as unimportant and kissed his face all over.
"Thank you, thank you. You won't regret it."
He laughed, his arms stretching around my body to support me under my butt as my legs curled around his waist and my arms curved about his neck. He squeezed my ass gently with his large hands and pushed his hips against my eager pussy – I was feeling horny.
"I hope not," he said, smiling and then his face turned serious. "You have to do what I say, Bella, and I'm not being a 1950s tyrant by saying that either. I'm only going to teach you moves that will be safe for you to execute while you're pregnant. Are we in agreement?"
I nodded. "Yes. Yes! Can we start now?" I asked eagerly.
He laughed again and turned around to head back to our picnic blanket, holding me in his arms. Every step he took caused his hardening groin to rub against my swollen and wanting pussy. I was wet for him in just moments and I moaned.
Edward heard and smirked knowingly. "Yes, but wouldn't you rather practice a little nookie?" he sang into my ear. He knelt down on the picnic blanket with me still in his arms and I nodded my head eagerly, as I tore at his shirt buttons to remove it.
"I knew you'd come to your senses," he whispered, as he lowered me to the sand. He sat back between my legs and wrenched his shirt open, the buttons flying everywhere and I whimpered at the sight of his broad, strong, sun browned chest.
"Oh, Edward, I have missed you." I whimpered as he unbuttoned his shorts to reveal his rising need for me. I reveled in his desire for me and mine for him.
"You have no idea how much I've missed you baby," he said, leaning over to kiss me. His tongue slipped between my lips and he ravaged my mouth as I returned his passion and pulled him closer. I couldn't seem to get enough of him. My body craved his like it did water or oxygen.
"The last few times with you weren't enough … not enough," I groaned as I felt his hands pull the t-shirt stretched over my stomach up my body and over my head leaving me clad in a too tight bra. My boobs were getting huge! Edward grinned as he cupped them in his hands.
"I love your tits, especially now," he gasped as he fumbled around behind me for the bra catch.
Growing impatient, I pushed his hands away to do it myself before my swelling boobs split the seams and my distended nipples burst through the lace. Once it was loose, Edward pulled it off me and flung it aside. I was vaguely aware of the wind catching hold of it and stealing it away as I ground my aching boobs against Edward's chest.
Oh, well, I guess I'd have to track it down later. Right now, I had more important things on my mind.
"Lay back," Edward begged. "I want to suckle them."
I groaned and felt a rush of wetness between my thighs as my body responded to his words. Edward latched onto one of my aching nipples and suckled first gently and then firmly while massaging my other boob in his hand. My hands clutched his head as his tongue laved every inch of my breasts. I felt the sensation of his hot, wet mouth all the way to my clit and my hips bucked against his hard groin involuntarily, looking for friction. Releasing my hold on his head, my hands skittered down to the button and zip of a pair of my husband's shorts that had been temporarily altered by Alice to fit my growing body. Humping against him, I tried to get Edward to lean back so I could get the shorts off, but he kept grinding against me, looking for his own friction.
"Edward, Edward?" I gasped.
"Huh?" he snuffled in return, his face buried between my tits. He was so deep between them, all I could see was the upper rise of his cheekbones and I let loose a giggle. He was such a boy.
"Take them off … our clothes," I begged him.
He grunted and reared back into a kneeling position. He grasped my shorts and panties and pulled, wriggling back on his knees until he could slide them over my legs and off my feet. He stood up quickly and stripped his own shorts off, allowing his magnificent dick to stand proud and ready to enter me. He knelt between my spread legs and I reached out with my hands to take hold of him and stroke the precum over the head and down his shaft, making his eyes roll back in his head. He groaned and fell over me, catching himself with his palms on the sand either side of my body.
"Slow down, baby, or I'm not going to last," he begged me.
Good. I didn't want him to take his time. I wanted him to ravage me. I wanted him to fuck me stupid until I screamed so loudly they'd hear me in Honolulu. I was so lost in my own desire for him, that I knew it wouldn't take much for me to climax.
"No," I gasped. "Fuck me now," I demanded.
He groaned. "Jesus Christ, Bella, are you trying to kill me?" he moaned, but he rolled over onto his back and took me with him so I was straddling him.
Fantastic! In this position, I could control the pace and the pace I wanted, no – needed, was fast and furious. I wanted him to thrust inside me like an out of control freight train and I intended to get what I wanted. Lifting my hips, I took hold of his dick and positioned myself over him. I was so wet, I dripped all over his dick, coating him in my juices before he was even inside me. He gasped and his cock flinched as my heated fluid scorched him. He reached out to stroke my dripping, pulsing pussy, but I shook my head, on a mission he would not distract me from.
"But I want to touch you," he whined.
"Later," I gasped, lowering myself onto him. The sensation of him filling me to the hilt made my eyes roll back in my head and I stilled for second or two while my body adjusted and then I began to move on him, grinding and rolling my hips until he was as deep as he could possible go.
"Okay, baby, whatever you want," Edward whimpered, bucking into me. He reached with one hand to grip my hip and help guide my movements, while his other hand slipped between my folds to find my swollen clit rushing me toward my first orgasm.
"Oh, God, Edward! What are you doing … ugh, don't stop," I begged incoherently, as his talented fingers thrumbed my clit and his absolutely enormous cock slammed into me just like I wanted.
"I won't," he grunted.
"Oh, yes," I gasped, as I bounced on him, up and down, up and down in tandem with his relentless thrusts until I thought my pelvis might shatter. "I'm coming," I moaned after only mere minutes. I reached up to hold my breasts, pinching and rolling the nipples.
"That's it, baby, go with it," Edward encouraged.
"I'm coming, Edward, I'm … ugh, ugh, ugh … UGH!" I screamed out my release as it rolled through me, travelling along thousands of nerves until the excess energy seemed to shoot out of the tips of my fingers and toes leaving me exhausted. I collapsed over my magnificent husband with a grin of absolute bliss spread across my face.
"That was the best, baby, thank you," I whispered into his perspiring, heaving chest.
His chest rumbled as he guffawed. "You're welcome, love," came Edward's proud, smiling voice. "Do you mind if I finish now, sweetheart?"
I giggled, feeling him rock hard inside me as I jiggled around him, my vaginal muscles still milking him gently. "Not at all." I laid bonelessly over him, barely able to move. "Have at it, baby," I said, and he did, bringing me to another fiery climax before he reached his own.
As the afternoon waned, I woke up with my precious wife and unborn daughter asleep in my arms. For the first time in many months, Esme's features were relaxed and her lips were curved into a happy smile.
I laid there for awhile longer thinking about the ECV I did not want to perform, but which I felt was probably inevitable if my wife was to safely deliver our fourth and final child. If our daughter could not be turned, or God forbid, if she should flip again into a breech position, then I would have no choice but to perform a Caesarian section. In such unsanitary conditions, I would never choose to perform preemptive surgery, but I was realist enough to know that it may yet be necessary.
I prayed that the Volturi would not return before my child was born, lest the worst happen and I be forcibly taken. I was confident in many of Bella's medical skills – she'd been the perfect student – but she did not have the surgical skill or knowledge to perform an unassisted Caesarian delivery.
Slipping from the bed, I dressed quickly and kissed the top of Esme's head before walking quietly downstairs to prepare dinner. I wasn't the greatest cook, but I could hold my own well enough to make a simple dinner for my family. Rolling up my sleeves, I washed my hands – well, scrubbed them really, since ingrained habits were hard to break – and set to work, pulling cold meat, cooked seafood, salad ingredients and fruit from the refrigerator.
I noticed the light was off in the appliance, and though the air felt cold, I couldn't hear the hum of the compressor. Quickly closing the door, I reached to switch the kitchen lamp on and nothing happened.
"Shit!" I muttered, striding up the few short steps into the dining room. A few moments later, I had deduced that we were without power since none of the lights, ceiling fans or appliances worked.
"The batteries must be dead," I decided. Grabbing a flashlight from the kitchen pantry, I went outside to the generator shed and opened the door to check them. They'd worn down so that none of them collectively or singularly held enough juice to power even a low energy ceiling fan. I checked the fuel level in the generator, topping it up with about half a gallon of diesel, before I started the sequence to ignite the valuable piece of equipment.
Its value was not monetary, not to us. Its value was in the electricity it produced that made our lives easier. Much of my medical equipment relied on the precious power source and I more than any of us would be severely restricted without it. I could almost hear Emmett and Larry's howls of grief when they realized there'd be no more television if there was something seriously wrong with the generator.
"Come on, come on," I muttered, coaching the cantankerous generator to burst into life, but other than a tepid croak when I pressed the start button, it refused to cooperate.
"Fuck IT!" I hissed as I shut the generator down. "You piece of shit! What good are you if you won't work when you're supposed to," I griped, haranguing the hapless piece of machinery. Throwing my dirty rag to the side, I headed inside to prepare dinner, since there was absolutely nothing I could do to fix it. I'd just have to wait for Rosalie and Edward to return and hope they could get it working again.
I quickly checked on Esme who was still sleeping soundly before I returned to the kitchen to slice, chop and mix together a veritable feast while planning how best to circumvent Aro's nefarious plans for me and my family.
I made plans to harvest some Hawaiian Poppy for the sap. We could use it as a poison on spear tips, in consumables such as food or drink and as an injectable in syringes – I'd been keeping the used ones, sterilizing them thoroughly in case I ever needed to reuse them. The only problem with my poison idea – actually, it was Bella's original idea if truth be told – was that I didn't have an antidote if the poison was turned on us by our enemy or if it was ingested accidentally.
I was keen to experiment with Esme's tin-can phone idea. Since we recycled everything, there was a basket of clean cans of varying sizes in the laundry room and I decided we should try other items that might amplify sound such as large conical shells and even gourd drums. I knew from childhood that the maximum range was no more than about five hundred feet, but if we spaced the phones out around the compound and between other keys points such as the grotto and the ruins, they would allow us to communicate secretly if we got separated.
Shoving the bowl of fruit salad in the slowly warming refrigerator with the other dishes I'd prepared, I hurried to my office for a notepad and pencil to jot down my thoughts, stopping briefly to light the candles in the front entry hall to welcome the kids home and light Esme's way if she came down the stairs.
It wasn't long before I heard Esme stirring in the room above my office, and I left my notes to hurry upstairs with a lit candle so she wouldn't have to shuffle around in the dark.
"Esme?" I called softly as I entered our bedroom.
"What's wrong with the lights?" she asked me sleepily as she sat on the side of our bed. Placing the candle on the bedside table, I sat beside her, kissing her forehead gently.
"The batteries are dead and I can't get the generator started," I told her. "I've prepared dinner and the kids should be home soon, but you've got time for a shower if you'd like one," I suggested. She looked a little hot and her skin felt clammy as she leaned against me.
"Hmm, yes, I'd love one. Will you join me?" she invited.
I grinned. Hell yes! "Absolutely. I've left candles burning downstairs and the kids can set the table without my help. What would you like to wear, Maisy?" I asked, opening our bamboo closet.
She rubbed her face, yawning widely as she coaxed herself to wake fully. "Um, there's a blue sarong dress that Alice made for me – I'll wear that."
I pulled it out, together with a clean pair of shorts for me and a loose cotton, button-down shirt. Esme grabbed clean underwear for both of us and we shuffled into the bathroom to shower beneath what turned out to be the last of the hot water.
The kids were going to be royally pissed. Oh, well.
When Esme and I walked into the dining room, the kids were home. Emmett and Larry sat in the living room staring petulantly at the dark television screen while Alice nursed a sleeping Mia in her arms, rocking and singing softly to the sleeping baby. I peeked into the dining room to find Bella and Jasper setting the table and lighting candles to eat by.
"Where are Rose and Edward?" I asked.
"Trying to fix the generator," Emmett said sulkily. "I promised to grow a tit if she could get it working again."
Larry sniggered while Esme, Alice and Bella rolled their eyes, but I saw their secret smiles as they laughed silently into their hands. Jasper excused himself quickly to the kitchen where he guffawed loudly, sliding down the rough rock wall as he laughed himself silly. Even I had to admit that the shit coming out of my eldest son's mouth was downright funny a lot of the time. He was our comic relief.
"How the hell did we let the batteries run down and not notice the generator was on the fritz?" Emmett moaned, asking no one in particular.
"Who knows, but we did and it is," I said firmly. "Hopefully, Rose and Edward can get it working tonight long enough to charge the batteries while we take if off line to service it. It's been running pretty much non-stop for six months with just minor attention to keep it working. I'm surprised it's lasted as long as it has," I remarked.
"Jasper, can you call Rose and Edward in for dinner? We've things to talk about over our meal."
He came to the door between the kitchen and the dining room. "Sure thing, Dad, but they probably won't come in."
"I'm not giving them a choice," I said. "We need to talk as a family. They can take an hour off to eat. Tell them it's an order, if you have to."
"Okay," he said, walking away, "but they're not gonna be happy."
"I don't care!" I yelled after him. He lifted his hand in an acknowledging wave as he disappeared into the laundry. The door slammed as he headed outside to the generator shed.
"Ladies, come into the dining room and sit down," I invited, escorting my wife to the table. Bella took her typical seat, while Alice laid Mia into her cradle just outside the dining room door where she could be attended to during dinner if needed. "Larry and Emmett, you can help me bring the food to the table," I said as they were both mid-sit over their own chairs. They grumbled, but moved without further complaint when I turned a glacial stare in their direction. We were taking the last of the platters, bowls and pitchers of juice to the table as Jasper came back with a scowling Edward and Rose.
"What the hell, Carlisle!" Rose yelled. "I nearly had the damned thing going until your messenger boy here ordered us back to the house."
Edward opened his mouth to support Rose's stance, but he closed it again with a crack of colliding teeth when I snapped, "That's enough, Rosalie Cullen. The generator can wait for an hour. We did without power for months when we first got here, so it won't kill us to wait another couple of hours. Now wash up for dinner, both of you. We're ready to eat."
She flushed and turned silently to the sink, running the water and lathering up her greasy, diesel soaked hands. Edward followed her silently and I nodded in satisfaction as I strode up the steps and into the dining room to take my place at the head of the table. When my last two children were seated, I said grace and I offered the platter of meat to my wife, pointing out the chicken portions I'd saved for her while the children served themselves seafood and salad.
Her eyes nearly bugged out of her head when she realized that she would be eating roast chicken for the first time in close to a year. "Oh, Carl," she gasped happily, stabbing the breast meat and then a drumstick with her fork. "This is almost better than sex," she sang around a mouthful of tender white flesh.
My four sons choked on their food in response to their mother's brazen remark. I sniggered and forked my own portions before handing off the platter, watching Emmett and Larry greedily search for more chicken. They sighed in disappointment before making another selection and soon everyone was eating. When the meal was over and the dishes and food cleared, I called the family meeting to order.
"Today, your mother said something to me that was the most profoundly sensible thing I've heard since this mess with the Volturi began," I announced. I met the solemn eyes of each of my seven children. "She said that the only ones who would save us from the Volturi are us, and I agree with her. We need to defend ourselves from any further attacks and that means neutralizing any enemies before they can hurt us."
Edward coughed, his eyes wide. "Neutralize?"
"Kill," I clarified, communicating silently with Edward. He'd been the first all those months ago to suggest a more, shall we say, proactive approach to dealing with our enemies. He nodded in understanding, realizing what a big concession this was for me.
"Thank God!" caroled the girls. Their husbands looked at them in shock.
"What?" piped up Alice. "We're fed up being victims for every asshole who comes along."
"Yeah," agreed Rosalie. "I have Mia to think about now. I'm not going to lie back and take any more shit. I want my little girl to grow up feeling safe whether that's on this island or back in civilization."
"I agree," said Bella supportively. "After everything we've been through and the very real threat Aro made against my husband, I'm putting my fight face on and I'm not backing down this time."
"That is so sexy, babe," Edward said to his blushing wife as he leaned over to capture her mouth in a kiss. I was very pleased to see them actually talking to each other again. "I'm in," said Edward decisively.
Jasper, Emmett and Larry had yet to say anything and I looked each of them in the eyes separately. "What about you three?"
"I'm in," said Jasper, squeezing Alice's hand.
"Me, too," Emmett said, leaning over the table to fist bump Jasper.
"Me three," Larry parroted, though I was slightly worried that he didn't really understand what he was agreeing to.
"Good. This is what we've got so far –"
I took them through the details of my poison plans. Bella nodded in agreement offering to help me, but I declined firmly, not wanting her to come into contact with any type of poison no matter how careful I knew she'd be. I made her promise not to touch the Hawaiian Poppy and she agreed.
"Okay, your mother had a brilliant idea and I really think it could work. If it does, it might be the difference between our success or failure."
"What is it?" Jasper asked, smiling at his mother.
"Tin-can phones." Our children's faces were comical in their varying degrees of incredulity, until I launched into my explanation that is, and then they turned hopeful, remembering their own childhood games with the simple but effective contraption. "Okay, what else?" I asked my rapt audience.
"Coconut bombs," Edward suggested, "filled with gun powder and projectiles. The ingredients are found on the island and I've experimented with it before – it was pretty powerful stuff," he said, blushing furiously under his mother and his wife's steely glares, and Bella's vicious pinch to his arm. He scowled at Bella, but she only cocked an unsympathetic brow. By God, she was a perfect match for him.
"I thought you only experimented with that ancient pirate gun powder?" Esme said shrilly, to which Edward only shrugged, not in the least apologetic.
"Gourd bombs filled with diesel fuel," Jasper offered, removing the unwanted attention from his younger brother. "They're basically firebombs. We can plant both bombs on the beaches as a type of mine that we can detonate using long fuses."
"Yeah, and we can throw some at the bad men," Larry said quite clearly. His speech impediment had almost disappeared as he adjusted to speaking with missing front teeth. "I saw it on the telly."
"Yeah, what show was that, Larry?" Jasper asked.
"Swiss Family Robinson. I love that movie. They was like us, 'cept they lived in a tree house. Can I have a tree house, Dr Pops?"
I laughed. "We'll see, Larry. Maybe for your birthday." He cheered and grinned happily, counting the months until his birthday on his fingers.
"Okay, what else?" I asked. The conversation continued for another half an hour, with ideas flying thick and fast, before Rose and Edward excused themselves an hour later than they'd planned in order to work on the generator.
"C'mon, Edward, let's get this beast purring," Rose said, and stood up. She leaned over to whisper in Emmett's ear and fondled his chest, making him blush furiously. "Come get me if Mia wakes up for a feed," she said kissing her daughter on the forehead before leaving.
Rose dragged Edward out by the shirt, ripping his lips from Bella's as he kissed her goodnight. She decided to head off to bed, as did Esme, both of them looking weary and fed up, while Jasper and Emmett resolved to come back and continue our discussion once Alice was settled with Mia for the next few hours.
I helped Esme upstairs, with Larry volunteering to escort Bella to her room on his own way to bed. He was rather sunburned and I advised him to have a cool shower and drink lots of water before he retired for the evening. He said he would, hugging Esme, Bella and Alice goodnight and laying a gentle kiss on Mia's downy head before disappearing into his bedroom.
As my family departed in different directions for the evening, I inhaled deeply, breathing out slowly and as I did, a heavy weight lifted from my chest. United, we stood strong. United, we would be invincible.
We were going to win this – I could feel it in my bones.
A/N: Happy New Year and I hope everyone had a merry Christmas.
Turning a baby in the womb is called an external cephalic version or ECV. It has been done by midwives and doctors for thousands of years, and it is generally considered to be safe, if somewhat uncomfortable or painful for the mother. In developed countries, the procedure is usually undertaken in a hospital and the mother is given drugs to relax the uterus and ease the pain. I imagine that in some undeveloped or developing countries, where medical assistance in remote areas is scarce, that the procedure is still carried out by the local midwife and the mother must endure without drugs.
La Mer is a French restaurant in Waikiki, celebrated as one of Hawaii's finest, though I can't speak from experience, never having eaten there.
For anyone unfamiliar with the word fey, it comes from Middle Ages English circa 1390 and derives from the old French word fae, which means fairy. The English word fey means having or displaying an otherworldly, magical, or fairylike aspect or quality; and/or having visionary power or clairvoyance. Anyone who reads Southern Vampire Mysteries/Sookie Stackhouse/TrueBlood fanfiction will be particularly familiar with both fey and fae.
I stole a couple of descriptive phrases from another Twilight fanfic story I've read called People Like Us. I won't point the phrases out unnecessarily, but I did want to give credit to the original author since she may read this story and recognize them. Every time I've read her story, these two phrases make me smile and I've always wanted to use them, so thank you JustGinger.