A/N #1: Yes, it's a final outtake (you'll see WHY it's a final one as you read... ;) ) for Full Circle! This was written for the Fandoms4Animals compilation, and we were released to post them this weekend, so if you didn't donate and get that, you can check my contribution out now. This starts out about five years after the previous outtake (the family trip to Disney World) and lasts...well, until Lizzie is twenty. So a while. ;) Big news at the bottom, but I'll let you get to it. :)
Outtake 5: Lizzie's Life
Lizzie Age 9
"Lizzie-bear, you ready to go, baby?" Bella asked our daughter, who was putting her cup back in the kitchen after lunch.
"Yep! Uncle Emmett and Aunt Rose are takin' me, right?"
I pulled her in for a kiss to the top of her head as she walked by the couch. "Yeah, they're waiting in the car for you, sweetheart. Have fun at gymnastics today, okay?"
Lizzie wrapped her arms around my neck and squeezed as hard as her human little body could. "I will, Daddy. Will you be here when we get home?"
"Of course," I scoffed, pretending to roll my eyes until she giggled.
With one last hug around Bella's waist, Lizzie raced out the door, grabbing her gym bag on her way out. "Bye, Momma!"
Bella laughed softly as she dropped onto the sofa beside me. "I don't remember ever having that much energy when I was her age. It's a good thing we don't get tired."
Grinning, I tugged her onto my lap. "So you aren't too tired to enjoy the fact that we're now home alone?"
I chuckled when her butterscotch eyes turned a warm honey as she leaned down, dropping her forehead to my shoulder and turning to press soft kisses to my neck.
Time alone had become something of a precious commodity for us both. We'd been living in Toronto, Canada, for the last three years after spending almost six years in Wisconsin. With Bella being a newborn and Lizzie being too young to really have to take her out in public for a while, we'd been able to stay for longer there than we might've otherwise. By the end, though, Carlisle was trying to pass as thirty-one, which was pushing it. So when Lizzie was six, we'd moved north.
Lizzie was thriving here in Canada. We were educating her at home, but we belonged to a group of homeschooling families that had regular meet-ups. In addition to those, she'd been enrolled in a variety of extracurricular activities: gymnastics, an art class at the community center, ballet lessons, and karate—all of which had been her choice. The family simply reveled in her humanity and in watching her enjoyment of each and everything she did.
Because of that, because of how much each and every member of the family loved that little girl, we all still lived together in one big house everywhere we moved. Most of the time, that was a good thing—Lizzie never lacked for someone to hang out with, to read her stories or brush her hair, fix her meals, and whatever else she needed—but it also meant the only time Bella and I got to be alone was when we went out hunting. So we took advantage of it when the rest of the family was hunting and she wanted someone else to take her to wherever she needed to go.
Bella's teeth scraping across my Adam's apple pulled me from my thoughts and brought me right back to the present...to her deliberately shifting on my lap to bring her more in contact with my erection, to her fingers stroking the back of my neck and tugging gently at the hair there, to her breasts pressed against my chest.
"You better hold on tight, spider monkey," I purred, and with no more warning, I leapt to my feet and flew up the stairs with Bella hanging on and laughing the entire way.
"God, Edward," Bella moaned—loudly—as I slid my finger over her slick skin. "Right there."
My fingers tightened on her hip as my other hand continued to move. I watched as her eyes closed and she looked beyond beautiful in her pleasure.
When I touched her just right, she came hard around me, her muscles all locking for a moment as her orgasm literally took her breath away. With a grunting cry of my own, I followed her over edge.
"I love having the house to ourselves," she said with a chuckle when she could finally speak again.
I dropped down beside her, pulling her into my side with a grin. "Mmhmm, I agree."
Bella's phone beeped with a text message alert, and with a huff, she reached across me to grab it from the nightstand. Swiping her thumb over the screen to turn it on, she brought up the message and held up the phone so we both could see it.
Get dressed, parental units. Plans changed. No park after class, so will be home in twenty.
"What? Why?" Bella glared at the phone. "That was not enough information. What if something happ—"
I silenced her with a kiss before mumbling against her lips, "I'm sure Rose would've said something if there was a problem, love. Probably just the sun peeking out or something. So don't worry until there's something to worry about."
Bella nodded, giving me a sigh. "I'm sure you're right. It's hard to not worry, ya know?"
I did know. Having a child was hard on any parent, but for immortals who knew just how fragile human life was, it was even harder having a mortal, human daughter.
"I know. But Rose and Emmett are with her, and they won't let anything happen to her."
Smiling, Bella said, "That's true. If there's anyone she has wrapped around her finger more than her daddy, it's her Uncle Emmett." She snickered and kissed me before rolling out from under me and hopping lithely to her feet. "Well, come on, then. Let's get ready to find out what's so important that they had to rush home after gymnastics."
Nearly twenty minutes later to the minute, three minds hit me at once.
I hope Daddy lets me keep it!
She's so cute with that puppy. It'll be good for her to have a pet.
I can't believe that dog's not scared of us! Maybe if I growl and show my teeth... Ow! Okay, so it was mean. Rose didn't have to hit me!
I laughed, smiling when Bella looked my way with a raised eyebrow. "They're almost here. Apparently..." I paused, drawing out the suspense until she raised the other brow, not looking as amused. "Apparently our daughter found a puppy and is bringing it home."
My wife looked confused. "But I thought...I mean, animals don't..." She shook her head. "Huh?"
Chuckling, I nodded. "Lizzie's found the one dog that isn't afraid of vampires—and if Emmett can't scare it off, then none of the rest of us should be able to."
When Rose's BMW pulled into the long drive a couple of minutes later, I took Bella's hand, and we walked out to the front porch. Wrapping my arm around her waist, I pulled her close, kissing the top of her head when she rested it against my chest.
Lizzie's thoughts had already turned to begging.
Please, Daddy! You have to see him. He's soooo cute! He's not scared of vampires! He loves me already. He licked my face and everything. Okay, that was kinda gross. Aunt Rose said that was his kiss so he must really like me. Please let me keep him!
I chuckled, shaking my head as the car finally came into view. "She's already begging."
"Does she really think we'll say no?" Bella paused and looked up at me, brows furrowed. "We won't say no, right?"
"No, love," I answered, shaking my head. "I can't think of any reason why we would. Can you?"
Bella shook her head once and then turned back to where Rose was parking in front of the garage.
Rose looked at me as she climbed out of the car, thinking, Edward, you won't say no, will you? She's so excited...
In a voice too fast for Lizzie's human ears to hear, I said, "No, of course not." Sighing, I looked at Bella. "Why does everyone think I'm gonna say no?"
She smirked, shrugging, never once looking away from the car, where Lizzie was slowly climbing out as Emmett held the door open for her.
Emmett glanced over at me and rolled his eyes. Maybe 'cause you're kind of a stick-in-the-mud about some things?
Shutting out Emmett and Rose as much as possible in my head, I concentrated instead on Lizzie as she walked up the path to the house. Cradled in her arms was the puppy in question. From the look of him, he was a few months old, an Australian Shepherd-Retriever mix—maybe a golden or lab—brown and tan, with black around his muzzle. He was thin and dirty, like he'd been out on the streets for a while, but he seemed healthy otherwise. He was looking around at the strange surroundings, but seemed utterly calm and happy being carried in Lizzie's embrace.
I kept my face neutral as she got up to me, her mind racing as she tried to figure out what to say.
"What d'ya have there, Lizzie-bear?" Bella asked softly, crouching down on her heels so she was eye level with the little girl, who hadn't yet ascended the porch steps.
"I found 'im," Lizzie answered just as quietly, tilting her head when the puppy looked up and nudged at her cheek with his nose.
"Yeah?" Bella asked, settling down onto the top step.
Lizzie nodded and looked up at me. "Daddy, can I keep 'im? He likes Uncle Emmett and Aunt Rose, and see, he isn't scared-a you or Momma," she rushed to explain.
Unable to stop myself, I sighed and said, "I dunno, baby girl. Having a dog is a big responsibility."
She nodded, her eyes wide. "I'll feed 'im, and walk 'im, and take care-a him. I promise!"
"They cost a lot of money, Lizzie," I continued, ignoring the glares and internal argument to stop teasing her from Rose and Emmett's clear amusement from behind her.
Lizzie was quiet for a moment and then said, "You wouldn't hafta pay me an allowance anymore." When I didn't say anything, she spoke again. "I could...I could get a job, Daddy. I could pay for 'im." Her eyes widened and began to fill with tears as her arms tightened just a touch around the dog.
My still heart flopped in my chest. I'd never been able to stand it when she cried. It was my kryptonite. If I'd really been waffling on whether or not she could keep the dog, the sight of her tears would've done me in. Immediately, I quit playing around and sat down on the step beside Bella, softening my gaze.
"Baby, I'm just teasing you. Don't cry, Lizzie-bear. Come here," I urged her when she sniffled.
"Really? I can keep 'im?" she asked as she stepped up to us.
"Yeah, sweetheart," I assured her, smiling when she squeezed the dog and bounced on her toes a few times.
"Thank you, Daddy! Thank you, Momma!" Turning, she spied Rose and Emmett, who were walking up to the house finally. "Didja hear? They said I could keep 'im!"
"We heard, honey," Rose said, smiling softly at her. "Tell your dad that since he teased you, he gets to help you give him a bath."
I groaned playfully as Lizzie turned back around, a grin splitting her face almost in two. "Really?"
Giggling, Lizzie nodded. "Yes, please."
Bella reached out and stroked the top of the dog's head, scratching him behind his ears. "It does only seem fair," she said to me, barely able to contain her amusement.
With a put-upon sigh, I put my hand out, letting the puppy sniff my fingers, smiling when it started lapping at my hand. "Well, I suppose if I must, I must." Standing, I said, "Come on, baby girl. Let's go get this mutt clean so he doesn't track all that dirt into Nana Esme's clean house, huh?"
Lizzie grinned, nodding, and carefully climbed the steps.
An hour and one dirty bathtub later, we had a clean puppy, who Bella was watching while Lizzie and I both changed clothes, since we'd both gotten splashed during the bath and she'd been dirty anyway from holding the dog. As I pulled my new T-shirt over my head, I heard the rest of the family come into range, Alice's thoughts alerting me to the fact that they'd all be home in ten minutes.
I stopped at Lizzie's door on my way to the stairs. Knocking softly, I said, "The rest of the family should be here soon, Lizzie."
"Okay, Daddy. Wait for me! I'm almost dressed."
Smiling, I said, "Okay."
Crossing to the opposite wall, I leaned back against it and folded my arms across my chest, waiting for her to come out of her room. I heard her scurrying around, opening and closing drawers, until she finally pulled open the door. She'd changed into some shorts and a clean T-shirt before pulling her hair up in a quick ponytail.
I stood and reached out, tugging on it gently. "Ready?"
When I turned and squatted, she hopped on my back. "Ready!"
Laughing, I carried her downstairs to the living room, setting her on her feet in the entry when the puppy gave a bark and came bounding over to her. I sat down beside Bella, pulling her into my side and pressing a kiss to her temple.
She settled onto the floor and began petting, rubbing the belly when the dog flipped over.
We all—minus Lizzie—heard the others enter the house before they came slowly into the room.
All of us kind of held our breath as we waited to see what the dog's reaction would be to adding four more vampires to the mix, bringing the total to eight.
The puppy stood, yipped once, and then cautiously sniffed the air, looking around the room before lying down in front of Lizzie.
"Huh," Carlisle said almost under his breath. If I hadn't seen it with my own eyes...
I chuckled. "Strange, isn't it?" I asked so Lizzie couldn't hear.
He nodded his agreement as everyone settled in around the room, watching Lizzie with the dog.
I said, "Tell Momma what we figured out."
"Oh yeah! Guess what?" Lizzie said to Bella and the others.
"What, baby?" Bella asked, smiling.
"He's not a he," she answered with a giggle. "The dog's a girl!"
Bella laughed, looking over at Emmett and Rose, who simply shrugged.
"We didn't wanna go looking at his—her—uh, private areas," Emmett said, grinning when Rose snorted.
Turning back to Lizzie, Bella asked, "So whatcha wanna name her?"
After a moment's thought, much to my amusement, Lizzie announced. "Gem."
Emmett let out a quiet laugh. "Jim?" he asked. "I thought you said it was a girl."
Lizzie rolled her eyes. "Not like that! G-E-M," she spelled out.
"Why Gem, honey?" Rose asked, ignoring her husband.
"'Cause I found her after gymnastics, but I don't wanna name her G-Y-M."
Everybody chuckled, nodding, and I couldn't help but smile when Lizzie looked over at me, her mind hoping for my approval.
"It's perfect, baby girl."
She smiled a brilliant smile and laughed as the dog—Gem—yipped again, as if in approval.
Lizzie Age 15
"No way," Edward grumbled, shaking his head. "There's no way I'm letting my baby go to some dance with some...boy."
"Edward," I sighed, moving up behind him and running my hand up the smooth, warm skin of his back soothingly. "She's not a baby anymore. She's fifteen. And he's not some boy. You know Matthew. He's a perfectly nice boy. He comes from a good family."
"He's still a teenage boy," he huffed. "And believe me, Bella. Teenage boys in Portland in this day and age are no different than they were in Chicago when I was seventeen."
I couldn't help it. A giggle slipped past my lips as I struggled to contain my amusement.
"And yes," he snapped. "I know I'm still only seventeen. So that should tell you that I understand how teenage boys think."
I snorted, shaking my head, and with a gentle push to his shoulder, forced him to turn to face me. "Edward, Matthew's only fifteen. He's not seventeen." I raised an eyebrow when he opened his mouth. Once he'd closed it, nodding at me to go on, I said, "It's the Hood River County dance at the community center, not a Girls Gone Wild video shoot."
"I know, but it's her first one, Bella." He looked pained as he closed his eyes and gripped his hair.
He was right. This would be the first dance Lizzie had ever been to—her first date, she'd announced excitedly to me when she came home from the get-together with the rest of her homeschooling group. There'd been a dance a year earlier, our first year in Hood River, but she'd had a cold, so we'd all stayed home.
"She's growing up," I said sadly, my mind flashing through memories of her childhood, all the way from birth. "We can't stop that, as much as we'd like her to remain that same little girl who called you daddy and clung to your back for trips down the stairs—and that's not a bad thing, Edward. Truly."
He sighed and wrapped his arms around me, holding me close and pressing a kiss to the top of my head. "I know, I know. I just... I didn't think it would be this hard to watch her take these steps away from us."
I nodded against his chest, letting my hug do the consoling.
"Would it help if we went to the dance too?" I asked.
"Would you do that?" Edward pulled away and looked down at me with a warm gaze. "I know you don't like dancing..."
"It's better now that I'm not worried about tripping over my own feet," I admitted with a chuckle.
He laughed and pulled me back against his chest, swaying us to whatever melody he was hearing in his head. "Then yes, it would make me feel better if we were there."
A week after we'd given our permission for Lizzie to attend the dance, she came padding into the living room in her sock feet, with Gem at her heels. Since Lizzie had brought her home, the dog had never strayed very far from her. She slept on Lizzie's bed, sat at her feet at the dinner table, and watched from the front porch anytime she left the house.
I knew what she planned to ask, so I closed my book and sat back to wait.
"Daddy?" she asked quietly.
Edward looked up from the video game he was playing with Emmett, his face softening. "Yeah, baby girl?"
"I...I need some help."
He nodded slowly, a grimace flashing across his face faster than Lizzie could see it before he smiled. "You need help learning to dance?"
"Yeah... Mom said you knew how...that you took her to prom in high school and danced there."
Edward smiled, looking over at me. "And at our wedding, yes."
"I don't think there'll be any like...really fancy dances or anything like that, but the most I know how to do is sway back and forth, which is good for little kids." She made a face. "Matthew said they usually have some square dancing, some Texas two-step, and even a few waltzes for the older crowd."
Tossing the controller down next to Emmett, he said, "Of course, Lizzie-bear—although you should ask Uncle Jasper and Aunt Ali about the two-step. They've been doing that one for years."
Edward reached into his pocket and pulled out his phone just as Alice buzzed into the room, waving her iPod and portable speaker.
"Don't bother," she said. "I've got what you need." She winked at me as she moved over to sit on the floor beside my chair. Leaning over against my leg, she murmured, "Watch this."
I snapped my fingers and made a kissing noise, and Gem, who'd followed Lizzie downstairs, came and lay down beside my chair, resting her head on her front paws as she watched the action across the room.
Edward bowed to Lizzie, holding out his hand. "May I have this dance, m'lady?"
Lizzie rolled her eyes, but she couldn't hide her smile as she placed her hand in Edward's.
We watched as Edward moved her free hand to his right shoulder before placing his on her waist.
"Follow my lead," he said. "Start off with a small step back with your right foot, then back with your left, and finally left one step."
Lizzie looked nervous as she nodded.
Edward glanced at Alice, who clicked the button to start the music.
"Unforgettable" by Nat King Cole started moments later, and Edward smiled down at Lizzie.
"Ready?" he asked, and at her nod, he stepped forward in time to the music.
It took a few minutes for her to get the steps down, but soon, she was following along with Edward as he glided her around the hardwood floors of the living room, avoiding the furniture and the rest of the family, who'd all come in to watch the show.
My heart was overflowing as I watched him lead her through one song to another. She was growing up so fast. It seemed like just yesterday, the nurse placed the crying, red-faced newborn in my arms, and now, she was learning how to dance for her first date.
They danced through almost ten songs—moving from the waltz to simply Edward teaching her how to follow along with her partner—before Lizzie finally pulled away.
"I think I've got it now," she said with a smile. Throwing her arms around him, she mumbled into his chest, "Thanks, Dad."
Edward kissed the top of her head and said, "You're welcome, sweetheart."
As she turned to Jasper to ask about the two-step, I stood and held my hand out to Edward.
He didn't question it when I motioned to the back door, taking my hand and following me outside without a word.
The night of the dance, we all got dressed and ready to go and were waiting downstairs for Matthew to arrive. Edward had tried to insist that we would drive the two of them to the dance, but Lizzie had balked, begging me to help convince him to let Matthew's mom take them like he'd arranged. I'd gotten Edward to agree, but only if Matthew came inside when he picked her up so we could get some pictures. Red-faced, Lizzie had reluctantly agreed.
When the knock sounded on the door, Edward's hands clenched into fists.
"Go answer the door while I get Lizzie," I told him, piercing him with a look. "And be nice. No scaring the human boy, Daddy."
He sighed, nodding, as I moved away.
Once upstairs, I knocked softly at Lizzie's bedroom door. "Sweetie? Matthew's here. You ready?"
Lizzie opened the door and twirled. "How do I look?"
We'd bought her a new sundress just for the dance. She looked beautiful, and I told her so.
"Now come on," I said. "Your dad's probably scaring the poor boy to death down there."
That got her moving, and we hurried down the stairs to find Matthew sitting on the couch, with Edward, Emmett, and Jasper all close by. Edward was sitting across from him in one of the chairs, looking deceptively casual. I could tell from his posture that he wasn't truly relaxed at all, though. Emmett and Jasper were leaning against the wall across from the couch, on either side of the TV, arms crossed and serious expressions on their faces. Matthew, although obviously nervous, was trying very hard to stand up to their scrutiny.
"Wow," he said, smiling and standing as Lizzie walked into the room. "Liz, you look really pretty." He smiled over at me. "Hi, Bella. It's good to see you again."
"Hey, Matthew. You, too," I said. "Can we get some pictures? Carlisle's working, so he made me promise to get some for him."
"Yeah, sure," he agreed easily.
The rest of the family—minus Carlisle—came into the living room, dressed and ready to go. Esme handed me the camera.
"Here ya go, Bella."
I murmured my thanks and directed Lizzie and Matthew to stand in front of the fireplace, snapping off several shots.
"I think that'll do it," I finally said. "You guys have fun, and we'll see you there in a few minutes at the community center."
Lizzie nodded and followed Matthew to the door. He held it open for her and then stepped through behind her, gently closing the door behind them.
"I don't like that kid," Edward grumbled.
Raising an eyebrow, I asked, "Why? What was he thinking?" I wondered if I needed to be worried.
"Nothing I could kill him for...unfortunately." The last word was muttered under his breath, like he'd not really meant to say it aloud.
"If it helps, I didn't pick up anything...untoward from him," Jasper said, moving over and clapping Edward on the shoulder. "A touch of shyness, some uneasiness once we were all in the room, but there was nothing but respect with a little attraction whenever he looked at Lizzie."
Edward's shoulders dropped and he sighed. "I don't like having to play the brother-in-law," he mumbled.
"I know," I said, running my fingers through his hair and scratching his scalp lightly. "I don't like having to play her big sister, either, but..." I shrugged.
That was the story we'd gone with when we'd started over in the small town of Hood River, Oregon, about an hour east of Portland. I was Lizzie's older sister, and Edward was my husband. Our parents had died when I was eighteen, and I'd gotten custody of my little sister, who was only thirteen at the time. Edward's brother and sister, Emmett and Alice, were married to Rose and Jasper, while his cousin, Esme, was married to Carlisle. The story worked, but neither Edward nor I were happy about not being able to be Lizzie's parents in public.
Emmett said, "Let's go already. You guys may trust that pipsqueak, but I don't. I want them where I can keep an eye on him."
Rose just rolled her eyes and shook her head, but she looped her arm through his and let him lead her from the room to the garage.
One by one, the family left the house, until Edward and I were the last to pull away in his car.
When we pulled up to the community center a few minutes later, I asked, "You ready, Dad? Gonna be able to handle seeing your baby all grown up and dancing in someone else's arms?"
He winced, running a hand through his already unruly hair, and sighed. "As long as she saves a dance for me."
I grinned. "She promised me that she'd save a dance for her old man," I teased. "Now come on. I put on my dancing shoes just for you, buddy."
Edward smiled and leaned over to kiss me once before climbing out and moving around to my door.
"Lead the way, love," he said, holding out his arm.
Edward and I found a seat in the big gym of the community center to people watch—specifically to Lizzie watch, although he wouldn't admit it—for a while. The rest of the family joined us when they weren't on the dance floor.
"She's having a good time," Rose said, tilting her head out to where Lizzie was currently dancing with a group of girls to Cyndi Lauper's "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun."
I smiled, nodding. "She is. This is good for her."
Edward grudgingly agreed, and when the music transitioned to "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" by Iron & Wine, he grinned and stood, holding out his hand. "It's our song, Isabella," he said, his voice low. "Would you care to dance?"
I sighed, remembering not only our first dance—at prom—but also our first dance as husband and wife, when we'd danced to this very song. Smiling softly, I took his hand, and we made our way to the center of the dance floor.
Everything fell away as I drifted in Edward's arms. It wasn't complicated steps or sweeping movements, just simple sways and soft turns as he hummed along in my ear.
When the music trailed off, he kissed me softly and whispered, "I love you, Isabella."
I kissed again, smiling against his lips when the music changed to something more up-tempo.
We stayed out on the dance floor for a while, kicking up our heels with our siblings when they joined us.
Lizzie danced with her friends, including Matthew, until "I Loved Her First" by Heartland started. Coming over to us, she leaned in and whispered into Edward's ear so the only ones to hear were our family. "Dance with me, Daddy?"
Edward gave me a wink as I moved away, and then he picked up her hand, waiting until her left hand was on his shoulder before beginning to waltz to the music like he'd taught her at home.
Just before I could sit down, Emmett appeared, bowing low. "May I have this dance?"
I laughed lightly. "Of course, kind sir."
He wasn't Edward, but Emmett still knew how to work it out on the dance floor. He led me in his own version of a waltz, spinning me in so many circles, I'd have been dizzy had I still been human.
"This is hard for him," he observed as we watched Edward and Lizzie. "I know it is for you, too, but it's killing him to watch her grow up."
Smiling sadly, I nodded. "It is. Growing up means growing apart. He's not ready for that yet." Sighing softly, I added, "Neither am I."
Emmett simply squeezed my hand tighter and twirled me around again and again until I couldn't help but laugh.
Lizzie Age 20
I couldn't help but worry as Lizzie went around the room, saying her goodbyes to the rest of the family. She was headed off for Ireland for spring break, and as much as I'd have liked to go with her, she was an adult now, as she'd reminded me multiple times over the last two weeks.
Her mind was buzzing with excitement over the trip, which she was taking with three friends from school. They were all nearing the end of their sophomore year at the University of Maine, just outside Bangor, which was where we'd been living for the last two years. Fiona had been an exchange student in the U.S. during her senior year of high school, and she'd loved it so much that she'd stayed to go to college. She and Lizzie had been roommates since the beginning of their freshman year. Jaime and Sophia lived across the hall from them, and the four of them had become fast friends. Two weeks before spring break, Fiona had invited the three of them to visit her family in Ireland for the week. They planned to shop, go out to the club—where it was legal for them to drink—and do the Ring of Kerry, which was a tourist trail through Ireland.
"Dad, try not to worry so much," Lizzie said, interrupting my musings about her trip when she came up to say goodbye. "I'll be fine."
Patting her back gently as she hugged me, I nodded. "I know you will. But it's my job to worry—just ask your mother."
Bella rolled her eyes, smiling, as Lizzie laughed.
"I'll call you when we land, okay?"
"You'd better," Bella said, giving Lizzie a hug.
To see the two of them together was almost frightening. They were physically the same age—both twenty—and looked so much like twins, it was uncanny. Lizzie's face was a little rounder, her body a little less lithe, due to the changes in Bella when she became a vampire. But the resemblance was amazing.
It was sometimes odd, being the father to a twenty-year-old young woman. Physically, I was only seventeen. But I'd been...alive, on this planet, whatever you wanted to call it...for over a century—twenty-six years over, in fact—and most of the time, I felt much older than my physical age belied. Then there were time like now, watching our daughter hug her mother—a woman who looked like her sister—go off on her own without us to another country that I felt every bit the seventeen-year-old: wholly unprepared and unsure of myself.
A honk from outside startled me out of my thoughts and made Lizzie roll her eyes. Fiona had driven over to pick Lizzie up, and then they were meeting the other two at the airport. We'd already loaded her luggage into the trunk, but Lizzie had asked Fiona to wait out in the car while she said her goodbyes.
Giving Bella and me one last smile, a wave to the rest of the family, and a good scratch behind the ears to Gem, Lizzie hurried out to Fiona's car.
Bella and I followed her out, watching from the front porch as the little Camaro drove away.
"She'll be fine, Edward," Bella whispered. "Won't she?"
I tightened my arm around her waist. "Of course she will," I promised.
Throughout the week of Lizzie's vacation overseas, Alice had multiple visions of her: deciding to call home, going swimming at an indoor pool at a family friend's house, calling Poppa Charlie to wish him a happy sixty-first birthday. But nothing had been shocking or worrisome until the vision she had Friday morning, nearly a week into Lizzie's stay in Ireland.
A conversation between Lizzie and her friends, excited about going out that night
The cab ride to a club
Lizzie and the girls entering Club M, with its loud, pulsing music and bright, flashing lights
Dancing with a young man about Lizzie's age
Lizzie and the boy moving to a table in a dark corner
Their conversation made me gasp for an unneeded breath.
"Are you frightened, a chroí?" His voice was low, smooth, the Irish accent heavy through his perfectly stated English, as he called her his heart.
Reaching up, she trailed a single finger down his cheek, from his too-dark eyes to his full lips. "No," she said softly, shaking her head. "I'm not scared. Your eyes... They're like my family's."
"Vampire!" Alice and I both said, although hers came out like a gasp, while mine was every bit the curse word I'd intended it to be.
Four minds hit me at once, and within moments, everyone in the house was gathered in the living room, with Bella nearly tearing the bedroom door off its hinges in her haste to get down to us.
"Lizzie?" she cried, looking frightened.
"What? Is Elizabeth all right?" Esme asked, her hand to her mouth.
I ignored everyone but Bella as I quickly repeated Alice's visions, including the glimpse of the cab's clock and fact that the girls' visit to the club was for later that very night.
By the time I finished, Bella already had her phone out and was dialing our daughter's phone number. The sound of the unanswered rings echoed throughout the room. She dialed again and, when she got no response, left a worried, tense voice mail.
"Lizzie, it's m—Bella. Call me immediately. Please." Turning to me, she cried, "Why didn't she answer her phone?"
"I don't know, love," I answered, pulling her into my arms and rubbing her back to soothe her as much as I was able.
When I looked over at Alice, I opened my mouth, but she interrupted before I could speak.
"Already working on it, Edward," she said, putting her phone to her ear.
"What? What's she doing?" Rose demanded. "Edward, we have to go to her. We have to find her. Eyes like ours or not, Lizzie's not—"
"Dammit, I know, Rose," I growled, worry for Lizzie making my tone harsher than I'd intended.
Emmett wrapped his wife in his arms when it seemed like she was going to jump at me.
"What's the plan, Ed?" Jasper asked. He was standing almost at attention, his hands clasped behind his back and a dark look on his face.
"Alice is booking us a flight now..." I paused when I heard her thoughts race by. "Yes, Alice. Better." Looking at the others, I said, "A commercial flight would take too long. We're going to rent a private jet, which should put us in Ireland at..."
"Ten thirty tonight," Alice chimed in. "Western European Time, that is."
Nodding as I listened to her speak into the phone and heard her thoughts, I began doling out orders. "Bella, you keep calling Lizzie's phone. Try calling from Rose's and Emmett's phones as well. I'll pack. Everyone who's going, we'll take off at noon. That's an hour and a half from now. We'll leave the house in an hour. Anyone who needs it"—my eyes slid to Jasper and Emmett—"hunt before we leave."
"No sooner?" Bella asked, her words muffled by my shirt.
"That's the soonest they can have the jet ready," Alice said as she slid her phone back in her pocket. "We'll be there tonight, Bells."
When Bella nodded, Alice and Jasper raced outside. After tossing their phones to me, Rose and Emmett followed them out.
"Edward, I'll call Carlisle and then make arrangements for Gem before I pack," Esme said softly. "Do you need anything else? Bella, sweetheart?"
When Bella shook her head against my chest, I murmured, "No thank you, Esme. That sounds good."
She moved away and headed up the stairs, and I pulled back to look down at Bella.
"Come on, love," I told her, pressing a kiss to the top of her head when she tightened her arms around my waist. "Let's get ready to go find out daughter.
The eight of us prepared for landing five and a half hours after takeoff. We'd tried calling off and on the whole flight, but Lizzie still wasn't picking up her phone. None of her friends were answering their phones either. Everyone had tried to convince me that there had to be a valid reason for it, but nothing was going to settle my nerves until I set eyes on her daughter. I'd gotten somewhat calmed after Carlisle called Siobhan, the...leader of the Irish coven, who lived not far from Dublin.
"'ello?" Siobhan's lilting Irish accent echoed in the cabin of the plane.
"Hello, Siobhan. Carlisle Cullen calling. How are you?"
Edward gave him an impatient look, to which Carlisle raised an eyebrow. He must've said something in his thoughts to Edward, because Edward nodded.
Carlisle turned his attention back to the phone.
"Carlisle! It's been too long," Siobhan said jovially. "We're well, thank you very much for asking. How are things on your end of the world?"
"Things are..." Carlisle huffed, sounding more ruffled than I'd ever heard. "Well, things are a bit...complicated at the moment."
I listened as Carlisle explained that an acquaintance of our family was vacationing in Ireland for the week, and Alice had had a vision of her meeting with a golden-eyed vampire. He took great pains to not mention who Lizzie was in relationship to us and our family.
"So I'm calling in the hopes that you and yours might know something about another like myself and my family in your area," he finished.
"Oh, yes," the woman cheerfully. "That would be Loch—Lochlan," she clarified. "He's friendly with our small coven here in Ireland. He's a good lad. Your friend is safe in his presence." She chuckled. "Well, as safe as any human in the presence of a vampire, I suppose anyway."
Carlisle's voice was calm, even though his eyes appeared worried, as he asked, "Could you tell me a little about him?"
We'd all listened as Siobhan had told Carlisle that Lochlan was nearly as old as Edward was and had been with them off and on for almost a decade. He'd been drinking from animals since shortly after his change, according to Lochlan, although Siobhan knew no more details than that about why he'd chosen that lifestyle. He liked to immerse himself in the human culture. He'd been turned at twenty-five, so he occasionally chose to attend college or get a job—his most recent choice was to become a college student at the university in Dublin.
"I would wager your young friend is having the time of her life dancing with him, but he'll likely kiss her hand and bid her farewell come close, Carlisle," she'd finished, sounding sure of herself. "I've yet to see him bring a woman home from his time at the club."
Carlisle had asked Siobhan if she minded trying to get in touch with Lochlan, since our friend's phone seemed to be off, but Siobhan had simply laughed and said that as much as he liked to include himself in and amongst humans, Lochlan wasn't one to carry a cell phone. Carlisle had thanked her for her time and hung up the phone without making plans to meet, even though we were going to be in their part of the world.
"Have you seen anything more?" I asked Alice as the plane taxied to a stop.
Alice frowned. "No, nothing yet, Bella. I'm sorry."
I shook my head. "Not your fault, Ali."
It was fifteen minutes till eleven Friday night by the time we disembarked from the plane. Alice had taken care of vehicles while in the air, so there were two cars waiting for us in the small airport's parking lot. Alice, Jasper, Edward, and I climbed into one, leaving the other for Rose, Emmett, Carlisle, and Esme, who followed us out of the parking lot.
We knew where we were going, thanks to the GPS inside the car, but it still took us close to half an hour to get to Club M. We were running nearly two hours behind Alice's vision, and I was terrified for my daughter. When we parked, Edward jumped out of the car, and came around to take my hand, ready to hurry inside and find Lizzie, but Alice stopped him with a hand on his arm.
"You can't," she said with a shake of her head.
She closed her eyes, and I knew he was watching a vision play out.
Seething, he clenched his other fist and hissed, "What do you suggest, then, Alice?"
"It has to be Bella and Rose," our sister explained. "They have the best chance to get her out of the club the fastest without causing a scene."
I squeezed his hand as he nodded resolutely. "I'll go get her," I said. "I promise."
Rose joined me, and the two of us sauntered deceptively casually across the street, bypassing the line.
Ignoring the look the bouncer gave us as we stepped up to him, I smiled at a spot above his head instead.
Turning on her vampiric charm, Rose said, "Hey, big guy. Mind if we go on in? Our friends are in there, and we'd really like to dance." When he hesitated, she said, "If you get a break later, maybe you could come inside and buy me a drink, and then we can take a turn on the dance floor..."
The man nodded almost dumbly and swept his arm across, indicating that we should go ahead.
We smiled and walked into the club. I could hear a scuffle from the parking lot and knew whatever the man was thinking had angered Edward. Par for the course in places like this. I wasn't worried. Emmett and Jasper could handle him.
My senses were assaulted the moment we stepped through the door, but I pushed aside the scent of pulsing human blood and focused on finding my daughter and the vampire she was most likely with. Rose and I zeroed in on them at the same moment, and when she indicated the far back corner, I nodded.
Coming around the corner of the dance floor, I spotted them, relaxed in the booth. He was turned slightly to face her, and the smile on her face was a joy to see, even if the cause of it wasn't. She looked happy, dazzled...much like I'd been from almost the first minute after Edward had returned to school and introduced himself.
I could tell the moment Lizzie saw us. Her eyes grew wide and she gasped, turning even more pale than she already was.
Her reaction immediately set the vampire beside her on edge. Lochlan turned, placing himself between Lizzie and whatever implied threat she'd seen. As Rose and I crossed the dance floor, sliding past the couples writhing against each other, he sniffed and then stiffened, and I knew he'd smelled others of his kind.
It only took a moment when he caught sight of us for him to relax. By the time Rose and I made it to their booth, he was gently holding her hand as Lizzie stared up at us, mortified.
"Mo—Bella! Rose! What are you doing here?"
I didn't ask if they minded if we sat. I simply slid into the booth across from Lizzie, leaving Rose room to sit beside me, across from Lochlan.
"You didn't answer your phone," I said simply, raising an eyebrow. "Who's your friend?"
"Oh, crap!" Lizzie squeaked, letting go of Lochlan's hand and digging into her pocket, pulling out her cell phone moments later. "I turned it off when we went to watch Fiona's sister's dance recital today, and I must've forgotten to turn it back on. Surely that didn't warrant a trip..." Her voice trailed off, and she sighed. "Aunt Alice."
"I'm afraid so, kiddo. She saw you meeting a vampire tonight, and when we couldn't get ahold of you, we feared the worst." I shuddered as the last of the fear I'd held onto all day finally began edging away. "It's nice to meet you, Lochlan," I said, holding out my hand. "I'm Bella, Lizzie's mother." I said it low enough that no one outside our immediate table could hear.
"You know him?" Lizzie gasped, turning to look at him. "Loch! You didn't tell me you knew my family!"
"No, a chroí," he said soothingly. "I don't know them. Perhaps your father...?"
I shook my head. "We contacted some friends of ours here in Ireland. They told us about you."
Lochlan grinned and relaxed back against his seat. "Aye. You mustn't believe everything Siobhan tell you. She's been known to spin a tale or two."
Chuckling, I said, "She only had good things to say, I promise." Remembering how he'd relaxed when he saw us, I said, "You recognized us."
Lochlan nodded. "When I grew weary of my diet and changed what I...ate, Siobhan told me about the famous Carlisle Cullen, and she's kept me informed of the changes to your family, which is how I recognized the two of you."
My phone beeped, and I pulled it out, reading the text from Edward.
Bella, please. I have to see Lizzie...
"Okay, Lizzie-bear," I said, using the nickname we had when she was younger that we didn't call her often anymore. "Your father's about to crawl out of his skin waiting to see you. Think we can go outside and assure him that you're in one piece?"
Lizzie looked sheepish and nodded. "Loch, do you mind coming out and...?"
He smiled a dazzling smile at her, raising her hand to his lips. "Not at all. No time like the present to meet the rest of your family."
We slid out of the booth and waited as Lizzie led Lochlan over to the dance floor to find her friends. Rose and I waved at the other girls when they looked our way and smiled. Then Lizzie turned back and motioned to the door. I nodded, and Rose and I followed them through the crowd and out of the club.
"Across the street at the back of the parking lot," I told my daughter, motioning for the two of them to go ahead.
It was amazing to see the way the two of them interacted with each other after having just met a few hours before. His hand rested on her lower back as she leaned into him, even as they walked. They continued exchanging glances, and when she stumbled because she was busy watching him instead of where she was going, he gently righted her and they continued moving ahead. It reminded me so much of myself and Edward when I was still human that it hurt my heart.
I knew Lizzie's life had just changed forever. I recognized the signs. Like her mother, Lizzie had found her other half, her soul mate, and if the adoration that shone clearly in his eyes was any indication, Lochlan felt the same.
Now I just had to convince Edward not to kill him before hearing them out.
A/N #2: I had SO much fun writing this. It was fun trying to come up with different ideas to show her growing up. And yeah, this ended kind of at an odd place... You want to see the rest of the family meet Lochlan and see what happens with him and Lizzie, right? Good news is I'll be doing a sequel, starring the two of them! :) I haven't even started writing it yet, but it's what is next on my list, so as soon as I can, I'll start it.
I have several people to thank. As always, Deb (Drotuno) helped a ton with figuring out which milestones to hit and how. Bethany Tullos made a gorgeous manip of Lizzie and Lochlan (which you can see on my site. Check my profile for a link. :) ), while Mimi Holmes made a fantastic manip of Edward & Gem. Thanks so much to Cara, too, for prereading. :) Finally, thanks to Coreen for putting her red pen to it and helping catch what I missed (and believe me, I missed plenty! :) )
Let me know what you thought, please! And don't forget to check out the images that go along with this! Mwah! – Jen