A/N: I made it before Saint Patrick's Day! Here, I bring you Liam and Bella in Ireland. This outtake takes place during chapter ten of Tender is the Night, after Liam gave Bella her ring and before the letter from Esme about joining the faculty at Emrys Academy. There's also a chuckle in here for some of you. You'll know it when you see it. ;-)
"The thing is, we don't need a car, Bella," Liam explained as they walked at a human's sauntering pace from the airport in Dublin. "Compared to the States, Ireland's 'just a good stretch of the legs.'"
With a laugh, Bella said, "You so quoted The Quiet Man."
"Don't knock it; it's a good film!"
Rain misted over them, coating their hair, clothes, and backpacks. "Oh, yeah. 'Here's a stick to beat the lovely lady.'" Bella quoted in her turn with a deplorable Irish accent. She was sure she'd have the chance to improve upon her accent, though. "A charming film."
"All right, that might be a bit much," Liam admitted.
They kept their pace slow while they could be seen, but as soon as it was dark enough, Liam grinned mischievously at her, grabbed her hand, and started running.
"Liam!" The buxom blonde called, sauntering from a cottage. The building had two stories and large eaves. It gave the appearance of being abandoned, however. Weathered, mossy walls, overgrown with greenery, met her eyes. "And this is your mate, yeah? Bella?"
Bella smiled a little as the tall blond woman stepped a bit closer. Liam encircled Bella's shoulders with one arm and made a beckoning gesture with the other. "Maggie, darlin'. Come meet Bella. Siobhan, come on, lass."
It had been a while since Bella had met a new vampire. She extended her hand. "Hello. Liam's told me so much about you." Okay, not that much, she allowed in her mind.
The petite redhead with the bounce in her step froze for a moment, her frown almost audible. "Eh? I can't even tell if she's lying! What the fook?"
"What?" Bella asked, knowing she had indeed lied but feeling horrible to have been suspected of it.
Maggie smirked and crossed her arms in front of perfectly-proportioned breasts. "Oh, there you see it? She's lyin'. I don't know why I can't tell with ya, but I know a guilty face when I see it with my own eyes."
The moment could have been worse than awkward, and Bella cringed internally, her mind conjuring half a hundred futures that would have even boggled Alice. She could picture Liam's disapproval. She could imagine the two of them being cast out of Ireland like snakes with Maggie playing the role of Saint Patrick. Or maybe Liam would be castigated by his former coven and feel bad that he had brought her. Or –
"Mags!" Laughing until he bent over from it, Liam seemed to have none of the worries Bella did. She relaxed and leaned into him as he straightened. Maggie was not laughing, but the blonde was smiling and that helped Bella feel a shard less worried. Liam kissed Bella's forehead and looked into her eyes. "Sorry, muirnín. I shouldn't have left you open to that." To the others, he sighed. "Aye, it's true, Maggie. I've not told her much about you. I didn't want to give her reasons to find someplace else to spend our honeymoon."
Siobhan lifted a sardonic brow. "Oh? So you went and got married and didn't invite us? And your eyes are changing colors and everything. Quite the member of Carlisle's coven, are ya?"
Bella didn't detect approval in the other woman's tone and winced, wondering if Liam would have to cut ties with his former coven because he was now mated to her.
Liam sighed a little. Even knowing he had chosen to change what he hunted of his own free will, Bella felt guilty. "Actually, no."
"He's tellin' the truth," the tiny redhead asserted.
"I've actually not seen Carlisle Cullen since he and his mate were here. But, aye, I've taken to hunting animals as my mate does." He pressed her closely against himself, leaving Bella feeling rather reassured. "It's not that bad. Could be worse."
Maggie snorted. Siobhan shook her head. "Oh, Liam. You're a sweetheart of a man, to be sure." Her expression warmer, the blonde regarded Bella. "Welcome, Bella. You might not believe it, but Maggie and I have been looking forward to meeting you."
"You could have fooled me," Bella murmured, feeling better now that everyone was more relaxed.
Well, everyone except Maggie. She fairly bristled. "Why can't I figure out if you're lying?"
Liam's smile was proud, the light in his eyes entirely loving. Bella couldn't help but melt a little at the heat that built there. "She's a shield, Mags. She's got a real way about her."
Maggie just gaped at her and Bella ducked her head. "Apparently, I was shielded even as a human. It's been convenient..."
"I bet, livin' with the Cullens..." Siobhan rolled her eyes. "Well, then, let's get ourselves acquainted!" With a wave of her arm, the clear "leader" of the Irish Coven invited Bella and Liam inside the cottage.
"Just so you know? I never slept with him. I mean, if he hasn't told you, yet."
Bella had been hanging her clothes outside. Since she didn't tend to find clothing on her prey, she didn't change out wardrobes. She was accustomed to keeping the same clothes – and keeping them clean – so she found she had to do her laundry by hand. Liam's, too. Maggie had been staring at her for a good thirty seconds before saying anything.
"What?" Surprised and discomfited, Bella stood agape in her sundress as a patch of sunlight hit the blouse and jeans she had just secured to a tree branch.
Flashing across the wet grass, the vibrant, vampire lie-detector did not appear remotely uncomfortable herself. "We didn't have sex. Liam and me. I didn't want you to be worried about that. Stayin' here, yeah? So you don't have to think that he and I had a relationship like he and Siobhan had." At Bella's widened eyes, Maggie held up her hands. "Oh, no! He did tell you, didn't he?"
"Yeah... But we decided nothing mattered before we met."
"Whew. Okay. Good, then. All right." Her expression narrowed. "See, sometimes, the two of them? They kind of got into it even after Siobhan and I found one another. We're mates, you know."
Bella smiled; sometimes, Maggie seemed like a child in her ways. Other times, the little woman was far too knowing. "I know it. And yes, he told me. I lived with two other people, too, you know, before Liam and I were mated. Someday, I hope to go back to them."
"You? With two others? Males?"
Feeling impish, Bella bit her lip and shook her head. "Nope. Male and female. My best friends in the world."
Maggie's eyes grew round. "So...the three of you were together?"
"One bed, yep."
Maggie's grin lit up the yard. "Well, then. We've no cause to be worryin' about our Liam's mate being too conventional, even though you were a Cullen." Then, she sobered. "How did Liam take that?"
Bella smiled, remembering. "He was okay with it from before, like I can't be jealous of Siobhan, you know? But he doesn't want to share." Lifting a brow, she added, "I don't plan on sharing, either."
"I sure as hell hope not!" Liam's exuberant laughter rolled over her as he emerged from the cottage, barefoot, his shirt unbuttoned and hanging open over his jeans.
Bella couldn't help it; she had been talking about sex and out came her very sexy mate with his bare abdomen peeking out and she felt that now would be a great time to show him how very much she did not want to share him. Without thinking about it, she extended her hand and he was by her side and half wrapped around her in less than a second. Inhaling deeply, she pressed her body against his. "Good," she purred.
"Well, now, Isabella," he whispered. "What have you and Maggie been talkin' about, eh?" He palmed her hips first before sliding his hands slowly up her back. As a gesture of sheer possession, it made Bella's knees tremble.
"Newly mated." Maggie made a playfully derogative sound.
Bella smiled a bit sheepishly, burrowing into Liam's body, her fingers skimming his stomach and ribs. His muscles contracted at her touch. It was an immensely gratifying sensation. "We still kind of are, you know," she reminded the other woman.
"Siobhan!" Maggie called, dashing indoors. "Where are you?"
"Come," Liam breathed into her ear. "Let's get out of the sun, muirnín." Lips skimmed skin and she moaned quietly. He chuckled. "I can be persuasive."
"This, I know." She still felt awkward, however, in the cottage with the other two women so close.
"I could do that."
Under the cover of the trees, out of the dancing streams of sunlight, she pushed the edges of his shirt aside and traced his musculature with her lips, slowly lowering herself to her knees.
Later, sated and curled in his lap, she continued to run her fingertips over his skin. "Sensitive today, are we?" she inquired with a lilt.
He laughed with a deep, pleased sound. "Always, where you're concerned." A thought seemed to occur to him, making his eyes spark and dance. "I'll show you. Do that again."
Enjoying his mood, she did, and saw him move his stomach muscles purposefully, in a sequence. "Liam!"
"What? So I've got galloping abs," he said with a smirk.
He wiggled his brows. "Oh, yeah. Want to ride?"
"You said this was your honeymoon."
Liam eyed his former lover calmly. "I did. And?"
Siobhan narrowed her burgundy eyes with their long brown lashes. "So? You got yourself married and didn't invite your oldest friends?"
Better fix that, you amadán, Liam directed himself. "Actually, no. We aren't legally wed. C'mon, Siobhan. We're vampires." Of course, he understood that Carlisle and Esme, whom he had met, had been legally married. As had his Isabella, once upon a time. "Thing is, she's never brought it up and neither have I. We're mated. There's naught more permanent than that." Not that he had anything against being married! It just wasn't high on his list of priorities.
Siobhan clearly felt it should be. She poked him solidly in the chest as they stood in the middle of the main room of the cottage. "And? It could be she never brought it up, ya eejit, b'cause you never did. What the hell, Liam? Why so backward?" She scowled at him and a playful expression it was not.
"Isabella's already wearing my ring," he reminded her.
"Maybe she'd like your name to go with it?" At his incredulous expression, she threw up her hands. "Look. Just ask her, why don't you?"
"Fine! And when she tells me to shovel shite up my arse, I'll send her to you, yeah?"
He slammed out from the cottage, breaking the door in the process, which had Siobhan shrieking, to be sure. "I'll fix it!" he called over his shoulder before, having stepped away from the building, he inhaled to find out where Bella had gone.
And he grinned. Because he could trace his mate's scent. He followed the freshest path, wondering where she had taken herself off to, this fine evening. The colors of darkness were deep and mysterious, sensual, even. Colors that could almost be felt in velvet caresses. He stepped silently over greens and through mossy browns, breathing deeply of the unique aromas that belonged to Isabella. The golden edge of honey...light amber scent of freesia...blending with his own lingering essence of bright mint combined with a sharp, white ginger.
Soon enough, he found her. And her laptop. She had a solar battery that she left in the sun often, he had noticed. Other members of the Cullen Coven were fierce advocates of alternative fuel sources. The Whitlocks had field-tested different ways to keep the electronics powered up, as Liam had learned. It fascinated him, how much the golden-eyed ones sought to improve the lives of humans.
Of course, they had profited from this too, in many ways, which didn't hurt.
Rapid tapping on a keyboard came to a halt. "Liam!" She had been sitting on a low-rising rock that was only barely out of the damp earth. The illumination from the computer screen flared with a faint luminescence off her skin. "Join me?"
He did so, settling in at an awkward angle as she closed the laptop. "Working hard?"
She bit her lip lightly. "Just catching up with Alice."
"Ah, our favorite Fae Missie." Liam had a feeling he knew what that had been about. "What did she have to say?"
"That they were taking a trip."
Of course they were, Liam said wryly to himself. He sighed and maneuvered his beloved onto his lap, shifting her computer so that it didn't hit him in the stomach. "I have a question for you," he decided to say after a moment.
She studied his face and he knew that she was thinking hard about how he was feeling about whatever it was she didn't know he was going to ask her. At length, she kissed him on the chin. "I likely have an answer, so...?"
When he had given her the claddagh ring, he had done so after quite a bit of pondering. He had known he wanted to offer it to her in front of the Warrior and Fae lass. He planned on telling his muirnín the meanings of the positions in which she could choose to wear the ring – knowing what he wanted, but leaving it up to her. All of that had been planned. This wasn't. He pursed his lips and spoke slowly, remember that his mate preferred it when things were simple. "Isabella, my mate. Would you consider doing me the very great honor of becoming my wife?"
She smiled into his eyes, her own glowing in the night. "Absolutely."
Taken aback by the immediacy of her assent, Liam chuckled. "Well, now. That was a surprise."
She arched one brow at him before doing a quick shift that had her laptop pressed sideways between them as she straddled his lap. "I love you. I think being Isabella Maguire would be perfect."
"Dr. Isabella Maguire. You worked hard for that, as you've told me before."
Laughter shifted to sighs, then to murmurs and quiet moans as the moon passed through a light cloud cover overhead.
The following day, he and his mate poked about online for the marriage requirements in Ireland.
"Three months?" He gaped at the small screen. "I can't believe it'll take that bloody long." He didn't know why he had such a need for speed for this all of a sudden, but now that she had said she'd be his wife, he really wanted to make it happen yesterday.
She slanted him a glance as he paced and he reflected with one corner of his mind that he seemed to have taken to some of the Whitlock Coven's ways whilst he lived with them. Acting all human, he was. Halting abruptly, he gestured at her computer. "What about England?"
"Already on it. Fifteen days notice there, but we have to be 'in residence' wherever we'd like to marry for a full seven days before we can file notice." She paused and made a suggestion. "We could go to Vegas...?"
"Nah," he said with a shake of his head. "Siobhan won't fly anywhere. And of course, she has to come."
Looking over her shoulder at the newly mended cottage door, Bella agreed. Her face lit up next. "That's why Alice said she and Jasper were going to England! I thought it was to visit Kate and Alistair."
"Ah, yes. Alistair of York." Crossing to her, Liam drew his fingers through her hair. Long and soft, it was. He enjoyed playing with it. "I suppose we should invite him, too? Since he found me?"
In a whirl so fast he almost didn't disentangle his fingers in time, Bella was out of her seat and in his arms, her expression slanted in sorrow. "What? What is it, muirnín? Sweetheart, what's wrong?"
He felt her heave in a huge breath. "I was just thinking... What if he hadn't? What if he'd told Edward to take a flying leap? I'd never have met you and – and as happy as I was? I wouldn't have known what we have, honey. I wouldn't have known and it just made me so sad, all of a sudden." Tilting her head up, she added, "Sorry."
Warmth moved through him, up and down his arms and through his middle. He held her tight and shook his head slowly. "No apologies, dove. None." Just the slightest notion of not knowing Isabella made him ache inside. "I know how you feel. Just how you feel. I guess you should call Alistair of York."
"And his mate."
"And his mate."
He drew the line at inviting anyone else, however. Having heard enough about Carlisle's coven, he guessed that if Carlisle and Esme were invited, the whole lot of them would make an appearance. In the end, there were Siobhan and Maggie, Jasper and Alice, Alistair and Kate, and a wide-eyed receptionist named Kathie, who had blue streaks in her pale hair.
"We could go on another honeymoon," Bella suggested in private, after their guests had been with them for a few days in Anglesey.
"A proper one," he agreed with a nod.
The phone on the bed of the small house buzzed. Liam waited, but Bella didn't answer it. "You know what?" she murmured with a slight curl of her lip, "I'd rather have you surprise me."
Delighted, he grinned and lifted his beloved – his dove, his mate, his wife – into his arms. "We'll talk about it after we take a shower."
E/N: And that's a wrap! This is the last planned bit of Tender is the Night. Aside from drabbles that might be included in my Twilight Rambles collection, I have no further plans for these characters. I thank you so much for accepting Liam into your imaginations!