A/N: Happy Thursday! Well, here we are at the end of the road. I truly have enjoyed each and every review and I hope that you've enjoyed this story. It was fun for me to write, and the fact that so many of you said you enjoyed it is like money in the bank to me (if only!).
I've got a little surprise at the bottom…
SMeyer owns all Twilight characters. No copyright infringement intended.
Let's get to it…
16. Epilogue: Lucky
As I stood at the counter looking at the mail, I was immediately pissed. It had been a shitty day, and the envelope I was holding in my hand didn't hold any promise that it was about to get any better. I ripped it open and took a deep breath, willing myself not to lose control when I unfolded the paper inside. I held onto that little bit of peace for thirty seconds, and then, well, all hell broke loose in my mind.
"Trey, get down here now," I shouted at the top of my lungs. It was exactly as I'd expected, and more than I wanted to deal with that particular afternoon. I'd had to deal with an all-out cat fight between two of my female associates earlier in the day, which was why I was home early, and the last fucking thing I wanted to see was a red-light ticket for my son.
I stood at the counter and loosened my tie, counting to ten just as my father had suggested when I asked him how in the hell I was supposed to be a good father the night that Edward Anthony Masen, III, was born. "You count to ten a lot. God knows I've probably counted to a million with you over the years, so that's what you do. You'll figure it out. Just like me, you've got a good woman at your side, so you'll be fine."
That was the advice he gave me when my son was born and that was the advice he gave me when he retired and turned over his equity stake in the firm to me, putting me in charge. The advice had been more beneficial at the firm than it had been with my family.
"Daddy, you're home," my angel, Beth, called as she ran down the stairs. At fourteen, she looked like a younger version of her mother, and it always stunned me when I saw her.
"Hi, sweetheart. Where's your brother?" I asked as I hugged her. It was the best thing in the whole world at the end of the day…coming home. When I came home from work, my daughter would hug me like she hadn't seen me in weeks. She was as loving as her mother, and I counted my blessings every damn day that I had the family I had, regardless of how much my son pissed me off on a regular basis.
"He's brooding in his room. Claire dumped him, and he's in a bad mood. Mom sent me a text that she had an emergency hearing, but she put out pork chops before she left. She told me to remind you that the grandparents are coming for dinner. Can I help you?" she asked. She was perfect, just like her mother, and I laughed.
"I thought you had a sleepover at Megan's house?" I asked. Megan was Emmett and Rosalie's daughter who was the same age as our daughter, and they were best friends.
"I've already got my stuff ready to take with me. Mom was upset when she left to go back to Court. I don't know what happened, but she seemed to be really mad," she volunteered as she pulled the pan with the marinating pork chops from the fridge.
"Did she mention which case?" I asked as I rolled up my sleeves and flipped them in the pan. I looked into the fridge and saw all kinds of sides because it was actually Bella's day off, and she'd been planning the cookout for weeks.
It was her mom and Phil's anniversary, which was right before our anniversary, and we were having a small party. My parents, Aunt Esme and Uncle Carlisle, Alice, Jasper and their twins were coming as well, and after dinner, Beth was going to the McCarty's house for the night.
"Um, I don't remember, Daddy. Maybe call her?" Beth suggested.
I pulled my phone from my pocket and sent a text because if she was in Court, she'd never answer her phone but she'd answer a text.
Your Honor, do you have an ETA on your return home? Your children are hungry. Well, one of them is in the doghouse, but we'll talk about it when I see your beautiful brown eyes. Love U.
My wife, the feisty family law attorney was appointed as a family court judge. She'd been appointed after a stint with DCFS as a magistrate, and when The Honorable Margaret Murphy retired from the bench, she spearheaded the placement of my wife.
Bella tried to balk at first when Maggie called the house to tell her the news, but when Maggie said, "Bella, you're one of the most honest and trustworthy members of our legal community and I know you'll be fine. Plus, you owe me one for that stunt in my courtroom when your son was born. It's only fitting that that courtroom should be yours." Bella didn't argue with her after that comment.
I was never as proud as the day I stood by her side as she took the oath. I knew the woman was remarkable, and it was with a smug smile on my face that I held the Bible for her, relishing in the fact that others finally realized her expertise.
I'm sorry. Emergency motion regarding a restraining order. O'Shea was supposed to handle it, but I guess he's out on his boat. I'll be home ASAP. ILY. B
I knew she didn't take that shit lightly, so I was prepared to greet the guests and get things ready until she came home. I still had another matter to handle, and he was upstairs not answering my come-to-Dad call.
I grabbed my suit coat and climbed the stairs to change and talk to my son…talk was a loose term for what I'd be doing. He'd accumulated three tickets in the six months that he'd held his license, and the last one would send our car insurance through the roof. I was more than a little pissed about it.
I went to our bedroom and changed into shorts and a t-shirt, and as I was about to walk out of the room, I saw a picture of Bella and Rosalie at Rose and Emmett's wedding which reminded me of the night I'd met her. It was actually the first time that Bella and I had been together, in the carnal sense. I laughed as I remembered it, and I planned to remind her when she got home.
I pulled myself out of the memory of how she looked when she stumbled into me outside the bathroom at the hotel where Emmett and Rose had their reception, and I walked to our son's room.
I gave him a cursory knock and then I opened the door seeing him with earbuds in and his eyes closed as he lied on the bed, feet moving in time with the music in his ears.
I stopped for a minute and remembered the night I'd been told about his impending arrival and I smiled, even though I was pissed off at him. I remembered when Bella nervously told me that she'd messed up her pills and she was pregnant after she packed a bag, prepared to leave the house and "let me off the hook," as she told me.
I grabbed her crying ass around the waist as she turned to walk out the door after her grand pronouncement of "I'm sorry, but I got knocked up and I know it's not anything you ever wanted so I'm going to go to Los Angeles, or maybe Fresno, and find a job and a place to live. I'll never ask you for anything. I left you, so the house is yours. Again, I'm sorry."
My response of, "You're not going anywhere. I'm glad that you fucked up your pills because I'm ready for a family, and I knew I would have a hard time talking you into it right now, so this is perfect," before I carried her up to our room and made love to her. It was one of my favorite memories.
The pregnancy was textbook and Bella worked…literally…up until the moment he was born. She was in Judge Murphy's court arguing a case regarding a child support order, and Emmett and I were at the courthouse on another matter, so we stopped in. She was at the Petitioner's table, standing without her heels on and addressing Judge Murphy.
"Your Honor, Mr. Cory has never paid my client a dime in child support for the five years they've been divorced. At the time the original support order was issued, he claimed his profession was professional gambler, but my client has never received anything from him in support because he always claims that he doesn't win any poker tournaments. He went to Las Vegas to a tournament and won $250,000 that I'm sure my client would have known nothing about had it not been televised on ESPN and one of her co-workers happened to see the finals."
"I submit that…ooooohhh…(splat)," we all heard. I saw Judge Murphy stand up and look at the floor under the table and look at Bella.
"Counselor, I think we'd better postpone this hearing until Mrs. Cory can seek other counsel," Judge Murphy called.
"Your Honor, I'd prefer that we not. Mr. Cory has a way of hiding his funds, and I believe that any postponement would only…ahh…hee hee hee hoo…hee hee hee hoo…hee hee hee hoo…allow Mr. Cory time to spend the money or give it to some of his friends or family to hide it," Bella continued. Judge Murphy looked at me and pointed to my wife. I had no fucking idea what was going on, so I simply shrugged.
"Mrs. Masen, are you sure you don't need to leave? Masen, your wife's water just broke and I believe she's in labor," Judge Murphy called. I jumped up from my seat in the back and walked down the aisle and through the rail, seeing a large puddle under Bella where she was standing still studying her notes.
"Bella, honey, we need to go," I told her. She turned on me like a rabid dog, causing me to flinch and opposing counsel to cough, clearly having caught the look.
"I'm not leaving here until this matter is settled. Your Honor, please. Mrs. Cory is on public assistance and she's working two jobs while her husband…yowww…hee hee hoo…hee hee hoo…" Bella continued. I looked at the Judge for help, and I could see that she thought I was as useless as tits on a boar hog.
"Mr. McCarty, approach," Judge Murphy called. I helped Bella sit down as she continued her Lamaze breathing.
Emmett hurried up the aisle and walked in front of the bench, sidestepping the puddle, to where Judge Murphy was watching me coaching Bella's breathing as they'd taught us in those stupid damn classes we had to take.
"Honey, we need to go. Have you been having contractions all day, or did they just start?" I asked as I looked at my watch while she took a cleansing breath.
"I've had them since this morning, but I couldn't get the hearing moved up because that asshole was on a plane back from Mississippi," Bella snapped, looking in Mr. Cory's direction.
"Your Honor, I object to counsel's derogatory term for my client. There's no legal definition of…" opposing counsel began.
Maggie Murphy slammed her gavel on the bench and looked at all of us. "This isn't Ringling Brothers', people. McCarty, meet your new client, Paige Cory. I'll take a fifteen minute recess for you to familiarize yourself with the facts of her case because I'm certain Mrs. Masen's notes are impeccable. Clerk, strike Mrs. Masen's and, uh, whoever he is, comments from the record regarding the character assessment of Respondent. Off the record, Mr. Marsh, is it? Off the record, there may not be a legal definition for the term used by counsel for Petitioner, but I believe a lay person would say that the way in which your client has behaved would qualify him to be considered one. People, we're at recess for fifteen minutes. Bailiff, get the janitor up here and Masen, get that woman to the hospital," Murphy ordered.
"All rise," the Bailiff called as Bella struggled to get to her feet.
"You're kidding right?" I said as I scooped her up in my arms and carried her out.
We got to the hospital just as Trey was crowning, and he was actually born in the emergency room. When I found out that our first born was a son, I actually cried. My dad, one of the toughest son-of-a-bitch's I'd ever met cried as well. Bella chose the name, saying that he was a Masen through and through because he chose to be stubborn, being a week late and then deciding to show up when she was in the middle of court just to piss her off, and I gave him the nick of Trey.
When Beth came, it was a bit more difficult because she was early, but she was fine. Of course, Judge Murphy banned Bella from her courtroom during her last trimester, and I actually made her go on maternity leave for the last two months because she was driving us all crazy at work. She didn't speak to me for a week over that one. It truly was blissful silence after the constant bitching I'd heard at the office about her lack of caseload.
We had one of each so we decided to stop, and I endured the pain of the vasectomy after my wife's argument that it was either that or the priesthood for me. We raised our children and our life was far from a story book, but it wasn't a bad life at all.
I kicked my son's foot and waited for the recognition. He pulled the earbuds out and turned off his iPod. "Hey, Dad. How was work?" he asked nonchalantly.
"Don't pull that shit with me. You didn't take out the trash. Your room looks like a hazmat zone, and you got yet another fucking ticket. Downstairs, now," I ordered as I turned and walked down the stairs to the kitchen, seeing Beth texting in the kitchen.
"Sweetie, could you go do something and leave your brother and me alone to talk? Mom's gonna be on her way home soon," I announced.
She kissed my cheek and left the room as my son lazily ambled into the kitchen, going to the fridge and grabbing a soda. "Dad, you want a beer?" he asked.
Oh, beer wasn't going to do it at all. I shook my head and went to the cabinet, grabbing the bourbon and a glass and settling at the table. He looked my way and I heard him say, "shit" under his breath. Shit indeed.
"Do you realize that this is your third ticket since you've had your license? What, in the name of God, do you have against sitting out a goddamn red light?" I snapped as I poured myself a drink.
"Dad, I didn't do it on purpose, okay? I was giving Erin a ride and…" he began his defense. I knew a girl had to be involved in some way. After all, he was his father's son.
Just as I was about to unload on him, Beth called, "Daddy, quick, it's the Courthouse."
That got my attention. We both ran to the living room to see the reporter standing outside of the courthouse, and I grabbed the remote, turning up the volume.
"…a hearing for a restraining order against the assailant ended in blood shed. A judge, the mother of two; her bailiff, a father himself; and the clerk, a young woman of twenty-two; are being held hostage along with the assailant's wife who was in the courtroom filing for a restraining order along with her attorney and the attorney for the assailant.
"We're told that the husband, Daniel Bloom, had allegedly shown up at his wife's house the night before and threatened her. Court papers state that there was a divorce pending, and when Caroline Bloom refused to produce her children for a scheduled visit, the perpetrator lost his temper. Police were called and Mr. Bloom was held in custody overnight. The emergency hearing was called today, and Mr. Bloom was able to smuggle a gun into the courtroom, unknown to officials at the courthouse.
"We do know that one person was fatally shot and another was injured. Police are withholding the names of the parties, pending notification of the families. We'll keep following this story. This is…" I heard. I sat down on the couch and took deep breaths just as the phone rang.
"Don't answer it. Stay here. I'll be back. Do not answer the phone. I'll call you on your cells when I know something," I ordered as I left the house to go find my wife. God, I couldn't lose her like that.
"Counsel, approach," I requested in exasperation. Why we were there was a mystery, but I could see a woman sitting in front of me with a black eye, and a crazed man sitting on the opposite side of the room, which worried me.
I'd presided over many a crazy hearing, but it was my day off, and I had an anniversary party to throw. When I got the call, I kissed my kids good-bye and left, not thinking at all that it might be the last time I saw them.
Jessica Stanley-Newton stood before me representing the Complainant, who I knew was a woman from the Center because I was the acting Director, and I was worried about why we were there. I knew her husband was volatile, and Jessica was representing her in the divorce but I knew nothing more.
"Your Honor, the Respondent showed up at my client's house last night and beat the hell out of her before the police showed up to arrest him. He's behaving irrationally, and I believe that he poses a serious threat to her and her children. I'm asking for a restraining order to give him time to cool off," she presented. It sounded plausible but there were two sides to every story.
I turned to the public defender who appeared to be all of fifteen and I waited. He coughed and choked, finally opening his mouth. "Your Honor, my client lost his temper when Mrs. Bloom refused to present the children for the scheduled visitation. I believe that his behavior was warranted under the circumstances. His children…" the kid began. I could tell he didn't buy it either.
"I'm going to stop you right there, Counselor. If you were heading down the path that his wife deserved the beating she got because she withheld her children, then you and I are going to have a discussion in chambers. Is he dangerous?" I asked his attorney, who seemed to gulp.
"I'm not sure. I just met him fifteen minutes ago," the kid responded.
"Step back. We'll take a recess for fifteen minutes while I deliberate," I announced as I banged the gavel on the desk, hardly believing it was me on that side of the bench. I'd been on the other side for a long time, but being on the sitting side was a completely different monkey.
"No. Nobody's going anywhere!" I heard shouted. I turned from my place on the stairs on the way to my office and saw the idiot, Dan Bloom, with a gun held to his attorney's head. Why, oh why, did that shit have to happen in my courtroom?
I saw my bailiff move for his gun, and I shouted, "Felix, no. Mr. Bloom, lower your weapon and let's talk about this situation. That young man was just assigned your case. It's not his fault that he doesn't know you. Talk to me. Come with me and let's go into my office to talk," I pleaded.
"I don't know you, and I don't know him, so I have no problem shooting you. My wife thinks she's gonna keep me from my kids, she's deadly mistaken," he snapped.
I looked at him and he looked vaguely familiar to me. "Mr. Bloom you work here, don't you?" I asked as I shook off my robe and walked from behind the bench to the floor. I knew it was a foolish thing to do, but I believed that if he saw me in my everyday clothes he'd somehow realize that we were all just people in a room…not a judge…not an attorney…just people.
"I'm a night janitor. I pay my support, and I'm doing the best job I can at being a father to my children. She, that whore, she cheated on me, but I was prepared to let it go and give her a divorce. When she told me I can't see my kids unless I give her extra money under the table, I lost it. I don't have extra money, Judge. I'm doing the best I can," he pleaded.
I could see that he was sincere, and as I looked at her, I could see that she was the type of woman who would use a situation to her advantage. I hated her instantly, but it wasn't my place to pass that judgment, and regardless of what she'd done, she didn't deserve the beating he'd given her the night before.
There were innocent people in my courtroom that I needed to get out of there, and I had to talk to the man like I was his best friend in the whole world to do it. It was all too familiar, and I wanted to curl up in a ball and die, but I had a husband and two children to get home to, so I needed it to end.
"Mr. Bloom, all you had to do was notify the court that she was threatening to withhold visitation. There are channels for you to go through. You don't have to resort to this. How do you see this ending?" I asked as I walked over to the table where he was standing and sat down on top of it facing him, just inches away from his gun.
"I, um, I don't know. I just know that I want to see my kids. She's keeping me from my kids," he repeated as he moved the gun from the head of his attorney to point it at me.
"Let's let your attorney go, along with Miss Stanley and my clerk. They have nothing to do with any of this, okay? They can go sit in my office, if you'd like," I asked quietly. He nodded and I raised my hand dismissing three people from the room. Once I heard the door close to my office, I turned back to the crazed man holding a gun pointed at me.
"How old are your kids? I don't have the file in front of me but aren't they eight and eleven? I've got a fourteen-year-old daughter and a sixteen-year-old son, and I can tell you that it only gets worse as they get older. My son believes he knows everything and it drives my husband crazy," I offered.
I prayed that trying to find a common ground with the man would somehow snap him out of his angry trance. I could see he was out of his head, and I prayed that he'd listen to me. It was a long shot.
"Judge, that's not exactly what I wanna hear. I was sorta hoping it would get easier…wait, you're tryin' to get in my head. Go sit over there with him and the bitch," he ordered as he pointed the gun at Felix and his estranged wife.
"Sure. Now, what's our plan? I can be your best friend or your worst enemy. My husband says I have the worst…" I began.
"Dear God, shut the fuck up. I'm surprised he hasn't killed you in your sleep. You just don't shut up," he lamented.
I chuckled humorously. "I guess you're right. How about you let my bailiff go? He's just here doing a job, just like you. He has no dog in this fight. You keep your wife and me, and let him go back to my office. What do you say?" I asked.
"Fine. She stays, and you stay. I like you. Don't make me kill you," he ordered. I nodded to Felix to leave and the man's wife sat down next to me looking very afraid. I couldn't fucking blame her. Her husband was off his rocker, and she'd done nothing to help the situation.
Just then, the door opened off to the side and Maria, the night cleaning lady came into the room with her mop, humming as she always did. Dan Bloom didn't even hesitate. He turned the gun and pulled the trigger, taking her down with one shot.
"Fuck!" I shrieked. Just then, Felix came out of the office and fired a shot at Dan Bloom, hitting him in the chest. He grabbed me and pulled me behind the bench, grabbing the phone on my desk and making the call to security.
I was fine. Mrs. Bloom was fine. The other people who'd been in my courtroom were fine, except Maria who'd gotten grazed on the arm, but at the end of the day, Dan Bloom was dead.
After statements were given and I was cleared to leave, I walked out of the building and saw the one person who I needed at that moment. I ran to him and when he saw me, he caught me and hugged me so tightly that I almost couldn't breathe, but it was okay. I needed to feel him next to me, and there he was. He was waiting for me just as I'd waited for him to marry me all those years ago.
"Jesus fucking Christ…I was so scared, Bella. I swear to God," Edward began, holding me with my legs dangling in the air and his head buried in my neck. I felt the tears against my skin, and I let my own go, having held them in until I saw him.
"Baby, I knew I had to get out of there alive because you'd be a mess if I wasn't there to boss you around," I joked, trying to calm us both down. It worked because he laughed and looked into my eyes, planting several short kisses on my lips, reminding me that I was, once again, safe in his arms.
"You've got that shit right. Come on…let's go home," he responded, walking toward the police barricade that had been put up toward his car, having not put me down or released his hold on me one bit.
I knew that whatever happened in our life, I'd always have Edward waiting for me. He knew that I'd waited for him, and he was willing to return the favor.
There was a fine line between love and hate, and we'd walked it many times, but at the end of the day, I'd learned that the one thing that both sides of that line had in common was passion. That was definitely the foremost thing I had in common with the man I loved…passion.
We'd walked the line, and thankfully, we both settled on the side of love. It was a great place to be, and I'd never regret one misstep we'd taken because it led us to the place we settled into. Love.
E/N: *sniff…sniff* There you go. I truly hope I did it justice. Thank you so much for reading and leaving your thoughts. I truly have enjoyed the journey with you.
On another note, I ran across a story that I'd written and forgot about, so I decided to start posting it here. It's entitled "A Friend of the Family." Summary: How does someone inadvertently get mixed up with organized crime and live to tell about it? Good question. I'd have never dreamed that my life would have taken the path it did, but when I was summoned back to the Midwest to take care of my mother as she fought a life-threatening disease, I got in touch with an old friend…a woman… and it all started from there…naturally.
AH/OOC…All EPOV…violence (not graphic)…language…Lemons(!)…canon couples and a few surprises thrown in. Rated NC-17 just like all my stories. Give it a shot?
(D&W&F is still going to post here. I'm just fine tuning it a bit. Don't worry, we will get around to sacrificing those virgins…ha, ha.)
For the last time (for this story)…xoxo