A/N: This is a little something I put together for the Fandoms4Me compilation. There's some fluff, some use of herbal remedies, and of course a small bit of lemony goodness!
Reviews = love, so don't hesitate to leave some! And for those who read Hot Commodity, a new outtake is coming this weekend! :)
Characters belong to SM. Everything else belongs to me.
December 27, 2021
I shuffled across the hard wood floor in search of another log to put on the fire. Outside, a light snow was falling, something we didn't always see in Seattle, even in December.
I deposited the log in the fireplace and used the poker to arrange the wood into a desirable position. Within a few seconds the flames were dancing tall and licking at the soot-covered stone. I smiled and ran a hand through my messy, graying hair.
"Everything alright in here, pops?" My son Peter appeared in the doorway, cradling a sleeping toddler in his arms. I smiled and nodded, settling into my recliner and pulling my favorite afghan over my legs. The intricate design always left me in wonder, and I couldn't help but chuckle at the mental image of Bella working on this beautiful creation. Crocheting was the first hobby she picked up after she retired. Oil painting had followed, along with candle making, gardening, and cake decorating. I was content playing golf, putting my AARP card to good use, and growing old in our house on Bainbridge Island. My wife, on the other hand, couldn't sit still for five minutes without dreaming up some project. I blamed it on her best friend, Alice, who was always on the go too.
"I'm going to put Bree down for her nap." Peter kissed the top of the curly-haired angel in his arms before retreating down the hall. I looked around the room and felt a bubble of joy swell in my chest. Wrapping from Christmas morning littered the area beneath the tree, new toys were scattered about, and a few stockings still lined the fireplace. I was surprised Bella let it stay like this, but the joys of being with family tended to outweigh her freakish OCD cleaning tendencies – usually.
The holidays were my favorite time of the year. Not only did the city take on an entirely different atmosphere, but also it was the one time of year when both of our children could make the pilgrimage back home to spend time with Bella and me.
Of course, that meant we got to see our five adorable grandchildren as well. Our son Peter and his wife Charlotte had three little ones; Mike was eleven, Angela was eight, and little Bree had just turned three. Our daughter Kate and her husband Ben had two little ones; Jane was nine and her younger brother Tyler was seven. I always joked with Bella and told her it was a good thing we'd purchased such a big house, because when Christmas rolled around, it felt like we operated a small hotel.
"Papa, Papa!" Mike and Angela raced into the room, jumping on my lap and throwing their arms around my neck. I laughed and squeezed them into a hug. Tyler and Jane trailed behind, toting around their now-empty Christmas stockings.
"What kind of trouble have you four been getting into?" I winked at Mike and he gave me a lopsided grin. Charlotte always said they knew which side of the family his grin came from. In fact, I'd venture to guess our mouths mirrored each other in that moment.
"Who's this, grandpa?" Tyler reached in his stocking and pulled out a rusted picture frame. He handed it to me and I turned it over, smiling immediately.
"I see you kids were up in the attic?" My observation was met with silence as four pairs of wide eyes gazed up at me. I would never forget the day this picture was taken. Bella had her head tipped back and she was laughing uncontrollably. I had my hands wrapped around her waist and my face buried in her neck, and if you looked close enough, you could see the edge of my own smile against her skin. The Pacific Ocean stretched out behind us, with the rays of the sunset dancing across the water. Rose was behind the camera, and somewhere off to the side Emmett, Jasper, and Alice were busy constructing a bonfire and manning the grill. When I closed my eyes, I could still smell the mixture of salty ocean air, patchouli, and marijuana that was Bella back then.
"Well, grandpa? Who is it?" Mike settled onto my lap and rested his head against my chest, looking down at the photo.
"That's me and your grandma the summer we met," I explained, using my sleeve to wipe some of the dust and grime off the glass.
"That's grandma?" Angela looked at the picture in awe. I chuckled and tugged on her ponytail.
"Of course that's your grandma. Haven't your parents shown you any of the pictures from when they grew up?" Angela shook her head no, eliciting a surprised gasp from me. "Well, it's about time we changed that now, isn't it? If you two let me up for a minute, I can show you all sorts of pictures of your grandma and me."
Mike and Angela scooted off my lap and settled on the floor next to their cousins. I crossed the room and scanned over the photo albums that lined one shelf in our large bookcase. I grabbed two of them and made my way back to the Lay-Z-Boy. I was about to sit down when a thought crossed my mind. I could show the kids the albums and let them leaf through page upon page of pictures of Bella and me and our closest friends. Or I could use the pictures to take them on a journey through the first summer of my courtship with their grandmother.
"How about I get us all hot chocolate and some of grandma's gingerbread cookies, and tell you how your grandma and I met?" Angela, Jane, and Tyler nodded excitedly, but Mike looked skeptical.
"Eww grandpa! I don't want to hear about romance," he said, drawing out the last word and scrunching his face up in disgust. I couldn't help but laugh.
"Shut up, Mike! That's not very nice!" Jane scolded him. I put one hand on my hip and used my free one to shake a finger at her.
"Jane, don't tell your cousin to shut up. That's not very nice either." I turned my attention back to Mike. "You might be too young to appreciate romance, Michael, but I'm willing to bet you don't want to miss out on those cookies." Nobody could resist my wife's baking – especially our family members.
Mike crossed his arms over his chest and rolled his eyes. "Fine, grandpa Edward. But I'm not going to listen!"
I chuckled and shook my head, giving him the same crooked grin he'd given me earlier. "Always so stubborn, just like your father." I prepared the hot chocolate and arranged the cookies on a plastic tray shaped like a reindeer. When I rounded the corner, I found all four children huddled over one of the photo albums, cascading their fingertips across the thin plastic photo protector sheets.
"Is this Aunt Alice, Grandpa?"
"What is this guy doing?"
"Why does grandma have sand in her hair?"
I set the treats down and sunk to my knees on the floor in front of them. Times like this made me happy I took such good care of my health. I didn't know many other sixty-six year old men who could still get down to eye level with their grandkids, let alone get themselves back up. It wasn't as easy as it once was, but it wasn't something I struggled with either. One of the perks of being a doctor, I thought happily.
"Let's start at the beginning," I said, turning the album back to the first page. I passed out the hot cocoa and cookies, and waited for Jane to retrieve her blanket before continuing.
"It all started in the summer of 1976…"
- 1976 –
I dropped my duffle bag onto the floor of the beach house and stretched my arms. The flights from Newark to San Jose had taken almost nine hours, and then I'd spent another forty-five minutes in a cab with a driver that wouldn't stop talking. Now that I was finally in Santa Cruz, I wanted to grab a bite to eat and crash.
"Jasper? Emmett?" I roamed through the house in search of my two best friends. Laughter floated through the open patio door, and I saw orange flames twirling up against the black sky. I kicked off my shoes and stepped out onto the beach, sighing in contentment at the feeling of the sand beneath my feet.
"Edward?" Jasper stood up from the log he was straddling and jogged towards me. He shook my hand and pulled me in for an awkward one-armed hug. "It's so good to see you, man! Emmett and I were wondering if you'd ever make it."
"Fuck, dude, I got stuck in Denver for two hours on a layover. Even I didn't know if I'd make it." Jasper laughed and led me out to where Emmett and a few girls sat. Leave it to these two horn dogs to find single women in less than twenty-four hours.
"Cullen! What's up?" Emmett nodded and tipped his beer towards me in acknowledgment. "We thought Princeton might have swallowed you up!"
I smirked and shook my head. I'd known Emmett McCarty since I was a boy. Our parents were close friends and we grew up next door to one another in the small town of Branchburg, NJ. We met Jasper Whitlock three years earlier when we went off to study at Princeton University. He was a California native, and his parents owned a beach house in Santa Cruz, which eventually led to our tradition of spending every summer there on the beach.
"Esme would have murdered me if I hadn't spent a bit of time at home before heading out here." I perched myself on an empty log and looked at the two girls. "I'm Edward Cullen, king of tardiness. Who might you two lovely ladies be?"
"This is Rosalie Hale," Emmett put his arm around the waist of the stunning blonde sitting next to him, "and that is Alice Brandon." He pointed across the fire to the small brunette seated next to Jasper.
"Bella is going to love him." Alice looked at Rosalie and giggled. Rosalie arched her eyebrows and nodded in agreement.
"Who's Bella?" I was confused.
"Our good-looking, single friend who should get here sometime on Friday," Rosalie explained, nestling herself against Emmett.
"Cullen here is single, but he doesn't date, no matter how good-looking the lady." I felt my cheeks start to flame at Jasper's comment.
"I'm pre-med," I rushed to explain. "It's not that I don't want to date, I just need to focus my attention on my studies until I'm formally accepted to medical school." Alice and Rosalie both looked impressed.
"Good-looking, older, and a medical student. Bella will probably start salivating before she even gets on the plane when I tell her about this." Alice clapped her hands excitedly and reached for the corduroy bag on the ground next to her. "Now, enough about medical school and Bella. I want to get high and stare at the stars." She pulled a joint out of the bag and sparked it. When it got to me, I took a long drag and held the smoke in my lungs until I started to feel light headed. From September thorough May I assumed the role of Edward Cullen, straight-A student and all-around good guy. Once summer rolled around, I could let loose and do things like light one up and get completely off-kilter on the beach. The majority of my favorite memories included Santa Cruz nights like this.
As much as I wanted to party that night, my body had different plans. As soon as I breathed the smoke out, a wave of exhaustion crashed over me. I stood up and stuffed my hands in the pockets of my jeans. "I hate to add lame to my list of qualities, but I'm afraid I need to turn in for the night."
"Seriously dude? You just got here!" Emmett fixed me with his infamous "you've-got-to-be-fucking-kidding-me" stare. I shrugged and looked up at the star filled night sky.
"Tell me you weren't totally wiped when you got here on Monday?"
"I wasn't totally wiped when I got here on Monday," Emmett said sarcastically. I rolled my eyes.
"Ladies, it was nice meeting you both. I'm sure I'll be seeing plenty of you this summer." Alice and Rosalie giggled and waved at me. I turned and headed for the house. "Goodnight all!" I called over my shoulder.
I grabbed my duffle bag and hauled it upstairs to my room. My head barely made contact with the pillow and I was fast asleep…
"What's going on in here?" I looked up and saw Peter leaning against the wall opposite us. I smiled and gestured for him to join us in the center of the room.
"Sit down, have some cocoa and a cookie." I winked at my son as he dropped to his knees on the floor between Mike and Angela. His eyes fell on the photo album and a faint smile danced across his lips.
"Showing them pictures of you and mom in your younger years, are you?"
"Grandpa's telling us about when he met grandma," Jane explained, her mouth full of cookies.
"Daddy! Did you know that grandpa went to the same big, expensive school that mommy went to?" Mike's voice was filled with disbelief. Peter pulled him onto his lap and captured his head in the crook of his arm, giving him a noogie.
"Is that so? I never would have guessed!" Peter winked at me over the top of his son's head.
Angela tugged on my sleeve impatiently. "C'mon, grandpa. What happened when grandma got to the beach?"
"Ah, yes, that's where we were – the day grandma got to the beach…"
Rosalie and Alice spent the rest of the week talking Bella up to me, so by the time Friday rolled around, I couldn't wait to meet her. I had no intention of entering into a relationship, but I did have hormones and they were always raging.
I woke up around noon to an empty house. One quick shower and an express breakfast later, I put my sandals on and headed for the shore.
Alice and Jasper splashed around in the water while Rosalie and Emmett made out behind an oversized beach umbrella. There were at least a dozen bikini clad girls roaming around on the beach that day, but the minute my eyes fell on the brunette on the surfboard, all the others ceased to exist.
I watched in awe as she guided the board over the waves, twisting and turning her body to balance herself. I'd never seen a woman do this with such elegance and grace. I continued to watch as a surprise wave rolled her off the board and sent her into the depths of the ocean, only to see her head pop up seconds later, as her board drifted slowly towards the shore. She swam to the shallow area where Jasper and Alice were and stood up. Droplets of water glided down her pale skin and her dark brown hair clung to her shoulders in a wet mess. Jasper said something, causing Alice to laugh and the surfer girl to splash him with water.
"That's your girl," Emmett whispered, standing beside me and crossing his arms over his chest. I gulped and looked over at him.
"That's Bella?" So much for trying to keep my cool this summer, I thought. Emmett laughed and slapped my back.
"You got it. Don't look now, but she's headed our way."
My throat tightened, trapping the air in my chest. A million thoughts crowded my mind: Did I remember to brush my teeth? Does my hair look okay? I did put on deodorant, right? What the hell shirt was I wearing?
"You're Edward Cullen, right?" She had the voice of an angel. I looked up and saw her standing just a few feet from me. She had her hands on her hips and a smile on her face. Her chocolate colored eyes sparkled with amusement, and the pupils were dilated just enough for me to know she had a good buzz going already.
"Uh, yeah, that's me," I sputtered out. That sounded incredibly smooth, Cullen. Not knowing what else to do, I stuck my hand out. She shook it awkwardly and giggled. I'd crushed on girls before, but this … this was entirely different. The touch of her hand sent an electric current through my entire body, and I felt an automatic connection to her. That's ridiculous, I thought to myself. You've known her for less than five minutes.
"I see you two met," Rosalie sidled up against Emmett, placing her hand on his stomach and resting her head on his shoulder. "What did I tell you, Bells? Is he a hottie or what?"
"Definitely." Bella winked at me and tugged on the bottom of my t-shirt. "Let's get you out of this and in the water! Do you want a drink? I think there's still some Jack left in the cooler, and some diet Coke. Oh, and Alice has some green in her purse, so we could spark up first." She grabbed my hand and pulled me to where they'd set up their spot on the beach.
"I'm not a big fan of whiskey," I started to say, but Bella turned and placed her index finger over my lips and shook her head.
"Just pretend it's something else," she said, filling a plastic cup with the alcohol-infused concoction. She held the cup up to my lips and I parted them, letting some of the dark liquid flow into my mouth. I swallowed and winced at the burning sensation in my throat.
"I told you they were perfect for each other," Rosalie whispered to Emmett. My buddy smirked and kissed her shoulder.
I sat down on one of the beach blankets and kicked off my sandals. Bella fell to her knees in front of me and grabbed the bottom of my shirt, tugging it over my head and tossing it into the sand. She ran her fingertips down my chest and across my stomach, giggling the entire time.
"The girls weren't lying when they said you were dreamy," she whispered. I sucked in a deep breath and shivered involuntarily beneath her touch. She leaned back on her hands and tipped her face towards the sky. "Wanna get high?"
I couldn't take my eyes off of her. The royal-blue bikini stood out against her pale skin and left very little to the imagination. She had a small butterfly tattoo on her hip and a sparkly pink jewel hanging from her belly button.
"Well?" She brought her eyes back to me and arched an eyebrow. "Earth to Cullen. Come in, Cullen." She snapped her fingers in front of my eyes. I ran a hand through my hair and cleared my throat.
"Yeah, sure, I'm up for that."
Bella pulled a plastic steamroller out of the backpack next to her and packed the bowl on top of it with sticky green herb. She lit it and took a big hit then leaned towards me. I reached to take the bong from her but she shook her had and wrapped her hand around the back of my neck, pulling my face to her. She pressed her mouth against mine and started to blow the smoke out slowly. Taking the hint, I parted my lips and inhaled, noting how she tasted like cinnamon and peppermint.
She pulled her face away from mine and smiled, blowing the rest of the smoke into the air around us. I closed my eyes and exhaled, enjoying the familiar feeling that was already starting to wash over me.
"There might be hope for you yet, preppy boy, "Bella teased. I laughed and stole the bong from her, taking a large hit before lying down on the blanket.
"Oh no you don't." Before I realized what was happening, Bella climbed on top of me and straddled me, leaning forward until our foreheads pressed together. "No passing out until I say so."
That was the moment I knew – I would do anything for this girl.
Boy oh boy was I in trouble in this summer…
I watched with delight as the children flipped through the pages of the photo album.
"Grandma knows how to surf?" Mike's voice had a tone of admiration I never heard him use before.
I took my glasses off and rubbed my temples, thinking back to all the time Bella spent in the water that summer. "She hasn't been on a board for years, but she was the best surfer I knew back then. Your grandma is a woman of many talents, Mikey. I think that's where you and your sister get your curiosity from." My grandson beamed up at me before turning his attention back to the pictures.
"Grandma looks boo-tiful here!" Tyler pointed at a picture of Bella and I in front of the beach house. She had on her favorite sundress and I was wearing a pair of khaki shorts and a button down shirt.
"That's the night grandma and grandpa went on their first date," Peter piped in. Angela clapped her hands together excitedly.
"I knew you'd take her on a date!"
"Duh! If they didn't go on a date then they wouldn't get married, and then we wouldn't be around." Mike said, throwing his hands up in exasperation. Angela stuck her tongue out at her brother and turned back to me.
"Did you take her somewhere fun, grandpa? Like the ice cream shop?"
The things these four came up with never ceased to amaze me. "I wish it was that simple, Angela." I remembered how I agonized over that date for days before it happened. "I ended up taking her to the Salsa Shack…"
"Everything's gonna be fine, man. Just go with the flow of it! Bella is a totally chill chick." Jasper stood behind me while I adjusted the collar on my shirt. I took a deep breath, trying to calm my nerves, but it just wasn't working.
"She's not just any chick though, Jasper." I turned to face my friend, knowing full well he could see the panic on my face. "She's important to me. I've never felt this way before."
"You sound like you walked straight off the pages of the script for a chick flick." Emmett's laughter boomed and echoed off the walls of the small bedroom. I smacked the back of his head and took another deep breath.
"I'll be back later," I mumbled, grabbing the bouquet of flowers I'd purchased earlier in the day and descending the stairs. I closed the front door behind me and jogged down the steps.
It was a two-block walk to the house Bella shared with Rosalie and Alice. I thought I'd feel better after the first block was down, but the closer I got, the more nervous I got. By the time I was standing on the porch I was a mess. My palms were sweating, my knees were practically shaking, and my mouth was totally dry.
"Edward!" Alice flung the door open before I had a chance to knock. I cleared my throat and mustered up a smile.
"Hey, Alice! Is Bella around?"
Alice rolled her eyes and held the door open, beckoning me to come inside with a wave of her hand. "Do you even have to ask? She's hasn't stopped raving about tonight since you asked her!" Alice stood at the bottom of the stairs and cupped her hands around her mouth. "Bells! Edward is here and he looks smoking hot." She emphasized the last two words and gave me a wink before tiptoeing off towards the kitchen.
As soon as I heard the steps start to creak I looked up. My eyes grew wide and a smile spread across my face. Bella looked absolutely beautiful. Her hair was pulled up in a messy bun, and a few tendrils had escaped and hung loosely around her face. She had on a yellow sundress that ended several inches above her knee. White flowers adorned the soft looking fabric. She had a light coating of mascara and lip-gloss on and her cheeks were flushed with her natural blush.
"You look amazing," I whispered when she got to the bottom of the stairs. She smiled and pressed her lips against my cheek.
"Why thank you, Edward. You don't look so bad yourself."
I handed her the bouquet and shifted back and forth nervously on my feet. She took the flowers and buried her nose in them, inhaling the sweet smell.
"Thank you so much, these are beautiful! Let me put them in some water and we can go." She reappeared a few minutes later and grabbed my hand, leading me out into the night. "Where are you taking me?"
"The Salsa Shack," I blurted out. Bella's eyes lit up and she squeezed my fingers between hers.
"That's my favorite restaurant! I swear we knew each other in a previous life," she joked, swinging our intertwined fingers in the air.
The Salsa Shack was a "hole-in-the-wall," as my dad would say. It was a small restaurant on the beach that served burgers and Mexican food. One side of the restaurant was open and faced the ocean, and this was where Bella and I were seated.
Conversation came easy for us. I don't think there was a topic we left out that night. Bella told me all about her parents, Charlie and Renee, who owned and operated a bed and breakfast in Washington State. She told me about her freshman year at the University of Oregon, which she'd just completed, and how she wasn't sure but thought she wanted to major in journalism. She also told me all about her adventures with Rosalie and Alice, which left me laughing so hard my stomach hurt.
I, in turn, told her about my parents, Carlisle and Esme. She was fascinated to hear that Esme was an artist who owned her own gallery in New York City. Carlisle had a private practice pediatric clinic in Princeton, which she said tugged at her heartstrings. I told her I was a year away from finishing my pre-med program, and that some days I wanted nothing more than to give up and do something easier, but in the end I knew my passion was to help people, and what better way to do that than to save lives? I gave her the history of Emmett, Jasper, and me, and made sure to provide her with enough bits of blackmail-worthy information to keep Rosalie and Alice satisfied for the remainder of the summer.
We closed down the restaurant that night, talking, drinking, laughing, and getting to know one another. I'd never felt more comfortable with a person than I felt with Bella. I wasn't afraid to ask anything or say anything that night, because I knew she genuinely cared about everything that fell from my mouth.
During our walk home, it dawned on me – I loved this girl.
Somewhere between the Salsa Shack and her house, I decided I was going to kiss her goodnight. My hormones wanted me to do more than that, but I knew the time wasn't right.
"Thank you for the amazing evening, Edward." Bella came to a stop on her porch and turned to face me. I reached out and ran my fingers across her cheek and down her jaw. She closed her eyes and smiled, leaning into my touch. I cupped her face with both hands and leaned towards her, pressing my mouth against hers softly. She parted her lips and I slipped my tongue between them, exploring her mouth and becoming familiar with the way she felt. She fisted my hair in her hands and pulled me closer in an effort to deepen our kiss.
When I pulled away a minute later, her cheeks were flushed red and her eyes were narrowed into lust-filled slits.
"Thank you for the privilege of your company, Bella." I gave her one last chaste kiss on the lips, then turned and headed in the direction of my place.
When I looked over my shoulder, Bella was still standing there beneath the porch light. She had her arms wrapped around her chest and a 100-megawatt smile on her face.
As I walked home that night, I had only one thought on my mind:
I wanted – needed – Bella swan to be my girlfriend before the end of summer…
Some memories were meant to fade with time, like the image of my father in his casket and the pain I felt any time a patient's ailment was beyond the realm of saving.
Other memories stuck with me forever. The memory of the first night Bella and I spent together fell into this category.
Peter must have seen the emotion hovering beneath the surface in my eyes. He stood up and collected the empty cocoa mugs and cookie tray. "I think it's time for a little break." He looked up at the clock and back at the kids. "It's starting to get late. Why don't you four brush your teeth and change into your pajamas while I get us some refills?"
The kids stood up reluctantly, grumbling as they made their way to the guest rooms. I looked over at my son and smiled gratefully.
"Thank you," I mouthed to him. He winked and headed towards the kitchen.
I stretched my legs out in front of me, wincing at the familiar tingle of waking limbs. I leaned back on my elbows and closed my eyes, letting my mind wander back to that night on Sunny Cove Beach…
I pushed my sunglasses up on my head and searched for Bella in the water. The sun had started to set and only a few surfers remained, making her easy to spot. I watched in awe as she guided the board up on one of the waves, riding it out until it collapsed beneath her.
I looked down at my chest and frowned when I saw the beginnings of what would surely become a painful sunburn. Bella insisted I put sun block on when we arrived that morning, but I insisted on being stubborn and refused. I had no doubt she would remind me of that when she got back to the blanket and saw me.
She rode several more waves out before paddling towards the shore. She tucked her board beneath her arm and jogged towards me.
"Oh my God, Edward, look at you! That's exactly why I told you to put on sun block!" She laid the surfboard down on the sand and took a seat next to me on the blanket. She grabbed an ice cube from the cooler and placed it on my chest. I winced at the cold, but relaxed as she started rubbing it across my hot skin.
"If this is my punishment for not listening, remind me to refuse sun block for the rest of the summer," I teased, kissing her forehead softly. She swatted my arm playfully and rolled over so she straddled me.
"I can think of a lot worse ways to punish you, mister. Be careful what you wish for." She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively and slid her fingers under the waistband of my swim trunks. She ran her hand back and forth until my dick started to harden, then swung her arms over my shoulders and laughed mischievously.
"Bella Swan, you are purely evil." I brought my hands to her hips and rested them there, holding her in place above me. I nibbled on her earlobe and kissed the edge of her jaw. "How would you feel about being my purely evil girlfriend?"
She leaned back and looked at me in shock. She knew how dedicated I was to my studies, and that I didn't make a point of dating anyone, regardless of how great they were.
"Your summer fling kinda girlfriend?" she asked. I shook my head and kissed her gently.
"My permanent kinda girlfriend," I whispered, pushing a few wet strands of hair off her cheek. Her eyes brimmed with tears and she pulled my face to her.
"I would love to be your permanent kinda girlfriend," she said, kissing me hard. I lay back on the blanket, taking her with me. My hands drifted from her hips up to her chest. I stopped myself before I went too far.
"Edward," she whined. I opened my eyes and looked at her. I saw nothing but intense trust looking back at me. "I don't want to stop."
I ran my fingers down her spine, resting my hands against her ass and squeezing it gently. "Are you sure?" She nodded and stood up, grabbing her backpack and walking across the beach.
"Follow me," she called over her shoulder. I wasn't sure what she had in mind, but I did as she asked, following her to a secluded area on the other side of some sand dunes. She pulled a clean blanket out of her bag and spread it out on the sand. She turned and wrapped her arms around my shoulders, pulling me to her and kissing me roughly.
She'd given my hands permission to explore, and that was exactly what they intended to do. I tugged at the ties on her bikini top, pulling it off and tossing it in the sand next to us. I cupped her breasts in my hands, massaging her nipples with my thumbs.
"Mmmm," she moaned, arching her back and pushing her chest toward me. I started to drop to my knees, pulling her with me and laying her down gently on the blanket. Her hand found its way in my pants, and I gasped when her skin connected with the hardness that was settled there.
I leaned down and kissed her, dipping my tongue in her mouth and sucking on her lower lip. My hands went back to her nipples, tugging at them gently. She squeezed me hard in her hand as she gasped.
"I need to feel you, Edward," she groaned. I sat back so I was on my knees and pulled her bikini bottom off. Her skin looked even more beautiful in the moonlight.
"I don't have any protection," I whispered, kissing her neck and running my fingers up the inside of her thigh. She arched her hips up against me and pulled back so our eyes met.
"I'm on the pill," she whispered. I smiled and shifted so my cock lined up with her entrance. I covered her mouth with mine when I entered her.
I'd slept with women before, but never without a condom. Sinking myself into Bella had to be close to what entering heaven felt like. She was hot, wet, and tight, and I shuddered as her walls clenched against me.
"Edward, that feels so good," she moaned, digging her fingers into my biceps. I pulled out and pushed back in slowly, savoring the feel of her bare skin against mine.
Our mouths met again and I increased my pace, pushing in and out of her in fast, hard thrusts. When I tipped my hips upward, she cried out and I know I'd hit the right spot.
She wrapped her legs around me and dug her heels into the back of my thighs, pushing me deeper inside of her. I felt my orgasm starting to build and quickened my strokes until I was seeing stars and she was crying out my name.
We collapsed together on the blanket, limbs tangled and bodies sheathed with sweat.
"That was incredible," she whispered against my chest. I smiled and kissed the top of her head.
"Mmm hmm," I mumbled in agreement. I reached down and entwined our fingers, bringing them up to my chest so they rested directly over my heart.
After that night, I never wanted to be with another woman again…
The voices of four excited children brought me back to the present. Bella and her two friends stood in the foyer surrounded by shopping bags. Charlotte and Kate entered a moment later with their arms full of grocery bags.
"What's going on here?" Peter came out of the kitchen with six fresh mugs of cocoa and another tray of cookies. He set them down on the table and rushed to help with all the packages.
"Mom and Alice went a little overboard," Kate explained with a smile. Peter looked around at all the chaos and shook his head.
"A little? I'd say this is more than a little."
Bella and Alice laughed, taking their coats off and hanging them in the hall closet. Rosalie rolled her eyes and followed suit, joining me in the living room.
"Edward, what are you doing on the floor? And why are all these old photo albums out?" Bella took a seat next to me and rested her head on my shoulder. I squeezed her hand gently and planted a kiss on her forehead.
"Oh my God, Alice, look!" Rosalie pointed towards a set of photos and howled with laughter. "This was the day Jasper buried you in the sand! Do you remember that?"
Alice crossed her arms and pretended to frown with disapproval. "How could I forget? I had sand in places it doesn't belong for days after that."
"I brushed my teef!" Tyler raced up to me and gave me a ridiculously large smile. Two of his top teeth were missing, as was one of his bottom ones. I couldn't help but laugh at how goofy he looked.
"Good job! Now get your sister and cousins back over here so I can finish the story." Tyler raced back across the room and yelled at the other kids.
"Come on, grandpa wants to finish the story!" They sounded like a herd of animals running across the hard wood floor.
"Story?" Bella whispered to me. I nodded and tipped my head toward her.
"They wanted to know how we met," I explained, shrugging my shoulders helplessly. She smiled knowingly at me and sat up straight.
"Where were we?" I asked. My eyes fell on the rusty picture frame from the attic and I smiled. "Ah, yes. I believe we've finally arrived at the photo that started this all." I picked it up and set it on top of one of the albums, and the children all leaned forward to look at it again.
"That was our last night in Santa Cruz that summer," Bella explained, squeezing my hand as her eyes filled with tears. Four pairs of eyes looked up at us in surprise.
"It was also the day I told you I loved you," I continued, putting my arm around Bella's shoulders and gazing into her eyes.
"Summer was coming to a close, and all of us were sad…" Alice started for me.
My bags were packed and placed neatly at the foot of my bed. I'd gone through my room and cleaned everything that morning, making sure things were back in order so the Whitlocks didn't have too much to do when they got back to California next week. I could hardly tell a twenty-one year old guy had spent the last three months in this room.
"Ready?" Bella appeared in the doorway wearing my favorite halter-top and a smile. I took a deep breath and nodded, entwining my fingers with hers and following her out to the beach.
The sun was starting to set over the ocean, coloring the surface of the water in varying shades of orange. Jasper and Emmett were constructing a large bonfire and Alice was manning the grill with Rosalie. I stopped walking and spun Bella around to face me, running my fingers through her hair and kissing her lips.
"I'm going to miss this," I murmured against her. She wrapped her arms around my waist and buried her head against my chest.
"I am too," she whispered, her voice cracking with the threat of impending tears. "I wish the summer didn't have to end."
"Bella, Edward! Get over here and take a picture!" Rosalie shouted. I kissed Bella once more and nudged her to get moving. As soon as we hit the sand I picked her up and twirled her around, and she squealed in surprise and delight. When I set her down, I wrapped my arms around her waist so her back was flush with my chest and kissed her neck, smiling against her skin. She tipped her head back and laughed.
"Rose, c'mon, that wasn't fair! We need a redo!" Bella whined, grabbing for the camera. Rosalie grinned and shook her head, sprinting off down the beach. Bella chased her for a few yards before giving up and joining me on one of the logs that circled the fire.
"Someday your grandchildren will see that," Alice teased, sticking her tongue out at us. I flipped her off and pulled Bella closer to me.
We spent the next three hours enjoying one another's company. Alice planned on making a trip to the East Coast at Christmastime to see Jasper. She insisted he take her to New York City so she could go shopping and experience the holidays there. Rosalie decided she wanted to go too, and pretty soon Bella joined in on the planning.
"Carlisle and Esme would love to meet you," I whispered in her ear.
"You told your parents about me?"
I felt my cheeks heat up with embarrassment. "Of course I did. You're an important part of my life, Bella."
She grinned and ruffled my hair playfully. "I told Renee about you too, but not Charlie yet. He likes to pretend he's tough, especially when I bring a guy home."
The end of the night came too quickly, and soon Jasper was busy putting out the fire while the rest of us cleaned up the remnants of our beach bar-b-que. Once everything was done, Bella joined me in the living room to say goodbye.
"Don't cry," I whispered, wiping away her tears with my thumbs. She sniffled and choked back the sobs that threatened to escape from her throat.
"I can't imagine spending a day without you." She rested her head against my chest and squeezed my arms. "I don't want to spend a day without you."
The words left my mouth before I could stop them. "I love you, Bella."
She tipped her head up and looked in my eyes as her own filled with fresh tears. "Say it again," she whispered. I chuckled and brought my lips to hers.
"I love you, Bella Swan," I said, kissing her tenderly. She pulled back and smiled giddily.
"I love you too, Edward Cullen." I didn't think things could get any better than they had been all summer, but in that moment, they did…
"Your grandma and I spent every summer in Santa Cruz after that," I explained. "Sometimes she'd visit me in New Jersey for holidays, and other times I'd visit her here in Seattle."
"Great-grandpa Charlie even went easy on Edward," Bella said, laughing. "When Charlie pulled me aside at Thanksgiving the second year we were together and said, 'I like this one, Bells, he's a keeper,' I knew it was meant to be."
"I proposed to your grandmother during our third summer together." I'd never forget how happy Bella looked when I dropped down on one knee and held the black velvet box out to her.
Alice grabbed Rosalie's hand and smiled as silent tears fell down her cheeks. "She practically blew my ear drums out when she called to tell me they were engaged." Alice chuckled. "I thought for sure Jasper and I would be the first to get married, but little Ms. Bella here had to go and prove me wrong."
"We got married the summer before your grandpa graduated from medical school. I lived with him on the east coast while he finished his schooling and then we re-located to Washington to be closer to my parents." Bella squeezed my hand at the memory. "Renee needed help running the bed and breakfast and it just so happened the Seattle Sun was looking for a photojournalist."
Mike, Angela, Tyler, and Jane stared at us in wonder. Across the room, Peter smiled at his sister and gave her a hug.
"That sounds like a fairy tale," Angela said, holding her little hands over her heart and sighing. Bella laughed and a few happy tears escaped her eyes.
"It was magical, believe me, but we had our tough times too." Bella patted my knee supportively. "We still do. But we work through them, one day at a time."
"Do you still love her, grandpa?" Tyler clutched the rusty picture in his hands like it was a lifeline.
"I love her just as much today as I did the first time I told her," I answered honestly. "In fact, sometimes I think I've only grown to love her more as time went by."
"Do you have a story like my grandma and grandpa, Aunt Alice?" Jane crawled onto Alice's lap and stared up at her with puppy dog eyes.
"Of course I do, honey." Alice looked around at each of the adult faces in the room and smiled. "Everyone has a story of how they met the one they love."
"Mommy! Daddy!" Mike jumped up and sprinted across the room. "How did you two meet?"
Peter chuckled and looked at his wife lovingly.
"That, son, is a story that will have to wait for next Christmas."
A/N: Just so you all know ... details of the marijuana smoking and Jack drinking weren't shared with the grandchildren - just you fabulous readers! ;)