I bet you thought this would never get posted. Honestly I was beginning to think that myself. Between real life getting insanely busy and the worst case of writers block I've ever had, I was worried I'd never get this to you.
Thank you to all of you for hanging with me and sticking with this story through the long waits for a new chapter. I hope this was worth the wait.
Thank you to My-Bella and Hope4More for letting me bounce ideas off of you, for fixing all my commas and calling me out when something didn't make sense, for helping me be a better writer, and for being the truly amazing friends you are. I couldn't have done this with you guys.
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Six years later…
I yawned and rubbed my eyes. Rolling over, I squinted at the alarm clock sitting on my bedside table while trying to see what time it was. As my vision cleared from the sleepy haze clouding it and adjusted to the bright light streaming through the open curtains, I saw it was nearly eight in the morning. Edward would be home soon from his twelve hour shift at the hospital. I couldn't wait to have him sleeping next to me again, preferring his day shifts so much more to his all-nighters.
"One more night," I mumbled to myself as I threw the covers back and sat up on the bed. As much as I'd love to roll over and wait for him to get home and crawl in bed next to me, I'd only get maybe fifteen-twenty minutes with him before I'd most likely have to get up anyways and I didn't want to wake him when I did.
Since tonight was the last of Edward's two weeks on the night shift, he'd have two days off before he would go back on the day rotation. I hated sleeping without him and him me, but we both knew it was all part of him becoming a doctor. Still it didn't mean either of us had to like it.
I stretched and let out a long, loud yawn as I got up off the bed. Shaking my head in an effort to push away the sleepy feeling that was hanging on, I headed for the bathroom adjoining our bedroom to shower. On my way, my eyes landed on the picture of us on our wedding day that was proudly displayed on my dresser. It was my favorite of us and it brought a smile to my face every time I saw it. There was a more formal photo of us posing perfectly for the camera on the mantel in the living room, but this one had been snapped by Al during our reception while Edward had been removing the garter from my leg so he could toss it to all the single guys attending. I remembered it like it was yesterday. I had been sitting on a chair with my dress hiked up just below my knee and Edward was kneeling in front of me with his hands hidden beneath my dress, on their quest to retrieve the garter. Just as his fingers had begun to tug on the piece of fabric, he had paused and looked up at me, his eyes so full of love and happiness, as he had whispered, "I love you with all my heart, Mrs. Cullen."
Al had admitted all she'd been trying to capture was him getting the garter, but later when she'd seen the picture she realized she'd caught so much more, seeing the pure love and devotion spread radiantly on both our faces in that instant. It had been an absolutely perfect day and our love was somehow even stronger now after having been married for four years.
Stepping under the hot water of the shower, I let my mind wander back over the last several years. My first thought was of Edward proposing.
It had been early June of 2012. Carlisle and Esme had just left for the summer to go help The Red Cross in Turkey after a devastating earthquake had leveled parts of the country. We'd stayed behind because Edward had decided to speed up his graduation by taking courses over the summer. It would make for a few incredibly busy summers, but doing so would move his graduation date up by a year.
Edward had taken me out to dinner to celebrate the one year anniversary of the day we'd met. After our dinner date we'd gone for a walk along the pier by the harbor, much like we'd done the first time he'd ever taken me to his condo. Once we'd reached the other end of the bay, there had been a bench that looked out over the harbor. The sun had been just about to set. It had been an amazing sight to see the sun glowing like a blazing ball of orange, hanging in the sky nearly touching the water's surface as I'd stood there, leaning into Edward's embrace, looking out across the water.
It certainly hadn't been the first sunset over the harbor we'd seen in our time together, but for some reason this one had seemed more beautiful to me and had captured my attention so thoroughly I hadn't wanted to miss a second of it.
Removing myself from his arms, I'd sat down on the bench in front of me and patted the spot next to me.
"Let's watch until it's gone," I'd suggested while never taking my eyes off the sun's display before me.
When I'd got no response from Edward, I had turned around.
"Don't you want to—"
My hand had flown to my mouth as I'd taken in the very unexpected sight of Edward kneeling next to me with an open ring box resting in the open palm of his hand.
I couldn't believe I'd been so enraptured by the evening sky that I'd never noticed Edward dropping down on one knee next to me until I'd turned to see why he hadn't come to sit down by me. Once I'd seen him though, the sunset had been completely forgotten.
"Isabella Marie, my Bright Eyes," he'd said soft and steadily, taking my left hand and tugging me off the bench until I'd been kneeling on the ground right in front of him. Before he could say anything else, I had nodded fervently as a choked up yes blurted out of my mouth.
Placing the ring on my lap he'd then cupped my face between his hands and kissed me gently after swiping away the tears sliding down my cheeks with the pads of his thumbs.
After kissing me he'd chuckled and asked, "Will you let me officially ask you now?"
I'd giggled and nodded eagerly.
"I had this elaborate proposal planned, but since you are so eager to answer, guess I better make this quick," he'd teased.
"Bella, I love you. I think, no I know I've been waiting for this day since the last time I slipped a ring on your finger. I can't wait any longer. Will you be my wife?"
"Yes, yes, yes," I'd practically squealed in excitement.
Edward's lips had been instantly on mine as he'd kissed me hard. I could feel all of his love and excitement searing through me in his kiss. As he'd slowed the kiss and pulled away, he had picked my left hand up again and removed my promise ring. Once he'd slipped it onto my right hand he'd plucked the new ring from the box on my lap and slid it into its place on my third finger.
"I love you," he'd whispered, resting his forehead against mine.
"Love you too," I'd returned, my eyes holding his, as we silently reaffirmed the words we'd just spoken. We had been married the following summer on the exact same day.
The water began to cool, shaking me from my memories. Finished with my shower, I shut off the water and stepped out of the glass enclosure.
Unfortunately as I dried off, my mind slipped to the big hoopla the media had made out of our engagement announcement. We'd had no way of knowing the timing of the announcement appearing in the paper would coincide with the decision in the case the state of Baltimore had raised against my parents for misappropriation of campaign funds.
I shook my head as the memories of that whole debacle came flooding back. I'd been hounded relentlessly with questions wanting to know if I'd been aware of my parents misuse of the donated funds meant to help my father win his campaign, or if I had wormed my way into the Cullen family because my parents were having money issues. It had been a nightmare, but not just for the hassle and aggravation but for the embarrassment the ordeal had caused.
None of us had been aware of the reporter lurking around the corner during the argument between Renee and myself after the election. We'd been made aware of the spying person a few weeks after the campaign was over when Tyler's campaign manager Garrett was notified.
Apparently during Renee's hasty exit after our blowout, she'd dropped one of the photos Garrett had given her. It had turned out to be a very damning image of her in an extremely compromising and very distasteful position with none-other than James Sullivan, the seedy news station reporter who had taken the pictures of Edward and me.
Renee would later learn that when she'd made the statement claiming it wasn't her in the photos that it'd be a grave mistake. She'd sworn that the pictures had been doctored and that she'd gladly provide copies of her bank statements to prove she never paid for any of the rendezvous locations because it wasn't her and she had nothing to hide.
Initially after she had made this statement it had seemed as though the incident would fade away. However when Charles suddenly filed for a divorce, some investigating had been done due to his reason for the divorce being infidelity. It had been discovered that when his campaign manager, Aro Volturi, prepared his final records to show the usage of Charles' campaign funds, a huge discrepancy in the amount had been found. The media had ripped Renee to shreds when it came out that she'd been using Charles' campaign donations to pay for her secret liaisons with the news reporter. Of course this all led to an official investigation by the government. Charles had been cleared and found to be innocent and unaware of his wife's pilfering of the money to finance her love affair. He had been made such a laughing stock and suffered so much embarrassment in the media over the event, that once his divorce to Renee and the court hearings over the campaign funds were over, he left Baltimore for some small town in the Pacific Northwest. I had also learned during the course of the trial that while he'd had no knowledge of the treatment I'd been subjected to by Renee, he had removed me from his life because of my involvement with the Cullen family and declared I no longer meant anything to him for this huge betrayal I'd committed. Although I'd been surprised that he'd been unaware of her actions, his reaction hadn't surprised me. He'd been just as much of an absent parent in my life as she had. In fact I'd actually had more interaction with Renee than I had with him during my younger years, so the fact he'd packed up and left town had made no difference to me.
Renee hadn't faired so well. The humiliation Charles had suffered was nothing compared to the lashing out she'd received. No longer an upstanding member of the Baltimore elite social standing, she'd been ousted completely once found guilty of stealing the campaign funds. In addition to being shunned by all of her wealthy friends, she had been ordered by the courts to make restitution for the stolen money and sentenced to two years in jail. Rumors swirled all around the media that her father had called in any and all favors he could when the judge commuted eighteen months of her sentence to probation and only forced to serve six months as a wakeup call. At least that's what the judge had called it. Since then I'd heard very little of her. The news had covered her release from the posh penitentiary she'd served her time in, but there'd been nothing of her after that.
"Good riddance," I mumbled softly to myself. I had so much joy and happiness in my life now that my so-called parents were nothing more than distant unpleasant memories to me.
I quickly threw on some clothes and dried my hair before I bunched it up into a messy bun to keep it out of reach of little fingers that liked to pull on it.
Hungry, I decided I had just enough time to pull together breakfast before Edward got home. We still lived in the condo Edward and his parents had when I'd met him. Shortly after Edward and I had become engaged, Carlisle and Esme informed us that they'd be moving out and the condo was an early wedding gift to us. We'd tried to convince them it wasn't necessary for them to do so, but they assured us they still remembered quite clearly what it was like to be newlyweds, and wanted us to have the privacy and freedom to enjoy that time without the old folks hovering around the house.
We'd tried to convince them we didn't see them as the old folks and that if anyone should move out it was us, since we were the ones making all the changes in our lives, but they had refused and eventually assured us that it was what they truly wanted. They had explained that with how busy they were at the hospital, and all the traveling they would be doing for their work with the Red Cross, it would make their lives easier to have an apartment closer to John Hopkins. And when Carlisle had added that it was something they had been considering before we'd announced our engagement, we really had no other choice but to accept their gift because they obviously weren't going to accept anything else from us. Although the huge gift giving hadn't stopped there. While we had been on our honeymoon, Rose and Al had conspired with the rest of the family and had let them in on the fact that Edward and I wanted to make a few furniture changes in the condo and we'd come home to find the whole place having been completely refurnished except for the few pieces they knew we really liked, as our wedding gift from Tyler, Beth and Grandma Babs.
Nearing the end of the hall, I realized Edward was already home when I heard the hushed tones of his voice coming from the living room.
Peeking around the corner, my heart rate sped in delight at the sight of them and my face instantly broke into a huge smile. The two most important people in my life where right there in that living room. They were my whole world. Leaning back against the wall where I was out of his view, I listened to what he was saying.
"You're mommy was the most beautiful woman in the world that day. Well actually she's the most beautiful woman in the world every day, but she was even more so on our wedding day. When you get bigger, Daddy will show you the pictures and you will agree."
Right on cue Allie, who'd gotten her nickname from Al, gurgled at him as if she understood exactly what he was saying to her and that she agreed completely. I could clearly picture the sweet grin on her chubby little face and how her big brown eyes would be glued to Edward's face as she stared, totally captivated by him.
Oh you aren't the only one, baby girl.
I took a couple of steps forward so I could watch them. It wasn't the first time I'd woken to find the two of them lost in their own little world. But no matter how many times I saw Edward with our daughter, each time my heart felt like it would explode from all the love the precious scene sent surging through it.
There were times when it was still hard to believe she was ours. It had taken us nearly seven months, thousands of frequent flyer miles, buckets of tears, and a mountain of paperwork before we'd been able to bring her home. However the hardship of those long months was now replaced with many wonderful memories.
I'd never forget the first time I'd laid eyes on her—held her in my arms. She'd been only a few weeks old, so tiny and scared when she'd been rushed into the medical tent for treatment. I had immediately felt an uncanny pull to her. One unlike anything I'd experienced in my life before, aside from the connection I'd instantly felt for Edward.
The adventure that changed our lives in a way we'd never imagined had begun this past May. Edward and I had decided to take two of the three weeks' vacation time we had and go along with Carlisle and Esme to Mexico to help provide medical treatment to the thousands that had been affected by flooding and mud slides caused by a series of tropical storms that had hit the country in a short time period.
We had been stationed near Acapulco. The damage we'd witnessed had been horrible. Roads washed away, the airpor flooded and huge mud slides burying everything in their path. There had even been reports of crocodiles swimming in the streets.
Esme and I had been cleaning up and restocking supplies after a large round of patients had been treated when Carlisle had called for our help. Allie had been strapped in a car seat screaming as loud as her little lungs would allow her to. Carlisle had ordered Edward and Esme to help him treat a young woman, who had been unresponsive but still had a very weak pulse, and asked me to begin checking out the baby for injuries. The rescue team that had found them had relayed she'd been in her seat the whole time and didn't appear to be physically harmed.
After a very thorough examination I had been relieved to find the baby indeed unharmed other than being slightly dehydrated. At the time there had been no other victims needing treatment so I had taken it upon myself to clean her up and get her fed. Once she'd been cleaned up and fed, she had been a much happier baby. From the first moment I'd held that fragile baby in my arms, I hadn't wanted to let her go. There had been this overbearing instinct to stay close to her and protect her. When I later learned the young woman brought in with her was her mother and that she hadn't made it, I'd made it my personal mission to look out for this precious little girl until some other family members could be located.
Days turned into weeks and no family members had been found for Baby Sanchez. Edward and I had been scheduled to leave in just three days' time. I remembered it so vividly.
"I can't do it," I told Edward.
"Can't do what?" he asked.
"I can't leave her. I need to stay with her. Don't ask me to explain it to you because I can't. But I know I am supposed to be here with her."
I had been standing with my back to him, afraid to look at him as I had held Allie cradled in my arms, afraid of seeing what I had been certain would be his sorrow over having to tell me we had to go back home. Back to our jobs, back to the lives we'd had before we'd come to Mexico.
But he hadn't. Instead he'd moved closer and wrapped one arm around my waist and held an envelope in front of my face for me to see. When I'd looked into his eyes I'd seen so much emotion filling them.
He'd looked down at the baby in my arms and said, "Guess it's a good thing I had my dad pull some strings then. I didn't think you'd want to leave her either."
I'd been ecstatic to see that Carlisle had somehow finagled us an extended leave of absence with the hospital. But what Edward had said next had nearly ripped my heart out.
"You know eventually they will find her family and you will have to say goodbye."
He had tried to pull me closer to him but I'd spun out of his arms.
"We're her family!" I had screamed. "No one's come looking for her! No one has reported her or her mother missing. I want her to be ours, Edward. What if she doesn't have anyone? What if no one ever comes for her? Then what?"
He'd held me that afternoon while I'd cried and then when I couldn't cry any longer he'd made me a promise that we'd find her family. And when I'd questioned him about what happened if we didn't, I knew he knew what I had been asking, I had seen it in his eyes, he cared for her too. But at that time all he'd say was, "We'll cross that bridge when we get to it."
At the time I had accepted that, knowing there was at least a fifty percent chance I'd have to say goodbye to the baby I had been growing to love more and more each day.
Three weeks later we still hadn't found any link or clue to any living family members she might have. It wasn't until a volunteer from one of the local hospitals had come to help out that we had learned of a living relative. The volunteer had recognized the baby's last name, which had been all we'd known of her from her mother's ID, and said there was an elderly woman who'd been taken to the hospital around the time of the mud slide that had swept the baby's mother's car off the road.
With that lead to go on, we'd found out the elderly woman had been the baby's great-grandmother and only living relative. We'd then learned the baby's name was Alegria and her great-grandmother Carmen Sanchez was expected to make a full recovery. However this hadn't given us the happy outcome one might expect. The woman had been too old to care for the baby on her own and that meant that baby Alegria would likely end up in foster care to be placed for adoption. The thought of that happening had made me physically ill. I had been willing to move heaven and hell to prevent the baby I'd become so attached to from ending up in some orphanage until being adopted.
That day had been just the beginning of our journey. Edward had not hesitated at all when I had told him I wanted to adopt Alegria, he had grown to love her too, but we first had to get Carmen to agree to what we wanted. We'd had no idea how she'd feel about us wanting to adopt her great-granddaughter and move her thousands of miles away to another country.
It had turned out that convincing Carmen had been the easiest part of the whole process. With us agreeing to pay her legal fees for a lawyer of her choosing, she'd had us thoroughly investigated. She may have been up there in years, but she had been smart as could be. It had taken a few weeks, but once she'd been certain we could provide her great-granddaughter with a loving home, her only stipulation had been that we keep her first name the same. We'd learned that the baby we'd been caring for was named Alegria which meant happiness and that she was her mother's happiness since her father had been killed in the Mexican military, and since we knew she'd bring a great amount of happiness to our lives, it had been an easy agreement to make.
However that's when our real work to adopt Algeria had begun. As much as I'd hated to leave her, Edward and I both had to fly home to begin the official paperwork to make her ours. Carlisle and Esme had stayed behind to care for what they hoped would be their future granddaughter. After three trips back and forth, signing more papers than I had in my entire life, obtaining an immigrant visa for her, filing for a new birth certificate and passport, we had finally been able to call her ours. It had been a long tedious process that had taken us nearly seven months before we had been officially allowed to board a plane with her and take her home with us. It had been a long hard time for us and at times it had gotten to us and we'd crack and take the stress out on each other or wonder if we were doing the right thing. But those moments had been very brief and now as I watched my husband hold our daughter in his arms and see the love on his face, and see that same love in Allie's eyes, it was so worth it. I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
"You're home early. Got any hugs left for me?" I asked, stepping around the corner to reveal myself, not wanting to be away from them any longer.
"What do you say, Princess? Do we have hugs for Mommy?" Edward asked before blowing a raspberry on her neck, causing her to shriek and giggle loudly.
"Ma," Allie babbled and reached for me as I joined her and Edward. I kissed the top of her head as I sat down next to them on the couch. Her little arms flailed in excitement as a big almost toothless grin filled her tiny face as Edward handed her to me.
With her securely in my arms, Edward pulled me over next to him and wrapped his arms around the both of us.
"Good morning, Bright Eyes," he said softly as he planted a lingering kiss on the side of my neck.
"It is a good morning," I replied, turning my head and giving him a sweet kiss.
"How'd this little one sleep last night?" Edward asked as he tapped Allie on the nose, earning another giggle from her.
She was getting over an ear infection and hadn't slept well the night before.
"Much better. She only woke up once."
I planted a big wet kiss on Allie's cheek and sat her on the floor and handed her a couple toys out of the nearby basket sitting by the end of the couch. I then snuggled up next to my husband who I'd missed during all his long working hours.
He gave me a kiss that was meant to be chaste, but quickly turned into a lingering one. We were just as quickly halted before we could get carried away by the fussy squeal of our daughter.
"What's the matter, Princess?" Edward asked her as he bent down to retrieve the toy she'd tossed out of her reach. Handing Allie the toy back he said, "I can tell she's feeling better. She should be over the worst of it now."
"That's what I thought. Did you talk to your dad last night? Did he tell you dinner was off this weekend?" I asked, leaning back against Edward.
"Yeah. He told me poor little Emma is miserable," Edward answered.
"You're mom said Emma's covered head to toe in chickenpox spots."
Emma was Rose and Emmett's two year old and she was pretty sick at the moment.
"She is. Emmett texted me a picture of her. I'll show you later."
"Poor thing. I'm sure she's miserable."
"Probably so. And Dad said Jasper called him. Alice is freaking out, worried Julia and Jasper Jr. are going to get them since they were playing with
Emma the day before she started breaking out with the spots," Edward told me with a chuckle.
"Didn't you already tell them that the odds of the twins getting them were minimal since they'd been vaccinated?" I asked.
"Yes, but you know how Alice is when she gets worried. And the fact that Emma got them despite being vaccinated makes it all that much worse."
"True," I agreed, knowing exactly how Al could be at times.
"Guess we'll just have to deal with being stuck home all weekend," Edward whispered as he rubbed his lips ever so lightly across my neck. "Especially since I have an extra day off now."
"Derrick was looking for an extra shift and since I've been on nights for two weeks straight now, and I knew Allie had been keeping you up at night with her ear infection, I offered him mine for tonight."
"So you don't have to cover one of his later on do you?"
"As of now, no. But it'd only be fair for me to do so if he asked."
"I suppose that's true," I agreed even though I hated the thought of him having to give up one of his days off.
"So, what do you want to do with my extra night home?"
"Mmmm, whatever will we do?" I whispered back, enjoying the feeling of his lips that were still skimming across my neck.
"Well…we could practice trying to make a little brother or sister for Allie," Edward suggested.
"You really do like having me home all the time. Don't you?"
We'd made the decision for me to be a stay-at-home mom until Allie was in school. As much as my nursing career meant to me, remembering how it felt to be raised by someone other than my parents for the most part, I didn't want to miss out on one second of Allie's first years and Edward was more than happy to have me home and us not having to juggle our crazy schedules to have time together.
"I do," he replied honestly.
"Well I think that can be arranged, Mr. Cullen."
"I love you, Mrs. Cullen."
"I love you too."
Life didn't get much better than playing with my daughter and making love to my husband. Just like I had, Allie had found a place where she belonged in this family. As long as I had them, then I had all I'd ever need to be happy.
Thank you again for being the amazing readers that you are. I am going to be taking a break, I have a long reading list that I'd like to get to, plus My-Bella and I are still working hard on Beneath The Surface, but I also have a plot bunny or two hopping around in my head so you just never know when a new story might pop up. Put me on alert so you won't miss it when I do. I am also toying with a few ideas for an outtake or two for this story so if there's a missing moment you'd like to see, let me know.
One more time, please let me know what ya think.
Thanks for reading,