A/N: Thank you so very much for your reviews. We're on the cusp of 400, so I hope I get at least one : ) I've truly enjoyed the "trip" with you, and I hope you don't look at the time as wasted. I certainly won't.
SMeyer owns all Twilight characters. I didn't infringe, but I do own the idea of this story.
56. Epilogue: Deep in the Heart of Texas
Fifteen years later
"Mase, you just gotta concentrate. Izzy's a good ropin' horse, and you know what you're doin', so just go do the job. Your daddy told me the same thing years ago. It's just like workin' at the ranch," Seth told his nephew. They were back at the Junior Finals…the difference being that Masen Cullen was riding instead of Seth.
Seth had done his time on the rodeo circuit, and he'd settled down and married a nice young woman named Caroline. They had a baby on the way, and they were back in Houston to support Masen and Mary Rose, Edward and Bella's youngest daughter who was a barrel racer of her own right. The Cullen name was well known in rodeo circles, and the entire family was there in support.
When the Smith sisters passed away, they left the rescue farm to Charlie Swan. He and Edward decided to partner up and build a first rate facility in the sisters' honor. Seth and his wife lived on the farm and took care of the rescued animals, and Jack and Jill had retired there.
Seth saw his sister, Bella, his brother-in-law, Edward, and the rest of the family in the stands eagerly waiting for Masen's ride.
Life had been good to the family, but something was going on with Seth's niece, Lizzy, and he wasn't sure what it was. She was at the rodeo, but she was sitting next to her granddad Carlisle, and she wasn't talking to her parents.
He'd heard from his wife that Lizzy had a boyfriend of which her parents didn't approve, and he'd decided that after Masen's ride, he'd quiz his sister about it.
"The cowboy's in the box," the announcer called as Seth made his way over to the bleachers where the family was waiting.
"He's ready, ain't he?" Edward asked nervously. He'd worked with Masen, but Seth was younger and able to give him pointers that Edward hadn't thought about in years, so he deferred to Seth's mentoring of his son.
"He's more than ready. Izzy's a good horse even with years on her, and they work well together. He's got this unless the calf just stops dead in the center," Seth answered as he pulled his hat off and sat down, waiting anxiously.
They all watched as Masen gave the nod and the calf broke the barrier. Izzy shot out of the box like a horse ten years younger and caught up quickly. It only took Masen two spins of the rope over his head to loop it around the calf's neck. He was off Izzy in a second and down the line like a shot. After he tossed the calf on its side, he did the double loop and hooey, and threw his hands in the air as he'd done every time he'd competed.
He climbed back on Izzy and waited for the six seconds to tick off, and when the horn sounded he looked at the clock and saw that he'd roped and tied the calf in six seconds flat. That put him in the lead, and he couldn't help but toss his hat in the air.
He heard his family in the stands, and he turned around to see his mother and father hugging each other and cheering for him.
His older sister, Lizzy, who was in college had come to Houston for the event, and his younger sister, Mary Rose, was waiting at the gate because she still considered Izzy hers.
Their mother laughed about it because when their parents snuck off for a ride in the summer evenings to a spot that they wouldn't share with anyone, their mom rode Izzy, and their dad rode a gelding out of a stud he used to own.
His parents never talked about it much, but Masen could see the look in their eyes when they'd come back from their evening rides, and it was one that he hoped to find with a young woman someday. You didn't have to be a rocket scientist to see that Edward and Bella Cullen were in love. They showed it to everyone who ever met them, and their children knew it every day of their lives.
Masen rode back to the pen outside of the arena and climbed off the back of the horse giving her a good slap and a "good girl," as he took the bridle off of her and replaced it with a halter to lead her to the stall in the arena that was hers. He fed her grain and made sure the water tank was full before he walked out.
His family engulfed him in hugs and kisses as they waited for the last two riders to compete. In Masen's mind, he'd already won. He had a large loving family, and whether or not he won the trophy, it didn't matter, he won the jackpot with his family, and it was more important than any trophy could ever convey.
"Thank y'all for comin' out today. Bella and I are happy to welcome Trent into our family, and we're happy to say that the newlyweds will be takin' over Doc Swan's practice when they get back from their honeymoon.
"I remember when she brought him home that first time to meet us right before Mase won the Junior Finals, and she was pissed at us because we didn't think the boy would amount to a hill of beans. Sorry, son, but that was the impression you gave us. Anyway, we all know how it turned out, so let's raise a glass to my daughter and her new husband. May the road rise up to meet ya," Edward toasted as his emotions overtook him such that he couldn't finish. Everyone understood it, and no one gave it a single thought.
All of the friends and family were present at the Ramsey-Grainger Mansion where Edward and Bella had married years before, and the family was celebrating.
Trent was a welcome addition to their family, and Bella had already told them that they didn't need to wait years to have children. She was as anxious for grandchildren as Esme had been all those years ago.
"Darlin', can I steal ya away for a dance?" Edward asked as he pulled her from talking to Alice and Rosalie.
As the two made their way to the dance floor, Edward wrapped his arm around her waist and captured her right hand in his placing over his heart as he'd always done when they danced. "Well, our first is married. Did ya ever imagine our life would be this way?" he whispered to her. Feeling her body in his arms still thrilled him, and he hoped that she felt it as well. With an empty house, he hoped they could reconnect as they always had in the past.
"Not exactly like this, but even I couldn't write it this way. I love you so much, Cowboy. You're my everything, do you know that?" she asked as he kissed her neck.
"And, you're mine. I'm so damn glad to have this time with ya. I have a surprise. We're going back to Italy. I rented the same little farm house, and we're gonna have our own honeymoon again. Em and Rose are gonna watch out for the Mase, and Mary Rose is goin' to Houston to stay with Momma and Daddy. I want my wife alone just like we were all those years ago. You game?" he whispered to her as they danced.
"Cowboy, I'm game for anything your dirty little mind can come up with. I love you more than I can tell you, and I'll follow you to the ends of the earth. Thank you for making our life so wonderful. I'm blessed," she responded as she placed her hands on both sides of his face and kissed him deeply.
There was nothing more to be said. They'd made a life and they had a love of a lifetime. They hoped everyone could find it, but they were happy they had. It was their happily ever after, and it was better than any paperback novel anyone ever wrote.
E/N: *sniff* Well, that's it. I truly hope you liked it. I'd love to hear from you one last time for this story.
In light of the drama that's ripped through the fandom, I know a lot of people are so upset that they're not reading Twilight stories, or so I've read. I truly hope that's not the case because I've got a great story I'd like to post, but in light of the fact that I don't get that many reviews anyway, if people are boycotting or giving up or whatever, I might stop posting and just finish up "Bandits." Thoughts?
Thank you for reading.
For the last time…xoxo