I played with my nephew's cheeks, oblivious to the impatient traffic of carts behind us in the frozen food's aisle; I couldn't help but fall over him, little Derek was a sweetheart! "What do you want, Reky?" Emmett probably hated that I had such a nauseating pet name for my very first nephew, but it was hard to give the little four year old a mature name like "Derek Charles Swan", it seemed too weird.

"Pizza!" My older brother hadn't made a proper meal for the poor child, but now that I was here they would no longer be mal-nutrition! "Pizza! Pizza!" I rolled my eyes but couldn't help laughing at his antics; his mother was missing out on so much of his life, oh, I hated that bitch! Who chose modeling (no matter how beautiful Elizabeth was) over a child, a newborn baby at that? I tried to push her out of my mind for now. "I'm hungry, Aunnie." He was presently lacking "t" in his vocabulary- Emmett spent so much time on base with his soldiers and hardly any real time with his son, which was something that was going to change. Derek was the sole reason Em invited me to live with him this summer, but I was going to teach him how to be a dad along the way.

Once I received my Bachelors in Linguistics and Public Speaking, I rolled over to the East Coast to assist my hectic brother; I was still twenty-two, with no real lead in life. A big shot company was currently processing my application and looking over my credentials from Berkley University, but companies like that took months to years to nail. I was fluent in four different languages, including American Sign Language, and I was well-qualified for translating in large audiences. Something would come up, whether it be in my home state or here by my brother, an opportunity would arise, I just knew it. "What would you like for dinner. Reky?"

He played with the handle bar of the shopping cart before delivering an answer. "Spaghetti." I rolled my eyes again. My dad was half Italian, as was my mother, and the bloodline for red sauces and olive oil seemed to go straight to Derek, the meatball lover. For the last week, all he allowed me to make was lasagnas, spaghetti, Calzones, Fettuccine Alfredosā€¦ it seemed Emmett was only capable of ordering saucy trays. I wasn't sure exactly what Elizabeth's ethnicity was, but she was pure bitch to me. God had better have mercy on her, because I would never forgive that woman for the abandonment and confusion Emmett and Derek had to face alone. I hoped she rotted in hell for the rest of eternity. Mom and dad hated her the moment they laid eyes on her, but Emmett and I were fooled by her sweet exterior- six months into the relationship, she was pregnant and he was in love. She refused to marry him, and once she got back on her feet after his birth, she flew back to Atlantic City for some modeling gig and promised to never return.

It was such a sad story for my brother, but Emmett was so loving and kind-hearted that he didn't let it tear him up. He respected her wishes and gave her the space she needed. Personally, i would have snatched her by her hair and threw her into the first passing cab- again, Em was too sweet for his own good when it came to beautiful women, and I was far too brutal and unforgiving when it came to nasty women. Why was he the Marine, and not me? Well, I didn't like guns, or killing people, or working out for more than thirty minutes daily. But I sure did have the attitude, I wore a red Simpre Fidelis hoodie for my brother, seeing as no one else in our family was proud of his accomplishment. I was, I was really prideful! I paid in the checkout line and carried a sleeping Derek into the car and buckled him up before making the trip back to my brother's house in his shiny Range Rover, a car that I aspired to own one day. My little Cherokee, Jeep knock off, got me all the way to North Carolina, but I wasn't sure if it would ever make the trip back home. Even after a week of living on base, crossing through the main gates always made me a littleā€¦ nervous. "Good morning." The Marine tipped his head in my direction before asking for my military ID. I pulled it from my wallet and flashed it before he opened the gate and let me on through. Fort Lejune was beautiful, maybe because of the landscape or the food, I wasn't too sure, but I never wanted to leave this place. And gas prices on base? Beautiful, still.

I was blissfully ignorant to the hard structure of the Marine Corp, but I knew that he was a sergeant of some sort, he had plaques and medals with a certain branch of the Marines everywhere in the three bedroom house, but I never asked him about it. Marines weren't all that for me, even if some of my girlfriends in San Diego swooned when they visited my parents' off-base house, with young Marine recruits visiting on and off in summer, but my brother and dad taught me to set my sights on others and not servicemen. They were mostly unreliable, unavailable, and narrow-minded with women, if Emmett and Charlie were anything to go by. That wasn't what I was looking for. Dinner was whipped up by five-thirty when Em came strolling through the door in his uniform. He kissed my cheek and pulled me into a bear hug before showering Derek with kisses and tummy raspberries. "Someone's in a good mood."

Emmett shrugged. "Commander Lefbreve personally regarded me today about a possible promotion. it's what I've been dying to hear since joining the Brigade, you know." I nodded to feign agreement before setting our plates of food in front of us on the square table. I had only been here for six days, but I was quickly making things familiar and setting routines for daily life for myself. This wasn't going to feel uncomfortable or like a hotel, this was basically my home now.

"I'm happy for you, brother. That means your pay grade goes higher, right?" I teased softly, causing Emmett to shake his head and laugh along. "I don't get you jarheads, doing all of this dangerous shit for little pay. Okay, I get that you're doing it for a good cause and freedom or whatever, but really? You make as much as a teacher, how is that fair? Teachers are in controlled classroom settings and can be close ot family. Marines are spontaneously stationed and worked to the max!" I spoke like I knew what I was talking about.

"If you love what you're doing, it's easy and worth every penny." He shrugged simply, as if that was such a wise answer. I shrugged it off and dropped the subject before it turned into one of those "it's about time you quit the military" arguments he and I periodicaly shared over dinner. My dad was still in the military, also, as a Drill Instructor at Coronado's Basic Training base, my mom had been a nurse for the Marine Corp Logistics Team for years before retiring at 48. My entire close-knitted family consisted of Marines, me being the odd girl out with my occupation. "Some buddies of mine from work are celebrating a birthday tomorrow evening if you'd like to come."

I shrugged my shoulders. "But what about Reky?" I saw his jaw tense at the nickname.

"Derek is going to be babysat by Mrs. Morrison from next door." He put special enunciation on his name before burping very loudly and blowing the distasteful air towards me. I cringed away from the awful smell before throwing my napkin at his face.

"How much can you trust the old lady, though? She has the potential to be a doormat Charles Manson right before she snaps!" I tipped my glass of soda in his direction to prove my point.

Emmett sent me a disbelieving look. "She takes care of her three grandsons, very close to Derek's age, and believe me- if Derek was brushed the wrong way, he would make a worldwide fact." I smiled because it was true. He had his father's big mouth and his aunt's stellar attitude. "I've taught him the "stranger danger" precautions already, Bella. I'm not that dense, I know about child safety." Really, I wanted to add, but for the sake of the good mood we were in, I neglected to. It was a rarity when this brother-sister duo got along for more than a few minutes at a time, but if we did see eye to eye, it was a very pleasant conversation and civil evening.

"Okay, Father of the Year." I twirled my finger in the air to dramatize the moment for him. We mostly teased and insulted one another, but occasionally our words turned sour and we got into physical altercations- he was always gentle with me, but I gave it all I had when it came to hitting him. Most women grew fearful when it came to fights with those larger than them, or males in general. The bigger they are, the harder they fall- that was something my father taught me, and I would never forget it.