Dedication: To Shug, even though she's abandoned me. *sadfase*


It was just before the dawn when Edward woke, blinking in the strangeness of the room. A moment passed before he realized where he was.

For the last three years, the day before his birthday, Edward and Bella found themselves back at the Chito Beach Resort - thankfully not in the Wolf Den. It was the first of many traditions they'd created together.

Edward rolled onto his side, smiling privately as he took in the sight of the gorgeous woman beside him.

She'd rolled onto her belly at some point during the night and had her arms around her pillow. She was nude, the blankets low on her waist. Edward ran his fingers down his favorite expanse of skin. He rested his hand flat against the small of her back considering that if it were at all possible, he would move into the divot where her back met her ass. Leaning in, he pressed a kiss there, smiling against her skin when she sighed.

At home, in his private office, he had a picture of her hanging at eye level beside his desk. It was of just this image - Bella asleep in their bed, her bare back on display - all smooth skin and perfect curves. The light was hitting her just so and she looked ethereal - so angelic.

She was precious, she'd always been precious to him. From the sweet, heartbroken little girl she'd been to this strong, brilliant, beautiful woman she'd become - she'd owned him from the very first moment.

He began to kiss up her back, his fingers tickling as they moved upward.

"Edward," she whined a bit as she stirred. He loved her like this - hair snarled and wild, voice scratchy with sleep - deep. "I'm not awake."

He just hummed, continuing, brushing her hair over one shoulder so he could kiss along the skin of the other.

"Edward," she said again.

"Hush you," he rumbled, pressing his lips to her ear. "You want me to get up for Comic Con in a couple weeks to wait in lines for four days, you don't even have to move for this. Much."

Bella snorted, burrowing further into her pillows. "Don't even pretend you don't like Comic Con. You legit fangirled when you met Kevin Smith last year. Fan girled, Edward. You squeaked."

Edward ran his hand down her back, giving her ass a little squeeze before he slipped his fingers between her legs. "I'm allowed one squeak. Your voice doesn't come out of that high pitch for at least a week, afterward."

She laughed and then moaned when his fingers moved over her clit. She shifted, spreading her legs as she cradled her head in her arms.

He used his knees to guide her legs further apart, positioning himself on top of her. He nuzzled her neck with his nose, murmuring into her ear that he loved her as he pressed himself slowly inside her.

This was a good position for them - intimate and easy. Bella was agreeable to making love in the morning as long as he didn't ask too much of her. As they'd been plenty athletic the night before, Edward was more than content to just enjoy the way her body felt under his, her small frame tucked just right against him. She sighed and pushed up into him, reaching back to run her fingers through his hair.

He could tell she was awake when she pushed up onto her knees, letting him slip deeper. Edward knelt behind her, his hands on her hips, pulling her body up toward his.

When he was spent they both curled up, content to fall back asleep. He woke her again at a more acceptable hour with his head between her thighs - one good turn deserving another.

The day passed much like this. They finally roused themselves from bed where they made breakfast side by side, Edward admiring Bella in his shirt, Bella admiring his toned physique without it. They took a walk out on the beach and made love again on the private patio's lounge chair.

Their lives in Chicago were busy. Bella was only a semester away from completing her degree, and Edward had just come off a slew of back to back shoots across the country. It was good to reconnect here where they'd first found themselves.

They were curled up on the couch, Bella's legs over his, pretending to watch a movie when Bella noticed Edward kept glancing at his watch. "Got a hot date you're not telling me about, Cullen?"

He smirked at her, leaning in to nip playfully at her nose. "As a matter of fact, I do." He glanced again. "But you're going to have to give it... oh, three minutes."

Bella rolled her eyes, rubbing his knee with her foot.

"Actually. I need to get something. Be right back."

He laughed when she protested but was out the door in minutes.

Outside, he saw no sign of his brother, but Emmett had kept his promised, as evidenced by the package that now sat in the backseat of the rental car. Edward smiled, glad his brother had come through.

Then his throat abruptly went dry with what he was about to do.

"Edward?" Bella called from the porch, peering at him.

Edward quickly threw a sweater over the package and went to join her.

"What is that?" she asked suspiciously as he climbed the steps back to her.

"Never you mind," he dismissed, taking her hand in his free one and leading her back inside.

"Okay. It's been more than three minutes."

Edward grinned. Bella's curiosity was insatiable once piqued. "Fine, Miss Impatience." He gave her a serious look. "Now. It's past nine at night which means somewhere on this continent, it's already my birthday."

She wrapped her arms around his neck, scooting closer to him on the couch. "Then happy fortieth in Florida," she murmured, kissing his lips softly.

He lingered a moment, kissing her back before he got back to business. "Good. Then I have something for you."

"Edward," she protested in a groan. "It's your birthday. You're not supposed to give me gifts on your birthday."

"Birthday boy gets what he wants. That's your rule, remember?" he said sternly.

Her expression was coy. "Well, yeah, but usually I expect you to ask for sex."

Edward chuckled, taking out the package from behind his back.

Bella's eyebrows shot up. "Is that... a shelf from my room?"

It was indeed one of the cut out shelves from her room - the one made to look like the question mark box from the Super Mario games.

He held it above his head. "You know the drill, Swan. Bop the box for treasures."

Edward was frankly amazed his voice was holding steady, as nervous as he was.

Bella gave him a look but indulged him, reaching up to whack the box. He shook it forward at the same time and a smaller box fell out falling onto her lap. She snatched it up, her eyes shooting to his. "Edward..."

Swallowing, Edward took the box from her, opening it and resting it in her upturned palms. "My love for you has always been total and unconditional," he said softly, holding her eyes as she looked up from the engagement ring nestled in the little box. "Marry me, Bella, and I promise I will love you the rest of your life."

Her eyes were shining. She flew forward into his arms, knocking him breathless as she kissed him again and again. "Yes," she said in a whisper. "Yes, yes I will."

The joy he felt was unlike any other. There was a fervent scramble wherein he managed to get the ring on the appropriate finger just before she pushed him onto his back, straddling his hips.

Some time later, when they were sated and she lay on top of him, her hand splayed across his chest and her head resting against his shoulder, she laughed.

"You asked me to marry you on your birthday - technically. And it was a geeky proposal, too," she mused.

"I'm not ashamed to hedge my bets."

Bella raised her head. "Silly man." She kissed him sweetly. "This is just a formality. I've been yours."

His smile spread so large he hardly had enough face to contain it. He traced her lips with his finger. "As I am yours," he promised in a whisper."

~0~

Edward had been surprised when Emmett agreed to help him with his proposal without a single word in jest. Of course, he should have known better. It turned out, his elder brother was just saving it for his birthday celebration.

"But where are you going to put the aisle?" he asked with an expression of faux concern.

Edward reached out to take Bella's hand, giving it a squeeze. "What are you talking about, Emmett?" she asked.

Completely straight faced, Emmett answered, "There's only one side. Usually you have a bride's side and a groom's side with an aisle down the middle, but you guys are just going to have one big group of people. So where's the aisle?"

"Emmett, are you giving your brother grief?" Esme asked as she came into the living room. "You know I am not above putting you in the corner, young man."

Henry thought this was hilarious and chortled merrily at the idea of his father being made to stand in the corner.

Emmett pretended to look hurt. "I'm just looking out for them, Ma! It's a valid concern."

"Maybe we won't have a traditional ceremony," Edward said easily.

"Non-traditional?" Rosalie raised an eyebrow.

"Nothing extreme. I actually really like the Celtic handfasting ceremony," Bella said, looking a little shy. "Each party comes forward as equals, promising to bind their lives together as their hands are bound."

"Sounds kinky," Emmett said.

"What's kinky?" Henry asked, wrinkling his nose.

Rosalie glared. "Thank you, Emmett."

"But Carlisle was so looking forward to walking you down the aisle," Esme said with a small frown.

Carlisle shook his head. "It's more important that you're happy," he said firmly.

"Well, nothing is set in stone," Edward said, squeezing Bella's hand again.

"Don't worry, Dad." Emmett patted his father's shoulder consolingly. "You'll still get to make the obligatory toast." He lifted his beer bottle. "I'm not looking at this like I'm losing a daughter... nor gaining a son... I'm pretty much breaking even."

Edward sighed. His parents pretended to glare, but they couldn't help but snicker. Shaking his head, Edward leaned down to whisper in Bella's ear. "I'm beginning to think Jasper and Alice had it right, sneaking off to Vegas."

She smiled, tilting her head to whisper back. "Meet you at the car? We can get out of here while they're still sniggering at us."

He pulled back giving her lips a quick peck.

At least he never had to fear his wife wouldn't be able to put up with his family.

Nor, he supposed, would he ever have the crazy in-law problem.

As the family continued their discussion, Edward simply sat back, basking. Even with his brother's gentle teasing, how could he be anything but happy? Though it had been an interesting start, they were part of the fabric of their extended family, fitting in easily, normally.

And even if their family had not ever accepted them, Edward would have counted himself lucky. Whatever their circumstance, an incredible woman had agreed to marry him, and life promised to be so, so good.

He thought of the future that loomed ahead of him, his mind naturally drifting to the snapshots he would take some day. He thought of how Bella would look on their wedding day - her hair no doubt ornately done - Alice would see to that - her skin cream and roses, her smile radiant. He thought further ahead, already knowing that when she was round with their baby, he wanted to capture her in their meadow with her hand cupped lovingly over her belly. He thought of how they would grow together, how their family would only grow from here.

He'd told his father once, back when this all began, that though he was almost forty then, it felt like his life was only beginning. How right he'd been in that assessment.

He wrapped his arm around Bella's shoulders, bringing her closer to him. She looked up, smiling as she reached out to take his hand.

Again, at forty, he considered that his life - their life - was only just beginning.

A/N: Thank you to 2old4fanfic for the imagery of E taking pics of preggo B in the meadow. Too precious!

Well, folks, we come to the end of another tale. I am particularly proud of this little work, and I'm just so tickled at the support I've gotten.

So many thanks to Shug, who gifted me with this little bunny, GinnyW, jfka06, and barburella for everything.

And to you. It's been so awesome to read your reviews and your reaction. I'm so happy you've enjoyed the story.