This is it, and I promise it's all good.
Thank you so much to everyone who's read, pre-read, beta'd, reviewed, and rec'd this fic. I can't tell you how much it's all meant to me. A special thank you to V and Rhi. Much love.
SM own all things Twilight, but I own the contents of this story.
The Distance in Between
1881 - 15 years later
"Well, I say I can best you riding!" Thomas bragged.
"That's all you ever do is ride or take care of that horse," Will replied. "And I said wrestling, not riding."
"I can't wait to head off to West Point and be a soldier like Pa," Thomas sighed, wistfulness in his voice.
Listening from the kitchen, I closed my eyes briefly. I wasn't ready, would never be ready, to give up one of my children. But Thomas, he'd not only inherited his father's love of horses, but also his love of the military. He couldn't wait to be off to West Point and then join the U.S. Cavalry.
"You're too skinny to be a soldier," Amelia replied. I grinned, because I knew she was rolling her eyes at that moment.
"I'm never leaving home!" Lydia declared. "I'm always staying right here with Mama and Pa!"
"You're only eleven years old. You'll change your mind, little sister," Thomas told her.
"Uh-huh. Besides, Mama and Pa are old. I'll stay here and take care of them," was Lydia's reply.
Old, indeed. Edward was forty-five and myself forty-two. We hardly had one foot in the grave.
I stepped into the dining room from the kitchen. "Don't you all have school to get to?"
"Yes, Ma. I'll go hitch up the buckboard," Thomas replied.
"I think I'm too old for school," Will said. He stood up to his full six feet and tried to look, not like a seventeen-year-old boy, but a grown man.
"I think you need to finish out this year. Any young man taking over Dungannon from his father will need to be educated and well versed in mathematics."
"I am already. I just want to work the farm, like Pa."
Edward strode into the dining room.
"I think you should listen to your mother," Edward said succinctly, shutting down that conversation.
"Yes, sir," Will replied and went to get his hat and books.
"Amelia, come gather everyone's lunches, please. Lydia, go get your bonnet and books."
They both went to do as told, leaving me with my husband. He walked over to me with a winning smile.
"Good morning, Freckles. Why didn't you wake me?"
He kissed me thoroughly until I pushed back on him, fearing the children would come back in.
"You seemed exhausted from…last night. I thought it best to let you recuperate."
He laughed. "Well sated, is more like it. I do so love making love to you, my dearest," he whispered.
"Hush. Really, the children are still about."
"I promise to behave, Freckles…if you feed me."
"Sit, Edward Cullen. As you can see, I made plenty of food."
Edward sat down at the head of the table and began to fill his plate as I went for the pot of coffee.
The girls told me good-bye and kissed my cheek, and then I heard them doing the same with Edward. I paused for a moment and glanced around the kitchen.
I loved my home. The entire west side of the house had been destroyed in the fire all those years ago, but we had rebuilt and renovated the entire house. It took years to get it back to anywhere near its former glory, but what we ended up with was a cozy home. One filled with laughter and children and contentment.
I looked at my hands, the scars not so bad any longer. The one on my face had faded to almost non-existent, which had pleased Edward. The worst of Edward's were on his shoulder and arm, where clothing hid them. The exception was one roughish scar on his right cheek that added a devilish air to his handsomeness. We'd been lucky that day, except for the loss of Father Cullen.
I got a towel to grab the coffee urn, carrying it out to the table. I slid in the chair at the end to Edward's right, poured us both coffee, and then filled my own plate.
"Where's your father?"
"Already out and about. That cow is about to calve. He went to check on her."
"Oh. Rose is coming over later."
"You two have plans, or just to visit?" he asked around a mouthful of food.
"Just a visit. First day of school, first day without children. We thought some time for just us was in need."
"I can't imagine getting that brood of theirs off to school. What an undertaking that must be each morning."
I chuckled. "Yes. Seven children. Those two surely multiplied. And now Ezra a man helping Jeremiah with the farm, and courting that Jefferson girl."
"Time flew by, didn't it? Our own Wills is near full grown."
"He is, and don't let him hear you calling him that. You know how he hates what he calls his 'baby name'," I reminded him.
He laughed. "I'll only call him 'Wills' to you, Freckles."
"That Wellington boy has been buzzing around Amelia."
Edward grimaced. "Yes. I plan to take care of that."
"What do you mean?"
"I don't like that kid and don't think Amelia is old enough to be courted. I'm going to warn him, nicely, to back off."
"She's fifteen," I reminded him.
"Like I said, too young."
My lips twitched in amusement at Edward the protective father. He'd turned out to be a good father to our children, raising them with much love and a firm hand. The children both adored and respected their father. Thomas near idolized him. Wanted to be him, perhaps. While Edward had approved of Thomas' plan to go to military school and then join the Army, he'd stressed that he should always be his own man and only do that if that's what he really wanted. Thomas had assured us both that this was what his heart most desired.
Wills, trained from the time he was a toddler in how to run Dungannon, wanted nothing more. He loved farming and was content with his future responsibilities in owning Dungannon.
We farmed a lot smaller now days. Moses had recently bought his own farm, and he, Gracie, their children, and his mother all retired to that small farm a few miles away.
I kind of liked just having my family here, cooking for my family and my father. We might not have had as much money as Edward's family did when they farmed twice as many acres, but we were comfortable and had food and all the necessities afforded us. We were not unhappy with our lot.
For my part, I certainly wasn't. I had that still handsome man seated in front of me as my husband. How could I ever be anything other than content?
I sat down my coffee cup and rested my chin on my palm, just gazing at Edward.
"What? Do I have food on my face?"
I shook my head. "No. I'm just looking at my handsome husband that I happen to adore."
He carefully placed his fork beside his plate, then reached over, cupping my face.
"My beautiful Bella. My beloved wife. Love doesn't even come close, Freckles."
"Edward Cullen, for the last time, I'm not beautiful."
"I say you are. Come here," he entreated me as he slid his chair back and patted his lap.
I arose and then sat back down in his lap. He wrapped his arms around my waist as I leaned my head against his.
"This part of you is beautiful," he said, as he lifted his head and kissed my neck, just below my ear.
"And most definitely this part," he said as he placed soft kisses all over my face. My eyes fluttered closed, and then he kissed each eyelid.
"But this part is the most beautiful," he said as he leaned me back and kissed me through my gown, right over my heart.
He raised his head and brushed his lips over mine. "I love you."
"Edward," I sighed. "Mine."
"Yes," he chuckled. "No doubt about that."
"None," I replied fiercely.
"Freckles? When is Rose coming over?"
"Later. After her morning chores."
"Excellent," he replied.
He placed his hands around my waist and lifted me until I was standing in front of him. He then arose and took my hand, leading me out of the room.
"What on earth are you doing?"
His grin was a happy one, full of mischief. "I'm going to make love to my wife."
"Your wife has many things to do."
He kept tugging me toward the stairs and then led me up them. When we'd reached our bedroom door, he pulled me inside of and closed the door behind us.
"I notice you still have your hand in mine and are following my lead, Freckles."
I glanced down at our linked hands and then back to his face.
"Well…how about that?"
He grinned and then gathered me to his chest, his eyes gazing at me in love, so much love.
"Yes. How about that," he murmured as his lips met mine.
Thanks for reading! I'll miss this story so damned much.
My new story is White Shadows if you'd like to check that out.