AN: Love and hugs to Choc, Conks, mc101180, Pates and Katie for holding my hand through this final chapter. It's ended up a little long, but I decided not to split it up. I hope you all enjoy xxx
~o~o~o~ High Kicks ~o~o~o~
The music blared from the radio into the small room, its freshly painted walls lit by a rare ray of sunlight. The past few weeks had been as miserable outside as I felt inside. The skies were gray and heavy with clouds, but like the sun shining through the window, everything was brightening because Edward had booked my flights. I was going to see him in ten days.
"Hey, girls, I'm off to meet the coordinator for the classes!" Em shouted up the stairs.
Ro was kneeling on a pillow, applying pictures of giraffes, lions, and jungle fauna to the wall. "Okay. See you later. Don't forget the groceries. You need to get the burgers for tonight," she yelled over the radio.
I peeled a sticker from its backing, an elephant, and placed it onto the wall, smoothing the bubbles out with the heel of my hand. "How are the boot camp plans?"
Ro gestured for me to pull her up, and I heaved her to her feet. The final months were taking their toll, and she was getting tired, often ending up falling asleep on the couch with her feet in Em's hands. "They're good. The parks have been selected. They just need to get the licenses and decide on the leaflets and fliers, and they should be good to go. He needs to get the word out, so I said you and I could hand out fliers. Oh, and he's been interviewing for more instructors, too."
"You are not going out fly papering, Ro. I can do it. I'm sure I can rope in some others to help me." I picked up the scraps of paper from the floor, scrunching them into a ball. The nursery was coming together perfectly. Ro and Em didn't want to know the sex, though Ro was convinced it had to be a boy, purely based on her size. It was painted a soft yellow with matching blankets for the crib. Emmett's parents had sent over a beautiful wicker Moses basket that would stay in their room with them for the first few months.
"Stop coddling me. I'm fine." She pouted, rubbing her hand gently along the curve of her bump, wincing as the baby moved. "I swear he's gonna be a boxer, this kid."
"Come on, let's go down. Do you want some lunch?" I'd been watching her closely for signs of labor. She wasn't comfortable at all anymore, and she still had almost a month to go.
"Yeah. I could eat," she admitted with a sheepish grin, making me laugh loudly.
"Tell me something I don't know." I ducked as she threw a stuffed bunny at my head.
We spent the afternoon watching movies. Ro was too tired to carry on with the nursery, and I secretly loved to play nursemaid because it meant I got to lounge around as much as her.
By the time the credits on our second movie of the afternoon rolled up the screen, Ro had fallen asleep with her head in my lap. I'd reflexively checked my phone for messages even though Edward was at a mandatory training day. He had said he wouldn't be able to get to the phone until evening, his time, which was still hours away.
A gasp startled me as Ro sat up clutching her side, her eyes wide with concern.
"Are you okay?" Her face contorted in pain for a few seconds, relaxing away to leave worry etched on it.
"I don't know. Damn, that hurt." She sat up, placing her feet onto the carpet, both hands caressing her bump.
I jumped up, knocking my phone onto the floor, scrabbling to pick it up. "Should I call an ambulance?The hospital? The doctor? What about Em and your mom?" Panic rose in my body as my words spilled out, but Ro's smile halted my monologue.
"Calm down, B. It's me that's supposed to be the worrier." She patted the couch next to her, and I sat back down.
"Are you in pain, though? Do you think it's labor?" I searched her face and body for clues—ridiculous, seeing as I knew deep down that if she were in labor we'd all know about it.
"No. It's passed now. Maybe it's just gas or something."
"Do you want anything?" I released the death grip on my phone and placed it on the coffee table.
"I could do with a glass of water," she said, shuffling back onto the cushions so they'd support her back.
In the kitchen, I'd only reached to pull down a glass when I heard her shout. I ran through to the lounge to see her bent over again. Her face was reddening as she vigorously rubbed her side. "B … " She drew out my name, her voice tremulous. "Can you call Em?"
"Yes. Of course." I grabbed my phone, scrolling for his number and hitting the call button. Of course, it went straight to voicemail. I left a garbled message for him to call us as soon as he picked it up.
"It's not time." Ro looked up at me, pain and worry evident in her furrowed brow.
"No. It's not, but this could be a false alarm, and …" I chewed on my cheek, trying to remember how early babies could be born. I didn't want to say anything to her until we knew what was going on, even though I was sure she'd be fine at eight months. I tried Em again with the same result.
"Come on. Let's get to the hospital. There's no harm in getting checked out. I'll grab your bags." I leapt up the stairs, two at once, and picked up the bag, already packed with her essentials. We'd only bought the damn thing last week, and I thanked my lucky stars we'd had the foresight to pack it right away.
On the way to the ER, Ro tried Em's phone, too, with no luck and called her mom so she could meet us there. I parked haphazardly, taking up two spaces, and ran around to Ro's side of the car. "Do you think you can walk?"
She nodded, though she didn't look convinced. I hooked my arm around hers and led her across the parking lot. We had to stop halfway when what looked a hell of a lot like a contraction made her cry out and double over, almost wrenching my arm off in the process. We should have gotten a wheel chair.
At the desk, I signed her in, and after a few minutes, she was taken into the maternity suites and given a bed.
"Did you get through to Em?" Her eyes were wet with tears, and she looked so much younger than she was. I held on to her hand and squeezed it.
"No, not yet, but I will when your mom gets here to sit with you. I'll try and track him down. Do you know who else he's with?" I asked, pulling her phone out of her purse, to get the number of Emmett's new colleagues.
The doctor arrived, and I ducked out to call Emmett again, getting frustrated with the automated voice of the messenger service. I explained where we were, and when I'd hung up, I called Edward. His phone went straight to voicemail as well, and I growled in frustration. If this was a false alarm, we needed to plan a hell of a lot better than this.
By the time I got back, Ro's mom was by her side, and they both looked equally petrified. My expression must have matched theirs when they told me that she was in fact in labor. Oh hell.
For the next few hours, we got into a pattern of sitting with Ro, whose water had broken and contractions were shortening, and running outside the hospital into the miserable afternoon to try and get hold of Emmett. I was going to kill him when he finally arrived. I might let him meet his child first. Then, I would strangle him.
The sky was dark, clouds gathering on the horizon, and the scent of fresh rain hung in the air. To get cell reception I had to stand outside by the parking lot. If there was a downpour, I was going to get seriously soaked. I toyed with calling my parents to bring me a coat but decided I'd live and opted to get them involved in the desperate search for the very elusive Emmett McCarty instead.
Shivering in my thin cotton blouse, I was calling Emmett for the hundredth time, when my phone vibrated in my hand, and I almost dropped it onto the sidewalk in shock. A number I didn't recognize came up on the screen.
"Hello?" My voice was breathless with hope that it was Em.
"Hi. I've had some missed calls from you today, and I'm just returning them. It's James Shelton."
The name rang a bell as one of the men involved with Emmett's new venture. "Hi, James. I'm Bella, Emmett's friend. Are you with him?"
"Emmett? No. I haven't seen him in a while." I could hear the sounds of children and the buzz of a television in the background.
I rubbed my forehead; the tension was starting to develop into a headache. "Sorry. Were you not with him today?"
"I haven't seen him since last week," he responded.
"Oh. I thought you had a meeting with him today. We must have been confused," I lied, feeling the awkwardness of the conversation increasing and the heat of embarrassment in my cheeks.
"Okay, no problem. Bye."
The line went dead, and I stared at it in my hand. I called Emmett again with a renewed vigor that was tinged with anger. Where the hell was he? I knew we hadn't been mistaken. I'd heard Em say he was going to see the coordinator with my own ears. There had to be an explanation. Maybe he was planning a surprise for Ro. That had to be it. Anything other than that was unthinkable, and I would seriously kill him and not regret it one single bit.
I rushed back into the hospital, hearing Ro's cries carry down the pale blue corridors, when I neared her room. They brought tears to my eyes. I felt so out of my depth. The second I came through the door, her eyes latched onto me, bright with a hope that died as soon as I shook my head.
"Where is he?" she asked, her voice wavering with pain.
"Don't worry, Ro. He'll be here. When he sees his phone, he'll come." I brushed her hair back from her forehead. It was damp with perspiration.
Back outside the double doors of the hospital, I called him again, pacing back and forth under the paltry shelter the roof provided. The skies had opened up as the sun lowered in the sky, and the asphalt glistened slick with the rain.
On the fourth try, it rang.
"Where the hell are you, Em!" My frustration poured out of me in a huge wave of relief.
"I'm sorry. I've been in meetings all day. What's happened?" His deep voice was laced with panic, so I chose to ignore the lie for now.
"I'm at the hospital. Ro's in labor. You need to get here about four hours ago."
A barrage of curses came down the phone. "I'm on my way. I'll be there in twenty."
He hung up, and I stared at the phone for a minute. Twenty minutes, where the hell had he been? I ran back to Ro's room to tell her the news, but it was swarming with nurses and the doctor, dressed in their pale green scrubs.
The snap of rubber gloves and the beep of monitors sent my anxiety rocketing, but I swallowed it down and moved over to Ro's side. "Hey, you."
She gripped on to my hand until her knuckles were white. Tears rolled silently down her rosy cheeks, and her mom, standing opposite us, stroked her face. "He's coming, Ro. He's on his way now. He said he'd be here in twenty."
She smiled weakly. "The baby's coming now, B. What if he misses it?"
I pressed a kiss to her brow and brushed her tears away with my thumb. "He'll be here, and if he misses it, after I've kicked his ass, we'll tell him all about it and make sure he feels like he was here, okay?"
Ro let out a little laugh that turned into a groan as another contraction kicked in. Her hand tightened around mine until I was afraid my fingers might snap.
Time seemed to evaporate as the doctors encouraged Ro to push, her cries echoing around the room. I wanted to take the pain away for her. The midwife explained to her that the baby didn't want to come out, and as a result,they were both weakening. After a quiet debate, the doctor announced that Ro needed to go into surgery.
In the flash of an eye, I was handed a pair of scrubs, but I hesitated to put them on, my eyes glancing at the door every few seconds. As they wheeled her bed out of the room, the doors into the suite swung open, and a flustered and thoroughly wet Emmett ran over to her side. They both burst into tears, and I couldn't stop my own from falling. I didn't ask him where he'd been, but I smiled at him and told him to take good care of her, kissing them both before they disappeared into the operating room.
The sudden quiet of the corridor made me feel claustrophobic, and after I made sure Ro's mom was okay, sitting quietly on the row of green plastic chairs that lined the wall outside the operating room, I headed outside for some fresh air.
The rain was hammering down, distorting everything in the distance and bouncing off the hoods on the cars, but I relished the cool breeze on my red cheeks. I sucked in lungfuls of fresh air, the worry for Ro decreasing as I told myself it would be okay. She was in safe hands, the doctors and Emmett's.
I walked toward the lot, tipping my face up to the rain. A flash caught my eye, the orange blinkers of a car locking and its owner pulling the handle to double check.
I was about to move back under the shelter when something about the figure emerging from the dark halted my steps, my breath and my heart.
I blinked away the water running down my cheeks, squinting into the curtain of rain, instinctively taking a step forward onto to the slick asphalt.
The man stopped and ran his fingers through his wet hair, and it was as if I'd walked into some kind of alternative universe.
I took one step then another, my voice quiet in the roar of the raindrops around us. "Edward?"
His head snapped up, and he didn't hesitate; in three strides, he was in front of me, water pouring down his face, flattening his hair. I lifted my hand and touched his cheek, feeling the familiar curve of his cheekbone and the sharp edge of his stubbled jaw. My heart was beating like a hummingbird, trying to escape from the cage of my chest.
At the sound of his voice, tears of happiness blended with the raindrops on my face. I threw myself into his arms, knocking the wind out of him with a whump. "Are you here? Is this really you?" I clung onto his neck, pressing my lips to his before I buried my face into the warmth of his skin. His scent surrounding me mingled with the smell of wet earth after a warm day.
"Yeah. I'm here." He lowered me down, oblivious to the fact we were saturated, and cupped my face in his hands. "I'm here. I couldn't wait any more. I love you."
He dipped his head and brushed his lips against mine, humming as I gripped on to the front of his t-shirt. I twisted the soft material in my fingers, dry and warm from his body heat and hidden from the deluge by his jacket.
His tongue trailed hot across my lips. The sensation combined with the cool shower of rain on my face as I tipped it up to him and to the sky—perhaps, for me, they were the same thing—was totally consuming.
I slid my hands to wrap around his neck as our tongues caressed, wiping away our time apart and setting us back to where we left off in the bustling airport as if nothing had changed. His familiarity surrounded me, blocking out the wall of rain and the sounds of people arriving to visit family and friends. My heart drummed out an exhilarated rhythm in response to his nearness and the realness of holding, breathing, and tasting the man that was undoubtedly its owner.
Edward slowed the kiss, lifting and crushing me against his body, burying his face into my neck, my feet dangling inches above the ground. "This is where I'm meant to be." His words were muffled against my skin and drowned out by raindrops, but I heard him, and I whispered my love against his lips when he put me down.
"Come on. We'd better go inside." He took my hand, and we ran across to the door, jumping over deep puddles and splashing through others until we were inside. The harsh halogen lights made us squint as we headed to find Ro's mom. I continually squeezed his hand, double checking he was still beside me, almost pinching myself to make sure I wasn't dreaming.
We caught a glimpse of ourselves in the glass pane of the door to the waiting room. "Oh, god. I look like a drowned rat." I rubbed away the black trails of mascara-smudged crescents under my eyes.
"Come here." He brushed my hair back from where it had plastered on my face with a nod at his handiwork. "There, less drowned rat, more beautiful … "
"Do not say beautiful rat." I smacked his arm playfully, his mouth widened in perfect innocence.
"I was not going to say that. You know how much I like you when you're all messy and dirty and w—" I pressed my finger to his lips.
"Shush. I know exactly what you are going to say. Absence might make the heart grow fonder, but it hasn't made me forget what you're like." I quirked an eyebrow at him in challenge, and his lips curled to a smirk beneath my finger.
"You've grown fonder of me?" His smile amplified as he rubbed his hand through his water-darkened hair, flicking drops in every direction.
I tried to rein in the eye roll, but it was still pretty dramatic as I pushed open the double doors. "That's the understatement of the century."
"You can tell me all about this increased fondness later." He whispered in my ear, banging into me as I stopped in my tracks, recognizing the voices around the corner.
I spun around and took his hand. "That's probably a good idea, because you're about to meet my parents, and you might need some tender loving care afterward."
This bit of information didn't seem to faze him one little bit. "Is that a promise?"
"You're not even a little bit worried?" I eyed him for signs of weakness, but he twisted two of his fingers together, holding them up. "Nope. Me and your dad are like this."
"Bella! There you are. Where have you been? Why are you soaking wet …" Mom's attention went straight to Edward, and if I'd been standing in front of him, I don't doubt she would have elbowed me out of the way to get to him. "Oh my gosh, is this Edward?"
"Hello, Mrs. Swan." He held his hand out, but she ignored it and pulled him into a rib-cracking hug. "None of that Mrs. Swan business. Call me Renee."
She held him back at arm's length and winked at me with a stage whisper. "Oh, Bella, he's so handsome." With the impending arrival of Baby McCarty and the unexpected arrival of Edward, my head was spinning, and I felt like I was bursting with excitement.
"Yeah, he's all right, I suppose." I groused as my dad came over and shook his hand. The motion lasted for longer than the average shake, but not as long as he'd shook Tyler Crowley's hand. My poor, unsuspecting prom date had complained of an aching arm for the rest of the night and never stepped foot on our porch to take me out again. This was, by comparison, a good start.
"Hello, son. Good to see you made it over in one piece. You've arrived in good time." He patted Edward on the back, the thumps jolting him slightly, but he smiled good-naturedly.
"I nearly didn't get here safely with Emmett's erratic driving. I think I aged five years while I was clinging onto the door for dear life."
"Hang on, Dad. You knew he was coming over?"
He smiled conspiratorially, and Edward rubbed the back of his neck. "I roped him in to help me with the plans. I had to get someone to talk you out of buying your own plane tickets."
Dad nodded. "Yep, she's a stubborn one, our Bella."
"Tell me about it. I love her, but she drives me mad."Dad barked out a laugh at Edward's unabashed declaration, making me flush an even deeper red.
"Oh, what a romantic, and you have such a lovely accent." Mom patted him on the arm as he was introduced to Ro's mom. I stared, agog, at the pair of them who looked suspiciously like they were swooning. When they started tittering, I waded in with a glare that just caused them to break into full on giggles.
"I can see where you and Ro get it from." Edward's eyes creased with laughter, making my stomach flip flop all over.
Dad crossed his arms over his chest as we waited for them to control themselves. "Son, you have no idea."
I cleared my throat loudly, about to ask about Ro, when Emmett barreled through the door, his face lit up with the biggest smile, his eyes dancing with excitement. "I'm a Dad! I can't believe it." We paused, waiting for him to fill in the gaps; it took him a moment to realize what we were waiting for. "Baby boy McCarty and mommy are doing fine."
He had to calm down both mothers, who burst into tears at his news, and when he got to me he spun me around in his arms. I clutched on to him tightly until he set me down, our laughter filling the small space. "Thank you, B, for everything you did for her. She's doing really well. They'll be bringing them both out into recovery soon, and you can say hello as soon as she's settled."
After a lot of back slapping and odd English colloquialisms involving wetting the baby's head, or some such craziness, Em disappeared to find Ro, leaving us bursting with happiness for him. Edward pulled me to his side, lowing his voice. "I love you. So fucking much.I can't wait until that's us. "
"Slow down, soldier." I leaned into him, rocking him slightly, as his words washed over me like a warm wave.
Edward cradled the tiny bundle in him arms, and I thought I was going to die of happiness.
"So, have you decided on a name yet?" he asked, his face in awe at the tiny little fingers resting on his arm as Em and Ro's son dozed after a long day.
"No, we're still deciding." Ro sent Emmett a look that told me she wasn't happy.
"Em, you might as well give up. You know she'll get her way eventually," I said as Edward walked over to the window I was leaning against and carefully placed the precious bundle in my arms, squeezing in behind me. I leaned back into his warmth, and he wrapped his arms around my waist, resting his chin on my shoulder.
Emmett huffed and folded his arms with a pout, but I could already tell he was caving in. "But it's a family name."
"Emmett McCarty, I am not calling our child Reginald, even if we shortened it to Reggie, and that is the end of the discussion."
Edward unsuccessfully tried to stifle his laughter into my shoulder.
"Shush, you'll wake the baby," Ro warned him, but her eyes glittered with mischief.
"Oh, I spoke to Ali. She's already booked her flights. They get here next weekend." I rocked side to side in Edward's arms as unnamed Baby McCarty slept soundly.
"I can't wait for us all to be back together again," Ro said, fluffing her pillows and pulling herself up straighter in the bed.
"Me neither," I added as I felt Edward's lips on the side of my neck. I leaned into his kiss and smiled.
I turned to find his lips and whispered "I love you" against them as he squeezed his arms tighter around me.
"Not in front of the baby, people!" Emmett wagged his finger at us, and we all dissolved into laughter.
Edward murmured a promise in my ear. "Later."
The cab wound its way through the darkened, rain-slicked streets toward Edward's hotel.
"What are you looking at?" Edward smirked, pulling me closer to his side.
"You." I smiled, breathing him in, salty, rain-swept skin with his spicy cologne layered underneath. I'd never get enough of it. "Am I freaking you out?"
A deep chuckle rumbled in his chest. "A bit. I'm starting to think I've got something on my face."
The cab pulled up outside his hotel, and we both slid out of the backseat. I clung on to the back of his jeans, slipping my hand into the warm pocket while he paid the driver. "You're like a limpet, or is it a clampet?" He hoisted his bag onto his shoulder and wrapped his arm around me, guiding me thorough the revolving door.
It stopped and started about three times before we got to the other side, the space too small for the pair of us. "You're not getting rid of me." I smiled as we finally walked up to the walnut reception desk. "And I have no idea what either of those things are."
He chuckled. "I don't want to get rid of you. I actually quite like having you attached to me." He shrugged. "I'd prefer it if you were naked though."
"I can't help it. I'm worried you're going to disappear," I mumbled into his shoulder.
Edward handed over his credit card and signed the booking forms, wrapping his arm around my neck, leaving a kiss on the tip of my nose while they went to get his key. "Bella, I'm never leaving you, okay?"
I nodded, sliding my hand under his shirt; the muscles of his abdomen flexing under my palm made me smile up at him. "I've missed this."
"You'd better stop doing that here, or I won't be responsible for my actions, and I doubt the hotel staff will want to see." He pocketed the key from the concierge and grabbed my hand from under his top, practically yanking my shoulder from its socket as he dragged me to the elevator.
"Oh, I don't know. You're a sight for sore eyes, Edward Cullen. They'd be lucky to see you naked." I purred, digging deep for my inner sex kitten.
His eyes immediately darkened as the door closed. He dropped his bag, taking two strides, and pinned me up against the mirrored wall of the elevator with his palms flat against the glass on either side of my head. "Nobody gets to see you like that other than me."
The husky rasp in his voice took a direct line to my stomach, flaring up a ball of heat that set every inch of my body on high alert. I couldn't find the words to respond, a whimper falling from my mouth in their absence.
The ding of the elevator broke through the rush of blood in my ears, and Edward had to again drag me out into the never-ending corridor. He found his door, slid the keycard in the lock, the green light flashing as it opened. He all but threw his bag across the room, pulling me inside, kicking the door shut, and pressed me up against it.
"God, I've fucking missed you." His hands searched under my top, peeling it over my head until I felt the cool wood of the door pressing into my back. "I've been thinking about this for months, and on the plane over, I couldn't think about anything else other than touching you and tasting you." He groaned and rolled his hips against me, his lips falling onto my shoulder, licking a wet, hot trail across my collarbone to my neck.
He lifted his head and allowed me to pull off his t-shirt; I was desperate to feel his skin against mine. When I wrapped my hand around his neck, pulling his body to mine, he resisted, flicking the button on my jeans, pulling them down in a flash. The fluid motion almost sent me flying, but I grabbed on to the trouser press to steady myself as I stepped out my jeans.
"Edward, what—" He silenced me with his lips, and my hands fumbled for his belt, the clink of metal and whispering of leather against denim as I pulled it off, flicking open the button and pushing them down his legs.
"I wanted to take my time …" His fingers ran under the edge of my lace panties, and heat bloomed under their path making me tremble with desire for him, needing him closer. I moaned as he twisted the material in his fingers, yanking them down, making quick work of my bra that ended up on top of all our other discarded clothes. "But, I can't do this slowly. I need you. I just want to feel you. Please." His voice was a whisper, and his words were exactly what I wanted to hear as he captured my nipple in his mouth, teasing it between his tongue and teeth until I was vibrating with want. I pushed down his boxers until he was naked pressed up against my heated skin.
My whole body throbbed for him. I'd yearned for him with every inch of skin, and my nerve endings danced under his touch. I forgot about the questions I'd had since the second I'd seen him in the car lot. The ones I'd held onto through the drama of Emmett bursting out from the operating room, declaring he was a father to a baby boy, and the ones I had bitten down during our short cab ride. They all seemed irrelevant. They didn't matter. Nothing mattered other than this man with his harsh pants against my skin, his hot hands moving and gripping against my body and lips and tongue, hot, sliding against my own. He was all that mattered. Everything else could wait.
I moaned as he lifted me up against the door, wrapping my legs around his hips and tangling my fingers into his hair as he pushed his hips into the burning heat between my legs, rattling the door in its frame. I rested my arms on his shoulders, his lips slowing until our desire had built to a level neither of us could bear for one second longer without more. I reached down and guided him into me as he whispered an unintelligible mix of love and curses against my lips.
We both released a shuddering breath as we finally got what we'd needed for months. "I love you, Edward. So much." He moaned in response when my fingernails dug into the skin of his shoulder as he started to move, every thrust and twist of his hips sending sparks through my body. His rhythm increased at the same rate the ball of heat bloomed, spreading along every inch of my body until we both melted and exploded into a shuddering tangle of sweat-soaked limbs, collapsing into a pile on the floor to catch back the breath we'd stolen from each other with our love.
"Who needs a bed?" My laugh was shaky, weak from the power of the orgasm Edward had ripped from my body.
"Exactly. They're underrated." He pulled me to my feet and into the white marbled bathroom, turning on the shower and dragging me in with him. The hot water hammered against my skin as he wrapped his body around mine. We stood that way for a while, relishing in the feeling of being together until lethargy from our earlier activities decreased and heat built between us. The trail of his hands as he soaped my body set fire to the air around us again.
I twisted in his arms and stood on my tiptoes, pressing my lips to his, sliding my tongue into his mouth. This time his kisses were languid and his hands gentle as he intimately explored my body until I came apart from his touch a second time.
Edward carried me, trembling and exhausted, into the bedroom and pulled back the covers, laying me down against the feather-soft pillows, then climbing over me to the other side. He pulled me closer so I had to fling my leg over his hip, my arm around his waist, and pressed a pattern of kisses on my forehead.
I closed my eyes to his ministration; my veins felt like molten caramel was flowing through them, and I drifted to sleep wrapped in his arms.
I woke up to see Edward sitting up next to me, watching the TV on silent.
"Hey, what are you doing?"
"Hey, beautiful. I couldn't sleep. Jetlag." His stomach rumbled to add its answer, and Edward laughed, "Oh,and I'm dying of starvation. Did you realize they don't do room service here?" His face was a picture of dismay.
"You want to go and get something?" I sat up stretching, and he lifted his arm up so I could curl into his side.
"I know somewhere we can go and get take out." I played with the lock of hair that had fallen over his forehead, twisting it around my finger.
"Are you not tired?"
"Nope. Not anymore. Come on." I tugged on his hand as I jumped up, finding my clothes folded up on a chair. "You must have been really bored if you resorted to tidying up."
He shrugged, standing up, pulling his jeans on, shoving his feet into his sneakers, leaving his t-shirt for last. I didn't complain. "I considered hiding them so you'd have to stay here with me forever … naked."
"What makes you think I don't want to do that?" I cocked my head as he came and cupped my face, pressing a kiss to my lips.
"I'm suddenly not hungry anymore." He started to pull off my top, but I batted his hands away.
"Come on, we've got plenty of time for that later. We need to feed you. I don't want you losing stamina." I poked him in his stomach that growled loudly as if in response. "See?"
I kissed away his pout and dragged him out.
After Edward had ordered enough food to feed an army,and I'd ordered a bagel and black coffee, we wound our way back to the hotel.
He cradled my drink between his legs after I'd been unsuccessful at driving and sipping scolding coffee at the same time. I was wide awake from the effects of the rich strong liquid, the burning on my tongue a testament to that. "Hey, you want to go somewhere else to eat. The hotel's nice, but …"
"Sure." His response was muffled by the bacon sandwich he was stuffing in his mouth.
I turned off the main road, back into town. and headed into the twisting lanes that lead to the cliffs. The forest encroached on either side, arching overhead, blocking any light from the moon. The rain had eased off. but the roads were still slick and treacherous, so I drove carefully.
Edward wrapped his hand around my thigh, its weight and warmth was like an anchor, reminding me that he was really here. I pulled down the narrow gravel lane that lead to the look out and parked up in the deserted spot that overlooked the crashing waves.
I flicked the keys, the engine quieting until the only sound was the rush and swell of the sea, muted inside the cab of the truck. "You want to get out?"
"Yeah, I'll bring the coffees." He scrunched up a napkin and the wrapping from his sandwich, leaving it in the brown paper bag in the foot well.
I stepped onto the soft ground, carpeted with pine needles. The sharp scent of the sap mingled with the salty breeze coming off the sea, which whipped my hair around my face. I leaned over into the back of the truck and pulled out an old blanket, clambering on to the hood.
"What are you doing? You'll dent your truck!"
"It's fine. I do this all the time. She's a sturdy thing, made of strong stuff." I patted the metal, warm from our journey, beside me.
He looked unconvinced, but gingerly climbed next to me. "You come here a lot?"
I nodded, settling against him, leaning back onto the windshield. "Yeah, I do."
The sky was lightning from an inky black as the morning arrived, but the moon still hung high in the sky,its reflection silver across the water.
"It's beautiful. Is there a beach near here?" Edward handed me my coffee, the paper cup had cooled enough to risk a sip.
"Yep, around the corner there is a road that leads down to it. It's not like the beach back in England. It's rocky and wild and you end up windswept. I love it, but I've been coming here a lot more recently."
I pointed up to the dark sky, pinpricked with silver. "That's why."
Edward let his head drop back to look the starswept sky, his hand finding mine, pulling it into his lap. "God, Bella. I—" he broke off as if he couldn't find the words.I could feel his eyes on me, his face partially lit by the wan light of the moon, casting it into shadows that defined his straight nose and sharp jaw. He took my breath away every day, but having him here beside so unexpectedly, was making it more difficult to catch that normal.
"See, there is Cygnus." He followed my finger into the night sky that was slowly turning navy blue.
"I see it." He pulled me into his arms, and I turned to face him, feeling his warm breath across my face. "Thank you for bringing me here. I know today has been a whirlwind and probably not the best day to surprise you." He chuckled, rubbing his thumb in a circle over the back on my hand.
"Don't be daft. I think this will probably go down as the best day of my life, even if it was a little stressful when I couldn't get hold of Em. I was worried for his life if he'd missed the birth."
"I would have been worried for mine, too. I was the reason he was late. Our grand plans didn't include Baby McCarty making an early appearance."
I looked up at him, rubbing my nose against his. We'd hardly had a chance to talk since he'd arrived, and I had a million and one questions. "And what grand plans are those?"
He didn't answer for a moment, turning to me and brushing his thumb over my lips. "I guess they're our plans. I've been doing a lot of thinking since you left. I missed you so much, and it made me realize that I need to think about myself for once." He paused, tucking a wayward lock of hair behind my ear. "I've always tried to put others first—Riley, my parents, Lauren. I want to be the best friend and son I can be, but Bella, since you left, I've been miserable, and I wasn't the only one to notice. I think Mum was going to set up an intervention for me, until I managed to talk her down. Nothing has ever made me as happy as you do, and I hated that you weren't there."
I reached up and ran my finger across his eyebrow and down the side of his face, leaving my palm resting against the heated skin of his neck. "But, I was coming over to you. I had already booked my flights."
"No, I never booked them. It was all part of the master plan. That's why I had to get your dad involved."
It all started to slot into place. I pinched his side, making him squirm away. "I knew something was going on."
"No, you didn't." He grabbed my hand and shuffled back over, pulling me close again, pinning my hand down to prevent any further attacks.
"Okay, I didn't, but I really was planning to come over to live with you."
"I know, and I can't tell you how much it means that you were willing to move for me, but what if ten years down the line you start to resent me? You would be the one who had to make all the sacrifices while I just carried on as before. I didn't want us to start off the rest of our life together like that."
"I would never—" He kissed me to halt my response, and minutes passed before we pulled apart, our lips swollen and hearts thumping as the sun slowly crept up into the sky, setting fire to the sea and bathing us in a golden hue.
"I want to make as many sacrifices, if not more, for you. I want to show you how much you mean to me because you mean everything." I closed my eyes feeling his warm breath dance over my skin. His words started up my butterfly heartbeat, and the love I'd felt for him before was surpassed by the feelings that were building inside me now, blossoming with every word from his lips. "When Em applied for his visa in London, I applied,too."
"You did?" My eyes widened and he chuckled, pressing a kiss against the side of my mouth, his stubble scratching enticingly against my skin until he leaned back to explain.
"When he was filling in the forms, I had this feeling that I needed to as well. I think it was probably my heart trying to shout over my sensible mind. Anyway, I did,and once you'd gone, I missed you so fucking much, all these upstanding decisions I'd made to be a good friend seemed irrelevant."
"They're not irrelevant, Edward. You are a wonderful person. Your loyalty is one of the things I love the most about you."
"Well, I was having pretty negative thoughts toward Lauren, and we ended up having a blow-out argument." He rubbed his forehead and sighed. "I told her that I had to follow my heart because the other option was making me too unhappy. It didn't end on good terms. She came to see me a couple of days later and admitted that she'd harbored a crazy idea that I'd fall in love with her, but she accepted that I didn't feel the same."
I bit down on the "I told you so" balancing on the edge of my tongue.
"I explained that there was only one person I'd ever love, but that I would always be therefore her at the end of the phone no matter where in the world I was. You know that the last thing Riley told me was that life was short?"
I nodded, my fingertips pressing against his side over the words he'd taken to heart and believed so wholeheartedly, he'd etched them permanently on his skin.
"Well, he also told me that love is forever, and while at the time I took that to mean his love for me and his family—I know he meant a lot more than that. I will always love you, Bella, and Riley would want me to listen to him."
"Edward …" I could feel the tears burning behind my eyes. "What are you saying?"
"What I'm saying is that now we have options. I can come and live here with you. Em has already roped me into helping with his boot camp, and he's trying to talk me into being his partner. Or we can live in England like we'd already planned, but we have a choice. One we can make together."
I allowed his words to sink in, my emotions building up until tears spilled onto my cheeks and into my smile. Edward kissed them away and pulled me impossibly closer until his face was buried into my hair, his mouth against the shell of my ear as he whispered the words that would be the beginning of the rest of our life together.
"I love you, and I don't care where we live. We could go anywhere in the world and live in anything under the sun. The where and how don't matter. All that matters is you, Bella. You are my home."
AN: So there we have it! This is the final chapter in Muddy and Bella's story, but I will be posting a future-take epi. I hope you've enjoyed MSB as much as I've loved writing it.
I want to say a huge HUGE thank you to every single one of you who've been on this journey with me. It's been a long one, and I've appreciated all the support from those who've read and reviewed and rec'd it out along the way. This story was the first thing I have ever written and every single word of support has meant so much and kept me going when things got a little tough. I've made so many friends through this process, and I hope I'll see you all around on facebook/twitter and on my next stories (of which I have a few bubbling away!)
Some of you have been with me from the start and others have joined along the way, but I have so much love for you all. So thank you.
Alex, Tracy, Anna, Conks, Mere, Mel, Katie, Judy, Shell, Tara, Erron– This story wouldn't have been what it is today without your encouragement and friendships. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your support was invaluable, and you are all irreplaceable.
All the ladies in Muddy's facebook group. I love you all dearly. Thank you so much for all the love and laughs you've given me along the way.
I'll see you at the Epi
All the love in the world to my readers.