Where it began…
"I'll see you all tomorrow," I said, walking back to my office with a wave toward the nurses.
I loved my job. Really, I did. Kids were my thing, and I often received crazy looks in school because I loved them so much. Being able to join a pediatric practice right after my residency was a dream come true, one I sometimes couldn't believe a year later.
But all of that didn't stop Friday from being my favorite day of the week. After a busy eight hour day, I was ready to head home and just relax.
"Not so fast," Sue called out. I stopped, turning back to face her. "Last patient of the day, Dr. Cullen." She smiled apologetically and gestured toward exam room one. "Came right as we were about to lock the door. Little thing looked so pitiful, I just couldn't send them away."
I sighed but managed to smile. This wasn't the first time this had happened, and it wouldn't be the last. Sue had a big heart and loved her job as a nurse, something I understood. If a kid was sick, there was no way she'd turn them away no matter what time it was.
"New patient or old?" I asked.
"New," she replied. "Nervous too, both the girl and the mom, so take it easy on them."
I nodded. "Will do. And I'll guess you'll be getting your treasure chest back out?"
"Of course," she scoffed. "You just send to me as soon as you're done."
After making a quick trip to wash my hands again, I headed to the exam room. I grabbed the chart on the outside of the door and took a quick look. Four year old little girl with a suspected ear infection. Easy enough. I took a deep breath and knocked on the door before entering.
"Knock, knock. I hear we have a sick little girl." Closing the door behind me, I scanned the room, my eyes locking on the chair in the corner. For once, it wasn't the kid who caught my attention first. It was who I assumed to be her mother.
This woman was beautiful. Long brown hair, even longer legs that were perfectly showcased by her little black shorts. I couldn't see much of the rest of her body because of the girl in her lap, but her left hand was present and accounted for, thankfully bare.
When her deep brown eyes looked up to mine questionably, I snapped out of my trance.
What was I doing? I didn't ogle patients' moms. I didn't ogle anyone lately. My own mom raised me better than that….and I just didn't have the time.
Shaking my head slightly, I cleared my throat and smiled. "Hello, I'm Edward Cullen." I offered my hand to her, and she reached out and placed her hand in mine. It was small and fit perfectly, and her handshake was just right.
"Nice to meet you, Dr. Cullen," she said, giving me a nervous smile in return. "I'm Bella. Swan. Bella Swan. And this is Caroline."
Her voice was just as beautiful as the rest of her, but I couldn't let myself get distracted again. The more I observed, the more I realized that Sue hadn't been exaggerating. Nervous seemed to be an understatement when it came to these two.
Bella…Ms. Swan was almost jumping out of the chair with the force of her bouncing foot. And Caroline wasn't much better, her head on her mother's shoulder as she held on for dear life. This wasn't going to be an easy case, but I was prepared and ready for this.
Moving slowly, I walked closer and knelt to the side of the chair, keeping a good distance away but still getting in Caroline's line of sight.
"Hi, cutie pie," I said softly. "I'm Dr. Edward. You're feeling no good today, huh?"
She remained tense but didn't turn away, nodding with a sad frown.
"Well, that's no fun. Can you tell me what's wrong so I can try to make it better?"
This time, she shook her head and did turn her head away from me.
"All right, sweetheart," I said as I righted myself and walked over to sit on my stool. Wheeling back over to them, I looked to Ms. Swan. "We'll just get the information from another source. Can you tell me what's wrong so I can try to make it better?"
She chuckled and relaxed just a bit, her bouncing foot slowing down. "Well, it started Tuesday night, I guess. She said her ear hurt, but I thought it was just because of the move."
"So you just moved here?" I asked. "Where from?"
"Jacksonville. Florida. We got here Sunday, so yeah, it's new."
"Ahh." I nodded. "Very different climate." I'd never been to Florida, but I knew enough to know that it was nothing like the Pacific North West.
"Exactly," she said with her own nod. "I usually don't just blow stuff off, but I wanted to give it a few days. And here we are now with a fever."
"Any parent would have done the same, so don't feel guilty." Without thinking, I reached out and patted her knee. "We'll get this figured out so Miss Caroline will be back to her normal self."
"Thank you," she sighed. "I was worried I wouldn't be able to find anywhere open and have to wait until Monday. Thank you so much for seeing us, Dr. Cullen."
"Not at all a problem. And you can call me Dr. Edward too," I said with a wink.
A wink. What the hell was I doing? Now I was ogling, touching, and winking. Great. I'd be lucky if this woman didn't charge me with sexual harassment.
She blushed, averting her eyes for just a second before looking back at me. "All right, Dr. Edward. And you can call me Bella."
"All right, Bella," I repeated. "Now, let's get down to business."
Since Sue had taken vitals, I reviewed those in the chart before starting my own assessment. I managed to work around Caroline's tight hold on her mother's neck and get almost everything I needed along with double checking her temperature. It was still elevated, but not overly so, and everything else was in a normal range.
"Okay, sweet Caroline. Can you turn around for me now?"
Since Caroline didn't move for herself, Bella reached up and pried her arms off her neck. As she started to turn her around, the whimpers started, and by the time she had Caroline fully facing me, the tears had begun.
"Hey, honey, it's okay," I said, trying to remaining calm enough for us all. "I promise I won't hurt you. No ouchies for you today."
My words did nothing to soothe her, and the quiet tears escalated to loud sobs.
Bella's eyes widened as if she wasn't sure what to do but then quickly snapped into action.
"It's okay, Care," she assured her daughter. She rocked back and forth and kissed her temple. "I promise it's okay, baby girl. Mommy wouldn't let anyone hurt you. Dr. Edward just wants to make your ear not hurt anymore. That's good, huh?"
Apparently it wasn't good enough because Caroline's wails just became louder. Normally, I would have just worked around it, but something about this little girl was different. I hated that she was scared enough for this kind of reaction, and I knew it wasn't helping the pain either.
Bella looked back to me, biting her lip. "I'm so sorry. She doesn't usually do this and I don't know what's different now. Well, I do know but I can't really help that and I didn't bring any of her toys because we came here in such a hurry. And I don't know what else to do and I'm so sorry."
It was my eyes' turn to widen. This time, I deliberately placed my hand on her knee. "Bella, this is not a problem at all," I assured her. "I've seen much worse than tears, believe me. And I think, maybe, if you relax a little, she'll pick up on it too. Can I get you some water maybe?"
She let out a big breath and nodded after a few seconds. "Um yeah. Water would be good. Thank you."
"No thanks required," I said as I stood up. "I'll be right back."
I quickly went straight for the staff refrigerator and found a regular sized bottle of water along with a smaller one. On my way back to the exam room, I went to find Sue. She was waiting where I expected her, along with her treasure chest.
"I need to bring out the big guns for this one," I told her.
She knew exactly what I meant, and smiling sadly, handed me one of the plastic wrapped teddy bears. We usually saved these for the little ones coming in for the big round of school shots, but this was a special case.
"I heard her, poor little thing. You still send her to me when she's finished, got it?"
I chuckled. "Got it. She's getting the staff special today."
When I walked back into the room, I was happy to see that Caroline had calmed just a bit. Of course, as soon as she saw me, she tried to get worked up again.
"Wait just a second, sweetheart. Wait til you see what I have for you before you do that again."
With her interest piqued, I handed Bella her water and the little bottle for Caroline before I ripped open the plastic and pulled the red bear out. I had Caroline's full attention then, and after fluffing out the bear's fur, I handed him over as I sat down.
"I found you a buddy," I told her. "You can hug this little guy all you want, and I'm sure he'll make you feel better. He's soft, isn't he?"
Squeezing the bear, she slowly nodded, letting her cries die down to sniffles and whimpers.
"Do you think I can listen to your heart now?" I asked. "It won't hurt you at all. I'll just take this thing and put it right on top of your shirt." I pulled my stethoscope away from my neck and held it out to show her. "This is called a stethoscope."
"Look, baby," Bella said, placing her head next to Caroline's. "It's like the pink one in your doctor kit. Now, let's let Dr. Edward listen to you."
"Bear," Caroline whispered. "Bear first."
"That I can handle," I said with a smile. After putting the earpieces in place, I held the diaphragm to the bear's chest, pretending to listen. "Hmm. Well, Mr. Bear, it sounds like you have a great heart. Do you think I can listen to Caroline's heart now?" I glanced up, relieved to see Caroline nodding as she bit her lip just like her mother.
As gentle as I could possibly be, I placed the diaphragm against her chest. Her pulse was high, as I expected, but was otherwise normal.
"That's a good girl," I murmured. "Can you take a big breath for me and blow it out?"
She cooperated and followed my instructions as I listened to her lungs, and after only another minute, I was finished.
"Good job, sweetheart. We're nearly finished now. How about you drink some water while I get something."
As Bella helped her with the bottle of water, I scooted over to the unused exam table and pulled out the otoscope. I'd saved this for last, knowing it would probably be uncomfortable for the affected ear to be examined.
Both Bella and Caroline were much calmer when I turned back to them, and I hoped it meant that the rest of our time would go smoothly. I didn't want to keep them or me longer than necessary.
"Last few things, okay?" I said to both of them. "I just need to look in your nose and mouth and ears and then we'll be all finished. Nose first."
Getting her to tilt her head back was a challenge at first, but not impossible. The throat was even easier, though there was some irritation. It didn't look like anything that couldn't be attributed to the ear issue, so I moved on.
"Very last thing, sweet Caroline," I said as I went toward the unaffected ear. She tensed up before I even put the otoscope in her ear which was not what I wanted to see.
Hoping to calm her, I started humming the first song that popped into my head. By some miracle, she immediately relaxed, sinking into her mother's arms.
"Good move," Bella whispered and then kissed Caroline's head.
I didn't question the miracle. Working quickly but thoroughly, I checked the unsuspected ear. Caroline was not happy with me based on her squirming, but my humming managed to keep the tears away. I didn't notice any inflammation, fluid, or anything abnormal, pleasing me that it hadn't spread yet.
Not stopping my song, I moved to the other side of her head but had to pause for a second when I saw something I didn't expect. Caroline's eyes were closed, and her face was still red from her crying, but her lips were curled up in a small smile. I lifted my gaze, meeting Bella's eyes. She smiled too, giving me an approving nod. Not knowing what else to do, I nodded back and quickly examined the affected ear.
It was definitely a textbook case of acute otitis media but wasn't the worst I'd ever seen. The tympanic membrane was red, but not a large amount of fluid was present. Once I'd seen everything I needed to, I removed the otoscope, threw away the speculum, and wheeled back over.
"Has Caroline ever had an ear infection before?" I asked Bella, and she shook her head.
"No. We've never really dealt with anything worse than a cold. Is that what she has? An infection?"
"She does. But it's a mild one," I assured her. "In fact, I recommend just watching it over the weekend. Use warm compresses and Motrin to make her comfortable, and it should get better on its own."
"Really? That's it? No antibiotics? Or surgery?"
I raised an eyebrow. "Have you been googling?"
She smiled sheepishly and shrugged. "Guilty. So none of that is necessary?"
"Sweet Caroline," I said, focusing my attention on her. "You tell your mommy that you don't want to take any medicine."
Caroline shook her head fiercely as she looked back at Bella. "No, Mommy. Icky."
"I know you don't like it, baby," Bella said, kissing her forehead before looking back at me. "So it'll go away on its own?" She bit her lip, still worried which didn't faze me. Plenty of parents only knew to assume that a doctor would pass out medicine like candy. That just wasn't me.
"I believe it will," I confirmed. "Keep a close eye on her fever, but as long as it stays below 101, it's fine. That's her body's way of fighting this infection. And if it's not better by Monday, bring her back and I will pay for antibiotics." Softening my smile, I once again placed my hand on Bella's knee. "She'll be all right. But to make you feel better…" I reached into my pocket, pulling out a pen and grabbed a prescription pad from the counter. "Here's my cell phone number. If you're worried for any reason, call me and I'll help you make sure everything's okay."
With a grateful smile, she took the offered piece of paper. "Thank you, Dr. Edward. Sorry to be so…like this."
"Don't apologize for wanting the best care for your daughter. You're perfect."
Really, in more ways than one, but that wasn't something I could think about right now. Or ever.
I stood up and gestured toward the door. "Now, let's go see Sue so this sweetheart can pick something out of the treasure chest and we can get you on your way."
Bella followed me out the door, holding a much calmer Caroline. And once she collected her choice of the treasure, there was no sign that she'd even be distress.
Kids were so resilient – something I wished I was, especially days later when I couldn't get Bella and Caroline out of my head.
It wasn't like she was the first attractive woman to bring her kids into the office. And I'd had my share of women throwing themselves at me as if their kids weren't in the same room. Those encounters were the ones I wanted to erase from my memory.
But there was just something about Bella Swan. She loved her daughter, protected her even from me, and wanted the best for her. That was more appealing in my mind than some crazy woman with her boobs hanging out. Sure, boobs were great. But I was sure Bella's were even better – plus she was a good mother. The whole package.
Shaking my head, I cleared away all thoughts of anyone's boobs and headed to see my next patient. Lucky for me, it was just a quick well-visit, and then came my lunch hour. Or as I planned to use it, an hour to daydream about a certain brunette.
Just as I was about to head out to my favorite deli, there was a knock on my office door frame. I looked over, and Sue was watching me with a smirk.
"Well, Dr. Cullen. It seems you made some fans last week."
"Fans?" I questioned. "I'm confused, Sue."
"Well," she said slowly, "a certain young woman and her little cutie are back today, this time with cupcakes. And since they're asking for Dr. Edward, I just assume you made it on their good side."
"Bella?" I gasped then cleared my throat. "I mean, Ms. Swan? And Caroline?"
Sue nodded. "Mmhmm. And I told them it's your lunch break, so they're waiting for you."
I didn't have to be told twice, though I did have to ignore Sue's knowing laugh as I threw my lab coat off and hurried out. Nothing could stop me.
"Which cupcake do you think he'll like the best?"
I was crazy. Legitimately crazy. And a bad mom. The worst mom ever. Who else would only halfway listen to their daughter as they just used her voice to distract them from lusting after said daughter's doctor? Probably only me because that's exactly what I was doing.
Caroline didn't notice though, instead smiling as she gave her cupcake opinion. I kissed her head, placing my cheek against it.
She had been such a healthy baby and child until last week, and that was an experience I didn't want to have ever again. I'd felt so powerless to help with her pain, and the fact that we didn't have doctors here yet did not help at all.
Dad recommended this practice on a whim, having heard it mentioned by one of his coworkers. Dr. Cullen wasn't the doctor mentioned, but he was the only doctor still available when we arrived. And I was so thankful for that.
Not only was he nice to look at, but he also had the best manner with Caroline. And with me. Not everyone could have calmed both of us like he did while not making me feel crazier than I already did.
He had been right about the ear treatment too. I watched Care like a hawk all weekend, but the fever slowly went down as did her pain with the help of warm compresses and some liquid pain reliever.
Now on Monday, it seemed like she'd never been sick. I was the pitiful one today, driving myself crazy with thoughts of Dr. Cullen. Dr. Edward. Edward.
I was the worst.
"Mommy?" Caroline said, bringing me out of my thoughts. "Can I have a kitty cat? Pwease?"
I chuckled softly. "We'll see, baby girl. We need to finish getting settled in our new house, and then we can talk about that."
"'Kay. But notta fishy. Papa will eat it for dinner. A kitty cat."
"Not a fishy," I agreed, trying to hold in my laughter since she was being completely serious. My dad did like fish, but I doubted beta fish were some of his favorites.
Suddenly, Caroline sat up straighter in my lap and pointed to the right. "Look, Mommy! Dr. Ehward run over here!"
Immediately, I looked up. She was right. Dr. Edward wasn't quite running toward us, but he was hurrying.
"Hi," he said with a wave and a huge smile, stopping in front of our bench. "Sorry it took so long. You could have waited inside. No one would have minded."
I smiled back and shrugged. "We haven't been waiting that long," I assured him. "And it's a great day." The sun was just barely peeking out from behind the clouds, but the mid-June weather was pleasant otherwise. I missed being able to swim, but this weather was definitely preferable overall. I liked not breaking a sweat just walking outside.
There was a moment of mostly awkward silence until Caroline jumped down and walked over to Edward, tugging on his pant leg. He knelt down to her level, and his smile seemed to somehow grow.
"Hey, sweet Caroline. Did all your hurty feelings go away?"
She grinned and nodded. "Uh huh. Dr. Ehward, my ear all better! And I made you cupcakes! They sooo yummy."
His eyes widened slightly, obviously shocked that the same girl who hid from him four days ago was now willing to interact like they were best friends. He'd won her over though, humming Sweet Caroline. I wouldn't say I named her after the song, but I had always loved it. And since I'd been singing it to her since before she was born, Caroline loved it too.
I wasn't sure if Edward had known what he was humming or not, but she certainly did. And thanks to that, now my daughter was obsessed with the hot doctor. Trying not to think about him was incredibly difficult when every other conversation started by my four-year-old mentioned him at least once.
Edward recovered from his shock quickly and held out his hand for Caroline to high-five him. "That's so awesome to hear, sweetheart! I'm glad you're feeling better. And you baked cupcakes for me? I think you're my favorite person ever."
She giggled, dropping her head in embarrassment before running back to hide in my lap. Yep, definitely my daughter.
"We have several kinds of cupcakes," I added, gesturing to the container beside me. "We weren't sure what kind you liked."
"I don't think you could bake a cupcake I wouldn't like," he said, staring at me intently as he came over to sit on the other side of the container. "That was very thoughtful, ladies. Thank you."
"You…you're welcome." Something about the way he was looking at me made me nervous and excited at the same time. His green eyes popped against his red-brown hair, and I just wanted to attack him.
"Mommy," Caroline whispered, once again saving me from doing something I probably wouldn't really have regretted.
I lifted her back into my lap and leaned my forehead against hers. "Caroline," I whispered back.
Mooommmy," she giggled. "I know my name. Mommy, I wanna go play at the playground. Pwease I can go now?"
"Baby, I don't know where a playground – "
"There's one right down the street," Edward quickly interrupted. "Not even five minutes from here. We could go…I mean, I could show you where it is."
"We're not keeping you from your lunch?"
He shook his head. "In fact, the deli I was going to visit is on the way. I can just eat at the park. If you don't mind that I hang around, that is. Feel free to tell me if I'm crossing any boundaries, Bella. Please."
He was crossing all sorts of boundaries, ones I wasn't sure I wanted crossed, but at the same time knew I didn't not want them crossed. My heart and body had been off limits to any men for nearly five years, but something told me that I wouldn't regret anything with Edward Cullen.
"No, no, please come with us," I insisted. "We already ate lunch, but I'm sure Care could use a snack before we go play. Then we'll share the cupcakes – if you don't mind sparing a couple."
His smile was blinding. "Oh, I think I can spare two of these delicious cupcakes with two beautiful ladies."
Cue my blush and Caroline hiding against my shoulder. This man just had that affect on us.
We managed to stay coherent and stand to follow Edward. I grabbed the cupcake container, and Caroline skipped over to hold Edward's hand. I almost felt like assuring him that I didn't let my daughter hang out with strangers like this all the time, but he didn't seem to mind. Quite the opposite.
They swung their hands, and I watched as he carefully guided her on the sidewalk, not letting her get too far away from him. He was perfect.
After stopping by to pick up a sandwich for Edward and one for me and Caroline to split, we made it to the playground. It was on the small side compared to what we were used to, but there were swings and slides which was enough to make Caroline happy. She ran off as soon as I gave her permission, and though I told her to stay in sight, there wasn't really any need. I could clearly see the whole playground from the bench Edward chose.
I kept the cupcake container between us as we ate, knowing that I would probably be tempted to straddle him if we were any closer. Lesson learned: when hormones were suppressed for years, they easily went out of control while around a hot doctor.
Edward finished his sandwich in record time and then began sneakily reaching toward the cupcakes, as if I couldn't see him.
Laughing, I opened the container and pushed it toward him. "You don't have to sneak one, you know. We did bake them for you."
"Just making sure," he said, quickly grabbing one with chocolate frosting. "Not that I'm ungrateful, but you really didn't have to do this, you know. I'm just glad Caroline is feeling better. Your weekend was okay, right?"
"We didn't have any problems," I said. "Her fever finally went down yesterday and then this morning, it was like nothing had been wrong. You're amazing."
"Not amazing," he said, shaking his head. "Just doing my job. She definitely seems to be feeling great now."
"Oh, nothing can stop her at a playground. This is her zone."
Currently, Caroline was swinging, laughing as her light hair whipped around her head. Edward and I both watched her with smiles on our faces. The only problem was that her barrette slipped out, but she noticed and picked it up when she was finished swinging.
Running over to me, she held her barrette out. "Mommy, it falled out and my hair is crazy!"
"We'll fix it," I assured her, quickly slipping it back in place. "There. Now maybe your crazy hair will stay in place."
She smiled, giving me a kiss in thanks and started to run off. But before she could make it past the bench, the cupcakes had her attention. Edward was in the process of unwrapping his third one, but he was immediately distracted when my cunning daughter leaned against his legs.
"Dr. Ehward," she said softly, looking up at him through her long lashes. "Can I have a cupcake? Pwease, Dr. Ehward?"
He glanced over at me, and I nodded my permission. She deserved it after this performance.
"I could never say 'no' to your pretty blue eyes, sweetheart," he said, reaching over to grab her a chocolate one. "This one okay?"
She nodded fervently. "I love that one! Thank you, Dr. Ehward!"
He chuckled. "You're so welcome, sweet Caroline. Want to sit up here next to me and your mommy?" She nodded again, so he scooted to the edge of the bench before picking her up and settling her beside him. I grabbed a cupcake and replaced the lid on the container, moving it to my other side to give them more room.
The picture was too perfect. The three of us on the bench, laughing as we ate cupcakes together. I could see us doing this all the time. Meeting him for lunch, playing at the playground, just being happy. And I wanted it.
Maybe I was delusional. The stress of moving barely a week ago had to be making me crazy. But at times, I really felt like he was flirting. But why would this single – I made sure to check for a wedding ring, and that finger was naked and imprint free – attractive doctor want to hang out with a single mother? I couldn't exactly hide the fact that I had a kid.
And this had to be illegal or something. Were people allowed to date their kid's doctor? But did it even matter? He probably didn't want to date me, no matter how good my cupcakes were.
I was stuck in my thoughts for the rest of our time at the playground. I tried not to make it noticeable, but I knew Edward could tell something was off. When we walked back to the office, he lingered close to me while watching both me and Caroline. All it did was make me lust after him even more.
We made it to the door of the building, and as Caroline sat on the bench and entertained herself, Edward and I hung back, just staring at each other.
"Soo…" I repeated with a small smile. "Thanks again for the help. On Friday. You don't know how much I appreciate it."
"Well, thank you for the cupcakes. They were delicious. I hate that I couldn't eat them all."
"Keep them," I blurted out. "I mean, you can keep the container and then give it back to me."
I was a genius. Hopefully, now I'd get to see him again without seeming like a stalker.
"Are you sure?" he asked, furrowing his brows.
"Positive. And we can come back to get it sometime this week…or something."
He smiled. "All right. Or, you know what? You can call me any day this week – I get off at five thirty – and we'll figure something out. You have my number, right?"
"Yep." I did still have it, but he didn't need to know that it was in my pocket right now. That piece of paper hadn't left my sight since he gave it to me.
"Okay, good. So I guess I'll see you later."
I agreed, and then we awkwardly said goodbye, complete with a half handshake-hug-thing. After Edward said goodbye to Caroline, I took her hand and led her to the car.
"Did you have fun at the playground?" I asked her, swinging our hands as we walked.
"Yahuh, Mommy. Dr. Ehward is fun, and I like cupcakes."
"Those were good, huh? Soo…you like Dr. Edward?" I wasn't above asking my daughter's opinion on this, because after all, a potential relationship of any kind would be affecting her. She was my top priority.
"He knows my song, Mommy," she exclaimed with a wide grin as I helped her buckle into her car seat. "He knows it and he gived me a chocolate cupcake and he has funny hair. He's my friend."
I laughed and kissed her forehead. "He does have funny hair, doesn't he?" It was unruly at best but somehow fit him, giving him a carefree – and absolutely delicious –look. "Well, Mommy likes him too. I think I'd like for him to be my friend too."
When her grin only grew larger, I knew there'd be no complaints from her. That was one hurdle crossed, only maybe a hundred more to go.
I was obsessed. Obsessed with one Ms. Bella Swan. And her daughter, of course. Couldn't forget her.
I spent two days researching in my free time, wanting – no, needing – to know if this maybe relationship was going to jeopardize my license. This situation was different than most because Bella wasn't my patient. Caroline was, but this was her mother.
But the more I thought and researched, I realized that I probably was in the clear. For one, Caroline wasn't really my patient. I had treated her, but only in an urgent situation. I wasn't her pediatrician. Not that I wouldn't want to be, but if this turned into more, it wouldn't work.
The only thing left to do was make sure Bella felt the same way I did and wasn't just acting out of gratitude for my treatment of her daughter. I was fairly confident that she wasn't. Her reactions to my hopefully subtle flirting were all positive and receptive, and as long as my recent lack of dating didn't completely destroy my ability to interpret social cues, it was safe to say she was interest too.
Just the possibility had me watching my phone each evening, not letting it out of my site from five-thirty until I fell asleep. I was obsessed. That was all there was to it.
But finally, finally on Thursday evening, the call I was dying for finally happened which had me now waiting at a small diner, plastic container in tow.
I heard Bella before I saw her, asking the waitress if anyone was waiting, and I couldn't contain my smile as she informed them of where I was sitting.
Caroline made it to the table first, thanks to her running, and she immediately climbed into the booth with me. "Hi, Dr. Ehward! You eating dinner with us tonight! It's gonna be sooo yummy in my tummy!"
"Hi, sweet Caroline," I chuckled as I gave her a hug. "Your mommy said the food was super yummy so I can't wait to try it."
Bella smiled and waved as she slid into the other side of the booth and then gave Caroline a serious look. "No running like that, baby. You could've ran into someone or gotten hurt. Stay with me next time, got it?"
"Kay, Mommy," she said brightly, not overly affected by the scolding. "Where's my colors?"
I chuckled silently. She'd definitely be a handful as a teenager.
Our waitress appeared before I could say anything to Bella. She gave us our menus, including colors for Caroline, took our drink orders, and then left us in peace.
"So what's good here?" I asked Bella as I scanned my menu. "I've seen this place before, but I've never actually been here."
"It's one of my dad's favorites," Bella explained, looking at her own menu. "And I would recommend any of their burgers. Unless you're vegetarian. Shoot, are you vegetarian? I didn't even think to ask. Sorry. Um…I think they have a garden burger or something like that."
"Bella." I laughed and reached across the table, placing my hand on hers. "I'm not a vegetarian, but thank you for your concern. A burger sounds great."
She raised her eyes from her menu to meet mine and smiled. "Okay then. We'll all have burgers."
So quickly that I wasn't sure it really happened, she flipped her hand over, lightly squeezing mine before grabbing her menu again. My eyes widened as my smile grew, and I turned back to my own menu so I wouldn't embarrass either one of us. I was growing surer and surer that I hadn't made up her attraction.
The waitress soon returned with our drinks and to take our orders. After we were left alone for the second time, Bella and I finally had a chance to talk.
Our topics were varied. I asked her how she was liking the area after being here the last week, and that led into her story. She and Caroline had been living in Florida close to her mother, but when her mother and step-father decided to do some traveling, Bella decided it was time for a change for all of them. When her dad asked if she'd considered moving closer to him, the plan formed and here they were.
"I like the change so far," she said. "And I really like living next door to my dad. We didn't get to see him much before, so it's nice to have him there every day. For me and Caroline. So what about you, Edward? Have any fun stories?"
"Not really," I said, smiling as I shook my head. "I've always lived in the state, went to UDub for school, found a job here and that's about it. The rest of my family lives about forty-five minutes away so I see them enough."
"No significant other?"
Not expecting her question, I snorted – unfortunately at the same time I was taking a drink of my lemonade. Bella looked mortified, but I couldn't reassure her while I was choking.
"You okay, Dr. Ehward?" Caroline asked as she patted my arm. "I think you drinkeded it the wrong way."
Once my coughing fit was over, I wiped my mouth with a napkin and smiled down at Caroline. "I think I did, sweetheart. But I think I'm okay now."
She smiled and nodded, going back to her coloring which gave me a chance to address Bella who had her head in her hands as she mumbled to herself.
"Bella," I said softly, reaching over to pat her arm.
She shook her head, still hiding from me. "Just let me feel like an idiot for a few more minutes. I did not mean to ask that."
"Really, I just need a few more minutes."
"No," I chuckled. "I mean, the answer to your question is no. There's no one. What about you, if it's okay for me to ask."
She scoffed, finally lifting her head to reveal her dark red face. "Hey, if I asked it first, it's free game. And the answer's no for me too. No one in a…in a while."
Without a word, I looked down to Caroline and then back to her, hoping she'd catch my meaning. It was early in our whatever we were doing to be having this conversation, but it didn't seem like we were doing anything the conventional way. I was more than okay with that.
Bella simply shook her head. "Not a part of our lives and never was. Nothing messy or complicated or anything like that. It just…our lives weren't meant to be like that."
I nodded, letting everything sink in. Thankfully, our food arrived so there wasn't a need to fill the silence with any conversation. After I helped Caroline with her ketchup, we all focused on our food. It wasn't awkward, and the food really was good.
We each ordered a scoop of ice cream for dessert, and the conversation returned – this time with less intense topics and continued as we walked out to our cars.
"So how far away is a good mall?" Bella asked after our conversation about things to do in the area.
"Not too far. Do you need to go soon?"
"Yeah." She nodded. "We need a few more things for the house, so I'm thinking of going this weekend."
"I could go with you."
She stopped walking and turned to face me. "Really? You'd want to go?"
I shrugged and nodded. "Sure. There are probably a few things I need. My mom's birthday is coming up soon so I better get her a present while I'm remembering. Is that…okay? I mean, I can just go another time, but I figured this could work."
"No, it's fine," she assured me. "I just didn't know…what this was. Like a…date or whatever. Not that it has to be a date, but yeah…I don't know."
Chuckling, I took a risk and placed my arm around her shoulders and pulled her to my side. "You know, Bella, I think we're both too awkward for this which makes it perfect. Yes, it could be a date. Or it could just be two friends hanging out. I really like being around you. And Caroline. This night and the other day have been great – probably the best times I've had in years."
"Really?" She eyed me skeptically. "So you don't mind that I have a four year old?" She looked down to Caroline who was holding her hand and spinning in place, giggling as she made herself dizzy. "A crazy four year old who keeps me on my toes all the time?"
"I think a crazy four year old is better than a boring one," I said with a grin. "And you don't mind that I get sneezed, coughed, and sometimes puked on every day?"
She shrugged. "Ehh…it'll build our immune systems, right?"
She was perfect. There was just no other word for how we got along so far.
Caroline quickly grew tired of standing outside, so we had to say goodbye. I hugged them both, even kissing Bella's cheek before giving her container back. She blushed but smiled as she waved to me.
"I'll call you this time," I said with a smirk as I walked backwards toward my car.
"I'll be waiting," she replied, giving me another wave before getting in her car.
Somehow, I knew she'd be doing the exact thing I had been doing all week. But I wasn't going to make her wait.
As soon as I walked out of the office on Friday evening, I had my cell phone out and ready to call. Bella was in the middle of cooking dinner, but she refused to let me apologize for calling. Instead of actually making plans, we just chatted until it was time for them to eat. She promised to call back though, so I made sure to eat a quick dinner and take care of everything else I needed to so I'd have the whole night free.
When Bella did call back, time had no meaning. It seemed impossible for us to run out of topics to discuss – anything from movies to books to family to work. I discovered that Bella was a teacher, something I'd been wondering since she never mentioned going to work. It was one of the reasons she decided to move here. A job opening had come up, and she'd had no issues securing it.
It was obvious that we both loved kids, me as a pediatrician and her teaching first grade.
But the best part was making her laugh. It wasn't hard to do – either she was being nice to me or she really thought I was funny. Either way, her laugh was beautiful and I found it hard to stop myself from smiling.
We finally ended our conversation close to midnight with plans to head to the mall the next morning. Bella's dad had plans with Caroline for the day, so it would be just us – something I was very excited about.
I had offered to drive, and I was more than excited as I pulled up in front of their house. Bella was waiting for me outside and didn't even give me a chance to get out and open the door for her.
"Hi," she said with a big smile as she sat in the passenger seat and closed the door.
"Hi. How's your morning so far?"
"Pretty good. Care woke up way too early, so I sent her to Dad's house and went back to bed. That's his house there." She pointed to the one next to hers as we drove by.
Bella had already told me that she liked living so close to her dad. He didn't crowd her, and this way, Caroline could easily go over anytime she wanted.
"What are they up to today?"
"Fishing." She grimaced, obviously displeased with the idea. "I love my dad, but his idea of fun so does not match with mine."
I chuckled. "So you mean if I asked you to go fishing with me, you'd turn me down."
"Yes," she said immediately, making me laugh more. "I mean, you're great Edward, and I really like spending time with you, but no fishing. Just…no."
My laughter quickly died down but I didn't stop smiling. Reaching over, I grabbed her hand and held it in mine. "I like spending time with you too. Whatever this is…I like it."
"Me too." She squeezed my hand but didn't try to remove hers.
The rest of the drive was spent listening to the radio with sporadic conversation. I didn't feel the need to fill every moment with conversation, and she didn't' seem to either. We could just be together and it was enough. I liked having that with anyone – family, friends, and more than friends. I just liked being able to be myself, and that was easy with Bella.
Once we arrived at the mall, we stayed together as we went to the different stores. We didn't hold hands any more but never strayed far from each other either. I'd take that.
My only experience with shopping with a woman came from going with my mom, but Bella was different. She didn't feel the need to go in every store or look in every item. She had a list in her head, and she stuck with it.
So that meant that by two in the afternoon, our shopping was finished. I wasn't ready for our day to end though, so I found a decent table service restaurant for us to eat a late lunch and hoped the service was slow.
"I had a great time today," Bella said as we shared an appetizer.
"Me too. We'll have to do something on the weekend again. And bring Caroline. Did you see that carousel?"
She smiled and nodded. "I think she'd really like that. And she likes you too, you know. You know her song and you gave her a bear, so it's very possible you're her new favorite person."
"Her song?" I questioned, not knowing what she was talking about. "She has a song? That I know?"
"I wondered if you knew what you were doing. Sweet Caroline. You hummed it while you were examining her. That's her song."
She was right. I hadn't known what I was doing, but if that's all it had taken for Caroline to like me, I was fine with that.
"Well I'm glad I did something right," I chuckled. "I like sweet Caroline too. She's a beautiful little girl, and it's obvious you're doing a great job with her."
Bella blushed and looked down at her plate. Before looking up, she took a deep breath. "Look, Edward. I know we've only known each other for a week, but I don't think this can wait. It's been so, so long since I've been in a relationship so I don't know if we're going too fast or too far too fast, but I do know that I don't care."
Understanding where she was going with this, I nodded. "I don't care either. And I don't know if we're doing it wrong or not, but it doesn't feel wrong for us."
"No, it doesn't. Which is scary, but don't get me wrong, I want it. I just can't go into anything without being serious, so if you're not serious please let me know now. We can still be friends, but for Caroline's sake, I just have to be sure."
"You deserve that much," I agreed. "And I can give it to you. I don't know what will happen in the future, but I can tell you that I'm serious. About you and Caroline and everything." Bella smiled, letting out another big breath. "Yeah, we can both relax now," I chuckled. "We'll just see what happens."
"Okay. Okay that's a good plan."
With another shared smile, the heavy conversation was finished.
All of the heaviness seemed to disappear after that, along with the bit of awkwardness. Bella and I no longer had to act uncertain around each other because we knew we were on the same page. We weren't trying to speed anything up because after all, it had only been eight days since we first laid eyes on each other. But now, we were ready for whatever this relationship journey would bring.
The next few months were very laid back for us. We continued learning about each other while spending as much time together as possible, both alone and with Caroline. I couldn't decide which dates I liked better, the ones just with Bella or the ones that included Caroline. She was so much like Bella that it was scary sometimes, but always entertaining.
Though Bella and I had taken care of our serious conversations extremely early in the relationship, we didn't let that timing be the rule for everything. We kept things chaste for a while – something which was not at all easy for either of us – and gradually built on things physically. The first kiss was nothing short of amazing. And the first time we made-out like horny teenagers was even better. There wasn't a schedule for how things should occur. We just went with what felt right, as we had from the beginning, and everything seemed to just fall into place.
We were still us though. Bella still talked fast, and I still border-line inappropriately touched her. She assured me it was fine, but grabbing her boobs in the middle of a conversation didn't seem all that normal to me. Not that I cared about being normal. We were just being ourselves and progressing at our own pace.
But now that school had started, things were a bit more hectic. It had been almost a week since I'd seen Bella or Caroline, and I missed them. Today was special though. Bella was having to stay late at school for a meeting, and I made sure I could leave work early so I could go pick up Caroline from preschool and entertain her for the afternoon.
That made the day special enough, but with the added bonus of the weekend, it was even better. Bella and I had plans to spend the time together, just the two of us. All weekend. I was pretty sure we had the same plans for our time, though we hadn't said them aloud, and I couldn't wait for that next step.
But for the next few hours, Caroline would have my attention.
When I walked up to the door of Caroline's classroom, she was waiting for me. Bella had already informed the teachers that I would be taking her, so I didn't have any problems from them.
Hand in hand, I led her out to my car which was already car seat ready.
"Ehward, what are we doing today?" Caroline asked, skipping along beside me.
"I don't know Care bear. What do you want to do?"
"Umm…I think we should get ice cream! Pwease, Ehward, can we get some? Pwease?"
"Well," I said slowly. "I'm pretty sure Mommy said we could get some ice cream if you were a good girl at school today. So what's the story, sweet Caroline?"
Her eyes widened and she scrambled into the car as I held the door open.
"Ehward, I was soooo good today at school. I nameded all the colors and sang the songs and eated my lunch! I did! And I listened real good to the teacher. So I can have ice cream? Pwease?"
I laughed and nodded. "That sounds like a good report to me. Let's go get some ice cream!"
She cheered and continued her excited chatter even after we had our bowls of ice cream.
"I love ice cream, Ehward," she told me, giving me a chocolaty grin. "And I love Mommy and Papa and Ehward and kitty cats and school and fishies and cupcakes."
After another bite, she continued her list, but I was stuck on the fact that she said she loved me. The way it felt for this little girl to say that was unlike anything I'd ever experienced. Her list might have been long, but that didn't matter. What did matter was that I was on the list. She'd thought to put me on there and that meant more than I could ever say.
I hadn't planned to have this conversation today, but now, it seemed like the perfect time.
"Hey, Care," I said, interrupting her list. "You wanna come sit with me for a minute?"
She nodded, and I scooted her ice cream across the table as she climbed into my lap. I hugged her tightly and kissed the top of her head, and she hugged me back.
"I want to talk to you about something, okay?" When she nodded, I continued. "So I really like doing stuff with you and Mommy. Do you like doing stuff with me?"
"Yahuh, Ehward," she said with a nod. "It's so much fun when you come over to my house and play dolls and eat dinner and we go shopping and to the playground. So much fun!"
"Yeah, it is a lot of fun," I agreed. "I love spending time with you, and I love spending time with your mommy. You both make me sooo happy." Pausing, I tickled her and she giggled. "So I just wanted you to know that I love you, sweet Caroline. You make me smile every day."
Turning quickly in my lap, Caroline threw her arms around my neck. "I love you too, Ehward! You sing my song at bedtime."
I chuckled and nodded. The last few times I'd eaten dinner with them, Bella and Caroline had asked me to stay through her bed time. I was honored for them to include me in the bedtime routine, including singing Sweet Caroline. It was one of the things that had made me realize my feelings for this little bundle of happiness. And her mother too, but those were feelings to discuss another time.
"And Ehward," she continued, "you can be my daddy, right? A'cuz I don't haves one of those but you can do it, right?"
I froze, not knowing how to respond. Bella and I had talked about me being around. We'd talked about it from the beginning of our relationship, but never in terms like this. The one thing I did not want to do was go against Bella's wishes, and I had no clue what they were.
Clearing my throat, I pushed her back enough so I could see her face. Her expectant smile almost killed me.
"Listen, baby. That's something Mommy and I need to talk about first, but I promise we'll talk to you about it soon, okay?" I never wanted to promise too much because she was four and she'd believe anything I told her, but that didn't seem like I was going too far.
She thought for a few seconds and then nodded. "Kay, but I wanna daddy so talk today."
I let out a relieved chuckle and we returned to our ice cream. Caroline didn't leave my lap, instead choosing to stay with me until we finished. I loved it, our time together. Once our ice cream was devoured, I took her to a playground. We played together for over an hour, and by the time we left, Caroline looked to be ready for a nap.
That was my plan all along. Enjoy our time together while still making sure that Caroline was in for an early bedtime. Now getting away wouldn't be as difficult. And I couldn't wait.
I wasn't a virgin – obviously. I had a four-year-old daughter. But I definitely felt like one as I readied myself for my weekend date with Edward.
He didn't know, but I'd lied about having an afterschool meeting. Well, I did have a meeting but it was only an extra ten minutes. The rest of the time I had spent at the salon, getting myself buffed and polished for him.
Edward, sweet man that he was, had assured me that I'd have nothing to worry about when we did consummate our relationship, but I didn't listen to him. Five years and two years were nothing to just end without the extra effort.
We'd been waiting, but I was definitely ready now. It was the right time to take our next step, so I didn't know why I was nervous. As I waited for Edward and Caroline to come home, I paced through the house, triple checking bags as I went.
I finally felt like I could breathe again when the door opened, and I heard Caroline running through the house.
"Mommy!" she called, not stopping until she found me in the living room. I held out my arms for her, and with a big smile, she ran over and jumped into my arms.
"Hi, baby," I said and gave her a big kiss. "Did you have fun at school and with Edward?"
"Uh huh. I was a good girl at school, and Ehward gived me ice cream! And I askeded him to be my daddy but he says you have to talk about it so you can do that now and I go to Papa's house, okay?"
My eyes widened as I tried to keep up with what she was saying. She asked Edward…to be her daddy?
"Uhh…what, baby?" I looked over at Edward as he walked into the room with a sheepish smile.
"Mommy," Caroline said, pulling my attention back to her. "I saids that I want Ehward to be my daddy. So talk about it. I'm gonna go play." She climbed down from my arms and ran toward her room.
Edward stepped closer to me, wrapping his arms around me. "Hi," he whispered and dipped down to give me a quick kiss. "Sorry about that. I didn't know what to tell her other than we'd talk about it. Was that wrong? Sorry."
"No." I shook my head slowly. "Not wrong. I'm just not sure what to think. She hasn't mentioned it to me before now. Was it just random?"
"Not exactly." He led me over to the couch and sat down, pulling me into his lap. "I told her that I loved her." At my sort gasp, he chuckled. "What? It's true. I love that little girl so much – as if she were mine. And I wanted to tell her before this weekend – when I planned to tell her mother the same."
He turned my head toward him, his eyes bright as he smiled at me. "I love you, Bella."
I gasped again but immediately closed my mouth to smile. It wasn't how I imagined it would be, the first time a man told me he loved me. But this was so much better because I knew he was completely sincere.
"I didn't plan to do it this way, but…"
"It was perfect," I assured him, leaning in for a kiss. "So perfect, Edward, and I love you too. We don't need crazy gestures. This is just…perfect."
"You're right." He sighed in relief, relaxing against the back of the couch.
I giggled. "Of course I'm right. That's like relationship 101. Bella is always right except when she's acting weird – like right now as she's referring to herself in third person."
Edward threw his head back as he laughed and pulled me against him. "God, I love you."
"I love you too." It felt so good to say that I couldn't resist repeating it over and over.
When his laughter ended, he tapped my legs, signaling me to stand. He followed and grabbed my hand. "How about we drop Care off with her Papa and get started on our weekend?"
I nodded, and together, we rounded up Caroline and loaded everything into his car. After dropping her off with Dad, we made a quick stop at Edward's apartment so he could change clothes and I could leave my bag. We weren't going anywhere fancy for the weekend, just having two uninterrupted days at his apartment. No work, lesson plans, cartoons, dolls, or sneaky little girls to stop us from doing anything.
"Fast or fancy?" Edward asked once we were back in the car and trying to choose a restaurant for dinner.
"Hmm…both," I decided.
He chuckled and nodded. "I can work with that."
Edward's choice turned out to be just what I was thinking of. The service at the small Italian bistro was efficient, but the food was so much better than fast food. I was stuffed with lasagna by the time we headed back to his apartment, but I forgot all about the meal when Edward looked at me.
By his look alone, it seemed as if I was going to be dessert.
He helped me out of the car and held my hand as we walked inside together. My mouth was dry and my heart was racing, but I was no longer nervous. This was excitement – the lust that was always present when I was around him. I was beyond ready for this.
"So," he said, clearing his throat. "We can watch TV for a while or maybe have some –"
"No." I shook my head, cutting him off. "Bedroom. Naked. Now."
Grinning, he lifted my hand to his lips and kissed the top of it. "Now that is a much better plan than any of mine."
"Race you there?"
"Nope." Before I could take a step, he swung me up into his arms, making me squeal in surprise.
I wrapped my arms around his neck and attached my lips to his. He tasted so good, like the piece of gum he'd chewed after dinner. Immersing myself in the feel of him, I barely noticed that we were in his bedroom until he stopped kissing me to drop me on the bed.
Not wasting any time, I kicked my shoes off and pulled my dress over my head, tossing it across the room. It wasn't like I cared where it landed. Not with Edward's intense gaze on me.
He stood in front of the bed, unbuttoning his shirt, but he was too slow for my liking. Rising to my knees, I reached over to help him, nearly ripping his shirt off in the process.
"Eager?" he chuckled, giving me a wink.
"Way past eager," I corrected as I reached for his pants. "I've wanted to straddle you since the first time I saw you. You have no idea the kind of self-control I've had to have."
"Oh, but I do," he said, gently pushing me back so he could slip his pants and underwear off. "You, Bella, are one very tempting woman. I can barely keep my hands off you all the time. But now…I don't have to."
Once his pants were off, he stood in front of me completed naked and ready. And he was definitely ready. And large. Suddenly I wondered if I could handle that.
"You're wearing too many items," Edward said with a teasing grin. "Not that I don't love blue lace – I really do – but your skin is definitely more beautiful."
He climbed onto the bed, crawling toward me, and I instinctually scooted back until I hit the pillows. I bent my knees to stop him from coming any closer, but he was a man on a mission and couldn't be stopped.
"Uh uh." He shook his head. "You can't get away from me now. I'm not ever letting you go."
There was more behind his words and his lust-filled eyes. His promise was real and applied to everything.
Swallowing, I straightened my legs and let him crawl on top of me. "Good," I murmured, reaching up to trace his jaw with my finger tips. "I don't want you to ever let me go."
Placing both hands on his face, I pulled him down for a kiss, reacquainting myself with him after the long five minutes it had taken us to undress
He was the first to break the kiss, panting as he brushed his lips down my cheek and neck. "I love you," he whispered. "So much. And I hope this is good enough for you."
"Shh. It'll be perfect. Now…do you think you can help me rid myself of these not-quite-offending articles?"
"With pleasure," he agreed.
Within seconds, my bra and panties joined the rest of my clothes somewhere on the floor of Edward's bedroom.
When there was nothing separating us and his body fully touched mine, I couldn't contain my moan. The sounds I made only encouraged him, and he kissed down my body, worshiping me without words.
"Edward!" I gasped when he reached his target, vaguely thankful that I'd gone to the salon. "God. So good."
"Mmm." He hummed against me, the vibrations doing wonderful things to me.
Edward Cullen's tongue was magical. As were his fingers. I couldn't imagine what his cock could do, but really, I couldn't imagine anything at all. What he was doing made all thought impossible except for concentrating on the feelings coursing through me.
My orgasm surprised me, making me moan even louder and close my legs around Edward's head. That didn't stop him though. He kept going, prolonging the blissful spasms and slowing bringing me down from my high.
I giggled stupidly as he gently pushed my legs back down and crawled back up to me.
"Hi," I whispered.
"Hi," he returned, giving me a kiss. "Feeling good?"
"Oh yeah," I giggled. "That was…yeah. You're amazing."
He shook his head, chuckling softly. "No, you're the amazing one, beautiful. Thank you for letting me. Ready for more?"
I nodded and bent my knees to encourage him and wrapped my arms around his shoulders. I pulled him closer to me, but he really didn't need the encouragement. He was already lined up perfectly, and all it took was a quick thrust and he was in me.
"Bella," he groaned, dropping his forehead to my shoulder. "You feel so, fuck, you feel so good. I can't…I can't…"
"Move. Please," I requested, tilting my hips until they were flush against his. I was fine, not uncomfortable at all. So far from uncomfortable. He was perfect, filling me like I'd never been before, and somehow I knew it would only get better.
Words were lost between us, replaced with loud moans and the sounds of our bodies moving together. Being connected with someone like this was amazing. This was unlike anything I'd ever experienced.
It wasn't just the act that meant nothing, like with Caroline's sperm donor. This was love. A beautiful expression of love that felt unbelievable.
"I can't last, baby," Edward ground out.
"S'okay," I assured him. I wasn't worried about coming again. This was way more than enough. But then he reached down, placing those magic fingers back on my clit. "Yess," I hissed. "Harder…more…yes."
His thrusts sped up, as did his fingers, and somehow, I got there again, coming with a cry which seemed to trigger his end as well. After a few more erratic movements, he collapsed against me, rolling us so we could both catch our breath.
"Love you," I mumbled, snuggling against his bare chest. "That was…love you."
Chuckling under his breath, he kissed the top of my head. "It was," he agreed. "Amazing, love."
We lay in silence as we calmed until silently agreeing to go shower. After washing off, we crawled back into bed, snuggling under the covers in each other's arms.
We talked softly about anything and everything, very much like our usual phone conversations. But being together was so much better. As always, the topic drifted to Caroline, and I just had to revisit what she'd mentioned earlier.
"So, would you want to be Caroline's dad?" I asked, hiding my face against his chest. "Don't feel pressured or anything."
"Honestly?" he asked, and I nodded. I didn't want anything less than his honestly. "Bella, there's nothing I'd love more than to be Caroline's daddy. Except maybe your husband, but I'm confident that will come in time too."
I froze, his revelation completely surprising me. I'd never thought about us getting married one day. Not that the idea didn't make me grin like a fool. It totally did, but I just wasn't expecting it.
Edward noticed my tension though and kissed the top of my head. "Hey, don't freak out on me. I don't mean get married now or even in the next year. Or at all, I guess. Nothing says we have to. I mean, yeah, I felt like that was where this was leading. Marriage, house, babies. But don't let me scare you off now. We'll do things how we're meant to do them. You know?"
I lifted my head from its hiding spot and silenced my lips with his. Once I was sure he would stay quiet, I ended the kiss, pulling back with a grin.
"Edward Cullen, you've caught my word vomit."
With wide nervous eyes, he nodded slowly. "I guess I have, huh?"
"Mmhmm. So before you start freaking out on me again, yes, I do see all of that for us. But you know, if you asked me right now, I'd say yes."
"Really?" he asked in surprise.
"Really." I nodded. "We haven't followed any rules so far, so why start now? Who cares that we've only known each other less than a year? I don't. And, I know you'll be the best daddy to Caroline."
"Really?" he repeated, his smile growing. "I can tell her?"
I smiled back, kissing him quickly. "You can tell her. But be prepared for screaming and jumping. You'll make her the happiest girl in the world. Besides me, that is."
"I'm glad you're happy," he said, pulling me back to cuddle with him. "And as excited as I am about telling her, it will have to wait. I have a day and a half left with you, and I plan to take advantage of every moment."
Yep. I was definitely the happiest.
*Eight Months Later*
"Come on Care bear," I sighed, lifting her into my arms. "Will ice cream make it better?"
She huffed and shook her head against my shoulder. "No, Daddy. That hurted and you said it wouldn't. I'm mad at you."
Bella tried and failed to hold her chuckle as she took my hand.
We'd survived Caroline's five-year-old check up and big round of school vaccines, but just barely. Apparently telling her that the shots wouldn't hurt was a bad idea when they did, in fact, actually hurt. I was still learning this whole parenting thing, and I definitely felt bad that she was in pain for any length of time.
"I'm so sorry, baby girl," I repeated for the fifth time. "I didn't know Mrs. Sue would torture my sweet Caroline like that. But she did give Bear some friends."
Sue – and everyone else in the office – was a sucker for Caroline, and because she felt so bad about being the one to give her the shots, she gave her two bears instead of one. Now Bear had two new friends and a large collection of stickers.
Caroline wasn't having it though and refused to lift her head even after we finished our walk to the playground. I sat on the bench, and Bella gave us both a kiss before leaving to get our ice cream. Even though Caroline claimed she didn't want any, I knew she'd feel better with some chocolate. That always seemed to help Bella, as I'd learned.
I let Caroline hide for a few minutes before slowly coaxing her down to sit in my lap.
"Can I kiss it and make it better?" I asked softly, relieved when she nodded. As gently as I could, I placed a kiss over the two band aids on her left arm and the one band aid on her right. "How's that?"
She poked her bottom lip out as she lifted her hand, offering me her bandaged finger that had also been poked. I kissed it as well and then wrapped my arms around her, hugging her tightly.
"I love you, sweet Caroline."
"Love you, Daddy. Sing my song?"
I couldn't deny her anything, so I sang. When Bella returned, Caroline was singing along with me – at least until she saw the ice cream. With the bowl and spoon in her hands, she was once again a happy girl and seemed to forget about our traumatic morning.
The three of us ate our ice cream together, and when Caroline finished, she ran off to play. Bella scooted closer to me with the space free, and I wrapped my arm around her shoulders.
"I understand why you were so nervous last year. That was scary and it was just a well visit."
Bella chuckled and patted my knee. "Yeah, but you did good. You should've seen me through the years. It was always a wreck. I'm just glad I don't have to be the bad guy now."
"Oh, so that's my permanent job now?"
I shrugged. "I'll take it. I love any job when it comes to my girls." Grabbing her left hand, I lifted it to my lips and kissed the skin right above the ring that had been living there for four months now. "I love you."
She sighed contentedly and rested her head on my shoulder. "I love you too."
Good times never seemed so good…
Twilight, the characters, and Sweet Caroline do not belong to me.
Anhanninen requested Doctorward and a cute kid for her birthday, so I hope this lived up to expectations. And I hope all of you enjoyed it as well. :)
Happy Birthday, Ash! ILY bunches.