Longest chapter yet...hope it's worth the wait.


Chapter 36 Labor Day Redux

Bella determined that the universe was conspiring that she never have sex in the state of Washington again. After her parents set up the queen sized air mattress in her room so that she and Edward could sleep together (a miracle in itself), and Sue offered to get up with Mackayla, Bella found that her period had started, a few days early.

Brushing her teeth, she was surprised to find that she was a little sad. After giving birth her cycle had become irregular. Last month she was a few days late, and she experienced a strange anxiety/hope/disappointment cycle when it finally began. She'd never wanted to be pregnant before, but being with Edward made her want to give him a child with his genes. It made no sense; she needed to finish school, having another baby so close would be chaos, but she could admit a part of her wanted it, wanted to share every moment from the happy test results, to the first ultrasound, to picking out names, not to mention the baby making part. She looked at her profile in the mirror and lifted her pajama top. She wasn't jealous of Leah, not at all, but if she could just jump past the logic straight to being pregnant already, the decision made for her... Edward would be ecstatic; Esme, Rose and Emmett would be thrilled to have another baby to spoil. Even Carlisle might bend, being that the child would be his blood.

More immediately, this ended her little fantasy about joining the mile high club on their flight home in two days. She hadn't been ready on the flight out; she'd been too nervous and uptight. Now, high on knowing that the adoption would go forward, relieved at the outcome of the tribal council meeting, she wanted to celebrate in a memorable way. Doing it during her cycle was just not going to happen.

All the craziness of the day, that's why I'm thinking like a lunatic. Another baby, the mile high-club? Come on Bella, how about straightening everything out with the baby you already have?

Edward's eyes were closed when she returned to her room, but he pulled back the blankets for her. Crawling into Edward's arms on the air mattress, exhausted mentally and physically by the insane day, she listened to the rain beating against the roof, the familiar sound soothing. She wondered how many thousands of times the staccato beats of the rain had lulled her to sleep. The shushing of the pine trees, the rain and distant rumble of thunder was so familiar; in a few moments the Forks lullaby had worked its magic again.

Xxx

Bacon.

Coffee.

Bella giggled, imagining cartoon wisps of scent sneaking under her door and crooking a finger to invite her downstairs where Sue was making breakfast. Why does the smell of someone else cooking always seem so inviting? Edward had suggested having Olga become their housekeeper full time when school resumed, but even if Olga did cook breakfast for them every day, somehow it wouldn't be the same as having her mother in the kitchen.

Turning over, still inside Edward's arms, she took a deep whiff of his chest.

"Did you just sniff me?"

Bella peeked up at him through her crazy hair. "I didn't know you were awake."

"You didn't answer the question."

"Maybe," Bella looks up to see his him smiling down on her, his eyes laughing. "I like the way you smell. You're right up there with bacon and coffee."

"Glad to know I rank." He found her lips for a kiss, then two, then three. Edward pushed her to her back; he didn't have to push hard, she was more than willing, spreading her legs to fit him on top of her. It was strange sleeping fully clothed with him, usually one or both of them shed their pajamas during the night.

"You've been up long?"

He flexes his hips, pressing against her center.

"Silly me," she giggles, feeling lighter than she has in weeks. "Wrong question, have you been awake long?"

"A while." His fingers felt so good as he works them through her hair, cupping her head in his big hands. "I was trying to imagine you as a little girl, picking out this purple paint, hanging up that Justin Timberlake poster."

"What brought this on?"

"Just thinking…what I might have missed if I didn't catch you that day. Would we have found each other, or would someone else have snapped you up? How did I wind up on an air mattress in the Fork's Chief of Police's house, sleeping with his daughter?"

"Mmmm," she murmured as he found her lips again, obviously not expecting an answer. It made her think, how exactly did they get here? The twists and turns that led them to this day, to this moment…just a series of coincidences or fate? She didn't know, at the moment she didn't care. They needed to get up, see to Mackayla, make their plans for the rest of the day, but Bella wanted a few more minutes in this bubble, enjoying his weight pushing her into the mattress, his body warming her entire being.

He ran his finger down her nose. "What are you thinking?"

She found the edge of his shirt and ran her hands under it, flat against his back, pulling him in tighter."I was thinking that this is the best sleepover this room has ever seen."

The sound of her brother tromping up the stairs was unmistakable; the subsequent knock on her door didn't surprise them. "Bella, Mom says we can't eat till you and Edward come down and I'm starving!"

Edward was dusting her neck with soft kisses at her weak spot, behind her jaw. "Can't we tell him to eat without us?"

"Hmmn…" Bella was melting into Edward's embrace, wondering where she was going to find the willpower to leave her room.

Loudly, Bella guessed he probably had his face to the door, Seth yelled, "Mom made fry bread."

"Just a minute!" she called to Seth. Moving her hands around to Edward's chest, she half-heartedly pushed against him. "Ugh, Mom's fighting dirty. She knows I can't resist fresh fry bread."

"Breakfast sounds like the best alternative." Edward moved onto his side, but kept his hand on Bella's hip, rubbing her curve. "Even if nature didn't interfere, I wouldn't be going any further in your father's house. I like my balls intact."

"I like them that way too." Bella gave him a quick rub and a kiss, then scrambled off of the mattress

Xxx

At the bottom of the stairs Bella stopped to twist and crack her back, the air mattress was not nearly as comfortable as her bed back home. She overheard Sue on the phone, standing at the end of the hall, her back to the kitchen speaking in a serious tone.

"Well of course, bring him over. He shouldn't be exposed to that." Sue said um'hm a few times, and then added, "Bella won't mind. See you soon."

Bella waited at the bottom of the stairs for her mother to turn around.

Sighing, Sue looked at Bella. "How much did you hear?"

"Someone's coming over soon."

Sue's eyes darted towards the kitchen. She motioned to Bella to follow her into the bedroom, and closed the door behind her daughter.

"That was Billy on the phone. It sounded like World War III has broken out over there. Jake found out what Hannah did and started arguing with Leah, again. Sam showed up to help Leah move her stuff out, now he's demanding a DNA test."

"Sam? Don't they have to wait until the babies are born?"

Sue leaned against the wall. "He wants a DNA test done on William."

Bella's jaw dropped. She knew Sam had been dating Leah's cousin Emily on and off, and that their relationship was somewhat volatile, but she had no idea Leah and Sam were…ugh. She actually felt sorry for Jacob.

"Billy took William out of the house. I told him he could bring him here."

"Of course," Bella said quietly. Who would want to expose a baby to that kind of behavior? Not just a baby, but Mackayla's half brother. Bella had been curious to see little William, but she couldn't think of a way to make that request. She didn't want to keep Mackayla from her sibling, even though Jake terminated his parental rights. She felt in her gut that hiding the relationship from her daughter would be hurtful in the end. Too many people knew, too many people might slip by mistake, or drag it up maliciously. But what if William wasn't Jacob's child? It wasn't as if Mackayla would remember meeting the little boy years from now. If William wasn't related, he would just disappear from their lives. She felt sorry for Billy and Jacob, who clearly loved the little boy.

"I better get out there before Seth eats all the fry bread. I hope you don't mind, I know he gave Mackayla some." Sue opened the door, heading for the kitchen.

Of course he did, Bella thought. That was Seth, always looking for a partner in crime. She walked back up the stairs to catch Edward and give him the news and a little privacy to interpret it. At a minimum it would be an awkward encounter, the first time Billy would visit with Mackayla as his acknowledged granddaughter and the meeting of the babies. She felt like a reality TV crew should be popping in any time now.

Edward was just closing the bathroom door. He smiled at her, "Couldn't wait to see if I did a good job brushing?" He leaned into her, giving her a minty fresh kiss.

"You pass." She stood, not knowing how to start. "This is weird…Billy is coming over with baby William. Leah is packing up, and she, Jacob and Sam are arguing, so…"

"Billy is taking him out of the line of fire." Edward shrugged his shoulders. "Bella, not a problem. I guess I'm feeling a little bulletproof since Jake signed that paper. I don't mind Billy coming over with the baby." He gave her another kiss. "Let's go eat, I'm starving."

Xxx

Mackayla had downed several bits of torn fry bread, preferring it to the banana and apple sauce Bella was trying to feed her. The baby kept putting her fingers together and waving her hand at Seth, in the 'give me' sign. Seth was happy to sneak her little pieces dunked in honey.

Seth sat up, as if struck by an idea. "Hey Bella, you wanna go to the shooting range today?"

"I don't think we have time Seth. And it's too loud to bring a baby there."

"Mom could watch her. I bet Edward wants to see you shoot, right Edward?"

"Oh," Edward said evenly, "I don't know—"

"Bella came in third in the state in under 14 3PAR. She's really good." Seth waved a piece of bacon to emphasis his point.

Edward raised his eyebrows, looking for an interpretation.

Bella explained, "3PAR means three position air rifle. I was pretty good, but I'd rather spend time with everyone together instead of at the range. Maybe next time."

Sulking, Seth chewed his bacon.

They all heard the crunch of the gravel as the cruiser pulled into the driveway.

Sue looked unhappily at her son's sticky hands. "Seth, go wash your hands then help your Dad with Billy's chair."

"I'll go." Edward pushed back from the table and stood before anyone could protest, least of all Seth who was dipping yet another piece of the fried dough in the honey puddle on his plate.

Bella started to rise but Sue put a hand out, keeping Bella in her seat. "Let him."

Sipping her coffee, Bella found her leg was shaking. She couldn't stand the suspense, and quickly went to the front door. Billy was already in his chair and had his arms out to take the baby Charlie was handing him.

William's hair was darker and straighter than Mackayla's, and like his half sister, he had plenty of it. His cheeks were enormous, and his toothless smile so big Bella could hardly see his eyes except for the dark lashes. Thrashing his chubby arms and legs, the baby was excited and, based on the nonstop grin, enamored of his Grandfather.

Edward was stabilizing the chair. Now that the baby had been transferred, Charlie took over, wheeling the chair up the ramp.

Bella held the door open, her eyes meeting Billy's. "Daughter, let me introduce my other grandchild, William Black the Third."

Little William was shy, hiding his face in Billy's chest.

"He's beautiful. He's huge!" Bella touched his fat thigh with one finger.

"Get in here and eat," Sue called from the kitchen, "Everything's still hot."

"That's what I like to hear." Charlie rolled Billy past Bella into the kitchen, Edward trailing behind with a diaper bag.

Sue had juggled the furniture to make room for Billy: not coincidently, Bella thought, next to Mackayla. The kitchen was crowded with people, but also with anticipation. Mackayla looked up at the new comers, then back to her food.

William began grunting. Sue fastened a dishtowel around his neck and Seth fed him bits of fry bread. From the lip smacking response, Bella could tell that he liked it.

If only life could be so simple. The babies had glanced at each other, and then resumed their activities with an easy acceptance of each other. Edward was the first one to take a picture of Billy, one grandchild on his lap and one sitting next to him, all sharing the same smile.

Charlie caught Bella's eye. He took his mug and walked out the back door, Bella followed.

"Maybe you want to ask Edward to join us." He sipped his coffee while Bella signaled to Edward to come out.

Bella shrugged her shoulders in answer to Edward's questioning look.

Charlie was looking into the forest. "I misspoke last night. You don't have the option of letting this incident with Hannah go. The Washington State statute regarding false reporting of child abuse is pretty clear. She could go to jail for up to ninety days and pay a thousand dollar fine. The county prosecutor wants to speak with you before you leave the state. You can still go after her with a civil suit, defamation of character or some variation."

"I have a call into our attorney." Edward leaned against the porch railing, arms crossed.

"Good idea," Charlie replied. "That woman's crazy."

Xxx

Too quickly they were on the road back to the airport. Sue and Charlie promised to fly out for Thanksgiving, Seth hoping they were still in the house with the indoor pool, which he planned to use for bragging rights among his buddies.

Edward had written two checks; one anonymously covering the repair costs on Billy's van, the other to pay for bleachers and lighting for the soccer field at the reservation. He originally wanted to buy Billy a new van, but Bella stopped him, knowing that Billy was a proud man and might accept their little fiction that people had chipped in together to repair his vehicle, but not buy a brand new one.

Billy had claimed William as his own. Bella believed that even if the test results showed that Jacob was not the baby's father, Billy would forever be his grandfather. Leah had moved out but was still going to Jacob's every day with William. Jacob was still doing his physical therapy, but had also decided to take college courses online.

She looked over at Edward behind the wheel, sunglasses on. I should have driven, Bella thought, being a passenger gives me too much time to think. She glanced again at Edward, his hair ruffled by the wind. But he is mighty easy to watch.

She still questioned Riley's suggestion about building a case against Hannah. She was going to serve jail time, Bella thought that was punishment enough, but Riley was adamant that the suit against Hannah was appropriate for two reasons; to scare her into leaving them alone forever, and to proactively support Edward's character when they went before a judge in the adoption hearing.

"Did I mention how hot it was, watching you at the range?" Edward glanced over his sunglasses at her.

Bella smiled. Seth had gotten his way and they spent a couple of hours at the range yesterday. She may have shown off a little.

"Really? So hot that you'll tell me what you and Charlie talked about last night?" Bella was itching to know what happened after Charlie invited Edward, and Edward only, to The Lodge for a beer.

"One day." Edward turned up the radio.

What have I turned into? Some fifties housewife wanna be? Desperate to know if Charlie and Edward had the talk, thinking about another baby…maybe her ovaries had gone into hyper drive living with Edward. Some part of her reptile brain must recognize his manhood, and was screaming to the rest of her body, Mate! Reproduce! Strong smart sexy man makes good babies!

Xxx

Nancy welcomed them onto the plane as if it were her living room.

"There's my favorite passenger!" She made silly faces at Mackayla as she stowed their luggage.

Looking around, Bella realized they were the only passengers. "Isn't Neal joining us?"

"No, sweetie, he went to Miami two days ago with a client. I'm at your beck and call."

Things moved more quickly at the smaller airport with a private jet, and Bella felt like she'd just gotten on the plane and it was already taxiing to take off. Once they were in the air, Nancy served coffee and hot Panini's. After the food was taken care of, the flight attendant took out a tablet computer, showing it to Mackayla. "I found this flash card program for babies. They touch the screen and all kinds of cool things happen."

Mackayla was fascinated.

Edward was amazed how quickly the baby caught on. "We've got to get her one of those."

"She's going to get a tablet computer before she's a year old? I thought we talked about not spoiling her."

"But it's so cool!" Edward's eyes had that new technology glaze as he watched Mackayla interact with the program, squealing when the screen would burst into another picture.

Bella wondered if Edward could wait for Christmas to get it for her—nah, he'd probably order one as soon as his phone had service.

"I'm happy to keep her busy here, if you want to lie down and watch a movie in the other room." Nancy smiled brightly as she made the offer, not sounding at all like she thought anything but movie watching would go on in the plane's bedroom. "Or take a nap. If I wasn't paid to stay awake, I would. That bed's comfy."

"I wouldn't mind stretching out. That was a long drive." Edward stood, his arms over his head, his shirt pulling across his chest.

"Where were you?"

"A little town called Forks." Bella answered, not expecting any recognition.

"Oh, I know the area. There's a private airport near Port Angeles, we could have picked you up."

"Really?" Bella asked.

"Sure, wouldn't be the first time we amended our flight plans. You'd be amazed how many times we wind up going to Vegas."

"Real-ly," said Edward, drawing out the word. "Good information." He waggled his eyebrows at Bella. "Come on babe." He put out his hand.

Bella could feel a blush creeping up her cheeks. It wasn't fair; Nancy would think they were getting busy in the other room but Mother Nature was still making her visit. All of the embarrassment with none of the benefit. So not fair. And what did Edward mean with that Vegas reaction?

"If she fusses I'll get you, no worries." Nancy turned back to Mackayla, showing her a picture of a dancing bunny. "Make sure you close the door so we don't hear the movie."

Bella shut the door, noting that the room wasn't enormous but beautifully done, the queen sized bed loaded with pillows and a plush comforter. A polished wood bar held glasses, an ice bucket as well as several top shelf bottles of whiskey, tequila, vodka, wines, and mixers, bags of chips and pretzels, even mints with the company logo.

Edward let go of her hand and sat on the bed and started untying his sneakers.

"What are you doing?"

Edward held up a shoe. "Taking my shoes off?"

"Not your clothes though."

"I'd be happy to." His hands went to the front of his jeans. "Let's start here."

Bella tackled him, pushing his hands away from his pants. "Nancy is right out there with Mackayla. No nakedness."

"Bella, we wouldn't be the first or last. I suspect Naughty Nancy has heard and seen plenty." Edward scooted up the bed and put his arm out. "Come on. We can just cuddle."

Taking off her sneakers, Bella moved back on the bed into Edward's embrace. He'd found the remote and was surfing the movie selections. "Look, 'Pride and Prejudice', with Kiera Knightly. Let's put it on."

"That's all right; I've seen it plenty of times."

"That's the point," Edward kissed her hand. "You won't miss anything."

"So, do you think you're Mr. Darcy now?"

"No, I'd rather be Mr. Wickham. He seemed to have had a lot more fun." He kissed the inside of her elbow then continued up her arm.

"You're terrible…stop that…sometime next week." Bella enjoyed his playfulness, and his kissing technique, which involved kisses in the non obvious places today, her shoulder, her side, around her bellybutton, before working back up to her lips, his hands massaging her breasts on the way. He'd moved over her and she welcomed his weight. They'd jumped so many steps in their relationship; there had been no real make out sessions where they both knew they wouldn't be moving on to naked games.

"I could kiss you all the way to New Jersey."

Bella might have agreed if his tongue wasn't already in her mouth. Better to show then tell, she thought, stroking his tongue with her own. His hips were making small circles, grinding his erection against her mound. Something clicked in Bella's brain, some Cosmo sex tip she'd read long ago. She pushed on Edward's shoulder until he got the hint and moved to his back, and then she got off the bed.

Edward pushed up on his elbows, watching her, "Where you going?"

"You'll see." Keeping her back to him, she walked to the bar and opened a few of the mints, popping them in her mouth. They were strong: perfect.

Swirling the candy in her mouth, she climbed wordlessly back onto the bed, pulling the hem of his polo shirt up. He complied quickly, stripping off his shirt and leaning back as she worked on his pants, lifting his hips as she slid down his jeans and boxers. His cock sprung out, mirroring the enthusiasm in his eyes.

Bella straddled his lower legs, and looked up at him, trying to look as innocent as possible with a mostly naked man in front of her. She put her fingers to her lips. "If you can keep quiet, there's no reason we can't join the Half Mile High club."

Edward nodded enthusiastically, putting his finger over his lips.

She dove in, going for the shock value. It took a moment for him to realize there was something different going on.

"Ahh, what the—"

Bella sat up, releasing his member, holding out her tongue that still had a white sliver of the candy on the center. "Mint. Now shush, or that's all you're getting."

He slapped his hand over his mouth and wiggled his hips, his cock begging for her to resume her activities. She licked up with a flat tongue, circled the tip with a pointed tongue, and then went down, sucking him in. Using both hands she grabbed his delicious ass because she could, pressing him closer. Looking up she watched his face contort as she took his balls in her mouth, using her tongue to juggle them, then rubbing the sensitive spot behind them, now back to work on his shaft. It wasn't the first time she'd given him head, but they tending to jump to intercourse pretty quickly. The mint was definitely adding to the experience; she watched him shiver in pleasure as she blew across his tip. It had been a few days, combined with the location, so she wasn't surprised when he started rocking his hips rapidly, a sure sign that he was about to climax after only a few minutes. His hands were in her hair, and he tried to lift her head, but she resisted. She wasn't a fan of swallowing, but the mint might cover the taste. Bella kept up the suction as he pulsed in her mouth.

He collapsed on the bed, every part of him limp. Bella sat back on her heels and downed the water bottle she'd grabbed earlier. She watched Edward's eyes slowly open, his sated smile for her. He reached out to pull her up to his lips, her fully clothed body against his skin. He kissed her deeply, pressing her body against him with one hand, the other wrapped in her hair. There was something so erotic seeing him naked under her while she was dressed, as if she had all the power. Their tongues explored each other, his lips hot around her mouth.

"Call Nancy," he moaned, "Change the flight to Vegas."

Xxx

Why is it when you've been away for a few days, after only a few hours home you feel like you never left?

Edward went to the office early, Bella had dropped Mackayla off so she could finish a few things at school, and now she was home trying to quickly unpack their luggage and put in a load of laundry.

Olga came through the bedroom door with a stack of clean towels. "Miss Bella, please, let me do that. That's what Mr. Edward pays me for."

After decades in the US, Olga still had a lilt of her island accent. She'd worked for Esme for decades, but she didn't look a day over thirty five, lean and strong, always with a gentle smile.

Bella calculated; she needed to pick Mackayla up in twenty minutes and get changed since she was meeting her mother for lunch. She could rush like a lunatic and put in the laundry, or she could let Olga handle it.

"Okay, that would be great. Thank you."

"No problem Miss Bella."

Olga's niece, Yvonne, popped her head into the door. "Auntie, here are the sheets you wanted."

Yvonne was helping out a few times a week. Since the house had had a few showings, who knew, Bella thought, so many people could afford millions of dollars for a home, Olga needed help to make sure the place was pristine at all times.

Jane had called earlier; she'd booked a showing for this afternoon. As anxious as Bella was to get the house sold, having to vacate the place suddenly for a few hours was annoying. The house was so big Jane warned that they'd need at least two hours to show it, maybe more if the client was really interested and wanted to revisit some rooms. Bella called Rene for lunch; might as well kill two birds with one stone.

Olga stripped the bed, Yvonne joined her and the two women started to put on the sheets.

"Auntie, you're going to have to pick me up again tomorrow. The mechanic said my car needs a new motor. It's too much; I don't have the money to fix it."

"Yvonne, no! I can drive you tomorrow, but how are you going to get to your classes next week?"

Yvonne was in her second year at the community college. She and Bella had discussed the adjustment from high school to college. They were about the same height and build, both with long brown hair; Yvonne's skin was much lighter than her aunt's. It made Bella feel a little guilty that this girl who was so similar to her was cleaning her house while she was getting dressed to go to lunch.

"Two buses don't worry Auntie."

Elvis had been sitting idle in the garage since Bella started driving the Mercedes. She had fully planned on driving Elvis when she didn't have Mackayla with her, but she rarely was without her daughter. Bella stepped out of the closet as the women were plumping the pillows on the bed.

"You can use my old car. It's kind of beat up, but it runs good."

"No, that's too much," said Olga.

"Really? That'd be great!" said Yvonne.

"Don't get so excited. Wait till you see it. I'll get the keys before I go." Bella was happy to see Yvonne so happy. Bella felt she'd been given so much. She'd been hanging onto the car to try to maintain her independence, but the reality was she'd thrown her lot in with Edward. She didn't need a little life preserver. Sure, things could still go wrong, like in any relationship, but going in holding back was no way to start. The car was just taking up space in the garage; it would really help Yvonne. Bella went to the drawer to dig out the keys and handed them over.

Xxx

Halfway to picking up Mackayla, Bella's phone rang. She recognized the number as it flashed on the dashboard and answered through the car.

"Hey Rose, what's up?"

"Welcome back. I had a cancelation and I have a few hours to spoil Mackayla. Can I come over?"

"I'm just getting her, and then I'm meeting my mother for lunch."

"I don't want to but in; I'll see you another time."

"No, please but in. Come with us, I can only take so much of my mother. You'll be a good distraction. Meet us in half an hour at The Turning Point."

"Ok, see you then."

Bella managed to see Rene every two weeks, and so far had kept her at arm's length. They tended to discuss the same things; she felt no closer to her than their first lunch. If she'd been anyone other than her mother she'd have made an excuse; but Rene seemed to be trying. Bella wanted to give her a chance.

Mrs. Gordon was singing, the sound flowing out the windows and enchanting the air around the little house. Bella couldn't help but smile as she peeked through the open Dutch doors, at the babies watching the performance. Mrs. Gordon bowed, that babies shouted their approval, and Bella clapped.

"She's all packed." Mrs. Gordon unstrapped Mackayla, who had her hand to her chin, making the sign for 'mother.' "She's so clever! We had a visitor here this morning, who may want me to watch his granddaughter. Mackayla had him wrapped around her finger."

"She does have that affect on old men." Bella shared a little more. "She met one of her grandfathers for the first time when we were away."

"How nice!"

Mrs. Gordon was the opposite of a busy body. She never made a snide remark about another parent or child, or the status of anyone's relationship. It was going to be tough to find child care that matched kind hearted Mrs. Gordon.

Xxx

Rose's car was already parked. Bella had no idea what her mother drove; she'd always been at the restaurant before Bella and Mackayla, and always walked them to their car.

Funny, that's the kind of thing you'd usually know about a parent, Bella thought, but of all the odd things in her relationship with her biological mother, not knowing what she drove barely made the top ten.

She spotted Rose's long blonde hair first, and then Mackayla saw her, excitedly making the sign for aunt.

"Hi, sweetie I missed you." Rose took the baby from Bella's arms; Mackayla hugged Rose tightly. As Rose greeted Bella, Bella spotted her mother, watching their interaction.

"My mother's already here. Follow me."

"I got your back…and your baby."

"Hi Rene, this is my boyfriend's sister-in-law, Rose Cullen. Rose, my mother, Rene…" Bella trailed off, hoping her mother would fill in. Another thing you'd expect to know about your mother; her last name. Rene was dressed conservatively, the same as last time, but something about her seemed different. Rene leaned in for a hug but only pressed her cheek against Bella's before pulling away and reaching out a hand to Rose.

"It's Rene Swan, nice to meet you Rose."

"You're using Swan again?" Bella looked at her mother in disbelief. "You've been married what, three times since Charlie, why would you use his name?"

"Those other marriages were more common law things. And Swan is such a pretty name, why would I want to go back to Higgenbotham?"

So just a little crazy was showing—had she really expected less? Bella wondered if Charlie knew what Rene was up to. "Let's order."

Mackayla had mostly ignored Rene except for a quick side glance. The baby was busy playing with Rose, patting her face and clapping as Rose counted each clap.

Rene seemed a bit put out. "She's very attached to you."

"Well my husband and I watch her from time to time." Rose was giving one of her brilliant smiles to Mackayla. It was like a sunrise.

"Oh, Bella never lets me babysit for her. I told her I'd be happy to, any time." Rene sat back, taking a gulp of her drink.

"Mom, I told you I needed some time before I was ready to do that."

"A grandmother should be allowed to babysit for her grandchild, that's all I'm saying. And I've never even been to her house."

Their salads arrived, along with Mackayla's fruit and yogurt, ending that bit of conversation. Mackayla reached out for Bella's sandwich.

Bella tore off a small, soft piece of the bread. "She had fry bread in honey when we were in Forks."

"Ugh, that nasty stuff." Rene was examining her salad as she spoke. "Does Charlie make it or is that squaw still around?"

"If you mean my stepmother Sue, who happens to be Native American, yes, they're still happily married, raising my brother together."

Laughing, Rene pushed Bella's shoulder. "Bella, you're too sensitive. You don't expect me to love my ex-husband's new wife. Be realistic."

"How about being respectful?"

"Oh your father was always on that reservation. He was in love with all of them; he probably was hooking up with her while we were still married."

Bella turned to her mother in shock. She hissed, "If you want to continue seeing me, you will apologize for all the garbage that just came out of your mouth. You were the one who ran away with someone's husband. You were the cheater. And Sue has been more of a mother to me than you ever were."

Rene put both hands up, "Look, I'm sorry! I didn't know you cared. Let's just change topics."

They chewed in silence, except for Mackayla's occasional squeal. Bella stewed. She didn't want to make more of a scene, but she couldn't think of a thing she wanted to discuss with Rene. She just wanted to finish eating and get out of there. She was embarrassed by what Rose had to witness. At least Mackayla was young enough not to understand what a witch her maternal grandmother was. Bella felt stupid for thinking Rene had changed by her civilized behavior the last few times they'd had lunch together.

Clearing her throat, Rene addressed Rose. "What was that thing Mackayla was doing when she saw you, with her hand?"

Rose demonstrated, making circles with her fist under her chin. "Bella taught her sign language. That's the sign for Aunt."

Rene scowled, "Do you think that's a good idea? People might think that's she's dumb or deaf."

"Most child development experts feel the use of sign language actually helps in later language development as well as reducing frustration when a child is preverbal." Rose was talking in her no-nonsense, I'm the smartest person in the room, voice.

Bella wondered if Rene detected the tone in Rose's answer. She'd shared quite a bit about her biological mother and the time she'd spent with her as a child with Rose.

Rene took a sip of her drink. "I guess I'm old fashioned about child rearing. This new stuff…" She waved her hand dismissively.

Rose leaned in, her expression something that could sear your eyeballs, "Oh, so dumping your daughter with her father for eleven and a half months of the year, exposing her to pedophiles, alcoholics and drug addicts when you had her, that's your idea of old fashioned child rearing?" Rose said what Bella had thought many times. She was a little startled to hear her life summed up that way.

"That's in the past. I don't do that stuff anymore. I told Bella, I joined AA."

"Good for you," Rose snapped, "how many days?"

"Um," Rene held her hand up, looking like she was adding in her head, "Sixty two days."

Leaning in, Rose said, "Let me be clear with you Rene. I've seen more ruined lives due to drunk and impaired driving. When you're elbows deep in blood, trying to repair a broken pelvis enough so your patient might have a chance to walk again, and the driver, who almost never gets hurt, finally sobers up and starts crying that they're sorry, you lose your tolerance for alcoholics."

Rene put her hand to her chest, and glared at Bella. "How can you let her talk to me that way?"

"When she says something I don't agree with, I will. Rose is my friend. I trust her with my daughter's life. It's going to take more than two months of sobriety for me to trust you with my child."

"I won't be treated this way." Rene stood, grabbing her bag. "You call me when you learn how to treat me the way I deserve." She bobbled once as she walked quickly out of the restaurant. Mackayla looked at her and waved bye-bye at her back.

Bella was curious and watched to see which vehicle her mother got into. She could see Rene in front of the restaurant talking on a cell phone. Bella kept one eye on her as she apologized to Rose.

"I'm so sorry. She was much better last time."

Rose lifted Rene's glass and held it to her nose. She looked at Bella. "As I suspected, there's alcohol in this."

"What?" Bella took the glass from Rose and sniffed. She could smell it as well. "She said she was with AA."

"There were two clues. The first, everyone I know who has been successful with AA knows their number of sober days cold. It's that important. Second, her pupils were dilated. We had a doctor who tried to hide his alcoholism. I got pretty good at learning the signs."

Bella saw a white car pull up to the curb and Rene got into the passenger side. She couldn't see the driver, but whoever it was couldn't have been far, they arrived only minutes after the call. A chill went up her spine, wondering what Rene was up to.

"Bella, when you saw her the other times, was it last minute or did you plan ahead."

"Today was last minute; the other times were set up a week beforehand."

"So she made sure not to drink the mornings when she was meeting you for lunch. You caught her today. That's how we caught that doctor, he was called in suddenly, and when he went to the hospital he was drunk out of his mind."

"How stupid am I Rose? How could I believe her?"

"She's your mother. You want to believe her." Rose rubbed her shoulder.

"I just have a bad feeling about this."

"I do too." Rose looked Bella straight in the eye. "I've never met her, but she knew I was a doctor. I used my 'up to my elbows in blood' line and she never questioned it. Not for anything, I know I don't look like your typical orthopedic surgeon. That line always gets a remark."

Bella felt nauseous. She'd been fooled like a little girl by Rene once again. When would she learn?

"Hey ,you, beating yourself up over there." Rose shook her by the shoulder. "You kept Mackayla safe, you didn't bring Rene to your house…your instincts were pretty good. She's just been playing the game longer than you have."

"Thanks Rose." Bella dabbed at her eyes with her napkin. "Please, talk about something that has nothing to do with that woman."

"Sure, well the patient that cancelled on me is named Naomi, and I was supposed to do a knee surgery…"

Xxx

Welcome Family and Friends to the

Northern New Jersey Medical Corporation

23nd Annual Fall Picnic

What a difference a year makes, Bella thought as she walked across the field, reading the green and white banner. The day of the picnic last year she'd just realized she was pregnant; this year Mackayla was here and wiggling in her own green and white NJMC shirt. Edward walked next to her carrying the diaper bag over his shoulder and a large box with the trophies for the games. They were here early to make sure everything was set up properly.

Emmett stood by the grill, unpacking his spatulas and tongs, laying them out as if he were about to perform surgery. Bella laughed when she saw his apron. It read; Mister Good Lookin' is Cookin'.

"Hey," Emmett patted his chest, "I'm all for truth in advertising."

Mackayla saw him and put two fingers by her eyebrow and made little circles.

Edward laughed, "That's right Mackayla, that's crazy Uncle Emmett."

"I think you meant awesome Uncle Emmett." He put his arms out, "Let me have some of that baby lovin' before I need to start grilling."

Bella handed Mackayla over and straightened her shirt. This was essentially her and Edward's debut as a couple. There had been rumors before, but this would be proof for anyone to see. She was mostly happy to be out in the open; she didn't look forward to seeing Edward's former in-laws and their reaction. They'd had no interaction with Aro and his wife DeeDee; all correspondence had gone through their attorneys.

Lifting the box in his arms, Edward said, "I'm going to drop these off at the awards table. Be right back." He gave her a quick kiss on the cheek then strode off. Bella enjoyed his rear view as he walked across the field to a white tent, much more than she had last year when he was just a good looking man who was beyond her reach.

"BELLA!" A high pitched scream pierced the air as Jessica ran to her, greeting Bella as if she were her long lost twin, not a former co-worker of a fairly brief duration. "Oh. My. God, it's great to see you, now where's that baby!"

"She's over there." Emmett was holding Mackayla over his head, making her fly while she giggled.

"Oh. OH!" Jessica grabbed Bella's arm, pulling her head closer. "I heard you were with one of the Cullen's, but you dog, a married man!"

"Jessica, yuck, no! I'm with Edward."

"I know silly, I just wanted to hear you say it. You've been so mysterious." Jessica giggled, happy to have her info confirmed.

Bella shook her head, played again by the Minister of Gossip. "How have you been?"

"Same old, flavor of the month thing. This is too hot to settle down." She put a finger on her hip and made a sizzling noise. "Don't worry, I don't do taken men. Too much drama, but I will be looking during the baseball game. Your man can fill out a pair of pants. I know, look but don't touch! Okay, I see they just tapped the first keg. See you later."

Just what Jessica needs, a couple of beers, Bella thought. On second thought, a beer sounds pretty good. She remembered her dry picnic last year. Some suds might calm her nerves.

For whatever reason, she and Emmett had an excellent unspoken way of communicating, probably better than she did with Edward. Emmett loved signing with Mackayla, and probably knew more of the signs than Bella did. Maybe it was his inner child. With a little tilt of her head and pointing her fist towards her mouth, Emmett understood that Bella was going to get a beer and would he please watch Mackayla for a few minutes. A quick nod of his head indicated that he understood as he continued to fly Mackayla around.

A few people waved as she walked over to the beer tent, people she recognized from NJMC, some friendlier than their previous acquaintance would warrant. She got the distinct impression that she was being recognized not as Bella Swan, co-employee, but as the main squeeze of Edward Cullen. She was sure not all those hearty greetings were sincere; she detected the distinct bouquet of jealousy from some of the women.

The cold beer went down easy. Just as she turned to go claim Mackayla, a short, dark haired woman kneeled in front of her.

"I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, you can't believe how sorry I am!"

"Alice, get up! You look ridiculous." Bella stepped back as Alice stood, dusting off her knees. Maybe she should have returned Alice's calls, but she wasn't in the right space. Bella had known Alice long enough not to be surprised by her dramatics.

Walking up behind Alice was Jasper, one hand raised in a plea for forgiveness. "Sorry Darlin'." He bent down to kiss Bella on the cheek. "She's been beside herself all week. She was afraid you wouldn't talk to her, or let her see Mackayla."

"Hmm." Bella scowled, "One condition, one enormous condition. No pictures."

"But," Alice pleaded with her puppy dog eyes. "I won't post them, not a single one."

"If you had any clue how scared I was when the Washington State police came to take Mackayla, you…" The memory washed over her, and she shook.

Alice wrapped her arms around Bella, "I'm an idiot, I had no idea, I took down every single picture of you and Edward and Mackayla. Jasper reset all my settings. My Facebook page is like Fort Knox, I'm telling you." Tears rolled down Alice's face. "You know I'd never do anything to hurt you intentionally, Bella. Please forgive me."

Bella closed her eyes, remembering all the support Alice and Angela gave her over the last year, how they were there for her before anyone else. Her life had become almost magically easier now that she was with Edward; she remembered when she was alone with her secret, and her friends supported her.

"I forgive you Alice."

"Yeah, yeah, yeah!" Alice started hopping, bringing Bella with her.

"Hey, I'm spilling my beer here."

"Sorry, sorry, I'll get a napkin, I'm just so excited, and I haven't seen Mackayla for over a month. That's the longest I've ever been without my baby-fix!"

Xxx

Mackayla was in Rose's arms when they returned, but she happily went to Alice.

"There's my girl!" Alice might have smothered her with kisses, if the group hadn't been interrupted.

"Rosalie." A woman in her fifties, trim and carefully groomed, wearing the green and white shirt NJMC shirt and khaki shorts. "A word please."

"Hi Dee Dee, I wasn't sure if I'd see you today." Rose followed the woman a few steps, but not really far enough away for privacy. Rose asked, "What is it?"

"I just wanted to let you know we planned a memorial service for Tanya and baby Aro on November fourth." DeeDee had a bit of an eastern European accent. "I'm sending out invitations, but I wanted to be certain you knew."

Bella stiffened. This was Didyme, Tanya's mother. She'd never laid eyes on the woman. Bella wondered if DeeDee knew who she was.

"Of course the family will be there," Rose said.

"I heard Edward has taken up with some woman. I hope he has enough respect for his wife to show up to her memorial service without some tramp on his arm."

Well, that cleared that up. DeeDee knew of Bella's existence, but did not know her face.

Rose was gentle, "Of course Edward will be there. He means no disrespect to Tanya, but he needed to move on. You know all was not right in their marriage before she died."

"For the sake of my husband…you know Aro has taken this very hard, we all have, but a father's grief…Tell Edward it would be best if he came alone. Please."

"I will."

DeeDee walked away without looking back.

Feeling a sudden chill, Bella shivered. "That was pretty clear how they feel about me."

Shaking her head, Rose spoke quietly, "That family still has a lot of healing to do." She looked at the solemn faces around her. "Enough, this is supposed to be a party! I'm going to hunt down my husband, and see how he's working his meat!"

Edward returned, sweeping Bella into his arms and claiming Mackayla from Alice. He was in a great mood, but Bella couldn't shake the feeling that someone was watching them.


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A/N: 1- I don't know the actual rules for getting into the Mile High or Half Mile High Club. You're on your own, people.

2- Feeding infants fried dough dipped in honey is not a best parenting practice, but I know my kids wound up eating things they shouldn't have and they're still here

3- Many thanks to my cousin/beta for reading this chapter before going to her son's baseball game

Next chapter may be at least a week plus...winding down the chapters are longer and I want to get them right before I ship them out. Thanks for reading and reviewing and making this fun.

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