Disclaimer: Not mine. If they were, Bella would've made Edward grovel at the end of New Moon, Edward would've given Bella hell for kissing Jacob in Eclipse, and Renesmee–if she existed at all–would have had a normal name.
MrsSpaceCowboy and aerobee82 pre-read and encouraged me to do this; they have my undying love and gratitude. Beta'd by Jcat5507 and claireybeary12. Thank you, ladies, for your input. Any remaining mistakes are my own.
"Dammit! Why am I having so much trouble with this?" I closed down my favorite baby name website and stood up to refill my iced tea. I'd had this book outlined for ages, but a brand new character showed up an hour ago, and I couldn't find a name that felt right for her..
As I walked to the kitchen, I reminded myself that I'd gotten quite a bit of writing done, and it was all thanks to Edward. He'd overheard me on the phone with Esme, telling her that I hadn't had much uninterrupted writing time lately. Before I even wrapped up the call, Alice and Emmett were in his yard, playing in the sandbox with Rosalie and Jasper.
"Are you sure you don't mind?" I'd asked.
"Positive. You've watched Rose and Jazz often enough—I'm glad I can return the favor. Besides," he grinned, "your kids adore me and love spending time over here."
I laughed, but he was right. You'd think they'd known him all their lives. "Thanks, Edward. Send them home whenever you've had enough."
"How about you come out when you're done writing, and we'll have dinner? I'll throw some steaks on the grill...maybe a few ears of corn, too."
I had just pulled the pitcher out of the fridge when peals of delighted giggles drifted in through the open window. It was the kind of incandescent laughter that warms your heart and nourishes your soul. The kind that makes you join in, even though you don't know why you're laughing. If joy had a sound, that was it.
With a smile on my face and a glass of tea in my hand, I walked out onto my back porch. Over in the Masens' yard, Edward was watering his newly-planted flower beds while the kids played. Emmett and Jasper were bashing at each other with foam swords, and Alice and Rosalie were building sandcastles. Something made me take a closer look, and it seemed like the boys were...wet? Why would they be wet?
Just as I was wondering about that—and what caused the giggles I heard—Edward made his move. With no warning at all, he turned and sprayed the girls with the hose. They shrieked and laughed and tried to scramble out of the way, but by the time they managed to get up, he'd gone back to watering the plants.
I saw the smile on his face and realized he was planning his next attack. The kids kept sneaking peeks at him, but it wasn't until they let their guard down that he let them have it. By the time he was done, all four children were sopping, and all five of them were laughing hysterically.
Since I hadn't been spotted, I slipped back into the house. I headed straight for my office and the Target bags in the closet. After some rummaging, I found the right one and pulled out the pack of water balloons in triumph.
Dr. Masen, it's time for a taste of your own medicine.
As quickly as possible, I filled half a dozen balloons and put them into a large plastic bowl. Tiptoeing down my front steps, I mentally crossed my fingers that the gate was still open—that one was older and not as quiet as the one Garrett installed over the weekend. It was, and I slipped through with uncharacteristic stealth. Crouching low and hugging the fence, I listened for any indication that I'd been spotted. Nothing. Once I reached the gate between the yards, I stopped and peeked over. The kids were still busy playing, and Edward was hanging baskets of fuchsias and lobelia. Perfect.
I nailed him with the first three balloons—between his shoulder blades, the side of his head, and his chest—before he was coming after me. I might have had the element of surprise, but he had longer legs. I held onto my bowl of balloons as best as I could and ran, but I wasn't able to get out of range before he blasted me with the hose. Over my squeals (that water was cold) and laughter, I could hear all four children cheering him on. By the time he released the trigger, I was soaked to the skin.
"Stop...no more!" I wheezed, trying to stop laughing long enough to catch my breath.
"Do you yield?" he asked, trying and failing miserably to keep a straight face.
"I suppose I must, or you'll set your minions on me. Speaking of whom—" I turned to the kids and mock-glared at them. "What's the big idea, cheering him on? I was coming to your rescue. You two I get," I said, indicating the twins. "He's your dad. But my own children? That's low, guys. I think I'm gonna need hugs for my hurt feelings."
To my surprise, all of them charged me and engulfed me in a very damp group hug.
"Sorry, Mama," Emmett piped up, "but it was so funny!"
"It's OK, baby. I was just teasing." I tousled his hair and bent to kiss his forehead before sending them back to whatever they were playing.
"You, however, don't get off so easily," I jokingly scolded Edward. "What's the big idea, attacking defenseless women and children?"
"Defenseless? You? You attacked me from behind, woman! I hardly think you're defenseless."
A grin twitched the corners of my mouth upwards. "I'll concede that point, but what about the kids?"
"You know kids," he said with a shrug. "Always dirty and sticky. I figured I'd just hose the worst of the grime off and make bath time easier for both of us."
"Uh-huh. And you got no enjoyment out of it whatsoever?"
"Absolutely no— well, OK, maybe a little." The boyish grin he flashed must have gotten him out of so much trouble when he was growing up.
"As fun as this was, I need to get back to work." I looked at my watch before continuing. "Send mine home in about an hour for lunch, OK?"
"Or I could just feed them here." I opened my mouth to protest, but he cut me off. "Come on, Bella. They're all having a ball," I looked over his shoulder to where our dripping kids were digging in the sandbox—and breading themselves in the process— "and I'm gonna go out on a limb and guess that the words weren't exactly flowing or you wouldn't have come out. Am I wrong?"
"No," I sighed.
"It's settled, then. You go write, I'll keep the kids alive, and we'll meet back here around six o'clock for dinner. Now, scoot." He gave me a little push—which naturally had me stumbling over nothing. His apology would've sounded more sincere if he wasn't trying to choke back laughter, but I let it slide. He was watching my kids after all, not to mention feeding us. I gave him a look and then stood on tiptoe to kiss his cheek.
"Thanks again, Edward."
When I reached my back door, I glanced over to where Edward stood by the fence, rubbing the cheek I'd kissed. I couldn't help but giggle, which brought him out of his daze. The tips of his ears were on fire as he went back to his yardwork.
As I sat back down with my laptop, still smiling, I traced my lips with my finger. I wasn't quite sure where this was going, but it was clear that whatever I was feeling, Edward was, too.