Title: Bear Valley Ranch
Category: Books » Twilight
Author: Lady Gwynedd
Language: English, Rating: Rated: M
Genre: Romance/Western
Published: 07-02-10, Updated: 12-03-11
Chapters: 28, Words: 123,511

Chapter 1: The Baby

She did not know he was watching her as she sat in the grassy field under a beautiful cerulean Colorado sky. She had Boy, Abraham rather, at her knee reading a picture book with him. She had developed a soft spot for Abraham, her housekeeper's son. She said she bought the book for their library but her husband knew she bought it for the little boy. Her soft heart and generous nature were his joy.

Edward was in the paddock, supposedly working with the filly but after he got the bit on her, he decided he'd let her get used to it for a while before he'd try the saddle again. He had attempted to saddle her before much to her displeasure. She was an ornery jade; too smart for her own equine use. But his horse-work was all a ruse anyway so he could watch the most beautiful woman in the world without her knowing. He had to make sure she didn't know. She had been teasing him about his over protectiveness, so now he made sure to be more circumspect and stealthy.

Evidently, they finished the book and Bella got unsteadily to her feet. Edward was pleased to note, even as young as he was, little Abraham helped her up. She smiled her thanks and the little boy dashed off; running up the hill to find his Pa, Edward would wager.

She stood there stretching for a moment, hands at the small of her back, eyes shut, face turned to the warm sun overhead. After a few moments, she put her hands over her ripened belly and he could hear her giggle from where he was standing. Evidently, their child was doing his usual acrobatics within. He kept them up at nights sometimes with his twisting and turning. In the privacy of their bedroom, Edward loved to put his hands on Bella's gravid belly and feel the child, his child, moving within. He knew what the Bible meant when it spoke of joys filling, tamped down, and over flowing. The whole process of conceiving and begetting was a wondrous thing, Edward was thinking. To think that out of their love, a small part of her and a small part of him combined to make another being. It was a miracle when he thought of it. It overwhelmed him.

Bella had done well with her pregnancy, as she had always assured him she would. She did not suffer much with the morning sickness as long as no one presented her with a cup of coffee. Even the smell of it would send her dashing for the outhouse. He was all for banning its use on the ranch during the interim regardless of the dissatisfaction of his employees but Bella talked him out of it. She always could talk him out of anything. He smiled fondly at the memory.

Bella happened to look in his direction and caught him at his spying. She laughed again and shook her head as she gathered her blanket and book and then walked over to where he was standing.

"Edward... Love... I am fine. There is no reason for you to stalk me like you would a deer."

Grinning he swung himself over the fence to take the blanket and book from her, "I can't help myself. You are so dear to me." He chuckled at his own joke but then went on, "You look tired, Bella, perhaps you should lie down?"

"Edward, I've done nothing but rest by your command ever since Mrs. Dowling said the baby could come any day. I assure you, I feel fine. I want to work. I want to be useful."

"I didn't command that you rest," he said sheepishly.

She placed her hand tenderly on his chest above his heart. How could she help but not to love this man? "No, Edward, you never command – you just request and then worry yourself into a tizzy if I don't comply. I do not like seeing you so distressed, Edward. What are you going to do when the baby actually comes? You know how that can be. You are going to drive yourself mad with worry and fear. Indeed, Edward, I may just banish you to the Lazy B until it is all over."

"No! Bella, please, I will try to be easier. Don't send me away from your side. I feel very protective of you."

"I do know that, Edward, and I love you for it, but you are making me fret with your worries."

Edward realized that he truly needed to gather his self-discipline or he would do the opposite of what he intended. The one thing he did know for sure is that he didn't have the strength to stay away from her anymore.

"I will do better, Bella."

Smiling, she took his arm and he walked with her up to the cookhouse. He knew better than to suggest that she rest again, knowing that he had lost that particular battle, but he would insist that she sit while she worked in the kitchen.

Juan Carlos grinned as they walked through the door, "Hola, Mamacita! Como esta?"

"Muy bien, Juan Carlos, pero mi esposo es loco."

Juan Carlos burst out laughing. "Si, mi amiga. Es muy loco."

Edward frowned. He knew Latin, Greek, and German but never studied the romance languages. He felt a little out of place. Evidently, Juan Carlos had been teaching his wife Spanish while she worked with him in the kitchen. "I know you two are talking about me."

Bella blinked her eyes. "Now Edward, whatever gave you that idea?"

"I think Juan Carlos's guffaws gave it away."

She smiled and not caring that Juan Carlos was watching, reached up on her tip toes and kissed Edward on his lips. "I love you so much, silly man. Now Edward, you go and work that filly of yours. I will stay here under Juan Carlos' care and do nothing but sit. I will be fine."

Edward sighed, his worry creases appearing between his eyebrows. "If you need me, Bella, I will be down at the paddock."

"I will be fine, Edward. Don't worry yourself."

He nodded and reluctantly left the kitchen. As soon as he was gone, Bella turned to Juan Carlos and said, "Could you please, very discretely, go into the house and tell Mrs. Dowling that I've been having pains this whole afternoon. I am thinking that the time has come but don't you make a scene of it or Edward will come back and be…well, Edward. As much as I love him, it would be hard to focus on the task at hand."

"Si, Senora. I will go quickly."

He left and returned almost immediately with the midwife. Though married to a local rancher, Mrs. Dowling had delivered most of the offspring in the neighborhood for twenty years. She was warm, intelligent and caring and made sure to keep up on her vocation by corresponding with other midwives in the country, sharing ideas and techniques. When a mother was nearing her time, Mrs. Dowling would move in with her, if possible, to make sure all was in good stead for the birth. Bella couldn't be in better hands.

"I had a feeling the time had come, Missy. I could tell by the way you were leaning on your man as you walked up here. Come with me and we'll get you ready." She competently put her arm around Bella as she spoke and ushered her out of the door. As she left she called to Juan Carlos, "You, man! Start boiling water."

"Si, Senora."

As they went into the pass-through that led to the house, Bella asked, "What's the boiling water for?"

"Nothing. It keeps folk out of my way while I do my work."

Bella chuckled and gasped as another pain hit her.

"See, my girl. It sounds as though you are on your way."

Lauren, who was herself expecting in the late summer, was sewing buttons on a shirt in the main house. She looked up as they entered. "Is it time?"

"Yes. I think so. Come, give me a hand," Mrs. Dowling ordered.

"But don't tell anyone what is happening yet, Lauren. I don't want Mr. Cullen to know until it's over," Bella said.

Understanding looks passed between the ladies as they shut the door to Edward and Bella's bedroom and began stripping the bed as well as the mother-to-be. They left Bella with her loose chemise that she had made for her pregnancy but tore the bed down to the mattress, propped the head of the bed up, then covered the mattress with a large rubberized pad and an old sheet and a stack of smaller cloths in the middle of the bed. Bella was directed to lie with her hips centered upon that.

Mrs. Dowling washed her hands, directed Lauren to do the same and then examined Bella. "Yes, my dear. You are well on. How long have you felt pain?"

"Since midmorning, I think. I wasn't sure at first."

"Since midmorning? Why didn't you tell me sooner?"

"Because the pains were mild and because I knew the first thing you would do is put me to bed and then it would be long hours before the baby is born. The wait would trouble me."

"And it would kill your husband, I am thinking." Mrs. Dowling smiled. She'd never seen a papa-to-be so fraught with nerves. He was like a mad, broody hen. "You are wise, Mrs. Cullen."

"No. I just know my husband, God love him… ooohhhh." Bella's face scrunched as another pain hit.

A few contractions later and her waters burst. The midwife removed the stack of clothes and efficiently replaced them with clean ones. "Now the work comes, Mrs. Cullen."

Bella was praying as the pains worsened that she get this over before Edward returned from the paddock. She wanted to surprise him with his baby before supper. She hoped he would not be too angry with her for not telling him the baby was coming.

Ohhhhh. Another strong one hit. Bella was surprised at how painful it was.

"That's all to the good, Mrs. Cullen. Your baby is coming right along."

So, the afternoon hours dwindled and Bella's pain increased porportionately. She was struggling to contain herself.

Towards suppertime, Mrs. Dowling took note of her extremity and said reassuringly, "Everything is going well, Mrs. Cullen. You are almost ready to push but until that happens try to ride the pains out without stiffening like a board. Everything is well."

There was a sudden knock on the door. Lauren went to answer it to find Juan Carlos there. "The water. It has been ready."

Mrs. Dowling went to the door. "That is good, Juan Carlos. Just keep it on the boil. I will call you when I need it."

"Si, Senora," he said and went back to his kitchen.

Bella labored on and on, her pains becoming increasingly worse. "Mrs. Dowling…" Her voice cracked at the end, "It hurts so badly."

"I know, Precious, t'will be all over soon. Take my hand on the next one and squeeze." Lauren quietly went to the other side of the bed, and offered her hand to Bella just as the next pain hit.

"Jesus, Mary, and JOSEPH," Bella swore and tightened the grip on the hands of both her helpers.

As the pain ebbed she immediately apologized for swearing. "I don't know what came …" then another pain hit and she cried out, "Oh, DEAR LORD...EDWARD!"

Bella was shocked that she had called her husband's name when she had devised such a clever scheme to keep him away from her travails. But she could not help herself.

Oh, but she wanted him now. The Pain had grown until it became an entity in the room with her, overcoming all her strength little by little, and as her strength waned her fear grew. She wasn't sure she could bear with it any longer. Perhaps tomorrow she could come back, and finish it but right now… She wanted Edward's arms and Edward's sweet gaze. Edward...

As another pain began, she did recognize one other thing that she was sure of at this moment. She was NEVER going to have intercourse again.

"OH, EDWARD!" She called again as another pain overtook her, not really expecting him to appear but truly using his name and his image in her mind as a talisman against the agony.

Suddenly they could hear boots thundering up the porch steps and the front door slamming open. "BELLA?" Edward hollered as he ran for their bedroom door.

Mrs. Dowling flew to meet him. "Now, Edward Cullen, you listen here. All is well. She's just feeling the pains, but soon the baby will come and it will be over. I will not have you upsetting her with any nonsense."

Edward looked desperately into the lined face of the old lady. "What can I do?"

Mrs. Dowling was about to tell him to go away when Bella's voice rose, "EDWARD, PLEASE!"

Edward pleaded with Mrs. Dowling using only his eyes. He needed to be with Bella. He knew she needed him as well. Surely Mrs. Dowling could see that. Slowly, the old woman's heart melted.

"Men don't come into the birthing room."

"Mrs. Dowling, remember that our good Lord himself was delivered by a man; his earthly father, Joseph. I am sure Joseph was a comfort to Mary as she labored."

"Well, can you behave like Joseph if I let you in?"

"I will do my best."

"Then turn around and get washed up. You smell of the barnyard. Get those boots off. Make sure to wash your hands until they are scoured and then come back. BUT, Edward Cullen, you must do as I say and if you don't, I will send you away. I don't care what your wife wishes. Do you understand me?"

Edward smiled in relief. "Yes, ma'am!" And he rushed off to do as she ordered. He was back in record time and knocked on the door again.

"Edward, come in. It is time for Bella to push and here's what you are going to do. Lift Bella up and slip in behind her on the bed. I want you to cradle her shoulders and hold her up as she pushes out the baby. She will be pushing hard against you. Give her quiet encouragement. Lauren and I will hold her legs."

By this time, Bella had decided to burn the Kama Sutra.

The minute Edward sat down and took her in his arms, though, Bella's panic disappeared. It was as though a blanket of calmness wrapped around her and she knew that with him, she would be fine. She inhaled his clean linen smell. He was here and he was going to help her birth their baby. She rested her head against his shoulder and in between pains she turned to look into his eyes. "Thank you."

"Oh Bella, there's nowhere else I'd rather be." He kissed her on her forehead and smiled his encouragement.

When the next pain came, Mrs. Dowling coached them both through it and was pleased to say she could see the baby crowning. "Push again, Mrs. Cullen. Push again! A big strong push, now."

Bella grabbed on to the hand holds Mrs. Dowling had installed for the purpose on either side of the bed and did as she was asked, Edward, supported her through it. Bella finally felt as though she was accomplishing something and not just tilting at a windmill of pain.

"Good, Mrs. Cullen. Excellent. The head is born. One or two more good pushes and your baby will be here."

Bella bore down once again, her eyes tightly shut and focused on pushing the baby out. "AHHH" she cried, not in pain but in effort and almost with a pop, the baby was born.

Bella heaved a great sigh of relief.

"You have a beautiful girl, Mr. & Mrs. Cullen! And very hearty she is." Mrs. Dowling deftly cleaned the baby up and suddenly they could hear a lusty cry. "Oh, listen to that! Music."

Edward was overwhelmed with emotion. He still sat and held his precious wife as they watched Mrs. Dowling and Lauren clear and clean up. Edward was softly stroking her upper arms, as she leaned wearily against him. He kissed her temple and cheek and was thankful and so blessed.

Bella easily delivered the after birth. "You need to plant that underneath a tree. It will help it grow and the tree will protect your little one all the days of her life," Mrs. Dowling said.

"I know just the tree," Bella said and gazed at Edward who was too stunned to speak at the moment. She was remembering the tree that she hid in from Jacob Black. Edward looked adoringly down at his wife and nodded. He knew just the tree, too.

In a few moments, mother, daughter and the room were situated and the baby was given to Bella to hold. Edward returned to sit behind her again so that he could hold both his girls at the same time. Both parents marveled at the baby's tininess.

"She looks just like you, my Bella," Edward said fondly.

"I don't know, Edward. I think I see a determined Cullen in that forehead."

He chuckled and watched them both for a few minutes when Bella asked, "Would you like to hold her, Sweetheart?"

Immediately, he panicked. "No. I don't think so. No."

"Edward she won't break. She wants to know her Papa," Bella said as she lifted the drowsing infant towards her husband.

Edward gingerly took the baby in his arms and marveled at how light she was, how small. He looked down into her little red face just as she opened her eyes. His heat melted, his breathing seized as his eyes met hers for the first time. They gazed at each other for a solemn moment until the baby's eyes slowly closed again. He had been dazzled and he knew it. It hit him like a sledgehammer, like a cannon ball. She was her Daddy's Little Girl.

Chapter 2: The Baptism

"Joy Elizabeth Cullen, I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen." There were sighs and soft laughter in the sanctuary as the baby made a face when the holy water was poured over her head and into the font. She didn't cry though, and her mother smiled proudly. Joy was a champion little baby.

Bella thought fondly over the past month and was amazed at how much her life had changed. Wryly, she remembered thinking the same thing this time the year before. She stood in the little chapel in the town of Bear Valley, her arm tucked into the crook of her husband's elbow and watched as her little daughter was welcomed into the Christian community. Emmett and Rosalie McCarty were Joy's godparents, an honor they accepted willingly and they stood there with the little girl in Rose's arms as the minister performed his service.

Bella had been a little overwhelmed by the gift that the Cullen's had sent; a delicate Alençon lace baptismal gown that was twice as long as the baby. Such intricate close work Bella had never seen and she knew it was probably very costly. She felt badly to be accepting such an expensive present and tactfully questioned Edward about it one day as they stood in their bedroom, looking down at the confection as it was spread upon their bed.

"The baptismal gown your parents sent is very fine." Bella traced her fingers over the intricate lace.

"Do you like it?"

"I think it is lovely."

"Good," Edward smiled thinking it was settled. It was not.

"But, do you think it is a little too fine?"

"Nothing is too fine for my little girl," he averred as he looked over at his daughter asleep in her cradle.

"I agree, Edward, but do you think it was too dear a gift to be giving us?"

Now, Edward was puzzled. "Too dear? As it the price is too great?"

"I am sure it was, Edward. I feel badly for accepting it."

"No, Bella. This is a good sign and I promise you had we been in Chicago, they would be showering you with gifts for the baby. Besides, they can well afford it."

"Why do you say it is a good sign?"

"Because since I left Chicago, my parents have been rather disappointed in my exploits. In fact, before we married I never heard from them more than twice a year: at Christmastime and on my birthday. They sent their good wishes at the time but were distant."

He put his arms around her and pulled her closely to him. "But since I was lucky enough to marry you, they have been much more forthcoming. In fact, as you know, they now write at least once a fortnight."

She blushed and wrapped her arms around his waist, "And you think I am the cause of it?"

"I think Jasper and Alice's glowing report of our life may also have something to do with it but you are the main cause, I am sure." He pulled her a little closer and she could feel his body respond to her proximity. He bent down to kiss her lips and she felt the even more familiar fires shoot through her veins.

Regretfully, she sighed. "Edward, I must tell you what Mrs. Dowling discussed with me before she left us after Joy was born."

"Hmm?" he smiled looking down at her, his eyes half-closed.

"She said that we must abstain from marital relations until I have completely healed."

He looked a little shocked. "She discussed that with you?"

"She did. That and more."

"Tell me," he asked gently.

"She said that I should be right as rain when our daughter is a month and a half old. That's five weeks from today. Does that disappoint you that it is so far off?"

He shrugged uncommittedly. To tell the truth, Edward was a little put out. It was upon Mrs. Dowling's advice that they abstained for two months before little Joy was born and now he was going to have to wait another month and a half? That will make three and a half months without being able to love on his wife! He was truly longing to feel her once again as she so sweetly climaxed and how his release brought him such bliss. He missed it badly. He wanted so sincerely to express his love for her again. And the worst part was the more he did without, the more insistent his nether region was that he did.

He knew on a rational level that it would take time for Bella to recover. And on an emotional level, he would wait years or forever as long as it meant he could have her by his side. But on a physical level, which he had to admit acted like he was aged seventeen, he wanted it yesterday.

He was very displeased with his physical side and spoke sternly to it in his thoughts but his pecker didn't have ears, so it wasn't listening.

He sighed and attended to the rest of what his wife was saying, "…and your thought to hire a nursemaid for Joy is not advisable."

"Mrs. Dowling said that?" He was shocked again. All the ladies in his mother's circle had nurses who breastfed their children. "Why did she say that?"

"She said that I had to consider the spacing of our children."

"Isn't that in God's hands?"

Placing a hand on her breast she said, "Well, God made this bosom for the nourishment of our children. I can't see why we ignore one part of God's design and not the other."

She went on to say, "Mrs. Dowling said that as long as I diligently nurse Joy, my monthlies will be put off. If my monthlies are put off, then the chances of me having another baby too soon are lessened. She said that she's buried many a mother because the babies came too quickly."

That pronouncement shot an arrow of fear through Edward's heart. He knew that most married women died in childbirth or complications from it. He had shoved that fear aside after the birth of Joy but now he was faced with it again.

Even his pecker listened to that one.

"How long will Joy be at breast?"

"Mrs. Dowling said that a baby can be solely at breast for half a year and then as her teeth come in we add pabulum and the like to her diet. As she eats more food, she will naturally nurse less and less. But Mrs. Dowling said she's known of children being at the teat to some degree for five years but she didn't recommend it."

Edward was reeling. Five years was a long time. "How long does she recommend?"

"She says it depends on what Baby needs and each baby is different. She said that most likely a day will come when Joy will refuse the breast and that would be the time to stop. For most children that happens by the age of two. She also said that the less I nurse Joy, the sooner I will start my monthlies again and then we'd most likely start another child. She said that I was built to be a mother and that, for all that it was uncomfortable, my delivery of Joy was easy. She said the next babies will come even easier most likely, especially if they are spaced out."

That gave Edward a lot to think about but he was concerned for the amount of work that Bella would need to do if she was taking on the complete care and feeding of their baby in addition to what she all ready did. Lauren was going to be abed with her second child soon and that would make Bella's duties even more onerous. "I do not want you to be overburden with work, Bella."

"I understand and appreciate your care." She smiled happily up at him. "But I have a solution."

"What would that be?"

"Did you know that Juan Carlos is married?"

"No, I did not." Edward could not imagine working away from his wife and he wondered at Juan Carlos' fortitude.

"Yes. Her name is Ana Maria and she lives with their children in Texas. He misses her."

"And…?" Edward could see where this was leading.

"How about if we sent for her to come here to live and she could help me with the chores?"

"Is she a good worker? And how many children are we speaking of?"

"Juan Carlos said that he met her when she was the housekeeper for the mayor of San Antonio. This man had a great house and entertained frequently. He was very sad to see her leave when she married Juan Carlos. Admittedly, I only have Juan Carlos' word to go on but he has always struck me as being an honest man."

"Yes, he seems to be honorable to me as well. The problem with hiring his wife is that if one of them becomes unsatisfactory, we will lose two workers. Is that a risk you are willing to take? And, Bella, how many children?"

"They have three children."

"Three children!"

"Yes. She had the last at Easter time and Juan Carlos hasn't even seen him."

"How old are the other children?"

"Well, Pedro is three, Madalena is two, and Tomas is the baby."

"You ought to tell Ana Maria what Mrs. Dowling told you."

"Will I have the chance?"

"I will have to change the name of this ranch to Baby Valley, I am thinking. After Lauren's baby comes, how many children will we have here?"

"Letsee, there's our Joy, Abraham and his brother or sister, and the three Hernandez children. That's six."

Edward sighed, "Things will be changing here more quickly than I ever imagined but we will have to adjust to the change gracefully."

He thought a moment and said, "Then there's the question, Bella, where will they live?"

"I have thought about that, too. Lauren is unhappy living in the cottage."

"Unhappy? Why?"

"She said she felt like a seed rattling around in a dried gourd in there. She actually had tears in her eyes when we turned out their old room a few weeks back."

"You want Lauren, Tyler and Abraham to move back in here? Remember they are having another baby in a few weeks. There isn't enough room for them in that room. No, Bella, they need their own place. That's why we built it. Lauren will get used to it and be glad of it over time. What we will have to do is build another cottage for Juan Carlos' family."

Bella gasped in delight. "Edward, you are so good and generous."

"We are growing, Bella. There's no help for it. We have to keep up with the times. Tell Juan Carlos he can send for his bride."

Bella laughed in delight and grabbed Edward's face to kiss him. He took full advantage of her kiss and his pecker started acting like it was seventeen again. He had to chuckle at her excitement as she ran off to tell Juan Carlos the news. He looked over at his sleeping daughter and said, "Your Mama is a piece of work."

Bella thought of all of this as she stood in church and smiled down at her newly baptized daughter, Joy Elizabeth Cullen. She was getting used to the name Joy but Edward was most set upon it. He kept on saying she was her Daddy's Joy and the result of his most joyous decision, and truly 'Joy' did fit the little one. She was easy so far, only crying when she needed something and would settle down quickly once her need was satisfied. She was beginning to look around at her world and her mother's face always brought a huge milky grin to her lips. Edward was enamored of her and would sit and rock with her long after she had drifted off to sleep. Yes, she was their Joy.

But Bella had been turning a few name ideas around in her head after the baby was born and when it came time to discuss it with Edward, he was aghast.

"What did you want to name the poor mite?"

"Renesmee Carlie. It's a combination of both our mother's and father's names."

Edward looked at her as though she was a lunatic but he didn't say anything.

"It would make your parents happy, Edward."

He could not help himself, "But it would make our daughter miserable."

"You do not like it?"

"I have no wish to hurt your feelings but NO!"

"Oh," she pouted.

"Isabella, you have a beautiful name. My name is passable. There are many beautiful names out there but Renesmee Carlie? You may as well name her Bertha Brunhilda and be done with it."

"Bertha Brunhilda?"

"Yes, she was a girl I knew once - quite a lovely young lady who was saddled with an impossible name. She bore the burden of that all of the time. She was teased soundly and it crushed her spirit. She told me once the minute she reached her majority, she was going to change it to Florence Amelia. I wonder if she ever did?"

"You really dislike Renesmee that much?"

"Darling, I do. But if you want to use that name, the filly doesn't have one yet. How about using Renesmee for her?"

"You will just call the poor horse uncomplimentary names anyway."

"She deserves them. She's bull headed."

Bella nodded her head thinking the horse was not the only one. "Then I agree Edward. We shant name our daughter Renesmee but won't your mother be upset that we've named a horse after her?"

"No, I doubt she would ever notice. That horse reminds me of my mother a bit anyway. It's a perfect name for her."

And so he came up with Joy Elizabeth to name their baby, Elizabeth being the first name of his grandmother who left him the money to buy Bear Valley Ranch all those years ago.

And now that they had taken it to church, Joy Elizabeth's name was set in stone, at least until she married some distant day.

After the baptism, The Cullens hosted an al fresco luncheon for the people who were in town that day. Juan Carlos was in his element. He loved fiestas, as he called them, and produced a banquet such as Bear Valley had never seen. He even got his cousin from Denver to come in with his Mariachi band to serenade the Cullen's guests. Folks were destined to talk about that party for many a year to come.

The following Monday found Bella sitting on the porch swing nursing baby Joy as she watched Abraham play in the grass in front of her. Joy was almost five weeks old and, to be very honest, Bella was looking forward to being reunited with her husband again in marital bliss in the coming week. She had quickly forgotten her promise to herself that she would become a nun after Joy's birth, mostly due to the heated kisses she had been sharing with Edward.

Then something came to mind – something that Mrs. Dowling had said. One reason men weren't allowed in a birthing room was the theory that if they saw their wives giving birth, they would no longer desire her in carnal ways. Had Edward lost his interest in her that way? He didn't seem to be too disappointed in what Mrs. Dowling told her after Joy was born about postponing their intimacy and he never asked her to satisfy him manually while she was on hiatus from relations and she willingly would have. But he never asked.

Oh, Lawsy! She now remembered how she had cried out to him to come to her during her labor. Faithful husband and friend that he was, he stood by her – or behind her – as she so basely exposed him to the gory details of child birth. She remembered how lusty a man he had been before and understood now, through her thoughtless actions, she had ruined that pleasure for him. Perhaps forever.

Tears rose in her eyes as she realized that she was the most selfish creature on the face of the planet. She did not know how to make it up to her forbearing and kind husband but she would try.

AN: As there was no civil authority that issued birth certificates, and people where born at home, frequently the only way a person could authenticate his origins where through church records. The once every ten yearly administered US census also provided proof of residence but that was held too infrequently to reflect much more than what it was intended to do (to determine how many seats in the house of representatives a state got – it was based upon population).

Child birth and pregnancy were 99% the providence of women. There were some male doctors venturing into the field but most women preferred the care of their mothers, aunts, sisters and wise women of their community. As a result the quality of care was unregulated (of course) and women took their chances. Professional midwives were usually better trained and, through on-the-job training at the elbow of an older practitioner, were usually quite competent even in complicated situations.

Chapter 3: The Dry Spell

Edward stared at the desk calendar his father, Carlisle, had given him for Christmas. It was quite fancy. The base was made of the finest walnut and polished brass brackets held the pages in place. Each day had its page and when that day passed, you simply turned the page to the next day. The pages were ruled with lines dividing up the day into hours and minutes so that a man could schedule appointments months in advance. It was quite modern and convenient yet nothing could illustrate the difference between Edward's life and his father's so well as this small item.

Edward had no need of a calendar, truly, at least one like this. He used the sun, moon and the seasons to measure his days, not pieces of paper bracketed to a piece of wood. His father could organize his days by the hours; a three pm appointment on a Wednesday with his lawyer, a nine am on Monday with his banker and dinner on Saturday with his business partner. Edward's plans were more organic and depended not so much on days on a page, or the time on a clock but on the amount of rain his crops had, the lateness of the winter and how well his cattle had fattened.

Edward woke with the sun and he used to go to bed with it, too, at least before his pride and Joy was born. His little girl seemed to have her own schedule and he saw the middle of the night more often than he was used to. And truly, he loved getting up to fetch his little daughter and bring her to his sleepy wife. He could not describe the feelings that crept over him as he watched his beautiful Bella, her long hair hanging down her creamy shoulders, put their daughter to her breast. It was love, it was adoration, it was protectiveness; and he had to admit, it was a little bit of lust as well.

Bella's breasts had always been enticing to him and he loved kissing and teasing and suckling on them before parenthood blessed them. Bella enjoyed his attentions he knew but that was several months ago. He hadn't been intimate with her since well before Joy was born and he was a little hesitant about future episodes.

Her figure had blossomed during her motherhood and she was even more alluring. Seeing her bosom exposed as she nursed their baby, sent ribbons of need and want straight to his groin. And that made him disgusted with himself. How could he think of his own selfish urges when this most beautiful and tender tableau was in front of him? He must be a monster.

But the fact remained, he wanted Bella - badly. He had set himself to wait until the sixth week after Joy was born and then hopefully Bella would suffer his attentions once again. He had heard that after having a baby, women did not wish to be bothered and he was particularly careful not to impose upon his wife. He would never force himself on her but he hoped and prayed he could once again bring a mutual satisfaction to their love making. It would kill a little part of him if she no longer enjoyed it.

She seemed so wrapped up with the baby and the various projects she had going on about the ranch that she appeared not to miss the more physical side of marriage. He did allow himself to kiss her once in the morning and once at night and would thereafter spend a frustrating half hour trying to rein in his passions. He was hoping this dry spell had come to an end.

The midwife had decreed a six week post partum moratorium on their marital pleasures and he had finally found a use for the desk calendar. He had counted and today he was staring at the date that celebrated Joy's six week birthday. He had even marked it in advance – "Joy Elizabeth Cullen, six weeks old today."

It meant something additionally promising to him.

Bella arranged her chores today so that after Joy had nursed and gone down for her afternoon nap, she could take a nice bath. Instead of using the bath house – they had arranged for the pump to work in the bath house and also at an outside tap – she asked Tyler to help her set it up in her bedroom. That way when Joy awoke, she would be right there to tend to her.

Lauren used to help her with this but she was too close to her time to lift heavy things. Mrs. Dowling wanted Lauren to rest more so than she usually suggested to expectant mothers. Lauren had gone into labor too soon the last time and subsequently bore her little girl too early. The poor little mite was too weak to live past two days. It was felt that this could be avoided if Lauren rested the last months before the new baby was due.

Tyler was grumbling about what he felt was unnecessary work but Bella shooed him off when the bath was ready. She spent a pleasant hour luxuriating in the tub and was standing in front of the fire place combing her wet hair until it was half dry. Edward had bought her a free-standing mirror and she happened to catch her reflection in it as she stood there. Taking a few steps closer she opened the unbuttoned house gown she was wearing and studied her image. Her figure had changed with the baby, her bosom was fuller and instead of a flat tummy, she had a little pooch.. She ran her hand over it and wondered if her husband was unhappy with the change. There were little runnels of dull red lines, as well – stretch marks Mrs. Dowling called them – that radiated outward from her navel. They were fading but Bella thought they were ugly. How would she ever be appealing to Edward again?

She closed her house gown but didn't take the time to button it. She wanted to empty some of the water out of the tub so it could be more easily moved. She sat the three cans of bath water outside her bedroom door with the faint hope that Tyler would see them and dispose of them. She knew that was unlikely.

However, the person who saw them was Edward. He knew immediately the water cans outside of their bedroom door indicated Bella had just taken a bath. And the fact their bedroom door was shut told him that Bella was still in there, most likely in some mode of undress.

Edward swallowed and then did not hesitate. His six weeks was up.


Alice looked out the window and sighed discontentedly as she watched the traffic drive by her Chicago home. She had a soiree to attend that night and she simply did not feel like going. In fact, ever since she returned from Colorado last year, her interests had shifted. She was bored by society and barely tolerated her shallow contemporaries. Fortunately, she almost immediately got in the family way when she returned home from her honeymoon trip so she could beg off some of the more tedious activities she used to enjoy.

In setting up their household, she located and hired the old chef that had worked in her girlhood home. She wanted to learn more about cooking. She knew her old chef would be happy to teach her and not mind her presence in his kitchen. In return, she introduced him to dutch oven cooking a la Chuckwagon and he was delighted with the possibilities of the method. She spent many an enjoyable afternoon in her kitchen, flour up to her elbows, laughing with the man. Jasper declared he would be jealous if the result of her activities had not provided him with some toothsome eating. The fact that chef was a corpulent man and thirty years older than his wife also reassured him on that point.

Her confinement before and after baby Brandon was born gave her the ability to indulge her culinary skills to the maximum. Jasper was proud of her accomplishments. She truly had become an consummate cook.

She turned to watch the nurse who was feeding Brandon and felt a pang. The baby had a puzzled look on his face as he looked up at the matronly woman during his feeding. "He's a right bonny bairn, Mrs. Cullen, and so hungry" the woman's ample breast seemed to dwarf the small baby.

"Thank you, Mrs. Cameron, he's always had a healthy appetite, much like his father," Alice said wistfully. Watching her baby feed caused her own breasts to react and ache. It had only been a day since her confinement had been over and the nurse maid had taken up her duties. She looked down at her bodice and saw tell-tale stains start to grow. Sighing in frustration, she went to the baby's dresser to find something to stem the flow.

"Ach, ma'am. You really should not watch him feed. It will happen every time and that will keep you from drying up."

Alice nodded with tears in her eyes. She didn't want this. She wanted to mother her baby and not leave it to someone else. She sighed and left the room, not wanting the maid to see her cry.

Jasper found her a few minutes later, lying across their bed sobbing.

"Alice, honey, what's wrong?" he rushed to her side asking worriedly.

"Oh, I am so sad, Jasper," she wailed.

"Why, my love?"

"I want to nurse our baby. I am the one who gave birth to him. Why should that pleasure be another's?"

"It's just how things are done?" he replied uncertainly.

"But why? What have I to do but to love him and you? I can do that and nurse him as well."

"It's difficult to take up the reins of society if you are tied to a baby, Alice."

"I don't want to take up the reins of society. I want to mother my baby," she moaned and fell into Jasper's arms.

"Honey, you can do whatever you would like. My mother is well content to be the society queen bee for the Cullen family."

"Jasper, I don't want to let you down."

He hugged her tightly. "Alice, you aren't letting me down. I am content when you are. If you are not, then I am not. Do you want to tell the nursemaid her services are not needed?"

"Oh Jasper, could we?"

"Of course," Jasper said as he kissed her tears away. Soon his consoling kisses become more passionate and they found themselves in activities that made Jasper very late for the soiree.

Alice herself gave the nurse her conge with six month's pay and a good recommendation. She happily settled down to nurse her stirring son again. Jasper found her later, a blissful smile on her lips as she sat on their bed, bolstered by pillows, holding a satisfied and sleeping Brandon.

"Well, Alice, I've given your regrets to everyone to whom we were beholding. Mother was concerned that you were ill but when I explained your feelings, she was happy for us both."

Alice smiled. Esme's opinion was the one she was truly concerned about. She sighed happily. Jasper sat on the edge of their bed and put his arm around his wife, "Mother also suggested something that I think you will approve."

"Hmmm?" Alice adjusted her robe and settled her baby against her shoulder so that the bubbles would not disturb his tummy.

"Mother and Father would like to invite us to go with them to visit Edward and Bella for a couple of months. They would like to meet their Daughter and new Granddaughter. What do you say?"

Alice's delighted squeal startled the baby awake but he was soon soothed back to sleep by both of his parents' attention.

Edward gingerly opened their bedroom door to find his wife with her back to him, holding her robe open as she stared into the mirror. There was a frown on her face. That concerned Edward but he could not help his speeding heart; she was a vision to him. Her hair was hanging down to her waist and her creamy skin had that special glow that it acquired during her pregnancy.

He gently shut the door behind him but Bella heard the click of the latch so she hurriedly shut her robe and turned to see him standing there, looking at her, a mixture of love and desire written upon his face.

"Oh Edward, I was hoping to surprise you," she said.

"Surprise me?"

"Yes. I wanted to be able to put on my finest clothes and dress my hair for a special dinner that I have prepared for you. I didn't expect you to come out of your study this afternoon."

He walked over to her, not able to resist taking her in his arms. "Why were you going to so much trouble, my love?"

She blushed, not exactly knowing what to say or how to explain her motives. "Since even before the baby came, our lives have been so full and we have been preoccupied with worries that I found that I was missing ... us… terribly."

He pulled her closer. "We have been together the whole time."

"Yes, but there was always something else to be thinking of as we were together. I missed not having time for just the two of us. "

"We could take that time now."

She lowered her voice and blushed the more. "But I am not dressed."

His eyes deepened a shade as he stared into hers and the fires that he had dampened by force of will broke free. His mouth was as dry as a hearthstone and he was surprised to hear the rough need in his voice as he said, "But, my love, I prefer you this way." He stooped down to kiss her as his passion overwhelmed him endeavoring to light passions of her own. She didn't need much coaxing and suddenly they combusted.

Edward lifted her with one arm under her knees the other around her shoulders and lay her down on their bed, not breaking their kiss. Her robe fell open in the process and as he stood to quickly divest himself of his own clothing, he looked down on her lying before him, her beauty heightened with passion and he growled softly, "Bella, you are so appealing to me."

She had been lost in her feelings until she realized her robe was parted and he could see now her newly acquired flaws. Her cheeks flamed and she grabbed the edges of her robe and pulled them together, her embarrassment driving her passion away.

Edward was naked now but he could see his bride was upset. He leaned over the bed and placed his hand gently on hers as she grasped her robe closed. "Bella, what's wrong."

She turned her head away fearful, uneasy and shamed, " I … I …I am not the same as I was. I fear…" she came to a dead stop.

He lay down next to her and leaned on his elbow so he could see what he could of her face. When she stuttered to a stop and didn't go on, he turned her face to his and said, "You fear what, Bella?"

"That you have taken a disgust of me."

Edward couldn't help but to snort, "Oh, no, no, no, Bella. You do the exact opposite of disgusting me. It has been so hard to behave myself these months. So hard." He thought it had been hard in more than one way for most of that time, if he was honest, but he didn't think she needed to hear that.

"Behave yourself?" Bella was confused.

"Bella do you know how difficult it has been not to enjoy you fully; heart, mind and body? Each day – each night - I ached for you, I wanted you so desperately. I did my best to hide it because I knew you had to recover and… well, I was not sure you wanted me like that now the baby was here."

She gaped at him in astonishment. "Edward, I had no idea. I thought you had cooled your ardor for me."

"What would make you think that?"

"Out of my own weakness, I begged you to stay with me when Joy was born. You saw sights that put you off of me and now my body has changed. I am not what I once was."

He was shaking his head in disbelief. "Bella, you gave me one of the most precious gifts a wife could give her husband. You not only gave me a beautiful child, you gave me the blessed privilege of watching her come into this world. I have been walking on cloud nine ever since it happened and I will never forget the miracle I witnessed. Bella, I will eternally be grateful for your decision. I hope that you will always allow me to be with you when our children come into the world."

She had tears in her eyes from his evident heartfelt sincerity. "Mrs. Dowling said you'd be put off of me."

He softly chuckled as he nuzzled her neck. "Mrs. Dowling is right about a good many things but in this she is wrong. Nothing on this earth could ever 'put me off of you.' I love you. I need you. I want you - for the rest of our lives."

He softly stroked her cheek. "I married you for life, Bella, with life comes many things. I knew there would be change in us both over the years but, Bella, before Joy you were a tightly furled bud, lovely and beautiful, now you have bloomed into an exquisite and rare flower. Your figure is even better than it was before when you were perfect. I suppose that now makes you plu-perfect."

She sadly shook her head. "No, I am not. Look at me." She let the robe fall open and her hands fall away.

He looked and he thought he had never been so desirous in his life. He noted the changes that had bothered her but he found them almost sacred. "Oh Bella, my beauteous love, let me show you how beautiful you truly are."

He leaned over her and kissed her neck. "Your neck is as graceful as a swan's, did you know? When I saw you that first time, I thought that your name was so very apt. Graceful, pure, and beautiful. I love kissing you right here…" as he kissed her throat, just under her jaw.

His renewed passion for her caused her own to return and she twined her fingers through his hair, her heart sped up to match his.

His lips drifted down to her bosom and he placed parted kisses on their fuller swells but just before he turned his attention to their peaks, something unexpected occurred. Bella felt her milk let down with a vengeance and she opened her eyes and gasped, "Oh, dear."

Edward pulled back and witnessed what he considered another miracle of nature. Evidently, Bella's breasts couldn't tell the difference between a baby hungry for food and a man hungry for something else and so, they did what they were designed to do – produce nourishment. As if on cue, Joy began to cry and Bella's breasts responded even more enthusiastically.

"Edward, I think this is one of the pitfalls of having children. We don't get to finish what we started."

Edward sighed in frustration as Bella arose from bed and went to tend to their baby who was kicking and fussing in her cradle. She changed her diaper, then wrapped her in a shawl and brought her to their bed. Edward had taken those moments to slip under the covers and punch the pillows so that Bella could sit comfortably with the baby. She returned, slipped into bed next to Edward and put Joy to her breast.

Edward sat with his arm around them and smiled at the lovely picture they made. However, he did have the wry thought in the back of his head that perhaps he actually could die of the fabled blue balls. "Oh, well," he thought, "This is just another part of fatherhood."

"Bella," he asked hesitantly after a while when it seemed his body was not going return to normal, "do you think we could pick up where we left off after Joy has fed?"

She smiled knowingly at him. "Yes, but I think we are going to have to leave my bosom out of the equation when we do. They can't tell the difference between Joy and you."

He shook his head and chuckled, content to watch his wife feed their baby. But when Joy was done and burped, she wasn't ready to go back to sleep. Edward could see that and was just about to get out of bed when Bella said, "No, wait right here for a moment." She buttoned up her house gown, picked up Joy and went out to the main part of the house. She was happy to see Lauren sitting out on the porch swing watching Abraham play in the yard in front of her.

"Lauren, could you please watch baby for a while?"

Lauren smiled widely at Bella, surprised to see her dressed so informally but it wasn't in her nature to speculate or question. "I certainly will be happy to, Miss Bella."

"Thank you. I've just fed her so she should be satisfied for a bit. I am sure she would like to sit with you and watch Abraham play." Watching Abraham seemed to be Joy's favorite activity.

Lauren eagerly took the baby in her arms, impatiently awaiting the coming day when she would be holding her own new wee one.

Bella hurriedly rushed back to her room to find Edward lying where she left him. "Where's Joy?" he asked.

"Lauren's got her." She slipped out of her gown and climbed back into bed and they resumed—almost—from where they had left off. Edward did such a good job of his work, that Bella was finally convinced that he desired her every bit, if not more, as he ever did before.

And he was glad, so very glad, that this long, dry spell was over.

Chapter 4: The Changes

Tyler placed the last screw that attached the door knob to the front door and stood dusting his hands. Looking around at the cottage he had just put the finishing touch upon, he shook his head and sighed. Boss and missus wanted a cottage; in his mind a plain cabin would have done. A cottage came with flourishes, like the stairway to the loft rather than a ladder. There were separate rooms on the first floor, and there was a large porch on the front. It was fancy and different and he was not sure he liked it. Tyler sighed again. Missus had turned the ranch upside down since her arrival and all the changes made it hard for him to find his feet.

For instance, there had been nothing wrong with the old pump house. If a body wanted water, he went into the small building and worked the pump and, there, you had it: water. But missus wanted a place to bathe herself every consarned day and now they had a bath house. It was fancy with a stove and tub and a stack of towels and sweet smelling stuff. Certainly more than a person would need or want. He saw nothing wrong with weekly baths using a basin and ewer. It made no mind to Boss that the pump had to be rerouted so you could pump from inside as well as outside. All that trouble and work just for a bath. He would never understand it. But there was one thing he soon understood after the Missus arrived last year. If the Missus wanted it, the Boss would get it for her.

But as far as changes went, the bath house had just been one thing. The Missus was preoccupied with clean. Not just her own personal body. Everything. The big house glowed with the amount of waxing that had gone on in there. The rugs got beat to within an inch of their lives at least once a month. The windows were so clear you couldn't tell they were there. And she made everyone take off their boots when they came inside. For garsh sakes, they lived on a ranch. You had to expect a little manure got tracked around. But the Missus would have none of it. She installed boot jacks at each doorway and expected people to use them. Tyler was sure some of the men's feet were dirtier than their boots but his opinion wasn't asked and so he took off his boots just like everyone else.

There had been a lot of building going on at the ranch this season as well and while he worked on the various buildings, Boss got a crew in to do most of it. Tyler supervised them and had to grudgingly admit they did a good job. Since the spring thaw, they had built a cottage for his family, another much needed hay barn and now this second cottage for the cook. Boss had also hired on more permanent hands, so the bunk house needed to be expanded as well. Bear Valley Ranch was turning into a dang city. Tyler huffed. He didn't like dang cities. There was too much bustle and confusion and foolishness in a city. He was well shed of them.

Tyler had been content at Bear Valley Ranch, especially after Lauren came. Then, in due course, Abraham arrived to brighten their lives. He supposed that Boss needed a wife and children, too, so he really wasn't surprised when Boss told him he'd found a lady to marry. He liked the missus well enough, it was just that she was too quick. Her mind was always working and she moved like a hummingbird. She was a little thing and he felt it was because all the victuals she ate went to her brains rather than her body. That's what happened when you used them too much.

However one thing he was glad about, Lauren was quite fond of the Missus. When he saw how Lauren took a shine to her, he realized how lonely his wife had been for a friend. So, Tyler was willing to put up with all the changes as long as his wife was happy.


Worry lanced through him when he thought of what was to come. Their new young'un was due any day now and he was fretting about his wife's safe journey through the experience. He had taken to watching her as she slept to make sure she was with him still. He knew that his behavior was unusual but he couldn't help himself, especially when the moon was bright.

On those nights, he would study her and was enchanted by the vision. She looked like a magical being, a fairy, with her blonde hair spread out on the bolster as she lay next to him. His gaze caressed her straight eyebrows, the curve of her cheek, the bow of her lips. He would stare awestruck until the moon set and their room was in darkness once more.

But last night Tyler woke up to the moon light shining full in his face. He eased over gently so he could watch his fairy wife in her slumbers once again. She was so beautiful. He was afraid to breathe lest he spoil the magic. But on this night, his adoration was interrupted by her own eyes opening to stare deeply into his without blinking. In that moment, there were no barriers, no distractions. There was nothing but the pureness of his feelings for her and hers for him; just the complete and utter communion of two souls.

Slowly and carefully, Lauren raised her hand and traced the line of his cheek and jaw. "I ain't never seen a sight so fine," whispered, her amazement echoing in each syllable.

Tyler let out a breath, amazed to discover that she felt the same about him as he did about her. He knew he could never find the right words to tell her what was in his heart, not even from their beginning. So never breaking their gaze, he simply nodded, gently lifted the hand that had caressed his face and placed it just so over his heart. She could feel in its steady beating his love and devotion for her. He nodded again holding her hand just there, so intimately, so lovingly, so perfectly.

She smiled at him and did something she rarely did. She tucked herself into his side and rested her head upon his chest so that she could hear his heart telling her without words what he felt.

She was lulled back to sleep as she was tenderly embraced by his arms. He may not have been able to tell her in words how he felt but as she drifted off, she knew by the constant, steady beat of his heart.

"Juan Carlos, you look just fine," Bella reassured the man struggling with the neck of his shirt. She had never seen someone take so much time in his appearance. He first asked permission to use the bath house and stayed in there half the morning. He then had one of the hands trim his hair and slick it down with violet water. He shaved all but his moustache, and even buffed his nails to a shine. He put on a beautiful black suit with intricate silver embroidery. His wide brimmed black hat regally complimented his clothing.

"Are you sure, Senora? Will she like me?" Juan Carlos asked.

"Juan Carlos, I do not know your wife but I am sure she will be happy to see you again in whatever you choose to wear. You look wonderful. Here, come with me and see for yourself." She led him into the main house and then into her bedroom where the pier glass stood.

"Ah, this is good, Senora. I do look handsome, yes?"

"You do look handsome." Bella laughed at his silliness.

"Bella, what strange man have you carted into our bedroom?" Edward appeared in the doorway.

She grinned. "Juan Carlos didn't believe me when I told him he looked fine. I had to prove it to him."

Edward studied the cook and smirked. "Well, you look just like a Christmas Turkey, plucked and dressed for table."

"Ana Maria will like it," the cook said.

"When do you expect her to arrive?"

"I am taking a horse down to Bear Valley to await her. I know she set out from Denver this morning. My brother is escorting her there."

Bella chimed in, "Make sure you bring your brother up here for a visit, too, Juan Carlos."

"Si, Senora. You are very kind. I will need his help anyway. Ana Maria is bringing our furniture with her."

"Are you leaving soon?" Edward asked.

"Si, Senor, right at this moment, in fact." Waving goodbye to them he left the bedroom and went out the front door to the stables to get his horse ready.

Edward turned to Bella. "You can imagine my surprise when I heard a man's voice coming from this room."

Bella put her arms about his waist and teased, "Oh, so you thought I was entertaining someone in here, Edward? You don't have much trust in me."

"I do, Bella, I do. I just don't trust any other man around you." He embraced her and kissed her forehead. "I don't trust myself around you, in fact. My mind has a habit of wandering…" his hands slipped down to cup her bottom.

Bella giggled. "Edward, you are the only man who thinks of me in that way. Juan Carlos' head is full of his Ana Maria. He has missed her so much."

Edward sighed and said, "I can imagine he has. But you are wrong about your attractiveness to other men, Bella. Please be careful around them."

"You take such good care of me, Edward, no harm can come to me."

"You forget what happened last year."

"That was a fluke."

Edward shook his head and bent down to kiss her lips. He hired extra men last fall whose main job was to protect the inhabitants of Bear Valley Ranch, especially his wife and now his child. They did other work as well but they knew why they were hired. Bella did not.

His expenses this year were huge. It had been a good thing he had made extra profits last fall when he drove his herd to Denver. He had needed every penny of it for the extra wages and the building that had occurred. But as a businessman, he recognized the need for the growth. As a husband and father, he recognized the need for protection. The herd weathered the past winter excellently with the feed his farming had provided and he expected to make even more money from their sale in the fall, God willing.

"How is Lauren doing? I noticed Mrs. Dowling's buggy down in the barn."

"Yes, Mrs. Dowling has moved into their cottage for the duration. She says that it isn't far off now. Lauren is doing very well. She's looking after Joy for me right now. She seems happy as a lark but Tyler sure is crotchety, though."

Edward shrugged as his hands roamed his wife's neat figure. "He always gets like this around her time. I think he worries."

"Tyler? Worried? He doesn't seem like the type to worry."

"Tyler has never been one to wear his feelings on his sleeve, Bella. His feelings are deep. I don't know what he is going to do when their new baby comes. He was like a mad man the last time."

"Oh, what did he do?"

"He drank a bottle of whiskey and wore a hole in the carpet and in the floor underneath it as he paced the room during her labor. When they lost their little girl, he did nothing for a week but sit and stare at his wife. It wasn't until she arose from bed that he started back to his old routine. Lauren means everything to him."

"Ah, Edward, that is sweet to hear. I guess that should teach me that there's other ways of expressing the appreciation a man has for his wife besides grabbing her behind all the hours of the day."

His eyes twinkled as he squeezed her bottom. "Now what sort of man would do such a thing?"

"A terribly sweet and loving one." Bella rose on her toes and kissed his cheek. "Now, I need to get in that kitchen and get supper on for everyone."

Edward escorted her out of their room and they parted ways as he went back into his study. He checked over his ledgers one more time to make sure he had enough ready cash to see them through to the drive. Barring any catastrophe, they should be fine. He sighed in relief. As far as he could reckon, they would be bringing a good twenty per cent more cattle to Denver, weight wise, than they had the year before. Hopefully, they will fetch a good price.

Just in time for supper, a cavalcade of horses and two over loaded wagons wended their way up the hill to Bear Valley Ranch. Bella stood on the porch of the cook house, holding Joy in her arms and gaped. She wasn't expecting this. The wagons were full to overflowing with household goods. One wagon was being driven by Juan Carlos, the other by a man who must be Juan Carlos' brother, he looked so much like him. Next to Juan Carlos was a cherub of a woman. Her plump cheeks and wide smile, as she leaned over to talk to a little girl next to her, were beautiful. Her smile however, wasn't nearly as bright as the delighted one that graced her husband's lips. They pulled up in front of Bella and Carlos hurriedly got down to assist his wife and daughter off the wagon and as regal as a king, he offered her his arm and led to Bella.

"Senora, please allow me to introduce to you, mi ciela, Senora Ana Maria Esperanza Martinez de Hernandez. She is holding my handsome new son, Tomas Eduardo Hernandez. This beautiful girl is my daughter, Madalena Lucia Hernandez, and this fine young man is my first born, Pedro Roberto Hernandez."

Bella stepped down to where Ana Maria was standing, offered her hand and said, "I am Mrs. Edward Cullen and I welcome you to Bear Valley Ranch. I have been looking forward to your arrival so very much."

"Gracias, senora. I am pleased to be here with my husband. Thank you so much." Ana Maria dipped a small curtsey.

"I know you are tired from your journey. We are just sitting down to supper, would you like to join us?"

"Please, senora. I would but the horses should not be left standing. Let us unload our wagons first and then we can join you?"

"That's easily done, Mrs. Hernandez."


"Let me get you some help." Bella went into the cook house and asked the men, who had just come in from working on the ranch, to go with the wagons down to the Hernandez' cottage and help them unload. She promised them a treat for their trouble. She knew their weaknesses. They couldn't resist Bella's desserts.

So, Bella sent the men along and put back supper to wait for them. Then she wandered over to the Hernandez' cottage to see if she could help them in some way. She was amazed to find Ana Maria standing in the door way, directing the men efficiently as they removed her belongings and placed them in the house.

"That bed goes up stairs to the large bedroom. And the mattress with it."

"You!" Pointing at one of the hands. "Be careful with that crate. It is very fragile. Put it over there against the wall."

In rapid fire, she issued commands and the carts emptied smoothly. Two hands drove the wagons back down to the stable to care for the animals. Ana Maria, satisfied with the task, looked at her little son and daughter and told them to follow her as she and Bella walked back to the cook house.

"Thank you for the assistance of your men, Senora Bella. It will be a simple matter of unpacking tomorrow. Miguel, Juan Carlos' brother, will be taking the wagons back to Denver tomorrow with the help of his son." Bella had noticed the lanky boy riding on one of the horses.

Instead of sitting down at the table, Ana Maria directed her children to sit in a corner of the kitchen and quickly with the help of her husband and Bella, got the supper out to the men. Bella dished out huge servings of berry pie for them to enjoy and sat back sipping her coffee as she watched them eat.

"Your little baby is beautiful, Senora," Ana Maria commented as she spooned food into Madalena's mouth. Her baby, Tomas, was in some sort of sling Ana Maria was wearing around her torso. Bella was marveling at its usefulness when she noticed Ana Maria adjust her blouse and saw that the baby was actually nursing as his mother worked.

That was remarkable. "That sling you have little Tomas in is a wonder, Ana Maria. You can constantly mind your baby but also do your work!"

"Oh, yes. Tomas is my assistant." She smiled tenderly down at her little one. "With three bebes, one is always working away. It would be hard to sit every time he fussed for food when there is so much to be done."

Bella was thinking perhaps she could borrow the idea. She would rather keep Joy with her as she did her chores. Just this morning when she sat the baby down in her basket so she could work in her garden, Rascal came up and gave the baby his own version of a bath. Dog's slobber, no matter how well intended, is not the best to use when washing a baby. Lauren had been minding Joy quite a bit these days due to her invalid condition but Bella knew that time was coming to an end. It would be good to have something so convenient so that she could both mind her baby and do her chores.

Bella was surprised at how swiftly Juan Carlos and Ana Maria were able to get the men fed and afterwards, get the kitchen in order and things prepared for the next morning's meal. Bidding Bella goodnight, the Hernandez' left to go to their cottage. Bella watched in amazement as they walked arm in arm down the hill. What a wonderful team they made. She was going to relinquish her kitchen duties to the Hernandez. That was one burden off her back.

Rising, she took the plate she had made up for Edward into their house and found him sitting at his desk in the study, staring off into space.

"Edward, how long have you been sitting there?"

He roused himself and said, "Not too long."

She put the plate in front of him and then sat on a nearby chair, putting Joy to her breast as she did so. "What are you pondering so intently?"

"Oh, just contemplating the invasion."

Bella's eyes widened. "What invasion?"

He handed her a telegram.

Edward's parents were coming to Bear Valley Ranch.

Chapter 5: The Visitors

It was long before sunrise and Bella had just tucked her baby back into her cradle after a feeding. Bella turned back to her bed and snuggled in next to her husband but she couldn't return to sleep. Her in-laws were coming and dread was growing in her heart. She was glad to hear that Alice, Jasper and baby Brandon were coming as well but it did not matter. She saw the look on Edward's face when he handed her the telegram. She knew it did not bode well.

What if Edward's parents hated her? What if they discovered she was not from the ranks of the upper crust in Virginia and decided she was not good enough for their son? What if she could not make them comfortable while they were here? She was sure they had servants at their beck and call in Chicago. She also knew she had so many duties, she could never wait on them hand and foot herself and Lauren would be busy with her baby, so she would not able to. Besides, Bella wouldn't impose upon Lauren in that way.

What if they influenced Edward to not hold her in the esteem he now did? What would she do? Bella could feel the tears rising in her eyes. She did not want Edward to see her in a bad light. It would kill her soul if he concluded that marrying her was a mistake. The tears flowed now and a little sob escaped her. She rolled over so that her distress would be absorbed by her pillow and not disturb Edward who was sleeping soundly beside her. She wallowed in her misery and fear.

Suddenly, she felt his arm reach for her and he turned her to face him. "Bella, my love, what is wrong?"

"N…n…nothing," she whimpered.

Edward frowned. Usually Bella would always come right out and tell him when something was bothering her. This must be serious. He didn't say anything more because he knew she didn't want to talk as much as she needed comfort. He gathered her in his arms and gently kissed her tears away.

His touch was exquisite and she gazed into his face and parted her lips. She loved him so much. Her heart was filled to bursting with the emotions he aroused in her. She settled closer to him, determined to revel in his nearness while she could.

Edward could never resist her lips and he did not this time, holding her close, entwining his legs with hers and kissing her lips' sweet softness. "Oh, Isabella, how I love you. Don't cry any longer for nothing can but be perfect when we lie like this together."

Instead of stemming her tears, his sweet words made her cry the harder. "Edward, you are too good for me."

Edward was beginning to wonder if she was getting her monthly. Her actions and her emotions were simply beyond rational. How could she ever doubt her worth to him?

He started to smile at her silliness but thought better of it. He lifted her chin so he could look into her teary eyes. "Bella, we are a marriage of equals. There is no question about not being good enough. I have never met a woman who suited me so perfectly as you and I would never want a woman who I could not see as being equal to me in mind, body and spirit. I do not know what caused you to question this but it is the rock solid truth and it will never change."

Bella sniffled and asked, "Are you sure?"

He chuckled. "Would you believe I knew this about you even before we met face to face? Our correspondence opened your mind and spirit to me long before the day we met and I strove to expose myself to you similarly in my letters. Tell me truthfully, didn't you know before you left Virginia that we would suit?"

Clarity was like a wind blowing all doubt away. "Yes. I knew that months before you sent for me."

"Did you? You mean I could have had you in my bed sooner than I did? Now I am disappointed," he teased.

Bella giggled and swatted his arm. "Mr. Cullen you are a lascivious creature."

Edward's hand drifted down her leg and caught the hem of her night gown and started pulling it up. "Only for you, my beauty."

She leaned forward to brush his lips. "But Edward, I knew there was more to just us suiting the moment you took my hand that day in Denver."

His teasing demeanor ceased as he nuzzled her nose and he said from his heart, "I knew it then as well, Isabella. We are the marriage of true minds and hearts. We both know it and nothing can ever come between us; not desperados, nor cranky hands, nor obstreperous cattle, nor impending in-laws. If you ever need a reminder, I am always at your service."

She smiled in wonder at him. He always was able to winnow out her worries. He always knew exactly what to say. Hugging him closer to her, she was inspired to quote, "Let me not to the marriage of true minds, Admit impediments. Love is not love, Which alters when it alteration finds, Or bends with the remover to remove:"

Edward took her hands, brought them to his lips, and continued the familiar verse, "O no! it is an ever-fixed mark, That looks on tempests and is never shaken; It is the star to every wandering bark, Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken."

Bella's heart was fluttering as she took up the next part, "Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks, Within his bending sickle's compass come:, Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks, But bears it out even to the edge of doom."

Edward released her hands and put both arms round her and finished, "If this be error and upon me proved, I never writ, nor no man ever loved.*

"Bella, I've known that sonnet for half my life and until this past year never truly discerned its full meaning. I am eternally connected to you mind, heart and body. Don't you believe this?"

Bella sighed and admitted, "I do believe it but I find there are times I still need you to remind me. Will that be too difficult?"

He smiled and stroked up her now bare leg and hip. "No, my heart, but how do you want me to remind you? With my mind?"he brought their foreheads together. "With my heart?" he gently placed a hand over her left breast. "Or, with my body?" He pushed his hips against her to show that his body was eager to prove its devotion to her right then and there.

She wrapped her arms about his neck and kissed him. "I think a little –or a lot– of all three are needful."

"Well then, I think already this night I have proved it with my mind and my heart. Let my body prove it now."

"Please," was all she said.

And so he removed their night wear, and settled down to trace her ear with his nose, inhaling her sweet scent as they lay on their sides facing each other. He could feel the goose bumps rise on her arm and it sent a thrill of delight through his own body. He gently suckled her earlobe and pulled her hips so that his arousal was tracing its own designs on her upper thigh and stomach.

He hitched her top leg so that it was over his hip and then let his body rub against her in a delightful caress that caused Bella's breathing to catch. He continued to kiss and tongue her neck as he caressed her below. She was groaning with need.

He whispered into the ear he had been nuzzling, "Oh, my Beauty, may I please enter within?"

Bella pulled her leg up higher so that they were aligned and pulled his hips closer to hers and said, "You are welcomed."

Edward angled her hips with his hands and pushed inside as deeply as he could go. He shuddered with the intensity of the sensation. "Bella, look at me." She opened her eyes as he moved and watched his eyes' deepening depths start to kindle and flame. She snaked one arm underneath his waist so she could grasp his buttocks with both hands as they rhythmically flexed. Not breaking eye contact, she brushed her lips against his, both gasping in their need and desire for each other.

He knew he wouldn't last long. Their verbal foreplay had him close to the exultant moment before he entered her but he wanted the experience to be memorable for her as well. He didn't want her to ever forget that they were forever.

He reached down between them and felt for the tender bud and rubbed circles around it. Her gasps came faster and he narrowed his eyes in ever increasing desire as she closed in on her release. Suddenly she was there, her hands clutching, back arching, voice moaning. An utterly blissful expression washed across her features and the tightness that had been in her eyes relaxed and disappeared. Her heart was thundering with her body's delight. Edward knew Bella wouldn't forget this moment.

The depth of her love for him was revealed as he stared into her eyes and he could recognize the need for his own release. He rolled her over on her back, still not leaving her gaze or their connection and sunk more deeply into her, at last feeling every inch of himself engulfed within. Then, it was out of his control. His body responded in a fervor he had never yet experienced during these moments and his breath also stopped as he reached his climax. He made sure to look into her eyes at that moment so she could see what was revealed in him as well.

She did see – she saw deeply and truly and honestly and forever. She never had a worry about her place with him and his love for her again.

She would need that resolve in the coming weeks.

Carlise Cullen was a self-satisfied man. He knew he was talented and canny. Though his father had left him a respectable fortune at his demise, Carlisle's own ability, planning, and wisdom had managed to multiply the original a dozen times over. Early in his career he recognized the need for long range goals and so, once made, he worked to achieve these.

For instance, he married the debutante of the season thirty-two years ago. Esmé Masen had come from a good Chicago family with a respectable fortune of her own. Besides that, she was the most beautiful and sought after ingénue that any could remember gracing the society at that time. He won her, though many vied for her hand, through careful planning and judicious action.

He didn't know until much later that on the first night that they met, Esmé, had long range plans of her own. She had gone to her father and instructed him to allow Carlisle to obtain her hand. Mr. Masen, who had learned from long practice that it was fruitless to stand against Esmé when she desired something, agreed. And so, the question remained. Did Carlisle choose Esmé or did Esmé choose Carlisle? They still debated that question occasionally but, it was no matter, they both were pleased with the outcome.

Carlisle also planned to have an "heir and a spare" to leave as his legacy and he was quite pleased when his wife presented him with a fine son within the first year of their marriage and the "spare" two years later. Edward and Jasper were fine, strapping, young men and seemed to be the perfect people to step into his corporate shoes when the time came.

Carlisle had been especially proud of Edward. Edward looked like a combination of his parents but in spirit he was just like his father. He was intelligent, wise and courageous. Carlisle knew he would be perfect for filling his shoes after he himself was done with them but unfortunately, Edward had inherited another trait from his father: he was headstrong.

It was a shock when Edward told Carlisle he didn't want to be a part of corporate life and he did not want to marry into a suitable Chicago family. Carlisle was reeling when Edward confronted him with this information. This went against all Carlisle's plans and no matter what Carlisle said, Edward was determined to follow his own path. So, Carlisle decided to banish Edward from his sight until he settled down and did what was expected out of him. Carlisle predicted that Edward would bend to his will sooner rather than later. Then, the next thing Carlisle knew was that Edward had packed up and left for some godforsaken place in "the west." Edward wanted to be a cowboy.

Well, Carlisle knew exactly what to do about that. He would cut Edward off without a penny and see how long he could tolerate being poor. Carlisle couldn't have been more surprised when Edward turned his back on his family money and not only lived out west, he prospered out there.

Esmé still insisted upon sending Edward well wishes for his birthday and Christmas so they knew that he had found employment on a ranch where he literally learned the "ropes." When Carlisle's mother-in-law died everyone was shocked to find she had left all her money to Edward. Carlisle reluctantly forwarded the bank order to Denver and then had the dubious pleasure of hearing that Edward was the proud owner of a cattle ranch in Colorado. The fateful day came in May of 1887 when he received a short letter informing Esmé and himself that his first born had gotten married to a Miss Isabella Swan of Virginia.

Esmé was in high alt because she had been fearful that Edward would select someone from a saloon to bear the Cullen heirs. She was thankful that her son had the wisdom to search eastward for a bride. Her disappointment was that his first impulse was not to ask his mother for her assistance in the matter.

Carlisle was less enthusiastic. He had been curious for several years as to the success of Edward's endeavors and never could get a clear enough picture through their infrequent correspondence. So, knowing that for long years, Jasper had missed his adored older brother, he put it into his second son's head that Colorado would be the place to go for the honeymoon trip that would be coming up in June. It didn't take much effort to have Jasper run with the idea and soon, Carlisle's second son and new wife were off on their own journey to Colorado.

Carlisle waited until he could bear it no longer and trumped up a reason for Jasper's early return to Chicago. When the bridal couple arrived he was overwhelmed with the news of Edward's success and happiness and Isabella's perfection. He wanted to hear more about Edward's affairs, so when Jasper came to him with the thought of investing in western properties, he jumped at it. Thus, under the guise of business, he started a regular correspondence with his older son that soon escaped the bounds of trade and entered into more personal matters.

That his sons were hot-blooded enough to already make him a grandfather twice over was of no surprise to Carlisle. He enjoyed cooing over the little boy that Alice had presented the family with last spring and now he had a desire to meet his granddaughter in Colorado. He knew, however, that Edward would never bring little Joy and the purported incomparable Isabella to Chicago, so he would simply have to go to Bear Valley Ranch himself. But he would do it under his own terms.

First, he hired his own personal state car to be hooked up to the regular train that went from Chicago to Denver. It was plush and modern. It had four bedroom compartments, a parlor, a dining room, a bathroom, and a kitchen. There was even a place for his servants to stay. The Cullens could travel to Denver in style.

So on one hot July day, he, Esmé, Jasper, Alice, baby Brandon, and Mr. and Mrs. Phelps – their personal servants – left Chicago for the wild west.

AN: Shakespeare's Sonnet No. 116.

It's true. Many wealthy individuals had their own rail road car that they could couple to a commercial train so that they could travel in style. George Pullman was the manufacturer of most of these and would have been a contemporary of "our" Carlisle in Chicago.