Link to Banner: . ?fbid=545813388809130&l=9581df198f
Banner by: Beffers87
Ride to You Epilogue (or is it?) By Greye Granger
Warnings: Language, Adult Situations
Beta: Jules Lovestoread
Summary: Five years have passed since the Masens and Swans saved Stone Meadow Ranch from bankruptcy. Will Edward finally propose to Bella, or will a family dilemma tear them apart?
Dedication: For Oklahoma
Time is never going to be on your side. It is unmeasurable, unstoppable, crucial, and heartless. When you get to a certain age, you stop worrying about how fast it flies by without your noticing until it is too late. I wouldn't want to go back in time to relive parts of my life, but I did wish that the last five years would have gone by more slowly.
One day I blinked and it was all gone, leaving nothing but memories. Memories are all that time leaves us as it keeps moving forward. I sighed and walked further down the hallway, studying each picture that I came to. For every picture, there is a memory behind it, and on rainy days like today, I liked to relive those memories as if time was standing still.
My son was a man now, but with these pictures of him as a boy, he got to stay that way in my heart forever. Seth couldn't wait to grow up, but now that he had at the ripe age of nineteen, I could see in his eyes that he missed these memories as much as me. I smiled at his graduation picture and walked down the hall to the next photo.
Seth's ex-girlfriend Jules, who is also the daughter of my lover, Edward, graduated when he did. Her long red hair shined brighter than fire in the sunlight. She clutched her diploma with pride as she stood next to me and Edward. I smiled again, and moved on.
The next picture was of Rosalie and Emmett on their wedding day. I could easily remember when they first met, thanks to me. They hit it off like fireworks exploding in the sky. They were meant for each other, and happily lived only a few miles away from me. I never thought Rosalie would acclimate to the ranch life, but she did so with flying colors. She brought designer clothes and shoes into the ranching lifestyle with ease, and I had never seen her happier.
I moved onto the next picture, of Edward's sister Alice. She stood proudly next to her husband, Jasper, and their son, Garrett, in front of their new house. They had built it with their own hands, much like Edward and I did. I was glad they stayed on Stone Meadow Ranch with all of us, when they could have gotten land of their own and moved away. We were a family, and time could never take that away.
I sighed and left the hallway, realizing again that there wasn't a picture of me and Edward alone-just the two of us. I never used to care until I started my rainy day reminiscing.
I continued through my day of mindless tasks when the rain finally stopped late afternoon. I made myself a Long Island Iced Tea and went to the porch with a cigarette. I still smoked one or two a day, but no more. People would ask me why I smoked at all if I wasn't going to be a true smoker, but it was just something I did for me. I made two drinks because Rosalie was due here any minute for some woman to woman talk. I never knew what she meant by that, but I went along with it anyway.
I eased into my rocking chair and looked out across my family ranch with pride filled eyes. I saw the spot where my father's old cabins sat, but were now missing since we demolished the two old houses, and built new ones. We had needed more space to all live in the same house, and it was heavenly. A-frame windows that soared into the sky, dark wood, matching furniture, and a master bedroom; It was luxurious to me because we made it a home.
The old red barn sat farther away from the house than the first houses did, but I had a clear view of it and the pastures. We cared for horses, chickens, and of course the cows that were our source of money. Since we had revived the ranch five years ago, it had done nothing but extraordinary. In fact, we were one of the most sought out family owned ranches for full head cattle in the entire state of Colorado.
We had money, but none of us looked or acted like we did. That was the way of the west. You don't forget your roots, and hard work is a daily endeavor. There was always something to clean, fix, train, or break, and I wouldn't have it any other way. As hard as I tried to run away from it all in the past, this was my life and I loved it.
A lot had changed in just five years, but the land would stay the same forever. Stone Meadow Ranch was thriving and relishing in the autumn season as the cooler weather began to descend upon it. Daylight became less and less, Aspen trees were bright yellow, the rivers were ice cold, and the Rocky Mountains were more purple than ever.
Suddenly, I saw Rosalie's Ford F-250 pulling up the drive. She parked in front of my house and got out with a bright smile on her face. I smiled back, and took in her appearance. She wore a red cashmere sweater, Ugg boots, and a new pair of Levi's. Since moving here she liked to keep her hair short and her face clean, with less make-up. I had never seen her look so good.
"Afternoon!" she boasted, plopping down into the rocking chair beside me.
I giggled. "Hey, Rosie. How are you?"
"Fabulous. My new boots came. Look!" She shoved her feet over to me and I made myself look interested.
"Uggs, huh? Very nice." Rose nodded in agreement. I sipped my drink, and showed her that I made one for her as well. She thanked me and took a large sip.
"Whoa," she coughed. "That shit is strong. Isn't it a bit early to start drinking?" she asked, raising an eyebrow.
I shrugged. "It's almost five o'clock."
"Okay, weirdo," she laughed. "I'm not complaining in the slightest, but since when did you become a drinker?"
"Become a drinker?" I countered. "It's a mixed drink on a chilly Thursday evening, Rose." I shook my head, unsure as to why she kept pressing the subject. Finally, she shrugged, letting it go.
Rose blushed. "Oh, he's just fine. He hates working at the bank, but I can easily take his mind off of all that." She winked and I laughed. There was my best friend that I knew and loved.
"Any luck, yet?" I asked. Her face fell serious.
"No," she whined. "It's been three months! And trust me, we've been trying. Missionary, me on top, him from behind, upside down, in the shower, against a wall-"
"I get it!" I interrupted, cringing.
Rose laughed lightly then stopped. "I don't know if we can get pregnant," she replied sadly.
"The doctor says you're both perfectly healthy, and perfectly compatible. It'll happen, babe. I promise."
Rose smiled. "Thanks, Bella. What about you and Edward?"
I snorted, spewing my drink onto the deck. "We're not trying for kids," I said. "We already have two!"
"I didn't mean kids," she retorted. "Although, thanks to you and Jules, I've jumped to your period cycle. It sucks."
I chuckled. "Jules threw me off by leaving." I suddenly frowned, then shrugged. "At least, I think she did."
"Anyway, how are you and Edward in general?"
"Uh-huh. You can't lie to me."
I sighed deeply. "He still hasn't asked. He hasn't even discussed it with me since I brought it up almost two weeks ago."
"Why does it matter now, though? I thought you said that you never wanted to get married again," Rose replied carefully.
I shrugged. "I don't. I didn't. I mean, not until I met Edward," I stuttered then shook my head. "I'm not sure why it bothers me."
"He loves you. He's with you. Isn't that enough?"
"Yes," I replied in defeat. "But why wouldn't he want to marry me? What, because he's afraid that we would end in divorce because I'm divorced? Or is it because he's still married to his deceased wife?"
"Ah, now we're getting somewhere," Rose cheered. "You really think he doesn't want to marry you because of Tanya? She died so long ago, Bella."
"Not to him and Jules, though," I countered. "She's still very much with them, and I know that every day it feels like the day after she died to them. I can't replace her, and I'm not seeking to do that, I just want my own place with him...in his heart."
"What ever made you think you didn't have a place?" Rose asked.
It felt good to discuss my worries with Rose, so I figured I might as well tell her all of them. "He's been so distant lately," I started.
"He's working," Rose clarified. "The last run of cattle are supposed to be turned in before winter, so he's preoccupied with that deadline."
I nodded. "Okay, he's said Tanya's name at least three times in his sleep over as many weeks."
"You just said that she's very much a part of his life, so you'll just have to deal with that. Dreams are dreams and nothing more."
I nodded again. "We haven't had sex in..." I cut off, embarrassed.
"In?" Rose urged, her eyebrows now raised.
"A long time," I finished.
"A week?" I shook my head. "A couple weeks?" I shook it again. "Jesus, how long?"
"Almost a month?" I offered, squinting my eyes for the coming blow.
"Hot damn that's a while!" Rose replied loudly.
I rolled my eyes. "Sex isn't everything."
She laughed. "No, but when it's been a fucking month, I'd say you two need to sit down for a chit chat."
"He avoids all deep conversation."
"Then fuck his brains out!"
I cringed. "Rose! He's asleep before I even get out of the shower at night, and up before the sun." I sighed in defeat and finished my drink, lighting my cigarette with hopes that it would calm me.
"Five year rut?" Rose suggested.
"Five year something." I groaned.
"I'm not worried, Bella. You two have been through and overcome a lot. You're meant for each other."
My face lightened. "Yeah," I agreed. "I won't bring it up again until after the holiday."
"How're the kids?"
"Seth is good. He isn't very fond of Denver, but says he's loving his sophomore year. It's hard to tell with him. Personally I think he hates school and he just doesn't wanna admit that he wants quit."
"Loves school. Adores it. She's ahead by an entire year for taking those extra summer courses."
"They'll be home for Thanksgiving, right? I can't believe it's next week."
I nodded and smoked more of my cigarette.
"How're they taking the break-up?"
I snorted. "Seth says he's happy. Jules says she's happy. They're both liars. They're stubborn and miss each other but neither of them will admit it."
We laughed together about the simplicity of young love.
"Come on, Bella! They're almost here!" Edward called. I quickly threw my long hair back and dashed to the front porch from the bathroom. It was Thanksgiving week, and I hadn't seen Seth or Jules since August.
I almost tripped onto the porch but Edward caught me. I smiled shyly and stood up straight.
"Easy now," he teased. "We don't want to scare them off."
"Ha ha," I retorted. "I'm just so excited."
"Me too, babe."
"Do you think they worked anything out on the way home? I don't want a summer replay of them not talking and hating each other."
"Yeah, why did we let them date? I forgot." I shoved his shoulder playfully.
"It's not like we could have stopped them. They would have just snuck around." Edward nodded, removed his cowboy hat, and sat down in a rocking chair.
He looked perfectly comfortable in his dirty Levi's, old boots, and a dark blue flannel button up. I melted at the sight of him. I remember wondering if my feelings toward him would ever dissipate, and I got my reassuring answer every day. He would always be able to bring me to my knees.
His copper hair blew in the chilly wind as he sipped his coffee. I had forced the idea of marriage out of my head but each time I saw him with no ring on his finger, it reminded me about us, and how we never really made a true commitment to each other. It had just sort of happened. Sadly, every so often I would see his fingers fiddle with his wedding finger as if they were going to swirl a ring around it. It must have been something he used to do fondly.
Edward suddenly offered his hand to me. "You look nice," he said softly. I blushed and took his hand, allowing him to pull me onto his lap.
"Thanks. Rosalie is on a cashmere kick," I explained, looking down to my new gray sweater. "It's so soft."
Edward smiled and dipped his head, rubbing his face between my breasts. "Mmm, it is soft," he cooed. I laughed and ran a hand through his hair. He twisted his head until his lips were at my neck. I shivered when he kissed me.
Another glorious thing about where we lived is how private the land was. We could have sex in an open field and no one would know. Alice, Jasper, and Garrett all had gone to visit family for a few weeks, so it was just us until the kids showed up.
Edward nibbled my earlobe and I moaned.
"We have a few minutes before the kids get here," I said breathlessly. Edward chuckled darkly, but made no move to get up. I frowned, and leaned back.
"Are you alright?" I asked. Edward looked confused.
I swallowed hard. "Well, usually you'd be carrying me back to our room immediately, but-"
Edward sighed. "I'm just tired, Bella. The kids will be here any minute, and I was enjoying myself until you had to start asking questions. You've been so moody lately."
My face fell. "I'm sorry," I whispered. "But it's been so long since we-"
"I know, I know," he droned. He shuffled his legs, telling me to get up, so I did. He grabbed his coffee. "The cattle are due soon, and my mind has just been preoccupied with work, okay?"
I nodded childishly and sat down in the empty rocker beside him. I took my mug of hot coffee and sipped it, welcoming the burning in my throat because it suppressed my tears. My tortured cowboy was still so confusing and hard to read. I thought after a while I would begin to understand him, but it was only getting more difficult.
"Look, I'm sorry I've been..."
"Distant?" I offered.
"Yeah. Once the cattle are sold we have a few months before we get another run. We'll just have the horses, chickens, and pigs to care for. That's easy work. And please, please don't bring up that marriage stuff while the kids are here, okay? That's something private between us, and we can discuss it later."
My face brightened for a split second. He hadn't forgotten about my asking to talk about it. "Okay," I agreed. "May I ask for one thing?"
Edward looked over to me.
"Can we have sex soon, please?" I asked in a playful voice. Edward rolled his eyes, smiled, and then nodded. I felt giddy and carefree in an instant, forgetting my questions and concerns.
That was until I saw my son's truck pull into the drive, followed by a red SUV with tinted windows. Edward and I stood up abruptly. We watched the two vehicles come to a stop in front of the house. Seth leapt from his truck first and jogged to the porch, hugging Edward tightly. Seeing my son was like a breath of fresh air.
"God, it's good to see you, Seth," Edward boomed. Seth, my very tall, very tan, and very dark haired son smiled brightly. My eyes started to water as I stepped closer to him. He took me in his arms for a bone crushing hug. He smelled the same, and felt the same, but I knew he was anything but the same. He was older. I noticed Edward step off the porch as Seth released me. I stretched my now sore limbs.
"Who's that?" I asked curiously. "And where is Jules?"
Seth snorted. Jules suddenly exited the SUV and ran into Edward's arms. Her red hair long and swaying. Her face was bright, and she looked wonderful. In fact, she looked better than Seth did. My poor son still appeared to be a bit heartbroken over their break-up, though he as trying to hide it.
"The in-laws," Seth whispered. I frowned. Whose in-laws? My mouth fell to the porch floor when I saw an older woman with red hair step out of the Ford.
"Yep," Seth said. "Tanya's parents."
My heart began to beat so furiously that I thought it was going to rip out of my chest. All the hair on my arms stood up, and my mouth went dry. I could see Edward's body language shift from carefree to frigid in an instant. I was happy to know that he was as surprised as I was.
I felt Seth take hold of my elbow. "Come meet them, Mom. They're from Alaska!"
"Couldn't they go back to Alaska?" I whimpered. Seth laughed and started guiding us off the porch. Every memory of Edward mentioning them began to flash through my head. I couldn't recall a nice thing ever said about them, not that he ever said much more than, "Stubborn, fiery, fake, brokenhearted, northerners."
I could hear my pulse in my ears, drowning out voices as we neared the SUV. The red haired woman was smiling awkwardly as she hugged Edward. When who I assumed was her husband stepped out of the back seat, fear struck me like a lightening bolt. The man was gruff, with a full beard, a bald head, and broad shoulders. He shook Edward's hand firmly.
"Masen," he nearly snapped, releasing Edward's hand.
"It's good to see you, Joe," Edward replied lightly. "And you, Mary." I noticed him stretch his fingers out at his side. Jules leaned into her grandpa, then saw me and dashed forward.
I caught her in my arms tightly. "So glad you're home," I whispered softly. She pulled away and took my hand, yanking me towards the strangers.
"Papa, Grandma, this is Bella Swan. Bella, this is Joe and Mary Bradley."
"Ah, the dark boy's mother," Joe said. My stomach dropped. I heard Seth snort.
"We've heard a lot about you," Mary said politely. I blushed and took her extended hand. I could only wonder what Jules had told them about me. Over the years she had gone to Alaska to visit them, but I never heard many details as to how it went, or what these people were like.
I took notice of how far away Edward stood from me and it hurt. Was he ashamed? I suddenly felt like I had entered into an alternate universe. God was playing with us all as pawns in a chess game. Joe was king, Edward was a knight, and I was a bishop, only capable of moving in one direction. I wasn't prepared for any of this, and I had no idea how I was supposed to proceed.
Dinner was awkward to say the least. Thankfully, Seth and Jules were more than happy to share things about college, which kept the conversation rolling easily. I barely said a word, and neither did Edward. I knew the Bradleys must have noticed, and it was embarrassing. I didn't want to be rude, or seem like some kind of mute, but each time I tried to speak I stopped myself. I worried that what I was going to say would sound stupid, or offend them in some way or another.
I had never felt so uncomfortable in my own home.
I quickly cleaned the kitchen and did the dinner dishes, happy to have something to keep me busy. I grabbed three beers and poured one glass of wine before making my way to the living room. Edward had started a fire, but instead of sitting on the couch, he took the chair, leaving me to myself. I sat by the fire across from Mary and Joe after handing out the beers.
"Where are the kids?" I squeaked.
"Settling in upstairs," Edward replied. I nodded.
"Mary, Joe, I have the guest bedroom set up and ready for you to crash. You must be exhausted from the trip," I said lightly.
"Thank you, dear," Mary told me nicely.
"How long are you in town?" Edward asked, his voice monotone.
"We'll leave Saturday with the kids," Joe said in his deep voice. My chest eased. It was Wednesday night, tomorrow was thanksgiving, and then I only had one more full day of nothing to do but entertain these strangers. That wasn't so bad.
Edward and Joe chugged their beers.
"So," Joe began. "Jules tells us that you were married before, Bella?" I choked on my wine. "To an asshole no less, huh?" My eyes almost fell out of my head from shock. Joe was more than forthcoming, he was downright uncouth. All I could do was nod.
"But you escaped to here?"
"This ranch belonged to Bella's father," Edward said crisply. He made no move to save me from Joe's blow, but changed the subject instead.
"Good piece of land," Joe noted.
"Very beautiful," Mary added with a nod. An awkward silence passed. I saw Mary nudge Joe and he rolled his eyes.
"Look." Joe cleared his throat and leaned forward, resting his massive forearms on his knees. The crackling fire shone against his bald head. "We just came here to visit family. Jules called us up, and we were in Yellowstone with no holiday plans, so she invited us. I should have made sure that she asked you first."
Edward took a long pause, then caught himself and shook his head. "It's fine, Joe. You're always welcome here." I nodded slowly in agreement. Joe smiled and leaned back onto the couch, nursing his beer quite frequently.
"So, when are you two getting hitched?" Mary said, chuckling lightly. Edward and Joe both spewed beer out of their mouths. My cheeks ignited on fire and I wanted to crawl into a dark hole and never resurface.
"You're getting married?" Jules suddenly asked. She stood beside Seth in the doorway between the living room and kitchen. Jules crossed her arms, expecting an answer and I saw Mary's cheeks turn as red as her hair.
"No, no, no," Edward said. "Your grandma was just-"
"Joking," Mary interrupted. I saw Jules' shoulders drop with ease. I frowned.
"Come on, Ed," Joe boomed. "You can't drag this poor woman along forever!"
"Yeah," Seth agreed. I buried my face in my hands. How could Joe so easily joke about Edward remarrying, and why was the man so keen on making this visit as awkward as possible. I could feel the tension in the air, thicker than gas fumes as it strangled us all. He was angry at Edward because he was alive, and Tanya wasn't. He tried to hide it with jokes or snide comments, but I could see right through him. The next three days were going to be hell for everyone.
I looked over to my lover. Edward was squeezing the bridge of his nose. I stood up abruptly.
"Anyone for hot chocolate?" I blurted.
Mary stood up, too. "I'll help."
We somehow made it through Thanksgiving with no mishaps. Of course the uncomfortable silences and awkward stares came more often than not, but overall, I was satisfied. I spent all day cooking, with Jules and Mary helping here and there. We ate, and then I spent a couple of hours cleaning the kitchen. I didn't complain in the slightest. In fact, whenever someone offered to help, I denied them. I needed to be doing something other than hurting over Edward's distance, or worrying about what Joe was going to make fun of next.
Jules suddenly entered the kitchen and began rummaging through the cabinets.
"What do you need, sweetie?" I asked.
Jules coughed. "I think I'm getting the flu." I walked over to the correct cabinet and opened it, shuffling through different bottles of medication. I handed her some Tylenol.
"This will help nausea?" I frowned and went back to the cabinet, pulling out Pepto-Bismol.
"This will help some."
"Thanks," she said, rubbing her nose. I felt her forehead.
"You don't feel warm," I said. "In fact, I've never seen you look prettier." The young girl blushed a deep shade of red. Her hair was healthy with shine and body, her skin was a flawless pale color with freckles all over, and her blue eyes were bright. She didn't look sick at all, and I couldn't figure out why she would fake it.
"Thanks," she said, forcing another cough. I nodded and thought nothing more about it after she skipped from the room.
At just after ten, everyone turned in for the night. Edward was in the shower, so took to the barn in secret. It was the only place for privacy since the spare bedroom sat above the porch. I had two cigarettes, and a large mug of hot chocolate. Once in the barn loft, I whipped out the cell phone I barely used, and dialed Rosalie's number.
"Rose, thank God you answered," I gushed. I hadn't spoken to her since she visited the other day, and I had a lot to fill her in on. She listened intently, and patiently as I went on and on about the Bradlys.
"Damn, that is tough. And the marriage thing? Ouch. But they leave tomorrow?"
I groaned. "No, we all go camping tomorrow. They leave Saturday morning. Alice called to wish us a happy holiday today. They were supposed to come home tomorrow, but as soon as Edward even mentioned the Bradley's name, she said they weren't coming home until Saturday. What does that tell you, Rosalie?! I'm in hell." I lit my cigarette and smoked it heavily.
"Okay, calm down, Bella," Rose chuckled. "I know it's awkward, but really, what's the worst that could happen beyond all that? They can't do anything to you."
I snorted. "Except crush my soul."
Rose laughed. "How's Edward taking it?"
"He's become more of a stranger than his in-laws," I replied sadly. "He doesn't touch me. He barely looks at me. Even in bed when we're alone, Rose! It's like he worries that even in the privacy of our bedroom, we can be seen by them."
Rose sighed. "Look, you have one more day to get through. I'm sure Edward is just overwhelmed. Everything will go back to normal on Saturday."
"I hope you're right."
"How're the kids?"
I frowned. "Good, actually. Seth seems like his oblivious self, and Jules...well, she looks amazing, but she lied to me pretending to be sick." I chuckled, and shrugged it off as her way of getting attention from Seth.
"Hmm. Well I think they're so cute and-"
"Shh," I hissed. Rosalie didn't hear me, and kept speaking.
I ripped the phone away from my ear when I heard the loft door creak open. I quickly hung up on my best friend and shoved my phone into my back pocket.
"Bella?" Edward asked.
"Yeah, I'm in here," I replied. It was dark because I didn't open the wooden window to allow the moonlight in. It was too cold outside for that. I heard Edward fidget with something, then a small light illuminated. He held the oil lantern up to see, and came to sit next to me on my hay bale.
"What are you doing up here?" he asked. "It's cold."
I shivered slightly. "Privacy."
He chuckled and nodded. "Finally. Was that Rosalie?"
I blushed and nodded. "I had a lot to fill her in on." Edward smiled and we fell quiet for a minute, but it wasn't awkward.
"What're you thinking about?"
I sighed easily. "Time. It moves too fast, and I don't like it."
"Well, if we didn't have time, nothing would happen at all. Bad things are always going to happen, but we would really miss the good things."
I frowned and began to ponder his statement. He had a valid point. As I took in my familiar surroundings, I could fondly remember all of our times spent up in this hay loft together. All the conversations and lovemaking were memories that time could never steal away from me.
"I'm sorry they're here. I know they're a pain."
"You had no control over it," I replied easily. "And it isn't so bad." Edward eyed me suspiciously. "Okay, it's bad."
"Shit, I hate how they make me feel. And I haven't been around them in a very long time. Nothing was ever really talked about..."
I nodded. "Yeah, I'm sure it's hard. I mean, if I ever lost Seth, I wouldn't let go either."
Edward sighed. "They blame me, you know," he whispered. I lit my other cigarette after a sip of hot chocolate. "I took their daughter away to live the ranch life."
I snorted lightly.
"What?" he asked.
"Sounds like my parents' story. My dad was the rancher, and my mom was the city girl. Tanya chose this life, though, Edward. Her parents are just gonna have to give up that fight."
"I can't expect them to when I haven't," he admitted quietly."
I groaned. I had already had this same discussion with him a dozen times over the last five years and it never changed.
"You have to stop that," I snapped. "People die, Edward. They die for reasons we'll never understand and we can't prevent. If she had lived, none of us would be here right now. Is that what you want?"
His head whipped over to look at me. "You think I regret you?" he asked.
My face fell and I shrugged. Edward turned his torso to face me and took my free hand, bringing it to his chest.
"Do I hate that she died? Yeah, I do. I hate it for Jules especially. But I don't regret you, Bella. I love you. I'm sorry you've had to go through all this because of my past."
"Edward, I don't expect you to forget her. I've never tried to take her place because there's no place to take. She was your wife, and she's your daughter's mother. That will never change."
He frowned. "Is that why you think I won't marry you?" he asked in surprise.
I shrugged. "I want my own place in your heart, but I believe you're still very married to her," I whispered. Edward took the cigarette from my hand and put it out. I was about to protest, but he clutched me to his chest in a hug so tight, I couldn't move.
"I want to marry you. I want you to be my wife forever, and it hurts that you believe I feel otherwise. I'm sorry if I have done something to cause that, and I'm sorry you've had to wait this long." He loosened his hug to pull me back and stared into my eyes. "We can tell everyone else tomorrow, I was just waiting on the right time. The perfect time. But right now is as good as any," he whispered. My heart jumped to my throat and my eyes started to water.
"You mean..." I cut off, my voice cracking. Edward smiled.
"I don't have the rings yet. They're being made."
He shook his head. "That's a surprise for later." He got off the hay bale onto one knee, and held both my hands. I stopped breathing. "Bella Marie Swan, will you marry me?"
Tears were cascading down my face as I nodded enthusiastically.
"Yes," I yelled. I flung myself at him and he caught me in a hug. He began kissing my neck.
Happiness overruled every other emotion my body possessed. "I love you," I said, over and over again. Edward laughed and said it back with more meaning than ever before.
We all left early the next morning. Tents and food were packed, and we saddled our horses. I was still curious about Seth and Jules, but I decided not to ask how they were doing around Jules' grandparents. They were kind to my son, and that's all I really cared about for now.
My mind replayed last night's events a hundred times on the ride out to our usual camping spot. How was I supposed to contain my excitement for an entire day? Mary was already eyeing me suspiciously when she caught me sighing blissfully and smiling widely for what appeared to be no apparent reason. Edward was excited too, though, and it only increased the intensity. He was smiling all day and sneaking glances my way every chance he got.
Our land was becoming sparse with the fast approaching winter season. I knew it was going to get cold tonight, but we were used to the winters here. I was glad that Mary and Joe were accustomed to colder weather, too. I slowed my horse when I noticed that Jules had fallen to the back behind everyone. I looked up ahead to see Seth and Edward joking animatedly, and Mary and Joe enjoying the scenery. I slowed my horse until it aligned with Jules'.
"What's up, kid?" I asked quietly. "Still sick?" The red head shrugged her small shoulders and looked up ahead. I smiled. "Ah. You two have been getting along great, though," I noted, nodding up to Seth.
"We promised we would start acting like adults," she explained. "Besides, I was tired of being angry all the time."
"Are you happy to be broken up?" I asked in nearly a whisper. Jules shrugged again.
"I've learned a lot being on my own and separated from him. We barely see each other at school so it was easy to ignore him..."
"But?" I urged. She lowered her head.
"But I miss him." My heart smiled at her admission.
I leaned over on my horse towards her. "He misses you, too," I whispered. Her face brightened and she looked to me questioningly.
"I can see it every time he looks at you," I assured. Jules smiled and sat up straight on her horse.
"Thanks, Bella, but he won't take me back. Not now," she admitted. I wasn't sure what she meant, and I didn't want to press too hard for information.
"You won't know until you try," I urged. "Start by being honest about how you feel." Jules smiled and kissed my cheek, then shot off on her horse, quickly catching up with the rest of our family. I knew that somehow she was meant for my son, just as her father was meant for me.
"Damn, y'all lose the sun quick here," Joe said, staring up at the sunless sky. "Reminds me of home." He wrapped his arm around Mary's waist, and they walked out towards the river. It was just past seven and getting colder by the minute. I threw on my extra jacket and took a seat by the fire next to Seth. He nudged me with his shoulder playfully. Edward and Jules had taken to the river for an evening walk, and I had a feeling that he was going to tell her about his proposal last night, so I took the opportunity to speak with Seth.
"What would you think about me and Edward getting married?" I asked casually.
Seth snorted loudly. "It's like you guys already are married," he said, teasingly. I looked at him in all seriousness. "I think it would be cool, Mom," he finally said. "I kind of already knew that he was going to ask you."
"You did?" I asked in disbelief.
Seth nodded. "I went with him to get the rings made. He sort of asked me for your hand..."
My heart instantly melted into the ground around us. I wanted to run to Edward and kiss him all over, but I suppressed my urges. "Oh," I squeaked, unsure of what else to say.
"You're gonna love them!" Seth said excitedly. I smiled and tried to picture what he saw clealry in his mind, but the possibilities were endless.
Suddenly, I felt small arms clutch around my neck in a tight hug. I could see whispers of red hair. I raised my arms and placed them over Jules', returning her hug.
"Can I help plan the wedding?" she whispered. I laughed out loud and nodded. She squealed, hurting my hears and squeezed me tighter as I continued to laugh.
"What's so funny?" Joe asked. My face froze. He and Mary now sat opposite me, the fire between us. Edward's daughter released my neck.
"Uh," Jules stuttered. "Hey, Seth...can I talk to you?" Seth frowned but got up and followed her.
I turned back to Joe and cleared my throat.
"Bella and I are getting married," Edward said. I turned to see him standing behind me with a proud smile on his face. I slowly turned my head back to his in-laws. Mary smiled, but it was laced with sadness.
"Congratulations," she encouraged lightly. I nodded my thanks and blushed. Joe's face was expressionless.
"It's time," Edward said softly. Joe frowned, sucked in his bottom lip and then shook his head slowly. I suddenly felt for the man. All the emotions he was feeling were normal and probably very painful.
"I know," Edward finished. Joe looked up to him and forced smiled. They shared some unspoken agreement and nothing else was said about it. Joe stood up and started walking towards us, but stopped when we heard Seth yell. Everyone turned around to see Seth throwing his hands into his hair, and Jules with her face in her hands.
"How?" Seth yelled. I could hear Jules cry harder. "You lied to me?"
I stood up abruptly. "Seth?" I called out worriedly. My son looked at me across the field, his eyes dark. He suddenly turned on his heel and started to jog towards the river. Edward began to walk forward, but I stopped him.
"Let me," I whispered. He paused, looking ahead at his daughter, then nodded and stayed put. I jogged out to Jules and heard someone behind me, so I turned and saw Mary following along.
"Jules, what is it?" I asked, placing my hand on her back. Her shoulders racked uncontrollably as she sobbed into her hands. I frowned, hating to see her so sad.
I looked up. "Seth!" I yelled. He stopped running but didn't turn to face me.
"He hates me!" Jules cried. Mary took her granddaughter in her arms and began to soothe her.
"Come back here," I called out. Seth didn't reply, and started to walk again.
"What is the matter, honey?" Mary asked.
"Ask Bella. She knows," Jules replied. I flinched in confusion.
Jules swiped her nose. "You're late, too," she said. My frown deepened and my mind began to reel. Was I late? I couldn't remember my last period. Suddenly, my hand flew to my mouth in horror.
"Are you pregnant?" I nearly cried.
"What?" Edward asked sternly. All three of us snapped around to see Edward and Joe only a few feet away from us.
"I'll kill him," Joe seethed, looking ahead at Seth who was now almost hidden by the night.
"If you're late, doesn't that mean you are, too?" Jules asked, sounding almost hopeful. My eyes shot back to Edward. His face was completely white and he was staring at nothing, clearly in shock.
My head began to hurt, and my knees were shaking. Me, pregnant? I had to do it all over again?
A/N: This is actually the prologue for Ride into the Sunset, the sequel for Ride to You which will be posted fully in September. It will be a novella.
I want to thank Ocsickgirl for her encouragement and pre-reading, Beffers87 for her glorious banner making skills, and Jules Lovestoread for her beta work, always making me a better writer!