This was my first full story, my first O/S, and my first contest entered (excluding flashfic challenges). I learned so much from this process. (Apparently, I'm allergic to commas. Poetry will do that to you.) Special thanks to GeekChic12FF, contest secret keeper and general all-around angel, for her continued support, encouragement, advice, and nudging. The fan/ficdom is a better place with her in it :o) And thanks to anhanninen for running the contest, to all the judges, and of course, to Jada for gettin' busy with her man...again!
All entries/winners/contest info can be found here: u/4748534/TwiTFotVcontest
My story was picked as favorite by judge lynzylee! Thank you!
Morning love is the best.
Waking up to the warmth of your beloved, feeling his arms around you. Or to feather-light touches whispering desire against your skin, a kiss behind your ear to rouse you from your dreamy haze. Nibbles on your shoulder as he presses himself into your back and you stretch your body into consciousness. There's nothing like starting your day that way. Morning love is my favorite.
At least, it used to be. Back before I was waking up every three hours throughout the night, tending to a teething toddler with an ear infection. Before the green of the alarm clock would haunt and mock me as the numbers race closer toward the official start of another sleep-deprived day. Still, these times are like gold, so I go along with it for Edward's sake. And for mine. Because I love him and would still give him everything. Anything. Anywhere, any time. I could never deny him. We take it when we can get it these days.
"Here it comes, baby, oooossshhhh . . ." he whispers quietly into my ear. The fuzzy black and white image of the sleeping toddler on the monitor on my nightstand is our green light to go go gooooo. Now or never. Maintenance sessions, I like to call them.
"I feel you, baby," I encourage. I do. Even with all the changes that have taken place in our lives the last couple of years, Edward and I haven't lost one ounce of the physical connection we've shared since our first time together. I feel every inch of him inside of me, his swells and twitches as he approaches his climax.
"Wait, wait, wait," he says, stilling himself. "I want to hold it. Come with me."
Nooooooo, I need sleep!
Edward likes to make it last, and oh, can he. Gia's been asleep for an hour and a half. I glance surreptitiously at the clock, mentally calculating the number of hours I've slept and estimating how many more I might get.
Sleep or sex, sleep or sex. Don't be an ass, Bella.
"It's okay, baby, go." I move underneath him, urging him on. "You feel so good, Edward. Keep going."
I can see him fighting it as I press my heels into the back of his thighs and lift my hips just enough to distract him. God, does he feel so good, but I don't think my body is going to give him what his ego needs this morning. He takes a brief moment to think about it, then thrusts deeper into me and lets go. The sight of him above me, looking down at me, is my undoing. Even as my body aches with fatigue, there's a voice in my head telling me to take this, take and give, and I let go too.
"Thank you," he sighs after he's collapsed on top of me and we're finding our breath.
"Mmmmm," is all I can reply with a soft smile, eyes closed. Totally sated.
That'll help me sleep.
I'm drifting off when I feel him kiss my temple and whisper a goodbye and an 'I love you' before he leaves for his shift.
"Mommy." The voice is a mere whisper, fluid, like it's flowing from one side of my head to the other.
I wake slowly to the sunlight and a faint voice at the side of my bed.
"Mooooommyyyyy . . . " The small voice is now accompanied by a poking on my cheek.
I can't move. Am I even breathing? I lift my eyebrows in an effort to tug open my eyelids. I can't feel my body. It feels like I'm imbedded in the mattress. What time is it?
The poking moves to my temple, then to my forehead, and then to my shoulder.
"Ma . . . ma, mama, mama, ma . . ."
NO. No, no, no, no, no. No. No no-no-noooo please let me just sleeeeeep.
I roll over, wincing at the cold sheets where Edward is missing, and the brightness assaulting my eyes. Gia starts giggling.
"Ok, baby girl, I'm up." I barely have a voice.
With a deep breath I sit up, Gia tugging at my pajama pants. I feel like a zombie rising from the grave. Damn Edward and his damn schedule and his damn delicious, irresistible skin. He's used to operating on minimal sleep. I, however, will never be.
I like my sleep. Scratch that. I frickin' love my sleep. I get cranky and often resentful when I'm tired, but I have to remind myself that my fatigue is not her fault. It just comes with the territory. In my head I know that, but when the baby wakes up crying at 2:30 a.m., my body doesn't care what my brain knows.
I wanted her. So much. We both did. We just weren't prepared to have our lives changed so drastically, so quickly. With already full lives and busy workloads, Edward and I have learned quickly what it means to be responsible for another human life. I guess you could say we're still adjusting to parenthood, even more than a year later.
I kiss her messy, bouffant bed hair and she gives me her usual morning squeezes around my neck. I love her squeezes. For such a tiny person, she has an incredibly strong grip.
"Morning, sugar plum. Are you hungry?"
"Ahn joos joos, mama."
"Ok, juice juice it is," I say through a yawn, picking her up and placing her on my hip. I delight in the way her little legs and chubby square feet wrap around my waist like a monkey. I adore her.
Take that, tired body.
I get her settled at the table with her juice and bowl of Cheerios, then boot up my laptop. With a deep inhale of my steaming coffee, my brain cranks to life, and I begin making a mental list of all the editing and errands I need to get done today. I've got another busy day, a busy week ahead of me.
My fingers are wreaking havoc on my keyboard when I hear the beep from Edward's car door locking in the driveway. I push back from the kitchen table, roll my shoulders, and press my palms into the small of my back. This week has flown by, with two deadlines, Alice's opening at the gallery, and Edward's wonky schedule at the hospital. It seems like we're always coming and going, packing up Gia's diaper bag for the day, timing pick-ups and drop-offs. I lean over and peek at Gia, napping on the couch. She had a slight fever today–probably getting her molars–so I decided to work from home again.
Edward walks through the door looking weary, scruffy, and a bit anxious. I know the look in his eyes.
He's gonna need me tonight.
He walks over to me, glances over to Gia, and puts his hands on my shoulders. I melt instantly and drop my head. He leans down and kisses my jaw, leaving his cheek touching mine as he digs his thumbs into my shoulder blades.
"How long has Fruity been out?"
"About forty-five minutes. Oh god, babe, that feels . . . so good. Please keep going. I'll get you back tonight." Damn this man and his hands. They make my words slur and my head spin.
"Oh, I know you will." he chuckles, and I reach behind my chair and swat his thigh.
After a few moments, he takes a seat and pulls my foot into his lap. I become slightly suspicious when he looks at me pensively.
"What's going on?"
"What?" he laughs, "can't I show you some love?"
"Oh, you can show me love alright. I should be showing you love right now. You look beat. I just know that look. Rough day?"
He sighs. Straightens. "I need to tell you something."
"Okaaaaay . . . "
"Aro called me into his office today." He pauses, gaging my reaction. I nod him on. "He offered me a medical directorship."
"Baby, that's great!" I hush-scream, dropping my foot from his lap. "Wait, why are you freaking out about this? Are you freaking out about this?"
"I don't know, I'm . . . it's just . . ." He runs a hand through his naturally mussed hair and then over his face to scratch at the scruff on his jaw. My fingers twitch in envy. " . . .it's administration, and a shit-ton more responsibility . . . and we have Fruity . . . and we're already so stressed and tired and missing each other as it is . . . "
I get out of my chair and straddle his lap. "Edward," I say, taking his face in my hands and kissing his chin. "This is a good thing, yes?"
"Yesh," he muffles, cheeks slightly squished in my grasp.
"Are you losing the scrubs?" I ask, placing a kiss on his forehead, knowing his heart is truly for his patients. For helping people. It's what he's always wanted. It's always been what drives him.
Good. Scrubs are sexy.
"So you'll still see patients?" I ask with a kiss to his neck.
"Okay." I pull back to look him in the eyes, still holding his face. "Then this is an opportunity to make some real change. Good change. You've been waiting for something like this. It's what you've been working toward. Aro knows how good you are, where you can take the department, and he believes in you. I know he does. So do I. This is good news, baby. I'm so proud of you!"
He holds my hands in his as he brings them behind his back, leans forward, and meets my forehead with his.
He inhales and closes his eyes. "This – you're the reason I come home. I love your words. You always know what to say to talk me off the ledge of hysteria."
I roll my eyes. "Edward, you may freak out, but I have yet to see you reach hysteria."
He turns his head in Gia's direction.
"It's not just work. The ER would go on without me; I'm replaceable there. It's not failing Aro that burdens me. It's you, it's Fruity. You are no one's responsibility but mine. And I so don't take that lightly. She just .. . . I just . . .I don't want to mess this up. I know what a commitment this will be, and I don't want to miss out on what we have right here. I just feel like I'm so much more accountable now, especially to them." He lowers his eyes briefly before looking to me for reassurance.
I know where this is coming from. He has these moments sometimes. We both do.
"This is good for us, too. We're doing the best we can, Edward. We're doing pretty well, if you ask me." I turn his head back to me. "Edward, Rose and Em would agree. And they'd be so proud of you, too. I'm sure of it."
His eyes well up, as do mine. He looked up to Emmett and loved Rose like a sister. I did, too. It's the reason it was so easy to make the decision to take in Gia after the accident. Well, that and she's just so damn adorable. We were there the day they found out they were pregnant, and the day she was born. Edward's little Fruit Loop, because she always smells so delicious to him.
We both miss his brother and Rose, terribly. Their loss was so sudden, tragic, and we barely had time to grieve properly before we became responsible for their baby girl. Going through something like that changes your perception of things. The trivial things of life lose significance, and suddenly having a precious new life–someone else's life–to care for makes you think and rethink every important decision. Edward is constantly thinking about how his choices will affect us.
"You're right." He nods, sniffles. "I love you. I couldn't do this without you. I wouldn't."
"You won't. Now, let's celebrate before the girl wakes up."
The weeks pass by, and Edward manages the transition into his new role at the hospital. Meanwhile, I juggle working between the office and at home, transporting Gia to and from daycare, an occasional workout when I can fit one in, and doing my best to be Edward's cheerleader. I've got our schedule routine enough that I won't lose my mind. I don't remember being this exhausted when it was just us. No wonder why we haven't had one of our own after five years of marriage.
I've just finished warming up leftover breadsticks when Edward walks through the front door.
"Hey there, Jelly Bean!" he exclaims, pulling Gia from her Yo Gabba Gabba trance. She runs from the living room, and he bends to one knee to welcome one of her neck squeezes. He sniffs her hair. "Mmm, strawberry cheesecake Fruity girl."
He rises and I mimic their interaction, throwing my arms around his neck.
"What do I smell like?"
He shrugs. "You smell like my Bella. Like love. Like selflessness. Like home." He inhales at my collarbone as I tilt my head to give him better access. The tickle of his brushing lips gives me shivers, and I feel the cool of the air follow where his tongue has peeked out for a taste. "And tonight you smell like marinara."
Just then, Fruity waddles in and begins pushing against Edward's leg. "No, Dada, no. My mama. Mine. Eh . . . eh." She pushes his leg again. "Go, Dada. Go." She gets so jealous when we're affectionate.
"Bossy little thing," Edward laughs. "Just like her mama." He catches himself and glances up at me. "Both of them."
I give him a reassuring smile. We both decided to be okay with Gia calling us Mama and Dada. She wasn't even walking when Rose and Em passed, and she probably won't remember them. When she's older and able to understand what happened, we'll tell her the story. Her story. We'll show her pictures. For now, we just want things to be as natural as possible.
"And what about me, what do I smell like?" Edward asks, as Gia moves to cling to my leg.
"You? You smell . . . oh my god, Edward, you stink! Go hop in the shower. I'm gonna put Gia–Fruity–down."
Only thirty minutes later and Edward is already in bed. By the looks of him I can tell he's been fighting off his sleepiness, waiting for me.
Still giving romance a chance. Bless his heart.
He perks up as I slip under the sheets and turn off my lamp. "Mmmmarinara Bellllaaaa, you are incredible, you know that?"
His words are lazy and his arm is heavy over me.
"Goodnight, baby," I say, scratching gently at his back. He's out within minutes.
I watch him sleep in the pale light that filters through the room, tracing his brow with my fingers. Admiring him, the man he has stepped up to become. Knowing how much more he has in him and excited to watch him grow in his new role at work and here at home. He works so hard, loves us so big, and worries he's doing it all right. I know he worries and tries not to show it. It's in the crease between his eyes and the rigid set of his jaw. He's always been confident, but Gia changed things.
I find myself needing to reassure him. Wanting to reward him and encourage him and let him know we're okay. That I'm here for him, no matter what.
I get an idea, the perfect idea, and grab my phone from my nightstand to send a text.
-Al, you awake?-
Not a minute later, my phone buzzes. Edward is still fast asleep next to me.
-Of course I am. I never sleep, you know this. Why are YOU up?-
-I need a favor. For Edward's birthday next week.-
-Would you & Jas be willing to take Fruity overnight? We could use a night to ourselves. Things have been…crazy.-
-Whoa. Are you kidding? I've been waiting for you to ask! Are you guys ok?-
-We're ok. Busy. Exhausted. Need to reconnect. One night would be great.-
-You sure one night is enough for you looooovebirds? ;o)-
-Please, Alice. The other night he fell asleep with his hand down my panties. One full day will be plenty lol.-
-Absolutely. You got it. Operation Cullens Connect is in full effect!-
-OMG ILY dork.-
"Oh," I gasp, eyes flying open from a restful sleep. Out of habit I glance up to the clock, then to the monitor.
"She slept through the night and she's still asleep," Edward murmurs groggily from behind me. He's hard and ready and running his hand up and down my thigh, pushing my sleep tank up higher and higher.
I roll onto my back and reach up to run my hands through his hair, scratching lightly. He steals my breath every time.
"I'm sorry I fell asleep last night," he says, moving to hover over me.
I open my legs to let him settle in between as he moves my tank higher and up off my body. He gives me that cocky, crooked smile and a raised eyebrow when he realizes I'm now naked.
"You were lying next to me sans panties all night, and I didn't even know it?"
I smirk and shrug, running my hands down the muscles of his chest, letting my fingernails graze his nipples. I'm already wide awake and ready.
"How'd you sleep? I wanted to wake you a while ago but thought you could use the extra hour dreaming."
I reach down and palm him through his boxers as he reaches behind my head, lifts it slightly off my pillow, and fans my hair out above me.
"Thanks for the rest, but I don't need to dream anymore," I say, pulling him down to me. My hands roam down his back and over his strong shoulders as he attacks my neck. I tuck my thumbs into the waistband of his boxers and push them down, moving them off his body the rest of the way with my feet. His kisses are everywhere, and he begins rubbing himself slowly over me. Back and forth, up and down, coating himself in my wetness.
"You watched me sleep?" I asked breathlessly.
He takes my hands, interlocks our fingers, and pins my wrists on each side of my pillow. He kisses a teasing line from my elbow to my wrist as I begin writhing beneath him.
My god, I'm already halfway there.
"I could watch you for hours. You're so beautiful when you sleep, when your whole body, your face, is relaxed and drifting." He pulls back and sweeps his eyes over me from head to toe. "And when you're awake–look at you. Breathtaking." He lowers himself and flicks my nipple with the tip of his tongue. My pelvis jumps in reaction. I have missed us like this.
"Stop looking and get inside me. Please."
In one swift motion he hooks one arm under my knee, lifts it further up and over, and drives fully into me.
"Aahh-hh," we both gasp in unison. Just then, there's a stirring on the monitor, and we both turn our heads to see movement in Gia's toddler bed on the screen.
"Don't you stop, don't you dare stop, Edward. She's fine. Keep going."
He's deep. Oh so deep, and I am restrained. With my knee hooked over his elbow, He wraps his other arm now underneath me, and cradles the back of my head with his hand.
"Not gonna last long," he pants, pulling almost all the way out, to just the tip, then pushing all the way back in. All out, all in. And again. And again. Quickly, fully, his hips and mine working in tandem. I reach around to find the swell of his ass and I pull and pull and pull him into me with every thrust.
I'm getting wetter, softer, and more sensitive with every minute and he's getting harder, going deeper, and moving faster. Faster. Deeper. His arms gripping me, his forehead to mine.
"Yessss," I breathe.
"YES. Edward . . . ungh . . . yessssss!" I'm arching and stretching and clawing the sheets, eyes wide open, mouth in a suspended gasp as waves of ecstasy flutter through me.
Edward reaches up and takes hold of the headboard, hoisting himself up to push into me as far as he can go, pushing me up the bed with his force. I throw my hands above me to stop myself from hitting my head. He stills, rolls his hips, and finishes with two accentuated pumps before releasing and pulsing inside me. The tension leaves his body, and he relaxes down onto me to shower my shoulders, my cheeks, my eyelids with open-mouth kisses.
"I love you," is all I can keep repeating.
A moan of satisfaction escapes me when he slips out, and Edward chuckles as he flops to the bed next to me.
"You're smiling. Mission accomplished."
I roll over to my side and admire him naked in the morning light. "My whole body is smiling. Am I sparkling, too? Because I feel like it."
"You don't need sparkles, babe," he says, pinching my breast. "You glow. Go clean up. I'll get Fruity."
It's Sunday, Edward's day off. I can't wait to spend the day with him. A good night's rest, great morning sex, and my excitement for the surprise date night I have planned have given me renewed energy to start this day. I turn on the shower and open the drawer for my birth control patches. It's a new week, and I need to start a new round.
Only, when I pull the box out of the drawer, it's . . . still . . . sealed. The box is unopened. I take a moment to register this.
I go deaf to everything except the sound of my breathing and my heartbeat, which have both suddenly gone warp speed.
Ok. Calm down. Calm down. Think.
I'm standing naked in the bathroom holding my unopened Ortho Evra box, not blinking, trying to remember when I had my period last. Trying to count the weeks. Alice's opening at the gallery. I was on my period at Alice's opening. It was a pain in the ass. I had a headache. That was . . . that was weeks ago. Then I asked Edward to pick up my new prescription. And then . . . I turn the box over and look at the date. I should have put on my first patch two weeks ago.
No. Oh my god. No. This can't be right.
My mouth goes dry and my fingers feel numb. I can't tell if I'm sweating or if it's the steam from the shower that dampens my skin. I count and recount and wrack my brain, trying to figure out where or how or when I forgot this major detail of my life. Have I been that busy? That tired? Clueless? Forgetful? This is not like me at all.
This can't be right.
I step into the shower and let the water calm me. How could I let this happen? How could I forget? How could I be so irresponsible? I think I'm in shock. Edward is going to freak. He's so stressed right now, we're so busy as it is. Oh my god, I'm probably ovulating right now!
I snort to myself. Well, if I weren't pregnant before, that just did it. My hand instinctively goes to my belly.
You glow, he says.
I must have been in the shower for longer than usual, because Edward and Gia come walking into the bathroom.
"You okay in there, babe?"
I force out a "yeah" and laugh when Gia presses her face against the shower door.
And then there's Gia. She's still a baby. Am I going to have two babies?
Oh, Rose, what do I do?
For the next few days, it's as if I'm walking around and working in a fog. In the back of my mind, a constant current of worry, what-ifs, and anxious energy invades my concentration until I can't take it any more. I take an at-home test on Wednesday morning.
Two pink lines and my legs feel like lead.
I knew it would be.
I take another test that night before Edward gets home. It yields the same results. No shit.
I remain in my stunned daze throughout dinner and Gia's bath time, then hand her off to Edward. I think we have a conversation, but I'm not sure. I'm too busy having an internal war with myself over how to tell Edward, what to tell him, and when to tell him. My thoughts jump from resolve in the fact that we're married and in love and perfectly capable of having a baby, to paranoia that it's too much, to guilt over that paranoia and self-judgment for being selfish, back to resolve that we really have no choice because this is happening, to anxiety that this is happening. I mean, we would have had one of our own eventually, but we've never actually discussed any plans, especially not since Gia.
I don't know how long I'm lost in my thoughts before it dawned on me that the house was unusually quiet. I tiptoe out to the living room to investigate and find Edward dozed off on the couch. Gia is asleep on his chest. He's got one foot on the coffee table, one arm around her with the remote in his hand, and the other hand tucked in to the waistband of pants.
And that, right there, that sight of them comforts me. It's home. It's safe. And in that moment, I decide I'm going to tell Edward. On our date night. For his birthday. In two days.
"Heyyyyy Fruitylicious baby girl!" Alice greets us at the door, very enthusiastically as usual. "Hey B, all ready for your big lovefest night?" she asks, taking Gia from me and nudging me with her elbow.
"Ow, jeez, Al, do you sharpen those things?" My best friend is tiny but lethal. I have no doubt Gia will be safe in her care.
"Ha, ha," Alice deadpans, then ushers me inside but stops me before I can go any further.
"Okay, Fruity, say goodbye! We've got a big night planned with Uncle Jas and DJ Lance." She winks at me and leans Gia over for a kiss.
"But . . . Alice, I . . . " I'm immediately flustered.
Damn it. Act natural, act natural.
But my best friend knows me like no one else. She senses things. "Bellaaaa . . ."
"B, what's the news?" She raises her eyebrows as if to tell me I've been caught hiding something from her.
"Oh my god, Alice, STOP! You're creeping me out! Tonight is important, okay? I really appreciate you doing this."
"Bella . . . are you . . . ?"
I put my hand over Alice's tiny red lips. Gia thinks it's funny.
"Don't. I'm not telling you anything until after tonight. I have to go. I have preparations to make. Thank you." I kiss her on the cheek. "I love you. Give Jas a kiss for me, too." I kiss Gia on the head and leave without looking back.
Since I want to keep this as much a surprise as possible, I decide not to make reservations out. I'm a nervous wreck as it is. Nervous, but also a bit excited. Before Edward gets home I grab take-out, set the table, shower, shave, and primp. I knew he'd be working a full day today, and I know how much we both like just relaxing at home. I also know my news would require a comfortable, private setting. Home is perfect. If he freaks out or I end up crying, I won't be embarrassing myself in public.
I hear his car in the driveway as I'm finishing up my mascara. I don't wear makeup often. He likes when I do. I run out to the living room and fidget. Do I strike a pose? Stand casually? Sit and cross my legs? It's been a while since we've had a night alone and even longer since I've surprised him with anything.
He walks through the door like usual, and throws his jacket over the chair. He notices me standing there, stops in his tracks, and turns around. His eyebrows shoot up as he takes me in, and I watch as he quickly scans the house, looking for Gia.
"Happy Birthday, Edward," I say, smiling. Suddenly it feels like such a relief to see him, to be here alone with him, and the weight of what I'm about to share with him overwhelms me. I'm still smiling, but I feel tears forming. I probably look like I'm in pain.
He walks slowly toward me. He wore a suit today, but his jacket is off, his tie is loosened, and his sleeves have been rolled up. He must have had meetings with the hospital bigwigs.
"Wow. You look . . . amazing," he says as stops before me. "Is Fruity asleep? Did we have plans?"
I greet him with a slow, teasing kiss. "Fruity is with Al and Jas tonight. The whole night." I reach up to remove his tie. "Tonight's for us, for you. For your birthday."
"Just us?" He wraps his arms around my waist and presses me to him, lifting me slightly off my feet. I wrap my arms around his neck.
"Yup. Are you hungry?" I take his hand and lead him to the table. "I picked up Thai food. Dinner first, and then . . . the rest of the night to do whatever you want."
"Damn, you're awesome, woman. I'm starving. Aro had me in these meetings all day, and . . . " He continues to tell me about his day and of all the political complexities that take place at the hospital's upper-level management. I eat and nod and give him as much attention as I can, while my nerves threaten to take over as we progress through dinner.
Edward reaches over and takes my hand. "This means a lot to me, babe. Thanks for doing this. You're my rock. You do so much for me, for us, and you do it with such grace. I honestly don't know how you do it. You amaze me."
This is it. Do it now.
"You make it easy. We're a good team," I say awkwardly as I reach behind me for the small gift box. "Present time."
Edward's eyes light up as he takes the box from me. He jiggles it next to his ear, eyeing me. He opens the box, unwraps the tissue, and pulls out a little silver frame. He stares at it for a moment before finally looking up at me in confusion.
I get up out of my seat and go to sit on his knee. I take the frame from him and let my trembling fingers pass over the lowercase 'o' typed in the middle of the paper behind the frame glass. The words "baby cullen", also lower case, are italicized underneath it.
"I'm sorry, babe, but . . . what is it?"
"That's . . . our baby. Well, that's how big our baby is right now. Approximately." I spit out. That didn't come out like I had planned.
I'm not good at speaking. My words always get tangled. Written words, I can do. But pushing them out of my mouth in any matter of coherency is always a challenge. Especially when I'm nervous. Especially when my heart is attempting to pound an escape route from my chest.
I take a deep breath and meet Edward's eyes reluctantly. "Have my baby. I mean, be my daddy." I shake my head and close my eyes in frustration. "Be my baby daddy. You are my baby daddy."
Oh for the love of god.
"What?" Edward laughs.
"Edward," I say through tearing eyes and a nervous smile. I take his hand and put it to my belly. "We're expecting company."
A whoosh of breath leaves me, and I struggle not to lose it right here on his lap. I watch Edward's face for signs of a freak-out. I watch. And wait. He takes the frame from me, sets it on the table, and then takes my face in his hands.
"How long have you known?"
"Officially? Since Wednesday. But I already had tonight planned before then, and I kind of have known since Sunday, when I was supposed to start a new patch - then I realized I was really supposed to start a new patch two weeks ago."
He studies me for a moment before asking, "Are you upset?" Warmth radiates from somewhere deeper than my heart as he wipes a rogue tear away with his thumb. "Why are you crying?"
Great. I'm crying on his birthday.
"I don't know, I'm sorry! I'm not sad. I think I'm a little excited. I've just been so anxious about it. Nervous. Over analyzing things. How are you feeling about this? I've been worried about how you'd take it. I don't want to put more pressure on you."
"More . . . pressure."
"We're not ready for this." I say it before he can.
"We weren't ready for Gia. We're still adjusting."
"Bella, we weren't expecting Gia, there's a difference. And as for adjusting–I think we've adjusted. This is it. This is how it's going to be. This is our life, and, yeah, it's a bit hectic and crazy, but like you said–we make a great team."
"But, we weren't expecting this baby either."
"Doesn't mean we don't want it. Doesn't mean this isn't happening." He huffs out a breath, and his gorgeous, beaming smile is all I need to settle my frenzied emotions. "This is happening."
"So . . . you want this? You're ok with this?"
"Bella," he says, pulling my other leg up to and turning me to straddle his lap. "Are you . . . freaking out?" He's smirking. Mocking. I get it. "Since when do you do the freaking out? That's my job, remember? You're my rock. Remember?"
And just like that, the fog is gone. The birds chirp. The sky is blue. And Edward and I are a healthy, happily married couple. We have jobs. We own a house. We adopted our niece. And we're expecting our own baby.
Edward holds my thighs and stands up. I'm wrapped around him as he makes his way to our bedroom.
"I want this. Of course I want this. I want Fruity. I want our baby. I want you. I want everything with you. Always have. Always will."
He gently lays me down on our bed.
"I want to come home every day and get neck squeezes from Fruity, and taste dinner on your neck. I want to see your body change and grow with our baby inside of you, and brag about our little one to everyone at work. I want to hold your hair for you when you get sick in the morning, and rub your feet when your ankles swell." I'm giggling now, and my tears of nervousness have turned into tears of joy.
"I want to count your breathing, cut the cord, decorate a nursery, and pick out names. Is that okay with you?"
"Yes," I say, blinking through my teary smile.
"But right now . . . . you said after dinner . . . anything I want, right?"
He lifts my skirt. Gives me that cocky, sexy smile of his, and looks up at me from under his lashes.
"I haven't had dessert."