I listened intently, grinning from ear to ear as my eight year old daughter listed everything she wanted to do with me this summer — our summer. It was only eight days away, and I'd been marking each day off of my calendar just as she had.
"And can we go to the zoo, too? Oh, and the aquarium?"
I nodded, taking in her beautiful, bright smile through the computer screen. "We can do whatever you'd like, Sawyer. But don't plan too much because I've got a surprise for you."
"A surprise! What is it?" she asked, bouncing up and down in her seat. "Are we going somewhere? Did you get me something? What is it, Daddy?"
"If I told you, it wouldn't be a surprise," I chuckled as her strawberry curls stopped bouncing and her shoulders slumped. "You'll find out soon enough. Now, I want you to have a good last day at school and tell me all about it later, okay?"
"We're having a party outside and we get to play games and we get pizza! From Pizza Hut. Not the yucky school kind."
She'd already informed me of this, but I just nodded again. "That's sounds like so much fun. I love you."
"I love you too, Daddy. Have a good day at work and don't get kicked again," she said in all seriousness.
"I'll watch out for legs." I smirked, recalling the little boy who'd kicked me yesterday because my stethoscope was too cold. Well, supposedly. I believed the kid just liked to kick people. "Thanks for the reminder. Call me when you get home, all right? Bye, Bean."
She was soon out of my view, sliding off of the stool in her mother's kitchen to finish getting dressed. Before I could end the video call, though, Tanya took her place. I didn't hate my ex-wife. Hell, I'd even call her a friend still. But her sitting down meant she needed to tell me something, and decided to wait until the last moment so it'd be impossible for me to say no. I glanced at my watch, knowing I needed to leave soon — as did she.
"What's going on?" I asked, sighing softly.
She smiled sweetly, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear. "I understand that it's short notice, but I have to go out of town this weekend for possibly quite some time. I was hoping you wouldn't mind coming down a little early? I'd reschedule if I could, but my boss needs me down in Los Angeles to consult on a huge case."
Tanya was a defense attorney — a damn good one, at that. She was a partner at her firm in Portland, but she seemed to be needed just about everywhere. You'd think this would be a reason to change our custody agreement, but like I said, she was a damn good attorney, which meant it would be almost impossible to challenge our agreement and win. She had Sawyer through the school year, I had her during the summer, and we alternated Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Not the arrangement I'd have liked, but . . . I knew better than to try and change it.
"When do you need me to come pick her up?" I asked.
"Friday, please? I can probably get Maggie to stay Friday night if Saturday works better for you."
No offense to Maggie — I was sure she was a fine nanny — but I fucking hated that someone besides Tanya cared for our daughter. Tanya and I were on good terms, but there was a part of me that would always be angry with her for moving from Seattle to Portland with our daughter. If she'd stayed here after the divorce, our daughter wouldn't need a nanny.
"I'll reschedule some patients and be there Friday," I said. It wasn't like I'd pass up a few extra days with my little girl, after all. "Will you tell her tonight?"
She nodded with a grin across her face. "Of course. Thank you so much, Edward. I have to go, so I'll talk to you later."
"All right, bye," I said as the screen went black.
Eight days were now only three, and though I wished Tanya had let me in on this a little sooner, I was honestly thrilled with the change. A few days wasn't much, but I'd never pass up a little extra time with my baby girl.
I'd give anything for more, actually.
"I swear to God, if Alice set me up with one of her hippie friends, I might actually strangle her this time," I groaned, thinking about my date tonight. The first one in six months, mind you. "I can't believe I agreed to this."
"Well, to be fair, she can't be any worse at picking women for you than you are," Garrett said, smirking as he sat down across from me in our office lounge. "You had to change your phone number after the last one, man. She was batshit crazy."
Unfortunately, this was true. I'd been divorced six years and dated here and there — nothing too serious, though. When Tanya and I split and she moved away, I was in the middle of my residency and just didn't have time for it. Even once I took up my father's offer to join his practice, my time was still limited and it seemed that once I told my dates I had a daughter, things stopped pretty quickly. I was fairly young still, and so were they. I couldn't blame them for not wanting the baggage, and I didn't want someone who considered my kid baggage.
I was thirty-three, divorced, and a workaholic, and finding a woman to spend my life with just wasn't high up on my list of priorities. So, I dated women who weren't looking for that, which led to the crazy Jessica that Garrett had so thoughtfully reminded me of.
She'd changed her mind about that not-serious thing.
"The first sign of crazy and I'm fucking gone," I sighed. "I'll fake a call from the hospital and not even be ashamed of it."
He laughed, cracking his neck and lifting his coffee mug. "Just text me and I'll help you out. Hey, we can make it true and you can take over being on call for me."
Though I loved my job, being on call sucked. The thing about being a pediatric cardiologist was that the kids were great. It was the parents that were the problem. Granted, their kids were sick so they had a right to be concerned, but there was a fairly good chance that having to go to the ER at four in the morning would turn out to be nothing. In fact, my job seemed to be split between making kids feel better and calming parents down.
I'd probably spent more of my morning satisfying parents than actually treating the kids, but that was my life. And to be honest, I was pretty damn good at both aspects.
"I'm sure she's not completely insane," Garrett said. "She's a child psychologist like Alice, right?"
"Yeah, I guess they met at some conference a while back. Maybe she won't be so bad, and I mean, there is a possibility of getting laid."
I hadn't agreed to this pretty much blind date for that reason alone, but six months was a long time, to say the least. If there was a chance to end the dry spell, I figured I'd take it.
"Well, I'll keep you in my thoughts," he joked. "Now, why is my schedule suddenly so full on Friday? What's so important that you're taking off on short notice?"
"I'm getting Sawyer early," I grinned, closing my laptop and picking up my sub. "Tanya has a business trip, which she just informed me of this morning. I'm sure you'll survive a few extra patients."
Our practice had four cardio doctors. Two pediatric cardiologists — Garrett and me — and then two pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons, which were my father and Dr. Eleazar Reid. Dad had started this practice a few years ago because he wanted to be able to offer both the medical and surgical aspects of our specialties at the same place. It was a fairly successful practice and one of the few around. We all shared patients and consulted together, but Garrett and I worked as more of a team on our own, which meant that when I wasn't here, he cared for my patients and vice versa.
I felt a little bad for leaving him patients on short notice, but at the same time, I really didn't.
"Yeah, I guess I'll survive, but you're only getting away with it because it's Sawyer," he said. "Have you told her about Disney World yet?"
"No, but I told her I had a surprise. She really wanted to know," I chuckled. "I'll tell her when I pick her up. She's going to flip."
That was probably an understatement, actually. With the help of a travel agent, I'd managed to plan every eight-year-old girl's dream Disney vacation.
"You're probably going to have to sedate her on the plane ride to Florida. God, I can't wait to see her again. I'm sure she's grown four inches since Christmas."
"Not even close, but yeah . . . it's hard to believe she's eight already."
He sipped his coffee, nodding. "Time flies by, I guess. I'm glad you're getting a few extra days with her, which better mean I get to see her before you head to Disney World. I miss that little girl."
Garrett and I had been friends since medical school, and he'd known Sawyer her whole life. When Tanya had moved away with her, Garrett helped me through it — flying to Seattle from Boston, where he'd completed his residency. I couldn't hate my ex-wife, but he did. I was a fucking mess after that, and he'd kept me together. Tanya and I divorcing wasn't the problem — her taking my kid was.
"She misses you too, man. She even include a super awesome slumber party with Uncle Garrett and Aunt Kate on her do to list."
"She better have," he chuckled, looking at his watch. "I guess I'd better go read some echos and work on charts. I'll see you later, okay? I expect you to be walking in tomorrow with a skip in your step."
I smirked. "Let's hope. See you later."
After he left the lounge, I finished my lunch and then went back to my office to prepare for our afternoon clinic patients. My day was fairly busy, but it made the time pass by faster and soon enough, it was five o'clock.
As I headed toward my car, I called Sawyer because she hadn't called me when she got out of school. She answered quickly, apologizing for forgetting to call.
"It's okay, Bean," I said, sliding into my car and transferring the call to my stereo. "So, did you have a good last day?"
As I drove, Sawyer went on and on about her last day of school — which had been a blast, apparently. She hadn't seemed aware that I was picking her up a few days early, so I had to keep that to myself until Tanya told her tonight. If she did, even. She wasn't home yet, so Maggie was with Sawyer. That was pretty normal, though. The woman worked more hours than I did, which seemed impossible.
"Did you tell Uncle Garrett about our slumber party?" she asked.
I nodded to myself. "I did and he can't wait. I'm sure he's already coming up with ways to spoil you and ruin your appetite for days."
"We'll only eat ice cream," she giggled. "Did you get kicked today?"
I laughed. "No, not today, thankfully. I had a good day, too. I have some plans tonight, but if Mom doesn't get home soon and you want to talk, just call me, okay?"
"Uh-huh. She said we'd go out for ice cream later, so I hope she gets home soon. She's been really busy lately, though."
"I know, baby," I sighed. "You know she loves you, though, right?"
"Yeah, I know. She's just got a super important job. Maggie says dinner's ready, so I gotta go."
"All right, I'll talk to you later. I love you so, so much. Hugs and kisses."
She smooched into the phone, making me smile. "I love you too, Daddy. I can't wait to see you."
"I can't wait to see you too. Bye."
The line went dead, and I hung up the phone as I pulled into my garage. I wasn't meeting my date until eight, so once I got inside and put my bag down, I popped open a beer and settled onto my couch to work on charts — my usual evening routine.
I'd been on more first dates in my life than I could count. Some were memorable, but most weren't. Tonight, though, as I sat at our reserved table and waited for my date to arrive, I found myself nervous for the first time. I mean, I didn't even know what this woman would look like — besides being a brunette. That didn't exactly narrow down my options, though.
I almost wanted to kick myself for agreeing to this blind date as the minutes ticked on and couple after couple passed me. But then, the hostess led a beautiful brunette back toward me. She wore a tight black dress, and I could've sworn her legs went on for days. I was ashamed to say that I gawked — not ashamed enough to stop, though. To be honest, I was expecting someone quite different. Hell, I wouldn't have been surprised if the woman had a flower in her hair and no shoes, like Alice tended to do.
My sister was a few decades late, but would've fit in perfectly with the hippies of the sixties. Instead, she drove a Prius and had multiple bins designated for recycling . . . She'd enjoyed the pot during her college years, though.
Dear God, please be Bella, I thought as they neared the table. I quickly stood, pulling the chair across from me out. "Bella?" I asked.
She nodded and a bright smile spread across her lips. "You must be Edward. It's nice to meet you," she said, holding her hand out.
I shook it lightly before she took her seat and I found mine once more. "You . . . are not what I expected," I confessed, chuckling nervously. "It's very nice to meet you. You look gorgeous."
God, she really did. The black dress was low cut and tight . . . and well, you could imagine that my view was quite incredible. Clearly, I needed to meet more of Alice's friends.
Her cheeks flushed as she brushed a lock of hair behind her ear. "Thank you. I, uh . . . I can't say I've been on many blind dates, so what exactly do we do now?"
Her soft laugh was infectious and I found myself doing the same. "To be honest, I'm not entirely sure either. I guess we should start off simple."
And we did. I asked where she was from, and she told me about Forks — a small town on the Olympic peninsula. She'd gone to college in Arizona, but recently moved back because of a job offer and to be closer to her family. It was then I found out she was six years younger than me.
Alice neglected to inform me that I'd be seeing a twenty-seven year old — not that I was complaining, though.
"You're a child psychologist, right?" I asked.
She nodded. "Yeah, I completed my doctorate in only five years. Basically, I've had no life for the past ten years."
Fuck, she was beautiful and brilliant. Garrett was right that Alice was better at finding dates for me than I was.
"That sounds like me in medical school," I chuckled. "That's actually incredible, really. You must be just out of school, right?"
"I graduated last summer and I had a job in Phoenix, but . . . it wasn't really what I wanted. My appointment times with my patients were so strict and I felt like I wasn't in control of their care. The moment I got the offer to join a small, new practice here, I took it. I love it."
She went on to tell me more about her job, and I found myself glued to her every word as we enjoyed our appetizer and waited for our entrees. She soon turned the conversation on me, wanting to know about my job and life.
"You have a daughter, don't you?" she asked. "I don't think Alice told me her name, though."
"Sawyer. I know it's . . . odd, but I didn't pick it," I chuckled. Tanya had pretty much decided our daughter's name without me, and though it seemed a little strange at first, I couldn't imagine calling her anything else. "She's eight and lives with her mother in Portland through the school year. I actually call her Bean a lot."
She cocked her eyebrow, smiling. "Well, I have to hear the story behind that."
I went on to tell her about my bean. I'd jokingly said she looked like a kidney bean on our first ultrasound, and it had stuck with both Tanya and me. She was our little bean — a surprise, but the most precious thing in the world to us, even at that early stage.
"Oh, that's adorable," she laughed.
I grinned, nodding. "She's pretty adorable, let's just say."
"May I see a picture?"
It was as if this woman knew the way to hook me was through my daughter, so I quickly pulled out my phone and passed it to her. The photo was from a few months ago when Tanya'd had another business trip and I'd taken a few days off to go down to Portland to stay with Sawyer. Bella's smile was wide as she aww'd at the picture, telling me how much we looked alike.
Sawyer was actually a pretty even mix of Tanya and me, though she leaned toward being more like me — right now, at least.
"God, she's so cute," she said, passing my phone back to me as our entrees came. "Thank you for letting me see her."
"Like I'd ever say no to showing off my daughter." I smirked. "I'm actually picking her up Friday and she'll spend the summer with me. I can't wait."
"I can imagine. I have a nephew, and now that I'm back I get to keep him every once in a while."
"Do you have a brother or sister? Or both?"
"Just one brother, Emmett. He's a Seattle police officer."
As she began to tell me about her family, my phone suddenly began ringing. I quickly pulled it from my pocket, expecting to find Garrett — only it wasn't.
"Huh, it's a Portland area code," I said. "I should probably take it, just in case."
She nodded. "Of course."
"I'll be right back," I said, standing from my seat to walk outside. I put the phone to my ear and answered, "Hello?"
"Is this Edward Cullen?" an unfamiliar female voice said as I pushed open the door and stood off to the side.
"Yes, it is."
"Mr. Cullen, my name is Dr. Irina Forester and I'm a trauma surgeon at Providence Hospital in Portland, Oregon. I'm afraid there's been an accident."
My heart seemed to stop as I asked, "Is my daughter okay?"
Nothing could have prepared me for the next words out of her mouth. "She and her mother were in a car accident. I'm so sorry, but Tanya was very seriously injured and we weren't able to resuscitate her."
"She-she's dead?" I choked out as the world around me seemed to fade away.
"I'm very sorry, sir."
"Oh my god. She . . . wait, what about Sawyer?" I asked, my voice cracking as her words echoed through my mind.
God, no. Please no.
"She's in critical condition, and I need to get her into surgery right away to manage her internal bleeding. I need your consent, sir."
"Yeah . . ." I mumbled, trying to wake up from this horrible nightmare. "Yes, yes, save my daughter."
"I'll do my best, but you need to get here as soon as possible."
"I'm in Seattle. I'll be there as soon as I can. Is-is she going to die? Please, just tell me. I'm a doctor."
She sighed softly as tears burned my eyes. "Her spleen ruptured and she has multiple fractured ribs, which punctured her left lung and liver. She has other injuries, but those are the most serious as of right now."
She didn't say the words, but I knew . . . My daughter could easily die, as her mother had.
Disclaimer: SM owns Twilight, not me.
Hello again! So, some of you might remember Just Breathe, which went on hiatus and then I pulled a while back. I decided I didn't like it and couldn't write it as it was, so I rewrote it — changing almost everything except the basic plot. I've got a few chapters prewritten and an entire outline this time, so my goal is to update every two weeks, though the next chapter will come in about a week. A Few More F Words only has two more chapters, so I figured I'd go ahead and start posting.
I owe a massive thank you to Bookwormbaby25 and MelissaMargaret for taking their time to beta.
Also, thank you to Kelley, Marita, Dee, and Marie for prereading.
And of course, thank you for taking the time to read. I hope you enjoy this story and I'd love to hear your thoughts.