SUMMARY: Can someone who has known nothing but hurt and dysfunction find love after the age of forty? Only time can tell, if 'the things that make you click' can bring you happiness. Bella/Edward pairing, all human, rated M.
Special thanks goes out to the team of gals who made this readable: Jess2002, Savannavansmutsmuts, Sarah and pyejammies. The awesome Banner was made by: Mina, thanks so much dear for the wonderful manip and banner.
Disclaimer: All things Twilight Saga related belong to Stephenie Meyer, no copyright infringement is intended. I may not own the characters, but I do own a cat named Thunder and he does act exactly the way he is described. All things within this storyline are the thoughts and writings of TeamAllTwilight.
The Things That Make You Click
"I hate these sleepless nights," I say to my cat, as if he gives a damn why I'm pacing the floor. I stop and look down at him as he twines himself around my feet.
"Meow," he yowls out at me, and then walks to his food bowl.
"What, Thunder? You have food and water."
I watch as he rubs the food bag, and I sigh. "Fine, I'll pour more food in the bowl. God for sake, you have to actually eat food that has been in the bowl for an hour or more."
What a sad life, I talk to the cat, and he talks back. I put down fresh water, and watch as he delicately sits by his dish. The gracefulness of the cat cracks me up. I can almost picture him wearing a freaking bib, or tossing a napkin across his lap. He is such a trip, how hoity-toity of him.
I go in and sit at my desk. Racking my brain for my next big story idea. As I think over different ideas traveling through my head, I reflect on parts of my own life. I'm a divorced mother of three, and I write for enjoyment—hopefully someday as a career. The only bed companion I have is my cat, Thunder, and he is a blanket hog. Sometimes I miss having a man beside me. But then I think back to all the drama and lies that seem to go hand in hand with every man I've ever known, and the desire is out the door. My parents are no longer alive, and my kids are about all the family I have. My daughter Chelsea, is fifteen this year and a freshman in high school. She is quiet, and has a very small number of friends, but they're all friends worth having. My middle child Charlotte is thirteen, and she is a handful on her best days. Then there is my baby, my boy, Charles, who is eleven. My children are my life, and writing is my portal into happiness.
Growing up I never had the ideal life. When I was nine my mom, who was raising me alone since I was four, started dating. By the time I was close to ten, I spent more time alone than I did with my mom. I had no contact with my father from age six, until I was sixteen—but we'll catch up to that part later. By age twelve, my mom moved me to a strange town that was close to twenty miles from downtown. I went from living in the heart of one city, to living in the boondocks of another. Different state, different town, it was a complete different style of living. The only thing that remained the same for me was spending most of my time alone. Actually my time alone began to grow.
Being a pre-teen and having no supervision did wonderful things for finding new friends. Of course, the only kids who wanted to hang with me were the bad seeds. I made a lot of older friends and managed to start going to school 'higher than a kite' most of the time. School, now there was a joke. I hated it, and had actually been proficient in skipping school since third grade. I never ate healthily and therefore I had quite the weight problem. I literally got to the point where I was lucky to see my mother once every three days or so. After living in the boondocks for a year, I was lucky to see her every other week. I did have a few days where she managed to come home every day. Ironically, someone called the Department of Human Services on her, for neglect. Of course it was all unfounded, and before long she moved me out of there.
I started my first real job at age fourteen, and I loved having my own money. Unfortunately I found that I needed my hard earned cash to buy myself food, or I had to live on Ramen noodles. Where it wouldn't have hurt me to miss a meal or two, I ate my loneliness away. By the time I was sixteen, we had moved at least a dozen times, and I spent several months being shipped around to different friends and family members. I was in a horrific car accident, in which I could have easily died. Then in a span of just over three months I lost both my grandparents. I missed them so much, and it seemed like everyone else was only worried about what they got to inherit. I begged my mom to get me away, and I moved to a small farming town to stay with distant relatives of my father's for a few months.
One day out of the blue my father, his wife, and son stopped by. I was shocked when I saw the son, and knew who he was immediately. I had not seen my father or his family since I was six, but I knew without introductions who they were. I walked into the room where the adults were all sitting, and my father didn't even acknowledge me. It was difficult, because I already felt so tossed aside in life anyway. Finally his wife asked me if I was going to say hi and at least give her a hug. I did, and I felt better knowing she at least knew who I was. My father then spoke up out of the blue, and mentioned how he wouldn't have known me if I passed him walking down the street. He also mentioned that I was getting fat like my mother. He promptly followed that up with asking how much money I was getting, since he was just told my grandparents were both dead now.
To say I was stunned was a complete understatement and I was instantly angry. I proceeded to say some rather unsavory things that no sixteen year old girl should know how to say and storm off. I worked out my aggression by doing farm chores, and did my best to stay away from them while they were there. It hurt for many reasons, but mainly because I thought his wife remembered me on her own, and he had no clue who I was. I saw my father one more time after that day, and he was at least civil to me. The damage was done, and I, using the German temper he gave me, held a grudge against him for his words, neglect, and actions over the years.
I finally returned back to the place I came from, but to a new apartment, of course. At least I wasn't out in the boondocks again, after that one time. I again had to start over and make new friends. I was lucky and reunited with some of my old friends too. I no longer took any drugs, but still smoked cigarettes and drinking was my favorite thing to do. When I was seventeen, I held my birthday party surrounded by my mom and friends at a bar, where I was only allowed to drink soda. I had a second party with my older friends at another bar, where they gave me a free pony keg of beer, for having my birthday party there. At seventeen, I also experienced my mother living with me for the first time in five years. Her boyfriend dumped her for someone else and so she came home, well to my home. Things were okay, except when she tried to tell me how to live my life and what to do. We moved a few more times, and my life was a whirlwind of dysfunction.
I first started dating or whatever you want to call it, when I was twelve. The boy, who was my first love, only liked me so he could meet and date all my friends. Sadly he had also been a good friend since age five or six. There is a nine month difference in our ages, with me being older. After he had sex with me, he managed to have sex with so many of my friends I lost count. He did actually have sex with one of my friends and her sister, so at least he didn't just use me. The second person I called my boyfriend, was a relationship started over the phone. We got along great and talked all the time. When we met things were okay, other than I was worried he would dislike me for being fat or decide he liked my friend more than me. We were together as boyfriend and girlfriend for a long time, but he did eventually end up with one of my friends.
I fooled around with and kissed a few other boys in there, but nothing ever serious and no one that I would consider a boyfriend. Then I met this guy who was older than I was. I had always gotten along better with older people, but I was forced to act older than I was from a very early age. So at fourteen, I acted more like I was in my twenties. The guy was twelve years older than I was. The most we ever did was kiss, but he, like my first boyfriend, used me to meet and do all my friends. He really broke my heart, and I was very vulnerable. I met another guy and he was also older than I was, but only by three years. I really liked him, and he seemed to really like me. We hung out a lot, but of course a monkey wrench got thrown in there and he no longer wanted me. I felt used by him the most. To my knowledge he never really cheated on me while we were together, but I was more of a booty call, than a relationship to him.
When I finally got into another serious relationship, I was tainted. When he cheated on me and lied to me, I overlooked it. I thought I deserved it. After we broke up I immediately met the man who would become my first husband. He was just a couple of years younger than I was, but we got along well. We were married for a year before he took off the first time. He took our only vehicle, leaving me stranded in a small town where we had moved, without transportation. I lost a job because I had no way to get to work. He would never get and hold a job, and I was our soul provider. I later found out that each of the five times he left me he was shacking up with his ex-girlfriend. I finally had enough and filed for divorce, his parting gift was my now fifteen year old daughter.
I met my second husband shortly thereafter. I was actually five months pregnant when I met him. I was very jaded and very wary of bullshit by this time. When this guy started doing things and saying things to sweep me off my feet, I was at best shocked. We seemed to be perfect for each other. No one in my whole life had made me feel so loved, so complete. He bought me flowers, and gifts. He held a job and helped pay bills. Things were amazingly perfect. I actually started to believe that I was worthy of being loved. I thought I had finally met a man who was worth loving. I was wary of our age difference, because I was almost nine years older than he was. His kindness, respect, and love made me forget any apprehensions about his age that I had.
After we lived together for seven years and had two children together and he raised my oldest daughter as if she was his, we took the plunge and got married. Almost right away things changed. It was as if marrying me made him hate me. The respectfulness was pretty much gone. He started being mean to me more and more. Finally, less than three years after being married, we were sleeping in separate rooms, and barely speaking to each other. Life in our house became hell. He became mean and resentful. He would throw things and break them. Call me names, and say mean things. He finally left me for good four years after we were married. Almost three years later we are now divorced.
My father died right before he moved out for good, and my mother died almost a year ago from now. After my mom moved me around so much as a kid, I pretty much lost almost all contact with my family. I was single for over two years, and finally agreed to date a guy I had met. Within two months of dating me, he cheated and I washed my hands of him. For the past four months I've been single and enjoying my time being that way. I've learned one thing very well over the years: if you can't be happy alone, you'll never be happy with someone else. I'm not perfectly happy, but finding a guy is not a priority. There are things I would change if I could, but who wouldn't. I am currently working on trying to change a few of those things right now.
I sigh and decide it is time to head to bed. Maybe I do need to put myself out there and try to find actual happiness. With that in mind, I go to bed thinking about the different prospects out there for an overweight, forty-three-year-old, mother of three.
A few weeks have passed since my night of reminiscing on my shitty life. I've finally decided to put up an ad on a dating website. Being the blatantly honest person I am, I pull no punches. By the time I'm done setting up my profile, I highly doubt anyone will respond to it. I sit at my desk and go over a few more chapters of things friends are writing. By the end of the week, I'm not at all surprised that there is not one response to my profile. I decide to do something out of character and go to a local hangout. To say that some casual friends I have are shocked to see me, would be an understatement. I spend the night chatting and having a couple of drinks. I listen to them all complain about this or that. We all quietly snicker among ourselves about the gal who is always acting so happily married who is currently hanging off several men—none of whom are her husband.
Going home I find I'm more excited than ever to be back home. Going out only managed to reconfirm for me that the dating pool is shallow and the swimmers around here are not worth holding your breath for. I sit at my desk and open my email. I'm instantly shocked to see that I have one lone message from the dating account I opened. Unsure if I'm still interested, I bypass it and read all my other mail. I almost delete it without reading it, but something pulls me in and I open it.
Hello Ms. Bee,
I am forty-five and my name is Edward. I have read your profile about a dozen times, and I am finally getting the nerve to message you. I hate the games and lying that go into dating and I like the rather brash way you come across in your profile. You seem to have spunk, and you don't seem to filter things to make others happy or make them like you.
I would like it very much if we could possibly chat online, exchange a few emails and maybe talk on the phone sometime. If you are willing after reading this and going over my profile, let me know.
I log into the site and check the message there and click on the profile that the message came from. I signed up, but this is the first profile I have actually searched out and read through. The picture shows an attractive man, so my first thought is screaming through my head, "fake profile!" I read it anyway and find that his words seem to be everything I would want to read. It scares me that he's coming across as too perfect. It almost seems too good to be true. I go over the profile again and again, and re-read the message. I decide to email the person back and see exactly just how 'real' this person is.
You can call me, Bella, it's my nickname. I was rather shocked looking at your photo, and with reading your profile. I have to say that I like all of the things that you said. However, I am very leery as to why someone as strikingly handsome as you would choose to message a 'Plain Jane' kind of gal like me. My picture is me, taken a few weeks before this profile was set, when I attended a concert for my daughter who would only wear make-up and dress up if I did. Enclosed with this message you will see a picture of the real me, the one who goes out and hangs with a few friends for the first time in ages, and doesn't even bother with make-up or doing my hair in a special way. The same me that you would see, if you came to my house unannounced. I am not fake, and my biggest pet peeve—beyond liars—is fake people. I'm open to chatting and exchanging a few emails and such. I'm sorry if this request comes across as rude, but would you please send me a candid photo of yourself taken right now, just like I have done? I know it's a lot to ask, but I feel the need to have you show me the real, every day you.
I click send and log into Facebook to play a few games. After playing all the different games, I check my email once more before getting ready to log off. I'm shocked to see that there is a reply from Edward already. I hesitate slightly before opening it, thinking that maybe it is a 'yeah piss off' type email.
I snapped this picture right before I started to reply to you with my cellphone and I'm enclosing it with this message. I'm really me, but like you, I have little to no trust in a lot of the human race. Therefore, I always like to have some sort of reassurance, and never mind giving some in return, so I wasn't offended in the least by the request. Make-up or not, you are a very attractive woman, and I would say that you are perfectly beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and you can see the beauty not only in your skin, but your eyes and smile. I noticed that your profile is clear that you are over-weight and that you will never be a 'twig girl' as you said, but I have never found myself that attracted to a gal who doesn't have curves. Your honesty, drive for life, and attitude far surpass the beauty of the flesh.
I know that you're a parent, as you mentioned it both in your note to me as well as your profile. I'm also a single parent. My ex-wife is not in the picture, and I've raised my children for the past eight years without any help at all. Well other than some family and childcare providers. My baby is turning ten in three weeks, and she is quite the dictator. My oldest is sixteen and he is a great kid, but very shy and quiet. My middle two are twins and are thirteen. They are complete opposites. Of my twins, my daughter is out going and bubbly, and my son is smart but very reserved.
I know from reading your profile that you have two girls and a boy. What are their ages, if you don't mind me asking? I'm assuming one of them is at least over ten, if you coaxed her to wear make-up. You just don't strike me as a pushy pageant mom. Not that there is anything wrong with pageant mothers, however they do come across rather fake and scheming neither of which seem like you. Don't feel obligated to share the info on your children. I understand the need to stay somewhat ambiguous when first meeting and getting to know someone.
I feel rather strange. I'm normally not at a loss for words, but I have this overwhelming desire to tell you a ton of things, yet I have so many questions as well. I think it would be easiest if we did the whole 'get-to-know-you' thing and get it out of the way. Kind of like twenty questions, but I'll tell you things I'd like to ask you about. So let me see how this goes.
My favorite color is blue, but after seeing your beautiful deep brown eyes, I had second thoughts on that. My favorite season is fall, because the weather is not cold and not hot and the colors of the trees changing always make me smile. My favorite foods are Mexican and Chinese, and in a perfect world I could eat those two kinds of food everyday. I work as a contractor, and have been a member of the local union for over twenty years, and have never been laid off. I own my home, and other than debit cards, I have only one credit card for emergencies. My debt is next to nothing, as my house and vehicles are paid off. I'm not the best cook in the world, but I have mastered the basic kids' favorites.
There is so much more that I would like to know and share, but I will wait until I see your reply to share more. I hope that you get some rest, since it is rather late. I'm guessing you've already gone to bed, but I hope that you have sweet dreams. Good night pretty lady.
Wow! What a note. I click reply before I think to look at the clock.
I'm not in bed yet. I tend to catch myself staying up extremely late when I have no plans for the next day. As for being a pageant mother, I'm so depressed that you are dissing my calling in life … NOT! I cringe when the kids flip through the channels and they stop on that train wreck of a family of Honey Boo-Boo. The thought gives me the heebie-jeebies.
I had to smile when I got your photo, you must've been running your fingers through your hair. It's a hot mess. But it's very attractive that way I might add. As for eyes, you have the most strikingly soulful eyes, and that particular shade of green is very vivid.
I don't mind sharing general info about my children, besides they're all on Facebook, even the youngest one, who isn't technically old enough. My oldest daughter is fifteen, and a freshman in high school. She is the one I had to coax to wear make-up. She is a girlie girl, but hates the fringe that goes with it, except for painting her fingernails. She's shy and likes to hang with a few special friends, but is more of a follower than a leader. She does well in school; however she has a special education teacher, because she has a learning disorder called Dysgraphia. She has no real desire to learn to drive yet, so for now my patience and nerves are not tested too far.
My middle child is also a girl and she is thirteen, going on twenty-five. She's my dictator as you called your youngest. She thinks she's the boss, and most of the time she uses good judgment, however, I pick my battles and when I need to step in, I do, and I remind her who the boss is. She also has help in school, but her help is more in the form of behavioral classes. She has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and therefore has to take medication. She's kind and fun loving most of the time, but she does have her moments. She's also very brave and doesn't back down from a challenge.
My baby is my son, who is eleven, almost twelve. He is a total momma's boy, but he is also very tough. He does exceptionally well in school, without cracking a book, or trying. He is naturally bright, and he's also very athletic. He loves all kinds of sports, and the rougher or tougher the better. He is a huge professional wrestling fan, and if he can't watch Monday night Raw, he sets the DVR to record it. He is a lot like me, he loves to read and he doesn't mind if others are quiet or loud, as long as everyone is happy. He likes to play outside, or lay back and read. I would say one of his favorite pass times is video-games, but he'll spend most of the summer at the local pool.
As for me, my favorite color is black or purple. I love both Mexican and Chinese food, and I have been told that I make damn good Mexican food. I've never attempted to really cook Chinese food, other than some fried rice. It's too easy to go to the Chinese buffet. I also prefer the fall, when it's so pretty outside, but not too hot or cold. I hate snow, but hate the ice more. I'm not the best cook in the world, but I have never had anyone refuse to eat something I've made. I like to read and write, and I work as a mobile DJ, mainly doing wedding receptions and some bar karaoke shows. I mainly work Friday and Saturday nights. I don't have any credit cards, and most of my own personal debt is paid off. I still owe around six grand on my home, but I own my older vehicle outright.
My ex-husband doesn't have a lot to do with my children. He hardly ever sees my oldest or youngest. He does see my middle child more so than her siblings, and he chooses it to be that way. My son doesn't like to spend a lot of time with him, because he hates the way that he speaks about me, and the way that he's treated. The same goes for my oldest and it's very sad to see them feel so slighted by him. Honestly, in the past eight months he has seen the oldest and youngest twice, and that is bridging several holidays in that time frame. My ex is also now living with a woman who was a close friend of mine—she was even the bride's helper at our wedding. My kids feel very hurt by her change of attitude toward me, and them now that she is dating their father. Even my middle child, who at times thinks that her father's word is golden, complains about the way that they both behave and treat them all now. It's ugly and they're certainly a large part of why I have issues with taking people at face value.
Oh wow, I just looked at the clock and realized that it's after midnight. I should head to bed since we have a picnic planned for tomorrow. I'm so glad to see an end to the longest winter, ever! Looking forward to hearing from you again, and thanks for being so understanding.
I log out, and head to bed. I smile as I think about how nice just letting go and chatting to someone makes me feel, especially without being under a spotlight while doing so. It's really nice to have someone tell you that they think you're beautiful, especially when you haven't felt that way in a very long time. I go to sleep with a smile on my face, and it's the first night that I dream about the man who brought that smile back to my face.
After just over four weeks of daily emails, I finally feel safe enough to share my phone number with Edward. He texts me seconds after getting my number, and I smile as I read his words.
"On my lunch break and read your message. I couldn't wait to text you and give you my number. I'll talk to you later tonight. Garrett has a game tonight, so I won't be home until after seven. I'll call you around eight-thirty, after I put Maggie to bed. Have a great day, beautiful. Edward~"
I quickly type out a reply. "I'll be home, glad you got my message. Have a good day. Good luck to Garrett at his game. Bella~"
I can't stop the smile on my face, as I save his number in my phone. When my neighbor, Alice, asks what is going on to make me so happy, I tell her I'm just having a good day. I've managed to keep this man a secret. I'm not ashamed of him, or how we met, but I'm still very gun-shy and until I actually know this man for real and in person, I choose to keep him to myself.
I make everyone's favorite for dinner and it seems like most of the neighborhood is eating at my house. This is a pretty common occurrence. It seems like I'm always feeding at least four or five extra mouths. I'm not sure if it's because I am a good cook, or if it's that I'm the laid back mom.
I am strict, but I am also very laid back and I pick my battles accordingly. I'm proud to say that in this town where there are a decent handful of girls who are teen mothers, my oldest daughter is a virgin and intends to stay one for the foreseeable future. The closest my daughter has come to having a serious relationship is her hefty crush on the boy band One Direction. She has changed her favorite member at least three times. She's a good girl, but between the pain of first time sex and the idea of actually letting a boy touch her—there—she's the last one of my children I worry about having sex. My middle child will most likely be a lesbian. At this point she's not interested in boys either and likes wearing the pants way too much to ever handle a boyfriend. This is one thing my ex-husband and I agree on. He says she'll be a lesbian, and I say she'll either be a lesbian or a Domme. My son will eventually be a ladies' man, but right now his one true love is video games.
I put together five pizzas. Two are buffalo chicken, one loaded cheese steak pizza and two pepperoni pizzas, one of which is made with Alfredo sauce. I love having leftovers too, because it makes for an easy after school snack. My son is under a hundred pounds, but eats the same amount of food as most seniors in high school. I can't wait for him to be a senior, ha! I cook the pizzas one at a time, and make sure that the pepperoni ones get cooked first. I decide at the last minute to add a top crust to the loaded cheese steak pizza, and it turns out super yummy. Everyone has eaten and the kitchen is cleaned, before the kids are off in their own worlds. When I notice it's after eight, I start to get nervous. I'm not sure why, but this seems like such a huge step for me to take.
I decide to take a quick shower and go lie down in my room and wait for Edward to call. No sooner than I lie down, my phone rings. I glance at the screen and see it is Alice, my neighbor.
"Hey, Miss Lady, I just wanted to tell you that I'd take your oldest in the morning."
"Oh, okay. She said she was going to ask you to take her. Thanks," I say, as the other line beeps. "Hey, Alice, I have to go I've got another call."
"Oh, hot date?"
"Bye, Alice," I say before accepting the new call.
"Hello," I say sounding a bit exasperated from talking to my nosy friend.
"Hi there, how is your evening going?" I hear the softest, most-mellow sounding, velvety voice ask.
"Edward," I gasp lightly.
"Were you expecting someone else?" he asks with a chuckle.
"Well ... only this really nice man, who doesn't seem bothered by the crazy I've told him that goes on around my house," I respond and we both laugh. "I'm well, but the day was long. How about you?"
"My day was long, but at lunchtime I had this amazing woman send me her phone number. I messaged her, and she messaged me back immediately. My day got better after that. My son had a game, and though they lost, he had fun. Supper was interesting. We ordered pizza, and of course we have a ton of leftovers, because everyone likes different kinds."
I laugh because it is the same way in my house. It makes me wonder how many different pizzas I'd have to make if they were coming over for dinner.
"What's so funny?"
"We had pizza too, but ours was homemade. We ended up making five pizzas, two buffalo chicken, one loaded cheese steak and two pepperoni—but only one with marinara."
"Five? Did you feed the whole neighborhood? And a pizza without pizza sauce?"
"Well, Alice of course came over and got her standard two pieces of pizza. My other friend Rose and her two sons were here and they ate too. But yeah, we have a pizza and a half left over, so that will make a great after school snack tomorrow. I always make at least one pizza with Alfredo sauce instead of marinara, because I have a child who would rather not have marinara."
"I'll have to try Alfredo sauce pizza sometime, but really—homemade pizza—where have you been all my life?"
"You're so funny. You will like Alfredo pizza, most people do anyway—as long as you like Alfredo sauce."
"Well, it sounds good. Of course just about any meal I don't have to cook sounds wonderful."
"Ah, so that's why you're interested in talking to me, you want me to cook for you."
"No, but yeah, I'd love to have you cook for me. But it's not why we've been writing and now conversing. I would like to meet you at some point. I know I've enjoyed our emails, and the messages and now the phone conversation is nice. You don't really think that do you?"
"Not at all, Edward, I was teasing you. I've enjoyed meeting and learning things about you through email and now on the phone. Soon we'll set a time to meet, but first, how about we get to know each other a bit better?"
He agrees and we spend the next two hours on the phone chatting about lots of different things. We stay away from taxing subjects, but touch base on more things that we already know about each other. I have such a small amount of trust in the motives of men, that I find myself questioning things he's already told me. I chuckle a little when he calls me on it, but he does so teasingly. I've never been happier about laying out all the garbage to someone straight out of the gate. It is really refreshing to not feel the need to rose-color things to someone.
It has been fourteen weeks since we first emailed, and ten weeks since our first phone conversation. We have talked every day and texted several times a day. Right now I'm a nervous wreck, because I'm meeting Edward for the first time ever. We agreed to meet in a bigger town close to the two of us, which means each of us commuting about forty-five minutes. We are meeting in Waterloo, at the Isle Casino this afternoon. I hardly ever gamble, but we decided that we would meet there at three, hang out, have dinner, and enjoy the live band in the lounge area. My only suggestion was that we both wear comfortable clothing like jeans, and he quickly agreed. So here I am, wearing a pair of jean capris, and my black lace trimmed tank with a half buttoned, lime green, short sleeve button up over it. I slip my feet into my comfy black wedge sandals and grab my cute summery purse.
My son is spending the night with Rose's boys and my oldest is babysitting for Alice and Jasper. My thirteen-year-old is with her father this weekend. Sadly he didn't even ask about the other two kids. I send Alice a text reminding her that my daughter will text her if there are any issues, since I won't be home. She thinks I'm going to be DJ'ing a show, and when she assumed that I didn't correct her. The only person who knows that I'm meeting Edward is my good friend Jessica, from New York. I know she can't do much, but she knows everything I know about Edward. She is, and has been, my only sounding board in the USA throughout this entire process so far.
I drive to Waterloo, and as I near town, I feel my own nerves just settle, as if this is the right thing to do. I plan my time, so that I can arrive a little early. I let the valet park my car and I walk into the front doors of the Casino. I show my driver's license to the gate guard, gladly, when he asks for it. He smiles slightly and even blushes a little when he can clearly see I'm older than his mother probably is. I go to the customer service desk and get a member card, because they give you five dollars of free slot play just for signing up, as well as a free dinner at the buffet. I had already mentioned this to Edward, and he chuckled at me about a free date. I don't care, because I'm all about saving money when and where I can. I even told Edward, that we could have a free dinner and spend money at the casino if he wanted to spend money that desperately.
With my new player card in hand, and a balance of five dollars in slot usage on it, as well as my free buffet, I walk over towards the entrance and sit on one of the benches. Edward should be here in about twenty minutes, so I sit back and people watch. There are a wide variety of strange people who enter and exit the casino as I sit and wait. I'm watching the valet area, when I first see Edward in person. I would know that crazy hair anywhere. I smile as I watch him hand over the keys to his vehicle and walk toward the door. I pull out my cell and text him quickly telling him I am sitting by the waterfall. I watch as he grabs his phone and smiles as he reads my message.
He looks up as he comes in the door and the reaction I feel being eye to eye with him is astounding, even this far apart. I feel the electricity snap through my system. My reaction to seeing him makes my knees weak and I sit back down on the bench. I watch him as he makes his way across the lobby to me. When he's in front of me, he reaches out his right hand. I reach up and as soon as our skin meets the awareness I feel is much stronger. I stand again, and I almost have to sit again as he kisses the back of my hand.
"Bella, you are beyond words." I'm speechless, so I only nod. "It's so lovely to finally meet you in person."
"Uh, huh," I say stupidly. I laugh when he does, and smile as he leans in.
"I can feel it too, you're not alone."
Again I nod, but this time I manage to find my voice. "I thought you were attractive in your photos, but in real life, you are quite more than just ruggedly handsome."
"And you my sweets are much more than the 'Plain Jane' girl you say you are. Shall we go have a soda and sit in the lounge together?"
"Yes, that sounds fine, but I think water will be best for me. I don't think I need the caffeine right now."
"First free dinner, and now I can't even buy you a soda?"
"You're silly Edward, all soda and water is free, it's a casino," I say as we walk toward the entrance to the casino area. I chuckle at Edward when he's not carded to get in and decide to joke with him about being an old man. "Ha, you're so old, James there didn't ask for your ID."
"He didn't ask for yours either," Edward points out teasingly.
"That's because he already carded me," I say, with a huge smile.
We both are laughing as we enter the small lounge area. We sit and there's a built in video poker table top in front of us.
"So let me guess, you already signed up for your players' card?"
"Yep, I sure did. I got five dollars' worth of free slots or video gaming and the free buffet too."
"I told you that I wanted to buy you dinner."
"You can, the next time we go out," I say slyly. "That is, if you're not ready to run for the hills yet?" I say jokingly, but also questioningly.
I feel Edward's fingers on my chin, and I turn my head to face him. "I'm not running anywhere and my feet are perfectly warm right here beside you. I'm not everyone else, and I know that it will take a while to prove my words to you. I know a part of you is waiting for that other shoe to drop, but honey, you're stuck with me."
I smile and lean my head to the side as if the most natural thing in the world is to lay my head on his shoulder. With his arm around me, he kisses the top of my head, as a skimpily clad waitress makes her way over to us. I see the look on her face, and know right away that she's trying to figure out why a fine looking man like Edward is with the likes of me. I know Edward feels my body stiffen, and he looks up.
"Hi, there handsome, I'm Carmen, what can I get for you this wonderful evening?"
"Hey, Claire, we will both have an unopened bottle of that water you have, and we won't require your services anymore after that. Thanks," Edward says, not even looking at her at all.
I think that makes me like him just a little more. "Thank you," I mouth at him and he leans in and kisses the side of my head again.
"Of course, my sweet," he whispers.
We drink our water and sit there talking for quite some time. My phone buzzes and I apologize before grabbing it from my purse.
"Hello," I say with some worry seeing that it is Alice.
"Bella, I came to the bar to have a drink with you, because Jasper got sick and you're not down here DJ'ing tonight!"
"I'm not?" I say to be funny.
"Bella ..." she huffs.
"Alice ..." I say in the same tone.
"Where in the name of heaven are you?"
"Out," I say.
"Where at, 'out' are you located?"
"Iowa," I say with a chuckle, knowing she is getting really mad now.
"Damn it, Bella, where in the fuck are you? And better yet why didn't you tell me where you were going?"
"Alice, first cool your jets. Second, I'm over twenty-one, and free to do as I please. And third, I was unaware of your need, and, or your desire to know everything I do, as I do it and when I do it. For your information, I'm on a date with a rather nice man, and you're interrupting my time with him. If you value our friendship whatsoever, you will back the hell off and leave me alone. I will discuss this with you, when and if I choose to, not when you demand to know things. Now, unless there is an issue with my daughter, who is watching your child tonight, I'm going to go. So is my daughter okay?"
"Good, goodbye," I say and touch the end key on my cell. Turning back to Edward, I see him looking at me as if he has just seen something astounding. "What?" I ask, raising my brow in wonder of what is wrong.
"Would you like to come over and answer the phone for me, when exasperating people like my brother or mother call?"
"Why?" I ask with a smile.
"Because ... you are ... amazing. When you lay it on the line to people, you tell them how it is. I was stunned silent by the way you let her have it."
"Well, one thing about me, I will pretty much always say it like it is. Us," I motion between him and me, "I'm not ready to tell her about yet. We have only just met for the first time. Until I know where things stand between the two of us, I won't bring you around my kids. And to me it is more important that my kids meet you and like you, before my friends or neighbors. I have one friend who knows your name and contact information, and knows where I am tonight. I'm not stupid, but I am a private person. Alice, she likes to be the neighborhood know-it-all, but I don't need to be a part of her gossip fodder."
"You really astonish me, beyond words—you're just wonderful," he says, as I hear his stomach growl.
"Should we go feed that lion under your shirt, or are you trying to starve him to death?" I ask with a giggle.
"I think we should go and eat now," he says with a nod.
We get up and make our way to the buffet restaurant. I'm shocked to see it's already quarter to eight. We've been talking for almost five hours. It doesn't seem like the time has gone that fast, and I know that Edward is shocked by the amount of time that has passed too. When we get to the cashier at the entrance of the buffet, she asks if we have player cards. I nod handing mine over. Edward nods and hands his over too.
"So you've been here before?"
"Yeah, I brought the kids and my parents here right after they opened. We were here for the weekend, and I spent most of my time with my youngest—who had an ear infection. My parents entertained the rest of the kids at the pool most of the time. But I managed to play the one arm bandits for a short time after everyone else went to bed one night. I got a players card, when I cashed out, because I kind of hit the jackpot a little."
"I'm not a lucky person. I couldn't win if I tried."
"Sometimes you don't have to try to win the best things in life," he says.
I look at him quizzically, but the cashier interrupts me before I can ask him to explain. "Well this looks like you're both lucky to me. Your grand total this evening is zero dollars. You both have a free buffet for joining the Isle Players' Club. Enjoy your meal, the hostess will seat you."
I chuckle at the fact that Edward still got a free meal too. I feel the buzz as his hand rests on my lower back as we follow the hostess. Edward pulls out my chair. I was surprised with his constant good manners and pleased by how much of a gentleman he is. The waiter who gets our drinks is friendly, but clearly gay. I laugh as yet another employee who is supposed to wait on us, is checking Edward out. Only this time, I don't get upset. I'm pretty sure that I have no competition regarding this waiter.
"Okay, love, now why is it you flinched when the bar maid talked to us and was clearly flirting with me, but this waiter doesn't bother you at all?"
"That's simple," I say with a grin. "The waiter here could provide you with things that I couldn't therefore, there is no competition between him and I. If you wanted him, I would have to concede knowing that I couldn't ever give you the same things he could. That skanky waitress from the lounge—well she and I have the same stuff, just different wrapping."
"You, absolutely amaze me. You have no competition in this building, in this state, or in this world. You, Bella, are one gazillion times better than perfect for me, and I'm blown away by the fact that you're choosing to spend the evening here with me. Just being in your presence is beyond any expectations I have ever had for finding happiness in my adult life."
His words take away my breath, and I can only nod in acknowledgment of them.
We eat dinner, and hold hands as we talk. We walk around the casino for a while. We sit in the lounge and play table top video poker until I have spent all my five free dollars and an extra twenty Edward put in the machine. I laugh as we lose it all. I was sure to point out again that I have no luck. We listen to music and even dance to a couple of slow songs. I look at the clock and see it's after midnight.
"Edward, we both have long drives ahead of us. As much as I'm enjoying this night, we should call it a morning."
I watch as he looks at his watch, and he nods, but doesn't look happy. I stroke his cheek, and his eyes meet mine and I smile at him. "I don't want this time to end."
"Me either," I say, never doubting a bit of what either of us just said.
"Okay, but we have to do one more thing before we go."
"We have to go over to the high-rollers' area, and we have to put this in the machine and pull the lever."
"Edward, um, that is a one-hundred dollar bill. You're going to play one hundred dollars, worth of slot machine games before we can leave? We'll be here another hour."
"No, Bella, come on, I'll show you."
He takes my hand and we walk over to the roped off section. Edward puts his card into the slot on the machine and it welcomes him back to the casino. He then feeds the hundred into the money slot. I watch as the machine registers his money. I watch him press bet max per line, noticing that he is betting the entire amount on one pull of the handle. Still holding my hand he lifts our joined hands to the handle. I try to let go, and he gives me a look telling me I'm being silly. I relax my hand and together we pull the arm down. I watch in amazement as the older style slot reels spin at a rapid pace.
"I didn't know they had anything other than the computerized slots anymore."
"This is still computerized, it is just the old slot look," he says, pointing at the reels.
The first reel stops with a bell in the top and bottom and jackpot in the middle. The second reel stops with a wild spot in the top and bottom, and the word jackpot-doubler in the center, the third reel stops and it is a bell on top, jackpot in the middle and a bell on the bottom. I gasp as the machine starts blinking and ringing. Everyone is looking at us, and a floor attendant comes over to us and puts a key in the machine. I watch as the worker opens the machine and reads some numbers off the inside, hits a button and a piece of paper comes out of the redemption slot.
"Sir, you'll have to take this to the cashier to check out. Here's your card, and congratulations on behalf of the Isle Casino."
I'm speechless, and quite frankly in some sort of state of shock.
"Look there, you aren't unlucky, you sure are my lucky charm!"
I still can't say anything and still holding Edward's hand, I go with him to the cashier. I watch as the man behind the counter gives him a paper to fill out. Edward does so, and hands it back. "Sir, they are cutting you a check as we speak, and I'll have it momentarily," the cashier says.
I finally find my voice. "Ed-ward, how much money did you just win exactly?"
"How much did you say you still owed on your house?"
"I'm not telling you that and I'm not taking any of that money if that is what you're thinking."
"Well, I remember what you said and I could pay off your house three times with the amount we just won."
"YOU won ... not we. I am just amazed and blown away by how calm, cool, and collected you are about winning $18,000 dollars."
"The actual amount is $22,500, and you helped pull the lever. I guess now you'll have to let me take you out for a nice dinner, where neither of us eats for free."
I just nod my head dumbly, in complete awe of how relaxed he is. Had I been the one who won that amount of money, I'd be vibrating and jumping around. I would be so frantic I would've probably passed out. I certainly wouldn't be standing anywhere calmly waiting for a check to be cut. I glance at the clock and it's nearing one in the morning. I've spent over ten hours with this amazing man, and I really wish I didn't have to go home. I watch as the cashier hands Edward a check and then ask him if he can take a picture. Edward agrees and refuses to let me go. Holding me close to his left side, he holds the check up and smiles. The guy takes the photo, but chuckles and asks us to try again and tells me that I should at least close my mouth if I don't want to smile.
Edward leans close to my ear. "Hey, sweetie," he says and I look at him. He smiles at me and I smile right back. I see the flash, and the guy taking the picture says it's perfect. He informs Edward that the photo will be on the website by seven in the morning, and congratulates us both on our winnings. Before I can respond, Edward is pulling me away.
"I know it's late, are you okay to drive?"
"Yeah, I'm fine to drive. I'm just shocked that you simply aren't shocked that you won that much money. That's more money ... than I make in a year. You know I live on the low side of middle class. It's kinda scary to me that you don't seem fazed by that amount of winnings."
We stop walking and I see we're back by the bench in the lobby where we first spoke in person merely hours ago. "Bella, this money means so little to me, because with you beside me, I already felt as if I'd won the lottery. To be honest, I'm frightened too. I'm scared that if I let you go home now, I'll not see you again. I really like you, and I'm extremely attracted to you. I know that you said how another woman could give me the same things as you could, but you don't see yourself very clearly. There's nothing another woman could ever give me that can hold a candle to the things you can give me, by just smiling at me. I would love nothing more than to kiss you right now, but I have to know that it won't scare you away."
"Kiss me," I say, tilting my face up towards his. "I'm asking you to kiss ..."
My words are cut short as his lips touch mine. His left hand is still on my lower back, and with it he pulls me closer. I moan in his mouth as he sucks the plumpness of my bottom lip into his mouth slightly. I nibble at his top lip and he turns his head slightly to deepen the kiss more. As his tongue trails across my lip, I open my mouth and the butterflies go crazy in my stomach. I haven't felt this way about a kiss since I was fifteen and my biggest crush kissed me one morning before school. Before I know it my hands are threaded in his hair and I'm kissing him with all that I am. He's an amazing kisser, and as we both are breathing through our noses to keep kissing as long as possible, I feel his cell vibrate against my torso.
Breaking our kiss, he kisses the tip of my nose, but never lets me move away from him. I watch as he flips open his phone holder and pulls out his cell and reads the message. He pushes the call button, and I can hear the line ringing on the other end. "Hey Dad," I hear a boy answer, and I assume it is his oldest son, Benjamin.
"Hey, Ben, what's going on, is everything okay?"
"Yes, everything is fine. I was just letting you know I was going to bed. The alarm is set, and Maggie is in your bed, with her stuffed animal brigade. You owe me. I had to play tea party, twice. Dad, you said she'd grow out of that, she's ten, when will this happen?" he asks seriously.
I chuckle, and Edward does too. "I'll be home shortly. I'm getting ready to leave Waterloo now. I'll sleep on the sofa, so leave Magpie where she is. I'll see you in the morning, son, I love you," Edward responds.
"Yeah, love ya too, g'night."
"Well, I guess that is our cue to go home now, huh?"
"Yes, but I don't want to let you leave."
"Me either, but we will see each other again soon, right?"
"Absolutely, positively, definitely, certainly without a doubt about it—YES."
I smile at his silliness, and lean up on my tip toes and brush his lips with mine. He pulls me closer again and kisses me soundly, before leading me to the door. I hand the valet my ticket, as Edward hands the other guy his. When the valet brings my car first, I shake my head as I watch him give the valet a twenty, thanking him. Edward helps me in the car, and after I roll down the window, he closes my door.
"I could have tipped the valet, Edward."
"I know, but it is the only thing I have gotten to pay for on this high dollar date of ours," he says with a laugh. He leans in and kisses my cheek. "Do you have your hands free with you?"
"Yep," I say pulling it from my purse.
"Good, I'll call you in about five minutes, okay?"
"Yes, I'll talk to you soon."
I drive away as the other valet pulls up with Edward's vehicle. I'm not even on the interstate before my phone rings. I answer and talk to him the whole way home. It's ironic how we both live almost exactly the same amount of time away from Waterloo. I sit in the driveway and talk to him for about ten minutes, and then I let him go for the night, on the promise that we will talk later today after we both sleep. It is almost three in the morning when I go in the house, and I'm surprised to see my daughter waiting up for me.
"How was your date, Mom?"
"It was really nice, and Edward is a very nice man."
"When can we meet him?"
"I'm not sure."
"I can see that you like him. You seem so much happier. I haven't seen you this happy since before you and Dad started fighting."
"I'm not sure I've ever been this happy with a man before in my life. But, your dear old momma is kind of scared to let anyone in. Besides I have you, your sister, and brother. I have all the love I really ever need with the three of you."
"That is not true, Mom, you need to have someone besides us kids to love you too. You deserve to be happy and find happiness. You know Charles will be happy if you find a man who loves you, but all he wants is for his mom to be happy and treated nicely. Charlotte is a daddy's girl, and she may be resentful and you may have a bit of a defiant act or two on your hands, but how would that really be different than any other day with her?"
"Chelsea, when exactly did you grow up to be so smart?"
"I've always had a really great role model, Mom."
"I love you, Chelsea. Get some sleep, Char will most likely be home early and you know she'll be waking us up as soon as she gets here."
"Yeah, and I bet Dad brings her home at five in the morning like he did the last time."
"Well at least Charles won't be home until after noon, he's going to the brunch at the park with Rose and the boys."
"Oh, if Char gets home in time, can we go?"
"Yeah, we can go. I have the extra money. I didn't spend any money tonight at all. Well, get some sleep, I'm off to bed."
I go to my room and take a shower, since people can still smoke in the Casinos, I feel like a dirty ashtray after being in there for all those hours. When I come out, I see the green light flashing on my phone. I pick it up and see I have a text. Opening the text, I can't help but smile, as I see it's a picture message.
The picture is of a huge mountain of stuffed animals all over a king sized bed and the floor surrounding the bed. I can barely see the head and arm of his daughter poking out from one side. "Hey sweetie, this is what I came home to. I had to shower. The smoke smell was alarmingly strong after I stepped into my house. I grabbed some pajamas and saw this and had to share this with you, because it was so adorable. I can't wait to see you again, please say we will see each other again soon. Goodnight for now, and sweet dreams, sweetheart. Edward~xoxo."
I quickly take a picture of my queen-size bed, with my covers pulled down invitingly, and type out my reply. "I get to climb into this wonderfully soft pillow top queen-sized bed, but I have to get in there alone. I guess I could use one of Maggie's stuffies, looks as if she has a few to spare. Your bed has been taken over, and mine is lonely. I wonder if we can ever find a happy medium? Bella~xoxo. I hit send before I change my mind and erase it.
My phone buzzes with an incoming message almost right away. "Are you trying to kill me, love? I'm about to head back to the shower, this time for a cold one. Edward~xoxo."
"No, never would I try to off you. Entice you? Yes. Bait you? Absolutely. Flirt with you? You bet your ass ... by the way, you have a nice one, just saying! Kill you? Never, it would hurt me too much. Good night, Bella~xoxo."
Two more months have passed and we have been out casually every weekend on either a Friday or Saturday night. It's pretty much a standard that we meet up in Waterloo and have dinner and do something social. None of our dates since the first one have been as long, but we still talk daily, text, and email. Edward is a wonderful guy and his children have been asking to meet me, as much as my children have asked to meet him. We talked about it and discussed things and I shake my head thinking over that conversation.
"So, there is something I want to talk to you about," Edward says, sliding into the booth beside me at Longhorn Steak House.
"That sounds mighty serious, what's up?"
"Well, my kids want to meet you, and I know you have said your kids want to meet me too. So, I was thinking that we should do something that all the kids will enjoy. Something fun for everyone and that way there is no one feeling left out or unhappy.
"But our kids are all a little old for Chuckie Cheese's, well except for the two youngest who might still enjoy it. But I was thinking about this place I know, where I have taken the kids a few times and we have all had a good time. It is about an hour and half drive for me, so it would be about the same for you. It's down in Dubuque.
"There's a huge indoor waterpark, and an even bigger arcade area. It's not very expensive at all, and I get a huge discount through the union. I know you hate for me to spend money, but we did win all that money on our first date. The group rate package I can get, that will accommodate all nine of us with my discount, is less than three-fifty for a weekend getaway."
"Edward, stop, it is a great idea, but there is no way I can come up with a hundred and seventy-five bucks right now."
"Bella, I said I would pay for it, from the money we won. I want to do this. This is not a hand out; it is not me spending hard earned money to buy you things. My kids will have a blast and there are five of us and only four of you, so you wouldn't owe half anyway."
"Fine three-fifty divided by nine is thirty-nine dollars, well thirty-eight eighty-eight, but regardless I can't come up with over a hundred and fifty dollars on short notice."
"Why won't you let me do this? I know you're not asking me for things, or money. Why can't you see that this is something that I really want to do for us and for our children? I would never use this against you, you know that right?"
"I know," I say, as the waitress walks up to the table.
We placed our order and as we did, Edward hands the waitress a gift-card to pay the bill with.
"Why did you do that?" I ask, knowing he is paying the whole bill so that I can't pay my portion.
"I know how you are," he says with a chuckle. "Last week you waited until I went to the restroom, and paid the whole check at Olive Garden. The week before that we ate at Panera, and you conveniently had a coupon and a gift-card. The week before that, we ate McDonalds before the concert. Oh, and don't forget our first date where we both had a free meal at the casino. This time, I'm paying! Got it?"
"Fine, but I have the tip," I rebel.
"It's already covered. There was a note inside the envelope with the card telling the server to add a twenty-two percent gratuity to the bill total."
"Twenty-two percent? Edward, if this girl flirts once, I will lose it on her and you both!"
"Hmm, you can 'lose it' on me anytime you wish, my love."
I smile at him all dreamy. "How, in the name of all that is holy, do you manage to do that?"
"Dazzle me so much."
"Do I dazzle you, darling?"
"All of the time."
"Good. Now back to the waterpark trip. I wasn't sure about the situation of the accommodations, but the pricing I was given covers two, two bedroom suites that are attached by a double sided door. Each suite has a king sized bedroom, and a double queen sized bedroom. Each suite would be more than enough for our families, because there is also a pullout queen sofa in each sitting room."
"Edward, that had to be way pricier than three-fifty!"
"No, actually it isn't and it is cheaper in the long run for me to book two suites at my discount, than to book it separately and have one paid from one account and one from another. Trust me, I'm saving over five hundred on this package, the union treats us very well and this is a great deal."
"It's still too much. How about we discuss this after our dinner, so that way if I want to yell at you, I can without all these nice people looking at us?"
Edward nods his head and leans close and places a very silky open mouthed kiss on my neck right under my ear. "Anything for you, my love; that includes you yelling at me."
I shake my head at him, and turn enough to kiss his lips. The waitress brings our drinks and salads, and actually thanks us in advance for the very generous tip. I was surprised and happy that she didn't act unprofessionally once. For the rest of our dinner she was nothing but polite and attentive to us both. We let the topic of conversation end for now while we enjoy our meals.
After we finished, Edward and I walk out of the restaurant. "Leave your car and ride with me?"
"Okay, but let's park my car at Wal-Mart instead of here—at least it won't get towed from there if we come back late."
He nods his head and I kiss him and squeeze his hand before walking to my car. I start it and back out of my spot. I speed dial my friend in New York. I've only told Jessica and my friend Makenna from the UK, everything, and boy is Alice still pissed at me. I quickly tell her about the whole weekend away thing with all the kids. I ask her what I should do. Jessica tells me I need to get over it and go and enjoy myself. Then she says it'll be a nice vacation, if nothing else. I thank her quickly and hang up the call as I'm pulling into a parking place at Wal-Mart.
"Hey, is everything okay?" Edward asks me, as he opens the door for me.
"Yeah, everything is great. Why?"
"Oh, I thought you were on the phone, I worried that maybe one of the kids needed you."
"No, I actually called Jessica."
"The friend you have in New York?"
"Yeah, I actually called her to get her opinion on the whole weekend trip thing," I say sucking my bottom lip and biting it a little. "Get in and we'll talk about it, while you drive us."
I watch as he almost nervously walks around the car. I smile knowing that if my kids agree to this, that I'll say yes. He opens the door and gets in. Turning slightly to face me, he runs his fingers through his hair.
"Edward, are we still going to go to the Symphony? If we are, we need to go; the show starts in forty-five minutes."
"Can we talk on the way there, and after the show?"
"Of course, but Edward, as long as my kids are okay with this, I am saying yes."
"Do you think your kids will like the idea?"
"I asked first," he says, as he puts the car in gear and pulls out of the parking lot and I giggle.
"Yes, you did ask first, big baby. I think my kids will be excited by the thought of spending the weekend at a hotel with a built in waterpark. I do however worry that this will make them assume that you'll be spending money on us all the time. I want them to like you for you, not for what you may be able to give them."
"Sweetheart, I'd give you and them the moon, but I understand what you're saying. I know that my kids will love going, it has been a while since we have been there. I also know that my children are looking forward to meeting you. I assure you that I won't be extravagant with money while we're there."
"Good, glad to hear that, because if I agree to this, then I want to be the one who buys all of our meals while we're there and not just my family's, yours too."
"Sweetheart, one thing we always do, is enjoy the breakfast buffet they give each room member a ticket for on Saturday and Sunday morning. For lunch on Saturday we always leave for a while and go have Subway. If you want to buy us all a five dollar foot long, I guess I will let that go."
"Yes, and I'll pay for supper too."
"Well, supper on Saturday night will be at the attached restaurant, mainly because the package includes two adult buffets and two child buffets per room. You and Chelsea will count as adults, and Charlotte and Charles will count as children. Ben and I will count as adults and Heidi and Garrett as the children and that only leaves me to buy one extra buffet meal that night and that will be less than ten dollars with tip included."
"Then I'll cover that cost too. And I'll cover all the snacks and stuff during the day."
"Well, there will be a complimentary card attached to each room that gives us twenty-five dollars off all things ordered from the snack shack."
"You have an answer to everything don't you?" I ask as we pull into the parking lot for the Symphony.
"Yep, I'm smart like that," he says with a chuckle.
Laughing, I nod my head at him.
As I finish packing the bag to take to the waterpark, I smile over the memory. That night was wonderful and I was very excited, yet still worried about the whole going away for the weekend thing. I thought the kids would flip a lid the next day.
"So mom, how was the date with Edward?" Chelsea asks dragging out Edward's name for a full five seconds.
"It was great, and go and get your brother and sister, I want to talk to you guys."
I watch her go to the bottom of the steps and I cringe as she screams up the steps for her siblings.
"You do know that I could have done that myself?"
"Yep," she says popping the p, "But it was more fun for me to do it."
"You want to be grounded?"
"Nope," she says again popping the p sound.
"Fine, but you get dishes tonight for screaming in the house."
"That's not fair, how come they don't have to do them? They never have to do ..."
I hold up my hand cutting her off. "Would you like to do them all week?" She shakes her head, as her siblings walk in the room. "Smart choice," I say with a smile.
I watch as everyone sits down around the room, and waits for me to talk to them. "Hey, guys, it's family meeting time. We have been invited to go away for the weekend, in two weeks. We'd be going to Dubuque, and staying at the indoor waterpark hotel. The rooms are very nice and very expensive. But my friend, Edward, gets a really great deal on them through his job. So since you wanted to meet him, I was wondering if this sounds okay to you?"
"Is he going to stay in the room with us?" Charlotte asks.
"No. You guys and I will be in one suite, which will have two bedrooms and a pullout sofa bed in the living room area. He and his kids will be in their own room, like ours. The rooms will be able to open to each other through a connecting door, located off the entry way of the rooms."
"His kids are nice, right?" Charles asks.
"I haven't met them yet, but they are excited to meet us. Since Edward is well mannered and nice, I am assuming they will be too."
"Can we afford it?" Chelsea asks, and I hate that she understands how tight money is right now.
"Well, Edward got a really great deal on renting two suites for the whole weekend, so he is covering the cost of the hotel. We have to cover the cost of Saturday's lunch, some snacks, and gas there and home. I also thought we would take our big cooler with us and take a bunch of snack stuff and sandwich making things and maybe have a picnic on Sunday. I could make a few things and they will stay good in the cooler full of ice."
I love how excited the kids are about going. We spent the day yesterday making different things to take with us. We have tubs of: tuna salad, ham salad, chicken salad, macaroni salad, and potato salad, all homemade, in the cooler with several different kinds of lunchmeat and cheeses. We have two cases of water and a case of root beer, and at least four bags of different kinds of chips. Charles insisted that we take fruit snacks and some kind of dessert treats. So we made brownies, cereal cookies, and used the dehydrator and made banana, apple and strawberry chips and some other snack things. We have quite the haul packed into the car.
Finally finishing my bag, I walk out of my room and see the kids all ready to go. They are being very cooperative about this whole trip and I am shocked there hasn't been any type of meltdown yet.
"So are we ready?"
"Yes, can we go now or do you need to change your clothes again?" Charlotte asks.
"Well, I am nervous, I'm meeting his kids. They might not like me, and then it could end whatever Edward and I've started," I say, not hiding my fear from my kids.
"Mom, you've got nothing to worry about. If they don't like you, I'll be surprised, because you're the best."
"Thanks buddy," I say hugging my son; he's very in tune with the emotions of other people.
We pack the car and I check to make sure I have my debit card and keys. I lock the house and we are off until Sunday morning. Edward and I agreed that we would order pizza and have an early supper and then head to the pool for a while. I pull out of the driveway and head for the interstate. I've been driving for about fifty minutes, when I get a text message. I smile knowing it is him.
"Hey, love, the rooms are wonderful. I went ahead and ordered the pizza like we talked about and I used the snack shack cards like you said to do. They had a special, four large pizzas and two of the two liter bottles of pop for fifty dollars, so that used those cards up. Pizza is supposed to be ready in an hour. Hope you're on your way already."
Knowing I cannot type and drive at the same time, I slip on my hands free, and push the call button.
"Hey, honey, I am about thirty-five minutes out. The drive isn't as far as I thought. The sign when I got to the interstate said it was only sixty-six miles, and I've been on the interstate for at least forty minutes. Oh wait there's a sign it says Dubuque thirteen miles. We're almost there."
"I can't wait to see you. We have all of our passes for the waterpark for tonight and all day tomorrow. The kids are super excited because each room also came with twenty dollars in tokens for the arcade. I'm sure by the end of the night we'll have to make a visit there," he chuckles.
"Wow, that's great. I know my son will enjoy that much more than his sisters will. Where is the best place to park since you're already checked in for both rooms?"
"Pull up and unload the car, and you can either have valet park the car, or park in the east lot. When you get here, give me a call back and I'll help you carry everything up.
"I'll just pull up in valet and the bellhop can help with the luggage and things."
"Don't be stubborn. I'll help, besides I have the room keys and such."
"Okay, well I'll be there in less than fifteen minutes. I see Wal-Mart and I know it isn't too much further down this road."
"Okay, I'll see you out front in fifteen or so."
"Okay, bye for now." I hang up with a smile on my face, and Chelsea rolls her eyes at me.
"Mom, what is it that I like that my sisters won't?" Charles asks.
"Oh there are twenty dollars in arcade tokens to use, and a giant arcade room."
"Cool!" my son all but shouts.
"Can I go swim or sit in the hot tub while he plays?"
"I don't see why not, as long as you behave. I doubt I'll need to stand over you and supervise you the entire time we're there. Plus I'm guessing that at least one or two of Edward's group will want to swim too."
"How old are his kids again, Mom?" Charlotte asks me.
I know she knows, because she has asked a few times, but I indulge her. "Edward has four children, his son Benjamin is sixteen, then there are the twins, Heidi and Garrett they are thirteen, and then his youngest is Maggie and she is ten."
"What if they don't like us?" she asks and I know it's her insecurities that are making her nervous.
"Char, they will like you, just be yourself. You will love playing with Maggie, she loves having tea parties and she loves to color. You all will be so busy with all kinds of things to do, that I'm sure you will all get along really well."
"Okay," she says quietly.
"Mom, I have a question?"
"Shoot," I say to my son.
"Edward—well he isn't like dad is, right?"
"No, Edward is nothing like your father at all." I have feared this reaction from my children. I know Charlotte loves her father and is a daddy's girl, but the other two are literally afraid of him.
I smile as I'm able to change the subject. "Look guys, there's the hotel, right there," I say as I point.
"Oh, wow, that's cool. The waterslides come outside of the hotel! How do they do that? I can't wait to go on them, it'll be way awesome. This is like the best family getaway, ever!" my son says in excitement.
Chelsea and I laugh at him, and Charlotte rolls her eyes. As we pull up to the hotel entrance, I see Edward standing there at the door and I smile when he waves.
"Mom, is that him?" Chelsea asks, and I nod. "He's pretty hot for an old dude."
"I'll be sure to tell him that," I chuckle.
"Oh, my God, Mom, no don't tell him that," she screeches.
I laugh, as I put the car in park and the valet opens my door.
"Good afternoon, and welcome to the Grand Harbor Resort. Would you like me to park the car for you today?"
"Yes, but we have a lot to unload first, we're staying the whole weekend."
"This will be your ticket, and valet parking is covered in the cost of your room. Do you have your reservations, so I can attach the key ticket number to the room?"
"Our family is staying in suites 650 and 652. Check in is complete, is there any trouble adding our second car?" Edward asks.
"No sir, I will take care of that for you right away."
"Thank you," Edward says placing a folded bill in his hand.
I give Edward a look that says we'll talk later. Right now first impressions are too important to me for the kids' sake. So I smile at him, as I take his hand and lead him over to where the kids are helping the bellhop pull all the stuff from the trunk.
"Hey, guys, this is Edward. Edward this is Chelsea, Charlotte, and Charles."
"Hi, Chelsea, Charlotte and Charles, it's nice to finally meet you three. I hope you're all hungry. We have a bunch of pizza ordered. So how about we get all this stuff upstairs?"
I'm most shocked by Charlotte, who gives him a hug and thanks him for bringing us to such a neat place. I smile as she actually keeps engaging him in conversation. I'm so pleased to see that all three of my children seem to like Edward already. We get everything unloaded and on the luggage cart. Charles pulls up the handle on the cooler and wheels it behind him, as the bellhop follows with the full cart.
"How much stuff did you bring," Edward whispers in my ear, while we wait for the elevator.
"Well, I told you that I thought it would be nice to grab a picnic on Sunday down by the lock and dam, and watch a few of the barges lock through. So I made all kinds of yummy stuff."
"That is a great idea. I thought you wanted to just go to a park or something."
"Well, there are a couple of great parks here too, but I really thought that your kids might enjoy seeing the barges lock through. I grew up around it, so I want my kids to see it for sure. Do you think that Benjamin, Garrett, Heidi, and Maggie might like to see it?"
"Yeah, I am sure that Garrett and Benjamin will both think it is cool."
"It's neat and all, but I brought my case full of nail polish. I will be painting my nails, I'm sure," Chelsea says with a laugh.
"Me too," says Charlotte.
"Well you girls are welcome to paint Maggie's nails if she wants them done, and I am sure Heidi will love the chance to hang out with you girls."
"I can't wait to play with Maggie," Charlotte exclaims. "Edward is there a microwave in our room?"
"Yes, there is a microwave in both rooms, why?" he asks Charlotte in curiosity.
"Because, I brought some microwave popcorn. It's one of my favorite things to eat."
The other three of us all look at Edward and Charlotte, nodding as we laugh.
We make our way down the hall, and Edward opens the door marked 650. "Here you are, I'll let you all get your things inside and when you're done, just come on over, we already have the divider door open on our side."
I go in and take my things into the bedroom with the king sized bed, and the girls take the room with the two queens. Charlotte is a bed hog, so no one wants to sleep with her. Charles said he wanted the sofa to sleep on, and I agreed figuring it would be much less drama if they all had their own space.
We all get stuff unloaded and when I go to tip the bellhop, he tells me it's taken care of. That stubborn man of mine ... wait did I just ... yeah I did, and he is mine for as long as he will have me. He is sweet, but so stubborn. I swear if he finds a way to get out of me buying lunch tomorrow, I will kick him in the shins!
We all get our stuff settled quickly and move over to the connecting door. I knock on it before we open it, just because it feels like I should.
"Hey, sweetie you should have just come on in."
"Well, I wanted to at least announce our entry, not just barge in here."
"Come on in guys so I can introduce you to everyone." Edward moves into the sitting area of his room. "Hey kids, this is Bella and her children, Chelsea, Charlotte, and Charlie," he says motioning to each of us as he says our names. He moves over to his children and looks at us. "Okay, this is Benjamin, this is Heidi, this is Garrett, and this is Maggie." I watch as he touches each child as he says their names.
We all take a few minutes to say hello to each other, and it isn't long before Chelsea and Benjamin are comparing songs on their iPods. Garrett and Charles are talking about the new Halo game coming out soon, and Charlotte, Heidi, and Maggie are watching Victorious on Nickelodeon. I smile at Edward, because I'm happy. We sit on the loveseat and just watch and listen as the kids all seem to fit together like they've known each other all their lives.
We all look up when there is a knock on the door. I smile as Edward jumps up. "That must be our pizzas!"
The kids all seem to like the sound of that, because there are several "yeses" and even a "yay," or two from the kids.
I watch as Edward wheels in the food service cart and am not at all shocked to see that there is much more than just four pizzas on there. I roll my eyes at him, and he gives me that killer panty melting smirk of his. He opens the pizza boxes and takes the lids off heaping plates of: chicken strips, hot wings, fries, and breadsticks. I roll my eyes at him, as I pass each of the kids a plate. When I get to Charlotte, Heidi, and Maggie, I have to smile when Maggie pulls on my hand.
"Did you want to talk to me?" I say.
Maggie nods her head and smiles at me. "Bella, will you help me make my plate?"
"I sure will, how about you come over with me and tell me what you like the best and we will get you all fixed up?"
Maggie holds my hand as we make our way over to the food table. I watch as Benjamin whispers something to Edward, and see Edward turn and give us a funny look. I know I will have to find out what that's about. I finish helping Maggie, and notice that everyone else is watching us. I get Maggie settled back where she was sitting and turn to everyone else.
"Am I doing some sort of special trick here, or are you all waiting for me to make you a plate too?"
My kids and Edward laugh, as Garrett and Charles move toward the food. I move to stand by Edward as all our children help themselves to food. I smile watching Benjamin make his plate, he must be a good eater.
"So you want to share with the class, what was so awe inspiring about me helping Maggie with her plate?"
"Maggie is the one who doesn't remember her mom at all, and she doesn't take well or get close to women easily. It made me speechless, but I shouldn't be shocked, because you are so sweet and kind, everyone loves you."
"Loves me, huh—now I'm speechless," I whisper.
We both make a plate, and sit down and watch as the kids all eat and talk among themselves. It's only a quarter to five now, and the indoor water park is open until ten. Everyone finishes eating and Chelsea and Benjamin offer to clean up and put the extra things away. I always take extra empty containers when we go places, because I hate stale chips, so Chelsea gets those for all the extra finger foods.
Each room has a fridge and microwave, as well as a kitchen sink and coffee maker. At my suggestion, Heidi and Charlotte go over to my suite and put the food from our cooler in our fridge and our ice packs in the freezer. Then Charles and Garrett go and get two bags of ice and put all the drinks in the cooler. Maggie comes over to me and asks me if I'll braid her hair like Charlotte's. I tell her I will and ask her to get her hair brush. I have her sit in front of me, and I make quick work of parting her hair and doing a French-braid on each side. I'm careful to not pull her hair, but she doesn't complain at all as I do her braids. I smile when Heidi watches and when I'm done, asks me to braid hers too. I make quick work of braiding Heidi's hair, and then of course Chelsea's too.
"Okay everyone, can you all come in here and sit down for a minute?" Edward asks. Everyone comes over and sits down and we're all looking at Edward. "We are going to go to the waterpark, and I need you guys to work on some sort of buddy system. Since you are oddly numbered, but you have seemingly broken off into groups already, we are fine with the groups you have already made on your own. However, there are a few rules that must be followed, or we will be having a boring day in the room tomorrow.
"Stay with your buddy, and if you need a break from your buddy come and get one of us adults. Benjamin and Chelsea since you two are the oldest—we are trusting you to help with the younger ones if needed, such as bathroom trips or someone not wanting to do something like one of the slides. Does anyone have any questions so far?"
"No," everyone says together.
"Okay, Benjamin, you and Chelsea will have a keycard. Please keep it someplace safe, and be sure to tell one of us adults if you are leaving the waterpark area for any reason. Charlotte, Heidi, Charles, Garrett, and Maggie, if any of you need to come to the room for anything you will need to find either Chelsea, Benjamin or one of us adults.
"No running back and forth between the pool and the room. Charles and Garrett you two are buddies, is that okay?"
"Yeah!" they say high fiving each other.
"Charlotte, Heidi, and Maggie, you three are buddies. Is that okay?"
"Yay," Maggie hoots, as Heidi and Charlotte nod their heads.
"Chelsea and Benjamin that leaves you two older kids as buddies, and don't forget to watch over the younger ones. There will be a lot of kids down there tonight and tomorrow."
They both nod their heads, and I smile, because our children are getting along so well. "Okay everyone, why don't you all go to your rooms and get changed into your swimming suits and we'll get ready to go," I say.
"Can I ask a silly question?" Heidi says.
"Sure sweetie, but no question is silly if you are truly looking for an answer."
"Since the rooms are exactly alike, why don't the boys all stay in one room, and us girls all stay in the other?"
Suddenly all the kids are excited at the thought and I look to Edward and try to see what he thinks. Edward is looking at me too, and I shrug.
"How about this? If you guys follow all the rules, the girls can all have a sleepover in Bella's family suite and the boys can all have a video game party here. BUT—you will all have to keep it down to a dull roar, because we are not the only families here this weekend. How does that sound?"
Everyone seems to like the idea and I agree with Edward's stipulation. It is really great to see everyone getting along so well. We all get ready for the waterpark and by six we're all in the water. Edward and I enjoy floating around the lazy river, as the kids are all off having fun around the place. We hold hands as we lounge back on the tubes.
"This trip was a wonderful idea and I'm so glad we came," I say with a smile.
"Well, I wanted everything to be special. Especially since my kids were meeting the woman I love."
I gasp, and turn my head to face him. "You love me?"
"Absolutely and completely," he says with a smile.
"But you hardly know me."
"Bella, how can you say I hardly know you?"
"We only just met."
"Bella, we have been talking for months now. Before we actually talked on the phone the first time, I knew more about you than I ever knew about my ex-wife. You are one of the most selfless people I know. You care more about everyone else than yourself."
He gets off the tube he's on and stops mine from moving and helps me off. We walk up the steps and set the tubes down on the side. Walking hand in hand to the hot tub that is for adults only, he continues talking. "I know you're questioning if you are good enough for my love, and for me to love because of how much you were mistreated and left alone. But, Bella, I'm not anyone else and I do love you. I love you, for yourself and for me, not for what you can do for me. You are the best girlfriend a man could ever ask for. If we weren't surrounded by a gazillion little curtain climbers, I would kiss you and show you exactly how much I mean every word I just said."
"Edward, I love you too but I—I'm scared," I admit with a whisper.
"You don't ever have to be scared of me. I promise I will never take what you give me for granted, because you are by far the best thing, besides my children, that has ever happened to me."
As we sit in the hot bubbling water, I turn my head slightly, to wipe away the stray tear from my eye. I'm so glad that in this crowded area, we are away from others. "Edward, you really amaze me."
"You're the one who amazes me, love. There is no rush on this, because I know you will need time."
"I need your arms to hug me," I state, and the warmth of the water doesn't come close to the warmth I feel in his arms. With my back to his chest, we watch our children playing together with several other children in the area. The loud shouts and screams of excitement from the kids only make the night more pleasurable.
At a quarter to ten, we round up the kids and all head back to our rooms. The girls all move into my suite and I get everyone showering and ready for bed. Once the girls are all showered, they set up camp with the Wii we brought with us in their room. The boys are all doing the same in Edward's suite. Benjamin and Garrett brought their X-box360, and had already discussed playing some online war game with a bunch of other people.
Once all the kids are settled into their sleeping areas and playing their video games, I tell Edward I'm going to go shower, and he tells me that he is off to do the same. After showering, I put on my jeans and shirt from earlier. I'm not sure if Edward wants to watch a movie or not and I'd rather not be too forward. I walk into my sitting area and see Edward in his jeans and shirt from earlier and I'm thankful that I put my clothes back on.
Edward and I decide to watch a Clint Eastwood movie, since he hasn't seen it yet and it was available as a free movie to watch from the on demand channel. We cuddle on the huge sofa in my suite as the movie begins. I loved this movie, and other than Grand Torino, I am not a huge Eastwood fan. I lean close enough to kiss his cheek as the opening credit start.
"I can't believe that you haven't seen 'Learning the Curve'," I say against Edward's neck.
"Well I haven't, and if you don't stop saying things all breathy against my neck, I'll be missing it this time too."
"Hmm, is that a promise or a threat?"
"Don't tease and behave."
"Fine, but who said I was teasing, and I'll have you know that behaving is for the birds—fun-sucker."
"Fun-sucker?" he chuckles. "What exactly is a fun-sucker? Does this mean I suck all the fun from things?"
"Yep," I say saucily.
"I bet you have something fun for me to suck on," he replies, flirtatiously.
I smile at him seductively and then point to the big flat screen, where the opening to the movie is just now starting and lift my brow. We both start watching the movie; before long we are lying together on the sofa as the movie plays on. I'm on my back and Edward is on my right, lying on his left side. I'm really enjoying being this close to him. I lost focus on the movie a while ago, and not because it isn't worth seeing. This incredibly sexy man who keeps letting his breath flit lightly across my skin is making it so I'm unable to concentrate on the movie.
I glance up at him, and he is watching me. I smile at him slightly and trace my finger along his jaw. "Is the movie boring you?"
"No, you're just much more fun to watch."
"So you're watching me, and not the movie?"
"Sort of," he whispers.
"Sort of what? Either you're watching the movie or you're watching me ... which is it?"
"I'm watching the movie as much as you are."
"So you have missed the majority of it too, right?" He nods his head at me and I roll to the right slightly. I'm facing him more, and slide my hand up his arm and to his neck. "I think the only thing I've really missed so far is the plain opportunity that I had forty minutes ago—to start this—instead of the movie," I say, right before I pull his mouth to mine.
We kiss for quite some time, and the kisses range from sweet and light to gritty and lust filled. Ever the gentleman, Edward's hand never moves from my head, cheek or neck. We pull back and Edward chuckles when he glances up at the screen. I look up and see that the movie is over, and clearly has been for a while. I suddenly let out a yawn, surprising myself.
"You're tired, my love."
"Yes, but I'm not ready to move away from you yet," I reply.
"Good, because I'm not sure I'll be able to leave you anytime soon either."
I sit up and smile at him. "Well, you have to because I need a human moment. Go and check on the boys, I am going to check on the girls." He nods and gets up making his way to the door.
I go over to the door of the bedroom the girls are in and slowly open it. I see that Maggie and Charlotte are sleeping in one bed, both girls have stuffed animals. I smile at Chelsea who is on her laptop, and I see Heidi is reading. "Hey girls, how is everything?"
"I'm reading," Heidi says.
"What book are you reading?" I ask, happy to see she reads for enjoyment. When I see the book, I read the title out loud. "What Your Mother Never Told You: A Teenage Girls Survival Guide. Hmm, is it a good book so far?" I ask knowing it is a good book, since I read it before when I bought a copy for Chelsea.
"Yeah, it's okay, I feel like it's helpful."
I sit on the edge of the bed, and Chelsea gets up and goes into the bathroom, which I think she did so I could speak privately to Heidi. "You know, I know we just met, but you can feel free to talk to me anytime. If I can help you at all with anything, I'll do my best."
"Thanks, Bella, I talked to Chelsea earlier after the others went to sleep. She said you're very nice and would talk to me too. Maybe we can talk sometime tomorrow? It's pretty late now."
Chelsea comes out of the bathroom, and I look at the clock. "Well, ladies it is already after one in the morning, you may want to get some rest. The waterpark opens at nine, and knowing the boys, they'll be ready for breakfast in just over five hours." Both girls nod and I stand up. "I think tomorrow when we get lunch, we'll make the boys go pick it up and we will lounge out here in the room. We can have a chance to chat a little then," I say stroking Heidi's long copper curls.
"Okay, goodnight, Bella," she says.
"Night, Mom, sweet dreams," Chelsea says, smiling at me.
I cover the other two sleeping girls up and make my way out of the room, closing the door behind me. I go use the restroom and debate putting on my cute little blue shorts and matching tank pajamas the kids gave me for Mother's Day. I decide not to yet, and I go out to see where Edward is. Back in the sitting room, I see Edward standing by the doorway to enter my suite, drinking a bottle of water.
"Did you bring me one of them?"
"Yeah, but if you want it, it's going to cost you."
"Really, well I hope I brought enough money. What's it going to cost me?"
"I don't want your money."
"Hey, that's my line," I say with a wink. "So, what are the boys up to?" I ask walking over to him and taking the bottle of water he holds out to me.
"The younger ones were sleeping, and Benjamin was going to finish the mission he was on and head to bed. I'm guessing that they were pretty worn out after all the running they did. I couldn't believe it's after one already."
"I know," I yawn out.
"Sweetheart, you should go to bed. You're tired."
"I am tired, but I really want to spend more time with you. This is so nice being able to spend all this time with you. I'm not sure how I'll handle going back home. It's sad, I've been with you less than twelve hours and already, I'm worried about having to leave you."
"Sleep with me tonight? I don't mean inappropriately, I mean sleep beside me, let me cuddle you?"
Nodding my head, I smile at him. "Yes, please."
Without words he takes my hand and we walk to my room. I open the door and walk inside. Edward follows and leaves the door open behind him.
"If Magpie gets up, I'll hear her," he says.
"Chelsea and Heidi are still awake, I can tell them you're in here if you're worried about her looking for you in the middle of the night."
"Would Chelsea be okay with that?"
"Chelsea knows I'm a grown up, would Heidi be okay with it?"
"Heidi really likes you, if you came home with us I think she would be okay with that. She told me earlier that she really likes you and that your kids are super cool."
"Well, I'm not moving in yet," I say and then turn red in embarrassment as if we have even talked about anything such as moving in together. "I mean ..."
"Stop, don't finish that sentence. Don't worry—I know exactly what you meant. Now go tell the girls where I'll be if Maggie needs me. I'm going to go get my pajama pants on."
I nod and go back to the girl's room. I open the door and see the girls are still awake talking. "Hey guys, if Maggie wakes up, send her in my room. Edward will be in there and the door will be open, okay?"
"Yeah," says Chelsea with a smirk.
"Tell my dad I said goodnight," says Heidi with a giggle.
"Behave girls, and sweet dreams." I close the door and move quickly to my room. I go in the bathroom and put on the pajamas set I debated about earlier. I brush my hair and then brush my teeth. Making my way back into my room, I see the curtains open that lead to the balcony and the blankets pulled down on the bed.
I walk to the balcony doors and see Edward standing out there in the moonlight. I can see the night sky reflecting off the waters of the Mississippi river, and smell the late spring flowers in the air.
"What are you doing out here, Mr. Cullen?"
"I was waiting for you to join me, Ms. Swan-Hunter."
"Well, here I am, now what?" I say in a voice laced with my desire to be close to him.
"Bella," he says, pulling me into his arms. "You have to stop talking to me in that tone of voice, or I won't be able to help myself. I already want to make you mine in every sense of the word, but our children are here with us. When I make love to you I want to be able to hear you and stay in bed with you for hours, days, however long it takes to feel as if I can move without needing to be back inside of you."
"Well, it doesn't sound like we will ever get past first, maybe second base then. Because I'll always want more of you, I know that just from kissing you. As for hearing me," I purr in his ear. "Trust me when I say that you'll hear me, even if no one else can." With those words I start to kiss him with a hunger that I can't restrain.
He pulls me closer with his large hand cupping my full ass. I moan into his open mouth, as I feel his hardening cock against my lower stomach. Threading my hands into his hair, I moan again. His hand on my ass grips me tighter and his left hand finds my breasts. After several minutes of touching and kissing, we both pull back to breathe.
"Wow!" I pant.
"Yeah, wow!" he says.
"Come on, sexy man; let's move this to our bed."
"Our bed—you really know how to make me harder don't you?" Letting my hand trace down his bare chest and stroke lightly against the tenting in his pajama pants, I simply nod my head at him.
We make our way to the bed, after leaving the balcony curtains open, but shutting the sliding doors. We climb into bed and cuddle close in the center. We wrap ourselves up in each other's arms and share a few sweet kisses, but in silent agreement we don't take things any further. Within minutes, I am sound asleep enjoying the best night I've had in years.
I wake early, even with very little sleep and I feel amazing and well rested. Somehow in the night we turned and instead of facing each other Edward is spooning my back. I enjoyed feeling him so hard for me last night, but right now I can really feel him. He is holding me close to his chest with his hardness centered against the crack of my ass. I can't help but wiggle enough to feel him, as I move against him.
Wrapping his arm tighter and cupping my breast in his hand, he lays an open mouth kiss on the back of my neck. "If you don't stop that, I will go lock that door and show you how good it feels when I put it where it wants to be."
"I want you so much, I can't help it," I pant lightly as he continues to kiss, nip, and lick at my neck. I hook my arm around his head holding him to my neck so he can continue his assault, as I rub my ass over his cock.
"Love, you're going to be the death of me," he whispers huskily in my ear.
Moving my hand from his head, I take his hand and slowly move it to where I want him touching me the most. "Touch me, please," I beg quietly.
With his hand on the outside of my sleep shorts, his finger traces the seam. "You're so warm," he sighs in my ear. "Love, we have to continue this tonight, I hear the boys. God you make me want you so much. You go ahead and go shower and get ready for breakfast, and I'll round up all our curtain climbers."
I turn and kiss him, and boldly stroke my hand across the impressive erection he is sporting. "Alone time for us tonight," I state after pulling back.
"Absolutely," he responds and then gives me another peck.
I get out of bed, and head to the bathroom with a little extra swing in my step. As I close the door, I hear him groan and I smile. It's nice to know he finds me sexy, and that he wants me. It isn't often I feel attractive, but with Edward, I do. I shower quickly and put on my two piece tankini. Coming out of the bathroom, I put on the shorts and shirt I had set out and head into the main room.
I see Garrett, Benjamin, Chelsea, Charlotte, Heidi, and Maggie all in their suits and ready to go. We are going down to eat breakfast and then we're heading to the waterpark until noon. "Good morning, guys, how is your morning going?" I get six variations of greetings and smile at them all. "Hey, where's Charles?"
"He's talking to dad," Benjamin says, motioning his head to the other suite. I must have a questioning look on my face, because Benjamin clears his throat and I look at him. "I think they're having a guy talk about guy things." I nod my head again, unsure what he means, but assume I'll know shortly.
"Good morning, Bella," Edward says, coming into the room with my son. I watch Charles who gets a bottle of water. "I know you're wondering what is going on, but I'll tell you in a little bit. Everything is okay," Edward whispers.
"So is everyone ready to grab some grub?" I ask, masking my worry with cheerfulness. After everyone gets up, I grab all the tickets for breakfast, the token cards for the arcade and our room key card for the waterpark entry. "Okay, let's go eat and then play a few games before the waterpark opens," I say to resounding cheers.
We all head down and have a wonderful breakfast. The kids are all getting along really great and Charles is quietly talking to Benjamin. I'm glad my son seems okay, but I'm still trying to figure out what was going on this morning. After the kids are all done eating, they ask if they can go to the game room. It's across from where we are sitting, and we agree. Chelsea, Charlotte, Heidi, and Maggie are going to play skeet-ball, and the boys are raving about some war game.
Edward and I are sitting at the table and watching the kids filter into the gaming room. "It's amazing how well they all get along," he says.
"Yeah it is, but eventually they will argue about something. We should enjoy the honeymoon period of their friendship while it lasts. So are you going to tell me what was going on this morning?"
"Well, Benjamin came and got me, because he thought Charles might need to talk to me. Benjamin and Garrett were already ready to go, so they came over here and I checked on Charles. He was still in bed, and he was very embarrassed. He had a wet dream. He said he knew what it was that you had talked to him about this stuff, but he was embarrassed.
"I told him not to worry, everything was okay and it was all normal. He got all cleaned up and dressed, and then asked me if he could ask me some questions. Your son is very smart, but he still had some men only kind of questions he said. I hope that you don't mind I answered them and I did encourage him to talk to you."
"Thank you, Edward, I feel as if I have failed him sometimes. I've told you how his father always calls him a momma's boy, and he is, but it is because he is treated so poorly by his own father. Thanks for being a great role model. I feel like crap, I hate that I can't be all he needs."
"Love, neither of us are jumping into a wedding ceremony anytime soon, but he can always call me. I have no issue with him coming to me, if he needs a man to speak to. Charles is a good kid, and he is one tough little momma's boy I might add."
"Yes, he is," I say and wipe a stray tear from my eye. It just kills me that I have only known this man for just over six months now. I know we spent the first three and a half months just exchanging emails and there were hundreds of them. Before I met this man, he pretty much knew my life. I'm proud to say I feel he was as open with me, as I was with him. I have yet to ever feel as if he is hiding something from me. And now, he's being a perfect role model for my son who desperately needs a decent man in his life.
"I'll give you a penny for your thoughts?"
"I was thinking that you are a really great guy."
"There isn't a 'but' following this is there?
"Not that I can see," I say and lean in and give him a peck on the lips. "Shall we go round up the gang, and head to the waterpark, they open in sixteen minutes?"
"I think that sounds like a stellar plan."
We round up the kids. Benjamin and Chelsea take all of the items the group won at the arcade back to the room. Once they are back to us, we all head to the waterpark. I hand the lady at the desk our tickets and she puts a wristband on each of us. "Now each band has a special number on it. Every thirty minutes today they will be calling a number over the PA. This weekend is our fifteenth anniversary weekend. They are giving away a bunch of different prizes. Don't worry Dad and Mom, I gave one of you the lowest number in your bunch and the other has the highest number. All of the numbers between are your group. Hope you enjoy your day, and good luck," the desk lady says.
None of us correct her, and we all go about having a great day. I checked my wrist band number and I had number 85321. I check Edward's wrist number and he has 85329. Everyone splits off and enjoys their time on the slides, and the wave pool. I am so proud of Chelsea, who is spending her time playing in the sprinkler water with Maggie. Benjamin, Garrett, and Charles are all hanging together. I smile and hold Edward's hand, who is sitting beside me.
The second number they call out is Maggie's number and Chelsea takes her up to the desk. I'm curious to see what kinds of things they are giving away. When they come to us, Maggie hands her dad an envelope. "What did you win, Magpie?"
"Some card things the lady said," she shrugs. "Can I go play with Chels some more?"
"Yeah, you go have fun with Chels," I answer and give Chelsea a wink for being so good with Maggie. "So what is the card for?" I ask turning toward Edward.
"There are three cards in here for free sandwich, fries, and drinks from the snack shack."
"Wow," I say.
"Yeah, but I am guessing we won't be going to Subway now for lunch."
"Why not?" I ask with a bit of an attitude.
"Bella, they expire if not used in the next month."
"Oh," I say, kind of worried about snapping at him.
"Love, I think that Magpie would enjoy taking her new friends out for lunch. We have more time, maybe we will win more," he laughs.
"Promise me that you are not behind this?"
"I have a pretty good imagination my love, but even this is beyond me. Plus, I promised you not to be extravagantly spending money this weekend, and I'm a man of my word."
I lean over and kiss his cheek, and stroke his jaw with my thumb. "You are a very good man, and I am sorry for snapping. I just hate the thought of you paying for everything. It makes me feel as if I'm using you."
"You do realize that the only reason you feel that way, is because of how many people have used you, right?"
"Yes, Dr. Phil ..." I deadpan.
"Did I ever tell you that you are really cute, when you're being cheeky?"
"Nope, did I ever tell you that I think you're cute all the time?"
"Yeah, I think we covered that conversation a few times."
"Your modesty is killing me, Mr. Cullen."
"Your curves are doing the same to me, Ms. Swan-Hunter."
"On that note, I think it's time for the bucket to dump and if anyone ever needed a cool shower of water, it would be you right now. Go get Magpie, she'll enjoy that, I'll get pictures."
"You like it."
"You know it."
I take pictures of Edward with Maggie and walk around checking on all the kids. Heidi and Charlotte are on tubes floating around the lazy river. Chelsea and Maggie are now having a water fight with Edward. Benjamin, Garrett, and Charles are on the slides. It's good to see smiles all around. I put the camera away, and grab a tube. I join the girls and float around with them.
It's almost noon, and they've been calling numbers all day. None of our group has won again. I'm reading from my Kindle, lying on the double lounge chair. Maggie was tired around eleven and asked if she could sit with me for a bit. It wasn't ten minutes later and she was asleep. I think the girl could sleep through about anything. Edward is playing some water-ball catch game with the boys. The girls are on the slides. I listen as they call a number, and it is one of our numbers.
Charlotte comes over to me and asks me what she should do. I don't want to leave Maggie sleeping alone, so I point to the desk. Edward comes over and walks up with her. When Edward and Charlotte are walking back, Charlotte looks ecstatic, and Edward looks almost worried. Edward leans down and whispers in my ear. "I swear I had nothing to do with this."
"What did you win, Charlotte?" I ask.
"Mom this is so cool," she says handing me the envelope.
I open it and gasp as I read it. "This is a free weekend getaway to match whatever our current accommodations are now. Wow, Charlotte, you just won a second vacation holiday for Edward's family and ours. According to this it's for two King adjoining suites and for Friday and Saturday nights and Friday, Saturday and Sunday waterpark passes. It is exactly everything we have this weekend all over again."
"Yep, they asked what our reservations were under and Edward gave his name. They pulled it up and they matched it exactly. Edward asked how soon it had to be used, and the expiration date is in ninety days," Charlotte says.
I put the envelope in the bag holding everyone's things, and smile. "Well, I hope you all can get along for another weekend sometime soon, because this is too nice to pass up," I say and Charlotte and Edward both smile.
Charlotte runs off to tell her siblings and new friends all about her winnings. I smile at Edward, because he is looking at me with that dazzle me look of his. "What?"
"I love that Magpie likes you. It makes me happy to see her so close to you. You know she doesn't even cuddle up like that to my mom or aunts? Sadly she is very wary of women. Heidi is about the extent of females in her life on a day to day basis, she even had a male teacher last year. I'm so happy to see her comfortable around you and your girls, it really makes me happy."
"You really make me happy," I say.
"Mom," I hear Charles say at the same time I hear Garrett say, "Dad."
"Yeah," we both answer at the same time and they start laughing loudly at us.
"We are totally starving," Garrett says.
"I'm hungry too," Maggie says as she sits up.
Edward and I chuckle. All the noise in here and she is dead asleep until food is mentioned and she is suddenly wide awake. "Well, Magpie, how about you take the free meal certificates you won, and take your brother and Charles out to lunch at the snack shack?"
"Can I?" she asks me with a big grin.
I nod my head. "You sure can, sweetie. I think it would be super sweet of you to take them out to lunch."
"Okay, come on guys, I'm buying," she says taking her certificates from Edward's outstretched hand.
I start to chuckle, but cover my laugh as does Edward. After they walk off, Edward sits beside me. "What weekend date works best for you in the next ninety days to return? I'm asking, so we can get our rooms booked, so there won't be any issue in getting side by side rooms."
"Oh, we're open to anytime, so whatever works best for you. You're the one who has to miss Friday at work. I have the back-up on the DJ stuff, so I'm free anytime."
"Are you sure?"
"Yep, whatever works best for you," I say.
"How about, we plan for the first weekend next month. So three weeks from now? That will be our seventh month anniversary of talking and almost four months dating. My parents will also be in town, and since they want to meet you ..."
"Huh?" I say sounding like a complete idiot.
"Love, you are important to me. I want you to meet my parents. I wouldn't have brought you around my children if I didn't care about you. I want more than a casual dating thing with you. I want you to meet my parents. I want to help you talk to your son about boy things, and I want to see you cuddled up with my little girl who has never felt a mother's love before. I'm taking things slow and easy, but you need to know this is what I want. I want Chelsea to yell at me when I tell her to do dishes. I want Charlotte to get mad at me, when I make her take her medicine. I want Charles to come to me, when he is unsure if something is wrong. I want to see Benjamin, Garrett, Heidi, and Maggie all learn to trust a woman who is like a mother to them. Most of all, my love, I want you in my life for a very long time to come."
He reaches up and wipes tears from my face again, and I can't help but sniffle. I smile at him. "I wish I could have met you a long time ago. I feel like I have wasted so much of my life on losers, when someone so perfect for me was not even a twenty minute drive away."
"I love you, Bella. I wanted to wait and tell you when we could have a romantic dinner together, but this will have to do. You are so wonderful, and I don't expect you to feel the same way, but I do love you and I do want a future with you."
"Oh, Edward, I love you too and I want you too, I'm just scared. I think I wanted you as more than a friend or casual date even before we met. You have been so patient with me, thank you for loving me too. Meeting your parents won't be a bad thing though, right? They will like the kids and me?"
"They will love the kids and you," he says with a smile.
We sit waiting for the other kids to come to us. They announce another number and sure enough it is Benjamin's number. I smile at Edward. "Apparently we are cleaning up around here. I mean three of the nine of us have won stuff today."
Benjamin comes over and hands Edward an envelope. At least it is not a huge one like the last one. Edward looks inside and starts to laugh. I cock my brow at him, and laugh as he pulls out three more free meal tickets for the snack shack. "Benjamin, how would you like to invite Charlotte, Chelsea, and Heidi to use these three tickets to go to the snack shack and get whatever they would like for their lunch?"
"Yeah, the girls can have them. The pizza was too greasy last night, so I doubt I could eat their hamburgers."
"Benjamin, would you like to get something from the normal restaurant here?" I ask him.
"Not really, but do you think I could just go back to the room and have some of that chicken salad you brought?"
"Of course you can, sweetheart. Here is the key to the room, and your cell," I say handing him the things from the bag. "Don't forget there are chips, cookies, and other things too. Help yourself. You're a growing boy and I know how you growing boys eat, so don't worry about eating too much, there's plenty. Can you just send your dad a text to let him know you are in the rooms safely?"
Benjamin gives me a strange look, but nods his head. "Thank you, Bella," he says and walks away.
I look at Edward and realize I should've asked him first, but I know he's not upset, because he's smiling. "You are an amazing person, Bella," Edward says before kissing me.
"What was that for?"
"You are so good with my children, and they already think the world of you. I'm going to go send the three girls off to the snack shack for lunch."
"Okay, and then when you get back, you've got to decide what we are having for lunch, Mr. Cullen."
"I know what I'd like to have for lunch, Ms. Swan-Hunter," he whispers suggestively in my ear. He leaves a kiss and nibble on my earlobe, before he walks away. The man literally has me panting after him.
When he returns, he sits back beside me and we watch all of the kids around the room having fun. We decided that when Benjamin and Chelsea are done we'll go to 'Tony Roma's' and have lunch there. Before you know it they have called another of our numbers and I look up and see Charles coming over to me, smiling.
"That was my number, Mom."
"Okay, go up to the counter and see what you won," I say with a smile.
"Edward, you wanna come with me?"
"Sure, let's go see what you won."
I watch as Edward walks up to the desk with my son. I have never been more proud of the fact that my son seems to have a decent man in his life to look up to. It reminds me of a talk I had with Charles when he was only seven.
"Mom, when I get older, do I have to treat women the way that Daddy treats you?"
"Absolutely not. You're a good boy and you have too kind of a heart to be that mean."
The memory brings a tear to my eye. I hate that my ex was such a disappointing person in our lives. I hate that my son being a kindhearted person, has somewhat been stymied by the hatred and nastiness of my ex. The only thing I've prayed for is that I manage to raise a good man. Thankfully now it seems as if I may have a decent male role model helping me. I wipe my eyes and smile as I see an excited Charles making his way back to me.
"What did you win?" I ask with a smile.
"This is so cool. I won a romantic dinner cruise for two along the waters of the Mississippi," he says in a laughing manner.
"I'll make a deal with you," I say, smiling at my son. "How about I take you to game stop and let you pick out twenty-five dollars in new games, and you give the dinner cruise to me?"
"Too late, Mom," Charles smirks at me.
"What do you mean, too late?"
"Edward already asked if he could use it to take you out for a nice dinner alone in three weeks. I said yes, and he already booked the cruise. I should've known to hold out, I could've gotten a new game or two!"
"I'll still get you a game," I chuckle.
"How about two?"
"One's good, thanks, Mom."
I laugh as I watch him walk away. I smile at Edward who hands me the certificate. "I swear you are one lucky guy!"
"I haven't doubted that a bit, since I met you."
"Oh, and he is all romantical and sweet too," I say sweetly.
"Yep," I say popping the p sound.
"Dad, I'm back. Bella that was the best chicken salad I've ever had, but don't tell my grandma," Benjamin says.
"I'm glad you're back. Bella and I are going to grab some lunch at Tony Roma's. Can you keep an eye out for the younger ones? Chelsea is with Maggie again and they are on the lazy river floating. Everyone else is off on the slides. I'll have my phone call me if you need to. We'll be less than a two minute walk from here."
"Yeah, I can do that."
Edward and I walk past the snack shack and there are so many kids hanging around, it's like a zoo. "I'm so glad that you wanted to go get lunch out of here, because that is nuts."
"You know it, I watched our kids eat there and thought no way in hell would I brave it. Besides, Ben called it right, that pizza last night was awful," he whispers in my ear. "Meet you back out here in a few."
"Okay, but hurry, I miss you already," I say with a chuckle as I enter the women's changing room. I pull my shorts and shirt over my swimsuit that is already dry, and lock the rest of our stuff up, except my wallet. Exiting the dressing room, I see Edward standing there waiting for me still wearing his now dry black board shorts and a black and yellow polo.
I walk over and hug him, and before we can leave they call my wrist band number. I walk to the desk and show my wrist band and they hand me an envelope. I open and look inside and roll my eyes. I smirk at Edward. "Now if it were possible for you to be behind any of this, I would assume that you were behind this one."
"Why, what is it now?" Edward asks, almost weary of what it may be and I know instantly it's fate not him.
"It is a fifty dollar gift card for 'Tony Roma's'," I laugh.
Edward blinks twice, and shakes his head. "I swear, Bella, I had nothing to do with any of this," he says as we walk out of the waterpark and toward the restaurant.
"I know, besides I heard the workers talking earlier about how they were giving away thousands of dollars in prizes this whole weekend. The way we are going, there are only a few more times today that we could win. But then we start all over tomorrow."
"You bring out the luck in me."
"No, I think it's the other way around," I say as we enter the restaurant.
The hostess gives us an odd look, and Edward wraps his arm around my back, pulling me closer. "A table for two, please," Edward says.
"Follow me," she says and walks to a table not too far into the room. "Your waiter will be right with you, and enjoy your meal." She looks at Edward the whole time, but he pays her no attention. I smile and he kisses me before he even looks away from me.
"Edward, since you've eaten here before and you know what I like, how about you order for us?" I ask him, as the hostess huffs and walks away. "Well, did we offend her by not acknowledging her blatant attempt to flirt with my man?"
"I am your man. Now give me the menu and the gift card, I'll order for us, and I'll pay the bill too."
"I get to cover the balance if it is more than the gift card," I say handing him the gift card and a fifty dollar bill.
"We won't go over, and I'll show you the bill to prove it," he says handing me back the fifty.
I put it away and watch him set the menus away from him. A young man comes over and introduces himself as our waiter. Edward orders us water with lemon to drink, and he orders two different entrees for us to share. We sit and enjoy the peacefulness of each other's company. We are just talking quietly, with our heads close together when the waiter brings our food.
First the waiter sets down two warmed large empty plates in front of each of us. Then he puts down this large plate of Cajun Shrimp and Lobster Pasta, and then a plate of Filet Medallions and Shrimp Scampi. There are several sides, and I look at Edward like he is crazy.
"Where are we going to put all of this food?" I ask Edward, while giving him a questioning look.
"Trust me, Bella, what we don't eat won't go to waste."
We start dishing out things on our plates and the selections Edward made were right on target. The food is amazing, and before long we are having the rest wrapped up to go. Edward shows me the check. The bill was less than forty-one dollars. "Well just give the waiter the whole gift card and tell them to keep the change."
"Sounds like a great plan, my love," Edward says.
We put the gift card in the folder and pick up our food. As we leave, the hostess tries very hard to get Edward's attention. When she actually reaches out to touch his arm, I spin around and point my finger in her face. "Pardon me, girlie, did you need something?"
"No ... no," she stutters.
"Good then, because other than the wonderful food, and the great service from our WAITER, there is nothing here that MY man or I want. Am I making myself clear, or do you need your fingers busted, for you to understand? Because if you reach those boney little claws of yours toward him again, I will snap those twigs of yours like a pretzel. You feeling me, Barbie?"
She nods, and Edward chuckles into my neck as we walk out the door. "Well, if I didn't know before that I loved you, I do now. Could you go all Rambo on a few other people for me, you're quite scary when you want to be."
I smirk at him, wiggle my brows, and give him a big kiss. He pulls back and kisses the tip of my nose.
"I'll take this food back to the room, and I'll be right back down."
"I'm going to check on our kiddos, meet you back at the pool," I say handing him the room key.
I watch him get on the elevator and I make my way into the water park area. I quickly put my wallet and shorts and top into the locker along with my shoes and make my way back out to the lounge chairs. Our kids are all sitting there, and they are talking as I approach.
"Hey kids, what's going on?" I ask getting three moms and four Bella's. "How come you aren't all swimming?"
"They made everyone get out of the pool, they are shock treating the water, because some little kid got sick in the lazy river," Chelsea says.
"Ew, that sounds lovely," I say sarcastically. "Well, how long did they say before we can get back in the water?"
"The lady said half an hour, but it was really gross. Charles and I were floating right by the kid that spewed. It was disgusting," Benjamin says.
"Okay, gross, how about we all go back to the room for a few hours, watch a movie or relax for a while. We could go have an early supper around five and afterward come back here until closing time. How does that sound for everyone?" I get seven yes answers and we pick up all of our stuff.
"Bella, guess what?" Garrett says. "There's another prize envelope in our bag. I won a very cool prize."
"Yeah, Mom, he won fifty dollars in gaming tokens for the arcade," Charles pipes up.
I chuckle as the two boys high five each other, and the girls all roll their eyes. "Okay guys lets go get our things from the lockers, and head upstairs for a while."
As we near the entryway, I see Edward coming in. He gives me a strange look. "Where are you all going?"
"I think it is best if we go back to the room for a while. Can you make sure the boys get all their things from the locker, I'll help the girls?"
"Okay," Edward replies. I love that he is so laid back and doesn't question my reasoning at all.
As we are coming out of the locker rooms, the lady is calling out another winning number, and it is Chelsea's number. "Hi, I'm right here," Chelsea says with a smile. I watch the lady hand her an envelope.
"Are you guys leaving?" the lady asks.
"We figured we would leave now for a while and come back after dinner," I say.
"Okay, give me your names for everyone that has not won yet along with their number. If you are drawn I'll set your prize aside. Your family sure has been lucky today," she says with a big smile.
"Thanks," I say. I write Heidi and Edward's names and numbers on a piece of paper for her and hand it back.
"Wow, all but two of you have won today?"
"Yes, we're awesome," Maggie says, and we all laugh.
As we make our way to the room, the kids fill Edward in on the puke nightmare in the lazy river, and he's glad to be going back to the room for a while. Chelsea opens her envelope and there is a gift certificate for fifty dollars to Kennedy Mall. We all laugh as she squeals and begs Edward and me to be able to use it. Edward gives me a sly nod and I smile at her and tell her she can.
It's almost three in the afternoon, when we get back in the room. Garrett and Charles go play Xbox, and Maggie, Chelsea, Charlotte, and Heidi all decide to paint their nails and get all dressed up for our 'fancy' dinner. Benjamin decides to watch a movie, and he asks if he can use the room that Edward didn't use last night. I blush slightly and Edward nods his head.
Edward and I cuddle on the sofa in the sitting room on my side and before I know it I'm dozing off.
"Bella, Bella," I hear Maggie say. I slowly open my eyes and I realize that Edward has moved behind me and has his arm around me and he is snoring lightly.
"Yes, sweetheart," I say quietly.
"You and Daddy should've napped in your bedroom, cause Daddy's back is gonna hurt now," she says. "Chelsea says it is time for you to get ready, it is a quarter after five."
"Okay, sweetie, I'll wake up your daddy, so he can get ready. Can you do me a big favor?"
"Uh, huh," she says nodding.
"Can you go and tell all the boys to get ready for dinner, while I get daddy up and go get dressed?"
"Yes, I get to be the boss?"
"Yes, but be nice about it, okay?"
"Okay," she says sweetly, before skipping off through the adjoining door.
I feel the light chuckle against my neck, and feel Edward's arms holding me closer. "I suppose we better hurry up, or all the kids will be ready and we'll still be right here."
"Yeah, come on let's go get ready to go."
"I have to go to my room and grab clothes," he says.
"You should've just put your suitcase in my room."
"Yeah, it seems the kids all know we slept together last night."
"At least they won't question things then tonight," I say sitting up. "Tonight there'll be more than just some cuddling going on," I whisper after leaning down to his ear.
"I can't wait until later," he says pulling my mouth to his and kissing me until my toes curl.
I get up and move to my room. I quickly change into the nice summery sundress, and strappy sandals. I grab my purse and put my cell and wallet in it. I brush my hair pulling it into a high ponytail. I put a spray of my favorite scent on, and a little lip gloss. I go back out to the sitting room, and all the kids are ready. Edward comes walking into the sitting room, and he looks nice, like always.
The girls are all wearing sundresses and the boys are all wearing nice jean shorts and polo shirts. I had asked Edward what was best to bring and he had told me. We never made any set in stone plans, but it's almost like we all coordinated.
"You look beautiful," Edward says, kissing my cheek. "Your kids all look very nice. Shall we go and enjoy our big dinner?"
"Yes, I'm starving," Maggie says. "Bella, can I walk with you?" she asks taking my hand.
"Of course you can, sweetie," I say squeezing her hand lightly.
We all head down to the restaurant that has the big dinner buffet. We hand the cashier our dinner tickets, and she rings up the cost for Maggie. I pay the cost, which is much cheaper than I figured it would be. We are taken to a large round table and seated. A guy takes our drink order and tells us to help ourselves to the selections.
I've never seen so much food in my life. They have fresh sliced prime rib, ham, pork loin, and turkey. There is a food bar for pizza and Italian food. There is a Mexican food bar. A Chinese stir-fry-to-order place. The salad bar has like fifty choices. The dessert bar looks extremely impressive and Maggie tugs on my hand.
"Bella, can we go there first?"
"How about you eat at least some meat and some veggies first?"
"Do I have to?"
"Yeah, you have to, so you can be strong enough to keep up with those boys later, when we go back to the waterpark."
"Okay," she says, agreeing easily.
"You are absolutely amazing with her," Edward whispers in my ear.
"Well, it's easy, she's an amazing kid who has this really amazing father," I whisper back. I help Maggie get her food, and sit her back at the table with Chelsea, Charlotte, Benjamin, Heidi, and Charles. "Where is Garrett?" I ask.
"Getting some chicken and broccoli stir fry," Charlotte answers.
"He is?" Edward asks, kind of shocked.
"Yeah, I told him how good it was, so he's trying it," Charlotte answers. I almost laugh out loud, when Benjamin, Heidi, and Edward all seem like this is the most shocking thing ever. No one says anything to Garrett when he sits down next to Charlotte and she hands him the cheater chopsticks, showing him how they work. I swear Edward's other kids are all in shock as he picks up a piece of broccoli and puts it in his mouth.
"Is that good, Garrett?" Edward asks.
"Yeah, Charlotte said it was really good and that I should try it. She's right, this is beast!"
"Oh, okay," Edward says with a strange smile on his face. "Okay, you kids hold down the fort here, Bella and I are going to get our food now."
Everyone agrees and we leave the table. "So, you want to tell me what that was all about?"
"Well, he has always refused to eat Chinese food, even though the rest of us pretty much love it. We always get him McDonalds or Subway when we eat Chinese."
"Well, my kids all love Chinese food, but their father hates it, so I understand the shock."
"Yeah, he'd never try it, so it's quite surprising. So where shall we start?"
"I'm kinda thinking that Maggie had the right idea, do you see all those desserts?"
"Yeah, the chocolate mousse is really good," he chuckles. "How about some Chinese, and I have to get a piece of that prime rib?"
"Lead the way, sexy man."
Growling lightly in my ear he leads us to the Chinese food bar. By the time we get our food and get back to the table the kids are about done with their first serving. Edward and I eat and laugh with the kids. Charles and Ben both put away several pieces of prime rib, and Garrett went back for more Chinese food. When Edward and I go to get dessert, Maggie comes with. She makes herself a sundae and gets a brownie.
We have been down here for over an hour, and I'm not sure any of us can manage to walk out of here. Yeah, our group put a dent in that buffet. Charlotte is telling Garrett all about the Japanese steak house we've been to. Now he wants to go to one soon, so I tell Edward of the two I have been to.
On the way back to the room, I pull Heidi to me, and remind her we can have our talk before we go back down to the pool if she'd like. She agrees and I make sure Edward will be okay with the kids. Chelsea and Benjamin agree to help him out, not that he can't handle it. So after everyone gets ready, they leave and it is just Heidi and I in the room.
Heidi and I spend almost an hour discussing all kinds of things. From female things, to how she feels like she should help mother Maggie, so that she doesn't feel unloved. Heidi confides in me that she never felt like her mom loved her. She asks me about how I feel about her dad. She goes on to tell me how happy her dad seems lately. I get tears when she hugs me and thanks me for caring about her dad and accepting her and her siblings.
We head back down to the waterpark about ten after eight and find Edward sitting on a chaise lounge with Maggie. "I was about to send out a search party," he jokes.
"Well, you're safe. I would never take one of the twins and not take them both."
Heidi laughs and hugs me, and runs off to play in the water. "Maggie crashed out about twenty minutes ago. I decided to let her sleep here until we go back to the room. It's already after eight, so I know she's worn out. Charles and Garrett are at the arcade with Benjamin. Chelsea and Charlotte were playing with Maggie, but now they're racing down the slides."
"Well, this is open until ten, so I think we should just let them wear each other out."
"I think you're right. Now come join us, I missed you a lot."
I join Edward, and we sit back and take in all the activity going on. Heidi and Edward both had their wrist numbers called and both won gift certificates for Kennedy Mall, so everyone in our group won. I tease Edward about being the luckiest man on planet earth. My heart melts when he tells me he knew that when he met me.
After getting everyone rounded up at the close of the waterpark, we head back to the room. All of the kids are tired. Maggie was carried back to the room by her father. We got everyone settled, and no one seemed bothered by the fact that we were sharing a room.
We make our way to what is now our room, and Edward brings in his suitcase. "I wish we could just stay for another week. I don't know how I'm supposed to give up sleeping with you in my arms after two days of it."
"Who said you're going to be getting any sleep?" I ask seductively.
"You're one dangerous woman, Bella."
"You make me feel sexy, and I want to share the way I feel with you."
"You're the sexiest woman I have ever known."
"Edward, I'm not putting myself down, but I know I am far from every man's dream come true. I'm a big, fat, overweight girl and I have spent a good portion of my life being teased for it."
"Listen to me very carefully, you may not be for every man, but that's their loss. You are perfect for me, and you're so incredibly sexy and desirable. When I see you, I don't see your size, I see a beautiful woman, who brings out the best in me. I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my days showing you just how wonderful I think you are."
~TEN YEARS LATER~
That was the first night we made love. Three weeks later we returned and stayed at the same place, in the same rooms. This time Edward's parents joined us. Esme and Carlisle shared the other king room. Things were wonderful and within three months, we were selling both our current homes and moving into our own new home together.
"Mom, are you ready?"
"Yes, baby, I'm finally ready."
"You know that my dad was ready after knowing you for six months."
"I know he was. I was too, but I've always been so scared to do anything until all you kids were settled in life. I could never have any of you put through another divorce. All seven of you kids already endured enough hatred from divorce, and I wanted to know you'd never have to go through it again."
"Mom, you could've told my dad you never wanted to see him again, and he would only have begged you for forgiveness. You make my dad complete. Thank you, for being such a great mom to us all."
"Maggie, you kids, all seven of you, are everything that your dad and I live for. We love you all equally," I say hugging the now grown girl.
Two weeks ago I watched and cried as her father walked her down the aisle, and we gave away her hand to her high school sweetheart. When we planned Maggie's wedding, Edward said we had to plan ours too. I have been wearing an engagement ring for nine years now, so it seems fitting that we tie the knot now. I'm not nervous at all, and never have I felt more relaxed or happy.
I smile at all my girls in the room with me. Of course my sweet baby, Maggie, who's all grown up now. There is Chelsea, who is not married and is in college at UNI in Cedar Falls, getting her Master's in education. She currently studies, and works as the assistant principle for a junior high in Waterloo.
Benjamin is married to Katie, who is round with our first set of twin grandchildren. Katie is standing with our oldest grand-daughter, Nikky. Heidi is here, she is in her final year of college. She attends Iowa State, and she is going to become a veterinarian. Charles is not married, but his girlfriend since tenth grade, Jamie, is here. They're both attending school at University of Iowa, and both are in excellent medical school programs.
Garrett's wife, Amanda, is here. Amanda actually lives with Chelsea right now, until our son is done with his current tour of duty. Amanda has already set up the laptop, so Garrett could be with us on Skype. Charlotte is here and she's the spitting image of me at that age. She's also pregnant with her first child. Her husband, Taylor, is a nice man, but he is nine years older than her. I never had an issue with the age difference, but it's the straw that finally broke the bond between her and her father. James disagreed with her choice, and ended up alienating the only child he had contact with.
"Mom, are you ready?"
"Yep, let's get this show on the road."
I walk down the aisle by myself, seeing the man who made me believe that love was worth taking another chance on standing there waiting for me. When I get down the aisle, and my hand is held in Edward's, I smile.
I'm shocked by the first words spoken by Pastor Weber. "Who gives this woman to marry this man?"
Tears track down my face when six of our children stand and one on a Skype chat window all say, "We do."
A/N: Well I hope that you have enjoyed reading this story. A lot of things and characteristics of certain characters are very real and only names have been changed to keep their identity secret. A grand portion of this story is actual real life, only online dating, Edward and his children and the luck at winning things is fictional. The way that this Bella was raised was my life, only rose colored to not get to detailed in the crap fest it really was. The ex, is real, and so is all things typed about him in this story. This was my submission for the Fandom Fights LLS and I hope that you all have enjoyed reading it. Thanks, Kasi~