"Mommy, what about this one?" Maddie asked me while we sat at the dining room table.
Edward and I had just gotten back from our brief, but much needed trip to Seattle, and on the agenda for today was picking out the dresses Maddie and Rose would wear for the wedding.
During our flight home, because I'd been in no frame of mind to do it on the way there, we talked about some of the finer details of the wedding…best man, maid of honor, and such. The wedding Mass was going to be held at a small church about fifteen minutes away from Lake George. The priest at St. Cecilia's was a friend of Father O'Connor, and he was more than happy to let us have our wedding Mass there. The reception had just been decided on. I had found the perfect place, the Inn at Erlowest; it was simply spectacular and they would take care of the food and everything. It was intimate and elegant and it was exactly what I wanted.
Edward and I would spend Saturday and Sunday night there, too, and then head back to the city before Maddie and Masen were done with school on Monday. It wasn't the way most people would do things, but Edward and I had proven time and again that we weren't anybody else, we were us, and it was perfect for us.
Edward and I didn't want a long line of bridesmaids and groomsmen. Emmett and Rose were going to be Best Man and Maid of Honor. Maddie and Masen were going to stand with us along with Jasper and Seth, who were walking me down the aisle. With such a small wedding we couldn't have everyone stand up with us or else there would be no one left!
"Mommy isn't it pretty?" my adorable little girl asked me and I grimaced, but tried to hide it behind a smile.
I kissed her on the cheek, chuckling when I looked at the picture again. "It is babygirl. It's very pretty…and so shiny, too!"
"Do you think Aunt Rose would like it? Cause I do and my dress gets to match hers," Maddie said happily.
"You know what? I think we should take a picture of the dress and then send it to her! She'll be so excited to see what you've picked out!" I said, trying to keep a straight face.
"'Kay! Let's send her a picture!" Maddie said excitedly and I chuckled to myself as I imagined Rose's face when she looked at her message.
I took a picture with my phone then sent Rose a text. I gave her thirty seconds, max, before she called me.
"Isabella Marie Swan never to be Cullen!" my best friend screeched into the phone a mere twenty-three seconds later.
"Why Rosalie Whitlock, what a surprise to hear from you!" I giggled into the phone.
"Bella, please tell me you're joking about that dress. I'm begging you," she whined.
"You know Maddie picked that dress out, she was so excited to show you," I told her evilly.
I heard her sigh on the other end of the phone and covered my mouth with my hand so she couldn't hear me laugh. Of course I had no intention of Rose and Maddie wearing those dresses, but it was fun as hell to play with my best friend for a few minutes. The dresses Maddie had so excitedly picked out were a gold lame'; I guess was the only way to describe them. Truthfully they looked like they were made out of gold tin foil. They had ruffles and looked like they were from the 1980's.
They were hideous!
"Bell, come on. Be reasonable. You know I look horrible in that color anyway," she said, and then giggled.
"Le, just hurry and get your ass over here before Mad has you in pink taffeta and a big ass bow on your butt." That should get her here in a hurry and teach her not to be late when we had dresses to look at.
"Mommy, did Aunt Rose like the dress I picked out?" my little girl asked innocently. Poor thing, she definitely needed some fashion guidance, but I suppose shiny gold with ruffles would appeal to an eight-year-old. Not so much to a twenty-five-year-old blonde bombshell, however.
"Well babygirl, Aunt Rose is on her way over here to see if we can find something even prettier. Though the one you picked out was very pretty, too," I told her. I didn't want to hurt her feelings, but um…just no.
This was the only wedding I was ever going to have, so I wanted it done right. I never dreamed about my wedding as a little girl. I didn't have notebooks full of pictures and dress ideas. In all honesty, I never dreamed of meeting someone like Edward, let alone falling in love and being on the cusp of having everything I never dreamed I'd ever want. I'd marry him tomorrow at City Hall in jeans and a t-shirt if he wanted, but I knew that going through the whole ceremony, of saying vows and performing rituals that millions before us had done, meant something to both of us.
Our wedding meant a lot to not just us, but to all of our family and friends as well. There was no way I could ever do something as important as binding myself to the man of my dreams without my friends and family by my side looking on. It wouldn't be the same nor mean as much without all of them there to share our day.
Maddie smiled and began flipping through the magazines again when I asked a question I had had on my mind for quite some time now. "Are you happy Daddy and I are getting married?" I asked her as I ran a hand through her soft hair.
She was such a precious little thing and so much different from her brother. My Masen wore his heart on his sleeve much like his father. He was intense and passionate, another trait he'd inherited from his dad. My little girl was like her grandmother, and honestly, could there ever be anyone better to be like than Esme Cullen? She was gentle and kind and she wanted nothing more than for those around her to be happy. Maddie hated when anyone was sad, whether it was me, her brother, a friend, or a stranger on the street. Anyone's sadness hurt her heart. I worried about what it would be like for her when she got older and had to face things all kids had to go through; a friend that said something mean behind her back, a boy that broke her heart, a failure at something she wanted to excel at.
"Course I am, Mommy. When you and Daddy get married, it means we get to keep you forever," she said offhandedly.
Her words, however, cut straight through my heart. "You know I'm not ever going anywhere, right Maddie? I love you, Masen, and Daddy too much to ever leave any of you. We're a family and family's stay together, always."
"I know," she said quietly and then looked at me. "Are we going to move to the lake house sometime?"
"Well, Daddy and I have talked about it. Is it okay with you if we move up there? You know you'll have to change schools and make new friends," I answered her. I had wanted to talk to the kids together with Edward, but she asked and I didn't want to put her off.
"I know, but if we move then no one will try to hurt you anymore. Everyone is so nice up there and it's so pretty. When we move, can I still have my room?" she asked in true eight-year-old Maddie Cullen fashion.
If she thought I was letting the first comment go, she was sadly mistaken. "Maddie, you know no one is going to hurt me again. Jane was very sick and it made her do things she didn't want to do. We've talked to Dr. Benedict about this. I didn't do anything to make her mad at me, she just got confused. Besides, she can't hurt any of us ever again, so don't worry, okay?" I said, hoping she truly understood.
Shortly after I was released from the hospital, Edward, Jasper, Alice, and I along with a man named Ethan Sanders, met with Alec and Riley at the FBI office. Ethan was a friend of Edward's lawyer Felix and Edward trusted Felix so we knew that Ethan would have our best interests at heart.
I gave Alec and Riley my statement, and they informed us of Jane's rambling at the hospital. It wasn't easy to hear, and even harder to watch both Edward and Jasper listen to how long she'd had such an irrational hatred of me. It made me cringe to hear about James after all this time, but in a weird way, it made some sort of twisted sense to see how Jane could have convinced herself that I had taken everything away from her. It made me feel even sorrier for her, to be honest, and I was truly sorry for Aro more than anything.
After being evaluated by numerous psychiatrists, she was deemed mentally incompetent so there wasn't really a need for a trial, a fact of which I was extremely thankful for. I couldn't even imagine having to put Edward or the kids through such a circus. I cringed when I thought about the frenzy that would have caused. I was so relieved we could get married, move to the lake, and leave this nightmare behind us.
Jane would be in a mental hospital for quite some time while she underwent treatment. It was assumed, and Alec was pretty positive her tests would reveal the same conclusions, that she was a paranoid schizophrenic. She needed some intensive therapy and medications to get her delusions under control, but I truly hoped for hers and her father's sake that at some point she could be a functioning person again. It was a pipe dream, though, I was sure. Jane was likely beyond hope. It was scary to think she appeared to function so well for so many years and then just snapped, but I suppose it happened that way sometimes. Not to mention, I was sure there were signs we all missed.
I knew that was the thing Aro would struggle the most with. For years he'd indulged her, then for years after, practically ignored her. Jane didn't know what to do with that, so she turned it into a hatred for me. It didn't make much sense, but she was mentally unstable. I suppose it will never make sense and really I didn't much care. As long as I knew she wouldn't try to hurt me or anyone I loved again, I could allow myself to hope for her recovery no matter how minute the chances were.
Edward, I knew, would have a very hard time forgiving her for what she did, even if she wasn't all there to begin with. Jasper, Seth, Emmett, and Rose would be very hard pressed to forgive her as well. I hoped with time they would all learn to forgive her, but I couldn't make them. I couldn't say that if the situation had been reversed and it was I who had to watch Edward in a coma for a week, hoping and praying that he would wake up, that I would be able to forgive her either.
"Okay, my two favorite girls, lets pick out some dresses!" Rose bellowed as she let herself into the loft.
"Aunt Rose, Mommy already showed you the dress I want to wear," Maddie giggled as Rose blew a raspberry on her cheek.
"Oh princess, I saw the dress. It's really pretty, but between me and you, we might look prettier than Mommy if we wear those dresses, so maybe we need to find something ….um not so shiny. That way people won't look at us instead of Mommy," Rose said, trying to keep a straight face.
Maddie regarded her for a moment and said, "I guess you're right, Aunt Rose. I s'pose people should watch Mommy and Daddy instead of us," she sighed, very put out that she couldn't wear her shiny, ruffled, gold dress.
"Nice save, Rose," I giggled at her as she flopped down in the seat beside me, a very smug grin plastered on her gorgeous face.
She rolled her eyes at me, "Bell, I am so paying you back for this when it's my turn."
"You have news you should share with your oldest and best friend there sweetie?" I asked, a bit shocked that she even mentioned getting married.
She smiled softly, the love she felt for Emmett shining brightly in her clear, blue eyes. Rose shook her head and said, a bit wistfully I thought, "Not yet, but we have talked about it in the abstract kind of way."
"That is fantastic," I told her truthfully. "Oh God, Rose! You know what that would mean don't you? We would really be sisters then!" I squealed, a bit embarrassed at sounding like Maddie…or Alice.
She smiled beautifully at me. "I know, Jasper, too, because we both know that he and Alice won't be far behind you and Edward," she giggled and I nodded my head.
"I'm so happy for both of you," I told her, swallowing over the lump that suddenly formed in my throat.
Rose reached across and grabbed my hand and squeezed. "For all of us, Bell. Things are turning out the way they are supposed to, I know it. Look, I need to tell you one thing before we find a dress that will knock my big oaf on his ass because it makes my boobs look so spectacular. You have always felt like J, Seth, and I gave up so much for you, but you need to think about something. If none of that would have happened, would we be where we are right now? I have Em, J has Ali, Seth has Tanya, and you have Edward and your two amazing kids. None of us would be where we are right now, where we are meant to be, without you so next time you want to tell us you're sorry, don't. Because if you do, I will seriously have to kick your ass," she said with a smirk and a toss of her blonde hair.
"Point made and received my friend. No more apologies," I told her as we got to work.
By the end of the day we had found the dresses for her and Maddie and the tuxes for the guys. Edward and I had an appointment at Tiffany's to pick out our wedding bands and I had an appointment with one of Alice's friends that owned a bridal boutique to try on some dresses the day after tomorrow. I knew it was cutting it kind of close since we'd have just over three weeks until the wedding, but I had faith I would find what I wanted. I wasn't sure what it was, but I knew I would know it when I saw it.
Maddie was playing in her room, having grown tired of wedding talk once her dress was picked out. It was adorable, and complemented Rose's. Rose's was a gorgeous caramel colored floor-length dress with a toffee colored sash. It had a deep V-neck and it would look gorgeous with the red and gold flowers we had picked out for her and Maddie to carry. Maddie's was an adorable toffee colored dress with a bubble skirt. The sash was the same color as Rose's and it made me cry when we found it. With her hair coloring, she was going to be beautiful, and she was so excited!
"Edward, sweetheart, I'm about to meet Jasper and Seth for lunch. I'll call you when I'm on my way to Carlisle and Esme's okay?" I asked as I entered the restaurant a few days later.
"Okay, baby. Enjoy your day with the guys; tell them I'll see them later at home. Love you, angel," he said softly. I told him the same and hung up the phone to meet with Jasper and Seth.
I hadn't asked them to walk me down the aisle yet. I wasn't sure if they assumed they would or they wouldn't and it had been a long time since I'd spent time with just the two of them.
"Shortcake," Jasper greeted me as I walked up to the table. He and Seth were already seated and from the looks of it, had already polished off a basket of chips and bowl of salsa. Not to mention there were already empty beer bottles on the table.
I kissed them each on the cheek before I sat down. "You two need jobs," I said with a giggle. "Eating baskets of chips and drinking beer in the afternoon. You guys are going to get fat and lazy!" I teased.
"Well someone left us without a job you know," Seth said with a wicked gleam in his eye.
I started to say something but Jasper put his hand over mine and glared at Seth. "Bell, don't pay that fucking idiot any attention at all. You know we're both just fine and couldn't be happier for you and Edward. Seth," Jasper said with a roll of his eyes, "you are such a damn fool."
"Aw, J, Bella knows I'm just giving her shit. I'm thrilled with a little bit of time off until after the first of the year," Seth said as he took a sip of his beer.
A waitress came and took our order and as much as a margarita sounded really good, I needed to keep a clear head for what I needed to talk to my two oldest friends about so I just ordered a Coke instead. We decided on splitting some nachos and fajitas for lunch and after the waitress brought our drinks, I turned to Seth.
"What are you going to do after the first of the year?" I asked him.
"Well, after I move Mom out here between Thanksgiving and Christmas," he said with a smirk that turned into a booming laugh as I choked on my drink. "I'm going to help Emmett and Ben with their security company."
Jasper slapped me on the back, trying not to laugh at me for my outburst. "Sue is moving to New York?" I screeched at him.
Seth grinned and nodded his head. "Yep. Mom has hit if off so well with Esme, Diane, and Carmen not to mention she totally adores Tan. She has fallen head over heels in love with the munchkins, too, so yeah, she is."
"Wow…just wow!" I whispered, shocked beyond belief that she was moving. Thrilled beyond words of course, but so freaking shocked too.
"Believe me Shortcake, I had the same reaction when she told me, but really it makes sense. You and Edward are moving to the lake, Rose is staying here with Emmett. Jasper and Ali are moving in together and so are Tanya and I. Mom is lonely in Washington by herself and she misses all of us. What happened to you," he said with a deep breath, "just made her realize there wasn't anything keeping her back in Forks besides herself."
"I'm so happy she's going to be so close," I told him with tears in my eyes. I'd missed her terribly over the past few years. Her guidance and her support, not to mention her unconditional love, were things I'd taken for granted when I was younger, but had come to appreciate so much as I'd gotten older.
"What is she going to do?" Jasper asked, sounding a bit less shocked than me at the decision Sue had made. "You knew and you didn't tell me!" I accused as I turned to him and he shrugged his shoulders. "Well, I do live with Seth darlin, you know that don't you? In fact we live beneath you. You might want to consider soundproofing," he said with a grin.
"Whatever," I waved dismissively, hoping him and Seth really didn't hear things. That would be…just all kinds of wrong.
"Anyway," Seth interjected and thankfully changing the subject. "Mom is going to help down at the shelter with Zaphrina," he said proudly.
"Oh Seth, that is fabulous!" I cried happily. I had been to the shelter a few times since I'd gotten out of the hospital. One visit I even accompanied Edward when he went. It was sad that places like that were needed, but Zaph did a wonderful job running it and the atmosphere was always happy and peaceful, something those women and children desperately needed. Sue would be such an asset to her.
"Well, you know Dad left Mom very well taken care of and when Mom went with Tanya one day, she fell in love with the kids and Zaphrina. I'm surprised it's going to take her another month to get moved!" he said with a laugh and I couldn't help but let a small tear escape as I looked from Seth to Jasper.
"Hey now, what's with the tears?" Seth said softly as he wiped my face with his thumb.
I waited for the waitress, who'd just arrived with our food, to leave our plates and refill our drinks before I said anything.
"Bell?" Seth questioned as soon as she left and I smiled softly at him. I knew he wouldn't wait for an answer, in twenty-five years he never had. Beating around the bush with my oldest friend was definitely not possible.
I reached out for both their hands. I wasn't sure how I was going to do this, but it seemed like it had been decided for me so I was just going with it. "I was just thinking about something Le said the other day at the house and finding out Sue is moving here just kind of drove the whole thing home for me," I began quietly and took a few breaths, hoping I could get out what I wanted to say without becoming too emotional. I had really shed enough tears to last a lifetime, though I imagined as the wedding got closer, there would be more of them. "She told me that I needed to stop apologizing to the three of you for the way the last few years have gone because it's like we're where we are supposed to be. And that if things didn't turn out the way they did five years ago we might not have found the people we have. With Sue moving here it just seems like everything has fallen into place and that just makes me really, really happy," I said with an exhale. The tears came, from all of us, even though I could tell we tried not to let them.
"She's right, Bella," Jasper said as he squeezed my hand. "Without you, none of us would be where we are right now. It hasn't always been easy, and the last few months have been pretty much hell, but like Dr. Benedict said, we can't dwell, we can only go forward. You're going to have a great life with Edward, just like I will with Ali, Seth will with Tanya, and Rose will with Emmett, God help her," he said with a smile to lighten the mood a bit. "We're still going to always be friends, we're even going to be family someday as long as Ali says yes when the time comes," he said with a wink.
Like Alice would ever say no, we'd hear her squeal all the way in Lake George I was positive of that.
"We were all led on a path, and that path led us all here. It's where we were supposed to be, Shortcake, there's no other way to explain it. Listen to my sister, she knows what she's talking about every now and then," he finished and sat back in his chair but still held my hand.
"Bell, I know better than anyone the guilt you've carried at what you thought we'd given up for you. I can't tell you how fucking proud I am of you for finally realizing it was never a burden for any of us to have stood by you for the past five years. We've been together our whole lives, babe. We may be all going down our own paths now, but we'll always be close by," Seth said, his voice quivered and then he took a few deep breaths.
"Well speaking of being close by and all that, I um…I have something I need to ask both of you. I wanted to see if you both would be willing to walk me down the aisle and give me away at my wedding?" I asked, swallowing nervously.
"Shortcake," I heard at the same time, one voice on each side of me.
I looked from one to the other, both their eyes had a few tears leaking out at the edges, but both beamed with pride, too.
"It would be an honor," Seth said as he breathed in and out of his nose a few times. "Hell yeah it would," Jasper said with a loud laugh.
"Wow," Seth said as he rolled some meat in a tortilla. "I can't believe you're getting married," he continued a bit wistfully, but there wasn't any sadness there at all.
"I can't either," I admitted as I ate some of my lunch. "He's given me more than I ever dreamed I would have."
"You deserve every bit of it Bell, all of it and more," Jasper said as he leaned across and kissed my cheek. "And even though you're going to be a married woman with two kids in a few weeks, you'll always be our Shortcake."
"Hell yeah you will. Not to mention, we'll still kick Edward's ass if he hurts you, too. No matter how great a guy we think he is. You were ours first, he better remember that," Seth growled protectively.
I giggled at him and rolled my eyes at both of them when Jasper was nodding his head like a fool in agreement. "You know, first of all Edward would never hurt me. And second, you two will get the same warnings about Tanya and Ali both. Not only that," I said evilly, "Emmett and Demetri will back him up, so you two fools are outnumbered!"
"Ah hell, Jasper," Seth grumbled and actually looked a bit terrified by the prospect which I thought was exceptionally funny.
We finished our lunch and walked out of the restaurant
"You going back to the loft?" Seth asked me as we stepped out on the sidewalk.
"No," I told him as I pulled my phone out to text Esme. "Esme is meeting me at the park with the kids. Edward and Carlisle had to meet with Marcus and Dem about some foundation business. We're going to let the kids play for a bit, and then I'll go back to their place and help Esme with dinner," I said, rolling my eyes when I saw their eyes bug out at the thought of food at Esme's. "You idiots just stuffed your faces! How can you even think about food already?" I questioned incredulously.
"Um, duh, Shortcake. Esme's cooking? Enough said," Jasper said as he rubbed his fully belly.
"You need to be careful, J," I teased as I patted his stomach. "Ali might have to think about her answer to marrying you if you have a gut! Besides, who said I was bringing leftovers back to you?"
I was positive Esme would have plenty of food and she'd send some home for her 'other boys' like normal, but they didn't need to know that, did they?
"Never fear darlin, I'm sure Alice and I can find plenty of ways to burn off some calories," he said with a wink and chuckled when I cringed.
I know way more about the sex lives of my family than is probably normal, I tell you!
"Enough!" I laughed at both of them. "Seriously, or else I'll start spilling and we all know how well you two handle hearing about my sex life."
That shut them both up in a hurry and I gave myself an internal fist bump for giving as good as I got.
"Later, babe," Seth said as a cab pulled up. "Love you, Bell," Jasper said and followed Seth into the car as they sped off to do…whatever it was they did with their afternoons.
The next day Rose had come to the loft to go over the menu for the reception when my phone rang. I smiled as soon as I heard the ring tone. "Hey baby, you guys almost done?" I asked my fiancée.
I fucking loved saying that word, the only one that I loved more was husband.
"Fuck, yes, finally," Edward huffed with a chuckle. "You wouldn't believe all the crap Ang and Ben have!"
"Be nice Edward, it will be their turn to help us soon, you know," I told him.
I was so happy for Angela and Ben. Since I wasn't going back to Volturi, Angela quit as well. Aro tried to convince her to stay and even offered her a substantial raise. Angela was another one that had postponed her dream to help me, so I was thrilled beyond belief that she was finally going to do what she was meant to do. She had always wanted to be a teacher and had found a perfect job. A teacher at a local charter school was going on an extended maternity leave and Angela was going to fill in for the rest of the year. Once this school year was concluded, Angela would get a class of her own to teach the next year. Ben was so happy for her and so was I. They had just bought a new apartment together, in Alice's building, so Edward, Emmett, Demetri, Jasper, and Seth were helping them move their furniture today.
I guess things did turn out the way they were supposed to, I thought to myself.
"Hell no, they aren't. I'm paying someone to move all our shit, Angel. None of this packing for me, it sucks ass," he complained adorably.
"Aw, poor baby. Are you sore? Maybe you need a long hot bath and a massage when you get home?" I teased.
"Bella, don't you tease me with that shit. You know better than that," he purred into the phone and I had to close my eyes and squeeze my legs together to keep from moaning out. I loved it when he used that low, raspy voice.
"Who says I'm teasing?" I retorted back and giggled when it was his turn to moan.
He took a few deep breaths before he whispered, "You definitely are an evil little thing Isabella Cullen. You just wait until later."
"Mmmm, promises, promises baby. Now, why don't you guys pick up some beer on your way home, and Rose and I will call the girls and order some pizza. We'll see you guys in about an hour?" I questioned.
"Sounds good, Angel. Hang on, there's someone that wants to say hi," he laughed and I heard as he handed the phone to someone else.
"Mommy! Make sure you get me a Canadian bacon and pineapple pizza, please?" Masen squealed into the phone and I couldn't help but laugh. "You got it little man. You don't even have to share with Uncle Emmett and Uncle Demetri either, okay? Have you been working hard?"
"Yep. Ben let me push the button on the elevator every time, even though Seth wanted to push. Ben said I worked harder than him so I got to push," he giggled.
"Well you tell Seth he has to share his pizza and you get your own for being such a good helper. Tell Daddy to get you and Maddie root beer to have with dinner, okay? I'll see you soon Mase, love you," I told him as I listened to him yell my instructions to Edward and I heard Seth in the background grumble about having to share his pizza.
"Love you, Mommy," he said before he hung up the phone.
I hung up the phone and looked at Rose who was hanging up her phone, too. "Ali, Tanya, and Heidi are on their way. Ali is going to pick up wine on her way and you and I will order the pizzas. Damn, we're going to need," she paused as she counted. "I guess ten should be enough, don't you think?" she asked and I laughed. "I sure as hell hope so, Rose." Really, when you thought about it, I wasn't sure ten would be enough, but we'd make do.
Rose and I had just put two pans of brownies in the oven and put chips into bowls when the other girls came in, loaded down with enough wine to last for a month.
"Ali, you thirsty?" I teased as I kissed her on the cheek when she stepped next to me.
"Shut it, Bella. We haven't all hung out in awhile, we need to make up for lost time," she said as she lifted the wine on the island.
Tanya came forward to kiss my cheek followed by Heidi and Rose was handing out glasses before we were even finished saying hello. "What?" she said with a wink when I looked at her. "I'm ready to have some fun, Bell. Besides you know the guys will be all sweaty when they get here from moving all day. There is nothing better in my book than sweaty Emmett, unless of course you count naked, sweaty Emmett," she said with a lick of her lips.
"Eww Rose! That is my brother you're talking about there. Way too much information," Alice said with a shake of her head.
"Oh and you don't ever over share Tinkerbell?" Rose teased as she poured wine for all of us. "Jasper is my brother you know. I really didn't ever want to know that he liked to wear a cowboy hat and chaps, but only while he had sex, you know!" Rose exclaimed and I spit my wine out.
"Holy shit!" I giggled. "I didn't need to know that either!" I cried out, trying really hard to keep from laughing…and imagining what that would look like.
No, stop right there Bella, I reminded myself.
By the time the pizzas arrived about thirty seconds before Edward and the rest of the guys, we'd already finished off almost two bottles of wine.
"Baby!" I squealed excitedly when I saw Edward walk in the door. He looked mouthwatering. He had on cargo shorts, a faded Yankees t-shirt and a baseball hat on backward. He was sweaty, he was dirty, and he never looked better.
He rolled his eyes at me and I'm guessing my high pitched squeak. "Hello my drunk fiancée," he chuckled as I threw myself at him.
"I'm not drunk, I promise. Maddie is home so I'm just happily tipsy," I said with a grin.
Edward bent his head down and pressed his mouth against mine and I felt his tongue lick at my bottom lip. "Mmmm, I love happily tipsy. That usually means I'm gonna get some," he growled against me and bit my bottom lip.
"Edward, stop it," I said as I tried to squirm out of his grip, which was a feat that I usually wasn't able to accomplish.
"What? Didn't you miss me today? I missed you, baby," he lowered his voice and rubbed his crotch against my center.
"Of course I missed you, I always miss you when you're gone," I said in a breathy voice as he continued his sexy assault on my neck. "Besides, who says you're getting any later, anyway?"
"Angel, you already promised me a shower and a massage. You know as well as I do, that always ends with me inside of you," he said and groaned in my ear.
"Knock it off, you two," Jasper said as he passed us on his way into the loft. "Find a room or something, I don't need to see that shit."
Edward flipped him off and I spun around in Edward's arms and faced my best friend. "Shut it, cowboy," I said with a smirk and watched his face turn red.
"Ali, darlin'," Jasper cried as he walked farther into the loft. I pulled Edward behind me so he could see this. "You want to tell me why Shortcake is calling me Cowboy?"
"What? Sweets, I'm sure I don't know," she squeaked out and then glared at me and then Rose.
"Hey Rose," I giggled evilly when she turned to me. "I think we need to get J a new cowboy hat for Christmas, don't you think? Maybe some chaps, too? You never know when he might feel the urge to dress up like a cowboy."
Jasper spit the beer out he'd just taken a drink of, and it splattered all over Emmett. "What the hell dude?" Em yelled, and wiped his shirt off.
"Sorry," Jasper said. He was positively purple.
"Someone want to fill the rest of the class in?" Demetri asked as he filled a plate with pizza.
Jasper turned an icy stare in my direction. "Isabella Marie, you better watch it. Payback will not be pretty," he warned, though it was futile.
There wasn't anything he had on me that even came close to this. "Oohh, I'm so scared," I taunted and looked up at Edward. "It seems Jasper and Ali like to um…experiment in the bedroom so to speak."
"Sweet B, what the hell are you talking about?" Emmett asked looking from me to Rose who was laughing so hard she was crying. "Em, Ali and Jas play dress up when they have sex," Rose told him.
"Ew!" Emmett hollered and then covered his ears before he looked at Rose. "How come we never do anything like that? You know you'd make a hell of a sexy nurse and I could be the sick patient in need of a sponge bath," he said as he waggled his eyebrows at her.
"You're such an idiot," she said, though I could tell her mind was working. That was something I never wanted to hear about, much less imagine!
From that point on, the night was full of beer, pizza, and way more information on the sex lives of my family than I ever wanted to know. Thankfully, Maddie and Masen were tucked in their room watching a movie with the door closed.
Once they all left, Edward turned and looked at me and said, "I think I'm ready for my shower and massage now, baby."
He was right, it did end up with him inside of me…more than once.
"So these are it then?" Edward asked me as I looked at the rings on the black velvet in front of me. The wedding bands we had chosen were simple, they were perfect, and they were going to be on our fingers for the rest of our lives.
I nodded enthusiastically. "I love them, they're perfect," I whispered, choked up as I imagined what it would feel like to slip the platinum ring on his finger as I said I do.
Edward's wedding ring was a simple platinum band. It was elegant and totally him. Mine would match my engagement ring. It was a thin band, encrusted with diamonds and I got butterflies in my stomach every time I thought about how it would look on my finger. When we were trying on different bands, I had to admit to not wanting to take it off. Edward laughed at me. I just shrugged my shoulders, I couldn't help it. I was more than ready to be Bella Cullen.
Way more than ready.
The Tiffany's associate that had been helping us unobtrusively stepped away and took our rings to get them cleaned and sized and put in boxes so we could take them home. I'm sure we weren't the first couple that forgot we were in out in public and I was sure we wouldn't be the last either. There was something so…overwhelming about picking out something that would remain on your body for the rest of time.
At least it was that way for Edward and I.
"I can't believe in just a few weeks you'll be my wife," Edward whispered softly as he leaned forward to kiss me.
"And you'll be my husband," I whispered back just as softly and ran my fingers through his hair.
He closed his eyes and let out a soft, breathy sigh. "I can't fucking wait, baby," Edward said, looking me straight in the eyes. "I'm so glad we're not dragging this whole engagement thing out. You're okay about that aren't you? I mean, you don't feel like I'm rushing you, do you?" he asked, panicked I might tell him I was.
"Of course not you big goof. I know before I got hurt we hadn't really talked about when or where, but really, this is perfect for us, Edward. It may be sooner than we planned, but it can't come soon enough, if that makes any sense," I laughed, thinking I sounded completely insane.
"It makes perfect sense, Bella," he grinned and then stood up as the salesgirl came back with a very distinctive looking bag.
We walked out of Tiffany's, hand in hand, and I checked one more thing off my list of things to do before the wedding.
"Bella, shake it, we've got to go or we'll be late!" Alice hollered from the living room.
Edward chuckled from the bed and I turned and narrowed my eyes at him. "Watch it buster. She's your sister; can't you do something about her?" I questioned as I tried to hurry and finish getting dressed. Edward had done an exceptionally good job of keeping me occupied this morning…thus the reason why I was running late and faced the wrath of the tiny terror in the living room.
Alice Cullen could truly be terrifying when she wanted to be!
"Never have before, baby. Em and I tried to lock her in a closet when she was ten…Mama didn't like that so much," he teased.
"I'm sure," I said with a roll of my eyes as I stepped into my shoes.
"You're positive you don't need my help this morning?" he asked sweetly, still rumpled and gorgeous from our morning activities.
I laughed at his blatant attempt to just wanting to see me naked. "I'm sure, Edward. I would like to do a few things with this wedding that are at least traditional, and one of those means you don't see the dress until I walk down the aisle."
"We're not doing that whole 'sleeping apart the night before the wedding' thing, are we?" he asked, horrified by the mere thought.
"No, Edward, we're not. That might work for some people, but certainly not for us," I answered him and he immediately relaxed.
I would never tell anyone else how to act on the days before their wedding, but Edward and I were doing things our way. No bachelor/bachelorette parties, no spending the night apart the night before; none of that. Since our wedding was taking place over Thanksgiving, we really were just spending the four days as a family. After the chaos of the past few months, it would be nice to just be together. With Sue here to share the holiday and the wedding with us, it really was the perfect way to reconnect.
"Thank God for that," Edward sighed dramatically, though I knew he was relieved.
Our wedding was going to be a celebration for all of us, it didn't need to be a spectacle however.
"Now, come kiss me so I can go find the dress that I'm going to marry you in. I want to make you speechless," I told him with a giggle as he jumped out of bed and pulled me into his arms.
He bent down and kissed me; a searing, breathtaking, kiss. "Hmmm, I've dreamed about what you will look like on our wedding day, did you know that?" Edward asked as he kissed up and down the side of my neck.
"Um…ah, no," I panted as he sucked and licked the sensitive skin there.
He swirled his tongue around and then took my earlobe into his mouth. "Mmmhmm, I have, baby. To see you in a white dress, that no one has seen before, that you've picked out to marry me in. Of course you know I'll just be counting down the minutes until I can take it off you because you'll have driven me so crazy all night with how beautiful you'll look."
"Edward, get your mouth of your fiancée so we can go or else Bella will be marrying you in a paper sack!" Alice screeched from the other room, causing us both to jump away from each other.
"I fucking swear she can see through walls. For someone so damn small, she can be hugely annoying," Edward said with a grin.
"I heard that Edward!" Alice giggled. "Bella, Mom and Rose are meeting us there with everyone else, we've got to go," she said in a much sweeter tone of voice.
"Bye sweetheart, wish me luck," I told him as I kissed his cheek one more time and then left the room to meet Alice.
"Come on sister of mine, let's go find me a dress," I told her as I kissed her quickly.
We arrived at Michelle's studio in no time at all. Alice and Tanya had been friends with her since high school and it was a blessing that she was available to help me out. Esme, Diane, Sue, Rose, Tanya, Angela, Heidi, and Maddie were already there waiting for us when we arrived.
"Mommy!" Maddie screeched when we walked through the door. "Hey babygirl, did you have fun with Nana and Papa last night?" I asked as she tugged me toward the rest of our group.
"I did. Papa and me made a puzzle and then we watched a movie," she said quickly as I was kissed by everyone. "Do we get to find your pretty dress now?" she asked and I nodded my head. "I sure hope so princess, though I'm not sure it will be prettier than yours and Aunt Rose's dresses."
A pretty, petite woman with red hair stepped forward and said, "Bella, I'm Michelle. I have some dresses already picked out for you. I think we'll be able to find something that you like."
"Thank you so much for your help," I told her honestly. There was no way we'd have enough time to find a dress without her. "Well, it's certainly my pleasure," she said as she showed our large group to the dressing area. "With the pictures Ali sent over and the measurements your friend Angela had faxed to me, it was pretty easy to find some dresses for you to choose from that matched what Alice told me you wanted."
She walked ahead and put some dresses in a fitting room for me and I took a deep breath as I looked around the room where everyone was talking softly amongst themselves. I was truly so very fortunate to have all these amazing women as my family.
"You okay dear?" Sue asked as she hooked her arm in mine. I nodded my head at her and I was so glad she was here. "I'm so happy you're here with me," I told her softly. "None of this would be the same without you."
"Bella, I love you like you were my own daughter. Where else would I be?" she asked with a smile, though she had tears in her eyes. "I wouldn't miss this experience for the world."
"I'm so happy you're moving here. I've missed you so much," I said.
Alice flitted over, carrying two glasses of champagne and said, "No tears yet, girls. This is a happy day. We'll save the tears for when she finds the dress."
"You're right, Ali," I told her as I took a flute from her and took a sip. "Now, let's get the ball rolling and find me my wedding dress."
"Ugh," I groaned an hour later when I still hadn't found one I even remotely liked. I wasn't trying to be picky or anything, but I knew I would know the dress when I found it, and so far I hadn't even come close.
The dresses Michelle had me try on were all gorgeous, but they weren't IT. They were either too poufy, too many ruffles, too short, too long…too, just not what I wanted.
Rose sat next to me on the sofa while we waited for Michelle to come back with more dresses for me to try on. I felt bad because she'd worked so hard to help, but I just wasn't in love with any of the dresses I'd tried on so far.
"You'll find it, Bell, don't worry so much," she said as she laid her head on my shoulder.
I sighed and laid my head on top of hers and said, "I know, Le. You of all people know I was never one to dream and plan my wedding or anything like that, but I want it to be perfect. He's given me so much, I just…I just want everything to be perfect."
"Isabella Marie," she sat up quickly and grabbed my hands in hers. "You and Edward could be getting married in bathrobes and flip flops and it would still be perfect because you two are going to be together the way you're meant to be. Now, get your ass up and find a dress, woman."
I heard Esme and Diane giggling like schoolgirls and turned to look at them. "What are you two cackling about?" I asked with a smile. Poor Esme had tears running down her face she was laughing so hard and Diane was so red in the face she looked like a tomato.
"Oh Bella, dear! Come listen to what Diane just told me," Esme said as she breathed in and out to catch her breath.
I started laughing at the two of them, not even knowing what was going on because it was just funny to see them behaving in such a way.
I made my way over to them and Rose and the others followed me. "Well, I was just telling Es that I was talking to my friend Lisa and she told me something about someone we all know and hate."
"Who?" Alice questioned and I was shocked when I heard Diane say, "Kate."
"What the hell has that skank done now?" Rose hissed.
"You'll love this dear, just wait," Esme said giddily.
"Well, it turns out my friend Lisa, who is an interior decorator, just did a job for a new doctor in town. She had just finished the office when he hired his staff and opened his office to new patients. Well, Lisa had gone back for one final walk-through and found the doctor in a heated conversation with none other than Kate."
Diane took a deep breath and looked at Esme, who still hadn't stopped laughing. "Anyway, it turns out that Kate had been harassing the poor man, who is happily married and has kids at home, and the doctor filed sexual harassment charges against her. The woman is toast, finished. From what I understand, Kate is trying to work out some sort of settlement so she can get the hell out of town and start over someplace new."
"Good riddance," Tanya spat out and we all looked at her. "She was a miserable, gold digging, money grubbing bitch. Hopefully she's left with nothing and has to start over from scratch. Serves her nasty ass right."
We all laughed at that until, "Mommy, come on!" Maddie squealed when Michelle carried more dresses into the fitting room and I got up and hoped that somewhere in that pile of white was the dress I'd marry the man of my dreams in.
"Oh, Mommy, you look like an angel," my little girl whispered in awe as I turned around to look in the mirror of the fitting room.
I sucked in a sharp breath and my heart started beating wildly in my chest. "Oh my, this is it, Mad," I said quietly as I stared at my reflection in the mirror.
She nodded her head silently and then raced out of the room and exclaimed loudly, "Mommy found it!"
"Come on, Swan, don't keep us waiting," my best friend said with a chuckle and I held my breath and exited the dressing room. I walked over to the small platform in the middle of the room and stepped up on it before facing everyone.
No one made a sound, no one said a word.
"What?" I cried as I looked down at the dress trying to figure out if there was something wrong with the dress. It was a white, strapless dress with an empire waist. It had a corset closure on the back and lace overlays over top of satin. There was a white satin band and bow across the front and it was positively the most gorgeous dress I'd ever laid my eyes on.
"You look so beautiful you make my heart ache," Esme whispered softly, sniffing and wiping her eyes at the same time.
"I've never seen anyone lovelier," Sue sniffed.
"That's it, Bella," Rose and Alice cried out at the same time, and with that everyone started to talk at once.
"My best friend is going to shit his pants," Tanya said with a giggle, and her sentiment was echoed by everyone in the room.
Rose laughed heartily and I looked at her. "Emmett is going to have to hang on to Edward because he's liable to either faint as soon as he sees you or he'll try to tackle you before you even make it all the way down the aisle."
I snickered and shook my head at her. "What?" she said with a smirk. "You all know I'm right," she said as she looked around and I couldn't help but laugh when everyone nodded their head in agreement.
"He'll be speechless when he sees you, Bella," Angela said softly.
"Well as long as he's able to say I do when the time comes, I'm okay with that," I said as I turned around to look at myself in the mirror.
"I've never seen anyone as beautiful as you are in this dress, Bella," Esme said as she stepped up beside me. "You make the most gorgeous bride I've ever seen. I'm so happy for you and Edward."
"I can't wait to marry him," I said with a sigh.
"And I can't wait until I can officially call you my daughter," she said as she kissed my cheek. "You have truly completed us all."
"Ali?" I called and waited for her to turn and look at me. "Can I cry now?" I asked, unable to keep them in any longer.
She laughed, but had tears in her eyes, too. "Sister of mine, you can cry all you want now. You've found the dress, there's nothing left now except the I do's."
"It can't come soon enough," I whispered and imagined walking down the aisle toward my Edward.
"Bella, will you stop fidgeting?" Edward said for the tenth time since we'd gotten in the cab to go meet with Tanya.
I took a few deep breaths and looked out the window of the car as we drove toward the office. "I can't help it Edward. I'm so scared of what she's going to say."
"Bella, look at me please," Edward said softly but firmly. He waited until I looked at him and when I did all I saw there was love and understanding. "I know you're anxious to talk with her, but try not to freak yourself out before we even get there." I rolled my eyes at him and he grinned and then went on. "I meant what I said all those weeks ago at the hospital, baby. I want to have babies with you, as many as possible, but if it isn't possible I need to know you'll be able to accept that. There are other options we can explore if it comes down to it, try to remember that, alright?" he asked.
"Edward, I know and I promise that no matter what she says we'll face it together. Together, forever, right?" I asked, knowing full well what the answer was.
"You got it, angel. Now, let's go get some good news from Tan," Edward chuckled as the cab came to a stop outside of their office.
"Isn't it weird to be going into your own office as a patient, or well with a patient, rather than as the doctor?" I questioned as we rode the elevator up to the twelfth floor. He shrugged his shoulders as the doors opened and we walked down the hallway to his office. "Well, I am just glad Pop was able to find someone to step in and take my place."
"Edward! Bella!" Maggie exclaimed as we walked through the door. "Ah, Mags, I've missed you!" Edward chuckled as he gave her a kiss on the cheek and spun her around in a circle, causing the others in the waiting room to laugh.
"You're doing okay?" Maggie asked me once Edward put her down. "I am. Barely any pain at all any more and Dr. Owens says everything has healed perfectly."
"I'm so happy to hear it sweetie," she said happily as she kissed my cheek then patted Edward's. "Now, I know Tanya has been expecting you two, so why don't you go on back."
"We'll see you in a few weeks at the wedding, right?" I asked before Edward led me away.
She nodded with a huge grin on her face. "I wouldn't miss it for the world, Bella. My Liam is taking me out to buy a new dress. We'll both be there with bells on!"
"Good. It will be nice to have you both there," I told her.
She smiled at both of us and then said gently, "Good luck, dears."
We nodded at her then went to Tanya's office. After hugs and kisses, which I was sure was not standard office procedure, we got down to business.
"Bella, when you first approached me about wanting this appointment, I took the liberty of having your records forwarded to me. I've looked over your files from Forks, when you were in college, and from Dr. Banner here in the city. First off," she said as she looked at me, "let me ease your fears right off the bat. From just the preliminary perusal I've given your prior tests and exam results, I can tell you I don't see anything that is going to prevent you from being able to conceive."
My eyes immediately filled with tears and I let out the breath I'd been unknowingly holding. I felt Edward squeeze my hand that was in his and I waited a few moments before I turned to him. As soon as I faced him, I felt the tears I'd been trying to hold in, fall down my cheeks.
"Edward," I breathed out, my mind racing with what Tanya had just told me.
"I know, baby," he replied back with a sweet smile.
"We can have a baby," I said giddily and started to move toward him before I remembered where we were and that we weren't alone. "Sorry, Tanya," I said sheepishly as I sat all the way back down in my chair.
Tanya waved away my apology and then smiled at both Edward and I. "No problem whatsoever, Bella. Now before we go any farther, I do need to let you know what I've found and what we need to do as we move forward." She pulled a stack of files in front of her and looked at me. "Bella is it okay if I let Edward look at these while we talk? He'll pester me to do it anyway," she said with a smirk as she glanced at him.
Edward shrugged his shoulders. "What? I can't even try to deny it so why bother?" She handed him the files and I watched, somewhat amazed, as he flipped through all the information.
"Well, to continue," she said after she'd given Edward time to catch up. "I do think it will be possible for you to have a baby, but I think we need to do a few things first." Tanya waited for me to nod before she went on. "After the wedding and the move, and after you two have had some time to adjust to married life, I would like to perform a laparoscopic procedure to try to remove as much of the scar tissue you have built up as possible. According to prior tests, and I'll be performing my own just to verify, but the ovaries are both fully functioning, so egg production shouldn't be any problem. If we can minimize the scar tissue along the fallopian tubes, it will make becoming pregnant and carrying a baby to term that much easier."
I gasped at that and then looked at her. "Do you mean there is a chance I could miscarry?" I questioned, immediately devastated by the thought. Edward reached for my hand again and Tanya gave him a few moments to reassure me before she spoke again. "Bella, every woman that gets pregnant has the chance to miscarry. Genetics, stress, accidents- all these can cause a miscarriage. Because of your condition, yes, it is more likely for you to miscarry, but that does not mean it will be impossible for you to carry a baby to term. Reducing the scar tissue and proper planning will go a long way to ensuring a successful pregnancy. I can't guarantee you'll be able to carry a baby to term; no doctor would or could do that."
"Bella, it's okay, angel," Edward said comfortingly.
Tanya waited another few moments before she began again. "I take it from the fact that we're discussing this now means that having a baby is something you both would like to happen soon?" She questioned.
"Well, not right away, Tanya. I'm not ready yet and I'd like to enjoy being married and spending time with Maddie and Masen for a bit before we added a baby into the mix. I don't want to wait too long though. Maybe by the time the twins are ten?" I told her, trailing off in question.
Tanya looked at Edward who said, "I want babies, but not yet. We need time to just…be."
"Well, Bella, you're in excellent health and even though Edward has trouble keeping up with you because he's so old," she giggled and winked at him when he growled, "you are still plenty young enough that even if you wait a year or two, it will be just fine."
"So how long do you think we need to wait after we do the surgery before we can start trying?" Edward asked excitedly, which caused Tanya and I both to laugh.
"Once you two make the decision to have the procedure done, Bella will probably need a few months to recover. You'll also have to decide when to stop your current birth control, which from what I gathered from the files Dr. Banner sent over, is the shot, correct?"
When I nodded she chuckled and said, "Well, I think we should switch to an oral contraceptive so you can stop taking them when the time comes and so we don't have any surprises. Bella, Edward, I honestly believe with surgery and then careful planning we can have a successful pregnancy, or pregnancies if that is what you want."
I beamed at her and I heard Edward laugh softly next to me. "So, I'll need to come back here when the time comes for appointments and all that?" I asked. I didn't care if I had to go all the way to Timbuktu if it meant I could have a healthy baby.
"Yes, and as it gets closer to begin trying to conceive, I'll introduce you to the doctor that often consults with me on these types of cases," she said. Instead of looking at me, she was watching Edward and I didn't understand why until I heard him hiss and mutter, "oh fuck," under his breath.
"Hell no, Tanya!" Edward spluttered as he stood up and began to pace around the office. "No…just no!" he stated emphatically as he flopped down in his chair.
"You done with your temper tantrum?" Tanya asked sarcastically and Edward snarled at her. "Whatever," he grumbled.
I looked back and forth between them, wondering what the hell was going on here. "Someone want to fill in?"I requested.
Tanya giggled as Edward slouched down in his chair even more. "Edward's just mad because the doctor I bring in on cases like is the Dr. Travis Hughes. He's one of the best high risk OB's in the city and obviously I have a vested interest in this case so I'll be bringing him into consult. And Edward," Tanya said pointedly as she waited for Edward to look at her. "You'd better get over yourself, buster. I'm too close to this situation to actually be Bella's doctor once she gets pregnant. You know this. You also know how good of a doctor Travis is. You should want only the best for Bella and your future baby or babies as the case may be."
"But why him?" Edward whined and I still had no clue what the problem was.
"Um, hello?" I interjected and laughed when they both looked at me since they obviously forgot I was right here.
When I had the attention of both of them, I asked again, "What is the problem?"
Tanya rolled her eyes at Edward then turned to me. "Edward is just pissed because Travis is, how shall I put this? Do you know how on Grey's Anatomy they have that one guy they call McDreamy?" I nodded my head and she grinned, watching Edward the whole time. "Well quite a few of the nurses and the female doctors call Travis Dr. Dreamy."
My adorable fiancée harrumphed again and I laughed out loud at his antics. Was the man delusional and blind? Edward was the most gorgeous man I'd ever seen, and I'm sure I wasn't alone in that thought.
I looked at Tanya and she nodded her head and said, "You know I love Seth and Edward has always been one of the best looking guys I've ever seen, but Travis Hughes? Yeah, Dr. Dreamy fits him very well. Not to mention he is a tremendously gifted doctor. I think most guys are just jealous of him," Tanya whispered loudly, purposely trying to goad Edward.
"I'm not jealous," he said forcefully, too forcefully to make me believe anything other than Tanya was telling the truth.
"There's no one for me but you, baby," I giggled as I kissed his cheek. "Besides, you'll be at every appointment with me, right?"
He nodded his head and then said, "Damn straight I will. He may be a great fucking doctor, but he's not touching you if I'm not there to keep an eye on his ass."
"Oh, Lord," Tanya groaned then laughed at her friend. "Edward, you're pathetic. But if it makes you happy, I'm sure Travis won't have a problem with that. Bella, you'll love him," she said as she turned to me.
"She'd better not," Edward grumped and I stood up and sat in his lap. I kissed his cheek and said, "I'd never love anyone but you, sweetheart."
"That is for fucking sure," he said with a smile.
We stood up to leave and I felt a hundred times better. I believed Edward when he said he'd be okay with not having another child. I believed I would be, too, but just knowing it was possible if we wanted it lifted a huge weight off of my shoulders. "Thank you so much, Tanya," I told her.
"My absolute pleasure," she beamed at us both. I smiled when she and Edward shared a long hug that said more than words ever could. "Love you, E," she said quietly. "You, too, T," he said back.
She walked us out and we went over some last minute wedding plans with her before we said goodbye.
"Want to walk for a bit?" Edward asked when we got outside. When I nodded, he linked our hands together and pulled me close to him.
We headed in the direction of the loft and walked silently for a few minutes before he spoke. "I can't wait to watch your stomach grow with our baby inside."
"You're not going to let me do anything, are you?" I asked with a chuckle.
"Not a fucking chance, baby," he answered quickly, not the least bit ashamed of his answer.
We walked along a bit more before I said quietly, "I can't believe I get to have a baby with you. It almost seems like it's too much, you know?" he raised his eyebrows to encourage me to continue. "I've gotten everything I could ever want, Edward. I get to be married to you. I get to be a mother to Maddie and Masen. We get to move to Lake George and now we can have a baby when the time is right. It almost seems selfish to be blessed with so much."
"Isabella Marie," Edward chastised gently. "You deserve all of that and more. I'd give you the world if I could, baby. I'd do anything for you," he told me before he pulled me against his chest. "I love you so very much. We're going to have an amazing life together, my love. We've been fortunate enough to find each other, Bella, and I'm certainly not going to feel guilty for enjoying my life with you."
"We're going to be so happy, aren't we?" I asked and his beaming smile was all the answer I needed.
He bent down and kissed me softly. "You bet your gorgeous ass we are," he said with a smug grin and took my hand so we could go home.
I headed in the direction of the park, and not for the first time did I appreciate the fact that I could just go where I wanted, when I wanted. It was liberating and exciting and it made me smile as I walked down the sidewalk toward my future mother- in-law and my children.
"Mommy!" Masen yelled out happily from atop the jungle gym he was currently scurrying up. "Hey baby! Be careful up there," I hollered back to him, knowing full well it went in one ear and out the other.
I waved at Maddie who was on the swings and smiled at Esme who was seated on a bench. "He's such a boy," she said as she watched Masen hang upside down.
"I remember Jas and Seth at that age," I said with a chuckle. "They were into everything. My dad and Seth's dad, Harry were always after them to stop doing something. It didn't matter what it was, racing their bikes, seeing who could climb the highest in a tree, or who could hit a baseball the farthest, they were always doing something."
Esme linked her arm in mine and kissed me softly on the cheek. "It's nice to hear you talk about Charlie now, Bella. I'm so happy your trip back home was so good for you."
I shook my head and said, "Forks isn't my home anymore, this is…or wherever Edward and the kids are." She smiled at that but waited for me to go on. "It was a good trip. I didn't realize how much I needed it until we'd gotten there," I said quietly.
"Well, dear, you have had a lot of time to accept the failings of your, of Renee," she amended. Esme's feelings on my mother were not hard to understand at all. "With your dad, it was different. I'm just glad you've been able to forgive Charlie for his."
We sat silently for a few minutes, watching the kids play and then she spoke. "Charlie knew he'd failed you Bella. Don't ever think he didn't realize what he'd done by letting Renee continue to behave the way she did. He loved her so much and he felt, wrongly of course, that letting you spend so much time with Sue and Jasper, Rose, and Seth, would somehow make up for your parents' shortcomings. He was embarrassed really, by the way he acted and by his inability to stand up to her and protect you."
"I think I understand that," I told her. "I'll never truly understand completely, but I know Charlie had a hard time showing his emotions, at least in an obvious way. Maybe I'm not as angry at him as I should be," I said with a shrug of my shoulders. "But, really, I had Sue and the others and I had my dad, at least part of the time. I was happy and I had a family, even if I didn't have a mother. It worked for me then and it works now. I don't want to be angry at either one of them anymore, it's too much work," I told her truthfully.
I supposed I could wallow in the horrible way Renee had treated me, but what was the point? I was happy now, and dwelling on her behavior all those years ago really accomplished nothing. I knew I was already a hundred times the mother she was and I had Esme and Sue as examples of how a true mother was supposed to act. Charlie had many faults, but he loved me and he was proud of me. I chose to focus on that, rather on the ways he should have done things differently.
"I'm so proud of you," Esme whispered softly. "Maybe it's not my place to say, but I am. You've been through so much Bella, and you've never once been bitter about the things that have happened to you. You have plenty of reasons to be, but you're not."
Her words touched me deeply and I patted her hand before I said, "How can I be bitter or regret anything that has happened when it's led me here? Seth, Jasper, Rose, and I found you and Carlisle again. They are all happy and in love and me," I said as I watched my children race toward us, "I have everything I ever wanted thanks to Edward. No, Esme, I don't have any reason at all to regret anything," I finished just as Maddie and Masen skidded to a halt in front of me.
"Mommy, why are you just sitting here? You need to come play," Masen squealed giddily as he grabbed one of my hands. "Mad, grab her other and pull!" He laughed and I let them pull me up. "Race you Mommy! Last one to the swings is a rotten egg!"
"Oh, you are so on little man," I taunted as I chased after him and his sister.
No, I had no reason to regret anything that had happened to me.
After a rousing game of tag, followed by a game of hide and go seek, I was tuckered out. Esme took a turn with my rambunctious children while I sat on the bench and watched as they fed the ducks in the pond. It was sunny out so I had shielded my eyes with my hand when I noticed a shadow fall across my line of vision.
I looked up and gasped softly when I saw Aro Volturi standing there. "Do you mind if I sit for a moment, Bella?" He questioned hesitantly and I shook my head.
I'd been meaning to try to at least call the man since after I got home from the hospital but I never did.
"I'm sorry to interrupt your time with your children, but I've been watching you for a few minutes, trying to decide what to say to you," he began quietly.
My mind started to race as I thought about what he'd just said. Did that mean he was following me? My heart started to pound and my breathing got faster. Aro must have noticed and he looked at me horrified. "No, no, dear," he chuckled, embarrassed. "I wasn't following you if that is what you thought, and obviously you did judging by your justifiable reaction." He blew out a breath. "I was just taking a walk, and noticed you and who I assume is your future mother-in-law?" Aro questioned and when I nodded he smiled gently. "Edward looks just like her, as does his daughter," he remarked.
"Yes, they do," I said with a smile.
"I'm…" he began then stopped and closed his eyes for a moment. The man was in pain, it rolled off him in waves, and I felt sorry for him so I laid my hand on his arm. He flinched; startled by the action, but when he looked at me, his eyes softened. "I'm very sorry for what Jane did, for what she tried to do to you, to your family," he said in an anguished tone.
"When her mother died," he went on, almost as if I wasn't here and I let him say what he needed to. "Jane was so angry when she died. I was devastated and I focused my attention on my daughter, on my work, instead of dealing with it. I know now that was wrong, but I didn't know what else to do. I had a young child that still needed me so instead of concentrating on my loss, I spent every waking moment making sure Jane was happy. I helped turn her into the indulgent, entitled young woman she became. She wanted what she wanted, when she wanted it, and never took no for an answer…and I let her," he said with a remorseful sigh. "I indulged her willingly, I guess, because I didn't want to be alone. I liked her company, but I liked not being alone even more."
He was silent for a few moments before he continued. "When I went to meet with Twilight and then saw you for the first time, I suppose I should have recognized Jane's attitude then, but I just chalked it up to petty jealousy."
I scoffed at that because, in all truthfulness, Jane was a beautiful woman in her own right. Insane yes, but she was extremely attractive.
"Bella, you have never seen yourself clearly," Aro said with a shake of his head. "I know that over the years I have made you uncomfortable with my actions and I am extremely sorry about that. I really meant no harm and certainly no disrespect, I hope you will one day understand that. You have this…this aura about you, that draws people in, and I was no different," he said softly. "I had never met anyone quite like you. You were, you are so…good and kind and it just made me happy to be around you. You give off this vibe that is just intoxicating, and to be perfectly honest, you remind me of my Gianna."
I gasped again, and looked at Aro with wide eyes.
"Yes dear, you do," he said, a small blush appearing on his cheeks and the tips of his ears. "She was much like you, happy, gentle, and extremely beautiful."
"When I found out your father was sick, I will admit that I used that to my advantage. I am ashamed of that, but I am a businessman too, my dear. I knew you would be very successful at being a model which in turn would be good for my business as well. I wanted to help you, please don't doubt that, but I'm not fool enough to not know a good opportunity when I see one," he admitted.
"Well, I…I…," I stammered, at a complete loss for words.
"I don't expect you to understand my actions, Bella, but I wanted to explain just the same. Over the years, as you became more successful, I could see that you weren't happy. If I wouldn't have been so selfish in both the business and personal sense, I would have let you go, but I didn't. I'm afraid my reluctance to let you go drove Jane even further into her madness. Believe me, if I ever would have thought she would have been capable of what she did, I would have let you out of your contract years ago," he said in a pained voice.
"You were my last reminder of my late wife, though you never knew it. That, along with the recognition you brought me professionally were the reasons I tried to convince you to stay. I'm very sorry," Aro said contritely.
I took a deep breath, and said the first thing that came to me. "Aro, it's all okay. Really. It's not your fault Jane did what she did and without you, I never would have been able to give my father one last chance. Without you, I never would be here, about to marry Edward, and a mother to those two amazing kids over there," I said. I looked up and waved when I heard Maddie and Masen call for me. I waved at Esme and smiled at her worried look to let her know I was okay.
"Things happen for reasons we may never understand Aro, but they do happen for a reason. I know you never meant for any of this to happen. You dealt with your pain the only way you knew how and you loved, love your daughter. No one can fault you for that, least of all me. No one is perfect, Aro. I'm sorry for your losses, too. I hope Jane will someday be the daughter you remember," I told him softly as I stood up.
He stood up as well and looked awkward for a moment before he gave me a hug. He kissed my cheek and said, "I hope you and Edward are very happy. You both deserve it. You are an amazing person Bella Swan and it's been a pleasure knowing you."
He gave me one more quick kiss before he turned and walked away quickly.
"Bella, dear, are you alright?" Esme said as she hurried to my side. "Was that Aro Volturi?" she asked, a shocked look on her face when I nodded my head yes. "Well, I'll be damned," she whispered as she shook her head. "What did he want?" Esme questioned.
"He wanted to apologize for Jane, for forcing me to sign the contract…for not letting me go sooner," I said softly. I really felt sorry for the man. He was all alone now, at least until Jane could, if it was possible, be cured.
"What did you tell him?" she questioned gently.
I looked at her and smiled. "The truth. That if it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here and I would not have Edward, the kids, or any of you. I'd go through all of that and more if it led me here. It's where I'm supposed to be."
"That's right, and we aren't ever letting you go either. Now, let's get home and see our men!" She giggled and called for the kids.
Yep, this was definitely where I was supposed to be I thought to myself as the four of us made our way back to Carlisle and Esme's.
No doubt about it.
After dinner when Maddie and Masen were playing outside with Rufus, Esme asked Edward and me, "I don't mean to butt my nose in where it's not wanted, but I was wondering what, if anything, you two were planning on doing about Lauren?"
"What do you mean, Mama?" Edward asked as he took a sip of wine.
"Well I'm assuming, and I doubt I'm wrong, that at some point in time, soon I hope, Bella will legally adopt Maddie and Masen?" she questioned and waited for us to both nod our heads. "I was just wondering what you planned on doing about the poor excuse for a human being?"
Edward chuckled and said, "Tell us how you really feel, Mama."
"Hush, Edward. I'm being serious. You've had Felix and Alice check over the paperwork we filed with the court when the twins were born right? There isn't any loophole that she can use to worm her way back in their lives or anything is there? Carlisle, maybe you and Marcus should have Alec look at them," Esme said in a rush.
"Es, darling, family law is a bit outside Alec's area of expertise and you know when we had the papers filed the first time not only to Felix and Alice double check the paperwork, our attorney's at the Foundation did as well. Everything is ironclad, dear. Lauren has no legal right to the children whatsoever. While we can't stop her from contacting them when they become adults, for now, she can do nothing. If she tries to cause trouble, we'll be ready for her. Bella," Carlisle said as he looked toward me. "I don't want you to worry about her, alright? While we didn't know you'd be a part of our lives eight years ago, we did make it to where Lauren wouldn't have any legal right to the children after they were born. You and Edward can take whatever necessary steps you wish to take at any time."
"Esme, Carlisle, Edward and I have discussed this, plenty of times," I assured them, though I was sure it unnecessary. Maddie and Masen were MY children; there was no doubting my love or that fact at all. "As soon as we get married, get settled in Lake George, and let things calm down, I do plan to legally adopt them. We want to have that done before we try to have a baby."
"Good, that is all I needed to hear," Esme said as she stood up to finish clearing the table. "Let that bitch try to pull something and I'll kill her with my bare hands."
I didn't doubt it for a moment.
I woke early, way before Edward and even before Maddie and Masen. As much as I wanted to stay in bed and cuddle next to Edward, I needed to get up and make breakfast. It had been way too long since Maddie and Masen, and yes, Edward too, had their usually pancakes before Mass and I didn't want them to go any longer. It was a tradition that was important to all three of them and now that things had gotten back to normal, there wasn't any reason to start it again.
I slid out from underneath Edward's arms and got out of bed as quickly as I could. I giggled softly when Edward instantly grabbed my pillow and burrowed his nose in it as soon as I got up. The man was so addicted, even in his sleep, I laughed to myself. I grabbed my yoga pants pulled them on along with Edward's hoodie. I slid my feet into a pair of Chuck's and decided that since I was up, I might as well take the dog out, especially since I was up before the crack of dawn. As soon as I shut my door, Rufus emerged from Masen's room, excited to see someone up so early.
"Morning little guy," I said quietly as I bent down to pat his head. "How about we take a walk before everyone gets up?" His little ears perked right up and he trotted to the door to wait for me to grab his leash and a plastic bag. We made our way down to the clearing across the street and as soon as I unhooked his leash, he took off like a shot. I couldn't help but laugh at how fucking cute he was. I also couldn't help but think about how nice it was that I could just walk outside any time I wanted, by myself, without having to have someone come with me. There was a lot to be said for privacy and not having to have your schedule dictated to you. As much as I loved and adored Seth, I had to say it was pretty damn nice not to have him attached to my hip all the time now. I mean I loved the guy but it was no small miracle that we hadn't killed each other. I was glad to have my friend Seth back, that was for sure.
"Rufus, come on buddy! Time to make breakfast," I called and scooped him up so we could go back inside and get breakfast started for the rest of our family. After I fed Rufus and gave him some water, I got started on food for the humans. I decided to make chocolate chip, blueberry, and buttermilk pancakes since I had so much time this morning.
I was in the middle of draining some blueberries when I felt two little arms around my waist. I looked down to find Masen sleepily hugging me. I bent down to kiss the top of his head and said, "Morning sleepyhead. Wanna help stir the blueberries?" That woke him right up and after he flashed me a crooked grin that looked exactly like his father's, he hurried off to go find his stool. I was surprised Maddie wasn't up yet since she was usually up before all of us, but I wasn't going to complain. I was happy to spend a little time with my second favorite Cullen male…and my favorite eight- year- old little boy.
"Mommy is this right?" he asked after he began to stir the berries.
"Yep, just be sure not to stir too hard or else you'll break all the berries," I reminded him and watched with a proud smile as he slowed his movements just the right way. "Perfect, Mase."
"Mommy?" Masen asked after a few minutes of silence. When I looked up at him he bit his lip, which I was happy to say he got from yours truly. He asked, "When you and Daddy get married, are you gonna marry me and Maddie, too?"
I smiled because really, the thought that I was going to marry not only Edward, but Maddie and Masen as well just seemed too perfect for words. However, I figured I'd better answer this, the best way I could.
I put down my spoon and walked to stand next to him. I wrapped my arm around his shoulder and looked down into his face. He really was the spitting image of Edward and my heart broke a tiny bit…well a lot…when I thought about the time some girl would take him away from me. Like Edward with Maddie, I was positive there would never be anyone out there good enough for my little boy.
"Well, Skittles, it's like this. When me and Daddy get married, I'll be his wife and he'll be my husband, like Nana and Papa," I told him and waited until he nodded his head to let me know he understood. "And in a way it's like I am getting married to all three of you because once Daddy and I get married, my last name will be the same as all of you."
I watched as his eyes got big while he thought about that. It really was amazing how incredibly perceptive kids were, mine especially. I knew that all of us being Cullen's was a big deal to him, and to Maddie as well I was sure.
"So once you're married to Daddy, you'll always be a Cullen like us?" he asked and I nodded my head. "Is that okay with you?" I asked him with a smile and he rolled his eyes at me. Yep, I gave him that little move, too.
"I'm glad we get to keep you," he told me after a few seconds. I couldn't stop the smile or the way my eyes filled up with tears. I bent down and kissed his cheek then tweaked the end of his nose and said, "Well, I'm glad, too. I'll always want to be with you, Masen; you, Maddie, and Daddy."
He threw his arms around me and whispered in my ear, "I'm glad you're my mommy, but you'll always be my best friend, too." He then blew a raspberry on my cheek in true eight-year-old style and then turned back to his pancake making.
Yeah, there was no way in hell any girl would ever be good enough for my boy.
Masen and I got the rest of the pancake batter mixed together and got them all made in no time. I cooked the bacon and made Edward a cup of coffee. I stuck everything in the oven to keep warm until Edward and Maddie were up and ready to eat.
"Mase, I'm going to wake up Daddy. Why don't you go and tell Maddie it's time to get up and then you guys can play on the Wii until it's time to eat, okay?" Masen went to do as I asked, his shadow Rufus on his heels. I swore, wherever Mase went, Rufus was always right there with him. They were pretty much inseparable when we were home and it warmed my heart like very little else did.
I owed so much to Rufus, he could pretty much walk on water as far as I was concerned.
I opened the door to our room quietly and when I turned around after I shut the door behind me, I found myself looking into the green eyes that I would see every day for the rest of my life.
"Mmmm, you're going to spoil me," my sleepy fiancée said with a sexy, lopsided grin.
Sleepy, rumpled Edward was so damn awesome!
"Who says this is for you?" I teased, holding up the mug of coffee.
He pouted then narrowed his eyes at me. "Bella, you'd never be that mean to me. You love me too much to play such a cruel joke on me!"
"You'd like to think so, wouldn't you?" I said as I teased him even more by taking a small drink of the coffee. I tried to hide my grimace since Edward drank his coffee black, but I apparently didn't do a very good job because he laughed and pointed at me. "You are so busted, baby. You can't even drink that with a straight face!"
"Fine, here you go," I said as I handed him the mug and crawled in bed beside him. He took a few sips of his coffee and then set the mug down beside him on the table. "Come here, you," he growled as he pulled me on top of him. "As much as I love coffee in bed and pancakes and bacon for breakfast, I fucking hate waking up without you next to me," he said. He grabbed the back of my head and bent me lower so he could give me a kiss. His tongue probed my mouth insistently and I couldn't help but relax against his chest.
I ran my fingers across his naked chest, rather enjoying the feel of his hard muscles beneath my fingertips. I scraped my nails through the little bit of hair he had and giggled when his eyes turned from green to almost black.
"You're playing with fire very early this morning, little girl," he warned with a somewhat serious face.
I wiggled my hips above him and bit my bottom lip when I felt him hard and very up against my ass. Not to mention his eyes had that wicked gleam in them…the one that made me tingle in between my legs.
I bent back down and licked up his stubbly jaw and swirled my tongue around his ear before I whispered, "Unh nuh. Breakfast is in the oven, we've got two eight-year-olds ready for pancakes, and an entire family to meet for Mass. No time for funny business this morning, old man," I giggled then squealed when he grabbed my hips and rolled me over.
"Evil, evil vixen you are, baby," he said darkly as he nuzzled my neck with his nose then followed that with his talented mouth. "Hmmm, what to do, what to do?" He smirked. "First you leave me and let me wake up alone, then you withhold my coffee from me. Then," he growled as he pressed his body closer to mine, "you withhold sex. I think that deserves a punishment of some kind, don't you?" he questioned as he rocked his hips and his now very hard cock against me. I groaned wantonly and my eyes rolled back in my head because he felt so good against me.
"Mmmm, Bella," Edward whispered against my lips before he took the bottom one and nibbled on it. He slid his hands beneath my tank top and ran his thumbs over my nipples, turning them into hard peaks. "Feels good, doesn't it?" he asked seductively before he sucked on the tender skin behind my ear.
"Oh, yes," I groaned as he pressed his hard length against me again. "Good, now you know how it feels," he said quickly after he kissed the tip of my nose. He rolled off me and stood up, a very smug, shit eating grin on his cocky, gorgeous face.
"You!" I spluttered, turned on and annoyed in equal measure. "You'll pay for that, Kit Kat. You just wait," I warned him.
I had no idea what I would do to get him back, but you can be damn sure I'd think of something.
"Pay back's a bitch, baby," he said with a wink and picked up his coffee. "Thanks for the coffee though, Angel."
I laughed at him in spite of myself. I really couldn't help it. He was sexy as all get out when he was all arrogant and being a smart ass. Didn't mean it didn't irk the hell out of me, but I wouldn't have him any other way.
I crawled across the bed, his eyes staring straight down my shirt. I let him appreciate the view because it might be awhile until he saw, much less touched them. I stood up and strutted to him and got on my tip toes in front of him. At the same time, I laid my hand over his still very hard erection. Brushing the backs of my fingers against him, I smiled when I heard his sharp intake of breath before I whispered in his ear, "You better remember that sweetheart. Paybacks are a bitch." I bit his earlobe, harder than I meant to and then scooted away quickly.
"Breakfast in ten," I giggled with a wave before I shut the door on his stunned but gorgeous as hell face.
That'll teach him!
We gorged ourselves on pancakes and bacon before I sent the kids to get cleaned up and get ready for Mass. We'd been, of course, since I'd gotten out of the hospital, but today would be the first time the entire family, including Sue, would be going together. I couldn't help the giddy feeling I got thinking about that. To 'belong' to a family like Edward's, well it was truly all I'd ever wanted. The fact that Seth, Jasper, and Rose were a part of that family in the truest sense of the word, made it even better.
"Bella," Edward said with a huff as he exited the bathroom.
I had to take a deep breath when I looked at him. He really was trying to kill me today, I swore he was. He wore charcoal gray pants with a baby blue shirt. His matching tie hung around his neck and apparently was the cause of his frustration. The man was utterly hopeless when it came to tying his ties, but I think he never tried very hard because he liked for me to do it. Not that I minded, of course.
"You're hopeless, you know that?" I smirked at him as I walked toward him.
"Hopelessly in love with you," he said with a wink and a waggle of his eyebrows.
"Cheesy, Cullen," I retorted as I reached up and went through the motions of tying his tie.
Hey, it was a job, but someone had to do it, right?
I patted his chest when I finished and grinned up at him. "Good thing I'll be around for awhile, huh? You'd never be able to wear a tie without me."
His eyes crinkled at the edges from his smile but then his face softened and he wrapped his arms around me and clasped them at the small of my back. "I'd never be able to do anything without you, Bella. Everything I do is because of you, for you," he whispered as he bent his head down and kissed me softly. "I love you so much, my Bella," he said as we broke apart.
"I love you, too," I told him.
He let go of me and reached for my hand, lifting my left one up to his mouth. "Do you realize that a few weeks from now, we'll be waking up for the first time as Mr. and Mrs. Cullen?" he asked. His voice shook as he spoke, obviously a bit overwhelmed by the thought.
"I can't wait," I gently said back and sucked in a deep breath when I felt his soft lips and warm breath on the back of my hand.
"Understatement of the year, my love," Edward said with a grin before leading me out of our room so we could head to Mass.
Didn't want to keep Father O'Connor waiting now did we?
We arrived at St. Patrick's just as the rest of the family got there. Our large group made quite the entrance as we all filed into the two pews it took to hold everyone. It was kind of funny when I thought about it. When I was a model, I hated when people stared at me, even though I knew it was a part of the job and had learned to accept it. But walking into church, or into a restaurant, or really any place out in public with Edward, the kids, and the rest of our family filled me with such pride. It wasn't arrogance, but I knew all of the Cullen's, including Jasper, Rose, Seth, Sue, and I, were a sight to behold. The Cullen's, every damn one of them, were amazing people in their own right, but as a group…well, they usually rendered most people speechless.
After Mass ended, Father O'Connor approached us and once kisses were given, he said, "Bella, Edward, we need to finalize the readings, prayers, and music for the wedding. We need to meet this week and get it done."
"Sounds good to me," Edward said and I giggled when Father O'Connor asked him, "Do you have your vows written, Edward?"
Edward's sheepish look totally gave him away. I didn't tell him I didn't have mine done either.
How do you put into words what finding your soul mate means to you? How do you express that you love someone more than there are words to describe?
I didn't know, but I did know I needed to get a move on it. The wedding was almost right around the corner!
…and I couldn't wait!