Diapers, Diplomas and Deadbeat Dads

Diapers, diplomas, and deadbeat dads

 

Bella has just achieved her Masters and has taken the job of director of the Forks library. Due to events in her past, she is jaded against men in general. Can she turn the library around in only one year, and can Edward convince her that all men aren’t out to hurt her?

Chapter 1

BELLA

“Kevin Allen Scott􏰀”

“Winifred Millicent Sherman􏰀”

Oh my, Millie’s first name is Winifred. I’d go by my middle name as well.

“Carson Marcus Shultz􏰀”

Poor Carson, he was the only guy in my women’s studies class.

“Henry Alabaster Simons􏰀”

Thank god I won’t have to listen to him clear his throat a

hundred times a day anymore.

“Isabella Marie Swan􏰀”

This would be the third time I had listened for my name to be called at a graduation ceremony. First time was from high school in Phoenix. Second was from college when I received my undergrad, and now I was getting my Masters in Literature from Cornell University here in New York. This particular graduation had been a long time coming. There had been many days I didn’t think it would happen. To say I’d had a few road blocks in the past few years would be a gross understatement.

Walking across the stage, I was careful not to trip over my own feet. The last thing I wanted was to end up with the most hits on a YouTube video. Dean Peterson smiled and extended his hand out to me. I was leery to take it, no telling where or rather in which graduating girl it has just been. I plastered on a smile and held back the vomit that threatened to come up as I shook his hand. The picture was taken and I took my empty diploma folder. Heaven forbid I owe this school one more dime.

I turned to the audience as I heard the reason for all the hard work these past few years. Full class schedules, summer school, online courses when I had to. But it was all worth it, she was all worth it. Her big blue eyes were shining in the bright light of the June sun, her dark brown ringlets bouncing as my dad bounced her on his shoulders. She was my reason for everything, my one-year-old daughter, Jessica.

I stepped off the stage and waved to my little miracle. I watched as she was so excited and waved back, stopping to blow me kisses. Her giggles and kisses had kept me going more times than I cared to remember.

Having my dad here was the icing on my cake today. He was the only guy in our world right now and as far as I was concerned, it would stay that way indefinitely. Men were lying, cheating pieces of slime, my dad, of course, excluded. The killer part was that they were all the same. They would say nice things to you, take you to nice places, and then expect you to have sex with them. Then when you did, they dumped you and moved on to the next short skirt. Some took their time and made you feel special; told you how beautiful you were, how nice you smelled. But in the end, the outcome was always the same. They were all the same.

I didn’t always feel that way. I was in love once, with Jessica’s father, Mike Newton. I thought he hung the moon. He could do no wrong, and I just knew I would spend the rest of my life with him. We started dating our junior year of high school. Our fathers both worked in law enforcement and our families were always around each other. He even proposed after my graduation from college. We moved in together and life was really good, until I told him I was pregnant with Jessica.

At first, he seemed excited and would talk to my stomach. Then shortly after we returned from a holiday trip home when I was about five months along, he came in one night and said he didn’t love me anymore. He moved out and went back to

Phoenix. I was left to have our baby alone and raise her by myself. It was during the first few months after Jessica was born that I ran low on money. My electric bill was due, and I needed to buy groceries. I took the engagement ring Mike had given me to the pawn shop, only to find out that it wasn’t real. The pawn shop owner was a woman, and she took pity on me and gave me one hundred dollars for a cheap piece of tin and cut glass.

I called my mom back in Phoenix to cry on her shoulder about Mike, but she became so angry that she refused to have anything to do with me or Jessica. My father called me later to tell me that apparently Mike and my mother had been having an affair. They had been together for a while. Now I understood why he didn’t love me anymore, he had my mother to take care of him.

A month later, my father filed for divorce and moved from Arizona to a small town in the Pacific Northwest. He was offered the job of police chief and said he loved it there. So in two days’ time, I would make the cross-country trip with my father and daughter from New York and begin my new life in in the tiny town of Forks, Washington.

Three new “D’s” were now my mantra. I was determined to make a better life for my daughter, devoted to her above all others, and I would be damned if I’d ever let another man have a chance to hurt us again.

2. Chapter 2

Thank you so much to everyone for the over whelming response to this fiction. As I said, this is a strong Bella story. Edward wont enter into the picture for a few chapters. Several people have asked what my posting schedule is going to be and the clear answer is, Sundays and Wednesdays.

Thank you so much to Dollybigmomma, my amazing beta. Holly Higgins who keeps my facebook page looking pretty. If you would like to see photos from these chapters or see teasers to upcoming chapters, those are posted on my facebook page, The twisted mind of Mathisson. It is a private site and if you would like to be invited, PM me and I will send you one.

DIAPERS, DIPLOMAS, AND DEADBEAT DADS

Chapter 2

Cleaning out my apartment didn’t take long. The new tenant who was taking over was a broke college student and had bought all of my old furniture for cheap. Once we had all our suitcases and Jessica’s toys packed into my SUV, we headed west for our cross-country drive.

I was glad I would have things somewhat settled before we arrived in Forks. My Nana Swan had died when I was ten and in her will, she had left ten thousand dollars to each of her grandchildren. My father was a smart man and had invested it for me. With that money, I was able to purchase my car and put down a deposit on the house I would be renting in Washington.

Jessica was secured in the center of the back seat, her toys surrounding her and the DVD player playing all of her favorite movies. My dad thought we could take our time and make a vacation out of it. He thought it would be cool for us to see the little towns in between New York and Washington. I took the time he was driving to begin planning ways to increase the number of activities the people of Forks could utilize the library for; optimizing it’s operating costs and boosting patronage.

When my father first contacted me about the position being open, I highly doubted I would get it. I sent in my resume and when I received a phone call a few days later, I was floored when I was offered the position. My excitement was dashed a little when Mrs. Coup informed me there would be conditions to my employment. The city had been monitoring the number of people that visited the library annually and sadly, the number had decreased each year. With the technology of today, it was no real surprise. I mean why go to the library when you could log into your computer at home while still in your pajamas. I had a huge task ahead of me. But first I needed to take a look at what they had to offer as far as books and periodicals.

My father told me the library was located on the main street in town and that it was a fairly new building; beyond that, he wasn’t certain. So my first task would be to take a tour. I had planned to do that without introducing myself first. I wanted to see how they ran the place without expecting me to be there, kind of like visiting someone before they could do the quick cleanup people did when they knew someone was coming over to visit. I wanted to see if the current workers there were knowledgeable and helpful. I wanted to see what the layout was like, whether it was accessible to all ages.

The first day of our trip went really well. Jessica slept off and on and when we would stop to look at different attractions, she would point and giggle. My father insisted on carrying her everywhere, it was nice to have a second set of hands for a change. We stopped at a farmer’s market late in the afternoon, they had a mini festival going on in the town and we took a short walk with Jessica. She found a puppy petting booth and she squealed with delight when the owner set her in the middle of the puppies and they all surrounded her and began to lick her all over her face.

When we pulled into a hotel not far off the interstate for the night, my father went to the little grocery store located across the street and came out with a six-pack for he and I to share and a stuffed, floppy-eared puppy for Jessica. Her eyes lit up when he pulled it out of the bag and handed it to her. She cuddled it into her tiny chubby hands and hugged it and placed kisses on its face. She drifted off to sleep with the dog still wrapped in her arms. Dad and I sat out on the tiny balcony

with the door open so we could hear Jessica if she woke. With my feet propped up against the railing and a cold beer in my hand, I closed my eyes and for the first time since I had given birth to Jessica, I truly exhaled. I cleared every thought out of my head and just relaxed while I drank that beer. My father didn’t say a single word as I enjoyed every single drop. When he handed me the second one, he softly began to speak.

“I’m proud of you, Bella.”
I knew he was, but it still felt good to hear him say it.

“I know you could’ve given up and just settled, but you didn’t and I’m so damn proud you didn’t.”

I smiled back at him, extending my beer bottle and tapping his.

“Thanks, Dad.”

As we finished off the six-pack that night, he told me about little things to expect in Forks. How the meeting place was the local diner. How the school had an incredible football team, which he said wasn’t surprising as the coach was a former NFL player.

“How can they possibly afford to pay that kind of money to the football coach? I mean he had to make a fortune playing football.”

Dad was in the middle of taking a drink. When he finished, he responded, “He moved there to be close to his wife’s family, the Cullen’s. Good family, decent people. Two of them are doctors in town. I’m sure you’ll meet them”

Jessica woke at around three o’clock in the morning. Dad got up and told me he would get her. I quickly drifted off to sleep, waking only when the smell of fresh coffee filled my nose. Jessica was sitting in her roll-away crib, babbling to her stuffed puppy. She smiled as I approached her and held the puppy up for me to take. I placed several kisses on the puppy’s face and then picked her up from the crib.

“Mmmm, so good, my favorite Jessica kisses.”

I continued to kiss and blow raspberries on her neck and cheek. She laughed and hugged me back. Once we ate a light breakfast, we were back on the road.

I had been very blessed with Jessica being such a good and healthy baby. Dad told me to pray that it stayed that way. I was never more grateful that the new job came with medical insurance. As we continued our drive, Jessica included the word “Papa” to her vocabulary. She learned very quickly that her papa had a very deep soft spot for everything Jessica.

When we stopped the last night just outside Chicago, I received a response to an email I had sent to the National Federation of Literacy. Depending on what current books were available, they were willing to send us a number of best sellers to add to our collection. They also had granted us a

large amount of money to install online access as they had no record of Fork public library having internet connections in their system.

I had also contacted every major magazine in the country to see if we received a current copy. Most denied and I knew that would be at the top of my to-do list. I also contacted several children’s literacy organizations and they were waiting for me to advise them of any supplies we needed.

We had stopped in Chicago and my dad insisted we have some authentic Chicago deep-dish pizza. While we sat eating, there was an emergency across the street and the fire department was called. I watched as the firemen pulled out different tools as they ran into the building. The police arrived as well as an ambulance and I watched as they each did their different jobs with skill. When the emergency was over, I watched as the firemen began to clean up. One really large one in particular took his huge coat off and was standing directly in front of me as he rolled up a large line of hose. Watching his very well-developed muscles working as his arms and hands twisted and turned the hose, I noticed a hint of a tattoo peeking out of his sweat-covered t-shirt. I wondered what it would be like to touch that tattoo. Mike was a very skinny, scrawny guy. He had very little muscle mass and I had secretly wished to be loved by a man who took care of his body. I looked up to see the handsome fireman looking back at me. He caught my eye and winked. I quickly turned my attention to my father who was sitting between me and Jessica.

“He’s just a man with a hose, baby girl.” I rolled my eyes at him.

“Dad, I have no interest in men or their damn hoses. They’re nothing but trouble.” His eyebrow raised in my direction. “Present company excluded, of course,” I quickly added.

My dad chewed his food slowly; I knew he was working on something to say to me. Jessica was pointing to the lights atop the fire truck mesmerized.

“Bella, I hope you don’t really believe that about all men.”

“What, that most men are lying, cheating, slime-balls who’ll say anything to bed you and then break you? All the good ones are either taken or gay.”

He chuckled at me and then shook his head. “Mark my words, Bella, there’ll be a man come along who’ll knock your socks off and you’ll forget all about the crap Mike did to you.”

Not in this lifetime, I thought to myself.

We left Chicago and the hot fireman behind the next morning. Not before I had to slip into the bathroom and release some pressure caused by the sight of those rippling muscles, though. I had an arsenal of toys I had purchased even while in a relationship with Mike. He wasn’t particularly well-endowed and most times he just couldn’t hold off so that I could finish, so I’d learned to take care of myself. I had the best of both

worlds now, I always got off and I didn’t have to worry about whom else had been there besides me.

The last day we spent in the car was by far the hardest. Jessica was full on fussy and sick of being in her car seat. I had gotten my period and wanted chocolate and a heating pad, and my dad kept getting calls from the station that only he could handle. I had never been happier to see the sign we passed that clearly read, “Forks Welcomes You.”

I just hoped it really did.

3. Chapter 3 DIAPERS, DIPLOMAS, AND DEADBEAT DADS

Chapter 3

I looked around at the various buildings and businesses as I was driving through town to drop my father off at his house.

“Bella, that building on the left is the library.”

While I waited at the stoplight, I noticed a pharmacy on the corner with what looked to be a wide driveway, and beside that stood my new challenge. The brick flat-roofed building did indeed look newer. The front windows looked to be in need of a good cleaning and the parking lot had only a few cars in it. I wanted to pull in and take a look, but at that moment, Jessica decided to let out a sobbing cry, completely ending that thought.

I noticed the Thriftway wasn’t far from the library, with a sporting goods store in the same parking lot.

“Turn right at the next street.”

I followed my father’s instructions and drove down the tree- lined street. All of the homes were on the smaller side, but all had very nice lawns and the houses were well-kept. As I

continued to drive, I noticed the street signs indicating the hospital was close.

“This is my street. The hospital is just two more blocks that way,” he pointed to the front of my car and then gave me a knowing glance. “Just keep following this road as it curves around.”

This town was looking to be very easy to get around. “There, that white house on the left there.”

I had spotted his mailbox. SWAN was printed on it in black block letters. The house was two stories, white, and very Charlie-like. His police cruiser was parked in the driveway. I pulled in behind it, and as I went to turn the car off, I noticed his front door fly open and a beautiful dark-haired woman came running down the front steps.

“Oh, you’re home! You’re home!”

The woman wrapped her arms around my dad and he her. They kissed and then looked longingly into each other’s eyes. I blushed as I turned to open the back of my car and get dad’s things out. It seemed there were things my dad had neglected to tell me. I wasn’t mad; he deserved to be happy after what she haddone to him. He was far braver than me if he was willing to open himself up for heartache again.

“Bella,” dad called my name as he walked hand-in-hand around my car with the woman. Jessica had fallen back

asleep and I hoped she would stay that way long enough to get home.

“Bella, this is Sue, my girlfriend.”

He didn’t look at me as he introduced her. I could remember looking at Mike that way once. I shook the thought from my mind and turned my smile on. I extended my hand out to shake hers. She had other ideas, though, and pulled me into a bone-crushing hug.

“Oh, you’re even more beautiful than your pictures. I can’t wait to meet Jessica.”

She hugged me tighter and rocked me back and forth. I looked at my father over the top of her shoulder; he could only smile wider as he watched us.

She finally released me from the hug, but kept both hands on my shoulders.

“Charlie, she’d be perfect for my nephew, Jacob.”

Before I could protest, she threw her hands in the air excitedly and began speaking so fast I was hard pressed to keep up.

“I know, I’ll make my fry bread and have everyone over for dinner. It’ll be perfect as they stare at each other longingly. It’ll be a May wedding; she can wear an off-white dress since she clearly isn’t a virgin.”

I was certain she was no longer speaking to me, more like

about me.

“Bella, you’ll have to forgive Sue, she reads far too many romance novels,” dad chuckled as he pulled Sue from her fantasy wedding. They both began to laugh as Sue completely admitted she read them far too much. Lovely.

I gently closed the back door and bid my father and Sue goodbye. Sue insisted that I take a Tupperware container of food home so I could just relax from our long drive. I thanked her and escaped once again from her bear hug.

I had placed my new address into my GPS when I first got the car back in New York. I hit the find button and discovered my new home was only around the corner. I was happy, but I was still leery as I feared Sue would feel the need to mother me. A mother was the last thing I wanted right now.

I slowly backed out of the driveway and headed home. I checked my rearview mirror and noticed Jessica was still asleep and I sent up a silent prayer that she would stay that way until I at least got into my new driveway.

The houses on my street were a bit larger and also nicely kept. The leasing office had sent my garage door opener and house keys with my father. As I pulled into the driveway, I smiled, as for the first time in a long while, I felt like things were going to be alright. It was as if I belonged here.

After pulling into the garage, I pulled my sweaty sleeping baby out of her car seat. The motion caused her to open her eyes

and a huge smile broke across her face. “Well, hello, my love.”

I kissed her rosy cheek and she began to rub the sleep from her eyes. I shut the car door and placed the new key into the locked door that led into the kitchen.

The property manager had explained that the owners had purchased this house at a bank auction and then had remodeled it. She had sent me several photos of the home, but none of them did it justice. I’d really lucked out when the agent told me it came furnished and decorated if I wanted it. I ran my hand over the polished granite countertops in the eat- in kitchen. The house smelled of new wood and fresh paint. The kitchen looked as if it was ready to be photographed for a magazine. I made my way out of the kitchen and into what I assumed would be my new formal dining room. It was simple, yet it was decorated quite nicely with red and gold accents. The next room was the living room, the high ceilings and skylights made the room very inviting. Down the hall I found a bathroom that was decorated in beige and white. It was classic and elegant. The next two rooms were empty and smaller. I quickly decided one would be Jessica’s room and the other a playroom. I had gotten rid of her crib as I had plans of getting her a bed she could grow with. I had ordered one from a catalog and according to the UPS tracking site, it should arrive tomorrow. So for tonight, she would sleep in her playpen.

The next room I was certain had been designed to be a den,

but the owners had made it into an office. I loved how it looked out into the backyard. It was then that Jessica noticed the large play area out there. She pointed at the swing and shouted, “Me!”

I chuckled at her joy and agreed with her, it would be hers while we lived here.

The next room blew me away. It was my bedroom and it was huge. It was decorated to look so elegant. The kind-sized platform bed was set against the far wall. The dark wood of the bedroom furniture only highlighted the gold and reds in the bedding and draperies. The head of the bed was covered in a mountain of pillows. I looked to Jessica as I walked quickly over to the bed. We both laughed as I flung us onto the bed and into the pillows. I turned her on her back and began to tickle her and blow raspberries on her belly.

Once we had roughed up the bed, I noticed it was getting dark outside. I pulled Jessica from the bed and walked back into the kitchen. The Tupperware container Sue had sent over held the makings for a large turkey and cheese sandwich, chips, cookies, and two juice boxes. As we sat at the kitchen island and shared that food, I couldn’t help but think that a slice of turkey had never tasted so good.

I cleaned up our mess and then unloaded the car. Once that was done, I filled the large tub up in my bathroom that came complete with jets. I sat Jessica in the warm water amidst the mountain of bubbles. She giggled and splashed and then began to rub her sleepy eyes. I drained the tub and then

dressed her in her pajamas. I lay beside her in my bed as she took a strand of my hair and quietly played with it. It was calming for not only her, but for me as well. Once she was snoring softly, I placed her in her playpen so that I could go in and take a very hot bath. I kept the jets off and the door open in case Jessica woke. There were candles around the tub and I lit them, lying back and just enjoying the silence of the house. Tomorrow I would need to hit the grocery store and see if I could find a Target or Wal-Mart. I also needed to go visit the daycare center I had enrolled Jessica in. But most of all, I was dying to walk into that library.

The next morning, bright sunlight streamed through the blinds that I had completely forgotten to close last night. Jessica was still sleeping soundly in her playpen. I decided to quickly jump in the shower as I had a lot of things I needed to do today. I wanted to kiss the person who had decided the waterfall and side-spraying shower nozzles were a good idea as I enjoyed possibly the best shower I’d ever had.

Ready for my day, I found my sweet baby girl babbling away to her puppy my dad had given her. Once she saw me standing in the doorway, her arms went up and she smiled her famous happy smile at me. I quickly pulled her from her playpen and showered her with kisses. Jessica loved Pop- Tarts and I allowed her to have them only once or twice per week. With the grocery situation as it was, today would be a Pop-Tart day. I had just finished cleaning her up and had my keys in hand to head out when my doorbell rang. I rolled my eyes as I thought it might be Sue making an early morning

visit.

The heavy wooden door had the most beautiful cut lead glass inserts. It caused the light coming in to be distorted. The two long windows on either side matched the glass. I opened the door, not to find a waiting Sue, but the tallest blonde woman I had ever seen. She stood at my door looking like she was ready to walk the catwalk. Her clothes were a bit risqué for my taste as her shirt barely held in her ample breasts. Her midriff was on full display and her short skirt􏰀well, I was certain Jessica could have worn it and it might have even been small on her.

“Oh, hello, doll,” the blonde’s husky voice sounded and it was quickly clear that she was a heavy smoker. Her long red nails, clearly acrylic, wound around a strand of her over-processed hair.

“Hello.”

“I’m Tanya, I live across the street,” I watched as she motioned to the house directly across from mine. It looked like the rest of the houses on the street, except for the white Mercedes parked in the driveway. “Is your husband home?”

I shook my head no, unable to explain that there was no husband before she interrupted me.

“Oh􏰀pity. We could use some more men around this neighborhood.”

She looked at Jessica who sat on my right hip.

“Well, with such a pretty little girl, there must be a boyfriend or baby daddy around, is he available?”

Ladies and gentleman, we had ourselves a bonafide cougar. I had seen my fair share of women like this one. She preferred the younger men, regardless of who they belonged to; however, she kept a few older ones around to suit her needs as well. I was certain that Mercedes was one of those needs some poor soul had bought for her.

“I’m sorry, Tanya, I don’t mean to be rude or anything, but I have a busy day and I can assure you I don’t have a man of any sort or fashion in my home.”

She looked me up and down and scowled.

“Well, honey, if you don’t mind me saying, you’ve got all the equipment, you just need the right touches and we could fix your man situation. I mean despite being as pretty as you are, your clothes are screaming old librarian.”

I was certain she was trying to be nice. I took it as a compliment since I WAS a librarian.

“Well, Tanya, I don’t really want any of that type of attention, if you get my meaning. I’m allergic to penicillin and don’t want to worry about any new diseases that are out there.”

She placed her hand on her hip and smiled.

“I like you, if you change your mind; I’m right across the street.”

With that, she turned and began sashaying back across the street, her skirt not quite covering her ass cheeks. Her five- inch hooker heels clicked away as she swayed her hips. I watched as she waved to several balding gentlemen who were working on catching flies with their mouths hanging open. The house next to hers had an older couple sitting on their porch and I watched as the old man held up his hand to wave at her, only to have his wife slap it down.

“Wait until they find out about you,” I said to Jessica as I closed the door.

This was going to be an interesting place to live for sure.

4. Chapter 4

I’ve received so many questions that I decided to just answer them here…

1. When will we see Edward?

Well, first I want to show that Bella is a hard-core working girl who can balance everything. She’s serious when she says that she feels all men are slime balls. This particular Bella won’t be found crying on her pillow or falling asleep in anyone’s arms. She’s a stand-up-and take-charge kind of gal. Edward will make his appearance when he’s needed, not a moment prior.

2. Is Tanya going to be trouble?

Hehe…nope, Tanya will be for comic relief only.

3. Will this be HEA?

Come on, guys, who’s writing this? I’m a HEA whore.

4. Is Jacob going to get in the middle?

I’m going to defer that answer for now. Trust me, the biggest drama will be brought on by Bella and Edward themselves, they won’t need any help.

Thank you…Thank you…Thank you to Dollybigmomma, my super speed beta. Trust me, she did a lot of reconstructive surgery on this chapter. Also to Holly Higgins, who makes the pages come alive with her photos.

DIAPERS, DIPLOMAS, AND DEADBEAT DADS

Chapter 4

After my interesting run-in with my new neighbor, Tanya, I finally made it out the door and over to the Thriftway. I picked up just a few essentials since I was in a hurry and approached the checkout. I stood there and watched as the slutty-looking cashier talked into her cell phone and flicked old nail polish from her fingernails.

I cleared my throat, but she ignored me and continued to talk into her cell phone, her ass firmly parked on the conveyer belt.

“Excuse me,” I looked pointedly at the back of her head. She continued to ignore me.

I decided that the best approach would be to leave the grocery shopping to last and hope for a shift change. That way I could hopefully check out with someone who actually had a brain, and my milk, meat, and ice cream would still be good when I returned home. With that in mind, I left my armful of groceries sitting there and headed off toward Jessica’s daycare. I hoped that by the time that stupid checker hung up and looked on the counter behind her, the juicy package of

hamburger I’d left sitting there would have leaked nasty blood onto the counter and soaked the ass of her white, too-tight jeans.

Happy Campers Playschool was located directly behind the library. I walked through the front doors to find that the next set of doors was locked. I noticed that there was a keypad on the left side of the door and an intercom button. I pressed the button and waited patiently. Less than a minute passed before I received a response. What surprised me was that a television monitor lit up and a beautiful blonde lady appeared on the screen.

“Hello, how can I help you?” Her voice was very calm and pleasant and she was even prettier than my neighbor, Tanya.

“Hello, yes, my name is Isabella Swan…”

Before I could even finish, the door buzzed and she spoke quickly as she instructed me to enter.

“I’ve been waiting so long to finally meet you!” I was quickly grabbed into a tight hug. “I’m Rose Hale-Cullen and I’m the owner around here. Chief Swan has told me so much about this little beauty.” She picked up Jessica’s hand and stroked her tiny fingers. What surprised me was that Jessica reached for her. “Oh, my goodness, we’re going to be good friends aren’t we, little one.”

Jessica began her babbles and then handed her stuffed puppy to Rose. Rose answered her back as if they were having a

conversation and she was interested in everything Jessica was saying.

“Ms. Jessica, how about we take your momma on a tour and then I’m going to steal you away for a few hours so she can get some work done.”

Rose’s smile was electric and Jessica was quite taken with her. This made me feel a lot better about leaving her here. I followed them down a long hall, the smell of bubble gum and sugar was in the air. We passed several doors that were made of glass and you could see the children playing inside. Every room was brightly decorated and they looked quite clean considering the children actively playing inside.

Rose pointed out several safety measures they had, including direct lines to the hospital and fire department. She also told me they had several high school girls that came in the afternoon to watch children for their community service requirement for graduation. I asked her about that requirement and she explained that the school system here required every senior to complete at least twenty hours of community service in order to graduate. Most of the seniors wanted more hours than the requirement as it looked really good on college applications. That information gave me a huge idea.

Rose asked me if I would allow Jessica to play with the other children for a few hours today so that she would slowly get used to being here. I thought it was a wonderful idea and so I agreed.

When I had rented our home, the property manager had sent me a form to complete. It was a standard form that I was to fill out to note any damage that was in the house when I moved in. I didn’t see any so I decided to stop by the office and drop the form off.

The office was directly across from the Thriftway so I quickly parked my car and went in. Once inside, I noticed it looked like your standard real-estate office; pictures and descriptions of current properties for sale. There was a chamber of commerce gold plaque hanging on the wall, as well as a series of “Best of Forks” awards for the past five years.

I approached the desk that stood just inside the office. No one was sitting at it, but I could hear a voice talking on the phone. I blocked out the conversation as best I could, but it was hard. The young lady was very adamant about what she trying to tell the person on the other end.

“But she’s such a pretty girl, Edward.”

It was then she noticed me standing there and the look in her eye as she took me in was one of surprise. She got this knowing look on her face and then held her index finger up to me, silently asking me to hold on for one moment.

“Edward, forget what I said, I’ll call you back, big change of plans.”

She quickly hung up the phone and then hurried over to the desk.

“Good morning, you’re Isabella Swan, aren’t you?” I was floored that she knew who I was. I smiled as I held out my hand to shake hers. “I’m Alice Whitlock and I’m so glad you’ve finally made it. You’ve been the talk of the gossip circle this morning. Have you gotten settled in at the house? How is your daughter, Jessica? Rose said she’s just the sweetest thing she’s ever laid eyes on. Don’t you dare let that Tanya scare you away; she’s just trying to latch on to any new man that comes into this town. She’s been trying for years to get my brother in the sack with her, but he has taste. I swear that skank is so loose that when she was a cheerleader in high school, she suctioned to the floor when she did the splits.”

I would swear she’d said all of that without taking a single breath and I was exhausted just listening to her.

I smiled as I made certain she was finished with her questions.

“Yes, I’m Isabella. However, please, call me Bella. I’m glad to have made it as that was a very long drive. Not sure if I like the whole gossip circle thing. I have several things I need to acquire to finally get settled in and get the house in order. I have to agree with Rose about Jessica, but I am her mother. As for Tanya, she’s proving good for a laugh factor.”

Alice began to laugh along with me as I finished.
“She’s that and more, I can assure you,” Alice added.
Alice was a classic beauty. Her bright green eyes stood out

from her beautiful porcelain skin. Her long wavy dark hair perfectly framed her face.

“So, tell me all about you. Any boyfriend􏰀girlfriend􏰀?”

I laughed and dropped my head, “No, no time for men, and honestly, I don’t ever see myself being with women that way.”

Alice continued to smile and look at me in a manner that was quite alarming. It was as if she was seeing my future playing out in her mind.

“Listen, Alice, I have several things I need to get done and not a lot of time to do them. Here’s the form you asked me to fill out for you. The house is beautiful by the way.”

She took the form and smiled as she glanced over it quickly.

“Bella, I understand, and please let me know if you need anything. I’ll tell my mother that you like the house.”

Her words stopped me in my tracks. “I’m sorry; did you say your mother?”

Alice’s eyes lit up again. “Yes, my mother has a hobby of buying houses and fixing them up. She did yours and my brother’s, mine and Rose’s, too.”

I wanted to meet Alice’s mom, she had amazing talent and impeccable taste, and I hoped she would lend a hand if I ever decided to buy a house. However, I had to get through my

conditional employment first.
“Well, please tell your mom thank you for me.”

I quickly left the office and decided to stop by the library. I wanted to see for myself what the problem was with it that was causing less and less people to use it.

I parked my car behind the building and immediately noticed that there were a number of empty beer boxes, broken beer bottles, and cigarette butts near the back door, and random trash was literally everywhere. I would speak to my father to see if he could have the police patrol here at night. I looked up and noticed that the security light was completely busted and made a note to have it replaced on Monday. The first thing I noticed when I went to open the door was that there were no identifying markers that this was the library. I was certain that if you had lived here your entire life, you would naturally know that. However, if my dad hadn’t shown it to me, I would have never guessed it.

There were no hours of operation posted and the glass doors looked as if they hadn’t been cleaned in several months. Once inside, my nose was hit with what reminded me of an old wet diaper. I covered my mouth and nose as I continued in. On one wall was a vending machine that was mostly empty. Next to it was a very ancient Coke machine. I watched in horror as a cockroach crawled between the Coke sign and the glass. There was a stain on the carpet that appeared to still be wet. I glanced around to find the carpet torn in many places. The tables that looked to have once housed lamps in the center

were drawn on and only a few chairs remained. I noticed two women working behind the desk. The first was a very pretty dark-haired girl. She was busy stacking books and removing due-back cards from the front sleeves. The second was a blonde-haired girl who was sitting atop the counter, talking on her cell.

“Miss? Excuse me, Miss?” I tapped my hand on the counter to get her attention.

It worked only to aggravate her as she met my glance and then proceeded to snap her fingers at the brown-haired girl whose arms were now full of books.

The brown-haired girl looked at her, the blonde mouthed to her that she was on the phone, and then she pointed at me. The poor brown-haired girl looked as if she was worn out. I shook my head at her and looked back to the blonde who I had figured out by now was talking with a boy.

I had witnessed enough; this was going to be a very tough job; one that I wanted badly to tackle.

“May I help you, Ma’am?”

The brown-haired girl had loaded the book cart and returned to help me. Looking at her, she reminded me of myself in so many ways. Her long dress was nearly touching her white tennis shoes. I could tell the grey cardigan she was wearing was her favorite as it was well worn. Her hair was pulled back at the top half of her head, her glasses perched and secured

to her face.

“Yes, your name, please?”

“Angela, Angela Webber.”

I saw the blonde roll her eyes and continue to talk on her phone.

“Hi, Angela, I was wondering if you could show me where any of your Jane Austen books are located.”

Angela pushed her glasses up against the top of her nose. “If we had copies of any of Ms. Austen’s books, I’d gladly show you where they were, Ma’am.”

I looked at her puzzled. Had any? “You don’t have any?”

Angela looked to the blonde and then lowered her voice. At this point, I’d had enough of the rudeness of the blonde, so I turned my attention to her.

I’d had this professor in college who was duller than watching paint dry. Many people fell asleep in his class. When he caught one of the students doing that, he would make his way over to their desk and place his face directly in line with their sleeping one. When the sleeping student awoke, his face was right there to scare the shit out of them.

I decided to use what I had learned from him. I turned my

back to the desk and then placed my hands behind me. I lifted myself up and sat on the desk. The blonde was too busy talking and didn’t notice me. I then turned my entire body around and faced her.

Not certain how long I sat beside her before she noticed me, I learned that a guy named Sam was screwing someone named Emily behind his cousin’s back. I learned that the football coach at the high school was very hot when he wore his muscle shirt and flexed for the girls, and that her aunt had volunteered to take Vanessa’s baby to the doctor so that she could get a good look at Dr. Cullen.

I was becoming nauseous at her ramblings on others’ lascivious behaviors. I reached over and took the phone from her hand. She had wasted entirely too much time on her personal phone call.

“Hey!” she shouted as I hit the end button on her phone. I tossed it back to her as I pushed myself behind the counter.

“Don’t you hey me,” I spun around and pointed my finger in her face.

“Who the fuck􏰀”

I smiled as I cut off her sentence. “I’m Ms. Swan, your fucking boss. For how long, that remains to be seen.”

Her eyes became huge and she looked me up and down. I looked to an open-mouthed Angela who quickly turned and

made her way to the book cart.

“Hold it, Angela.”

Angel stopped pushing the cart, but did not look up at me.

“You are􏰀?” I questioned the still-stunned blonde.

“Um􏰀”

I chuckled to myself, she wasn’t as confident facing me as she had been bossing around poor Angela.

“Hurry up, Pop-Tart, the questions get more complex from here.”

She looked to Angela who was still looking down at the book cart.

I snapped my fingers in her face and gave her a look that said, “I’m waiting.”

“Irina.”

“See, I knew you could do it. Do you have it written on your hand somewhere?”

I watched as she looked at both of her hands, turning them as she continued to look at them. This one was a real winner.

I heard the wheels squeaking on the book cart and turned back to Angela.

“Hold it, Mary Poppins. I have something else for you to do.”

I watched as Angela released the handle of the cart, her head remained down.

“In the time I’ve been here, it seems that Angela does all of the work. So that would tell me she knows what the procedures are around here.”

Angela began to slowly look up at me. Clearly, no one had ever noticed this or took the time to say anything to her.

“Irina, go and put those books away,” I tossed my hand in the direction of the book cart. “Angela, come and show me my office, we have things to discuss.”

I began to walk toward Angela and left Irina to do some real work today. I looked back to see Irina with her mouth hanging open.

“Irina, do you need something?”
I watched as she looked from the cart to me and back again. “You want me to touch those?” she pointed at the cart.

“No, Pop-Tart, I want you to stare at them and see if they’ll put themselves away. Yes, I want you to actually touch them. Place them back where they go. Then come see me in my office for further instructions.”

I began to turn around and walk toward Angela. I noticed the

sly grin that was now growing on Angela’s face. I would find out the story there. I turned one last time to see if Irina had moved, only to find her reaching for her phone again.

“Pop-Tart, you call one more person and I promise you it’ll be the last thing you do as an employee here.”

She then looked to me and I would swear to god that this was what she actually said with a straight face: “But you said to see if they’d put themselves away.”

Oh, dear god in heaven, after all I had witnessed today, I really hoped stupidity wasn’t something they put in the water here…

5. Chapter 5

Thank you to my beta aka Dr. Dollybigmomma. She once again took the scalpel to this chapter and made it a beauty queen. Also a huge thanks to Holly the pretty lady that goes in search of pictures to make these pages come to life.

With that being said, here in the US, we are about to celebrate Thanks giving. I won’t go into a history lesson as that is why we have Google. The point to my rambling is that with the holiday comes family time and all of you know that family is always first. The next few chapters may not get updated on time and I won’t apologize for that. To all my fellow Americans, Happy turkey day and to all of my European friends, thanks for staying with me.

DIAPERS, DIPLOMAS, AND DEADBEAT DADS

Chapter 5

My meeting with Angela lasted much longer than I had planned. I looked to my watch to discover that an hour had already passed. The information, however, was worth the loss of time. I discovered that the old director, Mr. Jenks, had received many grants for improvements in the past years on behalf of the library, but he had chosen to place all the money

in an interest-bearing account instead of doing the needed repairs. The cheap bastard deserved a swift kick in the ass as far as I was concerned, and I wanted to know where the hell all that money had gone.

I learned we had four full-time employees on staff, yet the library was closed on the weekends, when it would have been the most prudent time to be open. Angela shared with me that she had worked at the library since she was a senior at Forks high school and that she felt at home here and had no desire to go anywhere else. My blood boiled when she told me how she had made the mistake of telling Irina of her crush on Ben Cheney, the owner of the local butcher shop. Irina had told her sister, Kate, who had then told their aunt, who it didn’t surprise me to learn was my neighbor, Tanya. They had all teased Angela relentlessly and now she avoided him at all costs. What did disturb me was how it was rumored that Irina had intentionally seduced Ben with the intent to, and I quote, “Give him a test drive for Angela.” If this rumor was in fact true, it just confirmed yet again that men were slime balls.

I decided that, based on this new information, some big changes were on the horizon. I sent all of the employees a message that a mandatory meeting was to be held this week and then said goodbye to Angela and headed out to pick up my baby girl.

I felt terrible that I had left Jessica much longer than I had originally planned. As I entered the daycare, I could hear my little girl squealing with laughter. Her laugh was music to my ears and I quickly made my way to the playroom where I had

left her earlier. I found Rose sitting in the middle of the room, two little girls on her lap. Jessica had Rose’s face in her tiny hands, attempting to blow raspberries on her cheek, while the other little girl did the same to the other cheek. They were having such a good time that I almost didn’t want to break this up.

“Mama!” Jessica finally said as she noticed me standing there.

“Hi, sweet girl.”

Jessica removed herself from Rose’s lap and began to toddle her way to the door to get me. I bent over and wrapped my arms around her, taking in her warm baby smell.

“Oh, how I missed you.”

I hugged her tightly and moved my body side to side, causing her to giggle.

Her tiny hands found my face and she began to blow raspberries on my cheek now. I couldn’t help but laugh and thank her.

“Nothing quite like baby spit on your face, huh, Mom?”

I looked to Rose who was now holding the second little girl. It was then I noticed the child’s bright green eyes and strawberry ringlets. I smiled as Jessica began to blow kisses at the little girl and she returned the gesture.

“It seems our Lilly and your Jessica are best friends now.”

I smiled as I looked back at Jessica. She was having a conversation with Lilly, using words that only Lilly understood.

“Well, I’ll have to contact her family and set up some play dates then.”

Rose smiled at me as she shifted Lilly to her other hip. “Well, that’d be very easy if you accept her grandmother’s invitation to dinner this evening.”

I shouldn’t have been surprised, as I had learned all day that news traveled fast in this small town. But I was, and total strangers leaving messages at the daycare for me to just pop in for dinner was a little too freaky for me.

Rose picked up on my thoughts as she continued to collect the stray toys and put them away.

“Relax, Bella, Lilly’s grandmother is my mother-in-law. Lilly is my niece. Mom knew you just got into town and feels the need to mother everyone. I know your answer to this invite, but don’t think for a second it’ll be the last one you’ll ever receive.”

I extended my apologies to Rose for leaving Jessica for so long, but she waved me off and said Jessica was more of a help with occupying Lilly. I made my way back to the Thriftway and this time a young teenage girl was working the checkout. This girl had a clue and was pleasant, and I found

out she was one of the high school students that volunteered in Jessica’s daycare. I asked her if she would be interested in volunteering at the library. She very excitedly told me that she would love to and that she would spread the word at school that the library was now open to volunteers. She explained that due to the limited hours the library was open; it made it impossible to do anything there. I assured her that the hours would be changing.

Since it was still light outside, I took a chance and drove around the main part of town. I noticed that there were several convenience stores and gas stations. However, there were no movie rental places, no bakeries, and no coffee houses. I found this last deficiency hard to believe as the home of one of the largest coffee companies in the country resided not four hours away. I decided I would confirm that this was in fact true and I placed a call to my father. Charlie confirmed that the town had plenty of hunting and fishing supply places, but there were no family-oriented places or coffee houses in town. The wheels began to turn in my head.

After I unloaded my groceries and fed and bathed Jessica, I was itching to get rolling on the offers I’d gotten from the companies I had contacted. I made certain Jessica was fast asleep as I sat down and began to do my research.

The next morning, I had all four employees sitting at one of the tables. I went around the room and asked everyone what they thought should change about the way things were run. Irina said she thought everything was fine. Angela stayed quiet, as she had already shared many ideas in our private

conversation. James shared that he would like to see more community involvement, such as using the large empty space we had in the back for different classes like yoga, pottery, or painting. My first impression of James had me questioning if he was gay or just moved to the beat of his own drum. His zebra-print glasses, shimmery gold shirt, and obvious use of manscara nearly made me giggle. He seemed nice enough, though, and I agreed with him that we should constructively utilize every inch of space available to us. He was so excited that I decided to have him do the research on his ideas and then get back to me. You would have thought I’d given him a million dollars as happy as he was.

Maggie was the last employee and she felt there weren’t enough children’s activities. She said that she and Angela had put together a Saturday book reading event for the local kids and it had been a hit, at least until Mr. Jenks decided he didn’t think it was economical anymore. This puzzled me and I asked her to continue. She told me that the kids were given a snack at the end of the reading. The library had always used local ladies to make the treats so it didn’t come out of the library budget, and it became somewhat of a fun competition for the ladies to outdo each other as to who could be the most creative. However, Mr. Jenks decided that the cost of being open and paying for an employee on the weekends wasn’t feasible anymore.

James informed me that Forks had its share of different ladies’ organizations such as church groups, quilting bees, and canning clubs. They had a number of scrapbooking clubs and

a few photography clubs. This information only served to make the wheels spin harder in my mind.

I was far from surprised when Irina gasped as I announced that the hours of operation for the library would be changing at the end of the month. I had given myself three weeks to get everything together. I had heard back from each company I had contacted and it was overwhelming what they were willing to help us with.

“Ms. Swan, you may not have a life outside of this place, but I do and I can’t work on weekends or after three o’clock during the day.”

I looked to Irina as she informed me of her schedule conflicts. “Actually, Irina, I do have a life outside of this place. However, it doesn’t mean anything if I can’t work and support myself. It seems you have a decision to make; you can accept the new hours and be willing to work them, or you can hand in your resignation and I’ll hire someone else who’d be grateful for the job, the choice is yours.”

Later that week, James came to me with his proposal. He had signed confirmations from several artists in the community who would be willing to give free lessons for one year to help build the program. One of the ladies’ groups was overjoyed at the prospect of hanging one of their quilts on one of the many vacant walls. The photography club had called him and begged to let them hang their pictures on the wall as well. James felt it would be a good idea to let them change the photos once a month or so. That way everyone in the club

could display their work. He further informed me that his boyfriend’s cousin was the woodshop teacher at the local community college. They were interested in building us anything we needed as long as we would allow them to hang a plaque saying that they had built the piece. That way the creator could use this as a reference when they needed one. I was thrilled and readily agreed.

Maggie had contacted the ladies in her church and they were ecstatic that the reading programs would be started again. A schedule had already been worked up and the menu was all set. Now all we needed was the children. That night as I picked up Jessica, I mentioned to Rose the news about the reading program and asked if I could hang some fliers on her boards. She was so excited, and then she surprised me when she suggested I take some over to Forks Family Medical Center, as that was the office of the only pediatrician in town.

So here I stood outside the medical center. I told Maggie that I would do this, as I also needed to get Jessica a regular doctor. I opened the glass door and was immediately assaulted with the smell of coffee and sugar. The fragrance was that of sugar cookies baking. My yogurt I’d had for breakfast this morning had long since worn off.

To my left was a large glass-enclosed room. A flat screen TV was mounted in the middle of the wall, and The Little Mermaid was playing. The floor was designed to look like different wooden blocks, Jessica would love that.

“Hello, Ms. Swan,” a soft feminine voice startled me and I

turned to face the beautiful woman sitting behind the front desk. I smiled as I approached.

“Good afternoon, I’m sorry, but I don’t know your name.” I extended out my hand to shake hers over the counter.

“Oh, my goodness, dear, why would you? I’m Esme Cullen.”

Her face was warm and kind and I could tell she had earned every laugh line she had on her face. Her smile was so real that I couldn’t help but to feel content and happy.

“It’s so nice to meet you,” I smiled, and it was. I could just tell that Esme was the kind of person who came into your world and made it better.

“How are you adjusting to Forks? Rose tells me your daughter, Jessica, is the loveliest child,” she smiled and I could just tell that Esme’s words were the truth and not just an attempt at making pleasantries.

“I’m enjoying the challenge of the library and to be honest, it’s both my position and my daughter that brings me in today.”

“Oh, how can we help with the library?”

I reached into my messenger bag and retrieved the fliers that Maggie had made. I handed one to Esme and she quickly looked it over. A huge smile appeared on her face as her eyes met mine again.

“Oh, thank god, you’re bringing back the Saturday children’s

reading groups! I was so angry at Mr. Jenks when he cancelled it that I went over there and gave him a piece of my mind. He was always a cheap old bastard. He’s the reason we have copper tubing with the way he stretched pennies.”

I couldn’t help but laugh at Esme’s choice of words. I knew I would love to get to know her better. I would bet she was great fun and a pro at throwing parties.

“I’m sorry, Bella, but I just can’t stand people who let their personal agendas get in the way of helping others.”

I gave her a questioning look.

She placed the flier down on her desk and placed her hand on the counter. “Well, it’s no secret that the reason he changed everything good in that library was because he was busy screwing Tanya Denali. The more time he spent over at the library, the less time he could spend with his face stuck between her fake boobs.”

Suddenly, it made since why Irina had cake hours and got away with doing nothing in return for her paycheck. Again, it confirmed that men were nothing more than slime balls.

“Enough about the darker side of Forks, you’re here now and by the talk of the town, you’re going to make a positive difference. Now, as to your darling little Jessica, my son, Edward, is the town’s only pediatrician and he’s just finishing up with his last patient of the day. How about you fill out some information forms for Jessica while we wait for him.”

Esme had this look on her face I found quite disconcerting. It reminded me of the look Alice had had the other day in her office while she was talking to her brother. In all honesty, it frightened me a little.

I smiled and took the clipboard she currently held in her hands. The forms were the standard medical forms and HIPPA consent forms.

“Alright, Garrett, you’re all set. Remember, rocks belong on the ground, not in your ear.”

I looked up to see a woman and a boy who I would have guessed to be about nine or ten walking around the counter that Esme sat behind. It wasn’t the movement of them that caused me to look up, it was the sound of the other voice I heard coming from behind them. I did a double-take as undoubtedly the most handsome man I had ever laid eyes upon walked behind Esme and for a brief moment, my lady parts stirred, but I quickly shut that shit down.

The little boy ran over to a cabinet, opening a drawer and removing a lollipop. I watched as he reached in again for seconds, only to be corrected by the woman.

“Garrett Andrew, mind your manners, only one!”

The boy quickly shoved the second sucker back in the drawer and shut it.

“Oh, man, you just got middle named, dude. You’re in so

much trouble.” I determined, based on his white lab coat, that this was the doctor. He was laughing and shaking his head. The little boy was laughing along with him.

“Just be glad we’re in public, she would’ve smacked me otherwise,” the boy rolled his eyes.

The doctor chuckled as he nudged the little boy’s shoulder. “Dude, you’re way lucky, my mom wouldn’t have cared if we were in public. She would’ve smacked me so hard my grandchildren would’ve felt it.”

Everyone laughed except Esme who tisked at her son, “Edward, really.”

The way she looked at him caused me to laugh, and this caused the doctor to look in my direction.

“Edward, this is Bella Swan. She’s the new director at the library. She has the cutest baby girl. I want you to meet with her, as she’s looking for a new pediatrician.”

It quickly became apparent to me at this point that Esme was trying to play matchmaker. I looked at her to find that all- knowing expression on her face.

“You know, Edward, Garrett was your last patient and I think it would be nice for you to take Bella out for an early dinner and show her around a bit.”

That was my cue to end this shit before it got out of hand.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Cullen, although that’s a wonderful suggestion, I have a ton of work to get done and plans that I just can’t get out of tonight.”

Edward was undeniably good looking. His green eyes and fair skin were a winning combination. His tussled hair looked as if he’d either just had a wrestling match with little Garrett or a round of wild sex with his nurse. The thing about men like Edward, they knew they were easy on the eyes and charming, and they used it to their advantage. He might have been a doctor, and by the talk of the town, the only pediatrician available here, but I wasn’t interested in anything other than his medical expertise.

“Oh, now, Bella, call me Esme, and I’m certain your plans can be moved around a bit. I mean you have to eat.”

I had to keep Esme on my side. I needed this office to display those fliers since they served our biggest target audience.

“Esme, I love that you’re watching out for me. But the truth of the matter is that I have a very short time to get things in motion for the reopening of the library. I’m asking you very kindly to let me post these fliers in your office.”

I purposely kept my eyes away from Edward􏰀Dr. Cullen. I wasn’t about to get pulled in by him.

“Oh, Bella, of course we’ll post those fliers. But first, let me introduce you properly to my son, Edward.”

I rose from my seat and walked the short distance to where he stood. Being up close showed he was even more appealing. I was certain he’d never had a problem having woman throwing themselves at his feet. I wasn’t interested in being one of them. I stuck out my hand and placed my best professional smile on my face.

“Dr. Cullen, Bella Swan, new director for Forks library.”

I watched his eyes as they took me in. Had I been interested, I would have been melting in my shoes right now from the heat in his gaze.

He took my hand in his, and in a clichéd move, he turned my handshake into him kissing the back of my hand, those eyes never leaving mine.

“Your name suits you, Bella. It’s certainly my pleasure.”

Oh, dear god, like I had never heard that fucking line before. Bella apparently translated to beautiful in Italian. I had heard that shit since I was in college.

I took my hand back and continued in my professional voice. “Thank you, Dr. Cullen; it’s a pleasure to meet you, too. As I was telling Esme here, we’re having the children’s reading hour back on Saturdays. I was hoping to leave a flier for your parents to see. I’m hoping for a good turnout.”

“Well, Bella􏰀I can call you Bella, right?”

I smiled, “Of course.”
“And in return, you must call me Edward.”

I smiled again and quickly responded, “Oh, but Dr. Cullen, it took you far longer to receive that coveted title, so you’ll only hear respect from me.”

He laughed as he reached out to take my hand again. “Oh, Bella, I sincerely hope that’s negotiable. You’ll find that I can be a very patient and very persistent man. I do so love the thrill of a good challenge.”

Yeah, well, I hoped the thrill of the challenge would be enough for Mr. Patient and Persistent because that was all the thrilling he was going to be getting from me.

AN

Again, this Bella isn’t going to drop her panties and fall at Edwards feet. She is going to fight hard against her feeling. Don’t worry thought, Edward wasn’t kidding when he said he was patient.

My rec this time, I found this fiction while I was profile diving. I couldn’t read the next chapter fast enough.

Because Of ABoybycutestkidsmom

Edward is the son of an Autistic father. Bella is the mother of an Autistic son. What happens when their

paths cross. Can they find peace and love with in the chaos. Rated T for minor language and some adult situations.

6. Chapter 6

Again I have to thank my beta, Dollybigmomma. I cant say enough good things about her.

Im quite surprised by the amount of you that are reviewing and sharing your thoughts about my story. Thank you so much for taking the time to tell me your thoughts.

DIAPERS, DIPLOMAS, AND DEADBEAT DADS

Chapter 6

Progress at the library was in full swing. This morning, the UPS driver unloaded thirty boxes of new books and Henry, our elderly postman, had another twenty-five boxes in the back of his pickup truck.

Twilight Media had sent us over one thousand DVDs for our use. According to the contract they had for us, they would continue to provide new release DVDs to us and we, in turn, would provide a space for them to advertise their other merchandise. I was hesitant at first until I was shown what their idea of an advertisement was. They provided us with rental cards and on the back was a barcode. When the owner of the card used it to rent a movie, a receipt would be printed,

and on the back of the receipt was an ad for whatever product they were currently promoting. Each DVD would cost only one dollar to rent.

This morning, I received an email from a sister company to Twilight, Eclipse Records. They wanted to supply us with CDs and music downloads that could be used by our patrons. I quickly replied with a thank you and found that by the end of next week, I would be able to set up a music section.

But the most amazing news of the morning was the team of men that were busy sawing and building in the parking lot. Seth Clearwater, an instructor from the local community college, had introduced himself as soon as I’d pulled into the parking lot. He was a very polite man, with a large frame and nearly jet-black hair. He explained that he was from the local Quileute Indian tribe. I told him how Native American art interested me and he invited me to attend one of their gatherings. I quickly picked up that he was suggesting more than just a friendly invite; he was fishing for an opportunity for a date. I smiled politely as I told him I would be more than happy to post a flier advertising their event, causing him to smirk when he thought I wasn’t looking.

Angela came in only a few minutes after I did, holding the door for another group of men carrying more boxes. Contemporary Coffee was a Seattle-based coffee house that had agreed to open a coffee and pastry shop here in the library. They had a phenomenal mission statement that supported literacy. When I emailed the CEO of the company with the details of this town’s lack of coffee houses, Marcus

Banner called me personally with an idea. They would open a small shop here in the library and if all went as he predicted, they would open an entire store in the near future. I was excited, as this meant the possibility of at least ten new jobs to the community.

Angela had done some investigative work and discovered that Mr. Jenks had invested all the grant money through a brokerage in Seattle. I contacted the city council and they had a judge issue a release for the funds. With that money, I planned to renovate the entire interior of the library. I had contacted several contractors in the city and had each of them give me bids to do the work.

I was sitting behind my desk at a little after ten o’clock when my day began to turn to shit. I watched from my window as a man carried a huge vase full of flowers into the building. I returned to my paperwork, only to be interrupted by a knock at my office door.

“Come in,” I spoke loudly as I continued to complete my paperwork.

“Someone has an admirer,” Irina’s voice was like listening to cats in heat. I glanced in her direction as she placed the enormous vase on my desk. The flowers were so fragrant and simply breathtaking. “You must’ve rocked his world to get something this big.”

I glared at Irina as I rose from my seat. I quickly found the card and noticed it was still sealed. I would have been pissed

if she had opened it. Irina stood waiting for me to reveal the sender, as if that was going to happen.

Bella,

I wanted to apologize to you for not being quicker on my feet yesterday and allowing my mother to suggest dinner together. It’s entirely your fault, however, as I was completely captivated by you. I would love nothing more than to take you out and get to know you better. Please call with a time I can pick you up.

Edward

555-8586

I quickly shoved the card into my pants pocket. I would tear it up later when I was at home. The last thing I wanted was for Irina to get it and start spreading rumors around. I then picked up the vase and made my way back into the main room. I placed the vase on the front desk and then spun back around and returned to my desk.

I had just finished sending a thank you email to Marcus when Irina appeared at my door again, holding a second flower arrangement, this one even bigger than the first. This time it was full of white roses. Irina was bouncing on the balls of her feet as she stood there, waiting for me to react.

I walked over, took the envelope and again shoved it into my pocket.

“Take them and set them out there on the table near the front doors.”

I didn’t even wait for her to leave as I returned to my desk and continued to work. For the next three hours, a new delivery of flowers appeared at my desk, each one outdoing the previous. The library was starting to look like a funeral home and I had finally had enough and placed a call to the florist.

“Emily’s Blossoms,” the chipper voice spoke into my ear. “Good morning, this is Isabella􏰀”

“Oh, yes! Hello, Ms. Swan, are you enjoying the flowers Dr. Cullen sent you? He must’ve really upset you to send that many flowers. My Seth stayed out with his cousin one night and then came home the next afternoon covered in mud. Well, let me tell you, I was mad at that man. Even then, he never apologized like your Dr. Cullen. And may I say that you’ve caught yourself a real sweetheart in Dr. Cullen􏰀”

“Ma’am,” I practically shouted into the phone.

“Oh􏰀I’m sorry, Seth says I talk a mile a minute, but what􏰀”

“Ma’am!” I shouted again.

For the first time, the line was quiet. I took the opportunity to jump in.

“Yes, the flowers have been beautiful, but I need them to stop. Please, the next time he calls to order more flowers, let

him know that it isn’t necessary.”

“But, Ms. Swan, he has a good number of deliveries already paid for. He gave very strict instructions to keep delivering until he called and said otherwise. I mean he’s already paid for them and everything, and thank god he did as business has been so slow since the end of the season. No hunters telling their brides they’re sorry for staying in the􏰀”

“Ma’am, I understand. Here’s what you can do. Please have the remaining deliveries go to the hospital. I know the nurses there would love some fresh flowers around. Just don’t send any of them with cards that could get􏰀interesting if you know what I mean?”

I quickly thought about what the quirky lady had said about finding a real sweetheart and I needed to clear that one up quickly.

“One more thing, Dr. Cullen is only playing a joke on me. We’re not in a relationship; he’s only trying to creatively welcome me to town.”

“Alright, but he’s given you his personal cell number and that isn’t something he gives out to anyone.”

I chuckled as I quickly came up with a distraction. “That’s just so that if I have an emergency with my daughter.”

“If you say so.”

I took a deep breath as I hung up the phone. Dr. Cullen had been correct when he’d said he would be persistent. However, I knew this would only last a little while. He would figure out that I wasn’t the type to drop to his feet with my legs spread wide and my mouth open and waiting. He would be right back to the regular stream of locals he was used to. I was just the shiny new toy around town, my luster would wear off quickly and he would cool his jets.

I had just returned from lunch when Angela came into the office.

“Bella, we need to talk.” I motioned for her to close the door. She did quickly and then took a seat. “I know you’ve been getting flowers from Dr. Cullen. Irina is out there telling the entire world that you’ve placed a spell on him and now he’s off the market. I’ll warn you that Tanya and Irina are about to become your best friends, or maybe your worst enemies, as they’ve been after him for years.”

I leaned back into my chair as I took in her words.

“Well, you can let the Dr. Cullen fan club out there know that I have no interest in a relationship with him.”

Angela only shook her head and chuckled, “It’s not the fan club you have to worry about.” This caught my attention. “You know Rose over at Happy Campers?”

“Yes, she takes care of Jessica for me.”

“Yes, well, when she moved here with her family, she of course turned many heads. She’s beautiful inside and out.” I nodded my head in agreement. “Her daddy made it known that she couldn’t date until she turned sixteen. The day that happened, several boys in town made it known they wanted to be her boyfriend. Rose wasn’t interested in any of the guys in town.

“Well, Emmett Cullen decided to pull out all the stops and overwhelm her with gifts and crazy acts of chivalry. Everyone thought he’d get tired and give up as she showed no interest in him. The weekend of the big homecoming game, something happened at Rose’s house. Her family to this day won’t speak of what happened. However, the very next Monday at school, Rose and Emmett were a couple.”

I found this to be odd, did he pay her or blackmail her?

“I can tell by the look on your face that you think he did something to make her like him, but I happen to know what happened, as my father was called out to the house as the family minister. Emmett did nothing wrong or evil. After nearly a year of trying to get her attention by giving her gifts and opening doors, decorating her locker, and even writing her a song he sang at the talent show, one act of bravery sealed the deal for her.”

This news had me intrigued. What could have happened that made Rose change her mind about Emmett? And why would you call a minister to the house?

“What I’m trying to tell you is that the Cullen men can be very aggressive when they want something. If you think that diverting his gifts to another location is going to work, you’re kidding yourself.”

“What do you mean?”

“Please, Emily Clearwater couldn’t keep her mouth shut if it was full of cement.”

“Wait􏰀did you say Emily Clearwater?”

Angela looked at me puzzled. “Yes, she owns the flower shop. She and Seth have been married for about three years now.”

“Seth􏰀the guy who􏰀” I pointed at the parking lot that was still buzzing with activity.

“One in the same. Let me guess, he invited you to one of the tribe’s get-togethers.”

I nodded my head, but remained silent. Angela chuckled darkly as she tipped her head back and then looked at me again.

“Well, at least he’s still the same disgusting pig he’s always been. The get-together he invited you to is a bonfire, which turns into naked couples scattered all over the beach. Every time they have one of their ‘meetings,’ Dr. Cullen has to order penicillin shots for the entire reservation.”

Once again, Angela had confirmed my belief about all men. I rolled my eyes as I continued to listen.

“Seth is one of the many men in this town that’ll use you and toss you. He only married Emily because he had no other choice. His father and her father came to an agreement. Too bad no one told Seth the definition of forsaking all others.”

I instantly felt sorry for poor Emily. She seemed like such a lovely person on the phone, a bit talkative, but still a nice person.

“I’m only telling you this because it would seem that Dr. Cullen has upped his game, so to speak.”

My eyes followed her gaze as she looked out my window that faced the street. There, standing beside the flower planters, was my elderly neighbor, Harry. Harry and his wife had the most beautiful, well-kept lawn I had ever seen. His wife, Carmen, had come over the other day and brought me a casserole, welcoming me to the neighborhood. I commented on how lovely her yard was and she informed me that Harry had previously been employed by the government. He had been responsible for keeping the White House lawn in pristine shape. His specialty was the rose garden the first lady was accreted with. I watched as he was removing trash and debris from the planters. I noticed his truck parked along the street, bags and bags of various supplies piled up in the back.

“Please tell me you’re not going to tell him to stop,” her voice pulled me back into the room.

“No,” my voice was barely above a whisper.

I closed my eyes as I rose from my seat. I rounded the desk as I headed for the front door. Once outside, I looked to see that a tent had been erected in the parking lot. Several men were busy applying stain to the already-completed bookcases.

“Ms. Swan,” one of the workers tipped his hat at me as I walked by. He couldn’t have been more than twenty years old. I smiled and bid him a soft hello. I continued around to the front of the building where I found Harry whistling. He was in his element. He had several trash bags full of what I assumed was the contents of the planters. He was now mixing different bags and feeling the dirt in his fingers.

“Mr. Coop,” I called as I continued to walk toward him. I didn’t want to startle him. He removed his large straw hat as I approached.

“Ah, Ms. Swan, what a beautiful day God has given to us.” I could help but to return his smile.

“Yes, Mr. Coop, I have to agree with you. The sun is a welcomed sight today.”

He removed a red bandana from his side pocket and wiped the dirt from his hands.

“Dr. Cullen came by the house this morning and asked me to

take care of these old planters, said that a beautiful lady such as yourself should have flowers to look at every day. So here I am helping the young lad out.” I smiled at him as he began to place his gloves back on his hands. “Oh, Ms. Swan, before I forget, he asked me to give this to you.”

Mr. Coop handed me a white envelope that I took without a word and smiled as he began to work again. The whistling started before his shovel hit the dirt.

I turned and made my way back to my office. Truly, I couldn’t complain about the flowers as everyone would be able to enjoy them. They would be an added benefit to the aesthetics of the building.

As I rounded the corner, I noticed the workers taking a water break. I wondered if they had eaten today as I hadn’t heard the saw stop since I’d gotten here this morning. I walked into my office and called the local pizza shop. I ordered enough pizza to feed all of the workers outside as well as the girls in my office. I gave Angela enough money to cover the cost and a sizeable tip. I settled back into my seat as I began my work again.

Angela opened the door to my office, a burst of pizza aroma following her in. The smile on her face was of someone who had been proven right. The white box she held in her hand was wrapped with a large red bow. She chuckled as she sat it on my desk.

“What’s this?”

Her laughter filled the room as she took a seat. “This, fair Bella, is from Volturi bakery in Port Angeles. The closest bakery we have. They’re also famous for their New York-style cheesecake, which I believe is what’s nestled in that white box.”

I stared at the box as if it would open itself.

“Oh, and by the way, here’s your money back. Evidently, our good Dr. Cullen has the entire town working for him in his pursuit of you. The pizza was already paid for.”

She slowly got up and left the room, closing my office door behind her, grinning the whole time. This simply could not be real.

By the end of the day, several bookshelves had been completed and I had hired a contractor to come and install new flooring. There had been enough left over to purchase new couches, benches, and chairs. Things were looking like we would open on schedule. My last email of the day informed me to expect the computers to arrive next week and we would have online services shortly thereafter. Thank god my day had ended with something positive.

I hadn’t taken the time to open the bakery box. I believed that Angela had been right most of the day so I didn’t even question it. I walked across the parking lot to get my baby and head home. I wanted nothing more than to cuddle up with her and forget everything that had happened today. As I entered my security code into the pad, I shifted the box to my

other hand. It was then the door flew open and I was face to face with both Rose and Alice.

“Oh, my god, he truly is smitten,” Alice gasped eyeing the box.

“I can’t believe he called Mr. Coop, though. I mean that guy is retired, why would he want to take on such a big job?” Rose shook her head.

“Oh, Rose, stop, it’s romantic. Mr. Coop was once romantic; they did have five children after all.”

“But can you imagine what’ll happen if she continues to play hard to get?”

This back and forth banter between the two like I wasn’t even here was getting on my last nerve.

“Here,” I spoke to no one in particular as I shoved the box into Alice’s hands. “Ladies, I’d love nothing more than to sit and listen to this, but I’ve had a long day and I just want to get Jessica and go home and crawl into bed with her.”

I didn’t stand there long enough to get a reaction. I walked quickly back to the room where Jessica would be. As I entered, I noticed that there was this huge stuffed teddy bear sitting in the corner by my daughter’s cubby. Jessica was perched on its oversized lap as she pretended to read a book. The closer I got, I noticed that the book was actually telling the story. I had heard about these particular books, but had

not seen one in person yet.

“Hi, sweetheart,” I said as I knelt down to pick her up.

“Ahhhh!” she screamed and twisted in my arms.

I placed her back on the teddy bear’s legs, frightened I had hurt her.

“Sorry, Bella, I should’ve warned you, she’s been sitting there since the bear was delivered this afternoon. All the children got one, but most were afraid of the oversized things.”

Alice danced her way over to the other bears that sat along the wall. She quickly turned and threw herself into their collective lap. She had the white box open and a fork in her hand. I watched as she took her fork and raised it to her mouth, her eyes closing and a low moan coming from inside her chest. Rose joined her and didn’t wait for the use of the fork as she stuck her finger into the cheesecake and then directly into her waiting mouth.

“When you don’t have sex, there’s Volturi cheesecake,” Rose moaned as she left her eyes closed. I watched as they continued to take bite after bite, enjoying each one more than the last. Alice handed the box and fork over to Rose who stood and walked away. Alice must have realized she was sitting in the middle of several large teddy bears.

“Oh, god, they’re so soft.”

I reached down and felt that the bear wasn’t hard as you would have imagined. It was more like an overstuffed couch.

“Where did they come from?”

Rose and Alice looked my way. I held my breath as I waited to be told that this was another gift from Edward. This would truly send me over the edge. I would have no issue giving him a huge piece of my mind. To play with me and try to drive me crazy was one thing, but to mess with my daughter was another. The claws would definitely come out and momma bear would tear someone up.

“My mom found them in a catalog and she just couldn’t resist. She made certain everyone got one, she wanted to have all of her grandbabies spoiled,” Alice spoke.

“Grandbabies?” I asked surprised and startled.

They both began to laugh as Rose fell into the teddy bear pile with Alice. This caused Jessica to start laughing as she tossed her book and jumped into my lap.

“Sorry, Bella, all of the children in this room with Jessica are Cullen’s. Lilly and Alex are Alice and Jasper’s two children. And Addison, Aiden, and Savannah are mine and Emmett’s,” Rose laughed.

I smiled as I realized I had panicked for nothing. I quickly picked up a still-laughing Jessica and began to leave the room.

“Oh, before I forget, Emmett wants to talk with you about the volunteer program at the high school. He has some free time after the game on Friday. Mom already has a ticket for you and Jessica to sit with the family, and you can forget about turning her down.”

I contemplated saying no thank you for half a second, but I needed to talk with Mr. Cullen about the volunteer program so we would have several people lined up for the reading program. With a huge sigh on my part, I agreed as I turned and left the room.

Driving home, I noticed that nearly everyone waved as they passed. It was nice to feel so welcomed and I felt warm inside. I wanted to have my dad and Sue over for dinner soon as I hadn’t seen much of them since I had unpacked. I pulled into my garage and shut off my engine. Jessica was still singing to her video that was playing on our ride home. I carefully opened the door when I noticed that something was sticking up on my passenger side door. I quickly rounded the car to find a poster board sign suction-cupped to the side of my car. In big red letters was a clear message􏰀

Wave at Ms. Swan if you agree that she should have dinner with Dr. Edward.

I was going to castrate him.

Rec this time came from once again profile diving. I’ve just started this one, but it has me turning the pages quickly.

And before I forget, visit my facebook page The twisted mind of mathisson for the photos that our pretty Holly Higgins places for us to bring the pages to life.

Follow The Sun byMissWinkles

Sometimes you have to stop thinking with your head and listen to your heart, follow which way the wind blows and dream with abandon. Because tomorrow is a brand new day, and who knows what it will bring. E/B. Fluffy as fuck, with some sweet salty love

7. Chapter 7

I have received some very strong opinions and I say thank you, it shows me that some of you are as passionate as I am.

Thank you to everyone who is reading and enjoying, I sincerely hope you continue.

Now a huge thank you goes to my beta Dollybigmomma who has given me her finger in my face about this chapter. I love you girl!

MS Holly Higgins thank you for all you do in searching out photos to make these pages come to life.

Enjoy􏰀
DIAPERS, DIPLOMAS, AND DEADBEAD DADS Chapter 7

Tossing the poster board into the trash had me seeing red. The townspeople weren’t welcoming me, they were mocking me; telling me that they agreed with Edward, that I should feel overjoyed that a man such as Dr. Edward Cullen would want to date a girl in my situation. Well, they had another thing

coming if they thought I would fall for tricks such as these.

Jessica pulled me from my inner battle by slapping her tiny hands against the car window. Opening the car door and removing her from her car seat, I closed the door and headed toward the street to check my mailbox.

The neighborhood was peaceful, exactly what I needed. I noticed that Tanya’s car wasn’t in her driveway, yet the neighborhood men were once again waiting on their porches. No matter the age of the man, the mindset was the same. Reaching into the mailbox, I pulled out a stack if nondescript envelopes and a small package. I checked to see if the address was correct as I had not ordered anything recently.

The blaring of a car horn caused me to look down the street to find Tanya’s Mercedes coming toward me. She had the convertible top down and her oversized sunglasses covering most of her face. She pulled alongside of me and then slowly lowered her sunglasses.

“Well played, Bella; well played.”

I didn’t have a clue what she meant by that and I refused to stick around and find out. I quickly made my way to my front door, locking it behind me, closing off the world outside.

With dinner over and Jessica bathed and sound asleep beside me, I decided to indulge in one glass of wine tonight. I hadn’t had many since the birth of my daughter. I felt it important that I was fully focused in case there was an emergency. I closed

my eyes as I let the crimson liquid flow down my throat. After several drinks, I turned and sat the glass on my nightstand.

Jessica lay on her back, her curls framing her face. “Oh, how I wish I could trade places with you, sweet girl.”

When I was a little girl, I couldn’t wait to grow up and be on my own. At the time, I thought it was all about doing whatever you wanted to and staying up as late as possible. I had no idea the truth of being a grown-up, the responsibilities and how you had even more rules to follow.

I still had all of the cards from the flowers that had been delivered. They sat at the end of my bed, taunting me. A part of me wanted to toss them into the fireplace, leaving his words unknown. I chose to enjoy the rest of my wine before I opened the envelopes. With a deep sigh and a small prayer, I opened the first envelope.

My favorite color is blue; however, the brown of your eyes is changing my mind

Oh, good god, could he be anymore clichéd? How typical a man could he be? What next, his favorite bar pick-up line?

I was eleven years old before I could sleep without a nightlight.

When I was young, my parents were positive I would be a veterinarian as I was always rescuing strays.

I did my residency at a south-side Chicago hospital. I worked the ER and all the blood and gore it involved. Yet to this day, I can’t watch my own blood being drawn.

The notes confused me at first, why was he telling me all of these things? Then when I had read the last one, it hit me. This was his way of telling me little things about himself. He was establishing an even playing field. Clearly, he knew many things about me, yet until now, I had only known a handful of things about him.

The larger envelope was still waiting to be opened. Slowly and carefully, I slid my finger down the flap of the envelope.

Bella,

If you’re reading this then one of two things have happened. One, you’ve completely ignored my attempts to get to know you or you’ve sent your father to arrest me. I’m praying that the later isn’t true. I want to apologize to you for not beating my mother to the punch when she suggested that I take you to dinner. I was, at the time and truly still am, in a mesmerized state.

When I told you I was a patient and persistent man, I wasn’t kidding. When I was in med school, I found out that the organic chemistry class I needed was full. I made an appointment with the professor and he advised that if I wanted into the class, I had to convince the dean of students. I made my way to his office and tried to plead

my case. He brushed me off and told me to try next semester. I refused and sat down on the floor outside his office. I remained there for two days until he got sick of seeing me there and let me into the class.

When I was in residency, I was in the running for chief resident. I stayed at the ER for three weeks straight to show the board that I had the dedication needed for the job.

When I first moved back to Forks, my mother was helping remodel my home. She showed me a particular showerhead I liked. However, the store in Seattle was out of them and didn’t want to stock them anymore. I jumped into my car and drove to Dallas, Texas to purchase one from the manufacturer.

So you see, Bella, you can ignore me, tell me you have plans, any number of things. It won’t matter. I want very badly to take you to a nice dinner and get to know you better.

The persistence is a Cullen trait. Ask Rose, she’ll tell you how strong that patience really is.

Edward.

“Oh, but Edward, you have no idea how strong my convictions can be.”

I tossed the letter to the side. The small package was next to be opened. Nestled among the mailing peanuts was a deep mahogany box. I removed the wooden box and turned it around in my hands. The gloss was so polished you could see your reflection. I found the tiny brass latch and gently lifted it with my fingernail. Once the box was open, it began to play Clair De Lune. I closed my eyes as the sounds of piano filled my bedroom. I had loved this song since I was a little girl taking ballet classes. I was just about to shut the lid when I noticed a sliver of paper in the lid. I slowly removed it and then placed the box on my nightstand. I opened the paper and found the elegant script that I had become accustom to.

When my father was courting my mother, he gave her a music box very similar to this one. She told us that of all the gifts she had been given by my father, the music box was her most treasured. I spoke with your father this morning and obtained his permission to pursue you. That, my fair Bella, is exactly what I intend to do.

Edward.

I quickly placed the music box back into the packaging. I gathered the notes and placed them inside the cardboard box as well. If the good Dr. Cullen thought for even one second that I was just going to jump into his arms, he was sadly mistaken.

I glanced back at a sleeping Jessica. One of the biggest things I loved about having Rose watch her was the fact that

she played so hard all day that she slept completely through the night, thus I slept all night.

The next morning, I tried to call my father. I had a few choice words reserved for him. Sue informed me that there had been a nasty crash on the highway and he had been out all night. I decided that a quick trip by Dr. Cullen’s office would be better. I was going to stop this before it got completely out of hand. As I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed that there were already several cars there. Pulling Jessica out of her car seat, I grabbed the box and made my way into the office where I found several parents sitting in chairs while their children played with the toys. I approached the front desk and found a dark-haired young woman talking on the phone. It was clear she was making an appointment for a patient so I took a step back to give her the needed privacy.

“Good morning, sorry to keep you waiting, how can I help you?”

Her voice was sweet and calm and her electric blue eyes caught me off guard.

“Yes, I’m looking for Dr. Edward Cullen. I have something to give him,” I motioned to the cardboard box in my hand.

“Do you have an appointment?” she quickly asked.

“Oh no, this isn’t about my daughter, Dr. Cullen left this for me and I’m afraid I have to return it to him.”

She smiled as she stood from her chair and extended her hand to me.

“You must be Bella, I’m Bree. Dr. Edward was called into an emergency situation and is currently across the street at the hospital.”

I shook her hand and smiled. Her face was kind and yet it pissed me off that everyone knew who I was.

“Thank you, Bree. I’ll look for him at the hospital.”

I quickly exited the office and began to walk across the street toward the hospital. Forks Community Hospital was not very big to say the least. I was not certain what I expected as the city of Forks didn’t have but a little over three thousand residents.

I walked through the sliding glass door and came to the reception desk. No one was manning it so I decided to wait for a minute. Just as I checked my watch and took in the room, a female laugh could be heard coming from my right. I turned to see two nurses, a beautiful blonde and a redhead, coming my way.

“Excuse me,” I called to the pair. Their laughter stopped and they each looked at me with death glares.

“I’m looking for Dr. Edward Cullen. His office said he was here. Can you page him for me?”

The two looked at each other and then looked at me and began to laugh. I failed to see what was so funny and became a little pissed at their lack of professionalism.

“Sorry, Bella, Edward is a little busy, but if you’ll tell me what you need, I’ll make certain he gets the message,” the blonde spoke as the redhead snorted. Apparently, this pair also knew who I was.

“Yes, well, I didn’t ask if I could leave a message, I asked him to be paged,” I snapped, showing my aggravation.

“And I said he’s busy and I’ll give him a message. Now why don’t you just return to your boring little library with your boring-assed books and leave Edward alone.”

I was now beyond pissed. I removed my cell from my purse and pulled up the hospital website. I hit the call button and when the operator answered, I asked to speak with the hospital administrator. I watched as the eyes of the two nurses became huge. The operator informed me that the chief of staff, Dr. Carlisle Cullen, was currently in the middle of an emergency surgery, but that she would send me to his voicemail. I thank her and as I awaited his voicemail to start, I watched as the two continued to look me up and down.

“Good morning, Dr. Cullen, my name is Isabella Swan and I’ve encountered an issue I’d like to make you aware of. This morning, I presented into your hospital and asked to have a physician paged. The two nurses, I say nurses because that’s what their name badges state, tell me that they’ll take a

message and make certain Dr. Edward Cullen gets this message. Now, Lauren Mallory and Victoria Hunter have been less than helpful and have not bothered to make certain there isn’t a medical emergency with my two-year-old or myself. They’ve been nothing but rude and condescending as they’ve informed me to ‘return to my boring library and my boring- assed books,’ to directly quote them. I’m certain that you do not train your employees to act in such a rude and unprofessional manner. I’d appreciate it if you’d please return my phone call so that I can speak with you regarding this incident. Thank you, Dr. Cullen, and have a wonderful day.”

I hit end on my phone and turned and walked out. I had dealt with women like those two in the past. They preyed on the weak to make themselves feel better. I also knew that the moment you stood up to them, they backed right down.

I parked my car in the library parking lot and walked across to the daycare center. Rose said nothing, but she had a huge smile on her face. I bid her a good day and then headed back to the library.

With the cardboard box still in my hand, I opened the door and walked in. The tile man was busy getting the tile installed, while the students were sanding down the wood trim that would go back around the floor. Seth winked at me and I fought with everything in me not to flip him off. However, the sight that made me stop in my tracks was of Irina standing outside my office door. Her hair was pulled into a ponytail and her usually curly blonde hair was now dark brown and pin straight. Her face was absent of her normal excessive

makeup and her clothes were􏰀well, she had on a skirt that went to her ankles and a sweater that looked to be at least a size too big. The cosmetic glasses that sat on her nose nearly caused me to burst out laughing.

“I figured that I’ve tried to catch Edward’s attention for years looking sexy. You turned his head in less than two seconds looking like􏰀you, so I figured you’re his type and so, well􏰀 you don’t want him so why not give this a try?”

The normally-confident Irina was now acting shy and reserved. I decided to give her a break and help her out. Alright, what I was about to do was totally selfish􏰀

“Irina, I actually have an important job for you that would involve you seeing Dr. Cullen, are you interested?”

She looked at me with total confusion. “You want me to go see Edward?”

Her lack of common sense was comical. This would be so much fun.

“Yes, I have this item that I need to return to him. I just don’t have time to wait for him, so could you go over to his office and sit and wait for him to get in and then give it to him?”

By the look in her eyes, the light bulb had finally gone off. I held in my laughter as she quickly grabbed her purse and then began typing on her cell phone.

I handed her the now-sealed box and gave her strict instructions to give it only to Dr. Edward Cullen personally and no one else. She smiled and said she would stay there until she gave it to him in person.

I made my way to my desk where I took time to answer my awaiting emails. Angela came in and took her usual seat as she waited for me to acknowledge her.

“Yes?” I chuckled.
“Oh, nothing, just wondered what you were doing?”
I stopped my typing completely as I looked at her.
“It’s this little thing called a job, you should really try it.” Angela giggled as she stood and left the room.

What in the world was that about? I hit the send button on my final email and decided to break for lunch. I had my curser hovering over the close button for my email when the chime indicating I had an awaiting email began sounding continuously. At first, I thought it was just an error. However, when I opened the new mail file, my eyes became huge as I saw my inbox was filling up quickly. Then my text message alert began to sound on my cell phone. I buried my hands in my hair as I looked at line after line of new email, all from the same person, one Edward Cullen.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I closed my computer completely

and shut off my cell phone. I grabbed my purse and headed over to the daycare center. I quickly punched in my code and then headed straight for Jessica’s room. However, the second I stepped foot into the room, I noticed that every employee and every child was wearing a pink t-shirt with the same caption.

Ms. Bella, say yes to Dr. Edward!

I noticed Rose standing over a table of children. She was filling up glasses of juice. She stood up when she noticed me and then pointed at her shirt. I rolled my eyes as I crossed the room and kissed my daughter’s head. She was too busy talking with Lilly to pay me any attention. I left the room without saying a word. Crossing the parking lot and getting into my car, I noticed Irina had returned. She now had a large pink bag in her hands. Her smile was huge and she was again bouncing on her toes.

“Bella, I did what you said and he gave me this to give to you.”

I looked into the bag to find the box that I had tried to have returned as well as a large note that stood out. I pulled out the eight- by-ten-inch card and held it up, written in his perfect script once again.

Didn’t your mother teach you any manners? When someone gives you a gift, you say thank you, not send it back. I can see that you doubt my words about being persistent. I have all the time in the world to wait for you

to say yes. Remember, I’m a very patient man.

Seriously?

I’d always figured that being a doctor required some higher level of intelligence, but I was beginning to wonder. What part of “not interested” did this guy not comprehend?

A/N
Nope, not scared􏰀..let me hear it.

8. Chapter 8 DIAPERS, DIPLOMAS, AND DEADBEAT DADS

Chapter 8

Irina seemed to dance around the office after she had returned from Edward’s office. It didn’t hurt any that one of the guys helping to install the new bookcases was from Port Angeles and had asked for her number. I’d had a feeling that Irina would toss her too-short and too-tight skirts for the more appropriate clothing she was wearing today and I was right. Poor Edward didn’t even know that he had lost one of his regulars. As sad as that might seem, I was a little happy that she was moving on since watching that kind of abject worship had been a bit disturbing.

It was nearly time for everyone to head home when Angela appeared with a very handsome man beside her. I could tell he was a professional as his suit dictated such. I had not been expecting anyone and I silently prayed he wasn’t from the board.

“Bella, this is Dr. Carlisle Cullen. He insisted on speaking with you.”

I looked to Angela who silently mouthed, “Oh, my god!” before

turning and leaving, shutting my office door gently.

I rose from my chair as I extended my hand to him, “Dr. Cullen, I’m Bella Swan. How can I help you today?”

His handshake was firm and his hand smooth and warm. The smile that decorated his lips was genuine. Too many people today plastered on a fake smile to make you feel comfortable. I, for one, was cautious when that happened.

“Well, Bella􏰀first, you can call me Carlisle and second, you can tell me how my nurses were rude and unprofessional.”

I smiled and then motioned for him to have a seat. With my hands crossed on my desk, I relayed the entire story. Carlisle listened very intently and nothing I had to report seemed to faze him.

“Bella, I do need to apologize to you for the actions of my employees. I can assure you this incident will not go unpunished. I have to admit that unfortunately, it has more to do with my son than you.”

I looked at him with a puzzled expression.

“It’s no secret that all of my children are, how do the kids say it these days􏰀easy on the eyes.”

I smiled at his candor. I had no doubt what he said was true.

“For Edward, especially, it’s been difficult to keep his focus at times.”

Pfft􏰀I’ll bet it has.

“Don’t misunderstand me, Bella. Edward hasn’t returned interest in the majority of the offers he’s had over the years. He’s no saint I can assure you, but he isn’t sowing his oats, either.”

“I’m sorry, Carlisle, what does that have to do with your nurses being rude? I wasn’t at the hospital to ask him out or to flirt with him. I had a purpose for going there.”

Carlisle’s face turned slightly red and his lopsided grin stood out.

Oh􏰀.

“It’s no secret that Edward has taken a liking to you. The nurses you encountered today are among those for whom he hasn’t returned affection.”

“Hmm, I see. So because I was simply taking a breath today, they don’t care for me.”

Carlisle pinched the bridge of his nose. “Sadly, yes, that pretty much sums it up.” I smiled as I began my reply.

“Well then, Carlisle, I think we can resolve this matter with a few simple words. You see, I have no intention of dating your son, Edward. I have no interest in him and the only

relationship I want with him is that of being the doctor for my little girl. So you can let the entire town know that Edward Cullen is very much available for ogling and pursuing.”

Carlisle began to laugh. Not chuckling, but gut-wrenching belly laughing.

“I’m sorry, did I say something funny?”

Carlisle tried very hard to compose himself. The longer he laughed, the angrier I got.

“I’m so sorry, Bella. You have to forgive me as this has brought up some memories of when my son, Emmett, was interested in Rosalie.”

I sat quietly as he continued to chuckle.

“I’ll be happy to pass along your message. But I do hope you have the opportunity to speak with Edward about this.”

I smiled as I began to fidget with my fingers.

“Carlisle, I have every intention of speaking with your son. He’ll soon find out that I’m not the type of girl who’ll fall at his feet with my legs in the air. I may have a child, but I’m not a promiscuous person.”

Carlisle began to rise from his chair and I stood along with him.

“I have no doubt you two will have an interesting conversation

to say the least.”

We shook hands and he began to walk to my door, stopping as he opened it.

“One last thing, Bella􏰀my wife, Esme, and my daughter-in- law, Rose, were just like you. They wanted nothing to do with myself or my son. They both refused to, as you just stated, lay down with legs open. However, I must warm you that I chased after my beautiful wife for three years and Emmett took over a year to get Rose. Edward can run pretty fast, Bella, especially if what he’s chasing is worth the effort.”

*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*

I had just picked up Jessica when I called my dad’s house. Sue answered the phone and after having to interrupt her three times, I finally got to ask her and dad over for dinner. She told me that the best place in town for steaks was Cheney’s Meat Market. She said to ask for Benny and to tell him she had sent me. As I pulled up to the white one-story building, I helped Jessica out of her car seat and then entered the shop. The bell over the door announced my arrival. The conversations going on when I walked in abruptly hushed as you could now hear my shoes on the tile floor. I walked around several men who were standing together; all were wearing the same style of clothes and hats. I smiled as I passed and every single one of them tipped their hats and called me Ma’am.

As I made my way to the counter, I was greeted by an older

gentleman.
“Can I help you?”

“Yes, Sir, I was told to request a guy named Benny. Are you Benny by any chance?

“No, darling, that’s my boy. Let me get him for you.”

I looked around the store while I waited. The men who now stood behind me had resumed their conversations.

“Can I help you, Miss?”

I quickly turned back around to find a very tall, very large man with equally large kind brown eyes. His brown curly hair was covered by his ball cap, but several small pieces curved around the edges of the cap. His face was clean-shaven and his skin free of blemishes. I could see why Angela liked him, he was very attractive.

“Um, yes, are you Benny?”

He smiled and then adjusted his cap. “Yes, Ma’am, Ms. Sue must have sent you.”

I smiled as I nodded my head. “Yes, she did.”

He raised his hand for me to shake. “Good to finally meet you, Ms. Swan. Folks say you’re giving the library a good cleaning up. About time someone did.”

His words surprised me. Not that he knew who I was; I was quite used to that. He thought my efforts were a needed thing.

“What can I help you with today, Ma’am?”

“Well, Ben, I’m having my father and Ms. Sue over for dinner and my dad is a true meat and potatoes man. I’m told you’re the best when it comes to a good steak.”

He again adjusted his cap as he smiled.

“I’ll have some cut special for you. Why don’t you come around to my office while you wait for those?”

I was a little taken aback. I had not expected him to invite me to sit in his office. I took the opportunity as I really didn’t want to just stand around. Ben came from behind the counter and motioned for me to follow him. He led me to a stark hallway. The walls were white and the floor a polished concrete. His office was at the end of the short hallway. He opened the door and stood back, allowing me to enter first.

The office was nothing special. There was a desk sitting in the corner, papers covering it and the two walls it sat against. However, what did stand out for me was the framed picture that sat on the lone windowsill. It was of Angela. The sun was high, lightening her hair. Her smile was genuine and she appeared to be sitting by a lake or pond.

“Have a seat,” Ben’s voice startled me as I was looking intently at Angela’s photo.

“She’s very pretty,” I said as I took a seat on the leather couch.

“No, she’s beautiful. I’ve loved that girl since we were in second grade.”

I knew about his time with Irina and the reason Angela would have nothing to do with him.

“How is she, Ms. Swan?”

I looked at him, his face now drawn and sad. Something wasn’t right in this situation.

“Why do you ask, Ben, haven’t you hurt her enough?”

He rested his body against the back of his chair and again adjusted his cap. This was clearly a nervous habit.

“When I went to Angela’s dad and asked him for permission to date Angela, I was overjoyed that he’d said yes. What I didn’t know at the time was he was also having counseling sessions with Lauren, Irina’s mother. She just happened to be sitting outside his office at the time.”

I noticed he didn’t call Lauren or Irina Miss. Clearly, something was up.

“I took Angela to see a movie that first week. I kept my hands to myself and had her home on time. For two years, I treated her with respect and honor. Trust me, I wanted to do more than hold her hand or kiss her cheek, but Ms. Angela is a

lady, much as yourself, and my Ma would’ve beat me good if I’d acted on those urges.”

My heart clinched as his story unfolded.

“My friend, Eric, was getting married and he wanted me to come to his bachelor party. I didn’t want to go, but Angela said it was important. So I went and we were just sitting around the bar watching the game when this…girl came into the bar. I didn’t recognize her at first because she had sunglasses and a wig on. Once I realized why she was there and who she was, I threw money on the bar and left.”

His story seemed very innocent and I couldn’t understand why there was an issue.

“Whoren tried to stop me before I could get to my car. She said she’d had her eye on me for a while now. I politely excused myself and got in my car and left.”

He then turned and looked at Angela’s picture.

“I went to Angela’s house the next morning, only to have her dad meet me at the front door, telling me that I was no longer welcome at his house. I asked him why and he told me that he was aware of my affair with Irina.”

Oh, my god􏰀

“I’d bought her a ring. I still have it at home. Right after I took over this shop for my dad, I began to work so hard so that

she could stay home with our kids.”

He was now tracing his thumb over Angela’s face in the picture.

“You didn’t sleep with Irina did you?”

Every fiber in my being knew the answer; he didn’t have to say it. How could people be so cruel?

“I wish I could take some kind of test to show her that I’m still waiting for her. You know, like ladies have their hymens to show they’re still pure. I wish guys had one, too, because I’d still have mine.”

I nearly lost my breath. “Ben, are you􏰀”

“Yes, Ms. Swan, I saved myself and I’m still saving myself for her. There’s no one else and the minute she finds someone else, I’ll sell this place and move to some deserted island. I won’t be able to see her with another guy. I still love her after all this time.”

This was beyond anything I had ever seen. I had a fire in my belly and would do everything in my power to get them together.

“Ben, have your guy put two more steaks in my order. I want you to be at my house on Saturday night for dinner. I’m going to fix this.”

Ben’s face quickly rose, the look of amazement and hope now reflected in his big brown eyes.

“Ms. Bella, if you can get my Angela back for me, I’ll give you free meat for life.”

I laughed at his excitement. “That’s a long time, Ben.”
“Not if you get my Angela back.” *DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*

The next day was Friday and I dragged my body out of bed. I arrived at the office to find the smell of coffee and donuts hanging in the air. Contemporary Coffee was in full swing, getting their little area in order. Irina was again dressed in clothes similar to mine and Angela’s.

“Irina, I’ll need a word with you this morning.”

The look on her face was of shock. Angela also looked worried. I gestured to my office and then instructed Angela to hold all visitors and calls. I walked calmly behind my desk and took my seat. Irina was playing with her fingers and visibly uncomfortable.

“Please explain to me why you and your mother chose to ruin the relationship of a perfectly happy couple?”

Her eyes became huge and she started to speak, but I held

up my hand to stop her.

“Don’t think for one second you can lie to me. I hate liars and I already know the truth, I just want to hear it from you.”

She continued to look like she had no idea what I was talking about. I gave her the bitch brow as I crossed my arms over my chest. I watched as the realization finally came to her.

“It was while my mom was finishing nursing school. Things were really tight because she could only work at night.”

I quickly interrupted her.
“By working, you mean stripping.” She could only nod her head. “Continue.”

“Ben owns one of the most successful businesses in Forks and mom decided that if I could land him that we’d be all set financially. But he’s in love with Angela.”

I stopped her.

“Wait, you knew he was in love with Angela and yet you let her believe a lie?”

“You don’t get it, Bella. Men don’t say no to the women in my family. When we want something from them, we get it.”

“But Ben didn’t give you what you wanted did he?”

“No, and neither did Dr. Cullen. My mother and Aunt Tanya have tried everything to get into his bed, but it hasn’t worked. Trust me, they’re pissed at you because you have his attention and haven’t even wanted it.”

I closed my eyes and sighed.
“So why haven’t you told her the truth?”

Irina fidgeted in her chair and then took in a deep breath before relaxing her body with a large exhale.

“Aunt Tanya thought he’d cave after a while, but he still won’t even look at any other girl in town.”

I crossed my legs as I continued to listen to her.
“Irina, do you like working here?”
She only nodded her head yes.
“Well, then I think it’s time for the truth to be told, don’t you?” She didn’t respond.

“Listen, Irina, I can’t make you be honest with Angela, but it’s the decent thing to do. I mean how would you feel if Angela was going after the guy you like now? You’d want to know the truth, wouldn’t you?”

She then nodded her head yes. “Go ask Angela to join us.”

I stood from my chair and made my way around the desk. I leaned against the front of it and crossed my arms. Angela was wide-eyed when she and Irina came back into the room.

“Close the door, Irina.”

Once Irina and Angela were both seated, I began the clean- up of the mess that Irina and her mother, Whoren, had created. I really liked the name Ben had given Lauren. I was certain she lived up to it, if her daughter was evidence to the fact.

“Ladies, as employees of this library, I expect you to work well together, and in order to do that, I feel it’s important that if one of you has something to say to the other that may be of importance, now is the time.”

Irina took in a deep breath and then turned her entire body to face Angela.

“Okay, so remember when you and Ben were getting serious and he went to that party of Eric’s?”

I watched as Angela’s face turned to anger as Irina spoke.

“How could I forget? You bragged to the entire town how you􏰀you􏰀”

“It’s alright, Angela. You don’t have to say it.”

I knew exactly how she felt. The moment I found out about Mike and my mother, my insides turned to razor blades, slicing against my heart and lungs. No woman should ever have to feel this type of pain; the kind of pain that destroys you and leaves you damaged and in broken pieces.

“The truth is…nothing happened. We made the whole thing up to break you two apart.”

The sound of Angela’s sudden intake of breath was the only sound in the room.

“But you said he had this birthmark and when…”

Irina cut her off. “Did you ever talk to Ben about the birthmark?”

Angela shook her head. “But that would be something􏰀”

“Oh, god, Angela, we lied about the whole thing. Do yourself a favor and ask him.”

I was lost in the conversation. A birthmark? “Wait􏰀what damn birthmark?” I interjected. Irina rolled her eyes as she then turned to me.

“We told Angela that Ben has a birthmark on the inside of his thigh in the shape of a star.”

I looked to Angela who was clearly reliving the conversation. This had to end and now.

“Well, ladies, there’s only one way to solve this.”

I rounded my desk and hit the button for speaker phone. I dialed the number on my receipt from the steaks I had purchased last night.

“Cheney’s,” a husky voice answered the phone.

“Good morning, this is Ms. Swan; can I please speak with Ben Cheney?”

“Oh, yes, Ma’am, your steaks are alright ain’t they, Ma’am?”

“Yes, Sir, the steaks are just fine. I have a personal matter to discuss with him and it’s rather urgent.”

“Yes, Ma’am, I’ll get him right now.”

You could hear him calling out Ben’s name in the background and then the sound that seemed to be a hand over the receiver.

“This is Ben, Ms. Swan, everything alright?”

“Ben, are you in your office? You need to be because I have a very personal question to ask of you.”

“Yes, Ma’am, I’m in my office and I’m happy to answer any question you have.”

I looked to Angela who had huge tears rolling down her pretty face. She truly loved Ben as much as he loved her. My eagerness to reunite them grew tenfold.

“Ben, do you have any birthmarks anywhere on your body?” Ben answered very quickly, not a single ounce of hesitation.

“No, Ma’am. If you don’t believe me, Dr. Cullen just did my physical for my new life insurance this morning. I can grab him if you want to hear it from him.”

I smiled, as I didn’t need anything other than Ben’s word. “No, Ben, that won’t be necessary, I completely believe you.”

I looked to Irina who now had a smile of contentment on her face. She had done the right thing and I had to give her credit.

“How is she today?” Ben’s gentle question surprised me.

“Angela’s fine. But I have a feeling she’s going to be so much better very soon,” I looked into Angela’s eyes as I spoke to Ben.

“You’re my last hope, Ms. Bella. I love that girl, I never got to say those words to her, but if given the chance, I’ll tell them to her every second of every day for the rest of my life.”

I looked to Angela, who mouthed the words back to him, wiping her new tears away.

I lifted the receiver and quickly placed it back on the cradle, effectively ending the phone call. The room was now silent as both women were deep in thought.

“Bella, I need the rest of the day off,” Angela’s voice finally broke the silence.

“Oh, my god􏰀you so have to do it,” Irina added. I looked to both ladies in bewilderment.

“I’m sorry, Bella, I feel like such a fool. I believed the words of a viper and refused to hear the truth from the man who loves me. I have to go to him and make this right. I can’t let him think for one more second that I don’t love him right back.”

I smiled as I watched Angela rise from her chair, her mission clearly etched out in her mind.

“Irina, you’ll take over Angela’s cleaning duty this afternoon.”

Irina tried to open her mouth to argue, but a quick bitch brow from me silenced her.

“Angela, I do expect to see you at my home for dinner on Saturday night.”

Angela quickly turned back and looked at me.

“Have you forgotten that tonight is the game? You’ll see me tonight; Ben never misses a single home game.”

Oh hell, I’d forgotten about that damn game. Maybe Edward wasn’t into high school football.

One could only hope􏰀

9. Chapter 9
DIAPERS, DIPOLOMAS, AND DEADBEAT DADS’

Chapter 9

As I stood in line to go inside the football stadium, I was bombarded by parent after parent telling me how excited they were to have the library modernized. One older gentleman inquired about the coffee shop, making certain they would offer a cup of coffee under a dollar like the diner. I told him I would try my best. Mr. Jamison, as he introduced himself, would be pleasantly surprised, as the manager had assure me they would have a fifty cent cup of plain black coffee on the menu.

As I got closer to the ticket booth, the young girl behind the counter noticed me and began to smile.

“Welcome, Ms. Swan, so glad to see you and this little princess here tonight.”

Jessica had insisted on hanging onto my neck. She looked around the crowd with big eyes.

“Thank you so much, I can’t wait to watch the team.”
She quickly handed me my tickets and refused to take any

money.
“Mrs. Esme said your money was no good here tonight.”

I thanked her and then followed the line into the stadium bleachers.

My understanding was that tonight was the Homecoming game. I could see several girls in evening dresses getting pictures taken on the field and thought back to my own high school days. Mike had been crowned Homecoming king our senior year. I should have known he was a creep when he kissed the Homecoming queen a little too long.

“Bella!” I heard my name being yelled from the corner of the bleachers. A very excited Alice stood on one of the seats, trying to get my attention. I waved back and began to wait my turn to get to her and the rest of the Cullen clan.

Once Rose and Alice were in Jessica’s view, she began to get very excited and demanded to go to Alice the second I was within arm’s reach of her.

“Hello, dear, I’m so glad to see the both of you,” Esme’s words were again genuine and warm. She took me into a heartfelt hug. I closed my eyes and just enjoyed it.

“I’m actually experiencing a little nostalgia over memories of attending my own high school football games,” I tried to smile.

“Oh, I’ll bet you were such a beauty, your poor dad must’ve

kept his shot gun at the ready.”

I shook my head as I dipped my head down in regret. “I’ve only ever had one relationship and the only good thing that same out of it was my little girl.”

Esme patted my knee gently. “Sometimes the sweetest jams come from the most rotten fruit.”

She was so right in this instance. I looked over Esme’s shoulder and noticed two people very close together walking this way. As they got closer, I began to smile and stood to greet them. Angela and Ben were so close together you couldn’t tell where one of them started and the other ended. Ben was busy kissing Angela’s head as he led her this way.

“Well, I guess your afternoon off went well.” “It went very well, and thanks, Bella.”
“Don’t thank me, it was Irina being honest.”

Alice and Rose suddenly stopped playing with Jessica and leaned over to listen to the conversation. Jessica made her way into my lap.

“Wait􏰀you guys are together again?” Rose asked excitedly.

“We sure are. She came running into the store this morning, threw herself into my arms, and kissed me for all she was worth. She told me she was so sorry she’d wasted so much time and then dad told me to take her to lunch and work it all

out.”
Ben’s eyes never left Angela’s as he shared his story.

“Momma, girls!” Jessica yelled, pointing at the cheerleaders who were getting ready on the field.

“Yes, love, they’re going to cheer for the boys to win.”

Jessica was so excited she made enough noise that the young cheerleaders turned and waved at her. It was then I noticed that Carlisle was talking with some men on the field and Edward was about six feet ahead of him, shaking hands with the older people who had lawn chairs along the fence. One woman in particular kissed his cheek and I watched as his face turned red. So much for me hoping that he wouldn’t be here tonight􏰀

“Bella,” Ben’s voice caught my attention. “Yes?”

“I just wanted you to know that I didn’t charge you for those two additional steaks I gave you. I also wanted to say thank you for the invite, but I have a date with my fiancée tomorrow night.”

Ben’s words had barely left his lips when Alice and Rose attacked. I circled my arms around Jessica, afraid they would knock us over. My eyes again landed on Edward as he continued to talk to nearly everyone he walked past. His smile

was big and I could faintly hear him laugh over the shrill squeals Alice and Rose were now giving over Angela’s ring.

“I decided that there’d been just too much wasted time so I took her over to her parents’ house and after her dad listened to the entire story, he gave me his blessing. I didn’t waste a second as I dropped to one knee and asked for her hand.”

The look Angela and Ben had for one another, I had only read about it in trashy romance novels, but this was a real-life dream come true. Some people were destined to be happy with the love of their life. Others were destined to be alone. I was definitely one of the alone ones.

“What did I miss?” a sultry voice questioned in my ear and for a fleeting moment, I dropped my defenses and closed my eyes, letting it ripple down my body, filling me with warmth and desire.

“Oh, my god, Edward, Ben and Angela are back together!” Esme’s excited voice echoed in my right ear as Edward stood from his seat to my left. He shook Ben’s hand as he congratulated him and then kissed Angela’s cheek.

“Thanks, Edward, we have Bella to thank for it,” Angela told him. “She opened our eyes to the truth.”

“Maybe Bella should take some of her own medicine,” Edward looked at me pointedly.

It was at that moment the band began playing what I

determined must have been the fight song. I watched a very excited Jessica dance in her seat as the cheerleaders began to shake their pompoms and shout for the players who were now taking the field. Edward was still standing beside me and it was as if the universe was against me as he brushed his arm along mine. I could feel the almost chill-like sensation that his skin left in its wake. Jessica chose that very moment to decide that she would rather have had Edward hold her than her own mother. As she wiggled and tugged at his arm, he smiled down at her and then without even a pause, he took her into his arms.

“Come here, princess.”

He quickly took her from my arms and then sat her on his shoulders where she began to cheer along with the crowd.

“Edward, let me take her, she may get excited and pee on you by accident,” I leaned into him so he could hear me over the crowd. His shoulder was solid and his cheek smelled so good. I had to bite my bottom lip to get myself together.

“She’s fine, Bella. Besides, do you think she’d be the first little girl to pee on me? I am a pediatrician after all.”

His eyes were so kind and I had to fight very hard not to melt into them. He had charm to spare and I just couldn’t let myself get lost in it. I quickly made myself remember the day I’d found out that Mike had left us. That quickly turned a fan on my lusty haze.

The crowd calmed down once both teams were on the field. I insisted that Edward set Jessica in his lap while we were sitting down, as I didn’t want the people behind us not to be able to see around her.

“May-May!” Jessica shouted.

I then noticed that Maggie was standing with the cheerleaders. She quickly turned at the sound of Jessica’s voice. She waved at Jessica and Jessica got even more excited. I watched as Edward stood up and then walked over to the fence with Jessica in his arms. He then lifted her over the fence into Maggie’s waiting arms. Jessica was so excited that she was screaming and giggling, which made everyone laugh at her.

“Sorry, Bella, I just can’t seem to say no to her,” Edward leaned into my ear and softly admitted.

I looked to Edward. “What do you mean you can’t say no to her?”

“Calm down, momma bear, when I drop Lilly off for Alice sometimes, Jessica begs me to read her a story. I find it hard to say no to her.”

I turned my attention back to my daughter who was now over the moon as Maggie had given her a spare set of pompoms. She was now dancing along with the girls on the field.

“That was a nice thing you did for Ben,” Edward praised me.

“They’re in love. People in love deserve to be together,” I responded not taking my eyes away from Jessica.

“I couldn’t agree more.” His voice was husky and full of hidden meaning.

“You do realize that by sitting so close to me, our wedding announcement will be in the local paper tomorrow,” I offhandedly told him.

“I have the perfect honeymoon spot picked out,” he replied.

I tried so hard not to look at him after that comment. I failed miserably. His cocky grin made me want to laugh, not slap him silly􏰀laugh. This was new.

“Thank you for discontinuing your gift-giving.”

He smiled as he snuggled in closer so I could hear him over the roar of the crowd as the Spartans made a touchdown.

“I didn’t stop, necessarily; I just have a clearer perspective of the type of girl you are.”

Now his arrogance was simply pissing me off.

“Listen, Dr. Cullen, I realize that I may present some form of challenge to you as I’m not following the behavior of the women you’ve pursued in the past, but let me make myself perfectly clear. I’m not the type of woman who’s going to fall at your feet and beg you to fuck me senseless. Furthermore, you should really discontinue your pursuit of me because it’ll

be in vain. I have no desire to be in any relationship with you, or any other man for that matter. I’m happy with the way my life is right now and I don’t need a man complicating things. Please go back to you regulars for your romantic requirements.”

I watched as his eyes became very dilated. At first, I thought it was from anger, but once he opened his mouth and spoke the words I would never forget, I knew it was something much more.

“Let me be perfectly clear on some things for you as well, Ms. Swan. I don’t have a ‘line of regulars’ as you so eloquently stated. I’ve found the women in this town to be far too forward and rather disturbingly􏰀uninhibited. I find not a challenge in you, but refreshment and quite frankly, grace. By you refusing my gifts, it’s not deterred me, but shown me what your preferences are not. I want to make myself perfectly clear. I won’t stop, not until you agree to just one date with me, Bella. After that one date, I’ll never bother you again if that’s your wish.”

His words affected me more than I wanted to admit. I remained silent in my thoughts for the remainder of the game. Edward respected my silence and watched the game as if I wasn’t sitting beside him. When the football captain was crowned Homecoming king and he kissed the beautiful girl in the green dress, I closed my eyes and shuddered. I clearly remembered Mike telling me that Maria was a sloppy kisser. I had been such an idiot to believe anything that came out of his mouth.

The game ended and the Spartans won by seven points. Esme told me to hang around for just a few minutes and Emmett would be able to talk with me.

“You could just come to the house if you wanted to. We always have an after-game drink once the kids go to sleep,” Esme suggested.

“Thank you for the invite, but I have things I need to take care of,” I declined.

She hugged me tightly and reminded me that I was going to be a guest for dinner very soon, and she was not taking no for an answer.

Emmett instructed his players to head to the locker room and then made his way to where we were standing.

Emmett was everything I had heard he was. He was big as a brick wall and so very handsome. I had no problem ogling him as I knew he was married to Rose. He would never be interested in me, so I took in his form in appreciation.

“Ms. Swan, it’s a pleasure to finally meet the girl who has my little brother tripping over his own tongue.”

“It a pleasure to meet you as well. Although, I have no clue what you mean by tripping your brother.”

He laughed as he pointed to the field behind me. I turned and lost my breath as I watched Edward letting Jessica chase him

around the goalposts. She was giggling and yelling, “I get you!” He was laughing just as much and he finally swooped down and picked her up, spinning her around and then giving her a big hug and a kiss. My jaw nearly hit the ground when she burrowed her tiny face under his jaw and had both arms tightly wrapped around his neck. As he turned them to face us, I noticed he was smiling serenely and his eyes were closed, as if he was trying to savor this moment and commit it to memory.

“So you want some of my curtain climbers to volunteer at the library?” Emmett got my attention.

I quickly spun around, dislodging the huge lump that was residing in my throat. We spoke in some detail as to what he would be able to give me. I really wanted some drama students to read to the children during the Saturday children’s hour. He was excited to tell me he already had several students wanting to volunteer their time for me. He gave me his personal contact info and I gave him mine. By the time we finished, Jessica was dead asleep in Edwards’s arms.

“Edward, I’m sorry if she was a bother,” I apologized as I reached out to take my baby from him.

“This little angel was no trouble, but I’d like to place her in her car seat, if you don’t mind.”

I reluctantly agreed and he began to follow me to my car. Once he had her safely buckled in, I noticed the package that contained the music box was still in my car.

“Here, I have something for you.”

I rounded the car and opened the passenger-side door. With the box in hand, I turned and extended it to him. Edward knew immediately what it was and only smiled as he shook his head and replied, “One date, Bella, and then I’ll take it back if that’s what you wish.”

Damn, this man was just as obstinate as I was. If I went through with this blasted date, would he really back the hell off?

More incredulous was the fact that I was actually considering it.

10. Chapter 10

This chapter is dedicated to my friend and fellow writer CaraNo. I’m honoring your wishes girl, this chapter is for you.

DIAPERS, DIPLOMAS, AND DEADBEAT DADS Chapter 10
Just one date.

Those words had been on replay in my mind since I’d said goodnight to Edward. For the most part, he hadn’t acted like the egotistical man-whore I’d assumed him to be. He actually seemed down-to-earth, and for lack of better words, a really nice guy. I reminded myself that he was still a man regardless. However, I couldn’t deny the feelings that had raced through me as I watched him playing with my baby. It was those very feelings that caused me to break out the locked treasure chest I had under my bed.

Jessica didn’t stir as I’d placed her in bed. I’d even managed to change her clothes and wash her face and she never even mumbled. I left the bathroom door open as I filled the tub with the hottest water I could stand. Turning off the lights, I allowed only the flickering glow from the candles that surrounded the tub to illuminate the bathroom. I slowly slipped

out of my clothing and into the foamy bath. I had to take my time, as it was very hot against my skin. I could feel my muscles relax as I slid further into the steaming water.

I tried to close my mind to the feelings I now had after spending time with Edward. I didn’t want to feel the fire that had been started only hours ago. The last time I’d had to release this much tension had been after watching that fireman in Chicago roll up that hose. Sitting beside Edward had proved much more stimulating. Historically, I had to get myself worked up by pinching my nipples and rubbing my hands over my body. Not tonight. My vibrator slid right in and I nearly came before I’d even turned it on. I closed my eyes as my hand brought the vibrator in and out, allowing the vibration of the nose of the rabbit to work my clit. I closed my eyes and let the tingling sensation encompass my entire body. I had to bite my bottom lip to keep from crying out in ecstasy. If I had this type of reaction from just sitting beside him, I had to wonder what would happen if I actually􏰀

“Ugh, stop it, Bella. Get yourself under control.”

I had to stop this line of thought and chastised myself for even allowing my mind to go there. Relaxed but pissed off at myself, I climbed out of the tub and got myself ready for bed.

*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*

I startled abruptly to the sound of a very loud motor being cranked. The sun was bright when I woke, too bright if you asked me. I hadn’t gotten much sleep last night. I woke up

three different times and had to relieve the tension my dreams had created. Now, one of my neighbors was mowing his lawn, ending any plans I had for sleeping in. I walked into Jessica’s room to find her still sleeping in spite of the loud lawnmower. I trekked my way to my kitchen, desperately needing a hot cup of coffee when I noticed movement in my back yard. I crossed the room quickly to find none other than Edward Cullen pushing a lawnmower, cutting my grass. His hair was tucked under a grey bandana, his Mariners tank shirt showing his very muscular pecks and was cut low enough to show the sides of his ribs. His khaki shorts were covered at the hip by his shirt, the tattletale white earphone cords draping from each ear.

Throwing my back door open, I stomped out onto the back deck, waving my hands franticly in the air to get his attention. When I’d signed the lease, I had been happy to read that lawn service was included. The gentleman who normally mowed my lawn once a week had introduced himself and said he would be here every Saturday. He had always shown up in the afternoon.

Edward finally looked my way and a huge smile broke out on his face. He released the handle and the loud mower shut off with a huff.

“Good morning, Ms. Swan, you’re looking exceptionally delightful this morning.”

His face was wet with sweat and it had started to collect in the center of his chest. The slightly darker shade of gray

caught my attention and I briefly wondered if he sweated that hard when he did other things.

“Ignoring the obvious, what are you doing here?” I was standing there half-awake with my hands on my hips in all my barefoot glory.

Edward pulled the bottom of his shirt up and wiped the sweat that was running down his face and neck. In doing so, I was given a full view of his perfectly sculpted abs, complete with happy trail that I had been thinking about far too much in the past eight hours.

“Well, the gentleman who regularly cuts the grass for our family is currently on his way to Seattle with his wife who had their baby about five hours ago. She was a little early and we aren’t equipped to handle that type of situation. My father is handling the baby and I’m making certain his work gets done.”

I couldn’t respond. I tried several times to say something, but the words just wouldn’t come. Thankfully, I had left the back door open and I could now hear Jessica babbling from her crib so I quickly excused myself and went to get her.

I should have just kept my eyes focused on picking my daughter up and not chancing a look in the mirror. Just when I didn’t think things could get any worse, they did. I noticed that my tiny cami was so thin you could see right through it, and my nipples were prominently on display and standing at full attention. It was also obvious that my pajama pants were still lying in a heap at the end of my bed as I had marched outside

in my lacy bikini underwear, which was just as thin and see- through as my cami. I wanted to hide in a hole somewhere.

I waited until I heard Edward drive away before I made any moves to look outside. The last thing I needed was for him to see me looking at him. However, the memory of his shirt pulled up as he wiped at his sweat caused me to need yet another round of self-love in the shower. I would need to add an economy-sized package of batteries to my shopping list at this rate.

*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*

“Dad, I just want you to understand that I have no interest in dating anyone, not just Dr. Cullen.”

My dad and Sue had arrived later that evening. My dad was barely inside the door when he began his interrogation as to why I was still “playing hard to get” as he termed it.

“Baby girl, you have to understand that not every man is out to hurt you.”

This wasn’t the first time I had heard this story from him. I knew my father only wanted the best for me, but so did I. I was happy that my father had found someone he could trust in Sue. Hell, I liked him better now that he was with her. He was a different person than when he and Renee were together.

“Maybe you’re right, Dad, but for now, I’m happy with the way my life is. I just don’t have time for a man right now.”

After Sue begged me to let her read Jessica a story, my father and I once again sat on the back patio and drank several beers. I enjoyed this time with him and thanked god for Sue and her understanding ways.

“Bella, I just worry that you’re going to shut yourself off to someone who’d be good not only for you, but for little Jess, too.”

“Is that why you gave him the green light to date me?”

My dad took a long pull from his beer; he took several minutes before he finally answered me.

“Listen, in my day, it was expected for a young man to ask permission of a young lady’s father to date his daughter. Call it old-school thinking if you want, but Edward is a good man. The whole time I’ve known him, he’s always been a stand-up guy. He isn’t a skirt chaser like some of these other yahoos. Give him a chance, Bella.”

That night as I lay in my bed, I let my father’s words roll around in my head. Clearly, I had assumed things about Edward that weren’t necessarily true. It didn’t change the fact that I wasn’t ready to open my heart to any man. Deep inside, I still believed that most men were worthless.

Sunday morning came with Maggie knocking at my door. She had just returned from church and wanted me to sample some of the treats that would be served to the children during the reading hour. I had to confess I was a little jealous that I

wasn’t going to be eating a snack every week. Those ladies could really cook.

James called me that afternoon and asked if he could stop by my house to show me the cost breakdown of the yoga classes. I told him he could simply bring them in on Monday, but he said he wanted me to meet his boyfriend and due to the fact his lover worked during the week, this was his only opportunity. James was such a sweetheart as he brought cheesecake and a bottle of really good wine.

“Bella, this is my boyfriend, Jake. Jake, this the best boss on the planet, Bella Swan.”

Jake was the complete opposite of James. Where James was what I would call eclectic, Jake was straight-up GQ. He stood at least six feet tall and his hair was short, but in that “I just had great sex” kind of way. His skin was dark like Seth’s and so I assumed he was of the same tribe. His jeans looked like they were painted on and for a tenth of a second I wanted to jump him. I had to keep reminding myself that he played for the home team.

Jake and Jessica hit it right off and I was grateful as he played with her while James and I talked. By James’s estimates, the classrooms would not cost us much up front and the profit would be significant in a few months.

“So, I hear you’re turning the head of one Dr. Edward Cullen, Ms. Bella,” Jake said with a cocky grin. “I can’t believe you’ve turned him down. Most women and certainly this man would

jump at the chance to bed that fine man.”

I looked at James, who could only glare at Jake. I couldn’t contain the laughter as James began to scold him thoroughly.

It was nearly eleven o’clock by the time Jake and James finally left. Jake demanded that we all go out once the library was up and running. I gladly accepted as I knew I had a less than zero chance of either one of those guys trying to get me in bed.

As I settled into bed that night, I smiled, as I knew things were going to be okay. Saturday was our grand reopening and our first children’s reading hour. Saturday just couldn’t get here soon enough.

11. Chapter 11

I know this will come as a total and complete shock to you, but I do not own Twilight. I do own three robes and several pairs of pajamas that I practically live in when I’m home.

Thank you to my beta, Dollybigmomma. You guys would be so disappointed if you could read my stories before she fixes them. A huge high five goes to my friend, Holly Higgins, who is finally finished with school and can really go wild with photos for my chapters. But most of all, thank you to everyone who reads along and get enjoyment from my words.

DIAPERS, DIPLOMAS, AND DEADBEAT DADS

Chapter 11

“My aunt Tanya told me that Dr. Edward was at your house on Saturday.”

Irina met me at the front door the second I came in. I had completely forgotten that Tanya was Irina’s aunt and that she had a thing for Edward.

“Yes, but he was mowing the lawn,” I answered flippantly.

Her eyes looked heavily into mine. “You didn’t invite him in?” Her voice sounded disbelieving.

I walked past her and put my purse in my drawer.

“Not that it’s anyone’s business, but no, I questioned why he was there and that was it.”

She looked at me again and then turned and left.

It was shortly before lunch when a man with a clipboard walked through the front door. Angela looked up from her computer and greeted him.

“Hello, Sir, I’m sorry, but we aren’t really open yet.”

The man adjusted his hat and then smiled at Angela. “Sorry, Ma’am, but I have a delivery.”

My insides clinched as I worried that Edward had begun his flower-sending antics again. I walked over and held my hand out to him. “Hello, I’m Ms. Swan. Can I ask what kind of delivery?”

He smiled and then handed me an envelope. I opened it and nearly fainted when I read the letter.

Dear Isabella,

As I told you the other night at the game, my gifts have only shown me what type of woman you are. What I’ve discovered is that you’re genuine and caring, selfless to a

fault, and very strong-willed.

You have a love of people and of learning. You want everyone to be able to experience the love you have for books and the characters hidden in them. To be able to take a journey of their very own to places they’ve only dreamed of. You feel strongly for those you love. When you fall in love, it’ll be forever and it’ll be the passion that consumes you. You haven’t been truly loved yet, Bella, but if given the chance, I’ll gladly show you how wonderful it is.

Now, as for the delivery that you’re currently perplexed about, I have some loves of my own that I want to share with not only you, but the people of our great town of Forks. I visited a library in Chicago once. They had this music area where you could step inside of a glass booth and listen to music while not disturbing others who were reading or studying. Music, in my opinion, moves people. It does amazing things to their souls, and like books, can take you to places you only dreamed of if you just close your eyes and let it.

Don’t think for one second about telling the gentleman who is still standing in front of you to return it. I’ve already spoken with the board and they’re ecstatic to have something that the Chicago library has.

Remember, Bella􏰀only one date.

Warmly,

Edward

Behind the letter was a brass plaque that read􏰀

In honor of the brown-eyed girl who inspires the music of my heart.

The glass booth took the man a little over an hour to install, including attaching the plaque. James was the first to try it out. I watched everyone laugh as he began to dance with the headphones that were inside the booth. I couldn’t argue that this would be a welcomed addition to the library. Once James was done, Maggie was quick to take over. It was nice to see everyone laughing, even Irina when she took her turn.

*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*

When Friday night arrived and everyone had gone home, I stood in the middle of the library and just looked around. I closed my eyes and remembered how things had been when I’d first entered through the doors. How the carpet had been worn and filthy, how the Coke machine had had bugs in it and was leaking all over the floor. How Angela had been doing everything while Irina had been busy on her phone. Now, it was time to see what the board thought. Would the people of Forks be open-minded about the changes? Would they even use the technology we had installed?

Sleep was not my friend that night. I tossed and turned,

questioning if I had taken care of everything. Jessica had been congested the last few days and I worried she would miss the story reading. However, she didn’t have a fever so I tried not to worry.

*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD* “Bella, have you seen the line?”

James was quite excited as he looked out the window for the hundredth time this morning. The library was set to open in ten minutes. The ladies quilting clubs had been here in line since before seven o’clock this morning. The drama kids were in the back room rehearsing their parts for the children’s hour. The workers for Contemporary Coffee had baked so many goodies that we could feed an army.

“It’s time,” Angela whispered into my ear. I smiled at her and then nodded for her to go ahead. Once the doors were unlocked, the quilting ladies headed directly for their wall where the current county fair winner’s quilt was hung. You could hear them talking about stitching and fabric. Mr. Jamison was first in line for a cup of black coffee. He now had his eye on the Today’s Hunter magazine that was sitting in the rack. I watched as the line moved along for new library cards and movie rentals. I had never received so many hugs in my life. Even my father showed up and paid a fine he had from earlier in the year.

“It’s better than I imagined,” a husky voice spoke into my ear. I closed my eyes as I felt my thighs clinch.

“I agree. It all came together nicely,” I responded to myself more than him.

“Uncle Edward, the story is about to start.” Little Lily was tugging on Edward pants legs. He smiled as he looked down and then took her hand.

“Alright, princess, let’s take a seat.” He turned to me and smiled, “Care to join us, Ms. Swan?” It was becoming increasingly harder to resist returning his delicious smile.

“Sorry, but I need to make sure everyone is doing okay. You enjoy the story time, though.”

Jessica had begged me to let Maggie, or May-May as she called her, sit and listen to the story with her. I asked her if she wanted me, but she wrinkled her nose and said, “No, me want my May-May.”

Maggie made the announcement that the story hour was about to begin and all of the children and adults began to make a large circle around the small stage the students had built. It wasn’t really a stage, more like a large step that was tall enough that children could see the storyteller.

I watched as Jessica followed Maggie until she spotted Lilly and Edward. She tugged on Maggie’s hand until she knelt down to her level. Jessica whispered something into her ear that caused Maggie to smile. Jessica then wandered over and patted Edward on the shoulder. She leaned into him and said something and he only smiled and opened his arms for her.

She sat on his lap beside Lilly and the two girls held hands as Edward cuddled them on his lap.

“So that’s your angle.” I quickly turned to find Tanya standing beside me, staring at Edward and the girls. I rolled my eyes and then returned them to look at my daughter.

“You’re seriously mental,” I responded. I was so sick of this bidding for Edward’s attention.

“Perhaps, but I didn’t give you enough credit. My sister is ready to tear your hair out.” Her voice was even, calculating. It made me shiver slightly.

“Well, she has no reason to. I’ve done nothing to her. I don’t return Edward’s interest.”

“You messed with her money. That stunt you pulled with Carlisle cost her a promotion.”

I turned my attention fully to her.

“It seems you got the story wrong, she did all that to herself. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a job to do.”

I walked away quickly. Causing a huge scene would not do me or the library any good.

“Spoiled rotten, that one,” Mr. Jamison spoke as he stopped me.

“I’m sorry?” His statement startled me so much that I had

forgotten why I was upset.

“Tanya and her sister, Lauren,” he gestured toward the two women that stood hungrily ogling a laughing Edward. “They’ve been rotten to the core since the second they were born. Their dad took off when the girls were young. Their mamma is the reason they act the way they do, man after man, in and out of the house.”

I really didn’t want to listen to the gossip.
“Well, Mr. Jamison, I suppose we all make choices.”

He then smiled and said, “Yes, and you’re choosing to throw away a chance at real love. It doesn’t come around every day, Ms. Swan. That makes it a rare commodity and a prize worthy of pursuing.” And with that, he walked away and resumed reading the hunting magazine.

The line to get library cards had grown and was now blocking the door to get out. I jumped on a computer and quickly helped the girls to get caught up. Irina was like a new person, actually being helpful as she answered question after question about the features of the computer system. Angela was in her element as she walked around and helped people find books and movies. Before I knew it, the story hour was over and the children were enjoying their snacks.

“Momma!” I heard my little miracle yell.
I turned my head just in time to see her and Lilly trying to feed

a large bite of cookie to Edward. The poor guy had melted chocolate all over his face, but he had never looked happier as he took a bite from each cookie. I walked over and tried to take Jessica out of Edward’s lap, only to have her screech in protest.

“Jessica,” I corrected sternly.

“Momma, him’s hungry. If we not feeds him, he turn into a monster!”

I looked at Edward and I wanted to lick that chocolate right off his face.

“I think your cookie monster has had enough cookies. Why don’t you feed this little monster right here?” I began to tickle her and she squealed with laughter.

“I need to thank you, Dr. Cullen,” I said as I handed him a napkin.

“Well, I’ll pass it along to my father then.” I looked at him bewildered. “Bella, I’m Edward to you, I’m only your daughter’s doctor.”

I rolled my eyes, could he get any cheesier?

“Fine, Edward. Thank you for the donation you made to the library. It’s definitely been a hit.”

Irina had to start a sign-in sheet for the booth. Not surprisingly, it was booked until closing.

“It was my pleasure. Have you tried it yet?”

He had gotten most of the chocolate off his face, but he still had a little on the center of his chin.

“You have a little􏰀” I pointed at my own chin. He wiped several times, but had managed to miss the smear of chocolate.

“Good lord, Edward,” I fussed as I reached over and licked the tip of a clean napkin and began to rub his chin. Once it was clean, I attempted to use a piece of dry napkin to finish. However, my finger slipped and I touched his bare lip and instantly gasped. The feel of our skin touching was overwhelming. It was as if I was touching a live battery. It wasn’t painful, the opposite, actually, and it scared me by the way it made me feel. I looked into his green eyes. This close, I could see that he had golden areas around the outer sides and dark brown flecks running sporadically around the pupils. I could smell the sugar and chocolate on his lips.

“I’m so sorry.” I quickly turned and scrambled to my office, Jessica securely in my arms. I closed the door and placed Jessica on the floor. This was ridiculous, he was just a man. A man made of skin and bones, and right now he shook me to my very core. I took in a deep breath and that was when my poor baby started to sneeze. I opened my door and sought out my father.

“Dad, can you take Jessica home? She’s fighting off a cold and I don’t want her to be miserable or get any sicker.”

Sue took Jessica from my arms, her half-eaten cookie still tightly gripped in her hand. I kissed her cheek and was happy that she was still fever-free, at least for now. She tucked her head against Sue’s breast and dropped her cookie. Dad was quick to clean up the mess and wrapped his arm around Sue and his granddaughter.

“I’ll pick her up as soon as I’m finished here.” “She’ll be fine, Bella,” Sue spoke over her shoulder. *DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*

The board was more than happy with the final numbers. We’d had several of the small communities around Forks attend and sign up for the internet borrowing service we now offered. I was exhausted and anxious to get back to my sick baby. I left my SUV running as I parked outside of my father’s house. Sue led me back to the den where a sleeping Jessica was bundled up on the sofa. Sue had plugged in a cool mist humidifier as she said Jessica had begun to cough. She was still feverless, though, and I hoped this was just a simple cold.

Sunday was spent lying in bed with Jessica. Her coughing had increased and I had even called Edward. He agreed that since she was feverless that it was more than likely a simple cold. He prescribed some cough syrup that my father went to the pharmacy after. Edward called and checked on her right after dinnertime. The cough syrup had really helped and she was sleeping peacefully.

Just after four o’clock on Monday morning, though, I woke to my baby screaming at the top of her lungs. Her breathing was irregular and she was pulling at her ears. She was also hotter than a firecracker. I jumped out of bed and took her into my arms. I headed to the bathroom to get the baby thermometer. Less than five minutes later, I was gathering my purse and heading for my car. Jessica’s temperature was 103.5°F and I didn’t like the wet sounds of her breathing. I pulled into the emergency room parking lot and took her in through the double doors.

As I waited for the nurse to return to her desk, I looked around and noticed two other people sitting in the chairs. One was an older lady that was holding her shoulder. The second was an older gentleman who appeared to be sleeping. I pulled out my phone and quickly sent Angela a text, telling her that I would most likely be very late coming in if I made it in at all. She responded and asked if everything was alright. I told her Jessica was sick and that I was at the hospital. She replied to keep her posted.

“He isn’t here.”

The clipped voice behind me brought my attention back to the nurse’s desk. Lauren was standing with her hands on her hips, glaring at me and a very fussy Jessica.

“I don’t care, I need to have Jessica looked at.”

The redhead from the other day appeared from the set of double doors that led to the emergency room.

“You’ll have to wait like everyone else. Just because you’re fucking Edward doesn’t give you special treatment.”

Lauren began typing away on her computer and then told me to have a seat.

“Can you give me a ballpark figure of how long the wait is?”

Victoria sneered at me and then responded, “A couple of hours.” She then looked at Lauren smirking.

I debated as to what to do. I could sit here and wait for them to see her or I could drive to Port Angeles and be seen quicker. With a quick look to the pale, tear-stained face of my baby girl, I rose from the chair and headed out of the emergency room.

I sent a quick text to Angela confirming I would not be in today and that I was on my way to Port Angeles. I was about to open my car door when a soft hand stilled my movement.

“Bella, why are you leaving?”

I looked up to see the warm eyes of Carlisle. I instantly felt the tension leave my body.

“I’m sorry, Carlisle; the wait time in there is too long. Jessica’s fever is over 103°F and her breathing is funny. I’m driving to Port Angeles.”

Carlisle took Jessica from my arms and quickly looked at her. He then began walking back into the emergency room.

“Follow me, Bella, this isn’t a waiting situation.”

Lauren didn’t notice the door open this time as I clearly heard her say, “That was too pathetic, using her ugly-assed kid to try and trap him.”

Carlisle continued past her, shouting, “Get the director of nurses down here, STAT!”

I ignored Lauren and Victoria as I followed Carlisle down the hall and into a room. He gently laid Jessica on the bed and began to listen to her lungs. Another nurse that I had never seen before was at his side and he began to give her orders that I didn’t understand. Carlisle moved quickly around the room. A large machine was brought into the room and the technician hung a heavy apron around me.

“Is there any chance you’re pregnant, Ms. Swan?”
I quickly looked to the tech and muttered a soft, “No.”

I heard the sounds of several beeps and the sliding of metal on metal. I tuned it all out as I stood beside my daughter, whose eyes were now closed, her cheeks bright red and her skin pale. I looked over to the other side of the bed as Carlisle was finishing starting an IV while the tech with the machine left the room. I hadn’t even noticed that they had taken the heavy apron off me.

“Bella,” my father’s voice sounded from behind the now-closed curtain and I quickly pulled it back and threw myself into his

waiting arms. “Daddy, I􏰀I…”

“Shush, baby girl. Carlisle is taking very good care of her.” His arms wrapped me tightly and I melted into them. I buried my face into his chest, the smell of Old Spice and newspaper filled my nose.

“I got here as soon as I heard. What are her O stats?” Edward’s velvet voice filled the room. I didn’t look up; this was no time for my hormones or any competition for his attention.

“They’re not good, Edward, even on one hundred percent oxygen. Her lungs are full of fluid.”

This got my attention and I removed myself from my father’s chest.

“Carlisle, what’s going on?” my voice was trembling with fear.

“Bella, I think Jessica has pneumonia. I want to see the x-rays and the blood work first, but she shows all the signs.”

I looked to Edward who was listening to Jessica’s lungs with a frown on his face.

“But she was just coughing last night,” I shook my head back and forth. I knew pneumonia could be very serious.

“I’ve seen this particular type before. It’s slow to grow in the body, but once it matures, it spreads very fast.”

I felt my father’s hands on my shoulders.
“Dr. Cullen, her temperature has increased to 104°F.”

Edward began to pull white bags off of the shelf behind him. He never looked at me, just kept working. He then lifted each of Jessica’s arms and placed one of the white bags under them and did the same between her legs and under her knees. Jessica never moved and she never opened her eyes.

“We have to get her fever down, Bella. Edward is trying an old-fashioned method of cold packs at her pulse points.”

Edward stood back and listened to her lungs again. It was then that he looked up at me.

“Bella, I’m so sorry I wasn’t here for her. I was called in shortly after I got off the phone with you. I had to stand by for a surgery on a young boy who was in a car accident.”

My father responded before I could.

“Now, Edward, there was no way of predicting this. Just yesterday she was watching her cartoons and giggling.”

I closed my eyes and went back to that moment when my dad had brought the cough medicine. She had been giggling at Ariel on the screen. I wanted to go back to that moment.

Carlisle was now across the room looking at the x-rays. Edward stood beside him and was pointing to an area and circling it.

“Bella, the tests confirm what I suspected. Jessica has pneumonia. We’re going to admit her and do everything we can to make her better.”

I couldn’t say anything, only nod my head. My father held me in his arms as the nurse instructed us that they would be taking her to the ICU. As I walked down the hall, I could hear mumbled voices. Turning the corner to get on the elevator, I saw Esme with her finger pointed directly into Lauren’s face. Esme’s face was red and you could tell she was angry. She noticed us waiting for the elevator and rushed to my side.

“Now, Bella, don’t you worry. I’ve given strict instructions to my two guys that they will make her all better. Jessica hasn’t had one of Nana Esme’s birthday parties yet.”

I couldn’t respond to her, I could only see my baby lying on that bed, eyes closed with tubes in her arms and the plastic oxygen tent covering her face and chest.

The elevator ride was quiet as my thoughts were of the last time Jessica had been in the hospital, which was the day she was born. I had woken up in the middle of the night because I was thirsty. My back had begun to hurt, but that night, it was really hurting. I went to crawl back into bed after getting a drink of water when a sharp pain ripped through my body and a gush of water fell to the floor. Ten hours later, I had this tiny miracle sleeping in my arms.

The waiting room for the ICU was empty with the exception of myself and now Sue. Sue had come up once my father had to

go to work and she was sleeping in one of the other chairs. I had tried to sleep, but I woke up every few minutes, terrified I had missed something. I had closed my eyes once again when I heard voices.

“I heard that Lauren pushed her out of the ER,” the first younger lady whispered.

“That’s so sad, tossing your nursing career out the window for a guy. I mean Dr. Edward is handsome, but he isn’t worth losing your nursing license over,” the second older lady replied.

“I heard that Ms. Swan doesn’t given him the time of day. Can you believe that, Shelly?”

“Oh, I can believe that. Ms. Swan struck me as the type who’s independent and doesn’t feel the need for a man around the house.”

“Well, Shelly, she obviously had need of a man at one point, I mean she does have a baby after all.”

“That’s what I’d like to know, where’s the father to this baby?”

I sighed as I thought of a response in my head. “Oh, Shelly, he isn’t worth the energy to even think about him.”

A/N: I have a rec this week. I flove this particular fiction. It was a one-shot at one time, but she’s doing me proud by carrying on with it.

Departures by TheFicChick

“Every day for the rest of my life, I’ll wonder how kissing a virtual stranger goodbye could have felt like a hello.”

12. Chapter 12 DIAPERS, DIPLOMAS, AND DEADBEAT DADS

Chapter 12

My neck was stiff and my eyes felt as if they had sand in them. I blinked several times and tried to move my head. Was it a plot by the nurses in the hospital to have the world’s most uncomfortable chairs in the waiting area? Maybe they wanted to keep the visitors to a minimum so they wouldn’t ask questions or get in their way. Whatever the reason, it was pure evil.

“Bella.”

The sound of Carlisle’s kind voice made me forget all about the pain in my neck as I stood quickly.

“What’s wrong? What happened?” I panicked as my heart was hammering in my chest. I felt Sue wrap her arm around me as Carlisle’s face remained blank.

“Come with me. We need to talk.”

The tears came without my consent. I wrapped my arms around my chest and followed Carlisle to Jessica’s room. She lay sleeping like the angel she was. Her curls lay slicked to

her forehead and her cheeks were still blazing red. I watched as her tiny chest struggled to rise up and down, while the sound of her heart rate danced on the monitor.

“Bella, the antibiotic we’ve been giving her over the last few hours isn’t helping. ” My heart sank and my legs nearly gave out. This couldn’t be happening. “Relax, Bella. Edward ordered a blood culture and we should get that back in the next hour or so. Once we have that report, we’ll know what better medication to give her.”

His words did little to ease my fear. “I want to stay here with her.”

When we’d first arrived on the floor, we were told that only one person at a time could come into the ICU and only for ten minutes at a time every few hours. I couldn’t do that.

“I’ll make sure you have a better chair,” he squeezed my shoulders and then left me standing beside my daughter. I unwrapped my arms and reached out, taking her tiny hand in mine.

“Touch is good for her. Tell her a story or sing to her, all that’s good for them.” I didn’t even turn to acknowledge the person who had come into the room. “I’m Bree Tanner, I’m a med student and Dr. Cullen has been gracious enough to let me follow him around.”

Bree was writing notes on a small pad of paper. She was a

beautiful girl, petite but very nicely built, with long dark hair, deep brown eyes, and pale creamy skin. Hell, she could have been a relative of mine as our appearance was nearly the same.

“She’s beautiful.”
“She’s my entire world,” I replied softly. “Well, if I can do anything for you…”

I didn’t look away from Jessica’s face; I didn’t bother to answer her. Unless she could make my baby better, I had no use for her.

The nurse brought in a recliner for me and I pulled it as close as I could get it to the edge of Jessica’s bed. I held her hand and told her about the first time I’d tried to feed her carrots. How she’d hated them so much that she spit them across the room. Then I started to sing Winnie the Pooh to her, hoping she would just wake up giggling and demand to get out of this bed. Jessica loved for me to hum the song over and over to her when I brushed her hair or tied her shoes.

“That was Edward’s favorite when he was a little boy as well.”

I looked to see Carlisle standing in the doorway. He smiled as he crossed the floor and listened to her lungs.

“The results are back and we’re going to change the antibiotics, but I wanted to go over a few things with you while

we wait.”

I looked deeply into his tired eyes. It was the same look I had seen from my father several times in my life.

“I’m speaking to you as the chief of staff right now. When you came into the ER this morning, you were treated in a manner that was unacceptable. Many years ago, we had a nurse attacked and so we installed cameras for their protection. Everything that happened was recorded. Tanya and Victoria have both been terminated and I’ve already notified the state of Washington of this incident. We have a full investigation going and we’ll make certain this never happens again. As for Lauren and Victoria, I’ll make certain they lose their nursing license.”

I couldn’t speak. I knew there was more to this story than what he was letting on. Carlisle turned when the door opened and a nurse came into the room. She had a clear plastic bag that she attached to Jessica’s IV.

“This should make her better in no time.”

I thanked Carlisle and the nurse as they left together. I sat back down in the chair and began to sing to her again. I could hear the sounds of people talking and I looked out the large windows to the nurses’ station. It must have been visiting time as several people were walking around. I couldn’t remember the last time I had gone to the bathroom and my bladder was screaming at me to do so. I needed a cup of coffee and I remembered there was a coffee pot in the waiting room. I

slowly rose from my chair, stretching and trying to get my legs to work. I left Jessica’s room and asked the nurse outside where the ladies’ room was. She told me it was in the waiting area and I thanked her and continued on.

I could hear several voices as I rounded the corner. Imagine my surprise as I came into a room full of people. Sue was the quickest and wrapped me tightly in her arms.

“How is my grandbaby?” she spoke into my ear.

“She still has a high fever and she’s still asleep.”

I watched as the faces around the room looked solemn. I had no idea who many of them were, but they each had a story to tell me. Several of the high school girls were there; they had all volunteered at the daycare and loved Jessica.

Rose was standing in the corner, her thumbnail between her teeth. “Oh, Bella, I can’t imagine what you’re going through. Edward has been keeping us posted. He’s going crazy trying to figure out how to make her better.” I couldn’t answer her as the tears overwhelmed me. I was so tired and all I wanted to do was hold my baby and smell her sweet scent. “Angela said she’ll be here as soon as she closes the library.” Rose then moved back and handed me a duffel bag. “Alice put together some things she knew you’d need.”

I could only smile and then hug her again.
Once I actually used the bathroom and got myself a cup of

coffee, nearly an hour had passed. I slid back into the overstuffed recliner and the pure exhaustion took over. As hard as I tried to keep my eyes open, I lost the battle.

I woke when I heard the plastic canopy of the tent over Jessica’s bed being moved and looked up to find a nurse taking her vitals.

“Good news, Mommy, her temp is down to 101°F.”

It was good news, but I wouldn’t celebrate until she was running around the room driving everyone crazy. I rose from the chair and decided to see what Alice had packed for me. On the top of the pile was a sweater. I smiled and was thankful to have something warm to wear as the room here was chilly. There was a new toothbrush and toothpaste, a small bottle of shampoo and body wash, some deodorant, and a hairbrush and hair tie. Some clean clothes, including new underwear and socks, were also a welcome sight.

I walked back out to the nurses’ station and asked for a washcloth, which they were happy to give me. The nurse was so nice that she showed me a small locker room, complete with a shower. She handed me a towel and told me she would watch Jessica and for me to try and relax. The shower was lukewarm, but it did make me feel better being clean. I tied my damp hair up and gratefully pulled the clean underwear on before quickly getting dressed. Jessica was still asleep when I returned to her room. I settled again into the chair and rocked back and forth, waiting and praying.

It was slightly after six o’clock that evening when a knock at the door caused me to look up. There in the doorway was Angela, large grocery bag in hand.

“Well, you’ve definitely made an impression in this hospital. This is contraband,” she raised the brown bag in the air as she spoke.

I smiled and stood up to welcome her. I was fighting exhaustion, but I refused to leave Jessica.

“Thank you so much, Angela. I’m not really hungry, but I’ll try.” She took me into a tight hug and kissed my cheek.

“This is from Esme. She isn’t feeling well herself so she’s staying at home. She sends her love.”

Angela looked over to a still-sleeping Jessica. Her cheeks weren’t as red anymore, but the last two vitals checks showed no decrease in her temperature.

“She looks so peaceful.”

“I wish I felt the same. I won’t be able to breathe until she’s home safe again.”

Angela began to open the bag and place the containers on the table. “Well, my job is to distract you from what’s going on in that mind of yours and I have so much to share.”

She slid a cup of what looked like chicken soup in my

direction. I wouldn’t argue with her and would at least take a bite. The warm broth tasted heavenly and felt so good going down my throat.

“So, I have a confession to make.” I turned my eyes to her while continuing to eat the soup. “I called Dr. Cullen when you texted me. I was making breakfast for Ben and I don’t know; I just felt that since you’d had such a hard time before with those nurses, you needed to have someone there, so I called Carlisle. He was almost to the hospital and said he’d check on you.”

It didn’t escape me that she had admitted to having Ben at her house first thing in the morning and at such an early hour.

“Anyway, Irina came into the library with no makeup and was very upset. Seems Carlisle tore into her mom, but not before Esme apparently had words with her. Lauren was fired and then told Irina that she needed to pack her things because they were leaving this town. Irina didn’t want to go so she called her aunt Tanya and now she’s living with her.”

I did stop my eating then. I’d never wanted anyone to lose their job. Maybe I could talk to Carlisle and see if she could do something else here in the hospital.

“I heard you got to meet Bree Tanner.”
I wasn’t sure I liked the way she stated that.
“What do you mean? She was here, she’s a med student.”

Angela pushed her food away and leaned back against the wall.

“Well, it’s no secret that when she first approached Carlisle, he wasn’t too keen on taking her on here.”

I gave her a questioning look.

“I’ve heard through the grapevine that she’s made it crystal clear how much she’d like to have a relationship with Edward. She hasn’t been like the slutty twins, though. She’s smarter than that I guess because she hasn’t tried anything crazy with him.”

I wasn’t certain why she felt the need to tell me this. If Edward wanted to date Bree Tanner, then he had every right to do so.

“I’m certain the only reason for that is because she’s so close to being finished with her training. It would be foolish for her to act on anything just yet. However, I think she only has a couple more weeks before she’s finished. I can’t wait to see what happens then.”

Angela began to pick up the empty containers and place them back in the bag. “Do you need anything, Bella?”

“No, not unless you can make her better, but thank you.”

Carlisle and Edward came into Jessica’s room shortly before nine o’clock that evening. I was busy watching Edward listen

to my baby’s lungs and talk sweetly to her that I missed Bree walking into the room. It was when Carlisle also leaned over and did an assessment that I noticed her eyes were locked on Edwards’s ass.

“Her lungs are sounding much better, Bella,” Carlisle’s voice caused me to forget Bree and get back to what really mattered.

“Does this mean the medicine is working?”

I could feel my heart pounding in my chest, holding my breath as I waited for Carlisle to answer. He slowly leaned away from Jessica and wrapped his stethoscope around his neck.

“That’s exactly what’s happening. Actually, Edward wanted to use this medication first, but I overruled him,” Carlisle sighed, looking to Edward who’s eyes were still locked on Jessica.

I could feel the relief as it ran down my spine and I wanted so badly to exhale and let out the breath it seemed I had been holding since we had arrived at the hospital, but I couldn’t, not until I had her home, running around and playing.

“I’ll stop by in the morning and see how you both are doing. Esme will no doubt send something for you.”

I smiled and nodded as the three left the room, noticing how Bree walked behind Edward, eyeing him hungrily while he was oblivious.

Angela’s words floated around in my head as I tried to get a little sleep. Bree Tanner was just one of the many who wanted Edward. She was playing her cards right, though, in earning his trust as a colleague and not throwing herself at him. I had to give her credit, as she wasn’t foolish enough to kill her chance at a great career for a quick romp in the sack. She was obviously beautiful, poised, and intelligent, a very desirable combination.

As much as I didn’t want to admit it to myself, or anyone for that matter, by Edward doing everything to help my baby, he was making quite an impression on me. That night, I dreamed of a warm spring day with bright sunshine, Jessica and Lilly were playing on a merry-go-round, laughing and having the time of their lives. I looked down to see my belly round with pregnancy and a silver ring on my left hand, a male hand with a matching band securely wrapped around my middle.

“Mommy,” I heard Jessica say, her hair bouncing as she played with Lilly.

“Mommy!” I tried to answer her, but my voice would not come.

“Bella,” the husky voice of Edward came from behind me.

I turned to find that Edward was the owner of the arm that was wrapped around me. I gasped, and with a final call from Jessica, I woke with a start to find a very awake Jessica sitting up in her bed. Her curls were bouncing as she was laughing at Edward making funny faces.

“Oh, my god.” I jumped out of the chair and nearly tripped trying to get to Jessica.

“Mommy, I hungwy.”

I began to laugh as her words were music to my ears.

“Well, it’s a good thing Nana Esme made you waffles then, as she hears they’re your favorite,” Carlisle’s voice sounded from the doorway, another brown bag in his hands.

“Pawpaw!” Jessica screeched.
My eyes widened and I knew I’d gasped.

Carlisle moved past Edward, who had removed the plastic tent from Jessica’s bed and had just finished listening to her lungs.

“It’s alright, Bella, Lilly and Jessica play together so much that when she heard Lilly call me that, Jessica started as well.”

His words did little to calm me. Jessica was picking up so much and soon she would be acting like a sponge to everyone she met.

“H-how is she today?” my voice broke as my emotions over the situation took over.

“Well, according to the nurse’s chart, her fever broke around midnight and her lungs are much better. We’ll be moving her to the pediatrics unit soon and working on getting her home.”

Edward’s pager went off and he excused himself. Carlisle took the opportunity to close the door and then took a seat next to a babbling Jessica. “I’m glad to have a moment to visit with you, now that she’s doing so much better.”

Jessica decided that was the ideal moment to demand to sit in Carlisle’s lap, which he did like a pro. As Jessica took his stethoscope and began to try and place it in her ears, Carlisle began.

“I have a friend from med school who’s a pulmonologist.” My heart sank as I waited for the bad news to follow, the tears forming and my throat constricting. “I’d contacted him regarding something we saw on Jessica’s x-rays.” I couldn’t hold back anymore, the tears came and the sobs wracked my body. “No, no, Bella, this isn’t bad news.”

Jessica had finally gotten the stethoscope in her ears and was listening to everything she could find.

“There was an area that was shadowed a little darker and I just wanted his opinion on the cause.” I let out a small breath and wiped away the tears, watching as Jessica was still lost in her world on Carlisle’s lap. “He confirmed my suspicions as to the reason for the shadowing.”

His pause felt like an eternity as I refused to blink.

“When I reviewed the tapes from the ER, I noticed a significant change in Jessica’s behavior of the course of your time in there. She went from fussing and crying while you

spoke to Lauren to non-responsive as you sat in the chair waiting. I also noticed that Victoria watched this happen and did nothing but laugh.”

I tried very hard to remember if Jessica had still been crying, but all I could remember was deciding to get her help sooner.

“Bella, the spot on her lung was an area that had begun to collapse. Had you gotten into that car􏰀”

“Oh, my god􏰀” the words rushed out of my mouth as I took in what he was saying. “You stopped me.” I could feel the cold chills running down my arms. “Carlisle, you took her out of my arms and into the hospital and you􏰀you saved her.”

There was no use in trying to stop the tears of pure joy. I rounded the bed and threw my arms around both Carlisle and Jessica. I held them both so tight that Jessica began to fuss. “Oh, baby girl, I missed you so much.”

I tried to take her out of Carlisle’s arms, but she refused to go anywhere. She was laughing and turning the stethoscope cord in her hands, not a care in the world. Carlisle noticed my small grin as I continued to look at a perfectly-fine Jessica.

“It’s amazing isn’t it?”

I looked to Carlisle, his eyes still on Jessica. “What is?” I asked my voice full of joy.

“How children bounce back.”

I began to chuckle. He was correct, not even twelve hours ago this little miracle had been burning up with fever.

“It’s because the world hasn’t told them they have to act a certain way to be sick. All she knows is she feels better and wants to play.”

He was right.

“How am I ever going to thank you?” My words were spoken so softly that I wasn’t certain I’d said them out loud.

“It’s my job, Bella.”

I looked to Carlisle; his words were true, but not what I wanted to hear.

“I know that you do this because you want to. Because you care about making people better, I get that. But Carlisle, she’s my entire world and you’ve given me my world back.”

His eyes welled up with tears, but I wasn’t finished.

“You’re a father and I know you feel the same way about your children. I have to do something, take out an ad in the paper, stand on the street corner and sing your praises, I don’t know􏰀something.”

I watched as Carlisle placed Jessica back in the bed. He slowly wrapped the forgotten stethoscope around his hand and then placed it in his pocket. He opened the bag and handed Jessica a piece of waffle, which she devoured.

“You’re right, Bella, our children are our entire world, we’d do anything to make them happy.”

Thank god he understood.
“If you truly want to thank me by doing something􏰀”

“Yes, Carlisle, anything, just name it and it’s yours,” I didn’t even let him finish. I just had to show him my gratitude for saving Jessica.

“Anything?” he asked and I rolled my eyes and circled my hands, silently telling him to get on with it. “And then we’re even?” his words were spoken very carefully.

“Yes, you ask, I do, we shake hands and all is even,” I giggled.

“Fine, Bella, there is one thing I want.”
“Name it,” I nodded with conviction and assurance. “Go on a date with Edward.”

13. Chapter 13

I have been so busy thanking everyone that I completely forgot to tell everyone how to see those photos that I keep bragging about.

Come join us on face book and I hope you enjoy. groups/ 434894866569951/
(you know to remove the dashes)
DIAPERS, DIPLOMAS, AND DEADBEAT DADS Chapter 13

I’d heard it said that you should be careful what you wished for, you just might get it. Judging by the face of the man who had just been standing in front of me, I could honestly say no truer words had ever been spoken, on more than one count.

The look of pure joy had clearly been written across Carlisle’s face. I had practically begged him to give me something I could do to thank him, but never in a million years did I think it would be what he had requested of me. He had asked me to go on a date with Edward, but not to tell him that my agreeing to go out with his son was my way of thanking him. Carlisle

said Edward felt strongly that all I needed was a little push. Well, I supposed this could be considered pushing, pulling, or even shoving, depending on how you looked at it.

Jessica was transferred to the Pediatrics ward so quickly that I didn’t have time to blink. However, I thought we had been wheeled into the wrong room as I gaped at the amount of flowers, toys, and teddy bears that filled the room.

“You’ve made quite an impression on this small town,” a young woman gestured to the bounty filling the room. The candy stripper, whose name I learned was Heidi, was all-too- informed about who had sent what. I decided I didn’t care for Heidi as she had opened all of the cards and read personal notes that had been meant for my eyes only, a huge no-no in my book and a major invasion of my privacy.

“Hello, I’m Carmen and I’ll be your nurse this morning,” a middle-aged woman walked in, a chart in one hand and a pitcher of what I assumed was water in the other.

“Thank you,” I responded as I helped lay Jessica into her new bed. She was sleepy after finishing her entire waffle. Carlisle laughed when she would reach into the bag and take another piece if she felt he wasn’t feeding her quickly enough.

Carmen sat the pitcher near the sink and then turned and began to write her name followed by Dr. Cullen’s on the white dry erase board that hung by the door. Carlisle had informed me that once Jessica was on the pediatric floor that Edward would be her only physician. Jessica was no longer

considered a trauma patient now.

“Dr. Edward makes his rounds around lunchtime; however, I think you’ll see much more of him than the rest of the floor,” she winked and wiggled her eyebrows.

“Talking about me again, Carmen?” Edward’s voice was dripping with sarcasm. It was cute and honestly, a little sexy.

When my eyes finally landed on him, my knees nearly gave out from under me. He was dressed in black slacks with a gray shirt that made his copper-colored hair more vibrant. His eyes were shining behind a pair of sexy black-framed glasses. I never told a soul that I had a thing for guys who wore glasses. His white lab coat was the only thing that brought me back to earth, that was until Bree Tanner came into the room behind him.

“Good morning, Bella,” her all-too-chipper voice interrupted.

“Dr. Tanner, we address our parents by their surnames unless they grant us permission otherwise,” Edward’s voice was harsh; I could tell she had been told this before.

“My apologies, Dr. Cullen, Ms. Swan.”

The smile never left her face, but her tone was forced; she didn’t mean a word of it to either of us.

“My father told me she ate very well this morning. With most children, that’s a good sign. However, I want to continue the

antibiotic for a little longer.”

His eyes were so beautiful and I couldn’t figure out why I hadn’t seen this before.

“I trust you, Dr. Cullen.”

I wasn’t sure if I was talking about just with Jessica or with me as well. The smile that highlighted his face brought a smile to mine as well.

“I’m glad to hear that, Ms. Swan,” his voice was low and husky; it sent heat straight to my lady bits.

“Please, Dr. Cullen, it’s Bella to you.” Our eyes were locked and I couldn’t have broken away if I had wanted to. This was new territory for me. I knew Dr. Tanner was standing close bedside Edward, but for the life of me, I just didn’t care.

“Bella it is, then,” his voice was soft and caressing. I liked it a little too much.

“Dr. Edward, can I borrow Dr. Tanner, please?” Carmen’s voice burst the bubble that was quickly forming around us.

I looked to the door where Carmen and two other nurses stood, each smiling with knowing looks on their faces.

“Of course, Carmen, I’ll meet you at the nurses’ station when I finish in here,” he dismissed Bree, his eyes never leaving mine as he spoke.

I waited until I heard the door to the room close before I spoke.

“I’m glad Carmen needed her, I wanted to talk to you privately about something.” Edward placed Jessica’s chart on the bedside table and then turned his attention back to me. “I haven’t been very fair to you and for that I’m truly sorry. I’d like to accept your invitation for dinner, if that offer is still open.”

The smile on his face grew tenfold. “Yes, Bella, it’s very much still open.”
I returned his smile with one of my own.

“Of course, I’m certain you understand that I have to wait until Jessica is fully recovered. I mean what kind of mom leaves her sick child to go out on a date?”

The word date slipped out. I was comfortable with dinner, but somehow the word date made it personal. I knew I was finding myself very attracted to him, but I wasn’t ready for personal yet.

“I completely agree and understand, you name the date and time and I’ll take care of the rest.”

Edward completed his notes on Jessica’s chart, the smile never leaving his face. He wished me a good day and said he would be back once his office hours were finished.

Jessica slept for a few hours and then wanted to play. The hospital had more toys and games than the toy store. One of the nurses brought in an armful of puzzles and books and I spent several hours helping Jessica put them together and reading to her.

It was just after lunch when a very excited Alice dropped by. She was loaded down with stuffed animals and more games and puzzles. Jessica began to clap as she laid eyes on Alice. The nurse came in and helped to rearrange Jessica’s IV tubing so she could get out of bed and play.

“So I got a very excited phone call from a very handsome doctor this morning,” Alice spoke in a sing-song voice.

“Really? I’m glad you and your father are so close,” I joked without looking at her.

“Nice try, Bella,” she replied as she smacked my arm.

We both laughed as Jessica took that moment to clap her hands and laugh.

“I can’t tell you how glad I am that you finally agreed to give him a chance. He’s an amazing guy and you’re just wonderful, too. You guys just seem to go so well together.”

I did feel slightly guilty since part of me was doing this for Carlisle, but a larger part of me, and I wasn’t sure how strong that part was, had agreed to this for me.

“It’s just dinner, Alice, two people eating at the same time. Don’t make more of it than it is.”

Her face never faltered. “Keep telling yourself that, Bella, but you’ll be the only one to believe it.”

Maybe I should have been honest with her. I mean I agreed not to tell Edward about Carlisle and my agreement, but I knew that once word was out, it would get back to him. I couldn’t hurt him like that. He was showing Jessica such kindness and compassion. It was only dinner after all. Edward himself had stated that if I agreed to one dinner that he would leave me alone. This could very well solve two issues with one fork. One, it would finally show Edward that I wasn’t the kind of woman he really wanted, and two, it would put an end to all the small-town meddling and pressure I was receiving.

“So, I did have a purpose to my visit other than to talk about my brother and see this little munchkin.” Alice tickled Jessica’s neck, causing her to squeal with joy. “The annual county fair is coming up in a couple of weeks and I wanted to see if you wanted to rent a booth for the library.”

I quickly thought back to the small fair we had visited on our drive to Forks and how Jessica had had such a good time with the puppies. I would make certain to take her this time as well.

“That’s a great idea. We could remind the people of Forks about the many events and services the library offers them.”

My mind was in overdrive as I thought about printing up coupons for free movie rentals or e-book uploads. This could really help with those services. Not to mention the coffee shop.

“Just make sure you leave an evening open for you and Edward. Walking along the midway can be very romantic.”

I only smiled at her. I hoped to have this dinner over and done with by the time next weekend came. The fair wasn’t for another month so I wasn’t really worried.

“We’ll have to see about that. Your brother may not even want a second dinner with me after he takes me out the first time.”

Alice looked at me with a questioning glance. “Whatever do you mean?”

I took Jessica into my hap and helped her comb the hair on the doll Alice had brought her.

“Have you ever heard the saying ‘she’s a Mona Lisa’ before?”

Alice slowly nodded her head yes. “Well, what if that’s me? I look good from far away, but when you get close to me, I’m far less desirable.”

The skin on her forehead wrinkled in frustration. “Are you trying to say you’re not pretty? Because􏰀”

I placed my hand on hers. “No, I’m not talking about looks.”

I adjusted Jessica in my lap, she was getting fussy again. “I once read that Matthew McConaughey doesn’t use deodorant. He’s a very attractive man; however, I couldn’t snuggle up next to him if he smelled bad.”

You could see the light bulb go off in her head.

“Bella, I can assure you my brother uses deodorant.”

I gave her the look, the one that said􏰀really?

“Alice, I’m trying to say that just because I come in a nice little package, he may not like what he unwraps.”

She seemed to understand that, or maybe she just didn’t want to continue this particular conversation. She told me she would email me the booth rental agreement and that if I wanted her help in dressing for my date, she would be more than happy to come over.

It was two more days before Edward decided that Jessica had the all-clear to go home. During those two days, more well wishes poured into the hospital. When we were packing to go home, I began to worry where everything would go. Carmen came to my rescue and suggested we donate some of the toys to some of the other kids on the floor. I told her to share as many as she could. I only hoped the givers wouldn’t get upset.

As I got into the driver’s seat of my car, I smiled as I noticed my father pull up in his cruiser. He rolled his window down and

I repeated his action.

“I’ve been told by two very influential women in this city that I’m to escort the little princess home.”

I smiled but rolled my eyes as I raised the window back up and turned the key to start my car. Dad led the way home and once I arrived, there were at least ten cars parked along the curb. I pulled into the garage and helped Jessica out of her car seat. Once inside my kitchen, I found Esme and Sue standing at my bar with huge smiles on their faces. Jessica took off running and threw herself into Esme arms.

“Nana!” she shouted.

Sue stood beside the two, rubbing Jessica’s back while she gave Esme a hug. Once she was finished, she reached for Sue. The sight made me think of Renee and I wondered if she was happy with Mike. Did I have any little sibling running around out there now? The realization hit me that if they did have children together, while they would be my sisters or brothers, they would be not only Jessica’s aunts or uncles, but also her stepbrothers or sisters. As it was, Mike was not only her father, but now my stepfather and her step-grandfather as well. Damn, that branch of the family tree needed to be pruned. This whole mess was just too fucked up for even Jerry Springer.

I noticed there was now a huge bowl of fruit on the bar as well as a cake. Edward had given me a liquid medication for Jessica to take for a week at home. I walked over to the

refrigerator and found it stocked with juice, water, and items to make sandwiches.

“Bella, Edward wanted me to give you this as soon as you got home.”

Sue handed me a large white envelope, my name written along the front. I opened the card to find his elegant script inside.

Bella,

I have to share with you how excited I am that you’ve agreed to give me a chance. I know from experience that you aren’t a “sent flowers” type of girl. You’re about the basics, live what you preach. I’ve done just that. For the next week, you’ll have no responsibility other than to take care of the princess. Several ladies in the community have approached my mother and asked how they could help you out as much as you’ve helped the community. So they have a schedule and will be bringing you meals daily. Next is the refrigerator. You both need hydration and so I stocked your fridge with enough liquids to do just that. I’ll be by frequently to check on you as well. You have my number if you need me, don’t hesitate to call.

Yours, Edward

His words, live like you preach, stood out to me. Was that the message I sent out to people? Was I following what I believed?

I had just placed Jessica into my bed when the doorbell rang. I knew immediately who it was. I quietly walked down the hall, turning the lights on as I went. His image was distorted by the glass in the door, but there was no mistaking Edward. I opened the door to find him in jeans and a t-shirt, his sexy black glasses still riding on his nose. I couldn’t help the smile I was wearing as a result. I stepped aside and motioned for him to come in. I closed my eyes as I took in the wave of his cologne that his movement had caused.

“How is she?”

I closed the door and took a second to get my mind in order. I knew I was walking a very dangerous line when it came to my enigmatic feelings for Edward.

“She’s asleep. Your mother and Sue played tea party with her most of the afternoon.”

I turned from the door to find him directly behind me, his eyes blazing onto mine. I felt my body react to not only his amazing smell, but to the way his eyes penetrated my soul.

“I’m sure they all enjoyed themselves.”

He knew exactly what he was doing. He could read my face like a book. This both pissed me off and turned me on.

“I can’t really tell who enjoyed it more, your mom and Sue or Jessica,” I returned as I walked around him, gently brushing against him and hopefully leaving him as shaken as he had me. “Can I get you something to drink?” I called over my shoulder, trying to clear my head with the distance I had placed between us.

“Whatever you’re having is fine,” his voice was again directly behind me. He apparently wasn’t affected in the least.

“Well, since I have an educated adult in the house, I’ll be having wine.”

I walked to the cabinet that housed the glasses. The wine glasses were on the top shelf and I had told myself this was for the best as I didn’t drink very often. The last time I’d had a glass, I had to get the footstool to get a glass down. I tried to stand on my tippy toes this time, not coming anywhere close to the top shelf. As I lowered my feet back to the ground, I felt a warm hard body press against mine. I looked to see his arm covering mine as he retrieved two glasses. I closed my eyes and held my breath as I could feel every defined muscle of his body pressed against me, including the one that was pressed into my lower back.

“Here you go. My mom has the same issue at her house. My dad is always telling her to move things, but I think she does it just to have his help,” he chuckled as he spoke the latter. However, his humor did nothing to stop the rush of emotions I was currently feeling. I understood now why he was so sought after.

I quickly blinked as I turned to the wine fridge that rested under the counter. “I choose to leave them there so I’m not as tempted to drink alone. I don’t want to have an emergency with Jessica and be too impaired to get help for her.”

He was quiet as I opened the bottle. I turned to look at him and ask him if he still wanted a glass. It was then I noticed the bewilderment in his eyes.

“Edward, what is it?” my voice snapped him out of his daydreams.

“You never stop amazing me.” I didn’t question him on his meaning. I was too afraid of the answer. “Even with all that life has handed you, you’re still a breath of fresh air.”

I smiled at him as I handed him a glass of wine. He took it and then held it up in the air, indicating he wanted to give a toast.

“To taking chances, may they lead to something wonderful.”

I tapped my glass with his and took a sip. He wasn’t the only one who was being amazed. Every time I was near him, I learned something new, something I admired.

“Shall we have a seat, or do you have an early morning?” I questioned, hoping both that he had to go and that he could stay.

“I’d love to sit and talk a while. I instructed Dr. Tanner to perform my morning rounds.”

I smiled as he moved to allow me to walk by him. I checked on Jessica who was snoring softly. She had always done that when she was either really tired or congested.

When I returned, Edward was building a fire in the fireplace. Being in the Pacific Northwest, it was never too warm to build a fire.

“I hope this is alright, I love relaxing by a fire in the evenings.”

“It’s great, actually. I haven’t gotten to enjoy much of the amenities of the house yet.”

Edward was lying on his side with his glass of wine sitting directly in front of him. The colors of the fire danced off his shiny hair and his glistening eyes. He was watching the flames of the fire dance as it started to build. I wondered what had him so lost in thought.

“Penny for your thoughts?” I smiled as I joined him on the floor. I snatched one of the pillows that adorned the couch to rest my elbow on.

“They’d most likely upset you,” his eyes never left the flames as he spoke.

“Unless you’re going to tell me that you’re going to toss me into that fireplace, you’ll find I’m not bothered by much.”

Edward chuckled as his eyes found mine.
“No, nothing that sinister, I just have a few questions I’d like to

ask you.”

“Fire away, no pun intended,” I chuckled as I took a sip of my wine.

“Well, I know that you attended Cornell and have a master’s degree.” I nodded my head that I indeed did. “I know Chief Swan is your dad and that he went to the board and told them about you.” He then turned back to looking at the fire. “What I don’t know is􏰀anything about Jessica’s father,” his words filled the air between us. His tone was one of worry, as if I would be angry by his questioning.

“You want the long story or the cliff notes?”

We both began to laugh. I had thought for certain that my father would have trash-talked Mike all over town.

“Whatever you’re comfortable with, Bella.”

So I told him everything. From our high school beginnings, to the apartment we shared at Cornell, to his abrupt departure during my pregnancy. His chin dropped when I confessed the ugly role my mother played in his deceit.

“Holy hell, Bella, that’s just􏰀wow, I can’t even find words for what that is. Have you thought about writing a book about this?”

We both broke into a fit of giggles. He didn’t act the way I thought he would and that surprised me.

“So Mike is completely out of the picture then?” he questioned.

“Yes, and apparently, so is my mother.” I told him of the conclusion that I had come to regarding any children that Mike and Renee could have. He agreed that Jerry Springer would have called me a big liar.

“So what about you, Dr. Edward, any scorned lovers in your past?”

He chuckled and then got up completely; I followed as the floor was not comfortable at all. We both moved to the couch and placed our feet on the coffee table.

“Nothing like what’s happened to you. I’ve had a couple of girlfriends in the past, but nothing I’d call serious.”

I turned my body to face his, bringing my right leg up and tucking it under my left.

“What constitutes serious in your rule book?” I questioned.

He thought for a few moments and then mirrored my position.

“I know you’ve seen how my parents are around each other. I mean my father is always touching my mother, whether it’s holding her hand or having his arm around her. They can tell the minute the other has entered the house without having actually seen the other. They finish each other’s sentences and when they argue, it’s more like foreplay than fighting. I

have no doubts that my parents are madly, deeply in love with each other.”

I knew exactly what he was saying. They seemed to act like magnets and drifted together.

“With every girl I’ve ever considered being in a relationship with, I’ve expected those feelings. Like my heart trying to escape my chest or the need to be close to them. My father once told me the first time he held my mother’s hand that he felt such a shock come from her skin that he looked around for the live wire he was certain he had just came in contact with.”

My breathing stopped as I took in what he was saying. The first time I touched him, I felt that charge, like touching a live battery. Did he feel the same with me?

“I told myself the moment I found her that I’d do everything in my power to convince her I was the right guy for her. That some poor sap like me could love her with every cell in his body.”

I didn’t know if it was the honesty in his voice or the wine I had drank, but I found myself leaning into Edward, tilting my head in anticipation of our first kiss. I watched as he searched my face, looking for the tiniest bit of hesitation. I could feel the heat of his breath as it washed over my face and smell the lingering scent of his cologne. I felt as his fingers reached out and lightly touched my face, sending the tingling feeling he had just described down my spine. His eyes were now closed and

I slowly closed mine as well. I could feel the softness of his top lip as it touched mine. I wanted this, I wanted to kiss him and lose myself in that kiss.

“Mommy􏰀”

And like a bucket of cold water being dumped over my head, the tiny sound of my daughter’s voice pulled me back.

“I need to􏰀” “I should go􏰀”

We both spoke at the same time. We both stood and Edward crossed the room, opening my front door. He stood there, appearing to be having an internal battle with himself.

“Please tell me you felt that, too?” his words were clear and chilling.

“The tingling up and down my spine?” I returned.

He smiled and nodded his head yes. “I’m glad I waited for you, Bella.”

And with that he was gone. By the time I got back to Jessica, she was already asleep again. I quietly crawled under the covers and lay beside her. I watched as her chest rose and fell, how her eyes twitched behind her closed eyelids. She had been dreaming about me. I kissed her cheek and then turned out the light. Did fate play a real role in our lives or was that man’s way of explaining the unexplainable? I wasn’t certain,

but I did know one thing. This was no longer just dinner with Edward Cullen; this was a date with destiny.

14. Chapter 14 DIAPERS, DIPLOMAS, AND DEADBEAT DADS

Chapter 14

It became abundantly clear on Friday morning as I stirred my cup of coffee that life was getting back to normal. I smiled as a giggling Jessica came running out of her room at full steam with her arms above her head, she was feeling better.

We had an appointment this afternoon with Edward and I had no doubt he would give her a clean bill of health. I placed her in the middle of my bed with a video on so I could quickly get into the shower. I could hear her tossing the pillows around the room. By the time I was dressed, my room was chaos. She had completely stripped the bed of all bedding and pillows and was dancing and jumping on the pile she had created.

The weather was surprisingly nice for this time of year. I was blessed to have my driver’s side window down as I drove the two blocks to Edward’s office. Today was the first day since Jessica’s release that we had ventured outside. We were both going a little stir crazy. Edward had called every day, but hadn’t returned to the house. I wondered if he regretted our almost-kiss that night.

Edwards’s office was the same as the last time I’d been there. Jessica didn’t wait a second before scrambling into the toy area while I checked us in.

“Good afternoon, Ms. Swan, I see Jessica is feeling better.”

Esme wasn’t sitting behind the desk this time. A pretty young lady I would have guessed to be in her early-twenties sat proudly with a huge smile on her face. Her red hair was pulled back in a low ponytail, while her pink scrubs looked to be heavily starched.

“Dr. Edward is still in surgery, he phoned a few minutes ago and said that if you wanted to wait for him, I could show you to his office, or if you’d like to see Dr. Tanner, he was fine with that as well.”

I did want to see Edward, I wanted to finalize the day and time of our date. But I also wanted to get out of here quickly and take advantage of the warm weather if Jessica’s lungs sounded good.

“I’ll be happy to see Dr. Tanner.”

“Very well, I’ll let her know you’re here.”

I smiled and thanked her. Crossing the room, I spotted a very excited Jessica building a tower with the red and blue blocks. I was just about to take a seat when a voice called Jessica’s name.

I quickly walked over and cleaned up the mess my daughter had created before hoisting her into my arms. The young lady that stood in the doorway holding what I assumed was Jessica’s chart smiled and then addressed Jessica directly.

“Good afternoon, princess.” Jessica buried her face in my neck as we followed the very nice nurse down the hall. “My name is Vanessa and I’m Dr. Edward’s nurse.”

Jessica shyly smiled at her. I would have to start working on her communication skills now that she was going to be more exposed to people.

Vanessa was very patient with Jessica as she took her temperature and got the rest of her vitals. She ushered us into a room that not surprisingly was decorated to look like the grand hall of a castle. I knew Esme had played a huge part in making this room a happy place.

Vanessa didn’t even get a chance to exit the room before Dr. Tanner entered. Bree was dressed in a white lab coat that barely reached the hem of her rather short skirt. Her knees and lower thighs were proudly on display. The silk green top she wore had the first three buttons undone, flashing some serious cleavage. That seemed a little much for treating small children.

“Well, hello, how is Ms. Swan today?” Bree never looked at me and only addressed Jessica. I guess this was her way of making this all about the child. She helped Jessica raise her little shirt and listened to her lungs. She was just about to look

into her ears when Vanessa knocked and came into the room.

“Sorry to interrupt, Dr. Tanner, but Dr. Edward is on line one and wishes to be placed on speaker phone.”

Vanessa didn’t wait for Dr. Tanner to say anything as she pressed two buttons and the sounds of slow beeps filled the room.

“Go ahead, Dr. Edward, Ms. Swan can hear you.”

Vanessa backed out of the room, closing the door slowly and softly.

“Bella, I’m so sorry I wasn’t there for you and the princess.”

The sound of his voice did funny things to me. Every time we had spoken this week, I’d had to visit my treasure chest. He was costing me a fortune in batteries.

“It’s fine, Edward. I was told you were in surgery, I hope everything went well.”

The wall that I sat facing was painted with a green hill. The hill had what looked to be young children playing and horses carrying knights to a castle. I followed the mural around until the castle came into sight. High in the tallest tower was a princess leaning out of one of the windows, waving to one of the knights that rode toward her.

“I’m actually still in surgery.”

So that was what that beeping must have been, he had someone lying on a table, correcting a problem and making life better for them.

“Are you serious, Edward? Hang up the phone and concentrate on what you’re doing! Dr. Tanner can handle this.”

I heard him chuckle and it made me smile in return.

“I’m actually watching my colleague stitch up my patient. I had to check on Jessica myself.”

Dr. Tanner must have felt left out as she interrupted our conversation.

“Dr. Cullen, her lungs are clear bilaterally and her vitals are all normal.”

I noticed that when she spoke to Edward, her voice changed. It was subtle, but I could hear the pitch change. She was definitely interested.

“Bella, how has the princess’s activity level been since she left the hospital?” he asked, completely ignoring her. I looked to Dr. Tanner’s face, her brow was wrinkled and she looked very put out. I told him of Jessica’s earlier antics in my bedroom and he quickly agreed that she was doing fine and released her to return to her regular activities.

“You have no idea how wonderful it is to hear you say that. I wanted to take advantage of this warm weather and head

over to the park.”

Jessica’s eyes lit up when she heard the word park. Back in New York, our complex had a playground and every day that the sun was out and the weather warm enough, we would walk over and play for hours. I knew she missed her playtime outside.

“Are you headed there now?”

Jessica was now trying to scramble off the table. She knew the quicker we left the office, the quicker we could play.

“I am, actually. I need to stop by the library and check on things, but yes, I’ll be there soon.”

Dr. Tanner had assisted Jessica down from the table and she was now trying to open the door.

“I’ll call you when I finish here at the hospital and if you’re still there, I’d like to see you.”

I smiled as I helped Jessica open the door.
“Jessica, are you going to say thank you to Dr. Tanner?”

Jessica’s blue eyes looked to mine and then to Bree’s. “Bye, Edurd.”

I looked to Bree with big eyes and then had to hurry out of the room as Jessica was running down the hall.

Jessica’s birthday was fast approaching and I knew she needed a well-child checkup. I decided to go ahead and make an appointment while I was here.

As I rounded the corner, Bree called my name from behind me, stopping me in my tracks. “I just wanted to tell you that I’m so happy she’s doing better.”

I smiled as I continued to watch Jessica trying to choose which lollipop she wanted out of the drawer.

“Yes, well, she had excellent doctors working on her. Thank you, Dr. Tanner, for your help.”

Jessica had chosen a red lollipop and was trying to tear the wrapper off, having a great deal of difficulty doing it.

“Well, it’s what I live for,” she chuckled at herself and then placed her hand on my arm. I looked from her hand to her face. “Ms. Swan, I wanted to let you know that Dr. Cullen frequently goes behind me and checks my work. His desire to meet you in the park is simply that, checking to see that I listened to her lungs properly. I didn’t want you reading anything into his desire to see you otherwise,” she said in a sympathetic, caring voice.

She was full of shit.

Here was the thing: I had a theory about jealousy in women. Some women became jealous and immediately tossed their shoes and earrings to their girlfriends and started throwing

punches. Then there were the women who ran away and cried, only telling their diary how they really felt. Then there were women like Bree Tanner. They were calculating, manipulative, and intelligent. They worked very hard at bringing you into their inner circle, giving you a false sense of camaraderie. Then they slowly dropped hints of doubt to make you feel bad about yourself and undermine your relationships. This type was the most dangerous, and by far my favorite to deal with.

I removed her hand from my arm and looked her square in the face. I moved closer to her so that only she and I could hear what I had to say.

“Actually, Dr. Tanner, Edward knows how shitty my insurance is and since I haven’t met my deductible, he’s letting me give him blowjobs instead. Trust me; his visiting me has nothing to do with you.”

I didn’t bother to turn around and see her face. I took Jessica by the hand and made my way to the car. Bree Tanner was biding her time as she waited to finish her residency. She wasn’t stupid enough to make a move while he was her supervisor. I could only imagine what she would do once that time was over.

*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*
“Bella, what are you doing here?”
Angela was manning the front desk as we entered the door.

Irina was busy putting books away and once she noticed me, she came over to where Angela was standing.

“Well, ladies, Jessica just had her follow-up visit and she’s fit for play duty so we’re off to the park.”

Jessica had already headed straight for the music booth. She loved to stand in there and dance.

“Oh, my gosh, I’m so happy to hear that,” Irina spoke from behind her stack of books.

“Me, too, I can’t wait to get back to work and have adult conversations.”

Everyone laughed at my admission. Irina was still dressing down, her hair was now darker and her face still void of any makeup.

“Irina, I’m sorry to hear about your mother.”

She looked at me while removing her glasses. “I’m not, she knew better than to do something like that. She let her emotions get in the way of her job. What kind of person does that to an innocent child?”

I was floored at her admission.

“Irina, I’ve been meaning to ask you something.” I leaned over the counter to get closer to her, “When I first came in here, you dressed􏰀”

“Like a slut, I know, you don’t have to sugar coat it. See, I listened to my mother and my aunt for my entire life. They told me I had to dress like that in order to give men the idea of a fantasy that they would want to fulfill. But then I saw how you and Angela didn’t act or dress like that, and yet Angela has Ben who’s a great guy, and you have Dr. Cullen who’s tripping over his own tongue to get to you. I decided to try and do what you guys do and it worked. I have Paul now and he’s the best boyfriend in the world. He opens doors for me and he calls me when he says he’s going to. He hasn’t even pressured me for sex, not one time. And the best part is that he isn’t from around here so he hasn’t slept with any of the girls I know. He told me he doesn’t go for girls who dress like hookers because they usually act like it, too.”

I smiled and placed my hand on hers, I was so happy for her. She was truly happy for the first time.

“When his mother heard what my mom did, she told him to go pack my things and bring me to her house.” I watched as a tear rolled down her pale face. “She hugged me, Bella; she hugged me and told me I would always have a place to stay if I wanted it.”

I couldn’t help myself as I rounded the desk and took Irina into a hug of my own. “Oh, sweetie, everyone deserves their prince charming, you just had to kiss a ton of frogs to find yours.”

We all laughed through our tears as Jessica came running over to the counter.

“Momma, go now?” Her voice was pleading and I knew she was as anxious as I was to get out into the fresh air. I said goodbye to everyone and made my way back to my car.

I had just found a parking space in the lot at the park. It seemed that everyone was enjoying the weather as there were tons of people here. I smiled as I remembered what I had told Irina about finding her prince and kissing frogs.

Was Mike just one of my frogs?

Was Edward my prince charming or was he just another frog I had to kiss?

“Stay where I can see you, Jessica!” I shouted as I took a seat on a bench. There were just too many people to let my guard down.

I watched as Jessica ran toward the giant jungle gym that sat in the middle of the park, her hair glowing in the bright sun. She turned quickly before climbing up the ladder and waved back at me.

My phone began to ring and I didn’t take my eyes off of her as I answered it.

“Hello?”
“Hey, beautiful, turn around.”

His voice was again like a cool breeze on a warm day as it swept over me. I quickly turned around to see Edward getting

out of his car. He started walking toward me and I would have sworn it was in slow motion he looked so good. His sunglasses covered his eyes, but I could see that his smile lit up his whole face. He looked like a runway model as I watched him cross the grass, heading in my direction.

I suddenly found myself hoping he wasn’t fond of flies. AN

My inspiration for Edward walking across the lot came from the scene in New Moon where he is walking toward her in slow motion. That scene gets me every time.

15. Chapter 15 DIAPERS, DIPLOMAS, AND DEADBEAT DADS

Many of you have said you thought Bella should be honest with Edward about the reason she’s going on this date with him. Really? I’m shocked you’d think that I’d let that be an issue.

Thanks to my beta, Dollybigmomma, who makes this something I can be proud of, and to Holly, who finds the most amazing photos. Don’t forget to stop by and see those photos on my Facebook page.

www. facebook groups/ 434894866569951/ (Remove the spaces)
Chapter 15

Watching Edward walk towards me caused a momentary loss in rational thought. How did I ever allow myself to get here? I was so lost that I didn’t even realize I had ended the call and placed my cell back in my pocket.

“Wow, this turned out to be a beautiful day,” he smiled widely at me.

Good god, how that voice caused things to stir in me.
“I’m glad you gave Jess the all clear so we could enjoy it.”

His smile was not only arousing, but for lack of a better word, magical.

“Mommy!” Jessica’s excited voice rang from beside me. In a quick movement, Edward scooped her up and began to walk toward the swings. I watched with my heart in my throat as Edward swung her around his neck and placed her on his shoulders. She was giggling and having the time of her life. I fell in line beside them, looking into Jessica’s face, her eyes bright with glee.

“Did you bring sunscreen along, Momma?” Edward asked as he fastened Jessica into the swing. I smiled as I took the travel tube from my pocket and let him see it.

“Very good, Bella, I’d hate to have to discipline you for failure to protect her skin.”

Edward stood behind Jessica and gently pushed her. Her tiny hands gripped the bar of the swing, while her little legs kicked for all she was worth.

“I’m glad you could join us, Edward.”
I didn’t even try to hide the smile that was etched on my face.

“Me, too, Bella􏰀besides, I really need to talk with you and I didn’t want to do it over the phone.”

I looked to his face; he was watching the swing that contained Jessica, his eyes focused intently on the back of her head.

“That makes two of us. I have something I want to discuss with you as well.”

We continued to play with Jessica, she held Edward’s hand as she went from the swings to the slide and then to the wooden bridge. Finally, Edward told her he had a surprise for her and jogged over to his car. He came back with a box of sand toys. There were three other little girls that saw the box and immediately ran over to where Edward stood helping Jessica take her shoes off. He instructed me to save him a seat on the bench that was directly in front of the sandbox. Edward knew all of the little girls and helped each one of them with their shoes. Once everyone was settled, he joined me on the bench.

“For a single guy, you sure know your way around little girls.”

He sat down, leaving very little space between us, both of his arms going along the back of the bench seat.

“I owe it all to my family, I’ve been exposed to little girls my entire life,” he chuckled.

“I’ll bet your house was a fun place to be when you were growing up.”

We both had our eyes trained on the little girls having a blast in the sandbox.

“It was the neighborhood hangout. My mom was the mom everyone could come to if they needed help. She always had something baked for us to eat after school.”

I wanted to be that mom􏰀the mom who would kiss away the pain when you hurt yourself, the mom who would listen and tell you what you needed to hear and not what you wanted to hear.

“I can see Esme like that.”

We were silent for a few minutes. Edward appeared lost in his memories and I let him be to remember.

“Bella, I have a confession to make.” I turned my head slightly, his eyes now on my face. “When I knew Jessica was going to be alright, I said something to my father that I wish I could take back.”

His eyes were now moving to look at the girls.

“I’m listening,” I stated when he remained silent a few moments too long for my liking.

“During the time I was sending you various gifts, I discovered that you’re the type of person that acknowledges when someone does something for you that you didn’t expect.” His eyes stayed on the girls, his face now tinged with pink. “My mother is the same way. She has drawers full of stationary and a cabinet full of empty containers she uses to send people thank you notes with her famous baking attached.”

He took in a deep breath as he turned to face me.

“If, after you hear this, you want to back out of our date, I’ll completely understand.” His eyes were soft, pleading, the look of uncertainty on his face. “I told my father that you’d go out of your way to thank us for helping with Jessica. I bet him that you’d thank me instead of him. I lost.”

The latter revelation caused me to gasp. How did he know? “Why do you say that? Do you not want to go out anymore?” He quickly spun in my direction and placed his hand over mine.

“No, Bella, I didn’t mean it to sound like that. I want to have dinner with you, quite badly in fact.” His eyes became downcast. “I overheard my father tell you not to say that you were going to accept my invitation, to thank him.”

I couldn’t help myself as I began to laugh.

“Oh, my god, Edward, I knew this place was small, but this beats all.”

He joined me in my laughter.

“So you’re not angry with me?” his voice was still hesitant, cautious.

I chuckled at his worry, “No, I’m not mad at all. It’s rather funny if you really think about it.”

The glimmer in his eyes returned and the smile again took residence across his face.

“It is somewhat funny. But I had to be honest with you, honesty is very important to me.”

His words were like promises, declarations of his intentions. “Yes, well, at least I didn’t break my word to your father.”

His fingers began to twirl pieces of my hair, it was completely inappropriate considering we were in public and surrounded by tiny, impressionable eyes.

“So, you had something you wanted to discuss with me?” His eyes were flickering back and forth between mine, and for a moment, I was lost in his trance. The giggles that suddenly became louder diverted my attention from him. Jessica was now holding hands with the other little girls, walking around in a tiny circle, laughing as they sang nursery rhymes.

“I􏰀um…yes, I wanted to um􏰀”

Good god, could I sound more pathetic? I was stumbling over my own tongue. With a deep breath and a quick check of my senses, I pushed forward. “I wanted to nail down a day and time for us to have our date.”

He lifted his hand up and quickly brushed his thumb across his chin, removing something that he must have felt tickling him, although I saw nothing.

“Well, how about Sunday night?” That was in two days􏰀 “If that’s too soon…”

“I’ll have to let you know about that. I have to get a sitter for Jessica.”

“Oh, that isn’t an issue. I mean if you’re willing, my mother has been itching to have Jessica over with the rest of the grandkids. She lives for the times when she gets them all to herself.”

The look of wonder in his eyes made me want to know what was running around in his head.

“Well, I wouldn’t want to have her time with her grandkids…”

“Bella,” he placed his hand on my face and stopped me before I could ramble any further, “My mother loves Jessica, just as Alice and Rose love her. She’d be a welcomed addition.”

Somehow, I knew he meant more than just for a play date. This was an area I had refused to venture into. It was one thing for me to get my heart crushed, but it was something entirely different for this to affect Jessica. I would take my last breath protecting her, regardless of who was trying to hurt her.

“Let me ask Charlie first, he’s her grandfather and should get first dibs on spending time with her.”

I watched as he looked longingly at the little girls still singing and giggling.

“Can I ask you something personal, Bella?”
I turned my face to see him looking at me intently. “Sure,” I replied quietly.

“Do you ever think about having more children? I mean Jessica is a beautiful child and full of life, but do you ever see yourself having a bigger family?”

I looked into his green eyes, seeing the look of determination, anticipation, and something I couldn’t quite seem to figure out.

“Honestly, Edward, I haven’t really thought about it. For the past few years, I’ve only been able to focus on getting my diploma, keeping Jessica in clean diapers, and keeping a roof over our heads. I haven’t even given her deadbeat dad a second thought.”

It was true; after Mike had left, I’d struggled to stay afloat many times during my pregnancy and after Jess was first born. There wasn’t time to think about what I was missing in my life, I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

“I’m sorry, I didn’t􏰀”

It was my turn to cut him off, “No, it’s a valid question. I just hadn’t even realized myself that I’d forgotten that life goes on and I do need to consider those things.”

It wasn’t long after that before Jessica came over us, rubbing her tired little eyes. Edward picked her up and carried her back to my car. I promised him I would talk with my father and see if he was available to watch Jessica. As I pulled away, I watched Edward standing there in the parking lot, never moving until I turned the corner.

*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*DDD*

“I wish you would’ve asked me yesterday, Bells.” I’d made a slight detour on my way home. I ran by my father’s house to see if he was available to watch Jessica. “Sue’s sister is visiting from Oklahoma and she’ll only be in Seattle for one day before she heads back home.”

Dad had just told me of his and Sue’s plans to drive to Seattle in the morning to meet with her sister. He offered to take Jessica with them, but I worried about having her so far away from me this soon after her illness.

“Really, Dad, it’s alright. Esme has offered as well. I just wanted you to have the opportunity.”

“Sign me up for date number two. No matter what’s going on, I’ll make certain I can watch her, maybe take her fishing if the weather is good enough.”

I smiled and hugged my father.
“What makes you think there’ll be a second date, old man?”

He looked at me and then shook his head, “What did I tell you, young lady? Open your eyes and see what’s right in front of you. He’s a good man and he’ll take good care of you, love you like you deserve.”

“Dad, aren’t we getting a little ahead of ourselves? It’s dinner, maybe a movie, nothing more.”

“All I’m saying is don’t build a dam on a dry creek bed.”

So with a not-so-quick call to Esme, who spoke a hundred miles a minute about how she was so excited to have Jessica in her home, I had a sitter. She offered to have Jess spend the night, which I immediately turned down. I did finally agree that Jessica could come over in the afternoon to play. Most of the conversation was spent with me listening and Esme excitedly telling me everything she planned for the kids to do.

When I finally got off the phone with her, my phone rang nearly instantly. This time it was Alice and Rose. They were nearly as excited as Esme. Rose began the interrogation of what I planned to wear and how I should do my hair. Alice insisted that I take a drive over to Port Angeles and get a waxing done as well as hit the mall for some new undergarments. This was clearly out of control and I was nearing my limit.

“You know what? This is really all too much. This was such a bad idea. I’m just going to call Edward and cancel. I mean I really don’t want to drive to Port Angles, and having the hair ripped from my body isn’t on my bucket list. Yes, I’m sure I

need to cancel.”

Dogs in the next county heard the high-pitched screams of the two of them. They began to plead with me not to cancel on Edward. Alice was rambling about how this would derail her plans if the date didn’t happen. Rose was making it known that she wanted to be put on the record that if my date was disastrous because I was embarrassed due to bushy body hair, she was not to blame.

Jessica was excited to hear that she was going to Nana Esme’s house to play with the Cullen grandkids. She wasn’t in the least bit upset that I wouldn’t be there. She just kept chattering on about Lilly.

“So I hear you got an interesting call this afternoon.”

Edward had called me after Jessica was sound asleep in her bed. He had a knack for doing just that.

“I wouldn’t call it interesting􏰀psychotic maybe, but not interesting,” I chuckled.

“They mean well, but I was glad to hear you handled things. I was wondering if you had a food preference.”

I thought for a moment. “Surprise me, just nothing Italian.”

“No Italian, I can handle that. Six o’clock, Ms. Swan, I’ll be at your door.”

“Six o’clock, Dr. Cullen, don’t be late.”

“Not a chance, Bella, not a chance.”

A/N

My rec this time is a WIP. I’m in love with this one. Check it out, you’ll thank me, I promise.

Finding Sunshine by anhanninen

Surrounded by darkness after a vicious attack almost ended her life, Bella starts over, hoping to find the sunshine she so desperately misses. She finds it when she least expects in a young, carefree doctor. Life isn’t a fairytale, though, and to get to where they belong, obstacles have to be climbed and fears have to be faced.

16. Chapter 16 DIAPERS, DIPLOMAS, AND DEADBEAT DADS

Chapter 1

The shrill sound of my phone ringing woke me from a deep slumber. The sun was out, but the clock told me it was only a little after seven o’clock in the morning.

“Hello?” my sleep-filled voice croaked.
“Bella, oh, my god, have you seen this mornings’ paper?”

Angela’s voice was so high and excited, I was certain I had suffered hearing loss.

“Angela, I’m still in bed, how the fuck would I know what the paper says?” I huffed as I laid my head back on my pillow, frustration taking over me, as I hated being roused from a sound sleep.

“Well, then you’d better get your skinny ass out of bed and have a look. It’s going to blow you away.”

Reluctantly, I tossed my covers back and swung my feet out of bed. I slowly made my way down the hallway and opened the front door, snatching the rolled-up newspaper that sat on

my front porch.
“Okay, I’ve got it, now what’s the big deal?” “Look on page three and then call me back.”

She didn’t wait for me to reply as the line went silent. Tossing the paper and my phone on the couch, I headed into the kitchen. Once my coffee was brewed and Jessica was eating her breakfast, I sat down and opened the paper. The town of Forks was not a large city by any means; the Sunday paper was just a reflection of that as it was only six pages in total. The front page told of the carnival that was quickly approaching and talked about the rivalry that two local farmers had about their prized vegetables. The second was a reminder that deer tags would be available starting next week for the local hunters and listed the names of the places you could obtain them and their cost. My eyes quickly found the article that was nestled on page three, just as Angela had said.

Most of us can remember the last city council meeting where members took a final vote and decided to give our poor library one last try. No one could have imagined that the decision by our town leaders to hire a young woman from New York would be one of the best this old town has ever made. Our new director of library services, Isabella Swan, has taken us by storm. She has completely renovated the inside and added many new features that are normally only found in libraries in the

larger cities. Not only has she completely turned the library around for the better, she has given the town of Forks ten new jobs. Contemporary Coffee, a Seattle- based coffee house, has approached city officials to break ground on a new building to be completed by the first of the year. Ms. Swan was not available for an interview at the time of this writing, as her precious little girl, Jessica, was recovering from a serious illness. Ms. Swan, the town of Forks thanks you.

Closing the pages and tossing it to the side, I laid my face in my hands. I was not used to this type of attention. It was unwelcomed and slightly frightening. Before I could ponder it any further, my phone began to ring again.

“Good god, woman, I’ve been waiting for an hour to hear back from you.”

Subtlety was not one of Angela’s current traits. Ben had opened the door in her that housed her sassiness.

“I can’t believe you woke me for this.” Angela burst into laughter. “I fail to see anything funny about this, Angela. The article didn’t say anything the town gossips didn’t already spread.”

The laughter suddenly stopped. “Oh, but the town gossips didn’t have a thing to do with the articles that have made the papers in Port Angeles and Seattle.”

Oh, my god.

“Tell me you’re lying.”

“Nope, I read them online myself. Ben is checking to see if you made it into any other city’s news.”

Angela said she would text me if she and Ben found anymore and I thanked her. I sent a silent prayer that they wouldn’t find any.

The day went quicker than I liked, as it was now time to take Jessica over to the Cullen’s house. Jessica wanted to take every doll she owned and it took me threatening to call off her play date with the Cullen grandchildren to get her to listen to me. On the way over, I had to stop for gas and it took much longer than usual, as several people wanted my autograph. I quickly shut off my car and climbed the steps to the Cullen house. Alice threw open the door before I had a chance to even ring the doorbell. Jessica quickly tried to pass us both as she heard the children playing inside the house.

“Well, hello, Ms. Superstar,” Alice said jokingly.

“Shut it, Alice. I just had to sign autographs and I don’t want to hear it from you.”

I moved past her, angry now at the entire situation. Tossing Jessica’s backpack on the floor, I turned to find an excited Esme bouncing on the balls of her feet, a plate of cookies in her hands. Jessica made it to her side in less than a second.

“Now, Jessica, tell Mommy goodbye and to have fun on her

date with Dr. Edward.”

Jessica could have cared less, as she had a cookie in each hand and had spotted Lilly standing behind Esme. Laughter ensued as the girls raced off, not a care in the world.

“Oh, how they grow so fast,” Esme’s motherly voice spoke.

She was right. Jessica was growing so quickly and in a few weeks, she would turn two. Where had the time gone? I would need to plan her party quickly. I bid Alice and Esme a good afternoon and headed home. I had laundry to do before I began to get ready for my date with Edward. As I separated the darks from the whites, I thought back to Edward’s question regarding more children. I certainly didn’t regret having Jessica as a single mom; however, I was certain I could not handle two children by myself.

I hadn’t planned on dressing up for this date. There was no real need as the fanciest place to eat in this town was the local lodge. With animal heads on the walls, an evening dress was clearly not required. I also didn’t think this was an occasion for jeans and a t-shirt. Edward didn’t look like the wings and beer kind of guy. So I opted for a long dressy shirt and some leggings. I finished the look with a loose belt around my hips. I kept my makeup minimal and simply washed and dried my hair. Just as I sprayed my perfume on my wrists, the doorbell rang.

When I opened the door, the sight that awaited me was one I couldn’t have imagined in my wildest dreams. Edward stood in

his dark jeans with a gray button-up and a sport coat. The top two buttons on his shirt were open. A bouquet of flowers rested in his long fingers. His smile was the icing on the cake; it was genuine and not forced.

“Oh, wow.”

Edward’s words interrupted my scanning of his appearance. I looked down at myself, noticing nothing out of the ordinary. I had worn this exact outfit to work a few weeks ago.

“What? What’s wrong?”

Edward only smiled wider as he stepped across the threshold and placed a soft kiss to my cheek.

“Absolutely nothing, you look amazing.”

I chuckled as he handed me the flowers. “And you look like you just finished a GQ magazine shoot,” I teased as I made my way into the kitchen.

“Well, I told them I had to hurry today as I had a date with a gorgeous brunette, the GQ people completely understood.”

I couldn’t help the giggles that erupted as what he’d said hit my ears. “Then we better get this over with quick so you won’t be late for that date, Dr. Cullen.”

His eyes sparkled and his cheeks were slightly pink. “Oh, I think I’m exactly where I need to be and I intend to take my time and enjoy every second I have alone with you tonight.”

His words left me breathless and for a moment, I forgot my own name. This man was completely dangerous and I was helpless to do anything about it.

“So I know you said that Italian is out, but do you have an objection to any other cultures?”

His words gave me the needed push to take in a breath and get my thoughts together.

“Oh, Dr. Cullen, you’ll find that I’m perfectly happy eating Taco Bell and drinking cheap beer.”

His smile widened as his right eyebrow lifted in a questioning gesture. “Well, then it’s my duty to school you in the proper way to treat a beautiful woman to dinner.”

Several minutes later, we were in his car and heading towards Port Angeles. Honestly, I was relieved to hear him say he had made reservations at a Brazilian steak house in another town. It wasn’t that I was embarrassed to be seen locally with him; it was just that I needed to be able to relax at dinner and not worry about the whispers that would be rounding the room if we had stayed in town.

The exterior of the restaurant was amazing, as they had a huge fountain that sprayed water and fire together. I couldn’t take my eyes off of it as we walked past.

“They use natural gas for the fire, so it doesn’t go out.”

I looked to Edward who was still smiling and somehow holding my hand. The entryway into the restaurant featured two massive oak and metal doors, with two large suit-clad men there to open each door and welcome us. The sparsely lit restaurant was bustling with wait staff and hungry patrons. The hostess was stood behind the podium and her eyes grew huge and her smile turned into a slack-jawed stare as she took in Edward’s appearance, not that I blamed her.

She quickly wrote something down and then grabbed two menus and asked us to follow her. It didn’t slip my notice that her hips were swaying exaggeratedly and her skirt seemed to be crawling up her thighs. Edward held out my chair and smiled as he took his seat. The hostess, whose name I wasn’t able to hear, whispered something into Edward’s ear and handed him a slip of paper. It didn’t take a genius to know what had just happened. I chose to ignore it, as Edward was a very attractive man and seemed to have a lot to offer a young single woman, yet my heart burned a little at her lack of professionalism. Edward saw right through my fake smile as he crumpled up the slip of paper and tossed it into the empty wine glass that decorated the table.

“I’m so sorry about that.”

“Why are you sorry? You can’t help the fact that women notice you.”

“It’s still rude, Bella. It’s clear as day that I’m on a date and to have some low life like her pull a stunt like that and flaunt herself is disgusting.”

I was rendered speechless. He didn’t have to tell me that he didn’t notice the hostess, his vicious words spoke more than just his disdain.

“Let’s not let her ruin our date. I came here to be able to talk openly with you and not worry about the local gossip.”

I laughed as he looked down at his menu. “What?” he questioned with a half-smile.

“You’re a mind reader, I swear,” I chuckled. “I was thinking the exact same thing on the way over here.”

“Well, that and your new celebrity status.”

I rolled my eyes and then placed my forehead on the table as I let out a huge groan.

“I could’ve gone the rest of my life and not had anyone mention that.”

His face was kind as his green eyes found mine, “I’m sorry, Bella, I won’t say it anymore. But you have to admit it was funny.”

I wanted to be pissed at him, but his face was just too cute.

“I’m just hoping it blows over quickly,” I added as I opened my menu.

“Not likely,” he laughed.

I raised my eyes back up to him, “What?”

“Well, I got an email from one of my friends in New York who told me he saw an article in the New York Times about Forks. He forwarded it to me and it was much like the one in the local paper, only talking about how a proud Cornell graduate did so well in the real world. He was surprised that Forks was mentioned in such a large paper.”

This was too much. I didn’t want the entire planet thinking I had saved the world from evil.

“This is crazy, Edward, I’m not some superhero. I was given a job and I did the best I could with what I had. I didn’t solve world peace or cure cancer.”

Edward reached across the table and removed my hands that were now covering my face. His touch was warm and comforting.

“It’s just a feel-good story, Bella. Trust me; it’ll be replaced with doom and gloom by this time tomorrow.”

Oh, how I hoped he was right.

Our waiter was this hilarious guy named Simon. He flirted shamelessly with me and then told Edward to keep his knickers on, that he would flirt with him after he brought out our drinks. You couldn’t help but laugh at him.

Half way through my glass of wine, I looked at Edward, who

was looking at his phone. He chuckled and then passed his phone to me.

“Just in case you’re worried,” he spoke with a smile.

The screen had a large arrow and I tapped it. The video began to play and suddenly Jessica was standing there, dressed as a princess. She had a large sparkly scepter in her hand and was knighting a very dapperly dressed Jasper. She was having such a good time and I couldn’t help but smile as Jasper grabbed her in his arms and swung her around in the air.

“Tell Mommy you love her,” Jasper spoke into the camera. She giggled as he pretended to bite her belly.

“I looooove you, Mooooommy,” she squealed, and then the video ended.

I was passing the phone back to Edward just as Simon brought us our salads.

“What’s this?” Simon questioned, snatching the phone from my hand. Before I could do anything, Simon watched the video and a smile broke across his face.

“Well, the two of you certainly can make beautiful babies,” he said as he handed the phone to Edward.

“Thank you, we think so as well, but all parents think the same about their children,” Edward smiled as he took the phone

back from Simon, his eyes never leaving mine as he pocketed his phone. Neither one of us said anything further about what Edward had just said.

“So, why are you a doctor, Edward? Forget about the standard answer of helping people, tell me the real reason.”

He leaned back and studied my face. “You know this is a prime example of why I’m attracted to you, right?”

I looked daringly into his eyes, “You’re deflecting, Dr. Cullen.” He only laughed at my comment.

“Well, as you know, my father is a doctor. But my grandfather was also a doctor. When I was a little boy, I’d go spend time on their farm and would follow my grandfather around. I saw how people respected him, and how no matter where he went, he was welcomed with open arms. He told me once that he got to be with people at their highest point, and sometimes their lowest. He treasured his time with them and he was so passionate about what he did. When my father let me follow him around, I found that he had the same passion. I wanted to feel the same way as they did about what I did for a living. So for me, the real reason is I get to do what I love.”

He eyes told me he spoke the truth. “That and I get my pick of hot nurses.”

I could help but laugh so hard that I nearly choked on my sip of wine.

“Oh, so the real story finally comes out. I knew you were just like the rest,” I shot at him as we both continued to laugh.

By the time Simon brought the check, my face was hurting from laughing so much. I couldn’t remember when I’d last had such a great time. Edward was funny and smart and it was easy to be with him. He asked me valid questions and looked me in the eye as I spoke. He was every girl’s dream.

As we exited the restaurant, Edward again took my hand in his. This time, however, I was aware of it happening. I smiled at him as I closed my fingers around his. The ride back to my house was full of the same easy conversation that we’d had all evening. He pulled into my driveway and parked behind the black Mercedes that was waiting. Alice and Jasper got out of their car as Edward turned off his. A very sleepy Jessica was pulled out by Jasper as we made our way to my porch. I noticed the curtains on the windows next door fluttering and I just knew I was going to be the topic of conversation at the breakfast table in the morning.

I took out my keys and attempted to open the door, but Edward quickly took them and only smiled as he unlocked it for me.

“After you,” Edward gestured as he stepped to the side to let me pass.

I shook my head as I began to turn on lights on my way to Jessica’s room, Alice following behind me. I turned Jess’s bed down and was thankful that I had sent pajamas to Esme’s for

her. Jasper laid her down on the bed and then kissed her forehead.

“Sleep tight, your majesty,” he whispered as he backed away.

I turned off the lights and closed the door, leaving only a crack open so she could get out if she needed me in the night. By the time I got back to the living room, Alice and Jasper were already in their car and backing out of the driveway. I looked to Edward who was standing with his hands in his pants pockets.

“Was it something I said?” I questioned as I looked at Edward, and we both laughed.

Edward removed his hands from his pockets as he crossed the floor to stand before me.

“She was worn out, wasn’t she?” his husky voice was a welcome sound in my ears.

“Yes, she was. I should send her to your mother’s more often.” My voice was also low and I didn’t know why.

I felt his hands on my upper arms as his eyes scanned my face.

“I’m going to kiss you now, Ms. Swan,” his words were barely a whisper, yet they were echoing in my ears.

I couldn’t fight the pull I felt between us. I rose up on my tiptoes as his arms came around my body. His eyes slowly

began to close as his face inched closer. Time seemed to stand still as his lips touched mine. My hands found their way into his hair as I leaned further into his body, a moan rumbling from his chiseled chest. His lips were perfect, soft, and moist, and he certainly knew how to kiss. His hands were holding me to his chest tightly as he continued to kiss me gently. With one final swipe of his lips to mine, he pulled back, only to place his forehead on mine.

“That was better than I ever dreamed of.”

I smiled at his words while keeping my eyes closed. I wasn’t ready for this feeling to leave me yet.

“I should go; we both have an early morning tomorrow.” I could only nod my head in agreement.
“When can we do this again?”

My response surprised me; I’d had it in mind that this would be a one-time only thing, just as a way to get him off my back. However, after the time I’d had with him, I wanted more.

“Well, there’s a carnival coming to town􏰀”

He pulled his forehead away from mine and his smile completely covered his beautiful face.

“Does this mean you want to see me again, Ms. Swan?” I could only smile as I nodded my head. His face was

priceless and I loved that I’d made him this happy.

“Really?” His tone reminded me of a fan girl.

“Yes, Edward, I had such a great time that I’d like to see you again. So what do you think, want to win me a cheaply-made teddy bear on the midway?”

He looked at me as he replaced his smile with a very serious face, “No, that won’t work.”

I was shocked and slightly hurt at his response.

“That’s far too long to wait to see you again􏰀how about dinner at my house this week?”

“I think that could be arranged. Can you even cook or are we getting take-out?”

He stood back with his hands on his chest, “Bella, you wound me, of course I can cook.”

I smiled at him as I cleared the distance between us. Once again, I rose up on my tiptoes and this time, I kissed him. It was quick, but still wonderful.

“I’d really like that.”

He leaned down and kissed me again, “I’ll call you tomorrow and let you know my schedule.”

With my bottom lip firmly between my teeth, I closed the door

behind him. Edward was nothing like I expected and I closed my eyes as I placed my back to the door and said a prayer, hoping to all that was holy that it was heard.

“Please, God, don’t let him break me.”

17. Chapter 17 DIAPERS, DIPLOMAS, AND DEADBEAT DADS

Chapter 17

I was pleasantly surprised when nothing was said as I dropped off Jessica at daycare. However, the same could not be said for the moment I walked into my office.

“I can report that he had her home at a respectable hour,” Angela mocked in her forced southern accent.

I rolled my eyes as I passed her desk.

“I heard he kissed her inside her front door,” Irina whisper- shouted in the same way.

I then turned on my heels and glared at the two of them.

“First off,” I pointed at Angela, “This is not a scene from Steele Magnolias, and you’re far from a southern belle,” I crossed my arms, “And second, how do you know what did or did not happen behind my front door?”

The two of them looked at each other and then began to giggle like schoolgirls. I was too frustrated to join them in their laughter. I knew I had to play this down. I couldn’t let anyone

know that my feelings for Edward had changed severely.

“Bella, my aunt lives across the street from you, and the biggest town gossip, Mrs. Birdie, lives next door.”

The memory of the curtains moving in the window came to mind as Irina spoke. I would have to watch what I did and said outside my house from now on. I wondered if she’d witnessed my panty show on my back deck the other day.

“To end any misleading information, yes, Dr. Cullen was a perfect gentleman during our dinner, and yes, he had me home in time to put Jessica to bed. However, the issue of a kiss or no kiss behind closed doors will remain just that, behind closed doors.”

No additional words were spoken about my dinner with Edward. A few minutes later, Mrs. Stevens brought her first grade class over for a tour of the library. I smiled as I watched their bright little faces take in all of the books that lined the shelves. I remembered as a young child the first time I visited a library. I was hopelessly in love from the first moment. I was happy to see that Mrs. Stevens was trying to share that love with her students. I continued to watch as James bent down and spoke with several children in a circle around him. He was so patient with them, and I knew that if
he wanted to, he would be a great dad. Maggie was surrounded by little boys, which was no surprise. I was certain she knew each of them and their parents. It didn’t surprise me when I found out that Maggie did a great deal of volunteering at the local schools The vibrating of my cell brought me back

from the spell I had created for myself. Looking at the screen, I couldn’t help but smile at the words.

Early clinic day on Wednesday. Dinner at my house at six. Miss you already. XOXO

Edward insisted I bring Jessica over as well. However, when Sue and my father found out where I was going, they insisted it was their turn to have a grandparents’ night. Jessica was too excited for me to tell her no, and so here I was, walking up the six steps to Edward’s front door sans child.

His house was not what I had expected at all. In my mind, I pictured a small, very modern bachelor pad. The reality was a beautiful, large farmhouse-style home. It was two stories, with a huge, deep wraparound porch that went all the way around. The flowerbeds that lay between the driveway and the railing that secured the porch were pristine. He must have had a gardener.

Looking to my left, I noticed a very inviting porch swing. The ferns that hung from the overhang swayed softly with the wind. To my right was a very inviting conversation area, complete with comfy pillows and the settee, rocking chairs, and a rug that rested under the furniture. His massive front door was incased by a protective glass storm door. Hanging proudly was a beautiful floral wreath that celebrated fall.

“Hello, beautiful.”
I jumped at the sound of his voice. Looking back to my left, I

noticed a very handsome Edward standing there, smiling at me from a side door off the porch. He was causally barefoot, in worn jeans and a t-shirt, a dish towel flung over his right shoulder.

“Edward, you startled me.”

He held the door wider for me as I crossed the porch in his direction. The smile that covered his face was nothing compared to mine. I stepped quickly into the house as the aroma of cooking meat and baking bread filled the air around me.

“I’m just finishing up. Can I get you something to drink?”

Edward motioned for me to walk into what I assumed was the kitchen. The sound of my shoes on his hardwood floors were the only thing that reminded this was real. The house was warm and inviting. His furnishing worked well in this room. It reminded me of my house, clean lines, yet sophisticated.

“Water will be fine.” I was driving tonight and I never took chances with alcohol and a car.

I watched as he turned to the refrigerator door and smoothly opened it, retrieving a bottle and smiling at me as he twisted the top open. His kitchen was incredible. Many windows lined the back wall that looked over a huge pool and rolling lawn that faded into the edge of the forest. The white cabinets with glass inlays in several of the door looked new and clean. The black countertops were so polished that it was easy to see

your reflection. The barstool I was currently perched on was incredibly comfortable with its plush cushion. I had expected him to just hand me the bottle of water; however, I was surprised to see him set two glasses of ice on the counter and pour the water into each.

“Edward, can I ask you a personal question?”

Things just didn’t add up for me. He was a single guy, and yet this magnificent house was built to accommodate a large family. His car from the other night was one that I would have associated with a guy, sporty and fast. However, this house told a different story.

“Have you ever been married? I mean take a look around you; this place just screams married man.”

I watched his face as he took a drink from his glass. The smile that began once he lowered the glass was one of mystery.

“No, I’m not now, nor have I ever been married.”

His expression was one of pain mixed with longing. My interest was now piqued. Why would he seem so sad about his answer?

“When I found this place, I knew the second I pulled up in that driveway that this was the house for me. I could picture Christmas lights hanging on the porch, and the huge tree growing by that large picture window in the den with a tire

swing hanging from it. Once I was inside, I swear I could hear children running upstairs, playing and having the time of their lives. When I came into this kitchen, it wasn’t like you see it now; it was worn and needed serious help. I had my contractor rip out everything and start from scratch. I wanted to see those children I imagined playing upstairs having breakfast and doing homework on this very island. I wanted to see my wife cooking and helping those very children grow into adults, who would then bring my grandkids to visit where I could see it all over again.”

His eyes were glassy as he continued to describe the picture he saw in his mind. Something stirred in me as I listened to him, and I could see all of the things he described. The only thing missing was the dog jumping around and running after the children.

“I even had the carpet ripped up and these floors put down so when I get my kids a dog, it won’t be an issue.”

And just like that, my heart left my body and began to float across the granite toward his chest. For years, I had refused to even picture a future with a husband and more children. But there he stood, the man I knew would give me all of those things, and all I had to do was let him in. Feeling bolder than I ever had in my life, I rose from my seat and walked around the island. I watched his face as I made my way to him, like a lioness making a claim on her lion. My hands reached for his face, and I pulled his mouth to mine. I didn’t give him a chance to second-guess this. I wanted him, he had seen me for what I really was, and now I knew the true desire in his heart.

With my fingers wrapped up in the hair at the base of his head, I pulled him closer as I began to nip his bottom lip with my teeth. With his lips now parted, I let my tongue explore his. He tasted sweet, like honey, with just a hint of spice. I felt him moan into my mouth, and I took everything I could get. I returned the moan when I felt him lift my body and set me on the counter in front of him. His body was positioned between my legs, but I kept them dangling off the counter. We were a mess of lips, tongue and teeth, and yet we were in perfect sequence. His lips left mine and I opened my eyes, only to watch him move to my neck, his breathing rivaling mine, as I was gasping for breath.

“Tell me to stop, Bella.”

His soft voice pleaded with me, but there was no way I was telling him to stop. I pulled his mouth away from my neck and captured his lips with mine once again, silently telling him what I wanted. He responded by wrapping his arms around me. While his right hand was buried in my hair, his left was squeezing my ass. The feel of his lean body pressed against mine was both heaven and hell. The double layer of clothing was pure torture, as I could plainly feel the effect I was having on him. God, how I had missed being touched by a man. However, this was nothing like the way Mike had touched me. There was never the level of passion from Mike that Edward had. He was devouring me as much as I was devouring him.

Our open-mouthed kissing was so out of control that I missed him unbuttoning my shirt. The feel of his heated hand wrapped around my right breast caused me to gasp with pleasure as

his thumb made quick flicks at the hardened nipple. I unwrapped my arms from around his neck and quickly took my shirt the rest of the way off, and then I unhooked my bra, dropping it to the floor. The heat between us was so hot that even the cold granite of the counter didn’t faze me as he lowered me back. I felt his fingers freeing my jeans as I began to unbutton his shirt. His lips left my mouth, only to find home on my nipple, and I could help myself as I arched my back and cried out.

Fate could be such a fickle bitch, because just as he was moving to my other nipple, the house phone began to ring. His head slumped to my chest in defeat.

“I’m sorry, Bella, I have to answer it, it may be the hospital.”

I could only nod my head as he placed a final kiss to the center of my chest. I slowly sat up as I heard him answer his phone in a strangled professional voice.

“Dr. Cullen.”

I began to place my clothes back on. His back was facing me, and for that I was grateful.

“Bree, its fine. What’s the emergency?”

I clinched my eyes shut as I heard him say her name. I had no doubt that she knew we would be together tonight.

“Dr. Tanner, even a first-year med student could’ve told you

that this could’ve waited until rounds in the morning. ”

I slid off the counter and made my way back to my seat at the island.

“Yes, I did tell you to call me if there was cause, but normal results do not require a call.”

It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see that she knew there would be a possibility she would be interrupting something. She had another thing coming if she thought I would sit back and let her ruin what had just happened between Edward and me, however.

Edward hung up the phone and then slowly turned towards me once again.

“Edward, don’t you dare say you’re sorry. We’re going to eat the wonderful dinner you’ve slaved over, and then we’re going to cuddle up on that very comfortable-looking sofa in there and make out like teenagers.”

Edward busted out laughing as he made his way around the counter, wrapping his arms around me as he chuckled.

“I’m so glad you gave me a chance.”

Dinner was phenomenal; he’d made roasted potatoes with prime rib and asparagus, and to top it off, fresh baked bread. I ate until I was full and then some. I insisted on helping him with the dishes. We had more laughs as we waged an epic

soap bubble war. We made a pot of coffee and settled on the sofa. A tickle fight quickly ensued, and that led to a slow make-out session. Our kisses weren’t frantic this time, but I still felt every inch of him against my body.

“So the fair is next weekend,” Edward spoke as his kisses faded and he leaned back to look into my eyes.

“That’s what I hear. I can’t wait to take Jessica.”

I adjusted my shirt to cover my stomach and ran a hand through my hair. Edward quickly took my hands back in his.

“So what do you say to me to taking my girls to the fair? I’ll buy you totally fattening foods and we’ll ride some scary rides.” His smile was huge, and I found it near impossible to say no to him.

“Don’t forget the stuffed toys.”

He drew me into his side, and I found myself feeling very at home. Mike and I had done this very thing many, many times when we were together. It never felt this good tucked under Mike’s arm, though.

“I could never forget the poorly-made stuffed toys.”

He quickly kissed my lips, and I settled back into his embrace. I closed my eyes and sighed as his arms held me tighter. We decided to attend the fair the next Saturday. When they closed down Main Street and all the booths would be opened.

He told me his mother always entered her famous apple pie, and she had won the last few years. He also told me of the live bands that would be playing, and he wanted to listen to a few of them.

Before I was ready, it had gotten quite late. Edward threatened to lock me in his bedroom to keep me from leaving. I reminded him that a very beautiful little girl would be very upset if he kept her mommy.

“Oh, but my beautiful girl, I intend to keep both of you.” His eyes told me he was telling me nothing but the truth. A/N

Don’t forget to visit my facebook page to see the photos that make this story come to life. Thank you so much Ms. Holly for all your hard work. And to my beta who makes my thoughts come to life, thank you Dollybigmomma.

18. Chapter 18 DIAPERS, DIPLOMAS, AND DEADBEAT DADS

Chapter 18

I couldn’t decide who was more excited to be standing on the midway, Jessica or Edward. Jessica had her eyes open wide, taking in all the lights and music of the carnie games. Edward couldn’t make up his mind which deep fried food he wanted to try out first.

Jessica’s delighted squeals won out first as Edward picked her up and walked over to one of the water games. I stood behind them as Edward got her situated and showed her how to pull the trigger on the water toy. I couldn’t recall a time I’d laughed so hard as I watched Jessica clearly beat him. He dropped his head and crossed his arm like a petulant child who didn’t get a second dish of their favorite ice-cream.

“Mommy says you have to take turns at winning,” She reminded him. My pearls of wisdom did nothing to make the grown-up, sulking child place his bottom lip back in its rightful place. He demanded a rematch, which Jessica again wiped the pavement with him.

“My gun was broken, that’s the problem,” Edward’s childlike

voice complained, sounding like he was on the verge of a tantrum.

“Do you need a nap, Edward?” I rolled with laughter alongside the carnie who handed Jessica a plush elephant. Edward could only shoot daggers with his eyes at me. “Come on, handsome, I’ll buy you a fried Snickers bar.”

I wrapped my arm around Edward and Jessica as we walked toward the smell of oil and sugar. Edward finally settled down as he and Jessica carefully examined the menu. Jessica giggled as Edward told her they sold “elephant ears” and then decided to split one and a deep fried candy bar. I couldn’t resist getting the lemonade.

Edward kept Jessica on his lap as they devoured the sugary treats before them. He did an excellent job of keeping the food in her mouth and not on her clothes.

“Come on, munchkin. Let’s burn off some of this sugar,” Edward announced when the last bite was finished. He tossed Jessica on his shoulders as he took my hand and began to walk down the midway. Several people stopped him and exchanged pleasantries. I was pleasantly surprised when they turned to me and said hello as well.

“Mommy, pee-pee,” Jessica announced as Edward was talking to Mr. Murphy, the owner of the local hardware store. It seemed that even though Edward was a pediatrician, people still felt the need to ask him about every ache and pain they had.

I smiled to Edward and then took Jessica to get in line for a port-a-potty. I personally hated those things. They always smelled terrible and had trash littered on the floor. We waited our turn in line, as it seemed everyone needed to use the restroom at the same time. Jessica stood and twisted back and forth, singing to herself as she patiently waited. Suddenly, one of the stall doors opened and out stepped Bree Tanner. The look of surprise was on her face as she saw the two of us standing there.

“Well, if it isn’t the princess and her mom.”

He tone was fake, and if there was one thing I couldn’t stand, it was fake people. I would rather have had her turn her nose up at me than pretend to be the least bit interested in me. At least she would have been telling me the truth by her actions.

“Bree,” I responded back, no smile and no pleasantness to my tone whatsoever. I had no problem with her knowing that I didn’t care for her.

I moved past her to help Jessica get into the stall. As I opened the door, I noticed that the area was surprisingly clean and odor free.

“I do it myself, Mommy.”

I smiled and told her I would be right here when she was finished.

“You know, I can’t tell you how much I love working with

Edward every day, spending all those hours alone with him.”

Bree was a snake􏰀a well-dressed, beautiful snake, but a belly crawler all the same. I knew how to deal with snakes. You chopped their heads off and threw them over the fence.

“You know, Bree, I know just how you feel. I love the way his hair feel against the inside of my thighs, he just loves to be there for hours at a time.”

The look on her face told me my words did exactly what I had intended them to do. Her smile faltered, and she quickly turned on her heels and walked away.

“Don’t think that was the last you’ll see of that one.”

I spun around to find Tanya standing behind me, cigarette between her fingers as she exited the stall next to Jessica’s.

“Tanya, what a surprise.”

She tossed the cigarette into the dirt and then proceeded to smash it with her four-inch white heels. She was covered head to toe in white. Well, actually, covered was a wild exaggeration. Her shirt barely covered her boobs, and her shorts looked more like panties. Still, I had to give it to her, the woman looked good.

“Bella, I like you. You’re a genuine person, and there aren’t many of those around this town.” Tanya moved her body closer to mine. “See, the problem most of the people in this

town have is that they’re so busy talking trash about others, they forget to cover the wrong they’re doing.”

She had my attention. I had always assumed Tanya was a shallow person who only cared about using men for money.

“That one there,” she pointed at a still-retreating Bree, “She’s one you damn well better keep both eyes on.”

I heard Jessica begin to try and open the door, so I quickly opened it slightly, only to have Jessica shout that she wasn’t finished.

Tanya was chuckling as I quickly shut the door and told Jessica I was sorry.

“Got a little fighter on your hands there, don’t you?”

I nodded my head and took in a deep breath, “She’s my whole world.”

“I can see that. Now, back to my advice,” Tanya leaned even further into my personal space. “This is a small town, so you see everything here. I’ve been watching her since she got here. Bree wants a Cullen for a husband. She doesn’t care which one as long as she gets one. Now, I doubt very seriously you’ve ever seen Esme get worked up, and trust me, you don’t want to. Bree is kissing her ass right now. As for Edward, she’s playing the two of you.”

I was taken aback by her words. She was playing me?

“She has a plan to get into Edward’s bed. It may not be today, but trust me. She’s going to try her damnedest to get there.”

Before I could open my mouth to respond, she placed her hand on my arm and leaned in until she was right beside my ear.

“Listen, she may believe that you and Edward have sealed the deal. I, however, know that you’re a self-respecting woman and are not like that, particularly around this little one. She doesn’t know that, and if you want to keep her away, make certain she never finds a crack in your relationship.”

Her words barely had time to reach my ear before Jessica began trying to open the door. The smell of hand sanitizer came rushing out through the slit in the door as tried her best to open it.

“Mommy!” Jessica shouted.

“Sorry,” I quickly responded as I opened the door and took a step back. She was getting to be so damned independent.

Jessica quickly jumped over the lip of the stall and began to twirl around, dancing for all who would watch.

“Mommy, let’s go.”

Tanya and I both laughed at her excitement, and I quickly waved a goodbye to Tanya.

“Hey, Bella,” Tanya shouted and I turned around, “Thanks for helping out my niece. You saved her from a life of heartache. My sister never learned from our mother’s mistakes. So􏰀 thank you.”

I only smiled and then waved goodbye.

Jessica took Edward by the hand and never let go. She dragged him to each and every game and ride she could find. By the time the bands were warming up, she was curled up in his arms fast asleep.

“Edward, I really should get her home and into her􏰀”

I didn’t get to finish my sentence, as Esme walked up from behind me and came around, quietly taking Jessica from Edward’s arms.

“Let me take my grandbaby, you kids go watch the band.”

I wanted to argue, remind her that Jessica was my responsibility, but Tanya’s words came to mind􏰀

You’ve never seen Esme get worked up, and trust me, you don’t want to􏰀

I chose to smile and thank her instead. Edward took my hand, and I promised Esme I would be by her house the second the fair was over.

“No, you won’t. You’ll enjoy yourselves tonight and let me have a sleepover with my grandbabies.”

I thanked her and kissed both Esme and Jessica’s cheeks. I watched with a heavy heart as Esme and Carlisle walked away, my little miracle asleep in her arms.

“She’ll be fine, she raised me after all.”

I looked at Edward and then let my eyes go wide as I pretended to run after Esme.

“I have to get her then. I know for certain she let you chew on lead paint chips.”

Edward was quick to grab me around the waist and place his mouth to my ear, “I’ll show you just how well I can chew.”

His words and the feel of his skin ignited a fire in me that I had never felt. His fingers found mine as he led me toward the stage, his devilish smile holding a promise I wanted him to keep.

The first band we listened to was composed of several members of the town. I recognized Mr. Cheney, Ben’s dad, as the drummer, and my postman was on the keyboard. I didn’t recognize the lead singer, but I heard from the people around me that he owned the local bar, thus the reason I had never met him. They played several songs I knew my father had played when I was younger. Listening to them brought back memories of when I was a little girl, and my dad would dance with me in our living room. I tried not to think of the reality that Jessica wouldn’t have a daddy to let her stand on his feet and

dance and giggle.
“What has you so far away, beautiful?”

I quickly turned to find his face close to mine. “Just remembering the last time I heard this song.”

His lips gently touched my forehead. “I take it that was a good memory?”

I smile and nodded my head. “It was a great memory, actually.”

We continued to listen to the band, wrapped in each other’s arms. The last song they played, the lead singer announced that his daughter would be singing. A very young and healthy looking girl made her way to the stage. The guy behind us made a rude comment about how big her behind was, but the couple to his left quickly told him where to shove his comment.

The keyboard player began to play the opening notes to Nora Jones’s song, Come Away with Me. I closed my eyes and smiled, as the young girl sounded very similar to Nora. She had barely sung the next verse when Edward grabbed my hand and stood up with me. He never once asked me to dance; he simply took my hand in his and began to sway with me. As cliché as it sounded, in the moment I looked into his eyes, the crowd faded away. I could feel nothing except for him gently breathing across my cheek. The only thing I could hear was the sound of him humming the song. As foreign and new as this feeling was, I couldn’t get enough. I wanted to

stand here until my legs gave out, wrapped in his arms and secured by the smell of his amazing scent. Edward had other ideas as he pulled my head back and kissed me.

“Come with me,” were the only words spoken as he guided me towards where he had parked his car. In this moment, I knew I would follow him anywhere.

It was still dark outside when I woke from my slumber. It took me several minutes to gather my thoughts and remember where I was. The warm leg that was resting between mine gave me all the confirmation I needed that last night had really happened.

Edward never said a single word to me as he drove directly to his house. Once the garage door was securely closed, Edward again took my hand and led me into his home. The lights were off as I heard his keys hit the hard countertop. Without pause, he took my face in his hands and captured my lips with his. It was raw and urgent, and I wanted this.

“If you tell me this is too soon, I’ll completely understand.”

His lips were now placing open-mouthed kisses on my collarbone, his hands and lips causing me so much pleasure I couldn’t make myself respond.

“Bella, tell me you want me as much as I want you, but dear god, if you don’t, please stop me now.” He pulled away to look into my eyes, keeping his hands on either side of my face.

“Has anyone ever told you that you talk to fucking much?” My brash words surprised even me. I was never one to verbalize my wants or desires. Mike had always just kissed me a few times and then jumped on for the ride. I had always assumed he was doing what every other man did. Edward, however, was not just any other man. I gasped as he knelt down and placed me over his shoulder then sprinted up the stairs. Once in his room, he slowly placed me back on my feet and then resumed his kisses he had started downstairs. I was so overwhelmed by his passionate kisses that I didn’t realize we had moved across the room and now stood by his bed.

Just the feel of Edward’s fingers as he began to unbutton my shirt was enough to cause my first orgasm. The pressure he was creating in my lower region was something I had read about, yet had never experienced. I shivered slightly as my shirt fell from my shoulders and landed on the floor.

“Don’t worry, babe, I’ll warm you up,” his wonton voice nearly did me in. My shivering had nothing to do with the temperature of the room. It was my body’s reaction to Edward’s skilled actions. He broke away from his kissing of my neck long enough to raise his hands above his head and tug at the top of his t-shirt. As we stood with bare torsos touching, Edward cupped my cheek as he began to lower me to the mattress.

“The first time I saw you, I knew I had to get closer to you.” I didn’t need to say anything back. Edward was speaking his thoughts to me, letting me inside his head. “When you turned me down time after time, it made me want to be with you that much more.” His fingers made quick work of the button of my

shorts. “I watched as you treated everyone with such kindness and grace.”

His fingers came in contact with my heated and embarrassingly wet core. I jumped at the sensation as he continued to explore my folds.

“When you stood in those tiny panties on your deck, you have no idea what you did to me that day.” His fingers stopped as he began to kiss me lower and lower. “Then I watched as you stood beside Jessica’s bed, and I let my mind wander to a time where it was our baby you watched over.”

My eyes shot wide open as I realized where his mouth was going. I had no issues with his words, but the thought of having Edward’s mouth in such an intimate area suddenly had me panicking. Mike had always commented on how disgusting the act was. How pussy had a rancid smell that was so unpleasant, he would never put his mouth anywhere near it. He never had a problem with me sucking him off, but it was something he refused to do in return.

“E-Ed-Edward,” my voice was a little louder than it needed to be. But I had to stop him before he discovered for himself the unpleasant smell.

His face came back up to mine, and he placed gentle kisses along my cheek. “Don’t worry; I’m far from done with you yet.”

He smiled as he tried to again descend. However, I grabbed his shoulders and brought his face back to mine. “Edward,

you can’t be serious.”

His smile was now gone as he shifted his head back to look into my eyes. “Do you not􏰀did I􏰀?”

I quickly placed my hand against his face. “No, Edward, I want you, so much.” His head turned to the right slightly, his confusion clearly written on his face. “It’s not you, Edward. I don’t want you to have to do that. I know it can be􏰀”

I couldn’t find the words to use. Edward was a doctor after all, and I was certain he had experienced firsthand some pretty awful smells. I just didn’t want my crotch to be one of them.

“Babe, if you don’t like having that done, I won’t do it,” he tried to resume kissing me.

“No, Edward, it’s just􏰀I know the odor down there can be…less than pleasant.”

His face took on the look of humor. “Wait,” he interrupted, placing his index finger against my lips, “Let me guess, Mike didn’t like going south of the border. No one has ever done this to you, have they?”

I found the hair that rested on the top of his ear very interesting. “No, he told me he couldn’t get past the smell, and the thought of having his mouth anywhere near it was enough to make him sick.”

Edward lowered his head and began to kiss my face very gently.

“Just when I thought he couldn’t have been more of a complete moron, he proves me wrong.”

I couldn’t help myself as I let out a laugh.

“First he gives you up, and then denies that amazing little girl. Now to find out he completely ignored the opportunity to make you scream his name. Oh, well􏰀his stupidity is my delight.”

I didn’t have time to react as he quickly pounced, his body landing between my legs, his hands holding my legs apart as his tongue ran from my slit to my clit. I had no control of the scream that escaped my lips as I arched my back. The feeling of his tongue as he licked and sucked was enough to drive me mad. With my hands fisting the sheets and my head going from side to side, I swear to god I saw heaven. He knew what he was doing, and he showed his skills as he slid two fingers inside me, hooking them as his lips and tongue continued to attack my swollen clit. I didn’t know how many times he hit that spot inside of me, but out of the blue, my body began to tremble, and I felt this overwhelming warming sensation fill my body. I couldn’t move or say anything as wave after glorious wave passed over me.

Edward’s mouth once again claimed mine, and his tongue was again invading my mouth. His tongue had a new flavor, it wasn’t a bad one, slightly tangy, and there was no real smell. I felt my chin slide against his, as he hadn’t wiped my orgasm

from his face. If it didn’t bother Edward, then I wouldn’t let it bother me.

His very talented mouth was now completely wrapped around my left nipple as his teeth made tiny nips. My hands fisted in his hair as I tried to get him closer. I could again feel that warm sensation begin to build in my pelvis. As he switched to the other nipple, I cried out his name and felt the wetness increase between my legs.

“That’s it, pretty girl.”

His fingers were once again rubbing up and down my folds as his face was buried in my neck. I could feel the head of his penis waiting to enter me. I wanted this so badly. With what he was able to do with just his fingers and tongue, I couldn’t wait to see what this appendage was able to do.

He gently slid the head between my folds and then slowly pulled back only to repeat the process several times.

“Oh, Bella, you feel better than I ever imagined.” With his tender words, he slid into me, filling me completely. The sensation of having him resting inside me caused me to wrap my legs around his waist.

“Uunnnn,” was the most coherent thing that came out of mouth. His thrusts increased as his breathing became labored. My hands ran up and down his sweat-slicked back. Again, that warm sensation began to build, as my pelvis met his every thrust. His movements began to become random,

and his breathing was more grunt-like. I worried briefly that he would finish before I did. However, this wasn’t the case, as it hit me completely out of left field and I came hard.

Edward’s body began to shake as his thrusting slowly stilled. He laid his body weight completely on me, and I welcomed it.

“I’m so sorry,” his words were barely a whisper.

“Why are you sorry?” I quickly questioned, I knew he didn’t regret what had just happened.

“It’s been a long time, but I wanted to last longer, make it better for you.”

I ran my fingers through his wet hair as I chuckled, “Then I’m sorry, too.”

He quickly lifted his head and looked into my face, the light from the moon illuminating his features.

“You gave me multiple orgasms, I only gave you one.”

We both chuckled as he rolled off my sweaty body. “Oh, but the night is still young, love.”

He’d made good on his word, as we loved each other deep into the night. I was so lost in my memory of the way his body felt against mine that I was startled when his hand cupped my breast, and then he slid his erection between my folds from behind. It wasn’t the first time we had been in this particular position. I prayed it wouldn’t be the last.

Edward’s fingers ran down my arms, caressing my stomach and finally my clit. “Um, you like my mouth there, don’t you?”

I turned my face and captured Edward’s lips with mine. He picked up his pace as my hands wrapped in his hair, pulling as his fingers increased in speed and pressure. He knew just how to make my body sing for him. Regardless of the amount of time we had been intimate, he knew without question what I needed to reach my release. I tugged a little hard as my orgasm filled my body, and he joked that he had a bald spot now. He placed his fingers on my shoulder and made long strokes on my back and collarbone. The sensation of his soft fingers was gentle enough to put me to sleep.

The sun was bright when I woke. I shot up in the bed as I remembered I needed to pick up my daughter.

“Just where do you think you’re going?” Edward stood naked as the day he was born, holding two cups of coffee.

“Shit, it has to be after noon, and I have to get Jessica.” I had tossed the sheet back and stood up from the bed.

“Hold on now, beautiful,” he walked to my side of the bed, blocking my hunt for my clothes, “Kiss first.” His lips were puckered and waiting, and so I eagerly complied. “Coffee second,” he handed me the steaming cup. “And third, look at the video message I got an hour ago that has Jessica putting hot pink curlers in my father’s hair.”

I nearly choked on my coffee as I watched Jessica and Lily

playing dress up with Carlisle. The look on his face was of complete joy.

“He looks so happy, Edward,” I grinned, my finger tracing the picture on the screen.

“He has every reason to be happy.” Edward placed the phone on the nightstand and wrapped me in his arms. “He’s married to the woman of his dreams, and is surrounded by two of the most beautiful little girls in this world. He has a job he loves and a family that adores him. He has it all.”

I looked into Edward’s eyes. Was he simply stating fact or revealing his deepest desires? Something told me it was the latter. Something inside me prayed I was right.

Thanks to everyone who held on while we took a little break. My beta Dollybigmomma had some personal issues going on and we needed to give her time to heal.

Don’t forget that you can find photos for this and every chapter on our facebook page.

groups/ 434894866569951/ (just remove the dashes)

19. Chapter 19

Let me start by saying a big thank you to my beta, dollybigmomma. She had to retire from the beta business due to some personal reasons. She will be forever in my gratitude, she took me by the hand and smacked me around and helped me to bring my ideas to life. She encouraged me when some reviews were caulis and mean. Hell, Shamrocks would still be running around in my head of it wasn’t for her encouragement. I will never forget you girl.

Now we have my new friend, and beta Kim. She has already picked me up and dusted me off. For without her, this would be my last fiction. Now, I have several in the works and I am again excited to be writing.

Enjoy!

I managed to avoid having anyone know about my birthday. I told my father that if he told a single soul that he would regret ever opening his mouth. He and Jessica gave me a very pretty heart pendant. Jessica and I had a tea party and that was enough for me.

I agreed to let Esme throw Jessica her third birthday party. I gave her a modest budget and asked her to please stay within its limits. But as I look around her back yard today, I

have no doubts that request fell on deaf ears.

Edward told everyone how much Jessica loved the midway, so Esme created a special midway just for Jessica. There were pony rides, cotton candy machines, a petting zoo, water rides and even circus performers walking around. It was no surprise to find Jessica perched on Edward’s shoulders as she pointed to each place she wanted to go.

“It’s enough to make your heart melt isn’t it?” Rosalie’s soft voice stirred me from my observations. “It is; he is so good with kids.”
“Good thing he’s a pediatrician then huh?”
We both laughed at her teasing tone.

“No, in all honesty, Uncle Edward is a god around here. He always gets the perfect gifts and he treats each of our kids like they are his best friend. He is never too busy for them.”

I only smiled as I watched Lilly and Jessica play ring around the rosy with Edward and Emmett. To see two grown men dance around in a circle while they held the tiny hands of two little girls. Then it hit me.

“Ohhhh􏰀.I have seen that look.” Rose nudged my arm as she began to laugh

“What are you talking about?” I looked at her in shock.

“You my love, have the exact same look I have when I see my husband on the floor with our kids. You are in love with Edward.”

Her words were clear and honest causing me to question my own feelings.

“I think you have gotten that bleach you use on that hair of yours too close to your brain.”

“Nice try sister, my hair is naturally this color.”

I rolled my eyes at her as she continued to look at the two men.

Could I have progressed to loving Edward? Could I ever love any man?

Esme rolled out the largest cake I have ever seen. It was of a castle with what looked to be a carnival going on in the court yard. Lilly and Jessica held hands as they walked closer to the table that held the cake.

I nearly cried when Edward picked Jessica up and placed her on a step stool so that she could reach her candles. Lilly pulled on Emmett’s shirt until he helped her to stand beside Jessica. Lilly then leaned into Jessica’s ear and cupped her tiny hands around her ear and whispered something.

“I have to tell or he won’t know.” Jessica shouted at Lilly. “But if you tell, it won’t come true.”

Esme quickly intercede and huddled the girls together. She quietly asked them what was going on and Lilly whispered in her ear as well. The look on Esme’s face was of joy and delight.

“Well Jessica, go ahead and make that wish, the birthday fairy may just be listening.”

She then looked to me and winked. Jessica took a deep breath in and then quickly blew out her candles, everyone clapped and the two girls jumped down and ran off toward the ponies. I watched as Jasper took both of the girls and hoisted them together on a brown pony.

“Do I want to know what that argument was about?” I questioned Esme who was cutting the cake.

“That is between me and my granddaughters.” Her smile was devilish.

I chose not to question any further.

Once the party was wearing down and Jessica had opened all of her presents, Jasper asked if I would be willing to host a family night at my house. He explained that the Cullens used to have them at least once a month, but since Edward spends nearly every waking moment with Jessica and me, they haven’t been able to have one. I quickly agreed and the plan was set in motion.

That following Monday, I received a phone call from the library

director in Portland. He had read all of the articles that had ran around the country and wanted to meet with me personally. He stated that the board in his town was willing to double whatever Forks were currently paying me if I would come to work for him.

“Mr. Meyers, I am flattered by the offer, but I assure you I am perfectly happy here in Forks.”

“Yes well, things do change and I will not accept an answer today. Sleep on it and call me in a month.”

He didn’t give me an opportunity to refuse him as he ended the call. I smiled and returned to my work, leaving Forks wasn’t an option for me, end of discussion.

Saturday morning I woke up and just knew I should have stayed in bed. First, I managed to get my period in the middle of the night. It was much heavier than normal, but I contributed it to a change in birth control. After I moved to Forks, my new insurance didn’t cover the one I used in New York. I refused to see Carlisle, so I drove to Port Angeles and saw a physician that was on my insurance. My body just did not like the new pill and I planned to talk with the doctor next week.

Second, the toilet in my bathroom decided to back up and I had to spend nearly an hour fixing that. Just when I thought things would get better, I managed to break the carafe to my coffee maker. I tried several times to clean my house only to have Jessica screaming at the top of her lungs that she

wanted to be held by me. By the time everyone arrived for the family night, I was nearly in tears. Bless Edward’s heart who took Jessica and the rest of the children outside so I could get a shower.

Family game night was nothing short of an amazing good time. We geared the games down so that the kids could play right alongside. Emmett hooked up the game system to the television and all the guys played dance party with the kids, I managed to get some of that on my phone. The last game we played was candy land. We were trying to settle the little ones down so that we could put them to bed. Jessica was setting on Edward’s lap and Lilly was beside her on Jasper’s lap. All night long they seem to have an ongoing whisper session. Alice got on to them several times but they continued. Jessica had just made her move on the board game when Lilly began to shout.

“Daddy tell Jessica that if Uncle Edward is her daddy than he can’t be her Uncle anymore.”

It was just like the scene in the movie where the record scratches and everything gets quiet.

Jasper turned Lilly around in his lap; she was visibly upset as was Jessica.

“Baby, where did you hear this?” Jasper’s soft tone tried comforting his daughter.

“It’s true daddy. You can’t be both.”

I looked at Edward who was hugging Jessica tightly in his arms, whispering something into her ear.

“Lillian Ann Whitlock, tell daddy where you heard that?”

Lilly reached up and whispered into her daddy’s ear. Jasper only smiled as he leaned over to Edward and whispered into his ear. Suddenly, Lilly became very upset and began hitting Jasper’s chest.

“Don’t tell him daddy, then her wish won’t come true.” She began to cry as she shouted.

Edward locked eyes with me. I knew without him telling what had just happened. Jessica’s birthday wish was to have Edward be her daddy. Part of me wanted to run over to him and beg him to say yes to her and another part of me wanted to drag my daughter out of his arms and run away with her.

The ringing of my doorbell saved me from doing either. Jasper took Lilly into my bedroom as I turned and went to open the door. My only hope was that Bree wouldn’t be standing on the other side of it. It would be just like her to show up in the middle of all of this. However, I would take Bree a thousand times over if it would erase who was really standing outside of my house.

“Mom?”

There in all of her glory stood my mother. The woman who betrayed me and my father. Who took my daughter’s father

away and caused my world to crumble. Just when life could get no worse, I noticed Mike wrapped his arm around her waist.

My mother’s instinct kicked in as I shouted for Esme. I tried to slam the front door but my mother was already two steps in. Esme was beside me quicker than humanly possible.

“Esme, take my baby and go to your house. I don’t want her anywhere near this poison.”

“Isabella, really?” My mother began to reprimand me.
“NO!” I shouted, sticking my entire body only inches from her.

“You don’t get to come in to my house, for any reason! Do you understand me?” My voice entirely too loud and I could see saliva being shot from my lips, landing on her perfectly made up face.

“Isabella, calm down.” She again tried to reprimand me as she attempted to walk around me.

“Fuck you!” I shouted as I went to stand in front of her again.

“Bella?” Mike’s voice now caught my attention. I turned to him with nothing but hatred in my eyes.

“I know you’re angry, but please, she’s pregnant.”

His words were like ice water on my anger. My mother was pregnant and standing in my living room.

“Hello, I’m Renee, Bella’s mother.” She was standing in front of an open mouth Edward. “And your name handsome?”

I wasn’t the least bit surprised at Renée’s flirting, but what I was floored by; was the way Edward was looking her up and down. He was clearly checking her out. My anger began to boil again. This couldn’t be happening. Again. She deliberately went behind my back and carried on an affair with Mike. Now she was turning the head of Edward, the man I had started to love, the man I had given my body to, the man I had trusted.

“Ok, how about everyone just take a step back and let’s calm down.” Carlisle’s calm voice broke the tension. I watched as he motioned for Renee to sit on the sofa. I stayed firmly placed in the entry hall. I didn’t want her in this house. I didn’t want him in the same state as me and my daughter.

“Now, why don’t we find out why your mother􏰀”

I didn’t let him finish. “She isn’t my mother.” I clipped.

“Oh, Isabella􏰀”

“NO! You stopped being my mother the day you decided to crawl into bed with my boyfriend!” I shouted at her.

I looked again at Edward, his eyes fixed on my mother, her obviously surgically enhanced breast. I began to shake with anger. I wouldn’t let this happen again.

“Fine, Bella. Renee why are you here?” Carlisle was still trying

to calm things down. Little did he know it wasn’t Renée’s presence that was causing my blood to boil. It was watching Edward devoir her body.

“Well…”

I watched as Renee batted her perfectly sculpted eyelashes; her shoulder length hair resting on her designer shirt. She had changed her hair, highlighting and growing it into a different style. Her thin legs crossed at the knee with her salon enhanced finger nails running up and down her thigh.

“Mike read the article where my Bella came to this little town and turned it all around.”

I couldn’t speak. That stupid article had done nothing but cause me trouble. First, with the new job offer and now with Renee and Mike showing up.

“Now, that we are here, I see why she has stuck around.” She nibbled on her bottom lip as she looked directly at Edward.

“Get out!” My voice quaking with emotion. “Bella?” Carlisle questioned.

“I said get out!” My voice slightly higher and filled with emotion.

“Oh Belly, let’s catch up.” My mother suggested as she licked her lips and kept her gaze on Edward.

My eyes flickered back to Edward, his eyes still locked on Renee. I could see Rose and Alice in the dining room, picking up board game pieces.

“Leave it!” I shouted at them. Rose’s eyes were huge like saucers. Alice paid me no attention she kept putting the pieces away.

“I said, leave it!” I shouted in anger, stomping toward the table tossing the board games to the floor to prove my point.

“Now everyone get the hell out!” My voice ricka -shaying off the walls. With both of my hands in my hair, I closed my eyes and felt my heart pounding in my head.

“Babe?” Edward’s soft voice spoke from behind me. I was too angry. Too angry at him, at my mother, at everyone.

I spun around to face him. “You need to leave.” My eyes locked with his, furry in my voice.

“Bella􏰀” He tried again, placing his hands on my shoulders.

Throwing his hands off me, I again shouted at him and pointed at the door. “I said leave!”

Edward squared his shoulders. He was challenging me; he chose the wrong day to do this.

“Bella, they’re gone. Let’s sit down and 􏰀”
I didn’t let him finish, “You need to get the hell out of my house

and out of my life, do you understand me?”

The look on his face was of confusion and sadness. “Bella􏰀?”

“I said get out!􏰀..Get out now before I call the police and have you removed!”

The entire town tried to tell me what a great guy Edward was. How he was a genuine guy, with moral and character. Give him a chance they all told me. He was just like Mike. I had watched him undressing my mother, fantasizing how she would feel under him. Oh, how I regretted giving into him. He was just like all the other men in this world.

“Just tell me what I did and I swear I will leave.”

I wanted to hit him. Make him hurt as much as I was. How dare he ask me what he did, he knew damn good and well what he did.

“You know you really had me fooled.”

I walked around him to get my shoes from the corner of the room.

“You had the whole town singing your praises, the great Dr. Cullen that would never do anything wrong.”

Angry tears began to fall as I tied my shoes.
“Little did they know that all it would take was a grown ass

woman flirting, with her fake assed tits hanging out at him screaming suck me! Suck me!”

I stood up straight, his mouth wide open, shock written all over his face.

“You know what really gets me about the whole situation?”

It wasn’t a question and I didn’t give him enough time to answer.

“Jessica actually wasted a birthday wish for a daddy on you. A man who is no different than the one who gave her half of his DNA.”

I grabbed my jacket and keys, ready to head to Esme’s house. I was going to get my daughter back and have nothing further to do with this place.

“Wait􏰀you think􏰀”

He began to talk to me in an angry tone, but I wasn’t having it. I was finished with him.

“You don’t get to talk to me. You gave up that right when you started salivating over my mother.”

“Shut up Bella!…Goddamn it!” His voice was so loud and sharp that it made me jump.

“I don’t know what kind of crazy illusion you have going through your brain right now, but I was not ogling your

mother.”
I lifted my index finger to speak but he grabbed it.

“No, you got to say what you wanted to say and now it is my turn. The only reason I was looking at your mother was the fact that she has surgery scars that a blind man wouldn’t even leave behind. Her surgeon is an idiot. I find your mother to be overly made up and fake.”

My anger slowly dissolving.

“But what you just said about Jessica?…That􏰀..that is􏰀 ugh􏰀..is that how you really feel?” His hand in his hair now, his eyes shinny like glass.

The silence was deafening as we glared at each other.

“You are a real piece of work Ms. Swan. Go ahead and put your wall back up. Hate me, hate all men. But tell me this, what happens when your hatred for men begins to poison Jessica? What will you do when she sabotages every relationship she ever has? Will you finally be happy then? Or will you be sad and alone, with no one to love you.”

Edward began to walk toward the door, his anger clearly leaving him as well.

“As for Jessica wasting a wish on me?…Well then we are even; because I wasted one on the both of you. I wished that you two would love me as much as I love you.”

With his final words like nails in my coffin, he slammed the door.

I was completely out of steam as my body slumped to the floor, tears coming in waves and my body jerking with sobs. He was right. I was going to poison my daughter with my fear of getting hurt.

Esme tried very hard to get me to stay the night with her. She said that Edward had phoned and spoke with Carlisle. Seems there was a medical conference that Carlisle had lost a bet and had to attend. Edward volunteered to go for him. Even if I wanted to apologize, he had left a few minutes ago. I thanked Esme and headed home.

“Mommy, is Edward gone because he heard about my wish?” Jessica and I were cuddled up in my bed. I didn’t have the strength to do much that day.

“No, baby􏰀..Edward and mommy just had a fight and he needs a time out. He loves you my sunshine.”

“Auntie Rose said that if you are mad at someone you should say you’re sorry.”

Oh, how I wish this was that easy.
“Rose is right, honey. You should always say you’re sorry.”

I planned to do just that. Tell him I was sorry. I tried all week to call him, but his phone always went to voice mail. Maybe he

just didn’t want to hear from me.

It was Saturday afternoon, a week since the great blow out. I spoke with my father who told me that my mother and Mike had stopped by their house as well. Dad said that Sue wouldn’t let them even stand on the porch. They told Charlie the same story about wanting to congratulate me on my success. Sue called their bluff and that is when the true reason came out. It seems my mother has bled Mike dry in the finance department. She managed to get him fired from his last job due to her, “Messing around,” with his coworkers. They had come to Forks, not looking to see me to congratulate me, but to beg for money. They assumed I was getting tons of money from the city for putting them on the map.

As for Renée’s pregnancy, they had a couple in Chicago that would be receiving the baby once it was born; clearly the baby was not Mikes. Renee had made a comment about me not being able to satisfy a man so that his eyes would wonder, however, Mike reminded her of Heidi, a girl back in New York that was caring for his son. Dad said Sue threw them off the property when they began to argue about Mike’s relationship.

Whispers surrounded me at every turn this week. What people didn’t know about the story of what really happened, made things up. By Friday night I was ready to crawl in a hole and never come out.

“Bella, these bushes are going to be a beautiful red come

spring.”

Esme had come over this morning with her trunk full of new plants to fill the flower beds.

“I’m just glad they take care of themselves.”

Esme turned to me, a look about her face.

“Bella, plants are much like people. They need a good place to grow and live. They need water and food. But most of all, they need someone to love them and take care of them.”

I hung my head and prayed the tears would stay away.

“I messed things up so bad Esme. He won’t even take my calls.”

Esme wrapped me in her arms, her gloved hands brushing fresh dirt on my shirt.

“Oh honey, you both said things that you didn’t mean and that were in anger. You just need to talk with him. I happen to know that Carlisle dropped him off at his house an hour ago.”

I pulled back away from her, the smile that now decorated her face.

“Go on Bella, go get him. Tell him you love him and that you are sorry. Trust me, he will forgive you.”

I quickly thanked her and then grabbed Jessica and put her in

her car seat. I didn’t have to beg Sue very long to watch her as I dropped her off at my father’s house. It was nearly dark when I pulled up to his house. His garage door was wide open and there was a black Mercedes in the drive way behind Edwards’s car. Carlisle must still be here. I quickly checked my face in my visor and then climbed out of my car and made my way to the front door. The lights from the living room cast light on the side walk where the big picture window sat. I smiled as I remembered Edward talking about the big Christmas tree he wanted to have setting there. I glanced up to look into that window when what I saw there took my breath away.

Standing in a lover’s embrace was Bree and Edward, kissing. I quickly ran back to my car and tore out of the drive way. I was too late. He had moved on.

STOP!

Before you get all gangster on me, put down the fire ball and listen. We have to have a bump in the road. Now those of you who have been with me for a while know that I believe in HEA. So I only want to hear that you are angry with characters, not angry with me. Stay with me, you will be glad you did.

Bella POV

20. Chapter 20

I never told a soul what I had witnessed that night. When I pulled back into my driveway, Esme was getting ready to leave. I lied and told her that I had time to think on my way over to Edward’s house and decided not to surprise him. I would call him when he had a chance to rest from his trip. I asked her to keep my attempt to see him between the two of us. I didn’t want the rumor mill to get any new gossip. She hugged me and agreed.

That night I sat in the middle of my bed and cried. I let myself completely break down. When the sun rose the next morning, I decided it was time to pick myself up and carry on. Edward was just a man, made of flesh and blood just like the rest of us. Someday he would be just a bump in the road that had jarred my senses. I had far too many people counting on me; the most important was a little girl who would be sad that her Edward was gone.

Monday morning I dropped Jessica off at day care, not a single word was said about Edward being back in town. Perhaps they all knew about him and Bree. I threw myself into my work for the rest of the week. I even took work home so that I didn’t have to think about what they were doing in that

big house of his. I had to stop at the market mid week to get a few items. The rumor mill was alive and well as ladies pointed and whispered, clearly everyone knew that Bree had secured her desire to have a Cullen.

I faked a smile and ignore the pitiful look, said hello and then promptly left. On Friday I wanted to give my staff a little thank you for all of their hard work so I decided to buy lunch for them. I pulled into the local pizza restaurant and just as I was reaching for my purse I noticed Bree sitting in a booth by the window. She was flipping her hair over her shoulder and laughing at what the waiter was saying to her. The last thing I wanted was to see through her gloating about her kiss with Edward. With lunch quickly forgotten, I started my car and drove back to my office.

That night, I was setting on my bed after I laid Jessica down to sleep. I was trying to come up with ideas for Christmas at the library. People are more focused on gift shopping then reading and I needed to change that. I had sent an email to one of my professors at Cornell asking if he had any suggestions. As I checked my email for his reply, I noticed I had something from the library in Portland. I opened the email and read that they were still interested in me working for them. They had increased their offer to paying for my move which included any fees I would have if I had a lease to break.

I thought back to the ladies gossiping about me in the grocery store. Did I want that for Jessica when she grew older? Did I want her to be the little girl on the playground that everyone talked bad about? How mothers would speak in hushed tones

about her poor mother who couldn’t even keep a man around long enough to solidify a relationship? How would I react to seeing their children? Edward had made it clear that he wanted a big family; could I handle looking at his children and watching him hold and kiss Bree?

With a big sigh and a wipe of my face to clear the tears, I responded to his email. I wanted to have an interview.

His response was quicker than I expected. By the time I woke up the next morning, I had hotel reservations and a detail map of how to get to the building. I called Charlie and asked if he and Sue could watch Jessica for a couple of days. I explained to him what my plans were and he told me that he understood. Next was a call to Angela, she was my second in charge and I knew she could handle it. I lied and told her I just needed to get out of town for a few days. She knew that I had taken the breakup hard and agreed with me that time away was a great idea.

Portland was a beautiful city. It was much larger than Forks and I could see many opportunities for Jessica and myself. When I arrived at the public library, you would have thought I was a celebrity. There were fresh flowers placed all around and all of the employees wore a uniform. I was greeted by an extremely handsome man, Alex Rio.

Alex was on the city council and owned several businesses here in Portland. His dark hair and bright blue eyes would cause any red blooded woman to swoon. He was taller than Edward, yet had the same mannerisms. Alex shook my hand

and tried to hold my gaze a little longer than socially acceptable. I politely removed my hand from his as he continued to stare at me.

“Ms. Swan, it is a pleasure to finally meet you. I have heard so many wonderful things about you. However, none of them included how extraordinary beautiful you are.”

His compliment should have made me blush but I just couldn’t take it for anything other than words.

“Thank you Mr. Rio.”

“Oh.”􏰀..he shook his head􏰀.Please, we are going to be together for the next two days, call me Alex.”

I smiled and nodded my head. I intentionally refrained from asking him to call me Bella.

As I sat at the elongated table that housed the entire board, I found that the library was running quite well. However, the former director had just passed away recently and they wanted someone who could work as hard. They didn’t expect many changes only to keep the ship sailing as Alex explained it. I was shown a lovely power point on every feature the building had to offer and then every benefit I would receive as director. It was all presented in one big beautiful box with a pretty pink bow on top. No one in their right mind would turn this job down. The salary was nearly three times what I was making in Forks. I would have nothing to build or clean or program to start. Simply set at the desk I would be given and

let the workers do what they already do.

“We have recently opened a child care room on the third floor, little Jessica would be welcomed to participate. When she is school age, Mr. Rio has assured her a place at Saint Anthony’s.”

Saint Anthony’s was explained to me as part of another power point that included the condo they had for me and Jessica. Saint Anthony’s was one of the top ten prep schools in the country. Children that graduated had a ninety-seven percent acceptance rate in the nation’s Ivy League schools. It was the perfect situation for Jessica and me.

“Ms. Swan, we don’t want to overwhelm you with any of this. We want you to take time and tour our fine city. Enjoy some of its cuisine and activities. Go back to Forks and give it some serious thought.”

Everyone smiled and shook my hand. I was told I would be taken to my hotel and to charge anything I wanted to the room. As I was escorted back down stairs, I noticed a limo waiting just outside the entrance doors.

“Ms. Swan, the board has arranged for your stay to be completely covered, however I would like to escort you to dinner this evening. I would like to have the opportunity to get to know you better perhaps?”

My mind wondered briefly to the memory of Edward and Bree kissing and then to the restaurant. He had moved on and

maybe, just maybe I could to.
Smiling I said, “Mr. Rio, I would really like that.”

Alex helped get me into the limo. He assured me that my car would be taken care of and that I wouldn’t need it for the rest of my stay. As the limo pulled away from the building, I noticed a park across the street. I could see several women sitting on benches as they watched their children play. They seemed happy here, could I be just as happy? As we continued down the street, the limo driver announced we were almost to Saint Anthony’s school. The turn of the century building stood majestically at the end of a large court yard. The tall iron gates that stood guard of the children, as many could be seen walking on the sidewalks. The intricate design of the metal workings looked to be as old as the building itself.

“My sister is a teacher there. She tells me that children go on the waiting list as soon as the pregnancy test is positive.”

I rested back in my seat as I pondered his words. According to Alex, Jessica would already have a place at this school. She would receive an amazing education and perhaps attend Cornell or even Yale. She certainly wouldn’t be the receiver of the poor-little-girl looks around here. No one knew or cared that Edward had moved on. They knew nothing about what we had both suffered at the hands of Renee and Mike. It would be a fresh start for both of us. We could hold our heads up high and not worry about what was being said behind our backs.

The hotel was beyond my wildest dreams. I should have expected it to be as grand as it was, considering how they have already pulled out all of the stops. I didn’t even need to check in as Alex was waiting to take me up to my room. The double door should have clued me into the grandeur of the suite. However, I will admit to having my breath taken away. The large French doors had to be twelve feet tall. They opened to what looked to be a roof top balcony. There were massive curtains that housed the equally vibrant windows in the room. What looked to be a sitting room was beautifully decorated in creams and tans. To the left was another set of massive doors and sitting just beyond them was a King size bed, covered with fine linens and inviting pillows.

“Ms. Swan, I know the hotel has some very amazing restaurants, however, I would like to take you into the city. Sample some of the places I love.”

I turned around to face Alex; his body standing in his dark suit with a blue tie and matching shirt. As I looked at the black and white photograph of the hotel that hung on the wall, I asked myself one question. What did I have to lose by agreeing to dinner with him?

“I’d actually like to see the city.”

The smile on his face grew. I knew he was reading more into this than I was willing to let happen. It was just dinner; I could allow myself that much.

“I’ll be back around six and pick you up. Dress casual, no

black ties needed where I plan to take you.”

I agreed to be ready as I closed the door behind Alex. It had been a long morning and I was a little tired from it all. Tomorrow I would see the condo they had for me and take a look around the area. I crossed the room and entered the door that housed the bed. I jumped onto the bed and threw my arms out to the side. I needed to talk with my munchkin. I needed to hear the sweetness of her voice.

My father’s phone rang three times before he finally picked up.

“Hello?”
“Hey dad, how is my baby?”

“Oh Bella, Sue and I are fine. I had toast for breakfast and Sue is making soup for dinner.”

I laughed at his banter. He always knew how to make me laugh.

“Sorry dad, long day.”
“Jess is fine. Sleeping at the moment.”
I paused briefly as a yawn of my own took over.
“Oh, sorry dad􏰀.It’s been a crazy day.”
“Bella, we have always been honest with each other haven’t

we?”

The tail-tail stinging behind my eyes started as I knew what was coming.

“Yes dad, we have.” I said quietly.

“You don’t have to tell me everything. I just want to make sure he didn’t physically hurt you.”

“No daddy􏰀.just broke my heart. It isn’t entirely his fault though.”

“That is usually the case.”

I took in a deep breath and told him the entire story. I left out nothing, down to seeing Bree in the restaurant that day.

“So are you really considering moving to Portland?”

I took in a deep breath and sat up on the bed.

“Dad, I would be a fool not to at least consider it.”

“Considering it is one thing, running to something to escape something is an entirely different story.”

“You think I’m running?”
“Don’t you?”
He was always good at making me look deep inside myself.

“I just want what’s best for Jessica.”

“Of course you do, but what if what’s best for her is to be surrounded by people who love and adore her?”

I had told him about the amazing schools here and the chance of a life time to go to an Ivy League school.

“Funny you say it like that, Bella. I seem to recall a certain young girl who attended public school, graduated from that public school and got her master’s from Cornell.”

He had me there.

“Furthermore, she worked so hard to get that degree even with a small baby to care for.”

He was right, I had worked hard. I had even sworn to myself that I wouldn’t let another man come between me and my dreams.

“Thank you, daddy.” “Anytime little girl, anytime.”

I’ll give Alex a brownie point for being punctual. At exactly six on the dot, he was knocking on my door.

“Don’t you look amazing?” His eyes roaming up and down my jean clad body.

“Thank you Alex. Are we ready to go?” I had my jacket and

purse in my hands, no need to give him a reason to come into my room.

“After you Ms Swan.”

Alex tried to place his hand on my lower back, I moved a bit to the left to add space between us. Regardless of my decision to move to Portland or not, I wasn’t about to get involved with anyone, no matter how charming and good looking they were.

Alex drove a Range Rover, it was all black and I doubt there was a single speck of dust to be found on it. He drove with his left hand on the steering wheel, only his wrist touching as he let his hand hang free. My father would have had his ass if he saw him driving that way with me in the car. We pulled on to a long street that had restaurants on each side. “Carlisle’s” was printed on the sign that hung over the door that we were slowly walking towards.

“Carlisle’s has been around since my father was a boy. They have the best food in here.”

As I listened to him, all I could think about was how Carlisle was the name of Edward’s father. Would I ever escape him?

Once inside the door, I noticed a line of people waiting to be seated. The restaurant was packed, yet Alex pushed his way to the front of the hostess stand.

“Virginia, my usual please.”

The skinny, red headed girl glanced at him and then smiled. She quickly picked up two menus and began to walk to the back of the overcrowded restaurant. No one stopped us or said hello, they just continued on with their conversations like we didn’t matter.

“I’ll send Cindy over shortly.” Virginia said as she set the menus on the table. Alex took his seat, never pulling out my chair for me. I became angry at myself as I was clearly comparing Alex to Edward. This would get me nowhere. They were two different men and I needed to accept who I was with tonight.

“Well, hello stranger.”

A very beautiful brown haired girl announced as I looked at the menu.

“I haven’t seen you in here in a while.” Her hand was resting on Alex’s arm; he did nothing to remove it or his arm. It was crystal clear they had or were having a relationship. I felt like a voyeur sitting here watching them.

Alex ordered a bottle of white wine for the table. I never cared for white wine so I quickly stopped the waitress.

“I’ll have iced tea please.”

The look she gave me was of disbelief. She turned to Alex who quickly nodded his head at her. This did not sit well with me.

“So Isabella, tell me something about yourself that isn’t on your resume.”

He was leaning over the table resting on his forearms.

“Well, I like to read.”

It was true and it wasn’t written anywhere on my resume.

“That’s a given, you’re a Librarian, something that makes you special.”

The way his lips dropped the word Librarian was the equivalent of a slap to the face. I was very proud of what I did.

“Sorry, Mr. Rios that is all you’ll get from me. We are here so that you can sell this city to me, not braiding each other’s hair.”

“Oh, but I think the city sells itself. We have a vast variety of parks, museums, restaurants and night clubs.”

“What about other types of clubs?”

His face broke out in a devilish grin and he leaned further into me.

“We have those kinds of clubs as well; I would be happy to introduce you if you would like.”

I pulled my body away; he assumed I meant sex clubs.

I couldn’t believe him. I shook my head, “No Mr. Rios, I’m talking about clubs for the children, keeping them busy afterschool and on the weekends. Clubs for our elderly to keep their minds active. With you being a member of the city council I just assumed you would know if these clubs existed.”

When dinner was finish, I reached into my purse and tossed down one hundred dollars.

“Oh Isabella, I asked you out on this date, your money is not welcomed here.”

I got the feeling that more than my money wouldn’t be welcomed here. By the way he just assumed he could order my drink and I would say nothing, or how he had arranged for my daughter to go to a particular school or even decide for me where I would live. Regardless of how great all of these things seemed; I had no part in the decision. I had no doubt that if I were to accept this position; my choices would continue to be taken away.

“Mr. Rio, tonight has been quite eye opening and you have managed to answer all of the questions I had left. I will be heading home in the morning and will let the board know of my decision.”

He grabbed my arm as I began to rise out of my chair.

“Ms. Swan, I had planned to take you to see your new home tomorrow. It has been all arranged with you in mind.”

I withdrew my hand from his grip. “You will excuse me, Mr. Rios; I do not wish to see a penthouse that you have chosen for me. Again I will let the board know of my decision.”

I didn’t wait for him to take me back to the hotel as I was lucky enough to have a cab dropping someone off just as I exited the doors. I gave the cab the name of the hotel and he managed to pull away before Alex could stop us. Once back in my hotel, I looked around and decided I had had enough of the smoke and mirrors of this place. I grabbed my suit case and checked out of the hotel. I arrived back in Forks in the wee hours of the morning and when I laid down in my bed the comfort of being home took me right into dream land.

The next morning, I woke up early with a new determination. I asked Dad if he could drop Jessica off at the daycare for me and he agreed. Angela was surprised to see me behind my desk when she opened the doors.

“I thought you would be out until Monday?”
I smiled at her and then turned back to my computer screen.

“Change of plans. I’ve been inspired and I wanted to get started.” It wasn’t a lie. When I found out the library in Portland offered child care, I began to think about the parents here in Forks that needed a little extra time during their holiday shopping.

I was drafting a proposal that would allow us to use several of the vacant rooms in the back. One for a place to hold children

as they played while two of the other rooms would hold crafters and bakers that wanted to share or sell their products. The parents could choose to leave their children if they wanted to shop in town as well. It would benefit everyone.

It was shortly before lunch when my boss returned with an answer. The board loved the idea. He suggested that instead of charging money for the child care, have the parents bring some non-perishable foods or an unwrapped toy to be given to local charity.

I was busy sending an email out to all the crafters I knew in town when a knock came to my office door. Angela opened the door carrying in a large bouquet of red roses mixed with calla lilies. I knew instantly it wasn’t from Edward. Angela sat them on my side board as I continued to type the email. The aroma they were sending off was amazing; however I didn’t want to admit who I feared they were from. Slowly I walked over and took out the card.

Ms. Swan,

My heart was heavy when I learned that you had left the hotel before I could give you a proper goodbye. I was looking forward to showing you all that Portland has to offer, however we will have time when you are here permanently. I look forward to assisting you in any need you may have.

With warm affection,

Alexander Rios

I laid the card down on my desk and opened my email once again. Portland had so many things to offer me. Not to mention that the salary they offered was quite nice. I quickly typed up my decision and hit send.

A/N

Thank you to my beta Kim for her super quick work and to Miss Holly who always find the perfect photo.

Next up is Edwards side of the story, again a thank you to my beta who encouraged me to write it.

Edward POV

21. Chapter 21

I hadn’t meant to tell her that I loved her for the first time this way. She deserved to be told while I touched her face and stared into her big brown eyes. I almost did the night we danced at the fair. Maybe if I had I wouldn’t be sitting on this airplane now, kicking myself for even stepping one foot out of her door tonight.

She thought I was lusting after her mother, which couldn’t be more from the truth. Sure I looked at her; you couldn’t help but do so. It’s like passing an accident on the side of the road; you just naturally turn your head. What Bella failed to see was the look in Mike’s eyes as he scanned her perfect body. He was a man full of regret. He chose to cheat on Bella and expected everything to turn out right. He signed away his rights to one of the most beautiful little girls on the planet.

Jessica􏰀..Oh how I wanted to hold her and tell her that daddy would make everything better. She had wished for me to be her daddy and she had no earthly idea how bad I longed to be just that. To marry her mother and move them into the house that I bought with them in mind. To have dozens of more children and eventually grandchildren. To set on that porch and hold Bella’s hand as we watched the sun come up

or go down. To carry her across the threshold and claim her as my wife.

The stewardess offers me her phone number as she hands me my drink. I don’t even smile as I hand it back to her. I plan to take this opportunity away to give Bella time to cool off. To see that we are perfect for each other. To give me time to erase her cutting words to me; she wasted a wish on you.

This conference would give me what I needed as well. I had originally won the toss up when the notice to attend first came. Carlisle had attended five years ago and said he learned and saw far more than he wanted to. The conference was designed to simulate a takeover. Once you got off the plane, you would be blind folded and taken to an unknown location. While there you would be treated like a hostage and then required to try to escape. There would be different challenges along the way and the company that runs it, makes it as real as possible. With no communication to the outside world, this would give me time to heal.

As I look out the window of the plane, the moon casting a wintery glow upon the clouds, they look more like a good blanket of snow than what they really are. My mind traveled back to the first time I laid eyes on her. She was walking out of my sister’s office as I pulled into the parking lot. Alice had been trying to set me up with the perfect girl for as long as I remember. During med school, I didn’t have time for dating. I had several opportunities, however, never went through with them. Once I graduated, my family began to nudge me in that direction. Unfortunately, the women in Forks were all the

same. They wanted bragging rights. They could care less what my likes and dislikes were about.

It didn’t take much to find out who she was and what she was doing here. I decided to feel her out, see what kind of woman she was. She blew me away with what I learned about her. She had a pure heart with compassion wrapped around it. She was what I had been waiting for. Not surprisingly she didn’t bend to me easy. My good looks and family name did nothing for her. She was strong and independent; she clearly stood on her own. I wanted her􏰀.bad!

With my week from hell over, I boarded the plane and headed home. I was ready to talk with Bella and work things out. She needed to know that I loved her more now than I did when she threw me out. My father picked me up from the airport. I asked about Bella and he told me about the rumors running around town. He also told me what Renee and Mike had said to Charlie.

“Can you just drop me off at her house then dad, I need to see her?”

“Not until you have had a shower and some rest. You forget, I did that same trip several years ago. Your mother made me burn the clothes I came home in.”

My father was right. I had been in the same clothes that I flew out in. I had managed to wash my face a couple of times using rain water, but I refused to risk any disease from bacteria that may be present in the rivers and streams. The

hum of my father’s car allowed me to fall asleep as soon as we hit the highway. He woke me as he pulled into my drive way.

“Go upstairs and take a long shower, followed by a dip in your hot tub. Order something to eat and have it delivered. Then when you feel human again, call Bella.”

My body screamed at me to take my father’s advice. I was so tired, now that sleep was the only thing I could really fathom. However, standing in the hot spray of my shower, my body began to relax and I could feel the waves of exhaustion begin to wash over me. This past week was more intense than even when I was doing my residency.

I had taken my father’s advice and called in a delivery from Pizza Palace. Mrs. Giovanni was a god send. She told me to just pay her the next time I saw her and that she would send her son Anthony over with my meal. I told her I would leave the garage door open for him and to leave it on the kitchen counter. As I wrapped my towel around my waist, I was salivating with the thoughts of her famous lasagna. I made my way down to my kitchen; the hairs on the back of my neck began to stand up. I attributed it to being on constant look out for the past week. As I rounded the corner of my living room, I switched on the light so that I wouldn’t stub my toes on the furniture. I learned the last time I was exhausted that this can happen quickly. What I found sitting in my living room however made me wish I would have stayed upstairs. Standing in her lab coat and nothing else was Bree Tanner.

“Hello sexy.” She purred at me.
What the􏰀.
“How in the hell did you get in here?
I reached down to ensure that my towel was still in place.

“Your calendar in the office had today as the day you returned. I just thought that after the falling out that you and Bella had you might want a little distraction.”

She swayed her hips in a manner that I assumed she thought I would approve. Honestly, it only made me nauseous. I refused to back away from her.

“Why do you think I would want to spend any time with you?”

I didn’t care if I hurt her feelings. Even if I fail at ironing things out with Bella, Bree would never warm my bed.

“I know how men work Edward.”
“Dr. Cullen; you have no right to use my name.”
She only rolled her eyes as she continued to move closer.

“I see how you look at me when you think I’m not looking. I’ve heard you say my name while you shower, touching yourself as you have thought about me.”

Bree was out of her mind. I had never thought about her while

in the shower or otherwise.

“You want me as much as I want you. Think about it Edward. You and me in this big house. Having the time of our lives as we travel the world. I would never try and trap you with a child that wasn’t yours.”

Before I could react to her statement, she leaped at me and slammed her mouth to mine. Her lips were too thin and her mouth too wet. It was like being kissed by a German Sheppard instead of a girl. I quickly pushed her body away from mine, holding her arms with my hands tightly. I picked her up and carried her out of the house, placing her bare feet on the ground.

“Darken my door again and I will have the sheriff arrest you for trespassing. I’m also calling my father and having you removed from our practice.”

I left her in the cooling night with only her lab coat on, quickly locking my doors and garage. I phoned my father and told him what had happened. He immediately banned her from going to the hospital and he was calling her school in the morning.

I found my dinner and quickly devoured it. I made certain my house was indeed locked as I set the alarm and crawled into bed. The ringing of my phone woke me from a sound sleep several hours later. The hospital needed me in surgery for an accident that had occurred in a remote town several miles from here. After seven hours in surgery, I climbed back into bed and slept for ten solid hours.

Thursday morning I awoke with a new determination. Today I was going by the library and getting things aired out with Bella. She had plenty of time to cool off and I was now rested and ready to talk. As I got into my car, my phone began to ring with my mother’s ring tone.

“Good morning, mom.”

“Good morning son, welcome back to the land of the living.”

I laughed right along with her.

“So what are your plans today, do you have time to share breakfast with your lonely mother?”

“Can I take a rain check? I really want to get over to the library and talk with Bella.”

I could hear her sigh as she started to speak. “You haven’t heard then?”

My heart was in my throat. What could have happened to Bella?

“Hear what mom, is she ok? Is Jessica sick again?”

“No, no they are both in good health. She is away in Portland. I spoke with her father last night and he said that she was taking a couple of days away. I asked if she was alright, but he said that when she was ready, she would tell the story on her own.

I turned my car around and headed toward my mother’s house. She had gone out of town, for reasons Charlie wasn’t giving out. This couldn’t be good. If she was only going on vacation then he would have said that. She must have a specific reason for going to Portland during the week. What I needed right now was a talk with my mother and her home cooking.

Visiting with my mother did little to ease my nerves. I needed to stop by the grocery store and get some food in my house. I was picking out some apples when I overheard Bella’s neighbor talking about her.

“I’m telling you, she was crying when she went inside that house. I bet you Dr. Cullen found out what her real intentions were.”

“Oh Mildred, Chief Swan’s daughter is as good as they come. And the last time I checked it wasn’t a sin to come home late at night.”

I wanted to be angry for upsetting Bella, but it wasn’t entirely my fault. We both said some things we both regretted.

The next morning while seeing patients, I received a phone call from Leah Clearwater.

“Dr. Cullen, do you remember when you sent Ms. Swan all of those bouquets?”

“Yes Leah, I remember.”

“Well I just had an order for a really large bouquet, even bigger than the one you sent her, only this time it is from an Alex Rio. Tell me Dr. Cullen; is that your stage name or something?”

I wanted to laugh at poor Leah; she seemed to live in her own world most of the time. It was a blessing really as her husband never hid his extra marital business from her.

“I am certain it is just a friend of Ms. Swan’s. Not to worry Leah.”

“So they aren’t from you then?” “Not this time Leah.”

I made it through the mountain of paperwork and patients by six. I had to check on the little boy I did surgery on and then I was damned and determined to get to the bottom of this. As I walked to the nurse’s desk to get my patient’s nurse to check his progress, I caught a conversation.

“I heard that she was seen at a fancy dinner in New York with an old boyfriend. I think it may have even been the father of that daughter of hers.”

“Well, I heard from my sister who delivered flowers to the library that a man named Alex Rio sent her roses. His credit card has an address of Portland. I bet that is where she was.”

“Well this Alex guy better get ready, I hear she is particular

about everything.”

That was the second time today that I had heard that name. I approached the desk as if I hadn’t heard anything. This town was the biggest rumor mill I have ever witnessed and I wouldn’t believe a word until it came from Bella’s lips.

Her house had several lights on. Her garage door was closed and I took that as a good sign. I parked my car and then walked quickly to her front door. I rang the doorbell and then waited. I took a deep breath as I could hear her turning the dead bolt. I watched as her eyes widened as she realized it was me. I swear she was even prettier than the last time I laid eyes on her.

“Bella, I would like to talk to you for a few minutes. There is something I need to tell you and I want you to hear it from me.”

I watched as her eyes became very sad. Her face was clearly tired and her body slumped slightly.

“Of course Edward, Please come in.”

Bella’s POV

22. Chapter 22

“I was just about to have a cup of tea. Can I get you anything?”

Edward looked so good standing there. I imagined him to be just like Sean Connery; age with charisma. Bree would be a lucky girl to wake up to him every morning.

“I’ll have whatever you’re having.”

I smiled as I turned and walked to the kitchen. How things had changed since the last time he was here. I was so sure about things that day. I was certain I would get my happy ever after.

“Is Jessica asleep?”

His voice was still the same, deep and manly. I would miss that at the end of the day􏰀middle of the night.

“Yes, she was having a really bad day, so I put her down early.”

Jessica had been having more and more days like that. Just all around cranky, throwing toys and crying at the drop of a hat. I knew it was because of the rift between Edward and

me. I hope the decision I made about Portland would help her.

Edward sat at the bar as I stirred both of our cups of tea. I had rehearsed this much needed conversation in my head a thousand times, however the only thing that came to mind right now was􏰀do it quick, rip off the band aid.

“I’m glad you came by, I have needed to talk with you.”

I could do this. I would give each of us the closure that we needed.

“First, I need to apologize to you for the very harsh and undeserved words that I spoke to you that night. You have been nothing but wonderful to me and to Jessica. She would be a very lucky little girl to have someone like you to call her daddy.”

Edward tried to interrupt.
“Please.” I lifted my hand and placed it on his warm one.

“Let me do this and when I am done, I will listen to anything you have to say.” I said softly.

I watched as his green eyes softened.

“I’m sorry for treating you like I should have been treating Mike and Renee. You and your family have been there for us and I thank you by screaming horrible insults at you. For that I am sorry. I will be formally apologizing to them as well”

I looked into his eyes as I said the words that fell without my input.

“Bella, I admit that I was angry at you for what you said. I didn’t understand where you were coming from when you accused me of checking out your mother.” I watched as his eyes danced as he leaned back into the bar stool.

“When I found out about Mike and my mother, I wasn’t just hurt. I was destroyed. It has never been a secret that my mom was an attractive woman. I just􏰀well􏰀. ”

The words so clear in my mind, my tongue having issues releasing them.

“Edward, I will always be there for Jessica. I will give up my own life for her. I would never dream of betraying her the way my mother did me. When I saw your eyes roaming all over her body, I just felt like it was happening all over again. She was trading Mike for you.”

He took in a deep breath and shook his head. I was about to question him when he spoke.

“I have to apologize to you as well.”
I gave him a questioning look.
“Please, I let you have your time.”
I gave him a small smile and nodded my head.

“I am sorry that I walked out of that door. I should have stayed and talked some sense into you. I should have called Charlie when they first came through the door and had them escorted off the property.”

I watched as he eyes fell to his hands, his breathing hand increased and he was clearly struggling with himself.

“Never once did I look at you mother with anything except pity. She will never get to do the normal things that mothers and daughters do. She will never know the love that comes from spending time with her granddaughter. I also looked at her with humor. She has no idea that she looked so sewn together.”

I looked to the kitchen counter for several minutes, absorbing his words that I knew were the truth. He was right, she would never be the one I called for a new recipe or advice on getting a stain out of an article of clothing. She would never watch Jessica open a Christmas gift or dance at a ballet recital.

“I’ve heard the rumors around town, I know you went to Portland and had dinner with a man named Alex Rio.”

I have no idea why I was the least bit surprised.
“I just want you to know that if he is what you want then􏰀”

He didn’t get to finish his sentence as a raspy voice interrupted.”

“Edward?”

Jessica stood in her little pink night gown, her favorite rabbit secured in her left arm.

“You came back.” She cleared the space between them in a second flat.

I watched as she held her arms out for him to pick her up. She then wrapped her tiny arms around his neck as she held on for dear life. Edward hugged her back and closed his eyes.

“I missed you Edward.”

Her tiny hand wiping her sleepy eyes as she snuggled into his chest.

“Jessica, honey you are supposed to be in bed little one.” I walked around the bar to take her out of his arms. It wasn’t fair to her to let her sit in his lap when he wouldn’t be back to comfort her again.

“Can Edward take me back?”

I looked into the innocent eyes of my daughter. I could give her this.

“You have to make sure Edward wants to.”

I looked to Edward with pleading eyes. Please don’t deny my baby.

“I would love to.”

He didn’t wait for her to ask, as he rose and began to walk toward her bedroom. I closed my eyes and tried so hard not to follow them. He needed to say goodbye to her. I just needed to protect her.

“Edward I didn’t want you to go away. I just want a daddy like Lilly. I’m sorry if that makes you sad.”

My heart clinched as her words were now out in the open. Edward stood with her still wrapped around his neck.

“Jess, it wasn’t your fault. Sometimes Mommies and Daddies say things to each other that they don’t mean. You never made me sad, only very happy.”

He kissed her sweet hair as he laid them both down on her bed.

“But just say you’re sorry and then you can be my daddy.”

Her tiny voice and her innocent thoughts; so simple yet nearly impossible.

“Jessica, I want so much to be your daddy.” His words meant to be a whisper but they were loud and clear. I wouldn’t let him do this to her. He couldn’t just say things like that to her and then go running off to Bree’s bed. I removed myself from the hall as I knew I had to end this now. I would put as many miles as possible between us.

“She’s back to sleep now.” His voice startled me. With my last ounce of courage I turned and began to speak.

“Edward, you should know that I am also well aware of the rumors running around town. However, I do know that the one of you and Bree being together is true.”

I watched as his face turn to shock. He opened his mouth to say something but I cut him off before he could interrupt.

“That night you came home from your medical conference, I went to your house. I saw you and Bree kissing and holding each other. I saw how you were nearly naked together and I was so hurt and upset that I turned around and left.” I tried to keep my voice from shaking, but I don’t think I succeeded.

The memory of her hands on his chest and his hands on her made my heart clinch and my chest tighten.

“I can’t allow you to have a personal relationship with Jessica when you are having a sexual one with Bree. It isn’t fair to Jess, it would confuse her and I can’t allow that.”

I could feel my maternal instinct raging through me.

His face turned from shock to something I couldn’t put my finger on.

“Tell me something Bella.” His eyes now deep green and his skin flushed.

“You say that you saw the two of us kissing, wrapped around

each other? Tell me, is that how I normally act around Bree? Am I friendly to her or do I act professional with her? Do we have lunch together or have I had her over for movie nights? Do I call her for no reason to just say hello?”

He was right of course. I lowered my eyes as I held back the tears that threatened to fall.

“Are the rumors true about you and Alex? Is he the new man in your life?”

He had no right to ask this of me.

“Did you think about me when you had dinner with him? When you held his hand across a table or when you took him back to your room and into your bed? Did you tell him you had a boyfriend back home and a little girl?”

His words were causing my anger to boil. Was he calling me a whore?

“Bella, he doesn’t even know you like I do. He sent you flowers for Christ sake and you hate getting flowers. Does he know that Jessica likes to have her back rubbed when you hold her or that her favorite bunny is named Albert? Does he know that she knows every word to the movie beauty and the beast?”

He began to walk closer to me, like a lion marking his territory.

“Does he know that you have a birthmark on the inside of your left thigh that looks like a comma? Or that your legs start to shake when you are about to come? Has he ever heard you say his name while you are sleeping in his arms?”

His face was so close to mine that I could feel his breath as he spoke each word.

“I am sorry for a lot of things that night, but I’m not sorry I told you I love you.”

His lips crashed into mine as my back was against the wall. This kiss was primal and raw. He was taking charge and clearly reminding me of the passion we once had. His tongue entering my mouth, he didn’t wait for permission as he thrust his tongue and pelvis at the same time.

“Tell me Bella, can he make you feel the way I do?”

His lips were back on mine as I gave up the fight and pulled him closer to me. If this was the last kiss I ever received from him, I wanted to remember it forever.

“I didn’t touch Bree.”

His words spoken into my neck as he nuzzled it. It was enough of a wakeup call to cause me to pull my head back. He slowly lowered my feet back to the ground.

“She got into my house because I left the door unlocked for the pizza guy. She threw herself at me and I then proceeded

to throw her out. ” “But􏰀.” I tried to protest.

“Phone my father if you don’t believe me. I called him immediately and had her banned from working with me. Would I do that if I wanted her?”

He had a point. Could it have happened as he said?

“But you never answered me about Alex. Did something happen with you? Are you moving to Portland?”

I raised my hand to touch his face. His lips were red and swollen from kissing. My anger now completely gone.

“Alex is a member of the city council of Portland. He took me to dinner to show me the city. Well, that is what he told me at first; however I got the impression that he wanted more from me. I left him sitting at the table and got back in my car and came here.”

His eyes searched mine as he took my face in both of his. “Tell me you believe me about Bree.”
My eyes never leaving his, “I believe you.”

My words barely left my lips as he crashed his into mine. My face still cradled in his large hands as he kissed me again with so much heart and passion.

“I love you Bella􏰀.I swear to god if we can get passed this, I will make you and Jessica so happy.”

He didn’t let me respond as he kissed me again. His hands were now everywhere and I wanted so badly to take his shirt off and take him here in my living room, but we needed to talk and to clear the air about things.

“Edward.” I was a panting mess, my voice low and raspy. He placed his forehead against mine, “I know􏰀.talk first.”

I made us each a new cup of tea and we sat at opposite ends of the couch. I needed this distance and I believed he did as well.

“Ok􏰀.so apparently the rumor mill made more out of this then there really was.” Edward had taken my foot in his hands and was massaging the balls of my feet.

“They seem to do that pretty regularly. They helped in making my decision to visit Portland.”

I hummed at the feeling of his fingers on my feet. I decided to return the favor as I reached for his sock clad foot and began to rub his as well.

“So I have to know, are you planning to move to Portland? Because if you are, I will move as well.”

His words floored me. He would give up his practice to be near me?

“Edward you can’t􏰀”

He gripped my foot tightly. “I can’t be without you. I can’t let that little girl in there go another day without knowing I want to be her daddy more than just about anything in this world.”

I couldn’t speak as my heart hammered in my chest.

“Bella, I love you and I pray that you and I can see past everything that has happened and learn from; but god Bella, don’t make me live another minute not knowing if I have your heart the way you two have mine.”

I didn’t waste any more time as I leaped from the cushions and threw my arms around his neck. “As much as I fought it, you have had me from the first moment I laid eyes on you. I love you, Edward. I want to have the happy ever after. I just never thought it was meant to be mine.”

He quickly flipped us and I let out the most girly giggle that I have ever heard.

“You are in so much trouble Ms. Swan.” He spoke into my ear.

“You are about to be given my full and undivided attention for the next few hours. I am going to give you just a sample of the kind of things I will be doing to you in the future.”

Before I could blink, he had me tossed over his shoulder and headed toward my bedroom. I didn’t dare fuss at him in fear

of waking Jessica. He gently placed me on my bed as he began to climb over my body sliding his thigh between my knees as he demanded to be between them. “While I was away in Brazil, I didn’t have time to think about anything except for getting the men off the island. I did however, dream of you several times.”

His eyes so bright and his words wrapping around my heart.

“I could hear your laugh and I swear I could smell your perfume.”

His fingers unbuttoning my shirt as his eyes stayed locked with mine.

“In the back of my mind, I knew I wasn’t in any real danger, but a huge part of me worried that I would never be this close to you again.”

I wanted to question him as to what type of medical conference this was. I had just assumed it was lectures and dinners that lasted into the night.

“I compared Alex to you the whole time I was with him at dinner.” I confessed. The feel of the cool breeze that the ceiling fan caused rushed across my now bare chest, Edward’s warm skin quickly covering me.

“Leah Clearwater thought Alex Rio was my stage name.” We were silent for a few seconds before we both began to

laugh.

“Do you have another career that I need to know about?” I chuckled into his shoulder.

“Only being the best friend.” He then kissed my nose. “Best lover.”
Kiss to my forehead.

“Best fiancé.”
Kiss to my cheek.
“Best husband.”
Kiss to my lips.
“Best daddy Jessica could dream of.”

This time I grabbed him and kissed him. I let myself feel the love and honesty he was giving me in this kiss. He would do everything he could to keep his words true.

“It just so happens that we have an opening in each of those areas you just described.”

His smile was electric as he again claimed my lips. For the first time in my life, I closed my eyes and let myself just feel. I

had never allowed myself to take as much as I had given. Edward was here, giving me all the love he could possibly convey and I took it all. I would do everything in my power to make him as happy and loved as he was making me.

“I swear to you Bella, I will never walk out that front door in anger again.”

“And I swear to direct my anger at the correct person in the future.”

“I swear to always make certain you know that you and Jessica are the most important people in my world.”

“And I swear to let you in.”

His eyes flicker between mine. We both knew exactly what this meant for us. By my confession, he knew I was all in. There would be no going back. I had effectively placed it all on the line.

“Just so you know this isn’t a proposal. When we are truly ready, I will give you a proposal the town will talk about for years.”

I smiled as I looked into his beautiful eyes.

He continued, “I consider this a promise of great things to come.”

His hand reached behind his neck and pulled his t-shirt over his head.

“Speaking of coming, I have an entire week to make up for, not to mention we now have a reason for makeup sex.” Oh lord, I thought to myself, an entire week of some awesome lovin’.

Bella’s POV

23. Chapter 23

Waking up the next morning, I took a look around my room. Pillows were everywhere and the only sheet left on the bed was the fitted one. I dropped back onto the mattress as I closed my eyes and remembered every detail of last night.

The feel of Edward’s fingers as they danced over my ribs. The look in his eyes as he quietly apologized while unbuttoning my blouse.

“I’m so sorry; I should just lay beside you, instead of wanting nothing more than to consume you.”

His words said one thing, but his hands and body spoke so much louder. His right hand carefully cupped my breast while his mouth covered my other one. The tingling ran from my harden nipples to my very erect clit. My eyes closing as my back began to arch. The feel of his lips as they roamed from my neck down to my collar bone. The feel of his tongue as he licked a slow and tortuous circle around my navel. The nips with his teeth he made along my hips. His fingers, as he slowly dragged the tips along the outside of my lower lips, circling my clit and making me jump. The feel of his tongue as he parted my folds and began to take long deliberate licks

with the flat of his tongue.

His fingers as they began to join in the rhythm of his tongue. He stayed in place through more than one orgasm. I thought many times he would move up my body but he didn’t. His head stayed between my thighs until he was satisfied that my body was completely spent. When he did finally enter me, he was on his knees between my legs; with my left leg behind his neck and the right lying over his hip, he had the perfect view

of us joined. This also became one of my favorite positions. “Play with you clit Bella, make yourself come.”

I did what he asked; it took a little while this time, however, he stayed consistent in his rhythm, telling me how perfect my pussy looked around his cock. His words only made me wetter. When I finally cried out with my orgasm, he flipped me over and positioned me on all fours grasping my hips firmly.

“I love to watch your ass from this angle. It’s firm and round􏰀..Fucking perfect.”

We didn’t stay in this position long as he had to stop a few times to keep from coming. Finally he pulled me toward him and turned me around. Laying me on my back, he slowly entered me again, this time his lips finding mine in the perfect slow dance of making love to me.

~DDD~
The sight in the kitchen stopped me dead in my tracks.

Edward had Jessica sitting on the kitchen counter, stirring something in a large bowl. Where he found the sleep pants and long sleeved tee was beyond me. However, I secretly wished he was still completely naked as he was just hours ago.

“Daddy, can we put the chocolate chips in now pwease.”

Jessica’s sweet voice reminded me of a time I had spent with my own father. It was mother’s day and I was five or six. I was trying to make her breakfast in bed, but I wasn’t allowed to touch the stove. My dad caught me coming down the hall with a napkin filled with crackers and a juice box. He quickly picked me up and helped me to make her waffles. I remember how he let me cut up the fruit using a plastic butter knife. I was so proud when I walked into her room that morning.

“Mommy!” Jessica shouted.

I looked up to see her waving at me with the wooden spoon she had in her hand, batter dripping down her night gown and onto the counter. Edward began to laugh at her and quickly took the spoon from her.

“What are you doing little girl?”

I chuckled as I crossed the room and picked her up. She was in desperate need of a bath as she now had batter in her hair.

“Daddy said I could make breakfast.”

I smiled as I looked at Edward. His green eyes bright and his smile was so wide. This was the happiest I have ever seen him. I wanted to keep him that happy.

“He did, did he?”
“Yeah, he said we could make waffles and then watch tv.”

Edward leaned over and silently asked for a kiss, keeping it completely g rated, I gave him a very quick kiss.

“Me too, daddy, me too.”

Edward launched at Jessica, making her squeal with delight as he took her out of my arms and tossed her in the air several times, kissing her belly each time she came near his face.

“Bath time!” He shouted as he ran with her down the hall.

Could life be this easy? Waking up from a night of incredible love making to find the man of my dreams in my kitchen with my daughter.

I smiled as I picked up the bowl that Jessica had been stirring to find not only batter but spaghetti and gummy worms floating in the mix. I looked to the left of the sink to find another bowl setting next to the waffle iron. Once I cleaned up Jessica’s bowl and splatter, I began to make waffles.

“Those smell almost as good as you do.”

His deep voice resonating in my ear as his arms circled my waist and his lips found the junction between my neck and shoulder. Goose bumps began to form on my arms and I closed my eyes, locking in the moment. We stood there, him wrapped around me holding me, kissing my neck and shoulders.

“I woke up this morning with this beautiful woman next to me. Then as I came out of the bathroom, I found an incredibly beautiful girl standing outside the door with a bunny in her arms.”

Edward slowly began to turn me around. His face freshly washed and his hair appeared wet from a shower.

“I love you.” He gently whispered as he placed a soft kiss to my lips.

“I love you too, Edward.”

I wrapped my arms around his neck, clinging to him. He was real and he was here in my kitchen holding me. I closed my eyes and turned my head so that my face was buried in his neck. I took in a deep breath as I welcomed his calming scent. This was what I had always wanted; unconditional love, support and tenderness. He was willing to give me what I needed and I wanted to take it all.

“Jessica and I had a nice talk while she created her version of waffle mix.”

I pulled back from his neck and looked into his eyes.

“I know I should have waited for you, but she is a very stubborn little girl, much like her amazing mother.”

I smiled as I caressed his face. He was completely correct. Jessica had my spirit and my determination. Heaven help the world if we both wanted something.

“I noticed she is calling you daddy this morning.”

His smile that couldn’t possibly get any bigger suddenly did.

“We talked while she told me about the real bunnies that are running around in the back yard. I know I should have waited to ask you, but the moment was perfect and she wanted to plead her case again. I love her Bella. I want to be her daddy so much.”

I couldn’t be angry with him. He was the best person for the job of being her father. He would do anything to protect her and I knew this.

“I’m not mad in the least, Edward.”

He began to nibble on my ear lobe, “good, because honestly she scares me more than you ever could.”

We both laughed at his admission. It was the truth.

I made us all some waffles while Edward and Jessica made a pallet in the living room so that we could all cuddle and watch

cartoons. As we sat at my bar and ate the warm waffles, Edward took over making sure Jessica had everything she needed. He even helped her clean up when she was finished.

Jessica insisted on being in the middle of Edward and me. We all laughed and giggled as we enjoyed our morning. Jessica soon fell asleep with her little hand holding Edward’s. He gently took her and placed her back in her bed. I took the opportunity to jump into the shower. When I returned, Edward had changed the sheets on the bed and made it perfectly. I entered the kitchen to find him placing the final plate into the dishwasher. He had changed into a pair of jeans and shirt. I couldn’t help myself as I crossed the room and threw myself into his arms.

“Well if this is the thank you I get for doing dishes, my hands are going to be very pruned.”

Edward stayed with us the entire weekend. He and Jessica seemed to have a special bond and would just look at each other and know what the other was saying. When Monday morning arrived, Edward was dressed in a suit drinking coffee and reading the paper. He had Jessica’s cereal ready and had combed her hair.

“What’cha reading handsome?”

Wrapping my arms around his back, I snuggled my nose between his shoulder blades.

“An article you might be interested in actually.”

I moved to stand beside him while he slipped his arm around my waist. I scanned the paper as Edward’s fingers played with the band of my belt.

Prominent government official arrested for human trafficking

City council member Alexander Rio was arrested Friday

evening during a raid by federal officials. Special agent, Stephen Patocolous released a statement to reporters early Saturday morning.

“Mr. Rios has been under surveillance for a number of years. We only recently were able to connect Mr. Rios to the crimes of human trafficking. We were able to place one of our undercover officers in a position of applying for a job with one of his businesses. When our agent explained to Mr. Rios that she would need to think about the position, he offered to take her to a local restaurant. During the dinner, our agent was wearing a wire and we were able to get Mr. Rios to admit he had access to some underground clubs here in Portland. What we did not realize was the depths of his involvement in these clubs. Our agent was able to purchase a young girl for a few hundred dollars for a number of sexual acts. As our team moved in on the club, it was discovered that more than seventy five young girls as young as fifteen were huddled in the basement. Many had not eaten in several days or even weeks. At this time Mr. Rios is being held without bond in a federal detention facility.”

I couldn’t believe my eyes. I knew he was creepy and the look

the wait staff was giving was rather odd.

“I’m glad you came home to me Bella.” Edward murmured and we shared a look.

~DDD~

As I placed my purse on my desk, Angela came into the office. “Bella, there is a special agent Marcus here to see you.”

I knew without a doubt what he was here for. Before I could ask her to let him back, she told me that I was also wanted in one of the closed rooms where several board members were waiting for me.

“Angela tell the agent that I will be with him in a moment. Let me see what the board wants first.”

As I opened the door to the room, all eyes turned to meet mine. Mr. Jackson was the first to extend his hand to me.

“Bella, it is lovely to see you this morning.” His hand shake was firm, his face friendly.

“Bella, this is Mr. Morgan, our attorney.”

The huge man was standing with his hands in his pockets, his suit perfect and his hair combed straight back.

“Ms. Swan, pleasure to meet you.” He crossed the room taking my outstretched hand.

“Good morning gentleman, can I ask what this is all about? I have a special agent Marcus waiting for me as well.”

I looked to Mr. Jackson first and then to Mr. Morgan.

“That is the precise reason for our visit today. We are all aware of your recent meeting with Mr. Rios and the members of the board in Portland. Mr. Morgan is here to represent you while you are questioned by Mr. Marcus.”

I had no idea how they found out about my meeting in Portland, but they had.

“Mr. Jackson, I don’t need an attorney to speak with Mr. Marcus; I’ve done nothing wrong.”

Mr. Morgan placed his hand on my arm. “If I may Ms. Swan, due to the media attention and the severity of this situation. It isn’t that I am worried that you have acted inappropriately, but that Mr. Rios has caused you harm and further charges need to be filed.”

“Thank you gentleman. I appreciate your concern, but no harm came to me as a result of my meeting with Mr. Rios. Although, I found him rude and crass, he kept his hands to himself.”

Before I could excuse myself from the room, Mr. Jackson asked one final question. “Ms. Swan, I have to ask. Are you planning to leave us?”

~DDD~

Mr. Marcus was a very handsome man, although he was no Edward Cullen. His charm would give Edward a run for his money. However, the large gold wedding band on his left hand told me he was only being courteous.

“Ms. Swan, I know you are a busy woman and I won’t take up too much of your time today.”

“Please, have a seat Mr. Marcus.” I directed him to one of the chairs in my office. Mr. Morgan sat in the adjoining chair.

“Please call me Paul.”

His smile was gleaming white and his skin was a beautiful olive. I’m certain his children were little cherubs.

“Well Paul, please call me Bella.”

“Very well. As you have heard from the media, Alex Rios has been arrested and is currently at a federal prison here in Washington.”

I nodded my head, “Yes, my boyfriend showed me the article this morning.”

“Good. We are also aware that Alex Rio tried to recruit you for a position in Portland. Can you tell us about that?”

I told Agent Marcus the entire story of my trip to Portland. How I left him sitting in the restaurant and grabbed the first

cab I found.
“Bella, was that Carlisle’s restaurant by any chance?” “Yes sir it was.”
“Did he talk to you about going to any club that night?” A chill began to run up my spine.

“I asked him if there were any social clubs in the area. He informed me that he could get me into a club if I wanted him to. I assumed he meant a swinger’s club and I got very angry with him and informed him I was referring to clubs for young school children and the elderly.”

Paul wrote very quickly in his notebook.
“Is there something I should be worrying about?”

Paul’s eyes flashed to mine as he stopped writing and laid his hand down covering his notes.

“Alex has owned Carlisle’s for many years. It has been a hot spot for high end drug deals, prostitution and illegal gambling. The basement of that restaurant is where the young girls were found that you read about.”

My stomach dropped and my ears began to ring. I thought back to how he had ordered white wine for me and tried to order my food. Was he that sinister that he would drug me?

“Ms. Swan, are you feeling alright?”
Looking at Paul, I tried to remain calm, “Yes􏰀..Yes I’m fine.”

“Do you have any further questions for my client?” Mr. Morgan, who had been silent the entire time, finally spoke. I had nearly forgotten he was even in the room.

“Yes, I think I have everything I need.” Paul stood up collecting his legal pad and then shook my hand.

“Ms. Swan, are you certain you are alright? You look a little pale.”

Paul had left and I hadn’t even noticed. I looked to Mr. Morgan and took a deep breath.

“Yes Mr. Morgan􏰀. I just realized I dodged a huge bullet with Mr. Rios.”

Mr. Jackson was waiting outside my office when Mr. Morgan walked out. “Ms. Swan, may I have a word with you?”

I smiled and nodded my head and wished Mr. Morgan a good day. I turned and walked back into my office, Mr. Jackson in tow.

“I wanted to talk briefly with you about your position here.”

I sat a little straighter in my chair. Was he going to fire me, knowing I was looking at other positions?

“The board and I are concerned that you are not happy here in Forks. What can we do to make things better for you?”

I relaxed slightly as the fear of having to find another job went away.

“As I told you earlier, I am not taking that job in Portland. I have found that things that appear to be too good to be true are usually lies. It’s not that I am not happy here, the opposite is actually true. I just wanted to see what was out there. That I did have options if my situation ever changed.”

He gave me a long look; I noticed his shoulders relaxed as well.

“Well, we are just thrilled to have you here, you have brought so many positive things to this little community and we hope to keep you around for a very long time.”

I smiled at his kind words.

“Well then Mr. Jackson, I will expect to see you and your beautiful bride here next weekend for a craft and baked goods bizarre.”

~DDD~

Over the next week Edward and I were together every night. He would either be sitting in the living room waiting or he would just walk right in when he arrived. I began to really enjoy having him to cuddle with every night. He was an

amazing cook and took care of the little things for me like laundry, cleaning the bathroom and charging my cell phone.

It was the night before the bizarre and we were all piled on the couch watching Ice Age. Jessica was passed out after the first fifteen minutes, so Edward and I took advantage and began to make out like teenagers.

“She loves having you here you know.”

He was kissing and nibbling my neck as I tried to turn off the television.

“I love being here with the two of you, although my house is bigger and has more toys.”

I laughed at his antics; this wasn’t the first time he had mentioned his house being better than mine.

“Really? You think a game room and a huge big screen television on the wall, plus a pool and all of that land you have in the back yard is better than my little house.”

He leaned back and looked me in the eyes.

“Baby I have told you before; I want you guys to live in that house with me. Jessica would have a play room and you would have an office. Plus I know you are in love with my kitchen.”

He was right, I loved his house. The kitchen was spacious and the appliances were top of the line. However, I still had

several months left on my lease and I wouldn’t do that to Esme.

“Edward we have had this discussion. I’m not􏰀.” His finger across my lips silenced me.

“I know you don’t want to hurt my mother, but what if you weren’t her tenant. What if you were to become her daughter in law?”

I grabbed his hand and removed it from my lips.

“Was that your idea of a proposal?” My tone was clipped and harsh.

“Whoa􏰀 slow down there Swan. I was just asking a question, not the question.”

I looked at him with stern eyes, “Better not be, I’m holding you to the proposal that will keep the town talking.”

“No, I told you that I will ask you when the time is right. I just want to give you the invitation to move in with me, that’s all.

I rolled my eyes at him. “Yes, well for the final time, thank you but no thanks. I have more than just me to consider and that would send the wrong message to Jessica.”

Edward pulled me into his arms. “Your right and I do respect your wishes; I just want us to always be together.”

“Well then Dr. Cullen, I guess you had better consider asking me a very important question.”

~DDD~

I had no idea that so many people would show up to the bizarre. I was floored to see all of the amazing crafts and baked goods. There was a guy who came from Port Angeles to sell his handmade wooden doll houses and rocking chairs. I tried to buy Jessica a doll house, but Esme and Carlisle beat me to it.

Edward had the man making him six rocking chairs for his back porch.

Another lady made the most beautiful lap blankets and I just had to grab a few of them. Esme was right behind me and took the remaining blankets for herself. She planned to take them to a homeless shelter and donate them.

The room with the baked good smelled heavenly and I had to remind myself to stay out of there before I gain a hundred pounds. I watched as every merchant in there wanted Carlisle and Edward to try a bite of their goods. Poor Edward had to go and lie down in my office and let his stomach settle. All in all it was a huge success and several of the ladies wanted to make this a monthly event.

Once I got Jessica into bed that night, which was quite a job considering her sugar high that Esme let her get. I relaxed next to Edward on the couch with a glass of wine. I had my

laptop open and he was going over some patient files.

I was never a news watcher; I would pick and choose what information I wanted to read about. I clicked on Google news and began my daily scanning of the news highlights.

“Oh. My. God!” I strung the words out slowly. Edward removed his glasses and looked at my computer screen.

“Holy shit!” Was Edward’s response as he saw the same title I did.

Arrest made in New York City has Washington ties

Portland officials have been busy making a case against Alexander Rios for human trafficking. However a recent crime stoppers tip landed not only the guilty party but also the tipper in jail. Last Monday, national news channels broadcasted that an arrest had been made in Portland, however authorities asked for anyone with information about the case to call crime stoppers. A Renee Higginbotham phoned the eight hundred number claiming she knew the exact whereabouts of the person in charge of handling the immigrant girls that were smuggled in from Asian countries. Local police and federal agents took the information from Mrs. Higginbotham and did indeed find a warehouse located in New York harbor that had approximately one hundred newly arriving Asian women sitting in cages waiting to be transported around the country. Michael Newton was arrested by police and is said to be in a partnership with

Alexander Rio.

Mrs. Higginbotham was instructed that she was entitled to the reward that was advertised. When she arrived at police headquarters, she was read her rights and booked into the local jail. Mrs. Higginbotham is wanted in several states for extortion. She is accused of selling her baby to a number of couples. No baby was ever delivered to the couples after the money exchanged hands. Medical Examiner reports that Mrs. Higginbotham is unable to have children due to a hysterectomy. Federal prosecutors are in the process of transferring Mr. Newton to a Washington federal prison to await trial. When questioned as to why Mrs. Higginbotham chose to turn in her live in boyfriend, Mr. Newton. She responded that he had made her angry by not getting her what she wanted. She felt she could take the money from the feds and start over.

Bella’s POV

24. Chapter 24

Esme has invited us over for Thanksgiving dinner. She was the most excited I have ever seen her. Edward said this was the norm for her. She loved the holidays, not just the major ones, but even the made up Hallmark holidays. He told me that growing up, she was the team mom as well as the homeroom mother. Knowing Esme as I did, I knew this to be true. She was inspiring, in that gentle and loving motherly way.

I had volunteered to help her get the food ready a few days prior. I had no idea as to the extent she went to in order to get ready for dinner. The entire house was being scrubbed from top to bottom. She has venders from different crafts in the house making certain everything was in working order. I had to roll my eyes at her; I mean who calls the plumber to look at your toilet when it’s working fine?

She was in the process of changing her drapes in the large dining room to match her table cloth. I couldn’t even respond as she was helping the painter give the chair rail a final touch up. You would think that with the amount of projects she was currently juggling, she would be biting off heads, but you would be wrong. She was practically dancing with excitement. Her joy seemed to be contagious as everyone that was

working around her was laughing and having the time of their lives.

By the time I had finished the ten pies she asked me to bake; I had to admit I was completely exhausted. Edward and Carlisle arrived from the hospital at the same time.

“Hello, beautiful.”

Carlisle and Edward announced at the same time. I could only smile as he placed a sweet kiss to my lips.

“Esme the house looks even better than last year.”

Carlisle was looking around the living room as he held Esme tightly in his arms. Looking at the two of them, I felt a twinge of jealousy. After all the years they had been together, they were still so much in love. I can only imagine the issues they have had to face, it seemed like it only served to make them stronger. In this day and age of disposable marriages, it was so wonderful to see something that had stood the test of time. Something I had decided I wanted for myself.

“If you could all excuse me, I am going to change and get ready for pizza.”

Carlisle announced as he kissed Esme again and made his way up the stairs. Esme had informed me that it was a tradition in the Cullen house that the night before any holiday, she allowed the children to order pizza to be delivered. I could completely agree with her as the amount of work that had

happened today was enough to inspire a quick meal that I didn’t have to prepare.

Edward had already changed before he left the office, so he excused himself to get a drink from the kitchen. When he returned, the front door swung open and three very excited little people came running in all screaming at the same time.

“Uncle Edward!” “Daddy!”

The look on Edward’s face showed excitement and joy. He truly loved having children around him. I felt the stirring of longing to give him a child of his own. A special mix of the love we have for each other; with his amazing looks and my love for the written word.

That would be something we would need to discuss in the future, a future I was certain I wanted with Edward and Jessica.

Carlisle returned to his own cheering section as the grandchildren surrounded him. His face was nearly as happy as Edward’s as he scooped all three up and began to give group hugs and kisses.

The pizza arrived a few minutes later in the hands of Rose. Emmett was like a hound dog after a fresh bone as he followed her into the house and then to the kitchen. I laughed as Rose smacked his hand several times when he tried to lift

one of the boxes, but it was when she smacked him upside the back of his head that I nearly peed my pants when he shouted, “Jesus Christ woman! You’re going to give me brain damage hitting me that hard.”

Rose smirked in return, “too late Emmett, you were damaged before I ever got you.”

We set the children in their chairs and had their plates ready. Carlisle sat at the head of the table and took several bites of his pizza before he spoke.

“Edward, I got an unsettling email from Dr. Brenner in New England.”

Edward’s eyes flashed to his father while he continued to cut a piece of pizza for Jessica.

“It seems that your old attending, Dr. Caius was killed in a car accident.”

Edward stopped cutting the pizza and his eyes had that far off look. His face told the story of where his mind was. He was visiting a time before I came into his world.

“Oh dear, I should call his wife and express our condolences.” Esme looked upset as she spoke.

Esme’s words were not enough to bring Edward back from his memories. Whatever he was currently reliving, it was a significant enough memory to keep his focus.

Carlisle was concerned too, “when was the last you spoke with him Edward?”

“Daddy, can I have it now?”

Jessica’s pleading voice was the magic sound that shut the door to his thoughts.

“I’m sorry sweetheart, here is your pizza.” He gently kissed the top of her head as he turned his attention back to his father.

“I’m sorry dad, you were saying?”

I didn’t like the look on Edward’s face. A look of regret, confusion, and remorse; not a good combination.

“I asked when was the last time you spoke with him?”

Edward fidgeted in his chair and then placed his elbows on the table and interlaced his fingers. This was the way he sat that night we had made up. I knew there was something big going on in his head.

“It was the night of the resident’s dinner.” Edward voice cracking. This was unusual for him. He was always very confident when he spoke.

“I would have thought you two would have kept in contact all these years.”

“I tried Dad, but once his grant was approved and his wife

became pregnant shortly after that, he didn’t have time to do much of anything.”

Edward again began to look into the distance. This was not like him at all. I wanted to know why this memory was causing him so much worry.

“Well, he was still your friend and I think you should make an effort to send your condolences.”

What was intended to be a father giving sane advice to his son became, in reality, a rabbit hole that would change the world for nearly everyone who sat at the table that night.

Edward did in fact contact the hospital where he completed his residency. He spoke with one of the physicians he studied alongside and found out that Dr. Caius was killed on a major freeway. He was returning to work to help out during a downtown fire that had destroyed a large apartment building. He hit a patch of black ice and crashed into a guard rail.

Edward told me he had a DB 5 Austen Martin. He joked that more people wanted to know about the car then him some days as it was considered the original James Bond car. He told me how he found it in a junk yard that he worked in during the summer to help with his tuition. It had taken him years to restore it to its original condition.

“His wife and son are currently staying with her parents, because she’s decided to sell the house.”

If I indeed wanted to have a future with Edward, I needed to be able to ask him questions about his past. I swallowed my pride, chocked a little bit and then opened my mouth.

“Edward􏰀.you seem to be very sad about something, more than just the loss of your friend.”

He looked at me and smiled as he shook his head. “Am I that transparent?”

I returned his smile and silently exhaled. I had hoped for this level of reaction.

“It’s just that I do remember the last time I saw him. It was the morning after the dinner for the residents.”

I listened carefully as he slowly walked across the room to look out his large picture window to the front yard. It had snowed last night and there was a fresh dusting of white crystals glistening in the little sun that had managed to break through the cloud cover.

“Technically, I wasn’t invited to that dinner. I had technically finished my residency and therefore, didn’t warrant an invitation. Dr. Caius and his wife insisted that I go and be a guest at their table. So I accepted. My apartment had already been packed up for a few days at that point and all I had left to do was board a plane the next afternoon.”

His words stopped as he adjusted his stance, his hands going

into his pockets and he began to rock on the balls of his feet.

“It was a great party.” He nodded to himself. “No talking of patients or schedules, just a bunch of friends getting together to eat and drink on someone else’s dime.”

He slowly turned to face me, his forehead now furrowing with worry. He didn’t move to come sit with me when I patted the cushion next to me.

“We had done a few shots when this incredible looking woman approached us.”

His face turned back to look out the window. I stayed silent as he collected his words.

“Looking back, she resembled you a great deal. Her hair was a little darker, but you had the same shaped face and expressive eyes.”

He was quiet for several minutes, lost in his thoughts or trapped in his nightmare. I wasn’t certain which one.

“He never introduced us to her. She had been sitting next to one of the other residents and I never thought or even questioned if she was his wife. She openly flirted with me from the second I sat at the table. She asked me to dance and made it a point to let me know she was interested in me.”

My heart began to race as I listened to his story. I was now regretting asking him what was troubling him.

“I lost count of how many drinks she and I shared when she asked me to come up stairs with her. She was so beautiful and it had been such a long time for me.”

I swallowed thickly and nearly asked him to stop. My tongue, however, had stopped working as I sat there and continued to listen.

“When we got up to her hotel room, she backed me up against the door and tore her dress off. She wasn’t wearing any underwear and before I knew what was happening, she had me flat on the bed with my pants around my ankles. I was coherent enough to stop her and remind her we needed a condom.”

With his back still to me, I stood and carefully crossed the room. Regardless of how I felt his admission was going, I needed to be near him. He needed to understand that I wasn’t going anywhere when he was finished. I slowly wrapped my arms around his waist and placed my cheek between his shoulder blades.

“When we were finished, I moved to help her off me only to find that the condom had ripped in half and the head of my dick was completely bare.” I felt his breathing increase; this wasn’t the end of his admission.

“I tried to apologize, but she assured me that she had everything covered. She swore that she was clean, but being a doctor, I knew I had to get tested first thing the next day. She got out of bed and went into the bathroom to clean

herself. When she returned, she had a glass of what I thought was water and she encouraged me to drink it and relax.

I did and tried to relax, however, the longer we sat there the stiffer my dick became. She took this as my desire for her and offered to take care of the problem I was having. I lost count of how many times we had sex that night.”

I closed my eyes and prayed I wouldn’t cry. I knew how hard this was for him to admit to me, not to mention himself.

“The next morning, Dr. Caius called my cell phone and invited me to breakfast to say goodbye. I looked around and noticed the girl was gone. I went to the restaurant where I told him I would meet him. There he was sitting in a booth with the lady that I had spent the night with. He introduced her as his wife.

“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. She sat there drinking a cup of coffee like nothing had ever happened. He was kissing her cheek and caressing her face. I mean he had to have known that his wife was not in their bed the night before.”

I pulled my face away from his back. It wasn’t fair for him to shoulder all of this. I had questions; questions that he may never have pondered. Questions he may have and tucked them away in his mind.

“Edward.” My voice soft and comforting. I didn’t want him to completely leave the memory; I wanted him to be able to explore it during my questioning. I felt him tense up, but that was not going to happen. In this house and in my arms he

would always feel safe.
“Please turn around; I need to talk with you.”

He was hesitant at first, not that I could blame him. He needed me like I needed him a few weeks ago. I was here for him and I had no plans of going anywhere.

“I’m sorry Bella, I understand if􏰀”

“No, Edward. This isn’t me telling you goodbye, this is me trying to help you.”

He quickly spun his body around, his eyes wide with surprise. I watched as his mouth opened and closed several times as if the words failed him.

“You said he must have known that she wasn’t in his bed that night correct.”

His face scrunched in confusion, “W-What?”

“Dr. Caius, he and his wife shared a bed correct?”

“I-I suppose, yes I would have thought so.”

“Well, if you and I were married, you and I would share a bed in a hotel room correct?”

His left hand went to his hair as he looked to the floor. “Yes, if we went to a hotel, I would be sleeping right beside you.”

“So, with that in mind, you said the hotel room that this happened in was hers correct?”

His beautiful green eyes were so confused. I wanted to take his pain away so badly.

“Then why didn’t your friend walk in and find the two of you?”

I watched his facial expressions as he pondered my words. Had he never thought about this? Had he simply tortured himself based on the attention that Dr. Caius showed his wife the next day?

“I have no idea. Now that I think about it, it makes no sense. He should have been sleeping with his wife.”

He started pacing the room mumbling things to himself; warring with his own thoughts.

“He should have slept with his wife, why didn’t he?!” He suddenly shouted.

I watched as the pain in his face began to melt away. Clearly he had never questioned this avenue. I had the ability to take away the guilt that he should never have to feel. He did nothing wrong in the situation. The guilty party was currently suffering the loss of their spouse.

“Maybe he was a loud snorer and she routinely got separate hotel rooms? Maybe he stayed out all night and partied? Maybe they were swingers and this was her night to fulfill a

fantasy? Whatever the reason, it isn’t your fault. You, my love, did nothing wrong.”

He sat on the sofa with a huff. He now had several plausible reasons why they never disclosed their marriage.

“When I got back home, I went to the clinic and began testing. I even went and spoke with a professional.”

He looked at me and held out his hand motioning for me to join him on the couch.

“Not one time did that counselor ever ask me any of the questions you just did􏰀.Thank you.”

That night I welcomed Edward and his desire to make love to me. I pondered if there were other reasons that his friend’s wife betrayed him. Was there a bigger reason that I could never imagine in a thousand years? As I watched his sleeping form, I had no doubt the reason she chose my Edward. He was an amazing man, wonderful physician and he was made to be a father. I had become very accustomed to his sweetness with Jessica. She held his heart in a way that no other girl ever would. I tried not to be envious, but admittedly it was hard.

Three weeks later

Esme was helping me clean up from the holiday party I had thrown for the staff at the library. Edward insisted we use his house and even fired up the grill in the freezing weather to

serve grilled food for us. He had outdone himself with his amazing grilling skills. He was like a kid in a candy store as he made certain everyone was well fed and had a drink in their hands. James and Jacob called me a very lucky bitch several times during the party. I could only agree with them.

Angela hadn’t been feeling well and we weren’t certain she would even make the party, however when she turned down her favorite cocktail that Edward made just for her, we both turned and gave her the look. Our little shy and yet wonderful Angela was expecting.

Edward was so excited; you would think it was his baby. He got everyone’s attention and made a toast to the happy couple. Ben had decided that because Angela was forbidden to drink alcohol, he would abstain as well. Edward shook his hand and then told them he would do the exact same thing when we decided to have a baby. It made me feel so complete and happy inside that I would have the honor to give him his first child.

Esme and Carlisle had kept Jessica for me overnight so that my guests could enjoy the party late into the night. No one got crazy which I was very thankful for, however I currently had several hangover victims camping out in various parts of the house.

Esme had volunteered to come over this morning and help with clean up because Edward was called in early this morning for an emergency surgery. I planned to be extra nice to him today as he hadn’t gotten much sleep.

The house was completely clean and all of the slackers had been fed and placed in their cars to return to their lives when Edward came in. He was bouncing as he kissed Esme on the cheek and then grabbed me and tilted me all the way back in my chair as he lavished my face and neck with quick tiny kisses. I squealed like a little girl even though I loved it.

“Edward, how about I feed you and then you go get some sleep.”

He sat me back up in my chair as he turned to the coffee pot and poured all three of us another cup of coffee.

“The food part I am all about, but the rest of the day I want to spend with my family. I want to get Jessica and all the grandkids and have a movie marathon in the den. I want laughter and popcorn fights and happy faces surrounding me today.”

His smile was too difficult to say no to. He didn’t even look tired as he dug into the omelet that Esme had made him. How he was able to work so hard on so little sleep was beyond me.

“How about this, we have a movie marathon in our pajamas and if you fall asleep in there, I take the kids out and leave you to your nap?”

Before he could argue, the doorbell rang. I was expecting Carlisle to bring Jessica home so I was surprised that he took the time to ring the bell. Although, it could be Jessica and her

need to touch everything,

“Saved by the bell!” He exclaimed as he began to get out of his chair.”

“Not so fast young man.” Esme said as she placed a firm hand on his shoulder. “You sit here with your beautiful girl and I will get the door.”

She was out of the room before he could argue. Like that would really happen.

“I’m sorry I was called away. I had plans for you last night.”

His voice radiated sex. He didn’t need to elaborate any further on his foiled plans for me. I knew that look of mischief in his eyes and the way they grew slightly darker when he wanted to dominate me. I knew we didn’t have a ton of time but I wanted to show my desire for him matched his for me.

With a quick look over my shoulder, I made certain Esme wasn’t headed back into the room when I placed my hand over his not so subtle erection. I had barely gotten my entire hand on him when his mother’s voice came from the front door.

“Edward, you have a visitor.”

We both let out groans as he rose from his chair taking my hand in his. Even though I was frustrated, I was even more grateful that we hadn’t been walked in on.

When we approached the front door Esme stepped off to the side. Standing in his foyer were two women; both of whom I had never seen before. The first was about the same height of Esme, with tired eyes. The dark circles under her eyes told a story of either a hard life or too little sleep. She was wearing a large wrap scarf that dwarfed her features. The second woman was a little on the heavy side, but looked entirely business. This surprised me being a Sunday morning.

“Can I help you ladies?”

Edward and his gentlemanly voice. He could charm the pants off the Pope if he wanted to.

The business lady stepped forward while extending her hand. “Good morning Dr. Cullen, my name is Barbra Sawyer. I am the personal attorney for the late Dr. Caius and Mrs. Caius.”

My eyes nearly popped out of my head. There stood the widow and her attorney. The very harlot we spoke of just weeks ago. The woman who cheated on her husband with my Edward.

“Elizabeth?” Esme whispered.

My attention immediately turned to her. Esme knew this woman, the woman who had hurt and confused her son.

“Oh dear, I was so sorry to hear about your poor husband. Come in and have a seat. Can I get you something to drink, tea perhaps?”

I suddenly felt like the third wheel. It wasn’t my house and I wasn’t in the mood to play hostess, but the same applied to Esme. Instead of making a big deal, I quickly turned for the kitchen to put the kettle on. I could help by making myself scarce.

“Bella, please stay with me.” Edward’s soft voice spoke in my ear as I had barely taken three steps. I turned to him to see the pain had returned to his face. This is what I could do for him, to help him. I simply nodded my head and took his shaking hand in mine.

Once everyone was settled, Mrs. Caius removed the huge scarf from around her face and neck. Her skin was ghastly, paper thin and so pale. The dark circles that bordered her eyes also colored the hollow of her cheeks. She wasn’t tired, well she probably was, but it was more than that; she was sick.

“Dr. Cullen, I won’t bore you with small talk as I know how busy a man of your occupation is.”

The attorney whose hair was pulled back in a tight bun; the tightness of it made it look sleek and shiny in the rays of light. Her face was round and full, her eyes hidden behind a pair of thick rimmed glasses and her lips were glistening with red lipstick.

“I’m here with Mrs. Caius due to the recent passing of her husband Dr. Caius. I am told you were close friends and colleagues at one time.”

Edward didn’t answer her, only looked at Elizabeth.

“Dr. Cullen, I came here to discuss a very serious and delicate matter. My client is in need of your assistance due to the passing of her husband and the current medical situation she finds herself in.”

It was at that moment, Esme walked into the room with a tray filled with a tea pot, scones and various accoutrements’ to personalize the tea and scones. I didn’t even know he had those things in the kitchen so I guess it was better that Esme handled that.

“I haven’t been in contact with Sean in several years. I don’t know how much help I will be. As for your health Elizabeth, if you need a referral to a good surgeon my father would be better suited.”

His voice was polite, yet clipped. He was using everything he had to maintain his composure. I was so proud of him. I, myself, would have thrown her ass out in the snow􏰀.well maybe not, but I would have considered it.

“Edward.” Elizabeth’s voice was raspy as if she had smoked unfiltered cigarettes her entire life. Her chest heaved with each and every breath. A closer look showed the backs of her hands were bruised from medical procedures. Her lips cracked from chapping.

“I want to tell you everything. I need to explain to you what we have done. I pray you will see past my deceit and help us.”

“Well as I said before, I’m not sure I can be of any real help to you.”

Barbra started to speak, but was shushed by Elizabeth gently patting her arm.

“It’s alright Barbra, I have live the past many years letting others speak for me, and it’s time I stood up for myself.”

Her eyes then turned back to Edward. I didn’t like the emotions she was giving off. She was about to deliver news that I wasn’t certain Edward or myself was ready to hear.

“Edward, I need your help with my son.”

Edward had started to say something but was cut off quickly by Elizabeth’s out stretched pale hand.

“I need help with my son, Edward􏰀. Actually, your son, Masen.”

EPOV

25. Chapter 25

“Daddy? Lilly says that when mommy’s and daddy’s kiss a lot they are going to get a new baby.”

I nearly lost my breath as I listened to Jessica’s innocent questioning. I adore how young children are brutality honest with those around them. They speak their mind at how simple life around them appears, as adults we should be more like them, less complicated and worry free.

“Well Jessica, it’s true that when mommy’s and daddy’s kiss, it sometimes can be the beginning of getting a new baby; but it takes a little more than just a kiss.”

I watched as her gleaming blue eyes studied my face as I tried to give her a plausible explanation. I would have to study up and have better answers for her when the time came to have the boy talk. Her face contorted and she pulled her bottom lip between her teeth like her mother did when she was concentrating. I gave her time to get her thoughts together before I gave her any more information.

“Daddy?”

“Yes sweet pea.”

“I want a brother. Next birthday, I will wish for one and the birthday fairy will bring me one.”

“Edward?”

Bella’s voice brought me out of my memory of the conversation I had with Jessica weeks ago. I had inwardly laughed at Jessica when she decided to wish for a brother. Looking back, maybe she knew more about how babies were made then I did. I looked to Bella to see her eyes filled with unshed tears. I grasped her hand tighter as I focused my attention back to Elizabeth.

“How?”

I was angry now. If her story was true, then I would have had a child running around for years that I never knew about. Anger didn’t really begin to describe the feelings I was having right now. All of my rights had been taken from me. I would never get back any of the firsts in his life. Hell, I didn’t even know what he looked like. Was he even mine? She had been dishonest in the past, why would she be truthful now?

“Edward􏰀.I’ll tell you the entire story if you are ready to listen.”

She looked like hell. Her eyes told me everything I needed to know about her. She was dying and didn’t have much time left that was for certain. Her hands and lack of body hair told me

she had recently had chemotherapy. Her lips told me she was extremely dehydrated, but her scent told me she was nearing death. Her body had already begun the process of shutting down. She had accepted this and had begun to get her things in order.

“Of course we will listen dear.” My mother, the eternal optimist. Her world was more in line with that of a child, I envied her.

Elizabeth began to shake slightly and I rose from the sofa to get her a blanket from the closet. Her chills only confirmed my suspicions that the end was near for her. I handed the blanket to Barbra because I didn’t want to have any contact with Elizabeth, afraid she would further taint me and my home with Bella.

“Thank you.” Her voice was thick with raspiness, a side effect of being intubated too much. She had been fighting this disease for a long time that much was clear.

“When I met Sean, I was a volunteer at the hospital where he was doing his residency. He was such a handsome man and all of the nurses wanted to be around him. I was just a poor girl who was trying to get a scholarship so that I could finish my teaching degree, but he was nice to me and he made me feel special even when he only told me good morning.”

Barbra assisted Elizabeth with getting her cup of tea so that she could take a drink. I watched as her hands shook; her fingers so thin and her skin was paper thin.

“He surprised me one day and handed me a cup of hot chocolate. The cup had his phone number on it and he asked me to call him if I was interested in going to dinner with him. I ran to the bathroom and jumped around like a silly school girl. I was instantly in love with him.”

Her eyes and face changed, she was reminiscing of a good time in her past. One where the pain of dying didn’t exist.

“Our courtship was short as he wanted to take care of me. We married only six weeks after that first dinner together. He swore to my father that he would always take care of me and give me everything my heart desired.”

A single tear rolled down her face as her voice began to crack from the emotion. Barbra took her hand in hers and my mother moved to sit on the other side of her; always the comforter. Bella, however, had crossed her arms and legs. She had shut off Elizabeth and anything she had to say.

“We had tried to have a baby for over a year with no luck. Sean talked to a colleague of his and he agreed to see us. He did a battery of tests and in the end; we found that Sean was completely sterile. I thought my life had ended. I had the perfect life, the house, the cars, the money, and a husband who worshiped me, however, he would never give me a baby.”

My mother began to wipe away the tears that were rolling down her face. Barbra carefully soothed Elizabeth. Bella’s face looked murderous. She was fighting to stay in her seat,

her body was vibrating.

“Sean contacted every adoption agency in the country and even some in Russia and Romania. He swore he would give me a child even if he had to buy it. During the process of adoption, I was sent for additional medical testing. It was during one of the exams that the physician discovered I had Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Once the diagnosis was confirmed, every agency that had opened their doors for us closed our files. Even the illegal agencies wouldn’t touch us. We had to take several years off the search for a child so that I could have treatment. Once my doctors felt I was well enough, we started our search again. We decided to start in vitro. Every month for six months, we waited patiently and every month I got my period. Finally, I told Sean that I wanted to step back and not try for a while.

I went to work for the school system teaching young girls who had been removed from the regular classroom due to pregnancy. I taught them how to care for a baby, how to stretch a dollar and how to care for themselves. During one of our lessons, one of my students made a comment that nearly all of her friends got pregnant when they hooked up with a guy from a club. She was convinced that the atmosphere of the club had something to do with how your body reacted. I began to ask all of my students how they became pregnant and the majority of them admitted that it was after having attended a party or club where alcohol and dancing was involved. I knew there was nothing scientific to my theory but I shared it with Sean. ”

I pondered her words, I watched as Bella rolled her eyes several times as her foot vibrated and her brow tight with disbelief.

“Sean was a man of medicine as you’re well aware of, but he said to me that you never say never in medicine. We discussed the ramifications of what we were planning to do. We decided it would have to be someone we both agreed on. The young man would have to be of high standards and so we started looking at all of the doctors and residents in the hospital. A year later Sean came home very excited, a friend of his had shared with him that you had been accepted to the program. When he showed me your file I knew you were who we had been waiting for. We devised a plan and went to work. He befriended you and took you under his wing. We knew he would never be able to introduce you to me, but he said he was willing to try anything for me. For years I watched and waited, I saw how compassionate you were with your patients and I saw how the nurses swooned to be near you. But mostly, I saw your green eyes and I knew I had to have a child with those green eyes.”

She was silent for several minute as she caught her breath. Bella had stopped vibrating and her arms had uncrossed. My mother was full on crying while trying to comfort Elizabeth.

“We planned that dinner around you. We reserved the room close enough to the ball room so that you wouldn’t lose momentum so to speak and could give me what I needed. We made certain that your drinks had a little more alcohol than the rest of the guests. I used every trick I knew to get your

attention. I knew you hadn’t had a steady girlfriend during your residency and I banked on that information as to how needy you would be. The condom had a pin hole in it and I deliberately became aggressive so that the hole would get bigger; increasing my chances of getting a good amount of sperm from you. The drink I gave you was water with liquid Viagra mixed in it. It worked and you were erect for several hours. We watched as your plane took off. I cried into my husband’s shoulder that I felt dirty for having sex with you and not him. However, that guilt completely went away when the pregnancy test came back positive a month later. He lied to you and said he got a grant for research, which was his excuse to end his ties to you.

Masen was born and our lives were again perfect even if only for a little while. At my six week checkup, my doctor insisted we do additional blood work. He was very aware of my history and wanted to be certain. Three days later we found out the lymphoma was back. I began treatments immediately. I have fought this for years with countless procedures, experimental drugs, acupuncture, and herb therapy. We tried everything and yet nothing helped. After the last dose of chemotherapy, I told Sean I was finished. I didn’t want to fight a losing battle anymore. He agreed with me and we cried together for days. We also began to get our affairs together. I even gave him permission to marry again before I was cold in my grave. Sean and Mason needed to have a wife and mother.

When I got the phone call that Sean had been killed, I knew

this was my punishment for deceiving you. Sean didn’t know this, but I have always kept an eye on you. I knew that when you met your beautiful girlfriend Bella, that your life was now complete. I knew that she could give you children and you would never know about Mason. It’s funny how when you tell God your plans, he laughs in your face.”

Elizabeth began to cough and Barbra dug out a white handkerchief for her. Elizabeth placed it over her mouth, and when she removed it bright red blood was left behind. The trauma to her throat was evident.

“Mrs. Caius, please let me continue for you.” Barbra pleaded with a coughing Elizabeth. She nodded her head and waved her hand silently asking her to continue.

“Dr. Cullen, Mrs. Caius has taken the liberty to have our firm erect all the necessary paperwork to transfer guardianship of Mason to you.”

Her words only pissed me off more.

“Transfer guardianship? He is a little boy not some fucking car. A little boy I had no idea even existed until a few minutes ago! ”

“Please Dr. Cullen, I mean no disrespect when I say that. I am simply trying to do my job.”

My mother placed her hand on my knee. When I was little she had all of these silent ways of telling me to calm down or be

quiet. I knew to never go against what she was telling me.

“Where is he?” Bella surprised me as she had remained basically silent this entire time. I turned in her direction to find her body language had completely changed. She was now leaning forward, her face free of tears, yet filled with determination.

“Ms. Swan I presume?” Barbra questioned.

“Yes, how did you know my name?”

Bella’s tone was tight. She was slightly unnerved. I worried that this news of an illegitimate child would send her away. However, looking at her right now, I knew those thoughts were unfounded.

“We have known about you for a while now. Mrs. Caius was excited to know that Mason will have a new mother in his life. She was very impressed how you have handled several issues that have arisen lately. She is confident you will be a good firm hand for Masen as he is quite a handful at times.”

I was afraid to ask this of Bella, taking a significant role in a young boy’s life; a boy I was dying to see.

“You make this seem so simple, like all we have to do is sign on some dotted line and poof we have an instant child. There is nothing simple about this. He is a real little boy with real feelings and emotions and fears. You have been in his life and you are all he knows. Is he just supposed to shift positions

and suddenly start calling me mommy and Edward Daddy? He is five years old for Christ’s sake!”

Bella was right. He would see me as a total stranger, not his father. He would need time to adjust. He had just lost the only father he ever knew and by the looks of things his mother would soon be gone as well.

“Not that you both don’t have valid concerns, but we have been preparing Masen for quite some time that Mommy is going to heaven. He has been seeing a grief counselor and he understands that Daddy had to go to work in heaven and that he will get a new daddy soon.”

Bella started to say something in return, but I gently squeezed her hand and my eyes telling her to keep it to herself. I turned back to Elizabeth, my mind made up, my resolution solid.

“I want to see him, now.” ~~DDD~~
BPOV

This cannot be real. Things like this just don’t happen in my world. I knew Edward had a life before me and that he was not a virgin, however actually seeing a woman he had been intimate with is a hard pill to swallow. I mean what do you say, “Oh hey, did he learn that thing he does with his tongue from you or just perfected it with me?”

I was angry􏰀..fuck that I was pissed. I had dreams of having a bigger family with Edward, but it didn’t include having his first born come from a woman who is so flipping beautiful that even though she is knocking on deaths door looks really great.

I knew that everyone in the room could tell I was radiating hate. Hate for a woman who took something from me that I wanted badly. Something I had planned on discussing with Edward soon. I knew I wanted to be married before we started to try for a baby. Hell, I knew he wanted to marry me and it was only a matter of repairing our relationship and growing together.

But this?

It’s just not fair. I wanted to be the mother of his first child. I wanted to give him that, me, the girl who loves him with her whole heart. The girl who would do anything for him. The girl who􏰀.pushed him away when she could have been enjoying him and maybe have a ring on her finger.

My emotions went from being an upset brat that was throwing an internal tantrum to a defensive momma bear. Elizabeth made it sound like she had written off Masen. Telling him she was getting him a new mommy and daddy. I couldn’t ever do that to Jessica, but then I looked at Elizabeth. I truly looked at her and I knew in that instant. She wasn’t being selfish, no she was being selfless. She was preparing Masen for a time when she wouldn’t be around to care for him. When she wouldn’t be here to wipe away his tears and fix scraped knees. She would never see him play baseball or graduate high school and

college. Never see his face when he professed his love to his new bride.

I wanted to tell Elizabeth that I understood what she was trying to do, that I would help Masen and Edward find the relationship they would need to help each other. I would show Masen that it’s ok to call Edward daddy. However, Edward had a determined look on his face when he motioned for me to remain quiet. Barbra reached into her brief case and took out her phone pressing a number of buttons and then smiled as she looked back to Edward and me.

“His nanny is on her way with him.”

I looked to Edward whose face showed pure shock. He was about to possibly meet his son. I remembered the moment they placed Jessica on my chest when she was born. The overwhelming sensation of loving someone with such passion that you had only just met. I knew exactly the amount of emotions that Edward was feeling right now. The anticipation of having the responsibility of caring for another human being and having them learn their basic survival skills from you. How your words and actions would put a positive or negative effect on their outlook on life. How there is no right or wrong in the raising of healthy children. No one tells you how to get your child to do the things you need them to do, because every child is unique and wonderful.

The sound of the doorbell caused everyone to jump. Edward pulled me up with him as we walked hand in hand to the door. He paused with his hand on the door handle and looked me

deep into my eyes.

“Bella, swear to me that no matter how this ends today, you will still be by my side.”

“Where else am I going to be?”

I had hoped that Edward would demand to have a DNA test done. If Caius had lied to him before, they could do it again. However, as the nanny removed the scarf from around Masen’s neck and face, I knew that test would only confirm what was plain as day. Masen’s hair and eye color was a perfect match to Edward’s. His skin was a little darker and his hair was absent of any cowlicks that Edward possessed. When Masen got a good look at Edward, the mega-watt smile was a perfect match. With his shoulders back and his little hand outstretched to shake Edward’s he greeted him in such a grown up manner.

“Hello, my name is Masen Edward Caius.”

Edward slowly lowered his body so that he was face to face with Masen. “It’s a pleasure to meet you Masen, my name is Edward.”

They shook hands like business colleagues. Masen was a miniature version of Edward.

“Elizabeth told me all about you. She said it was ok to call you daddy, because that is what you really are.”

I wanted to cry. He seemed so comfortable with the passing of his parents, like this was something he did every day. It also didn’t escape my attention that he referred to his mother by her first name.

“Well Masen that is something we’ll have to wait and see what happens.”

Masen began to look around the room and walked over to Elizabeth taking her frail hand in his, and I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. This child was pure love. He may have been created out of a trumped up scam, but he was nothing but pure joy.

Elizabeth began to cough again and Masen tried to help her. Esme helped Masen to stand on the sofa so that he could rub Elizabeth’s back. He began to quietly sing to her as if he was the parent, and not a dry eye was found in that room while he continued to sing to her.

As we lay in bed that night, Edward held me and ran his fingers up and down my arm. There was no love making tonight only reassurances that we would be there for each other and that I would do anything I could to help them. Carlisle arrived a few minutes after they left and I was both happy and sad that he didn’t get to see Masen. Happy due to the fact Jessica and the other grandchildren were with him.

“We have some big decisions to make.” Edward voiced, though I’m not certain he was really talking to me or just placing it on the table.

“I think you made enough for one day. The rest will wait until the dust settles and you can have time to know your son.

The arrangement was to have Masen’s birth certificate changed to Cullen and to have Masen spend more and more time here at the house. Although, the next morning, the best laid plans were abruptly changed. The house phone rang and Edward quickly answered it. He asked only one question and I instantly knew what had happened.

“When?”
Elizabeth Caius had passed away. Edward Cullen was now a single parent.

26. Chapter 26

A huge thank you goes to my beta extraordinaire, Kim Edwards…flove you girl.-LOVE YOU TOO CAYCE!􏰀.To Holly Higgins who juggles so much in her RL and yet rocks my world with the photos she finds (YES SHE DOES!), check out her talent for yourself on face book . / groups/434894866569951/ (Just remove the huge space)

BPOV

With the news of Elizabeth’s death, the Cullen family had jumped into action. Carlisle and Esme had cleared work schedules, including mine and booked plane tickets. Angela had assumed my role as director and expressed her sympathy for Mason’s loss. Before I could even blink, Jessica and I were sitting on a plane to Boston.

Jessica had been the true light in a very dark time for Mason. When Mason was brought to Edward’s house, Jessica walked right up to him took his little hand and led him to the game room where she began to play board games with him. Edward followed the children and sat down alongside and asked if he could play too. When Mason confessed that his mother had gone to heaven, Jessica made every one cry when she gave him comfort the only way she knew how.

“That’s ok Mas, my mommy is still hewre and she says that you hafta to always shawre with your friends, so I wants to share my mommy with you.”

She held his little hand everywhere they went and soon began to whisper in his little ear causing him to giggle several times. When we boarded the plane, Jessica told the flight attendant that Mason was her new friend and that they had to sit together. With Edward sitting beside me and Jessica and Mason sitting in the seats in front of us. We made our way on our difficult journey.

Elizabeth’s family was not from money and they made no point in hiding it. When Barbra, the attorney, met them at the funeral home, Elizabeth’s father made certain to tell her that he was going to need help in raising Mason. Barbra explained the legal aspect of Edward having full custody now and the only comment he could make was, “You can take the girl out of the trailer, but you can’t take the trailer out of the girl.”

The funeral was to be a simple affair, Elizabeth wanted to be cremated and only a picture of her smiling would be sitting for mourners to pay their last respects. Her family quickly began to question where the money from the sale of the house and her personal belongings would be going. Barbra was very blunt in telling them that since they had made it a point to have nothing to do with her while she was alive; she wanted them to do the same when she died. Every dime she and Sean had went into a trust fund for Mason. Elizabeth’s family told Barbra that they would be contacting a lawyer to get what was rightly theirs. She smiled and politely gave them a card from a law

firm near their home. This was also Elizabeth’s wish; she knew how they would respond.

I once read that children handle tough situations differently than adults. When children are small like Mason, no one has told him how death is supposed to make you feel. As adults, we have seen others react to loss and we have programmed ourselves to act accordingly. Mason walked up to the picture of his mother and laid his little hand on it. He said some hushed words and then returned to his seat and began to play with Edward’s Ipad.

Edward grabbed my hand as he then made his way to her picture. He closed his eyes and he spoke his words in a hushed tone.

“It will take me a while to forgive you for lying to me, but I still have to thank you for my son.”

Esme thought it would be better for Edward and Mason to share a hotel room. She felt it would be too confusing for Mason to see Edward and me sleeping in the same bed when we weren’t married. Edward had hushed words with his mother but in the end, Jessica and I slept in a room across the hall from the boys.

Jessica and I had snuggled into the thick blankets of the hotel bed and watched a movie that was currently on the television. We both drifted off to sleep with the lights and television on. Something caused me to jolt awake, the numbers on the alarm clock read quarter after three in the morning. The lights

and TV were still on. I moved to turn off the lamp when I heard someone pounding on my door.

I threw the covers back and made my way across the room, checking the peep hole, I found Edward standing bare chested in the hall. I unlocked the door and quickly pulled it open.

“Edwar􏰀”

I didn’t get to finish as he picked me up bridal style and crossed the room with me gripped in his arms. He sat me down quickly and firmly in the chair that rested in the corner of the room.

“Bella􏰀” His breathing was labored and his hair tussled. I had never seen him act this way.

“You have to help me, I am doing everything wrong.”

I pried his fingers off my arms as I tried to get his attention.

“Edward, what is going on?”

“Bella, I have to make things better for him and I’m screwing things up so bad. I need to give him a good home.”

I held his face in my hands as I tried to get him to look at me.

“I need you to help me.” His eyes finally meeting mine, although his far off look was still there.

“Edward, you have to calm down so I can help you.”

He gently grasped my face with his hands, “Bella you have to marry me right now.”

When the Cullen women want to get something done, they let nothing stand in their way. After returning from Boston, Esme took off with Alice and Rose in tow. They surfaced a few hours later with a rented truck full of new bedroom items and a team of men who were given different tasks to do. Mason’s room was emptied, cleaned and painted with in twelve hours. He was able to sleep in his new bed less than twenty four hours after we landed.

Edward had been handling me with kid gloves since our return. I tried to assure him that I wasn’t upset about what he did, but he felt he needed to make it right.

“Baby􏰀 I can’t say I’m sorry enough. I would call it a moment of insanity, but I was 􏰀”

“Overwhelmed? In shock? You have to quit beating yourself up about this.”

He took me into his arms kissing the top of my head.

“If you only knew how I have the moment I ask you to be my wife planned out in my mind, you would want to kick my ass for the monstrosity I managed to do in Boston.”

“And I already told you that you need to keep with your plans,

after all, I told you no the first time.”

When Edward had asked me to marry him in Boston, I had taken it as him having a crazy moment.

“Edward, you are going to wake up tomorrow and feel like a huge slug for even asking me like this.”

“You’re wrong Bella. I want to get my family out of bed and head to Vegas right this second and get married so that Mason has a complete family.”

I couldn’t even be hurt by his words. He felt he needed to marry me for Mason and not because he loved me. I only smiled as I wrapped my arms around his head and kissed the top of his hair.

“Edward Anthony Cullen, I love you enough to decline your offer of marriage. Besides, he already has an amazing family that will do everything in their power to help him through this.”

The first signs of spring had begun to make their presence known, including a cold that Jessica and Mason both got together. Esme took charge during the day and nursed them while Edward and I worked. It soon became evident that this cold was more than just little sniffles as more and more people came down with it; myself included. Carlisle was nice enough to prescribe me medication that helped with my symptoms and I was able to only miss two days of work.

Esme was working double time to get her house ready for

Easter. She wanted all of her grandchildren there and again enlisted the help of local venders. Edward and Emmett were excited because even though they had long out grew the Easter egg hunts they had as a child, Esme made the day fun for them as well. She filled their eggs with airplane bottles of alcohol.

Jessica was dressed in a beautiful yellow dress with a white sweater since the air still had a slight chill in it. Mason was rocking a sweater vest that matched his fathers and Uncle Emmett.

Carlisle, Edward and Emmett had to hide the Easter eggs several times before the children would settle down and have lunch. This effectively caused all of them to fall asleep as soon as dessert was finished. All the women watched as the men hunted for their eggs, not stopping to place them in a basket, as they would tear them open and drink it straight down. By the time all of their eggs were found, all three men were three sheets to the wind. I quickly found that a drunken Dr. Edward is a very horny Dr. Edward.

I had just checked on the children when Edward wrapped his arms around me, tossing me playfully against the wall in the hall.

“You are so beautiful.” He slurred into my ear as he kissed my neck and mouth.

“You are so drunk. Let’s get you some water and Advil and a nap.” I giggled as I tried to pry his hands from under my skirt.

“Bella, I’m the medical professional here. I know exactly what I need.” The sound of my panties being ripped from my body was followed by my squeal as he picked me up quickly and fumbled his way to the guest bathroom. For someone who was completely wasted, he was seriously quick. He had my skirt up and his pants down before I could hear the door being locked. There was no warning as his cock was pushed inside me. I gasped at the sensation, but tilted my head back when his hands touched my covered breast. However, in true drunk and fumble fashion, it was over as quickly as it began. He released into me and then slumped his body into mine. He had just enough energy to pull up his slacks and walk down the hall and crash into the guest room bed.

I quickly cleaned myself and then took a still sleeping Jessica back home. Esme gave me her word she would take care of the drunks upstairs. I kissed Mason on his forehead and went home.

It was early on Monday morning when Edward finally contacted me. He apologized over and over for being an ass.

“I remember everything Bella; I don’t like how I was so rough with you in the bathroom.”

I gave him a hug and told him it was ok.

“No Bella, that isn’t how I operate􏰀. I love touching you and bringing you as much pleasure as you give me. Call me a pussy, but I enjoy foreplay. I enjoy watching the buildup in your eyes.”

His words were enough to make me cry. He didn’t hurt me when he took me in the bathroom that day, but it also wasn’t like any of the other times we had been together.

“I’m also not going to stand here and tell you that I will make it up to you; I’m just going to show you, very soon.”

I made it to work in time for Angela to inform me that a Dr. Tristan had called several times from Dartmouth regarding Dr. Tanner. I rolled my eyes as I sat down in my chair and sighed heavily. The last thing I wanted to do this morning was to deal with Bree. Before I could even pick up my phone to call him back, James came in and informed me that he was once again on the line.

“Thank you, James.”

Taking a deep cleansing breath, I reached for my phone and put on a fake smile.

“Good morning, this is Ms. Swan.”

In college, one of my professors told us that it is impossible to be nasty to someone if you are smiling. I didn’t know if he was really correct, but I always made it a point to have a smile on my face when I spoke on the phone at work.

“Ms. Swan? My name is Dr. William Tristan; I’m the dean of students here at Dartmouth School of Medicine. I won’t take up much of your time as I know how busy you are.” I wondered if he had a fake smile on his face this morning as

well.

“No problem at all Dr. Tristan, how can I help you?”

“Thank you Ms. Swan. I’m in charge of doing an investigation on a student of ours, Bree Tanner? According to our records, she played an active role in the treatment of your daughter, Jessica Swan?”

It seemed like a life time ago that Jessica had been in the hospital. Edward was still trying to prove to me that he was a nice guy. He went out of his way to take care of her.

“Well Dr. Tristan, how can I help you?”

“Yes, well recently Dr. Tanner has returned to our school after allegations of unprofessional behavior by one of her superiors. Can you tell me if she was ever unprofessional to you or your daughter during treatment?”

I leaned back into my chair and closed my eyes remembering Bree and Edward kissing and the pain that I felt in my chest.

“Yes Dr. Tristan, she was unprofessional to me on at least one occasion. However, Dr. Cullen was in complete control of care in regards to Jessica.”

I told him of the time when we had to see her for a follow up to Jessica’s discharge. How she made it a point to inform me that he wasn’t interested in having a relationship with me, only a quick fling. I also informed him of the kiss I witnessed at

Edward’s house.

Dr. Tristan thanked me for the information and assured me I would receive a copy of the board’s final decision regarding Dr. Tanner.

James knocked on my door just before lunch and wanted to talk with me. I encouraged him to have a seat and tell me what was on his mind.

“Well Bella, you know how successful the bazaar at Christmas was?”

“Yes James, it was a huge hit.”

“Well you know that there isnt any major holidays until May? I was thinking we need to get people out and moving with the weather getting better and so what do you think about hosting a couples night out. We can have the back rooms open for the kids drop off and then have venders available with food and drinks and I know Leah would be thrilled to have her flower arrangements on display as centerpieces. It would boost her business. We could even get a local band to play music for dancing after dinner is served. I mean the possibilities are endless.”

I smiled at James and then told him to get me some solid numbers and I would take this to the board.

After James left and the day was finally done, I dove into several of the files that I hadn’t been able to open in a while. I

called Sue and asked if she could get Jessica for me. She was so excited and didn’t even let me finish telling her that I would be by later when she hung up the phone. The sun had set over an hour ago and I could feel the tension setting in my neck and shoulders. My cell buzzed with a text message from Edward and I smiled as I rose from my chair and followed his instructions.

Come to the back room.

Once I opened the door to my office, I could hear the faint sounds of piano music. Opening the door to one of the back offices, I found a half-naked Edward lying on a huge bed of fluffy pillows, pink rose petals and white blankets. The soft glow of candles highlighted his hair and made his skin almost sparkle. He held his hand out to me as I closed the door behind me.

“I am nothing if I’m not a man of my word Isabella.”

He stood and walked slowly toward me, the blanket that had covered his erection fell to the floor revealing a very turned on Edward.

“What’s all this?”

“This is a man who is madly in love with a woman􏰀A woman who has been by his side during some very trying times recently􏰀.A woman who took a back seat in his life so that he could take on a new role􏰀This is that man showing that woman how grateful he is.”

I looked into his eyes, the candle light reflecting the golden flakes that were scattered around the green.

“Where is Mason?”

He began to softly kiss my cheeks, trailing his hot wet tongue down my neck and into the area that my blouse didn’t cover.

“Mason wanted to go spend an evening with his new grandpops Charlie. It seems Jessica and Lilly informed him that grandpops Charlie is a police officer and he wanted to see his cop car.”

I closed my eyes as he began to remove my blouse, taking his time, brushing his fingertips against my skin as he went.

“S-So􏰀.we are alone for a while?” I squeaked out. “Mmmhmm”

He didn’t even bother to look at me as he responded. He began to sway us over to the bed of pillows he had created, picking me up bridal style as he placed me on my back. I was so turned on and my body was on fire, that I didn’t even squeal as I felt the cool sheets touching my skin. There in an empty office in the library I worked so hard to turn around, Edward took his time and showed me just how much he truly loved me. Could my life be this perfect and wonderful every day? I didn’t know, but I desperately wanted to find out.

A/N-Heck no this isn’t the end!

I will say this is the last update you will get while I am away though. Not to worry, I have a two hour flight, a MacBook and free internet at my hotel. I just might get inspired. (MAYBE I CAN START ON YOUR OTHER STORIES~Kim)

A few stories to keep your attention while you wait for me.

Knocking On Heavens Door by FallenForTheCullen

Dazed from a brutal attack, Edward stumbles through the streets until he sees a welcoming light from Bella’s window. Will knocking on this stranger’s door give him the help and healing he needs? And maybe, a new home for his heart.

The Other Side of the Fence by Edward’s Eternal

He hides to protect those he loves, she hides because that is all she knows. Isolation is a way of life for both of them. Two neighbors. All that separates them is a fence. Who knows what waits on the other side? Can they be strong enough to find out?

To Protect and Serve an Angel by edwardsouthernbella

Bella needs to make some changes in her life, which includes getting away from her abusive husband, Jacob. After a romantic encounter with Edward Cullen, she chooses to divorce Jake, but not before he tries to kill her. Edward stays by her side, vowing to save her from this nightmare, and to put Jacob in prison.

Tomorrow by MBella

Edward is country music’s hottest star…Bella is just a small town girl…somehow their world’s collide, and nothing is ever the same again.

EPOV

27. Chapter 27

I’m thankful for so many things in my life. Three of them are currently sleeping soundly in my bed. I had been called away very early this morning to see a distraught mother who would only let her son be looked at by me. Turns out he had managed to shove several crayons into his ear. It had taken longer than I had hoped due to the need to sedate him while we pulled them back out. Bella had assured me she would love some time with the kids and insisted that I take care of my patient.

During one of Mason’s counseling sessions we learned that his nanny, Marissa, took care of him the majority of the time. It seemed that Elizabeth was the quintessential society wife, more interested in her country club functions then spending time with her son. He told us that he missed Marissa more than anything. Bella being the amazing mother that she is, contacted Marissa and asked her to consider moving here for a few months to help Mason get through this rough time.

Marissa jumped at the chance; her boyfriend had recently accepted a position in Seattle. The look on Mason’s face when we picked her up from the airport was enough to make a grown man cry. We had agreed that her duties would be

just to work with Mason on adjusting to his new family. Bella insisted that she would not be responsible for babysitting the kids. He had two parents and a grandparent in the house that would take care of that. Marissa argued that if she was going to be living in the house, she would not feel right just playing with Mason all day and not do anything else.

Bella had a long conversation with her and in the end; Marissa would be taking college courses while Mason was at daycare. She had revealed to Bella that she had always wanted to open her own daycare center and so she would take some business courses and major in early childhood development.

As I continued to watch their sleeping faces, I felt a warm sensation well up in my chest. This was my family, and if things go as I have planned this would be permanent. I contacted Angela; I wanted to do something amazing for Bella. I was still very upset about how I threw myself on her in my parents’ house. I had asked her if she could gather Bella’s staff together to help me out. With the way they had planned things in the past for Bella, I knew they could help me pull off what I had planned in my mind.

During that meeting, James and Maggie were full of ideas. I wanted something over the top; give my Bella the assurance that she was the one for me. And so in one of the meeting rooms of Forks Library, a plan was created. Angela surprised me when she told me she was friends with a popular recording artist and would contact him to see if he was available to help us out. Two days later, she sent me a text confirming his appearance. She had told him the entire plan

and he admitted to being a sucker for a happy ending.

Once James had convinced Bella to have a Sweetheart Event, I had Emmett fake some bids for the food and entertainment. Carlisle explained to the board our plans and it was all systems go. My mother had recruited Rose and Alice to assist her in getting the food and decorations ready leaving me to perfect my part.

“Daddy?”

The very sleepy voice of Jessica called out to me. I looked to see her beautiful eyes looking back at me, her fingers twirling a strand of her mother’s hair.

“Hi sweetheart, did you have a god nap?”

She reached for me and I carefully pulled her up and into my arms. She wrapped her tiny arms around my neck and gently kissed my cheek.

“We made you cookies, daddy.” “You did?”

She quickly and excitedly nodded her head, her smile decorating her face and filling my heart with joy.

“Well, how about we go have some of those cookies?”

As she jumped off my lap and onto the floor, another sleepy voice spoke.

“Not until daddy gives mommy a hello kiss.”

I turned back to Bella. She was so beautiful, with her sleepy eyes and puffy skin. Even without a smudge of makeup she was the most beautiful woman in the world to me. My hand moved on its own as I cupped her cheek, placing a tender kiss to her lips.

“Are you excited about tonight?”

She smiled as her eyes glimmered. She was so proud of her staff. Looking through Bella’s eyes, it would appear that her staff had worked night and day to pull this off.

“I still can’t believe Angela is related to Gary LeVox.”

I playfully huffed as I helped her set up in bed. “Oh, I don’t think I like the way you say his name there Bella.”

She rolled her eyes as Mason stealthily wrapped his arms around her neck.

“Can we have cookies now? I’m starving woman.” I couldn’t even correct Mason as he was too cute the way he said that.

Bella however, wasn’t taken by his looks and she flipped him over her shoulder and began to tickle him.

“Since when do you get to call me woman little man?” I-I-I-n-not little.” He said through giggles.

“Oh my, I forgot. You started shaving and taking out the trash. But you still need to find a job so you can pay your daddy rent.”

I picked Mason up by his feet and dangled him so that Bella could grab his upside down face and pepper it with kisses.

“No Bella, I’m too little for a job.”

I tossed him over my shoulder as Jessica wrapped her body around my calf sitting her little bottom on my foot.

“Ok little man, tell Bella sorry for calling her woman, it wasn’t nice.”

“Sorry Bella!” He shouted as I raced down the stairs. ~~DDD~~

Everything was in place. Marissa had volunteered to help with the child drop off. Her boyfriend, Tony, even came down and offered to help out as well. Leah Clearwater had outdone herself with the centerpieces. She told me to remember how much I loved them when I got the bill for them next week. The entire town, it seemed, had turned out to see Rascal Flats and have dinner with their sweet heart. Only a hand full of people knew the real reason for this concert.

Emmett had his football team dressed in tuxedos and used them for servers. Several cheerleaders were dress to the nines and helping people find tables. I stood looking around,

hands in my pocket, the velvet pouch clasped tightly in my hand.

Angela made her way to the microphone, she was glowing, pregnancy defiantly agreed with her. Ben was never far from her and seemed to always have his hand on her expanding tummy.

“If I can have your attention please?”

The conversations began to die down and every eye turned to look at Angela.

“Thank you􏰀Ladies and gentlemen, thank you to each of you who have braved the weather to come and enjoy this event tonight.”

It was still early in the spring and the current temperature outside was in the low forties. My mother had searched out every portable heater in the county and the temperature inside the tent was a comfortable seventy degrees.

“Tonight, sit back and enjoy the wonder food that is being served. Now the moment many of you have been waiting for􏰀.Ladies and gentlemen, Rascal Flats!”

The crowd erupted in applause as the curtain drew back and the band began to play.

“Want to join me handsome?” Bella’s warm hand and warmer breath pulled me out of my nervous state.

“I thought you would never ask.”

I took her hand and let her lead me to an open table near the rest of my family. Pulling out her chair, I looked to my proud faced mother and gave her a wink. I took my place and began to try to eat the food on my plate.

Angela and I had planned to have the band perform three songs before I made my move. The third song began and I took my cue. I leaned into Bella whispering in her ear that I would be right back.

I waited in the wings as the song came to a close. One of the roadies motioned for me to come on up as he handed me a guitar. Placing the strap around my neck, I nervously crossed the stage where I found a wooden stool waiting for me. Gary was already sitting on the other stool and as I took a deep breath, I looked to see my mother and Alice had joined Bella at the table; a look of confusion on her face.

My voice cracked slightly as I spoke into the microphone.

“Hello everyone􏰀..Um􏰀..I’m certain you are wondering what I’m doing up here, since you really want to hear these guys play and not me talk􏰀.But if you would just endure me a moment of your time I will tell you the real reason you guys are here.”

I had waited for this moment since the first time I laid eyes on Bella. She had strongly stood by my side through some very difficult times. She had proven her love and devotion to me

over and over. Now it was my turn to tell the entire town what she meant to me.

“Bella Swan, can you please come closer to the stage please.”

A member of the security team placed a wooden step that joined the audience to the stage. Bella slowly walked toward me as the security team helped her to sit on the stairs.

“Bella􏰀.when I first saw you, I knew I had to get to know you better. What I found out made me want to be a part of your life. You didn’t make that easy for me and for that I am grateful. If you had fallen at my feet, I wouldn’t have noticed how truly strong you are.”

I turned my attention back to Gary who cued the band to begin playing. I hadn’t had much time to play the guitar since high school; college took up a lot of my time. But as soon as I knew I was going to do this, I began to practice every chance I got.

Every time our eyes meet This feeling inside me
Is almost more than I can take Baby, when you touch me
I can feel how much you love me

And it just blows me away
I’ve never been this close to anyone or anything I can hear your thoughts, I can see your dreams I don’t know how you do what you do
I’m so in love with you
It just keeps getting better
I wanna spend the rest of my life
With you by my side
Forever and ever
Every little thing that you do
Baby, I’m amazed by you
The smell of your skin
The taste of your kiss
The way you whisper in the dark
Your hair all around me
Baby, you surround me
[From: .net]

You touch every place in my heart
Oh, it feels like the first time every time
I wanna spend the whole night in your eyes I don’t know how you do what you do I’m so in love with you
It just keeps getting better
I wanna spend the rest of my life With you by my side
Forever and ever
Every little thing that you do
Baby, I’m amazed by you
Every little thing that you do
I’m so in love with you
It just keeps getting better
I wanna spend the rest of my life With you by my side
Forever and ever

Every little thing that you do Oh, every little thing that you do Baby, I’m amazed by you

My eyes never left hers as I sang each word. I watched as her face turned from a nervous smile to tears streaking down her beautiful face. I removed the guitar from around my shoulder as I walked closer holding my hand out to her. Marissa held the hand of Mason and Jessica as she brought them to stand on either side of me.

“Isabella Swan, you have blessed me with your love and compassion when I didn’t really deserve it. You have stayed by my side when I needed you and even when I didn’t think I did. You have made my house a home by filling it with love and laughter. I don’t want to spend another day without you in my world. Please say you will marry me?”

Bella didn’t leave me hanging as she pulled me into a bone crushing hug and said the words I prayed I would hear over and over.

“Yes􏰀Edward I will.”

Mason became impatient with our embrace as he began to pull on my jacket sleeves.

“Daddy, it’s my turn.”
I moved Bella just slightly as I took the ring out of my pocket

and carefully gave it to him. He stood proud as a peacock as he took Bella’s left hand in his tiny one and placed the ring on her finger after counting them to be sure he had the correct one.

I had forgotten we were in a tent full of people until an over whelming awe sounded after Mason kissed her hand.

Mason took Jessica by the hand and hugged her whispering something in her ear. She refused to tell us what he said; she only kissed my cheek and then turned away with Mason’s hand firmly grasped in hers.

Bella and I danced to nearly every song that night. I refused to let her go and she seemed to feel the same need. Marissa and Tony wanted to take the kids home and get them into bed. My face hurt from all of the smiling that I did.

As we lay in our bed after a couple rounds of love making, Bella snuggled into my neck as she drew patterns on my chest with her finger.

“Well, Edward Cullen, you are certainly a man of your word.”

I chucked as I drew her body closer to me.

“Oh really, what are you referring to?”

“You told me once that when you decided to propose, it would be something the town would never forget.”

I wrapped my free arm around her and kissed her forehead.

She was right, I had said that to her. Only I managed to surprise myself with this proposal.

“Oh my love, you haven’t seen anything yet. Wait till the town attends our wedding.”

A/N

I have to say a huge thank you to the following people, Christina Gettys and Elizabeth Simonton. They both responded with the song by Rascal Flats that I used in this fiction.

We are now nearing the end of DDD. No more drama or mystery children will be popping up. Don’t forget to check out my new fiction, Worth the Weight.

BPOV Epilogue

28. Chapter 28

“Ms. Swan, I am certain that I speak for the entire board when I say that this meeting is a formality.”

It was hard to believe I had completed my first year. I had been reflecting on all of the changes my life has gone through since I arrived in Forks. When I first set out to do this job, I could only think about what I could do for this town. I never considered what I would learn from them.

I once read a quote that says, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him what you have planned.”

That is exactly what I did when I took this position. I planned to do my job and raise my daughter. The last thing I wanted was to fall for some cheap lines, some small town boy would whisper to me, just to get into my pants.

But there he was, waiting patiently for me to get my bitterness out of my system. He filled my life with such joy and the desire to achieve more.

“George, if I may correct you, its Mrs. Cullen now.” I smiled at

Hazel who had interrupted the meeting to correct the director.

“You were at the wedding if I recall, though I’m not certain if you remember much of it.” Hazel mumbled the latter under her breath. I had to giggle as I clearly remember George attempting to bump and grind on several of the older ladies in attendance.

“My apologies, I stand corrected Mrs. Cullen.”

Edward completely surprised me when he brought home dozens of bridal magazines and his calendar with all the dates he could comfortably get away from the office. I returned the surprise when I showed him the plus sign on the white stick I held in my hands. As much as Edward had regretted aggressively taking me in the bathroom at his parent’s, it did create the baby I was currently carrying.

“Bella are you sure?”

I smile with watery eyes that matched his as I happily nodded my head. Again it wasn’t in our plans to have a child this soon, but again it wasn’t my plan to fall in love with Edward.

“No apology necessary, but I disagree this is more than a formality. I want to be treated like any other director and questioned about my achievements and what I have planned. Despite the smallness of our community, the world outside is growing every day. I have a new program that I would like to provide you regardless if you choose to keep me on as director.”

Emmett had approached me when he had a number of his players who he was concerned with. He told me he was worried about his players who struggled all year with keeping their grades up. Some of the parents had been hit hard by the economy and could not afford summer school. I made some calls and came up with a solid plan as long as the board agrees.

“Bella, your achievements speak for themselves. This meeting would be over already if we were not sold on your abilities. I am however, excited to hear your newest venture.”

I sat down with Edward one evening after the kids were in bed. I showed him the statistics of graduating students and actual college placements. I was saddened to see that less than sixty percent of the students who enrolled in high school in this county enrolled in any college. Furthermore, thirty percent never made it to graduation. With the fishing industry just hours from here, it was easier to head up north and make money instead of attending college. Most stayed local during the off season.

I had these placed nicely in a power point and asked Hazel to dim the lights. I shared the information that I had and watched as George and the rest of the board look solemnly at the pie charts.

“Bella, I can’t see how we can help with any of this as we can’t change how generations have done things.”

This angered me, he was far too quick to throw up his hands

and call it a day, instead of using what we already have to our advantage.

“Well George, I’m glad that my husband didn’t try to talk me out of this. Sit back and let me share with you my plans.”

I switched to another file on my lap top. I showed him how the issue Emmett’s players and the adults we have that are working for the fishing boats can benefit.

“I contacted several of the boat owners and they all agreed that the off season is the summer months. The same is true for the football players. Coach McCarty doesn’t have his players play in the heat of the day. They practice early and then are released to go home.”

Emmett had further agreed that if my plan was accepted, he would make attending my program mandatory participation in order to play football.

“I also contacted the school and got a list of the top twenty five academic students. I contacted them as well as their parents and received an overwhelming support for what I am about to show you.

I click my mouse and a picture of all twenty five students stood smiling at the board.

“The school system is financially broke. They have no money for extra teachers, much less tutors. However, every student you see here has a 4.0. They will all graduate and hopefully

go on to college. They have all volunteered to tutor a class this summer and work one on one with any struggling student. Ten of the twenty five have summer jobs but are willing to come in during the evening to help as well.”

I leaned back in my chair as I watched Hazel smile and Gorge smile and shake his head.

“So how much is this going to cost us Bella?” I smiled as I knew I had him.

“Nothing really.” I shrugged. “We are already open during the hours the volunteers are available, so no additional moneys will be needed. It may even benefit us as they may be hungry and need a pastry or cup of coffee.”

With a unanimous vote, the tutoring project was created. ~DDD DDD DDD~

Six months later

“Bella you are a solid six centimeters, it won’t be long now.”

My water broke while snuggling into Edward’s side. I have never seen a man jump so high and as fast as he did. With all of his medical training you would think he would be calm, but no, he was a wreck. He ran around the room pulling at his hair talking to himself. He drove past the hospital entrance twice and then forgot to turn the car off. Too bad I was in too much pain to get it on film.

When Jessica was born, I was alone and terrified. This time I have a wonderful husband who would do anything for me. An extended family that is supportive and close knit. A town that waves good morning and looks out for each other.

Edward and I had chosen to not find out what we were having. This had made certain members of that close knit family not too happy with us. But Edward was firm and didn’t let them upset me about our decision. Mason had taken the roll of older brother to its limits. He had already sectioned off certain areas in his room that the baby could play and certain areas that were off limits. He even volunteered to change diapers until Edward informed him there would be poop in some of them. He then decided to give the new baby more space to play in his room.

Jessica would sing bed time songs to her little brother as she was convinced we were having a boy.

“Do you remember what I promised you on our wedding day?” Edward had finally calmed down and was keeping me laughing.

“You promised me a lot of things Mr. Cullen, one of them is the reason we are in the hospital right now.”

He smiled his warm smile and kissed my nose.

“Besides great sex, my love; I promised to make you smile every chance I got.”

My mind drifted off as I remember dancing close to my husband under the soft lights of the reception hall. The soft keys of the piano playing as he slowly swayed me around the floor. The feel of his fingers caressing my back and the way his neck smelled so sweet. How the smile I saw when I first began to walk down the aisle never left his face.

“I promised to fall more in love with you every single day.”

I turned my face to find his waiting. “I like that one the best.”

“Ok Bella, one more push and you will meet your baby.”

Labor had progressed quickly for me. It had been less than four hours since my water broke and I was pushing already.

“You are amazing, Bella.”

Edward hadn’t left my side for a single second this entire time. He was holding me together during the worst of my contractions.

“It’s a girl!”

The sounds of a sharp baby cry resounded in the room. One of the nurses wished our daughter a happy birthday as she placed her on my chest.

“Look at her Edward, she’s beautiful.”

Even with her blotchy skin and angry cries, she was still the most beautiful baby.

“She has your nose my love.”

I could tell Edward wanted to hold her as badly as I did. When the nurses began to clean up the area, I handed her over to her dad.

I watched as Edward carefully wrapped her in his arms as he sat in the rocking chair in the corner. He began speaking to her in hushed voices promising her the world I am certain.

“She is beautiful, but what do you plan to name her?”

I looked over to the nurse who was laying a clean blanket across my lap. Edward and I had a number of conversations about baby names. It took us months before we agreed. Mason and Jessica wanted to name the baby Popsicle and Marshmallow. In the end, an ad on television gave us the perfect name.

“Chloe Marie Cullen.”

Edward looked up from his daughter’s face to wink at me. Esme and Carlisle had taken the kids to a movie in Port Angeles one evening and we got into our pajamas and watched movies. Edward was about to change the channel when an advertisement for Chloe perfume came on, we looked at each other and began to smile. Edward insisted she have my middle name and so the name was set.

“Oh, that is beautiful! Not a popular name anymore; a classic.”

I couldn’t agree more. I hadn’t heard that name in several years and wouldn’t have to worry about there being five of them in her class when she started school.

Chloe began to fuss and Edward carried her back to me.

“I’m going to let everyone know that Chloe has arrived.” Edward gave several kisses to Chloe’s head and then a few to mine. I had just gotten Chloe settled when Edward came back in with Mason and Jessica in tow.

“Now remember we have to be quiet.”

Edward carefully took the children over to the sink and helped them wash their hands. Mason had such a big smile on his face as he slowly climbed on the bed beside me.

“Mommy what did we get?” Mason had started calling me Mommy about a month after Edward and I got married. I had to smile at him for his choice of words for Chloe. Jessica followed and I had Mason on my right and Jessica on my left, with Edward at the head of my bed; like a protective watch dog.

“I want you two to meet your new baby sister, Chloe.”

Jessica’s eyes got really big as the first signs of tears began to well up.

“A girl? Mommy, I wanted a boy􏰀 Pwease take her back; I don’t wanna sister.”

At the harsh sound of Jessica’s voice, Chloe began to cry. I tried to calm the baby down, but Edward had to console a now sobbing Jessica.

“I’m sowwy Daddy. I made her sad. I made the baby cry.”

Edward held Jessica to his chest as Mason couldn’t take his eyes off Chloe. He very gently ran his index finger over her forehead as he quietly informed her of the rules of playing in his room. It was everything I had not to laugh.

Once Edward had Jessica under control he gently placed her back on the bed. She eyed Chloe very carefully before she joined Mason in touching her forehead.

“I’m sowwy Chloe, I didn’t mean to make you cwy. I love you, honestly I do.”

I looked to Edward’s face as we both tried to control our giggles.

Once we had our bonding time, the rest of the family piled into the room. Esme was jumping with excitement and I was a little nervous to hand the baby to her. Carlisle had gone around the hospital handing out bubble gum cigars to announce he was a grandpa again. Rose began to lay it on thick to Emmett that they needed another one as Alice announced they would soon be switching places with us.

Once we got home, Angela and Ben brought over their little guy, Devon. He had a head full of dark hair just like his

parents and his legs and face were so cute with all their chubbiness. Angela had decided to work a few days a week after Devon was born. She was too afraid to miss anything. Edward and I were still discussing my return to work. Once all of the company was gone and all three kids were fed and asleep in their beds, Edward snuggled around me on the couch. I could tell he had something on his mind the entire day. I also knew he would tell me when he was ready.

“Baby?”

“Mmm?”

“I got some news today that I wanted to share with you.”

I pulled back to look into his eyes.

“Good news or bad news?”

He closed his eyes and encouraged me to snuggle back into him.

“Good for us, bad for the person it’s about.”
I closed my eyes and settled back into his side.

“The dean at Dartmouth called me today. It seems they had an official board review of Bree Tanner.”

Bree had done so much damage to our family; I didn’t even want to show a reaction to her name giving her any more power over us.

“He advised me that the board voted to revoke her internship. She won’t be able to finish her training.”

Neither one of us said anything for several minutes.

“You know I find it ironic that I came here to take my career by the horns and build something great. Having a man in my life was the last thing I wanted. Bree came into town with her career in her hip pocket and all she wanted was a man in her life.”

Edward turned off the television and we both laid there holding each other silently. I must have drifted off to sleep, because the next thing I knew Edward was holding a screaming Chloe out for me to nurse.

“I can give her a lot of things, but breast milk isn’t one of them.”

Chloe was good at latching on and I really enjoyed nursing her. Edward informed her the first time I did this that he was only loaning my nipples to her. He wanted them back when she had her first birthday.

Part of me felt bad for Bree. She was a woman who had set her sights on a man that just didn’t want her. She had played the game as she knew and had lost in the end.

I looked into the angelic face of my new daughter and I knew I would be responsible for teaching her how to act in society. How to be kind and gentle. How to use your talents to help

others and not for some twisted game. To look beyond people’s faults and find the good hidden inside. And when the day came, help her choose the man that would care for her heart.

First we would have to hide all of Grandpa’s guns so that daddy wouldn’t get any ideas. We had time for all of that though. We would enjoy our family and watch each of us grow.