A/N: Thank yous to Team Spiderward for all you do. xx
Song inspiration for this chapter: “Dads and Daughters,” MaRynn Taylor
(Playlist for this story can be found on my YouTube channel, if you search for “ghostreader24”)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. The NHL owns anything that sounds familiar. I’m here having fun.
/ /\ (oo) /\ \
With the arrival of my parents, I realize my first day in the office is moving at supersonic speed. For every item I complete, it feels as if Rose adds three more to my to-do list. During our tour of the office, I introduce Mom and Dad to everyone while they “ooh” and “ahh” over the renovations. When we meet Victoria in her office ready to depart for lunch, she shares photos of the space prior to our recent improvements, including a few from before she took over the space.
Over an array of fresh salads and sandwiches at a restaurant nearby, Mom and Dad spend time getting to know my new business partner. I’m surprised when Mom bonds with Victoria over their love of cooking, specifically unusual or unique recipes. They both consider themselves experimental chefs, making Dad shudder when he recalls the time Mom made a tomato soup cake before I was born. Mom claims it was a recipe my grandmother made frequently and she insists it’s a delicious spice cake, but Dad shakes his head adamantly in disagreement. After a round of laughter, Mom concedes that she may have improvised the recipe at the time, not having all the necessary ingredients. I’m more inclined to try Victoria’s chocolate salami recipe, which she insists only looks like salami, but is full of dried fruits, nuts, chocolate, and crushed biscotti.
After a quick check of the time, I realize we will have patients waiting soon, and we’re forced to say our goodbyes. Once we return to the office, Victoria handles our remaining appointments for the afternoon. I spend my time creating a list of edits I want to see in Jasper’s proposal and drafted plans for expanding our office into the neighboring buildings.
I’m returning to refill my coffee mug, when I recognize the voice of a man I would know anywhere. I find him leaning against the reception counter, speaking with his sister. Everyone within hearing distance appears to be hanging on his every word. I know that feeling too.
Edward grins when he notices my approach. “Hello, beautiful.”
“Hi!” I reach out accepting his hug. “I didn’t expect to see you until after the game tonight.”
When I pull away, he kisses me on the lips in front of everyone. “Sorry, not sorry,” Edward adds when he registers my surprise.
I chuckle, touching my lips lightly. “It’s okay.”
“Good. I’m here on official business. I have an appointment,” he shares proudly.
“Rose said I have one VIP patient today. Is that by any chance you?”
Edward nods. “I’m due for a recheck of my teeth, and I wanted to be your first patient.”
“Come on back. I’ll show you around.” I abandon all thoughts of coffee, leading him down the hallway. “This is my new office. Thank you for my flowers.”
“You’re welcome.” He smiles, then looks around. His eyes are drawn to our photo on my desk. “It’s . . . smaller than your last one.”
I shrug and set my empty coffee mug on my desk. “It’s all we need right now and probably temporary.”
“My loan is approved to expand into the buildings on each side of us.” I point toward the computer screen. “I’m working with Alice’s husband, Jasper, on plans for those. Isn’t he your first cousin or something?”
“Yeah. I don’t know him as Rose does. After she graduated from high school, she moved from Michigan to Texas to live with their family prior to attending college. Rose went to the same college as Jasper and is good friends with Alice. I was already on a different path, and typically would see them only during the holiday trips to Aspen. Since moving to Dallas, I see them more often now,” Edward explains, before making an unexpected offer. “But if you need an investor for your expansion, I’m available, then you don’t need to wait for any approval.”
“With a huge bias. How can you be sure expanding now is a wise investment?” I wonder, knowing Carlisle would lose his shit if he found out any of Edward’s money was being used toward investing in my career.
“I know the woman behind it—personally—and that’s not the only huge thing about me.” He wiggles his eyebrows.
“Oh, I know. How were you able to fit your head through our entrance door?” I tease.
“It’s not my head I’m talking about.”
“Let’s take a peek into our exam rooms,” I suggest, hoping to keep this conversation appropriate in my work environment, but it’s probably a losing battle. After sliding my hand in his, I lower my voice, “Guess what?”
His eyes sparkle with excitement. “What?”
“They’re full of patients.”
Edward’s smile matches mine at this news, and we depart my office after he steals another kiss. I tug him along the hallway, passing our renovated rooms before I lead him to an exam room with several additional modifications.
I release his hand to flip on the light, then wave him inside. “Go ahead and take a seat.”
“This room has a door?” Edward notices immediately before settling into the exam chair.
I nod, closing it gently. “It’s semi-private and used for more challenging patients who need a quieter, supportive environment instead of the typical exam room.”
“You think I’m a challenge?” He smirks.
“Like you wouldn’t believe.” I grin, clip a disposable bib around his neck, and take my spot on a rolling stool. “But I’m talking about patients who had a bad experience in the past and would be fearful of visiting a dentist or having a particular treatment. It helps them to relax and create a positive experience moving forward by eliminating all other outside stimuli. We classify them as our VIPs—very important patients. And it also works for high-profile patients who don’t want anyone privy to any diagnosis or treatments.”
“Is it soundproof?”
“Somewhat. So—” I start, tap the screen, and access his records. “Since our relationship has changed over the past months, after today, I will be handing off your rechecks and any other future visits to Victoria. I’ll introduce her when we’re finished.”
“But you’re my favorite dentist,” he complains with an adorable pout.
If our kids get that from him, I’m toast.
After sliding on a mask, I reach for a pair of gloves, then press the floor pedal tilting him backward. “I appreciate that. While there isn’t anything strictly prohibiting a dentist from treating family members—”
His eyes light up. “Ooooh, I’m a family member. I like the sound of that.”
“It isn’t good practice to continue to do so,” I explain.
“I guess Sam didn’t care.”
“You’re right, but he didn’t know and that’s on me. As dentists, we run the risk of not providing the best care possible because a family member may not be as forthcoming with medical history—”
“I’m an open book. Ask me anything,” he encourages.
“I promise to tell you all my secrets, and you’re like a steel trap.”
“Well, I can understand that one since I am your favorite goaltender.” Edward grins.
“I still think sex on an exam chair would be fantastic. I’m always available whenever you’re ready to give it a try, especially now that I know you have a room with a door. Or we could use your office. Does that door have a lock?”
I continue despite his efforts to distract me. “While we aren’t violating any ethics codes . . .”
“Maybe we should,” he interrupts, turning on the full-force of his crooked-smile.
“We’re hoping for a higher standard here.”
“Ah. That doesn’t surprise me. What if I have an emergency?”
“I can help you out,” I agree finally. Reaching up, I turn on the light and direct it toward his mouth.
“That’s what I’m talking about.” Edward nods.
“You’re lucky I love you.” I remove a probe and mirror from the set of tools waiting on the tray.
“Oh, I know I am.”
“Open, please.” I perform a visual inspection of Edward’s teeth before spending extra time examining the ones in question. “Let’s see, I replanted nine and ten. The discoloration on those two is fading, which is good news. Eight was loose and that’s no longer the case. They’re healing as we had hoped. Thank goodness I was there when it happened and we worked quickly or you may not have had this result. You’re a success story.”
“You know it, Doc.” He smiles confidently.
I flip off the light, pushing it away. Pressing the floor pedal once more, I return him upright.
“I don’t believe any X-rays are necessary at this time. Your next check will be at the six-month mark since your injury, and I’ll make a note for Victoria to take them then. Rose can schedule that appointment for you. Do you have any other concerns?”
“When are you coming home?”
“You just wanted to ask me that, didn’t you?” I unclip his disposable bib, pitching it into the trash with my mask and gloves, then add a few notes to his chart.
“Yes, because I can now. But really, when are you?”
I glance at the wall clock. “I’ll probably leave here somewhere between four and five. You’ll leave for the game before then, right?”
“Yeah. You could wish me luck.”
“Good luck tonight.” I can’t resist any longer and kiss him.
“Thank you. I’m hoping to get lucky after the game.” He winks, then pulls me closer for another lingering kiss.
And I know, without a doubt, he doesn’t need luck for that. I’ll be ready and waiting when he returns home.
/ /\ (oo) /\ \
It’s late as I’m walking toward the kitchen after my luxurious bath I knew was in order with the conclusion of my first day at work. I hear voices, which means Edward must be home from his game. We watched it on television, and they won three to two in overtime. I know it was an important one. So, he must be excited about the outcome.
While I shouldn’t eavesdrop, I’m curious about any conversation between him and my father. So, I slow my arrival, wait around the corner in the entry, and stay out of view.
“Bella left dinner in the oven for you before she went to take a bath or something,” Dad shares.
“Great. Thanks. Is Renée asleep?” Edward asks.
“Yeah. She called it a night after the game finished, then Bella fixed your food. Do you normally eat this late?”
The door to the oven opens and closes. “After a game, yes, but I eat all day because of the amount of calories I burn.”
“You didn’t play,” Dad points out.
“I still worked out this morning, plus before and after the game.” I can hear the sound of silverware clanging as Edward removes it from the drawer before he settles into one of the stools at the kitchen island next to Dad. “All workouts at this level of play require consistent fuel and recovery. So, you watched the game?”
“Yeah, Renée and Bella talked the entire time.” They share a laugh before Dad continues. “But that captain of yours—he’s a good player.”
Of course, they’re going to discuss the game. I shouldn’t be surprised.
“James. He is. He not only has the physical skills, but also the mental ones too. It takes a great athlete to slow down the game and maintain control like he did tonight. We dominated the second period, but he does it all for our team—big hits, fighting other players, and tonight, two goals, one the game winner in overtime,” Edward explains. “James doesn’t always get the recognition he should. It’s great for him to have a game like this one. He needed it—his family was there. His brother plays for Tampa Bay, and there’s a bit of a rivalry between them. We as a team needed the win after our last game with Minnesota before the All-Star break.”
“A catastrophe. Both Ben and I played in goal that night with similar outcomes. Some nights, there’s no way of doing anything right, which leaves players to rely on their mental games, shrug it off, and move onto the next one. Our schedule is rigorous and unrelenting at eighty-two games. This next road trip—we’ll play three games in four nights. It’s a lot of wear and tear on our bodies.”
“You’ll start?” Dad asks.
I’m a little curious about that too because if I had to guess, I would bet that Edward will play at least one of the games.
“I never know for certain until the day before or even game day, but the likelihood is high since we have back-to-back games on Monday and Tuesday. Ben will be due for a break. Can I get you another beer?” Edward offers before I hear the sound of a stool scooting roughly across the tile and the refrigerator door opens briefly.
“Uh . . . no. This is my second. I should call it a night soon too. We have a big day tomorrow. You’re not drinking?”
“No. I occasionally have a glass of wine or a beer, but right now . . . I’m tweaking my nutrition plan with better choices.”
My dad doesn’t say anything further, but I have no doubt Edward’s answer coupled with mine from earlier this evening about forgoing my usual glass of wine doesn’t escape his notice. They’re quiet for a moment once Edward returns to his spot and continues eating. I’m about to reveal myself before I hear Edward’s voice again.
“Charlie, there’s something I want to talk with you about so that you aren’t blindsided.”
“I’m going to ask Doc to marry me,” Edward states without hesitation, then adds, “Soon.”
My heart fills with undeniable happiness at his reveal. While I’m attempting to contain my pure elation at Edward’s words, there’s nothing except silence between them until Dad speaks again.
“Maybe I should have another beer.” He chuckles. “Is-is she pregnant?”
My breath hitches that it’s one of Dad’s first thoughts, but I’m thankful we took the test in Mexico, if only for Edward to have this answer.
“No. But we’re both ready for those next steps. And that’s one of them.”
It’s also reassuring to me that Edward wants to get married whether or not I’m pregnant.
“You believe she’ll say yes?” Dad asks.
“I do. We’ve discussed it. We’ll have a short or long engagement—whatever she wants. It doesn’t matter to me, but I’m not here asking for your permission, Charlie. We’re both old enough to know what we want, and for me, that’s her. Not to mention, she would probably think the entire notion was archaic and sexist since she used that word on me yesterday when we were discussing replacing her car with a minivan.”
I peek around the corner and notice a small smile on Dad’s face at that thought.
“So, don’t be surprised when she peels out of here with my Spider since I’ve given her the green light to drive it whenever she wants. From the look on her face this morning, I think she enjoyed her first time driving it to work. It could become a regular event.” Edward laughs, but it fades, and his expression grows serious after taking another bite. “You’re the first family member I’ve told about my plans.”
I can’t imagine what Dad is thinking with that news, but my heart may pound out of my chest at each new revelation from Edward.
“I am hoping we’ll have your support and blessing moving forward. I want you to know that her happiness and success will always be my top priority. I would do anything for her, but I know the key is getting her to allow me to help.”
Dad nods as I watch them sitting side by side at the kitchen island. “Bella has always been . . . how did I raise such an incredible daughter? Well, I’ll tell you, I didn’t—we didn’t. We lucked out despite ourselves,” Dad says with another small smile. “Bella has always been so smart and . . . we probably should have been more involved, but she didn’t need us, never asking for anything. It sounds as if you are aware of her . . . independent nature.”
“It’s one of the things I love most about her. But don’t think for a second she doesn’t want or need your support or approval because I can assure you she does,” Edward confides.
“All those years when she lived with Renée, they were at least together. I took some comfort in that. A girl needs her mother. Then, I got her back during high school and college, but the time passed too quickly. I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have. Next thing I know, she’s telling me about her plan to move to Texas. She was adamant it was the right place to continue her education, but tell that to my heart.” His voice breaks on the last word.
I had no idea it was tough for him since he never said a word, and I blink away the tears threatening to fall.
“Charlie, a daughter needs her father too. I hope you’ll only see our relationship as adding to your family. You aren’t losing her. You’re gaining a son. And a grandson or granddaughter as well.”
“Maybe only share the highlights of the last part. I would like to maintain the guise of my blissful ignorance.” Dad’s smile widens, but his thoughts shift and he starts, “Tomorrow—I’m worried.”
Edward puts his arm around Dad, squeezing his shoulder in support. “Tomorrow, you’ll have a new plan for Renée with one of the best doctors in the world. I’m confident the visit will be successful.”
“I hope so. Now that I have her back—” Dad shakes his head. “How many second chances will we get?”
“Hopefully, as many as you need.”
“I just want us all together. Finally. Is that too much to ask—to hope for?”
I brush away the tear trailing down my cheek.
“Not at all. I believe we will find the right way to make that happen.” There’s another pause before Edward speaks again, “Charlie, about us marrying—”
“Edward—” Dad lifts his hand slightly, stopping him from continuing.
I lean a little closer not to miss a word because Edward is right. I care about Dad’s opinion of me and us. While we don’t need his approval, I want it, and it sounds as if Edward does too.
“It says a lot about you that Bella is living here now. At times, she can be stubborn, refusing to budge over the smallest of details, and I have no idea who she got that from.” He chuckles, because we both know it’s a trait I undoubtedly got from him. “And her temper can flare when she feels she or someone she loves has been wronged.”
“She’s passionate,” Edward agrees, putting his endearing spin on when he’s witnessed me pissed. “Similar to my co-workers.”
“Yeah.” Dad grins at the thought of his daughter sharing a similar characteristic of any hockey player. “She’s tough, and I’ve learned to trust her judgment. She’s great at reading people. When it comes to making decisions, she’s careful and deliberate—not the impulsive type.”
I watch as Edward nods encouragingly, waiting patiently for him to continue.
“I always wanted a son, and I’m happy to learn that will be you.” Dad smiles while his words comfort and reassure. “Of course you have my blessing, and you’ll both have my support. Welcome to the family.”
I’m surprised, but probably not as much as Dad is, when Edward pulls him into a hug and pats his back. It’s the support Edward has been needing and missing from Carlisle. I brush away a few more tears over the fact that he’s found that in his relationship with my father.
“Thanks, Charlie. It means a lot—more than you realize.”