A/N: Thank yous to Team Spiderward for all you do. xx
Song inspiration for this chapter: “The Bones,” Maren Morris
(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.
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After an encouraging nod from Al, I step outside into the pool area, walking through the flickering lantern path, leading me to the lawn area where the wrought iron gate is open. I pause for a moment, taking in the view. My eyes travel the newly created curved pathway to the white tent where everyone is waiting for Mom’s arrival. The pathway is lined with lush green potted plants, including topiaries and hydrangeas interspersed with antique roses and daylilies in smaller pots.
With a light breeze, my attention shifts to movement under one of the trees off the path where a swing wrapped with greenery and flowers has been added. Al warned me he was creating a garden full of secrets, and this is a welcomed one. The child in me wants to kick off my heels and try it out. It’s one of those details I will want to keep when this night is over.
Once I step into the grass, my heels sink slightly, and I do my best to move forward as gracefully as possible, hoping not to get stuck. We should have rented flooring too. As I slowly approach the tent, my eyes pass over the breathtaking table set for dinner with an eclectic mix of tableware. Recognizing some of the chairs from inside with extra pillows for comfort, a few have velvety soft blankets draped across the backs. I’m positive I will be wrapping myself in one of those as the temperature drops this evening. I love the vintage chandeliers hanging from above, lending a romantic glow to the space.
While soft music plays over an outdoor speaker, I notice a mix of potted leafy trees and evergreen plants surrounding the perimeter of the tent with additional candles and lanterns creating a cozy and private feel. I love everything about Al’s creation, and wonder if this is something we can turn into a permanent garden in the future, because I’m finding myself wanting to keep this undoubtedly magical hideaway.
There’s no containing my laughter when my unexpected escort is waiting at the entrance to the tent, wearing a gray bowtie collar. Scout whines impatiently at my unhurried arrival. After a gentle scratch to his ears and a quick lick to my mouth, he walks beside me as I approach the short center aisle.
I notice Rose’s boys first. Austin is on his phone, but with one firm, “Austin,” from Rose across the aisle, he slides it into his pocket. Eric is in full-on blush, shifting his eyes away from me immediately. According to Edward, they will never forget my Super Bowl party bikini top mishap. Ugh. I have no idea how to fix that situation.
“Dr. Bella.” Katie gives me a big smile and points to the gap between her teeth. “I lost another tooth at school today,” she shares excitedly, while juggling Shadow on her lap.
“Not the time, Katie.” Rose warns with a smile from the seats behind her daughter, where Rose is sitting next to Emmett.
My grin widens at Katie’s news. “Congratulations.”
I notice Shadow’s collar, made from similar flowers in my bouquet—another of Al’s touches and undoubtedly a concession. When he suggested Shadow should be the flower girl during dinner last week, we cut off his alcohol consumption for the night, but he didn’t forget including her today.
As Scout and I move forward, my eyes flit from Sue and the empty seat next to her, probably for Edward, then back to the other side. I’m surprised to see Esme sitting next to Katie with no sign of Carlisle anywhere. I’m not sure if that’s a relief or not. Walking toward the floral arch where Garrett, Dad, and Billy are waiting, I go off-script, step toward Billy, and give him a hug first.
“Thank you for being here today,” I whisper.
“It’s an honor, Bella.” He smiles. “Thank you for including us.”
I hug Dad next, but the suit he’s wearing isn’t the black one he wore to his retirement dinner that he said he brought with them. It’s a gray suit with a darker gray tie and a dusty rose boutonniere pinned to the lapel. His boutonniere is similar to the ones Edward, Billy, Garrett, and Al are wearing.
“You look handsome. New suit?”
Dad shrugs. “Edward took care of me.”
Of course he did.
“I love you.” I hug him tightly.
“I love you too, kid. Don’t make me cry and go take your spot. Your mother is next,” he says with a twitch of his mustache.
“Impatient?” I tease.
Dad chuckles. “Yes.”
After a nod and grin from Garrett, Scout and I move to the spot across from Dad, leaving space for Mom.
At the change in the music, Mom and Edward arrive at the edge of the tent and everyone stands before they begin walking toward us. While Mom only has eyes for Dad, I can’t take mine off Edward. He’s incredibly handsome regardless of whatever he’s wearing, and today is no exception. But the difference maker for me is the care he takes with my parents—always respectful, leading with kindness at every opportunity. After joining us, Edward shakes Dad’s hand, then gives Mom a kiss on her cheek. My gaze follows him as he takes the spot next to Sue, before his eyes find mine and he winks, sending a thrill through me.
Yep. He’s mine.
He’s right. I’ll be thanking him plenty later.
Maybe incorporating that swing somehow.
“You may be seated.” Garrett’s voice breaks through my wandering thoughts. “Welcome, friends and family. We are gathered here today to celebrate the love shared by Renée and Charlie and to witness them enter into the sacred bond of matrimony. Let us all acknowledge the event of their union in their continued journey together. Who supports this couple in marriage?”
“We do.” The chorus of words from everyone in attendance surprises me since we planned for them to be only from Edward and me. But this is all Garrett, including everyone and giving them the option to participate.
Garrett nods. “As author Richard Bach once wrote: ‘A soulmate is someone who has locks that fit our keys, and keys to fit our locks. When we feel safe enough to open the locks, our truest selves step out and we can be completely and honestly who we are; we can be loved for who we are and not for who we’re pretending to be.’
“Marriage goes far beyond simply exchanging rings and filing a joint tax return.”
Garrett smiles. “The bond formed today transcends these materialistic elements of life. In its essence, the marital union is a lifelong spiritual commitment, a powerful display of devotion coupled with a passion to share one’s life with another.”
My eyes shift to Edward at the idea of sharing our lives together and find him watching me. We share a brief, knowing smile, while Garrett continues.
“As we move forward with the exchange of vows, may you never lose sight of the importance these words carry.”
Garrett lowers his voice. “Charlie, take Renée’s hands and repeat after me.”
Mom hands me her bouquet, then joins her hands with Dad.
Garrett speaks so softly that I can barely hear him, while Dad repeats the words with absolute sincerity. “I, Charlie, take you Renée to be my wife, in sickness and in health, through the good times and the bad, from this day on, until death do us part.”
Garrett nods, then prompts, “Renée, please repeat after me.”
While I can’t see Mom’s face, Dad’s expression is filled with love and adoration as he listens to her words that have been decades in the making.
“I, Renée, take you Charlie to be my husband, in sickness . . .” Mom’s voice shakes, then after a heavy breath, she resumes. “. . . and in health, through the good times and the bad, from this day on, until death do us part.”
“Charlie, do you take Renée to be your lawfully wedded wife?” Garrett asks.
Dad grins. “I do.”
“Renée, do you take Charlie to be your lawfully wedded husband?”
Garrett removes the rings from his suit pocket, holding out the first one for Dad. “Charlie, go ahead.”
Dad holds Mom’s hand, sliding the ring onto the third finger of her left hand. “I, Charlie, give you, Renée, this ring as a sign of my lifelong commitment and everlasting love.”
“Renée—” Garrett offers her Dad’s ring in his open hand. “Whenever you’re ready.”
“I, Renée . . .” Mom pauses, then sniffs. “. . . give you, Charlie, this ring as a sign of my lifelong commitment and everlasting love.”
Garrett grins. “By the power vested in me by the State of Texas, I now pronounce you legally wed. You may kiss each other.”
Dad leans close kissing Mom, then pulls away.
Everyone claps, with a few whoops and hollers added to the mix—mostly from Al. He’s such a romantic, and I watch him wipe his eyes with a gray silk pocket square.
Mom and Dad turn toward our guests, hand-in-hand as Garrett speaks.
“It is my honor to present to you, Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Swan.”
After handing Mom her bouquet, the music resumes over the speaker as Mom and Dad pose for the photographer, then walk down the aisle. I step forward next, holding out my hand for Edward to join me with Scout trailing behind.
He slides his hand in mine, smiles, then leans close to my ear. “They did it.”
At my nod and matching smile, I kiss his lips, just as the whirl of the camera captures a few shots of us. He places my hand in the crook of his bent elbow before we walk toward where Mom and Dad are standing with Al. After hugs and congratulations, Mom shows me her new platinum floral eternity wedding band with pink diamonds.
Once everyone joins us, Al takes our bouquets, setting them on the table, then waves us toward a buffet full of appetizers with Mom and Dad the first to make their selections.
“Oh, my goodness. This looks amazing,” I say, just before my stomach growls.
From behind me, Edward agrees, “It does.”
“Dr. Bella!” Katie yells, squeezing past her brothers into the space next to us.
“Can I sit by you?”
“Of course, you can.”
As we shuffle past the variety of choices, I’m curious about the octopus salad in little cups and choose one. I reach for a square of warm focaccia that looks as if it could be a work of art with its carefully arranged vegetables, depicting garden flowers. I can’t resist the bruschetta with its little rose-shaped prosciutto wedged between a soft white cheese and sun-dried tomato with an olive mix. But, I also add a mini-skewer with cheese, olives, and cured meats to my plate.
Next, I choose between the two specialty drinks since I won’t be having any Prosecco. They’re both Italian-flavored sodas. I start with The Charlie which is blackberry, while The Renée is strawberry. I’ll try it next.
After Edward helps Katie fill her plate, she follows me to the table. We choose the three spots across from Mom and Dad with the bench, leaving space for Edward to sit on the other end with Katie between us.
Once we’re settled, Katie takes a bite of stuffed calamari and points toward my forkful. “Are those tentacles?”
I chuckle. “Yes, with potatoes.”
“Gross. You like tentacles?”
“Actually, it’s pretty good. Do you want to try a bite?”
“Manners, Katie,” Rose prompts sternly, taking one of the nearby end seats.
Katie shrinks a little. “No, thank you.”
Edward sits on the other side of Katie with his own plate, then reaches for one of the nearby glass carafes, filling our empty pink-tinted glasses with chilled water.
“Thanks, Uncle Edward.”
“Do you like the calamari?” I ask Katie.
“Yeah, it’s good. Uncle Edward said I’ve had it before.”
“No, he said it was crispy circles.”
“Did you know that it’s squid? A sort of cousin of octopus.”
Katie’s eyes widen. “Cousin?”
“Like you and Charlotte. You’re both a part of the same family—similar, but different.”
Katie shrugs, dismissing the thought before taking another bite.
“No Prosecco, Bella?” Esme asks, sliding into the spot on my other side with a full glass and appetizer plate.
“How can I pass up a drink named for my father? I’m trying Mom’s next,” I explain.
Emmett and Austin sit on the other side of Edward and easily engage Billy about his favorite teams. It’s less than a minute before Billy brings up his son, the famous sports agent. My eyes shift to Edward, who doesn’t offer a word. I’m surprised when Eric sits next to Rose on our end of the table.
Once Al slides into the spot next to Sue, who is catching up with Mom, the only remaining place is between Billy and Austin, which Garrett takes. I chuckle, watching his eyes glaze over almost immediately as their in-depth analysis continues over the Super Bowl, and it’s no surprise when he speaks up before taking a bite.
“Eric,” Garrett whispers loudly, does a little motion with two fingers held up, and twists his hand. “Trade me spots.”
Eric’s eyes shift to mine briefly, then he nods, grabs his plate, and moves to the other end of the table.
Garrett breathes a sigh of relief, settling between Rose and Al. “As if I needed a reminder that I’m not straight. It must be this suit giving off those vibes.”
“Oh, but you’re so handsome.” Al grins.
Garrett shakes his head. “It’s too conservative. I wanted to wear my pink velvet jacket, but—”
Al interrupts, “Only one of us can wear pink and I already chose to wear my dusty rose suit when you asked what I was wearing.”
I chuckle between bites. Of course, he has one.
Edward clinks his fork against his glass repeatedly, making a ringing sound and getting everyone’s attention. Once everyone quiets, he lifts his glass to propose a toast.
“On behalf of Doc and myself, thank you for joining us this evening for this special celebration that wouldn’t be possible without the selfless dedication of Al, Garrett, and Maggie. We can’t thank them enough. Renée and Charlie, as you look around this overflowing table of friends and family, the joy and happiness is a reflection of your love that brought us all together today. It’s a reminder that no matter what we’re each going through, love perseveres and endures. As you begin your next adventure united together, rest easy in the knowledge that we will be with you every step of the way. Everyone, raise your glasses with me, to Renée and Charlie, we wish you health and happiness in the years to come.”
“To Renée and Charlie,” everyone repeats, clinking their glasses together before returning to eating.
Esme smiles, after another sip from her glass. “That was a lovely ceremony, Garrett. How many have you presided over?”
“Renée and Charlie are number eight.” He crosses his fingers. “Everyone is still together too.”
“I love that ceremony—it’s short and to the point. No need to drag anything out.” Al smirks with a glance toward me, then Edward, returning his focus to his husband. “I didn’t realize it included the quote about soulmates and keys or I would have incorporated it into other areas today.”
“Esme, where is your husband this evening?” Garrett asks.
“Carlisle had plans to meet with friends for dinner,” Esme answers, downing the remaining contents of her glass in one gulp.
Al’s gaze shifts to me with the awkward silence over that reveal, but he quickly makes the save. “Well, we’re glad you could join us. We’re all friends here. Family. Let me grab another bottle.”
After Al refills Esme’s glass, he tops off everyone around him and leaves the bottle on the table before asking Edward’s mother more about herself. I’ll admit, I’m a little curious too. Aside from our coffee meetup that was focused on her wanting to know more about me, I really don’t know much about her. Everything is second-hand through Edward or Rose.
“Are you originally from Michigan?” Al asks.
Esme smiles. “No. I’m from Ohio. Born and raised. I always wanted to be a teacher, but I never finished my college degree after meeting my late husband, Edward and Rose’s father, at a football game.”
I soften a little knowing she has more in common with my mother than I realized.
“He played?” Al suggests with the knowledge of Rose and Edward’s athletic backgrounds.
“No. There is a long rivalry between states—universities, actually. He was simply a fan—a student, who traveled with his friends to Ohio for the highly anticipated annual game,” Esme explains.
“How did you meet?” Garrett prompts.
I look over at Rose, who is no longer eating, but pushing the food on her plate around with her fork. I wonder if what Esme is sharing is new information for her or if she’s heard the story of her parents meeting numerous times. Either way, without Carlisle here and a second glass of Prosecco, Esme feels comfortable enough in sharing those details with each question.
“I was working in one of the concession stands at the football stadium. Ed kept returning to my line, selecting everything off the very limited menu until finally working up the courage to ask for my name. He said he would spend all the money in his wallet to find out. I told him clearly he wasn’t an economics major.” She laughs over the memory.
Al smiles. “Did you tell him?”
“Yes. I was waiting—thinking he would ask for my number at some point, but he never did. Instead, he wrote his number on a napkin, leaving it up to me to make the next move.”
“Did you call him?” I ask.
She nods. “There was something about him I couldn’t resist.”
I’ve seen photos of Edward’s father, and he looks so much like him that I completely understand the lack of willpower.
“Those late night phone calls—we talked for hours about anything and everything. He would drive the three hours from Ann Arbor on the weekends to visit me. It wasn’t easy, but we dated. Those were some of the best days of my life.” She stares off into the distance wistfully before taking another long sip from her glass. “Today . . . today reminds me so much of him. We married at this little romantic vineyard near Lake Leelanau in Michigan. He was originally from Marquette in the Upper Peninsula. But that vineyard—it was a wonderful blend of rustic charm and classic elegance. It was a perfect day.”
Her eyes sparkle with the way she speaks about her late husband, leading me to believe she never stopped loving him after the accident, which is understandable. His life was cut short tragically. Glancing over at my parents, Esme gazes at them with affection, then it clicks. She wishes for a second chance. And my parents are getting it.
Even more so, perhaps Carlisle isn’t it. And he’s still competing with a ghost decades later. It doesn’t give him a free pass to be an asshole, but it does explain a thing or two about the dynamic of their relationship, if that’s the case.
“What was his major?” I ask.
“Did he graduate?”
She nods. “Ed was in his last year when we met and secured a job with a company near his hometown. He proposed after his graduation ceremony in full cap and gown. We moved to Marquette the following week.”
“Wow, a graduation proposal? He must have been certain you would say yes,” Garrett surmises.
“There wasn’t any other possible answer with the way I loved him. And he knew it. My parents weren’t happy with my impulsive move to another state or my decision to drop out of college. They said I would regret it, but I never did.” She glances at me. “I wish you could have met him, Bella. He would have loved you.”
I smile at the thought of us both having science backgrounds. Maybe that’s what draws Edward to me. I remind him of his father in some way with that connection. “I’m positive the feeling would have been mutual.”
Garrett nudges Al, then they stand and begin collecting everyone’s empty plates.
“Does Maggie need help bringing out the food?” I ask.
Al shakes his head. “Garrett and I offered our assistance in clearing and serving the remaining courses. It isn’t widely known, but we have a little experience in the hospitality industry.”
Garrett smiles, then reveals, “I was a line cook one summer. Hated it. It was so hot and sweaty with way too much yelling. Mostly directed at me. And Al auditioned for Waitress—the musical.”
I chuckle. “You’re both digging deep. I’m not sure that’s the flex you’re hoping for.”
“I would have been a perfect Jenna,” Al laments.
“Really?” Garrett questions incredulously.
“Oh, my dear hubby. Such a closed mind. My pie-making skills are next level. Of course, I would have won the contest and that prize money. Life imitates art,” Al states, as if it is obvious.
“And Jenna’s pregnancy?” Garrett prompts.
“I’ll admit, that part would have made it a challenging role, but not impossible. You would have been a wonderful Dr. Promatter.”
Garrett uses a ladylike voice with a heavy Texas accent. “I’m sorry, Miss Jenna, but I don’t do affairs.”
“What is that? Why are you a Southern belle now?” Al asks.
“It’s called range. I’ve got plenty of untapped talent. And that’s my proper voice. Your salacious suggestion isn’t appropriate for my pure demeanor,” Garrett teases.
“Pure?” Al snorts.
Garrett grins. “Anyway, I’m partial to a role like Earl’s. Who doesn’t love a good villain? But, I’ll admit, he’s a little too easy to hate.”
Al shakes his head. “We’re getting off-track. Don’t worry, Bella. It’s balancing plates on a couple of trays. We’ve got this.”
“Don’t forget to tip your server,” Garrett adds cheekily with a wink. “I’m saving for a new guitar. My collection isn’t going to build itself.”
“Oh, please. A professor of music doesn’t need tips.” Al rolls his eyes as he stacks more empty appetizer plates.
Garrett lowers his voice while removing my plate. “I’ll give him one—speak for yourself or you’ll be sleeping on the couch tonight.”
Al pats my shoulder. “We’ll be right back with the next course. Let’s go, my darling husband. I’m positive Maggie is ready for us.”
While everyone continues with various conversations around the table, a lingering thought about Esme tugs at my mind. Once Al and Garrett return, they’re carrying large trays with plates of pumpkin risotto, served in a crunchy parmesan bowl. After a few bites, I can no longer contain my curiosity and do my best to ask politely without being too nosy.
I lower my voice, hoping to keep my question between us. “Esme, did you ever wish for more children?”
Because I’m curious why she didn’t have more children after Rose and Edward were born or even with Carlisle. Maybe there is some sort of medical issue that could be genetic I should be aware of.
“Absolutely. Children are such a blessing, but having twins was challenging during those early years. It took everything I had to keep up with both of them.” She chuckles. “Fortunately, for me, they came much later in life in the form of grandchildren.”
At her emphasis of that last word, I glance around the table realizing everyone’s conversations have quieted, and they’re all looking at me expectantly, as if I have news to share.
My eyes find Edward’s briefly.
Could I be pregnant?
But am I?
I don’t know.
It’s been a while since we took the test in Mexico at the treehouse, and I’m completely aware of Edward’s confidence in his . . . abilities.
Or maybe it’s still too soon.
After another forkful, I attempt to recall the date of my last period and fail. It was the first week of January—maybe around the fourth or fifth? Or was it earlier than that?
Fuck, my brain is mush. I can’t remember.
And today is February . . . sixth.
Am I late?
Can it happen that quickly?
I don’t feel any different. I would think I would know or feel different in some way. My stomach churns a little at the idea, but that could be the risotto. It’s starting to feel like a lead weight.
Edward’s voice gets my attention.
“Um . . .” I hold up a single finger, finishing another bite while trying to recall what he said previously, and come up with nothing. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Were you going to propose a toast?”
Yes, I’m supposed to make a toast. We both planned to do them, but I could use a moment to collect my thoughts.
“Excuse me.” I wipe my mouth gently with the cloth napkin, stand, then drop it onto my chair. “I’ll be right back.”
As I follow the pathway toward the pool, my heel gets stuck in an area of softer ground. I struggle to pull my foot free from my shoe, then reach down to remove my other heel, walking barefoot back to the house.
“I’m sure she’s fine.” I hear Al reassure everyone, but I’m not as confident.
“I’ll go check on her,” Edward volunteers, catching up to me once I step through the wrought iron gate.
He doesn’t say anything else, and I don’t stop, walking past the pool, through the patio doors into the great room. Maggie looks up from where she’s plating our next course on the kitchen island. I give her a brief smile, but we continue silently through the entry, down the hallway, and into our bedroom.
Edward closes the door behind us and follows me into the bathroom. When I glance at him, he is trying to contain a huge smile, threatening to take over his face.
“Why are you smiling at me like that?” I ask, setting my shoe on the counter.
“You know why.” Edward smirks, then places my other muddy heel next to it.
Leaning over, he opens the bottom drawer of the vanity, retrieves a slightly smashed box, then removes the test from inside, handing it to me.
“It’s the box I bought in Mexico. There were two tests.”
“Edward. Should we really be doing this now?”
This is going to change everything.
“Bella.” He tosses the empty box into the trash can, cups my face, and places a kiss on my forehead. “What’s your intuition telling you in this moment?”
I can’t say it out loud, but he can read exactly what’s written on my face.
“Take the test for me. Please.”
Over the pounding in my ears, I blow out a steady breath and nod. With trembling fingers, I struggle with the plastic packaging until Edward reaches out, tearing it open for me.
“Either way. We’re okay,” he reassures confidently. “We’ll be okay.”
“I know,” I whisper, searching his eyes. “I love you.”
“I love you too.” He pecks my lips softly. “I’ll wait outside.”
“Maybe don’t listen,” I warn nervously. “You’re going to give me performance anxiety.”
Edward grins and flips on the switch for the bathroom fan vent, filling the room with its continuous hum. “There. I can’t hear a thing. Let me know when I should set the timer.”
He steals a last kiss before closing the door gently. Gathering the excess layers of dusty rose chiffon from my dress with one hand, I drape it over my arm, wiggle my G-string lower, and pull off the capped end of the test.
After sitting on the toilet, I hold the test between my legs and wait.
I close my eyes, trying not to focus on the gravity of what I’m doing.
Or the incredibly patient man, waiting on the other side of the door.
Or what everyone outside must be thinking with our absence.
“Fuck. Come on,” I urge.
I stand, turn on the sink faucet, then sit back down.
After releasing a few deep breaths, I focus on the sound of the running water, which does the trick.
I recap the test, set it on the countertop, then finish.
At the sound of the toilet flushing, I expect Edward to open the door, but he doesn’t. There’s no sign of him after I wash my hands either. Once I open the door, his eyes eagerly find mine.
“Start the timer.”
He grins. “I started it at the flush.”
I set the test on his nightstand, then narrow my eyes. “I thought you couldn’t hear a thing.”
Edward opens his arms. “Oh, just come here. I need to hold you.”
For the next three impatient minutes, we’re both quiet while I sit on his lap fidgeting while he caresses my back soothingly. Edward leaves an occasional gentle kiss on my bare shoulder or the back of my hand when he laces our fingers together. He has nerves of steel, whereas I feel as if I may burst into tears.
At the sound of the timer’s chime, he reaches for the test, holding it so we can both see the result.
Two solid lines in the little window.
“Bella.” His face brightens, as if he’s won the lottery.
I’m stunned, blinking rapidly.
“We’re going to have a baby?” I ask incredulously.
“We are!” Edward’s smile is blinding before his lips find mine in a searing kiss.
Once I pull away breathlessly, my mind starts racing. “We can’t tell anyone.”
He chuckles. “I’m pretty sure everyone outside will know the moment we return. You freaked out with my mother on the word grandchildren.”
Shaking my head, I speculate about the test’s validity. “I should go to the doctor first. They’ll confirm it, right? I mean, false positives are a thing. What if this test is defective? Maybe we should buy another. A different brand.”
“We can do that, but Doc, listen to me, you’re pregnant. The test was valid in Mexico and it’s no different here. They’re all going to say the same thing,” Edward confirms without worry.
“I’m pregnant. Oh my goodness. I can’t believe it. We did it.”
“We did. I told you my swimmers were exceptional,” Edward brags.
I chuckle. “I still think we should keep the news between us until we’re sure. There’s probably some sort of standard window in time when everyone typically shares the details. I have no idea what that is, in a month or two? When will I start to show?” I wonder.
“I don’t know, but whenever you think is the right time and you’re ready to share, I’ll follow your lead,” he promises.
“Okay.” My mind is reeling as I look at the positive test in his hand. “I’m going to be somebody’s mom. Me. I can’t believe it. We’re going to be parents. You’re going to be a dad.”
His eyes crinkle at the corners with happiness before Edward nods, tightens his hold on me, then kisses my lips once more. “Doc, I can’t wait.”
With our news beginning to sink in, everything feels a little surreal. My parents are married, and we’re going to be parents. What an evening.
With Edward’s encouragement that we should return to dinner, he cleans my muddy heel, then offers to carry me back to the tent. I decline, not wanting to draw any further attention to us after my—our unplanned exit.
This is Mom and Dad’s day.
Our news can wait. We’ll let it marinate a little. Some additional confirmation would be good too.
Once we return to the tent, I’m overwhelmed with pure happiness and Edward hasn’t stopped grinning from ear-to-ear. Everyone is oblivious to how our world has just been rocked. They’re all enjoying the next course, Maggie’s garden trimmings ravioli with black truffle shavings, as we take our seats next to Katie.
After blowing out a steady breath, I raise my glass ready to make a toast and attempt to recall the carefully planned words I wanted to share. Staring at my glass, I search for those answers, but the same thought keeps flooding my brain repeatedly.
The table goes silent and I glance at Edward when his smile falls a little.
“Doc, I thought—”
“You’re pregnant?” Katie asks from beside me.
After noticing everyone’s surprised expressions, my eyes return to hers briefly, before meeting Edward’s, then I wonder if I’ve inadvertently let the cat out of the bag. “Did I say that out loud?”
At his slight nod, I laugh. “Oh . . .” Fuck.
“Bella?” Mom prompts as her expression morphs to hopeful.
I blink away the happy tears threatening to form. “It’s true, Mom. I’m pregnant. We’re going to have a baby.”
Al gasps and his voice rises slightly. “We’re having a baby?”
“Yes!” I squeal as my excitement builds once more.
With my confirmation, he shrieks, leaps from his chair and rounds the table, embracing me in a tight hug. “You’ve had me on edge all day. Now, we know why.” Al wipes his eyes, then holds his hand over his chest. “And I have so many nursery ideas.”
“Right, I shouldn’t overwhelm you. We just found out. Let’s give it a few days.”
“He has a Pinterest board for everything,” Garrett shares, while refilling wine glasses.
“All right, I’ll give you a week to let it sink in. Don’t make me wait any longer,” Al warns. “The clock is ticking, then we’ll discuss paint colors and themes.”