Along Came a Spider 2/C41

A/N: Thank yous to Team Spiderward for all you do. xx

Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. The NHL owns anything that sounds familiar. I’m here having fun.

/ /\ (oo) /\ \

Chapter 41

With only a towel wrapped around my waist, I exit the bathroom after my shower in search of clothes from my suitcase, but the sight in front of me is impossible to pass by. Still asleep, Bella is outside the covers and her tank has ridden up, exposing her protruding belly. As quietly as possible, I return to bed, careful not to wake her, and reach out, gently cupping her where Pumpkin is growing.

“Hey, Pumpkin. It’s Daddy,” I whisper, then lean closer. “Today is a big day. Mommy and I—we’re getting married.” I can’t keep the smile off my face at the thought. “I’m excited. You get to be there too with Scout and Shadow. Um . . . we need to talk about something. I know you’re supposed to be able to hear us now. I’m hoping it’s more like the teacher in the Charlie Brown Peanuts comic strip because later . . . Mommy and I will be celebrating. Maybe ignore those . . . happy noises.”

When I feel Bella’s soothing fingers slide into my damp hair, I turn to find her watching me with a lazy, sleepy smile.

“Mommy is awake, Pumpkin. I gotta go.” After pressing a light kiss against her belly, I shift my position, hovering above Bella. As my eyes pass over her wild hair and sleep rumpled appearance, I grin. “Good morning, my beautiful bride. Do you know one of my favorite parts about this entire elopement idea?”

“You’re already up?” She squints, clearing her throat. “What time is it?”

“Still early morning.” I shrug, knowing a nap could be in my future. My energy feels endless this morning, which is probably due to our plans for the day. “I got a message that the pet handler was on the way to pick up Scout and Shadow for their morning walk. Once he arrived, I showed him how to harness them together since he will be the one dedicated to taking care of them during our stay.”

Bella extends her arms overhead, stretching, which causes her tank to ride higher, then wipes the sleep away from her eyes before returning her attention to me. “That went okay?”

“Yeah. He said they were good—no issues. While they were on their walk, I worked out. Once they returned, I fed them before taking a shower. They’re in the living room area on the couch, so they wouldn’t wake you, but Scout wanted to come back in here. He was scratching on the bedroom door, knowing you were inside. I turned on the television and found one of those animal nature channels for a little background noise. I hope it will help them relax in this new environment, like when we’re at home.”

She smiles. “They did great on the plane.”

“They did.” My eyes linger along the soft, enticing curves of her chest. “If you’re hungry, room service also dropped off an assortment of pastries with tea and juice. We can order something else if you need a more substantial breakfast—eggs or whatever. I had my usual oats, granola, and fruit before my workout, but I can eat again. How are you feeling? Any queasiness?”

“No. I’m okay for now. Sometimes the nausea hits later in the day.”

I nod. “Oh, I wanted to ask. Should I shave? I haven’t yet, but if you think I should, I will. I know you like the scruff, but I’ll do whatever you want for our photos.”

“No shaving. And I love the scruff,” Bella corrects, reaching out to run her fingers along my stubbled jaw appreciatively. Her eyes travel over the tattoos on my chest, then lower. With a lick of her lips, her lust-filled gaze meets mine. “Are you seriously wearing only a towel?”

My grin widens. “I could be.”

“How am I supposed to resist?”

“You’re not.” I wink.

Her hand moves lower, rubbing my growing, towel-covered bulge. “That’s quite the to-do list you’ve accomplished this morning. Am I on it?”

“Fuck. I’m supposed to be able to think while you’re doing that?” I ask skeptically.

When Bella removes her hand, there’s no containing my needy groan or her chuckles as she reaches for the hem of her tank. After pulling it from her body, Bella drops it over the edge of bed. With a knowing smirk, her eyebrow arches in challenge.

My mouth waters at the enticing sight of her naked chest, begging for my attention.

“Fuck me.” It’s on.

“Hold that thought. I’ll be right back,” Bella says as she scoots out of bed and makes her way to the bathroom, returning moments later.

Her topless sashay around the room only stokes the fire building inside of me. “Doc.”

“What’s one of your favorite parts of our elopement?” she prompts, lying back down on the bed. Bella hooks her thumbs into the sides of her underwear, wiggling out of them, then sends them over the edge to join her tank.

“Um . . . what?” My distracted gaze returns to meet hers.

“You were going to tell me your favorite part of eloping.”

“Obviously, this part, but I get to wake up with you.” I lower myself to kiss her while still supporting my weight. “If we were doing this traditionally, we would probably be getting ready apart, and I would miss out on this time together.”

Her hand returns to the limited space between us. No amount of planks is any match for her. My arms tremble slightly at her hand’s torturous touches over my towel.

“How long until Sage and Dianna arrive? I need to shower before they get here,” she whispers. But who the fuck cares at this point.

“A few hours, I guess, but I can help you shower.”

“Always so helpful.” She chuckles, then points out the obvious. “Didn’t you just get out of the shower?”

“You think I’m going to pass on the opportunity for one with you? Another benefit of spending the morning together.”

“I wonder what we should do until then?” Bella tilts her head in question, but a quick tug of my towel frees my hardened length.

There are no questions here, only answers. Wrapping her hand around me, she urges me closer, pushing the head of my cock back and forth through her arousal before perching me at her opening.

“Increase your serotonin levels,” I suggest with a push forward of my hips, sinking inside her easily. “Oh fuck. You’re so wet.”

She smiles as her fingers comb through my hair gingerly. “It’s what happens when I’m dreaming about marrying the sexiest hockey player on the planet.”

With a swivel of my hips, I begin an unhurried pace. “You better be talking about the goaltender who is currently buried inside of you.”

Bella giggles.

“Doc,” I warn playfully, then leave a kiss on the tip of her nose.

More of her giggles morph into my favorite moans, echoing throughout the room.

“Oh, Edward.”

My lips skim and caress the inviting curve of her neck until Bella urges my mouth to hers. Our morning kisses escalate with every forceful drive of my hips. Her body arches off the bed into mine, as her desperate mouth demands more of everything. At her tongue’s insistent probing, I open my mouth in invitation as she eagerly tastes and explores.

“So fucking good,” she says between kisses, but I know what would be even better.

Sliding an arm underneath her, I hold her against me and roll onto my back, switching our positions. I love it when she’s on top and takes control. Bella braces herself against my chest with a few tentative tilt of her hips, before resuming a more confident pace. There’s no containing my grin as I watch my beautiful Bella have her wicked way with me.

I’m hers.

And I will be anything she needs me to be.

“Mmmm.” I hum, rubbing my hand lightly across her belly. “Pumpkin, forget what I said about later. Ignore our happy noises now.”

Bella’s eyes find mine. “And later.”

“See what I mean? This is one of the best fucking parts of this day.”

She laughs, pausing her movements. “If Pumpkin’s first word is fuck, we’re in trouble.”

“He or she won’t learn it from me,” I promise, even though I know that may not be the truth.

“Wanna bet?” Bella challenges.

Fuck. She knows it too.

Time to deflect.

“My money is on Uncle Cap over me, but you could be the dark horse in this race,” I tease.

Her whole body shakes with laughter. “You’re on.”

“What do I get when I win?” I ask.

“Always so cocky.”

“Not cocky—confident.”

“What more could you want?”

She’s right, especially when I’m getting everything and more because of her.

/ /\ (oo) /\ \

After our steamy shower and breakfast, easy vibes radiate throughout our suite. Maybe a little too easy, when my early morning start catches up with me as the time between my blinks grows longer. We’re relaxing with Scout and Shadow while watching Las Vegas come to life outside our window with a magnificent view of the Strip.

Wrapped around Bella, I can’t resist stealing a few kisses every now and then as she leans against me. Always within arm’s reach of Bella, Scout takes every bit of available space next to her while resting his head on her thigh. She lovingly scratches him behind his ears and along the fur of his collar. Shadow is perched on the window ledge, watching the activity below intently. Unable to resist touching Bella’s belly, I reach out, rubbing the area lightly, knowing my life can’t get any better than this, but it’s about to.

When Bella’s phone vibrates from where it’s charging on a nearby table, she tilts her head and her eyes find mine. “That’s me, isn’t it? I should shut down my phone while we’re here. I don’t want any texts, calls, or emails.”

“What if it’s something about your mom?”

“You’re right. Can you hand it to me?”


Unplugging her phone, I hand it over, then check mine, noticing a new message from the hotel concierge on my lock screen. They have a package I’m expecting and want to bring it upstairs. After typing out my reply, I return my phone to the table.

“It’s Al. Uh-oh. He’s had all night to stew.” She looks up from her phone, then reads his text out loud even though I can see it. “Are you okay?

“I’m fine,” she says, typing the message, then reads his instant reply. “Is Edward okay?” Her eyes shift to me.

“He’s better than fine, and after earlier, you should be too.” I wink. “But don’t tell him that.”

Bella nods, sending a simple reply of, “He’s fine.”

Then receives another quick message. “Pumpkin okay? You’re not at a hospital, are you?

I give her a little squeeze of support. “He’s just worried something is wrong. I think you’re going to need to give him more than that to shut down his questions.”

Pumpkin’s fine.” Bella types, then looks at me. “I didn’t say much during our return trip, but he’s going to figure out what we’re doing.”

“So what if he does?” I shrug. “Even if we work out a deal with D Magazine to share the photos from today exclusively, I’m not planning on hiding it from anyone once we return. We can still tell those closest to us that we’re married.”

I plan to wear my wedding band proudly, which is what should be in the package being delivered, but I’m going to wait until the end of the season to get my ring tattoo.

At the knock on the door of our suite, Scout gruffs.

“I’ll get it.” I untangle myself from Bella.

She nods and Scout sits up, ready to follow me.


At my firm command, he looks less than convinced it’s the right choice, watching as I open the door.

“Good morning, Mr. Cullen. This package arrived for you.” The hotel employee holds out the small box.

“Thank you.”

“Have a great day.”

My grin returns at how great this day will be. “We will.”

Once I close the door, I walk toward the small kitchen area, searching the drawers for something to open the package.

“Okay, how does this sound?” Bella asks from where she’s sitting. “Please don’t worry about us. Thank you for accompanying me with my early return to Dallas. I’ll be back at work tomorrow, but Edward is helping me with something that couldn’t wait.

After locating a pair of scissors, I slide them through the tape carefully, then remove the jewelry box inside.

“Maybe that will shut down any further questions.” She sounds hopeful. “Oh, Sage just texted. They landed, and they’re on the way.”

Returning to my spot on the couch, Scout leans forward curiously sniffing the box in my hand.

“Good. You could offer to meet Al for lunch on Friday and share our news then,” I suggest.

“I think . . . I want to tell Mom and Dad first,” she says hesitantly.

“Then make the offer for next week and include Garrett. That might discourage any further digging unless they’re going with you again on Sunday.”

“No, Deedee and I were texting while I was in Houston. She is going to ride along with me on this next trip,” Bella reveals, then abandons her phone.

“If you’re going to tell your parents, then I should go with you on Sunday,” I state, not wanting her to share our news alone.

Bella shakes her head. “You shouldn’t miss any more of your morning skates or be the one driving back and forth to Houston all the time. Maybe we just shouldn’t tell anyone until the engagement party and announce it then.”

“Really? In June? I wasn’t planning to keep the reason for my absence from tomorrow night’s game from my teammates.”

She sighs. “But maybe we should—at least for a little while until we can come to an agreement on when would be the best way to share the news with those closest to us. What if we wait until my mother is through her treatments? That should be close to the end of your regular season.”

“Why wait at all? I don’t understand.” When one of the worst possible reasons for not telling anyone pops into my head, I shift my gaze to hers. “You’re not having second thoughts, are you?”

“No second thoughts, but we don’t always have to tell everyone everything or always look to leverage the private experiences in our lives as a trade-off for something else,” Bella defends. “These are very personal pieces of us—the journey of having Pumpkin and getting married our way. I’m not going to apologize for using caution and being protective of both. I can only imagine the fallout over our name change when that happens. While it isn’t unusual for me to hyphenate in our society, it will be for you. So, I’m protective of you too.”

“Wow. Mama Bear is in the house.” I chuckle. “I’m just so proud and want to share every part of my life that includes you. And Pumpkin. For me, it’s natural to want to tell people or post about our good news. People want to share our joy and happiness, especially those who have a connection to me or us, but we don’t see them every day. It’s the easiest way to include them in our lives.”

“I understand. Since we met, I have always been protective of my and our privacy,” Bella points out. “Now, there are also even more people—strangers, your fans, whatever you want to call them—out there, who are aware of our relationship and ready to scrutinize our lives. I understand that sharing is a part of your life, but Pumpkin is off-limits. I won’t compromise his or her safety, even more so when, at this point, that’s directly related to me and my mental health.”

I’m a little surprised by this conversation, but her emotions are all over the map lately for good reason. The best thing I can do is offer my reassurance and support. It doesn’t mean we won’t share our news, just that she needs to be comfortable when and how we do that.

“I wouldn’t ever want to do anything that would put either of you in any risk. If you want to wait, then we’ll wait.”

“Thank you.” Visibly filled with relief, she waves toward my hand. “What’s in the box?”

“Something that has nothing to do with waiting.” I grin, already wondering how we can possibly wear these without giving us away. “I left Vladdy’s aunt, Ilsa, a message last night, not to tell anyone, but I would need the wedding rings I picked out when I visited her shipped here.”

Her brow furrows. “You already selected our wedding rings?”

“Yes,” I confirm. “She needed extra time to create mine, and it’s the first time I’ll get to see it.”

“Oh.” More concern fills her beautiful face.

“What’s wrong?”

“I wanted to pick out your ring.”


“Maybe hold that thought for a bit.”


“Ilsa—” I start, then pause, hoping I don’t bungle this. “She created our rings to complement each other. I was clueless and more than a little curious, what wedding bands would work best with your engagement ring since it’s a unique, non-traditional design. She suggested going with a stackable diamond wedding band for you, which is more traditional. Mine is a simple platinum band, but with spider cutouts . . . you know, since your ring is the web.”

Bella holds out her hand, admiring her engagement ring, then smiles. “I’m the web to your spider?”

“Yeah. My home, as she put it. You can’t have one without the other,” I explain.

“I like that.” Bella’s smile fades slightly before she sighs. “Wait. You said, Vladdy’s aunt.”


“If we hadn’t eloped, would you have asked Vladdy to be your best man?”

“Probably.” I admit, knowing it’s actually a solid yes. While I would have loved to include Vladdy and James, I have zero regrets about the way we’re building this day around only us. “Who would you have asked to be your maid of honor?”

“Mine would have been a man of honor.” She bumps my shoulder playfully. “No offense since I have more than a few honorable men in my life, but obviously, Al. Maybe we can still have them serve those roles at the party—give toasts or do other traditional wedding reception stuff.”

“Whatever you want,” I agree easily.

After a peck to her lips, I open the hinged box, offering it to Bella. With our rings nestled safely in place, she’s quiet and lightly touches them. I have no idea what she’s thinking. Hopefully, she isn’t upset with me for making this decision without her input.

“Initially, I went with a single wedding band circled with diamonds for yours. When we found out about Pumpkin, I asked Ilsa to add a second band to the set only with orange gemstones instead of diamonds.” Without an immediate reaction, I explain further, “With your due date being in October or the fall, there’s always the chance Pumpkin could arrive earlier than we expect. So, I chose a color of the season—pumpkin. Ilsa suggested using orange sapphires.”

Her glassy eyes find mine and her voice softens. “It’s beautiful, but I thought sapphires were only blue.”

“Ilsa said they are rare. Like you,” I add. “She—you really need to meet her one day because she can explain this better than I ever will.”

Bella smiles encouragingly. “You’re doing just fine.”

“They’re a symbol of strength and power, but also bring good luck and fortune. Orange is associated with the sun and fire, which can symbolize passion, energy, and determination. All the characteristics I shared with her when she asked me to describe you. I hope Pumpkin is lucky enough to get those from you.”

She reaches out, lacing our fingers together. “That’s you too.”

“The rings nest together, then you’ll have your engagement and wedding bands from me with the other band from Pumpkin. Ilsa said we could add to it in the future. Or start another ring on a different finger. You know, to celebrate our milestones with a new ring each time,” I share.

Her eyes return to the rings, and I can tell that she’s struggling to reply. Maybe I fucked this up. I need to give her an out.

“While I liked that idea, we don’t have to use them if you’re not into it or think it’s too much. I can return the rings, and you can select something else from a local jeweler. The concierge said that they have contacts for anything we may need today. We just need to let them know.”

Bella shakes her head. “Not a chance. I love this idea. They’re perfect. Thank you.”

Filled with relief, there’s no keeping our lips apart. Or at least mine from hers. After closing the box and setting it on the coffee table, I guide her to straddle my waist. I’m lost in the moment, kissing her over and over, until we’re interrupted by another knock on the door of the suite. With a gruff from Scout, our kisses slow, then she rests her forehead against mine while catching her breath.

“Do you want me to answer the door?” Bella asks, making no move to depart my lap.

A lap very aware of everything about her.

I rub my hands along her thighs. “I’ll get it. I just need . . . a moment.”

She smiles knowingly. “Even after this morning?”

“My body responds to everything about you—whether you’re near or we’re apart. There’s no turning it off.”

With a teasing lift of her eyebrows, her smile widens. “Sounds like you’re into me.”

“That’s an understatement. I’ve got it bad.” I grin, and my eyes search hers. “You’re my number one, and you always will be. Are you ready to make it official today?”

There’s another insistent series of knocks on the door. Scout barks, then jumps off the couch.

“I am.” Bella cups my face and kisses me intently.

Our phones vibrate with incoming messages I suspect are from Dianna and Sage.

“Then it’s time to let them in because I don’t want to delay being able to call you my wife any longer.”

“Edward.” She blinks away the tears threatening to fall. “All of this—you’re going to make me cry—on our wedding day.”


“Because every day, it’s more challenging to remember what my life was like before you. You eclipse everything. The pure joy I feel whenever we’re together engulfs me. It’s intoxicating and addictive in all the best ways.”

I grin, then press another kiss against her lips. “I love you.”

“I love you too.” Her smile beams, undoubtedly matching my own.

After stealing one more kiss, Bella slides from my lap. I readjust myself before walking toward the door where Scout waits with a wagging tail, eager to find out who could be on the other side. I open it to find a smiling Dianna and an exuberant Sage, visibly vibrating in place.

“Why hello, Mr. Spider. Haven’t you two been busy since we were last together? Who says tequila isn’t magical? Where’s my Bella, Bella, Bell-uuuh?” He draws out, brushing past me once his eyes land on her. His squeals of excitement echo through the suite as they reunite. “Girl, I missed you!”

Over their chatter, I welcome his travel partner inside. “Hey, Dianna, Come in.”

“Hello, Edward.” Dianna smiles, then accepts a brief hug. “Thank you for inviting us along today.”

“We thought having you both involved would be a great compromise while still doing this our way.”

“It will be an honor to capture and be a part of this moment with you both.” She sets several camera bags on the dining table and begins unpacking them. “Just remember. You can veto any of Sage’s ideas at any time. He’s been buzzing with every possible ‘what if’ since you called last night. I drew the line at the storyboards after two a.m. I needed sleep.”

“I heard that!” Sage shouts. “We are telling a love story.”

Dianna’s eyes sweep throughout the suite. “The lighting in here is fantastic. I’m going to get started and do some test shots.”

“Mr. Cullen, where should we put everything?” The two bellhops wait with overloaded rolling carts filled with boxes, luggage, and hanging bagged items.

At my shrug, I focus on the man with the answers. “I don’t know. Sage?”

He returns to the entry area with Bella trailing behind. Reaching for her, I can’t resist drawing her into my arms.

“I have so many plans for today. There are a few suits for you to try, some a little more edgy than others. Plus a variety of dresses, but I’m leaning toward a couple in particular. Are we doing a first look?” he asks hopefully.

I shake my head, not knowing what he’s talking about. “What’s that?”

“Getting ready separately, then we capture those first photos when you see each other in your suit and dress for the first time,” Sage explains. “It’s one of my favorite elopement moments because it’s only for you two. I’m going to tear up just thinking about it.” He waves his hands back and forth in front of this face quickly. “Yes, we’re here, but I suspect you’ll leave each other speechless once you’re ready. Oh, and look at that scruff. Bella—how can you resist?”

She giggles, looking up at me. “I can’t.”

“So, first look? Are we yay or nay?” Sage looks between us.

Bella turns in my arms. “What do you think?”

“I’ll leave it up to you, Doc.” I shrug. “I’m good either way.”

Her smile widens, returning her attention to Sage with our answer. “We’re a yay.”

“Excellent choice. How many bedrooms do we have?”

“Two,” I reply.

“Perf. Let’s put the dresses in the one you aren’t using. We’ll set up to do hair and makeup in there too. Then let’s take the suits into the other. I’ll bounce between the two rooms until you’re both ready.”

After pointing out the rooms for each bellhop to unload the carts, Sage removes his phone from a pocket. “Do we have a timeline? Have you picked up your marriage license yet?”

“No.” I shake my head. “We’ll stop there first.”

“An officiant?” he prompts.

I nod, holding Bella a little tighter in my arms. “I reached out to a mobile minister before we left. She will meet us at the Red Rock Canyon Overlook an hour before sunset. The hotel concierge made a call and secured us a permit, but we have to keep Scout and Shadow on a leash, which shouldn’t be a problem with their harness.”

Sage taps on his phone screen. “That puts us at around four-thirty-ish with a five-forty sunset?”

“Sounds about right,” I agree.

“Did you contact the Neon Museum?”

Bella’s head bobs slightly. “I reserved a private two-hour photoshoot window at one. That should allow for enough time for the ride out to the ceremony site.”

“Okay. Any plans for after the ceremony?” Sage asks curiously.

I smile. “Dinner once we return to the suite.”

“I understand it’s Bella’s first visit to Las Vegas, but would you both be okay with doing a modified version of that idea? Let me plus your experience a little. It will be my gift to you.” Sage lowers his voice, presses his hands together in prayer, and repeats, “Please say yes. Please say yes. Plea—”

Bella looks up at me and grins, which means I already know her answer. “Yes.”

“You won’t regret it,” Sage promises.

“Uh . . . no alcohol for either of us,” I add.

He chuckles. “Pshhh. As if I don’t know about your lil’ Pumpkin.”

My gaze flits to Bella and she must notice my surprise.

“I wanted to make sure whatever dresses he brought would fit,” Bella says to me, then explains to Sage. “Only close friends and family know. And my co-workers. We are waiting to make any type of official announcement until I’m farther along. Just in case something—”

“Say no more. I got it,” Sage states with a dreamy sigh, then grins. “I forgot what it’s like being around you two beautiful people. The looks. The touches. I’m here for all of it.”

“What are you talking about?” Bella asks.

“Have you ever heard the quote from one of Picasso’s companions, François Gilot? I believe they were together for ten years. She was an accomplished artist in her own right, highly educated, and was all about living in the moment without regrets. Obviously, her work was eclipsed by his. Of course, I’m paraphrasing her, but when asked about their relationship, she once said, a lioness doesn’t choose a mouse for a mate. She chooses a lion. And that could not be truer with the two of you.” Sage looks at each of us with a soft smile.

“Your energy matches so evenly and just sizzles. It’s off the charts. Edward can’t stop touching you, and you melt into him with every caress. I swear the little kisses and unspoken conversations are everything. I’m on a no-contact high, and I’ve been here for mere minutes! Can you imagine the tizzy I will be in by the end of the night? Note to self: schedule in-room massage—with happy ending.” He giggles, while typing feverishly on his phone. “Done. Okay. Don’t judge me. Anything else I should know? Do we need time or help writing vows?”

“Uh . . . I’m not a writer,” I admit.

Bella turns to face me. “I stand by what I said earlier. You don’t need to write anything. Just say what you’re feeling in the moment.”

“What if I blank?”

“You won’t. You never do,” Bella reassures. “You thrive under stress.”

“That’s work. This is different. This is you.” I lace our fingers together, then bring the back of her hand to my lips, pressing a kiss there. “I don’t want to mess up anything.”

“Sage, how long will it take for me to be ready?” she asks.

He shrugs. “Two hours at most, which means we should get started soon.”

Bella returns her focus to me. “We know it won’t take you that long. You can be ready in ten to fifteen minutes easily. What if you take some of the time while I’m getting ready to stretch and meditate. It will help you center your thoughts and calm any nerves you’re feeling.”

“That’s a great idea.” I grin.

She smirks. “I tend to have a few. Are we good on vows now?”

“Okay. No worries on vows,” I agree, but I still have no idea what I will say.

“Great.” Sage does a little clap, then taps on his phone screen before continuing. “After we landed, I contacted the florist. Your flowers—bridal bouquet and boutonniere— should be here in the next hour. I also arranged for separate transportation. At the conclusion of the ceremony, I’ll bring your precious pets back here, and Dianna will go with you for a variety of photos we’re doing along the Strip. I’ll catch up once I have them settled and our luggage is moved to our rooms.”

“Thank you,” Bella says.

At my nod, I share another concern of mine. “We need to make sure we don’t push Doc too—”

“Edward, I’ll be fine. Don’t worry,” she states.

“I want you to be better than fine. Doc has nausea and exhaustion due to the pregnancy. It could be worse later this afternoon,” I explain.

Sage gives me a reassuring smile. “Relax, Daddy. We will keep her fed, pampered, and comfortable throughout the entire day. I promise. How about we get started?”

I sigh. “Two hours is a long time.”

Bella grins, then squeezes my hand. “It will be worth it. You have my word.”

“Okay, I’ll order more food for lunch, handle Scout and Shadow, do my yoga routine, then get dressed. If you need anything—”

“You’ll be close by. I know.” She chuckles.

“I may scratch on the bedroom door, if you take too long and I become impatient.”

“Not you too,” Bella teases with a knowing grin.

“Scout has nothing on me.” I wink. “I can open the door.”

/ /\ (oo) /\ \

Blowing out a steady breath, I spin my engagement ring mindlessly on my finger while I stare out the window, not focusing on anything in particular. After another check of the time, I notice Dianna quietly moving around the suite. She has several cameras mounted on tripods with remotes for capturing our first look from all angles. In between testing and adjusting those, Dianna keeps snapping photos of me, or Shadow—who is also ready and perched on her favorite spot at the window ledge.

Scout and Shadow went into the bedroom with Bella for photos a little while ago, but despite plenty of laughter, once the door opened, Shadow escaped, returning out here with me. I think she’s more enticed by the view. Scout stayed with Bella, and they’re making last minute touches according to Sage. He also reassured me, while I was getting dressed, that she nibbled on some of the bread and salads I ordered earlier for lunch.

Impatiently, I sit in my new caramel colored suit before my eyes shift to the table where Bella’s bouquet waits. Sage squealed with delight when he saw the eclectic mix of neutral colors: terra cotta, rust, and gray-green. They all reflect the landscape where we’ll be once we leave the neon glitz of the Strip.

I’m ready.

In more ways than one.

I would like to think I have been ready for her my whole life, but I wasn’t. I was busy building my career, and ultimately, I guess searching for her.

She wasn’t in Michigan, where I was born, or where I played youth hockey. Or Minnesota, where I was drafted. Or Anaheim, where I was first traded to be their starter.

Bella was in Arizona, but not at the same time when I was playing there.

She wasn’t in Boston, when I had my best shot at getting my name engraved on the Cup. Or Montréal, where my game and life fell apart. Or New York, where I struggled to put my game back together, but with a little time and patience, it became better than it ever was previously.

Bella was in Dallas. With my sister and the rest of my family. The last place I ever expected to find my wife.

Had I met her at any other point in my life, I’m confident my younger self would have bungled our relationship terribly and broken both of our hearts simply because I wasn’t ready for her then.

But I am now.

We’re here together, taking one of the biggest steps in our lives.

The sound of the bedroom door opening gets everyone’s attention, and I can only hope that it means our wait is over finally.

Sage appears in the doorway, beaming with happiness. “It’s time.”

Shadow doesn’t move, but I stand, eager to see Bella, and readjust my suit.

“I look okay?” I ask, holding out my arms for his approval.

“Edward, nothing about you will ever be just okay. You will always be a fine wine that gets better with age.” He steps away from the doorway, to tug, smooth, and tweak my suit. “I love that you selected this color over the others. It looks perfect on you.”

I smile at the thought. The only reason I know the colors in Bella’s bouquet is that they were also in each of the suits he brought for me. I was leaning toward the gray-green one until he revealed that the caramel one would best complement the dress Bella chose from her options.

“Sage. Hurry up,” Bella says from inside the bedroom.

After a chuckle, he grins. “She’s eager to see you too. Go ahead and take your place, facing away from me and I’ll guide her into position. Dianna, are you ready?”

“We’re good to go.”

“All right.” Sage squeezes my arm lightly. “You two have this. We’re going to fade into the woodwork once she’s out here. Nervous?”

I release a deep calming breath. “Maybe a little.”

“Bella won’t admit it, but she is too,” Sage whispers. “She will be the one to let you know when she’s ready for you to turn around.”



“On my way, darling,” he shouts, then chuckles. “She’s becoming quite the diva. I love it.”

I close my eyes, listening for any sounds of Bella over the pounding of my heartbeat in my ears. With light steps against the floor, my heart rate increases at the swooshing of every step before the clicks and whirls from Dianna’s cameras spring to life.

Opening my eyes, there’s no keeping the smile from my face because it’s almost as if I can feel she’s in the room, reaching out to me. My entire body relaxes at the warmth radiating from her presence. Knowing she’s close, my own energy builds, forcing me to shift back and forth with anticipation.

As the last wisps of what little willpower I’m clutching evaporates, I hear, “Edward.”

It’s soft. So soft that I wonder if it’s from the wishful thoughts of an eager groom or actually my name on her lips. When I don’t move, listening to the shifting sounds around me, thankfully, I hear her voice again, this time more confidently.


Slowly, I turn around, as everything around us melts away, and I can’t take my eyes off hers. I didn’t have any expectations of what I would find there, but they’re filled with a mix of love, lust, and devotion that’s undoubtedly reflected in mine. As the last breath escapes from my lungs, I’m lost in the depth of her beautiful eyes, rendering me speechless.