Along Came a Spider 2/C44

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 44

After an early morning trip to use the bathroom, I return to bed, climbing my way back to my spot under the sheets and next to my sleeping husband.

“Sorry,” I whisper as Scout readjusts his position next to me.

He leans heavily against the back of my legs, which forces Shadow into a new spot. Even in his slumber, Edward wraps his arm around me, pulling me closer. I release a contented sigh, then nestle my head into the crook of his neck.

Tracing the swirls of ink on his chest lightly, I watch my fingers until his deep hum gets my attention. His hand covers mine briefly, then he brings it to his lips, placing a kiss on the inside of my wrist.

When our sleepy eyes meet in the low light, I smile and whisper, “Good morning, hubby.”

Edward grins, as if I’ve just told him he’s won the lottery. “Good morning, my beautiful wife. How is your first day of married life?”

“Five stars. Beyond expectations. My husband is insatiable, which I knew already, and I will be starting it with the best slice of chocolate cake ever created, but . . .” I hesitate, then my eyes find his. “I realize I have a problem.”

His brow furrows with confusion, and he clears his throat. “Did somebody call?”

“No. I don’t know. I haven’t looked at my phone since yesterday.” I grin with a shrug. “I’ve been distracted in all the best ways.”

“In that case, my work here is done.” He chuckles, rubbing his hand along my bare back leisurely. “Tell me, what’s this morning’s problem?”

“Don’t be upset with me. I know I’m all over the map emotionally right now,” I caution.

“I won’t be upset,” Edward promises with a soft kiss to my temple.

“Okay. Well . . . I don’t want us to remove our wedding rings when we return home. I know I said we should consider waiting to share our news, but now, after . . . everything, I don’t think I can.”

“Oh, Doc. That’s not a problem.” With his bent finger under my chin, he tilts my face, then presses a kiss against my lips.

“What if we tell my parents first through a video call once we return home? It’s not the same as in-person, but I believe it’s the best compromise,” I reason.

Edward nods his agreement. “We can do the same with my mom afterward. I’ll take you to work and see if Rose is available for a late lunch or something, sharing the news with her then.”

“I should tell Victoria and . . . I don’t know how to share the news with Al. Out of everyone, he’s probably going to be the most upset with me. Well, and Rose.”

“No, he won’t.” Edward shakes his head minutely. “Al loves you and he wouldn’t want you ever to be unhappy or worried about his response to good news in your life. I promise, Rose will understand too.”

“You’re probably right. What if I invite Al and Garrett over for dinner tonight? Something easy, and break the news then?” I suggest.

“Something quick,” he corrects with a smirk. “I want to spend the remaining alone time I have with you before I’m back on the ice tomorrow morning.”

“Oh, you’ll probably want to watch the game tonight. I didn’t think of that.”

“Maybe.” Edward shrugs, but we both know I’m right. “Even though our honeymoon is delayed, it doesn’t mean I’m not feeling it now. I just want to be with you.”

“I know. Me too.” I snuggle close and wonder, “Where should we go on our honeymoon?”

“Someplace hot, where minimal clothing is required. I prefer your current outfit.” He winks.

“We’re naked!” I giggle.

“You need to locate your passport Dr. Bella Swan-Cullen because I’m submitting my request now for two weeks of your time,” he warns playfully.

“Mmmm,” I hum, considering if that’s feasible. “I don’t know if I should leave Mom or Victoria for two weeks.”

“I think you need to be a little selfish.” Edward hugs me closer, then places another kiss on the top of my head. “They will understand.”

When I don’t agree immediately, he adds, “Think about it. Don’t say no just yet. We can leave at the conclusion of whatever wedding reception we have with everyone.”

“We need to set a date for the reception. Maybe if we decide on one, Al will be appeased, and it will help soften the news of our elopement since he has been after me to choose. I didn’t know what would be best with the playoff schedule.”

“What are his suggestions?” he asks.

“June thirteenth or twentieth. One of those is a very important date that I don’t believe Rose will want to share. And if we leave on a honeymoon the week before, then you could miss celebrating your birthday together.”

“I’ve missed celebrating our birthday in the past. So, that wouldn’t be new.”

“But should you?” I counter.

“That’s up to us—not my sister. I think the playoffs will be over by the thirteenth. The draft is scheduled for the nineteenth,” Edward states.

“Do you need to be around for that?”

“No. It’s a good window. Free agency opens on July first. So, depending on how the season finishes, we’ll have a better idea what I’m doing by then,” he concludes.

The more I consider us having that time alone, the more I wonder if I can actually make it happen. “Two weeks, huh? With Mom’s treatments, I’m giving Victoria Fridays off and I’ll cover those on my own. I can probably start offering Saturday morning hours to accommodate more patients, if needed.”

“Don’t overextend yourself,” Edward cautions. “You don’t have to do it all. Your support system of friends and family is growing.”

“I know, but it’s difficult for me since I’ve always been so self-reliant,” I reveal. “It’s just been easier that way.”

And now that I have a chance to think about that in retrospect, it’s probably why Sam was able to take advantage of our work dynamic. I was willing to carry a majority of the patient load for far too long, even after he added Paul. I would always be the one willing to accommodate patients first to Sam’s benefit.

“I have a question,” Edward says.


“Since we’re doing the interview tomorrow evening, do you want to share our change in marital status and our wedding photos or not? Dianna probably has her favorites by now that we could use.”

“No, to the photos. Let’s save those for the wedding reception. I’m okay with sharing our change, but only if it’s brought up,” I reply.

“You’re so decisive this morning.” He grins. “It’s sexy.”

I chuckle. “Sometimes I feel as if I’m experiencing brain fog. I don’t even know if that’s a thing at this point during my pregnancy.”

“You’re handling a lot right now. Give yourself a little grace.”

“I do know one thing that’s certain. This was the right decision for us—eloping.”

He smiles. “I couldn’t agree more.”

“Thank you for . . . everything. It’s been amazingly stress-free. I realize we splurged in many ways, but this really felt like us at every turn.”

“It’s worth every penny to make you happy.” Edward readjusts his position, hovering above me, which prompts a gruff from Scout as he settles into a different spot near the foot of the bed. 

“Are you ready to get dressed and fly home?” I ask, already suspecting his answer to that question.

Settling between my legs, Edward nudges them wider, then slides his hardened cock through my arousal. 


When his mouth descends on my neck, my eyes close at the feel of his lips, and I can barely form my next thought.

“Um . . . oh—do you want to watch me eat a slice of chocolate cake in bed?” I giggle when his lips and growing stubble graze a ticklish spot.


Edward pulls away to watch my face as the head of his cock perches at my opening briefly before he pushes inside of me, and my breath catches at the incredible feeling. 

“Mmm. Try again, Doc.”

“You want to celebrate the joys of marital sex?” I suggest with a lick of my lips.

His grin widens. “It could be my favorite. Everything feels different—effortless and more connected. Or maybe that’s just me.”

“I feel it too.” I nod, rubbing my thumb along his jaw. “I also love your stubble. It’s one of my favorite parts of this trip. I’m excited for the playoffs because you with a beard is next level.”

“You like that, huh?”

“I love it. I’m hoping for a beard on our honeymoon.”

“I’ll see what I can do. If you weren’t already pregnant, I have zero doubt you would be after last night . . . and this morning,” he concludes with a twinkle in his eyes.

I chuckle. “Sounds as if married life is working out great for you.”

“I have zero complaints. The next time I’m traveling and away from my wife, I’ll recall these past twenty-four hours with enormous envy.” He pulls his body from mine and begins an easy pace with each tilt of his hips. “I understand the idea of a honeymoon baby now. It’s not technique, but repetition. I’m so fucking addicted to you. It’s driving me crazy. I can’t believe we get to do this for the rest of our lives.”

“You’re such a guy sometimes,” I tease, combing my fingers through his messy hair.

“I would hope so, and I’m not just any guy.” Edward kisses my lips firmly. “I’m your guy.”

/ /\ (oo) /\ \

Leaving Las Vegas is bittersweet. I wish we had more time here together, but we knew this would be a quick trip. There is so much to see and do as I stare out the window of our limousine on the way to the airport. We checked off the one and only item on our agenda this trip—getting married. 

I glance at my wedding rings, watching as my thumb fidgets with them while I let it sink in that we actually did it. We’re married. Our past twenty-four hours have felt like a fairytale, especially when I’m sitting next to my own real life Prince Charming. I’ve always struggled to believe in fairytales because lasting love requires effort to nurture that initial spark, but my belief in this one has everything to do with the man at my side. 

When Edward catches me staring at his handsome profile, he grins, reaches for my hand, and laces our fingers together. With our joined hands resting on his thigh, Edward kisses my lips lightly, then whispers that he loves me, which keeps a smile on my face for the remainder of the ride.

Once we arrive at the airport, the ground crew handles our luggage while we help Scout and Shadow settle inside the plane’s cabin. When we’re finally airborne, it’s a smooth flight, which makes falling asleep impossible to resist. I wake to the jar of the plane touching down and the sound of screeching tires, realizing we’re back home in Dallas.

Squeezing my hand gently, Edward beams at our arrival, and that’s probably because he can’t wait to share our news. With his encouragement, I’m cautiously optimistic. While riding home, I text Mom and wait, but my message goes unanswered, which worries me slightly. 

I send another text, only this time to Dad. His response is immediate, letting me know that they’re fine, and on a mini-excursion, fishing at one of the lakes at Whitlock Ranch. If my call isn’t urgent, he suggests we talk later tonight, and I agree reluctantly. My hum of disappointment gets my husband’s attention, as he drives us home.

“No, luck?” Edward asks, shifting his eyes to me momentarily before returning to the road.

I sigh. “They’re . . . busy. Dad suggests that we talk tonight.”

Next, I call the salon, wanting to invite Al and Garrett to dinner.

“Thank you for calling Mane Attraction. This is Afton, how can I help you?”

“Hi, Afton. It’s Bella. Is Al available?”

“Hello, Dr. Swan. He is . . . not in the salon today but working . . . with a client on a . . . photoshoot.” Afton chuckles. “Sorry, I’m so distracted. It’s been absolutely bananas around here today.”

“Oh, okay, and I can imagine. I’ll try his mobile number.”

“Don’t be surprised if it goes to voicemail. Send him a message, and I’m positive he will get back to you once he’s available. Have a great day, Dr. Swan.”

“Thank you. You too.”

After ending our call, I locate my last text conversation with Al. Not wanting to impose on his client’s time, I send a text, inviting them to dinner this evening. His quick reply is brief, letting me know they won’t be able to make it since he will be busy with his client.

“I’m striking out.” I shake my head. “Al and Garrett aren’t available for dinner tonight.”

“Then I’ll get you all to myself.” Edward grins, reaches over to rest his hand on my thigh, then gives it a little squeeze. “Not a bad way to spend the evening.” 

“I don’t know what to do. We have the interview tomorrow night and we’re not taking the chance of telling whoever D Magazine sends to meet with us before our family. Saturday you have a game. I leave Sunday with Deedee and we will be back early on Tuesday.”

“I’m sure we can work something out.” Edward shrugs. “I have a four-game stretch of home games before I’m on another road trip. We’ll have them over a different night.”

I groan with frustration. “This is screwing with my timeline. I don’t want to tell your mom without telling my parents first since they’re spending time together at the hospital and the ranch. Our news should come from us and not either of them. Rose shouldn’t know before our parents. Al and Garrett should know before Victoria, but at this rate, she’ll be the one to know first since I’m probably seeing her in the office in less than an hour.”

“Hey.” His voice softens. “It’s okay. And not a bad thing if we tell Rose first. I still need to text her. That might actually work out better. She will keep it to herself, and I think she will be honored to know our news first.”


He gives my thigh another squeeze, getting my attention, and grins. “We’re home.”

Distracted by my plans not falling into place, I look around, realizing we’re parked in the garage. My smile soon matches his and I agree, “We are.”

Edward nods toward the house. “Let’s go inside.”


While Edward grabs our bags, I help Scout and Shadow out of the vehicle. Once Scout realizes where we are, his tail doesn’t stop wagging and he hurries toward the door. After setting her on the ground, Shadow stretches, then follows Scout.

“Wait for me,” Edward requests from behind us.

Opening the door, I watch Scout race inside while Shadow strolls in slowly. 

“I’m carrying you over this threshold too,” Edward announces with a grin, then sets down our bags. He reaches out, lifts me into his arms, and holds me bridal style.

“Last night wasn’t enough?” I tease, wrapping an arm around his shoulders. 


Once we returned to our hotel suite, Edward insisted on carrying me into the suite, which led to his adamant “help” in removing my wedding dress. My “next” dress was still in Sage’s bohemian desert style, but it was more sexy lingerie than dress. As if there wasn’t enough of me uncovered, I loved Edward’s reaction when he realized he could see through the lace panels. It didn’t last long either, but I did let him take a few photos of me wearing it.

“You, know, you’re not going to distract me from going into the office.”

“I can try,” he vows with a sweet kiss to my lips.

/ /\ (oo) /\ \

Edward’s lunch with Rose is put on hold when she receives a call from Austin’s school that he’s sick and in need of a ride to return home. Instead of going into the office together as we planned originally, I drive myself, while Edward plans for his afternoon to include a workout and a nap.

“Good afternoon, Dr. Swan, and welcome back. You’ve been missed,” Anne says from where she sits at the reception desk.

“Hello, Anne, and thank you. Has Dr. Sutherland returned from lunch?”

Anne nods. “She’s in her office.”

“Okay, I should check in with her.”

Once I drop off my messenger bag and purse in my office, I walk down the hallway to Victoria’s office. Knocking on the door lightly, I notice she’s sitting at her desk while on her phone.

“Hey,” I whisper, and she waves me inside.

After closing the door, I settle into one of the chairs on the opposite side of her desk.

“I gotta go. Okay.” She giggles. “I’ll talk to you soon. Safe travels. Okay. Bye.” Once she ends her call, Victoria’s eyes return to mine, and she’s bubbling with excitement I haven’t seen from her before. “Hi, Bella. How are you?”

“Good. Great actually.”

“Me too.” Her eyes light up. “I have so much to tell you. I feel as if I may burst. You’re never going to believe who slid into my DMs over the weekend.”

“Uh . . .”

“Caius Volante.”

Oh no.

“Can you believe it? He messaged me.”

I can believe that part.

“We’ve been talking nonstop and went out last night. Dinner and dancing. He showed up at my apartment in full cowboy regalia. You should have seen him. He said he was trying to acclimate to his new surroundings and needed help choosing the right hat. So, we went and bought cowboy hats together.”

I’m surprised Caius would know, let alone use a word like acclimate, but maybe that’s Victoria. I listen while she continues. 

“I thought he should choose a white hat, but ultimately, he went with black, and he bought me a beautiful teal one. At the suggestion of the saleslady, Caius added a teal hatband to his and they added a black hatband to mine so we would coordinate. Gah, I love it. It’s my new favorite hat.”

“I would love to see it. Do you have any photos?”

“Of course. We took a ton of selfies.” She taps on her phone screen, handing it to me with the photos app open. 

As I begin to swipe through them, I’m stunned by how cozy and happy they look together. “These are great.”

“Right? Caius wanted to try Texas barbecue. Can you believe he’s never had it? Well, of course, he wants to try everything, and my goodness, we had it all—brisket, ribs, sausage—I thought I was going to succumb to the meat sweats at one point. And you’re never going to believe it, but the restaurant he chose had a mechanical bull. You would be so proud of me.” 

I pause my perusal of her endless photos, shifting my skeptical gaze to hers. “Oh?”

“I stayed on. He didn’t.” Victoria laughs. “Chalk up one for the girls next door.”

“Go you.” I chuckle, handing back her phone to her.

“It was so much fun, then we danced. He’s a horrible dancer, but a quick learner,” she reveals. “He got better as the night went on.”

“I’ll bet.”

“I was a little surprised he didn’t drink—not even one beer, but he said that wasn’t a first date conversation. So, I let it go.” Victoria shrugs. “I don’t think I made it home until two this morning. Oh my goodness, my feet hurt. I wouldn’t turn down a nap, but it will have to wait. We have patients to see. I also wanted to double-check if you need me tomorrow or not, because Caius will be back from Nashville. He has plans for us during the day, if I’m available.”

“Yeah. Fridays are all yours,” I agree, but I’m hesitant about whatever his plans could be for her beyond any date.

“Great. Thank you. I can’t wait to tell him.” She grins, then it fades slightly. “Forgive me for going on and on. How’s your mom?”

“Um . . . she’s at the beginning of this next chapter, and we’re all hopeful this will be the right path for her. I tried to call them earlier, but my parents were out enjoying one of the lakes on the ranch. My dad loves to fish,” I share.

“I bet it’s beautiful there.”

“It is.”

“What a wonderful place for her to stay while going through her treatments.”

“I agree. I’m grateful for Alice’s generosity.” Not sure where to start, I begin to explain the whirlwind of my past thirty-six hours. “Vic—”

There’s a knock on her door and Noela peeks inside. “Sorry to interrupt. Dr. Sutherland, we’re ready for you in room two.”

Victoria nods. “I’ll be right there. Give me a few minutes.”

Once the door closes, I start again. “I won’t keep you, but I have some big news to share.”

“Big news? Tell me.”

“Edward and I—” I hold up my left hand for her to see my wedding rings. “We eloped. Can you believe it?”

“Get. Out.” Her eyes widen with surprise. “Are you serious?”

I nod. “We went to Vegas and did it. We’re married. You’re the first person I’ve told.”

“Oh, Bella. I’m so happy for you. Edward is an incredible man. He will be a wonderful husband and partner—not to mention father.”

“I know. I love him so much. After we were engaged, we talked about waiting, but with everything with my mom—life is short. I didn’t want to wait. It was an incredible day.”

“Do you have photos?” Victoria asks.

“Yeah. I don’t have them yet, but we had a photographer, who worked with Edward in the past. She met us there with a stylist, who is becoming a very dear friend—Sage Turner. Have you heard of him?” I wonder.

“Oh my goodness. Are you kidding me right now? You know Sage Turner?” she marvels.

“Yeah. He helped make the day special for us and brought everything we needed with him. We showed up with Scout, Shadow, and a few tentative plans. He made it all happen with even bigger ideas. Al was planning an engagement party for us, but I think we’re just going to turn it into a wedding reception instead. I haven’t told him yet, but it will be at the end of hockey season in June, then we will leave on our honeymoon. Edward requested two weeks . . .” I share, knowing I’ll need her help here, if I’m able to be away for that length of time.

“Say no more. They’re yours. I’ve got you. I’ll cover us here,” she states adamantly. “Bella, don’t ever think for one second that I’m not as invested in our practice as you are. I understand a majority of our patients are familiar with you since they know you from Sam’s office, but I keep making progress, winning them over one at a time.”

I smile at the reality, offering my reassurance. “I know. I have all the confidence in the world in you, but I’m still worried about being away from my mom for that long.”

Victoria nods. “Her treatments are a temporary situation, and you can lean on me for whatever you need. She will be through them and healing by then, which is a perfect time for you to be away. I’ll check in with her regularly too. I promise.”

I’m stunned by Victoria’s generous offers of help and support for me personally while our partnership is strengthening in ways I didn’t anticipate. We’re both invested here in our practice and in each other as our friendship grows. 

“Thank you. Um . . . we haven’t told Rose yet.”

Victoria shakes her head. “I won’t say a word. She left earlier. I think her oldest son is sick or something.”

“Yeah. That’s what Edward said too.”

“Regardless, I’m so happy for you and Edward. Are you going to the game on Saturday night?” she asks.

“I usually only go if Edward is the starter. Otherwise, I watch from home.”

“Oh, okay. In that case, I may check with Deedee and Jess to find out if they’re going.”

“You’re always welcome to come over and watch with me,” I offer.

“Well, Caius invited me to watch in-person, and I want to go, but I don’t want to sit alone.”

“He invited you?”

“Yeah. It isn’t serious.” But the blush on her face reveals otherwise.

“Are you sure about that?” I question.

“It’s just fun and I need fun. I like being around him. He—there’s just no hesitation on his part. And he’s not a bad kisser either.” Victoria giggles. “Caius is willing to try anything and is completely straightforward. He has zero filter. So, I always know what he’s thinking.”

“And what is he thinking?” I prompt.

Pausing for a moment, she glances out her window while her smile grows at her thoughts. “He likes me too and wants to get to know me better. He says I’m unlike anyone he’s ever dated before.”

“Oh, Victoria.” I hope she isn’t on a direct path to heartbreak.

“I know it sounds like a line. At this point, I don’t care if it is. Life isn’t perfect or easy. We all struggle with something or a lot of somethings. Despite repeated attempts on my part, I haven’t gotten to a second or third date in what feels like forever,” Victoria shares candidly.

I’m about to question her time with Roy, but she beats me to it.

“And Roy doesn’t count. Doing whatever we were doing was not dating in my opinion. We were right there, and he would pull away from me every single time. I want to love someone, and I want somebody to love me. Freely. Out in the open. I deserve someone who doesn’t second-guess every move or even being with me,” Victoria defends.

“You do.”

“I’m so ready. Maybe this one works out. Maybe it doesn’t. I have to—at the very least—have the courage to put my heart out there, even if it gets a little bruised at times.”

With a nod, I understand what she’s saying, and I know that I need to keep my mouth shut from here on out, no matter how difficult that can be where Caius is concerned. 

“I care about you, and more than anything, I want you to be happy whether you’re with someone or not.”

“I know, and thank you.” She stands from behind her desk, and we share a hug. “I better go check on my patient in room two.”

“I should check my messages since I’ve been gone.”

“Hopefully, there isn’t anything pressing. We were busy, but nothing I couldn’t handle.”

“Okay. Thanks for everything, Vic.”

“Anytime, Bella.”

After we part, I return to my office, surprised to find I have a visitor waiting. 


“Hey.” He shifts back and forth while his eyes move over me. “Um . . . you’re okay?”

“I’m okay,” I confirm.

Al rushes forward, pulling me into a hug. “I’m sorry.”

When he pulls away, I close my door, motioning toward the chairs in front of my desk. “Let’s sit. What’s going on? I thought you were with a client?”

Once we’re seated, he hesitates before the truth comes rushing out. “I can be petty. You know that. Okay, I’m petty. And a liar. There is no client. Well, I mean I have clients, but not another one for an hour. I was at the salon when you called, but I didn’t know what to say, and Afton lied for me.”

I reach out and take hold of his hand. “Al.”

“Will you forgive me?”

“Of course.”

Al’s eyes shift to my left hand and he spies my wedding bands. He doesn’t comment but waits for my confirmation—something in his expectant look tells me he already knows.

I smile. “We eloped.”

At his nod, he grins. “Congratulations.”

“Thank you. Are you upset? It’s okay if you are. I understand,” I reassure.

“Yes, that I wasn’t included, but no, if eloping is what you wanted. It’s spontaneous and romantic.” He smiles.

“It is. And it was so beautiful. Edward flew us to Vegas on a private plane. We took Scout and Shadow. Dianna and Sage met us there. She took photos, and Sage covered the other important details to make the day just about us.”

“Sage? Again? If you’re trying to make me jealous, it’s working.” He chuckles nervously.

“I’m not. It just worked out the way it did. I can’t wait to show you the photos and share all the special touches.”

“I’m excited to see them.” Al’s smile fades slightly. “Um . . .” 

“What is it?”

“I had my suspicions that was what you were doing after talking with Gare, then—you know that I will always have your back.”

“I know.”

“Especially online.”

Oh no. 

“Someone leaked our news?”

“The lighting is bad, but there are photos and a video posted. Edward is recognizable, but you’re shielded by him or out of focus. It’s enough to question who he is with,” Al reveals.

“We knew there was a risk, but I thought we did good by not staying in the same place for too long. From the clerk at the license bureau to the building crew at T-Mobile, there were plenty of people who knew who he was, and what we were celebrating.”

“There’s a person on one of those message boards who claims Edward was at the Planet Hollywood Casino in Las Vegas with an ex-girlfriend and they are keeping their marriage a secret. The ex-girlfriend is Heidi, the same one linked to him when he was on a road trip to New York. I asked him about it at the time and he said there was no truth to seeing her. Do you want to see the posts?”

I shake my head. “No. We both know it’s me and not someone else. I’m probably shorter than his ex. I don’t know why anyone would try to stir up this crap or even believe I’m her. I think Edward said she’s a model.”

“She is. You’re both brunettes and she’s . . .” Al shifts his head from side to side, trying to come up with the right words that won’t hurt my feelings.

“Skinny. I get it. Let’s not take cheap shots at the pregnant lady. Where’s my chocolate stash?” I grin.

“No, I was going to say a party gal. That’s her world: parties, fashion, travel. Las Vegas isn’t her normal playground.”

I release a small sigh. “Well, I was hoping to keep our news private until we had a chance to tell everyone, especially our family, which is why I called you once we returned.”

“I’m the first to know?” he asks hopefully.

“No. Edward had to tell his coach before we left why he wouldn’t be at practice. He was great about everything and said not to worry about the game in Nashville tonight. I told Victoria before you arrived unexpectedly. I just—I understand that a certain amount of my personal life will be public because of Edward and who he is, but I keep hoping to maintain control over what we share.”

“Maybe you should make your own post with your photos?” Al suggests, then amends, “Or Edward should. I’m sure he can’t wait to post them.”

“You’re right about that, but Dianna has our photos, and I wanted to save them for the party. I’m not going to be bullied into sharing anything because of message board people with nothing better to do in their lives.” 

Al nods his agreement. “What are we doing about the engagement party?”

“If you’re still willing to organize it, we’ll turn it into a wedding reception. I know that we’re already leaning on you for Pumpkin’s nursery, and it seems like everything else. So, if it’s too much and I’m overstepping—”

“No. I can do both. It’s just a bigger party.”

“But please, keep it simple. No stress. There won’t be any cuts in the guest list. We will be adding more people, including Dianna and Sage, as our guests.”

Al gasps. “Sage will be here—in Dallas? As a guest?”

“Yes. He said he wouldn’t miss it.”

“Bella, what are you doing to me? Don’t get me wrong, I’m up for the challenge. Holy smokes! Sage. Turner. This changes the whole game.”

“I need to talk with Edward about the budget, but you can search for a venue with availability for June thirteenth that will accommodate three hundred guests. It’s not a lot of notice.”

“We’ll find the right space,” Al reassures.

“Then we’ll leave for a two-week honeymoon the next day. I feel bad that Edward won’t get to celebrate their birthday with Rose, but he said it wasn’t a major concern for him.”

Al nods. “I understand what he told you, but if there’s an inkling of something else there, like maybe he’s just saying that to make you happy, there could be another option.”

“I think he’s saying that because he wants us to spend the two weeks naked. But what are you thinking?” I ask curiously.

“What if . . . you invite Rose and whoever would be included in a birthday party for them to join the two of you for just their birthday weekend during your honeymoon? It can be a short trip to wherever you plan to go. Spend the time together, then go back to it being just the two of you once everyone leaves. Maybe even keep it as a surprise for Edward. Then he’ll get the best of all worlds.”

“I don’t know. The kids should be out of school by then, but I know Rose keeps them busy during the summer. I’ll think about it. I have no idea where we’re going yet. So, it’s difficult to make plans. And the cost. Why am I the only one around here worried about money?” I hold my palms up in question.

“The way we eloped was expensive. The wedding reception will be expensive. I have zero doubt our honeymoon will be expensive. Let alone paying to fly everyone there, plus accommodations. Edward just bought me that ridiculous SUV when another more economical choice could have been made.” With a shake of my head, I continue. 

“We have a baby on the way, and we’re redecorating the nursery. I’m trying to get our practice off the ground, plus anticipate our needs by growing into the space next door. Let’s not forget that I just gave Sam a small fortune for the settlement of damages, and it will take time to recoup my lost wages from him through a lawsuit, if I win.”

Al pats my leg lightly. “All couples stress about money. Is Edward worried?”

“No. Not at all.”

“Then you need to take your cue from him.” 

“That’s easier said than done.” I sigh heavily. “What about dinner this evening?”

Al smiles. “You need to spend tonight with your new husband. He’s probably counting down the hours until you return from work. We can get together another night.”

“That’s what he suggested. Something next week? I know Edward wants to watch tonight’s game, but his next four games will be here in Dallas. You’ll tell Garrett for me?”


“Thanks. I love you.”

“I love you too. We both had better get back to work, but I needed to make everything right between us.”

“I’m glad you stopped by, and there’s something else I want to ask you. I realize it isn’t the same since there won’t be a ceremony, but will you be my man of honor at our wedding reception?”

After a quick intake of breath, he makes a little squeak of excitement.

When he fails to accept immediately, I suggest, “You could propose a toast or something. I’m not sure about the details or responsibilities yet, but we can work those out. Edward plans to ask a former teammate to be his best man. And like I told him, you’re the only choice for me.”

His whole body relaxes with my words. “You’re going to make me cry.” Al waves both hands back and forth rapidly in front of his face.

I smile. “Is that a yes?”

“Are you kidding me? Of course, it’s a yes. Hell yes! Now, I have a special reason for a new suit.”

“As if you weren’t already getting one for the engagement party.” I chuckle.

Al laughs. “I can’t wait to tell Gare. He’ll need one too, but I promise, we’ll try not to steal the spotlight from the newlyweds.” He winks.