A/N: Thank yous to Team Spiderward for all you do. xx
Song inspiration for this chapter: “Die a Happy Man,” Thomas Rhett
(Playlist for this story can be found on my YouTube channel, if you search for “ghostreader24”)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. The NHL owns anything that sounds familiar. I’m here having fun.
/ /\ (oo) /\ \
Once the soft golden glow from the lights of the private home appears in our view, Bella gasps at our ultimate destination. “Is that it?”
Vladdy is a fucking genius.
And I owe him for this one.
When everyone agreed to find a tattoo shop and get new ink together, I didn’t object. I’m always interested in new ink, especially doing something like that with my teammates. Unfortunately, I didn’t do a good job of hiding my disappointment at the delay in our return to the resort, and Vladdy sensed my impatience while we agreed upon similar designs. I had plans with Bella this evening—ones I didn’t want to postpone.
All too soon, we’ll return to Dallas and our busy lives—Bella with her new practice and me constantly away from home for the second half of our season. It will be challenging to steal moments like this one when our careers will be competing for our undivided attention.
While we were in the chairs getting inked, Vladdy suggested I find somewhere nearby and whisk Bella away for an overnight stay, giving us a little time together away from the rest of our group. Of course, I loved his suggestion, feeling my mood lift instantly. The tattoo artist working on Vladdy’s design recommended several of the local resorts that own a variety of homes in the area. Using our phones, Vladdy and I searched the internet until he found this one. The Tree House—seclusion at its finest with all the modern day comforts we need. After looking through the breathtaking photos, I was even more excited to find it available for the next two nights.
Marveling at it from this distance, the three-level home surpasses anything I could have hoped for and should make up for my absence this evening—including any future ones. Nestled within a mountainside jungle and overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the seven-thousand square foot home has one bedroom with a king-sized bed, and I can’t wait to have Bella in it.
“Edward—” Bella’s eyes widen. “It’s . . . it looks like a treehouse?”
“Yeah. Wait until you see inside. The photos on the website were amazing.” After waving to our driver, I offer her the flashlight he handed me. “Come on, we’ve got a little bit of a hike. You can lead the way.”
She glances at the flashlight, then back to me. “Hike?”
“How else do you think we’re going to get up there? The road ends here. You said you’re looking forward to hiking while we are in Mexico.” I click the side button and offer it again. “This is your opportunity.”
“Yeah, but an easy hike—this one obviously is advanced, and it’s the middle of the night. I hate to break it to you, but after my dinner, plus margaritas no matter what I say, I’m not that advanced. I mean, it’s up the side of a fucking mountain. And I’m wearing a sundress with sandals that were never meant for-for . . . jungle terrain.”
“Where’s your sense of adventure?” I taunt playfully.
“You’re starting to sound like Deedee. I left it safely back at the resort. On a lounge chair. Next to my margarita.” She reluctantly accepts the flashlight, then nods toward my hand. “With the rest of my clothes—that bag looks empty.”
“Bikinis don’t take up much room, not that you’ll need one. It’s a private beach. Don’t think I haven’t noticed your bikinis getting smaller each day. Saturday’s will probably be non-existent.” I wink, unable to resist teasing her. “I’m on to you, and trust me, they’re working their own form of magic. Just ask my dick—the mere mention of a bikini is creating a whole other situation. Now, hop on my back and I’ll carry you.”
“You’re willing to carry me?” she asks skeptically.
I shrug, then crouch lower. “Sure, why not? I promise the hike will be worth it. I can’t wait to see the home myself. Let’s go.”
After securing Bella for a piggyback ride and grabbing our bag, I follow along the shore while she holds the flashlight, illuminating our path. Once we locate the opening for the hike up the hill—not a mountain as she claims—I readjust my hold, then begin our upward trek.
“Does this count for your exercise—meaning, do we get to sleep late in the morning?” she asks hopefully.
“And miss the sunrise?” I don’t share that we should be able to enjoy it from bed, saving that little surprise for when we wake.
“Damn. You’re going to wear me out going up and down this mountain, aren’t you?”
“This is great exercise.”
“If you say so.”
As the path narrows with heavy vegetation, I pause our climb at Bella’s unexpected shriek, leading her almost to drop the flashlight.
“Sorry. Keep going. Something grabbed my arm,” Bella defends between giggles. “It’s dark and kind of spooky, or maybe my mind is playing tricks on me because I spent too much time in the witch shop today.”
I chuckle and continue along the path. “No sorting hat, huh?”
She shakes her head. “Far from it. This was the real deal with some creepy shit hanging from the ceiling, but that’s not all. The shop owner did a tarot card reading for me.”
“Any revelations—the man of your dreams will appear, sweep you off your feet, and carry you up a hill?” I grin.
“Unfortunately, nothing like that.” Bella tightens her grip around my shoulders. “Everything was fairly vague until it wasn’t. I don’t know. I’m always skeptical about that kind of stuff, but there was something about the lady reading the tarot cards. It was as if they were a prop used to communicate a message to me. Or several messages. Maybe she was psychic or just incredibly intuitive. She used that word—intuition—repeatedly when describing me. There were other ideas and phrases that echoed over and over until I was at a point where I’m thinking there could be something to it.”
“Like what?” I wonder.
“The future and all the decisions facing us. Ones we’ve made. Ones we haven’t. I bought a few items that . . . I don’t know, maybe I shouldn’t have, and they were a waste of money. But what if we can’t find the right answers for my mother at Anderson? What if we do everything the doctors recommend, following the standard medical procedures, and it still doesn’t eliminate the tumor? Or what if my mother chooses not to go through with their recommendations at all? What then? When do we consider other options?”
“The shop had treatments for cancer? They’re selling cures?” I ask with bewilderment.
“Yeah. That’s the claim. The owner brought it up during our visit. I mean, how did she know it would be something of interest to me? I was stunned when she mentioned anything about cancer.” Bella releases a heavy sigh. “The last time I spoke with Dad, he said Mom is looking into alternative treatments. Most recently, they bought a juicer. She is changing her diet to eating only raw foods, and now, juicing based on some internet article.”
I nod, noticing a few lights up ahead of the path. “That’s not a bad thing, cancer or not. It will strengthen her immune system and aid in her recovery from the surgery.”
“True. I just don’t want to discount something simply on the basis that it hasn’t been monetized by pharmaceutical companies. I’m always skeptical of Big Pharma, and its motives,” Bella confides.
With the last few steps, we finally emerge from the path and take a moment to absorb the amazing sight before us, revealing the welcoming home waiting for our arrival.
“Wow. This is—” She pauses at a loss for words.
I finish her thought. “Incredible.”
Sliding from my back, Bella leads the way to the front entrance along the wooden deck with me trailing closely behind. After stepping inside, our eyes dance across the soothing earth tones and rustic stone walls of the small space until I notice the stairs, enticing us to explore the next level.
When our eyes meet, I nod forward. “Let’s check out the rest of the house.”
“Yes!” Bella giggles with excitement, racing up the steps. Once we enter the larger area, her eyes shift around the main living space quickly. “Oh my goodness, Edward. This is gorgeous—definitely worth the hike.”
“Who hiked?” I smirk.
“Oh, please. I know you—you probably didn’t even break a sweat, and I held the flashlight, which was critical to our success.” She waves it at me, then leaves it on a table. “Let me have this one.”
“Okay.” I chuckle, willing to let her have anything.
Reaching for Bella’s hand, I lace our fingers together while we explore the space. Without any man-made barriers between the inside and outside on this level, the living jungle walls surround the home, adding another layer of privacy. The furnishings are casual with a laid-back vibe of rustic wooden furniture combined with natural woven and reclaimed materials everywhere we look.
With limited sight at this time of night of the promised ocean views, we continue through the living room’s open area floor plan. After a quick glance around the adjoining kitchen and dining areas, I find the refrigerator stocked as requested before noticing another set of stairs.
Squeezing Bella’s hand, I anticipate the bedroom is next. “Are we ready to check out the next level?”
“There’s more? I can picture myself napping on one of those couches tomorrow or maybe even tonight.” Her grin widens. “Just when I think I never want to leave the resort, you find another place for me to fall in love with.”
At her excitement, I can’t resist kissing her lips briefly before tugging on her hand. “Come on.”
After climbing to the third level, I slide open the doors to the bedroom, revealing our final stop for the night. Bella releases my hand to walk around the space while I leave our bag near a chair. Sitting on the end of the bed, I watch her closely, waiting for her assessment.
“So, what do you think?” I ask, reaching out and pulling her closer to stand between my legs.
“It’s beautiful. Thank you for this wonderful surprise.” After a kiss, she straddles my lap. My hands slide under the hem of her dress and over her thighs to cup her bare ass cheeks. She’s wearing another thong, and I can’t wait to see it. “I never had a treehouse or thought I would ever stay in one, especially one so . . . extravagant.”
“We had one—” I start, but pause to clear my thoughts peppered with images of Bella only wearing a thong. “Rose and I. It wasn’t anything like this one. Mom said . . .”
Bella brushes her fingers through my hair soothingly, then encourages me to continue. “What did she say?”
“Our father started building it when they found out she was pregnant. Rose loved it, and even though it was intended to be shared equally, she took over.” I smile briefly. “After he died, Rose spent a lot of time in ours. If she would go missing, I always knew where to find her.”
Bella nods. “She was holding onto a piece of him.”
“Yeah. I did the same thing, just in a different way. For me it was hockey, spending any time I wasn’t in school on the ice. He loved hockey. There were times that . . . sometimes I felt as if he was still sitting in the stands watching my games, even though I knew that wasn’t possible. After the accident and funeral, Rose didn’t want to play hockey any longer, and it felt as if I lost both of them.” I shake my head. “She wasn’t the same. I wasn’t the same, but I tried to hold onto what I could. I needed my routines, and for everything to go back to normal. It never did, but I suppose we found a new normal.”
We’re both quiet for a moment as I’m lost in thought until she breaks the comfortable silence between us. “Does your treehouse still exist?”
I nod. “It did the last time I was in Michigan, but that was years ago. Sometimes during a visit, I would drive by our old home, trying to recall the memories of living there, but many of them have faded over time.”
“That must be tough since you were so young when he died.” Her fingers comb through my hair, prompting my eyes to close momentarily at the incredible feeling.
“Yeah. The property changed owners a few times, and I’m always nervous to see if the treehouse is still there,” I share, then release a shaky breath. “Once Mom married Dad, we moved to a new home. She thought a fresh start would be best for all of us, but it broke my heart to leave it behind—something he created for us. One of our last connections to him.”
“It sounds as if it was a labor of love, but you’ll always be connected to him here.” Bella taps on my chest above my heart.
I smile at the thought before glancing around the room. “I can’t imagine what he would think of a place like this.”
“I’m sure he would love it.” She grins, slides her arms around me, hugging me tightly.
I bury my nose in her hair and breathe in her comforting scent. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” she whispers, leans away slightly, and gives me another kiss. “So, what should we do first? Are you tired or do you want to go back downstairs and grab something to eat? Maybe a shower before bed?”
Not wanting to admit I’m tired and in need of sleep, I jump at the opportunity to end my day with a wet and naked Bella. “A shower would be good, but only if you’ll join me.”
“Then it will be a hot one?” Her eyebrow arches with challenge.
I grin, planting a more determined kiss on her lips. “Scorching.”
/ /\ (oo) /\ \
Unbelievably quiet as I wake with Bella wrapped around me.
The faint sound of a bird chirping nearby mixed with her deep sigh gets my attention. After noticing the flutter of her eyelashes, I realize she’s awake. Brushing my hand back and forth along the curve of her back, I leave a kiss on the top of her head.
“Good morning, beautiful.”
She tilts her face to mine, kisses my lips, and smiles. “Good morning.”
“You’re awake early.”
Bella nods, then returns her head to nuzzle in the crook of my neck. “I couldn’t sleep.”
“Because you couldn’t wait to see the ocean views?”
“They’re gorgeous, and the waves softly crashing on the shore may lull me back to sleep. It’s one of the best ways I’ve ever woken up. Top ten, maybe top three. Every other spot on my list somehow includes waking up with you.”
“Damn, I’m doing something right.” I smile. “So, why couldn’t you sleep? Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, but . . .” Bella pauses, then lifts her head. “I . . . uh . . . I was checking out what you brought in our bag and found this.”
She reaches for something on the other side of the bed, then holds up the box containing the pregnancy tests I stashed in our bag. I hope it hasn’t upset her, but my parents’ connection to finding out my mother was pregnant and my father building our treehouse at the news was one I couldn’t pass up with us staying in this place. I can’t get a read on whether having it is a good or bad thing for her, but for me, it’s a great thing. I want to know where we stand, and I can’t wait any longer to at least check.
“Yeah, I picked it up yesterday,” I reveal.
Bella looks at me with raised eyebrows. “The guys know you bought it?”
“Vladdy knows. James too. I hope that’s okay. They won’t tell anyone. I thought since we have some time alone, it would be a great time to check on our . . . progress.” I grin.
She chuckles at my reasoning. “You want me to take it.”
Without hesitation, I confirm, “I do.”
For a moment, I almost ask if she has ever taken one before, but I conclude I don’t want the answer to that question.
“Well, I did a little sharing of my own, and I told Deedee that we’re trying.” She looks up at me sheepishly. “We were divulging things and connecting with each other. They’ve been trying for another child since Alec.”
I nod my encouragement, hoping Bella confiding in Deedee could lead to a deeper friendship between them, which I believe would benefit both of us. “That’s what Marcus said the other day.”
“She thinks they’re going to look into adoption once we return home,” she adds.
“It could be the right answer for them,” I agree.
Turning over the box in her hands, Bella blows out a steady breath. “I still think it’s too soon for a test.”
“I know, but what if it isn’t.” My hand slides to the gentle curve of her ass cheek, and I can’t resist giving it a little encouraging squeeze. “Will you do this for me?”
“Always so optimistic.” Bella smiles and steals another kiss before sliding from the sheets. After grabbing my shirt from a nearby chair, she slips it over her head, concealing my perfect view of her naked body. “Okay, I’ll be right back.”
“I’ll be here.” I wink. “Waiting.” Not-so-patiently.
My eyes follow her movements when she reaches for the box again, prompting my grin to widen as she disappears into the bathroom, pulling the sliding doors closed gently. Staring up at the ceiling, I blow out a few deep breaths to calm my racing thoughts and eager heart. I attempt to focus on anything except for the muffled sounds coming from the bathroom, but fail until I finally hear the toilet flush and the running water from the sink. When the door slides open, Bella reappears, waving the test at me.
“There. Done.” She sets it on the nightstand, then crawls back in bed, settling against my side under the sheets. “The box says we’ll have an answer in three minutes.”
“Do you want me to set a timer?” I wonder.
She shrugs. “If you want.”
With a nod, I reach for my phone, set the timer, then pull her closer. I’m not sure what to say while we wait, as I attempt to contain my building excitement. So, I try to distract myself with thoughts of breakfast while we watch the sun peek above the horizon.
“Are you hungry?”
“Would you be surprised if I said yes?”
“Not at all. What sounds good?”
She tilts her head and her eyes light up. “Everything.”
“You worked up an appetite after our shower last night, huh?” I tease.
“Something was worked up.” She chuckles. “Do we have coffee?”
“Of course. There’s plenty of food in the refrigerator for us. Maybe I should surprise you with my cooking skills.”
“Well, you know what I like. So, that should make it easy. We can cook together if you want,” Bella offers.
“I think I want to cook for you,” I conclude.
She smiles. “Well, I’ll let you. What else should we do today?”
“I have another surprise for you. This home has a unique, secluded swimming pool. Actually, it’s three ponds that sit at the bottom of a rocky waterfall.”
After viewing the photos on the website of this private oasis, there was no keeping my mind from lingering a little longer, imagining Bella swimming in the clear blue ponds or standing under the waterfall.
Wet hair. Arched back. Chest out. Bikini. Or wearing nothing at all.
It’s enough to cause my cock to twitch with new life at those thoughts.
“Waterfall? That sounds as if another hike will be in our future.”
“It won’t be too far,” I promise, making a mental note to take my phone with us and hoping to capture a few photos if she will allow it.
When my phone vibrates and chimes with the ending of the timer, I shut it off as Bella reaches for the test. Without looking at it, she holds it out for me.
My eyes shift from the test to hers. “You don’t want to look together?”
“I think I already know what it’s going to say.”
“Intuition?” I wonder, reaching for the test.
Flipping it over, I glance at the single line in the tiny window.
My excitement dwindles immediately, but I do my best to keep my expression neutral. “You were right. It’s probably too soon.”
“Are you disappointed?” she asks.
“Yeah. A little.”
“We just need to keep trying, and I know you enjoy that part.” Bella smiles. Her hand drifts lower until it’s moving back and forth over my sheet-covered cock.
“Mmmm. I do.”
We’re both quiet as the confirmation sinks in, but there’s no denying my body’s response to her light touches. For a moment, I consider bringing up something that has been bothering me, but release a sigh that gets her attention.
She watches me for a moment before lifting the sheet and straddling my waist. “Is there something else? You’re normally more excited about the whole baby-making process.”
“Well, I am.” My dick is hardening by the second as she guides me through the increasing arousal between her legs. Cupping her breasts over my shirt, I give them a gentle squeeze, flicking my thumbs to tease her protruding nipples. “But . . . can I make a request?”
Concern passes across her beautiful face before Bella pauses the tilt of her hips. “Of course.”
Once I release her breasts, I slide my hands lower until they’re resting at her waist under the hem of my shirt, while she braces her hands against my chest.
“You know that proper nutrition is an important part of my life. It’s critical to my performance and success.”
At my words, her face fills with relief. “I do.” She nods, guides the head of my cock to her opening, and slowly sinks down until our hips are flush.
“Fuck, you feel good. Give me a minute.” I grip onto her hips, preventing any additional movements, and blow out a steady breath. Once I’m ready for more, I give her a slight nod, prompting her smile. “Okay. What was I saying?”
“You have a request, and believe it or not, it wasn’t this,” Bella teases, as she begins a torturously slow rocking motion.
“Yes. Mmmm. I understand this is a big request for you, but . . . would you be willing to stop drinking? I’m not asking you to do anything I wouldn’t do and I’ll be right there with you. I’ll give it up too,” I reassure. “We’re in this together, but I believe it would be a step in the right direction for conceiving a child. The health of your body is important to our success.”
Her eyes widen and she halts any continued movements of her hips at the realization of what I’m asking. “No more alcohol? Temporarily?”
“For either of us,” I confirm with a nod. “At least nine months, probably longer.”
Her eyes search mine. “No more tequila or margaritas?”
She glances away for a moment before her eyes return to me once more. “Al’s Margarita Mondays’ idea goes on hold? Damn, I was looking forward to that.”
“You know he will be supportive, and there are non-alcoholic versions of drinks you could substitute instead,” I suggest, hoping it’s an agreeable compromise.
“If I would have known last night was my last margarita for a while, then I would have had another.” She laughs. “Your wine fridge will think I’ve abandoned it.”
“It isn’t safe from Rose or Mom. So, no worries there.” Looking for her official agreement, I prompt again, “Is it a yes?”
“It’s a yes, but don’t even think about coming for my chocolate stash. I’m keeping it. That one is non-negotiable,” Bella warns with a grin.
“Understood.” Lifting my hips upward is enough encouragement to restart her movements, and I chuckle at her negotiation tactics while I’m still buried inside her. My next request will be discontinuing her morning coffee, but I keep that one to myself for the moment. “Now, you’ve started something here and I hope you plan on finishing.”
“Oh, we’ll both be finishing. I can promise you that.” She smiles, rocking against me before increasing her pace. “And you’re not the only one with a surprise to share. I think you’ll love mine.”
“Oh, yeah?” I lift my shirt she’s wearing upward, revealing her naked body.
Bella lifts her arms as I pull it off completely, then I drop it on the bed next to us.
“Mmm-hmm. Do you want to hear it now or wait until later?”
I nod encouragingly. “Now. Surprise me.”
“Okay.” Bella licks her lips, releases a steady breath, then smiles. “When we return to Dallas?”
“We should go back to my townhouse.”
I’m not surprised she wants us to return there. “That’s fine—”
“To pick up my clothes,” she adds.
I hold her hips in place, halting any further movements in an effort to focus on what she’s saying. “Wait. What?”
“And move them—to your place.”
My eyes find hers at the unexpected realization. “You’re moving in with me?”
“Yes. I still believe your home is too big for our needs, but I’m willing to admit my townhouse is too small. When the time is right, maybe we can look for a new home together.”
There’s no containing my renewed excitement, and I grin. “You’re moving in with me?”
Bella nods. “I can’t keep asking you to sleep in my bed when it’s too small for you to rest comfortably, and I know that’s important to you.”
My grin widens with her further explanation, but there’s no denying this is another big step for us. “You’re moving in with me.”
She chuckles. “I am.”
“Once we return from Mexico?”
“Oh, Doc.” I reach for her hand, lace our fingers together, then leave a kiss on the back of hers. “I never thought I would say that I can’t wait for vacation to be over, but . . . I can’t wait.”
There’s no containing the pure joy surging through me at her surprise. Without taking my eyes off her, I sit up and kiss her lips thoroughly. Clutching her against my chest, I roll us over until she’s underneath me.
“Whoa. I didn’t see that coming.” At the unexpected shift in our positions, Bella giggles, filling me with an undeniable happiness.
“Oh, you’re going to be coming—next,” I promise with a smirk, trailing kisses along her neck.
Combing her fingers through my hair, she asks, “So, you like my surprise?”
“Yes.” I capture her lips over and over while her legs wrap around me as my hips set a renewed steady pace.
With every determined thrust, the bedroom fills with our soft moans until Bella pulls her mouth from mine, and through parted lips, her ragged breathing fans across my face. It seems out of place to speak French here in the middle of Mexico, but I’m not fluent in Spanish and knowing her, it won’t matter.
“Tu me rends incroyablement heureux.” Pausing my hips for a moment while looking into her eyes, I grin and whisper, “You make me incredibly happy.”
“You make me happy too.” She reaches up, cups my jaw, and rubs her thumb across my lips.
“Je prévois de passer le reste de ma vie à tout faire pour maintenir ce sourire sur ton beau visage.” I steal another kiss before translating. “I plan to spend the rest of my life to do everything to maintain that smile on your beautiful face.”
“This will do it.” She giggles, then shifts her hips against mine encouragingly. “Don’t stop.”
“Oh, Doc. There’s no chance I’m stopping.” I smirk, then kiss the tip of her nose. “Je t’aime de tout mon coeur. I love you with all my heart.”
“I love you too.”
Hiking her leg up higher on my waist, I watch her eyes close briefly at the incredible feelings as I slide deeper inside her at the new angle. When her eyes open again, they twinkle with mischief.
“Your heart is great and everything, but what about that dick of yours? I think it’s time to give me all you’ve got. Enough talking. No holding back.”
As if I can ever hold anything back from her.
My body is completely under her spell, and hopefully, very soon, I’ll be able to share the words I’ve been dying to say ever since visiting Vladdy’s aunt in San Francisco—with one very important question on the tip of my tongue.
“Then you better brace yourself for what’s to come.” I grin at the innuendo, but know that living together is a huge step in the right direction for us, and I can’t wait to move her into—not mine, but our home.
And with a little time, I’ll figure out how to convince her that we should stay there.