A/N: Thank you to Honeymoon Edward and LizziePaige for pre-reading, and Midnight Cougar for working your magic.
Age tracker for this chapter: Emmett (49), Lily (18), Beth (37), Edward (47), Bella (45)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m just here having fun.
C17 – Happy 18th Birthday, Lily
“Holy fuck, Edward.” I grab my emergency bottle of whisky from the filing cabinet, unscrew the cap, and tilt back the bottle, taking a long drink.
He chuckles. “It’s not that bad. It’s cute. You’re overreacting, which is exactly why she didn’t tell you.”
“Please explain how this is ‘cute.’ This is permanent. She shouldn’t be allowed to make these kinds of decisions.”
“Look, Garrett has been doing my tattoos for years. What was I supposed to do when she asked me for advice? Let her go to a back alley shop with dark rooms and dirty needles? You should thank me for going with her.”
I roll my eyes. “Oh, sorry. Thanks for letting some man old enough to be her father put his hands on my daughter.”
“She’s eighteen and—”
“Don’t remind me. I know. She can make her own decisions. Thanks to you and everyone else for bringing up that fact. As if I could ever forget she’s legally an adult.” And doesn’t need me, I think to myself, but don’t air my disappointment, as Lily takes another step away from me and on her own.
“It’s just a tattoo, Em. I don’t know why you’re getting so upset. It isn’t like anyone can see it on her hip.”
“Are you telling me she pulled open her pants for a stranger? In the middle of a shop? Fuck! I know those places. All the guys linger a little longer than necessary and move closer for a better look.”
“Garrett isn’t a stranger, and last time I checked, you can’t tattoo through denim.”
“Oh, God.” I take another long swig.
“Lighten up. It’s one small, pink cupcake.”
“Until the next one. And the one after that. Please explain why she didn’t ride with you back here?”
“She wanted to stick around and talk with Sasha about piercings. Riley said he would drop her off here when she was through.”
“Piercings? What the fuck, Edward? She has enough piercings. IN. HER. EARS.”
“You know, that’s up to her.”
“And who the fuck is Riley?”
“Garrett’s son. He’s learning the business and has a great eye. I may let him do my next piece.”
“Well, my daughter will not be his next piece. Thanks for nothing, Edward.”
The sound of a motorcycle pulling up in front of the shop gets my attention, but the sight of Lily climbing off the back almost has me coming unglued.
Edward laughs at the sight. “You better get that stick out of your ass. Here she comes. I’ve got a feeling you’re about to be the not-cool dad with your current attitude.”
I push open the door, heading outside as he follows me.
“Daddy! I want you to meet someone.” She pulls off her helmet then pecks the driver on the lips. “This is Riley. Riley, this is my dad, Emmett Cullen.”
“Hello, Mr. Cullen.”
I nod and give my most intimidating glare.
“I met Riley this afternoon thanks to Uncle Edward.”
I shift my glare to Edward who only laughs.
“Hey, Riley. Lily, I need to get back to work. Happy birthday, Princess.”
“Thanks, Uncle Edward. I have more good news. I called Aunt Bella, and she’s on her way. I want to tell everyone in person.”
“Let me make two phone calls then we can meet in your dad’s office.” He leans over and kisses her forehead then pats my shoulder, turning to walk back inside the building.
“I’ve got to get back to the shop, Lily,” Riley says.
“Okay. Call me tonight?”
“Will do. Later, Sugar.” He winks then puckers his lips and Lily kisses him again, but keeps it short.
Riley fires up his motorcycle, gives us a salute, then drives out of the parking lot and disappears into traffic.
“You met this afternoon?”
“Oh, Dad. We have so much in common. Plus, he’s incredibly hot. I need to text Heidi. She’s never going to believe it. Thank goodness I have pictures.”
I’m not sure which has me angrier—his nickname for her or the fact they only met this afternoon and think kissing in front of her father is okay.
“He doesn’t have a girlfriend?”
“Nope. He’s single.”
I hold open the door for her. “Let’s go inside. I can’t wait to hear your good news.” I need another shot of whisky, and a chair because my gut tells me I need to be sitting down for this.
“I’m going to call Mom and put her on speaker,” she says as we enter my office.
“Great.” I sneak a last pull from the bottle before placing it back in my filing cabinet.
We only wait about ten minutes before we’ve all gathered in my office awaiting Lily’s good news. I’m at my desk, while Lily is sitting in one chair on the other side, and Bella and Edward stand next to the windows. Beth is on the speaker of Lily’s phone.
“Is this everyone or should I call Grandma or Aunt Alice?” I tease.
“No, Dad. I’ll tell them later.”
“Well, what’s your news?” Bella prompts.
“I’ve made a decision and I know what I’m doing when I graduate.”
“Finally. U-Dub?” I ask hopefully, wanting her to stay close.
“Uh… you know I’ve applied at a variety of schools and colleges. Some here locally and some farther away. And we’ve talked about some non-traditional educations. Like the Culinary Institute of America.”
“You’re not staying in Seattle?” I know the CIA has campuses in California, Texas, and New York. California isn’t too far away, and at least it’s on the West Coast.
“No. I’m not.”
“Where are you going, New York?”
“Uh… don’t be upset. This is the chance of a lifetime and I’m taking it. I got the email today and I’ve been accepted.”
“To where Lily?” I’m losing my patience with this conversation.
“Le Cordon Bleu… Paris.”
The room erupts at once in squeals of celebration with Bella and Edward offering their hugs and congratulations, while I sit stunned in disbelief. Beth chimes in over the phone, gushing over Lily’s choice and how she will be the best pastry chef in all of Paris.
A beaming Lily grabs her phone, taking the call off speaker. “I’m going to step outside and finish my call with Mom.”
At my nod, she slips from my office and out to the front steps of our building, talking animatedly into her phone.
For as much as her excitement grows, my heart breaks even wider at the news that means I’m losing her.
My eyes find Bella, and I can barely contain my anger. “This is your fault.” I point.
“Emmett,” Edward warns, standing in front of Bella.
She moves around him. “It’s no one’s fault, Emmett. This is Lily, choosing what will make her happy.”
“And that’s leaving her family and Seattle? No. You’re the one who’s been romanticizing fucking Paris all these years, planting the seeds in her mind. That fucking toy oven. Your damn macarons and that fucking crêpe maker. Then the job working at the bakery. All of those things were your ideas.”
“You’re being ridiculous.”
“Yes. When are you going to grow up and face the reality that Lily has a mind of her own? You’re almost forty-nine. Stop being so selfish and support your daughter’s happiness. She loves baking and is great at it. Why would you deny her this opportunity to improve her skills at one of the best schools in the world?”
“Because it’s in fucking Paris! She’s eighteen for Christ’s sake! You wouldn’t understand because your boys stayed close, but she’s my daughter, Bella. Mine. She’s all I have left.” My voice breaks on the last word, but I’m not about to let either one see me shed a tear, and storm from my office, heading for the back door where I can get some fresh air. I need to pull it together before I face Lily again and say something I may regret.
We’re home, and I’m camped out on the couch nursing two fingers of whisky, trying to will away the pain of my broken heart. First Rachel. Now, Lily. Just when I think I’ve built up enough scar tissue the wound splits open again even wider this time.
“Dad, this has been such an unbelievable day! First, I get a tattoo. Oh, wait. Did you want to see it?”
“No.” I stare at the television as I watch a muted version of ESPN’s SportsCenter. Maybe I can figure out how to put on the captioning.
“Why not? It’s adorable. I thought you would love it.”
“Still no.” I bring the glass to my lips.
“Maybe later. Anyway, then, I meet Riley. He reminds me of you but better. We were talking after I got my tattoo, and he said I was too sweet, then started calling me, ‘Sugar’.” She blushes, prompting another eye roll from me.
“You should stay away from guys who can’t remember your real name. That’s a red flag. I know his type. He’s all ‘Baby this’ or ‘Babe that.’ It’s because he’s with too many girls to keep up with their real names.”
Lily continues. “He’s big and strong, but he’s creative, like Uncle Edward. You should see his drawings in the shop. They are incredible.”
Fuck. I don’t think she’s listening to a word I say.
“I’ll pass.” I sigh.
“Plus, I think he likes me too.” She giggles. “He will take over for his dad someday. It’s a family business, like yours and Uncle Edward’s.”
“Great.” He’s just another punk I will tolerate until the next one comes along.
“Then, the cherry on top of it all—I get accepted into Le Cordon Bleu. Dad, I’m going to be a classically trained pastry chef. Can you believe it? I’ll be able to work anywhere in the world.”
“Like Seattle?” I perk up a little at the possibility.
“Well, maybe. But who knows, I could work for royalty or presidents. Isn’t this exciting?”
“Those people have problems like everyone else.” I wave my glass in her direction.
“I’ll get to travel and meet new people.”
I’ve had enough new people for today, especially ones named “Riley.”
“Mom wants me to come and stay with them again this summer before I leave. Would that be okay?”
“You’re asking my opinion now?”
“Well, of course. I always want your opinion. Oh! I will need a new passport.”
“Add it to the list.”
“I don’t even know how you move to Paris. Maybe I’ll just pack the basics and buy what I need when I get there. I’ll miss my Jeep.”
“It will be here when you’re ready for it.”
“Is it okay if I leave everything in my room? I mean, you’re not going to go all empty nester on me and sell the house while I’m at school, are you?”
“Oh, good. Because Heidi’s mom is already talking about making her bedroom into a new craft room when Heidi leaves for college.”
“Aren’t you going to miss your friends?”
“Well, of course. But I’ll make new ones.”
“When do you have to be in…” The word leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. “…Paris?”
“Classes start the first of October and go through the end of June.”
“When will you come home to visit?”
“I don’t know the schedule yet, but when I do, we’ll figure it out.”
“Do you want me to fly over there with you? Get you settled?”
“No. You don’t have to do that. I can handle it on my own. I will probably be stuck in some tiny apartment near school, which will be perfect for me, but not really your thing.”
“I’m sure there’s a Four Seasons Hotel in Paris. I can adapt.”
“You’ve never been to France?”
“No. I’ve been to other parts of the world for work, but not there.”
“Well, maybe you can come visit me after I get settled. I’ll miss you.”
I look up into her excited blue eyes with a sad, heavy heart. “Oh, Lily. I’ll miss you so much. You have no idea.”
Her phone vibrates with an incoming text, and her eyes light up when she reads the message.
“Riley wants to take me out for a bite to eat. Is that okay? Or did you have dinner plans for us? I know how you like it to be the two of us for my birthday.”
“It’s fine. Go have fun.” I have my whisky, and Daisy is around here somewhere, which means I won’t be alone even if she ignores me.
“Are you sure?”
“After we eat, we may go to a late movie.”
“Okay. Your curfew is still midnight.”
Lily lets out a deep sigh. “Really? I still have a curfew? But I’m eighteen—”
I raise my eyebrows at her challenge. “And living with me. My house. My rules. Who’s paying for the cooking school?”
“Then I think you can be home by midnight.”
“What if Riley hangs out here with me after curfew? Would that be okay?”
“Lily,” I warn. But we both know I’ll concede and she’s won this one if I know she’s home safe.
“Thanks, Dad. You’re the best. We won’t be loud and we’ll just hang out here on the couch.”
“Not in your room.”
“Okay, I love you.”
“Love you too.”
“I need to get ready. Riley said he will be here in ten minutes.”
“Great. And always make sure you wear a helmet,” I yell after her, as she walks down the hallway.
With Lily planning to be out for this evening, I decide on a little TLC of my own. It’s time for a house call from my favorite doc-to-be. I should probably call Irina with the way I’m feeling, but it’s late and outside of normal business hours. I don’t feel like talking, which is all she’ll want to do. I feel like drinking and fucking. So I scroll through my contacts until I find Kate’s number.
I haven’t told anyone about her as she’s half my age. Irina would spend countless sessions on this alone, and there’s no chance in hell I’m introducing her to Lily. So, I’m breaking a few of Irina’s rules. But with Kate, she doesn’t have time for all the girly, romantic bullshit. She’s all about fucking and isn’t in to sticking around after the fact, which works out perfect for me.
That isn’t news.
I need a doctor.
I know a few. I can send one your way.
No. I’m interested in a pretty med school student.
You want me to come over?
You’re always studying. You need a break.
You’re a bad influence.
I can be there in about thirty minutes.
Perfect. I’ll need mouth-to-mouth.
More like mouth-to-dick.
I tilt back my glass of whisky, emptying its remaining contents as this day is finally taking a turn for the better.