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 (53), Tanya (49), Lily (22), Edward (51), Bella (49), Peter (23), Wil (22), Jasper (64), Alice (56), Esme (79)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m just here having fun.
C21 – Happy 22nd Birthday, Lily
“I know I’m early wishing you a ‘happy birthday,’ but I wanted to make sure everything was good before I flew out later tonight. I’ll probably be in the air on your actual birthday when we’re flying back, and who knows how my phone service will be while we’re there.”
“Thank you, Dad. I’ve never been better. I know you worry, but I’ll be fine while you’re away. Are you flying over night?”
“Yes, we’re flying from Seattle to Los Angeles then on to Bora Bora. If something happens or you need to reach me, you can call the hotel too. I sent you an email with the details.”
“I got it, Dad. You focus on having fun and not on me. I miss everyone, but hoping for a visit soon.”
“We miss you too. How’s work?”
“Busy. I’m doing another wedding cake for this weekend. It’s so amazing. I’ll send you pictures after I set it up. The design is simple and elegant, almost like one I would choose. But the pressure to create a cake so perfect isn’t something I will ever get used to experiencing. It still makes me nervous even with almost a hundred under my belt. How’s everything at the shop?”
I’m hung up on that little nugget she dropped about choosing a wedding cake for herself, but I will let it go. She’ll tell me when she needs to tell me.
Deep breath and focus. Let the therapy pay off.
“Good. We got a contract for a huge installation in the lobby of a new hotel in Dallas. Edward and Peter have been working on design ideas and went for a site visit recently.”
“It sounds like you negotiated another winner to land that one. It’s taken months.”
“They needed a little push. We’ve got the possibility for the same project at two of their other hotels if this one goes well.”
“I know you will charm your way into those deals too.”
“Your old dad still has the touch. Speaking of old, Laurent’s still in the picture?”
“Dad! He is, and he’s not that old. We’re fantastic. How is everything with Tanya?”
“It’s good. We celebrated living together for eight months and I have no complaints.”
I shrug. “Maybe you should ask her? You know how I am.”
“I know you like to be in control of every little thing.”
“You know I’m reasonable, but she has her own way of doing things too.”
“Which is why I wondered how you would adapt to living with someone again.”
“She’s sort of military without being in the military.”
“What—like you have rules? Have you left the toilet seat up again? I thought I broke you of that habit. Tanya doesn’t seem that rigid.”
“Maybe she’s more methodical. I mean it isn’t a bad thing. The house is clean and there’s always something cooking for dinner. Everything is organized and neatly put away.”
“That must be so difficult for you,” Lily teases. “Are all of your favorite restaurants calling to find out what’s happened? Their most reliable customer has gone missing and suffering from home-cooked dinners. Dad, give me a break. She has a job too.”
“I was never in favor of her going back to work after retiring from the police department, but this investigator position popped up and she took it before I could object.”
“Really, Dad? After working nonstop for twenty-five years, you expected her to what, sit and stare at the ceiling all day?”
“No, but I guess I didn’t know what to expect. She’s now a crime scene investigator and her job demands a very meticulous attention to details. It seems to spill over in her private life—our lives.”
“I don’t think that’s a bad thing. Why are you complaining?”
“I’m not, but like I said, it’s different. I wish she would be more spontaneous. I’m hoping this week will help to loosen her up to the idea that maybe the bed doesn’t need to be made right after we get up. It’s vacation. You’re supposed to relax and be pampered.”
“It sounds like she has good habits from years of living on her own. Some people, who I will not name—” Lily lowers her voice as if the next word is a secret. “—me, are lucky to have clean sheets no matter how rumpled they are. Maybe I should have Tanya come live with me for a month and put my house in order. I feel like it’s always chaos and I never have time to do anything other than laundry before I’m headed out the door for work.”
“Laurent’s not pulling his weight?”
“He makes dinner every night and cleans without me asking.”
“I thought he couldn’t cook.”
“He can, but it’s usually simple stuff, fresh from the market with only a few ingredients, like roast chicken or salad and pasta. After my days at work, it’s always a welcome change to have him taking care of me. What have you been doing for Tanya?”
“Uh, nothing really, which is why I suggested this vacation. She’s not the hearts and flowers type.”
“Dad, every woman is the flowers type. You seem to have forgotten how to romance a woman. It sounds like the two of you are great roommates or maybe I should say she is. But what about the wooing and love? You’re supposed to be dating.”
“That’s Paris talking. I live in Seattle.”
“Dad, you’ve gotten lazy and you’re letting Tanya take care of you without you ever doing anything to take care of her. You need to step up your game and remind her of why you’re great and the two of you are the perfect match.”
“Step up my game.”
“Yes, you need to figure out how to sweep her off her feet. She deserves love and pampering. She’s kept you on the sober straight and narrow for almost two years.”
“Twenty months,” I correct.
“And you’re doing great.”
“I am, but maybe I’m the one who’s not fun or exciting anymore.”
“You know that’s not true. You’re always a lot of fun.”
“What if she’s bored with me?”
“She isn’t, but it’s time for you to focus on her. Remember, it’s the little things that matter most—the details, which is something she handles daily. I’m positive she will be thrilled if you try to focus on those with her in mind.”
“How does she like her coffee?” Lily asks.
“You don’t know? How can you live together for eight months and not know how she takes her coffee?”
“Well, she’s always up before me and has my coffee waiting in a travel mug.”
“So, she knows how you take your coffee, but you don’t have a clue about her? See, Dad. This is one of those little details I’m talking about.”
“Well, that seems simple enough to figure out. What else should I do?”
“Dad, you’re headed for a week in paradise with two other couples. Do whatever is offered at the resort, but do it together. You should go to the spa for a couple’s massage, watch the sunset, walk on the beach, go snorkeling or dancing. Whatever presents itself, I want you to focus on the moment.”
“I’m sober. It’s different. I’m different. I don’t know how to go on vacation without alcohol. It will be everywhere, and we won’t be alone all the time.”
“You will be fine. Trust me, Dad. I will bet you twenty euros that Uncle Edward and Aunt Bella will be getting busy in less than fifteen minutes of arriving at your villa. After twenty-five years of being married, he’s still wooing her. His game is strong. Are you going to let your little brother outdo you?”
“You and your euros. I know Edward. He’s not a good flyer and will probably be passed out for most of our trip.”
“Oh, please. You don’t want to admit that I may be right on this one and you don’t want to lose a bet. Wil told me he went home about a month ago to pick up some boxes and walked in on them going at it on the kitchen island.”
“He said he’s scarred for life and considered turning in his extra key.” Lily chuckles. “My point is they are still very much in love and that isn’t by accident. You’ve become too comfortable in your relationship, and it’s time to stoke those fires. Do you still love her?”
“Well, of course I do.”
“And you tell her regularly?”
“Uh… I’m screwing this up, aren’t I?”
“Come on, Dad. You’ve got this.”
“I’ve died and gone to heaven!” Bella shouts when we enter the three-bedroom villa at the Four Seasons Resort in Bora Bora. She heads to the sliding doors in the great room, pulling them open in a flourish and stepping out into the back patio area. “Edward, come and look at this view!”
Edward looks groggy from our flight, but shuffles over to where his wife demands his attention, wrapping her up in his arms as they look out over the pool and beach.
“Let’s check out the bedrooms and figure out who’s staying in which one,” Alice suggests, then explores her options.
“Em and Tanya should have the largest one with the best view.” Jasper pats my shoulder. “I’ve got your back.”
It looks like picking up the tab for the hotel counts for something with Jasper. “Thanks, man.”
“Mr. Cullen, where would you like your luggage?” The bellhop asks while pushing two carts filled with our bags inside the villa entrance.
“Unload everything here. We can take it to our rooms when we figure out who is staying where.”
“Em, this is incredible.” Tanya grins from ear-to-ear.
“It is, isn’t it?”
“It’s so different from our rainy weather in Seattle. I had no idea places like this exist. I mean, you see pictures, but wow. It takes your breath away in person.”
“Well, this piece of paradise is ours for a week.” I stand behind her and push Tanya’s hair to the side, leaving a kiss on her neck while she overlooks the villa and our view of the beach.
My sister’s voice breaks our bubble, reminding me we aren’t alone.
“There are two bedrooms with king-sized beds and the other has two queens in it. Very 1950s.” Alice chuckles.
“We can take the two queens,” Edward offers, as they come back inside. “That way if we break one—”
“We don’t need to know, dear brother.” Alice shakes her head, putting up her hand to stop him.
It looks like his medication is wearing off as Bella smiles up at him. “Beds? A shower sounds like a good idea.”
“A shower would be good—maybe two.” Edward gives her a knowing grin as he guides them toward their room.
Holy shit. Lily was right. I don’t think it’s been fifteen minutes. I can’t believe I owe her.
“We’ll take one for the team and share a bathroom wall with those two.” Jasper points toward a disappearing Edward and Bella. “My hearing isn’t as good as it used to be and Alice can wear her ear plugs.”
“Maybe we’ll just put on some music and drown them out.” Alice winks.
“Or go for a walk on the beach,” Jasper adds, putting his arm around her.
“I think we may take a nap.” I’m exhausted since I wasn’t able to sleep on the plane. I grab Tanya’s hand and pull our bags behind me.
“Are we meeting for dinner or on our own?” Tanya asks, looking back toward Alice and Jasper.
I pause at the doorway. “I can call and have someone come prepare us dinner here.”
Alice waves off my suggestion. “Let’s not make any plans for tonight and say everyone’s on their own. I doubt Bella and Edward will come up for air. Enjoy your nap.”
“Works for me. The kitchen is fully stocked. Help yourselves to whatever you find.”
“We will.” Jasper lifts their bags and follows Alice to their room.
Tanya closes the door behind me. “Are you really tired?”
I sit on the end of the king-sized bed and fall backward into the cloud of puffy linens. It feels incredible. “I am.”
“It isn’t code for…” Her voice trails off, then she covers up her nervousness with rambling I’ve known to expect. “Never mind. Do you want me to unpack for you? I should unpack my stuff to help minimize the wrinkling, and a shower sounds good. I can take one first, unless you want one, then I can wait. Maybe I’ll sit by the pool and soak up the sun.”
I sit up and notice her pacing. “Why are you so nervous?”
“Em, this is our first vacation together. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just hungry and need a bite to eat. I’ll be fine. Really. A shower will help me relax and get into vacation mode.”
I eye her for a moment then flop back on the bed, letting my eyes close. “Okay. I don’t think I will be awake much longer.”
The sound of drawers opening and closing fades away as I drift off into a deep sleep.
I wake several hours later to an empty room. From the amount of light coming in through the glass wall leading out to our private patio, it’s evening, and I decide to shower, dress, then find Tanya.
I’m rested and refreshed when I step out of the bathroom, but I’m stunned how the bedroom is bathed in candlelight with candles on every available surface. I’m about to ask what’s going on when I notice Tanya in some barely-there black lingerie, sitting on the bed.
“Hey, beautiful.” I lean down, peck her lips, then run a finger over her bare shoulder. “What’s going on? Are we celebrating something I’ve forgotten?”
“Not quite. I’ve decided it would be better if I do this now or I don’t think I will relax the whole trip.”
“Uh… I don’t know where to start. That’s not true. I do, but now my mind’s going nuts. Maybe we should switch positions and you should sit down while I stand. I always think better that way. This was so much easier when I spoke with Esme and Lily.”
“What was easier?”
“Just hear me out, okay?”
“We’ve known each other for quite a while and dating seriously for over two years. I’m still shocked to learn that considering our relationship now, we met at the airport decades ago when I interviewed Bella and you after you were hit by a taxi at the airport. I was a rookie cop, working my first accident scene, but I was always taken with how handsome you were when I checked on you in your hospital room. I was extremely nervous and could barely think to ask my questions.”
“I wish I remembered that interview.” I smile and reach out, lacing our fingers together.
“You didn’t remember many things, but looking back, we weren’t ready for each other then. I think we are now. The past two years have been challenging, but nothing we couldn’t handle together. I’m so proud of you and how far you’ve come.
“You know I’m not the most traditional person. There aren’t many girls who grow up and want to be cops, but I’ve never gone the normal path, which is why, for me, this seems like the right thing to do. It’s hard to believe for our ages, neither of us has taken this step, but I hope it is because we were both waiting for the right person at the right time, and for me, everything about this feels right.
“Emmett, I love you and want to be together for the rest of our lives. I know exactly what I want and that’s you. You’re the one for me—the only one. Will you marry me?”
I blink a few times, not sure I’ve heard her correctly. “You’re proposing marriage?”
Tanya reaches for a jewelry box on the desk and kneels at my feet. “Yes, Emmett.” She opens the lid, presenting me with a platinum and diamond Rolex watch.
“To me. Sober me.” I shake my head in disbelief and mumble more to myself, but she answers.
“Yes. I thought a ring didn’t seem right, but maybe you would wear a watch daily and never forget the day I proposed to you. I know you’re the one normally making deals, but I want to make this one with you. So, what do you say?”
“You want to make a deal—a proposal of marriage,” I repeat, hoping I understand her correctly. “To me.”
“Yes, and why am I the only one saying ‘yes’ here? This is why I’ve been so nervous. I’m afraid of your answer.”
I let out a deep breath. “You shouldn’t be. I love you, too, but you know I’m more traditional. I should be the one buying you a ring.”
“One that I would never wear, because a simple wedding band is much more my speed and appropriate for work.”
“Are you willing to take my last name?” I wonder.
“How do you feel about it hyphenated?”
“I think Tanya Cullen sounds better.”
“But I’ve been Tanya Denali for forty-nine years. If I take your last name, then I want you to set a date.”
“A date depends on if you want a big wedding or small?”
“Definitely not a big wedding. I’m not exactly the virginal, blushing bride, and I’ve never been that girl who fantasized about my wedding day with grandiose dreams and wedding binders.”
“I bet I can make you blush.” I grin while admiring her sexy body from head to toe.
“Of course you would focus on that while I’m more focused on the marriage. What if we go to the Justice of the Peace?”
I nod. “How about after we return from this trip?”
“On your birthday?” she proposes.
“Okay. On March 15th you will become Mrs. Emmett Cullen. Tanya Cullen, my wife. But until then, I suggest we go the non-traditional route, which you will like, and celebrate with our honeymoon first—here, in paradise. Plus, I get to call you Mrs. Cullen from here on out.”
Tanya grins. “You’re quite the negotiator, Mr. Cullen. If only you would agree to becoming Mr. Denali instead. It has a nice ring to it.”
I laugh. “We can keep that between us.”
“I’ll need to buy a dress.”
“I have plenty of suits.”
“So, do we have a deal? Is that a ‘yes’?”
“Hell, yes! We’ve got a deal.”
“Should we tell the others?” she asks, taking the watch from the box, sliding it on my wrist, and fastening it in place. “Lily and your mother already know. I asked for their blessings and advice, because I wasn’t sure how you would react to the idea.”
Tanya smiles up at me, but I’m floored at her thoughtfulness.
“You asked Lily and my mom?”
“Let’s tell everyone else later.” I pull her to straddle my lap, then my hands squeeze her toned ass.
“The watch looks good on you, but I wish that was all you were wearing.” She raises an eyebrow in challenge.
“This is your show. You lead the way. Tonight, I’m along for the ride, but for the rest of our trip here be prepared to be swept off your feet. I believe I’ve got some wooing that’s long overdue, but I do need to know one thing…”
“How do you like your coffee?”