A/N: Thank you to Honeymoon Edward and LizziePaige for pre-reading, and Midnight Cougar for working your magic.
A little refresher from M. Parfait, as there are a couple of references this chapter. Edward and Bella have five kids—Charlie, Peter, Will, and twin girls, Tori and Madi.
Age tracker for this chapter: Emmett (35), Lily (4), Edward (33), Bella (31), Jasper (46), Alice (38), Carlisle (70), Esme (61)
Disclaimer: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m just here having fun.
C3 – Happy 4th Birthday, Lily
“Hey, man. Come on inside.” I step back, opening the door wider for my brother to walk through, then close it behind him.
“Hey, nice nails.” He points toward my bright pink nails courtesy of the Lily.
She received a nail polish kit from Alice and Jasper today, and no one is safe. I notice Luna take off down the hall, which must mean Lily is after her to play.
Edward balances a bakery box on top of another larger wrapped box. “Where’s our birthday girl?”
“Daddy, Luna says she wants her nails painted too—Uncle Edward!” Lily runs into the room, throwing her arms around his legs in a hug, then bounces with excitement. “Hi! Did you know it’s my birthday?”
“Hey, Princess. I did, and look at you, that’s quite a dress.”
“It’s a ball gown.” Lily holds out her arms while she spins in a circle.
“Are you going to the ball later?” He winks. “Any Prince Charmings lurking around I should know about?”
“No, silly. Daddy got it for me. I’m never going to take it off. Don’t I look pretty?”
“You do. It’s pink and fluffy.”
“Oh, wait! You need to see my crown. Grandpa dropped it off this morning, but Daddy said I can’t wear it to school.”
Lily runs back to the dining room table where we’ve been playing dress-up with her birthday gifts then returns to our spot by the door.
“See? And look at my hair, Uncle Edward.” Lily spins around again for him to see my latest creation. “Daddy did it. I have French braids. I can’t wait for Aunt Bella to see. Can you take my picture and show her?”
Edward raises an eyebrow at my braiding abilities.
“YouTube,” I explain.
“Sure. She will love to see your hair, Lily.” He takes out his phone and snaps a few photos. “I stopped by your grandma’s house as she wanted me to drop off your cupcakes. Apparently, they’re fresh.”
Mom mentioned she was running behind today and she would send Lily’s cupcakes over when they were finished.
Lily reaches out to carry the bakery box.
“Careful,” I caution.
“I am, Daddy. Can we have one now?”
“Nope, after we eat.”
Lily sets the box on the dining room table then returns. “What’s in the other box?”
“A present for you from Aunt Bella and me.” He holds out the larger wrapped present for her to take.
She squeals in delight, carrying the box to the middle of the living room floor. “I wonder what it is?” A few quick swipes to tear the paper, and Lily is bubbling over with excitement. “An Easy Bake Oven! Daddy! It’s pink. I can bake like Grandma. Can we make cookies?”
“Sure, Lily. Go set it on the table. Dinner is almost ready.”
“Thank you, Uncle Edward. I can’t wait to bake something for you.”
“You’re welcome. I’m sure Aunt Bella is excited to eat whatever you make. Are you two staying in tonight? It smells good in here,” he asks.
“Yes. I learned my lesson from last year. Copine was too ambitious for a three-year-old. Maybe we can try again in a few years. Tonight we’re having chicken—”
“With no bones,” Lily yells from the kitchen.
I can hear her going through the drawers, looking for something.
“And macaroni and cheese.”
“You’re turning out to be quite the chef,” he teases.
I shrug. “I’m getting the basics down.”
Edward lowers his voice. “Bella said Lily is changing pre-schools? What happened? I thought she was doing great there.”
“Uh… she is or was. I fu—screwed up.” I catch myself, but rub a hand over my face. “I hooked up with Miss Rebecca, and Miss Charlotte found out.”
“Why would Charlotte care?”
“Because I had already—”
Edward shakes his head and waves off my explanation. “I get it.”
“I can’t help it. They’re throwing themselves at me when I’m picking up or dropping off Lily. I thought it was a good choice as these women like children and don’t mind I’m a single dad. I didn’t bring them here. So I thought everything was okay. Lily wouldn’t know.”
“But, it isn’t,” he concludes.
“No. It’s rather hostile over there and no one seems to be getting over it. I’m not interested in either one. It was just”—I lower my voice—”fucking. I don’t want them taking out their anger on Lily. So, her last day is next Friday. She will switch to Mt. Baker Preschool the following Monday.”
Edward exhales. “Have you talked to her about the switch?”
“Yes. She seems okay with the move. I hope I haven’t screwed her up by switching schools. We visited with her new teacher last week, and she saw her classroom and the playground.”
“Lily will make plenty of new friends and you—”
I hold up my hand, stopping him. “I know. I won’t make the same mistake twice. Lily’s teachers are off limits.”
“Maybe all teachers. You never know if one leaves, then they shuffle to fill in for another.”
“Good idea. No teachers. Tell Bella I’m joining a new gym nearby called, Flex.”
Edward looks hopeful. “Maybe you’ll meet someone—”
“Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. After Rosalie and with Lily in my life, Bella suggested I talk to someone—a therapist, but I can’t. That’s not me. Then she said I should at least do something for myself that has nothing to do with work, Lily, or sex.”
Edward raises his eyebrows after I say the last item.
“Well, she didn’t specify sex, but it was implied. So, I’m working out again. I used the gym in my old apartment building all the time, but since living with Mom & Dad then moving out and buying this place, I haven’t worked out in forever. It will be good to get back into it. I’m excited.”
A beeping starts in the kitchen that could be either the smoke detector or the oven.
“Daddy, chicken!” Lily yells.
“I better go save our dinner before it burns and we end up with frozen pizza.”
Edward grins. “Emmett Cullen eats frozen pizza? Will wonders never cease?”
I chuckle, thinking of how many meals I’ve burned. “Trust me; sometimes you need a back-up plan.”
“Okay, I’m sure Bella is wondering what’s taking me so long. Charlie and Peter have soccer practice tonight, but they are getting a ride home from another mother. So, I’m off the hook for picking them up. But, it doesn’t mean Wil and the twins aren’t driving Bella crazy while she tries to get dinner ready. I better go.” He shouts toward the kitchen. “Bye, Lily!”
She runs back in to where we are standing. “Daddy, I pressed ‘clear’ on the oven to stop the beeping.”
“Good girl.” She’s growing up so fast, and I may give her more leniency than I should, but I only ask her to do chores I know she can handle, like setting the table or loading the dishwasher.
Lily reaches out toward Edward, and he swoops her into his arms, giving her a big hug. “Bye, Uncle Edward. Thanks for my oven. I’ll bring you some cookies tomorrow.”
He leaves a kiss on her cheek then sets her back on the floor. “Okay, Princess. Enjoy your evening together. See ya at work tomorrow, Em.”
“Yeah, I’ve got a meeting at the bank. So, I’ll be in later.”
Edward nods then disappears out our front door.
I grab Lily and toss her over my shoulder, causing her to squeal. “Daddy! My crown! It will fall.”
“You better hang on to it. We need to save the chicken and feed Luna.”
Lily is busy unboxing her Easy Bake Oven and looking over all the contents while I’m fixing our plates full of food. My phone vibrates in my pocket. I see who is texting me and let out a sigh when I see it’s James.
Where are you?
I’m reluctant to tell James about my plans for this evening, as I already know his response. Before I have time to reply, he sends another text.
We’re starting at the Hideout.
I’m busy. It’s Lily’s birthday.
Get a sitter. Plenty of girls here. Take your pick.
He sends three photos. No faces but barely concealed tits. One chick is showing her nipples off in a see-through, no bra shirt. Shit. They look good.
Your loss. I’ll take one for the team.
Tell the rugrat, happy birthday.
I shake my head and pocket my phone. I don’t want James or that group anywhere near Lily. I’ve tried to limit my contact with them since Lily came to live with me, as I need none of them sharing a word, photo, or video about Lily’s conception. She’s little now, but I don’t want her overhearing any reference to her mother, whether or not they are joking.
I know everyone thinks I need a new set of friends, but I’ve known these guys since college. We’ve gone through a shitload of women together, as drunk, college pussy is some of the easiest around. Fortunately, the party never stopped after graduation as our professional lives took off once we all landed jobs. Even at thirty-five, I still attract a crowd of willing bodies whenever we go out. Women will do anything to get into the VIP areas of most bars we frequent. So, I’ll be the first to admit it’s difficult putting them off when the guys want me out.
I tried to get Edward to hang with us back during college, but he said it wasn’t his scene and isn’t into sharing like my buddies. His tats and Harley are chick magnets, but he’s always been more private about his preferences and is a one-on-one kind of guy. I know he’s had his fair share of pussy before Bella, but from what I know, he dated no one seriously.
Since we’re in business together, our relationship is better, but he still keeps me at arm’s length with socializing. I understand he’s busy with Bella and the kids, but I still need to get out there and get my dick wet every now and then. He has it easy.
“Time for dinner, Lily.” I hold up the two plates, walk over to set them on the table, then head back to the kitchen, popping a top on a can of food for Luna and emptying it in her bowl.
“Luna!” I yell toward Lily’s bedroom, as that’s probably where she’s hiding out.
Lily shoves her things to the side, grinning from ear-to-ear. “Daddy, this is the best day ever. I love everything.”
My heart twists and tugs at her words, hoping I’ll always be included in her “everything.”
“Can I sleep in my dress?” she asks, then takes a bite of chicken.
“Nope.” I shake my head. I knew she would try to stay in her princess dress twenty-four seven if I didn’t define clear limits.
“Are you sure? What about my crown?” She watches me carefully while scooping up macaroni and cheese with her spoon.
“No. It’s safer for you not to wear it while you’re sleeping or to school. We want nothing bad happening to it.”
Her shoulders slump a little. “Okay. I already know my birthday wish this year.”
“That’s good, then we can get to eating the cupcakes faster before the candle burns away.” I wink.
She looks up at me with her big blue eyes. “I know you said I’m not supposed to tell, but I’m wishing for a mom this year, one like Aunt Bella.”
I choke and sputter on the bite of chicken, now lodged uncomfortably in my throat. Taking a long drink of soda, hoping to clear it, I ask, “A mom?”
Lily nods. “Yeah, everybody at school has one but me. Don’t you think I need a mom?”
This is new. She’s never mentioned needing a mom. “I think we’re doing okay just the two of us—aren’t we?”
She shrugs. “Yeah, but I still want one.”
“I see. Well, don’t hold your breath on that one happening.”
Her brows cringe with confusion. “Why would I hold my breath?”
“It means it probably won’t happen.” I don’t have the heart to tell her I’m not looking. I can’t even keep a regular girlfriend, let alone find someone I would consider marrying.
Lily isn’t put off in the least. “Then maybe it will take more than one wish. I can use next year’s wish too.”
I shake my head. “You shouldn’t waste your wishes, Lily.”
“Daddy, it’s not a waste.”