A/N: Huge thanks to Midnight Cougar for her help in always improving my words. xx
Song inspiration for this chapter: “Simply Irresistible,” Robert Palmer
“She’s unavoidable, I’m backed against the wall
She gives me feelings that I’ve never felt before
I’m breaking promises, she’s breaking every law
She used to look good to me, but now I find her
(Playlist for this story can be found on my YouTube channel, if you search for “ghostreader24”)
Disclaimer: Laura Numeroff and Felicia Bond own the adorable little mouse whose needs inspired this very adult version of their story. Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m here having fun.
“Clallam County Fire, Edward speaking.”
“Edward!” The familiar voice on the other end gasps for breath.
Instantly, I’m concerned and wondering what’s happened. “Jess?”
“Yes! It’s me. I-I can’t find Mike. He’s not answering his phone.”
“He’s out on a call with Emmett.”
“I’m…” She raises her voice. “Mom, wait! We need my bag.”
“Jess, are you okay?” I ask.
“My mother’s here. Don’t worry, I’m not alone, but my water broke, and with my contractions, my doctor said to go straight to the hospital. Can you track Mike down for me? Oh, God, not another one.” Jess groans through the pain. “Tell-tell him to meet us at the hospital.”
“You got it.”
After I hang up, I walk swiftly to our communications room, sending out a call to Mike and Emmett over the radio.
“Station-2 to Rescue-2.”
Moments later, Emmett’s voice blares across the airwaves. “Go ahead, Station-2.”
“What’s your status Rescue-2?”
“We’re finishing up and will be on our way back shortly.”
“Em, you need to be the one behind the wheel and drop off Mike at the hospital before you return. He’s about to become a father.”
I hear his laugh and can’t keep the grin off my face at the news we’ve all been anticipating. “Yeah, Jess is on her way. She’s with her mother.”
“Copy that. Who’s available to cover?”
I glance at the schedule on the wall, wondering who can take the rest of Mike’s shift from our list of volunteers. “Are you okay with George? He’s the next available.”
“Copy that. My ETA back to the station is fifteen to twenty.”
“George will be here by then.”
After contacting George, I return to our daily maintenance routine. Garrett and I are in the middle of checking and documenting individual equipment. He’s replacing batteries in radios when I return.
“Who was that?”
“Jess. She’s on the way to the hospital with her mother. George will be here soon to cover for Mike.”
“Thank goodness. Mike is about to lose his mind overthinking every worst-case scenario, which is driving me crazy.”
“You’re just jealous.” I know I am.
“I know, but maybe next year will be Kate’s and my year.” Garrett gives me a sneaky grin.
“You two are trying?”
“Yeah. We’re in a good place. So, why not?” He shrugs. “How are things going with you and Bella?”
“But not great.”
“They are, but… I don’t know. We’re just not there yet. I am, but I get the feeling she isn’t.”
“And by there you mean…”
“I’m not even sure if we’re official. I feel stupid asking, because shouldn’t I know? We haven’t even been out on a date. I’ve been to her house a few times and I see her next door regularly, but I feel like we’re in some kind of unofficial limbo.”
At my words, Garrett starts laughing. “Oh, Edward. I think that’s a technicality, but if you need clarity—ask her. In my opinion, you’re the only one without the answer.”
“Yeah. Can you change the batteries in the heart monitors next?”
As we continue through the last of our equipment checks, I wait until Garrett finishes documenting the final items before I work up the nerve to ask my next line of questions.
“Do you talk to Kate about work?”
“Of course. She’s my wife.”
“What about when she wasn’t?”
“Ah. That’s what this is about. You’re afraid you’re going to scare off Bella.”
“It’s a possibility.”
“So, you’re holding back. Let me guess. You think you’re ready, but it sounds like that’s not exactly true.” He sits on one of the steps of Engine-2 and shakes his head. “I can’t believe you don’t realize the answer here. It’s obvious, like why, when everyone is running away from a building, are we the only ones running toward it?”
I know what he’s trying to say, and he’s right, because with Bella, I’m lacking it. “Courage.”
“That’s right. Courage is the answer here too. Where’s your courage? Have you lost it suddenly?”
“No, but I don’t want to overwhelm or discourage her.”
“Then don’t share all the details, but at least get the conversation going. She may surprise you. Bella seems like the kind of woman who can handle it. You need to stop this wishy-washy shit, that’s not like you, and start loving her like she deserves—with your whole heart.”
His choice of words stuns me; I haven’t mentioned loving Bella to anyone, other than when I admitted it to myself on my recent visit to the cemetery.
“Don’t look so surprised. I know you love her. We’re together all the time. I’m probably with you more than I am with Kate. I know you, Edward. We’re brothers, maybe not by blood but in every other way that counts.”
He’s right. We are brothers and family.
“Look, I know you have concerns—everybody does. Relationships are some scary shit. What if this or what if that? No matter what they are—I’m telling you—don’t talk yourself out of taking this chance with her. You’ll regret it.”
He softens his voice. “And all that other shit we both see that you don’t feel comfortable talking about with Bella, you come talk with me about it. I’ll help you carry that load, like I always do. We’re brothers.”
He stands and offers his hand bent at the elbow. I clasp my hand with his as he gives me a one-armed hug with the other, slapping me on the back.
“Brothers,” I confirm, patting his back. And for the first time since I moved to Forks and took this job over two years ago, I feel it—not just being part of a team, but a family. “Thanks, man.”
“Anytime. I have a good feeling about you and Bella. Don’t let me down.”
“I’ll do my best.”
“That’s all I’m saying. Let’s get started cleaning the trucks.”
Emmett and I finish our shifts with an hour left before visiting hours end at the hospital and take the opportunity to meet the newest addition to our family, Jess and Mike’s daughter, Natalie Rose.
“Knock, knock.” I tap lightly on the wooden door.
“Hey, Edward.” Mike grins like the proud father he is when I peek my head around the edge.
“Up for a couple of visitors?”
“Sure, come on in.”
“Congratulations. This is for Natalie.” I hold up the light brown teddy bear with a pink bow I purchased downstairs in the gift shop and find a place to set it between arrangements of pink flowers.
“Awww, you’re the sweetest. Thank you.” Jess grins from her spot on the bed. “Did Bella come with you?”
“No, Bella’s with Angela this evening. I think they’re busy wrapping Angela’s Christmas presents. Emmett and I wanted to stop by after our shifts, but he’s at the nurses’ station making introductions.”
Mike chuckles. “Of course, he is.”
Jess lights up with excitement. “Oh, he should meet Rosalie or Saint Rose, as I call her. She’s one of the nurses who brings me the good drugs.”
My eyes linger over every flat surface covered with celebratory wishes. “Wow, look at all the flowers. I understand why there weren’t any arrangements in the gift shop now.”
“Yeah, our parents are a little over the top right now. It’s the first grandchild on both sides.” Mike smiles while rocking their daughter. She’s bundled in a hospital blue and pink striped blanket with a pink cap covering her head.
“They just left not long ago,” Jess adds.
Mike nods toward the largest arrangement. “That one is from Alice and Jasper on behalf of the department.”
My eyebrows shoot up in surprise. “It’s huge.”
Jess chuckles. “I think Alice created it herself.”
“I’m not surprised.”
“Would you like to hold her?” Jess offers, pointing toward their newborn bundle in Mike’s arms.
Mike stands from his spot. “The bathroom is just beyond that door. You can wash your hands in there—use the scrub brush too.”
After washing my hands under Mike’s watchful eyes, I sit in the chair next to Jess’s bed and he transfers Natalie into my arms.
Mike hovers nearby. “Be careful of her head.”
Jess snorts. “Mike, you need to chill. Are you forgetting that Edward is not only a firefighter but also an EMT? He’s qualified to handle an emergency delivery. So, I think holding our daughter shouldn’t be an issue.”
“I know, I know,” Mike grumbles.
“Why don’t you go grab some coffee or something to eat?” she suggests.
“Are you sure?”
“We’ll be fine. Edward is here and I have everyone only steps away from our door.”
“Okay, I won’t be gone long,” he promises, kissing Natalie’s forehead and Jess’s lips before reluctantly slipping out of the room.
“Thank goodness. He’s driving me a little crazy with his hovering.” Jess chuckles and leans her head against the pillow while she watches me hold Natalie. “Edward, you’re a natural.”
Natalie’s eyes open briefly, and I can’t keep the smile off my face when she yawns. I spy wisps of blonde hair peeking from the edges of her cap. “She’s beautiful, Jess. Does she have much hair?”
“Yes, but it’s so light that you can barely see it.”
I miss the rest of what Jess is saying when Natalie lets out a cute baby sigh, but it sounds like something about “Poor Bella.”
Natalie turns her head slightly and snuggles against my chest. There’s something incredibly comforting about holding a newborn. It’s a gentle reminder that life goes on despite what we face—maybe not the way you planned, but possibly in a better way.
“How are you doing, Jess?” I ask and stroke my finger along Natalie’s soft cheek.
“I’m exhausted. I’ll probably nod off soon. It’s been a wild day.”
I rock Natalie gently and lower my voice. “Don’t worry, I won’t stay long. I need to get all the sleep I can and hope we aren’t busy for the next few days.”
“You’re working Christmas?”
I nod. “And Christmas Eve. I’m just going to stay at the station between shifts. So, I’m there if needed. When do you think you’ll be going home?”
“They are saying Christmas Day.”
“What an incredible Christmas present, huh?”
“It’s the best. When Alice was here earlier, she said she’s organizing a Christmas dinner for everyone on duty. So, she didn’t stay long as she has a last minute lengthy grocery list to complete. I’m a little sad that we’ll miss it.”
“Well, if I know Alice, I’m sure she’ll find a way to include you and Mike, even if you are still settling in at home. So, don’t be surprised when she’s on your doorstep with meals.”
“She’s such a sweetheart. I’ll take them.” Jess chuckles. “Jasper’s barbecue is delicious. Mike’s mom and mine have been filling our freezer with meals for the past few weeks. I’m thankful for those too.”
“All I know is turkey is on the menu. Hopefully, some other family favorites will be included.”
“Do you want me to take your photo with Natalie?” Jess asks, locating the control for the bed and tilting it upright.
She reaches for her phone on a table next to the bed. “We’ve been taking photos all afternoon. I’ll send these to you.”
“That would be great. Mike has my number.” I lift Natalie a little higher, while Jess snaps photos of the two of us.
There’s a knock on the door and Emmett pushes it open. “Room for one more?”
“Always. Come in and meet Natalie. Although, I’m not sure Edward is willing to give her up yet,” Jess teases, setting her phone back on the table.
Emmett holds the door open wider and pulls his over-the-top pink balloon bouquet into the room.
“Can you blame me?” I ask, and switch arms so Emmett can see her more easily.
“Not at all, but you both came at the perfect time because she’s been changed, fed, and ready for a nap.”
“These are for Nat, but there’s a coffee cup for her mom too,” Emmett says, tucking the cup with the attached balloons in between two of the flower arrangements.
“Thanks, Em. I can’t wait until I can drink coffee again.”
He moves to my side and softens his voice. “Hey, little sprout. Uncle Em’s here to meet you.”
Her eyes open briefly.
“Do you want to hold her?” I ask.
I nod toward the bathroom. “You better wash your hands or Daddy Mike will have a fit. He had me scrubbing up like I was prepping for surgery.”
Emmett chuckles. “Then I dedicate this next song to you, Nat.”
We listen as Emmett washes his hands while singing the “Happy Birthday” song to Natalie, who snoozes through it peacefully. As Emmett is leaving the bathroom, Mike returns to the room.
“Hey, Daddy-o. Congratulations!”
Emmett rubs his hands together. “Now, I’m ready to hold our girl.”
“Did you—” Mike starts.
“Yes,” Jess and I interrupt at the same time as Emmett confirms with an, “I did.”
Emmett and I switch places, making the hand off without interruption to Natalie’s sleep under Mike’s ever-watchful eyes.
“Next time, Nat, I’ll sing you the alphabet song,” Emmett promises. “You’ll love it.”
I shove my hands in my pockets. “I think I’m going to take off.”
“Thanks for coming by, Edward,” Jess says.
“You bet. If you ever need a sitter, let me know. I’d happily help with Natalie.”
“Thank you for the offer. We may take you up on that.”
“Good night, everyone.” I wave and walk to the door as I hear a soft chorus of, “Good night, Edward,” before the door closes.
As I’m making my way out to my car, my phone vibrates in my pocket, and a quick glance shows it’s from a number that I conclude is Jess’s, since the pictures of me with Natalie are attached in the message. Even though it’s getting late, I forward a couple to Bella, because I can’t resist bragging that I was able to meet Jess and Mike’s baby before her. She responds immediately with a Heart-Eyes emoji, and I wish her a good night before driving back to my apartment for some much needed sleep.
If you give a postal worker a love note, she’ll wonder about the identity of the author when it’s delivered by an unintended mail carrier.
After a visit from a sexy firefighter, the mystery surrounding the note will add to her curiosity, but it won’t be solved any time soon, when she has no choice and accepts another job far from home.
Her secret admirer will hold on to hope for their paths to cross again, and when they do, he will find that being near her again is better than he ever anticipated.
Visiting her during his breaks and getting to know each other will be the best parts of their days, until one day she unknowingly makes his favorite childhood cookies, giving him the sign he needs to move forward.
She’ll hold back nothing as she tempts and teases him when they’re alone, testing his resolve, until a few adorable photos of him with a friend’s new baby causes an unexpected shift in her world.