A/N: Note another smaller time jump this chapter and my thanks to Midnight Cougar for her help in fixing those things I always miss. xx
Song inspiration for this chapter: “Some Kind of Wonderful,” Grand Funk Railroad
(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.
Two weeks later…
Memorial Day is always the last Monday in May, but the three-day weekend is known as the unofficial kick-off of summer, which will keep everyone at the station busier than normal in the upcoming months. While Monday is reserved for honoring those members of our armed forces who have served and sacrificed for our country, this Saturday morning, we’re officially opening and dedicating my grandmother’s park in her honor.
We’ve had community involvement right from the start with Forks Forum getting the word out on their website about our fundraising efforts and sharing photos of the construction process. Recently, the Peninsula Daily News interviewed me about the project, which has created a buzz surrounding today’s event.
“Your mom messaged that they will meet us at the park when they finish at the diner. We have two hours before the ribbon cutting. Thank goodness the forecasters are saying no rain until later this afternoon.”
I nod while watching Bella finish packing Ember’s diaper bag. Our sleepy daughter is tucked and buckled into her car seat, but I’m rocking it gently with my toe while we wait.
“Angela texted that she’s there and setting up one of your surprises.” Bella says it somewhat nonchalantly and adds the baby wrap over her clothes, tying and adjusting it so she’s ready to carry Ember once we arrive.
My eyes shift to hers, wondering what she’s been so secretive about lately. “Surprises?”
“You’ll see.” She grins and winks. “Sue is meeting us there to help with last minute touches, and my dad said he would stop by briefly, but he’s working.”
Garrett and I are off today, but we’ll work a later shift tonight. He said he and Kate plan to meet us at the park with Teddy in an hour. Jasper, Mike, and Emmett are all working, but I think Bella said Jessica and Natalie will be there later since they live only a short walk away. Alice and Faith are settling in at home, and Alice already sent a message to Bella that they were sorry but would have to miss the dedication.
“Okay, I think we’re ready,” Bella says, grabbing her purse and reaching for the diaper bag.
“I can get it.” I nab it before she does and throw it over a shoulder. “I’ll carry Ember too.”
“Thanks. Oh, wait. I should pack some snacks. I’ll go grab a couple of granola bars.”
The three of us are turning into a well-oiled machine when we leave the apartment, and without me asking, Bella grabs my keys on the way out the door then tucks the granola bars into a side pocket of the diaper bag. While she locks the door, I walk downstairs and settle Ember in the backseat of my car. After dropping the diaper bag on the floor, I slide into the driver’s seat with a beaming Bella in the passenger seat watching me closely.
“What is it?” My smile grows gradually to match hers because this look usually means we’ve forgotten something, and she’s going to ask me to return for whatever it is. “Do I need to go back for…?”
“No. I’m just so damn happy, and I love you.” She leans over the console, pressing her lips to mine for a quick kiss.
“Must be those early morning endorphins we triggered.” I grin knowingly, sliding my hand to hers, then bringing it to my lips and placing a kiss on the back. “And I love you too.”
It’s a short, blissful drive to the park because with my beautiful wife next to me, I always feel like I can do anything. I know today won’t be without bittersweet emotions, because I haven’t forgotten throughout this entire process it’s my grandmother who I’m honoring today in a very personal way.
While I know parking will be an issue later this morning with as many people we expect to attend the dedication, an abundance of vehicles isn’t what gets my attention when we’re close.
“Bella.” I pull to the side of the street.
She glances up from her phone, looking around. “I don’t think we’re supposed to park on this side of the street today. We need to keep it open for neighborhood traffic.”
“No, that’s not it. Look.” I nod toward the sign in the yard and notice the smaller one near the walkway. “Open House Sunday. It’s a new listing. Hop out and get a flyer from the box on the for sale sign.”
I don’t want to get my hopes up, but we’re within walking distance from the park. My car idles as I check the mirror and see that Ember’s still asleep while Bella retrieves a flyer. A stone path leads to the front door, and I look over the front yard full of overgrown flowers, bushes, and a large tree I’m not sure is a keeper or not. I wouldn’t have to mow, but also there’s no place for Ember to play when she’s older unless there is a yard in the back. Of course, we could always walk to the park, which brings an immediate smile to my face. From here, it looks like there is a gate on the side of the house between the home and garage that could lead to a fenced backyard.
“Is it in our price range?” I ask as soon as her car door opens.
Bella grins, sliding into her seat and closing the door. “Yes, but on the high-end. I can’t believe this home is listed. It looks like something out of a storybook, if you can see past all the overgrowth. Do you know how many times we’ve been by here and nothing? An occasional contractor’s truck or van recently, sure. I was wondering if it was an abandoned or foreclosed property. I never remember seeing anyone living here.”
“It could have been an elderly resident with limited mobility. We should ask Mr. Banner. He’ll know.” I nod toward the papers in her hand. “What does it say?”
“This recently refreshed cottage home with a partially wooded one-acre lot is full of charming nooks and crannies on a quiet street.”
Bella pauses reading to give me her version as she normally does when we find a possible new home. She calls it her bullshit translator. “Another way of saying it’s small and recently refreshed is using broad strokes as to what they’ve done inside. They could have only emptied, cleaned, and painted everything to get it listed.”
“Well, it can’t be any smaller than the one bedroom, one bath we’re renting.”
“True,” she agrees.
“Three bedrooms, two baths. Neutral colors throughout.”
She flips between the stapled pages. “It looks like neutral means that everything is white except for the hardwood floors. The pictures aren’t great, but the kitchen and bathrooms look older. No weird colors in either room at least, as the bathroom tile and fixtures are white. I can work with that by adding color with our furnishings.”
“We could paint and add carpet or rugs,” I offer. “Those are easy fixes.”
“You’re right. White is always difficult to keep clean, but I’m sure it makes everything look bigger.”
“What else?” I ask while looking toward the home and imagining the layout. “Any stairs?”
“No stairs. It’s all on one level. No basement, but maybe a crawl space under the house? I’m guessing. I can’t tell. Oh—you’ll like this.” She smiles while reading. “Inviting fireplaces in the living room and primary bedroom.”
I can’t keep the grin off my face at those added bonuses while picturing the place with Christmas lights and a tree in the front window, which is probably the living room. “You know that’s always a plus for me and one in the bedroom, Bella.”
“We would need to baby-proof the one in the living room. Your mom and the books say Ember will be crawling soon.”
“I’ll install a hearth gate, which will be completely safe. Mike has one.”
She continues reading. “One-car garage. Fenced backyard with stone patio.”
“We could get a dog,” I interrupt with one of my items from our wish list. “Maybe an older one from a shelter. They’re always the last adopted, and we can find one that’s gentle with kids…”
“And who would take care of the dog?”
“Easy—all of us. It’s good for kids to grow up with a pet.”
“That’s what you say now. What about nasty weather or when everyone is too busy?”
“Bella, if I’m home, I’ll always have time to take care of our dog.”
“I’m making no promises on a dog, but I’ll consider it.”
“That’s all I’m asking, plus a backyard would mean having everyone over for parties or barbecues.”
Bella quirks a smile, hands me the flyer, and takes out her phone. “I’m going to check if they have better photos on their website.”
After glancing at the additional information, I shrug and make a suggestion. “Why don’t we call the agent and ask to see it today ahead of the open house tomorrow? Maybe this afternoon or evening after we’re finished at the park.”
“Yeah?” Bella tilts her head, considering the idea.
“Yeah. Why wait? It could turn out to be close to what we want.”
“Well, there is no front yard and only a one-car garage, but two-car garages are difficult to find in older homes—normally it’s an aging carport or nothing at all.”
“I already said that if there is only one, then you should have it. You’ll be driving the car more often with dropping off and picking up Ember.” I lace my fingers with Bella’s and give hers a brief squeeze. “Let’s not shut it down before we see inside and the backyard. I think this one has possibilities.”
“You’re right. We know it’s always about compromise on homes of this age. It certainly has potential, doesn’t it?” Bella asks, looking back toward the front door. “The front garden is growing on me. Maybe if we did some trimming and harness the overgrowth, I suppose it would be quite charming. It’s close to the park too. Fingers crossed the inside doesn’t need any major repairs.”
“If we get that far, we’ll have everything inspected.” I consider our options. “If we can’t see it later today, then we’ll stop by tomorrow’s open house after my shift, but let’s at least let them know we’re interested.”
“Okay, I’ll give the realtor a call.”
Without further delay, Bella calls and leaves a message with the listing agent as I drive closer to the park and find a parking spot nearby, noticing others are already here. My mother spies us and makes a beeline for our car with my father trailing closely behind, no doubt eager to see and hold their granddaughter despite staying until late last night before leaving for their hotel.
“Good morning, my darlings.” My mother moves eagerly toward the backdoor of the car while Bella and I exit the front.
“Good morning, Mom. Dad.”
“Edward, you know I love you, but…”
I chuckle at her impatience. “Let me get her out and you can hold her.”
“Good morning, Bella. Did Ember let you sleep in a little this morning?” my father asks.
“I always could use more, since she’s such an early bird, but we’ve been awake for a while.”
Her eyes meet mine, and I don’t miss that mischievous smile of hers at how she woke me up after she fed Ember and returned to bed without her.
My father’s voice pulls me from those thoughts. “Edward, there’s a man and his wife with a little boy asking about you over by the playground equipment.”
“All right.” I slip Ember into my mother’s waiting arms.
“We’ll be over at one of the benches,” my father says, guiding my mother with Ember in that direction.
Bella’s hand slips into mine, tugging me along toward the picnic tables. “Before you make it to the slide, you need to see one of your surprises over here under the canopy.”
“Good morning, Edward. How about a cookie or something to drink?” Angela asks, waving toward trays of cookies including my favorite M&M chocolate chip cookies.
Bella grins and explains. “First surprise—cookies and lemonade, like your grandmother used to make for you, but available to all in attendance today because they were donated by members of Pastor Weber’s congregation.”
“We’ve been baking nonstop since yesterday,” Angela shares. “Let me know if they taste like your grandmother’s. A little bird may have shared the secret family recipe.”
I grab one of my favorites, well aware of whom that little bird would be. “Thank you, Angela and to everyone who helped. I’m sure they’re delicious.”
“Sue will be here soon to help you man the table,” Bella tells Angela, but her hand finds mine again as she moves us along. “Now, let’s go see who is waiting by the slide.”
“You’ve got me eating cookies for breakfast.” I take a bite, enjoying the familiarity, and finish the rest as we walk together.
“Well, I believe you said you were willing to have something else for breakfast this morning instead of food. Twice.”
She’s right, because I’ll make that trade every day. I woke up to all of Bella’s sexy curves on display in the dim morning light as she hovered above me and started our morning off right.
“And how do they taste,” she asks with a slight smile.
“Like my grandmother’s and my wife’s, but I’m thinking my wife’s may be better.” I wink, kissing Bella’s waiting lips, but we pull away when I hear my name.
“Yes—that’s me.” I shake the man’s offered hand.
“I doubt you will remember us, but we haven’t forgotten you. I’m Doc Gerandy and this is my wife, Charlotte. Our grandson, Peter, is at the top of the slide.” He chuckles.
“Nice to meet you, Edward.” Charlotte shakes my hand gently, then turns to the boy having fun on the new equipment. “Peter come down and say hello. Edward is the firefighter I told you we’re here to visit.”
“Hi, Edward!” he yells with a brief glance in our direction before moving out of view and towards the climber.
“I hope it’s okay that he’s already everywhere.” Charlotte grins.
“That’s why we built it. Someone needs to give it a test run.” I turn toward my better half and to introduce her. “This is my wife, Bella.”
Charlotte brightens. “Oh, we know Bella. She invited us here today. We don’t live in Forks any longer, but I try to keep up on the latest news with the Forks Forum’s website. I saw your picture and recognized you. After reaching out to Charlie, he put me in touch with Bella, and I knew we needed to make the trip.”
There’s something familiar about the man and his wife, but I’m having trouble putting it together. “So, if you’re a doctor, do I know you from the hospital?”
“No, I’ve been retired for years, but over a year and a half ago we were still living part-time in Forks. Peter was staying with us for a weekend visit, and we were on our way to breakfast with Santa at the fire station.” He pauses, waiting for me to make the connection. “We were in a car accident, and you were one of the firefighters who arrived on the scene.”
I nod, remembering that accident and recalling their worries over their grandson’s injuries at the time, as the point of impact was where he was sitting in the back seat.
Doc Gerandy continues. “But your concern for all of us didn’t stop there. You rode in the ambulance with Peter while we rode in another and you donated blood on his behalf in case he needed it later. We found out at the hospital that Peter is O negative, like you, but can only receive blood from another O negative donor although you can both donate to any blood type.”
Charlotte smiles through glassy eyes. “We never had the opportunity to thank you and should have sought you out long before now, but you saved Peter’s life that day in multiple ways.”
“Grandma! Look at me!”
I shift my gaze to Peter who is grinning from ear-to-ear while sliding down a shortened version of a pole that used to be common at fire stations then runs over to where we’re standing.
“Great technique.” I hold up my hand for a high-five.
He giggles, smacking his hand with mine. “I’m going to be a firefighter like you one day, Edward.”
My chest tightens at his sweet intentions.
“Would you like a junior firefighter badge to wear today?” Bella asks, producing a roll of stickers we normally bring with us when we visit schools from one of her pockets.
“Yes! Thank you.” Peter jumps up and down, then with his junior badge stuck proudly to his chest shares his plans. “I’m going to climb to the top and save the stranded people, Grandma.”
“Okay, be careful.”
With Peter’s excited departure, I’m about to guide us toward mingling with the others who have arrived when Charlotte’s voice trembles slightly as she speaks.
“Edward… we… we knew your grandmother. Being retired and traveling often, we couldn’t make it to her funeral service years ago, but she was a wonderful woman with such a kind and giving spirit. It’s reassuring to see that her gift of generosity is found so effortlessly in you. She would be so proud of everything you’ve done here.”
Charlotte waves her hands toward the new playground equipment, then opens her arms, offering me a hug, which I happily accept. “I’m sorry.” She steps back after an extra squeeze, returning to her husband’s side and dabbing her eyes with a tissue.
“I said I wasn’t going to cry today, but we came early hoping to get a moment of your time. I have no doubt you’ll be in high demand this morning.”
Bella grins, cupping her mouth in a not so quiet whisper. “Not just today. Try every day.”
Everyone laughs as she lightens the moment.
“Thank you for sharing that with me and joining us today. I appreciate hearing about my grandmother, and I’m glad I could help your grandson.”
“Thank you, Edward.” Doc Gerandy smiles warmly.
I nod. “It was nice to meet you again and this time under better circumstances.”
“Be sure to grab a snack from under the canopy. My friend Angela has cookies and lemonade for everyone.” Bella offers the reminder.
“Thank you, Bella. We will once Peter wears out a little.”
After we step away from the Gerandys, Bella wraps her arm around my waist while mine goes around her shoulders, and she laces our fingers together with her other hand.
“That was okay, right?”
“You and your surprises.” I shake my head and release a deep breath. “The cookies and lemonade are a sweet unexpected surprise, but the Gerandys…”
Bella lowers her voice, keeping our conversation between the two of us. “They also made a sizable donation to the fund, which will cover weekly maintenance and any repairs the park will need for several years.”
I’m overwhelmed for a moment at their charity in supporting our efforts and swallow with difficulty as my throat tightens, heavy with emotion.
“And the stickers?” I whisper, leaning close and kissing her temple.
“Alice gave me a roll when I went to visit her and Faith. She said it was standard procedure for spouses to keep them on-hand for when you meet another pint-sized adoring fan. I’ll probably run out today,” she teases with a twinkle in her eye. “Maybe I’ll save a couple for a private showing later for two of your biggest fans.”
“Bella…” I chuckle, sniffing away any tears threatening to fall.
“You’re right.” She wiggles her eyebrows and pushes her shoulders back, drawing my eyes to her chest. “While the girls are beyond fabulous these days, I think you’ll agree they aren’t exactly pint-sized. I’m not sure how easily they would stick anyway, because adhesives are tricky on certain… surfaces.”
“You know that’s not what I meant.” I look around to make sure no one is listening to our conversation and take a detour, guiding us around the swings. “We’re in public.”
“You’re no fun.” She pouts playfully, but knows how much I crave her light-heartedness.
I bend lower until my lips are near her ear, “We’ll do your idea of fun another day, like when my parents aren’t visiting, but they don’t leave until Tuesday.”
“Oh, please. Your mother knows all about pasties. She even gave me a pair of edible ones to try called Sugar Tits.”
“Nope.” I shake my head at her source of information and feel an embarrassed warmth spread from my face to other parts of my body. “If you value my sanity, please don’t share any advice about pasties you gather from my mother.”
“But I think you’ll like these. They’re black and lacy; stick with water and melt in your—”
I cut her off with a kiss on the lips, hoping to pause this discussion for another time when we’re alone, but I realize her intent is to add levity. “Let’s check on our daughter and grab another cookie.”
“I also have an idea or two about making pasties from bite-sized or maybe I should call them fun-sized cookies, but I can’t decide if I should use whip cream or icing to make them stick.”
Bella’s smile widens, always taking our conversation a step further than she probably should, and plants an image in my head that will keep me smiling the rest of the day. My mouth waters at the thought, especially after the Mother’s Day maple syrup incident that Bella claims was no accident on my part after I put Ember down for a nap in her playpen and continued to feed a topless Bella.
“We’ll try both.” I wink, lacing our hands together and tugging her along toward the gathering crowd.
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.
As they grow closer, they’ll understand that the intimacy between lovers isn’t only about a physical connection, but the everyday interactions through the simplest moments and sharing of new experiences.
Through private conversations, their relationship deepens with the reveal of a variety of secrets, and with a new confidence, the truth of their adoration for one another is undeniable.
After another wonderful evening together filled with fun and flirting, she’ll realize that she’s never been loved like this before, and for as much as he wants to be everything she needs, she wants to be that for him too.
With constant reminders that every day together is precious, she’ll consider their future options, and after the first step of moving in together, everything will start falling into place.
When he opens his heart and shares treasured memories of a time long past, a trip to visit his parents will further satisfy her growing curiosity about other areas of his life.
In a moment abundant with shock and awe, she finds a kindred spirit in all things naughty, and the natural affinity between the two most important women in his life surpasses all expectations.
Brimming with courage, her normally reserved firefighter confirms a wish for their future, overwhelming her in a rush of love, but later, respect and admiration, when she experiences first hand insight into the perils of his job.
He’ll arrive at her work unexpectedly one day, proposing they spend the rest of their lives together, which will lead them to one of the happiest birthdays either has ever celebrated.
Celebrating holidays will hold new meaning, as she experiences a new level of love and devotion through her husband’s generous spirit when he honors his grandmother’s memory in a special way.