A/N: I am grateful to purpleC305 for pre-reading and Midnight Cougar for beta-ing. You make it easy to find the joys in everything. Thank you. xx
DISCLAIMER: Stephenie Meyer owns Twilight. I’m just here having fun.
“There are only two places in the world where we can live happy: at home and in Paris.” – Ernest Hemingway
“Bella!” Esme squeezes me tightly. “Look at you. I think Paris looks great on you, or maybe it was just a vacation away.”
I squeeze her back then break from our hug. “Oh, Esme. Paris was absolutely beautiful. I loved every minute of it.”
I turn and watch Esme embrace the handsome man behind me. “Edward, my dear. You look well-rested. It seems you both needed some time away.”
“Hey, Mom.” Edward’s eyes find mine. “It was the perfect trip.” He winks.
He’s been quite cheeky ever since we got back, and today’s family dinner is the first time we’ve had a chance to visit with everyone in one place.
“Well, please come in. Dinner is almost ready.” She turns to Edward. “I made your favorite: meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans.”
“Sounds great, Mom. We’re starving.” He gives me a poke in my side, reminding me how we worked up such an appetite a mere few hours ago.
“Behave.” I whisper a warning and grab his fingers, keeping his contact appropriate for our current company.
We follow Esme into the dining room, finding Carlisle sitting in his usual spot, flanked on each side by Jasper and Alice.
“Bella!” Carlisle exclaims. “How was your trip?”
“It was wonderful. Thanks for asking.” I move around the table.
Alice gets up and gives me a hug. “We missed you, but can’t wait for the details. Have a seat.” She points to the chair next to her.
I hear someone coming in the front door, and we all turn to see who it is. When I realize it’s Emmett, I glance at Edward and see we’re equally surprised.
Edward takes the seat next to me as he watches Emmett hang up his jacket and head in our direction.
Jasper speaks up. “Welcome home, Bella. Edward sent us some photos during your trip and it looks like you had beautiful weather.”
I try to focus on Jasper, pulling my gaze from Emmett. I wonder if he’s taking the first opportunity available to try to humiliate or attack me again. “Yes, it was sunny nearly every day. Unfortunately, it rained on our departure, but we were very lucky.”
As I watch Emmett take the chair across from me, Esme starts bringing in dishes and setting them around the table. I look over Emmett more closely and can’t miss his sullen expression or that he appears to have lost weight. I’m a little surprised he has a beard, but his clothes and hair all seem unwashed and rumpled. He is nowhere near the confident, polished Emmett I’m used to seeing, which is unsettling.
He looks up and catches me staring. “Bella.”
He’s nervous and glances over at Edward. “Hey.”
Edward clears his throat. “Emmett.”
Esme sets a basket of rolls down near Emmett and squeezes his shoulder. “It’s so wonderful you could join us.” She smiles at him.
He barely manages a grin in her direction.
“Okay, everyone. Let’s eat.” Esme grabs a bowl and passes it to Emmett.
He perks up a little and begins to put food on his plate.
“Bella, you’re a damn fine baker,” Carlisle tells me, while he scoops out green beans. “Edward gave us your extra box of cookies.”
Alice leans in. “I think he ate almost the whole box himself.”
“I heard that, Mary Alice, and you know that’s not true.”
I look over at Edward. “I’m not really much of a cook or baker, Carlisle. However, your son surprised me with learning how to make one of my favorite Parisian treats on our last day there, and it was such a great experience. I can’t take credit for all of them. Our classmates made different flavors. I made the chocolate ones and Edward made the champagne ones,” I explain.
“Classmates?” Carlisle asks.
“Yes, there were two other Americans and two Canadians.”
“Oh, well, they were still great.” He winks. “The chocolate were my favorite.”
I blush a little and look up to see Emmett watching me. It’s a little awkward, until he goes back to pushing the food around on his plate. However, I’m more than a little surprised no one has really addressed him being here. I didn’t think he attended family dinners, and I can’t imagine anyone is okay with his current appearance.
“Bella, what was your favorite part of the trip?” Esme asks.
“Wow, that’s an incredibly difficult question—there were so many amazing things. But, if I had to choose just one, it would probably be when we went to the Musee d’Orsay. Their collection of great impressionists is completely overwhelming. So much great artwork in one location.”
“Edward showed us pictures of the chapel,” Carlisle says, waving his fork in the air.
“Es, you know what I’m talking about.”
I look at her for clarification.
“I think it was called Sainte Chapelle,” she offers.
“Yeah, that’s the one.” Carlisle nods. “We should go see that, Es. I bet those windows are really something in person.”
Esme brightens at her husband’s suggestion. “You want to go to Paris, Carlisle?”
“Sure, why not? I mean if the kids can go, I don’t see why we can’t make a trip.” He leans back in his chair. “I’m retired. I’ve got enough money for something like that, right Edward?”
“You do,” Edward confirms between bites.
“See, Es? We can afford it. I’m sure you would want to see all the other sights too. I think I’d like to see that pyramid. It sure was something in those pictures. Was that all glass, Edward?”
“It is, and you will find it outside of the Louvre.” He digs into his portion of meatloaf with gusto.
“Dad, you should take Mom to Italy as well. Jasper and I loved it,” Alice encourages.
“Well, I don’t see why not. If we’re going to be over there anyway, then we should go to both places.” He looks lovingly across the table at Esme.
“When should we go?” she questions.
“I don’t know. I guess anytime, right Edward? You don’t need me at the shop, and that’s the beauty of being retired. We can go anytime. You make the plans, Es. We’ll spend a week in Bella’s Paris, then a week in Alice’s Italy.”
Edward nods. “I’ve got the shop covered. We’ll be fine with the upcoming projects.”
“Then it’s settled, Es. We’re going on a vacation.”
Esme seems stunned and explains. “It’ll be the first time we’ve been on a vacation in years. We tried taking vacations when the kids were little, but getting away from the shop has been difficult for Carl with shouldering the workload himself.”
“Well, you will love it, Esme.” I smile and look at Emmett, who has only eaten a small portion of what is on his plate.
I hear him clear his throat before he speaks softly. “I could help out.”
Esme smiles. “That would be lovely, sweetheart. I’m sure your brother would appreciate your expertise.”
I feel Edward stiffen next to me. “I think we’re good.”
I glance at Carlisle, wondering what’s really going on here. Something has changed, but I can’t put my finger on it yet.
“We have some news.” Alice glances around the table to see she has everyone’s attention, then looks at Jasper. He gives her a quick nod as a wide smile breaks out across his face. I can see her excitement quickly exceeding his. “We’re going to have a baby!”
“Alice, that’s wonderful darling!” Esme gets up from her spot, comes around to pull Alice in a crushing hug, then moves to Jasper.
Carlisle does the same, giving her a kiss on the cheek, then he shakes Jasper’s hand.
Edward and I both get in on the congratulations, but I notice Emmett fails to move from his spot.
We all return to our seats, toast Alice and Jasper, then continue with our meal.
Alice explains, “I’m almost four months pregnant and due before the end of the year.”
I put my arm around her, giving her one more hug. “Alice, that’s so exciting.”
“I know. We need to do so many things, but we were trying to wait until my fifth month to share the news. However, I just couldn’t wait any longer.”
“You let us know how we can help and we would be more than happy to do anything we can,” Esme offers.
I nod. “Once Edward and I finish moving, we can help with whatever you need as well.”
Suddenly, there’s silence around the dinner table as everyone is staring at me.
Esme looks over at Edward. “You’re moving?”
I’m not sure if she’s happy or about to cry, and clearly, Edward hasn’t told them we’re moving in together.
“Yes, Bella and I are going to find a place and move in together. I’m sorry; I haven’t had a chance to tell you.”
“No, no, no.” Esme grins. “It’s quite all right.” She looks over at Carlisle, beaming her approval.
Edward continues. “Bella doesn’t know her next steps, but I thought we could find our own place near here and the shop. We’ve been staying at her apartment since we returned.”
“I wondered why we hadn’t heard you downstairs,” Carlisle says with a devilish grin.
Jasper asks, “Bella, what’s Edward talking about your ‘next steps’? Are you leaving your job at the airport?”
I clear my throat. “I’m not sure yet. We talked about me finishing my degree, but I’m not sure if I want to change my course of study or stick with the path I started.” I shake my head. “I never thought I would stay with my job at the airport forever, but it pays the bills. So, I will continue until I map out my next steps.”
Alice looks around the table. “So many exciting changes. Mom and Dad are going to take an actual vacation. You and Edward are moving in together. And we’re having a baby!” Her excitement is overflowing with all the good news.
I hear the seat in front of me roughly move backward and look over to see Emmett beating a hasty path to the kitchen with his nearly full plate.
My eyes follow him, and I feel the need to do something when I hear his plate crashing down on the kitchen countertop. Looking around the table, I notice no one is making a move to go after him.
So, I stand, but Edward’s hand catches my wrist. “You don’t need to—”
“I do. Let me try to help. Maybe he will talk to me,” I plead.
Edward releases my wrist, and I feel everyone’s eyes on me as I make my way into the kitchen carrying my own plate.
When I turn the corner, I find Emmett leaning against the sink, staring out the window across Lake Washington.
I approach and set my plate on the countertop. “Hey.”
He doesn’t respond, so I reach out trying to get his attention by placing my hand on his arm.
I try again. “Are you okay?”
He looks down at my hand then back out the window.
I watch him closely as he shakes his head.
“What’s going on with you?” I ask, but backpedal, not wanting to overstep. “I mean. You don’t have to tell me, if you’re uncomfortable talking with me about whatever it is, but I would like to try to help.” I rub his arm gently, waiting for anything he’s willing to share.
His voice is raspy when he finally speaks. “Rosalie broke up with me.”
I try to figure a positive spin for this news that has clearly unsettled his world. “Maybe she just needs a break.”
“No,” he says more certain. “She said I’m holding her back.”
“Surely, you don’t believe that to be true. Maybe she is just so busy with work and everything. Stress can be overwhelming.” I’m grasping at straws, but hopefully, he will be better off without her.
Emmett shakes his head. “No. There’s someone else. A producer or something. There’re pictures of the two of them all over each other at some club in New York. I don’t want to talk about it.”
I move my hand to his back, rubbing circles in a comforting manner, and smile up at him. “You still have Luna.”
Emmett chuckles. “I bought the cat for Rosalie. You know, I gave her the moon.” He glances over at me.
“Cheesy.” I smile. “I didn’t know you had it in you.”
His smile starts to fade. “She’s allergic to cats.” He shakes his head. “I didn’t know. She said I didn’t put her first, that I should know more about her after all the time we’ve been together.”
Emmett reaches in the front pocket of his jeans and pulls out an engagement ring I recognize immediately as the one she was wearing when she was here for dinner. “She said she didn’t want it. I guess I’ll pawn it. Maybe go to Vegas and place it all on black.”
Well, this explains a lot.
“Do your folks know?”
He nods. “I think I may sell my place. And quit my job.”
“Emmett, I thought you loved those things,” I try to reason.
He shrugs. “I seem to be on the wrong path, but I don’t know what to do at this point. Dad said I could do a partnership with Edward, but you saw his reaction when I offered my help. I don’t think that will work either.”
I sigh and look back toward the dining room. “He isn’t unreasonable, just hurt.” I smirk. “You’ve got a lot of ass-kissing to do.”
I notice a bit of a spark in Emmett’s eyes. “And you think I haven’t had enough training in the art of ass-kissing? You’ve met Rose. Trust me, Bella. I’m an expert.”
“Well, I think just being here is a great start,” I reassure.
Emmett nods. “It’s hard. Everyone is so happy with their lives, and I’m over here drowning in a sea of despair.”
I grab his hand. “Hey, we won’t let you drown.”
Pulling on his hand, I open my arms in invitation to give him a hug. I can see when he finally concedes and leans over to give me a polite squeeze.
Not happy with his attempt, I tease. “I think you can do better than that.”
He smiles, lifts me off the floor, and fully bear hugs me to where I’m wondering if I will ever be able to breathe again.
Emmett sets me down. “Thank you, Bella, and I want you to know I’m sorry for how things went down between us. I realize now you would have been good for me.”
I’m shocked by his words, but don’t miss a chance to reiterate my own apologies. “No, Emmett. I’m the one who is truly sorry. I should have never misled you.”
He nods. “Then hopefully, we can move on from here.”
I smile up at him and tug on his beard-covered cheek. “I would like that, and what’s up with this beard anyway?”
Emmett smirks. “I thought you’d like it.”
I chuckle. “I do, but Emmett, you should know, I’m in love with your brother.”
His smile fades a bit, but he nods. “But maybe my Bella is out there somewhere and the beard will work for her as well.”
“Oh, Emmett. What you don’t know about women is a lot. How about you work on a shower and some clean clothes first.” I wink. “Grab the plates and I’ll carry the cake.” I stop before we leave the kitchen. “Oh, I meant to ask you, what was the name of that guy you had come and cook us dinner?”
He smiles, and just like that, the two of us return to the dining room to feast on Esme’s carrot cake, as Emmett begins the process of mending fences with everyone.
“Edward, I can’t believe I’m saying this but all of my books will easily fit in these shelves.” I look around our new living room filled with empty moving boxes.
“I told you they would. I can always build you more if necessary.” Edward stands back and admires his handy work.
“You better be careful, because I’m going to hold you to that. Last time I checked, people are still busy writing and selling books, and I can’t help my addiction. You are encouraging my very heavy habit.”
Edward has so many talents; when I told him I was sad to be losing my built-in bookshelves at my apartment, he stepped right up and built bookshelves to fit in our new place.
We searched for about a week, looking at rentals, then concluded buying a home was a better option. Edward has some savings and inheritance money from his grandparents. I’m contributing some of the money from the life insurance policy from Dad’s death. As morbid as it feels to be spending the money, I think he would be proud of me for using it toward building a future together with Edward.
There is still a little more leftover in case I want to go back to college, but not enough to finish. I have more decisions to make. But until I figure it out, living with Edward is my immediate plan.
Regardless, we have pooled our money and chosen a home about three miles away from Esme and Carlisle. They are exceptionally thrilled, but Emmett is who has helped us most with the actual move itself.
I have to give him credit. He’s trying, and while there is still plenty of tension between the brothers, everyone is relieved that even baby steps are being taken toward reconciliation.
Alice and Esme have both helped us in making some changes in the house. We had a painting party last weekend and worked in pairs until all of the rooms were complete.
Even Carlisle was on hand to supervise, but he said he was too old and retired to be one of the folks actually painting. Jasper banned Alice from attending saying any fumes would be harmful for her and the baby. She reluctantly agreed.
My co-workers, Seth, Angela, and Jacob, helped too. We were all lucky enough to meet Jacob’s girlfriend, Leah, when she stopped by to pick him up from painting all day. They are adorable together, and I’m really happy everything is working out for him.
“Bella, where do you want this to go?” Emmett asks, holding the headboard from my bed.
“I think in the bedroom down the hall and to your right. We will put the other one in the master.”
He nods and continues to help move and sort things from the moving truck, while Edward and Jasper carry in our living room couch.
“Oh thank goodness,” Alice praises when she sees it. “I need to sit down. My back is killing me.”
Jasper bends over and kisses both her and her protruding tummy. “You should rest.”
“I’m trying, but it’s hard having new physical limits because of the baby. Mentally, I still think I should be able to do everything, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. Bella, did I show you the crib we picked out?”
She waves me over, takes out her phone, and shows me photos of the latest selections for the new baby’s nursery, which includes a chandelier. What baby needs a crystal chandelier in a nursery?
They found out recently Alice is having a girl and she’s going with a palette of pinks, grays, and white with a variety of flowers scattered about the room in the decor.
Alice won’t tell me their choices for names, so we will all wait for the birth to find out. With all of the flowers she’s planning, I wonder if they may be choosing a flower as their daughter’s name. But knowing Alice, she’s using the flowers only because they are pink and thinks they’re pretty.
I have to admit it’s been a complete joy being a part of this family during her pregnancy. Her excitement is contagious, and at times, I can easily picture this in my future with Edward. However, I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself, as we are only just moving in together today, despite living together since returning from Paris.
I know if it were up to Edward, we’d be married and I would be pregnant immediately, not necessarily in that order either. It’s not that I don’t want to get married and have children, but I want to enjoy our time together too. Just us. In my opinion, we are still getting to know each other, despite Edward’s reassurance that he knows everything he needs to know about me.
“Where’s Tucker?” Edward pulls me from my thoughts; I zoned out while Alice was chattering about nursery carpet and storage.
I look around and shrug. “I’m sure he’s here somewhere, probably up top.” I point upstairs to the loft area.
It’s the highest point in the house and you can see for miles up there. Tucker likes it best because there’s a ledge on one of the windows that allows him to look out, just as he did at my apartment.
Emmett walks in holding Tucker’s tree. “I saw him watching us from the window. Do you want his tree to go up there too?”
“Sure, I think it’s a good place for now, and we can always move it if we need to later.”
“Knock, knock.” Esme and Carlisle enter through the open front door holding a pile of pizzas. “We come bringing food.”
“Oh sure, show up after we’ve moved all of the heavy stuff,” Jasper teases, and gives Esme a kiss on the cheek.
“Now, you know we wouldn’t have been any help with those items, Jasper. Bella, do you want me to put these in the kitchen?”
“Yes, you know the way. Right past the dining area.”
I notice Carlisle standing behind her pulling a cooler of what I hope is full of cold drinks and balancing a bakery box in one hand.
“Let me help you, Carlisle.” I reach to grab the box, as he pulls on the cooler.
“Thanks, Bella. Your place is really nice and close.” He winks.
I chuckle. “What’s in the box?”
Carlisle whispers, “German chocolate cake. My favorite.”
“Mmmmm, I can’t wait to try it.”
“Don’t say it too loud because Alice will beat us to it and there won’t be a slice left.”
“Dad, I heard that,” Alice shouts from behind us. “Don’t insult the mother of your only grandchild. I’m eating for two.”
We all gather around our new dining room table and enjoy another meal together.
Growing up with my dad, he was working all hours of the night, but I would still cook for the two of us. I made just the basic things, and occasionally, we would get to eat together, but the Cullens always make a point of having family dinners together, which can be fun and interesting.
“Is that everything on the truck?” Carlisle asks Edward.
“Yes. Bella’s apartment is empty, and we have everything we are going to use from my stuff.”
“Good. Emmett, have you had any offers on your place?” Carlisle asks.
“No offers yet, but I’ve had some lookers.” Emmett takes another large bite of pizza.
“Well, if you want to move into the basement apartment for a while, you’re welcome to it. It worked out for your brother.”
“I’ll keep that in mind. Thanks, Dad.”
Esme grins. “We have some news. Your father and I are leaving for Europe in a month.”
“Mom, that’s great!” Alice exclaims.
“We wanted to make the trip before our new grandbaby arrives, but you better call and let us know if anything changes while we are away.”
Jasper smiles. “No problem. We will keep you in the loop.”
“How long will you be gone, Esme?” I ask.
“Two weeks, and I’m so excited. We booked the trip to include London, Paris, and Rome. Let’s hope these two old birds can handle it,” she jokes, but shares another tidbit. “Emmett’s travel agent made all of the arrangements for us.”
I look over and find a small smile creeping up on Emmett’s face.
“I told her all of the places we wanted to see, and she’s going to get our advance tickets for everything and build us daily itineraries. This is such a dream vacation. I can’t wait.”
“Oh, Mom. You will both have so much fun,” Alice confirms. “Maybe one day we can go back.” She looks over at Jasper who nods his agreement.
I feel Edward’s hand rub over my thigh. “I hope we can too,” he whispers in my ear, standing to go grab more pizza from the kitchen.
My eyes follow his tattooed, muscular form, and I start thinking about his promises for this evening after his family leaves. As if he can read my mind, his eyes meet mine and he wiggles his eyebrows suggestively, letting me know we’re on the same page.
“Who’s ready for cake?” Alice asks, as she brings the cake box to the table.
“I’ll be right back,” I tell everyone, and excuse myself from the table to use the bathroom.
Looking around, I marvel at all we have accomplished today. Our place is really starting to feel like home. I walk past the half bath and choose to use the one in our master bedroom. Before I can get the door closed, a hand keeps it from shutting, and I have a pretty good idea who it is.
Edward follows me inside, closing the door behind me. He lifts me to sit on the countertop, balancing me on the edge. “I know what you’re going to say, but I need a few minutes alone with you.”
I look up into his beautiful, green eyes. “What am I going to say?”
He spreads my legs and moves between them. “That we can’t do anything with my family here and we have to wait until they leave. Blah, blah, blah.” He sneaks a kiss on my lips, while his hands rub the top of my thighs, moving around to cup my ass.
My hands move up his chest, then cross behind his neck, pulling him closer. “Well, I sound like quite the party pooper.”
Edward nods and laughs. “You are. We both know I need only fifteen minutes or less.”
I shove him on the chest playfully. “I would think our first time in our new place would be a little more than a quickie in the bathroom.”
“Oh, it will be, but mark my words, we will be christening every room and all flat surfaces and some vertical ones in this house sooner not later.”
I lean up and give him a kiss. “You are such a sweet talker, Edward Cullen.”
“I know. I can’t help it.” His face grows more serious. “I just want you to know moving in together has made today one of the happiest days in my life.”
“Oh, Edward.” I smash our lips together in a kiss filled with passion and fire until we are both breathless.
He breaks away and leans his forehead to mine. “Welcome home, sweetheart.”
I lean back and smile. “There’s no other place in the world I would rather be than with you. You’re my home.”