AN: This is the penultimate chapter and Bella returns to work, moving in together with Edward and gearing up for Christmas. A busy time for the soon to be Cullen family. Final chapter next week and then an epilogue the following week.
Thank you to MeteorOnAMoonlessNight, annaharding and Midnight Cougar for their unfailing help with every chapter of this story. Without them, I know this wouldn't be as pretty as they make it.
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Third Time's the Charm Part 3 Chapter 25
Left pregnant and alone, Bella delivers a surprise to the paramedic who knocks on her door.
The following morning was a little fraught with anxiety and the rush to be ready for my first day of work in over five months. There was a part of me that was really looking forward to it even though my heart ached at the thought of someone else taking care of my little girl. Edward assured me that everything would be fine and, logically, I knew that was true. It didn't help, though.
Edward left at seven. "I won't be late tonight, Bella. I'll let you know when I leave the hospital and you can order take-out for me to collect on the way home." He pulled me into his arms and kissed me while Emily banged on the tray of her highchair. "She'll be fine, Bella," he repeated, knowing the tear I brushed away from under my eye was one of trepidation.
I let him go, and he bent over the highchair to kiss the top of Emily's head, careful not to let her get her sticky banana hands on his uniform. He kissed me again and was gone. I breathed a sigh and lifted Emily from the highchair to head to the bathroom to clean her up. I'd already showered, and though I would've loved to join Edward in his, I knew we would have been too easily distracted. That kind of distraction would have to wait for the weekend when I had every intention of us sharing the water.
Fortunately, Emily was being very cooperative this morning, and I made my way over to Heidi's house, where both she and Esme were waiting.
"I know this isn't easy for you, Bella, but Emily really will be okay with me." I kissed Emily, then Heidi walked me back to Edward's car. "Esme's going to distract Emily while you leave, and has arranged to stay for the rest of the day so she'll be entertained by all of us this morning. You're only working half days this week, aren't you?" I nodded through my tears. "We'll see you around one then, okay?"
She hugged me tightly and I slid behind the wheel, closing the door and opening the window a little. "Thank you, Heidi. I know she'll be good with you; it's just my heart that will miss her."
She nodded understandingly and stepped back as I turned the engine over, steering the car out of the driveway and away from my heart.
Despite missing Emily every second of the four hours between eight-thirty and twelve-thirty, I did find I enjoyed getting back into the feeling of working. Thankfully, Bree Tanner, the gossip who'd let on about my pregnancy, had left. The department I worked in was made up of three women and two men, all of us writing for various columns in the paper. Bree had been the only one I really knew before I'd had Emily, but both Vicky Markham and Maggie O'Connor drooled over pictures of Emily and, of course, Edward, who was in a great many of them.
"Who's this total hottie?" Maggie asked. "He's absolutely gorgeous, and I know he's not Tyler Lockwood."
I looked at Maggie. "You know who Tyler is?"
"Yes," she replied. "Bree was all over football players. Always bragging about who she knew."
"Ah, okay. That's Edward Cullen. Umm, he's the paramedic who delivered Emily."
"And you're together now? You lucky cow," Vicky said. "Makes me almost want to have a baby." She paused for a moment and then shook her head. "Nah, not even then. I'm enjoying being single and unattached too much for now."
Laughter followed that, and suddenly I felt as if I were part of the team instead of being on the outside. Jacob Black and Jared Cameron were the two other columnists in the office, from the Sports section. Neither was interested in pictures of Emily and disappeared quickly after finding out that though Tyler was long gone, I wasn't alone and not a conquest.
When the door to our office opened and James Hunter, our immediate boss, poked his head in, we settled into work. Both Maggie and Vicky worked through the daily routines and gave me some notes for a couple of interviews that had happened in the last few days, and I immersed myself in writing. I'd forgotten how much I liked it, and before I knew it, the rest of the morning had passed and it was time to leave. I found myself really looking forward to returning the next day.
"You'll have to get that gorgeous man to babysit and we'll have a girls' night out," Vicky called as I grabbed my coat and purse.
"Yeah, definitely," I answered. "I'll find out when Edward has an early shift and we can arrange something."
I was excited to see Emily and drew up outside Heidi's house just after one. The door opened as I turned the engine off and slid out of the driver's seat. Heidi stood on the step, holding Emily in the hallway out of the cold, early December wind.
Emily was holding out her arms to me, mumbling, "Mumumum," and I rushed across the last piece of the driveway, grabbing her from Heidi's arms. Laughingly, she held the door wide open and helped me off with my coat while I held on to Emily for dear life.
"Oh, my sweet girl, did you miss Momma? I missed you badly, sweetheart."
"Come on, Bella, lunch is ready."
Heidi led the way to the kitchen where Esme and Liam were seated at the kitchen island with bowls of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches. Chelsea, who was three months older than Emily, was tucking into her own grilled cheese, minus the crusts, while Esme fed her spoonfuls of the rich tomato soup.
I didn't want to let Emily go, and from the strength of her arms around my neck, she felt the same. Although I'd thought of her often throughout the morning, I still felt guilty that I'd actually enjoyed the time at work.
Not wanting to let Emily go, I kept her on my lap while she drank her bottle and I ate one-handed. I fed her little pieces of the bread; however, she turned her nose up at the tomato soup.
"How was your day, Bella? Did you enjoy your time?" Esme asked.
"Actually, Esme, I was prepared to hate it, but I really enjoyed getting back to my writing. I missed Emily a lot, but the girls in our office were drooling over my pictures of her, and Edward, of course. When I found out I was pregnant, one of the girls I worked with decided it was a good idea to gossip about me and the information got back to Tyler before I had a chance to speak to him myself. She's left the paper now, and it finally feels like I'm part of a team, you know? I always felt a bit on the outside before."
"It's not ideal, having to return to work before you're ready to be away from your baby, but it helps if you like your job as much as it sounds like you do. I admit, I was very lucky that Carlisle was happy for me to stay at home until Edward went to school."
"What I'd really like to do," I said, "is to write a novel. It's something I've dreamed of since I was at school. In fact, I took creative writing as part of my undergraduate degree. I'd love to get my Masters, too, but I'll have to put that off for a while."
"Ooh, have you written anything yet for this novel?" Heidi asked. "It's not something I could ever do."
"I've jotted down some ideas while Emily was sleeping, but now that she's older, she needs more attention, making less time for me to concentrate on writing." I shrugged. "I'm sure it'll eventually sort itself out."
Emily fell asleep not long after we'd finished eating, and Heidi suggested I put her in Chelsea's crib for an hour or so, and she would make some coffee.
"I was thinking about buying another crib this weekend," she said. "Chelsea still has an afternoon nap, and when I have Emily full-time, she'll need somewhere to sleep, too."
"I can't let you do that, Heidi. I have a travel crib I can drop off, and it will be perfectly okay for her to sleep in it for now."
Moving in with Edward would mean we would have two cribs, and although I didn't want to say anything until we'd talked about the when and how, either the one at mine or Edward's apartment would find its way over to Heidi's house. There was absolutely no need for her to buy one.
Nothing more was said about the buying of a crib, and after allowing Emily to sleep for an hour or so, I gathered her and her things together and left for Edward's apartment. The reality of Edward and I making a home and a family together rushed over me, and a shiver of excitement for what the future might hold almost had me hopping up and down on the spot. I hadn't realized how much I really wanted this, and him, until I'd stopped thinking about practicalities.
~ oOo ~
Later that evening after dinner, when Emily was in bed, we opened a couple of beers and settled back onto the sofa with music playing in the background.
"Did you mean what you said last night, Edward? About us moving in? We're a lot to take on."
"Bella, of course I meant it. You and Emily could never be too much. You've both become such an integral part of my life that I couldn't imagine one without you both in it. I want to be with you; both of you. I want to marry you, have more babies with you, and build a life and a family together. I love both of you."
Overcome with emotion at his declaration, I needed to be closer to him and straddled his lap, leaning into his body. My arms snaked around his neck and I buried my head in the junction of his neck and shoulder, breathing in his unique scent.
"I love you so much, Edward. I never thought I'd find my perfect match; someone who'd love me the way I know you do, and would accept and love my daughter, too."
We stayed like that, breathing each other in until I got control of my emotions. I lifted my head and looked at him. "Ugh," I sniffed. "Way to make me cry, you sweet man. Just so you know? When you ask, the answer will be yes."
"To which question?" Edward smoothed the hair back from my face.
"Any and all of them. Marriage, babies, family. Everything."
The corners of his eyes crinkled as he grinned widely at me, and he pulled me to his chest again for a hug. The atmosphere around us crackled and my eyes dropped to his lips. They met, softly at first, turning more passionate and needy almost immediately. It didn't take long for our desires to build and I found myself lying against the back of the sofa, pinned by Edward's body, making out like a couple of teenagers.
"Let's go to bed," Edward whispered against my lips. His hips pressed against my stomach, his erection hard between us. "I want to make love to you."
"Wait." I pulled away from him a little. "Shouldn't we discuss when you want me to move in?"
"You," he kissed me again, "can move in," another kiss, "as soon as you're ready."
~ oOo ~
The following morning, I asked Edward to take me to my apartment on his way to work. He pouted until I assured him I would be back later.
"Edward, I have to go to work this morning and I have no suitable clothes with me. I can't wear the same clothes as yesterday. I also can't keep your car all the time. I do have one of my own. I promise I'll be back this evening. You're not getting rid of me that easily, you know," I teased.
He sighed but smiled as he pulled up outside the apartment. "I know; I just want you there all the time. I'll see you later." He kissed me hard and got out to free Emily's car seat from its base after helping me out.
I'd already fed Emily and taken a shower, so all I had to do was to grab an extra set of clothes for her and to change into more work appropriate attire. Only twenty minutes later, I was outside Heidi's house. The second day leaving her wasn't quite so bad, but I knew it wouldn't get much easier. I already missed her.
However, once I was at work, although I thought about her often, I really enjoyed my half-day, almost disappointed when the clock read twelve-thirty and it was time to leave to pick Emily up again. This time, I didn't linger, and headed back to my apartment.
My luck was in and the landlord was in his small office, so I was able to give him notice that I wouldn't be renewing my lease. I didn't want to wait, and handed him the written notice, which told him I would be moving out before Christmas. He promised to mail me a check for the deposit if he didn't see me before the final day.
Standing in the middle of the apartment, I couldn't say I was unhappy to be leaving. I'd shared this apartment with Tyler, but everything in it was his choice. While I had managed to make it my own after he left, I decided I would donate the furniture to Goodwill and take only my personal belongings.
Since it was still only mid-afternoon, I persuaded Emily to take a short nap and wasted no time in gathering our clothes and toiletries together and filling two large suitcases and two boxes. There was still plenty more to pack and move, especially my book and music collection, but I figured Saturday would be time enough for Edward and me to return for those and my linens and anything else I decided to keep.
At six, after feeding Emily an early dinner tea and changing her, I headed down to the lobby, managing to catch Marcus before he finished up for the evening.
"Hi, Marcus. Do you have a few minutes?"
"I always have time for you, Bella. What can I help you with?"
"Edward asked us to move in with him, and I said yes." His face fell a little. "It's good for all of us, Marcus. I love him," I said simply. "I've packed some of my things, but I need to make more than one trip to get them down to the parking lot. Would you be able to watch Emily while I do that?"
"That's no problem, Bella; though I'm sad to see you go. I knew he was your One. I could see it when he came here for your things the day this sweet thing was born."
"Thank you so much, Marcus. We won't forget about you."
While Marcus watched Emily, I made three trips from the apartment down to the parking lot, loading the suitcases and boxes into the trunk of my car. Finally, I stopped in the lobby, thanking Marcus for his help and telling him Edward and I would be back over the weekend for the remainder of my things.
~ oOo ~
That same weekend, Edward suggested it was time we started preparations for Christmas. The first step, he insisted, was a real Christmas tree. Despite living close to the Olympic forest, Dad had never really bothered with a real one, and many of the usual Christmas traditions had passed us by.
"Emily will love it, Bella. It's her first Christmas, and it'll make it special. I've never bothered to decorate my apartment, but this year I want to celebrate every second of it and every tradition. What do you say?"
As always, persuasive Edward won, and the day of the first snowfall found us bundled up against the cold and driving out of town to one of the lots selling trees. Not content with a small one, Edward insisted on purchasing one that, when we had it secured in the base, brushed the ceiling. We had to trim it so we could get a star on the top.
It was all worth it when Emily laid eyes on it—even before it was decorated. She clapped her hands at each item we added, and was entranced when the star was placed on top and Edward finally switched on the lights.
With only a few weeks before Christmas and returning to work full-time, I was busy every day but still found time to shop for presents for the family. Esme reiterated her invitation for my dad to visit, and said she would be happy to accommodate Sue, Leah, and Seth, too. I was disappointed when Dad declined and admitted he'd already arranged to spend the week down at the reservation with them. He also let slip that Sue had agreed to move into the house with him, bringing Leah and Seth with her.
"At least you told me before I turned up to find Leah ensconced in my room," I teased. His stuttered answer made me giggle. "No, Dad, it's absolutely fine. I'm glad you and Sue are making a commitment, and I'm happy for you." I paused for a second, knowing I had to tell him I was moving in with Edward. I didn't want him to find out any other way. "Talking about moving in, Edward asked me and Emily to move in with him, and I said yes."
I waited for the same words Dad had spoken when I'd told him I was moving in with Tyler, but instead of warnings and asking me if I was sure it was the right thing, Dad surprised me.
"I expected as much, Bella. I see how that man looks at you, and I know he loves you both."
"What? I thought you'd tell me it's too soon."
"'Too soon' is a relative term, Bella. I knew your mother for only three months before we moved in together. And before you say anything, yes, I know it didn't work out with her in the end, because we were just too different. It's not like that with Edward, is it?"
"No, I trust him a hundred percent both with Emily and me. He's patient and loving, and I am absolutely certain he would never hurt me or her."
"Well, there you go, then. Trust your instincts with this one, Bella. I trust him, too."
"Thanks, Dad," I said. "Give Sue my love, please, and we'll see you soon. Love you."
"Love you, too, Bella."
I'd never had any reason to doubt Edward, but Dad's resounding approval put the cherry on top. Within a week, Emily and I were all moved into Edward's apartment, though we still had some unpacking and reorganizing to do. With Christmas around the corner, we decided it was something we could leave for now.
~ oOo ~