AN: This is the final chapter of Part 1, the original contest entry and we have a goodbye and some declarations
Part 2, Chapter 1 will begin posting on Friday and will be weekly, followed by Part 3, an epilogue in 2 parts - I think!
My thanks, as always go to MeteorOnAMoonlessNight, anna harding and Midnight Cougar for their stellar work. I am so chuffed to have you all in my corner and can't thank you enough
I love every review, favourite and follower, thank you for all your support
Disclaimer: SM owns it all but I want an Edward like this
Third Time's the Charm Part 1 Chapter 6
Left pregnant and alone, Bella delivers a surprise to the paramedic who knocks on her door.
Over the next couple of weeks, I received flowers from Edward at least once a week or sometimes twice. On more than one occasion, he arrived with take-out or just dessert if he was a little late. He was very careful not to step over the imaginary line between friendship and more, but each day I continued to enjoy his company and hoped he wanted to take that step.
Each time he arrived, he made a huge fuss over Emily, telling her how pretty she was. By the time she was six weeks old, she recognized his voice and kicked her legs in expectation.
"She's such a beautiful baby, Bella, and she looks just like you. Can you see anything of Tyler in her?" Edward usually came by in the evenings, but today he'd arrived mid-morning on one of his days off. We'd had the conversation about Tyler, and he couldn't understand how a man could walk away from his own child. There were no pictures of Tyler in the apartment as I'd put them away; there would be time enough for me to tell Emily about her father, or 'sperm donor' as I thought of him, when she was older.
It was the end of July, and Emily had been particularly cranky all morning because of the heat. The air-conditioning had stopped working sometime in the middle of the night, and Marcus, the concierge, had told me the landlord would be sending someone out to fix it within twenty-four hours. That didn't help me today.
I'd brought the bassinet into the living room and laid Emily in it, dressed only in a diaper. She remained unsettled and miserable. Edward had arrived a few minutes ago and had immediately picked her up. I shook my head in exasperation when she immediately quieted down. I had to admit that it was all Edward who brought out that side of her.
"Why is she always so good for you?" I whined, watching her cooing and waving her arms in the air and giving him half-smiles. I felt hot, fed up, and out of sorts. "It's not fair. I'm here all day, every day, and the moment you show up, she's happy. You must have some sort of magic."
"It's not magic at all, Bella," Edward snorted. "She doesn't see me often, so she's pacified by a different face."
It was my turn to make a rude noise. "Yeah right. You're here often enough that she even knows your face and your voice. It's magic, I'm telling you."
Edward laughed. "Okay, Miss Grouchy, I think the heat's getting to you. Why don't you come to my apartment until your air-conditioning is fixed? I have a guest room you and Emily can use, and I'll even cook for you. How does that sound?"
"That's the best offer I've had today, Edward. Thank you." I hauled myself to my feet and headed to the bedroom. "Can you get Emily dressed for me, please?" I grabbed a change of clothes, my night things and toiletries, and stuffed them into my backpack. I tossed a few changes of clothing into Emily's bag, along with anything else I might find useful, before returning to the living room.
"You don't need to bring any diapers, Bella." He ran his fingers through his hair and looked a little embarrassed. "I sort of have some at my place."
I looked up in surprise. "You do?"
"Yeah, just in case you ever needed any. And my mom gave me my old crib she had stored away. Umm, I've cleaned it up. Emily could sleep in it. If that's okay?"
"Yes, of course it is, and thank you. You didn't have to do any of that."
"I wanted to, Bella. I love y—er, Emily, and I want you to be comfortable in my home. Friends do these things for each other, and I hope that's what we are."
"We are, Edward, we are." I hugged him and felt his arms tentatively come around my waist to hug me back. I stepped away from him for fear he'd feel the beat of my heart speed up. Edward was fast becoming very important to me, and I didn't want to lose the friendship we'd developed.
Edward's apartment was twice the size of my apartment, with two bedrooms, a huge living room, and a dream of a kitchen. "Wow, I didn't think paramedics were this well-paid. How can you afford this?" I spun around and covered my mouth with my hand, feeling my cheeks heat. "I'm so sorry, Edward, that was rude of me. That's none of my business."
He just laughed and shrugged. "Don't worry about it, Bella. My grandparents left me some money. Not enough to be filthy rich, but enough so I have no student loans and no mortgage."
I lost my embarrassment quickly; as usual, Edward managed to make me feel at ease. He showed me the guest room and the crib for Emily, leaving me alone to feed her and take a short nap while she slept.
Three hours later, I woke feeling cool and refreshed. Emily was gone from her crib, so I guessed Edward had come and gotten her. I wandered out into the living room, finding him on the sofa with her stretched out on her back along his thighs. His head was bent over her small form, and he was talking quietly to her. She was even trying to talk back, moving her mouth and waving her arms while her eyes were fixed on him.
I bit my lip at the errant thought that slipped into my mind. I wondered what it would have been like for him to have been her daddy and how he would have reacted to my news. I had a feeling it would have been the complete opposite of Tyler's.
Edward looked up as I walked farther into the room. "Afternoon, sleepy head. Are you feeling a little better now? I'm sorry I stole your baby, but she was getting a bit fussy, and I didn't want her to wake you. I've changed her diaper, and we've been getting to know each other."
He turned his attention back to her. "I think me and you are gonna be great friends, little one." She turned her head toward his hand when he stroked her cheek with the backs of his fingers. I almost felt jealous at the amount of attention he was showing Emily.
I wanted him to touch me like that; to look at me like that.
"I think she needs feeding because she keeps trying to take my fingers into her mouth."
Edward held her out for me to take, and I took a seat at the end of the sofa. Over the last six weeks, Emily and I had gone from strength to strength with this breastfeeding lark and were now quite the experts.
I lifted the baggy t-shirt I wore and pulled down the bra cup so I could get Emily situated. She latched on instantly and I let the material of my top drop down to cover me. I heard him take a sharp breath and felt, rather than saw, Edward stand. For a moment, I was embarrassed I'd practically flashed him without a thought to what his reaction might be.
"Sorry, Bella, I wasn't trying to look. Erm, I'll go and… and…"
I looked up at him as his eyes slipped closed. I hadn't thought about him being in the room with me, almost flashing him without a thought of how it might embarrass him. "No, it's me who should be sorry, Edward. I didn't think. I'll go into the bedroom and feed Emily in there."
"No, no, no, it's fine. Don't move her now. It's entirely my fault; I didn't think, either."
He backed away and retreated to the kitchen. I heard the refrigerator opening as he pulled things out. I guessed he was preparing some lunch for the two of us. I looked back down at Emily, smiling at her milk-drunk face.
Twenty minutes later, the smell of cooking wafted into the room as Edward brought in two bowls filled with pasta and some kind of tomato sauce, placing them on the table in a small dining area.
"Why don't you put Emily in the crib and come and eat?"
He quickly glanced away when I lifted Emily away from me and headed to my room to place her in the crib. I stood for a moment to admire the ornate carving at the head. It looked like a coat of arms. I tucked the information away to ask Edward at some other time.
When I returned to the dining area, he'd laid the table with flatware, napkins, and a jug of lemonade. "This looks perfect, but you didn't need to go to all this trouble."
"It's no trouble, Bella; I enjoy spoiling you and Emily." He smiled as he pulled out one of the chairs for me and took a seat at the end of the table, to my left. He poured us each a glass of lemonade.
With the first mouthful, the flavor of the herbs, spices, and tomatoes burst on my tongue. "Hmm." I closed my eyes and moaned at the taste.
At the clatter of a fork hitting china, I opened my eyes, catching Edward watching me. Closing his mouth sharply, he looked down, the tips of his ears turning pink.
Inside, I let out a silent squeal at the thought that on some level, I affected him. I didn't say anything, and he recovered enough to continue eating. Slowly, conversation between us resumed until everything felt normal again. We lingered at the table long after the meal was finished, talking about movies we'd seen and loved, books we'd read, and places we'd visited.
Eventually, Edward cleared away the dishes and loaded the dishwasher while I stayed in the guest room to feed Emily and change her diaper. We retired to the living room where Edward proceeded to charm my daughter into a peaceful sleep.
"I can put her in the crib, if you like."
Edward shook his head and reclined, resting her on his chest, his hands patting her back. When he was around, she rarely slept in her crib.
"We can watch a movie, if you like, Bella." Edward indicated the shelves of movies. "Or we can put some music on and talk? My iHome is on the shelf."
I leaned back and yawned. "Music, I think."
"Here, take Emily for a minute, and I'll set it up. Anything you particularly want to hear?" I shook my head and took her from his arms. He was so close to me that I could have reached out and kissed him, and I had to resist the temptation. I looked up at him as he brushed his hand over her back, and our eyes met.
Everything stilled for a moment, and I thought he might kiss me, but then he moved away, letting out a breath. Frustrated, I turned my attention back to Emily, wondering if I was reading too much into his actions. Mentally, I shrugged, not wanting to break the status quo. Edward was becoming one of my best friends.
Edward retook his seat on the sofa, insisting I pass Emily back to him, and the room filled with the sound of quiet jazz piano. I couldn't deny him his baby smell fix; after all, I had her to myself most of the time.
I was still tired, despite my afternoon nap, and easily slipped into sleep. A hand on my shoulder startled me awake. "Emily?" She was almost always my first thought when I woke. "Is she okay?"
"She's fine, Bella. I changed her again and put her in a onesie, ready for the night. She's in her crib and beginning to make those hungry noises. Why don't you get ready for bed and I'll turn out the lights and leave you in peace?"
He held out his hand and pulled me up off the sofa; my gaze shot to him at the tingle that traveled from where our palms met to the back of my neck. I knew I'd been distracted when Emily was born, so I hadn't noticed anything like this feeling.
"What the heck was that?" I asked.
Edward's face looked as shocked as mine. "Must be static electricity." He didn't look convinced and shook it off. We said our goodnights and I retired to feed Emily and get ready for bed.
~ oOo ~
The following morning, Marcus called to tell us the air-conditioning had been repaired, so Emily and I headed home. Edward actually looked disappointed, but promised he would pop in soon.
He was busy over the next few days, doing extra shifts to cover for a colleague. I found I missed him a lot, and Emily certainly did. At the end of the week, he appeared at my apartment door, bringing take-out and a couple of movies. After his Emily fix, I made some popcorn, and we turned off the lights, watching his chosen movies back-to-back. The atmosphere between us was electric, and it was just as well I'd seen both of the movies before, because I wouldn't have been able to say what happened in them otherwise.
The following week, Edward arrived on a Saturday afternoon with a fully packed picnic, and proceeded to lay a blanket out on the floor. He lifted Emily from my arms and laid her in the middle of it, then unpacked the contents of the basket onto delicate china plates. Pasta salad, tiny sandwiches, fruit salad, and even non-alcoholic champagne. He'd thought of everything.
At the end of the afternoon, he dropped a small bombshell and invited me to Sunday lunch at his parents' house. He told me they wanted to meet the "prettiest baby in Chicago and her beautiful mom." When Sunday morning came around, I panicked, pulling out and trying on every piece of clothing I owned. Nothing really fit, as I hadn't yet lost all of the baby weight.
Edward arrived to collect me at 11 o'clock while I was still in my robe. I let him in the door, immediately bursting into tears and fleeing back to the bedroom. Tentatively, he followed me, looking at the chaotic mess of clothes strewn across my bed.
"I have no idea what to wear, Edward. Nothing fits!" I wailed, flinging myself onto the only uncovered space.
He carefully moved some of the clothes to one side and sat beside me, putting his arm around me. "Hey, what are you so worried about? You already know my dad, and my mom's a pussycat. They're both aware you've just had a baby, so there are no expectations. Wear whatever is comfortable; I promise you it'll be fine."
I blew out a breath and looked around, realizing I'd overreacted somewhat. "It's a bit of a mess, isn't it?" Edward laughed and agreed before standing and leaning over Emily's bassinet. "I might have known you'd be here early for Emily. A girl could get a complex, you know?" I was only partly joking.
There was a knock at the front door. "I'll get it, Bella, and then sort out my little sweetheart here."
I heard Edward murmuring to Emily as he headed for the front door.
"Who the fuck are you? And why are you in my apartment?" I could hear the raised voice from the bedroom and recognized it immediately, even though I hadn't heard it for almost nine months. I ran through the apartment as Tyler was shoving at the front door.
"What are you doing here, Tyler? It's not your apartment; you took yourself off the lease, remember?"
"You know this asshole, Bella?"
"This is Emily's sperm donor, Edward." I infused my voice with as much disdain as I could,then turned to Edward and put my hand on his arm. "Take Emily into the bedroom, please. I'll deal with Tyler. Okay?"
Reluctantly, Edward stepped back. "Are you sure, Bella?" He looked back at Tyler. "You'd better not hurt her, or you'll answer to me." If looks could kill, Tyler would have dropped stone-dead on the spot, but Edward did as I asked and went back into the bedroom, leaving the door ajar.
"Didn't take you long to move someone else in, did it, Bella? Is that baby even mine?"
"Shut up, Tyler. You know damn well I'd never cheat, so, yes, she is your daughter. The one you didn't want, remember?" I folded my arms and stood in front of him, preventing him from moving farther into the apartment. "You're not welcome here, Tyler."
He shrugged and tucked his hands into his pockets. "Who's the guy?" He lifted his chin toward the bedroom.
"That's none of your business, Tyler, but whoever he is, he makes a great daddy, something you couldn't ever be. Why. Are. You. Here?"
Tyler looked wary for a second, but all too soon, I recognized the returning arrogant expression. "I was curious, and I thought you might have reconsidered and put it up for adoption." He reached out for me and I flinched away. "Come on, babe. We were good together, weren't we?"
I gasped at the implication, and fury washed over me. "She's not an it; she's a person. How dare you come anywhere near us and assume I'll take you back?" I jabbed him in the chest, and then did it again for emphasis. Tyler stepped back. "Since you're clearly not interested in your daughter, I suggest you get the hell out of here." I gave him a shove this time. "And don't worry; I don't want a single cent from you. I'll be applying for a termination of your parental rights since you chose to abandon us. Then, you can go on with your sad little life and completely forget about her"—I pushed him over the threshold and into the hall—"and me."
The sound of a door slamming had never sounded so good, especially since I hadn't let him get in another word. It didn't matter if he wanted to ever see Emily; she had Edward and me, and didn't need an asshole of a sperm donor.
I turned to find Edward standing behind me. "Did you mean that? About me being a great daddy?" For the first time I saw his uncertainty. I'd seen flashes of humor, sweetness, and even want, but this was a new one.
"Of course I did, Edward. I don't say things I don't mean." I looked down at my hands, and closed my eyes for a second to find my courage. When I looked up, it was to find him watching me. "But to be a daddy, you'd have to ask me out on a date, to want to be with me, too."
A look of relief crossed his face, and he shifted Emily into the crook of his elbow before covering the few paces between us. He drew me into his arms, hugging me against his firm chest. "You silly, beautiful, crazy girl. What do you think I've been doing all this time?"
I pulled away slightly, searching his eyes for the truth. "Every time we've been together was a date, wasn't it, Edward?"
When he nodded, I went back over the last few weeks in my mind. Dinner and a movie—more than once—a jazz concert, that evening in his apartment when the air-conditioning broke down, an afternoon picnic. I realized that all of them were perfect moments—perfect dates.
"Yes, I want to be with you, Bella. It's not just this beautiful little girl who has my heart beating faster; it's you. Do you want to know when our best date was?" I nodded, a little overwhelmed at his revelations, and he went on to say, "The day Emily was born was my birthday too, and I couldn't have wished for a better way to meet the two loves of my life."
"Love?" I questioned.
He nodded. "Yes, love. I fell in love with this little one the second I laid eyes on her. It might seem quick to you, but you've been in my thoughts every minute of the last few months. I know it's love, Bella, but I'm prepared to wait for you to catch up."
I rested my forehead on his chest for a few seconds, absorbing his words. I guessed it was true, that third time's a charm.
Drawing back, I looked into his green eyes; those ones I'd seen hovering over me the day Emily was born.
"I don't need time, Edward. I'm already there."
~ oOo ~