Beta'd by HollettLA :)
Secrets & Wishes
Four years later…
I'd say I'm surprised when I enter Masen's room and find Anthony packing while Mase is throwing clothes on the bed, except there's no surprise about it whatsoever.
"Son, when I told you to pack, I didn't mean tell your brother to pack for you." I fold my arms over my chest and lean against the doorframe, and it's difficult to hide my mirth.
"He wanted to!" Masen widens his eyes. "I started doing it—"
"He doesn't even fold his clothes," Ant replies irritably. "I'm doing Mom a favor if you ask me. Now his outfit for the wedding won't be wrinkled when we get there."
I raise a brow. "Are you sure it's your mother you're talking about and not your OCD?"
Ant waves me off, then picks up Masen's toiletry bag and shakes it. "You have shampoo in here. You were going to pack it without putting it in a plastic bag? What is wrong with you?"
"I give up." Masen throws up his hands before stalking out of his room, and I just manage to move out of his way. "How about you guys just wake me up when we're in Hawaii?"
I chuckle to myself and follow him down the stairs. Once Ant gets started, there's no stopping him. He gets this way every summer when we leave for vacation.
Isabella is actually quite similar when it comes to packing, which is why she's taken care of my bag already. I woke up this morning to find it in the hallway down here, a new luggage tag attached to it and all. There was even a note on how much it weighs.
"When's Mom coming home?" Masen asks as I meet him in the kitchen.
I check my watch and sit down at the kitchen island where my coffee and notepad are waiting for me. "Shouldn't be long now." She's only dropping off the dogs at Renee and Carlisle's. Taking a sip of my coffee, I add another title to my list of books to cram into my carry-on. We're going to be gone for ten days; that's easily eight books.
Masen spreads an armful of food on the island and hip-checks the fridge closed. "I think we need to discuss your obsession with books, Dad. Your bag's gonna weigh a ton."
"Nonsense." In fact, I could sneak a book or two into my wife's bag. She brings a few magazines, a couple about veterinary medicine and one People, and that's it. Plenty of space. "What we should discuss is how to keep your mother and Ant off our backs once we get to the resort."
As we discovered our first trip together as a family, Masen and I prefer to hang around the hotel. I want to read, and Masen wants to stay by the pool or the beach—and probably check out girls. He's at that age now, and it terrifies me. But I'd rather watch over him than go with Isabella and Anthony on another bicycle ride to observe local culture. I know, I'm dreadfully dull, and I couldn't care less. When we were in Rome, I got to see everything I wanted in three days. Isabella required five.
"I thought the wedding was our excuse not to leave the hotel," Masen exclaims.
"You'd think," I mutter. "I've booked us a two-day tour with a guide, but I doubt that's enough for them."
Then we have the rehearsal dinner and the wedding; that's two days. It leaves us with another six, and I can't be so lucky that Isabella suggests romantic dinner dates and lazy pool days.
I suppose after twenty-two years of disappointment, resentment, and unhappiness, it's going to take at least another twenty-two before I'm ready to let Isabella out of my sight without missing her like a lovesick fool. I'm incredibly lucky in the sense that she's similar—very affectionate and sweet, which I can't get enough of. But…she thinks hiking up a mountain is relaxing.
I did find it strange she didn't have flaws before we got married, and that's what I get. An outdoorsy hiker.
"You know what we should do?" Masen looks hopeful. "We can convert Claire—bring her to our side. Then it's three against two."
That's a brilliant idea. "She is a Daddy's girl," I agree. Well, she's a Daddy's girl until I try to cook for us. Then suddenly Daddy's the worst person in the world.
Charcoal is an acceptable spice.
"What're we waiting for? Where is she?" he asks.
I nod in the general direction of Emmett's house next door. "She's playing with Bree."
"Okay, I'll go get her." Masen leaves the kitchen, on a mission.
I laugh under my breath.
He's going to need to be convincing in order to peel Claire and Bree apart. Both three years old, or almost, and both into the same LEGOs and cartoons. I admit it was a relief when Emmett moved back from Texas last year. He had a girlfriend and a daughter with him, and it's nice to have a next-door neighbor who appreciates date nights as much as we do. Some weekends, we have the girls, and some weekends, they have them.
I've finished my list and grabbed my books from the library by the time Masen comes back with his sister under his arm. At least she's giggling. That's a good sign.
"Hello, angel." I cock my head and grin at her. "You're almost upside down, aren't you?"
"Yeah, lemme down, Mase!" she demands.
She looks so much like her mother that she sometimes makes my breath hitch.
I squat down as she barrels toward me, and I chuckle when she squishes my cheeks together.
"Hi," she repeats.
"Hi." I kiss her nose. "Your brother and I were talking about our trip. Wouldn't it be fun if we stayed by the pool almost every day?"
Her eyes light up. "Yes."
That's a good start.
We spend the following night in Seattle so we don't have to stress ourselves to get to the airport on Thursday. The boys and I take care of the luggage until we've checked every bag, and then I welcome a fussy Claire into my arms on the way through security.
"Mom, I'm hungry," Masen says.
"We're going to eat before we board, don't worry," Isabella replies.
We find a burger place and order for a small army before we locate a table with a view of the planes. Ant's more interested in jotting down airplane models into his notebook, so we have to remind him to eat.
"Here, Ant." Claire holds up a French fry drenched in ketchup for him.
I grin, finding her too cute for words.
"Thanks, sis." Ant takes it absently.
"You want to sit with me for a while so Daddy can eat?" Isabella asks Claire.
"Yeah, okay." She bounces over to her mother, only to start munching on Isabella's fries.
I chuckle and bite into my burger.
"Oh, you'll never believe who decided to come to the wedding last minute." Looks like my wife has gossip. "Angela."
That is a surprise. She's on speaking terms with Ben and Jasper, but calling them friends would be a stretch.
"Maybe it's easier now that she's in a better place," I say. I admire Angela for starting over. It's never easy, but she went to school, got an associate's, and now she's dating a former classmate—Eric. "As long as you-know-who isn't showing up, it'll be fine."
We don't need more of Alice's drama, in my opinion. Since breaking the habits of my old, miserable life, I've gained more friends my age. Alec and I go fly-fishing and attend book fairs every now and then, but this wedding will be mostly guests Isabella went to school with. It automatically puts me in the role of old teacher, and whether I want to or not, I feel more responsible. So, the less drama, the better.
I had sympathy for Alice even after the reunion that went awry, but no more. She's become flaky and aggressive. Every so often, she'll call Jasper to say he's ruined her life, and then she books a ticket to a fashion capital, claiming she's finally going to become a designer. Eventually, she runs out of money and returns to Forks, and it's caused her relationship with her daughter to deteriorate.
I cannot respect a person who won't put their children first. It goes against everything I believe in where parenting is concerned.
"Let me take her, darling," I say and wipe my mouth with a napkin. "You wanted to go browse for magazines."
"Are you sure?" Isabella peppers Claire's face with kisses before returning her to me and leaving her seat. "Okay, I'll be right back. Is there anything you guys need?" I open my mouth to— "Not you, Edward. I love you with all my heart, but you don't need another book."
"Did you try lifting his bag?" Masen snickers. "I think he packed bricks."
"I'm feeling the love," I deadpan.
"I love Mommy," Claire sings.
"What about me?" I tickle her. "It's me they're bullying."
"You poor thing." Isabella dips down and kisses me quickly. "I'm pretty sure you can find books in Hawaii if you run out. I'll be back in five."
"Mom, can you buy snacks for when my ears pop, please?" Ant hollers.
"Sure thing, honey."
"These are your seats, boys." I move out the way so they can pass me. "You can fight over the window seat."
"The middle child takes the middle," Ant says. "He drools in his sleep, so I thought I'd spare whoever ends up in the aisle."
"That's quite the sacrifice, son." I shake my head, amused.
Masen frowns, getting settled by the window. "I don't drool."
"How would you know?" Ant retorts.
While they bicker, I stow away their carry-ons in the overhead compartments, and then I take the aisle seat in the row in front of the boys.
Isabella's just getting buckled in next to me after helping Claire with her seatbelt and preparing her coloring book and crayons.
"Can I use the table?" Claire asks.
"When we're in the air, baby." Isabella combs back Claire's soft, dark curls, the sight making me smile. Our daughter distracts herself easily enough with the coloring book in her lap, and Isabella gets comfortable. "Do you have the gum?"
I nod and retrieve the pack from my pocket. We do the chewing gum game at takeoff with Claire so her ears don't pop as badly and her screams don't make people hate us. It's pretty effective.
"Did I tell you about Rose, by the way?" she asks.
"No?" I furrow my brow. It's been a while since I heard her name.
"I ran into her mom at the store, and she's moving home again," she reveals. Rose left Forks after the reunion, which was understandable. She's been back in Seattle, if I'm not mistaken. "And get this. She's working as a health coach now, whatever that is."
I chuckle. "You're enjoying the gossip, aren't you?"
She groans. "I can't help it. I get sucked in sometimes."
I weave our fingers together and kiss the top of her hand. "Do you think you'll be close with her again?"
I remember the girls spoke over the phone on and off for a few months before they eventually drifted. As Isabella grew closer to Emmett, she struggled with loyalty and guilt, second chances, and forgiveness.
"Maybe." She sighs softly and rests her head on my shoulder. "I do miss her, but I'm still torn. Then again, Emmett's happy, and he's moved on. It's time to see Rose for who she is and not what she did—fifteen years ago, almost. I think. What do you think?"
"I think too, on occasion."
She huffs, and I catch her playful shove and kiss her knuckles again.
"Such a violent little girl," I murmur.
"Don't give me the dirty teacher voice. We're on a plane."
I let out a laugh. "Fair enough."
"Dad, Anthony's being a pain," Masen complains.
"Stop being a pain, Ant," I answer automatically.
Isabella smirks at me. "You don't do your homework before scolding the kids?"
"I'm a teacher, my dear. I give homework. I don't do it."
She snorts and returns to using me as a pillow.
When the plane starts taxiing out toward the runway, we put our focus on Claire, and we're the silly parents who chew gum really loudly during takeoff. Making it a game is the only way it works for our girl, not to mention it makes it easier for us to ensure the little brat doesn't swallow the pink bubblegum.
At the same time, Anthony is chewing Twizzlers for all he's worth.
"You okay, buddy?" I peer over the headrest.
He nods. "To be honest, I'm exaggerating the pain a little. It was worse when I was younger, but I really love Twizzlers."
As if his mother and I don't know that.
"Mom, don't forget the thing I overheard," he tells Isabella.
"Oh! Right." Isabella straightens and offers me a sly look. "Time to put Mase and Edward in their place."
I frown. "Pardon?"
My wife goes into lecture mode with a dramatic flair, which amuses the boys. "Well, here's the thing. We've been invited to Jasper and Ben's wedding, and how do you respond to that? By using our daughter against Anthony and me…and for what? So you can lie in a chair with a book all day? I think not, dear husband. Watch this." She sniffs and shifts in her seat, turning her attention to Claire. "Baby, what do you think about going bicycling in Hawaii and seeing some supercool things?"
I grimace as Claire's eyes light up.
Isabella turns back to me with a brow lifted. It's admittedly sexy as fuck, and I can't wait to put her in her place. In the bedroom.
"Edward, anything you say in an upbeat voice will get her stamp of approval."
"Oh, all right," I concede with a sigh. "I hear you. Loud and clear."
Next time, I'll simply corrupt and convert Claire in a more efficient way.
"Good." She smiles in triumph and hauls out a magazine before getting comfortable once more. "Bicycle tour, it is."
We'll see about that.
I have one more ace up my sleeve, involving orgasms and handcuffs.
But that's a secret for now.