-x-o-x-Accidentally in Love-x-o-x-
“And now for my favorite part of the tour,” Esme sighed happily.
“What’s that?” I asked as she led us back to the kitchen.
Alice giggled. “The part where she makes us all drinks and we sit on the deck.”
“Oh!” I laughed. “Well, I don’t know if it’s my favorite part, but it sounds great. You have a lovely home, Esme.”
She wrinkled her nose as she poured our drinks from the pitcher. “It’s still a work in progress. I update something every summer.”
If the Cullen’s summer house was a work in progress I’d like to see one of her finished projects, because their home was pretty amazing. It wasn’t overly styled so you felt like you couldn’t touch anything or sit down. The shabby-chic style leaned heavily towards chic, anchored with classic antique furniture. It was well lived in and comfortable. I was surprised by how at home I felt.
Alice and her mother had given me a lovely tour of the house, and asked surprisingly few questions about Edward and me. I wasn’t stupid enough to think they weren’t coming, but I’d been impressed with their restraint, especially Alice since I’d already seen her in action.
Esme handed me a glass of her Italian lemonade, which was actually Limoncello, vodka and lemonade. It was good—potent—but good. She and Alice led me to the deck and I stood between them at the rail looking out at the beach.
I couldn’t help but smile as I watched Edward with Emmett and Jasper. They joked and laughed as they tossed a football back and forth, and occasionally one of them would run down the beach for a long pass.
“And the holiday begins,” Alice chuckled. “That is one of the first things they do every year.”
Esme nodded. “It always starts out friendly, but then they end up playing keep away.”
Jasper was the smallest of the three, though small wasn’t really a word I would use to describe him at all. Edward was tall and fit while Emmett was just big in general. In comparison Jasper was tall and lean, a basketball player to the Cullen’s football and wrestling physiques. I was sure the brothers ganged up on him, and I smiled as I imagined it.
“Does Jasper always end up in the middle?”
“No,” Alice said, choking on her laughter, “Emmett’s always in the middle.”
“Oh, wow!” I chuckled, thinking about how funny he would look as monkey-in-the-middle.
The sliding door opened, and I looked over my shoulder to see a gorgeous blond woman coming out onto the deck. She had a bottle of beer in one hand and a baby on her hip. Edward had shown me pictures of his family and I recognized them as Emmett’s wife Rosalie and their youngest, Peter.
“Hey, ladies!” she called as she made her way over to us.
Esme met her halfway and reached for the baby. “Where are the girls?”
“They wanted to stay at Ry’s with dad. He’ll bring them all home for dinner.”
“Okay. How’s my favorite grandson? Does he need anything?”
“He’s your only grandson, and if you can get him to fall asleep I’ll love you forever.”
Esme chuckled. “That’s what grandmas are for.”
She excused herself, taking Peter and her cocktail inside the house. Rosalie took a swig of her beer and turned to me with a slight nod.
“You must be Bella. I’m Rose.”
“Hi.” I raised my hand in hello, suddenly very anxious.
She looked me up and down slowly and I felt like I was under a microscope. I was a little shocked that Edward’s sister-in-law made me more uncomfortable than anyone else in his family, but she was intense.
“What do you do?”
“I’m a teacher. Middle school math. Edward said you’re a dental hygienist.”
“I used to be.” She shrugged. “Now I’m a fulltime mom and keeper of that monster.” She pointed her beer towards Emmett on the beach.
“I imagine he keeps you busier than three kids.”
“That’s for sure.” She laughed, but still didn’t smile.
Alice’s cell phone rang and she excused herself, moving to sit in one of the chairs on the other side of the pool.
Rose and I continued to watch the boys playing ball. If I thought her questions were finished at that point I was seriously mistaken.
She leaned her elbows on the railing and turned her face towards me. “You have brothers and sisters?”
“Nope, just me.” I stayed standing straight up. There was something about her that wouldn’t let me relax. I felt like I needed to be able to run at a moments notice.
“What do your parents do?”
“My dad’s a cop. The chief in our small town, actually. I don’t really keep in touch with my mom.”
She nodded and sipped her beer, still looking at me like she thought I was going to steal the silver.
“How far along are you?”
“Excuse me?” I managed, shocked. I’d anticipated this reaction from someone… but not like this. I figured there would be whispering and finger pointing, but not blatant accusations.
“You’re pregnant, aren’t you? There’s no way Edward would get engaged during his residency unless you were pregnant. Are you just after the money?”
“What? No. I’m not pregnant, and I didn’t even know about the money. I mean, obviously the Cullen’s are wealthy, but I don’t know what they’re worth. Any of them.”
She huffed disbelief. “I’m not buying it.”
“Buying what?” I tried to hide the anxiety pulsing through my body.
“The engagement. It’s a joke.”
I stiffened in shock and heard Alice gasp from behind me. “Rosalie!”
“What? Something stinks in Denmark,” she grumbled, completely slaughtering the Hamlet quote, but I knew better than to correct her.
“Just because Edward got engaged quickly doesn’t mean Bella is pregnant or a gold digger.” Alice stood beside shaking her head at her sister in law. “She drank with us last night, and right now,” she held up the pitcher of Esme’s lemonade she had retrieved from the kitchen, “so I’m hoping she’s not pregnant. And she’s not a gold digger. I mean, look at how she dresses—sorry Bella—she doesn’t care about the money.”
Rose glanced at my Gap khaki shorts and Target striped t-shirt and snorted. She might not have known the stores they came from, but they were clearly not up to her or Alice’s standards.
“Now,” Alice’s voice was just shy of condescending, “tell Bella you’re sorry so the three of us can be great friends.”
I looked at Alice like she was nuts. And I was pretty sure she was.
Rosalie rolled her eyes and turned to me. She definitely looked more pissed off than apologetic. “You’re sure you’re not pregnant and roping him into this?”
I knew I couldn’t tell her that Edward and I hadn’t had sex, ever, yet, whatever. Instead I did some weird hand over my heart thing swearing that I wasn’t trapping Edward into marriage.
“No, I promise. I’m not pregnant, and it’s not about the money. It’s about Edward. Just him. I swear.”
She glared at me for a few seconds before turning back towards the beach. “I love Edward like a brother, you know? This family is all rainbows and sunshine sometimes; you can’t blame me for trying to be the voice of reason.”
I had a feeling it was the closest thing to an apology I was going to get so I nodded. “Of course.”
“No hard feelings.”
Right. I nodded again. She was nuts too if she thought I wasn’t affected by her assumptions and disdain.
Alice rolled her eyes at Rosalie before putting her arm around me. “I’m sorry,” she whispered, giving me a squeeze. “She means well.”
I gave her a tight smile. I knew she was right, and I knew she meant well too, but I felt overwhelmed. I wasn’t sure what had possessed me to think Edward and I could pull this off.
We refreshed our drinks and made our way down to the beach with some towels to sit on the sand. The change in location helped break the tension. I was still uncomfortable with Rosalie, but Alice was trying to make me feel better. She made small talk and drew both Rose and I into conversation as if nothing had happened. I participated a little, but mostly I listened as they told me funny stories about the family.
Our eyes were mostly on the boys as we talked. They were still throwing the football and joking around. Occasionally, they would look over at us with a smile or wave. At one point Edward winked at me and my stomach flipped a little with excitement while I blushed.
Alice laughed at us. “You two are so cute. You have no idea how jealous you’re going to make some women this weekend.”
Rose snorted and though it was in agreement, I knew it wasn’t approving. “Ry said Maggie and her friends would be out for the weekend. I’m sure they were planning to stalk Edward.”
“Maggie is Riley’s wife?” I tried to remember the details of their family tree, but I didn’t think Edward had ever told me about Riley’s family.
Rose looked at me for a second like she was trying to figure out if I was serious. “No, Maggie is Ry’s step-daughter.”
This didn’t ringing any bells. “How old is she?”
“He didn’t tell you about Riley?” She seemed incredulous. “What the fuck? Do you two talk at all?”
I was screwed.
“Rose, knock it off.” Alice stood and brushed some sand off her shorts as the guys approached. “Riley’s a touchy subject for Edward, and you know it.”
What the hell did that mean? We were never going to fool her. There were too many back stories and details that I knew nothing about. Edward and I could never have prepared for everything that could come up over the weekend.
“Hey!” Rose stood and wrapped herself around Emmett, kissing him deeply.
Jasper pulled Alice into his arms and their bodies molded together. The conversation was officially over.
Edward sat down next to me, his arm brushing mine. He grinned at me and stole my drink, finishing it in a gulp.
“We’re heading in,” Emmett laughed. “Later, fools!”
“Jazzy, walk on the beach with me?” Alice was already walking towards the water, pulling him behind her and he just laughed.
“Of course, baby.” He looked over his shoulder and nodded at Edward and me. “See you in a while.”
“We’ll be here,” Edward told him as he put an arm around me.
Rose and Emmett made their way back towards the house while Alice and Jasper began to walk along the shore.
“Getting to know the girls?” Edward leaned closer, running a hand over my knee.
I shivered at the feel of his touch and held myself back from turning towards him and running my hands over his naked chest. He was sweaty and gorgeous and so fucking tempting. But there were things to talk about and appearances to keep. Then again, I thought of the other two couples and bit back a laugh— judging from the way they practically made out on the beach, I didn’t have anything to worry about the dirty thoughts I was having about Edward.
“I have no idea what you’re thinking,” he whispered, pushing some of my hair over my shoulder, “but the look on your face is fucking sexy.”
He placed a soft kiss below my ear and sat back. Everything I wanted to say to him seemed to fizzle out. All I could think about was grabbing his hand and running back to the beach house to barricade ourselves in his bedroom.
“Everything okay with Rose? You two looked serious on the deck.”
I closed my eyes and flopped back onto the beach with a groan, not caring about how difficult it would be to get the sand out of my hair.
Edward stretched out next to me laughing and propped himself on his elbow. “What does that mean?”
I opened my eyes and gave him a hard look. “It means she thinks I’m a pregnant gold digger, and she can’t understand why I don’t know more about your extended family.”
“What?” he laughed again, and he had the balls to smile. It wasn’t funny.
“I’m not joking. She asked me when I was due.”
His face grew serious to match mine, finally. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
“I just told you I wasn’t.”
He made a move to stand and I grabbed his arm. “Don’t. She wants to cause problems. I think she’s testing us.”
“Ya think?” he huffed, running a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry, Bella. I knew she’d be protective, she’s like that with all of us, but to assume you’re pregnant—and a gold digger? That’s bullshit.”
“That’s kind of what I thought, but I know you’re right. She’s just trying to look out for you.” I sighed and turned on my side to face him. “I can’t let it bother me. Besides, I don’t think it’s really about me. She doesn’t know me. Or us. She would have made those accusations no matter who you brought home.”
We lay still, gazing at each other for a few seconds. It was easy to get lost when I looked at him, and the gorgeous beach background made him even more distracting. The sun made the gold flecks in his eyes stand out and the copper in his hair was just a little brighter.
He ran a finger down the bridge of my nose and grinned. “You’ve got a few freckles from being in the sun.”
“Yeah?” I chuckled. “I should have grabbed a hat.”
His fingers played with my hair. “Please don’t worry about Rose. She’ll chill out. She just needs to see that I’m serious about you.”
My breath caught a little at his words. Everything between us was so blurry. The fake engagement was still there, but there were real feelings seeping in. “And are you, serious about me?”
“Yes,” he whispered, leaning forward to give me a gentle kiss. “More serious than I could have imagined.”
I closed my eyes, letting his words wash over me. It would have been easy to let him pull me into his arms and hold me or kiss me, or do whatever he wanted, but we still needed to talk. Biting my lip, I opened my eyes and sighed.
“Can I ask a question?”
“Of course. What’s wrong?” he asked, looking nervous.
“Nothing’s wrong. Rose just said something that I didn’t understand and I probably should.” I took his hand and tangled our fingers together. “Why is Riley a touchy subject for you?”
“Wow.” His eyes got big and he shook his head. “That’s not what I expected. How did that come up?”
“She said Maggie was coming out for the weekend with her friends. Apparently she’s not Ry’s wife.”
“No,” he laughed and smiled sadly, “but she’d make a better wife for him than her mother.”
“See, I don’t get it.” I shook my head. “What’s that about?”
Edward sighed and sat up, pulling his hand from mine to hug his knees.
I found myself doing the same thing, but I watched him while his eyes focused on the horizon.
“It’s a long story.”
“I’ve got all weekend.”
He laughed and ran his hands through his hair again. “Alright. Emmett is three years older than me and Ry, and Alice is three years younger than us, okay?” I nodded. “Riley’s an only child and his mom, my dad’s sister, died when he was ten. Lung cancer. It was rough. His dad got married when we were in high school. They were never close, but his new wife is a total bitch. That doesn’t really matter, though. Anyway, Ry’s always been sort of an extra brother, and since we were the same age… we were best friends. We did everything together. We went to college together, and were supposed to go to med school together… but everything got crazy.”
He seemed lost in thought and I still didn’t understand, so I quietly prompted him to continue. “What happened?”
“Riley got married over Christmas our senior year of college.” He shook his head. “It wasn’t that he got married that was fucked up, though. It was who he married.”
My stomach sank. What if Riley married one of Edward’s ex-girlfriends? That was just wrong. There had to be some kind of bro-code that said you didn’t do that. My thoughts started to get away from me, imaging horrible scenarios where the cousins fought over Riley’s new wife. When I looked up Edward was smirking slightly and chuckling at me.
“Not that. He married our frat brother Randall’s mom. It was a crazy, spur of the moment, fly to Vegas thing, and then they came home and dropped the bomb on everyone. I was selfish at first, you know? Thinking all of my plans with Ry were ruined, but that wasn’t the worst of it. As time went by we found out that Charlotte only married him to make her ex jealous because he’d married some young model.
“About six months in she realized that her ex wasn’t jealous at all, and she tried to kick Ry to the curb. I mean seriously, she changed the locks on their condo and told him to get the fuck out. Ry was devastated. He’d actually fallen for her, and she wanted nothing to do with him anymore. She moved to California and left him here on his own. Eventually she had to give him new keys and everything so he wasn’t homeless, but she just… left.
“He changed after that. I don’t know how to explain it, but he’s bitter and angry that she derailed all of his plans to get back at someone. He didn’t graduate with our class. He didn’t go to med school. He wanted kids, and he feels like she gypped him out of that. Randall’s the same age as us and Maggie’s Alice’s age. It’s nuts.”
“They didn’t get divorced?”
“He refuses to file, says she owes him for everything he gave up, and she’s too lazy to do it. They go to charity events together a couple times a year when she’s in New York, but that’s it. I don’t even pretend to understand.”
“And you and Ry aren’t friends anymore?”
“Not like we used to be. I tried, but… maybe he’s jealous? I think he sees me as what could have been. God, I sound so conceited. I don’t know. It’s just not the same. I can’t relate to his life. We don’t have much in common anymore, you know?”
I nodded. It made sense. It was sad and pretty fucked up, but I understood. What I didn’t understand was the family’s excitement over Riley’s cookout if things were strained. “We don’t have to go to his party.” I offered. “We can do something else.”
He shook his head and smiled sadly. “No, his cookout is really the only time I see him now. It’s weird, but it’s like old times. It’s always the same; swimming and fireworks, throwing Alice in the pool and letting Esme mix strong drinks. The beach is sort of a constant, even if he stays at Charlotte’s big ass house instead of his dad’s.”
“I’m so sorry, Edward. I can’t imagine if something like that came between me and Ang.”
He shrugged. “It’s not your fault.”
It wasn’t my fault, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t feel sorry or sad for them. Edward rubbed my Claddagh and smiled. It was sweet, but at the moment it made wonder how Riley felt about our news. “Do you think he’s upset that you’re engaged?”
“Maybe.” He slid his arm around me and rubbed my back. “But he’d never let you know that. Please don’t worry about it. Or anything else, everything will be fine.”
I sighed. “Edward, Rose is already suspicious. At some point all of this is going to come to a head.”
“She’s not suspicious, she’s cautious, there’s a difference.”
I wasn’t sure about that.
“Besides,” he continued, bringing a hand up to cup my cheek, “we don’t need her approval. Everyone else already loves you. That’s all that matters.”
He leaned forward and kissed me. My arms went around him and all of my worries dropped away. Our kiss was sweet and promising as his words echoed in my head.
“Everyone else already loves you.”
Was he everyone? I hoped he was, because, even though it scared the hell out of me, I probably loved him too.
-x-o-x-Accidentally in Love-x-o-x-
Thanks so much for reading!
I’m not even going to pretend like it will be faster than two weeks. The 4th of July is coming and *hopefully* I’ll crank some stuff out while I have a couple days off. That’s my plan at least.
“Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose” is from the poem Sacred Emily by Gertrude Stein, 1913