Edward continued to stare at the dark-haired beauty, but, as she began to turn his way, he ducked behind the wall. What was happening that caused him to become entranced by a total stranger? He was here to see if his daughter was still here, but instead, he was ogling this woman. There was no room in his heart for anyone other than his precious Elizabeth. Looking around, he noticed that there was no one, other than this woman, in the area. He assumed that he missed his mom and Elizabeth. The urge to take one more look was enormous, but he couldn’t allow it. Walking out of the building, Edward got in his car and began to drive to his parents home to pick up his girl. He was happy that he had been able to find a home the next street over. It just happened that his backyard butted up against his parents’ backyard. The plans were to build a gate between the two properties, with a walkway that Elizabeth could use to go between the two properties.
Esme and Carlisle had lived with him in New York, taking care of Elizabeth while he worked, teaching him how to care for his daughter. These last four years of devotion that Carlisle had given during this difficult time healed the wounds of their relationship. However, Edward was determined not to make the same mistakes with Elizabeth. When he was offered a position at Johns Hopkins, one of his stipulations was that he had needed a more liberal work schedule because he was a single father. The board at Johns Hopkins wanted Edward Cullen’s talent in cardiothoracic surgery, so if it meant more liberal working hours, so be it.
Arriving at his parents’ home, he walked in the front door to be met by a giggling red-haired little girl, running at full blast with her arms opened wide. “DADDY!”
Edward swooped Elizabeth up into his arms and tossed her into the air, catching her as she fell. “Hello, my little Ladybug.”
“Hi, Daddy. I need to ratiss, ratiss, ratiss,” Elizabeth exclaimed, her green eyes sparkling in happiness.
“Ratiss?” Edward asked.
“Yes, Daddy, ratiss. Miss Bella said I done a great job today, but I need to ratiss to get gooder,” Elizabeth explained.
“Ah, practice. You need to practice to get better,” Edward chuckled. “You can do that in your playroom when we get home,” Edward said, placing Elizabeth down.
Stomping her little foot, placing her hands on her hips, she frowned up at Edward. “Daddy, that floor is not good for my ratiss.”
“And what type of floor do you need?” Edward asked.
“Like the floor at Miss Bella’s studio, duh,” she sassed.
“Elizabeth Marie Cullen, don’t use that tone,” Esme growled as she came around the corner, wiping her hands on a kitchen towel. “Now apologize to your Daddy, or there will be no dessert for you tonight.”
“Sorry, Daddy, but can I get a gooder floor for my playroom to ratiss on?”
“Maybe. Now go wash your hands and face for dinner,” Edward said, placing a kiss on the top of her head.
Elizabeth took off to do as she was told and Edward bent down to place a kiss on Esme’s cheek. “Hi, Mom. It sounds like she had a great time.”
“Oh she did, and she really is a natural. Bella was very impressed,” Esme boasted. “Dinner will be ready in about twenty minutes, go have a drink with your father.”
“Is he is the den?”
“Yes, watching the Orioles play.”
Edward walked towards the den and as he neared, he heard his father yelling. “That was a fucking strike, you blind asshole!”
When he arrived, he saw his father dressed in jeans, his favorite Oriole shirt, with a glass of beer in his hand. “The blind umpire behind the plate again?” Edward joked as he got a bottle of Coors Light and sat down beside his father.
“I swear I am going to send my buddy Marcus to his house to give him an eye exam,” Carlisle growled.
Edward chuckled at his father. When he got to really know him, he found that he was more like him than he ever knew. They had the same tastes in beer, sports, books, and, most of all, their love for Elizabeth.
The bond between Carlisle and his granddaughter was strong. He had walked her all night long when she was sick, played every part of her favorite Disney princess story, and told her a bedtime story every night. Elizabeth had him wrapped around her little finger and her every wish was made possible. But he also made she sure that she knew how lucky she was and that many little girls and boys didn’t have all the toys, pretty clothes, and food that she had. Carlisle took her once a week when they were in New York to homeless shelters where she gave out food and books to those children. For many hours, she would sit and play with them, enjoying her time with them. When they moved back to Baltimore, Carlisle had started looking and planning a center for homeless children and their parents. He wanted to put his money to good use and helping those less fortunate was a good place to start. The name LadyBug Haven would be its name, named after his own little Ladybug.
The adorable nickname came about when Carlisle and Edward took Elizabeth to the park one summer day. Elizabeth was lying on a blanket beside them as they read a book to her when a nine-spotted ladybug landed on her arm. Instead of being afraid of it, Elizabeth took her little finger and allowed it to crawl up on her hand. Edward was amazed by how gentle she was with it and he took his camera out and took a picture of them together. When they arrived home, Elizabeth asked to have the picture printed and placed by her bed, next to her mother’s photo. From the day forward, they began to call her Ladybug.
“Dinner is ready,” Esme called out from the kitchen.
“Yeah!!!” Elizabeth yelled, running toward the dining room and getting into her chair.
They enjoyed a delicious dinner and lively conversation with Elizabeth talking about her day and how she loved her ballet class.
“Daddy, are you coming to my class Thursday?” Elizabeth asked.
“I can’t this week, but next week I cleared my schedule so I can come to both of your classes,” Edward explained.
“Okay, Daddy. Pappy are you coming?”
“I wouldn’t miss it for the world,” Carlisle gushed.
Soon after dinner, Edward and Elizabeth headed home to get ready for bed. After a princess bubble bath, putting on her favorite ladybug nightgown, and a bedtime story from her Pappy via the video screen in her room, she was ready to go to sleep.
With a big yawn and sleepy eyes, Elizabeth gave her daddy a hug. “I luv you.”
“I love you, too, bug, goodnight.”
Elizabeth turned to her side facing the silver frame on her bedside table. “Goodnight, mama,” she told the picture of Maggie then closed her eyes and fell fast asleep.
Edward stayed a while in Elizabeth’s room, watching her sleep. It was one of his favorite times of the day, the peaceful serenity of his sleeping child. Placing a kiss on her forehead and making sure she was tucked in tight, Edward left the room, closing the door behind him. After checking his email, both personal and business he decided to call it a night. Climbing in between his cool sheets, he set his alarm and drifted off to sleep.
“Edward, Edward,” the voice in the darkness called out.
“Who are you?”
“Someone who is in your past, but it is time for you to look to the future.”
“I know my future and that is with Elizabeth,” Edward said, trying to see who was talking to him.
“Open your heart, let it beat again. You have an abundant amount of love within you and you need to let it out to someone other than Elizabeth,” the voice said.
“I can’t; I won’t allow myself to be hurt again,” Edward cried.
“You must, because she is waiting for you and has been for a very long time. Just let your heart go and allow it to happen.”
Edward awoke from the dream and sat up in the bed. What the hell was that and why was the voice so familiar? He had had similar dreams over the years, but none this vivid. What was the meaning and why today? Finally coming to the conclusion that he couldn’t answer the questions, he finally settled in and went back to sleep. However, this time it wasn’t only the voices that were in his dreams, but the dark-haired beauty was also dancing around the room. The next morning, he awoke tired from the continual dreams. The day was long, but he kept going, thanks to a large amount of coffee.
Esme brought Elizabeth over after work and looked at the playroom to see what would need to be done to rip up the carpet and put down wood floors. She would put a practice bar and mirrors on one wall. After finishing up her measurements and sketches, she gave Elizabeth a hug and kiss then went home to make some calls. A mini dance studio was in the works.
The next day, Elizabeth was excited about ballet class and asked every five minutes if it was time to go. Finally, the time arrived to go, and she loved every second of the class. Esme told Bella what time dinner was planned for tomorrow night. Elizabeth was excited that she was going to get to see her again tomorrow.
“Maybe after dinner, you can come to my house and see where my ratiss room is going to be,” Elizabeth said bouncing on her toes.
“I would love to see it, if it is okay with your father.”
“Daddy won’t mind.”
The next day Edward only worked a half day because the contractor was already working on Elizabeth’s ballet practice room. Esme had come over in the morning, but she needed to get home to cook for the dinner tonight. His brothers and wives were coming and so was Elizabeth’s ballet teacher. Esme had explained to him that Bella had been a dear friend of the family for many years.
After the contractor left for the day, Edward and Elizabeth got ready to go to the dinner. A small argument ensued over what Elizabeth wanted to wear to the party.
“But, Daddy, I want to wear my tutu to show Miss Bella,” Elizabeth cried.
“Not this time; why don’t you wear one of your pretty dresses,” Edward pleaded.
“NO! I WANT TO WEAR MY TUTU!” Elizabeth screamed.
“Elizabeth, lower your voice. You will wear one of your dresses and that is it,” Edward explained in his stern father voice.
Tears began to flow down her little cheeks and her little lip stuck out. “I’m sorry,”
“I know. Now let’s pick out a pretty dress and get to the party. Uncle Emmett is going to be there.”
“Yay, Uncle Em,” Elizabeth said, forgetting all about the tutu.
Edward and Elizabeth drove over to the house and by the number of cars in the driveway, he knew that his brothers were already there. As soon as Elizabeth was in the door, she was running to find her Uncle Em and Uncle J. Edward knew that she found them by the squeals of laughter coming from the kitchen.
When he walked in, Elizabeth was in Emmett’s large arms, as he was blowing raspberries on her face.
“Uncle Em, you are making me all wet,” She laughed.
“Jasper catch,” Emmett said before throwing Elizabeth to him.
Jasper caught the little princess and began to tickle her.
“Uncle J, stop, please stop,” She cried with giggles.
“What is going on in here?” Edward asked.
“Save me, Daddy, save me,” Elizabeth yelled.
Jasper winked at Edward, then threw Elizabeth to Edward, who caught her with ease. This wasn’t the first time they had done this with Elizabeth, who loved every second of the attention.
Bella had arrived at Carlisle and Esme’s home, and was straightening her dress and grabbing the bottle of wine and gift bag that held a gift for Elizabeth. She had gotten her a pair of pointe shoes. Walking up to the door, she rang the bell and waited patiently. Soon the door was opened by a smiling Carlisle. “Bella, dear, I am so happy you could come.”
“Thank you for inviting me. This is for dinner,” Bella said, handing Carlisle the bottle.
“I will go open it and let it breathe, come, everyone is in the kitchen.”
As they neared the kitchen, Bella heard Elizabeth laughing loudly. She never tired of hearing a child’s laugh. It was second to seeing a child dance across the floor. When they walked in, Bella saw Elizabeth tickling Emmett and then running over and tickling Jasper. Bella couldn’t help but chuckle out loud at the sight, which made Elizabeth look.
“MISS BELLA!” Elizabeth yelled, running towards her.
Bella bent down and welcomed her into her arms. Elizabeth wrapped her little arms around her neck and held on tight. “Hello, Elizabeth.”
“Miss Bella, I am so happy you are here.”
“I am happy to be here,” Bella confirmed then handed the bag to Elizabeth. “I brought you something.”
“Oh,” Elizabeth gasped taking the bag from Bella. When she pulled out the pointe shoes, she yelped. “They are pointe shoes.”
“That they are.”
“Daddy, look what Miss Bella gave me.”
Edward had heard Elizabeth scream Bella’s name and when he turned to where Elizabeth was running, he was shocked that she was the woman he had ogled at the studio. As beautiful as she was dancing at the studio, tonight she was even more so. Her hair was down from the bun and laid in curls down her back. The dress she wore exquisitely fit her tiny frame, showing off all her curves. But when she dropped to her knees to welcome Elizabeth, his heart skipped a beat. He watched as she handed Elizabeth a gift and when she pulled out the pink shoes with the silk straps, he saw how much she loved them. He was caught in a haze, staring at Bella and only came out of his trance when Elizabeth called his name.
Elizabeth pulled Bella over to where her daddy was standing. Bella had not met Edward but had seen pictures of him and thought he was very handsome. However, nothing prepared her for being face to face to him. He had a strong, angular jaw, full pouty lips, and piercing green eyes. Edward Cullen was fucking gorgeous, and she didn’t know why she did it, but she looked down his broad chest, to his slim waist, and then she saw it. The outline of his cock. HOLY HELL.
“Miss Bella, this is my Daddy. Daddy, this is Miss Bella,” Elizabeth introduced.
Bella raised her face, her cheeks blooming with a bright red from what she had just seen. “Hello, Edward,” she said, holding out her hand.
Edward didn’t think she could be even more beautiful, but seeing her blush sent him over the edge. Taking her hand in his, he didn’t shake it, but brought it up to his lips and placed a kiss. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Bella.”