The Path We Choose

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Chapter 18


"God damn it!" I yelled out in frustration as I stood in front of the mirror. I can't ever get a fucking bow tied to save my life.

"Need help, son?" my mother kindly asked, with an amused look on her face.

I just looked at her and rolled my eyes, motioning her over to me and stood in front of her as she reached up to take the fabric in her hand to help me finish getting dressed.

"My boy, you look so handsome in your tux. Are you excited about seeing your Bella all dressed up?" Esme asked me.

I blew out a frustrated breath. Alice and Tanya both had been giving me hell all week about how fantastic Bella would look tonight but wouldn't tell me anything else, not even what color dress she was wearing.

"Yes, Mama I am. Although it would have helped if my darling little sister or traitorous best friend would have let me know anything this week!" I pouted, sounding much like one of my own children do when they don't get their way.

She rightfully laughed at me. "Edward, don't try to spoil the girls' fun. You should be excited that Bella wants to keep it a surprise for you. I have to tell you son, I am looking forward to meeting her tomorrow more than I can possibly tell you."

She sounded somewhat wistful as she said that, much like Carlisle did the other night when he was talking about Bella. I wish I knew what the hell that was all about, but I didn't have time to think about it right now.

"I'm glad Ma, she's been nervous all week about dinner tomorrow. I've tried telling her she has nothing to fear and that you two will love her…which I have no doubt you will. How could you not, she's perfect! This has been such a hard week for her, but thanks to Alice and Tanya, she's doing much better today. With the exception of being anxious about tomorrow that is." I ran my hands through my hair in frustration. I can not, for the life of me, figure out why Bella is so nervous about meeting my parents.

Alice had done nothing but talk non-stop about Bella since their time together last weekend and Tanya has been no better at the office. Emmett is not pleased to be the last one to meet Bella, besides my parents. Hell, even Demetri met her during the week when he came by the loft with Tanya to meet up with Seth. We wound up ordering pizza at Bella's and played the Wii while my mom and dad had taken the kids to a movie and out to dinner.

It goes without saying that Dem was totally and utterly speechless when he met Bella. Of course he recognized her immediately. I thought his damn eyes would bug the hell out of his head and I was certain his chin would never come up off the floor. But, once he got over being awestruck by her, he laughed and teased with her the same he does with Ali and Tanya.

Bella had blossomed this past week as she had spent time with Ali, Tanya and Dem. Seth mentioned it to me last night as he was taking the kids and I home from Bella's. She was sitting in the back of the suburban talking with Maddie and Masen about their week at school and about going to Nana and Papa's on Sunday. They were begging her to bring Rufus, but she has held them off…so far.

"Edward," Seth began quietly as he looked in the rearview mirror to make sure the other three weren't paying attention.

When I looked at him, he started, "Man, I can't begin to tell you how fucking happy it makes me to see my girl with that smile on her face…all the damn time," he chuckled as he rolled his eyes.

I glanced back to look at my life and there they sat, Bella in the middle of Maddie and Masen, holding each of their hands as they all huddled their heads close together and kept up the conversation they had going on, completely oblivious to anything else. She loved my kids completely and they adored her like no other. Yes they had my parents and Ali, Emmett, Tanya and Demetri, but what Bella gave them, they couldn't find anywhere else but with her. A mother's love and devotion and she gave it to them in heaps and bounds. She was incredible and the most amazing person, man or woman, that I had ever met in my life.

"Seth, you know, by now I'm sure, Bella is my life now and there isn't anything on Earth I wouldn't do for or give to her if I could," I told him, sincere in every word.

He cut his eyes to mine, his look clearly stating that I was dumb ass for even thinking I needed to let him know that…again. "Man, I know that. What I'm trying to say and apparently doing a piss poor job of getting out is this. I have talked to Jasper and Rose, and I have talked to Bella as well. We all know you have been exceedingly patient with her in giving her time to tell you about her past. And while we are all more grateful than words can ever, ever fucking express man, you need to get her to talk to you. She needs it and your relationship requires it in order for you to be able to move forward. I've let her know my opinion many times on this. Jasper has been fucking relentless with her about it and Rose is somewhere between J and I."

I got a little pissed at this, wondering why the hell Jasper was pushing her so badly. I had told Bella I would give her all the time she needed and I meant it. Yes, I wanted her to talk to me, but I would wait until she was ready. It wasn't an issue of not trusting me; we had already established that was not the case in the least. Bella had explained that she had been alone for so long, with just the three of them and Seth's mom Sue at times, that it was hard to open some thing she had kept so tightly closed for such a long time.

I understood that.

Bella and I spent a tear filled couple of hours after everyone went home the night we were all at Bella's talking about Lauren. Bella was literally almost in hysterics as I explained the situation with Lauren when the twins were born. Because she loved Maddie and Masen so thoroughly, she couldn't even comprehend how someone could just give them up…and to do so for money. I was brutally honest with Bella, explaining my part in the whole thing and how I just never got around to telling Lauren how I truly felt until it was too late and her plan had already been set in motion. Of course, Bella didn't blame me in the least and the evil glint in her eye when I explained what Alice had done told me more than words could the level of Bella's devotion to me and to the children. She loved the three of us fiercely and no one would ever hurt any of us, especially the twins, if my girl had anything to say about it.

"Seth, she's had a bitch of a week while Alice has argued with and threatened Aro and Jane, you know this. On top of that, she is meeting my parents and brother tomorrow. Bella has completely worked herself into a frantic state about tomorrow, there is no way I could add anything on top of that if I want her to remain sane…which I do for obvious reasons," I told him succinctly.

He held one of his hands up to me and chuckled, "I hear you man. Tanya told me how crazy Shortcake was being about meeting the 'rents. She never has been able to see herself clearly and her upbringing hasn't helped with her confidence either. Bell has worked harder than you can ever imagine getting to where she is now, but it hasn't come without pain."

I looked at him, my eyes clearly asking the unspoken question. "No way man, I'm not saying a word. This is between you and little one back there. I'm out…completely, until she asks for help."

I sighed in frustration at him, but I wouldn't expect anything else from him. His love for Bella is without question and she comes first…always. No questions asked.

My mom finally got me all dressed and ready to go. Fucking pathetic that at the age of 32, I still needed my Mama's help, but I am her favorite child, so it's all good.

I looked at myself in the mirror and ran a hand through my hair…again. I looked decent enough, no where near the level someone on Bella's arm should look, but I'm not complaining one damn bit.

"Thanks, Mama. You did a great job on the tie. At least now I won't embarrass Bella all to hell by showing up with a crooked tie!" I told her as I kissed her cheek.

"You two have a wonderful evening and we'll see you tomorrow right after noon, ok?" my mom asked me knowing I would try to not be late. "I can't wait to meet your Bella, Edward. The woman that has put the smiles I see everyday on the faces of my grandchildren and son must be pretty darn special." she finished as she kissed my cheek.

"Special doesn't even begin to cover it Ma, not even close. Kiss the kids good night for me and tell them Bella and I will see them tomorrow afternoon, ok? You and dad have fun with them and don't let them stay up too late," I told her as I grabbed the bag I already packed and my wallet, keys and cell off the bureau to go to the car and then to go get my girl.

I threw my bag in the Aston Martin, and then ran my hand across the roof. Yes, I love my fucking car. She is a gorgeous piece of machinery and my Bella would be driven to this shin dig in the hottest car there is…she deserved nothing less.

I got to the loft to get Bella about 10 minutes early, knowing we needed to get a move on so we weren't late. We barely managed this outing to begin with, no sense pushing our luck by being late. Jasper and Alice, through their relentless arguing and point making with Aro and Jane finally wore them down enough to relent and let Bella go tonight with me. I was a little wary of the way the whole thing played out, it seemed like they backed down pretty damn quick for something they were so adamant about, but Bella felt better so that's what I concentrated on.

Alice answered the door then promptly kissed my cheek on her way to the elevator, telling me she would see me the next day at lunch. I walked in, and fixed myself a glass of water while I waited on Bella to finish up.

"Baby, I'm almost ready," she yelled from her room as I heard her moving around.

I finished my water and looked at my watch; we were okay still, but just barely. "That's all right angel, we have a few minutes to spare baby. Just hurry your ass up so I can kiss you before we have to go."

Yeah, there would definitely be kissing commencing as soon as possible.

I had turned around to put my glass in the sink when I felt her behind me. I spun back around to face her and I almost fainted because I couldn't fucking breathe.

Fuck me…holy hell…so fucking exquisite.

"Isabella," I breathed, I cleared my throat to try again, "Isabella, my love, you are a vision baby. I have never seen anything so breathtaking in my life. I love you so much," I said softly as I cupped her head in my hands and pressed my lips against her warm soft ones.

I plunged my tongue into her mouth, caressing her tongue with my own and tasting my favorite taste of all time…Bella.

Before I was too tempted to run my fingers through her hair, I kissed her on the forehead and stepped back from my love. Damn, she is so beautiful.

And my necklace laid there; set off perfectly by her pale skin and dark blue dress.


"Angel, you truly look fucking spectacular. No one will even notice me standing beside you, all anyone will see is how gorgeous you are," I told her as I picked up her hand and brushed my lips across her knuckles.

I heard her sigh as I walked her towards the door to grab her wrap and her evening bag. I looked at her and smirked as I caught her checking me out in my tux. Glad to know it wasn't only me that was becoming overcome with lust.

"Edward, you look so handsome in your tux. Every woman there will be jealous of me baby," she giggled as she stepped on the tips of her silver sandals.

Her feet looked so fucking sexy in those shoes, not to mention what they did to her legs… Christ she's going to make it impossible for me to do anything but sit with a napkin in my lap for the whole night.

I held my hand out to her as she walked towards me and when she was close enough, I bent down and told her sexily, "There is only one person for me beautiful, and that is the woman that is going to be on my arm. Now, let's hit the road before we're late."

Bella gasped when we made it to the parking garage and she saw the car. It was a fucking amazing piece of machinery and until I met Bella was one of my most treasured possessions. Now, everything else paled in comparison to her.

We arrived at the Gala right on time and as we waited in line for the valet, Bella began fidgeting in her seat and biting her bottom lip. I reached over and put my hand on her thigh, trying to get her to calm down.

"Angel, stop it. It will be fine, don't worry. You look sensational and Seth and Tanya are going to be here. We're all here for you sweet girl, promise," I told her as I picked up her hand and gripped it in my own.

She took a deep, cleansing breath and answered, "I know Edward. Are you sure you're ready to walk out there with me, getting your picture taken and asked question after question? We don't have to… you can leave if you…I mean…"

I chuckled at her before I said, "Bella shut the hell up. You know I wouldn't want to be anywhere but beside you. Now, let's go get our picture taken so I can freak the hell out of my brother when he sees it. He is going to shit his pants!"

Luckily Bella laughed and the mood lightened considerably. I knew she was anxious about this. She was worried about my picture being taken and out there everywhere, she was concerned about explaining to the kids and my parents. Bella had to get up and make a small speech and she was terrified of making a mistake in front of a thousand people.

I knew the only thing I could do was hold her hand and assure her of my presence and hope I gave her the strength she needed to get the night over with.

It was time to get out of the car and I rushed around to Bella's door, nudging the valet out of the way to help her out. No way was anyone touching my girl if I could help it.

Dickhead couldn't decide what to ogle more, the woman or the car.

Bella won hands down in my book, but if he wanted to look at the car, he would get no arguments from me. That just meant less staring at Bella.

The flashbulbs were flashing as soon as she stepped out. I gripped her tightly around the waist as we made our way to the entrance, rubbing circles on her waist as I tried to keep her calm with my touch. I watched as she took a few deep breaths and reached up to grab her pendant in her fingers, absentmindedly traced over it with her thumb. I couldn't stop the rush of pleasure watching her do that gave me.

I continued to hear the click of cameras and the shouts of "Isa, this way.", "Isa who is your date?", "Is that your boyfriend?" coming from all directions until we stopped in front of a microphone.

Alice and Jasper had agreed to have Bella give a small interview in exchange for allowing me to accompany her tonight. Aro and Jane got added exposure, Bella got to attend with me. Everyone felt like it was a win win…well except for Bella. She was terrified she would say something wrong and upset me or Jasper somehow.

I looked up at the person holding the microphone and was met with the frizzy blonde hair of Irina Sokolov. Uugh, Irina was a local reporter for one of the city's magazines and was well known for her less than stellar interviewing capabilities.

"Isa, you look beautiful tonight. Are you excited to be here?" Irina asked in the most nasally sounding voice you have ever heard.

Bella shifted and took my hand in hers and gripped it so tightly it was almost painful. But I watched as my girl got her shit together and looked serene as can be as she answered, "Thank you Irina. Yes, I'm very happy and honored to be here. Tonight is for a great cause."

The Gala was a benefit for cancer research and Bella seemed particularly passionate about the topic. I couldn't help but think of Carlisle then, knowing he felt the same as Bella about it.

"And who is this handsome man standing next to you?" Irina asked, looking me up and down and I am sure I saw her lick her lips. I shuddered internally at that.

Bella squeezed my hand again and looked at me with her perfect smile; her eyes alight with love for me. "This, Irina, is my wonderful and amazing boyfriend Edward Cullen."

"Edward Cullen, as in Cullen Pharmaceuticals?" the reporter asked, sounding somewhat shocked at that.

I answered, "My Uncle Marcus and cousin Demetri run that business Irina. My father and I are doctors in private practice. My family is in charge of the Cullen Foundation and are interested in the cause we are here to raise money for as well," I answered, hoping that sounded okay.

"Well, Edward, what do you think about your Isa being splashed around on magazine covers all over the world?" Irina asked nastily, but I am sure she didn't intend it to sound quite that bad.

Bella gasped beside me but I wrapped my arm around her waist and pulled her close to me and kissed her temple before I answered, "Irina, my Bella is a beautiful woman who I am proud to say loves me as much as I love her. Who wouldn't want to look at her, I mean she's gorgeous. I know the real Bella; the world only knows the face. Now, if you'll excuse us, we need to make our way inside."

And with that, I turned us and we walked in to the Gala.

Bella thanked me profusely after she tried to apologize for putting me in that situation. I just kissed her to make her shut the hell up before I told her it was nothing and I couldn't wait for our picture to be posted everywhere. I wanted the world to know who she belonged to!

The night was a huge success and Bella's speech was perfect and full of emotion. I couldn't help but wonder what made her feel so strongly about the subject, but got sidetracked as I watched a very attractive woman with long straight black hair walk towards Bella with…my best friend Ben trailing behind her.

When he spotted me, his face broke out into a shit eating grin. "Edward, man, what the hell are you doing here?" my best friend laughed at me as he gave me a huge hug.

I had missed the hell out of him; I hadn't seen him in weeks and only talked to him a few times on the phone.

"I could ask you the same thing jackass," I said as I slapped his back and stepped away from him.

Ben looked back and forth between Bella and I before he broke out into laughter, laughing so hard he had to hold his stomach before he asked me "Does Emmett know?"

I smirked at him and ran a hand through my hair before taking hold of Bella's hand. I looked from her to him before I snorted and said, "No way man. She's meeting him tomorrow. It'll be classic."

He chuckled and said, "No shit man. Make sure you take pictures, I would pay good money to see it." He held his fist out and I bumped his with my own.

Bella looked at me and then Ben before scowling at me and I kissed her temple before I said, "Ben Cheney, meet Bella Swan, love of my life."

She melted at that. I couldn't help myself, I tried I really did, but sometimes she just made it so damn easy.

"Bella, it is a pleasure to meet you," Ben told her. "Edward, this is Angela Jacobs, my girlfriend and your girl's personal assistant."

I looked from Bella to Ben to Angela, laughing at myself when Bella gave me the look that said, 'See, it's no fun when it's you, is it?'

"Angela, it's nice to meet you. How is my boy treating you?" I asked as I punched Ben in the arm.

"Edward, it's so nice to finally meet you, Bella has told me so much about you. And as for Ben, he's…well he's perfect," she said on a heavy sigh.

"Good to know, you let me know if I need to kick his ass. I'm still bigger than he is, I can do it," I teased as Ben rolled his eyes at me.

The rest of the evening was fun, I had to admit. I was happy as hell to catch up with Ben and when Seth and Tanya joined us, the night just flew by. Seth and Ben got along great, and I couldn't help but smile when I thought about adding Emmett to the mix. Ben already loved my idiot brother and I knew Seth would too and that the four of us could have a lot of fun together.

Bella happily sat and talked and laughed with Tanya and Angela, looking more relaxed than she had all week. I couldn't help but keep my hand or some part of my body connected to hers constantly. It was like her body pulled me to her's and I couldn't help but obey.

I leaned into her during a heated argument Seth and Ben were having about the Yankees, and kissed her behind her ear, smirking as I heard her breath catch as I whispered, "Baby, you are so fucking beautiful, but I can't wait to get you home and see what you have on underneath this dress." I licked her earlobe and down the side of her neck, feeling her hand as she squeezed my thigh.

She turned to me, her eyes hooded with lust as she leaned in close to me to softly tell me, "Edward, love of my life, who says I'm wearing anything under this dress?" Then she kissed me quickly on the cheek and turned her attention back to the girls.

Fucking vixen…Shit, now all I can think about is the fact that she might be naked underneath her dress.

I bent my head down to her shoulder before I peppered it with kisses and replied back, "Fuck baby, you can't say shit like that to me. All I can think about now is throwing you down on that table and fucking you until you scream my name for the entire room to hear."

She gave me a look that set my whole body on fire before she huskily said, "Edward, when we get home, I promise you can make me scream as many times as you wish. I'm yours baby, you know that."

God damn if that is not the hottest fucking thing she has ever said to me.

The rest of the night passed quickly and as we were getting ready to go, Bella tensed as a man and woman approached the table as I was helping her stand up.

"Isa, you look beautiful," said the man who looked at my girl with undisguised lust in his eyes.

Fucker better back the hell up! I thought as I tensed my arms and curled my hands into fists beside my legs. I felt Seth move beside me and he stood protectively close to Bella.

"Thank you, Aro. May I introduce you to Edward Cullen, my boyfriend? Edward, sweetheart, this is Aro Volturi and his lovely daughter Jane. Aro, Jane, this is my Edward," my girl said with a tone of her voice I had never heard before.

I held my hand out to Aro, staring in his eyes. There was nothing there, just blankness, void of all emotion. It was freaky as shit.

"Nice to meet you Aro, you too Jane," I finished as I looked at her.

The look she was giving my Bella was enough to make my skin crawl. She looked at Bella like she wanted her to burst in to flames and disappear. Seth moved instinctually closer still to Bella and I stepped to her other side. There was something about those two that creeped me the fuck out.

"Isa, we'll be talking with you soon," Aro eerily told Bella as he picked her hand up and kissed the back of it; Jane looked like she might explode and Bella just looked sick.

What the hell was that all about?

Seth looked at Bella intently as Aro and Jane said their goodbyes; he and Bella held a silent conversation before he nodded and she turned to look at me. She stepped in close and put her little hands on my chest as she stood on her tip toes and whispered, "Baby, I believe you mentioned something about making me scream?" I mutely nodded my head at her as she continued in a sexy, gravelly voice, "Then lets get home Edward, I want"

I rushed the two of us out of there, throwing good byes to Ben and Angela over my shoulder and I paid no attention to the smirks on the faces of Tanya and Seth.

We made it home, somehow, and upstairs in her apartment…my mind filled with thoughts of the things I couldn't wait to do to my Bella once that door shut.

As I picked her up to carry her to her room I groaned to her, "Angel, I hope you ate your dinner. You're going to need your energy to keep up with me tonight."

"Bring it old man," is what I heard as I pushed the door closed with my foot and threw her on the bed.

When she was lying naked and waiting for me the only thing I could think of was that I was the luckiest bastard on the planet.


I woke up to the feel of Bella curled up to my chest, her hair splayed over me. I ran my fingers through it, watching the sunlight bring out every shade of brown and red imaginable as the light washed over it.

Christ, she is so fucking beautiful and perfect and …mine!

She was amazing last night, once she got out of the car and put her game face on. I had asked her during the night, when we were taking a break from making love after the third time I might add, if she minded that I called her 'Bella' in the interview. Bella looked at me with her face scrunched up as she replayed the conversation with the reporter in her head. I could tell immediately when she remembered what I'd said.

"No, I don't mind Edward, but why did you do that?" she asked me sweetly as I held her in my arms, relishing in the heat of her body pressed against mine.

"Because angel, you're my Bella. To everyone else in the world, or to those who don't know you, you're 'Isa'. But to those of us who love you, me especially, you're Bella. I wanted the world to know that there is a distinction between the two…and also to make it known that you, my love, are mine."

That announcement won me another round of lovemaking with my girl, and one that was most especially intense.

Bella started to move and I knew she was waking up. Hopefully the butterflies from the previous week were gone. She knows how Maddie and Masen feel about her and Alice will be there, too, so maybe that will help. Mama also said that Demetri and Tanya would be there this afternoon as well as Uncle Marcus and Aunt Diane. I smiled thinking about Dem and Em with my Bella; it was going to be a sight to see to watch the two of them with her.

I heard my favorite voice in the world when I felt her lips against my chest and then she mumbled, "Mmmm, morning baby."

I pulled her on top of me, letting her body completely cover mine, her naked breasts pressed enticingly against my chest as I ran my hand up and down her spine and lifted my head up to give her a kiss. "Morning to you too beautiful, as much as I thoroughly love having you in this position, we need to get up and get moving. I told Ma we would be at the house no later than noon and I know Maddie and Masen will be driving everyone mad until I get you there. They love you more than me, I think," I pouted to her.

"Oh cut it out you big baby," she giggled as she moved rousingly on top of me, "I'm just the shiny new toy that they want to play with. I'm sure it won't last long."

"Does that mean I get to play with you, too? Please?" I begged, not kidding around in the least. "And Bella, you know that last part is so untrue. We all love you, forever sweet girl…and not a moment less," I told her, hoping she understood that there was no future for any of us without her in it.

Bella kissed my jaw and then my chest before she lifted up off me and held her hand out to me, "Come on Kit Kat, let's go play in the shower before we have to go."

Well, I am all for conserving water so how could I refuse?

We finished our shower after a round of extremely hot shower sex. Yep, there is not much that is better than Bella pressed up against the wall of the shower, warm water raining down on us and her smell circling all around.

As I was getting dressed, I groaned as I stood up and felt the sore muscles in my legs.

"Damn baby, I'm getting too old for non-stop sex for twelve hours. You're going to need to take it easy on me for the next few days angel," I told her as I finished buttoning up my shirt.

Bella came out of the bathroom where she had finished fixing her hair, which looked phenomenal as it hung straight down her back all shiny and shit and smelled even better.

Yes, I am quite aware that I am a wee bit obsessed with her hair, but I don't give a fuck.

She pushed me on the bed and crawled on top of me before she took my bottom lip in her mouth and ground her hips into mine then said in the sexiest fucking voice I have ever heard, "Edward, my love, there are other things we can do that don't require any exertion from you at all. I'll do all the work baby." She finished, licking her lips and pressed her warm center against my growing erection and evilly moved back and forth.

I swatted her on the ass and said, "Sweet girl, unless you want me to undo all the work you just finished in getting ready, get the hell off me before I turn you over and fuck the ever living shit out of you."

She giggled at me and rolled off me saying, "Promises, promises Edward," and blew me a kiss as she went to go put her shoes on.

Damn I loved the hell out of that woman, she drove me totally insane. Sweet and adorable one minute, sexy and confident the next and then shy and unsure just as quick…my Bella. I think it will take me a lifetime to understand her…and I can't wait for every minute.

Bella walked into the kitchen and grabbed the boxes that contained the food she was bringing to the house for dinner. I begged for cheesecake so she made that as well as lemon squares. I had told her they were my mom's favorite and Bella wanted to make her some. I didn't care; I got my cheesecake so I was happy.

We met Seth on his floor and then went to the parking garage. Seth was driving us today and then he was going to go get Tanya. I didn't want an entire house full of people when Bella first met my parents but I knew once she got past the initial introduction, everything would be smooth sailing from there.

I sat in the back seat with Bella, feeling like an idiot being driven around but it did allow me to sit close to Bella and nuzzle my nose into her hair for the entire ride to my parent's house. Rufus was happily sitting in his kennel in the front seat with Seth. Bella is such a sucker, but I couldn't blame her. Maddie and Masen were hard to resist at times.

"Shortcake," Seth's booming voice interrupted my nuzzling, "are you ready for this little one?"

I felt Bella take a deep breath before she answered, "I'd shut the hell up if I were you baby cakes. You do realize that Edward's parents are practically Tanya's as well don't you? I mean, you are getting introduced to her pseudo parents too you dumb ass."

She broke out into a fit of giggles as we watched Seth swallow repeatedly before he squeaked out, "Motherfucker. Ed, man, you'll help me, won't you? Your dad isn't a big man is he? Shit…"

I couldn't help but laugh with Bella as I watched the man go completely pale. I have to say I was more than a little pleased by the progression of their relationship. Seth is a terrific guy and there really wasn't anyone I could think of that would be better for Tanya than him. My best friend deserved to be happy, no doubt about it.

I snickered and leaned forward and slapped his shoulder, "You got it man. My dad will be a push over; Em's the one you have to worry about. He puts you and Demetri to shame when it comes to size and he loves Tanya almost as much as I do."

Seth's eyebrows went all the way to his hair line and I swear I heard him squeak when he said, "Fuck. Bell, you'll be there right, I mean everyone loves you. Oh, and the kids, Edward. Maddie and Masen love me; they'll help me too, won't they?"

Ok, he'd worked himself up enough by this point and Bella wasn't helping at all as she continued to laugh at her best friend.

"Seth, calm the hell down man. You'll be fine. You don't have anything to worry about. My parents are really easy going and Em is a pushover. Stop panicking already. And seriously, you would use my kids to help protect you? Smooth dude, fucking smooth," I chuckled as I slapped him on the head.

We pulled up in front of my parent's house and Bella visibly tensed beside me and her bottom lip was in her mouth in an instant.

I leaned over and pressed my head against the side of hers and gently pulled her lip out of her mouth with my thumb as I traced over the bruised lip I loved so much as I quietly told her, "Beautiful, it will be fine, you'll see. I love you Bella, with all my heart, please trust me okay, baby?"

She nodded at me, her eyes still full of so much worry and said in a soft, worried tone, "I love you, too, Edward."

I got out of the car and made my way around to help Bella out of her side. I opened the front door and picked up Rufus while Bella held the boxed desserts in hers. I told Seth we'd see him in a few minutes and grabbed Bella's free hand with my own.

We walked closer to the front door and I squeezed Bella's hand in mine and gave her my trademark smirk when she looked at me. "Breathe, baby. I'm right here with you."

Just then the front door whipped open and we were surrounded by four arms wrapped around our legs. "Daddy! Bella!" Maddie and Masen yelled.

Wait for it…"Rufus! Bella you brought him! Thank you, thank you!" The WonderTwins hollered.

"Hey you two, let us get in the house before you go nuts, okay?" I laughed at them as I pulled Bella in behind me, walking to the kitchen.

I set the kennel on the ground for the kids to get Rufus out of it and helped Bella put the desserts on the island.

Bella had her back turned while she took them out and placed them on the counter as I heard my parents come in.

"Edward, my boy, you're here," my mom said and my dad at the same time, "Edward, son, good to see you."

I reached for Bella's hand to turn her around; she was still holding the plate of lemon squares and waited anxiously as I watched her steel herself as she spun around.

I watched in horror, everything coming in what felt like slow motion but must have happened in an instant.

My mom's hand went to her throat, my dad was frozen in place and Bella…Bella turned deathly pale before she fainted, the glass plate shattering as she fell on top of it.

"Oh my God, Bella!" I couldn't breathe. What the hell just happened? I went to pick Bella up off the floor and my hand was covered in blood.

"Dad, shit…she's bleeding. Go get your bag, hurry!" I yelled, trying to stay calm but not succeeding one damn bit.

Maddie and Masen were frozen in place, Masen clutching Rufus close to him. "You two," I said as I looked at the kids, "Take Rufus out front and wait for Seth and Tanya to get here and then tell Seth to get in here quick ok?" I asked as I held Bella tightly to me.

She hadn't moved at all yet, but her breathing was regular which helped me feel marginally better.

"But Daddy," Maddie whined to me.

I took a deep breath to keep from snapping at my kids, I knew they were just worried. "Please Princess. Bella will need Seth and Papa and I need to make sure she's ok, now go, please?"

She nodded and took Masen's hand and went to go wait for Seth.

My dad hurried back in, carrying his black bag. "Let me take a look Edward," my dad said as he tried to pry Bella away from me.

I couldn't let go of her, my hands just wouldn't loosen their grasp.

There was blood everywhere. She hit her head on the corner of the island as she fell and then the glass from the plate cut her back and shoulders. Bella was wearing a light blue sundress and her shoulders were bare, giving the glass ample opportunity to bury itself in her perfect skin.

I felt the tears on my face as I looked at my angel. She looked peaceful, but when she came to she would be in so much pain.

"Edward, we need to get up off the floor son, come on. Let's take her into the spare room and try to get her cleaned up," Carlisle told me as I finally got control of myself and stood up, as I cradled Bella so carefully.

As I was getting off the floor, the front door burst open and I heard Seth as he came barreling into the kitchen. He let out a groan and a curse as he took in Bella's form in my arms.

"What the hell happened Edward?" he ground out at me. I knew he was just concerned for her.

"Seth, I have no idea. She was standing by the island, holding a plate of cookies and when she turned around and looked at my parents she got deathly pale and then fainted. She hit her head on the corner of the island and then fell on the glass. We need to get her cleaned up and she'll need stitches on her head. I'm sure there is still glass in her back, too," I sobbed as I told him, trying to keep my breathing under control but it was damn difficult.

I watched Seth as he finally looked at my dad who was standing beside my mother trying to comfort her.

"Dr. C? Mrs. E? What…I don't…how?" Seth stuttered to my parents who were looking at both he and Bella with a look that was a mixture of relief, concern, and love.

My dad left my mother's side and took Seth into his arms, giving him a tight hug. "Seth, son, it is good to see you again. I wish it was under better circumstances, but it is so wonderful to see you," my dad continued, a small sob having escaped him.

I looked between the two of them not comprehending in the least what just happened in my house.

"Would someone please explain to me what the hell is going on here? Pop, how the hell do you know Seth and why did Bella look at you and mom like she'd seen a ghost?" I growled, getting more impatient by the second.

"Edward, I'll explain everything to you, but let's get Bella cleaned up shall we? She's been out for a few minutes already, we need to get her woken up." my dad told me as he directed me to the spare bedroom.

I gently placed Bella on the bed, moving so that my dad could take a look at her. I was too shaken up to do it myself and I would rather hold her hand then put stitches on her head.

My mom and Tanya rushed in the room with some wet towels to clean up the blood and a change of clothes for Bella since hers had blood all over them.

Bella started to come to as I wiped the wet cloth across her head as my dad got ready to suture the wound.

"Baby, it's ok. I'm here, angel," I whispered to her as I continued to work. I tried to keep her shoulders off the bed since I didn't know how much glass was back there and I didn't want to make it worse for her.

She groaned and pinched her eyes shut and tried to move her head.

"Bella, it's Carlisle sweetie; try not to move okay, just let me get this cut closed on your head and then we need to turn you over and make sure we can get all the glass out. I'll try to be as painless as possible dear," my dad said as he touched her arm in reassurance.

"Dr. C? I don't understand… how?" my girl said - acting the same way Seth had.

I looked at my father, not understanding any of this at all. "Edward, I told you, let me get her fixed up and I'll explain, please?"

"Edward," Bella whispered softly, getting my attention immediately. "Is Carlisle your father and Esme your mother? I remember seeing their faces before I blacked out, I'm not dreaming am I?" she finished, tears coming out of her closed eyes.

"Shhh, my love, I've got you. Yes, they are my parents. Bella, I…I don't understand any of this. Why do you know my dad and how have you met my mother?" I asked, as I tried to keep the anxiety out of my voice.

"It was five years ago, Edward. He…your mom…they," she tried to say through her hiccups as she started crying harder now.

I felt my dad's eyes on me, "Edward, son. I need Bella to stay calm so I can get this closed. I don't want it to leave a scar. Please, wait. I'll tell you what I can in just a moment. Focus on Bella son."

I nodded my head and my dad got to work. Once the stitches were in, we rolled Bella over and I gasped as I saw the cuts on her back from the glass. My dad used tweezers to remove the large pieces that had been embedded in her skin. We cleaned her off with more clean cloths and my dad stitched up the gashes that were the worst. He gave her a shot to stop an infection. He also gave her something for pain.

She didn't have a concussion, but she was worn out from the fall and the emotional turmoil of what happened. My dad gave her a light kiss on the top of her head and my mom came to her side and kissed her on the cheek before telling her she would talk to her in a bit.

Bella just nodded and Tanya came in to help me get Bella's clothes changed. Tanya kept some clothes here for when she visited and we slipped a t-shirt and some yoga pants on Bella. Her dress was a bloody mess and my hands shook as I balled it up to throw in the trash can.

I couldn't stop touching her, holding her hand or kissing her forehead and temple. I kept replaying the vision of her laid out on the ground, blood flowing from her head, unconscious.

"Edward," my angel said so softly I barely heard her.

I pulled her down beside me laying her down on the pillow. "Yes, my love?" I murmured to her as I ran my fingers through her hair and pressed a light kiss beside the cut on the side of her head.

"I'm so sorry," she sobbed as she began to silently cry.

I held her to me, wrapping my arms around her as I placed light kisses on every part of her I could reach.

"Bella, shush now baby. It's okay. I don't understand what happened but you're ok angel. I'm here and I've got you. I'm never letting you go sweet girl, never," I told her over and over as I rocked her back and forth, running my hands back and forth across her back.

"I'm so tired Edward, the medicine Dr. C gave me made me sleepy," Bella mumbled as she burrowed further down into the pillow.

I kissed the tip of her nose then the top of her head, "Rest now Bella. I'll be here when you wake angel." I placed one more kiss to her lips as she fell asleep and went to go find my father and find out what the hell was going on.


I walked into the living room to find Seth in the arms of my mother, tears running down his face. Tanya was sitting beside him on the sofa, holding his hand tightly. My dad was sitting in the chair across from the three of them, his head in his hands.

Seth looked up as I walked in the room and he immediately asked, "How is Bella?"

He looked completely shattered and I didn't understand anything, not at all.

"She's going to be ok Seth. Bella fell asleep once we got her clothes changed and laid her down in the bed. She is in a lot of pain, but she'll be fine once she rests for a few days. Do you know what her schedule is for the rest of the week?" I asked, knowing that Bella would not be doing any appearances whatsoever for at least a week to ten days, when Dad could take the stitches out.

He shook his head at me, "I'll have to call J, he's going to freak out when he finds out Shortcake is hurt. He'll try to fly out here right away, I know he will."

"Seth, that doesn't make any sense. He's going to be here in two weeks for Memorial Day, there is no reason for him to come now then go back to California then come back again," I told him. "Besides, I know it looks bad and everyone is freaked out, including me, but it is really not that serious."

He shook his head again and looked at Carlisle then at Esme before he said, "That's not it Edward. When he finds out Dr. C and Mrs. E are your parents, he and Rose will be on the first flight out, I guarantee it!"

"Ok, enough!" I said sharply as I raised my hands and looked from Carlisle, to Esme, to Seth. "I want answers and I want them now. What the hell is going on?" I demanded.

I heard my dad sigh and then he stood up. He looked at me, his eyes heavy with a sadness I didn't understand but it scared the living hell out of me, and then looked at Seth. "Edward, Seth, why don't you come into my office for a bit? Esme and Tanya, why don't you go sit with Bella until Emmett and Alice get here. I'm going to call Marcus and tell them not to come today."

I didn't want to be away from Bella, but I knew that whatever my father had to say was more important. Dad walked into his office and sat behind his desk leaving Seth and I to sit in the chairs in front of him. We sat in an uncomfortable silence for a few moments, everyone trying to get their thoughts together it seemed like.

"Seth, how long have you and Bella been in New York City?" my dad asked, starting the conversation. Not what I expected, but I waited for Seth to answer.

Seth let out a heavy breath and rubbed his hands across his face, wiping away the remnants of his tears before he answered, "Dr. C. Bell and I moved here a little over a year ago. Was today the first time you'd seen her since Washington?" Seth finished with his question.

Washington? How did my dad know Bella in Washington?

"Well, with the exception of seeing the pictures of her on Edward's phone not too long ago, yes, it was. I can't say it was the reunion I'd hoped for," Carlisle chuckled.

Okay, enough was enough. I stood up and began to pace. "Would someone please fill me the hell in? I'm going out of my fucking mind here guys. The woman I love is passed out in the guest bedroom, nursing a head injury she received after seeing my parents, obviously not for the first time."

"Edward, do you remember when you finished your residency and I was gone for about two months on a consultation?” my dad asked me.

I traced back over that time in my mind, remembering mom and dad both being gone for a long time in the fall of that year. "Yes, I do. What does that have to do with Bella?" I demanded.

"I met Bella during that time son; Seth, Jasper and Rose as well," my dad quietly said as he watched me absorb that information.

I gasped. There is only one reason why my dad, a well recognized cancer doctor, would meet with anyone at a hospital. Either he was there for Bella, which I couldn't even fathom, or he was there for someone else close to her.

"Why?" was the only word I could force from my lips, dreading the answer no matter the reason.

I watched as Carlisle looked at Seth and watched as Seth answered his silent question with a nod of his head. "I was there for her father Edward. He had an advanced case of Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma. When I was brought in, he was very bad off."

Had…I heard him say had. "You said had, Pop." I took a deep breath, "Is he…?"

"Yes, Edward, Charlie died almost five years ago. It will be five years the beginning of September," Seth quietly said as tears began to fall down his face. "I loved that man more than anyone else besides my mother and Bella. Jasper and Rose loved him too. When he died, the only one we had left was my mom. He was a great man Edward; I wish you could have met him," Seth finished with a sob.

"Charlie Swan was an amazing man Edward, Seth is right about that," my dad agreed.

Shit. Bella had talked so little about her family, I never knew what to expect. I suppose some part of me maybe thought he had died, but I certainly would have never expected my parents to have known him.

"Wait, Dad. I know Bella is amazing and all that, but you don't usually get to know the families of patients you consult on. What happened?" I asked, having no idea what to expect when he answered me.

"Edward, you have to understand. You are right about me not spending much time when I consult with families, but this was different."

"How?" I interrupted.

My dad held his hand up and said, "Give me a moment Edward and I'll tell you. Actually, Seth can probably tell you more about this than I can, but I'll start. I met Bella and the other three a few days after I made it to Seattle. She had come up on the weekend since she was still at school, University of Oregon, right Seth?"

This I knew, Bella had mentioned that her English degree has come from there. Seth nodded his head and my dad continued.

"Bella rushed in the room, the other three right on her heels and promptly burst into tears when she saw Charlie lying in the bed. The way Seth, Jasper and Rose picked her up and surrounded her with care and compassion was something I saw very little of and it touched me immediately. I spent some time with all four of them, going over Charlie's prognosis and treatment plan. You could tell immediately how much they all loved and adored Charlie and how devastated they were by the poor outlook for him."

Carlisle looked at Seth then, giving him a look that conveyed his respect for the way he had treated both Bella and Charlie in his presence.

"The four of them spent the entire weekend in that room with Charlie. After visiting with the group of them and finding out that both Seth's father and Jasper and Rose's parents had already passed away, I made special arrangements for them to be able to stay in the room with Bella and her father. They loved him as much as anyone else could and Bella needed them all."

"Charlie was in and out of consciousness while Bella was there, but when he was awake and saw her, his entire outlook brightened, the same went for Seth, Jasper and Rose. They were good for him, made him see that there was something to fight for."

"Where was her mother during all this and what does mom have to do with this?" I asked.

I was devastated to learn of Charlie's passing. It wasn't that it was totally unexpected, but for him to affect my father the way he obviously did, meant that the man had to have been really special and I was sad I would never get to know him.

Seth cleared his throat and took a deep breath before he spoke, "Renee Swan was a horrible mother to Bella and an even worse human being. You could have never found anyone more self centered than Renee was. When Charlie was first diagnosed, Renee called Bella, hysterically yelling at her on the phone and blaming Bella for Charlie being sick. It was totally insane, but you know Bella, she took it to heart. It took J, Lele and I days to get her to recognize that there was no way she was at fault for the Chief being sick."

"Edward, I can't tell you any more about Renee, this is one of the things we have all been telling her to talk to you about. Renee helped shape Bell into the person she is now, after Bella worked harder than hell undoing everything her mother did to her."

"But what does that have to do with Mom and Dad?" I asked, still feeling like I had missed something important.

My dad took over at that point for Seth, "Edward, the four of them traveled from school to Seattle every weekend. They left campus as soon as Bella's last class for the day was done on Friday and would leave every Monday morning before the sun even thought about coming up. For the two months that I was there, I had never seen people more devoted to their loved one than the group of them. That goes double for Renee Swan, too," my dad spat out her name.

Bad…this is very bad. My dad can usually find something nice to say about everyone.

"Your mother and I," Carlisle went on, "took it upon ourselves to make sure that Bella, Seth, Jasper, and Rose at least ate a good meal and got some rest while they were at the hospital with Charlie. They were so alone and had no one else to look out for them; we had to help some way. Your mother, Edward, was constantly worried about them all and fussed and tried to take care of them the best she could. During the week when Bella could not come visit, Esme would sit with Charlie so he wasn't alone and when he was conscious, he would tell us story after story about Bella and her group of friends."

I smiled at the thought of my mother flitting around a hospital room full of college aged kids making sure they were eating properly and getting enough rest. I couldn't help but feel somewhat…cheated, I guess, about the fact that both my parents had met and developed a relationship with my love's dad and I wouldn't even get to meet the man.

"Okay, I at least have an idea of what is going on. Once Bella is ready, we'll sit down and she can fill in the rest." I moved to get up and go back to Bella when my dad stopped me.

"Edward, wait, son. I have one more brief thing to discuss with you and Seth before you get back to Bella," my father said.

I looked at him, sat back down in my seat and looked at Seth who shrugged his shoulders. I watched as my dad opened a drawer in his desk and pulled out a very worn looking envelope. My dad's hands shook noticeably as he held the envelope and as he raised his eyes and moved back and forth between Seth and me before he spoke, his voice full of emotions he was trying to keep a hold of, "Edward, Seth. This letter is for Bella, Charlie wrote it before he died and wanted me to give it to her. Seth, you remember that Charlie passed away during the night on a Tuesday?"

Seth nodded his head in affirmation and my dad continued, "Well, I never saw you or Bella again after that last weekend before he passed away. I tried to find Bella after that, but by the time I contacted the school, she had withdrawn from her classes and there was no forwarding address for her. I couldn't and wouldn't ask Renee for information on Bella's whereabouts and after months of fruitless searching, I stopped looking. I never gave up hope that somehow or someway I would meet Bella again and be able to give this to her."

Seth began to cry softly, the emotions finally getting to him.

He looked at me and asked, "Edward, would it be okay if I gave the letter to Bella?"

I felt a few tears myself as I nodded my head to him, "Of course, Seth. She should be waking up any time now, why don't you go sit with her for a bit and have some time with her by yourself."

He nodded and stood up, taking the envelope from Carlisle, before telling my father, "Thank you so much Dr. Cullen. You have no idea what this will mean to Bell, to all of us really. I never got a chance to thank you for all you tried to do for Charlie, so thank you."

My dad stepped out from behind his desk to give Seth a hug, and I watched as the big man's shoulders shook while he sobbed. He finally straightened up and looked at me and said, "Thank you Edward, for allowing me to do this," as he held up the letter from Charlie.

"Seth, no thanks are needed. You are Bella's family; you should be the one to give it to her, not me," I told him honestly.

He nodded his head at me and with a long look at my father; he walked out of the room to go to Bella.

Carlisle wrapped an arm around me as he guided me back to the living room where the rest of my family was. My mom told me Bella had woken up and that Seth was in with her now. Tanya looked devastated having watched Seth break down the way he did. Alice had arrived and was playing with the kids and Rufus on the floor.

"Daddy, is Bella going to be okay?" Maddie asked as I looked up at her.

I held my arms open, needing a hug desperately, "Yes, baby. She'll be okay in a few days. She'll have a bad headache for a bit, but she'll be just fine."

"Good," my little girl said, hating that Bella was hurt as much as the rest of us were.

I heard a noise from behind me after we had been sitting for awhile, no one was really talking, and looked up to see Bella walk in with Seth's arm wrapped tightly around her. Both their eyes were red, but Bella looked like she was doing okay, with the exception of the wince that came from moving her head.

I stood up, putting Maddie down and walked over to her. "Angel, how are you feeling?" I asked her as I softly kissed her lips and took her hands in mine.

Bella chuckled a little before saying, "I'm fine Edward. It's been a hell of a day. Now you know why I was so nervous about today. I can't say this is exactly how I expected the day to go though," she giggled as she looked at my shocked face.

She was laughing and trying to make me feel better, after everything that happened today?

Fucking amazing.

"Baby, stop looking at me that way," she went on, "I'm fine, honestly. I have a lot to think about and we have so much to talk about, but I'm really ok, about everything." She leaned forward to give me a kiss on the cheek before wrapping an arm around me and pulled me towards the sofa.

The kids were on her immediately and she got frustrated with me every time I tried to tell them to be careful or move away from her.

"Edward, I'm not going to break, knock it off," she told me, giving me the look that brooked no argument.

I sighed, I'm a fucking doctor for cripes sakes; I do know what I'm talking about! "Baby, I just don't want you to overdo it or pull any of the stitches on your back. You should rest," I told her, using my best doctor voice.

"That voice is not going to work on me Dr. Cullen," my girl told me and I promptly shut the hell up.

She talked and visited with my family, telling my parents about her modeling and the cover from last month as well as the Gala from last night. Alice set up her lap top and showed Carlisle and Esme as well as Maddie and Masen some of the pictures from last night that were already posted on the Web. The kids thought it was hysterical that there were pictures of their daddy on the Internet, but thought nothing of seeing Bella's.

Told you they loved her more than me.

We were still looking at pictures when the front door slammed open and my hulking brother came bursting through, holding a newspaper in his hand.

He huffed, trying to catch his breath as he came in the room, completely oblivious to everyone but me. He held up a paper that had a picture of Bella and I on the front from last night and then said, "Edward, did you know there is a dude that looks like you in the paper? This was taken last night at some Gala thing and the lucky bastard was with Isa! You know I think she's the hottest thing ever," he finished as he plopped down in a chair and closed his eyes as he threw his head back.

I looked at Bella beside me who was as red as a tomato but not because she was embarrassed, but because she was trying to keep from bursting out in laughter. My parents weren't any better and Maddie and Masen were rolling around on the floor. Seth and Tanya were just looking at Emmett, trying to figure out how anyone could be so oblivious.

I pulled my phone out of my pocket and turned the camera on before I looked at Bella and took her hand in mine and motioned towards Emmett with my chin. She got a huge smile on her face and nodded so I said, "Em, man. You're right, she is beautiful. And the guy, he must be really lucky to be out with her, huh?"

"No shit, dude. I would give anything to be in that guys place," he said, sounding like a little kid bargaining with their parents to try to get something.

I chuckled softly, oohh, this was going to be good. "Anything Em? Really?"

"Yes anything Edward. Geeze, you know how I feel about her, she's my dream girl," he sighed.

Bella's eyes bugged out of her head and I rolled mine back in response. No, I had not told my love of my dumb ass brother's obsession with her.

"Keep in mind what you just said big brother," I told him as I stood up, pulling Bella with me gently. I got my camera ready as I said, "Captain Oblivious, open your damn eyes so I can introduce you to my girlfriend."

"Hold your horses Eddie, you're interrupting me and my fantasy Isa," the jackass mumbled.

I kicked his foot as Bella started giggling and then said, "Well, Emmett, why don't you enlighten me on what my fantasy self is doing?"

Emmett's reaction was priceless and recorded for all posterity. He stood up, knocking the chair over in the process. His mouth opened and closed so many times I wasn't sure he would ever stop.

As my girl stood there with her hands on her hips, staring him down, he looked at her, "I…there's no…how did you…" and then promptly fainted, falling down on the floor in a heap.

I recorded the whole thing, telling myself I couldn't wait to show Ben and looked at my sister who was clutching her stomach to keep from laughing so hard. "Ali, you won the bet." I heard my angel giggle as Alice replied, "See, I told you he would faint. Pay the hell up Tanya!"

I watched as my best friend pulled some money out of her pocket and placed it in my little sister's waiting hand. "I still say when the idiot comes to he tries to take her picture."

Alice laughed as she pocketed the money and said, "I have no doubt, but I knew he would faint first. Em doesn't handle brain overload well."

We all laughed when he started to come to, rubbing his gigantic head. "What the hell just happened?" he said to no one in particular.

"You fainted, genius," our little sister told him, "you're lucky you didn't split your damn head open," as she helped him off the floor.

"Wait a sec, Edward weren't you introducing me to your girlfriend. I don't get why I would faint." Emmett said sounding thoroughly confused.

"Yes, I was. Emmett Cullen, I would like you to meet my girlfriend, Isabella Swan…better known to fools like you as Isa," I smirked, watching as he slowly put it all together.

"Oh Jesus, tell me I did not just faint in front of her, Ed, please?" he begged me.

"No can do big brother, I did record it though if you want to watch it sometime. I can't wait to show Ben!" I laughed as he tried to get my phone from me, but was totally unsuccessful.

"It's nice to meet a fan, Emmett," Bella graciously said, and I watched my brother blush from the top of his head to I'm sure his toes.

He grinned sheepishly at her and shrugged his huge shoulders, "You too, Bella. And, might I say, you are even more beautiful in person than on TV or in a picture." He stepped forward to give her a hug and she winced and groaned softly from the accidental contact.

Emmett looked pained, trying to figure out how he hurt her, and I said, "No worries brother of mine, I'll explain later."

The rest of the day was spent enjoying each others company and eating. Some of us…Emmett and Seth, who were getting along like long lost best friends…ate more than the rest but the day turned out great.

Seth took Tanya home about 7:00 after the former gave Bella and my parents both fierce hugs and the latter gave my girl one as well. Bella was so tired, I begged until she agreed to stay with me. My dad wanted to check her stitches in the morning anyway and she needed more pain medication.

The long day had begun to take a toll on her by the time we said good night to my parents and got the kids into bed. I ran a bath for her once we got into my room and while she soaked in the tub, I grabbed her a t-shirt and some boxers to change into. I helped her dry off when she was through with her bath since she couldn't reach her back and then helped her get dressed and put her hair up for her.

I found a new toothbrush in the bathroom and handed it to her so she could brush her teeth while I changed my clothes. I brushed my teeth as well and then climbed into bed, pulling the covers back for her to slip under. I lay on my back and pulled her to me, knowing that her back was still very tender.

I ran my hands through her hair and then I heard her quietly say, "Edward. Thank you for being so understanding about everything. I know you've been extremely patient with me, please just give me a little more time. Getting the letter today from my father has given me so much to think about. Can you understand?" she asked sounding like a scared little girl instead of the brave woman I have come to know and love with all my heart.

"Of course Bella. I know today was very difficult for you for reasons I am sure I don't even understand. I am sorry about your father baby; I wish I could have met him," I told her as I kept running my fingers through her hair.

I heard her sniffle and then she said, "Me, too, Edward. He would have loved you. Not as much as I do, but he really would have."

"I love you too, sweet girl, more than I can say. Sleep now, ok, and if you need me during the night, just let me know." I pressed a kiss to her forehead and settled us deeper into the bed and held her as we both drifted off to sleep.


I woke up to the smell of bacon and coffee…and an empty bed.

A glance at the clock told me that I had 45 minutes before I needed to get the kids to school.

Shit, I hoped we weren't going to be late. I pulled on a pair of jeans and changed my t-shirt before brushing my teeth quickly, all the time wondering where Bella was.

I rushed down the stairs and the scene in front of me halted me instantly. Maddie and Masen were completely dressed and ready for school sitting on either side of Bella as she happily laughed with each of them as they ate breakfast. My mom was standing at the coffee pot, taking in the sight with tears in her eyes.

She kissed me on the cheek, without saying a word and did the same to Bella as she left the room. Bella looked up at me, her eyes bright with love, and she took my breath away.

'Morning Daddy!" Maddie and Masen said as they noticed me for the first time.

"Hey guys, thanks for getting ready so good this morning," I told them, kissing them each on the head before I made it around the table to my Bella. I pressed my lips to her hair, and lingered for a moment, taking in the feeling of completeness at the scene around me.

"Bella helped Daddy, and then she helped Nana make breakfast, too," Masen told me.

I heard Bella chuckle as I reluctantly moved from her hair and sat down next to her. "Ok you two, go get your teeth brushed and tell Nana bye before you have to go, I need to talk to your Dad for minute," Bella said as she kissed each of them before swatting them out the room.

"What is it Bella?" I asked when I noticed the serious look on her face.

She sat down and pulled her chair close to mine and took one of my hands in hers as she laid her head on my shoulder. She began softly, "Edward, I'm leaving."

"Yes, Bella, I didn't think you would stay here all day," I answered, wondering why she sounded so serious.

"No Edward, I mean I'm leaving the city…tomorrow. I already talked with Jasper and he's arranged it for me. I need to go to the office today for a brief meeting but tomorrow Seth is driving me to the house at Lake George," she finished quietly.

She's leaving? Why? I had no idea what to say to her.

"Before you start panicking over there, stop for a second and let me finish," she chuckled at me as I took a deep breath to finish listening …before I freaked the hell out. "I have spoken with Esme and I've invited your whole family to the house for Memorial Day Weekend. Jasper and Rose were coming anyway and they can't wait to see Dr. C and Mrs. E. The kids will be done with school and if you can arrange it, maybe you can come a few days before everyone else and it'll give us some time to talk."

Ok, I can deal with this. I hate the thought of being away from her, but this sounded like a good idea.

"Are you sure Bella? I mean about having my whole family up there for the holiday? I'm not going to say that it doesn't sound great, but you need to do whatever it is you need right now, not what everyone else wants."

"I'm sure Edward, I need to get everything straight in my mind, we need to talk, and then I want to move on. It's time and I need to do this for me…and for us."

"I love you angel, so very much. I'll miss you like mad, but I think it sounds like a great idea," I told her as I kissed her softly, her lips so warm beneath mine.

"I love you, too, Edward. Thank you for not fighting me on this. I really believe this is a good thing and I'm excited about you meeting J and Lele," Bella said after I was done kissing her.

The kids picked that moment to come racing in the kitchen and announced they were ready to go. Bella grabbed her things, indicating that I would be bringing her home once the kids were dropped off at school.

I knew that her leaving was for the best, and I could only hope I would be strong enough to help her put her past behind her so we could move forward…as a family.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, so much happened in this one... I kinda thought from the reaction Car gave Edward in seeing the pictures and hearing her name that he knew who she was, and when he told Edward not to let her go and he told Car he Never would Car Did say thank God... no one expected her to faint and I am sure that sent Edward into a tizzy ~ definitely not in the loop...
    The gala was a trip especially meeting aro and jane, that was creepy...
    I had not conneted the dots of Car being a cancer doctor, but that was because it had not been mentioned as to how Charlie had died. and that Car was that taken with Charlie, spoke to Edward and his dad's respect and affection for Bell and her companions... Really great writing and awesome chapter...