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.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Chapter 35


"Holy Shit!" I exclaimed as I rolled over in bed, the stinging in my shoulders bringing me out of what was just a very sound sleep.

"Mmmph," came the mumbled voice of Bella who was doing a damn fine job of burrowing into the pillows.

I cringed when I lifted my arm to reach for her. When the hiss of pain escaped my lips, I heard a murmur from below the tangled mess of gorgeous brown hair that I loved to wake up to every morning. "Sweetheart, are you okay?" Bella said softly as she lifted up her hair to look at me.

Sighing, I gingerly laid back down and with halted movements to not cause myself any more pain, I tried to settle back against the pillows. I huffed in and out a few times before I answered my love, "Baby, I feel like a boiled lobster." I was whining, I knew I was, but motherfucker…being sunburned hurt like a bitch.

Bella picked her head up off the pillow and flipped her hair back off her face. I could tell she was fighting to hold back a grin…and she failed miserably. "Don't say it Bella. I'm serious," I growled at her and then narrowed my eyes when I saw her arch her eyebrow at me.

"Say what Edward?" she cheekily responded back to me as she lifted herself more fully up on her elbows. "Tell you that getting sunburned is what you get for going out on the Jet Ski's just one more time before we had to leave yesterday…and just to try to beat your dumb ass cousin, brother, and Seth in an idiotic race? Not to mention totally blowing me off when I tried to get you to put sunscreen on, or at least a damn t-shirt. But noooo, you didn't listen, did you?" Bella huffed at me as she blew a piece of hair out of her face.

I gritted my teeth and turned over…very carefully to look at her. Yeah, I was a dumbass. I did not need to be reminded of that fact at all, but apparently my girl felt it was necessary to do it at annoyingly regular intervals. The trip home was brutal, made even more so by the fact that Bella needed to drive because my shoulders hurt too much to even lift my arms to hold the steering wheel.

Demetri…the jackass. I was so paying him back for this shit. That was a fucking promise. Him and his stupid need to bet over…everything. Yeah, yeah. I knew I didn't need to take the damn bet, but I'm a guy. It goes completely against the guy code to back away from a bet, so I didn't. And now, I felt like my whole upper body was on fire.

I swear to Christ…if Bella ever told me to wear sunscreen again, I was stopping whatever the fuck I was doing and putting that shit on…twice.

"Bella, it really fucking hurts," I moaned to her. I would give fucking anything if the pain would just go away. I was hotter than hell and it hurt to move. I was so damn miserable that if I wasn't afraid to look like the world's biggest pussy, I would seriously consider begging her to kiss it and make it better.

I looked at her and her eyes softened as she looked at me. "Stay right here baby," Bella said after she kissed my forehead and rolled over to get up.

"Damn Bella," I sighed in annoyance. "You're evil, just evil."

Bella raised her eyebrows at me and then gave me a smug grin before she walked out of the bedroom…wearing nothing but my t-shirt. She was so fucking beautiful in the morning. Hell, she always kept me in a near constant state of arousal but when she first woke up in the morning and her cheeks were flushed and her eyes were clear and bright, she took my breath away…and made me instantly hard at the same time.

We were so tired when we made it home last night that we did little more than pick up some take out, bathe the kids, put them to bed and then we both crashed right behind them. The weekend up at the lake was fucking amazing and I could tell we all were feeling much more relaxed by the time we made it back to the loft yesterday evening. Masen seemed to adjust to his cast with very little difficulty. It didn't appear that he suffered any long term affects from what happened at the ballpark.

Thank freaking God kids really are so damn resilient.

Bella and Emmett both seemed better too. That was something I was so happy to see. Both had the tendency to dwell and let guilt fester and build until it exploded but it looked like both had been able to put the incident with Masen behind them. Not that either of them would ever forget…I knew I sure as hell wouldn't, but we all had to be able to move past it. I spent a lot of time contemplating what had happened to Masen, usually late at night after Bella had fallen asleep. I had never been more afraid in my life than I was on that fateful trip to the hospital after Emmett had called me. Every possible scenario played over and over in my mind and it wasn't until I had actually touched and looked at my boy did I feel like I could breathe again.

Arriving back at the loft last night brought the reality of it all crashing down around us as we noticed the trash and the trampled grass in the clearing across the street. Thank goodness there weren't any paparazzi still staking out the house. I'm not sure I would have been able to handle that as soon as we got back to the city. Bella and I did check out the Internet a few times from up at the lake but it seemed like the story was dying pretty quickly and we were no longer the hottest news of the day.

I may not like Jane…and I certainly didn't trust her at all, but I was grateful for her guidance through this minefield of shit.

I heard Bella moving around in the kitchen and she walked back into the room carrying a bottle of something and a washcloth and slowly crawled her way to my side across the bed. "Edward, try to roll over on your stomach for me," she said. She sat up on her knees as I tried to roll over without touching my back and shoulders to anything.

"Fuck baby," I winced as I finally got on my stomach. "Work is going to suck so much ass today it isn't even funny."

"I'm sorry sweetheart," Bella said as she kissed my temple. "Okay, now this is going to be really cool so try not to flinch….and it's going to smell to high heaven too."

I heard Bella take the cap off the bottle and as soon as she did the unmistakable scent of vinegar filled the room. "Bella, that's awful!" I cried. "I am going to smell so bad," I whined and tensed as I saw her lean forward with the cloth in her hand.

"You might smell Edward, but I promise once we put this on and then take a cool shower, you'll feel better." Bella chuckled and said, "Now, hold still you big baby."

I closed my eyes and squeezed my hands into tight fists by my side as I felt the vinegar soaked cloth move across my back. "Shit," I said through gritted teeth as my girl tried to gently cover my shoulders and back with the foul smelling liquid.

"I know it hurts Edward, but the vinegar is supposed to pull the heat out and soothe the burn," Bella said tenderly as her hands continued to work.

"Baby, I promise to listen to you next time," I said pitifully. And holy hell, I did. If I ever felt like this again it would be too fucking soon.

She chuckled at me again as she ran the soft cloth down my sides and over the middle and small of my back. "Right," Bella snorted. "I'll believe that one when I see it."

The smell of vinegar in the room was really fucking strong but of course Bella being the incredibly smart woman that she was had cracked the window to let some fresh air in so that the odor didn't permeate every damn thing in it.

"Okay sweetheart, I think that will do for now," she said and got up to take the vinegar back to the kitchen and I heard her wrap the washcloth in a plastic bag and throw it away. I laid on the bed and between the ceiling fan, the morning breeze and the vinegar on my back; I realized my sunburn felt a bit better. Thank god for small miracles!

Bella smirked at me as I watched her walk by out of one eye and into the bathroom. I heard her turn on the shower and then brush her teeth before she came back out to the bedroom. "Up out of bed old man," she giggled as she held her hand out to me to help me up. I pushed myself up on my elbows and though my shoulders stung a bit from the movement, it wasn't as excruciating as it was before Bella doused my back in that damn vinegar.

Bella got me in the shower after I slowly made my way out of the bed and I had to admit that after the initial sting I felt as the water hit my back, it began to feel better. It felt even better when Bella ran her fingers through my hair to wash it. I fucking loved when she did that, like really really loved it. I loved it even more when she washed me from head to foot but pouted when she paid very little attention to the area of my body that was aching for her.

"Edward, really?" She shook her head at me. "You can barely move. Fucking me in the shower should be the last thing you are thinking about."

I reached for her and picked up my arm and plunged my hand in her wet hair and pulled her towards me. The movement hurt like a son of a bitch but I ignored it as I shoved my tongue in her mouth and kissed her until she couldn't breathe. "Angel, I always think about fucking you," I growled at her and damn if it wasn't the truth.

Kissing and licking her neck and shoulder, I could hear her whimper in the back of her throat. It was one of the sexiest sounds I'd ever heard from her, but I knew making love to her was going to have to wait. I had a shit load of patients to see and I wanted to make sure I was home early since Bella was leaving tomorrow for ten days.

Ten long fucking days.

I kissed her again and this time it was me that couldn't stop the groan that I let loose. "Baby, I really need to get a move on. I have patients first thing this morning and I don't want to be late," I told her very reluctantly.

She sighed and nodded her head, "I know Edward, its okay. Go ahead and get out and I'll finish up in here."

I kissed her one more time on the lips and after a long look at her naked, wet body I forced myself to get out of the shower. As soon as I wrapped the towel around my waist she poked her head out from behind the shower door and said, "Oh, don't put your shirt on until I get out," and then she was gone.

Dressing was an adventure but I did feel better. The heat wasn't quite so bad and the tightness and pain had lessened to a dull ache. Bella stepped out of the shower with the towel wrapped around her body and a jar of something in her hand. She climbed on the bed behind me and opened the jar. This time the smell was much more pleasant.

"Its aloe," Bella said quietly as her fingers worked the cream into my back. "It should help as well," she said and I felt her chest press up against my back as she rubbed my shoulders.

"God Bella, that feels so good," I told her, not knowing truthfully if I was talking about the cream or how she felt pressed up against me.

I reached my hand down and ran the back of my finger over the soft skin of her leg and I smiled when I heard her voice catch in her throat. "Edward, stop it," she said, but it was in that tone of voice where I could tell she really didn't want me to and I really didn't want to stop either.

What I really wanted to do was pull her around and have her straddle my lap and sink my cock deep inside of her but I knew we didn't have time. Besides, I could hear the kids up and in the living room already.

"Bella, I would love nothing more than to take you right now, but I really need to get moving," I told her as I turned around to look at her. When I saw her pout at me I seriously thought about saying fuck it and being late for work.

But I didn't.


"Bella, whens are you gonna be back?" Masen asked Bella from across the table as we ate dinner.

Bella set her fork down on the table and looked at both kids, who were each giving her the Cullen pout and not making this any easier on her. I had to admit, I was giving her the same look and between the three of us, she was feeling the full weight of a Cullen onslaught. She moved her head and took each of us in before she took a deep breath and said, "Okay everyone, that's enough." Bella held her hand up and pointed at me, and with narrowed eyes she huffed, "Edward. Please. This is hard enough without the guilt trip. I don't want to go any more than you guys want me to leave."

I reached my hand out to hers and grabbed her hand in mine and picked it up to kiss the back of her hand and said, "I'm sorry angel. We're not being very fair to you are we? We're just going to miss you so much."

Ten damn days. She was going to be gone for ten days and even though she'd been gone longer since we'd been together, this time it felt like it was an eternity. Not to mention, Jacob would be accompanying her on this fucking trip. With all the appearances she was going to have to make…between the MLB All-Star game and then at the ESPY's, not to mention a few others, Bella was going to be in the spot light more in this stretch than she'd been in quite some time.

Jane and Ian were also going to be heading to California with Emmett, Seth and Jacob so she was definitely going to have lots of people around her. Thank God for Emmett…I'm not sure I would have been able to handle this trip at all if I didn't know he would be there. Jacob being with her was fucking bad enough, but throw douche bag Ian in the mix…and well, I wasn't handling this trip very well at all.

Bella blew out a frustrated breath…and I'm sure it was aimed at me. Then she looked at Masen so she could answer his question. "Mase, I'm going to be gone for about ten days," she said and then sighed when she took in his crestfallen face…and then that of his twin.

"Maddie and Masen listen to me," Bella said very gently. "I know it seems like a long time, but it really isn't. I'll be back before you know it. You guys and your dad will have lots of fun while I'm gone and I'll bring you each back a surprise from California."

"It's no fun when you're gone Bella," Maddie pouted and crossed her arms before she slouched down in the chair.

Bella looked heartbroken when her eyes caught mine and I reached for her hand again and gave it a squeeze…and I felt like an ass. I knew how much she wasn't looking forward to this trip and it was really not fair to make her feel guilty for doing her job.

"Maddie and Masen, enough now with the pouting. We all know Bella has a job to do and sometimes her job means she has to go away for a little while. Bella is right, she'll be back before we know it," I told each of them…and myself.

Shit, I would be so damn glad when this contract was over with and we could finally make some plans. Plans that did not involve my girl going away for weeks at a time was going to be at the top of any list we made that was for damn sure.

We managed to finish dinner without any more fussing from either of the kids and once the dishes were put away and the kitchen was cleaned up we settled on the couch to watch a movie. After the movie and bath time I heard Bella reading to the kids in Masen's room and I went to our room to run her a bath.

Bella was really anxious about this trip for some reason, and I wanted to make sure she was as relaxed as I could help her be before her flight left in the morning. As the water was running, I turned on the iPod in the room and once the tub was full, I went into the hall and walked to Masen's room. Maddie and Masen were both sound asleep on her shoulders and she ran her fingers through their hair as she whispered how much she was going to miss them and how much she loved them, over and over again.

She didn't hear me so I just watched the woman of my dreams hold my children and fell even more in love with her. Isabella Marie Swan was so fucking perfect it was hard sometimes to convince myself that she was real. Even in my dreams I'm not sure I could have conjured up such perfection. Everything about her was flawless. Bella was the most fucking beautiful woman in the world but her outer beauty couldn't even begin to compare to the grace that was inside of her.

She was just so damn…good.

It seemed like such a simple thing to say, I mean its just one word, but that one word encompassed everything she was. Bella was the most selfless person I had ever met. Considering whom my parents were and the charities I'd been fortunate enough to have been involved in, honestly, Bella put us all to shame. Her heart was limitless and besides my mother, I had never come across anyone as gentle or as loving as Bella. With the role model she had for a mother that in itself was almost inconceivable. But, if I had learned anything since I'd fallen in love with my angel, I had learned that Bella was full of surprises.

And the one thing I knew with my entire being was that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. I wanted to marry her and take her as my wife. I wanted her to be the mother Maddie and Masen needed. I wanted to watch her stomach grow with our baby inside of her. I wanted to live in a house and eat breakfast with her every day and go to bed every night with her in my arms. I wanted her to be happy and loved and never want for anything for as long as she lived.

I wanted her to be Bella Cullen and I wanted it more than I had ever wanted anything ever before.

She must have heard my heavy breathing as the visions of our future overtook me and as her eyes found mine I hoped she could see everything I felt at that moment.

"Baby, come with me, please?" I asked gently as I held my hand out to her. I kissed Masen's forehead and picked Maddie up off of Bella so I could carry her to her room. As soon as Bella was untangled from the kids, she kissed Masen as well and held my hand as I held Maddie and took her to her room. I laid her in her bed with a kiss which Bella followed with a kiss of her own.

I held her hand in mine as we made our way to our room and without a word; I led her through the room and to the bathroom.

Shrugging my shoulders at Bella, I whispered, "I thought you might want to take a bath with me. I just want to hold you for a bit."

She gave me a brilliant smile and reached for the hem of her t-shirt but I reached out with my hand and stopped her. "Let me do that sweet girl," I told her as I bent my head down and kissed her softly on the lips and I was immediately rewarded with a sigh of contentment.

"I love you so much Bella," I breathed out as I lifted her shirt over her head. I made quick work of removing the rest of her clothing as well as my own. When I stepped in the huge Jacuzzi tub, I held my hand out to her and helped her over the side as well.

We settled into the water and I pulled her back towards me and rested her back against my chest. "Do you know in all the time we have spent together, I think this is the first time we've ever taken a bath?" I whispered to her as I held her hands in mine and rested them on her stomach.

Bella leaned her head back against my shoulder and I couldn't resist touching the top of her shoulder with my tongue. I flicked her there and licked the water droplets off her warm skin. She tasted fucking incredible and I knew she could feel the rumble in my chest as I took her skin between my teeth.

"I love holding you baby," I told her. "I love feeling you in my arms."

She tilted her head and gave me access to her neck and I was never one to miss an opportunity, especially one as tantalizing as that. I kissed my way across her shoulder and found hers and my favorite spot behind her ear. I had the totally juvenile thought of taking that tender skin between my teeth and sucking on it until I left a mark no amount of make up would cover up but I didn't.

Didn't mean I didn't want to really fucking badly, but I knew she would be upset and I didn't want to do that to her.

So instead, I took her earlobe into my mouth and ran my tongue over it until I felt her shiver in my arms.

"I'm going to miss you so much Edward," Bella said quietly as she ran her fingers up and down the tops of my legs. "I can't believe I'm going to miss Maddie and Masen's birthday," she said with a shake of her head.

"Bella, sweetheart, its not like you're leaving on purpose. They understand that, we all do," I told her, trying to get her to realize that no one was angry with her for having to be gone.

"But it's the first one I could spend with them," she said plaintively and I felt my heart break a tiny bit with her admission.

I pulled her back to me and held her close, trying really fucking hard not to react to her ass being pressed against my cock. Try being the operative word here. I rested my chin on her shoulder and spoke directly into her ear. "I know you want to be here with them Bella, and I really do understand how upset you are to be missing their birthday but you have a job to do," I told her as I trailed my fingers up and down her arms. "I watched you with them earlier, when you were reading to them," I kissed her shoulder and kept going. "Do you want me to tell you what I thought about while I watched you?"

She nodded her head but didn't speak and I kept my voice low, even though I was tempted to shout it from the rooftops. I picked her up and turned her around and guided her towards the other side of the tub so that she faced me. As much as I wanted to hold her, I wanted to see her even more as we had a talk that was a long time coming.

Bella settled against the back of the tub and I stared at her for a moment before I shook myself out of my stupor. I took a deep breath and figured I should just dive right in. "Bella," I began softly as I reached my hand out to run my fingers up and down her leg. I had to touch her, feel her skin beneath my fingers and when I felt the buzz of electricity I always got when I touched her, I felt better. "What do you want to do when your contract is up in September?"

She laughed lightly and smirked at me, "Jesus Cullen, nothing like getting right to the point huh?"

I gazed at her and waited. This was typical Bella behavior and I knew it would only take a moment before she had her thoughts in order. I could wait. I had waited my whole life for her so a few extra minutes wouldn't kill me.

Bella's fingers danced over the top of the water briefly before her eyes found mine and I sucked in a deep breath when I saw the emotion swimming in them. "Edward, the only thing I want to do when September gets here is to live with you and the kids…permanently."

I squeezed her leg in my hand and made her look at me, "Angel, I thought that was pretty much a given. You've got to give me more than that Bella."

She blushed adorably and lowered her head knowing full well she was evading the question. I watched as she nervously played with her fingers for another few moments and I nudged her leg with mine. "Hey, you know you can tell me anything Bella. There is nothing you can tell me that will change the way I feel about you or change what I want."

"Which is?" she saucily asked me and I shook my head at her. "No way sweet girl. I asked you first. Now, spill it Swan."

I focused my attention on her feet which were lying across my legs. I hoped that if I didn't look at her it would be easier for her to tell me what was on her mind.

"I don't want to live in the city anymore," she began in a small voice. Okay that was not totally unexpected I had to admit.

"As long as you, me and the kids are together, I don't give a damn where we live Bella," I told her truthfully.

"But Edward, what about your family, your job, the kids' school? How can you say it doesn't matter?" Bella asked disbelievingly.

I looked at her and watched her eyes as they traveled over my face as she tried to decipher if I was telling the truth or not. Silly girl, how could she not realize I'd go anywhere, do anything she wanted? "Baby, hold on for a second. Damn," I chuckled much to her consternation. "Understand something Isabella… you are my life. Your happiness means everything to me. If you don't want to live in the city any more, fine, we won't. As long as you say you want us with you, we'll go wherever you want."

"But Edward," she began again, and this time I pulled her legs towards me until she was in my lap. I brushed her damp hair behind her ears and held her head in my hands and looked deep into her eyes. "No Bella, there is no but. Whatever you want to do, we'll do. Where you go, I go. Remember? That hasn't changed baby and I mean it as much now as I did a month ago. Together. We do this together. Now tell me, please? What do you want to do?"

Bella reached up and gripped my hands with her tiny ones and after she took a steadying breath she whispered, "I want to move to Lake George. I want to live in the lake house. I want to get up every morning and fix Maddie and Masen breakfast before they go to school and pack their lunch for them. I want to own my own bakery or book store or music store or…or something like that. I want to be home when they get home from school and fix them a snack. I want to do volunteer work up at their school and go to parent-teacher meetings and PTA meetings. I want to coach a little kid's soccer team…even if it's not Maddie's."

I wiped the tears that began to fall down her rosy cheeks and smiled gently so she would keep going. "I want to play the drums with Masen and watch him play baseball. I want to have your baby," she said softly and smiled at me. "I want to marry you and fix you dinner every night and make love to you under the stars on the deck of the lake house. I want a family Edward…that's the only thing I want and I only want it with you," she finished and she closed her eyes.

"Bella, my love, look at me please," I whispered to her, my heart so full of love for her I felt as if it could barely be contained it was so much. "I only have one suggestion if I may?" I questioned with a tender smile. She still held onto my hands and her brown eyes were glossy with tears but were so deep I felt as if I could fall into them and never come back out again. "If it's alright with you, I would rather marry you before we have a baby. I'm a bit old fashioned that way and I know Father O'Connor would kick my ass if I did this out of order again. Other than that, I think we can arrange for you to have everything else." I bent forward and brushed my lips across hers and softly said, "I'm going to ask you to marry me one day very soon Isabella Marie, don't ever doubt that."

Bella kissed me back, her little pink tongue swiped tantalizingly across my bottom lip before she said, "And when you ask me Edward Anthony, I will say yes." I gripped her hips then and pulled her closer to me and settled her completely on my lap.

"My sweet, precious, perfect Bella," I crooned to her as I ran my fingers through her hair. "I am going to make you so happy and I promise to give you everything you ever wanted," I solemnly promised her.

She shook her head and pressed her chest against mine and wrapped her arms tightly around my neck. Bella rested her head on my shoulder and said in a low voice, "I don't want everything Edward. I only want you. I want you forever."

"Oh Bella," I moaned out as she shifted her body and my cock brushed between her legs.

"Make love to me Edward. Please," Bella breathed out on a shaky breath as I lifted and guided her lithe body onto my straining erection.

"Jesus…oh shit…" I mumbled as I filled her completely and her warmth engulfed me. "You always feel so good baby."

Bella rocked back and forth in a slow, steady rhythm and I gave myself totally to her. Her fingers dug into my chest and then she raked her nails up to my shoulders and I wrapped my arms around her and held her in place. "I love you so much Edward," Bella panted as she kissed up the side my jaw to my neck.

"I'm going to miss you," she said as she ran her fingers through my hair and continued to suck and lick the side of my neck.

I reached up between us and took her breasts in my hands and rubbed her nipples with my thumbs and groaned in pleasure when I felt her pussy clench around my cock. "I fucking hate sleeping without you Bella. Tell me that this is the last time we have to be apart," I rasped to her as I pinched her nipples.

She arched her back and I ground her hips even more firmly against mine and bent my head forward to take one of her hardened peaks into my mouth. I swirled my tongue over one and then the other and grinned in satisfaction when I her chest flushed with pleasure.

"Tell me Bella," I told her again as I gripped her ass and bit down gently on her right nipple.

"Oh fuck…yes Edward…oh God," she hissed as I took the other one in my teeth.

I slid my hands up her back and grabbed her head and pulled her on her hair until she tipped her head backwards. I trailed my tongue up her chest and across her sexy as fuck collar bones until I reached the pulse point on her neck. "You're mine Isabella. All of you…fucking mine," I growled as I nipped at the tender skin there. "When you get back from California," I said in a deep, gravelly voice as I pulled her head back more. "There will never be another day when I go to sleep without you in my bed. I've waited a very long time for you my Isabella and I'll be damned if I'm without you again." I flicked my tongue against her earlobe and lowered my hand to her clit.

"Now, I want you to come for me. Let me feel you come around me." She moaned loudly as I rubbed her clit with my index finger and I could feel her walls flutter around my cock. Shit she felt so fucking good and I couldn't help but place my lips on her delectable neck again.

"Edward…oh yes…so close," my girl panted as she rocked back and forth on me. Bella threw her head back again and water sloshed over the side of the tub as she quickened her movements. Her nails scraped up my chest and I hissed from the sensation…fuck if it didn't feel good.

Her muscles tensed and my cock throbbed inside of her. I didn't want to come yet and it was hell trying to hold off. "Fuck yes…yesssss," Bella said incoherently.

"That's my good girl," I huskily told her as I pinched her clit in between my fingers. "Come Bella," I commanded and she let go and holy fuck it was exquisite.

She arched her back and her breath caught in her throat. Her fingers curled against my chest and I held onto her hips as she bucked and writhed on top of me.

When she finished, she flipped her head back up and looked at me, her eyes dilated and almost black with lust. She looked hungry and wanton and she never, fucking ever looked more magnificent.


"That was good, wasn't it my little insatiable one?" I taunted her and flicked at her clit again. She fucking squeaked and made that whimper, moan noise in the back of her throat that made me wild with need for her.

Water continued to pour over the sides of the tub and I couldn't find it in me to give a damn. I settled back against the side of the tub and grinned devilishly at her. I ran my hand back up her chest and held the side of her neck and pressed my thumb into her mouth. I knew my eyes must have looked feral. I was practically vibrating with a need so all encompassing it almost hurt. "Now, my naughty little girl," I ground out at her as she rolled her hips forward and squeezed me deep inside of her, "I want you to fuck me…fuck me until you scream," I demanded as I held onto her hips once more, curling my fingers over the bones where my hands rested.

Bella looked wildly at me and bit her bottom lip and began to move up and down. "Holy shit baby," I groaned and tipped my head back.

She snaked her tongue out of her mouth and bit down on my chin, my throat, the side of my neck. She was everywhere and her hands were as well. One was buried in the hair on the back of my neck, nails scraping tortuously against my scalp. But it was her other hand, the one that reached behind and underneath her ass that was currently driving me out of my fucking mind. Bella ran her nails along the underside of my dick and with every motion of her body, her talented as fuck fingers followed.

"Too much Bella, shit baby…fuck," I ground out as she did the same thing to my balls.

"Mmmm, Edward, you're so hard, you feel so good inside of me," Bella whispered as she licked, and rocked and touched and I was spiraling out of control.

I grasped her ass in my fingers and dug them into the soft, muscular skin there and thrust deeply inside of her. "You will scream my name Bella," I rasped as we both climbed higher and higher. "Fuck Bella, you have to…scream it damn it," I ordered her, holding back my release that was threatening to explode out of me.

I let go with one hand and pressed down on her clit and that was all it took. Bella flung her head backwards, her hair covering my thighs. Her whole body tensed and her breathing was labored and came in uneven breaths. "Now Bella…fucking now," I yelled and then she let go.

"Edward!" She screamed as her orgasm over took her. I held onto her, watching in stupefied amazement as she completely fell apart over me. Her pussy squeezed and clenched as she came over and over and over again.

Fuck if that wasn't the most intense thing I'd ever witnessed. I pulled her close to me again and swallowed her whimpers from the aftershocks of her orgasm with my mouth. "I love you," I whispered over and over again until I couldn't hold back any more and came inside of her.

Bella rocked over me until I was completely spent and held her close to me. The only sounds in the bathroom were that of our heavy breathing once the water finally stilled.

"I love you so much Edward. You're my dream come true," Bella softly said as she kissed the spot on my chest over my heart.

"You're my everything Bella," I said back to her as I wrapped my arms around her and stood up. I grabbed our towels off the counter and took her to our room.

We spent the rest of the night saying good bye…over and over and over again. It was light outside when we finally fell asleep and only a few hours later when we had to get up and say good bye again.

It wasn't any easier this time than any other but at least I could tell myself that it was the last time she would ever have to be apart from me again.


"Daddy!" Maddie squealed as she jumped on my bed bright and early Monday morning. I squinted my eyes at her and reflexively reached across to find Bella…but she wasn't there.

Fuck…I groaned to myself. Four more damn days until she came home. Jesus, this trip was kicking my ass. But, I had a happy little girl bouncing up and down on my bed who was just dying to get this day started. Of course that could be because today was her birthday, but I'm just guessing.

"Someone is pretty excited this morning," I chuckled as I grabbed Maddie mid-jump and pulled her down next to me. "I wonder what's so special about today?" I said as I tapped my chin.

Maddie reached her little hand out and patted me on the cheek and giggled when she said, "It's mine and Mase's birthdays. You didn't forgets did you?" she asked as she tried to narrow her eyes at me.

I tickled her sides for a minute and then said, "Of course I didn't forget princess. The day you were born was the happiest in my whole life." I bent down to give her a raspberry and heard the door open and then the pounding of little feet as Masen ran into the room and jumped on my back.

"Daddy, leave Maddie alones!" he laughed in my ear.

I pulled him around and laid him next to his sister and then proceeded to tickle both of them until they couldn't breathe. "Now, I believe it is tradition in this house that birthdays mean pancakes for breakfast. So, who wants pancakes?"

"Me! Me!" they each yelled and then tried to climb out of bed but I caught them before they could run out of the room.

Damn, they were growing up so fast and for a moment my heart felt heavy as I realized Bella was missing their first birthday breakfast but I shook that thought off quickly. This was the twins' day and I promised myself and Bella last night that I wouldn't mope around, so I wouldn't.

"Hey, wait a minute," I said as I scooped them both up and wrapped them in a hug. "Happy birthday you two," I kissed them each on the head, trying not to get overly emotional about the whole thing.

After receiving a kiss from each of them on the cheek they scurried down the stairs where my mom already had the pancakes started. We had a lively breakfast as we all listened to Maddie and Masen talk about what we were going to do today. Once we realized Bella, Emmett and Seth would all be gone for the twins' birthday, the kids decided we would wait until the weekend to celebrate so that we could all be together. There was no way they wanted to have a party without Bella…or their Uncle Emmett so for today we would have our usual birthday breakfast and I was going to spend the day with them before the family would have dinner tonight, but presents and cake were not happening until the rest of the family was home.

Bella kept telling the kids she had a surprise for them today though, and none of us knew what it was. No matter how many times I begged, pouted or tried to kiss it out of her, she held firm and wouldn't even give a hint. With my girl, there was no telling what it could be, but I knew whatever it was, it was something that she had given a lot of thought too. She never did anything half way that was for damn sure.

"Okay you two, go get dressed and make sure you brush your teeth," I told them once we demolished all of the pancakes. "We'll be leaving in about an hour," I said as I stood up to help clean off the table.

"I'm so glad you three stayed here last night Edward," my mom said as I rinsed off the dishes to hand them to her to put in the dishwasher.

I shrugged my shoulders, knowing that since Bella wasn't home, I didn't want to be at the loft by myself this morning. Does that make me a pussy…yeah maybe but I didn't care.

"Well, today is a special and I knew without Bella here the kids would want to be here with you and Pop so thanks for letting us stay," I told her as I handed her the last plate.

Esme chuckled softly and nudged me with her shoulder and said, "So your father and I are the second string? Thanks son."

I knew she was teasing but I reached out and grabbed her hand just the same. "Mama, you know I love you and Pop and you also know that I never would have made it these last eight years without the support you've given me."

"Edward, my boy," Esme sniffled as she laid her warm, soft hand against my cheek. "We are all so damn proud of you and love all of you so much. You've been an amazing father to those children and it has been my greatest joy as a mother to watch you grow into the incredible man you've become. Not to mention, how much fun I'll have when I get to be a grandmother again," she smirked at me as I coughed and choked when I comprehended what she had just said.

"Mama, Bella and I are a long way from giving you another grandchild," I finally managed to stutter out. Of course it didn't help that I had been having dreams of Bella pregnant with our child as we sat on the deck at the lake house either.

Esme patted my cheek then stood on her tip toes to give me a kiss before she gave me a knowing look, one that I had seen many, many times in my thirty three years. "I didn't mean tomorrow Edward," she snickered as she walked out the door only to be passed by her grandchildren as they ran into the kitchen. "However my son," she said, "I'm guessing no more than a year from now I'll be holding my newest grandbaby," she finished with a wink and wave.

A year? Holy hell…but no matter how hard I tried, I really couldn't stop the smile that spread across my face as I thought about it. A year sounded fucking perfect.

The kids and I spent the morning at the park and I couldn't help but miss Bella and judging from Rufus' whines I guessed he felt the same way. I could tell the kids felt the same way and as made our way to Mr. Saul's for our traditional birthday lunch, which was on the house of course, we made our way outside to sit and eat.

When the phone rang at precisely eleven thirty five, I answered the phone without even checking to see who it was…I didn't need to. "Hey beautiful," I said with a sigh and when I heard her giggle on the other end, I felt so much better.

"Edward," Bella said and I could tell she felt the same way I did.

Maddie and Masen pulled on my arms as soon as they realized Bella was on the phone and I laughed and said, "Hang on baby, let me put you on speaker so they can both talk to you. It seems we have two little eight year olds that are dying to talk to you."

As soon as I put the phone on the table all you could hear was Bella, Emmett and Seth singing Happy Birthday much to the delight of Maddie and Masen. It was so damn cute I didn't even care about the strange looks people gave us as they walked by on the sidewalk. Fuck 'em. This was my kids' day and I didn't give a shit if it was the most horribly off key version of the song I'd ever heard in my life.

Yeah, Em and Seth really shouldn't give up their day jobs that was for sure. They sucked but the kids didn't care at all.

After Bella was able to talk to each of the kids for a few minutes, Mr. Saul came to the door and took them and Rufus inside and I knew he was giving them their special birthday treat. Since the kids were old enough to eat solid food, he'd given them each their own triple chocolate tiramisu mini cake and it was one of the things they most looked forward to on their birthday. I had to admit, the stuff was fucking delicious.

He waved to me from the door and I was grateful for the few minutes of quiet to talk to my girl. "Bella, I miss you," I said pitifully and instead of the laugh I was expecting to get from her I heard her sniff.

"I hate this," she whined and realized we sounded like quite the pair. "I can't believe I have to miss their birthday." Bella sniffed again and I could her voice catch.

"Baby, they understand. We all do. It's not like you left on purpose you know," I told her, hoping that she would stop beating herself up about being gone. Ever since we realized she would be in California for this week she'd felt so guilty and there wasn't any reason for it. "Besides, having you three sing to them from across the country was a once in a lifetime thing…at least I sure as hell hope so," I teased and then smiled when I heard her giggle.

"Damn, they are so bad aren't they?" Bella laughed and I knew she was smiling so that made me feel better.

"The worst. Remind me to give them something to do at the party so we don't have to hear it again," I told her…completely serious. If I ever had to hear Seth and Emmett sing again it would be too fucking soon.

"What are your plans for today?" I asked her and listened as she filled me in on what she was going to be doing.

The last few days had been full of photo shoots and meetings at Twilight mixed in with restaurant and night club openings but the next few days were going to be especially high profile and therefore nerve wracking for her. Seth and Emmett were going to have their hands full that was for sure. Tonight she would be making an appearance at the Major League Baseball Home Run Derby which was going to be on national television and then tomorrow she was going to be at the All-Star game. Wednesday night she was going to be presenting an award at the ESPY Awards followed by a television appearance on Thursday before she came home on Friday.

I had to admit to being thrilled and even excited about seeing my girlfriend on national television. Not many people could say that and although I knew she would be nervous, I really couldn't fucking wait to see her.

"Bellllaaa," I whined as she finished telling me about her day. "Please give me a hint about what the surprise is for the kids."

She huffed at me and I couldn't help but smile. She was so damn easy to get all riled up…only problem was she was on the other side of the damn country right at the moment so I couldn't really enjoy it. "Edward Cullen, I swear," she said and then laughed at me. "You are worse than the kids, I'm telling you."

"But you love me and wouldn't have it any other way," I softly told her as I traced patterns with my finger on the table top as I watched people pass me by. I suddenly missed her so much my heart…hurt.

"I love you so much Edward," she said just as softly and I knew she could pick up on the change in the tone of my voice. "Only a few more days and then I'll be back home with you and the kids."

"This is the last trip like this right?" I asked again, needing her to reassure me that we wouldn't have to be apart like this.

"Yes sweetheart it is. Next time I leave you guys are coming with me. Then after that, all I have is a month until the fashion show and then I'm done. Forever," she said and I couldn't help the chuckle that escaped.

"I can't stop thinking about the talk we had before you left baby," I told her. Every night when I went to bed I replayed that conversation in my mind and every time it left me breathless and excited and scared out of my mind. It was, without a doubt, one of the most important conversations I'd ever had in my life and to know that she wanted the same things as I did was absolutely terrifying in the best possible way.

Bella sighed deeply and I knew without even seeing her she had her bottom lip in between her teeth and was wrapping a strand of hair around her finger as she talked to me. "Let go of that bottom lip angel," I whispered and had to adjust myself on the hard café chair.

How fucking embarrassing….but how fucking typical. One thought of that bottom lip and I was a goner.

"I really want to come home Edward," she said huskily and I knew her thoughts had taken the same turn mine did.

"Well my sweet girl, I have to say I want the same thing. Sleeping at Mama and Pop's is not the same as being at home with you…even if I did get chocolate chip pancakes this morning," I chuckled to her.

Bella gasped and then said, "Are you telling me Edward Anthony Cullen, that you would rather eat Esme's pancakes than mine?"

"No…Bella…that is not what…I didn't mean," I stuttered to her and then glared at the phone when I heard her laughing at me from two thousand miles away. "Not funny Bella," I growled at her and tried really hard not to laugh when I heard her eyes roll at me through the phone.

Well, I technically couldn't hear them roll, but I knew she was.

"Jake, I'm coming," Bella snapped and my mood immediately soured. "Damn dog," I muttered under my breath but apparently not low enough since Bella snorted when she heard me.

"Edward, knock it off. He's actually been a lot of help so far on this trip," Bella said patiently.

I didn't really care though. No matter how much help he was or how much distance he kept from Bella, I still didn't trust him and never would. I trusted Bella's opinion though and if she felt okay with him being there, then I would do my best to keep my mouth shut.

"Just remember what I said Bella. One wrong move and his ass is on a plane back to New York." I reminded her…for at least the hundredth time.

"Yes dear," she said, and not in that sweet, agreeing voice either. More like it was the 'if you say that to me one more time I am cutting you off' tone of voice and I immediately cringed.

I ran my hand through my hair and said through gritted teeth, "I'm sorry baby. I am trying," I said, trying to plead my case.

Bella sighed again, "I know Edward. I'm sorry I snapped at you, but I do need to go. I'll call the kids tonight after the surprise."

"Okay beautiful, you have a good day. I love you," I murmured to her softly and rubbed the medal beneath my shirt. "I love you too, Edward. You and the kids have fun today."

As soon as I hung up the phone, very reluctantly I might add, the kids ran outside and I rolled my eyes at Saul in thanks as I watched them bounce up and down from their sugar high. We said our goodbyes and then headed out for the rest of our afternoon and met up with Ali, Jasper, Tanya and Demetri at mini-golf. We had an enjoyable afternoon and we picked up Rufus who had spent the afternoon curled up behind the counter at the deli.

By the time we made it back to my parent's house Maddie and Masen were in desperate need of a nap…not to mention their old man. The family was meeting over here at seven for dinner so we had time to lay down before we had to eat. When I woke up the house was full of people and the smell of Mama's famous fried chicken and as soon as my stomach rumbled I hopped out of bed and changed my clothes and made my way downstairs to greet the family.

"Edward my boy, how's our girl doing?" Uncle Marcus asked as he handed me a beer and led me towards the back porch. The kids were playing with Rufus in the yard and I couldn't help but appreciate how lucky we were that my parents had bought the lot behind the house. Having a back yard in New York City was certainly not something you found very often and since the kids were old enough to walk, we had all enjoyed their foresight.

I grunted at him but then smiled when I saw the smart ass smirk on his face. The old man really tried to get under my skin, but I knew he loved Bella as much as any of us and for that I was extremely grateful…even if he flirted with my girl just to piss me off. "She's fine Uncle M. She's ready to come home already and Bella is really sad she missed the twins' birthday, but she's good."

"Any more trouble from reporters since you've been back?" he asked as Demetri and Jasper came outside and sat at the table with us.

I tipped my beer in their direction and then answered my uncle's question. "Nope not really. I noticed when we pulled up last week that there were wrappers and cups all over the ground and it took Rufus a few tries before he would go to the clearing, but it seems like things are okay now."

"Thank fucking god," Jasper huffed out as he took a long drink of his beer. "I know this shit has been really hard on you Edward, but I have to say, you've handled everything much better than I gave you credit for. Shortcake too as far as that goes. You two have really impressed me with the way you faced the press and the publicity after Masen's accident."

"Edward, you can't let your guard down though," Demetri said, looking very serious. "We all love you and Bella so damn much and if anything were to happen to either of you, I don't think this family could survive it."

"Amen to that son," Uncle Marcus said to his son before turning to look at me and then at Jasper next to me. "This family sticks together, always. You need anything, either of you, you make sure you let me know."

"Hey guys, Mom says it's time to eat," Alice said a few moments later and we all got up and followed her inside to the kids' birthday dinner.

We ate and ate and ate and I smiled when I got a text from Bella but frowned when I read the message.

"Dem," I called to my cousin who was wrapped around his girlfriend. "Turn the TV on will you? Bella says to make sure we're watching the Home Run Derby?" I said with a question.

What the hell was my girl up to?

By the time the dishes and food were put away we all settled in the family room around the television.

"And now, for a special request from a very special guest…or three," Joe Buck said and we all gasped when we saw Bella on the screen standing between Derek Jeter and Mia Hamm.

I was sitting next to Maddie and Masen per Bella's instructions and I couldn't help the tears that came to my eyes as I realized what she had done. "Thanks Joe," my girl said with a smile.

"I wanted to wish two very special people a Happy Birthday. I'm sorry I couldn't be with you guys, but I wanted you to know how much I loved you and missed you. I'll be home before you know it. Maddie and Masen, I love you," she said and blew us a kiss.

"Masen, Happy Birthday buddy. I hope to see you at a game real soon," Derek said much to my son's astonishment.

"Maddie, Bella tells me you are a star soccer player. Keep up the good work. Hope you have a Happy Birthday and get everything you wish for!" Mia said as she waved to the screen. Maddie lifted her hand and waved back which caused everyone in the room to smile.

"Daddy," Masen whispered as the television got back to the game. "Did Bella really just have Derek Jeter tells me happy birthday on tv's?"

I ruffled his hair and gave him a kiss on the top of his head and said, "She sure did little man. Pretty cool huh?" I said, still amazed at what she had done.

Maddie was still waving at the screen and I laughed and pulled her close to me. "I love Bella Daddy," Maddie said wistfully and I couldn't help but agree. "Me too princess. She's pretty special."

"She's the best mommy," Masen whispered so softly I am sure no one was supposed to hear him.

But, we all did and every member of my family nodded their head in agreement.

She sure the hell was and if I had anything to say about it, we wouldn't need to whisper about it anymore.


"Baby, I'm getting ready to meet Jasper for lunch. I'll talk to you tonight when you call to say goodnight to the kids okay? Have a good day and be safe. Tell Emmett he's supposed to be watching you, not Ichiro Suzuki," I told her as I caught Jasper's eye as I walked into the restaurant.

"I'll tell him hi for you Bella, say hi to Seth from us too. I'll talk to you tonight. I can't wait to see you on TV again. Thanks again for last night baby, it was amazing. The kids woke up talking about it this morning," I told her and then told her I loved her so I could shake Jasper's hand.

"Bella says hi," I told him as the hostess showed us to our seats…neither one of us paying any attention to her blatant and unwelcome flirting.

Jasper rolled his eyes at the girl as she huffed and walked away and we sat down and looked over the menu. "How is she? I bet she's a nervous wreck," he told me as he set his menu down and gave the waiter his order.

I did the same and then looked at him when the waiter was done and had walked off. "She is. I don't know why though, she was incredible last night," I said with a sigh as I remembered what she did for Maddie and Masen. "I know she had help getting that done, thanks for that by the way," I told Jasper with a knowing look.

Jasper picked up his glass of iced tea and took a sip as he shrugged his shoulders in my direction. "Edward, you know I love your kids and you know I would do anything for them…and for Bella. She asked for help, I gave it. Simple as that," he finished and sat back as the waiter delivered our lunch.

We ate our lunch and he filled me on in how things were going with my sister. Things were definitely getting extremely serious between the two of them and honestly, I couldn't be any happier for either of them. Jasper adored my sister and if he was able to put up with her manic mood swings, then more power to him!

"I'm really happy for you and Ali, Jasper," I told him truthfully. "You two are perfect for each other and you make my baby sister happy. That's all I've ever wanted for her."

"Thanks Edward," Jasper gulped and then looked at me for a moment before he spoke again. "Your opinion means so much to her, you have no idea how much. Sure she loves Emmett, but her relationship with you is not something she takes lightly. I hope you know she feels the same about you and Bella," he finished quietly.

I wiped my mouth and took a drink of my iced tea before I nodded at him and said, "I do know that. It's still so hard to wrap my head around all the twists and turns that brought all of us together. Bella and I talked a bit about that before she left last week," I trailed off as my mind drifted back to our conversation in the bathtub.

Jasper kicked my chair to get my attention and I shook my head at him and mumbled, "Sorry. I lost my train of thought for a second."

He looked at me in that quiet, contemplative way he gets that makes you feel like a science experiment being dissected before he said, "I take it, it was a good talk judging from the completely dazed and far off look you just got on your face?"

I answered him in the affirmative and he stared at me again and I watched as too many emotions to catalog passed over his face before he swallowed a few times and leaned forward. "Edward," Jasper began somewhat hesitantly. "I think I can speak for both Seth and Rose when I say that Bella is truly blessed to have you, Maddie and Masen in her life. All her life she has longed for the love and the acceptance that you have given her and I can honestly say without any hesitation that Bella has never been happier than she is when she is with you and the kids. Bella lived and breathed soccer and it was devastating for all of us when her dream was taken away from her but even when she was playing, she wasn't even close to being as happy as she is now…with you." He took a deep breath and then went on, "I know the time is coming, and probably not in the too distant future I'm guessing judging by the goofy ass look on your face, that you, Bella and the kids will be making your own family and doing your own things. Truthfully, it shouldn't be any other way. But, I hope that when that time comes, we can all still be part of your lives."

"Jasper," I chuckled a bit and then looked at him and he was as serious as I'd ever seen him. "It's not like when Bella's contract is up we're going to pack up and move to Alaska."

He sat back in his chair and we waved the waiter off as he approached. Jasper sighed and said, "I know that Edward but damn man. You know and I know and hell everyone else knows that as soon as Shortcake is finished working for Volturi, you are very likely going to steal her away. You two may not come up for air for weeks…hell months if it were left up to you."

A shadow fell across the table and both of us raised our heads to see Aro Volturi standing beside us. He did not look happy to see us and I immediately had the feeling that he had heard more of our conversation than was appropriate. Judging from the tenseness I could see in Jasper's jaw, I knew he thought the same thing.

"Edward Cullen, how very nice to see you again," Aro said as he held his creepy, papery skin covered hand out to me and I had no choice but to take it and shake.

The man was seriously creepy as fuck and even at the age of thirty three he made my skin crawl.

Even the brief contact from shaking the man's hand made me want to rub my own hand up and down on my leg but I resisted the impulse and instead wrapped my hand around my glass of iced tea. "You too, Aro."

"And Jasper, how nice to see you as well. I didn't realize you two were so close," Aro said and looked back and forth between us.

Jasper studied the man for a bit before he tilted his head to the side and said, "Aro, I am sure you are well aware that my girlfriend is Edward's sister Alice Cullen. Edward and I were just catching up while Bella is out of town."

"Ah yes, our Isa," Aro said in a tone of voice that sounded wistful and at the same time full of a double meaning I couldn't even begin to comprehend. "How is she? I spoke with Jane this morning but unfortunately Isa was unavailable. I trust she is ready to perform her duties this evening?" Aro questioned both of us and the look Jasper gave me stopped the retort that was sitting on the end of my tongue just waiting to spit out at the man.

Jasper sat up tall in his seat and stared at Aro. To someone who didn't know him very well you would not be able to detect the fury that was beneath the calm façade but I knew it was lurking just below the surface. "Aro, you know as well as I do that Bella," Jasper enunciated my girls name quite forcefully and then said, "always performs her job to the best of her abilities. I have no idea why would deem to think otherwise."

"Oh I know that Jasper. I did happen to catch our Isa's rather inappropriate use of her notoriety last night. I have to admit its turned out well for Volturi. I will never turn down good publicity if I can get it but Jane feels, as do I, that it would be better if something like that did not happen again," Aro said pointedly. He tapped his finger against his chin before he looked at me and then said, "Isa's reputation is very important to me."

"Aro," Jasper said slowly getting his attention. "You do know that Jane helped Bella with that last night don't you. There is no way Bella could have managed that on her own."

He waved his hand dismissively at the mention of his daughter, "I am very well aware of my daughter's involvement in last night's spectacle. I also know Jane would do anything to please Isa since she knows that my Isa's happiness is of utmost importance to me."

There was something totally sinister in the way he kept referring to Bella as his and it made the hair on the back of my neck stand on end.

Aro looked back and forth between Jasper and I and his eyes did that eerie seeing but not really seeing thing he did at the Gala. I didn't like it anymore now than I did four months ago. "I couldn't help but overhear the end of your conversation," Aro began and I had to squeeze my hands into tight fists and bite the inside of my cheek to keep myself from saying something that would jeopardize Bella's job.

He lifted a long, bony hand in the air and waved it as if he was swatting at a fly and then looked at me and said, "I do hope Edward, you allow Isa to make her own decision regarding her continued employment with Volturi after September if that is what she wishes. I worked very hard to acquire her and I assure you, I am not keen to give her up without a fight if need be. I have spent a lot of money to get her where she is and I would hope that Isa is prepared to pay me back for the kindness Jane and I have bestowed upon her."

I looked at Jasper unbelievingly for a moment before I turned my gaze back to Aro. I'd had enough of his sanctimonious bull shit and there was no way I was going to put up with him insinuating that I was keeping Bella away from…anything.

Standing up I looked Aro in the eye and said, "Listen Mr. Volturi. First of all, what ever Bella decides to do once her contract is up is between her and I and no one else. I will support her in whatever she decides to do and Bella is well aware of that fact. Secondly, there is nothing that Bella," and this time it was me that pronounced her name purposely, "owes you, your daughter or your company."

I stepped closer to him and lowered my voice and held my hand out to Jasper to keep him from interrupting me. "And as for your Isa, let me make something perfectly clear to you Mr. Volturi. She is not yours…she's mine. Completely, totally and one hundred fucking percent mine. It's my bed she shares at night and it's my voice that is the last thing she hears before she goes to sleep. It's my face that is the first thing she sees when she wakes up in the morning. Bella is mine Volturi and you'd better not make the mistake of forgetting it for one fucking second."

The old man looked like he wished the ground would open up and swallow me whole and I am quite positive that I didn't look at him much differently.

"Edward, enough," Jasper hissed at me as I moved even closer to Aro. For a moment all I could see was a red haze of anger but after a few deep breaths, I was able to get control of myself and stepped back and then sat down.

"Well, we will just have to see what we can use to entice Isa into staying with Volturi now won't we young Edward? Enjoy the remainder of your lunch," Aro said as if the entire conversation we'd just had never happened.

As soon as he walked off I couldn't help the shiver that went down my spine and I looked at Jasper who had had the same reaction. "Jasper," I whispered.

"No worries Edward. We're on top of it," Jasper said as he picked up the phone and called Alice.

By the time Jasper was off the phone with my brilliant sister and I had listened to what Jasper said to her, I felt a bit better.

Aro wouldn't rest until he had Bella back under his control and now that he could feel it and her slipping away, there was no telling what he might do to keep her.

I picked Maddie and Masen up from my parent's house once I was finished at the office and went back to the loft for the night. Jasper, Alice, Demetri, Tanya, Rose, Ben, and Heidi were all coming over to watch the All-Star game…and Bella on TV and we were just going to order pizza and hang out. As soon as we got back to the loft, the kids and I took Rufus out to the clearing and then we all changed our clothes into shorts and t-shirts and waited for the rest of the family to arrive.

Demetri was beside himself and couldn't wait to see Bella. She wasn't throwing out the first pitch, but was participating in the pre-game activities and when the camera panned the field and found her for the first time, I swear I thought my heart was going to explode. As soon as she noticed the camera was on her, she lifted her fingers and pressed them against her lips and then blew a kiss to the camera…but it was to me and me and everyone in the loft knew it.

"Daddy! Look, there's Bella!" Masen squealed from his spot on the floor. He barely missed spilling pizza down the front of his ever present Derek Jeter jersey in his excitement but Rufus took care of the mess that landed on the floor.

"You're so lucky Bell's not here to see you let them eat on the floor Edward," Rose smirked at me and I knew she was right. Bella was quite obsessive about her wood floors…it was actually quite adorable in a pain in the ass sort of way.

"Shut it Rose," I grumbled but I did know Bella would have my ass in a sling if Masen spilled something on the floor.

We watched the festivities and we all almost spit out our beer at the television when the camera panned around again and we caught a glimpse of Emmett in a heated conversation with Ichiro Suzuki and Derek Jeter. Even the commentators had plenty to say about the big guy arguing with two of the most well known baseball players in the country. Only my dumb ass brother…I swear.

Bella called as soon as she was finished so she could talk to the kids before they went to bed and even though the conversation was short, the kids were in heaven just getting to talk to her before they went to sleep. With all the traveling she had done since we've been together, and even the nights we spent apart here in the city, Bella had never missed telling them good night…not once.

"She's such a good mom," Tanya said wistfully as we watched Maddie and Masen pass the phone back and forth as they talked to Bella and she told them all about California.

I kissed the side of her head and nodded in agreement, "She sure as hell is…the best. Bella is just…" I sighed suddenly at a loss for words. I could insert any number of words; perfect, incredible, amazing and while any of those would work of course, they don't even come close to encompassing all she is to me…to my kids.

Everything. Bella was everything. She was my lover, my best friend, my soul mate, the mother to my children. She was my life, my future and my future bride. She was…everything.


"Bella looked so pretty last night son," Carlisle told me as I walked into my office Thursday morning.

I hung up my jacket and put my doctor coat on before I looked at him. I smiled and nodded because really, she looked fucking incredible when she presented the Female Athlete of the Year award last night on the ESPY's. "I talked to Emmett right before she had to present and he told me she was a nervous wreck. Like hyperventilate, almost throw up nervous," I chuckled remembering Emmett's very vivid descriptions of my girl.

"Well, you certainly couldn't tell. Your mother and I thought she did fantastic," my dad said as he slapped me on the back.

"I thought she did wonderful too, Dr. Cullen," our new receptionist Maggie said as she walked into my office and handed me a stack of files for the patients I would be seeing this morning.

Maggie was an excellent receptionist; the fact that she was in her late forties and happily married to her high school sweetheart Liam didn't hurt either. She was an absolute delight to work with and the office was thriving under her care.

I took the files from her and said, "Thanks, Maggie. I'll be sure to pass along the compliment to Bella when I talk to her later today."

The day passed quickly and I was completing some paperwork when I heard a knock on my door and noticed it was approaching four o'clock. I looked up to see Jasper walk in, followed by a very grim looking Ben, Alice and Tanya.

My stomach immediately felt like it was tied in knots and when my father entered my office and came to stand beside me, I knew that something was wrong.

"What's going on Jasper?" I asked as I stood up but didn't get very far since my legs felt like jell-o.

Jasper sat down across the desk from me, Ben beside him. Alice stood behind Jasper and laid her hands on his shoulders and Tanya stood beside Ben. Everyone looked at me and no one wanted to say anything. I had about a million things that flew through my mind at one time as I tried to figure out what could be so important that they needed to come to my office in the middle of the day.

"Bella, is Bella okay?" I asked frantically, thinking that she had been hurt or something but Jasper held up his hand and said, "Shortcake is fine Edward. So are the kids and so are Emmett, Seth and Angela."

"Then what the hell are you doing here and what is so bad that you need to come to my office and bring reinforcements," I said as I looked at my sister and two best friends. "Not to mention my father. Just tell me damn it," I told him, my mind in overdrive now.

Jasper shifted uneasily in his seat and for the first time I noticed he held an envelope in his hand. A large, manila envelope to be exact and one that looked precisely like the envelope the letters Jasper showed us up at the lake came in.

"Is that?" I asked, my heart beating wildly in my chest and my breaths coming in short, sharp breaths.

It had been so long since Bella had received a letter and I had to admit to the obviously now foolish hope that they had stopped.


"Does Bella know?" I breathed out; my hands shook as I laid them on my desk in front of me and I closed my eyes and shook my head in agitation.

When Jasper didn't answer me right away, I opened my eyes and looked at him. As if knowing another letter had come wasn't bad already, seeing Jasper with the worried and…scared look on his face was more than enough to send me straight into a panic.

"What?" I begged.

I watched Jasper pull the paper out of the envelope and then made the mistake of looking into the faces of my sister and Ben. Both wore the same look of fear and heartbreak and suddenly I didn't want to be here any longer. I didn't want to know what was in that fucking envelope and I didn't want to listen to Jasper explain what it all meant. I wanted to be at home, with Bella and the kids, curled up on the couch while we watched a movie and ate popcorn.

I didn't want to know…but I knew I had to know so I held my hand out and said, "Just let me see the fucking thing Jasper."

Jasper's eyes were full of so much emotion I couldn't bear to look at him and he handed it to me with a trembling hand.

I took a deep breath and felt my dad's hands grip my shoulders tightly before I looked down at the paper I held in my hands. What I saw made my entire body tense and I felt as if I had been submerged in a tub of ice cubes. My vision blurred, my breathing was shallow and erratic and I felt as though I had been hit in the stomach with a baseball bat.

"Jesus fucking Christ," I hissed out. I wanted to hit something, anything. I wanted to scream, I wanted to run. I wanted Bella.

"Has she seen this yet?" I asked no one in particular, but when I heard a throat clear I looked up to see Ben nodding his head at me. "Yes, Edward. I sent a copy to Em and Seth a few minutes ago, right before we came in to speak with you. Riley has the original. Emmett had me take it to him immediately. What you have is a copy, the same as Bella."

"Fuck," I muttered as I pinched the bridge of my nose so hard it brought tears to my eyes.

"Edward, I'm sor…" Jasper began but I cut him off.

"Not good enough Jasper," I spat at him and then sat back in my chair for a moment before I had to stand up. I paced around my office, not saying a word as I tried to get my emotions under some semblance of control. I knew I was going to need to speak with Bella as soon as possible. The fact that she was, right at this moment, two thousand miles away weighed down on me like a ton of bricks and my heart ached at the thought of not being able to comfort her once Emmett and Seth showed her the letter.

I shook my head and stomped over to my desk and picked up some sick perverts idea of a warning. I had to admit, it was doing a pretty fucking good job.

"Edward," Ben hesitantly began and when I snapped my head in his direction I could tell he was fighting to stay calm for my benefit. "Do you know when that was taken? Riley said that was the first thing he needed to know before he could do anything."

I nodded and pointed to the letter that had a picture of Maddie, Masen and I on it. "It was taken last Tuesday, the day before Bella left for California. She was running late getting home so the kids and I went to the market to buy some food to make for dinner as well as some snacks and magazines for Bella to take on the plane with her," I said, furious that I didn't notice someone following us.

The picture was of me walking with Maddie and one side of me and Masen on the other. Whoever took it snapped just as I bent down and looked between the two of them and we were all smiling just before we walked into the market. This time the caption made me want to take Bella and the kids someplace far, far away and never come back. I hated feeling like a coward, hated feeling like running was the only option but god damn it, this shit was getting too fucking close to home and I was scared.

Totally, out of my mind scared.

I read the words below the picture again, and it wasn't any easier the second time:

I want you to notice when I'm not around…

"Jasper, Ben, what the hell?" I asked unnecessarily. I didn't really even know what I was asking them to be honest but I hoped someone had an answer…or words of advice…or something.

"Edward, Bella comes home tomorrow. I think you and her need to meet with Riley and figure out what we can do. This is getting out of hand," Jasper said and I looked at him, mouth agape.

I ran a hand through my hair and pulled before I responded to him. "You think? Christ Jasper…those are my children," I shrieked and felt my father's calming presence behind me.

"I know man. I do," he said and I glanced at my sister who was shaking.

I held my arm out and whispered, "Come here Ali Cat." I wrapped an arm around her and held her as she hung onto me.

"I'm so scared for all of you Edward," she cried.

My father wrapped an arm around her as well and I patted her on the back, "I'm scared to baby girl. Out of my fucking mind scared," I admitted and looked from Jasper, to Ben, to Tanya.

I thought about Maddie and Masen and I whipped my head around to look at my father, "Pop," I choked out, terrified that they were alone with my mother.

"Demetri and Marcus are with your mother and the kids Edward. Everyone is safe," he assured me and gripped my shoulder again. "This family is here for all of you son. We will not let anything happen to any of you."

"Edward, I think you need to go home and call Bella," Jasper said as he held his hand out for Alice and I watched as he wrapped an arm around her protectively. "We'll all go with you," he said as he looked at Ben and Tanya.

"Go Edward," Carlisle said as I stood up and numbly started putting my phone and keys in my pockets. "Demetri, Marcus and I will bring the kids to you once you've had a chance to talk to Bella. She needs you Edward, be strong for her," he told me with a kiss to my forehead.

I didn't even pay attention to the trip home and before I knew it, Tanya had pulled into the parking garage. "Edward, we're all here for you," she told me fiercely as she grabbed my hand in hers. "We love all of you so much. It's going to be okay," Tanya whispered, as much to herself as to me.

Rose pulled in right behind us and ran to my side and engulfed me in a huge hug as soon as I was out of the car. "She's desperate to talk to you Edward," she said as she held onto my arm as she and Tanya guided me to the elevator.

"Is Bella okay?" I stupidly asked. Of course she wasn't okay, how could she be?

"Em said she was a wreck until she called Esme and talked to the kids. Now, she's just worried about you. Are you alright?" Rose asked me tenderly and I saw tears in her eyes.

Everyone was freaked out about this now, everyone was scared. This really didn't help…at all.

"Once I see her and then have her home tomorrow, then I'll be okay. Whoever this sick fucker is, is going to figure out really fucking quick he's messed with the wrong damn family," I hissed out and slapped my hand, hard, against the side of the elevator.

I stormed into the loft after I unlocked the door and ripped my jacket off and threw it on the couch. "God damn it!" I yelled and felt bad when I saw Tanya and Rose flinch from my outburst. I walked to the liquor cabinet and poured a glass of scotch which I gulped down in one drink. Then I poured another and repeated the sequence.

As soon as the liquid began to burn in my stomach, I felt my nerves begin to calm.

I grabbed the laptop off the dining room table and looked at Tanya, Rose and now Jasper and Alice who had just arrived. "I'll be a bit, help yourselves to whatever," I waved my hand towards the kitchen.

I shut the door behind me and took a few deep breaths to keep myself from losing control. I picked up my phone and sent Bella a quick text telling her to get on Skype. I had to see her, make sure she was okay with my own two eyes.

As the computer loaded, I quickly changed my clothes into basketball shorts and a t-shirt and as soon as I was done, typed in the information to get on Skype. The second my Bella's face filled the screen and she saw me, she started to cry.

"Edward, baby, are you okay?" she frantically asked as I sat and stared at her.

I reached my hand out and ran my fingers over the screen where her image was and it was almost as if I could feel her. "I am now," I said softly and in a much calmer voice than should have been possible considering I felt as if my whole body was a live wire.

"I'm so sor," she began but I cut her off. "If you finish that sentence Bella, I swear the little control I have will go flying out the fucking window. Don't say it, don't even think it. This. Is. Not. Your. Fault." I told her, a bit more forcefully than was completely necessary but hell, I couldn't help it.

"You will come home to me tomorrow, we will go see Riley, and we will be okay. All of us. We will figure out what to do for the next sixty days and then," I took a deep breath, "then my Bella, we are going to Lake George and getting started on making all of your dreams come true. Preferably with a lot of practicing for the baby making," I said with a smirk.

"Edward," Bella sighed and my heart broke when I saw her shoulders shake and the tears fall down her beautiful, tortured face.

"It will be okay Bella, it has to be. We'll figure it out together. Where you go, I go. Always." I reminded her.

"Together," she whispered and held her pendant in one hand and touched the screen where my fingers were with the other.

I reached up and rubbed my medal and repeated the same words back to her, "Together."


  1. ERIN!

    Ok let's see where to start:

    Their conversation! It was wonderful and so heartfelt. It's so great that they are on the same page. I'm sure Bella was worried about Edward's reaction to wanting to live at the lake house, but he had in his thoughts that he wanted to live there too and get the kids out of the city, so that's just perfect! It's E and B, how could it not be!

    Creeptastic Aro! Holy dude has some mind boggling thinking going on there. I was SO PROUD of Edward telling him to take a flying leap, I just worry about the ramifications of that. Although, I'm shocked that Jasper let him get away with the shit he was saying. Edward didn't though and that's a good thing. And what the heck was the big deal that Bella said happy birthday to the kids. It's not like it made her look bad or anything. He's just creepy!

    Love the new receptionist at the office. I chuckled when he said she was in her 40s and happily married! THAT is what they needed instead of stalkerish Kate!

    Wonder what Emmett was being all heated about in the convo with the baseball players hehe He's so funny!

    And the LETTER! THAT was FREAKY and I can't imagine how hard that had to of been to be separated when that came in. Is Riley going to still say there are no threats there? The kids are being involved now and someone needs to step up to the plate and try and figure this out. I know that Jasper, Ben, Em and Seth are doing all they can, but the cops need to be involved now.. it's just not right!

    *sigh* It was a friggin awesome chapter! Sincerely! I can't wait for more!! You are the best at keeping us all on our toes!!

  2. Okay~ You know I have had a thing or two to say about all the other people it "could" be that is threatening Bella... but after that spiel from aro~ the dude is seriously creepy and he did not like Edward telling him off at all and THEN the next day after the confrontation they get a new letter, seems pretty coincidential to me... he specifically says, "Well, we will just have to see what we can use to entice Isa into staying with Volturi now won't we young Edward?" How more blatant than that can he be... it was all but an outright threat, although it has not registered to either Edward or Jazz that it IS such... it's blackmail, pure and simple. And the ?POV a few chapters back ~ the inner thoughts~ that person did not bank on the Cullen family~! they band together to protect their own and Bella and her 3 cohorts are FAMILY~ the Cullens will FIGHT for them the same as any other family member...

  3. Also, with the statement that aro made, shows that he is targeting Edward, thinking that by targeting Mad & Mase it will cause Edward to back off ~ WRONG~ All that did was piss off him and the rest of the Cullens off and made them FIGHTIN' MAD~!

    On a brighter note~ The bath scene with Bella & Edward was totally wonderful and magic. I loved her ramble and how she ran off at the mouth like she could not get everything in her heart out ~ like she was on overload and had to get it all out there or she would lose her nerve and not tell him her heart~! Too cute and so Bella and I loved his reaction to her ramble, cuz it was exactly his heart as well, and like they said... TOGETHER, united they stand... divided neither of them would survive~ They have a support system that is going to get them through this until aro is caught... and with this new jane and how she is falling for Ian, I do not think she will back her dad up on this in the end... Just Sayin'

  4. I know we have not heard the last of lauren yet either, she is lurking in the shadows and she is about to cause some mess as well... and let us not forget that kate is a bitch scorned, you know she is gonna cause an upheavel of some kind...