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.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Chapter 37

Bella, will you be our Mommy?
I don't think I had ever heard words more beautiful in my entire life. I was speechless for a moment, my heart and mind so full of everything that just happened over the last hour. I had dreamed about the day this would happen. I'd tried to envision what it would be like. Would it be a spur of the moment thing? Would Edward and I sit down with the kids and talk about it first and then gradually get everyone used to it? Did Maddie and Masen even want me to be their mother?
That was the one that worried me the most, the one that picked and prodded at the deep recesses of my heart when I had doubts. I knew the twins loved me, there was no doubting that. They knew I loved them as well. But this was more than that…way, way more.
This was everything…this was my dream come true.
I had a family, a family of my own that I could love and would love me back. Edward, my amazing, dream come true, man …my everything, had given me a family. He'd given me his children to love as my own and they loved me back just the same.
"Baby?" Edward softly said.
I wiped the tears off my face and picked my head up to look into the very expectant and very happy faces of Maddie and Masen…my children.
"Yes!" I exclaimed and held my arms open as they each flew into them. "Yes a million times yes," I laughed and kissed them each over and over again.
They had thrown themselves at me so hard we were pressed against the back of the sofa. Edward sat on the sofa with us and wrapped us all up in a tight hug. We stayed that way for a few minutes, just reveling in the sweetness and the joyousness of the moment.
I finally sat up and looked at Maddie and Masen and said very sincerely, "I love you both so very much. You have no idea how happy you've made me today. Thank you so much for my gifts, but more importantly, thank you for choosing me," I said with a voice thick with emotion.
"We love you Mommy," they each said and that started the tears…again.
Masen started to wiggle around and pulled at the collar of his dress shirt. After shooing them both off to go change into much more comfortable clothes, I sat still and stared down at the new jewelry that adorned my wrist and finger. I had never seen anything as beautiful as each of them and I was never, ever taking either one of them off.
"Thank you, Bella," Edward said softly beside me and I brought my face up to look at him.
I shook my head at him and without saying a word climbed into his lap and curled into him, wrapping my arms around his neck and letting go of all of the overwhelming emotions I had been trying to hold in for the past hour.
"Bella, angel…shhh…I've got you," Edward murmured in my ear as he ran his fingers through my hair and rocked me back and forth.
After a few minutes, my sobs had finally quieted to soft hiccups and Edward bent down to kiss my temple and then lifted my face to his and he kissed my forehead. "Are you okay now?" he asked with a smile and I nodded my head.
"It was a lot to take in all at one time, huh?" He smirked at me.
I rolled my eyes at him and then smiled when he wiped the tears off my face with his fingertips, "That's an understatement if I've ever heard one." I sighed deeply as I replayed the events that just happened over again in my head and looked at him, full of awe as I tried to imagine the planning that had gone into what they had just done. "How in the world did you get that all done in such a short time?" I questioned as I shook my head, still not quite believing everything that had happened.
"Mama," Edward said with a chuckle. "Apparently once our devilish duo clued her in on what they wanted to do, she ran with it. Ali and Rose helped as well as Demetri, Jasper and Seth. It was a group effort, I assure you."
In a voice full of wonder I looked at him and with all the love I could convey with my words I said, "Thank you for sharing them with me Edward. I couldn't imagine my life without the three of you in it. I will always remember this day. I've never been happier," I trailed off as I bent forward to kiss him.
I had to kiss him, needed to kiss him and I clung to him desperately as I allowed my kiss to try to tell him all that I couldn't even put into words.
"I will love you forever Edward," I whispered to him when we finally had to break away for a breath of air.
"As I will you Bella. Together, always," he murmured and kissed me again.
The family arrived a few hours later so that we could watch the DVD and look through the album. Every time either Maddie or Masen would call me mommy, and it came so effortlessly for them, everyone in the room would stop what they were doing and smile at us. No one was more pleased than Edward, with every look in my direction and every tender touch he gave me, I knew that today was only the first step toward our future together.
"Hey Bella," Maggie greeted me on Monday as I walked into Edward's office.
I loved Maggie…like really and truly loved Maggie. She was amazing and so nice and welcoming. She didn't take any shit from Edward or Tanya or even Carlisle. She was pleasant and she always told Edward when I was here. In other words…she wasn't Kate!
Thank God for small favors!
I held up the bag of Chinese I picked up on the way here and asked, "Is he in his office?"
"Sure is sweetie. He's been poking his head out the damn door every two minutes to see if you've gotten here yet, so you'd better scoot!" She chuckled and then shook her head.
Edward had been so cute since yesterday… and excited, and blissfully happy…and hyper. He was worse than Alice would be on speed, just bouncing off the walls ecstatic. Of course none of the rest of us were any better if I was being honest. Once we had all calmed down from everything and had the chance to just soak up and revel in what had transpired. It felt like there was a palpable shift in the air. We had truly, one hundred percent, become a family in that instant and all four of us basked in the knowledge.
I knocked softly on the door and then walked in, smiling when I found Edward on the phone. He was checking on a patient at the hospital so I set the bag of food on the table by the couch and went to stand by the window while he finished up his conversation.
I had no idea how long I stood there, absentmindedly rubbing the bracelet on my arm, but I smiled when I felt my favorite two arms in the world wrap around my waist. Edward rested his chin on my shoulder and whispered, "Whatcha' thinking about?"
He pressed a gentle kiss to my neck as I shook my head. "Nothing really," I said with a shrug of my shoulders. It was the truth, my mind was nowhere in particular, it was just wandering.
Edward turned me around and hooked his hands at the small of my back as he peered down at me, studying my face to decide if I was telling the truth or not. It was sometimes extremely unnerving how well he could read me, and on more than one occasion I wished he wasn't always able to know what I was thinking. Whatever he saw now as he looked at me must have made him happy because a huge grin appeared on his face. He bent his head down and brushed his lips across mine as he said, "You're so happy today."
I ran my fingers through his hair, damn it was always so soft, and said, "Of course I'm happy Edward. How could I not be?"
"Just checking sweet girl. Now, let's eat. I'm starving," he smirked at me and led me towards the sofa where we dug into our food.
We ate in silence for a few minutes while I thought about what Riley had told us Friday about asking some of the others to come with us to California. While I loved the thought of going away with just Edward and the kids, I couldn't help but get excited about traveling with the rest of the family. I could only imagine going to Disney with both Seth and Emmett. The park might never be the same once those two were done with it!
"Sweetheart," we both said at the same time.
Edward chuckled at me and motioned with his hand for me to go first as he picked up a piece of General Tso's chicken with his chopsticks.
"Sweetheart," I began again and smiled when he snorted. "I was thinking about what Riley said on Friday about the trip to California."
Edward raised his eyebrows at me and after he finished chewing and swallowing, he smirked at me. "I was just thinking about the same thing baby," he quipped before he popped another piece of chicken in his mouth. "Now, what exactly did you have going on in that gorgeous head of yours?" he asked.
I took a drink of my green tea and then said, "Well, I would really love to spend some time with just you and the kids on vacation." I glanced at him and he looked at me expectantly. "But," I began slowly and he grabbed my hand in encouragement, "I think it would be really great to go with the rest of the family as well."
"You do?" He questioned, and when I nodded my head he smiled even bigger and said, "I was thinking the same thing angel."
"How about this?" he started excitedly. "We see who wants to come with us to California, and then when you are done with your contract, we take another trip, just the four of us?" Edward asked me.
"Really?"I asked, not that I expected anything less from him to be honest. I knew if I wanted the family to come with us, he would want it as well. I was thrilled with the thought of going away with just him and the kids though.
He reached forward and tucked a piece of hair behind my ear and ran his thumb over the apple of my cheek and whispered, "Of course really. Bella, I would love nothing more than to whisk you and the kids away someplace once you are through with your contract. Maybe we can go for your birthday?" He asked sweetly as my stomach fluttered with the thought of spending time as a family swept through me.
"Oh Edward," I murmured as I leaned towards him and wrapped my arms around him.
Edward chuckled and pulled me toward him and then settled me on his lap. He linked my right hand with his left and rubbed his thumb over the ring on my finger. I loved that…like really, really loved that.
We sat in a comfortable silence for a few minutes, both seemingly lost in thought. My mind flitted from one thing to the other, in a continuous loop. My thoughts raced from the life altering day yesterday, to coming home to Edward on Friday, to the meeting with Riley and then back to that damned letter.
"Baby, you okay?"Edward quietly asked me as I shook my head to come back to the present.
I squeezed his hand to let him know I was back with him and the nuzzled his neck with my nose as I nodded my head. "Yep, I'm just perfect. My mind just wandered for a minute is all," I told him.
"Anything you want to talk about?" He asked sweetly.
I didn't really have anything in particular that I wanted to tell him so I shrugged my shoulders and smiled at him.
We talked softly for awhile, I filled him on my schedule for the rest of the week and we talked about the self defense classes Emmett and Seth were going to give for me and the girls as well. As much as I didn't want to think about the reason for having to take the classes, I knew it was in my best interest to learn how to defend myself as much as possible.
This whole thing was starting to wear on me. I was so stressed wondering when, if and how someone, whoever the hell it was, would finally do something. The waiting…the fucking waiting was excruciating. I was so sick of always watching over our shoulders, always panicking at every movement. I was sick of having to question every person that approached that only wanted an autograph or a picture. It was beginning to take its toll on me.
I tried to hide my feelings as best as I could from Edward. I didn't want him to worry about me. He already had enough to worry about with the kids and their safety, I just couldn't add to his stress and concerns. For the briefest…most miniscule of moments, I thought that Edward, Maddie and Masen would be better off without me. Being separated by thousands of miles when that last letter came in was gut wrenching. When Seth and Emmett sat me down to tell me about it, I felt as if my whole world collapsed.
I couldn't breathe.
I couldn't focus.
I couldn't think.
I was a nervous wreck until I talked to Esme and then heard Maddie and Masen's voices. I had hated my job plenty during the five years I'd worked for Volturi. I hated it when Seth and I had to go to New York City and Jasper and Rose went to California. I hated it when some asshat thought it would be cool and okay to touch my ass as I stood for picture after picture. I hated it when I was out in public and every male within the immediate vicinity would undress me with their eyes.
I hated my job pretty much on a daily basis…but that was nothing compared to the all consuming rage I'd felt when I saw the copy of that fucking picture. It was really hard to not allow myself to wallow in the belief that if it weren't for me, Edward and the kids would be safe and sound. They wouldn't have to worry about some crazed person following them snapping their picture. Edward wouldn't be constantly aware of every little sound and movement. Without me, none of this would have happened.
Fortunately, as soon as that thought entered my mind, it left just as quickly. I had to believe, I did believe that Edward and I were brought together for a purpose; that we were supposed to be together, and nothing would change that. So, I pushed any thought of the three of them being better off without me out of my head.
Apparently I shook my head subconsciously because Edward squeezed his arms around me and looked at me questioningly. I took a deep breath. I really needed to get something off my chest, and I supposed there was no time like the present. "Edward," I began hesitantly and I moved my head so I could look him in the eye.
He arched his eyebrow in question and I whispered, "I'm scared."
Edward and I had talked when the letters first started coming and he knew how upset they made me. He knew how I felt when we got the letter that was delivered on Father's Day at his parent's house. We had talked about this most recent letter as well, but this last one left me with a sense of unease. I could feel it deep in my bones. There was something really sinister about this last letter, like the person that sent the picture knew that taking a picture of just Edward and the kids would put the both of us on such an unstable footing we wouldn't be able to stop thinking about it.
"What do you mean, you're scared?" Edward asked as he pushed my hair behind my ear and kissed the tip of my nose.
"I have a really bad feeling about this last letter baby," I told him as I pulled his medal from beneath his shirt and held it between my fingers as if it would somehow protect us from it all.
Edward let out a breath through his nose and the muscles in his arms tensed reflexively, "Bella," he said in an agonized voice.
"I know what you're going to say Edward, but I can't help the way I feel," I told him, a little put out that he was going to dismiss my feelings.
I tried to scoot off his lap, but he held on to me. "Bella, stop," he snapped when I tried to get away from him.
"What?" I hissed back at him, really getting pissed that he wouldn't even let me get off his lap.
He huffed and clenched his teeth tightly. "Damn it Bella, would you fucking sit still?" he said and then I finally managed to break free from him and stomped over to the window.
Neither of us said anything for a few minutes and I could hear him breathing. I noticed him as he ran his hand through his hair as he tipped his head against the back of the sofa. My eyes began to sting as I tried to hold my tears in while I crossed my arms in front of me.
"Angel, I'm sorry I snapped at you," he said quietly, still looking up at the ceiling.
I didn't face him, I kept my head towards the windows and I merely said, "Hmmm."
"Bella," Edward said in a pained voice and I still didn't say anything. There were a few moments of complete silence. I knew he would sit there on that damn sofa all day and wait for me to turn around before he said one more freaking word.
"What Edward?" I bitingly said and then cringed when I saw him frown after I turned to look at him. Damn, I really hated fighting with him I thought to myself and then sighed heavily.
His eyes bore into mine as he held my gaze, staring intently at me. His gorgeous eyes were pinched, the lines that surrounded them more pronounced. The green eyes I loved looking at every day were full of so many emotions right now, they said more than words could ever express.
Anger, sadness, resignation, Undying, unending love… that was what shone through the brightest and I felt like a spoiled little child throwing a temper tantrum. Fuck I hated to be the one that was wrong, really fucking hated it but in this case I was the one that over reacted. Hell, I hadn't even given him a chance to say anything except for my name before I stomped off.
"Please, Bella. I don't want to argue with you," he said softly. He held his hand out to me and I immediately walked to the sofa and placed my hand in his so he could hold it once I took a seat next to him.
Edward leaned over and kissed my cheek. His fingers traced over the patterns of the charms on my bracelet. "Now, do you think I can finish telling you what I started to say a few minutes ago?" he asked me and waited for my answer.
I nodded my head and he began, "We can't do this baby. Do you think I can't tell how much stress you've been under? Do you think you've fooled me at all when you keep telling me you're fine every time I ask you? Do you think I'm not every bit as scared as you are?" he questioned fervently.
My head fell and immediately he placed a finger beneath my chin and lifted my face up to his. "Bella, you have to talk to me. You can't keep what you're feeling bottled up inside of you and you can't try to shoulder the burden of what is happening by yourself. Together, remember? We promised one another, not too long ago, that we would face whatever came our way together," he said tenderly.
I took a deep breath to speak but he squeezed my hand to let me know he wasn't finished yet. At the nod of my head, he continued, "And I know I haven't been as forthcoming as I should be either. We keep circling around, trying not to upset the other. We have a problem Bella, and it's not a small one. It's serious, dangerous and not something we can just ignore and hope it goes away. You were there when we talked to Riley so you have every reason, and more importantly, every right to be afraid. If I've done anything to make you think that I have dismissed your fears, then I truly am sorry."
My Edward, always so amazingly patient and understanding…well most of the time. The man had a temper, of that there was no doubt. He was stubborn as a damn mule sometimes as well, but there was never any doubt of where I stood with him, where his family stood in his list of priorities. There was nothing he wouldn't do for us, and while that left me feeling safer and more loved than I ever had before, it also scared me more than I could put into words.
Whoever this person was that was tormenting me, and by association my family, knew what they were doing…whether that was on purpose or only blind luck I didn't know. It was painful to watch Edward try to carry on as if everything was okay day after day. It was excruciating having to listen to him talk to Riley about ways to keep Maddie, Masen, and me safe. It shattered me to think of anything happening to him or the kids because of me.
But the fact remained, no matter how afraid I got, no matter how much I wanted to run away and hide and protect Edward and the kids, we had made a promise to one another to face things together. I was never one to go back on my word, but more importantly than that, I would never survive being away from him. So, it was time to put on my big girl panties and be completely honest.
"Sweetheart," I said hesitantly. "You have done nothing but put on a brave front and do everything in your power to keep me from falling apart since Jasper showed us that very first letter. We've talked about all of this, maybe not as much as we should have, but it's not like we've just completely buried our heads in the sand. We are doing everything we've been told to do and then some. The only thing we haven't done as well as we should have, maybe, is admit just what has us so afraid?" I ended with a question in my voice.
I had a feeling there was more to what Edward thought than just worrying about something happening to me. Edward gasped and his eyes widened at me. It seemed like I wasn't the only one that had kept a few things back since all of this had started. "You want to go first or do you want me to go?" I grinned at him, quite relieved to finally get some of this off my chest.
"Ladies first," he smirked at me and it seemed as if he was as relieved as I was.
I reached for his hand again and did my usual thing and played with his fingers for a few moments while I got what I wanted to say in order. "Edward I'm scared. I don't have any specific reason to give you other than just an overall uneasy feeling I get when I think about that last letter. It's almost as if whoever is taking those pictures is always watching us and just waiting for the perfect moment to cause us the most unease. That terrifies me thinking that someone is that close to us, that someone is that obsessed or angry or whatever, that they would try to hurt us that way. And it's not just me they are hurting, they are hurting you too and I can't help but feel it's on purpose."
Glancing at him, my breath hitched in my throat as I took in the expression on his face. "Is that everything?" he patiently asked and when I nodded my head he reached over and pulled me onto his lap and wrapped his arms around me so he could hold me close to him. He didn't say anything so I didn't either. I figured he was deciding what he wanted to say and to be honest I was more than happy to sit where I was… indefinitely if need be.
After a few moments, Edward began to place soft kisses to the top of my head and I couldn't help but turn towards his chest and rest my head against his heart. Hearing his heartbeat always relaxed me and this time it was no different. "Bella," Edward said in a voice that was laden with apprehension.
I pulled back so I could look up into his face and I hated what I saw there. Worry and sadness were prevalent and my stomach turned. Damn, I really fucking hated this…hated what this asshole was doing to the man I loved more than life itself.
"Do you have any idea how much I hate…fucking hate that you, that we, have to put up with all this bullshit?" he asked rhetorically. I knew he didn't really need me to answer that question; the letters were affecting our entire family, not just he and I. No matter how much we wished it wasn't so, it was true. Our family loved us both beyond measure and I knew from speaking with Rose and Seth that everyone was beginning to feel the pressure.
It sucked ass…big time.
"I know it's not your fault baby, so I hope that you don't ever feel like I've blamed you in any way for this. I've never made you feel like this was your fault, have I?" Edward questioned and when I shook my head at him he only whispered 'good' before he kissed the top of my head again.
"The thing that I am most afraid of Bella," Edward swallowed and took a deep breath. When he opened his eyes, he had tears in them and I swear my heart shattered into a million tiny pieces at the sight. "Is that somehow you'll get it in your head that we'd be better off without you and you'll leave me. The thought wrecks me baby, totally. I'd never survive it if you left and I'm just terrified that you'll try to protect me and the kids by leaving," he finished on a whisper.
"Edward," I said on an anguished sob and scrambled up and straddled his lap. "Listen to me Edward," I begged him as I held his face in my hands. "I will never leave you, ever. I need you, need Maddie and Masen too much to ever willingly be away from you," I told him as I wrapped my arms tightly around his neck.
I pressed my head against his neck and nuzzled him there for a moment while he ran his hands up and down my back and through my hair. "Need you too," he murmured. "I won't ever leave you either, I couldn't even fathom it."
Once I got a bit of control over my spiraling emotions back, I kissed his lips quickly and ran my thumb over his bottom lip as I stared into his emerald green eyes. "Sweetheart please believe me," I pled with him. "I won't lie to you and tell you the thought hasn't ever crossed my mind." I braced myself for the hiss that I knew would follow my words and I wasn't disappointed. Edward's face contorted and almost immediately a look of pure panic was there. It took all I had not to fall apart from the pain I saw.
"But Edward, my life is with you. Everything I have is because of you. I hate the thought of anything happening to the kids, but the thought of being away from you and them is incomprehensible to me. I couldn't survive it, and I would never do that to you or to them either. We promised each other together, always. I will not…cannot go back on that promise now, no matter how afraid I might get," I told him with as much feeling as I could convey with my words.
"Not to mention," I told him and he raised his eyebrow at the change in the tone of my voice. "There is no way I'm letting that fucking psycho, stalker, lunatic…whatever," I said with a wave of my hand, "dictate my life and make me afraid of living the life I want with you and our children." At the word our, his face broke out into the smile that brought me to my knees on a daily basis and I knew at that moment we would be just fine.
"I am going to marry you one day Edward Cullen, and nothing…no one will ever be able to come between us," I told him fervently.
"I love you so much Bella," Edward breathed out and then pulled me to him for a mind blowing kiss.
It was a kiss that said everything and it was exactly what we needed. I gave myself completely over to him; let his tongue go where he wished. I knew, without Edward even acknowledging it, that he felt like his control of the situation was slipping and in turn that caused him to feel uncertain and afraid.
Being in control was who Edward was and when that control got threatened, Edward didn't think rationally.
"We're going to be okay," he promised me and I nodded my head in agreement. I had no doubt. I had complete faith in Seth and Emmett but most of all I had complete faith in Edward that he would do all he could to make sure that all of us were kept from harm.
"Well now, isn't this sweet?" A nasally voice sneered sometime later.
I guess Edward and I dozed off for a few moments and both of us started at the most unwelcome intrusion.
"Son of a bitch," Edward snarled and kissed me quickly on the forehead before he lifted me off his lap and placed me on the sofa. "Lauren, what the hell are you doing here?" Edward said with a frustrated breath as he stood up and stared at her, pinching the bridge of his nose with his fingers.
Damn, he was already pissed and she just walked in. His jaw immediately tensed and his back was rigid. This was not going to be pretty at all I thought to myself, as I watched Lauren assess the current situation. She got a shit eating grin on her face, like she had just caught us groping in the movie theater or something like that. Jesus the woman had no sense of decorum whatsoever.
I looked at her and cringed internally as I noticed what she wore. She had a low cut black tank top on, no bra of course, and an extremely short white skirt. The black heels she wore were somehow even worse than the ones she had on that day at the soccer fields. Her make up was appropriate for, well Halloween or a strip club and her hair was teased and styled until it looked like it would snap off in pieces if anyone tried to touch it.
She was ridiculous in all actuality and for the life of me I couldn't see anything even remotely redeeming in her. Besides the fact that it was only because of her that Maddie and Masen were here, there was not one thing about Lauren Mallory that was good. She was selfish, conniving, and from just one look I could tell completely heartless.
Lauren stared intently at me and I regarded her coolly for a moment before she moved her gaze from me to Edward. "Well, it's nice to see you too, Eddie," she said with blatantly false sweetness.
"Cut the shit Lauren. How the hell did you get in here and what the hell do you want?" Edward demanded forcefully and the smug look on her face faltered slightly at the tone of his voice.
Yeah, no shit girl…that tone of voice had sent many people ducking for cover.
I smirked and Lauren narrowed her eyes at me and glared. Edward whipped his head around in my direction and I shrugged my shoulder lightly back at him. His eyes were soft and he gave me a sweet smile before he turned back to look at Lauren, who looked supremely put out with his obvious disregard for her presence.
She huffed indignantly and finally motioned towards the desk where she placed two brightly wrapped packages. They were wrapped in…Dora the Explorer and Go Diego Go wrapping paper. Jesus Christ did she not know how old her own kids were?
What a fucking piece of work!
"Well, Eddie, I wanted to bring by birthday presents for our kids," she said as she stared at me.
Bitch better not smile because I was about to beat the ever loving hell out of her.
Edward's jaw tensed even more and he quietly, but in that deadly calm, low voice whispered, "Bella, come here please." He held his hand out to his side and never moved his eyes away from Lauren.
I stood and went immediately to his side, my vision blurred from the tears of anger I tried to hold in. What in the fucking hell did she think she was trying to prove by storming in here and then trying to leave the kids…my kids presents for a birthday that was more than a week ago? My hand slipped into Edwards effortlessly. I felt him relax when our fingers laced together and out of the corner of my eye I watched his face soften ever so slightly when he rubbed his thumb over the ring I wore on my right finger.
The ring that he and MY children placed on my hand less than twenty four hours ago and the ring that would always stay there.
"Lauren, I will ask again, what the hell are you doing here?" Edward asked through gritted teeth. I squeezed his fingers in support and he turned and smiled tenderly.
"Hmmm mmm," Lauren cleared her throat and when we looked in her direction she spoke, "Aren't you even going to tell me thank you Eddie?" she simpered at him and I'd finally had enough of the two bit skank.
"Edward." I bitingly said. Lauren glanced in my direction, a self satisfied look on her face. I mentally counted to ten in my head so that I wouldn't say anything I would regret later.
"Excuse me?" She haughtily responded and it was all I could do not to punch her square in the mouth. Immediately I had a vision of knocking two of her teeth out and a giggle escaped my lips before I could stop them. Edward peeked at me and I grinned before I turned back to the bitch.
I stood a bit taller and stepped closer to Edward before I said, "His name is Edward, not Eddie. Now, I believe he asked you what you needed? As you can see, we were in the middle of our lunch."
"So that's what they call it now do they. Tell me Edward, do you and your little girlfriend partake in such indecent displays of affection in front of our children?" Lauren said as she ran her finger along his desk.
I watched her face and waited…three, two, one.
"What the hell is that?" She snapped and pointed to the picture to the four of us that sat proudly on his desk before she picked it up to look at.
Edward inhaled sharply and then released my hand before he strode over to where she stood beside the desk and ripped the picture out of her hands. He ran his finger across the glass before he held it out to me without a word and I took it from him.
"That," he said abruptly, "is none of your fucking business. Lauren, for the last God damn time, what the hell do you want? You can't tell me that after eight years you suddenly have the urge to give Maddie and Masen a present for their birthday. You always have an ulterior motive…always. So, let's cut through the shit and why don't you tell me why you're really here."
She looked so taken aback at his words and at the way he was speaking to her. It almost made me feel sorry for her.
"Listen Edward," she began hesitantly and then looked at me and snapped her lips shut. "Can I talk to you in private for a moment?"
My breath hitched; there was no fucking way I was leaving this room, leaving Edward alone with that woman. If Edward asked me to leave, I swore to God… "No fucking way Lauren," Edward answered her and then came back to stand beside me. "Anything you have to say, you can say in front of Bella. Take it or leave it," he said succinctly and I couldn't have loved him more in that moment if I tried.
Not only that, he was one lucky man. If he tried to send me out of the room…there was no telling what I would have done.
Lauren's eyes bore into mine and I could tell she was fighting some sort of battle with herself. There was no fucking way I was giving her an inch and she must have came to that realization because before I knew what was happening, she started speaking.
"Look, I didn't mean to come here and cause any trouble. Honestly," she said when I snorted in disbelief.
My ass she didn't want to start something. Who the hell comes dressed like that to the office of the man who all but told her he never wanted to see her again as long as she lived? Only someone that hoped to worm her way into his life…or his bed that was for sure.
Again, over my dead fucking body.
"I realized over the weekend that the kids' birthdays had just passed and as I walked by a toy store, I impulsively went in and bought them something," she said quietly, looking at the floor.
I had to admit, my heart tugged just a tiny bit at that admission but when I looked at Edward's face, it still held a scornful look and his lips were drawn into a tight line.
Okay, so he didn't believe a word out of her mouth anymore than I did.
"Bullshit," Edward spat out and when Lauren raised her head and I saw the fire in her eyes, I knew then that she did indeed have an ulterior motive in coming here.
"What? Edward, really…I only came…I wanted," Lauren stuttered out and when Edward's nostrils flared and his jaw twitched I braced myself for what was about to happen.
"You, you, you!" Edward bellowed and he stepped toward her, releasing my hand. "Do you fucking hear yourself Lauren? All you care about is you," he ranted and I stepped toward him only to be stopped when he lifted his hand to me.
"We settled this eight years ago when you didn't want to have anything to do with them, with me. I paid you two fucking million dollars so you and that asshole Crowley could go do what ever the fuck it is you did. Did you blow through all that money? Is that what this is? You're trying to get more from me? Well not fucking likely princess. We're done, have been done for eight damn years. Now get the fuck out of my office. I don't want to see you, hear from you, or talk to you again," he barked to her and then purposefully walked to the door to the office and wrenched it open.
Lauren glared at me again and I had to fight with myself to keep from sticking my tongue out at her and telling her good riddance.
She stopped and looked at Edward and then me and then back at Edward again. "This isn't over Edward. Those kids belong to me too," she said and when I gasped she looked inordinately pleased with herself, that is until she saw the look on Edward's face.
He was furious. Murderously angry and I'm not sure I have ever, ever seen him look so upset.
"No they fucking don't," he said in a steel hard voice, and Lauren was smart enough to shrink away from him. "Maddie and Masen belong to me…and to Bella. The four of us are a family, a true family and if you even think of doing something to upset them or Bella, you will live to regret it. I promise you Lauren…do NOT fucking push me." He was breathing heavily in and out and he swallowed continuously, the muscles in his shoulders taut and tense.
"Are you threatening me Edward?" Lauren provoked him and I couldn't help but think she had to be, without a doubt, the stupidest woman on the face of the planet. It was like she was purposely trying to flame his anger.
Bad move on her part.
Edward gripped the doorknob so tightly his knuckles were white and he leaned towards her and lowered his voice, but I was still able to hear what he said. "I'm not threatening Lauren, it's a fucking promise. Mess with the kids or mess with Bella and I swear you will never see what's coming. Stay the fuck away from us and stay the fuck out of our lives. Now, get the hell out," he hissed and pointed.
She huffed and with one last condescending glance back over her shoulder, she pranced out of the office, leaving the presents on the corner of the desk.
Edward slammed the door and rested his head against it for a moment, his breathing still coming in quick, sharp breaths. I wanted to go to him but I knew he needed a minute to get his emotions under control. I'd never seen him so angry, and while I was not the least bit afraid of him, I knew he would be upset with himself for his outburst.
"Sweetheart?" I questioned after another few moments of silence, his breathing the only sound in the room.
With one last exhale, he stood up and looked at me and what I saw was enough for my stomach to clench. Damn Lauren…what the hell was she thinking coming here? What did she really want? Edward was obviously having the same thoughts because his eyes were tight with worry.
"She can't have them," he said to me in an agonized voice and I went to him then.
"It will never happen baby. Never," I solemnly promised and I led him back to the sofa.
He immediately pulled out his cell phone to call both Felix and Alice and both assured him that they would get to work instantly on finding a way to keep her away from all of us.
There was no way in hell Lauren Mallory was coming with in ten…a hundred feet of my children. Over my dead fucking body.
I said good bye to Edward a few minutes later and waved at Maggie on my way out as well. I thought about Lauren's appearance today as the elevator made its way down to the bottom floor. Who in the hell did she think she was and why now? I wondered to myself. What in the world caused her to try to finagle her way back into the lives of Edward and the twins? It didn't make any sense to me, but I knew one thing with the utmost certainty. There was NO fucking way she would ever come near my children again.
As I was tapping on the screen of my phone I heard her nasally voice, "No matter what you think, Maddie and Masen are my children," Lauren stated.
I snapped my head up and narrowed my eyes at her. Oh no she did NOT just go there with me.
I advanced toward her, never taking my eyes off her skanky ass face and said, "I don't know what that hell you think, and frankly I could give a shit. But listen to me, and listen good you bitch," I said in as menacing a voice as I could muster.
Lauren gasped at my words but I wasn't done yet, not even close. "Carrying a baby and giving birth does not make you a mother…it makes you an incubator. That's it, nothing more. Those children belong to Edward and now they belong to me as well. Don't fuck with my family Lauren or I swear, as God is my witness, I will make you regret it."
My chest was heaving but I tried to get myself under control. I didn't yell; I'd barely even raised my voice but there was no doubt she heard and understood every word I just said.
"Why you…who the hell do you think you are?" Lauren shrieked and stepped toward me but backed off when she saw the look in my eye.
"Who am I?" I taunted to her moving my face closer to hers. "I am the woman that is going to marry Edward one day very soon. I am also the woman who those two amazing and beautiful children chose to be their mother. You will never know just how much you gave up, but I promise you this Lauren…If you even think about disrupting their lives or hurting them in any way…there isn't anyone or anything that will stop me from hunting your ass down and making you live to regret it. Now do yourself and us all a favor and crawl back into whatever hole you climbed out of. No one wants you here."
I pushed my way past her and climbed into the suburban that Seth just arrived in and closed the door without even looking back.
She wasn't worth it.
"Angela, is this going to take a long time?" I asked her as we stepped off the elevator and made our way to Aro's office Wednesday morning.
She finished tapping the screen on her iPhone and then smirked at me. "Why, do you have someplace you'd rather be?" she teased me as she bumped her shoulder against mine.
We had to stop by her office on the way to meet with Aro and I closed the door behind me as Angela sat at her desk and clicked the mouse to pull up her computer. I plopped down in the chair on the other side of her and huffed, "Ang, anywhere is better than here. Hell, I'd rather go donate blood than have to see Aro."
Angela raised her eyebrows at me and snickered in my direction before she printed out a few things to take into the meeting. "Really Bells? You faint at the sight of blood; it makes you sick to your stomach."
"And your point is?" I giggled at her and watched as she went through a few more files on the computer.
I sat patiently and waited, remembering what Edward had told me about seeing Aro while he had lunch with Jasper during the time I was away. The man seriously creeped me out…there was no other way to say it. From the very first meeting I'd ever had with the man, he'd always given me the impression that he wanted much more from me than only be a model for his company.
It was like he coveted me, like he wanted me to fulfill some sort of role he had planned out in his warped mind. I didn't like it then and as the years have gone by, I liked it even less now. His eyes were always so calculating and inscrutable and he never failed to raise the hairs on the back of my neck.
There was never anything overt, never anything which anyone else would be able to pick up on. Aro was always unfailingly polite and attentive whenever we met or were out in public somewhere. In fact it bordered on overbearing most of the time, but there was always an undercurrent of something…else, something more and it constantly made me uneasy.
It also didn't go unnoticed that Jane was most displeased by the attention Aro lavished on me, whether I acknowledged it or not. Her mouth would consistently form a tight line, her eye would pinch and she would breathe heavily out of her nose when she watched us…or watched her father more specifically. Jane never said anything, she never complained or made a comment but I was regularly reminded of her building resent of me.
"Bella, Bella," I heard and shook my head as Angela waved her hand in front of my face to get my attention.
I gave her a sheepish smile and shrugged my shoulders letting her know I knew I had spaced out for a minute.
"You were a million miles away, everything okay?" she asked me as she stood up and gathered some files to take to the meeting with Aro.
I nodded and followed her out of the door and down the hallway toward Aro's office, the feeling of unease not abating in the least.
We walked into his large office and found him and Jane in a heated discussion at the conference table. Thankfully Jasper entered right behind me and I relaxed just a bit knowing that he was here. Jasper didn't trust either of them at all and I knew that between Angela and him, he would make sure Aro wasn't able to try to slip anything past us.
"Hey Shortcake, how are ya?" Jasper asked as we walked toward the table. He kissed the top of my head and scooted my chair back for me.
I turned and smiled at him and said honestly, "I'm good J. I'd rather be anywhere but here though."
He rolled his eyes at me but I knew he understood perfectly well my feelings on having to be here. We got started and went over my schedule for the next few weeks, including the trip to California.
"Isa dear, are you sure you don't need me to accompany you to the awards show?" Aro asked me as we were finishing up.
I sighed and nodded my head at him and told him, again, "Yes, Aro I am. Thank you very much for the offer but Edward and the children are accompanying me on this trip so they will all be my escorts for the evening. We are actually looking forward to all experiencing this together as a family," I finished and I didn't miss and neither did Jasper the look of pure rage that flitted quickly across his face before he schooled his features.
"How wonderful for you dear. I hope you all enjoy your time. Be sure you fulfill all of your duties while you are there," he warned then stood up abruptly and left the room.
Jane narrowed her eyes and stared at me, her mouth set in a tight line and her fingers gripped the files in her hand tightly.
She was furious at me and I had no clue what was wrong but just as I was going to ask, she quickly followed her father, but not before hissing at me.
The woman was fiercely protective of her father but I couldn't help but feel there was much more going on beneath the surface, for the both of them, then me just telling Aro no.
They both gave me the fucking creeps and I was so looking forward to the day, very soon, when I wouldn't have to deal with them ever again!
The rest of the week flew by with no more visits from Lauren, no more letters from stalkers and no more uncomfortable meetings with Aro. I had a few appearances to make in the city, a baseball game one night, a restaurant opening another, a movie premiere that I walked the red carpet for and then promptly walked right out the side exit.
Maddie and I continued to work on her soccer both at practice and then sometimes in the evening across the street in the clearing. Of course when that happened, Edward, Seth and usually Jasper were all outside with us and we never stayed out for long. Since the appearance of the last letter, it was a very rare night indeed that Edward and the kids went back to Carlisle and Esme's. Every few days it seemed as if more and more of Edward's and Maddie and Masen's clothes made their way into closets and dressers and I couldn't be happier.
We did do as Edward suggested over the fourth and put in a drum set on the second floor. As a matter of fact, we put in two sets, one for me and one for Masen. Masen and I managed to find time to practice at least a few times a week, and we tried to make Thursday nights our special night to practice. Maddie had ballet practice that night and since she practiced on Monday's as well and then had soccer practice on Wednesday, I spent Thursday's with Masen. We always ordered a pizza and took it to the second floor. We talked about what was going on with him, school, baseball, friends…and whatever else he wanted to talk about, then we would practice for an hour until Edward and Maddie came home.
I was continuously amazed at the routine we were able to establish with the kids and how seamlessly our lives fused together. For me it was like one day I was living life, going through the motions, only worried about counting down the days until my contract was over. And then in the blink of an eye, I had a man that loved me beyond reason, had two children that chose me to be their mother and had a big, crazy family that I never imagined I would have.
Saturday morning arrived and thankfully we didn't have anywhere we needed to be so we all slept in, even the kids if you can believe that. I peeked at the clock on the nightstand and smiled when I realized it was already almost nine. I can't remember the last time we had been able to sleep in so late on a Saturday!
"What are you thinking about over there?" Edward whispered as he kissed my shoulder.
I smiled to myself and scooted back closer to him and rested my hands on top of his. I traced patterns on top of his hands and I couldn't help but stare at them. I loved Edward's hands. They were so much larger than mine and they always made me feel so safe. I ran my index finger along his and I couldn't stop the giggle that escaped when I thought about all the wonderful things those fingers could do to me.
"Okay Bella, now you really have to tell me what is going on in that gorgeous head of yours," he chuckled behind me.
I turned over and laid my head on the pillow next to him. God he was an incredible sight to wake up to every morning. I rested my hands beneath my head and he was propped up and rested his head in his hand and he smiled down at me.
He bent his head down and ghosted his lips across mine and when he pulled away, he whispered, "Mmmm. Morning beautiful."
I smiled at him and reached a hand out and placed my palm against the side of his face, the stubble on his jaw scratchy against my skin. "Morning to you too handsome."
Edward brushed my hair back behind my ears before he settled back down onto the pillow next to me, our faces so close our noses were almost touching. "Now, how about you tell me what's been going through your mind at about a mile a minute on this fine Saturday morning," he said quietly and then he kissed the tip of my nose.
I rolled my eyes at him; it really was more than a little bit unnerving that even when he wasn't looking directly at me, he could always tell when I was thinking about something. How the hell do I tell him that I really wasn't thinking about much of anything besides the fact that his hands, of all things, and most especially his fingers turned me on like no other? I mean really…hands, fingers?
Immediately I could feel the heat on my cheeks as I got a flash of Edward's long, magical fingers as they slipped beneath my panties and I tried as hard as I could to squeeze my thighs together as unobtrusively as possible. When I looked at Edward and he had that smug, shit eating grin on his face I knew I was in trouble.
"Oh, now this I can't wait to hear," he growled at me as he pulled me to him and then rolled us so that he was on top of me. "Tell me baby. You know I'm not about to let this go," he teased as he bent his head down and licked the side of my neck.
Yes, I was quite aware of Edward not about to letting this go and I was also well versed in the tactics he would use to get what he wanted. Not to be too obvious about it, but really, I didn't ever mind the tactics he used! My legs immediately wrapped around him and when Edward's hand…damn that thing…held my calf all thought of resisting him went away.
"Tell me sweet girl, you know you want to," he huskily said as he sucked on the spot behind my ear.
He was so hard and he shifted his hips tantalizingly against my center and I immediately felt a rush of heat and my panties got wet with each movement.
"Well I was thinking about…um…your hands…" I breathed out as he continued to rub against my pussy and I felt his hard cock through the thin boxers he wore.
Edward picked his head up and stared down at me, his eyes bright and full of lust and want. "This hand right here?" he questioned as he rested his palm over my mound and circled my clit through the damp fabric of my panties.
"Oh shit…yes that hand," I moaned as he pressed down with his palm.
He nuzzled my neck with his nose and placed his lips against my ear. "What about my fingers Bella? Did you think about them and what you wanted me to do with them?"
I tried to lift my hips off the bed to press against him but he held his body away from mine so that I groaned in frustration when I couldn't feel him where I wanted him most.
"Unh uh baby…not until you tell me," Edward darkly chuckled and then drug his fingernail against my swollen clit.
I moaned and then cursed him silently in my head. Damn man and his magical fucking fingers!
"Oh yes…yes," I said when he circled my clit again and at the same time sucked on the pulse point on my neck.
"If you tell me, I'll make you feel good," Edward rasped and I knew I was done for. I ached so badly for him, my body needing to come.
"I wanted you to touch me, to put your fingers inside of me," I told him as I pressed my heels into his ass.
Edward kissed me then, his tongue insistent as it dipped into mine once, twice, then a third time. His fingers slipped beneath the waistband of my panties and finally I felt his finger press inside of me. I groaned out in pleasure and raised my hips as his hand began to move in and out.
"Is this what you thought about?" Edward murmured against my ear as his awesome fucking fingers moved in me and he pressed his thumb down on my clit causing me to cry out again.
"Did you think about coming on my fingers as I sucked on your neck? Did you think about how good it feels when I curl my fingers forward," and with that his fingers matched his words and my breath caught in my throat, "and press right here on this spot," he continued as he sucked on my neck, "the one that drives you wild." He picked his head up and kissed me again, his fingers never slowing their movements at all. Edward lifted his mouth up infinitesimally, his lips barely touched mine and finished saying, "Did you think about what you do to me when you fall apart and come for me?"
And with that, I exploded and came with a powerful burst and I threw my head back against the pillows as I let him push me farther and farther over the peak.
"Mmmm, my beautiful girl," Edward whispered as I calmed down and my orgasm faded.
"I love you Edward," I said quietly as I ran my fingers though his hair and kissed his jaw.
He rolled off me and stood up on the side of the bed and looked down at me, "I love you too angel. Now, come shower with me while the kids are still sleeping and I'll show you how much."
How could I refuse an offer like that?
Maddie had a soccer game in the afternoon so we spent the morning catching up on laundry and Edward did some work on his laptop. After lunch, we all got our things together and headed towards the soccer fields. Seth and Emmett drove us in the suburban and while I would never not want to spend time with my best friend and my almost brother in law, I was truly looking forward to the day when going out to something as simple as a soccer game didn't require an entourage.
"Mommy, are you and Uncle Jasper going to keep helping with my team?" Maddie sweetly asked me as we unloaded everything from the car and made our way to where her team was warming up.
I couldn't stop the smile that spread across my face when Maddie called me mommy without even thinking twice about it. It was an amazing feeling!
Jasper heard us approach and he gave me a big smile since he heard her term of endearment as we walked up. " I don't see why not Maddie, Bell and I love helping out your team. Besides, it keeps me in shape!" He teased her then scooped her up to kiss her loudly on the cheek. "Now, hurry up and get over there. Coach Scott has a few things he wants to tell you guys before we start our warm up."
She kissed him on the cheek than ran off to her team and found her place right next to Nolan. They were so damn cute together.
"Reminds me of me and you," Jasper said as he nudged my shoulder as we both watched Nolan and Maddie kick the ball back and forth for their warm up.
I smirked at him then raised my eyebrow at him, "Me too, except Nolan is faster than you were at that age. I beat you every time we raced."
Jasper lunged at me and I squealed as we ran towards Scott to finish getting the team ready to play. Our team won the game, of course, and after our celebratory ice cream of which Emmett had two, we finally made it back to the loft by late afternoon.
"Edward, what time are we meeting Father O'Connor?" I asked him as I walked through the living room to put some more clothes away in the kid's rooms.
He was laying on the sofa watching a baseball game on TV and he kept falling asleep. For the life of me I could never understand why he didn't just give in and take a nap, but he kept insisting he wasn't tired.
Yeah, right.
"He said reservations were for seven, what time are Ali and Jas coming over?" He drowsily asked, and I couldn't help but smile as I thought about our dinner this evening.
Father O'Connor was such a sweet man and I was really excited to get to spend some time with him. I knew how important he was to Edward and his entire family and I couldn't help but feel grateful that he wanted to get to know me as well.
This was the man, after all, that would marry us one day.
"They should be here around five thirty, that should be plenty of time to get to the restaurant," I told him then walked over the sofa and bent over the back to kiss the top of his head but Edward reached up and pulled me all the way over so that I was laying on top of him.
"I could get used to this," he whispered as he laid his hands on my ass and lifted his head up so he could kiss me.
I giggled at him and then laid my cheek against his chest for a minute before I moved to get up. "Edward, let me go baby. I still have to finish the laundry and get dinner ready for the kids and Ali and J." I wiggled to try to get off of him and apparently that was the wrong thing to do judging from the dark, hungry look Edward was now giving me.
He shook his head and stared at my lips, licking his in the process. Okay, that just did that thing where you feel it in your tummy and then it spreads downward.
"Bella," he whispered; his voice full of longing.
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, they were followed by a chorus of, "Mommy!"
"Cockblocked by my own kids," Edward grumbled when I rolled off him.
"It won't be the last time old man," I giggled at his frown and bent down to kiss him. When his hand wrapped around my neck and I felt him pull me down toward him, I stood up quickly. "You'll have to wait, baby. Duty calls," I smirked at him and went to see what my children needed…laughing to myself all the way.
"Are you sure this looks okay Edward?" I asked for the tenth time since we left the loft.
Edward's eye roll and snort were all the answer I needed and I huffed and stared out the window of the BMW. Seth and Emmett were both rather upset with my refusal to let them drive us to the restaurant but there was no way in hell I was going to allow them to come to dinner with us. I did agree to let them follow us to the restaurant and I gave my word we wouldn't leave until they could follow us home as well, but that was it.
This dinner was important to me….and I knew it was important to Edward as well. Father O'Connor had been such an influence on him his whole life and I was well aware of what his opinion meant to Edward. Besides Carlisle and Uncle Marcus, I'm not sure there was anyone Edward respected more than Father O'Connor.
We pulled up to La Fusta and Edward waited for the valet to get to us. When it was our turn, Edward, of course, rushed to my side of the car and helped me out. He stared at my legs and I smirked when I caught him lick his lips as he pulled me up to him.
"Have I told you how fucking sexy you look in that dress yet?" he whispered in my ear as we made our way towards the restaurant.
I had picked out a red dress with thin straps. It stopped right above my knees and I had worn Edward's favorite pair of silver sandals that made me just the right height for him to bend down and kiss me without me having to stand on my tip toes.
The only jewelry I wore was my necklace, bracelet and ring from him and the kids and I had left my hair completely down, but straight.
Edward wore a pair of black pants with a light gray button down. He had it tucked in and wore a belt, but he'd rolled the sleeves up. During the hour long drive to Queens to get to the restaurant, I found myself staring at his gorgeous forearms more times than I could count.
He kissed me briefly on my shoulder as he held the door open for me and I smiled at him. "Thank you baby, and you look very handsome tonight yourself. In fact you look so good, we may just finish what our adorable children interrupted earlier today," I giggled as I kissed his cheek and walked into the restaurant.
I had never been here before but Edward had told me it was Father O'Connnor's favorite restaurant. It was very small, it looked like it only had about twenty tables in it. The interior was rustic and intimate. A nice looking man approached as we stepped a bit farther in.
"Mr. Cullen, Ms. Swan, welcome to La Fusta. My name is Paolo and I'll be your waiter for the evening. Father O'Connor is already seated. If you would follow me, I'll show you to your table," the man said and then walked to a table.
"Bella, Edward, so nice to see you both," Father O'Connor greeted us with a huge smile as he stood up. He leaned over and kissed my cheek and shook Edward's hand. "I hope you don't mind but I've already taken the liberty of ordering a bottle of wine and a few appetizers," he said as Edward held my chair out for me and then sat beside me.
"I love this restaurant," Father said as he poured us each a glass of wine. "I don't get to come as often as I would like. I'm sure Steven will be by in a minute to say hello. He's the son of the owner and he's done a fabulous job with the place," he finished saying as he filled both of our glasses.
Father O'Connor smiled at both of us and lifted his glass in a toast, "To the future," he said with chuckle and we all clinked glasses and I took a sip of the delicious Argentinian red wine.
We made small talk for a few moments and then Paolo approached the table carrying a tray of appetizers. "I had no idea what you would like so I hope its okay that I picked a few of my favorites," Father said as Paolo set the plates down.
Everything looked so delicious and I couldn't decide what to eat first. On the table there was a mouthwatering looking shrimp cocktail, empanadas, as well as a platter of prosciutto and provolone cheese.
Father O'Connor fixed us each a plate and we all dug in, making small talk. We informed him of our upcoming trip with the family and he laughed when we told him the entire family was coming along. He asked about Maddie's soccer and Masen's arm. Thankfully the cast was coming off before we went on the trip and Masen was beyond excited about that.
Paolo cleared the appetizers and dishes when we ordered our entrée's. I ordered the Chicken a La Fusta which was their special grilled chicken with mushrooms and I was informed I had to get it with the world famous mashed potatoes. Edward ordered a filet with a side of the mashed potatoes and Father O'Connor wanted the mixed grill with the same mashed potatoes. We also got a mixed salad to share between us.
Father filled our glasses again after we were through ordering and he sat back and appraised both Edward and I. Edward had scooted his chair closer to mine and he had his arm draped across the back of my chair, his hand absentmindedly ran up and down my arm. It felt really, really good.
"So," Father O'Connor began, "things seem to be very good between the two of you. Edward, my boy, I have to say, I've never seen you smile so much in all the time I've known you."
Edward chuckled and kissed my temple before he said, "Yep, things are very good. We are very happy," he said sincerely and I couldn't help but blush slightly at his words.
Father O'Connor glanced down at my hand and noticed the ring on my finger. "Those are the birthstones for the twins if I'm not mistaken," he said with a raised eyebrow. When I nodded he looked from Edward to me and then said, "It seems as if you've both made a very important step forward in your relationship."
Edward picked up my hand and kissed my ring before he looked toward the man across from us and filled him in on the events of the previous weekend. He was very pleased by the end of the conversation and congratulated us both.
"Now Edward, we just need to work on putting another ring on our Bella's finger and you'll be all set," Father O'Connor said with a smirk and Edward had the grace to look somewhat embarrassed.
"Yes, sir. Bella and I have both talked about that and we are both certain that we will be making that next step before too much longer," Edward said quietly, but with feeling.
Paolo carried our tray to the table and Father said, "Well, that is wonderful news, both of you. Don't make me wait too long though Edward. You know performing your wedding ceremony is one of the things I've been most looking forward to."
We ate and talked about many things. Father filled me in on many of Edward's more embarrassing moments, including the story of the one time Edward fell asleep during Mass. While that wouldn't be such a horrible thing in most cases, for this case, it was because Edward was one of the altar servers. Carlisle and Esme were mortified and then got mad at both Edward for falling asleep and Emmett since he was serving with Edward and let him fall asleep in the first place.
"Needless to say Bella dear, it was the last time I let Edward and Emmett serve at the same time!" Father O'Connor finished with a chuckle.
Steven, the owner's son, did stop by the table once we were through with dinner and brought us dessert to share…caramel flan. It was so delicious and I ate until I couldn't eat another bite.
"Baby, I'll be right back," Edward whispered as we were finishing up dessert. He kissed my cheek and walked to the restroom.
"Bella," Father O'Connor began as soon as Edward stepped away from the table. "I hope you truly understand how happy I am for you and Edward. I love that boy, so much. Don't tell Emmett or Alice…or Demetri for that matter but I have always had a soft spot for Edward. He's truly an amazing man and exceptional father and I have no doubt he'll be an even better husband to you," he said softly as he looked at me.
"You, my dear Isabella, have brought him and his children so much joy it just radiates from all of them. I have no doubt you were meant for him and the three of them for you. The love you share is truly a blessing and a miracle to witness. I am quite looking forward to the day when I can bind you two wonderful people together for the rest of time," Father finished just as Edward approached the table.
"Father, you didn't try to steal my girl away did you?" Edward teased as he helped me up and he looked at me with a slight frown when he saw the tears in my eyes. I smiled and grabbed his hand to let him know I was just fine and laughed when Father said, "Well, Edward. I tried but for some reason she seems quite in love with you my boy."
"You two have a wonderful trip and I will see you both when you get back. We'll look at the church calendar and see about penciling in a date for you two. Edward, put a ring on that beautiful woman's finger before much longer," he said with a slap to Edward's back and a kiss to my cheek.
"I knew I never should have told him we had talked about getting married," Edward mumbled as we waited for the valet to bring the car around.
"Are you saying you've changed your mind about marrying me Cullen?" I said indignantly.
Edward pulled me to his side and pressed an open mouthed kiss to my neck, "Baby, I'd marry you tomorrow if I could. Now let's go home and do some fornicating…you've driven me crazy all fucking night in that dress."
"Okay Angela, let me talk to Edward and the rest of the family and I'll let you know how many tickets we need and how many rooms at the hotel," I told her on the Monday before we were supposed to leave. The Teen Choice Awards were the next week and I had so much to get ready for. To say the kids were excited about our upcoming trip to California was an understatement. Between the awards show and going to Disney with the family, it was hard to get them to go to sleep every night.
Packing was becoming a nightmare. We were going to be gone for a week and I couldn't believe how much coordinating I had to do between the four of us and the rest of the family. When we had brought up the trip, everyone…and I mean everyone jumped at the chance to come with us. Normally I never asked for favors, but with the large amount of people going to California, I had asked Aro, extremely reluctantly, if it would be possible to use the company jet to get us all to the west coast and back.
I hated being in his debt, and made no attempt whatsoever to let him know that I was asking only because I had to. Aro was very gracious, if not a bit giddy, at granting me the use of the jet. I suppose he figured it was one more thing he could do for me which would cause me to be in his debt. The only downside to the whole thing is the fact that Jane and Ian, as well as Jacob were again traveling with us to California.
I was looking through the closet later that night, trying to pick out outfits to pack and I noticed the sweater I'd worn to dinner last week with Edward and the kids was missing.
"Sweetheart," I called for Edward and stepped out to look at him as he poked his head in the bedroom door. "Have you seen the sweater I wore to dinner last week, that lightweight black one Rose bought for me?"
"You mean the one I love so much because when you button it up all the way it makes your boobs look phenomenal? That one?" he asked with a waggle of his eyebrows.
I smirked at him, "Yes, Mr. Smartass, that one. I can't remember wearing it home last week and I haven't seen it since. I'm going to be so upset if I left it at the restaurant," I said, pouting.
"Let me call them for you, okay? I'll see if someone found it and turned it in," he sweetly said and I blew him a kiss and went back to picking out outfits.
The next day was spent at the office going over my itinerary for California and the few things I had to do here in town today and tomorrow. The clock was winding down now, I could feel it. I was getting excited and it seemed like the more excited I got due to the fact I was getting to the end, the more disagreeable Aro and Jane both became. They insisted on double and triple checking everything. Every interview I gave, every photo shoot I went to, every appearance I had to attend, Aro and Jane always hovered. I tried not to let it bother me and I certainly didn't mention it to Jasper or Edward. Seth and Emmett had both been privy to many an outburst, but I knew that telling Jasper and Edward would only make things worse.
A little over a month, that was all I had.
Thank God!
"Bella, I'm on my way right now," Emmett said as I answered my phone Wednesday morning. Today was finally the day we were changing all the locks on the building. We wanted to get them done before we were all out of town and figured it was the best time to get it done.
I pulled the kids' backpacks down out of the closet in the hallway and huffed into the phone, "That's fine Em. I'm just trying to get a little packing done."
"Shit, I hate packing," he whined and I couldn't help but chuckle.
"I know how you feel Em, Rose tends to get a bit carried away when she gets ready to go out of town. Imagine how poor Jasper feels!" I teased him knowing that Alice was worse than all of us put together.
He laughed heartily on the other end, "No shit Sweet B. Good thing we are the only ones on that plane or else we may never be able to take off. Between Ali and Aunt Carmen we'll still be lucky if there's room for the rest of our things!"
I groaned at the thought, thankful once again for the ability to take the private plane.
Emmett, Seth, and Ben all arrived at the same time as well as the locksmith that Emmett had vouched for. Like Riley had told us, we were trying to keep the amount of people with access to the loft down to the barest of minimum and only a few of those people would have keys in the first place. Not that we didn't trust every member of our family totally because we did, but the chances of a key getting lost or stolen just increased with the number of keys that were out there.
It was hard enough going over the things Riley had talked about with the kids. Edward and I, along with Emmett and Seth, had sat down with Maddie and Masen and explained the reasons for the new cell phones as well as the fact that we went out less and had more people with us when we did go. We didn't go into details or anything, just tried to give them a broad overview of being safe and not talking to people we didn't know. We showed the kids how to operate the phones and Seth and Emmett spoke to them about not going anywhere with anyone that wasn't someone from the family, no matter who they said they were.
I hated every moment of it, cringing every time I saw a look of fear flit across their faces, but I knew it had to be done. Not just because of what was happening now, but because there was always the chance it could happen again. It also just made good sense to make sure the kids were aware of who to talk to in case of an emergency and what to do and not do if a stranger approached them.
"Okay Bell, I think that's it," Seth said a few hours later as he walked into the loft and went to grab a bottle of water out of the refrigerator.
"Well, I know Edward will feel better now that it's done," I told him as I sat on a stool at the island and watched him take a long drink out of the bottle.
He nodded at me and said, "I think we'll all feel better now. I hope we can all enjoy this trip. We need it," he said with a sigh and I couldn't help but feel bad as I noticed how tired and worn out my best friend looked.
I knew all of this had to be taking a toll on him, and there was nothing I could say to him that would ever convey to him how grateful I was for everything he'd done for me.
"I love you Seth," I said quietly and he looked surprised for a moment before he smiled softly at me.
He kissed the top of my head and said, "Love you too Shortcake. These last few months have been a hell of a ride, but I can't wait until it's over."
"I never would have made it without you, you know?" I asked him, hoping he could see I was being sincere.
I loved Edward beyond measure and Jasper had and would always be my rock, but Seth was my brother. There was no other way to describe him and I had long given up trying to find it. I loved him completely and always would. We may not spend the amount of time together we used to for obvious reasons, but there would never come a time when Seth would not be one of the most important people in my life.
"Ah, I don't know about all that Bell. I do know you wouldn't have to clean up that mess right there if it wasn't for me," he chuckled as he pointed to a spot on the floor where Rufus had just left a puddle.
"Damn it!" I huffed and got the paper towels and floor cleaner out from underneath the sink.
Rufus waddled over to me when I bent down to clean up the mess and I couldn't help but pat him on the head. "Its okay little guy. I should have taken you out sooner. But, next time, come get me," I told him sternly and was rewarded with a lick on my hand and a 'woof' before he followed Seth to the door.
"Love you Bell, I'll see you later okay?" Seth called out as he left.
There was no way I could get angry over cleaning up a puddle of pee…without Rufus there might not be an Edward, Maddie or Masen.
Thursday night Masen and I met Edward and Maddie for dinner at Mr. Saul's instead of practicing. Emmett and Seth accompanied us and Rose and Tanya met us as well. We needed to coordinate a few things for the trip and figured we'd better just get it over with while we ate dinner. We were leaving first thing on Saturday morning and the awards show was Monday night. After that we were going to head to Disney from Tuesday through Friday and then come home on Saturday. We were going to be staying at the Grand Californian Hotel in the villas. I have no idea how Angela had us all arranged, I just know Edward, the kids and I were in our own and everyone else was paired up in groups of four. I didn't really care; I was just so excited to be going on our first trip together as a family.
Dinner was a blast as well and Mr. Saul even gave us extra dessert and sandwiches to have Friday night so we didn't have to cook while we were trying to get ready to go. After the kids and I, as well as Rose and Tanya, finished kissing him on the cheek much to his amusement and the guys' annoyance we were all on our way back to the loft. Emmett and Seth were going to take one last walk through the building to make sure it was all secure and Rose and Tanya were going to help me pick out a few more outfits I needed to take for the few appearances I had to go to. They also wanted to see the dress I was going to wear to the awards show.
We all stepped off the elevator at the loft and started to walk toward our door when Masen said, "Mommy, look. Isn't that the sweater you lost?"
I snapped my head in the direction of our door and there my black sweater hung off the door knob with a manila envelope attached with a safety pin.
The same envelope we'd seen time after time after time already.
Maddie and Masen started to run forward when Edward immediately grasped their shoulder and yelled, "No!"
"But Daddy," Maddie whined and I laid a trembling hand on his arm. I knew he was about to lose it, but he would be devastated if he snapped at the kids or took his fear out on them.
He cut his eyes to me and took a deep breath before he looked down at the kids and said, "Hey you two, why don't you let Aunt Rose, Aunt Tanya, and Uncle Seth take you down to their apartment and they can show you pictures of the hotel we'll be staying at?" Edward's voice was shaking and when I looked at the rest of them, they all looked like were going to be sick.
Seth shook his head, I knew he didn't want to leave me up here without him but I stepped towards him and said, "Please Seth, make sure the kids are okay for us. Call Jasper and Ben, then you can come up. Keep them safe," I pled with him and with a nod of his head and a pained look on his face he turned to the kids and said, "Come on munchkins, maybe we'll even have dessert again!"
Rose and Tanya both gave Edward and I a brief kiss and then stepped on the elevator to take the kids down to Seth and Jasper's to wait.
"Son of a fucking bitch," Edward seethed as the three of us looked at the sweater.
"Ed, man, we need to call Riley," Emmett said with a shaky voice and walked away to call him.
"Edward," I whispered and he looked at me, everything he felt written plain as day across his face.
"Our house Bella, this is our home. We're supposed to be safe here. What if you had been home alone with the kids…or all alone? What if they didn't stop at the door? What if…." Edward said in between panting breaths.
He pulled at his hair and swung around to look at his brother. "Who did you tell you were changing the locks Emmett? How in the hell did someone get in here? You promised me, fucking swore to me that we would be safe here. Does it look like we're safe, that Bella and our children are safe here?" Edward raged at Emmett and my heart broke when I saw the pain Edward's words were inflicting on his older brother.
"Edward," I said and he whipped his head around to face me. "Don't say it Bella. Not a damn word. This is our home God damn it. It's supposed to be the one place we're safe. I can't take this anymore, always worrying and wondering when someone is going to approach you or…worse," he said as he swallowed.
"Bella you are my life, you and the kids mean everything to me. What the hell are we supposed to do now that we can't even feel safe in our own home?" Edward said in an anguished voice.
"Edward, I'm sorry," Emmett tried again and again Edward turned on him. Furious, Edward stalked towards him and I tried to grab his arm to keep him from doing or saying anything he would regret later but Edward shook my hand off and kept going.
"Sorry? You're sorry? Fucking hell lot of good that does brother," Edward sneered and I hung my head.
I had been so afraid Edward would do this, that he would lash out at someone…me, Emmett, Seth, Jasper. Someone. I knew it was only a matter of time. Edward had been my rock since we'd gotten the very first letter but I knew, with every ounce of my being, that the more letters I got, the closer Edward would get to losing it.
I was terrified that someone had managed to get into the building, especially after the locks had just been changed. But, I was even more terrified of Edward doing irreparable harm to his relationship with Emmett by saying something he couldn't take back.
Emmett would do anything he could to keep us all safe, I knew that…believed that and I knew Edward was lashing out at him because he needed to let what he had inside of him out. I only hoped they were both strong enough and loved one another enough to move past it once the storm calmed.
I picked up my phone and sent a text to Carlisle. Edward was going to need him, and without saying anything about what happened, asked him to come to the loft because we needed him.
I hoped he would call Rose to find out what had happened on his way so he didn't get overly worried. I knew my Edward and knew besides me, Carlisle was the only person who would be able to get him to calm down.
Emmett held up his hands and I could see the tension he felt in his face. He glanced at me quickly before he turned back to Edward. "I am sorry Edward. We'll figure this out," Emmett said and I prayed he didn't try to placate Edward by saying everything would be okay. That would surely push him over the edge.
"It'll be okay," Emmett said and I watched, horrified as Edward clenched his fist and swung at Emmett.
He hit him square in the jaw and knocked him backward into the wall. I let a screech escape and Edward whirled his head in my direction. He narrowed his eyes at me, his nostrils flared and his jaw tensed and I knew there was nothing I could say now to make him stop. I could only hope that Riley or Carlisle got here before any more damage was done.
"What fucking part of this do you think is okay Emmett?" Edward said as he turned and faced his brother again. "Do you think its okay that some sick fucking pervert watches Bella's every move? Do you think its okay that whoever the hell this is, watches me and my children? Do you think its okay that they managed to get inside of our home? Tell me, what part is okay Emmett? Because from where I'm standing, nothing is fucking okay!" Edward shouted the last part and punched the wall.
"Motherfucker!" Edward yelled as he held his hand and I knew it was broken.
I stood there, with tears in my eyes and watched the man I loved more than life itself completely fall the fuck apart. It was heartbreaking and the worse thing I'd ever witnessed in my entire life.
Edward stood there, breathing heavily with his eyes closed and I jumped when I felt a hand on my arm.
"Go to the kids Bella, let me help him," Carlisle said quietly and he kissed me on the cheek.
"Tell him…tell him I love him and I'm sorry," I whispered.
"Go Bella, give him some time," Carlisle said again and I turned to walk to the elevator. As soon as the doors opened, I fell to the floor in a heap, wondering how we were ever going to be okay again.


  1. UGH! I wanna start at the end, but I'll start at the beginning!

    I don't think any of us are shocked that Bella said yes! Those ARE her children!

    I love that we got to see the little things they were doing as a family! The packing, the soccer games, the drum practice.... THE MOMMY MOMENTS! So friggin awesome!

    Lauren: What can we say about super bitch? Um, she wants something. She wants Edward I think. Maybe she's going to say she's matured and now she's ready for a family and they should be together, blah barf blah! Sorry chicky ya had your chance!

    Edward telling her off was fabulous! Bella telling her off rocked my world! Bitch signed the papers, she's out of luck! And Bella won't let anyone harm her children!

    I'm not totally sure what the deal is with Aro and Jane. Maybe Aro wants Bella and Jane is jealous of the attention? Not sure, will be keeping an eye on that!

    Now our dear sweet Edward. Just wanna hug him, and tell him it will all work out, but yeah I don't want him mad at me ;)

    A person can only take so much and when the house has been invaded, that was it for Edward. I'm sure Emmett will understand, he's just that kind of person. But really someone on the inside is doing this. At least that's the only way I can see it. Maybe someone paid off the locksmith? I'm all confused!

    Can't wait for next chapter! E and B will be together and they just have to remember to lean on each other. I know they are both scared, but they gotta remember the love!

    Wonderful as usual!!!!!

    1. *Snicker* I got all kinds of giddy when Bella stood up to lauren, LOL I thought for sure she was gonna deck her in the office...

      Now to the beginning, after all the wonderful gifts the kids and Edward gave her the best gift was for her to be their mommy~! I agree, totally rocked my world~ Too sweet...

      Em knows that it was all a reaction to the fear of something happening to Bella or the kids, he Will get over it... he is at a loss, doing everything he knows to do and still stuff happens. I wondered earlier when she asked about the sweater, and the only person I can think of that had access was jake, UNLESS ~ someone is stowing away in the building somehow~ they need to check Every nook and cranny of that building even little cubby holes, closets, side rooms, utilty room, every single place big enough for someone to hide in... whoever had the sweater and put it on the doorknob was INSIDE the building when they left~!

      Whoever is taking the pictures could be using a telephoto lens, they would not have to be close enough for someone to see them to take those kinds of pictures... there are so many people it could be. Jake would be the most likely to have the access, but taking the pix anyone could do and here's a thought... maybe there are more than one persons working in tandum... each wanting someone, like aro or jake after Bella ~ or aro/jake working with kate or lauren... trying to break them apart.

      Edward is losing it, he cannot control what is happening and it seems none of the security can either, and THAT is what is scaring the hell out of him. I thought stalking was illegal in all 50 states, this is more than a stalker~ and the sweater say 2 things... I have been in your home, and changing the locks did not keep me from coming back, just showing you I can get to any time I want... scary shite~!~!