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.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chapter 45



“Jesus, Edward,” Emmett grunted as he bent over at the waist.

I picked the towel up off the bench and wiped the sweat off my face and neck. My chest heaved as I tried to catch my breath and I grabbed two bottles of water out of my bag. After throwing one to my brother, I opened the bottle and chugged the water in a few swallows.

“You feel better now?” my brother asked as he stood up.

I wanted to tell him yes, but I also needed to talk about this. This pushing myself to the absolute limit I’d just tried and failed miserably at.

The tension was still there. The feeling that I was about to snap…yeah it was still fucking present and accounted for. The feeling hadn’t abated one damn bit in the two weeks since Bella had been home. The one that had me pulling my hair out on a daily basis. The one that had caused there to be a permanent mark on the bridge of my nose from squeezing it so damn much.

The one that was about to drive me out of my ever loving mind.

More than three weeks, longer than twenty-one damn days…that is how long it had been since I’d been inside of Bella. Since I’d last come inside of her. Oh, we’d had plenty of hot and heavy make-out sessions. We’d made each other come from our fingers and she’d even had me in her mouth on more than one occasion. That was really fucking nice, let me tell you, but it still couldn’t compare to the feel of being inside of her. It couldn’t compare to watching her fall apart beneath me or hell even on top of me if I was fucking lucky.

I missed my girl…I needed my fiancée…I wanted Bella.

Snorting, I rolled my eyes. “Fuck, no I don’t feel better. There’s only one thing that will make me feel better and no amount of exercise is going to help,” I snapped.

“Still haven’t gotten the all clear yet, have you?” Em asked with a smirk.


Bet he got some on a daily basis from Rose…and cue the cringe. I so did NOT want to imagine what the two of them did. There was no telling.

I flipped him off then flopped down on the bench. Emmett and I had been playing basketball for over an hour now. On a normal day, it would have been more than enough to take the edge off, but not today.

Not even fucking close.

Huffing I shook my head, “Hell no. Bella’s appointment with Dr. Owens is in two days. Fuck, Em, she better get the go ahead. I’m dying here,” I whined pitifully.

Once the first couple of days she was home had passed without incident, everyone…and by everyone I meant mostly everyone besides me, began to relax. More often than not, Bella and I woke up in the morning with two extra bodies in the bed with us. As a doctor, I knew this was a horrible habit to start, but as a dad, I understood.

Bella told me about her discussion with Dr. Owens regarding our talking to someone about what had happened. I couldn’t disagree with her belief that we all, Maddie and Masen included, could benefit from speaking with someone. I brought the subject up with my dad and he did some research before he came up with the name of a doctor that specialized in these types of traumatic experiences. Her name was Amy Benedict and our first appointment with her had been a few days ago.

I was shocked when she could get us in so fast, but I was pretty sure professional courtesy coupled with the fact that Bella and I had been splashed all over the television and the newspapers for the past few weeks might have had something to do with it.

Alice and Jasper were, thankfully, correct in their assumption that making a statement would go a long way to calming the frenzy that had built up while Bella was in a coma. Ali had tentatively broached the subject of allowing Aro to stand with us but there was no way in hell I could have managed that. I felt sorry for the man, I wasn’t a complete heartless bastard, but his freaking nutcase of a daughter almost took away my reason for living. That wasn’t something I was willing to overlook any time soon…if ever.

My girl blew everyone the fuck away at the press conference. Her grace and her inherent gentle nature shown through loud and clear and I was so damn proud of her. I didn’t do much of anything. I just stood next to her with my arm wrapped tightly around her waist and looked like a man hopelessly in love with the most amazing woman ever. Bella answered their questions as openly as she could due to the restrictions caused by the ongoing investigation. She expressed her condolences to Aro and wished Jane luck in her treatment. There was no doubt Jane was a sick, twisted woman who was ill, but I found it much harder to forgive her than my wonderful fiancée had that was for sure. Honestly I wasn’t sure I ever could.

I knew I had to, for my own sake as well as for the sake of moving forward and putting this whole mess behind us. Bella asked the reporters for privacy while she recuperated. She also gently reminded them that there were young children involved and we would greatly appreciate the time and space needed to allow them to adjust to what happened as well.

The reporters hung around the loft for a few days after that and they were all but nonexistent now. Thank freaking Christ for that. If I never saw another television camera or microphone it would be too fucking soon if you asked me.

“You two need a damn vacation,” Emmett chuckled as he stood up and slapped me on the back.

“No freaking shit, brother,” I replied back.

Fucking understatement of the century that was for sure.

“I’d love to take Bella some place, even for just the weekend, but I just can’t do it right now,” I told him as I reached down and picked up my bag.

“Why the hell not?” Emmett asked.

I sighed and ran my fingers through my damp hair. “For a couple of reasons, Em. First, I couldn’t leave Maddie and Masen right now. Our first family session with the therapist went really well but both of them are still really shaken up about what happened. And not just Bella getting hurt either, but all of it.” I felt like shit and a total failure as a father that my innocent children had had to face the evil that was prevalent in the world.

As a parent you always wanted to shield them from those types of things as long as possible. I certainly wasn’t any different…I just wanted to be able to do it for longer than eight years.

“Second,” I continued as we walked toward our vehicles, “Bella is in full-on wedding mode. We can’t even eat at the dining room table right now, there is so much shit piled on it.” I smiled when I thought about it. Any other guy would probably be pulling his hair out or complaining about the chaos, but I fucking loved it.

I’d been waiting for this it seemed like my whole life. When Bella had told me at the hospital she knew when she wanted to get married, there was a part of me that had kind of expected her to say right away, at like City Hall or something like that. I would have done it too, even though I’d always pictured getting married in a church with Father O’Connor officiating.

Seeing her in a white dress, saying vows to one another, binding ourselves to each other with rings…I couldn’t wait. Getting married at Thanksgiving wasn’t something I ever would have considered, but it fit our situation perfectly. We had so damn much to be thankful for and it was time to celebrate that.

“Rosie is driving me freaking nuts with all the damn wedding talk and it’s not even my damn wedding. I don’t know how you’re handling all that estrogen, brother,” Emmett laughed at me.

I threw my bag in the front seat of my car and turned to look at my brother. I said, “Well, I damn sure know this is the only wedding myself or Bella will have so whatever she wants, she gets. Whatever keeps that fucking gorgeous smile on her beautiful face is all that matters to me.”

“If there were ever two people that deserved to be happy, it’s you two. I’m really fucking happy for you, Edward, for both of you. I can’t wait to officially welcome Bella to the family,” he said as he hugged me.

“Yeah, well until she says I do and there is a ring on both of our fingers, I’m not taking anything for granted,” I said. I meant for that to come out in a joking manner, but it fell flat as I realized what I’d said.

Like when I asked her to marry me, time was not anything I would ever take for granted again.

“You and Bella will have your happily ever after, Edward. Stop fretting so damn much,” he teased but his eyes bore into mine. “Nothing will come between you two any more, brother. You have to stop looking over your shoulder for the other shoe to drop or whatever other pessimistic shit there is. Be happy, Edward, that’s all you have to worry about…and getting some. You sure are a cranky motherfucker when you haven’t been laid in awhile.” He laughed and then jogged to his car before I could kick his ass.

Well, I could try. He could still probably take me, though I’d never admit that. Not only that, I couldn’t really get mad at what he said. He was telling the truth, I was cranky. I wanted my woman damn it, what the hell was so freaking wrong with that?!


“Shit, shit, double fucking shit,” I fumed as I got stuck in traffic. Not only was I stuck in traffic, Bella wouldn’t pick up her damn phone. I’d been calling ever since I got in the car and she had yet to answer her fucking phone.

I took a few deep breaths and tried to stem the panic that was slowly…well, really not fucking slowly at all, creeping in my mind. I knew if anything had happened, if there was something wrong, someone would tell me. I just hated that I hadn’t been able to go to Bella’s appointment with Dr. Owens today. I’d gotten called in to the hospital on an emergency and I had to go in. From then on, it was one thing after another. I hadn’t even had time to eat all day, much less had the time to call Bella.

I just wanted to get home, see for myself that she was okay, and curl up on the couch with her. I pulled up into the parking garage and hurried to the elevator. I hadn’t seen Jasper and Seth for a few days and I thought for like half a second about stopping to say hi, but then thought I was an idiot for even contemplating that. My girl was upstairs and I hadn’t seen her all damn day.

Getting off the elevator, I rushed to our front door. I had my key out to open the door when I noticed a note stuck to the outside.

This message is to the real Edward Cullen. Cranky, uptight, tense Edward needs to check his ass at the door. The only Edward that needs to proceed any further is the one that is going to spend the entire night making up for lost time with his fiancée.

I’m waiting, what the hell are you doing standing around?


Well, hell. I didn’t need to be told twice. I opened and shut the door so fast it scared poor Rufus. “Where is everyone little guy?” I asked as I bent down to pat him on the head. I threw my keys on the entryway table and listened for a sound.


It was completely silent and instead of panicking, I smiled.

“Thank the Lord,” I said quietly. Hopefully the absence of little eight year old voices meant that Bella and I would be alone for the rest of the night. Not that I didn’t want to see them, but my semi-hard cock reminded me of just how long it had been since I’d been inside Bella…and I really, really wanted to make love to my fiancée for the first time.

I walked anxiously to our closed bedroom door and when I opened it slowly, the sight before me made my heart stop and made my semi-erect cock come to full attention in the blink of an eye.

“Holy fuck, Bella,” I rasped out…somehow.

“You are the real Edward Cullen correct? No more brooding, snapping Edward?” she asked as she sat up on her knees. I nodded my head mutely at her. I was totally speechless at the vision in front of me.

Bella was dressed…well mostly undressed in this case… in the most luscious shade of violet I’d ever seen. The lingerie she was wearing plunged deep, and displayed a mouthwatering expanse of perfect, pale skin. It had a halter top with some beading or sequins, whatever you called it, across the front and whatever it was called made her breasts look spectacular. It barely came to the middle of her thighs and she was, without a fucking doubt, the most spectacular, the most erotic looking thing I’d ever seen in my whole damn life.

“You look like fucking sin,” I breathed out as I stepped closer to the bed.

“Well, that’s good because what I plan on you doing to me and me doing to you is definitely against the law in quite a few states, I’m sure,” she said seductively as she moved to stand up.

“NO!” I said quickly and louder than I meant to as well. “Don’t fucking move,” I ordered her.

I kicked off my shoes and pulled my scrub shirt over my head, throwing it carelessly onto the floor. I continued to drink her in. God damn she was a vision…sex personified. Her hair was a wild mess of curls and her eyes were lined with smoky liner. Her lips shone with gloss or whatever the hell you called it and that bottom lip was fucking calling to me.

“Oh, Bella, the things I want to do to you,” I whispered as I stepped closer. I ran just the tip of my finger across her collarbones, the very same ones that drove me insane and then up the side her neck.

“I take it this means we’ve been given the go ahead?” I asked, needing to make sure I had everything right. She nodded her head and I whispered, “Thank you Dr. Owens.”

I took a deep breath to slow my rapidly beating heart and stepped back, holding my hand out. “Stand up,” I told her as I pulled her to her feel.

“You’re trying to kill me, aren’t you?” I groaned when I noticed the almost obscene they were so hot shoes she had on her feet.

“Of course not, Edward. Why the hell would I want to kill my fiancée before he even makes it down the aisle?” She giggled at me.

I walked around her and when I got to the back I hissed, “Oh, fuck me,” to which Bella responded darkly, “I think that is the plan, baby.”

My hand lifted and I had to touch her. Her back was completely naked, from the top of her ass up. The lingerie tied enticingly at the neck and I couldn’t fucking wait to untie it and watch the fabric fall from her body. That kind of went against the whole I hope she never takes this off chant I was currently saying over and over in my head. I let my fingertips dance across the smooth skin of her back and I could feel the sparks shooting up my arm the second my finger touched her skin.

If that feeling ever went away, I swore I would go mad. I loved that fucking feeling, the one I got whenever we touched. It calmed and excited me at the same time.

I stepped up behind her and pressed my naked chest against her back and both of us sighed at the intense feeling we got the moment we touched. “You take my breath away,” I whispered as I bent down and sucked on the delicate skin behind her ear.

“You own me Isabella, every part of me belongs to you,” I spoke against her skin. “Every breath I take, every thought I have, every beat of my heart, they all belong to you.” I began to kiss across her naked shoulders, moving from left to right and I pressed my cock against her ass. “Every time I get hard it’s because I’m thinking about you.” I flicked my tongue against the back of her neck. My right hand rested on her thigh, the skin beneath so warm and soft. I lifted my hand so that it rested on her hip.

Bella’s breathing was coming more rapidly and I chuckled against her ear when I watched her eyes close. Her delectable pink tongue darted out of her mouth and she bit her bottom lip…my lip.

“Mmmm, that fucking lip…it drives me insane.”

I reached down on her left side and laid my hand across her stomach and pulled her back against me, letting her feel just how much she affected me. “Do you know I can barely think when we’re apart, it’s like I can’t even breathe until we’re together again? Do you know what else?” I asked as I traced the outside of her ear with my tongue. I moved my hand lower on her stomach until I slipped my hand inside her barely there panties and cupped her warm, wet pussy. “When we’re together again, all I can think about is being inside of you. I can’t get enough of you, Bella, ever.” I turned her head to the side and attacked her lips with my mouth. My fingers moved in synch with my tongue and when my tongue dipped deep inside her waiting mouth, my fingers pushed inside of her.

“Oh fuck,” I moaned as my finger entered her more completely. “So wet, Bella, you’re so damn wet.”

“I need you, Edward. I need you so much it hurts. Make the pain go away, please,” she begged me.

I reached up with the hand that wasn’t in between her legs and untied the sinfully sexy lingerie and watched, mesmerized as it fell. I had to withdraw my hand, a move both of us protested, so that it could fall to the floor. I turned her body around once she was clad in only the barely there panties that matched what I’d just taken off.

I crushed her against my chest and cradled her head in my hands. I devoured her mouth with mine; there really wasn’t any other word for it. Her hard nipples rubbed against my chest, eliciting a feral sounding groan from me and my cock ached for her. She was so close, and I wasn’t inside of her yet.

Oh but I could smell her. Her scent lingered in the air around us, the air electrified as it swallowed us whole. You could feel it. It was powerful, it was intense, and it was purely us.

I was positive no one else, no other two people were ever as connected as Bella and I were. We were literally two parts of the same being, neither one able to function as well alone as we could together. Arrogant to think…hell fucking yes it was, but I believed it was the truth.

“Edward, oh baby,” Bella panted against my lips. “Please be inside of me.” She reached her tiny hand inside of my scrub pants and wrapped her fingers around my length. I literally shook from how good it felt and I grunted loudly when she ran her thumb over the tip of my cock. “Baby, shit…,” I hissed.

She expertly and knowingly moved her palm up and down my cock. Bella knew every touch that set me on fire; she knew my body better than I knew my own.

I lost myself in the feel of her hand around me and I pressed myself against her hand even more. “Only you can make me feel this good, Bella. I drive myself insane imagining being inside of you. It’s all I can do sometimes not to completely come undone at the thought of your naked body, falling apart beneath me, because of me.” I groaned again as Bella squeezed me in her hand.

“Then make me fall apart, Edward. I need you, please,” she begged and I silenced her with another scorching kiss.

Bella pushed my pants all the way down my legs and I stepped out of them and then guided her back to the bed. I laid her out in the middle of it and then slid her practically nonexistent panties down her gorgeous legs. When she was completely naked, I stood up and stared at her.

“Jesus Christ you are so damn beautiful,” I whispered in awe.

Every time I saw her naked, it was like the first time. “So fucking perfect,” I breathed out as I crawled on top of her.

“You’re sure you’re okay? Nothing hurts?” I needed to verify before we went any further. I would try like hell not to hurt her, but this wasn’t going to be gentle.

“Get inside of me, Edward. Now,” Bella commanded as she pulled my mouth to hers.

I hovered over her, the tip of my cock taunting her entrance. She raised her hips off the bed and I would pull away just enough so that I grazed her soaking wet slit. My cock hurt it was so hard, but I knew the moment I was buried inside of her, it would be only moments before I came. It would feel too fucking good not to.

“Edward, damn it,” Bella ground out, her eyes ablaze with passion and need.

I craved that look, the one that let me know she needed me as much as I needed her. The one that told me my body called to hers like hers did to mine. The one that said if you don’t do something, anything, I’m going to explode.

“Say it, Isabella. You know what you have to say,” I teased her mercilessly. Her back arched off the bed and I couldn’t help but take a nipple into my mouth. I wrapped my tongue around the hard bud and then sucked it into my mouth. I could feel her pussy flutter and clench with each flick of my tongue. When I bit down on it she cried out, the sound loud and heavy in the room.

“Edward,” she panted and I smiled against her skin.

“Say my name like that again, baby,” I demanded and moved to the other nipple.

I reached down and grabbed her hands and lifted them over her head and held them there. She gasped, incoherent when I took the other nipple in between my teeth and rubbed my cock against her slick lips.

She was so close to coming, her body trembled beneath me. I continued to rub against her and took her nipple into my mouth again. “My name, Isabella. Scream it,” I ordered her.

My hips were moving in a steady rhythm and when I bit down on the pebbled flesh and she screamed my name, I slipped inside of her. She came undone almost the instant I was fully inside of her, her walls pulsated and squeezed around me.

“Edward….oh God…Edward,” she cried out and she continued to come. Wave after wave. It was the most incredible thing I’d ever felt.

“Fuck, baby,” I rasped out. “What you do to me,” I said against her neck. “You’re so fucking wet and tight, Bella. I love being inside of you. I could live inside of you,” I grunted as my hips continued to move.

I kissed her again, my tongue licking at her lips. “I love it when you talk that way,” Bella whispered as her fingernails scraped against my scalp sending delicious tingles all over my body.

I reached between our bodies and circled her swollen clit with my finger and her body practically flew off the bed.

“You’re so wet, baby. Because of me, isn’t it Bella? Tell me,” I said against her lips before I bit on the bottom one that taunted me so.

“Yes, oh Edward…fuck baby…yes,” she answered, her body positively vibrating beneath me.

Her legs were wrapped tightly around me, the heels of her shoes dug bitingly into my ass, but it felt too good to tell her to move. “Mine, Bella. You belong to me just as I do to you,” I told her as I looked in her eyes.

She couldn’t even speak, she just nodded her head. “I’m so close, Bella.”

“Harder, Edward. Fuck me harder,” she pleaded and I complied. Bella lifted her hips to meet mine and the only sound in the room was our breathing and the sound of our bodies sliding against the other.

“Right there, oh please…yes, there, just like that,” Bella moaned, the sound reverberating around us.

“You look so fucking good beneath me,” I told her.

She closed her eyes but I couldn’t have that. “Open your eyes my beautiful girl. Watch me fuck you until you can’t see anything but me.”

Bella opened them and I brushed my lips across hers as I swiveled my hips against her, “I love you, Isabella Cullen,” I murmured.

“I love you, Edward Cullen, forever,” she breathed out.

“Together, baby. Come with me,” I told her and watched, desperate to feel her let go. “Give it to me, Bella. Come…now,” I commanded and felt my legs tense.

“Yes, oh yes….coming, I’m coming, Edward.” I bent my head down and pressed my forehead against hers.

“So good, Bella, yes…that’s my girl,” I praised her then released in a powerful burst and felt her walls clench me as she came again.

I collapsed on top of her and breathed against her neck, flicking at the skin there with my tongue.

“That was,” Bella breathed and I chuckled. “Fucking amazing is what I think you were going for,” I retorted back.

My voice shook and Bella breathed in and out a few times before I reluctantly rolled off her, immediately missing being inside of her.

We laid there for a few moments before I felt the bed move. Bella straddled me and my eyes consumed her as she was above me.

“I’m not done with you yet,” she purred as she bent down and flicked my nipple with her tongue. “Not by a long shot.”


“Angel, are you going to be okay?” I asked when the seat belt light turned off.

Bella sighed and nodded her head. She didn’t look at me for a few minutes and I didn’t press her. Pop told me to be prepared for Bella’s moods to be kind of up and down during this trip. I didn’t really expect them to be any different. This was something I’d thought about for a really long time, ever since Dad gave her Charlie’s letter back in May. Listening to her breakdown the way she had when she talked about not getting to say goodbye to her father cut me to the core. I couldn’t really even imagine how hard that must have been for her to deal with all those years ago and I knew she hadn’t really done it yet. Bella needed this trip, no matter how painful it might be for her.

I didn’t suggest this trip lightly. I’d talked to Jasper, Seth, and Rosalie about this. I’d talked to Sue as well.

Flashback~ (talk with Sue)

“Edward,” Sue said quietly to get my attention.

Bella had been home for a few days and her strength was just about back to normal. She still tired more easily than she used to, but that was to be expected for a bit longer. The loft was blessedly quiet for the first time in I couldn’t even remember. Maddie and Masen were at school and Seth and Jasper were downstairs. Sue had come up to keep Bella company while I went to the market. When I got back, she had already laid down to take a nap, leaving me with my first real chance to talk to the woman who for all intents and purposes was a true mother to Bella.

“I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to see her so blissfully happy,” Sue said as she took a drink of her iced tea. We were sitting at the island and the loft was almost silent.

“I hope to always keep her that way,” I told her honestly.

Sue placed her glass back down on the island and waited for a moment before she turned to look at me. “You’ve given her everything she’s always wanted; unconditional love, a true family, and acceptance of who she is. Bella is a remarkable woman, Edward, and for someone who has been through the hardships she has, it’s a miracle she’s still the same Bella she’s always been. Actually, that’s not true. The real Bella has been hidden from everyone; even those of us who have loved her for her whole life, until you and your children came into her life. You’ve brought her back to all of us and for that, I’ll be eternally grateful.”

I didn’t know what to say to that so I didn’t say anything. I had a feeling there was more she wanted to say to me, and I wasn’t wrong.

“Charlie Swan was a good man, but he was extremely flawed,” Sue began again. “Bella idolized him and Lord knows the man thought the sun rose and set on his daughter's head, but I know Bella in a way that I’d be willing to bet no one else does. Not my son, who has loved that girl since the day they were born. Not my two pseudo-children who owe her so much even if she doesn’t see it. Perhaps not even you, though I believe you understand our girl in a way only you can. Bella has never once, as far as I know, gotten angry with Charlie for the things he did. I think Bella has dealt with her feelings for Renee. That relationship was black and white and Bella has had a lot of time to come to terms with the person her mother was.”

I opened my mouth to say something but Sue held up her hand to stop me. “Just a moment, Edward. Charlie was her father and of course she loved him. Look at what she did to try to help him, to try to save him, even though it was practically hopeless. Bella would do no less for anyone she loved, it’s who she is. But, Charlie allowed her to get hurt in ways that no father should ever allow his child to be harmed. Renee was an evil bitch who didn’t deserve either one of them. For some reason Charlie was totally blinded by her and it made him behave in ways I never would have dreamed he’d be capable. Bella has never acknowledged that. She never once spoke one word against him when he was alive and though I imagine she’s come to accept his faults more as she’s gotten older, those wounds are still there.”

“So what are you saying? What do I need to do for her?” I asked. I was shocked, stunned speechless by what she’d just told me. I can’t say that those thoughts never entered my mind, but Bella’s feelings about her father were a subject we hardly ever addressed.

Sure she’d talked a bit about them over the Fourth of July weekend with me and the kids, but besides a comment here or there, it was a subject that was not discussed.

“Bella needs to go back to Forks, Edward,” Sue told me with much feeling. “She needs to get angry with her father for what he failed to do for her. She needs to tell him how she felt being abandoned the way she was by his refusal to do something to stop Renee. She needs to grieve for him and then,” the woman said with tears in her eyes. She grabbed my face and looked deep into my eyes, “She needs to tell him she forgives him and tell him goodbye. Bella needs closure, Edward. It will always be hanging over her head, waiting to creep up on her if she doesn’t deal with this and put it behind her. After all she’s been through, after the fight she just won to come back to you, to all of us, she has one more thing left to do. Help her, Edward. Make her face her past and then show her how to leave it there. Bella can’t do this because of you, but she can do it with you.”

“I’ll take her before the wedding,” I promised her, realizing how true all she’d just said was.

Bella needed to do this. She wouldn’t like it, and I had no doubt she’d resist, but eventually she’d realize it was something that she’d needed to do for a long time.

End of flashback~

“Thank you for making me do this, baby,” Bella whispered. She still stared out the window but she had reached over and grabbed my hand, linking our fingers together.

I squeezed her hand and waited until she looked at me. “I’ll always be with you my love. You never have to face anything alone ever again. And, I’m not making you do anything, Bella. I merely suggested. You are the one that decided you wanted to do this.” I picked up her hand and brushed a soft kiss across the back of it before I held it on my lap.

She was killing me. I knew she was hurting and there wasn’t really anything I could do to take it away and make it better except be here for her. Bella was so fucking brave…the bravest, strongest person I’d ever met in my life. I was continually in awe of her. When I suggested we take this trip and what I hoped to accomplish while we were here, she didn’t resist the way I expected her to, the way an average person would have done.

No, my girl took a moment to listen to what I had to say and then agreed, completely, that it was something she needed to do. No hemming and hawing, no trying to put it off to a later time. Nope, my brave, strong girl asked when we could go.

So, here we were, a month before our wedding, flying across the country so she could finally tell her father goodbye. It would be hard because Renee was buried there, too, but I believed Sue when she said she thought Bella had come to terms with Renee’s passing. Renee was an awful person and a horrible mother. There wasn’t much ambiguity there. Renee had let her feelings toward Bella be known for all to see and hear. Charlie was the one that should have been on Bella’s side and he was the one that Bella needed the closure with.

We picked up our rental car at Sea-Tac and made the drive to Port Angeles without any problems. Bella was quiet again and I couldn’t help but worry about her. I knew she would talk to me eventually, she always did. We didn’t keep secrets from one another; we just didn’t work that way. I looked out the window to let her think in peace and couldn’t help but be amazed at how fucking green it was here. It was almost surreal. The scenery was breathtaking and the air was crisp and cool. Fall was definitely here and I couldn’t help but realize that we needed to get the hell out of New York City. I wanted Maddie and Masen to enjoy fresh air and running in a yard and having a tree house and they couldn’t have any of that as long as we stayed in the city.

I knew we had a lot to deal with the wedding preparations and all that, but I hoped Bella and I could make some plans regarding what we would do after the wedding. We weren’t taking a honeymoon. Neither one of us wanted to be away from the kids again and we planned on taking a trip after Christmas, just the four of us.

We’d spend the holiday with the family, but after that, until the kids had to go back to school, it was just going to be the four of us. I had a few ideas of what I wanted to do, but I still needed to check out a few more things before I could decide for sure.

We arrived at the Olympic Lodge hotel just before dinner time. I figured we’d eat and go to bed early. I knew the next day would be a long, hard day for her and once we were done here, I planned on spending the night in Seattle before we went home. I planned on spoiling the hell out of her, no matter how much she protested. This was going to be a hell of a thing for her to do, I just wanted to show her how much I loved her and how damn proud of her I was.

“Baby?” I asked once we’d put our things away in the bathroom. This was going to be a pretty fast trip so we didn’t bring a lot. “Do you want to go down to the restaurant or would you rather order room service?” I asked. I had a feeling I knew what she would say and she didn’t disappoint when she replied, “Can we just eat up here? I don’t feel like being around a crowd of people right now.”

I nodded and flipped through the menu deciding on a simple meal of steak, baked potato, and salad. I’d even ordered some cheesecake for dessert as well as a bottle of wine. I figured we could both use a glass or two to relax.

“Bella, are you going to be okay?” I asked as I turned around after I hung up the phone.

She stood next to the windows and stared out at the lake beyond. It was almost dark out by this time and you could barely differentiate between the water and the sky. She shrugged her shoulders at me despondently and I wanted to kick my own ass for making her do this now. I should have waited until Bella said she was ready. I never should have pushed her after everything that had happened, I angrily berated myself.

“I’m not sure what to say to him tomorrow, Edward,” my girl said with a sniffle.

I wanted to walk to her and hold her but the way she stood kept me where I was.

“I wish I could tell you angel, but I can’t,” I told her regretfully. I wished more than anything that I could take her pain away, but I couldn’t. This truly was the one time Bella had to face something on her own. That didn’t mean I wouldn’t be right by her side supporting her in every way, but finding closure with Charlie was something only Bella could accomplish.

“Bella, if this is too much for you, we can come back another time. Hell, we can leave and never come back if that is what you want. I’d never force you to do something you didn’t want to do,” I told her honestly. As much as I fully believed Bella needed this, I didn’t want to see her in pain.

Before I even got the words out, she shook her head at me. “No, Edward. I know I need to do this. For me and for us. When we say 'I do' next month, I don’t want there to be anything holding me back. I want to go forward with you, baby,” she whispered and at that point I rushed over to her.

“I want that too, Bella. I think you need to do this, but if you’re not ready, there’s nothing wrong with that either,” I told her as I wrapped my arms around her. I stood behind Bella and rested my head on her shoulder. I turned my head to kiss her quickly on the cheek. “Besides, baby, I’m sure we can find another way to spend the time away from home,” I teased…kind of.

Since Bella had been given the go ahead from Dr. Owens we hadn’t really had much time to ourselves. Between wedding plans, my easing back into work, and spending as much time as possible with Maddie and Masen, most nights we fell into bed exhausted only to wake up the next day and start all over again.

I missed Bella…a whole fucking lot.

It was still going to take some more time for both of us to get past everything that had happened. Luckily there was little more than the occasional nightmare and Bella’s injuries to recover from. Things could have turned out so much worse but as Dr. Benedict kept reminding us at our weekly appointments, we just needed to focus on what happened, not what could have.

It was good advice, but there were many times that was easier said than done. For the most part I believed that Bella and I, as well as the kids, handled everything surprisingly well. There were instances that popped up now and then and I would realize that we still had some work to do. The seven days Bella had been in a coma wasn’t anything I would ever forget. The sound of that fucking gun firing and Bella shouting 'no'…I would never forget that either. I would never forget the way her voice sounded when she struggled to tell me she loved me and the kids. I would never, ever, for as long as I lived and then beyond, forget what her voice sounded like when she woke up.

I’d never forget what it felt like when I thought about losing her forever.

Those were my burdens to carry. Those and knowing the trauma Maddie and Masen suffered as well. Masen still had incidents where he would be terribly upset or angry and that sometimes alternated with times he was abnormally clingy. Dr. Benedict assured Bella and I that was perfectly normal behavior and nothing to be overly concerned with. As he dealt with and processed what happened, he would slowly adjust and accept better. Maddie was much different than her brother. My little princess internalized most everything. In all honesty, I was more concerned about the effects of that behavior than Masen’s yo-yo emotions. It didn’t surprise me in the least that Maddie kept her feelings to herself, but I knew she had to talk about what happened sooner or later. The sooner the better.

I never was a very patient man and this whole situation was testing my patience to the extreme. I just wanted my family back to the way it used to be. My entire family had been through hell and back. Mama, Pop, Emmett, Rosalie, Seth, Jasper, Alice, Sue, and Uncle Marcus…all of them had been affected in more ways than one. I knew when we got back we had a large family therapy session planned for all of us. Even Ben and Angela would be attending. I was blessed that I’d had such an enormous support group, but the other side of that coin meant that they all had been affected by what happened, too.

The knock on the door that indicated our dinner had arrived tore me away from my musings and brought my attention back to the woman in my arms. It was where it was supposed to be anyway. Bella was all that mattered and what I needed to be focused on. The rest…well it would still be there when we got back.

“Love you, Edward,” Bella said softly before she slipped out of my grasp. “I’m going to go change before we eat.”

I let in the busboy and took the rolling cart with our food on it from him. After I gave him a tip, I set up dinner. It smelled delicious and I was fucking starving. I had no doubt Bella would be hungry, too. She had been too nervous to eat before we left. It wasn’t good for her, but under the circumstances I didn’t want to push, so I let it go. I found a station on the radio that was playing some soft jazz so I left it there and waited for my girl.

As soon as I had the plates set up at the small table in room, Bella emerged from the bedroom in a pair of yoga pants and a tank top. She had washed her face so she didn’t have any makeup on and with her hair up in a pony tail she looked fucking adorable…and sexy as all get out, too.

How the woman managed to look barely older than a teenager but so totally sexy at the same time was fucking beyond me.

“You look like you feel better,” I said as I helped her in her chair. Of course I couldn’t help but kiss her naked shoulder after she’d sat down. “Damn, baby, you always smell so fucking good. I don’t know how it’s possible but you really do,” I told her as I sat down.

“Whatever, Edward. I think you’re just addicted or something. You sniff me often enough,” she giggled at me as she buttered my bread and passed it back to me.

I broke off a piece of the warm, buttered bread and popped it in my mouth. “I’m totally addicted to you, baby and you love it, too. Don’t even try that shit with me, Bella.”

“Hmmph…I suppose you’re right about that,” she replied with a grin.

I leaned across the small table and kissed the end of her nose before I smirked and said, “Besides, don’t think I don’t catch you sniffing my pillow in the morning or taking a big whiff when I walk past you in the morning after I’ve dressed for work.”

Bella rolled her beautiful brown eyes at me and ate without comment. She was so fucking busted. She was just as bad as I was, and there was no way she could deny it either.

Mentioning the office reminded me I had something I’d been meaning to talk to her about. I knew she didn’t want to talk about tomorrow or Charlie anymore tonight and frankly neither did I. I figured we’d talk enough about that after we were through tomorrow anyway.

“Angel, I need to talk to you about something,” I began and smiled when I watched her fork still on her plate. “Bella, it's nothing bad! Jeeze!”

“Edward, you know you can’t begin a sentence like that. Especially not when we’re getting married in less than a month!”

“Woman, are you nuts? Mama and Ali would have my head on a platter if we didn’t get married. I don’t have a choice now. I guess you’re stuck with me,” I said with a wink.

Bella tried not to laugh but when I smirked at her and quirked my eyebrow, I saw the sides of her mouth lift. When I pouted, she couldn’t help but laugh.


I took a drink of my wine, which was surprisingly good and said, “What the fuck ever, Bella. You love me and you know it.”

“Hmmm, well I suppose I do. Now, what did you want to talk about since you’re obviously still planning on marrying me to keep your mother and sister from killing you?” she sarcastically said.

I had another smart ass comment ready to go, but I did need to be serious for a minute so I began. “I think I’m going to go into practice on my own.”

Bella gasped as I knew she would but refrained from saying anything else. I knew she was waiting for me to tell her everything before she made a comment. It was one of the things, well one of the hundreds of things, I loved most about her. Infuriating as hell sometimes, but I appreciated it, too. As both of us had grown together, Bella tried to let me explain things fully before jumping in. It had saved countless unnecessary arguments on both our parts I was sure. It also meant I had to be ready to tell her everything and sometimes that was a real pain in the ass, let me tell you, but even that wasn’t as difficult as it used to be.

“Our ultimate goal, our plan for the future is still to move to Lake George, yes?” I asked needing to make sure we were still on the same page as far as that went. She nodded so I went on. “I know Pop is contemplating leaving as well, especially once we move. He just wants to focus on the Foundation work and volunteering. Besides, I have a feeling that besides us, Lake George will have at least two more people residing in her fair town.”

Bella’s eyes danced in excitement at that. I knew my parents would be ecstatic to hear it. They wanted to stay close, and I knew they couldn’t stand to be far away from the twins but they wanted to be close to Bella as well. Mama and Pop loved Bella as much as any of the rest of their children.

“We’ve talked about this already, baby. We’re getting married sooner than I had planned on. It only makes sense that the rest of it happens faster, too. Not to brag, but you and I both know I don’t have to work if I don’t want to,” I said a bit self-deprecatingly.

My trust fund was something we didn’t talk about very much. It wasn’t that either of us was particularly avoiding the subject, it just didn’t come up. I’d been very up front with Bella right from the start about mine and my family’s wealth. There wasn’t a reason to lie about it, and I’d figured after past experiences it was best to find out right away if there would be an issue or not.

Of course, Bella had plenty of her own money, too. “You either as far as that goes,” I reminded her. “We are very fortunate to be able to do what we want, Bella, and I’m not going to feel bad for doing so. I want to have a small practice with a set schedule. I want to be able to come home every night and eat dinner with my family. I want to be able to leave to watch a school program or take my gorgeous wife to a late lunch followed by an afternoon in bed if we want.” I waggled my eyebrows then and enjoyed the blush that appeared on her beautiful face. “I want to be able to enjoy being married.”

“Oh, Edward,” Bella said with a soft smile.

We had finished our dinner so she sat her fork down on her plate and laid her napkin on the table. She stood up and walked around the table and crawled in my lap. With one hand she reached up and held the medal that I had yet to take off and with her other, she turned my hand over. She began to trace the lines on my palm with her fingers. I really loved when she did shit like that.

“When do you think you’ll be ready to move?” Bella quietly asked me after we’d sat for a few minutes.

“Hmmm…as soon as we get back,” I answered immediately.

She huffed and blew out an exasperated breath.

“Edward, be serious,” Bella chastised me. I bent down and kissed the top of her head and squeezed my arms around her. “Baby, I am being serious. I’ve been ready to move to the lake since we talked about it the first time, maybe even before that.”

I was being totally honest about that, too. As much as I had loved being in the city and being near my family, I was more than ready to get the hell out of there and enjoy time with Bella and the kids to the fullest. I was finally going to get Bella all to myself…no trips, no appearances, no bodyguards…just her, me, Maddie, and Masen. Fucking perfection if you asked me.

“What about the kids, their school, your job?” she questioned. I could tell she was trying to talk herself out of leaving so soon, but I wasn’t going to allow that. No fucking way.

I huffed out a calming breath then stood up, cradling her in my arms. I walked us to the sofa and laid her down. I carefully laid on top of her and ran my fingers through her hair for a few seconds before I spoke. “Isabella almost Cullen, knock it the hell off. You know as well as I do the kids will be fine whenever we decide to move. They are as excited about moving as we are. They’ll miss their friends and the family, but not enough to mar how happy they’ll be to get up there. We’ve already gone over the job and the money issue so that is a moot point. The house is already furnished so it’s not like we’ll be sleeping in sleeping bags on the floor or eating hot dogs and beans over a fire. The place is better furnished than the loft and that’s saying something. All we need is to pack a few suitcases of clothes, grab the kids and the dog, and go. It’s not as hard as you’re trying to make it, Bella. Now what has you so worried?” I asked as I ran my thumbs over her cheekbones.

I bent down to kiss her softly, because being this close to her and not kissing her was just all kinds of wrong. Her lips tasted sweet and tangy from the red wine we’d had with dinner and then I pressed my tongue deep in her mouth. I lost myself in the tastes and textures and I felt her body melt into the sofa as I let more of my weight fall on her.

Have I mentioned how fucking much I loved kissing Bella? It really was an experience in and of itself. I honestly believed I could kiss her for hours. I eased up a bit and nibbled on her bottom lip because really that lip was a fucking masterpiece. Plump and pink and it drove me wild on a daily basis.

“You know Kit Kat, you make it hard to have a conversation when you kiss me like that,” Bella groaned in my ear. I had moved to her neck, which I must admit I loved kissing and nibbling on as much as her lips…and well her collarbones, her breasts, and well, way down there, too. Seriously I could kiss and lick every inch of her body and I’d never want for anything ever again. Not really of course, because a man would go nuts being tempted that much. No, after kissing and licking her entire body, I’d want nothing more than to be buried deep inside of her.

“Mmmm, are you complaining, Jelly Bean?” I asked with a smile against her neck. I shifted some against her which was really not a smart move on my part. My now aching cock was aligned perfectly with her center and I could feel how wet and warm she was through the thin material of her yoga pants.

“I’m not complaining if you’re done talking because you kissing me and moving against me like that is making finishing this conversation less and less appealing by the second,” Bella rasped out. She had plunged her fingers in my hair and pulled exactly how I liked it. “Fuck, Edward,” she groaned when I swiveled my hips against hers again.

I chuckled against her ear. I bit down on her earlobe, probably harder than I should have. I then took the warm flesh in between my lips and tried to soothe the sting with my tongue. “So tell me my sweet girl, do you want to continue talking or do you want to continue this?” I asked seductively as I pressed my cock against her again. “Because Bella, if we keep this up much longer, I can promise that the only words you’ll say, you’ll scream,” I told her in a deep, gravely voice. Really, I was more than ready to be done talking, even though I knew we needed to finish our discussion.

However, Bella’s luscious body writhing and arching against mine was seriously making wanting to do that fucking impossible. Right now, about all I could focus on was how much I wanted her and wanted to feel her warm heat engulf me. I pretty much wanted to crawl inside of her and never leave if the truth be told.

“Ah hell, Edward. Damn, baby. As much as I don’t want you to stop…,” she groaned against my neck, “we really need to finish our talk.”

Well, hell.

That was like a bucket of ice water dumped right on top of me.

“Jesus, Bella,” I sighed as I took a few deep breaths against the side of her neck. That really didn’t help much at all, but the fog of lust I’d just been in receded enough to let somewhat rational thought seep back in.

Looking in her eyes I could see that she fought the same battle as me so I kissed her quickly on the end of her nose. I rolled off her…and my ass landed on the floor. Bella rolled over and giggled at me as I stared up at her from the ground. I was sorely tempted to pull her down on me, but figured that would get in the way of the whole finishing the conversation thing we had to do.

“I don’t know what the hell you think is so damn funny up there,” I snarled at her. Well, I tried to anyway. Bella was just too fucking cute to be mad at, besides it was my own damn fault I landed in a heap on the floor.

“Get up off the floor you old man. Your bones get all creaky and stuff when you do that,” she teased me.

I wanted to disagree with her, but she was right. After the long plane ride across the country, my legs were already stiff and sore…although maybe I could convince Bella to take a nice long, hot shower with me. Bella must have seen the wheels turning because she said, “If we can get this done, Edward, maybe we can take advantage of that huge shower in the bathroom before bed.”

I got up in a hurry at that offer and planted my ass in the corner of the couch, as far away from her as I could stand to get.

“Now, where were we?” I asked without preamble. Really, all I could focus on was the fact that before too much longer Bella would be naked and wet. In more ways than one if I had anything to do with it.

“Ready for that shower, huh?” Bella asked knowingly and rolled her eyes when I nodded my head…very enthusiastically.

“Be serious, Edward,” she scolded me. I took a deep breath and pushed all thoughts of wet, naked Bella to the back of my lust filled brain and concentrated on finishing our talk.

I really did want to know what, if anything, she was worried about when it came to moving to the lake.

“Okay, I’m ready,” I told her. “What is going on in that gorgeous head of yours?”

“I’m not really worried about moving, baby. You know living in Lake George is what I’ve wanted for some time now. Do you think Maddie and Masen will like it there?” Bella questioned and I smiled.

Of course she wasn’t concerned about herself. She never was. My girl was really pretty fucking amazing.

“They’ll miss their friends, Bella, but it’s not like we’re moving to another country. Hell we’re not even leaving the state. Trust me, I believe that after a brief adjustment, they’ll love it. It’s going to be our home, angel, the place where we are finally able to focus on being a family. It’s the place where they’ll grow up and it’s the place where we’ll make our first child together,” I whispered and watched as her eyes filled with tears.

I knew Bella was worried about not being able to have a baby. Unnecessarily in my opinion, but until she heard it from Tanya, she would be convinced it wasn’t going to be possible. I meant what I told her at the hospital. I wanted to have a house full of kids with her, but if Maddie and Masen were all we were to be blessed with, it would be enough. Bella was all I’d ever need. Having her and the kids was more than enough. Everything else, well it was just an added bonus.

“I think,” I began and stood up, “we should talk to Mad and Mase when we get back and discuss moving over Christmas break.” I walked toward her and pulled her to her feet. “It would be the perfect time to do it. The kids can start at their new school after the first of the year,” I said softly as I pulled her to me. “When we get back from our delayed honeymoon, we can begin our happily ever after in our home.”

“Edward,” Bella cried as she wrapped her arms around my neck. I reached down and grabbed her ass and pulled her up so she could wrap her legs around my waist.

“Now, I think talking time is over,” I whispered. “Let the screaming commence,” I said huskily as I walked to our room, kicking the door closed behind me.

I really hoped the walls were soundproof.


I woke up the next morning to the delicious aroma of fresh coffee and bacon. I reached over and felt the bed and realized from the cool of the sheets and the light outside that I’d probably been in bed alone for quite some time. I wanted to be upset with Bella for not waking me up, but I knew today would be really hard for her. She needed the time to think more than some extra sleep.

I rolled out of bed and pulled on my basketball shorts and then softly padded out into the other room. Bella stood next to the window, staring blankly out at the lake while she held onto a steaming mug of coffee.

She took my breath away she was so beautiful. I could tell she’d been crying because her eyes were rimmed in red and the tip of her nose was pink. My heart ached at the thought of my beautiful, brave, strong girl in pain. It hurt even more knowing I couldn’t do anything to ease it, either.

“You gonna say good morning any time soon or do you plan on staring at me all day?” Bella smirked when she turned her head in my direction.

Busted. I didn’t even realize I’d been standing still and that I was staring at her, but really, it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I tended to do that a lot where she was concerned. Quickly I walked over to her and kissed her good morning.

“You been up long?” I asked as she handed me her cup of coffee.

“Awhile,” she said evasively. I let it go. Today was about Bella and what she needed.

“Anything you want to talk about?” I asked after I took a sip of coffee.

“Nothing, everything,” my girl remarked as she leaned against the window. I reached out with one hand and grabbed hers, running my thumb over her engagement ring. I pressed on it until I felt the metal of the setting bite into the pad of my thumb. I knew she could feel the pressure against her finger, too.

“There isn’t any right or wrong actions here, my love,” I reminded her. “This is for you and you alone. Today is so you can let Charlie rest in peace and so you don’t have any ghosts hanging over your head. You’ve made your peace a long time ago with Renee and what she did; now it’s time for you to make your peace with Charlie for what he did and didn’t do. ” I picked up her hand and lovingly kissed the ring that was the symbol to the world that we were bound together, belonged to each other for the rest of forever. “Do what you need to do, baby. If you need to yell and scream, if you need to cry, or if you want to just sit there and say nothing, do it.” I set the coffee mug on the small table by the window and then reached for her with my other hand as well. I pulled her to me, trying to get as close to her as I possibly could. “I love you, Bella, so damn much,” I whispered. My throat constricted to keep the emotions inside that threatened to spill out. “I’m so proud of you for taking this step, for facing this. Do it and then let it go, baby. I’ll be with you every step of the way,” I told her and then brushed my lips over hers in a gentle kiss. I tried to convey every feeling I had right at the moment in that kiss. Pride, apprehension, anger, and as always, above all else, love. “Where you go, I go, Bella. That will never, ever change.”

“Let’s get dressed. I’m ready to go,” my brave, amazing girl said. “I love you, Edward.”

It was just one more step we had to take on our path to forever.

We arrived at the small cemetery in Forks. Bella had been pretty much silent for the past hour or so. I held her hand on the console, but I left her alone. I knew she understood I was here for her if she needed me. I just wanted, well needed is a more accurate description, to touch her. Bella looked out the side window and held a large envelope in her other hand. I had no idea what was inside; I figured if she wanted to tell me, she could.

I stopped the car and got out so that I could open Bella’s door for her. I glanced quickly through the windshield at her. She had closed her eyes and took a few deep breaths. I opened the door slowly and waited until she was ready to get out. Everything today would be done at her pace and be what she wanted. My job was to be here for Bella, to help however she needed.

Bella finally looked up at me, her eyes already buried beneath her tears. I had to fight the urge to close the door and take her away from here. As much as I believed Sue was right about this, I was pissed as hell, too. We were supposed to be past all this bullshit. Now that the mess with Jane and Bella’s contract was done, there weren’t supposed to be any of these fucking obstacles in our way. We’d already been through enough, and I was fucking angry there was still one more thing for us to overcome.

It went against every instinct I had where Bella was concerned to let her do something that I knew would cause her pain. It was supposed to be my job. I was her Superman as she called me all the damn time, and I was supposed to keep her from getting hurt, to protect her. This right here, right now…really sucked.

“You ready?” I asked softly and she finally looked at me.

There was so much pain there, so much sadness, too. But, buried beneath all of that, beneath her tears, I knew my Bella was there as well. Not the Bella Swan that left Forks; the one that had a mother that was cruel and horrible. Not the one that turned her three closest friends into a makeshift family. Not the one that gave up everything for a man, though she loved him, that didn’t deserve her sacrifice in my opinion.

She wasn’t that Bella anymore.

She was my Bella now. Bella Cullen, or close enough anyway. The Bella that was my future wife and mother to Maddie and Masen Cullen. The Bella that needed both hands and most of the toes on both of her feet to count everyone in her family now…the one that made our family complete. The one that made me into the man that loved her with all his heart; the man that would never be worthy of her. The Bella that saved me, figuratively and literally. The Isabella Marie that was stronger than any person, man or woman, I’d ever met. That was who my Bella was, and that was the one she would always and evermore be.

I held my hand out to her, the one that would always be there for her whenever she needed it and waited until she reached forward and put her hand in mine. I pulled her from the car and when she stood up, I kissed her forehead. I grabbed the side of her face and whispered where my lips were still pressed against her head, “I love you, Bella. You do what you need to do and let me know when you need me. I won’t be far.”

She nodded at me and after one final squeeze of my hand, she walked away from me and toward her father.

The weather was cool and thankfully Bella packed jackets for us. She had on a pair of jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt and had my hoodie over the shirt. She looked almost like a little girl and it made me ache for her to imagine the pain she’d had to endure when she was younger. I followed behind, not too close, and watched her approach his grave. The headstone was a simple granite one, with an inscription on it. I couldn’t read it since I was too far away. Renee’s was next to Charlie’s of course but Bella barely paid it a passing glance. I noticed there was a small bench beneath a tree so I walked to it to sit and wait…and be ready to jump in when she needed me.

Bella stood for a few minutes…I guessed it was a few, I didn’t really know. She was so still. She didn’t move, she barely breathed from the looks of it. She just stood and stared at his headstone, lost in her own thoughts. It was so fucking hard to just sit and watch…and wait for whatever was going to happen. I had no idea what to expect really. I’d talked to my dad about this trip and the reason for it before we left. He reminded me that people dealt with hurt and with grief in all different ways. Both of us, as well as Sue believed that Bella had never really grieved for Charlie. She may have mourned his death, but she never dealt with any of her feelings regarding the way he let Renee treat her. She never got angry at him for choosing Renee over her, for putting Renee’s needs and feelings above hers. She’d been angry at Renee plenty, but never at him.

I had a hard time with that myself. I had a daughter that I thought the sun rose and set on. I loved her more than my own life and there was no way I would ever, fucking ever, treat my daughter the way Charlie let Renee treat Bella. Hell, I practically had a Renee clone in Lauren, and even if you offered me all the money in the world, I wouldn’t let Lauren be alone with Maddie for five seconds, let alone until she was an adult.

Charlie Swan might have been a good man. He might have been a great police chief. What he wasn’t, however, was a great father. The man was seriously flawed. He may have gone to every one of Bella’s soccer games. He may have encouraged and supported her as she worked toward her dream, but if I knew my girl, and you can bet your ass I fucking did, Bella would have traded all of it…every minute she played, every award she won, every goal she accomplished, for Charlie to have stepped in and put her needs above those of the bitch that gave birth to her.

Just once.

When Bella and I first met and got involved, I wondered often about her parents, especially since she didn’t say much. After reintroducing her to my parents and listening to my father talk about him, I had thought about how sad I was I would never meet the man that meant so much to my girl and her friends. Reading the letter from him that Carlisle had kept for all those years was hard, but again, I’d felt that same sense of loss. It was only when the letters started coming and we’d felt as if the kids were being threatened that I began to have some serious issues where Charlie was concerned. I marveled at Bella’s instinctual protection of Maddie and Masen. There was nothing that was more important to her than their safety and well being. Nothing. Not even her own came before theirs and it really made me stop and think at how horrible it was that Charlie never did the same for her.

I didn’t understand it.

At all.

Meeting Sue and then spending time with her left me with more questions than I had answers for, that was for sure. I had no doubt whatsoever that Charlie had loved Bella, doted on her. I had no doubt he was proud of all she had accomplished, despite he and Renee, because they surely had nothing at all to do with the amazing person she was. I had no doubt he died knowing the pain he caused his only child. Knowing all of that did little to appease me however.

The thing that was the hardest for me about this whole damn trip was knowing that, really, Bella would get no answers, ever, to any of the questions she had to have. The best we could hope for, that she could hope for, was acceptance of her father’s actions and forgive him for them. Of course in order to forgive them, Bella had to acknowledge them first. That was something that according to Sue, Jasper, Seth, and Rose she had yet to do, even all these years later. That step was what this whole trip was for.

“Why?” Bella screamed out of the blue and the sound was so full of hurt and pain I had no idea how she had managed to survive with that buried deep inside of her. I fought the urge to go to her, barely. I hated the thought of not being able to comfort her but I knew she would tell me if it was too much or if she needed me. I had to trust her and though it was painful, I waited.

“How could you let her do that to me? Why didn’t you ever choose me over her?” Bella cried out again. She stood next to his grave. The wind whipped around her, and strands of hair stuck to the tears on her face. Her body vibrated with hurt and anger and my only saving grace was that hopefully when she said all she needed to, that hurt and anger would be replaced with peace. It had to.

“I loved you and I know you loved me, but you let her hurt me. You didn’t protect me!” Bella yelled some more, though not quite as forcefully.

Soon, I said to myself over and over again. In one month we would be married. In two months we would move to Lake George and make our home. We would go forward and hopefully Bella would never have to look back again. Hopefully she could leave all of her hurt and pain behind, leave it here, and move forward with me and the kids.

The sound of Bella’s crying brought my attention back to her. She still stood in front of his headstone, still held that envelope in her hand. I watched, utterly helpless as she fell to her knees and leaned her head against the granite marker. My body ached to go to her, to hold her, but I waited for her to ask for me. She had things to say to him that were for her alone, so I waited.

And waited.

And waited some more.

Bella sobbed uncontrollably for a time. Her tiny body shook as she continued to speak to her father and let go of years and years of hurt and pain that she had kept bottled up inside. I still couldn’t hear what she said to him and I still waited to go to her. It took every ounce of effort I had inside of me not to scoop her up and hold her in my lap.

Just when I didn’t think I could take it any more, I heard her faint plea, “Edward,” and rushed to her side.

She was taking a few deep breaths to get herself back together and she wiped her face with her fingers. Her nose was red, her cheeks were splotchy, and her eyes were puffy and swollen, and she had never looked more beautiful to me. “I’m here, baby,” I told her as I knelt down beside her and wrapped an arm around her. “I’m so fucking proud of you,” I whispered against her temple before I kissed her.

“I thought, if you would like to,” Bella began, her voice raspy and scratchy from crying for so long. “I could introduce you and the kids to my dad,” she asked tentatively.

I nodded, unable to talk. Her voice was thick with emotion, but looking at her, I could tell she was on her way to making her peace with everything that had happened. She wasn’t there yet, and I was positive she’d be speaking to Dr. Benedict about this more once we got back to the city, but it was a start and that was all I could ask of her.

Bella reached out and slipped her hand inside of mine, and I squeezed hers to let her know I was ready whenever she was.

“Daddy, this is my Edward,” she began softly. “He’s the most wonderful man and we’re getting married next month. He’s made me happier than I ever could have imagined being and he’s the reason I finally came to say goodbye.”

“Hello, sir,” I said simply. “It’s nice to finally meet you.”

“And these,” Bella went on after she let go of my hand. She took some pictures out of the large envelope and laid them against the headstone. They were pictures of Maddie and Masen and they were in clear, plastic frames. “These are my wonderful children, Maddie and Masen. They are eight-years-old and are the most amazing people you will ever meet. You would have loved them. Masen likes to play baseball, so you would have had fun taking him to baseball games, though his favorite team is the Yankees and he’s a huge Derek Jeter fan. I know how much you love your Mariners, but he’s only eight. I’m sure you could have shown him the error of his ways,” she said with a small laugh and I couldn’t help but smile at the thought of Masen and Charlie arguing over baseball stats. “Maddie likes to play soccer like me, and she’s better than I was at that age. She likes to draw pictures and she would have had you wrapped around her finger instantly. They are the most important people in my life, them and Edward, and I just wanted to tell you about them,” she finished quietly.

“J, Lele, and Seth are all happy and really good. I know they miss you as much as I do. You would be so proud of all of them. Tell Harry and Charlotte and Peter they are all okay. Edward and I will keep them out of trouble, I promise. Poor Lele has her work cut out for her because Edward’s brother Emmett keeps her on her toes, but he makes her so happy. I know Charlotte would have loved him,” Bella said with a chuckle.

We spent a few more minutes as she told Charlie about Ali and Tanya. It was so strange, you could actually feel his presence and I was so happy we’d come. Bella needed this, and in all actuality, I did, too. It was only right to meet the man, so to speak, before we got married.

“I love you, Daddy and I forgive you. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to come see you,” Bella whispered as she kissed her fingers then placed them on the gravestone. She stood up and walked quickly back to the car. I bent down and said, “I’ll take good care of her Chief Swan, I promise. She’s my whole world and I’ll never let anything hurt her again. I’m sorry I’ll never meet you, sorry you won’t be at the wedding, but I’m sure you’ll be watching over us. Rest in peace now, she’s let you go,” I whispered, repeating the same motion of kissing my fingers and then laying them on the marker.

I turned to the grave beside him. I had so much I wanted to say to the person who gave birth to my Bella, none of it very nice. “You will never know the amazing woman she’s turned out to be. I pity you because she is the most incredible person in the world and the best mother our children could ever ask for. Bella is the person she is today, not because of you, but in spite of you. You tried to destroy that beautiful woman, and for that, I can’t ever forgive you.”

As I approached the car, Bella stood beside the door. Her back was to me and she wasn’t shaking so I couldn’t tell if she was crying or not. She turned when she heard me get closer and I smiled when her eyes were clear and free of tears. The smile she gave me in return was radiant and I knew my Bella was very much present and accounted for.

I rushed to stand in front of her and I couldn’t help the relieved laugh I let go of when she jumped in my arms. “I did it, Edward,” she told me proudly.

“You sure as hell did, angel. How are you, are you okay?” I asked as I turned us around and set her on the hood of the car.

I stepped in between her legs and bent down and kissed the side of her neck then her lips. I could taste the salt of her tears and I kissed her until I couldn’t any more.

No more tears for my girl, I vowed. Unless, they were happy ones of course. I didn’t want to see her cry anymore. We’d both done enough lately and it was high time to laugh and have fun.

“I’m going to be just fine, Edward. I’m better now. Thank you for encouraging me to do this, baby,” she told me as she laid her head on my shoulder. “Thank you for being here with me.”

“Bella, I told you, you will never have to face anything alone ever again. It’s you and me, always and forever,” I told her and kissed her once more, because, really, I just had to.

Her stomach made a noise and reminded us both that she didn’t eat this morning before we left. “Come on, Kit Kat, I’ll give you a tour through the metropolis of Forks, Washington and then we can stop at the diner. They have the best hot chocolate you’ve ever tasted,” she giggled as she jumped off the hood of the car. “Let me show you where I came from then you can take me home.”

“Sounds awesome, baby,” I told her.

She didn’t belong here anymore. She belonged with me, Maddie, Masen, and the rest of our family.

We made it through all of the sights in less than thirty minutes. The place was fucking small! She showed me the high school, the soccer fields, the house she grew up in. We parked the car in front of her old house and she stared at the small, but well-kept house for a second before she opened the door and got out. Bella walked along the side and opened the gate to the back yard. I hoped no one was home and that the current residents didn’t have a dog! She walked over to a large tree and looked up at an extremely sturdy looking tree house.

“I want to build the kids a tree house at the lake,” she told me as she turned around to look at me. “Dad and Harry had so much fun building that damn thing. We spent so much time up there,” Bella said wistfully.

“It’s a great tree house,” I told her.

“It was our safe place,” Bella said softly and then walked to stand next to me. “I’m ready to go now,” she said and I nodded my head.

She pointed me in the direction of the diner and when we arrived the parking lot was mostly empty. I looked at the clock; it was just past two in the afternoon. No wonder I was all of a sudden starving!

We entered the small diner and I was immediately assaulted by the smell of fried food and coffee. Typical diner smells, I supposed. The waitress showed us to a booth along the wall by the windows in the back of the room. There were only a few customers and we were only paid a cursory glance as we followed her to our seats. We slid into the booth and she handed us menus and after we’d each ordered a Coke, she left us to look over the menu.

“Well, baby, this is your show, what do you suggest?” I asked her.

“Hmmm, well, you can never go wrong with a burger and fries,” she told me and I nodded because it sounded fucking good and set down my menu and looked across the table at her.

She was so damn beautiful. Since we’d left her old house, her eyes had become brighter and her cheeks had returned to their normal pale shade. There were some dark bruises underneath her eyes, but they just enhanced how beautiful she was to me. To me, they spoke of her strength and I loved her more because of them.

“You’re doing that staring thing again, Edward,” she giggled at me when she tipped the corner of the menu down to look at me.

I shrugged my shoulders at her. “What the hell do you expect Bella? You’re gorgeous. What else would you have me look at besides you anyway?” I teased her.

She rolled her eyes at me. “Hmmm, well I suppose that is a good point you make, Dr. Cullen. You know if I ever caught you looking at another woman the way you look at me, I might have to keep you locked up and never let you out in public without me. I don’t like to share either, you know,” she said as she narrowed her eyes at me.

Ahhh, feisty tiger Bella…I loved when she came out to play!

“You trying to tell me you get jealous, baby?” I egged her on.

“Hmph! Like you don’t know women everywhere stare at you wherever you go,” she huffed as the waitress came to take our order.

Of course said waitress had to prove my girl right by blatantly trying to flirt with me, but no way was I having any part of that shit. Feisty, tiger Bella was one thing, pissed off, hurt Bella was something completely different.

I placed my order of a burger and fries quickly and blatantly ignored the cleavage that was eye level. Bella obviously enjoyed my discomfort since I could hear her snickering across from me. It was so nice to hear her laugh; I didn’t even complain about her laughing at me.

The waitress left the table, a bit put out by her failed attempts. When I looked at Bella after she’d gone, she didn’t say anything except to raise both her eyebrows and then silently took a drink of her Coke. Yes, she was right. Didn’t mean I had to tell her so, now did it?

Our food came in no time due to the lack of other patrons and I dug in quickly.

“Damn, Bella. This is a really good burger,” I told her once I’d slowed down a bit.

“It is. J, Seth, Lele, and I would come here at least once a week to eat. Charlie was in so often, they knew what to bring him depending on the day, without even having to ask,” Bella said with a smile.

I loved seeing her be able to talk about her father without cringing. She’d taken a huge step forward with this trip and I told myself to get Sue something fucking awesome as a thank you for encouraging me to get Bella to do this. It wasn’t until we go here that I realized how much she needed this closure and I was thrilled it was behind her now.

As we were finishing up our dinner, a shadow fell across the table. Bella and I had been so engrossed with our conversation we hadn’t heard anyone approach. When I looked up, I was shocked at who stood there. Bella was too, judging by the gasp of breath she let out.

“Jacob,” Bella said quietly looking back and forth from him to me.

Honestly, now that I knew he hadn’t had anything to do with what was had happened to Bella, most of my intense hatred for the kid pretty much flew out the window. Oh, I still thought Jacob Black was an ass, but as far as other things went, he was pretty damn harmless.

“Ummm,” he began hesitantly. “Hey. I heard you were going to be in town this weekend. I hoped I’d see you…um, both of you,” Jake said as she shifted from side to side.

“Do you want to sit for a minute?” I asked, surprising all three of us I guessed from the shocked look on their faces.

Jacob let out a tense breath and nodded his head and looked back and forth from my side of the booth to Bella’s. Putting him out of his misery I said, “Jake, just sit by Bella or pull up a chair. It’s okay, really.”

He nodded and reached behind him and pulled a chair up to the edge of the table. He’d turned the chair around backward and rested his hands on the back of it and took a deep breath before he began. “I just wanted to apologize to both of you for my behavior while I was in New York and then again in California. It was totally uncalled for,” he admitted slowly. He warily looked at me and I stared back at him.

Hell yes he owed us both an apology. There had been a lunatic stalking us and he’d been more concerned with getting in Bella’s pants than in keeping her safe. The kid was damn lucky he was still alive in my book.

“Damn straight it was,” I snapped at him.

“Edward,” Bella admonished but I didn’t even look at her.

“No, Bella, Edward is right. My behavior could have put you in danger and that is something I’ll always regret. Along with the fact that I wasn't there to help keep you safe when it mattered most,” he said with difficulty.

At that point, any residual anger I felt for the kid simply disappeared. While he undoubtedly acted horribly while he worked for Bella, he truly cared for her. Knowing what had happened to her and how close we all came to losing her had to have affected him as was apparent by the anguished look on his face right this moment.

“I’m so fucking sorry,” he whispered and hung his head.

Of course my girl being who she was, slid over and put her arm around him. “Jake, its okay. I’m okay now and Jane is gone for good. I accept your apology, we,” she said and looked at me. I waited for a moment before I nodded my head in agreement, “accept your apology. It’s time for all of us to put everything behind us.”

“Bella is right, Jacob. We’re not dwelling on what might have happened, we’re just moving forward.”

I meant it, too. If Bella could forgive him, so could I. No one understood how amazing Bella was better than I did. I couldn’t really fault the kid for loving her the way he did.

“Thank you,” he said with feeling and held his hand out for me to shake, which I did.

He started to hug Bella but stopped. I had to chuckle at that, at least the kid finally got a brain. Bella reached forward and hugged him anyway and I laughed even harder when he lifted his hands to pat her on the back then put them down repeatedly before he settled on a quick hug.

Bella wiped the few tears that had fallen down her cheeks with her finger and the light caught it just right so that it gleamed. “You guys are getting married?” Jake stated, and thankfully he only sounded happy for us so I smiled. “Yep, next month.”

“That is really great. I hope you believe me when I say I’m really happy for you both,” Jake said sincerely and honestly and I did believe him.

“Jacob, how did you know I was going to be in Forks this weekend?” Bella asked.

“Sue called Billy. You know how those two are, they like to gossip. I had a feeling you would go see Charlie and I figured you’d stop by the diner. I’ve ahh…um…been kind of keeping an eye out for you. I wanted to see you if I had the chance,” Jake admitted.

Bella smiled and I chuckled. The kid had guts; I had to give him that.

He filled Bella and me in on what he’d been doing since he came home. He’d been helping out in a garage in town and was about to move to Seattle for a better job. I was happy for him, really. He seemed like he was content with his life and that was good to see. Besides, I knew Bella would feel better knowing he was happy, too.

“Bella, Dad is outside if you want to go see him. He knew I wanted to talk to you first, but he’d love it if you said hello,” Jake told her.

I nodded at Bella when she looked at me, excitement all over her gorgeous face. “Baby, go say hi. I’ll take care of the check and be out in a minute.”

She squealed and then hopped out of the booth and ran outside. I could hear her laugh all the way inside when she saw Billy.

“Thanks for listening to me, Edward,” Jacob said as I stood and threw enough money on the table to cover the check and a tip.

“It took a lot of guts to walk in here and say that, Jake. Not only that, I appreciate the honesty, so it’s all good.”

“Besides, look at her,” I pointed with my chin toward Bella and Billy who were laughing and hugging nonstop. “She needs to look like that all the time.”

“She’s really doing okay? No permanent damage or anything?” he asked.

I sighed and then slapped him on the back. “Bella is going to be just fine. Now, let me go meet your father.”

We spent about thirty minutes visiting with Jake and Billy and by the end had two more people to find rooms for at the wedding. Bella was so excited they were coming which just made my fucking day.

“We’ll see you two next month,” she giggled as she kissed first Billy then Jake. I shook each of their hands and expressed my thanks for them coming to the wedding. Bella had so few people in her life from her past and it was great she could share our day with them.

“You sure it’s okay they come for the wedding, Edward?” Bella asked as we headed back to the hotel to check out and then go on to Seattle. I couldn’t wait to surprise her. I had made a reservation at the Four Seasons and Bella had an appointment already scheduled for first thing tomorrow morning at the spa. I hoped she didn’t fight me on this, because I wasn’t taking no for an answer. She needed and deserved to be pampered and I was going to do my damnedest to make sure she was.

“Of course I am, Bella. Anything that brings that gorgeous smile to your beautiful face is all good in my book,” I told her with a wink and pulled into the hotel parking lot.

We hurried and got our few things packed and checked out to head to Seattle. I wanted to get there before it got too late so we could take a walk and have dinner on the waterfront. The weather was supposed to be clear and cool and I figured it would be the perfect ending to an emotional, but successful day.

“I can’t wait until Carlisle and Uncle Marcus meet Billy,” Bella said during the drive to Seattle.

I couldn’t help but laugh at that. “No kidding! We might never see any of them if they decide to go fishing. Good thing the wedding isn’t until Saturday!”

“I wish my dad could be here,” she said quietly, but without the pain that had been there before.

“I know baby, but you have to know he’ll be watching and he’ll always be with you,” I reminded her.

She sighed and then smiled at me. “I know, Edward. Thank you again for helping me do this.”

“Anything for you, angel, you know that. Besides, you did this. I only made sure you didn’t do it alone,” I told her honestly. “Why don’t you put your head back and rest for a bit? We have a few hours before we’ll be at the hotel. I have plans for you later,” I smirked.

She nodded her head and yawned, telling me she was more tired than she wanted me to know she was. “Just rest, baby. I’ll wake you when we get there,” I told her softly and reached over to tuck her hair back behind her ear.

“I love you, Edward,” she whispered, barely loud enough for me to hear. Bella fell asleep as soon as she got the words out.

“I love you so fucking much Isabella Cullen,” I said reverently back to her and continued to run my fingers through her hair…all the way to Seattle.

We made it to Seattle in good time and as we hit the outskirts, I woke Bella up. “Baby, we’re almost at the hotel.”

“Mmmm, I slept the whole way?” she questioned adorably as she rubbed her eyes. “Yep, I knew you were more tired than you tried to make me think,” I told her knowingly.

“Well, I’ll pay for it later,” Bella teased as she stretched…tempting me way more than was safe when a sliver of pale skin peeked out of the bottom of her t-shirt. “I won’t be able to sleep tonight.”

“Oh, I’m pretty sure I can fix that for you, Bella. Don’t you worry your beautiful little head about it, baby,” I told her truthfully. I had all kinds of ways I could tire her out, she definitely didn’t need to worry about not being able to sleep!

We got checked in and a bellboy helped us to our room. I’d gotten a suite with a view of the water. We were only going to be here for one night, but I figured what the hell? Bella was worth it and we could afford it. Besides, while she was at the spa in the morning, I needed a place to hang out and wait.

After we’d each taken a shower, separately unfortunately, we got dressed to go eat dinner. Bella wore a pair of black dress pants and a lightweight gray sweater. Her hair was down and she looked fucking gorgeous. I wore a pair of gray pants and a black dress shirt. We weren’t going anywhere particularly fancy, but I wanted to have a nice dinner.

Once we’d finished with our seafood dinner, we took a walk back to the hotel. I had my arm wrapped around her shoulders to keep her close to me. I would not be lying if I said I also kept her close to me so I could bend down and nuzzle her neck whenever the urge struck…which was like pretty much every few minutes or so.

Hmmm, guess I am addicted to her.

We walked for awhile, talking about her day with Charlie, seeing Jake and Billy, and of course the wedding. “Do you know if you’ll ask anyone to walk you down the aisle, angel?” I asked as we headed back toward the hotel.

“Well, I have. I thought for awhile I wanted Carlisle to walk me down the aisle, and I even thought of Masen, too. But really, it has to be Jasper and Seth. I can’t pick one or the other, so it has to be both or no one,” she answered me.

I smiled, knowing Pop would die of happiness that she even considered him to be the one to give her away. And Masen, we couldn’t ever tell him she’d thought about him, either. Though, I’m not positive he would give her to me, anyway.

“It makes perfect sense that they get the honor of giving you away, Bella,” I told her. “I can’t wait. You know that right? I can’t wait to marry you,” I breathed out as I turned her toward me and kissed her…hard.

“Let’s go back to the room, Edward,” Bella told me huskily and she didn’t need to tell me twice.

She giggled at me the whole way back, even in the elevator and until the doors opened on our floor. We stepped off and turned to walk down the hall toward our room. I pulled Bella behind me and about fell over when she stopped abruptly. I whipped my head to look at her and she was staring down the hall at the woman that had just come out of one of the rooms.

“Oh my God,” she whispered and I swung my head back and forth as I tried to figure out why she was so shocked to see a woman cleaning a room in a hotel.

“Baby, what the hell? Why are you staring at that woman?” I asked.

I looked at the woman again, and took in her appearance. She looked like she was about Bella’s age, but the wrinkles on her face and her dull, listless rusty orange hair made her look years older. Obviously the woman worked too much to spend any time whatsoever in a gym. Her shoulders were hunched over and she moved like she carried the weight of many things on her back. In all, she looked pretty pathetic as hateful as that might sound.

“That’s her…that is Victoria. Oh God, I can’t believe after all this time…I never,” Bella stuttered.

My brain tried to catch up with her words. THAT pathetic woman was the one that took my love’s dream away from her? What the hell happened to her was my first thought, followed immediately by, Karma’s a bitch isn’t it?

“We can wait downstairs,” I told her quietly, not knowing at all how she wanted to handle this.

Hell, she’d faced her father today, she could handle that sorry excuse for a woman with no problem, but only if she was sure.

“Oh hell no,” my feisty tiger Bella spat out and I couldn’t help but chuckle. Damn, have I said how fucking much I love my girl when she’s all worked up? She’s fucking awesome.

The sound of my laugh got Victoria’s attention and when her eyes landed on Bella, you could see the color, what little of it there was mind you, completely leave her face. Her eyes widened in recognition and I couldn’t help but let out a small snicker when Victoria’s eyes moved from Bella to me. She certainly checked me out which caused Bella to growl sexily in the back of her throat.

“Go get her tiger,” I whispered in her ear and then slapped her ass, gently of course, but it still caused a sound in the quiet hall way.

“Damn straight I will, baby.” She winked at me and then turned toward Victoria, squaring her shoulders as she walked toward her.

I leaned against the wall and watched. Damn, this was really one time I wished Emmett could be here. Oh shit, I remembered as I pulled out my phone. I would tell her I did this before I showed anyone, but really, Rose would kill me if I didn’t get evidence of this.

I held my phone out and pressed the button to record and moved a bit closer so they could get the sound as well.

“Victoria Mitchell, I can’t say that I ever thought I’d see you again,” Bella began slowly as she stepped closer to her. I almost felt sorry for Victoria. She looked so scared and she kept looking around as if an escape route would magically open up and let her get away.

“Bel…Bella Swan…umm, it’s ah…,” Victoria swallowed a few times. “It’s nice to see you again. What brings you to Seattle?”

Had to give the woman a bit of credit, she was trying, in vain I was sure, to keep things civil.

“My fiancée and I are just spending the night,” my girl said as she turned around and looked at me with a smile. I hid the phone against my leg and gave the sorry excuse for a human being a small wave before Bella turned back around again and I started recording again. “We’re on our way back to New York City.”

Bella stepped a bit closer to her and Victoria tried to step back, but couldn’t because she was against the wall. “Victoria, I have to say, the years have not been kind to you at all. What happened to your promising soccer career? You know the one you ended mine for?” Bella said icily.

The calmness of her voice was worse than if she would have screamed and yelled at Victoria, and I beamed with pride at how well she was handling herself. Bella clenched her right hand in a fist beside her leg and the thumb on her left hand swept back and forth across her engagement ring.

“I’m so…ah, what I mean is…I’m sorry about what I did to you,” Victoria stammered out.

I watched my girl’s shoulders slump for a second before she straightened them back out again. Bella might forgive her, because she was a good person, but there was no fucking way she’d ever forget what she’d done to her.

“Well that sentiment is about five years too late, wouldn’t you say?” Bella snapped and advanced again. “It’s real easy to say sorry when so much time has passed.”

“Well, I am sorry,” Victoria said.

“You know Victoria, I hated you for a long time. I was so angry at the path my life took after you took away my dream, but I’m not anymore. Because what you did to me, led me to Edward so, thank you,” Bella said smugly. “I’m getting married in a month to the man of my dreams. I have two amazing kids, and I have a huge family that loves me. So, while you think about that, know that after seeing you now, I won’t ever think of you again. Have a nice life,” Bella finished and turned to look at me.

“You ready, sweetheart? I’m done here,” Bella told me with a smile.

Fuck yes she was done.

When we left tomorrow, we were going home…where we belonged.



  1. My lovely Erin!

    I LOVED this chapter for MANY reasons!

    First, lmao, Edward needing to 'get some' was cracking me up. Poor man wasn't use to being denied some lovin' and he couldn't get any while Bella was healing, well at least not the loving he wanted. Emmett giving him shit was fabulous!

    The lemon was ...... fucking hot, there just isn't any other way to put that. I was surprised that Edward didn't just explode! AND I'm thinking that Bella was right there with him ya know the whole, "I'm not even close to being done with you" comment was a slight giveaway hehe!

    Edward's conversation was powerful with Sue. You have known since the very first time I read this, how I have felt about Charlie and his lack of stepping in to help the girl that he claimed to love so very much.

    We have gotten bits and pieces of Bella's insight into the situation, but she never said she was mad about how he treated her. Maybe in her mind she needed to have at least one parent she could look up to, and Charlie was certainly the lesser of the two evils, which is unfortunate.

    Renee was outright EVIL. She was horrible to Bella and never hid her dislike of Bella or anything that she did. Bella would not have been able to please Renee no matter what.

    Charlie's "abuse" of Bella was more...neglect I guess. He didn't protect her, all the while saying that he KNEW Renee was crazy and evil, but still allowed it to happen. To me, that is worse. To KNOW and acknowledge that it is happening, but not stepping in to stop it.

    Edward said it perfectly when he said he just didn't understand. And none of us ever will. The few words we have from Charlie do not explain how he could put Renee before Bella when he knew how much damage Renee was doing to Bella.

    Maybe in Charlie's mind, with him letting Bella spend so much time with Sue, Seth, Rose and Jasper, he was protecting her. Not making her be at home and having to put up with even more abuse from Renee. Again, we just don't know, but I guess I'm trying to justify his actions, although really, there is o rhyme or reason behind them.

    Bella NEEDED to get the pain and anger out. There is no way that she could have continued to carry that around. For all these years, I can imagine her fighting the instinct to be angry at Charlie for letting her down, which is what he did. While STILL holding all that love she had for him, again, him being the lesser of the two evils.

    Bella has an innate need to please people. She pleased Charlie, there is no question about it. I'm guessing she clung to Charlie as 'the good parent' knowing she could never please Renee.

    I cried when she finally broke and let the anger come out at Charlie. Hell, still just typing this right now I got goosebumps thinking of the pure fury that she had held inside.

    Letting it go had to make her feel so much lighter. To finally make peace with the nightmare that was her childhood and finally be able to give her forgiveness to Charlie, even if she didn't admit to herself she was carrying that burden, is a way for her to move forward and so very important! Good on Edward for nudging her in the direction she needed to go and Sue really for helping Edward realize it was needed!

    *will be continued on second review*

  2. I can't tell you how happy I was with the outcome and the power of that section of the chapter. It pleased me very VERY much! More than I can put into words Erin! Charlie has quietly haunted me the entire story.

    I loved what Edward said to Renee. You don't hurt his Bella as badly as Renee did and get forgiven. He just doesn't have that in him, and I can understand that completely.

    Jake and Billy! I am sure people are going to be questioning her and Edward's ability to forgive him for what he did. On the other hand, really, what do they have to hold against him. Yeah, he screwed up and he was fawning all over Bella, but as Edward said, who wouldn't :)

    I think after her conversation with Charlie, Bella was in a better state of mind to forgive Jake. And because of Charlie, Billy was still very important to her and it would make life easier to forgive Jake, if only for Billy's sake. I think that was handled well!

    One of the things (among the many) that cracked me up was the whole "Masen wouldn't give you to me". We ALL know that is true. Bella created the heavens and the earth, walks on water and can do no wrong in Masen's eyes. Edward said in the beginning he was glad he didn't have to battle his own son for Bella. I think he will be fighting that battle forever hehe

    Victoria! HOLY that was awesome. I loved that we got to see that Victoria didn't get anything out of life because she didn't deserve a damn thing after what she did to Bella. On the other hand, Bella handled it beautifully! Her letting Victoria know that yeah, she may have taken that aspect of her life away, but the path lead to Edward, and really there is nowhere else she should be. There is no greater victory for Bella than to show that 'pathetic' woman that she has risen above and continued to flourish and move on and BE HAPPY and get what she has always wanted in life!

    I'm sure I missed some things I wanted to touch on but just know, this was a wonderful, beautifully written chapter! The ends getting tied up are being done perfectly!

    I absolutely can't wait until the next chapter! I wanna see the Lauren end get tied up lol

    Love you my dear friend and thank you for this chapter!