I followed Bella downstairs to the garage after she changed clothes. I felt a little uncomfortable seeing her dressed as she was now. Watching her ahead of me on the stairs in a t-shirt that looked like it may have been black at one time with a picture of some country singer on the front, in jeans that had the darker impression with a missing back pocket and torn out knees, and sneakers that should have been thrown out years ago by the looks of them... As long as she was dressed the way I wanted her, she looked older, which I never realized helped me avoid feeling guilty about her age; I didn’t even think about it. She didn’t look like my Bella now; she looked like the teenage Bella in all the pictures in the house.
‘Duh, who did you think she was?’ the voice asked sarcastically.
I should have known the voice in my head wouldn’t leave me alone. At least he wasn’t calling me names today.
‘Yet. I’m not calling you names yet. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before you’re going to screw up.’
I chose to ignore him and go back to my own thoughts as I continued to follow Bella. I was very good at avoidance. The old adage ‘out of sight, out of mind’ worked at burying a lot of things over the years. Things I didn’t want to remember from my childhood; things we’d been forced to observe; things I’d forgotten were buried deep inside me. I’d always felt confident that I stood on solid ground with my morals and belief system. Nothing swayed me from how Carlisle raised us. I respected my father; he would accept nothing less from me.
Now Bella was destroying my foundation. I hadn’t even realized she was doing it in the beginning. She had snuck into my heart and mind deeper than I ever intended her to be. Carlisle warned us never to let a woman in this deep; that it would destroy us. They were to be decorations - trophies to show off to colleagues - just another sign of our successes. Alice had destroyed Jasper’s walls from the very beginning until there was nothing left of our father in him. I could see what Rosalie’s pregnancy was doing to Emmett’s walls. She obviously weakened the mortar over the last four years so that now it only took one push to knock most of them down. My walls were thickest and reinforced, but Bella had somehow made it inside the fortress of my heart. She was tearing my walls down from the inside out, brick by brick, and it really terrified me. Who would I find buried inside once she took down the last brick?
I was grateful that I had Jasper to talk to about Bella. He frustrated me to no end when he gave advice; I felt like he was attacking me from the front while Bella made a sneak attack to my unguarded rear. But if I stepped out of myself long enough to actually analyze what he said, I realized it all made sense. Once I took the actual steps to follow his advice and do what he suggested, I realized that I like the man I was becoming around Bella. I felt a peace I hadn't felt in years - not since I was a little boy. The checkerboard at the restaurant this morning reminded me of all the games Es - no, ‘Mom’ used to play with me. She taught me how to play checkers, and then chess. I would make a stop later today at a store to buy a chess set for Bella and I to play. She mentioned this morning that she wanted to learn how to play.
I hadn’t realized we were at the garage, so lost in my own thoughts, until I heard a sound of pain coming from Bella. She’d just stepped into the garage, still standing in the doorway. She had her arms wrapped tight around her waist and was staring with wide eyes across the garage at the Kia Sportage parked there. Backing away to the wall, she slid down to the floor and began to sob. Her eyes stared fixated on the vehicle while her tears fell unchecked. I didn’t understand why a car would cause such a reaction from her until I realized there was a bow on the front hood. It, along with the SUV, was covered in dust.
It took me a moment to put everything together. This must have been her birthday gift from her mom and step-father. Evidently, she didn’t know the vehicle was even here. From my arguments with Carlisle about bringing Bella on this trip, he had told me that Bella went straight from the hospital to her uncle’s home after the accident, and from there to Charlie’s. He said she never set foot back in the house after Renee took her to school that morning. I remembered briefly wondering how he always seemed to know so much more about Bella than I did. I’d have to worry about that another time though.
Right now, my Bella needed me.
I picked her up, cradling her in my arms as she continued to sob. I pressed my lips into her hair, making shushing noises to calm her as I took her back in the house. I sat on the sofa and gently rocked her comforting her.
“I’m sorry, Bella,” I whispered. “I know it hurts. It’ll be okay.”
I felt Bella stiffen in my arms. She tried to get up but I knew she wasn’t ready. She still needed me. I needed to show her how much I loved her and could take care of her. I instinctively tightened my arms around her to pull her into a tighter cuddle, to help her feel secure. She wouldn’t relax and continued to squirm.
“Hush, Bella. It’s okay, Love. I’m here for you. Lean on me,” I told her.
She looked at me with those deep chocolate eyes. They were red rimmed and shimmering from crying. All of a sudden she started laughing; not a happy laugh, but something that bordered on hysteria.
“Bella, baby, you need to calm down. You’re getting hysterical,” I cautioned her.
I was beginning to worry that I may need to take her to the hospital and have her sedated if she didn’t calm down soon. Her hysteria was increasing and becoming more out of control.
“No shit, Sherlock. Did you just figure that out?” she blurted out.
I was stunned; Bella knew better than to talk to me like this. Even with the freedoms I allowed her now, she still had to speak to me with respect. I had just reinforced this to her not long ago. I didn’t even realize that my arms had loosened enough for her to move out of my hold. Just as I was about to remind her of her place, she shocked me back into silence. Bella stood in front of me with fire in her eyes, the likes of which I had never seen in her. Not even that first night when she crossed the line in her behavior. Her eyes were now shooting daggers at me as she stood with her hands on her hips, screaming at me. She was out of control, I knew, but I was frozen in my place hearing what she said. I listened to her talk about herself in the third person - she actually gave herself a name: Bella Barbie. Was this what I had made her into?
“What the fuck did you think I would feel?! Numb, calm, controlled? You want Bella Barbie to come out and play? A flowerpot for a brain? Well, fuck you, Edward Anthony Cullen! I hate Bella Barbie! I hate everything about her! I hate her more than anything - I hate her demeanor, I hate her submissiveness, and I hate her fear. I’ve never hated like I do now!” she screamed.
I felt my chest tighten with each accusation she made. She told me that we were the reasons for her nightmares. I knew about her nightmares; I’d listened to them and held her through them. I vaguely registered that she mentioned Carlisle again. I guess she would think he was sick since he bought her for me. I know all his comments upset her. I had made her hate herself. I had turned her into someone she didn’t want to be; my Bella. If there was any doubt her next words if they’d been a physical blow, would have killed me.
“I hate you! I hate what you’ve turned me into!” She took a breath and continued driving the nails in my coffin. “This is my home! Not yours! Mine! My home - where I was loved by the best parents in the world, only to have them snatched from me when I still needed them. Instead of getting to live with my aunt and uncle who loved me as much as mom and Phil, I get shipped to the pits of hell to live with Satan himself and his devil spawn. You’re not any better than they were. You want to know the only thing separating you from them in my eyes? Do you?!”
I didn’t have an answer to her question and was terrified what answer Bella would give. I was right to be afraid. I was being crushed by the weight of guilt she was burying me under.
“You’re not family! It isn’t incest what you make me do. That’s all! You dress it up and try and make it look pretty by calling it love, but it isn’t. You force me to do things I hadn’t thought about doing for years! Every fucking night of my life... Who the fuck is supposed to fear going to bed? Well, I do! I don’t care if we haven’t had actual sex yet. That won’t be any different. All those tears afterwards? You wanna know why I’m crying, asshole?! I’m disgusted by it. I’m grossed out. That’s the most disgusting thing I’ve ever done in my life. I hate that you make me want you, that you make me enjoy it. I don’t want to want you! I don’t want to care about you! You claim you love me? Bullshit! You don’t know the first thing about love.”
“I actually feel sorry for you,” she finished softly.
I thought back to every night that I’d spent with her in our bed. I always took care of Bella, making sure she had her orgasm before I found my release. Then I remembered Emmett’s comments about sex with Rosalie, and how much she hated him in the beginning. I remembered Jasper saying it took six months before he could even make love to Alice. I realized that while I thought I was bringing Bella pleasure, I was in reality destroying her every time she cried out during her orgasm. I was killing the woman I loved.
‘Yeah, you are... so, what are you going to do about it?’
I vaguely registered that Bella had walked away, but I was too stunned by her words and the questions being asked in my mind to stop her. This time the voice didn’t sound so cocky - he sounded just as depressed as I felt. What was I going to do about it? Could I make it right?
‘Of course you can make it right, Assward!’ Now the voice was angry at me again. ‘Didn’t you take notes when you talked to Jasper? He said you have a small window of time to still gain her love. He said to let her be herself. You did well this morning. You kept your fucking mouth shut for once and didn’t ruin it for her at the diner. You let her have her moment with those people.’
‘So, does that mean you have faith in me now?’ I asked. Hell, now I was actually having a conversation with this damn voice. I wish he’d just go away. Things were so much simpler before he showed up. I didn’t have any doubts before.
‘Too bad, jackass, I’m not going anywhere. And no, I don’t have faith in you. I have faith in Bella. If you don’t get a clue soon, I lose and I loved Bella first. I don’t want you to screw this up for me. I need her. I’ve been locked away for too long.’
‘So just who the hell are you anyway? You talk like you think you’re a real person; you’re just a figment of my imagination. You’re not real. You can’t love Bella. And besides, Bella is mine, not yours.’
I heard a soft chuckle from deep in my mind. ‘You really don’t remember me, do you? Well, everyday that you’re with Bella, as your love grows for her, I get stronger. Before long, I’ll be strong enough to rid you from Bella’s life. She just needs to knock down a few more bricks around that dead thing in your chest you call a heart to set me free. Who am I? I’m the Edward you used to be. I’m the Edward that Mom raised us to be. I’m Bella’s Edward.’
I thought about what he said. Bella constantly talked about Carlisle’s Edward versus her Edward in her sleep. The night she was drunk, she had looked deep in my eyes while she called me her Edward and begged him not to go away again. Did she really see him in my eyes? Is he who she was fighting to reach inside of me?
“Here, I guess you’ll be wanting this now,” I heard Bella’s soft voice. I hadn’t realized she came back in the room or was even standing in front of me.
I looked at Bella, not really seeing her. I was so lost in my guilt and the realization that all the times she held my face and looked deep in my eyes, she was searching for him. Somehow she knew he was buried deep inside of me long before I did. I finally looked down at what she had in her hand: a belt. I looked at Bella again and realized the magnitude of what I’d done by punishing -
‘Abusing Fuckward, just admit it! You abuse Bella,’ the voice accused.
I saw every time Bella made a mistake - every time I corrected her flash in my mind - but this time I saw her eyes. I saw the fear and depression each time I corrected her. I worked hard not to physically punish Bella unless it was absolutely necessary, and even then, I went easy on her. I only gave her ten swats now and used my hand instead of a paddle. Well, except for a few weeks ago.
It was a Saturday. Carlisle and I had a meeting at the hospital we needed to attend. The hospital was considering partnering with a couple of hospitals in South America to share medical services for cases they weren’t equipped to handle. The meeting wrapped up earlier than expected so Carlisle left to play golf and I headed home to surprise Bella.
Carlisle had given Esme permission to spend the day in Seattle with Emmett and Rosalie to shop for the nursery. Bella had homework to finish so she was staying with Jasper and Alice. I decided to stop at the house first to change so I could surprise Bella with an afternoon in Port Angeles before picking her up from their house.
When I got to our room, the door stood partially open. I could hear the stereo playing a country music station and someone humming along. It wasn’t music I listened to so I quietly pushed open the door further to see Bella alone in our sitting room. She was lying on her stomach on the floor with her ankles crossed, her bare feet swinging in the air. She was engrossed in her book and didn’t notice me come into the room. She was absently twisting a lock of her hair, occasionally stroking the end across her cheek. I couldn’t get over how relaxed and peaceful she looked; I didn’t want to break the spell.
I was torn between scooping her up and take her into our bedroom for some afternoon loving or scolding her for disobeying. I told her she was to stay with Jasper and Alice until I picked her up. It was a simple rule to follow. I didn’t like her being by herself with no one to watch over her. As long as she was with someone, I felt secure. Bella must have sensed me because she suddenly looked up at me. I saw guilt and fear flash in her eyes. She knew she broke a rule. She jumped up turning off the stereo on her way toward me. She stood on tiptoes to kiss me, trying to distract me.
“E- Edward,” she stuttered, rushing through her excuse. “I didn’t expect you home so soon. I know you told me to stay with Jasper and Alice but,” she gestured to her book on the floor, “I got this great book from the library at school and thought I’d just read in our room. I did stay with them through lunch and I finished my homework. Please don’t be mad at me.”
She begged me with her eyes not to be mad. The fact that she admitted she knew she broke a rule and did it anyway made me disappointed in her. She knew the consequences of her actions. I really didn’t want to punish her; maybe I could avoid it.
“Bella,” I took her face in my hands and tilted it so I could read her eyes. “If I came home as planned in two hours, would I even know that you came home alone or would you be at Jasper’s, where I left you this morning?” She didn’t even need to answer. I saw it in her eyes. She would have lied to me. She tried to look down but I held her steady to look me in the eye.
“I would have been at Jasper’s,” she admitted softly. “I wouldn’t have told you I came home. But Edward, you don’t understand,” she started. “I just wanted to be by myself for a while. I wanted to see if I could handle it. It was hard, but the stereo helped break up the silence. It’s just that there is always someone with me and sometimes I feel claustrophobic. I need some space to breathe. I only came home and I’ve been in our room the whole time,” she explained.
“Bella, you know the rules. What book was so important that you felt the need to break them?” I asked.
She went and picked up the book to show me. “My government teacher was talking about it in class this week so I checked it out. It’s really interesting. It’s about the crisis in America today: the politics, the economy, and the war in Iraq.”
She didn’t need to be reading something like this. Politics weren’t for her. She should be reading her poetry or classics that I purchased for her.
“Was this a class assignment to read this?” I asked, reading the jacket cover. I wasn’t going to jump to conclusions.
She shook her head. “No, I just wanted to read it. I never realized how bad things were in our economy. It’s really scary when you think about it.”
I closed her book with a snap and set it on top of the armoire. She followed my actions, a look of confusion came over her face.
“Why did you do that? I need to mark my place, and you know I can’t reach that,” she stated, pointing where I’d placed her book.
“I know you can’t reach it, Bella; you don’t need to. I don’t want you reading this book or any like it. It isn’t necessary for you to worry about the economy or politics. I want you to return the book Monday when I take you to school.”
She stared at me a moment. “What do you mean it isn’t necessary? Just because I’m not running for office or anything doesn’t mean I shouldn’t be aware. I want to be informed. I’m going to be eighteen in September which means I’ll be old enough to vote.”
“Bella, you don’t need to worry about that. I’ll tell you how to vote. There’s nothing for you to know. If you want to read, then read the books I bought you. If you need something new to read, then we’ll stop at the bookstore before dinner tonight and you can pick out something. But first we need to deal with your disregard of the rules in coming home alone.”
“Are you freaking kidding me?” she gasped. “I don’t even get a say in who I vote for? I can’t read a book to be informed about the world around me? And why can’t I come home and read if I want? Why do I have to have someone with me all the time? It’s not like I could get away to leave on my own. I don’t even know the freaking code to the damn gate!”
She was building up to one of her little tantrums. “Bella,” I said sternly, “the rules are in place for a reason. They are for your protection. I am going to be your husband and as head of our household, I make the decisions. It’s your place as my wife to follow them without argument.”
She stomped away from me before turning back around to me. “Oh my gosh! Do you even hear yourself? You have your head so far up your own ass, you’ll need a crowbar just to pull it out again. That’s bullshit and you know it.”
“Bella, that’s enough,” I ordered harshly. She was really starting to piss me off now.
She turned her back on me crossing her arms over her chest in a huff. I heard her mumble something.
“What did you say?” I demanded.
She turned back and swallowed hard. “I said you were a tyrannical jackass,” she admitted.
After I calmed down enough to punish her, I still stuck to ten swats, but used a belt this time and locked her in our room for a week. She wanted to be alone, well, now she was. She went to school and then I brought her to our room each afternoon and locked her in. She refused to speak to me until I let her out of our room.
Naturally Jasper and Alice both came down on me. Alice was so angry, she refused to tell me anything Bella said to her after I let her out of our room. Jasper just shook his head at me and told me he was disappointed in me.
I was brought back to the present as I realized Bella was still standing in front of me, waiting for me to do something.
“Can we just get this over with? Do you want to beat me here, or upstairs, or wait until we’re back at the hotel? I’m sorry but Phil didn’t like to dress up so he was buried with his only tie. I don’t have anything for you to tie my hands with so you’ll just have to deal with it.”
I felt another truckload of guilt dump on my shoulders that she actually was discussing her punishment with calm acceptance. She expected to be punished by me. She knew I was going to pun -
‘Hit her. Just fucking say it! You are going to hit her repeatedly until you make her scream and cry. You’re going to take one more step at closing our window of time. You’re going to destroy her even more now. Now, just admit it for once in your sorry, screwed up, fucking excuse for a brain. Repeat after me: “I abuse the woman I love. I’m violent and I hurt her. She is smaller and weaker than me and I still hit her. I’m an abuser.” Say it now!’
“Hello, Earth to Edward. Come back into orbit, please. Would you just take the damn belt and hit me already. I’m drained and I need something to drink. Just get on with it and beat the crap out of me already,” she muttered.
I stood and took the belt from staring at it in my hand. I remembered again Bella crying the last time I used the belt on her.
‘I abuse the woman I love. I’m violent and I hurt her. She is smaller and weaker than me and I still hit her. I’m an abuser,’ I said it mentally. I admitted it. Never again would I hurt - abuse her. I curled my hand into a fist around the belt in my hand and turned away from Bella, throwing it against the far wall with an angry roar; away from my Bella. I looked back at Bella and saw the abused 17 year old girl that I loved. I didn’t see my dressed up Bella Barbie. I saw who she really was. She was so strong and yet so vulnerable. She was stronger than I was. She survived everything life had thrown at her; her parents deaths, Charlie and James and their abuse, my abuse. I had given up to the demands of my father. I had forgotten the man I was; I became the man Carlisle demanded me to become. I cried out in anguish as I realized I was not the man Bella needed. She needed and wanted her Edward, but I couldn’t give her up either.
‘Please, don’t take her away from me. I need her as much as you do. Help me?’ I asked the voice; her Edward.
‘Alright, but we do things my way. Let your walls down to let her in. We can find a way to live together and be the best kind of man to love and cherish her, but it won’t be easy for you. Start with an apology and we’ll go from there.’
“I’m so sorry,” I whispered. I reached for her, needing to hold her in my arms. I needed her to soothe me. I wanted to die when, instead of letting me hold her, she stepped back away from my arms. She wouldn’t even let me hold her now. I was losing her. I felt the anguish rising up to take over and fought for control again. I wouldn’t be a baby - I wouldn’t cry - but I would start over. From this day forward, things would be different… if she would let me.
“Bella, I don’t ever want to abuse you again. I’m sorry for the times that I have. I was wrong, so very wrong. You’re right. I’m no better than Charlie or James. I feel like a monster. I know I’ve been no better than one. I can’t tell you how much regret I feel. I’ve hurt you so much. I wasn’t there for you when you lost them. That first night, oh god. I should be killed for that. I should’ve been there, all that time I just left you there…”
‘You can do this, Edward, you’re doing fine. Don’t stop now.’
“I just… I want you to know that, ah Shit! Bella, I…”
“What?” she snapped.
I tried again. “Bella, I didn’t know what love was when I first go - met you.”
I reached for her again, needing to touch her, but again she pulled away.
“I can sit down by myself, thank you very much.”
“I guess I deserved that. Will you sit with me?”
“Not on your lap,” she warned me.
“Fine,” I accepted. I reached for her and she at least let me hold her hands. It was a start. I needed to feel her so I continued to brush my cheeks across the backs of her hands. It was the most she would give me now, so I would take it. When I was calm enough, I continued.
“I want to learn how to love. As I'm getting to know you, I'm learning what a truly wonderful, fantastic human being you really are, and I love what I know. But I know there’s so much more. I am falling in love with you, Bella, and not in the way I’ve been taught to. I’m falling for everything I’ve been told is wrong. I’m not used to this feeling and it scares the hell out of me.” I reached and she let me tuck a strand of hair behind her ear without pulling away again. I was about to take the biggest step ever and everything would hang on her answer. “I know you said you hate me, but do you think there’s even a remote possibility that that could change? That you could ever love me?”
I held my breath and waited. At least she didn’t immediately say ‘no.’ That could mean she was at least thinking about giving me a chance.
“Edward, honestly? Maybe, but I’m not sure. The Edward I met at first? No way in hell. He’s hateful, cruel, and has hurt me too many times. I could never not hate that monster. Now…”
“Now?” I encouraged gently. I could feel the hope growing. I stroked her cheek and she still wasn’t pulling back.
“Now?” she began again. “Now, you’ve shown a different side. It’s not black and white anymore. There are some things I really do like about you, but there’s still too much of the bad stuff. I know no one is perfect. I know everyone has their good and bad sides. It’s a balance, you can’t love everything about someone, but there has to be more good than bad, and so far there just isn’t enough good to outweigh everything wrong. You’re still a dictator, just not as mean of one.”
‘You know you are, so just accept what she tells you. Don’t argue with her.’
“Well, at least you recognize the differences. You’re changing me, Bella. And I like it. If I keep going - keep trying - do you think you could love me then?”
“Edward, I’m no romance expert, but let’s take one thing at a time? First off, some people - regular people - try at the love thing, and it doesn’t work out. They’re just not meant for one another.”
I refused to believe we weren’t meant for each other. She couldn’t believe this; I needed her. She stopped me from speaking as she continued.
“I’m not saying I won’t love you, but how can I know? The only Edward I know is the old one, and who knows what I’ll think of the new one? I can say that the new one would stand a better chance. But I can’t promise to feel something for someone I haven’t gotten to know, and Edward, I don’t know you for other than what you’ve shown me.
“Secondly, I don’t think you even know how not to be a dictator. Marriage is a partnership. We each have strengths and weaknesses. I’ll admit I’m not perfect, but neither are you. Marriage is the union of two people. Both partners have a say in decisions, not just one barking orders at the other all the time. I want the kind of marriage I’ve been raised to expect, not the kind that you try to force upon me. I won’t be happy and I will never love you if you make me live like that. I may care, but I won’t love you. Ever.”
I thought over what she said. She didn’t say she couldn’t love me; she said she wouldn’t love me unless I changed. I didn’t know how to change. I’d been this way for too many years.
“Bella, I don’t know how to be any other way, but I am trying. You said yourself, I’ve started changing for the better. Will you help me become the kind of man you can love? I want your love and will walk through fire for you if that’s what it takes. Will you teach me how to love you the right way; the way you say Phil loved your mom? Please say you’ll teach me to be a better man for you. I’ll beg if you want me to.”
I held my breath again as I waited for her answer. To my surprise, she moved to sit in my lap and wrapped her arms around me. She held my face in her hands and stared deeply into my eyes, searching for her Edward I assumed. She finally leaned in to kiss me and whispered the words I’d longed to hear.
“Yes, I’ll teach you how to love.”
“Oh Bella,” I moaned and our lips fused together in a kiss of promise and hope for our future. I felt more bricks falling from around my heart. Not all of them but she was getting there. I could even see her Edward who had been buried within these walls. He was alive and he was gaining strength, and for Bella, I would let him win.
I finally broke the kiss so that we could both catch our breath. Our foreheads rested against each other as our labored breaths mingled. I held her tightly, not wanting this moment to end because after this came the hard part; change. Change on my part, not hers. Bella would never need to change who she was for me again. She would be herself and teach me to become who she needed me to be.
“Edward?” she asked softly.
I kept my eyes closed a moment longer to gather strength for whatever came next. I felt her hands on my face and I opened my eyes to her. Of course, she started searching again; this time I knew what she was looking for.
“Yes, Bella, he’s still here. I promise he won’t go away again,” I assured her.
Her expression changed so much in just that brief moment, that if I hadn’t been staring back into her eyes, I would have missed it. Confusion. Hope. Fear. Fear won out as it always did for her. I’d made her too afraid of me to ever let another emotion win if fear was involved. She cleared her throat and swallowed, her eyes darting back and forth searching mine.
“I’m sorry, I don’t know what you mean?” she replied carefully. I sighed and brushed her hair back from her face, placing a gentle kiss on her lips before answering.
“Your Edward. I know you’re looking for your Edward,” I told her softly. “He’s still here and he isn’t going anywhere. I don’t want to be Carlisle’s Edward any longer. I understand that you separate me in your mind, just as you described Bella Barbie not being the real you but someone I created. I love you, Bella, and I want to be whatever you need to win your love. I want to be your Edward, just as you’re my Bella.”
I could see her shutting down again and smiled to her. “No Bella. Not Bella Barbie, my Bella. The real person inside of you. I don’t want you to be Bella Barbie any longer. She’s not who I want to love. I want to know and love you, and you alone.”
She blew out a soft breath and ran her fingers through my hair before looking me in the eye again. “You may be sorry. I tend to get a little cocky and I have a smart mouth.”
I smiled at that. “I think that part I figured out.”
“Well, I have a question for you then. If I get cocky are you going to pun -”
I put my finger over her lips.
“Abuse. Am I going to abuse you, and the answer is ‘no.’ I won’t ever hit you again, Bella. I’m sorry for every time I have. Please, let’s just start fresh from this moment. Do you think we can do that?”
She stared at me for a few minutes, thinking I didn’t know what, as she went back to running her fingers through my hair. I closed my eyes briefly; it always felt so good. When I opened them, I saw a small spark in her eyes and her lips turned up into a mischievous smirk. I held my breath waiting on pins and needles for what this might mean. She patted both my shoulders to indicate she wanted up and I let her go even though that wasn’t what I wanted.
She stood in front of me with that smirk still firmly in place and beckoned me to stand with a crook of her finger. She still hadn’t spoken as I stood up in front of her. Her next action surprised me. She stuck her hand out at me.
“Hi, I’m Isabella Marie Swan, but my friends call me Bella.”
I could feel the grin on my face widen at Bella’s now-sparkling eyes. I put my hand in hers and shook it; not letting go as I raised it to my lips and gently kissed the back of her hand.
“It’s nice to meet you, Bella. I’m Edward Anthony Cullen and I hate being called Eddie.”
Bella laughed at me and I joined in drawing her forward into my embrace. We stood together enjoying the moment. I felt Bella’s sigh as she looked up at me.
“Edward, there’s something I really need to do. Will you take me somewhere?”