I tossed aside the wilted and dying bundle of flowers as I laid my bouquet of red roses on the grave. I stared at the tombstone of the woman I’d loved for so many years. I hated the picture on the stone; her face filled with joy and love for a man that should have been me.
I didn’t bother to turn around as I heard footsteps crunch on the gravel path toward me.
“I still can’t believe she’s gone. If I’d only claimed her back in school, she’d still be here with me,” I told the person next to me. “Bella would have been my daughter. I would have spoiled them both rotten. Renee would have been my queen and Bella, I would have raised as a princess,” I said bitterly. He waited silently for me to continue. “How did it go?”
“Their trip went well. There was only one scare early on, but Edward caught her before I had to reveal myself,” he said.
“Damn it! I told that boy to keep a close eye on her. Did she see you?” I asked.
“No, she didn’t. I know how to blend into the background and she never has been that observant.” He smirked, “I could have been right behind her and she wouldn’t notice.” He shrugged, “and Edward has never met me.”
“What about at the house? I know that old lady next door is a world class busybody. Did she see you? You’re supposed to be in China after all,” I said, turning to Embry.
“I rented a dark sedan and fortunately they only went to the house a couple of times.” He chuckled. “They spent most of their time at the hotel or sightseeing around Phoenix. You’d be proud though, if you heard how Edward told off that old biddy when they met. She definitely had him pegged. She never did like me much. In ten years I couldn’t convince her.”
“You’ve done well. Head home. I have a flight to catch. I need to arrive at the conference before Edward gets there. He can’t know I made a stop along the way. I’m not ready to reveal everything to him yet.”
He shook my hand and followed me back to where the cars were waiting. I left for the airport, dreaming again of what could never be. I’d never have the woman I loved, but I would have her daughter to take her place.
I yelled ‘bye’ to my friends as I got into Emmett’s jeep. I was surprised to see Rose was with him.
“Hey Rose. I thought the doctor told you to stay off your feet a little longer,” I asked.
She found out while we were gone that her pregnancy was going well, but to be safe the doctor wanted her on bed rest for another few weeks. Emmett was beside himself when the sonogram showed they were having a boy.
“Don’t you start too. I can’t help it. The baby wants a chili dog and a chocolate milkshake,” Rose grumbled. She shuddered. “I hate hot dogs. They have chicken lips in them.”
Emmett reached over and rubbed her swollen belly. “I’m gonna have to have another talk with my son. He’s upsetting his mother again.” Emmett tried to console her. “But baby, I don’t think chickens have lips. They’re called beaks and I don’t think they really put them in hot dogs.”
Rose glared at him from her seat and slapped his hand away. “You. You don’t talk to me. You did this to me. Your son is just mean and wants to torture me with his disgusting food preferences.”
“Rosie, baby, please don’t be mad at me or our son. I’m taking you to eat your chili dog aren’t I? Did you want something else? Do you want ice cream? We can go anywhere you want. I’m sure Bella doesn’t mind not going home yet.” He glanced back at me. “Do you, Bella?”
“No I don’t mind. Edward won’t be home for another couple of hours. I’d love a chili dog.”
Rose started crying. “I knew it. You think I’m fat, don’t you?”
Emmett glanced back at me in the rearview mirror. I was trying so hard not to laugh at the exasperated expression on his face. Lately he just couldn’t win with Rose. No matter what he did or said he was wrong.
It was amazing the changes taking place in him. He was so sweet to her and did everything in his power to keep her comfortable and happy. Rosalie was still afraid of how Emmett would want to raise their son. Emmett was changing and becoming a better man, but four years of marriage and how they started had left their mark and she was still afraid.
“Rosalie Cullen,” he stated firmly, “you know I think you’re the most beautiful woman on earth. I could never think you’re fat. You’re carrying my son. If anything that makes you even more beautiful to me. You know I love you. You’ll feel a lot better once you get your milkshake and hot dog.”
Rose reached to pull his hand up to kiss, then turned in her seat to look at me. She smiled at me and sighed. “Isn’t he just wonderful?” she breathed.
I smiled and agreed with her. Emmett had certainly changed for the better. Seeing her eyes shining with love for Emmett reminded me how much I loved and missed Edward. I couldn’t wait to see him this evening.
Our room was lonely at night without him there. Esme and I took full advantage of this time without Carlisle in the house. We stayed up late eating ice cream in the family room and talking or watching sitcoms on TV. Just controlling the remote control was a luxury. We laughed, tossing the remote between us to switch channels.
Esme taught me how to make Edward’s favorite cookies, oatmeal raisin pecan. We even had them for dinner with large glasses of milk. We talked more about our life and expectations when I expressed my surprise that Carlisle would leave us alone to go to a conference.
“Esme,” I started hesitantly, “wouldn’t this be the perfect time for you to leave? While he’s out of town he can’t stop you?”
She shook her head at me. “Bella, you’re forgetting one important fact. The gate is guarded. He made sure I did my shopping early so there would be no reason for me to leave the grounds while he’s gone.”
“But wouldn’t Emmett or Jasper help you leave if you wanted?” I asked. I just wanted her to get away from Carlisle. She deserved to find some kind of peace in life.
“Bella sweetheart, you’re young and still so naïve. From the first moment I found out I was pregnant with Emmett, I knew I could never leave. Carlisle would never let me take my son and I would never leave without him. Now,” she stroked my head and smiled at me. “Now, I have another beautiful daughter; the daughter of my very best friend no less, and a grandson on the way. I like to think that my staying helped teach my sons how to love even if they all forgot for a while.”
“But you could be happy,” I stressed. “Alice has Jasper. Rose has Emmett and I even have my Edward now. Besides all of us, what do you have?”
She laughed softly to me and stood walking over to the family room window that overlooked her garden. It was night so there was only the soft illumination of the full moon; her reflection like a mirror in the window pane. I was surprised at the expression reflected back to me. Her gaze was full of love as she stared out into the darkness.
“Bella, I have my children and my garden. It may not seem possible to you, but I am happy. Would I be happier if Carlisle fell off the face of the earth or decided one day to let me go with no repercussions? Of course.”
She turned back to me, her expression fierce. “No one knows better than I the monster I married. You can’t begin to imagine the horrors that man has put me through, put my children through while teaching them how to be men.” She made air quotes with her fingers at the word ‘men’. “But I’ve made my peace with life. I’ve learned what it takes to survive and along the way I found a way to be happy.” Her voice cracked at the end.
“Esme, I’m sorry.” I ran to her wrapping my arms around her to comfort her. “I didn’t mean to upset you. I love you and I just wanted to help.”
I wanted to change the subject because it was obvious our current conversation was upsetting her. I realized again she brought up her garden. I had to ask.
“Esme, what’s the secret to your garden? You always say it makes you happy but there has to be more to it than just growing flowers.”
She shook her head at me. “Not now. You don’t need my secret. You have Edward now.” She smiled brightly at me. “And so do I. I have my baby back finally, thanks to you. Now why don’t we put some of these cookies in a container you can hide in your room as a surprise when he gets home tomorrow?”
I laughed and agreed with her, effectively ending our serious talk.
The only downside to my time apart from Edward was my nightmares were back. Last night had been so vivid it woke me up in the middle of the night. I hated nights that I dreamed of Carlisle. I hated that Edward wasn’t there to hold me through them. I felt silly, but I had to tuck his pillow against my back to fake myself out that he was curled against me in my sleep.
I’d spent the last couple of days arguing with everyone but Esme. The arguments fed my insecurities and brought back my nightmares. Jasper and Alice had told me I needed to go back to wearing my ‘normal’ clothes when Edward and Carlisle got back. They told me not to forget myself around him and that I would need to continue to pretend until Jasper, Emmett and Edward could talk about how to unite against him. I got angry and yelled at Jasper, shocking everyone into silence.
“I will not be Bella Barbie!” I yelled. “Drop it!”
Everyone stared at me in disbelief. I’d never raised my voice to Jasper or Emmett.
“Bella, we’re only trying to help,” Jasper assured me.
I shook my head at him and started crying. I couldn’t do it and I didn’t have to. They couldn’t make me. “You don’t understand,” I stressed. “Edward promised me. I don’t have to pretend anymore!” My voice got steadily louder again.
“Bella. That’s enough,” Emmett admonished. “No one is attacking you. All Jasper is saying is to wait until Edward and you have a moment alone to talk.”
“You’ll see. Edward doesn’t want me to act like that anymore. He said I could be myself.”
I prayed I was right. I guess time would tell.
I stood in the kitchen fixing dinner for Edward’s homecoming. He called from the airport and told me he’d be home soon. I wasn’t very hungry after eating my chili dog but I knew he would be. Edward didn’t like airline food. I wanted our reunion to be perfect. I also wanted to prove to everyone that he didn’t expect me to pretend any longer which is why I was in jeans, a t-shirt and barefoot. I trusted Edward to keep his promise.
I screamed as I felt arms slip around my waist. I spun around to my Edward’s laughing face.
“Did I scare you?” He laughed.
“You’re home!” I squealed.
I jumped into his arms wrapping my legs around his waist. He quickly caught me and moved me away from the stove to sit me on the counter. Our lips connected instantly in a heated kiss born of longing and need. I raked my fingers through his hair and moaned into his mouth as he pulled me to the edge of the counter so I was pressed tight against his waist. Our lips finally broke apart so we could catch our breaths and I cupped his cheeks in my hands. I preceded to rain kisses all over his face much to Edward’s amusement.
“I…take…it you…missed…me,” he stated between kisses.
I giggled at him and wrapped my arms around his shoulders, hugging him close.
“Of course I missed you, silly.” I responded lightly. I’ve spent the last few days thinking about how much I was falling in love with Edward. Knowing this and not being with him was hard. I just needed to be near him.
“What the hell is going on in here?” a harsh voice demanded.
I looked over Edward’s shoulder as he turned to see Carlisle and Esme standing in the doorway. I glanced at Esme to see a wistful smile on her face as she looked at Edward. Carlisle’s face was full of disgust. He pointed an accusing finger at me.
“You will clean this entire kitchen and disinfect it. Food is prepared in this room. Edward, take her to your room if you need a release. I don’t want to see that in here ever,” he sneered.
I was surprised when Edward shrugged his shoulders at Carlisle.
“As you wish,” he responded nonchalantly. He then scooped me up from the counter causing me to squeal again. He walked to the doorway carrying me to where Carlisle and Esme were standing and leaned to kiss her on the cheek. “Hello mother.” He then turned to Carlisle, “If you’ll excuse us. I’m taking you up on your advice. We’ll be in our room.”
Carlisle stepped aside stunned into silence as Edward carried me down the hall to the staircase. Edward carried me up the stairs and to our room.
“Care to do the honors?” he said as we got to our room.
I reached down and turned the knob, pushing the door open for him. He kicked the door shut behind him and carried me to our bedroom. He tossed me onto the bed and lay down on top of me.
“Now where were we before we were so rudely interrupted?” he breathed against my lips.
“Mmm, I don’t know. Why don’t you remind me,” I whispered back just has Edward brushed his lips with mine.
He was trying to be sweet, but I wasn’t having that. I missed him too much with my newfound knowledge of love. I raked my fingers through his hair and pulled his lips closer to mine. He moaned as our tongues collided, our kiss becoming more impassioned.
“God I missed you,” he groaned breaking our kiss.
“I missed you too,” I whispered in return. I saw the tiredness in his eyes and decided to do something about it.
“Let me up a minute,” I asked.
He stared down at me in worry. “What’s wrong?” he asked as he moved away from me.
I leaned over him and kissed his nose smiling.
“Nothing,” I grinned. “Roll over.”
“Why?” he asked suspiciously, quirking his eyebrow at me. I could see the smile playing at the corner of his mouth.
I put my fists on my hips and pouted. “Just do it,” I huffed.
He rolled over onto his stomach and pulled the pillow into his chest curling his arms around it. I hiked one leg over his waist so I was straddling him and sat down. I massaged his back in long soothing strokes. Edward groaned in appreciation so I increased the pressure of my strokes earning even deeper groans.
“God, Bella. You have no idea how good that feels,” he moaned.
I smiled knowing I was making him feel good and I wasn’t doing anything I didn’t want to. After a few moments I started feeling a little playful, so I started writing words on his back. I wrote “Bella loves Edward” before he caught onto what I was doing.
“Are you writing on me?” he demanded playfully. He rose up to look at me over his shoulder.
I put on my innocent face.
“Who me?” I grinned.
He caught me off guard by quickly rolling over, effectively pinning me beneath him. I screamed as he began to tickle my sides. He continued to tickle me as I screamed until I was breathless.
He relented long enough for me to catch my breath as I stared into his eyes. I held his gaze as my hands moved to stroke his face and the hair hanging in his eyes. For the first time I recognized the look in his eyes. It was the same look I’d been seeing in the mirror the last few days. Edward loved me. He wasn’t seeing Bella Barbie, he was seeing me. And he loved me! I was safe with him and always would be. I loved him and he loved me. I would tell him soon about his father. I didn’t want to break the mood right now. I was surrounded in love and I wanted to stay buried safe in my cocoon a little while longer.
He lowered his face to mine so our lips barely touched and whispered, “I love you, Bella.”
Before I could utter any type of response our lips fused in a heated kiss. After several moments his lips covered my eyelids and then the corner of my mouth before trailing my jaw down my neck to that sensitive spot that only he knew at the juncture of my throat and shoulder. He tugged the neck of my t-shirt to the side to give him more access but couldn’t get where he wanted to be. He rose up and looked at me, his silent question in his eyes.
I smiled gently and nodded. His lips crashed with mine again as I felt his hand at the hem of my shirt. He gently raised it, breaking our kiss only long enough to get it over my head before tossing my shirt on the floor. My bra quickly followed. Edward stared down at me his eyes darkening to a deep forest green at the sight of me. He slowly lowered his mouth to my aching flesh. I needed him so badly. I wanted everything but knew it would be a mistake this soon.
He gently suckled my breast while his fingers stroked and tweaked my other nipple. He rose up and blew on my wet nipple causing it to pebble even harder under his attention. My fingers left his hair to stroke along his shoulders. I waited what seemed an eternity while he continued to tease me. He would stroke my nipple with his tongue before blowing his breath on it to cause it to pucker before moving to the other to do the same. I was moaning and arching my back trying to show him I wanted more. He was driving me crazy until I couldn’t take it any longer. When he came down to my breast again I grabbed his head and held him there.
“Please,” I whispered.
I felt more than heard his chuckle against my breast.
“Do you want something?” he asked.
“Please don’t tease,” I begged.
His response was to suckle my breast deeply into his mouth, gently biting my nipple. He lathed attention to my breasts as I became more heated with need. I knew where everything was leading and struggled with myself. I was torn between want and need. I needed Edward. I needed him to make love to me. My body was crying out for his. I needed the security of knowing I was safe from Carlisle before I could give herself to him completely. I whimpered when I felt his hand undo the button of my jeans. I was so torn, because I knew it wouldn’t be pleasant denying him after I allowed him to get this worked up, but there was nothing for it. I had to stop him. I moved to stay his hand from my zipper with my own and felt him tense.
“Edward, stop. Please,” I whispered. I was afraid of his response.
I was shocked when his only response was to roll off of me and throw his arm over his face. I couldn’t see his eyes, but I heard his jagged breath. My eyes traveled down to the heavy rise and fall of his chest and smooth abdomen. My eyes traveled further unbidden and could see the bulge that spoke what our activity was doing to him.
I was so torn in that moment. I wasn’t ready to resume everything we had done before, but I wanted to give him something, anything to show him I loved him and appreciated how patient he was being with me. I just didn’t know what. What could I give him that would be something just for him but wouldn’t require me doing ‘that’. I smiled as I finally had my answer. Edward’s breathing was slowing down so I sat up on my knees.
The shift in the mattress alerted him to my movement. He moved his arm staring at me in confusion.
“What’s wrong Bella?” he asked.
“Nothing. Close your eyes,” I replied.
I pulled his shirt up and kissed his chest causing him to suck in his breath.
“Bella, don’t,” he whispered. “I can’t promise I’ll be able to stop.”
“Let me do this for you,” I asked.
It felt so different this time. I was asking because it was what I wanted to do. I wasn’t being manipulated or forced to pretend. I wanted to make him happy. I unbuttoned and unzipped his jeans, his erection standing out proudly within his boxers. I slipped my hand inside his boxers and stroked his penis as I resumed kissing his neck and chest. I gently bit his nipples causing him to moan as I continued to stroke him, playing with the slit and using the precum on the tip to lube my hand.
“God, Baby that feels so good,” he groaned.
I smiled that I was doing this to him. I was making him feel good on my terms, which was making me happy in return. This was what my mother always tried to get me to understand when talking about sex and relationships. This is what had been lacking in our intimacy before. Love. True love is what was missing. The fact that I loved Edward is why this time was different. I realized this was on my terms whatever I chose to do in this moment. He wasn’t manipulating me or forcing me. In fact, one arm was fisted in the sheets and the hand stroking my back wasn’t pulling me down to him. He really was leaving all of this up to me.
I leaned up and kissed him deeply again. When our lips broke apart, he stared up at me with smoldering eyes and I smiled at him trying to show him the love I couldn’t yet say.
“Close your eyes and just feel,” I softly ordered.
He groaned but closed his eyes. I sat up and stared at his massive erection that I was stroking, precum leaking steadily from the tip. I clenched my teeth in determination. I was going to do this on my terms. I felt empowered as I lowered my lips to the tip of his penis. I engulfed the tip as I heard Edward’s sharp intake of breath.
“Bella, no, don’t,” he groaned. “You don’t have to do this. I know you don’t like it.”
I smirked as I took him deeper into my mouth. His mouth told me ‘no’, but the hand gently stroking my hair told me ‘yes’. I sucked him down as far as I could, relaxing my throat to take him deeper. As I came back up I kissed the tip and then kissed and sucked down the sides before taking him back into my mouth. I continued to bob up and down as I stroked his balls, gently squeezing and pulling on them. When I felt him begin to twitch in my mouth, I rose up and resumed pumping him with my fist until he came all over my hand and his stomach. Edward voiced his release by shouting my name.
He opened his eyes to me. They shone with love and gratitude. He’d liked the release I’d given him, even if I didn’t swallow his semen. I smiled shyly back at him. He pulled me gently to lay with him again.
“Bella, that was more than I ever expected. Thank you.” He tilted my chin to look up at him. “You do know you didn’t have to do that though right?”
I smiled at him and answered softly, “I know. It was my choice. I wanted to make you feel good.”
“Well,” he started, looking down at the mess on his stomach. “I guess I need a shower now,” he laughed.
I sat up with him and watched as he left the bed and headed toward the bathroom. I smiled at his gorgeous back and ass. I couldn’t resist as I climbed out of the bed.
“Want company?” I asked.
He laughed and held out a hand to me. “Always, if it’s you.”
After our shower we headed downstairs. I figured Esme and Carlisle would have already eaten as it was after his strict meal schedule.
“You do know your dinner is ruined now,” I reminded him as we walked into the kitchen. “I'll have to find us something else to eat.”
The kitchen was clean but when I looked in the oven there were two plates covered in foil. I smiled at Esme’s thoughtfulness.
“Never mind. It looks like Esme took care of us,” I told him.
“Remind me to thank her later,” he stated. “Why don’t you put the plates on the table and I’ll grab some glasses.”
I grabbed two mitts and pulled the plates out setting them on the table as Edward poured two glasses of tea. He held out my chair for me and I kissed his cheek in thanks.
“Thank you,” I said.
“You’re welcome,” he answered.
I smiled as I looked down to place my napkin in my lap. He’d remembered. He treated me like a lady.