Tuesday, March 20, 2001 | By: Drotuno

Angel's Embrace Chapter 33

CHAPTER 33
EDWARD
"We should get going soon, Edward," Bella sighed, snuggling closer to me. I nodded silently.
I picked up her hand, kissing her wedding ring. I knew it needed to go back onto the necklace, but I wasn't ready for her to take it off again. She watched, a smirk playing on her face as, not for the first time, my gaze fell on the stunning present she had given me the night before. I wanted to read it. It had been calling to me.
"Here," she laughed, slipping out of my embrace and grabbing the book off of the table. She handed it to me, kissed my forehead, telling me she was going to take a shower.
I chuckled, looking up at her. "Thank you, love."
"I had to give it to you. It was like watching a child on Christmas wanting to play with a toy that no one bought batteries for," she teased, kissing my head again. Despite how badly I wanted to read, my wife walking to the bathroom completely bare was too much for me to resist. "Read!" She growled, not even bothering to look my way.
My head fell back with my laughter. So busted.
I didn't just read, I tumbled into it. Her writing had the same tenor that her mind did. It was honest, unsure, and snarky at times. But utterly brilliant. And I was trapped from the first line.
"I'd never given much thought as to how I would die..."
I realized she started at the end, only to go back. The end meaning the fight with James. I had asked her to end it at Prom, never wanting to push her passed that point. Even I wasn't so sure I wanted to know all of her thoughts when I left her.
I read how she left her mother, trying to convince herself and everyone that it was fine. That she wanted it. Renee had needed Bella to go, but would have never said so. I felt her concern with being with her father again. They were similar people, quiet. She was unsure as to what to say to him. Even surprised when he presented her with the truck.
Finally I understood her love for that truck, minus our personal history with it. She had been planning to buy her own means of transportation, but he gave it to her, handing her a taste of freedom and hoping it would make her happy she had chose to come to stay with him.
I didn't realize I was holding my breath as I read about her first day. How she hated the attention and just wanted to fit in. I had told her once that she was observant, but I never knew what an understatement that was until she described seeing me and my siblings for the first time. She noted we weren't eating, that Emmett, Jasper and Rose looked much older than what they were claiming. She noticed our black eyes and lack of movement. She noticed my frustration as I tried in vain to read her thoughts.
My mouth gaped when she had sympathy for us, thinking she wasn't the only one that was new and felt she stood out. And I chuckled as she completely heard Jessica's disdain when she claimed no one was "good enough" for me. "Sour grapes" she called it. She couldn't be more spot on.
Cringing, I shook my head as she described our first meeting. She thought I was mean and unfair, scaring her. Only to do it again as we ran into each other in the school office. I was mean and unfair. I wanted to take it all back, knowing the life I ended up with.
"Edward," my Bella's voice jerked me back to the present. "We need to check out, love." Her face was soft and slightly amused at my losing track of time. "I'll drive...you can read in the car."
"I love you," I chuckled, pushing the covers back from me and kissing her head. "I'll be right out," I growled as she slapped my naked ass. "Tease," I muttered, causing a giggle to follow me into the bathroom.
BELLA
I don't think Edward Cullen had ever been as quiet as he was on the way home from Portland. He read like he was studying for a final exam. Every few miles, I'd glance over to see where he was and cringe. Tyler's van and our fight at the hospital gave way to Mike asking me to the dance.
"Did you really think of Mike as a faithful Labrador?" Edward snorted.
"Did you really consider slamming him into a wall just to hear his bones snap when he asked me to the dance?" I countered with a laugh.
We stared at each other for a moment, both laughing, "Yes."
"All he needed was a tail," I mumbled, rolling my eyes at Edward's beautiful laugh.
He was quiet the rest of the way home. Just about the time I parked the car in our garage, he came to the part where he asked me if he could drive me to Seattle.
"Stupid, shiny Volvo owner?" He gasped, a smile spreading over his face. His mouth hung open in shock, but a laugh huffed from him.
"I was mad, Edward!" I laughed, hiding my face. "You didn't speak to me for a month...then you make fun of my truck! That was the first thing that popped into my head."
"Oh, you were mad, love," he chuckled, marking his place in the book and pulling my hands away from my face. "I deserved much harsher names than that."
I rolled my eyes, opening the car door. "That may be the harshest thing I called you," I chuckled. "The rest are glowing realizations of how handsome you are..." I teased, knowing without looking at him that he was shaking his head and rolling his eyes.
Edward read that book almost in one sitting once we got home. I expected a running commentary from him, but he stayed quiet as Alice, Rose and I touched up the Christmas decorations or Jasper, Emmett and I played video games. They, too, seemed to know he just wanted to be left alone. I could tell when something I said bothered him. His hand would run through his hair, leaving it messier than when I got my own hands in it.
I could imagine that the night in Port Angeles stirred up some feelings in my husband that he spent many years pushing back. As he read of our first moment in our meadow, I caught him staring at me. The only reason I knew what part he was reading was I happened to glance over his shoulder.
"When I offered to take you home...you weren't scared." He sighed, leaning his head back against the couch, looking at me with a strange expression. "When we first started walking," he clarified, reaching up to tuck my hair behind my ear.
"Um, no...that wasn't fear." I chuckled, mirroring his position.
He tilted his head, looking up at me through his eyelashes. The sweetest, sexiest smile lit up his features. "But you froze...your heartbeat..."
"You took your sweater off," I countered with a smirk. "My brain shut down."
He laughed, dragging his tongue along his bottom lip. I tilted my head back at him with a raised eyebrow, waiting for a response, but as long as we had been together, he now realized the reaction I had after parking my truck at the end of the one-oh-one was pure lust. Nothing more.
And just like that, he went back to reading. I watched as a smile played on his face, but he said nothing. I leaned in and kissed his messy hair, placing a pillow on his lap and laying down. His long fingers immediately picked up a tendril of my hair, twirling it ever so softly as he read.
He finished the next morning. As I was matching socks up and putting them away, I felt his eyes on me. I had a feeling guilt was about to enter our bedroom. In fact, Alice and Jasper dragged Emmett and Rose from the house.
I glanced up at my husband just in time to see a nervous hand run through his hair. I dug back into the laundry basket, pulling out more socks onto the bed. This was the reaction I was afraid of.
"You had more faith in me than I did," he sighed, stopping my hands and sitting on the bed next to my laundry. I looked at his face as he positioned me between his legs. "More faith in us."
"Yes. I did." I sighed, looking out the window. "But I don't know," I frowned, looking back at him. There were so many emotions crossing over his perfect face. "I pushed too hard...panicked too much. I was young...in more ways than one."
"You loved me...the same as I loved you," he whispered, shaking his head. "I saw humans go through love...especially seventeen year old girls. I just never thought it was the same for you."
"Don't," I growled, jerking my hands from his grasp and backing away. "We're not doing this. We're not reliving mistakes. I won't do it." He stood up from the bed, holding his hands up. I backed away, shaking my head. "I wrote that for you to see the beginning, not to zero in on shit that doesn't matter now."
"We've spent countless hours talking to Carlisle about this," I continued, my hands balling into fists at my side. "I have to be the only vampire in fucking history that needed therapy!"
"Apparently, I needed it too," Edward sighed. "You accused me more than once of having multiple personality disorder." I huffed a laugh, but it sounded bitter. And I hated it.
"There's not a word in that book I regret, Edward," I said, my breath hitching. "Not one I love you...not one kiss...not one snarky remark. Nothing meant more to me than getting to know you."
"Nor I you," he said quietly, his brow wrinkling. "I saw our connection in there when you left with Alice to hide from James...the pain."
"I did too," I nodded, "as I was writing it...even when you told me to go to Florida I felt it...please, baby," I broke, turning away from him.
"I'm sorry," he groaned, wrapping his arms around me. "It was perfect...brilliant, love." He turned me around, cupping my face. "I still wish you had waited for me before running off to James."
I rolled my eyes. "Me too," I sighed. "He knew exactly what to say."
"I saw that," he frowned, brushing my hair from my face. "Did you get what you wanted?" He asked, a slight tilt to his head. I looked at him, confused. "When you were in the hospital...begging for this," he motioned between us and then around the room. "Is this all that you thought it would be? Is this what you imagined?"
"Are you kidding me with this, Edward?" I chuckled, trying my damnedest not to roll my eyes. "This isn't what I thought at all," I smirked, folding my arms across my chest. My heart broke as I watched his face fall. "It's better. I don't have words for this, sweetheart."
My favorite crooked smile broke out over his face, and he looked every bit of seventeen. He looked so sweet, so vulnerable at the moment that I couldn't see straight. "Me either, love." He started towards me and I side stepped him, walking back to my laundry.
"Bella," he growled, "please let me kiss you. Let me thank you for this," he sighed, holding up my book.
"This will never get done," I laughed, throwing a balled up pair of his socks at him. He caught them deftly, an evil smile spreading over his face. Suddenly, I found myself underneath him, laundry fluttering down all around us. "I have things to do, you know," I teased. "You wanted a wife. A wife has duties."
"Her first duty is to her husband," he growled into the crook of my neck, biting my skin roughly. "Laundry is so far down on that list, that it practically doesn't count." I laughed, unable to stop myself. He was right, but I didn't feel like giving in.
"Well, considering I don't have to cook, laundry has to move up the list," I argued dramatically, but my voice broke when his tongue met my ear.
"Still...not important," he smiled against my earlobe, his breath hot and sweet. He pulled back, locking gazes with me. I started to say something and he stopped me with a kiss. "Be quiet, my sweet girl," he whispered against my lips with a soft, sexy chuckle. "Thank you..." He sighed, pulling back again. "I know it wasn't easy, but you wrote it anyway. For me. It was...so beyond perfect, love. With every page, I felt your love surround me."
"How we met is what makes us what we are today, Edward," I smiled, closing my eyes as his lips met my forehead lightly. "I love you more now."
"Yes, me too," he nodded, trailing his lips to my temple and pressing another kiss. "You know what my favorite part was?" He asked, sitting up completely and pulling me onto his lap. I shook my head, running my fingers through his hair.
"I only know my own favorites," I smiled, realizing my mind was shut to him, but I decided to leave it that way for the moment.
"Perhaps we share the same ones, tell me," he smiled, shifting me around on his lap until my legs were wrapped around him, and his arms were around my waist.
"Besides the three times you saved my life?" I chuckled, shaking my head. "Hearing your voice for the first time when you introduced yourself, that's really high up on my list." He smiled, kissed my cheek, and told me to go on. "The meadow is obvious. The first time you stayed overnight. Meeting your family. Hearing you play the piano for the first time, baby," my brow wrinkled as I leaned in for a quick kiss, "that was overwhelmingly important to me. You'll never know," I sighed, looking at my hands pressed against his chest. "But I think that the first time you said 'I love you' will hold first place...you didn't even know you said it." I giggled, looking up at him. "We were bickering as usual. Bella, you'll be the death of me..." I teased in a low voice.
He laughed, pulling me closer. "I'm still not sure that isn't true," he growled, feigning a stern face. "I didn't realize it was the first time until I read that part. I think I had professed my love in every way but the simplest." I smiled and nodded. "If I had known, I definitely wouldn't have said it while we were arguing," he chuckled, tucking my hair back. "My favorite part?" He asked, picking up the book. I took it from him, flipping through the pages and closing it again. He tapped the front cover and said, "My favorite part is knowing that this man doesn't exist anymore. He's not scared or angry...or defensive anymore. You've made me a better man, Bella," he said, his voice filled with emotion.
I couldn't stop myself if I tried. My lips crashed into his with a whimper. Edward's hands caressed my back, locking themselves into my hair. Turning my head, he deepened the kiss, his tongue gliding along mine. I gripped his neck with one hand, the other pulling him closer with a fistful of his shirt. We kissed with no hurry. It was long, slow, languid kisses, tongues teasing and lips nibbling. It was how I wished we could have kissed when we first professed our love.
Breaking away from his mouth, I kissed his cheek. "And this whole time," I whispered against his jaw, "I thought you'd tell me your favorite part was when I called you a stupid, shiny Volvo owner," I giggled, squirming when his fingers dug into my sides.
"I loved that," he laughed, his head hitting my shoulder. "I think if you had said that out loud, I'd have kissed you right there."
"What?" I cracked up, pulling his face up so I could see it. "Damn...what a missed opportunity."
"You're so beautiful when you're angry," he shrugged. "I used to tease you just to see it. I used to compare you to an angry kitten." I rolled my eyes, my head falling back with a laugh. "Now when you get angry with me, it's all I can do not to ravish you...so fucking stunning," he growled into my neck. I gasped, my head snapping up. "We're alone," he chuckled.
"Mm," I smirked, licking my lips. "Then let's hear it." I found myself with my head on my pillow as a dark-eyed Edward loomed over me. Our clothes were shredded and tossed to the floor, the laundry completely forgotten.
He braced his arms on each side of my head, kissing me hard. I couldn't help the growl that vibrated from me when he settled between my legs. He was hard and ready, twitching when his name left my mouth.
"Feel what you do to me, my Bella," he crooned, grinding his hips just right so that his tip brushed against my clit. My whole body arched up to him, wanting more. "You make me so fucking hard, love." His mouth opened against the side of my neck, sucking and biting.
If I would have thought my writing would have brought Dirty Edward out, I would have written it a hell of a lot sooner.
He continued those same open-mouthed, biting kisses down my shoulder to my scar. He traced the edge of it with the tip of his tongue, his eyes locking with mine. His cock brushed against my clit again with delicious pressure and I gasped, my hands gripping his shoulders. "You like that?" He purred, doing it again. His steel hard shaft teased through my folds and I writhed underneath him. My core twitched as he did it again.
"Edward...I'm so close..." I groaned, my head arching back. He pressed against me again at the same time as his mouth took one of my nipples. He sucked hard, pulling his hips back when I tried to grind against him. "More, baby, fuck...please don't tease..."
He slipped his hand between us, palming my mound. "No more teasing...I want you to come for me. Now." Two fingers delved into me, and my whole body reacted, constricting all around him. My hips rose up, my toes curled and when his thumb pressed my clit hard, I screamed his name. He waited until my eyes opened to take his own fingers into his mouth. He swirled his tongue around them, humming appreciatively and licking them clean. "You taste fucking phenomenal. Like the sweetest nectar." His eyes were locked onto mine, black onyx and filled with lust.
I pushed at him until he finally relented and rolled onto his back. I straddled his stomach, running my hands all over him. "Jesus, Bella, you're so fucking wet," he groaned, cupping my ass and grinding me against him.
I was throbbing for him as I looked him over. From his heaving chest to his tense stomach muscles. From his teeth biting down on his sweet bottom lip to his flexed biceps. "I want you," I breathed, my eyes taking in every bit of the beautiful sight before me.
"Then fucking take me," he growled, gripping my hips again. "I'm yours, love."
"Mine," I snarled, lifting up and taking him inside me with one swift motion.
"Damn," he breathed, his head flying back. "Fuck me, baby...please."
"Gladly," I purred, riding him hard. His head snapped up, our moods finally meshing. "Tell me...do you like it when I ride your cock, Edward?"
His growl vibrated the whole bed. "I like it even more when you come all over it...when your sweet pussy pulls me in," he said, his voice deadly sexy, venomous. I watched with a touch of envy as his tongue glided along his bottom lip. Grinding against him and leaning over, I licked his sweet mouth, taking that bottom lip and suckling it.
He sat us up, my legs gripping tighter against his thighs. He held my back with one hand as he attacked my neck and the soft spot behind my ear. His other hand cupped my breast, taking it fully into his hand and squeezing.
"More," I growled, putting my hand over his and showing just how much more I wanted. He arched me back, trailing his tongue around my nipple while his hand twisted the other one. I gripped his hair, holding him there. "Oh God..." I cried out when he pinched and bit down at the same time, sending a direct shock to my core.
I buried my face into the crook of his shoulder, my tongue flicking out to taste him, to lick all the way from his collar bone to his ear. "You feel so fucking good..." I whispered, biting down on his earlobe and sucking it into my mouth.
"Who makes you feel this good, baby?" He breathed, and I found myself at the foot of my bed, Edward driving into me. My legs locked around his waist as my hips rose up, meeting his rhythm.
"You...only you..."
"Who makes you this...fuck, love...wet?" He growled, pressing his forehead to mine, his sweet breath ghosting over my face. "Hell, yes...I love it when you clench like that." His beautiful, but feral eyes rolled back, his mouth hanging open slightly.
I clenched my walls around him again, saying, "You make me this wet...everything about you."
"Who's cock do you crave? Who is it that fucks you until you can't walk?" He growled, slamming into me. The sounds of our skin meeting filled our room, the smell of our combined arousal was so thick it was all I could smell. "Who's name do you fucking scream?"
"Fuck, yours...Edward...please, I'm..."
"That's right...mine," he snarled, latching his teeth to my shoulder as I bucked underneath him, coming with the force of a freight train. He rode out my spasms, causing another orgasm to rip through me until he buried himself deep within me, shattering. I gripped his ass, pressing him to me as my final orgasm took over. I shook around him, pulling him closer, nuzzling his hair as he buried his face into my neck.
"Edward," I shuddered, wrapping my arms around his neck.
"I'm here, love," he said, kissing my neck, cheek and then chin.
I trembled again, a small sound escaping me. I looked into his sweet eyes and watch them lighten to the warm honey I fell in love with. "You've done it now," I accused, narrowing my eyes in a teasing manner. He smirked, raising his sexy eyebrow for me to elaborate. "Now you have to help me finish chores," I giggled, writhing as his fingers tickled me.
"I would do anything for you...even laundry."
EDWARD
"So, how was it?" Jasper smirked, leaning against a boulder as we waited for Emmett to come back from hunting.
"Really good," I smiled. "She's...I don't have words." Not only was my wife beautiful, she was just damn brilliant – and a hopeless romantic.
"Bells won't let me send that book off." He chuckled, shaking his head. "And that story is better than the first one."
"No, probably not," I shook my head. "Too personal, I imagine." I looked up at him when something strange flashed through his mind. "Have you heard back about her first one?"
"Yeah," he snorted, pride radiating from him. "Don't tell her. I was saving it for Christmas. They sent her an offer for a deal."
"God, I think I just fell a little harder for her," I chuckled, shaking my head with, not disbelief, but awe.
"I feel that," he laughed. "Promise you won't say anything?"
"You have my word," I sighed, leaning back on the log I was sitting on and stretching my legs out. "What did they say?" I asked, knowing Jasper would know how to handle not only what secrecy we would need, but would protect her from corporate wolves.
"They have given her an offer of twenty five thousand...with hopes of another book...I promised them nothing," he sighed, sitting next to me. "And then, they are well aware she will not make appearances. I told them she's a recluse." He laughed, shaking his head. "Agoraphobic."
"Nice," I laughed. "Jenks did all of this?"
"Mostly," he chuckled. "I created an identity for her...she insisted on Marie Anthony." I nodded. She wanted our names tied together at all costs. "But there are no pictures of her, no trail. He hid her well. She'll be a mystery if the book takes off. Like Richard Bachman was Stephen King." He grinned, shaking his head.
"So you created a completely false identity?" Emmett asked, joining us.
"Yeah," Jasper smiled. "When the time comes, if you look her up, there's a picture of Bells that I aged, changed hair color, added weight. Marie is a fifty year old, over weight woman from Iowa."
"Shut up!" Emmett guffawed. My head fell back with my laugh. As funny as it was, he was protecting her – all of us, really – and I was very grateful.
"Again, it's up to her...she can say no." Jasper said, still chuckling.
"Oh hell," Emmett laughed, rubbing his hands together. "I can't wait for Christmas...it truly is better to give than receive."
As we walked at a human pace back to the house, Emmett's mind drifted to music. He wanted to play. It had been too long.
"Yeah," I nodded. "We can, Em. Meet in the music room."
"Won't we disturb the girls?" Jasper asked.
"You know they don't care," Emmett chuckled. "Besides, I think they're just wrapping presents for the kids at the hospital."
Emmett ran upstairs to shower and change clothes. Why he still continued to play with his food was beyond me, but it was the simple things that made my largest brother happy.
I walked in to see my sisters and Bella on the floor, piles of presents and rolls of festive wrapping paper all around them. I chuckled, "I'd kiss you, but I can't get to you."
"Consider me kissed," she laughed, cutting a piece of ribbon. I shook my head and sat down at the piano. I started a Christmas carol only to be stopped.
"Oh, Edward," Rose laughed, shaking her head.
"No carols," Bella sighed. "They're beautiful, but if I hear one more today..."
"The store Alice dragged us to played the same shit over and over," Rose laughed, slapping a bow on a box and adding it to the growing pile.
"I thought I would snap," Alice growled. "Was it because we were in line so damn long or because they only had four fucking songs?"
"Yes," Rose and Bella laughed, leaning into each other.
"Contemporary it is," I chuckled, "no carols, got it...heaven forbid you girls go postal." I played around with a few songs, hearing them relax a little.
My wife was feeling sentimental, according to her mind. She was remembering our first Christmas – the debacle with Tanya, my proposal, Alice figuring it all out and wanting to help with the wedding. That led to thoughts of the return from our honeymoon – Jasper finally playing music with me.
My head snapped up to watch her as she thought about the time that I got upset. We had been playing around with songs and Emmett wanted to hear Desperado. At the time, the song really bothered me. Bella and I had been apart the last time I had heard the song and it meant far more than it did when my brothers had made a joke about it.
Bella had taken control then, pulling me out of a moment that just about shut me down. She had played a song for me, telling me to listen to the words. That she needed me to hear them. I still listened to the song to remind myself that my world was no longer dark. That Bella would always be there.
I started to play the song – Feels Like Home.
My brothers hadn't joined me yet, so I played the beginning of the song on the piano. I was only practicing, falling into my wife's train of thought. What I wasn't expecting was for the girls to start singing.
I listened to each of them. Not one realized they were singing out loud. I smiled, continuing to play, but my heart swelled when my sweet girl's voice sang the words that she had told me to listen to.
Somethin' in your eyes, makes me wanna lose myself
Makes me wanna lose myself, in your arms
There's somethin' in your voice, makes my heart beat fast
Hope this feeling lasts, the rest of my life
Jasper and Emmett crept into the room, staying just out of the girls' vision. I shook my head for them not to say anything and continued to play. They walked quietly into the room with me, Emmett sitting down behind his drum set and Jasper picking up his Gibson guitar, flipping on his amp.
If you knew how lonely my life has been
And how long I've been so alone
And if you knew how I wanted someone to come along
And change my life the way you've done
The girls harmonized, slight smiles playing on their faces. And still their minds did not register that we were playing along with them as their hands stayed busy wrapping gifts. Jasper bit back a chuckle and Emmett smiled, shaking his head.
It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
It feels like I'm all the way back where I come from
It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
It feels like I'm all the way back where I belong
A window breaks, down a long, dark street
And a siren wails in the night
But I'm alright, 'cause I have you here with me
And I can almost see, through the dark there is light
Well, if you knew how much this moment means to me
And how long I've waited for your touch
And if you knew how happy you are making me
I never thought that I'd love anyone so much
With that last line, my love looked up, meeting my now hungry gaze. The sweetest of shy, soft smiles caressed my wife's face. It was all I could do to finish the song and not steal her away to our room. Hearing her sing, hearing the words she told me to keep with me forever, and hearing her voice as I played the piano with her was almost too much for me to contain.
It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
It feels like I'm all the way the back where I come from
It feels like home to me, it feels like home to me
It feels like I'm all the way back where I belong
It feels like I'm all the way back where I belong
As if sensing my struggle, Bella set aside the gift she was wrapping and stood behind me as I sat on the piano bench.
Easy, handsome, she sighed, kissing my neck and wrapping her arms around my shoulders from behind. I leaned into her, unable to be separated from her. We have to visit the hospital, baby. I nodded, turning my head to look at her. We have to take those presents to the kids today. Do you remember what I told you when I played that song for you? Her mind asked, her gaze soft and comforting. I nodded, my eyes closing as she brushed my hair from my forehead. Good. She chuckled against my skin. I thought I saw that on your playlist, she teased with a smirk.
"You did," I smiled, leaning into the soft touches to my face.
"Come on, Esme's expecting us to meet her there," Rose sighed as she started to put the presents into two large, red drawstring bags. "Here, Em, take these out to the car and...God help me...go put on your Santa suit."
Bella and I laughed, watching Emmett beam and jump up from his drums.
"We don't have a choice," Alice giggled. "The guy that was supposed to do it," she sighed, handing Jasper a bag, "called out. Emmett got to the phone before I could."
Esme sighed with relief when she met us at the entrance to the children's wing at the hospital. She giggled when she got a good look at Emmett, but her face softened immediately. Esme had always tried to help when it came to the children at Christmas. This year was no different. "They are all in there...thank you for doing this," she smiled, pointing to the door at the end of the hallway.
"No problem," Emmett chuckled, tugging on his beard and straightening his hat. Jasper and I followed behind a Ho, Ho, Ho' ing Emmett, shaking our heads and carrying the bags.
I braced myself for what I was about to see. I had worked in the hospital before, opting to work with children instead of adults. They were easier on my mind, hearing their thoughts was simpler, full of hope. It still didn't take away the sight of a child in a wheelchair or an infant hooked up to an IV. In a fair world, the innocence of children should never be tainted by disease or illness. If it were up to me, only deserving adults would have cancer, HIV, or heart disease. No child should have to suffer through chemotherapy.
If anything, Emmett and Jasper were the best equipped to handle this situation. Jasper would stand to the side, sending wave upon wave of cheer just adding to Emmett's already jovial mood. He just loved being silly with the kids.
"Come on, pixie. Be my elf," Emmett chuckled as we reached the door. Alice snorted, shaking her head, but joined him as we all walked in.
It was a large playroom decorated festively. It looked like every decoration was made by the children. A few beds had been rolled in for the ones that couldn't get up. The rest milled about or played games on the floor. But they all hopped up at the sight of my brother. I couldn't help but chuckle at their excitement.
After all the presents were handed out and the trash picked up, Carlisle entered the room. "Edward, thank you for this. Esme wasn't sure what she was going to do," he sighed. In his arms was a little girl with light brown hair and hazel eyes rimmed with the longest, darkest eyelashes I had ever seen. She was quiet and clung to Carlisle like he was a life raft in the middle of the sea. She looked to be about five or six.
"Come on, Maggie," he smiled, "I have someone I want you to meet." He wanted Bella to meet her. My heart broke when his mind told me why. After another assessment of the little girl, I realized she was too small, undernourished. There were bruises along her arms, along with burns that looked to be about the size of the end of a cigarette. My eyes closed, my breathing deepened as I tried to maintain my temper for whoever could have laid their hands on someone so small, so defenseless.
"Bella," Carlisle smiled, walking up to her and Esme, "this is Maggie...Maggie...can you say hello?"
It was instant. Whether it was Bella's shield drawing her in or just my angel's beautiful smile, Maggie lit up at the sight of her. Carlisle whispered in Bella's ear that Maggie had been reluctant to join and why. The looks on my mother's and wife's faces was nothing but heartbreak for the sweet little girl in front of them.
"Well, you missed presents," Bella smiled, taking her from Carlisle's embrace and walking over to Emmett. "Let's see if Santa has one more..."
"Hell yeah!" Emmett smiled, but winced when Alice smacked him in the back of the head. "I mean, absolutely." Jasper and I snorted, shaking our heads. Our brother picked up the bag that contained the girl presents and came up with a teddy bear with a big red bow on it.
Maggie giggled softly, shyly as Santa got in trouble from one of the "elves". She took the bear, clutching it to her chest, her hand still gripping my wife's. She thought my Bella and Rose were the prettiest ladies she had ever seen, but she wouldn't talk.
"Perfect," Bella winked at Emmett.
"Easy, Eddie, you ok?" Jasper frowned, looking over at me. "It's her shield, man."
"I know," I said, my voice slightly raspy. I didn't look at him. I watched as Maggie grabbed a book off of the closest table and handed it to Bella.
"Do you want me to read this?" She chuckled as Maggie nodded and pointed silently to the chair next to "Santa".
"She hasn't spoken since she was brought in," Carlisle sighed, suddenly at mine and Jasper's side.
"How bad?" Jasper frowned.
"She's healing fine. Nothing broken, but she's covered in bruises and," Carlisle sneered, shaking his head, "burns." Jasper let loose a soft, low growl as his eyes shot back to Bella pulling Maggie into her lap. "I was hoping that with Bells' shield, something would happen, but that happy face is more than I thought I would see." Carlisle looked at me. "Can you tell why she won't speak?"
"She got in trouble for it. She was told to stay quiet...noise from her resulted in pain," I sighed, looking over at him. "That's going to take time."
"I figured it was something along those lines," my father sighed, "she flinches if a sound escapes her and she thinks someone hears her."
"Damn," Jasper and I growled.
Edward, Esme's mind hit me from across the room. Look at her pull them all in.
I glanced over at Bella sitting in a chair with Maggie on her lap. With one line from the book in her hands, every child's attention turned to her. They gathered around her, quietly sitting at her feet.
"'Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house...not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse..."
The room was silent except for my angel's sweet voice and the whirring of a few machines. Nurses worked quickly and quietly, enjoying a few minutes that they didn't have to worry or cajole a young patient into bed.
When the story was over, all the nurses came in to herd them all back to their rooms. When someone tried to take Maggie from Bella, the tears fell silently from the little girl's sad eyes. I ran a hand through my hair, hoping I could refrain from snapping at the nurse that was causing those tears.
Maggie vehemently shook her head, gripping my wife's shirt and pointing to the book again. "Again?" Bella laughed. "I tell you what, let's get you in bed and I'll tell you a different story." That placated Maggie immediately. Bella looked up at Carlisle to make sure that it was ok and he nodded.
"Miss Maggie, show Bella where your room is," Carlisle chuckled as Maggie hopped down and tugged my wife's hand.
Alice and Emmett helped clean up the room. Rose was at my side. "I recognize that face," she smiled, nudging me with her shoulder. Her mind was filled with the images of Emmett playing with the kids and even Jake's children. "Is this why you don't practice medicine anymore? You were just as good as Carlisle."
"Look around you," I whispered, gesturing to the children making their way out of the playroom. Kids on crutches, with bandages, in wheelchairs, bald heads – they surrounded us. "I preferred to work with them, try to help, but it can be so frustrating, because it doesn't end. There's no reason for the innocent to suffer like this. Sometimes I helped, but it's the ones I couldn't save that bothered me the most."
"You were sadder then," she smiled, "but not now. You should think about medicine again."
"We'll see," I smiled, turning to find out where Bella went.
I wandered down the hall, finding Carlisle in a room with Maggie and Bella. She was tucking the little girl in bed, trying to calm her down.
"It won't hurt, you won't even feel it," Bella smiled sweetly. Before Maggie could protest to the antibiotic shot that Carlisle just stuck her with, it was over. I fought my smile as Maggie folded her arms across her chest in a pout. She felt she'd been tricked. The pout faded when Bella said, "Ok, I promised another story, huh?"
Maggie nodded, smiling slightly. She wrapped her arms around her new teddy bear and sunk down into the sheets as Bella pulled them up around her. "Ok," my wife smirked. "Once upon a time there was a little lamb. She was clumsy and stubborn," she chuckled. "One day, the lamb was grazing in a meadow," I bit back my laugh, leaning just outside the door. "And she came upon an angry lion...he was handsome and smart, but alone and sad. She should have been afraid of him. For he could have eaten her right then without a second thought, but instead she sat down, talked to him, kept him company."
"She's too much," Esme giggled, leaning next to me. I smirked and nodded.
"They would talk everyday, teasing each other about how different they were. All the other lambs told her she was crazy, but she didn't care," Bella sighed. "The lamb found herself looking forward to every word, every laugh. The lion liked it too, despite what he told his pride." I snorted, shaking my head. Esme giggled, laying her head on my shoulder. "The lion eventually had to go hunting. So in order to keep the lamb safe, he went to another meadow to do it. The lamb was lonely and missed their chats, but she waited for him. While she waited in their meadow, she grazed on wildflowers and sweet grasses. She was all alone, thinking about what she was going to talk to her lion about. For she considered him to be hers – her best friend."
"The lion was gone when a hungry wolf showed up in the meadow," Bella gasped and so did Maggie. I smiled, looking down at my mother. She was in silent hysterics. "He stalked her, told her that she looked like she tasted delicious. Just as he pounced on her," Maggie gasped again, "The lamb's lion showed up, running off the wolf and saving her life."
The unthinkable happened – Maggie spoke. "What happened?" She whispered so quietly that even we were hardly able to hear her. Esme gasped and Carlisle chuckled softly.
"What happened to the lion and lamb?" Bella asked and I saw through her mind that Maggie nodded. "Well, the lion insisted that the lamb needed constant watching over." My head fell back with my silent laugh and Esme snorted into my sleeve. "He felt she was always running into trouble. I mean, what kind of lamb becomes best friends with a lion, you know?" Maggie giggled quietly, nodding. "The lamb told the lion that if he was going to watch over her, then he had to relax, not be so gruff."
"Are they still friends?" Maggie asked so, so softly. In her mind, she saw that talking to Bella was safe. That she wouldn't get in trouble with her. My wife put her at ease. Plus, she was enraptured by the story.
"Yes!" Bella laughed, poking Maggie softly in the belly. "The best of friends. No one can separate them. She made him happy and he protects her. They still live in their meadow. They stay up late and talk about everything."
"And the wolf?" Maggie asked, getting a little bolder, but yawning widely.
"Oh, he's around," Bella sighed, "but he's scared of the lion, so he doesn't bother them anymore. You should get some sleep, Maggie." I peeked in the room, watching as Bella ran her fingers softly through Maggie's hair. Soon the child was completely asleep.
Esme looked up at my face and stood up on her toes to kiss my cheek. You look like you're about to explode, son, her thoughts hit me. Like you just swelled with more love for her.
I nodded, looking at my mother. "Yes," I breathed, not able to say anything else.
"I can't believe you got her to speak," Carlisle smiled, shaking his head as my Bella joined us in the hall. "Stories," he sighed, "I'll have to tell the nurses." He walked off, still muttering to himself.
I stared at my angel, for truly that's what I had to be looking at.
"What?" She smiled, reaching up to brush my hair from my forehead.
"I...I love you," was all I could say, picking up a lock of her hair and twirling it through my fingers. I leaned down to kiss her forehead. I couldn't say much else.
"I love you, too, baby," she sighed, leaning into me. "I should tell silly stories more often," she teased. I chuckled nervously, nodding. Are you ok? She thought to me as a nurse walked by. I nodded again, but sighed, my hands twitching at her waist. Uh oh, she smiled softly. Do you need me alone, love? I nodded again, pressing my forehead to hers and closing my eyes.
I lost it once we were in the dark, quiet parking lot of the hospital. "Please," I begged, pressing her into the side of the Ferrari. My mouth covered hers before she could even speak. I wanted to consume her, drink her in. She pulled me to her, gripping the sides of my jacket and turning her head to deepen the kiss. Our tongues collided, causing a low growl to rush from me into her mouth. She gripped me harder. Her mind caressed mine, telling me it was ok, to ground my reality into her. She told me I could talk to her about it, but understood.
"It's ok," she crooned, kissing down my jaw to my neck. "I'm here, Edward."
"I'm sorry," I breathed, my head landing on her shoulder.
"For what, baby?"
"For attacking you."
"I'm not," she giggled, wriggling against me and the car. I snorted, turning my head to kiss her neck. Inhaling the sweet scent of her, I slowly calmed down.
"Seeing you with her..."
"I know," She sighed, her mind showing me that the same thing happens to her when I play the piano for Izzy. "I'm sorry I can't..."
"Don't you dare," I growled, my head snapping up. "You will never let that darkness in, Bella...promise me."
She studied my face and nodded. "I promise. I've never asked..."
"I would've loved children, but only if they were from us...nothing else would do, my sweet girl."
"Yeah," she sighed, smiling and cupping my face to press her lips to mine, "that's pretty much how I see things. But we're ok, right?"
"Better than ok," I smiled, kissing her nose. "We're perfect. I don't think I could get any better, my Bella."
"Good, because I love you too much sometimes, my lion," she giggled, pulling me in for another kiss as I chuckled against her lips.
"What was your favorite Christmas?" Emmett asked, laying his head in Rose's lap. She smiled, twirling one of his short curls. We were all sitting in the living room, the only light was from the lights of the Christmas tree and the fireplace. Esme and Carlisle were at the home of one of his colleagues from the hospital.
"That year we spent it in England was nice...they're more traditional than we are," she smiled.
"That was beautiful," Alice nodded. "Our first Christmas would be mine. We hadn't found Carlisle yet, but we were traveling through the Smoky Mountains. We were running through the woods..."
"Oh yeah," Jasper smiled, "that little cabin. A little old man and woman were playing old Christmas records, dancing."
"You asked me to dance in the snow under the stars," Alice giggled.
"Sweet," Bella smiled and I pulled her back to my chest, my legs on both side of hers.
"And yours, sweet girl?" I asked, kissing the top of her head.
"Easy, the one you proposed."
"Even with that whole Tanya thing?" Emmett snorted.
"I've mentally blocked that, thank you very much," Bella said, throwing a pillow at him. "Besides, Edward proposed on Christmas Eve...she was before and...doesn't count." I chuckled, wrapping my arms around her.
"That's mine too," I sighed, twirling a lock of her hair through my fingers. "What about before me?" Bella was still able to remember most of her human memories, and we loved hearing them.
"Um," she sighed, her mind flipping through different years, "maybe the one I spent with my grandmother. Charlie's mom."
"Where were Charlie and Renee?" Rose asked.
"Well, I was nine or ten, I think," she sighed. "Renee was seeing someone new and they wanted to travel to his family. Charlie said he had to work through the entire holiday and that he had no one to watch me. Anyway, Grandma Swan was determined to give me a traditional Christmas. Renee was always going through phases...Christian, atheist, Jehovah's Witness...and she didn't have much money to make it big like she wanted. I sometimes thought that she would cancel Christmas when she couldn't afford it." Bella frowned. "Charlie didn't really get me during the holidays, so Grandma wanted me to have the whole thing...cookies, caroling, mass, gifts the next morning and eggnog, which is, by far, the grossest beverage ever created." We all laughed, everyone's mind trying to remember what the substance tasted like.
"That was the first time I had tasted wine..."
"At nine?" I chuckled.
"Well, it was at Mass," she giggled, turning in my arms to look at me. "Grandma let me taste it."
"That must have really sucked," Jasper frowned. "Getting passed from parent to parent."
"You would think." Bella smiled, turning back around. "But they were terrible together...way too different. I never felt unloved. I just never felt settled. Renee moved constantly, trying to find herself."
"What else did Grandma do?" Emmett asked, looking at her. He adored Bella's stories.
"Um, she had a neighbor," she chuckled. "A single mom with a little boy. Matthias. He was about my age, maybe older. They spent most of the holiday together. Even went so far as a sleepover...in order to make Christmas morning better."
"What did he look like?" Alice asked.
"Matthias?" Bella clarified and she nodded. "I may have a picture somewhere in one of those albums my mom sent to me just before we moved from Forks, but he was sweet...too cute with little glasses that he had to keep pushing up his nose. He was painfully shy and I was no better. He had dark, brown hair and dark brown eyes."
"He sounds like Harry Potter," Emmett guffawed.
"You laugh. He kinda did. When I saw the first movie, I about died...he looked just like him."
"What happened to him, love?" I frowned as her mind flickered to something I didn't recognize.
"We got along really well and exchanged addresses. We wrote letters for a few years until we were about twelve, but I lost track of him. One day my last letter to him came back." She sighed, snuggling into me further. "Grandma had already passed, so it was impossible for me to find out. Charlie told me he had moved away."
"So did you ever hear from him?" Rose asked, clearly frustrated that this story may not have a happy ending.
"Yeah," my love smiled. "I know I'm going to regret telling this story. He wrote me one last letter. He told me he couldn't write to me anymore, that it was too hard to...God help me...love me from so far away." The room exploded into laughter.
"That's as good as you punching that kid for kissing you," Emmett chuckled.
"Shut it," Bella growled, pointing at him. "He had it coming...I had told him no."
"He deserved it, love," I chuckled. "No means no."
"That's right," she huffed. "Anyway, I was heartbroken...and kinda pissed," she laughed and we joined her. "It wasn't long before we moved to Phoenix and I met Troy. We were a little more stable then."
"Ah, skateboard boy," I teased.
"Turned gay...yes," she laughed. "I wouldn't have survived middle school without him. Anyway..." I saw that she was about to tell us that Renee really didn't have a choice – that she planned the holiday dinners herself, but Alice's gasp took all of our attention.
"Demitri," she breathed, her face blank.
"Where is he?" Emmett asked, sitting up.
"Close," Alice and I said at the same time. I saw that both Demitri and Carina were running through the forests of the preserve nearby.
"Is Carina..." Bella started, but Alice nodded.
"I'll call Carlisle, he'll want to be here," Jasper said, standing and pulling out his phone.
"Maybe call Marcus, too," I said and Jasper nodded.
It didn't take them long before Alice jumped from the sofa to open the door for them. We had been so worried about them. When they had to go underground, we had continued to hope for the best, but expected the worst. It was nice to see the extended part of our family walk back through the door.
Hugs and kisses were all around. It took a few minutes for everyone to calm down. Demitri turned to us. "We need to talk."
"Carlisle and Marcus are on their way," I nodded.
"Good, because I fear that Felix won't be long behind us," he sighed, shaking his head as we all looked at each other, bracing ourselves for the conversation that was about to come.


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