Tuesday, March 20, 2001 | By: Drotuno

An Angel's Promise Chapter 11

"Fuck!" I growled, kicking a potted plant across our back garden. It smashed into a low brick wall, shattering into oblivion. I kept walking towards the far corner, where a bench sat under an awning of ivy. I heard my back door open and then close, but instead of the scent of honey and sunshine that I expected, the smell of leather and warm sand wafted around me. "Jasper, I'm not in the mood," I snapped, falling onto the bench and fisting my hands into my hair.
"I can fix that, you know," he teased, leaning against the post of the ivy-covered gazebo.
"Funny," I sighed, squeezing my eyes closed.
I wished I could cry, really cry – like wet, sniveling sobs that caused a stuffy nose and red, puffy eyes. I shielded myself against the warmth and brotherly love that Jasper was trying to cover me with. I needed to feel this, to feel something that I deserved.
"What on earth could be causing that much guilt and self-hatred, Bells? What could you have possibly done? Did you drain the Prime Minister while we were away with Kevin?"
"Shut up," I growled. I knew what he was doing. It was what he always did. Jasper was trying to get me to see that things couldn't possibly be as bad as I was making them out to be, but he was wrong. "Can't you just leave me alone?"
"Nope," he chuckled, popping the "p." "My brother's pretty upset, so I was just trying to find out what you did."
"I failed him," I whispered, staring down at my shoes.
He laughed. Not just a chuckle, but a side-gripping, bending over, could hardly catch a breath he didn't need guffaw. "Yeah," he gasped, shaking his head. "Like that could happen, Bella. You do realize that he thinks the sun rises and sets out of your ass, right? You know that with everything Eddie's ever seen, there's nothing that could change how he feels about you – no matter what you think you've done…or failed at."
I sighed, shaking my head. "I wanted to give him this. Just this one fucking thing."
Jasper stopped laughing and sat down next to me on the bench. He draped an arm around my shoulders and kissed the side of my head. "What happened?"
"I can't do it." I shook my head. "I can't…function without him, Jazz. And I'm angry all the time. Without him with me, I can't see straight. I don't see a point. To anything. And it fucking hurts all the time. The pain is excruciating."
"Yeah," he sighed, pulling me close so that my head was on his shoulder. "It can get pretty tough." His hand rubbed up and down my arm, soothing me physically, since I wouldn't let him in emotionally. "The thing is…you need to ask how Ed's been at work." My head snapped up, and my brother nodded. "Yup, you two are a lot alike sometimes. Just ask him."
"'Kay," I sighed, laying my head back on his shoulder.
"I know that you think you owe him something, but you don't. He owes you…everything." He chuckled when I snorted and shook my head.
"I just wanted normal."
"But you're not normal," he reasoned, squeezing my shoulder. "And that's really okay, Bells." I felt his kiss to the top of my head again. "You know my history, little one, so please believe me when I tell you that you have done a remarkable job for the past few years. There isn't one of us, Edward included, that isn't in awe of you. It's okay that you can't be without each other. It's okay to admit defeat and try again later. And he understands better than you think. He worries incessantly about you."
I sighed, sitting up straight. "Didn't he want to work? He told me that was what he wanted."
"I'm sure he did." Jasper nodded, sitting back and setting his right ankle on his left knee. "And I'm sure he wanted it. But you come first, darlin'. Alice comes first. Rose comes first. Esme comes first. We are all mated, Bells. We are all now wired…differently, despite our inhumanity. The un-mated Eddie I first met…he would have done what he wanted, everyone one else be damned. Not now. But he forgets sometimes that he doesn't have to shoulder all the pain."
I took a deep breath, looking up at my brother. I nodded, my brow wrinkling. "I get that. I do. I just see all of you…"
"Let me stop you." He smiled warmly. "You see us…decades later. Darlin', you have time to get this right, or decide to stay attached at the hip forever. But you have time." He raised a honey colored eyebrow at me, and I smiled a little. "There's a reason Em and Rose work together. They need each other, but for different reasons than you and Edward. Despite how crazy different they are, they actually enjoy one another's company." I couldn't help but smile at his soft chuckle.
"I wanted to be strong, Jazz. I really wanted this…"
He laughed again, but ruffled my hair. "You are strong. If you can put up with Eddie, then you are invincible."
I giggled, shaking my head at him.
"Isn't that the truth," Edward muttered with a sigh from the gazebo post. He locked eyes with Jasper and nodded and frowned, taking a deep breath. Then he focused his guilt-filled gaze on me again.
With one last kiss to my head and a squeeze to my shoulder, Jasper left us to an eerie silence. I frowned, looking down at my hands, only to see Edward kneel in front of me.
"I'm sorry," I breathed, not meeting his gaze, even though his hand cupped my face.
"You have nothing to be sorry for, baby. But…I do." I looked up at his pain-filled face, shaking my head slightly. "I should have told you what I was feeling. Work has been…really hard," he sighed, looking ashamed. "I thought I was protecting you when I was keeping it inside. But apparently, Jasper felt it."
"Why?" I asked, my brow wrinkling. "I thought…"
"I know, my sweet, sweet girl," he murmured, his face filled with remorse. "I know what you thought, and at first, I enjoyed my work, but soon, it started to weigh on me. Our time apart, every time I would have to leave you, knowing you needed me, working with humans that didn't understand me – it started to really get to me, love. But you seemed determined to survive, so I just followed your lead."
"Edward." I frowned, shaking my head. "I thought you wanted this. I thought you promised me that you would tell me if it wasn't what you wanted. You swore to me that you would be honest."
"I know, and I'm sorry," he confessed, taking my hands in his and playing with my wedding ring. "I left you struggling, thinking that you were alone. I can't apologize enough."
"What happened at work?"
He snorted, a bitter sound from him that I hadn't heard in some time. "I lost patience with my staff daily. I ached from the minute I would leave you until the second I could see you again. I finally snapped on Eden and Brooke, catching them both staring." I gasped, my laugh unable to be contained. He chuckled, looking up at me. "They're scared of me and completely jealous of you now. I don't suggest speaking with either of them any time soon, Bella."
"Oh no," I said, shaking my head. "What did you say?"
"That I wasn't a piece of meat to be ogled, that my wife wouldn't appreciate it. That neither of them could hold a candle to you." He laughed to himself at his own boldness. "I really owe them an apology, but…" He shrugged one shoulder, but was quiet for a moment, still turning my ring. I had forgotten how soothing that little habit of his was.
"I…we're…different, sweetheart. I didn't think it would be that hard, but we can't…" He looked up at me again, tracing my cheek with the backs of his fingers ever so lightly. "I watched you try so hard, and I'm sorry. So very sorry that I wasn't forthcoming with my own struggle."
"You have to tell me these things, Edward," I growled, pulling my hands from his grasp so that I could run them through his hair. "I felt insane these last few weeks…maybe even months. You –" I huffed, trying not to cry, " – you aren't alone anymore. You have to be honest with me. You can't take everything on yourself. We have to do it together.
"I can't do it yet, Edward," I continued. "I'm not ready to let go, even for a few days. I'm sorry. I tried." I felt small, weak, and unbelievably raw from admitting that, my mind opening for him to see just how much it hurt me.
"Hey," he whispered, making me look at him by tilting my chin with his finger. "Please don't feel that way. Please. You're not weak. We're not weak. We aren't ready, and we may never be ready. I'm kind of glad we failed at this…experiment, so that we know." I nodded, pressing my forehead to his and losing myself in his repentant eyes as he slipped his fingers up my neck and into my hair. "I'll need time, Bella, to give them a chance to replace me, but I'm turning in my resignation as soon as I return. Okay? I promise you." He paused and took a deep breath. "There is only one thing, though…"
"Toby," I supplied, not needing him to explain.
He smiled sweetly, nodding. "Alice told me you would be okay with that."
"I am," I agreed, pulling back to really look at him. "What now?"
He snickered, tilting his head up to look at me with such surrender and patience that I could barely breathe. "Whatever you want. I'm yours to command. I just want you to know that I didn't mean to withhold anything from you, love. It wasn't done with malice or bad intentions. You made me want to try harder."
I smiled, leaning in to kiss his forehead. "Don't follow my lead, because I'm completely lost."
He smiled, shaking his head slightly. "No, you're just not the independent human anymore. We are connected in a way no one has ever seen, Bella. I suppose we are on our own trying to figure that out."
I giggled softly at that admission. "I'm okay with that. I guess that means even Carlisle doesn't know what to do with us, huh?"
"Not a clue," he laughed, his face taking on a sweet boyish charm. "He was thinking about Marcus. What do you think of inviting him here or maybe going to Italy for a few days? Just to talk."
"Yeah," I said excitedly, smiling. "I would love to see him, actually. Invite him here. Since Demitri is still in and out of the area, maybe we can get everyone together."
"Yes, ma'am." He sighed, still looking at me sadly. "I love you so very much. I'm sorry again."
"There isn't anything you could do that can not be forgiven, baby." I smirked at his sweet smile. "But I need to think about school and what I want to do. I have until next week." I sighed, standing in front of him.
Edward stood, wrapping his arms around my waist. "Kevin's gone. He knew you were upset, so he told me to tell you thank you. He wants you to stop by tomorrow."
I nodded, linking my fingers behind his neck and pulling myself up into his arms. I wrapped my legs around his hips, causing him to squeeze me closer. I nuzzled my face into the crook of his neck, inhaling the scent that made everything okay.
"Tomorrow, but not right now," I mumbled into his skin. "Take me inside, Edward."
I sighed deeply as I pulled my Bella's body closer to me. Her face was pressed into my neck, and her fingers were playing with my hair. As I walked us back through our back garden at a human pace, I relished the feel of her wrapped around me.
I could almost sense the change, the shift between us back to something familiar. If our hearts could beat, they would be in sync.
I knew we had more to talk about, but my need to hold her, to touch her was almost blinding in its intensity. It took all of my focus and my control to open our back door and not press her into it.
Bella lifted her head from my shoulder. "You're shaking. Why?"
I kicked the door closed, setting her down on the kitchen island. "Do you feel it?" I asked, keeping her close, but refraining from gripping her.
She was still and quiet as she studied my face. When her fingers turned my ring just once – something she hadn't done in weeks – she inhaled sharply. Looking down at our hands and back up to what I was sure was my black gaze, she whispered, "Yeah, I feel it. It feels like…coming home."
I released the breath that I'd been holding, closed my eyes, and pressed my forehead to hers. "So it's not just me," I murmured.
"Were we losing ourselves, Edward? Were we trying something that could have hurt us, severed our connection?" Her voice was incredulous as she grasped both sides of my face and forced me to look at her.
"I honestly don't know." I shook my head, but my eyes stayed locked with hers.
"But we… I mean, we've talked, made love, even hunted together. Were we forcing something that could never be? And not being honest to ourselves – or each other – made all the difference." She was thinking aloud, but looked to me for the answer.
"I suppose anything is possible." I shrugged. "I can't consider it a burden to stay together, Bella. I have absolutely zero problem spending everyday, every minute in your stunning presence."
My love burst into the most adorable giggle. "Me, either," she laughed. "But something…shifted. And I don't want that again. Maybe talking to Marcus isn't such a bad idea."
I kissed her lips roughly, pulling her closer. She wrapped her legs around me. "I agree. And I will call him, but not right now."
I felt my Bella shiver as she placed her hands on my shoulders. Her eyes were locked onto mine; hers still a deep, chocolate brown. Her mind was open, filled with questions and apologies.
"Say that out loud," I said, cupping her face and kissing her forehead, nose, and chin.
"I'm sorry it didn't work, Edward. I'm sorry we can't…do what everyone else does. But I'm not sorry that I need you. Everyday, I need you."
I smiled, nodding and kissing her cheek. "Exactly, my love," I chuckled, feeling relieved that we were on the same page again. Another shudder wracked my angel's frame, and she pulled me closer, her arms snaking around my neck, so I decided to test a theory.
"I love you, Mrs. Cullen."
The sweetest sound escaped her, a combination of a giggle and a sob, as she pressed her lips to my neck. "I love you, too, Edward."
We were reconnecting.
It felt physical, as well as emotional. I could feel our current skating over our skin like static, fusing us together. It was regenerating.
I felt another kiss to my neck, and then the most glorious pressure of friction as my wife rolled her hips against mine. My forehead fell to her shoulder as a deep, rumbling growl vibrated through my chest.
When her mouth opened against the skin just below my ear to rake her teeth along my flesh, I was hard instantly, my hips bucking against hers. She purred low in my ear, a sound that was just about my undoing.
"Bella," I moaned, my eyes squeezing shut as she nipped and licked at my jaw.
I knew my mouth was hanging open, and I knew that we needed to talk more, but I couldn't stop my hands. One gripped the back of my Bella's shirt, while the other reached up, weaving into her hair. I arched her neck, smiling evilly when she moaned wantonly.
I locked eyes with her, onyx to onyx, begging her to stop me, but all she whispered was, "Yes."
Something in us snapped.
The sounds of ripping fabric and feral grunts echoed through our kitchen. All I could think, all that my mind was consumed with was making her mine. I was filled with the need to take her, to claim my mate.
I growled, diving for her neck, my teeth grazing where her pulse once pounded. I huffed, fighting this sensation, and pulled back to look at her. She was my wife, my soul mate. I shouldn't have been reacting to these feelings.
"Don't you dare stop," she growled. "Don't think, just feel. You have no idea how badly I'm holding back right now." As if to prove a point, her whole body shook in my arms.
She was naked, panting and writhing on our counter. And she was stunning and perfect…and mine.
"Yes, baby. Yours," she whined, trying to pull me to her.
"Tell me what you want, Bella. Before I lose my mind trying to decide, tell me. Because there are endless ways I want to fucking tear you up."
The low, dark chuckle that escaped from her was sexy as hell, but it wasn't helping my control. At all. She sat forward, licking my chin and then my lips, before she purred, "I want that dirty mouth on my pussy, Edward. Taste how much I'm yours."
Her tongue flicked across my lips again, shattering the last thread of my control. Closing the distance between us, I covered her mouth with my own, moaning when I felt her nails scrape down my spine to my ass.
Breaking from her mouth, we both gasped, relishing the feel of hands on skin. Arching her neck again with the same fist full of hair, my Bella whimpered as my mouth sucked and licked its way down to the swell of her breast. Her head fell back with a breathy moan, as her body bowed up to me when I latched onto her nipples. A grunt erupted from her as her shoulders fell to the counter top.
"Edward," she panted, my tongue swirling down her sternum.
Her legs squeezed against me, trying to find friction, contact – anything. After placing a long, slow, wet kiss to each of her hips, I raised my head to just look at her. She was truly stunning; her whole body was writhing under my fingertips as they danced over each rib. Her legs rubbed against my hips, still squeezing, but pulling me in closer.
"God, Bella," I growled, shaking my head. "You're just…fuck…"
I took one step back just to look at her, keeping my fingers on her skin, and caressed every inch of her legs starting at her feet. Her knees pressed together, as the vision of pain flickered across her mind.
"Open up for me, baby," I whispered, massaging her thighs and placing open mouthed kisses to her knee caps. "I'll make it stop hurting, I promise." With a shuddering breath, her legs parted for me, allowing me to see just how much she wanted me. "Mm, I don't need to taste you to know how much you want me, sexy girl." I smiled, licking my lips.
"Edward, please," she growled, her hips undulating on the counter.
My lips followed my hands as I glided up her thigh to where the scent of her was pulling me in. "Wider, my love. Let me in."
As soon as my breath ghosted across her wet flesh, her legs fell open to me, her hips rising off of the counter. The sound of wanton need and sweet relief echoed from her lips throughout our home. I kissed away her wetness, closing my eyes as I lost myself in the flavor of her. Holding her open with one hand, I slipped two fingers into her, trying not to smile as she bucked in front of me.
"Be still, Bella," I growled, tugging her to the edge of the counter and diving back to the taste that was still on my lips. "You taste…so fucking good. Like love and perfection, sin and all things forbidden." That was as close as I could get to describing the heavenly essence of my wife.
Her whole body clenched around me – her walls gripped my fingers, her thighs snapped closed around my head, and her hands wove into my hair to keep me exactly where she wanted me. Like I wanted to be anywhere but where I was at that moment. She held me at her moist heat as I ravished her like a starving man. With one last suckle to her swollen nerve, she arched off of the counter with a desperate but satisfied cry.
I was beyond hard by the time she sat up and wrapped her arms and legs around me. I wanted her so badly, I could barely see straight.
I slipped my fingers into her hair, holding her to me as she kissed me senseless. "What do you need, Edward?"
"You…inside you." I panted, pressing my forehead to hers as my hands grasped at any part of her I could get a hold of.
"Upstairs, in our bed, baby."
I pulled her swiftly from the counter, growling low when my erection met her wet center. Bella placed her hands on each side of my face as I lay her down in the middle of our bed.
"Look at me," she frowned, leaving nipping kisses along my jaw and chin. My eyes snapped to hers as she rolled her hips just right. I slipped inside her, my breath catching in my throat. "Lose yourself in me."
I dove for her mouth at the same time I sheathed myself deep within her, both of us crying out at the shock of it. I could see in her mind that there was a feeling of an aching hole being sealed shut in her chest.
"Never again," I vowed in her ear, licking up the shell of it. Her arms wrapped around my head, holding me close. I pulled almost all the way out of her only to drive back into her.
"Promise me," she begged, burying her face in my neck.
"I fucking swear it!"
"Good." She gasped as I hit a spot deep within her. "Then fuck me…hard."
I sat back on my heels, holding her hips as I drove into her relentlessly. It was feral, it was animalistic, and it was phenomenal.
I tossed both of her legs over my shoulders, falling back down over her. She was so much tighter this way, and I wasn't going to last long. The look on her face and the euphoria that was filling my chest was causing me to lose it. And quickly.
And all was lost as soon as my wife reached between us to touch herself.
With gasping cries from the both of us, we tumbled over the edge, but with that fall came a sense of completion – a feeling of just right.
We didn't speak for almost an hour. Edward fell beside me, pulling me close. I lay on my stomach, with my arms wrapped around my pillow as he traced lazy designs on my back. My eyes were closed so I could focus solely on the scent of my husband. I hadn't felt this content since…
"Verona," Edward answered for me, obviously following every inane thought that was going through my mind.
I smiled, but didn't open my eyes. "Exactly."
We had left Italy ahead of the family in order to see Verona. Edward had wanted to show me the place of inspiration for Romeo and Juliet. We had played, laughed, and danced in the street.
"You're forgetting Juliet's statue," he teased with a chuckle, leaning over to place a soft kiss to my shoulder blade.
"Molesting Juliet's breast in public was a definite highlight of that trip." I cracked up.
My laugh died off, turning into a moan when Edward's fingers massaged the muscles of my back.
"I'll give you thirty minutes to cut that out," I sighed, slowly opening my eyes to look at him.
He was watching his own hands, his eyes glazed in thought, but a slight smile caressed his lips. For the first time in what seemed ages, I saw the man that came back to me, the happy Edward that I married. When had he disappeared? When had proving a point become so much more important than what we shared?
Closing my eyes again and just feeling his touch, I tried to figure out where we'd gone wrong.
"We didn't," he sighed, lying beside me face to face. I opened my eyes to see his beautiful amber eyes locked with mine. He reached over, cupping my face and rubbing his thumb along my cheek. "We didn't know, Bella," he frowned.
"New rule," I growled. "No more withholding things from each other."
He smiled, a soft chuckle escaping him. "Yes, ma'am."
"So I didn't let you down?" I asked, my voice barely above a whisper.
"No, love. I don't even think something like that is even possible," he smirked, leaning in to kiss my nose.
"Jasper says we're not normal."
"He's right. We aren't." His brow furrowed for a moment before he continued, "And that's why I want to talk to Marcus. I'll call him tomorrow while you go to Kevin's."
I took a deep breath and nodded. "'Kay," I sighed, frowning. "I hope he can help. Completi l'anima. Is it that rare?"
"Apparently so." He nodded, running his fingers through my hair, but his eyes never left mine. He took a deep breath, and said, "I meant what I said. Never again, baby. I promise. And we'll figure it out together."
"I hope so, because I feel like…a child. I couldn't control anything I was feeling, saying, or doing."
"Come here." He smiled, pulling me flush to his body by wrapping an arm around my waist. "You are not a child. It was a physical…crack in our connection. We just need to find out our limits, love."
"'Kay." I nodded, pressing my forehead to his. "And you're not upset that you have to quit?"
"No, baby."
"Shh," he chuckled, pressing his lips to mine. "God, Bella, I love you, but time for talking…is later." He rolled me over, looming above me with a deliciously sweet but devilish grin. I couldn't help but giggle up at him.
"I love you, too," I said, smiling and weaving my hands into his hair.
With a dark chuckle, he bit roughly against my neck, and he owned me for the rest of the night.
"Look at you, driving Hot Doc's car," Kevin chuckled, looking past me into his driveway. "Boy, he really must have messed up if he's giving you that for the day."
I snorted, looking back at the car before walking into Kevin's flat. "He didn't mess up," I sighed, feeling terrible that Kevin even heard or saw my irrational behavior the day before.
"Edward said you were upset with him," he countered, giving me a wry smile as he limped into his kitchen.
"I'm not," I smirked. "It was a misunderstanding."
"Fights usually are," he laughed. "However, the look on your face says that there was some hefty make up sex going on last night."
I laughed, shaking my head. "Isn't that the best kind?"
"Sometimes," he chuckled.
"How are you feeling?" I asked, noting that his bruises were already turning a light greenish-yellow and the stitches in his forehead weren't so red and angry.
"Better," he nodded, sipping from his coffee. "My ankle's still sore, but I don't really need the crutches."
"Well, Edward wanted me to let you know that he'll take those stitches out in a week, so just let me know when it's good for you."
"I will," he nodded, but was quiet for a moment.
We were waiting on Alice and Rose to join us. They were picking up some last minute decorations for Kevin's place. After my outburst, I let them go on their own. I wanted to make sure that Kevin wasn't upset and knew that none of my emotional issues were his fault. Edward said he had been truly concerned.
He yawned widely, despite the strong smelling coffee he was currently sipping. I didn't even have to ask, but tilted my head at him with a raised eyebrow.
"Nightmares." He frowned, looking into his cup. "I thought…maybe they would ease up, but they were awful last night. Did you really mean it when you said you used to have them?"
"Oh yeah." I nodded, wrapping my hands around the mug that he had given me. I liked the warmth on my fingers. "They were worse when Edward and I were apart for those two years. And Jake's…attitude didn't make them any better."
Alice had told Kevin mine and Edward's story, simply because he'd begged her to. He drank it up like a little kid and a fairytale. When he had finally met Edward at the club, he noticed our touches, our gazes were stronger – just more. He told Alice that there just had to be an amazing story behind us. She told him, seeing that we wouldn't be upset with him knowing.
"How did you make them stop?" he asks when, she tells him what made them stop.
I took a deep breath, trying to figure out what to tell him. I couldn't exactly tell him that my nightmares stopped when I didn't have to sleep anymore. I bit my bottom lip and finally looked up at him. "Time. And closure. When Edward first got back, they were just awful. And I felt bad that he saw me that way, but when he and I were together again, and after Jake and I had finally come to some sort of friendship, they leveled off."
"I'm not stupid, Bells," he sighed, looking out his kitchen window. "I know I should have done something about those guys, but…"
"No one can tell you what's best for you," I smirked, shaking my head. "It's a lesson I'm learning at this very moment, actually."
His head snapped back around and he locked gazes with me – sad, deep blue to chocolate brown. I smiled, tilting my head at him. He was a handsome boy, truly. And filled with a love that was just begging to be given away.
He didn't say anything, but nodded in understanding. "Okay." He smiled. "So before school starts back, we should talk…Halloween, my goddess. How hot do you want the doc to look?"
I couldn't tell Kevin that I was considering giving school a break. He would be shattered, because if I stopped, so would Jasper, and he would be alone at school.
"Making him hot isn't that hard to do," I laughed. "But if we have this discussion, we better do it quickly before his partner in crime joins us."
I shielded Kevin, taking away Alice's visions, and we spent the next hour making lists and writing down ideas that we could use.
"Why would he want you to sing?" Kevin teased as I heard a car pull up in the driveway.
"Because I don't," I snorted, rolling my eyes. "I can, but I don't normally like attention."
"Have you sung with him before?"
"No," I said, my brow wrinkling. "Huh, maybe that's why he wants it…"
"You think?" he chuckled, standing up when Alice and Rose walked in with their arms full.
We spent the next few hours setting up Kevin's home. By the time we were all leaving, he was glowing with pride. And I was glad that something good had come from the mess that he had just survived.
By the time I pulled into my driveway, my pull to Edward was unbearable. I smiled at the sound of his piano. Claire de Lune wafted out of my house and into our quiet neighborhood. It was filled with a longing, sadness, but tinged with hope and love and the passion that only Edward could apply to a song and make his own.
I walked into the kitchen, setting down my keys and purse and leaning in the doorway. I could watch him play for hours. There wasn't anything like it. He was quiet, his face in a concentrated pout. His eyes were closed as his fingers caressed the keys in ways that I couldn't even comprehend. Never mind that he sat there in a tight gray t-shirt and dark jeans.
Unable to resist him, I walked into the music room, hopping up on the piano and lying down to face him. He smirked, leaning in to kiss my lips chastely. I set my chin on my hands, my feet in the air behind me.
"I missed you," he said sweetly.
"Me, too," I giggled.
"How's Kevin?"
"Having nightmares," I answered with a frown. "And he said that he would stop by either here or the hospital next week so that you can take his stitches out."
He nodded, changing to another song. I watched his hands, the strong muscles of his forearms rolling under his skin. My eyes locked with his, and I smiled. His face was blissful.
"I spoke to Marcus today, sweet girl." The music didn't stop, but I looked up at his face. He seemed hopeful that there could possibly be some answers for us. "He's looking forward to seeing us. All of us, actually. He's going to stay at the Cullen house, but will be here next week. He was thinking of visiting anyway."
"Good. Did he tell you anything?"
"Not much, but he wants to look at us both. He wants to see what our connection looks like." He smiled, pulling his hands away from the keys and cupping my face. Marcus' gift was that he could see the relationship ties of others. He could tell where loyalties lay and just how strong a relationship was. "He said that he would look into some of the old histories in his library and bring that as well. Okay?"
"Okay," I agreed, turning my head so that I could kiss his palm. "Will Demitri be around?"
"Yes, ma'am," he said, a smile creeping over his face. "He and Carina are currently looking at the situation in New York, but will be back by that time. You'll be happy to know that everyone will be there."
"Sweet," I giggled, sounding like Emmett.
Edward laughed, leaning in to kiss my lips. "Are you finished will all things Kevin today, beautiful?"
"I am," I said, grinning. "I am yours for the remainder of the day. But tomorrow, I have go out for a couple of hours."
"Mm, I can handle that," he growled against my lips. "Come, let's get out of here for a little while. At least for the next hour or so. Emmett was bored. It's quite possible he will show up unannounced."
He stood up, and I reached out for him. He scooped me up, kissing all over my face with loud, wet, silly kisses. I squealed, wriggling in his strong arms.
"Edward," I laughed, fighting off his tickling fingers as he carried me to the front door. He was chuckling darkly against the skin of my neck as his fingers dug into my sides. "Stop, baby."
"'Kay," he sighed in mock defeat, but his face was too adorable as he set me on my feet. "Come on, I want to take you somewhere you've never been." He reached into the foyer closet and handed me my jacket, pulling one on for himself.
We both waved to Mr. and Mrs. Baxter, the elderly couple across the street, before getting in the car. Once we hit the open road, Edward drove much like he always did – like it was a life or death race.
I parked the car, getting out and opening my mind to see if there was anyone nearby. I couldn't hear anyone's mind but my beautiful girl's. I opened her door and helped her stand.
"Run with me," I told her with a grin, linking our fingers together.
Bella smiled, closing her eyes and breathing deep. "I smell the ocean."
"I bet you do," I chuckled, tugging her hand. "There's no one around, love. Race you."
"Right," she snorted, rolling her eyes, but she took off before I could formulate a thought.
The rolling hills that sloped down to the sea were beautiful. Despite the chilly weather, there were yellow flowers as far as I could see. They ended at the edge of a craggy mass leading down to the beach.
I caught my laughing wife without much effort, tackling her to the grassy floor. "Cheater," I growled, rolling on top of her, but unable not to smile down at her. She was giggling and burying her face into my chest.
"Too much time with Emmett," she reasoned breathily.
With a kiss to her forehead, I stood up, offering her my hand. Linking our fingers together, we wandered down to the beach. The soft, comforting silence that we had always shared surrounded us as the rush of the waves roared softly around us.
I watched Bella's face as she took in the cliffs, the fields of flowers, and then closed her eyes to the cool breeze coming off the water. She breathed deeply, leaning into me. I sat down on a dry rock, pulling her between my legs just relishing being with her. And I mean with her.
It was disturbing how far apart we'd felt until yesterday. It had to have been a gradual thing, because the rush back together was a shock to both of us. I pressed a kiss to the back of her head, twirling her ponytail around my hand. She leaned her temple to my cheek, taking a deep breath.
Her mind flashed with glimpses of the beach she used to go to when I had left her. She would sit alone for hours, emptying her mind of everything in order to stop the pain. She was so much stronger than I was on the emotional level. Where she at least had tried to find a way to cope, I had wallowed in my misery, telling myself that I deserved every jab of pain, every pounding ache in my chest.
I couldn't help but wrap my arms around her, nuzzling her neck. I pressed a kiss just behind her ear, leaving my lips there. I closed my eyes, letting her thought processes become my own. I could barely remember a time when I couldn't hear her mind.
I remember being frustrated, and I ached to know what she was thinking. But I had learned to read her like a book. When her mind was finally open to me – when she allowed it – it was as if my whole world aligned correctly. I could see her love for me. It was just as strong, just as intense as mine was for her, and it was overwhelming and beautiful and perfect.
Bella's thoughts drifted to my return and then taking classes together again. Her mind then flipped to her current classes, and I heard her sigh.
"Want to talk about it?" I asked, kissing her neck again.
"What do I do when they feel like a waste of time?" she asked, covering my arms and hands with her own around her torso.
"Take a break," I sighed, nodding against her temple. "Otherwise, it only gets worse."
"You've felt that before?"
"Many, many, many times," I chuckled, rocking her back and forth. "I would let the rest of the family stay, and I would travel or go hunting for a few days just to get away. Or I'd find a project that would absorb my attention. I would buy an old car and fix it up with Rose. I would buy a house and referb it. I would work on music. When I was away from you, I taught myself the guitar."
She sighed again, her mind uninterested in those things.
"I guess I will find something eventually," she said softly. "I was thinking of a career change, but I…I don't know…"
Her mind snapped shut, and I frowned. "Please don't shut me out."
"Edward, I'm not shutting you out. I just don't want you to get your hopes up, when I can't even make a decision on a day to day basis."
I smiled. "Hmm, it must be good, if you think I'll like it." She stood up, but stayed in my arms and between my legs. "Tell me? Please?" I tilted my head up at her. I didn't want secrets between us anymore. I wanted to work together on everything.
She frowned, playing with the collar of my jacket. "Can I get my transcripts from Dartmouth? I want to go for my PhD."
"I'm pretty sure Jasper will do whatever you ask. A PhD in what, my smart girl?"
"Psychology. More specifically...children."
I think my chest just about swelled ten times its normal size for the love that exploded within me. "Really?" I asked, my mouth hanging open. It wasn't that I didn't think she could do it. She was amazing with Toby and had been brilliant with Danielle. I'd just never thought she wanted to open her past up like that, or see others suffer, especially kids.
"You looked shocked." She huffed a laugh, looking away from me.
"No, no." I shook my head, turning her face back to me with my fingers under her chin. "God, Bella, I can't think of anything you can't do, but that...you're really good with them. I mean, are you sure?"
"Yeah." She nodded. "If you had asked me that when we started college, I would have laughed at you. But helping Danielle, that was...fulfilling."
"That means more classes," I told her.
"I know," she admitted. "But I've looked, and some of them are online. I could stay home with you. You're probably a better teacher than any professor anyway," she teased with a sweet, wry smile.
I chuckled. "I tell you what. When I go back to work at the end of this week, I'll talk with Dr. Byrne, tell her what you're thinking. Hmm? You could see what she does – follow her for a day."
"Yeah?" She smiled, looking up at me through her long eyelashes.
"Yeah," I teased, chuckling and kissing her nose.
"I should tell Jasper," she sighed, playing with my hair. "Knowing him, he'd take the classes with me just for the hell of it."
I chuckled, nodding. "You're probably right. But Alice is aware you're wavering on this decision."
"But," she sighed, looking past me, her eyes glazing over. "I'm not sure yet, Edward. And I might just want to drop classes for a while."
"You do…whatever it is that you want to do, my love. I mean it," I said, rubbing her shoulders. "Maybe…I'll take them with you. And we don't have to take the classes online."
"Stop," she gasped, grabbing my face. "You'd go back to school with me?"
Oh, the hope, the love, the pure joy that she was giving off was breathtaking. I hadn't realized just how much she missed me being with her everyday until that very moment. My heart shattered.
"Bella," I sighed, "I'm so sorry. Together…everything together from now on, okay?" She whimpered, pressing her forehead to mine and nodded slowly. Her eyes closed as she gripped my jacket sleeves. "You tell me what you decide. You have time. And if you want to stop classes now and sign up later, we will. You do what you want. Okay?"
"'Kay," she whispered.
"I have no choice but to give them time to replace me, love. It's the right thing to do. And I would really like to see Toby to the end of his treatments, though I truly think he's cancer-free now. Can you make it for a few more weeks?"
"Can you?" she countered, worry filling her warm eyes.
"No," I chuckled, "but knowing that there's an end to it may make it better."
She nodded, leaning her hips into me and running her fingers through my hair. "Don't you have two PhD's already, Mr. Smarty Pants?" she asked, narrowing her eyes at me.
"Yeah," I admitted, snickering softly. "But not in Child Psychology. It sounds interesting, actually."
"Something new…together?" She practically squealed like Alice with that question.
"If I had known it would have made you that happy…"
"Hush." She smiled, placing her fingers on my lips. "I promise to think about it, though going back to school with you is probably one of my favorite things and is making it awful tempting. When would we go?"
"I would think after the holidays." I smiled, kissing her fingers. "If it's okay with you, let me research some of the other universities in the area. I know you'll miss Kevin, but…we may need to start…differently if I am to join you."
"Deal." She nodded, kissing my forehead. "And what about Jasper…and the classes I'm in now? And what if they don't replace you right away…"
"Bella, sweetheart." I smiled, kissing her lips to stop her panic. "Please try to relax. I know that the last few weeks have been rough, not to mention the last few days, but it's nothing we can't handle."
I studied her face for a moment, and I realized what she had been through since my work started at the hospital. Where I ached to be with her, guiding her, loving her, she must have been in a constant state of loss. For a split second, I wondered if it felt to her like I had left again, and I cringed at the thought. There was a part of me that probably didn't want to know the answer.
I was looking forward to speaking with Marcus to shed some light on mine and Bella's situation. I wanted to know why we couldn't be apart, and what we could do about, but I couldn't find a single atom in my being that was complaining about our connection. After a hundred years of solitude and loneliness, being with my mate, my true love forever and always was just fine with me.
"You're right," she sighed. "Screw it." Her musical giggle was contagious.
"That's my girl," I chuckled, standing up and taking her hand. "Come on, I'll race you again…"
Again, she took off before I finished the sentence. I shook my head at my silly girl, giving her the lead and reveling in her sweet laughter. I vowed to myself at that moment to do everything I could to hear that sound everyday for as long as we lived.


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