Tuesday, March 20, 2001 | By: Drotuno

An Angel's Promise Chapter 4

"Why are you still here?" Helen frowned up at me from her computer screen.
"I'm going, I'm going..." I chuckled, raising my hands in surrender. "I just wanted to check in with Danielle one more time. She's doing better. Her levels are up, but she still won't talk to Dr. Byrne."
"I know," she nodded. "Dr. Byrne mentioned bringing in a specialist for her. Has she talked to you about it?"
"Yeah," I sighed, handing over the last of my charts before my weekend could officially start. "Call me if you need me."
"Edward," I heard from my left. I smiled over at Dr. Wilder.
"How's Philip?" I smiled, knowing that the real reason we'd arranged our schedules was so he could spend more time with his new son.
"Not sleeping through the night yet, but we're getting closer," he smiled, patting my back. "Enjoy your weekend."
"I will, sir," I nodded.
"Anything I should know?" he asked, looking up at the charts.
"Nothing I can't handle passing on," Helen huffed, raising a dangerous eyebrow at me and pointing down the hall. I laughed, shaking my head. "Go see that sweet wife of yours, and forget about us for three days."
"Do what she says," Dr. Wilder muttered. "She's a deadly woman."
"Don't I know it," I chuckled, telling them goodbye and heading to the elevators.
I pulled out my phone and realized the date. With a chuckle, I sent my Bella a text.
E: Leaving work, sweet girl. I have to make a stop on the way home.
Her reply was instant.
B: Did your weekend take forever to get here or what? ;)
E: Yes, ma'am! See you soon.
Bella would be mad if she knew why I was stopping, but I was going to surprise her anyway. It was, after all, the twelfth of September. Tomorrow was her birthday.
After one quick stop, I made my way home. Pulling into the driveway, I noticed there weren't any other cars there. She was alone. Normally, I came home to a house full of my siblings. Emmett lived to play video games with Bella. Jasper would play music in the other room. It was comfortable, happy. We loved having them over, although Bella and I both loved that they went home afterwards.
I climbed the stairs slowly, my nose wrinkling from the chemical smell of paint. I leaned in the doorway to see the bed moved slightly and my love painting the wall. She had repaired the damage we had done.
"I'll just make you put another one there," I teased, laughing as she turned to me with a wry smile. She was too cute with paint smudges on her elbows.
"Maybe," she chuckled, narrowing her eyes at me. "But Emmett made fun of us for not fixing it. So after I painted his face, I came up here to repair it."
I laughed, my head falling back. "That's my girl," I smiled, walking over to plant a kiss to her head. I picked up her arm, placing a small kiss on the paint smudge on the tip of her elbow. "Did my brother retaliate?"
"Yes," she giggled. "You have no idea what I had to do to keep from getting paint all over this house. Luckily, Rose and Alice stepped in," she smiled, biting her bottom lip.
"A full-on paint war...hmm," I chuckled, shaking my head. She stepped from behind the headboard and put the top back onto the paint can. I went to the end of the bed and pushed it back in place for her.
"Almost war," she smiled, shaking her head and wiping the can down. "Though he did manage to smack my back," she laughed, lifting the back of her t-shirt. I laughed as I looked at the large hand print on her back just above her shorts in the same color that graced the walls of our bedroom. "Needless to say," she huffed, but her sweet brown eyes were full of happiness, "I need a bath."
"I'll run it for you," I offered, chuckling and shaking my head again.
"Join me," she smiled, "and I'll be right back. I just want to put this away." She held up the paint brush and can, heading downstairs.
I walked into our bathroom, turning on the water to fill our large tub. Small arms encircled my waist, and I turned around to smile down at Bella. I cupped her face, kissing her lips softly.
"How was your day?" she asked, squeezing me closer.
"Long...never-ending," I smirked, "but well worth it now." I reached down, gripping the bottom of what used to be my Forks High t-shirt; she'd confiscated it long ago. I didn't know if she wore it out of nostalgia, or the fact that it had Cullen printed on the back.
"Mine, too." She sighed, holding her arms up so that I could tug the shirt off of her. "But I have news," she smirked, tugging my button down out of my pants.
"Do tell, my sweet girl." I smiled at her expression. She looked damn proud of herself for something, but her mind was closed to me.
"Water first," she pointed, pulling open my belt. We shed the rest of our clothes, and I got in, turning off the water and pulling her back to my chest. "Okay," she beamed, turning in my arms and sitting on my lap. "I think I have this whole balance thing figured out." She snickered, rolling her eyes.
"Okay," I laughed, just drinking in her sunny mood.
"It's all about schedule. I mean, we don't have to go all OCD or anything," she rambled, "but maybe if we plan out each weekend, then we'll be able to get into some sort of routine."
"Talk to me, love. Let me hear that brilliant mind."
"Sooo...I vote that the first day is ours. Just ours," she smiled, leaning in to kiss my nose, cheek, and then my lips softly. "Make plans or stay in. But it is just for us."
"Mmm," I hummed against her mouth, capturing her bottom lip between mine. "I like it so far. Keep going."
"Next," she said, pulling back from me, "family time. And by that, I mean Esme and Carlisle, mainly. They miss us. I should talk to him more."
"Why?" I asked, frowning slightly.
"I didn't realize I wasn't making friends. He pointed it out."
"Jasper," I nodded, and she locked gazes with me. "He noticed it, sweet girl."
"I didn't mean to..."
"No one blames you, love," I promised, shaking my head. "It's...difficult for you to let people go. It hurts. You love so freely with people you like." She nodded, but she looked slightly wounded. Her mind was open as she tried to figure out when she changed. "Baby, you didn't change. Honestly. I think maybe it was a timid feeling?" I asked, and she nodded again. "Like a wall, maybe."
"Yeah," she sighed, nuzzling my jaw. "But that's not me."
"No," I smiled, kissing her fingers. "I think humans call it gun shy."
"Yeah," she said, her head snapping up. She nodded fervently, her eyes wide. "Exactly. It really is easy for me to make human friends. But hard to let them go. I miss Wendy, but I know she's fine now with her mom. I just didn't want to hurt that way again."
"I know, baby," I smiled, cupping her face. "It's the harder lesson to learn about this life."
"It is," she nodded. "Don't get me wrong...I love my life, Edward." She looked up at me like I would be upset.
"I know," I chuckled. "You have no idea how...amazing that makes me feel to hear you say that, to see it in your mind, Bella."
She smiled, running her fingers through my hair. "I also wouldn't mind talking to Carlisle...together," she said, tilting her beautiful head at me. "Just with the changes and all..."
"Done." I kissed her quickly, smiling when she giggled. "Now," I smirked, pulling back, "the last day of my weekends...what's the plan, chief?"
She laughed, shaking her head. "That's a day of no plan. It's a go-with-the-flow day. If we feel like hanging out with our siblings, fine. If we feel like staying in...mmm, even better," she crooned, pulling herself closer to me. And I couldn't help but grip her and squeeze her closer. "But we do whatever comes up. Knowing Alice, she'll plan shit anyway," she rolled her eyes, snickering.
I laughed, nodding profusely. "I like it. A lot, baby. I think you're right. I think it will be easier to have a plan or routine to look forward to. We've been drifting since I started at the hospital."
"Exactly," she beamed.
"God, you're so fucking cute," I chuckled, shaking my head.
"Edward," she whined. "I'm serious about this."
I straightened my face, trying to keep from laughing, but her mind was completely waiting for me to bust. She folded her arms across her chest and raised a dangerous eyebrow at me. "Oh, but I love you so much," I said, my brow wrinkling. "And I know you're serious. I'm not teasing you. I promise. I really do like it."
"Good," she sighed, looking relieved. "One more thing: Marie Anthony," she chuckled, and I nodded. It was the pen name she used for her published books. "She has to die." She laughed, shaking her head. "I'm not kidding. Jasper and I got a letter today. They aren't taking no for answer. They want more of us. They offered an obscene amount for me to continue our story."
I tilted my head at her, listening to her mind. She didn't want to go further with our story. She didn't want to write about when I left her or Jake's abuse. She didn't want to relive the pain. I didn't want that for her, but I would have supported her no matter what she'd chosen. "Your mind says no," I said, looking at her out of the corner of my eye.
"Everything about me says no."
"Then...no," I shrugged. "I'll support whatever decision you make with this one, my love."
"Well, here's the thing," she smirked. "Jasper suggested complete fiction...just make it up. Maybe a few things true here and there, but otherwise, not us at all."
"Because...they're talking movie, Edward."
"Stop it," I laughed, burying my face in the crook of her neck.
"No...they are!" Her laugh was contagious. "Here's the problem with that...I can't be seen. And Jasper says the internet already is overflowing with searches for Marie Anthony."
"Oh," I sobered up, looking at her. "What does Jasper say?"
"Apparently, the book is climbing the charts. He said if it gets too popular, then we'll have a problem," she said, her face incredulous at the mere thought of it all. "He said if I wasn't going to write more, then to kill her," she snorted.
"She's an overweight woman in her fifties, living in Iowa...a heart attack is perfect."
"God, Bella," I sighed, the smile unable to leave my face. I was proud of her to no end, but we couldn't have her found by some hacker online with spare time.
"I know," she smirked, rolling her eyes again.
"Baby," I cupped her face, kissing her lips softly and then her forehead. "I'm very proud of you..."
"But I can't be found out. I know, Edward," she snickered. "She'll die in the next few weeks."
"And what if you want to write again? Something different?"
"I'll figure it out, or let Jasper figure it out," she shrugged. Her mind was not upset with this at all. "I honestly thought it wouldn't get to this point."
"You're not upset," I stated, tracing my finger up her cheek and down to her collarbone.
"No," she shook her head. "Jasper says that if I want to write again...that in a decade, I can use like Marie Cullen or something like that. But I'm not in any hurry." She picked up her arm and rubbed the paint off of it.
"Turn around," I smiled, grabbing the body wash and pouring some in my hand. I rubbed my hands together and proceeded to remove Emmett's large hand print off of her back.
"So what are you up to tomorrow night?" she smirked, looking over her shoulder at me. "Alice bolted out of her like a bat out of hell."
I chuckled, shrugging. "It is your birthday, love."
"That I don't celebrate," she chuckled, but waited for my answer.
"It's important to me that I do things for you."
"So what is it?" She laughed, turning around and grabbing my face.
"I want to take you out," I said, tilting my head at her.
"Don't give me the face, Edward," she warned. "Where are we going?"
"Fine," she smiled, completely surrendering. "Out it is. Dress code?"
"Formal," I smirked, helping her stand in the tub.
"Formal?" She huffed a laugh. "And that's why Alice eyeballed the closet before she left."
"Edward?" I breathed, my eyes rolling in the back of my head.
I huffed a laugh; his mouth had barely left my skin since our bath the night before. "I think...oh, God," I sighed as his tongue slowly, tortuously circled my nipple. I looked down at his eyes, which were locked onto my face. "I think you should tell me where we're going tonight."
He smiled wickedly, sucking my entire sensitive peak into his mouth. "I bet you do," he teased, breaking from one breast and switching to the other. "Not a chance, sweet girl." I panted as I watched his tongue flick out to start the process all over. Edward's eyes were black, warm, full of mischief and love. It was a heady combination on him, making him look so sexy.
Our music played in the background – some of his, some of mine. When a song would change, both of us would almost pause to see what the other had picked. Smiles and chuckles, moans and sighs were usually the reactions we had. Apparently, we both drove each other crazy. My choice was playing at the moment. Paramore's The Only Exception wafted around the room.
My back arched as his mouth completely captured my nipple again, his tongue swirling around it as the suction from his mouth drove me insane. His arms slipped under my back, holding me closer, keeping our skin touching at all times. Edward's hips shifted, and I felt his arousal against the inside of my leg.
"I could make you tell me," I smiled, but my head fell back into the pillows. I felt his smile against my skin.
"You can try," he chuckled softly. "But can't I keep this one? Please, my beautiful birthday girl?"
Oh, the fucking face! He shifted over me, allowing my legs to wrap around him on their own. He pressed his forehead to mine, pouting shamelessly.
I snorted, but my hands slipped into his hair and down his back. "Tell me why my birthday is important, baby..."
"I've told you," he huffed, planting his elbows at my head. "It was the day you were born, love – the day the fates allowed me to have you." He nuzzled his nose with mine, up one side and down the other. His sweet breath engulfed my whole being, so that all I could sense, taste, smell was him. And he did it on purpose!
Edward heard my mind, and his pouting face flickered to amusement for a fraction of a second before he brushed his lips over mine and down my cheek. Once they were at the soft spot behind my ear, he whispered, "Please let me have this...Please, my Bella?"
"You...are wicked," I purred, but scratched my nails down his back to pull him closer. I placed long, slow, wet kisses along his shoulder and collarbone, gasping when his hips shifted between us and his breath caught right in my ear. My own hips rose to meet him, and he slipped through my wet center. "You can have anything you want," I conceded, smiling when he huffed a small sexy laugh against my neck.
"I want you," he growled softly.
"'Kay," I sighed, and we both shifted at the same time, causing him to slip just inside me. I whimpered, scratching down his back again to rest on his ass. I pulled him in, hitching my legs up around his waist.
"Happy birthday, love," he rumbled into my ear, sheathing himself completely within me. And I was lost to the feel of him.
I came down the stairs to see my Edward dressed to the nines. I smirked, shaking my head. There were times when Alice's taste in clothes for us were unnecessary. And then, there were times I could have just kissed her. This...this was one of those times where I could have seriously wrapped her up and squeezed her.
Edward in a high-end, tailored black tux was absolutely stunning. When he turned from the front window, I stared at him unabashedly – a three piece tux, at that. The vest he wore under his coat was a shiny charcoal gray.
"You know," I chuckled, feeling like I could have blushed if I were able, "that..." I gestured over his entire being. "That's worth celebrating my birthday."
"So..." he grinned crookedly, "it looks okay, then?"
I huffed, looking up at him with an eye roll. "Yeah," I nodded.
"Good," he chuckled, taking my hand as I reached the bottom of the stairs. "Because you're heartbreaking." He smiled, turning me around once I reached the kitchen. My dress was very pretty, a choice that Alice and I actually made together. It was the color I had liked. It was a soft cream with a matching wrap. The skirt flowed to just below my knees. It was a classic style, reminding me of the glamorous actresses of the black and white movies. Alice had squealed when she saw it.
"I'll be the envy of every man in the room," he purred, shaking his head.
"What room?" I teased, since he had yet to tell me where we were off to.
"Nice try," he laughed, kissing my forehead. "Are you ready, sweet girl?"
"Yes," I giggled, just relishing our time. Birthday or not, we hadn't been out in some time. And even though I was giving him a thorough teasing about his surprise, it always brought such a look of happiness to his face. I wouldn't have stopped him, even if I didn't want to go out. I enjoyed the little things he did, but he truly loved to plan the big things.
We rode through the London streets in a sweet silence. The sun was almost set, and the lights of the city glittered around us. I smiled when we pulled up to the Barbican Centre. We were going to see the London Symphony Orchestra. I heard Edward's sweet, deep chuckle as he read my mind at figuring it out.
I turned to look at him, and he shrugged. "I've never taken you, and they're the best in the world, love."
I smiled, looking up when my door was opened. I was helped unnecessarily out of the car, and quickly passed to Edward, who handed over his keys. With a last glance at the young man that had opened my door, he guided me inside.
Inside was gorgeous, decorated in reds and golds. A stairway in front of us led to the main level, and two staircases to the right and left headed towards the upper levels. We followed a few people to up to the next level. I felt Edward flinch slightly once we went inside. I looked up at him.
Too many minds, sweetheart? I thought to him, but he seemed to shrug it off. He smiled, kissing my forehead and whispering no against my skin.
The theatre was really quite large. There were three upper levels besides the main floor – three wrap around balconies. Edward led me down an aisle, and we took our seats.
"When was the last time you were here?" I asked, turning to look at him.
"Well, my first time was with just Carlisle," he smiled, speaking low enough that only I could hear him as people milled around to find their seats. "He felt I deserved a sort of...reward." He chuckled, shaking his head and picking up my hand. He linked our fingers together. "It was just before he found Esme," he continued. "He and I had started collecting music. And he'll tell you it was his way of keeping my mind focused on something other than my bloodlust."
I smiled, nodding for him to continue. "We sat..." Edward scanned the room and pointed to the balcony above ours. "There. And despite the room filled with people, as soon as the music started, I was frozen in my seat."
"I bet," I smiled, my brow wrinkling. "Just before Esme," I mused, thinking aloud. "The late twenties?" He grinned and nodded. "And you were able to handle all of these people?"
"Barely," he chuckled, "but I was at least able to see most of it. Carlisle took me out just after the intermission. I was overcome with...everything – minds, blood, emotion." I smiled, looking around and wondering if it was any different now than it was then. "No," he answered my question. "Not by much anyway. And my last time was about twenty years ago. I was alone."
His gaze shifted from me to a middle-aged couple two rows ahead of us. The man was staring at me, the woman at him. Edward fought his smile, but turned back to me once the couple sat down.
"What?" I asked softly.
"He's wondering where he can trade his wife in for someone that looks like you," he chuckled, kissing my temple. "She just wants to know where you got your dress."
I smiled, looking up at him. "More," I begged, loving when he told me the minds of random people.
"Bella..." He shook his head.
"My birthday," I reminded him with a laugh, knowing he wouldn't tell me no.
He huffed, rolling his eyes and scanning the room. His mouth fell open as he watch a group of five people take their seats below us. Edward leaned to my ear, placing a kiss on the shell, and said, "See the group?" I nodded, leaning into his velvet voice. "The man on the end...he's cheating with the woman in the middle." I gasped, watching them closer. I couldn't tell a thing until the man on the end gave a longing look over his wife to the woman. "But the wife knows."
"No," I laughed softly. "What the..."
"She's cheating, too," he chuckled, "but with someone much younger. They're all a mess." He sighed, looking away from them to a much older couple slipping slowly down to take their seats right in front of us. The man held his wife's hand as she sat down, but she dropped her clutch and opera glasses.
I picked up the purse, while Edward gently lifted the glasses. The couple had to be in their eighties. As they turned to face us, we handed the items back over to her.
"Oh," the woman smiled sweetly at the both of us. "Thank you."
"You're very welcome," Edward smiled, taking my hand back in his.
"It never fails," the old man teased his wife with a wink. "Dottie drops something every time we come."
"Oh quiet, Herbert," Dottie smirked, rolling her eyes. "They don't care about my lack of grace."
I giggled, laying my head on Edward's shoulder. I felt my shield almost suck the couple in instantly. I liked them. A lot.
"You feel that now?" he asked, lifting my face with his fingers under my chin. I nodded, biting my lip. "I always wondered if you could sense it."
"It's a new feeling," I smiled with a one shoulder shrug. "Can only feel the good so far. Not the bad. Marcus said my sensitivity would become honed as time wore on."
"I suppose that theory would hold true," Edward mused. "Jasper said that when he first was changed, only major bursts of emotion were overwhelming. It took time to feel the subtle changes in someone's mood."
"And you?"
"Imagine a long hallway filled with people all talking at once..." he started, raising an eyebrow. I winced, my nose wrinkling at poor Edward having to hear that all the time. "It took a long time to narrow it down to one person, one mind...even one thought."
"Leave them alone, Herbert," Dottie scolded. "They already think I'm barking mad because I can't hold onto my things properly."
I snickered, looking over at Herbert. "Americans?" he asked, his eyes glinting with curiosity.
"Pay him no mind. He's too curious for his own good, he is." Dottie scowled at her husband.
"Yes, sir," Edward chuckled. "And really, it's quite all right."
"Whereabouts?" Herbert asked, ignoring his wife.
"The Pacific Northwest," Edward answered, turning my ring. He looked down at me, and I could suddenly see him remembering everything from our beginning. I watched as a soft, warm look caressed his face. I squeezed his hand and pulled it into my lap.
"So sweet, they are," Dottie crooned. Herbert opened his mouth to speak again. "Hush now, Herb. Let them enjoy themselves." His mouth snapped shut, but he pouted adorably next to her.
The lights went down, and the stage lit up as Edward smiled against my hand, placing a kiss to my ring. He leaned to my ear. "My life began in Forks, my beautiful girl," he sighed, kissing my neck. "Anything before that just doesn't matter."
I turned, pressing my forehead to his, and closing my eyes as to that amazing statement he'd made. He'd just negated a hundred years of knowledge and life. "I love you..."
"As I love you, Bella," he whispered, kissing my lips softly.
The music focused on Beethoven. Some songs I recognized, whether Edward had them on CD or had played them on the piano for me. Some songs were new to me, but he was kind enough to tell me what they were. A young man sat down to a beautiful grand piano and began Moonlight Sonata.
You play that better, I thought to Edward, looking up at his sweet face as he looked at me out of the corner of his eye. I'm just saying... You play that song better.
Edward leaned to me, a smirk playing on his face. "Biased, love."
I laughed, covering my mouth at the old joke between us. Any compliment Edward ever gave me, I usually told him he was biased. He started turning that around on me just to see me laugh.
The music was beautiful and so emotional, it was like you could see it in the room – like the notes were dancing around us. What was amazing was watching Edward absorb the music, lose himself in it. His fingers would twitch, like he was playing the notes on my knuckles.
There were multiple sides to my Edward, but his musician side would always be close to my favorite. He studied music, losing himself in all aspects of it – notes, cadence, passion, time. By the time the concert was over, he was as relaxed as I had seen him in a long time. He led me back out to wait for the car, his fingers tracing nondescript circles on my bare shoulder.
Once we were back in the car, I turned to him. "Thank you," I smiled, relishing his sweet face.
"I'm glad you liked it," he nodded. "I've always wanted to take you."
"Yes," he grinned, picking up my hand and kissing it without taking his eyes from the road. "Almost from the moment you first heard Claire de Lune in my car."
I giggled, shaking my head. "Mmm," I mused, "wonder what Charlie would've thought about two seventeen-year-old kids running off to England for one night."
He laughed, finally glancing over at me. "He would have shot me."
"Probably," I chuckled. "Good thing you're bulletproof."
He breathed deep, holding my hand up to his lips. "Yes...a good thing."
"What do you mean she won't speak, Helen?" Edward growled into his phone as we drove to the family home.
"She's asked for you, but I think it was due to the visitor that she had yesterday, Edward," Helen surmised into the phone. Apparently, Danielle was having a rough time at the hospital. "She's refusing food, liquids, and therapy."
"What visitor?"
"He said he was Danielle's father, but I just got the strangest feeling from him."
"What did he look like?"
"Large, balding...a bit of a neanderthal..."
Edward cursed, but it was low enough that I would be willing to bet that Helen didn't hear it. He turned to me, his eyes black with rage. "If she won't eat by tonight, at least put her on an IV. I'll stop by in the morning?" He posed the question to me, his brow wrinkling.
"Yeah. Go," I nodded. "We'll do something later together."
"Well, she said she would rather talk to you. Maybe if I tell her you're coming in the morning, she'll at least eat something." Helen's frustration was palpable, even through the phone. "I'll call you if anything changes."
"Thanks, Helen. And no visitors for her unless I'm there. I have a feeling she's not telling everything that has happened to her." Edward ended his call with a low growl.
"She's in serious trouble," I said, looking up at him, and he nodded. "How much abuse?"
"Too much," he frowned, turning into the Cullen driveway. He hit a button on a remote, and the gates opened. "More than you, actually." I flinched, but nodded in understanding. "I didn't mean..." He looked to me, his face completely repentant as he ran a hand through his hair.
"It's fine, Edward." I shook my head. "Does she have any place she can go?"
"I honestly don't know," he shrugged. "I'm thinking of foregoing the therapist and bringing in Carlisle, just so he can get a sense for her. I've already spoken to him about her."
"Well, he is really good at staying calm during that sort of conversation. Why is she asking for you?"
"I..." He glanced over to me after he parked the car in the driveway. "I may have talked about your situation a little. She thinks I understand. Sorry..."
"Don't be," I said, opening my door. "If it helps, then use it."
"You aren't upset?"
"Edward." I frowned, turning in front of him just before the steps of the house. "She's only thirteen. And she tried to kill herself. Obviously, she needs help. If my situation makes her at ease, then tell her the whole thing. She's too young to feel that trapped."
"You should do it," we heard behind us. We both looked up to see Carlisle standing there. "You should talk to her, Bells."
"Carlisle, I don't know," I hedged, walking up the steps.
"Come," he commanded. "Both of you. I want to talk to you before your mother steals you away."
We both snickered, following him up to his office. Carlisle rarely gave an order, but when he did, it was best to follow it.
He sat down behind his desk as we took our seats in front of him. "Edward, what have you told this girl?"
"Bella visited me the other day, and Danielle wanted to know who she was. I told her..." Edward frowned, sitting forward with his elbows on his knees. "She said that Bella was pretty, and I told her that I would let her know, that she didn't always see it," he smiled, giving me a wink when I snickered. "The conversation went from there. She had pulled her stitches out, and I just wanted to keep her talking. I said that Bella was my saving grace, so when she asked why, I told her a little about why Bella would tell her it was the other way around." He grinned, shaking his head at both mine and Carlisle's chuckles.
"Did you tell her about Bella's abuse?"
"Not in so many words, but from her mind, Danielle picked up on it. She's a very bright girl, just..."
"Hurting," I ended, and he nodded. "That's why she stayed around the night I was teaching Toby poker..."
"Maybe," Edward nodded. "She may see something in you, but her mind was pretty focused on beating Emmett." We all chuckled, shaking our heads.
"Oh yeah," I growled, "thanks for not cheating." He laughed, leaning over to kiss my cheek.
"I couldn't cheat," he smiled, "because Toby was watching my every move. He wanted to catch me."
"Good boy," I laughed.
"Bells, you really should talk to her," Carlisle said, tilting his head at me.
"It's like Wendy all over again," I muttered, frowning down at my hands. Wendy had been abused by her own father when we were in high school in Portland. We had found strength in each other. I just wasn't sure I could do it again.
"Sweetheart, you don't have to," Edward said, taking my hand in his.
"I suppose I could share with her, but I don't want to say the wrong thing." I looked between the two of them. "She sounds like she's barely keeping it together." I sighed, looking out the window. "And what story do I use...my father or Jake?"
"Jake," Edward answered. "I told her about leaving you behind with someone that hurt you."
"Oh," I said, turning to face him. "Blaming yourself?"
"A little," he nodded guiltily. "I can't help that, baby. And not seeing you all the time..."
"Look at me, you two," Carlisle smiled softly. "There isn't a couple I would put my faith into more to help this girl than you two. How does she stand health-wise?"
"Better," Edward nodded, swallowing thickly before turning his gaze away from me. "Her kidneys and liver are processing as they should, but I'm holding her anyway. Mainly because just when she starts to improve, she does something to keep from going home."
"She doesn't want to," I winced, remembering the day Danielle had pulled her own stitches out.
"No, she doesn't," Edward shook his head.
We were all quiet for a moment, until I realized they were waiting on me. I looked up and nodded. "Okay," I sighed. "I'll talk to her one time – to start with. I'll just say I was with you when you were called in," I said, turning to Edward.
"Good girl," Carlisle smiled. "Now, what else?"
I snorted, rolling my eyes. "You are not subtle anymore," I teased.
Edward chuckled with me, but said, "We are working on a schedule...we just started it."
"Excellent," Carlisle nodded. "Time for yourselves, time for us..."
"Yeah," I smiled. "And Esme's pacing in the hallway, so we better hurry."
"Mom!" Edward called her dramatically, and she was in the door and in his embrace in the blink of an eye.
"There they are," she beamed, kissing his forehead and my cheek, completely ignoring the fact that she was busted. "We have guests, you know..." I gasped, my face brightening.
"Fantastic," Edward smiled, both of us heading downstairs.
"Demitri!" I squealed, launching into his open arms. I loved him as much as I did my brothers, and he and Carina were missed terribly since they'd taken up residence in Volterra.
"There's the little one," he chuckled, kissing the top of my head. "Have I ever missed your happy face." He set me on my feet and shook Edward's hand as Carina and I hugged.
"How's Italy?" I asked, dragging Carina into the living room where all of my siblings were laughing at something Emmett was saying.
"Boring," she huffed, but smiled. "You have no idea how much we miss you guys."
"No kidding," Demitri chuckled, "but Marcus wanted me to tell you all hello. He would have come, but he's watching a situation in New York."
Edward's face darkened, his head tilting as he saw what Demitri was talking about. "Really? Newborns in Manhattan?"
"Who do they belong to?" Carlisle frowned, sitting down in the loveseat with Esme.
"We aren't sure yet," Demitri shrugged. "I was hoping to speak with my tiny little psychic," he smirked, looking over at Alice.
"New York," Jasper frowned, picking up Emmett's laptop and opening it. He would read the local headlines to try and spot a pattern.
"I haven't..." Alice started, but froze for a moment. "Yeah, nothing."
"We figured you would have let us know," Demitri nodded. "There are the normal disappearances and murders, so we weren't worried until a room full of completely drained people were discovered in the basement of an abandoned building."
"They're calling it a serial killer," Jasper mumbled, reading quickly. "But surely they can tell it's more than one person..."
"Humans are thick sometimes," Rose snorted. "Remember those videos a few years back. The truth was in their faces, and they thought it was fake."
"True," Emmett and I nodded together.
"Have you sent anyone yet?" Edward asked, linking my fingers with his.
"Yeah," Demitri nodded. "Agosto went a few days ago. I'm waiting for his call. Elena wanted to go, but she is still so new."
"You changed her," I gasped, looking at Carina and remembering the young girl with dark curly hair that worked the receptionist desk at the castle. She wanted so badly to be changed.
"She was...insistent," Carina snorted, rolling her eyes. "Marcus couldn't sway her either way, but at least she hasn't tasted human blood. She's a vegetarian. She worked with us for months after her change."
"How's she handling it?" Carlisle asked, trying his damnedest not to smile in pride.
"Excellent, actually," Demitri chuckled. "She hated the way Jane and Chelsea used to treat the humans, so she never wanted to hear the screams. It goes back to that meeting, Edward."
"I remember," my husband nodded. "She said that at least the animals wouldn't beg."
"She kept that in mind, I guess," Demitri shrugged. "But after Imelda's death, she became terrified of getting old."
"Damn," I sighed, leaning into Edward's shoulder. He lifted his arm and wrapped it around me, kissing my head.
"I'm sorry about her," Esme frowned. "That was a really good lady."
"She was," Carina smiled. "So stubborn. Oh, and she had one more thing for you, Bells." Carina got up and went to a bag that was sitting in the foyer, bringing back a package. "She insisted that I not mail it. That I bring it to you."
I sat up and opened it. Venom burned my eyes as I pulled out another peasant skirt. It was stunning. It was a gorgeous combination of blues and greens.
"Wow," Esme and Alice gasped, coming over to look at it.
"She worked really hard to finish that," Carina whispered, her voice thick with emotion.
A note fell out from the package, and Alice handed it to me.
I would have loved to have seen you before I wrote this, but there wasn't any time. For over twenty years, I've worked with your kind, and not one of them meant as much to me as you. You treated me with such kindness, such protection, that I will never forget it.
I worry what will become of my "children" when I'm gone, but knowing that there is someone like you, someone with a strong heart, a strong soul, gives me peace of mind.
I didn't leave much, but I wanted you to have this. The colors reminded me of you...peaceful, happy. And I hope that your long life is full of joy. Please, Beautiful Bella, don't be sad for me. Know that I am finally reunited with my love and my daughter. My eternity is different, but no less happy than yours.
Tell that handsome husband to never stop protecting you. He loves to do it. I could tell that from the minute I met him.
Your friend,
The sob that burst from me couldn't be helped, and Edward scooped me up. I hadn't really had a chance to mourn the little old lady that had become like a grandmother to me while we had stayed in Volterra. I dropped the letter as he walked me away from the room.
"Shh, love," he crooned as I buried my face in his neck.
I didn't get to tell her goodbye, I thought, gripping his biceps.
"I know, baby," he sighed, sitting down on the steps of the foyer. "I'm very sorry."
Did you know? Did you know she was ill?
"No, my love. She hid that amazingly well," he whispered, tucking my hair behind my ear. "But I also knew she wasn't young." I nodded against his neck, but still didn't lift my head. "She really saw you that way, though," he said quietly. "Like a flash of beautiful light in a room of darkness. She had seen many years of very ugly things." He caressed my face lightly. "She had never seen one of us so very happy. Our whole family, really."
I took a deep breath and lifted my head. I placed my hands on each side of Edward's beautiful face, pressing my forehead to his. It doesn't get easier, does it?
He shook his head slowly, his eyes wary, but he stayed silent. He saw that this moment was just for me, just between the two of us.
"I worry for you," he breathed, pulling me closer. "What happens when you live through the inevitable loss of family, close friends?"
I have you, our family. It will be...excruciating. But I belong right here, I thought, wrapping my arms around his neck. I don't know how to be me...and not hurt when I lose someone...it's overwhelming, Edward.
"It will always hurt," he sighed, looking up at me with such pain for me. It hurt him to see me upset. "But to see you...caged emotionally. I'm not sure what's worse, love."
I felt a wave of comfort, of brotherly love sweep over me, and I smiled slightly. "Thanks, Jazz."
"Anytime, kiddo," he called from the other room, but I could hear the smile in his voice.
Edward shook his head, kissing my lips softly. "Was it easier when I was with you all day?"
"Please, don't," I begged. "I will...without shame...pull everyone from that room to back me up," I growled at him. He smiled, shaking his head at their laughter from the other room. "You're really good at what you do. Do not make this about me."
"Tell him, Bells," Rose laughed.
"Edward, she will kick your ass," Alice chuckled. I laughed, wrapping my arms around his head when he buried his face in my neck.
"Hey...you know what we should do since Demitri and Carina are here?" Emmett boomed, running into the foyer like a child. "Open mic night!"
My face must have said it all, because Edward pulled back and studied it with an amused expression. I really wanted it – a night out with my siblings of just being silly. "Fine," he nodded, standing up from the step and setting me on my feet. "Set it up for tomorrow night. Bella and I will meet you there."
"You know what?" Esme sighed, walking up to me and handing my letter from Imelda back. "We're coming, too."
"Sweet!" Emmett beamed, wrapping an arm around my shoulders. "The whole fam-damn-ly is going." He looked down at me, a twinkle in his eye. "It's about damn time, don'tcha think?" I nodded with a chuckle. "Me, too. Now...come with me. It's about time we had a chat, Bells."


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