Tuesday, March 20, 2001 | By: Drotuno

An Angel's Promise Chapter 45 - Epilogue

CHAPTER 45: EPILOGUE
BELLA
Ireland – July
The waitress waited expectantly for me to order as I sat down alone in the small café in Dublin. I set my phone down, ordered a cup of tea, and sent her on her way.
My phone chirped another alert for a text message. It was Alice.
A: I see you coming home tomorrow. You can't fool me!
I chuckled softly to myself, shaking my head.
B: Yes, you're right, oh all-knowing one…
A: School starts soon. I see you going…so don't think you can get out of shopping!
I laughed again, setting my phone down and looking around the small café. It was cute, but I wondered why I was there. Edward had left me a note while I was in the shower, giving me details of where to meet him, but not why. When I came out, he was gone.
Currently, there were two young men on a small impromptu stage in the far corner of the room. They were playing what sounded like local Irish classics on acoustic guitars, because everyone around me seemed to be singing along with them.
It was comforting, calm, but I felt like I stuck out like a sore thumb, because I was alone.
"Thank you," I told the waitress as she dropped off my cup. I wrapped my hands around it, just to feel its warmth. I dunked the bag, added sugar, and stirred—a habit that just kept me moving in the eyes of the few humans that were staring my way. Otherwise, I could sit absolutely still, but that seemed to unnerve them more than the way I looked.
As I barely ignored some stares and listened to the gentlemen in the corner start another song, I thought over the last few months.
We'd truly found a little rhythm to our down time after coming home from Volterra. We'd stayed completely locked away in our little house for a solid week, only coming out once to hunt. The following week, we started slowly working in time with the family, time with the sweet little old lady across the street, and even a visit or two to the hospital, where Carlisle had gone back to work.
It didn't take long for Edward and me to begin to talk about small trips we wanted to take. I didn't want to go far, and Edward would hand me the world on a silver platter, so we made a list of short trips. It was places he'd seen and wanted to show me, or places I'd read about but had never had the chance to see, or just something neither of us knew anything about—which was rare for Edward, but believe it or not, it was possible.
The first trip was the farthest we went. I knew the risk, and he'd tried to tell me that anything we did would have to be done at night, but I'd wanted it anyway.
Egypt. It was fucking fascinating! But Edward had been right, because it was a damn sunny place, and we couldn't go anywhere in the daylight. It didn't matter, though. It was perfect, because a strong, loving hand was wrapped around mine everywhere we went.
However, it was the first time I truly felt like a night creature. We'd waited until sunset, only to traipse out into the desert to see the pyramids, tombs, and the Sphinx, of course. We'd had to manage our time almost to the minute, in order to be inside by the sunrise.
Edward showed me everything, including a few museums that weren't truly open at night.
I smiled to myself as the gentlemen continued to play, because the funniest debate came out of one trek into a closed museum in the dead of night in Cairo.
~o~
"Edward, you'll set off an alarm or something…start some war," I hissed as his knowing fingers flicked open a lock, disabled a keypad, and opened the back door.
"Never." He grinned like a naughty child, tugging me into a back hallway.
"This is so wrong," I chuckled softly, shaking my head, but I took his hand anyway, because he could lead me to hell with his crooked smile, his warm eyes, and his…
"Please, love?" he begged.
"Just…" I started to reprimand him, but damn it, if he wasn't adorable standing there with his head tilted just enough to make me swoon internally. I sighed in defeat, waving him on. "Go, baby."
His smile at that could have lit up the entire desert like a nuclear bomb. "Good," he said, beaming.
We didn't need lights to see, so we wandered around the museum for quite some time, until the question I had couldn't be ignored anymore.
"If we exist, then did these guys ever walk around?" I asked, pointing to a mummy in its sarcophagus.
Edward's eyebrows rose up, looking from me to the mummy and back to me. "I can't imagine it," he chuckled, shaking his head.
"Yeah, but…" I sighed, clearly not understanding, or maybe I'd seen The Mummy way too many times with the girls—all because it was filled with hot guys. Brendan Fraser and Oded Fehr were damn beautiful, and my sisters called it the eye candy movie.
"Bella, they buried them like this so that their souls wouldn't stick around," he said with more patience than I was prepared for. "I don't know if those old stories or legends are true. I understand you may think that way," he said softly, cupping my face. "We shouldn't exist, in all reality…we have no…um, functioning nervous systems, no beating heart, no blood circulating, yet we walk, talk…love," he crooned, brushing his lips softly across mine. "We've also seen shapeshifters…Jake and the pack, so I get where this is coming from. If all that exists, then did they?"
"Right," I huffed, nodding slowly, and he reached up to rub the worry from between my brows.
"I don't know, baby," he said with a shrug, leading us on. "And yes, you watch those movies way too much," he growled playfully, pointing a long finger at me.
I giggled, grabbing at his hand. "No, we don't," I argued.
"You do," he chuckled. "Don't think I don't know the…guy…that man in black… You know the one with the tattoos under his eyes…" he huffed, gesturing to his face, "…reminds you girls of Demitri…"
I laughed, covering my mouth with my own hand, which only caused my so very handsome husband to chuckle at me.
"He does," I giggled, shrugging. "We can't help it. They have the same hair…"
"It's the accent, too, sweet girl," he growled in my ear, and moved us on to the next exhibit. "If I didn't know better, I'd be jealous…but I know what you think about while watching those movies."
"Don't say it," I growled, tugging him along. "I can't help it. Brendan Fraser's character reminds me of you…cranky at first, and then heroic. Sue me, Edward…"
~o~
I grinned down at my phone at the memory of that first trip, flipping through some of the pictures.
We were only in Egypt for a few days, just enough to see what we wanted—the major tourist attractions. We went back home again after that to spend time with the family.
Mrs. Baxter had become quite dependent on Edward and me since our return from Italy. He said that she was lonely and a little scared now that her husband had died, so we did our best to be there for her when we could. Anything too heavy or too taxing for her, Edward took care of for her, with unending patience and a sweet, sweet smile on his face.
We were cleaning up her yard after a fairly windy storm, when we finally talked about her.
~o~
"Isabella, I made some tea. Would you like some?" the sweet old lady called from her kitchen window.
"No, thank you," I said with a smile, picking up a few dead branches that had fallen in her flower bed.
"Let me know," she said, closing the window.
"You let her call you Isabella," Edward noted, adding more dead limbs to the pile at the end of the driveway.
"You do, too, sometimes," I giggled.
"Only when you're in trouble," he growled with a wicked smirk.
"Shut up!" I laughed, throwing a handful of leaves at him.
He chuckled, looking over at me. "Seriously, why?"
"She reminds me of Charlie's mom. A lot," I said, grimacing a little. "She used to call me by my full name. I didn't mind it from her. And I guess I don't mind it from Mrs. Baxter, either." I shrugged, looking up at him. "If we're asking questions, then why are you doing so much for her? You wouldn't normally do this for someone else."
Edward took a deep breath, leaning on the rake he'd been using. "She's alone. She's across the street. Her children are grown and rarely have time to visit. She needs someone to care."
I studied his face, because I knew him inside and out. I knew every worried expression, every happy expression, but this was an expression that told me he was withholding something from me.
"Tell me," I urged softly.
He took another deep breath, looking down at his sneakers. "She feels needed with us, Bella. In her eyes, we're a young couple, and she feels maternal towards us. She likes it. Needs it. Without it…" He grimaced, his eyes slightly wary.
"She has nothing," I finished for him.
"Right." He nodded once, looking at me.
"There's more, Edward. Spill it."
"She's not healthy. And she's scared, love."
"Okay," I sighed, nodding in understanding. "And she knows you're a doctor."
"Yes, ma'am."
"Then we're here for her," I stated, giving a voice to the nod he was giving me.
I was going to let it go, but he had more to say.
"Before you," he started, his eyes looking a touch cold, but distant with memories, "I wouldn't have…cared what humans did or went through. I had my own problems, you know?" He wrinkled his nose, looking out across the street to our own home. "But watching you help people without question, without reservations—just simply because it was the right or kind thing... Well, it was part of the reason I went back to the hospital last year."
He looked uncomfortable with that admission, but I'd never loved him more than I did at that moment. Edward was helping Mrs. Baxter because it was the right thing, and I knew him well enough that he was always searching for that elusive karmic forgiveness for just being a creature he thought was soulless.
"You have an amazing heart, Edward," I told him, going back to work to clean up our neighbor's lawn.
"Yeah, but you showed me how to use it…" he mumbled, ending the conversation, because Mrs. Baxter came out to join us.
~o~
We stayed home for the next few weeks after Egypt, after cleaning up Mrs. Baxter's front garden. The little old woman caught the flu, and Edward kept a distant, but very observant watch over her.
Once she started to feel better, we talked about the next small trip…Scotland. I sighed, rolling my eyes at the memory of that trip.
Who knew that Scottish boys were so bold? And who knew that my husband would just about lose his grip on his temper? His hold on it was tenuous, at best, anyway, but a flirty young fisherman tested him, and I thought for sure I'd have to use my shield in public.
~o~
Edward had wanted to show me castles and the beautiful country side, and we'd done just that, wandering all over the Highlands, finally making our way back to Edinburgh, just before leaving to come home. We were walking along the shoreline and up and down docks, when my husband stepped away to speak with a boat captain about renting his boat for the evening. It was just a whim, but he wanted to try.
I smelled the guy before I saw him. He smelled like salt, sea, fish, sweat – it was a potent smell, if I'd ever smelled it. I was leaning on the dock railing when he approached me.
"The name's James," he said, holding out his hand.
His name alone set my nerves on edge. It wasn't that he was a bad guy. I was sure he was a fine fisherman and a nice guy, but there was something about him that made me anxious, and I figured it out damn soon. He'd waited for Edward to step away.
Whether that made him smart or an opportunist, I had no idea—probably both—but he tried his best to be charming.
"Hi, James," I said, smiling politely, but not giving him much to go on.
"You're too pretty to be out in this weather," he stated, gesturing with his hand. "American?"
"Yeah, and the weather doesn't bother me," I told him, turning back to the water.
It was overcast and misty, reminding me an awful lot of Forks. It had been like that all day in Edinburgh, and it had been a welcome change to be able to wander around during the day time, but apparently, James was worried about my fragile state.
I studied his face as he babbled on and on, his accent so thick that I could barely understand half the things he was saying. James was handsome in his own right, well built with a pretty set of hazel eyes, but he kept inching forward, trying to touch my hand. He was funny, but a little pathetic at his attempts to get me to flirt back. That wasn't happening.
"James," I sighed, finally having to stop him. "Look, I'm sure you're a great guy, but tonight is my last night here. I just want to find my husband and get back to our hotel, okay?"
I turned around and began to leave. As much as I was sure James meant no real harm, I didn't want Edward to see this, but it was too late, because he was standing a few feet up the long dock. And then James made the worst mistake. He finally touched me.
I felt my eyes flash black when a warm hand landed on my shoulder. Damn, I hated to be touched without permission. When I looked up at Edward, the same angry black look locked with mine.
"Bella?" he said, a forced smile on his face that went nowhere near his black, ire-filled eyes.
James' hand wavered for just a moment, and I saw his head snap up from the corner of my eye.
"You want to let her go?" Edward asked, his growl barely kept at bay. "Now?"
The uncomfortable warmth left my shoulder, and I took a few paces towards Edward. But I stopped when James spoke again.
"It was nice meeting you…Bel-la," he said, my name coming out in an immature, sing-song way. "Next time you're through this way, I'll take you out on my boat," he chuckled, pointing to the vessel tied up next to us.
I looked over at it, and then up at James. Finally, my hand was picked up by strong, familiar, long fingers.
"Did she give you any indication that she was interested?" Edward asked, and I flinched, because he was using that eerily calm voice he used when he was trying to intimidate, trying to scare someone.
It totally worked. James shrugged and took a step back, covering it up by leaning casually on the dock rail.
"Did you, my love?" Edward asked me softly in my ear.
"No," I sighed, looking up at him. "In fact, I was just telling him I wanted to find you and go back to our hotel, baby."
Edward looked smugly at me. "No boat?"
"Nah," I said with a small smile.
"Then let's go, Mrs. Cullen," he chuckled, ignoring the fact that James was watching the whole thing.
Edward froze momentarily, his eyes flashing black, and I realized that James had just thought something totally uncalled for.
"Oh, damn," I groaned so softly, only my Edward could hear it. "What?"
Before he could answer, James called his buddy over. "Hey, Glen, remember that night in Glasgow?" he asked, looking me up one side and down the other.
"Yeah," his friend called from the boat, but didn't join us.
"Doesn't this one remind you of her?" he chuckled.
Glen's head shot up from the net he was working on, and a frown darkened his features. "No, Jimmy, leave them be, and get your sorry ass back to work. We have to unload this haul before dark, you git."
"Too bad you're married, Bel-la," he sang again. "The things I could show you… Things pretty boy over there has no idea about…"
I laughed. I couldn't help it, because my pretty boy was quite the handful naughty-wise all on his own, but my laugh was cut off when Edward moved towards the man.
"Edward, stop," I hissed, gripping his arm. "So not worth it. Really." I leaned to whisper in his ear. "Take me back to the hotel, baby. He's got nothing on you, handsome. You can show me all sorts of naughty things…"
Edward grinned, his eyes flickering to mine as his deadly tongue snaked out to drag across his bottom lip. "Yeah?" he verified, raising a sexy ass eyebrow at me.
"Oh, yeah," I chuckled, kissing his cheek. "He smells like cat food, Edward…"
That did it. Edward barked a laugh, shaking his head and taking my hand in his. He brought his lips to my wedding ring and kissed it reverently.
He barely glanced at James before we left, whispering in my ear the most deliciously dirty things as we walked back to the hotel.
~o~
"Excuse me," the sweetest, most soothing voice said softly at my side. I looked up to see my Edward standing there, guitar case in hand. "May I please set this here for the moment?"
I fought my smile and won. So that was the game we were playing. I wasn't supposed to know the hot, young musician in the Irish café.
"Sure, not a problem," I said with a smile, but my habit of biting my bottom lip always came out when it came to him, because he was so handsome and sure of himself, it sometimes made me feel lovesick and nervous and just plain head over heels for him.
"Thank you," he murmured, giving me one last glance, before turning towards the tiny stage in the corner.
He smiled softly, with a nod of his head, leaving his guitar case in the chair next to mine. As he walked away from me, I noted how he was dressed – typical carefree young man, with black jeans and t-shirt, and interestingly enough, a black and gray plaid button down with the sleeves rolled up.
But it was the guitar he was using that made me tilt my head at him. It wasn't the most recent one I'd picked out when we were in New York; it was the one he'd had when he came home to me. It was the one he'd bought while he was away from me for two years.
Without saying anything, he began to play softly, the breath catching in my throat.
"Oh, Edward," I sighed to myself, shaking my head, but I smirked at him anyway. He never forgot anything.
Forever can never be long enough for me
To feel like I've had long enough with you
Forget the world now we won't let them see
But there's one thing left to do
Now that the weight has lifted
Love has surely shifted my way
Marry Me
Today and every day
Marry Me
If I ever get the nerve to say "Hello" in this cafe
Say you will
Mm-hmm
Say you will
Mm-hmm
Together can never be close enough for me
Feel like I am close enough to you
You'll wear white and I'll wear out the words I love you
And you're beautiful
Now that the wait is over
And love and has finally shown her my way
Marry me
Today and every day
Marry me
If I ever get the nerve to say "Hello" in this cafe
Say you will
Mm-hmm
Say you will
Mm-hmm

Promise me
You'll always be
Happy by my side
I promise to
Sing to you
When all the music dies

And marry me
Today and everyday
Marry me
If I ever get the nerve to say "Hello" in this cafe
Say you will
Mm-hmm
Say you will
Marry me
Mm-hmm
I wasn't sure it was possible to love him more, but I did. He was so vulnerable up there, singing softly, a sweet smile planted on his face as he would watch his hands and not me. His long eyelashes would rest against his skin when he closed his eyes, while his errant hair fell to his forehead. His long fingers moved effortlessly on the guitar, as the music softly wafted around me.
I couldn't believe he was singing the words he'd spoken, just a month prior. How he found a song that said the most perfect thing, I'd never know.
~o~
We were in Germany, leaving Berlin and heading into the countryside to hunt. Edward had rented a motorcycle while we were here, and we'd pulled over just to admire the view. We were sitting on a low rock wall, overlooking hills and valleys. Edward was sitting behind me, his fingers playing with my wedding ring, while he hummed softly in my ear.
"Do you regret how you ended up proposing to me?" I asked, smiling as he chuckled.
"You mean the Tanya thing?" he clarified.
"Yeah…I mean, what were your plans?" I giggled, turning to look at him, but he didn't let my hand go.
He smiled softly, shaking his head. "You said yes. Isn't that all that counts?"
I laughed, kissing his chin. "Come on. I know you had a plan, Edward."
He took a deep breath, looking a little embarrassed at having been put on the spot. "It was almost Christmas. After that disaster of a party," he started, snorting humorlessly, because Tanya had kissed him at the worst time ever, "our family was going to leave us. Alice knew what I had planned, so she was making them all go, but she kept my secret." He paused, leaning in to kiss my forehead. "I was going to take you to my room, light candles, and give you my mother's ring then. I would have gotten down on one knee and asked you properly.
"I'm not sure I'd do it that way, if I had a do-over," he continued, brushing a strand of hair from my face. "I hated that you were upset about…Tanya," he growled softly, rolling his eyes. "But you were so beautiful, even in tears. You told me that seeing me with someone else was your worst nightmare. I knew then that you loved me so very much, that it didn't matter how I asked you."
"You're right," I told him. "I'm just glad you did."
"Me, too, baby," he whispered against my lips. "I'd ask you every day, just to hear you say yes, my sweet, beautiful girl. It was one of the best days of my existence when you said you'd be my wife."
~o~
"May I join you?" The velvet voice I heard in front of me caused my body to shiver.
I snapped out of my memory, to see Edward standing there, still playing a stranger. I smiled, nodding to the chair beside mine.
"Sure," I said, watching him put his guitar away. "You play well."
"Thank you." He smiled, almost shyly. "I have a great muse…"
I bit my lip to fight my smile, looking away from him, and noticed that he was getting stares from all over the café. Oh, the groupies never went away, but they couldn't have him.
"That must be some muse to bring talent out like that," I said, flirting shamelessly.
"She's damn near perfect," he chuckled, holding out his hand. "I didn't get a chance to introduce myself before. I'm Edward Cullen."
My breath caught, and I could have cried at the special memory he was replaying. I blinked hard, shaking my head at him, but reaching out to take his hand. "Bella Swan," I whispered, swallowing thickly. My eyes burned at the need to shed a tear that couldn't fall.
"Well, Bella Swan, what brings you here?"
"This café? Or Ireland in general?" I asked, smirking at him, but leaned my elbow on the table to be able to set my chin on my hand.
"Yes."
I grinned, looking down at my now cold tea. "I was invited here…to this café."
"But you're alone," he countered.
"Not anymore," I chuckled.
"Oh, she states the obvious," he muttered to himself, but he was too adorable with his smile down at his lap. "And Ireland?"
"Holiday," I answered, losing myself in his sweet, amber gaze. He may have been playing a stranger, but he never looked at me like one. He couldn't do it.
He smiled, nodded, and shrugged, obviously hearing my thoughts, but he went on. "Then I only have how long until you take your beautiful presence away from me?"
"That depends," I snickered.
"On?"
"How long have you got?" I giggled.
"Forever," he sighed, his eyes darkening just a touch.
"Good answer," I laughed, shaking my head.
"I try. Did you like the song?"
"I did. It reminds me of something," I mused dramatically, tapping my chin. "A conversation I had most recently."
"Ah, and I just happened to sing about it."
"You did. Uncanny." I grinned, wanting nothing more than to climb into his lap.
Right then, I saw his struggle. His brow furrowed, his arms shifted, and his smile widened. He almost welcomed me into his embrace.
"Did you mean the words you sang?"
"Every word."
"She's very lucky, your muse," I stated, nodding one time.
"She's beautiful. I'm the lucky one," he replied, shrugging.
"I think one line in the song was wrong. You can't wear out 'I love you' or 'you're beautiful,'" I told him.
"I'm gonna try," he chuckled. "Until she tells me to stop."
"She won't. No woman in her right mind would stop that," I laughed, tucking my hair behind my ear.
"She must be crazy to put up with me, I think."
"Oh, now, you can't be all that bad. You're awfully handsome. You're quite the romantic…with the music and singing. You obviously have decent hygiene, because you smell good. Are you homeless, jobless?" I giggled.
"No, I…do okay," he chuckled.
"Um, do you have some mental disorder I can't see?"
"She accused me once of having multiple personalities," he snickered, tilting his head at me.
"Ah, well…we all have moments we aren't ourselves. Let's see. Are you a criminal?"
"I've never been arrested," he said, choosing his words carefully, and I almost laughed out loud.
"No, I bet you haven't. Then she's not crazy…she's chosen pretty well, from what I can tell."
"What about you?" he asked, switching gears on me. "You said you were invited, but where is he?"
"Oh, I'm sure he's around someplace," I sighed, shrugging. "He's never let me down before."
"Never?" he countered with a raised eyebrow.
My gaze snapped up to meet his, and his face was serious. He really wanted an answer.
"Once," I said quietly. "But he'll never do it again."
"What did he do?"
"Broke up with me…a long time ago, said I wasn't good enough for him."
"I can't imagine. Must've been the other way around."
"That's what he said when he came back."
"Did you make him beg? Crawl on his knees?" Edward asked, a smirk on his face. "You should have."
"No," I sighed, smiling at my hands. "I didn't make him beg. I didn't need him to beg."
"What did you need?"
"For him to love me again," I whispered, shaking my head. "That's it. Everything else was inconsequential."
"I'm sure he never stopped," Edward said, leaning forward and taking my hand. "And from the looks of things, he got smart," he chuckled, turning my wedding ring.
"Let's just say he learned his lesson," I teased, biting my bottom lip again when Edward laughed.
"Oh, I'm quite sure he did," he said, his smile so beautiful. "Where are you staying?"
"A hotel a few blocks away."
"Me, too. May I give you a ride, Miss Swan?"
"Bella. Call me Bella," I corrected him. "And yeah, that'd be great."
Edward stood from the table, dropping a few bills on the table and picking up his guitar. He offered me his hand, and I took it, letting him guide us outside.
Somehow, I'd lost track of time, the night having completely descended. He led me to the passenger side of the rental car, but it was the painful sound of his voice that made me spin in his arms.
"Bella…" he whispered, tugging my hand.
"Edward," I groaned, launching myself into his arms, my mouth meeting his.
I found my back pressed into the side of the car. And never one to miss an opportunity, I wrapped my arms and legs around him to get him closer.
"I never stopped, baby. I swear to God," he panted against my neck, his head finally falling to my shoulder as he hugged me close.
"I know," I soothed him, running my fingers through his hair. "I didn't, either."
"I love you…so fucking much, Bella," he groaned, planting kisses to my neck.
"Take us home, Edward."
~oOoOo~
EDWARD
"Aw, no, Carlisle, really?" my girl whined, and I couldn't help but laugh. "You couldn't find another school in the entire city of London that didn't have uniforms?"
"It's a perfectly good school, ladies," Carlisle said, covering our asses. We owed him big time. "Private prep school…it's a large school, too. You'll blend in better…"
"We don't blend," Bella laughed humorlessly, shaking her head. "We just…are."
"Relax, little sis," Emmett snorted. "You girls will freakin' rock the pleated skirt."
"That's so twisted," Alice muttered, shooting a deadly glare at Jasper, who was looking completely impassive, but his mind was hilarious. "They're probably lovin' this shit…"
"They are. Look at their faces, Alice," Bella growled, jerking her chin my way. "Edward, did you do this?"
"No, ma'am," I lied smoothly, knowing she was most likely seeing right through me. "Carlisle set up the school for us while we were in Ireland, my love."
Yeah, she was totally seeing through me, because Jasper's thoughts confirmed it.
Dude, she's totally gonna kick your ass, he thought with a silent laugh. She's radiating distrust…but you'll live, because she's also highly amused.
Emmett, Jasper, and I all tried to play innocent, but it didn't work. The girls may not have known everything, but they knew us well enough to see we weren't complaining about private school. At all.
"Pervs," Rose snarled, rolling her eyes. "I hope you choke on the ties you have to wear."
All the girls huffed, walking out of the room and heading upstairs of the family home.
"Pay up," Carlisle chuckled silently, holding out his hand. "I told you they'd place blame on me. If they find out, you boys are toast."
We all slapped fifties into his hand with a smile. It was totally worth it.
"I should tell them," Esme giggled, rolling her eyes at us. "But it's much more fun to watch you boys squirm."
I smirked, shaking my head. "We'll be fine. It is the better school," I said, trying to sound diplomatic. "It's big, everyone dresses the same, and maybe we will blend in."
"It's across town, too," Carlisle added, but he was still smiling. "That makes it easier for you guys to live the way you want. Edward and Bella can keep their house, the rest of you can stay here. If Alice plans parties or anything, you can use this place."
"Thanks, Carlisle," Emmett whispered, slapping his back.
"Edward Anthony Masen Cullen! Get your butt upstairs! Now!" Bella's voice rang out from our room on the third floor room, making me jump.
I ignored the laughter from my brothers, father, and mother, racing up the stairs. I opened the door to see what she was pissed about.
"Damn," I sighed, trying to fight my smile.
"You think this is funny?" she asked, turning and pointing to the canopy bed, where I'd set out the complete uniform for her…or me; I wasn't sure which.
"I…well, I just thought…maybe you'd want to see the new uniform, love," I said, failing miserably at sounding innocent.
She smirked, shook her head, and started walking towards me. For the first time ever, I feared for my balls.
"Edward, I'm not stupid," she whispered, placing her hands on my chest. "I'm so aware that this school was your idea. Want to know how I know?"
I stayed silent, not admitting anything. And I stayed utterly still, because her fingers were tracing awfully close to something I deemed quite important. She grazed her nails over the front of my zipper, and I inhaled sharply.
"I know…because I used your phone the other day," she said smoothly, her thumb circling the button of my jeans. "And you know what I found?" She paused, waiting for me, but I was silent. "I found an email from Carlisle, so you're busted, Mr. Cullen."
I groaned. "Bella, I…"
"Don't," she whispered, placing a finger on my lips. "I know you've wanted this. What I didn't know was that your brothers had the same…um, perversion," she chuckled.
I smiled, biting my lip and shaking my head. "Good school…we'll fit in," I continued to lie.
"Right," she laughed. "Okay, fine. Then that…" she said, pointing back to the bed, "…can wait. You'll wait until the first day of school…just like your brothers."
It was at that moment that I heard the whine and groan from my brothers just downstairs. They were being told the same thing. The girls knew all along, despite the fact that we'd been damn diligent on not making a specific decision in order to throw Alice off.
"Okay, so maybe I should have discussed it with you," I hedged, sounding just as whiny as Jasper and Emmett at that moment. "But you've never said no to private school…just boarding and Catholic schools…"
She snorted, fighting her smile and shaking her head. "You're right, baby. I didn't. And I don't have a really big issue with this, but you do realize, you're sending the three of us into that school looking like every dirty teacher's wet dream."
I froze, not sure whether I should be as turned on as I was by hearing the words "wet dream" fly out of my sweet girl's mouth so smoothly. I felt the pounding of footsteps up to our room. The door burst open, and my sisters came into the room to stand beside Bella with folded arms, my brothers hot on their trail.
"Oh hell no!" Emmett growled, pointing to Rose. "We're changing schools, then. No asshole is gonna…"
"Shut it," Jasper sighed, rolling his eyes. "It's too late. Orientation is tomorrow, you dolt."
"This is actually a good thing," my Bella chirped, sounding awfully happy about this, which made me a little nervous. "It saves me from having to go shopping, really." She looked over at Rose and Alice, who were nodding and shrugging in agreement.
I was a dead man, because if they were okay with not shopping, they were totally going to punish us for this stunt.
What I realized for the very first time was that I was in deep shit. I used to ignore it when my brothers would pull things like this, but this time I was in on it, and it felt…good. No longer did I stand back and watch them do things just to get into trouble, and now I could understand why. It was hilarious, first of all, and second, the girls were stunning when they were pissed.
I laughed, shaking my head. "Look, ladies," I sighed, holding up my hands in surrender. "I get it, you're all mad that we didn't consult you on the…dress code of the new school. But it's not like we don't dress for you whenever you've asked us to."
"Yeah," Emmett and Jasper agreed at the same time, nodding like fools.
"Or play music, or go shopping, or put on anything that you set out for us… It's only fair, girls," I reasoned, hoping to hell that they let us off the hook, because there was no going back at this late stage. We were registered.
"No fighting at the first sign of staring," Rose stated, pointing to Emmett. "I don't care what you see or hear. You picked this…you deal with it."
"'Kay," we agreed.
"No manipulation of emotions, Jazz. I don't care what you feel from them. You can't suddenly make a guy horny for the janitor," Alice growled.
"Yes, ma'am," he said with a nod to his head.
"And Edward Anthony, one word about what someone is thinking…and I swear you'll regret it. You made this bed…lie in it, got me?" Bella said firmly.
"Bella, I can't…promise that…" I growled, running a hand through my hair. "You know that."
She smirked, putting her hands on her hips. "Try."
I pouted, knowing I was setting myself up for failure, because she was going to look amazing…every day. She was going to look like sin in knee-high socks. "I'll try, baby…that's all I can say. If someone is a threat…"
She giggled, rolling her eyes. "No more threats, got it, guys? If we want to stay here a while, then we need to behave. No fighting, no jealousy, no standing out. Yes?"
She was right, as usual.
"I want to stay for a while, Edward," she urged, her face more serious. "Can we try? Please?"
I watched my sisters nod with her in agreement, both totally serious. I looked to my brothers, who looked like they'd been kicked. We'd started this as a testosterone-filled joke, but we didn't take into account that this was the first real try at fitting in a very long time. New York was a necessity due to the fighting. The last time we'd truly tried to fit in was when we all went to Dartmouth with Bella, and that had been brilliant. Even the move to Portland had been because we were needed closer to Forks and the pack, thanks to Felix's antics.
This time, we were safe—no more threats, no more fighting, and no more looking over our shoulders. This truly would be the chance to go back to something that we could consider normal. England was the first place with the most perfect weather for us, since leaving Forks. My family was whole, completely without bloodlust now. And we all wanted to settle in.
"Yes, ma'am," I finally conceded, nodding and shoving my hands into my pockets.
~oOoOo~
"What car, sweet girl?" I asked, standing at the front door.
"The Volvo, of course," she called from upstairs at our house.
I grinned, taking the keys off the hook. "Of course, what was I thinking?" I chuckled, shaking my head at her laugh from above me.
It was the first day of school. The first day we were going to do this long term for the first time since Dartmouth. We decided to use some of the names we'd used in New York. Alice and Bella wanted to use Swan again, because it fit them perfectly—Charlie found that very amusing. Emmett and I were going to keep Cullen, like we had in Dartmouth—brothers, and the only adopted children of Carlisle and Esme. And Jasper and Rose both opted for Hale, just like they'd used in Forks. It was perfect—three sets of siblings, three last names.
Jasper, Alice, Bella, and I were starting as sophomores. Emmett and Rose were juniors. This would give us plenty of time left in the area, and give my beautiful girl a chance to relax in one place for a while.
"Baby, we gotta go," I called, turning when I heard her bounding down the stairs. "Oh damn," I sighed, shaking my head. "You look like…heaven, hell, and all things in between…"
She laughed, stopping on the bottom step. My eyes raked over her, starting with the baby doll shoes, to the white, knee-high socks, to the short, blue plaid, pleated skirt, finally ending on the fitted, white, button down shirt that just made her chest look that much more amazing.
"Your fault, Edward," she snorted. "Live with it. One mention of pigtails…"
I laughed, shaking my head. "Hell, no. I like it down, love."
"Come here," she sighed, rolling her eyes. "You know, I used to think you were just the most perfect thing," she said with a sweet wink, "but now that I'm your wife, I see the real you, Edward."
"What?" I laughed.
"How is it a doctor two times over, with the strength of twenty men, and a mind reader, for God sakes, can't seem to get his socks into the laundry hamper, or tie his tie straight?" she asked with the sweetest of giggles as she straightened my tie.
"I don't know," I chuckled, running a hand through my hair. "That's why I have you."
"Maybe." She grinned, tilting her gorgeous head at me. She was at face level, due to the fact that she was on the step above me. She leaned in, kissing my lips softly. "I love you," she whispered, pulling back to press my tie straight one more time.
"Oh, sweet girl, I love you, too." I wrapped my arms around her waist, pulling her flush to me. "Are you nervous? It is the first day…"
She smiled, brushing my hair from my forehead and placing a kiss there. "No."
"Really?" I asked, completely shocked, because she usually was pretty nervous on the first day of any school.
"Yeah…I'm ready for this. I know parts will be boring and parts annoying, but I'd like to stay here as long as we can."
"This is how it should have been after Dartmouth, baby," I told her, swaying her back and forth. "Without emergencies or fighting, this is what it should have been. Just…"
"Boring?" she giggled.
"Yeah," I sighed. "How sad is it that I'm looking forward to boring?"
"Me, too." She smiled, pressing her forehead to mine. "We should go, handsome."
"Rules, Bella," I said, smiling at her groan. "Carlisle wanted me to remind you…"
"Don't let anyone touch me if it can be helped. Tell you or someone at once if something makes me uncomfortable…like scents or unusual feelings in my shield. Remember our story."
"What's our story, love?"
"Carlisle was the attending doctor the night of an apartment fire in Chicago. Alice and I lost our dad, and Rose and Jasper lost their mother. Carlisle and Esme took us in as foster kids. You and Emmett were already adopted…when you were babies," she said, grinning. "I got this, Edward."
"You do, my sweet girl," I laughed.
She hung onto my neck as I dragged her across to the front door, her toes skimming the tiles.
I chuckled at her. "This is it, baby. It's a different life now. I've lived it more times than I can count."
"Yeah, but this time, you have me," she said with a sweet grin.
"Thank God for that," I sighed, kissing her, before setting her on her feet.
As I shut and locked our front door, I thought back to the first day I'd attended Forks High. Bella hadn't arrived yet, and wouldn't until the middle of the next year. It seemed mundane, boring, a repetitive life. It was dark, without light, my life filled with the same thing over and over. I watched my siblings somewhat make the best of it, but I never could. I just trudged through it, never expecting things to change.
And then this bright shining star, with sweet, expressive brown eyes and chestnut hair crashed into my life, setting everything that I thought I knew aflame, burning it, because as of that moment, I never needed to look back. She was my life, my everything, my future.
A sense of déjà vu came over me as I let my girl into the car, and I smiled, walking to the driver's side. I'm sure it had everything to do with the Volvo and school and the small hand linking her fingers with mine. Some things stayed the same, because they were the parts that we could cling to in this life.
I kissed the back of her hand, thinking that things also changed. In our case, it was for the better. All of it. We were stronger, better people since we'd met. We'd seen things most people never dreamed of seeing—both good and bad. We were each other's best friend, partner, mate, and spouse.
And I, for one, was glad that we could take this next step together with a different outlook. It wouldn't be boring; it would be calm. It wouldn't be mundane; it would give us a chance to stay in one place long enough to have a life. And this time, I wouldn't trudge through it; I'd be right beside the best thing that ever happened to me.
"I love you, Bella Swan," I chuckled, pulling out of our driveway.
She smiled, leaning over and kissing my cheek. "Love you, too, Edward Cullen."


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