Saturday, August 18, 2012 | By: Drotuno

Coming Home Chapter 168 - Edward


Jacksonville... Thursday, November 25, 2010 at 6:46 A.M.

I took a long sip of coffee, staring out over the water. I hadn't wanted to disturb Bella. Her mother had kept her up late chattering about every topic known to man. My girl had handled it with grace, placating her mother until a yawn came out of her mouth with every other word. It was then I'd excused us to bed. Bella hadn't exactly protested.

It would be an understatement to say that Renee was not what I was expecting. At all. She was a little oblivious, a whole lot of everywhere at once, and she really, truly adored her daughter. But if I had to guess, she actually admired Bella for all the things she wasn't – calm, settled, and at ease in her own skin. But that was merely my theory from being with them for a little less than twenty-four hours. My guard was still up around the woman, not only because I needed to be accepted by Bella's mother, but also because I hated, absolutely fucking detested having my girl hurt. And despite my girl's protestations, I knew that Renee had disappointed Bella on more than one occasion.

Renee and Phil owned a condo with a beautiful view of the Atlantic, and the sun was just barely trying to make itself known. It was baby blue, pink, and just a hint of orange coming up over the water. The moon and a few stars tried their best to cling to the last pieces of the night, but they were failing.

I shifted in the deck chair on the back porch, shaking my head. It was strange being back in Florida, but different. Flashes of a different beach, the zoo, and an outrageous game of mini-golf came to mind, and I smiled down at my cup. It seemed so fucking long ago, but at the same time, like a blink of an eye. Damn, I wouldn't trade a fucking second of it.

"You're up early," I heard softly behind me.

Glancing up, I saw Renee with her own cup of coffee leaning against the sliding glass doorway.

I smiled and nodded. "Some old habits die hard," I told her. "I could say the same for you."

"My sleeping is erratic." She chuckled, taking a seat in the chair next to mine. "Some days, I stay up all night...others, I just wake up too early." She smiled over at me, and I could see Bella in it. "Or maybe I was just excited about today."

I snickered a little and gazed out over the water again, thinking that sort of fit with her personality. The colors were brightening, the pinks having given way to bright yellow.

"It's rare she lets me take care of her," Renee continued, wearing a small yet sad smile, but then she laughed. "I promise you, Edward, that when she wakes up, the first thing she's going to want to do is cook, simply because she thinks she has to."

"True." I laughed, nodding, because that was the last thing my sweet girl had muttered to me before falling asleep. "Did you have plans, then?" I asked her, grinning when she nodded just like Bella.

"Yes, of course," she said haughtily. "I want to take you kids out. Treat you. No cooking, no cleaning, no football." She stressed the last word with a roll of her eyes. "I'm sure you had enough of that with Charlie. And there's this great place just up the beach."

"Sounds great," I hedged, grinning again down at my cup. "Now you just have to tell Bella she can't cook."

Renee snorted and nodded. "Don't I know it."

We were quiet for a moment, something that shocked me, but it was welcome nonetheless. Seagulls started calling to one another, the waves crashed in the distance, and wind rustled the palm trees in front of us. It was soothing. And suddenly, I wanted nothing more than to go wrestle my girl out of bed just to bring her out here to see it.

"You love her," Renee suddenly said, though her voice was soft.

I gazed over at her, studying her expression. It was shock and awe, maybe even a touch of jealousy, but I couldn't be sure. And I could see my girl over every bit of that woman's face – the wrinkle of the nose, the minute tilt of the head, the slight rise of an eyebrow, and even the dark locks curling around her shoulders. The only thing I didn't see was Bella's soulful, warm brown eyes, which she truly got from Charlie.

"Yes," I said slowly and carefully. "Very much. She's...everything to me." My voice might have come across as a little harsh. I wasn't worried about her approval as much as Charlie's, but I also didn't want my intentions with Bella to be unknown to her.

"Good," she said, her eyes watering a little. "Bella needs someone that will pamper her. Lord knows, she spent her whole life as this...tiny little grownup. She took care of me, of Charlie, and herself."

"That's just who she is," I defended, shrugging a shoulder. "Bella takes care of people she loves. I'm not sure that'll ever change, no matter how much I try to pamper her."

A touch of guilt flashed across Renee's features, and I finally saw what Bella had been talking about. Her mother totally meant well, but at some point in Bella's life, my girl had just...taken control in their relationship. She became the rock, allowing Renee to explore...well, Renee. There had been a time when Renee had needed a ten-year-old Bella to make sure the rent and utilities were paid, but now, the mother really, truly wanted to return the favor to her daughter without dredging up anything from the past. Renee was, by no means, stupid.

"And just how do you plan on pampering her?" Renee suddenly asked. "Bella says that you're going back to school..."

I laughed, holding up a hand. "My parents left me... Well, I'm fine. Let's put it that way. Bella doesn't have to work if she doesn't want to, but I'd never tell her that. She loves teaching, and her students adore her."

There was a part of me that wanted to tell her that she'd know these things about Bella had she only made the effort to visit Seattle, but I didn't. I was pretty fucking sure that Renee knew that.

Heavy, thumping footsteps down the stairs caught our attention, and we both waved to a sleepy-headed Phil, who made a bee-line straight for the coffee maker in the kitchen.

I drained the last dregs in my cup, standing up from my chair. I smiled down at Renee, having finally come to some sort of understanding about her.

"I guess I'll go plead your non-cooking case to Bella," I told her with a chuckle.

Renee giggled and stood up next to me. She pulled me into an unexpected hug and then kissed my cheek. "I'm glad she's got you. She needs you," she stated softly, but her eyes were warm. "I know my daughter, Edward. She talks about you more than she's talked about anyone in her entire life. She looks at you like you hung the moon. She never needed me, but she really does need you."

Frowning, I let out a sigh. "Take it from me; you always need your mom, any capacity."

She smiled and nodded. "Go wake our girl, okay? And tell her whatever shopping list she's making can go in the garbage. Maybe we can walk the beach later... Oh! Or there's this really sweet theater that will be open later..."

Chuckling at her sudden shift in gears, I stepped back inside the house, fixed a cup of coffee for Bella with enough cream and sugar to put someone in a coma, and made my way upstairs. Just as Renee and I had guessed, Bella was sitting cross-legged in bed, a pad of paper and pen in hand.

"Morning, sweet girl," I said, setting the coffee on her nightstand and dropping a kiss to her forehead.

"I have to find an open grocery store. My mom has hardly anything I need in order to..."

I took the pad and pen, yanking them from her hands, and tossed them over my shoulder before falling down over her, pushing her gently to her back. I smiled as I braced my hands on either side of her head.

"Edward," she protested, her brow furrowing, but there was a smile playing on her lips as I kissed them to shut her up.

"Hush, beautiful. You aren't doing anything today, except what your mom tells you," I told her, brushing my lips across hers.

"Oh, what? Now you and Renee are BFFs?" She giggled, wrapping her arms around my neck.

"We might be." I chuckled, settling in the cradle of her thighs. "I can be...very charming when I want to be."

"Don't I know it." She laughed, squeaking when my hand shot underneath the T-shirt of mine that she was wearing in order to tickle her ribs.

"And your mom just wants to spoil you," I stated, raising an eyebrow up at her, but I kissed her again.

I wanted to tell her that Renee struggled with the thought that Bella didn't need her, but the two of them had a dynamic that just worked, and I just didn't want to fuck with that. Ever. My unease at meeting Renee faded away into just wanting Bella to have a good time. Why mess with a good thing? In a small way, I envied Bella.

"Come, baby," I said, pushing off of her. "She and Phil want to take us somewhere."


"Would you quit asking questions and get your sweet ass out of bed?" I laughed, pulling her up.

"Okay, okay," Bella acquiesced with a giggle, standing up and grabbing the coffee I'd made for her, "but only if you shower with me."

Smirking, I couldn't help but step closer. "Why Isabella...whatever do you have in mind?"

"Shower with me, and I'll show you, Mr. Obtuse." She laughed, squealing when I stepped menacingly forward again. "I might need to start this day off right in order to survive it."

"Mm," I groaned, wrapping my arms around her and burying my face in her neck. "Yes, ma'am..."


"What a nasty witch!" Renee exclaimed in an over-exaggerated whisper as she and Bella walked arm in arm on the beach.

I rolled my eyes, but Tanya did bring out the best reactions in people.

"Man, that was kinda cold," Phil muttered beside me.

I snorted and shrugged. I was feeling full from dinner, tired from having traveled, and if I were to be honest, a little homesick for Seattle – even though the flight back tomorrow would be long and tedious. However, I wouldn't have traded coming here for anything because the look on Bella's face was truly my reward. She'd come here expecting to have to run the show, and she didn't, so watching her just enjoy her mother's company was amazing to me.

Dinner had been filled with animated conversations and really good food. The restaurant had been on an old pier made to look like a fishing shack, but the food had been outstanding. Along with the traditional Thanksgiving menu, they'd also offered foods with a touch of Florida in them – grouper sandwiches, key lime pie, and oyster stuffing...the last of which I just about gorged myself on.

Phil and I had listened to the two women reminisce about holidays past in quiet amusement, but it was true what Bella had said. Renee didn't settle down in places for very long. In fact, Phoenix and Jacksonville had been the longest.

"I know, right?" Bella giggled, rolling those beautiful brown eyes up to her mother.

I chuckled at her, finally turning to Phil. "Best thing that ever happened to me, though," I admitted to him.

He grinned, slapping my shoulder. "Sometimes it happens that way."

We arrived back at the condo, and I had to admit that walking had helped with my full stomach, but I wanted to groan when Renee piped up with more plans and activities.

"So...movies, and there's this little shopping center that'll be open early for Black Friday..."

Phil, though, moaned, rolling his eyes. "Renee, sweetheart, give us a break, will ya? Let them breathe."

"You just want a nap," she accused, smirking at him while poking a finger into his chest.

"Yes! Absolutely," he said with an amused chuckle, "but I'd settle for a cup of coffee and a chance to sit down for a minute."

"But they're leaving tomorrow," she argued, frowning.

"Mom," Bella said, stepping in but also taking my hand, "we'll go wherever you want, but I could use coffee, too. That food made me sleepy."

And there it was. The dynamic they'd always shared. Renee immediately gushed about some new creamer and dragged her daughter inside to make the coffee. I sat down on the lounger on the back deck, deciding it was my favorite spot. It kept me in earshot of Bella, but it also afforded them their own privacy.

It wasn't long before a mug shot into my view.

"Here, handsome," Bella said, sitting down between my legs when I patted the cushion. "You okay?"

Chuckling, I kissed the skin of her neck once as I pulled her back to my chest. "I'm better than okay, love. I've got the most beautiful woman in my lap. What the hell is there to complain about?"

"Well, the fact that my mother can wear people out?" She snickered, picking up her cup and taking a sip.

"You've met Emmett, right?" I joked. "Big guy? Talks too much? Zero filter from his brain to his mouth?"

"Yes," she answered with a giggle, turning to kiss my cheek. "Point taken, Edward."

"I'm glad we came. Seeing your mother is good for you," I told her, kissing her temple. "I still think she needs to come visit you, but...maybe that's not always feasible."

"Hey," she whispered, turning just a little so that deep, sweet brown eyes scanned over my face.

"What, sweet girl?"

"Let's spend Christmas alone...just the two of us," she suggested, shrugging a shoulder. "At least Christmas Eve. I know Charlie will want us down for Christmas Day, but..."

I grinned and then dropped a kiss to her lips. She tasted like sugar and coffee and the mint she'd eaten after dinner. "That sounds...really fucking good."

"Okay, kids!" Renee sang from inside the house. "What movie are we seeing?"

My chuckle snorted into a full-blown laugh when both Bella and Phil groaned.

"Whatever you want, Mom," Bella sighed, shaking her head slightly.

I took her cup of coffee and set it on the table, only to turn her sideways in my lap. Kissing her lips softly, I trailed my lips down her cheek to her ear.

"Mmm," I hummed, opening my mouth for just a small taste of her. "Too bad your mom's going... The things we could get away with in a cold, dark theater, Isabella..."

Fingers wove into my hair, holding me where she wanted me as I left small kisses just behind her earlobe.

"You... You're the devil, babe," she responded with a soft laugh.

"Perhaps," I purred against the shell of her ear, tracing my tongue around it.

She laughed, shoving me back a little and standing up. "Come on, Sarge. We'll test your theory when we get back to Seattle."

Grinning, I took her hand when she offered it and stood up in front of her. "Excellent," I praised, causing her to laugh. "We'll have a few days when we get home before you go back to school."

My girl's eyes softened at the mention of the word "home." And I understood. We could go anywhere, but our house on the quiet little street had truly become our safe haven. It had been the goal for so long that we lived for the little bubble we'd created.

"I know, love," I said, kissing her forehead. "Come on, we'll play the dutiful kids for a few more hours, and then tomorrow, we can go home. Okay?"

She smiled, kissed my lips, and nodded. "Okay."



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