Wednesday, January 30, 2013 | By: Jenny

Haunted Angel Chapter 40

Chapter 40
My fingers skimmed lightly over the keys, Beethoven wafting out of the speakers. I wrinkled my nose a little. The keyboards weren't the same as my baby grand, but beggars couldn't be choosers at this point in time. My mind was fairly relaxed, but it had been that way since the first night we'd arrived on the island a little over a month ago. Bella had shielded me from everyone's minds for almost two days solid, and I'd been better ever since.
The house was a constant influx of activity. Someone was always busy doing something. Jasper was determined to give our parents what they wanted – a chance for all of us to stay together – so he was constantly researching, scanning the internet, and jotting things down in a notebook. There were games being played at all hours, whether at the table or on the Xbox. If it wasn't games, it was music.
Caroline was learning to control who and what she was with the help of everyone around her. She was a pretty independent thing, but she wasn't afraid to ask questions. However, she was absolutely determined to get her newborn strength and temper under control. Apparently, sex was an incredible motivator...not that Archie would discuss it.
Archie had fallen in love with hunting on the mainland. He liked the big game, the endless jungles, and the freedom of it. With his invisibility, he was a hunting master. But it was his way of giving himself space from Caroline's constant barrage of lust. She'd lost control once with Archie during a rather heated make-out session, proving Bella's theory. Carlisle had spent the rest of that night reattaching his arm at the elbow. Caroline had been almost inconsolable, despite Archie's reassurances. Carlisle and I decided if those two didn't do something soon, they'd kill each other out of pure and simple frustration. My brothers, on the other hand, were constantly betting on the hows, whens, and wheres. Alice stayed out of it because she knew, but she'd kept it from me, as well.
Kevin and Adrian truly loved the island and Brazil. They'd disappear for days at a time, opting to sight-see alone, but sometimes, Bella and I would join them. Other times, it was Carlisle and Esme.
At the moment, the house was quiet. Sort of. Though, nothing was ever truly quiet around here. Whether we could hear everything or I could see it in their minds, nothing was ever purely silent.
Emmett, Rose, Jasper, and Alice were all on the mainland. They'd needed to hunt, but they were taking in the city's nightlife at the same time. Alice was also doing me a favor. Carlisle and Esme were off exploring the island, and Kevin and Adrian were down on the beach.
Which left Caroline, Archie, and Bella in the house with me. My sweet girl was currently in our room reading. Occasionally, I'd catch glimpses of words and passages, her mind theater creating a movie-like quality to her imagination. She'd lose herself completely in the written word. She was reading something current, which was rare, but it was a love story. Well, it seemed like a love story. Personally, the main guy sounded like an ass to me, but I simply shrugged and moved on to Chopin, preferring the classics in both music and literature, it seemed.
Archie and Caroline were in their room and...busy. I wanted to groan, call Bella to come shield me, but before things went to far, Archie called a halt to things.
Caroline said nothing, feeling more than a touch rejected, and she got up, slammed the bedroom door, and walked out toward the beach. She hadn't expected something more, but her hopes had been crushed at any rate. Her intent was to be alone, but she saw Adrian and Kevin, who were waving her over. She declined them, but they kept her company on her walk anyway.
The sound of a book slamming down onto the wooden surface of a table made me jump, and Bella's mind was a mixture of sadness and frustration.
He's chipping away at her self-esteem.
Part of me thought that she was about to go to him and that I needed to warn him, but another decided to let things play out. My girl imagined slamming his door open and tearing him a new one. That thought made me grin because as docile as those two normally were, their talents were interesting. The thought of a fight between them – even in play – sounded intriguing.
However, she didn't. In the end, she left him alone.
Archie slumped down in his chair, glaring out over the beach through the open windows. He could live with the fear of not knowing what he was really doing, and he was just about past the marriage thing, but the thought of no privacy was driving him crazy. He knew Caroline would never judge him on anything, but the mere thought that he could mess up with so many of us listening was just about to drive him mad.
As her newest siblings, Bella was tired of the fussing, fighting, and tension. She felt just awful that some members of the family were betting on this situation, which she absolutely refused to participate in, and she had assumed things between Archie and Caroline would work itself out naturally. However, she was discovering that Archie's self-control was just this side of OCD – immortal OCD, which meant it was nearly unbreakable. He was viciously tenacious, holding out for whatever list of reasons.
"Bella," I called her, smiling at the sweet sound of her feet on the hardwood floors.
He's every bit – if not more – hardheaded as you! She scowled, folding her arms across her chest.
I grinned, shaking my head. God, I loved my girl. I loved that she wasn't afraid to speak her mind or put me in my place. It kept us real and even and
"That's very true. Come here," I requested, patting the bench beside me.
My Bella's heart was breaking a little for them. Slipping my fingers into her hair, I tugged her until I pressed my lips to hers.
"It'll be all right, love," I soothed her, but sweet, worried chocolate eyes gazed up at me, unsure.
Doesn't he want her? They're mates, Edward! Isn't this something that should come...I don't know...naturally? Her brow furrowed as she threw those questions at me.
"You know the answer to that, my sweet girl. You, of all people, should understand," I hedged, trying to get her to realize it without alerting Archie to our topic of conversation. It was why she was using thoughts in the first place.
She sighed deeply, laying her head on my shoulder. Yeah, I know, she thought forlornly. You and I were different, though. I was human, for Christ's sake. She's an equal, even. And she's heartbroken every time.
I grimaced but dropped a heavy kiss to the top of her head because she was right. There was that factor. I'd often wondered how things would've turned out had she been immortal when I met her, or had she changed when James had bit her. Would we still be as intensely connected? Would I have fallen for her right there on the spot like I had that first day in biology? Would we have mated instantly? Or would I have been just as old-fashioned and stubborn about waiting? I didn't know. I loved how we'd met, how we'd struggled to get to where we were at that moment. It was hard and painful and heartbreaking, but the end result was something I couldn't complain about. Ever.
Archie shuffled in from the hall, standing stock-still in the living room. I could see him through the doorway. Bella lifted her head to watch him.
Laughter and splashes echoed in from the beach, and both Archie and Bella looked to see Kevin and Adrian trying to teach Caroline how to surf. My girl was so shrewd, though. She glanced between Archie and the sight outside, finally smiling a little.
No privacy, she thought to herself, but then looked up to me. That's it, isn't it? He's so used to being alone that he's way too self-conscious about people being here.
I smirked at her. "Yes," I whispered against her brow. "Beautiful and smart. How'd I get so lucky?" I teased her.
She looked so proud at the moment, but then that wicked smile curled up on her lips. Well, that's easily fixed, she huffed, nodding once to herself in confirmation.
She was so damned adorable as different schemes and plots rattled through her mind at mach speed that I couldn't help but chuckle at her and hold her closer. What was even funnier was the chirp from her phone still in our bedroom.
I cracked up, shaking my head.
"Alice," we both said with a laugh.
My girl padded down the hall and went back into our room. Her phone chirped another alert, and I knew that my sister was picking up on every decision my wife was making. Those two worked together better than they gave themselves credit. Through Bella's thoughts, though, I could see that plans for tonight had just completely been changed.
She appeared back in the music room, bypassing Archie, who was still watching his girl with Kevin and Adrian.
"So," I said, sniffing once and waving her to me once more. She scrambled up onto my lap, nuzzling my neck. "Am I to assume we're hitting the mainland tonight?"
I felt her smile against my skin. "Yup."
"Mm," I hummed in acknowledgment, pressing kisses to her cheek. "Good to know, love." I asked my next question loud enough to get Archie's attention. "And am I also to assume that Carlisle, Esme, Kevin, and Adrian are invited?"
Archie's head snapped around to watch us. When I looked up to him, I innocently asked, "Will you be okay on your own for a few hours tonight? Alice wants us to hit a few clubs. It's a shame Caroline's not ready for interacting with humans yet..."
"Um, yeah, that's fine, Edward," he stammered, but his mind launched into a thousand different directions; I could barely narrow in on one particular thought.
Bella grinned against my neck, but she hid it from him completely. You're extraordinarily sexy right now, Edward. That was smooth...really, really smooth.
I pinched her ass, chuckling when she squeaked.
"Guess we'd better get ready, then," I suggested, rubbing softly where I'd pinched. "You go tell Kevin and Adrian. I'll hunt down Carlisle."
"Alice already texted them. See?" my girl said, pointing out toward the beach where Adrian was scanning through his phone.
"Mm...even better. Shower, then?" I asked, waggling my eyebrows, which caused her to roll her eyes but Archie to snort into a soft laugh.
I stood up, tossing her over my shoulder, where she laughed hysterically and smacked at my ass. Kevin, Adrian, and Caroline all stepped into the house. Kevin was humming a song, pretending to gyrate up against Caroline, who was shoving him away with a giggle.
As I walked us by Archie, I murmured, "She'll need to hunt, Archie..." I shrugged the shoulder that Bella wasn't on, saying, "That'll free up the rest of your night."
Archie's eyebrows raised up high, almost to his hairline. "'Kay."
His mind went blank for a split second but then went right back to what the night could possibly have in store.
As I approached the slightly touristy part of Rio, I had to smile at the thumping, more modern music. It was less about the locals and more about the visitors. Large hotels, a few chain restaurants, and some more recognizable shops surrounded either side of me as I made my way down the busy, crowded sidewalk.
The second we'd docked, I'd received a text from Alice telling me that she hadn't had the chance to run the errand that I'd asked of her. So I separated myself from the rest, gave Bella a quick kiss, and told them that I'd meet them at the club. Now that my errand was complete, it weighed heavily in my pocket for such a small thing.
I entered the club and flinched under the amount of minds that hit me all at once. As always, it was drunken, sexually driven, and singularly directed toward "getting laid." And it didn't matter what language the minds were thinking, because after enough alcohol, it was more pictures of people and actions than direct cognitive content.
Ignoring the stares of inebriated women – and a few men – I worked my way toward the back of the club. Carlisle and my brothers were watching the dance floor with smirks on their faces. The girls, however, were dancing together in a group, singing along to Adele's "Rumor Has It."
I had to grin at the angry song, but they were mesmerizing with their dance. And from the ogling they were getting from the rest of the dancers on the floor, we weren't the only ones that couldn't look away. It didn't help that they were all dressed to impress. Esme and Alice both were wearing a different shade of red – Esme's solid, while Alice's had a strange design on it in black. Rose was in bright purple, but my Bella was in sexy, sleek black. She'd been the most beautiful distraction from the moment she'd stepped out of our bedroom.
When the song was over, another blended in – "Where Have You Been?" by Rihanna. The whole dance floor shifted, flooded, and crammed closer, moving as one giant entity, but I couldn't stay away from my girl, especially considering two men were just about to move in to dance closer to her and my sister. And it seemed my brothers followed suit. With a grin to Rose, I pressed myself up behind Bella, who instantly melted back to my chest, her hand snaking up to my neck. The two men that had been eying my wife and my sister reversed back into the crowd after I shot them a raised eyebrow and a glare.
With my hands low on Bella's hips, I moved her against me, loving the feel of her body against mine and her hands in my hair. Trailing my fingers up the exposed skin of her arm, I grasped her hand and spun her to face me. The resulting smile was what I lived for. That was my smile. It was the one that no matter if we were separated by a single room in the house or several blocks in a large city, I received that smile once she set eyes on my face again.
"Beautiful girl," I greeted her, pressing my forehead to hers as my thigh slipped between her legs.
"Hi, handsome," she countered, brushing her lips across my own. "Where'd you go?"
Grinning, I picked up her right hand, slipping on the ring I'd had made for her. She'd kept the stone from our cave. In fact, it sat on our nightstand catching the glow of the lamp or candles, or even the late setting sun. My Bella hadn't been able to decide what she wanted to have made with it, so I'd gone back, pulled another crystal, and had had it cut into the stone that was now set in platinum on her finger.
Her face melted into warm and sweet as she gazed at her hand. "Oh, Edward," she gushed, halting all movement for a moment. "That's beautiful. Thank you."
I pulled her back into my arms, wrapping my arms around her, and put my lips to her ear. "That, my sweet girl, is an early anniversary present. I know it's not until next month, but I couldn't resist."
She giggled, kissing my cheek. "And it's way better than anything I could've come up with!"
Laughing, I nuzzled her neck. "Or've finally found appreciation for surprises. In fact, it sounds like you...prefer them," I teased her, still chuckling. "It only took eight years, baby..."
Her laugh was loud but happy, sweet, and so very warming to my soul. "Maybe," she chortled, biting down on her bottom lip.
Weaving our fingers together, she wound us through the crowded dance floor, only to join Carlisle and Esme at our two tables. I sat down on the stool, pulling my girl to my lap as my mother oohed and ahhed over the ring.
I kept an eye on my siblings as they stayed out on the dance floor. It was more out of habit than protection. Kevin and Adrian were doing quite well in public, and despite their same sex coupling, no one really paid them any attention. And they weren't the only gay couple out there. Whereas Jasper and Emmett could handle certain situations when it came to their mates, I worried more for Adrian and Kevin, simply because I could see the judgmental thoughts, the foul reactions to their sexual preference. It happened more with small towns, but here, they seemed to be blending in just fine.
At the end of the song, the rest of the family came back to the table. Conversation was light, easy. Though, most were still concerned with our future. But for the moment, they were willing to forgo worry and research. The girls talked about the different clothes people were wearing, the songs that were playing, and the possibility of coming back to this particular club in the future. Emmett had his eye on the TV mounted above the bar across the room. It was a soccer game that was playing, but Jasper, Kevin, and Adrian all discussed a possible trip through the Amazon at some point. Jasper wanted to test his strength against a full-grown anaconda, but Adrian wanted to see piranha try to attack our impervious skin. That last thing made me chuckle.
It was Alice's gasp that caused us all to come to a standstill. When her vision not only hit her, but my mind at the same time, my head fell back with my laugh. Our whole family was watching the two of us, but I merely waved it away, gesturing to Alice to state what she'd seen.
She grinned, a slight giggle escaping her. "Well,'s about damn time!" she huffed, giving a relieved sigh. "Bella...your plan worked."
My girl was confused for a second, but then her eyes widened. "Caroline and Archie!?" she squealed.
"Yes," Alice and I said at the same time, both of us chuckling.
"Oh, fuck yes! Ante up, assholes!" Emmett boomed, tapping a single finger at the middle of our table.
"Emmett!" Esme hissed, rolling her eyes, her mind wondering where she could find a bar of soap in a dance club.
"Thank God!" Jasper sighed heavily. "I wasn't sure how much more I could take!"
Fifty dollar bills landed heavily where Emmett's finger had been. I gaped at Carlisle when his own money landed at the top of the pile.
"Stop!" Bella growled, shielding the money before any hands to grab at it. "Do you have any idea how wrong this is?" she asked, and no man at the table would look her in the eye. "You think I don't know you made this same bet on me and Edward?"
I smirked, patting her leg to sooth her, but really, I just wanted to see her let loose on them. I didn't care, and she was stunning when she was fiery and hell-bent on something. It had been Esme that had raked in almost two hundred dollars the night we'd finally consummated our relationship – for having faith in me, in Bella, in love itself.
Kevin chuckled, glancing around the table. "Is there anything this family won't bet on?"
"No!" the entire lot of us replied.
"You weren't in?" Jasper asked me.
I pointed to my still-puffed-up girl as they started to divvy up the money. "Seriously?"
He grinned. "Fair enough."
Bella eyed him with a twitch to one eye, and I pressed my lips to her cheek.
"Easy, tiger," I purred in her ear, my fingers tracing the edge of her short skirt along the smooth, tempting skin of her thighs. "You can't change their ways, sweet girl. Believe me, Esme's been trying to teach Emmett manners for decades."
She grinned, turning to look at me. "Soap?"
I laughed. "Yeah." A new song started, and I squeezed Bella's leg. "Dance with me, my sexy girl..."
The thumping beat of "Give Me Everything" by Pitbull and Ne-Yo started. There was a touch of a Spanish beat to the music, but the song made me hold my girl close, wrap her arms around my neck and her leg around mine. It made me reach out and touch, press my forehead to hers, and create an endless list of things I wanted to do to her once we were away from humans and our family. The latter, in turn, made me grind against her, unable to hide the way that she made me feel, the way that she turned me on at all times.
But mostly, it made me want to kiss her. And I did. I kissed her with long, slow sweeps of my lips across hers, with the bare hint of tongue, and with an all-consuming desire to get her away. My sweet girl's fingers slipped into my hair out of habit, and she tilted her head as we swayed to our own beat. That was when I really kissed her, delving deep and wet and moaning shamelessly into her mouth. I kissed her for every smile she gave me, every giggle; for each set of male and female eyes that drank her in as a proclamation that she was mine; for each day she'd given up as a human for me, every year that she'd been married to me, and for every day coming; for being beautiful and sweet and having the biggest heart I'd ever seen – human or immortal; and for being my best friend and the voice of reason, even if no one listened; and for simply loving me.
When we finally parted, the song was still playing, though we were swaying to something completely different. Her fathomless brown eyes gazed up at me, the chocolate slowly ebbing away to black.
"What was that for?" she panted, licking her lips, though I could taste her breath on my tongue.
I shrugged. "I love you."
I received another smile that was all mine – the smile that was different than the rest. It appeared even when "I love you" was whispered during our love-making, and I was pretty sure she was completely unaware that she did it. It lit a spark in her eye and caused a hitch in her breathing. Every damn time.
Bella nuzzled my nose with her own. "Love you, too, Edward."
Curtains flapped in the wind, rain splattered onto the windows, but the French doors thumped against the wall.
"I got it," Bella offered in soft voice, crawling over me to shut out the weather.
It was the first sound I'd heard in the house in hours. The storm coming seemed to cause us all to sequester ourselves away from the family. Bella's shield was sealed tightly around us, so I couldn't hear the minds in the house, but some noises met my ears. That was easily ignored, especially when my girl walked completely naked around our room.
As much as I wanted to be out in the rain when the storm truly hit, my human side didn't want to leave the house. Hell, I didn't want to leave the twisted sheets of our bed. Rolling onto my stomach and tucking a pillow under my chin, my eyes stayed glued to my girl as she made sure that all windows were secure and the French doors wouldn't blow back open, relighting some of the candles that had been snuffed out.
It was the middle of the summer, so the rain came often. The first storm of the season had rendered Bella and me absolutely useless. We'd had to leave the family, escape to our cave, and we'd lost ourselves to the electricity that we couldn't resist. Not after so long. That had been several weeks ago and a handful of months since we'd been on the island altogether. And this storm wasn't going to pack as big of punch as the others had. Besides, there was something about the silence in the house that was comforting.
Bella was bare and beautiful, wearing only her wedding ring, a messy head of hair, and the ring I'd given her with the purple stone from our cave. She was stunning and looked thoroughly irresistible. Our bedroom iPod was playing softly on the dresser, the lyrics of "She's Got a Way With Me" by Billy Currington making my eyes rake over every inch of her as she stepped back toward the bed.
I'm not the same man since she's been around
There's more to this life, I've suddenly found
I look at myself now so differently
It's her love that brings me peace
Bella smiled indulgently, though her eyes darkened a bit. As she crawled back in bed, I started to roll over to face her, but a small hand on my back stopped me.
Don't move, Edward, she thought to me, and her mind registered how I looked to her in that bed.
The white sheet was wrapped around me, though just barely covering my ass, but it was my exposed back that she was unable to resist. Lightly trailing her fingers down my spine, her lips soon followed. Shoulder blades, ribs, the dip just above my ass – all of it received her attention. She pushed the sheet out of the way, and my low, soft growl vibrated the bed when the same process met the cheeks of my ass.
Suddenly it's something
You just can't live without
Oh, you know you found love
Beyond any doubt
With a simple man's words
I can never convey all that I feel when I say
She's got a way with me.
When her teeth scraped across my cheek, she giggled when I writhed under her, finally looking back over my shoulder.
"Sorry," she chortled in a whisper. Couldn't resist all, baby.
Words like "gravity-defying" and "sweet ass" were spotty in her mind, and I shook my head, unable to fight my grin. As my last song added to the playlist faded out and a new one began, Bella roughly yanked the covers up and over our heads. Finally, she allowed me to roll onto my back, but she straddled me as we were cocooned in white sheets and the heavy comforter.
"This Is Dedicated to the One I Love" by the Mamas and the Papas was Bella's choice of song, which I found interesting, considering the lyrics talked about separation and holding on until the next time. But her mind simply registered that it was about our connection, no matter how little time we ever parted, which was so very rare anymore.
However, the build, the flow, and the needy sound of the song changed everything. Our bodies, our hands, our lips seemed to have a mind of their own. Grinding, kissing, pushing, pulling – it all started without our permission. My hands pushed her hips down to give me friction over my cock that never seemed satisfied. Bella's lips trailed from my mouth, down my jaw, to my neck, sucking, licking, teeth scraping.
Not a word was said, like some unacknowledged vow of silence. I could barely catch my breath for the want of her. As her forehead pressed to mine, our eyes locked, but my mouth gaped as I panted, my hands gripping her hips, clawing at her back, and slipping into her hair. I wanted to engulf myself in her, drown in the essence of her, but I could only beg silently for it.
Take it, Edward, she thought to me, even her inner voice sounding just as desperate as I felt.
I gripped her thighs, spread her open wider so that her legs were on either side of me, and she pushed herself up just a little. Guiding myself to her entrance, I held her hips still, thrusting up in one swift movement of my hips. Bending my knees, I did all the work while Bella's sweet moans, deep kisses, and gripping hands rendered me practically stupid.
My girl was close but finally pushed herself up fully, the covers falling back as the lightning flickered across the early morning sky, thunder rumbling not long after. I had to bite down hard on my lip to keep from begging her to come in every language I knew, and poor Bella was trying her damnedest to keep her own voice and cries from sounding out.
Unable to resist her, I sat up, wrapping my arm around her waist to help her move, to help her catch that orgasm she'd been chasing, and to capture the sound I knew would escape her in a kiss.
"Guh..." was all that made it into the open air before my mouth caught it, drank it in like the finest wine, the sweetest blood.
My sweet girl's body shuddered, vibrated, and jerked as she came. Hard. My lips and tongue absorbed every whimper and every moan, but her mind was loud with declarations of love as she continued to move with me.
Burying my face into her neck, I had to grit my teeth when my own climax hit me like a ton of bricks, my hand slapping down onto her shoulder to ground myself. We were a panting knot of skin and limbs, and not a soul in the house was aware of us. The rain spattered against the windows as the wind howled outside. My only thoughts were consumed by the scent of her, the feel of her, the soft touches that trailed down my back.
Edward? Her mind was soft again, tentative.
"Hmm?" I hummed, pulling my face from her neck and looking her in the eyes as I brushed her hair back.
My brow furrowed at her sudden nerves. She was fidgeting, looking away from me, but her mind was still open, filled with a cacophony of different thoughts.
"Sweet girl, talk to me..." I whispered, nuzzling her cheek to make her glance my way again. "Did I hurt you?" I asked, not thinking physically, but still...I wasn't sure why she was so damned nervous.
She swallowed thickly, shaking her head and gazing back at me. I want... She sighed, looking simply wrecked with nerves.
"I'll give you anything, baby. Tell me."
I want our own place next time, Edward... Her brow furrowed, like that secret confession was going to get her into trouble.
"Me, too," I admitted, grimacing at the truth of it. "I just... I don't know how."
This had been plaguing the entire family since we'd had to leave Caribou. How to keep twelve members of our family together without alerting humans to the fact that we were different. There had been several ideas passed over to Carlisle. I was aware of most of them because he thought them completely through, called Marcus, even consulted with Demitri on some of them, but no one could agree. High school was out. College was a possibility, but no one wanted to live on campus. Houses large enough for all of us were enormous and would cause more attention than ever when we moved in. We were beginning to think that separation was inevitable. And that caused a sadness in Carlisle and Esme that made us erase the blackboard and start all over.
Deep, dark, concerned eyes met my own. I think I have an idea, baby...
Grinning, I nodded, kissed her lips, and said, "Show me."
I tilted my head at her, listening to all that she had uncovered the night before. She'd been working with Esme and Jasper, trying their best to research something for us back in the States. It was meticulous and detailed, because not only did they have to locate someplace for all of us to live, but they were trying to find work for Carlisle at the same time. The latter was a surprise. They wanted to be able to present him with several options.
It was easy to eliminate certain places and add states that gave us the best hunting and weather. Alaska was at the top of the list, along with some parts of the Pacific Northwest that we'd never lived. The south was out, as was the southwest and California. New York had been overused; Maine was gone. That left us with the central part of the United States and parts of Canada. Even Chicago had been considered, if only as a gift to me, but I'd told them that it didn't matter.
When she'd shown me her idea, my mind raced as I twirled a lock of her hair. We were still sitting in the middle of our bed wrapped around each other, but I gazed back into her eyes after careful consideration. I'd seen this scenario before, but they'd worked well into the night. Again, Bella had shielded me from some of it – most likely so that I wouldn't get my hopes up if there had been some flaw found in the plan.
"You're sure? It's available?" I asked, but she was already nodding. "Only the winter would give us the cloud coverage for going out in the daytime," I thought aloud.
"We know," she said aloud. "We've noted it. I think it could work. And I think everyone will be happy."
I started nodding, my mind reeling with the possibilities. "I think... I think you're right. And there, Caroline would be away from humans. Though, she's doing well."
That was the truth. She'd already started venturing off the island and onto the mainland. With the help of Bella's shield and teaching her how to hold her breath, she'd really begun to control herself. Even her newborn temper had settled down a little. In fact, we'd already touched on the fact that if we came up with a moving option, she'd be just fine with a plane ride this time.
"I want to see, Bella," I stated softly. "Show me what you've found."
Her resulting smile was blinding. "Okay," she said, removing herself from my lap and tugging on her clothes. "You must think it'll work. I was worried it wouldn't, Edward. It was why I shielded you from it. I know you were getting frustrated."
I grinned at her protectiveness but nodded fervently. "Hell, yes, I think it'll work," I told her, pulling on a pair of jeans and a simple white T-shirt. "But I'm pretty sure you've got more to show me?" I asked, and she giggled.
The house was still quiet when we padded down the hallway, though by now, Bella had lifted her shield from over me. The house that had been filled with soft conversations and sounds of amorous activity was now listening to Bella and me. The most hopeful mind was Carlisle, but Esme was practically giddy that Bella had thought to bring me in on their latest discovery. My father, however, was holding his breath that whatever I was about to see would be the answer, because he was out of ideas.
Bella tugged out a dining room chair in front of her laptop for me to sit. The table was strewn with papers, notes, maps. It had been that way for months. When one idea had been squashed, the top would be cleaned off and it would start all over.
With a touch to the mouse, the computer screen came to life, revealing a picture of Bella and me as her wallpaper. I smiled, tugged her to my lap, and let her click away.
A map popped up on the screen.
"Montana," I mused to myself aloud, taking over the mouse and giving it a scroll.
"Yeah," she barely whispered. "We talked to Catherine, and she said it's easy to get lost there in the wilderness. The human population is lower. So we started really looking... See?"
She pointed to the screen, and I nodded against her shoulder.
There were a hundred acres available, with an extraordinarily large cabin-type home on it. It sat with a stunning backdrop of the Rockies, and it was positioned between Missoula and Butte. Missoula contained the University of Montana and several hospital options for Carlisle. Butte also had a few college choices, though smaller.
"A hundred acres," I mused, rubbing my chin. "We could—"
"Build," she finished for me excitedly. "But check out Jasper's plan."
She opened up a document, scrolling to the top. Jasper had a detailed outline of how it could work. I sensed movement in the hallway, looking up to see Carlisle and Esme walking into the room.
"It would take a bit of time," Esme added, sitting down next to me. "But essentially, it would work."
I shook my head, amazed. They had thought of everything. Carlisle would go in, buying the cabin, which was really an estate, and the additional hundred acres. He then would turn around and "sell" individual pieces of property to the rest of us. They'd even gone as far as to map out who and where, with labels such as McCarty, Masen-Cullen, and Whitlock. There was even a big question mark over one that said Stark-Cullen.
"A property developer?" I asked, looking to my mother. "That's perfect. And that would give us several years there."
"And your own places," Esme finished, running her fingers through my hair. You think I don't know that you and Bella have been struggling with this decision? I know you, my sweet boy. You need your time alone again. But I'm not blind. I also know that you'd do anything for your father, so I think this will settle all of it.
"Okay," I said, dragging out the word, but soon, we weren't alone in the dining room. Everyone was trickling out of the hallway. "What about Caroline and Archie?"
"I thought it would be best if we stayed close to Carlisle and Esme," Archie piped up. "We would be in the main house," he added, and Caroline looked impressed with that decision.
"And we haven't decided," Adrian countered. "That's why there's a question mark. Boy, Esme, you really do listen to every conversation around here, don't you?"
"I know my family," she huffed, shooting him a wink. "I know what my children need. All of you. I just have more of you to consider this time around."
We all chuckled, but the best was watching my father's face and mind absorb every detail from over Bella's and my shoulders, but Esme wasn't finished.
"This could essentially answer everyone's problems. The university would give any of you the opportunity to attend classes, there are several hospitals and clinics in the area, and I think I'd be safe to say that you could assume whatever ages you wanted so those of you that need time alone could come in as newly married couples."
"However, I've mapped out several ideas for back-stories for all of us," Jasper said, picking up a stack of printed pages. "Some are even simple enough that you could 'work from home.'" He grinned, using his fingers for the quotation marks.
Bella flipped through the pages, giggling a little. "Oh, you get to play the trust fund kid...again," she cooed adorably.
Laughing, I kissed her cheek. "Fair enough, love."
But as I skimmed through the pages, I could see that Jasper had given Bella and me several options. I could teach piano lessons to children at the local school – there was an ad for one in the local Butte paper. He'd even found an open position at free clinic for me to practice pediatric medicine if I chose to. Or on a completely different path, Bella and I could attend classes, because my brother hadn't forgotten that we'd considered a degree in children's psychiatry a few years back. He'd even drafted up our credits from Dartmouth – falsely updated, of course. All of it – every detail – was right there. And we weren't the only ones he'd been busting his ass to accommodate. It was only when Bella and Esme had stepped in to help that things truly started to fall into place.
As I listened around the room, I could hear that all the ideas, options, and plans were being accepted fully by each and every member of the family, but it was Alice's beaming smile that I locked onto.
"It works. All of it," she whispered to me, but her mind was showing me every mated couple, every scenario. And she was right. The humans wouldn't assume anything about us if we came in as couples building new homes.
To cover Caroline and Archie living with Carlisle and Esme, they would now assume the roles of "foster children." As would Kevin and Adrian, if they decided to live with them, as well. Public high school was now a thing of the past, and thanks to Bella, home-schooling would now be the answer that was given. However, the location of where the property was would give us plenty of space, hunting grounds, and several years to stay because we were nowhere near humans; we would be seated in the mountains away from people. No one would notice if we suddenly graduated or dropped out of college. No one would care if Carlisle transferred from a hospital in Missoula to a new one in Butte. The spread-out area gave us freedom.
But it also gave Carlisle his biggest desire – to keep his family close, both old members and new. And emotion filled his mind, thickened his voice as he turned to face us.
"Let's put it to a vote," he rasped, giving Esme a loving look. "Montana? Jasper, since this is your baby..." he said with a proud grin.
Alice nodded, and Jasper chuckled. "Absolutely in."
"Kevin, Adrian?" Carlisle asked.
"Yeah, definitely," Kevin gushed with a nod, "but we're still undecided about our own place or staying with you."
"You're welcome to stay as long as you wish," he vowed honestly. "Edward? Bella?"
Bella turned to me. "Well?" she asked with a giggle. You ready for our own home again?
I wanted to kiss her senseless and say "fuck yes," but I turned to Carlisle. "We're in. And I'll help you with the initial purchase and paperwork. Bella and I will travel with you."
Thank you, son. His thoughts were filled with gratefulness and emotions he could barely contain, but he turned to Archie. "I know you've been alone a long time, but there's a place for you and Caroline for as long as you wish."
"We know," Caroline answered for the two of them, linking her arm through Archie's. "I would feel...much more comfortable if we could stay with you. I'm at this," she said with a giggle, dodging Kevin's and Emmett's outstretched hands that aimed to ruffle her hair.
Archie dropped a kiss to the top of her head, much more relaxed with showing his affections these days. She was happy, so he was happy, too. Though, secretly, he wished to make her his in every way; he just hadn't asked her the question yet.
Carlisle nodded and then turned to Rose and Emmett, who were already nodding. "Is that your vote?" he asked with a chuckle.
"Yes, sure," Rose stated, but she was looking forward to designing their own place, making something for just the two of them. It had been years since she'd been able to do that.
Emmett, however, couldn't resist breaking up the emotions of the room.
"This'll fucking rock!" he boomed, punching the air with his giant fist. "We're close, but not on top of each other – well, only if you wanna be on top, Rosie," he continued with a snort, grinning lasciviously at her eye roll and groans from the rest of us. "But still...we can do whatever the hell we want! That's a motherfucking win!"
The whole room cracked up, except for Esme, who'd finally had enough. She was blur down the hallway, but slower coming back.
"Emmett, you'd better run!" I warned him, knowing he'd never make it out the front doors.
"Oh shit!" he gasped, eying Esme's hand that was filled with suds and a bar of soap. "You hafta catch me, Mom!" he taunted, taking off out the front door and into the rain that had slowed down to a drizzle.
"He's not giving her enough credit," Bella muttered to me as our mother and brother ran across the front of the house toward the beach. "Fifty bucks says he's burping suds when he comes back."
"No way," Kevin guffawed, slapping money down onto the table. "He's too strong, too fast."
"Yeah, but he's got a soft spot for Mom," Rose snorted, adding her own money to the pile.
"Esme," Adrian proclaimed, wandering toward the windows.
"Esme," Carlisle said firmly in agreement.
"Definitely Mom," I stated.
Archie shook his head. "I don't know...Emmett, I think."
"Nah, Esme," Caroline countered.
"Oh, yeah, Mom all the way," Jasper voted, finally rounded out the betting, leaving a smirking Alice out of it all.
We wandered outside to watch Emmett try to evade Esme, the suds only growing in the rainy weather. He tried laughing it off, but she kept coming. He tried apologizing for his language, but she ignored it. With one last-ditch effort, Emmett tried to flee into the jungle, but Esme launched herself, tackling him into the sand. Before he knew what was coming, the soap, suds, and her hand met his mouth in a vigorous attempt to clean his foul language.
"She'd warned him," I sang, shrugging a shoulder, unable to keep my laugh in as a sand- and suds-covered Emmett finally sat up and an extremely proud Esme made her way back to the house, brushing her hands off.
"Repeatedly," Bella agreed.
"Almost daily," Rose sighed, rolling her eyes.
"Yup. No sympathy," Jasper sighed dramatically, but turned to face us. "So...shall we get started on this move?"
Everyone nodded, and I wrapped my arm around my Bella's shoulder, pressing a kiss to her temple. When she gazed up at me, I smiled.
"Yeah," I sighed, ready to have my girl all to myself again.
I was ready for a place she could make her own again. She'd been blissful in London, and this would give her a chance to do it again. Only this time, we would still be close enough to the family, without having them as nosy neighbors. I knew we still needed to sit down – just the two of us – and talk about which options we wanted to take, but it didn't matter. It never mattered. Not to us. As long as Bella and I were together, we'd get through anything. Always.
Kissing my beautiful, sweet girl one more time, I then looked up at Jasper and Carlisle. I gave them a single nod.
"Let's get to work."


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