Thursday, July 25, 2013 | By: Drotuno

Pieces of You Chapter 12 & Pics

Chapter 12 – Limelight
Edward
Chicago, IL – February
“Mr. Cullen! How long will you be in town? Are you back?”
“Edward! Who’s the woman with you?”
“Mr. Cullen, have you seen your ex-wife since she had her baby?”
“Garrett, Edward...how’d the fund raiser go? Was it awkward seeing Governor Sterling?”
Garrett chuckled, gesturing to his bodyguard, Demetri, who immediately started pushing back every yelling, photo-snapping, privacy-invading bastard that was surrounding the exit of the art center. The invitation-only event was over, and I was ready to get the hell out of there. Demetri forged a path down the steps and across the sidewalk, yanking open the door of a limo. Bella dove in, with me right behind her, but Garrett stopped and faced the paparazzi.
“The fund raiser was an amazing success. We’re hoping the public event tomorrow will open up a few more doors for us,” he stated with grace and calm, though I knew him well enough that he was merely throwing the dogs a bone to placate them.
“Garrett! What’s next?” one of them spouted off.
“Next? Drinks,” he stated with a cheesy grin, which made some of them chuckle. “I haven’t seen my friend in some time, so if you’ll excuse me...I’m gonna go catch up with him. I’m sure you guys can respect that.”

Garrett fell into the seat across from us as Demetri loaded himself into the front by the driver. He rolled his eyes, sighing deeply. The calls could still be heard through the closed car door.
“I’m not fucking kidding,” he told me, grinning as he loosened his tie and shrugged out of his suit jacket. “I need a drink. I know a quiet place, and I’ll have my driver drop you back off at your car afterward. By then, the wolves will be elsewhere. You in?” he asked, glancing between us, but his eyes warmed at the sight of Bella, who’d been eerily quiet since her run-in with Marcus.
The bastard had known to avoid me at the art center. Even his bodyguard, Felix, had kept Marcus’s presence low-key. I wanted to fucking strangle James for allowing an invitation to reach him, but I knew the governor well enough to know that he’d have sneaked in no matter what...just to fucking taunt me. I honestly couldn’t blame James. I’d told him to invite the same people as the ribbon cutting ceremony, but Marcus hadn’t attended that event. All of us had completely forgotten that he was on the list.
“Sunshine?” I whispered against her head, lifting her gaze from the window to me with my fingers underneath her chin. “Hey, you want to go? Or I can have them take us home. I’ll grab the car tomorrow.”
“If you guys wanna go—”
“Don’t,” Garrett interrupted her, holding up his hand. “No way. I gotta get to know the woman that spurred on the demise of Jane the Pain.”
Bella snorted, looking up at me when I chuckled. “Okay, then...yeah. I could really use a drink.”
“Thatta girl.” Garrett tapped on the barrier between the driver and us. “Yo, D! We’re heading to the bar.”
“Yes, sir,” was the only grunted reply back.
“I’d better call Katie,” Garrett murmured, pulling out his phone. His conversation was soft, and I turned to assess Bella.
“Baby, look at me,” I whispered, linking our fingers together. “I’m sorry, sweetheart. I honestly didn’t know he’d be there. He never should’ve approached you. He’s lucky I didn’t have him escorted out by security, but it would’ve—”
“Caused a helluva lot more trouble. I’m okay, Edward. I promise,” she vowed, leaning against my side, and I wrapped a protective arm around her.
Dropping a kiss to the top of her head, I smiled into her hair as I listened to Garrett talk to Kate, telling her the same things he always told her – that he loved her, to kiss Irina for him, and that he wouldn’t be out late. I used to tease the shit out of him for being whipped, because I’d never had to check in with Jane. But with Bella, I finally just got it. It wasn’t about checking in. It was about respect, about just wanting to hear her voice to make the next few minutes better, or it was about making sure she was okay at all times. Nope. I finally got it.
The bar Garrett’s driver took us to was small and quiet. I’d been there before with him. Garrett liked it because the owner respected his privacy, even knowing who and what he was. It was a small neighborhood bar, and Harry hated a “ruckus.” He didn’t want loud booming music, squealing fangirls, or the media bugging his customers, who came there to get away from life, if only for a few hours. How Garrett had found the place originally, I’d never know.
Once inside, the three of us took a far back booth in the corner and ordered three beers. Garrett and I caught up on a few things. Bella chimed in occasionally about Florida, but the proud daddy that was my friend couldn’t stop himself from showing off or bragging about his baby girl.
Bella smiled at the pictures on his phone. Big, round blue eyes and blonde curls filled the screen, not to mention a new tooth or two.
“She’s beautiful,” Bella whispered.
“You should see her momma,” Garrett chortled, gliding his finger across the screen of his phone from the other side of the table. “See?”
Chuckling, I shook my head. “Are you coming to my parents’ tomorrow? All of you?”
Bella’s head snapped up, obviously waiting for his answer.
“I’m gonna try. Katie and Irina are coming. They want to see you,” he stated, pointing my way. “They’re bringing Tanya with them. It’ll be like old times...just with someone new.” He smiled gently toward Bella. “Relax, Bella. If you can handle Marcus like you did, then Carlisle and Esme will be nothin’.”
Bella nodded, but didn’t say anything. We’d talked it all into the ground before getting on the plane to Chicago. She was absolutely terrified of meeting my parents. It was more than the usual first-meeting jitters. Our beginning, our affair, was torturing her; she was petrified of being viewed as a whore, as the other woman, despite how I denied it. I tried to tell her that they were aware of how I felt about her, but she was nervous nonetheless.
“Okay,” he sighed, taking his phone back when she slid it across the table. “I gotta ask... What in the blue fuck did Marcus want with your camera?”
In all the excitement of the auction, the paparazzi, and the fact that Marcus had even fucking dared to approach her, I’d never even asked exactly what he’d said to her.
Reaching into the pocket of my shirt, I took out the camera storage card that she’d given me for safe-keeping. “Sunshine, what’s on this?” I asked her, sliding it in front her with the tip of my finger.
Bella paled, almost to the point of scaring me, but I slid my hand up her back to her neck, giving it a soothing squeeze.
“I ran out of space,” she started, glancing up at me. “And...and...you were busy with James and Laurent, so I finished out the card with a few random pictures.”
Garrett and I nodded, but waited for her to go on.
“I didn’t know he was there, and I didn’t know he was in my sight. I just snapped the picture,” she rambled, fiddling with the storage card. “He was... He had... He was with a girl in the far back corner of the room.”
“Oh ho!” Garrett chortled, shaking his head. “You caught that bastard red-handed?” he asked incredulously.
“Yeah. I mean...I didn’t mean to. It wasn’t... I didn’t set out to catch him!” she whispered, looking up at me nervously. “It just showed up on my screen, you know?”
I knew she was telling the truth. There wasn’t a vindictive bone in Bella’s body.
Cupping her face, I kissed her forehead. “It’s okay, baby. Relax,” I told her, but glanced over at Garrett, whose eyes locked with mine.
“Well, Miss Bella, it seems you’ve got a choice to make,” Garrett said, his eyes on me, but then they drifted down to her.
“You mean sell it?” she asked, shaking her head.
“You could,” he stated, dragging out the last word and shrugging a shoulder. “Here’s the thing.” He placed a hand on his chest. “Coming from someone who knows what an ill-timed picture taken and put in the wrong hands can do to a person, what you have there is a very powerful weapon.”
She was still shaking her head no.
He smiled kindly at her. “What you two have missed since you’ve been out of town is the rumors going around about our dear, sweet governor – misappropriation of funds, sexual harassment in his office, both swept under the rug, and...you’ll love this, Eddie... The claim to Sterling Gallery. He’s taken it from Jane.” He held up his hand when my mouth fell open. “Oh, it’s still in her name, but he’s calling the shots, you see. Mr. Right Wing has started a pretty damn heavy censorship on what art goes on display in that gallery. He’s lost several high-grossing artists to other galleries in the city because of it. No nudity, no sexual content, no political agendas. His voters and supporters and the members of several churches came forward to protest, so he removed it all to appease them.
“The only reason he didn’t attack you before was due to those art classes you were teachin’,” Garrett told me. “If he’d touched those, he’d have been seen as a monster for it. And—” he shrugged a shoulder “—Jane’s art was doing okay...though now it’s not. She hasn’t painted a thing in months.”
“Well, she had the baby,” Bella tried to reason, but Garrett laughed humorlessly.
“Yes, ma’am. Cute little thing, too, but you have no idea what Marcus has put his daughter through,” he sighed, sitting back in the booth after taking a long drink from his beer. “Katie and Tanya saw her not long ago. Of course, it was all Katie could do to keep her sister’s mouth on a damn leash.”
I laughed, and knowing Tanya, that was probably very true. I turned to Bella. “Tanya’s very...outspoken,” I explained, grinning at Garrett’s snort. “But she’s very loyal. To me, to my family. Before Jane, Tanya and I would hang out, date a little – nothing too heavy. She’s very laid-back that way. She and Rose are best friends and always have been. When Jane came along, the jealousy was awful, no matter what we said about just being good friends, and she’d smash our relationship in Tanya’s face.”
Bella snorted, rolling her eyes. We’d talked about this before. We’d talked about firsts and proms and dating from high school and college. Bella’s first was as similar as mine. Tanya had been my first, with no pressure, no big heavy emotion attached to it. Bella’s had been about the same – some boy by the name of Jared. They’d been close friends, and it had turned into more for a little bit.
“Anyway,” Garrett said with a laugh, “Tanya’s always let Jane know just where she stood. But they overheard her on the phone when they saw her at the spa or whatever. Jane may be a money-hungry, power-seeking pain in the ass, but she learned it all from her father. And it seems the governor is using his daughter’s new temporary popularity with the media to reach a whole new level of low. He’s vying for re-election or an upgrade to senator or some shit. Jane’s going along with every bit of it. The problem is...she has no clue just how low Daddy is willing to stoop. The only reason he wants Jane to fight against Jacob Black for custody is to use that baby in his campaign – you know, family values and all that jazz.”
Garrett grimaced, shaking his head. “Look, Edward, none of us knew...and had we known, I think we would’ve gone to Carlisle. But...Marcus made Jane marry you – not that she didn’t want to, ’cause she did. The gallery was to shut you up, add a little spice to the deal. They merely wanted to be attached to the Cullen name. Believe me, had Eleazar had a boy instead of Katie and Tanya...he may have been targeted, too. It was Cullen and Denali’s backing that paid for his campaign the last time.”
Nodding, I let out a deep breath. I’d assumed as much as the divorce had been at it’s ugliest. “And now, he’s lost his biggest contributor of campaign funds,” I surmised, my nose wrinkling at Garrett’s nod.
Garrett turned back to Bella. “So...you have a choice. You could sell it to the highest bidder, which would put you with the tabloid people. Or hand it over to Emmett, who’s working the custody case against Jane for Jacob Black...or you could send it slyly to the newspapers and television.” He held up a single finger. “You could even delete it, pretend it never happened. But whatever you decide, I’d keep it quiet, anonymous. Because the very fucking second Marcus Sterling figures out that he got a blank storage card, he’s gonna lose his ever-lovin’ mind.”
My fists balled up on the top of the table. My girl had innocently rattled Marcus’s cage. He’d come at her with everything he had.
I shook my head slowly, finally sinking both hands into my hair. “We need to strike first.”
“What?” Bella squeaked, looking at me like I was insane.
“That would be my suggestion. You’d have the weekend, most likely,” Garrett concurred, but pointed to me. “You should talk to Emmett and Carlisle tomorrow when you’re over there.”
“I’d planned on it,” I murmured, gazing down at Bella, who was staring at that storage card like it was poison. “Bella, I don’t want that in your possession. We’ll figure out what to do with it, but for now, just...” I snorted when she shoved it toward me. “Yes, ma’am,” I sighed, pocketing it swiftly.
Garrett watched her for a moment, but then looked to me. “You’ve lost enough to those two, Edward. Tanya thinks the whole thing was planned – seducing you, the marriage, and most definitely the gallery and pre-nup. She also thinks Jacob Black was a target, too. Guess what project he works on for Chicago...”
I shrugged. I had no clue, nor did I ever care enough to find out.
“Marcus’s own baby project: the rejuvenation of rundown areas. You know, ’cause Marcus is all about ‘helping the little people.’” His last statement came out so filled with sarcasm that Bella and I laughed.
“Oh damn,” Bella sighed, shaking her head.
“Exactly,” he agreed with her. “You guessed it. Jacob controls cost, construction, and speed.”
Shaking my head, I groaned and rubbed my face. “If he controls the kid, then he controls his own pet project.”
Bella huffed a humorless laugh. “That poor baby...”
“Yeah,” Garrett and I said at the same time.
“Umm...Shawn...Shane... No, Seth! That’s the little guy’s name,” Garrett added with a shake to his head. “Hey, I’m all for a mom being with her kid. I’m just not so sure that’s for the best in this scenario. Especially since Tanya and Katie saw Jane with him...sort of. I mean, he’s got a nanny, so Jane doesn’t...I don’t know...break a nail or a sweat or some shit.”
I snorted into a laugh, almost choking on the beer I’d just sipped.
“I don’t...” Bella huffed heavily through her nose, shaking her head. “I don’t get that. I just don’t. Wouldn’t you want to see everything? Be a part of every little thing your baby does?”
My head spun to her, my heart just about exploding with my love for her. But Garrett agreed with her with a nod.
“Hell yes!” he snapped, rolling his eyes. “I just about went insane when I had to leave to shoot my last movie. I missed first words, first tooth...I was livid!”
Seeing one of my oldest, closest friends accept Bella was an amazing feeling. Garrett never acted like the superstar he’d come to be. That was something I’d always known, but he made her comfortable, just like Rose.
“Sunshine, we should probably get home. I need to be back at the art center early tomorrow,” I told her softly, and Garrett already was waving for the check.
When we were all paid and back at the art center’s now-empty parking lot, Bella slid out of the limo through the door that was being held by Demetri.
“Try to make it tomorrow, if you can.” I told Garrett, shaking his hand.
“I will,” he said with a grin. “She’ll need all the backup she can get at your parents’ house, huh?”
“I think she’ll be fine, but you never know,” I sighed, grimacing his way. “I mean, Rose adores her.”
“I can see why,” he mused, rubbing his chin. “Edward, she’s... She’s who you should’ve been with all along. She’s great, really. I can see why you fought so hard. She’s worth it.”
I chuckled. “Yeah, Gare...I think so.”
~PoY~
“We’re not staying for the whole day this time, Sunshine,” I whispered into Bella’s ear as we stood at the back of the room.
The place was pretty busy for the public event. Donations were well above what we’d been expecting, not to mention a few new students had been signed up. James was extremely happy with the turn out.
“Okay,” she whispered back, fidgeting with her camera with shaky hands.
“Baby, stop. Do you honestly think I’d allow anyone – even someone in my family – to hurt you? Be mean to you?” I asked her, turning her way by leaning one shoulder against the wall.
“No.”
This was the reason I’d asked my family to forgo coming to this event. I wanted to slowly introduce our relationship into the public while we were in Chicago. It was stressful enough without having to add the pressure of meeting my parents on top of it all. They’d kindly agreed, only asking that we come to the house after the fund raiser.
“Then please relax, sweetheart. I promise you that I’m not leading you to the lion’s den,” I vowed to her, but smirked at her nervous expression. “The only one that gets to eat you...is me...” I shot her a wink, which resulted in the reaction I’d wanted – a sweet blush and an adorable giggle.
“Edward,” she groaned, rolling her eyes.
“Bella?” we heard to our right, and we both looked over to see a young girl with glasses and dark hair.
“Angela,” Bella squeaked, brushing past me to hug her friend from the Chicago Tribune. “Are you covering this for the paper?”
Angela smiled softly at Bella, her gaze flickering to me. “No, I don’t work for the Trib anymore. I quit there just after you did. I work for Sun-Times now...their news website.”
Bella froze. “Why?” she asked, her eyes narrowing on her friend. “You loved the Trib. You were doing amazing there.”
“Yeah, but...” Angela grimaced, looking to me. “I wasn’t going to hurt my friend in the spirit of politics.”
“Aw, fuck,” I hissed, gesturing between me and Bella. “They cornered you over us, didn’t they?”
She nodded, but offered me her hand. “It’s good to see you again, Mr. Cullen. And I didn’t know much to start with, but still...”
“Edward, please,” I countered.
“Edward,” she said kindly. “It was unethical and dirty and the governor wanted answers that I wasn’t willing to reveal, even though I didn’t know much. They thought since I’d worked with you both that I knew more than I was telling.” She smiled at Bella. “I mean, I sort of figured it all out eventually. Your reaction to that baby announcement,” she stated, pointing to Bella, only to look to me, “and then your phone call looking for her. I just... I knew then that things were not as they seemed.”
Bella looked to me, her face screaming silent apologies.
“Uh-uh.” I practically growled at her, and then kissed the side of her head, whispering, “Apologize, and you’re in serious trouble, Miss Swan.”
Angela giggled at us, which made Bella smile. “I’m glad to see everything worked out. Let me make the rounds.” She pointed around the room. “Are you guys back?”
“No,” Bella replied softly. “We’ll be leaving on Tuesday.”
Her friend nodded. “Well, call me before you go, okay?”
“Sure thing,” Bella chirped happily, waiting for Angela to step away. Looking to me, she said, “I owe her. She lost her job over us.”
“She’s at a better...non-Governor Sterling paper now,” I stated firmly, raising an eyebrow at her. “She’s better off. It’s where I would’ve suggested you go, had you wanted to stay.”
Bella’s brow furrowed, but she merely nodded.
Kissing her forehead, I linked our fingers together. “Come, Sunshine. We’ll go see Sarah before we go.”
~PoY~
Pulling into my parents’ driveway, I noted exactly who was there, but Bella fidgeted anxiously in her seat. She was trying so damn hard not to be nervous, but was failing miserably, because she looked like she was going to be sick.
I put the car in park and turned to face her. “Bella, look at me,” I pleaded in a whisper, and she mirrored my position in her seat. I toyed with the white gold sun charm I’d given her first thing that morning for Valentine’s Day, smirking at how good it looked against her now lightly sun-kissed skin. “Do you know why I call you Sunshine?” I asked her softly.
“You said it was because I was the bright spot in your life,” she answered in a whisper.
“Mmhm,” I hummed with a nod. “That’s true. But that’s only part of the reason.” Smiling when she locked her eyes with mine, I leaned in and brushed my lips across hers. “You’re everything warm and happy. Do you know that? Everything about you – the very fucking second I met you – melted away all the bad shit around me. You brought me back to life, baby. And if you don’t think those people inside that...okay, yeah, fairly ostentatious house know that, then you’re fooling yourself.”
She fought her smile, her eyes breaking from mine to gaze at the large, white colonial house. “It is kinda...”
“Big. Yeah, I know, but my mother wanted lots of rooms to decorate. But it was fucking awesome to play Hide and Seek in when we were kids,” I told her, grinning when she finally giggled.
“Who won?”
“Not Emmett. He was too damn loud. Kate and Tanya were stealthy little things, but I did mostly,” I said with pride. “I was kinda skinny, so I could squeeze into places they couldn’t find.”
She laughed softly again, this time cupping my face and kissing my lips. “Thanks. I needed that laugh,” she admitted, biting her lip and glancing at the house again. “I just... I mean, I know we were wrong, Edward. I just don’t want you to have to defend me to people you’ve loved your whole life.”
“I’m not ashamed of loving you, Sunshine,” I stated softly, shrugging a shoulder. “How we met, how we came to be is no longer an issue. Not to me, which means it shouldn’t be to them.”
“But we aren’t from the same—” she started to counter, but I kissed her to shut her up.
“Hush, baby. If you were after my money, you would’ve let me promote your art...or...or reveled in the media coverage of the divorce. Or...I don’t know...let me spoil you, but you didn’t do any of that. I grew up around these people; you think I don’t know when someone wants something from me?” I asked her, narrowing my eyes playfully. “No, baby. All you’ve ever wanted was—”
“You.”
I smiled at her answer. “Yes, me – time with me. And I love that, and I told my mom just about that very thing.”
She took a deep breath and let it out, finally nodding once. “Okay.”
“Okay,” I echoed, dropping a heavy kiss to her temple before getting out of the car. Once I opened her door, I said, “Besides, I think you’re underestimating Rose’s power and influence.”
Bella giggled, but her eyes were locked onto someone behind me.
“It’s about time you recognized what I bring to the table, Eddie,” Rose snorted, rolling her eyes at me and shoving me out of the way. “Bella, it’s good to see you,” she said kindly, pulling my girl into a hug. “Relax. I think you’ll be surprised with how you’re received, hmm?” she whispered in her ear, but shot me a wink. “Come on, you two. Everyone’s here, except Garrett, and he called to say he’d be here in an hour or two. He’s taping an interview for a TV show or some shit.”
Rose led the way inside the front door, but Bella had a tenacious grip on my hand. The first person we ran into was Maggie. She’d originally been hired to help my mom out around the house when Emmett and I were little kids. She wasn’t really a maid, and she’d never considered herself a nanny. She was just...Maggie. She’d come to be like a grandmother to us, and she loved us as if she were just that, considering she had no family of her own. She was a larger woman, kind, with a hug that could make the worst days seem better.
“There’s my boy,” she crooned, holding her large arms out for me. When I hugged her, she pulled back and cupped my face. “I miss this handsome face. No one eats my spaghetti like you do.”
I scoffed, shaking my head. “Well, then, they’re missin’ out, Mags.” I took a step back, placing my hand on Bella’s shoulder. “Maggie, this is Bella. Bella, this is Maggie. She’s lived with us my whole life.”
“It’s nice to meet you,” Bella said politely, smiling up at the old woman.
“You, too, sweetie. My goodness, aren’t you a pretty thing?” Maggie crooned, shaking Bella’s hand and giving me a side glance. “So this is the reason you’re moving so far away.”
“Yes, ma’am.” I said the words happily, and Maggie grinned at me, patting the side of my face.
“Good. It’s time you got away from all this nonsense around here,” she scolded sweetly. “Give me your coats. Everyone’s in the den. We’ll be eating in a few minutes.”
After shrugging out of our coats, I guided Bella through the foyer and into the den. The room was loud, filled with laughter and chatter, mainly from Tanya and Emmett, who looked to be in a heavy video game battle while Rose watched. Katie was holding Irina, sitting on the sofa between my mother and hers. My dad and Eleazar were in a heated chess game in the far corner.
“You’re going down, T!” Emmett growled, but then stopped completely when he saw us in the doorway. “Hot damn! It’s about fucking time!”
“Emmett!” my mom scolded, but stood up.
In fact, everyone came to greet us.
“Come on, Sunshine,” I whispered to her, tugging her all the way into the room.
If anyone could make my girl feel welcome, it was my brother, and he stepped up to the plate perfectly.
“There she is!” he said, pulling her into an unexpected hug that made Bella squeak with surprise, but she laughed, patting his large shoulder. “It’s great to finally put the face with the voice. See?” he asked, gesturing over his body. “I’m totally the hotter brother.”
It was hilarious – and flattering – to watch Bella’s slightly disbelieving, yet trying-to-be-kind laugh. It made the whole room chuckle.
“Don’t worry, Bella,” Tanya said with a laugh as she and Rose smacked at my brother – one to the back of his head and the other to his bicep. “You can call Emmett out on his shit. He knows he’s full of it. And no one will think less of you.” She held out her hand. “Oh boy, am I glad to meet you. It’s about time that Edward upgraded from that piece of—”
“Tanya!” everyone yelled, except for Emmett and Rose, who cracked the fuck up.
“What?” She scoffed, rolling her eyes. “You guys were thinking it! Don’t deny it!”
Despite Tanya’s beauty and sexy figure, she was damned funny. She had zero filter from her brain to her mouth, her ideals were free-spirited and open-minded, and she could hang with the guys watching sports and talking trash just as easily as she could spend a day at the spa with the girls swapping gossip.
I shook my head and sighed, shooing away my very outspoken friend, who was smirking at me. “Move,” I teased her, turning to Bella. “Obviously, Tanya,” I snorted, laughing when Bella giggled softly. I then pointed out everyone else in the room. “That’s her sister, Kate, and little Irina, who Garrett so proudly showed off last night. Their parents, Carmen and Eleazar Denali. And my parents, Carlisle and Esme Cullen.”
Bella shook hands with everyone, saving my parents for last. My dad assessed her from head to toe, but shook her hand politely. If anyone was going to give her trouble, I was betting on him, but a small, warm smile curled up his lips.
“Bella, it’s nice to finally meet you.”
“You, too, Mr. Cullen,” she replied back, her voice a little shaky with nerves, so I placed my hand on her neck to soothe her.
“Carlisle, please,” he countered, wearing a smile when he looked up at me. I wanted to laugh, because she’d won him over, simply by being...Bella.
“And call me Esme,” my mom said, stepping forward, and to my surprise, she hugged Bella gently. “It’s nice to finally meet you, Bella. Edward’s spoken most highly of you.”
Bella blushed, giving me a narrowed-eye glare, and I merely shrugged a shoulder shamelessly, but she smiled back to my mother. “Thank you.”
“I think lunch is almost ready, guys. Make yourself at home. I’ll just go check,” Mom said, coming to kiss my cheek.
“Can I help with anything?” Bella offered.
“I don’t know, we’ll see. Come on. Maybe Maggie’ll put us both to work,” Mom sang, taking Bella out of the room, but Carmen, Kate, and Rose all followed them.
Tanya sidled up next to me, and I rolled my eyes her way, waiting for whatever she was about to blurt out.
“She’s fucking adorable,” she snorted. “Seriously.” When I simply chuckled, she raised an eyebrow at me. “Oh my damn,” she gasped dramatically, placing a hand over her heart. “You’re like...obnoxiously happy, aren’t you?”
“Yes.” I grinned over at her, laughing when she shoved me a little. “Does that bother you?”
“Immensely so.”
“Good.” I grinned her way.
Dinner was amazing, and little by little, Bella relaxed, even more so when someone asked about her work. She was articulate and animated as she talked about her photographs and all she’d accomplished. When she said that the book she’d been working on with Jessica was about to be published, I saw as their respect for her increased. I knew they finally saw what I’d been telling most of them: she was amazing and talented, but wanted no help, no outside boosts. She was – in all ways, shapes, and forms – the complete and total opposite of my ex-wife.
“You should have a web site,” Kate suggested as Maggie served dessert.
“Yeah, Edward mentioned that,” she replied, nodding slightly.
“I’d be glad to work something up for you,” Kate offered.
Bella looked to me nervously. “I couldn’t ask you to do that.”
Chuckling, I leaned to her. “That’s what Kate does...from home. She makes web sites. She runs Garrett’s.”
“Oh,” Bella said softly, looking back to Kate, who was helping happy little Irina eat green beans.
“Get my e-mail from Edward, and then you can send me some of your work. I’ll make up a few samples to see what you like.”
“Thank you,” Bella told her.
“Yo, Eddie,” Emmett called when it was clear that dinner was over. “We’re gonna start a fire out on the deck. Come on,” he told me.
“We’ll join you in a sec,” I told him, holding out my hand. “I’m gonna show Bella the rest of the house.”
Tanya started to say something, but Rose wrapped her arm around her, placing a hand over her mouth. “Have fun. Make sure to show her the library.”
The table cracked up, but I led Bella out of the room.
“Do I wanna know what Tanya was about to say?” Bella giggled, looking up at me.
“No. Probably not.”
I gave Bella a tour of the entire downstairs – my dad’s office, the library, and the formal living room that no one ever really used. We went upstairs, and I pointed out Emmett’s room, our game room, and finally, my own room.
“My old room,” I said, smirking when I opened the door. “Mom hasn’t changed it much.”
Bella’s giggle at the sight of my room made me smile. It wasn’t much different than when I’d been living there. There were still a few basketball and football posters up, pictures of my friends and me from high school, and a banner or two from Dartmouth from when I’d come home on holidays. It did clearly looked like a guy’s room, though – dark blue walls and striped comforter, dark furniture, and a giant-ass TV in the corner.
Sunshine walked slowly around the room, taking it all in and looking so pretty in her dark gray dress. It fit her like a glove, but it was classy, flaring out just above her knees. Her dark hair was in soft curls down her back as she stood in front of my window.
She turned to face me, smiling sweetly. “I like it. It fits you.”
It was a sweet and innocent thing to say, but after watching her with my family and seeing her standing in my old room, I just couldn’t stop the next thing that popped out of my mouth.
You fit me,” I stated, reaching for her waist and yanking her close. My fingers slipped into her hair at the base of her skull, I was just about to kiss the ever-loving shit out of her when she stopped me.
“Edward, wait,” she pleaded weakly with her hands on my chest, though her eyes betrayed her when they dropped to my mouth. “We shouldn’t...everyone’s downstairs.”
“They won’t know, nor will they come up here, Sunshine,” I vowed with a grin, because I knew it was true. “I’m too damn old to worry about having a girl in my room.”
She smiled, licking her bottom lip, but slipped her arms around my neck. Her entire body pressed to mine, and my hand skimmed over every inch of her back and ass with a flat palm. The very second our lips touched, it was open mouths and swirling tongues. My shameless moan at the feel of no bra and what felt like lacy panties made me grip her hair to turn her head. I backed her toward my old bed, laying her down in the middle of it crossways, only to crawl on top of her.
The soft material of her dress felt like heaven beneath my hands that were now every-damn-where I could touch – across her stomach, cupping her possessively, up the inside of her thighs, and finally holding a handful of her breast where her nipples peaked high and tight under my palm.
My tongue claimed her mouth, only to lick at her jaw, neck, and exposed collarbones. A tiny hint of nipple was too much to resist, and I tugged her dress down in order to taste it at the same time my thigh slid between her legs.
“Oh fuck,” she breathed, gripping my hair and yanking up my shirt in order to reach skin. “Baby, we can’t...” she protested, yet she pressed herself down onto my thigh, grinding, searching, wanting.
I smiled against her neck, my fingers searching for the spot that made her forget everything, and when I found it, she moaned softly as her lips sought out my neck and jaw. She rolled us over and climbed on top of me, causing her dress to right up higher. My hands pulled and pushed, rubbing her against me as her mouth continued its assault on my neck. Pushing up my shirt, Bella dropped long, wet, open-mouthed kisses on my chest, only to attach to my lips again.
I was so fucking hard for her, I could barely see straight as I met her hips over and over. Sitting up, I kept her straddling my lap.
“Fuck me, you feel good,” I panted, unable to resist that same nipple that was peeking out above her dress. “I don’t wanna stop, baby.”
Groaning forlornly, she grasped either side of my face and kissed me deeply. “We have to, Edward. Please? I don’t... I can’t...” she whispered against my mouth.
Grinning, I kissed her one more time. “Okay, okay. Just...don’t move for a second, all right?”
Her breathing was heavy as she nodded and ran her fingers through my hair. I understood where she was coming from; she didn’t want to take it any further with everyone so close. Besides, my girl wore an orgasm like a neon sign on her forehead – all blissed-out smile, eyes dilated, and red-cheeked. The thought made me kiss her lightly.
“We’re finishing this back at the house, Sunshine,” I warned her with a raised eyebrow.
“Okay,” she agreed with a blush and an adorable giggle. “Just...not here...in your old room. And not with a bunch of your family downstairs.”
“What’s wrong with my room?” I asked, lifting her off of me and setting her gently to her feet.
She raised a dangerous eyebrow at me as she straightened her dress. “How many girls?” she asked, pointing to the bed.
Laughing, I stood up in front of her. “I’ll have you know...none. Mom didn’t allow girls upstairs once Emmett and I turned fourteen. And Maggie threatened to remove the doors from their hinges had we broken that rule.”
Bella grinned. “I like Maggie. Actually, I like them all. They’re really nice, Edward.”
I straightened my own clothes, and Bella tried to help, but I batted her hands away playfully. “You touch, and we’re back on that bed, Sunshine. Give a man a break.”
She bit her bottom lip and raised her hands in surrender. Those sweet brown eyes were filled with mirth, but she turned her head slightly when voices sounded out from downstairs.
“Garrett’s here?” she guessed.
“Are you fan-girling over my friend, Bella?” I teased her.
“No! But you’re right about him,” she stated, fixing her hair in my mirror. “He’s not like he appears to be. And he did save me from Marcus.”
“Yeah,” I sighed, pulling her to me again, but this time to soothe her. “I truly owe him one. And I think... Maybe he’s right. We should talk to my dad and Emmett about that picture, huh?”
She nuzzled into me. “Yeah,” she mumbled into my chest. “Think they’ll know what to do?”
“I don’t know, baby, but we can ask. Maybe Garrett can sit in and tell them what he told us. Okay?”
“’Kay,” she sighed into my neck.
I kissed the top of her head, only to pull her back a little to look her in the eye. “I promise you, we’ll figure it out, Sunshine. I won’t let him hurt you. I swear to God.”
She smiled up at me. “I know.”
“Good.” I sighed, linking my fingers with hers, only to kiss the back of her hand. “Let’s go see what they say.”





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