Wednesday, August 21, 2013 | By: Drotuno

In Pursuit Chapter 29 & Pics

Chapter 29
Bella POV
“No, I wanna bowl more,” I whined as Edward pulled the Wii bat from the cabinet.
Alice laughed. “That’s ’cause you suck at baseball, B.”
“Shut it, Pix.” I glared at her until her unrepentantly amused expression finally cracked my resolve, and then I joined the rest of them in laughter. “Yeah, yeah. I suck at baseball.” Rolling my eyes, I said, “Fine, but you guys start. I need something to drink.”
I tossed my Wii-mote down on the couch and made my way to the kitchen. When I stood up after grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge, strong arms wrapped around me from behind.
“You know, Bella,” Edward’s voice said softly, his breath ghosting across my neck and shoulder, “we don’t really have to play baseball.”
Laughing, I set my drink on the counter and turned in his arms. “Nah, it’s all good. I was just teasing. Yes, I suck – I swear I can never time my swing right! – but you guys bowled for me first, so I’ll put on my big girl panties.”
His eyes darkened, and I knew what he was going to say before he even opened his mouth. “Oh, baby. If you don’t want to wear panties – big girl or otherwise – you don’t have to on my account.”
And there it was.

I grinned and stepped up on my toes to kiss him once. “Horny man. You’d love it if I went around naked all the time, wouldn’t you?” I teased.
“Why yes, I would,” he answered, looking completely unashamed.
“Mmhmm, that’s what I thought. Not today, baby, but maybe someday.” I winked, grabbed my water, and then turned to leave the kitchen.
Cracking the fuck up, Edward stepped up beside me, smacked my ass in a teasing blow, and said, “Good. I call tomorrow as Naked Bella Day. Put it on the calendar.”
I couldn’t help but giggle, even as I rolled my eyes. “I’ll be sure to do that,” I deadpanned, “but only if you join me.”
“Oh, beautiful,” he purred low, leaning in so only I could hear, “I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
A few minutes later, as I struck out for the third time in a row, Jasper asked, “So, B, how’d your first week of work go?”
Turning my gaze from Edward, who was up to bat after me, I said, “Great, actually. Everyone is really sweet there in the office. I’ve already met a lot of nice people. Yesterday was Caroline’s last day. You knew that she’d been ordered to bed rest for the rest of her pregnancy, right? She told me yesterday at lunch that it’s because she’s pregnant with twins and already having blood pressure problems, even though she’s only four months along. She apparently lost their last baby, so the doctor was taking no chances. She was lucky she got to stay on for the week to get me started.”
“That’s rough,” Jasper said, frowning.
I nodded. “Yeah, but she said the doctor’s optimistic that staying off her feet and avoiding stress will go a long way to getting her as close to full-term as possible. She was just very grateful that I’d been able to start right away so she didn’t feel so bad about leaving.” Shrugging, I continued, “I didn’t tell her I was grateful that she’d had to leave suddenly so I was able to get a job that quickly!”
“It all worked out best for both of you,” Edward said smoothly, taking his seat beside me as Alice stepped up to play.
“Mmhmm,” I said, smiling and accepting his kiss to my temple.
A knock on the door startled us all, causing Alice to swing and miss, striking out.
“Damn it all,” she groaned, tossing the bat to Jasper.
Since she was closest to the door, she peeked through the curtain in the window, grinning as she then pulled the door open. “Hi, Betty,” she sang, stepping back and allowing our neighbor to come inside.
When I heard the name, I stood and moved over to them.
Betty stepped in, flashing a smile. “Hi, sweetheart. Hello, Bella.” She smiled warmly at me before turning to the boys. “Edward, Jasper. These girls keeping you in line?”
“Yes, ma’am,” Jasper drawled, causing Edward to roll his eyes before he stood and made his way to us.
“Hi, Betty,” Edward said, smiling and reaching out for the casserole dish and small container Betty had in her hands. “Here, let me take those for you.”
“Oh, yes, thank you.” Betty gladly handed them over and then looked to Alice and me. “I made lasagna this morning to take to a church dinner tonight, and it was just as easy to make a double batch.” She rattled off instructions for reheating it as Edward took the dishes to the kitchen.
“Thank you,” I told her, my stomach growling at the thought. I loved lasagna, but we hadn’t had it in a while. “Would you like to sit down?”
She looked disappointed as she shook her head. “Thank you, Bella, but I can’t stay long, unfortunately. I’m supposed to help them set up for the dinner, and I still have some things I need to do before I go.” Then she smiled. “I did want to hear about your first week of work, though, girls.”
I’d run into her early in the week as I went for a walk one evening with Edward, and I’d told her about both of us finding jobs already. Alice and I gave her a condensed version of our weeks, and by the end, Betty was smiling again.
“Good! You girls deserve to be happy, and I’m glad the jobs seem to be working out so far.”
Her comment about deserving to be happy threw me, but when I opened my mouth to ask what she meant, Edward gave a little head shake, which I took to mean, “Not now.” Instead, I said, “Thank you,” and gave her a smile.
“Alice, you’ll have to let me know when your kids put on their first recital, okay? I’ll be sure to come watch.”
My sister grinned, nodding. “I will. I’m not sure when that’ll be. I don’t think we’ll have one until December, for Christmas, but I’ll let you know.”
Betty nodded and then looked at her watch. “I’d better run. Remember, three fifty for twenty to thirty minutes, and if it’s a little dry, use that extra sauce.”
We said we would and thanked her again for the food.
“We’ll wash the dishes and get them back to you as soon as we can,” I promised.
She waved off my comment. “No rush, sweetheart. Boys,” she said, raising an eyebrow at Edward and Jasper, “be good.” Grinning as they laughed, she turned back to the door.
Jasper stepped up beside her. “Let me walk you home, ma’am.”
Betty stopped in the doorway and put up her hand to stop him from going any farther. “Thank you, Jasper, but I’ll be fine.” When he started to protest, she shook her head. “I’ll be fine,” she repeated firmly, smiling when he relaxed and nodded. “Bye, girls,” she called over her shoulder, and we watched until she stepped down from the porch before Jasper shut the door behind her.
“Mmm, damn. Homemade lasagna,” he crowed, rubbing his stomach. “Would it be too much to ask if you ladies would invite us to stay for dinner?”
Alice and I rolled our eyes. “Sorry!” she teased. “It’s just for us, right, B?”
She squealed as Jasper scooped her up and carried her off down the hall.
Edward and I laughed at them before turning to the TV, which was paused at Jasper’s turn to bat.
“Guess that’s the end of baseball, hmm?” I asked with a grin.
He nodded, and then suddenly, I found myself up and over his shoulder, staring at his ass as he took off in the same direction.
“I can think of something I’d rather be doing anyway,” he said simply, and then he growled as I reached down and smacked his behind. “Hey now!”
Laughing, I said, “One good turn deserves another, Edward.”
“Mm, we’ll see about that,” he huffed as I closed the bedroom door behind us.
I was still laughing as he dropped me onto the bed.
~oOo~
That night, as we dug into Betty’s lasagna, Edward cleared his throat before speaking. “Ladies, since it’s been a week since my dad saw me meet Bella for what he thought was the first time, Al has agreed that we can begin to...out our relationships, for lack of a better phrase.”
A thrill ran through me at the idea of not having to hide anymore, of finally meeting Edward’s family – even though that same thought terrified me to no end.
“Yeah?” Alice squeaked, looking at Jasper excitedly.
“Yeah, darlin’,” he echoed, giving her a smile. “But that means we gotta make sure you have your new backstory down.”
When Alice looked at me, raising an eyebrow, I motioned for her to go ahead.
“Bella and I were born April tenth. We turned twenty-five a few months ago. Bella’s four minutes older, which she never lets me forget.” She winked playfully in my direction as I nodded haughtily.
“Damn straight, baby sister.” I grinned before taking over for her. “We grew up in Phoenix, living there with our parents until we went to college in California at USC. I have a degree in business accounting.”
“My degree is in performing arts, of course,” Alice said, and then her face turned sad and her voice wasn’t nearly as light and happy as it had been. “Our parents were Robert and Caroline. He was an accountant, which is where Bella got her love of numbers, and she was an art teacher, who loved everything artistic. They died...” Her voice trailed off, and she bit her lip, so I took over again.
“They died when we were in college – hit by a drunk driver and killed immediately. After graduation, we couldn’t stand the idea of going back to Phoenix – without our parents there, it wasn’t home anymore – so we stayed in California for a while, but we needed a change, so we just moved to Seattle.”
“Good,” Edward said, reaching out to take my hand and giving it a light squeeze. His voice was soft as he continued, “I can’t imagine how tough it is to not be able to speak about who your parents really were and your memories of them. I...We wish we could give that to you. But to the four of us, your parents will always be Charlie and Renee Brandon, so you never have to forget them. No matter what names you call them when you mention them to people, you need to remember they loved you, and that’s what’s important now.”
Alice and I nodded, whispering our thanks before pushing our plates away. Apparently, that conversation had killed what little appetite either of us had left.
“Done, baby?” Edward asked, leaning over to whisper softly into my ear.
“Yeah, I think so,” I said with a shrug.
“Mmkay. It’ll reheat well, so let me know if you get hungry later?” When I nodded, he smiled and picked up my plate along with his, taking it to the counter to put it in a container for the fridge.
“At least we’ll have a good lunch tomorrow,” Alice said as she slid the casserole dish into the fridge. “Are you going to your parents’?” she asked Edward, who nodded.
“Yeah, for dinner. I’ll be here for lunch if you wanna share, short stuff.”
She shrugged and said playfully, “Maybe. We’ll see.”
Once the rest of the food was put away and the dishes were done, Alice suggested a movie, so Edward and I curled up on one end of the couch, leaving the other end for the two of them. I lay across his lap, my head on his shoulder, as we lightened the somber mood considerably by starting the first season of The Big Bang Theory, which Edward and Jasper had never seen. It had recently come out on Blu-ray, and since Alice and I both loved it, we knew the guys would, too. We’d bought it on our first shopping trip in Seattle a few weeks before.
“I can’t believe I’ve missed so much of this show,” Edward said from beside me a good long while later. He’d laughed so hard at some of it that I’d had to move from his lap so I didn’t fall off to the floor.
I giggled, poking his side. “I know! I bet you thought nerds weren’t your thing, huh?” I teased.
Edward wiggled his eyebrows. “They are now, though, aren’t they, B?”
“This one better be, anyway.” I tried to say it in a serious voice, but my amusement wasn’t going to be hidden, and I laughed again.
“I can’t believe it was a Roseanne reunion,” Jasper scoffed, shaking his head as he referred to Sara Gilbert’s guest spot opposite Johnny Galecki. “Darlene and David, back together again.”
“Does she stick around?” Edward asked.
“She’ll be back, but only a few times,” Alice answered.
Jasper nodded. “Good. Then I’m guessing Leonard gets the girl he really wants?”
Alice and I giggled.
“You guys are adorable,” she said. “Now, hush so we can watch more! You’ll enjoy the next one, too.”
By the time we’d watched the first eight episodes, the guys were just as hooked on the show as Alice and I were. They both wanted to watch more, but Alice and I looked at each other and shook our heads.
“We’ve been watching over two and a half hours,” I said with a laugh.
“Yeah, but it’s funny,” Edward argued with a shrug.
As Alice whispered something to Jasper, I leaned over and said quietly to Edward, “I’ll make it worth your while...”
Edward took the remote from my hand and turned off the TV and Blu-ray player, immediately standing.
I giggled when Jasper stood as well and hoisted Alice over his shoulder.
“Goodnight!” she called out, laughing, as he carried her down the hall.
We echoed our goodnights, and then Edward pressed a kiss to my temple and said, “Go on, baby. I’ll lock up and then come back there.”
I nodded, turning my face up to accept another kiss to my lips this time, and then left him to check the doors and turn off the lights.
~oOo~
Five o’clock Monday couldn’t have come around any more slowly. It’d been a great weekend spent mostly with Edward – until he’d left to go to dinner at his parents’ house Sunday evening – and while I loved my new job so far, I hadn’t wanted to go back to work. I was going to see him in a few minutes, though, which thrilled me. He’d promised to cook something tonight, even though I’d offered to pick up some takeout on my way over.
Waving at a few of the women in the office, I was able to avoid running into Martin, the only guy in the accounting office. He’d been friendly since my first day, trying to flirt, but he was so painfully shy that he just came across as scared and uncomfortable. I didn’t want to have to turn him down if he asked me out, because I was sure it would hurt his feelings, so I hoped his nerves would continue to hold him back.
I got a text just as I was getting into the car, so I dug through my bag to find my phone and pulled it out before tossing the bag to the passenger seat.
Hey, baby. Got a little surprise when you get here. Go ahead and pick up dinner, if you don’t mind. Whatever sounds good. Love you. ~E
“Huh,” I grunted aloud before typing out a response.
On my way now. Will stop for food and then be over. Any hints? LY2! ~B
I started the car and thought about where I could pick up dinner. Subs sounded good, and there was a Subway between the hospital and Edward’s house, so that would be perfect.
Before I pulled out of my parking space, my phone beeped, so I grabbed it to read Edward’s text.
No hints. ;) CU when you get here. ~E
Huh. Okay, then. I laughed as I tossed the phone to the passenger seat beside my bag and then left the parking garage.
By the time I’d picked up our dinner and made it to Edward’s house, parking behind his bike under the carport, I was hungry and ready to get inside and take off my shoes. I’d eaten a quick lunch in the hospital cafeteria, but it hadn’t been great – no more of the hospital’s dry chicken and chewy dumplings for me – and my feet were killing me. I was wearing a new pair of heels, and while they made my legs look great, they were uncomfortable after having had them on all day.
I could hear music coming softly through the door as I knocked once and then used the key Edward had given me to let myself in. The sight that met my eyes made me forget every damn thing I’d had in my head, including how sore my feet were.
Edward was sitting on the couch, leaning back against the cushion. He was wearing a soft-looking heather gray T-shirt and well-worn jeans, and his feet were bare, but it was the precious little bundle on his chest that made me swoon and my girly parts squeal.
He held a finger up to his lips and smiled.
“Hey,” I cooed softly, closing the door so I didn’t wake a sleeping Emma.
I toed off my heels and dropped my purse on the entry table and then moved over to set our dinner on the coffee table.
“Hey, beautiful,” Edward said as I sat down on the couch beside them. “Sorry about this.”
I waved away his apology and turned my gaze back to the baby. Her lips were puckered and moving, like she was sucking on a bottle that wasn’t there, and there was a tiny drop of drool dripping down her chin. But the cutest thing was the grip she had on Uncle Edward’s T-shirt, like she didn’t want to let him go, even in sleep.
“I’d planned to cook,” he continued quietly. “I even went shopping for all the ingredients I’d need to make stir-fry. But then Rose showed up at the door about thirty minutes ago and begged me to watch Ladybug. There was a break-in at the coffee shop, so she needed to go in. Emmett’s covering for someone at work, so he won’t be able to pick her up until after six.”
“That’s fine, Edward, really.” I smiled. “She’s adorable.”
He nodded. “Yeah, she’s pretty perfect.” He dipped his head and brushed a kiss across the top of her soft, baby-fine hair.
My ovaries nearly exploded at the sight, and I couldn’t help but lean over and kiss him.
Smiling, he said, “Lemme put her down, and then we can eat.”
Once he’d carefully stood, he moved to the car seat on the floor in front of the coffee table and slowly lowered Emma into it, prying her hands gently from her shirt when she seemed determined not to let go. When she stirred and gave a soft cry, he pulled a pacifier from the diaper bag beside the carrier and popped it into her mouth. She immediately calmed, settling back into sleep.
“Motown today, huh?” I teased as he sat back down beside me and reached for the sandwich I held out.
He shrugged, grinning without shame. “She really likes Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye. It calmed her right down after Rose left.”
I laughed at just how damn cute he was.
“So tell me about your day, baby,” he prompted before biting into the huge cheesesteak I’d gotten him.
~oOo~
Emma woke up half an hour later, as Edward and I were cuddling on the couch. We’d finished our subs and talked about our days, so we were just enjoying the soft music in the background, kissing and snuggling as we watched his niece sleep.
When she squawked and then began to cry, opening her eyes and flailing her arms, Edward was up and off the couch before I could even think about moving. He scooped her up, setting her on his chest as he swayed gently from side to side.
“It’s okay, Ladybug,” he crooned, rocking her back and forth. “No need to cry, see?”
When the music changed from the Four Tops to the Temptations, Edward smiled and held out his hand to me. I laughed softly as I took it and stood, moving into his arms. He wrapped one arm around my waist, holding me to him, as the other cradled Ladybug securely to his chest.
“I’ve got sunshine, on a cloudy day,” he sang softly along to the music.
Emma’s eyes were open, and she was trying to look up and focus on his face, but she couldn’t quite see him. I reached out and stroked her cheek, smiling as her little arm flailed and she found my finger with her fist, gripping on tight with the hand that wasn’t attached to Edward’s T-shirt.
“What can make me feel this way? My girl. Talkin’ ’bout my girl,” Edward sang softly before looking down at me and smiling.
My heart just about melted at the warm expression on his face, the love in his eyes, as he looked from me to Emma and back again. I tightened my hold around his waist and laid my head on his chest opposite the baby, grinning when she pulled my finger to her mouth and began to gum it to death.
“Think she’s hungry?” he chest rumbled as he looked down to ask.
“I think so. Did Rose leave a bottle?”
He nodded his head toward the diaper bag at our feet. “Yeah, it’s all there in the bag. Rose said she’s eating about three ounces right now.”
I nodded and eased my finger from her grip, wiping it on my skirt before moving away and finding the bottle and can of formula. “I’ll go make this up for her.”
I could hear him singing softly as I fixed her bottle in the kitchen, sticking it in the microwave for twenty seconds. Then I shook it well and tested it on my inner wrist to make sure it wasn’t too hot before carrying it back into the living room.
Edward was back on the couch, and he shifted Emma from his shoulder to the crook of his arm before I passed him the bottle.
“Thanks,” he murmured, smiling my way as the baby latched onto the nipple.
He’d just gotten her to burp after finishing the bottle when there was a knock on the door, and I jumped when the door opened and a head peeked in.
“Hey, Ed. Can I....Oh!” Edward’s brother-in-law, Emmett, stepped inside before Edward could say anything.
I looked over at Edward, panicked, but he just smiled and winked.
“Yeah, Em. Come on in.”
Emmett shut the door and grinned as he moved over to me. “You must be Bella,” he said, sticking out his hand.
When I took it to say hello, he shocked me by pulling me up and out of my seat, wrapping me in a big bear hug. I squeaked, scrambling to find my footing.
“Good to meetcha,” he said, patting my back a few times before releasing me. “Ed’s told me a lot about you, but all that matters is you make him happy.” He shrugged and then turned to Edward. “How’s my girl?”
Edward smiled and handed her over before pulling me down to his lap. “She napped and just finished a bottle. The diaper’s all yours.”
Emmett grimaced, but said, “That’s okay, isn’t it, Ems? We’re old pros at the diaper thing by now.” He glanced at us, giving me a wink before asking Edward, “Don’t suppose you have a clothespin, do ya?”
I laughed, finally relaxing. Emmett was a big guy, and he’d surprised me with the hug, but I could immediately tell that he was a softie under all the muscles and intimidating size.
“So, Bella, tell me,” he started, raising an eyebrow.
I bit my lip, worried he’d ask me something about New York or my life as Marie Brandon.
“Emmett,” Edward warned in a low voice.
Emmett waved him off, his eyes twinkling. “How’s this guy been treating you? Do I need to take him out and give him a talking to?”
Laughing again, I shook my head, unable to keep from teasing Edward. “Not yet, but I’ll let you know, Emmett. Thanks.”
Emmett stayed another half an hour, telling us about the break-in at Rose’s shop, before saying, “I’d better go. She thought she’d be home around seven thirty, so I’m gonna get little one here bathed before she gets there. Thanks for watching her, man.”
Edward shook his head and smiled. “Not a problem. She was good.” He packed everything back in the diaper bag, including the bottle.
Emmett smiled as he transferred the baby from his shoulder to the car seat, buckling her in. “Thanks again.” He looked up at me and grinned when he picked the now-secure Emma up and took the diaper bag from Edward. “Be sure to let me know if this one steps out of line, Bella-boo.”
I grinned as Edward shook his head. “I will, Emmett. Thanks.”
He looked at Edward. “Bring her around for dinner soon, man. I know your mom and Rosie will want to meet her.”
Edward’s arm slid around my shoulder, and he smiled down at me before nodding. “I will.”
They bumped fists, and then Edward opened the door for him, letting Emmett and the baby get to the car before he closed it behind them.
“Wanna watch a movie?” Edward asked as he steered us back to the living room.
Remembering how fucking sexy he’d looked holding the baby, singing to his little Ladybug, I shook my head and pushed him down to his seat on the couch before reaching for the first button of my blouse.
“No, I have something else in mind.”
I laughed when Edward leaned up and pulled his shirt off over his head.
“Yes,” he said in a low, rumbly voice, dragging his hands up my legs to the hem of my skirt. “Definitely better than the TV.”
~oooOOOooo~
Edward POV
“Happy birthday, beautiful,” I sang softly against Bella’s forehead before grabbing the coffee pot. Fuck me, the girls got up early for work. “You, too, Alice.” I chuckled, shooting her a wink.
“Thanks, Edward,” she said, taking a bite of her cereal.
Bella smirked up at me. “It’s April tenth, Edward.”
“Yeah, yeah,” Jasper drawled, waving a hand at her. “We know the given version, but in this room—”
We know the truth,” I finished for him with a smug grin, which only served to earn me an eye roll from Bella. “It can still be a special day, B. You just can’t tell anyone outside this house what it means.” I turned to Jasper. “We should take them out. Tonight.”
“It’s a Thursday. We have to work tomorrow,” Alice muttered, but of the two, she was the one that looked the most excited about that prospect. Bella, on the other hand, looked rather anxious.
“So we won’t go big,” Jasper stated, looking to me and then between the girls. “Just a few drinks after you two get done with work.”
“How ’bout that place downtown? Play some pool, get some food? They’ve got good music, too,” I suggested, but spun my head when the scraping of Bella’s chair cut through the room.
“Mm, those fuck-awesome nachos,” Jasper said dreamily, grinning when I nodded my head.
“Can’t we just...drink here?” Bella asked, not bothering to look at any of us as she dumped her bowl into the sink.
My eyes narrowed on her, and there was a look there that I hadn’t seen in a damn long time. Fear. She’d been flourishing in this new place, even more since the two of us had finally started truly talking about how we felt, but this was different. That facial expression went all the way back to how she’d looked when we’d landed in New York for the trial.
“We can,” I hedged slowly, leaning against the counter and sipping my coffee. “But...I mean, we’re free to go out, baby. We can be seen in public now.” What I didn’t want to say aloud in front of the other two was that I really, really wanted to show my girl off. I didn’t give a fuck what we did or where we went, but she was beautiful and she was mine, and I was ready for the whole damn world to know it.
“You and I are going out on Saturday,” she countered, gesturing between us. She snorted when I grinned, because I wouldn’t tell her a thing about what I had planned. “Plus,” she went on, “we have to get up for work tomorrow. I can’t think with a hangover, and I’m still learning new shit at the hospital.”
Chuckling, I shook my head. “A few drinks, Bella. Not an all-nighter. C’mon...”
“I don’t know,” she sighed and then left the room.
I looked to Alice, who wrinkled her nose. Jasper had told me that he’d gone through this same shit when he’d wanted to celebrate the girls’ new jobs. He didn’t argue then, but everything had been so new, and he’d at least been able to get them dinner. But at that point, the girls had only been in their new place for a week. They’d now been in the house for just under a month.
I followed Bella into her bedroom, sitting down on the edge of the bed as she puttered around and gathered what she was going to wear for the day. The wrinkle between her eyebrows made me reach out and grab her when she walked by.
“Hey,” I whispered, pulling her to stand between my legs. “What’s this?” I trailed a finger lightly between her eyebrows, skimming down to the tip of her nose. “Why don’t you want to go?”
“Edward, it’s not...important to celebrate my...our birthday.” She sighed frustratedly, looking away from me. “Why can’t we just meet here? I don’t want... The last time... Here is safe,” she finally sputtered out.
“Oh,” I huffed, nodding in understanding. I grasped either side of her face, forcing her forehead to mine. “Look at me, beautiful.” Her worried brown eyes locked with mine, and I brushed my lips across hers. “Do you think – for one fucking second – that I would let anything happen to you?”
“No, but—”
“No.” I kissed her again. “Have you forgotten what I told you from the beginning? That nothing that happened that night was your fault? Hmm?” I confirmed, making sure she nodded before going on. “Bad luck? Unfortunate circumstances? Abso-fucking-lutely. But not your fault, baby.”
“I know, but—”
“You know, but you’re still scared,” I finished for her, and she didn’t have to answer. Her pleading gaze said everything. “Let me show you. Let me take you out, Bella. Just a few drinks somewhere safe, somewhere fun, no worries. I’ll even take you into work and pick you up, just to keep you safe with me.”
“Edward,” she hedged, almost whining, which made me want to smile at how adorable it was, but I fought it.
“Bella, you can’t let what happened to you control your life. I’ve done that same thing, and I almost let it fuck up the best thing that ever happened to me,” I explained to her gently while caressing her cheekbones with my thumbs. “You’ll miss out on too much, baby. Please, let me do this for you, for Alice. She wants to go.”
“Just a couple drinks?” she asked, looking a little calmer.
“Well, if we don’t get nachos, then Jasper will pout like a teenage girl with PMS.”
She giggled. There it was, that sweet sparkle I loved in her.
Grinning, I sighed a little in relief. “Please?”
“And you’ll take me in and pick me up?” she verified, toying with my hair that was now much shorter. I’d let my hair go way too long since Forks, so I’d finally gone last week to get it sheared down to something fucking manageable.
“I’ll sit in the parking garage all damn day if it makes you feel better,” I vowed, nodding fervently.
She smirked and rolled her eyes. “So not necessary,” she muttered, making me chuckle. “Okay.”
“Okay?”
“Yeah,” she said with a nod, biting her lip nervously. “We’ll go.” My smile must’ve been a mile wide, because she giggled again, cupping my face. “Why do you want to go so badly?”
“’Cause I’m tired of hiding you,” I stated, kissing her lips roughly. “I’m tired of keeping this a secret. I’m ready to get out and show you off.”
Her face softened to something so full of love that it was almost breathtaking. Her kiss was soft and gentle, but she pulled back too quickly.
“Then let me get dressed,” she whispered against my lips. “We need to leave soon.”
“Yes, ma’am,” I told her, patting the side of her thigh. She stepped back, and I walked to her bedroom door to crack it open. “Jasper, we’re going.”
“Hot damn! You gotta try those fucking nachos, Bella! They’re the best!” he called out from what sounded like the living room.
She laughed, shaking her head and diving back into the closet, saying, “I want to tell him no, just to see what happens.”
I snorted, shaking my head. “That’s my girl.”
~oOo~
At five o’clock, I parked my car just outside the hospital door that Bella was due out any minute. I leaned against the passenger side door, finishing up a cigarette and then popping a piece of gum into my mouth. I’d all but quit, but sometimes, my nerves got the better of me. I wasn’t so nervous about going out as much as I was worried as to how Bella would handle it.
I fucked around on my phone, keeping my sunglasses on. They hid the rolling of my eyes when a nurse eye-fucked me walking toward the parking garage, and they kept me from looking like a damn stalker when my eyes snapped up every time the doors whooshed open. I couldn’t help it. I was ready to see my girl. It was her birthday – her real fucking birthday – and I was pretty thankful that she’d been born. I’d spent most of the day trying to figure out what the hell to get her, knowing she wouldn’t want any-damn-thing, and then spent the rest of the day tracking it down. I’d just barely gotten back to my place to get ready in time to pick her up.
The doors swished open, and I glanced up to see Bella walking out with some dude. He was a skinny little shit, wearing glasses and a lost puppy look on his face. All Urkel was missing were the suspenders and the pocket protector. But the geek made my girl laugh, which set my teeth on edge. I smirked at the placating smile she gave him. She was so fucking out of his league that it wasn’t even funny, and her smile aimed my way when she caught sight of me was a thousand times more real and a hell of a lot bigger.
“No, I have a ride. Thank you,” she called over her shoulder, leaving Urkel to watch her walk away from him.
I spat my gum off into the planter next to my car, standing up straight and opening my arms as Bella walked to me. I kissed her lips shamelessly, smiling at her giggle.
“Want to piss on my leg, too?” she asked, raising a dangerous, but amused eyebrow up at me.
“Don’t tempt me,” I growled dramatically against her lips. “Who’s the...your friend?”
“He works in my office,” she sighed, shaking her head when I waited for a name. “His name is Martin.”
I snorted. “Of course it is.” I kissed her again, glancing up to see Martin looking pretty down. “He’s crushed, you know.”
“Yeah, I’ve been deflecting him all day. Welcome to what I attracted in high school, Edward,” she muttered, rolling her eyes.
Chuckling, I opened the car door. “You know why?” I asked her, waiting until she was buckled in and she’d shaken her head no. “Because your beautiful brain probably intimidated the shit out of the dumb jocks, baby.” Alice had told me Bella was pretty damn focused in high school, not to mention shy, so I could well imagine that she had a shit-ton of admirers from afar.
She smiled, blushing, and shook her head, but I closed the door and walked around to the driver’s side. I started the car and pulled out of the hospital. The place that Jasper and I had agreed to meet wasn’t far. In fact, we pulled into another parking lot not twenty minutes later, and a part of me wished it was a longer drive, simply because I was enjoying Bella’s excitable voice telling me about her day.
Turning to Bella, I stopped her before she got out. “Before we go in, I wanna make sure you’re okay with this. I want you to have a good time, but I don’t wanna force you.”
Her nose wrinkled. “It’s stupid to avoid this, Edward. I know. It’s something I used to enjoy doing. Just a few drinks with Alice after work. You were right in reminding me.”
I studied her face, making sure she wasn’t just saying that, but I saw her determination as she glanced up at the loud building in front of us.
“Good,” I sighed, kissing her, and then reached into the back seat. “This is also for before we go in,” I told her, setting a gift bag into her lap. “Happy birthday, baby.”
Thank fuck for gift bags, because I couldn’t wrap presents for shit. Bella, though, treated it with care as she reached inside. I’d gotten her three things, even though two were silly. She giggled at the mug that said, “World’s Hottest Accountant,” and even more at the mouse pad I’d rolled up and stuck inside. It was designed to look like a rock T-shirt or a tatt, saying “Accountant: Rock-n-Roll Worldwide Tour.”
The last thing, and the one I’d had a bitch of a time finding, fell out into her lap. She cracked open the little black velvet box, gasping at what was inside.
“It’s the same as your tattoo,” she whispered, lightly touching the trinity knot ring, but inside was a heart, and I smiled when she just...got it.
When she glanced up at me, her eyes were a little watery, but I kissed her lips. “I feel you trace mine, baby. And I figured...I’m not the only one starting over here,” I explained softly. “Life, death, rebirth.”
“I love it. Thank you, Edward,” she said with a sweet grin as she put it on. It was too big for the ring finger of her right hand, but it fit perfectly on her middle one. “There,” she sang, which made me chuckle. “And the heart?”
Nervously, I looked from the ring to her. “Um...that’s mine.”
Her face softened warmly at that admission from me, and she smiled. “Then I promise to take care of it.”
“You’ve done an amazing fucking job so far,” I murmured, jerking my chin toward the bar. “You ready? Alice and Jasper are already here.”
She nodded, setting her things down onto the floorboard of the car. “Yeah, definitely.”
~oOo~
“So...” Bella kissed my lips, smelling and tasting deliciously like the fruity drink she’d ordered at the bar, with a hint of alcohol. “What are we doing Saturday?” she asked, and not for the first time that night.
Chuckling, I shook my head, guiding her into her bedroom and shutting the door. “It’s a surprise, B. And I’m not drunk, so this won’t work.”
“Damn it,” she huffed as she fell down onto the side of the bed, which only made me laugh a little harder.
Bella wasn’t drunk, either, but she’d had enough to take the edge off. Jasper and I had nursed a couple of beers with two ginormous orders of those nachos he couldn’t live without. We wanted to still be able to drive and let the girls relax. And since Mr. Jack Daniels and I were no longer on speaking terms, it was easy to simply sip a beer. Eyeing her right then, I saw that she was just as maintained as usual, only with a lazier smile on her face, and I realized that she’d consumed just about the same amount of alcohol tonight as the night of the murder. And she was still sharp as a tack, because she wasn’t giving up on wheedling information out of me.
“Edward,” she sighed, looking up at me through those long, dark eyelashes. “At least give me a hint. I mean, a girl should know how to dress for these things.”
Fuck, I loved her. Grinning, I shook my head, but I conceded to that request. She was right. So I walked into her closet, found what I was looking for, and brought it out on the tip of my finger.
“This, B. You’ll need this,” I said, swinging her black leather jacket on the hanger. “For safety.” I raised an eyebrow up at her.
It took a second, but she got it. “Oh shit. We’re going on your bike?”
“Yes, and that’s all you’re getting, beautiful,” I told her, putting the jacket back in the closet and coming to sit next to her. “You’re mine all damn day.”
She giggled, crawling up into my lap, and kissed me sweetly. She held my face in her hands and said, “I had fun tonight. Thank you for making me go.”
“Me, too, but I didn’t make you do anything. That was all you,” I told her, turning to kiss the inside of her wrist and breathing in the sweet smell of her warm skin. I could feel the ring I’d given her against my cheek, and something about marking her that way made me lean in and kiss her. Hard.
The whole night had been just fucking perfect, even though Bella had been tentative at the start. She’d nursed a beer at first, but as the night wore on, she and Alice had both ordered something a touch stronger. Mixing it with food, a couple rounds of pool, and some dancing, and they’d hardly been buzzed. But they’d had a good time. The best part was knowing we didn’t have to hide how we felt in public and that I could claim her as mine in front of every male eye in the place. And there had been plenty that had eye-fucked her, not that I could blame them.
Bella’s body moved slowly, languidly against mine as we kissed, which only reminded my dick what a temptress she’d been on the dance floor. Alice may have been the professional dancer, but Bella knew how to move. Slow dances had barely left any space between us, but faster ones had been heaven and hell all mixed together, with that tight little body grinding against me. And dancing with Bella was better than I’d ever imagined, better than any dancing I’d done before.
It was that last thought – the memory of the woman just before I’d taken the girls’ WitSec case, the one whose name I could never remember – that made me pull back and just take in her gorgeous face. “I want you to meet the rest of my family, Bella.”
She grinned, tilting her head at me. “I know. Emmett was great.”
“This Sunday. Will you?” I urged, knowing she thought I wasn’t ready, but I was. I was so fucking ready.
She smiled, kissed my lips, and whispered, “Absolutely.”
~oOo~
The rumble of the bike’s engine echoed loudly through the trees of the park. We passed by families, couples, and groups of kids on our way to a closer parking spot as evening started to settle around us. Riding a bike sometimes had its privileges, but it was the warm, strong arms wrapped around my middle and the sexy thighs on the outside of mine that made the whole fucking day worth it.
I’d shown Bella just about the entire city while on that bike. We’d ridden by my office, Emmett’s station, the Space Needle, and about a billion other places. Despite the fact that Bella rarely drank coffee, she’d insisted on a cup from the original Starbucks in Pike Place Market, which had led to walking around for hours, eating when we got hungry, and merely enjoying a rare sunny summer day. And that had been my plan all along – to simply show her off and show her around. She’d soaked it up like a sponge, with a sweet smile and several kisses, barely letting go of my hand all damn day.
I pulled into a small sliver of a parking spot up close, shutting the engine off and dismounting. Turning to face her, I tugged off my helmet at the same time she did. Chocolate waves of windblown curls fell down around her face and over her shoulders.
She was dressed to absolute distraction, and it wasn’t like it was anything too revealing. Wearing tight, light-colored jeans, a silky black shirt, and that black leather jacket I’d pulled out of her closet, she looked just...sexy, especially when her cheeks maintained a happy glow. But the wicked smile on her face was the fucking best.
“You like riding,” I guessed with a chuckle, helping her off the bike.
“It’s fun – a little scary sometimes, but fun,” she responded with a grin, setting the helmet down on the seat.
Smiling, I said, “Well, that might be the simplest reason most people ride. C’mon, silly girl.”
“Why are we here?” she asked, taking my hand and letting me lead her through the throngs of people.
I smiled back at her. “You’ll see soon, but you should know music is a big part of Seattle. Lots of bands started here.”
Her eyebrows shot up, and once we’d gotten farther inside the park and the small stage of the outdoor concert loomed closer, she smiled, coming to a stop.
“Baby, we can get closer,” I told her, tugging her hand.
She smiled softly, surveying the whole setup, but shook her head. “I don’t need to be up front, Edward. Can’t we just...I mean, we’ve been walking all day.”
Nodding, I saw what she was getting at, so I guided her to a small hill off to the side, next to a few other couples that were of the same mindset. Removing my jacket, I placed it on the grass, pulling her down in front me between my legs.
Wrapping my arms around her, I asked, “Like this?”
She nodded, turning a little. “Who’s here?”
Shrugging, I shook my head. “Some unknowns. New bands. But one I’ve seen at a club on the other side of town. They’re good. These shows are always good, though. You never know what kind of music you’ll hear.”
Bella’s finger toyed with a fray that was starting in the knee of my old jeans, but she leaned back against my chest, sighing contentedly, which made me smile and kiss the side of her neck.
She turned and kissed my cheek. “Thank you, Edward, for today.”
“We’re not done.” I chuckled, nuzzling her ear.
“I know, but I’ve had an amazing time with you,” she whispered shyly. “Have you ever done this? The whole-day date thing?”
“Uh...no.” I shook my head, looking off across the field as some movement on stage caught my eye. “No, Bella, you’re definitely the first I’ve done this with.” I met her warm gaze again. “And you’re the only girl ever to ride my bike with me – aside from Al’s little girl.”
My girl fucking beamed at that shit, which made me chuckle, pick up her hand, and kiss the ring I’d given her for her birthday.
“Lots of firsts today, then,” she stated gently, biting that sweet bottom lip of hers. “And another tomorrow.”
I grimaced a little, snickering at her needless nervous expression. “My family will love you, Bella. They’ll welcome you in simply because you’re important to me. And don’t worry. Jasper’s bringing Alice, and Uncle Al will be there to take the pressure off. It’ll be a full house. My mother will be in fucking heaven.”
She giggled, pressing her lips to mine as the music started on the stage. “I love you.”
“Love you, beautiful,” I countered, and we turned our attention back to the stage.
Today had been a fuck-awesome day. We’d practiced her new backstory with a few strangers as we’d seen the city, we’d laughed and played all damn day, and we’d ended up at an outdoor concert I hadn’t attended in years – the last time being with Jasper when we’d first transferred to the Seattle office. I was really fucking looking forward to finally introducing Bella to my family, and I hadn’t been lying when I’d told her they would love her. Hell, I was pretty sure my dad was already there, and he’d only mentioned seeing her in passing at the hospital once or twice.
But as the music truly kicked in around us, I realized that I’d be going back to work soon, and that would mean even bigger adjustments – less time together and possible dangerous details. Shoving the reality of that out of my head for the moment, I pulled Bella closer. I wasn’t letting anything ruin this day.

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