Thursday, August 1, 2013 | By: Drotuno

Pieces of You Chapter 14 & Pics

Chapter 14 – Have a Nice Day
Chicago, IL – February
I rolled over, reaching for Bella, only to find the bed empty. Cracking one eye open, I saw that it was only a little after six o’clock in the morning. The smell of coffee and the soft sound of the TV met my ears. I groaned, rubbing my face, but I got up anyway, pulling on a pair of sweats and heading to the bathroom.
I found Sunshine in the kitchen, wearing only my T-shirt. She was leaning on the counter with both elbows, and her hands were wrapped around a steamy mug. Her gaze was locked onto the TV, but her eyes were red. It was obvious she hadn’t slept much. Caging her with my arms, I leaned over her.
“You know,” I rumbled, my voice still raspy from just waking up, “all this bullshit about waking up together, and I find you in here...” Her giggle made me smile against the back of her head, but she turned in front of me. “I feel played, Sunshine,” I teased her.
“Shut up,” she snorted, shaking her head at me and rolling her eyes. “I couldn’t sleep, and every time I moved, it disturbed you.”
“I like it when you wake me up,” I argued, shrugging a shoulder and stealing her coffee. “Especially the way you did it just before we left Florida.” I grinned at her proud smirk, took a sip, and set the mug down. Lifting her up onto the counter top, I leaned in to trail my nose up her neck. “Best wake-up call. Ever.”
She laughed, wrapping her legs around my hips and snaking her arms around my neck. “I had to do something with that thing, Edward. It was aggressively poking me in the back,” she explained with way too much humor to her tone.
“Can’t help it,” I mumbled against her throat, opening my mouth to taste her. “I want you. Always. Even when I’m unconscious.”
Two warm hands met either side of my face, pulling me back so that she could look at me. “I love you,” she stated simply, still wearing a small smile.
“I love you, too, baby,” I sighed happily, bringing her forehead to mine. “Didn’t I tell you that for the first right here?”
She nodded against my forehead. “Yup,” she chirped. “We were arguing, as usual, but we made up right here, too.”
“Ah, yeah. No surface went untouched in this place,” I marveled, glancing around the little house that had come to mean so much.
At first, it was simply Bella’s place, but it quickly became a safe haven, a happy place, home. It wasn’t much, and she’d been so nervous the first time she’d shown it to me, but it was perfect – a couple of bedrooms, a decent-sized living room, and a kitchen that Bella worked in flawlessly. It was no exaggeration that we’d made love on every flat surface in the place – and some vertical ones, too. That last thought made me smirk, but it fell quickly.
Gazing back down at Bella, I said, “It’ll be sad to say goodbye to this place.”
She nodded, a smile curling the corners of her mouth briefly. “I didn’t think I’d see it again, so this has been a nice surprise. I was a mess when I left here.”
Studying her face, I could see that she was simply being honest. The idea I’d been kicking around in the back of my mind for quite some time came spilling out of my mouth.
“What if I bought it?” I swallowed nervously when she didn’t say anything. “For us, Bella. What if I made an offer to Charlotte? An offer she couldn’t refuse,” I said in my best Godfather voice.
Bella snorted into a giggle, but it stopped just as quickly as it started. “Edward...”
“No, no, no!” I rushed, wrapping my arms around her waist in order to keep her close. “Just...hear me out. Okay? I can afford it, Sunshine. That’s the first thing. Second thing? It would be a place for us when we have to come here. You know? When I have to travel for the art center or if we visit my family for the holidays, it’s perfect. And it seems we’re both having difficulties letting it go. This... Baby, this place means something to us.”
She shifted uncomfortably under my gaze, her fingers toying with the hem of her T-shirt that she was wearing. She’d stolen it from me ages ago. “Edward, I don’t know... That’s two houses to maintain, and I’m barely doing it with one.”
“Bella,” I sighed, lifting her eyes to mine with my fingers underneath her chin. “I want to do this. I want a future with you. Do you understand? I want to be able to take care of you, and you of me. I know I’ll sound like an asshole when I say I want everything with you – a future, marriage, kids...all of it. I know how fucked up that sounds coming from me when the ink is barely dry on my divorce, but...” I stalled out, dropping a heavy kiss to her lips. “It should’ve been you all along, Sunshine. I regret being married to Jane, but I don’t regret that it brought me to you.” I sighed, shaking my head, because I wasn’t sure what I was even saying anymore. “I meant what I said on New Year’s Eve. I want to do everything right with you, be good for you. And that starts with planning for our future.”
Strong legs pulled me closer, and I glanced up to see tears shining in her eyes.
“And you want this house?” she asked, smiling a watery smile.
“Yes,” I barely whispered. “Everything good and bad about us happened here. I never want to lose that.” When she didn’t say anything for a second, I grasped either side of her face. “Bella, please talk to me. Don’t you want those things?”
She leaned in, kissing my lips roughly, but I could taste the salt from her tears that finally spilled down her cheeks. “God, yes! All of it. I just...” She kissed me again, pulling back to sniffle adorably. “I just wasn’t sure you felt that way after all we’d...all that you’d just...”
I took pity on her, chuckling and wiping her tears away. “I do. Everything. I know neither of us are ready for it, but it doesn’t hurt to plan, right?”
Some sort of sniffly-whimper escaped her before her mouth was on mine, hard and wet. She kissed me with a bit of desperation behind it, but her hands skimmed up my bare chest and across my shoulders, pulling me closer. My hands gripped at her shirt while hers threaded into my hair and into the back of my sweat pants. And just like always, we found ourselves lost to it all. My dick was hard, pressing against the heat between her legs, and I moaned loudly when I discovered her bare for me beneath that shirt.
“Fuck, baby,” I panted, gathering up the material. “I haven’t seen you naked on this counter in so fucking long.” I nipped at her neck, her chin, and finally sucking her bottom lip. “Please...”
She tried to glare at me, but her little smile betrayed her just before she raised her arms up. I lifted the shirt off her, leaving the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen completely bare in front of me. However, just before I could reach out and touch, she stopped me, pushing at my sweatpants with her hands and then feet, until they finally pooled around my ankles. Her warm hand wrapped around my cock, but her dark eyes never left mine.
“Tell me again...what you want,” she commanded, dragging her tongue along her bottom lip before biting down on it.
“You, Sunshine,” I ground out through gritted teeth as her hand started to move up and down my dick. When her thumb swirled around the tip, I started begging. “Please, please, please, baby... Either start moving faster or spread those legs wider. You’re killing me.” Placing my hands on her thighs, I tried to spread them apart, but she kept them tenaciously wrapped around me.
“Mm, baby,” she purred, leaning in to kiss my neck. “I can certainly tell you want me. I meant for us, Edward. Tell me.”
Afraid I was going to grip her thighs too hard and leave marks, I braced my hands flat on either side of her on the counter. My forehead fell to her shoulder as her hand started to move with a purpose, an unbelievably tight grip.
“Oh God, Bella...every-fucking-thing.” I knew I sounded out of breath and a little whiny, but fuck, she felt good. “I want to travel, watch you take pictures of the whole fucking world,” I rambled, turning my head just enough to open my mouth along her neck. “Wake up with you, go to bed with you...every day. I want everything I never wanted with anyone else.” I lifted one hand and placed it flat on her stomach. “I want to see our,” I growled softly, my forehead falling to hers as a feeling of possessiveness just about overwhelmed me, but I locked gazes with her almost black, heated eyes. “Say you want that...”
She nodded frantically, kissing my lips as her hand sped up just a little. “God, yes.”
I couldn’t take it anymore. Slipping my fingers underneath her knees, I yanked her roughly forward, knocking her hand away from my dick. Her ass was barely on the edge of the counter, and my fingers found hot, swollen flesh as they tested, teased, and finally guided my tip to her entrance.
“I want you to be the last Mrs. Cullen,” I whispered softly, tentatively. “I want you permanently mine. Always.”
I was asking, but I wasn’t. I knew it wasn’t time for us to go there yet, but she needed to know that I’d never take it lightly. Not with her. She meant too much. The vows would be a cementing of our relationship, not just something repeated in front of a room full of people that couldn’t give two shits. Bella wasn’t an immature decision, a business deal I should’ve never made. She was the other half of my heart, my soul.
I cupped her face, slowly sinking into her. “But mostly, I want to be yours, to give myself to you completely. Just you and me. To make up for every time I had to leave you, break a promise, or see you cry.”
“Edward...” Bella grasped my face and kissed me. “Baby, you’ve done that and then some.”
I countered with a frown and a shake of my head as I started to move. “Never enough. I’ll never get enough of you.”
“Me, either,” she admitted, diving for my mouth.
Hands gripped and pulled, fingers dug into flesh, and the sound of skin meeting skin drowned out the sound of the TV. I told her other shit I wanted to do with her, some of it quite debauched, which caused the sexiest moans in my ear. The last time I’d fucked her on that counter, I’d told her I’d completely fallen in love with her. This time, I told her I belonged to her, that she could have anything she wished for as long as she wanted.
We came loudly together, my face buried in her neck. We were tacky with sweat, but I didn’t care.
“Yeah,” she finally said breathlessly into the crook of my shoulder. “Yeah, we need to keep this house.”
I couldn’t help but chuckle. “I’m glad you see shit my way.”
She laughed, kissed my stubbly jaw, and whispered. “So if we’re keeping it, what needs to be packed, mister?”
I cupped her face. “Let me make some calls, see what Charlotte says, okay? But mainly just essential shit, baby. Most of the stuff from my house is still in boxes in the spare room.”
“Okay,” she sighed contentedly, still looking flushed. I loved that sweet pink that covered her cheeks when I made her come.
I was just about to tell her that very thing when the sound of the local news caught our attention.
Breaking news... It seems Chicago’s governor, Marcus Sterling, was caught on security footage with someone other than his wife. Sources tell us the video has been sent in anonymously to Real Truth dot com, but has been verified as the benefit that was held at the Children Center for the Arts. Eric Yorkie of Real Truth won’t reveal his sources, but did tell us that the story has been verified, that suspicions of Sterling’s infidelity have now been proven.
The young woman in the video has been identified as twenty-year-old Ashley King, the daughter of lieutenant governor, Royce King. It’s been rumored that there have been complaints of sexual harassment aimed toward Governor Sterling, but nothing ever came to light.
Royce King is urging anyone with further information to please come forward. We were able to speak to Lieutenant Governor King over the phone earlier this morning.”
Bella quickly pulled on her T-shirt and slipped off the counter. I yanked up my sweatpants and walked around to the living room as King’s voice echoed through the room.
If he was low enough to touch my daughter, then I know there are other victims out there.”
“Whoa,” Bella gasped, looking to me with wide eyes and a gaping mouth. “I wasn’t expecting that. You know him?”
I shook my head. “I’ve met him like two times: some art show of Jane’s, and before that, the wedding. He seemed pretty straight-laced, which didn’t mean anything to me at the time, ’cause Marcus is supposedly that straight-laced, too.”
“Maybe King practices what he preaches,” Bella guessed. “He probably knew all about Marcus, but touching his daughter crossed the line.”
“Maybe.” I shrugged a shoulder, but dropped a kiss to her cheek. “Keep me posted if anything new pops up. I’m going to shower and then go grab us some breakfast, and by that time, it’ll be a decent time to start making calls.”
“’Kay,” she murmured distractedly, but then stopped me. “While you’re out, grab some boxes.”
I saluted her, giving her a wink, but said, “Yes, ma’am,” on my way back to the bedroom.
Ending the call with my accountant, I shoved my phone into my pocket, grinning like an idiot as I made my way out of the bedroom and into the living room. There were a few boxes stacked by the door; those were going with us in the car ride home. Most of my clothes – aside from a few bags that Bella deemed donation-worthy – were already in the trunk.
We’d been cleaning, packing, and organizing all damn day, not to mention I’d had a slew of phone calls once I’d contacted Charlotte. She was all for selling the house. Apparently, she was considering retirement, and the house would be one less thing she’d have to worry about it. After that, it was realtors, accountants, and more talks with Charlotte. Thank fuck I had a hands-free ear piece in order to continue to help Bella around the house.
Sunshine was sitting on the edge of the sofa, half-empty bottle of water in hand as she continued to watch the news. All day long, reports on Marcus popped up. The Real Truth was pimping their show every other commercial break with teasers on the exclusive coverage of the governor’s cheating. Bella had received a few calls from Angela, saying to keep the TV on the same channel, because by now, CNN and MSNBC had picked up on the leaked video footage, but she wanted us to stay on the local channel. When Angela had said the video would go viral, she hadn’t been kidding. And they’d only leaked the bare minimum of it, not the whole thing. It was every-fucking-where – YouTube, Facebook, Google searches. It was the top breaking news headline on just about every news web site out there. However, The Sun-Times and The Real Truth were working together.
“Have they gotten to him yet?” I asked her, falling down onto the sofa to lie behind her.
“No,” she said with a giggle, shaking her head and taking another sip of water. “But he’s trapped in his office. They’re swarming him,” she told me, glancing over her shoulder at me. “A few minutes ago, they showed that his house and office had media everywhere, trying to get to him. They want a statement. He’s yet to declare anything. But the U.S. Attorney and the FBI just arrived.”
My eyebrows shot up high. “No shit?”
“Mhm,” she hummed, pointing to the TV. “Yeah, someone’s been watching him for a long, long time. You know how your dad thought it was a setup? It might just be. And there are rumors of charges of corruption, solicitation of prostitution, and those things Garrett said they swept under the rug – sexual harassment and misappropriation of funds. It’s quite possible that Royce King was working with the authorities to catch Marcus. At least, that’s what they’re assuming, because if Marcus loses his position, then Royce steps in.”
I could still see her fear of having it all traced back to us. She was watching every second of coverage, bracing herself for the sound of our names.
“C’mere,” I sighed, pulling at her until she turned to face me, laying her head on my stomach. We curled around each other like yin and yang, and I dropped a kiss to her stomach over her shirt. “Gimme the remote, Sunshine.”
“What? No!” she whined adorably, but I simply raised an eyebrow at her. She reluctantly handed it over, pouting when I muted the sound. “We’ll miss Ben’s show.”
“No, we won’t. I promise.” I snickered, looking down my chest to meet her gaze. “We’ll turn it back up for that. But Bella, I want you to relax for me, okay? I know you’re worried, but no matter how this turns out, they can’t really touch us. Yes, they can trace the video to the art center, which will bring up my name, but we’ve all manipulated it so that you aren’t a part of any of it. James, Garrett, and I are willing to step in front of you in order to keep them off your trail. And Angela has already said the picture would be from Garrett and James, not the person that took it. You, Sunshine, are completely innocent. If anyone asks, you took the picture and handed it over. You didn’t know a thing. But I honestly don’t think they’ll get that far. The video? That has nothing to do with you. But Marcus’s actions have officially caught up with him.”
She toyed with the buttons of my open shirt, nodding a little. “Yeah, that seems to be the focus: not where the footage came from, but the actions caught on it.”
“Exactly, baby. So just...take a break from it.”
“I can’t stop!” she confessed with a giggle. “It’s like watching a train wreck! It’s like Jerry Springer, Cops, and Law and Order all rolled into one big thing!”
Laughing, my head fell back a little. God, I fucking loved her. I felt her lips on my stomach curl into a smile, but looking down at her, I could see her eyes were serious.
“Don’t you get it?” she asked, dropping another kiss just to the left of my navel. “I want him punished for all he did to you.” Her voice was an angry, emotional whisper. “This is just the beginning of justice.”
Suddenly, it wasn’t funny anymore. I trailed the backs of my fingers down her beautiful face, saying, “I got my justice, Bella. I got you back. That’s all that mattered to me. Everyone around me kept telling me to fight, to bring you in to prove Jane cheated first, to take back all that I’d earned over the years, but...” I shook my head, grimacing a little. “I didn’t care. I didn’t really earn anything; I simply did okay with what was given to me. And I sure as shit didn’t want anything attached to them. I didn’t want anything that had to do with Jane or her father. I wanted a clean slate when I finally knocked on your door. Does that make sense?” When she nodded, I sighed deeply. “I wanted to be as far removed from them as I could get. No more contracts or marriage or pre-nup. I didn’t want any ties to them when I finally gave myself to you. It’s why I waited long after knowing where you were before coming to you. It’s probably why Rose told you not to contact me. You... You’re this hard-working, completely ethical, unbelievably sweet thing, and I didn’t want that shit anywhere near you anymore. And I fucking wanted out of it all.
“This?” I practically growled, pointing to the TV. “This shit can’t touch us. Tomorrow, we’re going back home, Sunshine. Just us. You and me. You don’t know how happy that makes me. Marcus can’t touch that level of happiness. Not a fucking chance. And every time you and I do something together to make our foundation that much stronger, we’re separating ourselves from it even more. know...” I shrugged a shoulder, grinning a little. “Like buying this house, ’cause it’s ours if we want it.”
Bella froze for a moment as that bit of info seeped in, but then she sat up with a squeal. “No!”
“Yes!” I grinned, breaking into a laugh.
“Yup,” I sang, welcoming her kiss without shame. Once she pulled back, I cupped either side of her face, gazing up at her. “Yes. Ours. Fucking ours, Sunshine. You see? That alone is revenge enough.”
“I love you,” she whispered against my lips.
“Love you, too.”
“So...what do we need to do?” she asked, folding her arms on my chest so that we were nose to nose.
“Nothing right now. We’ll close from Cedar Key,” I told her, shrugging a shoulder. “And Charlotte said we can leave whatever we want behind. The rent is paid up for a few more months. By then, we’ll have closed, so there won’t be a need to move it out, even temporarily.”
“Not that she would’ve made us do that.”
“Right. She’s actually very happy. She was considering putting it on the market anyway, but the timing had always been off,” I explained, shrugging a shoulder. “So really, we’re packed. We’ll load the car with the last few boxes and get on the road in the morning.”
Bella’s grin was so fucking worth every damn phone call I’d made that day and every dime I was about to put toward that little house. She gazed around what was now our second home, biting on her bottom lip. I wasn’t a fucking idiot. She’d wanted so badly for me to be in that house before she’d left, before the divorce. And I’d never been able to give her that. Now I could.
A knock at the front door caused her to jump. Smiling, I sat up and kissed her cheek.
“Easy, Sunshine. I’ll get it,” I told her, hauling myself up off the couch to go to the door, but the voices on the other side made me laugh as I buttoned up my shirt.
“You’d better be decent!” Tanya yelled.
“Hurry the hell up! I’m starving,” my brother said, pounding on the door again.
Laughing, I turned to Bella, who looked as surprised as I was. She laughed, but waved me on to let them in.
Yanking open the door, my eyes landed on pizza, beer, and their goofy-ass smiles. “Well, they’ll hire anyone to deliver these days. And you better not have brought the paparazzi with you.”
“Pfft,” Garrett scoffed, rolling his eyes. “What do you take me for? A fucking fool? Let us in!”
They all filed through the door – Rose, Emmett, Tanya, Garrett, and Kate. Emmett handed off two cases of beer to me as Tanya and Rose carried in a few pizza boxes.
“We were coming to help you,” Kate said, rolling her eyes at everyone else, “but you look like you got it all under control.”
“Oh, thanks...we do.” Bella took the pizzas from them as I stowed the beer in the fridge.
“Where you putting all this shit?” Emmett asked, gazing around at stacked boxes.
I smiled and offered Bella a beer, kissing her temple. “Well, we don’t have to put it anywhere. Some of it is staying here.”
Tanya and Kate looked up from their spot on the sofa curiously. Garrett and Emmett looked confused. But Rose nailed it in one guess.
“You’re buying this place,” she stated, grinning when Bella nodded. “That’s awesome! It’s perfect for you two.”
There were congratulations all around. Beers were passed around, paper plates were filled with pizza slices and we all settled in the living room.
“Well, that’s fucking good news,” Garrett praised, holding up his beer. “We were coming to see you off, but knowing you’ll be back occasionally...well, hell... Then this is simply a party. To a safe trip home.”
“Cheers!” we all called out, tapping beer bottles.
“Don’t sugarcoat shit,” Tanya sighed after taking a sip and rolling her eyes. “We’re here to watch that show with you! Figured you could use the support.”
Bella laughed, leaning into me, and I joined her, dropping a kiss to her head. I was so fucking glad that my friends and family not only liked Bella, but they’d accepted her instantly. Garrett and my brother were already big-brother protective of her, and I was very grateful.
“Plus,” Rose piped up with a smirk, “I heard a rumor they got to Jane.”
Bella gasped, her gaze snapping up from her plate to gape at her.
Tanya grinned, took another sip of beer, and set her bottle down. “Oh ho...this should be good. Someone tell me they’re DVRing this shit!”
“We are now,” Emmett said laughingly. He snatched up the remotes and pressed a few buttons. “Although, don’t they sell copies of their show?”
“It’s online,” Bella stated. “Once a show airs, they post it online in their library.”
“Well, we’ve got a few minutes before it starts.” Rose chuckled.
The conversation flowed freely as we all ate. Bella told us about meeting Ben and Eric in college in one of her photography classes. They’d asked her to take a few pictures for them, and they’d been friends ever since. Apparently, she’d introduced Ben to Angela once she’d started at the Tribune, and the two had hit it off. Just before the show was due to start, the girls helped Bella clean and bag up the garbage while the guys helped me with the last few boxes that were making the trip to Florida.
When we were all gathered back in front of the TV, poor Tanya was about to bounce out of her skin with anticipation.
I raised an eyebrow at her as I settled in the loveseat with Bella. “You’re finding way too much joy in someone else’s downfall.”
“And?” She snorted. “It’s me, you jackass. I’ve been waiting for this shit since that little cow showed up at school! Even more when she trapped you after you got home from Dartmouth. Please, please God...” she prayed dramatically. “If you’re up there, you’ll totally catch this bitch off guard. Like those curler-wearing, pajama-sporting, crazy people of Walmart.”
The whole room dissolved into hysterics, Bella smothering hers into my shoulder.
“Don’t knock Walmart. They’ve saved my ass for a late-night diaper run,” Garrett scolded, raising his eyebrow. “Not a soul recognizes me in there.”
“They don’t expect you to be in there,” Bella countered. “Just sayin’.”
He shot her a wink as he sat back on the sofa, wrapping an arm around Kate. “Even better.”
“Okay, okay...shut up!” Emmett hissed, sitting forward. “It’s starting.”
A guy in his mid-twenties with dark hair and glasses filled the screen. Where Ben worked behind the scenes, Eric was the face, Bella had explained earlier. Ben preferred the research, the production, and the web side of things, where Eric had zero problem getting in someone’s face and asking the tough questions. And it all showed.
Not only did they show just about the entire video of Marcus and Royce King’s daughter, but they went even further. They showed footage from other events, of other women, and photos that had obviously been taken with cell phones. All of it sent in anonymously, but all of it condemning the governor of many, many affairs. They’d been building up to this moment for quite some time.
The show centered around his hypocrisy – a church-going man, a father, grandfather, and public official – speaking against anything that wasn’t family or “doing the right thing.” He was just about outed for everything opposite of “the right thing.”
At one point, they showed Marcus answering questions while holding baby Seth, and it was obviously a photo opportunity for him, his wife – May – and Jane, who was standing off to the side, looking bored as all hell.
“Oh damn, he is cute,” Bella muttered at the first commercial break, looking to Garrett.
“I told you,” he said with a laugh. “Looks like his dad, though. That must smack Marcus in the face every time he looks at him.”
He met my gaze, but I said nothing.
Bella looked to me. “So wait. She thought she could pass Seth off as yours?”
Tanya laughed, her head falling back to the couch. “No, sweetpea. She thought she could buy time, but I don’t think she intended to get preggers in the first place. If not for you, she would’ve probably begged Edward to raise that child.”
Wincing, I sighed at how that probably would’ve been the case. And I wasn’t sure what I’d have done had Bella not been in the picture.
“No,” Kate countered softly. “If Edward hadn’t been with Bella, she would’ve lost everything with the appearance of a kid. The pre-nup would’ve given everything to him.”
“You mean she’d have aborted him,” Bella concluded sadly.
“Which goes against Marcus’s political party,” Emmett stated. “She was screwed either way. She’s still screwed. I’m doing everything in my power to get Jake that kid. I can’t wait to talk to those boutique owners like Angela told me to.”
“This should help,” Garrett stated with a laugh, pointing to the screen where the show was coming back on.
They caught Jane coming out of a coffee shop downtown. She had nowhere to go. Despite the woman that was with her pushing the stroller, there was no one to keep the news people off of her. And it was Eric Yorkie that stepped to the front of the pack.
My ex-wife looked pissed, scared, and nervous when Eric’s questions were fired at her rapidly.
“Miss Sterling, how do you feel about your father’s blatant actions at the fund raiser this weekend? Did you know Marcus was cheating? Did you also know that he was under investigation for corruption? Is it true that he made you keep the baby? Is it also true that you had an appointment for an abortion?”
The whole room became a vacuum when we all gasped, but I looked to my brother. “There’s your case...right there.”
“No fucking shit,” he sputtered, getting up and pulling out his phone. Immediately, he was talking to his office about her attempt at killing the child she claimed she wanted.
“Man oh man,” Garrett whispered, shaking his head. “When they dig, they really fucking dig. Remind me to send Angela flowers. I don’t want to be on her bad side. Like ever.
Bella laughed. “Ang is harmless. As are Ben and Eric. They’re just good at what they do.”
“How do you feel about it being your ex-husband’s event where your father was busted?”
“Oh hell,” I muttered, because the look on Jane’s face went from nervous to absolutely feral.
“Get out of my face,” she snapped, trying to maneuver around the media, but they wouldn’t let her. “Edward can rot in hell, if he isn’t already. I heard he moved in with some whore.”
Tanya laughed, which made me grin her way. And what would normally have made Sunshine upset simply made her giggle. It had everything to do with the support that was sitting around us.
“Is it true Sterling Gallery has been failing, that you’re filing Chapter 11, since you won it from him in the divorce?” Eric asked.
“Edward set me up for failure,” she stated, glaring at the guy, who simply smiled back at her.
“How’s that possible, when his own endeavors are a success?” he countered. “The Children’s Center for the Arts’ fund raiser did quite well this weekend, and there are rumors that Mr. Cullen is starting another one out of state. It seems he’s doing fine. So again, is it true that Sterling Gallery is now going under?”
She rounded on him. “Everyone has turned against me, and I blame my ex-husband. No one will support Sterling now that he’s no longer running it. He turned them all against me!”
“Actually, isn’t your father’s involvement to blame? The art community here in Chicago doesn’t like the censors he’s enforcing, isn’t that true?” Eric continued, and I could see that no matter what her answer was, he knew what she would say. “In fact, your own art has suffered because of it. Isn’t that true?”
We all sat with gaping mouths as Jane snapped on Eric, actually assaulting him. What was even worse? She hauled ass out of there, leaving her nanny and the baby behind.
Tanya was in tears, she was laughing so hard, and that shit was contagious as all hell. Soon, we were all in hysterics. Even Emmett, who had been in a serious conversation on the phone, had to put his cell down in order to lose it.
The flatscreen TV filled with Eric’s face once again, and he concluded his broadcast.
“As of the airing of this show, Governor Marcus Sterling is under investigation for sexual harassment, corruption, and solicitation of prostitution. According to Lieutenant Governor Royce King, several women have now come forward claiming to have been manipulated by Sterling. It seems he has more to answer for than just one affair.”
Emmett muted the TV, and the room sat in stunned silence.
“Everything,” Tanya chortled. “They lost everything...and it had nothing to do with you two. They did it to themselves.” She grinned like the Cheshire cat at Bella and me.
Bella sighed, shaking her head. “Karma.” It was a simple statement, but everyone nodded in agreement with her. “They set themselves up for failure. I still feel awful for that baby.”
“Yeah,” Garrett and Kate sighed at the same time.
“Not for long,” Emmett sang, holding up his phone. “All of this is getting used against her. I’ll get Jacob Black his kid. And Marcus can’t use it against him for whatever building project he’s doing, because Marcus...he won’t be there! Look!” He pointed to the screen, where the local news showed that Marcus Sterling was being escorted out of his office in handcuffs.
“Damn, I need another beer,” Tanya said, getting up from the sofa. “Anyone else?”
We all nodded, and the room was quiet except for Emmett’s phone, which was now blowing up. The TV was eventually shut off, and plans were made to get together soon. With summer not too far away, they were hoping to come down to Florida to visit.
When it came time for them to leave, there were hugs all around, requests that we call when we got home, and wishes for luck. When I closed the door, Bella leaned back against it, gazing up at me. I wanted to smile a little at her slightly buzzed expression, but I merely trapped her against the door.
“You okay?” she asked, hooking her fingers in the belt loop of my jeans in order to tug me closer.
“Mmhm,” I hummed, pressing my lips to her forehead.
My eyes caught sight of the dent I’d left in the door with my fist the night of the art show. Pulling back a little, I traced my fingers over it. Bella’s eyes followed what I was doing, and she paled a little, but she didn’t say anything.
I sniffed once, whispering, “The night I did this, I just fucking knew I was losing you. I just...I never wanted to make you feel anything less than how I saw you, which was the best thing that ever happened to me, but I knew everything was working against me. Everything.” My eyes locked on hers. “I made you feel used, like a whore, like you came in second every time, and I hated myself for it because I couldn’t change it, but I also couldn’t let you go long enough to do anything about it, either. I’ve made this promise to you a thousand times since I showed up at your door, Sunshine, but I swear to God, I’ll spend the rest of my life making it up to you.”
“We shouldn’t have cheated, Edward.” Her voice was soft, yet her smile was sad. “But we did. And we both paid for it – emotionally and monetarily. Now, those that worked against us are accounting for their mistakes. The slate is clean all the way around. You don’t owe me anything, baby.”
Smiling at her, I dropped another kiss to her forehead and then her lips. “Fine, then. Just let me spoil you the rest of our lives.”
She giggled, cupping my face and kissing me briefly. “Okay.”
Chuckling, I shook my head. “Okay,” I stated firmly with a nod. “Now...let’s get some sleep, Sunshine. We’ve got a long drive ahead of us in the morning. I’m ready to go home.”


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