Sunday, April 27, 2014 | By: Drotuno

Masen Manor Chapter 15 & Pics

Chapter 15
December 2001
BELLA
Stepping into my room from the bathroom, I rubbed my wet hair. It had been a long damn day. I’d heard from Edward off and on all day, but it seemed tomorrow would never get here. I was ready to be out of my house and anywhere with him. I didn’t care what we were doing, and I’d texted him as much.
I brushed the tangles out of my hair, frowning at the sound of a light knock on my door. Ever since Edward had left the night before, my mother had tried repeatedly to talk about what I’d found, about my dad, about Phil. She’d even gone as far as telling me that Phil didn’t know that I knew. Like I cared what he knew.
I set the brush down, but relaxed at the sight of Chelsea’s sweet, worried face when she peeked in. I waved her in, and she closed the door behind her before setting a basket of clean clothes on my bed. She reached over and picked up the brush, continuing to smooth my hair out. She smiled at me in the mirror.
“We should curl it…tomorrow night, I mean,” she suggested when she was finished, giving me a wink. “Just the ends, I think.”
I grinned, simply because I couldn’t help it.
“Boy oh boy, have you got it bad for that handsome thing,” she teased, poking my side and making me squeak. “And what a charmer…”
Giggling, I nodded, but shrugged a shoulder. Edward was all those things, but…more.
She laughed softly, sitting down on the edge of my bed. “But goodness, Bella…the way he looks at you. Like you hold him to this earth, not gravity.”
“I know,” I sighed with a small smile, nodding a little. Thinking back to when Edward and I first met, I now recognized every emotion on his handsome face. He’d been holding back with me, but fighting it had gotten harder and harder. Though, the more I’d gotten to know him, the more he’d shown those emotions. And I could feel his love for me in everything he said and did.
“You can talk to him, can’t you?” she asked in a whisper, giving the door a side glance.
I nodded.
“Like really talk.”
“Yes.”
She beamed, leaning forward to capture my face in her hands. “Good!” she practically growled. “That means he’s good for you. Don’t you dare take that for granted, because I’m willing to bet that boy would jump in front of a train for you. The way he spoke last night…he wasn’t going to take no for an answer about your date.”
I giggled again. She had no idea. She also had no clue that he’d used every bit of his charm to paint a slightly false picture of who he was to me. Most of it had been the truth, merely sweetened with a few lies to keep down the questions. I’d truly seen him for what he could accomplish. He was dangerously sexy, completely schmoozing the two women in my house without batting those long eyelashes. No wonder every girl in Hunter’s Lake stared at him like he was something to eat, but he was mine – a thought that made my cheeks heat and my smile grow bigger.
Chelsea kissed my forehead, sobering a little. “You wanna talk about your mom a second, sweet girl?”
When I shook my head no and got up to walk to my window, she sighed deeply.
“Parents aren’t perfect, Bella. You should know this now,” she defended, flinching when I shot her a glare over my shoulder. “I’m not saying that what they did was right, but people are human. They make mistakes – sometimes, really ugly ones. And sometimes, those mistakes can’t be taken back.”
I turned back to the window, gazing out across the street to the little park. My heart wished to see Edward, but Chelsea had my attention.
“Bella, things weren’t perfect in this house before Charlie died,” she said softly. “Your mom and dad fought; they just didn’t do it anywhere near you. And your mother isn’t stupid, sweetie. She’s well aware that you were your dad’s best buddy. It wasn’t exactly a secret that he held you higher than anyone else in the world.”
Tears stung my eyes. I missed my dad like crazy, which made me wish Edward was there to tell me everything would be okay. When he said it, it felt true.
“Higher than even your mom,” she said, making me turn to face her. She nodded, smiling sadly. “It’s true. And the only reason I’m telling you this is so that you’ll cut your mom a little slack. She wanted to do the best by you, knowing you’d lost your dad. She tried everything to help you when you were hurt. Everything. But she stopped when she could see that you were just as frustrated as everyone else. That was the only reason she backed off, Bella. Not because she didn’t care,” she said, walking to me and cupping my face. “We all know how strong you are, sweet girl, but your mom simply wanted to give you space, time, a chance to fight through it without everyone in your face all the time. Understand?”
When I nodded, she pulled me into a hug.
“All that being said, I can almost understand why they kept it from you. Can you honestly tell me that before now, you’d have listened, much less accepted the fact that they’d done what they did?”
I swallowed thickly, truly thinking about what she was telling me. And my answer was a slow, honest head shake no.
“Exactly,” she whispered against the top of my head. “You wouldn’t have taken it very well, Bella, but now…you’ve taken it with as much grace as anyone would have. Probably better, all things considered.” She cupped my face, making sure I was looking her in the eye. “You’re allowed to be angry, sweetheart. No one should tell you otherwise, and the fact that you verbally confronted her tells me you’re healing.” She smirked at me, but continued. “What they did wasn’t right, and I know that your heart and loyalty will always be with Charlie, but there’s no changing what happened in the past. You just have to learn to let it go, grow, and move on with you… Your life, your future…that’s what’s important, Bella, not things someone else has done.”
My brow furrowed, and I hugged her again, thinking she was talking about more than just Mom and Phil. “Thanks, Chelsea,” I whispered.
She laughed softly. “Anytime, my sweet girl.” She pulled me back, holding me by the shoulders. “Now, let’s talk wardrobe for this date I hear is coming up. Where are you going?”
I shrugged, grinning. “He said dress warmly.”
“Hmm, but he mentioned a party,” she said, stepping into my closet. “Then we’ve got work to do.”
I giggled at her, shaking my head and gazing out into the cold night. For a brief moment, I thought I caught movement in the shadows across the street. Smirking, I picked up my phone and sent a quick text.
B – Are you stalking me again?
His reply was instant.
E – It’s not stalking, love. It’s protecting you.
I laughed softly, giving the park across the street another glance. The shadow I thought I’d seen move then shifted, and leaning against the tree was Edward with his phone in hand. I wasn’t sure there was a more beautiful or more comforting sight than him simply leaning against the trunk of a tree.
Reaching up, I unlocked the window and then sent one more text before joining Chelsea in my closet.
B – Well, don’t do it so far away. Come in when you can.
His reply was a simple “okay,” and I walked into the closet. I received no more texts from him for the rest of the night. And as I snuggled into my covers, I was just a bit disappointed, though a part of me understood – and could hear – that people were still awake in my house. I reached into my nightstand, pulled out the new blue journal, and got up to set it on the window sill. If he didn’t feel comfortable coming in, he could at least have my answer to the first entry he’d put in there.
Sleep came quickly, despite how anxious I was for the upcoming date the next night. My dreams swirled around me, different than usual, but still very vivid. At some point, the usual evil male laughter and ski mask-wearing thieves changed to screams of fear and panic. The scent of sandalwood assaulted my senses. Calm and comfort wrapped itself around me, with cool kisses pressed to my forehead.
“You came in,” I mumbled almost incoherently.
My favorite chuckle met my ears. “Of course. Sleep in peace, my love. I’ll always come for you.”
I think I told him I loved him, and I’m sure he said something back, but I fell into a long, deep, dreamless sleep. It was the best night’s sleep I’d had in years.
However, I awoke the next morning alone, making me wonder if it had all been in my head. The folded note on the pillow next to mine told me different.
My beautiful Bella,
You sleep much better in my arms. Something so simple shouldn’t mean so much, but it does. I wish it could be more often. My hope is that someday, I can hold you every night, but for now, I’ll take what I can get.
I’m sorry I’m not there to kiss you good morning, but there were some things that needed to be done before I pick you up.
I’ll see you at 7.
Love,
E
I tucked the note away in my nightstand, the smile never leaving my face as I got up for the day.
~oOo~
My hand shook when the doorbell rang at the same time I was trying to put the last touches on my makeup. Though, I grinned like an idiot at my reflection in the mirror. The day had dragged slower than ever before.
I kept my makeup light, only focusing on my eyes. With a swipe of lip gloss, I gave myself one last glance in the mirror. Chelsea had helped me pick out a red dress, but gave me tights to wear to keep warm. She also changed her mind about the curls, sweeping my hair up into a loose bun with tendrils framing my face. There wasn’t much I could do about my scar, but it never seemed to bother Edward, and that’s all that mattered to me, really.
It wasn’t lost on me that Chelsea had helped me get ready, and not my mother. Though, just as that thought hit me, there was a soft knock on my door. I was pulling on my boots when my mother peeked her head in. I kept my face blank when she shut the door behind her.
“Edward’s in the library. He said for you to take your time,” she told me softly.
I nodded, trying not to let my tiny butterfly soldiers take over, but they seemed to be ready for battle against some unknown enemy. With one last check in the mirror, I grabbed my purse and made for the door, but my mother didn’t get out of the way.
“Bella, wait,” she whispered, her voice pleading.
My face was a mask of indifference, I was pretty sure, as I met her gaze and waited for whatever it was she needed to say.
She reached up and toyed with one of my curls, her eyes raking all over my face. “My God, Bella, when did you become this beautiful woman in front of me?”
I snorted humorlessly, but smiled.
She smirked. “And that young man downstairs sees it. You make sure he treats you like you deserve to be treated, Bella. He seems to be well-mannered and polite, and he’s certainly handsome, but just make sure he’s that way all the time. If your dad were here…”
My eyes narrowed in warning. My dad wasn’t a topic of conversation I wanted to have at the moment.
“Isabella Marie, please let me finish,” she sighed exasperatedly. “I know you’re pissed off at me, and you have every right to be, but you have to understand that Charlie and I were falling apart. He never wanted you to see it, but we were. Phil came along simply at the wrong time.”
My nostrils flared, and I shook my head at how right Chelsea and Edward had been. Looking back to her, I whispered, “I understand falling apart. You could’ve waited. Cheating is…cheap.”
Mom flinched at my harsh accusation, but she nodded. “Yes, I suppose that’s true. Like I said, you have every right to be mad. Lord knows, that explains Charlie’s attitude just before…”
Reaching for the door knob, I went to leave, but again, she stopped me, her hand grabbing my wrist.
“If your dad was here, he’d tell you to be careful, and he’d probably threaten that young man with a gun or push pepper spray into your hand. I don’t think I have to do that, but I’ll still tell you to be careful.” She narrowed her eyes on me. “He’s…changed you. For the better, I think.” She studied my face, smiling a little. “I was worried about how you’d be this break, but I see I don’t have to be. This school, this…boy… You’ve gotten better. I see it in your eyes. I’d told that Cullen woman that we’d give the school a year, but I don’t think that stipulation needs to be in place. If you’re happy, Bella, then you have my blessing.”
I smiled gratefully, but it was tentative. “And Phil?”
She grimaced a little. “Don’t you worry about him. He may not like it, but at the end of the day, he really can’t say much.”
There was a tone to her voice I didn’t quite recognize. It sounded angry, or maybe simply tired, but it was different. And I wondered for a moment if Edward could hear her thoughts. Before I could make heads or tails of it, she opened my bedroom door and smiled.
“Have fun, and Happy New Year, Bella.”
I found Edward in the library, his hands shoved into the front pockets of his black dress pants. He was wearing a matching suit jacket and a black overcoat, but no tie. His eyes were scanning the room, but he was standing by my piano. Something about that sight seemed fitting and perfect.
He turned when he heard me come in, his eyebrows raising high. “You look…beautiful,” he whispered, walking to me. He kissed the back of my hand, wearing that crooked smile I loved so much as he pointed toward my piano. “I see you’ve been working. Have you gotten any farther?”
I held up my thumb and forefinger, grinning at him.
“A little?” he verified, smiling brightly when I nodded. “That’s good, love.” He kissed the back of my hand again, giving it a gentle squeeze. “You okay?” he asked, giving the stairs a quick glance, but he leaned down to whisper to me. “She feels terrible about how you found out about her and Phil, but they couldn’t help it. She’s happy for you, love. She’s completely shocked at how much you’ve improved. And despite your stepfather’s trepidation, she’s putting her foot down about not only this date, but school, as well.”
I grinned up at him. “Thank you.”
He shot me a wink and my favorite grin. “Anytime. Now, are you ready?”
When I nodded, he helped me into my coat and guided me to the front door that Chelsea was holding for us with a warm smile. Edward led me to his car, opening the door for me. He waited until I was in before closing it. I had to smile that the inside was already toasty warm.
He folded himself behind the wheel, stopping when he glanced over at me. “What?”
“Nothing,” I whispered, grinning his way. “So where are we going?”
He smiled, starting the car and backing out of my driveway. “There really is a party, but we’re not staying there until midnight. I promised Esme and Carlisle that we’d make an appearance.”
“They’re going to be there?” I asked, a little surprised.
“Yes?” he answered, but it sounded like a nervous question. “We don’t have to—”
“No, no,” I said with a snicker, waving him on. “It’s fine.”
Despite our obvious nerves, we fell into a comfortable silence as he drove us through the city. We pulled into a hotel, and my door was opened. Edward gave the poor boy a glare when he snatched the ticket stub from him, but gathered me quickly to his side.
“What’s the face?” I asked with a laugh.
“His thoughts were…vile.” Edward frowned, leading me inside. Once we were inside the elevator, he turned to me, chuckling a little. “I guess I’d better get used to it, men thinking about you.”
I grimaced, shaking my head. “I can’t imagine hearing that stuff. Does it bother you?”
He shrugged a shoulder. “It used to. It was hard at first. It was all thoughts from everyone close by, but now, I can focus down to a single person in a room full of people, which is helpful, considering where we’re going.”
As he said that, the elevator doors opened to a ballroom. The music and chatter were loud to my own ears, so I couldn’t imagine what Edward was dealing with, much less the thoughts that must have been hitting him full force.
We checked our coats, and Edward guided me through the throngs of people, quietly explaining in my ear.
“This is a bunch of doctors all from New York and Boston. It’s a charity event for several free clinics. Carlisle’s on the board. It’s for low or no income families to have medical care. This event will supply at least two of the clinics with everything they need for the next year,” he stated, smiling when I glanced up at him.
We stepped around a few tables, finally stopping at one where I recognized three of the five people sitting there.
“Edward, Bella, you made it,” Dr. Cullen said with a smile. He stood up, coming to shake my hand. “It’s good to see you, Bella. Are you enjoying your holiday?”
I smiled and nodded at him, my eyes shifting to his wife, who looked stunning in a royal blue dress.
“Bella, you look lovely,” she said.
“Thanks, Mrs. C,” I whispered.
“Tsk, not here. Here, you’ll call me Esme,” she stated firmly, but her golden eyes were sparkling with what looked to be happiness.
“Okay.”
She gestured toward the table. “Please, join us. Edward, you can make the introductions.”
“Yes, ma’am,” he said, placing a hand on my shoulder. “You know Jasper, but these are our friends from Alaska, Carmen and Eleazar. This is Bella Swan.”
I wanted to laugh at the instant recognition of my name, which probably meant they knew of Giselle’s prediction from so long ago. And they also had to have been warned that I might not speak, because they addressed me with warm smiles and handshakes when I simply waved.
Edward held my chair, and I took a seat next to Jasper before Edward took his place on my other side. A slow glance around the table made me want to chuckle. I wondered if any other human in the large room knew there was an entire table full of vampires sitting at the back of the room.
Jasper snickered. “Now what has you so amused, darlin’?” he asked in his usual slow drawl.
Smirking at him, I shook my head and kept it to myself. I was pretty sure the only thing that people saw were the gorgeous beings at my table. More than once did I watch women give all the men at my table a glance, almost running into someone else, and men eyed Carmen and Esme appreciatively. Though, I did notice most everyone gave the table a wide berth, and they probably didn’t even know they were doing it.
It was strange being the only one truly eating, but no one made note of it. When I was finished, Edward leaned to my ear.
“Dance with me? Please?”
His face was nervous and tentative, but hopeful as he held out a hand for me. I took it, and he led me to the edge of the dance floor, wrapping my arms around his neck.
“I miss your voice,” he said with a slight chuckle. “I forget how quiet you are around people you don’t know.”
“Sorry.”
“Don’t be sorry, Bella,” he countered, swaying us back and forth. “Jasper says you’re okay, but if you’re uncomfortable—”
“No, I’m not,” I interrupted, shaking my head. “I promise, Edward.”
He studied my face, but finally smiled. “It’s a lot to take in, sometimes, all of us in one place.”
“I bet.” I giggled, which earned me my favorite crooked smile. “Alice and I used to wonder what would happen if you and Jasper stepped into a bar together.”
Edward snorted, rolling his eyes, and shook his head. “Chaos.” He laughed when I giggled. “Jasper likes good live rock bands, so occasionally, we’d go to hear one. It’s just…twisted. Between his talent and mine, we’d never stay for long.”
I wrinkled my nose at the mere thought of it. Edward hearing thoughts, Jasper feeling all the drunk feelings, not to mention their over-sensitive hearing, and I could imagine they couldn’t handle it for long.
Edward’s arms wrapped around my waist, and I laid my cheek on his shoulder. Just him holding me made all the things I’d learned at home fade away. I closed my eyes, letting the scent of him wash it all away, and I sighed deeply in content.
He flinched once or twice, and I pulled up to look at him. “What?” I asked, frowning at the darkness that shadowed his eyes.
He shook his head, dropping a kiss to my forehead.
“Please tell me?” I requested, tilting my head a little.
He grimaced, but relented. “Now I understand what you meant…that people see your scar before they see you.”
“Ah,” I sighed, feeling my cheeks redden as I looked around us. “Does it bother you?”
“Not the way you mean,” he countered quickly. “They let their imaginations run wild, so it’s a little disturbing.” He tilted my face up with his fingers beneath my chin. “Your scar is part of you, Bella, and I love you, so whatever they think doesn’t matter to me.”
“I love you, too.” Smiling, I kissed his cheek. “Well, I believe I told MG that it makes it easier when I don’t speak. Most think I can’t.” I shrugged a shoulder. “They can think what they want. Those who truly matter know the truth.”
Edward snorted at the mention of MG, but he nodded. When the next song was a little faster paced, he guided us back to the table, where only Jasper remained. He looked a little lost, and his eyes glanced over us before he continued to toy with the fork on the table in front of him. I felt a touch of sadness come from him. Now knowing what he could do, I recognized that it was him, not my own emotions.
When he caught my gaze, Edward shifted next to me, but Jasper gave us a crooked smile. “It’s nice to see my brother at one of these things. He rarely crawled out of his hiding place.”
I tilted my head at him. “Ah, yes, the ghost in the east wing you wanted me to teach manners to…”
Edward laughed, kissing the back of my head. “You’re doing a fine job, too, Bella.”
I shot Edward a smile, but turned back to Jasper. “Was the joke about my journal on me or Edward?”
Jasper grimaced. “Him. My apologies, Miss Bella. I meant no disrespect, but he was so afraid of the idea of you. I thought he needed a push.”
I nodded, but my loyalty to Alice made me a little bold. “Maybe I can return the favor someday, Jasper.”
His eyes snapped up to mine, but Edward growled low behind me. “Don’t, Jasper. You’ll regret it, I promise you.”
Glancing back at Edward, I could see he was reading whatever was going through his brother’s mind, so I turned back to Jasper. “Why is it okay to push Edward and not okay for you? Sounds hypocritical to me. I see how you look at Alice. And whether you know it or not, it hurts her when you push her away.”
What I didn’t say was that I knew she didn’t feel it until after he was out of her sight. He kept her at arm’s length with his talent.
Jasper’s mouth opened and closed, but he looked pissed for just a second. His eyes were warm when he finally looked back at me. “Does she know? Like you?”
I shook my head no. “No, it’s not my secret to tell, Jasper, but I will tell you that you’re underestimating her.”
He simply nodded, but quietly excused himself from the table.
When I turned back to Edward, I apologized.
He smiled, shaking his head. “You’re a good friend, love. Don’t apologize for that. And you gave him something to think about. He’d stopped listening to me.”
I smirked, but asked, “Why’s he fighting it?”
“For the same reasons I did,” he answered honestly. “Your age, your humanity, your lives…they’re precious to us. We can’t cause you harm, but we can’t live without you, either. It’s fine line to walk.”
“Don’t we get a say?”
You do. You always will,” he vowed, smiling my way. “Jasper, though… He had a harsh life before Carlisle found him. And he’s very stubborn, but you got through when no one else could, Bella.”
I took a deep breath and let it out, nodding a little. I knew about Jasper’s past, that he was turned by the same vampire who had turned Edward, but Maria had used Jasper – abused him, really. He was covered in what Edward had told me were newborn vampire bites. He hid them well, but occasionally, one would catch just right in the light. They looked savage and gnarled. It made me glad Maria was dead.
I looked up at Edward, who was solely focused on me. “I just think it’s unfair. He thinks it’s funny to push you, but won’t take the same chance. Alice feels the same, but I see it dim in her eyes when he’s near.”
“Hmm,” Edward hummed, nodding a little. “Yes, he uses his talent to give her false feelings. Even when he’s nowhere near her, her mind is on him, but he’s done it so much now that she thinks it’s just…attraction.”
“Or maybe she sees something about her future that she hasn’t told me,” I said with a chuckle. “She’s patient when she needs to be.”
Edward smiled and leaned in to kiss my forehead, whispering, “If she has, I haven’t seen it in her mind.” He gave the party a quick glance around, but then his golden eyes landed back on me. “Esme’s given me permission to escape with you. You ready?”
Giggling, my eyes shot across the room to see Carlisle and Esme dancing, but her smile was sweet. “Yeah, okay,” I told him, taking his hand when he stood.
~oOo~
EDWARD
We told Carlisle and Esme that we were leaving, and I waved to Carmen and Eleazar. We’d stayed long enough, and I needed enough time for what I had planned before midnight. All of their minds were on Bella – her beauty, her silence, and her poise. Eleazar, who had the ability to see talents in others, silently told me that if Bella chose to ever become one of us, she might end up rather powerful. My inability to hear her mind may be something surprising should she become a vampire. His guess was a shield, but he couldn’t say for sure, since she was still human.
However, I was a humbled man listening to the thoughts of strangers concerning the girl at my side. Bella didn’t seem to worry about her scar, but it really was what people saw first before they saw her as a person. Their curiosity and vivid imaginations were loud in my head, giving me visuals of terrible, violent crimes against my Bella. None of them were correct. Not one. However, when men truly took a look at her, the thoughts turned lustful, and I couldn’t decide which was worse. She was a beautiful woman, and I realized I needed to get used to it, whether I liked it or not. I took comfort, however, in the fact that it was me she talked to, and it was me her eyes sought out in a large room of people. And that thought made me smile as I helped her into her coat.
When we made our way to the lobby of the hotel, I caught Jasper’s mind. He was leaning outside on the corner. He wanted so badly to be mad at my girl, but he couldn’t be, because she had truly called him out for what he’d been doing when it came to Alice. She was a good friend and probably saw and heard more than we did, considering they shared a room together.
Brother, please give her my apologies. She’s right. I never should’ve pushed you, when I didn’t have the balls to do the same.
I shot a glance at him, shaking my head and speaking low enough that the humans around us couldn’t hear. “Your intentions were honorable, Jasper. Perhaps you should speak with Carlisle?” I suggested. “You do realize that it was Alice who gave Bella the idea that it was a vampire in the east wing, right? Not a ghost.” I grinned when his mouth fell open. “Just sayin’, brother.”
Giving him another smile before opening the car door for Bella, I focused back onto her beautiful face.
“What’s the smile for?” she whispered.
Chuckling, I closed the door and walked around to the driver’s side. Once I was in, I turned to her. “Jasper offers his most sincere apologies. Again.”
She waved it away. “He owes you the apology. Not me.”
For a split second, I saw her for the immortal she could be. It caused a moment of possessiveness to wash over me, because she’d be fierce and protective and completely mine. And I wanted it. I wanted it so badly that a low, purring growl rumbled through me when I leaned in to kiss her temple. I was completely willing to wait for it, but it didn’t make me want it any less.
“So…where are we off to now?” she asked.
“You’ll see,” I said with a chuckle.
I drove us through the city, Bella’s hand in mine. When I parked along the street in an older neighborhood, she glanced around. We weren’t far from her house – just a few streets over, actually.
Opening her car door for her, I took her hand and helped her stand. The neighborhood was brownstone after brownstone, lining either side of the street. I led her up the steps of one, inserting my key in the door.
Before I let her in, I turned to her, suddenly nervous. “When…When I was attending Harvard, I didn’t live on campus. I lived here.”
“This is yours?” she asked, a smile curling the corners of her mouth.
“Yes. I started to renovate it a few months ago. It didn’t need much; I’d been renting it out, but when the last tenants moved, I decided to keep it. For myself.”
She laughed softly. “And here I thought the apartment thing was a lie to my mom.”
Grinning and opening the door, I shook my head. “No, I just glossed over the truth a bit.”
The place was much more modern than it once had been. There was central heat where there wasn’t before, and I’d made sure to come earlier to turn it on. The wood floors were restored, and some of the furniture was antique, but for the most part, everything else was new, including the baby grand piano that was the focal point of the living room. I smiled when Bella rushed to it.
“It’s so beautiful,” she whispered, tracing a finger across its shiny black surface.
I wasn’t sure that I could tell her it was a recent addition. I’d bought it for her when I realized where she lived. I also didn’t know if I could tell her I’d kept this place for myself simply to be near her, even if she hadn’t accepted me.
“May I?” she asked, pointing to the cover of the keys.
Chuckling, I took her hands in mine. “Yes, whatever you wish, but let me give you the tour first. You’ll need your coat for that.”
She nodded happily, linking her fingers with mine as I showed her every room. There was a guest room, office, and bathroom on the second floor, but the third was the master suite, completely furnished. The sight of the large bed made me nervous, but Bella said nothing about it, which made me selfishly wish to hear her thoughts. I wondered if she saw us there one day, something that had been plaguing me for weeks. It seemed foul, disrespectful to think of her that way, but it seemed every bit of me wished to prove my love for her.
Lastly, I took her to the roof, where I’d strung white lights over our heads. There was a perfect view of another part of the city, and I smiled when some fireworks exploded in the distance and when the sounds of someone’s party a few doors down wafted down the street. Snow fell lightly, but the weather wasn’t enough to worry about Bella catching a chill, and she seemed to be fairly happy up there.
She leaned against the edge of the roof, glancing down, then toward the amateur fireworks, and finally to me. “This place is really pretty.”
“You’re welcome here anytime,” I told her honestly, shrugging a shoulder and smiling her way. “Even if…”
Her brow furrowed, but she reached up to push my hair from my forehead. “Even if…what?”
I leaned against the roof wall next to her, but faced her completely. “Have you truly thought about this, Bella? What this means?” I asked her, gesturing between us. “I can’t…ever love someone else. It’s impossible for me. Now that you…” I sighed, gazing out over the city for a moment. “There will only ever be…you. But you have…choices, and you’re still young.”
“My age is a problem for you?”
“No, never…maybe at one point, but no, sweetheart,” I countered, reaching up to brush a loose curl from her face. “Time moves fairly quickly for my kind, but I’ll wait forever for you…if that’s what you want.”
“You think it’s different for me?” she asked softly, smiling up at me, but it fell quickly. “Do you remember a few months back, when you asked me what was going through my head? I told you that you didn’t want to know. Remember?” she whispered, and when I nodded, she went on. “I was…upset that day. You called our piano lesson over. I was feeling a lot of things that day,” she sighed, her eyes twinkling in multi-color sparks when another firework bloomed overhead. “Mostly, though, I’d realized that I felt more for you than just a crush on my tutor…and I thought I couldn’t keep you.” She placed her fingers on my lips when I started to argue. “Now I know I can and that for some strange reason, you feel the same. Edward, that’s not going away.”
Nodding, I thought back to something Esme had said. She’d told me that Bella would feel the same, in spite of her humanity. She’d told me that Bella would understand the pull, the draw to stay close, and the need to be together. Everything she’d told me was correct.
She reached out and tugged me closer by my coat. “I don’t want it to go away. That’s my choice. I don’t have to think about it. I know what I feel.”
My eyes closed and my forehead fell to hers as I pulled her close. I inhaled deeply the scent of her, of flowers and a slight touch of perfume that she’d put on tonight. It wrapped around me like her arms were doing. I saw the vision of white wings that Giselle had seen in her crystal ball so long ago, and it was perfect and real.
“Why’d you really keep this place?” she asked in a whisper, but her slight smirk told me that she most likely knew.
“To be near you,” I said with a half-smile.
Her giggle was sweet and sexy, but we both looked up when the party down the street started to count down from ten. I started kissing her at the count of two and didn’t stop until well after fireworks exploded, horns blared, and singing started.
Her lips were cool due to the weather, but her mouth was heat and hunger as her tongue caressed my own. The sweet, sexy whimper I lived to hear met my ears, and my hands fisted her coat simply to bring her closer. I knew I had to slow us down. Otherwise, I was afraid of losing myself in us. Dropping three light kisses to her lips, I pulled back from her, wondering what life would be like once we were back at school, but I realized it simply didn’t matter. We’d just take whatever came our way.
“Happy New Year, Edward,” she whispered to me, smiling up at me.
I brushed my lips across hers one more time. “Happy New Year, my love.”





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