Thursday, July 17, 2014 | By: Drotuno

Masen Manor Chapter 34 & Pics

Chapter 34
September 2002
My feet touched the fluffy rug in the bathroom, but my legs were still shaky. I couldn’t keep my eyes off Edward. He snatched up two towels, quickly wrapping one around his waist, only to step to me and secure the other one around me. With a soft kiss, he set me atop the vanity.
“I’m gonna run you a bath, okay?” he asked, looking slightly contrite, but sweetly determined all at the same time. When I nodded, he kissed me again, only to turn to the tub.
Steam rose up, fogging the mirror as Edward busied himself with bubbles, and then he left the room for a moment, but I couldn’t help but smile when I heard the stereo come on from the living room, especially when the first song was the one that I’d played so long ago on the piano in one of our lessons. I’d figured out I was completely in love with Edward, and it was a song about being drawn to someone with the inability to stop it.

I wound my hair back up into a messy bun, and my eyes raked up Edward’s bare back as he adjusted the water. Broad shoulders and smooth, strong muscles shifted as he turned the water off, and I swallowed back want and need. I should’ve been boneless and content, but I felt fidgety and needy. And for a moment, I wondered if we’d just opened up a floodgate beyond anything I could comprehend.
“Edward,” I called softly, holding out my arms when he spun his head to face me.
Immediately, he was in front of me, burying his face into the crook of my neck. His breathing was a little ragged, but his hands were soothing as they rubbed up and down my back.
“Maybe I should ask if you’re okay,” I teased him, smiling when he chuckled as he pressed a kiss to my neck.
He pulled back, his eyes warm and sweet, the honey color I loved so much. “Let’s get you in the water,” he stated softly, tugging gently at my towel. When it fell open, his eyes darkened again, but then he frowned, his long fingers reaching out to trail down my ribs to my hip.
Glancing down, I saw bruises starting to show, but my gaze snapped back to his. “I’m okay, Edward.”
He nodded sadly, but lifted me off the vanity and set me into the water. Before he could step away, I reached for his hand.
“Get in.”
He swallowed nervously, but gestured for me to scoot forward a bit. When he slipped into the water behind me, I settled back against him, but his worry seemed to be focused on that damn bruise. I was just about to say something, when his lips met my shoulder and then my ear.
“I promise that I’ll figure out how to touch you without leaving any more of these,” he vowed in the sweetest whisper to my ear.
The giggle that left me was pure relief. I didn’t want him to think he’d hurt me, because he hadn’t. Laying my head back onto his shoulder, I turned my head to kiss his lips.
“Edward, I’m gonna bruise. It’s a fact you need to know now. Surely you’ve seen them on me in the year that you’ve known me,” I explained to him, making sure he was looking me in the eye.
He frowned, but nodded. “I know, and I have. I just…hate that they’re from me.”
Grinning, I nuzzled his cheek. “Well, I hate coffee tables and sharp corners. I’ll live.”
“Fair enough, my love.” Chuckling sexily, he cupped the soapy water in his hands, letting it drizzle down my bent knee.
Fingers gently started to massage my skin and muscles, slipping over me in a continuous motion, and eventually, I started to writhe beneath his touch. He went from soothing and sweet, to sensual and teasing – along the inside of my thighs under the water, a flat hand up my stomach, and cupping my breasts where my nipples were peaked tightly from the water and his touch.
“God, Bella… I can’t… I can’t stop touching you,” he begged, his eyes locking with mine as I turned around in his arms.
The water sloshed a bit over the sides, but we barely paid it much attention. His want for me was trapped between us as I straddled his thighs, taking his face in my hands.
“I don’t want you to stop, Edward,” I admitted against his lips.
His hands gently grasped my hips, and he lifted me a little. “Are you sore?” he asked, purring enough to ripple the water around us when I shook my head no.
I could see the same curiosity in his eyes that probably matched my own. We were both wondering if he’d hear my mind again once he was inside me.
“Hey,” I whispered, and he froze in fear. “No, no…just go slow, Edward.” My breath caught in my throat as he filled me. God, he felt so good, different in not only the water, but in that position.
A deep growl vibrated between us, and Edward’s eyes were black as he gazed up at me. Wrapping my arms around his shoulders, I dropped my forehead to his.
“You can hear me, can’t you?” I asked him.
“God yes, everything,” he whispered back in awe and want. “I didn’t know, Bella… I thought I knew, but… You feel like… You feel so damn good.”
Nodding was all I was capable of, so I let my mind speak for me. We were barely moving, though the water was splashing a little. Between the warmth of the bath and the cool of his skin, I could only feel him, how complete it felt, not the pinch of being stretched again so soon. It was overwhelming, and I felt like my chest would explode with it all. I hugged him closer, tears blurring my vision as my love for him threatened to overtake me. A sob ripped through me as I tried to voice those very words.
“Shh, sweetheart,” he soothed, bracing a hand at my back at the same time another was flat over my heart. “I’ve got you, love. God, your heart…like hummingbird wings…” He kissed me and then stood, the water falling back into the tub in a cascade, but he kept me wrapped around him. Once he set me back down on the towel we’d left on the vanity, he brushed sweat and hair from my face. “I need you to breathe, Bella.”
The only way I knew to calm down was to inhale the pure scent of him at his neck. My forehead fell to his shoulder as stars bloomed behind my eyes. Steel-strong arms wrapped around me, giving me the feeling of pure safety and comfort. My breathing evened out, my heart calmed down, but when my eyes opened, I saw where we were still connected, where my legs were wrapped around Edward’s hips. It was hard to tell where I ended and he began.
A sexy-as-all-hell moan erupted from Edward, and my eyes shot up to his face.
“You’re killing me,” he barely said aloud, a slight quirky smile curling up one side of his face. “I need to move, or I’ll explode, but I don’t want to…and you were… Jesus, you feel so good. The heat, Bella…”
“Please,” was all I said before he started to move slowly, his mouth capturing mine in a searing, claiming kiss.
When he pushed back in, we both cried out, losing ourselves completely. I knew right then that it would never be enough. He could never be too close or fill me deeply enough. That fact seemed to scare me and comfort me at the same time, because I could see everything I was feeling mirrored on his face.
His hands slapped down onto the marble surface on either side of my thighs as he continued to move inside me. Leaning back changed the feeling, and we both moaned when I started to move with him.
“God, yes…just like that,” he whispered, glancing down between us where we were connected. “You’re close, love…please… I want to feel it.”
Leaving one hand braced on the counter’s surface, he slid the other between us, and an almost evil smile curled up his face as he teased the very place he knew would send me over the edge.
“Yes…” he hissed, whether at my body’s reaction or my mind’s – I wasn’t sure – but the armored butterflies in my stomach battled until they finally shattered into a million pieces, taking me with them.
My head fell back to the mirror behind us, and I felt Edward’s lips on my neck, his mouth opening to my skin. With a few last thrusts and a heavy grunt, he finally stilled. My whole being jerked in an involuntary spasm as I tried to come back to earth. I was pretty damn sure I wouldn’t walk tomorrow.
Edward grinned against my skin, a small chuckle escaping him. “Not if you don’t want to, my sweet, beautiful girl.”
I was still breathing heavy as a light laugh escaped me. “Okay,” was all I could offer in response.
He laughed a little, but cupped my face. “I was supposed to take care of you, not ravish you again.” He kissed me sweetly when I smiled, but my mind was happy, sated, and stupidly in love with him. “Love you, too,” he said back with an adorable grin. “As much as I love hearing you – and God, I really do…so not what I was expecting – I really need to take care of you, Bella.”
Nodding, I let go of his shoulders, wincing a little when he pulled away. He moved quickly, almost a blur of motion as he drained the tub, wet a washcloth with warm water to clean me up, and left the bathroom. He wasn’t gone a second before he was back in a pair of sleep pants with a T-shirt in his hands, helping me into it. He also handed me a couple of pills and a cup of water, muttering about soreness tomorrow.
I found myself curled against his chest and under the covers in bed before I could register what he’d done. It made me giggle a little, but I curled into him even more. My favorite arms wrapped around me as kisses were dropped to my head.
“What’s it like? Hearing my mind?” I mumbled through a long, wide yawn.
Edward slipped down a little so that we were face to face on one pillow. His smile was sweet and happy, his eyes back to their golden honey.
“Like your voice, only better. It’s a dream come true for me,” he said, and honesty was all over his tone. “It makes me wonder if I’ll be able to hear it all the time when you’re like me.”
I smiled, trailing my fingers down his face. “Maybe…though it makes me wonder if it’ll eventually drive you crazy.”
He laughed softly, his sweet breath pushing out against my face. “I seriously doubt it, my love.”
“Ah, he says that now…” I yawned again.
Kisses were brushed across my cheek and chin as he whispered, “Sleep, my Bella.”
My eyes slipped closed against my will, but my hand gripped at his waist to pull him closer. I think I mumbled something about holding me, but I wasn’t sure until his velvet voice answered me.
“Where else am I gonna go?”
My dreams were vivid, mixing together sensual memories and possible future ones. Shifting a little, I noted that I wasn’t as sore as I expected to be, but I could feel every touch from the night before. It was an ache throughout my whole body, but a delicious ache that reminded me of kisses and sweet words and love.
I snuggled down into the sheets, realizing I was alone in bed, but the soft sound of the piano met my ears. Cracking an eye open, I smiled into Edward’s pillow as I saw probably one of the sexiest sights I could imagine. Edward was lost to music, though he had the volume on the keyboard turned down low. He was sitting with his back to me, shirtless, wearing only his jeans from the previous night. Even his feet were bare.
Again, I took in his broad shoulders, the muscles that rolled with his playing. They started at his fingertips on the keys, leading up his strong arms and across each shoulder blade. My need to feel that skin against mine overrode every other thought in my head. Tugging off his T-shirt, I wrapped myself in the sheet and walked to him.
He heard me coming, of course. Smiling over his shoulder when I pressed against him, he leaned into me as I cocooned the sheet around us both. A purr rumbled out of him, making me giggle against his cheek before kissing him.
“Did I wake you?” he asked, trailing his fingers up my arms as they hugged his chest from behind.
“Nope.” I inhaled a trail along the back of his neck, pressing a kiss to the skin just behind his ear. “What were you playing?”
He smiled, shy and sweet, but he reached over to turn the volume up a little. “It came to me about an hour ago…another part to the song.”
I sat down beside him, straddling the bench so that I could continue to hug his torso from the side, but his arms were free to play. It was fluid and beautiful, almost erotic and sensual. It was us, only it was us from last night.
Reaching over, I placed my left hand on the keys to add to it, smiling when Edward chuckled.
“Yes, I like that…” His voice trailed off softly, but he mimicked what I’d done, blending it in to what he’d already written.
It was perfect – and almost complete.
I chuckled against his bare upper arm, pressing my lips there and gazing up at his face. “What will I do for the rest of the year once this is finished?” I asked him, cracking up when he moved quickly to drag me across his lap in order to cradle me in his arms.
He grinned, and it was crooked and sexy and naughty all at the same time. “Oh, my sweet girl, I’m sure we can figure something out.”
I smiled, dragging my tongue along my bottom lip. “I’m sure,” I agreed, reaching up to push his hair from his forehead.
Edward closed his eyes, leaning into my touch. “I brought you breakfast, love.” He jerked his chin toward his desk, where another of Esme’s plates sat wrapped up and waiting.
When I turned back to him, he looked nervous and contrite. “I didn’t leave for long, but I promised you no walking today,” he teased softly with a smirk, his hands starting to move over the skin of my thighs, my stomach, my ribs.
“Literally?” I giggled, squealing into hysterics when I was suddenly lifted up in his arms and deposited on the bed not a heartbeat later. I laughed even harder when that plate of Esme’s was set down in my lap.
Edward looked rather proud of himself, and I leaned over to kiss his lips after pulling his shirt back on.
“Literally,” he growled dramatically into my neck. “You’ve already broken that promise for me, my Bella. Try not to do it again…”
Snorting when he pointed a long finger toward the keyboard, I shook my head at him, but unwrapped the plate to see my favorites: eggs, fruit, and a bagel with cream cheese.
“Thank you,” I told him, picking up a bright red strawberry.
He nodded, but fingered the comforter of the bed with downcast eyes, and I wondered what was making him so shy. He looked as if he’d be beet red if he were human. I stayed quiet, eating slowly and trying to give him a moment.
Edward remained silent until I finished eating. Though, he stayed by my side the whole time, except when he took the plate away. However, when I moved to head to the bathroom, I held up a finger.
“This doesn’t count, Edward. No broken promises, I swear, but you’re not carrying me to the bathroom.”
His laugh was loud, but he sat down on the edge of the bed, pretending he was all innocent. I wasn’t buying a bit of it. He was adorably happy, but he was sharp, too, because he caught my wince when I slipped off the bed.
When I got back into the room, feeling fresher and a little better, he was waiting with a bottle of water and two more pills.
“You’re hurting,” he explained simply.
I took the pills and downed the water, but then kissed his lips as he kept me between his legs. “I’m achy, Edward, not an invalid,” I told him as he toyed with the hem of his T-shirt I was wearing.
He smirked, but I could see him relax just a little.
“You were worried?” I asked, crawling up into the bed.
He nodded, following after me, and I pulled and tugged at him until his head was in my lap. “I was… I was afraid I’d really hurt you.” He smiled when I was shaking my head before he’d even finished that statement. “And then I was… Was it too much, Bella?”
Leaning over him, I pressed kisses to his forehead, the tip of his nose and, finally, his lips. “You read my mind, Edward. Did you think it was too much?”
His eyes darkened at that, and he shook his head. “No, but… You were kind of…”
Giggling, I nodded. “Preoccupied, yes,” I finished for him. “Preoccupied, but not hurt.”
He nodded, seeming to enjoy my fingers running through his hair over and over. “I still can’t believe I heard you,” he mused aloud, a brilliant smile gracing that handsome face of his.
“What did Carlisle say?” I asked, laughing when he looked shocked. “Don’t even try it… You went to their place for my breakfast. I know you said something.”
He chuckled. “I did, but only because they could see we’d…that I’d…”
“Yes,” he whispered, bringing my fingers to his mouth in order to kiss each one, but his eyes were black fire and want and pride. “But he didn’t know what to make of it.”
I shrugged a shoulder. I didn’t care about the whys or hows of it. “I like it,” I admitted softly, feeling my cheeks heat with the truth of it. “I think it helped you.”
“It did,” he whispered back. “So much.”
Edward smiled from my lap, reaching up to tug me down by my neck. His kiss was slow, languid, and deep, and I felt it everywhere. I felt it in places that I knew were too tender to receive any attention. And he must’ve heard it in my breathing or heartbeat, because his smile broke our kiss.
“I’m starting something we can’t finish, my love,” he sighed, but his smile stayed on his lips. His nose wrinkled a little. “Is it wrong that I like the idea that you can still feel me?”
“No, I like it, too,” I breathed against his lips. “But…”
He sat up, cupping my face. “But you’re sore, Bella.” He nodded, smiling a little. “I’ll behave, I promise. I just can’t promise not to keep touching you. I…I need to be near you, love.”
I completely understood that, and I nodded. “Okay.”
“Okay,” he agreed with a sigh of relief.
“Going back to class on Monday will be interesting,” I muttered wryly, smiling at his chuckle.
He placed a hand over his heart, a gesture belonging to his time, but one I absolutely adored. “I also promise that we’ll figure out a balance, Bella. This is overwhelming to me, too.”
I made a mental note to talk to Esme, and possibly Carlisle, because Edward was right. I felt needy and wanting, even when he was staring at me with love and understanding. I wanted him to the point of going mad.
“I wouldn’t change a thing, Edward, but…”
He smiled, bringing my lips to his. “But it’s a lot to absorb. I know, love.” He smiled again when I nodded. “We just need—”
“A distraction,” I said with a giggle, narrowing my eyes at him when he raised a sexy eyebrow up at me. “Hey…” I poked him to get him to focus. “Let’s talk…college.”
November 2002
Shadows enveloped me as I watched Bella from the costume closet at the back of the stage. Harris was pacing, his mind going a mile a minute due to her playing. He really had no idea what to say to her. He was used to teaching scales, out of simple music books, and the usual easy pieces that most high school kids required. From what I’d learned from Bella, she’d surpassed those types of books before she’d turned a mere seven. Her Grandma Swan had to have been an amazing teacher, but the truth was that Bella was just…talented.
Watching my girl in secret gave me the chance to truly absorb everything about her: the calm, easy expression on her face; the light golds that highlighted her deep brown eyes; the slight touch of red that blended with her chocolate locks; and the curl of her lips as she owned that piano.
Our song was finished. We’d tweak a little more it here and there, but for all intents and purposes, it was done. It would be her final at the end of the year, and we were both extremely proud of it. And from the thoughts going through Harris’s mind, we should be.
The song ended, and Harris studied the girl in front of him. My eyes narrowed, waiting for him to say something, because his mind went a little blurry, but to both of our surprise, it was Bella who spoke up first.
“I still need to make a few adjustments, but it’s pretty much done,” she stated, and I smiled from my hiding place.
“It’s…brilliant, Bella,” Harris replied, and his thoughts matched his statement. “Truly. When do you find the time?”
She smiled, and a growl rumbled through my chest at just how secretive and sexy it was on her gorgeous face.
“I use this piano when no one else needs it,” she told him truthfully, because we did occasionally sneak into the auditorium to use it. The acoustics were better than my room, and there was nothing like the sound of the real thing, though the keyboard I’d bought was useful. “And sometimes, I’ll record myself on my laptop and e-mail it to Edward,” she went on to say, covering up my whereabouts.
Her candor, her forthcoming reply, shocked him, though it shouldn’t. Bella had been working damn hard on speaking aloud to people outside of her little comfortable bubble. Carlisle and I were extraordinarily proud of her, but we also saw that she’d probably always be shy. Just shy…not traumatized or scared. But she’d most likely always carry a quiet nature about her. And we were perfectly okay with that. There was nothing wrong with being timid around people she wasn’t used to, but with us – her family and friends – she was the happy, sweet girl she’d probably always been, even before Charlie’s passing.
At the sound of my name, Harris’s thoughts mused over what we were to each other. He’d heard the rumors, but never asked whether or not they were true. Instead of asking, he took a different route.
“And college… Have you given any thoughts about that?” he asked her as she packed up her things.
It was my turn to smile in secret. We’d started filling out applications to various colleges for her. Her choices were interesting – and not always based on whether the music program was worth a damn – but she’d wanted to cover all the bases. There were a few that were chosen on the weather and location – both for my benefit – not to mention the usual Ivy League suspects. I’d even offered Dartmouth, simply to give her a chance to see Rosalie Hale and Emmett McCarty again, but she’d nixed that one. And her reasoning was a harsh reality of what we were, what she’d eventually become: immortal. To fake her death while close with Rose and Emmett again would be too hard. She wasn’t sure when she’d be ready for that change – and I’d give her as much time as she needed – but she knew she needed to be prepared.
“I have,” she said with a nod. “In fact, I have some more applications to fill out in my room. I’ll be working on those since I’m staying at school next week for Thanksgiving break.”
Smirking at that, I waited for Harris to dismiss her, but instead, he offered her the auditorium for a bit longer, leaving her alone in the large empty space.
“You know, you don’t have to monitor the poor man,” she said softly with an adorable giggle. Her eyes glanced up from the keys as I stepped from the backstage shadows.
Grinning, I shrugged, shoving my hands into the front pockets of my jeans. Her expression softened as she looked over at me, and I wondered what she could possibly be thinking. Though that train of thought could get me into huge trouble, because I’d officially become addicted to hearing her mind, which in turn, made me absolutely ravenous for her in every way. Since her birthday, we’d become insatiable for each other. It was a mutual need that went hand in hand with mating, but truly, there were times when I simply needed her. I needed to feel her wrapped around me with every inch of her body, to hear her beautiful, loving mind, and to see her eyes lock on mine when we’d fall apart. I was a ruined man – in the best possible way – a mated vampire, and I knew for a fact that a hundred years from now, I’d love her just as much. No, probably more.
“What, love?”
She shook her head, but smiled. “Nothing.”
I knew it wasn’t “nothing.” I leaned against the side of the piano, folding my arms across my chest as I waited for her to find the words.
Finally, she looked up again. “You…stepping out of there,” she said, smirking and pointing toward the backstage. “It just…it reminds me of last year.” She wrinkled her nose. “I miss our lessons.”
Smiling, I leaned my elbows on the piano’s lid. “You want me to get the blackboard?”
Her laugh was adorable as she grabbed a piece of paper, wadding it up. “No!” she squeaked in a hiss, tossing that balled-up paper at me.
With a laugh, I caught it. “You really shouldn’t have done that…”
She snatched up another piece of paper and was off the bench as quickly as she could, scurrying around to put the grand piano between us.
“It’s like that?” she asked, balling up the page.
“Oh, yeah… Serious trouble, Miss Swan…”
The dramatically fierce look on her face was comical, but she held up her wad of paper. I moved so quickly, it dazed her a little, but I wadded up several more papers. She squealed, leaping off the stage and aiming for the seats, but I tossed three at her before she could hide.
“Dammit!” She laughed. “So not fair!”
“You started it,” I argued like a child, which made her laugh again, though she ducked behind a row of seats when I tossed several more her way.
Jumping from the stage, I hit the aisle silently, shaking my head. “You can’t hide, sweet girl,” I warned her, but moved in a blur to the other end of the row of seats. “I will catch you,” I growled, grinning when she fell into a seat, and I pinned her in with my hands braced on the arm rests. “See?”
The pull to kiss her was sharp when she gazed up at me with darkening eyes. For a brief second, I thought about fighting it, until her hands reached up to my T-shirt and gripped it, pulling me to her. God, I loved when she did that, when she took control. She didn’t always feel comfortable enough to do what she wanted, but she was getting bolder and bolder all the time.
I couldn’t stop the moan that escaped me when I kissed her. My mind shot back to our first kiss, when I’d been terrified that I’d hurt her, but we were amazing at it now. My tongue claimed her, tasting and owning her. When she pulled back, she smirked, her hands still gripping my shirt.
“One day…it won’t be unfair,” she stated, which made me purr.
“No, it won’t,” I agreed. “You’ll probably kick my ass.”
She giggled, kissing my lips, but I broke away, glaring toward the doorway.
“It seems we made too much noise, my love,” I said with a chuckle. “Come, sweetheart… We’re supposed to see Alice today, and we’ve got a long drive ahead of us.” She smiled up at me, and I scooped her up to set her on her feet in the aisle. “You get your things, and I’ll grab my…ammunition. But one toe out of line, Bella…”
She snorted, rolling her eyes at me, and then walked back to the stage. “You don’t scare me, Edward,” she said softly. “You never have.”
“No, Mom, I’m fine. I’ve got applications to fill out and stuff,” Bella rambled into the phone as we drove away from Masen Manor. “Edward’s here for a visit with his aunt and uncle, so we’ll be doing the Thanksgiving thing with them.”
Grinning, I linked our fingers together and brought her hand up to kiss the back of it. She was sort of telling the truth – though, she was doing a damn fine job of keeping it simple – but what she was leaving out was that we were on our way to visit Alice and Jasper’s place in Canada.
We weren’t staying long – just a few days, and not actually with them. I’d rented a cabin not far from the two of them, simply to give Alice space with her diet. However, Bella wasn’t quite comfortable enough to tell her mother that we’d be staying together somewhere outside of the school. It wasn’t new for us to share a room, and I suspected that Renee had an idea that we’d become sexually active, but Bella really didn’t want to smash that fact in her mother’s face. Renee had just started to get herself back together after all that had happened the past summer. She’d changed her name back to Higginbotham, she’d continued to see Dr. Buchanan in therapy once a week, and she and Chelsea had truly become fast friends…even more so than before. It now went beyond the employer/employee relationship. It was like they were “roomies,” as Alice and Bella liked to joke.
“If you’re sure, baby girl, then Chelsea and I are going to New Hampshire to visit her aunt again,” Renee said over the speaker. “You can reach my cell anytime, okay?”
“Yeah, sure, Mom. Have fun,” Bella stated.
The conversation ended not long after that, and Bella turned in the seat to gaze my way. “She still won’t answer me about that house.”
Chuckling, I glanced over at her before changing lanes. “Well, technically, it’s yours to make the decision, but I see why you’re waiting for her.”
“Aw, Edward… She’s my mom,” she whined adorably. “I don’t want to make a decision, but that house…”
“Love, shh,” I breathed against her hand as I brought it to my lips for another kiss. “I know, trust me. My suggestion isn’t to sell it, but… I don’t know, Bella. Living in it has been hard on all of you, and it’s kinda big for just the two of them.”
“Unless I go to Harvard, and then she’d want me to be with them, but…”
“But you don’t want to live there,” I surmised, only because she’d been hedging around this topic for a few weeks now. It was a suggestion I’d made not long after all of her funds transferred into my holdings company. The house was a huge investment, but in my opinion, it was too large for them.
She looked up at me, her face a little pained. “No.” She shook her head a little. “As much as it reminds me of Dad, it also reminds me of ugly things.” She turned toward her window, muttering, “I want to stay with you.”
A split second of pure, feral possessiveness overwhelmed me. My growl was low, but my need to give her what she wanted was making it hard to breathe. I was still learning the little things that had changed since we’d truly mated. The desire to provide, to care for, to protect was literally breathtaking sometimes.
“You can, my love,” I vowed, glancing over to meet her warm gaze. “We’ll figure out a way. Just…” I grinned, poking her side just enough to make her squirm. “You have to pick a college first, but you seem to be leaning toward Harvard, I see.”
Her smile was sweet, but it fell quickly. “I am, but only because we’d be close enough to keep an eye on her,” she sighed, again turning to watch the world go by out the window.
“Bella, you can do that from New York at Julliard or NYU, from Connecticut at Yale, or from Princeton in New Jersey. All of those would allow you close proximity to your mother and Chelsea, sweetheart. They’re all a train ride away, or…car ride.”
I grinned at her groan. I’d been pushing that she’d need a car by college, but she wouldn’t hear of it quite yet. In reality, she didn’t need it now, but she would eventually. I chuckled at her evil grin my way.
“You could just let me drive your Mustang,” she purred, smiling innocently up at me.
Narrowing my eyes playfully, I growled just to make her laugh, but my response was quick and easy.
“What? No, Edward, I was kidding!” She laughed, making her cheeks pink and her heart fly. God, I loved that sound.
Laughing, I kissed the inside of her wrist. “If you want it, it’s yours, my love. Besides, it’s not like I can’t find you…”
She snorted again, but gazed up at me as I pressed my lips to her wrist again. “Why?”
Rolling my eyes her way, I said, “Because you want it.”
“No, really. Why, Edward Cullen?”
My eyes focused on the road, but I shrugged a shoulder. “Because you’d look amazing in it.”
Her cheeks reddened again, but she merely shook her head and turned her gaze to the road. Not for the first time in one damn day did I wish that could read her mind, but I let it go.
The rest of the drive was quiet, spotted with easy conversations here and there, but for the most part, Bella dozed while the radio played softly in the background.
The lake that Alice and Jasper’s cabin was on wasn’t that big, but it was set back into the woods a bit. I could see that Carlisle had taken his time locating it. It was close enough for us to visit more frequently, but also far enough away from humans that Alice could relax a little. However, the tiny vampire hadn’t had any problems since we’d seen her last at Bella’s birthday.
I pulled up in front of the one I’d rented, smiling at Alice and Jasper, who were patiently waiting for us on the front steps. They’d been kind enough to stock up the kitchen for the few days that Bella would be here.
Once the car was stopped, I turned to my girl, who was sleeping soundly. Reaching over, I brushed the hair from her face, tucking it behind her ear.
“Sweet girl,” I called, pressing a kiss to her temple. “Bella, we’re here.”
She sat up a little, yawning widely. “What?”
Grinning, I said, “We’re here, love.” I pointed out the windshield toward the cabin.
Brown eyes sparkled with happiness at the sight of my brother and Alice, but Bella kissed me sweetly. “Thank you for this,” she said, reaching for the car door.
I stopped her, turning her face to mine. “When are you gonna get it, my love?” I asked with a laugh and another kiss. “I’d give you anything.”
She bit her bottom lip, but nodded shyly at the same time Alice’s patience completely ran out. I laughed as my girl was pulled out of the car and into a hug. Thankfully, no grunts of pain this time, just giggles and greetings.
Hoshit! Jasper’s mind met mine. You mated, brother!
Smirking his way, I raised an eyebrow to warn him about saying something stupid.
No, no, no… Feel what I feel, Edward, he thought to me again, and he projected what he was getting from Bella. See?
My brow furrowed as I concentrated on Jasper more than the happy chatter coming from the girls – though I did catch Alice’s silent, I told you that it would be okay – but there were layers of feelings coming from Bella: contentment, happiness, a touch of nerves. There was a slight discomfort, but I could imagine that was from being in the car for so long. However, the biggest emotion was the one that was lacking: fear. There was none, not a bit of it. Where she used to carry fear around like a blanket, it was no more.
She’s healed, Jasper’s mind soothed as he wore a lazy, happy smile. Good for her, man. If anyone deserves to let all that shit go, it’s Bella.
I swallowed thickly, nodding his way once. For a moment, I wondered which part of the changes in Bella’s life caused it: me, the removal of Phil and the threat of the Brown brothers, or Masen Manor…or was it all of those things combined?
Alice’s gaze snapped up from Bella, and her mind showed me a vision had I asked Bella that very question. The answer was my own face, but not saving her from Phil, not wrapped around her without a stitch of clothes between us, but just me, wearing the smile that Bella loved so much, the one she’d told me helped her through the roughest of days.
“Thanks, Alice,” I whispered low enough Bella couldn’t hear.
The tiny thing winked my way, but turned back to Bella. “I know it’s Thanksgiving, but I know Esme’s making the turkey again back at school. She already told me. So you gotta humor me, Bella…”
Bella grinned. “How’s that?”
“I miss our chocolate cake talks, and there’s one waiting for you. I bought it myself, braved the store full of humans all for you. Besides,” she said deviously, raising an eyebrow at me, “it seems we have some catching up to do.”
Bella laughed, but pointed toward the cabin. “Lead the way. I suppose you’ve seen it all.”
Alice took Bella’s hand to lead her inside, and Jasper and I followed dutifully behind them.
“Oh, I’ve seen lots of things.”


aelita48 said...

It is always a pleasure to read two new chapters.
Thank you.

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