Sunday, May 17, 2015 | By: Drotuno

Man Behind the Mask Chapter 24 & Pics

Chapter 24 – This Is My Life
This is my life
It’s not what it was before
all these feelings I’ve shared
and these are my dreams
that I’d never lived before
somebody shake me
’cause I must be sleeping
Now that we’re here,
so far away
all the struggle we thought was in vain
all the mistakes,
one life contained
they all finally start to go away
now that we’re here, so far away
and I feel like I can face the day
I can forgive
and I’m not ashamed,
 to be the person that I am today
“So Far Away” – Staind
Masen, do you have to testify in court along with Bella?
Masen! Masen! Is it true you won’t be re-signing with Volturi Records?
Will Radiant Eclipse produce their own music next album? Will there be a next album after what happened in Seattle?
Masen, is it true that you and Heidi Summers are engaged?
A foul, loud laugh barked out of me, and despite the fact that I’d successfully navigated the damn media to get to the hotel lobby, that last question was utterly fucking ridiculous.
Turning to the skinny kid with the iPhone aimed my way, I simply said, “No. Not true.”
Masen! Masen! Wait! Where’s Bella Swan? Are there plans to marry her?
Is it true Aro Volturi was forced into retirement?
James Allen is looking at three years jail time, what do you…
The hotel lobby doors slid closed, cutting them all off, and Emmett’s hand landed on my shoulder to guide me to the elevator.
“Wait, bear,” I muttered, gesturing to the front desk. “Bella’s flight will run late, and she’s coming straight here. I need to leave her a key.”
He grinned and nodded, following me to the counter. The girl at the desk gazed at me with wide eyes and a shaky smile, which made my brother chuckle.
“Um,” I started glancing down at her name tag. “Kim, I need to leave a key for someone. They won’t be in until late.”
“N-No problem,” she stated, taking my extra key and picking up an envelope. She pushed it across the counter with a pen so I could scrawl Bella’s name on the outside. I set a large bill on top of it when I pushed it back toward Kim. “Sir?” she asked.
“I’m hoping you can be…professional, Kim,” I stated softly, jerking my chin at the windows, where the media was now hounding the rest of my band. “They don’t need to know every-damn-thing, do they?” I asked her with a grin, which made her blush. I tapped the envelope. “She’s dealing with enough of that shit.”
Kim had to have been a fan, because when she actually read the name, her eyes widened and she cooed a soft, “Aww, she’s meeting you here?”
Emmett barked a laugh, shaking his head. “Unbelievable…” He nudged me. “Whole damn world is in love with the two of you. Rumors are on fire all over the world, but every time you two are together, you get…aww…” He pointed to Kim, who laughed and shrugged a shoulder, holding up the envelope.
“She’s safe, Masen,” she vowed to me, and I thanked her. “And welcome to Salt Lake City.”
“Thanks,” I said with a smile, nodding and giving her a wave before heading upstairs.
Emmett followed me into my room. “You’ve got a few before sound check, bro.” He sat down in the chair by the window. “You okay?”
Grinning as I opened one of my bags, I nodded. “Yeah. Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Because Bella had to go back home to testify against James, because you’ve been too fucking quiet the last two days, because we didn’t get a break between these last two legs, because Dad’s still in your apartment and not at home with Mom…”
Snorting at that detailed list, I shook my head. “It’s been a long fucking tour, Em.” I set down my clean clothes and fell back onto my bed. “But this is the last leg,” I mumbled, smirking at that. “Bella’s fine. She called me after her testimony. She had to go home for other reasons, aside from that. Harry needed her.”
I rolled my head to the side to see my brother nod, wearing a small smile.
Bella had joined us for most of the Midwest portion of the tour. She’d left with us on that Tuesday after James had been arrested and traveled about half of the second leg with us. It had been fantastic and stressful and hilarious. She’d asked to leave with me, and I never even questioned it, but I also knew she wouldn’t do it full-time. She’d flown home to Seattle from Oklahoma City, which was about halfway through the second leg.
My girl had needed to testify against Aro and James, though we doubted anything would happen to Aro, just that he was no longer working for Volturi Records. Thankfully, Caius had held true to his word and acted as the company rep. He never gave us any trouble, just the occasional interview here, press conference there. It made me see how shit could’ve been had Aro not gotten greedy.
James, however, was in deep shit. Why his lawyer decided to take their chances in court, I had no fucking clue. With all the people testifying against him, he honestly didn’t stand a chance. Not only was Bella called in, but so were my dad, Garrett, Tori, and Felix. The latter barely left my angel’s side when she was in Seattle, and he was the only reason I felt comfortable away from her. Rose paid him…handsomely for it.
Bella had also sat down with the entire band, Rose, and Jenks and offered her place as a studio for us when our contract was up. She’d talked with Harry Clearwater, too, and everyone was willing to help her. Even Garrett and Tori were willing to lend a hand.
With Harry’s contacts and Garrett’s help cleaning out the bar, the space was already under renovation. It would no longer be Charlie’s Pub but was now…Chainsaw Records. It would be an independent label, with the starting costs and business fees fronted by Bella, Jasper, and myself. The first clients were already using it. They were the musicians Harry had mentioned to Bella before we left. They were simply renting the space from Bella. Not many knew about it, but we all were aware that as soon as the contract with Volturi ended, Radiant Eclipse would put Chainsaw Records on the map.
And Bella was…excited. She’d grieved over the closing of Charlie’s Pub, if only because of her emotional attachment to it, but the very second we put together a plan for the new studio, she’d lit up like a Christmas tree. She’d found new goals, a new purpose, and she was wickedly smart when it came to ideas. And with Bella came a slew of Charlie’s old friends. Good ones.
Demetri was still touring with us, and he was doing a hell of a good job. He, too, was willing to put in time at the new studio once Alec rejoined us, which would be in a few weeks when we reached Las Vegas. Between Demetri and Harry, their experience outweighed their financial abilities, so they’d offered their expertise on production, recording, and even some marketing ideas. They’d both told me that Charlie would’ve done whatever Bella had asked of him, so they were doing it all in his honor.
“How long is Bella with us?” Emmett asked, pulling me out of my own head as he stood up from the chair.
“Until at least L.A.,” I answered him, smiling at that. “She’s going to the MTV Music Awards with me.” I grinned like an idiot, which made my brother crack the fuck up, but I couldn’t help it. I couldn’t wait to show her off on the red carpet at the VMAs, not to mention shut up the rumors that still ran around about Heidi, and that thought reminded me to check some of the links Rose had sent me.
I picked up my phone as Emmett walked to the door. “I’ll be ready in a few, Emmett,” I mumbled, frowning at a few ridiculous headlines. I scrolled along, shaking my head at a few pictures, but smiled when my phone started to ring. “Hey, angel,” I answered.
“Hey,” she sighed, sounding frazzled. “I’m not gonna make the show tonight, so I’ll meet you—”
“I figured. There’s a key waiting at the front desk for you.”
“Oh, good. I just… I wanted to tell you I loved you and that I’ll see you late tonight, okay?”
Smiling, I nodded, despite the fact that she couldn’t see me. “Love you, too. I can’t wait. These last three weeks sucked without you.”
“No kidding! Here, too,” she agreed with a sweet laugh. “Oh, your dad says hello; so does your mom.”
“How’s therapy going?” I asked her, because the last time I’d spoken to either of my parents, the sessions with Dr. Banner had turned into shouting matches. Rose, Emmett, Bella, and I held no hopes for reconciliation for my parents.
“Better?” she said, though it came out like a question. “I don’t know. There’s more there than just his addictions, Edward. I think your mom was in serious denial with your dad, his drinking, and even with…well, everything he’d ever told her. I think maybe she thought he cheated? I don’t know.”
“Or maybe she thinks everything he said was a lie. I saw that shit a lot in rehab,” I told her. “My dad’s a lot of things, angel, but I can’t see him having an affair.”
“Me either,” she sighed. “I think her friends don’t help. They’ve left her out in the cold. She left the country club, you know.”
My eyebrows shot up at that information. “Good. I hated that place…pretentious piles of shit.”
Bella’s giggle made me smile. “Edward…”
“Money is just…bullshit, Bella. Don’t even…”
“Okay,” she sighed, but I could hear the amusement in her tone. “I’ve gotta get my stuff together, and I’ll see you in a few hours, Edward.”
We ended the call with the usual declarations of love, and I stayed sprawled on my back in the middle of the hotel bed as I stared at the ceiling. There was such a calm feeling that came over me when I’d talk to Bella, and it was just as strong as the day I’d met her. We’d finally found our normal, even though we were probably just as busy as ever. We’d work and travel together for a few weeks, and she’d go home to Seattle to check in on the studio’s progress. And now she was heading back my way to travel a bit more. It was good. It was strong. And it would only get easier when the Volturi contract dissolved with the last show we played, which just happened to be Seattle.
Rose’s pounding knock on my door made me jump as she poked her head in after using her key. “Let’s go! Let’s go! We’ve got to get you guys fed and to the arena! What the hell?!”
Laughing, I pushed myself up and waved her away. “Slave driver! I’m up, dammit!”
“Thank you, Salt Lake City! And good night!” I yelled, pushing away from the microphone in order to throw my shirt into the audience, only to leave the stage.
As usual, Emmett guided me through the halls to the dressing room, along with the rest of the guys. Tanya tossed a towel my way and then brought me a bottle of water, which I downed immediately.
“You sound raspy,” she pointed out seriously and then handed me a mug. “Drink so you don’t lose your voice.”
It was tea with honey and lemon, and I smiled when she leaned in to kiss my cheek, only to whisper in my ear. “Did she really think you’d play that shit?”
When I looked at her curiously, Tanya jerked her chin toward the corner of the dressing room, where Senna was sitting quietly in the corner, but it was the guy kneeling by her feet like an obedient dog – leash included – that caused my eyebrows to rise up. He was an all-right-looking guy, with a few tattoos here and there. The expression on his face was serene and calm, almost blissful. Fucker liked that shit.
Snorting, I shook my head. “Who the fuck knows… Whatever gets your rocks off, I guess,” I allowed, shrugging a shoulder. “Would you put Kate on a leash, Mistress Tanya?” I asked her teasingly.
“If I did, I’d better run or she’d strangle me with it.” Tanya chuckled, nudging my hand. “Drink, sweetie.”
I sipped some more tea, and she was right; it soothed my throat. I stayed quiet as we all tried to settle down a bit after the show. After finishing the cup of tea and grabbing a shower, I sat down on the ledge of one of the vanities to wait for everyone else. Checking my phone, I didn’t see any messages from Bella, so I assumed she hadn’t landed yet, much less made it to the hotel.
“You look…mellow,” I heard from beside me, and I turned to see Senna standing there.
I smirked, glancing around her. “Where’s your…”
“Pet?” she offered, and I chuckled and nodded. “Tyler’s…busy.” She held up her phone. “These rumors are ridiculous, Masen.”
“They’ve actually calmed down since we got rid of Aro,” I countered, shrugging a shoulder. “Whatever’s still out there is most likely…”
“Your ex.”
I nodded again, glancing at my quiet phone. “If I had to guess, which is all it would be is a fucking guess, she needs the press for her career. She and Aro were working together. Aro’s shut up, and James isn’t saying shit, so it’s mainly her…or her people, really. Everyone here and everyone at home who counts knows the truth.”
“She’s fed off your name long enough, don’t you think?” Senna asked. “Like a leech… She needs to sink or swim without you now.” When I waved that away, simply because I had it so fucking good I could barely see straight, Senna poked my side. “Masen! She fucked up with you! And you still let her use your name for false bullshit!”
Grinning, I laughed. “Aw, Senna, relax… There’s just as much true stuff floating around out there, too.”
She grimaced, sighing, “True, but still… Bitch needs to be taught a lesson.”
Laughing, I shook my head. “Eventually, reality will win out, Senna. Promise. I thank you for watching my back, though.” I shot her a wink, slipping down from the vanity.
“What about Bella?” she asked before I could join my bandmates to finish up with the backstage-pass holders.
“What about her?”
“How’s she feel about seeing rumors that you’re still bangin’ your ex?”
Taking a deep breath, I let it out slowly. “She’s… She ignores it. I’m telling you, the truth is better than anything those trash-rag writers can make up. They can’t write fiction for shit. Besides, they’ll all see who’s on my arm come August.”
Senna grinned, and it was evil and conspiratorial. “Hot damn…the VMAs… I forgot all about that shit. Do me a favor, then, handsome…” she purred, tapping my chin when I raised an eyebrow at her. “You fucking work it on the red carpet. Show them all.”
Smirking her way, I nodded once. “Yes, ma’am. Planning on it.”
“Good,” she huffed dramatically, giving me a wink. “Because let me tell you something, Masen… Aro may have pushed the bad-boy image, pushed the sexy rock-star thing, but nothing is as sexy as how you look at Bella. Nothing. You show that? And the whole world will see, including that ex of yours. There’s something undeniably attractive about a man in love, no matter how ‘bad’ he’s supposed to be. In fact, the harder the image, the more appealing love looks on him. Why do you think your fans like it so much? Forget the paps and the gossip rags.”
Chuckling, I nodded. “Fair enough.”
Working my way through the meet-and-greet with the backstage-pass holders almost on autopilot, I let my mind work through all that Senna had said. Honestly, whatever Heidi said or did was not a big deal to me, simply because I lived the truth. I knew where I stood with the people I trusted – specifically Bella. But something in the way Senna had asked about Bella hearing and seeing all the shit all the damn time made me worry that there was something I needed to ask my girl.
I also wanted to know exactly what she’d heard inside the courtroom. The night James and Aro had dared set foot inside Charlie’s Pub with fucked-up intentions still plagued me. I had promised Rose from the very moment it happened that I’d leave it up to her, and despite the fact that James would most likely do time for it all, Aro would probably buy his way out of trouble, and that didn’t sit well with me. I wanted them both to pay for what they’d tried to do to Bella. But technically, Radiant Eclipse was still under contract with Volturi Records. To touch or even threaten Aro at this point would be career suicide. I could wait. I would wait. One day, he wouldn’t be able to hide behind ink on paper, nor could his brother save him.
The ride back to the hotel was quick and easy. The media was still lurking around outside, but I barely heard a word they asked me. It was all added to the noise in my head, the ringing in my ears left over from the show, and the slight worry that I hadn’t heard from Bella yet. I pulled my phone out in the elevator but sighed when my service was shitty.
The doors opened on my floor, and Emmett wrapped an arm around my shoulders. “We’re heading out early in the morning. We’ve got to head toward Phoenix, and then it’s Vegas, baby!”
Grinning, I nodded, stopping in front of my door. “And then California. Got it, bear,” I told him, slipping the keycard into the door. “We’ll be up…” He waved as I pushed open the door, and the door slammed closed behind me at just what my eyes fell to in my room. “Ho…shit…” I muttered, my eyes taking in black lace and smooth skin and ink. “I think I’m in the wrong room,” I stated, walking slowly toward the stunning vision in front of me.
Bella’s smile slowly curled up on her beautiful face as she stood in the middle of my hotel room. “You think? Why’s that?”
“’Cause all of this can’t be for me,” I said softly, reaching out to trail a finger along the ink that splashed up her side and smirking when her muscles tensed at my touch. “No, can’t be… Must be dreaming again.”
“You have dreams like this?” Bella asked, giggling when I met her gaze with a raised eyebrow.
“Since the day I met you,” I whispered, wrapping my arm around her waist and pressing my forehead to hers. “Fuck, I’ve missed you. I wasn’t expecting you until later.”
“I caught a stand-by spot. And I wanted to be here when you got done, unless you had plans…”
Grinning, I shook my head without pulling back from her. “If I had any, I honestly wouldn’t be able tell you what they were… Jesus, I’m not sure I know my own name.”
“Edward,” she said through a sweet, soft laugh. “You’ve seen me in less.”
“I plan on seeing you again in less very, very soon.” My hands started to skim over skin and satin and lace, finally landing on her sweet ass as she wrapped her arms around my neck.
“How was the show?” she asked with a grin, brushing her lips across mine.
She laughed at me, squeaking a little when I gave that ass a squeeze and then lifted her up. Strong legs wrapped around my waist as I kicked out of my Docs and stepped to the bed. I knew we needed to talk about all the shit going on back home. I knew that she’d just flown a few hours to get to me. But goddamn, if she didn’t look delicious…or maybe the adrenaline from the show was still pushing me. Either way, I needed her.
Crawling up the bed, I set her down on top of the covers, kissing her into oblivion. She tasted like everything I missed, like sweetness and perfection, like sex and want, and like love and need.
“You are way too overdressed, Mr. Cullen,” she grumbled, her hands slipping beneath my shirt in order to rake her fingers down my back. “I want…”
A moan escaped me, turning into almost a growl to my voice as I rained kisses down her throat to that glorious cleavage that her bra was creating. “What’d you want, angel?”
“You…I’ve missed you, too.”
I braced a hand by her head, reaching back with my free one to tug off my shirt, grinning when impatient fingers yanked at my jeans. There was something so fucking good about every single reunion. No matter the length of time separated, we always seemed to blend right back together like no time had passed. There were always smiles and touches to places that were so damned familiar. There were soft laughs and groans for more skin, more touches…just more.
Bella worked on my jeans, and I hissed a string of curses at the clasp on her bra, which only made her laugh again. Finally, the bastard cooperated, and I pulled the now hated lacy-silky thing off her. Articles of clothing landed unceremoniously off the side of the bed, and all that was left were her underwear. I pushed and shoved at them, all while reuniting with those fuck-fabulous piercings.
“Oh, hello, ladies… I’ve missed you so…and look how much you missed me,” I teased, raking my teeth over them when they perked up nice and tight, putting those steel wonders out all for my benefit, but it was Bella’s shaking, silent laugh that made me chuckle. Sliding down her torso, I kissed my way across her stomach that still shook with her laugh, taking a second to tease her bellybutton piercing, too. I couldn’t leave that sexy bitch out.
“No, never,” Bella answered my apparently vocal declaration.
Grinning, I inhaled deeply the scent of her skin. It smelled like home and just pure Bella as I gripped the sides of the last stitch of clothing between us. I pulled them slowly down her legs, meeting warm, dark eyes as she stared up at me from the bed. Ghosting my hands along the inside of her thighs, I spread her open and leaned in to drag my tongue across the sensitive spot just outside her sweet pussy at the crease of her thigh. Her hips rose up just a bit, and a desperate sound escaped her when I did the same to the other side.
But when my mouth met her hot, needy pussy, I felt fingers slip into my hair and heels dig into my shoulders to hold me right where she wanted me. I lost myself in the taste of her, the smell of her, and the sounds she was making. There wasn’t anything like it. And anything outside that perfect and glorious spot between her legs simply faded away into nothing. Even better was the rhythmic movement of her hips as she practically rode my face.
My hum of approval and my fingers slipping deep inside caused her to shatter, and I drank up everything she’d give me while riding out every second of her climax, nipping lightly at the inside of her thigh before traveling back up to her glorious face.
My forehead thumped to hers softly when she wrapped one hand around my already leaking cock and the other gripped my ass to pull me in. She lined me up, and I sank deep inside her, both of us groaning at the feel of it.
“Fuck, you feel like heaven,” I panted, squeezing my eyes closed in order to keep from simply fucking her stupid.
“Edward, please…”
Starting a deep, slow rhythm, I dropped to an elbow by her head, linking our fingers together. I brought her hand to my lips, giving her newest ink my attention. I loved on it just like I swore I would when she first got it. I couldn’t help it. It was her sweet, easy love for me – Edward, not Masen – that made me adore it. I’d seen several Radiant Eclipse tattoos on fans all over the damn world. I’d seen Masen tattoos and my lyrics inked permanently on someone’s skin forever, but nothing beat Bella’s sweet little heart-shaped lower-case E. Nothing.
I drove into her over and over, until we were both holding back from falling into the abyss.
“Let go, angel,” I begged her, brushing my lips across hers as my fingers sought out the swollen, sensitive spot I knew would send her over the edge. “Don’t hold back. You don’t have to make it last, I’ll make you come as many times as you want now that you’re here…”
Legs around my waist, hands gripping my hair, and that hot, wet pussy all pulled me in when she let go. She gripped me so tightly that my rhythm faltered, and my own control blew away like a puff of smoke. I buried myself inside her, spilling everything I had…which included every curse word known to man.
My head fell to the crook of her neck and shoulder as our breathing calmed. Bella’s fingers raked slowly and soothingly through my hair and down my spine. If she wasn’t careful, my sweet angel would put me to sleep.
She chuckled. “Sleep, Edward. If you want.”
I pressed a kiss to her throat before rolling off her, and we faced each other on our sides. “You’re a sight for sore eyes, angel. I swear.”
She smiled. “You’re not so bad yourself.”
I pulled her closer, brushing her hair from her face. “You hungry? Want to get something?”
“Only if it’s room service, baby, because I’m not leaving this bed.”
Grinning, I nodded. “Smart girl.”
My whole being melted at having her back with me, and I dropped a soft kiss to her lips before reaching for the menu. Her laugh was happy and light, but she got up and padded into the bathroom.
I called down for a bunch of stuff, just to give us a choice, and I got up to grab some shorts out of my bag, smiling at Bella’s stuff next to it – her bags, jacket, and carry-on backpack. I put my shorts on, turning to see my girl emerge from the bathroom in a robe.
“What’s that smile?” she asked.
“Just…you. Back…here.” Rolling my eyes at my own idiocy, I shrugged as I sat down on the edge of the bed. “Whatever. I’m just happy to see you.”
When the food arrived, Bella playfully shoved me down. “I got this. You answer the door like that, and there will be five minutes of either babbling rock-fan gibberish if it’s a guy or drooling over the sight of you if it’s a girl.”
Laughing, I fell back flat onto the bed, listening to her sign for the food. It was a girl, and from the sound of her voice, she was none too happy that it was Bella who’d answered.
“She sounded…put-out, angel,” I teased not even bothering to sit up yet.
“Yeah, well…like you’ve said before… She’ll live.”
Grinning, I sat up, and we set ourselves up on the bed with a picnic, of sorts. I caught her up on the tour, how the last few shows had gone, what was coming up, and reminded her about the awards show in L.A.
She smiled, but her brow furrowed. “Alice said she’d take care of it…dressing us.”
“Yeah, she usually does,” I said, popping a French fry in my mouth. “Brace yourself for a day of prep. Consider yourself warned. But we all ride together and walk the carpet together…” My voice trailed off, and I remembered my conversation with Senna. “Bella… Angel, you’re… You still want that, right? You still want to go…”
“Of course,” she said carefully, narrowing her eyes on my face, which heated up immediately. “Why wouldn’t I?”
I dragged another fry through ketchup and told her about my talk with Senna. “I dunno, angel, I just… We’ve learned to ignore most of the gossip stuff. I just… Does it bother you?”
“I don’t read it, Edward,” she said with a truthful yet beautiful laugh. “Honest, I don’t.” She shrugged a shoulder. “Rose keeps me posted about certain things, should I get asked a question by the media, but your ex is… Heidi’s issues are low on my priority list, baby.”
Chuckling, I nodded. “Mine, too. Believe me.” I finally put the now-drenched-in-ketchup fry in my mouth and chewed slowly. “What happened at home?” I finally asked.
Her nose wrinkled adorably. “Which part?” she asked softly, her eyes warm and sweetly concerned. “Your parents? The trial? Or the studio?”
Snorting, I shrugged a shoulder but shifted the tray of food to the side so I could pull her to me. “I don’t care. Whatever you wanna tell me. You never really went into detail with much of it on the phone…”
She turned so that she was cradled in my arms. Reaching up, she pushed my hair from my forehead, only to trail her fingers down my jaw.
“I prefer…this.” She gestured between us. “The tablets are great, but nothing beats this. And I knew I’d be right back here as soon as I could.”
“I love you.” I smiled at the simplicity of that statement, but it was no less true. That she knew me…us…so well made me unable not to say it out loud.
“I love you, too, Edward.” She didn’t move from my lap, so I leaned back against the pillows and headboard as she settled in and took a deep breath. “The studio looks amazing. They’ve turned the stage into the recording area, the old bar section into the sound room, and they’ve put all this stuff up to keep down echoes. But they’ve left all my dad’s stuff hanging on the walls of the area Harry said a receptionist could sit. It’s coming along really well.”
Her smile was gorgeous. I could see how proud she was of it all, and I kissed her softly. “Can’t wait to fucking get in there and use it, angel,” I told her honestly. “What else?”
Her nose scrunched up a little. “Your parents are…struggling. But they’re stubborn, so they haven’t given up. When your mother told me there are more things to contend with concerning their marriage, I didn’t press. It’s honestly none of my business. But your dad…he’s right upstairs, Edward. We had coffee a bunch of times while I was home. He even rode with me to the courthouse.”
Smiling, I kissed her forehead. “That’s good, baby. I think it’s kinda awesome you two are buddies.” I grinned at the word, but it was true. My dad had stepped in at the most fuck-awesome moment to save my girl, and I knew deep down that my girl missed having a dad around. They leaned on each other. And that was perfectly fine with me. Maybe he needed her, too. Hell, I was damn sure she wasn’t going anywhere.
“He’s doing so well, Edward,” she told me with a prideful smile. “He told me he wavered a few times, but he hasn’t taken a sip. And my bar is completely empty of alcohol. Garrett got rid of it. The unopened stuff went back to the distributor, and the open stuff… Well, I think there was a party when Maggie moved in with Garrett.”
I laughed. “Good for them.”
Her smile was sweet. “Anyway, your dad told me that…prior to you being born, but after Emmett…there was a nurse.”
“No, Bella… Tell me he didn’t…”
“He didn’t. At least, he swears on his soul, a stack of Bibles, and his grandmother’s grave that he didn’t. But the nurse kinda made it seem that way. Apparently, Esme let it go, but…didn’t. And apparently someone at the country club knew.”
“And now my mother’s doubting everything.” I grimaced, my head falling back to the headboard with a dull thump. “If he could lie about me…”
“Then he could be lying about the nurse. Yeah…that’s pretty much the gist of it.” I felt warm hands on my face, and she pulled me back to her gaze. “They’ll figure it out, Edward. He still loves her. So much. And he’s swimming up the stream of lies he’s spewed over the years, but eventually she’ll see he’s busting his ass. He’s back to work, he’s clean, and he’s honest. But don’t let her stubbornness fool you. She loves him, too. She just…dealing with guilt, too. She should’ve seen his downfall coming, but she probably ignored it to save face, to avoid confrontation. Or maybe she blamed herself, like my mom did with Charlie, like they couldn’t make their men happy. I don’t know, but your parents are not giving up. They still meet at Dr. Banner’s once a week.”
“What do we do when this tour is over, angel? Do I…”
She giggled, bringing my head down in order to kiss me. “As your landlord, you should know your lease is just about up. Or it will be around the time this tour is over.”
My chest constricted at that thought. “Should I write the check now?” I teased her, but my heart wanted it all with her. Everything. No more leases or rent. Let some other schmuck pay rent. I wanted to take care of her…
“If you want,” she hedged, but her smile was sweet as she broke my train of thought.
“What do you want, angel?” I asked her.
She leaned up and kissed me. “I’m kind of a spoiled girl now, Edward. I really liked having you stay with me when you came home. I like…this.”
My grin was probably ridiculously stupid, and I knew I was blushing, simply because she kissed my lips roughly. “Me, too,” I admitted. “Okay, we’ll…talk about it, Bella. We’ll…figure it out. We always do.”
“Yeah, we kinda do, don’t we?”
I kissed her, slowly, thoroughly, ending in a sweep of my lips over hers. “Now…court, baby. Please…tell me.”
Bella’s face sobered up, but she nodded. Sitting up a little, she tucked her hair behind her ear, focusing on my arms, not my face. All these things meant she was nervous, wary to tell me.
She met my worried gaze, her brow furrowed. “I need you…to stay calm with what I’m going to tell you, okay? Promise me.”
“I…I can promise to try, Bella,” I said honestly, narrowing my eyes at her. “What is it?”
“Jenks, who has pretty much held my hand through all of this – he’s fantastic, by the way,” she started quickly. “He was right when he said that James would squeal on Aro…and scream loud.”
“Okay…” I dragged out the word, simply because Jenks being right didn’t shock me on any level. And James was a fucking pussy. He always had been.
“Edward, I stayed for James’s testimony. They’re trying really hard to pin something on Aro. Though I don’t know if it’ll work. But…I heard the plan for the night they stepped into my bar.” She grimaced, swallowing nervously and shaking her head. “You’re gonna be so mad…” she whispered.
“Shh, angel,” I soothed her, cupping her face. “You’re safe…right here. What could’ve happened…didn’t. And I’m grateful. I’m sure I’ll be pissed, but honestly, Bella, I’m just happy you’re okay, that they failed.”
She studied my face but then nodded a little. “Apparently, James is Aro’s son…like prior to marriage. So…getting him the job as your drummer was more than just a…studio-musician thing.” My eyebrows shot up at that, but I stayed quiet when she smirked at me. “Yeah, I was shocked, too, but… When Radiant Eclipse went…big, part of that was due to the real-life relationship that stemmed from the video you made with Heidi. Aro fed that to the media, pushed it and amped it up. Even though she didn’t travel to see you, you guys still made appearances together, so it fed everything around you two – her career, the band’s sales, and like they always say…there’s no such thing as bad press.” When I snorted derisively, she smiled. “Well, to Aro there isn’t. And he’d promised her that he’d make her a star…way beyond that video.”
“Keep going,” I whispered against her lips.
“Anyway,” she continued with a sigh, “your dad’s accident threw a big wrench into the works. Like huge. Had he taken responsibility for his DUI, then nothing would’ve changed, but when you were arrested, Heidi’s manager lost his shit and told her to get rid of you, that you would drag her into trash-celebrity status. That pissed Aro off something fierce, not in defense of you, but it took away his favorite marketing tool. What pissed Aro off even more was that Heidi was sleeping with James, and she really liked him.”
“And Peter Grisham?” I asked, my mind swirling all this shit together.
“Peter was a cover-up…for James. She wasn’t hiding the affair from you; she was hiding the affair from Aro.”
Groaning, I shook my head as I raked a hand through my hair. “Okay…so let me guess… Aro found out about everything once I was in rehab.”
“Oh, yeah. Everything.” She nodded, scrunching her nose up again. “James said that Aro used the DUI as best he could – you know, partying rock star finally caught – but the problem was…James can’t be faithful if his life depended on it. So…Heidi found out about some threesome thing at a Seattle show…”
I gasped, my mouth hanging open. “I saw that! Well…I didn’t see it, but I mean, I saw him with two girls at the Seattle show just after rehab… Fuck, baby, that was the night I met you.”
She grinned but went on. “Okay, well, she picked the wrong band member. She let the good one go and picked the one who couldn’t keep his mouth shut, which, in turn, lost him his job.”
Laughing at Bella’s snark, I kissed her.
“Now, she was shit out of luck.” Bella shrugged a shoulder. “She’d started to hear rumors that you’d moved on, saw that James was a cheating bastard and out of a job, and Aro was pissed at everyone. Apparently there was a baby scare…”
“Fuck, who!?”
“Heidi, but she’s not…” Bella paused for a second. “Had she been, Edward, James said they were going to claim you were the father.”
I laughed, like guffawing, stomach-holding, tears-in-my-eyes, guttural laughter. I laughed so hard, Bella joined me.
“Right, I know. You weren’t even in the country, then you were in rehab, but it would’ve been huge news. It would’ve repaired the relationship status back to its original form, adding a baby in for extra oomph. Aro would’ve pushed it all over the globe.”
That sobered me up. “Yeah, I guess. Was that why she was at the video shoot? To ‘win me back’…”
“Or at least get you into bed one more time in order to claim parentage.”
Grunting at that, I frowned, glaring off into the hotel room for a second as I shook my head at this bullshit. Funnily enough, I knew this couldn’t have been the worst part. Cupping Bella’s face, I kissed her. Hard.
“Never. It would’ve never worked, angel.”
“I know that,” she scoffed but kissed me softly. “She wasn’t pregnant, though. And you and I went public. Pike Place.”
“Best date ever.”
She giggled. “Shut up and listen. We went public, and we were immediately accepted.” She laughed a little more. “We didn’t even know we were doing it, but every step they tried to make against us, we unknowingly did something to counter it. James out of the band gave you Mike. You and me together thwarted Aro’s plan to make you a rock daddy.”
We laughed at that together, but my girl’s smile fell quickly. “They tried like hell, Edward. They manipulated the media and paps, paid off some photographers, but nothing worked. Heidi, who took Mr. Milton’s threat the day of the video shoot seriously, gave up. With you obviously moved on, James being controlled by Aro, and Aro’s endless manipulations, she moved out of Seattle.”
I grimaced at that, feeling a touch sorry for her. It wasn’t easy being used, but she’d allowed some of it. “She should’ve just told me.”
“Some people aren’t as brave as you,” Bella countered, shrugging a shoulder. “She isn’t innocent. She was the one behind the mysterious text sent to my phone.”
“Seriously?” I snapped, shaking my head.
“Yeah, James bought the phone, got my number from your cell, and well, they tried… and again, we didn’t allow it to get to us.”
I bit the inside of my lip for a second. “They counted on you believing it,” I surmised, and Bella nodded. “They clearly underestimated your strength.”
“And how well I knew you,” she added with a giggle, but it didn’t last, and I braced myself for the next part. “Edward, they…” She took a deep breath and let it out. “James testified that Aro said to ‘let Masen have his temporary tour whore.’ He said that they were going to wait until you were just about to come home for the first break. They knew you’d come to me. They knew I was promoting Harry that night. What they didn’t know was that your dad would be there.”
My nostrils flared at the name he called her. My hands balled up into fists at how this seemed to be planned out.
“Go on, angel,” I grunted out through gritted teeth.
“The plan was…to drug me, parade me in James’s arms past the paps outside, and get me upstairs to my apartment. James was supposed seduce me, but since I wasn’t exactly cooperative in that respect, Aro had given him the rohypnol. After they got me upstairs, they would confront you with my cheating…or really, Aro would, to show that he was out for your best interests, that he’d always watch over you… It would’ve been his way of drawing you back into Volturi.”
“Please let me up, Bella,” I begged her, and she slipped off my lap so I could get up. My hands gripped my hair almost painfully as I paced and thought over what they’d planned. I rounded on her. “Did they really fucking think that would work?! I mean, come on!”
“Maybe.” Her voice was small and nervous. “Edward…he said he was supposed to take pictures…of me…of us together. He swore in court he wasn’t going to touch me, but James is slimy. He would’ve done something. You didn’t see the way he looked at me that night.” She pointed to her chest, and she looked up at me worriedly. “You would’ve thought it…without knowing about the drugs, you would’ve believed them.”
I was shaking my head. “No…no, I wouldn’t have! You’ve done nothing but guard me like a lioness since I fell into your bar. You would never fuck me over like that. Never! Uh-uh. No. I don’t give a fuck what proof they would’ve had to show me. I know you. I know you’d come to me if it was over. Not cheat. I don’t care what you…”
Bella scrambled off the bed and flew into my arms. I lifted her up and sat back down on the edge of the bed. “I would never hurt you like that, Edward. I swear!”
“I know, baby,” I sighed as we wrapped around each other. “Do I even want to know the rest?”
She snorted a little and pulled back to cup my face. “James will do a year in jail and pay a hefty fine. Aro is currently under investigation, but…Jenks said not to hold our breath.”
“Okay,” I said with a single nod, my brow furrowing a little as I thought it all over, and when I met warm, brown, loving eyes, I smirked a little. “We should just…show ’em all.” Grinning at Bella’s perplexed expression, which was utterly adorable, I nodded again. “Yeah, Heidi’s still feeding off those rumors. Aro thought he could control me, they thought that they could take away everything, but…holy hell, look at this gorgeous thing I still have,” I said in pure, honest awe and respect. I loved that girl.
“Show ’em all, what?” she asked, grinning as she started to press kisses to my lips, my jaw, my throat. “You want…normal couple shit? You want…public displays of affection? What, Edward? What do you want?”
“I want it all.”
She pulled back at my forceful yet simple statement. “Meaning?” she whispered, but I could see she wanted it, too.
“Everything. You, me, public, private…just everything. I love you, and I want the world to know. I want to bind myself to you where no one can fucking touch us. Marry me, angel.”
She pulled me down to kiss my lips. “You mean that, because this might be the deepest blush yet.”
“Fuck, yeah…I mean it.”
Her giggle was laced with a touch of sniffles, but she kissed me again. “Yes.”
“You sure, angel? You’re marrying both Edward and Masen…” I teased her just to see her face light up. “Edward may want to go the boring wedding route with a diamond ring, but Masen may push for tattoo bands and Vegas.”
“I love you both with an insanity…” She laughed but kissed me again. “We could maybe make them both happy.”
“Maybe. I’m sure we’ll figure it out,” I said with pure confidence, simply because it was true.
“We always do,” she added, smiling at me. “So what’s next?”
Grinning, I reached for the tie on her robe, tugging it slowly open. “Right now, I’m about to figure out which spots I missed earlier and reintroduce myself every inch of you… You know…just in case.”
“You can never be too thorough,” she agreed in a dramatic voice.
“Exactly,” I sang, smiling down at those beautiful piercings. “Then…it’s back on the magic bus with you tomorrow morning, baby.”
Bella’s head fell back with her laugh, but she bit her bottom lip as I pushed open her robe completely.
“Ladies,” I greeted, leaning Bella back in order to kiss each nipple ring. “In case you haven’t heard…there’s gonna be some title changes around here…”
“Shut up, Edward!” Bella burst out into laughter, pulling my face to hers. “Shut up and kiss me.”
Chuckling at her pure happiness, I did as she asked.


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