Sunday, July 16, 2017 | By: Drotuno

Even In Death Chapter 21

Chapter 21 – We Can Live Forever
When doubt returns
May it be
That faith shall permeate our scars

When we're seduced
Then may it be
That we not deviate our cause

All sinners, a future
All saints, a past
Beginning, the ending
Return to ash

Now that we're dead, my dear
We can be together
Now that we're dead, my dear
We can live forever
“Now That We’re Dead” by Metallica
Carlisle and I got out of the car just as Charlie’s patience ran out, and he met us at the door. This was the first time I’d get to hear his thoughts, and I found that his mind was not exactly muddled but not truly clear either. He eyed me from head to toe. He noted some changes, but he rationalized some of them with the knowledge that it had been several months since he’d last set eyes on me. As Carlisle and I stepped closer, the one thing that stood out was my eyes, but he pushed it away as being an “unobservant old man.”
“Hey, Charlie,” I said with a smile.
“It’s so good to see you, kiddo,” he greeted, his mustache twitching into a smile. “Dr. Cullen, always a pleasure.”
“Call me Carlisle, please.”
“C’mon in,” Charlie said, standing aside to let us walk through the door. “Edward, son… You know where to go with that beer. Jake’s already stashed his in there.”

I set the beer in the fridge, grabbing one for me and one for Carlisle, simply for appearance’s sake. Stepping into the living room was a step back in time, really. Charlie hadn’t changed a thing, except maybe things were a touch neater. However, all his framed pictures of Bella were still on proud display all over the mantle and the bookcase. She grew up right before my eyes in some of them – knobby-kneed, freckles, pigtails, prom, high school graduation, college graduation, and wedding photos. All of them were visible from Charlie’s recliner. God, he missed her. My heart broke for him, and I hoped to hell I could give him back the one thing he needed. I hoped he accepted it like I had.
Swallowing thickly, I looked over to Jake, who piped up with, “Long time, no see.”
Chuckling at his sarcastic manner, I nodded and handed Carlisle a beer. It was hard to concentrate on the small, catching up everyone was doing while the thoughts didn’t match the verbal discussion. Charlie asked about Alaska and if we liked it, but at the same time his mind tried to see what had changed about me. Jake piped up with stories about people we knew, but his thoughts were centered on Charlie. Carlisle asked about the wedding and Sue, while his thoughts were on a great many things, but Charlie’s red cheeks reminded me of Bella’s old blush.
Chuckling, I said, “You nervous, Charlie?”
“Pfft,” he huffed, rolling his eyes. “I’ve been down the aisle one time before. Bella’s mother was…different. This is…” He trailed off, trying to mentally find the right word. “This is calmer.”
I laughed, looking his way. “How is Renee?” I asked, and that was for the benefit of my beautiful brunette, who was hidden in the woods just outside Charlie’s front door. I knew Esme was with her, but I wanted Bella to hear him.
Charlie smirked my way but shrugged a shoulder. “Bella was all we had in common. Without her, we don’t speak much now. She’s still trying to find our daughter ‘on the other side.’”
My nose wrinkled at his disbelieving scoff, and I nodded, but we all froze when the next words left Charlie’s mouth.
“But she won’t find her, will she?” he asked, and when I looked his way, he was asking all three of us.
Jake sat forward resting his elbows on his knees, ready to help us or intervene in any way. But his thoughts were to me. Oh hell, here we go. What’s he thinking, Edward?
I shook my head at Jake but glanced to Carlisle. He was trying to figure out how to answer Charlie’s question. Finally, I took the lead, because really, he wanted the answer from me.
Turning to face him a little, I took the route Carlisle and Jacob had taken over a year ago. “Why don’t you tell me why you think that, Charlie?”
A split second of anger crossed his face, but he glanced down at the table next to his chair. “Listen, I’m… I’m a simple guy, a cop to my very bones, and I know when there are things that happen that simply don’t make sense. I’ve lived in this area all my life, and I know these woods. I grew up knowing the legends of the Quileute,” he said, gesturing to Jake. “I knew them before you started pushing them my way. Your father shared those old stories with me before you were born.”
He held up the books I’d sent him. “You sent these to me. You said they were left for me from Bella, but… How would Bella know to leave me something? How would she know she wouldn’t be here anymore when her death was an accident? And how in the hell is this her writing?!”
His voice got a bit louder as he held up the bookmarks with his name in her pretty script, and then he pointed to me. “And you… You haven’t taken your wedding ring off yet.”
I held up my left hand, nodding in agreement. “No, I haven’t.” I looked from the shiny metal wrapped around my finger back to Charlie’s face.
His thoughts noticed changes in me, changes that had absolutely nothing to do with my immortality. Where he used to see shoulders slightly hunched with the weight of grief and sadness and stress, he now saw confidence and calm. Where my eyes used to be practically blank, he saw light and strength. He’d never really noticed the color before, so the gold wasn’t as a shock to him as I’d expected, though he noted they were the same as Carlisle’s. But the biggest clue for him was the fact that I’d soaked in every picture of Bella he’d had on display when I’d first walked in. Before, I’d avoid even glancing their way.
Smirking a little, I shook my head as I ignored the mental questions from Jacob and Carlisle.
Meeting Charlie’s gaze, I said, “I’ll never take this ring off.” I held up my hand again, studying it instead of Charlie’s expectant glare. “I know some people like to think everything happens for a reason. I know some think ‘God has a plan.’ I’m not sure of those things, Charlie. What I do know is that I owe you a debt of gratitude, sir.”
Meeting his confused gaze, I nodded and went on. “I owe you for being there when I thought I had nothing left.” I smiled sadly his way as I fought the lump in my throat, because all that I was saying was true and emotional. “The three people in this room fought for something that I was barely fighting for myself. Me. So, there’s a reason I sent you those books, Charlie.”
I reached over to pick them up, immediately finding the two passages Bella had left for me. “I sent you these because Bella left them for me to find. She left them in October of last year.”
“But…” He started, glancing around the room at Jake and Carlisle, his mind doing the math. Bella had “died” in August.
Above all that, Charlie knew his daughter, probably better than any of us. He’d known the Quileute legends, so he picked up the poem and reread it.
Do not stand at my grave and cry;
I am not there; I did not die.
Because he knew his daughter so well, the poem hit harder than the legend. Bella’s love for the written word stemmed back to her as a child. Poems, stories, happily-ever-afters – Bella lived and breathed reading as soon as she learned how. For her to have specifically picked that poem told him volumes.
Pulling out my wallet, I took out the original bookmarks with my name in Bella’s handwriting.
The hope that started to bloom in Charlie was almost painful to see in his thoughts. He only asked one question.
“What happened?”
I sat forward, leaning my elbows on my legs. “You know what we’re about to discuss can’t leave this house.”
“Who am I gonna tell, son? I don’t even know what I’m thinking right now,” he countered almost angrily, but his mind was now blurry thoughts and unclear.
“You’ve heard the legends, and you know the stories. We’ll start with Jacob,” I stated, pointing to the calmest one in the room. He was pretty sure Charlie was smarter than all of us. “Jake is the direct descendant of Ephraim Black, which makes him not only chief, but Alpha.”
Charlie nodded, knowing this, of course, but Jake spoke up.
“Charlie, you’re about to marry into the Quileute tribe. In two days, you’ll be in my protection.” He grinned when Charlie scoffed. “If I told you that the legends about us were true, that my people descended from wolves, what else does that tell you?”
“You can’t expect me to believe you turn into a giant wolf, Jake.”
“I could show you, but let’s wait for a moment.” Jake chuckled. “Remember the story?” he asked him, and Charlie nodded. “So, you remember why we started to change into wolves?”
The first words to pop into Charlie’s mind were “cold ones.” However, Charlie had asked Billy Black to define those words for him when they were younger, so the next word in his mind was spot-on.
I gave a quick nod to Jacob, who gestured across the coffee table to Carlisle. “Charlie, meet Carlisle Cullen, the one my great-grandfather made a treaty with almost a hundred years ago.”
Charlie’s eyes narrowed as the math and the ages didn’t align right away. However, just like me, his mind started to place all the puzzle pieces together to form something somewhat linear.
Hundred years.
Cold ones.
Notes left two months later.
He was so close to voicing it out loud, but Carlisle spoke softly.
“Charlie, the accident last year didn’t end the way you thought it did. What I’m about to tell you is bound by secrecy.” When Charlie nodded in agreement, Carlisle went on, placing a hand on my shoulder. “I’m going to apologize to you the same way I apologized to Edward here. The accident with Bella last year was my fault.”
Charlie frowned, shaking his head. “I don’t want apologies, Carlisle. I want answers.”
I stopped Carlisle from continuing and took over. “Charlie, the legends are true, which means there are beings roaming the earth that are not human. There are brave people with the ability to defend this area, and both are sitting in this room. Carlisle and Jake were fighting together to defend this area from vampires who prey on humans.”
The word vampire was like a wet blanket being slapped down. It landed heavily.
“However, the night they were chasing some particularly nasty ones, Bella’s car got a flat tire. She was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and things went horribly wrong. The accident was truly that…an accident. But they had to hide the whole thing from the two of us because of what they are.”
Charlie, being a cop and owning the ability to quickly put things together, stood up from his chair and started to pace. He rounded on all of us.
“There was no animal attack.”
“There was more than one death, though.”
“Which was why we were trying to get rid of those assholes, Charlie,” Jake told him.
“But you tracked them!”
“I had to make it look good,” Jake stated, standing up from his seat. “I had to protect everyone involved. And I mean…everyone.”
Charlie looked to me and then to Carlisle, finally seeing the physical changes. Our skin color, our eye color, and our unusual stillness. I used to fidget more, but I didn’t now, at least no more than a hand through my hair occasionally.
“You’re one of them?” he asked. “Jesus, Edward, how sick were you?!”
I smirked, shaking my head and standing up. “It wasn’t the cold. I was injured pretty badly, but yes, I’m one of them.”
“Why?! Edward, why!?” Charlie almost yelled the answer, but he flinched when I walked to him, so I stopped.
“Because I can’t live without her,” I stated softly, and I knew it didn’t make sense to him. “Because they did for me what I’m about to do for you. I needed you to know that Bella wasn’t your fault. I needed to give you something back after you pulled me up off the floor when I was dying inside. Charlie, I need to give you back what we both lost.”
As I walked to the back door of the house, I called Bella softly, knowing she could hear me. I opened it to see my beautiful girl standing there nervously. Her eyes locked with mine and then peeked around me to see Charlie.
“He’s okay,” I told her softly. “Seeing you will be the only thing that makes it better.”
She nodded and stepped into the house. To look at her, she looked the same as he’d once known her. She was wearing jeans and a sweater, her hair up in a long ponytail. She still shifted nervously on her feet and nibbled on her bottom lip. But closer inspection showed her immortality, and Charlie saw all of that. Golden eyes. Firm, lithe muscles. An eerie stillness that screamed predator… All of that registered to him, but his heart only saw his little girl.
I saw a lifetime of memories through his mind as he wrapped his head around the fact that his daughter was standing in front of him again. Part of him wanted to go to her, to wrap her up in his arms, and the other part of him simply wanted to run.
“Dad, I’m sorry.” Bella’s voice was tentative, but her apology was what snapped him out of his daze.
He didn’t want her apology.
He stepped closer to her, and my Bella couldn’t stop herself. She stepped into him. It was then that the tears finally welled up in Charlie. I could smell the salt, I could hear his heart just about pound out of his chest, and he met my gaze as I shoved my hands into the front pockets of my jeans.
It took a heartbeat or two before Charlie caught up. His arms tentatively wrapped around Bella, but the tears truly fell when his pressed his nose into the top of her head. She was real, she was alive, but she was different. However, Charlie didn’t give a damn about different.
I couldn’t hear Bella, but I didn’t need to; she was holding on to her dad with her arms wrapped all the way around him. Charlie’s mind ran the gamut of questions – how, where, when, why.
“I’m sorry, Daddy,” Bella whispered, her voice filled with emotion and grief, yet there was happiness and relief, as well.
“Stop,” he chided gently, pulling at her shoulders and frowning at the feel of hard flesh and unmoving muscles. “Let me see you. Let me really look at you, Isabella.”
Hearing her full name got her attention, and she pulled back from his embrace, gazing up at him worriedly. Charlie took her face in his shaky hands, tears still cascading down his cheeks, because the one thing that Bella had lost were the eyes that matched his own. Gone were the deep brown. A pang of sadness briefly rose to the surface over the loss of the one thing he’d always seen of himself in her.
“Tell me what happened, baby girl,” he demanded, his voice cracking a bit. He gestured around him. “I know what they’ve told me. I want to hear you tell it.”
Bella nodded, stepping away from him and pointing to his chair. “Dad, please sit. I’ll tell you everything.”
Everyone had been standing, including Esme, who’d followed Bella inside but stopped by the door and whose appearance didn’t seem to shock Charlie, but we all started to sit back down. Bella sat next to me on the sofa closest to her father.
All of us, every man in the room, gave Bella the silent respect she deserved, and Esme squeezed her shoulder as she walked by her to sit down on the other side of Carlisle. We let her tell her father exactly how she came to be immortal, how nothing he could’ve done would’ve stopped it, and how hard she fought to get back to me. She taught him the difference between red eyes and gold. She told him about James, Laurent, and Victoria. When she got to the part where she and I had reunited, she paused to get her emotions back together.
Too low for Charlie to hear, I repeated what she’d said to me in the car. “It’s okay, sweetheart. Take your time,” I whispered against her temple. “I’m okay. I’m right here.”
Bella’s eyes closed as she leaned into my kiss, and she nodded a little before going on. “Victoria started to stalk Edward,” she said, looking at her father. “And so did I, I guess.”
Carlisle chuckled, Jake outright laughed, and I couldn’t stop the grin from crawling up my face.
“I couldn’t ‘live’ without him, Dad. And that’s… We’re m—” she sputtered over the word mated. “We’re meant to be together. Forever.” She lifted her gaze to his. “I made them promise to help me protect him, and eventually he figured out the truth. But Victoria created an army and was set on revenge…” Bella trailed off, not really wanting to say the words at how badly I’d been injured.
“That was why I was staying with Carlisle and his family when you came looking for me,” I continued for her. “They were protecting me from Victoria, and I was really sick. There was a strain of flu at the hospital and I’d caught it. But Victoria eventually led her army to their home, and I was injured. I might not have lived through the night.
“Once I was changed, we needed to move. I needed space and a chance to get control over my thirst and new senses. We’ve been in Alaska ever since,” I concluded, listening to Charlie’s thoughts as he sorted through everything he’d just learned.
He gazed around the room at all of us as he swallowed down more emotions than he knew what to do with – Jasper would’ve been out of control. He looked at the people he now knew had saved his little girl, who had protected her secret, and he finally nodded and stood up, starting to pace the living room.
“Let me get this straight… This James who attacked you, he’s…” He trailed off but looked between Jake and Carlisle.
“He was immediately removed, Charlie,” Jake answered him with a sneer and a bit of pride.
“Good.” Charlie huffed. “And Victoria… Her too?”
We all answered him on that one, and he nodded, silently happy that there were no more threats against the area or his family. He took another pacing step or two, and just when everyone was starting to push silent worried questions my way, he stopped and looked over at Bella. I had to smirk, because his train of thought was clear and precise.
“You’ll live forever?” he asked Bella specifically.
“Yes, Dad.”
“You too?” he asked me, and I nodded.
“And you’ll never get sick or hurt?” he verified.
“No, Dad.”
“And you’re happy?” he asked us both.
“Yes,” we answered, linking our fingers together.
He huffed an incredulous laugh. “Well, hell… That’s all I’ve ever wanted for you kids,” he muttered, essentially to himself, but rubbed his face and let out a deep sigh. He looked around the room. “So… What now?”
“We can’t stay, Daddy,” Bella said softly, grimacing a little. “No one can see me. Ever.”
He nodded, taking his chair again. “What happens now? I mean…”
I could see what he was asking. To show him Bella and then take her away was cruel, but that wasn’t why we’d come.
“Carlisle, Esme, and I will attend your wedding, and then all of us will be going back to Fairbanks. You’re welcome to come to us anytime, no matter where we are.” I sat forward, resting my elbows on my knees. “Bella’s existence must stay a secret. She must remain dead to everyone else outside this room, aside from La Push. I just… I couldn’t… I needed you to know it wasn’t your fault, Charlie. I was given a second chance, a beautiful gift, and I thought it only fair to share it.”
Charlie nodded, but I could see his mind was so grateful he could barely speak.
“You can call me anytime you want, Dad. My number is still the same,” Bella told him.
His gaze shot to her and then to me. His mind was instantly aware that at one time, there had been phone calls from Bella’s phone. He immediately put it together that she’d been reaching out, that it hadn’t been kids who’d found her phone.
I snorted. “Yes, she made me think I was crazy.”
Bella grinned sheepishly. “Sorry about that.”
Charlie rolled his eyes, looking just like Bella, but he realized I’d answered his mental question.
“Uh…yeah, sorry about that. When I woke up from my change…” I tapped my temple. “I can hear your mind. Everyone’s mind, actually.”
“Mine only when I want him to,” Bella added with a mischievous smile my way, and I kissed the middle of her forehead.
“God, that must be so…”
“Loud. It’s just loud, Charlie, and a little disturbing,” I grumbled with a deep sigh, shaking my head and smiling at his soft laugh.
Jake sat forward. “Charlie, when I said you were under my protection, I meant it. There are rules that must be followed. These guys,” he said, pointing to the four of us, “have to stay a secret to humans, and they have these creepy, ancient assholes to answer to. And my pack has to stay secret, as well. You’ll be protected by me, my pack, should anything happen. In fact, my fiancée and your soon to be step-daughter is a member of my pack.” He grinned. “So listen, Dad, I’m really glad we got to tell you.”
“I can’t even wrap my head around it,” Charlie replied softly, reaching for Bella’s face, and she smiled at his warm touch. “I’d be pissed that you waited, but then I can’t find a thing wrong with this moment, so…thank you.” In his mind, that was mostly true. He was a bit pissed off, like I’d been, that he’d been lied to, but he knew he’d get over it.
Carlisle had let us lead the entire thing, and he smiled at Charlie. “The two of them needed time to adjust, to calm down from their newborn phase. I imagine we won’t need Alaska much longer. Edward and Bella may make their own way eventually, but they are always welcome to come with us. When this whole thing happened, I vowed to Bella and then to Edward that we would help them for as long as they needed. If anyone carries the guilt of that night, it’s me.”
“And me,” Jake piped up.
“Then I’m not sure who to thank,” Charlie said in an emotionally thick voice. “This is one helluva wedding present.”
Bella grinned, going to hug him again. “Oh yeah, congratulations, Dad. And just when did you start dating again?”
Charlie sputtered, his face glowing red. “Never you mind, Isabella.”
It felt strange being back in the same church that had held Bella’s memorial service. I already felt uneasy being there with so many humans surrounding me, but the memories this room held were still raw and harsh. It didn’t matter that my sweet Bella was within earshot of the service for her dad and Sue. She was beautiful and alive and mine, but for a moment, for what would now be considered a blink of an eye in the long life that stretched out before us, the memorial service held to commemorate Isabella Marie Masen would be the darkest day I’d ever seen.
It didn’t help that some of her friends from Forks High School were attending the wedding; they’d been the same to help search for her, the same to send flowers, the same to build a strange roadside shrine, which was now weather-beaten and fading away at the spot where her tire had blown.
What was different this time around was that I could hear every damn thought. I’d been right to guess pity would be the top thought among them, but there were a few who shocked me. Or maybe they’d always thought these things, but like Bella had always accused me – I’d been oblivious. A girl named Lauren was more than willing to help me “get over” Bella. A girl named Jessica was daydreaming about me, which was disturbing. And the guy she was with – Mike – couldn’t decide if he liked me or not. The nicest of Bella’s old friends were Ben and Angela Chaney. Angela was the daughter of the minister who was marrying Sue and Charlie, and the sight of me made Angela sad, made her miss her once very good friend.
When the music started, I tried to block out everyone but Charlie. They’d opted for a simple ceremony, much like Bella and I had, and due to the drizzly weather, they held the reception in the social hall at the back of the church.
I tried to be social, friendly. I introduced most people to Carlisle and Esme. Some offered false sentiments about missing Bella, asking if I was holding up okay. Playing the young widower wasn’t all that hard, since I stayed quiet and to myself most of the time.
It was Carlisle who noticed my discomfort first. “You okay?”
I shrugged a shoulder, snorting into a soft humorless laugh. “I think I was happier not knowing what people really thought,” I said so softly that only he heard me.
He grinned, nodding a little. “Ignorance, as they say, is bliss, Edward.”
“You have no idea,” I told him, shaking my head at his groaning laugh.
He switched to thoughts. The theory or hypothesis concerning immortal talents is that you carry it over from your change, and the venom simply enhances it. Edward, you read people very well – even as a human. You always knew what your patients needed, and from what I can gather, you always knew what Bella and Charlie needed. There’s a difference between being able to pick up on nonverbal cues and giving a damn about someone’s opinion.
I laughed. “Maybe,” I muttered, looking around the reception. “What about Bella?” I asked him, still maintaining a low tone.
“Shields are interesting,” he replied. “What’s even more interesting is that you two were perfect before, and now she’s the respite for your mind now. You could stand in the middle of Grand Central Station at rush hour and, with her by your side, not hear a single thought other than your own…and hers. Not that you mind hers.”
“I prefer it,” I told him.
“Which is no surprise.”
Nodding, I continued to people watch – and listen. Jake was with his pack as they laughed about his own upcoming wedding, which would be next year. Charlie and Sue smiled over at them, and then my father-in-law met my gaze across the room. Mentally, he thanked me for the best wedding present ever. He also thanked me for taking care of Bella. He’d always known we were happy. To see it, to know that we’d always be that damned happy, was all he could want for his little girl.
When Lauren spotted me from the table next to Charlie’s, she got up to come talk to me. Her thoughts were not pure, nor were they sympathetic. In fact, they kind of pissed me off.
I sighed deeply, looking to Carlisle. “I’m going to get some air,” I told him, lowering my tone for just him and Esme. “Bella and I will meet you back at the house.”
Carefully keeping several tables between Lauren and me, I stepped to Charlie’s table. He took my hand and shook it.
“Congratulations, Charlie…Sue,” I said, smiling her way. I made her nervous, but she knew how much I meant to her new husband. She also knew what I’d given him, so she was working at letting an old prejudice fade away.
“We’ll be in touch, kiddo. Promise,” he said with a grin. His mind was looking forward to phone calls with Bella.
After giving Jake a one-armed hug, I left through the back door of the church, listening for minds. I could determine which ones were coming from the building behind me, including Lauren still coming my way, and which ones were in surrounding homes not paying attention at all. A quick right and a burst of speed put me into the woods and out of sight.
I found my wife sitting on a log just yards away from the church. She would’ve been able to hear most of the ceremony from this spot yet keep out of sight. Kneeling in front of her, I grinned when she peered around me with narrowed eyes and flared nostrils. Jealousy, which had always been unnecessary with Bella, made her stunning. As an immortal, it was ten times more potent.
“What’s Lauren want?”
“She wants several things, none of which I’m willing to help her achieve,” I answered carefully, cupping my Bella’s face in order to bring her gaze back to me.
Bella growled low, glancing back toward the church. “You know, she could have an accident of her own… No one would miss her.”
Chuckling low, I stood up and offered Bella my hand. “Let’s go for a walk, sweetheart.”
“Where are we going?”
“Anywhere,” I told her, shrugging a shoulder. “I told Carlisle and Esme we’d meet them back at the house.”
We took off at a run, sticking to the trees and making our way deeper into the woods. We came upon a clearing not far from the Cullen home. It was such a naturally round piece of land, filled with flowers that would soon be gone now that it was fall, and surrounded by trees like a fortress wall.
“Pretty,” Bella breathed, standing in the middle and soaking it all in.
The sun broke through the clouds for a split second, causing her skin to glimmer all around her. I supposed mine was doing the same, but I wasn’t looking at myself.
“Very,” I agreed, and she giggled when she realized I was gazing at her like a damned lost puppy.
“Sit, Edward,” she said, still laughing at me.
I sat down in the tall, soft grass, holding my arms out for her. She settled in on my lap, cupping my face and pressing kisses to my lips. Her shield opened up her mind to mine, and I smiled, answering all her questions as fast as she could think them; it was the same old rhythm we’d always had to our conversations, just…different.
“Yes, your father looks very happy. Yes, he said he’d be in touch. Yes, the wedding was pretty.”
Bella grinned. “Was it difficult to be in the church?”
“Yes, but not for any other reason than that’s where I thought I’d said good-bye to you last year.” I kissed the wrinkle in the middle of her nose. “The rest was…inconsequential.”
Her mind circled around seeing her dad a few days prior and the conversation in his living room. There was a statement made by Carlisle she was mulling over, and I nodded.
“Want to talk about it?” I asked her, and she nodded. “Okay, so he truly has offered to be there for us. He also knows you and I want to…make our own way, too. Is it possible to do both, sweetheart?”
“I don’t know. I like having them to talk to when I don’t know what I’m doing in this new…” She trailed off, gesturing to her body.
“Okay, but?”
“But…I don’t think I could live with six people. Six immortal people, Edward. Between Alice’s, Jasper’s, and your talents? I think we’d drive everyone crazy. Or they’d drive me crazy. I love them, and I’m grateful for them, but—”
I pressed my lips to hers to stop her needless worry. “You’re right, Bella. It’s nice to have their support,” I whispered while continuing to brush kisses over her lips. “It’s nice to have Carlisle’s input on things. Even at the wedding, he helped explain some things. I just…” I sighed deeply, gazing out over her shoulder to the beautiful clearing we were in.
“What?” she asked.
Frowning a little, I met her eyes – eyes that were no longer dark brown but amber and warm and still so loving. I looked down between us, playing with her fingers, her wedding rings, and then brought her hand up to my lips.
“I never want to make a mistake, Bella,” I started to explain, grimacing a little at the thought. “I just… I can’t imagine how horrified I’d be if I slipped up and ended a life. I just can’t fathom the guilt. And I never want that for you either, sweetheart.” I shook my head. “Both of us work really well together, and we’ve come so far, but I’d be devastated if something happened. And I think the Cullens are spectacularly helpful in that area.”
“Me, too.”
“However, I…” I swallowed nervously, because this was emotional for me to say. “Bella, I want… I know how we both felt when we finally closed on the house in Seattle, how we were so excited for that next step for us. And we both feel cheated to leave it behind. I want to…rectify that for you. I still need to give you that. A house, a home. Something that’s ours and ours alone. Does that make sense?”
“So, you want to pick up where we left off?”
“Yes,” I said with a big grin, nodding vehemently. “Exactly.”
Bella chuckled, placing her hands on either side of my face. “You want to go back to where the detour started?”
“Yeah, I do.” I kissed her lips fully, losing myself just a little. But I pulled back, smiling when her forehead met mine. “I… My sweet Bella, I thought I lost you last year. I thought I’d live the rest of my life feeling empty. It was all I could do to function in life. But by some miracle, I got you back. And now, I get you forever. I’m perfectly fine with forever. I’m fairly certain one lifetime with you wouldn’t have been enough anyway.”
“Wait, baby. I just… I’ve worked really hard to be grateful, to pay back or pay forward all the help I’ve received, for this beautiful miracle sitting on my lap right now. But I feel the need to focus on us now. Bella, when I met you, all I wanted was to love you, spoil you, and make sure you were happy. That hasn’t changed. I want to do it all over and over again with you.”
Bella chuckled, her memories of our first date coming to mind when I said I wanted to do it again. “Huh. Me, too, Edward. What do we do about that?” she repeated what she’d said back then.
I kissed her because I couldn’t stop myself. Pulling back, I looked at the beautiful girl who’d changed my life in more ways than I could count. I thought I’d lost her, but she was there – the same bright, amazing thing she’d always been. I realized at that moment that love never died; it simply changed into something different, better, more.
“We just…live, Bella. We live however we want. Forever.”


Anonymous said...

Yay, Charlie is happy that Bella is still alive and ..... Yay,Edward and Bella are going to live alone as the wedded couple that they are. I loved it! Lauren is a skank though. LOL

LoLo-50 said...

So glad Charlie has his daughter back,I understand why Edward has to let him know it wasn't his fault, nothing could have stopped what happened to Bella.

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