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LadySharkey1 rocks my world by being the most amazing, kick-ass beta I could ever imagine.

Chapter 21

Ponies. Need I say more?

The rest of the week passed in a confusing blur of emotional turmoil in which complete shock and scathing anger battled for dominance over the mess of other sentiments that occupied my brain.

Edward has broken up with Voldemary.

At least that was something to be relieved about. My baby girl was safe again, or at least safer than she ever was when that bitch was around. It also was the only proof I'd ever have that Edward had taken complete absence of his senses. Because for someone so smart it still amazes me how he could have been stupid enough to believe his fuckbuddy over his own child.

And since all of this happened without me having to resort to murder or other violent and decidedly messy acts—even though only I knew how tempted I'd been at times—I guess one could say that I'd come out of this mess relatively unscathed.

Heartbroken, yes, but at least I hadn't ended up in jail, right?

But that was about as far as my optimism went because…

Edward told me he has always been in love with me.


I mean, only a couple of months ago he was sitting across from me at a restaurant, destroying my heart and my hopes as he told me he was more in love than he'd ever been and now I was supposed to believe that had all been a lie?

It just didn't add up.

Why go through such great lengths to defend her and ingrain her into every single aspect of his life when he wasn't even sure about the woman? When deep down inside he knew that all she ever could be was second best?

I mean, I remembered what he'd said that night: how he'd given up hope of the two of us ever getting back together again and felt like he had to be moving on. I got that, to some extent, because it was pretty much the same thing I'd been doing with Liam for the past couple of weeks—forcing myself to give up hope and only look at what was right in front of me, instead of what might have been.

But really…he'd been so convincing at fooling everyone around him that I couldn't help but wonder exactly when in all this he had truly been fooling himself. Had it been in the months leading up to last night when, as he claimed, he'd tried to love a woman even though in his heart he knew he would never succeed. Or had it been last night, when he was trying to convince himself that ending things with her had been a good decision?

Not that it mattered anyway. Whether he was or thought himself to be in love with me or not, it didn't change what had happened over the past couple of weeks. And what had happened was so bad that at times I found it very hard to still think of him as a friend, let alone a lover.

No, whatever feelings I still had for Edward lingered on the person he used to be, years ago when things between us were still carefree and unspoiled.

It's your own fault, stupid!

Did you really think he'd stand by the sideline all these years and wait patiently for you to get your head out of your ass and realize that it didn't matter to him whether or not you could have your own money in the bank?

You waited too long and now your Edward's gone.

I only had myself to blame for that. I knew it. I mourned the knowledge of it, but the more I thought about it, the more determined I became not to let that realization pull me under.

I couldn't.

After all, hadn't I been the one to make that decision; I had been the one to break us up!

I'd made my bed but over the past couple of years I'd just stood next to it and whined about how I'd picked the wrong avenue. It was only over the past week that I was beginning to realize how childish and destructive that choice had been.

I'd chosen to remain stagnant when I owed it to myself and everyone whose lives I'd uprooted with my decision to move on and stand by what I'd done, even if somewhere down the line I'd grown to doubt the rightness of my decision.

It had happened and nothing I could ever do would change that.

It had shaped a life that I had grown to enjoy and feel proud of without really living it. And that was what I was about to do.

What I should have been doing all along.

"Mommy?" Shocked up from my thoughts I looked to find my daughter standing in the doorway, the phone in her hand.

"What is it, sweetie?" I asked. "Is that your daddy on the phone with you?"

She nodded. "He asked me to call him tonight as soon as I finished my homework. I asked, remember?"

I nodded absentmindedly, honestly not remembering whether or not she'd ran that by me. Making a mental note to be more alert, I waited for her to explain what had brought her back into the living room. As always, it didn't take long.

"Daddy was asking is it was okay for me to sleep over at his place on Saturday…after the horse show jumping," she spoke, the look on her face a little hesitant but mostly enthusiastic—just like it used to be.

"Wait," I sighed, trying to keep my voice as level and friendly as possible. "Can you give me the phone, sweetie?" What gives that jackass the nerve to just go ahead and ask her without discussing this with me first? Has he forgotten what happened over the past couple of weeks?

Nodding, she gingerly crossed the room, her bottom lip wedged between her teeth as she gave me the phone. Great, now you've scared her. "Edward, is it okay if she calls you back in a couple of minutes?" My voice sounded sharper than it should have and I didn't really wait for a reply before I broke the connection. I was just too pissed off to actually give a shit about whether or not waiting a few minutes was convenient for him or not.

Focusing back on Charlie I took a couple of deep breaths to steady myself, patting the empty space on the sofa next to me for her to sit on. "So, can you tell me what you and Daddy discussed?"

She nodded timidly. "I was telling Daddy about how much I was looking forward to Saturday. I really want to go see the ponies and watch the show jumping. It's so awesome!"

I nodded dutifully, though deep down inside I had a hard time figuring out what could be so awesome about a grown human being forcing an animal to jump over a fence that led to nothing. Just a bunch of other fences. "So…" I hedged, urging her to move along.

"Daddy was saying how much he was looking forward to it as well…and for all of us to spend the day together like a real family."

A small pang of regret shot through my heart. Had she missed it? Had she suffered because of my decision? I had a feeling that no matter how hard I—and Edward and me both—worked to make sure she wasn't missing out on anything, the answer to that would still always be yes.

"But then I said that I kinda missed spending time with him, too… I mean, I didn't like it when Angela was around but when it was just us, it was really cool." The smile on her face was filled with happy memories as she went on to explain, "So then he asked me if I wanted to spend the rest of the weekend with him, seeing as he only had to work late on Sunday and that he would be home so that we could have a sleepover, just like before."

"And you want to do that?" I asked, even though the happiness in her voice and the fullness of her smile had already answered my question.

She nodded furiously. "I'm not scared anymore now that she's gone and…and I really want to go. We're going to have a movie night and eat pizza and…"

Even in spite of my anger at the way Edward had gone about this, I couldn't help but chuckle. He'd really thought hard about what to do to win her over. "He knows you well, huh?"

"Of course, he does!" Charlie pouted. "He's my Daddy!"

I sighed, knowing I couldn't very well say no when she was already looking forward to it. "You can call your dad and tell him it's okay with me as long as you keep your phone on you at all times so that you can call me if something happens, alright?"

She squealed, nodding furiously before skipping out of the room, her excited voice already back on the phone sharing the good news before she was out of earshot.

It was only half an hour later, when I'd sufficiently calmed down, that a plan started to take post in my mind; my hands reaching out for my mobile phone before I could start the tedious process of second guessing myself. It was strange, part of me beyond excited and part of me shaking with disapproval as I listened to my own voice while it talked to Liam, setting up a date for Saturday night.

We both knew what this meant.

I knew what I was getting myself into.

I was moving forward and this time I wasn't just telling myself to move forward or making myself believe I was. I was really going to do it. So what if Liam wasn't a possible life mate? He was here, he liked me and from the intensity of his kisses I gathered he more than knew how to show a girl a good time.

I was going to stop doubting and just do it.

With him.

Move on.

It was a good thing Rose wasn't around to see my blush by the time I hung up; the distraction of making dinner just about enough for me to cool down and settle my nerves a little before I had to face another human being again. Not that it would have mattered, though, since Charlie was still so excited about the upcoming weekend that I don't think she would have even noticed if Liam and I would have started fornicating on top of the kitchen table right in front of her as long as we didn't disturb her plate of food.

The real kick, however, came when the next day at work I had to go and discuss birth control with Rose. I mean, because that was one of the downsides to living in a small town and being too busy to fit in a trip to the Port Angeles Walgreens. Unless you were Rose and didn't actually care who knew about your very active sex life, the chances were high that when you bought condoms at the local drug store, before noon that same day, half the town would know you were planning on having sex.

And chances were that half included my parents, Edward's parents, most of my customers, and Charlie's teachers. And no, thank you, I'd had my share of judging looks when I was walking around town pregnant before I was even allowed to vote.

By the time my friend was done squealing, demanding details and giving me tips that I really didn't want to hear, I wasn't so sure what would have been worse: old biddy judgment or a class on Slut 101.

At least I did score a Costco pack of condoms because, apparently, when you were Rosalie Hale you just had those kinds of things in your bag.

I didn't ask.

Not that it didn't mean I got more details I didn't want to know.

After all of that had been said, done and bleached out of my brain, all that was left was getting through the Saturday of doom. Seriously, if this was one of the perks that came with hiring an extra hand in the bakery, I'd fire Emmett without a thought.

Even if the guy had quickly made himself irreplaceable.

Oh, and Rose would never speak to me again for getting rid of the only guy who seemed to be holding her attention for longer than a five minute fuck.

Even if the bright sunlight was streaming though my windows that Saturday morning, I was still sure that day was going to turn into a disaster.

Edward. Ponies. And a very excited ten year old. Need I say more?

Oh, and did I mention horses kind of freak me out? I mean, they look all cute and trustworthy and shit with their big brown eyes and soft, furry bodies, but the minute you actually start to trust them and get in the saddle, they turn into the devil's little helpers. Before you know it you're face down in the mud. And even if, by some miracle, you manage to remain in the saddle, you'll spend the next couple of days walking like an old lady because of muscle pain.

Nope. Horses definitely weren't for me.

But guess who was spending most of her free day—one of the rare free days I enjoyed—watching them? It was only the thought of who I might be riding later that day that kept me going, methodically going through the motions of getting showered and dressed while fighting off the aforementioned very excited ten year old as she kept trying to rush me through the process.

"It's no use, baby girl," I groaned as she tried to get me to drink my coffee faster. "It's not going to make Daddy get here faster, so even if I managed to drink this whole cup of nearly boiling liquid in one minute without scolding myself to death, we'll still be freezing our butts off as we wait outside for him to pick me up."

"Okay!" She huffed, rolling her eyes as she stood hand-on-hip, trying to stare me down like the scariest ten year old I'd ever seen.

"Not going to work, missy!" I snorted, even though I was already scared for what was going to happen when she hit puberty. I'm so fucked. "Now, you can either sit down and drink your milk or go downstairs and bother Emmett for a while, but quit trying to rush me!"

Yeah, it was definitely a stroke of not-so-grownup genius, sending her downstairs to meddle with my staff just so I could drink my coffee in peace. But what can say? I'm just not a morning person. Besides, Emmett's strong enough to handle himself against a pre-teen, even if she's in hyperactive pony-spotting mode.

And I really needed my coffee if I wanted to get through the day.

The ride over to Port Angeles, where the aptly called Port Angeles Showjumping Contest was being held, was blissfully quiet. Charlie was glued to the DVD player in the backseat since Edward had the genius insight to find a copy Black Beauty for her, as we awkwardly sat in the front with the heavy weight of his drunk confessions and the impromptu sleepover suggestion still hanging over us.

"I've got this," he insisted as we came to the box office, subtly elbowing me out of the way as he got all three of us tickets to the main course, where the big competition would take place later in the afternoon, as well as the minor courses where most of the pony competitions would be taking place.

"When is your friend due?" he asked her as I frowned.

"One of your friends is in the competition?" I asked her, not having known this before even though Charlie hadn't been able to stop talking about it for days.

She nodded. "You don't know her but dad does because he takes me to my horse riding classes sometimes. Her name is Valerie and she has her own horse which she keeps at the stables. She's so good, Mom! I'm sure she's going to win!"

"I swear, Valerie basically lives at the stables!" Edward chimed in, stuffing his wallet into his back pocket before taking Charlie's hand. "She's about thirteen to fourteen years old and usually helps out with the kids' lessons—you know, getting them safely in the saddle and stuff." I didn't know but I nodded anyway, not wanting to seem dumb. "She even does her homework in the foyer, just so that she can be close to the action and stay on hand for when she's needed."

"She works there, too?" I surmised, trying to make sense of it.

"Nah, I don't think so," Edward answered. "The owner once told me there's usually a group of girls hanging around the stables, doing odd jobs just because they like it, believe it or not. I don't think he'd even manage to run them off if he tried. They just love being around the horses in whatever way possible."

"Oh," I replied dumbly, feeling more and more like a fish out of water. Grabbing hold of Charlie's free hand to keep her from running off along the surprisingly busy competition grounds, I looked around to see almost everyone around me walk around with that same reverent look on their face.

It was fun to look at the sense of togetherness everyone around here felt and, though a slight part of me felt a little pang of jealousy at being excluded, it also did me a world of good to see how Edward and Charlie had bonded over her horse-riding classes. Edward seemed to know quite a bit about it and as they chatted. I managed to look around and pick up a thing or two myself.

Maybe this horse stuff wasn't so bad after all…

Maneuvering through the heaving crowds, we managed to get a seat on one of the small stands surrounding the pony course. Charlie, of course, abandoned us the minute she saw a couple of her horse riding friends standing near the barriers. Little traitor. As long as she stayed within our sight, there was nothing I could do to stop her, though. Not even when that left me alone with her dad.

The first damn pony hadn't even entered the course before I could hear him clearing his throat beside me. "Bella… I…"

Oh fuck. Here we go. "What?"

Taking a deep breath he seemed to reclaim command over himself again. "I wanted to apologize for the other night. I was drunk and out of line and…"

"You did something gigantically stupid?" I snorted. "Don't worry; it's not like I haven't seen that before over the past couple of months."

"I know. I made an ass of myself." He looked like a scolded puppy, the confidence in his shoulders deflated. Even though my anger still persisted, I had to admit I felt a little guilt for snapping at him like that. I mean, he'd behaved pretty lousy in the past but I could see that today the guy was trying harder than the one I'd gotten used to of late.

Shaking my head I took a few steadying breaths, waiting until I was sure I could respond in a rational manner. "What do you want me to say, Edward? Do you want me to feel sorry for you and pretend it didn't happen for months? Because I'm not going to do that now…"

"I… I…" He stammered, his usual go-to anger replaced by intense shame.

"You show up here after years of living in Seattle and I think, 'Great! Charlie is finally going to have what she's been missing out on all these years and, who knows? Maybe so will I!' But then you turn into a selfish guy I don't recognize—and, frankly, don't even want to know—who puts his girlfriend before his own kid and hurts her feelings more than once! You've been nothing but a jackass since you got back…and now you ask for forgiveness?"

He closed his eyes but not fast enough for me to miss the look of utter pain in his eyes. "I know I have no right to ask for it," he finally admitted. "I know I have no right to tell you this or even ask anything of you after the shit I did. I want you to know that even though I was drunk, not a word I said that night was a lie."

I'd known the truth of his words even then, when he'd first spilled them in an alcohol-induced haze but hearing them again, under different circumstances?

Yeah, after everything that happened, I wasn't quite sure how to feel.