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


Chapter 22

Doing the right thing…if only I'd know what that is.

The downside to sleeping with a man is the fact that a lot of them snore—or at least breathe very heavily.

I wasn't sure. Maybe it was just me, and the fact that ten years of sleeping alone had made me highly sensitive to the sounds of another human being—who wasn't my daughter—sleeping in the same room with me.

Or maybe it was the fact that Liam was, indeed, one of those men who snored.

Plain and simple.

It had been a good joke for about five minutes as I listened to his noisy intakes of breath but, after a while it really started to get old. Especially since the events of that night had left me completely exhausted.

Shifting slightly against the immensely soft and expensive sheets on his bed, my body felt as deliciously sore and thoroughly worked over as you could feel after a night of great sex with a good man.

And boy was this man good!

The one big change from only a couple of months ago with that vacationing Australian guy, when I'd been in this same position, was that I hadn't felt an ounce of guilt then. Though it wasn't for lack of trying with Liam, but the whole night my brain had played the same old loop.

Over and over again.

"Not a word I said that night was a lie."

What was that even supposed to mean? He couldn't seriously expect me to react to that, could he? I mean, was I just supposed to swoon and magically forget he'd destroyed my life because he still loved me and had apparently been loving me all while managing aforementioned destruction?

It still didn't add up.

In fact, it confused the hell out of me and made me angrier than I'd been to begin with. Especially since I'd finally made peace with the whole 'moving on' thing and found myself a genuinely good man to do that with.

How dare he try to turn what little order I'd carved out for myself from the ruins of my old life into chaos again?

I. Hate. Him.

It wasn't like it was going to change anything, though.

Not this time.

Not likely.

Smiling, I looked at the snoring hunk of man-meat sleeping next to me, his scent still thick on my skin and the air in the room filled with the remnants of sex and happiness. I might not have been able to love the man himself—not yet, at least—but what I did love about him was his ability to make me forget about the miserable, infested cesspit that my mind had a tendency to become at times.

He'd only had to take one look at my moody, broody face earlier that day to cancel his reservation at a swanky, Port Angeles restaurant and order pizza and grab some ice cream. With the addition of a decent bottle of wine to the mix, it didn't take long for me to spill everything that had happened that day as he listened patiently and before giving me his honest opinion.

It might have been some sort of reverse psychology thing or another trick he was splaying but, honestly, by the time I was done dumping all my misery on our date, all I wanted to do was climb him like a fucking totem pole.

Which I did, much our surprise.

Not that I heard him complaining.

In fact, I was pretty sure that the first words that fell from his lips as he crashed down beside me were 'thank you'. Although, I could have been mistaken because his breaths were fierce gasps and my whole mind was still spinning after an intense orgasm.

Yup. This girl had an orgasm.

Three even. Not that I want to brag or anything.

I couldn't even remember what this had felt like in the past, though maybe that was because I'd never really had it before. This: the peace (well, except for the snoring, of course) of lying close together at night with the promise of waking up together the next morning. And who knew? Maybe there'd be some morning sex to top it all off.

With Edward, we'd both been too young to actually enjoy this feeling—even if it had been allowed. Before I became pregnant with Charlie, it wouldn't have even crossed my mind to ask my dad if Edward could sleep over or if I could spend the night at the Cullens'. My dad would flat out refuse to even think about his sixteen year old daughter having sex, let alone accommodate them while doing the deed.

Then, after Charlie was born, there had been a few sleepovers but they had been mostly filled with nighttime feedings, changing diapers, and rocking our daughter back to sleep. Not exactly the ideal setting for a romantic, mellow night together. With everything that had went down, and the fact that we were both still in high school, getting our own place hadn't been an option. Even if we'd been able to get a lease for an apartment, we just didn't have the money to do so and, for me, at least, the idea of having my mom around as I navigated motherhood was a huge comfort. We'd decided to hold off on living together and getting married until we were both older and more certain about where we saw our lives headed in the long run.

Our time together had been limited to taking care of Charlie; which, as history had proven, was a recipe for disaster.

Having that moment with Liam—the feelings of togetherness with a man you shared no other tie with than mutual attraction—was really nice.

Like really 'I could get used to this' nice.

Well, again, except for his snoring, of course.

In the end, the exhaustion pulled me under, even though my sleep was disturbed when morning brought on a whole slew of foreign noises. It was the curse of sleeping in a strange bed; strange sheets, strange smells, strange noises and waking up at four 'o-fucking-clock because my internal clock is still adjusted to bakery time even though it was my day off.

Fuck my life!

The pleasant burn of my muscles had by then turned into a roar of fire, though that might have had something to do with the lack of sleep and the subsequent grumpiness.

Knowing I'd better get the hell out of dodge before I did something unsociable like kick Liam because of the snoring, I went out in search of a coffee maker and a snack to tide me over until he woke up.

Which didn't happen until ten, by the way.

By that time, I'd already read every newspaper I could find in his waste paper basket, downed a whole pot of coffee and cleaned his kitchen and living room of the remnants of last night's dinner while I tried to stop myself from his clothes I'd spotted in the dryer. He might like me and all, but having your date go through your laundry basket and fold your underwear the first time she's in your house, might not be the epitome of sexy.

Or sanity for that matter.

"When did you get up?" I loved the way his voice sounded all gravely and sexy as his arms wrapped around me from behind, his heat felt perfect next to my cool body. "By the way, can I just say how much I love you in my shirt?"

"It was all I could find at the time." I chuckled, remembering my desperate search in the half-dark room to find my bra and panties as well as something to wear over it. After about ten minutes, and finding my underwear somewhere in the vicinity of the bed, I'd just settled on Liam's button down.

It wasn't long after that, while sitting in the chilly living room, that I'd wished I'd stayed behind to find some pants.

And socks.

"I'm amazed the smell of coffee didn't wake me up!" He joked, kissing the skin left bare between the collar of his shirt and the messy bun I'd tied my hair in.

"From the sound of it, you were still very much asleep when I left." Grinning, I turned in his hold, my legs wrapping around his waist as I started to feel a little smug to find that all of him had woken up.

Nipping at my mouth with his soft, firm lips before trailing off into a lingering kiss he commented, "Are you accusing me of snoring, Miss Swan?"

"I'm not just accusing you." Arching one brow I wrapped my arms around his neck, lifting myself up so that we were perfectly aligned. Well, perfectly except for the pesky clothes being in our way. "You kept me awake for most of the night, mister!"

He looked slightly embarrassed but that playful side of him was still there as he leaned in, his breath caressing my heated skin as he whispered, "Then how can I make it up to you?"

Giggling like an overexcited schoolgirl I pulled him closer, rubbing the very prominent bulge in his jeans before attempting to tear open the zipper and fly. "Oh, I can think of a few things you can do," I replied innocently, while my hands had not-so-innocently started digging for gold.

"Good. I was kind of counting on that!" He grinned smugly, presenting me with a familiar foil packet he'd pulled from his back packet. Handing it over to me, he ripped the buttons of his shirt open. His eagerness set me aflame as he pushed the cups of my bra down, his mouth nipping at my hardened nipples as he pushed my underwear out of the way while I rolled the condom down his length.

oOo

It was well after noon by the time I drove back into Forks. I hadn't planned to stay out that long but with Liam's quite amazing stalling techniques, it had been impossible for me to say no to him.

The closer I got to Edward's apartment complex, though, the more anxious I started to get over how Charlie was doing. Sure, she'd never been far from my mind all night but since the phone had remained silent ever since I'd dropped her off, I had no reason to believe she wasn't having a great time with her dad.

Still, after everything that happened, I couldn't help but be wary of what would happen when I left my kid in her dad's care for what would be their first unsupervised sleepover ever since the disaster with She-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named.

Well, not exactly unsupervised since Esme was kind enough to offer to stop by somewhere during the night and check up on them.

Did I mention I love her?

From the message she sent me I gathered that everything was fine. Both father and daughter were having a blast with their movie marathon, a notion that only grew stronger as I stood waiting in front of his door. After all, when the noise of the doorbell gets drowned out by the excited squeals of a ten year old, you kinda know everything is all right.

"Mom!" Charlie cried, her eyes wild and her chest heaving with labored breaths as she flung her tiny but surprisingly strong body at me.

Stumbling slightly backwards I chuckled, my laughter deepened as I caught a glimpse of a completely breathless and ragged looking Edward. "I take it the two of you had a good time?"

Charlie nodded furiously while Edward grinned, taking in the sight of utter destruction that had once been a very neat and relatively tidy—well for a man's home, at least—apartment. They both looked so happy—completely worn out and still in their sleep clothes but…both unbothered by it.

It felt great even if, though I hated to admit it, I felt a slight pang of jealousy at seeing them so connected.

It was strange…and I felt completely disappointed in myself over feeling that way.

I mean, it wasn't like I wanted things to be strained between my daughter and her dad, did I? I'd fought so hard for everything to be okay and to keep the peace between Edward and myself so that Charlie could enjoy her visits with him without feeling guilty or being tossed back and forward between two arguing parents. Was I really crazy enough to be jealous now that all my hard work was finally starting to pay off?

What was I…a five year old kid having to share her toys?

Pushing those conflicting feelings aside, I released Charlie from the hug she was still embraced in. "So, how about you put on some clothes and we get back home? I think Grandpa Charlie said something about dropping by and taking you for a hike through the woods later on."

"Grandpa Charlie's going to come?" With another squeal Charlie ran in the direction of her bedroom, the door slamming behind her in her hurry to embark on yet another adventure.

"I guess I'm not the cool one anymore, huh?" Edward chuckled, though I could hear a slight undertone of disappointment in his voice.

Sighing, I turned towards him. "Sorry…I guess I should have waited to make the announcement until…"

"Nah, that's fine." He shrugged. "I'm glad she gets along so great with her grandparents and that she has something exciting to look forward to before going back to school on Monday. And besides…this gives us a moment to talk because…" Looking apprehensive, his eyes darted away from mine for a moment before locking again. "There's something I want to run by you."

Now what? "Okay," I replied warily, seeking the support from the doorway into his living room as I braced for whatever nonsense he'd be throwing at me. I mean, I was still slightly pissed off for the little nugget of over-thinking material he'd inserted in my brain the day before. I wasn't so sure I could handle whatever he came up with next.

"I just...aah…" Scratching behind his ear, he tiptoed from one foot to the other, seeming as far out of his comfort zone as I was as he went on. "Last time around I did everything wrong but now…not that Charlie's given me a second chance, I really want to do this right…make up for completely dropping the ball last time…"

"Okay…?" I hedged, not quite certain what to do about this new and improved (well, according to himself, at least) Edward.

"I'd like for us to get together and go over the rules again…see what we're still comfortable with and what needs updated," he offered. "I want to do everything right this time. I don't want to cause any more hurt to you and to Charlie, and I think we'd both feel so much more comfortable in all of this if we had a new, fresh set of ground rules…so that we can both do what's absolutely best for our daughter."

I smiled, relieved that this suggestion of his was something I could actually work with; something I even wished I'd come up with. "I can do that," I answered, putting him out of the misery of waiting for my reply. "What do you suggest?"

"I have Wednesday night off," he answered. "Maybe we could get together then? I could come over to your place when my shift ends and spend some time with her before we talk…or you could come here. That is, if you don't have anything else planned because I'd be more than happy to postpone and adapt to your schedule."

I had to fight the urge to chuckle at his nervousness; my memories transported me back to that time when he asked me out on our first, real date. He'd been as nervous back then as he was right there and then. "Wednesday evening at my place is fine, Edward. Anything special you'd like me to cook for you?"

"Oh, um…no, I'm sure I'd love whatever you put in front of me," he replied, still uncertain.

Our awkward moment was interrupted by the arrival of Charlie, her overnight bag in hand and her clothes and hair remarkably in order for someone who'd dressed so quickly.

"Are you ready to go, sweetheart?" I asked, relieved to be spared more of this conversation, even though Edward appeared to have turned a new leaf.

She nodded, running to her dad to hug and kiss him goodbye. "I had so much fun, Dad!" she gushed, her beaming smile matched Edward's as they walked behind me back to the car.

"So did I," Edward beamed, safely strapping her into the rear seat before kissing her forehead, exchanging their love for one another, and closing the door. Smiling at me, he mouthed an emotional 'thanks' to me.

But as I drove away, I wasn't sure what it was that he was thankful about.

What I did know, though, was that for the first time in months, there was a glimmer of hope looming on the horizon.


Thoughts?

My apologies for not updating last week. The end of the school year kinda sucked all the energy and creativity out of me. The good news is that for the next six weeks, school's closed so I should be able to do more writing. The bad news (not for me, though) is that there won't be any updates until the 29th of July since I'll be away on a trip to NYC (so excited!). Barring plane crashes and/or other calamities, I will be back on Tuesday the 29th, though.

See you then!