A/N See you at the end.

Chapter 26

"Like a ballet dancer, she keeps me on my toes. This dance we're doing, it keeps me so fit I know she's a perfect fit for me." (Jarod Kintz)

~ B ~

Act II

"Madonna mia, you were exquisite!" a man in his mid-thirties, wearing thick-rimmed eyeglasses exclaimed. From what I'd understood, he was the editor in chief of a prestigious dance magazine in Italy.

"Grazie," I responded, tucking a stand of freshly ironed hair behind my ear. Edward's hand on the small of my back was the only comfort in the sea of people wanting to speak with me.

"Miss Swan, a picture," someone said, and I turned my head just as the flash of the camera lit my face. I blinked rapidly, not used to it.

"No more pictures, please," Edward intervened, and the man nodded in understanding. "Thank you."

"Isabella." I heard my name being called in a familiar voice, and saw Aro Volturi approach, his wife in tow. "My dear, you were superb." He kissed the back of my hand gallantly, making room for his wife so she could kiss my cheeks.

"Isabella, dear." Sulpicia smiled, holding my hands as if we'd known each other for a lifetime. "I knew Edward's instincts couldn't be wrong."

"Thank you," I said; my repetitive reply for the evening.

"Edward, a word?" Aro gestured towards the bar.

"Sure." Edward kissed my temple, his warm hand leaving me.

"Is something the matter?" I asked, seeing Sulpicia follow them with her eyes.

"On, no, no. Don't you worry, dear." She turned to me with her blinding smile. "Let's talk about your dress. Isn't it ravishing?"

"Uh, yeah, I bought it here," I answered, distracted by the two men's hasty departure. The stopped near the improvised bar.

She went on talking, something about the dress complementing my body, but I wasn't particularly paying attention. My instinct told me Aro didn't bear good news. I watched Edward's face change from relaxed to tense, and the more Aro spoke, the more agitated Edward seemed to get. He ran a hand through his hair, his green eyes meeting mine. There was something in them, something I couldn't quite pinpoint. Whatever it was, it was making him angry.

"Excuse me, please," I said with a distant smile, walking away from Sulpicia who was still yammering about petty nonsense.

"Isabella..." Her voice faded off behind me.

The men put an end to their conversation as soon as I approached them. "Is everything alright?" I inquired, staring Edward in the eye.

He gave me a forced smile. "Everything is fine. We should go look for your parents."

"I'll see you later." Aro took the hint, nodding his head. "Have a good evening."

"What was that all about?" I wanted to know, more concerned than anything. "And please don't lie to me."

Edward sighed. He looked as if he didn't want to tell me, except I didn't give him much choice. "Angela is here."

"Angela, as in... Angela Weber? Your ex-fiancée, Angela?" I asked incredulously.

"Yes. She's here with her husband and two and a half children. Apparently, she's pregnant again."

At first, I felt as if he'd poured a bucket of ice-cold water over my head; my good mood starting to dissipate.

Then, I took a moment to ponder the situation. Yeah, I wasn't happy she was there, but it would only get bad if we let it affect us. I was actually quite nervous about running into her, but I didn't want Edward to know it; especially since I had no idea what was going on in his head. He'd spent so much time hating her, that I wasn't sure he was able to overcome her presence there without it somehow affecting him.

I, for one, decided I was mature enough to deal with the issue at hand without much fuss. It was our night, and I wasn't going to let anyone ruin it. The real question was… Was Edward ready to face her yet? There was one way I could find out.

"So you think you can handle it?"

"Excuse me?" He gave me a confused look.

"Do you think you can handle seeing her? I need to know you won't make a big deal out of it. It's a huge night for us, and I don't want her presence to ruin it."

He stared at me not speaking for a long moment, then shook his head as if waking up from a dream. "I'm sorry. I'm acting like a child. I can handle it. Don't worry about it. It, she, is old news." He pulled me towards him, placing a kiss on my hair. "You don't have to worry about a thing."

"You're over it, right?" I insisted.

"I am. I will be. I promise."

"Bella, honey!"

I pulled away from Edward to greet my mother. She was followed by Dad and Seth.

"Hey, you guys." I hugged them each, so glad to have them with me at such an important moment in my career. For the time being, Angela was forgotten.

"I'm so happy your dream came true, sweetie." Mom's cheeks were rosy with excitement and her smile wide. "You worked so hard for it."

"I need to look for my mother," Edward announced, glancing at his watch. "I won't be long."

Seth, who was beside me, nudged me in the ribcage. "Don't you look pretty."

I nudged him back teasingly. "I could say the same about you."

He chuckled. "I think you mean, I'm the most handsome guy in this place." He looked around to prove his point. "By the way, where is Vic? I haven't seen her."

I rolled my eyes at him. "She's off-limits. Get that through your thick skull already." As I spoke, I spotted Victoria; her arm linked with James's, who'd flown in for the premiere. "Ah, there she is." I nodded in their direction. "With her fiancé."

Seth's face fell. "Aw, man."

I had to laugh at his expression. "Give it up, kiddo. She's too old for you. And anyway, didn't you already have a girlfriend?"

Seth shrugged nonchalantly. "I'm seeing a couple of girls, yeah."

Suddenly, I wanted to smack him. "You see about those girls, okay? Leave my friend alone."

Dad put his arm around Seth's shoulders. "About these girls..."

I shook my head, blocking them out. I didn't want to hear Dad's advice about women to my little brother.

Sometime later, Edward and his mother joined us. She was holding a glass of champagne, her hair perfectly coifed and her outfit impeccable.

"Renee, Charlie, I would like you to meet my mother, Esme Cullen." Edward made the introductions. "Mother, these are Isabella's parents and her brother Seth."

"I am delighted to meet such a beautiful family," Esme said with a genuine smile.

"The pleasure is all ours," Mom replied, and I could tell by the look on her face that she liked what she saw. Edward's mother was refined, gracious, and had an air of elegance about her very few women possessed.

"I was telling Isabella earlier this evening that we should all have lunch together tomorrow."

"Of course," Mom agreed. "That is a great idea."

"Excuse me," one of the staff members cut in. "Mr. Masen, the press conference is going to start in a few minutes."

"Right." Edward nodded, glancing at me. "We should be going." Then turning to his mother. "Mom, I leave you in good hands."

Esme waved him off. "You two go. We'll be watching."

Edward led me to the area where the conference was being held. Emmett and Yovenko were already seated, and we took our assigned places, Edward next to Yovenko and me beside Emmett.

"Are we ready to begin?" someone asked, to which Edward nodded affirmatively. Soon, the room grew quiet, the only sounds coming from the numerous cameras clicking away picture after picture.

"Miss Swan," a woman began, standing and presenting herself. "Caroline Dupont from Dance World. When did you first start to work with ABT?"

So many pairs of eyes set on me and the continuous flash of a dozen cameras had my body in jitters. I forced a smile on my face, trying to keep my voice from shaking. "I started working with ABT in September last year."

The woman looked at me, surprised. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but that means you became a principal right away."

"Yes." I nodded.

She turned to Edward. "Mr. Masen, what led you to make such a decision?"

Edward leaned towards his mic. "Both Maksim and I saw the potential hiding just under the surface. We trusted Isabella and her talent, and today she proved we weren't wrong."

The woman seemed satisfied with the answer. "Thank you," she said, taking her seat.

A few other reporters raised their hands. Edward pointed to a man in his mid-fifties, maybe. "Yes."

"Albert Schultz; Kunst Holland," he introduced himself. "I have a question for Miss Swan." He looked down at the papers in his hand. "Miss Swan," he paused and smiled, "how did you find the Swans?"

"I loved dancing the Swans," I replied, my voice full of honesty. "However, I found Odile a lot more demanding than Odette. She is more intense, more... domineering, which is in direct contrast with my personality. That being said, I absolutely adored dancing them both. It is such a fulfilling role."

He turned towards Yovenko. "Mr. Yovenko, there is a rumor that this will be your last year at ABT."

I gaped at the man. Was Yovenko really leaving? Edward never mentioned it.

To my relief, Yovenko chuckled. "They are merely rumors. I am comfortable at ABT. Edward and I get along very well. We've had an incredible start this season."

The rest of the interview spanned for at least thirty minutes, with most of the questions focused on my training, performance, and the production as a whole. When we were done, a woman placed a stack of photos from our official photo shoot in front of me.

"For signing," she explained, disappearing as soon as she'd materialized.

I stared at the picture on top. It was a collage of two photos—one of me as Odette and the other as Odile.


I looked up to see a little girl, no more than ten, stare back at me with bright blue eyes.

"Hello." I gave her a welcoming smile.

From behind her back, she procured a single pink rose. "My mom said I should give this to you." She blushed as she said the words, and I nearly melted at how sweet she was.

"Thank you." I accepted the flower. "It's beautiful. What is your name?"

"I'm Lily."

"Do you dance, Lily?"

She nodded, biting her lip.

"Do you love it?"

Again, she nodded.

"Then you must never give it up." Leaning over the stack of pictures, I wrote a special quote that had stuck in my mind.

There are those who dance the notes, and those who dance the music. To Lily, with love, Isabella Swan.

I gave her the picture, and she took a moment to read it before her face broke into a huge smile. "Thank you!"

"You're welcome."

As the girl scurried off to her mother, who was happily waiting to the side, Edward leaned over to me. "I have to speak to Accosi. I won't be long."

I nodded, smiling as the next person made their way over to me.

"Mr. Masen, an autograph, please," someone called, and Edward stopped to sign a picture of him as the Prince in Cinderella, before departing with hurried steps.

Beside me, Emmett and Yovenko were busy signing their own share of photos.

~ B ~

"You did well." Laurent nodded, as if to himself. He was wearing a dark suit, and I had to admit he looked really handsome.

"She did," Victoria agreed from beside him, linking her arm with his, her eyes set on me. "Ah, children. They grow up so fast."

I rolled my eyes at her, taking the first sip from the champagne she'd brought for me. Apparently, in Italy, the drinking age was under sixteen, for which I was grateful. The night wasn't over yet, and I definitely needed a drink.

"So seriously, what now? What plans does Masen have for you?" she asked, ever the nosy bugger.

I shrugged. "I might dance here at La Scala for a little while. Other than that, I don't know. He said he wants me to try contemporary at some point."

"That's cool."

"Yeah, it is." Laurent looked down, before glancing up at me. "He'll take good care of you."

Victoria gave him a sympathetic look, but didn't comment on it. He was a good guy, but even she couldn't deny Laurent was still a bit bitter over my relationship with Edward. He'd accepted it, which didn't mean he was happy about it.

"Sorry to interrupt, but I must whisk Isabella away," Yovenko said, grabbing my arm. "I have someone I want to introduce her to."

I sighed quietly, nodding goodbye to my friends.

I was grateful, I really was, but the after-party was proving more exhausting than I had imagined. I put on my best fake smile as Yovenko dragged me toward a group of five, mostly middle-aged men. Some of them I knew, although their names eluded me. I stood there in my uncomfortable heels, making conversation, and wished I'd listened to Emmett and wore a different pair of pumps. Preferably, ones that didn't make me feel as if my feet were on fire.

Edward's palm on the small of my back brought a genuine smile on my lips. I looked up and he smiled back.

"Gentlemen, Miss Dimitriu," he addressed the joyful group. "If you'll excuse us."

He pulled me away, and I'd never been so grateful in my life. "Thank you. I've been ping-ponged all night. Between Yovenko, Mr. Accosi, Emmett, and my family, I'm surprised I'm still in one piece."

"Your Prince is here," he joked, linking our fingers. "Now let's find somewhere to sit down."

I nearly groaned with relief. "Kinder words have never been spoken."

~ B ~

Towards the end of the evening, Edward and I were heading to the wardrobe to pick up our coats when a light voice called from behind us, stopping us in our tracks. "Edward!"

We both turned, and I had to steel myself at seeing none other than Edward's ex-fiancée; my hope of never having to run into her ruined. She walked towards us, an apprehensive expression on her face. Beside me, I could feel Edward's entire body tense.

"Hello." She smiled shyly, stopping in front of us. Her chocolate brown eyes set on Edward for a moment, before turning to me and extending a hand. "I'm Angela Weber. It's very nice to meet you, Isabella. You did great out there."

"Thank you," I murmured, taking her hand—a peace offering, it seemed. I wondered if she knew how Edward and I were connected—she seemed to.

"I don't mean to keep you. I just wanted to say hello." Her eyes turned to Edward, whose stare was fixed over her head as if he was ignoring her presence entirely. "I'm here on vacation with my family. We heard about the play and decided to come."

Surprisingly, nothing about Angela Weber's presence felt threatening, and I took a moment to analyze her. She was a bit shorter than me, with dark hair pulled up in a sleek ponytail. She was wearing a light blue dress with matching pumps, her baby bump barely visible. Her expression was kind; a couple of expression wrinkles adorning the corners of her mouth.

I had to wonder… was she really as bad as Edward seemed to think she was, or was his memory of her tainted by her deception?

Something in my gut told me it was the latter.

Making a quick decision, and hoping I was doing the right thing, I turned to Edward. "I'm going to grab our coats. I'll be right back." Not giving him time to protest, I departed, leaving the two of them alone.

There was a small line at the wardrobe, and I stood there, mulling over what had just transpired.

I never imagined I would someday soon meet my boyfriend's ex-fiancée. It had happened, though, and curiously enough, I didn't feel jealous. I didn't even feel anger or hatred towards the woman who'd hurt Edward so bad. Their relationship was long over, and I realized it didn't matter anymore. She didn't matter. All Edward had to do was come to terms with it. Something I hoped he might be able to do tonight.

When I returned, holding our coats, Angela was still there, and she and Edward had drifted off to the side of the room, close to a pillar. I wasn't sure if I should interrupt or not, because to my amazement, Edward's stance looked more at ease as he stood with his hands inside his pockets, facing her straight on and nodding at something she'd said. He was actually listening to her and seemingly having a civil conversation. I decided maybe I should give them a few more moments, and moved behind the pillar.

Their voices drifted over to me.

"…heard she was good for you. Aro told me."

Edward made a small pause before speaking. "She is. I'm grateful I met her. I've never been happier."

"I'm glad, Edward. Really, I am."

"And you?" he asked simply, not elaborating his question.

"I'm good. The kids keep me busy."

"So you don't teach anymore?" He sounded genuinely surprised.

"It's been two years now," she confirmed. "But it's okay. I'm happy. My family comes first."

"Hmm, " was all Edward said.

There was a lull between them then, and I heard Edward clear his throat, so I knew it was time to make myself known. I slipped out around a small group of people, who greeted and congratulated me, and swooped in quickly. Angela saw me approaching and smiled. "Well, I must leave you now. Again, you were wonderful, Isabella. I wish you good luck with your career."

I smiled back, trying to be nice for the sake of it. "Thank you."

"Goodbye, Edward." She turned on her heels, heading towards her husband who was waiting.

"Are you alright?" I looked at Edward.

His eyes followed her for a moment before turning to me. "It's odd," he said, his voice soft.

"What is?"

"Seeing her again after all this time. I didn't feel... anger."

"Well, that's a good thing, isn't it?"

He grabbed the coats from me, helping me put mine on. "It is."

I sighed. "Look, I know it must've been hard for you, seeing her here so unexpectedly, but I think it was great for you to finally talk to her. It's time you got over her. She's obviously moved on with her life and so should you."

He regarded me carefully. "Baby, I have moved on. Please don't ever think I haven't. You make me happier than she ever did." He paused, seeming to weigh his words. "In a way I'm glad she came. Now I know I don't have anything to be angry about. What happened between us was a long time ago. And it's done."

"So you're saying you're okay with it now?"

He shrugged. "I guess. I realized her love for me died at a time when mine hadn't just yet. It happens in a lot of relationships. I was simply too hurt to see things clearly."

My curiosity got the best of me. "What did she say to you that made you see things more clearly?"

"She apologized for hurting me."

"Fair enough." I nodded. "She seems like happy, though."

"She said she is. And I'm glad. Honestly." His lips curved into a small smile. "I'm glad because I'm also happy. You make life worth living again."

I blushed. "Easy now, or I'll get a big head."

He laughed, kissing my temple as he guided me towards the exit. "Speaking of big heads..."

I stopped him with a light smack to his stomach, which only made him laugh harder.

~ B ~

He moved in and out, his body fitting perfectly wrapped around mine. I gasped, throwing my head back, and wound my legs tighter around his hips.

"Yes," I whispered, pushing back against him. "More."

He thrust harder this time, his soft grunts spurring me on. Then his mouth was on me, kissing me deeply, his teeth occasionally grazing my lips, and I was soon gone.

He increased the pace of his thrusts, hitting deeper and harder, and I could hardly breathe. With a strangled cry, I let go, my orgasm hitting me in waves and making everything down my navel spasm violently.

Edward followed immediately with a loud groan, his movements slowing as he rode down his own orgasm.

"This has to be the best night of my life," I murmured, eyes half-closed.

Edward chuckled in my ear. "Am I that good?"

I giggled, pushing him away. "You know what I mean."

"Yeah," he agreed, kissing my shoulder. "It was a good night—for both of us." He grinned, giving me a look that told me he was feeling pretty full of himself. "I proved to Maks I'm always right, and you... well, Accosi wants you at La Scala. Did you think about it?"

"I have."


"And I think I'll give it a go. It's only for a few months in the autumn, so why not?"

He ran his fingers through my hair gently. "That's great, baby. It'll do your career good."

"I'm going to miss you, though." I pouted. "Will you come see me?"

"You don't even have to ask. I'll come every week if I have to."

We were both silent for a while. Suddenly, he sat up.

"What's the matter?" I asked, confused.

He didn't answer. Tossing the covers to the side, he walked over to the closet, starting to rummage through his luggage.


"Just a minute," he replied, and a moment later, he lifted his hand triumphantly. "Here it is."

I eyed the small box wrapped in glossy green paper suspiciously. "What's that?"

"Your Christmas gift." He chuckled, looking down at it. "Well... no, it's not, but I wanted to wrap it up nicely."

Curious, I took the box from him, making quick work of unwrapping it. Inside, there was a shiny new key. I looked up at Edward with raised eyebrows. "Is this...?" I trailed off questioningly.

He grinned, looking like the cat that had just ate the canary. "The key to my apartment."

"This is kind of a big commitment, huh?" I teased. "I don't know if I'm ready for such a big step, babe."

He pinched my side, but his expression became more serious. "Don't joke about it."

I shook my head, pulling him towards me. "Thank you." I wrapped my arms around his neck, kissing him lightly. "I love you."

His hands came to rest on my hips. "I love you, too," he whispered, nuzzling my ear. "And if you let me, I'll love you for the rest of my life."

A/N So this is it... I hope you guys enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Thank you for not giving up on me and being patient.

Thank you Deb and Nic for being simply amazing.

I don't know when or if I'll continue writing. If I have the time and inspiration maybe I'll write some outtakes.

xx Andreea