Kissing Bella goodnight was a whole new experience that evening. Feeling her wrapped around me, her small little moans in the back of her throat as our tongues met and stroked, drove me insane. It took everything in me not to carry her into her room and make love to her in that big comfy bed. I had to remind myself that I needed to move slowly. She had agreed to stay here. I'd gotten her out of the terrible little apartment, and she would be with us. Teddy and I would take care of her, and she would look after us. Our physical relationship would progress once she was more settled and sure.
Slowly, I backed away from her, my fingers lightly caressing her soft cheeks.
"Tomorrow, we'll go get your things and get you settled. And I'll draw up an employment document for you; you'll need that for your bank to show income."
"I'm not sure how I feel about you paying me, given everything—"
"Stop. We'll figure it all out, Bella. You are being paid a fair wage for taking care of my son. The same as I paid Kate, or would pay anyone else. No arguments."
"But we're, ah—"
"More. Yes. And we'll figure it out as we go. One day, I hope your business will be doing well again and your, er, position as nanny will be a more permanent one. With an entirely different description."
Bella's eyes widened. I met her gaze honestly. "I wouldn't be pursuing this with you unless I felt that way. Surely you realize that… It's not only me in this situation. My son is first and foremost in my thoughts."
"It seems too good to be true," she admitted, soft color fusing her cheeks. "You seem too good to be true."
"I'm not your ex, Bella," I assured her. "My life is an open book. The only thing I want from you—is you." I pressed a little closer. "We're going to get to know each other, and Teddy and I will look after you."
"And I'll look after you."
I grinned down at her. "See? Perfect already."
Teddy stumbled into the kitchen the next morning, rubbing his sleepy eyes and yawning widely, one hand still clutching his blanket. He stopped in the doorway, blinking, his face breaking in to the widest grin when he saw Bella standing at the stove, making "the most bestest French toast in the world." He launched himself at her, crowing her name. She bent down, scooped him up in her arms, and dropped small kisses all over his face. I had to hastily blink away the moisture in my eyes at the look of pure joy on my son's face as he clutched Bella's neck and loved her right back. I knew right then that I'd made the right decision.
We all needed each other.
After breakfast, I went to my office to get some work done and make a few calls. Emerging a short time later, I grabbed another cup of coffee, grinning at the sight of Teddy and Bella; they had their heads bent over some project, him listening intensely and nodding as Bella spoke quietly. Papers, crayons, and felt markers were strewn around the table, and what looked to be the start of a map was being drawn. I caught Bella's eye with a quirked eyebrow, and with a grin, she shooed me to my office, telling me I would have to wait until later. She and Teddy were planning an adventure for him and me while she did her work later. When Rose was over the day before, the three of them ended up going to the park, so Bella hadn't gotten any work done, and I knew she needed some time to catch up. I sat at my desk, grinning with anticipation, and turned to my pile of files. Bella was exactly what Teddy needed.
I hurried through my calls, jotting notes and ideas as I spoke with co-workers. Bella and Teddy waved as they left to work on the next part of the secret project, and I opened my computer to answer some e-mails and type up a formal agreement for Bella. It wasn't necessary for me, but I wanted her to have peace of mind. I also contacted a moving company and arranged to pick up some boxes. I didn't get a lot of them, knowing how small the apartment was. Bella had told me the furniture wasn't hers and that most of her things were at her sister's. Getting the rest of her personal items was my next plan. I wanted her to have her own things here and feel at home.
I heard the front door open, and frowned. They hadn't been gone very long. Before I could move, my mother's voice called out to me and she walked into my office.
I stood up, smiling. "Hey! When did you get back?"
"Last night. Your father had enough and decided it was time to come home."
I laughed at her expression. "Well, you got him away for a little, while at least." I flung my arm around her shoulder, walking her to the kitchen. I knew I wouldn't be getting any work done now. I filled my mug again and poured her a cup.
"Hmmph. Where's my grandson?"
"He's at the park."
She leaned back in her chair. "Ah, yes. With the new nanny—Teddy's book lady from the park. He talked about her constantly at dinner before we left. You, on the other hand, have said very little."
I shrugged. I had felt so much for Bella so quickly, I had no idea what to say to my family. I couldn't explain to them what I was feeling, since I didn't know what it was myself, so I let Teddy talk and allowed them to think what they wanted.
"Bella. Her name is Bella. And she's more than a new nanny."
"So I've gathered. You trust her?"
"I let her look after Teddy, Mom. I trust her with the most important person in my life. Of course I do."
"Are you sure?"
I ran my hand over my face, slightly ashamed to even admit what I'd done. "I ran a discreet check on her after we met. Everything she told me was the truth. She's honest…and real." I drew in a deep breath. "And she's great with Teddy."
"But there's more."
She squeezed my hand. "Tell me."
So I did. I told her Bella's story. How we met in the park. How Teddy wanted her to come for supper. The cupcakes and the books and the way she smiled. How once she was here, I didn't want her to go. How she'd helped me and we'd started to know each other. Our time in the loft. The airport. Everything that led to her staying here. Mom listened to it all, smiling at times, frowning at others. When I described Bella's cramped, dark apartment and why she was living there, her frown deepened.
She crossed her arms. "You have been busy." Then her face softened. "Is the apartment really that bad?"
I nodded firmly. "For her, yes. Today, after the park and lunch, Mrs. Cope is going to watch Teddy and I'll take Bella over and get her things. I don't want her to change her mind."
"Do you think she will?"
Remembering our shared passion the night before and the look on Bella's face this morning when Teddy threw himself at her, I shook my head. "No. But I want her here. I almost went out of my mind thinking of her in that dark space." I looked past Mom at the sunlight shining through the window. "She deserves to be surrounded by light and people that love her."
"I think she is now." Mom's voice was gentle. "I've never seen you like this." She chuckled. "Neither has your sister—who, by the way, thinks Bella is wonderful. But Edward…" she paused. "Teddy—"
"Teddy adores her, Mom. I mean truly adores her. He wants her to be more than his nanny. He wants her to be his new mommy." I smiled as I explained his birthday wish.
She shook her head in sorrow. "Edward, you can't choose a wife based on what your son wants."
Leaning forward, I grasped her hand. "I want it as well, Mom. This woman…she's just amazing. She's everything I've been looking for, waiting for, and I never even had a clue."
"You've only know her a couple weeks, Edward!" She frowned at me. "This isn't like you at all. You're moving so fast. You've always been so careful when it came to Teddy."
"I know. I can't explain it. It feels so…right. Having her here feels natural. Like she was meant to be here. And Teddy—he just fucking glows when she's around."
She regarded me shrewdly. "You're rather glowing yourself right now." Then she smacked my hand. "And language. I taught you better."
I had to laugh. No matter how old I was, she was still my mom.
"I think I love her."
"That's a pretty big gamble to take with so many lives involved, Edward."
"I know. But I have to, Mom. She's so worth any risk. She's been through so much, and she is so…" I shook my head. "She's so loving. Giving. I want to give as much back to her as she gives to me. To us. I want to protect and care for her. I feel so much, it's almost overwhelming."
"You're very sure on this."
"Yeah, I am. She's it. I know she is. I don't want to scare her away, though. I'm trying to be patient."
Mom snorted. "You ordered moving boxes this morning."
I snickered as I sipped my lukewarm coffee. "I said I was trying…not succeeding."
"And she agreed."
"I had to talk her into it, make it more about Teddy, but yes." I nodded.
"I can't wait to meet her. Rose was quite taken with her. She kept talking about her."
I arched my eyebrow at her. "Are you sure it's Dad who wanted to come home early?"
She rolled her eyes at me. "Oh, hush." But she didn't deny it.
The front door flew open, and Teddy wailed loudly, "Daddy!"
I bolted out of my chair, rushing down the hall with Mom hot on my heels. That wasn't a "hey, I'm home" voice; that was his panicked, hurt, "come now" voice.
I was on my knees in front of him in seconds, my hands running over him, searching for injuries even as I spoke. "What is it, Teddy? What happened?" Then my eyes widened. "Where's Bella?"
"She fell! Daddy, there's red!"
Red was Teddy's code name for blood. He couldn't stand the sight of it.
I looked up and saw Bella coming up the sidewalk slowly, calling for Teddy. The knee of her jeans was torn and bloodied, and she was limping. I lifted him up, handed him over to my mom, and hurried toward Bella. She was already shaking her head and protesting as I swung her up into my arms. "Edward, I'm fine. I tried to stop him, but he was so upset."
"He hates blood. It freaks him out," I groaned, looking down at her pant leg. It was really bloody. I swallowed deeply, not sure if I should tell her that, I too, hated the sight of blood. Teddy could throw up on me all day and I could handle it, but the sight of a bloody finger or nose sent us both into a tizzy.
"Edward," Mom called. "Bring her inside. I'll help her."
I nodded and carried Bella inside, taking her right into her bathroom upstairs. I set her on the counter, easing her down. "What happened?"
She smiled ruefully. "Never try to play tag with five rambunctious children. Especially when you're not very coordinated." She shrugged. "I was running and I fell right onto my knee, catching it on the edge of the sandbox." She winced as she looked down. "I think I might have a piece of it embedded in the skin." She smiled bravely, but I saw the glimmer of tears in her eyes. "It was an accident."
I drew back, cupping her face and dropping a small kiss on her lips. "Are you okay?"
"It'll be fine. I need to clean it and get the sliver out, if there is one. Otherwise, it's only scraped."
I risked a glance down, wishing instantly that I hadn't. "It's more than scraped, Bella."
"I didn't realize how bad it was until we started walking home and it kept bleeding. It hurt, so we went slow, but when we were a few houses from home, Teddy looked over and saw the blood. He got really upset and took off. I tried to catch him, but he went so fast. I didn't mean for him to upset you." She frowned. "Are you okay, Edward? You look a little pale."
"I, ah, I'm not big on blood either," I admitted.
Mom walked in. "Out. Before you pass out like last time. I'll help Bella. Go see Teddy. I gave him some juice."
Bella looked at me. "Last time?"
Mom shoved me out the door, turning to Bella. "Oh, I'll tell you all about it. I have so many stories to tell you. Hello, my dear. I'm Esme."
The door shut in my face.
Part of me was grateful Mom was there. The blood was freaking me out a little.
Another part of me worried about leaving the two of them alone. Mom loved to tell stories. Embarrassing ones. Maybe I could help Bella clean up without looking at her knee?
The door opened, and Mom stood with Bella's jeans in her hands, the blood-soaked leg visible. "You're still here?"
My stomach rolled, and my decision was made.
Mom nodded. "Good idea." She turned to Bella. "Once, he fainted and took out Rose at the same time."
"Oh, no…" Bella giggled behind her.
I rolled my eyes as I thumped down the stairs.
This spelled disaster all over it—for my ego.
Uh oh - code red. The dynamic duo can't handle blood. Esme is there...can Carlisle be far behind?
Update on Thursday.
Thank you for reading.