A/N… Okay, so this definitely would be considered an outtake. The story is complete with or without this but I wanted to address a few things. ;)
Oh yeah, and this is split between Bella and Edward. ;) I'll let you get to it, but see me at the bottom for a few things.
Chapter 28 – Outtake
Dull, winter morning light filtered in from the windows, and I cracked an eye open. Seeing unpacked boxes and everything I owned in complete disarray, not to mention a way-too-early time on the clock, I burrowed back down into my pillow. I didn't want to get up. Getting up meant that I'd be putting my husband on a plane soon, and I couldn't follow him for another four days.
Getting up out of bed also meant I had to at least attempt to unpack into our new home. A deep breath brought with it the smell of ocean air, fresh paint, and something altogether irresistible – coffee. God bless the damn timer.
However, none of that mattered when warm, strong arms pulled me back against bare skin and muscles. My whole body reacted to it. I simply couldn't help it. After being married for going on three years, I was still hopelessly head over heels for the man currently pressed against every inch of me beneath the covers of our bed.
"Edward," I breathed, my voice raspy from just waking up.
"Shh, pretty girl. Listen," he whispered in my ear, but I could hear and feel the smile against the skin of my neck and then my bare shoulder as his hands started to move. "All you can hear is the waves."
I chuckled, rolling in his arms to see the face I adored. He pulled me closer, and I could feel just what was causing all the attention, now trapped between us, and I hummed in approval. Reaching up, I ran my fingers through his hair. Sweet, loving green gazed back at me, and not for the first time since I met him did I wonder how I got so damned lucky.
Edward was still the sweet, quiet-natured man I'd met in the library of Edgewater College. He was still the thoughtful, smart, unassuming thing he'd always been. It didn't matter that we'd been together since our freshman year, that we'd lived and worked together, or that we'd just moved to Glenhaven Beach, into a new house his brother had designed and built for us. He was still my Edward, even though he was now a successful author – his elf book series had exploded in popularity.
No, staring at him now, I still saw the boy who looked at me like I was the best thing to ever happen to him, but he had that backwards.
"Just the waves, Bella," he reiterated against my lips, which made me smile, and it also made me reach out to touch.
Smooth skin, broad shoulders, even his old scars – there wasn't a thing about him I didn't love. At twenty-five, Edward was gorgeous. Women everywhere swooned over him. He'd lost a bit of that round, baby-face look he'd had in college and was all masculine beauty, with his sharp jaw, long eyelashes, and slight stubble. But nothing was as pretty as his smile. And he had so many versions of it – the polite one for the public; the slow, carnal one; the bright, happy one; the sweet, disbelieving one; and the knowing, crooked one. It was the latter I was receiving at the moment, like he knew exactly what he was doing when his hands pressed to the small of my back, only to skim down to my bottom and squeeze, bringing me flush to him. No matter how handsome everyone told him he was, it was only me he saw – nothing about that had changed.
"I'm gonna miss you," I whispered, rolling onto my back, and he shifted with me.
"It's only a few days, pretty girl, and we'll meet at the airport. I'm picking you up myself."
I nodded, trying not to dwell on it. Instead, I focused on how fluid and easy it was between us. Edward braced a hand beside my head, his forehead falling to mine. His hips surged forward a bit, causing us both gasp a little at the feel.
"Please, baby," he begged in a whisper.
I didn't answer him with words but with my hands reaching for his face. Years of learning each other's bodies allowed us to shift and pull and push just where we wanted, needed. There were kisses to lips, tangled legs, moans for more, and whispers to keep quiet.
Once he slid deep inside me, my head fell back to the pillows. His lips took advantage, pressing to my exposed throat as he whispered against my skin.
"You feel so good, Bella," he breathed as we started to find our rhythm, hips meeting over and over, but we kept it deep, slow, languid. "I couldn't leave without this, beautiful. I just… I need…"
He wanted it to last – both our lovemaking and our small, quiet bubble we'd just woken up in – but we knew it wouldn't. Already the caws of seagulls started out on the beach, which meant the house would awaken soon, and the slow and steady had started to build into something faster with a purpose.
"So close, so close," I panted, my eyes rolling back when he pushed up on one hand and his other slipped between us to touch me where he knew I'd come completely unraveled.
"Yes," he hissed against my lips. "I love it when you come for me."
The shocks in my stomach crackled, causing everything within me to explode around him, my legs and arms practically locking around him as I fell apart. Edward followed right behind, burying his face in my neck.
"I love you," he breathed heavily, dropping random, sloppy kisses to my neck and ear.
"Love you, Edward," I said, wrapping my arms all the way around his head and locking my legs around him. "Maybe I'll just keep you."
He chuckled, rolling us to our sides. "I wish, but at least we have most of the morning. My flight's not until this afternoon." When I nodded sadly, his eyes warmed. "Just a couple days, and you'll meet me, Bella. It was the only way it could work—"
"Mum, mum, mum…"
We both grinned, glancing over to the baby monitor, where we saw movement on the small video screen.
"Da, da… Mum!"
"Timing is everything," Edward teased with a deep, soft laugh. "I'm all over this, pretty girl. I need it before I go. Go back to sleep if you want, baby." He slipped out of bed, leaning back over me to drop a kiss to my forehead before pulling on a pair of jeans.
"If you go outside…" I started, but I broke into a wide yawn.
"I know, baby. It's chilly. I've got this."
I chuckled low as Edward left the room. Rolling to my side, my eyes were drawn to the baby monitor's screen again. I swallowed thickly at the emotions that seemed to overwhelm me when I watched my two very handsome boys. Charles Edward Cullen – though, we called him Chase – was fourteen months of chubby, happy, babbling goodness. He was everything perfect and healthy and loved. And he was probably way too spoiled, though I blamed aunts, uncles, and grandparents for that. Not to mention the man stepping into the room.
"Hey, Chase," Edward crooned to his son, scooping him up out of the crib. "How messy are you this morning?"
Giggling, I shook my head. To watch Edward now, it was almost impossible to remember the brutal and heartbreaking panic attack that he'd had when I'd found out I was pregnant. We'd been married a little over a year and had even discussed a family. Edward's book had taken off, and the second one was on its way. There had been talk of a TV show or movie, so it wasn't about the money or providing for his family. The heartbreaking part was when Edward was terrified of becoming like his own father. My soul had shattered that day, because despite the fact that Edward had become strong and had overcome so many things about his childhood, the fear that had graced his handsome face had been hard to witness.
"Bella, I…" He glared at the stick in his hand, the two lines clear and bright and red. "I…I… I don't…" He trailed off, shaking his head over and over.
Edward sat down hard on the end of the bed, his eyes barely leaving the stick in his hand, and my heart dropped to my stomach. Hardly a sound could be heard in our tiny apartment upstairs from the bookstore.
"Edward, baby… I thought this was something we were together on," I whispered, nervously shifting on my feet.
He was so quiet, so still, and his face was a bit red. When he finally met my gaze, those beautiful green eyes were filled with tears.
"Bella, I'm… I'm gonna mess this up. I'm… I don't… What if I'm like my dad?"
The sob that ripped through me was loud and hurt my chest, and in a moment, I was standing between his legs with his face cradled in my hands. "Not a fucking chance, Edward. Do you hear me!?" I urged him to look me in the eye, and when he did, I pressed kisses to his forehead. "You are nothing like him, baby. The entire time I've known you, you've never once said a derogatory word against me, even if you were upset. If anyone on this fucking planet knows what harsh words can do, it's you, sweetheart. And if anyone knows how to show love… Oh, Edward…that's really you."
My tears were flowing freely now because this was so very real and very scary. I wanted and already loved the baby we'd created, and if Edward didn't, or if he'd changed his mind, I would be in it all alone. I'd lose him, and that was terrifying because I loved him so much. That would never change.
"Edward," I pushed on, my vision blurry. "I need to kn-know if… If you don't want…" When I couldn't speak, something in Edward snapped, and I found myself in his arms and on his lap.
"Shit, shit, shit," he chanted, shifting us to the middle of our bed. His arms were shaking around me as he squeezed me almost too tightly. "Don't let me fuck up, Bella. Don't let me. I can't… If I mess up, if I hurt him…or her…" His hands pulled my now red, tear-covered face from the crook of his neck. "I don't want to ruin our baby, Bella. I don't want to turn into him."
Another sob escaped me, and I grabbed his face and kissed him. "You honestly think I'd let you?" I asked incredulously, sniffling when he froze for a moment. "Edward, no one loves as beautifully and selflessly as you do. In fact, the only way you'd ruin our child is if you spoiled the shit out of her…him…"
"Our child," he whispered, finally calming a bit. "We're having a baby…"
There it was. That stunning smile started to grow on his face, but it fell just as quickly as it started. "I'm sorry, baby. I just… For a second, I thought… What if, you know?" He swallowed nervously, but the tender touches to my face as he wiped away my tears told me he was calmer. "I'm scared, but…" He paused, his hand flattening on my stomach. His eyes were locked there as well. "I'm terrified, but we made this." His tone was awe and wonder, and he was still scared, but again, the smile started to curl up on his face.
"We did!" I giggled a little, sniffling at the same time. "We had fun doing it, too," I teased him.
His laugh was loud and beautiful. "Yeah, we did," he whispered, looking back down at his hand on my belly. "What do we do now, pretty girl?"
Baby giggles brought me back to the present, and I smiled at Edward's deep chuckle as he changed Chase's diaper, fought chubby legs to dress him, and tickled the bottoms of tiny toes. He was better at being a daddy than he ever gave himself credit for, because he loved with all his heart. And the very moment he'd held his son in his arms, he was a slave to our boy.
Once Edward got Chase dressed, he took him downstairs, which meant I lost my ability to eavesdrop.
I had to have nodded back off, because I snapped awake with a quick inhale. Glancing over at the clock, I groaned at the hour I'd slept away, but I forced myself out of bed and into the bathroom.
I showered, dressed, preparing myself for the trip to the airport soon. Edward was flying out to California today for a few interviews and a book signing. He'd be making his way up the West Coast, and it was in Seattle that he'd be picking Chase and me up at Sea-Tac. My husband may have come a long way with his past, but being back in Washington was unnerving for him, so I wanted to be there with him.
There had been no contact from Carlisle. Pastor Liam tried to keep tabs on him, but after Edward's dad had finished his sentence in the halfway house, he pretty much fell off the face of the earth. Liam assumed he'd moved to Olympia to be with the woman he'd been with for so long, or that she had moved to Seattle, but no one was certain. My guess was that Carlisle fell in with the wrong people, or he was just mean and disrespectful enough to offend someone somewhere and had gotten himself into even more trouble. It was a guess, but as long as that abusive bastard stayed away from Edward, Emmett, and Alice, I was perfectly fine. They were my family – Alice being truly family when she married Jasper. Everyone had moved on, and they were happy and prospering – Emmett and Rose were even expecting their first baby in March or April. For Carlisle to come in and sully that would piss me off to no end.
I poured myself a cup of coffee, smiling at the evidence of breakfast the boys had shared, but it was the squeal of happiness outside that called to me.
I stepped around boxes that still needed to be unpacked but would wait until after I got back from the airport. Some things would wait until Edward was back home in a little over a week…if the chaos and mess didn't drive my own personal OCD to the brink of insanity.
Through the sliding-glass doors, the beach stretched out to the right and the left as far as I could see. There were houses close by on either side, but it was quiet, private. I stepped out onto the back porch into the chilly, overcast winter morning, giggling against the lip of my cup as I fell in love all over again.
Edward was in jeans and a gray thermal shirt, but he'd dressed Chase adorably – little khaki cargos, a blue-and-white football shirt, and a blue-and-white-striped wool hat. Our son was an adorable blend of the two of us. He had big green eyes and adorable dimples when he smiled, but his hair was fine – duck fluff, as Edward called it – so his little bald head tended to get cold. I loved that the color I could see coming in was dark like mine but had a deep reddish tint to it like Edward's.
Chase was squealing into laughter as Edward tried to hold him up to let him walk on the wet packed sand of the beach in adorable little sneakers. Chase was getting closer and closer to being able to do it, but not yet. Edward on the beach was a sight to behold, not because he was tall, handsome, with the chilly sea breeze blowing his hair, but because he loved it now. When I first met him, the fear of water had a fierce grip on him, but ever since he'd taken that one giant step onto the beach when we'd first moved in together, he'd let that old fear go. Even our small wedding had been on the beach just off the boardwalk, and it was Liam who'd performed it. So yes, I was incredibly proud of Edward, especially when I saw him passing that recent love of sand and water on to Chase.
When my son caught sight of me, he lit up. His smile was like Edward's, where it was a blinding flash of happy and sweet, making his whole face crinkle with it.
"Mum, Mum, Mum!" he called, one little fist opening and closing over and over.
Edward laughed, looking up from his stooped position as he guided our son, but then scooped the boy up into his arms. "There's Mommy," he crooned to Chase, kissing the side of his head and walking to me. "Hey, pretty girl." He kissed my lips, chuckling when Chase reached for me. He handed him over, trading me for the cup of coffee. "We tried to let you sleep, so we came out here to be noisy."
Laughing, I smooched Chase's face all over, down to his neck, just to hear him giggle uncontrollably. "Were you noisy, baby boy?"
"No!" he answered loudly in the laugh I loved, curling in on himself.
Edward set the coffee mug down on the porch railing, wrapping his arms around both of us. "I hate leaving you," he whispered against my forehead, pressing kisses there. "Don't overdo the unpacking, baby. Okay? If you need help, call Emmett or Jasper. They promised they'd check in on you."
"We'll be fine. Mom and Aunt Jane are coming tomorrow to steal Chase for the day, and Alice, too, I think. Though, I have to be at the bookstore to open for your book release." I smiled at him, cupping his handsome face. "I'm so very proud of you, Edward."
His grin flashed quick and bright, and he deflected the compliment by kissing the top of Chase's head. "You take care of Mommy while I'm gone, buddy. I expect a full report when you land in Seattle."
Grinning, I shook my head. "I love you both like crazy."
Edward chuckled softly, pulling us closer and hugging us fiercely. "We love you, too, pretty girl."
"C'mon, I want to snuggle with my boys before you go, and you have to finish packing," I told him.
I knew dropping him off at the airport would be hard, but I also knew Chase and I would be joining him in just a few days. We'd done it before when the first book took off unexpectedly right after the baby was born, so we could do it again.
I leaned against the wall at the airport, waiting for the conveyor belt to kick on. Damn, I missed my family. The last few days had been busy with interviews and book signings, but the closer I got to Washington, the more anxious I became. Some shit just didn't ever go away.
California had been fine, in spite of the meetings and interviews. My Elves of Lenora would end up a TV show, which I could barely wrap my head around. There were still contracts to discuss and more books to come, but I'd left L.A. in shock and humbled at the excitement my old story had garnered. I'd had to attend two book signings in Oregon, both Portland and Salem. However, as I stood in the middle of Sea-Tac Airport, I sighed deeply at the feelings coursing through me.
I'd told Bella a long time ago that I'd never come back here. And really, this trip wasn't by choice. It was business, but I couldn't help but remember some things from the past. I also couldn't help but continuously look over my shoulder. We were too damn close to where all the bad shit had happened. We were too damn close to my dad, and I was really happy that Bella had offered to meet me here for the next few days.
Carlisle Cullen had fallen off the grid. Liam, who occasionally would give me updates, had lost contact with him a couple years ago, not long after he'd left the halfway house. I didn't care; I was perfectly content with my life, with my wife and son, with my family back in Florida. He'd never been a father to me, so the loss of contact wasn't a bad thing. Even if he'd have tried to get in touch with me, he'd have been met with nothing.
The luggage carousel kicked on, and people started to drift in, and that was when the smile spread across my face, because my beautiful girl stepped through the throngs of people with my boy in her arms. I met them halfway across the large room, meeting my wife's gaze over my son's head.
"Look, Chase… Daddy!" she whispered to him, grinning my way, and my son's head snapped up off her shoulder to gaze around until he finally set his sights on me.
"Da-ee, Da-ee, Da-ee!" he called, reaching with stretched-out arms.
"Hey, buddy!" I crooned, taking him from Bella, but I leaned down and kissed her lips. "Hi, pretty girl," I whispered. "God, I've missed you guys!"
"We missed you," Bella said, burrowing into my neck when my arms wrapped around them both. "Apparently I'm not as good at story telling as you are, Daddy, so bedtime the last few nights was…grumpy."
Laughing, I looked to my son. "Cut Mommy some slack, buddy."
My son grinned all dimply and innocent, shaking his head no.
"Tough audience, baby. Sorry," I teased my wife, unable to keep my lips from her one more time. "How was the release at the bookstore?"
"Biggest day we've ever had, Edward," Bella said with a laugh that was laced with pride and awe at the same time. "Not even kidding."
As we gathered Bella's checked bags and Chase's car seat and stroller, I dropped repeated kisses to his head. I'd missed them both. I never thought I could love this damn much. It had been overwhelming and scary, but the very second I'd set eyes on my son, I was absolutely a different man.
Two things flew through my mind the day he was born. One was that my Bella was the strongest, most amazing woman I'd ever met, and I'd never be able to thank her for the life she'd given me. And two… I was nothing like my own father, not one fucking thing like him. Where he hated the mere sight of his own children, I could barely put my own son down long enough for a nap. I couldn't stop kisses, tickles, revels in the littlest of things Chase did or from the love I kept spewing at the two most important people in my life. No, I was not my father. Everything about being a parent I'd learned from my mother and then from Renee, Charlie, and Aunt Jane.
Once we were loaded up in the rental car, I turned to Bella before pulling out of the parking spot. "Baby, the hotel is right next to the bookstore where I'm supposed to be for the next few hours. If you want, you can avoid the chaos…"
Bella grinned. "And your overzealous fans," she teased, leaning over to kiss my lips. "Actually, that's sort of perfect. Chase needs a nap, and I need a shower from being on this plane. We can meet you when you're done, Edward."
Smiling, I kissed her again. "Good, and we'll get something to eat. Liam wants to see us when we're in Port Angeles for the signing day after tomorrow, so it's just the three of us tonight."
Chase babbled excitedly as we drove through the city, but the chatter slowly settled down, and he was asleep by the time I pulled into the hotel. I carried bags and baby stuff upstairs to the hotel room as Bella carried a zonked-out baby boy. Once she settled him onto the bed surrounded by pillows, I kissed them both and then made my way to the bookstore.
Signings were hectic and sometimes crazy, but this one had been fun. There were pictures and tons of laughs, not to mention I signed my name more times than I could count. The line started to dwindle as my time was almost up. As one of the employees of the bookstore called an end to things, I glanced up to see who was left.
My wife was there with Chase in her arms, and he was chewing on one of his toys. I smiled her way but signed the last three books in the line, finally standing up to stretch. The both looked like they'd had a nap and a bath.
Bella, who had been gorgeous the first time I'd set eyes on her in college, was now just beautiful. She was older, and despite how she thought having Chase had changed her body, she was still perfect to me. I'd teased her more than once that we now had matching scars on our stomachs, which always made her laugh, though I tended to do it while kissing every inch of her bare skin.
"Da-ee!" Chase squealed, drool dripping from toy and chin and chubby fist.
I scooped him up out of her arms, holding him up and pretending to fly him like an airplane, just to hear him laugh. Shifting him to my hip, I leaned in to kiss Bella's lips and then forehead, my eyes glancing around. In the far corner of the bookstore by the storefront window, I saw what looked like a familiar face. Cold, dark-blue eyes met mine, bringing with them a flood of feelings – inadequacy, hate, fear, and then finally, indifference. For a brief moment, I couldn't understand seeing my dad. It had been so damned long since I'd been in the same room with the man that I almost didn't recognize him. Time had not been kind to him. But when I stood up straight, he was gone. Frowning, I walked to where he'd been, but I didn't see anyone.
"Edward?" Bella asked, joining me at the large window that faced the sidewalk and busy street.
"I swear, Bella… I thought I saw…" I trailed off, and on the sidewalk in the distance, again I saw who I thought was my father. "I think…my dad was here," I said in a whisper, "but maybe it's my imagination." I looked to her. "You know, being here and…"
Bella's face was fierce. "He'd better leave you alone, Edward. Knowing him, he'd want in all of this," she practically growled, twirling a finger around to indicate the bookstore and my signing.
I could see her thinking. He had been stripped of everything, and my name was out there now. "Eh, he can try, pretty girl, but we're leaving in the morning. C'mon, your men are starving. Look, he's starting to eat his own fingers!" I gasped, grabbing Chase's wrist and giving it a gentle shake. When I pretended to munch on is hand, he broke into hysterics.
"My silly boys," she sighed, smiling warmly. "C'mon. We'll go eat."
"Thanks, Mr. Cullen," the woman said, waving as I handed her book back after scrawling my name inside the cover.
Another copy landed in front of me, but it was the voice that made me smile. "Your mother would be mad you outsold her."
Grinning, I tilted my head up at Liam, and no matter that there were a dozen more people left in line, I stood up to shake his hand and hug the man.
I couldn't help but laugh again when he added, "That's a downright lie, Edward. She'd be out front with signs."
"True," I agreed easily, pulling back to look at him. "It's good to see you, Liam."
As I sat back down, I really got a look at him. He'd aged, of course, but he looked well. There was more gray at his temples and he was dressed casually, but his eyes held something hard in them.
"What?" I asked him.
He glanced around but then leaned over. "I have some news, son."
"Okay, well, can you hang out for this last bit? Bella should be here soon."
"Sure," he conceded, pushing my book closer. "My goal is to have the whole set signed, kiddo."
Grinning, I shook my head. I did as he asked, writing a personal thank-you inside to him. The rest of the line was getting antsy, but it went pretty quick once Liam stepped away to pay. I was signing the second to last book when there was a tug at my leg. Glancing down, I chuckled at my boy pulling himself up into a standing position, using a fierce grip on my jeans.
"Hey, buddy. You're late to the party."
I had to laugh at the coos from the women in the room, some standing around waiting, others just shopping, but when I set my son on my lap, he slapped his hands down on the table, beaming that dimply smile at everyone. He stayed content on my lap for the next couple of autographs, and then I stood up with him in my arms when the line was finally empty.
I found Liam and Bella off to the side, and I kissed Bella's lips. "Thanks. I needed an assistant there at the end."
Her laugh was beautiful as she reached over to adjust Chase's wool cap and jacket. "Once he saw you, it was like trying to hold a greased pig, baby. He just wouldn't stay away."
"That's one beautiful boy, you two," Liam praised, shaking his head in awe, but he chuckled a little when Chase reached out to grab his finger. When he met my gaze, there was a touch of sadness there, but he seemed to shake it off. "We need to talk, son."
"Okay. There's an Italian place right across the street."
Once we were settled in a booth with Chase in a highchair at the end, Liam leaned on his elbows and rubbed his face. "I got a call yesterday, guys."
"From?" I barely asked aloud, because I was afraid it would be my dad, since I was pretty sure he'd been in the bookstore in Seattle.
"Jay Jenks. Carlisle's lawyer," he stated with a finality, wrinkling his nose. "Jenks knew that your father wasn't allowed to talk to you or your siblings. And he also knew I'm in contact with you pretty regularly, so most info I've ever given you came from him."
"Wasn't…" Bella noted the tense of the word before I did, and I glanced to her before looking back at my mother's old friend. "What happened?" she asked, dropping a handful of Cheerios onto Chase's tray just to keep him happily busy.
"Your father, Edward," Liam began slowly, eyeing Chase for a moment. "Your father's body was found in the bay yesterday morning." When my eyebrows shot up, he nodded. "He was…beaten pretty badly, had two gunshot wounds to the chest, one to the head, and multiple broken bones – mostly fingers."
"Wha… Umm," I started, frowning at the table as I adjusted my silverware for a second. "Why? How? I'm not even sure if I want to know this, Liam," I finally blurted out, and then the memory of seeing him hit me. "I just… I swear I just saw him in Seattle three days ago. He was in the bookstore."
"Did he approach you?"
"No. No, he left."
"I knew he'd end up with the wrong people," Bella whispered, shaking her head. It wasn't as if she was saying it to anyone in particular, because her focus was Chase.
"That he did, Bella," Liam concurred, nodding a little. "From what Jenks can piece together from his connections at the police department, Carlisle left the halfway house at the same time another man did. They'd followed the rules, worked at a grocery store together, but once they left, they dropped the job and the façade. The guy was head of a pretty big gang or crime family, and he needed an under-the-table/off-the-books doctor that could fix up his members should they need medical attention. Carlisle was perfect. I can imagine the money was big; drugs and prostitution and gun sales are always going to be big money. Apparently, he pissed them off."
"Jesus," I whispered, raking my hands through my hair. "How? How'd he piss them off?"
Liam smiled ruefully, shaking his head slowly. "Carlisle never really respected anyone, and he never could shut up when he should. He picked the wrong girl to mouth off to and rough up a bit – just about killed her – and she happened to be the leader's cousin. He was barely sober or dressed when they dragged him out of the motel room."
"So…wait," Bella pleaded. "He goes to see Edward and then runs off to do…whatever with this woman?"
We both looked to her, neither of us answering, because that seemed to be exactly what happened. It was as if seeing me set him off on some sort of downward spiral. Sitting there in that booth, I could remember every single foul insult the man had spat my way, including how badly he hated the fact that I looked just like my mother.
"Yeah, he probably did, pretty girl." I sighed deeply, linking my fingers with hers under the table. Looking back to Liam, I merely said, "He did that to himself."
Liam smirked. "He did. Though, they need someone to claim him."
"It won't be me. And don't bury him next to Mom," I said firmly as an afterthought.
My old friend smiled. "I figured, and I didn't. He's being cremated."
Before he could ask, I added, "And I'll tell Emmett and Alice. They won't care either, so…" I shrugged a shoulder, remembering Tanya's words to me so long ago. "Some people are just…toxic. He was one of those people. I understand that he came from an ugly childhood, but instead of overcoming it, he allowed it to swallow him up. He treated each of us like we were to blame for what he'd been through, and he made my childhood ugly.
"My worst fear was becoming him, but instead, I made it my life's goal to love my son, my wife, give them what I lost after my mother died. And I couldn't have him in my life anymore. There's absolutely nothing toxic in my life. I did what my mother wanted for me – school, career, a beautiful wife and son. Emmett is opening his own architecture firm soon, and Alice is working her way up at the museum. Both are married, happy, and Emmett will have his own little one soon. No. Just…no."
I shook my head, looking over at Chase, who was playing with a Cheerio before putting it in his mouth. To say the things to him that my father had said to me would make me sick. But I also finally understood why my mother had wanted to simply walk away. I couldn't fathom putting Chase in a situation where all the ugliness could surround him, bear down on him. I also knew I'd never need to make that decision, because Bella was the epitome of love, home, happiness. Leaning over, I pressed my lips to the side of her head, whispering that I loved her.
Looking back to Liam, I said, "Thank you for telling me, but we all wiped our hands of him when we packed up the house in Forks. That hasn't changed."
Liam nodded, his gaze raking from me, to Bella, to Chase, who was chugging from his sippy cup. "Esme has to be beaming with pride right about now," he whispered, his brow furrowing a bit. "This… This was what she wanted for you, for Emmett and Alice. And I'm happy to see it."
I gazed over at Bella, thinking about how my mother would've loved her, how I was pretty sure if Mom was watching, she had to have been responsible for my Library Girl, but if I believed that, then deep down, I had to believe that she might have had a hand in my father's fate. Maybe it was seeing her in my looks that set him off after all this time. Maybe it was knowing that we had erased him from our lives, moving on with good things, prosperous things, that nothing he'd done to us had held us back. Maybe guilt and hate and everything else in between just hit him all at once, taking over. Or maybe she intervened, stopping him from trying to approach me one last time. I'd never know, and I didn't really want to know.
"Edward, you okay?" Bella asked, tilting my face a bit so I could look her in the eye.
Nodding, I kissed her lips. "Yes, ma'am. I'm okay. I'm better than okay. I'm…" I trailed off because the word "free" came to mind, but I was already free of my father long before he'd gotten himself killed. "I'm just ready to go home, pretty girl."
She smiled, glancing at Liam when he chuckled at us. But when she looked back to me, she nodded. "Me too, handsome."
I smiled at her and then at my son, who was babbling innocently around his fist as he watched us with big eyes that matched my own. They were my home. Home was our new house that still needed unpacking, that would see a huge Christmas this year, and that held everything that was precious to me. Home was Florida, with warm weather, sea air, and friends and family I wouldn't trade for anything. Home was what I'd unknowingly found the second I set foot in a small college library years ago.
I smiled at my wife, nodding once. "Yeah, definitely ready for home."
A/N… You should know, I'd planned to kill Daddy Dearest when I started this story. Oh, I teased and encouraged the long torture list, but he was fated to suffer at my hands…ermm…laptop…whatever. Anyway… Some people are never going to redeem themselves. What I imagined was that seeing his son not only prosperous, but a loving family man was all she wrote for Carlisle. While he kept sinking deeper and deeper in his own shit, everyone else found their wings.
What's next? Nothing. At least, I do not have any fics in the works at the moment, but that's okay. I've got some things I need to focus on, and a break from my writing/posting schedule will be a good thing. I'm not gone. I'm not leaving the fandom. I'm always on FB and Twitter to chat with.
I need to thank everyone that nominated me for the TwiFic Fandom Awards. The first round has started. I'm up for a handful, along with Sarge's Girls (which is me and Jenny), and Jenny (JenRar) is up for best beta (I'm completely biased, but she's mine, and I hope she wins LOL). So go vote if you'd like. ;) Links are kinda acting funny on FFN so just search twificfandomawards.
And now the thanks…
Jenny… I need to thank you for all that you do, and really, it's more than cleaning up my mistakes and trying to keep my comma whore ways under control. It's everything. Love you. Thank you.
To my pre-readers. Pamela (DrivingEdward) I'm hoping you're back on your feet soon. I'm very happy everything went well. Thank you for all the extra stuff you do for me. MWAH! Jodi (inkedupmom)… Always with the amazing boost of cheering on, and I can't thank you enough for that. Much love! Melanie (Edward'sEternal) – my behind the scenes cheerleader – I love you, and I love our deal; it's by far the best deal I've ever made! :D And SueBee… You are AWESOME! I can't thank you enough for all the little, meticulous things you help me find and fix. You help keep my own characters canon and on the right track. And I absolutely love that we've become friends.
Last but definitely not least…to everyone that read, reviewed, lurked in silence, rec'd, Tweeted, tagged me on FB, and maybe even sent carrier pigeons… THANK YOU SO MUCH! I can't thank you enough, actually. I love to write, I love the Twilight fandom, and those two things gave me you guys, so I thank all of you for the laughs, the encouragement, the poetry, the praise, and the constructive criticism.
I don't know when I'm back, but until next time… Mooches, Deb ;)