So, here we are … starting a new story. I'm dreaming that it's summer time and the favorite thing about summer time, besides the longer days and warmer weather is the return of my favorite show, So You Think You Can Dance? I love it … the beauty, artistry and athleticism is amazing. Plus, the music they play? Damn … makes me happy.
We have an epilogue, which will wrap up some questions, like details about their wedding, a glimpse into their future, and what truly happened to Renee and Alice.
A few people to thank … Thank you to Mina Rivera for creating the beautiful banner for me. Originally, the first three chapters were submitted as a contribution for one of the many fandom causes. Mina, you are a rock star, girl, with the graphic design aspect. Thank you to Bridget Derbeyshire for betaing those first three chapters. I appreciate your help with making the story sparkle and shine. Finally, thank you to those of you who took time to review and leave me positive reinforcement. I love writing and hearing from you means a lot to me. I may not respond to each review, but I do truly appreciate your words.
Chapter Twenty-Seven: So You Think You Can Dance?
Six Years Later … Cullen Dance Academy Auditorium
"That's beautiful, girls," I shouted from the audience. "Remember to reach for the stars as you are turning. Wonderful! Big finish and the crowd goes wild!" I clapped excitedly as my class of nine to ten-year-old beginning ballet students curtsied on the stage of our privately-owned auditorium. "You were all amazing. Change out of your ballet shoes and you're free to go. The big show is tomorrow and I have no doubt that you will do wonderfully."
"Thank you, Mrs. Cullen," the chimed, skipping off the stage. I waved as I watched them change, running to their parents who were standing outside of the auditorium. The only people allowed in for dress rehearsals were me, Edward, sound and light technicians and Esme. No parents allowed. I wanted them to be surprised for their children's performances. I limped over to my table, taking some ibuprofen.
"Beautiful wife," barked my husband. "I just met with a reporter from the Times. He's coming with a photographer to come do an interview about The Cullen Dance Academy, promoting our upcoming showcase."
"Each showcase, it's getting bigger and bigger," I said, lifting my foot and massaging my knee.
"You in pain?" he asked, draping my leg over his lap.
"Yeah. One downfall in living in Chicago. This humidity is killer on my bones," I snorted. "But, I'd rather live here than in Los Angeles. I missed having seasons."
"I'm certain that Helga can squeeze you in," Edward quipped, winking at me.
"Ugh, no," I groaned. "It's just residual pain. I pushed it too hard yesterday with my advanced jazz class." Leaning my cheek against the chair, I smiled at my husband. "How was your rehearsal this morning?"
"Good. I think that the company finally gets my vision for the dances. It only took two weeks," he said, rolling his eyes. In addition to being the primary choreographer for the Cullen Dance Academy, Edward was also a sought-after Broadway choreographer. He was working mainly with Chicago productions, but would fly out every month or so to work with productions on Broadway. He was even nominated for a Tony for his work on the revival of Anything Goes. He didn't win, but the nomination made him quite popular.
In our partnership, I was the head of the Cullen Dance Academy, coordinating schedules of our various teachers, taking in new students and placing them in appropriate classes and maintaining the books. I was putting my education degree to use, but not in the way I had planned. I also choreographed for our advanced students, but I loved teaching the little ones the joy of dance. If it weren't for my early teachers, I wouldn't have pushed myself so hard to be a dancer.
"Are you going to be there for the opening?" I asked, picking up his hand and twisting his wedding band.
"Only with you by my side, Mrs. Cullen," he said, kissing me gently. "The opening is in two weeks. It's a black-tie affair and I want you to get all gussied up. The last time I saw you in something other than yoga pants was our wedding day."
"Shut up. I dress up," I laughed, smacking his chest. "I'll be dressed for this showcase, Edward."
"In a cocktail dress. I'm talking about you wearing a gown, with your hair curled and looking like a queen," he said, moving me so I was on his lap. "I still have dreams of our wedding day. It was a magical, perfect day."
"It was," I smiled, kissing him. "I love you, hubby."
"I love you, too, wifey," he growled, his hand palming my ass.
xx SYTYCD xx
The week before Christmas, Six Years Ago (three months after the engagement), Chicago
I was pacing the length of the office of my childhood pastor. Emmett was watching me, laughing hysterically as I waited with baited breath to head out to the church for my wedding. When Bella said yes, we both knew that we wanted to get married as soon as possible. We both agreed on getting married around Christmas seemed perfect since it was the anniversary of our reunion as a couple and solidifying our relationship. Mom thought it would be the following year, but we pushed for three months after our engagement.
It had been a whirlwind engagement, but somehow my mom, Bella, Carmen, Rose and Lily, Rose's mom, pulled together an elegant, festive but not overly Christmas-themed wedding. The colors were emerald green, matching Bella's engagement ring, gold, white and touches of mint green. I wore a traditional tuxedo, with a cream waistcoat and tie. "Is it time yet?" I asked, shooting a look to Emmett.
"Almost, Eddie. Breathe, man," he laughed.
"Do you need me to perform mouth to mouth?" Peter asked, smirking at me.
"I'm good. I'm just ready to say 'I do', to Bella," I said.
Pastor Maas came in and told me to head out front. Peter and Emmett darted away, going to walk down the aisle with Rose and Lauren. Jake and Jasper were acting as ushers. I took a deep breath as Jake and Jasper escorted my mom down the aisle. The music changed and Lauren walked down the aisle first with Peter, followed by Rose and Emmett, both holding their twins, Ria and Ryan, who were acting as flower girl and ring bearer. Passing the babies to Rose's parents, they took their spots on either side of the dais.
The music effortlessly changed to a traditional wedding march. I turned to look down the aisle and saw Bella wearing a simple A-line dress with an emerald green award her waist. Alistair escorted her, grinning like a proud father as they slowly processed down the aisle to me. As the music came to an end, Alistair placed Bella's hand into mine. Within an hour, we were pronounced husband and wife, kissing each other as deeply as possible in the eyes of our family and friends.
We took pictures and spent the night dancing at Mom's studio, decorated beautifully for our wedding. With our last-minute decision to get married, all the reception halls had been booked. Mom suggested we used the studio and we readily accepted. It made it that much more special, too. We danced on the floor where I began my dancing career; where Bella was going to begin the next chapter in her dancing career as a teacher in my mom's studio.
After the reception, Bella and I went to the W Hotel, spending the night in one of the suites. We made love, consummating our marriage on every flat surface before we flew back to Cabo San Lucas for our honeymoon, coming back home on Christmas Eve.
We were tanned, happy and completely in love with each other. Though, coming back to the frigidly cold weather did not make us happy campers. However, the snowy weather made Christmas magical and solidified our decision to move back to Chicago. Alistair and Carmen made the executive decision to end the series, So You Think You Can Dance. It wasn't the same after Bella's season and the network was forcing some pretty ludicrous proposals to keep the show on the air. I wasn't surprised and I had intended to leave the show after my one year as a choreographer. I'd already received numerous offers to choreograph and I was going to follow my dream. Bella decided to help my mom. However, we needed to be back in Chicago for us to pursue our dreams.
After the first of the year, we put the house on the market and moved back into my condo, temporarily. Peter still lived there and was planning on making the move permanent, but we needed to get a house in Chicago. Bella loved having a yard and trees. It was the one thing she missed more than anything from Seattle.
As we were driving to another house showing, Bella squeezed my hand. "I think I know what I want to do with the money that was given to me after the trial," she said. "It's been sitting in my account, gathering dust."
"What's that, pretty girl?" I asked, kissing her wrist.
"I want to open up a dance academy here in Chicago. Similar to what Esme does, but for children who may not get the opportunity to take dance lessons," she said. "Do you think that's doable?"
"I think that it's amazing. Mom was thinking of starting up a charity or a dance academy, but never had the time. She focused her attention on her studio," I replied. "You can use Mom's connections and get started with what you need, breaking off when you think it's appropriate."
"I still want to be attached to her studio. Your mom has done so much for me," Bella breathed. "But, I want to make a name for myself." When I stopped at a stoplight, I leaned over kissing her lips. "What was that for?"
"For being you, Mrs. Cullen," I purred. "I'm so proud of you."
"I love you, Edward," she grinned against my mouth. "Thank you for being my everything."
"I do try," I snorted. "Now, hopefully, we'll find our house today. I'm so over seeing Peter's naked ass in the kitchen."
xx SYTYCD xx
Six Years Later, present day, Chicago
My hair was curled and I was putting on a pair of emerald earrings that Edward gave me for our first wedding anniversary. I wore a black cocktail dress for the opening of our showcase. "Bella? Have you seen my grey suit?"
"I had it dry cleaned," I said, padding into our walk-in closet. I tugged it off one of my racks. "Here, baby."
"Thanks, angel," he smiled, his eye sweeping over me. "You look absolutely gorgeous." I could see how much he appreciated my dress. Underneath his black boxer briefs, they strained with his arousal. "Do we have time?"
"No, Edward," I laughed. "I love you, but we're already running late. I need to be at the auditorium in a half hour. You can ravish me all you want once the night's done."
"Is that a promise?" he asked, quirking a brow.
"That's a vow," I cooed. "Get dressed." He grumbled as I finished getting ready. I snickered, but he knew that he was going to get some. I would not deny my sexy husband. I loved making love to him as much as he loved to take me in as many ways as possible. As I was putting on my knee-high boots, Edward walked out. His grey suit fit him perfectly. His hair was artfully tousled and his face was covered with the perfect amount of scruff. "Now, it's my turn to drool, Mr. Cullen."
"I'm sexy and I know it," he quipped, giving me his best 'Blue Steele' impression.
"You are," I breathed, shaking my head. "But, we need to go. As much as I want to lose myself in …" I gestured to his lean, sexy form, "… you and your sexiness, we have about hundred-fifty dancers waiting to perform for this holiday showcase."
"Let's go, then. The sooner we get there, the sooner the showcase starts and the sooner I get to take you home to make wild, passionate love with you," he purred, caressing my cheek. He grabbed my coat, helping me into it. We clambered into our luxury SUV, driving to the auditorium. Arriving inside, the dressing rooms and rehearsal spaces were filled dancers, both male and female. The energy inside of the space was palpable.
"Mrs. Cullen, can you curl my hair?"
"Mrs. Cullen, does my costume look okay?
"Mrs. Cullen, are we going to do awesome? I think we are! Thank you, Mrs. Cullen!"
I was pulled in a million different directions, my students asking for my guidance, praying for reassurance and demanding my attention. My assistant took my coat and I went to check on my students. Edward went to check on the boys. Things were going smoothly with the dancers. I went to check on the stage, sound, lights and the front of house. The lobby was decorated with lavish trees, all sponsored by local businesses. It was festive and made me smile.
"Auntie Bella!" squealed my goddaughter, Ria, skipping toward me in her hip-hop regalia. With Emmett and Rose being her mom, the girl was destined to be a hip-hop superstar, wearing loose, but still girly clothing. "Momma told me you were here."
I bent down, scooping Ria up and tweaking her nose. She was a perfect combination of her parents. Her hair was almost platinum blonde, falling over shoulders with loose ringlets. Her skin was peaches and cream and her ice-blue eyes twinkled mischievously, reminding me of her father. "I'm glad you found me, peanut. You ready to shake your groove thing?"
"Yep," she chirped, hugging me tightly. "Are you dancing tonight?"
"Tonight is all about you, Ria," I said. "I want the spotlight to be on my kids."
Rose rounded the corner, wearing a maternity dress. Her face was flushed and her blonde curls hung limply around her face. "I told you to wait for me, Speed Racer," she chided her daughter.
"I saw Auntie Bella and I wanted to say hi," Ria said, wiggling in my arms. I put her down and she skipped toward her mother. "Sorry, Momma."
"It's okay. Your baby brother is making me move slow," Rose said, ruffling Ria's curls. "He's dropping kicking my bladder and I had to hit the head."
"Thanks for sharing, Rose," I deadpanned, kissing her cheek.
"Be grateful I didn't share that I chucked a deuce," she smirked.
"Mommy! Groooooossss!" Ria wailed, jumping back from her mom.
"Go find your twinkie," Rose said, pointing to the door. "Ryan may be hanging on Uncle Edward with your dad." Ria squeaked, turning and taking off. "How are you doing, Bells?"
"I'm fine," I said. "Excited about tonight. I think the show will be great. How is your latest addition?"
"Like I said, drop kicking on my bladder and giving me the shits," she retorted. "But, I'm happy and will be happier once he's born." She looked around, smiling. "The trees look great."
"Did you see yours?" I asked, tugging on her arm. Emmett and Rose, who had taken over as the king and queen of hip-hop choreography with their stint on America's Best Dance Crew. They sponsored a tree, decorating it with pictures and memorabilia of their dances. "I think it's my favorite."
"I bet you say that to all of your sponsors," she chuckled.
"Yeah, but I truly mean it with you, Rose. Truly," I said, heavy on the sarcasm. She smacked me. "Have you said yes to Emmett yet?"
"I don't need a ring and a piece of paper to dictate my happiness," Rose said, waving her hand dismissively. "We love each other. We love our kids. We don't need to be married to fit into that perfect nuclear family."
"He asks you every year on the anniversary of you fucking," I whispered. "And yet, each year you say no. He obviously wants to get married, Rose. Why don't you throw him a bone and say yes?"
"Maybe," Rose shrugged. "How did the doctor's appointment go?"
"It went," I answered. I turned and checked on the programs, not wanting to talk to Rose about this. Not until I had a chance to talk to Edward.
"Bells, talk to me," Rose said quietly.
"I'm still processing," I said. "We'll talk more once I talk to Edward. Okay?"
"Okay, but if you need me, please, call," Rose murmured, hugging me. As we did, I felt a sharp jab in my ribs. "Sorry, Reynold just loves his Aunt Bella."
"Good thing I already love Reynold," I snorted, patting Rose's swollen belly. "I've got to check the sound and make sure the music is ready to go. Can you check on the groups?"
"Will do, Bells," Rose smiled, kissing my cheek. I turned on my heel, going up to the sound booth, trying not to think about Rose's question about the doctor's appointment.
I was afraid to hope and afraid to grieve.
xx SYTYCD xx
Four Years Ago, Chicago
"This place is everything you need," said the real estate agent. "With the attached building, you can open your dance studio and have the performances in this five-hundred-person auditorium. Obviously, there will be a massive overhaul regarding the theater. That's why it's so affordable. Almost all the theater aspects will need to be updated."
"I'd rather do it myself and know that it's done correctly," I said, walking onto the decent-sized stage. "The rigging is pretty bad."
"It's part of the reason why the place was sold. There was a major accident where one of the railings fell, causing the death of the one of the crew," the real estate agent muttered. "However, I've got names of some well-known and reputable contractors, specializing in rehabbing old theaters."
"Edward, what do you think?" I asked, turning to my husband.
"The price is right, but how much will the rehab cost?" he replied.
"If I had to guess, it's well within the budget you gave me," the real estate agent nodded. "These guys are affordable, too."
"Can we get a moment to discuss?" Edward asked, giving her a smooth smile. The real estate nodded, walking off the stage and toward the front of the house. Once the door is closed, Edward's smile faded. "This place is a dump, Bella. The space is great and this stage is huge, but it's raining inside. And let's not forget that there was an accident that caused the death of an experienced theater crew member."
"Edward, this place ticks off everything we want. Plus, it's in a location that is in between your mom's studio and our home in Glenview," I said. I bit my lip, moving to sit at the edge of the stage. "I'm late, Edward." After the accident, I never went back on birth control, letting nature take its course. However, my periods were wonky due to the damage to my body and I'd heard numerous times that
"Bella, we were right on time," Edward said, confused.
"No, Edward, I'm late," I pressed. "Like my period. It's late."
"Wait a minute, what are you saying?" Edward asked, racing down the steps and standing between my legs. "Could you be pregnant?"
I blanched, nodding. "I'm terrified that because of the scarring, I won't be able to maintain the pregnancy, Edward."
"Have you taken a test?" he asked, his fingers tracing down my cheek.
"Yes and it was positive," I whispered. "But, I've been cramping." I snaked my arms around his neck. "What if …?"
"Shhhh," he soothed. "Let's tell the real estate agent that we'll call her about this place and we'll go to the doctor to get you checked out."
"I want this place," I choked out. "If I can't keep the baby, I want to make this into something special." Edward pressed his lips together, narrowing his eyes at me. "Please?"
"Okay, but if you are pregnant and are able to carry this baby to term, I don't want you anywhere near here that last semester or whatever they're called," he growled. "I want the two most precious things in the world to be safe."
"Agreed," I said, kissing his lips. We called back the realtor and put in an offer. We signed the paperwork before going to a free clinic, but were directed to my regular gynecologist. I was, indeed, six-weeks pregnant, but my doctor was concerned about the cramping and bleeding I was experiencing. She told me to take it easy. However, I mentally prepared for the pregnancy to fail.
I slipped into my second trimester, not semester as Edward thought it was called. I started to breathe a little easier. I had a tiny baby bump and according to Rose, was the cutest pregnant woman ever. As I was making decisions about the interior design of the front of the house, my belly started cramping. The interior designer, Renata and contractor, Jason, were with me as I stumbled, crying out in pain. Without even thinking, Jason swept me in his arms and drove me closest to the hospital. My worst nightmare was happening.
I was losing my baby.
Edward showed up moments after I was admitted. I was sobbing hysterically, feeling like a failure as a woman and as a wife. My doctor informed me that something happened and that the pregnancy was no longer viable. I was rolled into the surgical suite and knocked out. When I woke up, I felt empty and even more worthless than I felt after my accident. Edward hovered and it drove me crazy, but I never snapped at him. I learned my lesson after my accident. Once I was cleared to move around, I went back to the theater and poured my heart into that, trying to fill the void of my lost little boy.
I'd lost my son.
I was working around midnight, painting the men's bathroom. I couldn't sleep and I couldn't stand tossing and turning, keeping Edward awake. I hopped in my car, working in the theater. Esme walked in, dressed casually and in a hat. "Need help?" she asked.
"Pick up a roller," I shrugged, pointing to the pile on the ground. "Thanks." We worked in silence. "What are you doing here? Not that I don't mind, but I was hoping to get some time to myself."
"Edward called," she said, carefully painting the edge of the molding. "He's worried. We're all worried."
"Why? I'm fine," I said, pressing the roller against the wall with a little more gusto.
"Bella, you lost a baby. You're pouring yourself into this theater and ignoring your feelings, the feelings of your grieving husband," Esme said.
"Why would he grieve? The baby died in my body," I spat.
"That baby was half Edward," Esme murmured. "Of course he's grieving. He lost his son and in some way, he's lost his wife."
"I'm right here," I said.
"Here, as in the theater. It's not my place, but I think you two need to talk about this loss," Esme said.
"You're right. It's not your place," I growled, moving to push past her.
"Isabella, I know you're hurting. You feel like a failure. I get that. I had a miscarriage, too. It happened after I had Edward. I wasn't as far along. I didn't even know I was pregnant, but I lost that baby. I felt the same way," she muttered. "You know that I love you like a daughter and I'm here for you, but you need help."
"Failure doesn't even begin to describe how I feel about myself," I sniffled. "Finding out I was pregnant; it was exhilarating and terrifying. I don't know if I could live through losing another baby."
"You could always adopt," Esme said, hugging me tightly.
"It's not the same," I sobbed, falling into her arms. "Why should Edward still want to be with me? I'm worthless as a woman, as a person."
"This is why you need to talk to someone. You are not worthless," Esme said, wiping my tears away. She smiled softly at me, kissing my forehead. "Come. Let's clean this up and I'll bring you back home with me. You need a change of location. Both you and Edward are exhausted from walking on eggshells."
We cleaned up and she set me up in one of the guest rooms. I crashed and slept for almost twenty-four hours. Edward came over and we decided to go see a couple's counselor, specializing in the loss of children. Granted, our child was a fourteen-week-old fetus, but it was still our child. We met with the counselor as a couple once a week and then with separate counselors every other week. By the time the theater was done and the studio was ready to open, Edward and I were almost back to normal.
We'd yet to make love.
A lot of it had to do with me and my fear of getting pregnant again. Edward had his own fears, of hurting me. The morning of the grand opening of the Cullen Dance Academy, Esme pulled us aside. She pressed a hotel key into Edward's hand. "You two deserve this. A night away from all the crazy. After this grand opening, you and your wife are spending the weekend away."
"At the Holiday Inn Express in Schaumburg?" Edward quipped.
"Damn it," Esme growled. "Wrong key. You're spending it at the same hotel you spent the night of your wedding." She eyed us. "You need to reconnect as a couple."
"Mom," Edward blushed.
"Don't 'Mom' me," Esme chided. She stared at both of us. "You can't let this fear supersede your love for each other. You do love each other, right?"
"More than anything," Edward said.
"He's everything to me," I murmured, reaching for his hand. "But …"
"No, buts," Esme said. "You love each other, but I can see a distance between the two of you. Trust me. Please. You need a change of scenery and to reconnect as a couple." She waggled her brows, turning and sauntering away.
"Did my mom just suggest we fuck each other stupid in a hotel?" Edward asked, his face flaming.
"Yes. Yes, she did. But, I think she was probably thinking more like slow and sensual," I said, biting my lip. "But, being fucked stupid does sound pretty good, too." He walked to me, cupping my face and staring into my eyes. "I'm sorry that I've been so distant."
"I've been distant, too," he said, pressing his lips to mine. "I never wanted to hear you cry like you did when you lost our son. Knowing that he was gone broke my heart, but hearing you so upset shattered me. There was nothing that I could do to make it better, angel."
"You're right," I sighed, wrapping my arms around his waist. "I felt and still, at times, feel like a failure."
"You could never be a failure, Bella," Edward argued, forcing me to look at him. "I love you and I always will." I smiled, tears slipping down my cheeks. He kissed them away as Esme called for us to stand in front of the building, cutting the ribbon officially opening the Cullen Dance Academy. We took pictures with the first few students and after an hour, we drove to the W Chicago on the Lakeshore. Esme and Carlisle checked us in and in our room, we had one overnight bag.
Along with a room of awkward tension.
"This is weird," Edward sighed, sitting down on the king-sized bed. "We're so out of sync, pretty girl."
I walked to him, pushing him back and straddling his waist. I kissed him deeply, my fingers threading into his soft hair. "Don't think. Just feel," I said, nipping at his jaw. And with that, he kissed me with all that he had and my dress didn't stand a chance as it was torn from my body. I tried to do the same with his shirt, but I couldn't do it. Edward ripped his shirt apart and I was flipped onto my back. Edward's hands traveled along my body and he teased me before he lined up his arousal with my dripping folds. "Yes, Edward. Make me yours, again."
"You own me as much as I own you," he said, sliding inside me easily. We cried out, letting our bodies reacclimate to being joined so intimately. Staring into my eyes, Edward began moving slowly. "I've missed this. I've missed you."
"Edward," I breathed. "I'm so …" He stopped my apology with a tender kiss. I whimpered, hooking my legs around his hips. Our coupling ended much too quickly but explosively, due in part to our long absence in our once healthy sex life. Panting, Edward held me against his chest. I traced nonsensical patterns on his muscular torso. "That was …"
"Pitiful," he snorted. "But, we have all weekend."
"It was not pitiful. It was exactly what we needed to get used to each other," I giggled.
"Bella, I was a two-pump chump. Pitiful," he said, kissing my forehead. "I fully intend to make it up to you. All of your orgasms are mine." He gave me a sexy, smarmy smile before sliding down my body and his tongue attacked my pussy. And by the end of the weekend, we were fully reconnected, completely sated and sore as hell.
But, it was worth it.
Suffice it to say, Esme got a nice gift basket as a thank you. She helped both Edward and I get our groove back, in more ways than two.
xx SYTYCD xx
Present Day, Chicago, Cullen Dance Academy
"And then Ria threw up everywhere," Ryan prattled on as I checked on all the different Latin dance partnerships. "It was gross, Uncle Eddie. And it was green."
"Did she throw up her vegetables?" I asked.
"And then some, Uncle Eddie," Ryan beamed. "Are you going to watch me dance?"
"I'm going to watch everyone dance, Ryan," I smiled. "But, I know you're going to be the best."
"That's because I am the best," Ryan said confidently.
"You are soooooo much like your dad," I laughed.
"I heard that, Cullen," Emmett snickered. "I'm encouraging him to be confident."
"It's one thing to be confident, but another to arrogant," I argued. "Ryan, bud, go find Nana Esme and see if she can help you with your makeup."
"I don't want to wear makeup," he grumped.
"You're too pale, like me, to go on stage without any. Go, Ry," I said, pointing to the door. Ryan left and I turned to Emmett. "Do you have it?"
"I have it," he said, rolling his eyes. "But, I don't see why. Each time I ask she says no."
"That's because you ask her on the anniversary you boned her in the heat of the moment," I argued. "You need to make her feel special. You have two beautiful children with another beautiful child on the way." I tried to hide my repressed sadness over their luck with children, but Emmett's frown indicated I'd failed. "I'm fine."
"Clearly," he deadpanned. "Every moment you spend time with Ryan and Ria, my heart breaks for you, Edward. You and Bella deserve babies, happiness."
"We're happy," I said. "We may not have biological children, but we consider these kids to be our children." Emmett shot me a look. The words sounded empty, even to me. "Let's focus on something that we can fix – you marrying Rosalie and doing the whole grand gesture."
After the dance with Ryan and Ria, Emmett was going to propose Rose on stage and hopefully, having an audience, Rose would finally say yes. The sound of the audience pouring into our auditorium made Emmett more nervous, but I told him he'd be okay. When the lights dimmed and the sound engineer announced the two-minute warning, I went upstairs to welcome everyone. I took a microphone from the stage manager, walking onto the stage. "Good evening," I smiled. "Welcome to the Holiday Showcase for the Cullen Dance Academy. My name is Edward Cullen, one half of the ownership of the Cullen Dance Academy. My beautiful wife, Isabella Cullen, will be coming out at the end with a few words to say. First off, I'd like to thank all of you for being here this evening. Secondly, you may video the performances, but we will have professional DVDs available for you for a nominal fee. The order form for the DVDs are in the programs. Finally, sit back, relax and enjoy the wonderful evening of dance. Up first are our Tiny Tappers, performing a routine to 'Sleigh Ride.'" I bowed, ducking off stage.
The show went off without a hitch. Just before the intermission, Ryan and Ria popped, locked and spun on their heads to Trans-Siberian Orchestra's "Christmas in Sarajevo." At the end of the dance, Emmett came out, pulling Rose along with him. Emmett knelt as Ryan and Ria asked Rose to marry their daddy. Rose's hands flew up to her face and she stared down at the diamond ring. Bella snuck over to me, threading our fingers together. "Do you think she'll say yes?" she asked.
"The public proposal worked for me," I quipped.
"It did, husband," she teased, nipping at my ear. I pulled her in front of me as Rose nodded frantically. Emmett cheered, slipping the ring on her finger and kissing her deeply. "Another sweet, but public proposal ended positively. And about damned time."
xx SYTYCD xx
The rest of the showcase went perfectly and we closed the academy until after the first of the year. It gave me the time to go to the opening of the musical that was being premiered at the Cadillac Palace Theater. It was a new musical based on novel by the guy who wrote Wicked. It told the back story of one of the ugly stepsisters from Cinderella. I was wearing my tuxedo, fussing with my bowtie.
"Edward, can you help me with my necklace?" Bella asked. She walked into our bedroom, wearing a gorgeous full-length ballgown in a shimmering midnight blue. She was putting on the diamond pendant I'd given her years ago, the Christmas before I'd proposed. I shook my head. "What? Won't it look good?"
"Too small," I said, taking the platinum and diamond pendant, placing it in her jewelry box. I opened the top drawer of our dresser, pulling out a large box. "I think this will be perfect." Opening it, I showed her a diamond and emerald necklace, left to me by my grandmother. "It matches your engagement ring and earrings."
"Edward, this is too much," Bella breathed.
"Nonsense. It's an heirloom," I smiled, putting it around her elegant neck. "And it looks like perfection, pretty girl." I stood behind her and grinned crookedly. She ran her fingers along the gems. "You're glowing, Bella. I'm such a lucky man to have you with me, by my side." I kissed just behind her ear and wrapped my arms around her waist. "I love you, Bella."
"I love you, too. I'm so proud of you," she said, turning in my arms and kissing me tenderly. "I couldn't be any prouder of what you've achieved."
"You had a huge hand in these achievements, Bella," I said, taking a soft curl, wrapping it around my finger. I was about to kiss her when her cell phone rang. "Ignore it. I want to kiss my beautiful wife." She smiled, allowing me to kiss her until we were both breathless. The phone rang again and she wriggled out of my arms. "Who is it?"
"The limo driver that I arranged for us," she quipped. "He's here. Come on!" She grabbed my hand and tugged me out to the front yard. We settled into the back of the car, shivering at the frigidly cold temperatures. "Did you expect another phone call from the California Penal System?"
"The last time I heard that ring tone, yeah," I said, grimacing.
"That's my ring tone for anyone that I don't know, baby. But, remember the last time we heard that, we got good news," Bella said, tracing my lips with her fingers. "Okay, not good news, but news that put our minds at ease."
xx SYTYCD xx
Two Years Ago, just before the spring showcase
"I don't like that lighting for the advanced jazz class," I said. "It's too seductive. Yes, they're teenagers but this is … no, just no. It needs to be softer, more greens and blues. Like this." I pressed a few buttons, changing the lighting and adding some patterns on the psyche curtain. "It's still fun, but age-appropriate."
"I agree," Edward said, sitting down and putting his feet on the light table.
"Put your sweaty dancer feet off my light board," barked the lighting engineer, William.
"It's my light board," Edward quipped, giving him a shitty grin. "I paid for it."
"Ahem," I said, poking his stomach.
"We paid for it," Edward amended. "Are you almost done, love? My stomach is going to eat itself."
"You're capable of cooking for yourself, Edward," I teased.
"Yes, I am, but I miss my wife," Edward teased back. "We're done for the night. We'll finish this tomorrow." Edward took my hand and led me out of the theater. We slid into his car and drove back to our home. As we were driving, my cell phone rang from my purse.
"If that's William, I'm going to fire his ass," Edward growled.
"It's not," I said, sliding my finger across the screen. "Isabella Cullen?"
"Ms. Cullen, this is Warden Elizabeth Riker. I'm calling to inform you that your mother was admitted to the infirmary earlier this evening with two stab wounds to the gut," the woman on the other end of the line said. "I'm sorry, but she didn't make it."
"Oh," I breathed. "Did she suffer?"
"She was severely beaten and awake," Warden Riker said. "You're listed as her next of kin. What do you want to do with the body?"
"I don't care. My mom was dead to me when she tried to kill me. Cremate her, bury her, I truly don't care," I said coldly. "Who stabbed her?"
"Mary Alice Brandon?" Warden Riker replied. "They were kept separate, but during their daily workout, Renee was taunting Mary Alice and she snapped, rushing at her in a rage."
"What will happen to Alice?" I asked.
"She'll go on trial for your mother's murder, but she'll more than likely have time added to her sentence. She won't see the light of day as a free woman."
"Good," I sighed. "Is there anything else?"
"No. I'm sorry for your loss," Warden Riker murmured.
"Don't be. I'm not. It's a relief she's gone," I said, hanging up on her and tossing my phone into my bag.
"Pretty girl? Are you okay?" Edward asked, reaching across the console and twining our fingers together.
"I'm fine," I said. "Renee was shivved to death today. Alice did it."
"Wow," he breathed. "I never thought Alice would have turned into a ruthless killer."
"When pushed hard enough, you do what you have to do. Apparently, my mom pushed all of Alice's buttons and she snapped," I said.
"How do you feel about your mom being gone?"
"Like I should send Alice a thank you card," I quipped. Edward shot me a look. "What? I'm kidding."
"You're not going to …" he trailed off.
"Edward, I'm fine. I've written off my mom. She was dead to me long before today," I said. "I just want to go home, eat some dinner with you and make love, if you're up to it."
"I'm always up to it, baby," he said.
"Good, because I want to focus on the good things in our lives, like our dance academy, our marriage, our friends and our family. My mother and Alice are no longer my concern," I said. "Is it a date?"
"Definitely," he smiled, kissing my wrist and driving back to our home. Once inside, we ate dinner of leftover chicken and made love on the kitchen island, having fun with whipped cream, chocolate sauce and maraschino cherries. As we recovered from our fervent love-making, Edward cradled me against his chest. "I know that you don't care that your mom is gone, but I would like for you talk to your counselor. Will do that for me?"
"Yeah. I will. I honestly don't know how to feel and perhaps she can help me wrap my head around her death," I said. "But, for now, I just want more of this. More of you."
"Ask and ye shall receive, but somewhere other than the kitchen. My ass is freezing," Edward laughed. "Quartz is great for the kitchen, but not easy on the skin when you're trying have smexy times with your wife."
"And where should we continue this?" I asked, sitting up and sliding off the counter. "Bedroom? Living room? Piano?"
"Hmmm, not the bedroom," he purred. "Living room, in front of the fireplace."
xx SYTYCD xx
Present Day, Opening of The Ugly Stepsister
Bella and I stood on the red carpet, smiling and posing for the cameras. The opening of the show was hyped up by the production company and it was a big deal. Several reviewers had made positive comments about how amazing the show was and will be, taking Broadway by storm. There was talk of Tony nominations for the directors, lead actors and actresses and for me as the choreographer.
I didn't care about all of that. I had the most gorgeous woman on my arm and a night out on the town.
"This is amazing," Bella said, her arms wrapped around mine. "All of this and you're a huge part of it."
"I hope you like it," I murmured, kissing her tenderly. "Come, let's get settled in our seats." We went inside, hugging the director on our way to our box seats. Inside, my parents were already there, along with Rose and Emmett. Jasper and Lauren were in the show, the leads, as it were. Peter and Jacob were principal dancers. Several other alumni from So You Think You Can Dance were in the cast, as dancers or secondary characters. It made choreographing easy, for the most part. However, with the dancers that weren't a part of the show, it made it challenging. They weren't comfortable with my dancing style and it was part of the reason why we struggled with one of the major dances for so long.
The lights dimmed and a very dissonant chord began the musical. Bella watched the stage with rapt attention, gasping as the dancers moved effortlessly on the stage. When Lauren and Jasper got on stage, she clapped excitedly. The first act was amazing, with stellar lighting effects, intricate dancing and a well-performed script. During the intermission, Bella and Mom chattered about the show.
"Edward, I'm in awe of your work," Dad said. "However, looking at your wife, she's glowing."
"I think it's the jewels I gave her before we left," I smirked.
"I think it's something else," he murmured, winking at me as the lights dimmed and the second act began. Bella sat next to me, but I pulled her onto my lap. She gave me a look, but I just held her in place as the show continued. As the curtain closed, the crowd jumped to their feet. Bella did the same, swaying a little bit. I wrapped my arm around her waist and steadying her.
"You okay, love?" I asked.
"Just dizzy," she replied. "Edward, it was beautiful. So amazing."
"Thank you," I smiled.
"Mr. Cullen, we need you," said one of the crew members.
"Everything okay?" I asked.
"The cast and crew want to thank you," he said. I kissed Bella, getting up and making my way to the stage. Jasper stepped forward and he spoke of our combined accolades and all the late hours we'd put into the show. With a grand gesture, large bouquets of flowers were handed to me, the assistant director and the director. We smiled and waved as the curtain closed.
"Edward, my man, we couldn't have done this without you," Jasper said, hugging me. "Are you and Bella coming to the cast party?"
"Possibly," I responded. "Congratulations."
"You, too," he beamed, dancing off to find Lauren. He did and kissed her sweetly. She squealed, hugging him.
I congratulated the rest of the cast before heading back up to the booth. Bella ran up to me, throwing her arms around my neck. I lifted her up, brushing my lips across hers. "Words cannot describe how proud I am of you," she breathed. She bit her lip and reached for her clutch. The box had emptied and it was just the two of us. "Edward, sit, please."
"Is everything okay?" I asked.
"I think so," she smiled, pulling out a piece of paper. "I've been going to see a specialist about our troubles in conceiving. Do you remember over the summer when I said that I had the stomach bug?"
"Yeah," I nodded. "It wasn't a stomach bug?"
"I had a minor procedure to clear up most of the scarring in my uterus," she said. "It was a long shot, but the doctor felt it would be our best chance to have a baby. Our baby." Bella handed me the paper and it was a sonogram. "I went to the doctor the morning of the showcase and the doctor said that everything is going perfectly. I'm roughly sixteen weeks along."
"How I didn't I notice that you were pregnant?" I whispered, looking at the baby in the grainy picture.
"I'm not really showing," she murmured. "But, things are looking good. Really good."
"We're having a baby," I breathed, blinking up at her and tears streaming down my face.
"If things continue going the same way, yes," she smiled. "I wanted to wait until the doctor said it was okay."
"Bella, what if it wasn't?" I asked. "You'd shoulder the pain on your own?"
"I had a feeling that wouldn't be the case, but I would have," she said, biting her lip. I frowned, pulling her into my lap and pressing my hand to her belly. It was hard and rounded. "Our baby is in there. We made that with our love and our determination."
"I can't wait to meet him or her," I breathed, pressing my lips to hers. "Tonight has been a dream come true. Seeing my hard work on the stage, having you next to me and telling me that we're going to be parents?" I hugged her closely. "I love you, my Bella. So much."
"I love you, too," she breathed. "And so does our miracle. I can feel flutters inside me." She pressed her hand over mine, her eyes soft and tender. "Our miracle."
xx SYTYCD xx
Six Months Later, Northwestern Memorial Hospital, the same night as the Tony Awards
"This is the only kid you're getting, Edward. Our miracle is tearing me apart," I growled, panting heavily. "Oooooh!"
"I'm sorry, Bella. If I could, I'd take the pain away," he said, wiping my brow.
"You should be in New York City," I hissed. "Accepting your Tony Award."
"I'd rather be here with you, thank you very much," he said, arching a brow. "No other place I'd rather be. If I win, Jasper said he'd accept the award on my behalf. Nothing means more to me than being here for the birth of our daughter."
Our doctor came in, hiking up the blankets and checking to see how far along I was progressing. "A little warning, doc," I deadpanned as she felt around beneath the belt. "God damn! Why isn't the epidural working?"
"It's too late to worry about giving you a booster," the doctor said. "You're at ten centimeters. Are you ready to start pushing?"
"What? You said I had a few hours yet!" I barked.
"You progressed sooner than I expected," she said. "You ready, Dad?"
"Worry about her," Edward bit out. He took my hand and helped move me so I was ready to push. A nurse stood next to me, forcing my legs close to my chest. With a loud scream, I began pushing with the next contraction. "That's it, angel. You're so strong."
"I hate this," I whimpered.
"I know," he said, kissing my temple. With another low growl, I pushed again and panted heavily. I continued to push and I was growing tired. I'd been in labor since early this morning. "She's exhausted. Isn't there something more you can do?"
"The baby is too big. We may have to perform a C-section."
"No! I want to have this baby … no C-section. Only if the baby's in distress," I wheezed. "SHIT!"
"That's it, Bella. The baby's coming! Keep pushing," the doctor encouraged. "The head's through. Hold on."
"What?! I want to keep pushing," I wailed. I heard some suction and then the doctor encouraged me to push again. I bit down, squeezing the hell out of Edward's hand until the doctor said that it was time to cut the umbilical cord. With shaking hands, Edward did just that and our daughter was placed on my chest. "Oh, baby girl," I sobbed.
"She's beautiful," Edward smiled, cupping her tiny behind with his large hand. "Just like her mother."
"Come on, Dad. Let's give your little one her first bath. We need to clean up Bella and put some sutures in," one of the nurses explained. The nurse picked up our baby and walked him to the adjoining room. The doctor made quick work of delivering the after birth and suturing between my legs. Once I was put into a large diaper-like contraption, I was moved to a larger bed and into a fresh hospital gown. I was exhausted and in pain, but nothing could describe how happy I was that we had our baby.
"Mom, are you okay?" asked the doctor.
"Yeah. I want to see her," I whispered.
"Edward is almost done bathing her," the doctor explained. A few moments later, Edward came back in, cradling our squirming pink bundle in his hands. "I'll leave you alone."
"I want to hold her," I breathed. Edward sat down, passing me our miracle. "She's okay? Ten fingers? Ten toes?"
"Perfectly healthy," Edward cooed, his fingers gliding over the downy hair of our newborn daughter. "I can't believe she's here, Bella."
"I can. I pushed her out," I snorted. "But, I'm so overwhelmed …" I sniffled. "I never thought we'd have her."
"We do and we have to give her a name," Edward said, wrapping his arms around both me and our daughter. "I was thinking about naming her after your dad."
"Naming our daughter Charlie doesn't sound very feminine," I said.
"I did some research and I found a few options. Charlotte?" he suggested.
"I think Peter might kill us," I retorted. "His boyfriend went through the transition and is now named Charlotte."
"That's a no," Edward said. "How about Caroline?" He wrinkled his nose. "That's too old-fashioned. Never mind that suggestion." He pulled out his phone and looked at the list. "Here's one … Charlize?"
"Oooh, that's pretty," I cooed. "Charlize Anna Cullen. What do you think?"
"Anna for my mom?" he asked.
"She's been amazing through all of this," I murmured, looking at him. "And I would like Rose to be her godmother."
"With Emmett as godfather?" Edward questioned, arching a brow. I nodded, looking back down at my baby girl, Charlize. "My two beautiful, amazing girls. I love you both." He kissed me tenderly and caressed Charlize's cheek. "I couldn't be more blessed than right now."
"Did you find out if you won the Tony?" I asked, looking up at him.
"I did win the Tony, just as I was washing Charlize," he chuckled. "I texted Jasper and he thanked everyone on our behalf, saying that I was becoming a proud papa. Holding my daughter in my arms, it was worth more than any Tony or accolade I could have received." He kissed me. "Now, sleep, my only love. I'll be here with our little one when you wake."
xx SYTYCD xx
I cradled my daughter to my chest as Bella slept soundly. The doctor had said that the pregnancy was harder on Bella than she'd anticipated. Charlize, my perfect little one, would probably be our only child. I was overjoyed that we could have Charlize in the first place. She cooed, staring up at me, her gaze sleepy.
"Hello, my little one, my precious miracle," I murmured. "I'm your daddy. I am afraid that I'm not sure how to be a daddy, but I know that I love you and will always love you. Your mommy, she's beautiful and smart and talented. She adores you just as much, if not more, than I do. We will do anything for you. I promise you."
"You're good with her," Bella mumbled sleepily. "And you will be the best father."
"I'm going to make mistakes," I chuckled.
"So am I," she yawned. "Ugh, I need to go to the bathroom, but I'm afraid to move. Every part of my body hurts." She pressed the call button and a nurse came in. Together, they shuffled to the bathroom and Bella took a shower. She walked out, looking better, but with a pronounced limp. I arched a brow. "The muscles around my hoo-ha are all sorts of jacked up."
"I'm sorry," I frowned.
"Don't be, baby. We have our miracle," she smiled, taking Charlize from my arms and sitting down in the rocker. Charlize whimpered and Bella released her breast, moving Charlize to suckle from her nipple. My heart burst as I watched my wife feed our daughter. "You're staring, Edward."
"I'm just so happy," I smiled, sitting on the arm of the chair and watched as Charlize hungrily fed from my wife. "I love you. I love our daughter. I love our lives. I've gotten everything I've ever dreamed of."
"As have I," she said. "I don't think I ever told you, but thank you." I kissed her, smiling against her mouth. Together, we broke apart and stared at our baby girl. So, we think we could dance … but, being lifelong partners was worth it all.