Disclaimer: All things Twilight belong to Stephenie Meyer. No copyright infringement is intended.
A suite in The Drake Hotel
Edward's point of view...
Edward stirred, slowly coming awake as early morning sun fell across the bed. He stretched, his body long and languid, and cracked one eye open, checking his surroundings, wondering for a moment where he was.
He took in the art-deco prints on the wall and the view of Lake Michigan through the windows and a wide smile spread across his face.
The Drake Hotel.
He'd come home.
Beside him, Bella slept soundly, her face smushed against the pillow.
Edward felt a wave of contentment and peace as he remembered yesterday, and then a rush of desire as he thought of last night. His focus shifted from the woman beside him to his morning erection and he reached beneath the sheets and palmed himself, pressing the hard, ready length against his body.
"You've had enough for a while," he murmured beneath his breath, and rolled onto his stomach.
Arms folded beneath his chin, he turned his head to face Bella. It wasn't often he was awake before her; usually he opened his eyes to find her smiling at him, ready to tease him about his snoring.
Her dark hair was spread across the linen. So beautiful. And through her hair Edward could just make out the faintly purple mark he'd left on her neck.
There was no doubt Bella brought out that vampire part of his nature, just like she'd brought out his human side back in Forks.
"Whether my eyes are green, or my skin is cold..." he whispered, leaning in close, pressing his lips gently to her bare shoulder, "...you get me. All of me."
She snorted in response and the sound was music to Edward's ears.
He rolled onto his back again, staring at the ceiling as he folded his arms behind his head, and lost himself in thought.
This trip to Chicago was turning out to be so very different, and so much better, than he'd anticipated.
Vampire or human, visits back home had always made Edward quietly anxious. In the past, it was the place where he'd lost not only his family, but his humanity. It was a place where echoes of who he should have been had come up hard against the reality of what he'd become. Where, despite his superior abilities, he'd felt less-than. Unworthy. An imposter. Someone who would no longer be welcome in the homes of his friends and neighbours. And that hurt.
Even his more recent visits home, as a human, had still been shadowed by the past. He knew now that he had never been a monster, and he was no longer consumed by shame or self-loathing, but the memory of those feelings was still sharp and clear, and would follow him down every familiar street.
But not on this visit.
Of course, there had been murmurs of melancholy as he'd confronted the old Cook County Hospital for the first time since 1918, and also as he'd stood outside his house, and his father's office, but those flickers of grief for the family he'd lost had come from love. Not shame. And while he'd known it would feel good to bring Bella here and share his story, he hadn't expected it to feel this good.
After everything they'd been through the past few weeks, this all felt too good to be true, and that thought made Edward suddenly wary.
He'd be foolish to think that this sort of bliss would continue; that there wouldn't be some roadblock looming ahead to interrupt their happiness, and he began to think what that roadblock could be, so he could prepare for it, and maybe prevent it.
He'd gone through half a dozen different scenarios, from Charlie's reaction to their engagement, to Bella's Australian visa expiring, before he stopped himself.
"For fucks sake," he muttered, and rubbed his hands over his face.
He wasn't letting himself go down that path anymore. He wasn't going to sabotage his happiness by worrying about what could go wrong. Instead, he took a deep breath, and focused on what was currently going right.
He thought again of yesterday, and how he'd enjoyed showing Bella his house, and his school, and the place where he'd ridden his sled. And he thought of last night. The love-making. The laughter. The dinner eaten while wearing bathrobes and listening to music, drinking wine while the stars glittered over the water. And more love-making.
Yeah, Edward really hadn't expected things to feel this good.
It seemed almost as if the life he'd started over a hundred years ago was back on track.
"Coming full circle?" he mused. "Picking up where I left off? Is that what it is?"
Beside him, Bella stirred and blinked at him with sleepy eyes.
"What's coming full circle?" she asked through a yawn.
"Yeah?" She sniffed and stretched. "How?"
"I was just thinking..." He rolled onto his side and trailed a finger along her collarbone, down onto her breast. "If we'd known each other before, this hotel is probably where we would have had our wedding."
"Oh..." A slow smile spread across Bella's face.
"This suite," he said, "...might have been where we spent our first night as husband and wife."
Bella was looking at him with wide eyes, so dark and warm that Edward felt like he was falling into them; drowning in their depths.
Then she giggled, and those incredible eyes crinkled at the corners. "Would it have been like last night?"
Edward's laugh was part amusement, part shock, as he thought of himself back then and his limited pre-mind reading knowledge of sex. He shook his head. "No, it wouldn't," he said.
"No?" Bella propped herself up on an elbow, her other hand drawing slow spirals on Edward's bare chest. "So, you wouldn't have taken me half-naked up against the wall? With my legs round your hips and your hands on my ass because we couldn't even make it to the bed?"
They both shot a glance to the painting that hung crooked on the wall beside the ensuite door.
"I'll have to straighten that," Edward murmured. "And no, it wouldn't have happened that way. I wouldn't have even known it was an option. At least, not initially."
He wiggled his eyebrows and another giggle escaped Bella's lips. She laid down again and inched closer to him so they were sharing the same pillow. Edward rolled onto his side and draped his arm over her waist, pulling her body gently against the length of his.
"What about your face between my thighs?" she whispered.
"Maybe not on the wedding night," he whispered back, smiling. "But I'm sure it wouldn't have taken me long to get there."
"And if I'd said I wanted to be on top?"
"I would have been shocked. At first. But then..." He winked, and leant in to kiss her, his breath whispering over her lips. When he pulled back Bella cocked her head, studying him and Edward could see the questions in her eyes. She bit her bottom lip.
"Ask me," he murmured, nudging her nose with his.
"I was just wondering..."
"What would 1918 Edward think of modern Edward?"
Modern Edward pulled back. "Um...good question."
And a big question. It was something he'd never tried to examine too closely before, but now he took a deep breath and a fresh prod at his memories, and went beyond church dances and baseball games and running errands. Instead he thought of the awkward, sensitive, idealistic young human man he'd been. He looked into the feelings of his 17 year old heart and mind, and what he would have thought if he'd met someone then, like the person he was now.
"I think he'd like me," he said quietly.
She kissed him, her lips moving over his throat, teeth grazing across his skin, nipping beneath his jaw, making him hiss. She moved lower, down his chest, and beyond, making his breath hitch and his skin shiver. And then, with a wonder that never left him, Edward watched himself, hard and glistening, as he slid in and out between Bella's lips. He moaned, and his eyes closed but only for the briefest of seconds because this was a sight he never wanted to miss. His hands tangled in her hair while his hips rolled and moved in time with her mouth. His voice was rough as he spoke...
"And he'd think I was the luckiest bastard to ever live."
An hour later, Edward was wearing a fluffy hotel bathrobe, eating the last of the room service bacon and eggs while Bella was in the bathroom. He drained his coffee, wiped his mouth with the napkin, then grabbed his laptop and headed for the sofa.
Reading glasses on, he sat down, hit the remote control for the television, and opened his emails while the news channel played in the background.
He started by writing to the realtors about the Hawaii property, making initial enquiries, even though Renee and Phil hadn't officially responded yet. He sincerely hoped they'd say yes. For a moment he wondered if his offer had been too much. Would Renee and Phil feel like tenants in their own home? Glorified caretakers? That had never been his intention, but he could see now how maybe it might seem that way to them. But he was sure Bella would have said something if that was the case, and she seemed completely on board, so...
He huffed a sigh and rubbed the back of his neck. He really needed to stop second-guessing things. He'd just wait for their response and in the meantime, move onto something else.
He was deliberately avoiding his work email account, so he ran an eye down the inbox for his personal mail. There was a message from a jeweller in Sydney. Apparently the second part of Bella's Christmas present was ready.
The first part, a delicate white gold bracelet bearing a heart-shaped diamond that had been his mother's, was in a Scooby Doo sock in his night stand back home.
The jeweller had attached a photograph and he studied the image of a tiny white-gold lighthouse, spiralled with yellow gold, with tiny diamond sparkling at the top. Designed by Edward and custom-made, the charm represented the lighthouse on the cliff near his house – a symbol of their new life together, and the place where he and Bella had shared a perfect morning.
It was exactly as Edward had wanted it, the jeweller had followed his instructions and sketches perfectly and he smiled as he imagined how it would look on the bracelet beside the heart-shaped diamond.
He sent a reply, explaining that he was overseas and would collect the charm on his return.
This Christmas would be the best of his life; and hopefully the first of many, many, best Christmases. He thought ahead to a time when he hoped he would crawl, exhausted, into bed at two o'clock Christmas morning after putting bikes together or assembling doll houses, only to be woken at five o'clock by excited children shouting that Santa had been and to come and look.
Edward grinned at the thought. He couldn't wait.
There was nothing else of interest in his inbox, just some spam that was quickly deleted because he definitely had no need for Viagra and he certainly didn't want to meet sexy singles in his area. With the junk mail gone, Edward turned off his laptop, set it aside, and concentrated on the television.
It had been several days since he'd caught up with the news, but nothing much seemed to have happened. Same political protests. More celebrity weddings. Analysis of the global stock market. And a mysterious fire in an Italian castle.
Edward jerked forward in his seat, staring hard at the vision on the screen, mouth swinging open. The reporter's voice seemed to echo around him.
"Authorities in Volterra are trying to determine the cause of the fire, and the mysterious purple smoke..."
Edward lunged for his phone, just as Carlisle's ringtone sounded.
Bella's point of view
The hotel shower was amazing, like standing under a warm waterfall. I was wondering if we could get one for home, to complement the amazing sunken bath, when Edward knocked on the door, and my waterfall fantasy made room for two.
"Bella?" The door opened a crack and at my nod, he came in.
"Wanna join..." I stopped. Something was going on, his eyes were bright, excited – not the usual sultry look he wore when he would come to share my shower. And he was holding his phone.
I turned the water off. "Okay, what's going on?"
"The Volturi's finished," he said.
His words came without preamble or explanation and because they were the last thing I'd expected him to say, it took a moment for those words to register.
"I thought they were already fin...oh, you mean the ones left in Italy?"
Edward nodded. "They're all gone. Carlisle's just called. And it's on the news."
"The Volturi are on the news?" I nearly slipped as I hurried to get out of the shower but Edward swooped in and caught me, pulling me hard up against him.
"Careful," he murmured.
"I'm good, I'm good, just tell me what's happened. What do you mean they're gone? How?"
He handed me a towel and then leant back against the vanity as I wrapped it around me.
"It turns out Heidi wasn't as committed to changing her lifestyle as we'd originally hoped."
"Oh...shit!" My hand flew to my mouth. "You basically said that, back in your kitchen that morning, you didn't believe she'd change."
He shrugged, a soft frown shadowing his face. He wouldn't be happy to be right about this one, I was sure.
"Did she go back to Volterra?"
Edward nodded, and while I reached for my clothes he folded his arms tightly across his chest.
"It only took her a few days to decide a vegetarian lifestyle wasn't for her. But that wasn't her only change of heart. With Aro and the rest of the senior guard all gone, she saw a chance for power."
I stopped, t-shirt half on, and peeked at Edward through the neck hole.
"You're kidding? Heidi wanted to be the new Aro?"
"She thought it was a real option, yes. Alice saw a vision, just after Heidi left them in Denali."
I pulled the t-shirt on properly and grabbed my jeans. "Not a good vision, I'm guessing."
"Lets just say, she'd learned well from watching Aro. Over time, she would have recruited new members."
"Members with special gifts?"
"Uh huh. And she would have used her own gift to keep things under her control."
"But I thought her gift was putting people at ease."
"It is." A humourless smile tugged at Edward's lips. "Imagine being able to make someone, human or vampire, feel completely at ease with doing terrible things. So at ease, so comfortable, that they'll do whatever you ask of them, without hesitation, without question. Without rebellion."
My mouth fell open as a faint shudder ran through me.
"She could do that? Is that where her plan was headed? Because that's way more than just bringing unsuspecting tourists into the castle."
"Eventually, yes. It was something that needed careful cultivating, but she would have worked up to it."
"But now she's gone? How? What happened?"
"My family happened."
Again I froze, one leg in mid-air, my jeans dragging on the tiled floor.
"They're all over there in Volterra? Alice and Esme and Carlisle?"
"The Denalis too."
"Are they safe?"
"All safe, yes." He held out his hand. "Come and see."
I quickly tugged my way into my jeans, twined my fingers with Edward's, and together we walked into the living room where the television was playing. "Look," he said.
"Prince Harry visiting a hospital in Auckland?"
Edward rolled his eyes. "Wait a sec...there. See?"
"Oh my God..."
I remembered the castle, and the countryside, from a painting in Carlisle's study back in Forks. The purple smoke I remembered from a ballet studio in Phoenix, and my flat in Balmain.
I dropped onto the sofa, a shudder running through me while Edward stood, his arms once more folded firmly across his chest, both of us staring at the screen.
"Is this live?" I asked.
"No, the footage is from yesterday."
I nodded, staring dumbly at the television, waiting for things to make sense but so far, they weren't.
"You said the lifestyle wasn't for her?"
"Yep. And it wasn't long after she'd left that Alice saw her plans. Jasper and Carlisle tracked her to the airport in Fairbanks."
"She flew on a regular plane?"
"Not quite. She used her gift to manipulate a pilot with a private plane. The others followed on the next flight available, only a few hours behind."
The news report moved on – a food festival in France, and a 200 year-old cheese.
"Did she know they were following her?" I looked up at Edward who was glaring at the cheese like it had offended him.
"No. And she didn't know about Alice's gift either, so they had the element of surprise when they arrived." He shifted his gaze to me. "Jasper took charge. He'd already worked out a couple of strategies, and being only half a day behind, there'd been no time for Heidi to garner any real loyalty or commitment from the remaining guard. They were still trying to understand that Aro wasn't coming back."
This was a lot to take in, mostly because I'd thought the issue of the Volturi was behind us. Over and done with. I'd naively thought Heidi would become a Cullen and develop a taste for deer.
"Did she tell them what happened to Aro?" To my surprise, Edward snorted.
"She lied," he said. "According to Carlisle, she'd tried to convince them that she'd taken down Aro and the others, herself. She wouldn't want them to know she'd run away while a fragile human destroyed the whole senior guard. It wouldn't fit with the image she wanted to project."
Edward's voice dripped with contempt. I started chewing my thumb nail, thinking all this through, while a dog rode a surfboard on the news.
"What did Heidi do when your family arrived?"
"Attacked. She saw them as a threat to her plans, and she was right about that. As much as Carlisle is about peace and compassion, after Alice's vision they couldn't let her keep going. It was Carlisle who ended her."
I jolted in my seat. "Seriously? Carlisle?" Edward nodded. "Wow. I thought maybe Jasper..."
"Heidi went for Esme."
Edward didn't need to say anything more, and as this new piece of information sunk in, I remembered that moment, on the deck at Palm Beach. The hard edge in Carlisle's voice as he'd talked about the Volturi threat to his family. To his wife.
I sagged back into the cushions. "Is Esme okay?"
I let go a long breath. Edward came and sat on the arm of the sofa as the Volterra footage came round again. We watched in silence, the smoke billowing out from the castle walls.
"All hell broke loose, then," Edward said. "Many of the guard were already suspicious of Carlisle from his days at Volterra."
"Because they didn't understand his feelings about human life?"
Edward nodded. "They saw him as a traitor to their kind, so what they witnessed with Heidi convinced them he and his coven were the enemy, come to destroy them. Jasper read the mood. It wasn't good."
"Were they outnumbered though? Because that's a lot of smoke." I pointed at the television.
"Yes, well, that's where Jasper's gift comes in." Edward turned to me, a dark smile on his face. "At full power, he can manipulate people's deepest, darkest emotions, so he was able to turn a lot of them against each other."
My mouth fell open. "So they did the job for him?"
"Some of them, yes. Jasper's gift is very useful against an enemy, especially with Alice by his side, predicting outcomes. The others were taken down by more conventional means."
Conventional? "Yeah, and I'm not going to ask exactly what that means." I slumped lower in my seat. The news moved on and Edward and I were silent again, watching an exhibition of street art in Amsterdam and then more of Prince Harry.
"So the Volturi's all gone now? Like really gone?"
"They are," Edward said. "Except for a couple of humans who served them." He came to sit beside me. "They were definitely no threat, but if they do seek out other vampires, Jasper's left them with a message..."
"That there's a new sheriff in town." I echoed Rosalie's words from that night which seemed so long ago now.
Edward took my hand and I leant against his shoulder.
"So what happens now?"
"Well, Jasper and Alice are back on track to find Marion and tell her she can come out of hiding. The Denalis are going back to Alaska. Carlisle took emergency leave from the hospital in Rochester when they came to us in Sydney, so he'll go back to work. Esme will go back there with him, of course."
"Life goes on, huh?"
Edward reached for the remote and switched off the television. "Are you okay?" he asked.
"Yeah, I think so." I gave a shallow laugh. "It's weird, though. Like, I've found out we were possibly in danger after I found out we were already safe, so my body, my mind, they don't know which way to go."
"I know what you mean," he said, and a frown creased his brow.
"You okay?" I asked.
"I am. I just can't believe we were so naïve to think that Heidi would change after five hundred years of human blood and a Volturi mind-set."
"Naive? Or hopeful?"
"I don't know." He shook his head. "Maybe both? But either way, we should have...if we'd just..." He stopped and shook his head. "No, I refuse to do this." His voice was firm, hard. "Let it go. It's over now. We're both here, together, safe. My family's safe. That's all that matters."
I squeezed his hand. "Yeah, that's all that matters. And it's over now." Before we'd even known it had started.
Edward smiled, and brought my hand to his lips.
"What about the Denalis?" I asked. "Do they know about you and Rose and Emmett? Would they want to become human?"
"They know," Edward said, stroking his thumb over my knuckles. "But no close details about where we are or how we're living. They're intrigued by the process, but they've been vampires for more than a thousand years. They have no plans to change."
I shifted then, lying down and putting my head in his lap, listening to the steady thump of his heart. The most important sound in my world. Because suddenly, I needed to hear it; needed for it to tell me he was strong and safe, even though he was right here with me. I shut my eyes and just soaked him up, while his fingers played in my hair.
I opened my eyes, looked up at him.
"If we hadn't found each other again, and you'd made a life with someone else, do you think you would have told them the truth about you?"
He blew out a long breath. "I don't know," he said. "It's something I used to think about. It's a big secret to keep, so...maybe." He frowned a little. "Fiona wanted to..."
He stopped, uncertainty in his eyes.
"It's okay." I gave him an affectionate nudge with my shoulder. "I'm not that fragile. Go on."
He lowered his face and placed a tender kiss on my forehead. "She wanted to see photos," he said. "Of me as a kid."
"Oh." I winced. "That's tricky. What did you say?"
"I told her the family albums had been lost during a house move."
"What did she say?"
His lips hinted at a smile. "She didn't say anything, but she taught me to take decent selfies so I could put myself in more of my photos. Getting the right angle is key."
I smiled too. "She wanted you to make more visual memories, huh?"
"Instead of just scenic shots, yeah."
"So now you take great selfies?"
"I already could. I just didn't."
"Ah." I smiled, understanding. "But you let her teach you because she was being thoughtful and you didn't want to hurt her feelings?"
Edward shrugged, then nodded.
"That was kind of you."
He said nothing, but lifted my hand, grazing his lips tenderly over the inside of my wrist.
"So, what back story do you give people?" I asked. "About your childhood?"
"I keep it vague," he said. "And simple. Parents died when I was young, raised by family friends, moved around a lot. People generally let it go and don't ask for details after that. If they do, I say I don't like to talk about it."
He trailed his fingers down my arm, drawing swirls and spirals, leaving a trail of heat on my skin.
"Bella, if you'd made a life with someone else, do you think you would have told them about me?"
"About you being a vampire? No. They'd think I was crazy and I'd have no proof to back it up. Although..." I bit my lip. "I almost sort of let something slip once."
Edward's eyebrows went up, curiosity in his eyes. His fingers stilled on my arm.
I sat up, shifting from his lap to sit beside him. "It was Alexander," I said. "It was during the one summer we were together."
"Okay." He took my hand in his and I started talking.
"His grandparents owned a guest house in Port Angeles." Surprise flickered across Edward's face, but he said nothing, just nodded for me to go on. "It was near the edge of the national park and Alexander thought it made him some sort of wilderness expert. Anyway, I'd taken him home to meet Charlie. We went to see his grandparents too, and he wanted to go hiking while we were there. But way off the trails, deep into the woods." Even now the memory of it annoyed me. "I told him it was a seriously bad idea and he asked if I was scared we'd meet a bear. I said a bear might not be the most dangerous thing out there. When he asked me what I meant, I couldn't answer."
"Ah." Edward nodded, his face was still calm but I noticed a rhythmic clenching of his jaw. "Tricky," he said. "What did he say then?"
"He laughed. Told me he probably knew more about the wilderness than I did, and we'd be fine because he had a whistle and a bell to scare any wild animals away."
"A whistle and a bell?" The jaw-clenching intensified. "He wanted to take you deep into the woods with nothing but a couple of party favours for protection? He would put you at that much risk?"
There was a flash of the vampire in his eyes; that same look he wore the night I told him how Alexander and I broke up. "Tell me you didn't go."
"I didn't go."
"Good." He glanced away, towards the lake view. When he turned back to me his eyes were calm again, his voice smooth, easy. "Is that how you met? In Port Angeles?"
"No. We met at college, but it was how we got talking in the beginning. You know, I was from Forks, he had family in Port Angeles, we both studied in Florida. It was like, hey, we've got geography in common!" I shrugged. "Last I heard on the grapevine, his grandparents had sold the guest house and moved to Arizona. So that probably makes him an expert on the desert, now."
"I don't doubt it," Edward said dryly and there was something in his tone that made me smirk.
"Are you doing what you did last time we talked about him?"
"What? Secretly planning what I'd do if we crossed paths? No. I don't think I need to plan anything." He gave a careless shrug. "If he'd go into the wilderness with nothing but a bell and a whistle, natural selection will take care of him, I think. But enough about Alexander and vampires and Volterra." He reached out to check his phone. "It's almost nine thirty, the day's slipping away, we've got twenty-five hours before our flight to Forks. What do you want to do?"
It was one of those sudden subject changes that he seemed to specialise in, but this time I was right there with him, keeping up.
"I don't know." I grinned. "What do you want to do?"
Edward smiled shyly. "I wanna play tourist."
It turned out that Edward had never been up to the Skydeck, or visited the Navy Pier. So we did both. Like a couple of tourists.
At one point while we were on the Pier, I looked out over the Lake, wind in my hair, laughing at seagulls who were swooping down to catch fish, and turned to find Edward taking my photo. When he showed me the image, my mouth fell open. The composition, the way he'd captured the light, and my laughter, the joy in my eyes, was incredible.
"Oh my God...that's gorgeous. I look gorgeous."
"I've always thought so," he said. Then he grabbed me and spun us around to snap a quick selfie, the two of us grinning with the carousel in the background.
That night, we ate dinner in the beautiful hotel dining room and toasted our future with champagne and I asked Edward if he'd like to get married in Chicago.
"We could have it here," I said. "At the Drake."
His eyes became very soft as he reached across the table and took my hand in his. "It's definitely something to consider," he said.
Travelling with Edward was fun. His access to the airport VIP lounge meant we got to recline in comfy chairs and eat cheese platters while we waited for our flight.
It was late morning and clouds played across the sky that was visible through the glass wall that overlooked the tarmac. As I watched a plane roll into view, my phone buzzed – a call from Charlie.
"Hey, Dad! We should be boarding soon and we'll be..."
"Bella, is Edward there with you?"
There was something in his voice, a slow, deliberate calmness in his interruption that had me suddenly on alert. My gaze went straight to Edward, on the other side of the lounge, talking to the receptionist about getting me included on his membership.
"Yeah, he's here. We're in the airport lounge. Er, why do you ask?"
There was a pause, and Charlie's heavy sigh was audible before he spoke again. That same overly calm tone, clearly reigning in some strong emotion.
"Jacob's told me all about him. About who...about what he is."
I froze, my hand seizing round the phone as my breath caught and the world round me stopped. This couldn't be what it sounded like, could it?
"But I want to hear it from you. Is it true? Is he a..." Charlie paused again, his voice a mutter beneath his breath. "I can't believe I'm saying this..." He cleared his throat. "Is Edward a vampire?"
It felt like the air had been sucked out of the room and my mind scattered, going in so many different directions I couldn't keep up.
Punch a werewolf in the face.
I swallowed hard, trying to find words, but which ones? I looked over at Edward at the reception desk, talking and smiling and then turning away to sneeze because air conditioning sometimes affected his sinuses. He'd come so far. At last he was the man he was always meant to be. But now he'd be judged as a vampire. Oh my God, Jacob had probably called Edward a filthy blood sucker.
I wondered if my Dad would still have a beer waiting for him.
"Bella? You still there?"
"Yes," I whispered, my voice breaking as I swivelled the recliner, turned my back to the lounge and faced the corner. "Yes, it's true. At least, it used to be true, but not anymore. He's human now, Dad. Edward's as human as you and me. Flesh and blood. He even gets sinus problems." I'd inched onto the edge of my seat, and could hear the urgency in my words as I so desperately tried to make him understand. "He snores. And his eyes are bad."
"Aw, geez, don't lie to me, Bella..."
"I'm not, Dad. I'm not lying. Whatever Jake told you, he doesn't know the full story. A lot's changed since Edward left Forks. A lot."
There was silence on the other end of the line while my heart raced so fast it hurt.
"Then what is the full story?" Charlie snapped. "I'm havin' a helluva day here, Bella, and I need some answers."
"It's a long story, but...did Jacob tell you about himself? About Sam and Seth and the others?" If Edward and I were going down, I was taking Jake with me.
"Yeah, I know." There was another strained sigh from Charlie. "Like I said, it's been a helluva day, but Jacob isn't my kid and you haven't answered my question. You say Edward's human, you say I don't know the full story, then tell me. What is the story?"
"Can this wait until we get there?"
Shit. I dropped my head into my hand and wondered briefly if we could just get on a plane and run away somewhere.
"Hang on a second, Dad..."
Edward was back and there was no way I could hide this from him. My face was never exactly a mask for my emotions and he was already looking concerned. I held up the phone.
"It's Charlie," I whispered. "He knows."
"About the engagement?"
I shook my head. "About you."
"What about...oh..." Understanding flooded his features, followed by a swift flash of panic, and then an icy calm. "How?"
He nodded, a sharp decisive bob of his head while his jaw tightened. He held out his hand for the phone.
I passed it over. He slung his backpack over his shoulder and indicated the hallway that led to the business centre. I got up, grabbed my carry-on, and followed. Once we were inside a glass-walled office with the door firmly shut, Edward took a deep breath and put the phone to his ear.
"Chief Swan, it's Edward here..." He dropped the backpack, pulled out a chair and sat down. "Yes, Bella's still here...she told me..." He paused, brow creased as he listened. Then he shut his eyes, and exhaled. "Yes, it's true, all of it..."
I felt like I'd gone into free-fall. All that effort back in Forks to keep the secret. All the lies I was prepared to tell now and into the future. And suddenly it was over.
In a strange way, I felt some relief; the barest of flickers that was quickly overshadowed by fear of Charlie's reaction.
Edward opened his eyes, and I hated the defeated look I saw there. I grabbed his hand and held on, trying to give him strength and hope. We'd had such a great two weeks, this was not how I'd wanted our trip home to end. But then my head started spinning and I realised I'd been holding my breath. I inhaled quickly as Edward continued.
"No, Bella was never in any danger from me."
He spoke quietly, his words firm and clear, and I squeezed his hand harder, listening to the bizarre one-sided conversation, guessing Charlie's questions from Edward's quiet answers. I wished he could put the phone on speaker, but there were people walking around outside the office and the walls weren't exactly sound-proof.
"Yes, my family too...no, we don't, we respect human life...animals...it depends on the season, and the location, but mostly deer, bear, mountain lion...yes, he's a real doctor...yes, we all lied, but telling the truth wasn't really an option when we were trying to live a normal life. And that was all we wanted, to live as normal a life as we could."
Good point. I nodded my encouragement, before a sudden weariness stole over me. This all felt too much, and all I wanted to do was put my head on the table and go to sleep.
"No, not all vampires," Edward said. "It's a deliberate choice we made to live that way, peacefully. The wolves knew all that, about our commitment to peace and humanity when the treaty was set up between us, I'm surprised Jacob didn't tell you that part."
I smiled grimly as Edward took a polite dig at my probably-former-best friend.
"Carlisle thinks of it as a virus that changes the physiology," he went on. "Through the bloodstream yes...er, that's a myth..." Edward's lips tightened. "That too...no, no coffins or dungeons or moats...or fangs." He shot a quick look at me, before shifting uncomfortably in his seat. "The sun...well I..." He cleared his throat. "I would sparkle." He grimaced and let his head drop back on his shoulders, eyes screwed shut. "Not quite. Less like glitter, more like a disco ball." He stretched his neck and I heard the bones crack. "I understand, it's a lot to take in." Then he straightened suddenly, his expression surprised, confused. "No, unicorns aren't real. Or ghosts. Aliens? Er..." He glanced at me and I shrugged. "Probably not," he said.
I shifted closer, and rested my head on his shoulder. He leant his head against mine as the conversation continued.
"Carlisle, in 1918..." He winced. "Yes, that is old, you're right...no, I was dying, he was my doctor, and he saved me...that's right, I am human now...eight years ago...no, I'm about 31...yes, completely human...no, just me and Emmett and Rosalie."
Edward sighed, his chest taking in a deep breath and letting it go.
"It's a long story," he said. "It's all a very, very long story, and complicated, starting from 1918, and it's a story I'd prefer to explain when we're face-to-face, if you'll permit me." A voice came over the tannoy. Edward glanced towards the ceiling where the speakers were discreetly hidden. "Chief Swan, they're calling our flight...yes of course...I will...but before I go I want to assure you that the high regard in which you once held Carlisle, Esme, and our family, was not misplaced."
My eyes filled as Edward ended the call and handed me the phone.
"It was always going to happen," he said, shrugging. "I just wish it hadn't happened like this."
"How is he?"
"Not happy." Edward dragged his hand through his hair again. "I think there's a lot of shock going on, but at least he's prepared to see me, and to listen. For your sake."
"Well, that's something, I suppose." I sniffed and wiped at my eyes. Edward pulled me into a hug.
"I get the sense that, once he's been assured of your safety and my lack of threat, more than anything he's angry that he's been lied to."
I sniffed again. "But he'll have to understand why we lied."
"I hope so."
I grabbed his hand. His lifted my knuckles to his lips.
"It'll be okay," I said. "Whatever happens, whatever Charlie says, I'm not going anywhere."
Edward gave me a wistful smile. "I know."
"The mind reading would be helpful about now, wouldn't it?"
"It would," he agreed.
I sighed, and rested my head against his chest. I tried to stay calm, but now that I was over the shock of Charlie's call, an anger started to grow inside me, instead.
"How could Jacob do this?" I pulled back and looked up into Edward's face. "You were right, I should have told him ahead of time, we might have avoided this if I had, but...why? And he's totally broken the treaty now, hasn't he? I mean, why would he do that? Charlie's obviously let something slip, but Jake could have called me when he found out you were coming home. Oh my God, when I see him..."
I smashed my fist into my palm. Edward looked surprised and I rolled my eyes.
"I know, I know what you're going to say, violence isn't the answer, he probably thought he was protecting me, I should wait and hear what he has to say. Am I right?"
Edward shook his head. "No. I wasn't going to say that."
"Oh." I frowned. "What then?"
For the first time since Charlie's phone call, I saw a spark of light in Edward's eyes. "I was going to say I'll hold him while you hit him."
A/N: Thank you so much for all your support and encouragement with this story. And for all your reviews and comments on the last chapter. Thankyouthankyouthankyou xx
So, cat's out of the bag with Charlie. It had to happen though, didn't it?
Next chapter will be up as soon as I can : )